Archive for News & Analysis

Official versus fan blogs: A lesson from TheOneRing.net versus The Hobbit: The Official Movie blog

If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan of a certain age, as I am, you probably became a fan of TheOneRing.net before the Fellowship of the Ring was even released. It began as a site for NZ LOTR fans to share information and photos from the many places around NZ where the filming of the trilogy was taking place. For me, and I’m sure for countless others around the globe, TheOneRing.net was a tantalising teaser while we were waiting for the first movie to come out. I don’t know if there was an official movie site – I didn’t need one – the fan site was amply supplying us with news and photos.

Interestingly, although there is an official The Hobbit: The official blog for the two Hobbit movies which are now in pre-production (or is it in production now, I’m not sure), TheOneRing.net is still trumping the official site for news. Case in point – it was fansite TheOneRing.net which broke the news that director Guillermo del Torro had resigned from the helm of the Hobbit movies. I’m sure when a Hollywood studio (and all the megabucks that entails) is involved, it’s very difficult to change how the PR machine works. But it seems like an opportunity missed that we didn’t hear that news straight from the horse’s mouth over at The Hobbit official blog.

Over the course of its life, the Hobbit blog has rarely been updated. They did host a live online conversation with Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Torro back in May 2008 (good lord, was it really that long ago?) but that’s been the only real highlight.

Shame to see that a blog which launched in December 2007 (to coincide with the announcement that the two Hobbit movies were definitely going ahead) had a large head of steam to start with (423 comments on the post announcing the movies), then 60 comments on the announcement of del Torro as Director of the films, then just two comments on the announcement of the live chat with Jackson and del Torro. That looks like a big waste of the original audience who had a real appetite for official news from the Hobbit movie production. Yes, it takes time (and I’m sure wrangling with clearances etc behind the scenes) but if properly fed with content and attention, The Hobbit blog could have been a really popular way for fans to get official news of the movie, and been a real PR boon for the project.

Fortunately, we have fans to keep us going – thank you, TheOneRing.net for all your efforts over the years. :)

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Good Game: Why a social media "disaster" can be a good thing

The sacking of one of the hosts of the ABC’s video game review show, Good Game, has been discussed in gaming and tech circles over the past couple of days. Today the SMH published an article which revealed that the sacking of Good Game founding presenter Jeremy “Junglist” Ray has turned into an online stoush between Ray and the remaining Good Game team. But this “PR disaster” could turn into a good thing for the show, if the ABC is willing to listen to its viewers.

As the SMH reported, the ABC had announced Junglist’s departure via a press release. However, there was a backlash by viewers who were upset at the news that Ray had been sacked. (Hint: tell your loyal viewers first, and honestly, via the forums before going the generic press release route). Good Game responded by posting on the show’s message board, saying “The decision to take Junglist off air was not forced upon us by ABC Management and it’s one that is fully supported by all the GG team. We are gutted that it has come to this but in our opinion it absolutely had to happen.”

And then, the online bunfight was on. Clearly smarting from his sacking, Ray is now claiming he was sacked so the show could broaden its appeal by bringing a female presenter on board (he was replaced by Stephanie Bendixsen). Leaving aside the fact that it’s pretty insulting to insinuate that bringing a female presenter onboard is “dumbing down” the show… it was poor of the ABC to set up their new presenter to cop all the flack as Ray’s replacement.

The ABC is now in the unenviable position of having to defend not only the sacking of Junglist, but also their decision to appoint a female presenter in his place. Hopefully they’ll resist the temptation to shut down the discussion on their forum, or delete Junglists’ posts – two things which would be guaranteed to fan the flames of its already disgruntled fanbase.

