Apr 14

Running the London Marathon

London Marathon 2014

The day started off early! 5:30 wakeup to get 6:30 bus. I always prefer to be early and hate travelling in crowds and achieved this extremely well. Saw very few on the bus, tube or train and got to the meetup point 20 mins early, just before 8. So meet up with a few people from a running forum, plus with Angela, she’d volunteered to run with me – and I was extremely happy she did.

We entered the gathering area about 9ish, made the obligatory loo visit and then got ready – sun cream and vaseline. It was too warm to wear my throwaway clothes, which I’d dragged all the way there (and then took all the way back). made our way to Pen 9, and found a corner to sit and wait. When I’d entered, I had no idea what time I’d do, so probably put something close to 6, therefore we were at the back.

And we were off. I’d made the decision to run 9:50-9:55m/m as far as I could, knowing that I would fade and that’s what we settled into and pretty much managed for the nearly 30k. The first 5k was fairly quiet as we went through Woolwich areas, with the men yelling ‘hump’ making me smile, especially the kid who just kept up yelling. :-) Nothing much to report about the next 5k, we just kept ticking the miles down. the crowds around Greenwich were brilliant and my family had managed to get a spot right by the Cutty Sark so that was the first photo opp, even though by this point I was starting to look a little like a drowned rat, as I’d been pouring water over me in an attempt to keep cool.

London Marathon 2014

All the time we were playing dodgems, trying to get around people and at times we were definitely slowed by the crowds. In Surrey Quays, one guy ran right into the traffic island marker and took a very bad fall right in front of us, Angela helped him up (and then he did the ‘I’m OK’ and just limped on. I noticed there were lots of crowds around the shopping centre, assuming they’re combining their day out. And all through the earliest parts, heaviest crowds were round the pubs. I didn’t take any of the beer that was been offered though :-)

At Tower Bridge and I definitely had a emotional moment, very close to crying, but got through that and made sure I was smiling for the camera. At this point, I was definitely starting to feel it, half done, another half to go. It was time for another gel, which I was taking every 4.5 miles. The hips were starting to get sore (although they were fine at the end of the race) and from about mile 16 my arms and legs were basically pins and needles and there were times when I could not feel them properly – not a nice feeling at all! From about mile 17, my ability to sport gaps and move into them had started to go and I got stuck behind people a few too many times. From here, Angela switched from running with me at my pace to encouraging me and keeping me going!

I was having to dig in now and mental goal changing from finishing in a time, to just finishing. The heat was getting to me, I was feeling sick and pins and needles were getting worse. At 20 miles I did 30 secs walk and that was to try and shake some feeling back into the limbs. That then became the pattern for the rest of the way, it was my mental reward for making the mile. Saw the family again at mile 22(ish) and there was no pause for photo, it was a matter of keeping going! On and on, with more more people walking or trying to stretch out cramp. you could just feel the determination and grit to get to the finish here. The Blackfriars tunnel was good, loved the Lucozade balloons.

Onto the final stretch, the Embankment. I’d run along here a fair bit during training and now it was just full of people rather than cars, a far better picture :-) Everything was focused internally now, keep going, keep going, one step at a time. There was nothing in the legs at all, no ability to increase the pace. Although looking at the Garmin, I was moving faster than I thought! The last 3 miles were run at a pace of 10:33, 10:45, 10:45 which is still faster than my LSR pace, it just felt a lot slower. It was all about the mind games. 1 mile, it’s the run to Kew Bridge, 800m, it’s 2 laps. Round the final corner, wash hoping the sight of the finish would give me a boost, but no, nothing. Plod, plod, plod. Tried to raise arms for camera, nope, not happening. I’m still pleased with my final time though, 4:30:10 is pretty good. And I completely smashed the others from work :-)

Through the finish and the everything stopped. The legs didn’t quite want me to stay upright, so Angela and a friendly marshal supported me until I convinced the legs to work again! Timer chip cut off, medal collected (oh yes, I LOVE that medal) and bag collected. OMG, the walk to the end of the mall to get into the park, then the queues and crush to try and get somewhere. All I wanted to do is sit and have a drink and stretch out. Finally out, drink, snack, change the shoes as my feet were so sore! Then met up with Malcs (and others, I can’t remember!), and he and Angela made their way to the pub and I went to meet the family at the Help for Heroes meeting place, which was a welcome haven. Quiet, a seat, food, drink and a massage on the legs. I also got a second medal, as well as a round of applause as I walked in :-)

London Marathon 2014

My first marathon done, a wonderful experience even with the pain. So what could I do differently?

  • Don’t get injured! I missed about 4 weeks of training, at a point where it was high mileage and a lot of running on tired legs. So when I hit that in the race, I had no experience to fall back on.
  • Think far, far earlier about my race pace – and don’t change plans! I’d trained at 10m/m but given I wanted that as an average, started off quicker. Would I have finished quicker if I’d started off at 10m/m and then still slowed, I don’t know.

So what am I going to do now?

The goal for the summer is to build on my speed, with the aim of bringing my half time down as far as possible, Sub 2hrs should be pretty easy (I hope, but let’s see where I can get to) So I’m going to join in the local running clubs Speed work evenings – and hopefully get some coaching on form as well

I’ve got 3 halfs booked for September, with Ealing being my main focus. I’ll be running through the P&D plan for that. And I intend to keep the mileage up over the summer as well.

London Marathon 2014

Dec 31

Reviewing 2013

That’s it. The year is done, 2013 is over, 364 and a half days have been experienced. So that means it’s time to look back on my ambitions for 2013 and see if I achieved them! The framework was Change, Connect and Challenge, a way of structuring my thoughts for the year. Practically, I split these into 4 areas – physical, relationships, career, and experiences.

Physical

This was me in November.

This is me on Nov 2011 (I actually can’t find one from 2012)

I said that I was going to change physically, that I was going to get thinner and fitter and healthier. But I’ve said that in previous years too, what made this one different? The external pressures were the same, the internal monologue was the same, but this time, the INFORMATION I had was different and that changed the internal motivation. I could see far more about where I was and where I was going. As predicted, the FITBIT was the trigger. Not just counting inputs, but being able to assess output and then understand the balance between them made the difference in my brain. Every step counted, every piece of food weighed and assessed – and manage the gap.

The second element was finding exercise that was easy to add to my life. And that was not the gym, although I have used that a lot, but it was running. There was a random challenge from Juliet on a night out, about running a half marathon in September stuck on my mind and the following morning, I took a look at the site and entries had literally just opened. So I entered the Run to the Beat half. Which meant I had to train, had to have a programme, had to have more structure than a few gym classes a week. My sister also entered, which meant I now had a remote competitor to challenge on training too.

So I ran. I entered shorter races, I found out about parkrun and along the way, I put my name down for the London Marathon, (as of course, you never get in first time), as that had been a random fantasy every April as I watched people run.

I lost 4 stone (for non-Uk people, that’s 56lbs0. I ran my half marathon, and another 2 weeks later and then I found out that I HAD got into the marathon, so training continues…this journey is only just beginning!

