57 days until you know what

When the clocks go back it means another – and much more fun – annual tradition: Christmas songs.

The clocks have gone back. The mornings are now a little lighter and the commute home is a little darker. I wrote all about this last year in It’s Not (All) About The Farmers.

The days are getting shorter which means Christmas is getting closer. We’re already starting to see festive articles being published; if you are looking for the 10 of the best Christmas cards or 10 Best Women’s Christmas Jumpers then there’s already an article for you.  

But I’m not reading about those. When the clocks go back it means another – and much more fun – annual tradition: Christmas songs. As I said last year, “If you love Christmas songs and have never read the Fizzy Pop festive blog then you should go and do it right now”.  And, as last year, if you’re on Apple Music I am going to try and keep updating the Apple Playlist of the musical selections made.

Every day is like survival

The post marking 20 years is a lovely example of blogging 15 years ago. Short and to the point, with nothing superfluous. Let’s examine it:

I’m riding a wave of nostalgia at the moment, aren’t I?  My last piece was about something written sixteen years ago.  Today, I sail in a much more modern boat and I’m looking back at a newer post from just fifteen years ago.  The only trouble is, that post itself referenced an event 20 years earlier. Wow, it was 35 years ago, Culture Club was number one with Karma Chameleon.  

I’m sure lots of people write about that feeling of time speeding up. You know, the whole “it only feels like yesterday” view. It’s true, but if you weren’t there then you won’t care. Trust me kids, it may seem important to you now, but nobody born this morning will much care about the British rappers Dave ft. Fredo’s Funky Friday except as a footnote telling them it was number one the day they were born. What do you mean, you don’t care either. Kids of today, huh.

But I digress. The post marking 20 years is a lovely example of blogging 15 years ago. Short and to the point, with nothing superfluous. Let’s examine it:

It’s twenty years since Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon was the UK’s number one selling single (full list).

We’ve already hit a problem. The ‘full list’ link I originally used is no longer accessible. Thankfully, it’s on the wayback machine so I’ve updated it in the original. The list in the version I linked to stops in 2003 when Blu Cantrell feat. Sean Paul reigned with ‘Breathe’.  The current version of this page from the Official Charts site is surrounded by a monstrous noise of cookie alerts and advertising. But, it is up to date with the aforementioned Funky Friday as the latest UK chart topper.

I really remember the video set in Mississippi (but I don’t imagine it was actually filmed there).

Back in 2003 could I have looked up that the video was filmed at Desborough Island in Weybridge? Wikipedia tells me that – so maybe I could have done.  Anyway, it’s not that far away from where I live. One day I should plan a visit but I promise not to reenact the video for you. I can’t believe anybody fell for it being Mississippi. However, it was the 80s and music videos were all new. And I was 13 and would have believed anything.

I suspect it would be very dated now …

Well, in the intervening years, a little thing called YouTube arrived which means I can now watch the original video and confirm it’s datedness or not. And I can embed it in the post itself for you to make up your mind. The pace of change, huh? You get to see how much like a cloudy day in England it appears to be. That’s the British weather for you.

all together now, “Every day is like survival, You’re my lover, not my rival …”

Back when Karma Chameleon was top of the charts, did anybody know the ‘You’re my lover’ was a reference to Jon Moss? I know a 13 year old that certainly didn’t.  I wonder if I would have reacted differently had I known?


It Was Sixteen Years Ago Today

What does the web of previous 1 October tell us?

I few months ago I wrote that sometimes, “I come to visit my website just to look at the Blast From The Past section.” Admittedly, I don’t do this very often but today, on my morning commute, I did and found three entries from the first day of October in years gone by: 2002, 2004 and 2010.  As a view of the past, I thought they made an interesting set of posts to study.

Eight years ago I was sharing interesting news links from the world digital advertising on an almost daily basis; something that you’d find on Twitter today and not laguishing on a blog. As I’ve said before, Twitter is probably a better place for such updates. Back then, I expressed surprise that part of the digital ad world was described by AdWeek as a ‘cesspool’: I thought it was a little extreme. Today, I’d probably not be so surprised and I might even agree with that description.

The ‘cesspool’ comment was used in a session at AdWeek 2010 where, “[T]he easy availability of low-cost online advertising space was a theme, and a problem, the panel returned to several times” [quote].  I imagine many of the people have come back to that theme a good few times since then! I wonder how many of the attendees 8 years ago are amongst the podcasters, influencers and digital prophets at AdWeek 2018.  Certainly, three roles that were not in use at the turn of the millennium when the other 1st October entries were written.

