BlogCampaigning in 2010

Man, its been a whirlwind year for the BlogCampaigning crew. We celebrated our 4th Birthday in August.

Jens finally finished his PhD about video games and moved to Australia to live with his girlfriend Jenna. I’d be a lot happier for him if so many of his Facebook posts weren’t about him bitching about how hard his life is. His previous book, one all about video games in the communist Germany during the 80s was also made available on Amazon.

Our Copy Editor spent the summer digging out his basement, and we’re hoping he’ll rejoin the team sometime soon.

Heather started writing more regularly for the site, and even chimed in on her own Fashion Friday post. She's also continued to rock it at Sequentia Environics.

Espen remains at large somewhere in the urban wilds of Scandinavia. Rumor has it he’s gainfully employed, married and soon to be a father. I still think of him as the guy I used to surf with and as the plucky drummer of Gravmar and the Gravediggers.

I joined Radar DDB in May to spend most of my day sitting 4 feet away from Ed Lee. We’ve done some really cool stuff online, and I know that we’ve got more coming. Stay tuned.

In other BlogCampaigning news, I continually regret Espen’s choice of ‘BlogCampaigning’ for the name and URL of the site. Do you have any idea how annoying it is to type, write down or explain to anyone? Plus, blogs and campaigns are pretty much dead, right? We should totally just rename ourselves something like “SocialConversing."

We continue to get a majority of our hits from searches for the term “Karolina Kurkova” thanks to this blog post I wrote about here a while ago (note to self: sex sells).These visitors don't tend to stick around the site very long.

Besides that, some of our must-reads (as determined by the number of comments and hits they got) were a Fashion Friday post about When To Wear A Blazer and another post about When To Take Off Your Suit Jacket in a Meeting

Follow us on Twitter, or hit us up on Facebook.

See you in January.


Where It All Began (4 years of BlogCampaigning)

As a follow-up to my post of awesome pictures the other day, I thought I'd post this gem of a picture:

It is a picture of Jens and Espen, taken sometime in September, 2006. Espen had just launched BlogCampaigning as part of his thesis at Griffith University, and Jens and I were just starting to write posts for the site.

In the four years since then, we've gone on to do some different things but the three of us have mostly kept in touch via BlogCampaigning.

Thanks for reading - we hope BlogCampaigning is around for another four years for you. And for us.


BlogCampaigning On Facebook

It used to be that you could get away with just a website. Then you needed way to collect email addresses so that people could subscribe to it. Then those forward-looking social media pros started saying that RSS was the future of communications, then Twitter. Whatever the medium, its always been about making it easy for your audience to get updates from your website. With that in mind, I set up a Facebook Page for BlogCampaigning. All it will really do is pull in posts from here, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't become a Fan.


Well, how do you Like that?

Well, I've gone and done it. I've installed a WordPress plug-in that adds a Like button to every post here on BlogCampaigning. (The plug-in is available via the WP directory, or via Studio Nash Vegas.) Using the toolkit on the Facebook Developers site, I also added a Like button to the sidebar of this blog. It's alright for now, but I think I might try one of the other options (creating a Facebook Page for BlogCampaigning, and including some code linking to that) in the next few days to see how those work out for me.

Although I've noticed that my "Likes" have shown up in the Recent Activity on my Facebook profile, I've yet to notice any "Likes" in my main Facebook news feed or on any of my friend's profiles. Is this because it still isn't widely used?

What do you think of the Like button? Does it even matter? Has it changed your Facebook or web experience? Have you seen any great uses of the Like button?


PS: If you like this post, don't forget to click the button below.

BlogCampaigning Is Back (Again)

I think that anyone who has been blogging for a significant amount of time understands the concept of blog fatigue. You get tired thinking up new posts all the time; you wonder where it is all leading. It has happened to me a few times. In fact, when I first started to write the title to this post, I thought it felt awfully familiar. Then I remembered that I wrote a similar post almost exactly two years ago ("BlogCampaigning Is Back") where I said that "Jens has been trying to sort out his life back in Germany, and Espen pretty much went AWOL in Norway."

