4 Reasons Why...

...I should be a guest blogger on 4 Reasons Why, a blog that regularly posts of list giving four (or sometimes five!) reasons why something is or should be. 1.) It is a chance to broaden my horizons and improve my writing, as cliched as that sounds. My posts here are fairly eclectic and nothing is stopping me from writing about different topics but I tend to focus on the usual suspects of social media, technology, PR and video games. Writing a guest post for someone else will force me to take a different stance and look more closely at my own writing.

2.) As I've mentioned before in posts like this, Four Reasons Why is one of my favorite blogs these days. Getting the chance to write for them would be like the plot of a Mark Wahlberg movie like Invincible or Rock Star: longtime fan gets the once-in-a-lifetime chance to become famous and live his dreams.

3.) I totally understand where the 4 Reasons Why guys are coming from. After working on BlogCampaigning for almost two years, I can sympathize with the They're looking for help, and I can sympathize with the need to do things like drink beer and play sports instead of trying to come up with content for my blog all the time. And who knows, maybe if I write a guest post from them they'll join the ranks of Paull Young (who wrote a post about Astroturfing for us a while ago) and Rick Weiss (who had a guest post here about video games and PR).

4.) They're looking for guest bloggers.

If you think I should be a guest blogger on 4 Reasons Why, let them know or come up with your own list.


Online Done Right: someecards.com

I can't even remember where I first heard about someecards.com, but I've loved them ever since. Targeting an audience of the Facebook-savvy and millenially-jaded, their slogan of "when you care enough to hit send" is what first drew me in. There are a lot of e-card companies out there, and I'm pretty sure that Someecards is the only one whose copy is memorable. If you haven't had a chance to look at the site and their cards, do so now. I guarantee you'll end up sending one to a coworker, loved one, friend or one-night stand. Those are just the kind of cards they make, and the formula is simple: vintage, semi-contextual graphics on a plain background with one line of hilarious writing. Some of my favourites include one that really calls people out for typing "LOL" in emails and conversations and this one about breaking up. And yes, they've even got a card about Twitter.

So what are they doing right online? Well, as I've mentioned and as you can see, they've got great content.

They have also made it super easy to send cards to your friends from their site without messing about with a registration process (although it would be nice if you could login and the site would remember which cards you sent to who).

While at first they started with just email updates about when they would add new cards, they have recently started a Twitter feed to share new cards and other information about the company. With full understanding of their target audience, the company has also developed a Facebook application for sharing these cards.

Both of these moves are huge, as I think there are very few people that would sign up to receive email updates from a company anymore. Not everyone is on Twitter yet (nor do I think Twitter will replace email), but thinking in alternative distribution directions like that is what will determine whether or not organizations succeed in the online space.

I only really have two problems with the strategy of someecards: First of all, they need RSS support. It would be great if I could be alerted to their news and new cards that way. Secondly, I don't really know how to capitalize or space their company name. Should it be Someecards, or Some E-cards? or someecards? (mesh, among other hot Web.20 entities, has the same problem).

Stay tuned to BlogCampaigning because in the next few days I'll be doing a follow up post, Online Done Wrong.


PS: I promise (threaten?) to send a card from someecards.com to everyone that leaves a comment with a valid email on this post.

Congratulations to Amanda!

A little while ago, I posted here about how my old position as Communications Coordinator was open at CNW Group. As a result of that post, a number of BlogCampaigning readers applied for the position and I'm delighted to say that one of them got the job!

So say hello to Amanda Laird, Communications Coordinator. You can catch her on Twitter and Del.icio.us.

Amanda, if you're reading this and want to do a post about life at CNW, let me know!

To everyone else who applied - I heard that all of the top candidates for the position came as a referral from this blog. Knowing that my readers are such top quality makes me feel great, so thanks everyone.


Wikipedian Coincidences

Over the weekend, Jens wrote a post about how certain topics (like fictional characters) in Wikipedia have unreasonably high word counts when compared to what should be more culturally important issues. For some bizarre reason, Seth Godin wrote about the same topic in the past few days.

Today's edition of XKCD was also quite similar.