My training miles

running

Relationships

Better, but still work to be done on this. Internet dating was a failure, did not do that at all well. But did better at getting out and seeing people

Career

The plans and development that were being discussed at the beginning of the year never came to fruition, opportunities changed and flexed. I spoke at a couple of conferences, about social media and preserving brand voice, had a number of articles published (through employer PR team) and was on TV a few times, again talking social media. So not as much as I wanted, but still, in the main, a good year. There will be major changes coming up though, but more on that when looking at 2014.

Experiences

The LOOP: I completed the bottom half of this, from Erith to Hatton Cross, but then put it on hold as I could not fit it in with the running training. I plan to complete in 2014.

Christopher Wren Churches: I did almost all of them in one mad day in December.

Japan: the trip to Japan was a major success! The race was brilliant, the country was amazing and I had a brilliant time! Just read the daily blog posts

What else?

  • I went to Barcelona to watch F1 Testing
  • I took trips to see cathedrals to York and Arundel
  • I had a go at learning to surf.
  • I was in the audience for the BAFTA TV awards.
  • I went to conferences: TEDx Houses of Parliament, Over the Air at Bletchley Park and Playful 2013
  • I went to Silverstone for the F1, Goodwood for the cars and Henley for the rowing
  • I ran around the Olympic Park for 5 miles and finished the run in the Olympic stadium
  • I got to drive the Jaguar F-Type for a weekend

All in all, a good year!

Nov 18

2013 – Week 46

Reading

Doing

  • It was a fairly quiet week. Had a small birthday celebration with a friend, where much wine was consumed and the world put to rights!
  • Went along to a book launch, for Adrian Hon and A History of the Future in 100 Objects. The book is great, inspired byt the BBC/British Museum series of a History of the World in 100 Objects. What could be the defining objects in the future?
    Future in 100 Objects
  • Watched the Scullers Head. A lovely day for it, blue skies and little wind.
    Scullers Head 2013

Training

  • 4.85m at 10:40min/mile. Steady lunch time job where dodging the tourists is still an essential technique
  • Used treadmill for intervals. 1.75m @ 8:49m 1m @8.34
  • A run to work, with 7.19m at 10:47min/mile
  • A steady recovery run at 3m at 12:02 min/mile
  • The Richmond Old Deer Park 10k race. Ran to a plan, which was to stay under 9:10 miles, pushed on in the last half to get a new PB by 3 mins with 56:26 min/mile. Then ran the 4miles home very slowly ;-)
    Old Deer Park 10k. Waiting
  • Predicted Marathon Time. The 10k race gives me a predicted time of 4:24:46, which is 7mins faster than previously.
Nov 06

2013 – Week 44

Week 44, the last week of October as the year slowly slips away

Reading

Doing

  • Friends and I had one of our irregular Chinese Buffet dinners. Best described as cheap and cheerful from a food perspective, you always know what you are getting as the menu does not change. It’s always good to catch up with friends and hear all the gossip
  • Went for a mid-life checkup. Or rather another trip to the doctors to take all the bloods. Just getting the usual things checked through.
  • Took a trip up to Milton Keynes to see another friend for Saturday lunch and a walk along the canal (a short one!). More gossip, more talk about what’s good and bad at work, more talk about cars.

Training

  • 4.14m (10:24min/m). Run into work, this time from Sloane Square, what you have to do when the trains aren’t running!
  • 4.86 (10:15min/m). Lunchtime run around the bridges.
  • 7.29m (10:37min/mile). This was actually 2 runs. First of all, slow jog to Richmond along the river to get to Park Run. then fast 5k for park Run. the aim of the morning was to see if I could beat my PB after running to the event. And I did! By a whole 12secs, with 27:54. So next time I run it with fresh legs, expect to be faster than that.
  • 9.3m (12:30min/mile). Long slow run to finish the week. Legs were tired after the efforts of the day before.
  • Predicted Marathon Time. I use McMillan Running to predict race times and plan training paces. Using Saturday’s 5k pace, it gives me a predicted time of 4:31:51, which is 12mins faster than my time predicted from my half marathon.
Oct 05

Tokyo Day 1

Tokyo - Day 1 - Senso-Ji

After landing in Tokyo this morning, I can say that the extra money spent on flying Premium Economy was well worth it. I got some sleep (thanks to super-duper earplugs that managed to block out most of the crying and screaming baby) plus enough room to get comfortable.

It was an easy trip into town to the hotel, thanks to the clear instructions from Inside Japan, the organisers of the self-guided tour. We arrived to find our welcome pack, our final set of train tickets and a lovely set of chopsticks.

I then managed to get out for a run, thinking that was a good a way as any of staving off the need for a nap. Then we headed for the shrine of Senso-Ji, which is about 10 minutes from us for a quick wander round. A street of market stalls led up to the shrine, which was packed with people.

Purifying themselves – left hand, right hand, wash out the mouth.

Tokyo - Day 1 - Senso-Ji

Wafting Incense at themselves. They could buy the sticks for 100Y, light them then add to the heap. The man kept them all together and kepta decent fire going.

Tokyo - Day 1 - Senso-Ji

Telling their fortunes – at least, this is what i think they were doing. They shook a box to select a marker, which directed them to a draw with sheets of paper. The paper told them something – loads of people were photographing them – then they twisted them up and tied them to the rods

Tokyo - Day 1 - Senso-Ji

A quick bite to eat and now back at the hotel.I’m trying to stay awake, Sofia has succumbed to sleep – she got very little on the plane.

That’s it for day 1 really. we’ve got a lot more planned for the next 3 days!

Sep 25

SMW13: Social, Sport and ROI

Hosted by:Richard Ayres, CEO Seven League @7League @richardayers
Panel: Xavier Bidault, NBA @NBAUK; Abigail Sawyer, The Jockey Club @TheJockeyCLub @ajesawyer ; Richard Clarke Arsenal @Arsenal @MrRichardClarke

The premise of the panel
Is the ability to influence your sporting community and the wider media landscape through social media is a blessing or a curse?
Is there risk for of raising your head above the parapet? Do the haters make it hateful or exciting?
What do sports and their participants want out of social media? Reach? Retention? Revenue?
And what about all the participation in sport that goes on every day but isn’t professional – is there more return to be had on the social media investment of all those runners, cyclists, swimmers, golfers… ?
And how on earth do you measure engagement anyway, when all the platforms’ analytics are black boxes.

Some opening examples.

