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    Blogmas 2016

    I’ve decided to do Blogmas this year!

    Well, kinda, I’m doing my version of Blogmas.  For those of you who don’t know, Blogmas is a thing where bloggers, or vloggers (aka vlogmas) try and blog/vlog every day in the run up to Christmas.  I’m not really sure why, but there’s loads of things like Blogtober and Blog Every Day in May and I think bloggers just like a challenge.

    But, knowing how long it takes to blog for me on my main blog, I figured I’d do a type of Blogmas, but make it more about gift giving…or rather comment giving.  You see, I always like it when people leave comments on my blog posts, and I’ve been finding that it happens less and less these days, although I know people are still reading.  So this time I’ve decided that for every day in the run up to Christmas, I’m going to post a comment on at least one blog post I read that day.  I guess it’s more like Blog-advent.  It’s simple, it takes a couple of minutes and hopefully it’ll make people smile, the way it does me, when they notice someone has posted.

    I’m expecting I’ll mainly post on fellow Brum Blogger posts, but that’s not a rule of my Blogmas challenge, any post I fancy counts but it has to be a blog…and unlike my advent calendar chocolate, I can’t save up the comments and blast a bunch in a day.

    To keep me accountable, I’ve made up a quick image (using a creative commons image from Dineshraj Goomany), and will be linking back to the posts below.  Now that I probably will do in batches!

    Day 01 – Jess from Jess & Josh Cook explain why she/they are doing blogmas

    Day 02 – Jamie explains how to make an amazing sounding Nutella hot chocolate

    Day 03 – Rebecca’s experience at the Festive Gift Fair 2016 at the NEC

    Day 04 – getting some inspiration for 29 ‘to-dos’ before you go on holiday

    Day 05 – checking out the five types of gin you might not know on Sally’s blog

    Day 06 – reading about Elizabeth’s wedding dress shopping, because pretty dresses

    Day 07embracing festive books and snacks because it mentions Nightmare Before Christmas

    Day 08 – a really honest post about how to keep going when it feels like life is against you

    Day 09Bullet Journal Christmas planning at Delightful Planner

    Day 10 – Poppybead Creative’s year in photography

    Day 11 – how Iman from And Then She Said organises her spices

    Day 12 – Reading about Becky’s experience at the Blog at the Beach event hosted by Ice Lolly

     

    Day 13 – Rosalilium’s November self-care favourites – an idea I adore!

    Day 14 – Tashpantz’s CLC World competition

    Day 15 –

    Day 16 – Charlotte’s vlogmas day 15

    Day 17 –

    Day 18 – Sam from Thoughts on Tombs’ Series that went downhill

    Day 19 – Kirsty’s five star books of 2016

    more soon…

    Online stuff

    Digital World Series event at The Studio

    Last month I attended the Digital World Series event, held as part of the Greater Birmingham Digital Academy series, in conjunction with Digital Birmingham (I know, how many times can I use ‘digital’ in one sentence).

    IMG_5856The event was loosely billed as a way for small/medium businesses to learn from leaders (and experts) to gain a greater understanding of digital technologies. The line up looked impressive, with speakers from internationally recognised digital leaders like Twitter, Facebook and Uber, as well as some local speakers like Simon Jenner, one of the founders of Urban Coffee Company and Justice Williams.  Having been involved in digital communications for a while now, it’s always interesting to hear how other organisations are making the best of the internet, and new emerging trends.

    The day kicked off with an introduction to the day from Raj Mack, head of Digital Birmingham, followed by Neil Morgan from Sage, the accountant software organisation.  He give a frank and interesting presentation about how through acquisition and general enthusiasm, the organisation had ended up with a fragmented approach to social media, and how they aligned the digital strategy to that of the business ones.  Neil spoke about the importance of getting buy-in from the CEO but also from staff to encourage them to share online, and also forming a community of people who follow and engage with your business.

    Next up was Fouzan Ali from Uber, who spoke about his journey on getting to work at Uber and how the organisation works between local teams with local decisions making and accountability, and centralised departments.

    IMG_5867 Video was something which became a bit of a theme, started by Sophie Rayers, director of marketing at Brightcove.  She spoke about the benefits of utilising video, how to make them more engaging, using user generated content and how businesses like clothing companies and financial services are using video differently.  Video was something Paul McCrudden from Twitter also spoke about, talking about the company’s live streaming Periscope app and how its authenticity means it doesn’t need to be glossy, keeping costs down, which is particularly useful for smaller businesses.  He also spoke about linking into social media influencers;

    “Most celebrities are household names; we are handheld names. People take their phones everywhere” – Simone Shepherd.

