One Man and His Blog: August 2007 Archives

August 2007 Archives

August 31, 2007

Five Things Learnt In Three Days

It's frankly embarrassing when you work all of a three day week, yet are knackered at the end of it. Yet, that's how I feel as the end of my truncated week in Sutton's infamous brown towers drawn to its close.
RBI East Grinstead cafe
Stuff that's been foremost in my brain over the last few days:

  • You can't over-emphasise the idea of community when telling journalists about blogging. And never mind how much you bang on about it, they'll settle on comments as the community first, rather than understanding that this means interacting with other bloggers.
  • There's no good reason that the same contact-building skills journalists use in the physical world can't work in the virtual world. It just involves creating the right synaptic path between the two ideas in the hack's head.
  • Your offline reputation counts for very little in the online world. You start building your credentials from scratch again.
  • Blogs are often a slow build. They can take months to find their audience - often six months or more. This is hard for journalists used to tens of thousands of readers every week. Of course, they've never has any way of telling how many of those purchasers actually read their finely-crafted prose...
  • The best way to get loads of traffic is to start an argument about which is better: dogs or cats?
And that's me signing out from RBI HQ for the week.

August 30, 2007

iMovie 08 Test Run

There's been loads of bitching in the Mac blogging world about the new version of iMovie that arrived with iLife '08, because it lacked the fine-grained control over the editing. Well, I beg to differ. I was in rural Suffolk at the weekend, and attended the Halesworth Antiques Fair. I edited down the footage I shot and had it on YouTube in a matter of minutes:


And that's a good thing to me. The point of most (but not all) web video is speed, rather than high-quality results. So yay Apple for iMovie '08, and be prepared for more video from me..

Blogging is Good for Journalism. Honest.

Reading pieces like this reminds me of my long-held opinion that blogging isn't bad for journalism, as seems to be the received wisdom in some circles.

No, it's good for it. Very good for it. Mind you, a pack of predatory wolves is very good for the genetic health of the herd upon which it preys, but that doesn't mean that the herd enjoys the experience....

August 29, 2007

My Tragic Addiction

Should Employers Ban Facebook?

Work Clinic: FacebookNatalie Cooper, who blogs on The Work Clinic, one of our HR-related blogs, was interviewed on BBC radio last week about Facebook. Like so many internet phenomena, it's reached the level of conciousness amongst the general people that IT managers are starting to run around setting up systems to monitor usage, or even ban the site completely.

Natalie's position, like so many others, is "carefully restrict and monitor".

However, I can't help feeling that all of these decisions are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what and how Facebook can be used. For me, it's as much a work tool (keeping up with contacts within this whole web 2.0/online communities shebang) as it is a personal fun tool. Yet all the discussions I'm seeing in the more mainstream media are based on the assumption that Facebook activity is purely for personal fun. And I think that's a poor assumption to make.

And even if people aren't using it for any business purpose, surely existing management policies come into play? If it's distracting people so much that they don't perform as needed, then that needs to be handled like any management issue. Just because a problem is rooted in technology, it doesn't mean it needs a technological solution, especially where people management is concerned.

TV Shows on iTunes UK

iTunes TV in the UKI wake this morning to the exciting news that iTunes has added TV shows to the UK store. Hurrah! So far, it's just a bunch of US shows, from South Park to Lost, Ugly Betty to Desperate Housewives. But really, who hasn't had the suspicion lately that the US shows are better than our own? (Doctor Who excepted, of course)

August 28, 2007

Go on, Leave a Comment

MT Signin I've just unleashed (ooh, dramatic word) the full community power of Movable Type 4, for the benefit of both my readers.

You can now comment here using your Typekey, Vox, Livejournal or other OpenID account.

You can also register with this site as a commenter.

And last, but by no means least, you can subscribe to notifications of new comments...

Hack-o-rama

Things I've been meaning to link for a while:

Boing Boing 2.0

The blog that least needs a link from me, Boing Boing, has relaunched, with a new look, new ability to leave comments (with a paid community manager), a new gadget blog and new Movable Type 4 underpinnings. It all looks very cool.

August 26, 2007

Forgotten Visions


Forgotten Visions, originally uploaded by Adam Tinworth.

I spent the afternoon with the family at the Halesworth Antiques Fair. I'm steadily uploading some pics into my Halesworth Antiques Fair album on Flickr.

