Archive for January, 2008

eircom announce speed iterations

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Worst kept secret in broadband but speed increases are always welcome.

Customers currently availing of a 3Mb, 4Mb or a 6Mb product will see significant increases in downloads speeds which will at least double. They will be upgraded to 7.6Mb, 10Mb and 12Mb product respectively. Customers currently using a 2Mb product will be upgraded to a 3Mb product.

More than 240,000 wholesale and retail customers will now see their broadband download speeds increase

How many do they have on DSL, inc the resellers? That’s a lot of people that are on 1Mb broadband so.

New Speed : : : Old Speed : : : When increases will happen
12Mb/1Mb : : : 6Mb/512k : : : March – May 2008
10Mb/832k : : : 4Mb/484k : : : March – May 2008
7.6Mb/672k : : : 3Mb/384k : : : June 2008
3Mb/384k : : : 2Mb/256k : : : June 2008
1Mb/128k : : : 1Mb/128k : : : N/A

I know some people that got the “upgrade” and their speeds were far from doubled. All depends on your line. But even when you are near an exchange, this might not be a guarantee.

Edit: Yes, the upgrades are free. I doubt contention ratios will change.

2500 people have subscribed to my website instead of coming back each day. You can subscribe to the site using a feedreader or email. I'm also on Twitter. My online marketing blog might also be worth a visit. Thanks for visiting - Damien.

Book week: Interview with Kieran Murphy

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Blog Award winning, book deal getting, amazing ice cream making Kieran Murphy runs Ice Cream Ireland the most torturous website in Ireland for those on diets. The blog has one acclaim all over for the quality of writing and the insights on ice cream. Kieran also answered some questions about blogging and books.

You’re the ice cream king in Ireland, certainly online. Why did you start the blog? Was it a business reason or did it just work out as being a great but accidental business decision?

It wasn’t accidental, although I never dreamed it would be so successful. I started the blog because I saw that blogging was in the news and was already aware of the potential because of successful bloggers out there, both in terms of web traffic and profile. One of our goals as a company was to become known experts in our field (ice cream), which certainly helps with the press. In addition, I wanted to create a forum for Murphys Ice Cream customers and potential customers for feedback and new ideas. Both of those goals have been largely successful. Finally, I love what I do and wanted to share it both with customers/potential customers and other interested parties.

Your blog is constantly referenced in articles as being a great example of a business blog. Do you feel under pressure to perform if you will and to work harder on what you write on the blog?

I don’t think so. I enjoy writing the blog, and although I’m pleased by the mentions, it doesn’t really change what I do. I’m quite certain I’d continue as long as my readers are interested – with or without any acclaim.

Have other businesses approached you asking for advice on how it’s done?

No. It’s a bit surprising to me, since I see it as such a good thing, but I haven’t been approached by anyone. In fact, I’ve tried to convince some friends who are business people to start a blog with no success.

In terms of importance to the business and priorities, where does the blog come?

It’s not a big priority in terms of the business, but rather something I do mostly in my spare time. We don’t have meetings about the blog or plan content or anything like that. It really is an on-line journal of the issues I find important at the moment or recipes with which I or my production team have been playing. It’s a big time commitment, but I don’t mind since I enjoy it so much.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give a business that wants to start a blog?

A business blog should contain information that is useful to the readers. There must be a pay-off for them visiting your site. In my case it’s the recipes as well as tips and tricks and information about Kerry and a personal point of view. Company propaganda is unlikely to interest many people…

Congrats on the book deal. How did that come about?

The book came directly from the blog. An editor at our publisher was a fan both of the blog and our ice cream, saw the potential for an ice cream cookbook, and contacted me. Needless to say, my brother and I were delighted. We then put together a book proposal, which their board approved.

When is the book coming out? How is it going to be marketed?

The Book of Sweet Things will come out in April and should be available in Irish bookshops nationwide and on Amazon. In terms of marketing, we will market it in conjunction with the publishers. They have a wealth of experience in terms of marketing books. From our side, we will mount a PR campaign both in traditional media and on-line. Of course, we also expect to sell a good few copies through our own Murphys Ice Cream shops in Dingle and Killarney.

What’s the work regime for putting the book together? Is there a certain amount of time set aside each day?

