Life

Hello again

Well. It’s been a while.

I promised that I’d come back and write more once I’d had the baby, but there really hasn’t been time (or energy). Oops. So while she naps across the room (for how long, who knows?), here’s the news in brief:

  • Baby Erin was born on Thursday 8 March, a few days earlier than the official due date. She’s three months old today.
  • She was born at home, as planned, and the birth was fantastic – everything I could have hoped for. I mean, it was unbelievably painful and everything, but doing it at home was absolutely the right decision. It was uncomplicated, and natural and relaxed (at points) and joyful and calm. A few hours after the birth, we were cuddled up on the sofa as a family, having tea and toast. Brilliant.
  • Our midwife, Angela, from the local NHS homebirth team, was a total star. When the baby arrived rather quicker than anyone anticipated, she handled it brilliantly. She continued to provide support, advice and cake long after the birth, and we felt immensely supported and cared for.
  • 24 hours after the birth, Erin was diagnosed with “clicky hips” (dislocated hips) which means that for the last few months she’s been in a contraption called a Pavlik Harness. DDH (or CDH) is more common than you might think, though I’d never heard of it before we got the diagnosis. The harness is a bit cumbersome and changing nappies is a total faff, but you don’t notice it after a while.
  • Since the diagnosis, we’ve had a regular round of physio (once a week, to refit the harness), ultrasounds (every few weeks, to check progress) and consultations with the orthopedic surgeon (monthly, to discuss treatment progress and options). Considering that we had a home birth, we’ve spent a hell of a lot of time (and parking charges) at the hospital over the last few months. We’re confident that the harness is doing its job and are hopeful that it will come off soon, with no surgery required.
  • Looking after a newborn baby is really, really hard. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done. It’s mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting, and it’s relentless. People keep telling me that it gets better or easier. I hope so. I’m pooped.
  • It’s also really boring much of the time. No-one tells you this. In fact, I think it’s probably frowned on to say it. But if you’re used to being surrounded by agile minds conducting fascinating thought-experiments and verbally jousting at work every day, looking after a baby gets pretty tedious rather quickly, especially when they’re too young to play or engage much with their surroundings. There’s something about the relentless monotony of routine (is it feeding time again? So soon? I could have sworn we just fed a few minutes ago…), and the fact that your brain has been sucked out of your ears by exhaustion, and the need to be constantly entertaining or on the move. It’s knackering.
  • Despite this, it’s also really busy. What with hospital visits and other neonatal checks and appointments, plus Erin’s burgeoning social calendar, every day there’s something to do, somewhere to be, someone to meet. Every day takes logistical planning – where will we be, when? When do we expect her to get hungry? How do I make sure we’re somewhere calm to feed at the right(ish) times? How do we fit naps around everything? Where’s the buggy base? In the car? How do I leave the house with all the right things? For example, even something simple like clothing needs to be considered: Will I need to get her undressed (e.g. for weighing or physio)? This dictates what she wears, and how easy it is to get on/off without drama. Always thinking, always planning. It’s exhausting.
  • When people say “oh, you’ll have all this time to watch DVD box sets on maternity leave” they are deluded. Neither is there any time for interesting crafty projects. The nursery remains unfinished. The crochet project I was working on when I went into labour hasn’t had a single stitch added since the birth. I barely have time to shower, let alone do laundry or anything more interesting. By illustration, last week, I stubbed my little toe when out at the hospital. By the time I got home at 2pm, it was bleeding and my sandal had filled with blood. I finally got around to washing it and putting a plaster on at half past eight. There just wasn’t a single moment for me to look after myself. None. Someone wrote to me the other day about a speaking engagement, saying they wondered if I’d like to come and talk to their company awayday “while I’m off”. I nearly exploded – or I would if I’d had the energy. Off! Hahahahaha! This thing I’m doing feels incredibly far from being off.
  • Those people who say chirpily “nap when the baby naps!” have never heard of washing up. The instant she goes down, rather than slumping onto the sofa and snoring, I turn into an overwound clockwork toy – I dash around picking things up and shoving them into drawers or whichever appliance they need to be in (dishwasher, washing machine), sterilizing things madly and making myself sandwiches at odd times because I don’t know when I’m going to get a chance to eat otherwise. And that’s even without noting that Erin mostly naps when we’re in the car, driving (to/from hospital etc) or when I’m out walking with her, so napping is impossible for me. In fact, pushing her around in the buggy is a good way to make sure she naps in the afternoon, so I endlessly trudge around the area in which I live. I do somewhere between 2-4 miles a day, on average. I haven’t figured out how to fall asleep while out walking, though I try to reclaim the time by listening to podcasts I might previously have commuted by. I walk so she rests. Exhausting.
  • But it’s also brilliant. When she smiles, everything seems ok. We play games. She giggles. She sticks her tongue out. She recognises my voice. We know how to calm her down, and how to read her many moods and anticipate her needs. It’s fascinating to see her start to develop skills and learn things. It takes a while, but when it starts to click into place, it’s amazing. Despite the exhaustion, you find you have infinite love, patience and energy. Whatever is required, you can do it.
  • No-one tells you that your sense of identity takes a big knock. The person you were is gone. You have a new life now. You have new interests and new friends and new obsessions and new priorities. The old friends/interests/priorities are still there, but now you have to make a big effort to involve them in your new life. Getting used to that is really hard, and if you come to motherhood later in life (I’m what they call an “elderly prima gravida”, despite still being well under 40!) you have even more sense of identity to lose. It’s hard.
  • The number one piece of consistent advice I’ve had from midwife, doctor, health visitor, family members and more is: “give yourself a break; stop giving yourself a hard time”. It’s remarkably easy to get overwhelmed by feeling that you need to do something in a particular way, and everything (how/what you are feeding baby, which nappies you use, development classes, routines and schedules, weight gain (baby’s) and loss (yours)) comes loaded with political, class and philosophical judgements and agendas. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone needs to believe – and promote – that their way is the best way, because questioning that or allowing others to question that would mean they were Not Being A Good Mother, and that can never be entertained. It’s exhausting.
  • I miss work. In my absence, there’s a lot going on, and I miss it. I feel very far removed from it all, and out of the loop. I hope that when I do decide to go back, my brain will still function and my skills will still be relevant. It’s a worry that I know lots of new mums have. I don’t know how to fix it.


