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Annie Mole's, daily web log (blog) & “guide” to the London Underground
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

CBS Outdoor Tube Ads on Tube Advertising

One thing's certain that I will be spending a lot of time staring at London Underground ads while waiting for the Tube at Hammersmith. Fortunately CBS Outdoor have decided to give us something lengthy to read for the wait.

CBS Outdoor Tube Advertising Ad at Hammersmith 2

Their new ads promoting err ... ads are based on life's certainties. With the main certainty that there will always be Tube advertisements to read for the "three minutes while you wait for your train". That's more than slightly hopeful for people heading to Richmond waiting for a train at Hammersmith. (Regular readers know my theory that there are always substantially more District Line trains bound for Ealing Broadway, but I digress).

I quite like the way it says that maybe you can strike up a conversation with the person next to you about the ad. "Then again maybe not". Yep that's pretty certain. This is the Tube after all.

Further along the platform, there's another ad in a similar vein, with the certainty that this Christmas you'll have been given a present that makes you think "I'd rather have had the cash". That Brad & Angelina will have beautiful babies & that Friends will be showing on TV somewhere in the world and other certainties.

CBS Outdoor Tube Advertising Ad at Hammersmith

I'm sure these ads will drive me up the wall after I've seen them for the umpteenth time in the New Year. But for now, I like them.

Perhaps there are others with more London Underground related certainties on them. The certainty that there's a reason for a seat being empty on a crowded train. The certainty that our fares will increase again this January. The certainty that I will sit next to or opposite someone who says the wise words "Cheer up love things could be worse".

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, December 30, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Tube Times

Looking for
2010 Christmas Tube Times - visit this post

It's a Saturday service on the London Underground today and after 7pm trains will be running less frequently than normal, with Sunday closing hours. Or as Rachel Clarke heard a driver say "the trains are going to bed early tonight before Santa arrives". On Christmas Day as usual there will be no service at all on the Tube.

Christmas poster by D J Damien
Great photo of the current Xmas times poster from D J Damien

Boxing Day will have a reduced Sunday service on all lines, except the Jubilee Line won't be running at all, right up until 28th December for planned engineering works. There's also engineering works on the Metropolitan Line on the 26th December with a full line closure. Additionally, no service on that line between Uxbridge/Northwood and Aldgate between 27th & 28th December.

Jubilee Line works

Full details of the Jubilee Line works are on Tube Lines site. George Clark, their Chief Engineering Manager said:

"After looking at all the options with London Underground we jointly decided that the best time for a full closure is over Christmas as it causes the least disruption for commuters. It is vital that we fully test the new system to check that services can run smoothly and safely before passengers come on board. Unfortunately this can only take place during a closure of several days.

"We are sorry for the inconvenience caused, but the closures are necessary in order to deliver a faster and more efficient Jubilee line in the long-run

You can find complete Christmas & New Year timings on TfL's site with details of the replacement bus services that will be in place to cover the Jubilee & Metropolitan Line closures.

Don't forget as well, there'll be free travel on the Tube, bus, tram & DLR from
11.45pm on New Year's Eve until 4.30am on New Year's Day. I haven't managed to see who's sponsoring that this year. In the past it's been drinks companies and last year was Nat West, but with the credit crunch, it's amazing we'll be getting free travel at all.

Thanks to the booze ban there'll be no alcohol on public transport in London, although the Japanese have gone the opposite way and are holding drinking parties on their streetcars. Thanks to Jon for the heads up on this.

Parties running until December 27th have already been fully booked. "A special streetcar leaves Toyohashi Station at 6:25, slowly navigating its way through 9.4 kilometers of track while its passengers party. Each party car holds 15 to 26 people, and as the name Odensha suggests, passengers eat warm oden while they drink beer."

That's all the updates for now. I hope you all have a great Christmas break and whatever journeys you make will be as smooth as possible.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, December 24, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Father Christmas (es) on the Tube

At last, someone has found the real Santa on the London Underground.
Mario Mitsis took this great picture of a very jolly Father Christmas, who looks like he has his own beard, at Tottenham Court Road Tube.

Happy Christmas to all.....from Old London Town by Mario Mitsis

This year's Santacon was held on a very wet Saturday and there didn't seem to be as many photos of the London Santae as normal.

However, Marques Kirsch found a non-Santa outcast standing amongst the Santas on their sleigh .. err sorry... Tube, travelling to their annual meet up.