In 2004 I wrote about a phone being stolen which seemed quite important at the time but, from today’s vantage point, the focus on the newspaper headline of the day is much more interesting.  These days I have no idea what the headline on the evening paper is as I head home and it’s unlikely I’m using my phone camera to grab a snapshot. Somewhere along the way, at least to me, headlines became less interesting because my news sources were much more personalised and my experience of the Evening Standard today (primarily accessed via a news aggregator on my phone) will be different to yours.

But it’s the sixteen year-old entry that really caught my attention. How does the ‘Snapshot of the Blogsphere’ stand-up today?  It’s rather poor: all the three links noted are no longer accessible from their original pages because none of the sites are active anymore, although Tom’s plasticbag.org is still archived even if the links are broken (a little bit of searching does come up with the original entry).  There so much of the early web that’s gone. Fortunately, the Wayback Machine has some kind of copy of the material and I have been able to update the original links (see: Tom, Meg, Bart). It’s not great because I don’t imagine many people will go searching for them if they get a ‘not found’ error.  I wish there was a way to prevent this but what to do when the owners don’t want to do it anymore?

I’m glad I managed to rescue the snapshot of 2002. I don’t read anywhere near as many blogs as I did back then but, just in case I want to check in with myself in another 16 years, here’s a quick look at what I read today:

  1. Some years getting the Gold Card discount added to my Oyster is really simple, and other years everyone shakes their head and says “no, we can’t do that here, go away”. This year’s attempt proved almost, but not quite, at the easy end of the scale. [DiamondGeezer]
  2. Musk doesn’t deserve to be compared to Steve Jobs, he’s a category unto himself. He has improvised on a scale we’ve never seen before and has forced the incumbents to wake up and adopt EVs as their future. [Monday Note]
  3. It was not hard to see why Trump hadn’t seen the point in preparing to take over the federal government: why study for a test you will never need to take? [kottke.org]

Let’s just make sure the Wayback Machine has a copy.

King of West Midlands Mornings

Les Ross was the kind of West Midlands morning radio for 26 years. Hear his story.

BRMB radio logoI’ve written a few times about my childhood love of radio. In the early 1980s, Piccadilly Radio was my radio station and I was a devoted listener. By the middle of the decade my family had moved to the Midlands, but an overly large FM aerial on the side of our house kept me tuned to Piccadilly 103 FM.

Post-1987, after the launch of Beacon Radio in Shropshire, interference from their Wrekin transmitter prevented any serious listening to a station from Manchester, and my allegiances shifted to Birmingham and BRMB. Les Ross was still the reigning king of West Midlands morning radio – and would be for more than a decade to follow on BRMB and XTRA.

I was only a loyal listener for two or three years. After that, I was at University in Scotland trying to figure out which morning show to listen to until, one day, some friends and I decided we’d do our own on the University’s campus radio station. Our breakfast radio career didn’t last 26 days never mind Les’ 26 years.

Last week, Les was the subject of one of David Lloyd’s “conversations“. It’s a really great listen – download it now to your favourite podcast player.

I Used To Blog

I used to blog when blogging was something that people who believed in the open web did. It was when I believed that having a place to write was good and that personal publishing was a democratising force.

I used to blog when blogging was something that people who believed in the open web did. It was when I believed that having a place to write was good and that personal publishing was a democratising force.

I used to blog when conversations happened, and ideas were shared, across blogs and not as trolling-comments or 140 character part-thoughts.

I used to blog when trolls lived under bridges before the mainstream thought of trolling as an activity you needed a keyboard to engage in.

Some of my early blogging is cringeworthy and has little substance: but the point was to share an idea, thought or experience with the world. Or with yourself. It was the status update before there was such a thing.

Very occasionally I still write something here in a way that might be considered a blog. I wish I had the patience and time to write more. I admire the people that still do it.

Even less often I look at other places in case there are some artefacts left that should have migrated here many years ago. I rarely find anything.

Sometimes, I come to visit my own website just to look at the Blast From The Past section. It’s a list of blog pieces I wrote on this day of the month in previous years. It’s a nostalgia trip: something like opening a teenage diary or journal and feeling vaguely embarrassed at the person you used to be. I didn’t keep an adolescent diary, so I’ll spare you that. This is the closest you’ll get.

Today, I arrived here and discovered 6 Blast From The Past entries: 5 of which all date from 2005. My Blast From The Past is really a rather narrow view. The blogging years were really 2003-2005. But 5 entries on a single day was unusual, but when I look closely, I find that these entries would live on Twitter today. Aside from a separate post about the G8 summit; they are all a countdown to the announcement that London had been awarded the 2012 Olympics.