So in brief: here we are, three months on. Still alive. Just.

Erin is a curious, charming, relentless little character who likes songs about hedgehogs, is happy in the morning and grumpy in the evening, and doesn’t believe in napping during the day because the world is too interesting. She’s getting good at grabbing things, and gurgling. She looked a lot like her dad at first, but now she’s starting to look a bit more like me.

And next week, it will all have changed again.

Waiting for the spring

Several months ago – back in mid-October, in fact – I went out into my back garden and planted dozens of bulbs. I can remember exactly what the date was, because we went to the garden centre for a calming cup of tea on the way back from a most exciting event: an ultrasound scan.

Daffs

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m expecting a baby – my first. Back in mid-October, we went for the regular 20 week anomaly scan at the local hospital. That’s what they call it, in case you weren’t already freaking out enough already about the status of your unborn foetus, which you can’t quite yet let yourself believe is an actual baby at that point, especially if you’re paranoid about the pregnancy progressing.

The thing is, they give you dates to worry about and fixate on. Before twelve weeks, you’re advised not to tell anyone, really, because it’s such early days and anything could happen.

After twelve weeks, your odds start to improve, but you still have other things to worry about: like the anomaly scan at twenty weeks, when they tell you if the baby inside you has enough lungs, or a brain developing on the inside of its skull, or whatever.

At twenty-four weeks, you know that, scientifically, the baby could juuuuust about survive on the outside – with a lot of medical support and a long spell in one of those premature baby units.

After an eternity of waiting, there’s thirty-seven weeks, when your baby is officially ripe enough to not be counted as premature, and you’re allowed (!) to give birth naturally.

