Big Bully

After jumping on the 'blogging about Eurovision' bandwagon earlier this week, I've abandoned all sense of originality and am going to post my first and last post on the phenomenon that is Big Brother.

I'll make no comment on individuals (I don't know any of the contestant's names), Channel 4/Endemol's exploitation of mental illness for entertainment or the fact that due to a combination of the terrible weather and Big Brother/World Cup fever, I'm expecting the streets to be deserted for most of June and July.

I saw 20 minutes of this year's Big Brother this morning as I was getting ready for work and was appalled. 13 'adults' ganging up on 1 seemingly unstable man in a disgusting display of playground bullying in the name of entertainment. Any kind of bullying is unacceptable and the Big Brother execs/Channel 4/the viewers should be ashamed of themselves for encouraging and promoting it.

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Everyone hates spam, right? If you're anything like me, despite your best efforts (using filters and blockers and not divulging email addresses unless necessary) your inbox is probably still bombarded with messages from Nigerian bankers, Viagra salesmen and phoney banks. But what about those messages from friends close and distant: the forwarded funnies, the 'lucky' chain letters, the 'reply to all' conversations?

I'm not sure of the etiquette here. Like's Anna, there are some people I'd like to send this link to but I'd hate to risk offending/alienating others. What do you think? Is it ungrateful to ask (politely) to be scratched from friends' forward lists? Would you be offended and not bother keeping in touch at all?
(Pic-nicked from dgray_xplane)


Gimme gimme gimme...

Americans beware. Your brands, music, television and spelling may be infiltrating the rest of the world but you still have a weakness for the odd British/European import. We gave you the Office and you thanked us (and re-shot it with pretty people); we gave you Robbie Williams and you sent him back (I don't blame you); we gave you Pop Idol (and generously threw in Simon Cowell) and you sent us Kelly Clarkson in return (I think we did rather well out of that one). If you're not careful we might send you Eurovision...

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Tag! You're it!

I've just finished re-reading this piece from the Guardian on inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee's vision of a 'semantic web' that will revolutionise the way that we search for data online. It's an interesting concept if you can get your head around how a ' mushy set of ontologies' could lead to 'really wonderful things'.

We're already making inroads into this idea of a semantic web. Sites like, Flickr and technorati (to name but a few) are using tagging technology to allow their users to search for content that corresponds to particular themes. As always when you introduce the human element into a process there can be slight flaws. For example, a photo of a bridge taken from a train window could be tagged with any of the following: bridge, Newcastle, reflection. It could also arguably be tagged with Tyne, river, train, boats … you get the idea. The tags are set by the person who uploads the photo and are peculiar to their own interpretation of the piece. So someone searching for Newcastle might get this picture in their search but someone searching for Tyne might not, depending on the tags they search on.

Tagging intelligently is probably just a case of stating the obvious. But does it end there? What about those obscure tags that you put in there to catch the tangential reader?

I was also amused to note that the two pictures on my flickr photostream with the highest number of views were not what I would class as my best shots. I can only assume that the considerable number of viewers found the pictures in question through searches that used the tags I had added to the pictures. I can understand why 'boobs' got so many hits (although I'm sure the viewers were disappointed with the result) but 'wellingtons'?

Does anyone else find that people arrive at their blog/flickr photos/web stuff via obscure routes?

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Let's run it up the flagpole and see if it flys...

I've got a new job. Well almost. I officially start 2 weeks today but I've been doing most of the new role unofficially for the last year, just without the pay or the authority (power hungry, moi?). Good news: I get to drag the University into the 21st century social media age by its bootstraps and (hopefully) do some cool stuff with blogs/podcasts/various new media along the way. Bad news: more meetings.