That would probably be the best way to do it, but since our business is so seasonal, I didn’t really get anything done until the summer season was past, and I then put the book together in a few months of intense work. My brother covered all the other parts of the business to give me the space to do so and helped with the editing.

Putting a book together is new to you, I assume? Did you get advice from a few people on how to do it?

It is new to me, but I didn’t get advice except from my brother and parents, who were very helpful. I figured the publishers like what they saw on the blog, so I simply continued in that vein. Of course, a cookbook is very different from other books, since so much of it is simply recipes. It requires less writing and more testing than other types of books! I also did the photography myself, and that was very time-consuming.

You’ve done pieces for the Irish Times, you’ve done the book, have you been approached by a TV company about doing a series on icecream?

Not yet, but that would be great fun!

What’s next after the book?

I’ll get back to the ice cream. There’s always so much to do and much to improve, and there is a new season coming up. It’s really my first love. In the longer term, I do like writing, and I would like to do more of it. Whether that means another book or media writing depends on what comes my way.

● Fluffy Links – Thursday January 31st 2008

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Fluffy

Niall has the most inappropriate video tribute to Jeremy Beadle ever.

Trinity shows off her Fluffy badge. So in case you didn’t know, the rule is if you want a Fluffy badge you have to have been linked from a Fluffy link. Only 13 of the limited edition badges are left. Want one?

Klara talks Cowboy Bebop. Great ending to the show.

What Shane said.

Piaras explains why people trust John Waters more than bloggers. Well known fact. Can’t prove it. Crying as he blogged it.

Apparently there’s a Blog Awards thing happening. Who knew! Limerick is the centre of the blogging universe it seems.

mySpace is opening. I believe it’ll be a creaking sound.

via Mick

ComReg to spend close to 3/4 Million to decide on a decision to break up eircom

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

From here:

ComReg wishes to announce that it has awarded four contracts to three sets of consultants, for consultancy services advising on eircom’s proposed structural separation. The total value of all four contracts awarded is €712,846

Consultancies who will write a report, that will end up with ComReg coming to a decision about eircom, which will lead to a public consultation, which will lead to a further decision which will lead to what exactly…

I don’t think they have the moxy or the power to split them. eircom have said they’re splitting, not like they can be stopped.

Book week: Interview with Grandad

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

I sent a good few questions to Grandad about blogs and books and life and er porn. Below are the jumble of questions and below that are some very insightful answers.

So, tell us about the blog to start with. What’s it for? Who is it for?

You seem to have a massive community around your blog which gets bigger and bigger. What’s it like to have a daily audience and to have people there every day waiting for your words? Do you feel more pressured to perform nowadays?

I remember the day well when Michele told us all to check out the blog. It wasn’t soon before you were on TV talking about it too. And now a book. You hit the ground running and life is getting more and more interesting for you. When you first considered blogging, did you think it was going to be anything like this?

It has to be asked. OAP porn. You seem to get the most fucked up searches coming to you. You got a book deal, had any other type of “offers” from Adult entertainment or “niche” content producers?

So the book deal. Wow. Congrats. How did that come about?

You talk about the regime for getting the book started? Has your day become very regimented now? What’s your work ethic? Have you done any projects like this before?

When is the book out? What kind of marketing will be involved, do you think?

What’s next? Going to try and get O’Shea’s slot and spend time on the couch with Seoige?

Like it or not, you are now a role model to other bloggers. What advice would you give to them about blogging or getting a book deal?

** ** **
Answers from Grandad

OK. The blog…. You can blame Michele for that. I can’t remember where it happened [I think it was on the phone?], but in mid October 2006 we were talking about blogging. I knew absolutely nothing about it. I had read one or two blog posts, but that was it. I threatened to start a blog, and Michele told be that under no circumstances was I to do so, and that if I did, that no one would be safe! I took that as a challenge, and set up a blog the next day. Again, I didn’t even realise there were free blogging platforms at that time, so I set it up on its own server.

As I didn’t know what blogging was about, I just wrote whatever came into my head. I have more or less continued that to this day. Sometimes I have an idea, and sometimes I don’t but just write. Strangely, the spontaneous ones often get a better reaction. The concept of Grandad railing at tourists and Americans just evolved. In fact, since the blog started, I have gained quite a respect for Americans. It’s now the Irish I blame for embracing the American culture to the detriment of our own!

