Aug 05

A Girl’s Guide to the Great British Beer Festival

It’s the Great British Beer Festival this week at Earl’s Court, a huge cavern of a place that is full of beer and beer drinkers. As part of their ongoing campaign to widen the appeal of beer CAMRA are running some free tours, a Girl’s Guide to the Great British Beer Festival. They’re curated by Melissa Cole, who’s an independent beer journalist and member of the British Guild of Beer Writers. Tonight was their first run of the tour, a group of about 12 of us were the guinea pigs for this attempt to spread the word about beer to a different audience.

My first impressions of the place were not exactly brilliant. In one corner, there was a huge group of what I assume were Cornishmen singing their national songs. Elsewhere, there were a lot of stereotypes, beer bellies and silly ‘real ale’ t-shirts that on the surface did not make this a friendly place. But first looks were deceiving and as we wandered round, we got nothing but good humour and support.

Melissa had put together a list of 40 beers to take a look at, however the tour only covered 5 of them, in 1/3 pints, to ensure we were all drinking responsibly. Here’s what we tried.

  • Wells and Young; Youngs Waggledance.. a honeyed sweet ale that was a great start. For me, it only had a very slight honey smell.
  • Copper Dragon; Golden Pippen Ale. Lovely and fruity, with lemony overtones.
  • Dark Star Expresso. Wow. a stout porter with a strong hit of coffee. As one of the party said, you could drink this for breakfast. It would go great with something like Chille Mole. But I could only drink the one at any sitting I think
  • Fuller’s Discovery.. This was a reallyy refreshing, designed to act as a bridge between lager and ales.
  • Iceni Raspberry Wheat. the first taste of this is very, very tart, but overall, it slips down a treat. I’d love this with cheese.

I liked all of them, only a small tasting, bt it’s given me new things to try. Thanks for CAMRA for organising this.

GIrl Guide To Great British Beer Festival

Apr 22

Barcelona Trip

Last weekend, a friend suggested a trip to Barcelona for a long weekend – some of his friends owned a boat in the harbour there so we could have somewhere to sleep.

Barcelona Apr 08

The boats somewhere in the middle there. Easyjet flights were booked and so I set off for 4 days in Barcelona. I’d visited the city back in 2002, so knew a little about it. I basically spent time wandering around, on foot and on the Tourist buses, taking photos and taking it easy.

Barcelona Apr 08

The weather was not brilliant – one really good day, 2 days with rain, but it was a great break; i got a little bit of a tan and a few mosquito bites. One thing that was fascinating was the marina culture – there’s a lot of British people with boats there, many living their on a long-term basis, others popping back and forth from the UK. They hang around together on the boats and in the bars, not with the locals.

I love this city and have only covered a small amount. Got a whole lot more to do the next time I go 😉

Mar 05

Studying Again

I’m feeling the itch to do some studying again, so looking at the OU for courses. So far, I’m liking this lot:

Pretty sure that does not make a named degree, nor even a degree in total, but it looks a fun lot. FOr most, I need to wait til next year to start, but it’s good to plan.

Feb 08

Chiswick Wifi

I’m now back in my flat in London, stuff from the US delivered and slowly sorting through the admin. Currently I have no web access from the flat, so I need to sort that out. For almost all ISPs I need a BT phone line, so got that sorted but it’s going to take 11 days for them to transfer an existing line to my name. No lines, nothing to physically do, just change a name on a database. That’s bad, bad service. So I can’t get web until then, which means I’m going to be living in cafes and friendly people’s places until then. I have access to mail via the phone and that’s getting changed to T-Mobile which gives me access to all of their hotspots as well.

Meanwhile here’s a review of the places I’ve tried that offer free wifi in Chiswick- and will try,as I will update the post with different places.

The Breakfast Club – OK, not in Chiswick, but the first place I tried as I’d been using it when I was commuting to London for interviews. Good food, gorgeous smoothies and a relaxed atmosphere to grab a seat and work away. There’s enough power points dotted around, but get there away from the rush at breakfast or lunch in order to find a place as overall it’s a bit small. Open 8-6.

