From the fevered brain of Rick O’Shea, comes the story of a boy, a blog and an open grave.

no that’s wrong. Its Rick’s fault, he had an idea. A group pop culture blog, and he asked a few people to join in.

And for some unknown reason, he asked me.

I’ll admit that I have a shed load of tracks to review and put up there, but I’m also going to be posting about the impacts of technology on culture, and the impacts of culture on technology.

I need to thank a few people to get this going. So Thanks to to AJ, Rick, Darren, Sinead and Pedro for doing all the heavy lifting in getting the systems running. And a lot of the early posts (oops).

Now, I just have to write.

take care,

Will Knott

It all started shortly before the Irish Blog Awards. That was the reason that Jason Roe was on the site, which caused the first insults.

The widely reported insult against bloggers which is being heard across the globe. I have been warned not to play in to Michael O’Leary’s hands and promote his apparent need for publicity (despite the ire its caused) over the company’s levels of customer service.

So much so that the search for their opposite is now on. LeCraic has the details behind the search.

Well according to O’Leary’s PR spokesperson, Stephen McNamara, we are “idiot bloggers” or “lunatic bloggers”.

Not to worry, as the company starts to limit their presence to online only, and as a lot of people type the URL in to Google (rather than the address bar) the negative rail against bloggers may bite them yet. Its is all very well being the name hat most people think of when they search for cheap flights. But they search, frequently when they don’t intend to (after all, Yahoo is a top search for term in Google, and vice versa).

However they didn’t say they won’t correspond with all bloggers – nor that all bloggers are idiots. But it sure is implied.

and the crowd said

After the Blog awards I’ve come to take the Jack Kerouac approach. If we are the insane ones… we are a lot of fun to be with.

The only people for me are the mad ones,
the ones who are mad to live,
mad to talk,
mad to be saved,
desirous of everything at the same time,
the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing,
but burn, burn, burn,
like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…

Burn brightly,

Will Knott

Timing is interesting. Markham Nolan blogged about, well, bloggers being used and abused by marketing types and quoted the example of The Big Switch outreach done by Bord Gáis electricity. Go read it and come back. This post is my comment as he “plucked out” a comment I left and given that I’ve been named, I’m not intending to be shamed.

(I have shame, don’t use it much)

The rest of this post is the comment I left…

I think I need to defend myself after you “plucked me out”.

I’ll go with this one example of the Bord Gáis meetup. This wasn’t a scheme dreamt up by a PR firm, this was Bord Gáis doing it themselves. All the bloggers that attended did so out of curiosity. None of us knew what it was going in.

If we did, I suspect a different group of bloggers would have shown up.

If you want bloggers, ask bloggers who blog about your area. For the event the ideal group would be business bloggers, consumer affairs bloggers, green affairs bloggers. Oddly enough marketing and advertising bloggers would have been interested too.

Or to put it another way, would you invite a music journalist to the launch of a new cheese? (No jokes please)

I know that not everyone who attended blogged about it (yet at any rate). I know that it ended up being one of my longer posts.
From what I can tell, it was the first attempt at blogger outreach (not just their first attempt, but THE first attempt following the Collision Course).

Lots of information was freely given. It was interesting to see a “grown up” product that few would describe as “sexy” being used for outreach. Things are changing in the marketplace, bloggers may be invited to more, but that is no guarantee of a write up, let along a favourable one.

The early inviter will get the “well they invited us” posts, but if it becomes more commonplace, the “I was there” won’t be blogged. The “I’m interested in this topic, give me the info” will take over. After all, most (if not all) Irish bloggers are amateurs.  They have work, school or other duties in the mornings. They can’t attend a day-time press conference (or film screening). They don’t all live in Dublin (interesting to see how many of these things will take place in Cork, Galway, Kilkenny or Limerick). And bloggers are under no real obligation. A day without posting isn’t going to cause much harm. Not the same can be said about mainstream media.

Or to use your analogy, the swarm of locusts may find the field is empty when they get there.

Of course, locust only swarm then their serotonin levels increase. That’s the happy chemical of the brain.

Who says that bloggers make a happy meal?

take care,

Will Knott

I would love to tell you that I was invited to a cabal of secrets, but in fact I simply responded to a post on Mulley’s blog about a meeting, and then showed up.

