Szeling1972's Blog

May 21, 2010

Week Eleven – OpenBookMelb going live!

Filed under: Uncategorized — szeling1972 @ 6:57 am

Our group blog has gone live and we’re busy with user testing, getting friends to test and checking it out ourselves. We already hate, hate, hate WordPress as its templates are so inflexible and boring.

Like so many others, I’m getting sick of Facebook and have come to distrust them. Elle has a list of alternatives to Facebook none of which I particularly like (Friendster, flickr, Twitter). A friend suggests tumblr, which she calls ‘the scrapbook of blogging’ and I immediately love it. I like it because it encourages you to post about stuff which your friends can then comment on, it’s about something. I kind of wish we’d done our blog on it as it’s great visually. Oh well, there’s always next time.

May 7, 2010

Week Nine – Dangers of Twitter

Filed under: Uncategorized — szeling1972 @ 6:15 am

Our group project is slowly taking shape despite one member’s non appearance. Judging by our writing and editing assignments we’ll have some good content. Now to some image banks to make it look good.

The Catherine Deveny Twitter scandal has been strangely comforting for someone so  suspicious of the medium. I’ve always thought it would be too easy to do the equivalent of drunk texting on it, only this is far worse with the potential to reach thousands, or in the case of American tween Justin Bieber over two million. I was gobsmacked to read Catherine’s defense of her tweets, ‘It was just passing notes in class, but suddenly these notes are being projected into the sky and taken out of context.’ What else was she expecting to happen? I’m amazed at her naivety. And the harshness with which she’s been treated, especially when another, male, comedian made some equally tasteless jokes tweeting on the same night.

May 4, 2010

Discount Bookshops in Melbourne

Filed under: Uncategorized — szeling1972 @ 5:26 am

Discount books are found in a surprising variety of places –  small, anonymous bookshops in the CBD, warehouse outlets and even large supermarket chains.

I first discovered them when the shop assistant in the large multinational book chain noticed the author of the book I was buying. She leans over and confidentially whispers, ‘So you’re a Dave Eggers fan then? My friend just texted and told me Dirt Cheap Books has a new shipment of McSweeney’s. You should get over there.’ There’s something delicious about getting a tip like this and particularly from an obviously disillusioned employee of the Big Guys, so I rushed over to take a look.

Dirt Cheap Books has branches all over Melbourne. I went to the one in Collingwood which is a big warehouse situated at the corner of Johnston and Hoddle Streets. It looks cheap, dirt cheap indeed and is a big, no frill, two storey building with piles of books. I was particularly impressed when I saw a book I had been about to buy full price, the biography of Phil Noyce, the Australian film director in there for less than half price.

A much smaller but perhaps more highbrow discount book shop is Fly By Night which has branches in the CBD and South Melbourne. I visit the Elizabeth Street one in the CBD regularly as you never know when they’ll have someone you want in. On my last visit, I picked up a Christine Mansfield cookbook and a book of AA Gill’s ascerbic columns.

Best value find came at probably the most surprising place, the large discount wholesaler Costco, a type of mega supermarket, in Docklands. (You need to be a member to shop here so make sure you sign up before you go or go with a friend who is a member). In the middle of the store are some large tables covered with books, mostly non-fiction such as cookbooks and biographies, but it was here I found the best collection of children’s books, including an Olivia the pig gift set containing one large hard cover book complete with a CD narration by Dame Edna and one small volume hard cover of another Olivia book, all for just $15. Outstanding value when you consider that an unpackaged hard cover volume of Olivia usually retails for $26.95.

Discount bookshops are like anywhere else you get discounts, you generally have to take the time to sift through piles and piles maybe not so good quality stuff to find what you want, but when you find a great book at a huge discount the great feeling you get of achievement makes it all worthwhile.

Do you have a great discount bookstore near you? Let us know your favourite in the comments section.

