Archive for December, 2008



Instant reporting indeed

This may well be a first (and hopefully not too common an occurrence). Via Jeff Jarvis, a passenger who was in a plane crash in Denver literally Twitters from the scene as soon as he gets out.

Surely cynical hack X can’t still now say Twitter isn’t useful to journalists. There you go, a perfect eyewitness for a pretty major story (although it probably helps to be on Twitter so you can introduce yourself before leaping in for an interview request).

The other argument I often hear against using Twitter, from a journalism (or PR) point of view is that it’s impossible to find news like this because they don’t how to follow and it’s such a vast space that its impossible to stumble across anybody Tweeting breaking news.

Well, yes. And then no. Stumbling across a breaking news Twitter feed by chance would be pretty unlikely. But knowing how to target possible breaking news is another.

It’s as simple as this: first set up a TweetBeep alert for stuff specific to you. Second, start using Twitscoop, which shows you a cloud of hot keywords being Tweeted. I’ve integrated the widget into my Netvibes, which I’m rarely off, so can pick up if something’s got the site a-Twitter.

Finally, if news breaks, just use Twitter search to see who’s tweeting about what. So, in this example, looking for plane crash, plane or even Denver would probably return a few relevant hits. Or, even better, if there’s a hashtag, you’ve got all the content you need right there.

Once you’ve got this set up and into the mindset, you can probably have all the relevant information on Twitter in just a few minutes. I’ve even seen a journalist friend of mine Twitter that he’s “grateful to TweetpBeep for giving him a story”.

It’s things like this that show why Twitter is so useful for breaking news and is not just some form of bastard child of the Facebook status.

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2009 resolutions

Kerry’s listed her five hopes and dreams for a digital world in 2009, and has tagged me to do the same, so here’s (roughly) what I’d quite like to see or do next year.

1. That more people and companies start getting involved in social media and don’t just dismiss it as “something for the internet – and we/I don’t need to get involved with that”. Ok, so you don’t need to have a Twitter account or whatever for every single project. And, yes, sometimes working offline is equally effective, if not more so. But don’t just dismiss this whole area out of hand.

2. This is quite a general one: to learn more about sites or services that I don’t currently use or understand. And then see how I can make them part of my working routine. I know I don’t currently get the best out of, say, Technorati. And I’ve only really touched briefly on Seesmic, Phreadz and moblogging. These I need to rectify.

3. This one’s pretty much the same as Chris’: To see more brands you wouldn’t expect to be so active online get more active. Sports clubs are a prime example. There’s a great audience out there waiting for something innovative.

4. To give this place a proper spruce up. Fond as I am of it, there’s nothing a bit of cosmetic surgery can’t solve.

5. To remember to switch off from social media from time to time. While keeping on top of the latest issues and trends is essential, I can take a night off. And those RSS feeds can wait. There’s a tendency with the immediacy of the web that it has to be done and it has to be done now. And sometimes it does. But sometimes, real life takes priority. And it never hurts to take a weekend away from all things web-related to recharge the batteries.

So, with that, I’m going to ask Ben, Becky, Chris, Joanna and Nosemonkey what they hope for the year ahead.

Going viral

Let’s get this straight. Virals are NOT just sticking a video up on YouTube or on the internet in general and then wondering why people aren’t watching them. Chris and Tom will tesitfy to that in their respective lists.

In a buzz-filed world, any brand can chuck out the idea “we need a viral” but very few actually get it right. A standard advert is not likely to be a viral, and neither is just a small bit of arbitrary footage.

There’s no telling what makes a good viral, but a good litmus test is the pub conversation. If it’s something you want to share with your friends down the pub, or during a dull day at work, then chances are its got potential.

Last week’s Voscar awards at Curzon’s Mayfair theatre emphasised just what makes a good viral, insofar as its ever possible to say such a thing.

Nominally set up in support of Virgin Mobile’s rather cute new 30 peas campaign,  it asked several leading bloggers and social media people for their favourite viral of the year.

After sitting and watching all 30 videos, we then voted for our favourites and the results were totted up.

My favourite was, perhaps surprisingly, the TFL look out for cyclists campaign.

It’s an advert that ticks most of the boxes – it surprises you the first time you watch it, it’s clever, it’s entertaining and it’s something you may well send onto a friend.

Of course, viral doesn’t necessarily need to be something that supports a brand. Sometimes these things just take a life of their own. Or are just funny. Much like the overall winner of the night, the wonderfully titled Jizz In My Pants.

Which just goes to prove what I always thought. When in doubt, resort to knob and wanking jokes. Preferably set to dodgy europop.

Here’s the rather cute 30 peas video from Virgin Mobile. It’s quite fun, even if there are no crude knob and sex jokes in it. That’s probably a good thing.

