The year of post-it-notes and mindfulness

For a nethead and digerati like myself, 2014 was a year of ironies.

For one, if I was to name the go-to-tool that played the most piovotal role for me at work last year, it has to be post-it-notes -  and then there was that whole mindfulness business.

I guess it’s a occupational injury of sorts that I often (mostly for fun) sum up my personal year in a headline akin to how I used to sum up media or technology years when that was my professional beat.

But most of the time I think I refrained from publising those more personal headlines, though they often corresponded with the work I was doing. E.g. I think I dubbed my 2011 the year of iPad and anti-social sharing because the device became so key to my work and life that year and yet I found my social media use to have become rather anti-social compared to what it had been before because I did most of the sharing via apps like Flipboard and Hootsuite – which created very a different, much less social, communication mode for me in a busy worklife.

And last year, I sort of re-discovered and came to lean heavily on post-it-notes - of all things.

I spent (and spend) a substantial amount of my working hours structuring and re-thinking the sub pages of a university web site, including all its research, by way of mapping the content and content desires of the various departments. And post-it-notes happened to be the perfect tool for doing it. Especially for workshops where the attendees are working in groups, but also when I was/am working on my own.

PostItNotesHome

I did check out a few online tools that could be used for the job, but especially when working in groups I found post-it-notes to be an easy, flexible and useful option.

Besides, over the last few years I’ve found more and more that for certain uses I prefer pen and paper to digital tools because the former give me a very visceral feeling of thinking with my fingers.

So much so that I think my first "work related" purchase this year might be a flip-over for my home (which obviously will come out of my own pocket).

I’ll readily admit that this sense of sometimes "thinking better" when working with pen and paper is an intuitive feeling, but this experience is actually supported by science: Scientist have found that writing by hand does strengthen the learning process, among other things.

But it’s definently not, at least for me, all kind of learning and thinking that is best done by hand – very far from.

I strongly prefer writing blog posts, articles and most other such things, in fact doing most of my writing, on a computer connected to the internet. But I find that when structuring large amounts of information, like when working on the architecture of a big web site or writing a book, pen and paper can come in really, really handy in certain stages of the project.

Until I find less intrusive solutions than FitBit and Moves, I shall also do most of my lifelogging in a good old fashioned notebook (I do of course fancy a smart watch, but rationally I know it will drive around the bend unless I can find one that runs on what Amber Case calls calm technology) .

Talking about life logging, I’ve also worked hard to turn my life around / change my lifestyle in 2014. That’s were that mindfulness business comes in. Now a lot of people will tell you how delightful and calming and all kinds of wonderful taking up meditation or another form of mindfulness practice is, but I must admit I’ve rarely felt more anxiety and pain than for the first year or so of getting into this stuff.

Though the emphasis is on "felt". Turns out I’ve been what therapists call "frozen" (probably since the accident I was in 20 years ago) and not really in touch with all my feelings etc. That’s part of what has enabled me to come through so much adversity and work such crazy hours for much of my life.

And getting in touch with all that stuff again, becoming more mindful if you like, was hardly frictionless: I honestly had no idea I had so much anxiety or so many (mostly minor) physical pains.

I did and do benefit from mindfulness training and meditation, I’ve found some very useful tools in it, but I also think it perfectly sensible of whichever part of me who acted to want to be "unmindful" for long periods of my life (I’ve written more on stuff related to this process in Norwegian here).

So: Onwards. For me, the year of post-it-notes and mindfulness has definently meant progress. That may sound counterintuitive, but essentially the year has made me a more balanced person - or a better version of myself. 

BrightonBeachMeditation

 


On coming full circle

"You know, we really prefer to talk to people who’ve come full circle," a magazine journalist who interviewed me last summer told me (or something to the tune of this).

The story still made the cover of the magazine in question in September, but  at the time I had by no means come full circle, and have been pondering that concept at regular intervals ever since.

Do we ever come full circle, as in "arrive"  or "completely reverse your original position" while still alive? It seems to me that whenever I feel like I’ve come full circle in relation to one phase another phase starts – and more often than not they overlap and run parallel each other for a while.

At the time of the interview,  I’d just completed a stay at Sunnaas rehabilitation hospital, Norway’s largest specialised hospital in the field of medical rehabilitation, about 20 years too late.

A stay which took place less than two weeks after I’d moderated the keynote session at the annual conference of The Norwegian Online News Association, the organisation I co-founded and headed for several years.

This to me, felt full of contrasts and emblematic of my conflicting identities - or perhaps they’re just slightly conflicting to me. Because, as a former school-friend reminded me, I’m also the girl whose dog saved her life. I’ve used that phrase before, but it sums up so much – especially the gap in how people who know me from different parts of my life see me.

And this year (since last June/July) has really belonged to the girl whose dog saved her life. Not the commentator, journalist, blogger, science communicator or any of the professional identities I have held or hold (despite all the hours I’ve put in at work this year).

Sunnaas was a major turning point for me: At the time, it was perhaps the scariest, and probably the best thing I’d done in a long time. 

The Saturday before I left for Sunnaas, I had been photo copying parts of the documentation from the worst period in my life: 41 pages about the time immediately after my dog ​​saved me from certain death after I, as a  pedestrian, was hit by a car and left for dead: unconscious and in a critical condition - and of the gloomy forecasts the hospital doctors gave me when I started regaining consciousness at the hospital some time (about a week or so) later.

Those gloomy forecasts, which I interpreted as my life as I knew it being over at 17, have haunted me ever since, and I’ve spent most of my life since in a state of constant emergency, trying to prove those doctors wrong.

So confronting all of this, which I’d in some respects so effectively run away from for so many years, was very scary and challenging, but ultimately very rewarding. Because the doctors were wrong back then, 21 years ago. The thorough medical and neuropsychological examination at Sunnaas proved I’ve recovered and coped magnificently.

Except for some of my coping, or survival, strategies, that is.

Some of those, such as living in a constant state of emergency (which could also be dubbed stress addiction), are not so sustainable (to say the least).

