Why I (don’t) blog

Anyone who follows me will notice I don't blog much any more. The overriding feelings I have are a) I don't want to add to the noise and b) I don't want to use it as a sales platform.

This means I will only post if I have something original to share that I think will interest/help my readers.

Does that make sense to you? Or am I barking mad?

Poetry in Motion

CutThroatThe title of this post comes from a Johnny Tillotson song (mp3). The reason I chose it is because someone I know is in the middle of a poetry tour.

The person in question is Felix Dennis; a man whose friendship I treasure and whose publishing values I aspire to. He knows, better than any other publisher I've met, that the reader is the most important person in the world.

We went to his show at the Stratford-upon-Avon RSC Courtyard Theatre via a long detour to avoid a traffic clag-up on the M40, a check-in at the olde worlde Falcon Hotel, a cream tea at the Emporium and a tasty meal at Loxley's. Ah, not to mention the six free glasses of wine at the theatre. Cheers, Felix.

Off the top of my head, here are ten verbs that attempt to capture the Felix style. He whispers, growls, barks, laughs and shouts. He cajoles, implores, questions, stirs and delights. Not really what I expected, but I should have done, it's exactly how he behaves face-to-face.

Truth be told, he also promotes, begs and sells. He seeks donations for his Heart of England Forest charity, his poetry books and his periodicals – especially The Week and its associated wine retailer. Oh yes, he moans too about the state of our nation, of Europe and several of its individual countries, and of the poverty in St. Vincent, for which he's Honorary Consul in Warwickshire. He urged audience members thinking of a Caribbean holiday to go to St Vincent for a better welcome, wonderful scenery and lower costs. (A crude summary of what Felix actually said.)

Perhaps because he's become a local lad – his main home in the UK is in the nearby village of Dorsington – or maybe because of the free wine, or both, he was well-received in Stratford. The audience was on his side from the off, and stayed there through an interesting mix of sad, funny, moving and thought-provoking poems. All linked together with cameos from his life and illustrated with back-projected images, movies and words from his poems.

I spotted a Bonzo Dog Doo Dah band placard in the sequence from the 60's. A friend of mine played with  them when they were called The New Jungle Orchestra. All a long time ago…. I also spotted a typo or two in the poetry texts. "Baffoon" was one. And I think I saw a "wilt" where I expected a "wit", or maybe my thoughts were elsewhere.

An evening with Felix is unusual, to say the least. He shares his life's learnings in an enjoyable way. He talks about life aboard the Bearded Dwarf – his company poem. The staff used to call him that, so he adopted it as a pseuonym for his companies. I didn't, but I could have nodded all the way through that poem – in agreement, not exhaustion. I probably learnt more about publishing, editing, writing and life in my own 27 months as a crew member (from mid '79) than during the rest of my life..

Thank you Felix, for the show last night and for inspiring the second half of my life.

Need to search for content in non-standard files?

Thanks to Dick Pountain for reminding me that the bleedin' obvious isn't always.

I was groping around for a desktop search program that could look into any file, not just some standard list of extensions such as those handled by Microsoft's search. I looked at loads of programs and even downloaded a few but none did what I really wanted: to index a bunch of largely text files with the .brn suffix. In fact I didn't even need them indexed as long as I could search inside them reasonably quickly. 

TpAs a web developer and occasional programmer of many years' standing, I'd been using TextPad as my editor of choice. And, when I wanted to do global edits, I'd use its 'find in files' function. It just never occurred to me to use it to look inside other files. Until Dick suggested it.

Now, I set the file type to *.brn, the root of the search to 'desktop', tell it to look in sub-folders and the search to whatever I'm looking for. With regular expressions if I'm feeling flashy. Bingo.

As a paid-up user, why didn't I think of it before? So simple, so quick. Thanks Dick.

 

 

 

This is not breaking news… it’s already gone viral

Why does something happen just when you can't get to the computer?

Yesterday a man (you probably know who) appeared on the radio and tv in advance of his company's launch of a new product. No doubt he couldn't reveal too many details, so the interviews were theoretically too early. But then, if he'd tried to get on today, the news would have already gone round the world and the programmes would have been less interested.

