Adventures in Social media; about.me and Nutty Party Productions

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When I first fell of the edge of the world with illness it was a long time ago, but it was within the first stirrings of the internet. I’d done a couple of courses for artists, and made some digital art (probably all lost forever, there’s an animation that still exists on video, but not in digital form, so – *waves goobye*) and I’d taught multimedia to adults and teens, so when the crash came one of the things that floated up with me on my life raft was a computer and an internet connection.

I started my social media life just with emails and found a site called Citynoise where I could contribute photographs and a few words. Most of what was then the beginnings of social media was a thing called message boards, which I wasn’t attracted to, being of an Alice in Wonderland turn of mind (Before the rabbit hole, her sister was reading a book with no conversations or pictures, and Alice found it boring) anyway I’d found a community, one which was so small that I could just be called elaine – yep, I’m still there! Buried in the ‘authors’ list.

At some point early on a friend pointed me to Livejournal where I made myself at home, and in fact, I still have friends IRL and on Facebook from that time.

Pretty soon I realised I could create what I was calling to myself a ‘virtual website’. I didn’t want to make an actual website, it wasn’t so easy to do at the time, and I wasn’t well for a major project, but I did know two pieces of html that would allow me to connect my Livejournal, my Citynoise and my Myspace – I could make links and pull pictures from other places. I was all set for my life online.

Over 10 years later, and I find that the world has caught up with me somewhat. It’s becoming more important to have social media presence than to have a website. You can have the most beautiful website in the world, but if you don’t drive traffic there it’ll just be a Mrs Haversham of a site, sitting there in it’s wedding dress with mice eating the cake.

Nowadays, of course, I blog here and I use Facebook and I have twitter and whatnot. Does Myspace still exist? I think it does, but I think it’s become a niche thing for music.

I talk a lot with Ken who is launching himself as an expert in social media professionally, as we speak, and at one point in our conversations he sent me his about.me page. We’d been talking about landing pages and how I was helping my friend Angie create an integrated social media presence for her party business, and how I’d decided to use WordPress for a landing page because flavors.me looks so awful on a smartphone – here’s mine so you can see, if you have a smartphone handy; elaine4queen.flavors.me. Looks fine on a laptop, so it’s fine if all you want is something to put as an email signature which will point people to your Facebook or twitter or whatever, but when you look on a phone it’s nasty.

So! I liked the look of Ken’s about.me page anyway, and I thought I’d rather have one as a landing page than flavors.me. It’s not a lot of work doing a landing page, and I hooched one up in about half an hour – here it is about.me/elaineaxten.

If you’re reading this on 3G and you don’t want to click through, here’s a screen shot;

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I liked it fine just for that one purpose – it looks great and it handles better than flavors.me, and so I thought, since it was taking a while to make the WordPress landing page I was helping Angie make look nice, that we’d quickly put together one of these for her. But wait! It has a USP! (Unique Selling Point – marketing speak) about.me has an app, and this app works as a sort of e-business card. What you do, when you set one up, is to install the app on your own phone, and when you meet someone you would otherwise give a business card to you type in their phone number or email and it sends them your landing page – with all your blurb and contact details. (By the way, if you ask me to refer you I get featured on their blog, for whatever that is worth, and then if someone else shows interest in having one you can refer them and get featured – again, for what it’s worth, I have no idea if this is valuable since I don’t have a business and I haven’t been featured, but it nevertheless exists.)

As a pleasant extra, you get a choice of graphic signatures, so your emails look a bit fancier than just your name with your website.

Angie’s about.me looks lovely already, but because I sat and taught her how to do it instead of doing it for her, she can go in and tinker with it herself. One of the advantages of having control over your own web presence.

Here it is about.me/nuttypartyproductions

End the Silence on Domestic Violence

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I woke up this morning – drrn drnn drrrrDUN.

