• Social Networking & Media,  Writing

    Social Media: yor doin it rong


    After starting my first writing project during NaNoWriMo, I started following a lot of writing-related people via Twitter and my feed reader. Some people get it very right, and it’s a joy to have a tiny vicarious window into their world. If they’re someone who writes books that I love, so much the better. But some people get it very, very wrong.

    My last job was for a digital marketing agency; I headed the web team and SEO teams, and I learned a lot about building social media platforms for businesses. Social media is one of those things that everyone thinks they can do. Every man and his dog does Facebook and Twitter, amiright? How hard can it be? In truth it is very, very easy to get social media wrong and do your brand more harm than good. In fact, if you are a single person (rather than a corporation) and you think of yourself in terms of a brand, you’re probably already doing it wrong – just a guess.

    There was a recent blog post that I read (as someone had linked it from Twitter, showing the importance of social media and sharing) entitled How to Network Without Networking by Nathan Bransford. One of his points was a very good one: Do Not Think of Your Network as a Network

    “I don’t have a network, I have friends. And I’m really serious about this.

    The thing about the word “networking” is that it has a mercenary edge to it, like we’re just going to get to know each other because of what we can get out of each other. And not only is that completely icky, it doesn’t work.

    Because who wants to get to know someone else just because of what they can get out of them? How shallow is that relationship, and how is either party really motivated to help each other out when the time comes?

    Find the people who you like and whose work you genuinely admire, and invest in those people. Become friends with those people. Don’t force it, don’t do it because they’re successful, do it because you like them and actually want to help them out.

    Obviously when your network expands you can’t invest equally in everyone who is investing in you, but give of yourself what you can and treat people with respect and pretty soon you’ll be surrounded by amazing people that you’ll feel incredibly lucky to know.”

    What he said. Treat people like people, make friends, have interesting conversations with those people. Do not push out status updates as though you were some corporate flack who had been handed the Social Media hat.

    I unfollowed a writer yesterday because she had tweeted links to a post ironically entitled something like How To Build a Social Media Platform Without Pissing People Off. She posted these links every two hours or so, and I unfollowed her after six of them. How rude is that? Seriously, if you treat your posts like a sale at WalMart, why should I be forced to listen to your advertising? Be a person, post something interesting or funny or silly. Don’t be a hack.

    Here are some things that I think work, and don’t work:

    1. Post links to a recent post or article perhaps twice, well spaced out (for different timezone peeps). A friend said that three times is acceptable, and I would agree but say that three times during one day would make me notice it and start to get a bit irritated. Use your judgement. Any more than three times during a day is too much.

    2. The same applies to Facebook status updates – don’t post the same thing over and over again. With Facebook’s recent changes it is hit or miss that people will actually see page statuses in their feeds, but still. (Facebook, yor doin it rong!).

    3. Be a real boy. (Or girl, but that stretches the Pinocchio metaphor a bit.) People follow you because they want to know about the real you – be funny if you can, introspective, post links to things that you like and tell us about the stupid thing you just did. Be real – we want to know the person behind the books or the art, we want to know you. I think that Nathan Fillion is a master at this – although a very busy actor, he seems like one of the coolest, most down to earth and self-deprecating guys in the world. Captain Tightpants totally rules.

    4. If you have a blog (and you should) make sure that your feed shows entire posts rather than excerpts. I generally unsubscribe to people who force me to leave the reader and go to their blog to read a post – that’s why I use a reader, folks. I read a lot of blogs and want them all in one place.

    5. Have links/icons to your RSS feed, Twitter, Facebook page, etc., in a prominent place on your blog – don’t make people search for them. (I am guilty of that right now, since I can’t ftp onto the server right now.)

    6. Don’t use Livejournal, ever. Those days are long over. Use a more modern, open system such as WordPress or even Blogger (although I am not a fan of Blogger – go WordPress if you’re smart). Even Tumblr is ok for short posts and pics.

