Sunday, 30 October 2011

Manchester Bloggers

This week at work I was asked to look at how bloggers promote their sites online, I already had some ideas of how to gain traffic with directories, such as Technorati, and via link recommendations on other blogger’s blogrolls but it was interesting to investigate further while also discovering some interesting blogs. I’d heard through the social media grapevine that the Manchester Blog Awards had taken place recently so this provided an excellent resource. I found some really interesting Manchester bloggers, including Onwards Manchester, which was shortlisted for best new blog. The blog is written by Kristian and Samantha who both work in editorial and use the platform to write about topics they are unable to cover within their everyday work. The content is focused mainly on culture, including posts about exhibitions, music and Manchester events. I found their posts interesting as I'd attended many of the events and exhibitions they had written about so it gave me a different perspective. The blog is also a great resource for finding out about current Manchester events and overall is steeped in content which stimulates my passion for Manchester. 

I also discovered the blog Unemployed Hack, which is less about Manchester and more about the writer and his personal life dealing with unemployment. His writing is often funny, touching and very honest. He describes his blog as 'memories of a downwardly-mobile journalist.' His most recent blog post lists the top 10 perks of unemployment as he tries to put a positive slant on his situation in an honest and humorous style. His circumstances are very reflective of the situation of many people and I can image it brings these readers a lot of comfort. I myself was unemployed for several months last year and this is probably a big factor in my fondness for his writing, as I too understand the emotions that coinside with unemployed life.

Previously I only had two or three Manchester based blogs within my extensive list of website bookmarks and through further investigate I found other Manchester bloggers from the recommended links within these blogs. I enjoyed looking through the award's shortlist and discovering a thriving Manchester blogging scene, which further enhanced my view that Manchester has so much to offer, not just because of the events/exhibitions/activities but because of all the incredibly interesting people.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

I Bike MCR: Critical Mass

I started cycling (as an adult) 2 years ago after I visited Stockholm and fell in love with the Scandinavian lifestyle. Once I got home I retrieved my old purple Raleigh mountain bike from it’s dusty storage place and fixed it up with a new saddle. The bike is not anything spectacular but in the 13 years I’ve owned it it has never let me down, and has been especially resilient over the past 2 years. My purple Raleigh has gotten me from A to B, and saved me a fortune in bus fare, but as September started to get gloomy and I become fed-up with arriving to work soaking wet almost everyday, I decided to swop my Raleigh for a bus pass. Then just as September was ending the sun started to shine and my friend asked if I wanted to go to a cycling event with her called Critical Mass. ‘Critical Mass is a cycling event typically held on the last Friday of every month in over 300 cities around the world. The purpose of Critical Mass is not usually formalized beyond the direct action of meeting at a set location and time and travelling as a group through city or town streets on bikes.’

The atmosphere that Friday evening was vibrant, with around 60 cyclists attending the event. One organiser (I Bike MCR) was easily noticeable by the huge sound system attached to their bike (God knows how he managed to ride with it), which was playing music, adding to the Friday night party atmosphere. Critical Mass' rules are simple, if the traffic light is red you stop, if the traffic light is green you go, but if the traffic light changes while the group is cycling through than you carry on. As you can imagine we received lots of attention from passersby with around 60 cyclists ringing bells, and loud music blasting out from the sound system. The route went from the meeting point at central library through the Northern Quarter and then out of the centre towards Fallowfield where a venue was waiting to be filled by party ready bike lovers. I missed out on the party due to other arrangements but I am eager to attend the next one. Witnessing so many beautiful bikes with baskets and expensive brown leather saddles made me so envious, as much as I love my purple Raleigh I have always longed for a town bike with a basket and bell. This has resulted in the impulse buy of a Bianchi Spillo town bike with not only a bell but also curved bars, perfect for a basket, mudguards, stand, and a rear rack. I also have my eye on a few accessories so I can pimp my bike before the next Critical Mass.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Baking Chocolate Brownies

Today was a day for baking. I’m a novice baker, so I am easing myself into it by making the more basic recipes; I had a slight disaster trying to bake a chocolate cake a few months ago, my ganache frosting had a liquid consistency and ended up as a puddle at the bottom of the cake. Today I decide to make traditional brownies using the recipe in ‘The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook’ by Tarek Malouf who owns the famous Hummingbird Bakeries in London. The book is filled with baking recipes, from cupcakes to biscuits to sweet loafs and pies (yummy). It also has lots of pretty pictures, and easy to follow instructions, which is important for a novice like me.

Another brownie recipe is Jamie Oliver’s ‘Bloomin’ Brilliant Brownies,’ which includes chopped nuts, and looks delicious. I am also waiting to receive a new cookbook I ordered called ‘British Baking’ by Oliver Peyton, which a friend recommended. One reviewer on Amazon said ‘I can't resist saying this book takes the biscuit.’ I am expecting a lot Mr Peyton, please don’t disappoint me.

BarCamp MediaCityUK 2011

A few weeks back I visited the BBC Quay House at MediaCityUK in Salford to attend the BarCamp un-conference. The website describes the event as, ‘a group of enthusiastic people gathering to share their knowledge about technology and anything else they are interested in.’ The talks were very varied and included discussions on 'how to rob a bank', song writing and being happy, but the majority of the talks orientated around technology and web development. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more sessions on social media or blogging, though arguably I could have organised my own talk, but I am no authority on the subjects and would have been intimated by the vastly more knowledgable academics that were present. This included the very friendly Helen Keegan, a lecturer from the department of Media at Salford University, which is now based in MediaCity. She presented the only talk that day which did cover social media platforms, discussing digital communication through visuals and how image networking websites can provide a bridge of communication between other cultures. The main areas she discussed were instagram; an iPhone photo sharing application and networking website, emoticon; the symbol based font, and also flickr; the image sharing social networking website. In the session she explained that she had gained more followers from Asia using instagram then any other photo sharing or networking website. The images she took using the application were mainly of food and seemed to connect with this culture more then the previous photographs she had uploaded, and had therefore connected her to a new audience. The session was very insightful and generated a discussion on the different realms of image sharing including the darker side of flickr such as users who collect niche fetish images, one example being photographs of women wearing scarves.

Each session lasted around 20 minutes, so it was difficult to go into too much depth on the subjects presented, which was sometimes disappointing. The event was run by attentees and the time was adequate enough for some presenters to mainly plug their businesses, these were the less enjoyable sessions but an enviable factor when a free platform is available such as this. Overall I really enjoyed the whole experience and particularly enjoyed seeing MediaCity for the first time. I hope that this event is one of many to take place at MediaCity as I am very excited to see how the area develops in the future and would like to have a excuse to visit again.