Month: January 2012

What makes me?

Somewhere in my head is a blog post about some things that are, naturally, close to who am I as a person. That blog post will likely be a rambling monologue, discussing depression, sexuality, relationships, and how my view of my world, and the world at large has changed and will continue to evolve.

But I’m still not ready to write it, not sure if I ever will. Such is the downside of being ‘known’, for not hiding myself behind an online persona. There are people who I just wouldn’t want to read what I wrote, not friends or family as they know me well enough. No it is the individuals who would judge, who wouldn’t understand, or who may take my honesty and openness as an invitation to think that we suddenly shared an affinity of some sort through some weird presumption that our experiences are common to one another (they are not).

I don’t make friends easily – I’ve said this before – but I do have many acquaintances. Most of the people I work with I’d consider to be an acquaintance, people who share a small part of my life but who, increasingly (and this is due to either age or seniority, I’m not sure which) I don’t want in the main part of my life. Some of the people I’ve met via this blog, or via Twitter, are definitely in that camp too, I keep my relationship with them firmly in the ‘online’ world.

Luckily I’ve also met some people online who I now consider to be my friends, I trust them and it’s only been recently that I’ve figured out why I am happy to consider some people as friends but not others, and it’s entirely down to my how I was raised by my parents.

Growing up my parents were always keen that I kept an open mind and that I should learn about something before dismissing it. I didn’t always follow their advice, but then parental advice is rarely considered in the immediacy of youth, but as a man I can look back and be thankful for the outlook it has given me. The ability to not judge someone, to at least try to understand – not necessarily agree, people who make that mistake irk me somewhat – is one that I share with those that I consider to be my friends.

What a funny word that is today in this modern world of ours. Friend. I digress.

I’m still more than capable of making bad, snap, judgements but I honestly believe in the following two, somewhat overused phrases “live and let live” and “life is too short”.

Of course this is all easy to say, harder to do.

Last year, towards the end of the summer I realised that I was feeding off the bile and ire of some of my acquaintances (online and off) and I decided I would do my best to, gently, remove those influences from my life. I rarely set out to hurt people, if ever, and whilst I can be selfish and short-sighted at times, there is never any malice in my actions.

But not everyone shares my view of the world, this murky grey mish-mash of emotions, thoughts, desires and wants. And neither they should.

I’m in an open relationship with an amazing woman, I’m comfortable with my lifestyle, happy with my sexuality, and whilst I have depression for the majority of days it behaves and stays locked in its box. None of this defines me, nor allows you to say you know me.

But then – and I’ve said this here before too – those that matter don’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter.

Last Sunday…

Final day of a long weekend in London, and no plans at all.

And so it was that Kirsty and I spent a lovely day just wandering about, no real aim at all. We dumped our bags at Paddington left luggage (yes, we included a marmalade sandwich just to make sure) and decided we’d head for Convent Garden. On the way we stopped in this shop and that, had a coffee here, and then we stumbled across Artbox which prompted the following:

 

So after buying just about all the panda related goods, we meandered some more, walked past Gok Wan and then it was time to head back to the station. A bite to eat and it was time to go home 🙁

That said, it was nice to have no plans and just let our feet decide where to go. I do love me a good wander.

As ever I find myself conflicted about London. I love the diversity, the choice, the buzz of the place, can’t stand the sheer volume of noise and people. At present I also have more acquaintances down there than I do in my hometown (although that’s changing) and it does seem a better fit for my lifestyle. Not that I think a move is on the cards just yet but… who knows?

All in all it was a fab weekend. I do love visiting London, and it’s twice as much fun when you get to meet lovely people, and spend it all with a lovely woman (who was a little bit nervous at meeting all these new people but I don’t think it showed!).