Anyway I woke up and as is my habit I turned to social media for a little light howdy doodly do, and almost the first thing that caught my attention was Julie Graham‘s fizzog with an exhortation to join in a selfie drive in support of Avon throwing money at Refuge

Of course, her photo was super glam, so with a face full of sleep and with all the allure of cold porridge I decided to wait a bit before doing mine. I shared the bejeezus out of hers in the meantime to help amplify the message. Here’s hers…

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And here’s mine.

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There’s plenty going on on the twitter hashtag #wallofsilence but I am still a bit useless at instagram, but got it up eventually,  anyway it’s the same deal there – use the hashtag, Avon coughs up £1.

So we’re heading towards the end of the year on the same theme as we were last year, and on the 29th of April we had what turned out to be truly a gala night – the glamorous End Of. I didn’t blog about it properly at the time, because I was so bloody knackered for a variety of reasons, so I’m going to try to do it a bit more justice now.

First of all, one thing I did share in passing was a snippet of Alison Moyet…

Sorry it’s short, but SHE WAS THERE, YO! As were many others. The steering committee spent several months getting the evening arranged, and there was Caitlin Moran and Tracy Thorn reading out stuff they’d written in their books, that was good, everything was pretty short, and they had a good criteria for selection too, if anyone showed any sign of diva behaviour, asking for free tickets, wanting special treatment of any sort they just didn’t pursue having them, so on the night the people who were there were all friendly with each other, there were absolutely no free seats, and it was a great night which raised over twelve grand for RISE who were having some financial straits. I’d spent several months collating articles that seemed relevant to me on a tumblr which I still add to, so there are quite a few news articles, op ed pieces, some art works, whatever came into my orbit about the topic as the event approached, and I didn’t see much point in stopping adding to it afterwards, so it’s still going.

There were lots of us involved, you know who you are. The night would have been endless if they’d thanked everyone from the stage, and this post would be endless and frankly never finished if I tried to figure out the entire list to credit.

At any rate! Well done us!

The main gang, including Julie G and Julie Burchill were all meeting up in Brighton to make the event happen. Julie G took on tweeting, so I helped her set up her twitter account (click through her name in the first paragraph) and it was a bit of a rushed affair, so there was a small matter of me forgetting to tell her how to stop every single notification coming in to her email. Being a regular person I did that when I got around to it, but she was quickly snowed under til I talked her through turning them off – she was doing Bletchley at the time, and there was a whole troupe of #ladynerds who at the time of writing this are clearly still pretty active.

You know I don’t hold down a regular job, I’m just not well enough, but it was great to be able to contribute to something. It was useful to me to know there was an end date, even though in the end I didn’t stop adding to the tumblr, I could have done, and there have been huge gaps of time where I’ve been too ill to prioritise it, but if something comes into my Facebook or something and it seems relevant then I usually chuck it in, in case anyone is ever looking for a bunch of badly collated stuff about the topic.

The irrepressible Clare Cathcart was the Mistress of Ceremonies – can we call it that or would that be mad and old timey while also being warped? Anyway, she introduced the acts, often with a “RIGHT THEN” as each performer raced on set and off again in quick succession. She was getting into a pretty good stride with her own acting career, and was a sparkly lady about town, til her incredibly untimely death in September. Here she is with her paws in something with bezzie mate Julie.

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Photo by Emma Jane Lee, Julie gropes for winners while Clare looks on, and Stephanie Starlet reads out the results. Hoots were had.

Here’s a lovely photo of Clare…

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On a completely selfish note, I am bloody furious that she died – she was a lovely woman who left behind children and devastated friends and workmates, and deprived us all of a very cut short career of comedic and dramatic work. It has been weird and lovely and sad to see her on Casualty and New Tricks since her death, dammit, she was just getting into her stride.

It feels weird and a bit cut and shut of me to memorialise Clare at this point, when clearly the post is about something else, but I can’t not mention her, she was an important part of End Of, and while we weren’t close I liked her and, probably more importantly, to me, she mattered a lot to people who matter a lot to me.