I'm thinking about writing a Wikipedia article about this coincidence.


Knowledge of the Masses? The Weird Priorities of Wikipedia or why Knuckles is Seemingly more Important than God.

"Web 2.0 is a term describing the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users" – one problem being that some people have more time to collaborate than others. 
 Unfortunately this lends itself pretty well towards a somewhat distorted view of the world in which wicked priorities reign supreme.

Gamesradar compiled a frightening list of 15 examples of nerddom gone wrong:

Call of Duty (13069 words) VS World War Two (11844 words)

See what we mean? When the deadliest, costliest war in the history of mankind has been trumped by a videogame franchise about that war, you know something's off. One involved over 50 countries and took over 70 million lives; the other involves button mashing and tea bagging.

On an encouraging note, we did have to add all the Call of Duty games' individual pages together to reach the crazy number above. On a discouraging note, we didn't have to add Call of Duty 4 and its non-WWII setting, which would have brought the total word count to an even crazier 18,927.

Oh, and on a simply ridiculous note? Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare beats "modern warfare"... 5,858 to 2,873.

Also less important than Call of Duty!  • American Revolutionary War = 8,078
 • American Civil War = 11,729
 • English Civil War = 8,030
 • Napoleonic Wars = 7,951
 • Hundred Years' War = 7,992
 • War on Terrorism = 10,674
 • War on Drugs = 7,628
 • Cold War = 10,117
 • "War" = 9,233

It get's worse though:

Knuckles (7832 words) VS God (3,726 words)

At last, we reach the ultimate showdown. In this corner, we have God, who Wikipedia describes as:

"... the principal or sole deity in religion..."
"...the creator and overseer of the universe..."
"... omnipotent and eternal..."
"... the source of all moral obligation, and the greatest conceivable being existent..."

His opponent? Knuckles of Sonic the Hedgehog fame, who Wikipedia describes as: "... a red, teenage, anthropomorphic echidna..."
"... the fourth most popular character in the series..."
"... shy around girls..."

This is exactly why I don't have the slightest problem with quoting Wikipedia in my Ph.D. when it comes to obscure videogame references.


"Why haven't you been blogging as much lately?"

It's a question I've heard often in the past few weeks, and the reason is time. While a number of people have commented that if the CEOs of major companies have time to blog I should as well.

I think the difference is that most blogging CEOs (and many PR bloggers) have the chance to blog as part of their regular work day (no matter how long that work day might be). My work here at BlogCampaigning is certainly related to the work I do at CNW Group but it isn't part of my job description and only takes place outside of work hours.

I'm also a firm believer in what Jeremiah Owyang refers to as "paying yourself first," although I think I have a slightly different spin on it. His priorities are to his blog and getting his message of web strategy out to the masses.

My priority is to enjoy life.

In the summer, that means being outside. It means playing sports (through the TCSSC) and reading books in Trinity Bellwoods park. When I've relaxed and "paid myself first" in this respect, I know that I can focus on the work that I need to do.

I'm also getting tired of blogging about blogging and communications blogging the newest technology. Instead of talking about, I'm trying to put these tools into practice in a couple of side projects (and I'd like to thank Mark Evans - his Four Reasons Why was a bit of inspiration for this post).

To paraphrase an old saying: Those who can create, do. Those who can't blog about how others are creating.


And Now Something Completely Different: Hanover Smells Like Old Ladies and is Just as Exciting. My Odyssey to the Hurricane Festival

What were we doing there in the first place? Our Australian friends from Operator Please were supposed to arrive in Hanover sometime in the morning so we figured we might as well meet them and go to the festival together. After spending the night in a hostel located in a rather dubious area – stores with names like "Super Iran" and stickers on cars praising the one and only true religion didn't inspire confidence that a constitution based on the principles of democracy and liberty was held in high esteem here – one of the first things we did was to try and call the band. No answer. Fair enough, it is a long trip after all, although they would have had a couple of hours of sleep at this stage.

This call was followed by several others. Wasting time was getting more and more difficult. What was there to do? Wandering around aimlessly certainly wasn't inspiring, neither was getting a second breakfast nor strolling down the main shopping street. We were bored out of our brains.

