Oct 14

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

A new city! Today we travelled from Nagoya to Kyoto, to continue with out sightseeing touristy part of the trip. We boarded the Shinkansen for the 40min trip. We had intended to forward the luggage, but it turns out, that it takes 24 hrs, so we took them with us. Somehow, despite not really buying a lot, both suitcases seem to have got a LOT heavier!

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Luggage left at hotel, we headed out into town. First of all, we wandered along the row of Nishiki market. It’s like Borough Market, except mainly fish!

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

I thought about it, but in the end wasn’t tempted by the octopus on a stick.

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Then across the river through Gion, taking a look at Shimbashi, one of the really old style streets. Some lovely old houses along streets that looked pretty quiet.

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

We headed on to Chion-in, a temple at the base of the mountain. It’s an active temple, the centre of Pure Land Buddha teaching. Plenty of different buildings, trails through the forest, burial grounds. They have a 47t bell up a hill. How did they get it there?!

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

The main building is currently being restored, with a completely new building been put around it. It’s going to take until 2019 to finish it.You can walk through the different buildings and shrines, some of which are connected together with ‘nightingale’ floors, that creak and squeal like the sound of birds when you walk across them. In the main working area, we watched people line up for private services, where they sat and preyed whilst the monk/priest sang and banged a variety of percussion.

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Back down the hill, through the park. It’s a national holiday today so it was pretty busy. Then to Yatsuka-Jinja, regarded as the guardian shrine of Gion. very colourful buildings and a place where we encountered lots of kimono wearing women,

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Somewhere, there’s a service that dresses them up for the day, and they then wander round for the photo opportunities.

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Finally the main bit of the Gion district, first in daylight and then returning after dark Old wooden buildings, lots of tourists, quaint streets, but not that much else to see.

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Dinner this evening was sushi, at a lovely place called Hisagi Sushi. Well, sushi for me, definitely not one of Sofia’s favourite foods.

On the favourite subject of toilets, our hotel this time has a remote control, so you don’t have to turn sideways to activate the various spraying elements. The basic Japanese squat toilet requires too much flexibility to be comfortable but I’m don’t prefer the ones that you’d need an electrician to fix if it went wrong! And it may just be me, but having a toilet that plugs in, even if it does give you a warm seat, just feels odd!

Favourite sign of the day – all about Beautification Enforcement areas.

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

And on the favourite subject of toilets, our hotel this time has a remote control, so you don’t have to turn sideways to activate the various spraying elements. The basic Japanese squat toilet requires too much flexibility to be comfortable but I’m don’t prefer the ones that you’d need an electrician to fix if it went wrong! And it may just be me, but having a toilet that plugs in, even if it does give you a warm seat, just feels odd!

Now our feet and legs are tired. Time to retire before hitting more sights tomorrow.

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr

Day 9 post – Race day at Suzuka : Day 8 post – Sill at Suzuka : Day 7 Post – Suzuka : Day 6 Post – Hakone to Nagoya : Day 5 Post – Hakone : Day 4 Post – Tokyo : Day 3 post – Tokyo : Day 2 post – Tokyo : Day 1 post – Tokyo

Oct 13

Japan Day 9: Race Day at Suzuka

Japan Day 9: Race day at Suzuka

Today was the day of the Japanese Grand Prix. The 15th race of the season. A race where Vettel could win the championship. My second GP of the year. And the reason why Sofia and I are in Japan.

But this isn’t a race report. These blog posts are more about my travels in Japan. So there’s not that much to say today!

We caught the morning train to the circuit and decided to follow the locals in their traditions. Not camping out in car parks though!

Japan Day 9: Race day at Suzuka

We found ourselves a spot under the grandstand, spread out our mat and camped out there, waiting for the race.

Japan Day 9: Race Day at Suzuka

The fans come prepared, with ground mats and masking tape. The mats are taped down and that is their space. It’s respected, no one intrudes or steps on it and people snooze, eat, chat or read. There is a similar respect at Silverstone, when it comes to race watching positions, but in Suzuka, this is about pre-race waiting.

Japan Day 9: Race Day at Suzuka

I decided on a hamburger for lunch. I assume the owners of the van knew what they meant by their slogan, but not 100% sure!

Japan Day 9: Race day at Suzuka

Other people had pizza. And ate it using chopsticks!

Japan Day 9: Race day at Suzuka

The race was brilliant! At the circuit, you can only see a certain amount and without commentary it is very hard to follow. But in this case, Twitter filled in the gaps and we were able to keep track of what was going on. Vettel won the race, but not the championship. Guess he’ll take it in India.

My souvenir was the Bernie puppet, only available in Japan. There’s a Jenson one too!

Japan Day 9: race day at Suzuka

Still absolutely in love with the train system. Amazed that they only let people with seat reservations onto reserved trains, no filling up the aisles. Makes for a calm journey.

We had to double check it was still Sunday – it seemed to be the busiest day on the transport and shopping mall so far. Japan does do Monday to Friday work weeks??

I’m not sure why, but all the red wine I have had has been served chilled. Sake, coffee, tea, chocolate, they offer you hot or cold. Red wine, no choice, it’s chilled!

Tomorrow, we head for Kyoto.

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr

Day 8 post: Sill at Suzuka : Day 7 Post – Suzuka : Day 6 Post – Hakone to Nagoya : Day 5 Post – Hakone : Day 4 Post – Tokyo : Day 3 post – Tokyo : Day 2 post – Tokyo : Day 1 post – Tokyo

Oct 12

Japan Day 8: Still at Suzuka

Japan Day 8: Still at Suzuka

Another day at the races. Today was qualifying. We got there for 10ish, plenty of time to wander around and watch weird audience games, people watch and then take in final practice.

