Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Negotiating by the word

Last week I received an email from an editor of a glossy magazine based in the U.S. Not the A-list, but not the C-list either.

The editor wanted me to write a feature, about 1,800 words, a company profile. The fee was half of what I normally receive for magazine work. So I told the editor what my normal rate was, and that I would lose money writing the feature at the fee offered. (I do a lot of consulting and copywriting these days, so I’ve developed a nasty habit of calculating projects at an hourly rate.)

In my email, I asked the editor if there was room to negotiate. Instead of emailing me back with a counter-offer, the editor asked “What number would work for you?”

My answer was double the fee I was offered.

The editor then emailed back to say my fee was too steep and explained that the magazine is “a very small family-run indie magazine … that carries very little advertising.”

What’s curious to me is why the editor didn’t say that earlier in the process. Perhaps the editor was hoping my counter-offer would be within their budget. Perhaps the editor is bad at negotiating. But what if the editor had responded to my overtures to negotiate with the following:

“Hi Ryan. The most I can offer is $HighNumberThanFirstNumber. I’d like to offer more, but we’re a small indie magazine without a lot of advertising. Let me know if you can make that number work.”

I’m willing to bet that kind of transparency would have made me far more likely to say yes.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Scare me once, shame on you

I voted out of fear in the recent Ontario provincial election. I’m not proud of this decision, but it was clear that Hudak was willing to destroy the public sector to win some kind of ideological bet he made with Mike Harris. Since Toronto barely survived the last Conservative government, I voted Liberal. The fact that Andrea Horwath ran a terrible and pandering campaign made this decision a little easier, even though Jonah Schein is clearly a good dude who deserved better.

I will not make the same mistake on October 27. It’s clear that no matter how many times I vote, Olivia Chow will not be our next mayor. But I’m still going to vote for her. Doug Ford is a bully. We should have stood up to him four years ago, but for a variety of complicated reasons, we were unable or unwilling.

I’m not afraid of big brother. Nor should you. Fear of Doug Ford is not a good enough reason to vote for John Tory. Doug will be lucky if he gets more than 25% of the vote.* I doubt he has the machinery required to mobilize supporters and get them to the polls.

John Stuart Mill believed that humans try to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Voting for Tory is about minimizing pain. Our shattered city will gain no pleasure from four years of Tory.

It’s a shame that an absence of pain is the best Toronto can do.

*Fair warning: I pulled this number out of a magical hat in the back of my closet. But I’m going to stick with it regardless

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Leaked list of upcoming BlogTO brunch posts

Through some daring and complex espionage, I secured a top secret list of BlogTO's upcoming brunch posts. Highlights include:

* The top 10 underwater brunch spots in Toronto

* 5 Toronto brunch spots that even Shawn Micallef could love

* Toronto top best 10 10 brunch best best brunch brunch brunch Toronto 2015 1947 1867 2002

* The top 10 late evening brunch restaurants in Toronto

* The top 10 brunch places in that area south of the Junction but west of the Junction Triangle, I think the neighbourhood is called Junc-Tri-High but I'm not entirely sure and at this point I'm ruining our SEO which means I'm fired, aren't I, even though I don't technically get paid for these articles in the first place, sigh

* The top 10 tattoo parlours that serve brunch in Toronto

* Best brunch lineup in Toronto

* 10 Instagram photos of screaming Toronto infants in oversized strollers ruining brunch for everyone

* The best shitty brunch servers with attitude in Toronto

* The top 10 Liechtenstein brunch spots in Toronto

* Black History Month brunch in Toronto 2015

Monday, October 06, 2014

Karen McGrane visits the Toronto content strategy meetup in November

I’m super-mega-uber excited to announce that Karen McGrane, author of Content Strategy for Mobile, will be giving a guest talk at the Toronto Content Strategy Meetup on November 4. She’ll reflect on what she’s learned since writing her fantastic book and share her thoughts about the future of adaptive content.

This event is a pretty big deal. Anyone who cares about content strategy should attend. Please check out the Toronto Content Strategy Meetup page for more information.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

The Doug Ford Dictionary

Ambrose Bierce had the right idea. Please feel free to modify, build upon or otherwise run with the idea I’ve started here...

Disingenuous: Any anti-Ford argument supported by factual information.

Elite: An eloquent person who disagrees with Doug Ford

Folks: Synonym for taxpayer.

Hell: The place where autistic children and their parents deserve to live.

Ignorant: An ordinary person who disagrees with Doug Ford.

Socialist: A person who believes infrastructure costs money.

Taxpayer: A person who shares the same worldview as Doug Ford.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Political narratives: Toronto edition

As anyone with a Twitter account is aware, many things happened very quickly in Toronto on Friday September 12.

I was doing client work on Friday afternoon and took a Twitter break every hour or so. And I kept waiting for a response to Doug Ford running for mayor that was narrative-based. John Tory was quick to point out that Doug is an angry man who is rude to those with autism (and therefore is unfit for office). It took until Saturday for Olivia Chow to point out that Doug and Rob are one and the same (minus the drug problems).

