twitter, Helmut Lang and compartmentalising

So, I switched off twitterfox and immediately started to feel better/free, then I read a quick Q&A with Helmut Lang in The Sunday Times Style magazine. The following comments resonated:

  • I never settled on minimalism – that was attributed to me. I’m completely against categorisation. It doesn’t allow anyone to see or feel what they might be able to experience. It takes away the emotions.
  • I don’t separate work and life, which is a blessing. I don’t have to divide my time into something I like more and something I like less.
  • I need time to be alone. For me, a waste of time is the most productive time.


It has been said to me on many an occasion, ‘I am very good at compartmentalising‘ and I tend to reply: ‘Yeah, me too, I’m great at that’. LIE… I am rubbish at that. Everything I experience has an effect on everything else. I am hedonistic in that way. I like to indulge in experience, that sounds potentially rude/disastrous, but I don’t mean it like that. I mean that I love meeting interesting people, talking to them and indulging myself in discovering new things through them – be that worky stuff or social.

It does mean that I can be a complete bore at dinner parties (talking about work) and sometimes at work I go off on a complete tangent – because it interests me and the person I am talking to has an enthusiasm that piques something in me.

I have often felt guilty about this, seen it as a lack of discipline that I respect in others. It has not helped in my attempt to define my online ‘brand’, how I present a professional front whilst retaining the Emma bit that people invest in. But I take comfort from Helmut’s observation that by categorising everything, you take away the emotion – emotion can be good, well lack of it is very definitely bad. So, I am going to stop feeling so guilty and see what happens.

Separating work and life

This is a forever problem for me. I love my work, really love my work. I also happen to love my life – most of the time! I struggle to find the dividing line between the two. I do run my own business and my business is me – as in, I have my own consulting business (but that sounds a bit too wanky).

I happened upon my line of work by doing what I loved, explaining stuff to people in a way that they would ‘get it’ and would feel good about ‘getting it’, not stupid, but informed.

I don’t do this at home, but what I do do at home is what comes naturally to me, being a Mother of two girls aged 11 and 6. This I love, as much as I love my day job. (I know, lucky me).

So, I don’t want to stop one to be the the other and how can I? I can’t stop being Mum and it seems unnatural to me to stop being ‘work me’ when I am home being Mum.

This leads to the scary blurring of lines as explained in my latest post about twitter. And this I need to work on.

Being alone and wasting time

I have always valued being alone. As long as I can remember I have been the ‘geek girl’ the one who sits absorbed in books, ‘living in my own world’ or just alone. I love that time in my own head. Recently I have found my way back to it through running. Living life as a working Mother brings little solitude, at least little solitude without guilt! The perambulatory needs of my dog has created a wonderful opportunity for me to get at least half an hour a day to myself.

Wasting time: now this I do online. It does often seem as if I am wasting time when on here; but I never am. I am either learning or communicating – often both. And this is also important! Again there is the guilt thing. If I am on my computer, I am not doing something else that needs doing, therefore is it a waste of time?

I don’t know, I really don’t and as I write this I begin to feel the edges of guilt creeping in.

So, twitter et al

In this post I have been brutally honest. And I feel as if I am wasting your reading time because I do not yet know the answer to balancing work and life. But I do know that there are no defining lines and I am trying to find my own balance.

I do know that my use of twitter has had a detrimental effect on my own life: for example I started to text my friends and acquaintances as if they were on twitter. Passing on titbits of information that I found fascinating about my life and wanted to share – twitter stylee – regardless of their wish or need to know this information. Wrong! Sorry gang, you know who you are, and actually most of you don’t read my blog. 🙂

Somehow a line needs to be drawn, I think it is a very wobbly line, that frees up my ability to keep learning and sharing, but protects my friends from my tendency to over-communicate the stuff I am not sharing at work.

You see, it is not my professional life that I need to protect – that is enhanced by my overt nature and mind that loves to learn and thrives on other people. It is my personal life and my friends who suffer. I need to work on this.

Case study: social media and justice

The title might be a bit of a red herring actually, but I am a bit stuck as to what to call this post.

The challenge

A great friend of mine, Tom Cholmondeley, is imprisoned in Kamiti jail in Nairobi. His friends around the world were frustrated by an inability to get news of his welfare, other than through getting in touch with his – already frustrated – mother, Lady Delamere and girlfriend, Sally Dudmesh. Out of consideration most people left them alone, which caused a sense of isolation and more importantly, robbed Tom of the messages of support and good wishes that might help cheer him through his darkest days.

The solution

I spoke to Sally about how I might be able to help, and we decided that a website which gave Tom a voice and people an opportunity to get messages to him through the site would be a good idea. We came up with a plan using the following as our guideline:

  • To give a voice to Tom and those who know and love him
  • To publicise what is happening in the trial and Kamiti jail
  • To give hope and information to those concerned about Tom and his welfare

Using WordPress, I created a very basic site that enabled Lady Delamere and Sally to post up their latest news of Tom, including details of visits, Tom occasionally sends messages through his mother when she visits him, friends and family could leave messages for Tom and/or his family and Sally or Lady D print and take the comments from the site to Tom.

Understandably there were nerves around publicising what was happening in the trial, so we asked Tom’s lawyer to draft a precis of the trial for the site, and we limit comments on trial days to ‘a mother’s view’, where Lady D just explains how Tom is, looks and feels. We do not post any personal opinions on what is being debated in court.

Team Tom is made up of Lady Delamere, Sally, some close friends of Tom who visit him and myself.

The result

We started receiving comments to the site straight away.

  • Friends old and new used it as a personal channel to Tom which made a huge difference to how everyone felt, not least of whom being Tom.
  • Lady Delamere and Sally had an avenue to update everyone on what was happening and so felt more supported.
  • People who read pieces in the press were being directed to it and were able to post their own opinions – some not in line with the feelings of the family – but enabled the family to respond to criticism or mis-conception.

Very quickly it got Press attention and was linked to by the Sunday Times and Channel 4. Most recently we received the following message from the BBC:

I realise this is not the best moment to send you a message, given that you will all no doubt be completely focused on the upcoming court date. But I wonder whether it might be a request you could think over at a more convenient time.

I develop documentaries for the BBC, and would be very interested in trying to make a film with Tom, and the Justice for Tom group.

This would not be a news report, but a long form 60-minute film in which we could communicate more fully what this experience has been like for all of you.

As I said, I realise this will not be something you’ll want to think about right now. But I would really appreciate it if you could give it some thought at an appropriate time for you. For the moment, really, I would value the opportunity just of establishing contact with a view perhaps of discussing the idea at a later date.

I believe that it has achieved everything that we wanted it to.

Note: I was especially touched when a great and talented friend of mine: Dave Briggs – who does not know Tom – offered to weave his magic on the site and give us a new look that helped people use it more easily. I think it looks amazing and you can now see it – the site you are looking at is a professional version of my amateur effort, as from 17th March 2008.


I believe that in this day and age of information availability, (both online and off: through social media and the Freedom of Information Act), everyone can benefit from using the right tools in the right way. This is just one example of how it has worked very well. I would love to hear of others, and I also wonder how sites like these will start to play a part in ensuring justice is done – with a jury of peers that are unselected.