  • Chicago Fire Soccer Club – team getting some stick. They posted a 1500 word rant about it on their website. Went national
  • You get ManCity putting hashtags onto kit and pitches
  • ECB did #rise tag during the ashes. They made it ubiquitous. In the background and in the media content
  • MLS brings data, fan social and pictures, commercials and corprorate messages all together. The have sponsors involved, giveaways etc
  • Mass participation sports, accelerating usage, eg Limelight sports. it connects chip to social tweets, puts tweets from your network onto screens as you go through checkpoints
  • Then you have the power of the celebrity, athletes etc. eg StewartCink 1.13m followers, good at it, good at adding corporate messages in it

Richard Clarke, Arsenal

  • Managing editor for Arsenal football club. manages the strategy, head of content etc. set the editorial tone across website, tv, print, social media, apps, etc. anything digital or physical that communicates. Strategy is Reach, engage and monetise. Job for Clarke is the first 2. Wants to create arsenal fans around the world. Is a large arsenal fan, from age of 5. from age of 10, wrote reports. For last 12 yrs have written Arsenal reports
  • Reach: site 6m, facebook 18.5m, google 1.4m, newsltter, .5m, twitter 2.8m, TV 100m
  • The TV content goes onto website later. TV show every match weekend, around the world (not UK). Online video only to digital members.
  • Have multiplatform approach. Pushing hard on mobile – have responsive design introduced this year. Also on instagram, YT, soundcloud and pinterest,
  • Instagram has .25m followers. all taken from RC mobile phone. don’t use professional shots, does gritty personality shotss. Added captions and narrative around them. 1-2 pictures per day
  • YT: had channel on tour. got a lot of engagement. up for 3wks when touring far east. footage on that was viewed extensively – 20yrs worth if viewing in 3 weeks.Just developing soundcloud. Pinterest are there, looking to be more active
  • Twitter takeovers, they have a player take over and answer lots of questions via the official channels. they have 2 people doing them, writing the replies, curating the responses. Will do vine video that is tweeted, intro. They are rapid turnaround., Don’t give much notice, don’t tell fans until just before. Video put up rapidly. Response has been phenomenal, use specific hashtag for each payer #askxxxxx They changed it from #twittertakeover to the personalised one and it changed the takeup completely. They often trend globally duing the period of time – they keep the time short and that drives to trending.
  • Looking at the tour videos, they often got players to voice the videos, to connect player and fan.
  • Video do not get a lot of engagement, compared to Instagram, a good picture is better engagement. easier to do images.

The Jockey Club and Abigail Sawyer

  • Group digital manager of the Jockey Club, exists under royal charter. all money goes back into the sport. Do lots of things, have 15 racecourses, aintree, epsom, cheltenham, etc.
  • Vision: underpins what they do on social media. They play a role to make British racing the best it can be for the next 50 years and belond. Stopped being regulator about 8 years ago, focus on making the best of the assets. So not often know who they are, or want to complain to them etc. They are at the beginning of a brand journey to be more consumer facing and social is key. want people to say they have gone racing with the Jockey Club (rather than at a course)
  • Look at Frankel. He is a hero to a lot of fans. he transcended the sport in the way he was dominant. Frankel would put about 20% on a gate if racing. Unlikely to seethe likes of Frankel again
  • The digital vision, it is about helping people understand the sport. about 6m people go racing across British courses, 1.8m with JC courses. only 20% are committed race goes. by getting them to understand the sport, you can move the casual to committed
  • Platforms. Focus on Faceobok and Twitter, then use Soundcloud, YouYube and Flickr to enrich the content. There are 2 distinct audiences, the industry and fans. Racing took social to their hearts early, with trainers and jockets being on there first, then the journalists, then the punters, then the rest of the fans.
  • Facebook – the Frankel factor. They use history, heritage and heroes on their Facebook pages. A picture of Gingert McCain/Amberley House to help promote Crabbes Ginger sponsorship. The community love to appreciate their heroes. so they used ginger/Amberleigh house who they knew would be popular to help this sponsorship. They want to get people behind the scenes. Eg Frankel at stud. About 20k fans.
  • Twitter is the industry platform. but there are so many industry people on Twitter that is hard to get cutthrough. So they use their access to do this.
  • Moving forward…They have lots of rich content, but people have jobs to do and can’t necessarily have time to grow.. They have launched the going, multimedia, multiauthor blog, the idea is to bring to life the stories around the industry, shedding light into the areas. So interviews and pictures and stories around the people who work in it.
  • At the moment, they have soft metrics. Social Media from the racecourses, it is selling tickets packages etc, at the top level it is about selling the bigger story. That may change. They are looking at improving sites, making it easier. they are the soft sell into the hard sell.

Xavier Bidault,NBA EMEA head of digital

  • Global brand. 760m fans, Games/programming in 215 countries. games.produce own tv channels. 10k hours annually of content. 16 local web sites. They need to adapt to the multiple fans, US is different to Philippines. They try and do lots of entertainment, not just the game. they run is as a sports entertainment brand.
  • Reach on social channels – 455m globally across ALL acocunts and platofrms. 191m Facebok. 14m in instagram, 117m Twitter., YT5.8m. A lot of fans are outside US. The finals had 7.8m tweets around it
  • Objectives: growth, content. engagement, partnerships. Some fans only ever have social media touchpoint, never watch games or go to official content. They produce locally relevant content, so US sees different to UK. They have good relationships with the platforms. They see social media as a servicing tools for media partners. They try and include media partners in social strategy.
  • Different content for diff platforms. Create exclusive content for YT, eg behind the scenes and focus on bloopers. On Tumblr, which is slightly older audience, then pushing the legends and the iconic shots. Pinterest, skews slightly female, and see more shopping and display of products than any other platforms. Instagram used in video and will be experimenting, eg video debates.
  • Top fan wants on FB: player stories, video top 10s, behind the scene, infrographics. Fans share photos and videos (photos more)
  • Top fan wants on Twitter: tune in reminders, best time is 2 hrs before the game (they know they get more viewers this way). Popular are real time video highlights, realtime updates, links to breaking news, Push often within 30secs. They can sponsor these videos.

Questions from the Audience

Q: What are the resources
Jockey Club: one person abby in comms. plus 1 at each course part time. Use agencies for specific campaigns
NBA: in US, in house, marketing depart. plus involve other departments. outside US, have 13 local Facebook pages. depends on market, sometime with agencies, partners etc.
Arsenal – have 30 people, 15 on editorial. 7 journs, half production. all internal. Social is mostly journalists. some consultancy from agencies.
Don’t use agencies a lot as they need real fans who know the sport on the accounts. it’s little things example from Jockey club, little things like switching images, horses race one way round a course

Q: will you start doing UK live updates (NBA)? is there an audience at that time.
A: they do it for the finals, and a few events. putting more resources in EU in general, eg the UK. you will see live stuff.

Q: is there commercial calculation around social that is value back to the partners?
A|: NBA do a lot of sponsored content. fans hate post about sponsors that has nothing to do with game or event, it needs to be great content that is sponsored. not just content around the sponsor. Most of the time it is part of bigger package, try and attribute value, but often part of bigger value.

Q: Are sponsors increasing asking for social.
A: Arsenal. yes, similar to NBA. our partners work together to come up with content that is relevant and works well with players. Some stuff has been brilliant! testament to relationships, this has mainly been around video.

