Pages

Saturday, 15 December 2012

[Writer's Blog] Dawn of a New Suite Era

I have recently experienced some frustrations with the writing platform Suite 101 during its transition to a new revolutionary format that promises to leave other such platforms in the shade. Constant lack of access to draft articles has been the biggest biggest bug bear which have been sitting in limbo while the technical folk work their IT magic to roll out the all new singing dancing Suite 101. At last it's finished, I have been allowed back in and I must say I am pleased with the finished product. So if you want to get your foot in the writing door, whether as a hobby or a freelance Internet hack like me (almost) then this could be the platform for you.



Early Suite Days

For those not too much in the know, Suite 101 is a magazine website that publishes articles from its membership of contributing writers on just about any subject. Anyone can sign up to be a contributor and once accepted you can start writing and publishing your articles. There is even the prospect of generating earnings from PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising on your articles. Unless you can mass produce hundreds of top viewed articles the prospects of making a decent living from this source alone are slim (more on this later). What it does offer is, dare I say it, something more valuable - exposure and a viable portfolio of your work. 

Suite 101 differs from other platforms in many ways but the most standout feature was its enrolment process. The site requires wannabe contributors to submit two pieces of written work, around 600 words each if I recall from my early days, as well as personal information. The articles are really an indication of your ability and seriousness about producing high quality written work, whereas with other platforms you simply register as if you were creating an Amazon account. Once accepted and the formalities taken care of, the writing journey can begin. A team of editors review all articles posted (a thankless task one imagines) and any errors are brought to your attention. The registration and editorial process clearly distinguished it from other sites that have largely been branded as "content farms". 

Having tried the other platforms in tandem, I found that Suite 101 took care of things like formatting, ad placements and other technical features so that the writer can focus on the most important job - the writing, along with uploading royalty free/approved images, proof reading, and promotion through social media. I also noticed that articles published through Suite 101 are easier to find through search engines than other platforms thus attracting more readers. The earnings, as mentioned previously,are not necessarily life changing, and until recently have operated on the PPC scheme whereby payment was made depending on how my ad revenue your article accumulated. 
  
Changing the Suite.

In an effort to tackle the increase in poor quality content spewed out by content farms in a concerted effort to drive them to the top of search engine listings, Google launched "Panda". Far from being a new Orange tariff, Panda is an algorithm that specifically targets content farms and topples them down to the bottom. This should have been good news for higher end sites and blogs unfortunately the net was cast so wide those sites & Suite 101 were caught up. I noticed the effect when my hits dropped sharply from around two to three thousand per month to just a few hundred. Suite 101 did everything possible to tackle this problem by changing keyword guidelines and re-emphasising the need for high quality articles. This helped and levels rose again but not to the same heights. Perhaps in response to this decline in readership the team at Suite embarked on a radical overhaul with new features and a fairer earning system designed to be reflective of the writers' work.


Beware content farms - the Panda is coming for you.
Credit; Matthew Bietz

The first big change is the introduction of channels. A published article will usually fall into default categories or channels such as Film/TV or Politics. Visitors can follow these channels and keep with the latest articles. Writers however can create their own channels, give it a name, build up their own following, and exchange feedback. In case you are wondering, yes I do have a channel, it's called Movies, Postcards & Reel Tales. By all means feel free to visit.

Revenue of course is still a feature of Suite 101 and the model for compensating writers has also undergone a significant change. Gone are the days when writers had to rely on PPC for earnings. The site is still funded by advertising however payment is made based on a new contributor score system. Depending on how high your score out of 100 points will determine the amount paid. The score is calculated based on how well received your articles are based on readership, feedback, share through share social media. The higher the score, the more you get paid. 

Future Suite

It is too early to tell at this stage whether or not the model will be successful. However what it does offer is a greater potential for the writer in terms of exposure and earnings. In the days of PPC, writers often prioritised keyword rich populist topics over writing about their passions in order to earn effectively. Even if you received 20,000 hits per article the payback could be zero if no ads are clicked on. The new revenue system allows the author to write about what they want and use the channels to build up readership. It really could be a case of you only get out of it what you put in. So the more articles published and read, the greater chance of exposure, high readership and decent payment.

Or at least that's the goal.

Suite 101 is not the only platform available for writers and I will explore this in another post. However it is one of the more prolific and imaginative with a real desire for quality articles written from the heart rather hastily crafted content to capitalise on advertising. Yes there are still ads on the site and no doubt they will continue to keep the platform ticking over. What it means is that the author doesn't worry about things like SEO, keywords  or crafting articles to match the ads. Instead they can concentrate on their craft, build up a reputation for good writing and then.....well who knows. 

Happy writing.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

CrowdsUnite Helping to Make Choice in Crowdfunding Easier

Crowdfunding as an industry has grown exponentially with hundreds of platforms currently waiting to help project owners secure that all important start up funds from the ever generous crowd. Whilst there is greater choice beyond the more recogniseable names such as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, the difficulty has arisen from the being to choose the right one from so many. CrowdsUnite is a new website recently launched to act as a one stop comparison site for the crowdfunding world providing information, reviews and articles on as many of the available platforms as possible. Project owners hopefully will be able to determine based on the information provided, the platform most suited to their venture.


Launched in October this year CrowdsUnite was devised by Alex Feldman, a graduate of New York University (NYU) with an MBA in Finance, Entrepreneurship as well as a BS in Computer Science & Mathematics. Over the last eight years Alex has worked with financial giants such as Barclays Capital and Lehman Brothers spearheading an assortment of key IT developments. The idea for CrowdsUnite was derived from having spent considerable time monitoring the growth of crowdfunding along with numerous discussions with industry leaders from which he identified a gap in the market for the provision of information on crowdfunding service providers.