Japan Day 8: Still at Suzuka

We met up with Hiro, whom I had met last February in Barcelona for F1 testing. He’d managed to go to 4 GPs, was now at the Japan one and would be heading to Brazil. A man very economical with his holidays!
Lunch was Japanese curry from one of the many, many stalls dotted around the track.

Japan Day 8: Still at Suzuka

Qualifying was fun – especially the last session. Webber pipping Vettel to pole was well liked in our bit of the stadium.

We were amazed at how clean and tidy the race track was as we were leaving. Very, if any, rubbish was left around. Everything was binned. Very different to many others that we’ve been to.

Japan Day 8: Still at Suzuka

Heading out of the circuit, we weren’t too sure how the booked trains would work. How would you get onto the platform for your train. We needn’t have worried, it was all organised. If you had an unreserved ticket, you lined up and they called you to the platform ready for trains to arrive – just enough people to fit into each train. If you were on a specific booked train, you lined up ready for that, in carriage order. When it was time for your train, each carriage was called up and placed exactly at the right spot to get on the train. No crowding, no pushing, impeccably organised. Brilliant. (The train was 8 mins late though, first one we’ve seen late!)

Japan Day 8: Still at Suzuka

Back in Nagoya, you could see it was obviously a shopping day. They had music playing along the streets again. Just loud enough so you couldn’t hear the bikes behind you. They don’t ride bikes on the streets, all the action is on the pavement. I’m surprised there are not more collisions, but it seems to work, just about.

Tomorrow is race day!

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr

Day 7 Post – Suzuka
Day 6 Post – Hakone to Nagoya
Day 5 Post – Hakone
Day 4 Post – Tokyo
Day 3 post – Tokyo
Day 2 post – Tokyo
Day 1 post – Tokyo

Oct 11

Japan Day 7: Suzuka

Japan Day 7: Suzuka and F1

So today was the day, the start of the event we have built our holiday around, the Japanese Grand Prix. At the start of the week, rain was predicted, but the day dawned sunny and bright and stayed that way. it was 29C at the track and the only use of umbrellas was for shade.

There are special trains put on from Nagoya to Suzuka, about an hour away. We found the platform and waited as it filled with more and more fans. Inside Japan had sorted out all the seat booking for us, making the journey a little easier than squeezing into the unreserved carriages.

At the station, just follow the fans.

Japan Day 7: Suzuka and F1

The circuit was easy to find and really, really busy – although it’ll be busier on race day. There were loads of stalls for merchandise and food,making it really fan friendly. (although I’m not sure what this is!)

Japan Day 7: Suzuka and F1

One immediate thing struck us – the cigarette advertising, It’s not allowed in Europe, but here, it’s everywhere. A big stand and sponsoring the smoking areas. Oh yes, the strange control of smoking means you can only smoke in designated areas – including specific indoor rooms. Not wandering around outside.

Japan Day 7: Suzuka and F1

They also had a Ferris Wheel, free if you were at the race. A quick whirl gave some great views of the track!

Japan Day 7: Suzuka and F1

There were plenty of fans making signs for drivers at the first ever craft corner we had seen at a race!

Japan Day 7: Suzuka and F1

Some more behaviour differences was this one of staking out a section around the circuit, taping the mat down. Most were under stands, so protection from sun or rain. The mats were left there, I’m guessing ready for the next day

Japan Day 7: Suzuka and F1

And for some reason, a woman in a brides dress carrying a bouquet was driven round the circuit. No idea why!

Japan Day 7: Suzuka and F1

We have brilliant seats – at T1/T2, prefect for the race.

Japan Day 7: Suzuka and F1

As Friday you’re allowed to wander around, we also did that, to see the rest of the track. Well, Sofia did. I had a last minute chance for a Paddock Club ticket from Marussia and watched practice 2 from there :-)

The trip home was just as easy, the queue was orderly and organised and we managed to be positioned so we got right on the train into a seat!

Japan Day 7: Suzuka and F1

Finally this evening, we met up with a friend, who had found a tiny little restuarant for Okonomikaki and fried noodles. Absolutely delicious.

Untitled

And that was today! Except for my sign of the day. A pointer for a Lat Rine

Japan Day 7: Suzuka and F1

Oct 10

Japan Day 6: Hakone and travel

Sleeping on a futon to the sound of a waterfall is definitely an experience. A good night sleep. The breakfast this morning was also an experience, very, very different and will no alternatives. Grilled fish, salad, pickles, chicken/okra, miso soup, rice and a soft boiled egg. I had a go at everything – and finished most. Except the soft boiled egg. I really don’t like those.

Untitled

Today, the sun was out so we tried again to get up the mountains. First of all we consigned our bags to the baggage movers again, sending them on to the station. Then back on the train up the mountains, then the cliff hugging cable car and, finally, the ropeway, the dangling cablecar. Up and up and up we went, to a summit of 1144m.

Japan Day 6: Hakone

Over the first crest was a surprise – a smoking volcano, with vents pouring out sulphur and a reek.

Japan Day 6: Hakone

Then down, down further, straining for a glimpse of Mount Fuji but it was not to be. The clouds had gathered, the rain was threatening and there was nothing to be seen.

Japan Day 6: Hakone

The last stop was on Lake Ashi, 720, above sea level, formed 3000 years ago when the volcano blew and left a caldera that filled. Now it’s a tourist haunt and our Hakone Travel Pass took us on to the cruise ship that wound it’s way to the end of the lake and back. We treated ourselves to the upgrade to first class, so we had the front deck to ourselves, unlike the crowding behind!

