Friday, March 27, 2009

When Twitter Gets Weird...

So... I've been genuinely enjoying Twitter. If I'm at my desk it's a pleasing distraction and a nice way of answering quick questions, um, quickly...

Of course I use it to follow other people too. Some are people I know. Some are people I'm a fan of. And some are people who I've discovered since I've been on twitter.

But yesterday I had two people contact me to tell me that I was rude for not following them. How not-following someone can be rude is quite beyond me. So I asked. And their point was that they were following me and that it was therefore only polite for me to follow them back because unless I did that I wasn't being interactive.

Which seems to me to be a false definition of what interactivity really is. In what way would clicking a button to say I was following someone be actually interacting with them? At the moment I follow between 200 and 300 people. When I log on I normally find there are between 10 and 20 posts for me to look at from the last 5 minutes of activity. But I'm followed by over 20,000 people. If I followed all of them, there would be a hundred times as many recent posts to review. There would be no way of me actually reading - or even meaningfully scanning - 1000 to 2000 posts every 5 minutes.

And how would I find the posts from the 200+ people I've chosen to follow? Surely they'd be lost in the tidal wave of noise. The assumption that following is in some way polite seems to me to be a complete misunderstanding of the Twitter interface. Asymmetry is built in to it. Which doesn't make it a one way street because, regardless of whether someone is actually following you, you're still able to send them a tweet.

I could choose to follow everyone who follows me. It might make some of them feel good in the short term. But surely it would be apparent that in such large numbers following is effectively meaningless... so it would be nothing more than a token, empty gesture... and what would the point of that be?

When I tried to explain that, some people got in touch and suggested that I could 'follow' everyone but use the filtering system of something like Tweetdeck to ferret out only the tweets from people I was actually interested in.

Which I think meant they were telling me they'd be happy if I pretended to follow them but then used technology to ignore them in favour of other people. What? So not only would they rather I pretended to follow them they wanted to explain to me how this dishonest artifice could easily be achieved.

The argument is that if I (or anyone else with a lot of followers) don't follow loads of people back then it's obvious that my use of Twitter is purely selfish and self-promotional. I think they've got that completely arse about tit. Twitter works in two ways. Obviously. 1) You send. 2) You receive.
If I follow so many people as to effectively make the receiving part unusable then I'm not being more interactive, I'm being less so because if receiving is rendered useless I'm effectively admitting that I'm only interested in using the send part of the equation. Wouldn't giving 20,000 people an essentially meaningless pat on the back and the false sense of being followed actually be more self-promotional than using the service to find the things you want to find?

Holy Moly - the unofficial, Official Gossip Kings of the UK - perpetuated the idea that following=interactivity today by publishing a top 40 list of "Celebrities who love themselves." Essentially they divided the number of people each sleb is following by the number of followers they had and the people with the biggest discrepancies were, in their view, the least interactive and therefore the biggest tools.

Now I reckon that a better measure of how interactive someone is, would be to see how much they, um, interact with people. Y'know... like actual interaction. Like, maybe replying to people. After all, any of the people who follow me are able to tweet me. And many do. Wouldn't answering those tweets be more, y'know, interactive than just pretending to be interested in them by nominally following them all? If you were at a party, would the most interactive person be the one with the largest number of numbers in their phone or the one who chatted with the most people?

As it goes there's a way of finding out how much people reply. There's a site called that allows you to check it out. At time of writing I can tell you that I've replied to 77.34% of the tweets I've received and - at risk of sounding cliched, here's the graph to prove it.

Now Tweets arrive when I'm not online and I don't scroll back to see everything that's arrived in my absence so I reckon that's pretty interactive.

So how does Holy Moly compare? Well, as I enjoy Holy Moly I follow HolyMolyNews and I can tell you that at time of writing they have 4376 followers and they follow 3647 people. So they follow a whopping 83% as many people as follow them. But if you tweet them what chance do you have of getting a reply? Only 17.12% Which by my reckoning makes them woefully lacking in interactivity.

Now I don't have any axe to grind with Holy Moly - I often like what they do - but they're definitely wrong that the number of people you follow is any kind of meaningful metric as to how interactive you are on Twitter.

But back to the two correspondents who started this discussion with me. One of them had started a campaign to 'unfollow' people who didn't follow them back. And once you start a campaign it's very hard to back down. It's a proven scientific fact* that anyone who's painted a placard is unable to admit that they're wrong. So while I reasoned with the two of them (and indeed even in replying to them about the issue I was being more interactive than I would have been by agreeing to follow them) they maintained the argument.

