The New Rules For Unfollowing Someone

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I cut down on the social media clutter in my life. Consider this a follow-up. Its a guide to which people you should stop following on Twitter. You know who they are. 1.) They Tweet about the spam they receive - You know those people who Tweet sarcastically "Well, looky here! Another email from a Nigerian prince! My lucky day!"? They're part of the problem, not the solution. Its like giving spammers extra coverage.

2.)They Tweet about bacon -  I'm so sick of bacon-related humor.

3.) They Tweet about dieting - If you have to tell people about it, the diet isn't working.

4.) They Tweet about going to the gym - Like with the above, if you're working out that much, I'll notice the results when I see you in person. If not, why bother talking about it?

5.) Their Tweets are nothing but updates from other networks - I hate using the terms "engage" and "participate" but I mean c'mon - if you're not going to engage on Twitter and participate in the conversation there, what's the point?

6.) They Tweet about how they're working late - We all work late sometimes. Don't act like you're the hero taking a bullet. Besides, maybe if you cut down on the number of Tweets you sent out a day you wouldn't be at work so late.

7.) They Tweet about #FollowFriday - I don't think I've ever followed someone as a result of Follow Friday, or ever been followed as a result of Follow Friday. The whole thing is a waste of time.

8.) They use that "Twit Longer" service - The whole point of Twitter is short messages. If you can't handle that, get a blog.

9.) They constantly Tweet at celebrities - Sometimes its cute when an old person does it, but otherwise it just gets annoying. And what's the best thing that will happen if Kanye notices your Tweet? He'll Tweet you back? And then what? Nothing, that's what.

10.) They make lists like this one about the rules for Twitter.

Have any more? Leave them as a comment and I'll update this post with them.

Peter and Valentine Were The Original Bloggers

Note: this post has some spoilers about Ender's Game, so if you haven't read it yet, don't read this post. Just go out and buy it and read it, because it's amazing. But don't take my word for it;  I mean, the 1986 Hugo Award and 1984 Nebula Award are hard to argue with. It's not even that long of a book. You can probably finish it in a lazy summer afternoon at the cottage, if you put down your iPhone for long enough. You can buy it on Amazon right now for, like, seven bucks.

This weekend, I finished re-reading Ender's Game for the first time since I originally read it ten years ago and was blown away by how well the author, Orson Scott Card, predicted the future from the early 80s.

I say the early 80s, but it could have been earlier. Card's first version was published as a story in a science fiction magazine in 1977. He later fleshed this out to a full-fledged novel in 1985 (according to the copyright information in my copy of the book), and made some more minor changes in 1991.

And when I'm talking about how Card predicted the future, I'm not talking about Ender's Desk (which is described exactly like an iPad) or even the Ansible, a device capable of near-instantaneous communication over vast distances (not that far off, really). I'm talking about how he predicted the rise of blogging and the influence social media can have over culture and politics.

While most of the plot of the book follows young Ender Wiggin, youngest of three children, as he goes to Battle School at the age of six to learn how to be the commander of a fleet to fight invading aliens, a sub-plot involves how his sociopathic, but brilliant, brother Peter, and more empathetic, but equally brilliant, sister Valentine, are left home on earth.

Under the leadership of Peter, the two of them start contributing to "forums" on the "nets" using pseudonyms, or characters:

"They began composing debates for their characters. Valentine would prepare an opening statement, and Peter would invent a throwaway name to answer her. His answer would be intelligent, and the debate would be lively, lots of clever invective and good political rhetoric. Valentine had a knack for alliteration that made her phrases memorable. Then they would enter the debate into the network, separated by a reasonable amount of time, as if they were actually making them up on the spot. Sometimes a few other netters would interpose comments, but Peter and Val would usually ignore them or change their own comments only slightly to accommodate what had been said."

The next paragraph describes how Peter tracked how their work was being read and shared, and reads almost like a description of media monitoring in 2010.

As the two keep writing, their influence grows, their articles get syndicated, and they begin to get involved in serious policy discussions. Since its all online, no one knows that it is actually just two genius children.

Implausible? Yes. Impossible? No.

