Things I’ve been reading recently

In an attempt to get some of the things I find interesting out of my head and into my blog I’m sharing links to stuff I’ve stumbled on this week that has made me think…

There is too much talk and not enough action in the charity sector – Simon Burne, The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network

Simon talks about a culture of risk-aversion, looking inwards and being afraid of innovation within charity fundraising:

“We should learn from the fast-moving consumer goods (products that are sold quickly and at relatively low cost) sector. Those companies expect up to 90% of product tests to fail, but they make a mint on the other 10%. I know of few charities that are even happy with a 10% failure rate. Low failure rates tend to lead to low success rates.”

This article chimes with my experience of students’ unions sometimes. Within the sector (I refuse to call it ‘the student movement’ (or worse just ‘the movement’) as it sounds too much like bowel movements) there are definitely cool innovative things going on and people prepared to try new things but I feel there is also a great amount of fear of breaking away from the traditional model of students’ unions and the things they’ve always done.

I’ve been mulling over this topic for a while and mentally drafting a blog post on it so hopefully I’ll get it out of my head and onto my blog at some point…

My year at a standing desk and why I’ll never go back – Cia Bernales, Fast Company

I’ve long been considering trying a standing desk at work. I spent 99.9% of my day (approximately) sitting down which isn’t good for you but the palaver of getting the right set-up and not wanting to give my colleagues more reasons to mock me (we’re a very friendly bunch who are very comfortable with winding each other up!) means I’ve never got round to it.

We recently rearranged the furniture in our office so now I have a little more flexibility to adapt my desk for working standing up sometimes. My current plan is to wangle flexible monitor arms and something to put my mouse and keyboard on and give it a try. I’m not quite hardcore enough for a treadmill desk (yet) though!

Why Custom Audience targeting proves that email has won the internet – Parry Malm, Econsultancy

An overview of how you can upload email lists to platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to target your advertising. The article opens by comparing an email address to a passport which gives you access to other online services. This is something I’ve found missing from ‘omg email is dead’ discussions – most of the services pointed to as replacing email still require an email address to sign up. I appreciate this doesn’t mean people check their email accounts or use them to send/emails but email addresses at least are still at the heart of many chunks of the internet.

Handling prison visit requests: the inside story – Leigh Money, MOJ Digital blog

A great case study of switching to a digital process in the prison service. I’m going to be talking to all of my colleagues soon about the exciting prospects and tangible benefits that digital can bring and this is a great example to refer to. This post outlines the benefits of switching to a digital system as well as the importance of a successful transition.

Oops! 7 Awkward (But Common) Grammar Mistakes – Lisa Toner, HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing blog

Yes I love good grammar. Love it.

Webinar 24/04/14: Leading the digital business revolution – Brilliant Noise

This webinar will focus on “what it takes to be a customer-first, digital business, the barriers that prevent organisations from changing, and what role you can play in leading the digital business revolution” aka ‘loads of the things I’m interested in at the moment’. I won’t be able to follow this as I’ll be at BrightonSEO but I’m hoping to be able to catch up afterwards.

April 13th, 2014|Lots of links|0 Comments|

Things I’ve been reading recently

In an attempt to get some of the things I find interesting out of my head and into my blog I thought I’d share some links on a semi-regular basis.

I’d love to see what you’ve been reading and pondering so feel free to leave some suggestions in the comments or tweet them to me – @jowalters.

These links come largely from my Feedly saved items. You can read more about some of the blogs I subscribe to in my earlier post and see more of the things I’m bookmarking at

What’s a Playbook and why do I need one? – Kim Townend, Government Design Service Social Media blog

The team have released an alpha version of their guide outlining how and why they use various social media channels with lots of useful tools and insights.

Seven useful tips to help with your mobile copywriting – David Moth, Econsultancy

Most of these tips actually apply to writing on the web regardless of platform but show that writing mobile requires special consideration. As I’m going to be running training on writing for the web again soon I’ll be making sure I’m covering these points.

Inside a service manager’s head – Giles Turnbull, Government Digital Service blog

Yes it’s another GDS post but a) I love them, and b) I subscribed to even more of their feeds last week so I’m catching up on things! This post talks about moving to digital from paper, working within guidelines and various other things that I’ll be doing at work in my new role as Digital Engagement Manager so it is interesting to see how other organisations handle it.

Five simple ideas for free content curation on Twitter – Ben Davis, Econsultancy

Ideas for content sources including Spotify playlists which I’ve found these work well, both sharing existing playlists and asking for contributions to themed collaborative lists.

