Thursday

Cafe Kick


With the World Cup fast approaching and Ronaldinho proving himself to be the best - certainly the most entertaining to watch - player in the world, you could do worse than heading down to Exmouth Market in London's Clerkenwell to Cafe Kick. With a fine selection of beers from around the world, hapy hour and an interesting looking Brazillian menu - not to mention table football and seats on 'the terrace' - get there early to reserve your place for an England v Brazil final.

D.I.Y?

Word processing via home computers democratised printing. Amateur writers and desk top publishers were freed from the need to learn tricky layout, typography and paste-up skills by easy to learn packages that allowed them to produce newsletters and other printed material from their spare bedrooms. Designers and writers alike cringed as layout principles were ignored, the editorial process was abandoned and a million fonts were liberally sprinkled over the resulting products.

Easy to use web design packages like Dreamweaver, Frontpage and their forerunners left a second generation of designers – this time web designers – banging their heads against their monitors in frustration as animated GIF files competed for attention with bright purple comic sans text on a black background. Anyone who has trained for a significant amount of time to do a particular job will obviously be frustrated by the amateurs invading their territory and potentially taking away their livelihood.

The BBC, amongst others, is responsible for bringing the phrase 'citizen journalist' into common parlance. Referring to the group of bloggers, amateur photographers and people in the 'right place' at the right time who provided much of the footage and commentary around recent events such as the 7/7 London bombings, the boxing day Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, use of the term journalist has, understandably, got under the skin of some professional journalists. And you can understand why.

It was interesting to note that at the NUJ's writing for the web day this week, their approach to the web seems to be positive, at least in an if you can't beat 'em, join 'em way. The day was oversubscribed and all of the journalists I spoke to on the day agreed that writing for the web is a necessary skill in the modern journalist's repertoire. And, of course, all agreed that there's no substitute for good quality copy, whatever the medium.



The BBC's news front page today is calling for ideas for stories. The Independent is printing readers' contributions in its new section. Is this evidence of how the media is becoming democratised in the same way as print and the web before it? Is this social media in action?

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Monday

for England, Harry and St George

What did you do this weekend? If you're English, chances are you didn't celebrate your national patron saint's day. Well, if English Heritage are to be believed 4 out of 5 of you didn't anyway.

Unlike the Irish, Welsh, Scots, even the Americans and Australians, the English shy away from patriotic celebrations. For many it is the fear of being branded nationalist rather than patriotic and lumped in with the infamous English football hooligans who have appropriated use of the English flag and other patriotic imagery.

Recent campaigns to revive St George's day celebrations have been dominated by those with commercial interests (Pubs, Clintons cards) hoping to recreate some of the revenue generating opportunities that other similar days like St Patrick's day offer. Out in the city yesterday I saw a few people wearing roses pinned to their jackets and the City Council had even organised a (fairly lame) set of St George-themed celebrations.

Campaigners have long quoted the fact that we have 5 less national holidays than our European neighbours and campaigns to get St George's day recognised as a holiday are going strong. Perhaps the promise of a day off work and special offers at the pub will be the right recipe to kick start the patriotism in people.

Post post modernism

In the post post-modern world (I lose track of where we are now – new millennium? Turn of the century? Neo-modernist?) we're used to, almost saturated with, examples of self-awareness in our art. Clever nods to the reader/viewer are commonplace in film, television and literature and with the advent of reality TV we're used to seeing 'the man behind the curtain'.

Recent comments on Andrea's blog missed the point of the discussion and took a swipe at bloggers who blog about blogging (that's a lot of blog). Admittedly there are a significant number of bloggers, especially in the communications and PR industries, who dedicate a lot of time and effort to blogging and podcasting on and around the subject of the new social media but then that's hardly surprising really is it, given the direction those industries are heading.

Rarely do we get a chance to be part of the development of something that changes the way that entire industries go about their work. It's interesting to watch it develop, to watch successes and failures and to comment on them. Perhaps by writing this post alone I am proving 'Ms' Chapel right. I don't care.