Santas on their Sleigh by Marques Kirsch

There's also some more rather orderly, Santae going down the escalator at Notting Hill Gate Tube:

Santas going down by Marques Kirsch

If you spot or have spotted any other Santas on the Tube, let us know. Hopefully the credit crunch hasn't got to Father Christmas on the London Underground this year and maybe I just haven't seen as many as I normally do.

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, December 23, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, December 22, 2008

Blurb Book Winners

Thanks to everyone who entered the
Future of the Book competition earlier this month. It followed a session that me, Billy Abbott and Chris Meade ran at Amplified08 on the Future of the Book and an interesting debate at Channel 4 on the Future of Reading.

Tate Book Bag on the Tube

Blurb very kindly donated five £20 vouchers for people to create their own books. All you had to do was tell us why you'd like a Blurb book and what you would do with it.

It was a tough call for Blurb to choose, as the entries were all really good. However, drum roll, the winners are:

Sara Maternini - "I would love to make a cook book from my blog (http://saramaternini.com/kitchenpantry/), or even a travel book, of all the travel we made and wrote about! And I even started a new food blog, in Italian and it will be cool to get a book even out of that one."

Robert MacIntosh - "What a great idea - I've toyed with simple photo book ideas but I have often wondered about putting together a book of my wine photos of Rioja with my thoughts on the region from my blog http://wineconversation.com/ - like a printed blog I guess.

However, I was also intrigued by the idea of publishing my grandfather's memoirs so my kids can read them. He wrote a lot during his life and collected loads of photos, but never completed the task.

Wonder if I'm truly creative enough? I guess there is only one way to find out

Gaetan Lee - "Well the best bit about user generated books is the variety of content that could be put into a book.

I have been tinkering with the idea of making up some photo books from my flickr stream www.flickr.com/photos/gaetanlee for ages... mainly as a ego-gift to myself.

However, if I was to make a book about 3-4 years ago I travelled around the world in a six month get away from life... during which time I stopped and stayed in USA/Fiji/New Zealand/Australia/Singapore/Japan - http://gaetanlee.blogspot.com/

The problem is that both of these would be probably private ventures.. I would need to think a bit more carefully about a more 'public' book for sale... I have a feeling that are quite a few photo books out there... so I would have to think of something original.

Melinda Seckington - "I would love to make a book of my blog and photos
My blog: http://missgeeky.com
My photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mseckington/

If I ever had more time, I would make a book of my mother's recipes. She's got tons of different recipes, that I still can't "recreate" myself and I would love to make this book together with her.

Benjamin Ellis - "The Blurb stuff looks wonderful! Over the last few years I've been blogging about productivity (some of that is here). I've noticed that the biggest productivity problem is that we tend to procrastinate. I've even been putting of writing this comment!

Well, what better way to procrastinate than by looking at photographs. So I though I might make a book from my posts and from the photos from my Flickr stream that others seem to like. That way I could give people something that would let them procrastinate whilst they learnt not to procrastinate. If you see what I mean

Congratulations to all and you'll receive an email later today with your voucher. You'll have plenty of time to make your books over the Christmas holidays and we'd love to see the finished books. Thanks again to Blurb for the prizes.

; Posted by annie mole Monday, December 22, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tube lift plunges at Hampstead Station

Around 15 commuters had a worrying experience in a faulty lift at Hampstead London Underground station last Sunday. Shortly after 10pm the lift they were in plummeted almost 200ft down the shaft. Hampstead Tube has the deepest lift shaft on the system.

What Lies Beneath... Hampstead by MykReeve

The Ham and High paper reported: "Roger Juer, 63, was trapped in the lift during the accident, which he says was like something from a Hollywood horror movie.

"It was the most frightening thing I have ever experienced. The girls in the lift were screaming and several of us thought that was it. We thought the lift was going to smash into the ground. I tried to bend my knees a bit so my legs might not break when we landed."

Fortunately the lift stopped just before reaching the bottom.

Calligraphy at Hampstead Tube Station by Yersinia

"A telephone in the lift was tantalisingly visible behind a locked panel, which couldn't be opened, and although they banged on the alarm button there was no response from staff at the station. After the group had been hammering on the lift walls and screaming for help for several minutes the doors eventually slid open and they rushed out to the platform."

Luckily no one was injured and Mr Juer made it to the local pub as quickly as he could in time for last orders to calm his nerves. He said:

"It's not acceptable - and it's not the first time there have been problems with the lifts in this station. Transport for London need to reassure passengers that if there are problems they will be able to contact staff to tell them something is wrong."

Thanks to Ian for giving me the heads up to this.

