Archives for February 2012

Metro’s Tech Writing Failings

Like most people who commute, I end up reading the Metro every day. If it was a paper that I had to pay for, I probably wouldn’t read it, because it’s just so bad! You can definitely tell it is owned by the Daily Mail’s company, from the tone of the stories.

In the last few months, there has been a bit of a shake up of the central sections, with a bit of a redesign (thankfully not so much on the iPad app) and some new sections added in. One of the ones that was added was a tech section.
I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m a bit of a nerd, so I was quite happy to see this new addition. Until I actually saw it. There’s usually a large story, then a smaller section where items are reviewed.

The larger section is usually talking about some new technology or some sort of event, so things like what was shown at CEX, the Boeing Dreamliner 787 and its rival, the Airbus A350, and how cloud technologies will be used have been featured recently. So far, so good. It’s aiming at a wide audience, so it’s not going to be overly techy, but the articles in this main section are more likely to encourage further reading if you were interested.

(click all images to read them better)

The smaller section is called “Gadget Girl” and is (obviously) written by a female – which, if you haven’t seen the section might seem like an irrelevant thing to note. The writers full length photo takes up about half as much space as the article itself – I have to wonder if this section was written by a male, would the same size/style photo have been used?

When I first noticed this section, it was just after New Years, and was reviewing items that can help you lose weight. (How cliche) I say reviewing, but it sounded more like a rewrite of a press release. That’s a pet hate of mine on blogs, but in a national newspaper where someone is getting paid to write? Ridiculous.

I had hoped that this was a one off, but – well, here are the past few weeks worth of columns.

Other items to help with typical New Years resolutions – being more organised (get a new handbag!), lose weight (a power plate at £5000 – because the average commuter reading it can afford that?), quitting smoking (not that the writer would do anything so disgusting, of course, but so her friends can quit and stop leaving her alone in the bar) and drinking less (glasses with the units marked on the side. If you need something that tells you how many units you’re consuming, perhaps you’re not grown up enough to be drinking.)

Detoxing – so a juicer, a blender and a light treatment device to help your skin were talked about.

Travel essentials – this article was almost useful, talking about an iPad keyboard case (which I’m sure is very useful to some people, but having tried to use a keyboard with an iPad, it seems very pointless), a universal travel adaptor (actually very useful, we already have a similar sort of thing), a camera (of course, it’s pink, with its “chic finish” being a selling point above the quality of photos), a charger and an app to help reduce data usage abroad (which seemed to be squeezed into the end – I don’t actually know what the app does or how it does it)

Valentines day: I can’t even.

(Aside: Who the hell is Poppy in the last item? Don’t use a bloody national newspaper to do shoutouts to your mates)

“Oh, Oscars are this week. What can I tediously link to and write briefly about nothing?”

With this section, Metro has both insulted women that understand and enjoy new technology and journalists who probably would love the opportunity to write for such a large audience. Even non journalists actually – hey Metro, I’m available for hire! I love tech! I can wear a pretty dress and look rather nonplussed at the camera!

I think I’ll just have to go back to reading Wired and .net.

Things I Did In London

The view from the train as I waited. This is on the way to my stepmums old pub which is a really weird area of Bristol

So this weekend, I headed down to London. Originally when I planned my little trip, I hoped to go to shows and the exhibition, but except for a query from BFC 3 weeks ago (“What is your blog URL”…seriously, its all over the application. I honestly wondered if they were trying to be funny), I heard nothing about my application, so thought “Stuff it” and went anyway to see some of my favourite girls.

Thankfully, Vanessa (have you read her blog? WHY NOT GO AND READ IT NOW and then if you’re a super editor type then you should totally hire her, pay her millions of pounds and then she can buy me a pony.) was kind enough to let me stay on her sofa bed, because hotels are expensive, and I prefer to spend money on things like food.

I dropped my stuff at her house, a quick change later and we headed into the city. She had some errands to run, so I headed to Somerset House and spotted the gorgeous Jazmine straight away. Starbucks was a much needed stop, then we headed back to see if we could see any bloggers at Somerset House.

Perhaps it was the rain, but there was barely anyone about, so as soon as Sarah turned up, we headed over to Piccadilly Circus so we could gatecrash 1000Heads‘ “Holly Collins Show” and see the lovely Holly who is awesome and I wish I saw her more. (That pretty much goes for everyone I mention in this post.)

With time to kill, we um…walked faster than normal to Thirst, Sarah’s favourite London bar because the drinks are big, strong and reasonably priced. With 4 drinks on the table for £18, we had a bit of a gossip then walked (a little more wonkily) over to Covent Garden for dinner.

I had emailed and tweeted out that anyone was welcome to join us for dinner at Byron on Friday night, and we had a nice little group – Hannah has some silly photos from dinner but get 6 girls together, give them booze and food, and you get a good gossip session. (Oh, and give them an awesome waitress. Ailbhe at Covent Garden was so awesome.)