Japan Day 6: Hakone

Japan Day 6: Hakone

One lake cruise later and it was back up the cable car, over the mountain, down the mountain, back on the cable car, back on the train to the station at the bottom of the hills to collect our bags, another train back to Odawara and then jump on the Shinkansen to head further west to Nagoya, our home for the next few nights. And magically, our bags we’d sent on their way on Tuesday were sitting here ready for us.

This was today’s favourite sign – in the one western toilet in a block

Japan Day 6: Hakone

No Japanese food for us tonight, it was time for steak! A quick wander round the block then back to chill. It’s an early start tomorrow as we head for the F1.

Oct 09

Japan Day 5: Hakone

Japan Day 4: Hakone

So today we said goodbye to Tokyo and escaped to the wilds of Hakone, a mountainous region to the south-west of the capital. First up, we said goodbye to our suitcases, sending them by the luggage transport system direct to Nagoya.

The we boarded a series of trains. First the underground line. Then the local train line. Then, at Tokyo station, we got on one of the famous Bullet trains, the Shinkansen. A very mean and pointy looking train! But very comfortable. Just over 30 minutes later we arrived at Odawara, to board a train into the mountains, then one further train, running on a single track system, with passing only at stations.

Japan Day 4: Hakone

Each of the latter two were older than the previous.
It deposited us in a place called Tonosawa, a small village at the start of the Hakone region. Here we’re staying in a traditional ryoken, Ichinoyu Honkan, established in 1630. That’s older than most countries!

Japan Day 4: Hakone

Too early to check on, we headed on further up the hill, by the old train, then a mountain cable car from Gora. The intention was to take the dangling cable car (which they call the ropeway) and head over and down to the lake, passing a volcano and with a possible glimpse of Mount Fuji in the distance. But it was not to be, wind and rain and grounded the cable car and we were stuck this side of the mountain. Well, we could have taken a bus, but decided, not today!

Japan Day 4: Hakone

Back down we went, in the pouring rain, to find a lovely little cafe in Gora, called Studio Cafe Shima. A shout out to them for being lovely, with brilliant wifi and a nice line in train cakes!

Japan Day 4: Hakone

More travelling down the mountain to the ryokan, to find out bags in the room, a view over the waterfall, the water heater on for tea and the outdoor bath filled with hot spring water, ready for a soak. Brilliant. We LOVE IT!

Japan Day 4: Hakone

Divide and conquer again. Sofia used the room bath, I went to the private bathing room. (not ready to try the public rooms!).

Untitled

Then it was to the hotel restaurant for the included dinner. There’s little other choice in the village. No matter, this was a multi-course feast. Tofu, tuna, boil your own meat in broth, dumplings, salad, pickled veg, rice, miso soup. Then crisp pear sorbet. Loved it!

Untitled

And I did dress for dinner! Then time to roll out the futon time to relax before we head for the busy days of the F1 ahead.

Untitled

One last thing, just to confirm, we have spent the day avoiding touching doubtful things!

Japan Day 4: Hakone

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr
Day 4 post: Tokyo still
Day 3 post – Tokyo
Day 2 post – Tokyo
Day 1 post – Tokyo

Oct 08

Japan Day 4: Tokyo still

Japan Day 4: Tokyo

Our last full day in Tokyo. As I said yesterday, we were planning a split strategy. Sofia went off to the zoo to see pandas and then to an out of town theme park to see Hello Kitty! I carried on in town. First up, the Tokyo National Museum, to look at the history of Japanese art and artifacts. An interesting overview, with some great quirky things, such as the terracotta grave statues which I wasn’t allowed to photograph. Or one of the very early editions of The Tale of Genji, the ‘first novel’. (by early, think it was 13th century)

Japan Day 4: Tokyo

By the way, cute. The Japanese appear to love cute. Everywhere has cute mascots etc. Here’s the museum ones.

Japan Day 4: Tokyo/

Then back down to Ginza, where I treated myself to sushimi. Not worth trying this with Sofia, as sushi and sushimi definitely not on her list. Again, I saw how pretty cheap Tokyo food can be, paying 1700Y for lunchtime fixed meal, of sushimi (prawn, tuna, salmon and other stuff), miso soup, rice, pickled vegetables, something with noodles and savory egg custard.

Japan Day 4: Tokyo

Then a wander round the Imperial East Gardens, the only part of the palace grounds you’re allowed to access. One of the challenges I’ve found is trying to understand the history of the place, as the signage, although much of it in English, does not seem to explain what things were or how they realte. this was true in both the museum and in the gardens. It wasn’t until nearly the end of the walk that I worked out that there used to be a HUGE palace in that area.

Japan Day 4: Tokyo

And I also saw my first Japanese style toilet. I’d read about them, but not seen them, until now. Thankfully for me, the bathrooms also had the western style ones too!

Japan Day 4: Tokyo

Back to the hotel, for relaxing, doing some washing and organising our luggage forwarding. We’re off into the mountains tomorrow and packing light. The luggage is going directly to Nagoya.

For dinner, we again stuck to local, heading up to the alleys around the Shenzi temple. After being refused service in one small restaurant (we think they were closing, it could just be they did not want to deal with English) we found somewhere that served up the Japanese omelette style of food, which I had with the deep fried pork cutlettes. Very tasty!

And that’s it for Tokyo. We’re here at the end of the holiday for one further night, but only limited sightseeing.

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr

Day 3 post – Tokyo
Day 2 post – Tokyo
Day 1 post – Tokyo

Oct 07

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan, Day 3. Today was a day built on changes. The original plan was to visit a bunch of museums, all around Ueno Park. The problem was that neither of us had properly read the guidebooks and failed to realise that they all close on a Monday!

