On Tuesday night there was another of our Bloggers’ Meetups, this time at the Silk Route-inspired Shish bar and restaurant in trendy Hoxton. This meant quite a trek from one side of London to the other following a hard day’s work, but it helped that the sun was shining and the tubes were all working. For once. Hallelujah to The God of Small Things.
Before long Epic Brother and I were downstairs at Shish, being greeted by Fashion Targets Breast Cancer reps who gave us smart little target badges, a couple of little target drinks vouchers and credit card-sized USB cards. PR Krista, who later made a presentation about the launch of the charity’s first online campaign, encouraged us to enter the evening’s raffle for target tee shirts. In case you’re wondering why it’s target this and target that, the target is the FTBC charity emblem so we saw quite a few of them in the course of the evening.
It was great to catch up with Splendid Chris and Formerly-of-Splendid Rax, who’s now enjoying a solo venture in PR, in between bites of gherkins and marmite on toast. Lolly and I ranted about the high cost of utilities mid-Credit Crunch and we chatted with Florentine Barbara about wine tastings and Italy, Photographer Peter who was quintuply booked up so had to leave early to attend his other four engagements of the evening, but not before enjoying the fruits of his drink vouchers. We even discussed creativity with newer meetup member, Creativity Consultant, Gregg Fraley. You can buy his book on creativity here.
Perched on a poof in the dim bar with North African-style lanterns swaying from the ceiling, I nagged Post It Note Politico Chris into writing a new book; so much so that the next time he sees me he’ll probably hide under a bus, moving or otherwise. Chris’s girlfriend, Nina, is working on a website promoting tourism in Mozambique, adding yet more diverse flavour to the evening’s conversation. Checking out one of the many charity fliers dotted about the place, Nina and I decided we liked the target tee shirts. They don’t look like the sort of tops you’d buy in the knowledge that 30% of the sale revenue is headed directly for a charity. Made by fashion retailers such as Top Shop, Warehouse, Marks & Sparks and River Island, the styles are current and perfectly wearable. Little did I realise how important that was to be later.
PR Krista took to the floor with great aplomb, explaining the story behind Fashion Targets Breast Cancer. It was established in 1994 by Ralph Lauren, who had lost his friend, Washington Post columnist, Nina Hyde to the dreaded disease. Hyde’s dying wish had been that Lauren should use his influence in the world of fashion to raise money for breast cancer research, campaigning and education. He kept his promise and the charity reached the UK’s shores in 1996. We heard about the importance of online outreach for charities such as FTBC, and interactive attention-grabbers, such as FTBC’s Million Model Catwalk, a site where you can put yourself on a catwalk with your favourite model/s and check out the latest in FTBC’s fashionable merchandise.
Following further discussion on how the blogging community can raise charity awareness, PR Krista presented a prize to a blogger called Derry who’d stated in 100 words or less the answer to:
Why should charities use online communications to support their cause?
His winning reply employed a quote by cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Krista and the FTBC team, who’d deliberated over which entrant should win, says that this statement “can be applied to both charities and to online groups such as bloggers.”
Derry took home the prize of a £100.00 shopping voucher kindly donated by FTBC partner, Marks & Spencer. Hopefully he’ll spend it on target merchandise for all his friends!
Next, the raffle was drawn (cue drum roll) and much to Andy Bargery’s dismay, my name was the tenth and final one out of the hat so I subsequently went home with a snazzy FTBC target tee from Top Shop. Later, when Andy told me he couldn’t believe my luck with meetup competitions, I said “I don’t know what’s going on. I never used to win anything before I joined this meetup group. Now it seems like I’m on a winning streak!” Long may that last.
A press release from Fashion Targets Breast Cancer states the following:
- Nearly 46,000 women and around 300 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK.
- Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK and 1 in 9 women in the UK will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime.
- More women than ever in the UK are surviving breast cancer thanks to better awareness, better screening and better treatments.
