Feb 21

CIPR, Non-for-profit and social media

On Thursday evening, the CIPR ran a session for not-for-profit PR types and for bloggers interested in the same, as part of their Fifth Estate activities. The evening was set up casually, with wine and nibbles and a short overview of social media to introduce the topic; the rest of the evening was spent in conversation. Although at times I felt like I was just their to offer free consultancy, in the whole it was a good night with plenty of questions asked. The PR people wanted to learn and asked a lot of great questions. I think I had 4 key conversations:

  • The group behind the Great Gorilla Run, supporting Gorillas in Africa had a lot of questions about connecting with their supporters the rest of the year, not just around the time of the race.
  • A great conversation with someone who was new to using online tools but not new to social media, if you view that as getting out their, spreading the knowledge, talking , discussing, writing white papers and all that stuff. He already had all the behaviours, just needed to try a different set of tools.
  • One charity who looks to develop entrepreneurial behaviour in teens. An interesting discussion about how to reach with children who are not in school and not working
  • A discussion about local council usage, message boards, community management and staffing requirements. Plus about not sending out press releases as attachments!

One key thing I siad 3 or 4 times during the evening was about ASKING the people yu are trying to conenct with for ideas. If the charity is unsure how to use these tools, there’s a good chance that some of their active volunteers and supporters have a better idea, so how about involving them?

Overall a good evening and I’d be interested in doing something similar again.

Feb 20

Notes from BeeBCamp

I was honoured to be invited along to the BBC for their second BeeBCamp, one of a group of external people who came along to, as Philip says ‘to leaven the mix’. Hopefully I contributed something, I definitely learnt a lot. Each session was only about 20mins, not nearly long enough, and many ran over.

UGC: What do you do with it?

Ran by Charlie Beckett, this session asked questions about why the BBC asks for UGC, what they do with it, what are the transaction costs and what is it worth. The session specifically focused on content that is SENT TO the BBC, often current affairs/news related, through the website or after on-air requests. From the discussion, the BBC thinks it obviously does add value, both for the participants (happy to submit things) and for content that is used. But they only use a small handful, with the recent Snow Day resulting in over 60k images being sent in and only a few displayed.

The discussion later went onto the difference between ‘publisher’ or an ‘enabler’. For example, with the snow photos, they BBC could publish a few of them and that would be it. But for one of the audience, who worked in the education site, the BBC could also be an enabler – take the UGC, comment on it and use it to add further value to the relationship, ie discuss how people could take better snow photos.

When it comes to more newsy items than photos of snowman, there is always a burden of verification on the BBC, they have to be sure that what they use is truthful, valid and genuine, so they have to think carefully about what they use and how they can use it.

Games and the BBC

The next session I took part in focused on what the BBC is doing and could do with games. A key issue seems to be the definitions used, which are not consistent. A better set of words to use would be ‘playful content’, stuff that the public can play with. Games/interactivity are part of the BBC remit and their is an opportunity with some re-organisation to consider the strategy and plan for new things. However, there is a cultural issue (as there is most other places) about what games are and what they actually mean to people.

Different groups across the BBC are working on this problem and this appeared to be a great session for them to connect, as the work in London, Radio, Salford and Glasgow were all discussed. There’s some fascinating collaboration taking place between the Glasgow BBC and the University of Abertay in the gamespace.

The BBC could offer some valuable development opportunities, giving game companies the opportunity to do stuff they would not normally be able to do. Dan, from Six to Start, suggested that they BBC need to ensure that there is a clear structure in place to talk to about ideas, as at the moment, it is spread out and not clear at all.

I’m a pirate, what are you going to do about it

A general discussion about ‘piracy’, the Pirate Bay trial in Sweden, alternate routes for getting content and making money out the content, such as bandstocks.com, rights, iPlayer, streams and downloads. According to some around the table, many people are torrenting because of the ease and convenience. Another group argued that actually, it is far easier for most to hit the play button on iPlayer (or Hulu, or whatever your choice is) and torrenting is far too difficult. A key reason why people may struggle through the set up of the clients is because the entertainment is not available in ways that make it easy for them – in their format, their time, their place.