I thought that no-one liked meetings, they were just a necessary evil. So if no-one likes them, why do we have so many? In one of these meetings today I heard myself uttering a well-worn management cliché (I won't say this one). Needless to say I was disgusted with myself, apologised and hope never to repeat the phrase in polite company. It did remind me of a game my Dad taught me (I don't know where I get my mischievous streak from) – Bullshit Bingo:
  • Take a piece of paper
  • Draw a grid on it (5x5) - ready made version here
  • Photocopy it enough times to give a copy to each of your colleagues
  • Fill in the each of the squares with a management-speak phrase (the Company Bitch will get you started)
  • Distribute
  • Each time someone uses a phrase that appears from your card, cross off that box
    When you have crossed off the last box on your 'card', leap up and shout 'Bullshit!' in the manner of a bingo winner
  • Pack up your desk


Crash test dummy Smith, signing up for duty

Crash test dummy


Living in the city, it's nice to be able to escape the urban metropolis every now and again. Despite the many advantages and opportunities that living in a large city offers, I am still a country boy at heart so the open invitation to visit friends down in Devon for a weekend seemed like too good an opportunity to miss after the recent stint in Birmingham and London. Healthy living, clean air, good company.

Bring your bike, said Rich. If there's no surf, we can head up the woods and hack about on the trails for a bit. Rich likes bikes. Scratch that, Rich loves bikes. In fact I think he likes bikes even more than he likes boards. I like my bike too, but apart from riding to work and the odd foray into town, I don't get much off-road practice. Perhaps I should have remembered this before I found myself heading for a fast approaching 'drop-off', halfway down a tree-lined slope. Luckily, years of rugby, skateboarding and snowboarding have taught me how to take a fall and toughened me up a bit. Bloodied but unbowed I soldiered on and did it again. Note to self - learn from your mistakes/don't listen to Rich

To rub salt (or should that be sand?) into the wound, I came a cropper on the skimboard in spectacular fashion. Broken and bruised but still smiling. What does that say about my idea of fun?


Triple trouble

Time is short/money/of the essence. Pick your own cliché. I'm not sure if this comes under lazy blogging, efficiency or madness but I'm going to attempt to combine 3 posts, that I would normally have written separately, into this one post. Are you ready for some tenuous links?

I posted a while back about 'Creatives branding creatively' – Birmingham's creatives' newly formed industry-led forum to drive promotion of the City's creative industries. Monday night I sat in on a presentation/discussion group on what progress has been made and an attempt to form an action plan. As always these things are a slow process, as anything done by committee inevitably is, but the thing that most stuck in my mind was the worryingly traditional approach that was being pushed by many of the attendees. I sometimes forget that not everyone is as au fait with social media and other developments in marketing and PR but the level of understanding of how we could/should be using new technologies and practices to our advantage in campaigns like this was extremely low. That's not to say that the quality of the creative work coming out of the city is poor, in fact far from it, but if this project is going to succeed, I think there needs to be a steep learning curve in communications terms.

These events always make me hungry so Karl and I headed into Selly Oak for a quick curry. I hadn't been to the Sundarbon in years (since I moved out of Selly Oak) but it was always one of my favourite of Selly's many curry houses. While we were waiting for our main courses, the owner of the restaurant came over proudly brandishing a newspaper. It seems pop band Liberty X were so impressed with the curry they had from the Sundarbon recently that they've paid for the chef to be flown in by helicopter to their gig later this month so he can cook them up a curry after the gig – at a cost of £4,500. I'd definitely recommend the naan bread, best I've had in ages.

And speaking of chefs – see I told you it would be tenuous – Naked Chef and school dinner crusader, Jamie_Oliver, is about to open a branch of his Fifteen restaurant in Cornwall. The concept behind the Fifteen franchise is that each guarantees to train and support 20 disadvantaged young people each year to become professional chefs. Jamie Oliver takes a lot of stick in the media for various things but not many people can claim to be doing as much as he does for the country's kids. His recipe for sweet roasted red onion and garlic bread is pretty good too.

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Ceci n'est pas un mp3

So, the geeks have triumphed over the hippes. The courts have ruled in favour of Apple computers over the Beatles' Apple Corps over the right to use the apple logo for the itunes digital music online store.

The case was a clash of 2 heavyweights of different eras – the Beatles had been split for 14 years before Jobbs and Wozniak released their first official Apple computer. Perhaps it is indicative that the power once wielded by music legends like the Beatles is giving way to the multi-millionaire geek; Steve Jobbs and Bill Gates have both given nods to their music idols at one time or another.

