Belfast Twestival

The dust has settled and the hashtag has gone quiet but Thursday night’s Twestival in Belfast was nothing short of a spectacular event.

Organisers @Lopsi and @illusivelu

From Left - Organisers @Lopsi and @illusivelu

Organised by the rather smashing @Lopsi and @IllusiveLu and held at one of Belfast’s newest venues, Slide, the evening got off to a great start with RAMs’ Pocket Radio setting the tone for the evening. If you haven’t heard Peter before, you are truly missing out. Accompanied by Shauna Tohill on vocals the pair brought a dreamy, delicate sound to the beginning of the night, engaging with the growing audience and setting a high bar for the other 2 acts to follow.

Ram's Pocket Radio

RAMS' Pocket Radio

Up next were the excellent Seven Summits, bringing a little more edge to events and getting heads nodding and feet tapping. The new line up sounds great and having seen them at Trans Belfast last summer, there is a clear improvement in their direction. Keep an eye out for more forthcoming gigs.

Seven Summits

Seven Summits - Going up!

Before the last band of the evening, Little Wing Pizza brought what can only be described as some of the largest and tastiest pizzas in Belfast. Seriously huge but they went in a flash as people donated £1 a slice – many thanks to Phil for all his hard work on the night.

Little Wing Pizza

Little Wing Pizza, Belfast. Serious Noms.

Pudding arrived in the shape of Marshmallow Grove cupcakes, kindly donated by owner Sarah Landstreet. Again, these didn’t hang around and went down a treat.

Marshmallow Grove

Marshmallow Grove - Grab one before they go!

Claire Hanna from Concern moved on to make the raffle draw, with winners including Phil O’Kane and Lee Munroe. Again, all prizes had been kindly donated by local companies and were gratefully received.

Cutaways brought the evening to a conclusion with a fantastic set , showing just what a fine music scene Belfast has currently. Blistering guitars and beautiful vocals, their music gallops along with infectious rhythm and zingy synths. Make sure you check them out soon.


Cutaways - Infectious!

Just a final word of thanks to all those who came down, raising over £600 for Concern. Be proud of yourselves Belfast.

You can see all the photos from the night here

Place your bets! A quick look at Chat Roulette

So you have either been on Chat Roulette or you haven’t. The basic premise is that it will hook up your webcam to any other webcam to chat to someone else currently logged on the site. The results are limitless however the main scene is a bored looking guy staring at you and then disappearing. Occasionally you will arrive at someone who waves or says hi but mainly it looks like a whole bunch of random guys cruising for something which isn’t going to appear. A girl. Preferably with minimal clothes on.

That is how the site started off but increasingly it is becoming a place where the exhibitionists are hanging out. In some cases, literally! A quick look on Google for Chat Roulette Screenshots will show you some of what is going on. Just be aware that some of the images are not safe for work.

What did catch my eye was this fantastic piano guy, who plays and sings about the other person who is connecting to him. It’s a stroke of genius and something to be enjoyed amongst the banal and often seedy side of Chat Roulette. Enjoy.

You can read more over at Panic Dots and TheRonster

How to burst a bubble – 14th March 2000

10 years ago today, I sat with my colleagues at Ask Jeeves as the stock markets opened and’s IPO finally took place. We had been anticipating this moment for weeks and the truth was that if could make a successful launch on to the stock market, the Dot Com world would be a virtual land of milk and honey. We all had shares options in Ask Jeeves the success of’s float would determine the potential of our own stocks.

Brent and Martha - Our great hope

We had been in Emeryville, California for 3 months to learn the ropes and be immersed in the company culture, something we certainly got to grips with very quickly. Now back in London after our time away, we were sure we had the world at our feet and a potential fortune in our back pockets. This was looking like a golden time for us all. 

Ask Jeeves UK Team

Ask Jeeves UK Team

The atmosphere was electric as the opening bell rang but despite a strong opening day the price slipped south at an accelerated rate. Martha Lane Fox and Brent Hoberman had ruined everything as far as we could see it – the chances of our options ever being worth anything seemed like a distant hope and with that, the Dot Com bubble had burst.  The NASDAQ had peaked 4 days earlier on the 10th March 2000 – the date now widely accepted as the turning point towards rapid deflation.

