Sunday, July 30, 2006
I may also go back and reformat the book and re-self-publish with Lulu rather than Booksurge, as the latter takes a much larger chunk of royalties. I'm only really with Booksurge (which is owned by Amazon) because it was bought by GreatUnpublished.com, which was started by a friend of mine (Hi, Jeff!), who asked me to throw TaleWeaver up in a marginally publishable format in order to put it on the shelf when GU went online back in... er... 1999 I think it was.
So TaleWeaver may get a few more chapters on "Use me as an RPG," some reformatting, and a new publisher. Also... I'm looking for a way to easily, cheaply, happily, smartly produce the card deck as CARDS for the love-o-pete. Right now they're embedded in the book, since "publishing" cards at either Lulu or Booksurge is impossible. If anybody out there has any good ideas about how to do that, I'd love to hear 'em. I've been buying off-set print as part of my day job for years... but I don't fancy dropping a couple grand to have a a crate of 500-1000 copies sitting in my basement for the next twenty years. The best thing about Lulu/Booksurge is that they are just-in-time. As of yet, I haven't been able to find a just-in-time, custom, card deck print service. Mugs? Yes. Mouse pads? Sure. T-shirts? Of course. Cards? Not so much. Ping me at awhavens (at) sanestorm (dot) com if you have any ideas. Or any thoughts on "TaleWeaver as RPG." Thanks.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Love it. Love it, love it, love it. Loved it when the Académie Française (founded by Cardinal Richlieu!) tried to keep English out of French. Because "the box that has pictures and sound it in," is sooo much more intelligent and sexy sounding than, "le television."
Love it for a couple few reasons. One, it's a giant waste of time. And if Mahmoud is wasting time on trippy little crap like this, it means two things: 1) he's not focsing on building WMD, and; 2) he's becoming a more modern leader. Modern leaders in the 21st century focus on BS issues like gay marriage, flag burning, "freedom fries," violence in videogames and the horrible, horrible problems that can be caused by using a word for something that somebody else in another place came up with. Because, God/Jehovah/Allah knows, we can't have thoughts in our heads (or crap in our garage) that has been labelled by the people who invented it. Or by the people who popularized it. Or by anyone who looks different than we do. Or by me.
Also love it because it shows that Mahmoud is inching closer to "Tree Dwelling Loon" on the "Patented Andy Havens' Scale of Bug-Fuck Crazy Leaders." Now... you may think it's a bad thing to have the first Middle Eastern nuclear power (second if we count Israel, but she's soooo coy about those babies) led by a nutter. But, really... the quicker he goes totally yabba-dabba-doo, the quicker we can have some more Ruin in the Dunes. We've just about screwed ourselves into a hole too deep to get out of in Iraq, so it would be FABULOUS to have a really compelling reason to go, "Hey! We HAVE to pull out of Iraq! We need to get all those troops over to Iran immediately because their leader has just holed himself up in a rural "small room" and is lobbing various large incendiary devices all over the Holy Land. That would be cool. So. Crazy language policy = one step closer to "Iranian Stalemate." Or whatever we call our next Military Industrial economic bolstering maneuver.
But mostly love it because the new Iranian term for "pizzas" is "elastic loaves." And this, from a social, anthropologic and linguistic standpoint is what just cranks my noodle wide open and gives me a big grin. Pizza is... what? Traditionally, an Italian food. Made very popular in the great Satanic America. Variously, depending on the thickness of crust, you can apparently still have the Hated Western Devil Chicago Style Elastic Loaves (thick crust), or Godless Roman Infidel Crispy Elastic Loaves (thin). Though the latter is a bit contradictory in syntax, as the Roman pizza / elastic loaves I've had is about as "elastic" as a Wheat Thin.
Iran has not called a jihad on the food. But on the words for the food. In the war for the minds of people, this means you have lost. You can not TELL people what not to think. From a memetic point of view, it's impossible. Because while telling them what not to think, you've just delivered the viral communicative load you're hoping to prevent.
Love it. And my next band is SO going to be called "The Elastic Loaves."