Last Saturday…

The hotel Kirsty and I were staying was part of new budget range which is slowly branching out from it’s Asian roots. The service is good, the rooms clean and well appointed but very very small and you pay only for what you want (towels, TV, late check out, even the option of a window is offered as a way of keeping the price down). The room was just big enough for squeeze round the bed and was perfect for a weekend. It isn’t big, or luxurious but as it’s mostly used as a place to sleep it’s definitely somewhere I’d use again.

We had a bit of a lie-in as we discussed what we were going to do, neither of us had anything we were particularly bothered about but having checked a few maps we decided the Design Museum would be a reasonable way to spend a few hours as we were planning to meet up with @jtopper, @lipsticklori and @manda_jones in the afternoon, and my mate Keith (he’s one of those weird people not on Twitter) in the evening. First things first though, breakfast!

The aptly named Breakfast Club wasn’t far from us but we decided to head to the station and see what we could find on the way. Glad we did as we had a delicious breakfast at Foxcroft & Ginger, well worth dropping in if you are in the Shoreditch area. After that we jumped on the train and headed to the Design Museum.

I’ve never been before and, if I’m honest, it was a tiny bit of a let down. Probably more due to the exhibition that was showing (Conran) than anything, I love the idea of the place and there is some fun stuff on the top floor. After that we wandered along the river towards Borough Market, stopping whilst @kittykirstykat bought a new hat and scarf (the wind was bitter on the riverbanks) and then onwards to the market itself.

I knew of Borough Market but, again, had never been. How we managed to negotiate it without buying anything is a mystery. So many delicious looking stalls, covering just about every kind of foodstuff I can think of, the smell alone was heavenly as you wandered along. Passing BBQ stalls, huge pots of soups and ghoulash, enormous wheels of creamy French cheese, fresh fruit and veg stalls, sparkling displays of fish, rich slabs of meat and that’s before we get to the breads and cakes. Food heaven and, in the midst of it all, The Market Porter. Nice little pub made all the nicer by being able to score a table and the arrival of Jon, Lori and Manda.

At this point I’ll only say that beer was had (tasty tasty ale from Devon I think), chats, laughters and other such frolics were partaken of, and tentative plans were made for another trip back to London sometime. We also learned the “on my penis” joke which about sums up the contents of that part of the evening.

Then, all too soon, they were leaving and, as if by magic, my mate appeared! No, he isn’t Mr.Benn.

More drinks followed and then talk of some much needed food prompted a wander back to the tube and back to… The Breakfast Club! Now, I say a ‘wander’ but my mate is 6’4 and is quite happy to motor through the myriad of tunnels and footpaths to be found in the London Underground, so let’s say it was more of a ‘focused charge’. Regardless, after a quick shoogle on the Tube we arrived at our destination. As well as dinner we were, apparently, going to ask to meet the Mayor.

Food was had, more chat and nonsense and, once again all too soon, my mate had to head off leaving Kirsty and I to meet the Mayor. Which we did. If you ever go, it’s probably worthwhile doing the same, or at least asking, he’s not always in…

And then, all of a sudden, it was Sunday.

Last Friday…

I always enjoy visiting London and I’m lucky that when I do I also know a lot of lovely, friendly, funny, engaging people who I can meet (I’m still trying to fathom why they keep agreeing to it, and can only presume that it’s some form of charity outreach program?). The reason for the trip this time was to catch a comedy show organised by one of those lovely, friendly, funny, engaging people I mentioned. More on that later.

First, a confession.

I’ve become increasingly glib about travel. Rather than stress about every detail of the entire trip I have a much more relaxed approached these days, presuming that each leg of the trip will take care of itself. I may need to revisit this attitude.

I booked our room for the weekend, at a new budget range of hotels called Tune, back in November last year. I knew I had the confirmation email so thought nothing of it until Thursday night when I was checking the location of the hotel to figure out the train journey from Heathrow. I do remember, on Thursday night, thinking:

‘Hmmm, that’s a bit further away from the Theatre than I thought… must’ve been a really good deal!’

