Computers I have used and video games I have played

I have been a computer enthusiast since I was a young boy. My first computer was a Texas Instruments Ti99/4A on which I first learned the joys of video games and computer programming.

After that we had a Macintosh SE, with a whopping 10MB hard drive. It felt like a supercomputer! My first laptop was a Macintosh Powerbook 145, with a trackball. After that I switched to a Dell Latitude wintel laptop and then came back to Macintosh with a Macbook 13″ (black), a Mac Book Air and a desktop iMac with windows double boot. My current computers are a MacBook Pro 15″, a retina iMac and an older iPad (first retina edition from 2012). I have never had an iPhone, staying loyal to BlackBerries.

The video games side of computing never really stuck, except for strategy/puzzle games like Myst, Riven, King’s Quest, Fool’s Errand, Starcraft or my favourite… the Civilization franchise (I have actually purchased Civilization: Beyond Earth from the Apple App Store but have not yet had a chance to play).

What computers have always been for me is a window to the world of information and communication technology. The internet is an infrastructure that was build on the technology that little kids like me played and learned with 30 years ago. Having an understanding of computers opens new vistas of understanding and experience for you, particularly as a professional communicator.

Knowledge of computers and the cyber culture they have enabled is key to facilitating relationships for clients. As a communicator, you should try and become as tech savvy as you can!


Measurement in #PR – Social network analysis

At the heart of public relations practice is the relationship. Whether they are internal or external, relationships are the currency that we deal in.

One metric that we don’t pay enough attention to is how networks of affinity build around a brand. A network analysis can help with this. The challenge is that network analysis does require some knowledge of statistics or at least an ability to use network analysis software.

You definitely want to use social networking software app that has a good GUI. Otherwise it is can be challenging to enter everything via the command line.

The other point to pay attention to regard the app is its ability to visualize data – preferably generating interactive visualizations. That allows you to play with the data visually when you are doing more qualitative interpretations of the graph. Here’s an example of a data visualization generated using Netminer:

"Netminer screenshot" by Netminer - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
“Netminer screenshot” by Netminer – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons (click on image to see original).


You should do some research to find out more about social network analysis. It is fascinating stuff and extremely useful for understanding relationships on the web and elsewhere. This wikipedia page has an excellent summary of social network analysis software.

The main points to bear in mind when you are doing this kind of work are the following:

  • These software programs tend to store information in a database structured as a graph, rather than as a table
  • The nodes on your social network graph represent the individuals in the network
  • The nodes can be “decorated” with features such as age, gender, SES (socio-economic status), etc.
  • You can “strengthen” the arcs between the nodes to indicate the number of times that individuals have exchanged information.

Have fun learning about social network analysis!

Recipe for dinner (and leftovers lunch): Glazed trout with black rice, slaw with aioli

I made dinner last night and – true to form – fish was on the menu. Those of you who know me are aware of my overwhelming love of seafood.

Appetizer: Seared Scallop with Truffle Salt
This is an easy one. You heat a greased cast iron pan slowly until it reaches maximum heat.

While the pan is heating, you baste your large scallop with olive oil (or grapeseed oil) and your favourite flavoured salt (mine is black truffle salt).

Then you just place scallop on the pan and wait until it is seared to the point of detachment.

Garnish with some basil leaves or tarragon – I keep both growing in ugly little pots in my kitchen.

Apricot Glazed Trout with Black Rice Pilaf
You buy a steelhead or rainbow trout filet (I am partial to steelhead – it’s a little fattier).

You make a glaze with apricot jam (preferably from a home-made very lightly sweetened jar), some old-style grainy mustard, a splash of maple syrup, a touch of honey and some salt and pepper.

Then you bake the trout for about 20 mins, give or take, depending on how hot your oven is and how big the trout filet is.

I served it with a simple black rice pilaf – just boiled black rice with a hint of olive oil, salt and pepper.

As well, I grabbed some couple of days old cabbage that I had slawed and garnished it with a makeshift aioli made from a couple of table spoons of olive oil mayo, some capers, garlic, salt, pepper and sherry vinegar.

