Linked-up constant update love-joy

Ask, and ye shall receive. Or at least want something really obvious and it’s likely to come to pass.

Twitter can now be used to update Facebook status. And the updates already appear in my blog sidebar. So, should I wish to inform all five people that make up my total audience in both places that I am scratching my arse while on the top deck of a bus bound to Barking (via my mobile, of course), I can.

Possibly this much-desired functionality has been available for weeks if not months unnoticed by me, but hey, I can be happy about it even if it’s belated.

Now that’s been achieved I have another request, oh twitterific ones. I thought, only yesterday, how exciting it would be if I could attach images taken on my mobile to my tweets (and indeed sound and video files… why stop at pictures?). It would then be the perfect all-in-one micro-blogging tool with the output available in multiple definable destinations and searchable in ways that the twitter team is already beginning to implement.


We wore our red shirts

red shirts for burma

And told everyone we came across why, particularly secondborn at school apparently.

Last night I went to dinner with friends. There were five international news journalists round the table. “What’s going to happen in Burma” I asked. “Give me the top line.”

“Well of course it’s very difficult to tell,” started one, “information about the military and what their thinking is…”

“It’s quite simple,” interrupted another, a financial journalist. “The protests will be put down by the military, ruthlessly, possibly as ruthlessly as they were in ‘88. The international community will do nothing beyond the usual public hand-wringing. None of the countries with any economic clout will do anything to jeopardise their investments. And Sarkozy,” he said, turning to the European news specialist, “is such a hypocrite. Nothing is going to touch Total‘s involvement in Burma. China, India and Thailand, the biggest regional investors, aren’t going to lift a finger either.”

Depressing. And past experience tells me it’s probably correct.

Red shirt for Burma


Still not too late to put one on, if you haven’t already, to show support for the people of Myanmar/Burma in their peaceful protests against the military regime.

Take a picture of yourself/selves and upload it to make that support available to Burmese with internet access.

More Rimbaud, words, images, thoughts

Wouldn’t it just be super cool to make images based on The Drunken Boat? (see the other day). Such colours! such images! such exclamation marks! I assumed this was so much a no-brainer that there would already be a group on flickr devoted to exactly this, along the lines of that for The Waste Land. There isn’t.

There are two interesting pictures – here and here – based on lines from A Season in Hell but no groups.

Words and images, images and words. At the exhibition on Tuesday I particularly liked the work by Victor Burgin who mixes image and text in his series UK76 and US77. (I didn’t really respond to another image-word juxtaposition in the work of Stephen Willats which I found too didactic and simplistic. Both photographers, both politically engaged, both heavily into theory but one I found sterile, the other exciting. Diffrnt strokes for diffrnt folks I guess.)

Hg and I talked about the personal power of words in framing a narrative of self, of the measurable physical effect on the brain of naming self-experience. He told me (again) to read Ursula K Le Guin‘s Earthsea Quartet. (I shall, I shall!)

The same day I went to the exhibition F and I talked about artists who feel the need to issue an instruction booklet with their work. How the words attempt to strait-jacket the art not allowing the possibility of the infinity of dialogues between object and viewers.

I am reminded of meeting with Ivy in the British Museum Great Court. We talked about the images of poetry and the poetry of images. She could have concentrated on the non-poetic image but chose words first. Wow! I’m really honoured to have been labelled a Thinking Blogger by Ivy. I now have to tag five more.

Firstly because of the punk connection there’s Jeff. Not that he doesn’t make me think all the time – he does. So much that my brain frequently hurts. However at the moment he’s remembering his friend Slim in a series of extraordinary posts, words and images. Slim the Drifter, moving between punk and country and a whole load of labels in between, defying them all.
Then there’s the hostess of the Thinkery. I mean with a blog name like that it’s a natural isn’t it. Krista makes me think and laugh and all sorts of other things. And she takes great pictures too.  And loves socks. And takes pictures of them.

