Got The One I Wanted! [Ep. 33]

YESSSS!!! Booked the class I wanted for Edinburgh Yarn Festival!

So good to be back in the craft room, with lots of great spinning, knitting and giveaway stuff going on 🙂

Subscribe and say hi on Twitter/Rav/Instagram:
https://twitter.com/vero/
http://www.ravelry.com/people/thatcanadiangirl/
https://instagram.com/thatcanadiangirl/

Join us in the Ravelry group
http://www.ravelry.com/groups/along-the-lanes-podcast

Music by
preppeller
TheBeatKnitter on Soundcloud

Peace, love and snuggly shawls,
Vero

Mail Time Edition: Unboxing All The Crafty Things! [Ep. 32]

Let’s do some unboxing & craft haul admiring! I’ve had so much fun these past few months, grabbing lovely things from craft festivals, swapping with fellow handmakers.

What did I share?

My awesome swapee Tracie’s Grocery Girls Podcast:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsHAwj2jXiwpiYOdYiY3Tgg

Mrs Browns Bags:
https://www.etsy.com/shop/MrsBrownsBags

Cat & Sparrow:
https://www.etsy.com/shop/CatandSparrowUK

Claire from Beautiful Things:
http://www.clairemackaness.com

Pom Pom Magazine (& publisher of Interpretations Vol 3):
pompommag.com

Pop Cardigan by Rachel Atkinson:
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/pop-baby-cardigan

Milo by Georgie Hallam:
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/milo-3

For the Stephen West super exclusive Fun Squad necklaces giveaway, watch the next episode, where I’ll let you know how you can participate 🙂

Subscribe and say hi on Twitter/Rav/Instagram:
https://twitter.com/vero/
http://www.ravelry.com/people/thatcanadiangirl/
https://instagram.com/thatcanadiangirl/

Join us in the Ravelry group
http://www.ravelry.com/groups/along-the-lanes-podcast

Peace, love and polkadot wrapping paper,
Vero

Great London Yarn Crawl 2016 [Ep. 31]

What a fantastic yarn crawl! We visited four fabulous yarn shops, and I chatted with designers, shop owners and happy shoppers!

We visited:
Ray Stitch in Islington, London
http://raystitch.co.uk

Loop Knitting, Islington, London
http://www.loopknittingshop.com

Knit With Attitude, Stoke Newington, London
http://knitwithattitude.com/shop/

Fringe, Muswell Hill, London
http://fringe108.london

I also interviewed the wonderful Susan Cropper at Loop, Tracey at Fringe and Erika Knight, knitwear and crochet designer.

Erika’s beautiful free patterns can be found here:
http://www.erikaknight.co.uk/gossypium-cotton-free-patterns/

Tell me, what painting or work of art would you turn into a knitted version? 🙂

Music by jeff kaale and Dixxy.

Subscribe and say hi on Twitter/Rav/Instagram:
https://twitter.com/vero/
http://www.ravelry.com/people/thatcanadiangirl/
https://instagram.com/thatcanadiangirl/

Join us in the Ravelry group
http://www.ravelry.com/groups/along-the-lanes-podcast

Peace, love and bus tickets,
Vero

Back from Canada and it snowed! (Episode 10)

I’m back from Canada and I have so much to tell you! This episode is filled with new projects, poutine (yummy!), bonfires and travel tales.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel for more fun projects and tutorials!

Subscribe and say hi on Twitter/Rav/Instagram:
https://twitter.com/vero/
http://www.ravelry.com/people/thatcanadiangirl/
https://instagram.com/thatcanadiangirl/

Join us in the Ravelry group
http://www.ravelry.com/groups/along-the-lanes-podcast

Peace, love and poutine,
Vero

Show notes

Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival, NY:
http://sheepandwool.com

Francine J. Séguin – Mixed media artist:
http://fjseguin.com

Vitsippa by Joji Locatelli:
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/vitsippa

Karusellen by Erica Knits:
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/karusellen

Ishbel shawl by Ysolda Teague:
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ishbel

Casey Neistat, YouTuber extraordinaire:
https://www.youtube.com/user/caseyneistat

Aladdin Magic Carpet Prank by Casey Neistat & Jesse Wellens:

Music by Andrew Applepie: https://soundcloud.com/andrewapplepie

Why I'm in love with IKEA's "Cat herding" campaign

In case the news hasn’t made it to your corner of the office yet, here’s a YouTube video perfect for a Friday.