Q: wifi enabled stadiums standard in US, only just in the UK. Will UK want to watch sport like this
A: Asenal – yes, it would be great. it’s hard to get signal consistently. it would open up the scope a lot more on every level, eg around monetisation. There is now the expectation of this. Sees huge opps for fan in stadium and their mates, connecting inside and outside. No stadium yet here can do that
A: host – business case if longer scale, and few sports will do that. difficult to get them to commit. It’s more than internal beleif, than anything else. They are not sure that fans will want to experience the game with it. but there is plenty of time usually to look at phones etc, even if onbly for 15mins at halftime, you could build a good case.

Q: what are your objectives..it was not clear
A: Jockey – growing reach. plus indi campaigns for monetisation, eg xmas, showed a good return Reach 10. Engagement 10. Revenue 5
A: NBA: bit of everything depends on country., So UK. Reach/rentention mainly. next step is monetisation, push to official destination, to get people to watch Revenue – 4 in UK (US, more about revenue. audience already engaged, high reach. not primary focus to grow. It is about sponsors and revnue)
A: Arsenal. decent reach want more. Want to retain and engage as key one. Reach high, engage extremely high, monetisation mid level

Q: what systems are you using for tracking and monitoring? what CRM systems? How do you get data out of social
A: Arsenal – the digital membership..you had to pay previously for access to AV. it was 3.99 month, then linked to memberships scheme around ticketing scheme. Now it is free for all registered users, as from the summer. So this gets the data. Uptake has been good.

Q: different social platfomrs. So you have a way of monitoring who is active on the pages. how many oare paying tickets etc, buying merchandise. Whichis most effective platform
A: Aresenal – there is a lot of work going on around CRM. done by commerical team. Have not seen that insight yet.
A: NBA: tonnes of data but hard to combine. how to cross reference etc. working on it
A: Racing – looking at it. new CRM tools as moving to new ticketing system but can be really dififcult to analyse, with people having user names etc

Q: how do you manage content when having bad press
A: Arsenal – difficult, but he is a fan, so gives him perspective on the values and traditions and the way the club presents itself. more difficult, importnat to keep offering a consistent product and stand for what you beleive in. they have a lot of positive stuff to beleive in
A: Racing – they own the venues, but don’t own the ‘players’. often don’t know who is there. Thye have to look at if this is a customer service issue, as venue owner. they make sure person is given attention if complain. More general negativity, they have key mesages and that they believe in but also fans as well. Elements where you want to share emotions and show that. Eg horse welfare they are well positioned, will engage constructive argument

Q: is there a robust response plan?
A: Racing…you can always have bad days. but how you deal with people is your brand. they work hard on the people and their repsonses and how to turn criticism to advocay.
A: NBA: try to have constant tone across all the accounts. thre is a lot that they can’t do (eg comment on transfers) we do same with sponsors. We get less than some, as they are the league, rather than a team. get some back comments, they try and turn them around in the same way
A: racing – one of the most powerful thing you can do on FB is show them you are human. Repsond with a name. so they know they are talking to a person and horse racing fan.

Q: on twitter account, you only follow 5 persons. why? (arsennal)
A: Arsenal – fair comment. it’s a bit of a legacy. started at the beginning and it grew and hten there was too many pople to have greater meaning. They do monitor sentiment on everything that happens, e see replies and DMs. it grew quicker than expected.
A: Racing – they follow industry people back, it’s not practical. Twitter is about listening and comms with industry,

Q: do you as a club, etc and your sponsors seek to take hold of players accounts. why or why not?
Host – it used to be covered under image rights, now standard contract does not include digital rights for a football players.
A: Arsenal – asked some of the players ot use the hashtag. They used it on the tour. Until they signed urzel, they did not have a player with more than a club., but everyone else had. they asked the players to retweet the officual channels for the tour. They took a player to film a video around London, the player started taking picture and it turned into a live twitter event
A: racing. all the jockeys are all on there, all tweeting away. There are strict integrity rules, eg not allowed phones at certain parts of racing day, It is about public data. you can go to Newmarket and watch the horses working on the gallops, so may know more about horse than jockey. They are really good for sport, they get involved, they are advocated.
A: NBA – players are powerful media entities. NBA does not control what they do and say. Top players love it, very good at it know what to post (even if using team). they have a few rules, eg not during or immediately before a game. they induct all players and this includes social media etc. A lot of players do contact them for guidance

Q: In some countries, you can’t access facebook, in other counties, there are more popular platforms.

A: NBA – work with biggest platforms in china. In russia, use biggest platform, work directly with them, workthrough partnerships get specifc sites and social media. Those are the main 2 big exceptions.
A:Arsenal – are on the chinese platforms. THey have a chinses journalist a lot of games, they do bespoke content, they do across the platforms.

Jun 05

LeWeb London: Julien Smith and Breather

Julien Smith, CEO, Breather
With a dynamic team such as Julien & Alex, their new venture is sure to be disruptive. Julien, a New York Times bestselling author, who’s work focuses on adaptation and change, but not the “think out of the box” clichés that most companies embrace. Instead, his work draws from a deep study of the adaptive ability of the human body, as well as evolution, biomimicry, and an observation of nature. Alex built the API for one of the world’s biggest web services, Twitter. He was one of the first people there, in 2007, and helped Twitter become what it is today. These two are a powerful combination, come hear the inside scoop on Breather!

Leweb London 2013 - Day1 morning
Photo by: “Luca Sartoni – http://www.heisenbergmedia.com/”

The city is the centre of what we do. It will grow bigger. Last year, in NYC, I ordered a meal from my phone, it was all paid for. I can order a cab anywhere via myphone. You can get coffee and pay via the phone. City have everything that is needed and few downsides.

But the big downside is what makes the city. It’s the people, a lot of people.   We like people, but not all the time. The growth exert and incredible pressure on the city. City evolves, and the question is what is it that a city will become, what will it have to become in order to support all this stuff. What the city has to do is solve the problem of people The greater the density, the more opps there are, but it then lacks private space.  And that is one of the key things we’ll need more of. In the coutnry, there’s lots of space, but none of city advantages.  Private space is broken.

When I’m a tourist, my options for private space is limited. Hotel? Starbucks? What space, what power?  If local, then have home, office, shops again. When you need space, there are few good solutions. If you need a phonecall and need to be quiet, there are few options.   So what can be invented?  It has to fit with existing structures to solve the problem   We need something better.  When we need privacy, we want it very badly.   What do we invent? It has to be small. It is to fit inside society.  It has to be easy. So why can I not get private space using my phone?

So this new company is a network of private spaces that you can unlock with your phone.  It’s a subscription model.  This is about being able to get private space on demand. It is what cities needs.  Cities will become broken without the option of private space on demand, You can unlock the space with the phone booking. No need for keys.

