The power of ten

I missed the actual tenth birthday of this blog/me blogging but I can’t let a milestone like that go unmarked, can I?


Originally started as a place to store and share links, this blog gradually became a place to playfully interact with the world, and over time that turned from introspection to exploration of the world, media, experiences and ideas. I don’t think I’m alone in that kind of journey with blogs.

I am immensely (unreasonably, perhaps even pathetically) proud of having been blogging for so long. I can say confidently that I was in at the beginning, when all this were fields. I was here before many of you young whippersnappers who have gone on to eclipse me, and blogging, and the web entirely in their success and influence. I don’t put my early involvement down to canny prescience about the way the web was turning so much as an inevitability given my proclivity for tinkering with web things, my early academic and personal interest in communicating online and my inability to shut up. Blogging and me; it was only a matter of time and technology before we found each other.

I was there. I remember the start, and the hype, popularisation, commercialisation and ubiquitisation which followed. I couldn’t possibly have known it at the time, but my blogging was to introduce me to dozens of interesting people, influence others to start doing it too, cause interesting opportunities (and worrying situations) to develop. Blogging has become part of what I am, what I do. I blog now for the same reasons I did in early 2000: because I can’t not tinker with and publish to the web.

Ten years ago, I was embarrassed to mention having a blog in polite company, because it was so difficult to understand – not just what but why. These days, even both my parents have blogs. It’s not a weird niche oddball geek thing anymore. It’s so normal it’s almost passé. Good.


An open letter to Grey London

22 January: Please see the update at the end of this post for what happened next.

Dear Grey London,

I’ve just been made aware of the ad you were involved with creating for Horlicks.

In the middle of the advert at 1’15”, amid the collection of shots of coffee/tea/beverage making and drinking, there’s a brief shot which is slightly different.

It’s a woman sitting on a tube train going along an above-ground track. She’s holding a book in front of her face. The book’s cover depicts a woman’s face. I’ve screengrabbed it below:


I find it very difficult to believe that this shot wasn’t styled on this image I took and posted in August 2006, which has since become well-circulated on the internet.


Your treatment is startlingly similar to my original photo, right down to the woman; the hand position; the ring; the tube above ground; the styling of the cover; the sweep of the hair; the man with his head down, reading next to her.

I’ve written before about advertising agencies using internet-popular ideas and artwork as source material for campaigns, but there’s a fine line between homage and rip-off.

Should I submit an invoice for the portion of the creative work that I unknowingly did on your behalf? Or would acknowledgement of your inspiration be out of the question?

Best regards,

Meg Pickard

PS If anyone else reading this has any ideas about what I might be able to do about this, please let me know in the comments below or via email or Twitter. Thanks.

Update, 22 January

I spoke to Hugo Feiler, MD of Grey London today, after the creative director of the ad forwarded on the email I’d sent him about the issue. Mr Feiler was very pleasant, and said (transcribed from notes taken on phone):

“On reflection, I would agree that we had been influenced by your photo … we shouldn’t have gone on to use such a similar image without speaking to you first, so I’m very sorry about that”

He offered to have the film re-edited to remove the chunk in question. I declined this, but asked him to ask the production company involved to remove the still from their site as proof of their creativity. He has done this since our call.

In addition, as a gesture of goodwill, Mr Feiler offered to make a generous donation in my name to a charity of my choice. I accepted this and am pleased that Oxfam’s Haiti emergency appeal has been able to benefit from this experience.

He went on to say that he would have said and offered exactly the same thing if I’d spoken to him privately before “going public” on my blog, but he understands why I did because of what I do for a living. (I’d actually sent email via the Grey website, to the production company and to the CD’s personal site).

I don’t think that my work was copied maliciously or through an attempt to decieve or claim credit: I’ve worked with enough creative agencies to know how easy it is for something to slip from early-stage random found object moodboard into a concept storyboard and then through to the produced object, all the while getting further and further from the original credited influence. As with most things like this, Hanlon’s razor applies (and especially the Sir Bernard Ingham variant).