And then of course there’s the always-looming due date at forty weeks, on which only 5% of babies actually arrive, but which is counted down to (and then up from, frustratingly, on the other side) as if it has magical powers.

If you’re like me, you can’t bring yourself to look forward to each date as it approaches (all-too slowly), but you give yourself a quiet mental fistbump at the passing of each milestone. We made it this far. Keep on baking, little bun. There’s another staging post a way ahead. And each new goal looks impossibly far away and impossibly precarious. How will we ever get there?

But back in mid-October at twenty weeks, I couldn’t even think about the later stages of pregnancy, because I was too overwhelmed with the immediate challenges, like staying awake on my commute, finding clothes that fit and flattered my changing shape, and scouring the anomaly scan for clues about the health of my – shush, whisper it – baby.

On the way back from the scan, where junior was pronounced healthy, whole and gender revealed, we stopped at the local garden centre for a much-needed cup of tea. We stared at the ultrasound screengrabs we never thought we’d see – A nose! Little fists! A footprint! – and contemplated the reality of the newest, not quite real member of the family. And then I did what I tend to do and swiftly found a displacement activity, because this was simply too big to consider: I bought bulbs.

Back at home, I planted daffodils, miniature irises, tulips, crocuses and more. I filled planters and pots and nestled a few in among the bottoms of the hedges. I lost myself in activity, and buried my worries in the soft soil, tucking the bulbs in tightly for the winter in the hope that they made it through to the other side.

I’ve always loved spring flowers. As a spring baby myself, my birthday – 12 March – is often accompanied by daffodils and tulips. Our wedding anniversary (5 March) is usually marked with tulips, because on the morning of our wedding eight years ago, I went to Newcastle’s flower market looking for tulips to carry down the aisle. Ours was a rather casual affair as you can probably tell, and there wasn’t actually an aisle. Neither were there any tulips, unfortunately – but Paul has made up for their absence every year since.

birthday tulips

And for the last few years, we’ve been in Cornwall in early March, around our wedding anniversary or my birthday, and I’ve relished the cheerful golden blooms which peek out from every hedgerow and garden. I’ve struggled to resist the temptation to come home burdened with armfuls of fresh local daffs, because you can’t just have a few, can you? There must always be armfuls. What can I say? It’s a weakness.

So in any normal year, you’ll find my house full of daffodils and tulips for much of February and March, and since we’ve had a garden ourselves, I’ve ensured that at least at that point of the year, there’s something jolly popping out to say hello for my birthday.

When I planted out those bulbs in October, it was in the hope that they would grow at the same rate as the baby inside me, and emerge from the soil, to greet the pale spring sunshine at about the same time as she is due to make an appearance – which is coincidentally around my birthday, too.

First exploration. The snow comes up to her belly.When the weather was unusually warm in early January, I watched day by day as they tentatively poked their stems and leaves above the soil, in early exploration of the season. Too soon!

When just a couple of weeks ago we had a severe cold snap, followed by several sudden inches of snow which blanketed the garden for a week or more, I worried about their tender shoots, vulnerable and not yet hardy in the frozen ground.

But today, on the first properly springlike day we’ve had, I went out to the garden and noticed that it has finally started to spring into life.

The early irises have come out:

Forget Triffids - it's like Day of the Miniature Irises out there. Suddenly all in bloom at once. Hello spring!

And the daffodils have sprung back from being flattened by snow, and are getting ready to bloom. I think they’ll be here in a couple of weeks.

And as for me, I’m nearly 38 weeks along, the size of a house, cleared for the home birth we’ve been preparing for, and as ready as I’m ever going to be for the arrival of the baby. It could be any day now.

I’m on maternity leave, drinking raspberry leaf tea, bouncing on my gym ball and going for occasional reflexology appointments or antenatal yoga classes, but otherwise just pottering around the house and garden, performing mild nesting tasks and pausing slightly, holding my breath at each Braxton Hicks contraction and flurry of kicks. Is it time yet? Is this the beginning?