Shackology. This is new since I was last here (they’ve taken over what used to be a pub) and is a brabar/cafe/brasserie. Open 9am-11pm, it offers good food and drink, with liver music in the weekends. Interestingly, one part is advertised as a buggy-free zone, so you can get away from the yummy mummies that abound in the area. Friendly staff, who made sure I got connected (you need to ask for the password) and didn’t seem to mind me hanging around. There were not that many power points around though that I could see (I used one behind a sofa), so may be short term use only

Sam’s Brasserie. At first glance, this was not as friendly. All the power points were covered up and I was not too sure of the waiter’s reaction to getting out the computer. But first appearances are deceptive; there’s a few others sitting around using the network now (who appear to be regulars) and they just came along and uncovered the power points, so now I’m all plugged in. To use the system you have to give them email and phone number so they can send you RM stuff. Food wise, the place is pretty good.

The question of course with using these places is what’s the bargain you make. How much do you have to spend, what’s the rate per hour? For myself, I tend to say up to 2 hours is a couple cups of coffee. If over that, then food is included in what I pay for, especially when I want to return!

Jan 02

Some 2008 Plans

Not really resolutions as they cover more than that, but here’s some of the things I want to do.


First up, find some new work. I know what I want to do – deliver transmedia experiences – but finding the right place could be a challenge.


Sort out the long term stuff. I need to do a little bit of planning and bring together all the bits and pieces. Plus some boring stuff like a will and all of that.


I’ve only got one bit of travel planned so far this year, and that’s conference based. I’ve not been on a ‘holiday’ since I went to Barbados, so I want to go somewhere to laze around and do scuba diving for a couple of weeks.


I’m off to SXSW, where I have a panel. Reboot and Gnomedex could also be on the agenda. I’d like to do at least one other speaking event this year.


I have to get the gym. Preferably to classes. So looking for a gym buddy in London for when I’m back down there.


I need to buy me a new TV. I had a Sharp Aquos in the US and quite liked that, but I’ll see what is in the shops at an affordable price once got the money together. I need to get a voltage transformer for the XBox and work my way through my games. I’m working through the Orange Box at the moment which will probably keep me occupied for a few months.


Behind the Buzz is going quite well, with traffic steadily increasing. I’ve got a few other blog possibilities, so we’ll see whether they pan out.

I think that is it for this planning session.

Dec 09

Flooding and Firemen

I said on Seesmic today this place is out to get me and earlier this evening we had another example of it. Sitting in my room I hear a bang, a whooshing news and then a fair bit of swearing and shouting. I went out to find that one of the sprinklers had gone off and was pouring water into the apartment. The sprinkler was next to the only source of heat in the place, a ceiling mounted gas heater, as there’s been no central heating since Friday, so that may have triggered it, but we’re not sure.

Anyway, what we have now is water pouring in at about 35 gallons a minute and no way of switching it off. We can’t close the valve as it has a padlock and chain on it preventing them being shut. Between us we managed to get things done. Clear away the stuff and get a bucket brigade going with the 3 garbage cans. Everyone gets soaked with the rusty old water. Luckily there were 7 people here so we managed to contain a lot of it, but there is still an inch of water spread in many places. John phones 911 and the Fire Brigade turn up in about 10 minutes. One chain cut, one valve closed. They found another sprinkler head to replace the broken one, so we still have fire protection.

The water was in the public section, so most of the stuff is OK, except a lot of the paintings done by John. We’ve spent the last hour or so cleaning up, mopping and pushing the water out of the place it just needs to dry out. Hopefully the heating will be back soon to help that along. Not the most pleasant way to spend a Sunday evening!

Changing the sprinkler

Nov 27

A week in London

I spent last week in London, the first time I’d been back since I moved to New York. A great week was had, a combination of work and pleasure.

  • had some interviews and met up with some headhunters. I’m back in London permanently from January and this was setting up some things. No idea how it will pan out yet.
  • had drinks with Suw where we chatted about life, work and all things weddingy.
  • Had coffee with Jeremy, one of the panelists with me at SXSW, just connecting and chatting.
  • Had coffee and yummy dimsum with Adam, where publishing was onthe agenda.
  • randomly bumped into Rebecca and had coffee later, looking at the workshops she has been running. I also randomly bumped into Lloyd whilst going to meet Adam; the development of the Tuttle club looks interesting.
  • Went to BarcampLondon3 and had a blast. I was staying with Ian Forrester for that part of the week and ended up having a unsettling scooter ride through London to get to and from the camp. I’ve only ever been on the back of a bike twice before, so not the most comfortable experience – enjoyable in hindsight but a the time I got rather worried for my knees! There were around 130 people at the camp, hosted by Google. Did not make too many of the talks as spent a lot of time just chatting with cool new people. Gave a talk on Games in Advertising and things to watch out for (using this year’s Court TV Save My Husband as an example). Had my first ride on a Segway. Indulged in the food and drink that was provided – definitely the best ‘work canteen’ food I’ve ever had. Watched multiple games of Werewolf. All in all, a superb weekend, thanks to Ian, Amy, the BBC and Google for putting it on.