But because I have no love for Doug, what I really want is someone to spin a story that links together his actions over the past four years. A negative story that will stick to him over the next six weeks. Angry Doug and Doug-equals-Rob are both character-based attacks. Neither of them tell much of a story about Doug.

The federal Conservatives did a good job of leveraging narrative with the “just visiting” ads aimed at Ignatieff. They told a story about a man who left Canada and returned only because of political ambitions. That narrative seemed to stick.

It might be a coincidence, but the “in over his head” attacks on Justin Trudeau are character based. (This man doesn’t have the experience and depth required to govern Canada). And they’re not working.

I’m sure there’s a subtle difference about framing versus narrative to be had, but I’ll leave that to someone more versed in politics than myself. I also have every confidence that there are plenty of examples of successful character-based political attacks.

Narrative have been top of mind for me lately, so this could just be a story hammer seeing everything as a story nail problem. But I would love to listen to a brainstorming session where Doug narratives are tossed around:

- Doug only cares about power, not Torontonians
- Doug wanted to leave city politics for good – until Rob forced him to run for mayor
- In four years, Doug’s only attempt at city building involved a monorail. Now he wants the keys to the mayor’s office.
- As campaign manager, Doug couldn’t keep track of his brother’s substance abuse. How is Doug going to keep track of important issues at city hall?
- The only reason Doug was elected to council was because he hung onto the coattails of his little brother.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

RyanBigge.com is the new BiggeWorld

Hey everyone. I totally screwed up and failed to renew biggeworld.com. So after 14 years, it is dead. Or, to be more accurate, it has been replaced:

I could point out that I didn't receive a renewal notice from Dotster, but this isn't the time to quibble. The old site was pretty terrible and this is the nudge I was waiting for. In the next few weeks I'm going to work on RyanBigge.com

Look for more SEO inspired blog posts in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I'm on the radio as part of Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids

Do you have a radio? Want to hear me embarrass myself? Then tomorrow is your lucky day. On Wednesday August 13 at 9:30am eastern time listen to CBC radio. I’ll be reading from my grade 5 diary as part of Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids (GRTTWaK)

Here’s a teaser:

April 18
Today I got seven wrong on a decimals exercise sheet. I got some speeches from mom.

There’s also a podcast version of GRTTWaK. Not sure when the animated series is set to debut.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Speculation Fiction

Last weekend I read the Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill in three or four sittings. A good book. A difficult book. Those two qualities aren't mutually exclusive:

For years, I kept a Post-it note above my desk. WORK NOT LOVE! was what it said. It seemed a sturdier kind of happiness.
We had told people. We had to untell them.
If he notices something is broken, he will try to fix it. He won't just think about how unbearable it is that things keep breaking, that you can never fucking outrun entropy.
He is ten years younger than we are, alert to any sign of compromise or dead-ending within us. "You are not allowed to compare your imagined accomplishments to our actual ones," someone says after the boy who is pure of heart leaves.
Some women make it look so easy, the way they cast ambition off like an expensive coat that no longer fits.
But my agent has a theory. She says every marriage is jerry-rigged. Even the ones that look reasonable from the outside are held together inside with chewing gum and wire and string.
There is nowhere to cry in this city.
These are the sorts of things they talk about in the Little Theatre of Hurt Feelings.
People keep flirting with the wife. Has this been happening all along and she never noticed? Or is it new? She's like a taxi whose light just went on. All these men standing in the street, waving her over.
She would not have let one of her students write the scene this way. Not with the pouring rain and the wife's broken umbrella and the girl in her long black coat.
Even if the husband leaves her in this awful craven way, she will still have to count it as a miracle, all of those happy years she spent with him.
The wife has a little room now, one that looks out over the garden. She makes a note to herself about the book she is writing. Too many crying scenes.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Triple Play: Fall 2014 Toronto content strategy meetup schedule

I’m overjoyed to announce that I’ve found three four amazing guest speakers for the fall 2014 Toronto content strategy meetup:

On Thursday, September 18, Maggie Greyson unlocks interactive narrative and how it can help you develop new content ideas, collect customer data, engage untapped audiences and turn existing customers into fans or advocates.

On Thursday, October 16, Ann Rockley shows us how to plan and create adaptive content that automatically adjusts to different environments and device capabilities to deliver the best possible customer experience.

On Tuesday, November 4, Karen McGrane talks about the future of adaptive content.

And on Thursday, November 20, Marco Petkovski demonstrates how to use analytics to plan, create and track content. 
Erica Baum: Buzzard
Meetups are $8 each (except for McGrane), and guest speakers share their wisdom at 6:35pm precisely (except for McGrane - she starts at 7pm). Although I am obviously biased in this regard, I think all three four of these speakers are excellent, and I urge anyone interested in content strategy to attend.

