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!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Helping the Women's Institute build community websites

A couple of weeks ago, on a chilly Saturday morning, myself and Nicky boarded a train bound to a village hall in Beckford for the Women's Institute Tech Fest day.

Talk about local had been invited to the event, and Will Perrin was booked to talk about about the power of community websites, something that talk about local does exceptionally well!

This was my first encounter with the WI, though of course I had heard of them before, and I recently watched a documentary called A WI Guide To Brothels, which I thought was very forward thinking of them and a very good watch. You can watch the full documentary on youtube.

I loved meeting just a few of the WI ladies in person (there are over 208,000 members) and we were soon helping some of them get their own wordpress websites up and running, and I helped one particular lady get started on Facebook so she could keep up to date with your grand son.

Nicky has done a great job of Storifying the day. We had to slip in a few photos of cakes of course! ;)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

My 40th Birthday




I still can't quite believe it!

My 30's were better than my 20's, and my 20's better than my teens, so going by that trend my 40's should be pretty damn great.

I'm resolving not to grow up and take advantage of the excuse to have a mid-life crisis ;)

Three days into my 40's, and it's so far so good, and I'm looking forward to what the next decade will bring!

I spent my birthday with my bestest friend in the whole wide world and my wonderful mum, my two favourite people. It was a perfect day beginning with present opening, a gorgeous lunch, a matinee at the theatre, dinner, cocktails and ended at a party at Nicky's.

Of course I had a hash tag for the day #ks40 so I could Storify it all. I've tried to capture as many tweets as possible. Hopefully you will get a good idea of the day.

Thank you to everyone who was part of my special birthday and for all the birthday tweets too - they really made my day. And special thank you's to my mum and best friend for making my day extra special.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

September reviewed - Part 2

Part 1 is here....!

What else did I get up to in September....

Birmingham Mail's Your Communties Day

I was invited to the Birmingham Mail's Your Communities day along with some other local bloggers. The Birmingham Mail have been working along side community bloggers in Birmingham for a while now. They have established a good working relationship with the bloggers and feature the hyper local blog updates on their Your Communities page, and weekly in the Tuesday edition of their newspaper.

The event was held the the Birmingham Mail's offices in Fort Dunlop (where I cut my teeth as a photographer), and we were given a tour, got to meet some of the staff behind the paper and swap some hyper local blogging social media tips.

A worthwhile day and it was great to meet the people behind some of the other hyper local bloggers in Birmingham!

And I even got a bonus roof top tour of Fort Dunlop (video). Thanks Steve!

Imagining I'm at the Empire State Building's Observation Deck :)

Millennium Point's 10th Birthday Party

I got an invitation to Millennium Point's 10th Birthday party! I've never been to a building's birthday party before! Of course MP is more than just a building, it is home to a huuuge cinema, and the Birmingham Science Museum and Think Tank.

I felt like I was 10 again! There were clowns, and cakes, and birthday cards and candy floss, and food and drinks, and clever science experiments involving flames.

The Weasley Twins from Harry Potter made an appearance.

Tall, colourful people!
Birmingham Vintage Festival

I missed the first Bham Vintage Festival so was keen to make it along to the second one. It didn't disappoint with some fabulous stalls selling all sorts of delicious vintageness. I wish I had taken more photos, but you can check out their website and see who there's and what's on offer. There's going to be another event coming up, so if vintage is your thing, you'll love it!

I picked up a vintage lady in red broach

Debra gave me a 'tattoo'! Red of course. It stayed on for nearly a week!

Social Media Training

St Basil's is a Birmingham charity that help young homeless people and they needed some guidance on how to make the best use out of free social media tools to help the people they work with, and engage with communities online as well as raise their profile.

I did a fair bit of research before me and Nicky held the workshop on how other charity and homeless groups are using social media and found some outstanding examples, but my overall observation is that the USA is really embracing social media to talk about what they are doing, sharing stories, making connections, offering help and resources, more so than the UK.

I'm not going to say too much hear as I've written a really lengthy blog post about the day for the talk about local blog which will be published on Friday, so do keep your eye's peeled over there!  

St Basil's head office is actually in an old church!

Career interview

Sharon Howard from the 'Day in the life of a busy girl blog' asked to interview me about my creative career, and you can read all about it here!

I answered questions such as:

How did you get into your career? What are the challenges? What's you favourite thing about your work? What advice you would give to others? I hope you enjoy the read!

BBC WM interview

One morning last week, I had barely woken up properly and the phone rang. "Can you come and comment live for BBC WM on Lonely Planet's comment that the Selfridges building in Birmingham looks like a peanut with acne?"

It was for Joanne Malin's breakfast show. Lonely Planet likened the store to a peanut with acne and the news ran with that. Lonely Planet also recommended it as a must-see building, so it wasn't all bad!

I've taken quite a few photos of the Selfridges building over the years (the one below is my personal fav) and so I was asked about what I thought about Lonely Planet's comment (it was a bit silly) and what do I think of the building (I like it). Well, I said a bit more than that, but you get the gist!

The 'peanut with acne' - much more beautiful that that in reality!

With James Bovill, BBC WM reporter
Birmingham Social Media Cafe

It was a fab event! (And I'm not just saying that because I organise it!). It was the BSMC's 3rd birthday and there was a great turn out from Birmingham's creatives and business and some Birmingham City University's student who are just embarking on their MA in Social Media!

