Thursday, 31 May 2012

Rebecca Gaunt of This is Your Kingdom blogs on The Jubilee; Country and City Style Celebration

Between Hannah and I at TiYK, our Jubilee celebrations couldn’t be more different. I will be escaping back to South Devon to celebrate by the seaside in a rustic, sandy affair while Hannah will be dressed to the nines and partaking in some very proper celebrations in the heart of London.

For me, national holidays always mean getting away, and with four long days off it’s the perfect opportunity to whizz down the a303 to my mum and dad’s in Devon where you can’t get away with whizzing anymore and have to adapt to an altogether more relaxed pace. 

This time, however, long, lazy breakfasts, coffee drinking and newspaper reading will be punctuated with a flurry of activity in preparation for our own little part in this jolly big national knees up. 

We’ll be celebrating like most, with a happy gathering of family and friends. The plan is a picnic on the beach. Nothing overly fancy but a really proper picnic, less plastic, more vintage and definitely not a sweaty ham sandwich in sight. Quite a bit of effort will be required, as is fitting of such a grand occasion, but that bit of extra graft is what will make it live long in our memories.

To set the scene, there will be a gathering of wooden deckchairs, my mum’s beautiful vintage umbrella for shade, a table covered in vintage linen and an old wicker picnic basket to set the scene. The lucky thing is that my folks’ place is just a two-minute walk from the beach so this time we will go to the effort of shuttling proper plates, cutlery, ice buckets and glasses there and back. After all, Pimms and fizz just isn’t the same supped from plastic. 

We won’t be forgetting it’s a picnic though and on the menu will be some classic alfresco fare. Home-made sausage rolls and a selection of superior sandwiches – pea, mint and feta, cheddar and my mum’s amazing punchy pickle, plus we’re also rather partial to Nigel Slater’s Jubilee recipe for egg mayo and cumin rolls. 

On the sweets front, we’ll be making the most of this party’s perfect timing and indulging in a much- cherished tradition by visting our favourite PYO farm the day before to gather strawberries and raspberries. They line the rows with straw and the fields overlook the river so you can lie back and feel like you’ve died and gone to strawberry heaven. 

I’m determined to make a majestic jelly using my mum’s vintage jelly mold. It reminds me of my birthday parties as a kid but now it seems only right to make a grown-up version with real fruit. There will also have to be a Victoria sponge to add to proceedings (Hannah being the more experienced baker assures me Mary Berry’s is the best recipe), topped with our own-picked strawberries. 

We’ll be preparing plenty of real lemonade. It was the first thing I was taught how to make in home economics which I have come to rely upon heavily at times like this. It’s sure to offer us the refreshment we’ll need in between lots of sandcastle building (with flags on top of course) with my little one and a bit of pootling about in the rowing boat. 

If the tide is right, a King Canute competition is always great fun. Only this time it will be a Queen Canute competition and whoever manages to hold back the tide the longest with their sand-built damn will win a tiara to wear while they sit atop their creation, surrounded by the sea. 
We’ll end up covered in sand so it’s most definitely a shorts and t-shirts occasion for us, whereas Hannah is putting me to shame and has been planning her Jubilee outfit for months now, having bagged and invite to an event at Somerset House where she’ll be watching the boat pageant from the balcony wearing a full-skirted polka dot ensemble with a big red sash and bows in her hair!

By Rebecca Gaunt, Co-Founder & Editor of This is Your Kingdom - an online insider’s guide to lovely things to see and do in the UK.

Photos: Deckchairs courtesy of Welshdan on Flickr | Strawberries courtesy of Lost Albatross on Flickr | Rowing Boat courtesy of Suswar on Flickr

Monday, 28 May 2012

Claudia Marodim of Go-British on a Very British Celebration

Lately as you walk down the streets of London, it is almost impossible not to spot a Union Jack flag or souvenirs adorned with The Queenʼs face out of the corner of your eye. And while it may get a bit repetitive, seeing the hundreds of mugs, key chains, post cards and what-have-you spread across the city, it does remind us of this momentous occasion in British history - The Queenʼs Diamond Jubilee.

Coming into her reign at the fresh, young age of 26, Queen Elizabeth II has been doing this job for 60 years, which is about 20 years more than any ordinary person would care to stay working. Her Majesty is now about to turn 86 years old. When you think about it, most people aim to retire around 65, and here she is tirelessly performing a job which she didnʼt even chose to begin with, being constantly watched and attending meetings all the time! That alone deserves a celebration if you ask me.

