Archive for the 'Idiot (singular. aka me)' Category

I’ll be back

There are many reasons for a man to disappear, or at least go very quiet. Reggie Perrin had his reasons, as did Lord Lucan. Brian Wilson went a bit mad, while everything gone downhill for Mike Ashley after he decided to do away with both the reclusive and the multi-millionaire bits of his description when he brought Newcastle United.

I’ve not purchased the Toon Army. Neither have I taken control of Exeter City. But it’s fair to say that football has played a reasonable part in the slight silence on here over the last couple of weeks.

This isn’t to say that I’ve got obsessed to the point of installing 15 TVs in my house obsessively detailing how Scunthorpe United profit from their use of long throw-ins. In fact, it may come as a surprise if I say that I’m usually not too bothered if other events clash with any given game. Football can be put to one side.

But not now, not at this current point in time. It’s the business end of the season, you see, and there are so many twists and turns and then double-twists and then turns that aren’t so much turns as slight bends in the road that, nonetheless, still have an impact on the league.

In short, football is currently just too exciting. The Premier League is actually, for once, reasonably interesting. The Championship still has plenty of surprises. Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga make me wish I lived on the continent. Burton may just bottle it. And, of course, Exeter City can still gain their second successive promotion in as many years if they beat Rotherham away next week.

If you’re one of those who enjoy reading my ill-thought out analysis on the state of the media than you may want to blame Exeter that it’ll take a week longer to get back to normal service. You see, all of this could have been avoided today if we’d just beaten bloody Morecambe at home, rather than freeze for the first 45 minutes and only manage a 2-2 draw.

Had Exeter won, there would have no doubt been eulogies on here before I wound down the football excitement and started posting stuff that actually interests people. Instead, I’m still wound tighter than a watchspring ahead of next week’s trip from St Pancras to Up North (it’s all up north from Exeter, really). And then, if we balls it up at the Don Valley Athletic Stadium, then we’ve got the playoffs to come. Christ on a bike and all that.

The best you can hope for in that case, is that Exeter end up playing Dagenham, which is an easy journey for me, and means I can still get home long before the last tube and still have time for fish and chips before Match of the Day. Marvellous.

You probably don’t really need to know any of this. You don’t need to know that I have at least a dozen posts in my draft folder that probably won’t get written until the end of the season for League Two clubs.

Unless you’re planning on emailing me with important stuff, you don’t need to know that I’m mostly replying to people saying: “Sounds great, but I’ll have to wait until after the football.” And you also don’t really need to know that I should really apologise to the lovely people at BT MyPlace who sent me a load of stuff that I took a glance and liked a lot at before firing off an email saying: “Yes, this looks ace, I’ll almost definitely write something about it,” before getting distracted on an article on Boca Juniors and River Plate, or something similar.

And now I feel I should apologise again because I’m writing this long, rather pointless apology rather than writing about their service, which I quite like, and linking it into wider social media trends and no doubt throwing in an arbitrary quote from, say, Mark Twain, just because I can.

That’s the problem with us bloggers. We’re so damn unreliable.

So, yes, apologies to people waiting for anything that isn’t football on here. I’ll get back to writing about exiting new trends in PR and social media. I would add journalism to that list as well, but it’s got enough problems as it is without needing the added pressure of exciting new trends.

Anyway, this is a rather lengthy, rambling way of saying an awful lot when I don’t have anything much to say at all, other than being able to discuss the not-so-finer points of Exeter’s 2-2 draw with Morecambe, and you probably don’t want to read about that here.

Normal service will be resumed soon. In the meantime I’m off to read about the Eredivise.

On being dirty, southern and a twit

The best kind of nights, I’ve always found, are the ones where you end up in a completely unexpected place. Last night, for me, that unexpected place was a fascinating in-depth discussion of Belgian politics and media, and contrasting it with the UK.

This isn’t normally what I spend my nights down the pub doing, but then it’s also a neat illustration of why I enjoy going to the assorted social media meetups. Or in this case, Tweetup.

Back in December, Lolly and I decided we’d quite like a Twitter meetup that was easy to get home from (The Shoreditch Twit is ace, but for those of us south of the river, it’s a bit of a trek back) and the Dirty South Twit was born.

The first one was a nice chilled evening drinking cocktails in Clapham with a bunch of people who’d never really met before, but were all on Twitter. Then we both got a bit busy, remembered we’d do another one and organised the DST2 at the Roxy Bar and Screen in London Bridge.

