Monday, 14 April 2008

Transcript (14 Apr 08)

Presentation on DIY Publishing and Blogging
For U64021 Arts and Media Journalism, Week 10
by Andrew Luke

Ok, I've a bit to cover so if we save questions for the end. If you already have a blog, you can rest your eyes a bit. Dilligent notetakers, breathe easy - this will all be placed somewhere were you can get it.

Hi. My name is Andrew, I've been blogging from 1999 on a variety of different web platforms. The main ones I use are Blogger, Livejournal, and while these tend to be laid out as writing as social networking. Though people will often use them as academically as well as frivolous. I've also used Moveable Type and WordPress, which in design terms have a more sophisticated stylised writers look to them.

My interest in blogging came out of creating zines back in the nineties. A zine, the shortform for magazine, is usually compiled in bundles of four pages for printing purposes and circulated among community members. Theres a strong leaning towards a do-it-yourself ethos, experimentation, and practice. Even during the web-age its been a good way of getting information around.

(pass around copies)

This is TRS2 which stands for 'The Review Sheet 2', and I used to use it for sending around readers of underground comics. I had to fund the printing for about 300 copies. At Brookes Print Workshop prices this would come to about a tenner for the print run. So there you go....If you want to start some underground press here at Brookes.

TRS2 was a fairly valuable networking tool in the grassroots community. I'd give them out at festivals or through the mail. I disciplined myself to short reviews between 50 and 100 words. I'd try to committ myself to one review a day, so that by the end of the month I'd have at least 20 reviews and that would fit quite snugly into one package.

Setting myself the task of one review a day meant that by the end of even a poor working month I had a good sized body of work to show for it.

Of course, no writer operates in a vacuum. Networking like this led to offers to write columns and essays. For a while my reviews were available as pdf files, and trs2 archives and current reviews were adopted by a website called Bugpowder. Networking like this opened up the door to a community of collaborators.

Heres the weblink

There are of course loads of different ways of reviewing that arent confined to words, and the market may yet change so that we see reviewing and feature articles appear through a variety of multi-media. We already have podcasts such as Mark Kermode's film review that does this quite well. I'm planning a future column that will be told using the comic strip form, and the helpfulness of photos mean that the photo-article is givenrich new diversity by its online presence.

This is my own blog on livejournal, I use livejournal for a number of different things and because its quite
community focussed.

The point is theres no particular way to blog, no right way or wrong way. Your blog is what you choose it to be. So you could blog academically, aesthetically,, or you can just put up pictures of cats with humourous pidgin english on.

And its very easy. So lets set up a blog

There we go. We'll come back to that later.

At a rough guess about 70% of Brookes students are on Facebook. I don't rate it very highly for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is thats its a closed-door network establishing a in-crowd clique mentality with dubious ethics regarding privacy. The status updates are probably the closest we have to conventional blogging, albeit with a tight word limit. And of course Facebook offers aggregated RSS feeds.
(If you search around on Facebook theres the new Oxford Brookes Journalism Society Student paper which you all should seize control of if its to be any good)

This is a univerally appealing site which operates on the same principle as status updates. It allows you to hook in your phone to a web update.
This is my Twitter page, and here amongst the kerfuffle theres links to where I've been.
The fire in Camden Lock a few months ago - I was 'twittering' about this while up close to the fire
My holiday in Northern India, looking at an art exhibition in the Oxford Jam Factory.
(Created In Birmingham blogs about Twitter)

One of my pals organises the Oxford Literary Festival
Another regularly twitters about exhibitions and shows shes been to

These sort of things are quite useful for getting an idea of what peoples interests are, and thus establishing potential sources for stories. From there you can let it feed into your research.

The internet is full of little smart applications like this that arent closed door and dont necessarilly require wen-programming abilities.

A few more before we round up.
This is the weblog of my friend and often blogging mentor Pete Ashton. Pete is also a first-generation blogger, and hes very good at his job. His writing style is comfortable to read, provides accessorry, stimulates thought, its outspoken but rarely rude or undiplomatic. And he has a bit of a webgeek about him.

I'd recommend this weblog as good for analysis if you need some examples of what makes a good blogger.

About last year Pete became a professional creative blogger paid by Birmingham City Council. Heres the website he produces for them, 'Created in Brimingham'. Essentially he does what hes always done which is to propagate a virtual community, in Birmingham. This involves such things as tutoring, going to galleries and gigs or just posting up notices about them. Hyperlinks generally tend to work well - the idea being that if you send site traffic someones way, and then your provide good quality material on your blog, reciprocation of direction by hyperlink tends to follow.

What we've seen in the last few years is a rise of the blogger as someone who gets paid. The New York Times, Al-Jazeera, The Guardian all have regular paid Bloggers. What I've tended to find is that not all of them understand the concept of blogging being as how theyre bound to some extent to pre-established and template regulated corporate structures. Another pitfall is that some of them just aren't very good.

Of the ideas I'd like to impart is that anyone can do this, and if you regularly practice you will improve. Your blog can be totally dancing with the community, or secret while ironing out kinks. Blogging is a way of consciously and subconsciously advancing your game. Interacting with the writing community will help you to forge links in that area. The who-you-know is vital.

Blogging by itself as a gateway, is unlikely to pay if you've not been doing it for five years, but it might provide the tools for leading to paid work.

Other resources that occurr to me at time of writing
The Flickr community of photographers

Weblogs and comics: Pete Ashton talks about how weblogging can help the comics arts community and in the process lays out every basic html step you'll need to get started. All thats needed for implementing hyperlinks, embedding images and altering fonts. Ten minutes study time and you've got it HTML Authoring
Project Wonderful, an open, fair and transparent advertising broker which lacks the common-garden variety ad dirt.

Thanks to the class for paying attention supportively ! Feedback welcome. Please feel free to feed me into your network !
Best wishes
Andrew Luke