The Royal family has continuously been a source for speculations on personal style (and head dress), and The Queenʼs style is something weʼve grown quite attached to. Whatʼs interesting about British style is itʼs love of the avant-garde and cutting edge, always pushing boundaries. Her Majesty, on the contrary is classic, consistent, and always put together. The Queenʼs colourful ensembles with matching hat, and de rigueur gloves and pearls have been her signature look for as long as we can remember, at least as far back as the 60s. Queen Elizabeth IIʼs style invokes in us a sense of comfort and warmth; perhaps even more so in these trying economic times, she is someone seemingly unchanging whom we can look to and depend on.

No matter what your opinions on the Monarchy, we canʼt ignore the impact the Royal Family have upon the peopleʼs purchasing habits. From the sell-out styles worn by The Duchess of Cambridge, to the additional attention brands receive once they hold a Royal Warrant, people are attuned to the tastes and choices of the Royal Family. Now whether it is aspirational purchasing, or a true love of the product itself is yours to decide, I like to think itʼs a sort of deep-set British pride. It doesnʼt matter where you are originally from- chances are if you are settled in England, especially London, itʼs because you want to be here. And just living in this great city makes me feel a sort of pride, a connection with British heritage and tradition. And I, for one, find The Queen absolutely adorable. In a generation where we are always second-guessing information, and have to remind ourselves to look up from our phone/computer/iPad every once in a while, a steadfast and true role model such as Her Majesty is just what we need.

Claudia Marodim, the founder of Go-British, is a Brazilian-Italian who fell in love with everything about the culture; from its traditions and manners to its boldness and individuality when dressing up. Go-British showcases a stylish selection of accessories and gifts, all exclusively from the best of British designers and of the highest quality.

Check out The Good Web Guide's edited selection of Jubilee souvenirs.

Monday, 21 May 2012

An Accidental Career in Web Design... Gary Carruthers of Underwaterpistol shares his story...

How I got started

I had never planned a career in design or technology, but I’m grateful for the happy accident that led me down that path.

In a previous life, I was a struggling musician performing at poorly attended gigs, recording substandard demos and trying to land a record deal by passing my tapes (for our younger readers: to anyone who claimed to be “in the music industry”.

In 1999, my friend and fellow band member, Alan, suggested that we should build a website for the band, remarking that the World Wide Web had levelled the playing field and would allow us to do it all ourselves, just like Punk Rock in 1976! Armed with a borrowed computer, some rudimentary HTML and a small selection of animated GIFs, we set about taking on EMI, Sony et al.

After the initial excitement and enthusiasm, the results were disappointing... We ended up with a bizarre, ugly and unusable website which would never see the light of day. More positively, I had discovered something that had really fired my imagination and creativity, just like music had always done—something I had never imagined possible. I was hooked!

Learning the ropes

On deciding that I wanted to pursue web design as a possible career, I threw myself into learning HTML and the applications typically used at the time. The learning curve was steep but it was great to feel like I was getting my brain working hard again after years of going through the motions in unchallenging jobs which I’d needed to finance my music.

Like so many freelancers, I began setting about building my portfolio by offering to do work for friends and friends of friends. My partner, soon to become my wife, worked in photographic representation, so I quickly tapped into a large source of work doing portfolio websites for photographers and their agents.

I quickly settled on a simple, unfussy style, due to my clients’ requirement that the photography must be the focus of what the user was looking at, not the design. I’ve tried to apply this principle to everything we now do as an agency.

Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen neatly sums it up:

“People are on the Web not to enjoy your Web design, but to get something done.”

Making the transition from freelancer to agency

Once I’d been up and running for a while, my wife began getting involved in the business, helping me source new clients, set up meetings, do the bookkeeping and strategising (oh my, we’ve done a lot of that—also known as ‘talking incessantly about work’).

To help cope with our increased workload, I engaged several freelancers, all of them excellent. That’s when things really started gaining a bit of momentum. It also was when the pressure increased and my role started to develop into something I had to feel my way into. Adjusting to those changes have been challenging but ultimately rewarding.

Moving from home office to premises and making a few personnel changes took things forward again and now Underwaterpistol is a small but thriving digital agency. We enjoy our work, have good clients and are forging close relationships with other agencies and professionals in our field.

Tips for others starting a career in digital design

Those wanting to pursue a career in web design have so many great resources available to them in the form of blogs, books, podcasts, online tutorials. Here are some of my top tips:

  1. Don’t be a Jack of all trades: try to find out where your strengths lie then focus on honing your skills, which leads onto my next point...
  2. Partner up with other talented people who will compliment your skill set: a great designer and a great developer makes a great team, an average designer-developer will produce average work.
  3. You can’t polish a turd*: if your client’s content is poor, you are on a hiding to nothing. The end result will be a website that doesn’t fulfill their business aims and you will be unlikely to want to use it in your portfolio. It’s your job to help the client raise the quality with a delicate combination of tough love, editing and engaging a good copywriter.
    *People will sometimes say you can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter - don’t listen to them. Glitter soon rubs off.
  4. Be resilient: you will get plenty of knocks along the way but you can’t take it personally. Just keep your head down, be professional, learn your craft and trust your judgement.
  5. Talk to those already doing it: I love talking to designers, developers, anyone involved in the same industry. I learn so much from finding out how different people approach similar challenges as me. Sharing information with like-minded people will help you avoid certain pitfalls.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Jouney of a Thousand Miles Starts With A Single Tweet... Uber Blogger Charlotte Brown on her First Forays Into Twitter...

Back in 2006 one busy Monday, an Australian friend, JoJo, rang and down the phone exclaimed “I now have 5 people following me going into McDonalds, it’s kind of weird”. I wasn’t sure whether to be worried or underwhelmed. This new media savvy girl has a history of cross dressing, an obsession with Taxidermy and a sexuality that could rival Tiger Woods, so I am over being shocked. She soon explained that she was on Twitter, a microblog on which you create a profile, post stuff and people follow you cyberly. I rather arrogantly thought this sounded ludicrous and was destined for the world wide web trash heap along with other social networks bebo and Hi5. 

How wrong could I have been? Just short of 6 years later, twitter has just over 140 million active users, generates over 340 million tweets daily, and is still growing. Frightening. It now has its on dictionary helping the novice with an entirely new vocabulary of abbreviations and slang known as “Twerminology”. What started as internal service for an online search destination website (whatever that is) is now one of the top ten most visited sites on the internet. My friend JoJo is one of many friends, foes and famous faces who have taken to the broadband waves, to “tweet” about anything that takes their fancy.

I have had a rather tardy response to the fast developing world of social media. I incredulously joined Twitter only recently, not knowing what to expect or how to “do” it, but I wanted a piece of this pie. Before long I am talking in 140 character sentences and getting overly enthusiastic with the hashtag (#). It has quickly become evident that Twitter is transforming the way we communicate. It’s a whole new world and as a Neweeter (new tweeter) one I know very little about. But I am learning, fast. I now have access to a plethora of riveting information; I can see what Stephen Fry is having for lunch, that Katy Perry REALLY loves her sister, Jennifer Saunders feels election programmes are akin to a dry heave and I can comment on such things if I so desire. Twitter feels like a legitimate form of stalking, and is worryingly addictive.

I am still at the beginning of my Twitter journey but I have already discovered its esteeming benefits. My heart skips a beat on discovering someone new has followed me. As the follower numbers begin to rise I start to feel like my status as a human being is on the up. I start to dream big, thinking that maybe, just maybe I might one day reach the dizzy Nicki Minaj heights of (let me just check quickly) 11,191,447 followers. If I'm worth following I'm cool right? This morning, I am bordering on deranged with excitement about checking who my 20th fan is. It turns out to be sex worker looking to pull in clients from her seriously below par sex work website. Sad times.

With this I learn a cruel lesson. These tweeters are fickle rascals who, if you don’t follow them back, keep them entertained or prove useful for their careers...they un-follow you! Now, I’m sure Justin Bieber doesn’t go and cry in the loo when Birdie-Lou from deepest darkest Texas decides she is bored of his cutsie one liners and shameless self promotion. In fact, I don’t think he would even notice losing a follower. But when one only has 20 one is painfully aware when another withdraws their support. Today I lost 2. Where did I go wrong? I can be different! I can change!

Now, the blue tick. @Tylerjames777 (singer/songwriter and artist with #teamwill on BBC1’s The Voice) tweeted elatedly about being given one of these coveted blue ticks. On further inspection, I realise all the popular kids in the playground have one. I want one. How do I get one? I consult the Twitter Help Centre which kindly informs me that when you receive a blue tick you have been “verified”.
Verification is currently used to establish authenticity of identities on Twitter. The verified badge helps users discover high-quality sources of information and trust that a legitimate source is authoring the account’s Tweets.

What are you saying? I am not a high quality source of information? Because I only have 20 followers? Brutal. In short, to be verified you need to be someone of note. Apparently I am not at “high risk” of being impersonated so, no tick for me. 

I am late to the party and experiencing a baptism of fire, but I have arrived and plan on catching up. I am on the road to twitter domination one hashtag and witty quip at a time. Hold me back people. Hold me back.

