NENgage is “a new social media project which offers free training to community groups, local citizens and activists in how to use social media and online tools” in the Inverleith area of Edinburgh.
It’s being funded by local news publication The North Edinburgh News and lead by multimedia journalist Tom Allan and multi-talented writer/presenter Emily Dodd, both of whom regularly work for the BBC and a number of other organisations.
I’m volunteering at two of the sessions, and also helped Tom and Emily film four short videos to promote the events – you can see the first two of these below.
A few of the photos I took on a recent trip to Berlin, given the Instagram treatment. I was there for the weekend for a friend’s stag do (or bachelor party). It was great fun, and I loved the city.
Despite the recent buyout by Facebook, I still really enjoy Instagram as a way of sharing the more interesting things I see and do during my everyday life, and for keeping up with other people in a more personal way than the other social networks.
Alas you do need either an iPhone or an Android smartphone to use it, but if you don’t have one yet you can see all my photos on the web at my instagrid profile. I quite often send the pictures to Twitter too.
For those creative people who actually want to earn money from their work, the advertising industry is often an attractive career option.
The show Mad Men, based at the peak of the industry, has perhaps added to the glamour, even though these days there’s a lot less daytime drinking!
Despite some contractual difficulties threatening to derail the show, AMC’s flagship show returned for another series last week. It is now only shown on Sky Atlantic here in the UK (it was previously shown on BBC4). This means only about 100,000 people watched it, around a quarter of the previous UK audience. Indeed, I only managed to see it myself because I was invited round to watch it by friends.
The new channel also means it is interrupted by adverts. Ironically, one of the pleasures of watching it on the BBC was the lack of ads. However Sky were clever about it – they showed classic ads from the UK and the US, and there were far fewer ads than normal. This was a nice touch to allow viewers to acclimatise to the show’s new home.
It’s full of interesting insights for example, apparently people now care a lot more if brands are contributing positively to the wellbeing of society as a whole, including the environment, though this differs depending on geographical location.
According to Sam Delaney, who wrote a book about the British equivalent of the original Mad Men, what the men he spoke to had in common was that they were all:
Hugely determined, massively talented and almost psychopathically ambitious.
Of course they also acknowledge that developments in technology and the explosion of creativity online has made it harder and harder to ‘break through’ with a creative advertising idea, and that clever strategy is now a major aspect of the creative professional’s role.
“Everything starts with the truth and goes somewhere else”
The Edinburgh-based FOUND Arts Collective have followed their brilliant (and BAFTA-winning) Cybraphon project with a new interactive sound installation called #unravel. They’ve collaborated with songwriter and storyteller extraordinaire Aidan Moffat, former frontman of Arab Strap and who recently collaborated with Bill Wells for the excellent ‘Everything’s Getting Older’ project.
I spoke to FOUND and Aidan Moffat at the launch of the project yesterday at Edinburgh’s Inspace Gallery and cobbled together this video today (despite a number of technical difficulties!) to give you an idea of what the project involves.
Fear not though as there will be a proper short documentary about the project coming soon – for more details see the official website.
After a bit of a break, I’m delighted to crank the Clear-Minded Creative Types series of interviews back into action with one of my favourite songwriters, Dan Willson aka Withered Hand, who is also an artist and DIY gig promoter – not to mention husband and father.
He also happens to be an Edinburgh resident and I’ve seen him at various venues in town, from the small and dingy to the vast and expansive with his recent Queen’s Hall show. He even appeared my telly box in a recent BBC documentary about the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas (Dan became a trending topic on Twitter in the UK due to the US authorities initially refusing his visa).
Please can you tell us who you are and what you are up to at the moment?
My name is Dan Willson. I write songs and perform them under the moniker Withered Hand. I suppose I have been doing this on and off for about 5 years. Before that I used to play guitar in bands and draw a lot. I certainly never expected to be a songwriter, much less a singer, but I mostly like what I get to do right now.
Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?
As a kid I wanted to be an artist. I guess my parents didn’t realise I needed dissuading. I have always had a clear short term idea of what I want to do creatively, but stagger along with no real plan and right now I’m getting it out there via songwriting and performing songs, I hope it carries on being something I do but maybe in a few years I’ll be doing something else which involves less travelling and hollering.
If you’re in Glasgow and around between 6 -7pm it would be great to see you (Roddy Woomble of Idlewild is playing a solo set afterwards if that helps persuade you!)
How I Stopped Worrying and Learnt to Love the Tech
I was actually quite slow to get the tech bug, for example I didn’t get a mobile phone until relatively late and I was fairly clueless when it came to computers until the last few years. My first ever blog post was in July 2005 so I was by no means an early adopter of blogging either , although 6 years is quite a long time now that I think about it.
Since I bought my Macbook a few years ago and then an iPhone, I’ve become a bit of a fan of Apple’s products, and I’ve also become quite a geek generally. For over a year I spent a fair chunk of each day reading blogs and trying out new web and mobile apps, and although my attention has now expanded to many other things, I still have a keen interest in modern technology, the internet and the latest gadgets (not that I can afford as many as I’d like).
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s essential to embrace technology if you want to further your creative goals – even if you’re not a blogger.
Note: If you do want other people to find your creative work having a blog is still the best way to get the word out and connect with people online. I may be preaching to the converted on this point though!
