Discontinuing Reading Roars!

After much umming and ahhing I have decided to discontinue Reading Roars!, a blog I started in July 2005. With the last update going up October 2010 (half a year ago), the blog has run out of steam and spluttered to a halt. This has happened before, but on this occasion I will let it rest. Readers may continue to comment on earlier posts but my quill will move on to other things.

I would like to thank John McGarvey, Felicity Ford and Johnny Arrow for their fantastic contributions, and of course Reading Roars! readers. What a wonderful bunch you all are!

5 monthly green gatherings in Reading

Green Drinks
Green Drinks (Flickr)

This week, representatives from roughly 190 countries met in Nagoya, Japan, to thrash out an agreement on saving the world’s biodiversity. That’s a pretty big deal.

Closer to home (and on not such a high level), eco-minded volunteers undertake conservation efforts all the time; scrubbing streets, planting hedges and replacing saplings.These thoughtful enthusiasts help ensure a better quality of living for all.

Indeed, there are many green groups in Reading, ranging from the large (Greenpeace, FoE) to the seemingly obscure (Thames Valley Fungus Group, anyone?). Here are five such organisations, with details of their monthly meetings:

What: Berkshire Greenpeace
When and where: RISC Meeting Room 3, 3pm-8pm, first Thursday of every month.
Recent meeting topic: Rushy Mead windfarm development.
Interesting fact: They throw an annual Pirate Party.
Social media: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace

What: Reading Friends of the Earth
When and where: Second Wednesday of every month, upstairs at RISC.
Recent meeting topic: Carbon budgets.
Interesting fact: FoE have branches in 77 countries.
Social media: Facebook

What: Reading Green Party
When and where: Monthly, upstairs at RISC.
Interesting fact: Green Party councillor Rob White was named the top 20th Green blogger by Total Politics.
Social media: Facebook, Twitter

What: Reading Green Drinks
When and where: First Tuesday of every month, 6.30pm – 8.30pm, at the Global Cafe.
Recent meeting topic: Anheuser-Busch InBev’s carbon footprint? I’m guessing.
Interesting fact: Green Drinks is an event in 748 cities worldwide.
Social media: Flickr

What: Caversham GLOBE (Go Local On a Better Environment)
When and where:First Thursday of every month, 7.15pm, at 59 Church Street, Caversham.
Recent meeting topic: Clayfield Copse oak trees.
Interesting fact: There are actually six globe groups in Reading – the others are Newtown Globe Group, Oxford Road Community Garden, Redlands Globe Group, Southcote Globe Group and Tilehurst Globe Group.
Social media: No.

Reading Borough Council on Twitter

It looks as if Reading Borough Council have expanded their Twitter presence with two new channels: @Street_care and @readingcouncil. These join @FundingAdvice, launched in July 2009 to help voluntary organisations.

@ReadingCouncil, with a suitably burgundy background, have made a tentative start, commencing tweeting on 26 October and posting their second (and last) tweet a couple of days later.

Perhaps understandably, Reading tweeps have demonstrated little interest thus far; the number of followers at the time of writing stood at 44. These followers include Councillor Daisy Benson, arguably the most prolific user of social media in local government, and @readinglabour. Both welcomed RBC’s arrival on Twitter.

A few more daily tweets, including efforts to respond to queries (as a council should), and I’d expect followers and lists to soar. The Twitter team ought also to think about snapping up @readingboroughcouncil (to stay on the safe side), and perhaps attending a local tweetup or two when the time is right.

@Street_care, the Twitter profile of RBC’s Streetcare Team, is faring slightly less well in popularity, with 26 followers. Three tweets over a week or so (including an RT) is not an ideal start.

Are they ready? I see local Twitter users TwitPiccing filthy pavements and overflowing bins – and nudging the Streetcare Team to take urgent action. I see YouTube videos of scurrying rats. I hope that they up the ante a little.

What are your thoughts on the Council’s use of Twitter?

The Google doodle with a Reading connection

Still on the theme of logos, Google today celebrates the 156th birthday of Oscar Wilde with a (rather gloomy) doodle based on The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Oscar Wilde was famously imprisoned at Reading Gaol for two years, occupying cell 33, and was moved to write a poem on capital punishment,The Ballad of Reading Gaol, after his release.

Today, visitors to the town can experience the Oscar Wilde memorial walk sandwiched between HM Reading Prison and the Kennet river, and admire its beautiful railing, benches and gate (altogether comprising one of Reading’s best artistic sets, in my opinion) unveiled in 2000.

