Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Monarch Tavern treats people like royalty

Last week the Monarch Tavern hosted the Toronto Content Strategy Meetup. It's been awhile since I've dealt with booking agents that friendly. By the same token, we're low maintenance. All we need is a quiet space for about an hour or so, and the Monarch Tavern delivered. In exchange we bought beer and food. Win-win.

I often forget about the Monarch, if only because it's just south of College. But every time I go there I leave happy. Great service, great atmosphere, great selection of beer and bourbon.

This public thank you is my way of sending a little love back to the Monarch for being so wonderful. If all goes well the Monarch will be permanent home of TO CS Meetup in 2014.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Take 3 minutes to determine the fate of the 2014 Toronto Content Strategy Meetup

Do you live in Toronto? Like content strategy? Enjoy sharing opinions?

Then you'll definitely want to donate three (3) minutes and take this survey. Tell me what you want to hear about in 2014, and who you want to hear it from.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions and insights.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

So how do you get rats off an island?

Hello James.
Do you like the island?
My grandmother had an island.
Nothing to boast of.
You could walk around it in an hour.

But still, it was a paradise for us.
One summer we went for a visit and discovered the place had been infested with rats.
They’d come on a fishing boat and gorged themselves on coconut.
So how do you get rats off an island? Hmm?
My grandmother showed me.
We buried an oil drum and hinged the lid.
Then we wired coconut to the lid as bait.
And the rats would come for the coconut and plunk-plunk-plunk-plunk they would fall into the trap.
Then after a month you’ve trapped all the rats
But what do you do then?
Throw the drum into the ocean? Burn it? No.
You just leave it. And they began to get hungry
And one by one – nibble nibble nibble -- they start eating each other.
Until there are only two left. Two survivors.
Then what? Do you kill them? No.
You take them and release them into the trees.
But now they don’t eat coconut anymore. Now they only eat rat.
You have changed their nature.

Two survivors. This is what she made us.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Emergen-C copywriting

I've been looking at this ad for at least two weeks:

It's not quite right. Every time I read it I find it clunky somehow, especially the phrase "to press the number for his floor."

Wednesday night I was waiting for the subway and the solution came to me in a burst. Here's how the ad should read:

Jimmy the 
germophobe waits 
patiently for someone 
to press his floor 
number. Come on 12!

It's 10 characters shorter and has a much better rhythm and flow. You're welcome.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

If you don’t attend this Meetup, I’ll kill this dog

Chris Tindal is giving a guest talk on November 21 to the Toronto Content Strategy Meetup about Gastropost. If you only attend one content strategy Meetup in Toronto this year, please make it this one. I saw Chris give a version of this talk last year, and I’ve been raving about it ever since.
I mean no disrespect to the other guest speakers of 2013. All were excellent. We had a heartfelt talk about storytelling. A transparent discussion of why Random House started an online magazine of ideas. An iPad and iPhone app that mixes content and commerce to sell artwork. An in-depth talk about how to merge UX, information architecture and content strategy. Did I mention content strategy celebrity Rahel Bailie? How about multi-screen content strategy?

Hot damn -- 2013 was a pretty great year for the Toronto Content Strategy Meetup.

Back to Chris. The reason his Gastropost guest talk is so vital is that he talks about something I’m extremely passionate about. Something I’ve experienced firsthand: the Lean Startup. There is a lot of blah-blah-blah about Lean Startup and minimum viable product. But buried between the hype and the buzzwords is an incredible approach to solving problems and creating new products and services. The catch is that turning theory into practice can be difficult. Chris’s talk explains the process in a way that is equal parts informative and inspiring.

During my time at the CFC Media Lab, I was incredibly fortunate to work with three other amazing dudes and co-create txt2hold (and later tweet2hold). We didn’t use the Lean Startup as our guidebook, but we did create a working, functional prototype (minimum viable product) in 10 weeks (with the help of amazing mentors and the programming skills of Pearl Chen). The experience, while not quite life-changing, was one of the most significant projects I was a part of in the last few years. And I heard many echoes of my time at the CFC in Chris’s talk last year.

The other great thing about Gastropost is how it bridges the gap between print and digital. Instead of viewing dead tree media as a liability, Gastropost leverages it as an incredible asset. I’ve spent the past few years insisting on the importance of bringing the physical and digital worlds together. Chris agrees.

This is the best $5 you’re going to spend in 2013. Especially since most of your fiver goes directly to Chris Tindal. So spread the word. Tell your friends. Make it happen.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Biggeidea is back on Instagram

What comes after laggards? Me.

I’m here to announce that biggeidea is back on InstagramI downloaded the app two or three years ago, used it twice, and gave up. Because clearly I’m better at anti-social media then the opposite thing.

But two weeks ago I signed up for a Social Media Strategy course. Our first assignment involves picking a platform and pimping it like hell. So I chose Instagram in order to prove to the world that I can communicate without the use of words.

I’m enjoying Instagram a lot more than I thought, despite the fact that it’s owned by evil Facebook. Having a decent smartphone helps – my old 3GS was not conducive to either good photo taking or a decent user experience. My iPhone 5 erases both of those problems.

I realize that there are already a thousand other essays about Instagram. But I did want to mention two quick things that gave me a pleasant surprise.

The first is that Instagram changed my behaviour. Not in the obvious, obsessive-compulsive manner that mobile social media tends to encourage. (Although it did that too.) I mean changing my actions IRL. I saw the plume of smoke and diverted two blocks. I’ve never done that before. The plume photo was the also the first time I tried to carefully document an urban moment. Usually I take two quick clicks and keep going. This time I shot two dozens photos, from different angles, until I got the one I wanted.

The second surprise was that I can take decent photos. I’ve reached a stage where the extent of many of my talents are clear to me. I’m not a guitar virtuoso. I can sing well enough to perform specific karaoke songs, but otherwise I don’t have an amazing voice. The list goes on. And as a word guy, I came to the conclusion that photography was best left in the hands of skilled professionals. I think that’s still true for indoor photography, where the basics of lighting seem to allude me. But outdoors, without a flash? That I can handle. Plus the filters certainly help.

What I’m still not comfortable doing is posting a bunch of adequate photos that document my day-to-day existence. I have lots of photos on my phone that serve as visual diary entries, but I consider them either mundane or private or both. I think my tendency get overly precious with my visual and written content is one of the reasons I’m not that amazing at Twitter – I don’t have the fast, fun and fluid ability to quip at the speed of the Internet (unlike say Ivor Tossell). I can make people laugh in real life, and I can craft a great line in an essay, but I tend to overthink Twitter.

My goal is to try and underthink Instagram to see if that makes me better at social media. In the meantime, this shot took five minutes to get right: