June 2010

Argleton on Un:Bound

by Suw on June 29, 2010

My frequent co-conspirator, Vince, recently invited me to write a post for Un:Bound, a blog he contributes to, on the Argleton project. I couldn’t possibly say no, so I said yes! And here is it: Guest Post | Crowdfunding… I go into a bit more detail as to my motivations, my emotional journey, and chew over whether crowdfunding might be a viable way for some authors to begin their career. Do pop over and take a look!

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A Show and Tell show and tell

by Suw on June 29, 2010

“Show, don’t tell” is one of the most common axioms in writing these days. Whilst it’s useful to question whether you are engaging in ‘telling’ when you could more effectively ‘show’, it’s also important not to end up tying yourself into knots trying to show what would be better told.

Rather than elaborate on the point myself, I just want to share a few great links from people who have thought it through much more deeply than I have:

There, that should keep you busy for a moment or two.

Thanks to Vince for the links!

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If you’re interested in digital rights, copyright and digital activism, you really need to grab a ticket to ORGCon on Saturday July 24 at City University. The schedule is really starting to shape up, with keynotes and panels from Jamie Boyle, Cory Doctorow, and Tom Watson.

Tickets prices are:

  • Free if you join the Open Rights Group on the day
  • £5 for existing supporters
  • £10 for the general public

More details:

We’ll have training sessions about how to lobby your MP and more volunteer workshops. There’ll also be discussions on the state of UK politics after #GE2010 and why this is a key moment to push harder for reform on digital issues from surveillance to copyright to DRM. The keynote speaker will be James Boyle, a founder of the modern movement to recognize, protect, and grow the intellectual commons.

Sessions will include

* James Boyle on the future of copyright, in London especially for this talk
* Thriving in the Real Digital Economy: Cory Doctorow talks and then chairs a panel of artists.
* Digital Economy Act: What’s Next? (Tom Watson, Eric Joyce, Julian Huppert)
* What is the ‘Right to Data’? (Heather Brooke, Rufus Pollock)
* Opening up the Data Protection Directive: Can of Worms or Opportunity (Privacy International)
* Dismantling the Database State (NO2ID, ARCH, Big Brother Watch)
* Theft! A History of Music (Jennifer Jenkins)
* ACTA: A Shady Business (La Quadrature du Net, Becky Hogge)

I will be there, slightly jetlagged as I get back from my holiday in the US the day before, running a session on a new project, ORGZine. I was slightly jetlagged at OpenTech05, the event at which the Open Rights Group was formed, so I will need someone to make sure I don’t accidentally volunteer to start an NGO again…
So, head over to Eventbrite now and get your ticket before they all sell out!

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Argleton: Help spread the word

by Suw on June 18, 2010

My Argleton Kickstarter project is now 52% funded, which is very exciting indeed! If you’re interested in supporting it financially, that would be wonderful, but if you’re feeling a bit skint right now, you can still help by spreading the word for me.

If you had over to the Kickstarter page, you will see a range of buttons under the video for sharing the link on social tools. The first button is for Facebook and when you click it, it will take you to Facebook where it will pre-populate link information for a status update which you can then fill in. (Click to see full sized version on Skitch.)

Kickstarter's post to Facebook button

There is also a Twitter button which works roughly the same way, opening Twitter and pre-populating the text field with this:

Kickstarter – Argleton: A story of maps, maths and motorways: http://kck.st/b4MruP

You can, of course, edit your Tweet before you post it. Personally, I think the standard Tweet is a bit bland, so I’d suggest putting a bit more personality into it. Perhaps something along the lines of:

I’m supporting @suw’s Kickstarter project: Argleton: A story of maps, maths and motorways: http://kck.st/b4MruP You should too!

The Tumblr button does pretty much the same as the Twitter button.

The email button opens a fields for you to add your friend’s email address before sending a pre-written message to them. If you want to sent a more personal email, which I would recommend, then you can write whatever you like and use either the full link:


or the shortened link:


which is also available from the Kickstarter page.

If you have a bit of space in your blog sidebar, you can go a step further and add an Argleton widget, which looks like this:

Argleton Kickstarter widget

You can get the code from the Kickstarter page by clicking “Grab the widget” or you can just copy it from here:

<a href='http://kck.st/b4MruP'><img border='0' src='http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1895824384/argleton-a-story-of-maps-maths-and-motorways/widget/card.jpg' /></a>

Simply talking to people you know who you think might be interested, and pointing them in the direction of Kickstarter, is probably one of the most powerful ways to spread the word. Whether in person or by IM, email or whatever, people like to feel personally invited. It’s on my list of things to do, but it’s a lot easier to pimp someone else’s project than one’s own!

If you do find a moment to help promote Argleton, thank you very much indeed!

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Object of my desire: a ream cutter

by Suw on June 16, 2010

The other week when I was preparing the book blocks for my most recent set of notebooks, I realised how hard it is to neatly trim thick blocks. These notebooks are about the same size as I think my Argleton book will be, but they were very difficult to trim to size by hand.

Notebooks! Again!

I tried all of my cutting implements, with varying results. My scalpel was by far the worst offender. The blade is not very stiff, so it tended to bend as I cut, leaving me with very wobbly results! My big craft knife was the best, although that tended to wander off piste a little resulting in what might best be described as ‘terraces’ in the cut.

