Tweeting my running

Humorous Pictures
(via icanhascheezburger)

I’ve got a new GPS watch thing. It rocks. It records distance/elevation/pace etc. and then by the magic of technology uploads my route to a website where the runs are mapped onto google maps and I can set goals (this week’s goal is to run more than 40 miles by next Sunday – I probably won’t manage it).

Naturally enough I want to share my wonderful running exploits with the world – who wouldn’t. I want to tweet my athleticsm. In fact I want to tweet it automatically so that you get to hear about every single run I do.

So I’ve created a twitter account for doing just that. daveharteruns sends a tweet every time a new route is completed on my watch and is uploaded to the Garmin website. The RSS feed from this is then fed to Twitter Feed which spits out the tweet when it detects new content.

It works seamlessly. In fact all I have to do is put my watch next to the laptop and while I’m in the shower it transfers the data and does the rest of the business. I can tweak the title of the run but other than that there’s no intervention needed.

So if you want to see where I’m running the go follow daveharteruns on twitter.

My Dad is definitely not on Twitter


About a year ago I was talking to some work colleagues about an event that was taking place about social media. “It’ll be full of the usual suspects,” I said. “But Dave,” they responded, “you are a usual suspect.”

I suspect that’s how I’m viewed – a usual suspect. Truth is I don’t actually attend that many events. Birmingham Social Media Cafe maybe from time to time but little else. In the last few weeks though I’m aware that I seem to be all over the place. I pitched up at West by West Midlands 2, I chaired a debate about cinema exhibition and most recently I’ve been explaining why my poor dead Dad (30 years gone this year) isn’t on twitter.

You can read elsewhere about the mindmap idea behind the event ‘My Dad’s on Twitter but he doesn’t know why’ at Fazeley Studios in Digbeth. I think I gave a rather dour speech about how Twitter seems to come with a whole set of unwritten rules that puts newcomers off and can be intimidating for organisations. Tolerance towards people’s mistakes was my request. Some useful points were made from the audience. One of them took me to task about my argument that digital doesn’t archive as well as analogue. Digital captures conversation, was his response and what a rich seam to mine that would prove to future historians.

The second half of my talk touched on the Internet of Things. No-one really picked up on this despite my fab example of GusandPenny, the tweeting cat flap. My argument here is simple. Once Twitter gets filled up with objects, rather than people, we’ll realise how dull we are in comparison and how our unwritten rules were naive at best. A Twitter of Things is coming I declared – I’m not sure anyone believed me.

An enjoyable evening overall, some sharp questions from an engaged audience and some drawing to boot.

Fazeley Studios Digital Festival continues throughout next week.

Did I miss anything?


And I’m back

As promised, I’ve now given my £40 to St Basils – happy to have you do the same if you wish. Although I do appreciate that giving up twitter is hardly some kind of great sacrifice so will understand if you’re not inclined to hand over a few pennies. It was generally harder than I realised though.

Oh and it is good to be back. I’ve been on so many ‘awesome runs’ and have been gagging to tell you all about them…

Outsourcing Lent

 

Okay, so as well as giving up twitter for Lent I’ve been thinking I could usefully give up other stuff for Lent on behalf of people who just haven’t got the time or inclination to do it for themselves. That’s right, I’m offering you the chance to outsource your Lent obligations – want to give up crisps for Lent but can’t actually bring yourself to do it? I’ll do it for you.

Here’s how it works:

  • Decide what you’d like me to give up for Lent on your behalf. Put it in a comment here or drop me an email (dave [at] daveharte.com). I’m on twitter only until the end of today (24th Feb)
  • It has to be something you want to give up. So if you say: “Dave I want you to give up being a tit for Lent,” then that’s fine but it’s more a reflection on you than me. 
  • I’ll do most things that don’t adversely affect my ability to stay alive and earn a living. I won’t be giving up running.
  • It’ll cost you. Minimum price is a £1 a day. Lent is 40 days approx so that’s £40. Too much? Well if I get 10 of you who want to give up the same thing, chocolate as an example, for £4 each then that’s fine. Clubbing together is a good way to do this – you do the maths.
  • If you commit, I’ll commit. I’ll begin your fast straight away but if the dosh doesn’t appear by the weekend I’ll presume you don’t want me to continue. Donations via my charity page.
  • Monies to go to St Basils, a youth homelessness charity in Digbeth, Birmingham.
  • I’ll post up progress on your fasting on this blog.
Let me know if you’re interested.
 

