Archive for the ‘ blogging ’ Category


Facebook, oh Facebook – what for art thou Facebook? I’ve been on Facebook for three years now, lured in by my friend Elizabeth (who almost immediately stopped using it, the bugger) and then enticed to stay when a friend moved abroad for a while.

In that time it has been a source of comfort and despair, a portal into other people’s lives and a link to the past; a place to post my joys and (very occasionally) my miseries; somewhere to seek people out when bored, or drunk, or lonely. It’s been a short cut to friends and a way of discovering and establishing new connections.

When all’s said and done, I am definitely in credit to the bank of facebook – it has given me far more back than I have ever put in. I’ve connected with near neighbours and found an easy way to keep in touch with relatives near and far.

I enjoy the ‘live’ interactions – when you post something and get an instant riposte, and so begins a banter, with all its weird tangents and footnotes and crazed insights into the minds of people you thought you knew but who actually have hidden depths (they can recite a Shakespearean ode! they also like Throbbing Gristle! they too think the new Orla Keily wallpaper is to DIE for!)

I like viewing people’s pictures, particularly to have a nose around their homes and gardens; I enjoy being kept up to date on their biggest achievements, holidays, nights out, how well the kids are doing, and so on.

I mostly enjoy some of the excellent witticisms, which tend to come from other people’s threads rather than my own (thank you especially Mark Nelson & Sophie Everett, for being funny and entertaining and having friends on the same wavelength). Were I to abandon Facebook the single thing I would miss most would be Friday Night Build Up (you’ll all have to befriend Sophie to get in on the act).

At other times these are precisely the things that I hate about Facebook. A wise woman (well, Suzy Scavenger) once warned me that joining Facebook was akin to going to a school disco; if you were one of the popular kids, you’d probably love it, with your 6,000 friends and 50 apps and mad social life and dazzling existence. The rest of us would be stood around like wallflowers on the margins, feeling like failures for not being interesting or witty enough.

Facebook, you are truly no use in times of trouble. In my experience, the worst thing to do when you’re feeling life’s a bit crap right now is to log onto Facebook. You won’t feel better; any feelings of worthlessness will be further enhanced by seeing everyone else living it up on holiday, or announcing their recent promotion or lottery win, or telling you how marvellous their kids are (especially when your own has just told you you’re the worst mum EVER in the history of the universe.)

If you do decide to issue a cry for help and bare your soul about your miserable existence via a status update I’m not sure the existentialist musings of Dave, who you last saw on a bus in Redditch in 1987, will do the trick; nor does it help when Michelle, who you don’t like that much but felt you had to befriend when she sent her sixth request, tells you to keep smiling 🙂

So, my summary is this: Facebook is fab when you’re feeling fab; great too when you just want cheering up and happen across some witty friends online; but is shit if that’s how you’re feeling.

Of course, all this analysis hardly matters a jot. By the time my kids are old enough to have their own facebook accounts, in three and eight years time, it will be passe, history, yesterday’s news. After all, nothing ever lasts forever. (Remember Friends Reunited?)

It’s already been supplanted by Twitter, a medium I started to use a few months back for work purposes. (I even get measured on my twitter interactions, which is pretty galling.) However, I’m learning to love it – for a homeworker like me, Twitter is the equivalent of standing round the coffee machine exchanging a few words with workmates about the issues of the day. I’ve made loads of connections, helped by the fact that I have something people want (access to free editorial space for their company, idea, etc). I’m meeting up with three Twitter followers on Wednesday in fact. What I really like is that it’s in real time – people respond there and then, just like in conversation. For a home-aloner like me it’s a perfect place to enjoy a coffeebreak.

Well, not perfect exactly. That would be a coffee break with real friends. Nothing’s better than the real thing.


Tweeting from the council chamber

Tonight was a first for me; I followed a council debate live from Dudley while snuggling in my bedroom listening to Elbow’s new album.

No, I wasn’t peering in to the council chamber with a telescope, in the style of James Stewart in Rear Window. I was following the debate through the medium of Twitter.

