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Blogger Relations 101 December 27, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in marketing.
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“I’m not saying it’s a bad game. It’s a good game. And it should be, since they’ve released it twice before.” – Tycho, Penny Arcade.

Marketing is over people. Which is a good thing – for everyone who isn’t a marketer. Sit your product in front of me but do not for a second think you can tell me about it, beyond it’s most basic feature set. Hugh McLeod has more on this.

Thankfully, and because of this, there are interesting times ahead.

Egypt’s Wael Abbas December 19, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in blogging.
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This article on Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas over at Shel Israel’s Global Neighbourhoods is incredible. Makes me want to just hand in my keyboard and do something far more worthwhile with my time.

Let’s see how far we’ve come… December 18, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in web 2.0.
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I twittered this morning about how there were two books being read, one newspaper and a magazine but I was the only one reading from a BlackBerry on my way to work, a timely reminder that if you don’t pop your head outside the bubble (no, not that kind of bubble…) every now and then, your perception of reality can be so far off as to be unrecognisable.

ANYWAY, cue quote: “We have built this from a brand owner’s perspective.” Paul Hurley, CEO of Ideeli, quote found by way of GigaOM. No. No no no. No no no no no no no. How many times do we need to go through this? To shamelessly mis-quote Bono, the war is over, we don’t need your help, the brands are waging war on themselves. I saw a great quote yesterday I wish I could remember where, it was essentially “Newsflash – we’re not markets, we’re people.” I was somewhat disheartened to see they had raised capital while spouting utter crap like that, but $3.8 million doesn’t actually get you all that far these days, so I welcome a post in the not too distant future from Mike Arrington announcing a descent into the deadpool. I don’t ever wish failure on anyone, unless their thinking is so far behind that some sort of Darwinian theory for business must be invoked.

Making me feel better though is this and this. The former taking Web 2.0 enhancements with you wherever you go (equal parts crucial and awesome) and the latter an ode to the 60-year old transistor and a pondering of how long Moore’s Law can hold out. Both take us closer to a mobile future, and my experience on the tram this morning will surely become a thing of the past sooner rather than later. We’ll then find out if you can indeed have too much of a good thing.

Watery Weekend December 15, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, marketing.
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Plans for a barbecue got killed by Melbourne’s wonderfully unpredictable weather. So instead, breakfast, two cups of coffee and a couple beers later, my day has thus far been spent on a couch at a cafe near me with wireless and cold brews served at a reasonable price. I’m just catching up on a couple pieces I missed during the week and I have to say, my favourite, favourite blog I discovered only recently is David Armano’s Logic + Emotion.

He writes with such incredible clarity of thought, it makes me just want to cease thinking altogether so the time I spend doing that can be utilised digesting more of what he is on about. Do yourself a favour and check it out if you don’t already.

Right, the power is running low on the laptop, which means it is time to unplug the computer and spend some time with my much neglected guitars, this bar has been playing nothing but Hendrix and it has, if I may be so bold, got my mojo working overtime.

Have a great weekend!

The Agony and the Apathy December 14, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in blogging, Video Games, web 2.0.
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As an epilogue to yesterday’s post, it’s amazing to see the folk that come out of the woods when you surface among a section of society you stepped away from. I haven’t been actively involved in games for a couple years, but as sad as yesterday’s news is, it’s wonderful to be back in touch with a bunch of people I hadn’t spoken to in years, even if most of them were calling to offer condolences for a job I hadn’t lost.

I was also reminded though of the volatility that exists within the online gaming community. It isn’t hard for me to recall posts I made to a forum of comments I made when I was a hardcore gamer. To see some of that venom directed towards Auran and in some cases me, got me thinking about things I had said, comments I had made from the outside looking in, invariably through frosted glass, only able to make out faint shadows inside but still taking it upon myself to pass judgment on what I believed lay before me.

One of the things that I love about the Web 2.0 revolution that is currently sweeping across the web, marketing, communications in general, is the exposure of real people and real lives. Hardcore gamers players are among the earliest of early adopters of technology, but with that comes handles, alter-egos and a whole lot of posturing built upon an identity that gets donned only from behind the safety of a computer screen. Parts of this remained core to my presence online until recently, I only just finally changed my email address to have my actual name in it, and I’d change the address of this blog if I had a simple way to do that (anyone with an easy tip there feel free to drop me a line). Putting yourself online and moving beyond a pseudo-identity leaves you open in a way that my online experience hasn’t been previously.

