[WF-General] Proposal for Media Releases

Alistair Riddoch alriddoch at googlemail.com
Thu Sep 18 17:07:08 PDT 2008

I have been handling the announcements of a really good proportion of
all the software releases we have done for some time now, and I have
put plenty of thought into the format I use for these announcements,
and iterated it gradually over time to try and improve it. At each
change I noted whether the response to the release was greater or less
than last time, and treated the feedback accordingly. One thing I am
quite aware of is that when the project is being productive, software
release announcements can come pretty thick and fast. Two or three a
month used to be fairly commonplace. It is generally important to make
sure the main points of the announcement get across, which means
making sure the relevant bits are read. This makes brevity very
important. A long press release probably looks great on paper, but if
it doesn't get to the point within the first couple of sentences the
point will be lost. Even once we do have people's attention, they will
probably not read much of the text of an announcement, and if they are
interested enough to look for more information, we have plenty online
for them to read. Accordingly the remainder of the announcement format
consists of concise structured information containing the details
pertinent to the release. While I have never before documented the
format of release announcement, it seemed obvious to me to use it
consistently across all the packages I was handling the release for.
The format looks something like this:

<package_name> version <version> has been released and is now
available from the WorldForge download site.

<package_name> is a <brief description of the package>. This is
release is intended for <target audience for the release>

Major changes in this version:

<bulleted list of the changes that actually interest people in english

Source code and binary packaged can be downloaded from here:

<bulleted list of links to downloadable files with descriptive link text>

Source Code
Linux source rpm
Windows executable
Linux autopackage

As Erik mentions, it is usually possible to transcribe all this
information into the structures used by the various news channels we
use to disseminate the releases. I think my opinion is broadly aligned
with Erik's when I say that I think using a more formal verbose
release format is undesirable for a number of reasons. Firstly I think
the majority of the content will be lost as most readers will not be
sufficiently interested to want to absorb it all. Secondly we should
be very wary about sounding too corporate, especially as we do not
have the resources or structure to follow through if we do get
corporate interest. Enthusiasts and developers will not perceive the
project as one they can get involved with if they think it is a highly
professional operation being run on a commercial basis. Thirdly the
rate we release software will mean that people get sick of reading
them, and become blind to the news if we try and disseminate releases
too widely. Wide dissemination should be restricted to infrequent
announcements with more direct relevance to the broader community. As
Erik says the upcoming 10th anniversary coinciding with a combined
game oriented release of all our software and material integrated
together would be an ideal opportunity to try and generate more
publicity, reach a wider audience, and attract the attention of player
and potential contributors alike. For this we probably need something
a bit grander than our rather concise release format.

I don't want this to come across as a rejection of your idea. In fact
I am far too unfamiliar with publicity and public relations to have a
qualified opinion on what you propose, but I wanted to get across that
we have though pretty hard about this issue many times over the years,
and there is a reason why we have settled on doing things the way we
do at the moment.

Great work on the web tools, and keep the ideas coming.