My phone died, so with Christina’s help, I hopped on a bus for the first time ever. SCARY. But cheap, and direct. Felt like I was the greatest person ever by being able to get a bus in London.

Drinks at Thirst. Its not arty, its a “I can’t be bothered to take a proper picture”

On Saturday, Vanessa and I walked from Hackney to Shoreditch (about 4 miles?) which was awesome – I rarely see London besides the obvious touristy parts, and it made me feel like I earnt breakfast at The Diner which I’ve been dying to try since seeing so many tweets from Reena. (It was OK. No Rocotillos though.)

I left Vanessa and headed back to Somerset House to see if anyone was about (that sounds really lame. But…thats how I feel about LFW as a whole. You have to ask to go to someones promotional show, ask to go to see things that will be for sale – it generally feels like you’re constantly a little kid asking for friends and to go to parties) then met Sarah and Fiona for some mexican food at a random little restaurant in Covent Garden. (Food was OK, but it was expensive and not very good service.)

Headed back to Vanessa’s, but managed to get the wrong bus (no longer felt like I knew everything about transport in London ever) and found myself in Stoke Newington. I don’t know where that is.

Vanessa took me to a random party in Shoreditch (…I think) which was fun – much better than the last time I went out anyway! I got back about half 2 and ended up talking to Alex on Skype till 3ish about storage. Oh yes. This is romance.

Sunday was much less stressy – we headed to a nearby market for this Japanese omelette type thing (SO GOOD) then I came home.

The Moomin shop in Covent Garden. AMAZING. But SO expensive!

And yes, these are all the photos I took this weekend. The curse of Sarah and I happened once again.

Thank you again (again again) Vanessa for letting me stay, and if you don’t already know how awesome she is, she is doing a swimathon for Marie Curie soon, and you should totally sponsor her.

Review: Fashion 2.0

There aren’t many books around that are targeted at fashion (and beauty) bloggers – in fact, I think it’s just this one. Fashion 2.0 was written by Yuli Ziv, a blogger in the US who has been able to grow her blog into a business. She founded Style Coalition in 2008 as a network to help bloggers monetize their blogs.

I grabbed this book from Amazon just before Christmas when it was offered for free on Kindle. I enjoyed the book so much that I knew I would want to be able to quickly refer to parts so bought it in paperback.

The main chapters in the book are planning, content, relationships and revenue. It might seem strange to have panning before content, but I find that when I plan out what I want to blog about, then the actual writing of the content is a lot easier. Even as a long time blogger, I still found sections of the planning section to be incredibly relevant – it is crazy to think that just because you’ve been doing this for a while, you don’t need any help.

The first part of chapter 1 is about commitment, and it seems like a scary sort of thing – this almost put me off because I don’t want to be a full time blogger, but reading into it, it was more about what sort of commitment you can give – we all know far too well that blogging takes more time than just dashing off a post here and there.

Writing a blog business plan is one of the suggestions in this chapter, and it might seem like a bit of an extreme thing to do, but sometimes, getting things written down is the best way of planning out what you want to do next.

Each chapter is separated by a Q and A section with some successful bloggers – people like Gala Darling and Jessica Quirk are asked about how they started, and how they built their audience. At the end of each Q&A, there are action points – quite a handy list really!

The relationships section is about not just the obvious of connecting with your readers, but fellow bloggers (“Make other bloggers your daily sources of inspiration, not your daily source of envy”) and PR’s. It then goes on to talk about attending industry events (like LFW!), building relationships with brands and then deciding who you want to work with in the future as a motivational tool.

The final chapter about revenue which is usually quite a contentious issue in the UK blogging community at least. It seems like whenever someone is making money off their blog, there are others trying to tear them down – and while I hate the argument “they hate because they’re jealous”, in this situation, it’s usually quite true. This chapter talks about when to and when not to ask for money – things that are relevant to everyone, not just bloggers.

This is a great book, one to read and dip into constantly. I’d recommend it not just for people starting a blog, but for those who are unsure of where they are going (I feel like I’m in this group!) or just want some extra guidance. You can get it from Amazon in paperback* or on your Kindle*.

As an aside, you’re probably thinking “Why buy the physical copy when you got the digital one for free?”. I’ve blogged previously about how I love digital copies of books for the ease of transport, so this might seem an odd choice. Firstly: having read more and more ebooks, I find that its a great form for books that you read in one go, much less so for books you want to pick bits out of. This is definitely a book for me where I read it cover to cover, but I can see that I will probably want to reference specific bits in it at one time. The other reason is that I am really unimpressed with the Kindle app, and I worry that I wont be able to read the books I’ve bought in the future. This story is from 2009, but shows that Amazon have quite a bit of power – perhaps the cloud isn’t the best place sometimes. I actually went back to the Kindle app (on iPad) a few weeks after starting the book, and couldn’t find my book. For some reason, the Kindle app decided to archive the half read book…why?!

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