Simon Mackie

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It’s all about the content

Looking for additional freelance work

Due to a change in circumstances, I’m now looking for additional freelance work. If you’re looking for someone to help with editorial work, content strategy or writing, please do get in touch with me: simon simonmackie.com

UPDATE: I’m no longer looking for freelance work.

My letter to my MP re: 6Music

The BBC are thinking about closing 6Music, which would be a crying shame — it’s the station I listen to all day.

The BBC is currently undergoing an external consultation about the conclusions of the strategy review, you can fill out this survey if you’d like to let them know your feelings. As well as filling out the survey, I’ve written to my MP (find your MP here)

Dear Kerry McCarthy,

As part of its recent strategy review, the BBC is planning on axing some services and stations, including 6Music.

As a licence fee payer, I can understand the BBC’s desire to cut costs and focus its resources on providing quality.

However, I cannot understand the decision to close 6Music and urge you to encourage the BBC to reconsider. One of the stated aims of the strategy review is to concentrate on areas of “editorial focus”, one of those areas being music.

6Music is a unique radio station of exceptional quality. It fosters new music in a way that commercial stations and other BBC station cannot. Closing the station would be a devastating blow for newer, less established bands and their labels. It’s a very important station for pop music in this country, and closing it would be a mistake.

Yours sincerely,

Simon Mackie

New Year’s resolutions: Mid-Year Update!

Okay, so with my WebWorkerDaily gig I’m not having much time to update my personal blog, but I thought it might be good to note how I’m doing on my New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Cook with more variety and  effort. I’m not sure about the effort, but I think the variety has improved. Could still fo better, though.
  2. Take more photos! I think you can see from my Flickr account this is a fail. Just not feeling the inspiration to take pictures right now.
  3. Keep up going to the gym three times a week. I’ve pretty much done this. The only times I’ve skipped have been unavoidable, so I’m quite pleased with my effort on this. Just need to get back into running, too.

I don’t think that’s bad, but I really would like to get back into photography.

My new gig: WebWorkerDaily

This week, I’ve finally taken over as the public face of my new gig, WebWorkerDaily. I was working behind the scenes last week, but, as of this post, I became the editor of WebWorkerDaily.

The first week has gone very well; I have a great team to work with. I’m looking forward to really kicking the site up another gear.

The case of the missing power meter

Recently the performance of the battery on my Windows XP laptop (a Dell XPS M1210, a great little ultraportable which has served me well for years) had got to the point where it really wasn’t worth running without it being plugged in.  So I didn’t notice that my power meter was missing from the taskbar until my new battery arrived in the post this morning and I wanted to check on its capacity.

“No problem,” I thought to myself, “I can check it out through the control panel instead, and restarting the machine will probably bring it back”. Unfortunately rebooting the machine didn’t bring the powermeter back. So I went off to Google in search of a solution. Read the rest of this entry »

New Year’s resolutions

As it’s New Year’s Eve, it’s the time to think about resolutions for the coming year.

Mine are pretty simple:

  1. Cook with more variety and  effort. I’m actually not a bad cook, but I’m really lazy and tend to do the same thing over and over again. Fortunately I got a nice basic cookery book for Christmas with lots of yummy inspiration and ideas.
  2. Take more photos! This year the number of photos I’ve taken has really dropped off. I’ve been saying that it’s due to a lack of time but I think it’s more due to a lack of inspiration. Hopefully I can turn that around in 2009 - perhaps a 365 days project will help?
  3. Keep up going to the gym three times a week. This one should be quite easy as I’ve been really enjoying it.

New Year’s resolutions like this do seem pretty silly;  after all I could decide to make resolutions like this any time - in fact, I should.  But this time of year is  good for a bit of reflection,  and New Year’s resolutions give you a reason to take a look at yourself and figure out ways to improve your life.

Working from home tips

Working from home has advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, you can set up your office just as you like, if there are domestic chores to be done or deliveries to be taken you’re at home, and, of course, if you feel like it, you can work in your PJ’s.  The disadvantages, though, are many: easily getting distracted, working long hours, and feeling isolated are the three big issues for me. In particular, when I first started working from home, I would find that I was starting work late, not leaving the house, and working well into the evening. Having no separation between work and home makes it feel like you’re always at work. For me, if work is ever-present (rather than the clearly delineated office day), I find it much harder to focus.