Dave Harte made a brilliant video (mixing photos with audio) and captured people's thoughts on why they come to the social media cafe. It's really worth a watch.

The next event (it's FREE!) is on Friday 28th October at Birmingham Town Hall. I hope you can make it!

Last, but not least! The best meal in a restaurant this year

I've got to rave about this place. After a lot of moans this year about eating out and gluten free choices I have finally found somewhere that has wowed me!

After the social media cafe, we (some of the talk about local crew and twitter friends) went to Bodega, a south American restaurant on Bennett's Hill.

They had a really great gluten free menu. I chose the slow cooked pork, sweet potato fries and spicy coleslaw. I haven't enjoyed a meal out so much for a long time! It's really made me want to go back (and it very rare that a restaurant will make me want to do that!), and I've booked a table for my birthday (I can't wait!)

And that's brought the best of September to a close! Whew!

What's in store of October?

I'm glad you asked!

Last weekend I went to Ludlow to Storycamp. It was a day long event organised by Nicky that was based around digital story telling. Why tell stories, how to tell stories, what social media tools can be used, the fun, the ethics, it was all covered! There's a brilliant round up of the day over on the Storycamp blog. Thank you for a great day Nicky!

This weekend I'm off to the Women's Institute's Tech Fest day with talk about local to do some social reporting. This will be my first encounter with the WI, so I'm looking forward to meeting some of the ladies.

AND... case I haven't mentioned it before.... ;)

It's going to be my 40TH Birthday soon! On the 15th October. I wanted to have a party, but I haven't had the chance to really think about it properly or plan anything. I should have started working on it bit by bit at the beginning on the year. But I will be spending the day with my two favourite people in the whole wide world, my mum and my best friend and I know it's going to be a good one!

Do I have to grow up when I'm 40? I hope not. I have absolutely no intention of that! :)

Say hello on twitter @karenstunks

Monday, 3 October 2011

September reviewed - Part 1

September was undoubtedly my busiest month this year and I want to capture a record of it just in case my memory fades on me.

A lot of them deserve their own blog posts really, and I'd like to think I'll go back and cover some of them in more detail but hey, it's October already. A brand new month to fill!

There were lots of highlights and here are a few of them.

Wateraid Charity Ambassador

I've already blogged this (whew!). This involved a short weekend in Wales walking 6.2 miles and doing some social media reporting on the day.

Tired but happy at the end of the walk!

I also managed to meet up with my Tweety Friends before the big walk.

I met up with @getgood and we went to a cool bar that had beds!

And of course I was drawn to this Tweety Friend cushion. Twitter mad? Me? ;)

And I finally got to meet a long time twitter friend Elizabeth @realityminus3 We enjoyed a hearty Wagamam's dinner, drinks and a great chat! A lovely evening.

Birmingham Canal Trip with Birmingham City University

I got an invite for a trip along Birmingham's canals from BCU's Press Office. It was like a net working event, only on a canal boat, with drinkies and nibbles. Despite living in Birmingham for quite a while now, I'd only ever been on one canal boat trip many years ago, so I thought it time for another one. It was a lovely evening, with lots of new and interesting people to meet such a media peeps and lecturers.

Social Reporting for the Indigo Trust

I had a full day in That London with the talk about local team at Indigo Trust's The Power of Information: New Technologies for Philanthropy and Development” Conference. This involved using a mixture of social media platforms throughout the day for live reporting, such as youtube (for interviews), flickr, audioboo and of course twitter.

It was a huge conference with a lot of key note talks to cover and speakers to interview. It was interesting to see how much output, as a team, we were able to deliver across all the mediums.

A post conference glass of wine with @getgood (she pops up everywhere!) and @clarewhite. Belles of social media reporting ;)

Long weekend in Palma with my mum

Three nights away with my mum @createdineire and taking on the Palma Live Challenge set by bmibaby. I love these types of social media and travel collaborations. bmibaby asked their friends and followers what I should see in Palma and set my itinerary. I reported live on my adventure. I've gathered all my updates in one handy blog post here, and my Palma review is live on bmibaby's blog too!

Bed Jumping in the bloggers room at @horizonte24 hotel. It's a must! ;)

Metapod Kaleidoscope Course - Day 1 of 5 days

This is a course run by Fierce Earth and Helga Henry is my mentor! It's a bit of a change to have a mentor (I like it!) as it's normally me doing mini mentoring sessions with folks that ask for my help.

It’s aimed at senior leaders in selected businesses to focus on commercial skills and business growth in a way that is congruent with your artistic and cultural development.
It's named Kaleidoscope as it helps to change your perception/view of y our business. I think that's right. Anyway, it's certainly worked after only 1 day of the 5 day course (there's 2 x 2 days coming up in November). It's not very often I talk 'business' and plans with anyone. I have an idea, figure out what I want, make a plan, and go for it, very generally speaking.

Already I can feel my perspective changing, and I must admit, it feels a little unsettling. It's thrown me a little. Before the course I had a set road ahead, and now I'm questioning it (which isn't a bad thing at all); Am I
on the right road? Am I working as efficiently towards my goals as I thought? Is there another way, a better way? What can I remove from my life/business? What's superfluous? What can I add? And although I do feel a little unsettled, I'm going with it, accepting these new feelings, being open to change and getting excited about what will happen next!

We got crafy on the course. Always a winner!

Whoops, I've run out of blogging steam tonight! I think I'm going to have to break this post up in to a few parts. There's a lot of pack in! :)

Say hello on twitter: @karenstrunks
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