Like the bulbs in the garden, the baby is waiting for the right moment to enter the world. And all I can do is watch and wait.

Cheating slightly: bought these at the weekend, because I do love blooming daffs

Weight-loss, gamification and common sense: a delicate balance

Reading this article on the Guardian website over lunch, and related tweets, I felt moved to respond myself.

The author of this article is right to scoff at the marketing around Weightwatchers’ traditional seasonal membership drive. After all, the messages are designed to appeal to the kind of people who make generalised new year’s resolutions – “MUST LOSE WEIGHT!” – but aren’t bright/motivated/organised enough to figure out how to do it.

Gamification, a neologism that has risen to prominence in the past two years, describes the act of taking an activity that is not a game and turning it into a game to increase audience engagement.

Proponents argue that gamification can be used to positively influence human behaviour by incentivising constructive activities that humans otherwise can’t really be bothered with.

It’s a bit like offering a child a biscuit if she cleans her bedroom, or awarding a New Year’s honour to a Conservative if he gives some money to the government.

Gamification is a concept at the heart of the Weight Watchers’ new campaign, driven this week by the launch of the website PlayWeightwatchers.co.uk – although here, the idea is to find a participant and remove their money and biscuits.

“Weight Watchers is a game we play to lose weight,” states the first line of the site’s copy in a crisp attempt to move the gruelling work of dieting away from the imagery of self-flagellating, fasting monks to the rotund bounce of Super Mario.

Dig deeper on the site to uncover the rules of the Weight Watchers game and details are disappointingly thin on the ground. “Playing” appears to be little more than an obfuscated version of calorie counting.

So the rather frivolous marketing message is annoying, yes.

But at the risk of defending weightwatchers, there is something effective about the points/goals/scoring system they operate which appeals to those motivated by targets and personal challenge, if not fully “gamers”.

Personal disclaimer/experience which allows me to comment on this in more than just a mediasnarky way: I lost 4.5 stone in 12 months a few years ago. I did this via a variety of methods (eating better & moving more being the main and most effective contributory factors – ’twas ever thus!) but I did sign up to Weightwatchers online and used the system to log (food diary), count (via their points system, which isn’t the current ProPoints, but whatever came before) and chart (via weight tracking graph) my progress. It was useful for that.

I didn’t attend a single meeting (can’t think of anything worse) and I ignored all the shuddersomely ignorant messageboards (sample question: “Which has more points? A BigMac or a Quarterpounder with Cheese?”)

The discipline of keeping track of food in and energy out and weight up/down was absolutely key for me, and has been cited by all sorts of people and organisations as a common factor in helping weight loss and healthy lifestyle be a life-change not just a crash-diet. Even the most intelligent among us can benefit from seeing a direct relationship between fuel consumed, fuel burnt and load carried. Because it is that simple.

Part of this was setting small, achievable goals – weightwatchers recommend 7lb increments, and at the time awarded you badges for hitting these targets. I took a different approach, because I’m not motivated by badges (apart from that Blue Peter one I got for painting a stegasaurus in 1983), and instead made a giant spreadsheet containing lots of weight equivalents which I could visualise better than numbers*. Because I’m a geek.

For example, 1st 7lb is the average weight of a female badger. Why on earth would you carry a badger around all the time? What a ridiculous thing to do. You’d feel far better if you put that bloody badger down and let it go snuffling off into the hedgerows or whatever (etc).

Other people may be more motivated by hitting round numbers, or dropping a BMI unit or whatever. YMMV.

Nevertheless, tracking was key for me. And WW – however full of mouth-breathers eating ready meals and fast food it may appear – was helpful in doing that. Other apps and schemes and software is available – including paper and pen, though you would have to do some jiggery-pokery to convert calories etc into something consistent to take into account that calories from saturated fat or carbs are different from those derived from protein.

