The Axis of Awesome

I was born and raised in Scunthorpe. No, that's not near Newcastle. It's over 100 miles south of Newcastle, but it's still further north than Manchester.

It was always a bit odd growing up in a place that nobody calls the north-east, but which is due east of the area known as the north-west.

However, now I've moved to Manchester - where I went to university - I have a newfound respect for where I'm from, and for the talent that exists in this narrow band that spans the country - and which I've decided to call the Axis of Awesome.

Social Media Guru to English phrasebook

There are all manner of self-styled social media gurus out there, but look closely and you'll see there's also a bit of a divide within the industry.

'Social media gurus' are almost always called that because they choose to be - it's not really a title you can get from anywhere, you just decide to write it on your LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter profile.

The problem is, the other half of the social media marketing industry know that 'guru' is a total misnomer in a rapidly evolving environment with so many variables at play - including many that depend on the unpredictable, chaotic elements of human interaction.

So, how should you approach tweets from these social media gurus...?

Situation Normal - Service Excellent

I try not to go overboard about blowing my own trumpet here, but I did want to record this telephone exchange for posterity:

Client: Wow... you're going above and beyond for us, aren't you?
Me: Actually this is standard procedure for me.

If that's not customer satisfaction, I'm not sure what is...

Why Be A South Manchester Copywriter?

With A-level results published today, I realised it's ten years since I opened my own envelope and discovered I'd got 3 As, a B and an E (which was in Further Maths, and I'd been told I was going to fail).

That means it's also very nearly ten years since I moved to Manchester - and I've lived in south Manchester ever since. Granted, I've gradually migrated further southwards - from Victoria Park to Fallowfield, Withington, West Didsbury and now Didsbury Village - but Europe's busiest bus route, Oxford Road, has been my home for a decade.

In that time I've learned not just about the have-a-go creative types and businesses that line the route out of the city towards Stockport (see Short-Order Copywriting and Non-Search Sites), but also the companies helping them to succeed - in-house brand champions, PR agencies, web design and SEO firms, advertising agencies and all the other services needed to compete in the modern business environment.

Happy Birthday, Creative Boom!

July marked the second birthday of Creative Boom and August signifies the two-year milestone since the launch of its daily comic strip column, Daily Fix.

It's not all laughs though - site founder Katy Cowan says there were plenty of late nights and lost weekends in the early days, while the labour of love still needs constant attention to help it flourish.

"The original idea behind Creative Boom was to give creatives across the UK a place to virtually get together and share their talents, along with news updates and opportunities," she says.

Short-Order Copywriting and Non-Search Sites

One thing you will rarely be told is that you don't need more words on your website.

Generally speaking, the more words - and the more plain text - your website has, the more visible it will be to the search engines.

However, there are certain circumstances in which you might need only a very small number of words in order to build a successful website.

Kickin' Up A Twitter Riot

Looters looting, fighters fighting.
Sky's lit up by the fires they're lighting.
All colours, all ages, all getting greedier.
Who should we blame it on? Social media.

Never mind all the clean-up crews
with their dustpans and brushes, to heal the bruise
left on our nation by the trouble this week -
which they couldn't have done, if they couldn't speak.

Never mind all the lively debate
about how, once again, we can make Britain great,
or the people using their sense of humour
to dispel the panic from the rhetoric and rumour.

Forget the TwitPics and the rogues' galleries
helping the police to earn their salaries
and making sure that the looters are caught;
don't give those a second thought.

For every image that yields a name,
there's a critic out there apportioning blame.
So don't be surprised - and try not to be bitter -
when you hear 'this riot was caused by Twitter'.

Too Many Adjectives, Not Enough Verbs

Last night, August 8th 2011, the nation watched on 24-hour news channels as its capital burned. Rioters in London razed shops and homes to the ground in communities that have really done little - if anything - to deserve such punishment.

A day later, the broadcasters are running out of ways to describe the events. Some have been criticised by the victims for calling it a "spectacle" as though the whole thing was just TV.

Get the Most Out of Blogger Labels

If you have a particularly complex label structure on your Blogger/BlogSpot blog, you're likely to have encountered the 200-character limit on the number of labels you can add.

However, 200 characters is quite a lot, so there's every possibility that you only just exceeded the limit. If so, look a little closer at your labels and you might just be able to squeeze them in after all.

Blogger automatically adds a space after each comma-separated label - but this is not needed. You only need commas to denote where one label ends and the next begins.

So, remove the spaces. Depending on your average label length, this could buy you anywhere from about 10 to 20 extra characters, a decent percentage of the 200 characters allowed.

