Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Travelling Book giveaway!

So, the better part of 3 years ago I launched the Travelling Book project, sending blank journals to people around the world for them to write in, and then pass to other people to do the same.

However, I have a confession to make.

Three books never left me.

One was the trial version, that one is staying at home, but that still leaves two which are partially ready, but sat on a shelf.  And it's overdue that they went on their journeys too.

See my latest video to find out how you can get your hands on one! Responses by Thursday 6th April 2017.  I haven't decided but I may press my wife into action to choose the winners as she tends to make me do the same for her on her videos :)

Sunday, 26 March 2017

My sons D&B house construction

The other day my son declared that he wanted a house.  We pointed out that he already had a house, but apparently that's our house, and not his.

He proceeded to produce a page of instructions.

To further explain the instructions, they are:
  • 1 - Get a House
  • 2 - Get a Roof
  • 3 - Put the Roof on the House
  • 4 - Put a hose on the back of the House
  • 5 - Put up some curtains.

He must be a fan of modular off site construction.

When questioned on fit out, he insisted on the provision of a refrigerator and an oven, but not a toilet.  Apparently toilet-related activities can be done outside the house, which saves on the foul drainage connection.

He also provided an elevation drawing.

Then came the build.  We struggled with what materials to use, but in the end I managed to build something satisfactory:

For clarification, we've got cushions for windows and doors, a tape measure as a garden hose, wooden superstructure and a foam number template roof secured by Blu-tac.  Between you and me, I'm pleased with the build cost.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017


I had a far more light hearted blog post that I was planning to write tonight.  That one will show up in a couple of days, but right now it doesn't feel right to write something like that.

At the time of writing, about six hours ago some form of attack took place in Westminster in the heart of London.  I'm not going to go into depth about it because, although there are lots of stories flying around right now, I suspect it's going to take a little time at least before the facts about today become clear.

I'm not going to go into the details either of why it happened or the motivations behind it, but just to say that it's a sad day.  The injuries and fatalities arising from the attack are deeply saddening, and putting whatever reasoning the attacker had to one side, it is truly dreadful to go out with the intention of hurting others.

I'm sure that I'm wrong, but the world seems more dangerous nowadays, at least compared to when I was young (or perhaps I didn't pay as much attention to the news at the time, or the danger was elsewhere).

I've been to London a few times, mainly for work, and I like it (although it's certainly different to where I live).  It's busy and there's always something happening.  I don't feel a desire to live and work there now, but looking back to when I was younger and single I wonder about how things would have gone if I had spent some years working in the capital.  I love experiencing some of the iconic elements of London - Big Ben (which is actually Elizabeth Tower, Big Ben is just the name of the bell), the London Eye, Marble Arch... and the parks!  You wouldn't believe that you can be right in the middle of London and feel like you're miles away from any traffic, but stand in the middle of Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens on a sunny day and you'd fool yourself that you're in a country park somewhere.

I've been fortunate enough to venture inside the Palace of Westminster once, and it's a fantastic building, full of history and yet very much a wholly active heart of government.

I've rambled a little with this post, but I think that's what is needed. We'll see in the news in the upcoming days and weeks more analysis about this attack, and the motivation behind it. For now - go give your loved ones a hug.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Choosing which Social Media platform

Prelude: The concept for this post was provided by ReputationManagement.com, a leading provider of premier relationship services.

Branding isn't just for businesses.  It's also for bloggers , YouTubers, podcasters, and all those internet creators.

And when it comes to promoting your creations, the choice of social media platform is key.

It's critical to understand how the different platforms work, and where your audience is.  It's very easy to stick to the largest networks (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) and then getting disappointed that you aren't building your audience.

Two examples - firstly, my own blog.  Whilst not being the largest blog in the world, over the years I have been fortunate enough to build up a number of regular viewers, making me feel that my work is read.

Facebook is great for friends and family, and when I first started blogging Facebook was my go-to social media platform.

But the trouble with Facebook is that it is for friends and family.  My friends and family may love/like me, but they don't necessarily want to read my ramblings about my various hobbies.  So not every blog post - in fact, few of them nowadays - get promoted on Facebook.

Twitter always attracts a few readers, but to make Twitter work, you need ideally to have content that is trending.  A blog post about Valentines Day on Valentines Day, with a cute GIF of a heart, and the right wording in the tweet, will (hopefully) drag the readers over.  Otherwise it's only going to be your followers that ever see it.

Or a GIF like this works.

So which social media platform do I personally find best?

Well, I actually find Google+ is the best social media platform for me, in that its communities allow me to find like-minded people and places where I can share my content, and discover other content.  Blogging is very much a quid-pro-quo world, where you need to read and work with other bloggers to build your own audience.  And it makes it more fun, too.