I don’t know how my community grew, or why the blog is popular. I write for my own amusement. If possible I try to make it amusing. I think it was just a case of being in the right place at the right time. Sheer luck. I don’t consider myself a writer, and had never written anything before, let alone published anything. My first break came when Sinead Gleeson was approached by the Irish Times to write about blogging. She was asked to suggest other bloggers, and for some reason, she chose me. I don’t know why. That was my first ever published article! Then I was approached to do the CapitalD thing. Again, I was amazed. It was great fun filming though. Strangely, neither the Times or RTE increased public awareness that much.

I think the first time I realised I might be on to something was when I was nearly shortlisted last year in the Irish Blog Awards as Best Newcomer. The next big break was when I was invited by Dario Sanchez [now no longer blogging] to join in a podcast with some people in America. That podcast has been running ever since. We lost Dario, but have since gained Baino from Australia. The podcast was a toehold into the States, and they now account for the majority of my readers.

I was recording the podcast yesterday, when one of the contributors pointed out that I hadn’t blogged yet. This was at 1.30pm here [7.30am, his time]. He said the first thing he always did at 6am was read my latest post, and he was pining. Others have commented too if I am late in writing, so I do seem to have created a pool of conditioned readers. Yes. That does cause a certain pressure. In fact, I am going away this week, so for the first time in fifteen months, I won’t be blogging. I will have to put up a warning to this effect!!

As for the way the site has developed – I am at a total loss. I hit a Feedburner figure yesterday of 285 which amazes me. A lot of it was to do with an article I wrote in October last about “How to drink a pint of Guinness”. Donncha Stumbled that, and the reaction was unbelievable. I had 26,000 visits from that one Stumble, and a lot of them stayed. Then I was shortlisted for the Net Visionary Awards. That amazed me, but the biggest shock was the Golden Spider. There was no way on earth that I expected that one!! Now I have the Digital Media Awards coming up. I’m shortlisted but I don’t think I’ll win. Leastwise, it’s very unlikely I’ll be going.

The book came about from an email. It was as simple as that. I got an email one day from Mercier Press, saying that they had been reading my blog, and would I like to write a book? We had discussions about it, and as you will have seen from today’s posting [Sunday], a novel sort of evolved from the discussion. I actually signed the contract on the day of the Spiders.

It is very hard going for a first timer. Usually what I do is spend the morning catching up with work. I than have a nap, and try to spend a few hours at the book. Some days I miss altogether, but generally it has become a routine. Some days it goes very well. Other days I panic. I will doubtless be meeting with the publishers when the first draft is done, and we’ll probably discuss marketing then.

The Senior Porn? Hah! That started out when I wrote a post about spam I was receiving. I inadvertently used all the wrong keywords, and of course that ranked me even higher. So, to an extent, I have encouraged it. Of my top 10 search term in the last month, only two are non-porn related!!! The Paris Hilton Naked Pussy went down very well. I rank very highly for her now. I am now an expert at search engine rankings! I even out-rank Cully and Sully and get a lot of searches for them. So far, no offers from that sector of my market :-(

As for what’s next? I haven’t a clue? I play things by ear. If the book does well, then maybe write another? And if it doesn’t, then I still have my other business [which refuses to die]. I never have high expectations and have already got a bet on that my book sales won’t exceed 500. So I’m not buying a suit to appear on The Plank’s show. I wouldn’t mind an appearance on Podge and Rodge though? Seoige? Forget it! Ni Bheolain? Bring her on!

You ask my advice? I don’t know. I don’t really know what I’m doing that is right. One thing I have toyed with is a blog on how to blog. But that is a bit like a writers course. If you can’t write, then you can’t be taught. But the kind of advice I would give in the blog, apart from the technical side of plug-ins and design, would be to have a rapport with the readers. I try to respond to as many comments as I can. They have taken the trouble to comment on my blog, so not only do I feel I should respond, but that it’s only fair that I comment on their blogs too. As for getting a book deal? They came to me. I think that more and more publishers are going to turn to the blogging world for fresh meat. They can see whether there is potential. If they think a blog is good enough, they will make the approach.

