Dinosaurs and Meteors

dinosaur001.jpg Cartoon by: Hugh MacLeod

Meteor: Hey look at me, I’m new and exciting and add something really useful to what we’re all trying to do here. I let you do the stuff that you’ve always wanted to do.

Dinosaur: You are a dangerous fanatic. Your “innovation” is not new. You can’t do what you’re doing without breaking what we’ve been doing since time immemorial. What you’re suggesting will lead to the end of civilization as we know it.

Meteor: No, you misunderstand, I’m here to help you. You can still do things the way you’ve always done them if you like, but really, these are problems that I’ve heard you moaning about – aren’t you pleased?

Dinosaur: Your “solution” is of no use to me. I cannot see how this helps me. I cannot see how to do your thing and keep doing my thing too. I also have a range of academic and expert evidence to prove my point. I have powerpoint slides too. You are threatening my existence. I have no choice then except to destroy you. I will survive.

Meteor: OK, but I’m still here to help you if you want. When people ask you about it next year and you don’t know what to do, give me a call. I love you Dino.

I’m at Online Information 2006.

Big Bears in Watford

Big Bear Stompers at Watford Pump HouseLast night I took my son up to the Pump House Jazz Club in Watford to hear his Grandad playing. I have been very slack in ensuring that my kids have fully appreciated their musical heritage on my side of the family.

When I was a child every Sunday meant a trip to the Shantasea (later The Jug, now no more) in Albert Street in Central Birmingham to hear Big Syd’s band, a group of local jazzers playing in a mainstream side of traditional style – it’s where I heard many of the standards over and over again, one of which is usually going around in my head. And many Saturdays, especially in the summer, were filled with fetes, marches and shopping centre openings.

Later, Tony joined the New Delta Jazzmen and then the Zenith Hot Stompers for twenty-odd years (I cut some of my first public performance teeth with occasional guest vocals). His description of his current activities is:

“I now play 3rd trumpet in the 11-piece band Harlem, 2nd trumpet in the Big Bear Stompers, 1st (and only) trumpet in Jon Penn’s All-Star Hot Five, lead a ‘Condon-style’ band called Kaminsky Connection and play in ad hoc trios or quartets, usually backing singer Judy Eames.”

and it was with the ‘Frisco style Big Bear Stompers with Judy on vocals that we saw him last night. Another treat was to hear Keith Nicholls outside of a dance band and to see him and Eve no matter how briefly.

I last went to the Pump House about 20 years ago to hear Tony with the Zenith. The club doesn’t seem to have changed at all on the inside (outside a plethora of superstores has sprung up around it) and the crowd of regulars were heartily vocal in their appreciation of the Lu Watters and Turk Murphy offerings.

[bonus: in the bar, tony spotted a rogue apostrophe]

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The Alternate…what?

SOLT launched their ‘blog’ The Alternate yesterday.

OK, I’m still trying to get my head round the strapline “An alternative view of Theatreland from http://www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk”; I will give it some time to find it’s feet, but honestly what is alternative about this? What does the title mean?

I’d love to see some posts on what they are trying to do here (beyond the bland about us statement) and how they are going to be different from fan sites or the gossip columns of the freesheets.

I’d like to see something a bit edgier, a bit more backstage and with more imaginative use of media – we’ve been podcasting for 2 years now people – we don’t want (censored) transcriptions of interviews – let’s hear them, or even better, get your camcorder out and let’s see the luvvies! I’d also like to know that this is a community I can be part of, not just another part of the publicity/money extraction machine.

And a full text rss feed. Don’t make me click through, you’re making me work too hard to be your friend.

Most of all – get rid of the registration in order to comment. This says “you can only be my friend if you give me 5p”. This makes me nervous and not really want to play with you or recommend you to my friends.

I can help – you only have to ask.

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Make Your Mark With A Tenner

Can’t be bothered to dig out an exact quote on the amount of cocaine that is alleged to be stuck to banknotes in the circulation, and I don’t know (naturally) how you would go about extracting it, but I think there’s at least a feasibility study to be done on how much you could make from washing out your ten pound notes and then exchanging them for others, then selling the coke.