The only relief: The internet. Not only did it offer an escape from the mind numbing mediocrity of the place but it also, via of Operator Please's newsletter, revealed that Qantas employees were on strike and therefore it wasn't sure if the band was going to make it on time for their own show. The good news though: We could finally escape the fourth terrace of the purgatory.

The next stop was Bremen: If Operator Please made it to the festival it would only be an 45 minute drive from there, it they didn't we could spend some time with friends in the city whose university I attended for almost five years.

They made it though, as we found out the next day. And they even organized backstage passes for Jenna and me, the golden ticket.

It was surreal to see them play, in a very good way. About 2 ½ years ago I was telling Ashley, the bass player, about Hurricane festival after they played a gig in a tiny club on the Gold Coast. And now I had the chance to witness them perform there – in my Vaterland, in front of an enthusiastic audience.

If you get the chance: Do yourself a favor and go to see one of their shows or buy their album: they're confident but not cocky, they're sweet but won't rot your teeth, they're cool but could be your friends.

The whole experience was almost as surreal as being backstage. When I saw Dave Grohl I couldn't resist to ask him for a photo. When I was 12 I watched hours of MTV just to tape a single goddamn Nirvana video. Giving me the opportunity to meet one of THE heroes of my youth, someone I absolutely adored growing up in that boring place in the middle of nowhere, someone who at that time was in the biggest band on earth is something I will forever be grateful for (despite me looking like a cartoon of myself on that said photo). That and for the opportunity to wash my hands backstage.

Further highlights include: Seeing the Wombats from the photographers pit; watching the Foo Fighters from the sound tower and overlooking a crowd of tens of thousands people; Jaguar Love, Tocotronic and of course Sigur Ros: the chill out after the apocalypse.

Dust, rain and the fact that we had to sleep in my car because I couldn't organize a tent didn't matter anymore on this dreamlike weekend.

-Jens [Update: Now with 100% more pictures. The one with me and Dave Grohl won't hit the interwebs before I haven't photoshopped it though]

The Most Accurate Book About the Future That You'll Ever Read

I just finished reading Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge and was blown away by how he extrapolated our current world to create a science fiction future that can't be anything but the way things will actually turn out. While the plot about a conspiracy involving some of the world's security forces and a type of doomsday weapon failed to really pull me in, I was amazed at the way Vinge described the future technologies.

For example, the main character is in his 70s but is recovering from Alzheimer's thanks to some new biotech that sounds remarkable similar to what this company is doing.

Inhabitants of this future aren't really that different from us in that they are constantly connected. However, rather than glancing down at little screens to find out who is calling or what is being "Silent Messenged" to them (think Microsoft messenger mixed with this sort of tech), the information is displayed in their contact lenses, a technology that is not really that far away. Apparently, one group of researchers have already developed an LCD screen that you can wear in your eye.

Combine that with these image recognition glasses and you're almost at the level that the characters in Rainbows End are. However, they can take it one step further by using the display to "skin" their reality and make it look the way they want in much the same way that we change the look and feel of our software programs and desktop. Imagine something like this Flickr-Google Earth mashup (via BoingBoing and NY Times, but in real time rather than photos and the option to use user-generated images/skins for your reality.

The way Vinge describes this new tech is perfect in that it is simply accepted by the characters in much the same way that we accept things like email and cell phones into our everyday lives.

For anyone even vaguely interested in knowing what our world will be like in the very near future, I strongly recommend Rainbows End. If you're in Toronto and want to borrow my copy, let me know.


Wacky News Week?

I don't know what it was about this week, but for somereason wacky news just kept coming up. First there was the report of a sixth human foot found washed up on a stretch of shoreline in BC in a span of less than a year, but this was later revealed to be a hoax.

Then there was the reports of a teen-pregnancy pact in Massechussets, complete with a 24 year-old homeless man as one of the fathers.

Just two days ago, someone sent me this link about a woman that had been dead for 42 years in front of her television before anyone found her.