Jun 05

LeWeb London: Tech City

Joanna Shields, Chief Executive, Tech City Investment Organisation & Matt Cowan, Writer & Broadcaster
An interview with Joanna, again all about London and the start up scene – the role of TechCity. (There was little actual information/evidence – just a general talk)

Leweb London 2013 - Day1 morning
Photo by: “Luca Sartoni – http://www.heisenbergmedia.com/”

Some points:

  • They have changed the investment rules, to make it easier to get equity
  • They are looking for top 50 companies to provide some direct help, who want to list and will get support and mentorship
  • The gov believes that entrepreneurship is a way of growing, it is a change agent. The Tech sector is growing at 11% pa.
  • TechCity is a group of neighbourhoods in East London. It is about community rather than gov initiative. Recognise that it is happening and providing support. It is happening across the country -there are 22 clusters.
  • There is a dramatic shift in employment – growth businesses are changing. There is no job for life. So we are encouraging looking at entrepreneur as a valid career path.
  • UK is very self-deprecating, we don’t shout out about success. Unlike the US. What is happening here…Financial, fashion, 3d printing, You start to see strength from the traditional areas.
  • Changing priorities: we support all the way from ideas through to launching on the stock exchange. We cna support on the journey. We are going to be focusing on the skill side. About how to be great product managers, define specs, to understand consumer and market requirements.
  • Learning: looking at pulling together the programmes and make people more aware of them,
  • Silicon Roundabout: we are consulting with community, to understand what the changes and upgrades should be
  • Other places: we are working with 22 clusters across the country. We can represent them to gov etc
May 21

OMG..they changed Flickr!

If you want to protest against the Flickr changes, it appears the best way to do so is to KEEP PAYING THE SUBSCRIPTION!

Somewhere in Yahoo!, there’s a spreadsheet. On it, there’s a financial model for Flickr. Bought by Yahoo all those years ago, left in a corner with only the occasional bit of love, Flickr was one of the originals, one of the few where you could pay for a service. But it was never really upgraded. Until now.

Now, someone has tweaked the model, looked at the projected lines and decided something. They’ve decided the subscription service is costing them money. That it is not worth keeping it. BUT, they must have concluded..BUT…if we can just get some MORE people putting MORE photos on there we should make MORE money from displaying ads against those photos to MORE people (and with less people who are Pros, that gives us MORE people). But they couldn’t get more people using the free service. They couldn’t attract all the new generation used to Facebook and Instagram and all these places where they weren’t restricted to the last 200 photos only and where it was more about the person than the photo.

So the business objectives were set:

  • get rid of these pesky kids pros, who want to pay money for a decent service. They cost us in processing the money, in providing customer service support, for maintaining additional code to not service them ads
  • Encourage more people to put more photos up on the service, grabbing the younger demographic by making the site look ‘cool’ and more like the photo services they are all using without restrictions.

So change they did. A redesign to make it look more like other services and that they know the old pros will HATE. And a clear message to everyone to stop paying us money and go to the free service. Because given the messaging and the changes in account, that’s surely what they want us all to do!

The message in the email:

As a Pro Member, your subscription remains the same. You’ll enjoy unlimited space for your photos and videos, detailed stats and an ad-free experience. However, you can switch to a Free account before August 20, 2013

The message on the screen:

Flickr doing its best to make you go away

Flickr doing its best to make you go away

there are changes to the accounts. You can no longer buy a Pro-account (although the people who have them get to keep them as long as they keep paying). You can buy an ‘ad free’ account at double the current cost. Mashable has a good summary of the changes in Flickr account types:

Type Free Old Pro New Subscription
Cost Nothing $44.95 for two years if you have it set up already $49.99 for 1 year
Storage 1 TB Unlimited. Although different sections say different things 1 TB
Image Upload size 200MB 50MB 200MB
Video upload size 1GB 500MB 1GB
Ads? Yes No No
Stats No Yes No
Replacing images No Yes No
Archive Hi Res No Yes No

Those are the changes – some make the free account a better option – but buying a subscription does not seem worth it.

The biggest outcry has been about the redesign. On my Twitter feed, it was mixed. Searching for immediate reactions last night showed a mainly positive reaction to the designs first impact, but reading the comments on the Flickr forum is about 99.5% negative. The people commenting here are the old pros, the ones that have been around a while. They typically don’t react well to change, but this is bigger than usual and the anger is far more than usual.

I also don’t like the redesign – I liked the clean nature of the old version. But what I hate most is how half-cocked it is. It’s a ‘Minimally Viable BIG redesign’. They’ve changed the home page to be a photostream. They’ve changed your profile page with header image and photo stream.. But everything else they’ve just slapped on a header and left it. it’s as though they were told they HAD to have it ready for yesterday and just get it out there. So it’s not been thought through. Now they have the home page looking the right to attract the new people who are used to more recent photo services, but it’s creaky and slow and seems to fail at times. My guess it we’ll get more changes as they role it out to the other parts. But in the meantime, it’s doing its job. Attracting new people, putting off the longer-term users.

Whenever there’s been a major change, there have people who have protested by leaving the service, stopping their subscription. However, given what appears to be a major push in focus, it seems the best way to protest is to KEEP paying them money as a Pro account, stay ad free and prevent them serving ads to you.

May 17

2013 Week 11

Mar 9th through to Mar 15th

Behind, behind, behind. I do so much typing at work I get home and I do nothing but read. Input vs output. What is best. So what was I reading?

Reading

  • Social Media Sustainability Index – a look at how big companies are using their social media presence to communicate their sustainability credentials. The challenge is how you communicate a complex and intertwined set of initiatives using platforms that are, by the nature, usually a place for short attention spans
  • Engagement Rate – a metric you can count on.. An argument from Social Bakers, one of the leading social metrics companies, about how their Engagement Metric is one you should consider. The word engagement is used extensively and different people use different meanings but a RATIO is far more useful than the raw numbers from Facebook
  • The difference between strategy and tactics. by Jeremiah Owyang. For many a difficult thing to get. As I’m currently looking for a new strategist, a pertinent question.
  • Why the Comms Agency Model is Ripe for disruption by Drew Benvie. Perfectly placed as Drew launched his new agency, but valid questions to ask
  • The science of Junk Food Lovely long read in the NYT on how junk food takes a lot of science to get right.

Doing

Feb 11

2013 Week 6

Where’s it going. the diary clicks forward day by day and the year creeps forward. Week 6, that’s over 10% gone already.

