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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

    Co-working venues: Loco Lounge, High Street, Kings Heath

    One of the perks of my job is that I can work wherever there is internet.  Whilst this generally means I work from home or work, it does mean that some times I park up in a coffee shop for a change of scenery – and occasionally some co-working (which is just the snazzy way of saying sitting with other people who are also working from the same place).  Far from being a bit of a doss, co-working gives you the opportunity to bounce ideas off people – and have them look after your computer when you go to the loo.

    My friend Liz (who runs a proof reading business) and I are going to test out some of them and so some reviews and such, to weed out which ones are good to work in and which ones aren’t.  Here goes…

    Loco Lounge, High Street, Kings Heath

    Loco Lounge, Kings Heath High St.

    A fairly new addition to Kings Heath High St, this relaxed cafe bar is one of a number which has sprung up around the country over the last year.  It’s going for that shabby-chic look, but does appear to be a little out of the box (the “rips” in the wallpaper are deliberate).  Overall though there is a good floor space with plenty of seating – from comfy sofas and padded benches to wooden table & chairs.

    I met Liz around 10.30am when it was a little quiet, but then quite a few coffee shops are during weekdays, excluding lunchtime (it picked up around then).  Did mean we got the pick of seats, although if you needed one with a plug it looked like you might be restricted to one table – charge up before you go.

    Internet
    Connecting to the internet was a little difficult.  The server didn’t seem sure about it and asked the manager.  Rather than the usual connect via a password, this required you to set up your own username and password via U2com.  Fair dos.  Problem with this is that it takes an age to load the page to sign-up.  I signed up fairly easily, but it failed to tell me I had 15mins to validate it and after the allotted time tried to kick me off.  This resulted in some jiggery-pokery with my computer and logging into my emails via my phone, but got there in the end.  It tried to get Liz to sign up twice, only to tell her the username was in use and then never required use of the validation page.  Also the connection did drop off a few times and was slow.  Not quite the days of dial-up, but not great.

    Food and drink
    I’d been to Loco Lounge a few weeks before and had a panini for £6.50, which was really tasty but a bit steep considering ‘served with house salad and fries’ means a pinch of both.  So this time I was a bit wiser and ordered a bacon butty (£3) and a bowl of fries (around £2 I think), which was a much more value-for-money serving.  Food was tasty and arrived in reasonable time, but I do find the menu a little uninspiring for lunchtime where the choices are a few sandwiches or brunch.  Plus it’s quite pricey considering there’s a raft of coffee shops and food establishments in Kings Heath with menus with more variety at better prices being equally if not tastier.  Drinks wise, pints of Diet Coke price wise were nothing out of the ordinary and I was having a stay away from dairy, so can’t comment on the tea or coffee.  Overall drinks seem reasonable.

    General atmosphere
    Overall Loco Lounge is nice enough.  The internet is a bit of a hassle, but then this is something which won’t be a surprise to those used to working from coffee shops.  No one hassled us to buy more drinks and the venue is nice, but I’m not sure I’d be comfortable wandering to the loo and leaving the staff to look after my laptop, as it’s a little vast.  Food wise I find it a bit disappointing; the menu looks like it’s trying to be concise and all-things-to-all-people and just doesn’t really achieve it, particularly as it just feels too pricey for the High St.

    I’d go back for drinks with friends and a catch up (still need to try the cake) and at a push maybe to work, but it’s not a patch on my usual work-away-from-home.  And whilst the food is fine, I’d rather go to somewhere else on the High St for better value.   Drinks yes, food somewhere else.

    Check out what Liz thought here.

    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.