The week even started out pretty wild with stories of Taliban attackers freeing anywhere from 250-400 of their comrades from a prison in Afghanistan.

I don't even want to know what next week will bring.


The Verdict is in: Videogames are the Medium of the Future

Reports gamesindustry.biz:

According to an upcoming PricewaterhouseCoopers report, the videogame industry is expected to reach USD 68.3 billion in global sales by 2012 - a compound annual growth rate of 10.3 per cent. ... According to the report, the largest category - console games - will grow by 6.9 per cent annually, from USD 24.9 billion last year to USD 34.7 billion in 2012.

Online and wireless games will experience the fastest rate of growth, at 16.9 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively. The report expects online sales to reach USD 14.4 billion in 2012, with wireless sales reaching USD 13.5 billion.

The videogame advertising sector, meanwhile, will grow from USD 1 billion in 2007 to USD 2.3 billion in 2012 - a 16.7 per cent annual growth rate.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report suggests a decline in at least one sector: it expects PC games sales to decline 1.2 per cent a year until it reaches sales of USD 3.6 billion in 2012 - down from USD 3.8 billion last year.

Growth in the US will lag compared with global growth, with overall video game revenue growing by 7.9 per cent annually - from USD 12.1 billion in 2007 to USD 17.7 billion in 2012.

The study cites several key factors for videogame industry growth, including increased broadband penetration driving the online market, the increasing popularity of MMOs and mobile phones capable of downloading games with sophisticated graphics.

A compound annual growth rate of 10.3 percent – that's better than all other media sectors except for online advertising and access.


Cool New Stuff at Work

One of the reasons I like working for CNW Group* is because it is such an exciting time for communications, and I am right in the thick of it, working on a ton of cool projects A few weeks ago, I got the go-ahead to launch a Twitter account that would pull news from our 'Internet Technology' news feed. I chose this category from the list because I thought it would be most relevant to Twitter users, and you can check it out here.

More recently, we launched a wicked-cool CNW Group widget that allows anyone to display news from CNW on their website or desktop. I installed one on the side bar of this blog, and you can see it further down. Otherwise, check them out for yourself here.

CNW also partnered with Viigo Inc., a company that distributes news to mobile devices. It is essentially an RSS reader that works on your BlackBerry or Windows mobile device, but it is super-slick and easy to use. If you've got a Blackberry, check it out at http://getviigo.com/cnw.

That's it for now...


*This is a personal blog, written outside my CNW hours and may not reflect the views of my company. For more, see the BlogCampaigning disclosure page.

Third Tuesday is Today!

if you're in Toronto today, come see Jesse Brown at Fionn McCool's. From the Third Tuesday Toronto page:

Jesse Brown is the host and one of the producers of the CBC Radio One show Search Engine. A journalist and humourist, Jesse has worked in many different forms of media, including print, television, and radio.

Since its launch in September, 2007, Search Engine has won praise from followers of Internet culture, in Canada and worldwide, and has attracted a thriving, engaged community of listeners with an interest in the social, political, and cultural impact of technology.

Designed as a collaborative, open source radio show, Jesse and his colleagues at Search Engine utilize the show's blog to communicate and collaborate with listeners. The radio stories feed off of opinions or information gleaned from listener commentary, and feature stories on the show typically spill over into healthy, sometimes heated discussion in the blog comments. Jesse also openly encourages listeners to suggest improvements and changes to the show itself, and continues to tune the show format based on listener feedback.

Jesse broke into media at the age of 17 by founding a city-wide underground student newspaper. He was honoured by Ryerson University with their Udo award, "for noteworthy contributions to the field of Journalism," and remains the youngest recipient in the award’s history. His radio program The Contrarians ran as a summer replacement series on CBC Radio One. His satirical column The Experiment ran for two years in Saturday Night Magazine and won a National Magazine Award for Humour.

Come out and hear Jesse speak about the ideas behind Search Engine, the power of the community, and the future of open source broadcasting

Sounds awesome.

See you there.


