AcWriMo or NaNoWriMo

writingOh it’s almost November, and the big decision of the week is AcWriMo or NaNoWriMo? (I’m sparing everyone the view of Stephan in Movember for the time being…)

Both are really exciting initiatives: NaNoWriMo is the National (or International?) Novel Writing Month, aiming to get people to focus on writing a novel in 30 days. The other is the academic equivalent, AcWriMo, which is a little more flexible in its terms, but also tries to get participants to write a paper, a proposal or a revise something that has been hiding in the back of the closet for too long….

Both adhere to the same principles:  they are gamifying  the writing experience, and are turning this essentially solitary activity into a social activity shared amongst friends, coauthors and strangers working on similar projects.  Both require setting a target, and rely on public accountability of participants to show that they are meeting their targets.

NaNoWriMo  is more technically advanced, and uses lots of gamification ideas on its website: For example, it has badges for successful completion of milestones, forums, virtual support circles, prep talks. AcWriMo is less technically advanced, and relies heavily on twitter hashtags and shared Google documents for support and accountability. Of course, AcWriMo is also much smaller then NaNoWriMo and is run entirely by other academics who presumably have many other things to do than build extensive websites and support tools.

Nevertheless, both seem popular with me and my colleagues.  The academic version appears to be a good way to get over the start of the semester, and all the work and stress that goes with it, and to get serious about writing for the rest of the year. So I can see, how it is a really attractive option for people wanting to kickstart their academic writing “with a bit of help from their friends”.

NaNoWriMo on the other side if the fantastic opportunity to take a break from concentrating only on academic writing, and to focus or refocus on writing as a fun and entertaining way to communicate. So both are really good option to get you into a writing routine, or to remind you why writing can and should be a lot of fun – rather than something that academics have to do for a living.

I still haven’t made up my mind which one to join this year, but let me know which one is your favourite. Whichever one it is:  good luck with your writing!

PaperShip: Easy annotation tool integrating with Mendeley/Zotero

For a while I have been struggling with the lack of an integrated reading, annotating and referencing tool for Mac, PC – and iPad. But it seems I might have found a solution at last in the form of an iOS application called PaperShip – which works together with Mendeley and Zotero.

The biggest problem I encountered so far was the limited annotation facilities available in Mendeley, which I generally think is a nice and easy tool to sort papers. Zotero, as far as I know does not have an iOS application – so that’s not helping.
Then of course there was/is Papers, which was better in terms of annotation tools, but failed to work in the beginning, and had some very annoying bugs in version 2, like notes would not sync between different iOS devices. Papers version 3 made the application completely unusable… so that wasn’t really an option.
Thus, the only reliable(-ish) way was to use an different annotation tool (GoodReader or iAnnotate), but while it worked, it made the reading process a bit cumbersome.

So last week I discovered PaperShip in the app store. As it is integrated with both Zotero and Mendeley it means it adds more annotation functionality to the excellent paper organising and referencing uses of either programme.
It is relatively early days yet, but so far I found it a convincing, easy to use and cheap option:
PaperShip retrieves your papers from Mendely or Zotero. On the iOS devic you can then annotate and highlight as you wish. The free version let’s you highlight only, but for £2.99 you can buy a full set of annotation tool, including highlighters, drawing and commenting. When syncing, all highlights etc sync back to Mendeley or Zotero on the Mac/PC.
Syncing, so far, seems easy and flawless. And you can move the paper into another folder on the iOS device and it will move in Mendeley/Zotero for sorting it, or mark it read/unread etc…

A particularly neat trick I discovered was that you can send the paper via email, and when doing so, PaperShip also includes all the highlighted text passages – so in a way you can create an easy way of sending all the highlights to yourself (or, for example, send citations to something like Evernote).

There is also a PaperShip for Mac, though I haven’t tried the app. I don’t really like reading on my Mac for too long, so I’m not sure I’ll try it – or indeed how useful it would be.

As I said, it’s early days… I have been using it for around 5 days. But so far, I think PaperShip seems surprisingly easy to work with and makes the slightly complex task of managing reading lists a little easier.

Have you used PaerShip? Or other applications which are useful? Let me know!

Hello New Term!

IMG_2621Looks like there is no denying it any longer… for me, this week is the start of the new term again: that means heading out to Hong Kong for September to run three inductions for our new students there  - followed by three block courses in Marketing Communications & Branding.

Teaching six or eight hours a day in a foreign climate isn’t exactly child-play, especially when combined with a healthy dose of jet lag. Nevertheless, Continue reading

Articles I Should have Written….

As we are approaching the end of summer quickly, here is a quick reminder of an article that was waiting to be written … but sadly seems to have been written in 1973 (and published a year later).  Oh well…


Hope your summer was more productive!

(Full reference: Upper, D. (1974). The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block”Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 7(3), 497–497.)