The memorial walk, attracting few visitors (surprising for such an iconic figure), is suitably calming and peaceful. The path is especially serene at this time of year, lying under a gentle carpet of autumn leaves. Worth a visit.

Help design a logo for this blog

A big story last week in social media was Gap’s decision to revert to their original logo after customers slammed their new design (right move; their new logo was poor). This has given me an idea.

I’ve always fancied having a logo for this blog. Londonist, admittedly a far bigger and better blog, have a rather nice one – a silhouetted city skyline.

The problem is, design isn’t my strength. So I will ask the audience instead.

Can anyone help, and suggest a logo for this blog? I really don’t mind how it’s done. You can scribble on a beermat and TwitPic it, if you like. Or email it to team@readingroars.com. Rude/risqu entries may be submitted (but please, nothing nasty).

All received will be posted on Flickr (with the exception of offensive entries) so that the good people of Reading may decide on the best submission.

The winning design will be adopted as the new Reading Roars! logo to feature prominently on this website and Twitter. Until we change our minds.

Erm, I think that’s it. Doodle away.

5 events for geeks in Reading

There are some ridiculously smart people in Reading. They are everywhere: working for big companies such as Microsoft and Oracle Corporation, toying with robotics, doing marvellous things with social media in their free time.

Geeks even enjoy a drink now and again (in moderation). Here are 5 social events in Reading where brainiacs come together to discuss all things technical over a beverage or two (and on occasion build clever things using drinking straws):

What: #rdggeek
When and where: Copa Bar, second Tuesday of every month.
Format: Alcohol, speakers and conversation.
Recent topics: Humanoid robots and flashing lights.
Interesting fact: They’ve just celebrated their first birthday.
Geek Factor: 9/10 (it would have been 10 but for the booze)

What: #rdgtweetup
When and where: Glo, Wednesday evening (8pm onwards) every two weeks.
Format: Beer, cider, wine and conversation.
Recent topics: Twitter. Probably.
Geek Factor: 7/10 (the Wokingham Road area was reconstructed using straws in the last meeting)

What: Reading Girl Geek Dinners
When and where: Third Thursday of every month; different locations.
Format: Dinner, speakers and conversation.
Recent topics: Mobile phones and how millennials use technology.
Interesting fact: Girl Geeks Dinners is established in 23 countries (and founded just 5 years ago – one month after this blog was started).
Geek Factor: 5/10

What: Thames Valley Social Media Cafe
When and where: First and third Thursday of every month; different locations between Reading and Farnborough.
Format: Coffee and conversation.
Interesting fact: TVSMC was inspired by the London Social Media Cafe (or Tuttle Club). There are now Social Media Cafes all over the country and across the world.
Geek Factor: 4/10 (social media: we’re all at it, aren’t we?)

What: CowCoop
When and where: Different times, different locations.
Format: Coffee and conversation.
Recent topics: Social dashboards.
Interesting fact: This really has little to do with cows.
Geek Factor: 4/10 (this event appeals to mobile workers, and farmyard animals feature prominently on the CowCoop website)

A Couple of Bands For You

Theres a lot of tat in Reading, a point which is regularly, forcibly, made by some of the lovely people who leave comments on this esteemed publication; most notably on the Ten Things To Do In Reading post (you should see the comments that dont get approved!). However, as a proud and loyal Redingensian I can hold my head above the parapet and say that theres also a huge amount of class here.

As has also been a regularly noted on Reading Roars, there is a vibrant artistic community. Most notably to me personally, there is a throbbing music scene full of a vast variety of different bands, all intertwined and mashed together but also very separate and isolated from each other. Ive got to be honest, as with everything here, there is quite a bit of tat, but there is plenty, probably more than in most places Ive been or lived in, of class.

One of the classiest bands in the town are Sleep Room, who sound like Pink Floyd if Radiohead had released Kid A in 1971. Theyve been playing in Reading for a good few years, they are almost veterans of the circuit, but recently they have caught the eye of a few people and have been gaining a lot more exposure with the release of their new CD Gone.

They play at the 3Bs – the bar under the town hall – on Friday night (15th), and this correspondent can very much personally recommend them.

I would also recommend a little band called Johnny Arrow & The Cheap Day Returns, who play at the Oakford on Wednesday night (13th), but that would just be abusing my position wouldnt it? Probably.