And so it was that, after an uneventful flight, a quick train ride to Paddington and then a few swipes of our Oyster cards, Kirsty and I wandered out of Lambeth North tube station, crossed the road and went to check-in at a hotel where they knew nothing of my booking. We checked surnames, booking references and, finally, the address of said hotel.

Yes, that’s right, we were in the wrong Tune hotel. The one we wanted was just off Liverpool Street, which was considerably closer to the Theatre than the hotel were standing in. In my defense, the hotel I had booked has only been open for 3 weeks and didn’t show on Google Maps, hence my confusion… that and the fact I’m a knob, of course.

The show we were there to see was called Comedy Sex and was the ‘baby’ of Zoe Margolis who, according to her tweets, finds it very straightforward and relaxing to organise such an event. Or, you know, the opposite to that… regardless, the night was seamless, the acts were brilliantly entertaining and there was a definite ‘here to have fun’ vibe from the audience. It was all in aid of Brook, the UK’s leading sexual health charity for young people, so kudos to Zoe for pulling it all together for charidee (more on the stellar lineup in a moment).

Before the gig we met up with @miketd and his lovely partner @ktd, @jonnyb, @andrewviner, @stevenixon and @jtopper, a few light ales and some food later (in a rather nice pub called The Harrison) and we were on our way to Bloomsbury Theatre where we got to say hi to @lipsticklori and @manda_jones before the show started (more on those two later).

Not knowing many of the acts other than by name, I wasn’t really sure what to expect but Al Murray proved to be an excellent host, keeping the evening moving along nicely. Standout acts for me were Scott Capurro (tears of laughter!) and Helen Arney, but the calibre on display was excellent, not a dud amongst them: Al Murray, Helen Arney, David Baddiel, Mitch Benn, Scott Capurro, Richard Herring, Robin Ince, Shappi Khorsandi, Matt Parker, Jay Rayner, Kate Smurthwaite and Catie Wilkins. Billed as a “one-off” event, I sincerely hope it isn’t!

Post-show drinks in the Phoenix Arts Club (where we also met @encratica and bumped into @mrangry) was a fun way to round out a wonderful evening of filthy laughter in the company of  lovely, friendly, funny, and engaging people.

As no member of my family has ever said, Ye cannae whack it!

Knackered and at just the right stage of happy/tipsy Kirsty and I gave up about 1.30am, stumbled out into the cold London air and headed back to the (correct!) hotel.

Dealing with change

It’s going to be a big year for us, both as a company and as a team. We have grand and achievable plans for the product which will mean the working processes for the Publications team will need to change for, as well as multiple streams of work with their own staggered release dates for the product, we are also restructuring our entire information set to improve ‘findability’.

Which immediately prompts a question, how do you improve ‘findability’?

The simple answer is would be ‘in as many ways as possible’ as there is no silver bullet. What may work for some, won’t work for others. However we have to start somewhere and the first thing we can do is restructure the architecture of our information, slimming down the content where possible with an eye to adding new formats of information.

We have already successfully piloted some new formats of information and will continue to roll more of those out for different areas of the product (in essence, these new documents are a high level overview of all the levels of an area of the product, from concept and usage to API implementation), and the signs are that the restructure will go a long way to meeting the needs of our customers.

Having been lucky enough to speak directly to some customers in the latter half of last year, I know that we are on the right path. The challenge will be to keep moving things forward amidst everything else. It’s going to be a busy year and already the analogy is one of a juggler who is keeping things in the air… for now!

ISTC West of Scotland Area Group meeting

The next ISTC West of Scotland area group meeting in Glasgow will take place on Thursday 16th February 2012, from 7.30 pm onwards. Come along to talk about latest news and trends in communication, or just to meet other communication professionals.

The event is free and open to anyone interested in technical communication, such as technical authors, information architects, internal communication professionals, report writers, marketing writers, web content writers and graphic designers.

Venue: Waxy O’Connors pub, 44 West George Street, Glasgow, G2 1DH. Please make your way to McTurk’s Room on the middle level.