So, even though the stay at Sunnaas lifted something big, heavy and soul-destroying from my shoulders, and the examination results were good, it only heralded the start of a lot of hard work. It definitely did not herald the end  of struggles - as Sunnaas provided me with a big to-do list regarding how to change my life (or those survival strategies which dominated it) around.

And even though I got top scores on my progress with that to-do list after my control stay at Sunnaas in February (I always work  hard at the things I dedicate myself to), that was not the end of that chapter either. Neither was any of the hard work I, and even my family,  put in the months since. Although I feel I’ve come a very long way,  I cannot say that I’ve come full circle even though some of the hardest work is done.

Being a journalist myself I do understand the quest, or desire for a story with a clear beginning and a clear end, and the appeal of a story about some sort of final victory or of coming full circle. Except that feeling of final victory in the story of my life keeps evading me, as does the clear beginning and end of various chapters.

"In the media we like black and white stories with obvious heroes and villains a cartoon-like script treatment of the issues ," my friend Tom Burroughes once said. And then there’s life: messy, complex and often non-linear (at least in terms of challenges and life lessons).

Actually, the best journalists do come close to describing it, and sometimes do manage to describe it perfectly, but it’s not run of the mill.

Neither, I suspect, are those necessarily the stories we would prefer to read if we’re honest. I know I at least would prefer for dramas to have clear and achievable solutions, and happy and finite endings. I’d prefer wars to end, policy struggles to be resolved successfully and for all people to beat their personal demons once and for all.

Likewise, I would like to be able to say that I’ve now finally and once and for all got rid of all the negative aspects of those deeply ingrained survival strategies and come full circle.

Instead, If I’m truthful , I’ve probably just come a bit further along the road less travelled…

NB: No new age meaning implied when I use that term, "the road less travelled". However, it is often said that the brain pathways of our habitual thinking and reactions easily can become "superhighways to hell", whereas changing habits is a bit like breaking new ground/creating new brain pathways that, at least to start off with, are narrow and cumbersome to walk. The allegory mentioned in Matthew 7:13-14, about the narrow vs the wide gate, springs to mind, even though I’m not religious.

NesoddenFerryFogFilter


Book launch, blogging and content analysis

Add meetings, presentations and report-writing that title pretty much sums up my week.It's been a week with a slightly dizzying pace, very intense, but, although I started it in the doctor's office, I got a lot of important things done, learnt some valuable new things and received some good news.

At work, I was very pleased to attend the first of three full-day workshops I've organised on web content analysis, expertly held by Netlife Research - which turned out to be extremly useful, and taught me many valuable things about our content and how various parts of the organisation approach it.

At this stage I should perhaps explain that I'm writing this post as much for myself as anybody else, because I was so nackered at the end of this week I really have to remind myself about all the good things it contained.

In addition to learning the secrets of web content analysis, I was delighted to learn that an author-to-be I've been working with for close to two years now, finally has signed a book contract with a publishing house I work for. To say "worked with" is perhaps a bit of an overstatement, but this project all started with a features idea I had back in August 2011 or so, and we've talked about the project and project brief, which quickly evolved into a book idea, for about a year now. Perhaps needless to say, I think it may turn into a great book - and a very important one.

And then there was that anthology on Norwegian blogging I mentioned here recently, which was launched on Tuesday - another project long in the making - with a big debate on the future of blogging, which I moderated.

I should be over the moon about all this, as those two book-related bits of "completed" are kind of milestones, but right now I'm just looking forward to a long Easter holiday - when I might even find some time to blog some reflections from that before-mentioned debate - and more web content analysis' workshops coming up this week.

Oh, and I'm looking forward to all the good books I plan to read this Easter (this weekend saw me mid-way through "The Secrets of the Lazarus Club", an uncomplicated, riveting crime novel set in London in the 1850s, exactly what I needed after a week like this).

In the meantime, here's a hard copy of that book on blogging:

GiMegEnSceneBok


Happy New Year!

Here's wishing you all a wonderful 2013!

I think I made this card for new year 2009, as the world economy was in a complete mess after the 2008 bank crisis etc, then I didn't post it as I thought it would come across as a bit too pessimistic for a new year card. And yet I also think the photo rather beatiful, perhaps implying that even in the darkest of times there is always a lighter horizon and rescue ahead for those who choose it - or how every cloud has a sliver lining. Or perhaps that's reading way too much into a photo (which is one I snapped at Stavern harbour, Norway).

For my own part the future looks very far from bleak, I've just been too busy and preoccupied to blog much as of late.

2012 has in many ways been a turbulent and trying year for me, but it has also held wonderful professional opportunies - including joining the editorial board of a small publishing house, and learning so many invaluable things in the process, and starting a new job working with online development, social media and science communication at The Norwegian University of Life Sciences (more on that job here, in Norwegian) Oh, and working with some wonderful stories and book projects and moving out of a house I only realised after moving out made me ill to live in (due to major dampness issues I now suspect).

So everything is set for 2013 becoming a much better year for me than 2012.

Maybe, and I really hope it will be the case, I'll even find more time to blog in 2013. It's not that I've lost interest in blogging or the issues I blog about, it's just that life has been too demanding, I write for 3-4 different blogs and earned most of my living writing until September - and I've found myself becoming a much more passive consumer of social media this year than previously. I've still used social media a lot, but I've found myself listening more than sharing or participating actively in 2012.

In either case, I hope 2013 will be a stellar year for us all - and perhaps even for blogging:

HappyNewYear

 


Food for thought: networked individuality, Wikipedia, doctors of doom and roadblocks

Here's a few links I've been thinking about recently (and had open in my web browser for ages).

Obviously I need to find a new bookmarking site to my liking, after Delicious got all pearshaped I've been unable to make up my mind about which service I should use to replace it (any ideas?).

Networked individualism (via Sambrook)

"The networked individualism operating system creates new efficiencies and affordances in the ways people solve problems and meet their social needs. Whereas in the past, it was not easy for people to get real-time information to help navigate a place, now it could hardly be easier with instantly available maps, augmented reality mobile apps that give people helpful information about their surroundings, and crowdsourced input about the environs."