August 23, 2007

Blogging is a Cruel Mistress, says Mr BigLorryBlog

busybusybusybusybusy

So I share a couple of links with you. One of our bloggers, the venerable Brian Weatherley of Big Lorry Blog has done a guest post for the Automotive PR blog giving some, hmm, vivid descriptions of what it's like being a committed journoblogger:

But like I said it's a cruel and demanding mistress. I have to post everyday, often 3-4 times. If you don't believe me, ask my fellow bloggers on roadtransport.com Will Shiers and especially Ollie Dixon who runs an excellent, pithy and highly-respected blog on the machinations of the world's commercial vehicle manufacturers every day---although I suspect many would prefer him not to. Ollie will confirm that your blogging audience demands fresh meat...every 24hrs. And during high days and holidays it's not easy, well actually it's very easy if I don't want to get a 'real' life and don't care about upsetting the wife who thinks I'm round the twist anyway. However, having created a demand, I've now got to feed it with new postings every day.
Brian's witterings were picked up by Heather Yaxley of Green Banana:

He is one of the few motoring journalists who really understands blogging - because he has been there and does it.
And that's the key point right there. Journalists often find it hard to understand why there offline reputation doesn't transfer into instant online blogging success. After two years of solid graft, Brian has transformed his vast body of knowledge into an enjoyable and popular blog. It's not always quick, but it's worth it.

August 22, 2007

Ask Before You Snap'n'Post

One of the areas where the lovely Lorna and I tend to disagree is in the whole Web 2.0, life-lived-in-public thing. At her request, the majority of the pictures of my wife that go up on the internet go under some form of privacy protection, such as that on Flickr or Vox.

Camera PhoneWhy?

Well, Dave Winer, of all people, actually sums up her point fairly well:

My request: If you point a camera at someone, ask for permission before you start recording, and if they say no, don't turn it on, smile and say "No problem."
Yes, it's just a case of good manners, and respecting people who you're interacting with. Increasingly, I'm thinking it's going to become good etiquette to behave like this, especially for people you know, and people in semi-private places, like parties and conference.

Public spaces are more challenging - and then there's the whole issue of candid photography. But, if our relationships are to survive this new age of image and video sharing, asking before posting is probably the way to go in a significant percentage of cases.

On the other hand, it's possible that we're all just going to have to get used to being recorded at any time in any place...

Blogger Down?

Is it me,  or is every Blogger-hosted blog I look at down right now?

Update: Looks like all Blogger blogs were down for about an hour. That's quite a chunk of the blogosphere that went AWOL. Poor show, Google.

Bloggily Blonde: The Self-Appointed A-List

Been meaning to link this little anecdote from The Constant Observer for a few days now*:

The young woman--some tall blond 20 something thing--who was bemoaning that she needed more "attention" at her blog. So I said, rather jokingly "Flame an A-lister." I don't know...I did it and it worked for me ;-) But I was absolutely stunned when she said, not jokingly, "Oh, I'm considered an A-lister, so that won't work."

Considered an A-lister? wow. I'd been on a panel at BlogHer, with a bunch of great women, and I've had a bunch of speaking engagements over the past year, and worked on a pretty significant project that's been recognized by the Knight Foundation, I wouldn't consider myself an A-lister.
Two thoughts occur. The first is shallow, unworthy of me, and consists of a small amount of disappointment that a post about a tall, blonde 20-something wasn't accompanied by a photo. The second, slightly more noble response is: "My goodness, don't some of the new wave of pro- or semi-pro bloggers take themselves seriously?" I know that could easily be construed as a kettle/pot/black response from a professional journalist but hey, it takes one to know one. 

I saw a little of this at BlogHer Business in New York earlier this year, and was quite taken aback by some of the questions asked by the newer bloggers there, and how much they resembled the sort of questions journalists ask when shoved in front of Movable Type and told to get on with it. For one, they tend to ignore the idea of linking to the competition (ie bloggers on the same topic as them) because they're afraid of losing traffic. That's exactly the sort of thing that the much-maligned hacks say, and which blogging experience tells us is not a problem (quite the reverse, in fact).

Be interesting to see if this trend continues or reverses over the next year...

*Fair warning: there will be a few posts of the "meaning to link for a few days" variety in the next 48 hours.

Reporting An Earth Without Humans

Here's a nice example of video from a print title (in this case, Scientific American, a competitor to our New Scientist):

It's the sort of thing that just wouldn't work well in print, but which makes a great short video.

And it's viral enough that even random journo bloggers will republish it...

