Saturday, 31 December 2011

Farewell 2011!

You have been good. No, great! Thank you. I've enjoyed pretty much every minute you have had to offer!

Well, except this very minute as I've been smited with a cold which has buggered up my re-charge glitter plan.


It's a time for counting blessings and reviewing.

Being a bit low on energy (due to this cold) I'm going to whizz through this a little bit and try and keep it brief. Ha!

I've loved having this blog this year. It was a great idea and addition to my online presence. It's my place for this, that and the other and I hope you have enjoyed reading it this year!

With that in mind, here's the top 5 most popular posts of the year:


My talk about local work has been extended beyond it's original 6 months and I'm enjoying every minute. I love the team there and the work that we do and this year has seen me on the road more and delivering social media workshops. Good stuff!

I said I would launch my wedding photography services. Well, it's *almost* ready to go. I've got several more weddings under my belt this year and it's still an area I'm enjoying so that will be a go-er for 2012. ( I was hoping to work on the announcement during this holiday, but this cold has slowed me down somewhat). Anyway, it's imminent! 

Consultancy: I said I would set aside a day every month or two for free consultancy to help people. I haven't strictly set aside set days for that this year, though it's worked out anyway as I've helped a few peeps during the year, so this one is getting a tick. Done!


I wanted to perfect my time management and look at areas to improve and thus be more efficient. I have improved on it (and I'll blog about how soon) and I feel that's worked out really well. There's still room for improvement, but I think it's safe to say there isn't much time this year that has gone to waste. Disciplined and organised. Done! 

Social Life:

Hmmm, I don't think I've really improved in this area that much! The trouble is, I'm so happy in my work I find it hard to put it down. Of course I have been social this year, and enjoyed every minute! I can't give this goal a complete tick. Maybe half a tick...

Decision Making:

I think I've improved. I'm listening to my instincts and saying 'yes' or 'no' more easily and that's serving me well. I've stuck to saying 'yes' to only things that are of true interest to me, so that's working out well. Tick!

Self Development:

I wanted to learn more about websites and how they work and are built. This was set to be a spare time activity. I didn't have much spare time, so it didn't happen how I thought it would. But! I have learnt a lot more about Wordpress and it's workings, so this gets a half tick!


I have been working on self development in the business area and dedicated quite some time for that. It's been well worth the time and I have learnt a lot and that will always put me in good stead 


I wanted some more trips away. 

I had planned to spend a weekend with my best friend. Done and done

And a weekend with my aunt and uncle. Not done. And a weekend with my cousin. Attempted, but illness prevented it. 

I wanted to do some more press trips. Done! Prague, Cairo, and Palma. All fantastic trips and great experiences! 

New York. Don't talk to me about it! I haven't been back. The trouble is, I don't want to go for a weekend or a week. I want at least a month, preferably two months there. It's the source of a lot of heartache, but I'm not giving up. I could write a whole blog about NYC, but I can barely bring myself to mention it here. 

Must buy

The only thing on my list - an iPad. Have I got one? No. Would I still like one? Yes please! 


This was the year I got really active. Running, biking, stair climbing, hula hooping! And I reached my weight loss goal to boot!  However, around autumn time (and with a running injury) all this slowed down and I am most annoyed with myself. And with that I have put on a stone! It's not the end of the world, but it's a slippery slope that's for sure. I can't become complacent with weight loss, or exercise. 

I wanted to get to the bottom of my suspected food allergies. I now know I am ok with dairy. I think I'm ok with gluten, but I'm still very hesitant.

Sunday's were to be 'me' day! A day set aside to not work and chill out. I've pretty much stuck with that bar weekends away and occasional other commitments. It's working well and I'll continue that. 

Life blogging. I'm doing it! 

So all in all, I'm going to say I did quite well with my goals. Not 100% but not too badly either. They were worth making and sharing and gave me a great basis for 2011. 

Personal Highlights of 2011

There's quite a few! Let's see...

I wonder what 2012 will bring! Well, I'll be a bit more proactive than waiting to see what it will bring - I'll see what I can make happen in 2012! That's more like it. 

Thank you for reading my blog this year! Thanks to all my friends, and my mum and my best friend and all my twitter friends who have kept me company throughout the year. 