This column will change your life: interestingness v truth – Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian

“A theorist is considered great, not because his theories are true, but because they are interesting.” Even in the world of academia, most people aren’t motivated by the truth. What they want, above all, is not to be bored.”

This article – from a regular column I find interesting (and hopefully truthful) – reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from ‘Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck‘; “An accurate but useless idea is still useless”. I’m not advocating misinformation or inaccuracy but sometimes we lose the human factor which makes something interesting in the pursuit of complete (and sometimes boring) accuracy.

Vintage sexism: 20 things men don’t like about women in the office – Maya, Feministing


On that note I’m off to offer some impudent criticism and ask impertinent questions!


‘Reading the internet’ – some of my favourite blogs

I was recently asked what my hobbies are and answered ‘reading the internet’. It is how I spend a lot of my free time and I love filling my brain up with new things to ponder (as well as the less highbrow stuff I read!) so I thought I’d share some of my favourite blogs and ask you for your suggestions of other blogs to try.

I read my blogs via an RSS reader which brings everything into one place so I don’t have to remember to visit lots of websites. I use Feedly as it has lots of keyboard shortcuts so I can blitz through my feeds on my computer and a great iPhone app so I can read anywhere. I sort most of these into categories (including one helpfully called ‘blogs’) to help me find particular things or focus on particular topics.

These are just some of the blogs I read regularly. Feedly makes it easy to skip through the headlines of my ridiculously large blog collection so I don’t read every post from every blog but I pretty much read the ones below from cover to cover (there doesn’t seem to be a digital equivalent for that term!)

Why so many blogs? Why so much reading? When I run training sessions about writing for the web I tell people one of the best ways to write better is to read a lot. Reading good (and bad!) stuff online has taught me so much about how to structure my writing, what makes something compelling and the importance of having a clear and consistent voice.

I also love reading and learning new things. Growing up I’d read a book a day (and still can if I have enough time) and would turn the cereal box round on the table so I had something to read while I ate breakfast.

What else should I be reading? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments or on Twitter where I’m @jowalters

Content marketing blogs

Copyblogger@copyblogger – “Solutions for smarter content marketing – Since January 2006, Copyblogger has been teaching people how to create killer online content. Not bland corporate crap created to fill up a company webpage.Valuable information that attracts attention, drives traffic, and builds your business.” – A good focus on the writing side of communications.

Econsultancy@econsultancy – Do you know what is a good idea if your business is about selling content marketing services? Doing content marketing. These guys do it really well with lots of really useful stuff including posts by and featuring my good friend Kelvin Newman.

Email Marketing Tips@aweber – Another example of people who sell stuff for content marketers (in this case, a newsletter system which I’ve blogged about using) using content marketing to sell their stuff. They’ve also featured a post written by me (lucky them!)

The Guardian: Blogging – This feed picks out all Guardian articles tagged with ‘blogging’ so it is a good mix of techie geek stuff and current affairs.

HubSpot’s Inbound Hub@hubspot – Practising what they preach these guys post all the time so you have to sift through to find the stuff that is relevant to you but their posts are really useful, use a mix of formats and are really easy to read (as you’d expect when you describe yourselves as pioneers of inbound marketing!)

Men With Pens@menwithpens – “World class websites and copywriting – Enjoy 1,000+ articles geared to your content-marketing, writing, freelancing or small business endeavors” – More writing stuff including writing books.

ProBlogger@problogger – “Blog Tips to Help You Make Money Blogging – In 2002 I stumbled upon an article about ‘Blogging’. I didn’t know it at the time but that moment changed my life.” Frequent posts on a variety of blogging topics focused on making money from blogging. My favourite posts are by site founder, Darren.

Unmarketing@unmarketing – “Scott Stratten is the President of Un-Marketing. He is an expert in Viral, Social, and Authentic Marketing which he calls Un-Marketing. It’s all about positioning yourself as a trusted expert in front of your target market, so when they have the need, they choose you.” – Sometimes snarky, always useful. I’ve blogged previously about his book of the same name which I totally love.

Charity communications blogs

Charity Chap@charitychap – “I help charities use the internet to change the world through social media coaching and training, digital campaigning, and writing inspiring words”

comms2point0@comms2point0 – “comms2point0 is a free online resource for creative communicators in public, private, third sector and HE comms & PR” – Focuses on local government stuff but is really transferable to charities and students’ unions. Definitely worth following on Twitter as they share lots of good stuff from around the web. Also use fabulous vintage images to illustrate their posts.

The Democratic Society@demsoc – “The Democratic Society is an independent membership organisation. We promote democracy and new forms of governance through citizen participation, debate and building bridges between those who ‘know’ and those who ‘do’” – Whilst not directly relevant for every charity (though definitely useful for people working in students’ unions) there are some interesting themes relating to engagement and participation which are broadly transferable.