The only consolation is that at least this didn't happen at Covent Garden station. To be stuck in the lift with Loyd Grossman's voice on continual loop giving you directions to the Piazza and the London Transport Museum would test human endurance.

The Hampstead and Highgate Express contacted Transport for London, but at the time of going to press, no one was able to comment. Hopefully, by now TfL will be in a position to let people know what happened & do all they can to prevent this or something more serious from happening again.

; Posted by annie mole Saturday, December 20, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, December 19, 2008

Please Do It at Home Commuter Campaigns

The Japanese like the Brits are now having to be reminded of good manners when commuting
The Daily Telegraph recently reported. "Britain's train passengers are routinely told to keep their feet off the seats and turn down their MP3 players, but Japanese commuters have never had to be reminded of such basic good manners. Until now, that is."

Please Do it at home by Shok

Thanks to Jon for pointing me to this story, specially as tonight's the big office party night of the year, so expect to see quite a few people like the above on the London Underground.

Back to the article: "Five years ago, it would have been unthinkable for passengers on Japan's crowded trains to witness a female office worker applying make-up on her way to work. But now, grooming in public is commonplace. Standards are falling so rapidly that Japan Railways has just launched a poster campaign urging women to "Please do it at home" – put their make-up on, that is."

Please do it at home poster by Hyougushi

Regular readers to this blog will know how I feel about putting make up on, on the Tube and I still can't see how this is the height of bad manners. Guess I'd better not visit Japan then!

The article continues with Toshiko Marks, a professor of multicultural understanding at Shumei University having her say about standards dropping.

"I first saw a young woman applying her make-up on a train about five years ago but now it is an everyday sight. I even see people on trains eating food that has a strong smell, such as noodles, which means everyone has to put up with it."

Isn't that the main difference between make up putting on and eating smelly food? Most people in a carriage will have to endure or envy the smell of food. If you don't like watching me put my make up on, which isn't really that stomach churning, close your eyes, read a paper or an advert or don't look at me.

Train manners by Scott Gunn

Professor Marks continues with the implication that the posters are now part of a Nanny state. "Parents used to have time to teach their children respect – we could actually call it common sense – but mothers and fathers now both have to work and are too busy to nurture and raise children in the right way".

She concludes with something that's also common in the UK: "People say they are frightened they will be attacked if they get involved in a situation. And that leads to another great Japanese tradition: pretending that if you can't see anything, then nothing is happening."

Please do it on the Mountain by puamelia

Of all of the Please Do It at Home series, my favourite is the one above aimed at large ruck sack carriers.

TfL's new "considerate Londoner" campaign

Only time will tell, whether the cartoons will make any difference to behaviour in Japan. In the meantime I'll look forward to next year's iteration of the cartoon characters telling us how to behave on the Tube.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, December 19, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Subway Bank for Credit Crunch

If you're counting the pennies right now, but have a spare £45 you might want to buy a cute piggy bank modelled on Japan's Yamanote subway trains. Thanks to
McBazza, for sending me the link from Gizmodo. Whenever you put in money, the train plays a random melody from a Yamanote station.

I love the copy from Gizmine which is selling the trainbanks "(Each station has its own pleasing melody, allowing your subconscious mind to track where you are while you sleep, and waking you up just in time for your station!) The headlights come on at the same time. "

The image of people wandering onto trains with piggy banks held to their ears like ghetto blasters, is a bit hard to swallow. But perhaps you could give a pile of coins to a fellow commuter and ask them to load up the bank while you sleep.

If anyone could work out how to get the same mechanism in my London Underground money box, I'd be most grateful. My money box was a fair bit cheaper than the trainbank above and had the added bonus of being filled with toffees.

London Underground Map Money Box

Perhaps it could be triggered to say "Mind the Gap" or "The next station is Cockfosters" and other melodious things at the drop of a coin.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, December 18, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stockwell Tube Ad Placement ruled indecent

The ad for the film Righteous Kill placed at Stockwell London Underground Station, where Charles de Menezes was shot dead after being mistaken for a suicide bomber, has been ruled as breaching decency guidelines.

You may remember from a
blog post in September that its tagline read: "There's nothing wrong with a little shooting as long as the right person gets shot."

Stockwell Shooting taken by coconinoco

The Advertising Standards Authority said: "We understood the siting of the poster at the station was unintentional, but nevertheless considered that the text... had the potential to cause serious offence in that location". There's more on this at the BBC.

Although the poster was eventually removed at Stockwell it was still there when members of the inquest visited the station in September.