While I doubt that our global politics are being played like a game of chess by a couple of kids, I think Orson Scott Card's prediction of the way an ordinary citizen can get involved via the internet and become a serious, real-world influence is a great bit of future-casting.

Reasons like that are why I love reading science-fiction, be it old-school Heinlein and Asimov, 80s cyberpunk, or the post-human stuff that's all the rage these days. Science fiction is a framework for thinking about what could happen; it's a way of looking forward to finding out who is going to be right.

Have you read Ender's Game? Were Peter and Valentine the original bloggers?

Another great idea that you heard here first

Remember last June when I said it would be great idea to have a browser plug-in that would allow users to navigate blogs using the J and K keys, much as one does in Google Reader? Well, just this week BoingBoing unveiled some similar technology on their blog:

"You can now jump between posts on the front door of Boing Boing by hitting J and K. It should work on most browsers."

I guess Boing Boing has a few more resources behind them—all BlogCampaigning has is a hard-working editor-in-chief, a cute girl, a lazy German, an absentee founder, and a fantastic copy editor.

We're still on the cutting edge of cool, though. Follow us on Twitter.


Bloggers: Reach Out

booger bloggerI am coming up on the one year anniversary for my personal blog, Toronto Uncovered, and it started me thinking about how far I've come in the past year and how much I've learned about blogging. Since my blog's focus is Toronto, I have a lot of competition. There are tons of well established blogs devoted to Toronto news and reviews (BlogTO, Torontoist, Spacing, and the list goes on), not to mention all of the general websites (, that provide similar information. That being said, I love my blog; I love writing about Toronto and I try and take a different approach from competing sites. With so much online competition,  I have had to work extra hard at getting my blog noticed. Blogger outreach (how to get your news noticed and covered on blogs) is a hot topic among PR and marketing professionals, but as a new blogger, I have had to do a lot reaching out myself. If you're having a hard time getting traffic to your site, maybe these ideas will help:

First and foremost, don't be shy! Whenever I am at an event that I want to cover or researching people, products, or places to write about, I introduce myself to the people closest to my topic. Restaurant managers, shop owners, yoga teachers, whoever. Ill often e-mail them questions or let them know what I'm setting out to do so that I can get as much help and input as I need.

Second, make a habit of sending the link to your post to the people it features. Everyone likes to see a write up about themselves, no matter how big or small your site. More often than not, they will post it to their own website or Facebook fan pages, increasing awareness and traffic to your blog.

Third, distribute across as many relevant channels as you can. Find the sites that cater to your audience and start there. Also get active on social media channels. I distribute my posts to both Twitter and Facebook because I know the topics I write about are relevant to that audience.

reaching out

Communications is really all about building relationships and those relationships go both ways. In the last few months, I have received more invites to Toronto events, and pitches to check out diverse Toronto-based companies and products. I attribute this to my ongoing outreach efforts. Until you get enough content and traffic on your blog to be able to rely on the powers of Google alone, put some effort into reaching out to your community. It'll pay off!

What kind of outreach are you doing? Any more tips for new bloggers?

When Social Media Becomes Work

Talking with my friend Mike Kennedy recently, I realized that social media have invaded my job. My personal and professional lives are colliding! Blogging and reading blogs have become part of my job description, and there are small Twitter and Facebook communities among my co-workers (including me) and higher-ups. I talk to my boss on Twitter—weird. These things used to be solely personal pursuits—stuff for friends and family. Now I do them at work? Yuck!?

I'm sure this is nothing new to many of BlogCampaigning's readers, but it was a bit of a shock to me, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I'm happy that my company has started a blog and that I get to write for it. I think it's great that we're actively, if tentatively, pursuing a social media strategy. I've even written some posts on how social media affects the workplace (we're in human resources publishing, so you know).

I think my surprise arises from an artificial barrier that I had built dividing The Internet and its Many Diversions and Modes of Communication including Social Media, from E-Mail and Proprietary Closed Systems and their Singular Purpose of Doing My Job. What I mean is that I previously thought The Internet was for leisure, and one only used it occasionally for work. But in an instant, I recognized that this was far from the truth, and I was thus in some sort of work-leisure limbo. (It's clear now that this realization was building for some time.)