Koranteng makes me think about such a wide range of stuff it makes my head spin. Most recently there’s been the issue of plagiarism to start the neurones firing. But look at the way he writes. And the music. Thanks to him and a one-hit wonder recommendation I’m now ploughing through the 14 or so albums I had to acquire in order to get that single song.

My friend and former World Service colleague Lara covers Hackney, Luanda and pretty much everything in between. And she is, completely brilliantly, growing and growing and growing. Thanks for taking us along too 🙂

I missed Oso‘s birthday. He’s had remarkably few of them and this won’t be apparent from his blog where he grapples and tussles with everything from beer to cats. Oh, and some other stuff too.  Amongst his many other talents and activities he’s the multi-stomached rambo-ruminant digester of Global Voices, the must-read synopsis of what the world is talking about.

An ostrich, called Canute, head in the sand of the Severn Bore, incoming tide, shooting itself in the foot

Phew. That’s better. I am eating a cheese sandwich as I type (Tesco’s value red Leicester on Kingsmill 50/50 sliced bread). And here’s a picture of my cat.

don't mess with me

Isn’t he lovely? It’s not a recent picture but that could be because I’m using him as a narrative device. Or maybe not. Maybe my camera’s broken or he’s become unadorable or I’m just too lazy to take and upload another one. You decide.

Now then. Having established myself as deeply facile and boring I can go on to say that my snappy, attention-grabbing headline has got absolutely nothing to do with the event I went to this morning. Absolutely nothing to do with the “traditional media” in general, and of course, absolutely nothing to do with the BBC in particular. Oh no.

Uh, but hang on a bit. I’m a blogger aren’t I? So that means I might be um, less than accurate. Unlike, of course, the “traditional media”. Oh, the terrible uncertainty in the minds of my readers.

It was interesting, the discussion this morning. The most interesting thing, to me, was said by Stewart Purvis, professor of journalism, fabulously experienced award-studded former ITN head honcho etc. “I’m just waiting”, he said (and of course I’m paraphrasing here because I wasn’t taking notes or recording the session), “I’m just waiting for a really big blog hoax”.

A ripple ran around the room. Not the Severn Bore, but a perceptible ripple. Sort of schadenfreude-in-advance with an added dose of “please don’t let it be me”. The implication, it seemed to me, in both speaker and audience reaction, was that this would be proof of the inherent danger of “blogs” and that once this had happened journalists could stop being quite so concerned about them.

That’s one interpretation that might result from a “traditional media” organisation falling for a blog-based hoax. There is, of course, another. And it is that if a media organisation ends up falling for such a hoax it will demonstrate that said media organisation had not checked its facts properly. Verified its sources. Done what journalists and editors in the room this morning congratulated themselves upon, and quite rightly so (in many cases). Exercised all those skills that journalists insist, quite rightly in many cases, distinguish them from bloggers.

It really, really isn’t rocket science. You cannot eat your cake and have it at the same time. You cannot laud your own professionalism on the one hand and blame a source for being inaccurate if you transmit that inaccurate information on the other. Blogs are not journalism. Just as press releases are not journalism. Just as party political statements are not journalism. Just as stories seen in other, rival, “traditional media” do not or, rather more accurately, should not, be lifted and reproduced without being checked.

Does this attitude toward information generated by individuals and published on the internet have something to do with a perceived (or actual) erosion of power? That the future cuts both ways has already been demonstrated by the Reuters picture incident. Did the smoke of the doctored picture from Beirut which was “outed” by bloggers hang heavy but unacknowledged in the air?

It isn’t (she types, slowly and heavily, because this is sooo old and it’s soooo tedious to have to repeat it all the time) “them and us”. It really isn’t. Get your head out of the sand, get on your surfboard and ride the frikkin wave. Change is difficult, change (nowadays) is extremely fast. Entrenched, adversarial, inflexible, defensive attitudes are not going to get you anywhere.

