Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Dope Show: 3 Rules To Live By

Some random thoughts today, provided care of my subconscious. 

First, I wake up with a song BLASTING IN MY HEAD. Does this happen to you? It happens to me a lot. I'll be deep in blissful - or not so blissful - sleep, when suddenly my brain will just crank a song at maximum volume. It will shock me out of bed. It will force me to blast it on the stereo at 6 in the morning, over and over again, in the hopes that externalizing the track, it will somehow stop haunting me.

Keep in mind that it is often a song that I haven't heard in years. This morning it was The Dope Show, by Manson:

And right after watching it, I thought for a moment about the philosophy I have been living by lately. If you want to call it a philosophy, since philosophy is so often what we talk about, and not what we live by. Well, maybe I'll lose a handhold, and then another, and in a month it'll be a distant memory. But I think maybe not. I think I'm onto something here. So bear with me.

I have been living as close as I can to two realizations of late. I hope I can stick to them with absolute focus- 1 month, so far, so good.
#1: only be concerned with What Is. (It is hard enough to know what that is. Takes years.) There are always a million things that could go wrong, and if you get caught up in that, you'll never actually get a chance to live. So many ways for everything to go terribly wrong, so few ways for it to go right. Don't sweat it though: it's just life. We say life is a gamble, but in gambling, you have to walk out when you win or the odds say you will wind up losing. Life is like a gamble where you never get to leave the casino. The House ALWAYS WINS. ALWAYS. And we always die. So don't worry about it. Invest in loss, and don't forget to smile through it all. Smile? you say. Yes. Why? Because no one likes a whiner. And everyone is as fucked and blessed as you are, whether they know it or not. (And yes, I know that is the one I have to work on.) 
#2: Almost nothing that you do, think, say, or most of all worry about will mean anything to anyone in 100 years. So, enjoy that cigar, son. We're all going to hell.
I forgot #3. #3 is to recognize all of this with eyes completely open and STILL choose to love with everything you've got. Then you're truly fucking insane, and Welcome. You're one of Us.
And if not, well. Get out of Our way. We've got work to do. Being rockstars from Mars is a full fucking time job.  

A clarification brought on by a comment from facebook
If you miss the love part, you miss everything with any importance whatsoever.
I don't mean - or don't just mean - romantic love. I mean love- putting yourself completely into what you do, not because you have some delusional idea of it paying you back (see #1, #2), but because you are giving yourself to that process. That's love. Doesn't matter if it's a person, an idea, a project - though I will say that if it's a person, they do tend to make better company on cold nights. The love isn't about the person, anyway. It's about what they bring out of you, and what you bring out of them.

Another hint: So far as I'm concerned, devotion and love are the same. (Neither, by the way, demand fidelity. Much in life demands my devotion, and that's the best answer I've got to when people ask me "how do you work on so many damn projects?" I'm a slut, what can I say?)

How do you know if it's "love"? If you have a choice to not pursue your devotions, then it's a pretty shitty devotion. Devotion does not ask your permission. No more than you have a choice to fall in love when it happens. Something grabs you by the balls. (Or the... uterus?) You have two options: go along with it, or have them ripped off. Be uncompromisingly genuine. You have nothing to lose.

And on that note, enough preaching. Do whatever you like. That's just my "trip," right now.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bedlam Stories Facebook Group

Pearry has launched the Facebook group, so you can keep up with some behind-the-scenes development.
"Bedlam Stories is the fictional account of real life journalist, Nellie Bly, who was famous for an exposé in which she faked insanity to study a mental institution from within. Inside, she meets a doe-eyed teenager named Dorothy Gale who claims that a magical place called Oz exist. As Nellie begins to peek deeper into the secrets behind the walls of Bedlam Asylum, she begins to understand that Dorothy's Oz might have something to do with a terrible secret Bedlam has been hiding from the world... an experiment only known as Project:Alice."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Modern Mythology Pilot: Howard Bloom

[LISTEN: direct link / soundcloud]

In this special Pilot episode of the new Modern Mythology podcasting series, Rusty Shackleford takes time to have a sit down chat with Howard Bloom. Many of you know Bloom from his books The Lucifer Principle,The Genius of the Beast and The Global Brain, in addition to his interviews and appearances on the Disinformation television series originally produced for the BBC.

In this interview, Rusty discusses Howard's role in helping to build relationships between artists such as Prince and Joan Jett and their public, touching upon the role of the artist as a modern day myth maker and the heir apparent of the shaman. Bloom's scientific and biological perspectives are also examined in conversation, particularly in reference towards the cultural myths explored and exposed in his newest book The God Problem.

Background music for this episode provided by members of Bradley The Buyer, HoodooEngine, Mankind is Obsolete, and Veil of Thorns. The featured tracks are In The Flesh from HoodooEngine’s album “Murder The World” and Bradley The Buyer’s cover of Prince’s “When Dove’s Cry”

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How Does This Google Thing Work?