Some things never change, eh?

The good news is that after a month of contemplation, I've added a fresh coat of paint coding to the ol' blog, I've got some good posts lined up, and we've even got a new author starting in the next week or so.

Added on to the fact that Heather and I both started new jobs, Jens is almost finished his thesis and it seems like a pretty good time to get a fresh start.

Thanks for continuing to read BlogCampaigning!


More thoughts on laptop DJing (in response to...)

Recently I wrote a post for BlogCampaigning on my experience transitioning from a vinyl DJ to a laptop DJ, which, from personal comments, appears to have been generally well received. But the only comment anyone actually posted on the blog was quite negative and passively critical. Initially, I wanted to tell the semi-anonymous commenter where to go, but I decided to take the high road, thanking the fellow for his post and offering a very brief apologetic response. I was wrong. I've thought about it, and I now recognize that that person's comment was uninformed and thoughtless, and I had no reason to apologize. I don't want to insult him, and I hope this response doesn't simply come off as petty. I have a far more appropriate response in mind, and it is basically a brief description of the nature of entertainment media today.

In his passive-aggressive note, the commenter appears to make three points:

1. DJs who use iTunes (or similar software) don't deserve to entertain club or bar crowds. 2. Whatever happened to DJs who can match beats by simply listening to songs (as opposed to using software to digitally and automatically beat-match)? 3. DJs today suck.

Where to begin?

First, the nature of DJing has changed completely in recent years, and "disc jockeying" is basically an anachronism in the same way as "film processing" or "going to print". With digital music collections advancing far faster than physical collections, and the ease of collecting and transporting digital music, it should be no surprise that DJs are turning to software solutions. And now, there are hardware solutions, as well, to replace bulky turntables and CD players. Everyone who wants to be a DJ has already got a laptop. A DJ starting out now would almost be a fool to choose physical media over virtual. As for iTunes, well, as I said in my original post, it's not good for DJing, and it's not appropriate for DJing, but in a pinch, which is where I found myself on that night, it will perform the required function.

What software or hardware one chooses to use, however, is basically irrelevant—a simple matter of pleasure or circumstance. I started DJing on a kit hobbled together from whatever bits of stereo equipment my friends, Josh and James, and I had at home—and later some rented gear. Even when MP3s came around, I only used them to create mixes that I could play on CD decks. But if the software existed at the time, I almost certainly would have chosen to use a laptop over CDs. (Vinyl is always a special case.) The only relevant question is: how well does the DJ entertain the crowd?

So, complain all you want, but this mode of DJing is just the way it is and will be. Frankly, these days I'd be more surprised to see a DJ using turntables at a club than using a laptop—with or without some extra hardware.

(I'm not saying I fully approve of the rise of the laptop DJ. As with photography, and journalism, and any other medium that has found itself in a similar situation, not everyone who performs as a DJ deserves to call themselves a DJ. There is a core skill set that one must develop, and no software or hardware can allow a person to bypass that process. No doubt many DJs today never bother to acquire those skills; but this has ever been the case.)

The other thing is that the digital revolution has caused a tsunami of DJs, just as it has turned everyone into a photographer, and a web designer, and an illustrator, and a journalist, and a media expert, and so on. There's more to this: I don't want to get into the details, but the expanding middle class has somehow achieved a sort of critical nexus of leisure time and disposable income that practically compels their young to go to bars and clubs and dance. In Toronto, at least, new bars, clubs, and restaurants open all the time and everywhere. Each one of them needs to entertain their clientele—ideally at a low cost—and more than ever now the common factor is the DJ.