You say I’m a role model???????? I did notice a few times in the past that I wrote something, and not long after, a few other bloggers copied my style. I think I was one of the first to start writing about my search terms? That seems to have caught on. There are a few other quirks of mine that have suddenly become familiar elsewhere too!

Noel on Hillary

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Noel Rock is a very good friend of mine who I know for years now. For the past few summers he’s worked as an intern for Hillary Clinton and was one of the folks that recently campaigned for her in Iowa, in between studying and doing exams back in Ireland. As you do. I’ve been pestering him for months now, perhaps even years at this stage to do a guest blog post here to explain his thoughts on Hillary and he finally sent them on. He’s also just started his own blog so head over and subscribe. I expect great things from Noel in a few years (and told him so now theres loads of pressure) and he’s already done extremely well for himself for someone barely in his twenties. I’m really proud of him. (Further pressure). Noel no Hillary:
***

Hillary – our nominee?

A tantalising question mark looms over the once inevitable candidacy of Ms. Clinton right now though, for many both here and in America, an even more tantalising question mark looms over Ms. Clinton herself: just who is she?

I’ve travelled across fourteen states in the last year – spent a night in a Ron Paul youth camp, sat beside an elderly man smuggling drugs across the border for him and his wife and met a cacophony of people representing the length and breadth of American opinions. I’ve really tried to get in touch with what people were thinking and why and, at this stage, I’d imagine I’ve talked to well over a thousand people representing a real spread of American interests, values, thoughts and beliefs. Some Republicans, some Democrats; yet all are united in their discontent with where America is and where it seems to be going.

In such situations, the topic invariably shuffles as to why I’m in that particular state since I’m Irish, far from home and completely inappropriately dressed for whatever climate I happen to be in and – without effort – Hillary comes into it eventually. Without fail, upon the mention of her name, people tend to volunteer an opinion and, indeed, I’ll bet that you may also have had an opinion from the outset of this piece: I’m not out to change your opinion, there’s no hard sell here or heart-jerking stories, just my own experiences during the last two years on and off the Clinton bandwagon.

Having grown up with only a vague interest in American politics, I’m now indelibly linked with Hillary as you have probably guessed, yet it wasn’t always this way. In the never-repeated (and with good reason) words of Jackson Browne, people need some reason to believe and – for me – it was my first experience interning in her Senate office in 2006 that made me commit to her.

The first thing that really struck me, upon spending a few days in the office, is the incredible amount of constituency work that takes place. As a Senator for New York, she is responsible for the welfare of nineteen million Constituents: no mean feat and, perhaps tellingly, she has a huge staff to correspond with them.

Yet, whether it’s a new bridge being constructed in Buffalo, farming issues in upstate New York or crime in a local community on Long Island, she seems to be aware of it all. She’s keen to keep an eye on New York even while she’s campaigning and – consequently – has still shown up to a raft of Senate votes while on the trail. This consistent attention to detail during her Senate termwas rewarded aptly with a 68% re-election rating, something which is not as inevitable as many would believe as – in the last three decades – there has generally been at least one Republican holding a Senate seat in New York. It isn’t thrilling, it isn’t flashy; it’s just good, solid policy work – and she gets it done. That’s the first thing I think America needs: an industrious President who knows what needs to be pushed through in order to create lasting reform.

Obama has talked about ‘change’: it’s the bedrock of his campaign and, I’d like to talk about that for a moment because – for me – change isn’t some spontaneous act. Much like patriotism, I don’t believe it can be expressed in a sudden way if it is to be in any way effective: rather change, when it is real, lasting and meaningful, marches to a slow beat and – in that sense – I think the change that Hillary provides is one that is more useful for the situation that America currently finds itself in.

Moreover, an absolute expert in international relations, diplomacy and someone who is at the top of her game in every field: she had nuance and expertise on a wide, wide variety of topics and always seemed to be eager to learn more and add to her depth and range of knowledge. This was particularly illustrated to me one day when – during one of our short but pleasantly insightful conversations – I mentioned to her the issue of nuclear power in America and, after a little back-and-forth, she broke in “well, it’s an issue at home for you too? You don’t want to build any plants yet you import most of your own power – and then there’s Sellafield…”. I found this to be stunning and, the notable thing was that I introduced the topic of nuclear power, not her. There was no conceivable way she could have prepared for the conversation, yet she had insight and nuance. There are so many more examples of such knowledge that I could share.