Journalism and Wikipedia

Journalism, as a field, should be concerned with adding to the record that is Wikipedia, argues Doc Searls in a post which spurs a really interesting discussion in the comment section.

Doctors of doom

Few things makes me as angry as reading about doctors who take it upon themselves to make uninformed, blanket judgements about how an injury may cripple you for life. I really don't understand why some of them find it necessary to dole out what are effectively life sentences, when they simply do not know for sure.

It makes me angry because I myself was told my life was probably over after a serious car accident at 17, so when I read this gripping story about a girl who defied doctors who told her she would never walk again that's the thought that hit me: why? I'm not so sure about the article's conclusion - Mind over Science - I think it's more of a question of doctors making unscientific judgements, or judgements based on too little or inclonclusive evicence. I wonder if one reason for this may be found in this study on blind spots, or biases: "Why smart people are stupid".

Roadblocks

Interesting article on following unconventional routes to success (via Jackie Danicki). It reminded me of some hard-learned insights I've had myself about sometimes missing out on key opportunities when being too obsessed about where you're going, and how detours can turn out to be more valuable than planned careers moves.

 


Norway's first constitution day celebrations after 22/7

I must admit celebrating 17 May has at times felt as too much hassle due to all the preparations involved. But against the backdrop of the devastating twin terror attacks on 22 July last year, and the current, painful trial against mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, I found this week's 17 May parade incredibly moving.

Even to the point that I berated myself for letting myself become blind to the beauty of it in previous years, for allowing myself to take such a unique and joyful celebration of independence and democracy for granted.

Apparently I'm not alone in this, according to a survey conducted by Norstat for NRK ahead of the day, three of ten said 17 May would mean more to them this year. Here a snap from the 17 May parade in Drammen:

DrammenBarnetog1000


Seriously, I need a job

The bad thing about changing deeply set habits and patterns of reactions? It may make you realise how unsustainable your lifestyle  has been.

In 2011, I chose one of the hardest new year resolutions ever – to change deeply set  patterns of behaviour and reactions – and for the most part I succeeded.

I can’t begin to tell you what a monumentous achievement that was, and how hard it was to get there.

The only problem is, it made me realise how totally unsustainable my life has been for the last 18 years or so.

See, in all those years I never had a permanent job.

I’ve either been working as a freelancer, temp or been on short term contracts.

In the UK, at the start of my career, I somehow made it work, even though I was temping in London inner city school and taking shifts in the local pub to make ends meet.

But in Norway the tax burden is just too crazy. If I was to pay both tax and all the insurances to come close to equalling the benefits a salaried worker takes for granted , I’d be left with 40 per cent of my earnings. That’s 60% tax and insurance on a modest salary – which is insane.  But just as bad is how you end up working around the clock all the time and feeling guilty whenever you take even just a day off.

The short an easy answer to why I’ve put up with this for so long is that I love my work.

I love my work to the extent that I often used to forget about such things as sleeping or eating, keeping regular business hour and not working around the clock. Sometimes I’ve even forgotten to agree any kind of payment terms before I’ve taken on an assignment – not the best starting point for a freelancer.

The more complex answer, one I’m more reluctant to admit publicly and only recently realised was an important factor, is that I’ve become much too good at living in a state of constant emergency and war, which brings me back to how I’ve changed those deeply set habits and patterns of reaction.

If I’m totally honest with myself, until a year or two back, my life has pretty much been a constant state of emergency since I was told that my life might be over after a serious hit-and-run accident at 17.

Those were of course not the doctors’ exact words, but they told me I might have sustained very serious injuries which, had their worst case scenarios played out, my life as I had envisioned it would indeed have been over. 

As it was, I refused to accept those worst case scenarios, and set about proving to myself and the world around me that the doctors were wrong – bending, breaking or overstepping most real and perceived limitations in the process.

As most people around me feared the doctors were right it felt like I was caught in this giant, existential battle: It was me against the world, and in the process I became a master of abusing myself for the greater purpose.

«You have a mind that decides where it wants to go, and then you have this immense willpower which pushes your body where your mind wants to go no matter the consequences,» a wise woman told me when I was 20.

Doesn’t sound like the most sustainable kind of lifestyle, does it?

Well, I burned out at 20 – and got to know myself and my limitations a whole lot better in the process.

Keeping those painful lessons in mind, in my new incarnation I became a master of balancing at the edge – at least looking after myself well enough to never burn out like that again.

And over the years I accomplished a lot with that strategy.

Much too much to mention here, although it was never enough  to defeat the irrational fear that whenever I didn’t live up to my own superhuman expectations, such as working 24/7 seven days a week, it was because the doctors were right (even though they said they would know within three years of the accident if their worst predictions were warranted, and I’ve taken every measure to disprove it myself).

But for roughly the last year and a half I’ve had a really good and steady client who’s provided me with a more stable income than I’ve ever had (and great work for top-notch, super professional editors).

That has also rewarded me with the peace and room to contemplate my life so far, even though – weirdly enough - getting off that path of constant worrying and getting used to regular pay was hard at first and took some getting used to.

Of all things, this process reminds me of something Dr John Marks told me when I was doing a piece on the so-called «Liverpool project», which involved prescribing heroin to drug addicts.

He talked about how addicts, when no longer governed by the constant worry of where to get their next fix, finally had time to look themselves in the mirror and reflect over what they had done with their lives.

Now, I don’t want to get into the debate about prescribing heroin or providing drugs substitution therapy here, it’s a complex one, but, for me, regular pay has been like Dr Mark’s described.

It was a bit like, without the constant worry about finding enough work to pay my bills hanging over me, I finally had time to look in the mirror and see how totally unsustainable my life was.

Actually, that’s not quite accurate: I’ve realised that my lifestyle was unsustainable for many years, but regular pay gave me room to do something about it – to put what I’ve dubbed “project sustainable living” into practice:

I’ve worked really hard to give myself semi-regular business hours, get enough sleep, eat regularly, take regular breaks, exercise regularly, schedule time for down time and spare time, and all the other things normal people do.