Giving up Twitter for Lent

I’m giving up twitter for Lent. Now don’t go thinking this is part of some complex social experiment to remind myself of how life used to be before twitter – it’s nothing of the sort. It’s Lent, I’m just crazy about Lent and would love to have you help me out with my twitter-fast.

Like a lot of Catholics, I’m lapsed, lapsed since circa 1984 in fact, having given up the altar boy stuff a few years before that. I’ve not given up anything for Lent since then but I always enjoyed the banter amongst family and friends about who was going to give up what. It was usually something like swearing (impossible), chocolate (near impossible) or cabbage (erm, easy). So after a 24 year break Lent is back in my life and this year I’m giving up twitter.

For every day I manage to stay away from twitter I’ll give a pound to the Digbeth-based youth homelessness charity, St. Basils. Given that Lent refers to the 40 days and nights Jesus spent messing about in the desert that’s £40 for a start. For those that would like to show their support for what I’m doing you too can donate to the #keepdaveofftwitter campaign. Obviously multiples of 40 work and I don’t care if you give 40 x 1p, 40 x 10p or whatever you choose. All welcome. I run a marathon later this year but I’ll probably forego raising funds for that and see how I get on with this instead. There’s a second part to this Lent-based fundraising – info to follow. Am outsourcing Lent – see here.

So here’s the rules for the twitter-fast:

  • Lent varies in length according to different beliefs but in my book it’s from the start of 25th February (Ash Wednesday) to the end of 11th April (Holy Saturday).
  • I can’t look at twitter.com or use twhirl or any other app. My phone can’t access the net anyway so I won’t get updates there.
  • I can’t use an RSS feed of any sort to look at tweets.
  • I will be honest with you. If I lapse I’ll put £2 in for that day but I really don’t anticipate lapsing.
  • I reckon #keepdaveofftwitter is a useful hashtag for this. Not that I’ll be reading your tweets anyway.
  • Although not on twitter I do still exist (on email, dave[at]daveharte.com and on the phone and in person)
  • I may glance at Facebook as I have a couple of friends on there who never use any other medium but I’ve long since stopped posting updates directly on there, pushing them through twitter instead.
I’m not alone with this idea but the least I can do is turn my time in the social media wilderness into a positive for a local charity. Love to have your support.

Social Media ‘Seminar for Success’

I did a presentation at one of Aston Science Park’s ‘Seminars for Success’ this week – I don’t do many 7.30am starts so that’s almost worth a post in itself. All I want to do here is say thanks to those that sent me positive feedback afterwards and a general hello to some new followers on Twitter and LinkedIn. All the speakers’ presentations are posted up on the Science Park website and for reference mine is below also. It looks a bit brief without the arm-waving and additional anecdotes but you get the general point. Any questions please get in touch (in the comments or dave [at] daveharte.com):

At last – a 4IP project

Here’s the first Channel 4 4IP project. Yes that’s right, after all the chat and various launches we’ve got something we can point at and say “oh I see, that’s what they wanted”.

The first thing of note is that it’s a citizen journalism project, in fact it’s a football citizen journalism project. Myfootballwriter is run by Rick Waghorn whose service is based around using social media (Twitter and Jaiku) to allow Norwich City football fans contribute to discussions about their team. Rick expresses the importance of the moment to Canaries fans:

“And with the help of our new friends at Channel Four and their 4iP digital innovation fund, it means that you – this passionate, niche, Norwich City community, you – are right at the very forefront of new media innovation in this country and beyond. You are the shock troops of a new age of journalism.”