Indeed, it was perhaps telling that, when Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley visited Ireland, they requested to see Senator Clinton after all she had done for the peace process. I was sitting in a conference with Mr. McGuinness once and she came up and, it was quite insightful what he had to say, as he stopped to note what an instrumental role she had played in that process by “knocking their heads together” and “making them realise they had to wise up”. And that was without a mandate as First Lady. Goodness knows how well she’d apply those skills to a Presidency.

Getting back to the office itself though, it was a fierce environment and an intimidating prospect: being joined by over thirty fellow interns from Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Brown and Columbia among others, I was working with some of the most academically gifted young people that America had to offer and, in order to get meaningful work, you had to – in Hillary speak – ‘dare to compete’. And, thankfully, I did: I got to collaborate on two speeches: one on farm policy (“You’re Irish, you can do this!) and one on foreign policy (“You’re foreign, you can do this!”) but – to be honest – the most enjoyable job for most interns was the most mundane-sounding one: giving tours of the Capitol. Maybe it was because I just liked walking and talking too much. I don’t know.

One thing is for certain, whatever bit me during the first three-month stint in her office has kept me coming back and, some twenty thousand miles later, after working through the humid urban swamps of D.C. and the freezing plains of Iowa, I am most definitely hooked on Hillary.

● Fluffy Links – Wednesday January 30th 2008

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Fluffy

I’m apparently talking at UCC’s Journo Soc conference, as is Rick. The topic of the conference is “Death of a newspaper: is the traditional newspaper at risk of being replaced by the various strands of new media?” I’m getting two grand for a 20 minute talk so I’ll say whatever they want me to say.*

Lovely lashes Niall shows where his fluffy badge is at.

Why Rob blogs.

Check out this event. The OpenIsland Free Software for business event.

A virtual gallery in Second Life? Haydn and Roos are launching one on January 31st/Feb 1st. Images look fantastic. Contact Haydn on ten_cubed_events < at > depoconsulting.com if you want to attend.

Christ. On a bike. No. Really.

And even more Christ on a bikeness, a new episode of The Simpsons that was funny.

The Tipping Point not so right?

Are these really the top tech influencers. Napster founder above Bill Gates?

How do you like your Google search results, sunny side up?

Leveraging a very annoying Facebook App is good for business. I’m telling you, the money is in an app that blocks all these other apps. Charge a weekly subscription fee.

Cheeseburger in a can. Yes world, you can end now.

300 vs. The Army of Darkness

*Might, nay is, a total fucking lie.

Latest Fine Gael Broadband Manifesto: Blinkered, backwards, boring

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Well I guess they do need to keep going when it comes to being clueless.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, launching a new FG policy on broadband said the plan will tackle high prices, poor customer services and improve broadband availability and take-up levels that currently place us at the bottom of the international rankings.

No it won’t. The document doesn’t explain how that will happen at all.

So Simon Coveney now has brought out another FG manifesto. That Durkan is gone is a good thing, that Coveney is back, not so much. This new manifesto is all about fibre and all about ducting. Ducting is a big issue but they seem to forget that the issue of carrier neutral ducting has been smothered by the Department of Environment for about a decade now. Their Environmental person should be in on this too. Here’s the top 10 from FG:

  • 1. Mandate the Department of Communications to undertake a comprehensive audit of all ducting under both public and private ownership throughout the country. Based on this audit, a detailed plan of where ducting, especially between the exchange and the cabinet but also at backhaul level, is most needed.
  • Can they just ask eircom and others?

  • 2. Enter negotiations with all private owners of ducting for the purposes of securing open access to infrastructure, in an effort to try to create a web of open-access ducting throughout the country.
  • Haha. Hah. That’s like entering negotiations with M50 Toll Bridge owners. Who’ll negotiate?

  • 3. Tender for private sector interest in managing all State-owned ducting and coordinate with the regulator on the opening of access to privately-owned ducting. The contract will also provide for the management of roll-out of new ducting where appropriate. Funding for this will be provided from the ICT budget within the NDP.
  • The regulator. Oh god. You live and die in telecoms by the regulator. Lots have died.