Reading

  • A Primer on the US TV business. A great rundown on all the different players in the US TV market. Even if you don’t agree, what they are doing impacts the rest of the world.
  • Miller Lite, NASCAR and Brad Keselowski – how a off-hand tweet from a car led to a focus on social media for the brand and increased access for the fans.
  • Hashtags and the Superbowl. Did Twitter win the Superbowl marketing, or was it just the hashtags, which are multiplatform
  • Richard III confirmed! . The Channel 4 TV programme was depressingly light on the science, preferring to focus on the ‘personal journey’ of Philippa Langley and not painting her in the most flattering light. The Leicester Uni site fills on some of the gaps. The forums of the Richard III society also make interesting reading.
  • Microsoft Research India are running a very interesting experiment in India, using mobile to understand social platform usage, collaboration and organising processes in a country with minimal internet access
  • Applebee’s Social Media Meltdown. I have no idea what went wrong at Applebee’s, (I’m guessing they’ll blame an intern at some point), but they fundamentally forgot a few basic rules about social media and getting into pointless arguments!
  • Something that totally rings true to me – Social Media influencers are not really on Facebook. Yes, they’ll have accounts, but they’re active in ‘long-form’ as well as status updates. The article mentions how ‘brand marketers are using comScore/Nielsen to identify influencers’ which doesn’t work for niches. We do a lot of audits and detailed searches, with a few weeks of monitoring before we produce influencer lists. not as simple as going to a single ‘list’ but we make sure we understand who are are talking to.
  • Why Moshi Monsters works. Liking this look back on the Moshi Mosnter success

Doing

  • I went to see Old Times at the theatre, with Kristin Scott Thomas, Rufus Sewell and Lia Williams, Having not read up on the play before hand, just noting that there was a mystery about the interpretation, spent a lot of the time trying to work out the premise. I decided they were ghosts, in some way, but that’s not one of the ‘official’ explantions.
  • Visited the ‘London Gin Club‘ for the first time, with some colleagues. There was disappointment that there was only 1 martini on the menu, as it’s basically a Gin and Tonic bar. We tried one of their taster flights. Good gin, interesting venue, needed one more person working as service was slow.
  • Thursday night was spent at the IPG Inter-Agency quiz night. 9 rounds (there was supposed to be 10, but they couldn’t get the music to work), of all sorts of love/Valentine’s related questions. Including the final round which was all about naming positions from the Kama Sutra. Some issues over questions being wrong (due to poor search ability), but a good fun evening. Even better – we WON! Well, we got second, but we still WON…tickets to see Maroon 5 at the O2. :-)
  • Finally, did section 2 of the LOOP – Bexley to Petts Wood. Pictures are on Flickr

Walk the LOOP 2 - Bexley to Petts Wood

Feb 03

2013 Week 5

So that’s one month down, 11 to go. January, the month of resolutions and changes; a month of waiting for payday as Christmas and a usual early December payday take their toll. How was it for you?

Reading

  • Article from the New York times on quiet coaches. Totally agree with this, that it is a last bastion of quiet. And people just don’t get it!
  • In this Forbes article, transmedia storytelling is “a larger universe of characters and settings that keep the fantasy consistent across multiple forms of media, including comic books, websites and videogames” and the work includes spendign a year writing the story behind the 30 second ad that is Coke’s Happiness Factory in order to spin it out. Nice work, but that’s transmedia storytelling is probably not the description that most practitioners would use!
  • Unilever continue to push on the sustainability front, making it far more a core part of their business rather than a thing they say. I’ve been in talks by Unilever about using social to drive recruitment – and sustainability was front and centre in their talk, so they include it everywhere. Marketing Week reports on their second phase as they start using brands in their Sustain Ability Challenge
  • I’ve seen The Hacker’s Diet getting a lot of recommendations for being a no-nonsense guide to working out the best way of dieting. I’m working my way through this and it’s pretty good.
  • We spend a lot of time explaining to clients why various Facebook posts behave the way they do…and then Facebook change the algorithm and we have to change again. This article on Edgerank changes by Thomas Baekdal is one of the more interesting I’ve seen
  • This is more of a list of things to read rather than something I’ve read yet. But a list of 102 Best Non-Fiction articles of 2012, compiled by Conor Friedersdorf is great.

Doing

  • I took the plunge and bought some new running shoes, going to a specialist shop and getting my gait assessed on a treadmill with video. Picked up a nice light pair of Brooks trainers and so far they’ve been great. My exercise programme hit a small snag at the start of the week, with a cold grabbing hold of me, but back onto it by the end. The results for month 1 have been great. My running is coming along, my diet changes have been pretty strightforward and I’ve lost 12 lbs in that time. Expecting month 2 to be slower on losses, but will continue to consolidate habit changes.
  • I was a last minute addition to a work ‘outing’, at the European Sponsorship Awards. The work with UPS over the Olympics had been nominated for both the Business to Business and the Business to Employee categories and we ended up taking home a highly recommended for the B2B work.
  • Final outing to the week was to catch up with an ex-team member, with all the rest of the team. I’d still not fully recovered from the cold so did not stay long, but brilliant to catch-up with Mona
Jan 27

2013 Week 4

Reading

  • A list of the 33 most creative women in advertising. (Why 33, no idea!). I’ve worked with one (Colleen DeCourcy) and have loved the work of the others. Women make up only 3% of creative directors in this male-dominated industry, but there are slow moves to change this
  • The US PGA enforcing bans on reporters using social media on the course – at a time when they are expanding their usage. Confusing messages for fans of a sport
  • Coke’s view of mobile. Some great learning here. Somethings I’m continuously saying to the teams at work – everything has to be considered mobile first, you can’t use the can’t use it standalone and you have to think integrated, both within a single campaign and across all your campaigns. that is, don’t build an app for every new campaign, think how you will fit them all together over the months and years.
  • Thinking about Twitter competitions and best practice for running them. Some helpful legal guidelines came up about running promotions.

Doing

  • Work wise, the week was fairly quiet. We had training for the new format in reviews and I started to prepare stuff. We had some feedback on a pitch and need to do some more stuff. (keeping it deliberately vague). I got involved in a quick turnaround project that needs some designs/content for early next week. Keeping my fingers crossed for that one!
  • We had a visit from the group CEO, who was recently appointed. He’s making his way round the various offices to see what the different companies do. Of course, this meant a quick tidy up all the office! But we didn’t do any decorating :-)
  • Gym attendance was good this week – 4 sessions done. Had a second go at Pilates and decided that I like it and will keep going. Also had my first go at spin, but that won’t be continuing, as my legs don’t suit the pedals, it locks my feet in the wrong position, causing pain! To continue with training, I went and got some proper running shoes as well, which should minimise issues
  • Dinner out with friend this week at J Sheekey. A great meal – and we’re committed to dining out more often as part of our 2013 changes
Jan 10

Paul and the Mont Ventoux

In September 2012, my bother-in-law Paul flew out with 2 friends to tackle the challenge of Mont Ventoux – climbing the mountain 3 times on 3 different routes in 1 day. The night they arrived, off out for a ride, he got knocked off his bike by a truck. He was airlifted off out, with a blood-clot on the brain that left him in a coma for 3 days. Worse, it completely destroyed his shoulder – even after operations, nerve transplants and reconstructive surgery, he still has no use of the arm.

But he’s not letting that stop him finish his challenge. He’s planning to go back in July this year and complete it. He’s got a support for the arm and is currently tackling the problem of safely connecting the arm to the handlebars, so is looking for advice for that and he’s started back into training!

Article in this week’s Express and Star (not online for some reason)

Oct 19

Playful: Siobhan Reddy and Making New Things

Makes console games for a living. Talking about making new things. The trials and tribulations. Why do we make new things? How do we choose what we like and where does that come from. Our taste develops though life. Things that were big when younger may not be stuff you like now. But they helped form you. We make games because we get inspired, we want people to experience what we have made and be touched them. Every game made by someone who has set out a creative goal at some point.