After a while I decided it was obviously not going to be resolved to their satisfaction, that my @Replies list was being clogged up with tweets from two unhappy fans and that other, more friendly and rational questions were getting overlooked as a result of the attention they were getting. I also got the impression they were enjoying winding me - and others - up with their determined tweets. In other words, I thought they were trolling. So, as they were clearly not happy with me for not following them and their starting point had been to threaten to 'unfollow' me unless I complied and followed them I decided to make everyone's lives easier and block them.

Inevitably this wound them up more. One of them - a man in his 30s no less - decided that he now hated me and everything I'd ever done. He starting tweeting to the world that I was a paedophile. He vandalised at least one website to change the content to suggest I was a paedophile. 24 hours earlier he was a self-professed fan of mine who wanted me to follow him... and now he hates my face, my hair, my work, my clothes, my voice and everything I've ever done. He decided to complain to the BBC about me and suggested that writing to the Daily Mail to suggest I was a paedophile would be a fun idea. It's almost as if his opinion is made up on the spot because if he really does hate every single thing I've ever done and every fibre of my being I really can't imagine why he followed me in the first place or why he wanted me to follow him. If I'd followed him he'd think I was brilliant. But I didn't so I'm therefore the embodiment of everything evil and wrong in the world. Can't help thinking that the way he's reacted has rather proved me right though.

I'm being glib. Now. Last night it was genuinely depressing - and vaguely distressing - being on the receiving end of so much spewing hatred. All because I decided to block a stranger who randomly decided to harass me for not even pretending to follow him.

Today has been a better day. As with the world, the vast majority of people are lovely and Twitter has been a friendly place today.

But I hope Twitter doesn't turn into Myspace with all that 'thanks for the add' nonsense. It's not a competition to collect as many friends as possible. And anyone who follows thousands and thousands of people can't actually be following them can they? So relax. And interact. I mean really interact.

The difference between following someone and replying to them is the difference between stopping to chat with someone in the street or giving them a badge declaring that you know them. One is actual interaction. The other is just something you can show your friends.

*Not a proven scientific fact.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Outside The Bubble

What a ridiculous and lovely weekend. On Saturday morning I travelled up to Northumbria for a wedding of two beautiful friends.

I wouldn't have missed it for the world but selfishly I think it was really good for me too. After a week of living in the publicity bubble as we built up to Friday night's first episode of Genius it was the perfect way of reminding me that there are always more important things out there.

Because I had commitments in London on Friday the only way of making the journey was to fly up to Newcastle and then hire a car. If you're a regular reader you might know that I gave up car ownership a few years ago. The last time I drove in the UK was when I got to drive one of those tiny electric cars for an item on the Grand Designs Live thing I did last May.

The flight was, um, unpleasant. Really the only thing that made the weekend less than perfect. Newcastle United were hosting Arsenal that day so inevitably the plane was full and had a blokes-away-day tone to it. At one point, when a conspicuously pretty young girl returned to her seat from a trip to the loo she was given a round of applause by fifty blokes. Charming. I'm sure the knowledge that every woman who made the walk to and from the back of the plane was being judged on their appearance made everyone feel really relaxed about the rest of the flight. Especially as some of the blokes sitting near me then had a loud conversation about the relative merits of the stewardesses who - they decided - weren't as pretty as they'd hoped.

I really hate being in crowds of men when this sort of thing happens. I know they think they're just having a laugh and to many I probably just sound like a killjoy but not one of them would behave like that if they weren't bolstered by the power of the mob (and booze). We landed at 9.30am and they were loudly boasting about being four pints in already.

There's obviously no way of doing anything about it so the best you can do is meet people's eyes and try to tacitly express that you're not a part of it. In order to assert to myself how uninvolved I was I put my headphones in and listened to the campest music I could. Thanks Boogaloo Stu.

At the airport I joined the queue for the hire car company and suddenly had a heart stopping moment. I was sixth or seventh in line and I watched as everyone else in front of me took out their driver's licences. They all had the paper part of their licence as well as the card. I felt the blood drain away. The e-mail that confirmed the booking for the hire car had explicitly stated that I needed to bring both parts of my licence. I'd made a note of it. I'd even checked that the paper part was kept in the drawer I thought it was at the time. But at midnight, when I was packing my bag I'd forgotten that detail and had neglected to fetch and pack it. Oops. (Or as they say in Denmark: ups.)