I’ve put in pretty substantial effort to take unnecessary stress out of my daily schedule, get out of the constant flight or fright mode and, in short: take better care of myself.

To other people who take such things for granted, this might seem insane or just weird, but for me not constantly putting work before everything else has been a damn hard, and steep, learning curve.

If you’re used to living in a constant state of emergency, normality doesn’t come easy, nor, regardless of how you live your life, does changing deeply set patterns of reactions.

But it is very rewarding, not at least because taking better care of myself has made me a lot more effective. This year I’ve even been able to ease my reliance on stress crutches such as caffeine, even go without for days and weeks.

The downside is I feel I just can’t go on with my freelancing ways, not for even a day more.

Of course, I still do some work on and off for clients as I do have bills to pay.

I still love my work, that hasn’t changed in any way.

But I really struggle to find the energy for pitching as it feels like I’m just perpetuating the lifestyle I know I need to leave behind by doing so.

In short, I need that permanent job - preferably tomorrow.

Oh, and my LinkedIn profile is here (and until that permanent job comes along, I still take on freelance work).

For the record, I am of course applying and interviewing for jobs as well, loads of them, but I have great faith in the internet's ability to connect me with opportunities and people I might not otherwise have come across.


9/11: Internet just couldn't keep up to speed

What I remember most vividly about 9/11 is a woman alternately sobbing, crying and screaming over the phone line as the drama unfolded on the TV-screen.

I was at home in East Finchley, London, working on my masters project, when my ex-partner called me and asked me to turn on the television. Maybe he called me twice, I'm not sure now, but he was working for Aon at the time, and Aon had 1100 employees in the South Tower.

A key competitor, Marsh and McLennan, had several hundred in the North Tower. Luckily, my ex was in the London office, but there were many Americans working in that office too, not to mention how so many had close ties to colleagues New York.

So I have no idea who that woman in Aon's London office was, maybe there was more than one, but those terrible sounds of distress over the phone line while I was simultaneously talking to my ex and watching the drama on TV is what I remember most strongly about the day.

Those sounds of distress somehow made the events of the day both more heart-wrenching and more real as I have to admit that what unfolded on the TV-screen was almost too surreal to grasp.

I remember too being frustrated by how slow my internet connection was, I was using a dial-up modem, and by how slow many international news sites were to load and update.

Still, internet, TV and the mobile were my key sources of information on the unfolding events, even though my mobile wasn't smart back then and only was used for phone calls and text messages (on 22/7, all my information for five hours or more after the bomb went off came via either my own or friends' smartphones).

I do wish Twitter was around.

I've seen some pundits say they were glad it wasn't, but what we saw with the recent terror in Norway was that even though rumours abounded the twitterati didn't go over the top with rumours and misguided, hateful attacks the way we saw on Facebook.

I also wish I had the sense to keep up with the blogging adventures friends of mine embarked on just after 9/11. But as the job market took a nose dive, and I handed in my masters thesis just after 9/11, all I did for two months there was sending out hundreds of job applications. 

Since I couldn't even seem to be able to land an admin job, I stopped by three local pubs one day - and was offered a job by two of them.

Amazingly, taking up a job in the pub I did turned out to be a brilliant career move as I met one of my most important mentors there - and many of the regulars gave me lots of tips for jobs and other stuff (actually, working in a pub is a lot like being a blogger - but that's a topic for another blog post, one I've failed to finish for the last three years or so;-) )

And the rest is history, isn't that what they say?

Actually, I caught up with the blogging phenomena one year later, in 2002, and there's so much to say on 9/11, so many thoughts and feelings - especially after the atrocities of 22/7 in Norway this summer - that I thought I'd better just stick to the facts for now.


The empty threat from Irene

Luckily, Irene turned out to be an empty threat in the end.

Mind you, I’m talking about the woman. Not the hurricane turned tropical storm which caused very real damage along its path. Even though its impact could have been much worse I agree that «nothing is ‘not that bad’, when lives are lost».

I feel for all those who lost loved ones or saw their property wrecked.

But I must admit that while I was watching the coverage of Irene, the hurricane, hit New York today - despite being worried for friends and family - another Irene also played on my mind.

You see, if Irene the woman had been more than empty threat I probably wouldn’t have been here today.

My late grandfather, a war sailor, met Irene at some British harbor, and was quite decided on leaving his young family for her. Had he done so when that thought took hold of him, chances are my mother might not have been born.

As chance would have it, he hesitated right up until my mother was conceived.

Her arrival made him change his mind and stay, a fact he recounted to me on more than one occasion, although he did have the audacity to give his new daughter Irene as a middle name (a name my mother later removed).  

From this story you may rightly conclude that my grandfather was a rather colourful character, but all the same, despite all his flaws and quirks, he played an important role in my life and I loved him dearly.

Incidentally, he was the one who bought me Tajo, the dog who later saved my life.

Tajo was his gift to me.

All very lucky coincidences without which I wouldn’t have been here today.

That’s the thing about all the horrors this summer has brought with it:

It really makes you count your blessings and wonder at, and feel grateful for, those big and small decisions, which may once have seemed trivial, but turn out to be so crucial when seen from a distance.

Or, as Grethen Rubin just blogged (updated 29/8-11 23:01 CET):  "It's a sad foible of human nature that it often takes loss, or the threat of loss, to make us appreciate what we already enjoy."


Terror in Oslo: A near miss

“You know, it was a near miss for you just as it was for me as I narrowly avoided being on the Piccadilly line train when one of the bombs exploded on 7/7”

The sentiment belongs to my Dutch ex-partner. We lived together in London on and off for years, and I was just talking to him over the phone yesterday about what happened in Oslo on Friday, on 22/7, when he said something along these lines.

He had left five minutes earlier for work than usually on that fateful day in 2005. Had he got on the Underground train at his usual time that morning, he would have been on the 311 train that was close to Russell Square when the bomb went off.