So despite various rumours that Google+ is about to vanish, I desperately hope that it carries on, because for the likes of me, it is the best way to find and attract new readers.

The second example I have is my wife.  She loves to cross stitch.  And she's found YouTube to be hugely successful, as there is a large YouTube community of what are called "flosstubers", people who cross stitch, and vlog about their cross stitching.  In a very short space of time, she's taken her YouTube channel and attracted over a thousand subscribers.  And she's been able to leverage this into starting her own cross stitch-related enterprise on Etsy, for me she's a real success story on how to use social media to promote your product.

So for me, it's about learning where your audience is, and how to engage with them.  It is extremely rare that someone can release a piece of content, and have it simply go viral, instead your must build those networks, find those people that love your work, and offer it to them.  It may take time, but it will pay dividends.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Travelling Book update!

Well, I'm absolutely buzzing at the moment.

Long-term readers may recall the Travelling Book Project that I did back in 2014, sending blank journals to people for them to write in, and then pass on to other people, and so on until the journals were full, and hopefully they'd come back to me so I could scan them and put them up on the internet for all to see.

And the grey hairs were slightly less obvious

Anyway, I've just got a message to hear that one of the books, #tbook18, is alive and well and in Ontario in Canada.

Number 18 is a special one for me because whilst most of the books were mailed off to people to start their journeys, I dropped 18 off myself, starting its journey by leaving it in the Hull College library.  Since then it's popped up in Oregon, Illinois, and now it's crossed the border and in Canada.

I knew that it was always unlikely that all of the books would make it home, but I hoped that at least one would.  So it's great to see that at least one of them is still journeying around the world.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Within a (40 mile) stones throw

So, I was idly checking out possible hotel deals, and spotted one that seemed pretty cheap if you just wanted a quiet break away from it all.  Only one thing...

If it doesn't show up too well in the photo, the website text it describes the hotel as being a "one-hour drive from Lincoln" and also as being "within a stones throw from Lincoln".  Not sure who's throwing that stone, it is roughly 40 miles between the two places!

Today has been a day of things getting broken, this afternoon my son broke his tablet and we'll have to get the screen replaced (to be fair it's stood up to several years of not entirely gentle use, and even now it works, just with a badly cracked screen), but possibly more impressively, I managed to break my razor.

With. My. Face.

My electric razor has a beard trimmer on the side, but today when I pressed it to my face, it promptly popped off the beard trimmer bit rather than take on my facial topiary.  Currently it's been heavily glued, but I'm not holding out great hope...

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Mattresses tracking me...

In general, I like the way that Google and other providers track what you want, and give you targeted adverts. I personally don't get people who say it's a breach of privacy, because for me, it makes my online experience better, I get better adverts, of things that I might actually be interested in. And it works for advertisers, because in turn I'm more likely to click on those adverts.


If you're a reader of my blog, you may be aware that recently I was looking into new mattresses.

I am now being stalked by the Simba mattress.

Let me start this by saying that the Simba Hybrid mattress looks damn good. It's been extensively tested, it's made up of an awesome combination of special gel, memory foam, and loads of conical pocket springs. I bet, if I tried a Simba mattress, it would be brilliant.

The problem is, I already have a new mattress.

I went into a store, tried some mattresses out, and based on that went online (to mattressonline.co.uk) and ordered some mattresses. They arrived, and they are in use.

So I have a new mattress.  My son has a new mattress. The spare bed, admittedly, does not have a new mattress, but it's very rarely used and the mattress is in good condition, so I don't foresee it being replaced any time soon.

Nevertheless, as I spend time online, what keeps slipping in the adverts?

The Simba mattress.

I wonder what it will be like when we move from our current computer interaction into a VR world - will I be "walking" through a virtual reality - perhaps a park, say - and occasionally a guy will step forward and say "hi there, would you like to try lying on a mattress?"

Hopefully at that point you'll be able to speak directly to the guy and say "STOP SHOWING ME THIS!!"

(If you liked this post so much that you want to experience it again, but without all that pesky reading, here's my video :D  )

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Handling Negative Reviews

Prelude: The concept for this post was provided by ReputationManagement.com, a leading provider of premier relationship management services.

As any creator knows, the publication of any type of creation, be it blogs, videos, or podcasts, brings with it fear that whatever you have made may not be received positively.  People come from a great rainbow of backgrounds, learning, experiences and opinions, and what may be a common view to you may be an anathema to another person.  There has been blogs that I've written in the past that I haven't promoted as widely as normal, or that I've avoided from promoting on a certain social media channel, because of the fear of negativity.