  • 4. The State should support high-speed wireless connectivity to areas too remote to justify ducting and fibre connections.
  • ComReg are in charge of spectrum. Look how they screwed that up. You want to subsidise ComReg mistakes? Look who got the only National Wireless Broadband licence and what they did with it.

  • 5. Revise the terms of the contracts for provision of broadband to extremely remote areas under the National Broadband Scheme, to require that this connectivity be of a high-bandwidth.
  • Morons. How about scrap the most screwed up scheme ever. Did you read the Sunday Times this weekend, did you look at the NBS map which is a pack of lies about coverage? How about creating an honest map.

  • 6. Pass legislation to require ducting to be installed to the home in all new housing and apartment developments under new building standards regulations.
  • That’s been in Dept of Environment hell for years. Good luck with that. It is needed though.

  • 7. Pass legislation to require ducting to be laid as part of all new road developments and maintenance.
  • See above.

  • 8. Ensure that all infrastructure relating to roll-out of next generation access – at all parts of the network – be subject to fast-track planning rules
  • Not going to happen. Join the slow queue of things that need to be fast-tracked. It’s not about time it’s about the insane costs and the differents rules and costs in each locality.

  • 9. Invite tenders for provision of wholesale high-bandwidth access to state bodies throughout the country, such as schools, third-level institutions, hospitals and departmental buildings.
  • 10. The connection of Next Generation Access to all schools and educational in particular institutions needs immediate priority in government planning.

Think of the children! Why not connect every school to the MANs outside their doors and stop providing satellite to them?

It does seem FG forgot to read that last ComReg report that said Dublin and therefore Ireland is screwed but hell, bandy about terms like NGN and Fibre and you’ll sound smart.

Fine Gael show how clueless they are by saying the National Broadband Scheme will get Ireland 100% broadband. It will not. Had they looked at the scheme even quickly they could have seen this. The NBS will give maybe 10% of the country broadband, that still leaves 10-15% of people that were told go screw themselves.

More bits:

The Government’s National Broadband Scheme, which will start to come on stream in mid-2008, aims to provide basic broadband access for the 10-15% of the population living in remote areas. As a result, first-generation broadband availability should be at 100% within a few years at most.

Fine Gael needs to realise that people in the middleclass neighbourhoods that they prowl might be getting broadband, but a hell of a lot of people in poorer and more remote areas still won’t get ANY broadband. Why not consider them?

Even worse, users enjoy an average speed of only 3.011Mbps, third lowest of 35 OECD countries, with only Mexico and Turkey worse than us.

WRONG!

Fine Gael proposes prioritising the achievement of a “fibre to the cabinet” (FTTC) or “fibre to the kerb” (FTTK) network in as much of the country as possible as soon as possible. The connection from the kerb to the home will still be copper wire, but the fact that the entire network from the kerb back will be fibre will mean that speeds of up to 25Mbps can be achieved. Putting in place such a network will achieve the desired effect of a massive step-up in Ireland’s broadband speeds in a realistic time-frame and without imposing an unacceptable burden on the public purse.

Read the ComReg report.

Tools for press relations – Irish Media Contacts Directory

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

I was sent a free copy of the Irish Media Contacts directory this week and thought I’d blog about it as I’m already a use of it. I was working off an older one so this is handier for me now. While I have a nice press list I built up over time (and thanks to some silly communications managers using the CC field instead of the BCC field it has grown another good bit in the past 6 month) this book is more than email addresses. It’s a very good way of seeing how the press actually operates in Ireland and puts names behind those generic email addresses too.

In a way it’s like having profiles of the orgs you are sending a release to and that is very important. I’ve previously written a post on how best to approach Irish Journalists and the 100 quid a year for a May and November edition is well well worth the money. Think how much you’d pay to get hold of a press list of business journos and then see what this has 1000s of contacts.

As Piaras points out, the website itself is worth checking out, especially if you are looking for a PR/media job. If you are thinking of doing a press release or a campaign for your org or are a journalist looking for work, I think this should be one of your first purchases. Anyone got other suggestions for good resources?