Paid in Guinea Pigs

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elaine4queen:

I also accept eurodollars and bitcoin. And probably cake.

Originally posted on lahikmajoe:

Meerschweinchen

Here’s a book about the little sea pigs

For a long time, Elaine said that she would only be paid in Guineas. Because someone insisted that Guineas are not legal tender, she’s now accepting Guinea Pigs instead.

So, while we were chatting about it, I remembered that I had a book about Guinea Pigs in German. However, they don’t use that word – they’ve got their own German word for these animals.

They’re called Meerschweinchen, which directly translated ‘Meer‘ means ‘sea‘ and ‘Schweinchen‘ means ‘little pig‘. Weirdly enough, when Germans talk about these little furry mammals, they’re referring to them as ‘little sea pigs‘.

If you want to reimburse Elaine for any work she does for you, you’ll need to pay her in that currency.

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The Future of Text, the Visit to Munich, and Some Social Media Stuff

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So much to catch up on, you guys!

If you read me on Facebook you’ll know that I am just back from visiting Ken in Germany. There was cake and there were doggies and there was the Englischer Garten (English Garden – did you guess?) and so many things. And one of the things was a week long conversation about where we are going in our virtual lives. Here’s his take on the convo Having Cake and Discussing Which Direction We’re All Going

Since I got back we’ve been Skyping and continuing the conversation. There’s an element of collaboration as well, since in the intervening time I went to the Future of Text conference here in London which he’d wanted to come over for but couldn’t and then he hooked me up with Frode Hegland via Facebook and I got an invite, so we have been hooching up some sort of a text on that, which is still in the oven.

On the hot plate, though, is a slice of netiquette that he asked me to blog about because he thought it was interesting. In a kind of dry way, but it makes my fb experience better, and I get to see more of my friends’ posts there because of it. I’ve done it so often now it was kind of hard to find an example I could use, but here’s one which will serve as an example.

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What I’ve actually done is, rather than hiding friends or letting fb drop them for me, which I don’t want to do, I just hide some of the stuff that people share. Not that I never want to know which US state I should live in, just that I have done those quizzes a million times and I now never ever see them in my feed, thus freeing me to enjoy the other content that people who I’m talking to are sharing without having to see the quizzes I’m not interested in, and at the same time, because of that, seeing more content that I do want to see.

So, see how, for instance, Shaun has shared a thing from Comedy 103.1 and say there was a lot of their content in my feed and I wasn’t interested in seeing any of it, rather than stop seeing Shaun and all of his posts I get to just hide all from Comedy 103.1.

In reality, I can’t remember if I have ever seen any Comedy 103.1 material before, or whether it would clutter up my feed if I let it, but if I wanted to, as I did with the interminable quizzes, I could just scroll down and hide them instead of hiding Shaun.

Given that FB has decided to do friend culling for us with their evil algorithms, it’s nice to be able to exert some control beyond installing Adblock and making sure notifications are ON for specific friends, rather than actually creating groups, which, thus far at any rate, I haven’t been interested in doing.

So that was that.

Here’s a picture of Ken and his dogs in front of a Peace Monument.

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One of the Good Guys

I have so many photos from the trip, and that’s another thing I’m thinking about. I’m kind of reassessing my entire virtual presence. Where should I post my photos? Should I go the Instagram way? I do have an account, it’s just that it’s only got two pictures in it so far. Should I post photos in tumblr, even though the people I follow are artists or art curators? I just don’t know right now. It’s a thing I have to think about.

So yeah, this is a place holder to tell you I am going to tell you about the Future of Text soon, but not right now, there are photos and thoughts, so many thoughts, from Germany. I’m pretty sure there are other things as well, but I’ve had rather a roller coaster health horror since I got back and I’m only now having a moment to reflect, and I’m on some new medication, which seems to be helping, but for now it’s making me a bit stoned, too.