We first of all wondered through the Ueno Park, visiting some of the multiple temples that are present in the area.
Benton-do is built on an island in a pond, a pond completely filled with Lotuses. (if you know me, you’d know that I was disappointed that these weren’t the car variety). This temple is dedicated to the goddess of the arts, wisdom, the sea and the protection of children.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

It’s a temple with the same plan as all the others. Purify yourself with washing, wave the insense smoke at yourself, ring the gong, pick your fortune. The fortunes are apparently multi-lingual, so Sofia decided to take a chance – and ended up with good luck all round. To ensure this happens, she followed the plan and tied it to the washing lines.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Next stop was Kiyomizu Kannon-Do. This appears to be one of the real old ones, never rebuilt, inlike many of the others. It’s dedicated to women wishing to conceive, who would leave a doll here, a doll that would be ritually burnt every 22nd September. No photos were allowed of the temple, but it did have the best purifying dragon-statued fountain.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Plus this brilliant circular tree, looking over Benton-do.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Also, why do they tie bibs onto statues? They can’t be that messy eaters!

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

We finally wandered far enough to see the museums. And to realise they were closed. so a quick replan needed! It’s a good job we had our walking shoes on, we decided to hit another road passing through different neighbourhoods.

First up was Kagurazaka, what was formerly the geisha quarter and is now a brilliant set of small streets, with lots of restaurants and interesting shops. We managed to pick a lovely Tempura restaurant for a quick lunch (and cheap! so far, we’ve not being paying too much)

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

We made a stop at the Yasukuni Shrine which had a completely different atmosphere to others we have seen, a lot more serious.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Then we headed into the centre of town, crossing over 2 of the 3 moats that surrounded the Imperial Palace. The final moat is not crossed on a Monday, I’ll have to come back tomorrow.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

oh..we also saw a turtle!

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Then down towards Tokyo station and then Ginza, the major shopping street (think Oxford St crossed with Bond Street). Sofia was most impressed with the 6 storey Uni Qlo store (we did not pop in to shop).

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

After a LOT of walking, time to head for dinner. The guidebook pointed us towards a restaurant that was listed as French-style yakitori. Unfortunately, it no longer seemed to be there, having changed to being pure French. Never mind, it was pretty busy for a tucked down an alley restaurant, so we just went French…and it was great!

Heading back, you can tell it was a working day. The streets were definitely full of ‘salarymen’ either head down charging for home, or wandering slightly worse for wear after a few after work drinks. A change from the last couple of evenings.

Questions still to be answered – why are so many people wearing face masks. Are they worried about catching something? Or is it the polite thing to do if you have a cold? I definitely think the latter could be applied in London.

Secondly, every time we pass certain supermarkets, there are a row of men reading the magazines, just standing there. It seems to be accepted. Are they reading comics? Manga? Porn? A combination?

And that was today, day 3. Tomorrow is our last day in Tokyo and we are planning a split strategy. Museums for me, Hello Kitty for Sofia!

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr

Day 2 post
Day 1 post

Oct 06

Japan Day 2: Tokyo continues

An early awakening, 6am, but nothing earlier than usual. So jetlag appears to not be hitting too hard today. First up, the hotel breakfast. Rice and meatballs and miso soup. Plus coffee and chocolate bread.

Untitled

Today was going to be a fairly light day. We caught the tube over to Shibuya to take a look round the shopping district there. One lesson learnt is that they stand on the wrong side of the escalators here, on the left hand side and you pass on the right. All very confusing.
It was easy to keep to the main shopping streets, they were the ones that were playing music from the loud speakers. Outside the main station was Shibuya Crossing, supposedly the model for the Oxford Circus crossing. Not sure what the fuss was about, it’s just a huge street crossing, but the Starbucks above it is great for people watching.

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

You have the girls in the typical costume of long socks and shorts (or short skirts). And men who would fit right in with the Shoreditch Hipsters.

Add a sprinkling of Western tourists, definitely a minority amongst the tourist population of Tokyo and the occasional women in traditional Japanese dress.

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

Shibuya shopping district is full-on on-trend stores, record shops and just loads of tiny boutiques. Plus the occasional multi-story amusement arcade, with grab-a-toy by the dozen along with photobooths of all descriptions.

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

We then started to wander over towards the Rappongi district, through more residential areas. Dotted throughout the streets are vending machines, such as this heavily sponsored set. Most are standalones though. And despite the theory that you can get almost anything from vending machines here, we’ve only seen ones for cigarettes and drinks.

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

Once at Rappongi we found our destination, a pub to watch the Formula 1 from Korea. However, instead of watching in the local language, by some technology miracle, we watched Sky tv. At least I think it was Sky…could have been a mild hallucination after I tried the snake venom drink :-)

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

Finally, heading back home, i got my first try of local food. A restaurant called Komagata Dojo, which has been there for over 6 generations in the same family. Dojo are small, eel-like river fish that are served in all sorts of way. The house specialty first cooks them in sake, then miso broth and then finally at the table, where they are heated over the table stove, with spices, sauce and loads of spring onions. Very, very good. We learnt the hard way that you don’t give tips here..as the waitress ran after us down the road to hand us back the 500Y coin and then was very surprised and very, very thankful we had left it for her. We’ll avoid that then! (She totally deserved it, was very very good and showed us all the things we needed to do to prepare the dish)

So that’s day 2. Another easy evening before we go mad and hit up a whole load of museums tomorrow.