Book week: Interview with Fiona from The Waiting Game

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Fiona McPhillips blogs over at The Waiting Game and has a book out in March about fertility issues. The book is called: Trying To Conceive. Fiona will be one of the people on the panel discussing blogging and writing a book on the afternoon of the Blog Awards. She was kind enough to answer some questions I sent to her. As well as being nominated for the Blog Awards, her blog has been shortlisted for the Digital Media Awards on February 7th. Best of luck to her. (Transparency: I’m judge for the DMAs)

Tell me a little bit about The Waiting Game, why did you start the blog? I sometimes blog as I find it thereaputic and sometimes I feel I have to blog to get the word out about something, almost like I have duty to inform people. Do you feel the same?

I started the blog after I had my first miscarriage in September 2005. I called it the Two Week Wait because that’s how long I thought it would last. The “two week wait” refers to the time between ovulation and when you can test for pregnancy. It can be a very long two weeks and your mind can go into overdrive imagining pregnancy symptoms. If you google “two week wait symptoms”, you get hundreds of thousands of pages of women discussing symptoms and potential symptoms and trying to work out if they are pregnant. The idea behind the blog was that I would document my two week waits for a couple of months until I became pregnant again and then someone else could take over and so on until we could build up a good resource of bona fide two week wait symptoms for others to obsess over.

Well, two weeks came and went, and another two and another two and before I knew it I had unwittingly documented the slow descent into infertility. Most infertility bloggers start out at this point but mine begins in a much more hopeful place and slowly slips into despair.

I didn’t tell anyone in real life about it for a long time. I mentioned it on parenting and infertility boards and that’s where most of my traffic came from at the start. Then I started reading other infertility blogs and we swapped links. There’s a great network of support around the world and some brilliant writers in infertility blogland. It’s not a subject that people ramble about indiscriminately and I think that most bloggers tend to choose their words carefully, which usually makes for interesting reading. And of course there’s the soap opera element of month in month out fertility treatments, doomed pregnancies and fraught personal relationships with the outside world. The lack of understanding of the fertile world is often something that is turned into comedy by bloggers and, despite the difficult subject matter, infertility blogs make me laugh out loud a lot of the time.

When I got nominated for the Irish Blog Awards last year, I started to mention my blog to close family and friends. I was also going through an IVF cycle at the time and realised it would be easier to explain myself in writing than face to face most of the time. It really has worked. Most of the time when you try to explain how you feel, the reaction is something along the lines of “Oh, it can’t be that bad, you can’t possibly feel that bad”. Followed inevitably by “You seem very stressed, maybe you just need to relax”. Stress does not cause infertility any more than it causes diabetes or myopia. That is because it is a medical condition that needs to be treated or cured. But popular opinion tends to believe otherwise. As does the media. So you tend to get a torrent of advice (or assvice as bloggers prefer) every time you mention the subject. Writing a blog means that you can say exactly what you want to say without the fear of assvice. And when you say it often enough and consistently enough, it starts to sink in. I get considerably less assvice today than I did a year or two years ago. Maybe people still think I need to relax/get over myself/move on/be thankful for what I’ve got but they no longer say it to my face so that’s good enough for me!

Blogging is also useful for answering the Sunday supplement type reports on infertility and miscarriage that raise their ugly heads periodically. Whenever such a lifestyle piece is published, you can be guaranteed that come Monday morning, you will get several emails telling you the good news that going on a cruise or drinking red wine or playing tennis will indeed help you conceive. Infertility is not taken seriously as an illness in the media and a blog is a useful outlet to answer back with scientific facts when necessary. I have a reasonable readership (400-800 hits per day depending on where the soap opera is at) so I hope that someone somewhere is persuaded every now and then. I get a lot of googlers, often asking the specific question I am addressing, i.e. “does swimming cause miscarriage?”, so I hope I can be of some help to them too.

I find your blog a tough read at times, there’s so much to deal with. What kind of reaction do you get from friends, family and strangers?