Film distributors Lions Gate said "We considered that most people were likely to understand that the poster reflected the content of the film and the quote was intended to be wryly humorous".

In the light of everything that happened at Stockwell it still seems weird to me that the poster was ever put up there in the first place. I'm sure the advertisers bought the ad space of the whole line, but maybe CBS Outdoor, who sell London Underground advertising space, should flag up particular stations which have violent associations.

As we all know, the Tube have a rather prudish attitude to posters in general & in the past have banned ads that show a bit of bare flesh, so it's amazing that this happened. However, it's good to see this decision from the ASA about true decency standards & insensitive positioning.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, December 17, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Win a London Railways Poster

Maxwell Roberts, creator of the wonderful
Curvy Tube Map and author of Underground Maps After Beck has two new posters on sale in the London Transport Museum. One's of London's railways based on a drawing by Henry C. Beck who's responsible for the famous London Underground map we use now. The other is based on Beck's design of the Paris Metro map.

Diagrammatic Map of London's Railways after a Drawing by Henry C. Beck - Maxwell Roberts

Max has kindly offered two of the large format posters if you can answer the following question based on Henry Beck's design of the Paris Metro map.

"The poster for sale at the London Transport Museum is actually Henry Beck's second attempt at the Paris Metro. His first one, which the RATP turned down, was created around 1949. It is shown in Ken Garland's Book 'Mr Beck's Underground Map' (Capital Transport, 1994).

What really really important Metro station is missing from Beck's first attempt?

Diagrammatic Map of Paris Metro after a Drawing by Henry C. Beck - Maxwell Roberts

Leave your answer in the comments below. The first correct answer will get the London Railways poster, and also the Paris Metro poster above. However, even if you're not first with the right answer, anyone who makes a guess or leaves an interesting comment will go into a prize draw to win two posters as well. Don't forget to leave an email address, blog or website so I can contact you if you win.

You have until 11.59pm UK time on Monday 22nd December to enter. Best of luck and thanks again to Max for kindly donating the posters.

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, December 16, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

More signs of Xmas on the Tube & Twinterval

Christmas party season is full swing on the London Underground now. Last night I was at
Twinterval - think of it as an "office party" for people who Twitter in and around London. On the way home, we saw a group of rather merry people with an office chair who were about to attempt to negotiate it through the gates at Oxford Circus.

Office Chair on the Tube

Not sure if it made it through in it end as the guy pictured above decided to sit on the chair just outside the barriers.

If you happened to be around the West End last night and noticed a number of people on the Tube with bright pink party bags, with some err.. interesting gifts. They'd have been coming back from Twinterval.

Twinterval Goodie Bag

Thanks to the fab Girl With a One Track Mind who was one of the main party organisers, along with Amanda for giving us entertaining reading for our journey home. There's a few more pictures from Twinterval on my Flickr set. It was great seeing loads of Twitter people last night and lovely to put some faces to the avatars & Twitter names.

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, December 16, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tube Mood Swings

Want to tell everyone on the London Underground how you're feeling? Just in case your face doesn't quite sum up the joy of Tube travel on a Monday morning, you might want to get hold of a set of "
Tube Mood Swing" stickers.

Tube Mood Swing Stickers

The seller on Etsy rather formally describes the stickers & could have used a spell check on one of them, but I like the general idea:

"Whenever you partake in a journey within London's 'Underground' subway system you'll undoubtedly experience a vast range of emotions generated from the experience. Riding the 'Tube' is not for the faint of heart and is certainly a character building experience and here I have presented a 3 piece set covering a range of 36 potential feelings (12 moods for each print), that more often than not compels a passenger to feel at least several times per ride."

They're not all moods or feelings and the set would work a lot better if they were. It's definitely missing "Frustrated" and "Impatient". He could also do with more of the warning ones like "Wear Deodorant" and "Shut your Legs". Although perhaps some of them are designed to be sneakily stuck on other commuters.

If you've any other Tube Moods that you've experienced or think people should display on their journey, let us know.

; Posted by annie mole Monday, December 15, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Wish for the Tube & Spinvox Wishing Well

If only the London Underground would really produce stickers like this. The lovely
Whatleydude from SpinVox was travelling to Covent Garden for the launch of their Wishing Well installation and spotted the following:

Peak Hours may mean lap sitting by Whatleydude

Obviously he had to take a picture of it and send it to me. He said "The best part was, after I took the photo, the couple behind me tapped me on the back and offered me their laps!"

