Last weekend (the one before Easter) was pretty hectic. On Saturday I went to a couple of sessions of the Share Festival (write-up coming soon I hope) during the day, then after a quick and very nice pizza at Ristorante Seven Up (on Via Andrea Doria) I headed out of Torino and off over the Alps.
It took me about three hours to get from Turin, through the Saint Bernard tunnel, and down into Montreux where I met up with some friends who've recently moved there to teach.
I didn't get to see too much of Montreux as it was dark and wet when I arrived, and the next morning we headed over to Geneva for the day. I didn't see much of Geneva either, to be fair. Most of the day was spent wandering round the expanse of exhibition halls looking at cars in the Geneva Motor Show.
The main theme I could see throughout the show was that of environmentally-friendly motoring. Lots of manufacturers were showing hybrid or super-fuel-efficient engines, but as a result lots of the concept vehicles were very conservative and boring. If cars are going to work as a carbon-neutral transport option, we need to find the sexy, interesting sports- and super-car versions.
Morgan were showing an interesting fuel-cell concept, that despite only having 30 BHP could still achieve 0-62 in 8 seconds. Apart from that, the most exciting stand was Giugiaro's but only because they were showing some of their old concept cars, including the fantastic-looking Bizzarrini Manta.
Overall I was a bit disappointed with the show, but it was good to catch up with some mates, and the drive back over the Alps on Sunday evening was fun. There are some photos from the show over on my Flickr account.
A few days ago, Tom Reynolds posted an entry on his blog highlighting how poorly some marketers try to reach out to bloggers. In it he holds up an earlier post of his about a film from one of his friends as a prime example of how people should market to bloggers.
I can't see how you can call that marketing, apart from in a very small limited sense. My friends all know that I've written a to-do list web app, and I'm sure they've mentioned it to other people, but that isn't going to take me very far in my quest to reach everyone that might be helped by my software.
It's difficult to know how to present my arguments, without coming across like a disgruntled outsider, but I'm interested in finding out what I'm doing "wrong" and hopefully also improving how marketers interact with bloggers.
In the comments on that post, Tom says:
"Actually posting about Gia's film is perfect, because you have to ask yourself *why* I'm her friend, and it's because of the things that she writes on her blog, and does in life that have endeared me to her.
That's why - it might not scale, but then there are people out there who trust *me* and will be influenced by my recomendations."
and Gia (whose film Tom was talking about) adds:
"I'd say if you are working in online marketing and want to 'use' bloggers to spread your word, then invest your time and yourself in blogging."
The only problem with that is that, as Tom says, it doesn't scale. People who are marketing are looking for things that scale. If Tom is right, then either we end up with lots of marketing people trying to become our friends, or people like Tom who are touting the "How to market to bloggers" talks are selling snake oil. The former sounds like a terrible pollution of the blogging "community", and if it's the latter, can someone please let me in on the secret so I can go back to looking for other ways for people to discover my software.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think that the mass-emailed I'm-throwing-this-at-as-many-bloggers-as-I-can-find-in-case-one-likes-it is the right way to market to bloggers either. I think the real answer lies somewhere in the middle, which is what I'm trying to do right now. But a lot of it is just leaving the odd comment (where I've got something relevant to add) or sending an out-of-the-blue email to someone whose blog I've found (and spent some time reading, and checked to see if there are any indicators that they won't be interested) that might be interested.
I just think this "immerse yourself in blogging" as a marketing strategy is bollocks. I love blogging, and my blog has helped me make all sorts of connections and helped with all sorts of things in life and in my business. But it hasn't helped me market tedium. Maybe I've been too much on the fringe of the "UK blogging 'gang'" that Gia mentions? Or maybe I'm not good enough at self-promotion? Maybe people don't realise that I've got something to promote, and so don't help out?
So, in case anyone hasn't realised...
I've written a web app that helps you stay organized and even tells you how well you're doing, called tedium.
I'd love it if you could tell anyone who you think might find it useful.
I'm still getting to grips with marketing, so if you've got any pointers I'd love to hear more.
And finally, if you've got any thoughts or opinions on what I've been ranting about above, leave a comment or write about it on your blog.