With the help of friends and interns Alex maintains the data held on CrowdsUnite and each day is looking to expand this online library of crowdfunding platforms. Each one listed is placed into appropriate categories of debt, equity, reward or donation based platforms. Visitors can view information about the platforms such as whether it is an all or nothing model, which countries it operates in, and projects suitable for the platform. These are then rated and reviewed by passing visitors with experience of those platforms, and those not yet rated should contain relevant articles to help make an informed choice. The platform is also open to those looking for the right kind of project to support.
Right now we are focusing on uniting users with the best possible crowdfunding platform that they qualify for. We want to add every single crowdfunding platform no matter how small it is to our listing. We want that in the future when a person or a company decided to raise money they won't think of a bank first but instead think of going to CrowdsUnite and finding debt, equity, reward, or donation platform that they can use. - Alex Feldman, CEO/Founder CrowdsUnite
CrowdsUnite is a full time occupation for Alex, and for users there is no charge for using the service. The ultimate goal is to make the platform self sustaining and since launching has garnered positive feedback and considerable interest from industry leaders. CrowdsUnite has enjoyed significant support from New York's Soho Loft, a prominent organisation specialising in hosting events on all aspects of business and finance, who have signed as the site's partners. With so many crowdfunding platforms emerging following recent legislative changes as well as growing interest in alternative funding in the wake of the financial crisis CrowdsUnite has the head start in building the biggest library and comparison platform for crowdfunding service providers. 

Image Credit; Ganderssen 1

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Help Write the Next Crowdfunding Book

Crowdfunding is taking hold in the UK rapidly with more organisations using it for commercial and charitable purposes, finding a lifeline where traditional forms of funding and investment are not available. Plans for a new book about crowdfunding have been announced by Modwenna Rees-Mogg, founder and CEO of Angel News, one of Europe's leading news service for the investment market. Research is currently underway and Modwenna is calling on anyone involved in crowdfunding to take part in a survey that will help shape the book.



Angel News was founded by Modwenna in 2003 initially as a hobby project. The idea came about after having identified a gap in the provision of investment news, specifically information about companies involved in funding rounds which left investors with little knowledge on the progress of their investments. Since then it has grown into a leading provider of information on over 1,800 rapidly growing businesses, as well as promoting investment opportunities to its network of angel investors and venture capitalists. Angel News also holds events every two months on hot topics surrounding the investment culture including exit strategies, as well as preparing the perfect pitch. 

The survey is aimed at those who are or have been involved in crowdfunding, specifically project owners, crowdfunding service providers or platforms, and investors who have donated to projects. To take part and help shape a potentially insightful and informative UK publication on crowdfunding, click on the following links;
Early participants could be in with a chance of winning a free copy of the book with around 150 to be awarded, that is fifty copies to the first fifty people who take part in the surveys. The book is as yet untitled and currently undergoing research. It is however billed as being a book written by the crowd for the crowd.

Image Credit; Alex E Proimos

Monday, 26 November 2012

Marketing Tips For Your Crowdfunding Project

So you have an idea for a project whether it be a business idea, an invention or a great way to help a charitable cause. What is lacking is the necessary funds to make the dream a reality. The banks are reluctant to loan the money and enticing investors is harder due to the current financial climes so crowdfunding becomes the potential financial lifeline for the project.


Crowdfunding in principle sounds straight forward; post a project online and invite the crowd to make a donation that will help fund the project, with a promise of some exciting rewards to follow. However, as previously reported on the Gazette there is much for a project owner to consider before embarking on the crowdfunding venture that could make or break their campaign. These include laying the groundwork, building up interest through regular & social media, as well as regular updates and promotion before the deadline for reaching the target has expired. Ben Hamilton of Pleasefundus presents some watertight marketing tips for your crowdfunding project.

Image Credit; Howard Lake

Saturday, 17 November 2012

UK Artist Aims for Third Crowdfunded Album Success

Acclaimed British musician and artist Tallulah Rendall is once again looking to crowdfunding to help produce her latest album. Having enjoyed crowdfunding success with her first two albums, the latest entitled "The Banshee and The Moon" looks set to follow in their success. Unlike other artists, who use crowdfunding platforms,Tallulah is raising the funds needed directly through her website, offering supporters a plethora of rewards including an invitation to a one off studio recording session in which the crowd can not only watch but also participate in the recording process.



London born Tallulah is the daughter of John Rendall, famous for buying a lion cub from Harrods in 1969 then releasing it into the wild, and high profile Marketing & PR consultant and author Liz Brewer. Tallulah is a graduate of Manchester University with an honours degree in Latin American Combined Studies, American Liturature and Film. In 2006 she used crowdfuding to finance her first EP "Without Time", which was released to critical acclaim. Following on from that success, Tallulah once again took to crowdfunding this time her first album "Libellus in 2009". Unlike digital downloads and standard CD compilations, "Libellus" was released with a seven inch hardback book featuring an assortment of photographs and artwork by various artists. This set the format for her subsequent crowdfunded 2010 album "Alive". Tallulah's work has earned praise from the likes of musician Jools Holland and prominent newspapers such as the Evening Standard and Daily Mail. 

