Question: Why Do You Blog?

Ok, I have a question for you.  I want to know why you blog.  The reason I want to know this is because I’m preparing a lecture on autobiography and blogging, and I want to know what the medium of the blog uniquely offers those who choose to blog.  I am particularly interested in why people choose to blog about their personal experience of the everyday, rather than those who blog for professional or business reasons; however, I do appreciate all thoughts, opinions and perspectives on this topic!

So, what does the form of the blog do for your writing?  Do you blog to help you reflect and articulate, or do you blog to share, connect and build a community?  If both, which is more important to you?  Would you blog if no-one was reading?

I will be using a selection of responses in my lecture, which is as part of an undergraduate unit at Stirling University on Digital Media, and I will be feeding back to this blog too with results and conclusions.  Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!!

Teaching With YouTube


A while ago I presented a paper at a conference concerned with the teaching of contemporary women writers at Brighton University.  My paper was about how I teach using YouTube as a way of enhancing my tutorials.  After I presented, I received a lovely email from Dr. Nicole King inviting me to turn my paper into an article for the magazine WordPlay, which is the English Subject Centre publication for Higher Education in the UK.

Today, I received a copy of the magazine with my article in it, and words cannot express how happy it makes me to see my words in print 🙂

Here’s the introduction:

The screen on the laptop becomes animated as a figure of a woman fidgets awkwardly in front of a microphone.  The camera takes in the mocking scepticism of those sitting in the audience and the cynical raised eyebrow of the critical music mogul judge.  The background music begins and the woman starts to sing, her voice soaring with a clear resonance evidently astounding to the attendant crowd.  The clip lasts only minutes, streamed directly from source to computer, and yet it has been watched by millions and has generated a media storm leading to international news coverage, tabloid frenzy, Oprah interviews and a week’s retreat to ‘The Priory’.  Surely this is the power of the Internet, and, more specifically, the power of YouTube.

And yet, the power of YouTube as an educational resource is still largely underestimated, as it is currently more famous for its facilitation of Britain’s Got Talent singer Susan Boyle’s hyperbolic rise to international celebrity than for its usefulness to the university teacher.  However, the video-sharing website surely deserves recognition as a valuable tool in the university teacher’s arsenal, rather than be disregarded as a fame machine for the talented few and the talentless many.

If that’s whetted your appetite, then you can download the magazine as a pdf document here: WordPlay.

If you like what you read, and you would like to approach me to write for your publication, please get in touch with me at amypalko [at] madasafish [dot] com.

Pointless Babble?

Branching Veins

According to recent research carried out by Pear Analytics, 40.5% of all tweets are classifiable as ‘pointless babble,’ which the researchers defined as  ‘the “I am eating a sandwich now” tweets’.  You can read their full report which is downloadable as a white paper from their website; however, the BBC sum up the percentages here stating that:

it found that 40.5% could be classified as pointless babble, 37.5% as conversational and 8.7% as having pass-along value. Self promotion and spam stood at 5.85% and 3.75% respectively.

To be honest, I am dissatisfied with the classification of certain tweets as ‘pointless babble’.  In fact, I would go so far as to say it is those tweets which inform us about your choice of sandwich, the weather in your area, your indecision over which shoes to wear or your confession to treating yourself to a sneaky glass of rosé that brings the necessary level of humanity to your twitterstream.

It’s these small insights into the ordinary everyday that offer necessary points of connection; they offer a degree of commonality which others can relate to and respond to.  Following the sharing of the quotidian, conversation naturally flows, and it is from here that one can then go on to self-promote or offer those tweets defined as having a ‘pass-along’ value.  By offering up small, seemingly insignificant details, communication is sparked and friendships are born.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t follow bots.  I’m not interested in the firing out of information regardless of how relevant it may be to my interests.  I would much rather follow those that tweet about their everyday triumphs, struggles, decisions, disappointments, appetites.  I would much rather follow human beings with all their wonderful foibles, idiosyncrasies, oddities and failings.

For me the ‘babble’ is far from pointless – it’s the glue that sticks a community together; it’s the unapologetic celebration of human conversation.

How about you?  How do you feel about the classification ‘pointless babble’?  Do you think there’s too much of it on Twitter, or are you like me & revel in these invitations to connect?