JoJo and I are no longer close but thanks to Twitter, I can still see what queer leisure pursuit she is now engaging in. 

Oh, and Nicki Minaj now has 11,442,557 followers. 

Signing off for the day.

Charlotte Brown
@cbrowndays (#shamelessselfpromotion)

Monday, 7 May 2012

Drew Benvie, social media expert and UK group managing director of Hotwire, Skywrite and 33 Digital, blogs about digital trends in 2012


Between drawing some things, checking in for my discount and skimming through a stream of tweets to get the day’s news, I try my best to step away from the fire hose every now and then and reflect on the broader trends in social media for marketing and communications and think about what’s coming up for the year ahead.

This year I worked with our UK team in 33 Digital to author our third annual trends report looking at what we think will be the big plays for the year ahead, based on our experiences at the coalface. From almost mainstream to bleeding edge, here is our top 10:

1. The Interest Graph: Think Pinterest and think the Like button becoming the ‘Read’, ‘Bought’ or ‘Listened’ button. This is what all the information that advertisers, brands and marketers want from you. Yet, unlike before when this required customer research and questionnaires, now it gathers information about what you buy when you shop online, what you search for, who retweetsyou, who you share or interact with on social networks, the types of content you enjoy reading and much more.

2. Putting businesses on the map: Location-based services have been expanding a lot over the past few years. Foursquare has emerged as a clear leader, doubling in size in the last six months, and Facebook check-ins from your mobile will want to say where you are too. The integration of location-based services and business will expand in 2012: this means anything from free gifts and discounts to other location-based offers and services.

3. Tablets are changing communications: It started with the iPad but now the tablet revolution is not only changing how we surf, it’s affecting how we share, shop and consume media too. People have been putting aside their netbooks and newspapers as tablets allow brands and companies to publish and market information in completely different ways. Think beyond the app to how your brand can be more relevant in the tablet economy.

4. Social media celebrities: These are people that are experts in their own field, influencers, communicators, and people who provide feedback to marketers about whatever it is they are into. Your CEO or brand ambassador is your potential loose cannon but also your secret weapon.

5. The socialising of TV and music: 70 percent of trending topics on Twitter in the UK are about what’s on TV. Chelsea beating Barcelona in April has become the most Tweeted event in history. Hashtags appear at the top of TV shows all the time now to help engage the traditional users, but we will start to see next generation TVs that feature social channels as an engraved and inbuilt part of modern television.

6. Social media & internal comms: We are beginning to see the third type of media. There is earned and there is paid-for. Now there is employed. Find out how to mobilise your workforce to maximize every opportunity whether that is to spread the word on a new initiative or product, or to hire the best talent. A social platform such as Yammer, Ning or Posterous give brands the ability to engage with their most powerful audience: their staff.

7. Cashless payments could unlock a wave of innovation: This is the ability to pay for things without the need to hand over cash or pay online in the traditional way. The recent announcement of Barclays’ PayTag technology, which allows you to pay for items using a sticker than can be connected to anything, is a great example of this.

8. Gamification: Game dynamics offer a low-cost way to enhance some of even the most basic products. Everyone needs to unwind and this is a great chance for brands, companies, developers or publishers to be innovative in the way they deliver information and let us play at the same time.

9. Forums: Forums have existed almost since the advent of the Internet and in 2012, we will continue to see the natural evolution of forums – whether that means a topic discussion on a website, or a Facebook community page debate. New platforms such as Quora are joined by an ever strengthening presence of traditional such as Money Saving Expert, Mumsnet, Pistonheads and so on.

10. Automotive app stores: The next wave of innovation in social media is on perhaps the most underutilised portable computer – the car dashboard. Auto brands are bringing out their own app stores, social networks and location-based services. Watch out for innovation and opportunities in this space.

It really is an exciting time in social media, where the only thing holding brands back is their imagination.

Drew Benvie is UK group managing director of Hotwire, Skywrite and 33 Digital. Drew is a seasoned agency MD and digital and social media PR specialist. Drew was named #1 most respected individual in New Media Age's 2011 Reputation Online survey, one of PR Week magazine's 29 under 29 (a long time ago now), named in the PR Power Book, and has picked up awards for his campaigns including PR Week, The Holmes Report and Reputation Online. Drew also first wrote the Wikipedia page on social media. Drew's background is in corporate, digital, technology and social media PR, having worked agency and client side for over 12 years. As one of the earliest UK PR and marketing practitioners to foster social media and use it in mainstream campaigns, Drew has represented brands and organisations across all sectors throughout his career.

Follow Drew on Twitter: @drewb