So what now!?

I don't really have a problem with social media entering my job. In hindsight, that was clearly inevitable. This episode has just made me realize that I will now have to deal with all of the mixed-up things that come next: delineating work time from leisure; maintaining a professional web presence; managing the time I am working...

I guess the question is: does this situation even really change anything?

Sure, that barrier has fallen down, but does that mean my behaviour or life will change? I don't know the answer to that yet.

--- Update ---

I think I might have figured it out. The thing is, I already spend a lot time at the computer; I don't like that it has intruded into so many daily functions. If I want to read the news, I go to my computer. If I want to see what my friends are up to or talk to them, I go to my computer. If I want to listen to music or look at photos—computer. If I want to write—computer. Recipes, directions, phone calls, videos, communication... You can probably guess that I don't have a Blackberry or iPhone or some other piece of fancy portable gear. Maybe that's my trouble but I'm not sure.

I have two problems with spending so much time at my computer: guilt and headaches. On the one hand, it just doesn't feel right staring at a digital screen for as long as I do each day; on the other, I feel unhealthy doing it. You could say, "Get a Wii Fit!" But I'm pretty sure that's missing the point. I want to do all of those leisure activities, but I don't want to sit in one spot all day, staring into the bright light, to do them. I want to leave my house!

So I wonder, what is the solution? Am I just waiting for the right technology to come along to allow me to do all of the things I want to without feeling like I'm attached to a machine? Do I want to give up technology altogether? Let me tell you when summer comes around.

The DJ Edits My Blog

Adam Gorley is BlogCampaigning's resident copy-editor, but he also moonlights as a DJ. Here's his take on using a laptop to spin tracks. Imagine this: you’re the DJ at a bar—the night’s entertainment. You’re using a laptop; you’ve got some software that you’ve tried out before and you like better than anything else you’ve tried for the purpose.

Things are going pretty well, until right in the middle of the tenth song or so the application quits unexpectedly with no warning and no message—what! You scramble to switch to another program (iTunes is all you’ve got available) and find a song quickly to fill the gap. Then you load up the application again—it probably just crashed, right?—surely it won’t happen again. But no, it does happen again after another ten songs, and you realize it’s because you’re using a trial version of the software. Well, bloody hell, a little warning somewhere would have been nice, you think, and you spend the rest of the night cueing songs in iTunes and hoping nobody notices—and of course, cursing the company that made that other application.

Well, that happened to me about eight weeks ago at The Painted Lady—the first time I played at that bar—and, man, was I unhappy about it, by which I mean Embarrassed. I won’t name the application that closed down on me, because I don’t want anyone to use it, which is a shame, because otherwise it’s a decent lightweight laptop DJing app.

I might sound like an ass for trying to use a software trial to DJ a party, but, you know what? To me, that’s the purpose of a trial: to try the product out—not for ten songs, not for 100 songs, but until I’m ready to buy it. I would prefer to have the functionality of the application somehow restricted rather than face a completely unexpected shutdown. All I’m asking for is a warning here software developers, that’s all I’m saying.

It turns out that iTunes is an acceptable—if very weak—substitute for bare bones software. (You might laugh—please feel free—but I can say this confidently because I’ve had to use it exclusively on three occasions now.) And by adding a few features, it could actually be good—yes, iTunes could be a reasonably good (basic) DJing application, with the addition of greater crossfading control, current song protection, and two music windows. That’s all. It would be far from great, but in a pinch, I wouldn’t worry about using it.

Of course, none of that can take away the fact that I’m using a laptop and a mouse (or, worse, a trackpad) to DJ, but that’s another story.

So, maybe you can help me find a good free/open source mixing application for Macs?—the simpler the better. And if it’s compatible with the M-Audio Torq Xponent, I like that too.

-Adam Gorley

Check out Gorley's playlist from that night on

Did Mainstream Media Win The Online Journalism War Against Bloggers?

Like Christie Blatchford before him, David Olive is one newspaper reporter that really doesn't understand blogs and the internet. In his recent article on ("Bloggers hitch wagons to the traditional media") he argues that... you know what? I'm not really sure what his argument is. He seems to be critical of bloggers and seems to be trying to defend traditional media.