If GG really had no female presenters to call on (not even guests or occasional segment hosts?), they could have made the transition a lot easier if they’d introduced Bendixsen via a few guest appearances or segments before bringing her on as a permanent presenter (let along the replacement of one of the co-founders of the show). Apparently the show’s followers are angry they weren’t consulted. Why weren’t they? Good Game has an active forum, why wasn’t there a poll asking people what was important to them in the choice of the next presenter? Then, if the ABC was concerned about hiring a female presenter, they could have looked for one who fit those criteria. Or they could have help a competition to find the next GG presenter. That would have been a great TV/online crossover – hell, why not set up an SMS competition to vote for the winner and make some dough while you’re at it? If the ABC Charter allows you to, of course.  Tech savvy audiences really, really like to be involved. Being excluded from decision to bring on a new presenter, and learning about Junglists’ departure via a vague press release just isn’t going to go down well.

One interesting fact which the SMH article brought up which is really worth noticing for those who care about games journalism, is that both Junglist and the show’s producer confirmed that one source of tension leading up to his sacking was “time management” – or in his words, the amount of time the show was giving reviewers to spend with each game. GG viewers will probably have strong views on this – if a reviewer only gets an hour or two to play a game, do you really want to rely on that review and drop a hundred bucks on the game? I hope that some of the GG readers pick up on this and ask the show to disclose how much time reviewers get to evaluate games.

Disclaimer: I don’t watch Good Game, and I don’t know the journos involved. But I have done games writing in the past, and have been known to get grumpy about games journalism and the tricky issue of how long reviewers should play a game before passing judgement on it.

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Australia denies visas over concerns about open source? WTF? UPDATED

I’ve just been alerted via a Linux.conf.au mailing list to a ridiculous situation  – apparently the Australian government has overzealously been patrolling its borders against the scourge of… open source technology.

According to Finnish MySQL developer Kaj Arnö, this policy will prevent several MySQL people from attending LCA this year:

“Several Sun Microsystems Inc employees, especially related to the Database Group, have been denied short stay business visas to Australia, over the last few months, as they have been seen to be competing with local Australian businesses unfairly.

I regret to share that this will adversely affect MySQL presence at linux.conf.au in Hobart, Tasmania 19-24.1.2009.”

You can read the full post here – and note that he says he’s observed or experienced open source people having trouble getting Schengen (European Union) and US visas in the past as well.

How crazy. On so many levels. One -this sounds remarkably like the government discriminating against people due to their choice of technology. Do they really have big business in their ear that much? And it ignores the fact that open source technology and business generates an estimated $500 million for Australian businesses each year – you could argue this policy is restraint of trade, rather than protective of it. And it’s just offensive that our government is actively preventing people from gathering together for the purpose of freely sharing information.

I’m not sure what we can do to help fix this – LCA starts in 6 days.

Update: 9.48am, 14 January 2009

Kaj Arnö has updated his original blog post to admit that the link between the visa being denied and open source was conjecture on his part:

“The rejection letter merely says “SHORT TERM BUSINESS ETA APPLICATION WAS NOT APPROVED NO AUTHORITY TO TRAVEL TO AUSTRALIA HELD BY PASSENGER”. However, the person who now got rejected has been frequently in Australia and, to the best of my knowledge, lacks any record which would imply a visa rejection (such as, but not limited to, unpaid traffic fines).”

Read his updated post and the long discussion in comments for further info. Thanks Jacinta for alerting me to the update.

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Kate Lundy – Open Source could be the big gamechanger for government

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend Senator Kate Lundy’s pre-2020 Summit event, the Foundations of Open, last week. I was the only media representative there, and it was a fascinating event.

The day covered a range of topics about open source tech and its potential for the government and community/not-for-profit sectors, as well as open standards and open access to information. I couldn’t possibly hope to cover everything that was discussed but I hope to tease out a few more stories from the event over the coming weeks. Here’s the first story, anyway. It was published at ITNews:

Open Source the biggest potential game changer for government: Lundy

Senator Lundy asked all participants to create submissions to be taken to the PM’s 2020 Summit which is happening at the end of this month. It would be great to see more systemic use of open source tech – and particularly its ethos of sharing information and tech solutions – across government.

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