CowCoop co-workers meet in Global Cafe

As I write, a pair of freelancing individuals are working, tweeting, demonstrating and exchanging ideas from Reading’s Global Cafe. They call themselves “co-workers” and the organisers of this minor movement are CowCoop (#cowcoop).

Co-working is not a clearly defined concept. But from what I can gather, it refers to microbusiness or independent workers gathering in a public location such as a coffee shop to work and share knowledge. These workers, being free, roam from workspace to workspace like cows (and there you have “CowCoop”, a name also derived from co-working).

The benefits appear to be the environment itself (low-cost and comfortable); the coffee, probably better than the stuff served in most conventional workplaces; and the potential for new idea generation and innovation arising from different people interacting with one another.

I can see how something like this, given enough publicity, could take off. Britain is changing: the number of people in one or two-person companies shot up from 140,000 in 2005 to about 400,000 today (according to Experian). Many of these micro-company workers are armed with toys such as iPhones and iPads, making remote working an attractive possibility.

Today’s small herd in the Global Cafe seem optimistic enough. They have just told me via Twitter that their first CowCoop session is “going well”. Cow-abunga!

The Monk’s Retreat


That word provokes instant thoughts doesnt it? Teenagers. WKD. Aggressive young men with pierced ears and VD.

Or perhaps its other incarnation comes to mind the day time version of Wetherspoons, full of the retired ale-drinking gentlemen of advanced years, reading The Sun and flirting with the barmaid.

I have to say I prefer the latter. Hopefully that doesnt prematurely place me in the same social sphere as these people. Actually, to be fair, they seem happy enough. What better way to spend your day than sat in a pub drinking modestly priced bitter and studying the form for the 2.40 at Kempton Park?

Most Wetherspoons around the country are fashioned out of old theatres, or disused civic halls, or in one Northern case close to my heart, an old Turkish baths, but Reading has defied this trend and the three town centre spoons are all non-descript, low ceilingd places with nicotine stained walls and sticky wooden tables.

It was 2pm on a Tuesday and the most central of Readings Wetherspoons, the Monks Retreat in Friar Street, was absolutely rammed. We managed to find a table, right at the back, up the stairs below the swinging monk, dangling precariously above our heads like a 12th century fathers4justice campaigner, and parked ourselves at the only table available.

I was with two female companions and, other than the barmaid quietly going about her business, they were the only two girls in the whole place.

The service was swift and friendly. I had a pint of Black Adder, which is a light stout, more drinkable than I expected and thinner than a Guinness or a Murphys. A nice compromise when one is unable to decide between a pint of the black stuff or something more traditional. The sauvignon blanc which my friends were drinking was smooth and fruity, and more than worth its modest price.

Foodwise, this is where Wetherspoons can also justifiably claim value for money. My fish and chips was 2.99, cheaper than a McDonalds, and much more fulfilling. It even came with a free cup of tea (which I shunned in favour of my Black Adder), and I feel it would be remiss of me to complain about the hardness of the peas when the fish was covered in such delightfully crispy batter and the chips were so fresh that I had to wait for them to cool down before I could begin eating them.

The girls enjoyed a cheese and tomato quiche and a steak and ale pudding with deliciously salty gravy (I dipped the odd chip) and had very little complaints at all.

Yes Reading has great independent restaurants and a good selection of national chains serving pretty much anything you could imagine. And I appreciate that Wetherspoons hardly needs any publicity on a website such as this, but you know what? Them 2.99 fish and chips were the dogs.

What are Reading councillors tweeting about?

In a recent post, I revealed that roughly a quarter of Reading councillors maintain a blog and just under one-third are on Twitter.

Following this entry, I created a Twitter list of Reading councillors atReadingRoars/reading-councillors (it seemed like a natural next step).

Now I’ve gone a little further. For fun, I’ve created a “word cloud” of Reading councillor tweets, as shown in the image below (not interactive, unfortunately). This is generated from tweets posted over the past 24 hours (there haven’t been that many).

So what do you think?

Reading councillor word cloud

This is how I did it:

  1. Created a Twitter List of Reading councillor Twitter accounts;
  2. Submitted the list to Twitter Lists 2 RSS for converting into RSS;
  3. Added the RSS feed to Wordle. The font I selected was “Kenyan Coffee”, in homage to Workhouse Coffee’s Kenyan coffee tasting Sunday.