"The Banshee and the Moon", Tallulah's third album will be produced by Danton Supple who has worked with Coldplay, Kylie Minogue and Amy MaDonald. Crowdfunding once again will play a big role in financing Tallulah's latest album, however unlike other artists, she will be using her own website through which supporters can pledge their donations. The use of her own website means that no extra funds are needed to cover percentage costs levied by crowdfunding platforms. This leaves all the money raised to be spent on producing the album, which will not only be presented in hardback but feature Tallulah's own artwork and short stories. She is looking to raise £18,000 by the end of the month and to date has already reached 50% of her funding target. 
A third album is more expensive as new levels are reached and aspired to. To keep the costs realistic we decided, having firmly established the trust and the relationships, and proved herself as an artist, with stamina and commitment, we would keep the amount needed relatively the same by not raising a percentage in commission required by a site. - Melanie Gow, Manager and Mobile Photographer
In return for their donations, starting from as little as £10, supporters will receive a variety of rewards including various limited edition merchandise as well as digital copies and even signed limited editions of the album itself. For those who are able to donate significant sums supporters will be rewarded with an acoustic performance by Tallulah for £750 either at their home or venue of choosing, a concert at any chosen venue (£1,500), or even a song written for those who pledge £2,000. As well as funding, Tallulah is inviting supporters to pledge £100 for which they will be rewarded with a ticket only invitation. The studio event will offer ticket holders an opportunity to see how music is recorded in all it's maddening wonder. Supporters can simply observe and learn or participate in a recording. The event will be held on 17th December 2012 by which time Tallulah and her crew should be midway through recording and will be happy to provide an update on the project.


Since her debut EP Tallulah has been hailed as a performer who breaks boundaries which is evident in both her artwork and music. Through crowdfunding, she has not only succeeded in getting her work out to audiences without going through the conventional recording and studio companies, but has engaged her audience through the collaborative power of crowdfunding allowing them to be more than just listeners. For more information on the project and how to make a donation click here to visit the site. 

Image Credit; Melanie Gow  

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

[Gallery Post] Use it or Lose It; Get Out and Vote

With less than 24 hours to go till Bristol (and others in the UK) will be voting for this city's first ever Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner I feel the need to get this out in open. I might incite some anger from those I know and there may be some falling out but I feel it needs to be said. If you don't care about these elections (or any further upcoming ones for that matter) and are choosing not to vote at all then shame on you.

I cannot stress this enough; voting is a fundamental right and tremendous privilege that we enjoy in this country. It enables us to empower those parties or individuals we feel will best serve our needs and that of the country (which I like to think are one and the same). There are people out in the world who would and do in fact die for this right to put a mark on a piece of paper that gives power and takes it away so easily. Frankly allowing apathy to throw away this right when others are desperately in need of it is akin to wasting food when there are people starving in the world. Yet each year more people spoil their ballot papers or stay away from the polls either because they don't care or feel it changes nothing. To be fair though I can understand why the sentence "I don't give a shit" is frequently uttered whenever it's election time. 



Time after time some seriously droll individuals mostly with privilege backgrounds hog the news or have leaflets with their bile inducing smiles plastered over them grace our doorsteps asking us to put society's well being in their hands. They want us to know they are qualified and trustworthy, that they understand our despondency and offer themselves as the ultimate cure to our life's woes. They all just seem largely the same to the point where political party branding becomes a rainbow of colours that look different but essentially represent the same idea of grabbing keys to the seat of power for one's own ends. After all why should we trust people who seek out such responsibility with the  gusto of a lion stalking a zebra? One just has to look at the poverty levels, crime rates, not to mention the current financial crisis to be distrustful of politicians and world leaders. It does make you ask "why bother?"

During his "Audience with.....", Billy Connolly urged us not to vote for politicians because it only encourages them. He might have been right but surely the alternative, i.e not  to vote is far worse. Political apathy is running rife in the UK because we feel that change is not possible that at the end of the day all politicians at their core are as bad as each other. Perhaps, but thinking that change isn't possible is a poor excuse not to go to the polls, because voting can get you the elected officials into office who will represent your interests. If you don't believe me ask any devout Tory voter, Obama supporter or those Arab Spring nations who recently entered into the democracy game. All it takes is a trip to your nearest polling station, stand in a rickety booth and put an X to the arse licking *ahem* I mean candidate you feel is the best one for the job at hand. 

Again rushing to your defence the politics game has changed over the years especially with the advent of the Internet. Gone are the days when vote grabbers knock at your door, smile and ask if they can count on your vote. Today websites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts etc are awash with cyber door to door campaigners laying out their agenda, making promises, calling voters to action. Yet not everybody is Internet savvy enough to find these people, learn what they're all about and make an informed decision. That needs to change. Yes mayoral and PCC candidates should do more to entice our interest, something which is sorely lacking in politics but also shouldn't we take more responsibility to learn all we can about these historic and potentially life changing elections and get our voices heard? Politicians are not perfect and the game requires us more to settle rather than support someone  truly inspirational and makes us believe in real change. This is better than doing nothing.



In May we were asked to vote on whether or not Bristol should have a mayor. It incensed me that only 25% of the voting public actually bothered to vote. The Yes campaign won with barely 50% of the vote which means around a measly 13% of registered voters changed the political face of our city. I find that galling and it's about time we stopped making the same tired excuses and accept that elections affect our lives at every level. At least by voting you have the say and if your chosen candidate isn't elected you can sleep soundly in the knowledge that you tried, and the next day moan to your heart's content. If you don't participate you lose the right to complain. I must confess I am sorely disappointed with many aspects of the candidates up for Mayor, and know little about the PCC. Yet I will be voting because I have that right unlike others in the world, it's one I don't intend to lose and who knows I might be pleasantly surprised. I just hope the future of this city will not be determined by a small percentage of its voting population. If so then how can we decry dictatorships and call ourselves a democracy when we don't even value the very fundamental right that people around the world fight and die for, a right that our leaders will take away from us if they see it isn't being used. So get out and vote; use it or lose it.

To learn more about the tomorrow's elections visit the Bristol 24/7 website by clicking here.

Image Credit; FutUndBiedl, Daz Smith

Thursday, 8 November 2012

[Gazette Profile] AdultXFund; Crowdfunding for The Adult Industry

The latest industry hoping to reap the potential rewards crowdfunding has to offer is the world of adult news and entertainment. AdultXFund was announced at xBiz EU, the adult industry's leading international digital media conference held in London September this year. The fledgling platform offers owners of adult themed projects resources from which to crowdfund their venture and revolutionise the adult industry for the digital world.