Wishing you all a wonderful 2012! See you next year :)

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Day 3 of Operation Re-Charge Glitter

aka: The Big Winter Relax

I haven't done a thing for the last 2 days. Not a jot!

Oops, I've already told a lie. I went to the Boxing Day sales in the city centre. Looking back on that experience I can see it wasn't my brightest idea. I blame my naivety in that area. I honestly thought if I got into the city centre early in the morning it would be nice and quiet. By 8am there was hardly a car parking space to be found and packed buses were already delivering loads of shoppers to the city centre. In fact, some shoppers must have had a huge head start (Next!) as they were already loaded down with armfuls of bags. I even saw some ladies trying on clothes in the car park. I only wanted some make up, so I put an invisible shield around me, kept my head down and decided to get what I wanted since I'd made the effort to get up early, and then get the hell out of there. I got speaking to a man waiting outside a shop. He said his girlfriend had already shown him (before Xmas) what she wanted, gave him a list, and his job was to now get these items. He gave me some tips on coping inside the shop, the best one being, "keep your centre of gravity low". Ha. I picked up some make-up and perfume and some lotions and potions and was home again for 10am, but I don't think I'll ever do that again!

But apart from that, I have barely done a tap. The night before last I got 10 hours sleep! That only happens about twice a year. Heavenly!

I have managed to watch a lot of films; March Of The Penguins, Tamara Drew, Monsters v Aliens, Son of Rambow, Rosemary's Baby, The Man Who Would Be King and Mary and Max (again, coz it's the best film in the world, ever. Fact). Lots of bubbles baths have featured in Operation Relaxation too. I've barely tweeted, checked my emails or read my favourite blogs. I've put my phone on silent.

I'm not used to this change of pace at all. It's only been 2 days so far and at times I've felt like I should be doing something more productive, and then I have to remind myself to just chill and stop putting pressure on myself. There will be plenty of time to 'do' soon enough and I want to hit the new year at full speed so I'm seeing this time as reserving and storing energy up for that. I've felt quite tired actually and half suspected I was getting a sore throat, but that doesn't seen to be making a proper appearance.

I spent Christmas day with my ace Mum and my fab step Dad. My Mum wanted to do her own Queen's Speech!

I've just realised that there is only 4 days left of this year! Flip. I haven't been keeping track of the days very well. I'm too relaxed!

I've got a good idea of what I want from next year so I'll be firming up those plans (and having a review of my goals for this year).

Today I think I may do a little light premature spring cleaning, ready for the new year. A tidy house is a tidy mind, or something. I think. Otherwise the day will consist of more bubble baths and films.

Hope you are all having a smashing Christmas! :)

Say Hello on twitter @karenstrunks

Friday, 23 December 2011

Breaking up isn't hard to do

Today is day one of my 17 day break and I'm feeling gooooood!

I managed to do a little Christmas food shop at 8am this morning (and beat the crowds), I've pottered around my flat, I've had lunch at my leisure and had schmaltzy made for tv Christmas movies on in the background.

Last night me and Nicky had the talk about local Christmas do. With the other teams members in various places around the UK, it was only us plus Nicky's boyfriend Karl. It was a jolly good night and I kicked off with a pint (a PINT!) of cider. Whilst I was ordering it I was thinking to myself that it wasn't very ladylike of me to be drinking a pint, but that's what I really fancied. Plus, I don't think I've had cider for over a year! I enjoyed every drop.

We went onto another pub for a meal and some musicians turned up and played Irish music. The little back room bar was really OTT with Christmas decorations, but I loved it.

It was a really lovely night with good friends who I am going to miss very much as they are leaving for pastures new in Cardiff. Of course I'll still be working with Nicky at talk about local and we will be meeting in various cities in the new year when we deliver our social media workshops, plus Nicky and Karl will most definitely be having a house guest in their new Cardiff pad!

I've loved this year. Another great one. One of my busiest and most rewarding. As much as I love what I do, as I've mentioned before here, I'm ready to take the pace down a notch now and the next 17 days will allow me to do that.

I haven't made any plans to do anything or see anyone. No commitments. After a full-on year having a completely clear diary feels so strange yet great at the same time. Jan and Feb are pretty much filled up and March is getting busy now too. So in the meantime, I'll be tinkering about with a few things and firming up plans and goals for 2012 and after my rest I'll hit the new year like a power ball!