    One of my favourite talks was from Amy Hobson, partner at Social B.  Amy’s talk was realistic and practical and gave some really good insights for smaller organisations that might not be able to do it all.  She started off explaining how social media relates to and links back to traditional marketing, something which I think is often confusing for people not confident with digital communications.  Asking people what “success looks like for you” she was able to explain simple but effective ways to manage and collect useful information from social media interactions.

    IMG_5874 Simon Jenner, founder of Urban Coffee Company spoke about the evolution of coffee companies in Birmingham but how Urban had experimented with technology to drive forward their business.  He spoke about how they had been prepared to experiment with a number of ideas, some of which worked and some of which didn’t, but the importance of realising that some experiments might seem like a failure but that they might be a case of wrong timing.  He also spoke about how Urban would like to use data to help drive forward the business and whilst a number of the other organisation are large national or international businesses, it was good to hear how smaller businesses could utilise digital communication innovations.  Another local speaker, Justice Williams, also spoke about the importance of authenticity, looking at how a number of women are leveraging digital to create successful businesses that give them the freedom to work for themselves whilst utilising their content and retaining their authenticity.

    IMG_5878Big data is something that seems to be everywhere and another stand out talk of the day was from Ian West, VP Analytics & Information at Cognizant, an international consultancy.  He spoke about the vast amount of data being produced, and the importance of collecting the right sort of data and analysing it to improve the customer experience.  Ian’s talk was funny but informative and gave some important insights into people’s fears of data, but how lots of well known businesses are using it to their advantage.

    The final talk belonged to Greg Russell of Facebook, who nicely managed to knit together a lot of the threads from the other speakers, talking about the increase in photos and video being shared and how competitive everything is, so the importance of personal relevance – and having a mobile strategy.

    And with that the day was done.  There was time for networking afterwards, but my brain was full of the day’s insights and I wanted some time to digest them.  I’d come away fascinated by what some organisations were doing and how well the speakers had done at translating how that could be applicable to other organisations to positively increase their digital footprint.

    Interestingly it wasn’t always the big ‘star’ names that were the most inspiring; the more hands-on approaches from Amy at Social B, Simon at Urban Coffee Company and Ian at Cognizant provided practical applications which could easily be implemented, even in smaller teams.  That said, Greg from Facebook and Paul from Twitter presented a really positive outlook to the digital landscape and how businesses, both big and small, could utilise some of these exciting new developments.

    Themes which are mentioned a lot in digital communications…big data, the importance of authenticity and the increasing popularity of video were all touched on and explored.  With a good mix of big names with large internationally recognised brands and smaller more local organisations, on the whole the speakers did a good job of breaking down the big ideas and wins for their organisations into ways that might work, or inspire, some of the smaller businesses in the room to develop their approaches. I’d been a bit wary, given the price of the ticket, but felt that I’d gained some valuable insights into some really exciting businesses and some practical ideas on digital communications.

    The Digital World Series are organising a second event, being held in Birmingham on 27th October and tickets are available at their website;  http://digitalworldseries.com/

    Lifestyle, Online stuff

    West Midlands Blogger Meet

    westmidlandsbloggermeet

    A few weeks ago I went to a West Midlands Bloggers Meet, organised by Adele and Kirsty of Pretty Lovely Bloggers, held at the Rainbow in Digbeth.

    Over the years I’ve been to a few bloggers meet ups and it’s always interesting to see the variations in them – some are like workshops, others are just a catch up and some are blogging conferences.  Having been focusing on Full to the Brum, and food blogging developing a bit of a scene in Birmingham, most of the other bloggers I’ve met recently have been either food, or food and lifestyle bloggers.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but what surprised me about this was I knew very few of the bloggers in attendance – which made me a little nervous, but I chatted to some lovely people.

    The afternoon started off with us all generally mingling about, photographing and chatting to some of the reps from various products – I spoke to Sarah from Earlybird, which is a subscription box a little like Graze but combines music, food and art under the motto ‘Eat well. Play more’.  There were also plenty of samples to try and after grabbing a drink, we all sat down to listen to Elizabeth from Rosalillium to tell us more about getting the best out of Pinterest and another blogger (who’s name I’ve forgotten – sorry!) who talked about how to interact with brands.