The last statement is particularly pertinent to me as I know two breast cancer survivors, one of whom has lovelier hair now than before she lost it through chemo, and for whom a subsequent breast reconstruction has been so successful that she is known to grab a hand and say “feel”, because she’s so proud of how natural she feels and looks following such a long and painful ordeal. I take my hat off to her, and to all such brave fighters of cancer, be it breast or otherwise. Their inner steel is awesome in the truest sense of the word.
For further information on how to support the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer cause, check out the relevant links below.
Ralph Lauren – this is one seriously gorgeous site. Even if you’re not a clothes horse, take a peek!
Million Model Catwalk – this is where you can buy FTBC merchandise and put yourself on the catwalk with your favourite models.
[Warning: you may like to grab a cuppa and take your time with this post. It’s a LONG one.]
When Andy Bargery announced the London Bloggers Meetup competition where entrants had to state why they felt they deserved a free ticket to Blog08, the day-long conference for bloggers in Amsterdam, I entered for fun. I never dreamed that playing around with Powerpoint with pictures of strange clogs and a tune called ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ could possibly win; it was surely too weird. Regardless, I put the entry together and dutifully sent it off, only to be shocked to the hilt when the bloggers’ website announced I’d won. I really thought Lolly had it in the bag because her entry was so social networking-tastic.
Of course, plenty of people are capable of winning competitions without promising to do something stupid if they win. Not me. In my entry I promised to wear clogs, All. Day. Long. at Blog08 and I also pledged to set up a blog about clogs. When I won, (and being a woman of my word), that’s exactly what I did. Would I do it again? If it involves wearing big wooden clogs painted with a Fresian cow pattern to an event where I know not a single soul, then probably not. However, Clogblogger, the blog I started as a result of the competition, has actually been a surprising amount of fun, so yes to that one.
Blog08 was the brainchild of two Dutch blog prodigies, Ernst-Jan Pfauth and Edial Dekker. Compared to me, these early twenty-somethings are babes in arms but their c.v.s are impressive. For instance, Ernst-Jan is Editor-in-Chief of The Next Web Blog and also of award-winning blog, Spotlight Effect, whilst somehow finding time to write an e-book about the Dutch blogosphere AND plan this blog conference. Meanwhile, his partner in crime, Edial, is an editor of Spotlight Effect and founder of MaptheGap, a mobile start-up. The three of us had chatted a bit online prior to me reaching Amsterdam, and the lads were encouraging about my wearing of clogs; they’d even put a post about me on the Blog08 site. However, Ernst-Jan’s face when he saw me in the Fresian Wonders is something I will not easily forget. His jaw dropped slightly, eyebrows raised high and the forthcoming high-pitched giggle showed that he hadn’t really believed that I’d wear clogs. “They’re…um…. COOL!” he told me, still laughing a bit, “and you match!” That was certainly true. I was black-and-white colour-coordinated with my clogs. Too cool for school. Or not, as the case may be.
Initially, my fellow bloggers looked me up and down and dismissed me as a viable person to talk to as soon as they spotted the clogs. I started to think I’d made a serious error of judgment in wearing these things. Then no one sat in my row so clog-related paranoia set in. There were plenty of rows to sit in about the hall, yet mine remained ominously empty as the rest filled up with bloggers keen to hear the experts’ views on the blogosphere. When a man did finally sit with me and chat a bit, I was relieved, but he made such a quick getaway at tea time that I couldn’t keep up in my cumbersome Klompen.
Meanwhile, the conference commenced and a tall bald guy in a white suit reminiscent of those worn by the hosts on Fantasy Island, introduced himself as Patrick de Laive, the Blog08 moderator. Then Pete Cashmore taught us his technique for building a blog empire the Mashable way (see my Cashing-in with Cashmore post), and a Dutch chap called Nalden took to the stage to show off what you can do with your blog if you have 150,000 Euros to burn and a talent for merchandising.
At different points there were panels of blogging aficionados inviting active discussion on current affairs of relevance to bloggers, but somehow they always got stuck on one topic so that the tweets from the Blog08 backchannel, being projected onto screens to either side of the stage, would get a bit antsy, referring to stuck records and the like.