All I can say is that in the space of 12 Tweets I learned all I needed to ever know about the public sector cuts debate engaging the good folk of Dudley. It saved me attending myself (as if) but still made me feel intimately involved. I particularly liked the bit when the public gallery started chanting and the police had to be called to clear the chamber. All very exciting.

As it happens, I don’t even live in the district of Dudley but I do subscribe to the tweets of the Express & Star, a daily regional newspaper where I once plied my trade as a young reporter.

Someone there has clearly twigged the value of social networks in the battle to engage the hearts and minds of local people. It will be slow, and time-intensive – but I reckon this kind of initiative is the future.

We are used to reading reports from council meetings and courts and inquests and other venues where journalists are traditionally welcome to attend. In our new world of rolling 24/7 news, we can sometimes get those reports within minutes of the case or incident ending.

But being able to get an instant, regularly updated feed live as things unfold? That is powerful. That is really mind-blowing. Through Twitter, pictures can be uploaded, captions posted, precise and clear words written – and it is as if we are right there, while it’s happening.

It’s taken me a long time to “get” Twitter. I still don’t really get it, only because I mostly follow minor celebrities and comedians rather than people I know. I don’t want to network professionally, or engage with other PR people particularly; I’m not trying to market myself or my services or tout any wares. I’ve used it to find some good photography blogs and information sites, I follow a few fantastic record company and record shop sites that tip off about upcoming tours and that kind of thing, and I once asked someone for a print quote who I spotted on Twitter just as I was about to email someone else.

But for those people who do want to do networking, or to engage with like minded people on particular topics, then I get why Twitter matters. I get why more and more people are doing it.

For me the future of Twitter comes in sharing information in a way that is direct, unadulterated and interactive. Any Express & Star followers tonight would have been able to find out what was happening in a council chamber miles away, and then make an instant response if they were so inclined.

This type of information-sharing will soon be the norm. There are already several class and school tweeters, who post daily from the classroom about what the kids are up to. Court reporters are beginning to tweet from live cases.

I like that I could choose to “tune in” to these tweets, in much the same way we currently tune in to news shows or TV and radio programmes.

Thanks for twittering on tonight, whoever was behind those E&S Dudley tweets. Good job.

PS: That Elbow album – excellent by the way.

Oh, and if you are minded to follow my tweets (they are rare) then I’m @rockhousePR See you twitterers!

Over before it really got started – my adventure in daily blogging

This is just not working for me. I’ve tried to embrace it and enjoy it, and I’m glad I gave it a go, but this daily blogging lark is just not making me smile. I’m only 10 days in and I’ve already had enough.

I started keeping a blog for five reasons:

  • The first was because I like writing, in all and any format, and blogging was something I wanted to try. It looked like fun.
  • The second was purely career-driven. I’ve been out of journalism for a few years (except occasional freelance work) so I felt it was important to demonstrate to any future employer or client that I was aware of and up to speed with “modern” methods of communication. In the same spirit I’ve also learned to tweet, v-blog, make Flip movies and speak teen. (eg “Yo blood, props, that cravat is sick.”)
  • Thirdly, I wanted to become better at writing. I’ve earned a pretty good living writing, and later editing, “hard news”. My job was to write or create fact-driven, short and snappy news articles that squeeze into as few words as possible the essence of a story, usually created after interviewing various people and attending scenes of incidents. This is an art form that is harder than it looks, but it is far removed from writing lengthy features, and different again to writing comment pieces about myself, my feelings and my opinions. Neither of these skills comes naturally or easily to me, and as I like a challenge I thought keeping a blog would be a good way to learn as I go along.
  • Fourthly, I thought it would be a nice way to share my life virtually with other people.
  • Finally, I decided to blog as a way of keeping a diary of my life and times, partly for myself in my dotage, and partly for my kids. I thought it would be cool for them to one day be able to access information about me and my thoughts, to see what makes me tick.

I am not abandoning blogging, because the reasons I like it and the reasons I started a blog are the same today as they were a year ago.

But the daily discipline of sitting down to write a blog, sometimes when I’m at my weariest, just doesn’t work for me. Even when I was a daily journalist I had a couple of days off a week!