    During the session Adele and Kirsty were selling raffle tickets to raise money for Mind.  I rarely win anything at raffles but Mind is a great charity so I bought a couple of tickets – and only went and won a Degustabox box!  Actually two of my tickets got pulled out but one prize was enough for me…although there were some great prizes on offer.  After that it was time to pick up our ridiculously generous goodie bags and struggle off home (I caved and got a taxi).  Due to a general back-log of blogging stuff I haven’t sorted through all the goodie bag, but I’ll post about it when I do.

    They’re organising another blogger meet in Birmingham in November, which #PLBSantasGrotto and sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun!

    Lifestyle, Online stuff

    Birmingham Blogger Meet

    IMG_4164.JPGIt hasn’t escaped me, the irony of being a week late blogging about a blogging meet up that was about getting more organised, but you know what they say – better late than never!

    Last weekend I trundled off to the Birmingham Blogger Meet (or #bhmbloggermeet), as organised by Abbigayle over at stealstylist.com.  Back when I first started getting into blogging the types of meet ups were very much on the more nerdier side of things, but now it seems the beauty/fashion blogger reigns supreme.  That said, whilst beauty/fashion/lifestyle bloggers made up the most numbers everyone swapped lots of blogging tips and there was plenty to talk about.

    First things first, we were given some lovely goody bags with some exciting treats inside; a necklace from Lylia Rose, a blending brush from Nanshy, hand cream and lip balm from Bee Good, Lovely Lotions handmade soap, Colour Me Fragrance perfume samples, a whole bag of stuff from Lush, a pencil and sign from Dottie Rocks, and saving the best till last – a blogger ring-binder organiser and goal jar from Abbigayle herself.  I’m a complete stationery nerd, so knowing that I need to get more organised with my blogging made this all the more exciting.

    IMG_4167-0.JPGAs well as the goody bag (I’ll blog about some of the items in individual posts), Abbigayle had organised a series of games for us to play.  I particularly enjoyed listening to the individual questions she asked everyone, from “Where do you see your blog in five years” to “What city would you move your blog to if you could”.   The second question was the one I was asked and given my other blog Full to the Brum is Birmingham based it would make it sort of redundant, but this blog would happily go travelling, if the mood took me!

    After photographing ourselves with our binders and coming up with witty slogans for cupcakes, we were given a talk by Kirsty from Motives cosmetics, who showed us some of their bestsellers.  This was followed by a demonstration by Maria and Jessica from the Central School of Make Up who showed us how to do winged eyeliner.  I’ve always been curious as to how people get this to look right, turns out it’s all in the tilt of the head.  That said, I doubt I have the patience to master this look.

    With a couple of games left, and prizes being awarded to the winners, the meet up finished with a buffet lunch and a good gossip about blogging with some of the other people at the meet up.  The warm up questions at the beginning of the session and the fact were were all bloggers meant that conversation flowed easily and it was nice to get some great hints and tips, as well as some new blogs to add to my RSS reader.  It’s also inspired me to re-start this blog, so hopefully you’ll see more posts on here from me soon!

    Online stuff, Theory

    Congratulations on the smug political status update

    I’ve wanted to write this for days, but it felt a little improper to do so before polling stations closed and results were read out.

    Pre-election and even on the day, my social media feeds have been full of mockery of political parties, jokes about delayed election days for certain voters and a number of other equally silly things.  I’m sorry, call me a killjoy but I don’t get the joke.

    I like democracy; sure, I think my opinion makes the most sense (otherwise why would I hold it) but I like that democracy is ultimately about the masses deciding.  The right of a political party to exist, no matter how much I agree or disagree with their policies, is part of what makes this a great system.  But a philosopher once told me that you argue against something’s strongest points not its weakest.  It’s why I’ve always been against no platform policies and more recently why I’ve been annoyed at these Facebook statuses and tweets – and I love sarcasm.  Sure, mocking something is kind of arguing against it; but is it really an effective way to changing people’s minds – are you even reaching those people who are genuinely planning on voting for those parties you vehemently dislike so much?  Maybe the question should really be were you even trying to reach them via social media?  Because to me, at least, it just looked like a group of smug self-congratulating updates which spectacularly failed to do anything useful – and the results seem to agree with me.

    So here’s my plea – and you may call me idealistic for it.  Next year it’s a general election and if you care so much about whom people vote for, get off your bums and do something useful.  If you’re passionate about a political party then join them and hand out flyers and speak to people to convince them to your party is best.  If you’re passionate about not voting for a certain political party then effectively debate with people who might be tempted to vote that way about why that party’s policies are incorrect and what the alternatives are.  Point out flaws in an argument in a way that will actually engage with people.  Talk to people who feel disengaged, tell them to register their dislike of all the parties by spoiling their ballot so their voice is counted.  Stand for election.  Hell, start your own party if you like.

