News from my blogs

Having different blogs for different subject areas means that I am a slave to them all. So if it’s quiet here on my central hub then it’s probably because I’m over on one of my other workday or spare-time blogs. As a quick roundup, here’s what I’ve been posting elsewhere of late:

31 Destinations in Time – because it’s not just about the place but the era in which you visit it. I’ve just posted number 11 in the series on Dumaguete City, capital of Negros Island, in the Philippines in 2007. The series also includes Bali, Iceland, Venice, Jordan, Slovenia, Paris, Gili Trawangan, Austin, Texas and San Francisco.

Subs’ Standards – lately in my sub-editing blog I’ve been picking up on a few funnies that have made it through to publication. I also published my first guest post – from multimedia journalist Andy Bull on the subs-friendly art of curation and live-blogging. I’m now thinking of asking other sub-editors to write about their experiences of digital subbing.

Debauched Teddies – rounding up bad teddy bears from around the world. There are LOTS.

Katchooo Mix – a scrapbook of stuff that is relevant to my interests.

Flickr news – fresh up are holiday pics from Llangollen canal and the Isle of Purbeck, plus shots from Mostly Jazz Festival weekender who kindly gave me a photo pass.

Grant Thornton Thinking blogs – I help write and edit four blog channels for Grant Thornton UK on/about: business leaders and entrepreneurs, the high net worth community, international markets and boardroom issues. Recently I’ve researched online business networks in China, live-curated the UK Budget and set up a Scoop.It for female finance directors. I’m lucky in that the firm’s online channels are open to exploring new ideas for business and financial content.

The Firehead blog – I’m also blog manager for this European content and comms recruitment company. They let me post LOLcats among the more serious business content. This makes me happy.

Anyone else out there do what I do?

5351881990_b621326356_bThe shift in publishing from print to digital has changed my production journalist job beyond all recognition – a transition I blogged about in last year in RIP Sub-editing. Now, instead of ‘journalist’, I answer blogger or web editor or content strategist or content creator or multimedia producer or social reporter or online quality controller – depending on the circumstances I find myself in, the people I am speaking to and what people are more likely to understand.

A memory: covering an FT conference for a client, I got chatting with a senior manager at BT Group who asked what I did. I replied that I was there to interview attendees and get their views for a video blog post – a video blogger. I’ll always remember his reaction: “Is that even a job?”

I’m happy to say that it is. I wasn’t insulted by his comment. I fully understand how fast reporting has changed and how big business has (in general) not kept up. In fact, his reaction wasn’t at all unusual and often people don’t understand the business model behind what I do. But the truth is, my work as a sub-editor and journalist for newspapers and magazines has now morphed into one of facilitator. I assuage the needs of clients, all of whom have become publishers, but most of whom do not have any training in basic publishing skills, production sensibilities or editorial judgment.

Continue reading “Anyone else out there do what I do?”

Five things I gained at SXSW 2010

Shuffleboard networking
Shuffleboard networking in Austin

After posting about the 12 things I learnt at SXSW 2010, here’s a more practical roundup of the things I came away with.

I gained…

* …some content strategy contacts
This was one of my main reasons for attending. Content strategy was a SXSW Interactive content buzzphrase this year. The content panels were packed out and the queen of content strategy Kristina Halvorson gave a talk that felt more like a keynote presentation. Content is messy and soaks up resource so it makes sense to apply some thinking to it ahead of where it usually gets chiselled in –ie,  right at the end. Anyhoo, there was an impromptu content strategy meetup, in a bar natch, to meet the early adopters. I now have at least two business cards in my biz-card-takehome-pile from people who I feel I can contact for help and advice. Also, Ruth Ward of Rewired PR and I are thinking of setting up a content strategy meetup in Birmingham for those looking to make the leap from web writing/editing, online PR/marketing, UX or IA into this growing field – as you can see on the link, all CS meetups are currently in the US. It’s an opportunity to bring Bham companies ahead of the curve.

* …a spontaneous urge to take up improv
Improv lessons for freelancers has inspired me to sign up for improv, which is not only a bit of fun, but also a confidence-booster when you’re being put on the spot in client-vendor relationships. Having been put on the spot in this session myself by some smart-arse on the front row, I realise I could do with learning to think and process on my feet a bit faster as well as learning the Whose Line Is it Anyway? art of the winning instant comeback.

* …the skill of shuffleboard networking
The great thing about SXSW is that it is more a festival than a conference. You can meet old friends and find new ones ridiculously easily. This year, one of the leading meet spots was at Buffalo Billiards over a game of table shuffleboard (see above). I think I had beginner’s luck with it and opened up some a can of Brummie whoop-ass on various delegates after randomly pairing up with the CEO/founder of TripLittle.

* …some potential work leads
It’s too early to say but I have a meeting lined up in April to do some blogging. And with a bit of luck, it might even lead to some international working. Watch this space. I also hope that all the chat about how digitally connected and determined we are in the West Midlands has fallen on fertile ground. With 25 of us out there shouting about the region, hopefully there will be some positive outcomes from the trip.