The most debated topics were:
- Why aren’t there more women at Blog08? (this was an issue, both on-stage AND in the audience, so a journalist from England was pulled up onto the stage to represent women in one panel.)
- Can you be transparent on the web? (Some say yes; Loren Feldman says an unequivocal NO).
- Is blogging journalism and can journalism use blogging? (Fiery activity on this one; the general consensus was that the two are inter-linked and sometimes inter-changeable but the polar opposite opinions of yes or no could not see eye-to-eye).
- Is blogging dead? Well, obviously not because otherwise what were 250 of us doing at the conference?
- Is micro-blogging the new blogging? Only if you can’t spell or you work in PR, apparently. People either love to tweet or can’t be bothered. The audience was split, even though the Blog08 Twitter backchannel was unavoidably displayed to us with such lively tweet activity that it had to be hidden at times.
After a full-on morning, we bloggers needed sustenance and I have to say that lunch was a bit odd. By this point I’d made friends with some of the more clog-friendly bloggers, so I didn’t eat alone (thank my sainted clogs) and the buffet of filled ciabatta sandwiches was normal enough, but the drinks made me wonder. There were three groups of glasses filled with milk, orange juice or more milk. What? I’d never seen anything like it before, but as my new friend informed me, the Dutch love to drink milk. At least all this milk seemed to complement my cow clog theme. Meanwhile, in the corner of the lunch room, a couple of men watched me with suspicion, as if I might jump up and clogger them with my clogs at any moment. The sense of humour I’d so expected was lacking in such folk and, unfortunately for me, they weren’t alone.
Back in the lecture hall, we heard a range of speakers, their presentations varying greatly in both theme and viewpoint. Boris van der Ham, a member of the Dutch House of Representatives, talked about using his blog to connect with his constituents , something of particular interest given the 2008 US elections witnessing a huge boom in political blogging.
Scott Rafer, the CEO of Lookery, blinded us with science as he told us how his site provides a service to help site owners ‘amplify their audience data’. In explaining the importance of his particular tools, he vented frustration from his dealings with Facebook management, telling us that ‘they don’t care about anyone’. He also recommended considering carefully before signing up to the new Facebook Connect because of data storage concerns which Facebook staff aren’t sufficiently answering. Rafer claims that Facebook is helping Microsoft to gain market share against Google, but that’s hardly surprising in a competitive market. What interested me was that Facebook tracks every search made through its platform, linking those searches with relevant advertisers, which is how we end up getting so much SPAM. According to Rafer this will only intensify under Facebook Connect. Conversely, Rafer’s site, Lookery, was set up according to the strictest privacy laws on the planet, (which just so happen to be German), and they utilise and store their data according to those laws. When Rafer’s presentation ended, the audience sat slightly stunned. The Blog08 moderator thanked Rafer by telling him: “That was a really nerdy presentation!” Nerdy, perhaps, but I’ve already signed up to Lookery to learn more about my audience. So far, so good.
Next on stage was Loren Feldman, controversial vlogger-stroke-puppeteer, telling us how he got to where he is today. In a nutshell, he found himself to be an ageing actor with plenty to say about everything, so chose the blog/ vlog arena in which to say it. Most of the bloggers in the audience had already seen his Blog08 site vlog post appealing for our help as he claimed not to know where Amsterdam was (this was thankfully prior to his arrival). Did Björk come from Amsterdam? he pondered. I’ll have to dedicate a separate post to Feldman because he was one of the most refreshingly direct and unabashedly opinionated presenters at Blog08, making him one of the conference’s highlights.
Then we heard from Dutch internet millionaire and entrepreneur, Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, co-founder of The Next Web Blog and unnervingly wearing the same white suit as Patrick de Laive. It turns out they’re business partners, so this wasn’t a new Dutch trend, as had occurred to me might be the case. White suits on men are unusual enough in summer; in Amsterdam the weather outside was atrocious, so the white suits looked even more odd. To intensify the surrealism of this, Boris demonstrated his unicycle techniques by riding from one end of the stage to the other, and back again. Just when we were pinching ourselves to check we weren’t in some sort of Fantasy Island circus hallucination, Boris started to explain why he thinks that blog prowess is next to godliness. It was a confusion of philosophy and theology, of technology and circus performance leading to the very special conclusion that (to himself, at least) Boris is God. Perhaps that’s why he wears white. This presentation was strange, yes, but forgettable? Not likely.