    But above all, do something that might actually count.

    Books, Online stuff

    A social media book club (no really)

    Wednesday was an interesting day for me; in the morning I went to a social media book club held by two of the students from Birmingham City University’s MA in social media and in the evening was the Birmingham Skeptics in The Pub discussion by Michael Marshall on How PR came to rule modern journalism (more about the latter in another post I think).  Wow that was a long sentence.

    I pitched up to the Social media book club (or #masocialmedia book club on twitter) after Alina and Grace, the organisers, turned up to my book club last month and invited me along.  Sadly the short notice on getting the book and two trips meant I didn’t get to finish the book, but I made a good way through the book of choice; Making Is Connecting by David Gaunlett.

    I don’t think it would be fair of me to try and explain what the book is about as I didn’t finish it, but the longer version of the title is a good place to start ‘Making is Connecting: The Social Meaning of Creativity, from DIY and Knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0’.  I thought the parts of the book I read were pretty interesting, although very optimistic and could’ve done with being a little more sceptical at times.  I sort of waffled through something about Apple and approving/rejecting apps and some issues it got into trouble with that I read a while back, which in hindsight the MA social media students were probably in a better position to talk about than me!

    Was interesting to see how a non-fiction book club could work.  Seemed everyone (apart from me) read the whole book, with each chapter being given to someone to focus on and lead the discussion, which I think worked superbly and really gave a sense of interaction with everyone.  I’m thinking of nicking the idea for my book club, but I’m not sure they’d be overly keen on homework!

    Birmingham, Books, Online stuff

    My thoughts on Library Camp 2011

    I felt a bit of a fraud on Saturday morning turning up to Library Camp, an unconference for librarians, until I realised that I had actually spent some time looking after a library.  And I made cake, which actually seemed to be more of a prerequisite for attendance than a library career.  Thankfully everyone was so utterly delightful that I think as long as you are passionate about libraries and had cake you were greeted with welcomed arms.

    Photo of part of the timetable by smilylibrarian from flikr

    The first part of the unconference was the pitching for sessions, duly written on post-it-notes, groups and organised into sessions.  It’s a shame we could only go to five, but when the disappointing thing is too many interesting sessions you know you’re on to a good thing.  Thankfully lots of people tweeted throughout the day so it was possible to catch up on other discussion and people have subsequently blogged their thoughts on them too (like this one from Jennifer Yellin).

    It’s hard to pick favourites, but I really enjoyed the two on advertising and what libraries can learn from retail, which isn’t surprising given that I work in communications and marketing.  Bums on Seats made some really good notes on these two sessions.  The retail session seemed to focus on a lot of practical things that could be done in libraries – displays and books facing outwards, although the idea of having books in categories seemed to split opinion.  Personally I think opening times are one of the biggest barriers to people using the library – something which I mentioned on twitter and seemed to get some good responses.  The last session on advertising was the one I understood the best, having experience in public sector marketing and it seems that some of the problems the librarians found were similar, if not worse, to those I found in the NHS.  Sadly it sounded like the will to market was there, but with little support from their corporate communications teams (one team has to email tweets to the webmaster which are frequently changed and lose meaning)

    The other notable session I sat in on was one on Shared Reading  A group of about ten of us read a short story about a father and son, paused at relevant places, which provoked some really unexpected and strong emotional reactions.  I’m not entirely sure I can convey how powerful and moving this session was, but when a 45 minute session with a group of strangers nearly brings you to tears you might get the idea.  I’m determined to learn more.

    Discussions at lunch about further education libraries, children’s development and a whole raft of bookish talk were really interesting.  Plus I was given a free book by the lovely @JennySarahJones which I found out about thanks to the power of twitter!

    So what did I learn

    • Library folk are some of the nicest people ever and really like their cake.
    • Following a hashtag (#libcampuk11) on tweetdeck when its updated fairly regularly is rubbish, the twitter app was a lot more useful.
    • The cola cupcakes recipe from Hummingbird Bakery book was actually a hit – people even tweeted me to say so!
    • If the people at libcampUK11 are anything to go by, so long as the current government doesn’t completely chop the library budget to shreds, the future of libraries are in good hands.

    Initially I wasn’t sure how interesting I’d find the day or how useful I’d be, but in the end I left Library Camp inspired and hopeful – and determined to use the library more.  A big thanks to those that organised the event and to those in attendance for providing me with some really interesting ideas.