The ruling was made on the back of Apple's assertion that it wasn't straying into the music territory that would infringe their 1991 agreement with Apple Corps because, 'since it's all digital, the iTunes Music Store is just a data transmission service' (the Guardian's Bobbie Johnson).

So, the argument becomes what is music and what is not. All sounds a bit Magritte to me.

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Pass the Pimms...

Or not. The Kiwi's 30th birthday party was a great success. Despite being teased by the British weather, the gathering clouds couldn't spoil the party. The house and garden on Sunday bore the marks of a good session and I'm told the last man standing threw in the towel at 7am. A day on the river in the sunshine, watching the University's boat club race Warwick was the perfect way to blow out the cobwebs. I'll admit it though, I did have to pass on the Pimms and settle for a cup of tea. How very English.


Not just a pretty typeface?

I suppose it's fairly logical that writers should keep blogs. Neil Gaiman (if you haven't read any of his stuff I thoroughly recommend it) has been keeping his online journal/blog for longer than many bloggers I know. And not only does he write beautiful stories, he gets the whole blogging concept too.

"Note to advertising agencies. If you want to make sure that people like you, it's probably wisest not to sue bloggers for defamation. Otherwise people will come to the not unjustifiable conclusion that you really don't know what you're doing when it comes to public relations, and go to a different ad agency. (Currently, if you google Paino Advertising, its own website comes about 45 spots down, way beneath all the people commenting on how foolish they were to sue a blogger who was rude about them...)"

Wise words Mr Gaiman.

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Today is ...

Today is important for 3 reasons:
  • It is my Grandad's birthday (happy birthday Grandad)
  • It is the only time of year I get away with using my terrible 'May the 4th be with you' pun
  • It is local election day, with 4,000 English council seats up for grabs

After a particularly bad week last week and a gloomy forecast for today's polls Tony Blair and co can hardly be pleased about initiatives like this. Tactical voting has more and more been seen as an option in British elections where voters want to oust the current government but see little differences in their choices between the main 3 parties. To their credit, SVL are urging people to reconsider their strategic vote in areas where there is a possibility that it could let in right wing parties like the BNP but there is always a danger that by voting tactically rather than positively you end up with a candidate who is no better than the one you voted out.

After trying hard to listen to/decipher the policies of the main candidates for my area, I'm none the wiser. I hate not voting but they're not making it easy.

Missed me, again

Last month I posted a little geeky fact for all my North American readers. Today it was our turn. I was fast asleep and missed it. That's twice I've missed this once in a lifetime opportunity now.


The need for speed?

Isn't the internet great? I'm sat here in sunny Birmingham watching the BBC's live coverage of the We Media Conference this morning. I couldn't be in London for the conference and I certainly couldn't afford the $795 registration fee so the chance to see and hear what's being said and discussed is excellent. The only problem is when they all break 'for coffee pastries' and to play with the new technologies on display I have to go and make my own (coffee that is).

Richard Dreyfuss was curtly put down by the compere for shamelessly plugging his forthcoming discussion on 'shaped news': "There is no room to pause, no room to think … such an instantaneous knowledge of a situation leads to an instantaneous reaction which creates demand for an instantaneuous, reflexive response."

In a world of 24-hour news and citizen journalists, is there a downside to being 'up to the minute'? Would we be better off with a slightly delayed, more considered response? Possibly. But surely that is where traditional media comes in, print media specifically. I'll be interested to see what's said later in the conference on the theme of 'trust' (with regard to online content) and how multimedia content will truly live up to its name.

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Interested to hear what the 'big hitters' are saying/thinking about the future of the web? Check out the BBC's live coverage of the debates and ideas coming out of the We Media global forum on technology editor of the BBC News website, Alfred Hermida's blog.

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Serge's post alerted me to the World Press Freedom Day event tomorrow. Take a closer look via Loesje's blog or See, the internet isn't just for p0rn.

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Philip Young and his motley crew of bloggers, podcasts and social media pioneers are taking the Delivering the New PR conference to London. Having attended the first event at Sunderland I can well recommend the event to anyone with an interest in Communications, PR or social media. Philip will be joined by Elizabeth Albrycht, Neville Hobson, Shel Holtz, Tom Murphy and Stuart Bruce – if you can't make the conference, it's certainly worth checking their blogs and podcasts.