It looks like I’ve reached that moment in a blogger’s life when you log into your poor neglected blog(s), make apologies to folks for the lack of posting, explain why and then make a new promise to report back a bit more often in future.
Except… as Neil Gaiman once said (not sure who actually coined this): ‘Never apologise, never explain.’
Sooo, suffice it to say, that I have spent the last year in transition in many, many ways. One of the biggest changes has been going permanent on digital ‘stuff’ from a 20-year background in print journalism. How did this happen?
Well, in February 2008, I started a blog in my spare time (What to wear where), a good idea but ill-carried out by me while I got to grips with Web 2.0 changes.
Then I started Subs’ Standards in August 2008 – all about sub-editing and its changing nature in the digital world – and started to get the hang of things a bit more, thanks in the main to Pete Ashton‘s free social media surgeries. I’m well overdue to post on that blog, too, as I’m now only very occasionally subbing, and it’s digital subbing at that – which is quite a different type of ‘quality control’ beast.
Anyways… updating my digital chops late into the night after a hard day in print was exhausting – and salary-free. I did it for three months almost solidly but it got me into Seven Squared‘s digital team, which was in need of a web editor, back in January 2009. And now I’m busier than ever, corporate blogging for clients and producing a variety of digital work from ezines to SEO features.
Going to SXSWi back in March 2009 also gave me a load of context for working purely online, as well as a whole load of new ideas for playing with online content plus a contact book full of innerestin’ webby types from all over the world. I recommend it for anyone working online and trying to get their head around the bigger picture. (And yes, before you ask, it’s also a big festival with lots of bands and parties in the rather cool uni city of Austin, Texas.)
Unfortunately, working long hours in Seven’s digital bunker means I have little time to ‘rawk SXSW’ and so change has come again.
From October, I’ll be living and working in Birmingham, with my blog mentor Pete Ashton, as it happens. Turns out romance can blossom in the blurry gaps between online and offline.
I’ll still be corporate blogging for Seven Squared’s digital team, I hope, and maybe writing an SEO feature or two. And before I leave London I’ll also be joining a great new event (and site) for brand managers and those who represent a brand online, courtesy of Jo Geary – and maybe even guest-blogging on there if she’ll let me.
But for now I just want to say that I’m looking forward to the next era – to meet new people in Brum, and give myself some headspace to decide which projects to start/play with/experiment with in the West Mids, which seems to be something of a hot bed of ‘social media’ goings-on, if the SXSW rival WXWM, the new FAILcamp and other such events are anything to go by.
I’ll also be looking for blogging or other content creation work, probably in the commercial sector, or quality control work for corporate clients. If you think you might want something like this, please do get in touch.
So, life has switched and instead of working in London and visiting Brum at weekends, I’ll be working and thinking in Birmingham instead and visiting London for work days here and there, and sociables at the weekends. So if you’re in either vicinity, find me online (@fionacullinan if you’re on Twitter) and come say hi.
As they say, change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.
PS. (I’m a serial PS blogger.) Apologies if you get this 10 times in your feed, my WordPress preview appears to have karked it.
Translation: get a move on. This was the running theme of a last week’s busy busy press trip to review Jordan’s natural wonders – well, that and lots of Spirit & Destiny magazine plugs (tick) – which involved:
1. No less that three nature reserves.
2. Two seas in one day (Red to Dead).
3. The lowest nature reserve on earth, 400m+ below sea level.
4. The Jordanian branch of the Great African Rift Valley.
5. A night sleeping out in the desert at Wadi Rum.
6. Elijah’s birthplace, Moses’ resting place.
7. Canyoning, rock bridge walking, hill trekking, mudbathing.
8. More rock than Blackpool at Wadi Dana, Petra and Wadi Mujib.
Due to write up next weekend, but for a pictorial taster, here’s the Flickr set.
Who was Ada? Ada Lovelace was one of the world’s first computer programmers, and one of the first people to see computers as more than just a machine for doing sums. She wrote programmes for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a general-purpose computing machine, despite the fact that it was never built. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.
In celebrating Ada Lovelace Day (March 24), bigging up women in tech, I look back at those I have met since I ‘went online’ as a journalist in 2000.
It’s a short list – unfortunately – but hopefully one that will grow in time. I could choose from Fiona Romeo, Head of Digital Media at the National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory; Adrienne Wyper, deputy editor at AllAboutYou.com, Adrienne Grubb, web editor at Redwood Publishing, Joanna Geary, web development editor at The Times; and a couple of others – all journalists who have pioneered their way online in various ways.
But it’s Anita Bevan, now head of content for web and mobile at Orange UK, who I’d like to acknowledge as my first female role model of the internets. Anita gave me my first break as web producer for the women’s portal, iCircle.com, in 2000 and forgave me various freelance absences to invite me back as homepage editor for Freeserve.
I learned so much from that time that has served me well in shifting online for the second time, from sub-editor/writer to web editor. And having a female role model has definitely helped me develop the balls to ‘tech up’. In the meantime, Anita has managed to surf the changes from Freeserve, the UK’s largest portal at the time, to Wanadoo to Orange and the world of mobile content.