Myself, I don’t really feel that I was caught up in the bomb attack in Oslo Friday, even though I was in a newspaper building close to where the bomb went off. All of us in that building had a very lucky escape.

I’ve described what happened on that day to Journalism.co.uk, who also recorded an Audio boo with me, here.

It just felt incredibly surreal and incredibly sad when it happened.

I’m devastated for all those who were killed or injured by the twin-attacks in Oslo and on Utøya, and for all those who have loved ones who were killed, injured or are missing.

But the scope didn’t really sink in until I read what we believe to be the terrorist’s manifest0 this morning.

Even if the perpetrator is a Norwegian this was beyond any doubt a meticulously planned and well-executed terrorist attack.

It had very explicit political motivation and aims - a key aim being to wake people up to, and halt, what this guy sees as the Islamification of Europe - but I’ll return to that in a different post.

Here’s Oslo City Hall yesterday: 

TerrorOsloCityHall1


A ghostly weekend and the future of streaming

I was ill this last weekend and spent it in the company of ghosts. Fictional ones, that is.

As it happened, I’d been fighting flu for quite some time.  But I had just finished some big, important assignments, could finally allow myself to be ill and it was raining cats and dogs:

So what better time to test an online streaming service for audio books?

Ordflyt, owned by Norwegian publishing house Cappelen Damm, bills itself as a kind of Spotify for audio books (or rather, Wimp for audio books, as the service is developed by Aspiro, the company that also has developed Norwegian Spotify-competitor Wimp).

In either case, it was the perfect companion on a grey and rainy day, and even though the selection of audio books available through the service still is limited, and the free section mostly is limited to old classics, I greatly enjoyed being reacquainted with Oscar Wilde’s old classic “The Canterville ghost”.

On the whole I liked Ordflyt (though still in beta) because of its App Store-like ease of use:

Digital marketplaces such as Apple’s App Store and Amazon’s Kindle has spoiled many of us to such a degree that we’ve come to expect that ease of use from any new service.

But more interesting than the streaming service in itself:

Of course, for book lovers such as me, it’s great to have a Spotify for audio books too, but when I tweeted about my review of Ordflyt, @portart (aka Marius Röstad) had an interesting suggestion:

Why not combine streaming of music and streaming of books in the same service?

Certainly, if it wasn’t for the business-related challenges, combining Ordflyt and Wimp, would give Wimp a huge competitive advantage over Spotify? (Wimp is currently available in Sweden, Denmark and Portugal in addition to Norway).

Both Android and iPhone-apps with the ability to seamlessly transfer tracks between say PC and iPhone are in the process of being developed for Ordflyt – and having both audio books and music available to stream, or play offline, via any of your computers  and/ or mobile devices seems like a very attractive proposition to me.

In fact, in the long term: why not combine the likes of Spotify, Audibook and Netflix into one big streaming service?

I am aware that streaming movies and streaming sound is two very different propositions and that movies take up a lot more bandwidth, but still: it’s an attractive proposition – your very own mobile entertainment centre that you can tap into wherever you go.    

As for ghosts, I also read Andrew Taylor’s “The Anatomy of Ghosts” this weekend, mainly because I greatly enjoyed his bestselling book “The American Boy”

AnatomyOfGhosts

I found some of the villains in “Anatomy of Ghosts” so annoying that I nearly put the book down at times, but it certainly did wonders for my flu to lose myself both in the paper-book and the audio book.

It’s rather amazing what a miracle cure just staying at home for a few days with some decent books (and Lemsip) can work on flu;-)

And while we’re on the subject of ghosts, this ghostly weekend of mine also reminded me of one of the most bizarre stories I’ve ever worked on: namely when I did all the research, effectively working as a fixer, for a big magazine feature on how to have a ghostly holiday (or rather go ghost-hunting) in Britain.

This is about five years ago but I was rather proud of myself for putting together a great travel route which included a meeting with one of Britain’s top paranormal experts and a stay at what billed itself as the most haunted house in Britain - with a representative from the local paranormal society bringing over all sorts of equipment for identifying any ghostly presence.

I’m afraid I’m pretty much an out-and-out rationalist myself, but I found working on the story both fascinating and enjoyable - if bizarre. The most bizarre moment was probably when I called up an establishment in the West-Country, which told me:

“Unfortunately, all our eight ghosts are friendly ones, nothing scary like in this place on the other side of the mountain”

That place on the other side of the mountain was Skirrid Mountain Inn, by the way, not that I’ve ever been there or got to send “my journalist” there in the end.

But luckily, I did blog about my experience putting together that story. Reading through that blog post now I can recall the week in question vividly, which I doubt I’d be able to do without that blog post

 


The girl whose dog saved her life

"You're the girl whose dog saved your life, aren't you?"

It's sometimes strange how people from different parts of your life remember you, the things they associate with you.

Last night, attending a reunion for junior high school, one of the girls present met me with the question quoted above.

She added, a twinkle of tears in her eyes: "The girl whose dog sat down in the middle of the road, stopped that car and dragged the driver over to where the hit-and-run driver had left you to die? It was such an amazing story!".

To which I could only answer: "Yes, that's me".

There was a twinkle of tears in my eyes too at that point. It sure was, and is, an amazing story, but one I rarely touch on these days.

Because that was me 17 years ago.

Today I'm more used to being that columnist or blogger, the media journalist or technology commentator, even the girl who writes for VG.

But yes, I'm that girl whose dog saved her life too.

As I've blogged more about here, he's the one whose amazing actions have made all of these years after the accident possible.

Had this happened today, my dog would probably have had a Facebook-fanpage set for him. As it was, I did set up a blog for him when he died in 2006 but it was quickly forgotten in the stream of deadlines and workday-demands. Not sure if I even remember the password now.

But it struck me the other day, when I saw a friend add the journalist who covered my accident and its aftermath most intimately as a Facebook friend, that had I the inkling to do so I could probably add most of the key actors of that drama as Facebook-friends.

