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    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.

    Online stuff

    Why Christmas cards and twitter replies are surprisingly similar

    I am continually amazed that even after the internet has pervaded almost all aspects of modern life, at least in the UK, we still have people that just don’t get it.  And by it, I mean applying the quirks of humanity to the internet.

    The most recent incident of this I’ve come across was a new club that is opening shortly.  I found out about them when they were tweeting all their followers with identical messages.  Pretty much anyone on twitter or anyone that’s written Christmas cards* to people in the same social circle knows you just don’t do it.  Even if the message is the same you have to switch it up, even when all you want to do is wish everyone merry Christmas or tell them your club is opening.  Generally people want to feel like you’re actually taking time out to communicate with them and not firing off some misguided faceless mass message.  Generic wishes make people feel like you don’t actually care and run the risk of making people feel like they’re not valuable.  It’s why people hate purely pre-printed well wishes in cards and automatic DMs.  If you’re going to be personal, then at least put some personality into it and not just copy-cut-paste.  Otherwise why bother – you run the risk of making people feel less valued than before you sent the cards/tweets.

    *It’s very possible I have a preoccupation with Christmas cards and all of mine usually include rambling nonsensical, but personal messages to my friends.
    Online stuff, Theory

    #welovetheNHS – America, the NHS and social media

    In the last two days something special happened on Twitter. Again. Twitter users in their thousands have this time rushed to defend the NHS against American critics of Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms. The Guardian reported that ‘US critics have accused the service of putting an “Orwellian” financial cap on the value on human life, of allowing elderly people to die untreated and, in one case, for driving a despairing dental patient to mend his teeth with superglue’.

    But literally thousands of people on the social networking site, Twitter, have come to the NHS’s defence. Using the hashtag #welovethenhs, which allows messages on a similar topic to be linked, people have been posting their experiences and amazing messages of support.

    What the Hashtag, a site which tracks trends, counted 20,575 tweets (messages) using the #welovethenhs tag, with 10,909 contributors. And that’s just as of 9:30 today – the numbers are going up. I’ve posted five so you can get an idea, but if you get the chance or need some cheering up, take a look at the rest.

    karmadillo I love the NHS because baby Enso (& possibly me) would not have survived labour without them http://bit.ly/zlEOz #welovethenhs
    _garys #welovethenhs When my dad’s heart began to fail we were told he wouldn’t last a week. The NHS gave him an urgent bypass and saved his life.
    benjamincohen: I have to use the NHS every week because of having Multiple Sclerosis. It has its faults but it’s still great #welovethenhs
    deanzielinski: #welovethenhs Without the NHS my uncle would have paralysis to his right leg and be in a wheelchair. He now stands and is a paramedic.
    deanzielinski: #welovethenhs -may not be perfect, but you can rely on it when you are in need, no matter what your financial status is. We are spoiled!

    Social networking sites, like Twitter, get accused of being a pointless waste of time. But to me this highlights one of the great ways they can be used; they hold people to account, they allow ordinary people to speak their mind and counter lies. The stories people have told in 140 characters about the NHS have been genuine messages of support from regular people. It’s been amazing.

    And yes, I work for the NHS, so I may be biased towards thinking it’s something that should be applauded. But it’s nice to see it regardless!

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    Online stuff

    Some times the internet fails. Or people…

    I’ve just spent a rather damp morning in Cannon Hill Park at the Water for Life festival that is taking place all day.  I knew nothing about this until my housemate, a Trustee for the charity LUCIA who was exhibiting, asked me to go along.  So now that I’m back and dried off I wanted to know whether I’d simply missed all of the marketing for this, save an advert in the oft missed Ads pages in Friday’s Metro, or whether it was another case of Birmingham failing to advertise the things that happen in the city.

    I’ve searched for the festival using the festival’s title and then again adding Birmingham to the search field.  Rather than list everything, I made a table, which noted the top five results when I searched.

    Search result Water for Life festival Water for Life festival Birmingham
    First www.lifebywater.com www.livebrum.co.uk
    Second www.livebrum.co.uk www.luciacharity.org.uk/
    Third www.mot.gov.kh/ www.breathingplaces.org
    Fourth www.breathingplaces.org environment-agency.gov.uk
    Fifth www.luciacharity.org.uk/ www.bbc.co.uk/birmingham/

    The first search brings up two results which are irrelevant to the festival; the first result being a gravity festival which took place in 2007 and the third result being the Ministry of Tourism in Cambodia.  The other three results are: a Live Brum, a fantastic listing events website; the BBC’s Breathing Places site and the LUCIA charity site which had a stall in the Fairtrade tent and was by no means a focus of the event.  The second search with a location brings up much the same, bumping Live Brum and LUCIA up to first and second page.

