Do pilots really not smoke in the cockpit? What does that mean for landings?

As I entered the airport this morning, I passed a couple of pilots who were standing outside in the cold, smoking. Judging from the desperate way they were dragging on those cigarettes, they were hooked, really hooked, on tobacco.

As Toronto is a departure point for several long range flights, it got me to thinking. Airplanes are all non-smoking now, right? And some flights can extend to 10 to 14 hours. Do the pilots really go that long without a cigarette? And if they do, what are their nerves like when it comes time to land at the end of a long flight?

I hope that all my flights are piloted by non-smokers. But how would I know?

The Canadian Internet Forum: Discussions that matter to Internet users (that's you and me.)

I was shocked by how effectively the Egyptian government choked off access to the Internet during the recent popular uprising. I had always taken it for granted that the Internet’ s distributed architecture would make it impossible for it to be denied to a population in this way. Naïve me.

The shut down of the Internet in Egypt underlined for me just how lucky we are in Canada and how we take our free, open Internet for granted. But we shouldn’t take it for granted. If we care about something, we should take an active interest in it. And we should participate when the opportunity comes up for us to have a say.

Next week, we will have an opportunity to have a voice in a discussion of the issues relating to the governance of the Internet. The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (Disclosure: CIRA is a client of Thornley Follis and 76 design) will be hosting the Canadian Internet Forum to discuss issues surrounding Internet governance in Canada and globally.

I recorded a brief interview with Byron Holland, CIRA’s President and CEO, to ask him what’s at stake, why people like you and I should participate, whether we’ll have an opportunity to be heard and what this consultation will lead to.

This national forum follows six regional consultations that were held late last year. If you’re interested in learning more, you can download the background papers on digital literacy and the digital economy.

The Canadian Internet Forum is open to public participation. If you want to participate, you can register online to attend in person. If you can’t make it to Ottawa on Feb. 25, you will also be able to participate via Webcast.

The Internet in Canada. It matters to all of us. And we can all have our say.

Happy Third Birthday, Third Tuesday Montreal

Three years ago, on February 19, 2008, 3e Mardi | Third Tuesday Montreal launched. At the time, I wrote:

3e Mardi / Third Tuesday MontréalFor the past two years, people interested in exploring the potential of social media have gathered at Third Tuesday meetups in Toronto and Ottawa. Last autumn, Third Tuesday Vancouver and Third Tuesday New Brunswick groups joined the discussion.

Tonight, 3e Mardi / Third Tuesday Montréal launches.

The discussion at tonight’s inaugural 3e Mardi / Third Tuesday Montréal will be led by two of Montréal’s social media pioneers, Mitch Joel and Mylene Forget. The topic: “Why you need to care about the new media channels.” A good starting place for a discussion of social media.

Montréal is a bilingual city, bringing together both French and English speaking communities. So, 3e Mardi / Third Tuesday Montréal will be a bilingual event, providing a perfect opportunity to enrich the discussion with insights about how social media is being adopted and used in different languages.

Three years later 3e Mardi | Third Tuesday Montreal has indeed developed into something unique. I’ve attended several of these events over the past three years and I can say that they are a unique reflection of Quebec’s culture and bilingualism.

Congratulations Michelle Sullivan, who launched 3e Mardi | Third Tuesday Montreal and has kept it going and growing. I’ll leave it to Michelle to write a post about the people who keep 3e Mardi | Third Tuesday Montreal alive and well. (Michelle, please leave a comment pointing to your post and I’ll place a link in the text of my main post.)

Happy birthday 3e Mardi | Third Tuesday Montreal. Together with Third Tuesday Toronto, Third Tuesday Ottawa, Third Tuesday Calgary and Third Tuesday Vancouver, you provide a cross-country forum for Canadians interested in social media, online communications, and their impact on our relationships with one another and institutions.

Americans Against Food Taxes shows Astroturfing is still with us

Will we ever be able to stamp out Astroturfing in public relations?

Take a look at this Website and this that the group ran on television and posted to YouTube.

Hold on a second. “Americans Against Food Taxes?” The names on the About Us page suggest to me it really should be called Soft Drink Manufacturers/retailers opposed to a tax on sugar-packed soft drinks. And if this ad really did run on the Super Bowl, as the Website claims, a total of 95, 275 signups on their petition sounds to me like no real grassroots movement actually exists.

The whole thing smacks of disinformation and bad spin. Yes, the ad makes explicit reference to a tax on soft drinks, but look at everything else: the images of fresh fruit on the Website home page, a grocery cart packed with wholesome food, the domain “” (why not “” and the name of the group itself. Take them all together and the uncritical viewer could easily think that there is a broader tax being proposed on all food. No lies are told. But it is possible to mislead by how we frame an issue and (mis)direct attention.

I raised this issue with Martin Waxman and Gini Dietrich in the most recent episode of Inside PR.

What do you think?

