Through My Window

A couple of not very good photos of the place where Beautiful Railway Bridge is born. Presiding over it all is Chucky, the genius loci of this blog. You can see more of him here. Chucky says he’s thinking of you, and might even come for a visit in the New Year, unless you ask him nicely not to. Note also that indispensable handbook, Blogging for Dummies.

The Red Queen’s Race

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

This is becoming more and more true as cool technological tchochkes increasingly invade our time and space. I am falling so far behind in the race to keep up with social media that I despair of ever getting caught up. It takes 3 or 4 hours of dedicated effort every day to post on this blog and the other Beautiful Railway Bridge at Blogger, do the associated admin, read and comment on the blogs I follow, maintain a toehold on Google+, and deal with email. I only go to Facebook because my daughter’s on it, and I’ve given up trying to keep up with Twitter. Managing social media has become an unpaid part-time job.

I would drop it all and walk away but for one thing – I love blogging, I love reading other people’s blogs, and I want to do it properly. I could just dash off an easy post or skim through the reading with a generous scattering of Likes and no comments because there’s no time. Inevitably, that sometimes happens. But what is the point, unless it’s a half-hearted pretence to gain more followers?

I’ve never really understood this followers thing. It’s nice that people like Beautiful Railway Bridge, and I’m grateful for your support. I don’t write in a vacum, but to an audience. Followers for the sake of having followers – as an ego trip so you can claim influence on the internet – I think that’s stupid. You see a lot of sites claiming to teach bloggers how to maximise SEO, so there must be a huge demand for this sort of advice.

I’m happy with a smaller number of followers because I want to interact with likeminded bloggers by reciprocal visits and comments. Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day and there’s a critical number of followers and followed, beyond which it’s impossible to have a proper, reciprocal blogging relationship.

Right now I’m over my limit in the blogs I follow and trying to catch up. Which is, I suppose, a roundabout way of apologising for not having visited your blogs over the last few days. Perhaps I’m thinking about social media in the wrong way, but this whole imperative to connect with as many people as possible seems batshit crazy. Community is good, necessary, and beneficial to mind and body. An amorphous mass, all shouting status updates and ill-informed opinions at each other at the tops of their voices, is beyond reason and verging on social hysteria in my opinion.

So I’m asking for some feedback on this question, to help me sort it out. Thanks.

Poet McGonagall’s Day Off

It went swimmingly. I slept for 12 hours and got up at noon. Had a leisurely breakfast, during which I ate and tasted the food, rather than stuffing my face while staring at a computer screen. Watched a Doctor Who episode on iPlayer (no TV license so I had to, and anyway it’s more convenient). Then out to take photos in Campbeltown, behaving like a complete and utter grockle, despite having lived here for over 2 years. I’d never properly looked at the wee toon before, and discovered delightful bits all over the place.

After 209 photos, and several hours walking, I felt bit shagged out and went home. I ventured onto the computer just long enough to upload them and start cropping the interesting ones. Pea and ham soup with red kidney beans for dinner, followed by fish fingers and custard, the dessert of Time Lords.  What else? Some quiet reading time, and when there wasn’t anything obvious to do, I reconfigured the beating heart of Beautiful Railway Bridge by rescuing a desk hutch from dust and dead paper. Now it’s doing something useful. Much longer, I’d have re-invented the wheel and built a scale model of the Starship Enterprise out of match sticks. Projects for another Sunday.

I got a lot done, with more pleasure than when I’m driving myself with self-imposed tasks, or responding frantically to the demands of the blog and social media. Definitely an epiphany. I am struck while writing this, how much being focused on a computer restricts our awareness of the larger world – the contrast between this and my wide-eyed ramble through town yesterday is stark. So I plan to make it a weekly holiday, cue up Blasphemy for the Day on Saturday, and let Sunday be a real day of rest.

Gone Swimmin’

I’m taking a day off on Sunday from blogging, G+, Twitter, and any online activities. There will be the usual Blasphemy for the Day, provided this week by a Buddhist guest blogger, one who knows whereof he speaks.