I think I’m getting paid back for having a good time though. Suffered a a bad nose bleed and nearly managed to not pay for a drink as I was dealing with that instead of thinking of paying. The servers were not too sympathetic when I got back, even though I was dripping blood! They were far more interested in getting their money. Broke the screen on my phone – bad news as it is on load from Palm, so am going to have to pay for that. Have a horrible cold. And the toilet flooded all over the bathroom this morning so spent an hour cleaning that lot up. I think I need to just hibernate for the next few days

Sep 29

Meeting People

This week I got to meet up with zeroinfluencer, or David as he is more normally known as. I’d first come across him as part of the team behind Where are the Joneses? and then followed him on Twitter. When I saw he was popping across to New York, for the OMMA awards (they won by the way) I tool the opportunity to grab lunch. A great chat, where he proceeded to confound my brain with information theory and possibilities!

Next up was a CenterNetworks meetup, for drinks, food and a couple of presentations from Outbrain and Hakia (at least one write up to follow). A hole bunch of interesting people there. Finally, last night, was a Gawker drinks thingy..or at least Owen Thomas was in town and having a wee get together. Connected with a few people there and had a good time.

Update – corrected the spelling Where are the Joneses?

Sep 28


Two years ago this week I made the decision to leave Diageo after 14 years – I then proceeded to give 4 months notice! My initial plan was to do freelance social media consulting, an area that was just starting to gain wider traction across businesses. This was slightly scuppered by a chance meeting at SXSW, with someone who’d been part of the team at an agency for some Smirnoff work we did with them. They were looking for someone to help support on digital for a client they had, so I agreed to come across to New York for 10 weeks to do this. This eventually led to an offer of a full time role, with a visa. After a lot of thought, I decided to accept – New York was always somewhere I had wanted to work and had been trying to do so with Diageo for a while. My reservations were that this was advertising and my expertise was more in the marketing/social media space. I mentally gave myself a year.

That is what has now happened; due to a tightening of belts, my services are no longer required. Very little of my time was against clients, a lot of what I did was education and internal stuff and they could basically no longer support that. I’m not surprised, I’d been looking for more work internally for a while and not getting much luck. The result is I no longer have a job and am looking, most probably back in the UK as the visa I have won’t work at another company. Unless somewhere else takes my fancy (I’ve always liked Sydney 😉 ).

Next steps..a short period of misery (I’m allowed, this is the first time it’s happened to me), a take stock and then a push to get a new job (whilst moving countries again!) Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of my time here, enjoy the company of the many new friends I’ve made in the city

Sep 08

Rugby World Cup

The Rugby World Cup has started and so has my task to find somewhere decent to watch it. It does not appear on the usual cable channels, it only seems to be on Setanta, something primarily found in pubs, even though the USA has a team that seems to do OK. So the challenge will be to find a nice pub, showing the rugby, not too crowded and that doesn’t switch over at the slighttest provacation to American Football. My first attempt is at Nelson Blue, a New Zealand place down near the Seaport. Good food, good staff and a mixed crowd of ex-pats and USians. But this will not have all the matches on, as Setanta seems to not to want to provide them with the matches, even though they want to spend the money. Apparently, the company is restricting supply in the city, to certain Irish bars!

After the first England game, I’m pretty sure they are not going to replicate the success of last time. There was no flare, little excitement. I vividly recall watching the final last time, getting up early and going round to the local bar, full of fans, for breakfast, the absolute joy of that last minute kick. The victory parade went past the office and so many people just left the building to cheer the team as they went along Oxford St, an exhilarating moment. Unless they get a lot, lot better over the next week or so, it won’t be repeated.

PS if you do want to watch the rugby in the US, Setanta seems to have the monopoly, so here’s their handy tool to find out which pubs may be playing the games.

Sep 07

Jeremy and his new hat

Jeremy and his new hat

Caught a drink with Jeremy Wright last night at the end of his rapid-fire trip to New York – he demonstrated his new cap bought on his recent trip to the UK, a flat cap in black corduroy. His trip seemed to be full of incidents and surprises, not going completely to plan, but you need to wait for him to blog that to get all of the nuances!

One thing we did end up discussing was the different way that English and North American women walk and carry themselves. Apparently Jeremy was breasted more in his trip than ever before – breasted being his description for a woman getting by you and brushing you with her breasts. Now, he was in pubs, raves and the Notting Hill Carnival so there were plenty of opportunities for close encounters due to crowding but he felt that presenting the breasts first was far more prevalent in the UK. Anybody with a comparable experience?