Friday, July 28, 2006
If you're reading this, there's a good chance you just came FROM Etsy. How can I tell? Because my traffic stats for this blog went through the roof as soon as it happend. For the few of you who came from elsewhere, you can go to my shop and see that I put a little tag at the end of my items that reads, "For author's writing samples, see: www.TinkerX.com."
Since what I'm offering on Etsy are writing service, that seemed only fair.
I have yet, after a month of having the shop up on Etsy, to sell one item. [7/30 UPDATE: I sold a "Previous Life Bio for Your Cat" yesterday; my first Etsy sale. A great experience. I was very pleased to do the work, and the customer was pleased, according to her feedback. More props to Etsy.] Which is OK. As I set up the shop as a lark. The site really, really appealed to me. It's a great example of social networking + web store + art + reverse auction thingy. Very cool. I wanted to participate. Problem is... I'm not very crafty. I do a few things -- I've built two duclimers (which would make no sense to sell or do again for money, as they take forever), I've taught arts & crafts, I like to do stuff with Dan (my nearly 7-year-old)... but it's not part of my "I do this for other people" geshtalt. Writing, however, is.
But... damn it! I wanted to participate at Etsy. Thus, "Strong Words." Worst case? I make a fool of myself and the owners of the site say, "Dude. That's not on brand for us. Tear down your silly store." Which I would have done with no complaints, as "words" aren't really (to be fair) right up the main street of what they're doing. I'm not doing any harm... but I'm not really moving their ball forward.
Best case, though? They put me on the front page and I get 10-times the hits to my blog as normal. Thanks, Etsy!
So. If you've come here for additional free writing from me, here are some more links:
Winter Triptych ~ Visit in Summer ~ The Glass Bed ~ Shadowlamp ~ Thinspun ~ Lightshow ~ Fifth Season ~ Outside-in ~ Pause ~ Getting In ~ Recess ~ Exchange of Hunger ~ Wear White ~ Stucco Thicket ~ The Blower-Man Must Die
Fourth Wall -- A longish short-story, or short novella. Maybe a screen-play in short-story format. Near-future fiction with a slight cyberpunk flava. Read it online or download the PDF.
The Delicate Pattern -- Getting a friend to the church... on time and alive.
Jesus is a Liberal -- An essay originally published in the now defunct online magazine RouseMag.
The Age of Content -- Content as the central engine of vale in this, our current age. Primarily a marketing essay, but the point is one that bears consideration for other disciplines.
A creativity system
If you want to write stories yourself, check out TaleWeaver. It's cool and fun and I've now sold over 30 copies on Amazon! Only 999,968 to go and it'll be a million seller!
Way too much more
Basically, every poem I've ever written (that's worth even a glance... and some that really, well... let's just say they're experimental) and a bunch of other stuff can be found under my author page at Lit.org. Knock thyself out.
And if you've come from somwhere else, and don't know nothin' about Etsy, go check it out. They're good people who, apparently, have a sense of humor. Which, in my book, makes them even cooler than I thought before I set up my goofy store.
And if you HAVE come here from Etsy, and you do enjoy writing, reading, commenting, etc... leave a comment. Go over to Lit.org and join up and get in on the fun. Drop me an email. Something. It's not really about the money, see. It's about the words. And if they stop with what I've written, and you don't chime in... well, that's the end of the story, eh?
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Which I've known for years, but now we have independent confirmation. Besides his IMDB page. Besides the fact that he was in a for-real Broadway musical, "Steel Pier." (see #12, "Harmonica Specialty"). Besides the fact that he's an amazing writer and has finished an historical fiction novel. Besides the fact that besides harmonica, he plays amazing guitar, drums and banana.
He's a good kid. For a younger brother, that is. Anyway...
Independent confirmation of his talent comes from the fact that he has now been named the About.com guide to podcasting. He makes money when you go to that page, click on things and leave comments.
So go do that now. I'll wait. There's a prize for you when you come back.
Did you do it? No. I didn't think so. Go do it. Then there's a prize.
If you did it, the prize is that your karmic burden has been lightened, and I love you more. See? A blog with free prizes inside. Isn't that nice?