What I discovered was, following the Collision Course, that Bord Gáis decided to talk to bloggers. I’m not too sure why (and I don’t think they do either).

You see, they are no longer a gas company. They are now an energy company.
holding_pagereveal

Or rather, Bord Gáis is now a regulated Gas supply company, and thanks to ESB electricity generation and ESB networks being split, they are also a deregulated electricity company. RTÉ have a good write up on how to change, and there is a description on “The Big Switch” site.

The fact that they decided to talk to bloggers about, well, a deeply un-sexy product is interesting. This is also an internal initiative. Even their usual PR companies (I noticed the plural) told them not to. But think about it. Electricity and gas are not “youth” products. And when someone talks about “doing stuff on the net” the assumption is that the product is destined for, well, kids.

But the net is no longer a youth product. The web has been in mainstream use in Ireland for almost 20 years. There is an entire generation that grew up with the web, but almost everyone under forty isn’t afraid of it (and looking at some facebook photos, they will be at a later date).

Banking, shopping and house hunting are all online. Instead of getting a paper bill in the post, you could get your bill on-line. In short boring adult stuff. Except this point was raised at the meeting, and its not entirely true, at the moment there is dual paper and on-line billing and “in Q2 paperless billing will be available”. On that note, if you switch your power and gas bills will be separate bills (by design). combined billing or “bill shock” and a large bill arriving can scare people off.

Back to Bord Gáis’ electricity. At the moment they are buying in the power, but they have plans to build wind farms and the building of a 425 Megawatt gas powered turbine power generating plat in Whitegate, Cork is underway.

Having said that, they have been supplying power for a while. They approached the National Ploughing championships with their offer. Their offer being a guaranteed 10% cheaper than ESB’s prices. So they signed up 15,000 of the 85,000 IFA members, and it seems they’ve been getting power for a while.

nicky

The prices are 10% cheaper than ESB for the 2008, and 5% cheaper than ESB for 2009 and 2010.  The marketing manager, Nicky Doran, pointed out that its hard to do estimated pricing for more than 3 years. Also, Bord Gáis is regulated as they are the incumbent in the gas market, which means that if they want to lower their prices they have to go to the regulatory body to get permission to lower (or indeed raise) their prices. ESB have to do the same thing as they are the incumbent in the market. However, Bord Gáis is a new entry in the electricity market, so that’s how they can guarantee the price cut when compared to ESB.  If the market gets completely unregulated, then blocks  on the incumbent go away. So ESB are probably looking forward to competition.

Full disclosure, I just showed up. Apart from a cup of tea, I got nothing for this other than information (if you like I can clean up the notes I took at the session and post them in the comments). Is it worth switching? Well go check your figures and decide for yourself. I know that I don’t want to explain this one to my Mum without the paperwork in front of me.

The thing is, now that Bord Gáis has started talking to the public (well bloggers at least) and they are not only listening but talking (via @TheBigSwitchIRL on Twitter) as well as media monitoring. It means that they can hear.

Speak up.

Suzy Byrne was there and blogged about the consumer side of the equation (as well as the street teams planned).  Peter D, AdIreland and Damien Mulley all blogged about this new-found openness.

Personally, I think its nice seeing a large Irish company treating the internet and blogging as something for grown-ups. Now, when are they blogging themselves?

The advert being shown, where they take “the big switch” a little too literally.

take care,
Will Knott

Rick O’Shea came up with a lovely idea; who would you like to meet at the 2009 Irish Blog Awards.

“Name 5 bloggers you haven’t met in the flesh before that you’d like to say hi to at the Blog Awards, say why if you want, link to them. They then, in turn, link to 5 bloggers they’d like to meet and so on.”

Now I have a problem with this. I keep meeting people.

I’ve have to re-do my list a few times as I bump in to bloggers and with the upcoming Twestival there is a chance that I might bump in to a few more.

So…

1) Robert Sweetnam.  He used to live near me and I never met him all that time. It tuns out our interests and situations were also similar (even started back in (different) college on the same date).