So, that.

Ach! Language! So much language stuff. And music. The cakes, I told you about the cakes. Talking of that sort of thing, if you follow this blog in Facebook through the button there you really only get the blog, I don’t put incidental stuff there. Go ahead and friend me if you want that sort of ephemera – I’m Elaine Axten, pretty easy to find, not many of us to the pound.

Breakfast of Champions – Referendum, Writing, and Travel

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Yesterday I finally weighed in on the Independence debate. What do you mean, last minute? There is a WHOLE DAY to go yet!

Anyway, I wrote about it on Facebook, and then on tumblr. Then, for good measure I copied it onto a site I’d not seen before, WriteHere.com which is easy to join and format free for those who can’t be bothered with the fiddlearseing you have to do on WordPress and have to do a bit on tumblr.

Apparently we will know the outcome ‘breakfast time’ on Friday.

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As a Londoner for more than 25 years, clearly, I don’t get a vote. I am, however, happy that this debate has happened whatever the outcome. As Josh White puts it in his post Free of London in Souciant

“The independence of Scotland would also humiliate the Cameron government, possibly beyond repair, showing up the Conservatives as a vulnerable force. This is likely the case even if Scotland gains greater powers and remains within the UK. The Left should be asking itself, “Why haven’t we been able to undermine the Con-Dems in this way?”

Whatever the map looks like on Friday morning, the terrain is already changing.

***

Speaking of blackberries (oh come on, we all know that was the elephant in the room!) it’s been a year since I read out Pattern Recognition at Have a Word and I’ve written very little since, I’ve barely even blogged, and that is a SAD THING for me. So in the summer I started a Facebook group First Thursday Writers and The Like with the idea of holding a salon at home. This was possible to consider because my new flat is large and central, and I got the idea from having had hopes dashed of doing a course in Narrative Non Fiction at City Uni. I had to recognise that I am really not well enough to do a full time course. After I recovered from the inevitable soul crushing I looked at short courses, and I noticed that, for people who had done a short course, they were offering a monthly meet up course for people who had completed one of the term long courses. I was attracted to that but thought HANG ON because I know enough writers and creative people with writing projects to drum up a group myself and have them come to me, which, in my quest for less travel to events literally couldn’t be easier to get to. So I started a Facebook group and invited people who either lived in London or who might be likely to visit once a month, and got started. We had our first meeting this month and there was only three of us, but we had a really productive session. I read out Pattern Recognition again, and also some other snippets. First of all, it had been some time since I’d looked at it and I thought it would have sort of ‘gone off’ and would need ripping apart, but it actually hung together quite well. The other thing I got as feedback was that the other snippets I’d read out, which I’d been seeing as random beginnings of other projects also hung well with that piece. It gave me some heart to carry on, even though it will inevitably be very slowly.

Today I opened up the Facebook page to anyone anywhere who is writing and wants to get posts from the group – it’s mainly me posting in it just now, and I have been sharing stuff about writing, mainly to remind people that the group still exists, but someone commented that they liked the posts and I thought, well then, why not make the page open to anyone to follow, even if they will never make it to London for a meeting, after all, isn’t that what the internet is good for?

***

Between moving house and messing with medication I’ve not traveled further than Brighton this year. This is a pisser because I really benefitted from extra warmth last year. One way and another I haven’t been able to get a shot of warmth this year, beyond the hot spell in London, and, being unwell I’ve not wanted to travel alone. I had a shot at meeting a friend for a holiday, but for the past few months I’ve not been able to walk for more than ten minutes at a time without a river of pain down my shoulders and back, and that’s without carrying anything. I’d be miserable being abroad if it didn’t make me feel more well, and with hotels as well as flights I felt it was too much of a financial risk, too. Enter Ken with an invite to Munich! Exactly NO hotter than here, but equally, a cheap flight away, a change of scenery, and staying at his makes this a less scary prospect. We have 24/7′d before, and I know he won’t mind if I can’t manage more than a bit of dog cuddling, epic conversations and cake eating, and if I have it in me he knows all the local walks, the cultural stuff, and *whisper* if I am well enough I want to go to Weimar and see the Bauhaus museum.