Drugs and money-laundering (literally) – that’s the kind of stuff people have come to expect here (well at least it makes a change from semi-nudity and knob gags).

I’m sure that the young people who get involved in www.makeyourmarkwithatenner.org (which was launched yesterday by the totally brilliant Oli Barrett) will have more sense, moral fibre and honesty than to follow my hare-brained scheme (and of course kids, it harms other people and it’s illegal so is against the rules)

Oli’s premise, to encourage social entrepreneurship, is to give £10 each to 10,000 young people as a competition to see what good they can do with it, while they are also hopefully making a profit. You can see Oli and Andrew Reynolds (who’s putting up the dosh) in this clip from Working Lunch yesterday (though it will probably disappear from that location soon – grrrrrr! get it on youtube somebody!) [update:Adrian tells me it's already disappeared, but I just heard from Oli that photos of the launch are on flickr]

The money is being distributed via schools and colleges, so if you’re in that world, go along and have a look. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how *you* would use your tenner for simultaneous good and profit.

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Allowed out in public

It seems it’s my time to go conference bananas this month.

On Saturday 18th I’m doing one of my trademark open space lite sessions at Podcastcon UK which is being held quite inappropriately, I’m sure you’ll agree in an old meat market (it’s actually really nice, I have had a look).

I had hoped to go to VLOG Europe in Milan just for Sunday, but poor planning and bad cashflow management put paid to that (luckily I have alternative activities lined up…)

Then Tuesday 21st I’m speaking at The Data Show at Earls Court on “Getting into the Heads of Customers – how to understand, engage and participate in the online environment… the sphere that belongs to the customer” – personally I find the image of getting into people’s heads somewhat distasteful, but I’ll try to avoid the more unpleasant double-entendres! It’s part of a bigger direct marketing show – here’s the programme, it doesn’t look like there’ll be anyone else talking about this stuff there.

The month closes with Online Information 2006 up at Olympia where I am:

  • running a half-day open space on Monday 27th which I expect to be similar in tone to the one I did at the Blogs & Social Media Forum in May, only longer. If you think any of your clients or colleagues would benefit from talking freely and learning loads about Blogging and Social Media, get them to come along – the more the merrier!
  • moderating a panel on the Wednesday on The Risk & Reward of Social Software.
  • recording some of the sessions (audio, for release only to attendees I’m afraid)
  • running around in between doing my usual Rich Records schtick

Yay!

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Big Knob, Little Knob

little knobbig knobThis lunchtime I had to be home to greet some very nice eastern european workmen who were coming to fix up my letterbox (we’re having a whole revamp of the common areas in Dolphin Sq)

What I didn’t realise was that they were also removing the catch on my cubby-hole (where I put my rubbish to be collected, nightly) and replacing it with a little knob to match the big shiny knob on my front door. I did polish my knob a few weeks ago and it came up spiffingly (though I didn’t get any admiring comments from the neighbours) but now it looks really lacklustre compared to it’s little brother.

So which do you prefer – my big shiny knob or my little shiny knob?

Ars & Elbow

Rosie drew this comment out of me last night on the previous post and even in the cold light of day I thought it worth promoting to the front page:

I think it comes down to a simple premise – that good, lasting, profitable business arises out of good relationships. How do you improve any relationship? You give more and that’s how you get more. As you sow, so shall you reap, if you like (omigod, i can’t believe i’m quoting scripture… on my blog!)

So what I’m saying is that by giving more to the online relationship (making content, telling stories, providing a homely comfortable space, encouraging creativity among the audience, breaking down the barriers between artists and audience) rather than spending their energy on finding more efficient ways to extract money out of people, everybody ends up winning.

Theatres spend an awful lot of money trying to do those things above, but only in a physical space – and the crazy thing is, that it doesn’t cost a huge amount in order to do this stuff online.

Ars gratia populi

larkrise01Last summer I wrote this and it set me on a slow plod to try to get theatres and arts organisations into the blogging and social media space. I pitched to a couple of theatres and sent material to lots more, but It’s never really got enough momentum behind it and there seemed to be a lot of resistance too – not least, worries about interference with the creative process and lack of cash, or more accurately other priorities for the relatively small amount of cash available.