Yesterday saw the start of this year's Share Festival, which this year takes on the theme manufacTURINg. I went along to the launch at the Faculty of Architecture department of the Turin Polytechnic, which is in the very pretty, ex-royal-palace, Castello Del Valentino.
Rather like the last event I attended here, I didn't understand most of what was said apart from when Bruce Sterling (who is the guest curator of the festival) was talking. I could work out a lot more of the words, but still only enough for half sentences here and there.
Anyway, I had a look at some of the exhibits (handily labelled in English as well as Italian), and picked up the festival catalogue (and one for the World Design Capital events too).
There are some very interesting events happening over the next few days for the festival, and it's frustrating to think that I probably won't understand much of them. I'm hoping to still attend quite a few, including Manufacturing the Streets this evening, and the chief designer of FIAT talking about the FIAT 500 tomorrow. Then on Saturday I want to catch Massimo Banzi again (I saw him at the Takeaway Festival last year) talking about the Arduino, and Donald Norman and Bruce Sterling (plus two Italians I haven't heard of) talking about Manufacturing Future Designs. At least with the last one there'll be some English spoken.
I'll be posting any photos I take of the festival to my Share Festival 2008 Flickr set and will post my notes here too. If you want to watch any of the sessions but aren't in Turin, they're streaming all of the events live.
And if you attend any of the events and spot a confused-looking Englishman, come over and say "Hello", or "Ciao", or "Buongiorno"...
Ian Forrester was at BarCamp Manchester the other week, and in his write-up wonders why he encountered some hostility to Southerners. I can't claim to speak for my fellow Northerners, but thought I'd offer my thoughts on the subject.
First off, I'm not sure that it's a North/South divide, but more of a The Provinces/London divide, and we're just being lazy ourselves by equating London with the South.
Serendipitously, Nick Robinson's latest blog post highlights the issue quite neatly. It's an article about celebrating Britishness, and the photo chosen depicts a Routemaster bus, black cab and the Houses of Parliament. I don't know what image I'd choose instead, but it shows the default London-centric view that's used as shorthand for English or British. We have black cabs in the North, but not Routemasters, and I was ten before I first saw the Houses of Parliament in person. And in the ten years after that I think I saw them again once.
Some of the tension is jealousy, as there's lots of interesting stuff going on in London, most of which is completely inaccessible. From Cambridge it's quite possible to head into London for Mobile Monday, or the London Geek Dinners, but any further away and it becomes a major mission.
London also seems to be the de facto location for any bigger event or conference. The argument being that there are a lot of people already there and the transport links are much better. Which they are, because the roads and railways are all skewed towards the capital. The North-West is at least lucky enough to have a couple of motorways that run across the country rather than towards London.
People in London don't want to travel to events, but expect the rest of the country to come to them. Obviously this is a broad generalisation (and can't be levelled at Ian because he travelled up to Manchester), but when Geoff organised the OurSocialWorld conference in Cambridge it was a struggle to get enough people to attend, and that's day trippable from London. What chance do events further afield have?
For people of my generation and older there's also the hangover from the 80s. This is my least rational reason, but watching huge chunks of the employment and prosperity of the region disappear with the death of heavy industry was painful. Whilst I don't think the government should have propped up industries that were no longer viable, the Thatcher government's "get on your bike" and move down South attitude, coupled with the in-your-face materialism of yuppies in the city didn't help.
Again, these are just my perceptions and thoughts, and I'm interested in hearing what other people - Northern, Southern, Scottish... whatever - think about the issue. I'm not sure I can articulate what I want people to do differently, if anything. Maybe just consider how easy it is (or isn't) for people to get to your event if you're aspiring for national reach. Or just to continue to support events that are being held outside London. I understand that if you live in London you aren't necessarily going to want to organise something miles away from home.
I'm trying to help make a difference by moving back to the North West this summer. So if anyone is looking to arrange something in the area and wants some help, please get in touch and I'll do what I can to assist.
Mark Simpkins green geek conference idea that I wrote about a while back now has a date, a venue and a name.
geeKyoto2008 is on Saturday, 17th May 2008 in London, and tickets are available for the bargain price of £20.
I'm going; now I need to see if I can find a better way to get there than by plane...