Announcement: New PeopleMaps Role

Leaf By Leaf

I have a bit of an announcement to make today.  For the last month I have been working with a fantastic company as their online community manager and as a contributor towards their social media strategy.

PeopleMaps is a company that provides personality profiling technology through their creation of a Personality Power Widget.  In their own words:

PeopleMaps builds Personality Power Widgets to provide psychological profiling (sometimes called personality or psychometric testing) products to businesses and individuals across the globe. We are experts in psychology, technology and marketing and make affordable profiling available to everyone with access to the Internet.

I am so excited to be working with them, not only because they are at the cutting edge of developing innovative personality products, but also because of their Philosophy Manifesto.  Who wouldn’t want to work with a company which states:

As a philosophy, we believe that one should alter the environment to suit one’s individual personality, instead of bending the individual out of shape to suit the environment. This could be a work environment, a home environment, a romantic environment; it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that to be productive, to be inspired, to be happy, to be successful,  to be at your best, you need to be operating in an environment compatible with your personality. We need the world to relate to us – and communicate with us in a personality centric way.

Pretty cool, hey?

So, what exactly is the service that I’m providing PeopleMaps?

Well, my role as an online community manager means that I am setting up and maintaining Ning communities, so as to facilitate collaboration and co-ordination within the company, as well as managing PeopleMaps’ participation in larger communities such as those found on Twitter and FaceBook.  I’m also creating training documents for a number of social networking sites, such as Ning and Twitter, to ensure that all those within the company are comfortable and capable of participating within the PeopleMaps online community, and to that end, I offer ongoing support and advice when needed.

I have also helped to develop the social media strategy for PeopleMaps, and I will be helping to deliver that strategy over the coming months.  This will mean that I (along with others in the company) will be growing, contributing & promoting the PeopleMaps twitter account, @peoplemaps,  and the PeopleMaps FaceBook fanpage.

If you are unfamiliar with PeopleMaps, then I thoroughly recommend that you check out their brand spanking new website.  It’s got some fantastic content on it already, and they have just launched a private beta of their Power Widget.  Also, if you’re looking for some free fun stuff, check out the PeopleMaps Playground!

NB  If you are interested in working with me, please check out my About Amy page for more on my skills & background, and my LinkedIn profile will provide you with more on my professional activites plus recommendations etc.


On the 25th of June I graduated with my doctoral degree for my thesis Charting Habitus: Stephen King, the Author Protagonist and the Field of Literary Production. It’s been a long and, at times, arduous journey, but I got there eventually, and the celebrations were a lovely way to mark the end of my time as a student in higher education.

Here’s a short clip of me collecting my degree:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Graduation“, posted with vodpod

Thanks go to everyone who helped me on my way. I appreciate you all more than I can possibly say.

Landing Tweets Results

Floating Feather 3

Living life in the fast lane recently has resulted in a delay in sharing the fabulous landing pages that were created & improved throughout the month of May.

Take a look at those who contributed!

A quick recap of posts on Twitter landing pages in case you missed out on the writing project, but would still like to produce your own landing page:

Thanks to all who contributed – your participation was much appreciated.  And to all those who didn’t manage to get round to it in May, if you leave a comment along with a link, I’ll update this post to include your new landing page.

Also, would love feedback on this group writing project – did you find it useful/inspirational/motivational?  What writing projects would you like to see here in the future?  Do get in touch!

Up To Speed


This is a rather newsy post to get you up to speed with everything that’s been going on here.  It’s been all go!

  • Thesis – My thesis was submitted on Friday in electronic, softbound & hardbound versions and my degree has now been conferred.  It’ll be formally conferred on the 25th June when I graduate with my doctorate; however, I am now officially Dr Amy Palko.  If you are interested in reading my thesis, it is available here.
  • Location Independent – Lea Woodward has asked me to be the resident photographer for Location Independent, so you’ll be seeing a lot more of my photos over there.  On top of that, she has interviews up with me and the other team leaders talking about the concept of Location Independent & our experience of it.  I thoroughly recommend you click through for a read, as there are some really interesting views on living a life location independent.
  • The Calm Space – My photo for the month of June is available as a desktop download from The Breathing Space now.  In addition to this, however, Karen Wallace has also asked me if I would like to write for The Calm Space too, so as from this month you can find me in The Nature Space.  My first post there is called Waves of Kindness and looks at the difficult period post-submission of a phd thesis.
  • RedBubble – In other photography news, I have added some new images to my RedBubble shop and I have been selling some prints.  Please do go and have a look at them and let me know what you think!
  • Landing Tweets Project – Lastly, the weekend was the deadline for participating in the Landing Tweets group writing project.  So if you managed to put together a landing page over the month of May, or you reworked the one you already had, please do add a comment here.  I will be collating all the entries in a post later this week!