Post-CPRS Thoughts

The reason I haven't posted lately is because I've been in Halifax at the Canadian Public Relations Society National Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I'd like to start off by saying that Halifax is one of the most beautiful cities in Canada. It was my first time visiting any of Canada's maritime provinces and I was quite impressed. The people were friendly, the city was walkable, the buildings were nice

Maybe I've just spent too much time in a concrete wasteland over the past year.

The conference itself was great, but I was disappointed when during Joseph Thornley's presentation less than half of the communicators in the room said that the used Facebook. A handful even knew what Twitter was, and only a slightly larger group raised their hands when asked if they wrote a blog. I'm sure that the session was inspiration for Joe's post about how social media authorship is mandatory for credibility as an advisor.* Similarly, I question why the CPRS Toronto website is so often out of date, and why they can't just switch to a blog format. Since the CPRS members are supposed to the creme de la creme of Canada's professional communicators, shouldn't their society reflect the latest trends and advances in communications?

Part of the reason there are so many "social media experts" out there these days is that it doesn't take much to rise above the average level of social media knowledge. Compared to the many great and otherwise brilliant PR pros that I might at the conference, I'd pretty much say that anyone who reads this blog (or any blog) could be considered a social media expert.

To those Halifax Twitterheads that invited me to the Monday-night Tweetup: Thank you! I'm sorry I couldn't make it, but lobster dinner at the shore club was calling my name.

Last week we also had the most recent installment of Thirsty Thursday, a monthly gathering of Toronto's most brilliant young communicators. The weather was great, and we totally took over the patio at the The Central. Not only was there free foosball, but the waitress had an incredible memory for drink orders.

If you're not already a member, join the Thirsty Thursday Facebook group, and we'll invite you out to the next one.

In fact, since our friend Michael Allison is going to be in town, some of us will probably be getting together late next week.

Now it's time for an afternoon of playing soccer and watching the Euro cup (I'm cheering for Sweden, but mostly just hoping that Germany loses).


*Why does my spell check not recognize the word "advisor?"

More Crazy News From the Videogame World: Al-Qaeda Claims to be Inspiration for GTAIV, Game Addiction More embarrassing than Porn Addiction

Writes CBS:

Some parts of the fourth edition of the popular video game Grand Theft Auto were inspired by al Qaeda’s operations, including the Sept. 11th attacks, claims one member of a militant Islamist forum who identified himself as Abdul Wahab. Several links to YouTube videos of the game were also posted, including one of a helicopter crashing into a building and exploding. Abdul Wahab posts links to other parts of the game, detonating taxis and buses as well as suicide operations, and claims they were all inspired by al Qaeda.

And you thought Jack Thompson was nuts – as if some stone-age fundamentalists and their horrific acts played any role in inspiring the most successful entertainment product of all times. That certainly would enhance its mass appeal... I mean c'mon, theoretically you could commit suicide attacks in pretty much every game with explosives – apart from the fact that these actions don't benefit you in GTA at all. If you survive you just get into a lot of hassle with the cops. Not very terrorist friendly rules. Let's just hope this doesn't inspire Weazle… eh Fox News to run headlines along the lines of "GTA – now endorsed by Osama."

But then again what do you expect from a world that makes addicted gamers feel worse about their habit than those addicted to pornography. Says Dr. Jerald Block, who specializes in treating online game addiction:

BLOCK: ...the computer gamers tend to be harder to treat. People feel a lot of shame around computer games. Whereas, it's socially acceptable to have a porn problem. IDEAS: You can't be serious. You mean your clients are more ashamed of ... BLOCK: ...playing World of Warcraft than looking at porn. Yes. IDEAS: Why? BLOCK: As a society we understand that porn is something people do, and you can see a psychiatrist and get treated for it. But gaming is hard to describe to anyone else. So these people can't explain their situation to friends. In fact, it's hard to give you an example of what my clients talk about, because gaming is enormously complicated.


There Goes Enlightenment: Pastor Wants to Organize Game Burning

And I thought stuff like this only happened on the Simpsons. From Gamepolitics:

We are considering having something similar to a rally where parents and children can bring CDs and video games that they consider are destructive to the mind set of our youth and have a burning...

