Category Archives: What I’ve Been Doing

The Social Artist I

@artbizness has a huge teabagThis came out of a conversation with Mike Radcliffe at the BFI this morning – part of my Human Scale Conversations. There were a few points and it was going to be one mega post, but I think I’ll break it up a bit.

We got talking about being artists (go back and click on that link to Mike’s site if you don’t know his work – go back and preferably buy something from his gallery!) and being blocked and what we need to do to keep relatively sane and solvent and working and happy and stuff and it seemed worth exploring them a bit – especially how they relate to my experience as a nascent Social Artist.

First of all we talked about the need for artists to be with other artists.

Artists need to spend time with other artists.

The rider to this is that we need to spend time with people who are in their flow, who are looking after themselves and doing their work. If we are blocked, it’s these people who will feed us and help us through – it’s far too easy to find other blocked artists to hang out with, who reinforce and rationalise our own blocks – then we just all get depressed together!

And even if we’re not blocked, it’s great to spend time with people who understand the creative process, who get what it’s like so we can all remember that this is normal and it’s the people who don’t do it who are weird…

Signs that you’re with the right people are: they’re encouraging you; you and they are smiling and laughing together, preferably at yourselves rather than others; you’re both talking more about the work that you’re doing now, rather than the work you used to do once or the work you’d really really like to do one day if only someone else would give you a chance.

Signs that you need to find some new friends are: the person talking to you is only talking about reasons why it’s hard; you’re feeling low and so are they; you hear yourself whining; you find yourself thinking about that project, you know the one, and how it’s never, just never going to get done.

So get out, and find some shiny friends instead!

That’s why I keep going back to Tuttle. It’s a place that attracts all sorts of creative people in large numbers. Creativity and different ways of thinking thrive among these people. It’s where I get my fix every week. I know you all think I’m doing it for you, and that’s true, but I’m doing it for me too.

Huddersfield Social Media Surgery

I was lucky enough to get along to the first social media surgery in Huddersfield last night – an offshoot of the wildly successful one’s started in Birmingham by Nick Booth. What happened was that I was in Leeds to speak this morning at NextGen09 in a panel with Brian Condon and so naturally yesterday morning I tweeted that I was going to be up in Leeds if anyone wanted to meetup.

One of the people who replied was Tim Difford who said he was going to something called #huddsms, which following a little trail I found out was the Surgery.

When I got to Leeds, it quickly became clear that getting on wifi or even getting a phone signal was going to be difficult around the Royal Armouries where the conference was taking place, so I thought I’d pop down to Huddersfield (only 20 minutes & £4.70 return on the train) and see how I could help.

The Media Centre is in the middle of the town an easy little walk down the hill from the station and I presented myself, my credentials and my willingness to help with anything that was going. I’m really glad I went. It was brilliant and there was a lovely buzz about the place.

I managed to squeeze in a coffee before I was introduced to my first (and as it turned out only) “patient”. David Quarmby is Chair of the Kirklees Visual Impairment Network (KVIN) committee and he wanted to know how social media might be useful to him and his colleagues in engaging with the 4,000 or so people in Kirklees who are registered as having a Visual Impairment.

I was immediately humbled by David’s determination to use the web regardless of his disability. He uses the JAWS screen reader to guide him around each page. This means that his experience of the web is of a tinny voice rapidly reading out link titles and button text – which can either be overwhelming because of the sheer amount of information squeezed on pages designed to be seen, not read, or else mystifyingly silent because important screen elements are hidden within graphics or whizzy bits of ajax which the screen reader stumbles over.

Nonetheless we pressed on, trying to see what a wordpress dashboard “looks like” through the screen reader. It turns out that you can find the elements of the Quick Press form that’s now included in wordpress.com and probably with some tweaking that may be useful. However, it still seemed difficult, surely someone must have done this before. I put out a tweet to ask for help – asking whether anyone had experience of blogging tools for people with visual impairments. In the meantime Tim Difford joined us for a bit to try out other possibilities, thinking about podcasting for example.

While we were talking about audioboo, phoneboo and ipadio, I had a flash of inspiration. Tim was explaining how simple some of these services are, so that you as a user are just making a phone call and when you’ve finished, you have, automatically, a podcast that could be shared through an RSS feed to a widget on your site.

This is what cleared the neural pathways for me – how about using posterous.com as a blog for KVIN which gets populated simply by David sending it e-mails, with attachments for the multimedia elements – everyone has e-mail and David, no doubt has an e-mail client that is optimised for his use – we all breathed a sigh of relief and had a cup of tea.

Meanwhile my twitterstream was generously sharing thoughts on the subject as predicted by the third of Dave Snowden’s Knowledge Management principles. Since the moment has passed somewhat, I haven’t, and I’m not going to, follow up all of these in detail, but if you’re interested, I hope you find a summary here useful.

@jobsworth pointed me at @dnwallace who keeps a blog called Lifekludger: “On it you’ll find information about ideas, devices, methods and custom uses for ‘everyday stuff’ that could be used to adapt, build, kludge, hack or make things work for people living with disability, as well as links and opinion on useful existing devices.”

@technicalfault showed us AccessibleTwitter.com a slimmed down version of twitter.

@simonjball pointed to Web2Access.org.uk with some tests and good practice guidance.

@cataspanglish pointed to @alisonvsmith who immediately popped up with her blog Pesky People which “aims to profile the lack of proper access by Disabled and Deaf people on the web, inform, complain, campaign.”

@ipadio reminded us of it’s own applicability

and finallly @x333xxx asked “why not ask @rnib’s professional services team? “

All good stuff and I’ll be pointing David in the direction of this summary.

Photo credit: Tim Difford

Reading & Writing

25/09/2009I remember reading, somewhere, something like: “As a blogger, if you’re not writing enough, it’s probably because you’re not reading enough” I don’t believe that’s true, I think it probably only applies if you’re the type of blogger who only writes about what other people have written, but somehow it got stuck, wedged into the part of my brain that somehow doesn’t like me sitting and writing and publishing stuff on the web and so it gets in the way every time I go anywhere near the “New Post” button.

The same bit of my brain that lures me into Google Reader and Twitter far too often. “I need to read a little bit more and then I’ll get down to writing.”

No. The only thing that gets me writing (and I love writing, I really enjoy it and I always feel good when I’ve done some) is sitting down and writing. Reading just takes up time, gives me little ideas that get squirrelled away in my head and rattle around like acorns. They rarely get out where they were supposed to go (here, on the blog) and just add to my levels of anxiety, depression and occasional psychotic delusion – which tend, to be honest, to get in the way of writing too.

Gaaah.

Oh that’s better.