Weightwatchers online database does that, for a lot of common foods (banana, 1 slice of wholemeal bread, glass of orange juice) as well as branded things (1 slice dominos pepperoni pizza, 1 muller light strawberry flavour, waitrose macaroni cheese ready meal). But on the whole I found it easier to set up and save a bunch of meals on there myself by inputting the recipes from fresh ingredients, because I cook from fresh most of the time and don’t eat ready meals e.g. “Meg’s Veg Soup = 1 onion, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tin tomatoes, 2 carrots, 1 bunch spinach, 1 pt stock, 1 slice bread, 10g lurpak light = 2 servings @ 2pts/serving” (in that example, the points came from the bread, butter and olive oil, the other things being “free”)

Since I knew that I was supposed to be aiming for a certain number of points a day, doing this sort of tracking allowed me to “budget” points throughout the day – so many for lunch, so many for a snack, and so on. If I’d already used up more points than expected on breakfast and lunch, then mid afternoon I could have an apple (free) instead of a biscuit (2pts). Sounds obvious, but if you lack discipline and willpower, then structures help, even ones that should be obvious.

And yes, “earning” points through physical activity is part of it, too. Cardio, swimming, running (I did couch to 5k) and even walking an extra tube stop or two earn you points to deposit in the bank, which you can offset against the fuel you consume. Walking an hour a day meant I could continue to share a bottle of wine with my husband as a friday night winding-down ritual. When you set activity against reward like that, it’s easy to put your trainers on.

But while it’s easy to say “walk around the block and you can have another biscuit” the key is probably to think of it the other way round: “Had a biscuit too many? Get off your arse and go for a walk”

* Here’s the spreadsheet. These values were collected from a variety of sources. As you can see, there are some values I haven’t been able to find direct equivalents for. Suggestions welcome!

Weights and equivalents

lbequivalent
1Guinea pig
216 sausages
3human brain
4ostrich egg
5chichuahua
6human's skin
7typical woman's handbag
8human head
9sea eagle (MALE)
10gallon of paint
11average housecat
12bald eagle
13african elephant's brain
14two chickens
1510 dozen large eggs
16sperm whale's brain
17Aluminium Teleprompter
18four house bricks
19Badger
20car tyre
21three chickens
22200 golf balls
23adult badger
24Six ostrich eggs
25average 2 year old
26koala bear
27Nine human brains
28four chickens
29Largest found Buzzard Coulee meteorite
30average vacuum cleaner
31average amount of manure produced by a horse each day
32eight bottles of champagne
33cinder block
34500 paperback books
35five chickens
36mid size microwave
37Albacore tuna
38Maximum size of a trumpeter swan
39Average adult porcupine
40average human leg
41£200 in pound coins
425 gallon bucket of water
43
4411 haddocks
455 rabbits
46two adult badgers
475000 BTU air conditioner
48
4930 pairs of shoes
50small bale of hay
51Average weight of an Emperor penguin, post-breeding season
52Husky
53
5412 house bricks
5511 reams of A4 paper (5,500 sheets)
5610 MacBook Pros (15")
57Average weight of an adult wombat
5813 MacBook Pros (13")
59
6080 pigeons
61Two 27" iMacs
62Heavy adult porcupine
63Average American adult per capita consumption of beef in 1994
64Eight Wii Balance Boards (no batteries)
65
6644 iPads (wifi version)
67
68
69three adult badgers
70irish setter
71
72
73Olympic skeleton bob (female)
74
759 gallons of water
76
77gold brick
78kangaroo
79
80world's largest ball of tape
81Alsatian
82£400 in pound coins
83
84
85
86
87The fattest cat in the world
88
89
90newborn calf
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
1002 month old horse

Hello, world

Things have been a bit quiet around here over the last few months, for which I must apologise. It wasn’t my intention to “go dark” for a spell, but neither have I had the time – or, frankly, energy – to update with anything approaching the velocity of things in my head. There’s so much to talk about and think about at the moment, from community design to open news, from riots and social networks to patterns of protest. There are so many conversations to be had and links to be shared about all this, but unfortunately, as is often the case, life got in the way.