Food at Komagota Dojo

For the full set of photos, See Japan Day 2 on Flickr

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 29

The London Marathon

You know, some things seem like a good idea at the time. Way back in April, before I’d ever run my first race, the ballot for the 2014 London Marathon opened and the proceeded to close pretty quickly. 125,000 people signed up for the possibility of 25,000 places in the London Marathon. I was one of those who signed up, more as a speculation than a certainty. I had no idea if I could run a 10k race, never mind over 4 times that distance. There was also no chance I’d get in, the web is full of mentions of people who did not at their 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc attempt. It’s not a straightforward 1 in 5 chance, they apply some assessment as well, so most chances are low. The ballot is one of 4 ways to get into the race. You need to be invited/be elite – that means they could be paying you for the entry, as these runners attract the media. You can be good for your age, getting a qualifying time at another marathon. Or you can go for a charity place, committing to raise at least £1800 (that seems to be the going rate) for the charity of choice.

You’re guessing the punchline already. I got in. With all the odds stacked against me, I got in. Which was a shock, to be sure. My sister, whom I entered as well, did not get in and she’s not sure whether to be upset or happy she didn’t – fitting in the training will be a problem. I’m the same. Happy and astounded one minute that I’m going to be running in one of the biggest events of the year; terrified and wondering what I have let myself in for.

However, I’ve paid my money, I’ve committed to setting off for the 26.2 miles on April 13th next year. I’ve committed to 6 months training to up my distance from a half to a full marathon through the cold winter and dark nights. The fitness journey continues.

Meanwhile, one consideration I need to make is if I’m going to raise money for a charity or not. So far, that’s not been done. I decided I needed to focus on running rather than money raising for the races I’ve done so far. But for the London Marathon, I’m considering my options – it is the biggest fund raising event in the world apparently. As you look through the websites of the charities, you see that there is a huge competition for fund raisers, with different packages on offer by the big charities. These usually consist of training support, a vest for the run, a pre-race pasta party of some kind and a post race feed and massage. this is why I assume that as well as committing to raising money, charity places often have to pay an admin fee to cover these extras. So do I raise money? And who do I choose? Questions to ponder.

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.

Sep 11

Meeting the challenge

Way back in January, I took at look at my ambitions for 2013. One f them, in typical New Year fashion, as a physical change. I’d tried before, and failed, but hoped that by adding another dimension to my tracking would make a difference. And it absolutely did. Using the Fitbit, Myfitnesspal and a long term goal, this year has been one of physical change.

On 8th September 2013 I ran a half marathon in an official time of 2 hours, 16 minutes and 18 seconds. If you have known me at any time over the last 20 years, you know that me doing that is a minor miracle! I don’t run. I have never really run and even at my fittest, when I never ran.

Ready #rttb Run to the Beat

But running is the easiest exercise to fit into the day. It’s also the easiest way to meet my step target that the Fitbit sets. So I started, In January, with a Couch to 5k programme, finding it hard to even run for a minute. If I was going to be doing this running, I set a goal, entering the Run to the Beat half marathon, that a friend from work had completed in 2012. My sister also entered – so now the challenge was on.

It’s 9 months later. I’ve tracked 3,464,503 steps on the Fitbit. I’ve tracked 419,289 calories eaten, 573,251 calories used. I’ve lost fifty pounds in weight. And I’ve ran a half-marathon in a not too bad time for my first ever race of that distance.

The targets have been met…now to keep it going! New challenges and goals to set, to keep me focused. have I mentioned I’ve entered the ballot for the London marathon?

Jun 06

LeWeb London: Peer to Peer lending

Sharing Economy Money Panel
Moderated by: Nina Dos Santos, News Anchor & Correspondent, CNN World Business Today
Samir Desai, Co-Founder & CEO, Funding Circle
Raffael Johnen, Co-Founder & CEO, Auxmoney.com
Renaud Laplanche, CEO, Lending Club
For established industries, the sharing marketplace — with rapidly shifting social, cultural, and technological disruptions — is forcing them to respond too. Never more true than in the financial sector. Does crowd funding threaten traditional funding sources indefinitely? We’ll hear from the $$$ experts about the state of funding and financial models in The Sharing Economy.

Leweb London 2013 - Day2
Photo by: Luca Sartoni – http://www.heisenbergmedia.com/

NDS Crowdsourced funding is growing – twice as big as last year. For Funding Circle it has trebled since last year. About 10m a month,
Rafael, tell me what you do

RJ: we facilitate peer to peer lending. Loans btw 1k and 20k. We started last year at first 2p2, now we are doing secured loads – can pledge car as collateral.

NDS: the collateral is changing, what can be put up as collateral
RJ: it’s an interesting market, removing the bank as the intermediary
RL: Business has trebled…we will faciliate $2b, but total market is 15 trillion.

NDS: are you diversify to offer new products…(out of 2p2)
RL: we often get used for credit card balances, we offer a lower cost way to pay these off, a more predictable way to manage the credit

NDS: if people are investing in debts, they expect to be paid back
RJ: we don’t guarantee it, but we have a good record of predicting return, has been 6-7%. The company goes after the borrower.
SD: we lend to established businesses, trading for 2 years. We have full risk analysis, return is 6-8%. Business lending is political…we now have gov money through lending circle.

NDS?: how big will you get?
SD: I think this will be a huge [art of the market, thinking 10-20%. Our survey found that 77% of borrowers would come to them first. it’s faster, quicker, it’s internet based (no need to go into branch). Half of our loan apps are outside business hours. It’s not an alternative, it’s a better product. We started off to £50k, now up to £1m. We are getting same kind of acceptance rates
RL: there is a transformation in way the industry is received. We don’t get the bank rejects only, we have a better customer experience, we have lower cost and more convenient, has generated positive selectance, get first choice.
RJ: same thing, plus great market for startup people to get a loan. Banks don’t touch them as high risk. If you do risk management right and get the right things in place, then manageable to do. It is a new niche, where too expensive for banks

NDS: in Germany it’s hard, lots of regulations. Will yours get big enough to regulate?