In true Ask Jeeves style though, the money didn’t dry up immediately, there were regular parties and Friday afternoon beer bashes in the “Chill Out Room”. One of these Friday afternoons moved to an evening in the Firkin pub below our offices before closing time came around and the decision to return to the office was made to drink the left over beer. Cue a scene of carnage – drinking, dancing, fighting and a sprinkling of inappropriate kissing. Imagine then the horror of your American VP of Operations walking through the door just as two grappling lesbians smash a large glass lamp in a drunken play fight.  

Not. A. Good. Look.  

What happened next though shocked everyone when said VP of Operations grabbed the nearest beer and started pogo-ing around the room to “Who Let the Dogs Out“! Yes, tonight, he was one of the boys! As the party faded and everyone drifted off home, we were left with the realisation that Saturday would have to be spent cleaning the office, mopping the beer stains and sweeping up the glass. Still, as moments go, it was the stuff of legend. One of many during my employment there.  

The parties continued but the fear in the digital sector in London was mounting with companies axing staff at a scary rate. Eventually, I arrived for work one morning to be called to an all hands meeting. Our global CEO was in town and looking a little shifty. This wouldn’t end well. He explained at length how the partnership with Carlton and Granada would need to change and that this would mean a variety of knock on effects throughout the company. As I looked around the room, I could see there were a lot of people missing. Whilst I had been invited to one meeting, about 30 people had been invited to another upstairs. With HR. The meetings continued and then like an incendiary, they finished and everyone was released. I sought out my team members, they told me they had been made redundant, along with nearly all of our Sales Team. Content and Sales – 2 rather key elements in our business model and now it was going to be a bigger struggle to make it work. As everyone scattered to quiet corners and local coffee shops to conduct their own post-mortems it was clear that no work was going to get done that day. The natural gravitation to the Firkin took place and as we sat drinking in the sun and considering our futures, it was clear this was the end of an era.  

My day ended with a sweat drenched tube ride home on one of the hottest days of the year. Anyone who knows the Northern Line will understand how deeply unpleasant this is. My only cheer came from a my wife who had just had an equally odd tube ride home (a story that involved using bunch of flowers to cover her modesty). As a I ate my Solero and walked down the Balham High Road in the late afternoon sun, I knew it was the beginning of the end. Our time in London was drawing to a close.

One year of Twitter

Having been on Twitter for a year, I thought I should mark the occasion with a short post on my experiences. It’s been a interesting year, where I have gone from pure newb with poor 140 character skills to mentoring individuals and companies on their use of the platform.

Tweetie Pie

Getting my “Tweetie” on for @GraftonRec

What I have discovered though, is that you only get out what you put in. In truth, you need to spend time talking, listening, engaging, encouraging and being encouraged. Only by doing so will you start to see any kind of return on your Twitter investment. I see plenty of people who use it as a broadcast medium and never seem to engage in any form of conversation.

Some use it as a passive news stream, allowing them to keep on top of a myriad of news sources. Others seem to spend most of their time moaning about their pitiful lives (my advice here is to get off Twitter and do something positive). However you use it, it’s up to you and frankly, I don’t care. If you bore me, offend me or spam me, I can chose to unfollow you. And that is fine too.

Back at the start of this year I moved from having my Tweets protected to the more transparent “Unprotected” account status. This for me has been a liberating move and I have realised it makes me a lot more accountable for my output. It also opens up my information and tweets to the world and allows greater access to both me and my content.

In my nearly 2800 tweets in the last year, I am pretty sure I haven’t sworn – something I have consciously tried to keep to. That is not to say I don’t swear offline, it does happen but where the written word is involved, there is a chance to be more measured and consider your use of language. Personally, I find it odd to see people swearing so much online – especially when you only have 140 characters. Surely it is an impulsive thing with the spoken word but to type out an array of expletives in a tweet just seems a little lazy. Just saying.

So what have been my Twitter Highlights in the last 12 Months?