Voilà – a lovely glazed trout and rice that tastes even better cold the next day for lunch!

Leftovers Trout Lunch
I served the trout cold – it was lovely, with the flavours in the baked glaze combining overnight. The rice I served cold as well, with a diced kumato, some olive oil, rice vinegar, salt and pepper. I plopped a preserved artichoke heart (in olive oil) beside it. A quick, tasty lunch after Church and a hard swim.

Wine Pairings
For dinner, I paired this with McWilliams Elizabeth Sémillon [Australia] which has a lovely citrus note that went well with the  .

Today for lunch, I had a sip of Kew Vineyards Old Vines Riesling  [2012 VQA Beamsville Bench] with the cold trout and the black rice/kumato

Simple pleasures: Crèpes à la @AlexSevigny

I have never been much of a breakfast person. To be honest, I often will have a little of last night’s dinner for breakfast when I am on my own, as I am not a fan of cereals.

Today I found myself contemplating foods I actually like for breakfast and thought I would start writing them up. I will start with my favourite – crèpes. I love these things, but find that many cooks make them heavy by using milk, salt or by too much oil when they fry them (you hardly need any at all if your pan is hot enough).


@AlexSevigny Style Low-Cal French Crèpes
I love making my version of French-style crèpes. My formula is pretty simple, using my usual unorthodox measuring vessels.

  • Put in one espresso cup of flour (usually split 50-50 between unbleached white and whole wheat) to two espresso cups of filtered water.
  • Add an egg for each espresso cup of flour, a hefty splash of vanilla and a micro-grated zest of lemon.
  • Beat mixture by hand using a large whisk until smooth since I find hand blending is far superior in most cases over machine blenders.
  • Let sit for a bit – usually about an hour.

Now you’re ready to cook your crèpes!

I use a cast-iron crèpe pan. I am partial to Le Creuset because of their awesome even heat distro, but I know it’s kind of fancy and any old crèpe pan will do – this model from Tefal is quite good and more affordable.

Heat the pan up slowly at medium heat, edging it up until very hot. Lightly oil with grapeseed oil because it has a high smoke point. You can even try this with no oil, but it depends on the quality and how well your cast-iron pan has been seasoned.

Then ladle in the batter and spread around the pan by tilting it (careful not to burn yourself). wait until the edges rise from the pan and then use a silicon spatula to flip them (unless you’re a pro and can do it by jerking the pan).

Then put them on a ceramic plate and cover with another ceramic plate until you are ready with the next one. Repeat.

Voilà – you have lovely, milk-free, low cal crèpes made with next to no oil.

You can eat them with lots of great condiments, but I am partial to honey. My favourite honey comes from @RosewoodWinery in Beamsville, Ontario …

HoneyBearRosewood Honey

Strategic PR and the value chain, pt 5: building relationships in social media

In yesterday’s post, I discussed how public relations became more strategic, as it evolved into a two-way symmetrical model, focused on building relationships between organizations and their publics. Today, I will  discuss how social media has changed the landscape and evolved PR strategy from a two-way symmetrical model to a two-way dialogical model.

Social media has changed public relations by changing the way information flows.

The two-way symmetrical model was based on the gatekeeping model privileged by the structure of most mass communication organizations: well-paid and highly trained experts create content that is then sent through well-defined channels to subscribers. The gatekeepers are the editors, publishers, etc. who hold the final say on whether something is released into the channel. Strategic PR in the two-way symmetrical model involved understanding the dynamics of the mass communications channels (audiences, internal editorial structures, etc.) and forging relationships with the right experts to get the message out. Controlling and the shaping the message were key. At the heart of this is a linear communication model:

Content producer —> editor —> channel —> receiver

Feedback is limited to structured forums such as letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, etc.

Social media has shattered this model by introducing the concept of user-generated content. It also introduced instant feedback into the structure. That made the PR conversation more dialogical and interpersonal, rather than structured and linear. In a dialogical, interpersonal model feedback is constant, like in a conversation.