However, outside the 'little sorority of aggregators' (of which I presume I'm included – again, I don't care), the blogosphere is heaving under the weight of 36.5 million blogs on the most enormous diversity of subjects, written by an equally diverse group of people, loosely banded as 'bloggers'.

Out of the masses a few unlikely voices have rung out over the babble. London call girls and wannabe cooks mingle with acclaimed authors for space on an equal footing and some even win themselves lucrative publishing deals as a result of their activities in the blogosphere.

This piece, featured on the BBC's site today tells the remarkable story of how circumstances left an educated, articulate woman in her early 30's has ended up homeless, living out of her car and washing in hospitals and public conveniences, and how her Wandering Scribe blog has become somewhat of a lifeline to her.

So, we may be guilty of a certain amount of navel gazing within the communications industry but stories like this remind me that the impact of social media is far reaching and for all our theorising and postulating around the subject, we've only just begun to scratch the surface.

Friday

Happy birthday Betty

Loyalist or Republican (don't ask me which I am, I haven't made up my mind yet) it's hard not to admire the Queen on some levels. Decried by some as head of an outmoded institution, loved and reviled in the colonies, I certainly wouldn't want her job. The rise of the media certainly hasn't made her life any easier either (I wouldn't think there aren't many of us who's family's indiscretions could stand up to the same level of scrutiny).

Not that she's perfect. Far from it in fact. But just for today at least – Happy Birthday ma'am, and God bless all who sail in you.

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Nobody home in Birmingham, UK

Here's a question: can a city be a nobody, or should that be nowhere? Having moved from working in the creative sector in London during the dotcom boom to jumping ship just before the bubble burst to make camp in the Midlands, I've certainly noticed a similarity between the 'London' attitude and the so-called somebodies, the A-listers in the blogosphere.

Like many provincial cities in the UK, Birmingham has a thriving creative scene that produces some of the country's top visual, musical and multimedia work. Initiatives like the Custard Factory and the Big Peg (supported by the Chamber of Commerce) foster up and coming talent and sit in the city alongside established arts and media players such as the BBC and Channel 4's Ideas Factory. So why do businesses still gravitate towards London when they are looking to commission creative work?

Reputation is the obvious answer, although much of the work being produced in Birmingham can lay claim to being as well-known and widely seen as work produced in many of London's Soho-based studios. Image, is the key. The Midlands and specifically Birmingham suffer from a public image problem that seems to be the polar opposite to that of London. Funny sounding accents aside (although the Birmingham/Black Country accent has been consistently voted as one of the least liked/respected accents in the UK), the city itself is still widely perceived as the concrete jungle that it was 40 years ago. As part of a major redevelopment scheme, the city has rebuilt itself and is now a vibrant, attractive place to live and work. But the majority of the country still perceives Birmingham through the stereotype of the concrete and the 'yam-yam' accent. Conversely, London is still seen as 'swinging London' of the sixties, a place of edgy cool and Michael Caine movie charm despite having turned into an expensive, inhospitable tourist trap.

Fed-up with being on the wrong side of this image problem, Birmingham's creatives have banded together to create an industry run and led forum with the aim of changing these perceptions and getting the work Birmingham's creative industries (and hopefully as a result, the city itself) recognised. Much like the I.A.N, they've produced a blog and are even looking into getting a wiki and a squidoo lens (although I don't think they have coffee cups and t-shirts printed yet).


So, I urge you, even if you have no plans to visit Birmingham or the UK, take a look at what this nobody/nowhere city is producing and if it doesn't change your mind, at least leave them a comment or some professional advice.


(Pic half-inched from srboisvert via flickr)
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Thursday

Don't panic

A phrase much beloved of fans of Dad's Army and Douglas Adams alike and jolly good advice it is too.

Back to work today and, apart from having to go into the work system and make a couple of quick changes to the website, this is the first time I've touched a computer or been online in a week. And it feels good.