I spent ten minutes in the queue certain I was about to be told that while I'd already paid for the car I couldn't actually take it. Certain I would meet a there's-nothing-I-can-do refusal. Sure I was about to take a very expensive cab instead. When it was my turn I told him straight away that I didn't have the paper licence and he just shrugged and said, "No problem, I'll just have to call the DVLA and check your endorsements." Such a relief.

Then he tried to persuade me to pay for an upgrade. I'd arranged to hire a small hatchback. I was being offered a Mercedes sports car. I turned it down to begin with. I'd arranged to pay extra for a sat-nav. The Mercedes came with an inbuilt sat-nav so he explained that they'd take off the fee for the sat-nav as an add on if I took it. By the time he'd finished explaining the benefits it was going to cost me something ridiculous like an extra £8 to take the sports car. So I did. The photograph up top shows you the car I was driving and the hotel I was staying in. Ridiculous. Very out of character for me. But lovely. Very, very lovely.

I don't want to write about personal things - especially other people's personal things - so I'll only say that the wedding itself was fabulous and a glorious time was had by all. By the time I'd returned to London late on Sunday afternoon I was feeling pretty wiped out.

Digression: I went for a wee in the gents at Newcastle airport. Above every urinal there was an advert. It was for a bookmakers that was located within the airport by security. They were doing a special Mothers' Day offer. A free £3 matched bet. What? Is that as misplaced an advert as it seems to me to be? Perfect for any bloke who's forgotten Mothers' Day, but taken their gambling addicted Mum to the airport for the day. What!

Digression over: ... feeling pretty wiped out. Not at all in the mood to do a gig. But a gig is what I had to do because I'd agreed to do a spot in Ali McGregor's Late Nite Variety Nite night. Elated by the weekend's football results I decided to laugh in the face of exhaustion and cycle into town. I'm glad I did. I know Ali but had never seen her perform before and didn't really know what to expect from the evening. It was camp and silly and very, very funny cabaret. Ali and all her guests were amazing. There were singers, accordionists and burlesque acts (how odd that having followed a burlesque act for the first time so recently I got to do it again so soon) and by the time the interval came I was feeling like some stand-up would be a wholly inappropriate interruption to the flow of the evening.

It made me change the way I approached the gig. Stand-up is by and large an illusory artform. Most comics are pretending to be more in the moment than they appear. Things are normally more written than a lot of the audience appreciates. Even most of the comedians who appear to be making it all up as they go along are largely doing no such thing. (Although I saw Phil Kay last week and I'm pretty sure he was for real and he was absolutely ace.) But every now and then, you are. And when you're on stage and saying things you've never said - or thought - before and it's working you feel incredibly alive. It's when the thing you normally sort of pretend to be doing has come to life.

Following four other stand-ups changes the way you approach a gig. The audience has got used to a stand-up rhythm and you feel like you have to bang it out in order to hold their attention. But following a Lady Elvis, an accordionist, a camp singer of torch songs, an omnichordist (don't ask) and a Star Trek themed burlesque made me abandon any plans and just feel my way through a set.

Don't get me wrong, most of what I said on stage was material I'd done before - although none of it was the stuff I'd thought about doing in advance. But maybe 20% of it was completely new. By which I mean, not-even-from-my-new-things-I-haven't-tried-yet page of my notebook. Things I'd never even thought about before, let alone written down or said out loud. About half of that new stuff will never work again because it was about the night and the situation and the moment and the shared consciousness in the room... but maybe the other half can be turned into something.

Of course it will never be as exciting for me as it was last night when I was saying - and hearing - it for the first time. And maybe that's the more important gain. I've been out of stand-up for a long time and while I think gigs are generally going well it is something you never stop learning about. Comedy clubs create their own atmosphere and expectations, as do cabaret nights like last night. But it's useful to do them all because you learn something about yourself by working in such different environments.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

*Where's Wally?

Here's a weird thing. When I was plugging Genius on The One Show the other day (which, incidentally was lovely, fun and might mean I end up getting a loan of a high quality exercise bike - which in turn means I might actually get to do some training before the autumn tour) I didn't just appear on the sofa, I also made a short film for the show...

The theme of the film was inventions-that-are-supposed-to-make-our-lives-easier-but-don't... things like Voice Recognition and those Automatic Checkouts you get in supermarkets these days and so on.