Worst of all was that it took me nearly an hour and a half to trim four book blocks. Oh dear. That’s not very time efficient! If I have to make about 80 books for my Argleton project, it’s going to take me a solid week just to trim the book blocks. And that’s not even counting how long it takes to cut the book boards, the ‘hard’ bit of a hardback cover.

So, if the Argleton project is successful, the first thing I’m going to do is buy this:


It’s a TrimFast ream cutter and it can trim 110 sheets, or up to 1.5cm of paper, at once. It has ‘laser light paper positioning’ to make it precision cuts easier, which is great as I am nothing if not a perfectionist. I will be able to cut not just more quickly, but also more accurately and with sharper right angles. Honestly, trying to get everything square is a nightmare at times! Especially as three of the four implements I have bought for marking square angles weren’t themselves actually square. Harumph.

So this is what some of the money raised via Kickstarter will go to. The rest will be spent on materials for the books and to subsidise my time – I’ll have to take a few weeks away from my normal work to get everything finished up and as a freelance that’s actually quite a big deal, so having enough money to cover that will be a godsend. Well, to be more accurate, it will be a generous-person-like-you-send!

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Walpurgisnacht, the handbook

by Suw on June 10, 2010

This hand-made tome is the kind of book I can only aspire to make!


Created by Ross MacDonald as a prop for The House at the End of the Lane, a film by Steve Smith, this is a gloriously OTT book.

The interior is filled with collages of images and text from period books. Most of the text is German, taken from 15th century books. Many of the images are from the same period, for the sake of authenticity. But for the sake of what looks cool, there are images from other periods as well. The ones on this spread include two diagrams from Georg von Welling’s 1735 Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum, a number puzzle designed by Ben Franklin, a Celtic knot, a diagram of a microbe and a heraldic device. One other pages, there are bits of electronic schematics, some diagrams and handwriting from George Washington’s school notebook, and diagrams of crystals and fungi from a 19th century dictionary.

Tor.com have a bunch of fabulous pictures, so it’s well worth heading over there to read the rest.

I do hope that one day I’ll have the skill required to make a book like this. It truly is gorgeous and would be a joy to own. Somehow, I imagine Neil Gaiman already has a whole library of books like this.

It also reminds me a little of The Book in The Books of Hay, although instead of human skin, The Book is bound in leather so black that it sucks all light in. Indeed, your eyes would struggle to see it, unless it wanted you to. But that’s another story…

Hat tip: Kevin Marks

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Argleton video

by Suw on June 8, 2010

Over on Kickstarter, they say that projects with an introductory video end up raising “way more money” than those without. Well, it has taken me a while but I’ve finally managed to get this all important video together for Argleton.

I have no real experience with making videos, but luckily I had my lovely husband on hand to help. Even though he left the BBC three years ago, some video editing mojo clearly rubbed off on him!

But even with Kevin’s help, I had to have two stabs at recording the original footage. The first lot was just too ponderous and rambling to really work and wasn’t even amenable to cutting. Second time round, I had a better idea of what I wanted to say, but even then I had to do take after take after take to get something useable.

If you’re doing to do a Kickstarter project video yourself, then I recommend you read Robin Sloan’s guide first. I found it very helpful, but would add a few more points.

Plan your video in small chunks
Think about three or four main points you want to cover and then plan what to say for each point separately. Make notes for each section and even write out what you want to say. Practice reading it out aloud a few times to make sure that it flows and change anything that makes you stumble.

Record each chunk separately
It’s almost impossible to do a long piece to camera without screwing up, so record in sections that are 45 to 90 second long. Because you’ve practiced what you are going to say before you started recording, you should find it relatively easy to get a good take.

Pause before and after
It makes it much easier to cut footage together and add effects like cross fades if you have some leeway, so when you hit record, pause for a while, say your stuff, then pause again before hitting stop.

Pace yourself
Don’t talk too fast, but don’t talk too slowly either. Unless you’re speaking slowly for effect, a ponderous delivery will make you sound like you don’t know what you want to say. (My video suffers a little bit from this.) If you talk too fast, you make it harder for people to understand you.

Listen out for background noise
Sadly, there’s nowhere in our flat that’s as well lit as our lounge, and nowhere noisier either. The human brain is great at filtering out background noise, but mics will pick it all up, especially bass rumbles from passing buses or lorries. If you don’t have somewhere quite, try to time your takes for in between the buses.

What’s behind you?
When you are setting up your shot, think about what is behind you. You should never be surprised by something in the background, and there should be nothing there that looks distracting. No lampshades growing out the top of your head, for example.

Keep it short
A video that goes on too long is likely to be boring. I’d say three to four minutes is a maximum.

Think about cutaways
A four minute headshot is both hard to do and boring to watch, so think about other images that you can add on top of your narration. Screenshots of blog posts about your project? Footage from your work so far? Even a shot of your hands (watch for this in TV interviews!) breaks things up enough to make your video more watchable.

I learnt a huge amount from doing this video and i know that there’s even more to learn. I have no doubt I’ll be making another video before the project completes, so hopefully the next one will be much better! And I also hope that the lovely chaps at Kickstarter are right and that this video helps me to meet my target of $2700. I’m already 27% there, so please do lend your support and get me to 100%!

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