I tweeted about this, but here are more details. Basically, Positech has had some pretty successful years, and we thought it would be cool to make a decent charitable donation and ‘do something good’ in the world. I’ve always been a fan of the idea of sending charity where its needed, dispassionately, rather than supporting a charity because an issue has directly affected you, or its local to you. I’m sure the nearest school to me would welcome a charitable donation, but regardless how ‘struggling’ such a school would be, it will have a proper floor, walls, windows, running water, and chairs for people to sit on. Not so everywhere.

Which brings me to the charity ‘Building Schools for Africa‘. I found them by googling, frankly, and after some digging and investigating, decided they were ideal. What I like about it, is that you don’t just send ‘some money’ into a general pot. You can actually pay for a whole school, the whole shebang, and its like ‘your’ project. In this case, the local community supply some manual labour, and I think they bake the bricks, and all the design, carpentry, construction and technical stuff gets paid for by the sponsor. In this case Me/Positech.

The school in question will be in the village of Mbalengue  in the East Region of Cameroon. The current school illustrates exactly how much they need a decent one:

school1

The village has 250 people, (the school will also cater to two nearby villages), and has no clean water and no electricity. To quote the report on the current school: “5 benches in the school. Children sit five per bench and it still not enough, others sit on sticks”. The ‘blackboard’ is just a bit of wood they draw on.

What appeals to me about this sort of project is that your money goes really, really far. The plan is for this school to have 3 new classrooms, an office , 3 tables, 27 benches, drinking water, and a proper toilet. The contrast between what they will have, and their current school is massive. And doing this cost notably less than my last car.  This will, to quote the study again “Promote and provide basic education to an anticipated population of 150 poor peasant Students, thus enabling the Students and their families a brighter and more equitable future.”

Thats something I can say ‘I did’. I’m extremely proud of the game design of Democracy 3, and the graphics engine of Gratuitous Space Battles 2. I’m also proud I taught quite a few people their first steps on the guitar when I was younger, but lets be honest its all just trivia compared to helping 150 kids education. And thats 150 at any one time. This school will be around for ages.

Finished schools look more like this: (From their website)

school2

Anyway…it will take ages to get the school built, but the charity already blogged about it, so I think its fine to at least announce it now. Eventually I’ll get pictures of the school under construction and I’ll share those here too. I’ve never been to Africa, let alone Cameroon, and as I don’t fly much, I probably never will, so seeing pictures & video will be as close as I get. I’m definitely going to frame a picture of the finished school on my office wall though.

Anyway, I don’t want to come over all ‘I do a lot of work for charity mate, but I don’t like to talk about it‘. I’m blogging it mostly because if people in a similar position to me are considering something similar, I thought it would be helpful to post about my own experience. Building a school like this costs about £18k. I’ve no idea if you get any tax benefits for doing so, YMMV.

We just rolled out a nice l33t update to Gratuitous Space Battles 2 that fixes a few things, tweaks a few things and also OMG adds a new campaign mode. It meant changing some menu stuff around, but its all explained below in this video. This MASSIVELY changes how you play (if you choose to play the campaign) because you have to be thinking several battles ahead, and suddenly ships are no longer expendable. I hope people like it, and I hope people realize how easy it is to mod (more on that later…)…

For those who have been on another planet…I should point out that Gratuitous Space Battles 2 is very much on sale now from us direct, and also from steam, from gog and the humble store. Go grab a copy and start blowing the galaxy to bits.

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Advertising Surge

July 01, 2015 | Filed under: business

So…I’m declaring July 2015 as Democracy 3 advertising surge month, to see if it boosts income from the game over the next 3 months or so. I don’t think you can judge these things purely on an immediate click-through basis.

So… to test this I’m throwing roughly $34k at democracy ads between now and the end of July. There are various targets for this, not least reddit, facebook & twitter. Some adwords stuff, some project wonderful web-comics, and some specific sites such as NewsWeek and PvPOnline. PvpOnline have done a cool thing where they added characters from the cartoon into my ads for the site:

ads

Sadly you wont see Democracy 3 ads this month on SomethingAwful, The Onion or CivFanatics because none of those 3 replied to my emails. I spend that money on wine instead. C’est La Vie.

At the end of the month I’ll have lots of juicy stats, plus I’ll do another update after two more months with my analysis of what effect I judge it to have had, which will likely have a large margin of error. Fun fun fun.

I have updates in my inbox on various secret positech projects. More details to come over the next few months, with any luck.

 

 

Its corporation tax payment day for me. Yay? Well maybe. I have the money set aside, because I’m not one of those frankly crazy people who forget to do that. How is that even possible? I’m a capitalist at heart, but not an extremist ‘taxation is theft’ kinda guy, but on the day I hand over a big pile of gold coins to the government each year it does amaze me how badly the whole process is handled.

From the governments POV, they have a problem, and that problem is that they want companies (and people) to pay tax, but they continue with the mindset that we all hate paying tax, and its something we do grudgingly, because we fear prosecution otherwise. Its also a process that is as leaky as a sieve. My company is registered in the UK, but it could easily be based in the Bahamas, with an employee (me) subcontracting from here. In short, the government s trying to persuade people to pay tax when we don’t want to, and can avoid doing so.

bahamas

Now if you think about it, this problem is pretty similar to the problem of music/game/movie piracy. In short, we all know *someone* has to pay for these things, we know its easy to avoid paying. Paying makes us feel bad, how do we get people to overcome all that and pay anyway?