The problem is that he doesn't do a good job of either.

After dismissing bloggers as nothing more than "Internet diarists," he applauds Newsweek, The Atlantic, Maclean's, The Nation and even his own Toronto Star for either hiring bloggers or turning their journalists into bloggers.

Just one paragraph later, he says that the reason these bloggers are turning to newspapers is because "there is little 'stumble upon' factor in blogs—strangers who come across a website by accident and become fans. You won't stumble across the website of prolific blogger Mark Steyn at the dentist's office as you will Chatelaine."

I find fault with this statement for a couple of reasons. The first is that if the major problem for bloggers is the lack of "stumble upon" traffic, why would writing for a newspaper website get them greater visibility than writing for their own website? Similarly, if blogs result in such little traffic, why is David Olive so happy to let us know about the prestigious print publications that now have their journalists spending time writing blogs on the publications' websites?

I'd also argue that blogs DO get a lot of stumble upon traffic—both from the fact that they link to other blogs (something David Olive doesn't seem capable of doing) and because of a little something called StumbleUpon. Most of the blogs I read today I read because I've come across them via a link from another blog. Either that, or I've found them via StumbleUpon—a tool that plugs into your web browser and lets you stumble around the internet.

I also question the validity of his statement that "the lifespan of the average blog is two to three months." I don't know where he got this information, and I'm not doubting it. I've got plenty of friends that have thought it was a good idea to set up a blog and given up after only a post or two. However, that's because the barriers to entry are so much lower for starting a blog than for starting a newspaper. If you honestly want to compare failure rates, how many people have given up trying to start a nationwide print publication after coming up with an initial idea and perhaps drafting one or two articles?

David Olive might declare that the war is over and that the mainstream media have won it, but I disagree.

I don't think there was a war in the first place. I think there was an evolution, and that the media everywhere is changing. Bloggers are thinking more like journalists, while traditional journalists and editors are thinking more like bloggers. If anything, the borders between the two are blurring.

For a guy writing an online article with a comments section (despite the lack of links), he's doing a pretty good job of not understanding what a blog is or how it works.


The 4M Theory of Social Media Releases

Over the past few months, I've given a lot of thought to Social Media Releases. They are a great tool, but only if used correctly. In the few years that they've been out, there have been a lot of different types and styles, successes and failures, but no real agreed-upon strategy for how to use them. I think it is time we should start thinking about how exactly to use them, and less about the actual form they should take. My recommended strategy for a course of action when including a Social Media Release in a communications campaign includes four points: Monitoring, Message, Media, and Media Relations. 1.) Monitoring: Paying attention to what is being said about your brand or organization has always been recommended as a first step. As has been said before, social media is a conversation. Just as you would wait until your turn to speak in a real-world conversation, and then say something relevant, you should do the same in an online conversation. Monitoring will help you ensure the timing, nature and relevancy of your message.

2.) Message: This is what the core of the release is. It is why you are making an announcement. It is what you are hoping your audience of bloggers and the online community will care about enough to engage with. As April Dunford recently wrote in the blog post entitled "A Skeptic's Guide To Social Media Press Releases":

"You need to answer the question "Why is this interesting right now?"  What is it about your announcement that makes it important information to share right now?  If you can make your news relevant to a broader audience than experts in your space, you are well on your way to spectacularness."

If you can't think of a reason why your announcement would be interesting to anyone, you're probably not going to get a lot of media attention.

3.) Media: One of the coolest things about a Social Media Release is that you can include photos, audio and video to accompany the text of the release. However, this doesn't mean that  a JPEG of the CEO's head and a television commerical uploaded to YouTube constitute great multimedia content. Instead, you should think about your target audience and what might appeal to them. If it is a product launch, including images of the product in use and with a plain, white background would probably be beneficial to bloggers that might use them. Similarly, including a short video of the product in use might do wonders (but keep it short).

