Tuesday, 30 December 2008

20/08 Hindsight: A Social Media Year

Okay, you got me red-handed: I didn’t mean to do this.
Not real Social Media.
I get retail marketing – even emarketing – but a year down a line of friends, followers, forays and fuck-ups and I’ve tripped over the truth without even meaning to.
What do I mean? Well…

For example: -

In the pub after Amplified08, @Yellowpark commented that he’d not heard of Forbidden Planet until Twitter – iconising how the openness of Social Media brings niche Brands like FP onto the ‘High Street’ of the web. For us, successful marketing isn’t selling SF to fanboys – it’s throwing the doors wide and saying ‘everyone can come here’. And that ‘everyone’ is bigger than we could’ve imagined.

For example: -

This year has seen the FP Megastore become a satellite Hub for London’s Twitterers. They’re at every signing; at big events, they add their own skills and insights to the on-web coverage. Social Media becomes its own beacon – the more they enthuse, the more enthusiasm is generated and the more it broadcasts – and the more it feeds back, and so on.

Believe in what you do – and Social Media becomes the field that surrounds your magnet. All you need is passion, conviction and sincerity.

For example: -

There’s always talk about the ‘human face on the Brand’, about ‘accessibility’– for a retailer, it’s the web version of standing on the shop floor. It’s a calculated gamble – on the one hand, you’re the first target when the e-mud starts flying; on the other, you reach friends, customers, guests and clients personally. And these are the people that will come back – to the store, to the site. Social Media is about hands-on Customer Service – and it matters.

For example: -

The failure of The Headless Bartman at SxSW created the MonQee, a classic example of out-of-the-box marketeering that caught the web’s imagination and went rapidly Viral. Social Media Marketing, coupled with genuine creativity, thrashes the pants off any amount of ordinary advertising.

As a personal footnote, 2008 has seen me return (at last!) to my ‘real’ job – to being back at the core of things, to taking full responsibility for promotion and event organisation at Forbidden Planet. From re-entering the SF fan scene at Orbital to my growing contacts lists on FaceBook and LinkedIN, to my recent interview with Tony at StarShipSofa… as this year comes to a close, I’ve realised something: -

Y’know what? I get it.
Y’know something else? It never was rocket science.

The big secret to Social Media Marketing? It’s common bloody sense – sling in a little humanity and a little respect (and a big ol’ bag o’comics) and there: Twitter’s your Uncle.

Honestly: how hard was that?

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Sunday, 21 December 2008

Meeting Saul Tigh: A Snapshot

When faced with the upright severity of Colonel Tigh, you don’t want to be introducing him to the local Cylon.

After his talk at Expo, however, we did just that. I asked him to pose for this – eye-to-eye with his arch-nemesis and antecedent. The UKG guys immediately dubbed it, ‘I Am Not Your Father’ and it’s hard to know who laughed more.

During his talk, Michael was fast, charming, funny – he spoke of Tigh with a touching sense of empathy for the character’s powerful principles and final moment. He talked of Six with a glint in his eye, Olmos with a catch in his voice and Battlestar with a huge amount of love. It tickled me that he switched from third to first person – but only when talking about the Colonel’s sex-life.

Off-stage, the last of Tigh fell from him and he became Michael Hogan, utterly wicked, and very much one of the guys. Like Edward James Olmos at the previous Expo’s press night, he was so down-to-earth you felt he’d never served on a spaceship.

My fellow Titaneer Den Patrick, aka Little Kid, has the full transcript of Michael’s Q&A on his blog.

The UKG guys and I came away with a picture, instead – a Saul Tigh snapshot, a flawless fluke.

It's the perfect Battlestar ‘What If?’

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Friday, 19 December 2008

What Use Is Twitter? Thoughts on @Thaumatrope

On one side: the classic SF fanzine – fiction, interviews, Q&As – any good geek knows how they work; hell, we’ve probably written for at least one.

On the other side: Twitter, the foyer of Social Media, the micro-blogging-open-sharing-web-community we all know and love.

Spin the string and what’s the picture? It’s @thaumatrope – the new micro-ezine. Nathan E Lilly, he of SpaceWesterns and GreenTentacles, has drawn these two sides together as a result of asking, ‘What use is Twitter?’

Thaumatrope is his search for an answer.

I like the idea of Thaumatrope – the concept of featuring twitter writers’ work to a broad, open platform and taking science fiction to a wider market is twirling my strings big-time… but I’m not sure the resulting picture is turning quite evenly.

Twitter’s immediate – a tweet is there-and-gone, a reaction instantaneous. It has to be simple. Thaumatrope’s already spinning with micro-fiction, interviews, editorial comments, each identified by a different combo of hashtags, brackets and @’s, oh my. To unravel this tangle from a lone tweet, you’ll need to click through to @thaumatrope, then through the bio to a ‘Twellow’ style layout that’s more clearly detailed.