The funny thing is, I vaguely recognised her name when I went for that first iCircle interview. In the lift, she seemed even more familiar. I was sure I’d met her somewhere before. Well, she remembered me. Turns out, she had been my personal tutor at the London College of Printing.
So now we’ve been connected for, eek, 21 years. I hope it’s as nice for the Ada Lovelaces of the world to see their charges go forward as it is for us to benefit from their influence. In turn, perhaps we can pass on what we know and help other women make the transition that we have made or are making.
In that vein, I’m offering some one-to-one blog tutorials in my lunch hour to any women/girls/dragqueens, etc, who are thinking of setting up a blog or wondering how to get started online. I’m in the Waterloo area of London (mostly) or in Birmingham (occasionally). Tea/coffee optional. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange.
Spent all day in Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator where the cream of the internet start-ups compete via 2-min elevator pitches to be crowned winner in their category. Kind of a Crufts for online business.
Interviewed Weardrobe founder SuzanneZ – whose fashion social network community was predicted to be the NBT (next big thing) by Guy Kawasaki. She’s 24, beautiful and got out of banking just ahead of the financial meltdown to put her and partner’s Facebook for fashionistas out there. One to watch.
The male panel, which included Robert Scoble didn’t get it initially, but when they did, the sense of excitement about the project was obvious, as they joked: ‘How do we invest?’
Undoubtedly the best twitter hashtag of SXSWi, #kebab quickly became the WTF session of the whole interactive festival.
Set up by School of Everything, Tuttle, Fix My Street and others, it was a word-of-twitter-mouth, rogue, wind-up unpanel that took over room 12 and brought a bit of classic UK punk to South By. Inflammatory statements – ‘the UK does social media way better than the Yanks’ – brought delegates swarming from other panels to ‘Not Another Social Media Panel’.
The roomful of British social media types broke down in giggles and sniggered as socmed consultants swaggered up to the mic like rock stars. Meanwhile the array of panel members resembling a motley University Challenge line-up were voted on and off the podium at a whim as they cut questioners dead like Paxman on Newsnight.
The people fought back by creating giant titles on their laptop screens and placing them in front of panel members. Names like Twat and Twat2.0 appeared as others came up and edited the screens.
Within minutes seats filled up as the room hashtagged the kebab stoopidity all over twitter. By the end of play, the audience had doubled in size – attracting a sudden rash of Americans into the 99% British audience who came to defend their country resulting in lines from @paulcarr such as ‘The Brits are the caddies to the US’s golf club of terror’.
Within an hour the ‘Pythonesque’ session, as one audience member described it, had become one of the hits of SXSWi – at least for all those who were fed up of endless panels discussing monetisation and marketing buzzwords (see Whuffie below) and polite but blatant plugs masquerading as mic questions.
Questions ranged from ‘anything good happened at SXSW that doesn’t involve monetisation?’ (answer: ‘Well, I pulled a girl’) to tweets such as:
Bandrew: Topic: What does Birmingham do better than Silicon Valley? #sxsw #kebab
LouiseCampbell: UKv’s US #kebab the UK are always playing ketchup.
oodleday: “how do we monetize waterboarding” OMG I love this panel #kebab
katiemoffat: “not a twitter user”?! Stone him #sxsw #kebab
dougald: #kebab panel: “If Twitter had been around on 9/11, it wouldn’t have happened.” #sxsw
ChrisUnitt: Has the BBC and C4 raised the bra for public service media in the UK? #kebab
stewarttownsend: Girls Arse Feck #kebab the panelof experts…….live now..
Suddenly, hashtag kebab was a trending topic on Twitter.
Part two ran again the next day, with questions such as ‘can Twitter stop Hitlers?’ but the crowd were not as wound up and ready for blood as the day before. Still, look out for a spontaneous Brit unpanel next year as the Brit geeks let off steam.
Here’s a flavour of the live event, courtesy of @chrisunitt.
The language of the internet is lagging behind the tech and culture changes… which is presumably why ‘whuffie’ has been picked from a sci-fi story from the creator of Boing Boing in which currency is not money but reputation, connections, influence, access to resources and to more connections, favours and reciprocity, accomplishement, levels of trust, etc.
Whuffie was the basis of a talk by Tara Hunt, who helped make BarCamp a phenomenon. Here’s her SlideShare of the Making Whuffie concept:
You create your own ‘whuffie’ over time through online networks and the relationships you develop through them. Join Twitter, for example, and it may take some time to build up your ‘whuffie’ (do I really have to keep saying this word?).
But if you’re Britney Spears on Twitter, or similarly connected, then you’re said to be ‘whuffie-rich’.
Tara outlined some ways to create whuffie for clients – but also for those rawking SXSWi. I followed her advice of, for example, getting drunk at SXSW and mixing outside of my West Midlands/London circle, and indeed created connections with people who are whuffie-rich in social media world.