At Molecule, we make creative games. That is our mission. But where did it come from. Not a focus test; not from predicting trends. It came from the people and their likes and needs. Little Big Planet, made because when younger the designer made things – he wanted to create things where people can create. When you make something from that personal place you can make something that can have a lot more impact, be unique. We make things because we have to.

Last year, we moved away from LBP, and started to make a new game with a second team. Called Tearaway. It’s a delivery adventure through a papercraft world. It encourages you to interact. And can build in the real world too. (Due out next year)

Learnt 3 things on the journey. When doing something new need to have personality and conviction. The project was not financially driven. It was creative. It was a personal thing to let one of the team create own world. There were many rabbit holes in the development. Took wrong turns. Too big, or did not work well etc. Started off with ideas they loved. Added to them, kept adding. Lost way slightly and therefore lost some confidence. They could have listened to lots of advice and different opinions. But they decided to strip back all of the noise, take it back to the original stuff that got them excited. They focused on the pure game design. It sounds simple, but it is so easy to get pushed off path and go down the safe route.

Second was about Finding the Jam. This was about how they behaved. In early stages, a development team acts like a band. They jam together. Tey need everyone to bring their passion and skills and share with everyone. You need to create an environment where that can happen. You need the right people – and remove the wrong ones. Bands having tension and this can be positive. Try not to freak out when there is tension, that is normal. They had all worked together, but it was a new structure with a different goal. YOu need to make sure that people are not attacked, but flipside to tension is creativity. Hardest moments as team were the moments before we stripped down the design. We now still argue, but it’s working through problems etc. Now it is all happening. Finding the jam was a journey.

Third was the Beautiful Abyss. she loves jumping into the creative abyss, starting something new. You need curiosity and excitement to do it, as you never know if it will work it or not. You need to have faith and believe what is being created will be great. There will people and companies who don’t take risks, how can you be the one who takes the risks. You need to back talented and creative people and find ways to let their creativity and personalities shine through. Main learning…We Just Have To! Don’t be afraid of audiences, of trying things.

Oct 04

SMWLDN: Social approach to engaging current and prospective employees

My second session at Social Media Week London was organised by Unilever and took a look at their work in using a social to employee engagement. There were 4 separate sections to this; a look at employee feedback mechanisms, recruitment, graduate recruitment and flexible working. Each was presented by a different set.

A social approach to employee surveys – Michael Silverman

  • Usually, providing feedback is boring. there’s too many numbers, not enough open questions. It’s a corporate black hole – where does the information go?
  • To activate the ‘wisdom of crowds’ – which is sort of what employee feedback is – then 4 conditions need to be met. Diversity. Independence. Decentralisation. Aggregation. Surveys are by their nature anti-social. This Unilever project looked at making feedback social. they used a consultancy called Silverman (run by an ex-Unilever employee)
  • When it comes to social media, with reviews etc, linear lists have problems. There is information overload, there’s high diversity, and ratings are primitive. There are linguistic techniques to extract meaning but this information is more powerful when you add structured data.
  • The projects worked to build models to allow visualisation of opinions and attitudes, mapping users by opinions about how close they were. They allowed users to rate others answers, to allow a consensus to appear. Some of the studies were anonymous, others had identified people.
  • In another project, they looked at organisational network analysis, based on social network analysis. What were the clusters of relationships. Did this inform opinions and attitudes. (they used Socilyzer). This brought together attitudinal and relationship data
  • Finally, the Social Media Garden (pdf) project to crowd-source research into barriers that prevent the organisational adoption of social media
  • The slides from the event

Looking at adoption of social media Natalie Nahai, Web Psycholgist

  • Social media satisfies the human need to connection and communications. Measuring usage can provide a measure of intimacy and influencer of relationships. More many, social media can be a key to self-esteem. In organisations, it can engender a sense of belonging; it can reflect the org culture
  • 56% of youth would refuse to work if access to social media was banned. 24% make access to social media a condition of accepting a job
  • The risks are known – controllability, the need for transparency and accountability, how it can result in power shifts.
  • To get adoption in a organisation, there needs to be a motivation, it needs to be interesting. You need to think about cultural cahnge, about reward and engagement and how it can be intrinsic to the job.
  • The Slides

In general, the quick interlude was all about social tools and happiness/games (eg see this presentation by Jane McGonigal)

Talent Acquisition. Paul Maxin. Global Resourcing Director

  • the recruiting landscape is changing. With social media, everyone is is a recruiter.. There are changes in experience, in services offered.
  • Recruitment in Unilever links back to their business objectives. Double the revenue. Halve the carbon footprint (sustainability). They don’t have a separate digital and strategy to help drive this, it’s all connected.
  • The recruitment process impacts the business. 53% of those with a bad recruitment experience are less inclined to buy good from the organisation. For a company like Unilever, that’s a lot of products that could be impacted. 75% will share their bad experience with friends (and influence them)
  • The recruitment world has moved. from Broadcast to Conversation. From Attract to Nurturing. From Corporate to Human. From Formal to Frictionless. From Careers Site to an Ecosystem.
  • You need to leverage the right channels. They have evolved to an engagement-based approach. They have 260k followers on LinkedIn, 90k on Facebook.
  • Facebook (Unilever Careers)is one page – used for all countries. They use country specific apps (Buddy Media) and have consistent content.
  • Linked In. They are building in specific calls to action, getting employees to activate as well.
  • They use lots and lots of data analysis to improve engagement.
  • The slides

A look at Graduate recruitment Klazien van Vliet

  • There is a lot of competition for Graduates amongst FMCG companies . How do Unilever differentiate?
  • They have big brands, sustainability, global reach. So do their competitors. So Unilever think their differentiator is the people and the work environment. But this is difficult to bring to life in advertising; this is where social media helps.
  • They use glassdoor.com to help this. Glassdoor approached them, with information about all the searches that are being done around Unilever., how it followed patterns looking at them and competitors. They decided to work with glassdoor around branded content, about working in the company. Added testimonials, videos etc. Most important was the reviews around the company.
  • In return, they get lots of data about what people are looking at, how they behave on the site. It’s not a volume driver, but it is a self-assessment tool. It helps people see if they really do want to work with Unilever and acts as a initial screener.
  • The slides

How social media can help with Agile Working – Jacobina Plummer

  • You used to need to be at work in order to do work. Now there is maximum flexibility, minimal constraints. You can work anytime, anywhere.
  • Agile working is critical for Unilever as it enables their global operating framework; supports the sustainability agenda; provides cost savings; helps them a #1 workplace
  • They looked at practices, workplaces and technology, They made sure their focus was on growth rather than cutting costs.
  • To support agile working, they use external Twitter – eg for snow days etc. They use internal Yammer and they have a collaboration space. It allows better collation, faster decision making; work arbitrage and a greater cultural understanding and diversity.
  • The slides

There is a video of the whole event made available from Unilver

Sep 04

London 2012: Handball

Another new sport – HANDBALL. Which is completely insane. This is like water polo on land – lots of ‘accidental’ collisions and elbows and pushes and all that. A pretty violent sport. And hard work, as they need volunteers to clean the floor every now and again, as the umpire sees a particular damp patch from sweat. Or blood!

