Well, you may have notice from my postings on Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Flickr and Facebook over the past week, but my wife and I ushered a new family member to the Turner Clan household. Yes, last week we ventured into the heart of rural Quebec to pick up our first puppy – an amazing red Lakeland Terrier we have dubbed The Right Honourable Mulroney (Leo) Turner.
And while, I’ve been chatting non-stop about this little terrier(ist) that has been melting our hearts and depriving of us of sleep for the past week, I thought I’d blog about the back story of this little guy.
So years ago, when my wife and I decided to move in together, we weren’t allowed to get our own furry litte companion due to the rental restrictions in Calgary. See my wife has grown up with a couple of adorable Airedales and her parents current dog – Merlin Arthur – stole my heart early on in our relationship. So we agreed that when the time was right and when we moved to a larger home or got settled or got real jobs, the first thing we would do was acquire our own Airedale Terrier. To be honest, both of us figured it’d be about 6 months or maybe a year max. Well, then plans changed.
Obviously, a whirlwind tour through Washington and then up to Ottawa sort of derailed that initial timeframe, but earlier this year we found ourselves finally back in Canada and in stable position to follow through on that pledge.
As mentioned, TRH Mulroney is an adorably deceiving lakeland terrier, which for those who know, is sort of like a mini-Airedale. Alright, it’s not really a mini-Airedale, but it’s a somewhat obscure breed that we stumbled upon here in Ottawa. And after much searching we ended up finding a breeder out of Boston with a huge Ottawa community of Lakelands. It also helps that the Lakeland breed matches our needs perfectly. It’s the smallest of the terrier lineage and just as smart, conniving and playful. It’s size also makes it a great companion for apartment living. So for a couple who’s lifestyle pretty much ensures we won’t be purchasing a home within the next 10 years or so, it matches our urban living choices to a T.
Ah yes, his name. There are two parts to the story behind his mildly ironic name.
First, because we were living in the center for American patriotism for the past 2.5 years, we were always surrounded by the proud relationship Americans have with their past Presidents. Sure there are a couple of embarrassing presidents.. cough… nixon…cough… but for the most part, in every major city across the US there is a street, school, football stadium, turn pike or kid named after every American President. It’s not uncommon to see pretty much everything painted with America’s rich Presidential history. As Canadians, where it’s rare to find anyone who can even name 10 Prime Ministers let alone explain who the people are on our funny coloured money are, we always found this fascinating. One of the things I’ve always been impressed with America is that they are loud and proud of their history. (USA! USA! USA!) In Canada we rarely see that sort of pride. So as an homage to this entertaining American trait we decided early on in the process that we would apply a Prime Ministerial naming convention to our dogs.
Now the second part. Why Brian Mulroney?
First off Diefenbaker was pretty much out of the question due to the Due South reference. Trudeau would get us disowned by our respective families and friends and nobody would get the Clark reference. And naming the dog after John Turner, would just be a little too much like naming your kid Connor O’Connor. But Brian Mulroney, now that’s a different story.
With the exception of Chretien, Mulroney is probably the last real Prime Minister with an abundance of character and big ideas for Canada. Sure there’s a couple of scandals that have tarnished his legacy, but as far as Prime Ministers go, there’s no question that the Irishmen with the sultry blue eyes is easily one of Canada’s most famous and ambitious political leaders… Plus it also helps that my wife and the real Right Honourable Mulroney met two years ago in D.C.
See a couple of years ago, my wife met Mr. Mulroney at a reception at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. As one of the few Canadians in attendance, Mulroney instantly gravitated to my wife while doing the obligatory meet and greet rounds. During their ten minute conversation, He ended up regaling my wife with his charm, wit and elegant stories of Ronald Reagan, his time as Prime Minister and the future of canadian politics. During that conversation, Mr. Mulroney also gave some advise to my wife and pretty much demanded that she take her brilliant brain back to Canada. While not the deciding factor in our choice to move back to Canada, it did plant the seeds for our eventual decision to head back to the Great White North.
