Roller disco by the reservoir

It’s a disco but it’s on wheels. It’s roller disco! Back from the 70s/80s and currently going strong in 2012 at the old-school neon pink glitz of the Tower Ballroom by Edgbaston Reservoir in Birmingham. Tonight featured a very mixed crowd (from 18 to 70+), a punter being stretchered off to hospital by paramedics, the Cupid Shuffle line dance on skates, slamming into the bar, skating back from the bar with pint in hand, and lots of wibbly-wobbly laps. 10 out of 10. Go. Meanwhile here is some lo-fi vid featuring power ballads and Whitney-pop to whet the appetite… Continue reading “Roller disco by the reservoir”

18 practical content strategy tips in 8 minutes

If (like me) you have been tuning in to the rise of content strategy, but feel a bit lacking in actual practical know-how, then this collection of soundbites and voxpops – wrung by me from the mouths and Twitter accounts of the world’s leading content strategists – is truly the badger’s nadgers.

At last month’s Content Strategy Applied conference, I hunted down asked the keynote speakers, presenters, panellists and attending experts for one single tip they could give that would help people (like me) apply content strategy to their web work. There was also some follow-up Twitter conversation on the subject, which led to a few bonus tips making the final cut.

The full list of interviewees and contributors, with a quick summary of their one piece of advice, follows beneath the video. Which is here:

I’m extremely grateful to the following for contributing:

1. Kristina Halvorson, Brain Traffic: Start asking lots of smart questions about your content. This also helps shift the conversation around it.

2. Ken Yau, Baddit: Ask why! Be a pain in the butt. There should be a justification for content existing.

3. Fiona Perks, Bright Stuff Communications: A good content strategist never forgets about the end user.

4. Julie Mahoney, LBi: Always incorporate different channels – social media, mobile devices.

5. Richard Ingram, Ingserv: Use context to shape your content. Don’t just find out who your audience are. Discover the circumstances and emotions behind their interest.

6. Amy Laskin, Ogilvy: Don’t make assumptions about your users; they will surprise you every time.

7. Rob Hinchcliffe, Hour of Play: Find your hook: immerse yourself in your community, listen to what they’re saying, find the common themes, and then build a narrative around those themes.

8. Nikki Tiedtke, eBay Europe: Before anything, first try to find out who your customer is. Not just users but the client. Understand what they need and why. Don’t jump into solutions.

9. Jonathan Kahn, Together London: Content strategy is half collaboration, advocacy, and organizational change – the deliverables and techniques are useless on their own.

10. Steve Wilson-Beales, MSN Entertainment: Find out what your audience is searching for, what topics are trending on social networks, use autosuggest tools… CS is replying to that need and allows you to create an editorial layer.

11. Kath Ludlow, Bright Stuff Communications: Think about content as the stuff that people are going to use, enjoy, keep, share, react to and act upon. Focus on delivering a strategy that delivers this response on a long-term basis. Then you can’t go wrong.

12. Danny McCubbin, Jamie Oliver online: Be transparent in the content you put up on site. Don’t intervene too much in the community – your audience will tell you if you have got it right or wrong. Be authentic.

13. Chad Butz, Bourne: Get to know the business and marketing objectives inside out and relate all you do back to those, from selling in to analytics.

14. Seth Bindernagel. Mozilla: Localisation: ask do you intend your content to meet a global audience?

15. Lucie Hyde, eBay Europe: Don’t think multilingual think multicultural – language is just the start of localisation.

16. Charlie Peverett, iCrossing: Creating page tables? Make your life a whole lot easier – use mail merge http://bit.ly/gQ7LbS

17. Rahel Bailie, Intentional Design: It’s all about the metadata – it governs everything.

18. Jeff MacIntyre, Predicate LLC: Every content strategist is, at minimum, a professional communicator. This entails two requirements of you. One, never sacrifice clarity on the altar of the buzzword, and two, critical thinking is mandatory – develop a considered point of view (and rationale) for the trends and ideas that matter most to you in your work.

If you liked this video, please do share it. You might also find this CS Applied conference post I wrote for Firehead web recruiters useful: Content strategy in 60 tweets.

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.

WTM2009: the folk dances, the music, the kiss…

Had a bit more fun with the Flip on my second day at World Travel Market and probably more success by keeping the camera still, ditching the high-speed panning and getting close to the subject – very close in the case of video no 3! These three clips show the kind of random things you stumble across when walking around the stall-sized world of the WTM trade show. Next post: ‘Around the world in 44 slogans’…

Clip one features some superb folk dancing from Azerbaijan, clip two folk music from Uzbekistan and clip three a wandering blow-up giant with a Cockney accent and a penchant for kissing the ladies – even those holding a video camera.

Azerbaijan folk dance: check out the skipping steps…

Uzbekistan folk musicians: check out the hats…

And finally… a kiss from a wandering giant with a penchant for the ladies.

WTM2009: three firsts and a load of balls

So yesterday I learnt how to use a Flip – an indepth 30-second lesson conducted by Pete on the 45 bus into town (yes it really is that easy). And today I shot my first proper video and just now did my first bit of video editing in iMovie (not so easy, found it a bit finicketty) and uploaded to YouTube (Vimeo logins disabled).

Fortunately there are plenty of random scenes to shoot at the first day at World Travel Market 2009 and while I didn’t spot any crazy folk dancing, there were some top footie skills going on at the WTM entrance, promoting sports tourism to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. So here’s the results – enjoy 40 seconds of some pretty neat ballplay.

More tomorrow…