Oh, which reminds me, I must review my new year goals from this year and see what's happened, or hasn't!

So other than seeing an old friend tomorrow and my Mum on Christmas day, that's all I have planned! :)

Wishing you a very



Saturday, 17 December 2011

I'm re-charging my glitter

Advice from my best friend. Good advice.

I felt SO tired yesterday. I think it's psychological. A coming-to-the-end-of-a-busy-year thing. When I look back on this year I'm fairly impressed with the momentum I've built up and all the goals, big and small, that I've achieved. I wonder how I've done it sometimes.

But yesterday I had a big dip in the energy that carries me forward. I just felt plain tired, but frustrated at that tiredness at the same time. I missed my sparkle! I had a bit of a moan about it by text with my best friend which led to a phone call in which I was reminded that it's OK to take it easy and chill out and that I can't do everything. I can't do everything?! How annoying ;)

So, this is what I am going to do - re-charge my glitter. As I mentioned in my last post, I've got a full two weeks coming up soon where I have absolutely nothing planned and I'm going to use that time to invest in a bit of rest and relaxation without putting pressure on myself with a list of to-do's and deadlines. Though I know I'll do some tinkering and I will definitely be putting plans into place for 2012. There's no way I'm wandering haphazardly into a new year without knowing what I want to get out of it!

I'll take a bit of time to look at my goals that I set for this year and see what's worked and which I've achieved.

I LOVE New Year! More so than Christmas. I love the clean page feel of it. I love relishing the moment the old year passes to the new year. It's such an exciting time!

In the meantime, it's the weekend and I'm going to start on that glitter re-charging :)

Say hello on twitter! @karenstrunks

Friday, 9 December 2011

Winding down for the rest of the year

Or that was the plan. But it hasn't really work out that way. It's my own fault. I find it hard to slow down. Besides, what would I do if I wasn't doing the things I love?

Having said that I've blocked out 2 weeks over Christmas and New Year and there's NOTHING in my diary! And I have the best intentions of keeping it that way. No schedule. No appointments. No commitments. No nothing. Looking back this year, I've only had one week off and even then I was away somewhere or other. I'd like to think I'll spend my two weeks off chilling at home and watching films and pottering about. Let's see what happens with that idea, ha!

A quick blast of some of the highlights of Nov and this month so far.

Fierce Earth Course.

This was 2x two days away at the Stratford Manor Hotel (4 stars! yay). I could write a years worth of blog posts about this course I'm sure. If Fierce Earth run the course again, try and get on it. Before I went on it, I asked an attendee from a previous Metapod course what they thought of it, and would they recommend it - "It's changed my life!" they responded. What a testimonial! But do you know what, I can understand it. It's helped me shape a sharper picture of my work, ideas and business. Things that have been milling around in my mind for the past year are now taking shape with more clarity and focus. If I could do the course again, I would.

talk about local 

Myself and Nicky delivered a workshop on hyperlocal blogging in Evesham which went really well and all the participants were up and running by the end of the day. We also had a big team visit to That London. We are quite geographically dispersed as a team, and while it's great to be able to work from anywhere, it's always fab to get together offline too.


I've already blogged about a ace weekend I had in York with my mum. We are aiming for a weekend away together in Canterbury next year!

Birmingham Youtube Gathering

A couple of weeks ago I popped along to my first youtube meetup. It was really well attended (over 50!). It was held over the Saturday and Sunday, but I just went on the Saturday afternoon. If you love youtube and love meeting up offline watch out for the next one in 2012. Keep an eye on @chapperztv @jordanngv @gordycamp as they are the organisers. If you can't see my video here, pop over to youtube

Birmingham Social Media Cafe

I held the last Birmingham Social Media Cafe event of 2011. Christmas is in the way of this month, but the cafe is back on 27th January! If you haven't been before, please come along! It's held on the last Friday of every month and it's for anyone with an interest in social media, whether you use it for work or play. It's a great place to meet people offline, make new friends and connections. It's also a really casual and friendly event. You can follow BSMC on twitter @birminghamsmc and join the 500+ member facebook group too! Meegloo is sponsoring coffees in January. Check it out - it's a fab, free, social media app for your iphone, ipad or ipod. If you or your company would like to sponsor coffees (up to £200) at a social media cafe event next year, just give me a shout. It's a great way to reach the social media community in Birmingham!