Anyway. I don't ask for much. But you need to either send an email to everyone you know and point them to this blog post, or to John's About.com podcasting page (simple link, easy for cutting and pasing is):
He gives some great advice and information on podcasting, and I swear he puts the banana down before recording any of his shows.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
The basic point of the NYT article (and the MIT and Harvard economists whose research it's based on) is that since some customers buy low-end, low margin products... other customers must be supporting that behavior. Or, as the NYT writer puts it, "...sophisticated consumers have somehow learned how to game the system by having enough naïve consumers around to subsidize them."
Here's one of the examples given:
For example, you see an offer for a room at Nontransparent Hotel for $75 (which costs the hotel $100 to provide). The guy checking in behind you also rents a room, but will rack up $70 in fees from the minibar, the phone and garage parking (all of which cost the hotel $20 to provide). You, on the other hand, were not tempted by the minibar, used your cellphone for calls and took public transportation to the hotel. The other guy subsidized your room.
I love economists. How is "the guy behind me" in this example unsophisticated? He wanted a relaxing drink in his room, didn't own a cell phone (which costs me $150 a month), and had to park his $45,000 car. Which makes my main point... value depends, greatly, on perception. NYT say, "naïve." I say, "four times my income."
If you go on to read the rest of the article, you'll find such nuggets of wisdom as:
- It’s a perpetual battle between the firm that fools consumers into paying fees and the smart consumer who can avoid them
- Now that the world is more complicated with more products, there are more opportunities for people to make mistakes
- Outsmarting companies is hard work
- Consumers responded to direct costs more than to shipping costs
- Even the most sophisticated people find it hard to game the system when it comes to fees
- Even the most knowledgeable people make really dumb decisions even when provided all the information
Right. Because we don't make buying decisions with an Excel spreadsheet and actuarial tables. We make them with our gonads. We are sitting in a hotel room at 11:42 pm on a business trip. We cannot sleep. We cannot go out, because we need to be up at 6:30 am to catch our flight tomorrow. We are bored. It is probably a little warmer (or cooler) than we would like. There is no "good" cable in this farglisher hotel. There is something on HBO that we would rate as a "2" on a scale of 1-10 in terms of our interest level. The bar downstairs was noisy and smoky (they still allow smoking in bars in this state?). What are we watching? "Grease 2?" Is there a minibar? Please, God. Please. For the love of Mike... Let there be a minibar. I think it was behind the fold-down... YES! Minibar! Score! We will drink not one, not two... but all three Coronas in there and, maybe... maybe... get to sleep before 1 am.
I don't give a fat rat's ass about “Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets" -- the name of the economists' paper that appears in The Quarterly Journal of Economics. You suppress NOTHING in that hotel room that matters. You want a beer, you want it now.
It ain't about the economics, professor. It's about "Grease 2," getting to sleep and the satisfaction that comes from knowing that the company will reimburse for any expenses under $25 a day without a receipt. Myopia that.
Monday, July 10, 2006
I've tried about two dozen or so different RSS readers / aggregators. I am, I will admit, an information junkie. Or at least a headline junkie. I like to scan lots and lots of headlines and then pounce! like a mongoose on the ones that interest me. Until recently, I had been using MyYahoo. It integrated with other stuff I do at Yahoo, and I had high hopes that they'd pull del.icio.us (which I love, and which they bought) into the UI really well and interestingly. Not so much thusfar. Oh well.
So I've been trying on new RSS readers. In the process, I made a list of what features the perfect one, for me, would need to have:
- Separate panes for feeds, article headlines and article summaries/bodies
- An indication of how many articles are unread
- The ability to import/export OPML (as I am WAAAY tired of trying out new readers manually)
- The ability to share settings, feeds -- the whole mess, actually -- between multiple computers. I do lots of stuff at home and at work, and having to update or match two sets of feeds is a pain.
- Tagging of feeds and individual articles
- Bookmarking / saving of individual articles
After a bunch of unsatisfying experiences, I came upon Alesti. It's a free, web-based RSS reader / feed aggregator that does all of the above. Because it's web-based, you can log in from any computer and view your feeds. It's got the panes, the indication of unread articles, OPML export/import, tagging, etc. I'm thrilled. And it's still in beta, and looks like it's just getting started.