It also happened to clash with St Patrick’s Day (completely unintentional on our part) and Guinness were kind enough to help the craic with assorted hats, inflatable pints, T-shirts and other goodies. Oh, and free booze. I’ve now got a few cans sitting in my kitchen needing care and attention. They really were too good to us (well, it was the 250th anniversary of signing their brewery lease in Dublin. Any excuse for a party is good enough by me). You can see photos here.

But one of the joys of these events is, as well as catching up with a few familiar faces, you get a chance to speak to people you’d never normally meet, such as PBizzle, Rufus Evison and Julie Bodart and Pascal. Somehow with the latter two, I got onto the topic of Belgian politics and media (not entirely randomly, given that she’s Belgian).

There’s some fascinating differences between the UK and Belgium. It certainly doesn’t sound as if blogging is as big over there as it is amongst the media in this country. The regional press also seems to thrive, mainly because there isn’t one main national paper. Instead the big papers are split between the Flemish and Walloon regions, depending on their point of view. I’d imagine it’d be a similar thing here if Scotland were larger and really agitating for a split from England.

I’ve taken a mild interest in Belgian politics since they went for around nine months without a proper government in 2007 / 08 and found the political system, basket case though it was (probably outdoing Italy in places), fascinating.

Certainly from Julie and Pascal’s point of view, our government seems a lot more stable. Yes, I probably replied, but it also makes it quite dull. And harder to kick the bastards out, I didn’t add. Certainly I’d appreciate something to re-engage me with the political process and makes it seem exciting and interesting again.

Ok, it may not be entirely fun when you’re living in a country that can barely form a government let alone rule effectively. But at least it makes things interesting. Hell, I’m very jealous of America where, thanks to Obama (and, dare I say it, probably helped by the fact Bush was the previous incumbent) politics has become interesting, cool and sexy again. Go on, try and apply any of those three adjectives to our political system, I dare you. You’ll fail miserably.

I’ve gone a bit tangential here. But that’s kind of like the conversation last night. I met some fascinating people at the Dirty South Twit, had some very interesting conversations (I won’t recount the whole Belgian politics and media chat, partly because I can’t quite remember it all) and had plenty of Guinness. And that’s why I love Twitter meetups.

A slightly more coherent, less tangential write-up, with no mention of Belgian politics, is on the Dirty South Twit blog.

Gary expanding elsewhere

Not around my waist, although I have recently gone up a trouser size.

So, in addition to this week’s Soccerlens column, which is mainly on Burton Albion’s title wobbles and includes references to Wilde and an impotence joke, there’s exciting news on the assorted football stuff I do.

As from next Tuesday (hopefully), my good friend Chris Nee and I will be producing the Two Footed Tackle podcast. Which is essentially chat about football, but hopefully an entertaining chat about football.

It’s not like this was planned. We’d both chatted about various podcasts we liked, he happened to mention he may have access to a radio studio, I mentioned my broadcasting background, and at that point we thought “why the hell not”.

It’ll be fun to get behind a broadcast desk again and even more fun to chat football for 40-odd minutes.

It’s very much a communal effort and we’ll be reviewing the big stories on the blogs as well as the papers, plus we’re hoping to get some guests, bloggers and general football fans, in the studio to counterbalance our witterings. Should be fun.

At some point in time, I should also be contributing (hopefully) to the excellent Soccerlens podcast, which is a couple of episodes old and a very good listen indeed. It’s also different to the one I’ll be doing with Chris, so you don’t get football fatigue.

It also means that all three of you who missed my dulcet tones after left the newsreading business will be able to get, um, aural pleasure from it again.

Or something.

How to snare me into writing about Valentine’s Day

Damn those French. Lolly clearly knows I can’t resist the opportunity to make a playlist, so tagged me in a Valentine’s Day playlist meme using the We7 site.

Now, let’s get one thing clear from the start here. I’m not a particularly big fan of Valentine’s Day. Usually I try and ignore it or, failing that, despise it. If I’m feeling particularly perky, I’ll head out and play singleton’s bingo.

The rules are thus. Go to a godawful nightclub that will have no shortage of desperate single people. Take a friend. Get a drink and a good vantage point. Survey the romantic apocalypse about to be unleashed below and match up exactly which people will end up with the most inappropriate partners by the end of the night.

It’s quite fun, largely because you realise that no matter how lonely, and probably pointless, your existence is on this particular day, at least you’re not one of those below, desperately trying to cop off with somebody, anybody, in an effort to validate your own attractiveness for the night.

Really, it’ll be easier for all concerned if they just locked all single people in separate rooms with some porn and a box of kleenex for the night on February 14th. At least you wouldn’t have to spend as much to achieve the sense of shame and inadequacy going out on Valentine’s is guaranteed to bring.