NJ: getting regulation could be good, gives stamp of approval. In Germany, heavily regulated, we comply anyway with a lot of the demands. We are asking for gov support, we are giving gov the tool to provide capital to people or companies

NDS: in UK, companies can’t get access
SD: we do, central gov, regional gov go through us. We have been lobbying for regulation and will be from next year…it helps for our credibility, That we are serious and is here to stay.

NDS: the US doesn’t like regulation either?
RL: we fell into the framework already. But as a matter of public policy we worked hard to be the good guys and the financial services see us as that. We are transparent., great service and people like us. We start with a tight credit policy, with different levels of return. Investors can choose their risk. We get about a 3% loss.
RJ: again 3-4% default rate across the full spectrum
SD: default is about 1.5%, and slightly higher return 6-8%

NDS: how about China, will growth be there?
SD: possble. we are at a generation shift, with finance. We have a shift in public trust in banks. The core business of banks, loads, balance transfers etc, the first real time internet coming to finance. So not just China, but western markets as well
RJ: we though there was a better way to allocate capital. We thought about how we could be more efficient. We were not waiting for right time, we had the idea and went for it
RL: ideation often comes from outside. I though it was nuts to pay the high credit card rate. So that was the business problem, most people it was fine, went to change it We had a slow build up in first few years. Now 6 years, we have investors earning, we have large investors.

NDS: do companies know what companies invest in and can they help them succeed
SD: yes, it’s a market place., you can chose which ones to invest in – ot have them assigned. you can have a relationship, we have restaurants, furniture makers etc. We have a lot doing local investments. It’s not about anonymity, it can be about transparency. YOu can see the data, the loans, the defaults and explore it, Owners seem to like being asked questions – that means someone is interesting.
RJ: we talk to investors and borrowers, learn what they are after, starting early and it helped scale it
RL: transparency is key, it is safer and sounder, people can see what happens, unlike banks that hide things
NDS: but will it be safer
RL: We have better matching, we have investor and lender matching, It’s not pooled. All of us have matching, it’s not leveraging, it’s one to one

NDS: can the banks learn from that?
RJ: we built our tech from the ground up. Banks have a long history, difficult to move away from process

NDS: is the virtual currency the indictment of the financial system? What do you think of bitcoin
RL: you need more stability.. You can’t have that much volatility. and more liquidity, then prices stabilise. Not a buyer or lender of bitcoin

NDS: you are backed by VC
SD: we lend to different types of companies. Mainstream – restaurants, etc. We lose money to get to the scale. A bank won’t lend us money, our VC are supportive

nDS: could you start a similar company through crowdfunding?

SD: there may by the opportunity, Need to to decide if get big quick or slow growth
RJ: it takes time to build the important pillars and only then can you scale up.

NDS: the sharing economy is alive, but you three are competitors.
RJ: it is a local market. We are Germany only.

NDS: where will you be in a year
RL: managing growth of platform, keep doing what doing, keep growing
RJ: it’s all about growth. we know it works
SD: Regulated, and bigger.

Jun 06

LeWeb London: Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau, Writer, Entrepreneur and Traveler

I was thinking about what can I share, what can I contribute to this conversation. I wanted to talk about adventure and travel. But adventure is almot an opposing value to optimisation, efficiency etc. I recently finished an adventure to visit every country in the world, over 11 years. It could have been quicker if i’d been more efficient. But even so, it brought a lot of meaning. There was a value in adventure; in meeting people. There are a lot of peopel sharing the same valueof freedom, of self evaluation. THat they wante dto forge own destiny, make own path. IS this something that is shared..the love of freedom is the link to sharing economy. How can we live a life that we want and that serves others. So I though i would share 3 lessons with you.

Time and Money
If you can understand early on all the different costs of a goal or quest, ot becomes more easily to conceive and to follow and pursue. I started off just because I loved travel. Had done about 50 through business and general travel. So set goal of 100 and started to organise this, to look at all the costs and realised that it would only cost about $30k. SO thought that if I was goign to do this over a few years, it is quite small ove rthe time and it would definitely be worth it from the experiences. I started writing about this abouthalf way through. When I first shared the goal, I got a comment that this goal was stupid..that anyone can do this.. that all it would take is enough timeand money. WHen thinking critisism, peopel are often projecting themselves..but if you think about critisism as a nut, to get into the shell and find something useful in it. Decided that I would really look at toime and money, Ti understand the challenge in that way. As I embraced the logical thinking about this, it made the whole experience easier

Experience produces confidence
I started with a love of travel. And with goal setting. I set the 100 and got closer to 100 sooner than expected and then decided to change goal. As I gained experience, I gained confidence. The same when I wrote about it, started sharing with a small number of people and then it grew. there are about 100k readers. There are people here who serve millions, so respect to you. And now I help people get their confidence, to start that transition. To get them over the first steps. When you are doing something for the first time, it is a big deal. So get this first experience as soon as you can. It makes a big difference

The new demographics are less about where you are from, but about who you are – psychographics
It’s about who you are. You are not alone. There are shared values and ideas. If you have a crazy idea and you think you are alone..the sharing economy, connecting, then there are all kinds of people who will share this interest. So one of the greatest things is in hearing people’s stories and seeing how othe people are doing. One of my goals is to get better at telling their stories.

With all of the opportunities available, hopes that they are not wasted. We take advantage. So w suggestions. So pursue a quest of your own. Chase your own brand of adventure. Musk said we spend too much time on small ideas. When started travelling, it scared me. I made tradeoffs. But I could not get out of my head. And that’s what i have heard all over. Peopel had the idea, maybe for a long time, but all were glad they took the next step and tried it. If no try, then they would have regretted it.