IF.

 

In Praise of Shitty Weather

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Friday was ridiculously hot. It was Zone 1 London in the summer hot, with that intimation of hosepipe bans and the feel that it could be one of those summers where fans sell out and people start whining about it being TOO HOT.

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I don’t like to be a curmudgeon, and while my mind is of a cloudy turn, my body certainly behaves better in the warm, but now that we’ve moved house a fair few things have changed in the daily routine. On the Tottenham Riviera we were on the ground floor, it  was Zone 3, and on a river, and I didn’t have to have Pops on the lead for most of any outing. Here, we are in the microclimate of the centre of town, up four flights, and the parks are often FULL at the first sight of sunshine. Full, that is, of HAZARDS.

By ‘hazards’ I mean children, people eating, people trying to have some alone time lying down quietly, that sort of thing. All things a Bobbins likes to either actually disturb or threaten to disturb, which amounts to the same thing in terms of having to police her.

In the shitty weather we doggy types get the park to ourselves.

On Friday it was extremely hot and Poppet did her new thing of having to have several lie downs all the way home as well as a couple in the stair. And that was for the morning play. By the afternoon it was baking so hard and the park was so populous that there was no chance of play, and even without it she still played ‘old dog’ all the way home.

When I first got her she was estimated by All Dogs Matter as being about a year old, and thought to have been made to mate on her first season, the beginnings of her white muzzle being thought to have been caused by the shock of this too early breeding. By the time we were on the Riviera and we had a vet appointment she was nominally about four, and he said there was no way she was under seven. Usually if people ask her age I tell them I don’t know, that she was adopted, and I give them the parameters, but if I can’t be bothered or if I think they are really not interested (a lot of people ask a dog’s age, it’s a ‘thing’) then I’ve just been saying “seven” for the past couple of years. Despite her greying muzzle, I’ve continued to argue her youth, but now she’s doing the lying down thing I’ve revised it upward. Her age of convenience is now firmly ten.

Anyway, the weather didn’t do as threatened, and we are now back to the shitty weather we also complain about. However, today it didn’t take a moment to get her out and running about, and we had the park pretty much to ourselves and yesterday was the same, even though this is the weekend. I don’t begrudge the sun seekers their pleasures, but I am going to have to figure out a way around them with the dog.

I was going to write this yesterday but we got waylaid by a chap called Roland and his dog Crunchie. I’m shit at remembering names, but Roland is my brother’s name, and Crunchie is an excellent name for a dog. She was crunching on a stick when we met her. We also know a Harry and Barry, but I have no idea which is the man and which the dog, so knowing their names doesn’t help at all.

Breast Up, Back Down

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In a previous iteration I was pretty active for a non sporty type. Like, I started swimming regularly because there was a laundry at my local pool at St George’s. A large load bought me a 40 minute swim. I don’t hate laundrettes, in fact, when I was a kid my mum was friends with the lady who worked at the laundrette and I got to see backstage, which I found entrancing. I pretty much love the back stage of any kind of an operation, and perhaps my love of it started there, in the dusty and oily back end of banks of driers.

Anyway, despite my lack of hatred, if there is a swimming pool actually attached to a laundry it would seem churlish to ignore it. So I swam there regularly. It’s a 33.3 meter pool, and I know I started off at 8 lengths. So that was 266.6 meters. The amount of lengths shot up over what turned out to be quite a short time before I bought my first washing machine and turned to my next fad, weight training.