Sep 05

Digital challenges for a traditional agency

My ex-boss, who left the company the other week, was interviewed in the Wall Street Journal (subscription req.) about the challenges facing her in new job and those facing a traditional advertising agency as it tries to integrate digital. Some key points from the interview:

  • an agency appointing a ‘digital czar’ is not enough, you need to have the people to implement the plans
  • you can’t just drop a bunch of digital people in the middle of a traditional agency as they’ll all just wonder what they are doing. Digital needs to be more than an extension of the ad campaign.
  • to understand digital you need to live it, otherwise you will never get it as a creative medium. it’s not something you can just read about

The points rang very true, it’s difficult in an agency where many live TV but few seem to live digital.

Aug 23

Vegan Meals

Last night I had dinner with a few people at Red Bamboo, a vegan restaurant. This place seems to make it’s name from the fake food it provides – soy protein shaped and flavoured to pretend to be meat. We had ‘Chicken’ wings, ‘prawns’, just ‘meat’ in general.

Fake Prawns at Red Bamboo

There you see fake prawns, shaped and painted to look just like the real things. If that was not surreal enough, it got even weirder as the talk turned to Star Trek (it was a table full geeks) as one of the party discussed an out standing question he had about Wesley Crusher at the end of his tenure on the show (names and actual question hidden to protect them). Luckily, another guy had Wil Wheaton on IM and proceeded to ask the question. So our pondering friend finally got the answer to something that had bugged him for years.


Aug 19

You are never too old

Through a serendipitous meeting yesterday, doing some work on another conference, I got invited to a BBQ in Queens yesterday (my first visit to the Borough). Whilst there, I had a good chat with the main host, a 70+ year old gentleman who talked about his media habits and how so many companies just did not get it these days. The sort of things he does:

  • ripping all his CDs to the hard-drive, to run through his planned house-wide network
  • buys much of his new music digitally
  • ad avoids on the web using ad blockers
  • watches all TV programmes online, from DVDs or via DVR. Only watches the news, sports and Lost live. He only watches Lost as his wife insists on watching it live and not the next day
  • listens to new radio, such as Live365; he finds it brings him all sorts of goodies, such as jazz from the 20’s or 30’s. He pays a subscription to be ad free.

He loves how the web can bring him the long tail of music (he has a music degree), how technology lets him avoid intrusive ads and choose services which are subscription based or low ad level. He watches TV and entertainment when and how he wants. So it’s not just the teens the advertisers have to worry about changing behaviour, it’s all ages.

Aug 08

Clipmarks and Forbes

Do I believe what it says in the blogs? This time I hope so – Venture Beat is reporting that Clipmarks is being bought by Forbes.

The New York-based startup lets you select text, photos or videos on web pages, then use Clipmark’s bookmarking feature to save the URL and your selected information to your Clipmarks folder. From there, you can share your “clips” with friends and colleagues and even search to find the most popular clips on the Clipmarks site.

As Forbes people have popped up in the comments to the article stating that it is essentially true but premature, with the deal not yet closed. Roger MacNamee says:

First, the story is premature, but only by a little. Second, Forbes is committed to transforming business journalism so that our audience gets more insight about business and investing in a lot less time. We think Clipmarks will play a really key role in this.

So I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the deal to go through and for Eric Skiff, a good friend who works with the site, as a Community Evangelist. Eric was one of the few people I knew when I moved to New York last year, having met him randomly at parties at SXSW – we kept bumping into each other at the same places. He went out of his way to welcome me and introduce me to more great people in the city, so I’m hoping all goes well for him and the rest of the company.

Jul 21

Harry Potter vs the iPhone

Two great launches have taken place over the last few weeks, the Apple iPhone and the seventh and last Harry Potter book. So had did the launches compare?