Driving towards Torridon via Applecross

And what’s the life that’s got in the way for updating here? Well, a hectic work life, as ever. But also a new life. A baby.

Excitingly, Paul and I are expecting a baby (our first), due in early March 2012. Feeling completely appalling for several months plus the constant soul-draining exhaustion that has accompanied it has made doing anything interesting somewhat challenging, and though I’m now feeling a bit better, I’m still being careful not to overpromise or overcommit (after several years of doing both, which came to a juddering halt in the middle of the summer with this marvellous news).

I don’t talk about personal things much here at all, but this is worth mentioning and celebrating, especially if you’ve been with me on this blog journey for much of the nearly dozen years I’ve been at it. We’re naturally over the moon about the incoming addition to our little family, as well as somewhat overwhelmed with the prospect of all the changes and challenges that will bring. But what an adventure.

So that may explain – or excuse? – my recent absence from bloglandia, and (if you have been trying to engage with me in a professional context) why I have been maddeningly difficult to pin down to speaking commitments and the like at the end of 2011 and through into 2012. I’m doing one more overseas trip this year (Brazil, in a few weeks, for MediaON) and then I’m hanging up my passport and carry-on bag for a while, not least because the airlines won’t let you fly after a certain point in the pregnancy.

Anyway, I won’t promise to update more, because I don’t want to raise expectations. But I will promise to try and find time to share some of the stuff I’ve been thinking, doing and working on over the last few months, and the months to come.

As to what happens next year, clearly that’s still being worked out. I’ll be on maternity leave for a bit, obviously, and following that, back to the exciting world of media, social & community development/engagement. But I’m not gone yet. And even when I am, I’ll be back soon enough.

In the meantime – hello! I’m still here.

Yarnbombed bike in Greenwich Village

Initial reflections on Newsfoo

On arrival at Newsfoo a couple of weeks ago in Phoenix, Arizona, each participant was given a notebook. The notebook may have just been a rather fine example of conference schwag, but looking back at it after the weekend, I realise that mine speaks volumes – not what I jotted down during sessions, but what I didn’t. Or rather, the pattern of my note-taking during the event.

Newsfoo notebook

I noted down on a fresh page the name of the session I was attending, and the time, so I would later be able to piece together the sequence of sessions I attended at least, through a fug of jetlag. Underneath each session’s title, there follows about a page of notes – the questions under discussion, framing the topic, perhaps, or salient quotes and ideas. And then, by the time we get to the second page, the notes descend into lists – of names (people in the room and beyond), book titles, publications, other references cited, half ideas, questions – all headed by an underlined FOLLOW UP LATER.

This tells me two things about my experience of Newsfoo: One, that I was frequently too busy listening, thinking and participating to record the event. There was so much going on! And two, that each session acted as a catalyst for further thinking, reading, conversation afterwards. In other words, you needed your attention in the room; and the session was only the beginning.

This perhaps provides some context for the misunderstood suggestion from O’Reilly organisers, who dissuaded people from liveblogging and tweeting during sessions. Some – who weren’t there, incidentally – saw this suggestion on the event wiki and reacted angrily, referring to a “twitter ban” and alleging that this was part of a conspiracy to keep the content of the event secret, cabal-like.

On the contrary. My impression was that people were free to socialise and cover their perspective of the event (at least anything that wasn’t covered by O’Reilly’s famous FrieNDA, which is like a person- or statement-specific Chatham House rule), just not in real time. And since the weekend in Phoenix, there have emerged a number of stimulating, informative and thoughtful blog posts – and I expect more will emerge in time.*

So it’s not that nothing was said. It’s that, like coffee, Newsfoo reactions took time to percolate – though, as a non-coffee-drinking Brit, I’m bound to say that a good cup of tea needs time to steep (we call this “masting”) before it’s ready to drink. Whisk the teabag out too soon and your cuppa is insipid, weak – hardly worth bothering with at all.

In my experience, inserting a pause in usual social reporting activities/obligations provided time and mental space to listen to, reflect on and add to what was being said.
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Ten amazing people I wouldn’t know if it wasn’t for having a blog

Part of my tenth blogiversary series.