Oh, and it’s also amazing to see people’s awkward reaction in conservative Ottawa when you mention you’ve named your dog Mulroney. Some people laugh and some people walk away in disgust. It’s an entertaining side benefit of the whole exercise.
So there you have it, the latest member of the Turner clan – The Right Honourable Mulroney (Leo) Turner.
Today I turn thirty-three.
In the spectrum of birthdays thirty-three is probably one of the least significant birthdays out there, you’re two years from turning thirty-five and three years into the dirty thirties and trying to figure out how to be a grown-up. Now on previous birthdays I’ve tried to conjuror up sage like advice from my own experience on this little rock in space. And I really thought about compiling a list of thirty tid-bits of advice, but being realistic I’m just not that original anymore. But since my last full rotation around the sun, I’ve had a minor epiphany of sorts about two things that I wish I wouldn’t have ignored in my naive 20s. Elements of life that I’ve rediscovered over the past year or so. So what better way to celebrate my birthday, then to share that same advice.
The first is something I’ve touched upon before, but make sure to do what you love or makes you happy regardless of the cultural stereotypes. Earlier this year I stumbled across two comic book stores a couple of blocks away from our new abode in Ottawa. Now before this year it had been almost 12-15 years since I stumbled into a comic book store, but I made a resolution this year to take more time for myself and change up life a bit. It also helped that my interest in comic books, wait … graphic novels, was revitalized by The Walking Dead TV show . I walked by it at least 20 times before mustering up the courage to walk in … you know, because everyone knows that comic book nerds are frightening and all. But after walking in I was instantly reminded of why I loved reading comic books as a pre-teen and it instantly revitalized my interest in the genre. Now In all honesty, I’m reading much more mature series, like The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (LXG), DMZ, and the surprisingly smart new Hawkeye series, but I started to remember how much I adored the simpleness of a sitting down to flip through a good comic-book… err… graphic novel.
Now I mention this because in my 20s I wouldn’t have been caught dead in comic book store. For no other reason then the idea that comic books aren’t something a grown man reads and frankly girls apparently don’t think comic books are cool. But now that I’ve already
lured tricked my wife into a life of blissful marriage, what’s really the harm. I kid of course, but to be honest it got me thinking about how ridiculous it was to ignore and suppress something I really enjoyed for a long period of time, solely because of a perception from my 20s. So my my first piece of sage like advice on my 33rd birthday, really isn’t that special, but if you love something, just embrace it — don’t hide it.
… Well except for magic cards and cheering for the oilers. Nobody plays magic cards or cheers for the oilers in their 30s…
Second, is the benefits of volunteering. Going back to my previous point, I’m no longer ashamed to admit that I was a boy scout for far too long. Up until my early 20s to be exact. But one of the things that being in the boy scouts for that amount of time ingrained in me was the concept of volunteering. Unfortunately, volunteering was something that I neglected for most of my 20s as I was chasing the next pitcher of beer or finding the latest band, or whatever it is you young whipper snappers do in your 20s nowadays… I think it’s duck face selfies… what ever that means.
But over the past two years, some of the most rewarding events, experiences and career milestones have come through volunteering my time with causes I adore. Whether it’s teaching high school kids Junior Achievement in DC, working the tables at WordPress Camp Ottawa, trying to build an iPhone App community through yycApps, helping out with the Green Party in Ottawa or just building a web site for Grow Calgary, Unrest Magazine, and 1CalgaryCentre. I’ve achieved more personal and professional growth and met some amazing people through volunteering my time and experiences than I have through anything else I’ve done in my career. And if you think about it, most of the world’s most successful people are the ones that constantly lend a hand to causes they believe in. For me not only has volunteering helped me grow as an individual, but it’s also allowed me to expand my network circle and experience different situations which have made every day life that much better. So in a nut shell, it’s one thing to do something, but it’s another thing to actually be apart of something.