More venues + more leisure time and money = more DJs

Unfortunately, as I touched on above—and in this I agree with the commenter—more DJs doesn't mean more quality. In fact, it almost definitely means lower quality overall; but it doesn't simply mean that all laptop DJs are awful or that the club owner has hired his inexperienced cousin who just downloaded some trial software and wants to give it a go. There are certainly many experienced and skilled DJs who use (and choose) computers over traditional DJ gear.

You know what, I'm not even ashamed to say that I have played a song here and there from YouTube when I haven't found it in my collection. I would never do this in a club or bar with a high-quality sound system, but for a private party or a standard bar night, why not? If you can mix it and make it fit, and it sounds good, that is really the only issue.

You'll probably be better off paying attention to what music the DJ is playing and how well she does it, rather than the gear she is using. If you find it still doesn't live up to your standards, you can always try your hand at DJing yourself.

Thanks for your comment.

RZA and The Wu-Tang Clan Are Huge Geeks (You Read it Here First!)

Earlier today, I watched this interview (embedded below, via BoingBoing) with RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, in which he talks about how much of a geek he is and how that influenced his music.

"I'd rather raise nerds than raise gangsters", the hip-hop star says as he talks about his interest in new music-creating software, and that hip-hop has a lot of geeks amongst its ranks.

I've been saying that the Wu-Tang Clan were huge needs for a while now. Last year, I wrote that that they were huge nerds ("36 Chambers of Social Media") due to the fact that they were obsessed with Kung-Fu movies and Voltron, and I'm glad that the RZA has confirmed my thoughts.

For examples of some of their music and its relation to nerd culture, check here.

Canadian Law Firms And Their Use Of Social Media

My CNW Group colleague, friend, teammate, and BlogCampaigning contributor, Heather Morrison, has put together a great report about the way that Canadian law firms are using social media. Omar Ha-Redeye said it "is likely to become one of the primary sources for Canadian firms looking to enter this area."

Steve Matthews called it "a nice overview of the benefits of social media investment."

And Garry J. Wise wrote that it "thoroughly canvasses the key social media platforms and provides much-needed context via thoughtful comments from several Canadian lawyers who are constructively engaging online."

So what are you waiting for? Download the PDF via the link below:

Canadian Law Firms And Their Use Of Social Media


Happy 3rd Birthday, BlogCampaigning!

It brings a tear to my eye when I realize that Espen Skoland wrote the first post on BlogCampaigning three years ago today. Almost 700 posts later and we're still blogging. We don't write about American politics as much as we used to, but there is still the occasional political post from Jens and I always try and mention communications or PR.

Thanks to everyone for reading!

I wonder if we'll go another three years? And is there anyone out there that has been reading BlogCampaigning since the beginning? (if so, leave a comment or send me an email - I can be reached at  parker (at) blogcampaigning (dot) com).

We Found Espen

For the past year or so, legendary founder of BlogCampaigning, Espen Skoland, has been MIA from both the blog and personal correspondence. In that time, I've done a few searches on Google for his name, but thanks to BlogCampaigning, nothing ever showed up except for the stuff he wrote here. At least until last week when I found Espen's profile on the website of the company he currently works for, Geelmuyden.Kiese (they're a Norwegian PR agency):


Just look at how proud he is to be posing for a corporate photo, wearing his fancy black sweater and with his collar buttoned down. He's probably forgotten a lot of English, but I'm ready to forgive him for his absence if you are.


Know Your Audience

Before embarking on ANY kind of communications campaign, you should know the audience you're trying to reach. Yeah, there are a ton of great sites out there that would be neat to reach out to. But if your audience isn't there, what is the point? According to a recent post on Business Insider, 69% of adults don't really know what Twitter is. Unless your audience is part of the 31% that does understand and use the service, you are probably better of focusing your effort elsewhere.

Similarly, a recent post on TechCrunch about Friendster, shows that the social networking site we North Americans might have thought of as dead is still alive and well over there. Any kind of marketing campaigning focusing on people in that area of speakers of languages from there might be better off focusing their efforts on Friendster than on Facebook.