So, having established my feelings towards this coming Saturday, the choice of tracks for my playlist are perhaps somewhat unsurprising.

Here’s the playlist.

And because I am, essentially, a walking High Fidelity cliche, here’s a running commentary with the tracklisting.

 

1. Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau – Aled Jones

I started off in a surprisingly positive frame of mind. Casting for a link to start the playlist was obvious: Wales play England in the Six Nations on Valentine’s Day and hopefully we’ll give Martin Johnson’s men a damn good hiding. The Welsh national anthem, then, was a given. However, they didn’t have any proper versions, just a piss poor attempt by Aled Jones. This somewhat sets the tone for the rest of the playlist – something you love utterly bastardised.

2. International Velvet – Catatonia

I’m still on the loving Wales theme at this stage. Every day when I wake up, I thank the lord I’m Welsh. Very self-absorbed. Very Valentine’s Day.

3. Hermann Loves Pauline – Super Furry Animals

So, now we’re still with the Welsh, but crossing into a genuine love story here – the love story of Einstein’s parents. Includes lines about Marie Curie dying from radiation. Perfect wooing material.

4. You’re The One For Me Fatty – Morrissey

As if I need an excuse to put Morrissey in this playlist. Still with the slightly dubious kind of life.

5. Your Mother’s Got a Penis – Goldie Lookin’ Chain

And with this we move from the dubious to the very wrong kind of love. And we’re back with the Welsh as well.

6. Ladies of the World – Flight of the Conchords

Continuing the transsexual theme here, this moves beyond Wales and takes the love out to the whole world. It doesn’t matter what type of woman you are, Brett and Jermaine just want to give you loving. Us men aren’t fussy like that.

7. When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You – Marvin Gaye

At this stage I was torn between going into a genuine love playlist with Let’s Get It On, or go for a more miserable angle with the above track. A no brainer in the end – this is probably the most bitter, yet seductive, break-up song ever written.

8. Caught Out There – Kelis

Where bitterness gives way to pure anger. Nobody wins.

9. There’s a Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis – Kirsty MacColl

I wanted to put England 2 Columbia 0 in here but We7 didn’t have it and it wasn’t on my computer either, so I’ll have to settle for “he’s a liar and I’m not sure about you.” The next track would have been Ian Dury, but they didn’t have any of that either.

10. Babies – Pulp

A lovely little tale about sleeping with a girl’s sister, only to discover you fancy the other one all along. Deceit moves into just plain male uselessness.

11. Where The Wild Roses Grow – Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue

And all that pent out anger has to come out somewhere. Namely murder. Obviously, by this stage, Nick Cave had to feature somewhere and this was the lazy, yet appropriate, choice.

12. Valentine – Richard Hawley

I mellowed by this stage and put a genuinely nice track in. Other than the fact that Richard doesn’t need any Valentine or roses, but a cuddle. Which suits me just fine. See, Richard Hawley’s music can turn even an hardened cynic a little bit slushy.

13. Vincent – Don Maclean

All good things must come to an end, and what better way to finish this play list than with this tragic tale from Don? Reminds me somewhat of Romeo and Juliet, and I know plenty of people who’ve told me that play is the best love story ever written. I never like to point out at that stage that exactly how it ends.

If you missed the earlier link to this playlist, it’s here.

Right, let’s tag a few people. Chris, Matthew, Geordie, Jaz, Chris N and Kerry can do their worst.

Journalists of the future

“Mate,” said my colleague Ben, when I told him about being invited back to the old student paper I edited to do a talk on the future of journalism and how to get into in. “You know you’ve made it when your old university invites you back.”

“Chances are everybody else was busy,” said I. “And I’m cheap.”

It was an unexpectedly enjoyable surprise to find myself back at Cardiff University Students’ Union on a Saturday afternoon to speak to the section editors and writers of gair rhydd. It was also interesting from my own point of view, as I learned a few bits and pieces as well.

Before my waffle talk, Will Dean (The Guardian) and Greg Cochrane (ex-NME, now Radio 1), both ex-gair rhydd members, did their bit as well. What was telling was the amount of times words relating to the internet were thrown around. Podcasting was a common one. Blogging was another.

It shows how quickly the industry is moving these days. When I was editor, blogging was still very niche [1]. Podcasting hadn’t even entered our lexicon. Now Greg and Will are using these terms casually, as part of everyday work. None of us are journalists who’d been told this stuff was vital to our industry when we were learning the ropes.