    Mainly what is comes down to is just having respect for your followers and readers. Talk to them, don’t broadcast or advertise. Remember that you are a person and not a brand.

    Examples of people who do it right:






  • MMOs,  Social Networking & Media

    Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children?

    Damn. Blizzard goes and changes their corporate mind about RealID, just when I was getting my absolutely brilliant social networking campaign going. I only had a chance to send one email. It would have been so evil, and so successful.

    You see, I was going to get the Moms involved. Every womens and parenting site out there was going to hear about the plan to put their children’s real names on Teh Internets. Just sit back and imagine the beauty of it, imagine the full hue and cry. (To be honest, as a parent myself, I was horrified by the possibilities. That’s the first thing you teach children about online safety: “Never give anyone your real name, your address, the name of your school…”) And day-um, they went and backed down before I could get started.

    Ixobelle’s post Don’t Applaud Rapists for “Not Raping Last Wednesday” pretty sums sums up my feelings to the community’s reaction. The players have been pissing me off…there are a bunch of kiss asses out there. Blizzard/Activision doesn’t love you, the players…they love your skinny little wallets, they are still planning (I guarantee you) to implement nefarious plans to sell your identities, if not your very souls. It will just be a bit sneakier. Love the game – god knows I do. But don’t be thankful and grateful now that Blizzard has stopped kicking you for the moment. Don’t wag your tails and lick their hand.

    I quote from the above post:

    “We shouldn’t cheer and carry them around on our shoulders for not fucking us. We should nod once, and stay vigilant… backing slowly towards the exit while keeping wary eyes on Bobby Kotick, and our IDs safely in our wallets.”


    On a more positive note, I placed my order for the Final Fantasy XIV collectors edition. Roll on September!

  • MMOs,  Social Networking & Media

    The Beauty of Virtual Personas

    There has been a lot of commentary (quite obviously) on the Blizzard/Activision RealID debacle, and quite a lot of it has pointed out that Blizzard’s official response seems to be “We’re doing this, so deal with it or stop playing. What are you guilty of that you want to hide your real identity?” which is both extremely dismissive of their customer’s feelings, and also something much, much worse. It is quite obvious that this decision was made by suits who are complete non-gamers.

    This is a bad thing for a game company, in my opinion. If you totally don’t understand the culture, how can you make the right decisions for your player base? If you don’t play games yourself, if you don’t understand the love of gaming itself, you think of games as units to be shipped, as though they could easily be cars or rolls of toilet paper instead of games. They don’t understand that you can’t lump Farmville and Warcraft together in the same category – they are very much not the same thing.

    You don’t live in Farmville. Quite a few people, however, do to an extent “live” in games like Warcraft. I’m not talking about saddoes who have no life outside their mother’s basement, I’m talking about people who have real relationships and friendships within a virtual environment. I’m talking about people like me who have felt joy in their heart when watching a virtual dawn seeping like gold across the Barrens.

    Virtual worlds have always fascinated me in part because they allow you to be who you are inside, without being judged for your economic circumstances or for whatever random roll of the chromosomes went into making up your physical face and body. Every waking moment we are pigeonholed and judged for what we look like, for our sex, for the clothing that we can afford. What a relief, what magic to be liked or disliked for our intelligence, our sense of humour, for what we contribute to others.

    I wasn’t shortchanged by Fate…I come from a pretty family, and I’ve enjoyed the perks in life that being attractive gets you. I’m a professional in a technical/creative field, and I make a decent wage. Even so, I love being able to step out of my life and into another persona. When I am Kitsune, my hunter, I literally think like a different person, and I love it, I absolutely love leaving the suit behind and being my hunter. I don’t want to be my real self in game, that is totally NOT why I love to play.