Not only is it a good idea to know your audience in order to know where they are looking, but it will also help give you an idea of what they are looking for. To grossly simplify things, someone trying to reach college students might be better off with a series of entertaining online videos, whereas someone trying to reach purchasers at businesses might be better off providing their audience with printable, fact-filled PDFs.


Say Hello To @AdamGorley, Copy-Editor Extraordinaire

The whole reason I got involved with BlogCampaigning was to check the grammar on Espen's English writing (he's Norwegian, in case you missed it). When Jens started writing for us, I edited his posts as well (based on my small sample size, I'd say that Norwegians frequently mix-up singular and plural when writing in English and Germans write paragraph-long sentences rather than using a few periods). Now, we've got someone else to do that copy editing: Adam Gorley. He's a Toronto-based professional copy editor, and he volunteered to have a look at each of our posts before they go live. I've never thought I was a perfect writer, and I'm sure that long-time readers of this blog will have noticed a few typos, grammatical errors and even unfinished sentences here and there. I don't envy the work he's going to be doing on Jens' posts.

I'm hoping that with Adam Gorley's touch, these things will be a thing of the past.

He's @AdamGorley on Twitter and he also maintains his own blog of miscellany at While he's gainfully employed right now, I'm going to go ahead and say that if you need any help with Copy Editing, he's probably your man.


(PS: I wanted this post to be a surprise for him, so he didn't actually get a chance to edit it. Any errors are mine)

(PPS: Once I saw Adam play a 90-minute game of Ultimate frisbee wearing only sandals when everyone else was wearing cleats - that takes guts)

We're Getting The Blog Back Together

Its been a while since we last posted on BlogCampaigning, and I know that a lot of our readers are wondering what happened: PR message boards have been flooded with rumours and speculation, and Jens and I have been getting emails and phone calls at all hours from fans. Everyone has been wondering what happened to BlogCampaigning. The short answer is that we don't really know.

The long answer is that the site got messed up and that I've been super-busy with real life (work, soccer and summer drinking). Thanks to Tommy Vallier at Wordpress by the Minute, we were able to get rid of the spammy links and Javascript that had pervaded our RSS feed (if you need any blog work done, I highly recommend his services).

I haven't been writing much for the site because I was working on a product launch for CNW Group (more on that in an upcoming post), Jens hasn't been writing much because he's been "working on his thesis" (which I equate to playing Xbox), and Heather has probably just been busy with her own blog, Toronto Uncovered.

We still don't know where Espen is, but we hope you like the BlogCampaigning redesign and that you'll continue to read our thoughts about Public Relations, Video Games, Technology and whatever we feel like.

But don't spend too much time reading BlogCampaigningget out there and enjoy the summer weather.


Music Blogging: Posting, Pitching and PR

One year ago yesterday I wrote my first post on my music blog. A few months after that, it got listed on both The Hype Machine and (two music blog aggregators), both of which deliver considerable amounts of traffic. While the number of RSS subscribers to my music blog doesn't really compare to that of BlogCampaigning, I attribute that more to the fact that people interested in music don't care about RSS as much as people interested in social media and PR.

In the year that I've been blogging there, I've written almost 100 posts. While they aren't as lengthy as the ones you often see here, they require just as much thought and time to put together. Just as each post here is written about something I'm passionate about, so too with my music blog.

So what is a "music blog"?

I don't think there is anyone one definition, but I'd probably describe a music blog as one that exists primarily to talk about and share music. Some examples can be found at Discobelle or Soundtrack2. They are essentially individual radio stations of the 21st century.

According to my understanding, most music blogs are probably illegal under today's copyright law because of the way they allow you to download mp3 files. However, I think that we are due for a shift in the way that copyright law is viewed and the entire model of the music industry. I'm happy to contribute to the acceleration of this shift.