[via WebTV Hits]

August 21, 2007

Stephen Fry on Web 2.0

Nicked shamelessly from Feed Need, so as to give me a quota post for the day:


VideoJug: Stephen Fry: Web 2.0

August 20, 2007

Engagement For Beginners

One of my collegues here in RBI's editorial development team has decided to spread his blogging wings and move beyond theatrical whinging.

He's joining the publishing 2.0 debate over at Engagement 101.

Lies, Damn Lies and Web 2.0

This is an opinion piece that I wrote for our company intranet. I thought it might amuse a few people reading this as well.

I'm getting bored. It's the summer (at long last) and it feels like a good time to be outside, not staring at a computer screen. That's not the reason I'm bored, incidentally, it's just the reason you'll find me lying in the grass outside QH with my sunglasses on, seeking blog strategy in the sky. No, I'm bored of people telling me what Web 2.0 and blogging and social networking and user-generated content are. Because these people are all, truth be told, utterly wrong in much the same way that lying around in the grass in the sun is utterly right.

Here's the thing: this is a new game. Anyone who tells you that they know the answers to Web 2.0, blogging or user-generated content is trying to sell you consultancy, because no-one knows all the answers. Or even most of them. We know a few of the basic rules: if you're a woman and blog mainly about sex, you'll probably get a book deal. Ditto if you're a resident of a nation recently "liberated" by the US and you blog about how darn awful it all is. We've found a handful of blog models that just work. We know the basis of running a  good forum. We know that social networks work really well when you can find attractive, semi-clothed people to add as your Friends.
Continue reading Lies, Damn Lies and Web 2.0.

August 19, 2007

Testing Crossposting

Just testing a Movable Type plugin to cross-post to Vox.

Painted Shutters

August 18, 2007

The True Face of Citizen Journalism

August 17, 2007

links for 2007-08-17

Movable Type 4 is here (and I mean here)

MT4 logo
For the last couple of days, this blog has been running on the release version of Movable Type 4, and very pleased I am with it, too. I've been playing with it since the first beta back in June, and been using it for day to day blogging since the first release candidate a couple of weeks back.

And it's a huge improvement, it really is. It's not perfect, but it really makes MT into a usable web CMS. All of the hacks I've shown this too at our palatial Surrey offices have been champing at the bit to get hold of it, and we're actually holding a couple of projects back because they'll be easier to launch in MT4.

At RBI, we're users of the Enterprise version of the system, and Six Apart are attentive enough to their customers to have consulted us about our needs and desires for the new version months ago. It's pleasing to see much of what we wanted already in version 4, and I know that other elements are in the road map for later releases. It'll be a couple of month before MT4 is up and running on our work servers, which is a shame, because after working on my personal blog (these fine, edifying words you're reading now) using the new WYSIWYG editor and the clean, rich new interface, it feels like a step backwards to login to the work server. It's a bit like shifting back to OS8 from OSX, or back to Windows 3.11 from Windows XP...

I've got a bit of work I want to do to the templates here before I talk too much more about the new functionality the upgrade has brought to OM&HB, so look for some more posts about MT4 over the weekend.

As ever, if you find anything broken, e-mail me, if you'd be so kind.

August 14, 2007

Exciting Accounts From JournoBlogging

Like the hero in a 1980s cartoon series, I have learned an important lesson today. A lesson about friendship and trust...

Well, no. But then, I won't be holding aloft my magic sword later, unless I get really, really lucky. No, I'm talking about learning that trying to blog about your working week when much of what you've been doing is stuff for unlaunched projects is a deep, spiritual exercise in futility. For example, there was setting up the blog we'll be launching next month, and giving access to external designers for a project they're doing for us. And there was the meeting with somebody from another part of the company who might be using Movable Type. And there's those two exciting new blogs which won't be appearing under any of our existing domains...

Airline Business Tags
It's just riveting, isn't it? 

I can point out a few notable achievements, like helping Disco Stu get a decent tag cloud on the Airline Business blog at long last. (It says something about the airline industry that "hostile take-over" is showing up nice and prominent in there.) 

I'm sure there will be some more interesting thing to blog about soon.

Any second now.

*taps fingers*

links for 2007-08-14

August 13, 2007

Journalists Need To Ask Stupid Questions

Hack's NotebookThe Mac blogosphere has been busy eviscerating a journalist by the name of Bob Keefe for asking why Apple products aren't part of the "Intel Inside" marketing scheme, now that they use Intel chips. The general idea underlying this criticism is that "Apple is way too cool to do that. What a stupid question."