Here are a few tips that I’ve accumulated:

  1. I always start the day by leaving the house at the same time. This could be getting up to go the gym, or simply going to a newsagent to buy a paper (I usually go to the gym three times per week). This achieves three things: it gets me into a regular work routine, it means that I have to get dressed, and it means when I do start work I am already focussed and ready to go (mostly!)
  2. Have regularly scheduled breaks.
  3. If I’m finding it hard to focus, I stop. Either just take a break or leave the house and work somewhere else.
  4. If possible, have a separate office. This means that, at the end of the day, you can shut the door and leave the work behind.  Unfortunately, in my current flat, I don’t have a spare room, so what I’m doing is working from the kitchen - but that’s still better than working in the lounge.
  5. A decent, tidy office setup. Clutter is distracting, and tapping away on a laptop sitting on your lap will damage your back.
  6. Fast, reliable internet is an absolute must-have. Nothing is more annoying than trying to get something done an losing connectivity.

I also recently asked my friends on Twitter for their working-from-home tips and got some great answers (see, Twitter is useful sometimes!):

  • find ways to get out of the house as part of work. I usually start the day at a coffee shop. get me out and around people (gblakeman)
  • Wear shoes for ‘work’. Creates a mental trigger in the evening - take them off - working day’s over. (markboulton)
  • big tip: if you’ve got two computers (home and work) put them in separate rooms (sil)
  • Working at home? Take breaks, be fairly strict with your time but find out when and how you work best. Get a decent chair! (hereinthehive)

One final thing to check out if you’re finding working from home too isolating is co-working. There are co-working spaces springing up all over nowadays, and the great thing about them is that they give you the opportunity to network with other people in your field. I know I’ll be checking some out in the New Year.

What are your tips for working from home?

Reasons to be cheerful

What with the economy looking very ropey, and many people losing their jobs (including myself), there are plenty of reasons to feel down. To counter the general gloom, I thought I’d look back and put together a personal list of ten good things that have happened this year (in approximate order of greatness):

  1. Barack Obama. Arguably, the holder of the post of US president is  still the most powerful person in the world, and, at last, the US seems to have a president with ideas  that will be better for everyone. I’m hopeful.
  2. My move back to the UK from Australia.  At the start of the year, I decided to move from Australia back to the UK, primarily to be closer to the family; 24 hours on a plane is just too far away. I thought it was the right move to make, despite having to give up a great job and leave some wonderful friends behind, I’m still convinced I’ve made the right decision some five months down the road.
  3. My job at Carsonified. Despite only working there for four short months, I managed to squeeze in some amazing things that took me out of my usual comfort zone: in particular, MCing at The Future Of Mobile, and conducting video interviews with some Web luminaries at The Future of Web Apps. I made some great friends, too.
  4. Visiting Sri Lanka: an amazing country, beautiful scenery, lovely people. It’s such a shame that it’s torn apart by violence (according to the Sri Lankan government, a situation that is now improving, although I wouldn’t take their word for it). If it wasn’t for that, it would be the perfect holiday destination (The word serendipity comes from Serendib, an old name for Sri Lanka) . I got to stay in a hotel visited by my granparents many years ago, and visited the beautiful Horton Plains National Park:Horton Plains National Park, Sri Lanka
  5. Visiting New York, New York. I stayed there for a week and felt that I’d only just scratched the surface.  I had always thought that  it would be too massive in scale and too busy to want to stay too long, but having visited, I’ll definitely be back. By the end of my trip, I was seriously considering a move. As an added bonus, I was there for election night, thus neatly combining two of the points on this list!
  6. Team GB rocking the Beijing Olympic Games. The achievement of all the athletes at the  Games is astounding (the dedication that these guys put in is humbling, and puts our lives into perspective), but the successes of Team GB kept us all glued to the telly for the duration. In particular, the achievements of Chris Hoy (with three gold medals in track cycling at Beijing, subsequently named BBC Sports Personality of the Year) and Rebecca Adlington (two gold medals in the pool) were inspiring. I’m really looking forward to London 2012 now; the only problem is that now tickets to the velodrome will be in very high demand…
  7. My iPhone. It has been a very long time since a gizmo has given me this much pleasure, but this device is amazing.
  8. Life in Bristol. Bristol is a buzzing little city in England’s South-West. It’s a hub of culture and innovation, and birthplace of, amongst others, Banksy, Portishead and Massive Attack. I live in Stokes Croft and love it.
  9. Realising that I can cycle everywhere, even in the depths of winter. The 30 miles from Bristol to Bath and back again is a bit much to do in one go, mind.
  10. Finally, if this doesn’t cheer you up, nothing will!

2009 may bring tough times, but there will also be opportunies, laughter and joy. Personally, I can’t wait.

What’s been good for you this year, and what are you looking forward to in 2009?

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