Lorna offers a wider angle on the Diane Abbott thingy

@saarflondonbird (you do read her blog, don’t you?) has posted a well-reasoned topical piece responding to the calls of racism following Diane Abbott’s ill-thought exchange of tweets.

Reliably @saarflondonbird also offers a different angle on things.

Black people do not have the stranglehold on racism and I can speak with a little experience on the matter. My first husband was born in the UK to Jamaican parents. My two eldest children are therefore half black (and for that matter half white – a mixed race person is NOT black, they are mixed race and should embrace all aspects of their heritage, as my children do). I have experienced racism with my ex-husband. Trying to hail a cab on the streets of London, in the early 90’s, we stood more of a chance of getting one if we stood apart – yes, it really did happen. Conversely, one of his cousins refused to speak to me at a family gathering because…… I was white. And racism is not exclusively a black/white thing. I learnt quickly that Jamaicans berated Africans, Africans berated Jamaicans and the whole of the Caribbean berated Jamaicans. LUNACY!

#flyhighgaby: A Twitter tribute for Gabriella Sicard

Gabriella Sicard died in a car crash in the USA on Wednesday. There was nothing – like a great many other car crashes which occur day to day – of little significance other than for the family and friends who now mourn the death of the 19 year old.

But Sicard’s friends may possibly have triumphed in making her death noteworthy, by working together to make her dreams come true. She always wanted to trend on Twitter when she was alive. Now as a tribute, her friends have made it happen after her death.

#tweetcamp: Time for remedial classes perhaps?

I’m attending Tweetcamp on Saturday 8 October. I even moved my holiday to get along there. Although I’m helping with the cleanup operation at the end of the day (somebody has to, right?), I’m also hoping to get along to some of the sessions during the day too.

And if I can pluck up the courage I may even try and chew the ear off someone nearby in an attempt to see whether my current view on Twitter has any traction.

Here’s how it all started for me and where I’m at with it four years on.

I remember signing up for Twitter because I saw a friend at work using it. ‘Register your username,’ he advised. I did so and then let it go. I didn’t see how it could be useful to me.

Twelve months later (I think) I revisited it, and in the process of settling into a new job, found it was the perfect tool to establish a new network of friends, associates and colleagues. It was a unifying experience. All of us beginning at the same point, learning how to use it together.

I ended up using Twitter to shamelessly self-promote myself. This in the mistaken belief that I would succeed in achieving a glittering career on the radio. Twitter was the free, boundary less equivalent of the radio world I loved. Such a shame so many others saw it the same way.

Some of my original aims remain, even if the ultimate prize seems like nothing more than a pipe dream. I strive to use Twitter to reflect me and my interests. That’s why I can at times appear a little scattergun. Where others might have a focussed brief for their Twitter account – I prefer to feel a little freer about things.

And that’s important because for me – and remember this is my personal view about my own personal use of Twitter – it’s a creative tool. It’s something which still challenges me to write 140 characters which will hopefully hook someone in. That’s the goal every time I tweet.

The hope is – and I’m sure a great many people are the same only they probably wouldn’t admit it – that my tweet will make someone either laugh or think. If I’m lucky they’ll come back to me with a response. A conversation might ensue. If I’m really lucky I might even be retweeted. If I’ve totally missed the mark, just silence.

Even if you’re not quite so ego-centric as I am, that is the creative challenge presented by Twitter. That’s one of the reasons I’m still using it now.

All too often, however, I chickened out. I fell into a trap. Just as most of us jump unto the 9-5 treadmill at the expense of our underlying happiness, so I frequently resort to tweeting links to blog posts I’ve written. ‘I need more than 140 characters,’ I’ll think, ‘and I’m sure if they just read the first paragraph of the blog or see the picture, that will be enough to hook them in.’

I’m not the only one who does that. I’d say a high proportion of us do the same. Twitter is for sharing. That’s the point of it. That’s what it’s good for.