However, The Guardian's Charles Arthur makes a convincing case that it was a completely justified question:

Plus there's a technique to Q+As, especially those with lots of journalists, that bloggers simply don't know about because they don't have the experience. One person asks a question, gets an answer: that might prompt someone else, who knows a little about the subject being answered, to glimpse a gap or a change between what's been said and what's been said before to the same question. That leads to a new angle to probe, until you start to open up angles that weren't obvious before. It's like the middle game of chess - tactics, responses, new tactics, result. We're feral beasts in the media, remember? That's why we work best in a pack, chasing the prey, nipping its legs until it falls over and we can feast on the flesh. (Pauses.) Intellectually, of course.
And he's quite right. I've often felt that one thing young journalists need to learn to do (and are often shy of doing, for fear of looking stupid) is ask the most basic, obvious questions to ensure that (a) they understand the basics of the situation and that (b) the interviewee has the same view that everyone assumes he does. 

Nose to the Grindstone

Monday Morning Blogmeister WorkspaceWell, I'm back in RBI's palatial office in sophisticated Sutton, getting on with the job. And, after four days in salubrious Suffolk (and having had a rant or two on here), I'm feeling much more positive about everything.

Hopefully, I'll have some more positive posts about this whole journo-blogging thing in me now.

Also, as a quasi-experiment, I'm going to try blogging much more of what's going on in my working life through the course of the week. 

August 12, 2007

Rural Retreat Over

My long weekend in Suffolk is all but done. Tomorrow, I return to the fray.

Wish me luck...

Blogging is IT, not Journalism?

If you were to say to me "Adam, old chap, what's the toughest challenge you face in getting journalists to blog?", two things would cross my mind. The first is that you have an incredibly mannered way of speaking, and good on you in this age of enforced casualness and linguistic laxity. The second would be that the single biggest issue I face can be summed up by the following equation:

blog = IT
Because I'm involved with blogging, I must be a member of the IT team. QED. Let me give you an example. Once, memorably, a journalist of senior years phoned me up for help with Movable Type. "Talk me through the problem," I said.

"Would you like to take control of my screen?" she replied. Being a Windows-based company, our IS team often use a remote control thing (see how technical I am?) to deliver support. I'm a journalist, and I can't do that. I told her as much, to her utter bewilderment. "But you're in charge of blogging..." she stuttered.

And that's the assumption I face with many journalistic teams when I go in to talk to them. Ah, here's the guy from IT to tell us about blogging... Except, y'know, I don't actually work for IT.
Continue reading Blogging is IT, not Journalism?.

Blog Post vrs Magazine Article

Noodlepie explains how a blog post differs from a magazine article, using pictures not words.

Genius.

August 11, 2007

Can Journalists Learn to Listen To Bloggers?

Kristine Lowe nealy sums up another aspect of the "joining in blogging" idea I've been banging on about for the last week or so:

If the blogosphere has taught me one thing, it is to become a better listener: I love letting the links of blogs I trust or appreciate take me into unknown territory - introduce me to new and interesting takes, angles, voices...
This is exactly the part of blogging that many journalists struggle with. The nature of print publication means that most journalists spend their time talking, rather than listening. And when they do listen, it's to what they want to hear (to build a story) rather than to what people want to say.

There are multiple elements that make up a good blog - a clear tone of voice, a definable subject matter, good writing - and journalists grasp those easily enough. It's the last element, dealing with other bloggers as equals, publishing people with a voice and an audience, rather than the traditional duo of readers/contacts, that I see journalists struggling with. It's an alien mindset, something that's outside the workflow that they're used to, from years and decades of work.
Continue reading Can Journalists Learn to Listen To Bloggers?.

August 10, 2007

NUJ vrs RBI, says PG

Ooops.

Mind you, no-one said that the transition to the online world would be easy...

August 8, 2007

Mornington Crescent for the 21st Century

Tired and frustrated right now. One of those days.

In lieu of anything that resembles content this evening, I present you with a link. A fine link. A noble link.

A link to the true purpose of Twitter.


The internet is now complete.

August 7, 2007

Blogging Foot and Mouth

Cornish CowsHaving taken an rather uninformative side-swipe at the corporate blogging life in my last post, I feel it's only fair to point out some good stuff that's been going on, too.

Last Friday's news of an outbreak of foot and mouth in the home counties sent the Farmer's Weekly team scrambling into action. And, as well as putting out the normal news stories on the subject, they also blogged about it heavily.

Personally, I was most impressed with the Taking Stock team, who blog about livestock sales. They used the blog to post rapid updates on various sales around the country and how they dealt with the news and restrictions. The blog saw a significant surge in traffic which suggests to me that farmers were quite genuinely using it for updates.