So the day before the appearance I spent a lovely day with a lovely crew - Anna, Claire, Andy and Quin - racing around London to various locations and filming pieces to camera. We also did some vox pops on Carnaby Street (which must be one of the most vox-popped streets in the world) where two or three people told us they hated Sat Navs.

Which then led to us have an off-camera conversation about the merits of Satellite Navigation. In which Andy said that there were soon going to be Sat Nav systems that, instead of displaying a map view, showed you an actual photo of the street you're on from a car's point of view.

This in turn reminded me of an incident from many moons ago, which I then relayed to the team. I'd been walking down Bethnal Green Road when a strange car had passed me and caught my eye. It was a small buggy car with a huge nest of cameras on top of it. Curiosity made me gawp at it... then I saw the logo on the side of the car and realised it was photographing the street from every angle as part of Google's street view project. I remember thinking, "Oh no... now when they launch street view, I'm going to be there on Bethnal Green Road forever... and I'll be staring at the car with a look of curiousity so intense that people will think I've never seen a car before."

I've never mentioned it to anyone else before because it obviously isn't a huge moment in my life - indeed I'd forgotten all about it until the idea of a 3D photographic Sat Nav brought it back to mind - but it did make ideal, idle chit chat while we we're waiting to film the next piece.

Anyway... that was on Monday. I appeared on the show on the Tuesday and then yesterday before I went to bed, I noticed a tweet from a friend on Twitter telling me that the street view service had launched. I was too tired to look it up at the time but I made a mental note to look into it and to see if I really was there this morning.

Except that this morning I was up early and off to the BBC to appear on BBC Breakfast and then on to record thirteen different radio interviews to continue the promotion for the new series. (Did I mention that Genius starts tomorrow night... or Saturday, depending on where you live?)

So it wasn't until I got home this afternoon that I was able to check. And by crikey, I'm there. I'm not looking stupidly curious because - thankfully - they blur people's faces but because I knew where I was when I saw the car it only took me a couple of minutes to find myself and in spite of the blurred image I obviously know it's me.

If you go to and search for 462 Bethnal Green Rd, Tower Hamlets, London E2, UK and then select 'Street view' it'll show you a view of the Shakespeare pub. I'm on the other side of the road so scroll round and you'll see me leaning against the wall of the Quicksilver Gaming Centre (boy, do I live in a classy part of the world!) It's probably not obvious to anyone else that it's me. But it is you know...

Here I am...
... and here's a close up. I'm not the man in the black t-shirt... I'm the one looking towards the camera.

EDIT: Adding this link - which takes you to the photo...

*For any North American readers that would be Where's Waldo?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Or not so soon, depending on where you live...

It was only when I read the comments to my last post that I discovered Genius has been scheduled differently in Northern Ireland and in Wales.

So actually, the schedule is as follows:
England/Scotland: BBC2, Friday, 10pm
Northern Ireland: BBC2, Friday, 11.35pm
Wales: BBC2, Saturday, 10pm.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Coming Soon...

I was trying to find an image to put at the top of the blog that best summed up the message that Genius starts on BBC2 on Friday at 10pm. It's subtle but I think it's done the job.

I've been doing various promo stuff. Here's an article I wrote for the Independent and here's an interview from The Times.

March 20th. Friday. 10pm.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Lyric, Newcastle & Lincoln

It's been a busy week. On Monday I was doing Frank Skinner's Credit Crunch Cabaret at The Lyric Theatre. I was a little bit concerned to be closing the show. The brilliant Ian Broudie had closed the first half and I was pretty sure we were occupying each other's slots on the bill.

It was also the first time I've ever had to follow a burlesque act (the really quite delightful, Missy Malone) but having dipped my toe back in the stand-up waters late last year and enjoyed myself and now having committed to an autumn tour... well, I guess it was time for a proper test. And a thousand people in a proper old West End Theatre is as good a way as any to find out where you are. I loved it. Those theatres are so much fun to play. I even sorted out a tiny bit of new material too. Hurrah.

(Of course, I do realise that nobody's reading this bit. I've invoked Blogging Rule #28: if you link to a burlesque dancer's site, don't expect anyone to read the rest of what you have to say. Oh well.)

I went out to celebrate after which proved to be a bit of a mistake because I felt the effects on Tuesday when I had to head to Newcastle for the next America Unchained book event.