AdultXFund was set up by JCaz Limited, a UK based company owned and operated by Jason Maskell with over 14 experience specialising in adult content for digital media. Working within the global adult industry, JCaz has overseen the development of a range of products and services including Mobile Apps, DVD production & distribution, as well as the use of social media. The idea for AdultXFund was devised when JCaz was approached by various interested parties looking for alternative funding for a variety of adult projects. After Jason undertook extensive research of an assortment of relevant forums and platforms, it seemed that there was little interest within the crowdfunding community for this type of project.

The platform is open to any adult orientated projects including publications, websites, mobile apps, as well as film projects, and uses the all or nothing crowdfunding model. In return for 6.5% of the total funds raised, AdultXFund provides project owners ,through their extensive contacts within the industry, with advice and support for those looking to develop projects for the adult market, as well as a strong, secure and professional platform through partnership with Grow VC. There are also plans to offer additional marketing services for an additional charge. Projects featured on AdultXFund to date include a digital adult magazine and a production company looking to combine adult content with MTV style videos. Interested users can sign up and follow the progress of these projects as they move closer to launch.
We really want the public to be able to invest and take equity in adult projects that excite and interest them. - Jason Maskell, Founder AdultXFund
Controversy has often engulfed the adult industry with regards to its effects on human behaviour and society, as well as the concern over the distribution of illegal content. AdultXFind is open to any form of adult content whether it be news outlets, soft core or even hardcore content. It stresses however, the need for project owners to ensure that their venture is legal within their country of business, and offer support and advice to clear up any confusion as to legality.

The adult industry is not to everyone's liking yet it is still one that is very much in demand. Like any other industry it  has endured difficulties in this increasing turbulent financial climate.   AdultXFund looks set to open up the market to purveyors of adult content allowing opportunities for potentially exciting and innovative projects that could change the way the industry operates.

Image Credit; Copyright AdultXFund All Rights Reserved. Enquirers to info@adultXfund.com .

Thursday, 18 October 2012

UK Charities Step Up For Crowdfunding Challenge

National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has launched a crowdfunding challenge inviting charities from across the UK to compete against one another in fundraising efforts. Launched in September, the Crowdfunding Challenge 2012 NCVO has pitted ten UK charities to better engage their communities and supporters as well as learn about how crowdfunding is revolutionising fundraising for the third sector here in the UK.




The challenge is operating in partnership with Buzzbnk, the London based crowdfunding platform that connects potential financiers with project owners for a variety of charitable and social projects. Other supporters of the challenge include; CAN Impact, an organisation that offers business support in social enterprise; Sho-net Systems provider of cloud based computer operations, and Anne Strachan of CrowdfundUK dedicated to providing information, resources and support on the use of crowdfunding within the third sector.  
So many organisations are looking to change how they raise money, especially those who have been reliant on grants. This challenge is a great way to generate learning and resources for charities while having lots of fun and raising money for some great causes. - Ros Jenkins, NCVO
Participating charities use the Buzzbnk platform to raise money through crowdfunding, and have until November to reach their funding targets. The venture is aimed at engaging communities as well learning and experimenting with the crowdfunding process. Projects featured in the challenge include;

  • Latch (Leeds) -  using unemployed volunteers the project hopes to raise funds to help refurbish an empty house to create a home for a homeless family.
  • Gateshead Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) - one of many organisations hit by austerity measures, the CAB hope to raise funds for a self-help touch screen console enabling full access to information and resources to help people tackle their problems.
  • Aston Mansfield (Newham, London) - a sleep over project for children from deprived areas, to help build their social and emotional developments whilst giving parents some respite. 

Throughout the challenge,  NCVO will be monitoring the participants' progress bringing them together to share their knowledge at the organisation's Sustainable Funding conference to be held in November. The charity that displays the most learning and sharing during the challenge will be awarded £1,000 by CAN Impact. Click here for more information and a full list of the participating charities.

Image Credit; liewcf 

Saturday, 22 September 2012

[Gallery Post] Tackling Slavery with Unchosen

Amongst the many dates that should be marked on our calendar a big red circle should be placed around the 18th October 2012 UK anti-slavery day. It is alarming to think that across the world over 12 million people have been trafficked and worked as slaves with nearly 50% put to work as sex workers. We tend to still think of slavery as a blight on our country's past or something that happens in the developing world yet those figures paint a different picture for the UK. Unchosen, the Bristol based charity that campaigns for end to human trafficking will be marking anti-slavery day with a special screening of Stolen, a heart wrenching film that looks at child exploitation, and will feature a Q&A session with representatives from leading charities as well local and constabulary authorities.


I first learnt about Unchosen through writer and broadcaster Mark Le Leivre who I met  at the Encounters International Film Festival Launch in 2010. Mark asked for help in promoting Unchosen that year which was to run over several days with screenings, talks and exhibitions scheduled  throughout Bristol and Bath. You can read the article, which includes the organisation's history, by clicking here. I was impressed to learn that it had the support of legendary film maker Ken Loach as well as director Nick Broomfield, director of the acclaimed feature film Ghosts,  as Unchosen's Honorary President. 

Basically the organisation is all about using films and documentaries to keep up awareness of human trafficking into the UK.  Unchosen work in collaboration with film makers, NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations) and an army volunteers to set up campaigns at schools, universities and local communities. They help raise awareness, expose traffickers in the UK with the help of their volunteer base, and especially work to involve young people to be aware of the dangers of grooming and generally to get involved and help make a difference.

