[WF-General] Proposal for Media Releases

Tom's Lists tom.lists at coalmarch.com
Thu Sep 18 18:11:32 PDT 2008

On Sep 18, 2008, at 8:07 PM, Alistair Riddoch wrote:

> 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.

I hope that nobody took my proposal as a slam against anyone's efforts  
to-date... *oh noes*

> 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.

As I stated in my response to Erik, I concur that for the general (re:  
point release) announcements a press release is totally unnecessary.

> 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.

We might have to agree to disagree on this one; we've sent out nearly  
a hundred press releases in the five years I've been running Coalmarch  
and from that we've had maybe six or seven full-on interviews with  
journalists. These people are so pressed for time that they really  
only have the information from the releases to work with (they just  
don't do any further research.) I think maybe you might be thinking  
that I'm attempting to target the "general public" with the format I'm  
proposing when in fact it's quite the opposite. I'm hoping to attract  
the people that recognize an official release for what it is and act  

> 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
> sentences>
> 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
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------

If nothing else comes out of my proposal; at least we've got this on  
paper! Awesome!

> 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.

In most cases the body of the piece is less important than:

A. The frequency of releases
B. The headline of each release
C. Any sort of "pull quote" or "item of interest" that can be quickly  
siezed upon by glancing at the article.

> 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.

I think that at some point we might want to talk about this  
perspective on the project. There is absolutely no reason why we can't  
be running this project in a more organized fashion. Add to this the  
plain fact that we need more bodies (coders, documenters, organizers,  
advocates and artists) means that we are going to have to look outside  
the realm of hobbyists and enthusiasts. There just aren't that many of  
those sort of folk around or informed enough to get involved. The  
question I come back to is "How do we extend our reach and presence on  
the internet?"

> 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'm in line with everything you just said.

> 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.

I don't think what I'm sensing is rejection at all. I know that what  
I'm proposing (amended to account for only doing periodic  
announcements as both the regular format AND a press release) has  
incredible value if done consistently. We've seen it work for us at  
Coalmarch; and with the open/non-profit aspect of WF I'm betting it  
will outshine even what we've been able to achieve.

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

I hope this doesn't mean "nice public relations idea for a web  
developer, now get back to work" but I am anyway; Kai and I hit a  
hefty milestone today with wombat; I'll let him tell you about it.

Thanks so much for taking the time to seriously consider my proposal,  
hopefully the conversation doesn't end here.



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