Young people are being influenced by what they see and what they hear. They are being influenced by television ... television and videos are telling young people a vision but something that's not reality...

[Violent media] has a tremendous influence on young people and violence. That's basically all they see. Most of them try to emulate what they see, when in reality, the people they see don't even live in those communities. Some of the rappers they see on TV portraying crime don't live in the urban areas — they live in the suburbs somewhere. It's all a facade.


The Army's Growing Dependence on the Gaming Industry

Seems videogames are good for anything these days: Critical thinking AND basic military training – at least according to the US Army. Popular Mechanics reports on how the military complex utilizes interfaces that evolved in the gaming industry as the development of controllers evolved to a point where the army can learn from the interactive entertainment business and not the other way round.

Says Mark Bigham, director of business development for Raytheon Tactical Intelligence Systems (a company using Xbox controllers for controlling unmanned aerial vehicles):

"In the past, the military far outspent the gaming industry on human-interface technology, but that's changed. It's never going to go back the other way. The gaming industry is such a huge market. The investment in R&D that they're going to spend on human factors is going to dwarf even what the Department of Defense will spend."

Apparently it's all in the thumbs as analog thumbsticks have become the common standard for gamepads. For good reasons:

"[W]hen we've talked to our human factors experts, what they've told us is that the thumb is the most precise pointing instrument and requires the least energy." Bigham explains.

Hardcore PC gamers will probably roll their eyes at this stage, telling you that the time-honored keyboard/ mouse combination will beat a controller anytime. But in a military environment this simply doesn't apply as a pad is superior in terms of portability, durability and easy ergonomics (starting with the fact the soldiers won't have to worry about a flat surface).

So will the future war just be like playing a videogame? Complete with achievements (medals) and cheating (terrorism)? As the piece points out:

There is, of course, a real concern that appropriating the game interface into the military space will also bring with it an emotional and moral disassociation from the act of fighting wars, and experts say that the answer may be to experiment with even more immersive technologies that allow soldiers to feel the full impact of the battlespace.

The salvation, here as anywhere, is of course the Wii: Raytheon has already been experimenting with Wii controllers to explore the possibilities for training simulators and other applications that require physical movement. I wonder how Nintendo's waggle boy will ultimately be able to convey moral choices and emotional attachment but at least the physical component is indeed more distinct (after all this was one of the reasons why Manhunt 2 on the Wii was so controversial).

Wired in a similar fashion reports on how the top U.S. military intelligence agency uses videogames to teach recruits critical thinking skills.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has just taken delivery of three PC-based games, developed by simulation studio Visual Purple under a $2.6 million contract between the DIA and defense contractor Concurrent Technologies. The goal is to quickly train the next generation of spies to analyze complex issues like Islamic fundamentalism.

Games like Rapid Onset, Vital Passage and Sudden Thrust put the player in the shoes of a rookie DIA analyst who has to go through different scenarios like tanker under attack in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war in 1988. The question he has to solve is: Who attacked the tanker and how by using the approved analytical process to analyze and choose among competing hypotheses of his colleagues.

The DIA isn't the only agency using videogames for training purposes. The U.S. Army Intelligence Center even uses a custom made game to train its "human collectors" (=interrogators). The torture already starts with the name of the title: "Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Tactical Proficiency Trainer Human Intelligence Control Cell."

What IEWTPTHICC does is teaching the player how to work through an interpreter, use culturally appropriate speech and analyze a detainee's body language; it currently does not teach coercive interrogation techniques, like waterboarding. But it may eventually be modified to show how offensive or abusive questioning will cause detainees to become less cooperative.

Again this shows the strengths of the digital game medium: its simulational nature which allows the trainee to go through all kinds of possible scenarios. The question remains though which scenarios are included and how their rules are defined. The Wired piece acknowledges this too:

[G]ames as teaching tools are only as effective as the assumptions behind them, says John Prados, a designer of hobby war games as well as an historian who has studied U.S. intelligence. For example, prescripted events in a game will tend to reflect the biases of the game's designers as they steer the player toward certain decisions.