This year's event features a screening of Stolen, a 90 minute TV movie which aired on BBC One in July last year. The film stars Homeland's Damian Lewis as DI Anthony Carter, an officer assigned to the Human Trafficking Unit, trying to find three young girls brought into the country and forced into servitude. The film starkly examines the profitable and dark underworld of human trafficking in the UK which has seen over 1.2 million children sold into slavery. The film will then lead to a Q&A session with Graham SimsStrategic Director of Neighbourhoods & City Development for Bristol City Council, Ella Remes,Children’s Services Manager for Barnardo’s, and Detective Inspector Dave Grimstead, Public Protection, Avon & Somerset Police. The combination of the film followed by the panel discussion should engage the audience, encouraging them to think long and hard about the subject matter and what needs to be done to tackle its seemingly increasing rise in the UK.


Image Credit; 38 Degrees

If there was a every a time for greater need to raise awareness of human trafficking to the UK it is now, given how it is increasing and very little seems to be done to bring it to an end. In August 2010 the coalition government chose to opt out of the EU effort to clamp down on the trade in sex slaves, causing quite a stir until perceived pressure saw a reversal of that decision the following year. Yet there are still fewer arrests being made and there is speculation that human trafficking, in particular those used as sex workers is slowly becoming less of a priority. An article by Mark Towsend, Home Affairs Editor for The Observer reveals some disturbing facts and revelations about the fight against slavery in the UK. 

Stolen will be screened at the Tobacco Factory and admission is free. For more information you can visit the Unchosen website by clicking on the flier on the top right hand side of the page.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Crowdfunding Bristol's Community Bike Cafe

Whether it be as a means of transport or to keep physically fit, cycling is enjoying something of a renaissance in the UK. This revived interest in pedal power has particularly taken hold in Bristol making it the first cycling city, which has inspired an idea for a community cafe for cyclists. The project, Roll For The Soul, aims to provide a cafe and social hub for cyclists, not only serving quality refreshments but acting as a one stop resource centre to promote and support cycling in the city. The project has turned to crowdfunding to help raise some of the necessary funds, through the UK based platform Crowdfunder.



Roll For The Soul (RFTS) is the idea of Rob Wall, a former lecturer in transport psychology (for which  he also has a PhD) and project manager for Sustrans, the UK's leading charity for promoting alternative day to day travel which includes cycling, which due to the rise in fuel costs as well as concerns for the environment is becoming increasingly popular. As well as financial and environmental concerns, the recent surge in cycling has in part been driven by a need to become physically fit inspired by success of British cyclists in pro-racing events such as the Tour de France and the London 2012 Olympics. 

As well as a cafe or resting stop for weary cyclists, serving quality Fair Trade refreshments, RFTS main aim is to support and promote cycling in Bristol, by providing a plethora of resources which include, repairs service, workshop tutorials and skill sharing as well as limited sale of refurbished bicycles and accessories. The hub will also welcome non cyclists in an effort to promote cycling as fun, healthy, and inexpensive, answering questions and offering support where need. It will essentially be a place cyclists can call their own, and completely non-profit orientated with any surplus revenue going towards promoting cycling in the city working with various organisations.

The project needs £90,000 to cover working capital as well as year one operational costs, of which only £12,000 will be sought through crowdfunding to help pay for kitchen equipment, seating, and cash registers. The project features on the platform Crowdfunder, based in Exeter. Those who donate will receive an array of rewards which include an assortment of RFTS merchandise such as postcards, pin buttons, T-shirts and exclusive prints, as well as an invitation to the opening party with food and drink provided.For those who donate £300 or more, a life time membership offering 10% discount along with a promise to be treated like royalty. The campaign has just under 40 days to raise the necessary funds and to date has received £5,500 in donations. 

For more information and to make a donation click here to visit the project's Crowdfunder page.

Image Credit; tejvanphotos

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Writer's Slump

I am learning all too well the difficulties of the ability to just keep up the writing. The last month or so have not been the best for me in terms of regular posts as indicated by my poor performing starts and beyond laughable earnings. Sadly I cannot blame writers block (although I have been hit by that on occasion) and there is certainly no shortage of material or ideas rattling in my hyperactive screaming brain. My biggest enemy is time and energy. My goal is to become a full time writer, which I am sure has already been said on this blog. Until sites and publications come knocking down my door begging me to grace their domains and limited page spaces with my various thoughts ideas and snippets of information carefully constructed into an article (selah.....now breathe), I have to work full time to help pay the bills, eat etc. 

There are many qualities about my job that I do like, such as working with some of the top legal minds of the country, have laughs with my colleagues, and I earn my pay sitting behind a desk, so no hard labour involved. However it is a mentally and at times emotionally demanding role that can leave one drained at the end of the day when all you want to do is kick off your shoes and crash on the sofa (for me it's the floor cushioned with a hefty bean bag). This leaves me mainly with the evening to sit at my desk and write, and no doubt you can imagine the battle of wills that goes on inside when all the brain wants to do is watch the latest episode of Dallas or The Walking Dead. Even a riveting book seems like too much effort and for me it seems to be happening an awful lot lately.

Finding the optimum time to sit down and write when you have to juggle other responsibilities can be tasking at the best of times, and I wonder how those with families manage to do it. For me it is the job that takes up those hours in the day when we are all functioning at our best. I try to find time where I can and for me the best time is lunch hour when taking refuge in a coffee shop with free wi-fi, netbook fired up typing away. The added buzz of caffeine from a quality mug of hot java combined with the knowledge of only limited time to put any thoughts down can help create some impressive work, even if I do say so myself. Yet such moments are short lived and soon the time to return to the rodent race quickly arrives to kill the mood. 