As well as news updated on Food for Thought, the team also used the recently re-launched farming forum to keep concerned readers up to date with events. Foot and mouth discussions like this one, with the journalists jumping in and feeding information to the farmers as they find it are a really great example of community-focused journalism at work.

Isabel, Julian, Chrissie and the rest of the team did (and are still doing) an excellent job.

There may be a future for this professional journalism thing yet...

Forced Corporate Blogging

You know, whenever things get difficult doing the Web 2.0 thing within a traditional publisher (and I've just seen some more journalistic backlash - always fun), I come across something like this (sighted on Adriana's revamped and rehoused blog) to make me glad things aren't ever that bad:


Whinging West End Theatre Bloggers Interviewed

West End Whingers
The West End Whingers, friends of One Man & His Blog and London's foremost quasi-alcoholic satirical theatre bloggers have been interviewed by Londonist:

What's with all the whinging?
Phil: It's what we do best.
Andrew: Play to your strengths, we always say.
Phil: People are under the misconception that theatre is always to be enjoyed.
Andrew: Mostly it has to be endured.
More fun that the theatre, and cheaper, too. Check it out.

August 6, 2007

Movable Type 4: RC3

I've just upgraded the software behind this site again - we're up to release candidate 3 now.

If you have any problems, leave me a comment or drop me an e-mail.

A Day in the Life of an Online Journalist

OK, yes, it's a bit of a piss-take, done for the Computer Weekly MySpace page.

August 5, 2007

User Generated Pointlessness

Nokia Advert
I know the whole idea of "user generated content" is vastly divisive. Some people see it as a great idea, some as a patronising view of people in general and others as an embarrassing attempt by brands to cash in on new Web 2.0 technologies.

But some examples strike me as completely pointless. Take this example (in the image) that I stumbled across while doing some phone research for my sister-in-law. Apparently Nokia are offering me the chance to use some videos (isn't "our" and "user-generated" a contradiction in terms?) to make...our own advert.

Which begs the question: "why?". What possible user benefit is there in doing this? This just reeks of someone in marketing saying "that YouTube is cool, let's do something like that". It makes me cringe, just looking at it.

No, I didn't click through to find out more. It just didn't seem worth it.

August 4, 2007

Parade on Lee High Road

A multicultural moment in Lewisham this afternoon:

August 2, 2007

Haymarket Digital Head Is Blogging

Mark Payton, digital editorial director of Haymarket is blogging at the aptly-named blog The Content Factory.

Nice to see another guy charged with getting traditional magazines online dipping his toes into the blogging water...

You Don't Start Blogging, You Join In

The reason clichés become clichés is that clearly articulating ideas in an easily understood manner is actually pretty hard. When people hit on a really good formulation, they tend to stick to it. This has come home to me because I've spent the last hour looking at a set of blogs that are, frankly, failing. I'm trying to find a form of words that will make it clear where they're going wrong. It's not easy. I've spent time talking to the people involved already, and it's apparent that I haven't managed to communicate the message.

One Hand TypingAnd I'm coming to the conclusion that "starting blogging" is a bad way of expressing what people do. The reality is that they're "joining in" blogging. If you look at what we might call "easy blogging" services like Vox or My Telegraph, they make this explicit, by building mechanisms into their platforms for following what other people are writing. They make the community aspect of blogging an integral part of their service.

If you just "start blogging", with no form of interaction behind what you're doing at all, and particularly if you do it with no experience of reading blogs, your words just sit there, alone, ignored and with no links inwards. People have no real way of finding what you've written, however good it is. And, to be honest, if you're not aware of the inherent community name of blogs, you're not going to write directly to your readers in the way that really makes blogs work.

So, it's time for some people to stop starting and start joining in. What could be clearer than that?

Blogging A Magazine Article Before Print Publications

Tim Relf's Cats
Now, this blog post by Tim Relf makes me happy. You see, as well as being one of our bloggers, he's one of our journalists. And he's chosen to publish one of his articles on the blog in advance of print publication.

Admittedly the article is about his very cute cats (right) and the cost of owning them, but this is Farmers Weekly, and the readership have more interest in the costs of owning animals than most. And, more to the point, Tim's offering his growing readership something extra, and treating them to something early.

Many of you are probably thinking "so what?". In an environment where the idea of publishing news on the web before print isn't yet 100% won, every step in this direction is significant.

And it gave me the rare chance to publish pictures of some cute cats...

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