In summary, I am reassured that this has been handled in a timely and considerate way by Hugo at Grey London: I’m glad that they’ve apologised and acknowledged the influence of my work, and feel sure that they will have learnt a lesson from this experience about how random internet influences are handled within their creative processes.

Charity print auction: above and below the waves

I’m auctioning a couple of prints of my photos as part of the Flickr group Charity Print Auctions for the Haiti Earthquake Appeal.

St Ives
Something fishy

(Click on the images to see the bidding on Flickr)

Each print is 18×12 inches and will be printed matte on FujiFilm Professional digital photographic paper.

The auction will close on Sunday 17th January 2010 at midnight GMT.

The winning bidder (who I’ll notify) has to pay the winning amount to the Oxfam Haiti appeal and then send me proof of payment.

If you’d like to place a bid, please do so in the comments below each image on Flickr, stating the amount you want to pay. When the auction closes, the person that has bid the most, wins the print.

I’ll cover the costs of production of the print and the postage to the winning bidder (surface mail if international).

Stealing is easy: being original is hard

Every now and again, something happens which reminds you that the internet isn’t the respectful, creative, collaborative place that we rather naively hope it is, but is actually infested with people who seek to exploit, destroy and undermine the work of others.

It’s not that surprising, unfortunately, but it is a bit disappointing.

Take my 2006 camphone photo taken on the tube, of a girl reading a book:


Or rather, don’t take it. Admire it. Link to it. Comment on it. Favourite it. Tell me you like it, you value my work, you think it’s funny/clever/well-composed if you like, but don’t take it and pass it off as your own work.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen this (hasty and rather crap resolution due to being taken with a camphone) shot being included in emailed & blogged collections of “great trick photography photos” and the like. Here are just a few of the places it’s been spotted over the years. Without exception in these circumstances, the image is used without permission, with no credit or link to me (therefore falling foul of Flickr’s terms of service as well as my wishes as the creator of the work). Sometimes it even appears with someone else’s watermarked copyright notice on it, which I think is cheeky, to be honest.

Found while walking

Part of the brilliance of a photographic observation game like (which I wrote about the other day in the context of synchronicity and gaming) is that – as the name implies – it encourages you to be observant and notice things when you’re out and about in the context of your everyday life.


Paul Mison wrote about recently saying that it’s “helping [him] to look around” and that’s absolutely the same feeling I have.

I’ve got a long history of capturing random spotted/found/noticed things and moments from my commute and daily wanderings, stretching back many years – and not just photographically, either. Sometimes with the camera, sometimes with words, sometimes just by making a mental note – it’s the habit of receptiveness to the world around that’s interesting.

This relates to something else I wrote a while back about super-noticing:

Super-noticing is something which happens a lot if you’re trained to be receptive and observant, but also if you’re thinking about a particular thing.

This in turn relates to another earlier post about the ethnographic discipline of pattern recognition:

Part of the toolkit of ethnography and anthropology in general is observing patterns. This could be patterns in behaviour, appearance, ritual, language or otherwise. The anthropologist’s job is to spot the patterns and try to understand what (if any) significance they have, especially in relation to social or cultural environment, or other prevailing conditions.

The discipline of noticing stuff is part of what makes receptiveness and observation useful in life, as well as in anthrolopology and social gaming. But it’s good to have a particular outlet (or should that be inlet?) for the activity. As I wrote in the super-noticing post,

“Flickr is great for developing a discipline around noticing, too, and Flickr groups in particular – if your eye is receptive, then every journey out into the world can be filled with potential squared circles and little fellas and malapostrophication and more.”

Well, turns that hyper-receptiveness up to 11, but inverts it – it’s not about seeing the patterns so much as the anomalies – the things you spot which shouldn’t be there, or stand out, or catch the attention because they don’t belong, or are otherwise notable. Noticeable. Noted.

Once you start playing, it’s very difficult to stop noticing things. Above and below are just a few of the things I’ve noticed while out and about, captured with my phonecam, and filed to

Walking away


The many ways in which the experience of Twitter's development and growing popularity is very much like the experience of early blogging

The reminder a couple of weeks ago that pioneering blog publishing engine Blogger was launched ten years ago got me thinking.