When it's hard to find enough lucid and focused time to craft a blog post, research an article, or even check stats, it is easy to feel a little despondent, even to the point of downing tools for good. I have lost count of the number of times I simply wanted to walk away from this calling and put the time to productive and leisurely use, and have been known to rant on about this frustration much to the understandable annoyance of my partner. Luckily she is an understanding soul and in a true act of support rolls her eyes and tells me not to be silly then offering constructive pointers and honest praise. Supportive friends and family takes the sting away from the frustration, if writing is beyond being a hobby, and I am fortunate in that regard. I have read instances in letter columns featuring fellow aspiring writers being ridiculed, ignored and even discouraged from writing. 

If like me you are balancing a full time responsibility with trying to succeed as a paid writer no doubt similar frustrations have slapped you around and you're left feeling a little wiped out. At this point your inner naysayers will talk you out of your writing passion using your sense of priorities against you and playing on that all hovering sense that you are just not up to the challenge. Really this is just ego talking, parts of the mind that like to feed off our negativity with a tendency to make us feel inadequate. What keeps me focused is the realisation that when I get out of bed in the morning one of my first instincts (aside from rushing to the loo) is to fire up the laptop and get writing. Setting aside time and suitable space are vital for productive quality writing but to quash those inner (and some outer) voices of doom and failure, just remember if when you wake up in the morning and one of your first thoughts is of writing, then you are a true writer and nothing should distract you from the dream of being a successful and published writer. 

Keep the faith. 

Image Credits; Sean MacEntee

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Can Students Take Over Kickstarter?

The power of the crowd has already helped many businesses and organisations (large and small) secure funding and/or quality ideas and designs with impressive results. Crowdfunding in particular has become the preferred tool for fundraising where traditional avenues are still proving impossible to access or simply not delivering essential funds needed. The benefits of crowdfunding, however are limited to businesses and organisations. Students who normally rely on government funded organisations, such as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the US or the Arts Council England, should consider looking to crowdfunding especially at a time when such organisations are facing severe funding cuts.

An infographic produced by the team at OnlineBusinessDegeree.org, a platform that provides information on a variety of online business degrees, illustrates the successes and benefits of crowdfunding, that students might find interesting.


Kickstarter Infographic

A higher pitch success rate, ease of access, a wide variety of categories with even eccentric ideas receiving full funding (e.g. the Robocop statue), the future may well see students taking over Kickstarter.  

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Playing Host to UK's First Crowdfunding & Social Collaboration Conference

There is no denying that crowdsourcing and open source collaboration is growing in prominence here in the UK. Crowdfunding and open innovation in particular are becoming increasingly popular, yet the concept of Web 2.0 collaborative solutions are still a fairly new concept. In order to help with the challenges presented by current economic austerity measures, UK crowdfunding platform PleaseFund.US will be hosting a crowdfunding and social collaboration conference on 26th September 2012 at Somerset House in London. The event will focus on how essentially crowdsourcing and other forms of web based collaboration and consultation can help bring great ideas to life.


PleasedFund.Us was set up by entrepreneurs, James Bailey and Tarkan Ahmet, and launched in August 2011 (same time as the Gazette). The idea for the platform came about from difficulties encountered trying to raise money for their ideas a common hurdle facing many fledgling start-ups. Over the past year the platform has partnerships with various creative organisations such as Big Society Network, Nexters, and IdeasTap, with the shared aim of helping creative projects secure that much sought after funding. 

The conference, hosted in tandem with two of their partners the Big Society Network and Nexters, aims to explore the rise of crowdsourcing, in particular crowdfunding, and how the principles and technology can be used to breathe life into ideas that would otherwise remain in limbo by the limits of traditional methods. Representatives from PleaseFund.Us and Seedrs will talk about crowdfunding covering equity and non-equity fields, and open panel discussions will be held by various groups including Sky Arts, StartUp Britain, Ideas Tap and Spacehive.
Crowdfunding is one of today's hottest buzzwords in the tech world, and it is exploding in popularity. Financial hurdles are just the tip of the iceberg for most ideas though. This is a chance to look at alternative ways that can fuel and help support ideas, both for individuals and organsiations. -  James Bailey, Co-Founder of PleaseFund.Us
Since launching over a year ago, the team of PleaseFund.US have witnessed a variety of creative projects find a lifeline through crowdfunding including smartphone apps, documentaries and theatre productions. The platform's success stories will be discussed at the conference, highlighting the effectiveness of open source collaboration through social media. The event will start at 6pm and is free to all those who wish to attend but spaces are limited. For more information click here for location details and to book your place. 

Image Credit; Oscar Berg

Thursday, 30 August 2012

PifWorld Enabling The Crowd to Change the World Their Way

In the digital age crowdsourcing has proven to invaluable in helping local communities as well as the developing world. Crowdfunidng, microfinance, design crowdsourcing, open innovation, and microvolunteering have all helped the global community overcome an assortment of obstacles. The latest platform looking to rally the crowd for an altruistic call to action is PIFWORLD which describes itself as "a tool to change the world - your way". Whether it be volunteering time and resources, or donating to an assortment of projects, PIFWORLD is the newest one stop crowdsourcing centre designed to help make the world better through the power of the crowd. 


PIFWORLD prides itself as a rally for mass activism and a gateway to democratising of altruistic projects through the power of the crowd. For more insight about PIFWORLD click here to read Crowdsourcing the gateway to netizenship by Mesfin AAragaw.