Yesterday, the very lovely Katherine Wood at the Society of London Theatre pointed me in the direction of this report from London Calling. It’s the findings of a survey carried out among a range of arts organisations across the country in June 2006 (actually the same time that Debbie was melting the phones in the Pimlico branch, trying to get us in to speak to theatre comms people).

In addition to the no cash problem (more than two-thirds of respondents have a budget for web development of less than £10k) the survey identifies “no clear grasp of the benefits/opportunities” and the fear that “digital solutions only add to workloads” as lines of resistance to embracing these technologies.

I read the following general strategy into the answers given about the rate at which different technologies are being understood and adopted: “We’ve got to have a website, this is primarily for online ticketing, though we can do some other merchandising and marketing with it too. Then we game the search engines to make sure people come to us. Get their e-mail addresses and spam them” As usual I exaggerate for effect, but it all feels a bit 1997. Thank God most of them haven’t heard of Bluetooth…

The section Engaging with Audiences reveals more about what “engagement” seems to mean in this context. To focus on which technology to use gets it the wrong way round (it’s about people, people!) – but all of the technologies presented are best suited to a mindset of one-way communication – what I see as a narcissistic approach to engagement – see how beautiful and clever I am and you will want to be my friend and then buy my products – rather than saying “I, like you, am a human being, I love making and enjoying art and I see that you do too, let’s talk about how we can work together for mutual benefit – how I can help you and you can help me” That’s what I consider engagement.

There’s lots of work to be done here – it’s part of Web 2.2, of what Nancy has termed “the second wave” and Debbie keeps calling “the post-geek phase”. I’m interested in doing education and experimentation in this area, but most of all shifting the mindset from one-way to two-way – how do you do that? One mind at a time, baby, one mind at a time.

These lastminuteliving diaries for Cabaret and Wicked (there are others too) are a start and so is this rat blog from Soho Theatre but I can’t help feeling they could be so much more engaging (and more easy to find!) and I worry that without the mindset shift, they will be seen to not have worked and therefore be abandoned.

If you’re like those in the survey, 64% of whom said they face no internal resistance and 76% of whom said “No” to the question “Would you say that your website meets all the needs of your audiences at present?” or if you’re working on sites already and want to bounce ideas around about making them better, give me a ring and let’s have a chat about it.

[btw yeah, that's me at the back of the picture on stage at the Swan Theatre, Worcester in the 1982 production of Lark Rise, directed by John Doyle, and including Adrian Phillips and Rufus Norris in the cast - I have no pictures of Rufus, but there's one of Adrian on my flickr stream - heh!]

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Dalek tea party




dalek tea party

Originally uploaded by Lloyd Davis.

A trip for tea to Elys in Wimbledon (much more exciting that Starbucks or Coffee Republic and with water, unlike all of Wimbledon Village) yielded a bit of a surprise and a disappointment for anyone who’d been pinning their hopes on getting into what is clearly an exclusive bash. Tea parties when I was a kid were teddy bears (cuddly) or chimps (funny – at least as long as they’re kept at a distance). I think I would have had trouble keeping my tea and buns down if a Dalek had turned up.

I mean, I once saw Tom Baker at a book-signing in the 70s and a toddler had hysterics because there was Dr Who – he was real and not a puppet who lived in the telly. I just hope they have paramedics on call and have made sure the emergency exits are fully operational.

I also wondered how big the Dalek actually was, because the aisles were a bit of a squeeze as it was.

The Christmas trees throughout Elys are the same colour as the title on that notice (only sparkly) all I can tell you is that wherever Vera got them, they don’t seem to have come from Argos – and while on that subject. If you choose to have this in your home this Christmas, please don’t invite me round for mince pies. (note the url’s for the argos site will doubtless degrade over time, I wish I could give you permalinks, but they are just too tight-arsed about their intellectual property – just believe me when I tell you that the one I’ve pointed to is vile and actually looks quite like a Dalek who got carried away at Mardi Gras)