Obviously these assumptions are the most crucial part of the whole game. Assumptions which can be highly politically charged. E.g. should waterboarding be used? Will it be effective? Which other options are there? Would a round of chess work better? Do they incorporate the irrationality of fundamentalists and its effect on the interrogation process? And on a more basic level: how do you turn irrationality into rules? How do you turn a whole culture into rules?

Despite the challenges one thing should be clear: If it helps to protect the country, it can't be too bad for you either.


Mesh's Finest: Matt Mason, Mike Masnick and More

If you were one of the lucky few that caught Mike Masnick's talk at mesh 08, then you are also probably one of those who told Rob Hyndman that it was your favorite part of mesh 08. Mike Masnick is a powerpoint ninja. I mean, he went through 322 slides in about half an hour and not once was a I either bored or felt like he was moving too quickly.

That's probably because, as I've mentioned before, he is probably one of the smartest economic thinkers around today. If you don't believe me (about either this or the powerpoint thing), watch the video of him below (you'll have to select "on demand", then "mesh conference" and then the Mike Masnick presentation).

A close second for for the "smartest economic thinkers around" award from BlogCampaigning has to go to Matt Mason (no relation). Even though he wasn't able to keynote at the 2008 mesh conference, it is definitely worth watching this talk that he gave at the Medici Summit in Arizona. In it, he explains his theory of the Pirate's Dilemma and how manufacturers need to copy the pirates if they are to survive. I don't want to say much more because I think that you should watch the video for yourself. It is about 40 minutes long, but the time will fly.

If you're still thinking about mesh, check out these wicked portraits that Rannie Turingan (aka Photojunkie) took of some of the mesh speakers and delegates (here's me).

And if you still can't get enough, check out this site, which has aggregated all mentions of mesh using tags. Its a pretty cool system, and I'd like to explore it further to see how it works to collect mentions of other event.

That's it for now...until the next post, catch me on Twitter.


Hip-Hop and Social Media: Together Again

This post on TechCrunch made me think that my earlier post about how social media might be the new hip-hop was way more on point than I had thought. Apparently, the RZA (aka future-crime fightin' gangsta B.O.B.B.Y. Digital) came up with the concept of WuChess, a Wu-Tang-themed online social network based around chess. Even though I'm a fan of the Wu, I don't know how successful this venture will be. There are just too many free chess social networks, and I doubt that the Wu Army cares enough to support this one.

At least least the RZA seems to understand that it can be a good idea to give away his music for free. Wikipedia quotes him as saying that the Razor makes music...

"...to be heard, personally. And, if somebody download it, if they heard it, then my job was delivered. Of course I love to make the money. I get million dollar album budgets, so of course there's money involved with it. But, personally, as a musician, as an artist, the first thing is to be seen and heard. If you're not seen and heard, who cares? ... I never got pissed off at the Internet kids with the downloading. In fact, I told them, 'Help yourself. Have a good time."

Well put, RZA.

With that, I'll leave you with search for a version of their track "Da Mysteries of Chess boxin'."


Playing Guitar Hero in the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Part of the duties of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to create a solid basis of foreign relationships through the means of educational and cultural policies. Like no other department it uses the core elements of these areas – the teaching of the German language, scientific exchange, German schools abroad – to establish links with other cultures. And it does increasingly so through the products of the German cultural industries. This is the background to its "Menschen bewegen. Kultur und Bildung in der deutschen Aussenpolitik" ("Moving people. Culture and education in Germany's foreign policy") conferences. Events that not only address traditional institutions of German cultural policy but also try to fathom new forms of collaborations by including new actors into the outlining of a future policies – the movie business, German companies with a strong foreign presence… and game developers!

Under the motif "Computer.Spiel.Kultur" (Computer.Game.Culture) several industry representatives were invited to the Ministry to give an overview of the field and its possibilities; amongst them Andreas Lange, director of the Videogame Museum in Berlin, who enabled me to attend this event.

It was a bizarre sight to say the least. The "Weltsaal", apparently one of the biggest and most prestigious halls of the Ministry, was stuffed full of computers and Wiis. Which again goes to show the immense importance of Nintendo's waggle box to acquaintance non-gamers with the medium as everyone easily picked up the Wiimotes and play away (under the guidance of some student of the University of Leipzig).