  • Making a lot of great new connections and meeting plenty of them face to face. Tweet Ups and Twestivals are great and you should get along to one if you can.
  • Launching a successful account for Grafton Recruitment (@GraftonRec) which went on to be key to 2 award wins for my work with the Grafton site. The photo of me in the Tweetie outfit helped too!
  • Seeing Belfast pulling together to produce the incredible Belfast4Haiti campaign.
  • Helping several individuals and companies to get started and win with Twitter.
  • Strengthening my own personal brand and promoting my blog and photography.
  • Reuniting with old friends including @JaimeSteele
  • The socialisation of TV and how Twitter has opened up a whole new level of interaction with broadcast media.

Within the year I have seen news stories break, engagements happen, friends hired and fired, births announced, weddings celebrated, deaths mourned and incredible amounts of knowledge and expertise shared.

Twitter is an incredible platform, real-time and more importantly, real life.

For a brief synopsis of my last 12 months, see this summary of my most used words:

Most used words on Twitter

Seems to be a pretty positive first 12 months

Social Media meets TV

In recent months there has been a big increase in social TV viewing – where viewers will engage in a running commentary on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. For those of you with a laptop or iPhone/similar handset, you may have been part of this movement already. Sitting watching X Factor on a Saturday night making comments about those cheeky chappies from Ireland. Love them or loath them they were a Twitter phenomenon with the #Jedward hashtag trending within moments of the show starting each week.


Love them or hate them - Jedward

For her part, my other half cannot stand it when I am tweeting and watching TV at the same time. For me though it is no different to sitting in the lounge and shouting to someone in the kitchen “Come in here, you’ve got to see Jedward this week, they’re doing Ghostbusters!”. It’s just a new form of engagement with people who aren’t sat beside you on the sofa.

More recently there have been other TV events that have gained a Social TV audience – Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, the E4 Series Glee (Nice hashtag – #Glee4), ITVs Primeval, the Eurovision Song Contest and just about any major sporting event. Keep an eye on the trending topics on Twitter or your friend’s Status Updates on Facebook and you can start to see how important this interaction is becoming.  It is a great way to get an additional perspective on the content that is being broadcast. For years DVDs have been available with a Directors Commentary, TV now has the equivalent, a form of live commentary that will both challenge and enhance the viewing experience.

So what is the future of this social media interaction with TV? Below are a few of my thoughts on how it may develop.

  • Real-time multimedia/multi-platform interaction – Use of a live hashtag Twitter feed on-screen via the red button during a programme. Advertisers would also be able sponsor or include a number of messages in to the feed as it is live on-screen. Given that individual shows have  fairly specific demographics, an advertiser would be happy to be offered a niche marketing opportunity.
  • Audience defined content – If you are old enough to remember the “Chose Your Own Adventure” books then perhaps you will get a chance to re-visit this concept through the medium of Social TV. Picture a scenario where you are watching a show and as a the main character reaches a key decision point, the options flash up on the screen with 2 or more hashtags for viewers to use to shape the direction of the plot. After a short advertising break, the show resumes based on how the audience wishes to direct the character. Clearly there would be multiple elements of a storyline to be filmed and this would bring its own challenges. TV though has struggled to keep people watching TV in real-time due to the emergence of Sky+ and other PVRs in recent years and by (re)engaging with the audience in real-time, the TV advertising market could be re-invigorated.
  • Online test audiences – Films could be premiered in a raw form to test audiences who then comment throughout the screening, all comments can be viewed in real-time by marketing teams who are able to improve the film before it’s release. This would mean an international audience, no travel and very little expense for a studio to get what would be extremely valuable feedback before a film is finalised.
  • Getting the formula right – My view is that it will take great content, a great distribution channel (or channels) and a selection of platforms to consume the content.

Whatever the future of TV, it is clear that online and social media are going to play an increasing part in how and where we consume broadcast media. Being part of a shared media experience, even if you are on your own, will be the shape of things to come. There are opportunities for advertisers too, certainly for those who are brave enough to try something new. I suspect the World Cup this summer will be a major test bed.

What is your view? Do you agree? How has online shaped your TV experience in the last 12 months? I’d love to know your thoughts.