April 30, 2010

Week Eight – Our group blog is taking shape

Filed under: Uncategorized — szeling1972 @ 6:12 am

Our group leader Briony is doing a stellar job setting up our Open Book Melbourne blog and has already started a Facebook page and Twitter account. And with assignment two due due next week the site content is coming together. Most exciting! While writing my commission for my partner Matthew’s bookshop reviews I find myself writing about video links ‘but make sure the quality is excellent’. I realise this is because most amateur video online that I’ve seen is such bad quality it often makes the subject look bad and devalues the site it’s shown on. I go to Youtube and check out video of my favourite bookshop, the English-language specialist Shakespeare & Co in Paris… lo and behold it looks like any other indie bookshop, lots of books in shelves. Not that exciting. Then I find a piece somewhat confusingly just called Shakespeare filmed for the local Paris TV channel Paris Cap featuring a French presenter speaking in French who interviews staff in the bookshop and shows the mood of this small, charming bookshop admirably. Something to aspire to, but not really in our league right now for our blog.

April 23, 2010

Week Seven – User Generated Content, two very different outcomes

Filed under: Uncategorized — szeling1972 @ 12:07 am

Like so much of the mainstream media right now, our project aims to get a bit of user generated content (UGC) to fill up the space. I see a great example on The Age food blog, which is asking readers to name the worst food suburbs in Australia. (http://blogs.theage.com.au/entertainment/tabletalk/terrydurack/2010/04/11/dobinyoursuburbnowaustral.html). At last count there were 552 comments. Just over a week later the intrepid Herald Sun have their own poll as part of a story about cheap eats, ‘Nominate your best value place to eat in Melbourne’ and receives one comment. (http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/its-a-stir-fry-winner-says-food-critic-stephen-downes/story-e6frf96f-1225855734354). There are some obvious reasons why The Age poll got so many more comments than the Herald Sun’s – Australia-wide, not just Melbourne readership, the blog is of Terry Durack a high-profile foodie, The Age had a link to the poll just under their headlines… but still, the Herald Sun must now be looking at their methods of generating UGC and how they can improve them.

April 16, 2010

Week Six – Twittering

Filed under: Uncategorized — szeling1972 @ 4:59 am

After someone I’ve never heard of starts following me on Twitter, then one of my favourite authors Margaret Atwood becomes a Twitter convert (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/apr/07/love-twitter-hooked-fairies-garden) I cruise around online trying to find out more about it. Because I really still just don’t get it. I’m noticing it more in the news, mainly soft news, like Jim Carrey announcing his relationship break up, but no one my age is talking about it, and I really don’t feel like I need it.

I find a post about some Google Twitter projects (http://www.pcworld.com/article/194346/google_rolls_out_two_new_twitter_tools.html), one of which, Google Follow Finder, might explain how this random stranger came to be my follower. Google can suggest people to follow, based on similar interests, so maybe she’s a foodie. Or maybe not…

The latest news on Twitter (http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/media/article7095914.ece) is about their pushing into advertising, and is not as bad as I feared (random companies tweeting me).  If you search for a term, advertising relevant to that term can be sent to you… like if you search for ‘Starbucks’ an ad for that company might come up. As long as if I type in ‘restaurants’, 50 restaurant ads don’t get sent to my account it’s not going to be too offensive. Bravo.

April 5, 2010

Week Five – Is online journalism about to get a whole lot more interesting?

Filed under: Uncategorized — szeling1972 @ 2:48 am

I’m losing loyalty to the tomatom blog as Ed doesn’t post that much right now, so I spent my internet cruising time checking out web opinion on announcement that The Times online is going to be charging soon. I finally find this article http://econsultancy.com/blog/4388-murdoch-can-charge-for-content-online-but-can-anyone-else and also http://community.brandrepublic.com/blogs/gordons_republic/archive/2010/03/26/one-cup-of-coffee-murdoch-pitches-the-times-at-163-2-a-week.aspx. It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens, especially as the NY Times tried to charge a few years ago and had to reneg. As a consumer I’m not willing to pay for news online, but I can see why newspapers might need to charge to fund good journalism. But will the money be spent on this or put into Murdoch’s pocket?

March 25, 2010

Week Four – Assessment, assessment and more assessment

Filed under: Uncategorized — szeling1972 @ 9:17 pm

So much homework to do, but at least I can appreciate why I’m doing it and as it reminds me of previous work in marketing and publishing I’m quite enjoying it.