Birmingham Airport's Christmas Drinks

My first Christmas 'do' of the season! It was held at Hotel Du Vin in the city centre. I've done some social media reporting for the airport on my press trips so it was really nice to get an invite to the night. There was a mix of airports, airlines, media peeps, press and travel bloggers there and it was a fab night out.

Fierce Earth's Christmas drinkies

As this post is a bit devoid of photos - The People's Shop festive window display!
And that brings us up to last night! This get together was for all the peeps that went on the Metapod course this year and was held at The People Shop in Kings Heath. I had my first mulled wine of the season and it was lovely to catch up with peeps and get an inspiration fix.

This week coming is nice and varied. Sunday lunch with a friend. A meeting about Birmingham and mapping city council service request data. A twitter Secret Santa meet up. A day delivering social media training.

In the meantime I'll leave you with one of my fav Christmas songs! Christmas doesn't officially start until my friend Midge posts this video! :)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A weekend in York with my mum!

Wow, November has been a bit hectic. All good, but pretty non-stop. I'll try and catch up with events of this month, but to kick things off, here's the story of a weekend in York with my mum from the beginning of the month.

For my birthday present (which was in October) my mum arrange a weekend away for us. We hadn't been away since our trip to Palma, and it's always so much fun hanging out with my mum.

She had it all organised and booked us into a little B&B about 10 minutes walk from the city centre. She also bought a 2 day Yorkshire Pass. You use it to get into all the attractions and it works out great value for money. We did a quick calculation and reckon we saved about £80 between us by using the pass rather than paying to go into each attraction individually.

I was SO impressed with York! I hadn't a clue what to expect really. Normally I try and do a bit of research before I visit a new place, but hadn't got the chance this time. But that made everything even more of a surprise when I got there!

So what did we get up to?!


York Dungeons

Get your scares here! A fab hour long terrifying experience with chilling tales of York and you'll meet plenty of interesting characters along the way.

 The Viking Museum

York was the Viking capital of the world once. I think. History isn't my strong point, but viking definitely lived in York at some point and this museum can prove it! There's lots of old viking relics here (pots and jewellry and swords etc) but the bit I enjoyed the most was travelling back in time and journeying through a viking village and seeing how they used to live. They even re-created the smell of the vikings!

Betty's Tea Room

Step back to the 1930's at Betty's Tea Room. It's divine there! And very, very busy. We went late on a Sunday afternoon and just managed to get a table. When we walked passed it at other times, people were queuing around the block to get in. I'm not sure if you can book ahead, but I would definitely recommend doing so. It's well worth the visit.

My mum took the opportunity to read her own tea leaves.  (I'm sure she made half of it up!)

York Minster

I'm not really into old churches (or even new ones), but this is impressive just by it's stature alone. It was built between 1220 and 1470, in fact there's building work going on there now. There's actually a lot to see and do when you are inside including a guided tour, plus some vaults downstairs too. And my mum told me that this is where my step Dad proposed to her! So on that fact alone, it make the Minster special to me :)

Haunted House

I love a good ghost story and couldn't wait to visit the Haunted House on Stonegate. You go into it through a magic shop. We went early in the day and had the place to ourselves. The building is 700 years old and an audio story guides you from room to room (9 altogether), and up and down crooked wooden stair cases whilst telling you the stories of the house's past and it's sad tales of it's former residents. It's very atmospheric which is heightened when you are plunged into darkness at times too!

Clifford's Tower

We marched right up to the top of the hill. Then marched back down again. It was closed. It's only open for 2 days a week (weekends I think). Built by William the Conqueror in 1068, it's got quite the horrible history.

York Castle Museum

We visited the museum over two days! There's so much to see. I really liked the recreated Victorian Street and the prison. They also had a street dedicated to the 60's. My mum loved it and she told me lots of stories about her memories of that era. A great place to spend an afternoon.

I was quite taken with this little coin operated machine.

Grand Opera House

We had an even free so booked some last minute tickets to see a show here. We were quite in luck I think, as Fascinating Adia were performing! I remember them from years ago, but didn't know they were still on the go. They've been on the go for 27 years in fact. It was a great night and their song wickedly funny. Here's one of my favs from the evening...