There were three key types of ‘pirates’. those who do it because of ease and convenience of access (the ones who would most easily switch to channel provided routes), those who do it as they will never pay for anything and want to ‘stick it to the man’ (unlikely to choose an alternartive route) and those who want the content to do things with – the remix brigade)

BBC Blackops – post lunch there were a few wild moments triggered by a laptop sticker, where a new pitch for a TV show was considered: BBC BlackOps. It included stealth helicopters, men in uniform zipping down lines, secret computer rooms with computers that could never be turned off and the porn highlight editing suite, producing highlight packages in the same way the sports guys do. (although there was a discussion about how you determine what a porn highlight is). However, the madness soon abated and we got back to the serious discussions.

UGC: Enabling co-creation and remixing

Following on from the first session this morning, which looked at the public sending content to the BBC, I decided to run a session on how the BBC could help enable co-creation and remixing my letting content OUT from the BBC. I tried to steer away from data, which I know they do a fair bit of already via Backstage, and look at the entertainment properties. One rational, which I don’t think I explained in the session, was that the BBC make some great programmes based on the ‘classics’, programmes that appear make a fair bit of money in foreign and DVD sales and win awards. These stories and characters are in the commons, in the public domain, so how are the BBC contributing back to the commons. My notes on this are understandable brief, but it seemed to go well; there were some interesting future activities discussed which will become visible in the next few weeks/months but were not bloggable – I’m looking forward to see what happens with them.

Some notes I took were:

  • Comedy Soup tried something like this, released the raw material, but the uptake was small and had little focus
  • Producers are concerned about people subverting the content. (this is the same argument found in my industry, but brands can be very surprised at how much good stuff can be created
  • Commissioners don’t necessarily have the same understanding as the people round the table
  • Adventure Rock – a children’s virtual world – had great success letting the members create the story around the assets, gave them all the tools to work with.
  • Teachers TV does it all the times – expects remix, reuse and re-release. Al Jazeera does something similar
  • Major concern about allowing more certain types of content (mainly currently affairs/news) out. I think this was a misunderstanding about the call for content to be released – I primarily wanted to focus on entertainment not news. Also, it was never said that it had to be done with everything, you would choose what to release just as carefully as you choose what to broadcast.

A new kind of Book Club

this session was about a new tool that is being developed by Adrian Hon, which allows you to annotate texts/books online. Not new, but he’s adding a lot of social network tools to it, such as groups, notifications etc to make it a far more community appearance. The discussion extended to being able to do this with videos, scripts etc.

Communities and Comments

A mainly off the record conversation about message boards and comments on the BBC. One things I learnt, which is never realised, is the the Points of View Boards have lots of conversations about ITV programmes, such as Emmerdale, as those sites don’t allow conversations. Completely weird in my opinion. In general, the conclusion was that boards where there is clear direction from hosts (community managers) were far more effective than those without, which is not an unsurprising conclusion

That was it; then we went to the pub. Well some of us did, I think a lot of the BBC people went back to their desks! I had a good day and was exhausted at the end of from concentrating hard. This was the second BeeBCamp, i hope they run more.

Feb 14

Google Lattitude and other location services

I use a few location services.

  • Dopplr to record my travels. You can see them all on the MyTravels section of the site
  • Brightkite. Because it is a nice little mobile connection and has connections out but I’m not using it a lot at the moment. It won’t take a feed from Dopplr, but will feed into that service.
  • Fireeagle. Simple, all it does it record where you are and then act as a hu to other services. I like it to use it like that, at the centre of things, but not everything is quite there yet with the other services.
  • Google Lattitude. I’ve just started using, especially the mobile version, and quite like it.

I’ve been playing around with all the services over the last week and have been thinking about ways I’d like to add some control. I’m not a power user of these in anyway, but like to just play around with them

  • Connectivity. Google is particularly bad, it does not appear to have any. From past experience, it’ll likely be a while before it does. What I’d like to be able to do is have Fireeagle as the hub and be able to control and feed in and out from the other services. I’m likely to drop Brightkite if Google had this – I only need one mobile version.
  • Location Setting. Latitude allows you to decide to set your location manually or automatically. But it only has this per account, I’d like to be able to do this per device. I’d like anything from the computer to be set manually and anything from a mobile device to be automatic (well usually)
  • Granualarity. Fireeagle allows you to tell other services your location at different levels – exact, area, city. Google seemed to miss that nicety, in allowing you to define who can see what. Every service should have the ability to fuzz things.
  • Exclusion zones. I’d like to be able to set exclusion zones, so that a service will never display you at certain points (like personal addresses). When I start to approach these zones, the location becomes fuzzy, moving around a bit. I’d like to be able to turn this on at a click of a button – say if I’m visiting somewhere. I may tweet that I’m with someone but want to be able to fuzz out the location.