Moving swiftly on, an obviously jet-lagged Hugh MacLeod, cartoonist extraordinaire of Gaping Void fame, whose post ‘How to be Creative’ has been downloaded a million-plus times and is due to be published as a book next year, entertained us with his amusing doodles and ponderings on life. I’ll write a separate post about MacLeod, as some of his advice is wisdom on a stick.
It was the last presenter who made us all sit up and take notice at the end of this nine-hour blog-fest: Gabe Mac, self-proclaimed Bad Mother Vlogger, took the day’s Rockstar theme to the extreme as he pranced around the stage to a funky remix of a classic Scottish pipes tune. He wore streaks of blusher, serious eye make-up and twanged his Wii Air Guitar madly. He had our full attention. His siren of a sidekick sported bright red stilettos and figure-hugging leggings, dancing about him with a giant video camera, causing the feminists in the audience to tut tut and shake their heads. I think that was the point. Then Gabe Mac toked on a spliff rolled for him on stage by Stiletto Chick, crooning “good stuff, baby”, and any thoughts of audience fatigue left the room. Like him or hate him, we wouldn’t be bored by him.
Gabe Mac told us his vlogging evolution story which suitably began in Amsterdam but is now based in Madrid. We watched some of his own favourite posts and tolerated his thespian arrogance and shameless self-promotion. In summary, I think Gabe Mac was acting his pants off for us, but can’t really be sure, just that off-stage he seemed like a much quieter soul than he was projecting to us in his presentation. You probably need to decide for yourself whether or not he’s worth watching. Check the link at the end of this post to see what this Bad Mother Vlogger is all about.
Throughout the day a band of rock musicians called Love OD rocked us awake, literally, so that we’d soon OD-ed on their brand of ‘love’. However, as the theme for Blog08 was “Rockstars of the Web”, I suppose the first theme accessory must be a rock band, so there they were and, in keeping with said theme, the lone freebie handed out to everyone on arrival had been Blog08-branded guitar picks. Somewhat bemused as to what I’d use it for, mine went in my pocket, but I later saw someone wearing a bracelet made with lots of the picks and it looked fantastic. I’d found out too late that the dress code was ‘Rock star’ so hadn’t had time to change my clogs to something a bit zanier, however, at Heathrow I had bought a few rock guitar-shaped pins in aid of the charity, Ability Net, which uses technology to help people with disabilities, so I was wearing one of these to show willing. It also struck me as a suitable charity for bloggers to support.
In summary, Blog08 was a fascinating exercise in debating what’s hot and what’s not on the web today. Transparent or not, microblogger or not, there were strong opinions and plenty of voices willing to air their views. The presenters were a varied bunch, providing us with valuable insight into the blogosphere of today, and the audience was keen to participate. As this was an inaugural event, it’ll be interesting to see whether Ernst-Jan and Edial plan a Blog09. If they do, I’d be keen to attend, only this time I think I’ll leave the clogs at home.
The Next Web Blog: http://thenextweb.com/
Spotlight Effect: http://www.spotlighteffect.nl/
Loren Feldman http://www.1938media.com/
Ability Net: http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/
Gaping Void: http://www.gapingvoid.com/
Gabe Mac: http://gabemac.com/
This week I’ve been the lucky recipient of two meme requests for the same meme, so I’m going to kill two bloggers (not literally) with one stone and post my meme answer for both here.
The meme asks for three answers to each of three questions. Here goes.
1. Name your top three non-work websites.
Hmmm. Only three? That’s tough. In the interests of being fair to all the amazing blogs I read, I decided to restrict this to non-work and non-individual blog websites.