It’s beautifully worked out – editorial fine-tuning dances punctuation in every tweet – but from a marketing/user viewpoint, that double-click-through is a hindrance. I know dedicated followers will get used to the grammar-code, but is it just too complex?

Which leads to the next point: how to expand organically using the Twitter mechanism. Put into basics: if I see something cool, I retweet it, I pass it on, I put it in my favourites so my friends can find it. To utilise Twitter’s massive open-platform potential, expansion is key – and that means learning the site’s ‘best practice’ communication. Twitter’s strong sense of community has grown from the understanding that you talk to other people – and about what they are doing.

Simply put? You shout each other’s names as well as your own… so I’m asking why the writer’s Twitter name isn’t in their piece of fiction? I know it shortens the space – but Twitter is spontaneous; sharing, expansion, visibility is invariably triggered by one tweet. When 120 characters of pure creative genius is flying up my screen, I want to know who wrote it, I want to follow them… and when I share how much I liked it, I want my friends to know too.

To me, Twitter is an open platform to bring something you love to a wider audience. Your brand, your blog, your politics, your hobby, your sexuality – everyone finds their own niche, chooses whom they follow (or not), and the community grows. You have to be clear, you have to be immediate, you have to be genuine and you have to understand the basic principles that Twitter, like Hell, is other people.

Thaumatrope is a very deft, thoroughly well-thought-out execution – it’s solidly true to the traditional fanzine and it’s a systematic approach to spinning the two diverse sides to make the complete picture. I’m not sure that Twitter is it’s ideal display medium – but this is only the beginning of an experiment. While it may not have many followers (yet!) the writers who’ve had submissions accepted (yes, you do get paid!) have been really pleased – they have genuinely sold a piece of their work, some of them the for the first time.

What use is Twitter? Above all else, it helps new talent, and supports the learning curve of new experiments. Thaumatrope is breaking new ground, supporting new writers; it’s been excellently researched and adroitly put together… but whether it can take advantage of Twitter's full might...

As an ezine, it can work for Twitter’s SF/F community – but I’d like it to be more.

I’d like it to be a nexus.

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Thursday, 11 December 2008

TAGGED! This Post Is Cheating...

A plague o’ the houses of Dan Thornton and Paul Steadman, both of whom have tagged me to write a random-shit-about-me post.

Dan’s tagged me with ‘Three-for-Three’ (apparently called the London Meme – or possibly Mememe); Paul with five random facts. So, in a daring, knife-edge exercise of info-fusion, I’m doing them both at once.

Below are eight completely useless snippets of information – you may be familiar with a couple.

Random Rubbish 1: Name of the Rose
My full name is Daniella, Daniella Louise Windsor Ware. The Windsor is my mother’s maiden name, added to mine when she reverted back to it. The irony of this is that, the year after I was born, Danny La Rue launched ‘Queen Daniella’ as his stage drag act…

Random Rubbish 2: The All Boys’ School
In 1983, nine girls turned up at Ardingly College. In uniforms from Harrod's, we filed down to our ‘study’ under the headmaster’s house (best way to keep an eye on us). We didn’t board, but we were there from 8:15 in the morning ‘til 9:45 at night – we were pioneers, we were terrified, we were trouble.

Random Rubbish 3: Arthur’s Mum
When I joined the Norwich Vike, I had a brief affair with a man many years my senior. I say brief, because he believed he was Uther Pendragon, Merlin, a direct descendant of Thor, England’s senior Godi and the cause of the ’87 hurricane – and that I should bear his child to Save The World. When I refused (funny that), he later told me that the Gulf War was my fault (as it presaged Ragnarök) and so on… He was still calling me up until last year – thank fuck, he seems to (finally) have got the message.

Random Rubbish 4: Bones
With fabulous irony, my fiancĂ© Bones vanished at a Viking show in Tintagel in 1992. After the battle, we retired to Rocky Valley for beers; he went climbing around the cliff-edge and was never seen again. To this day, we don’t actually know what happened to him. I hope he found a mermaid and a cave of Pirate brandy.

Random Rubbish 5: Kiss and Tell
I used to be a kiss-a-gram girl – I donned lingerie and giggled, wriggled and squiggled for retirement parties, office leaving dos and stag nights. Bit long in the tooth for it now, but I keep the chain mail bikini out of pure sentimentality.

Random Rubbish 6: Non-Work Websites
The thing about being a pro-Geek is the edge of work and play gets pretty blurry – so I’m going to jump right over it. I’m (predictably) a LOLcat lover, adore the sardonic office humour of Despair. Inc (thank them for the pictures), and remain very fond of the amateur fiction on Literotica (NSFW - and you will have to seek out the good stuff!) All the proof you needed that I’m not a Social Media Maven.

Random Rubbish 7: Cocktails
I don’t know that I can name three cocktails! Occasionally, Devin and I indulge in a Stiletto – I couldn’t even tell you what was in it. I’m an old longhair, a pints girl, red wine when I’m at home. Give me spit’n’sawdust – and damn all these sodding chain wine bars to hell anyway!