Do you know more about this campaign than I do? Am I setting the bar of acceptable behaviour too high – or does this campaign in fact cross the line?

Also worth a look:


Health Habits



Join a live recording of Inside PR at Podcamp Toronto 2011

If you’re in Toronto next Saturday, February 26, we’d love it if you could join us at Podcamp Toronto 2011 for a live production of Inside PR. We’ll be recording during the first session after lunch. And Terry Fallis and David Jones, the original hosts of Inside PR, will be joining us for this special session. So, do come out and be part of a live recording of Inside PR.

Defining social media

What is social media? I hear this question from executives and conference attendees alike. And the question was asked again this week on For Immediate Release, the excellent podcast by Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson.

Defining Social Media

Social media has evolved rapidly. So, I thought it would be time to update the definition I published in 2008. Here’s the definition I offer today:

Social media are online communications in which we shift instantly and easily between the role of audience and creator – without needing to know how to code. We do this by using social software that incorporates functions like publishing, sharing, friending, commenting, linking and tagging.

Essentials of Social Media

Invariably, when I present this definition, I see people’s heads nodding. Why? Because it presents the definition of social media from the perspective of the user, not the technologist. It also hits on the essentials of social media:

  • Online: We’ve always been social beings. But social media allows us to express ourselves and connect with others who share our interests regardless of where they are. Being online extends our reach to anyone who has an Internet connection.
  • Audience and creator: We have a voice, and given that voice, we’ll use it.
  • No need to know how to code: This is the big difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. It’s the factor that opened social media to all of us. In Web 1.0, publishing was restricted to those who had coding skills or those who could afford to hire them. Today, we all are publishers.
  • Social functions: This is what it comes down to. The reason we participate. What can we do with the software? Express ourselves, find others, share, form community.

Take it. Use it.

That’s how I define social media. If it makes sense to you, feel free to use it. And if you think I’ve missed something, please leave a comment below. I’m always keen to improve it.

Can "media visibility" be used as a surrogate for market research?

The current Canadian government has made no secret of its disdain for traditional public opinion research. They have slashed budgets for public opinion research and curtailed the number of studies being commissioned.

So, it’s not surprising that alternatives to conventional market research should be a hot topic in Canada’s capital.

The Ottawa Chapter of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association will feed this discussion at an upcoming luncheon seminar. According to the event description:

Michael Sloboda, Director of Media Intelligence for MediaMiser, will give a presentation revolving around both social and traditional media scans, content analysis and how to combine tone, attention, and prominence to derive a metric for Media Visibility. This will apply to print, online, and broadcast media.

This concept (Media Visibility) is being used both private and public companies and departments as a surrogate for primary market research such as surveys and to corroborate other types of analysis in activities such as program evaluations and benchmarking. The presenter will review the method, tools, and present a case study.

This presentation will provide the audience with a new approach to get an understanding of public opinions on issues, programs, or brands via media scanning and content analysis.

This sounds interesting. It’s not something I’ve gotten my mind around. So I plan to attend to hear what Michael has to say.

What do you think? Is this a concept you’re familiar with? Do you subscribe to the notion that “media visibility” can be used as a surrogate for primary market research?

The way I work today

In the mid-90s, I would open Microsoft Word and Excel at the beginning of every workday, knowing that I would spend most of my day using these applications. That ended some time ago.

Today, I open the Chrome Web Browser as soon as I boot up my computer. It’s also the last thing I close before I shut down at the end of the day. So, what do I use it for? Well, the tabs that open by default at the beginning of the day describe pretty well why the browser is my mainstay tool.

I use my browser for the four major things I do every day: publishing, measurement and analysis, knowledge gathering, and community.


I open a series of tabs for each of the blogs that I contribute to:, Inside PR, Social Mediators and Corum. This helps me to focus first thing each morning on writing. And I find I am most able to write at the beginning of my day when I still can close more door and before I open any other applications that might prove a distraction – especially email. (I keep Outlook closed through most of the day, opening it only when I have a block of low energy time that I want to use for low involvement work.)

In addition, I have a tab for the Admin panel that 76design developed to enable me to curate the posts that go on the home page of the Thornley Fallis Website.

Measurement and Analysis

I look at several tabs at the beginning of each day: PostRank, Google Analytics and Feedburner. These give me a quick indication of the engagement and traffic on the various blogs I contribute to. Of these, I’m most focused on PostRank. Traffic to my sites is nice. But what I really strive for is content that engages people enough that they will want to act upon it – share it, comment or even just follow a link.

Knowledge gathering

Social media has made it possible for experts to self publish in a form that is readily available and shareable. I find that most experts I’m interested in say their piece on a blog or on Twitter. So I subscribe to their RSS feeds and Twitter streams. And so I’ll go to Google Reader and Twitter (I use both  Hootsuite in my browswer and Tweetdeck on my desktop) when I have the time to gather new knowledge and news of what’s happening in my world.