How my SXSW whuffie-boost works out over the next year will be interesting to see. But already I have an invite to stay in Austin next year with one of the SXSWi MCs and a few whuffie-boosting tweets have gone out to the masses of followers that others have and I don’t.
So far, I have a heck of a lot more random people following me. Which is cool, but weird. Apparently whufie ultimately raises up your bottom line. It turns out we’re all potentially our own business model now.
I’ll let you know.
Interview with the Twitchhiker
It started with a tweet:
Paul Is the guy who has set himself the challenge of travelling to the other side of the world in 30 days for the charity Water – but totally reliant on the goodwill of those on Twitter. Checking the Tweetdeck grapevine at SXSWi, I found that the Twitchhiker had made it to Austin – the kind Twitterfolk of Wichita had decided he needed to get to SXSW.
When I met him he was half way through and scrabbling for a lift to the airport later that day. No lift and he’d break his own 48-hour rule on getting stuck and have to fly home. To make life more difficult, he’s not allowed to ask the Twittersphere for what he wants.
Paul look fried. He’d been filmed by both the BBC and Good Morning America so hadn’t slept or seen anything of SXSW.
Fortunately, during the interview Austinite lady librarian @hallienoves came through with a ride to the airport and he was on his way again.
He’s now on the West Coast, sticking out a virtual thumb to get him somehow across the Pacific Ocean. He’s a lovely guy so help him on his way by checking out #twitchhiker and sticking in a donation at the same time.
11:30 AM Blog on Company Time and Get Promoted. Picked up a few tips here but generally the title promised a little more than it delivered. Most interesting was the issue of NOT linking:
Apparently a municipality in California is getting sued for linking to one dry cleaner and not three others in the area. Legal issues surrounding potential favouring of some businesses over others. Solution suggested was to create a little link on site, asking: ‘Did we forget your business, should we be linking to you?’ and link to another page to give them the opportunity to post up their business that way.
03:30 PM The Future Of Social Networks
This was the big session for me, essentially a talk by Charlene Li, co-author of Groundswell. It’s going to take some sinking-in time but it is based on the assumption of social networks becoming like air (not a new idea but…) but interested in the reasons for business resistance to them.
Social networks ‘disrupt the traditional info flow’ to customers and so businesses will have to integrate them to keep focus on the customer. The biggest reason (possibly) that engagement is being resisted by organisations is that the change in structure represents a huge threat to middle management. What will be their role if their CEO decides to engage in that world? Will they have a role at all? I’m tempted to say, look at what’s happening in journalism – the traditional models were resistant to Web2.0 and are now suffering the price of that. Engage and innovate now or potentially risk your job.
For the next few days this is going to function as my thought download receptable for all things mySXSWi – see post below – with quick summaries of ‘what did I learn, what did I gain’.
Panel: My boss doesn’t get it: championing social media to the man
Details: who & what
Essentially a panel on justification, which I hate doing for sub-editing (hey, spell and fact checking is a basic) but which forms part of the pitch in social media.
The ‘man’: anyone from the budgetarian (if that’s not a word, it should be) to the ‘enemies’ of social media such as the legal department and more nebulous ones such as ‘control’.
The issue: the ROI of social media and what’s in it for the ‘man’.
• involve your enemy, get old curmudgeons on their grandkid’s Facebook sites
• dispel the myths (there is >some< control when you engage in social media)
• understand the culture and attitudes of your client and meet them where they’re at to help them implement culture change
• failed pitches – sit on it for six months; they may well come back to you presenting it as their innovative new strategy
• culture change starts small: set up small silent swat teams to create small successes to role-model on and also momentum for change but be sure to tie in to business value
• don’t fear failure but see engagement as an ongoing lesson
• play to the psychology of who you are pitching to (what do they want, a promotion? Secretly lobby the individual who can present your ideas as theirs)
• set expectations from the start and be realistic
• define metrics upfront and what you are measuring success by
• If the corporate culture isn’t changing in the time frame you need, move on to somewhere where you can make a difference.
Panel 2: The ecosystem of news
Details: who & what
A bullish talk on the future of news (if not newspapers) with ideas about becoming curators on content and innovation elsewhere. Too much on this one and lots of implications for a journalists so going to post thoughts at my subbing blog instead at some future point. Essentially traditional media is feeling the pain of going from ‘news desert to a lush rainforest’ of news and information but without a timeframe in which to evolve and adapt. The result is fear for both newspapers and the future of news. But history tells us “there will be more content, not less, more analysis, more precision.’ Will traditional media adapt quickly enough, or spend time and resource keeping the old model alive?
An Austin interactive showcase, which is running throughout the week. But interested to meet Mason Hale, chief technology officer of One Spot, which provides a curation service for the Wall Street Journal. ‘One Spot leverages the skill of knowing what your audience wants to read. It’s kind of like Stumbleupon but with extra layers of tools to facilitate curation of content.’ He also pointed out the time-saving and efficiency element for a news editor. I’m yet to see how it works in actuality but interesting uses following the panel on news ecosystems.