It's great how spoof stickers like this can make people lighten up on the Tube. Sometimes if the po faced "Do not do this" or "Priority Seating" stickers were a bit friendlier, it might not lead to nasty stares or moody arguments or worse if people were then reminded they were breaking Tube etiquette. It's simply having a bit of regard for your fellow passengers & a touch of humour can work to promote this.

Whatleydude invited me and a number of other bloggers to Covent Garden to see the SpinVox Wishing Well which is on the piazza there, just a stone's throw away from the London Transport Museum.

Spinvox Wishing Well

It's a lovely idea as you call a number and leave your wish. Your wish is converted to text and then gets projected onto the walls inside the wishing well.

Inside Spinvox Wishing Well 2

It's hard to describe being inside and seeing all the wishes from wishing for world peace to wishing your flatmates would do the washing up more often. So it's definitely worth a trip yourself to see the colours, movement and sounds that go along with them inside the shiny triangular well.

Inside Spinvox Wishing Well

A number of school kids went along when I was there, all with their mobile phones, and all completely transfixed. I'm not sure what happens to the wishes at the end of installation and I'll certainly be popping in with a few more end of year wishes for the London Underground.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, December 12, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Spooks on the Tube

No, this isn't about ghosts on the London Underground or even ghost stations on the Tube, but the BBC1 drama series
Spooks. I understand it's a very popular show, but to be honest, I've never watched it until today. However, I heard from a couple of people, Nick Cooper (who runs the fab London Underground on Film & TV site) and Fourstar, that much of the last episode was filmed on the Tube.

Spooks on the London Underground - BBC Screengrab

Over to Fourstar who said "I was interested in the use of disused Tube tunnels in the final episode of 'Spooks' this Monday.

The team has to run from Liverpool Street to London Bridge but cannot go above ground as they are being hunted by Russian snipers, so they break into a side door at Liverpool Street and find a (conveniently) disused platform which leads to the tracks. From there they find a maintenance tunnel which brings them eventually to London Bridge where they open a locker to get the file they need (are there still lockers at London Bridge?)

Spooks at Charing Cross Tube - BBC Screengrab

"Artistic licence aside, it was good to see - they even ran through a parked train at one point, disturbing a sleeping homeless lady.

Nick thought it was "unintentionally hilarious" and Fourstar wondered "if the journey would actually be possible (via Bank, presumably??)"

I've no idea, but like Fourstar I liked seeing the real London Underground being used rather than just a mock up. If you're in the UK you can watch the full episode of Spooks on BBC iPlayer here.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, December 12, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, December 11, 2008

TfL say workers use Tube as lateness excuse

A new survey by Transport for London has "found" that commuters lie and use London Underground delays as an excuse for being late. An independent study of 1,000 commuters shows that half of those who were late lied about the reasons why. Delayed Tube trains and heavy traffic were the most common excuses.

Tube Delay Excuse Generator - opens in a new window

The survey was to launch the new Travel Tools that me and other bloggers were given a preview of a few weeks ago at a bloggers briefing with TfL.

As much as I welcomed being invited to the briefing, I was almost speechless when I heard about this survey. I'm sure most people who use the Northern Line and the District Line, which is fast becoming as bad as the Misery Line, are also fairly speechless.

20% of Londoners used the 'Tube was late' as their excuse, while only 5% said poor service on the Underground was the real reason they were delayed. There's more on this at the BBC. However, I wonder how many lines were represented in this survey? It probably wasn't carried out in the rush hour either.

Maybe it's just me, but I find it hard to put a lot of faith in a survey like this, commissioned by TfL to promote travel tools. Rather than blaming us for fibbing about delays, it might have been more positive to put the money on the survey to better use. Like making it easier for us to find a link to the Customer Charter when you can make a claim when you're delayed by more than 15 minutes. This has happened to me twice this week and it's only Thursday. This year I've racked up £70 in Customer Charter refund claims and I forget to make claims a lot of the time.

Anyway if you're one of the liars, I've made things a little easier for you with a random London Underground Delay Generator. Based on Reginald Perrin's "Sorry I'm late, cow on the line at Bagshot" excuses - you can have minutes of fun coming up with some more reasons for your boss to think you're a work shy fop who wanted a lie in.


; Posted by annie mole Thursday, December 11, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Signs we should have on the Tube

One of the
pet London Underground hates that many of you mentioned a while back were Tube "Space Invaders". This covers arm rest fascists, guys who sit with their legs wide apart and generally people taking up too much space on the Tube. Thanks to The Kitten's Toe I found that in Berlin there are signs in trains trying to stop people from taking up too much space when reading their newspapers!