2) K8 the GR8. Wonderful fiction writer, and all round good person (with an evil streak, naturally). Her posts swerve from laugh out loud funny, to heart break to cruel twists of fate. And she also writes fiction. Having said that, I’m regularly freaked by her dad, Granddad, who I may want to avoid.

3 and 4) Le Craic and Maxi Cane. LC, because he comes up with brilliant ideas that I would like to see succeed, and Maxi as he got me writing fiction again (got to love a deadline).

And finally, 5) Sweary, or rather the Sweary Lady. Cause she makes me laugh, then makes me think. She is the Darwin Awards of blogs.

I should end here, but there are a few special mentions…

Omani – Partly to apologise (until he commented I thought his name was Grace O’Mani).

Darren Byrne and The National Lottie – who were on the list, until I met them at the PR Collision event. (And Darren, go ahead and tell her).

Phil Iced Coffee who I have met a few times, but he is the only other person I’ve seen do this.

Nick McGivney because I think I have already met him and Christian Hughes because after seeing him at the PR Collision even I’m convinced I’ve met before (if not, nice watch).

Graham Linehan simply because I like the IT Crown and Fr. Ted. And also because I don’t expect to see him.

And lastly but not leastly (if that is a word) Debbie Metrustry, one of the organisers of the Dublin Twestival who I am definitely going to meet, because I owe her money and I can’t get in to the Twestival until I pay her.

Some of you may notice that I’ve linked to blog posts an not to their blog front page. Well, if they have automated trackbacks, they’ll notice that I want to meet them. Its a touch more subtle than asking directly. Or is that my devious streak showing itself again.

take care,
and see some of you tonight,
Will Knott

Before you go to a Twestival, how should you keep an eye out for your friends off Twitter? Well, why not wear your Twitter friends? (yes that does sound like a very bad superhero team).

Wear their faces on your chest. (eewww) OK, pictures of their faces. Better? Or have their mug on your mug.

Twitter Mosaic Mug
Image by Irish Typepad via Flickr

Walter Higgins at Sxoop (pronounced Skoop, or Scoop) is a image manipulation software developer for a a while now. The headlined Pixenate, an online photo editor, is integrated on many sites worldwide. He also has a history of making image manipulation tools for Twitter. He’s responsible for all the Santa hats this Christmas, and he’s brought out something new, the Twitter Mosaic.

You tell it your Twitter user name (no need for a password) and it generates a mosaic of all your twitter friends or followers. A big image. This can be turned into Mugs, T-Shirts and Bags.

All of this is made possible because of Web2.0 and the philosophy of open APIs (both Twitter’s and Zazzle’s). What has been done recently at http://sxoop.com/twitter/ simply wouldn’t have been possible a few short years ago. Needless to say, these APIs are being battered at the moment. Walter has more details on how to get things running quickly too and the end products seem to be reviewed very well.

So you can create a physical social (media) object and drink to the health of your fellow Tweeters from a Twitter Mosaic mug  (hopefully full of  clean water thanks to Charity:Water) and wear your friends in public.

The Twitter Mosaic is indeed the beneficiary of a Tuesday Push, so soon after demoing it at the Cork Open Coffee Club. And yes I got to know Walter through the Open Coffee movement. However its a cool idea, a great set of products and it since to see someone in Ireland making money in there times. And making money while Twitter is still trying out how.

take care,

Will Knott

Get your twitter mosaic here.

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I think the Media Virgins put it succinctly. “Before you fully commit yourself to a social networking site I think that it is a good idea to listen in on what is being said. The same idea goes when you are deciding which people to follow.”

And so it is with IGOPeople.com, the latest company being promoted in the revamped “Tuesday Push“.

The I, G and O of IGOPeople stands for Individuals, Groups and Organisations. The idea is that this is a network for real people. Not the social media elite (both of them) nor is it aimed at the youth market. The idea behind this site is that it allows individuals to contact organisations (mostly businesses, but there are a few charities in there too) and have the feed back in the public domain. It also allows for groups to form.

Groups like the proposed OpenCoffee Kilkenny. Groups like the DellCamp project to get things going in Limerick (and surrounds again).

Of the companies in there, its not just the technical ones like Blacknight and Eircom nor those using social media in other aspects like FBD and Vodaphone (who are running free top up offers) but accountants, recruitment companies and sellers of waterproof childrens clothing (who have their own special offer on IGOPeople).