Random Rubbish 8: Karaoke
Okay, I do sing. I’ve even been known to sing in public (but usually after the aforementioned pints and when I can remember the words to ‘The Teddy Bears’ Rave Up’). The only way I’d do karaoke is ‘Paradise By The Dashboard Light’ – and on the assumption I sing the Meatloaf part. Not that the all-boys school gave me gender issues or anything. No, Sir.

And so, with skeletons clattering out of my wardrobe, I hereby pass the buck. To: -

Frederick 2 Baro (you asked for this!)
Ian Cook (blog, damn you, blog!)
John Rivers (nice shiny new site!)
Neil Simmons (dunpolitickin)
Rowan Stanfield Miller (explain cocktails and karaoke to me?!)
Paul Steadman (you get the Three-for-Three)
Dan Thornton (Five Random Facts from you!)

I’d tag Nik as well but I’m guessing he’s way too busy. I’ll save my revenge for another time…

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Monday, 8 December 2008

NaNoWrongMo: Sod The Dragons

I was barely 21 when I spun the first threads of Khamsin.

I was still at Uni; had left the TA to join the Vike – I was hyped on my own fantasy and my first writings were an outpouring of everything I wanted to explore.

Ernest Hemingway said, ‘There’s nothing to writing, all you do is still down at a typewriter and bleed’ – and through my twenties, that held true. It was a celebration, a passionate outpouring of all the wonders in my head.

Returning to the World I created has taught me something epic: -

I’ve changed (well – duh!)

In the intervening years I’ve walked some dark places and some beautiful ones; my life is very different, my thoughts and needs and the way I express myself. I’ve adapted, grown - I can’t remember the last time I actually read a fantasy novel.

The change is most noticeable in Ecko – 15 years ago, he was comical, a jester (my friend Alan dubbed him ‘the psychosmurf’). Now, he’s older, darker, more sinister and a lot more vicious – capable of just about anything.

Setting and environments are different, too – I find myself increasingly distant from sauce’n’swordery. During my ‘NaNoWrongMo’, I set myself a very modest daily target that I’ve spectacularly failed to reach – but have managed sustained wordcount for the first time in years. And the more I write, the more poignant the intervening time becomes.

You’ll find a new Chapter here – I called it 'Flesh' - and there’s another one almost done.

Author Jaine Fenn (with bizarre serendipity, someone who knew me when I first started re-enacting and someone I re-connected with recently) summed up how I feel about these changes. She said: -

Sod the dragons, let’s PARTY!

This isn't the chapter I wrote 19 years ago. I think it's better - perhaps my NoNoWrongMo wasn't such an FAIL after all.

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Monday, 1 December 2008

Open Source Creativity: SF Grows Up?

Once Upon A Time, a certain Scottish writer named Charlie Stross made his award-winning novel Accelerando available for free download under a creative commons licence. Sales of the book rocketed. The rest… well, it should’ve been history.

Last month, Pan Macmillan finally creaked open their technological gates and threw a couple of their SF authors out into the wilds of the web. Peter F Hamilton, Neal Asher, China Mieville – among others – are now available to download to your iphone… for a price.

Could this be the first step for SF to embrace the future instead of imagining it?

Neal commented he had a blind fan who was now able to hear his fiction and his publicist added that his downloadable work was ‘packed with extras’ – a tasty lure to coax in those who’d already bought the printed version.

And the clue – as if you needed it – that this is still about money.

Are they missing the point? If Accelerando didn’t prove that freely available creativity raises both awareness and sales, that it entices a reader into wanting to own the work for themselves – and to seek out others in the series…

In his Locus article on copyfighting, Cory Doctorow argues the case for creative commons. Here’s the man who possibly shares more information, more freely, with more people than anyone else in the world… stating that ‘culture’ IS shared information and that, in trying to restrict that sharing, we’re damaging our very social core.

I’m curious as to how his idealism will compare with any publisher’s sales strategy.

When I meet Cory at Forbidden Planet, I find he’s a Direct Line to Thoth – the ‘Directory of Wonderful Things’ is not BoingBoing, it’s Doctorow. He talks to everyone, about everything; he judges no-one and welcomes all. Every person has something to offer him – and he gives a wealth of information in return.

Here is rarity: a man who genuinely practices exactly what he preaches.

So, is it me – or is it kind of ironic that ‘Little Brother’ is available in print?

I’m still thinking about this. Is it indicative of the sf-reading public not yet being ready to give up their lovely, tactile paperback? Is it because Cory wants the book’s message to reach a wider audience? Or is it as sadly prosaic as this: that altruism, no matter how passionate, erudite and well-informed, doesn’t pay the bills?

Accelerando has shown that, for the moment, idealism and coin stacking can work together to ensure a novel’s success – everybody wins, including the reader.

As science fiction grows more and more into science fact, let’s hope the culture and society that surrounds it grows also.

Shared creativity is kind of the point.

The picture at the head of this post is from the Pan Macmillan website, with thanks.

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