But when it comes to businesses, negativity can have a long and lasting impact.  Recently I was booking a hotel for my wife, and we were looking at three hotels, trying to make a choice on which to book.  We ended up going for the most expensive one, which was a good £20-30 more than the others.


Because the one we booked had a rating of 4.3 out of 5, whilst the other two had ratings of 3.5 and 3.6 out of 5.  Paying a bit more made sense.  So those negative reviews - which may well have been spurious, or from some time ago - had pushed me towards a certain decision.  And it's not unusual for buyers to read reviews, looking for that one negative review that changes the decision to buy.

I'm a firm believer that organisations need to directly handle and resolve negative feedback swiftly, to the satisfaction of the customer.  Of course there is always the occasional client that is just being unreasonable, but putting these people to one side, by quickly dealing with negative feedback organisations can turn viewpoints around.

As an example of this, I complained on Twitter about a particular service.  Very quickly, the brand in question contacted me, and offered a resolution.  My view of that brand went full circle, from negative to positive, and if I had subsequently written a review for that brand it would have been wholly positive.

Whilst investing in social media monitoring may seem like an additional cost, I do believe that organisations of the current - and more so of the future - must consider it as a core element of their customer service budget.

If a situation ever gets out of hand and you need help putting together a plan of action for damage control, there are crisis management services that can help.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

New Video plus a Certificate

I've just uploaded a new video which I'll come to, but first I'll just mention the certificate...

I wasn't going to mention this in my blog, because it's a little bit too much of blowing my own trumpet even for me, but thinking about it I realised that as a everyday life blogger it's hard enough to come up with stuff to blog about without limiting myself even more.

So yes, I was fortunate enough to win an award Friday night, and I am really pleased, especially with it being from the G4C awards - G4C is something that I've been a supporter of for many years, if you're not familiar with it it's a construction best practice initiative looking to help those new entrants to the construction industry gain the skills and knowledge needed to become the future leaders of the industry.  It's a great cause, and more can be found out about it at www.g4c.org.uk

I'm also ecstatic to report that my construction experience is expanding, because today I replaced the handle on the kitchen window after the old one snapped, and didn't take 2 minutes to do.  Next I'll be laying bricks and learning what "mastic" is.

And in other news, I have just uploaded a video, if for no other reason than to emphasise my amateurness, I've done a remake of "Oh Carolina" by Shaggy.  It's called "Oh Banana" and discusses my love for the yellow fruit.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Sock Sorting Is Fun

This post is not about something exciting.  To be frank, I have a different view to some people as to what is enjoyable.

For example, I've never understood people that like horror movies.  I don't like being scared, and I'm reasonably easy to scare (wave a piece of moldy fruit at me, making it seem that you'll touch me with it, and that'll do the trick) so I wouldn't choose to go watch something that is intended to scare me - I'm sure that it's good for the soul or something metaphysically positive like that, but I'm quite happy to enjoy nice emotions, like laughing.

I have a similar view when it comes to books.  I don't mind there being some tough situations on the way, but by the end there had better be a happy ending or I'll be most disappointed.  Actually, that brings to mind my mum (do check out her blog by the way, currently she's talking about bellows), she's known to read the end of a book first to make sure that she likes the ending, and then read the rest of it.

Anyway, we were having a discussion in the office about socks, and basically a couple of my colleagues put forward the argument that people don't want to spend time pairing up socks, and that they would essentially wear whatever socks came to hand (albeit one of my colleagues only had black socks so they all look the same anyway)

Well, I have a confession.

I quite like balling up my socks.

Not, I have to say, to the extent that I would turn down the offer of a properly cooked medium steak for balling socks.  Or a session in the pub.

But there is something quite relaxing and soothing about having a good session pairing up all of your socks.

When I decide to sort out clothes and socks (which I should do as the clothes come out of the dryer, but I don't, it happens when time allows and often when there is a distinct lack of clothes available in the wardrobes) I'll put something funny on Radio 4 - The News Quiz, Just A Minute, or Chain Reaction are my current favourites, although when The Unbelievable Truth returns it'll be in the mix as well.

And pretty much as long as I've got something decent to listen to, I'm quite happy to potter away balling up socks and putting away clothes.  Black socks are always a challenge, finding ones with the same shade of black, weave, elastic content... yes I get a bit geeky about getting the right two black socks together :)

I feel as though this post has gone on long enough. Maybe next time I'll pick something even more exciting to write about, like how I always wear the same jacket else I'll lose my wallet / work badge / phone.  Stay tuned :)
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