You want proof of how the web has and will continue to shape journalism. You’ve just read it.

Interesting (and surprising) bit number two: When I asked how many people in the room were blogging, I had a couple of tentative hands. When I asked if any were on Twitter, no hands went up [2]. A few other social media sites elicited no response. On reflection, I think, I should have asked how may people had heard of these sites.

This surprised me somewhat, as I’d assumed (dangerous, I know) that many more journalism hopefuls were blogging in this day and age (when I did my BJTC course, I was the only blogger). I guess, when you spend so much of every day working in this area, you forget not everybody’s quite such of a web geek as yourself.

By the time I’d finally shut up, they’d seen Phillip Schofield explain what Twitter is and had their picture posted up on my Twitter stream.

They also had your crowdsourced advice (thanks to everyone who responded) and probably had it drummed into them that they needed to be online in some form, as well as learning as many different skills as possible, to increase their chances of employment in what is currently a very depressed industry, jobs-wise.

But it was also refreshing that, in the informal chat that followed, there was a lack of cynicism over blogging, Twitter, video sites like Qik and Seesmic, and other such places. Compare this with those currently employed in the industry. It can be tough to convince media people of the worth of these tools (its a common sigh I get from just about everybody I know who works with more web-based tools).

Granted, that attitude is changing, helped, in part, by more colleagues slowly trying (and, in many cases, getting addicted) these sites and reporting back on their worth. If you want a great example of a mainstream journalist utilising social media, look no further than Dan Wootton from the News of the World.

But for every Dan, or Ben in PR, there’s about half a dozen unconvinced hacks or press officers who either don’t have the time, the inclination or the web knowledge to leap in.

And that’s one of the joys about chatting to student journalists. They’re willing to listen; they’re willing to try new things. Ok, they may not get on with Twitter. They may decide that blogging isn’t for them. It’s the same for everybody. But they’re less likely to dismiss these communication tools, which, for me, is encouraging.

I had several queries about setting up blogs – the software to use, how to pick up readers, etc – and a few about assorted sites like Twitter. I had a long chat with the current editor about making their website more Web 2.0 friendly. And, hopefully, we’ll see a few of them blogging and Twittering in the coming weeks.

Here’s a quick list of those I spoke to yesterday who’ve already joined Twitter:

Ben Bryant (gair rhydd editor): @benbryant

Emma (Comment & Opinion editor): @emcetera

Tom Victor (Sorry Tom, I didn’t catch your section): @tomvictor

Feel free to stop by and say hi to them.

[1] Ok, you could argue it still is, in many respects. But back then few newspapers were leaping aboard the blogging bandwagon. It felt much like where Twitter was last year.

[2] I think this may have been out of shyness on a couple of parts. It’s taken me this long to accept I’m an utter geek (or nerdlinger, which Katie Lee uses often and I think fits nicely). I didn’t like to admit it that far back.

Getting social with Nathan Barley

Bobbie Johnson from the Guardian has had it with social media. It’s easy to sympathise.

“Listen. I have blog. I use Twitter. I idly flick through lists of people I’d forgotten I ever knew on Facebook. I’ve even got a MySpace page, although I don’t like to talk about it. They are great ways of connecting people, and they’re very exciting when you start using them, because they allow virtual contact in ways that are analogous to – if not the same as – real life. You know, communicate with people. That old thing.

Nobody talks about people down the pub laughing about Bale’s expletive-laden bullying as a “social drinking sensation”. They don’t call people giggling about it on the phone as a “social telecommunications sensation”. They call it joking, or they call it gossip, because that’s what people do. Whether they do it online or offline, down the pub or on Facebook doesn’t matter. “Social media” is mainstream – we don’t need to claim any more victories for it.”

Quite so. I’m at a point where I roughly agree with Bobbie as well. I’ve probably spent as much time as anybody hyping up ‘social’ media tools. It was a convenient term, much like ‘new media’ was back in the emerging days of the internet.

It has now crossed into the mainstream. That, I think, we can safely say. But, as Bobbie points out, having Christian Bale’ s rant pinged around Twitter doesn’t act as proof that it’s taking over the world (such proof, for what it’s worth, is pretty easy to accumulate elsewhere).

Wadds wrote last week about the change that was coming in Twitter and other forms of social media (I’m still using the term as it’s convenient) and I think we’re seeing it now.

Now, unless I’ve completely misread his column, I don’t think Bobbie’s calling for the death of social media; rather that he wishes social media people would stop banging on about how great social media is on social media sites.

Christ, I feel incestuous just writing that last sentence.