The second is to try and find a way to tie your request to something that makes the world a better place. A friend went to Afghanistan. Went all the way in country, asked for a shower and internet cafe. There was no running water…but there was brilliant wifi! In Africa, it’s mobile first. but often lack access to water and education. YOu need to think about tthe question of contribution,. What are we doing to help. It’s part of ourown fulfilment, our own meaning. As we seek to contribute and engage, we ourselves gain value from it as well.

Jun 06

LeWeb London: John Perry Barlow

John Perry Barlow, Co-Founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Leweb London 2013 - Day2
Photo by:Luca Sartoni – http://www.heisenbergmedia.com/

I’ve been a hippie since sometime in 1965,when I quit being a beatnik. I’m fine with it, as part of what it’s meant, is that I know which side I am on in the struggle between certical and horizontal, religion and net and authority from consensus. I started writing songs for a band called the Grateful Dead, and there was also something that we did that was practical. By it’s nature, hippie is often someone who has done a bad job, but for us, it was practical. We started out early letting people sharing the concert. They could not take, as we’d played it already. They started, and there was resistance but we said what the hell, reproduce the tapes. And that was the viral marketing. By the time we quit in 1995, we could fill any stadium in the US. because we had shared our music.

THis led me to understand the economy of the virtual world in a way that few can do today. There is a difference between atoms and bits. Atoms have a value, a relationship with space-time scarcity. To make things valuable, then make it scares, as De Beers does with diamonds (which aren’t really rare). But when you talk about ideas etc, familiarity is much more important than scarcity. If I had the largest diamond in my pocket, it is valuable because it is scarce. If I had a song in my head, it is valueless until it is shared. It is in my best advantage to share. I have been trying to get a whole load of folks/institutions t understand this for the last 25 years.

I wrote in 1985 that it was extremely difficult to get people NOT to share anything that they found valuable and interesting if it could be reproduced and distributed at zero cost. The desire to share information that is interesting is fundamental

We are at the interesting point where the forces of the past, about controlling information, are vigorously trying to claim what can be known, keep as theres and make it harder for us to claim the possibilities that are here. That anyone on this planet will have the means to know anything about anything that interests them. The access will be there. We are coming into the ability to convey a right that no-one has thought before, the right to know. If there is a right to know, the human race will advance more, as we will seek the truth.

I was talking to Jimmy Wales…about wikipedia. Talking about what he was going to do…warned that he would still have this pile of disinformation and slander etc. Wales thought he was right but it was worth a try. Now he goes to Wikipedia to look at something he knows something about and finds, to his satisfaction, that there is good stuff on there and it grows. We care so much about knowledge and the truth and that we are doing this

We are willing to go to a lot of unpaid trouble to make it available to anyone about what is the truth about stuff, eg molecular biology. A few years ago I went and got a British Library card. I wanted to write the dot communist manifesto, even though I’m a rightwing republican. If you look at the Communist Manifesto know, it is more true and germane than it ever was. It is easier to share songs than cars. Marx thought there would be a revolution and all that was solid would melt into air and that is what is happening and stuff is not properly subject to property and sharing is easy. We now need to kill a few things, institutions and that is good.

As a musician I find it ironic that a record label talks about piracy when that is what they have done to us. But thinks about thing.s If you use content, ask if there is a container. Now we are taking something and turning it into a noun that can be owned. The word consumer, what is the word. When reading or listening, I’m not consuming. It is when eating, but not an idea. A consumer is about placing us into a subservient position which is where the institutions want us to be.

Asked what law he would change? He would abolish the idea of intellectual property, a very recent idea. It used to be a licence, a limited term to exploit the idea. It is impractical to own this stuff. There are other relationships to this stuff that we can have. But we will have to wait for things to get really bad before that happens

How will you make a living? He gets asked this question all the time. He gave away their songs all the time, and still made a decent living. The Dead Heads had access to all their music, but all of their studio records went platinum. I’m talking about musicians getting paid. If you have a model to strip them of their work and for something else to own the songs, then they don’t get paid!

People fail to recognise what sharing goes on all the time. Ask people if they would give up their assets or their relationships, then assets will go. Relationships are squishy…they are all about sharing.

We are still in the middle of a bloodbath around this and it will get worse before it gets better. The online dimension is extremely powerful and can express itself, (even if sometimes horrible) but it has meaning. We will still see horrible stuff, horrible crimes, but liberty resides in the rights of the person you find most odious and you have to defend that. But on other hand, you have wikpedia, you get works being put out there, not locked behind ownership.

Jun 05

LeWeb London: Nick Halstead and Data

Nick Halstead, Founder & CTO, DataSift Inc
How Social Sharing Built a Billion Dollar Market
Nick Halstead has been at the heart of the social sharing economy for five years, creating the world’s first social sharing button and building a business upon the data that it generated. Nick will talk about the evolution of the sharing economy, from the early days of RSS and TweetMeme, to the prominence of social now and give his insight on the future of sharing in a social driven world.

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

What Nick has created, is powered by the sharing economy. Is going to tell us the story of how he got to where he is now.   It started off with the RSS icon and an argument with his Dad. His Dad did not understand it, why it was in the browser. He could not get to the content he wanted to. THe original name was fav.or.it. It was how o take huge amount of data and use social signals (interaction with content) and use that as in indicator of whether that was good or bad. Engagements, votes and the source.  It was OK

Then Twitter came along. And Nick saw that the data from Twitter could be used as a replacement for the signals. A wider set of signals. Without a lot of people using favorit, then little signal. So build on top of Twitter, where even then 1 of 4 were links, so pulled our what was hot. We brought in the idea of the authorit yof the people, not the publisher source. We looked at how people sharing links, who reshared.   Then provided a sharing button, the RT button to put on signs. It wasn’t really a ‘invention; for an evolution. In 9months were doing 1.5b page impressions a day. That was all about sharing economy, share what was the best content. Behind that, we were developing a data business. We had access to the data, people were asking us to help them understand the behaviour of the users. We now have many other social networks as well, to share content out there

YOu have now got share buttons in 50% of sites, to allow content to be put out to social networks.   When Nick joined Twitter, it was few, now >500m tweets a day. Growing all the time.