I’ve been blogging for nearly ten years now – since it began with a W – and being involved with something from the beginning, plus passionate (and sometimes despondent) about its potential and usage in the years since means I’ve had a lot of time to watch and think about how it has matured and been used. There are certain things which we can now look back on and consider milestones in the development and maturing of blogging – like how the media responded to it, how people embraced and used it and how it penetrated mainstream web usage over time.

Likewise, Twitter.

Like blogging (which I started doing in January 2000, and used Blogger to publish my blog from April of that year), I’ve been using Twitter since relatively early on – my earliest update via Twitter was in November 2005. I’d link to it, but
a) it’s in my private/personal account (@megp) and
b) all my archived tweets (pre July 31 2009) have disappeared, as experienced by many others in this thread on the Twitter help forum.

It’s actually that help forum – and the appalling petulant and rude manner in which some users are addressing Twitter staff – which got me thinking more specifically about how, in so many ways, the timeline of the Twitter story mirrors that of Blogger and early blogging. Both have seen similar patterns of early usage and behaviour and adoption by certain functional and social groups, and both have learnt – the hard way, sometimes – about technical and social scaling issues as well as being a playground for emergent behaviours and activities, and all the fun and challenge that comes with that.

This isn’t an attempt to demonstrate that startups and new technologies are subject to many of the same pressures and reception issues – that’s been clearly documented and brilliantly expressed in Gartner’s Hype Curve. Rather, I wanted to explore some of the striking similarities in specific situations, movements and experiences in the early days of both micropublishing and blogging, from the perspective of an early settler and long-term resident of both of these strange and wonderful new(ish) countries.

So here’s something I’ve been working on for a little while: it’s a very approximate timeline of the activities, patterns, behaviours and reactions experienced by both Twitter (/micropublishing) and Blogger (/early blogging) during their first few years.


Oops. It all went a bit quiet there for a while, while I was on holiday. Sorry.


We went to San Francisco to visit my lovely sister and brother outlaw, and spent a lovely week and a bit wandering around the city; meeting up for food and banter with various friends; watching unexpected 1940s-themed burlesque in a jazz bar in Haight Ashbury; exploring Golden Gate Park and Noe Valley and the Mission and Japantown and other areas both new and familiar; drinking margaritas the size of our heads and summer ales from local breweries; going to the baseball; clothes and art and sushi rolling equipment shopping; watching lovely movies (Up in 3D a particular highlight); picnicking in Napa valley (the wines (and views!) at Artesa are phenomenal, especially the Meritage, and I highly recommend the deli at V.Sattui) plus a night in Sausalito (nested holidays rock) and more pleasant pootling around the Bay area (eating at In’n’Out – I had my burger animal style, natch, but don’t ask how many calories are in the chocolate shake) and playing minigolf in the blazing sunshine.

You're looking the wrong way

This building, viewed from the roof of SFMOMA, looks like something Gothamesque

Speaking of sunshine, everyone we spoke to before we went said in dubious tones “San Francisco in August? Better pack your thermals” and “don’t forget to bring a jacket” and “well, you can forget the sunglasses”

So we did.


And then we got there, and it was balmy and beautifully sunny every day and we ended up having to go shopping for more summery clothes (me) and sandals & sunglasses (P) plus silly hats to wear at the baseball (both, but you’ll never see the photos) and sunscreen. Phew!

Now, I’ll accept that we were staying on the traditionally “sunny” side of the city, but even our local resident experts had told us it was pretty chilly, and that the fog belt was heavy every afternoon. But the reputation for fog and summer chills wasn’t fulfilled in the slightest.

So it came as something of a relief when, on our last afternoon, we drove up to Sutro Heights for a picnic on our way to the airport for our flight home, and discovered the whole of Ocean Beach wraithed in white fluffy stuff. So that’s where they’d been hiding it all week.

Some photos here – more to come when I’ve recovered from jetlag a bit.

Anyway, I’m back. What did I miss?