I'm sure I've left something out.

Oh yes! A ghost walk. There's quite a few to chose from in the city. There's the ghost walk, the ghost trail, the original ghost walk, the ghost hunt... take your pick!

And I managed to fit in a hair cut...

And FINALLY I got some new boots! I've been searching high and low for new boots since last winter.

I must have tried on nearly 100 pairs in the last year. There are so many essentials needed for the right boot.

They must be leather, they must be knee high, they must have a little (but not too little) heel, they must have good souls (for gripping on icy streets), they must fit snugly on my calves, they must fit snugly around my ankle, they must be black....

I found them. And I loved them. And then after all that, I nearly didn't buy them as the sales girl was so moody! :D

If you would like the condensed version of the York trip, you I've also handily Storify'd it for you!

A big THANK YOU to my Mum for the best weekend away! Love you lots. You are the best!

Say hello on twitter! @karenstrunks

Sunday, 6 November 2011

A trip down memory lane

Yesterday was Operation Garage - almost a full day of sorting out all the boxes in my garage so I can make room for my car in the winter.

Luckily my Mum came over to give me a hand.

When I moved into my tiny flat about 7 years ago I left a large 2 bed house that was packed to the hilt with 'stuff''. I gave away practically everything I owned bar some essentials and some items that had sentimental value.

I wanted to downsize my life and my mortgage payments, and planned to get a local job and work part time. It kinda all worked out. I found a job for 4 days a week and I was able to walk to/from work! Obviously I've since moved on from that job, but I had a design for my life in mind, and that worked out and included living in a more vibrate and creative area, Moseley.

Anyway! Back to the garage.

The first item to leave was my guitar which I inherited from an ex boyfriend who was a musician. It's too cold and damp in the garage and so it went to my Mum''s house. I only ever made a half hearted attempt to play it and the first song (and only!) I learnt was Robin Trower's Bridge Of Sighs - a very basic version I hasten to add!


Before the guitar was whisked away, a man strolled past, said hello and picked up the guitar. "Are you selling this?" I wasn't thinking of selling it. He tuned it and started to play a tune on it that he wrote. I took an Audioboo. I'm kinda glad that the guitar had been put to use in some small way before it went back into storage.

Stranger playing my guitar (mp3)

So many leaves had blown under the garage door. Mum is very handy with a broom. Go mum! ;)

Ahh Little Ted! I think I can pretty much say he is my favourite teddy bear of all time!

This is a school art project when I was about 12. It was themed around farms or the countryside. Mum has taken it home. I hope she puts in on her living room wall. It's a thing of beauty and deserves to be displayed! :D

I kept some of my old school books. This one is from when I was 4.5 years old (it said so on the cover of the book).

This was fairly creative: "I am going to the shop with my mum and me and my dad and my sister". I haven't got a sister.

Thumbing through the book, this was a story to be told time and time again. Me and my mum going to the shop. Or, my mum going to the shop and buying me sweets. Sweets! It was all about sweets!

My first album! Doris Day - 20 Golden Greats. Stop laughing! Doris is ace! I think I had good taste as a 7 year old. I remember my Dad taking me into a record shop in London.

I played that record over and over. I remember particularly loving Que Sera Sera.

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother what will I be
Will I be pretty will I be rich
Here's what she said to me...

Flat Cat!!! I love Flat Cat! Another childhood favourite.

I'd almost forgotten I had kept some of my Ladybird books. The Three Billy Goats Gruff scared me! Sadly I couldn't find the one I read the most: Cinderella.

This is a more recent 'treasure'. A Michael Jackson alarm clock which was presented to be by Talk About Local (before I starting working there) for the best use of photos in a blog at their unconference in '09. Lovely! It's a keeper.

I found Big Ted! When I was about 5 I remember that Big Ted and Little Ted were best friends. My mum would collect me from school and on the walk home she would tell me of all the adventure that my teddy's and other toys had during the day. I loved those stories.

My first comic subscription. Play Hour. The newsagent would keep a copy aside for me and once a week (I think it was weekly) me and my Dad would go and collect it.