This means that the organizational relationships that a PR pro has to manage are being communicated in a way that more closely resembles how individuals communicate and build relationships – interactively and with multiple streams of continuous information at the same time (i.e. in interpersonal communication, you pay quite a bit of attention to language, non-verbal, context, etc.).

This means that to be strategic, PR pros now have to think of their organizations as individuals – people who are forging relationships with individual members of priority publics. Managing those relationships for the mutual benefit of the organization and the individuals with whom it has relationships is how PR adds value now.  This means that it has organization-wide influence: marketing, internal communications, HR, financial and investor communications, etc.

For PR pros, this means understanding how business works and developing a set of professional languages, models and metrics that make and demonstrate the case for the strategic value of public relations to the core business development objectives. This is at the heart of what we teach in the McMaster-Syracuse MCM program.

PR’s strategic importance is in knowing how to make organizations personal and interpersonal, in an organized and consistent fashion.


Strategic PR and the value chain, pt 4

Yesterday, I mentioned a piece published in the McMaster Daily News featuring my colleague @TerryFlynn’s ideas on the various scandals in journalism, particularly the Leslie Roberts one, which is directly linked to public relations.

In this great piece, Terry mentioned something that stuck with me:

“Let me first address the issue of the name of Khan’s company, Buzz PR. Neither Mr. Khan nor Mr. Roberts have recognized public relations or professional communications management experience or expertise. In fact, Mr. Khan’s stated profession is that of an auctioneer and occasional diamond seller. It appears that Mr. Khan’s primary skills were marketing, promotionalism or publicity — a very narrow slice of the spectrum of the field of media relations.”

In this quote, Terry gets to the heart of the matter concerning the strategic value of public relations – he mentions publicity and promotionalism. This brought to mind Jim Grunig’s four models of the PR practice:

  • Press Agentry/Publicity
  • Public Information
  • One-Way Symmetrical
  • Two-Way Symmetrical

These are summarized nicely here.

For Grunig, the least strategic is the first one: press agentry and publicity, for it is pretty much focused on modifying the behaviours of people to suit the organization’s priorities.

This sort of exclusively persuasive action is not a relationship-building approach to PR, as I have been discussing over the last few posts. Rather, publicity instrumentalizes the public to achieve an end: sales, donations, votes, whatever.

The Two-Way Symmetrical model — while steeped in the gatekeeping tradition endemic to the mass communications model that many argue is now passing — fashioned a model for organizations to establish two-way conversations with stakeholders. Two-way conversations that build trust.

Ethically managing and bringing professionalism to process of building relationships is the domain of the public relations professional.

It could be argued that the two-way symmetrical model has evolved. I will look at that idea tomorrow.




A tribute to Terry Flynn, my dear colleague and PR mentor

Today, my colleague Terry Flynn, co-founder (with Maria Russell) of the McMaster-Syracuse Master of Communications Management program (of which I am director), was interviewed for the McMaster Daily News today. The piece listed his recent achievements and focused on his opinions on the unfolding crises in journalism in the Leslie Roberts, Amanda Lang and Jian Ghomeshi situations.

First, allow me to congratulate my esteemed colleague his recent achievements. Terry was recently:

  •  The first Canadian to ever be elected to the board of trustees of the Arthur W. Page Society — the leading global association of chief communications officers — and
  • Named a board member of the prestigious Institute for Public Relations.
  • Named one of the Top 50 Social Media Marketing Influencers on Twitter by Vocus Research, a global communications research company.

Terry has been an inspiration, mentor and friend to me over the last seven years that I have known him. He has opened the world of PR scholarship and practice to me, by trusting me with his baby – the McMaster-Syracuse MCM program and introducing me to his international network of public relations and communications management colleagues, both professional and academic.

I am proud to know him and owe him a lot. He’s a constant inspiration and support to me.

My thoughts on life, faith, political communications, public relations and communications management.

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