Zotero and Mendeley – free and easy reference software

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Every year I meet too many students that struggle needlessly with their bibliography when trying to write their essays. So, as the new term is about to start I thought I quickly review some really useful (and free!) applications for citation/reference/bibliography management.

Basically, if you want to have a free software that does all the pesky referencing for you, you have the choice between two different applications: Zotero and Mendeley. Both are slightly different in focus, and (crucially) in ownership: i.e. Zotero is an open-source software, while Mendeley is owned by Elsevier (which had some pretty major run ins with academics).  But let’s do them step by step:


Zotero is the “original” free and open-source reference manager. It used to be integrated with Firefox only, but now can be used as stand alone, as well as with other browsers.
The software is pretty fully featured when it comes to inserting your references into a MS Word file (or LibreOffice/OpenOffice), and has many editing and style options – as you would expect.
Getting references into Zotero can be done directly from Google Scholar, via RIS files (downloadable from Scholar or some journal websites/databases), or Zotero can look up bibliographic details based on DOI, ISBN etc numbers.
Zotero can store PDFs associated with the references, although you would probably run out of storage pretty quickly on the free product.

Some good getting started guides for Zotero can be found here from itself, or here from Princetown, or alternatively a guide including handouts from Georgia State.


Mendeley performs pretty much the same functions in terms of bibliography management as Zotero, although it feels more like a paper organising software with references functionality attached to me, but that impression may be personal.
Mendeley has the advantage that you can sync your PDFs to your iPad (it has a free app) and you can then annotate the PDFs (very basic, but functional) on the move.
Similar to Zotero, the free version has limited space, and using too many PDFs is likely to push you over the limit quickly.
Check out the Mendeley website for a getting started guide.

Between the two, Iif you intend to use the software mostly for organising your references, then I find Zotero easier to use. If you want to have additional functionality like annotating PDFs, and don’t want to invest in a more fully featured PDF annotating software, I’d suggest Mendeley.

Finally, there is also a third software available: Docear. Sadly, it doesn’t work with MS Word on the Mac – so it is (for the time being) sadly pretty useless to me. But if you have any experience with it, it would be interesting to know about. The features look very cool (especially mindmapping of references!) – and it is open source, too!


Marketing Communications – The Book!


Just as I write this, the first copies of the brand new Marketing Communications book are being shipped!
What made us write that book? We really had three main reasons:

Firstly, many of the marketing communications books are highly theoretical. While it is good to have a strong theoretical underpinning (and this book doesn’t compromise on this) – theory only doesn’t really bring the examples to live. So this book is filled with industry case studies, not just one, but often two large ones per chapter – in addition to many smaller cases after each section, and think boxes to allow for discussion.

Secondly, the media environment has changed a lot in the last few years. Sadly, many textbooks seem to banish social media and other new media forms in a little chapter – and never talk about it anywhere else. We also have a chapter on this. In fact, there is one on social media and one on hybrid media. But we also use many examples throughout the book showing how new/social/hybrid media impacts marketing communications – and how it can be used effectively.

Thirdly, the book doesn’t just pay lip service to ethical issues in marketing communications – or simply forgets to mention these. Rather, it raises ethical issues and topics for discussion throughout. Of course, this is particularly important in relation to social/new/hybrid media forms – but also in other areas.

Of course, I might be a bit biased in telling you all this… so why don’t you head over to the books website to find out more – and, of course, you can order your inspection copy right there!

Tricks of the Junk Food Business (Channel 4 Dispatches)

PhotoHave you wondered what some of the junk food companies get up to online? Why they are avoiding good old fashioned TV and invest millions in making fun games? And if all those games on phones, tablets and websites were just made by “nice people” for kids to have fun? … and why your breakfast cereal starts to talk to you on Facebook?
Check out this week’s episode of Dispatches on Channel 4 – or watch it online on 4OD (UK only, sorry!) to see kids talking about their experiences online, some undercover filming in advertising agencies, what games developers really think about teenagers playing their games, … and even some words from “yours truly” about how junk food advertisers are using social media to engage with children and teenagers online.

What makes you share?


What creates sharability online? While for (traditional) WOM several research studies have shown that people speak mostly about impressive experiences, often those that are relevant to the other person they are directly speaking to, the same isn’t necessarily true for much of the social media landscape. In fact, if you think about it, it is hard to talk about something impressive, like a holiday, in fewer than 140 characters… so what can you talk about? And how can you create sharing online that translates into potential WOM face-to-face?  Continue reading

Time for a Confession?


In true 1990s style, when it became fashionable to surf the ‘net… here is a wonderful little site to get your week started on a good note: If you have been a little bad over the weekend, why not head over to - the site where you can confess all your weekend’s sins in complete anonymity. I haven’t managed to actually get a “conviction” for a few Ave Marias out of the site as yet, but then maybe my weekend was just too tame.

Just in case, if you are wondering what this has to do with marketing… stay tuned for the next update!

Have a great start of the week!