Age 12. I think. My drawing skills have improved. A tiny bit. A rooster wearing clothes. I'm not sure why.

By the end of the day we had cleared out a lot. A pile for the tip and a pile for charity shops.

I think my mum would have liked me to have been a bit more ruthless than I was when it came to deciding what to keep and what to throw away.

Admittedly a few items had been ruined by the years and the damp in the garage, but I just couldn't part with them. Some things had got broken (they went to the tip). I found tons of old photos (prints, before the digital age). Love letters. Cards. Ornaments. Shoes! Lots of shoes! (I did part with some).

Looking back at what I found I was surprised at how much I remembered, even from a young age. The items triggered the memories. Pretty much all of them good.

And of course it prompted me to think about where I had been, the different stages of growing up, and where I am now, and where I want to be.

I was a bit tired after all the manual labour, so when I got back home I took a lovely bath (it was very dusty in the garage) and put on my pj's and chilled out for the rest of the day. I appreciated living on my own and having my own space. I love being single and having time and space to do my own thing. I love what I do for work. I'm glad I haven't got children and feel I've retained my freedom. It's all good.

But...! There's still plenty more time to make more memories and have more adventures! I never want to become complacent in my life and work. I don't want to get too settled or waste time. I want to be able to look back and know I've tried things, scared myself sometimes, taken risks but enjoyed every minute.

In the last few weeks I feel like I've been slowing down somewhat, and of being aware that this year is coming to an end. It may be because the days are shorter, and it's just a seasonal thing. Or maybe that it's because my diary is fairly full until the New Year and I don't want to take anything else on and I also want to leave myself some breathing space.

I know I want to leave some space for my 4 day Fierce Earth Course that is coming up soon! I'm really looking forward to it and hoping to get a lot of it in a business and personal capacity. I've got a feeling some of my plans will change after that course and I definitely want to leave room in my diary to implement those changes. I also think the course will challenge me, and also inspire me. I think it's just what I need at this point.

Next weekend I shall be spending a few days in York with my mum. It's her birthday treat to me and she has a full schedule planned! Apart from spending some quality time with my mum it will be good to have a change of scene too.

Looking a little further ahead, I can't wait for 2012! I get so excited about a New Year. On New Year's eve itself I love staying in, on my own, and savouring the second that the old year goes and a new one arrives. A brand new year to fill! That's pretty exciting.

Say hello on twitter! @karenstrunks

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Last night I went to The Sporton Inaugural Professorial Lecture and Performance

Academic believes that the digital revolution has helped de-rail global economy.

Well, this lecture sounded interesting. As someone who practically lives via the digital world, as do many others, I wanted to hear about this and how it affected the economy.

It was Gregory Sporton's inaugural lecture. When someone is a new professor, they have to give their first lecture.

I haven't been to many lectures (though did give one at BCU about the 4am Project), but this one was pretty different. With a background in dance, the lecture kicked off with the Dance Of The Little Swans (video) which was choreographed by Gregory.

Gregory then took to the stage. He asked questions and raised points such as:

Are we replacing things (tangible items) for bits powered by the revolution in this digital age? Are we able to measure these bits in the same way as things? We can't see them. How do we know their value?

Is creativity being redifined by technology. 100 years a go, or so, a 'creative' would make something, such as artwork, or sculptures for example, and it wasn't a label people applied to themselves as quickly and easily as they do now.

Are we losing out on real life contact and connections by using tech tools such as Skype, twitter, Facebook etc, which may give the impression of closeness? Does it give us an excuse not to meet up with friends/family etc in real life? Is that healthy?

I was most saddened to hear about care robots for the elderly. How about this for replacing human contact with tech?

But it was not all doom and gloom. Gregory's lecture was sprinkled with humour throughout, and ended the way it started with a dance, (in the dark with coloured balls) in which Gregory himself performed! How often do you see a lecturer dancing? Not often I'd guess.

I'd say the next Professor who has an inaugural lecture will have to come up with something pretty imaginative to make it as memorable as Gregory's! ;)

I made a Storify of some of the tweets from last if you would like to check it out.

Say Hello on Twitter! @karenstrunks

Monday, 31 October 2011

This time last year. Celebrating Halloween New York style!

Today I am reminiscing.

This time last year I was getting ready to take part in the biggest Halloween parade in the world. Where else but New York City?!

