Category Archives: Blogging

How Not To Market To Bloggers.

Having just spoken on how to market an idea to bloggers to MSF (short version, we like truth and we also like stickers to put on our laptops), I received an email.


I was reading your blog and I see you have a very impressive way of describing things. The information you provide is very helpful. So I was wondering if you could take a look at our product *Pseudoscience deleted* and write a review about it.

this is a link to my site: www.*utter-twoddle*.com

I would really be interested to know if you could do an unbiased paid review for us.

Bad enough, but here are two other tips.

1) Don't use CC:, us BCC: when you send the email, then I won't see the twenty odd other bloggers you have sent this exact same email to.

2) Don't send it to someone who actually enjoys debunking fake science. Not me but the superb Black Triangle. I think they missed a trick by not also sending it to Dr. Ben Goldacre as well.

So – let's see what happens if I answer their email. The first thing I'll wonder about is if they'll have even read this blogpost.

The second is if they pay up when I test them and find them to but utter rubbish*

That's unbiased isn't it?

More seriously, if you really want to learn how to market to bloggers talk to Gia. She's my friend so it's an utter pleasure to mention her stuff on my blog – especially if it brings back memories from my past.

*Assuming they are – I have a scientific mind and am prepared to be surprised.


Days in the MSF clinic can veer between hectic – seeing hoards of outpatients; over 4,000 a month) and unreal – truck upon truck of patients with gunshot wounds arriving within hours of each other. But the staff we work with here, who have unfortunately seen all this before, carry on with such continued compassion and determination that one can only feel strengthened by their example.

“The biggest challenge I've faced so far has been with the acceptance and stoicism of the people of Sudan. Recently I saw a boy of 13, with a horrendous dilated cardiomyopathy [disease of the heart muscle] who I could only encourage to go home and enjoy what remained of his life.”

On Monday I was given the pleasure of speaking to Medicins Sans Frontieres at their meeting of their 'webby people'. I'd been warned that, based on the meeting last year, they were all rather sceptical of the use of blogging.

Unfortunately for me (who'd prepared for a fight), they appear to have come round to the idea nicely, there was a general agreement that social networking and blogging wasn't in fact a huge terror.

Also at this afternoon session was Karina Brisby of Oxfam and Tom Mansel of (who have helped people raise more than £240 million for various charities). I was there as someone who (a) blogs, (b) has turned out to be quite sucessful about it and (c) has managed to do so without getting fired.

The general gist of the chat was essentially that you *can* trust people to blog responsibly, that people are more interested in what individuals have to say rather than PR departments and that blogs enable storytelling which interests people more than dry accounts of situations.

And that sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

They are a good bunch of people, and the stuff that MSF deal with makes my problems (and the problems of a lot of the people I go to) pale into insignificance.

They certainly gave me a lot to think about.

On Stealing Books…

It's all the fault of Sony – they've turned me into a lawbreaker.

While I was America (nice place, shame about the government – although you may as well say the same thing about the UK) I spotted a demo model of the Sony Reader (PRS505). I'd been wanting to see what 'E-Ink' looked like so I had a bit of a play around with it and thought it was rather nice.

As I am a nerd and a shameful first adopter I managed to wrangle one into my grubby little hands.

It's really rather clever – the screen is easy to read, it's light and thin and it doesn't feel like you are reading things off the screen. You load the books onto it via your desktop/laptop system (and the software isn't Mac compatible, but there are workarounds).

So it came time to load some books onto it. First stop was the Sony Reader Ebook Store. It is from there you can pay for and download e-books. I quite fancied the Neal Stephenson 'Baroque Cycle'. I own them in 'dead tree' edition, but have never managed to read the whole three because the books are physically huge.

And then I hit a snag.

You see, you need a credit card that is registered in America to buy things from the store. Being a simple traveller from the UK I don't have such a thing. So my money is no good for them.

**Insert clever joke about current £/$ exchange rate here**

I want to give them my money. I give Audible my money for audio-books, I give iTunes my money for music downloads. But the rules of international marketing and the dumbness of Sony means that I'm not allowed to read their books.

What to do, what to do?

Well, I could scan the books in to my computer, perform OCR on them and put them on myself – but have you see the length of them? I could transcribe them myself, but then I may as well be reading them.

So instead I hit the bit-torrent sites and downloaded them.

