What they didn’t want me to say about Lorde

lorde and eleanor

Photograph by @sonjayelich via @gemmagracewood

I want to talk a bit about Lorde.

And the reason I want to talk about Lorde is not because I’m a fan of her music, although I am, but because of the criticism she’s received this week around a handful of tweets she sent the day she arrived back from conquering the world.

You might remember the tweets. There were only four or five of them, and they basically said, well, the arrival at Auckland Airport was a bit of a downer because of all the media jostling, fame isn’t all a bed of roses and the whole thing made her return to New Zealand a bit disappointing, all in all. A bit sad, I think she said.

So that night I was discussing this with my 14 year old son when the phone rang and by coincidence it was a major New Zealand media outlet wanting to discuss just that thing.

Did I have, the nice reporter asked, anything to say about the “barrage” of angry tweets Lorde had sent?

Well, first off, I told her, five tweets isn’t much of a barrage. I’ve sent something more than 50,000 in my time and I saw last night someone I know tick through 100,000. Lorde herself has sent about 1400. But she’s been pretty busy.

And as for angry, well, I thought they were more honest than anything else.

This wasn’t what the reporter wanted to hear, so I didn’t end up being quoted.

But if I did, here’s what I would have said. The beauty of well known people using social media, the whole point, its entire appeal, is that it gives us a glimpse into the real lives of our cultural, sporting and even political heroes.

No spin doctors, no speech writers and, and I think this might have been what’s really been ruffling media feathers, no need for media.

So when Lorde got in a New York taxi and heard her song playing on the radio, we knew how happy that made her. When she got photographed in a friend’s apartment with Eleanor Catton, we knew about that. And when she felt a bit down after getting a fright from the media attention after a 12 hour flight back from conquering the musical world, we knew about that too. It’s the good and the bad and that’s the point.

And the last thing I would have told that reporter had she chosen to quote me is that asking a guy in his 40s to pass judgement on how a 17 year old is using social media is nothing short of absurd.

Long time listener, first time host.

radio control desk
No idea what these do. Not a single clue.

This Summer, I was lucky enough to be invited to host three one-hour episodes of my own radio show, Sunday Social.

I’ve been on radio quite a few times before – I’ve been doing a guest spot with Marcus Lush for over a year now, and before that with Glenn Williams on Kiwi FM. In fact, my break into advertising was via radio… when I was still a pilot in the air force I wrote an ad for Caterpillar Boots, which won a competition on Auckland student station bFM. As part of the prize, the station recorded my ad, and I took that cassette to More FM to see if they’d hire me. They did! For two weeks. Someone had left, and their replacement didn’t start for another fortnight, so in I slotted.

The job market was pretty buoyant back then, because before that fortnight was up I had an offer from Primedia – a radio company that looked after a bunch of stations including Hauraki, The Breeze and some others. Then they got bought by The Radio Network, and next minute I was writing ads at ZB.

As a writer, it taught me an awful lot about effectiveness and speed. We made a lot of ads each day, and part of the way we got through so many was by spending each afternoon working with the engineers to produce the ads we’d written that morning, often with ourselves as voices.

So I’m pretty comfortable around radio stations, and especially Radio Live. There’s always a buzz in the newsroom when I turn up on a Friday morning and Marcus and his producer Cliff always seem happy to see me.

This time, though, I was in the hot seat, with an hour or so (less ads) to fill, people up and down the country driving their cars, doing the dishes after dinner, or maybe tuning in from who knows where online to entertain.

I think we pulled it off, in the end, me and my lovely, clever, generous guests.

In order of appearance (as they say) I was privileged to be joined by:

Kim Dotcom: surprisingly frank about his father’s alcohol issues and even more so about what he gets up to in his dreams (not all of that made it into the final edit)

Paul Brislen: a panelist on all three shows and full of wit and actual knowledge

Anna Connell: clever, funny and warm, Anna from BNZ was a panelist on two shows

Helen Clark: talking to her made me feel like the whole PM thing was just the prequel to whatever comes next for her at the UN. Warm and fun to talk to.

Simone McCallum: 10 minutes wasn’t nearly enough to talk about blogging with Simone – I’m sure we could have filled a very enjoyable hour.

Hazel Phillips: editor of Idealog magazine, tramper, author and very good fun on the radio.