Perhaps, tiny updates like this work better on Twitter. There, they are posted in real-time and shared alongside others who may be witnessing the same thing. But Twitter makes it really hard to get a sense of my past. I wish they’d do a better job surfacing my history. I love being reminded about things like I was today.

Interestingly, I don’t really need the Blast From The Past section to remember that day, but it is useful to remind me that it is today. The memory is very vivid. I wish I had blogged during the actual 2012 Olympics in as much detail. I wrote a couple of things. Not much.

Of course, I remember the next day too. For very different reasons.

Taking A Moment to Read

Stop flipping through a social feed and really read.

On this day last January, as part of my #SOLS goals, I wrote about a challenge that I had set myself to complete during 2017: to read 12 books in the year. In January 2018’s first post, I discussed my failed writing challenge and mentioned I would return to the subject of books. Of my 2017 aims, the reading objective was much more successful.

Towards the end of 2016, I realised that I was not spending enough time reading: it was too easy to flip open my phone and aimlessly scroll through a social media feed. I have a lot of books that I would like to read, but I would go for months without starting one and, when I did, I would only skim pages. People I admired are often quoted as saying how important books were to them and their careers. In my post, I quoted Bill Gates and linked to a list by Barack Obama. Equally useful would have been reading lists from Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos. The signs all suggested I should read more.

At work, sometime in late 2016, each member of our team committed to a personal goal, and I decided mine would be to stop flipping through a social feed on my phone while I sat on the train to and from work. I was going to read a book and, what’s more, I decided that they would be old-fashioned, bookshop-bought, books. As January came around, I decided my reading objectives ought to be public, and so I joined the Goodreads challenge.

Of the 14 books I completed, I found Elon Musk’s biography inspirational and Jony Ive’s story was remarkable, showing how vital your passions are in life. David Ogilvy’s experience, told through The King of Madison Avenue, was a fascinating blast from the advertising past. I read David Lloyd’s Radio Moments book – a marvellous insight into life in the British radio industry from the 1970s to the present day – in one sitting on a flight I was taking for work. That one brought back a lot of memories. It took considerably longer to get through Paul Theroux’s The Old Patagonian Express which I found a hard to plough through even though the voyage across the South American continent sounded fascinating.

My favourite books were both surprises. The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman was an imaginative look into the future and what the world will be like in one hundred years. Although I will never know how much of it comes true, it’s fun to imagine and more accessible to comprehend when there are the theories George brings to support his predictions. The other big surprise was also a story of the future – and the past – in Elan Mastai’s novel All Our Wrong Todays.

I ended the year with perhaps the least challenging of all the books I read across the 12 months. A trio of crime/action fiction novels – from Grisham, Connelly and Flynn – was a lovely easy read to end the year: all three were gripping in a way only master story-tellers like these can do.

What was most unexpected was that I discovered that I was enjoying reading and, even more, the act of turning pages in a book was especially satisfying. At the end of the day, I was arriving home more relaxed, and I believe much of that was to do with the ability to focus on something other than work. My boss encouraged all of his team to commit to something through the year, and I’m happy I chose a book challenge because it reminded me how much I enjoy – and can learn from – something more in-depth than a 160 character social post.

My Goodreads Reading Challenge 2017 can be found here. I have publicly committed to reading a few more books in 2018, so you might want to follow my progress.

Challenge – Failed

The #SOLS challenge failed in 2017 so I am trying again in 2018.

It’s the last Sunday of January 2018 and I have a decision to make. Shall I continue with the #SOLS project?

#SOLS (Sermon of the Last Sunday) was a self-inflicted challenge to see if I could write on this website at least once a month and make the hosting costs somewhat worth paying. It almost worked.

January started off strong with a note about the reading challenge (more on that in another post). In February, I used the #SOLS challenge to post an entry about my amazing trip to Japan. I failed to make the last Sunday in March and the post about Google dominating UK digital advertising was written at the start of April. There was no post at the end of April, nor in May, but the fascinating diary exhibition formed the basis of June’s “Dear Digital Diary“.

Major rail engineering works outside London Waterloo station and a shake-up of the train service in South West London formed a trilogy of #SOLS in July, August and September. As we moved into winter time, I wrote about adjusting the clocks in October and a great visit to the top of London’s BT Tower for the nighttime view finished November. Somehow, I missed writing anything in December which means I failed in my goal of writing something every month.

Even though I failed the specific challenge, I actually wrote more here in 2017 than I have done for a while. I’m enjoying the experience of trying to be creative at least once a month and so, for 2018, I have decided to try again. I want to go for a full house: an entry every month this year. Stick with me.