YES. HEED the sign. by The Kitten's Toe

Luckily I haven't seen too many people who have a major problem with newspaper reading on the Tube, but it must be an issue in Berlin.

I'd be much happier with a sign that worked for guys with their legs spread apart and maybe the reverse psychology approach from this old Metro cartoon could work:

Men close your legs - Metro cartoon

Typically the Japanese have got there before London with this and have little stickers on train windows:

There's a worrying similarity between that sign and the Metro cartoon in terms of the stance. So arms folded also seems to go hand in hand with legs wide apart.

I love the big exclamation mark and am not quite sure if it's really saying "Stop doing this" or "Warning men with over filled trousers are sitting opposite you". I certainly needed this sitting across from the guy below.

Baggy Jeans

Either way, I'd love to see signs for less Space Invading on the London Underground and I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking this.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, December 11, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Future of the Book & Blurb competition

As a follow up to the
Future of Reading on the Tube post which stimulated a really thoughtful discussion, I've been given some great prizes from Blurb books & last week was also able to attend a debate at Channel 4 - Game Up! on whether games have become the new reading and whether games can tell a story.

Reading New York Trilogy on the Tube

One of the themes that came up frequently at our session on the Future of the Book at Amplified08 was the different types of storytelling we were exposed to. Much of the gaming that people (particularly kids and young adults) play have complex and hugely imaginative narratives that rival the amazing worlds and adventures that classic writers such as Homer, Shakespeare and Tolkien created.

Adrian Hon & Cory Doctorow - Game Up debate at Channel 4

A fascinating panel was made up of blogger & writer Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing fame who's now published his first novel for young adults – Little Brother; Adrian Hon, the co founder of Six to Start – and a leading alternate reality game designer, who produced Perplex City, the world's first commercially successful ARG, Alice Taylor, Commissioning Editor of Education at Channel 4 & founder of gamecentric blog www.wonderlandblog.com; Andy Walsh, games writer, developer & story consultant and Derek Robertson a teacher & adviser for learning and emerging technologies with Learning and Teaching Scotland. Channel 4 also managed to rope in a couple of token teenagers to sit on the panel, so it was nice to hear what two 17 year old, self confessed addicted gamers thought on the subjects.

Hopefully, others have covered the debate better than me, but the panellists set out to cover the following issues: Where do we get our stories from and what do we want from stories now? What type of narratives do games offer and what does this mean for writers and readers? How can we build on this relationship to grow both the reading and the gaming market?

mixed media by chutney bannister

Something that often comes on the subject of digitalising books is the concept of copyright, ownership and whether the author will get paid if their work is freely shared on the internet. I've heard Neil Gaiman make the point that he doesn't mind when his work is shared for free and encourages it. Sometimes I think that's pretty easy for a best selling author to say. If you're minted of course you don't really care a few people "steal" or freely distribute your work. However, Cory made more sense of this opinion.

However, with consuming books and story telling online, content isn't necessarily king, but "Community is King". Cory spoke about fan fiction and the amazing forums & stories built around other people's work. When your book stops becoming something someone reads and becomes something someone does, then you've really engaged the reader. He argues that this shouldn't hurt sales as you still have to have read the original book to take part in the community, otherwise you're on the outside, not the inside.

Interestingly the teenagers' take on this was that you can't exactly read a book with a friend, but you can play a game with a friend. This is true, and unless you're forced to read someone's book cos you're stuck next to them on a Tube with nowt else to read, reading is generally a solitary experience. Admittedly there are a huge amount of book groups now which take shared reading to another level.

Book Twins on the Tube

As I mentioned in our session on the Future of the Book, whatever we think about Richard & Judy's Book Group it's managed to get more people reading than any recent initiative I've come across in the UK (even if it means the Stepford Wives approach to reading shown above).

Gaming with extended narratives & other online experiences can make our reading a lot more social. Making it more social is bound to increase the audience & isn't that what all writers want? Adrian Hon was lead developer with Penguin books "We tell Stories" project. Writers produced work for the internet and were not only able to do some experimental stuff involving Google maps, but also reached thousands more people than they could have hoped to in print. 200,000 people read 21 Steps, which would have made the book a major best seller if it had come out in print.

Derek Robertson said that he was using games like Guitar Hero as "contextual hooks" for children to write stories about imaginary rock stars. He had a major battle with parents who felt that their kids shouldn't be playing computer games but learning. However, once he showed them what could be achieved when children were allowed to explore words & writing through games they were much happier with the idea.