Neil Finn: I love that we live in a country where you can send a tweet to one of our most famous musicians asking him to come on the radio and right away he responds with “yeah, OK”

Urzila Carlson: some cars look fast standing still; Urzila Carlson is funny even when she’s not telling jokes.

If you listened, thank you and I hope you enjoyed it. If you didn’t, I’ll add audio links to this post on Monday.

On the radio: everything is invisible


Can you spot the cow?

Invisible cows. Invisible girlfriends. And some juicy social media numbers. Read on, or listen to the audio here.

More cows: if you can find them

Last week we met a real cow that tweets from the herd; this week it’s an imaginary one that hides on your computer screen. Find the invisible cow is, I’m told, an internet sensation. All you need is a computer with the sound turned up, and when you click on the screen you get clues about how close you are to the invisible cow. Click on the cow, and well, you get to see the cow.

Fun for everyone including kids and office workers.


Site of the week: invisible girlfriend

Sooner or later everything anyone can think of will be on the internet. Like this! Invisible Girlfriend is a site that for as low as $10 a month will make the whole wide (online) world think you have a girlfriend.

Your imaginary soulmate will do anything from send you texts, to interact with you on Facebook and even call home to ask your parents or flatmates if you’re there. And of course you get to change your Facebook status from L for loser single or needy It’s Complicated to “In a relationship with…” Awwww. The one thing the site doesn’t offer is personal visits, so you’ll need to come up with your own excuse with your invisible girlfriend doesn’t make it home in time for Christmas.


A week of milestones

The internet is all about numbers, and a few notable ones popped up this week.

The first was the news that photo sharing app Snapchat had reportedly turned down an offer of 3 billion dollars from Facebook. That sounds crazy until you hear the number behind the number: more images are shared each day on Snapchat than on Facebook…. 400 million a day, versus 350 million. Numbers like that obviously looked good to Snapchat, so they said no to Facebook.

The other number is a local one. Job seekers’ and general business networking site Linkedin announced this week that it has 1 million New Zealand members.

What they weren’t so keen to share is just how often those members visit the site, as since Linkedin’s best efforts, it’s still more than a little bit dull. Unless you’re looking to change jobs of course, in which case I’m sure it’s even more addictive than Snapchat.

App of the week: Lights, camera, iPhone

The world is still waiting for an amazing iphone video app, but Vivoom might be a contender. It’s free, which is great, and packs a huge range of video special effects and filters from the conventional 8mm movie effect through to a very convincing pencil sketch animation as seen in the 1980s video Take On Me. Download this one for the kids on Christmas Day and they’ll be busy until bedtime. Includes easy social sharing so you can bore people with your awesome 15-second clips.


Now with audio: crowd-funded journalism, Secret Santa and the F-bomb goes global


Notes from this morning’s chat on Radio Live with Marcus Lush. If you’re in New Zealand, you can tune in every Friday morning at 7:50am for more of the same.

Listen here for the audio

Crowd funds Twitter journo at phone hacking trial

Could this be the future of journalism?

A British freelancer called Peter Jukes was covering the News of the World phone hacking trial in the UK by tweeting everything that was said in court. At first he only thought he’d be allowed to cover the first couple of days, but when the judge said he could tweet the whole thing he had a problem, since as a freelancer he couldn’t afford to spend that long on it.

Then a follower suggested he crowdfund his time at the trial, so he could keep on tweeting, as well as eating.

So he asked if 500 people would give a pound a week (he had 5000 followers) in a listing on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, and in the end raised GBP6362! When I looked yesterday he was still tweeting the trial and his followers had gone up to almost 7000.

It’s a sweary old world


People sometimes swear on Twitter, we all know that. But if you want to see where in the world they’re swearing in real time, then fbomb.co is the site for you. It scrapes Twitter for mentions of the F word, then shows them live on a map. This would have been a good one to be watching during the NZ MEX game yesterday….

Ho ho ho… NZ Post gets its Santa on

Twitter Secret Santa is one of the coolest things about this time of year. A guy in Hamilton who goes by @websam started it a few years back, but last year it had gotten way too big for one person to handle with hundreds of Twitter users all over New Zealand giving and receiving secret gifts

Luckily, NZ Post stepped in and are now running it

To take part, go to nzsecretsanta.co.nz and sign in with your Twitter username and email address. When everyone has signed up, you’ll get the Twitter name of whoever you have to buy a gift for, then it’s up to you to Twitter-stalk them and choose a $10 gift, before sending it to NZ Post for them to send on.