The innovation that’s attracted the investment is the Backchat facility that aggregates the fans’ conversations. Here’s a better explanation from the Guardian:

“The first test will be around the Norwich vs Ipswich match this Sunday…..The project starts as part of the Norwich City fan site, aggregating comments posted via fans through Twitter or Jaiku, and they have developed the name ‘Backchat’ so that the conversation will be platform agnostic. All messages tagged #ncfc will be picked up by this Norwich City version. so maybe we’ll see a few from Delia in there…”

Well done to Rick who has another idea brewing about innovation in online advertising. As he says on his blog this is the first 4IP idea to go through the online application process and come out the other side. You’ll have noticed of course that although the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Northern Ireland/Scotland have regional funding in place to match 4IP this is a national pot of funds. So the second thing of note is that this London/Norwich idea proves that good ideas will be funded no matter where they come from, having regional money matters a lot less than having a decent idea.

So how close are we to seeing the first West Midlands 4IP project? Screen WM’s info on 4IP is here. The diagram explaining the decision-making process is here (PDF link).

Social Media’s hidden legacy

This is a cross-post from my blog at the Birmingham Post

Two things trouble me about social media. The first is that everyone I read or connect to via Twitter or Facebook or whatever, seems to be having a much more exciting life than me. It’s a world of gallery openings, launches, great nights out or simply wonderful sunny, lazy days untroubled by personal dramas or upheavals.

Not that I’m jealous of course. Well actually of course it’s because I’m jealous. I even get invited to some of the same events that my friends and colleagues go to I just never seem to get round to going to them – either through a lack of willing babysitters or, more likely, a general acceptance that I’m a long way from being renaissance man. A beer and night in front of the telly are usually all the cultural activity I can muster after a day at work.

The key thing that troubles me though is what historians will make of the social media footprints we’re leaving behind us. Specifically, I wonder what social historians will make of Birmingham and its people when they come to look back on our early 21st century twittering. I suspect they’ll immediately smell a rat – what, they’ll ask, are these people hiding? Was life really a joyous social whirlwind? What kind of lives did Birmingham people live and why didn’t they use the new media tools available to tell us about it?

If you lay out this city’s social media network in front of you it would be a bit like those formal, rigid family portraits that adorn our walls as they did our grandparents’ walls. That is, they conceal more than they reveal. The great academic Stuart Hall, himself linked to Birmingham through his time at Birmingham University’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in the 1960s and 70s, pointed out how immigrant communities of the 1950s were represented by stiff family portraits, dressed in their Sunday best. What they concealed were lives plagued by prejudice, persecution and social injustice.

Of course Hall was talking about a medium that was already mature. Its rhetorical devices, particularly in portraiture, were already well established. If you popped into your local high street photographer back then the only input you had into the image-making process was what background you would be sat in front of. Social media on the other hand allows for endless choices of expression. Okay so with Twitter you’ve got a maximum of 140 characters but there’s nothing to stop you twittering all day if you want to.

Although social media platforms are in their earliest phases the historian’s gaze will inevitably turn to them as a source of evidence to tell stories about us, probably sooner than it did with photography. It took until the 1970s for academics to see value in personal photography as an area of study and immediately they realised the interesting stuff was behind the image rather that in it.

Plenty of people tell me Birmingham seems to have been quick on the uptake with Social Media. Both in terms of using and testing new services and in terms of having a small group of entrepreneurs who are trying to develop new social media applications from which there is business to be made.

But if we are at the forefront then we need to listen to ourselves now and again. At best we demonstrate the vibrancy of living in an exciting city with lots to offer but at worst it descends into a curious uncritical mush and represents our city as one with its head in the sand – too excitable to see the wheat from the chaf or tell the good times from the bad.

It’s time to think about what’s not being said. Not so much ‘Digital – More Power or Powerless’ but ‘Useful or Useless’.