I now have slightly wonky formatted copies of the books that I already own, books that I would have paid money for again for the ability to read them on my sexy new reader.

So lots of people have missed out on a sale.

Back in the day I used to illegally download music – now I have the ease of use of iTunes or eMusic, one day hopefully Amazon in the UK will offer music downloads. I'm happy to pay for these downloads because (a) Its the right thing to do and I'm no longer a skint student (b) It's just easier.

When video rentals for iTunes arrives on these shores I'll be using that, or a competitors service.

I like paying for my media.

I've downloaded books from Project Gutenberg and from (including my own book), but I want to give real authors real money for the privilege of being able to read their books.

But Sony says I can't.

The counter argument is that I have no 'right' to format shift works that I already own – move, for instance, bought CD music into the MP3 format. Yes, if you've done this then you have broken the law and the record companies can sue you into bankrupcy. Allowing this 'format shift' is one of the key recommendations made by the Gowers report (even though the government is being slow to bring it into law).

Ethically I don't think I'm doing anything wrong, if I'm allowed to resell books that I've bought (which I am) then why can't I reformat them into another readable format for my own personal use.

But by making me jump through these hoops I'm reduced to illegality.

With no work until Thursday, and no stories in my 'big black book of interesting ambulance stuff' I'm stuck writing about other things. Oh well, normal service will be resumed soon.

The ‘R’s

I feel relaxed. I had time on holiday to rest and recuperate. I sat around and did very little, no writing, no thinking about writing, no picking up drunks. It was bliss and I'm rather sad that it has come to an end.

I feel re-invigorated.

I feel re-susc-i-tated.

I'm also going to release, that is to declare bankrupcy over my un-answered emails, any podcasts I have left to listen to and all the RSS feeds that I need to catch up with. I don't like doing it, but I honestly have no time to catch up on all the things I've missed out on during the winter doldrums. This is a failure on my part. If you are expecting an email reply from me and it's important then please send the email again and I'll deal with it as it comes in. For all those people who emailed me to thank me for the book or the blog, I do read them all and they do all bring a smile to my face.

What this will allow me to do is rebuild some form of workflow and get involved in some interesting new things, some of which you will see on this very blog, some will be at one of my other internet 'hang-outs'.

So, this break has given me the chance to catch my breath, absorb some honest to goodness sunshine, and restart with new vim and vigor.

Rebooting in 5…4…3…2…1…

(And of course, as soon as I finish typing this blog-post while at Florida airport they announce that my flight will be an hour late and so I'll miss the connecting flight back to the UK. Bollocks).

My Long Day

A very quick blogpost and you may see why once you finish reading it…

05:25 – Wake up, stumble out of bed, shave and get my clothes on.

06:45 – Arrive at work, find there is no milk, so no cup of tea.

07:00 – Discover that there are no adult oxygen masks on the ambulance or in stock.

07:03 – First job.





11:28 – First (and only) cup of tea of the day.





18:35 – Miles from home we get our last job.

19:09 – We finally manage to get the heavy immobile (but very nice) patient into the ambulance.

19:20 – We reach the patient's hospital, miles from station.

19:40 – I find a nurse to hand over to, our patient is likely to be on our trolley for a few hours – I point out his high risk of developing pressure sores.

19:50 – Another crew come up with a cunning plan to get us away, Control agree to it.

19:55 – We start to head home.

20:17 – We arrive back on station, knackered. Due back in work in 10 hours, 15 minutes. Not counting commuting.

20:45 – Make it home – I'm too tired to cook, yet heroically managed to blog.

Oh well, at least I have a 'not a blogmeet' to look forward to with the lovely Gordon McLean. Then the day after that…ahem. A week in Florida as paid for by my lovely mum and brother.

Yeah – I'm looking forward to a week in some sort of sunshine.

A Change Of Roll

I've decided to delete Dr. Crippen from my blogroll. His latest post and response to comments has been the final straw and he has gone from a critic to writing things that for those of us who are used to internet communication are 'trolls' to cause argument. In this latest post he gets upset when someone mentions that a GP might have been less than perfect, and in response proceeds to insult every other medical/social care group with a blunderbus of incorrect thinking and generalist thinking.

He then goes on to answer critical comments with a standard 'you just don't understand' (implying that only he has insight into the entirety of the NHS), and that he isn't insulting nurses by calling them 'nursey'.