How is the data use? There is a symbiotic relationship between people on the networks and the companies that use the data. Look at when Alex Ferguson resigned, the news broke and spread quickly via Twitter. Businesses are using this to drive actions, eg something that would have impact on stock price.   4 years go, it was pretty simplistic. Keywords, plotting trends etc. Look at something like SecondSync, which is using social channels to assess TV popularity. They are tracking all the tv programmes and assessing impacts. Can assess popularity.   The data gets sold onto the programme makers, so they can see how the programme was being received minute by minute. You have the network who cares about demographics and then the ads care about their placements, their ads.   That’s why programmes use hashtags.

We talk about the value with no context. Whether people who mentioned you were actual customers. Now that is changing. A company called Phace (Face?) getting info and using the social info to assess who is talking.

Bloomberg supply Twitter data into their terminals, so traders can track things. The social data has changes things.   But how are you empowered rather than companies?  Now you can impact Bloomberg and the markets. A football shirt company uses social signal to determine the favourite players so they can impact the supply chain and get right volume into the marketplace. A retailer is using geolocation to see where people are shopping and use it to influence if they should open a store there.

There are huge advances in being able to understand intent. Bringing in context.  If you have context, you can ask questions. Eg who should I then sponsor?  Another way is starting to join the data together. Starting to connect the data, to be able to prove the value, being able to understand social alongside other data to get the whole picture

Forrester is thinking that next year, social media marketing will be over $3.1b. Growth will come from China, connecting social activity to inshop activity. We’re going beyond the button, beyond the Like button are becoming less and less value. It is about implicit actions, rather than explicit. You can look at photos, at what is being said

It’s only going to keep in growing!

Jun 05

LeWeb London: Comments on Google Glass

Boys and their Toys – The Google Glass Phenomenon
Loic Le Meur, Founder, LeWeb
Robert Scoble, American blogger, technical evangelist, and author Rackspace
Ben Metcalfe, Co-host, LeWeb’13 London Co-Founder, WP Engine
Loic will be joined by Robert Scoble and Ben Metcalfe for this sure to be entertaining session.   Hear from these ultra early adopters their thoughts about Glass.  What’s it’s full potential? What are the cons? And everything in between!

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

This was more a conversation, with little planning….so just some comments and points.

  • The assistive technology is what is most interesting. How it can help with your life. Maps, and plane gates etc. Show sports scores and weather. Meetings, the traffic between me and meeting,   Glass is not owner specific :) ie you can get another persons to do something!
  • There are a lot of senses that are not using. Eg eyesensors. There are going to be features that are going to be unlocked.  Has a ear vibrator to transmit sound to ear (rather than speaker)
  • It’s less distracting than a smartphone, is in the way of where you are looking, not down at phone
  • It is very google centric, pictures go to G+ (in private). I can comment etc via that. I can see tweets
  • One nice things..if you shoot a series, it will turn them into an animated gif, sticking them together, do changes. It makes things easy
  • You can select which Twitter users you see stuff from. keep a select group that comes direct to eye/ Plus emails that can be selectively shown
  • It’s too big to wear easily, the social aspect is interesting, Loic takes it off. But Scoble keeps the Glass on most of the time
  • Other interesting things – games. Functional information support, eg surgeons with xrays.
  • There is a fashion cost to it. with one eye only. But they are lightweight, and last.
  • Scoble have shown it to more than 600 people..they are getting feedback from more than just the small of testers. (eg SV white people)
  • Google has said it will be 18 months before this is in the hands of the consumers. They are slowly rolling it out wider.   They need people to think about building apps

Jun 05

LeWeb London: Snapsation

Chris Chabot, Founder & CEO, Snapsation
Chris has been a driving force of the social web for as long as it’s been been around. As a lead engineer on OpenSocial, Developer Advocate for Google on open web standards, and a founding member of the Google+ team, he’s always worked on creating new connections between people through technology. With Snapsation Chris has combined his experience with social, the fascination with the new sharing economy and his love of photography to create new opportunities for the countless talented artists, and people who need high quality imagery.

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

Excited about this as get to solve a real problem. It’s only when you solve a real problem, will you make a change. So Snapsation is where photographers find people and people find photographers. Is photography dead? (or is it just cameras!) The problem was that few people had devices..and fewer knew how to use them. But now photography is really living – but the devices is the phone. And it’s everyone, not just the few.

As a society, there is so much information and we have a poverty of attention – photos are quick to digest.  Images are an effective way of communicating. people who use photography are visual story telling. Visual,, rather than texting. Much richer communication. The society is becoming more visual. If you have a business, a restaurant, you need great photos on your website. The impact is incredible.

There is no common language between photographers and people. They don’t do visual sites, they don’t do prices. Everything about finding a professional is difficult. The amount of friction to get to the incredible hard. And there are lots of great photogs who want to find customers.  But may not have the full business knowledge to find customers.

So this is what snapsation is. The market place for photographers.  (note, there’s nothing in the UK at the moment)  (he gave a demo of the market place site). You can define service requirements, and what you are wanting to do and do the payment.  It helps you to market yourself, gives you ideas, how to prepare your portfolio.

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.