In fact, you might want to treat these talks like a miniature certificate course in content strategy. For the cost of a nice dinner, you’ll learn how to best structure your online narratives, how to make sure the content in that narrative is viewable on all devices, and what tools you’ll need to track your content once it goes live.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Top 10 riffs from New Tab by Guillaume Morissette

New Tab is a cross between Shoplifting from American Apparel and Lenny Bruce is Dead, combining the best elements of both. That means funny and poetic observations about Montreal delivered through the eyes of a detached and self-aware narrator. Thankfully Morissette, unlike Tao Lin, seems to tolerate the inclusion of human emotion from time to time. The result is a wisecracking cyborg take on the world, or what I like to call Oculus Riff:

Tab 1
“I am a terrible employee,” I typed. “Sometimes I think I can’t possibly care less but then it happens again. I care less than I was caring.”

“I know that feeling,” typed Shannon. “Two years ago I worked at Fabricland during the summer. It was so underwhelming that it was almost overwhelming.”

Tab 2
“My dad is a business guy,” typed Shannon. “It’s his entire personality. When I was home for Christmas, he lectured me about my romantic life. He said I was open for business but running that business to the ground.”

Tab 3
The entire time I had courted her, she hadn’t figured out that I was courting her. At some point, she had introduced me to her friend Mason, who wore polo shirts and was self-confident and cheerful and didn’t seem to view his own existence as some sort of perplexing burden.

Tab 4
But here’s the thing: Maybe I didn’t want to live in a city so much as observe one from a close distance, like in Sim City. Living in a city was like living multiple lives, each capable of crushing me. It meant forcing myself to meet people, impenetrable three-dimensional emotion factories, being nice to them because I never knew what being nice to them could lead to, parties to attend or job opportunities or collaborating on something or whatever else. The insane number of possibilities a city offered. Trying to compute that number in my head felt like a kind of string theory.

Tab 5
My approach with women was like stacking blocks really high in Tetris while waiting for a straight line that might never come.

Tab 6
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s like, there’s these people on Facebook I’ve never met, but then I see their profiles all the time attending things I want to go to, so I kind of know them from that, and if I see them in public, it’s always weird, like I don’t think of them as people, I think of them as characters, like characters from a sitcom.”

Tab 7
By setting the alarm on my phone for ten, I knew I would get to work late enough for people to notice but not late enough for them to complain. I had slept less than three hours, had a body that felt like a bag of oatmeal, didn’t want to exit the bed. I wanted my pillow to be a supercomputer, allowing me to complete work tasks by rolling my head around on it.

Tab 8
At night, I was either going to parties or hiding in my room. I felt as if my goal overall was to be invited to all the parties, but never go. I was starting to view parties as an infinitely renewable resource, like I could skip one and all that would do is make ten more appear. Still, it was comforting to know that parties were there if I needed them to be there, like a low-hanging fruit.

Tab 9
“I think some people secretly don’t want you to be productive, because if you are, it puts more pressure on them to accomplish something,” I said. “They want you to go out with them all the time so that everyone’s mediocre and no one has to try.”

Tab 10
Unscrew my penis and replace it with a take a penny, leave a penny tray.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A few things to ponder before watching They Live

I read Jonathan Lethem’s monograph on They Live last night in order to prep for a screening of said film at the Revue Cinema on May 29. Here are my favourite bits of insight and observation:

- “One of They Live’s eccentricities is that we know Nada’s name only because of the end credits. No one speaks it in the course of the film. Yet his name is hardly incidental – Nada’s name, with its implication that he’s something of a zero, or null-set, turns out to come directly from the Ray Nelson short story ‘Eight O’clock,’ They Live’s primary source.

- “The discourse of commerce is a kind of quicker-picker-upper, superabsorbent of what happens along, even (or especially) that which presents itself as oppositional to, or critical of, commercial culture. So, much of Barbara Kruger’s and Holzer’s impact was gently naturalized within advertising language. This awkward fact cuts against They Live’s central assertion: that the distance between the ‘lies’ of commercial-ideological speech and the coercive ‘truths’ smuggled inside it is an extreme one, and shattering to cross. Really, the two coexist and even mate with appalling ease … Kruger and Holzer’s non sequitur interventions briefly attained a gallant purity, but they’d always needed the gallery or museum context as a quarantine against recontamination.

- One of the mini-chapters is titled “Vertical City Inhospitable to Horizontal Man”

- “The film’s scenes of routine ghoul intermixing – the beauty shop, the bank, the grocery store, leading up to this pedestrian work environment – have migrated through horror, revulsion, and pointed satire to achieve a kind of drab inevitability: They Live, sure, and so do They schlep, file paperwork, get stuck on hold, and work fifty weeks for a two-week vacation.”

- “Long ago, I used to see Ray Nelson at science-fiction conventions in Berkeley. He was a droll and bright-eyed elf of a man, and known for wearing a propeller beanie, regarded as a high talisman of fannish identification, the equivalent of an IT’S A BLACK THING, YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND T-shirt. I felt in awe of Nelson’s lingering traces of involvement with Philip K. Dick, my personal hero, and he, Nelson, always struck me as a figure of absurd dignity, brandishing his two or three secret accomplishments through an otherwise invisible life – in Berkeley in the 1980s, he didn’t even rate as eccentric, he was apparently too mild. I was terrified of becoming this man.”