This Irish company is paying attention to its users. Thy will take and act on suggestions. Its a tightly wel run (and threaded messaged) ship.

I joined it very early on, but I’m still listening. I’ve said this to the founder, Campbell Scott, I can see the appeal, but I just don’t get it.

Yet.

I’m still listening,

Will Knott

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So the PR / Bloggers conference took place in Edelman PR. And I’ve seen Alastair McDermott blog post on how a PR pitch should be a social exchange, Rick O’Shea blog on the difference between his media head and his blogger head when approached, Peter Donegan on how blogging is about passion and why you need to be careful with passion. Eoin Kennedy gives a nice concise summary of the event, Christian Hughes’ is even shorter and different, while future PR star Thomas Brunkard gives a different account of the night.

Much thanks need to be given to Damien Mulley and Edelman PR Dublin for orginasing the night, and to Donnchadh O’Leary, Piaras Kelly and Alexia Golez who blogged on how its better to learn about bloggers by trying it out for yourself. In fact most of this post began life as a comment on her blog (so sorry if you’ve read it before).

The unasked advice I would give to PR people is:

Think of bloggers in the same way a journalist thinks of contacts. This contact is the go-to girl for tech related matters. This contact is the go-to guy for music.
That type of thing.

While forming a media list may be “monkey work”, a targeted media / house list is worth its PR weight in gold.

Remember : For us its a hobby, not a job. Few bloggers want to become journalists, those that do already are journalists in their day job.

The professional media expect to be contacted with something thy are not interested in. Some spent their careers writing about stuff they aren’t interested in.

Bloggers have the freedom to write about what interests us. Its “our view”.

Things that may help both sides.
1) Introduce yourself and ASK.

If we bloggers were looking for a contact in X then chances are we would tweet it first and see what happens.

Of course we are following a lot of conversations.
Join in.
Babble.
I’d suggest you mention Collision Course in your first tweet before you “follow” anyone. Most (all) of us look to see “who is this person following me”. Of the 15 there on the night, I think most of us will follow back.
Just let us know who you are first.

Then ask…

E.g.
Would anyone like to go to the launch of the new Orange Tea Box on Tuesday at 8pm.
Or
Could you suggest any bloggers interested in Orange Tea
(I hope that there isn’t an Orange Tea at this point)

You’ll get a few time wasters, but not too many. And you might get a good contact for that one.

But joining Twitter and just tweeting without following anyone will not get noticed. Look up “Network Effect” to see why twitter seems to work.

Get to know twitter clients (software applications) and search.twitter.com.

By the way, Bloggers aren’t looking for freebies. Most are looking for information. If blogger X writes about Tea, they will want to know all about Orange Tea. No freebies needed (unless you count images they can used and information as a freebie).

On that note, if you find that a blogger has blogged about Red tea, see if (s)he has contact details on their blog ans ask, if the blogger would be interested in the forthcoming Orange Tea. No press release, no clips.
Just your details, and why you’re mailing them.

It doesn’t smell like spam, because it isn’t. They may e-mail back abuse, they might accept.

Time consuming. Yes. Cost high.
Potential rewards, higher.

2) Don’t spam…
If you got someone for Orange Tea, they may be interested in Yellow Coffee.
ASK.
But that does not mean they want to be contacted for Blue Cars.
The Blue Cars mail would look like spam. A mail with “I see you were interested in Tea, could I interest you in coffee” wouldn’t. (It does sound automated, but you get my point).
Besides, you’re asking.
You’ve formed a relationship with the blogger, don’t destroy it really quickly.

However…
If you have formed a relationship, asking if they know someone interested in Blue Cars isn’t that spammy. Bloggers tend not to hoard information, if we did, we wouldn’t blog.
I’ve passed on info to people I know who blog about stuff (or are just friends interested in things).

But ask.

3) Read Blogs.
If you invite bloggers to do something, you should have read their blogs first.

Read other blogs. I know, long and boring work but look at what you are interested in only (at first). There are blogs about everything under the sun (and a few things that aren’t). Blogs on Make up. Blogs on Man U. Blogs on cars. Blogs on caravans. Blogs on rashers.