Guitar Hero III on London Bus

Derek also used old radio plays from the 1930's and 1940's as learning aids. He felt that a lot of the mysterious "film noir" and detective plots from those days had a lot of bearing on current popular games and interactive mystery novels like Hotel Dusk. Again the children managed to become involved as writers rather than just passive readers, which not only increased their enjoyment of the story but also taught them writing skills like creating suspense, tension and ending stories so that people wanted to tune in to find out what happened next.

Adrian Hon made the point that a lot of people are worried that gaming means that people are reading less. He said the counter argument is often used that people are actually reading more words now as many games have lots of words in them. He argues that this whole concept is fairly stupid as it shouldn't be a competition based on how many words people read. Isn't it about the quality of those words? Or the context of those words? Or what reading those words leads us to do next.

You can catch Adrian Hon continue a discussion on The Death of Reading this Wednesday at a mini London Geek Dinner.

The whole debate raised a number of interesting issues and I particularly appreciated the points about making stories available online giving authors a wider audience. In our Future of the Book session we spoke about how everyone can became an author or at least have a worldwide audience through blogs & other online forums. It's much easier to take that even further and if you want people to experience your work in a more traditional & portable form through a book – self publishing is easier than it's ever been.

Thanks for making it this far into the post, and there's a special treat for doing so. The guys at Blurb books are all about giving everyone the opportunity to create really great quality books & they've very kindly donated five £20 vouchers to make a book.

Win a Blurb Book

It's pretty simple to win one, just tell us (in a couple of lines or paragraphs) why you'd like a Blurb book and what you'd do with it. It might be as basic as wanting to see how your blog might work as a book. It may be that you've a load of pictures from your holiday that you think would make a great gift for your family. You may want to become the next Nigella Lawson or Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall & have some recipes that could make a fab cook book. Whatever. Just leave your reason in the comments below & if you've also got a website, blog or Flickr set to show us what you want to publish, add the URL to help us choose the winners.

You've got until 23.59pm UK time on Monday 15th December to do this and Blurb & their agency will choose the five winners. Don't forget to leave an email address or website so we can contact you.

Best of luck with the competition and please feel free to leave any thoughts you might have on reading and gaming too.

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, December 09, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Ivor the Engine's creator has died

Not exactly Tube related but Oliver Postgate the creator of one of the UK's best known railway cartoons - "Ivor the Engine" has died. Way before the days of Gary Lineker being the voice of
Underground Ernie, Postgate's warm voice and charming animations gave children, myself included, a sense of cosiness, calm and snuggliness (there's no other word for it). He also created the classic Bagpuss voted the best TV animal of all time.

See how Ivor manages to cope with snow in the top left hand corner of Wales. You never heard Jones the Steam complain about the wrong type of snow, or too sticky snow. RIP Oliver Postgate and let's hope the BBC decides to re-run Bagpuss, the Clangers and Ivor's adventures.

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, December 09, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, December 08, 2008

Tube Map Spoof or Work of art? - Simon Patterson Talks

What is arguably one the most famous & certainly expensive works of art featuring a London Underground Map is Simon Patterson's Great Bear. On Tuesday 9th December at 6.30 he'll be giving a talk on his life and work and hopefully might be able to explain how The Great Bear fetched £14,950 in an auction.

Detail from Simon Patterson's Great Bear

Patterson replaced the names of stations on the London Underground map with names of film stars, explorers, philosophers, saints, footballers, comedians, politicians, journalists, celebrities, artists, and planets in order to suggest new relationships between them and challenge the connectedness of things. "The diagrammatic Tube map and the star constellation The Great Bear are two of the most internationally renowned and easily accessible systems for ordering complex information. By adapting one and adopting the name of the other, Patterson's new arrangement of the 'stars' challenges the authority and function of both systems." said the London Transport Museum.

In 1992 The Great Bear was on display in the Tate Gallery and shortlisted for the Turner Prize. It also made it into the Sensation exhibition at The Royal Academy in 1997. But is it art? Matthew Collings and art critic from the Independent wrote "Where exactly is the art in 'The Great Bear'? Is it the concept or the execution? Is it about words or places?"

Probably spurred by this, in 1997 the Have I Got News for You team, produced their own Tube map for the back of their book Have I Got 1997 for You - an annual round up of the year.