I view what I do as contributing to the promotion of the artists, and subscribe to a Masnickian theory of economics that emphasizes the difference between infinite and scarce goods. The short of it is that mp3 files can be copied for free, and doing so doesn't equate to stealing the track. Each track shared doesn't result in one less sale for the artist, but rather has the potential to create one more fan. These fans will gladly pay money to see their favorite artists in concert or buy merchandise related to that artist (both scarce goods).

I've written previously about my beliefs on this topic in the posts "The New Music Industry" and "On Piracy and The Future of the Entertainment Industry." While I post a combination of music that artists send in to me and stuff that I find on my own, I do it out of the love of the music, and sincerely think that I'm benefiting them by making their music available for all.

What have I learned through my music blog?

I've learned at least as much about PR and social media in 12 months of music blogging as I have in three years of being part of the PR echo chamber with BlogCampaigning. As both independent artists and record labels constantly pitch me to write about their music, I see the side of PR and blogger relations that many in the field might not (I also get to fill my iPod up with tons of cool new music that I would have otherwise never heard about).  I'm sure that Eden Spodek's work at Bargainista has helped her understand the other side of the communications fence, and similarly, Keith MacArthur's background as a journalist has surely helped him develop media-friendly stories while at Com.motion or Rogers.

I've also learned a ton about Wordpress. As I've often told people, stop learning about social media and start using it. Maintaining two Wordpress blogs and experimenting with plugins and design has taught me a ton of the technical stuff that I don't think I would have learned anywhere else.

Lastly, I've learned that maintaining two blogs is a lot of work. When you're torn between contributing to one or the other, often contributing to neither is the end result. (Summer weather, online Halo 3 and Trinity Bellwoods around the corner from me aren't helping the after-work blogging productivity, either.)

So where is my other blog? Well, you can probably figure it out if you've been a particularly attentive reader of BlogCampaigning. Or I might have told you about it. Otherwise, maybe you'll stumble across it one day and wonder if that's me in one of the photos on it or just a Parker Mason Doppleganger, as one reader thought.

My parting advice to you is to not worry about blogging about something immediately relevant to the Public Relations/Communications industry.  I've said it before, but you'll learn just as much (and maybe more) blogging about something else. As Gary Vaynerchuck once famously said, "I promize you can monetize that shit. If you love ALF, start an ALF blog. You like Smurfs? Smurf it up!" I don't necessarily think you'll be able to monetize that blog by selling ad space on it, but you'll learn a lot.  And isn't knowledge worth more than money?

Do you read any music blogs? How do you feel about sharing music online?


The Cultural Background of (German) Digital Games

Over the course of the last two weeks I conducted a couple of interviews for my Ph.D. dealing with the was the perception of digital games differs in Germany and Australia. By talking to just a couple of people you can tell how the cultural history of a country also influences the way modern media is dealt with. The first person I spoke to was Malte Behrmann, attorney, secretary general of the European Games Developer Federation as well chairperson of the German developers association, GAME. Malte is also responsible for digital games getting officially accepted as Kulturby the German Kulturrat, the umbrella organization of the German cultural associations. This push always reminded me of the strategy of the early German Autorenfilm.

In an attempt to conform to bourgeois cultural norms and thus demonstrate cinemas' cultural and social relevance, the Autorenfilm (films based on the works of famous contemporary authors or written by them directly for the screen) mobilized national literary and cultural traditions against the Schundfilm ('trash film') by serving as an incentive to 'respectable' artists from the 'legitimate' stage and literature to lend their prestige to the new medium. It was basically an elevation of the medium to adhere to bourgeois tastes and therefore broaden its social basis.

Asked if he saw any parallels between these two instances, Malte Behrman answered that he wouldn't sit in his office like a spin doctor and think about how a game could be made more socially acceptable by means of "nobilitation". A statement I thought was quite remarkable as it shows how on a subconscious level Germany's long high-culture traditions and its specific socio-cultural influences still assert themselves – in a way that is decidedly different to Australia where, due to the country's different history, I never encountered a similar attitude. Here digital games – and non-hierarchical entertainment in general – never needed any form of cultural legitimation.