2008/9/18 Erik Hjortsberg <erik.hjortsberg at iteam.se>:
> Hi,
> from the start I think it should be mentioned that the most common form of public release from the project is the New Release Notice. These are quite standardized in their appearance: a short introduction of the app/lib, a short description of the changes, a bullet point of changes, info on where to download the code and some further notes.
> This is the format recognized both by all major release outlets (sourceforge, freshmeat, happypenguin, lwn etc.) and also the format recognized by other FOSS developers.
> We aim to get new releases out pretty often, preferably with only mere months between. The format we use for these strongly communicates that we are a FOSS project, and that we are serious about producing code. The latter has not always been true of the public image: for some time the project grew too wide (in my opinion at least), without any clear direction. By trying to be an umbrella project for everything that could be related to virtual worlds, as were the case some years ago, confused people and ultimately hurt the project. Now we're back on track again and are producing tech that works.
> What this leads up to is that I think that using corporate type press releases for our code releases would communicate the wrong image of the project. A code release is something tangible that people involved in FOSS instantly recognizes; by doing it in the style of a corporate press release would probably mainly confuse people.
> However, there is also a need for actual press releases. Our ten year anniversary is coming up soon, and that will warrant some kind of release.
> In addition, we've previously done combined code "package" releases of Mason, i.e. already released server and client packages bundled and branded as "Mason". As Ember and Cyphesis now are quite stable and at the same time are getting more and more features it would pehaps be a good time to do a new such release soon.
> These kind of announcements warrants a more formalized press release strucure, very much like the one you proposed. And for that I think the layout you've put forth is a good one.
> I'm a little bit wary about the citation part though, because I myself automatically interpret those passages in the press releases I read as Corporate Speak, and often just skip them altogether.
> In the last bit, I like to think myself that we aim to create "virtual worlds", not "games". And the Ultima-Online part should go, that only makes us seem ancient (which we are, but no need to rub it in). Otherwise I think it quite nicely sums up our goals and how we work.
> ________________________________________
> Från: general-bounces at mail.worldforge.org [general-bounces at mail.worldforge.org] f&#246;r Thomas Ingham [tom.lists at coalmarch.com]
> Skickat: den 15 september 2008 15:16
> Till: general at worldforge.org
> Ämne: [WF-General] Proposal for Media Releases
> All.
> After having read through a bunch of the latest announcements regarding Worldforge generated properties I thought to attempt to put together a skeleton framework for use in generating media releases in the future. Ultimately I'd like to see us develop a consistent and easily replicable format that anyone working a project, or project's release can use to create a WF announcement. I had originally begun this as a Google doc with a few invites sent to some of you but the response has been slow. I'm sure that this is a low priority for most of you, but if anyone feels the need to chime in please don't hesitate.
> The template I'm using for this prototype message is that of a standard corporate press release. While these releases do at first appear to lack character and emotive content; they are a standard which is accepted by major news outlets all over the world.
> The aim of standardizing media releases would be to then begin publishing release announcements, and project progress reports to newswire services such as PR Newswire, PRZoom and others that provide a free form of press release posting mechanism. By publishing releases in this manner we can begin to expand our outreach for both recruiting to the project; as well as general public awareness that will be necessary to grow the project beyond it's current boundaries.
> The format I'm proposing for dissection by the group is as follows:
> Worldforge Announces <TYPE OF ANNOUNCEMENT> <TITLE>
> The Worldforge team is pleased to announce... <PLAIN FACTS DESCRIPTION OF RELEASE NOTICE>
> "<QUOTE FROM PRINCIPLE CONTRIBUTOR OR ORGANIZER>" - Usually discusses a problem solved; or a key aspect of the release that makes it newsworthy.
> And a Boilerplate: (eg.)
> The Worldforge project, started in 1997 as an open source alternative to the most popular massively multiplayer game Ultima-Online has developed several new technologies and assisted in countless other open source projects. Made up of an international base of creative, passionate and driven individuals Worldforge aims to provide game creators the tools and technologies needed to create fantastic games. For more information please visit http://www.worldforge.org.
> An example release using this format is below:
> Worldforge Announces Release 0.1 of Brutus IRC Log Viewer
> The Worldforge team is pleased to announce the immediate availability of the Brutus IRC log viewer application. Brutus is a web-based application developed to display the rich history of the Worldforge project to the public at large. Convenient tools are available for searching the IRC logs from all of the channels on the Worldforge IRC server since the creation of 'brenda' the IRC bot used for housekeeping.
> "What started out as a basic frustration for myself and others quickly became a clear indication that some software was needed. All too often we refer back to something someone said about a particular requirement or concept but unless we have a copy on our local machine; finding this information can be impossible...", says Thomas Ingham the developer of Brutus. "We've added a few special bits to the application such as the ability to register for an account and store your previous searches, among other features."
> Brutus is available at http://code-bear.com/brutus A permanent location will be assigned once the software reaches the 0.2 milestone. Future plans include: integration with other aspects of the Worldforge project including Wombat, Annotations and Tagging to help users find more relevant content more quickly and the ability to claim more than a single IRC nickname per profile.
> For contributions or bug reports please see the Launchpad project for Brutus available at: http://launchpad.net/brutus
> The Worldforge project, started in 1997 as an open source alternative to the most popular massively multiplayer game Ultima-Online has developed several new technologies and assisted in countless other open source projects. Made up of an international base of creative, passionate and driven individuals Worldforge aims to provide game creators the tools and technologies needed to create fantastic games. For more information please visit http://www.worldforge.org.
> For media inquiries, or to arrange an interview, please contact the Worldforge General mailing list, general at worldforge.org<mailto:general at worldforge.org>.
> This is a proposed format; I'm really looking for some feedback or suggestions for modifying it to better suit our needs. As you review it please understand that the goal is to make our announcements suitable for national and international newswire services while at the same time providing a structure that's suitable for replication in the normal venues (Freshmeat, dev blog, etc.) Also, traditionally there would be a single-point of contact for media inquiries; we might want to appoint someone to "Media Handler" or the like.
> Thank you for your time and attention,
> Thomas (tingham/magnethead)
> _______________________________________________
> General mailing list
> General at mail.worldforge.org
> http://mail.worldforge.org/lists/listinfo/general

Alistair Riddoch
alriddoch at googlemail.com

More information about the General mailing list