And with those two tid bits to ponder form this old fossil, I leave you with Taylor Swift’s “Trouble” sung by a goat. Because it’s the world’s greatest thing.
Have a great day everyone.
Once again the Canadian Political world has been confronted with the always comical debate surrounding Political Ads. The recent spat over the infamous In Over His Head Justin Trudeau spots and the nitty gritty provincial battle in British Columbia have resurrected this timeless argument. And yes, if you asked most Canadians they would tell you with no uncertainty that they despise this level of political dialogue, while secretly not wanting to admit that these tactics can work like a charm. But low and behold, there is a new form of Political Attacks Ads that has quietly surfaced that is even more pathetic and lame.
That of course is the world of the dreadful Political Attack Web Site.
Yes, we are all familiar with the more polished older brother TV version and there is so much discussion revolving around the topic that I won’t get into too much detail rehashing those talking points. But to reinforce my point about the uselessness of Political Attack Web sites I do have to explain why the TV ads work so well.
The television attack ads mainly work because of two basic concepts. The first is pretty simple – TV ads in general are something that is forced upon a viewer rather than something one seeks out. As any hockey fan of the past couple of weeks can attest too, The Conservative Party of Canada have flooded the NHL Playoffs with the infamous Justin commercials. And yes, make no mistake that this is completely calculated and designed to hammer home a highly tested message to a captive audience of about a million plus Canadians every night. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, no matter how annoying or pathetic a political attack ad is, the average Canadian won’t bother changing the channel to ignore it. Truth be told most people would rather sit through the 30 second spot rather than chance missing one of Glenn Healy’s insane ramblings. So in regards to investment, they are about as effective as it gets for one’s political campaign dollars.
Second, as much as people hate the concept, attack ads do an effective job of laying down the ground work for a subconscious theme against one’s opponent. Mr. Ignatiff, Mr. Dion, Mr. Mulclair and more recently British Columbia’s Adrian Dix can attest to how much a theme, whether correct or not, repeated over and over again through TV ads can slowly degrade the casual voter’s viewpoint of a candidate. As a side note, I bet you within a year, Trudeau’s biggest misconception will be that he’s too young, regardless of the fact that by 2015 he’ll be the exact same age that Mr. Harper was when elected head of the Conservatives. But I digress.
With those two key attributes in mind lets look at the main weaknesses of the political attack web site.
First, regardless of what social media experts and middle aged entrepreneurs want you to believe, a web site is something that you can’t force people to see. No matter how many times a site is retweeted, posted to Facebook or you print out a QR Code, a web site will only draw interest from a user who wants to read that information. So attracting a non-partisan viewer is going to be nearly impossible, well, unless you pretend it’s a cute cat site. Don’t get me wrong these site do get hits, but if we’re being honest with ourselves they usually come from partisan party faithful or the opposition looking to see what’s being said about their candidate or party. The average casual voter isn’t going to be interested in seeking out this information unless it is of interest to their daily lives.
Second and this is a key one, the average person does not enjoy reading negative web sites. I know, a shocking concept. But ask yourself this: when was the last time you bookmarked a negative political attack web site or subscribed to the RSS feed? Think about it for a second. Probably never. And why would you? How does a negative political web site benefit the average viewer’s daily routine? If we were to look at the return rate of a Political Attack web site, I’m confident the return visitor rates would be embarrassingly low. These sites are not developed to foster an active community or even contain dynamic content, most are built as one off standalone sites to either compliment or initiate a conversation… and most can’t even achieve these simple goals.
Lastly, most of the sites are so crudely designed and developed that they probably do more harm than good. As viewers, it’s well known that our opinions are largely based on first impressions. So imagine taking a negative theme and spin it into a positive experience in the three to four seconds that a viewer takes to lay judgement on a web site. It is an impossible task. Take this classic shadow cabinet NDP website or better yet the accompanying “In over his head” web site. With their big scary fonts and over the top photoshop skillz are you convinced of the evil nature of their targets or are you turned off by how much time and effort was put into such a negative campaign? If you were already a partisan hardliner you’ll probably agree with the content and are already lovin’ it like McDonalds, but for anyone the effects are minimum at best. In fact if you’ve ever voted for the liberals or NDP you probably have a visceral reaction to the concept and the childish nature of the sites.