Spoof Tube Map from Have I Got 1997 for You

Unfortunately I won't be able to go along to Patterson's talk tomorrow but the London Transport Museum have kindly offered a couple of tickets. If you'd like them please email me, it'll be first come first served. Otherwise tickets can be pre booked on 020 7565 7298 and cost £8.00 adults; £6.00 concessions and £4.00 for students. Full details are at the London Transport Museum's events site.

; Posted by annie mole Monday, December 08, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, December 05, 2008

Signs of Christmas on the Tube

It's only the 5th December and the Xmas parties are already in full force. Last night when I was coming home from a party myself, I spotted a rather tired reveller (I love that word, even though it has nothing to do with the chocolate treats).

Christmas Deeley Boppers on the Tube

She's wearing a rocking pair of Christmas snowmen Deeley Bopppers, while gently nodding off to her iPod tunes. However, she was only dozing and didn't need any of the "Wake me up at XXXXX" stickers or other tricks needed to get you off at the correct London Underground stop.

The Wake Me Up at XXXX station stickers actually make brilliant Secret Santa presents or Xmas stocking fillers.

They're only four quid (including postage) and I've put bagged them for Secret Santa gifts in the past. However, I've not actually seen anyone wearing one yet!

Expect to see other signs of Christmas on the Tube over the coming days and if you have any thoughts or images of what Xmas on the London Underground means to you, I'd love to hear or see them.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, December 05, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Kipper's Birthday Party at London Transport Museum

If you have kids and are in London this weekend, you might want to take them to the London Transport Museum, so you can find out what Kipper's favourite form of transport is. I hope it's the London Underground, as cute dogs seem to be at home on the Tube, like the lovely Yorkshire Terriers I saw a couple of days ago.

Yorkies on the Tube

For the uninitiated Kipper is a cheeky little puppy (drawn by Mick Inkpen) and he'll be celebrating his birthday over the weekend.

"Find out if he prefers to travel by Tube, train or by a big red London bus; enjoy special games and activities; and join story time with children's entertainer, Liz Fost.

All children will be given their very own Kipper goodie bag with a copy of "Kipper’s Birthday", a Kipper poster, Kipper ears and colouring sheets.

Tickets for Kipper's Birthday Party must be booked in advance on 020 7565 7298 and an adult goes free with each paying child! His party tickets are £10.00 per child. Also up to two adults per pre-booked children's Kipper Birthday Party ticket can receive a 50% discount on entry to the Museum galleries. For full details visit the London Transport Museum website.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, December 05, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tube Stations to be Sponsored

Next stop Pledgeware Road, Oxoford Circus and all stations to Elephant and Castlemaine XXXX. That's something we may well be hearing in the very near future. TfL announced today that they are lifting their ban on Tube station sponsorship.

Campaign magazine report that Transport for London are looking for an agency to come up with ideas to help them "optimise advertising revenue".

TfL's group marketing director, Nigel Marson, told Campaign that: "One could imagine that a business like Selfridges or Harrods would put a value of hundreds of thousands of pounds on the sponsorship of their nearest station.

"It would not take many of those deals to reach a figure in the millions.

Marson said other options included sponsorship for road safety initiatives, and the sale of real-time travel information to sat-nav companies. He continued "The trick is valuing the opportunities properly. We are spending taxpayers' money in order to reap more money to plough back into investment, so we must get best value."

Well I think that any agency pitching should look to the Far East as they are already doing some pretty innovative sponsorship of their subway systems.

IKEA (who have sponsored London Underground maps) took things much further in Japan and actually kitted out whole carriages with their furniture

Ikea sponsored subway carriages

Wonderbra have sponsored the yellow safety line on the Singapore subway.

Wonderbra sponsored safety line

The line's a few inches further back, implying that if you wear a Wonderbra your enhanced boobs will mean you need to give the train an even wider berth.

You can go too far with safety advertising though. Abdullaah sent me an errr... interesting... ad for a firm of undertakers with a tongue in cheek (I hope) request to stand a little closer to the read the ad.

Ad location Fail from Failblog

That's not coffin chasing, that's coffin predicting and it's pretty obvious that TfL wouldn't sanction that.

However, I wonder if this new announcement means they'll be a little less pious and prudish about the advertising they deem acceptable? Nip/Tuck had to cover up their models a bit and make them less sexy before they were allowed to advertise their new series. There was also a bit of a kerfuffle about a work of art which showed some nudity.

But as I implied with the case of Nip/Tuck perhaps if the price is right, these optimised advertising revenue spots may be OK. As usual comments welcome and if you can think of some stations that are ripe for Tube sponsorship and what they might be called, I'd love to hear them.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, December 03, 2008 Permalink COMMENT HERE