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive, and only really includes people who I’ve met or connected with through blogging rather than work or webbiness in general, though of course there are plenty of the latter who also blog. If you’re not on this particular list, please don’t be sad. It’s not that you’re not important too! And please note that everyone linked to here is still blogging…in some fashion.

  1. Paul is (now) my wonderful, talented, funny, endlessly patient husband. But before he was my husband or even my boyfriend, he was blogging at digitaltrickery and made me laugh and intrigued in his blog, over IM and at early blogmeets. He thinks a lot of blogging is nonsense. He’s not wrong. But I can’t dismiss the entire medium which introduced me to him, can I?
  2. Dan was present at the very first UK Blogmeet in June 2000 in Kings Cross (we must have a reunion later this summer, especially since I now work down the road from the place where it was held) and at the time, a student blogging under the name Daily Doozer. But Dan has gone on to amaze and impress me along with the rest of the world with his creative passion and insight about games and alternative ways of exploring worlds with the company he founded sixtostart.
  3. Katy was also at the first Blogmeet (back then, Kitschbitch) and in the last decade has gone from schoolgirl to student to insightful and accomplished ad agency doyenne, without breaking a sweat. How does she do it? Energizer batteries?
  4. Tom, another first Blogmeet attendee, but back then blogging at Barbelith. He probably needs no introduction to the majority of web-aware people. But in the decade I’ve known him, I’m glad to know there’s more to him than the web wunderkind legend many see. He’s playful, kind, creative and clever. Unfortunately, he lives thousands of bloody miles away now, the rotter.
  5. Giles is a dark horse. He came to the first blogmeet too, then (as now) blogging under his own name, and as a long-time freelance writer creator he’s spent the last ten years being quietly, consistently brilliant both on his own site and hundreds of others, plus print and beyond. He’s funny and succinct and hugely astute. Giles is now, as much as then, an inspiration.
  6. Pete is a polymath. I came across him blogging at first at Bugpowder, then mainly about zines, but his unfolding adventures through his mental state, unemployment, a fascinating glimpse into a stint as a contract worker brought him to Birmingham and his current life which includes living (not just talking about) social media, co-working, creative experiments with the city and amazing photography using the most convoluted contraption you’re likely to see. Pete seems to have a knack for anything he turns his hand to. He’s a creative whirlwind.
  7. Darren‘s been doing this since before you were even online, probably. If there’s a good/interesting/funny/geeky site on the internet, he’s linked to it. Hugely (and rightfully) respected by old school bloggers, Darren’s been plodding away steadily at his site for about the same amount of time I have. His quiet dedication is obvious. Less obvious to the casual blog browser (but I’m glad to know it now as a friend) is his gentle good humour and kindness.
  8. Bobbie is one of the most talented writers I know. He’s bloody funny, brilliantly talented and vastly knowledgable in all sorts of expected (robots, technology) and unexpected (ukelele renditions of Radiohead) areas. Although he (until next month) works at The Guardian, I don’t know him through that context, though of course was aware of his name. No, our blog connection is a bit of a cheat, really. Not long after I started blogging, I helped my lovely sister hop on the bandwagon, and she became brilliant at it and through her general fabulousness eventually met BoJo, and now he’s my brother-out-law. So I like to think if I hadn’t had a blog in the first place, I might not have been lucky enough to know him as a friend and near-relation, not just a colleague.
  9. Mike is probably the most prolific blogger I know, with an almost neverending capacity for themeblogging, fresh thinking, collaborative projects, and funny, poignant, well-written think pieces. I’d long been impressed and tickled by Mike’s online persona, and was chuffed to discover years ago that it’s no facade. That’s who he is. Erudite, witty, charming, well-turned out both verbally and sartorially. It’s been amazing to see Mike’s hobby (going to gigs and knowing loads about music) turn into a burgeoning side-career, as well as watching him grow in curiosity and confidence about hyperlocal blogging for the village he (sometimes) lives in.
  10. Caroline is a true inspiration. She was, in fact, the reason that the first uk blogs mailing list formed in order to start discussing how to meet up when Prol came over in summer 2000. She didn’t make it that time, but we met up anyway (see above) and toasted her in absence. Caroline (who I’m afraid I still think of as Prol) is an inveterate, thoughtful, gifted web creator. Her personal blog is just the tip of a vast web iceberg which includes immensely successful community-driven fansites (though the word doesn’t do them justice) for U2 and Joss Whedon and accomplished artist site for her friend Gavin Friday. But she’s also managed to create incredible concert photography and thoughtful collaborative projects like the one which first introduced me to her – croon.org (now sadly gone, but not forgotten).