Higher Education Network: The Guardian – @@GdnHigherEd – “Ideas, insight and debate from the global higher education community” – Obviously this one is for a fairly specific sector but the Guardian’s networks highlight the benefits of having a clearly identified niche and of pulling together lots of different contributors.

The Non-Profit Marketing Blog@Network4Good – “The Nonprofit Marketing Blog is managed by the nonprofit marketing and advisory teams at Network for Good. Our goal is to bring you the best in nonprofit marketing trends, fundraising techniques, technology developments and amazing nonprofit examples to help, encourage and inspire the do-gooders of the world. We’re here to help you effectively engage your communities and win hearts and minds—and donations.”

Voluntary Sector Network: The Guardian – @GdnVoluntary – “Insight, advice and best practice from the community”

Feminist blogs

Feministe@Feministe – “In defense of the sanctimonious women’s studies set – Feministe is one of the oldest feminist blogs online designed by and run by women from the ground up.”

Feministing@Feministing – “Young feminists blogging, organising, kicking ass”

Jezebel@Jezebel – “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing” – Definitely one of my favourite sites due to the range of topics they cover and high sarcasm content (and the fact they talked about the random bus thing I was involved in). Their headlines are some of my favourite on the internet. They also post cute animal pics which scores points with me.

Lifestyle & interiors blogs

Apartment Therapy@AptTherapy‎ – “Helping people make their homes more beautiful, organized and healthy by connecting them to a wealth of resources, ideas and community online”  – Beautiful beautiful houses, DIY and design things.

Carolina Charm – @C_Marcellino – Christina blogs about her life, house, dog, family, parties and holidays.

House*Tweaking@housetweaking – “Because home doesn’t happen overnight” – One of my top three not work-related blogs (along with Young House Love & Manhattan Nest). Dana writes about doing up her house, blogging and her super cute family.

Manhattan Nest@danielkanter – Daniel blogs (amongst other things) about doing up his newly purchased old house and his dogs with a healthy dose of friendly sarcasm. Essentially the trifecta for my recreational blog-reading.

The Planned Adventure@ruthlgarner – my friend Ruth writes about her adventures and beautiful things.

RedneckModern – “a mid-century modern restoration resource” – I love mid-century modern style and these guys share some amazing houses, interiors and furniture.

Young House Love@younghouselove – “Wut up. We’re Sherry & John. Just your average married couple with a lively three year old, a moody chihuahua, and a love of all things home. Here’s where we chat about transforming our house, living in it, and all the random bits in between.” – YHL ooooooozes Sherry & John. I’ve never met them but feel like I know them as their site has such a consistent and distinct tone that feels completely authentic. They also share family stuff at Young House Life.

Productivity blogs

The first blogs I really got into were about productivity stuff, largely Getting Things Done, but these days they are just part of my sprawling feed collection.

Lifehacker@lifehacker‎ – “Tips, tricks, and downloads for getting things done” – I love Lifehacker’s mix of topics which ranges from DIY to tech stuff and their concise writing style. A tip I emailed in even featured in one of their round-ups. Basically a productivity expert.

Unclutterer@unclutterer – “Unclutterer is the blog about getting and staying organized. A place for everything, and everything in its place is our gospel” – Appeals to my organising/list-making side.

Other blogs

Various Google blogs including Google Analytics, Gmail, Google for non-profits for updates on the Google things I use. I also read blogs for other tools I use including Remember the Milk.

Mind Your Language@guardianstyle – The blog of the Guardian’s style guide editors. A must for grammar and writing nerds and particularly great on Twitter

The Obvious by Euan Semple@euan – “I called it The Obvious? when I wrote anonymously and chose the name to reflect the fact I have to overcome my inhibitions about stating the obvious!” – One of the most recent additions to my collection after reading Euan’s great book, ‘Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do‘. Euan writes about the power of digital and social tools for people and organisations.

This column will change your life – @oliverburkeman– “Oliver Burkeman investigates routes to mental wellbeing” – Interesting and funny insights into psychology and lifestyle theories.

I’ve also subscribed to the Guardian feeds for David Mitchell, Laurie Penny, Charlie Brooker, Rebecca Front and Mark Thomas as they write funny and/or interesting and/or thought-provoking stuff.

Silly blogs

Some of the more random stuff I follow…

ANIMALS TALKING IN ALL CAPS – “It’s just what it sounds like” – Yes it is.