So I'm going to take my own advice and stop feeding the troll. No more links coming from me Dr. Crippen, you have been unwilling to engage in discussion, so I'm going to stop trying.

(I suggest other people who think the same way take the same action).

But like a hydra of goodness I remove one bad blog only to replace it with three good ones – Inspector Gadget, The Police Inspector's Blog, Mental Nurse, the blog of some mental nurses, and Mouse Thinks, the blog of an A&E nurse. All three blogs are excellent and I recommend them whole-heartedly.

Another Day Where I Don’t Moan

Two consecutive days at work, both starting and finishing exactly the same.

Both days start with an early morning call to a 'maternataxi' which, while I moan, is a nice way to ease into the day. Especially at six-thirty in the morning.

Both days ended pretty much the same, but that's not the remarkable thing about it.

Both calls were to GP surgeries, both patients were men in their fifties and both were suffering from a chest pain that could have been cardiac in nature. Both had been feeling the pain for eleven hours.

Both men were also in high risk groups, one a slightly overweight Asian gent with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The other was also overweight and had previously had a heart attack and regularly suffered from angina.

But this coincidence of time and illness wasn't the surprising thing. I'll tell you about the GPs and regular readers will soon realise what is unusual.

The GP of the first patient still had the patient in his consulting room, he'd started treatment by giving the man an aspirin, which is really rather important. As we entered the room the GP apologised for not having an ECG. He had also phoned ahead to the hospital to prepare the medical team for the patient. I explained that we would do an ECG in the ambulance and if the patient was having a heart attack we would take him to the cath-lab for immediate angioplasty. The GP didn't know that we could do this and asked if he could see the patient's ECG once we'd done it.

When we showed him the normal ECG, the GP apologised for calling us out. I told him not to be silly, as he'd had a good suspicion of the patient having a heart attack and had started the appropriate treatment, and that this was remarkable.

The second patient was also lying in the GP's consulting room. In this case, not only had the GP given the patient an aspirin, but they had also done a ECG. Not only that, but there was a typed note with the patient's medical history on it, and were in the process of phoning the patient's wife to let her know what was happening.

Compare this to the usual GP situations I find myself in.

These separate GPs had made completely reasonable diagnoses and had started treatment. This, rather shamefully, shocked my crewmate and I. We are much more used to attending to 'heart attack' patients that are sitting out in the waiting room, haven't received any medical treatment and are clutching a roughly scribbled letter addressed to 'Dear Doctor'. That, and the GP will be hiding in their room.

Two days on the trot, two superb GPs. What with yesterdays post, I may well run out of things to moan about.

Well, I can have a slight moan, both GPs booked their patient into a hospital far away from our station, thus making us late off home – but you can't have everything. After all it was the closest hospital to the surgeries.

Can I mention, for no real reason, that Medgadget have opened the nominations for the best Medical blogs for this year. No reason at all… Nope. None.

Post Talk

I've just come back home from Cheltenham. It was great fun, and I'll have a quick run down of some of the best points.

  • The hotel I was put up in was so posh a tiny bag of KP nuts cost £1.75. This is not a complaint.
  • I can find a Wetherspoons pub anywhere. It's a skill.
  • One of the staff in the 'Writer's room' wrote her dissertation on my publisher The Friday Project, including my book in it.
  • Another volunteer who looked after the panel did some work experience for The Friday Project.
  • Both of the above are obviously intelligence people of taste and distinction. Also pretty.
  • All the guests on the panel were lovely, as was the host.
  • Jed Mercurio, as well as being lovely, has given me a lot to think about.
  • Feedback from the audience was apparently good – I'm glad that they enjoyed it.
  • I did my first ever signing – it was *superb*.
  • I still feel like some sort of a fraud. I think that I need to get over myself.
  • I managed to get my favourite book of all time signed by the author ('Microserfs' by Douglas Coupland) and I managed to blabber like a fame struck idiot at the same time.

This is the first time that I've done anything public around 'literature' as opposed to internet/blogging. If they are all as interesting, well thought out, and perfectly organised as this one I'd like to do some more.

I'd also like to thank all the people involved for inviting me – it was great.

Now – back to work at 6:30am tomorrow, and back to writing about ambulance things.