Right, I think that’s everything for just now.  Would you like to share some of your news?

What Has Grass Got To Do With The Web?


Well, to answer the question the title posits, we need to turn to Deleuze & Guattari and their concept of the rhizomatic structure.  It’s such an interesting theory, particularly as, written in 1980, it seems to foretell much of the way the Web has grown, and indeed, continues to grow.

In the introduction to their important work A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze & Guattari compare the arborescent structure of trees with the rhizomatic structure of grass, claiming that

The tree is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance.  The tree imposes the verb ‘to be,’ but the fabric of the rhizome is the conjunction, ‘and…and…and’  This conjunction carries enough force to shake and uproot the verb ‘to be.’

This structure in which one is ‘always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo‘ is one which travels horizontally and consists of a series of plateaus: ‘a continuous, self-vibrating region of intensities whose development avoids any orientation toward a culmination point or external end’.

A good online example of this is the blog.  Constructed of a series of posts, it offers an articulation of the rhizome through its refusal to begin and end.  When we sit down to read a blog, we rarely read it chronologically – we are encouraged through tagging and links embedded within the text to move freely through the blog.  Unlike the codex, which traditionally constructs the reading experience from cover to cover, the blog offers a more organic understanding of the text.

Similarly, the way we are choosing to narrate our own subjective experiences through online tools appropriates the rhizomatic structure.  One only has to look at a lifestream aggregator such as FriendFeed or StoryTlr to see that we are generating multiple narratives in multiple locations, through multiple media.

If we compare our current interaction and the articulation of our own narratives with the Web as it existed in its earlier incarnation, we can see a correlation to this juxtaposition of the arborescent and the rhizomatic.  In the past, we were presented with static websites that offered no invitation to connect, collaborate or co-create.  These sites existed as complete and finished texts that kept their reader at arms length.

In stark contrast, our experience of the Web as it currently exists is one in which we are always in the middle.  We are never outside the text, regarding a finite textual structure; we are invited in to share, contribute, participate with the text.  Our narratives form a thread within the fabric, refusing the isolationism of old and embracing the richness of hybridity.

Now, as with my thoughts of Bourdieu and De Certeau, these are purely musings which are not intended to stand, as with the web of old, as finite, complete and closed.  I want to invite you in to co-create by asking you to engage with some of these thoughts and to see if some of the connections that I’ve sketched out here resonate with you.

Do you think they’re valid observations?  Are the images of the tree and grass appropriate, effective metaphors for your experience of your relationship to media and, in particular, the Web?  As a reader, how has your reading experience changed with the advent of blogging and other online media designed to help you articulate your own narrative?  What do you believe are some of the reasons for this shift?

Review: Do You Poken?

My Poken

As I mentioned in my last post which looked at attending & organising tweetups, today I’m going to be sharing my thoughts on my new poken & how I got on with it at Monday’s Edinburgh Tweetup.

Now, if you’ve never heard of a poken, don’t worry – I hadn’t heard of them either until a couple of weeks ago!  The people at Poken claim that, “We’re not another social network. You’ve already got that. We’ve thought bigger to let you instantly bridge the gap between the people you meet in the real world and those you stay connected to online.”

So, it’s not a new social network – it’s a way of sharing your social media profiles with those you meet offline.

The way it works is you buy your poken (I got mine from, and when it arrives your remove its arm and plug the USB connector into your computer.  You then run the Poken file which automatically takes you to the registration site.  There you choose what information you want to make available – on mine I’ve included my name, avatar, location & email address.  You also choose which social media profiles you want to connect to your poken – I chose Twitter, FaceBook, Flickr, LinkedIn & Ning.  One small glitch with adding my Twitter profile was that it asked for my email address & then couldn’t find my profile – what it actually needed was my username.