Okay, now that I’ve spent a good chunk of time ripping into the uselessness of these sites, the question becomes can Political Attack web sites serve a better purpose? Better yet, is there an effective variation that is actually a positive and engaging experience? The answer to that is yes.
A micro site for a Political Party or Candidate which focuses on a positive concept or is able to tell an engaging story is really an effective campaign tool, but the key element is that it has to be a positive experience rather than a negative one. I’ve used this example numerous times in blog posts, but the Kathleen Wynne Way Forward micro site from the 2013 Ontario Leadership campaign is a great example of this. (It has since transitioned into a full web site)
The amount of work involved in creating a site similar to the handful that Wynne’s team have produced, are about equal to or less than the previously mentioned web sites, but the viewer experiences are literally night and day. One bombards you with the dirt and negativity of politics, while the other instills a sense of excitement, progressiveness and change. And of the two sets of examples, Wynne’s collection of sites are far more likely to leave a positive sentiment with the user.
So you may be asking, why even bring this up?
Simple. With the advent of robust and easy to use tools such as WordPress, Tumblr or even NationBuilder, it has become incredibly easy for anyone to build a web site – especially a political one. We know this as a fact, but just because it’s easy to build a gaudy attack site doesn’t mean that you should.
Yes, politics is a dirty game, but there becomes a point when the minor benefits of negativity outweigh the positives. With the upcoming civic elections in Alberta just around the corner the temptation to draw attention to a candidate by investing in one of these feeble sites is there, but hopefully I’ve shown that there are better ways. If recent events prove anything it’s that the general patience for negativity in politics is diminishing within Canada. Voters are looking to see the positive side of our political leaders. So in a round about way, my advise to aspiring candidates and campaigns is to ignore the Political Attack web sites and do something different, unique and creative.
Two years ago, one of my good friends introduced me to the world of comedy podcasts. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like this was my first introduction to stand-up comedy, for that you have to thank A&E’s endless reruns of An Evening At The Improv.. you know when the channel was less about addiction and more about actual art.
Anyways, I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, discovering comedy again.
I was first introduced to the The Sklarbro Country sports podcast and then eventually discovered Welsh comic Rhod Gilbert podcast. From there I discovered Patton Oswalt’s full-length albums and then discovered that buried deep within the depths of Rdio is a treasure trove of comedy albums.
And over the past few months, for whatever god foresaken reason, I started listening to the calming sounds of stand-up comedy before falling a sleep. Don’t ask me why, but for a few stressful weeks in January the only thing that would keep my mind off of the toils of life was the sounds of Lewis Black, The Sklars and other hilarious comedians. I may never know why this happened, but it worked like a charm and thus my new found love of comedy was born.
So after a few months of trolling comedy albums, I thought I’d share my favourite comedians with people. Now as a caveat this is by no means a professional top ten list, in honesty these are just the comedians I really dig – so you won’t find Louis C.K. or Daniel Tosh on the list. Frankly I’m just not a fan of their stuff.
But I do hope you enjoy the list and if you’re new to stand-up, like I am, I hope it kick starts an interest in the genre.
Overal the past couple of years Patton Oswalt has been quietly establishing himself as The King of the Nerds. Whether it’s live tweeting Downton Abbe, the GOP Debates or even acting as Dr. Octopus to his kid’s Spider-girl, this man is a nation treasure. And while many people have heard of Patton Oswalt because of his infamous breakdown of the KFC bowls, this skit had me in tears the first time I heard.
If you’re looking for a sole reason for why I got into stand-up comedy, this man is it.