But it falls inline with the person I am when I’m offline, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Long Road To Ruin December 13, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in Video Games.
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I remember hearing a long time ago (couldn’t possibly remember the source) that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. You can see it play out with major corporations who don’t alter their strategies with changing markets, flying in the face of all the evidence presented to them, watching their consumer bases shrink in slow motion before them, unable or unwilling to make the turn before the iceberg collides.

I’ve just finished watching it play out at a company I used to work at, Auran, a game developer based in Brisbane, Australia. Those who played strategy games in the mid-90’s probably came across their biggest hit, Dark Reign, which set the company up and garnered worldwide acclaim. Of course then the publisher Activision bank-rolled a start-up and took pretty much the entire development team away; it’s safe to say things never really quite got back on track.

I spent two and a half years working at Auran as a game designer and producer, and I have never spent so many good, good days around a group of nicer, more intelligent people. I was blessed with teams that were passionate and inspired by the work they were doing. Leaving to chase other dreams in other cities was a hard if correct decision, but I have stayed in touch with a number of the people I worked with, and their Operations Director is my best friend.

So it is with a very heavy heart that I say the administrators have just walked into the building and the process of dismantling what was one of the great development houses in Australia begins. Thankfully the scene in Brisbane is booming and the staff will all have jobs to go to. Their publishing arm, N3v3rfa1l is likely to continue which is good news for its staff, with the continued involvement of Graham Edelsten and Tony Hilliam, the latter of who has invested a fortune over the years into a truly capable company that never quite managed to live up to its promise.

Auran never lived in the shadow of previous successes, it was always looking to break new ground and refused to rest on its laurels. Other companies grew past it in terms of size and projects, but to its credit it took on unusual and interesting projects, even when the direct ROI wasn’t as clear as would have been nice. It bet the farm on a unique idea for an MMO, a game that I was involved in as a Producer on the initial pitch that won a significant piece of funding from Korean publisher Hanbitsoft. That relationship soured over time, but the companies parted ways and Auran continued to innovate and push the title down a completely new direction instead of taking the me-too approach of so many MMOs. A variety of suitors would come and go in that time, but the vision was steadfast, and thanks to Tony Hilliam’s generosity, it meant they could forge a path that was all their own, not beholden to anyone else’s ideas.

The game, Fury, was released to mediocre reviews on October 16th, and while many of them acknowledged a good idea and solid game at the core of it, the technical issues proved insurmountable. The game has failed to garner a large enough following to make it viable, and Auran’s directors decided that the water was coming into the boat much faster than they had the capacity to bail it out. They can’t be blamed, though I’m sure in the fallout fingers will be pointed in all directions. It’s like the break down of a good relationship; in the end maybe nobody is to blame, and it simply ran its inevitable course.

I don’t know that I’ll ever go back to games, but if I did, I would seek out the culture that Auran created. Compassionate directors that valued innovation over a safe bet, the best and brightest staff from all over the world, a willingness to go against the odds even if failure means you don’t exist anymore. Auran went down with a corporate philosophy focussed on leaping towards the sun; you may not reach it, but at least, for a little while, you can get off the ground.

It is a really sad day.

N.B. I appear to have been linked back to from all over the web as the “Ex-Fury” Producer. While I worked on the game initially, they were very early days and I cannot claim any sort of stake in the title it became. Many people much smarter and more talented than me devoted themselves to it for a number of years, and despite the end result, they deserve the highest of acclaim. Also thanks to Bloody for the kind words, they have been passed on to the team.

LinkedIn – Increasingly relevant, struggle with “cool” December 10, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, marketing, web 2.0.
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Just checked out the latest entry on the LinkedIn blog which I stay ontop of due to working in the online job space. There is a video showing them chilling out and relaxing by playing a game called Four Square. What I don’t understand is why they have all donned LinkedIn polo shirts for the video. IT IS ON YOUR BLOG GUYS! We see the logo at the beginning of the clip! For a company trying to be at the forefront of Web 2.0, you should be treating our audience with a little more grace; seeing you in a LinkedIn t-shirt on a cheesy PR piece doesn’t make me want to buy one, it makes me want to use LinkedIn less.

This is a conversation I have very regularly with folk who want to PR the hell out of every little development. There was a great post on TechCrunch a few days ago with 10 tips from Loic Le Meur on start-up success. One that really stood out for me was “Don’t plan a big marketing effort. It’s much more important and powerful that your community loves the product.” So, so true, and something I am trying to incorporate into the DNA of the people I work with. People, just let your work speak for itself; nobody believes the LinkedIn guys wear those every day, and if they do, why? I’m a big believer that the conversations happen without you, so all you should be doing is focussing on giving people positive things to talk about.

…one day at a time…