I’m also a changeable beast. Some days, I like nothing more than sitting at a computer or laptop, typing away. The words flow and it makes me feel good and complete to write.

Other days, it is a chore. A monumental bore. And it’s impossible for me to hide this in my writing. My words are stilted, my phrasing is dull and cliched, my subject matter tedious. I would choose to delete anything I wrote in this state of mind, but by pledging to post a blog every day I’ve felt compelled to produce something, no matter how rubbish I’ve felt it was.

So for this reason I’m giving up the Postaday 2011 challenge. I’ve also decided, for now at least, to take the Twitter app off my phone – another activity that has been fun but has now become too much a part of my daily routine for my liking. I might even stop facebooking for a while (heaven forbid).

So to those of you who know me – expect me to phone and text you more in future. To those who don’t – I’ll be back. Just probably not tomorrow night.

Random thoughts while watching TV

This blog will do what it says on the tin. I will merely blog tonight as I watch TV and observe my family. This is called multi-tasking, I think. Women do it all the time apparently, men less so; at least, that’s what gender stereotypes would have you believe.

I’ll set the scene for you: my eldest is sprawled on a bean bag in the middle of the lounge, lanky legs akimbo; hubby is snuggling littlest man on the settee, his injured leg up on a second bean bag (he’s just been to the physio and has an icepack on his poorly calf muscle); and I’m slumped on an armchair, son’s laptop on knee, trying not to annoy everyone with my touch typing.

The room is quiet – it’s the boys’ Simpsons time, when I normally spend half an hour pottering in the kitchen in peace, listening to the radio or humming to myself.

By rights I should not be here tonight. I have tickets to go and see Jonny – a new collaboration between Euros Childs, ex Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, and Norman Blake, of Teenage Fanclub – in Bristol with one of my oldest and most lovely friends Liz and her sister Suzy. I’ve been looking forward to it for ages. I should right now be at Liz’s house, quaffing wine and booking a cab. But my flu-hangover is still with me, and I really couldn’t face the hour-and-a-half journey down the M5, so I’m stuck here instead.

I’m fed-up, I must admit. Fed up to be missing seeing a good band but mostly fed up to miss out on seeing my chum, who always makes me feel happy. But to be honest I’m quite resigned and realise I’ve not got much to moan about really. I’ve only had flu, not a fatal illness. And while I’m lacking in energy, I’m not in pain and suffering.

Oops; I’ve now caused a minor rumpus by switching channels from Channel 4 to Emmerdale. I don’t think this will give me the excitement I am craving. The storyline concerns Jackson, left paralysed in an accident, and his relationship with boyfriend Aaron, who has a new fella on the go (but feels guilty about it). And now there’s something about a pair of sisters; one of them has a son, but he’s not really her son, he’s her sister’s son, but doesn’t know it. It’s very confusing. Pauline Quirk from Birds of a Feather is in it. That’s all I can tell you, as I’ve now lost interest.

I did notice none of the houses in Emmerdale are ever messy (unless it’s done as part of the storyline, to symbolise someone’s mental decline). The pub never seems to have any empty glasses left on tables or piled up at the bar. How on earth does it manage to employ so many bar staff when it has so few customers?

The adverts are on now. I like the Oreo one with the dunking boy and sad dog and the cheesy Werthers one that uses “I would give everything I own…” by Bread to sell sucky sweets.

The kids have disappeared to play in the kitchen with littlest boy’s Ben 10 ultimate alien car, which he has just converted to a – well, to a convertible. It was a robot thing before. Their dad is filling hot water bottles, making the boys’ beds and is about to read a story with littlest boy. He’s a fantastic dad. Sitting here typing instead of helping suggests I’m the less good parent. This is probably true.

The laptop battery gave out briefly, so I’ve been away a while, just getting back in time for University Challenge. The Sheffield team are easily the least handsome quartet I’ve seen for some time. They almost certainly put their religion down as “jedi”, quote from Lord of The Rings and enjoy a game of dungeons and dragons into the early hours.

I’ve had enough now. I have things to do, like talk to my husband, take some more flu remedy and maybe even have a bath. Exciting, eh? Well, when I promised to blog daily I never promised to blog about interesting things.