I think that will do for now.

Feb 07


You’ll have probably seen this a few times, but Twittersheep do a word analysis of the bios of your followers. I saw this when it first came out, but didn’t try it, as they were looking for username and password. They’ve fixed that problem and now you can just add your (or another) username. Then you get something like the image below. So the people following me are interested in this stuff – which means I must provide somekind of information that meets the need. I’m not sure how accurate the sizes are – I’m pretty sure “bre ♥ twittersheep” is only in one bio, so there’s something a little weird going on. It’s fun though.


Feb 05

Google and Latitude

Google is confusing me at the moment with its execution of Latitude and its multiple versions. If I type in google.com into the address bar, it defaults to google.co.uk and gives me this for Latitude

iGoogle UK version

When I type in google.com/ig (or click on the link to m.google.com provided in the notification emails, it keeps me on the .com TLD and gives me this:

iGoogle.com Latitude

It’s obviously available…so why does it pretend it isn’t? And what’s with the changing URLs?

Feb 05

Twitter: I don’t care

This post has been sitting in draft for nearly 2 weeks now. It’s been added to and written about in different moods and moved around and pondered upon. It may not make cohesive sense but it’s time to bite the bullet and publish!!!

Obviously, the blog post title, like the cake, is a lie. I do care about Twitter, having used the service almost daily for over 2 years but sometimes you just have to let things out. Fair warning, this is just a grumpy rant – not necessarily a coherent argument – about the tool, just my feelings about it, so don’t let it put you off.

So where is this coming from? Primarily from reading lots of posts and tweets over the last few weeks that tries to define and argue about the ‘right’ way to use Twitter. Now, the common sense thing for me to do with this information is ignore it, to not care about it, but as I’m ranting about it in person at the moment, I thought I’d share it with the blog.

It started with a simple tweet exchange between me and Jeremy:

rachelclarke: sometimes, I think I’m doing Twitter all wrong. well, at least all different. Then remember I can use it how the hell I like!!!
jeremywright: @rachelclarke – shhhhhhh
rachelclarke: @jeremywright why? I want to SHOUT it. There’s NO right or wrong. I don’t have to follow you. I don’t have to say anything interesting,
jeremywright: @rachelclarke – And then it’ll be CHAOS! CHAOS I tell you!
rachelclarke: @jeremywright ahhh. understand now. I’ll go and whisper over here then :-p

Which sort of summarises my feelings about it. I look at lots of ‘experts’ and they all seem to be trying to tell me how to use Twitter, but how I, and you, use it is up to ourselves. So the first ‘I don’t care’. Which is I don’t care how you think I should use it, I’ll carry on using it the way that suits me.

Then there was another conversation over at Tris Hussey’s blog. where I came to the conclusion that not only do I dislike auto-DMs on a follow, but I dislike thankyou tweets in general. As I said in a comment, if someone thanks you after you follow them, doesn’t that mean that you have done them a favour? That they owe you something for following them. Here, the issue is that in my personal use of Twitter, I don’t look on the action of following me as a favour to me. I follow people for the benefit that I obtain from it, the ambient intimacy from friends, the chance of entertainment, the weird stalkiness bit of following the odd celebrity. So I assign the same rational to people who want to follow me. Don’t thank me for following you and don’t expect thanks back – and yes, I know how grumpy, selfish and non-altruistic this sounds but I use Twitter for me, not for ‘my community’ nor yours.

Celebrities on Twitter are interesting and provide endless entertainment – and not just because of the tweets from the celebrities. There’s at least 2 kinds of celebrity on the site, the internet famous and the real world famous. In the former category you can put people like @scobleizer, @chrisbrogan and @kevinrose. In the latter you have people like @wossy, @stephenfry and @mrskutcher (Demi Moore). But with both types, you can get an unfortunate set of fanboy behaviour, where almost every tweet is addressed to one or more of these celebrities, as people look for attention. Now, I do jollow a few of these and have answered a few of their queries but try and keep the cyberstalking to a minimum.