Once you’ve set everything up, you are then ready to to high four: this entails aligning the palms of two pokens allowing the devices to transfer the information they contain.  It stores up to 64 contacts, and when you return to your computer, you connect your poken and it uploads all your new contacts.  You can then use that information to connect with them on the various social media sites they frequent.

Nifty, isn’t it?

So, that’s the theory, but how did it work in practice?

Well, first thing I’d say is that its cheery design and the cleverness of the concept makes me inordinately happy, and at the tweetup I discovered that everyone who had one felt the same way.  However, that said, it is all still relatively new & so there weren’t that many out of a group of 50 tweeters who had one.  The poken concept will only really take off the more popular the product becomes.  As an electronic business card which specialises in social media it really is an excellent product, and I can’t see any hinderance to its ultimate success in the market.

The actual process of the high four went without a hitch; there’s a small magnetic pull between the 2 palms, and then aften a few moments both pokens glowed green to indicate that the transfer had been successful.  Not once did a see a red light to say that there was a problem with the transfer, and there weren’t enough tweeters with pokens to take it up to its limit.  The only thing I would say though is that it takes a few seconds for the device to stop glowing green, and it’s only once it’s stopped that you can then high four another poken.  This wasn’t a problem as such, but it was something I was conscious of while trying it out at the tweetup.

One small design issue seems to be the black clip that it comes with to attach it to your keyring, mobile phone etc.  It doesn’t seem particularly secure & I heard one story of someone losing theirs because of this*.  However, this is a minor problem with an otherwise excellent product.

Once home, the uploading of new contact details was extremely simple and I was then able to click through from their digital profiles to connect with them on a really broad range of social media sites. Really very impressive.

So, should you get one?

I would say yes, if you’re likely to be coming into contact with others who are social media users i.e. if you’re in an industry where social media is popular, or if you’re intending to go along to a social media meetup, such as a tweetup, flashmob, conference etc.  If you don’t tend to come into contact with social media users, then a poken is not going to really be worth your while – one poken by itself isn’t particularly useful.

If you do choose to buy one, then make sure you also take along some old-school business cards too** – at this early stage (Poken is still in Beta, after all) you cannot assume that everyone will have one and you will want to share your details with others who do not yet possess a poken.  Do not lose out on an opportunity because of this assumption!

Trevor Mendham has started a new blog Press The Plastic dedicated to these wonderful new gadgets, so for further information on poken, I would recommend that you check it out.

So do you poken? Are you tempted to? Any advice you’d like to give a new poken owner?  Is there something about the poken that’s putting you off?  Do please leave a comment & let me know what you think!

*Turns out it was @lesault who lost his poken due to a faulty clip.

**I recommend Moo cards which you can customise with your own or others’ Flickr images.

Interview With Tweetup Organiser: Baxter Tocher

Bird Silhouette

One of the main uses for Twitter is for networking – it allows you to contact a whole range of different people from a vast array of different professions.   As a virtual meeting place, nowhere on the web currently comes close to providing the opportunities for such diverse interactions that Twitter does.  And yet, I often find myself wanting more – I want to connect with my Twitter friends offline.  Sometimes this takes place over the phone, over Skype, or over coffee, but more and more frequently it’s happening at tweetups.

To explain the value of tweetups and to give you some tips on attending and organising one, I’ve asked Baxter Tocher, organiser of the popular Edinburgh Tweetups, to share with you his thoughts on how you can get the most out of tweetups. He’s been involved in social networking since “Web 2.0” first appeared and loves connecting people and finding patterns.  His generous responses will give you an idea of why he’s such a natural at organising these events – as a host he really excells himself.  I’m sure after reading what he has to say you’ll be checking out when your next local tweetup will be, or even organising one yourself!

So without further ado, here’s the interview:

Q1. What is a tweetup and why should we go along to one?

A1. Well, a tweetup is a real life gathering of folks who are somehow connected via Twitter. A few may be friends in real life who already share their experiences using Twitter, some will never have met before but will be already have discovered each other on Twitter, and others will be completely unrelated strangers who happen to find themselves in the same place at the same time, on different threads of the spiders web created by Twitter. Some will not know each other at all but will have Twitter friends or followers in common, even though they may not know it. They are connected via a web of contacts, some close and some distant. Oh, and some will have met perhaps once before, at a previous tweetup, or at a twestival, or even an unrelated event.