My thought is that a Social Media Release should provide value to the intended audience. The text portion should provide value in that it is informing them about something new. The accompanying media should either reinforce this value, or provide value on their own. One of the reasons I believe that the video CNW Group produced with Mark McKay got picked up online (here and here, for starters) is because it provided educational value by teaching people what a Social Media Release was. Similarly, April Dunford mentions in her post that she also provided a white-paper that showed other companies how they could start a green program in their organization.

4.) Media Relations: Contacting journalists has always been a part of traditional public relations, and it should continue to be a part of public relations in the blogging age.  Just because the audience you are trying to reach is online and you might never see them in real life does not mean that you can simply blast them with email. In fact, a huge part of the Social Media Release is the social aspect, and the fact that it is able to connect you and your news with so many people. Research and follow blogs that are relevant to your news - just as you might have different traditional media contacts for different types of news, you will probably want to reach out to different bloggers as well.

5.) Monitoring: As with any communications plan, monitoring success and following up where necessary are an important part. In the case of a campaign involving a  Social Media Release, monitoring should include not just checking to see where it got picked up and how it was used. I included Monitoring as both first and last on the list because it marks the beginning of a new communications cycle. I hardly think that the Social Media Release is the only tool for communicators to reach an online audience, but I do think it is a good one. If you have any thoughts, suggestions or criticisms of my "4M Theory" I'd be happy to hear them.


(As with all of my posts on BlogCampaigning, this reflects my own personal thoughts and opinions. These may not necessarily be the same as those held by my employer, CNW Group).

Dear Globe & Mail, (a letter to the newspaper industry)

Dear Globe & Mail, I really like you. I don't have a subscription to you because I'm normally too busy to read you every day, but I often buy a copy of you from the newstand in my building because it is simply easier (and more environmentally friendly) to share you with my coworkers, or to simply read you online.  As I've written before, one of my favorite Saturday activities is to buy your weekend edition and read through it over a coffee.

Despite what everyone says, you also seem to be pretty popular with the fickle blogging crowd. I mean, as of today you had a almost 60,000 blog reactions on Technorati, and over 200,000 inbound links according to Google blog search. You're still a primary source of information for these people.

If the recent debacle of CNN erroneously reporting that Steve Jobs was in poor health is anything to go by, citizen journalism is as flawed as Andrew Keen says it is. As a traditional media force, people still respect you.

But then you go and do something like trying to charge me $4.95 for a newspaper article that I've already paid for and read, and this hurts me (telling me that this content will only be available for 30 days only adds insult to injury).

Your greatest asset is the thousands and thousands of pages of information and news stories that you have in your archives. People want to view this content, and just as they have endured advertising in your print publications, they'll endure the same kind of advertising on your website.

I understand your thinking when it comes to locking up this content behind a pay wall: it is valuable information, so people will pay to see it.

The problem is, you are only half-right. It is valuable information, but only when it is easy to access. In the age of Google, people will quickly move on and find the information elsewhere, somewhere where it easier to get at.

I know that you have a lot of people working for you (like Christie Blatchford) who don't understand very much about computers, the state of media today or even life in the 21st century. But that doesn't mean you have to end up as a failure. It just means that you have to pay attention to the people that want to help you.

Change your ways, Globe & Mail. or we're through, and it won't be because I'll stop reading you. It will be because everyone stops reading you, and you'll cease to exist.



PS: You should probably forward this letter to some of your other traditional media friends. I know that they are going through some tough times as well.

Social Media Is The New Hip Hop

Remember last year when I was slagging MyRagan and saying that it wouldn't make it past the first year? During that whole debacle I continued to update my roommate. He isn't a blogger, but he told me that it sounded like social media is the new hip-hop, complete with beef. With M0serious climbing up the charts and my recent post about Wu-Tang, I'm starting to think that there is more to my roommate's comment than I first thought.

I was reminded again about this because of this recent post by Tris Hussey at Maple Leaf 2.0 about how Mike Arrington couldn't handle being scooped by Erin Kotecki Vest. Similarly, Shel Israel and Loren Feldman seem to have worked up some serious tension (back story here).

In the words of my roommate, "someone is gonna get shot."

And in semi-related news, look for a post on BlogCampaigning in the next week about the similarities between the Wu-Tang concept of "Killah Beez" and crowdsourcing/smart mobs.