A few Friday night’s ago, Twitter in the UK was a source of endless entertainment as Fry and Ross discussed the service (briefly) on the TV – which led to further mentions on the BBC news and more newspaper articles. And then on Something for the Weekend and the radio and The One Show and lots of other programmes. This seemed to be a source of endless glee to many or a threat of doom and the end of the service. The odds of that happening is pretty low – and what seemed to be missing by many is that it does not matter how many people joined the service they can be completely ignored. Twitter is a permission based system, you don’t have to see anything unless you want to.

As Twitter goes through these periodic bursts of popularity and growth – and believe me, it’s now pretty mainstream in the UK – I keep being followed by people I don’t know. The odds of me following you back are pretty low at this point in time – see earlier post about why. But expectations of the ‘audience’ can be pretty high, as these tweets show:

Girlonetrack: Someone’s informed me they’ve unfollowed because I didn’t reply to their @. News: I get a LOT of @ s. Also: I have a life. Sorry about that.

gapingvoid: @1938media Somebody just sent me an a LONG email EXPLAINING why they’re unfollowing me on Twitter. Too funny…

There’s a whole bunch of people on the service now who use it to self-promote, not just celebrities who do tend to post ‘real stuff’ even if they are being followed by 10s of 1000’s, too many to interact with, but social media experts, SEO experts, sales guys etc, all jumping on a service that is hot and has proven success in increasing audience and relevance. Of course, what they forget is that for most people, they get that influence over a long period, not by joining and immediately following 2000 people.

There’s a lot of baffling behaviour out there, that can confuse, astound and amaze people who’ve been around for a while.


I go private, I still get a whole bunch of requests from a) social media idiots who appear to want to follow me because other people follow me, and b) people I don’t know who want to follow me in, presumably, a business sense, but don’t seem to have twigged that the danhon account is private for a reason – it’s about my personal life

or Cait:

A friend joined, and I noticed that his entire following list was of famous people with the exception of about 3 actual friends. Hehas a bit of a public profile, so to be honest, I looked in on what he was saying and didn’t bother following it up. The only “@” tweets in his list were replies to people he didn’t really seem to know. I haven’t seen a single message to an actual friend, about anything. And I realised that @StephenFry is the same. Isn’t that weird?

Now of course, their views are just as wrong – or right – as anyone else’s. That’s the joy about Twitter. It does not matter how you use it as long as how you use it matters to you. Join in, have fun, follow and @ and tweet about your breakfast, being stuck in a lift or how boring everyone else is. Post your affiliate links or your SEO guidelines or or your endless stream of links to blog posts or your blip lyrics or your Magpie ads or whatever else you want. I don’t care. You all have your reasons for using it as I have mine, just please don’t expect them to tally 😉

Feb 04

BT My Place

Last night, I was invited along to the launch of a new service from BT – BT MyPlace. Unfortunately, it all got called off with the weather; they’d sensibly decided that it may have been a little difficult to demo a service that would involve us wandering around outside.

BT MyPlace is a ‘pocket concierge’ system, for wifi devices. Register some of your preferences and when you are out and about – and can connect to the BT Openzone system in Westminster, you’ll be served relevant content. It’s a very local service, looking at the choices on offer, it’s focused on tourists. You don’t need to access over BTWifi though, as it seems to work perfectly well over standard connection.

To get it set up for the first time, you have to register on the site. Interestingly, I expected the confirmation to be sent to my phone, but instead it’s an email. On reflection, that’s because not all mobile wifi devices are phones, in fact, most aren’t if you consider laptops.

Next set your preferences. The UI on this site is a little raw to my eyes. The links to setting preferences are tucked away at the top, within preferences you have this weird mix of radio buttons and check boxes. My first thought was that I could only choose one type of preference, as radio buttons are used for exclusive choices.

Bt My Place (screenshot from site)

Bt My Place (screenshot from site)

At this point, I’m a little stuck. I’m going to try it out for real on the phone, but test searches were not overwhelmingly good when sitting at the desk whilst not in Westminster. I’m going to have to give it a try out in the outside world. I like the idea, it’s a good collaboration between BT and Westminster Council, I’ve just not seen it in action yet.