    Neither do I want to hide behind a handle on forums because I enjoy being a forum troll. I don’t post often, but when I do my responses are literate and well-thought-out. I might write something quite lacerating if I’m excited enough about what I’m writing, but I’ll do it in a logical, sensible fashion. I don’t troll. But I want to make those posts as my nickname, which is unisex…not as my real name. I don’t need fourteen-year-old boys sneering at my opinions because I’m a woman, and because I’m as old as their moms.

    I’ve also been quite open about past relationships to people who know me in game, and they know that some of those relationships have been with women. (Although I don’t really have a sexual orientation, I’ve discovered that I do have a cultural orientation, and I don’t think that one should sleep with people who they wouldn’t bring home to meet the family…so those relationships have been rare, but they exist.) Some guildies, predictably, think this is just the sexiest damn thing that they have ever heard, and they think if I’ve done it with X, I probably want to do it with their girlfriend as well. Wrong. This attention has at times gotten to the point where I’ve stopped playing mains, hiding on alts if Testosterone Boy was online. I haven’t ever felt in danger, as in this case he seemed a nice enough guy…but I would have been very concerned if I knew that at any time he could look up my address and show up on my doorstep.

    I want to be safe. I want the right to play as I wish, as whomever I wish. I want to be able to escape into a character and be me for awhile. And a non-gamer will never, ever understand that.

  • MMOs,  Social Networking & Media

    Pass the Popcorn

    No, I’m not dead. There have been quite a few mornings when mortality almost seemed preferable to going into the much-hated job (the damned coin never seemed to fall the right way up!) but in the end I’m still here.

    I’ve been quite cheered up by the whole RealID fiasco – I haven’t seen drama of this level in years. Soooo juicy! I’m horrified over the whole idea of RealID, obviously – I refuse to accent RealID friends, and I will no longer post on the forums once that goes into effect – but the drama itself is so entertaining. The “outing” of Blizz CM Bashiok was hilarious. Horrifying for him personally, of course, and I’m not unfeeling about that, but quite a good illustration of how disastrously this can go wrong. For him it was unwanted pizza deliveries, calls to his home number, and a public posting of past legal transgressions that I’m sure he would have preferred to not be public for the whole world to know. For someone else, it could be fatal. It has happened before.

    Although Blizzard seems set on rolling out our real names to everyone connected to us in game, I can’t help but think that they have to be at least a little bit nervous about this. It’s not as though they can’t afford to lose a few subscriptions here and there, granted. But no company wants something of this magnitude rocking the gaming world.

    It would be hilariously ironic if the much-discussed WoW Killer was, in the end, Blizzard themselves.

    EDIT: I had to link to a seriously great post on the subject from Righteous Orbs: Seriously Not Okay. Also check out the tip on disabling your addon’s ability to post your info. I was aware that this was a problem, but I didn’t know how to prevent it. Thanks!

    Forcing people to post using their real names is going to open up anybody with a “foreign” sounding name to racist or xenophobic abuse. It is going to open up people with female-identifying names to misogynist abuse and sexual harassment. And even if we ignore the out-and-out bigots who make up a vocal part of the online community, the fact is that even otherwise sensible people can and will make judgments about you based on your gender or perceoved background – your guide to DK DPS in patch 4.3 will be better received if you post it as David Williamson instead of Jalpa Patel or Helen Roberts.

    Nicely put! Go and read that post.

    EDIT: And this, from Hardcore Casual – another good post. See?  I’m not the only one who finds this whole thing supremely amusing.  :D

    LAST EDIT: And here it is, the source of it all: Blizzard and Facebook’s friendly social networking deal launches with ‘StarCraft II. Our measly subscriptions and pricey sparkle ponies weren’t enough to feed the greed. We wuz sold out, friends and raiders…we wuz sold out.

  • MMOs,  Social Networking & Media

    Rise of the Godslayer: Social Media Fail

    Yesterday I had what is in retrospect quite an amusing conversation with P. I was saying that it felt strange for an entire summer (and part of the fall, if Cataclysm isn’t going to be out until November) to stretch out with absolutely no new MMOs to play. I said that if I had a game even somewhat close to release, I would release it now and take advantage of a summer with virtually no competition for gamers hungry for new lands to explore.