So help these guys out. Go join up and make sure it keeps on keeping on, because I like it and don't want it to go away.
Sunday, July 9, 2006
Not So Much
If I could change color
would you love me forever?
If I could change color
would you love me like an angel,
like a hero, like a god?
Not "color" as in "ethnic,"
like Caucasian, Asian, African...
Not color like a tattoo,
or a sunburn or a tan.
Tuesday, July 4, 2006
"Youniversal Branding" is basically about the current state of advertising in games/VWs. They report that in 2005, advertisers placed ad buys of $USD 56 million in games (up from $USD 34 million in 2004), and predict that that market will be $USD 732 million by 2010.
That sounds like a lot of money, but let's put it in perspective.
According to a report by TNS Media intelligence, total US advertising spending in 2005 was $USD 143.3 billion. That number does NOT include "paid search advertising." According to this article, Google and Yahoo! had ad revenue of about $USD 6.5 billion last year, and expect a combination of about $USD 10 billion for 2006. Let's assume AskJeeves and MSN got at least 200K, and I'll add 6.7 to that 143.3 number and get a nice, round 150 that I love so much.
So... games got around $USD 56 million compared to $USD 150 billion (that's US only). That's .04%. Let's be super clear. Not "four percent." Four one-hundredths-of-a-percent. Four percent of a percent. 0.000373333 to be exact.
According to the Trendwatching article, 100 million people worldwide play games every month. That is a pitiful amount of advertising for that size audience.
"But wait!" you cry. "People pay to play those games! They subscribe! We don't need advertising, because folks shell out $10 or $15 a month to play. What's your point?"
My point is "soap operas."
There has been a discussion on my favorite virtual world blog, Terra Nova, about how the use of a game in an insurance industry ad may or may not constitute mainstream acceptance of gaming or a change in the general gestalt of how games/gamers are viewed. My take is that the ad is bad, and that marginalized, cartoonish, even disturbingly inaccurate portrayals of sub-cultures have always been used in ads to make hay.
Games in ads does not cultural sway make. But ads in games does.
The Trendwatching article is OK. It doesn't break any radical ground for any of us who are already immersed in MMOs/VWs. Refreshingly, it has the stones to admit as much right up front. What it does do, however, is gather unto itself many of the issues related to advertising in games. It is a good starting point for a discussion which harks back to the earliest days of the first really transformative, mass-market, captive-audience media in our history: radio.
Before radio, all mass media was, to a great degree, "pull." Yes, you had to wait for a newspaper or magazine to publish the next issue, but you could then read it at your leisure, and do so where you wanted to. It was consumed on your schedule, in your environment. You can read on the train, at work, at home, out loud. You can share the paper, save it, read it in any order you want. Same for books and magazines. And that hadn't changed, really, since Guttenberg.
Radio? Entirely different. When a radio show is broadcast, you must listen to it right then and there. It is immediate, and presumptive. It requires that you put down what you are doing and listen (or at least listen while doing something radio-friendly). It needs "radio space." You need to schedule time if you want to be sure to catch your favorite show. Before the advent of recording devices, if you missed Little Orphan Annie... you were SOL -- Sorely Ovaltine Lacking.
It was so different, in fact, that early audiences didn't get it. And early advertisers didn't, either. The first ads on radio were bought as 30 minute blocks of time where pitchmen simply read -- on and on -- about the benefits of their products or services. They were infomercials, essentially. But people didn't want to listen to that. Not then. Why would you schedule time away from family, work and friends to listen to a guy talk about Soapolio for 30 minutes? There just wasn't anything -- from an audience perspective -- worth listening to. And from an advertiser's perspective -- worth buying into.
Until soap operas. There were limited news, sports and music examples before the coming of the soaps, but I'd liken those numbers to what we've got in gaming ad revenue right now; percents of percents. At some point, though, a number of advertising agencies got very clever. They made the jump -- whether it was creative, intuitive or purely mercenary we don't know for sure -- that what was needed was a way to get folks coming back to their radio sets every day, at the same time. So they invented, wrote, directed and produced soap operas for their advertising clients. Originally soap manufacturers, hence the name.