As well as promoting the book I've been promoting the imminent arrival of Genius on TV and as part of that I've been writing a couple of newspaper articles on the subject. I was under the impression that one of them had to be delivered by the close of play on Friday... but late on Monday I discovered that the deadline had moved to Thursday which threw my plans out of whack somewhat.

Instead of spending Monday afternoon prepping for the gig at The Lyric I devoted it to writing but by the time I had to leave for the theatre the work wasn't done. I had Genius related interviews all Thursday so I knew I wouldn't have a chance to do any of it then and the Friday morning I'd set aside for the task was no longer of any use to me. So I took my laptop with me on the train to Newcastle and tried to get as much of it done as possible then. And a hangover - even though it was only a slight one - wasn't the best accompaniment to that.

I knew there wouldn't be time to finish it on the journey but I was pleased to get a sizeable chunk done. But it left me feeling frazzled and fragile when we got to the shop in Newcastle. The staff there were great though and there was a lovely crowd who were really up for it so I got a bit of an adrenaline kick and the reading ended up being really good fun.

It would have been lovely to spend a bit of time in Newcastle. In an ideal world I'd have brought my "proper" camera with me and set out into the darkness with a tripod to do some late night photography because the city's architecture and liveliness would be great for some night-shooting. Instead I headed straight back to the hotel to watch the football (glorious) and continue the writing (headachey) and contented myself with pointing my point-and-shoot snapper out of the hotel window instead.

The schedule that was laid out for the next day meant that the article simply had to be finished that night or I'd miss the deadline so I worked on, finally finishing it at 3am.

Wednesday was already set to be an especially long and arduous day, but now, with a distinct lack of sleep it was only going to feel harder. I was doing another reading that day - this time in Lincoln - but the book's publicist and the Genius publicist had conspired to ensure I had seven or eight appointments to make before that. I did stock signings - which means I signed books but not as part of any event - in two Gateshead shops and two more in York as well as doing various phone interviews and popping into a local radio station along the way. It was one of those frustratingly bitty days where there was never a significant enough break in the schedule, just the odd twenty minutes here or there so that, apart from the hotel breakfast, there was never time to have an actual meal and we (that's me and Ed Publisher by the way) survived on snacks and sandwiches all day.

The magic recipe of a warm welcome and an engaged and interested crowd meant the dose of adrenaline was administered and the Lincoln event was just as much fun as the one in Newcastle. (The fact that all four recent events have been so different - thanks to the Q&A sessions - is what really makes these events enjoyable to me)

But the moment I came off stage (or rather, off-shop-floor) I felt my energy dying completely. Lincoln must be one of the few British cities I've never visited before and I really didn't know what to expect of it. It looked beautiful. But as with Newcastle there was no chance to really appreciate it... this time because my Thursday schedule of Genius-related interviews meant I had to be back in London for the morning.

Unfortunately there doesn't appear to be a direct rail connection between Lincoln and London and there certainly wasn't a railway route back home at that time of night so instead we had the extravagance of a car home. My head didn't say hello to the pillows til the wee small hours.

Five hours sleep followed by three train journeys, five cars, four stock signings, three interviews, one reading and no meals. That's not good. And at 10 the next morning I was in the centre of town for more interviews.

I think I slept for much of Friday. Instead of spending the day writing the article - as originally planned - I spent it recovering from the lack of sleep endured as a result of writing it on Tuesday night. Which should mean that everything kind of balances out in the end. But three nights without decent sleep followed by one long day of rest never quite does that does it?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Brizzle and Brum

Two lovely America Unchained book readings this last week in Bristol and Birmingham... thanks to everyone who came along.

Especially my Mum who surprised me by sneaking into the Birmingham event unannounced.

I'd been on for less than a minute when I spied her on the third row. She even put her hand up to ask a question in the Q&A. It wasn't a question about the book... she wanted to know when I was going to give her a gimble - something I had once promised and have yet to deliver. Bad boy.

By the way, it's worth pointing out that I do see my Mum from time to time. And we do speak on a regular basis. She doesn't need to go to these kind of extremes in order to communicate with me...

Not sure if these links will all work, but Lucy from the Birmingham store has uploaded some photos from the event to my facebook page. This is me laughing at the way the staff were trying to cajole my Mum into joining in with a group photo and this is the group photo with my Mum standing reluctantly on the end.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

From L to B and back again

Having announced this tour (which is really a long bike ride with gigs added in) I've been inundated with questions. The easy questions have been about why I'm playing where I am... answer: because it's a big bike ride with a gig every night, but the others haven't been so easy.