And now, back to the cat. In a glorious example of web2.0 loveliness I have to relate that I was contacted to take part in today’s exciting event by flickr mail. By AnnabelB who, I notice, already has a picture of the event on her photostream.

She, it transpires, has been reading this blog (no doubt concerned that she’d contacted some cat-loving madwoman) and had been following the saga of the cards closely. So when we met and I offered her one she immediately demanded the one with the most embarrassing photo title. Which I think has to be “don’t mess with me”. Which is (you will have realised by now, I hope) a picture of….. my cat!

Blognitive dissonance

So. I’m to take part in an internal BBC discussion tomorrow morning. The “100 top editors and managers of BBC global news” apparently get together for a monthly breakfast meeting to discuss… stuff. Tomorrow the topic is defined by two questions – “what is the best journalism in the world?” and “what will journalism look like in 2012?” Also on the panel will be Professor Stewart Purvis and Glen Drury of Yahoo!

Without further ado herewith reproduced are the biog and summary of what I think the best journalism is, both of which I was requested to supply.


R- R- lives on the net and feels naked without her computer, but a wap-enabled mobile is a good substitute.

When she started a year’s stint as managing editor of the international citizens’ media portal, Global Voices Online ( she was welcomed to “the light side”. Presumably her career as a journalist, predominantly for the BBC World Service, was regarded as “the dark side”.

She has taught journalism for both the BBC and the UN and media skills – aka how to deal with journalists – to groups including human rights workers and academics.

She started her blog four years ago whilst suffering from a major depressive disorder. These days she writes far less about suicide and much more about her cat. She has never, as far as she can recollect, mentioned having a cheese sandwich for lunch.

The best journalism in the word? (I’m assuming a global audience and BBC core values of independence, impartiality and truth):

offers illumination rather than strobe effect; is collaboration not commandment; is genuinely global and above all harnesses the potential of digital collection and distribution.

The last point first – it’s easy to underestimate global connectivity. Individual desktop computers are predominantly a western phenomenon. Cheap yet sophisticated mobile handsets are the most common modes of access to generating and consuming digital content in the developing world, as well as shared resources such as internet cafĂ©s.

This means information from individuals across the globe is easier to access in addition to already established interest groups, governments and media. Individuals increasingly become stakeholders in stories. Information becomes more a collaborative process between sources and moderator (journalist).

Finally, in an increasing culture of instantaneous-info-consumption, the best journalism in the world steps back and gives the bigger picture. Info-nuggets without compelling background and context are analogous to the reports given by a group of blind men about an elephant. Not necessarily inaccurate but (potentially dangerously) incomplete.

Now interestingly (or not) I appear to have been billed as “R- R- who blogs at”. Which is why I’m putting the above information in this post. Because I’ve noticed the odd BBC link trail meandering this way and I’m assuming anyone who might be described as a “top 100 editor [or] manager” is probably thinking wtf? Or even WTF!

Hence the blognitive dissonance. Here’s a small, utterly insignificant and rather shy blog way, way out in the hinter-of-blog-land which has that most egregious example of a clichĂ© of blogger inanity – pictures of cats (even worse, perhaps, a personalised lolcat), but which happens to be tended by someone who knows quite a bit about citizen media, mainstream journalism, social networks and global news. Who doesn’t tend to blog about it.

Robin Hamman has the sort of blog one might expect a social media person to have. (Hi Robin – I hope I get to meet you tomorrow.) Full of great stuff, thinky thoughts and linky links. From this useful source of information I learn – and am rather puzzled by – the fact that the BBC held an “Internal Management Conference, The Future of News” less than a fortnight ago. Addressed by, among others, Stewart Purves. Yes, the same Stewart Purves.

I am attempting to quell as cynical and without evidence my suspicion that “news” (aka domestic TV followed by domestic radio) gets a day-long conference with lunch etc while “global news” (aka the World Service radio and possibly TV) gets an early-morning hour of time which is in addition to most people’s already probably long working day.