Advertisers wanted to reach an audience. The audience didn't have an overwhelming, commercially viable interest in the current media. So the advertising agencies invented a reason for folks to "go to the watering hole." Voila. Radio advertising took off, more radio shows were produced, and within a decade, spending on that media eclipsed that of print advertising.
Gaming is still a relatively new media. I ain't saying it's in any way similar to radio, btw. But it's new. And VWs/MMOs are real new. Many of my gamer friends will decry the idea of blatant advertising in games/worlds. I will agree with them. As long as by "blatant" we mean "bad." I would point to the example of the early radio advertisers sitting at a mic and reading print copy for half-an-hour. That's just dumb. You can't take what worked in other, older media and make it work in a new one. What worked in TV didn't on the Web. What works in print doesn't work on radio. I'm not saying that we should look for advertising and marketing to be the same or even similar in games to what has come before.
The obvious has already been nailed to the wall. NASCAR games have NASCAR cars with NASCAR correct logos. NBA games have Nike sponsorships. VW's with fashion conscious avatars are getting some real-world design shop advertising/marketing. This is the tip-of-the-iceberg. The "read the print copy on the radio" stuff. It will get us the "percent of the percent."
Until someone figures out the "soap opera" for games/VW's, MMOs/VWs may be marginal from an economic standpoint, and probably a cultural one. The Trendwatching article blends info about MySpace into its talk of "other worlds," but I find that fallacious. Having a blog or MySpace page isn't gaming or being immersed in a VW. There are surface similarities, but it ends with some tool blending. And link ads from MySpace aren't "virtual ads" any more than banner ads on Gamespot are.
We are finding new ways to link the Web and our new virtual worlds back to our lives all the time. They are, indeed, relevant to our intellectual, emotional and creative selves. I have no argument with that. I loves 'em. As marketers, though, we need to get out of our print/radio/tv/web boxes and think about how to bring brand new economic, and probably advertising-type value to MMO/VW spaces. And as gamers, we should welcome new ideas (as long as they don't suck). Because without orders-of-magnitude more investment, we won't see the kind of growth that brings major growth and improvements to the industry.
[Thanks to George at IAG for the pointer to Trendwatching. I usually get around to reading it eventually, but his link came in within a day of the TN post on the insurance ad, sparking this train of thought.]
Saturday, July 1, 2006
I've been thinking about my definition of "Social Share" for the last two weeks or so. What I put down in my last post:
Social Share: the relative importance of participation in a group to a member of that group — or association of one group to another group — as measured by activities that involve resources or influence.
is still something that really resonates well in my great, huge haid. But I'm changing what I call it. Yes, I know... changing the new term right away is a bad idea. But I don't get that many readers, and it's only two weeks, so calm down. I'll get it right this time, and then call the nice people at the OED.
Compared to various economic terms, the above definition seems more akin to "share of wallet" to me; that is, how much of a person or company's total finances are spent on a partiular resource or brand. So if, in 1970, companies spent 10% of their operating expenses on IT infrastucture, but in 2000, they spent 15%, we'd say that IT infrastructure experienced a "50% growth in share-of-wallet." Therefore, with slight changes only...
Share of Participation: the relative value of participation in a particular type or brand of social activity by an individual or a group as measured by resource or influence.I, myself, regard "influence" to be a measureable resource... but I don't think that that is a widely held belief. So I'm putting it in there explicity. Share of Participation, therefore, measures the personal side of the equation, which is what I was trying to get at -- how important a particular social activity or tool is to an individual or group.
What, then of "Social Share?" That should have been the "market lookin' at itself" measurement from the get-go. My bad. Because "market share," in economic terms, looks at how much of the market "belongs" to a particular brand or segment, not the other way around; object focus, not subject focus. So here we go.
Social Share: how much of the total participation in social activities of a desired audience is aggregated to a particular brand or segment.There we go. All better.
