Category Archives: Other media work

Calling London-based devs, designers, devigners, wizards

Image: Dottie Mae/Some rights reserved

I’m lucky enough to know a handful of London-based developers and web designers, but nowhere near as many as I’d like to.

I’m hoping to be working on a number of media-ish projects over the next little while, in the squidgy bit in between editorial and technology. The more co-conspirators the merrier.

So, if you are a freelance developer (front or back end, HTML(5)/CSS, JS, PHP, Ruby, whatever really), iOS/Android developer, designer, UX expert, pinball wizard… please say hello.

TwiTrip interview with


A new site I’m working on, with Daniel Bower, Lawrence Brown, and Rik Lomas. Kerouapp‘s holding page is up now … the launch is coming soon.

Links for teens

Over the last year, I’ve been working with a group of teenagers from north London schools in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympics. My charge was to teach them how to blog. As I’ve previously posted, they were naturals.

Recently, I’ve started with a new batch of kids, and each time we’ve met I’ve given them a few blogs and links to use as inspiration. I thought I’d share them here. If anyone out there is looking for decent, teen-friendly content, perhaps these will help.

The Style Rookie
Tinchy Stryder’s blog
Charlie McDonnell’s YouTube channel
Listen to Africa
The Football Ramble
Foodie at Fifteen
Out With the In Crowd
Sea of Shoes
Pitch Invasion
The Cool Hunter
Graphic Everywhere
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Blogging the Vancouver Paralympics

Joe, Jake, Renaye and Kim are amazed as Claudia pulls off a triple-pirouette on the ice

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting six kids from Stoke Newington School. They had been chosen to visit the Vancouver Paralympics, to cover the event as budding journalists. I taught them how to blog using WordPress; integrating images, audio and video. They took to it incredibly quickly.

It’s fascinating to see how easily the yoof of today get their heads around relatively complicated online software. My mother, for example, has a PhD and has published various books, yet struggles to understand the difference between a ‘click’ and a ‘double-click’. And these kids, aged 15-16, learnt how to blog in less than two hours. That said, this was a particularly bright and enthusiastic assortment of kids – ones to watch, certainly. I left the school that day feeling incredibly positive about the future of self-publication.

You can keep up to date with all their stuff on the microsite at A New Direction. And to tune in to their individual blogs, click below:

Claudia’s blog
Jake’s blog
Joe’s blog
Kimberly’s blog
Renaye’s blog

Recent work

A little update on my recent bits and bobs.

For the Guardian:
• A TwiTrip to Leeds, fuelled by live tips from Twitter, which went very well indeed. I ended up at the fantastic Brudenell Social Club, where I happened upon one of the finest mohawks I can recall [pictured above].
• A blog on virtual travel, inspired by the wonderful interactive Trans-Siberian Railway map produced by Google and Russian Railways.

For the New York Times:
• A post for the NYT Goal blog on David Beckham adorning the anti-Glazer green and gold scarf at the end of Manchester United and AC Milan’s Champions League replay. Since then, poor old Dave got himself crocked. A shame.

For A New Direction
• I taught some fantastic kids from Stoke Newington School how to blog.

Stop! Hammer time

By some strange aligning of everything that is good in the world, I was invited to talk on the Stop! Hammer Time podcast on Wednesday. Yup, I was actively encouraged to talk crap about West Ham for 37 minutes. In many ways it was a form of therapy; like a cathartic West Ham vomit. I felt considerably lighter when I emerged from that tiny little office on Marylebone Lane.

The podcast was hosted by Sam Delaney, who is the editor of Heat Magazine. In the pub afterwards we agreed that he could stalk me on my next holiday and pap me naked on the beach. I was joined on the panel by Jim Grant, a school teacher from Sevenoaks, who offered me nothing.

We discussed the horrifying possibility of a Gold-Sullivan takeover, our superbly bad performance against Man United, and the fact that Katy Perry recently sang “Bubbles” to Russell Brand (having already worn a West Ham basque to the EMA awards).

On the telly: Me on Working Lunch

I’m a totally massive celebrity these days. Look at me talking about hostels at 12:12, and then answering viewer questions after 23:50.

My take on Simonseeks, and UGC

simon seeks

The brand new UGC-site, developed by founder Simon Nixon, has been getting a fair bit of media attention. Intriguingly, it offers reviewers a share of the revenue they generate. Here’s my take, as published in an “Expert eye” opinion piece for Marketing Week:

“Sites relying on user-generated content need users, and Nixon’s idea of incentivising participation is a clever way of achieving a critical mass quicker than other start-ups. It might not be the best way. Offering a cut of clickthrough commissions is offering a cut of a very small cut: as with the site itself, generating personal revenue will be a numbers game. It won’t take users very long to work out whether it is worth their time.

Incentivised UGC entails a number of problems. First, if users are racing to write as many reviews as possible, it may also encourage “fake” reviews gleaned from the huge variety of other reviews on the web. As money is being made by the writers, however little, monitoring validity and plagiarism could become a legal strain. Simon Seeks will also face a challenge in converting hits and reviews into revenue. In an increasingly saturated market, and in tight economic times, holiday makers are painfully aware of value. I frequently look for well-reviewed hotels on a UGC site, and then shop around on price comparison sites to see who can offer me the best value.

Finally, the biggest challenge facing Simon Seeks is UGC itself. The market is dominated by TripAdvisor, which is becoming a victim of its own success as users strain under mountains of content backed by a dearth of validity or trust. Do we really need another rabbit hole?”

To expand slightly on the final point: I’m increasingly unconvinced in UGC as a stand-alone medium. For me, the ideal platform for travel advice combines UGC and expert advice; a blend of citizen journalism and professional journalism. If nothing else, over-reliance on UGC is laborious. I usually don’t have the time to scan through 438 reviews; I want an expert to pick me a hotel, and then I’ll cross-reference it with some UGC, just to make sure it isn’t a stinker.

The idea of UGC sites becoming a victim of their own success- and girth – is something brilliantly described in this article from last year, on “The travel site with a black mark against every hotel”. Here’s the key point:

The First Law of TripAdvisor is this: no matter how wonderful somewhere may be, how highly recommended by friends or guidebooks, somebody on TripAdvisor will claim to have spent the worst night of their life there. Which gives rise to the Second Law of TripAdvisor: if you book a room anyway, that bad review is the one that will prey ceaselessly on your mind until you get there.