IKEA’s campaign involved releasing 100 cats into a London IKEA store and letting them roam free. Whoddathunk hanging halogen light fittings made such great cat runs…

Aside from the fact that I’m a total cat lover (an anomaly in my family), the reason I’m head over heels for this campaign is that, for once, Marketing doesn’t take itself seriously. Sure, IKEA isn’t at the awareness-building stage of its business lifespan and can afford to do some pretty creative marketing, as they did with their Facebook campaign in 2009.

It’s refreshing to see a campaign that’s purely done for fun, an idea that doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t try to preach or sell us anything. Have a laugh, spend Friday afternoon spreading the video around and gain that little bit more love for the almighty brand that is IKEA. “Simples!”, as Aleksandr Orlov would say.

I wonder if they just shook the box of Whiskas biscuits to call all the cats back at the end?

Happy Friday!

SXSWi: Connecting Community Managers

Do you work as community manager? Fancy meeting a few others who work on the front line representing their company?

After meeting a few other company bloggers, customer care people and other community folks at South by SouthWest this week, we thought we’d arrange a little informal gathering before the week ends. It’ll give community managers who work for companies, big and small, a chance to meet others who play that role.

Join us (Ros Hodgekiss, Kelly Rusk and myself) on Tuesday 16th March at 3:30pm at Iron Cactus on 6th Street for a drink and a chat.

Hope you’ll join us there!

[Note: It’s TUESDAY, not Monday as I’ve stupidly been tweeting all afternoon!]

URL Shorteners: When and how to use them

In recent years, URL shortening and URL redirection services have started popping up everywhere like mushrooms after the rain. Their main purpose is to shorten the typically long web addresses to make sharing by email or Twitter easier.

Considering the URLs generated by sites like Google Maps can often be over 200 characters in length, being able to shrink them down to a tenth of their length before sharing them is hugely handy. However, the recent announcement from tr.im, one of the many shorteners out there, saying that it felt there was no way forward for its service and that it would close its doors by the end of 2009. (They’ve since said they’ll stay the course. For now.)

It sent a shiver down our collective web archiving nerd’s spine, as we imagined the graveyard of dead links the future held as more of these services shut down.

Best practices on using URL shorteners

There are times where short URLs are appropriate, and others where it’s best to avoid them:

1. Use them in time sensitive contexts

Short URLs are great for sending a link via IM, over Twitter or in email to a friend or colleague. If it’s likely that you’ll need to refer to the link in more than a few weeks, then don’t rely on a short URL and send the full original link.

Don’t use them in blog entries, research papers or anything that has long-term value unless you want to have to go back at a later date and change them all when a shortener announces it’s closing down.

2. Put together a super-quick campaign

Running a competition this afternoon and need to track participation without worrying about asking your web developer to set up Google Analytics for your microsite? Use a few short URLs and you’ll have some rough and ready data immediately. It may not be as reliable or thorough as classic site analytics but it’s a great way to get moving fast.

Once the campaign is over, copy your data somewhere safe for future reference.

3. Use them only in trusted environments

Recently, I received an email from an ex work colleague inviting me to look at some holiday photos. I suspected something was odd because I’d not heard from her in years, so didn’t click on the short URLs. My spidey senses were right and when prompted, she said that she’d never sent the email and that her computer hadn’t seen a virus scan in centuries. The short URLs? They would have sent me through to some phishing sites.

Short URL hacking unfortunately hasn’t been completely eradicated yet either.

Avoid opening short URLs without knowledge of where they lead, and preferably use services that allow you to preview the destination address like TinyURL’s Previewer.

4. Always archive the full URL

Fond of bookmarking what you find for future reference? Be sure to bookmark the full URL, not the short URL, otherwise your entire archive may become a road to nowhere a few months down the line.

How to make the most of short URLs

1. Use a shortener that allows you to track clicks

Many URL shorteners allow you to create an account to track clicks on the URLs you create.

For example, Bit.ly allows me to see and share the stats on the latest blog entry I published of who clicked on the short URL (in this instance, the link was used to share the post on Twitter):

http://bit.ly/info/15wBen

Bit.ly allows us to find out total clicks, breakdown of when the clicks happened and where they came from. More interestingly, it aggregates conversation and lets you know who has been talking about you and where.