The platform is open to anyone who wants to get involved either as individuals or as part of various teams, and can donate time and/or money in a variety of ways. These include;
  • Crowdfunding/Microfinance; PIFWORLD supports a number of projects across the globe whether it be building a well for access to clean water, seeking alternative green energy sources, tackling HIV and AIDS, and rebuilding family homes. Each project has a funding target and can be supported either by a one of  donation or through fund raising activities.
  • Fund raising; Many charities enjoy the support of PIFWORLD teams and individuals including the world renowned human rights watchdog Amnesty International. Interested parties can great a "just giving" style fund raising page to help raise vital funds for the charity (or project) of their choice. 
  • Volunteers; The message of PIFWORLD to the crowd is simple; change the world your way and those who wish to volunteer their time and resources can do so in a number of ways. Many projects and initiatives need people who can spare the time to help with various jobs, and those who are able can search through PIFWORLD. Opportunities also exist for field workers to provide regular updates to supporters on ongoing initiatives as well as bloggers and reporters to provide news stories. Bloggers in particular are invited to take part in a major crowdsourcing initiative to create a database of rare species as well as rare and unique habitats around the world. 
So whether it is donating time, money, or skills, PIFWORLD provides the crowd with a plethora of opportunities to get involved. Visit the PIFWORLD site here to find out how you can join an increasing crowd of netizens and change the world your way.

Image Credit; James Cridland

Thursday, 9 August 2012

How Long Have You Been a Writer?

When I tell people I am a writer (at least part time anyway) the statement is then followed by the question "oh how long have you been doing that then?" I always stumble at this point because my writing ambitions and activities have been very much start and stop, akin to the sort of love affair described on Facebook as "it's complicated". That is not necessarily the reason why I stumble however as I could easily respond with "oh only a couple of years" referencing my on-line work. Like I said though, it is very complicated.


Image Credit; Horia Varian via flickr

A Child's Gift of Language

Although I was born in Bristol, much of my early childhood was spent living in Iran, before the revolution of 1979. My mother will tell you that during those years I had a great affinity for language. I would read lots of poetry and even stand up in class to do readings for which I used to get top marks. I do remember being able to read, write and speak in at least two languages fluently (Farsi and English) and was well underway to learning a third (Assyrian). When we moved to the UK I wasn't quite the erstwhile student I was in Iran, most likely due to the raging hormones and an unjustifiable need to act out brought on by the terrible teens. Yet I still loved to read & write with some of my best grades coming from my English classes where I would produce essays and short stories to great acclaim from my teachers. 

Rise of the Writer's Dream

This interest in writing followed me to college where in between wanting to be an Olympic boxer and a computer programmer, I continued to develop my craft. That's when I truly fell in love with writing and decided I wanted to be a write/reporter. My college years studying English, Law, Sociology and working to gain my City & Guilds in Print and Radio Journalism gave me some much needed experience in writing for print and radio. My broadcasting ventures were nerve wrecking to say the least and whilst highly enjoyable at times convinced me that sitting behind a typewriter was more preferable than a microphone. I wrote and covered a diverse range of subjects from local events to the Poll Tax riots, and was fortunate to interview a number of celebrities and politicians. 

My formative years at University during the early 90's gave me my first taste of early social media (VAX) as well as working for an on-line publication Axe Magazine.  Post graduation the opportunities were few and far between although I was able to write a few news items for a local weekly free newspaper. I'd hoped for more exposure and experience but I was balancing this with a part time job and a full time office job, both very demanding. I decided to retire my writing ambitions after moving into our house, choosing to focus on alternative career options that will also pay the bills.


Image Credit; Mama Musings via flickr

The Writer Reborn

I guess my ambition to get back into writing was re-energised at the start of 2007. At first it was going to be a hobby focusing on fictional short story writing, and submitting the occasional tale to a few competitions. It took me a few months to get back into the flow with idea after idea discarded into the recycling bin. During a period of 18 months I submitted two stories both of which never even made it into the final stages. Nothing emerged after those two and everything from assorted tales to a couple of book projects remained in development hell. I was about to throw in the towel again when a chance reunion with an old friend inspired me to set up my first blog, View From The Gallery.

The blog proved to be a useful experiment and helped me get into the habit of writing regularly as well as writing for the web. Believe it or not there are significant differences between web content writing and producing something for print publication. However  I wanted to publish to wider audience and even try to earn some extra pennies in the process. After much reading and research into various sites I settled on Suite 101. I was dubious at first until I glanced at the application process which involved submitting two pieces of written work. This was to weed out content writers looking to make a fast buck. Each article was subject to a rigorous editing process and I had on more than one  occasion fallen victim to the dreaded editors' "red pen". In terms of pennies I didn't earn much and to this day it is literally pennies. However it gave me that most important thing lacking in my arsenal; a portfolio of work covering a diverse range topics as well as exposure to a wide audience. 

Although the money wasn't quite rolling in by the truck load  the hits certainly were more than compensating with some articles averaging around 2000 unique visits per month each. Between my blog and Suite 101 articles I had built up enough of an impressive portfolio to win a bid to work as a news writer for The Daily Crowdsource. Yes this was a paid position  but not enough to warrant handing in my notice at work. The experience and knowledge I gained however made the role worthwhile. I wrote short news items, feature articles and even took on editing duties. The time soon came however to put my writing destiny back into my own hands, so we parted ways and I set up the Crowdsourcing Gazette.

If my experience with Suite 101, the blog and Daily Crowdsource helped build the foundations for my writing journey, the Gazette certainly put their strength to the test. Since it was launched over a year ago I have made some amazing contacts and built up quite a following and covered some interesting topics. My goal with the Gazette is ultimately for it to grow into something much bigger, although I am uncertain as to what that will entail. For now I continue to post when I can (daily is ideal) along with this writer's blog, story writing, the Gallery as well as write for Suite 101. all whilst trying to survive my  less than satisfactory day job (as jobs go it could be worse) which ultimately pays the bills. Someday I will earn a decent living doing what I love if I don't go mad in the process.   