Someone on Facebook publicly asked the following question,
"How does this google thing work? I understand that the most relevant link will pop up under a specific search, but if everyone suddenly googled "kangaroo" and clicked the fourth link whether or not it was relevant, would that link be bumped to the top or are most things just set there sensibly?"
Though my answer is in no way final, I thought it may be of use to more of you than just the person asking that question. Here it is:

"It's far more complex than that. Especially since the last major rollout (Panda), which incorporated weighted mechanisms derived from social media activity into their page ranking system. Let me try to give a sense of a fraction of what's going on 'under the hood.' In their proprietary system Google incorporates many things including other weighting from the duration of a viewers stay and even what their behavior is after leaving the page, if they return, how many links they visit within the site, and an analysis of that in relation to linguistic content (the actual organic search itself.)

And that's just what you can get from professionals in related industries, reading articles, and playing SEO cowboy. Google remains tight lipped for the greater part beyond what you can easy find - arcane mathematical formula and the like - so you have to pretty much reverse engineer based on results, and can have those results shifted on you overnight. Which is a real bitch when you're doing Black SEO ops. (Funny story there, that I can't tell.)"
So, there we are. One more person outside the black box tossing conjecture into the blogosphere. I hope you are entertained by this pseudo-information.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Transmedia and Social Media are Brand Tools

For those unfamiliar with the territory, it can be surprisingly difficult to get a grasp of social media and web marketing from the perspective of brand narrative. SMM, SEM, PPC, PCP... (OK, hopefully not PCP.) Certainly there's a lot of buzz around the necessity of entering "the social space," if you are a company, organization, or even an artist or producer. But a lot of that buzz comes off as hype, and rather than being informative, much of it just amounts to the digital equivalent of a shady guy on the corner trying to sell you snowcrash snake oil. 

So, without pretending that this is in any way comprehensive, I'd like to share a few resources and thoughts on this matter that may actually help you make informed decisions, whether you are looking to hire a consultancy or manage a small campaign yourself. 

First, this talk from Ric Dragon of DragonSearch is a great start: 

(Full disclosure: I worked with Ric in 2005 when he was CEO of Oxclove, and off and on before then.) 

He brings up the topic of transmedia. If I were to use an umbrella term for all of the work I have and done and intend to do, it would be transmedia storytelling. Transmedia applies as much to the creative production of media within a franchise as it does to the building of a brand narrative. Supposing your customers interact with your product and service, there is already going to be a narrative there. Don't you want to be able to manage it - at least in an open-ended sense - and even bring the two together, so your product, company, service can actually engage the human beings we blithely call "customers"? To do so companies need to drop any false postures of austerity, and "get real," in one way or another.

As Ric Dragon pointed out, Old Spice used 4Chan of all things to kickstart one of their campaigns. Of course, that isn't appropriate for everything, but it would do us all well to recall that one of the demands of creativity is taking risks, and leaving our fear outside. People don't want to be "marketed to." They want to be engaged with, and they want it to meet them where they are at. Maybe it needs to challenge them, maybe it needs to make them feel comfortable, but contrary to much literature on branding, not many people actually think about what drinking Coke says about them as a person.

Check out these articles on the topic from Modern Mythology: 
On this topic of engagement and brand narrative, also check out this video from Rushkoff:

Douglas Rushkoff: Branding Doesn't Work! So Now What? from Portland Oregon on Vimeo.

At bottom, and despite the need for metrics and benchmarks, social media is as much customer service and PR as it is an advertising channel. You don’t look for direct ROI with customer service and PR, and ROI may not be the best metric for social as well.

In general, if you're looking to establish your brand through the web using social and search tools, let alone transmedia, you need to stop thinking like you're writing inter-departmental memos and instead focus on what will be interesting, engaging, or fun for your potential customers. You need to build stories, establish interactivity, and consider unique investments of human and technical resources: for instance, gamesourcing:

I had earlier suggested using games that are fun and popular to do useful work. The idea of such “game-sourcing” would be to make the most of human brainpower to attack forms of computation that computers are poor at, using games that are already hits to take advantage of the power of the crowd and accomplish something important.
It turns out that bestselling science-fiction author Neal Stephenson independently hits on much the same idea in his latest book “Reamde.” One of the elements of the novel is a massively multiplayer online game (MMORG) called T’Rain. Although the game is very much like World of Warcraft, it differs in at least two notable ways — it is designed to be as friendly to gold farming as possible so as to have a stable in-world economy, and it is designed to have the potential for real-world applications.
The game-sourcing idea in question is detailed on pages 131 to 138. The invention is named the Medieval Armed Combat as Universal Metaphor and All-Purpose Protocol Interface Schema (MACUMAPPIS). This is essentially an application programming interface or API — “the software control panels that tech geeks slapped onto their technologies in order to make it possible for other tech geeks to write programs that made use of them,” as Stephenson explains.
The first project carried out with MACUMAPPIS paid huge amounts of gold to players who caught goblins trying to sneak in through the exit of the mighty Citadel of Garzantum. All the video of goblins and other fantasy humanoids the players saw were based on real feeds of airport occupants to spot intruders going where they shouldn’t.
This also calls for a reframing of the concept of marketing vs. content. If you're in the position of making operational decisions, consider the value of hiring individuals or companies that do this for a living to help manage these campaigns, rather than simply tasking already busy employees with managing a content strategy in their "spare time." Of course, the best brand ambassadors can be employees. But they need a solid content strategy, or else, you're best off not giving them the podium in the first place.

(And not only so you can avoid so-called PR disasters like these--I say "so called," because they're nearly all forgotten by the next news cycle anyhow, let's be honest.)