My blog

Bon voyage, Pier Review

We’ve just completed and sent away to the publisher via our agent the text that is to become the book Pier Review.

We signed with Summersdale a few months ago, and they plan to release the finished thing in the spring next year.

There will no doubt be edits, but it’s there — and had packed a lot more into it than we thought possible. The subtitle has changed to “A Road Trip in Search of the Great British Seaside”, which is broader.  Here’s the current rough take on the blurb:


Fifty-six piers. Two weeks. One eccentric road trip.

Before the seaside of their youth disappears forever, two friends from the landlocked Midlands embark on a hare-brained journey to see all the surviving pleasure piers in England and Wales. With a clapped-out car, and not enough cash, Jon and Danny recruit Midge, a man they barely know, to be their driver, even though he has to be back in two weeks to sign on… Taking turns to tell their madcap story, Jon and Danny invite us to join them as they take a funny and nostalgic look at Britishness at the beach, amusement in the arcades, and friendship on the road.




Some recent writing

Pluralistic ignorance and the modern condition – on social phycology and group behaviour.

Ol’ Red Eyes: Marxist TV reviews – a tumblr full of the Marxist television writing I’ve been commissioned to do recently.

Den Pen’s Shoes – on people who pretend to be dead authors on Twitter.

An interview with Stephen Duffy of the Lilac Time.

Plenty of stuff collected on Pop and Politics, including this on the death of the centrist protest vote.

Email to the Editor of The Birmingham Mail

Below is a copy of an email that I have just sent to David Brookes, editor of the Birmingham Mail.

Dear Sir,

I would like your thoughts on a series of ‘similarities’ between articles posted on a website I edit ( and some on

Paradise Circus is, as you may know, a site that evolved from Birmingham: It’s Not Shit ( and features artistic responses to the city of Birmingham.

Since it launched it in 2012 it has run a very popular series ‘101 Things Birmingham Gave The World’ (you can see the 49 so far here, this was the concept of one of our contributors Craig Hamilton and he and others — myself included — have worked hard on it, there are also plans for a book version. In essence each part of the series takes an either well known, or not so well known, fact about Birmingham and extrapolates circumstances in which the city could be said to be responsible for a larger concept. Some of these would be simple inventions, others are much more conceptual and deliberately tenuous.

We authors of the content have, since starting work on the project, noticed a good number of pieces on the Birmingham Mail website (possibly in the print edition too, I’ve not seen it) that were conceptually similar or which used the same jumping off points. There could be coincidence at play here but, like the old Ordinance Survey map makers who added in extra features to deter copies, some leaps of logic or ideas are too similar for our comfort.

One such is the article ‘Made in Brum: 21 top gadgets that Birmingham gave the world’ by David Bentley ( a large proportion of the subjects covered had previously been on Paradise Circus, which could just be a result of similar research but the passage on the invention of the computer is remarkably similar in concept to the PC piece on the Internet ( by my colleague Jon Hickman).

The publication of this article on Thursday 26th June 2014: ‘Bizarre Brum: 14 funny facts you probably didn’t know about Birmingham’ again by David Bentley ( contains a section on Birmingham’s supposed ‘invention’ of karaoke with concept and execution almost identical to the 101 Brum article I wrote and published on PC on the same subject in November 2012 (

I would like to know your thoughts on this. I suggest that your journalists would likely be well aware of our work, especially as your sister paper The Sunday Mercury used one of our pieces a week or so ago (which was asked for, paid for and credited). For my part the coincidences seem too great and I believe heavy inspiration is being taken by at least one Birmingham Mail journalist from our work: this damages our reputation and our ability to monetise our content.

I realise that in news terms it is usual for newspapers to use stories worked on or broken by other publications, but as your paper is new to the kind of online creative content around a city that we have been creating for over ten years it may not occur to your staff that their behaviour is unacceptable: as is the Mail’s use of the content in a commercial setting.

I look forward to your response

Jon Bounds
co-Editor Paradise Circus

CC: Executive Editor, Paul Cole,
The Internet

An investigation into this sort of thing is asking for your help on Contributoria, a crowdsourcing journalism site.

The Moran Scale of Twitterstorms

I was asked to ‘create’ a Twitterstorm as part of an art project, and I sort of did. While this wonderful Buzzfeed post describes the stages that one goes through, in order to measure the size of a storm and hence the success of my operation we needed a way to describe the extent of a particular one. With Jon Hickman (Degree Leader, Web and New Media at Birmingham City University) I worked up this scale.

It’s an attempt to give a quantitative scale to something that cannot be measured directly in numbers—this is about extent and influence and simple measures are never going to cut it, although as the number of Morans increases so does the number of Tweets and their anger. It’s based roughly on the idea of the news cycle and how the subject of the storm operates within it. We chose the name ‘The Moran Scale’ after Caitlin Moran, whose ability to kick off the storms—and get them featured in the old school media—is unrivalled. As it’s about intensity of storm, a parallel to the Beaufort Scale is entirely intentional.

The Moran Scale of Twitterstorms by Jon Hickman and Jon Bounds

Continue reading The Moran Scale of Twitterstorms

The Eye of the Twitterstorm – xHuming Joseph Priestley



I’ll write up the xHumed talk asap, Joseph Priestley sending this Tweet:


Resulted in this reaction (in statistics) up till about 3 hours later:



Twitter Hours, the Cargo Cults of online networking.

For a thing, I’ve been investigating some Twitter communities I wouldn’t usually go anywhere near. Most due to lack of interest but one sort due to a distaste of a lot of what it sets out to do. That one was the concept of a timed Twitter chat hour—there are loads of these, they often have a host account that welcomes people, but essentially it’s a free form IM-style chat around a pre-defined hashtag such as #WestMidsHour.

So far so a lovely community, coming together to make loose connections form weak bonds, boiling up the social glue that will bing them together. But it doesn’t really work like that. Look at the stream of one of these Twitter chats and it broadly goes like this: People looking forward to the #hour

People apologising for not being around for the #hour

People saying hello at the start of the hour.

The host retweeting some of the hellos and welcoming people to the #hour.

People essentially posting one line classified ads for their business.

People re-posting those ads slightly differently as they move off the top of the timeline.

People saying how much they enjoyed the #hour: see you next time.



Oh, and people who can’t just stay loyal to one #hour…



Or even week.


But what you don’t see is interaction or conversation. The number of @replies is low, ideas don’t develop and it doesn’t seem like connections are really made. Most are taking rather than listening, you can only assume that people aren’t reading.

The types of people using the hashtags seem very much to be the same sort of people that attend networking functions up and down the country and the conversation seems to be as sharp and about as useful. You might by chance bump into the exact bit of information you need, but it doesn’t harness the power of the network in using connections to search.

Like the Cargo Cults who acted out the bringing down of supply planes in the south seas without any understanding of what they were doing, the Twitter Hour participants have all the ingredients in place to have a community and act out conversaion without any of the knowledge or the benefits. It looks like a networked conversation, acts like a networked conversation, is collected together like a networked conversation: but it just doesn’t quack like one.