2. Create a customised URL name

Make it memorable by changing the default generated name to something easier to remember.

bit.ly/tastythai will be more memorable than bit.ly/gbXt5 won’t it?

3. Use publicly viewable results

This one won’t be to everyone’s taste: If your team is involved in a campaign where you’re using the short URLs, showing everyone how to look at the number of clicks each link has received is a great way to make them feel empowered.

A twist on this: Give everyone their own short URL and compete over who gets the most clicks. Of course, this only works if your team clearly understands the difference between useful sharing and spamming. We don’t want it to turn into a spam competition, do we?

There is a place and time for every web tool, so use your short URLs wisely!

LG 23" Monitor: Announcing the winner!

Last week, I ran a competition, inviting readers to leave comments and share their best home office or lifehack tip in order to win an LG 23″ monitor. As it turns out, my readers are just as awesomely geeky as I am.

Once the competition ended, I used the Random Number Generator to choose a comment out of the 38 valid comments, with a view that if my own comment came up, I’d draw a number again.

And the winner is… *drum roll* Zoe Rose from Cambridge. LG will be sending Zoe a monitor very soon, and I’m sure Zoe will send us pics of her new home office setup.

As for my views of the LG screen, well…  I think the reality speaks for itself: I’m still using it instead of my 24″ Samsung screen. The main benefit of that switch is the huge difference the brightness sensor has made; it’s been a summer of days that varied wildly from very bright outside to cloudy and dark, yet at no point did I get that searingly bright light feeling. Also, being such a wide screen (1920 x 1080), it fits plenty of my crap on a single screen.

I won’t harp on because I always feel awkward when the schwag is given to me, but all in all, the LG monitor comes pretty highly recommended for its reasonable price (around £150). We spend such long hours in front of a screen, it’s worth getting a good one so as not to go blind by the age of 40!

Since the comments from the readers were so good, I’ll most likely make an entire post summarising them in the near future. In the meantime, go read them for yourself here and, while the competition is obviously over, feel free to add your own tips and tricks.

Corporate Blogging: Why you SHOULD publish press releases on your blog

This morning, I came across the excellent “10 Harsh Truths about Corporate Blogging”, published by Paul Boag on Smashing Magazine. I was nodding emphatically at each point, until I hit the 5th one, which jarred me in the back like a bad pothole in the road when you’re daydreaming on the drive to work.

Funnily enough, a year or two ago, I would have militantly agreed with Paul.

5. Press releases shouldn’t appear on a blog

[…] a press release preforms [sic] a different role to that of corporate blog. As the name implies, a press release is meant for professional journalists. It is designed to encourage journalists to write about your product or service. It is not designed for your customers.

A blog, on the other hand, is meant to be read by prospective and existing customers. It should be engaging, informative and helpful. When writing a blog post, you should always have the end reader in mind. What will they learn? What insight will this give them into who we are? How will it help build our relationship with the reader? You should never simply copy and paste press releases or news stories.

The other problem with press releases is that they are corporate statements. A blog should have a more personal tone.

Here’s why I now disagree; Bloggers are both journalists (in the broad sense of the term at least) and, one can assume, interested customers or prospects. Yet bloggers are journalists who often don’t get paid to deal with PR agencies’ bullshit (eg. embargoes) and don’t necessarily have the research resources that a professional journalist has access to.

Realistically, a corporate blog won’t be read by the vast majority of customers. Even with cool companies like Flickr, 37Signals or Twitter, what percentage of users really care about what’s being said on the corporate blog? [Note: There is a difference between a corporate blog & a blog directed at the end users. On a blog solely directed at end users, press releases are unlikely to have a purpose. This post refers to corporate blogs specifically.]

The beady eyeballs who will find most relevance in a corporate blog will be:

  • Existing and potential investors;
  • Competitors (As Paul says, get over it!);
  • Potential employees;
  • Active developers & geeks who want to use your API;
  • Journalists & Bloggers;
  • The occasional day-to-day user.