Blogs on PR.

Look at things. Get to know a feed reader.
This is a slow step. If you need a hand to hold, see step 1 to find one.

4) Audio blogs / podcasts
Listen to how others have done it.
F.I.R (For immediate Release, the Hobson and Holtz Report) is the big daddy in this arena. It’s also 90 mins long and twice a week.

For lighter listening, I’d suggest
Media driving” or “Marketing Over Coffee
Yes their focus is different, but they are short. Media Driving is 10 mins, Marketing over Coffee is rarely 30 mins. And only once a week. Think commute times.

They suggest others to listen to as well.

5) Join in.

You might be happy with twitter/facebook/linkedin/justsomerandomsite but by blogging (maybe blogging on PR/Shoes/Cars/Tea) you’ll see why.
For us its a hobby, not a job.
It’s called passion.

Do it yourself. If you can, say what you are working on. If not, blog on what you care about.

And finally…

The Irish blogging community is, surprisingly, a community.
I don’t know anyone who would visit me in hospital via blogs; but its happened (remembering tweets and people dropping food parcels off to people stuck on Casualty trolleys). Wandering up to a random person in a community centre and pitching to them is, well, silly.
Remember that when you want to talk to us.

Its better to ask for permission as a backlash is too late to ask for forgiveness (examples were given in the meeting).

Once we get to know you, we’ll let you screw up.

take care,

Will Knott

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I took two minutes. Have you?

To: complaints@rte.ie, Joe@RTE.ie
From: Will Knott

Dear Sir or Madam,

Recently things have changed in RTÉ, in particular, afternoons on RTÉ 2FM.
I used to listen to the “wittertainment” (wit combined with entertainment) of interesting conversation about music, musicians, movies and anything interesting from the news on your afternoon shows.

Since the new year, Nikki Hayes and Rick O’Shea seem to have been gagged. Gone are the insightful riffs on air and conversations with their audiences to be replaced with “that was a song off the play list, here is another song off the playlist“. If I want pure music I have an extensive collection of CDs on my shelves and online music streaming services at my fingertips. (The less said about mp3 files at this moment, the better).

In one stroke (probably of a pen) you have removed the added value of the presenters. At times I wonder if the show has been prerecorded. These are presenters who would appear on Radio One’s playback on a regular basis. If the editors in RTE thought they were worthy of a special mention, why shut them up?

Was Jerry Ryan complaining about the upstarts of talk in the afternoon? Did Joe Duffy fret about being upstaged by rivals on the “youth” channel? Did other presenters resent their repeated appearances in the highlighted clip show? Did the fact the aiding the public in ways over multiple channels of communication hinder a target number of plays somewhere (the kind of thing usually reserved for a payola scheme, I assume you can confirm that this is not the case). Is this a preparation routine to move them off to other projects?

So, could you answer why the afternoons have been turned in to a “all music, no talk (except for the adverts)” festival, exactly like your rivals and so eliminating the sole distinguishing feature between most of the commercial stations and your own 2FM?

Instead of “more music”, any chance of “more entertainment”?
take care,
Will Knott

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As this is Breast Cancer Awareness month, a lot of products are jumping on the Pink for October bandwagon.

pink for the cure

Image by on2wheelz via Flickr

So a pink coloured (and packaged) energy drink seems to be a “cheap” tie in. That’s what I first thought when I started looking at the Fuze energy drink brought out a flavour for October.  However looking at their “Heroes for Hope” sub-site it becomes apparent that this isn’t a tie in.

It s a commitment.

The site in in support for the “Susan G. Komen For The Cure” foundation (similar to our own Marie Keating Foundation), and it features video interviews and profiles of breast cancer survivors who are taking part in the “Heroes for Hope” tour.

A large pink tour bus travels around the country. Local heroes and committed activists are invited to participate in a formal photo session at the on-site photo studio (in and around the bus). A FUZE reporter documents participant’s story and selects ‘Heroes’ from each community that the Heroes for Hope Tour visits.

We’ve got to do something like that here. There are enough stories in the press, and enough bloggers in the country so that each site have have its own local hero.

What do you think?
Will Knott

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