It’s very much a social night which gives everyone an opportunity to get to know others, to find out whether others share common interests, and perhaps to end up following each other on Twitter too. You should come along to a tweetup to meet the people that you regularly converse with on Twitter, to make new personal and business connections, to find new people to follow and be followed by, but in the main to simply have a good informal night out in a friendly environment where everyone there has at least one thing in common.

Q2. Why did you decide to organise the recent Edinburgh tweetups?

A2. Hey, I know this one! Pick me! Pick me!

Seriously, though. The Edinburgh Twestival was an utterly magical event. All of the hard work done by @jimwolffman, @tanepiper, @andrewburnett, @bureauista and @davelaw00 fitted together at very short notice to create a fabulous experience for charity: water. It gave all of those attending a superb opportunity to meet lots of other Twitter users for the first time, while ensuring that an essential cause was aided by all of the musical and fund-raising events of the evening.

From those I spoke to during that night, it became evident that there was an appetite for Twitter users to meet up more often, not necessarily for charity, but to allow folks to keep in fairly regular contact, to be able to talk informally, and importantly outwith the constraints of Twitter’s 140 character message limit.

I already had some experience of arranging social events, albeit on a much smaller scale than the Twestival! I organize the Edinburgh Diners group on Meetup, and I also host the Edinburgh Lunch Bunch there, though the latter events are jointly run by my good friends @jehollin and @blitzmiz.

So I thought I’d go ahead and book a venue, and see what happened. Everyone said they enjoyed it, and some folks asked me to organize another. So here we are already with the second Edinburgh Tweetup.

Q3. What has the response to the tweetups been?

A3. To be honest, it’s been knockout. Around 40 of us attended the first one, and it’s looking like there may be nearly 70 of us the second one. It’s been way more successful than I’d hoped.

In terms of feedback, everyone has been very positive. For anyone wanting to check what folks have said, have a look on Twitter for the hashtag #edtweetup.

Q4. What are your top tips for someone attending their first tweetup?

A4. I’d say try and speak to as many people as you can. Four hours or so is a limited time. Not everyone has a list of who’s expected to arrive, and there may very well be people there that you already follow on Twitter that you haven’t yet met. If you’re looking to do business, it may happen in the sidelines, though that’s not the main purpose. So if you’re going to do that, please do it subtly. And for the record, I don’t want to buy, or sell, anything!

If you’re looking for someone with particular hobbies or skills, don’t be afraid to ask the organizer. They’ll be trying their best to keep a handle on who has arrived or is running late, and what specific interests or skills they might have. They’ll likely be able to connect you with web designers, musicians, promoters, authors, bloggers and even bathroom fitters, if that’s what you need. If you want to discuss films, books or music, the organizer may be able to point you towards others with whom you have a common interest. And most importantly, if you just want to meet people and have a few drinks, that’s just fine.

Oh,and if you’ve a poken*, please take in with you!

Q5. What are your top tips for someone organising a tweetup?

A5. If you can find a private venue or a function room that’s the right size, and it’s very central for buses and trains, make that your starting point. It’s also worth bearing in mind that you don’t want to be out of pocket in arranging a tweetup.

One thing that became clear after the first Edinburgh tweetup was completely counterintuitive – being in a room with limited connectivity to Twitter is a bonus. Yes, you heard that right! Tweetups are about talking to others face to face. If there’s somewhere nearby with wifi and/or a great 3G signal (say a bar upstairs or next door), that’ll do just fine. There’s no value in folks spending the entire evening typing into a mobile Twitter client at a tweetup. That’s what a lot of us do on a daily basis already.

Finally, as an organizer you need to try and ensure that everything is running smoothly. And finally, don’t forget that you’re allowed to enjoy yourself too. Organizing and having fun are not mutually exclusive!

Thanks Baxter!!

Have you attended or organised a tweetup?  What advice would you give to someone who was attending or organising one for the first time?  If you haven’t been to one yet, what’s holding you back?  Oh, and if you’re coming along to tonight’s tweetup in Edinburgh, I’ll see you there!

*Poken – I’ll be writing a review of how my new poken fares tonight.  Expect it on Thursday!