Writing by James

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Writing by James – The Top 5 Most Popular Posts of 2013

It’s the end of 2013, and that means it is time to look at my most popular posts of the year. Without further ado, the Top 5!

#1 – Scribd – the wrong way to use Facebook personalisation

The run away winner this year, and up from number 2 last year, this article still seems to be hitting the spot. I still get comments and emails around the subject, as it seems that nothing has changed – the number of people still searching for ‘Scribd Facebook’ on Google has not decreased.

#2 – RE: The Walking Dead – A call to Frank Darabont

Last year, when this rolled in at number 1, I said:

“When I first wrote this post, it was only intended to vent my own frustrations with the first season of the Walking Dead, but it seems that there are a lot of people who feel the same way. Luckily, my main issue with the series – not enough zombies! – has been answered.”

I’m extremely glad to say that Season 3, which finished a couple of months back on UK terrestrial, was the best yet. It had a strong story-line, plenty of zombies, and some very fine moments between the Governor and our band of survivors. How I’m managing to keep away from reading Robert Kirkman’s original comics, I have no idea…

#3 – Scribd – the wrong way to use Facebook personalisation – an update

In this follow up article to the original, I looked at how the rest of Facebook’s launch partners for ‘Instant Personalisation’ had fared. The quick answer? Not very well.

#4 – The album that saved my (musical) life

I’m glad this is still in the top 5. Pixies are a group that I hold close, they’ve had a massive impact on my musical direction. Without Pixies, I can’t imagine that I would ever have ended up listening to my current favourites: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Tame Impala, and Radiohead. This look at how they were using old content in refreshing new ways across social channels to engage with the next generation of fans was a pleasure to write.

#5 – Product Review: Testimonial Monkey

Rounding out the top 5 for 2013 is this product review of Testimonial Monkey. I don’t write a lot of reviews, but once in a while I get approached and asked to look at new products, services, or books. If you’ve got a product that you would like to put forward, please let me know using the contact form on the About Me page. Testimonial Monkey simplified the process of getting customer feedback and had some nice features, so it was a good review to write – it’s always more difficult if the product or book isn’t as good as you had hoped. Luckily, I haven’t had many of those.

Thank you!

Many thanks to all of you who have read my articles this year, whether you left comments or not; I hope they were useful and informative. I hope to see you all again in 2014.

Cheers, James.


Writing by James – The Top 5 Most Popular Posts of 2012

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It’s the end of the year, so alongside the rest of the blogosphere, that means it is time for a retrospective look at my most popular posts of the year. For those of you who have taken the time to read my articles this year, guest posts or otherwise, a heartfelt thanks. I hope you found them useful and informative; I’ll do my best to make 2013 just as productive.

Now, without further ado, the Top 5!

#1 – RE: The Walking Dead – A call to Frank Darabont

When I first wrote this post, it was only intended to vent my own frustrations with the first season of the Walking Dead, but it seems that there are a lot of people who feel the same way. Luckily, my main issue with the series – not enough zombies! – has been answered.

#2 – Scribd – the wrong way to use Facebook personalisation

Unlike my rant at the Walking Dead, this was an article that had some substance beyond the personal. Scribd’s use of Facebook Instant Personalisation hit all the wrong notes and deserved to be pilloried.

#3 – Unfollowing those who don’t follow back? You just don’t get it…

Another rant, this time at the misconception of some Twitter users that you should only follow someone if they follow you back. Poppycock, I say! You should follow people who you think add value, not just for the sake of a followback.

#4 – What is… Groupon

Groupon has had a tough year and is no longer the poster-company for the IPO generation. For those of you who are still unsure of what Groupon is, and what the fuss is about, here’s a starter guide.

#5 – The album that saved my (musical) life

The Pixies truly did save my musical life! They are also a great example of how to use social media channels to reengage an audience, both new and old. Old in my case…

Thanks again, and see you in 2013.

Cheers, James


RE: The Walking Dead – A call to Frank Darabont

This is a call out to Frank Darabont, a personal plea from me to him.

The first season of The Walking Dead came to a conclusion on UK terrestrial TV a few weeks back. Sitting back now, I can honestly say I enjoyed it; it was entertaining. But here’s the plea: Frank, please, MORE ZOMBIES!

The cast of the Walking Dead - Season 1

I don’t say this because I am a fan of gore and viscera (although a disclosure: I am).

I’m not saying this because I’m some sort of horror genre fascist that only believes there is one true way to make a zombie movie (or mini-series in this case).

I’m saying this because, if you don’t have enough Zombies, it simply doesn’t work. Zombies aren’t like other screen monsters.

Vampires have strength, charm and intelligence. Werewolves have an unstoppable hunger and rage. Alien’s aliens are streamlined assassins. Alone, any one of these is a reason to be scared.

Zombies aren’t all powerful, on their own they’re not even particularly menacing. They simply shuffle around moaning until they rot and fall to pieces.

But, get a whole bunch of them together in a confined space and suddenly they are another matter altogether. It’s no surprise that the the two best scenes in The Walking Dead are those where we had a horde of the undead descending upon our survivors. In episode 1 our hero is riding through a deserted Atlanta, Georgia, on a horse he has appropriated from a nearby farm, when he rounds a corner to find himself facing row upon row of zombies. They turn and advance on him as a pack, desperate for flesh, eventually surrounding him whilst he hides underneath a tank. He escapes, but only just. I won’t tell you what happens to the horse, but I think you can guess. A few episodes later, the survivors are attacked in their camp with predictably gory results.

Walking Dead - Rick and his horse get a surprise in Atlanta

Why are these the best scenes from the series? Because implied threat spills over into actual violence, reminding you that these people are living in constant danger.

Zombie movies are rarely about the zombies themselves, they are usually human stories – love, loss, treachery, betrayal, hope, redemption. The zombies are the backdrop, the ever-present threat that pushes the intensity of these stories up an extra notch, that take them out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary. Shaun of the Dead is a romantic comedy, with zombies – what does it take to make you realise how much you love someone? Day of the Dead is about the conflict between science and violence, with zombies – it asks how should we solve our problems and which is the better route forward. And Land of the Dead is a story of class struggle, with Zombies.

The Walking Dead has the cast and the characters to generate enough storylines, but it also needs to remind us that they are not living in the safe, familiar world we are used to if it is to keep our attention.

So for that reason, for Season 2, please, MORE ZOMBIES!