I generally get a really positive reaction from people that mention that they read it. They are usually very sympathetic and supportive and nearly always mention that they had no idea how difficult infertility/IVF/miscarriage can be. That is the most satisfying part of writing the blog, that I have managed to get the word out about what one in six couples goes through. I think that’s one of the ways in which blogging is truly revolutionary – the fact that you can now get a first-hand insight into how certain events and situations affect people’s lives. It’s a job that was previously left up to authors, playwrights and scriptwriters and that usually meant compressing the information into a specific format. Now people can read about almost any issue, no matter how difficult or personal, as it happens and in whatever format or style the author wishes.

On a personal level, it means that I don’t have to explain myself all the time. If we are going through a particularly difficult time, then friends and family can have a look at the blog and decide for themselves if it is a good time to call. I think it has helped them deal with me and vice versa.

How big an issue is fertility in this country and in the developed world as a whole? Is it one of the many unseen, yet common issues of modern times?

It affects one in six couples and this figure is rising all the time. Everybody knows somebody who is going through it, whether they know it or not. Some people prefer to keep quiet about it, others try to talk about it but whether or not they are open, everyone comes up against the cruel, thoughtless comments that are bandied about on a daily basis. “Maybe you weren’t meant to have children”, “You’re so lucky you don’t have kids, mine are a nightmare”, “Why don’t you just adopt, then you’ll get pregnant”, “It’s because you drink wine/drink coffee/exercise/don’t exercise/work too hard/obsess too much/live in the city/are too fat/are too thin/don’t eat meat/eat red meat/don’t eat fish/need to relax that you haven’t conceived yet”. You really have to have an answer for every thoughtless comment and after a while, you gather quite a portfolio.

The bottom line is that it is a very, very common medical complication and it is rarely spoken about very misunderstood by the fertile world. It’s bad enough that you have to watch your friends and family have so easily what you would literally give your right arm for, without having those same people betray their lack of understanding with an insensitive comment. You’d think, if most people know how much joy a child can bring, that they would understand how much pain not being able to conceive or carry a child might bring, but no. There needs to be a lot more discussion about how stressful it is (studies have shown infertility patients to have stress levels equalled only by cancer and AIDS patients) and how family and friends can support those suffering.

So the book. How did that come about? Did you consider writing a book for a while? What else is there out there in this area?

I thought about writing it when we had been trying for about a year (I thought I knew it all then – ha!). Then I got pregnant by IUI and everything seemed to be going well and the book fell on my list of priorities. When I miscarried again at three months I thought, right, I’m going to make something good come of this mess and so started to write a proposal. That was October 2006. About two months later, I sent the proposal to four publishers and two got back to me straight away. I spoke to both of them for a couple of months and eventually signed a contract with Liberties Press in March 2007.

The book is called Trying To Conceive. It’s a guidebook that takes couples through every step of the process, from the heady early days right through to IVF and beyond. It’s not autobiographical but I do offer a lot of insight into all the processes and suggest coping mechanisms for everything that infertility can throw at you. Coping with infertility involves about 10% of going through the motions of treatment and 90% of dealing with the emotional side of it, something that is not discussed much in other books or in society in general. There is nothing else out there like it, and nothing at all written from an Irish perspective.

I didn’t get the book deal because I have a blog but it certainly helped to have an existing profile, an audience and a substantial body of work. It is also a useful means of publicising and verifying my status as someone who has been there, done that.

What’s the work ethic for a book? Make a plan, do it, chapter by chapter or gather all data and then sort it all out?

I got some great advice from a friend who was about a year ahead of me in the non-fiction writing process. She had done a huge amount of preparation before sending in a proposal and suggested I do the same. I already had most of my data in my head so I did some market research, wrote detailed chapter plans and a substantial amount of background information, which all went into the proposal. I also wrote one complete chapter. When the time came to write the rest of the book, I didn’t deviate much from the original chapter plans. There was a certain amount of research to be done as I wrote but the main story didn’t change much.

How long have you been working on this?

Almost a year in total.

When do we get to see the fruits of all this effort? Has it been worth it, do you think?

It is due out at the end of March. It has definitely been worth it and I hope it’s going to help lots of people. At the very least, I hope it sparks some debate about infertility in this country.

Do you know how it will be marketed and promoted, will you be actively doing so?

I’m hoping to do lots of media when it comes out. It’s such an emotive topic and it’s rarely out of the limelight for long so I think there will be plenty of people willing to talk about it.

What’s next after this?

Well, I’m hoping to have a baby in May!