BuzzFeed@BuzzFeed – I pretend I read this so I can be up to date on youth culture and internet trends for work purposes. Really I just like lists of animal gifs. Actually though I’ve been experimenting with Buzzfeed style ‘list posts’ in my writing for Sussex Students’ Union which seem to be going down well.

Clients From Hell@clientsfh – “A collection of anonymously contributed client horror stories from designers”

What have I missed out?

Don’t forget to let me know what else I should be reading online in the comments or on Twitter – @jowalters


… and it so it continues…

My response to the whole ‘bus babe’ thing is now online at the Guardian. Sadly when I submitted it I was warned the comments might get a bit heated and it looks like they are. Contrary to some of them I wasn’t paid for my response.

This is my original submission:

In the past week I’ve been to the cinema twice (The Artist & The Descendants – both fairly good), stocked up my fridge (meatballs & pizza on the menu this week) and arranged to catch up with friends. Oh and been called “an irate woman”, “a daft woman”, a “silly, silly woman” told I “must look [like] the old back of a bus”, to “GET A LIFE” and that “I need an operation, to remove the chip from [my] shoulder” – all by people I don’t know and have never met.

What is my crime? Just politely contacting my local bus company to let them know that I don’t like it when their bus drivers use terms such as ‘love’, ‘darling’ and ‘babe’. I pointed out that I generally find their drivers friendly and courteous but that when some of them use that language I find it demeaning. I wasn’t angry, I didn’t ask to make a formal complaint, I wasn’t trying to get anyone into trouble, I’m not trying to get anyone fired, I didn’t threaten legal action – I just thought they might like to know how the actions of some of their staff made me feel.

I received a prompt and friendly response agreeing that it wasn’t really appropriate language and not something the company would condone. They promised to let drivers know that this sort of language isn’t appreciated and I didn’t really think much more of it until my local radio station mentioned on Facebook that drivers had been asked not to call people babe. From there I spotted it in our local newspaper, the Metro, the Mail Online, found it was discussed on Loose Women and various local radio stations.

The thing I find weird is that I don’t really think this is news; I just sent some feedback to a company. It seems that people find the idea that language can affect others a bizarre concept and that it is ‘just political correctness gone mad’ (that gem came up a few times). Much of the coverage and comments paints me as some angry woman who should be grateful for the apparent compliment. I didn’t make it a gender issue, the coverage and comments created a gendered issue.

Thing is though, I personally find terms like ‘babe’ coming from men over-familiar, sexist and patronising. I’m allowed to interpret their words in that way, it doesn’t make me irrational or over-sensitive. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a sense of humour or that I should be grateful for the attention. It is interesting to note that lots of the critical comments are from men.

I’ve had lots of feedback from other women saying that they feel the same on this issue and that they’re glad that I bought it up. I’ve also been insulted by complete strangers online. When considering my response to the issue and coverage I was worried that I might be the target for further criticism and insults. There is a sense in some of the comments that I should just shut up and ignore it when people use language I don’t consider appropriate. I wonder how much of this is because I am a woman and am expected to ‘get over it’ because it is ‘just banter’.

I’m not suggesting that bus drivers or other men who say babe to women they don’t know are evil misogynistic women-haters and I’m equally not saying that all women should be furious if it happens to them. I am suggesting however that language changes over time – there are words in common use 20 years ago that wouldn’t be accepted now – and that, as a woman, I should not be expected to meekly accept words from men that make me feel uncomfortable. I should also be happy to provide this feedback without being attacked.

I’m not expecting to change the language and behaviour of everyone, just as when I contacted the bus company I didn’t expect (or want) them to issue a list of ‘approved’ words and turn the drivers into robots (the latter is an accusation levelled at me by an unnamed driver). I just hoped it might make some people reconsider how their words might be interpreted by others.

You can join in the conversation about this on Twitter using the #dontcallmebabe hashtag

And now for something completely different

So today was a fairly normal until my email to my local bus company went slightly viral in the news. I basically took the afternoon off work to respond to it and watch bemusedly as it grew and travelled online. I certainly didn’t expect to be searching Twitter for ‘bus babe’ when I woke up this morning.

When I thought it was just my local paper that was covering the ‘story’ I thought about sending them a response and maybe creating a jokey hashtag but as it spread further than that I set up a tumblr to keep track of the coverage – and a hashtag #dontcallmebabe. My response will be posted on the Guardian website tomorrow (so now I’m basically Charlie Brooker right?)

I guess that some of this isn’t that unrelated to things I blog about; customer service and the internet. Normal (sporadic) digital marketing posting will resume shortly but for now I just thought I’d post about my (very very small) brush with internet fame.