There’s one more knowledge gathering tab that I’ve kept open for the past few months – Quora, the question and answer site. I’ve answered questions and posted questions of my own. This could be a great resource if the questions and answers broaden beyond the tech roots of the early adopters. The jury’s still out. However, I go here late in the day when my writing and creative work is done and I want to be stimulated with new perspectives.


We use as our “behind the firewall” team collaboration software. I’ll keep this open throughout the day so that I can respond to requests and queries from my work teams.

I use as the online host for the Third Tuesday events. I’ll check this daily when we have upcoming events.

Twitter. Twitter. Twitter. My main social network, as well as a great knowledge gathering site. I’ll check into Twitter several times a day. Then sign out when I’m done. Must avoid distraction.

Yes, I open LinkedIn and Facebook at the beginning of each day. And then I mostly ignore them. Both seem designed to trap me in a mindless attention loop. Too much random noise.

Focus on one thing at a time

A final note. Even though I open several tabs at the beginning of the day, I close everything I am not using whenever I am trying to create content. I find it takes me some time to get into the flow of creation. So, I don’t want any distractions. No email. No pop up alerts. No skype. No telephone. I just try to focus on the one thing I am trying to create.

Your turn

What about you? Do you keep your browser open through the day? What tabs do I have set up to open automatically at the beginning of each day? How do you maintain your focus?

Third Tuesday – maybe on a Tuesday, but rarely on a Third Tuesday

What’s in a name? Well, if the name of the event is Third Tuesday, it definitely doesn’t mean that the event will be held on the third Tuesday of the month.

Every month in cities across Canada, including Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Calgary, Third Tuesdays offer participants a chance to meet and hear from thought leaders about the evolution of social media, online community and their impact on our relationships with one another and societal institutions.

Third Tuesday is unique both in its longevity – five years and counting – and the fact that it brings these speakers not just to one city, but to cities across the country. In effect, it has become digital Canada’s national meet up.

But still, after five years, people often ask me why Third Tuesday rarely occurs on a third Tuesday. Well there’s a simple answer.

When we first organized Third Tuesday, we selected the name not because the meetings were intended to be on a third Tuesday (in fact, the first meeting was held on a Monday in Ottawa), but because the term Third Tuesday carried no meaning or association. We didn’t want to be limited to a discussion of any one technology or development. A name like Third Tuesday gave us an opportunity to allow the focus of Third Tuesdays to evolve over time.

We are not partial to any particular technology or line of thought. We follow the evolution of online communications, with an emphasis on how people use them for communication, collaboration, and community building. If anything, our perspective is a combination of anthropology and sociology with technology. It’s not about the latest shiny new object. It’s about what people want to do and how technology is removing the barriers that prevented them from doing it.

So, if you see a Third Tuesday organized in your city and it’s on the second Tuesday or the first Monday for the fourth Wednesday, don’t be surprised. But do consider joining the discussion. No previous knowledge required. Just bring your curiosity and an open mind.

Thanks to Doug Lacombe, the organizer of Third Tuesday Calgary for his retake on the #3TYYC logo that I’ve used in this post.

Terry Fallis: a social media / publishing Cinderella story

Yesterday, Terry Fallis‘ first novel, The Best Laid Plans was selected as the essential Canadian novel of the decade in the Canada Reads competition.

This is just one more step in what already has been a remarkable journey:

  • Canadian PR exec feels he has a novel in him,
  • writes the novel in his spare time,
  • searches with no success for an agent or a publisher,
  • self publishes his novel,
  • sets up a blog,
  • reads the novel chapter by chapter in a podcast,
  • builds a fan base of people who read and love the novel,
  • gets noticed by the Leacock Medal Committee,
  • is shortlisted for the Leacock Medal,
  • wins the Leacock Medal as Canada’s top humorous novel,
  • gets a big time literary agent,
  • gets a publishing deal with prestigious McLelland and Stewart,
  • writes a second novel,
  • has both novels on the bestseller list,
  • is nominated to the 10th Anniversary Canada Reads search for the essential Canadian novel of the past decade,
  • is shortlisted for the Canada Reads award,
  • is selected as THE essential Canadian novel by the Canada Reads panel of celebrity judges…

Talk about a Cinderella story!

And what did Terry do immediately after learning that he’d won the Canada Reads competition? Well, he came to work. Talent, celebrity and still has his feet on the ground.

Happily for me, Terry’s workplace is Thornley Fallis. And our Mike Edgell grabbed him long enough to record this video interview. Watch it to see how one of the nicest guys around reacts when he discovers all of his dreams are coming true.

Other posts about Terry Fallis’ journey into Canadian publishing fame

Terry Fallis won the Leacock Medal!

Terry Fallis talks about what it meant to be shortlisted for the Leacock Medal

The Best Laid Plans joins some impressive company

Promoting a Book with Social Media

Taking The High Road with Terry Fallis