Facet Harry Potter iPhone
What is it? A book A phone. With extras.
Audience Ostensibly children 9-12. In reality all ages. Gadget freaks and Apple fans with enough cash to spend or parents who would spend the money. Plus speculators looking to make a quick turnaround.
Cost $34.99, although many places discounted $599 plus 2 year phone contract
Queues Yes. Although pre-ordering and common sense meant that they really only formed on the day. Queues reached round blocks; the ones I saw were far larger than for iPhone Yes, some forming 5 days in advance. Press and speculation potential meant people wanted to be first.
Attire School uniform, cloaks, pointy hats (a wizard is not a wizard without one). Face paint. Jeans and t-shirts. HP fans definitely better dressed.
Typical Fan HP fan

Harry Potter fan

Originally uploaded by RachelC

Apple iPhone Launch Palo Alto – Robert Scoble

Originally uploaded by b_d_solis
Celebrities I’m avoiding reports at the moment, so no idea Over and above the tech geek celebs, Spike Jones, Whoppi Goldberg, more people I don’t know. Looking for clues on this one,
Charity Factor Not really – can’t resell it. Some ofthe first people in queues were planning on reselling for charity. Plus they got a lots of PR for being there in the first place.
Scarcity Plenty. Lots and lots all over the place Fears were proved pretty groundless as phones were available without too much rush. Initial auctioning value dropped rapidly
Sales in first days Pre-orders on Amazon over 2m. Just way bigger than the iPhone 500k?
Cool Factor errrrr, It’s a book. Not really much you can do to up the cool factor. ooohhhhhh shiny. Let me touch. It’s shiny. Wins the cool factor hands down.
Usability Only one function. Read it. But at 759 pages it makes a good door stop as well. Does lots of things well and then does not do things that it should do as a convergent device. Plus does somethings badly. Read the reports – they’re mixed. But did I say it’s shiny?
Reuse It’s a once only thing. Once you’ve read it the suspense is gone. re-reading is possible but not as much fun. Years of fun. Lots of things you can do and it has a continuing functionality. Until the battery goes.
Recyclability Yes. Out to the recycle people and back it will come as next week’s newspaper. Probably. But lots of components and chemicals so not that easy
A sequel? No, that’s your lot. The story is over and done with. JK could sit back and enjoy her riches but may produce something else – will it be as good? Yes. Absolutely. In different colours, sizes, functionalities. One that actually works in 3G. This one has a long way to go.

Now I’m off to read the book for the rest of the day. Anyone got things to add?

Jul 18

Steam Video

I got a little bit of video but hands were shaking too much to do for long. This is about 3 mins after the bang. The roar was the steam pouring out the hole.

Jul 18

Manhattan Explosion

Manhattan Explosion, originally uploaded by RachelC.

I was walking out of the office to the subway, headphones on, minding my own business and just cursing the slow people in front and the tourist taking a photo of the Chrysler building when there was a bang and then a rushing sound. I looked up to find what looked like the centre of Lex and 42nd crossing pouring out smoke about one block in front of me.

The general tendency was to go the other way, so that’s what I did before stopping and taking a few images. Interestingly, that this may have been a bomb was not my first thought – maybe I’ve seen too many on the news but given the upward flow and the continued rushing sound, i thought it was more likely a gas main or something that gave a continuous fuel supply.

I thought I’d go back to the office but that was evacuated but I’m lucky enough to live close enough to walk. So 40 blocks later, the shaking has stopped and I think I’m going for a drink.

Update: In the pub, there were 2 other guys who were around the same area. One of them worked above the steam/transformer explosion and said stones were hitting his 14th story window. They thought it was the building next door and it was not until he saw the news in the bar that he realised it was in the middle of the road.

Update: (from press conference) it was a 2 foot pipe installed in 1924 that burst, cold water on the pipe is likely suspect. At the moment 20 people injured 2 people critical, one fatality. Tow truck went into the crater. Oh, great, asbestos released possible – advised to take clothes and put away until confirmed. Grand Central open; Lex ave line impacted – nothing running in the area. Shuttle impacted, 7 not stopping at Grand central. Roads closed all the way round it at the moment.

Jul 18

CScout Trend Spotter

Do you fancy yourself as a trend spotter? Ray from CScout has asked me if I know anyone in London who wants to take a crack at spotting trends for them

Here’s a job description.

Background: living and /or working in London who is immersed in the web 2.0, technology sector, startup, social media communities. Good candidates in the past have been bloggers, writers, and marketers.

Duties: This is for part-time work, on a contract basis. Scouts could either have a day job in the area, or be a full time freelancer. Typical assignments are short reports in Word doc or PPT with text and images.

Fees and rates depend on length of project and experience.

CScout is a global trend consultancy with 12 full time employees in offices in New York, Munich, Tokyo, and Beijing. In addition, 25+ scouts placed globally are activated depending upon the needs of our clients.

They also have opening in Sydney and/or Melbourne. Contact Raymond for further details if interested: r a y . c h a at g m a i l ( d o t ) c o m , (you know the drill with munged addresses)