Why I love the FA Cup

Last night non-league Blyth Spartans defeated Bournemouth 1-0 with an 89th minute winner from their 18-year-old substitute to set up a tie with Premier League side Blackburn Rovers.

It’s that kind of drama-you-couldn’t-make-up that makes me love the FA Cup (even if Exeter got knocked out to Curzon Ashton). It’s the chance for, cliched as it is, the postmen, the electricians, and the plumbers, the semi-professionals, to get their moment of glory.

And Blyth have pedigree, having reached the 5th round of the FA Cup back in 1978, and coming close to become the only non-league team to ever make it to the quarter-finals. You can read my Soccerlens piece on it here.

Also, Droyslden and Chesterfield are doing their best to revive the spirit of endless replays (them from the days before penalty shoot outs).

Having seen their original match abandoned due to fog, the teams then drew two-all in a bizarre game that saw Chesterfield allow their non-league opponents to equalise after Jack Lester scored a controversial goal. Then, last night, the floodlights failed at Droylsden [1] with the Spireites leading 2-0, so another replay is required.

Add Histon knocking out Leeds in the last round, and Barrow facing Middlesborough in the third round, and it’s clear just why the FA Cup is one of the greatest competitions in the world.

My favourite cup final is the 1990 three-all draw between Manchester United and Crystal Palace. Not because I have any great love for either of these teams, but because it was a pulsating affair that had you on the edge of your seats.

United went on to win the replay 1-0, with a rare goal from defender Lee Martin.

And no matter what people may have thought about last season’s cup final, it was great to see Portsmouth and Cardiff battle it out rather than any of the usual suspects. It’s why I can’t wait for January 3rd.

[1] There’s a lot of this kind of thing around at this time I year. I was at Dagenham on Saturday when the floodlights failed at half time. Frustrating, yes, as it was a good game of football. But given that Exeter were losing 1-0, it was absolutely freezing cold, there was driving rain, and the away end is uncovered, you’ll understand why I wasn’t horrendously upset to have to leave early.

Let the bells ring out for Christmas

The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York is the best Christmas song ever. That can never be disputed. But what of the second-best?

There’s been some Christmas classics over the years but it’s hard not to wish they (whoever THEY may be) would add a few different tracks to the annual Christmas compilation albums. There’s only so many times you can hear Slade before it starts to get a tad grating.

So, I’d like to humbly suggest a revival of this Christmas-related classic from the wonderful Saint Etienne featuring Tim Burgess: I Was Born On Christmas Day

In fact, just go back and listen to the entire Saint Etienne back catalogue. You’ll thank me for it.

Any other suggestions for criminally underlooked Christmas songs? Fountains of Wayne’s I Want An Alien For Christmas anybody?

Gary Elsewhere

Soccerlens: Stafford Rangers sack Steve Bull in a classic case of Conference club overstretching.

Also, the winners of the 2008 Soccerlens Awards have been announced, and there’s some very worthy winners in there indeed, especially Ian King at Two Hundred Per Cent who took the editors’ choice for Best British Football Blog 2008. If you’re a football fan and don’t already have Ian’s blog in your RSS, do so now. It’s essential daily reading.

You don’t want that social media project…

Chris Applegate posts a list of 20 familiar signs that a company really doesn’t want to get engaged in social media. It’s brilliantly funny, if not also a tad depressing (but then isn’t all the best humour) as it’s instantly familiar to anyway working in a social media sphere who’s had any of the 20 conversations.

Suw Charman-Anderson follows up with an internal version. Both are spot on. And while the web geeks amongst us giggle, they should also be compulsive reading for anybody or company thinking of getting into social media.

I’ve come across all these comments over God knows how many years in all walks of life. I’ve spoken to a few people who are so enthusiastic about social media but work for companies who take about six months to take any kind of decision on it. I’m quite thankful mine’s pretty proactive and willing to try new things.

Social media isn’t like other popular areas where you can just wade in go “hey, we’re great” and leave. What worked before offline won’t necessarily work online.

The best thing anybody can do if they want their company or client to get into social media is read and listen. Engagement also helps, but I’d honestly say just immersing yourself in blogs, wikis, pods, Twitter and forums and getting a feel for how they work will do no end of good.

If a blogger has a pop at your company, chill. Maybe it’s better to understand the reason behind the rant than panicking or getting worked up about the contents of the post. People say bad things, it happens.

Viral videos are called viral for a reason. If it’s something you’d want to send your mates at a slow day at work, then you’re onto a winner. If you struggle to watch it through, it won’t.

And while mass emailing bloggers may seem like a quick and efficient way to work, it probably won’t generate that much positive coverage. Certainly not compared to if you’ve taken the time to read, engage and see what’s relevant to this particular blog.

It’s not hard to do, but I suspect these won’t be the last conversations Chris and others have on this topic.

[I’d also quite like to add 21. Client puts something on the internet with no links in or out and wonders why nobody visits.]


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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com
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