If you’re a fan of The Daily Show, you’ll know of Lewis Black. He is that grumpy political assoholic uncle we all wish we had. If you thought he was over the top, then check out his stand-up work. He has an impeccable delivery and political observations are dead on.
Oddly enough, the more I think about it, the more I’m probably going end up being Lewis Black in 20 years.
Goes without saying, but The Sklars are pretty epic. Two identical twin brothers from St. Louis who are all over the pop-culture spectrum, but have still managed to lay the ground work for the perfect fusion between comedy and sports reporting on their legendary podcast Sklarbro Country. Whether it’s their irrational hatred for Saskatoon, their great taste in indie music or anything involving Jessie The Body Ventura or Kris Jenner The Sklarbro Country podcast is a pure comedy-avalanche.
Aziz Ansari is probably best known for a role on NBC’s Parks and Rec, but his stand up is pretty amazing. It takes a while to really get into it, but they guy is classically funny. Anything where he makes fun of his cousin is just pure gold.
Hannibal Buress is probably one of the more popular comics on the circuit at the moment… or that is what the Internt tells me at least. And for that reason alone, I would typically skip over him on a list like this (it’s why Daniel Tosh isn’t on this list), but the man can deliver a punchline. So give him a couple of spins.
Not only does he rap and star in NBC’s Community, but he’s also a stand-up comic. This guy’s a beast
Now, this list isn’t not nearly as complete as it should be. If you have recommendations, unleash it in the comments.
With a slate of municipal elections scheduled for late October, upstart candidates and sitting council members across Alberta are gearing up for an intense fall campaign season. With that comes the task of putting together a campaign team, beginning the process of raising funds and also crafting a campaign brand and marketing material. But one of the most critical elements of a strong campaign is establishing an online presence with a fully functional web site.
If you’re an active voter like I am, you’ve probably come across a spectrum of political campaign web sites over the past four years. You have also probably noticed that only about a handful of these site are clearly well done – majority are just absolute disasters doing more harm than good. In a previous blog post, I outlined my opinions on the state of political web design in Canada. But now with an election six months away, I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is by detailing a handful of key elements for building a great campaign web site.
Before we get into the meat of these elements, it’s important to understand the role of the candidate’s web site in the modern campaign era. Unless you understand how the typical voter will interact with your site, it’ll be impossible to grasp what characteristics are key in the process.
Before 2010, a candidate’s web site typically acted as the single online activity hub of a campaign. Since then we’ve obviously seen a shift in user interaction patterns, where there is now an even balance between social media activity and the campaign web site. A candidate’s web site is no longer the only element online, it’s now a key cog in three or four active and moving pieces.
Think of it this way, a candidates social media activity and print material acts as a first introduction to the average voter. The entire goal should be to get the candidate’s name in the mind’s of the voter. If a voter’s attention is caught by a tweet about a candidate, notices a friends shared Facebook post, stumbles across a Pinterest photo or drives past a yard sign, that will be their first introduction to the candidate. At which point, if the first introduction is a successful one, the voter will most likely go to the candidate’s official web site to learn more. At which point the candidate will be making their first and most lasting impression on a potential voter and you better hope that their web site hits all the right spots.
Now here is the most important change in the average user activity cycle with a campaign web site. In years past, the average user if impressed by the candidate would probably sign-up for an RSS feed, or bookmark the web site to revisit in a week or a couple weeks. But with the rise of social media, smart phones and our collective diminishing attention spans for visiting web sites on a regular basis, the average voter is going to look over the candidates site once, get the information they need and make a decision to either commit to subscribing to the candidate’s social media activities or to disregard the candidate. From there the social media elements of the campaign will take over and either continue to impress the average voter — potentially bringing them back to the web site for more information as the campaign rolls on or it’ll start to turn the voter away.
In this aspect a candidate’s web site may have lost a bit of its long term importance, but has also increased its value as the biggest element in making a lasting impression on the average voter.
So how does one create a great first impression with a strong campaign web site? Here are some key points.