Don’t fool yourself, the majority of users will only care when the service goes down. As long as your site/ service/ product is available, they don’t think about what you do as a company an awful lot.*

So why does it still matter so much? The bloggers and the passionate users give a damn. They’re a key player in spreading the word about your business, and when they want to write about you, you should provide all the information you can so that they can feel smart and well informed. Yes, including that nasty old-world press release. Why? Bloggers cannot divinate information. Bloggers find themselves with only a short amount of time to write an entry and will be grateful for the stats you provide or the CEO’s past startup that can be confirmed via the release’s boilerplate.

So go for it, publish that press release. But wait! Don’t publish it alone. Accompany it with a summary in informal tone, some context to help readers understand the relevancy of the PR push, and a bucketload of useful resources (links, images & further information).

If your press release is so officious that you’re embarrassed to publish it on the blog, could it be that you need to rethink your releases altogether? Journalism is changing too, and a fresh, no-bullshit press release will most likely appeal to traditional journalists too. Why not try that for a change?

[* Here’s another tip: If your livelihood is dependent on being available on the web, host your blog elsewhere so that you can still provide status updates when your service goes down.]

Morgan Stanley intern: Why this teen's research paper really matters

Over the past 10 days, Morgan Stanley, an established global financial services provider with offices across the world, saw a 15 year old teen create a lot of noise while interning at the firm’s London office.

Matthew Robson was tasked with the project of writing a report on how teenagers consume media, the kind of job you give the son of a friend who’s asked for a summer internship. “Isn’t the boy sweet? Make sure the office manager offers him a glass of juice, will you?” Anyone who’s worked in an office has had this kind of intern around, kids with an interest in business who’ll gain more insight than you can ever imagine from a few weeks around.

Usually, however, these students leave as quietly as they arrived, having organised a few filing cabinets and tended to a few menial projects.

In this case, Matthew was given the opportunity to write a report on media consumption, which could have very well fallen on deaf ears, but not only have Morgan Stanley paid attention, the Telegraph published the report in full.

If you spend your life bathing in online media as I do, none of the observations in the report are mindblowing. What is remarkable is that, this time, the CEO’s, directors and people in charge of company direction have listened to Matthew’s report.

It’s a chronic problem with management: The higher up you get, the more out of touch you become with the reality of your users, current and future. You think in “audience”, “viewing figures” and other amorphous blobs of numbers, you forget that you’re dealing with people, intelligent and curious and ever-changing people.

This boy’s report highlights some interesting realities.

  • Newspapers: This generation doesn’t want to pay for news. The Sun (20p) will occasionally get picked up but free papers or other means of consumption like the web or TV.
  • Directories: A dying medium, the print directory has never been used. Being Google-savvy means the teens can easily find what they want, again for free.
  • Viral/Outdoor/Guerrilla advertising: Teens welcome these unusual, exciting campaigns, so while they might shun banner ads and conventional TV ads, they enjoy guerrilla marketing, in-game ads and quirky ads that don’t tell the full story.
  • Music: Again, free and digital are preferred. Music that is accessible offline is also preferred, so the streaming model may not be right for them.
  • Mobile: Pay as you go, reasonably priced devices are topping this market. iPhones are nowhere to be seen due to cost and likelihood that the teens will lose them before the contract is up.
  • Games consoles: Surprisingly in this teen’s research, only a third of the teens had games consoles at home, with 50% owning Nintendo’s Wii console, 40% an XBox and a measly 10% with PS3’s, Sony’s prohibitively expensive console.
  • Social networks: Less surprisingly, Facebook is the clear winner in terms of favourite way to spend time online. Twitter doesn’t ring true with these teens, probably due to the time it takes to get to a stage where the service feels gratifying, versus Facebook that excites as soon as a friend or two are added.

For some unknown reason (slow news week?), this report got far beyond the teen’s direct summer manager and was truly acknowledged by City bosses.

While I think many of the observations don’t necessarily reflect the rest of Britain’s teens’ reality, it was a great read: Uninhibited, honest words, without the usual adult filter that causes us to speak in much less absolute terms. I think we should all try to see the world through a 15 year old’s eyes every so often, we’d notice amazing things.

Oh hello there!

I'm Véro - a crafty, knitty, spinny gal who enjoys making (and drinking) a cocktail or three. If you've stumbled here, you might enjoy browsing some of my older posts with the tags over to the right or finding out more about me.

Say hi in the comments or on Twitter! :)

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