Non-understanding – and therefore rejection – due to never having played a digital game is of course one of the biggest obstacles; giving people involved in cultural policies and legislation a chance to play to let them overcome their prejudices consequently seems a very good strategy. Case in point: the lady I competed against in Wii Sports and who enthusiastically commented on the fun she had while playing tennis.

Even the foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, made an appearance. Stressing that games can be culture – this is Germany after all and without having been elevated into the lofty realms of culture no new technology is acceptable – he uttered the vision of a co-existence of classical German high culture (as in the explicitly mentioned Goethe) and the new medium of digital games – not without having mentioned that the "non-academically inclined" milieus spend a proportionately higher part of their day in front of the computer. Here we go again…

(It did not become clear if this includes internet use as well; to be fair he also mentioned that there's not necessarily a causal relationship between underachievement and time spend with computers – which is pretty much a no-brainer as it of course mainly depends on the use one puts it to. Also: When asked what amount of time he considers appropriate to spend time with computers his answer was "30 minutes to an hour" causing pretty much everyone to break out in laughter…)

Steinmeier's speech was followed by him playing Fifa, some Need for Speed title, Wii Sports and Brain Training. If someone would have told me that one day I will get the chance to watch the German foreign minister playing digital games I would have declared that person utterly crazy. Did he enjoy it? Difficult to tell – he didn't score a goal in Fifa, sucked at Need for Speed, scored a strike in the bowling part of Wii Sports and apparently was pretty good at Brian Training. I guess that's a sign that we don't have to worry about the future of my Vaterland…

I also got a chance to speak to Malte Behrmann, lobbyist and chairperson of the German and European game developers associations, and very much involved in trying to involve the state in supporting the industry. He explained to me that in the European Union one just can't randomly subsidize a branch of industry but that certain criteria have to be fulfilled to qualify for grants – one being the "cultural exception", the reason why he was busy trying to frame games as culture to achieve said subsidies. It can be seen that in France this approach was obviously successful.

But it also helped to widen the acceptance of digital games in Germany as it was used to counter the maddening "Killerspiel" discourse. As I told Malte this was probably the best action plan they could come up with. The thing is: German politicians for the most part are all members of what could be called a high-level milieu (successors of the classical educated bourgeoisie) whose main form of distinction is "anti-barbarian", one of the main reasons why digital games with violent content matter are vigorously rejected. The opposite of "barbarian" is of course culture, a concept that perfectly works for these people's self-legitimation resulting in the heightened acceptance of the new medium. (It's interesting in this regard that the ancient opposition between nature [=barbarian] and culture still lives on in all its explicitness; I always thought this binary opposition was considered overcome, but here it is as clear as day. More on this in my Ph.D.). This is also one of the reasons why I consider stuff like all the brain training titles extremely important for the perception of games in Germany as they set the "anti-barbarian" tones.

All in all: A successful event and certainly a step in the right direction! It pleasantly surprised me as it surprised other members of the game community and was a welcome counterpoint to the shrill discussions normally surrounding digital games in Germany. Even though it seems games only have a right to exist when they are culture – but I suppose that's better than being allowed to exist at all…

About playing Guitar Hero: They had that set up as well; plus the speeches were followed by a buffet which included beer on the taxpayer's expense. An irresistible combination causing me to shred away "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Holiday in Cambodia" in front of some MPs including pretending to smash the guitar in a hall where normally global politics are happening. Another bizarre incident at a bizarre, yet great event!


It's not official until there is a Facebook Group.

And thanks to Scotty Mac, there is now a Facebook group for Thirsty Thursday, Toronto's hottest meet up for young PR people and communicators. These events have always been about having a few extra-casual beers and getting to know your peers at pub or bar around Toronto, and I know that the June edition will be no different. Join the group and help us choose the venue for the next event, which will probably be on June 12.

In the meantime, follow me on twitter.


(on a side note, did you know that you can delete both the Groups and Photos applications from Facebook so that even you can't see what groups and photos you are in?)