The best jokes never make it past the subs, but here's a thing I wrote for the Guardian recently. [link]
At some point over the weekend, I decided to out the low level moving on campaign and put my most famous website up for sale on eBay.
I started the site back in the May of 2002, before there were really such things as blogs in the mainstream and the term ‘hyperlocal’ was not even a glint in an irritating theorist’s eye. Pretty much everything that’s ever been on it, and definitely everything technical was written or created by me, I’ve had a couple of ‘columnists’ for short whiles and a couple of bits of ‘holiday cover’ but that’s all. The site was flat, hand coded HTML until I learned of PHP and wrote a simple news updating section. Later I discovered that there wasn’t only a name for such things but software out there to do it more prettily and better.
And now it, or sites like it, are either the future of the media or a disappointment to those that thought they should be.
But, it didn’t start because the media was dying, it started because the media was crap: crap at explaining why people connected emotionally with a place that—when looked at objectively—was a bit shit. Crap at self awareness, crap at understanding real life. The media has changed a little, but mostly the contents have just shifted in transit.
I have always been proud of it being not only independent, but seen to be, so not taking advertising and clearly marking anything churned from a press release was always part of the plan. It was fun at times, maybe important and influential at others, but always fairly time consuming and costly. I’ve got lots of other stuff on now, and for the first time in years a regularly hour-ed job (that’s also in another city)—so it’s time to give up.
There’s also a way in which the landscape of ‘hyperlocal publishing’ has changed—the Corinthian spirit beaten down by encroachment of money or officialdom: from ad sales bullshitters to quango reports that do nothing but serve the interests of the establishment. I don’t have the energy to fight, but don’t want to lose that battle really. So the idea is to let someone with the energy try something else with the cultural cache that the site’s built up. There is a way forward for local content created by people that can reach an audience without aping what’s gone before, but just right now I don’t know what it is.
And I’d like to recoup some of the costs if possible, so I’m selling.
I’ll no doubt return to the themes, and the location, but for now time’s up.
(Here’s what I said just over two years ago about how it all started, I still think pretty much the same.)
From 18th July until September the large glass edition of the Birmingham Music Map is going to be on display at The Public in West Bromwich as part of their Summer Exhibition. It’s free to visit and has a rather nice coffee shop-cum-bar.
Thanks to Jez from the Birmingham Music Archive for his continued support of this.
Forty two piers in to our circumnavigation of the coast of England and Wales we arrived bleary in Saltburn-by-the-sea one morning. Luckily the breathtaking coastline and the warming sun perked us up. Luckily as it was the only time we were captured on video during the trip. It’s for and, we think, going to be part of a documentary about the pier for its 100th anniversary.
Based on current estimates we’re about halfway or just over to finishing writing the book. Then the edits and long search for a publisher begin in earnest. If you’d like to know more then pierreview.co.uk is the place.
Poorly Collected Works 2010-11 is the title of an eBook I pulled together at the end of last year. It sold a few, and jumped into the Amazon charts when it was part of a promotion, but was more of an experiment. In continuing experimentation, now Createspace is working with Amazon UK I made it into a real paperback too. It’s available to buy now at a cheapish price.
It does contain a few treats not in the similar e-book—amongst them a previously unpublished interview with Barney from the grindcore band Napalm Death, a few pieces focussed on the referendum for an elected mayor that was held in Birmingham in the early part of the year, and excitingly I think a small piece of my half of Pier Review—that real book that I’m writing that will come out sooner rather than later.
Createspace also does DVDs/film downloads as well as books—it’s a fairly simple way of creating work and self publishing. You need to fiddle a little with their formatting and do a lot of checking, but it’s easy enough.
On Friday I got round to doing something I’d been thinking of for a long while. I added location detection to my conversational psychogeography tool. Like the Is Brum Happy? system it takes the latest tweets around a location and rates emotionally sensitive words against a database to give scores for the happiness or emotional wellbeing of the place. If you’re using a HTML 5 browser (you probably are) you can let it reveal your location to the script (it’s not saved anywhere) and it will tell you if where you are (and a mile radius around) is happy right now.
On the first day of April Danny Smith and I delivered a walking tour of the ‘back end’ of Birmingham city centre as part of the Still Walking festival. Ben Waddington the genius behind the festival asked for something that played with the city’s memes and myths, so that’s what we tried to do.
(photo by Simon Brettell)
As a result perhaps of the date not everyone was sure how true all of it was, but I can assure you the nuclear comms bunker with a billiard room is really there.
Around ten years ago I started Birmingham: It’s Not Shit, the reasons are well documented and it’s been an interesting, useful and, at times, fun ride. It’s certainly changed the path of my life, let me meet interesting people and do interesting things. But it’s never been intended to make money, I think of it as part hobby part community service—and at the moment I haven’t got the time, money, or energy for either of those. So this is what I’ve said on the site:
Seriously, for a few reasons (time to keep updated, money, energy, the increasingly commercial “hyperlocal” landscape) I’m struggling to keep the site updated and I don’t really want it to slip away. I’ve looked into handing it over to someone to run for free out of the goodness of their hearts like I have for 10 years (in May), but no-one suitably likely to keep the spirit with the time and skills to has presented themselves. I’ve never run the site for gain or wanted praise, so it would have to be someone very motivated to keep that up. So, I figure that someone who thinks there’s money here (and there could be if if you worked it, I do get offers) might be able to keep it vibrant.
There’s a reason in the money thing—I think that people who have made an investment are more likely to have the time and motivation. And those two things are really what you need here; you could in theory make money out of a site like this if you wanted to, but it would take work.
Yesterday, I tried the Twitpanto method on “the greatest film ever made”. As part of ‘Yarn presents Five Stories High’ at Flatpack Festival, I re-interpreted around ten minutes of Citizen Kane. It was a tight deadline, so plans to do something really different fell behind just writing a script and getting together a few ‘actors’ I could trust.
In a live setting I was interested in how the audience would understand the language of the Twitter feed just being projected on the wall. I hoped to get heckles and confusing stuff too.
The script, is here. We got ‘moved on’ (for reasons of time I suspect) just before the bit about the principles, which I thought was the crux of it. Never mind.
I’m not sure everyone got what was going on but this quick review from another participant means that at least someone did:
“obviously, members of the audience start tweeting using the hashtag, and it was just hilarious. And silent, and awkward, but in a brilliant way.”
The weekend’s other Flatpack activity for me was to chair a Q&A with Lawrence (ex of Felt etc), that was both more conventional and a little better received I think. Great fun, and really nice to meet a musical hero.