Technology Can Help You Go Pro
Obviously technology can help you with the actual act of creation – e.g. Michael Nobbs is now using an iPad for his drawings – and there are powerful programmes like Adobe Creative Suite which are used by designers, photographers and video editors. If you put the work in, these packages can allow you to present yourself in an extremely professional way, allowing you to compete with established creative pros when selling your work.
And whilst decent tech is certainly not cheap, these days you can create things on a reasonable well-powered laptop that would have been unimaginable less than a decade ago. The fact I can now film and edit HD video on my iPhone is mind-boggling to me, not just because I’m a lover of all things Apple and shiny, but because of what it allows me to do – film footage anywhere I am, and share it to the world via my blog.
Technology allows you to connect with the world
Using Skype, I’ve interviewed some of my favourite musicians like Bonnie Prince Billy and Regina Spektor, and received coaching and seminars on a variety of topics from people I like and admire from all over the world. I’ve made a bunch of friends on Twitter, and I can keep in touch with family and friends from all over the world on Facebook. I’m old enough to remember when NONE OF THIS WAS POSSIBLE. It wasn’t that long ago.
Hell even MySpace, which is now dead to me, was useful at the time. I remember when there was as much a buzz about it as there is now with Twitter. My music was appreciated by a few crazy people in different parts of the world, even though most people found it unlistenable tosh!
And I’m delighted to say a bunch of amazing creative people from all over the world read this blog. That’s one of the most exciting things about blogging for me.
Staying aware of the latest trends keeps you one step ahead
Now believe it or not, I’ve never been massively comfortable with bragging about myself. The beauty of blogging and social media means you don’t have to boast about what you’ve done, you just have to show the evidence and it will speak for itself. But on this occasion I’ll make an exception (didn’t take much persuading did it?) as I want to show you how being up to date with the latest trends can be of benefit.
Here’s some stuff I’ve achieved because I’ve embraced technology and the latest trends:
I’ve attracted paid freelance work due in part to my blogging and social media experience.
I was promoted to a digital engagement role at work thanks to my self -taught knowledge in the area.
I was asked to take part in a debate at St Andrew’s University with some very well respected and established journalists and academic figures, because I had written online about the future of journalism.
This weekend I reached 1,000 followers on Twitter for the first time – and it has happened organically just because I enjoy chatting to new people and finding out what they’re doing (and it’s helped that I’ve been on there for over two years).
I founded the I Hear a New World podcast for Scottish culture magazine The Skinny, which I hope helped in some way to raise the profile of some excellent but under-appreciated musicians.
And I”m not even a proper early adopter! There’s loads of people out there who are way ahead of me, but the fact is that by at least being aware of what’s going on in the world of technology, I can foresee trends and take advantage of them if I’m able to.
But Everyone’s a Blogger Nowadays
True, a lot of people have blogs these days, and not all of them are that great. But if you’re not in the game, you’re never going to win. Social networking sites aren’t going to cut it – look what’s happened to the aforementioned MySpace.
Writing for other publications is all very well but you need your own web ‘real estate’ if you want to get people to visit you and follow you over time. You need your own blog (preferably on WordPress) and you need to keep it up to date if you’re really serious about spreading your work to as many people as possible. Of course if you don’t want to to do that, then fair enough but if you’re reading this I’m guessing you probably do!
Just do yourself a favour – include a link so people can subscribe by RSS and email – and use Feedburner so that they can subscribe using their favoured feed reader without having to copy and paste the link. Okay, only obsessive blog readers like me might use RSS, but they’re exactly the people you want as long-term readers as they are more likely to share your stuff with other people.
Technology allows you to teach yourself pretty much anything
This might be the biggie. You can pretty much learn anything you want in terms of creative skills with the information that’s now readily available online.
Personally my first port of call is always books, and I now read a combination of print books and ebooks, either via my Kindle or downloaded directly from the website of the author. You can find info for free on pretty much anything if youre willing to take the time, and there are also a bunch of useful info products and subscription services which will distill this infiormation into an easy to follow guide and even provide it in audio and video formats (though you do need to be somewhat cautious about which of these you invest in).
YES, TECHNOLOGY CAN BE A PAIN IN THE ARSE.
Technology is never perfect, and I have to admit I do get frustrated sometimes when trying to use technology but that’s mainly because I either haven’t taken the time to learn something properly or am trying to do too much too quickly, without proper preparation.
And of course being online all the time does have it’s disadvantages and can be hugely distracting and that’s something we all need to learn how to deal with if we’re to stay sane and clear-minded.
What’s worse, environmentally and ethically there are a huge amount of issues with the sourcing of components and the disposal of obsolete tech.
But it’s hard not to see the positive sides. technology and the internet levels the playing field (at least it does for the time being) and allows anyone who’s got a creative urge to set up a website and get their work out there.
Of course the amount of effort and time involved in doing that is not to be underestimated, but I think it’s fair to say that technology currently gives creative people an opportunity that even 15 years ago would have been unimaginable. Who knows how long it might last? Get on board while you can.
The Ditch the Day Job Video Diaries are 20 video diaries I have filmed since I took voluntary redundancy in February 2012 – after ten years working in the Scottish civil service.
The videos also feature footage from a couple of adventures I went on to meet other bloggers and self-employed people from around the world and get their perspectives, including the World Domination Summit in Portland and a trip to Oslo.