There reaches a point where, in any technology or movement or whatever you want to call social media, where it edges onto the mainstream and suddenly everybody is an expert on it.

And, as ever, with any kind of new, erm, thing (sorry, I’m casting about for words here and can’t find the right one) there is a lot of bullshit. And a lot of people who get involved for little discernible purposes other than to self-promote their usually overhyped wares.

We’re probably at this stage now.

Now, this isn’t a post where I run screaming at Twitter yelling “YOU’VE CHANGED AND I DON’T LIKE IT” on my part either. But the site – and many other bits have become a mite trying at times. Largely because of the jargon and the self-promotion and the self-satisfaction and God alone knows what. [Insert your own examples here. I’m tired, ok].

Let’s take a step back for a moment. Social media is still important. It is, and will continue to, make an impact on our lives – how we view, consume and engage with both the media and the world in general.

But the likes of Twitter et al are also communication tools. And just as we all use our mobile phones to communicate in different ways, the same could be said for these assorted sites. They are a way of communication. No more, no less. How you choose to use them is up to you.

So, with that in mind, it’s not a surprise that PR (and journalism and the like) is naturally drawn to Twitter. After all, PR is a communications industry.

And, just with any new development, there will always be people in an industry who cotton onto it quicker than others. I guess you could call these people experts.

Whatever title you give them, these will be the people leading the way in training, enthusing and helping their colleagues or industry get the best out of the new technologies.

What’s quite interesting is some of the best people I know in this area have gone quite quiet over various social media outlets (God, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I can’t stop writing the term. I’ll stop it soon, I promise). And that’s probably as good an indication as any that social media’s moved into the mainstream.

It means that they no longer need to shout from the rooftops and are probably getting stuck into work and training and other such things. They’ve not moved on, they’ve just got more on their plates as every area tries to get a piece of the action. And this is a good thing, probably.

No doubt there will now be a slew of blog posts in the coming months claiming social media is dead (we’ve already had this with blogging). It’s not. It’s evolving.

Those who start proclaiming the death of social media are probably either trying to get attention or acting like the cool kid at school who spends ages raving about a band only to disown said band when everybody else realised how good they are. This isn’t the same as fatigue or frustration, which is what Bobbie appears to have.

I still love many aspects of social media. It’s integral to a lot of what I do. Twitter is increasingly useful for work, del.icio.us is a daily essential, I’m using wikis a hell of a lot more and I’ve only just realised how useful Tumblr can be.

But this does not mean I need to run around letting the whole world know I’ve just created a new wiki (although I’m as guilty as anybody of pimping my blog over the assorted networks).

This probably comes across as quite a jumbled post, but I think that’s a reflection of where things are at currently.

Social media tools are being absorbed into the mainstream but the principles guiding them are not new. Gossip is gossip, news is news, no matter how it becomes so. And talking about these wonderful new tools is easy. Doing something with them is considerably harder.

Twitter – and other sites you can lump under the SM umbrella – is useful, fun and interesting. Going around declaring yourself an expert in this probably isn’t. I removed the phrase social media enthusiast from my profile a week or so ago because I realised it made me sound like an utter wanker. And, frankly, I don’t need any extra help in that department.

I’ll finish by lifting Kat Hannaford’s comment from Bobbie’s piece, because it’s delightfully ranty, and pretty much spot on. And she’s one of my favourite, funniest Tweeters:

“Twitter and all the assorted other social networking brainfuckery has sapped the joy right out of the internet in recent months, and it’s taking all my willpower not to tell people to sod off, stop embarrassing themselves, and crawl back to the nook at Shoreditch House that they crawled out of.

Now if you excuse me, I’m going to go look at pictures of cats to reinstall a glimmer of hope within me about the benefits of the internet.”

Amen to that. Pictures of cats will still be popular no matter what stage of the web we’re in 🙂

Gary has been busy but he’s still found time to be elsewhere

He’ll also stop talking about himself in the third person now.

Over at Soccerlens I wax lyrical about the 10 greatest ever drawn FA Cup ties and the subsequent replays.

The words “You’re a bit of a sad geek, aren’t you” may be used in conjunction with this article. You’d probably be right.

I’ve also managed to irritate Manchester United fans. Makes a change from having Manchester City fans chasing after me with pitchforks. I’ve actually got nothing much against either club. They both do things well and not so well. And things are never dull with either of them…

I have got other stuff I’d like to write on here, but I’ve not had the time as I’m insanely busy. And I don’t commission myself to write a weekly piece. If I did, I’d have sacked myself by now.


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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