Amongst the oft asked Qs are things like, "Are you planning on filming the show?" and "Have you got any plans to perform it after the tour?" The answer to these is no. But then people go away convinced that I'm not going to perform the show again and certain that the show won't be filmed. Every answer makes things seem so definite when the truth is that I'm a disorganised old thing who hasn't made any plans at all. I haven't thought about such things yet... the tour is a long way off. I probably will perform the show again... after all, it's not a show about the journey so there's no reason why not. But that's not the same as having plans which implies I have some secret dates in my diary that I'm not revealing. I haven't.

I've also been bombarded with advice and offers of help from people which is really lovely and touching. People with local knowledge are suggesting routes I should take and recommending places to stop along the way and so on and quite a few people have offered me places to stay. Quite a few more have asked if they can accompany me on one of the day's cycling. It's really been quite overwhelming and I'm very grateful for all of it... but I'm left feeling all the more disorganised because I simply can't keep track of it all. Right now, my priority is getting the show together and I haven't stopped to think about the logistics of the ride.

I'm worried that if I encourage people to accompany me I'll have a duty of care towards them. Am I responsible for their safety on the road if they're doing a journey they wouldn't have done but for me? I'm happy to take responsibility for myself but being responsible for other people fills me with dread. I don't want to be a tour guide.

And I can't decide whether staying with strangers would be more or less relaxing than B&Bs, hotels and the like. It appeals to the hippie minstrel side of me that is part of the reason for touring in this fashion in the first place but I have no idea what I'm going to do.

The end of August is just too far away for me to contemplate these details and the fab e-mails offering route-advice that I won't need til then have already been swept off the front page of my inbox to places where I'll struggle to find them. It's the kind of advice that my head doesn't cope well with at long range but loves when I can act on it with some immediacy.

I'm not really very au fait with the mobile internet. I've never craved a phone that has that kind of facility because the idea of being followed by my e-mails when I leave the house fills me with dread. But for this journey it might be a useful tool. If I was getting advice about routes the night before I needed them it'd be fantastic. On the day I'd know if I fancied company. After a night in a bland hotel I'd know if I fancied a change. At six months notice these things seem impossible to even begin thinking about. In the moment they should - I hope - make complete sense.

Incidentally, somewhere at the back of my mind, when I thought about doing this was the fact that I had previously done the London to Brighton bike ride for the British Heart Foundation. It's a roughly 60 mile bike ride and having done one it gives me confidence that I can do more. Whether or not I can do 33 of them in a row I've yet to find out. And the London to Brighton event creates artificially friendly conditions. There are nice, helpful marshalls lining the route, keeping you and the traffic apart and you're surrounded by tens of thousands of other cyclists who are going the same way. That won't be the case when I start my ride. The reality of what I've taken on is starting to hit me - and having announced it, it feels ten times more real than it was. Oh well, it's too late now.

But it occurred to me that I had no good reason not to sign up for the ride this year. And as a training exercise I think I'm going to try and cycle home the next day. I'm going to have to get used to intercity cycling between now and the tour so I might as well. If you want to sponsor me, (officially for the first ride and secretly for the next day's return journey) then please visit

Monday, March 2, 2009

As I write this, I'm wearing my special birthday socks - thanks Mum - so first things first: thanks to everyone who's sent me birthday greetings. It's genuinely touching, ta.

I've spent the day writing an article about Genius. (Well, actually, it's nominally about genius but I wouldn't be writing it if I wasn't promoting Genius so, there's a blurry line there.)

A few friends have called with birthday greetings and they all seem to express shock and amazement at the idea that I have spent the day working. It seems like an odd reaction because I'm pretty sure that most people go to work on their birthday don't they? I've obviously misunderstood the advantages of being self-employed. Oh well.

While writing the article (which annoyingly I haven't yet finished) Twitter once again came into its own as a research tool. I asked a question. A few people answered it. Because the people who choose to answer are naturally those most confident on the subject they tend to provide the best links to other online sources. I definitely found myself looking at a site that was clearer on the subject than Wikipedia and more helpful than any of the top pages turned up by a Google search. Hurrah for Twitter. I'm sure it would be annoying if overused in this way... but if used every now and then, I think it can prove an invaluable tool.