    And this morning, as I have my coffee and go through the news, I see this on Massively: Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer has been Dated. I start to read the article with little excitement, expecting a 2011 release, and I see that the release date is a couple of weeks away, May 11th in fact.

    This was a shock. Not that I’ve been following AoC news especially, but I am a fan on Facebook, I do read a lot of the MMO blogs, and I’ve seen nothing. I looked on the main site – nothing. (Admittedly, this was the EU site, and GOA will always carry the brunt of my undying hatred for being incompetent jerks – maybe the US one was updated). Nothing on Facebook. Nothing that I could find on Twitter.

    It is amazing that a company like this could so badly screw up 1) a launch of an expansion, and 2) social media and branding. Seriously…social media has been around for a long time, it’s not a new thing at this point. Why am I seeing no mention of this in official social media channels?

    Part of my job involves building social media marketing strategies for our clients, as well as handling branding and content in the various channels that they are using. It’s interesting and challenging to handle well, but the basic stuff isn’t brain surgery. How can you just not bother to do it at all?

    And why is this important? Because of customers like me. Although I thought the original game had some serious flaws and gaps, which were why I eventually let my subscription lapse, I’d been really excited about the previews and screenshots of the expansion that I’d seen on various MMO blogs. I added myself as a fan on Facebook specifically for news and updates. I WANT to buy the expansion…why wouldn’t you try to whip me into a fever of excitement much sooner than this? (Ok, “fever of excitement” may be a bit over-dramatic considering that AoC was actually a bit meh. But you know what I mean.)

    Bad Funcom, very bad. Go sit in the corner and think about what you have done.

  • MMOs,  Social Networking & Media

    Social Networking and Multicultural Guilds

    Since I live in the UK and play on European servers, I’m used to guild members being from a multitude of countries. It’s quite a nice experience, actually – especially for someone from the US, where you may occasionally play with Australians or Canadians, but that’s usually as exotic as it gets.

    In my Warcraft guild, we have people from all over – our guild leader is Spanish, there are people from Poland and the Netherlands, Portugal, Andorra, Turkey, Croatia, Sweden, and so on and so on…plus the odd Russian or French player who opted to stay with friends rather than piss off to those servers when they opened. Everyone has an interesting accent but they all speak and write almost perfect English (which makes me feel positively illiterate, with my one language and a few remnants of high school Spanish).

    We have to plan raids around a variety of holidays, and discussions of things like Christmas traditions are fascinating. Part of the criteria for joining the guild is the ability to speak and write English to an understandable level, and having conversations in one’s own language in guildchat is considered to be rude. A shared language is important.

    However, that connection doesn’t seem to carry over very easily to sites like Facebook. It makes sense, as most people have family, work friends and real-life friends on their social networks, and of course you would communicate in your home language in those areas. Add in good friends from the guild, however, and it turns into an online Tower of Babel – you have friends posting things that you can’t understand or share in.

    It’s a shame, really. Most people are tending to narrow their focus down to less networking sites, as people abandon MySpace and Bebo and concentrate on sites like Facebook. Twitter exists, as do blogging – but those can be integrated into your network of choice. This is why separate gaming networks where you can share personal updates with guildmembers aren’t the best idea – too scattered. Translation tools would be useful, however – our social networking tools need to adapt and become more useful globally.

    That’s what I would like to see – a Babelfish type of translation tool for Facebook, so that the one part of my life that is not connected can be. I wouldn’t add most of the guild, to be honest…but there are some that I have on my friends list, or would like to.

    I just haven’t the faintest damn idea what they’re posting about.  :D

  • Random,  Social Networking & Media


    Every morning before I start work (and this habit has carried over into my looking-for-work phase) I read a number of blogs and sites about web, gaming, marketing, and so on to stay current with everything. Some of the interesting/amusing things I saw this morning are:

    COPPA Kids. This was hilarious, since I received a lot of these on the social networking site that I worked for. My boss was shocked to read the one from a ten year old that called us all “gay pricks” for the site being down that morning. I told him that that kind of language was pretty standard, unfortunately. So were the nude pics the same kid kept trying to post to his profile.

