Sink designs

sink

H2's sink with no taps

The sinks in the H2 Bike Club in Soho are a triumph of design over functionality: the classic design error. In all walks of life designers so often get it wrong because they fail to consider the practical as well as the aesthetic. Bad editorial design similarly adds hours to production time.

The sink has no taps. Instead a temperamental sensor eventually picks up the motion of your waving hands and lets out a short, timed stream of tepid water that is not hot enough for a good shave and horribly warm if you need to clean your teeth. What was so wrong with hot and cold taps? Continue reading

Commuter chaos

zebra-painted motorcycle on the Abbey Road zebra crossing

Whealie's zebra at Abbey Road

Commuting into central London for work creates contempt. I hate pedestrians, I hate cyclists, I hate motorcyclists, bus drivers, lorry drivers, taxis and white van man. I hate packed commuter trains, ticket inspectors, Oyster machines that don’t work and I hate Transport for London (TfL).

To really hate all these would cause me to explode. So I have realised that we all need to rub along a bit better. Pedestrians walk in the road, cyclists cross pavements, bikers block cycling lanes, car drivers target bikers, lorry drivers cannot see (or don’t care about) other road users. Get used to it. Continue reading

Marching orders

Starbucks windows smashed with anarchy A grafittiReporting Saturday’s TUC March for the Alternative and UKUncut’s protests against tax dodgers proved the limits of technology. There may be power in a union but if there’re no power points to plug in laptops and mobiles, nobody will know about it.

Broadband access too is key. We posted our first report and video from Starbucks in Villiers Street, near the Embankment. Trying to upload video in Hyde Park via a Vodafone dongle proved fruitless so, with Starbucks on Piccaddilly smashed up, we had to march for the alternative. Café Nero had broadband but no power sockets. I filed with 4% Macbook battery life left. Continue reading

Treasury audio

George Osbrone giving budget speechYesterday I recorded Treasury press officer, Andrea Geoghegan, refusing to give me information she had to hand revealing exactly how much worse off the Treasury thinks the Budget will make families. I published it on Audioboo and wrote about it on Daily Finance. It has caused a stink.

Does the press officer deserve it? Should I have named her? Did I give her a fair chance? I’ll tell you how I behaved writing my “Treasury tries to kill Budget cost story” then you decide. Continue reading

New era dawns

Insurance Times websiteToday is the first day for nearly two years that I have not had to get up at 6am to write early morning web news for Insurance Times. I woke up at 6 anyway (but I lay there until 6.20). My ambition is to be woken with a cup of tea in bed at 7am. For now at least, that is just a dream.

Since 10 November 2008 I have missed six working days in 100 weeks – once in hospital after my knee operation and one week off travelling this year. I have written about 3,000 stories, sometimes writing nine a day. Insurance Times paid about £12.50 per story.

I have worked from holiday homes and hotels. I have stayed in B&B’s with broadband purely to be able me to fulfil my contract. I have even worked from my laptop and dongle on campsites.

Ullapool campsite

Supermarket giant Tesco announced to the stock market at 7am in September last year that Fortis (now Ageas) was to be its insurance provider.

I called Fortis and got a quote for my story while sitting outside my tent just metres from the sea at Ullapool in Scotland on the xrv.org.uk national meet motorcycling weekend. Fortis told me that morning that Insurance Times was the first to run the story, with it live before 8am.

A lot of what I wrote was news from that morning’s papers and other sources – often one or two pars and pointers to where readers could get the story. But I had plenty of other exclusives too, either given to me because my contacts knew I was up at that time or through my industry knowledge.

New Year honours

When Simon Bolam was given an MBE for services to the Insurance Industry in the New Year honours 2008 even the Scottish papers missed him because they did not know who he was. I remembered him as the former leader of the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA).

I knew the name of the broker he ran and tracked him down, first speaking to his daughter, who by then ran the firm, and eventually – at about 9am – Bolam himself.

I was in the Lake District, booted and waterproofed, about to leave for a hike, when he called and I added his quote to my story. The rival Post Magazine ran that story six days later when they got back to work.

In-house reporters

Insurance Times has taken the work in-house. Two new reporters will take turns to get up early and get into the office to start work at 6am. I have worked for Insurance Times for so long – I am a former editor – I was trusted with remote access. One will be getting up at 4am to travel in.

The early morning news made a huge different to the site’s traffic. When CEO’s get in at 8am, if the site is the same as it was the night before they won’t look again. If a CEO tells the next level of management to look at a story, traffic really picks up. That is what happened.

I think I offered great value for money. I did a good job. I wrote more stories than I was asked to write and more than most thought possible – I had to process them all to the website, including links, photos and categories, not just write the words.

I think I gave Insurance Times more as a freelance than they will get from staff.

Links (new windows)

Remote back-up

Macbook Prop, screen and serverBacking up is something journalists rarely take seriously. But we produce magazines for clients so having back-ups for if – is that when? – things go wring is vital. Today I set up a remote back-up with our three main office Macs mirrored on a machine at my parents house.

When I say “I” it’s a bit like the Royal “we”. I pay a local firm of Mac experts – Logo Systems in Greenwich – for IT support Their Paul Richardson came up with the plan after I exhausted commercial data back-up schemes and found them too inflexible – they only back up your data, not systems. Continue reading

PRs need help

PR people need help. They appear to have less understanding of how journalists work than ever before. They don’t appreciate deadlines, the speed journalists work at and the hours journalists now work on 24-hour internet media.

I have had a couple of weeks of dire experience with PRs. These include:

Slow, non-answers | Embargos | Contacts | Press registration Continue reading

Late pay gripes

This week, instead of being a journalist and trainer, I spent at least a day dealing with late paying clients. It was mainly AOL, which, until today, had not paid a single freelance contributor, despite us working since December.

My company has now been paid more than £10,000 by some clients and we have remittance advices in from others so will be paid by Tuesday. But as of today we have more than £21,000 of invoices outstanding, of which nearly £2,400 is already overdue. That is me lending companies money. Continue reading