Oh, and I’m looking enviously at Robin’s picture of his podium complete with laptop etc which was no doubt connected to both the internet and a projector. I checked, as one does, to see if the internet connection in the meeting room tomorrow would be cable or wifi… there isn’t either. There’s going to be a single slide with the BBC Global News brand projected behind the panel.

Le sigh.

At least the cards arrived in time, for what it’s worth.

I do like this

And I wonder how long it will be around…

I was once told that it wasn’t Disney which pulled all the company’s footage which found its way onto YouTube but YouTube itself. Companies like Disney would, apparently, like to have the viral marketing leverage that the site provides but YouTube retains copyright of all work posted to the site.

Some organisations make deals with YouTube under which they consent to allow some of their material to appear. So far Disney has not.

[Update: see Correction in the comments]

Proud to be mad

A childfree weekend stretches ahead and I hadn’t sorted out anything to do, other than housework. Then this fell into the mailbox:

We need your help!!

We are filming a short film this Sunday (20th May) for Creative Routes, a mental health charity. The film will be screened at Bonkersfest! a free public festival in Camberwell on the 2nd of June. The film aims to broaden the awareness of mental health issues to the public, and to challenge the stigmas attached to those who suffer from mental illnesses.

For the film we need lots of different people of all shapes, sizes, ages, races and appearances to have their portrait taken, and that’s where you come in. You won’t need to act, just look straight into the camera for a photograph. We will need you for no more than an hour and a half in total in a location on Commercial Street near Liverpool Street Station and Aldgate Station.

If you can help us please email to confirm with your name, phone number and if you would prefer to take part in the morning or the afternoon to this address: waddiloverobert AT googlemail DOT com

We will then email you on Saturday with a more specific time for you to be there.

Please bring with you if you can 2 outfits, perhaps a smart and a casual one, including different layers with jackets/coats. Any accessories would be great also i.e. glasses, hats & scarfs, jewellery or your favourite hat.

Please please help us. It won’t take long and is for a good cause. Please also forward this on to all your friends.

Thanks a lot, Jack Cole, Sarah Tonin and Bobby Baker

LOCAL TRAVEL INSTRUCTIONS ­ Saturday 19th May & Sunday 20th May 2007
Toynbee Studios
28 Commercial Street
London E1 6AB
Toynbee Studios is part of the Toynbee Hall complex at 28 Commercial Street
near Aldgate East in London.

Transport Links
By tube:
Aldgate East – District/Hammersmith & City lines – approx. 2 minutes walk
Aldgate – Metropolitan/Circle lines – approx. 5 minutes walk
Liverpool Street – Metropolitan/Circle/Central/Hammersmith & City lines –
approx. 10 minutes walk

By bus:
Number 67 stops on Commercial Street outside Toynbee Studios
Numbers 15, 25, 115, 209 & 254 pass the bottom of Commercial Street along
Whitechapel High Street
Numbers 40, 42, 78 & 100 stop at Aldgate
Numbers 8, 26, 35, 43, 47, 48, 78, 149, 242 & 388 stop on Bishopsgate
Numbers 11, 23, 42, 133, 141, 214, 271 & 344 terminate outside Liverpool Street Station

Since I’d spent some time last night moaning to an unfortunate involuntary interlocutor about the continuing stigma attached to mental ill-health and since I’m almost professionally mad it would be bonkers not to go. If you see what I mean. And there’s the added excitement of dressing up!

You can find out more about the organisation at Proud to be Mad.

Good things

I had a carefully linked list of recent good things which lead one to the next in a pleasing series of elegant segue-ways and I appear to have deleted it by mistake. Never mind.

The first good thing, which occurred after the demise of the list, has to be the result – a draw, but an honourable one. I speak, of course, of the firstborn’s endeavours on the AstroTurf this morning. He scored the equaliser.


Almost as good was the long lens which came with the E-400… not bad for a first sporting shot I thought. Shame his mother hadn’t washed his socks though.