I am tired, never seem to get enough sleep, feel distinctly under the weather, not to say knackered, and want a Day Off.

So I’m zoning out, going walkabout, off-piste, off the record, off the reservation, under the radar, and trying not to do two things at once because multi-tasking makes you stupid. Chances are I’ll have cabin fever by midday and turn into an axe-murderer, but I’ll give it a go.

Right. Officially falling over, even as we speak. Au reservoir, as they say in Tilling. See you Monday.

Charles Dickens Needs YOU

Or at least the Dickens Journals Online does, which aims to make all his Household Words weekly journals available online.  He edited these hugely popular journals for 20 years and now, according to this Guardian article, the University of Buckingham needs editors to fix the inevitable errors arising from scanning 30,000 pages.  Have computer, will edit, no special Dickens knowledge required, apparently.

Since Household Words was something like a blog in its ability to print news the official press wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, or present the official news with an independent slant, I’m interested in being a part of this project.

Frustratingly, the link to sign up keeps timing out, but here it is anyway:  Perhaps they’re getting heavy traffic right now because of the article.

Google+ Invitation: Who do I have to sleep with to get one?

Ever since Google unveiled their new social media site, Google+, I’ve been curious about it. And frustrated by the invitation-only access.  I’d already sent them my email address, but nothing seemed to be happening, and I’m not famous for patience.

Then a Guardian article a couple of days ago, Google and Facebook get personal in battle for social networking sites, came to the rescue.  I vented my frustration in the following post:

Dear Google+,
You need all the friends you can get.  Send me that invitation so I can dump facebook.

It worked!  What I thought of as a snarky comment resulted in several offers of an invitation from other posters, and an actual email invitation.  I didn’t need to sleep with anyone, but I gather from reading various techie sites that it helps to know someone who’s already signed up, so you can beg an invitation.  In my case, it must have been the camaraderie of comment is free.

Let me temper the Facebook remark.  The only reason I’m on it is to keep in touch with family and friends in America.  The actual experience is somewhat akin to a Stalinist holiday camp – compulsory, undifferentiated jollity, with loads of games to play and too much going on.  Too many Friends.  To my mind, a friend is someone you know and trust, not an internet acquaintance or a Friend of a Friend who you’ve never met and know nothing about.  Yet it would be churlish not to accept – the peer pressure is horrible.  And my blood pressure heads for the roof as soon as I log in.  But I love my family and friends, so what to do?  Well, I’m inviting them over to Google+ for a start.

Was it worth the wait?  Yes, I think so.  It helped that I’ve used gmail for several years, so the feel is the same.  The layout is similar to Facebook, so I can navigate intuitively, and within that template, the clean, uncluttered design is like a breath of fresh air.  Best of both worlds.  And it’s not constantly hectoring me with suggestions, the social media equivalent of Butlins Redcoats.

The only feature I’m using at the moment is Circles, where you can put people into the sort of groups that occur in real life – friends, family, acquaintances, work colleagues, and so on.  Then it becomes possible to have conversations that are appropriate to those relationships.

A caveat.  I don’t know what Google+ would look like if Adblock Plus wasn’t installed on my laptop.  [Update: I’ve just been told it doesn’t have ads.]  This brilliant add-on nukes all the advertising crap, and helps your computer run faster because it doesn’t have to wade through the stuff.  I can also recommend Ghostery, which blocks the companies who track your web activities.  Both can be fine-tuned, and both are free.

So far I’m enjoying Google+.  I only have 3 acquaintances, all people who offered me invitations, but that will change when I can inveigle people from Facebook, and as I get to know this new online community.  It feels good to be in at the start of something new.

No Blogging Day

No email, facebook or twitter, either.  In fact no computer at all.  My flat is a tip, unlike the pristine room enjoyed by the cat in the picture.  I have to bring in a skip to clear it out.  I’m not addicted to being online, you understand, just very easily distracted.  Particularly from cleaning the flat.  So it has to be cold turkey.

I feel like that bloke in The Lost Weekend.

See you Monday.