Hopefully one of the upsides to Post helping out is that we won’t have as much Scrooging this year and everyone will get a gift! Registration closes next Tuesday, so get onto it if you want to take part.

Who to follow: @binnightbot

No matter where you live there are few things more annoying than missing rubbish collection day. Until now you’ve had to rely on your twitter friends to remind you when it is or – God forbid – remember for yourself.

Now there’s no need. Just follow @binnnightbot, tweet him or her when your rubbish day is then the night before you’ll receive a cheery tweet reminding you to put the rubbish out!

Why buy when you can rent… anything?

Stuff is expensive! And most of the time we don’t use our stuff. Enter New New Zealand company rentaholic.co.nz that’s just gone public with a peer to peer renting site that’s hoping to do to renting things what TradeMe has done to buying and selling.

At the moment the site leans pretty heavily towards accommodation, which makes sense since it’s an Auckland operation. But there are a bunch of other categories and you can rent anything from an actual Muppet ($20/day) to a 50 foot sailing catamaran with crew ($1380/day)

The site makes money by charging a fee to both owners and renters and it pretty cleanly built and seems simple to use. Whether it takes off will come down to whether it lists stuff people want… time will tell.

Writers’ toolkit: my top 5 must-have references


Because websites don’t smell as good: my must-have writing references

I was chuffed tonight to be asked to speak to a bunch from Auckland creative club Design Assembly about writing, and how they could get better at it.

Over beers and a couple of slices of pizza, we covered quite a lot of ground (and I might blog on that another time). One bit that possibly left some of the younger designers in the room was when I brought out five of my favourite writing reference books. Yes, books! Formerly trees!

While I admit that they don’t get looked at quite as often as they once did, my little reference library still fills the shelf above my desk. There are about 20 books there, but these five are my favourites? What are yours? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss. This is the closest thing grammar nerds have to a best-seller and when it came out 10 years ago it did for punctuation what Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time failed to do for physics. People actually read it, and for a few years after its publication there seemed to be a general resurgence in proper punctuation. (Her next book, about manners, just comes across as a whinge… it didn’t make my top 5.)

Wired Style. This was one of my first-ever Amazon purchases when it came out in 1996. Coming as it did from the height of the dot-com boom, it’s very heavy on digital media, and its glossary of Internet terms is probably a bit redundant these days. Its tips for writing for the web are mostly spot-on though.

The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. I happen to have the illustrated edition (OK, I have several) of this book which most American editors would consider to be THE authority on grammar, punctuation and, well, style. Bonus: co-author E.B. White also wrote Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little.

Fowler’s Modern English Usage. One for the curly questions that the other references don’t cover. Fowler’s first came out in 1926 and was revised in 1965 and 1996. It’s delightfully stuffy in places, but where else can you learn that “there is a slight gain in formality by using obtain instead of get.”?

Concise Oxford Dictionary. I’m ashamed to say that one of my enduring memories of being 17 is owning my first ever Concise Oxford. In my defence, purchase of the COD was a requirement on joining the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a trainee pilot, as the definitions it contained formed part of the law syllabus we were required to study. Anyway… if you buy just one dictionary, make it this one. (American readers will prefer Webster’s.) As a bonus, the COD contains a handy little grammar section, so those handy apostrophe rules will never be out of reach.

As I said, I don’t remove my five little friends from their shelf much these days, but I don’t think my writing desk would be quite as cosy without them sitting there, watching over me, ready to jump in with a piece of gently delivered advice and correction should I need it.

What are your go-to writing references? I’d love to know, so please leave a comment and a link to Amazon (or wherever) if your must-read sounds like my must-buy.

This year’s must-watch goat video

We’re usually all business here at the goat farm. But once in a while a video comes along that demands we close down those spreadsheets, recap those Sharpie markers and give our undivided attention to the screen.

So draw the curtains, straighten your chair and turn up the volume as you enjoy – and we’re calling it! – THE must-watch goat-petting-simulator-related YouTube video of Q313.