Well steam fixed a lot of that. They did it mostly by convenience, but also by massive gamification. If you pirate a game, its not on your steam profile. You don’t get achievements and trading cards and other such goodies. You are ‘outside’ the club. You don’t earn points towards…I dunno how it works…extra emoticons or whatever is involved. I don’t really get into that stuff. The point is…almost everyone does, and although I don’t get the steam version, I admit I am totally obsessed with my Battlefield 4 player stats.

profile

By comparison the HMRC (Her Majesty’s revenue and customs, believe it or not), who we pay our taxes to, is a fucking amateur. Do you now what you get in return for paying your corporation tax? even if its a big phat sum? NOTHING. Sometimes you get a letter saying ‘we acknowledge receipt of your payment’. Thats it. I checked, and the word ‘thanks’ isn’t even on there. I get a ‘thanks’ when I buy a $1 game, but not if I hand over a pile of gold coins you could bury Smaug under.

Now sure, I know the tax pays for *good things*, and thats great, but why not remind me of this on pay-day? Why not send me a letter saying exactly how many nurses, doctors, police officers and so on I have helped to fund. Why not make the letter a nice glossy thing with a picture of smiling public servants, and a breakdown of government spending? Why not give me a fucking steam achievement, is what I’m basically saying!

taxes

The UK government has a ‘nudge’ department, the only half-dozen people in government who understand behavioral economics, but clearly HMRC won’t talk to them. I’ve paid my full whack of corporation tax, every year, without any off-shoring nonsense, any ‘non-dom‘ status or any attempts to game the system. You would think that would earn me a nice little badge I could put on my website to announce that Positech Games is a proud 1st class corporate citizen, but nope. Frankly you only know I’m not a tax-dodging scheming ‘predatory capitalist’ because I’m typing this and you believe it. I don’t care if a company considers itself an ‘investor in people’, but I would care if they were paying their tax or not.

Behavioral economics is a thing. Can someone explain basic psychology, behavioral science and sales techniques to the people we pay our taxes to?

 

You think you hate ads as a consumer? You should try actually being an advertiser, especially running a small business. It’s chaos. Lets run down the ways in which this theoretically efficient industry is so full of crap…

#1 Adwords. Adwords is great in so many ways, apart from the inability for your ‘adwords account manager’ to even convince you they have read the help files, let alone have any real idea how it works. Plus the GUI you got used to last week? we changed that. AGAIN. Plus, make sure you set aside 200 man-years of effort to work out how the hell it works. Oh..and ads have to wait to be ‘approved’. No time scale is given. Good luck running something last minute. Why is my ad not running? nobody knows. The complexity has basically rendered the system self-aware and confused.

#2 Adblock. Yup, you think you are cool running adblock, but all you are really doing is depriving the site of revenue and hastening the day when it closes. In some cases, they darned well deserve it. flashing, blinking ads of half naked women with sound deserve to die in a fire. I’d like to see ‘allow some non obtrusive advertising’ to be expanded greatly. Any simple image without animation, which is SFW, runs no scripts or active content and doesn’t obscure content should be allowed.

#3 Account Managers. The #1 worst thing. The whole concept is a mess. I’m busy. I want to book some ads now, on Saturday morning GMT. Whats that? your ad manager is on honeymoon? Oh great, I’ll keep my money then. Lets be honest, these people only exist to try and trick you into paying more. I want the same CPC and CPM as the next person please. I don’t want to star, unpaid, in a re-run of a monty python haggling sketch. I’m busy. I take your first offer as your best, then use someone cheaper because you lied. Thats easy.

#4 Being ignored. Hey guess what. Some indies make millions of dollars, sell more games than some ‘proper’ studios. If we email you asking you for your ad rates, because stupidly you are employing technique #3, then reply. Not next month. Now. You think we can’t afford your precious ad space? we will spend the money with your competitors. Dumbness. This attitude is why adwords makes billions.

#5 Lack of targeting. This isn’t rocket science. If you have a video games site and won’t let me target strategy gamers in the US, you lose. You are a failure. I don’t care how cool your site is, a 12 year old teen girl who loves pokemon is not the target for Democracy 3. Either learn how to code, or just use adwords. And while we are on the subject, decent reporting helps too please. And yup, your feeble attempts to auto-renew a weekly ad to con me into spending more are noticed too. Don’t even think about doing that.

#6 Overdoing it. If I advertise on a site, I always check out a few pages first. If its intrusive enough to make *me* turn on adblock, then no sale. I assume 95% of your ‘massive readership’ do the same. Get the balance right.

#7 Media kit. These are useless. So your audience is mostly male and loves games. Wow, such insight. I had no idea. Not to mention the fact that I don’t believe any of it. If you did, you’d assume the average household income of a gamer is $1,000,000 a year and they have plans to buy 500 PC games this week. People really believe this stuff? Your media kit should contain your targeting options and your CPC/CPM and CTR, plus ad specs. Nobody cares about the fancy art design your graphic designers wrap the useless information in.

I’ve read a shedload of advertising books. It’s a hobby. I conclude that not only are many people working in the ad business awful, awful businesspeople (not bad people, but just not good at running a business), but they actually have no idea how ads work. No idea. NONE. Neither do most people. If I worked in an industry, I’d try to at least be familiar with the latest research on how that industry’s products actually worked, but nope, not a flicker. BAH.