First and foremost, a campaign has to use the right tools to create an impressionable web site. From my experience building a candidate web site with Drupal or Joomla is overall kill. While very functional tools for larger sites, a Drupal and Joomla site is going to be far too complex for the average campaign team to maintain and it’s going to show in the design aesthetic or with stale content. So while this isn’t real news to anyone, my advice is to go with WordPress or Nationbuilder. Most designers and developers won’t be familiar with Nationbuilder (as a caveat I have been working to become a Nationbuilder architect and it is a great up and coming tool) so WordPress will probably be the default tool for most this cycle.
Now just because you have a WordPress web site it doesn’t mean you’ve completed your work. The biggest benefit of WordPress from a campaign perspective is it’s a very easy to use and universal tool with so many great plug-ins. WordPress is a tool that everyone and their dog can claim to build a Wordpress site, but a badly crafted WordPress theme will stick out like a sore thumb. Any site that is a ‘hack’ of an already popular theme will show fairly quickly. It’ll look cheap and inexpensive and that will reflect poorly on the candidate. In my experience, this is probably the most common mistake that a campaign team will make concerning their web site.
So use WordPress, but invest in a proper design. Create something that’s clean, intuitive, unique and memorable.
This is going to sound incredibly obvious, but a candidate’s face has to be front and centre on their web site.
You’d be shocked at how many campaigns are already committing this sin for the upcoming election. As I mentioned before, a campaign web site acts as the biggest first impression for the average voter, so put your candidate front and centre on the landing page. Make them the focal point of the user’s eye when they arrive.
Now before everyone goes running off to purchase fancy head shots, there is a caveat with this piece of advise — the candidates photo has to be personable.
Don’t photoshop their face and super impose it on a stock image of a robotic skyline. That is so 2009 that it hurts. Do something unique with your candidate. Be creative. Show the personality and charm of your candidate. It could be as simple as showcasing them in the area, ward they represent or in front of a well known landmark of the district they are running in. But overall the images of the candidate have to be personable to people.
Look at it this way, who would you rather vote for? A candidate in a buttoned up shirt and tie sprawled across the perfect backdrop or the candidate that looks like you could run into them on your way to the grocery store or coffee shop of your local neighbourhood?
Nine times out of ten, the average voter is going to take the candidate that looks like they could have a coffee with.
As mentioned in this post, the role of the campaign web site has evolved. While it is still the most critical element for a first impression, it’s also not necessarily where all the online interaction of your candidate with citizens will occur — that area is regulated to the battle fields of Twitter and the timelines of Facebook.
So with that in mind, it is wise to make your candidate’s social media accounts easy to find. Make them stand out on the site. Make them super easy for voters to follow or like. Now like my previous tips of advice there is a caveat to this, don’t just go plug-in crazy with the social media accounts. They have to be easy to find, but it also doesn’t have to look as though the candidate’s web site is a dogs breakfast of the latest tools. Like everything in a campaign it has to be well thought out and intuitive, so invest in good design and simple aesthetic for the web site. Incorporate the various social media tools, but do it in a manner that isn’t an eye sore.
The points I’ve outlined above are fairly straight forward and are based on common sense. Before embarking on a campaign, make sure you understand the role of your web site in the campaign, understand the proper tools for your web site, create a relatable design and aesthetic that represents your candidate and create an online presence that is easy for the average voter to connect with. But what all these points boil down to is ensuring that there is proper investment in a campaign web site.
From my experience, the biggest mistake a candidate can make is to not to properly invest in all elements of their campaign. I have been lucky to work on a handful of great campaigns, with teams that have understood the importance of this concept, but in my research and general observations, many campaign teams in Alberta are already forgetting this simple concept. It’s almost humorous as to how many campaigns will invest large portions of their budget in printed material and online advertising to redirect potential voters to a sub-par web site for more information. With the advent of open source technology and the growing industry of web design, in my opinion there really is no excuse for candidates to have a poorly designed web site in this day and age.