But, clearly, I have not been long-winded enough yet today. Nor have I given an example (which the teacher in me says I must). Nor have I explained why it’s important to have two terms. Sooo….
Lorcan Dempsey is the VP of Research and Chief Strategist for OCLC, where I work. In a recent blog entry, he discusses some of the implications of which photo sharing sites are most popular and used by MySpace (and, I would make the implication, other social sites). The blog report — Hitwise Intelligence — he sites uses the term "market share" and measures this in terms of site visits and hits to the various photo sharing sites.
The particular report entry talks about how Photobucket basically kicks Flickr’s bahooky in terms of marketshare (again, measured in hits… which we assume will translate into ad revenue). Graph looks like:
Some of the comments on the report make part of the point I’m about to — that there is a qualitative difference between a site for hosting your media files (such as Photobucket) and a site that is for the storing, tagging, organizing, and sharing of "photographs;" i.e., Flickr. The basic point being that Flickr is a more "social" site — a destination — and Photobucket is a "pass through" kind of utility thingamabob platform where you put up photos, anime, illustrations, movies, etc., that will actually "live" on your blog, site, MySpace space, etc.
You can guess what’s coming, right?
Using my new terminology, what I would argue is that although Photobucket has a greater market share, Flickr may have greater Social Share to the entire photo sharing community/sector, and, in the case of individual users, may occupy a much greater Share of Participation on a case-by-case basis. I have no idea if this is true, can’t measure it, and won’t defend it… but it makes for a good "vacuum example."
What does this mean and who cares? Well, as I said below, in the "old, old days," nobody cared much about "mind share." Market share was the only real measure of worth. How much of the dollars being spent came to your product or segment? Now, in fact, we are so used to treating mind share as a stand-in for market share — we grok that "mind" leads to "market" — that we assume it’s true. In the above example, for instance, the folks at Hitwise are using Website hits as a measure of market share. Well…. technically, "market share" is only concerned with sales. Not traffic. The number of people who comes into your store, looks into your window, sees your ad, reads your flyer, visits your counter, remembers your name… all that stuff is something that can be used to measure mind share, and can be assumed/hoped to lead to market share. See? We "feel" that the two are inextricably linked.
But they ain’t necessarily. There are all kinds of products (Mac anyone?) that have much greater mind share than marketshare. And who have dormant mind share that eventually (iPod) translates into market share in another way. And other examples of products (Levis) that for years, didn’t have anywhere near as much mind share in terms of buzz, but who were in the constant top spots in market share. Quiet leaders.
So there is often, but not always, a connection between mind share and market share. What about Social Share and Share of Participation? My argument is that businesses and organizations looking to make their sites/offerings "social" should be considering the same kinds of connections between the "social qualities" of what they’re doing and the end results they are looking for. In the photo sharing example given, as a marketing guy, for instance, I’d ask these questions beyond the "hit stats" that show market (ahem… mind) share:
- How many items do individual users on average store on each site?
- How often do users add new materials?
- How many comments are left? Aggregate and per item?
- What is the average length of tenure of users?
- What is the ratio of paid users to free accounts?
- Is the API open and mashable?
- What kind of PR does the site get? Is the service itself being "socialized?"
- How many users are using advanced features? Mashing the API?
- How many new accounts come from referrals vs. advertising?
- How much traffic is from other social sites vs. more "static" usage?
Measuring this stuff would not be easy, no. But going bankrupt isn’t easy either. If the whole point of Everything 2.0 is that "socialness with provide the engine of continued growth/value" for the next phase of the Web economy, then we need to be discussing socialness in business terms that relate sensibly to the ones we already have. Terms that I made up in the shower.
The marketing world is littered with cases of flash-in-the-pan stories of products that were "Hot! Hot! Hot!" in the public mind for a day, week or month… but inevitably cost their users, employees and shareholders lots of money. Using mind share in an overbalanced way to gague the value of a property can be foolish. Similarly, simply saying something is "2.0" or "social" without a framework in which to evaluate "how social" it is, or whether or not those particular social aspects make it a good long-term competitor is also foolish. Maybe having some terms with which to start the discussion will be helpful.