Because most everyone, be they people you remember with fondness or fury, are on Facebook these days.

As it was, this accident happened towards the end of 1993, long before internet and social media had become the part of our society's infrastructure it has today.

But luckily, the guy whose car my dog stopped (we've met once on a TV-show where my dog was the guest of honour) did have a mobile phone to call 911 with... even that was all too rare in those days if my memory serves me correctly...


The dog who made this blog possible

2010 was a rollercoaster year for me professionally – busy, trying yet rewarding – but as it was coming to an end, most all I could think about was how lucky I am to be alive.

As I start 2011 it's with an immense feeling of gratitude to all the people who've helped me over the last 17 years, who've helped get where I am to today – and, of course, to the dog who made it all possible.

See, if I'm ever to write my autobiography it would start on the third day of Christmas 1993. On the night when I was was left to die next to a deserted forest road by a hit-and-run driver, a male stripper who later served time for murder.

If my dog hadn't managed to stop a passing car, and alert the driver to my whereabouts and predicament, I wouldn't have been here today.

I have no memory of the car hitting me or the stuff that happened afterwards, so no matter how many times I've gone over what I since learned about that night it's still very surreal to me. I do remember waking up in the hospital some time later though, in January 1994, and being told something which amounted to how my life probably was over.

I was 17 at the time and was told, not only had I had a near brush with death, I would also have to lie still for three years, quit school and all activities, until the doctors knew for sure whether I had sustained life-crippling injuries.

As if lying still for three years at that age in itself wouldn't be life-crippling.

So I ran away, figuratively speaking.

I moved to a school which allowed me to graduate on schedule despite all the time I'd spent in hospital, and later fled the country when coping with the driver's insurance company and the legal battle became too much.

I was adamant that I'd prove the doctors wrong; adamant I'd not let the legal battles break me; adamant I would not allow the accident change my life in any way.

And now, 17 years later, I find it changed everything and has entirely shaped my life.

Yes, I've proved the naysayers wrong. No, it didn't break me.

But most of what I've done for the last 17 years has been in response to the chain of events and reactions the accident sat in motion - which, I'd hasten to add, is not entirely a bad thing. Far from.

Just deeply ironic.

There are so many wonderful people I think it highly unlikely I'd ever have met if it wasn't for that accident. Places I might never have visited, countries I might never have lived in, life lessons I might never have learned.

Okay, there are experiences I could've done without. I'd never whished a similar ordeal on anyone else, but looking back I find more and more that I have so much to be grateful for.

As it happens, I was not very grateful right after the accident.

Amnesia made it seem too surreal, and at the same time, when I was weaker and more vulnerable than I'd ever been, I was forced to be inhumanely strong when dealing with the hospital, the insurance company, the trial etc.

More than anything I felt angry and scared in the first years after the accident. Angry that I'd been deprived of my freedom of movement, and possibly future; scared that the doctors were right - both strong feelings that motivated me for a large part in the years after the accident.

It motivated me to the point where I thought at some stage that I have now tried to use both anger and fear as fuel, both, albeit effective in the short term, have their downsides, so how about trying something else? Say enjoyment? Funnily enough, it's easy to forget that is an option if you get too busy just surviving.

It seems crazy looking back at it, but it's also good to know that all that drama is in the past, and in many respects is ancient history by now.

I literally hit 2010 running, working crazy but fun hours while being mostly on the road. In September, another crazy but fun month, I found myself a proper home for the first time in a long time. I now rent a flat in an old wooden house from 1700.

I have apple trees outside the window, a fire place in the kitchen, and it is ever so quiet here. Not literally, but there's a peace about this place, a sense of calm, which daily amazes me.

So when I fell ill over Christmas I had all this peace and quiet to think back and feel grateful both that the past is past, and for being right here, right now. That's a good note to end on I think.

Tomorrow's another day with deadlines to be met, stuff to do, albeit in the most wonderfully, peaceful surroundings for the most part. More about media, work and stuff will just have to follow later. I'm very aware it's been awfully quite on this blog as of late - I will try to improve on that in 2011.

In the meantime, here's my unlikely hero (now long gone):

TajoBathtub
 

 


Miserable July, Magical August

Okay, so July gave me a lot of time to think. I won't complain about that.

As it happened, all this time to think came just after I'd attended Journalism.co.uk's Newsrewired in London. So I thought a lot about journalism in July, which has resulted in posts like this and the one I've just posted below (I have more such musings scrambled down on my PC, waiting to be given a more coherent form).

But I could have done without that back injury which put me in bed and out of work for weeks, not to mention having my wallet stolen and credit cards abused when I finally started moving about again (I've described the latter experience on my travel (micro) blog here, in Norwegian).

It all felt rather unfair. Of course, the back injury was probably down to that amazing £28 a night in London bargain, which wasn't such a bargain after all if you count in the weeks not working and bills for the physical therapist (next time I'll pay more heed when Tripadvisor reviews talk of the bed being unusually hard to sleep on). I should also mention that if it hadn't been for Wimbledon filling up most of the hotels in London that week I would've stayed in one of my usual hotels, and even the free wifi wouldn't have tempted me to check out that £28 a night place.

Also, next time I won't wait a month before I seek out a doctor and/or physio (as it turned out, the injury was remarkably easy to fix once I went to see the physio).

Several lessons learned in other words. But if you gave me your card during Newsrewired and I promised to email you, this is the reason for my radio silence. I've been a bit backlogged for a while due to my misfortunes in July, but have almost worked through that backlog now, which is good timing because August has proved to be wonderful for work – and, as so often, all the assignments are streaming in at the same time.

Still, it's good to be back in business, and there's some wonderful business coming my way, which I'm sure I will write more about later. But now for those deadlines...

NewsRewiredFinale

Photo by me from the closing drink at Newsrewired late June


Cats, blogs and the internet

Although it is a well known that the internet is ruled by cats, cat blogging is not quite my thing. For one, I'm more partial to dogs, not at least because I owe my life to one, and knowing myself I find it very ulikely that this blog will not be remain dedicated to the fascinating and ever changing media landscape for the forseeable future.