So now when I am asked "how long have you been a writer" I might simply point them to this post. Yet in summing up my writing experience and ambitions (and it is a very brief summary) I now have a better understanding of I how would truly answer that question; how long have I been a writer? Most of my life really.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Crowdsourcing Call for a Dystopian Short Film

The innovative aspect of crowdsourcing in film making is being put to the test by a group of British film students for a futuristic drama. The film, 2050 is the brainchild of Brighton-based student Ricarda Saleh and tells the story of a captured member of an underground resistance movement by an oppressive government. The story will not only unfold on the screen but feature scenes and back stories through a variety of social media platforms including Twitter, YouTube, Pinerest and Instagram. Ricarda and her team have invited the crowd to participate and help make the movie by voting and suggesting aspects to be featured in the finished project. 



Written, produced and directed by Ricarda Saleh, 2050 is the story of Xia (played by Ricarda), a member of an underground resistance movement who is captured by a agents of a brutal government regime. She is interrogated and tortured for information about her fellow resistance members and contacts but Xia refuses to co-operate. Their methods clearly having failed thus far, Xia's torturers inform her that she has until midnight to co-operate or be prepared to suffer an even worse fate. As she is left to make her decision Xia suddenly finds herself reflecting on her past, happy memories of friendship, beauty and tranquillity. The deadline looms ever closer and soon Xia will have to make a decision.

Although crowdfunding has played an integral role in helping independent films see the light of the cinema screen, renowned projects such as The Age of Stupid in 2009 starring the late British actor Pete Postlethwaite, very few have actually called on the crowd to collaborate with the film makers to influence content. The exceptions have been the Ridley Scott produced Life in a Day (and the follow up production Britain in a Day) as well as the Vimeo sponsored Star Wars Uncut. Ricarda's production 2050 draws inspiration from such productions to involve the crowd in determining various aspects of the finished film. To date the crowd have helped chose costumes to be used and even helped decide on names for the principle characters. 
2050 is part of a new generation of film making: user generated cinema. Crowdsourcing is going to revolutionise the film industry. Audiences want to get involved in the film making process. We decided to crowdsource our short film and create a cross media story to experiment with these new storytelling techniques - Ricarda Saleh, Writer, Director, Producer 2050
The latest call is to provide what promises to be the most chilling and pivotal moment in the film. During Xia' s incarceration as the deadline is about to expire, a voice from nowhere suddenly announces her time is about to run out and that in order to avoid the terrible fate that awaits her Xia must co-operate. The crowd is invited to submit a voice recording of the announcement (see video below for instructions). The voice should be synthesised and/or enhanced to give it a futuristic and eerie sound, indicative of a tyrannical and brutal regime of a futuristic dystopian world. The recording should then be uploaded using SoundCloud. However just as Xia has only a limited time to save herself so does the crowd to participate as recordings should be submitted within three days. For more information about the project, including cast & crew as well as further updates visit and like 2050's Facebook page.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Crowdopolis 2012: The World is Not Enough

The Daily Crowdsource's much anticipated crowdsourcing event, Crowdopolis was held on 19th July 2012 in Los Angeles. It was aimed at companies looking to learn more about crowdsourcing and how to incorporate it into their daily operations. The event featured break out sessions looking at practical uses and guides as well as networking opportunities, and guest speakers from various companies and crowdsourcing service providers. The Gazette is honoured to feature the insights and observations on this event by guest blogger Ville Miettinen,co-founder  and CEO of Microtask.

Until recently, no one would have thought to turn to James Bond for lessons on the future of industrialised society or how to cure cancer. 007 is a talented fellow, but not someone we would have associated with forecasting economic transitions or the science of cancer. (Q and his team of R&D experts on the other hand…) That all changed at Crowdopolis, 2012. Presentations by Lisa Kennedy, James Rubinstein and Professor David Alan Grier revealed that when it comes to crowdsourcing, even absurd movie stars have insights that can help solve the world’s problems. (Confirming once again the ideas expressed in Team America: World Police.)

As you might have guessed by now, Crowdopolis this year was a fascinating event, with an impressive line-up from the crowdsourcing industry and associated experts. In total 16 different speakers gave presentations, focused on lessons learnt from their experiences with crowdsourcing projects. I was delighted to be amongst them.

Lessons learnt using moles to crowdsource 4 million tasks

If you have ever had anything to do with moles, you will know that they are not very good at reading old newspapers. In fact, with their terrible eyesight and poor attention to detail, moles are the last animal you should ask to help digitise hard-to-read newspaper text. Yet, as I discussed at Crowdopolis, moles – or at least video games involving them – were extremely good at encouraging volunteers to donate their time to help the National Library of Finland digitise its old newspapers. The project, called Digitalkoot, has so far involved over 100,000 volunteers, demonstrated the power of crowdsourcing when combined with gamification, and proved that you can never have too many buzzwords in one sentence.

Innovation and enterprise

From the people I spoke to and the talks I attended, I think the prevailing theme this year was the potential crowdsourcing has for innovation and larger enterprises. Sharon Chiarella from Amazon and Kirsten Kuehl from Nokia both focused on this, and gave some real insights into how big business can benefit from the crowd’s creativity. As I mentioned during my presentation, in the future I believe we will increasingly see larger corporations making use of the crowd for jobs that can be broken down into microtasks and completed online.

Judging by the buzz during the event, I think everyone enjoyed themselves as much as I did, and came away with new ideas about the future of our fledgling industry. One thing was certain: If you are involved in the crowdsourcing industry Crowdopolis 2013 should be on your calendar.

Ville Miettinen is a serial entrepreneur and computer programmer from Finland, and is the co-founder and CEO of Microtask, a platform that incorporates crowdsourcing as a means of carrying out various tasks online. Since it was founded in 2009 it has grown into one of the leading providers of on-line crowdsourced labour with offices in Helsinki and Tampere, as well as San Francisco. Ville also offers his thoughts and knowledge on crowdsourcing as one of the Crowd Leaders for The Daily Crowdsource

Image Credit; The Daily Crowdsource - All Rights Reserved