    Game Developers Conference 2009: Network Marketing: Leveraging Social. Networks to Grow an MMO. I would dearly love to attend this, as game design applied to social networks has been a very special interest of mine. Part of the work that I did for my last project was to explore and develop the areas where social networking sites intersected with common game/MMO experience. For instance, a site like MySpace or Facebook has a lot of game elements: collecting (friends lists, virtual gifts, vampire bites, whatever), levelling (sites where you gain status by being recommended or rated by other members, fleshing out your profile, etc.). I’ll have to find the spec that I did called “Community as Game” meant to explain this concept to management and developers alike – I put a lot of work and research into it.

    And finally, just a bit of cuteness: Foxes on a Trampoline.  :D

    Work calls…I’m trying to avoid the siren song of EVE until this afternoon.

  • Personal,  Social Networking & Media


    Well, the day finally came: Raph Koster made his Areae announcement, and every blog I read now has covered Metaplace.  I had been betting all along that what they were working on was very, very similar to what we’re working on, and in part I am right.  I don’t think they’re doing proper 3D, the screenshots look more like a kind of top-down 2.5D, but the concept is the same.  User-created spaces that connect to each other like webpages do.  Being able to drop multiuser content easily into any page.

    Meh.  That’s all I can say…meh.  Even though our areas will someday be much more effective (imho), we’re too small a team, with too few resources.  And so, in the eyes of the world, we will not be first, or best, and that disappoints me.

    But I suppose a dream is still a good dream, even if you aren’t first.   And the concept is a very important one: giving users the tools to create, and share, and connect.  That in itself is one of the best dreams in the world.

  • Social Networking & Media,  Warcraft

    Connectedness and Privacy


    And this is what makes all the wipe runs worth it…that night that you waltz in and one-shot the boss that you’ve been struggling with.  Void Reaver down.  :)

    There was a recent post on my realm forums about a Facebook group for our server.  My immediate thought was “what a great idea, I’ll join now” and my second thought was that I couldn’t, since Facebook uses your real name.  It’s disappointing.  There needs to be a middle ground between openness (is that a word?) and privacy.  For instance, I would love to have a main screen name (I use Ravven for everything, for gaming and writing and my art), but also set up a list of real names that people can find you under, so that you can approve contact with anyone who finds you.

    We’re struggling with those issues now on the social networking site that I’m working on. We are one of the very few sites that can actually verify a kid’s age, and shelter them accordingly.  A good thing.  But we also need to allow for openness in communities, and also for those kids who for whatever reason cannot at the moment become verified – you don’t want to bar them from the community.  I don’t like the idea of private profiles, since people are more prone to bad behaviour in communities if they feel anonymous – but you have to protect your personal information.

    Whichever way we go, in the end, we’ll be making some of the wrong decisions.  That is inevitable.

  • MMOs,  Personal,  Social Networking & Media

    Who’s on First

    This was my dream: to have a seamless mesh of 2D and 3D site.  To have a social networking site that felt like an MMO.  To move from profile and blog to a virtual multiplayer area, and back again…all within a browser.  I wanted us to be the first.

    The X3D areas of the project are causing many headaches.  When we run into a snag, we have to figure it out…no looking things up in books or googling for others who have solved similar problems.  No one has really done this yet.  I’ve spent days going through thousands of lines of code, checking paths, checking all linked textures and files, trying to find out why the 3D area was causing browser lock-ups. X3D, as you probably don’t know, is the modern successor of vrml.  It should allow us to run 3D multiplayer areas within normal web pages, without the separation of needing client software.  It’s what the web should be.

    And sometimes that dream seems so far away.