After the initial shock of being 'out of the loop' – no email, no RSS! I achieved the zen-like calm of knowing the blogosphere, the internet and all the other computer-related stuff I do won't collapse without me and enjoyed my couple of days offline.


While I was offline I visited Castor and Pollock - one of my favourite bookshops/gallerys in Brighton – where I picked up a reproduction of this WWII print. Good advice I think.

Birth was the death of him

In the spirit of nobody and nowhere (see forthcoming post) special, I present to you an Irishman, a centurion and a genius: the inimitable Samuel Beckett – poet of nothingness.

I haven't written about Beckett since my heady University days but many are writing about the man, his works and the centenary celebrations that are going on across the UK and Ireland at the moment. The Guardian's Michael Hall asks:

"Why, indeed, would you bother [with Beckett], given his reputation … Will he depress you, drive you to drink or worse?

"Depending on your constitution, perhaps he will. But there's much more to this great writer than an impossibly bleak view of the universe. Honest. He's incredibly funny, for one. And he's fond, in a puerile way, of the word "arse", which, in my view, recommends him highly."


Mine too. Happy 100th Sam


(Photo half-inched from www.barbican.org.uk)

15 minutes of fame?

Imagine you're on your way to work and you turn the corner to be faced with a giant black and white candid image of you pasted on a wall. That's what you might find if you're friends with street artist 'Caper' who's 'secret friends' project involves him pasting large versions of his striking images (adapted from photographs) on walls/surfaces of the streets his friends walk on their way to school or work.

Say, aren't you that guy who's picture's on the side of the bridge?


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Monday

A pint of stardust landlord

Talk about make it hard for yourselves. After a few, let's say lapses in concentration, the rugby season's success or failure came down to one match. The result of Sunday's match against Bloxwich would decide which of us was promoted in the league. We should have had our top 2 spot wrapped up weeks ago but nevertheless, the tension added a certain something to the atmosphere in the changing room before the game.

Expecting a repeat of the pre-christmas melee, we were surprised and very pleased to come off the pitch more or less in one piece and the right side of a 28-0 victory. Promotion sealed. The end of season dinner at the club afterwards was a suitably up beat and predictably boozy affair. However SORFC claim no responsibility for this. Although rumour has it that a couple of the forwards are attempting to blag their way onto NASA's next mission armed with extra long drinking straws.

Friday

Nobody's perfect

International Association of Nobodies logoSo-called A-listers beware. We may be small but we are many. We are also, apparently 'nobody', but there are an awful lot of nobodies out there it would seem.

We even have our own association. An International Association no less. With coffee mugs and a logo.

So, self-appointed somebodies like David Murray. Look out.

I shan't post the background to this. Instead I shall point you to fellow Nobodies and IAN founders Andrea, Allan and Eric.


Nobody button
Join us and don't be someone, be no-one


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Wednesday

01:02:03 04/05/06

For those of you in North America:

Early this morning (Wednesday), at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00am, the time and date was 01:02:03 04/05/06. This is the only time that this will happen in our lifetimes*

*For those of you who slept through it, you've got another chance to catch this 'momentous' event by visiting Europe/the UK next month where we write our dates the other way around (today is 05/04/06 for us)

(pic nicked from Parabens via flickr)

Monday

Blogolescent, Blogosphere, Blooker ...

I've just added another phrase to my geekspeak dictionary project: the Blooker Prize - literary prize for bloggers turned authors.

American blogger Julie Powell's blog detailing her attempt to cook the recipes in the 1961 cookbook by Julie Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking scooped the top prize of £2,000 ($3,452) after the published version of her blog sold more than 100,000 copies.


The contest was set up for bloggers who have turned their blogs into books. Judge, writer and net activist Cory Doctorow commented:

"Those who dismiss blogging as 'mere' confessional writing and complaining about one's day job fail to appreciate just how engrossing those genres can be when handled by a talented writer like Julie Powell"


Without dismissing the importance of strategic promotion such as links, tags and the like it just goes to show, there's no substitute for interesting, well-written content.


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