    I assumed this meant I was just using the search engine badly.  This doesn’t often happen, but I presumed I was just having a bit of an off day.  So I tried again using ‘dirty weekend’ as this is apparently the full title to the event, adding a location to the second search.

    Search result water for life dirty weekend water for life dirty weekend Birmingham
    First www.breathingplaces.org www.bbc.co.uk/birmingham/
    Second www.bbc.co.uk/birmingham/ www.breathingplaces.org
    Third environment-agency.gov.uk environment-agency.gov.uk
    Fourth www.timesonline.co.uk/tol www.spaghettigazetti.com/
    Fifth www.spaghettigazetti.com/ birmingham.anglican.org

    Both brought up fairly similar results; Breathing Places, BBC Birmingham nature article, Environment agency and an article on Spaghetti Gazetti about the Springwatch dirty weekend (link no longer works).  The first search brought up the Time’s Online’s dirty weekend guide to Europe (link no longer works).   This is something which most sensible people would’ve foreseen in naming something a dirty weekend and given this event was partly aimed at children, was probably not the wisest idea.

    The last search I did was to try and find this on Birmingham City Council’s webpage.  It wasn’t on the front, which is understandable as a lot happens in the city, but mildly bothersome that the elections are still on there three days after they’ve finished.  There are two different Leisure and Tourism sections on the BCC site both bringing you to different areas. The one header at the top of the page will bring you to a page which links to an events section where the Water for Life festival is advertised.  The second “fast track” section on the homepage links to a calendar (incidentally mentioned as recommended on the other part of the Leisure and Tourism section) where the Water for Life festival isn’t mentioned.  Talk about confusing and repetitive.  I really hope these areas have more consistency on the new BCC site.

    So unless you passed the Nature Centre in Cannon Hill on a regular basis and strained to see the small but numerous banners or had been invited to attend a stall (or lived with someone who had) I’d be amazed to know how about the Water for Life event.  Even super web searching skills would prove useless.

    Birmingham is a great city and there are fantastic amounts of things going on.  But the general population of Brum will never know.  Water for Life seems a great example because the Environment Agency and BBC are putting on these in hundreds of other places  Sure there’s sites like Live Brum doing it’s bit to tell people but if the Council can’t get out and better advertise its own events how is anyone expected to take Birmingham seriously as a cultural city.  No wonder everyone laughed when we bid to be city of culture.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    Online stuff

    JEEcamp 2009

    “It’s not a revolution if no one gets hurt” – Thomas Friedman

    On Friday I attended JEEcamp – an ‘unconference’ aimed at journalists and publishers to look at how the industry could deal with the decline of regional journalism, effects of the recession, citizen journalism and general online media.

    The keynote speech by Kyle McRae, the founder of Scoopt.com a photo-agency that attempted to trade citizen’s photographs to the papers, was fascinating.  Scoopt was a brilliant concept to hear about, which never really worked because it lacked fundamental networks and resources.  He spoke of the lessons learnt and how the concept grew from an idea to a company to then be sold to Getty and subsequently closed down.

    The failing business models for newspaper publishing were heavily discussed.  One attendee was a woman who’d volunteered for her local paper for years, unpaid, was now moving onto a qualification and away from regional journalism because she felt there was no hope in regional press.  From what I’d heard we weren’t the only group to discuss work experience, although members the break-out group I observed felt this woman had been exploited, others have posted to say that one newspaper publisher was looking to charge people for work experience.

    The Friedman quote above (which is actually talking about the green revolution) summed up the feeling I got from the event.  There was a great deal of concern about the decline of regional journalism, something which worries my colleagues in hospital communications, as regional journalism is our “bread and butter”, to quote the head of my department.  But the journalists at JEEcamp were understandably more worried about it.  There have been large numbers of job cuts and reshuffles in regional journalism recently and this seems to be a continuing trend.

    JEEcamp didn’t seem to give any concrete answers to what the new course would be but it did give some fantastic ideas.  Particularly a view to hyper-local media that would focus on a further niche market than current regional journalism and a need for a new, sustainable business model.  Something that is particularly topical as Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corp (owner of The Times, Sun and News of the World), announced that they were considering charging for more of their Internet content.  Whatever the model becomes, the influx of citizen journalism and social media in recent years can only serve to force journalism and their publishing houses into a more robust model that knows it cannot rest on its laurels and has to be better.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*