For TRAVEL I log on to Travelblog. This is where travel enthusiasts post about their trips as they happen. It’s great for travel planning because you can read about the real experiences of real people in real places, not just hyped-up travel journalism fuelled by freebie junkets.
For FOOD I’m currently reading the Britain’s Best Dish page at ITV.com. This is a great source of real recipes cooked by real people. I think you can probably tell that I’m quite into REAL.
For a GIGGLE I check out The Darwin Awards site. It never ceases to amaze me how people can meet the grim reaper in such incredibly stupid ways. I remember one tale about a parcel bomber who had to put a return address on his parcel bomb in order for the post office to accept it. The parcel was unable to be delivered, so it was returned to him. He didn’t recognise his own handiwork, opened the box and BOOM! I think you can guess the rest. What a doof.
2. Name your top three karaoke songs.
Well, karaoke + Epicurienne = not so pretty. I do recall singing California Dreaming at karaoke once. I think that was when Take That were still together. Then I had a flatmate with a karaoke machine, so I was forced into singing a bit more often at that time. If I have to sing something, then I quite like ABC’s The Look of Love and Don McLean’s American Pie (NOT the Madonna version. That was a mistake. Mind you, I’m sure mine is far, far worse.)
3. Name your top three weekend cocktails.
Why WEEKEND cocktails? I don’t drink cocktails that often, but if it happens to be a Tuesday evening and you pour me a great cocktail, I’m hardly going to say no. That would be rude. And silly.
The Epicurienne would have to be number one. How many people can say they have their own, bespoke cocktail? Thanks to Smirnoff, quite a few of the London Bloggers’ Meetup Group can… and I’m one of them. It’s basically a Smirnoff mule (Smirnoff red + gingerale) shaken with pineapple juice, chambord and strawberries. Deeeelish.
I absolutely cannot refuse a Mississippi Mudslide – tastes like an alcoholic chocolate shake, comprising a naughty blend of kahlua, baileys and (if you really want a kick) vodka, all blended with ice. I also love lemon martinis made with limoncello.
So that’s my three for three.
Now I have to name three more unsuspecting folk to carry on the three for three. I’m asking:
They’ve also challenged us to describe our local watering hole in 150 words or less, stating the reasons that keep us going back, sooooo I wrote a poem. No one said the competition entry couldn’t be in poetry… then again, none of the other entrants has waxed lyrical about a pub throughout their entire entry. So far, that is. The closing date is Friday 25th July, so perhaps there’ll be more poems by then.
Below you will see my entry, referring to Gordon Ramsay’s Warrington Pub, which is located altogether too close to our home. I love it there. It has an amazing polychromic front porch decorated with stunning art nouveau tiles, and a beautiful old double-sided bar in carved mahogany. Thank heavens it didn’t go All Bar One on us. We should treasure our old beauties like the Warrington. There’s altogether too much sanding of pub floorboards going on.
Before you find out what the competition prize is, I must now subject you to my first ever attempt at poetic pub reviewing:
The No-F-Words Warrington
The Warrington Pub down on Warrington Crescent’s
The local I frequent for R ‘n’ R.
The specialness lies in its Olde Worlde presence –
So different from cloned and identikit bars.
Last year it closed for some renovation,
As stellar chef, Ramsay, acquired the deeds.
For patrons whose interest is mastication,
The Warrington’s back feeding everyone’s needs.
It hasn’t gone posh with pretentious infection;
Builders swig next to the girls wearing Choos.
The staff will advise on your beverage selection
Whilst fielding your questions on Big Gordon’s news.
From dressed Cornish crab to a Casterbridge Ribeye
The Warrington should seldom disappoint.
The fishcakes are gourmet, they surely ain’t Birdseye
And old-fashioned bar snacks help add to this joint.
The only thing marring my Warrington visits –
A lack of expletives directed at chefs.
The atmosphere calm, there are no flying trivets
Or verbal abuse freely peppered with effs.
THAT’s precisely why I decided to enter this competition. I’ve always wanted to travel by airship. There’s something so Indiana Jones about it.