I’m lucky to have these people in my life, even if we’re not in each others’ everyday lives. And I’ve got blogging to thank for it.

Who have you met through blogging?

The power of ten

I missed the actual tenth birthday of this blog/me blogging but I can’t let a milestone like that go unmarked, can I?

10

Originally started as a place to store and share links, this blog gradually became a place to playfully interact with the world, and over time that turned from introspection to exploration of the world, media, experiences and ideas. I don’t think I’m alone in that kind of journey with blogs.

I am immensely (unreasonably, perhaps even pathetically) proud of having been blogging for so long. I can say confidently that I was in at the beginning, when all this were fields. I was here before many of you young whippersnappers who have gone on to eclipse me, and blogging, and the web entirely in their success and influence. I don’t put my early involvement down to canny prescience about the way the web was turning so much as an inevitability given my proclivity for tinkering with web things, my early academic and personal interest in communicating online and my inability to shut up. Blogging and me; it was only a matter of time and technology before we found each other.

I was there. I remember the start, and the hype, popularisation, commercialisation and ubiquitisation which followed. I couldn’t possibly have known it at the time, but my blogging was to introduce me to dozens of interesting people, influence others to start doing it too, cause interesting opportunities (and worrying situations) to develop. Blogging has become part of what I am, what I do. I blog now for the same reasons I did in early 2000: because I can’t not tinker with and publish to the web.

Ten years ago, I was embarrassed to mention having a blog in polite company, because it was so difficult to understand – not just what but why. These days, even both my parents have blogs. It’s not a weird niche oddball geek thing anymore. It’s so normal it’s almost passé. Good.

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Four Stories

On Friday I attended The Story, a London conference about stories and storytelling.

The stated proposition for the event laid it out as

a celebration of everything that is wonderful, inspiring and awesome about stories, in whatever medium possible. We’re hoping to have stories that are written, spoken, played, described, enacted, whispered, projected, orchestrated, performed, printed – whatever form stories come in, we hope to have them here.

The Story is not about theories of stories, or making money from stories, but about the sheer visceral pleasure of telling a story. Whether it is in a game, a movie, a book, or a pub, we’ve all heard or told or been part of stories that have made us gasp, cry or just laugh.

There have never been so many stories, never so many ways to tell them. The Story will be a celebration of just a small sample of them.

It was an interesting day which has already been well documented elsewhere, but after the event I found myself reflecting on the content and which bits I’d enjoyed and craved more of, and which less so.
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Hello, Tigers

Happy Chinese new yearKung Hei Fat Choi.

Here are some of my photos of previous CNY celebrations in London. I’ll be heading along this weekend again, with various cameras.

Chinese London
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Memo to the people at Yahoo! account services

When forcing someone to set security questions/answers in order to log in to a Y!Group, don’t ask them a name-based question (last name of first boss/first name of oldest cousin etc), allow them to provide an answer (sue, kim, ian, bob, tom, sam, jim, ann, etc) and then throw a strop that the answer needs to be at least 4 letters long.

With respect, if that was the case, you should have informed the parents a while ago, because you asked me for their name and THAT’S THEIR NAME.

Alternatively, you could always specify the minimum length requirement at the time of providing security Question/Answer couplets, instead of telling users they’ve done something wrong.