But I wonder whether – two years after the first Tweetcamp and four years after I signed up for Twitter – whether it’s time for me to attend some remedial classes on how to use the tool, in a bid to rekindle the joy I experienced when I first started splashing around.

Take this comparison. Anyone who’s learnt how to play a musical instrument up to a reasonably high standard may have gone through a similar process. When I was in my late teens, it was suggested to me that maybe the way in which I could progress my clarinet playing was to go and have a few consultation lessons with orchestral pros in London. LSO clarinettist Colin Bradbury offered me some and after a handful of lessons suggested that the problem I needed to deal with was the way in which I breathed. Six months later having effectively ditched my first clarinet teacher in favour of another, the breathing was sorted out. My tone was transformed. It was quite an amazing experience.

It’s hardly surprising really. Change the dynamic between teacher and pupil and change will be effected. Great things might even follow.

So it is with Twitter now and my relationship with it. Can I develop my Twitter activity by changing my interaction with it? And, if I can rekindle that initial thrill by unlearning some of the bad habits I’ve acquired over the past few years, how might my ‘output’ develop over time?

And thinking bigger for a moment, I wonder whether we are – inevitably – moving into a new phase where Twitter is concerned. A phase where we might be in danger of overlooking the editorial opportunities offered by the publishing platform and seeing instead as nothing more than a distribution tool?

The web. The technology should deliver the content. And it’s the content we need to hang onto.

Wikileaks’ unprecedented power

I know I shouldn’t say it, but I’m getting a little tired of hearing about Wikileaks.

Shameful, isn’t it? Wikileaks is obviously ‘proper news’. And I should pace myself. Because there’s only going to be more of it.

This made me smile however, but only because in speedily reading Sky News’ breaking news tweet, I missed the words ‘supporters’ and ‘website’.

For a split second I was impressed by a new development in the reach, influence and power of the whistle-blowing website.


Clearly my (speed-)reading skills need to improve.

I should explain …

I tweeted something this evening …

.. which in turn prompted a couple of responses from people which made me stop twice and consider the message I’d put out on the micro-blogging service in the first place.

I can see how quite a few people may well read that and think “Oh dear, he’s feeling quite sorry for himself” and act accordingly. Less forgiving individuals might prefer to see it as a bit of a cry for help. And we all know what happened to the boy who cried wolf.

In actual fact – and I only explain it now because i think it’s worth stressing – this relatively unimportant tweet highlights the need to reveal something.

First of all, I use Twitter in a variety of different ways. I mutter and mumble, pass comment and sneer. I distribute links to stuff I like, as well as shamelessly promote my own material. I also – from to time – use to diarise. The tweet above is a diary entry.

But why? Twitter is awash – and frequently dismissed by lazy journalists unable to conjure up alternative clichés – by people sharing their innermost thoughts. It’s one thing to tweet these things. Why draw even more attention to them?

The clue is in the tweet itself. No, I’m not trying to make myself appear more interesting than I really am. It’s a case of self-preservation.

I nibble my nails a tremendous amount. A ridiculous amount. Sometimes – sometimes when I don’t even realise it – I can nibble them to such an extent they’ll throb with pain after I’ve washed my hands. I won’t even realise I’m doing it.

It happens at various points in my day. It will happen when I’m in certain situations. And – if one were to carry out in-depth research about this – the nail-biting is one of a great long list of similarly irritating personal traits which debilitate.

Lets get this into proportion here. I’m not making this blog a ‘poor me’ post. Don’t for God’s sake anybody think that. There are plenty of other people far worse off than me. There. That’s that straightened out.

But, just as friends of mine use their blogs to document their fitness regime or weight-loss programme, so I wouldn’t mind turning it into an opportunity for writing. Because maybe – just maybe – there could come a point when the root cause of that nail-biting is discovered. Just imagine what things could be like then?

So. If you follow me on Twitter and you see a tweet like the one above, don’t worry. I’m just documenting stuff for later analysis and indoingso being tiresomely transparent about it to, something which also appears to come naturally to me.