German ad for Commodore VC20

Moreover, Germany's cultural background allegedly influenced the way games were designed: They were regarded as overly complicated, complex and not very accessible (think complicated simulations, strategy games and management games [Parker's note: only Germans would be into "management games"]). When I was talking about this with Philipp from Yager he made the point that this might have something to do with the fact that for a very long time German developers mainly created games for the PC.

In contrast to consoles the PC was an open platform everyone could develop for without having to obtain licenses and development kids – and Germany has a very strong history of home computing. I suppose this is because the purchase of a home computer was easier to justify as it allowed its user to go beyond the mere pleasures of play. As the classical ad above puts it: "How do you land safely on Jupiter and in the next class?" With the most successful computer of the world of course! The VC20, not only does it allow you to land on Jupiter as part of a game, it also plays chess and connects people in play. Well, that but it also teaches math, physics and biology… So much for the theory, but then again this probably had more appeal to Germany's cultural history of a country defining itself in terms of Kultur and education.

This eventually also might have had an influence on the design of German games: most of them went beyond mere play but offered an 'added value' by, e.g. teaching about complex economic correlations and challenging the player accordingly. I remember people at school telling me how they refused to play Doom because they thought it was too primitive. As Jens from Ascaron put it in the interview I conducted with him: "Germans liked to play with animated Excel charts".

German Atari 400 ad - good for games AND school!

Obviously this was a competitive disadvantage: These games, on account of their design, hardly sold outside of Germany, probably another sign of their cultural specificity. Just like the (mainstream) American market did not appreciate the Autorenfilm with its intellectualized themes of broken identities, alienation and magic, history repeated itself 80 years later when it refused to play overly complex German games.

Of course this changed in the last couple of years, last not least because of a transition to console gaming. The Wii and especially the DS were godsend gifts - cheap and easy to develop for and… well cynics might point out that Nintendo isn't very strict when it comes to shovelware. Also German developers are amongst the leading ones in the field of mobile and browser games. But eventually it is quite difficult to rid oneself off one's cultural background. I suppose that's what Philipp meant when he said that even though you can have lived in the US for three years you're not quite 'there' yet in terms of an American (uncomplicated, commercially orientated) mindset.

My next interviews will be about support mechanisms. I wonder if the influences I just described also have an impact on how local game developers are supported by the state run institutions. What are the rules and regulations? And do they get applied eventually? Which games will be funded which won't? Would something violent yet potentially successful receive support? I already got a taste of what to expect when I informally talked to someone about these things on a party and was told that 'serious games' apparently play an important role when it comes to funding in Berlin. Not only because they demonstrate potential 'transfer-effects' (locally developed engines used for something… well, beyond play) but also because they function as a mental guide for the people giving out the finds: As a cultural/ technology-beyond-play token that helps to set everything in motion, the 'ox that draws the cart' so to speak.


Games: Empathy Enhancers?

Not only can Tetris apparently cure trauma but videogames can also enhance empathy in children. A new book by psychiatrist and gamer Dr. Kourosh Dini, desribed as the "definitive assessment of video games' impact on children, including on their physical and emotional health, and educational and social development" explains that

Games have lots of benefits, which unfortunately, parents aren't always aware of when the only games they're exposed to are the controversial violent ones targeted to more mature players. Age appropriate multi-player video games can allow children to learn how other people think - a key aspect of empathy. Games can also help a child become more comfortable with new and ever progressing technology (…)

To be sure, there are those who play problematically. Learning how to tell the difference can be critical toward promoting healthy development.

Two things must be taken into consideration here: The games should be age appropriate and they should be multi-player titles as these allow interaction with other, real people. Observing their teammates' play style and reactions under gaming circumstances can help children to grasp an idea of what goes on in their friends' minds.