However, I thought this video on how the internet is made of cats (hat tip: Adriana) at least might offer me an excuse to say a word or two about what I've been up to lateley - namely cat sitting for @pusedyr who at times has been known to usurp control over one of Norway's most popular political blogs, the one normally written by @vampus (aka Heidi). It must be said that this guy, who's been blogging on multiple blogs and is, by some standards, an old-timer on Twitter, is no stranger to the power of the internet, but, as he is quite a political animal, I'm reliably informed he probably won't be tweeting much again until the next election.

As for the two of us, since I injured my back on my way back from England late June, it's not so much the case that I've been looking after him for two weeks as he's been looking after me by making sure I'd get out of bed at regular intervals to feed him. Now that I think I've finally recovered I guess I owe him a thanks of sorts... having said that, I'm also looking forward to a night of uninterrupted sleep come Friday...(see more pics on Flickr):

  AsksSofa
 
Oh, and while we're on the issue of cats and uninterrupted sleep, @pusedyr is a very lenient taskmaster compared to my late housemate Casanova, also known as "the centre of the world"owned by another Heidi(picture courtesy of Lene):

  Casanova
  


On makers and managers and how to manage your time better

I just found a key insight into how to manage my time better. The funny thing is that I've been adapting my schedule to these recommendations for a few years already while only operating on an inkling, a sense of how compartmentalisation might be key to balancing the many different aspects of what I do for a living.

Thing is, both in my personality and in the jobs I do there is a kind of dichotomy: I'm both a thinker and someone who gets things done, both introvert and extrovert, both a columnist and a fixer - and switching between those two modus operandi can be difficult. I wish there was some magical button I could press, but I've yet to find it (though in its absence, I've found that deadlines tend to do the trick).

This is why something really clicked into place for me when I read this article by Paul Graham on Manager's Schedule and Maker's Schedule which Adriana recommended to me recently. Tiffani Jones, a webwriter, describes the difference between the two schedules well:

Manager types are accustomed to a certain way of working. They respond quickly to emails, crisply prioritize (and eviscerate) their inboxes, plan meetings, and generally just get stuff done. Heap a pile of tasks in front of them, and they will energetically destroy that heap, come hell or high water. This describes me in my natural working state.

Things change, though, when it’s time to get creative. When writing, I need to sit for long, uninterrupted periods and think things through. I need freedom for my mind to wander toward new & better ways of phrasing a particular sentence. And I need to actually relish in the creative process, or my work will come out all crappy.

The problem is, switching from “manager” to “creative worker” can make a person crazy. If you don’t play your cards right, you end up in a scary ADD shitstorm, marooned between your inbox, Twitter, and a blank page. Ugh.

She also offers some good tips on how to manage this, do check out her full post here. The funny thing is, when I was in PR I used to get up at 4-5am to get some uninterrupted blogging time before the phone started ringing at 9am. Even when I worked as an inhouse journalist I often got up that early to get some quiet time to sift through my RSS-feeds, reflect and blog before I got into work. But now that I'm full-time self-employed I've not been by far as efficient in dividing my schedule into "writing time" and "fixing time" - and when I don't do this it leads to procastrination, general inefficiency and frustration.

It's all the more pertinent for me now that I divide my time between working as a media commentator (the creator role), journalist (can be both roles depending on the assignment) and being the head of The Norwegian Online News Association (def. a manager's role). Only last week I was working as a fixer for BBC, which resulted in this report from Norway, and I Iove that stuff.

But I also love trying to figure out, and put words to, what moves the world and what makes people tick: I live in the tension between those two states of mind and would get frustrated if I didn't find an outlet for both these sides - so I will take Paul Graham's thoughts and Tiffani Jones' advice on this to heart and start planning my weeks better. Now for some writing time...


New Year: full speed ahead

Okay, so I hit the year running. So far 2010 has been very busy, but in a good way. However, I had quite a few analytical posts I wanted to kick off my blog year with that I've simply kept running out of time to finish.

So this is just to break the radio silence here: welcome 2010, let's hope it'll be a good year. There's lots to say about the media year past, and the decade now behind us for that matter. I've said a bit about the key headlines here and here (in Norwegian) as a columnist, though might return with a few personal insights and highlights on my blog later.

I'm off to London in the morning as I'll be attending Journalism.co.uk's Newsrewired at City University on Thursday (I'll be in town from noon tomorrow 'til Saturday morning). I hope to see some of you there, and I'm also hoping it might be a bit warmer there than here. This photo is from Oslo harbour yesterday, a day spent filming outdoors (I was working for a TV company, the pic is snapped with my Noka N79) ... fun work, good company, but don't let the sun fool you: it was freezing...brrr...

WinterOslo


Happy Holidays!

I was dead set on getting those Christmas cards in the post this year, then along came a nasty spell of flu and aborted most of my Christmas preparations.

Ah well, Christmas, or Yule, is upon us tonight, and I guess I'll just have to save those cards for next year's snail mail - if I haven't given up on snail mail alltogether by then (last year I had very serious plans of getting those very same cards to the post office, but ended up sending my seasonal greetings via email by way of a picture card not dissimilar to the one below). 

And now Christmas dinner is being served here, so time to wish you all a very happy season filled with joyful celebrations!!!

StavernChristmasCard 

Photo by me from Stavern's naval base Fredriksvern.


My first meeting with tabloid media and the dog who saved my life

Incidentally, this is the title of an old post I never got around to finishing, but, since I used this story last week for a column I write, I thought I’d finally make an attempt of blogging about it.

Now what got me thinking about this old, and rather personal story, was when Norwegian tabloid Dagbladet ran with a very controversial front page depicting the erratic behaviour of a Norwegian on trial for murder in Congo.A montage of photos of him appearing to be psychotic was accompanied by the title "See How Sick He Is".