Publish with this slightly cramped-looking labels list and view your post. With the templates I've tried this on, the labels show up just fine, with spaces between them.

No negative impact on functionality, but a positive impact in terms of flexibility for you as the author. In the words of Neil Buchanan, "go on, try it yourself".

Nicole Canning, TotallyLiving

Nicole Canning is Content Manager at TotallyLiving, a consumer-facing lifestyle news site from Square Digital, a division of the online news agency Adfero.

For the last few months of my nearly five years at Adfero, I was contributing to TotallyLiving's news coverage on a daily basis, with articles and features on health, diet, nutrition, family issues and other general lifestyle topics.

Nicole says...
"Bob is a pleasure to work with! While writing for TotallyLiving, Bob sourced and covered a range of different topics, from health and fitness to food and sometimes even beauty! He always produced well written copy and - most importantly - he met every deadline with ease."
To visit TotallyLiving, click here.

Ben Salisbury,

Ben is the Content Editor at, a consumer-facing news site by Square Digital, a division of the online news agency Adfero.

On numerous occasions in my almost-five years at Adfero, I wrote for, including several months of daily contributions in the period immediately before I left the company.

Ben says...
"Bob used to write financial news and product news stories for me. I found his writing to be accurate and tight. He was also pro-active in selecting stories that he thought might be useful for the site that I may have missed.

"Bob also helped me by being flexible about turning around stories quickly when that was necessary and had a good attitude towards his working relationships."
To visit, click here.

Jennie Sawdon

Jennie Sawdon is a wedding singer turned recording artist, with her debut album recorded and released on her own label.

As part of my work for Popsiculture, I've reviewed the album, interviewed Jennie and produced gig reports from her live appearances at Didsbury's The Sanctuary bar.

Jennie says...
"Bob is very wonderful with words.

"But as a singer/pianist and artist I can tell you that he is not only this.

"When someone chooses to write about a creative artist in any genre it is very important that they feel understood.

"Bob is very aware of this and is, indeed, so empathetic that he is almost able to reach inside a person's head, organise their thoughts and construct them something near poetry on a page. Many times I have read his articles on my music and thought, 'Yes, that's exactly how I feel!'

"I have been the lucky recipient/subject of many musical reviews by Bob and I know that many people who read them have not managed to make my actual performances. However, he conveys the atmosphere and emotion of my gigs with such enthusiasm, vibrancy and personal detail that they might almost have been there themselves.

"I believe it is because of the care with which he writes, and also the passion, that I have sold many albums retrospectively.

"Thank you Bob!"

Harry Bailey, Fetch Didsbury

Fetch Didsbury is a local business directory that promotes companies and events in the south Manchester suburb.

I contributed a number of reviews of local restaurants, bars and live music nights, as well as counting Fetch among my most frequently tweeted contacts on Twitter.

Fetch Didsbury's Harry Bailey says...
"Bob has provided high quality and relevant copy for us on several occasions. He works quickly using his own initiative while submitting work that meets the often barely existent brief. His work has been the basis for articles which will be of use to our target audience into the future. We keep his email address close at hand."
Click to learn more about Fetch Didsbury.

Ele Cooper, AboutProperty

Ele Cooper is Content Manager at AboutProperty, a consumer-facing property news website by Square Digital - which is itself a part of the Adfero online news agency.

While my contributions to the site were part of my full-time employment at Adfero, the working relationship was very similar to that I enjoy with my freelance clients, due to the structural separation between Adfero's Editorial operations and its Square Digital sites.

Ele says...
"Bob is a pleasure to work with. He always has something positive to say, is bursting with relevant, interesting feature ideas and can be relied upon to turn copy around quickly. I would thoroughly recommend this man!"
To learn more, visit AboutProperty or read my features for the site about Bank Holiday DIY and Military Mortgages.

Batch Image Upload in WordPress

This is just a quickie to say that, if you're looking for a bulk image uploader tool for WordPress, you could be missing the wood in amongst all those trees.

Yes, there are plugins out there that can handle the process, and these are likely to prove essential if you need to import all the caption information etc that goes with each WordPress media library entry.

However, if all you're looking for is a batch image uploader for WordPress, you might need to look no further than your keyboard's shift or ctrl key.

When using the Flash-based image uploader - accessed via the normal 'add new' button in your WordPress installation's media library - hold down ctrl and click multiple files to select them.

Shift performs its usual function of allowing whole ranges of files to be selected without having to click on each separately.

If you click OK, WordPress should queue all of the files you selected and upload them all with their own file names and blank caption information.

OK, it's not a perfect solution, but if you have lots of images to get into your library, and the details can wait until later, it's a good starting point.