If you plan to attend, please sign up for the event at http://www.eventbrite.com/event/2743613221 to help us anticipate attendance numbers.

Please forward this message on to your colleagues or anyone else who may be interested. For more information, contact westscotland_areagroup@istc.org.uk.

 

UPDATE: MadCap have provided a licence of MadPak, worth USD 1499, to be raffled amongst event attendees. For more information, see http://www.madcapsoftware.com/products/madpak/overview.aspx

One step forward…

Firstly I’ll admit that I’m starting to feel a bit like a fool. I’ve been close to getting the new ISTC website launched for several weeks now, only for an subtle twist or unforeseen working process to scupper my plans.

I realise now, of course, that what I should’ve done was revisit the usage models of the website and finessed those first, rather than trying to shoehorn a somewhat antiquated set of processes into what is a fairly standard membership model. Oh well, live and learn.

That said, it’s not been the legacy processes that have really slowed me down, “life” hasn’t been particularly helpful either although quite how I’m sitting here in January when I’d hoped to have the new website launched in September last year is beyond me. My sincerest apologies, and please trust that I’m hugely annoyed by these delays.

The main reason for the delay has been making sure the membership functionality work, making sure that the processes for applying for membership, as well as renewing existing memberships, has been tricky, as has considering non-member access. The latter is something that only came to light at TCUK (in Sept) this year, Area Groups are not attended only by ISTC members so the website needs to be mindful of that as it will have, in the future, specific areas for Area Group attendees.

As such, there are essentially five levels of users for the new website:

  • Administrators – essentially myself (webmaster) and the team at ASL
  • Editors – anyone with the ability to post new content to the website
  • Members – access to content for ISTC members only
  • Attendees – for those who attend Area Groups but aren’t ISTC members
  • Guests – anyone visiting the website that isn’t logged in, or isn’t a member

It’s a more complex setup but in the long run it will make the new website much more flexible. A lot of the ground work I’m doing at the moment is in the background, with the hope that, this year, new features will be much easier and quicker to roll out.

And, just to prove that the new website does actually exist, here’s sneak peek of what will be launching soon: http://46.183.9.143/

Thanks for all your patience.

Full steam ahead for 2012

I’m a creature of habit, of routine. I’m not the greatest at handling change so it has taken me a little by surprise when I realised that in the past few months I’ve made some changes. Mostly based around how I use my computer; I’ve changed my main browser from Firefox to Chrome, dumped Delicious and moved to Pinboard, ditched Remember the Milk for Wunderlist, and I’m currently looking at leaving Flickr and taking (a smaller set of) my photos to a different service, probably 500px.

Elsewhere I’ve been slowly changing things, as well. Trying to find more time to read, making more of an effort to cook healthy meals, doing a little more exercise. A large chunk of the year has been spent, I now realise, in rediscovering myself, finding out more about who I am. A completely honest appraisal of me. It was painful at times, I got a lot of it wrong but now, now it all feels right.

All of these changes have been subtle, and weren’t part of any grand plan other than a general theme of ‘better’, but it seems to be working for the most part and I hope to continue this approach in 2012.

That said, some things didn’t change the way I thought they would as I didn’t do much in the way of writing in any form, either here or anywhere else. I kept a private diary for a while, sporadically still do, and I could blame Twitter, or Facebook, for this but as neither of those are places I would use to publish any form of ‘writing’ I just have to admit that I’ve lost the joy (need?) of publishing. My “social media interactions” have moved on, it seems.

This post isn’t about resolutions, I don’t really do them although there are ‘themes’ for this year but as I’m still getting over the vestiges of my Hogmanay cold I’m not yet willing to admit it’s 2012 proper.

So, for me, 2012 will be about ‘better’ and most definitely about ‘happier’.

2011 was a year of highs and lows. Unfortunately the lows ruled the day but then, without them, I wouldn’t be set to have, what I’m determined will be, an awesome 2012.