Basically it's like other play situations, which, as we all might remember, constitute deadly serious affairs for kids and are vital to the healthy development of several skills. It seems that in the case of videogames, these situations are now digitally supplied. A virtual version of cops and robbers, if you will.

Via: Gamepolitics


Back In 09`

Hey there BlogCampaigning fans - Jens and I hope you had a good holiday season, and we're going to start posting a little bit more regularly now that we are both back from vacation. We're also working on a new design for the blog, and we expect to have some great guest posts in the next few months.

Thanks for reading in '08 - we'll try and bring the same quality stuff to '09!

-Parker Mason

Don't Like the Fact that 91% of the Population is Against You? Blame the Research!

South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson, the person holding back any progess on the introduction of an R18+ for digital games in Australia, labeled a report commisioned by the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia "absolutely bogus polling" and "trash". The report, which found 91 per cent of Australians support the introduction of an R18+ rating, was conducted by Bond University on behalf of the publisher's lobby group. Its author defended the research pointing out that the it was done impartially by international firm Nielsen and the statistical analysis was performed "following the highest standard of research ethics":

Dr Jeffrey Brand, Associate Professor at the Bond University Centre for New Media Research and Education, told Screen Play today that "the research team for Interactive Australia 2009 would be interested in hearing specific criticisms from Mr. Atkinson with respect to particular flaws he sees in our research methodology".


"All research must be funded and idle claims about the impact of funding influence on research outcomes are less useful than thoughtful considerations of how methodology impacts outcomes," says Dr Brand.

Mr. Atkinson made the assumption that "he who pays the piper calls the tune", but Dr Brand says he approached the IEAA with the proposal for the research in 2004 and was "not seeking to be paid for my views". "I have sought to bring quality national polling research to the table to facilitate discussion about the place of computer games in our society with the one funding source that would be willing to support the research.

"We make no profit from this research. The IEAA simply covers the cost of the research - not even my time is paid for, instead funding pays for Nielsen to field the study and for postgraduate students to help with analyses, build graphs and write up the report."

Damn you inconvenient reality! This outright refusal to take the vast majority of the people seriously really shines a light on Atkinson's understanding of democracy.

Blogs You Aren't Reading But Probably Should:

I recently wrote a post on this blog introducing you to Jan Chipchase's Future Perfect blog in an attempt to introduce people to some blogs that might be outside their usual reading scope. Continuing with this series is a post about SEOMoz and why you should be reading it. A concept that has been around for a long time in the web industry but only recently seems to be gaining steam amongst communications professionals is that of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). According to Wikipedia, this is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site via natural or "organic" search results. Basically, the more optimized your website is, the better traffic you'll get to it.

For some reason, many of the people that I have spoken to in the past few months seem to think that there is some sort of alchemical magic or technological wizardry that optimizes a site for search engines.

Put aside those thoughts and start reading the SEOMoz blog, written by some of the world's leading SEO experts. Some of their posts are directed at newcomers to the world of SEO and can offer a great introduction. Others are a little more complicated and technical, and the balance of the two types of posts lets you pick up anywhere and start learning or applying what you already know.

If you're more of a visual learner, they also have a series of posts called Whiteboard Fridays where one of their team members will create a short, casual video explaining some SEO concepts.

One of my favorite posts on SEOMoz is about the Three Cornerstones of SEO. Even though it was published back in mid-September, I'm constantly referring to the great diagram they have that makes it easy to explain the basic concepts of Search Engine Optimization.

So head on over to SEOMoz and find out why can proudly say they've got more than 30,000 subscribers to their RSS feed.


PS: Related is a great post from Ed Lee about why your site sucks in search engine rankings. As I commented there:

"I also think that too many people complicate SEO, particularly in our industry. They think that it is some kind of alchemical magic, when it really comes down to the three simple “pillars” that you mention. I’ve always heard that if you design a site that is easy to navigate by humans, the search engine bots/spiders will also be able to crawl it easily and find your content. If you’re creating relevant content and writing naturally using words that people are likely to search for rather than jargon, people will be able to find your site and are more likely to get something out of it, and subsequently link to it."