I had already planned my outfit and as a make-up lover I needed no better excuse to get creative with my 'Glampire' look!

I had bought silver fangs, but they wouldn't stay in.

So I spent a lovely few hours in the afternoon getting dressed and apply layers of make up and glitter and, for the first time ever, fake eyelashes.

I went out of my apartment door, turned right and walked the few blocks to Times Square to meet up with my friend.

I was early, or he was late. No, he was definitely late. So I kinda just hung around. However, being the tourist hot spot it is, I was soon being approached, "Can I get my photo taken with you?" asked one lady. "Sure!"

But that seemed to trigger off other tourists and within a few minutes there was a line of people queuing to have their photos take with me. I thought it was hilarious! Of course I hated ever minute, being so shy n all ;)

I definitely missed a trick though, I should have brought a 'tip' purse out with me! :D

Making my way downtown on the subway....

Now, what should be inserted here is a video of the Halloween Parade BUT my video software is playing up tonight and I've run out of patience with it. So instead, a few photos...

Segway - one way to get around the parade!

Fantasic, Mr Fox!

I see (saw) youuuu!

Such a cute trio

It was a bitter cold night, but that didn't stop the revellers or dampen their enthusiasm! Singing, dancing, and every costume you could think of! My eyes didn't know where to look next!

The weekend before I spent an evening with the Disgraceland Family who gave me a very warm welcome.

Disgraceland Family, Halloween, NYC by Karen Strunks

Disgraceland Family, Halloween, NYC by Karen Strunks

Disgraceland Family, Halloween, NYC by Karen Strunks

Disgraceland Family, Halloween, NYC by Karen Strunks

Disgraceland Family, Halloween, NYC by Karen Strunks

Want more of the self called freaks? Here they are!

I also made a video of the crazy night!

If you want to see more of what I got up to during my month long stay in NYC last year, check out my Big Apple Unpeeled blog. :)

Say hello on twitter: @karenstrunks.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Tips and advice on starting and running your online community project

So, you have a super, duper idea for an online community project! You want the world to know about it and join in, but where to start?

I’m writing this from the point of view of running the 4am Project. It’s a global photography project that asks participants to capture a view of their world at 4am. It’s had a reach in over 50 countries and over 4,000 images submitted to date. I wear many hats with the 4am Project (and it’s been an amazing learning curve!), from event organiser, pr person, community manager, press spokesperson, advisor to name just a few.

A little while ago I received an email from someone who was starting an online photography project and asked for my advice

I thought I would share some of my experience of running an online community project with you and the approach I have taken. So, with out further ado!


Who do you want to reach? Where are they? Why do you want them to take part? How are they going to take part? How are you going to reach them?

I found twitter incredibly useful for growing the 4am Project. I searched for people with an interest in photography on twitter, checked out their individual profiles (and whether they were actually active on twitter,) and I followed them.

Note: I didn’t follow people randomly. I took the time to research each person individually, as there was a greater chance that they would be interested in the project, follow and take part in the project and also tell their friends. I don’t do this so much now as the project has been established and I generally let it grow organically on twitter now.

Because my project is photography based and using flickr, I tapped into the flickr community. Again, I researched groups and individuals and connected with them. I’ll warn you now that both this twitter and flickr method is VERY time consuming, but both yielded good results as I took the time and trouble to do my research as make a personal connection. Where is your new community hanging out?

As you tick one ‘to do’ off your list of plans, others will take their place. As your project evolves and grows you will probably get a host of new ideas! The more the merrier in a way, but before you dive into them, think about what’s going to work the best and what is worth your time. Some things you will have to try to see if they work, but as soon as it becomes apparent that an idea isn’t working for the benefit of your project, drop it and move on.

Time Investment

This one took me a while to figure out, and it still does to some degree.

From day one I wanted the 4am project to be global. I invested practically all my free time in promoting the project (I had no support/staff or £ to pay anyone to do it). It did take over my life, and there were times when I was exhausted but felt I couldn't take a break from it. (I'm quite driven anyway and put 100% into everything). However, I do think that experience has instilled a new discipline in me to manage time/work/effort more effectively which stands me in good stead for other work and projects.