* …a haze of insight and context
It’s too early to assimilate all the things I heard and learnt over the five days at SXSW but it will feed into all the work that I do over the next 12 months. It feels kind of like doing an A’Level in a weekend and, at the moment, I’m post-exam with a blank mind, a whole lotta jet lag and the feeling of never wanting to work again.

12 things I learnt at SXSW 2010

I learnt…

* …that Austin looks awesome from the 33rd floor

Frost Tower AustinFringe events outside of the main SXSW programme are occurring all the time. I just found out today for example that there were THREE Twitter parties (not just the official one). But you can often only come across these serendipitously through the people you meet at South-by. One off-programme invite I got was courtesy of Stephanie Frost, a rather lovely marketing lady from Atlanta and co-author of a new book called Marketing Unmasked. Being from Atlanta, she had access to SExSW (which spells Sex SW, I know), a party put on for those hailing from the south-eastern states. Stephanie’s invite took me to the Frost Bank Tower, the second highest building in Austin, for some rather pretty views, chats and a glass of the good stuff up in the 33rd floor penthouse suite.

* …the ABC of douchey panels
Sometimes you just get a panel that doesn’t live up to its blurb. Irritating if you picked that one out of three others that you also wanted to see. It happens; there are hundreds of panels at SXSW. Here are your options:
A. Revel in the backchannel snarking.
B. Leave in search of an alternative or take a sunshine break.
C. Use the time to catch up on your Twitter, emails, feeds, SXSW blog, uploading your SXSW pictures and video, filling in job applications, etc.

* …about the digital agency workflow
Well, one agency’s workflow in particular. I kind of felt sorry for Archetype, the Interactive Agency Workflow panel guys. They had a packed room but killed it by using themselves as the only example. Result? The room emptied by degrees. They also got a slating on the Twitter backchannel. However, being a web writer/editor, I’m often at the end of the digital agency production line and don’t get to see the overall process so this was quite interesting to me. It was good to see the wireframes, hear how not to burn out your staff and some ways of dealing with the post-delivery jubilance that is then crushed by the client hating it.

* …that being called a bitch is good news
I don’t >think< I’ve been called a bitch, but according to @Cinnachick on the #sxswbitch panel, I’m missing out, because this situation is full of WIN. ‘When they call you a bitch, it means you’ve won. Why? Because they aren’t smart enough to continue the conversation,’ she says. Fair point. She loaded this up with a whole list of projects set up by women who haven taken on the establishment in some way to create their projects. Here’s the blog post/slides.

* …that heartbreak and wonderful things often occur simultaneously
The Fray Café is a SXSW regular. It’s an event where people stand up on stage and tell stories, ­with only one proviso: IT MUST BE TRUE. Having had a couple of crap years here and there myself, several stories really resonated. One in particular from Baratunde Thurston, Web & Politics editor at The Onion, was both amusing and tragic at the same time. The audience was sworn to secrecy due to the personal nature of the story, but I was reminded of 1996 – the year I lost my Dad, uncle and grandmother, but also found one of my favourite friends and went off to explore the world. HsAPaPdY.

* …that the average blog is read by 6 people
That stat from Danah Boyd’s keynote. So think about that the next time you feel pressure or guilt to produce a blog post for your audience but should really do other, more important things instead.

* …to JFDI!
Am I a video blogger? No. But Social Wayne impressed on me to ‘JUST DO IT’ in his Becoming a Real-Time Video Blogger in 2010 talk and, you know what, I think I will. After all, YouTube is the No2 search engine, the 4th most visited website, has over 20 hours of video uploaded every minute and is watched for 8.3 hours every month by the average viewer. I also remember randomly overhearing in the corridors: ‘There are just too many words, man!’ So, my takeaway: more video. (And here I am in real-time trying to video blog after 22 hours no sleep on the train to Austin…)

*…two new words
Propinquity is the coincidence of being near – in ‘physical proximity, a kinship between people, or via a similarity in nature between things’. This was brought up by Peter Kim in the Social Business Design panel. Propinquity is what business has to fight/extend/engage with in order to get people to venture beyond their near friends/family. Twelpforce was an example quoted as helping creating this engagement and getting close to consumers by offering a Twitter help squad to answer questions beyond the local store experience. Slacktivist was another word from the Little NGO That Could panel but for some reason this type of portmanteau word reminds me too much of chillaxin’. Bleugh.

* …that content strategists are like WallE
We go around cleaning up the Armageddon-like mess of crap that has been thrown up on the Web often without a thought by brands, marketers and others. And when we find something beautiful amongst the endless crap we get all excited and want to store it and share it. The WallE analogy was used by Kristina Halvorson to bookend her Content Strategy FTW talk.