Getting Started Online Part Two: RSS

(note: this is a belated followup to the post I wrote almost a month ago about Twitter) A few weeks ago, I told my roommate about the magic of RSS feeds. I also told him about how he could go about subscribing to these feeds using an RSS reader like Google Reader.

Last week, I couldn't help but feel pride when I walked into his room and saw him with Google Reader open, scrolling down through a number of posts.

"This is great, man," he told me. "I'm getting all these updates from sites I like, but I don't have to go back to them to check for new stuff."

With that statement, I knew that he understood the value of RSS. Even though his reading list of Ultimate Fighting news sites probably isn't the same as the list of sites that you check on a regular basis, what matters it that he is able to easily get the information he wants. As Seth Godin recently wrote about the topic of subscribing to information via RSS:

"If you subscribe to a blog, any blog, congratulations. Not only have you figured out how to keep up, for free, with huge amounts of information, you've done it in an elegant and efficient way. While it may be fun to try to remember which blogs you read and then go visit them in some sort of order, RSS and other subscription tools are way smarter."

So right now you're probably thinking that this sounds great, but wondering how it works. Well anywhere you see the RSS logo (normally in orange, but like shells in the Mario games, it can come in a variety of hues), or word 'Subscribe' or 'RSS,' you can sign up to start recieving RSS feeds. Nearly every these days allows you to subscribe via RSS, and those that don't are missing out.

At Toronto's recent WordCamp, I heard Joe Thornley compare subscribing to RSS Feeds to subscribing to magazines. Rather than having to drive all the way downtown to the store and look around to see if his new magazine had arrived, Joe noted that he simply took one of the subscription cards, filled it out, and everytime a new issue of that particular magazine came out it would be delivered right to his house. I think this is a great analogy, except that the best part about subscribing to things via RSS is that they are free and magazines aren't.

Get started by first signing up for (or downloading) an RSS reader. There are plenty out there, but I prefer Google Reader. It is easy to sign up for at and you can start using it right away.

While some sites will require you to manually input the address of the feed you want to subscribe to, clicking on the RSS logo on a page will generally take you right to Google Reader and allow you to subscribe to the RSS feed.

If you use Firefox, the little RSS icon will often appear in the address bar to let you know you can subscribe to that particular site just by clicking on the button, and being brought to Google Reader.

So what else can you do with RSS?

If you perform searches on a regular basis, it might be easier to subscribe to them via RSS. That way, you'll be notified everytime a new search result comes up. Technorati allows you to subscribe to an RSS feed of their search results, as do Twitter and Google.

I also use the Hype Machine to look up music fairly often Since I'm super into an artist named Lykke Li, I subscribe to an RSS feed of search results for her name on the Hype Machine so that I can always get the latest remixes.

For those of you using Yammer for internal communication, you can also subscribe to an RSS feed of your company's conversation so that you can stay in the game.

If you have an account with Delicious, you can also allow people to subscribe to either every bookmark you save, or just ones you save with certain tags. For example, you could subscribe to my Delicious account at and get every single book mark I save or, if you're like my roommate, you could choose to just subscribe to the bookmarks I tag 'music.'

And if you monitor certain Wikipedia pages, you can pay attention to them more easily with RSS. By going to any Wikipedia page and selecting the history tab near the top, you'll be able to bring up another menu down the left-hand side. One of those items is "RSS", and subscribing to it will alert you everytime someone makes a chance. Not only will it let you know that the page has been changed, but it will let you know how the new version compares to the old version. If you start making your RSS reader part of your routine, you'll realize how much time your saving and how much extra information that you're absorbing.

Oh, and Dave Fleet has some great tips for using Google Reader to help you with your media monitoring.

I'm sure I'm missing some RSS tips here...any other suggestions?