So, he arrived with a set of inward-looking and content-free messages which he was determined to deliver. If anyone had advised him about bridging techniques or addressing the interests of his audience, his memory clearly failed him.

He answered every question with a non sequitur, usually involving words like unique, new, proposition, experience, essence and transformation.Oh yes, and he found it "exciting", several times. Completely forgetting perhaps that he's paid to be excited.

In the end, one of the presenters was so anxious to get something out of the interview that they offered an open goal, "Sell it to us then." And he talked about "managing to find the way to transition the essence …"

Handling the media is not rocket science but I accept it can be stressful. That's why you need to prepare. Know what you want to say and what you can say. Make sure it is of interest and, hopefully, benefit to the audience. Say it in concrete language that they understand. Know how to bridge (I call it transition – am I guilty of the same crime?) away from the awkward question and get onto something interesting to the audience.

My mate and highly regarded journalist/editor, Dick Pountain, came up with a form of words that would have got the interview off to a racing start and actually delivered value to the audience within a few seconds. Sadly I can't share those words because it would identify our miscreant.

Crowd-sourced elearning from mylearningworx

Do you have expertise and passion in a subject? Would you like to share it with the world? For free or for money?

mylearningworx officially launched itself yesterday. The event was marked by an e-learning workshop for the many friends of the company and the beta testers. You can read about it in Kate Graham's blog post.

Now you can see what my last post was about. One of the people behind the company was my publisher at Information World Review. Knowing my penchant for software and training, he asked if I'd like to give the system a whirl. That's how I came to make Tebbo's Kick Ass Writing Class.

Like many SaaS systems, this one is under continuous improvement. It's finished enough to enable people to upload pre-recorded courses. You'll find quite a few on the website ranging from free (like mine) to £50. Low prices should mean plenty of customers. Revenue is split in favour of the author. Free courses are an ideal way to establish the author's credentials.

The site lists all the courses. You can scroll through them, search them or see them by category. Authors can assign courses to multiple relevant categories to maximise the chance of them being found.

The people behind mylearningworx expect e-learning professionals to adopt this platform for hosting their private and public offerings, quite apart from the hoi polloi like me who'd just like to share a bit of useful knowledge with the world. (Although I'm being encouraged to do something more substantial.) They have plans to expand to Australia and have Spanish, German and French versions too.

I think that's probably enough from me. Except to say that I like what I see, I know it's not perfect, but they are listening to (and acting on) feedback from their growing community. If you're at all interested in this sort of thing, mylearningworx is certainly worth a look.

 

Tebbo’s Kick Ass Writing Class

Well, that was fun. I decided to take a SlideShare presentation, tweak it a bit, add a sound track and upload the resulting movie to YouTube. (I had my reasons but I'll keep them under my hat for now.) The result is a five and a half minute free introduction to effective writing. Hopefully it will encourage people to have a go – regardless of their past experiences – and actually achieve something fairly quickly.

The tools I used were PowerPoint, BBFlashbackPro and Audacity (just when I had to go back in and patch a bit of the voiceover because I'd used the wrong word). I am not remotely expert at using any of these tools. And, yes, you might say it shows. But the point is that I just got it into my head that it would be good to share this part of my life experience. I didn't set out to be slick.

Should I do another one on another subject, or get me coat?

 

PS April 2014: I retired the video and replaced it with another nine – a big one (20 minutes or so) and a set of eight smaller ones cut from the big one.

Does this interest you?

In December we gave a new blog a low-key launch. We wanted to get people with interesting points of view based on their life experiences to share their views and advice with others. We called it The Right Thing To Do.

Then along came Euan’s book (see the previous post) and he reminded me of what I’ve known for donkey’s years – that a question mark is an invitation to read and maybe participate, whereas its absence suggests a ‘know-it-all’ exhortation.

In the past, I used the question mark a lot with magazine cover lines and column titles. But when it came to The Right Thing To Do, I forgot.

Euan is right. Isn’t he?