Staying with the family, my gorgeous cousin Jules got married. She’s beautiful. She’s funny. Talent oozing out of her fingertips – acting, singing, directing. And so clever they didn’t have a grade high enough for her degree. I love her.

Here she is giving a specially customised rendition of “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love” at her wedding reception.

Jules is a singer

Obviously I want to be her, but it’s rather too late now so I take delight in watching her being her.

And on Monday I had the most wonderful time at Mr Beelicious’ birthday party.

jonathan in another brilliant hat

We met on Holy Island last August where already his excellent taste in headgear was well in evidence. He came from New York to celebrate at Les Trois Garcons. The food was fabulous, the decor outrageous-flamboyant-baroque and his friends so delightful and interesting and funny and sympa.

After eating we were taken upstairs to the living quarters of two at least of the trois garcons which had enough quirk and fluff and spangles to keep me happy for several lifetimes. And an African grey parrot with which I (and others) immediately fell in love. It was a night I hope never to forget, thank you so much Mr B!

To the realm of work. The major excitement for us at Global Voices was the launch of the new Reuters Africa site. It has a feed of the relevant Global Voices content on every country page across the entire continent.

The announcement made quite a splash since it’s the first time that blogger content has been incorporated quite so extensively in a mainstream media site. My friends and colleagues Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman both wrote great analyses of its significance and from openDemocracy came an excellent article by Becky Hogge.

The comments on the announcement article also let me discover the blog of my friend and former BBC colleague the journalist Lara Pawson who is currently in Luanda, Angola, and also writes for openDemocracy.

Hold that openDemocracy thought, we’ll be coming back to oD a bit later. Because this is where the filaments multiply beyond my ability to keep a single thread. We’ll continue with GV and another great thing which is the appointment of Sami Ben Gharbia as our new Advocacy Coordinator. Yes, for those of you with good memories, the same Sami Ben Gharbia of the Tunisian Prison Map about which I waxed lyrical last year.

We stay with the people of GV and move to the lovely Neha Viswanathan, our South Asia Editor (and reader of 3000 blogs). Quite how she finds the time to do anything beyond her work I don’t know but she does. She came over the other day and, despite being a confirmed dog person, fell for the cat big time. She also writes. Beautifully.

Click through to the previous link and you will see a picture of the aforementioned cat. The writing may be a response to or triggered by the picture – in other words ekphrasis. And, delightfully, the theme for this month’s edition of qarrtsiluni is that very thing. You can submit an image for inclusion in the gallery which acts as a seedbed of potential textual inspiration and you can submit “poetry or poetic prose” inspired by any of the gallery images or any other image you choose.

This is where Ariadne’s thread proves inadequate for navigating the maze of contemporary existence. I cannot, for the life of me, knit or even navigate a path from ekphrasis to Bamako, although no doubt it is possible. So I have to invoke the oD reference I asked you to keep in mind, and on your needle, earlier.

Some weeks ago I mentioned going to see the film, Bamako. The next day I interviewed the director, Abderrhamane Sissako, and the executive producer, Maji-da Abdi for openDemocracy. They also happen to be married, Maji-da speaks English and translates for Abderrhamane of whose European languages French is better. The interview is here.

This was one of those interviews where everything “clicked”. I have been privileged to talk to many interesting and inspiring people over the years. Abderrhamane and Maji-da are up there with the best. The more I think about the more convinced I am that everyone should see this film. It’s even had good reviews in the London press – do yourself a favour, go and see it!

This is the downside of infrequent blogging – the complexity of the catchup. However there was another good thing fueling this marathon. Purchased from the recently opened Nigerian wine merchant’s down the road is a delicious Saumur blanc from Saint Vincent in the Loire Valley. Spicy, as promised. Pale amber in colour. Complex. Citrus. A honey nose. And I’ve finished the bottle.

Also, while accentuating the positive, my pictures got some fan mail today. They were pleased, I was delighted. Which reminds me there hasn’t been a picture of ages. Here’s one the boys and I all like called “pollen”.


Good night!