Db.no

Following massive protests about the front page, many of the most vocal ones on micro blogging site Twitter, Dagbladet did apologise for what it dubbed its ”unmusical” coverage, though also ran a story with the Congo-prisoner’s mother saying the media should not stop showing how ill her son was as the most important thing for her was him getting proper help.

Media violations

What readers and commentators seemed to find most disturbing about this front page was how it depicted a man who was clearly mentally ill and should be spared media’s spotlight, accompanied by a title most found to be in very bad taste. However, what I felt was lacking in the debate that followed was how this kind of media ”violation” is not unusual. We saw it after the Tsunami in 2004, after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 and have seen and see it in countless other instances.

Media’s handling of vulnerable people - either in a state of shock, or mentally ill people who provoke, or are caught up in, big news events - is a minefield, and one I am all too familiar with. When I was 17 I was run down by a car while out walking, and left to die next to a deserted forest road. Unconscious, bleeding heavily, face down in the snow and not visible from the road, I would not have been here today if it had not been for my dog getting help, but that’s another story (I’ve touched on it here, a friend has written more here).

Harsh meeting with the tabloid press

When the case came to court, a seemingly stressed reporter showed up and only wanted a quick photo, as it seemed he’d already written the story, at least in his mind. The photo he wanted was of me shaking hands with the guy who ran me down and left me to die, and the headline would be ”I forgive you”.

He never got that photo. Not because I have a burning hatred against the perpetrator, I had no memory of the car accident, still don’t, and everything that happened just seemed surreal to me when the case came to court. But something in me made me refuse, albeit hesitantly. I had to say no several times for the reporter to get the message, but the whole thing was so surreal to me that, looking back, I know, had I been approached differently, I might have accepted the proposition and lived to regret it.

Shock and fear

Today, I can see that I was still in a state of shock. This was quite some time after the accident, I don’t remember the year, but I lost my sense of fear for several years after the accident. When you wake up in a hospital just to be told you almost died in an accident you have no memory of it seems pointless to go around worrying about all the bad things that can happen. It had already happened.

Now, loosing my sense of fear was not entirely a bad thing, against all odds I accomplished a lot career wise in those years, but today I can acknowledge that I either I had a prolonged shock-like reaction to a near-death experience, or I had a slight change of personality.

Not black and white

The reason I’m sharing this story is not to crucify the reporter in question, rather I wanted to illustrate how difficult it can be to judge when a person is in shock or not. There are ethical boundaries it never is acceptable to break - and I would argue that in my case the reporter was trying to manufacture news rather than report it, which I don’t have much sympathy for.

Still, a lot of the time these cases are not black and white, though it is also worth reflecting on how the kind of opportunism the reporter in my case showed, is something often encouraged in reporters - admired even.

The "strong, human angle"

As a reporter you do want to talk with eyewitnesses after events like the Tsunami, or with the victim in court cases ranging from traffic accidents to rape, but they will for obvious reasons be affected by what they’ve experienced, and news values may crash with human concerns. The hunt for a ”strong human angle” may lead reporters to pay too little heed to the state of mind their interview-objects are in, which in this day and age often will cause not only strong reactions from those caught up in the event, but often also a backlash against the media organisation the reporters represents.

I find this last bit both comforting and encouraging: in a world where social media radically lowers the barrier for making your opinion heard, media organisations are frequently held to court for the decisions they make, and sometimes forced to apologise, even when media practitioners all to well understand the rationale for those ”unmusical decisions”.

TajoOgMegII

At the scene of the accident in 1994, almost a year after it happened

Talking of ethics: I shall be attending the Institute of Communication Ethics’ annual conference in Coventry today, followed by a seminar on journalism in crisis at Coventry University. (BTW, this post was written hurriedly on the train with a crap web connection, so not had the time to read thru it properly).


Remembering 7/7

It must have been some of the most surreal 24 hours of my life: 6 July 2005 went by in an excited haze as I found myself handling extraordinarily good news, the day after I was dealing with the worst possible kind - while not knowing if near and dear ones were caught up in the events.

Back then I was a PR, in charge of the media side at Visit Britain's Norway office. 6 July that year it was announced London had won the 2012 Olympics, the next morning four bombs exploded on London's public transport network. Superficially put, the British tourism industry went from a day of celebration to one in shock and mourning - though all those questions about the terrorist attack's impact on tourism I fielded from media on 7/7 seemed to come from far, far away. I had moved my stuff back from London only a few months earlier, and still had half my life there: my ex, friends, former colleagues - all these people I didn't know if were safe. It was as if the floor fell out from under my feet and I had to keep on moving as if nothing had happened.

Luckily, I'm rather good at dealing with such scenarios - it always takes a bit of time for things to really sink in for me, by which time I will often have organised the funeral and written the obit - but I don't think I'd ever had to work harder to keep calm than on 7/7 and in the days that followed. As it turned out, I was very lucky in that none of "mine" where caught up in the events, but the city I had called my home up until very recently was, it hit so close to home, and I've found myself thinking about it quite a bit these last few days, after Jackie Danicki first raised the issue on Facebook.

To think, the evening before I was prepping my boss to go on a popular evening TV-show to talk about the Olympics, accompanying her there, then all hell broke loose the day after. Looking back, I wish we'd had a blog to get information up instantly, our CMS was hopeless, a Twitter account would also have been stellar for getting useful information out quickly- too bad Twitter wasn't invented yet. I only got to introduce blogs and wikis to the organisation the year after, but tools like these do make crisis communication so much easier. And I guess I wish PR didn't have to be "on message" in such scenarios, though, luckily, it didn't fall to us to speculate about the impact on tourism in figures and numbers: it was hardly what I found myself worrying about on 7/7...

If the situation wasn't so tragic, there would have been an excellent parody in it: both the journalist and the PR dealing in what felt like non-essentials. The former asking how it would impact London as a tourist destination before we even knew the number of casualties, the latter trying to put a terrorist attack in perspective, though I was also lucky to have a boss who agreed with me that our number one task was helping people find the right, most up to date information, not trying to make it less than what it actually was - and again, it would have been invaluable to be able to use social media to get that information out there...