Now I’m back in the pool. Not that pool, and neither the pool of life, but the pool of Ironmonger Row. Knowing I’d benefit from monitoring my progress I looked up the pool length and have been keeping a note of my progress. It’s a 25 meter pool, but I’ve had three nominal total body replacements since then, all those cells ageing and mainly on the wane. I’ve gone up two dress sizes and now have a much less active life. My aerobic fitness has plummeted over the past two years and I’m leery of getting fat clothes, but look awful in the stuff I’ve already got, and that’s if I can get any of it on. In reality I can theoretically wear about a fifth of my wardrobe, and that’s mostly socks.

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I actually moved house deliberately to be spitting distance to a pool, but it has taken me a few weeks to get around to actually swimming. First off, I had to get a swimming costume that was realistically big, and then I had to do all the paperwork that is involved in getting a concession sorted out. And then I had to get over myself for having done it a bit wrong and being angry with the man who gave me the hard sell for the membership option.

A smart smack to the head with a misdirected ball thrown in the park gave me the perfect excuse. Ok, it smarted, but it wasn’t that, it was the way the fibro tickled the shock into a nice entrenched neck pain, followed by a fire storm down my shoulders and upper back, and then a few hours later my lower back and a kind of sciatica thing all the way down to my left foot. Pain killers be damned, this was going to have to be worked off physically, and swimming was just the badger for the job.

I have a fear of new buildings. Not ‘new’ new buildings, just any building I’ve not been in before. So there was an element of loin girding, but however they are laid out at least swimming pools generally have an internal logic which can be tentatively predictable. I wore the swimmie under my clothes and packed all the things I needed, managed to get into the changing room without having a nervous breakdown and stripped off and had an acclimatising shower. The interior of Ironmonger Row has been recently refurbished and is reassuringly posh. There were steps to get in to the pool so I didn’t have to out myself as a less able bodied type of a person, and the water was acceptably warm, so none of the embarrassment of spasming and drowning, then. Good.

All I had to do now was swim. I have to be really careful about triggering migraines and other fibro related aches and pains which can go on, like the ball thing, to tell epic tales in my body, so I reckoned on 15-20 minutes. I counted my lengths. First go round I did 50 meters, rested for five minutes, did another 50, rested, did another 50 then called it a day. I did that two days in a row, rested a day and then did 100/100/100 LIKE A DAMN BOSS!

Even when I was nominally well I had a problem with headaches, so I had a physiological strategy – breast up, back down, thus saving my neck from undue strain. This strategy is good when everyone is lane swimming PROPERLY but not everyone does, and going backwards into gaggles of chatting people is a drag, but everyone was civilised and the pool wasn’t overpopulated. I could relax. I could relax and trust life.

Over the course of my previous swimming patch I’d noticed a tendency to think while swimming, and a sense of not having refreshed my brain the way I’d refreshed my body, so, it being the days of the Louise Hay and other ‘gurus’ I decided to do affirmations. “I relax and trust life, money comes easily to me” scanned for the breast stroke, and I can’t remember what I did for back. Now I just count. Not all the time, but 10 years or so of meditation means I really don’t have to sweat ‘just swimming’ but after the first go round I noticed that it was third bunting, hoist, steps, end of pool, which was just over 8 strokes of backstroke the speed I was swimming at, so bunting 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 flip, stop.

As long as the alternative is drowning, swimming lends itself well to an approximation of a meditative state. Swimming is neither eternalistic by nature nor nihilistic. It is radically embodied and totally existential.

When I was at school you always had to really hurry to get dressed after swimming. I really hated it. Claggy clothes and hair clinging coldly to skin, all to rush to a lesson I doubtless had no interest in anyway, and under the apparently watchful eye of our resident pervy gym teacher.

Now I am an adult and no one is the boss of me. I take my time washing and drying, resting and mindfully taking the next thing I need out of the locker and ultimately packing everything away in a sane methodical style. The building mirrors my own carefulness back to me – here is even a bank of five hair driers awaiting use in the most civilised manner just before the exit.

A couple of days later and I dial it back to 200 meters in total.

I’m back in the swim.