Toronto city councillor Norm Kelly

So You Want to Become the Next @norm?

There’s no denying that @norm was the Twitter account to watch in August. The 74-year-old Toronto city councillor raced to 130,000 followers and earned recognition in every major media outlet in Canada.

So, how do you replicate that success? While understanding the web works in weird, wild and mysterious ways, there are some important best practices to learn from @norm.

First off, be up-to-date on the biggest news in pop culture. Norm’s real rise to infamy came from him inserting himself into the rap beef between Toronto’s Drake and Philadelphia’s Meek Mill. Knowing what headlines are most important among the millennials that are most active on Twitter offer the best opportunities to be the next best thing.

Norm Kelly Drake Twitter

Norm tweets about glasses with Drake

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Toronto reddit mayor election graph

Readers Still Turn to Legacy Media for Credible News Online

Published in J-Source – November 28, 2014.


With more than 50,000 subscribers on one of the world’s biggest websites, the Toronto subreddit is an important space for breaking news and thoughtful debate about the city. During the recent mayoral election, four candidates took to the website to hold informal impromptu Q&As, including Olivia Chow, the only front-running candidate to participate.

The site’s importance in shaping opinions and broadening discussion cannot be understated. But in an online community of that size, who drives the conversation? With the election in full swing, I undertook a study to determine which news sources had the best penetration into the local subreddit.

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Toronto Sees Surge in Campaigning on Reddit

As Toronto’s municipal election heats up, candidates for mayor and council alike are experimenting with the potential of reddit to deliver their campaign platforms and messages to an engaged audience online. For the 48,000+ subscribers to the city’s subreddit, it’s been a busy month.

External photo Nathan Phillips square

Flickr/Steven Severinghaus
Toronto’s City Hall illuminated at night. With the election campaign in full swing, many mayoral candidates have taken to reddit.

But what is the point of logging on to this specific community to take questions and deliver campaign lines? What benefits does it afford, and what are the risks associated? I’ve briefly talked about this before, and while this is still far from a complete discussion, it will hopefully offer an introduction to the political AMA on reddit.

Roberto Alvarez got the ball rolling on August 6, when the nominee for councillor of Ward 3 took to the site to answer questions. It wasn’t huge, garnering only 34 comments (which includes his responses) and 64 upvotes. That said, Alvarez spoke oienly and honestly, fielding questions about Rob Ford and the relationship between Homer and Flanders from The Simpsons with ease. More Importantly, he didn’t shy away from tough questions.

By all accounts, it was a good use of campaign time and efforts.

Paul Alves came next. And it was bad. Alves, running to become councillor for Ward 18, went off the rails and the AMA descended into a horrific train crash. After being confronted by one user for using Rob Ford-type tactics, and then being called a Ford apologist by another user, Alves went on the offensive. He accused a user of being a plant for another candidate’s campaign, before saying,

People think the internet is a free for all, it isn’t. I’ll gladly retain counsel and sue for slander anyone who claims I’m what i am not.

From there, things degenerated. Taking on his threat to identify users’ IP addresses and deal with them legally, users began coming up with far-fetched and obvious lies about the candidate (one calling him a Satanist) while others offered definitions and legal interpretations of slander and defamation laws in Canada.

As one user plainly stated: “Threatening to sue voters is an interesting campaign strategy.” Perhaps shockingly, Alves deleted his first account and came back to the site with another new name and has seemed to buy in to the community. He apologized for his outburst, and has since been an active commenter on the Toronto subreddit, as well as another dedicated to British television show Dr. Who.

And so, there are the two directions a political AMA like this can go. Depending on how well you connect with the users, and really how well you fit into reddit’s culture, can make or break it. A negative impression early on can bury you.

Making this case study of the Toronto election even more interesting is the active outreach that moderators of the subreddit undertook to reach out to all mayoral candidates. So far, Ari Goldkind, Mark Cidade, Olivia Chow, and Morgan Baskin have answered the call.

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Inanimate objects on Twitter is a new way to spread awareness.

Fence on Twitter Raises Awareness of Looming Globe & Mail Lockout

An ongoing labour dispute between Globe & Mail management and staff took a drastic turn this week when a chain-link fence was erected outside of the newspaper’s offices in Toronto.

The fence went up on the same day that a strike vote was held, and over 92% of Unifor (the union representing the Globe‘s staff) rejected the company’s contract offer.

A key issue in the labour dispute stems from the fact that management will require editorial staff to produce custom content, that is content paid for by advertisers. The issue of custom content in Canadian newspapers is not new and has been covered well by Jonathan Sas over at The Tyee. As he succinctly describes the process,

A business agrees to buy pricey ads with the assurance those ads will be accompanied by stories that fit desired themes but which seem to have sprung straight from the publication’s newsroom. Indeed, custom content often runs under the bylines of staff reporters and without any disclaimer. Naturally, though, it’s understood those stories aren’t going to be muckraking extravaganzas targeting the ad buyer or their industry. “Custom” is inevitably a euphemism for “soft.”

Other issues leading to the dispute include reduced salaries to sales staff and lower job security, according to iPolitics. On Monday, many stories ran without a byline, as reporters carried out a “byline strike,” the second to hit a major Canadian daily in the last three months. Roy Greenslade writes that reporters seem prepared to launch an alternate publication, or at least take their writing to personal websites, in the case of a lockout.

As we’ve seen recently with an unfinished pedestrian bridge in Ottawa and a disgraced mayor’s luxury SUV, people are finding that one of the best ways to help spread awareness of an issue (while inserting your own opinions on the issue) is through a parody Twitter account.

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OUA Men’s Hockey Mid-Season Wrap-up

Published on The CIS Blog on January 2, 2014.

It’s been thirty years, but the Queen’s Golden Gaels finally find themselves back in the CIS Top 10 with OUA teams set to hit the ice again and enter the second half of the season. As the games begin to mean more and we come out of the turn and into the final stretch of the playoff push, here’s five of the biggest storylines from the conference over the first half, and that are worth watching as we begin the second.

Gaels on Top

It took until the eighth week for Queen’s to finally crack the top ten and take the eighth spot. In spite of three other OUA teams placing ahead of them in the voters’ eyes, the Gaels find themselves atop the conference standings with a two-point lead on #5 McGill. More impressively, despite racking up two losses in overtime and three as a result of shootouts, the Gaels remain undefeated in regulation, the only team in the OUA who can claim that (the only other in CIS is the #1 Calgary Dinos).

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