London 2012 Handball

I got reasonable seats, pretty close to the action at one end. But they were behind the protective netting – so photos weren’t brilliant!. But plenty close enough to see all of the pushing and showing.

The handball took place in the Basketball Arena, although previously it had been in the Copper Box. As the matches got closer to the final, I’m guessing they upped the capacity. One thing about the Basketball Arena is that it’s at the other end of the Park from the main entrances. I’d followed the instructions and decided to ‘Alight at West Ham’. Which meant a 30 minute walk before I even got to the Park, which would be followed by at least another 30 minutes. But that night, I’d had a bad back, so the time I got to the gate, I was limping quite badly. And now the wonderfulness of the volunteers kicked in. my limping was commented on, I was asked if I wanted some help. I expected to get a lift on one of the buggies they were using. But no, it must have been a quiet night because next thing I knew, a wheelchair was pulled into action, I was wheeled around to the mobility station and presented with a mobility scooter. I had wheels!!!

My scooter

During the trundle up the park, i stopped at some of the Sponsor pavilions and checked out their disabled access. Had no problem getting into the couple I tried. At the Arena, it was easy. There was parking for the scooter, and after the venue just picked it up again and trundled back.

London 2012 Handball

Jul 28

London 2012: the torch relay

London 2012 Torch Relay

Our office is in Southwark and on Thursday 26th July it was perfectly placed for the torch relay. Just after 10am,t he torch was due to go right by the office. Some crowded the windows for an overhead view. Caroline and I decided that we needed a ringside seat. So 45 mins before, we headed outside with our chairs for a meeting – and, to be fair, we actually did have a meeting, before packing away and getting ready for the torch to come by. Right on time, the sponsor buses made their way past

London 2012 Torch Relay

And then finally the torch..just a brief glimpse as it ran by to the kiss point on the corner

London 2012 Torch Relay

And on Friday, we had another chance to see the flame, as it came down the Thames on the Glorianna. A slight mistiming meant we were slightly too late to see the flame go by the closest point, but a mad dash down the bank got us to London Bridge where the final (but one) stage of the relay was to happen, as the torch got passed to City hall for safe keeping before its star turn tonight.

In both instances, what was so, so apparent was everyone’s enthusiasm. This was an EVENT…something everyone wanted to be part of. They stood on balconies and in windows, on cheery pickers on on top of walls. They ran down the side of the towpath and tried desperately to get a glimpse of what was happening at London Bridge, standing on tiptoes to peer over the heads, or raising arms high to snap photos in hope of getting a shot. The buzz was palpable and excitement was high. This was not just tourists, but office workers and local families, out to take part in the biggest event they are ever likely to see in London. Let’s bring on the Games, London is ready!

Torch Relay

Torch Relay

Jul 24

London 2012: Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

I’m still on the reserve list for the Olympic volunteers. I’m not happy about it and I’d rather be taking part, but one compensation I did get was a ticket to the Opening Ceremony Technical Rehearsal the Monday before the games start. This was to be a major test event for the ceremony and for all the transport and organisation around it. So how did it go?

Transport: Travelled in from London Bridge to Stratford; returned Stratford to Waterloo. Had no real problems either way. Getting there was straightforward – although the station may not be a easy to traverse during the games. Getting out of the stadium was harder; somewhere between 40 and 50 thousand people exited the Olympic Park at 10.15 all looking to get home – with the Central Line broken. There were queues, but they kept moving and I got right onto a train and got a seat. The train was filled up completely before it started moving, so it was a pretty warm journey back. There routes to and from the station were well supplied with friendly Gamesmakers keeping everyone informed. However, I see issues arising if the trains are kept regular, because the queues and jams will quickly build.

Olympic Park

The Olympic Park: Slightly underwhelming. Lots of concrete, no where to sit around the stadium. Outside of the Stadium island, nothing was open and it looked pretty sterile – although the wild flowers were good. I was only in the bit immediately around the stadium and the rest of it is supposed to be better, but nothing brilliant there.

Olympic Park

The commercial bit: almost all the stalls were open around the stadium itself. This was the first time for all of them and they seemed to be doing Ok for the main. When I approached the bar, the servers were calling me over, so they could have their first customer. Later on it got a bit more hectic – a lot more queues were seen. This seemed to be a combination of slowness due to not quite sure what doing, slowness due to Visa restriction – and the payments, which were NOT fast – and the bars running out of soft drinks and water so people being turned away. Water IS going to be a BIG problem – there were long, long queues for the few water fountains that were available, so I think something needs to be sorted there

Olympic Park

The Gamesmakers: definitely some first day nerves for some, but overall everyone was brilliant. Bright, bubbly, keeping everyone moving. I did see a few occasions of them not quite knowing what to do and passing it along chains, but for a first day, think they did OK.

The Ceremony: Wow. Just wow. I’m still buzzing from it. But you are going to have to wait until Friday because we all promised to #SavetheSurprise – and watch the hashtag on twitter on Wednesday evening for peoples reactions. I wasn’t sure going into the evening what to expect and the first part did not fill me with confidence. The very first bit was slow and full of some of the clichés that have been talked about. But then, it took off and kept delivering. We didn’t see everything, but what we did see was absolutely amazing. Watch it!!!

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

Mar 27

Comparing the census – 1911 vs 2011

I’ve been researching my family history for a lot of years’ starting with trips to London to look up birth, marriage and death certificates and pore over the micofiche of the various censuses (censii???).

Today, it’s a lot easier, the national records are all online and I can sit on the couch and do almost all my research. Which is ironic as I now live in walking distance of the National Archives so a trip to do research does not need an all day trip down to London. I pay for access; if you go to the archives you get the same records on computer but for free.

I’ve been able to trace family all the way through, back from 1911 to 1841, seeing how many children survived, how the jobs stayed consistent across the years, how little some people moved. In the 1911 edition, they introduced a new piece of information – how long has a couple been married. Makes it a lot easier to track down the marriage certificate. Even better, the scanned records are now the original from the household, not the summaries. So you can now see an example of your relatives’ handwriting.

1911Census-JamesHickman1845
The 1911 census from James Hickman, my great-great-great-grandfather.

I was interested in doing the 2011 census; it would be the first one I’d have the chance to complete. I was either abroad or not the householder for the previous ones. But I was so disappointed. It was not the elegant single form just after the basics. it was a long, complicated set of pages, after all sorts of information about jobs, religion and the house I lived in. I vaguely understand why they want this (although not particularly happy about who is processing the data), but it seems to have grown because it could.

But I’m also disappointed for the future family historian. The information will ONLY be available online – you can complete it fully digitally if you want, you don’t need to fill in the form. There is a strong possibility that the data won’t be there in 100 years time, that it won’t be accessible. And the historian will not have the original documents to review, something that is always recommended when investigating digital records. It’s a shame that we’re not keeping that connection – I love the fact I can research digitally but have misgivings about moving purely that way for such important records that are supposed to last a century at least.