*…about porn startups
I think #futuresmut was one of the catchier hashtags of SXSW this year and the potential for a smutty backchannel loomed large, especially when an attendee arrived wearing an above-the-knee kilt. While the backchannel (surely a smutword in itself) had a humour fail, the panel did with get right down-to-business (#smutgalore) with pointers for the wannabe pr0n kings and queens in the Hilton Ballroom. Conrad Hilton must be turning in his grave. Here’s what the man in the kilt doodled during the panel by the way – check out the hairy knees.

* …that journalism is getting interesting again
The panel on combining news with context (how revolutionary!), or context with attached news, had some great speakers. What seems clear is that big organisations ar failing to do this well because they are constrained by their traditional roles – which leaves opportunities for the agile. The other interesting thing was The Newspaper Club – a 4IP-funded tool called ARTHR for producing your own newspaper on those ‘magnificent bits of infrastructure that are just lying around’ – printing presses . I heard more than one classic Austin ‘awesome’ when people circulated the ‘limited edition’ newspaper the group had printed at 7am that morning on the Austin Statesman presses. As the endline of the presentation went: ‘We have broken your business, now we want your machines.’ How funny that the internet is accelerating content in the form of old-school newspapers, and how great that these newspapers are made by the readers themselves using traditional publishing infrastructure.

* …that we are networking as Rome burns
Sci-fi author Bruce Sterling traditionally does the final remarks of SXSW and this year his dour look into the future added a fat dollop of real-world context to all us little digitalists running from panel to panel, searching for answers to today’s business conundrums. But in essence we must face the digital demonetisation of our new world – many business models are broken and the numbers involved in their replacements are not large enough to sustain us. Oh and we will be hated by future generations for what we are building or throwing away now – just to warn you.

Tomorrow: the practical gains of attending SXSW this year. [UPDATE: now blogged at Five things I gained at SXSW 2010].

My first video interview ends in a Midlands Today fantasy

This is quite exciting, to me anyway, because I’ve done print interviews and I’ve taken video – now I’ve finally put both together. There are lots of mistakes but on the whole I’m not unhappy with it, especially as it runs uncut with no major hiccups.

Video interviewing feels kind of like driving a car. You can steer perfectly well but then you have to learn to duck-paddle your feet at the same time. Ie, you can ask questions but you also have to be thinking about the shot, and the directional mic (oops), and a good final line, and what they are saying, and what you might ask next, and oh dear, did I not even mention the name of the shop or who Chris and Pete are. (Well, it was spontaneous.)

In digital journalism, you’ll also most likely be holding the camera, too – fortunately, it was an easily manageable Flip in this case – but it can be hard to hold it steady when you’re gesturing with the other hand to keep on talking or trying to direct Pete Ashton back into shot…

Then you’ll need to write up a traditional news intro for your BBC Midlands Today presenters (or whoever), something like:

‘Retail is hard!’ – that’s the view of two local bloggers who have become shop managers overnight after opening the BullRing’s first-ever pop-up arts shop.

Local artists in Birmingham will be competing alongside big names such as Debenhams and Selfridges, after Chris Unitt and Pete Ashton were offered the chance to turn their arts blog into a retail opportunity in one of Europe’s largest shopping centres.

Called Created in Birmingham, after the blog, the shop aims to sell everything from paintings and prints, t-shirts to local photographs, all made by Birmingham artists. Shoppers are even being encouraged to come in and have a chat on the sofas to find out more about the artworks and how they are made.

It opened last night [25.02.2010] and we went along just as they let out their last customer…

Created in Birmingham shop opening night from Katchooo on Vimeo.

Then simply finish with a few quick voxpops with local grizzled shoppers, a cheesy chat between Nick Owen and Suzanne Virdee, and that’s a wrap.

Ok, well maybe I need a bit more practise first.

For more on the CiB shop, here’s the lowdown from the CiB blog.

February in-tray & round-up

Despite having a lovely website since Feb 2005, it started to feel limited in the last year. So, it’s been on my mind to rebirth the site onto a WordPress platform to let me update more frequently and start to play with customisation and plug-ins. So, here’s the final post from the old site’s front page, for a bit of continuity and to find out, as Marvin says, what’s goin’ on.

January 2009 Latest news
New features up on allaboutyou.com on travel jabs, visas and 10 best wintersun destinations for 2009. Currently working on producing digital content for high street brands. I’m also sending myself to SXSWi in Austin, Texas, in March, filing stories for the Telegraph and writing an Austin destination piece for the Sunday Mercury.

Sept 2008 Turkey & Slovakia
From steamy 700-year-old hammam to snow room ‘sauna’ and -120degree cryotherapy chamber. Also feature up on solo women travellers at allaboutyou.

August 2008 Call me ‘Two Blogs’
In between copywriting and web-editing, I’ve squeezed in a couple of new blogs on both journalism and travel: Subs’ Standards, with tales from the subs’ desk, and What to Wear Where, featuring the start of ‘dress codes from around the world for your packing pleasure’.

July 2008 Trips, blogs & plans
Philippines 2007 trip – ‘world’s longest underground river‘ feature published in July (Metro). More recent trips include St Ives, the Scillies and Suffolk’s Drum Camp.