There were times when it felt like the project was controlling me rather than me controlling the project. Be aware of this. The larger your project grows the more people you will be interacting with. They will ask questions and comment. Are you going to be there to respond?

When your project takes off the ground, there may be press interest. You may be asked to do interviews, that might be by email, or on the phone or even in person. You will have to allow the time to do this.

Another extension of your projects is growth may be that you get asked to speak about it publicly in workshops, conferences, net working events etc. Is this something you will be comfortable with? Of course you don’t have to do it, but it can act as a good way to reach a new audience and of course build up your confidence in public speaking too!

I run the 4am Project around paid work (the project doesn't earn any £). And it’s very likely you will have to work on your project outside of your paid work too. So, start thinking now about how much time you can/want to invest in your project, and schedule it into you diary. I've got a better balance with the 4am Project now, by setting aside specific block of time to work on it ie. Rather than, ‘I’ll do a few hours next Saturday’, it’s "I will work on this next Saturday midday-4pm". Other arrangements, social or otherwise will have to be worked around this. I don’t give myself much flexibility in this area, as it would be all too easy to ‘do it tomorrow’. Don’t fall into that trap if you really want to make a go of your project.

Let's talk money!

Do you want to earn £ from your project? Do you want sponsorship/funding? Start working on that now. You can't start too early. I found with the few companies who have sponsored the 4am Project so far, and the funding I have received, that the wheels can turn very slowly. Frustratingly so at times. I have found that to even get a relatively small amount of sponsorship, it has required a big time investment. Weigh up what's on offer, what you actually want, how it will benefit the project, and whether it's worth it.

However, it’s not all about the money! I would say don’t wait for money, unless it’s an absolute critical part to get your idea off the ground. You may not necessarily need any money (though you might think it’s good to have it). What you really need is your enthusiasm, time, energy and you have all the free online tools you need at your disposal.

Hopefully this glimpse into running an online project and community doesn’t sound too overwhelming!

There are a lot of upsides. It can be a lot of fun, it can give you great experience (that can stand you in good stead for future work), it can raise your profile and put you on the ‘radar’, and it will bring you into contact with people you wouldn’t ordinarily have met.

The bottom line

What do YOU want to get out of the project? When you are deep in the middle of it all and it really takes off and it's keeping you really busy, it can be easy to lose focus, so most importantly don't forget why you have started it. Put a sign up. Remember what your online adventure is all about! :)

Say hello on twitter! @karenstrunks

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn 3D

I received an invitation to the VIP lauch of the  newly opened Giant Screen (@giantscreen) at Millennium Point to see The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn in 3D.

The Giant Screen used to be an IMAX cinema, and I've enjoyed a few films there over the years. I wondered what was going to be different about the Giant Screen. Well, when the cinema was IMAX it could only play IMAX films. Now it's a Giant Screen there will be a lot more choice of films as the Giant Screen won't be tied into IMAX films. And they've updated the digital technology too.

For me, the bonus of the cinema is, as it's now aptly named, the GIANT SCREEN! It really is huge! I also like the cinema as the new seats are comfortable and staggered so it's unlikely that someone with a big head will encroach into your view!

The event was kicked off with a red carpet entrance, champagne, wine, and nibbles, plus a competition to win a 3D camera (I didn't win it booo).

I couldn't resist a red carpet photo opp!

With Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock

Giant Screen goody bag: Popcorn, water, chocoates, usb stick, and a badge

The film!

I've never been one for TinTin growing up, thinking it was a 'boys thing'. However, with the promise of 3D (and *everything* is better in 3D! ;) ), and the fact that Steven Spielberg is behind it, I was tempted into seeing it.

And I really enjoyed it! From the start to end I was hooked! Partly by HOW it was made (how did they do that?!), and the story line kept up my interest too. Would TinTin win the day (he does - that's no spoiler I'm sure). I didn't think I would like Captain Haddock, but I ended up liking this brusque character and rooting for him. There was comedy, action, adventure, close shaves and triumph! Also, compared to some 3D films I've seen I thought it's use was fairly subtle. (Though I now can't wait to see Puss In Boots which, from the trailer, looks like it's going to be 'in your face 3D!).

All in all a jolly good film and a fun night! Have a look at this youtube video for some of the trailer plus behind the scenes footage. It's very clever stuff!

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