Right on time an old colleague sends me a link to a digitial symposium she went to recently, which was filmed and posted on the Australian Publishers Association website in the Professional Development section (http://www.publishers.asn.au/digitalrevolution.cfm). The marketing bit by Brett Osmond of Random House is very interesting and perfect for the assignment I’m currently doing. I like a quote he mentions – ‘At the end of every link should be the chance to have a conversation’ which comes from a guy called Mike Schatzkin, so I go and look at his blog, The Shatzkin Files (http://www.idealog.com/blog/) which discusses ebooks and digital publishing. Good promotional blog for a company which describes itself as ‘a book publishing futurist company’.

I decide to propose something a bit controversial, something that might be considered unethical for updating our listings website, which is to get marketing departments to directly update the listings content themselves once a week, reminding them with a generic automatically generated email mid-week. The rationale is that we’re all time poor volunteers on the site and a half done listings site looks shite; whereas the marketing people are really going to make sure their listings look good. The main challenge I think will be information security – giving access to others outside the company and the damage they could do to other information on the site (like delete it ). We would still edit the site to ensure this wouldn’t happen, or if it did, it could be fixed asap. Maybe giving access to market departments is something some listings sites already do. How do I find out – marketing people are so freaking cagey about this stuff…

Ed Charles’ tomatom.com blog is co-promoting a food blog photo exhibition at St Ali so I might try and take Rem down today. Explains why his blog output has been minimal of late. I don’t currently have photos on my food blog, as I still don’t quite get how to take photos in a restaurant anonymously… and surely a proper review is done anonymously? Must ask Ed about this.


March 24, 2010

Week Three – How not to do a listings site

Filed under: Uncategorized — szeling1972 @ 3:16 am

This week my little family has been struck down by  gastro and flu and one suspected case of chicken pox, so the internet has mainly been used for Google queries such as “what does chicken pox look like?” and for looking up doctor’s surgeries in my area. The medical listings available are such rubbish and I realise how much a comprehensive directory needs to be made, rather than the plethora of sponsored directories listing a couple of businesses each and properly kept up to date. Perhaps the council could employ someone to do this.

Otherwise I did manage to look at the research done by Wei on the Bookish website we want to do for our group assignment. This link shows what Wei has done and my thoughts on it: http://webmelbourne.posterous.com/class-project-the-bookish-one. I’m worried with a directory that we’ll bite off more than we can chew, then I see the assignment we have due next week and am pleased as it will make us really define and limit the scope of what we’re trying to do. My experience of rubbish listings sites this week has made me very aware of listing sites done badly so I will learn from these!

March 11, 2010

Week Two – HTML humour and SEO writing

Filed under: Uncategorized — szeling1972 @ 10:36 pm

This week’s lesson on html took me back to the first time I used it – 15 years ago! I used to update my employer’s website using basic html. My favourite tag was <blink> which makes a word flash on the screen, so when my boss gave me a job I hated I would find the page which contained his name and title and make it flash, very cheesy but a popular joke at the company.

Reminiscing about previous jobs gets me thinking about another job, this one as an internet marketing copywriter and I have a look at my links from that. http://www.wordtracker.com/ was a site we used to read, my favourite article is called http://www.wordtracker.com/academy/stop-the-slaughter-of-innocent-copy about the horrible writing that goes on in the name of getting a site higher in the Google ranking. Pretty much agrees with Sarah’s view on the matter.

Ed Charles from Tomatom hasn’t blogged this week so I check out the SBS food website (http://www.sbs.com.au/food/) to see if it’s improved… but they’re still reliant on the Gourmet Farmer and Food Safari brands, both of which are fronted by people I find really annoying along with the flashing imagery and a too-busy page. As they say in Singapore, distraction-lah!

For the group project, it looks like it’s just Briony, Wei and I doing a book site, which is good as we’re all really into it. Briony suggested we do a site about literary Melbourne, like a list of bookshops per suburb etc. I don’t mind as long as we have a bit of an entertaining element to it, so I suggested break out boxes with passages from books set in Melbourne describing Melbourne in them.

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