The Fetch Blog

The best events and reads for professionals

Interview: Rachel Hills, gender writer and author of The Sex Myth — July 26, 2013

Interview: Rachel Hills, gender writer and author of The Sex Myth

rachel-brixton

Maintaining structure and balance is a huge issue for freelancers, and it’s something that I struggle with even now… One of the main ways I keep myself on track is by constantly switching up my routine: a new routine is fresh and exciting, and it keeps you on the ball for a while.

The Fetch recently spoke to Rachel Hills – an Australia blogger, TEDx speaker, cultural chronicler, and sex author living in London. Along the way, we got a fascinating glimpse into how to rise from blogger to full-fledged journalist to (soon-to-be) published author, and what you need to do to juggle time zones. (Hint: cut stuff out). We’ll be keeping an eye on Rachel, as she navigates the junction of sex, identity, Gen Y, and media. Could there be a more interesting zone to be in, these days?

You are currently in the process of having your first book, The Sex Myth, published. How has taking on the role of author in addition to journalist changed your daily life?

Writing a book has given my life more stability, especially in terms of income (not really any freelance writer’s strong suit). It can also be emotionally draining, though. Because the project is so long-term and has such a broad scope, it has required more focus, patience and internal motivation than the adrenalin-fuelled hustle and bustle of everyday freelancing.

Creatively speaking, it’s been great to work on a project that has really pushed me to my limit. Even the best newspaper and magazine articles have a relatively short shelf life, but a book hopefully has a bit more longevity to it. Which means you want to be doing your best work.

The Sex Myth explores the notion that unrealistic expectations about sex are plaguing the current generation of twenty-somethings. What surprised you the most as you carried out research for the book?

How much the subject matter has resonated with people. I started researching The Sex Myth five years ago because I felt like a misfit when it came to certain my sexual history, and I wanted to understand why. Half a decade, hundreds of interviews, and a slew of public speaking engagements later, I understand that a) there are a lot of people out there who feel like sexual and romantic misfits (more, perhaps, than who feel like their sexual histories are ‘normal’), and b) there are also a lot of people out there who are thinking very critically about the messages we are sold about sex, and about what it means to be liberal or progressive in this arena. Sexual freedom doesn’t just equal freedom from being told what not to do anymore; it also means freedom from being told what to do.

Your blog Musings of an Inappropriate Woman has received a number of awards over the last five years. How did you get started with your blogging career?

I wouldn’t call it a “career” – it’s more a hobby – but I’ve been posting work on the internet since the late 1990s. I started my first website, which was basically fan and pop culture commentary when I was still in high school, kept a website and various online diaries when I was at university, and launched my current blog in late 2007. It too is constantly evolving, but tends to focus on the subjects of gender/feminism, creativity, and the politics of everyday life.

Immediately after finishing college you went to work as a freelance writer for 10 years. What advice would you give aspiring freelancers on maintaining structure and balance in everyday life?

Wow! It’s been 10 years already! I didn’t actually believe you on that one until I checked my own LinkedIn page. That said, those earliest clips weren’t very impressive – and I’m pretty sure they didn’t pay (I didn’t start freelancing for money until a couple of years after I graduated) – but they were good for building experience and learning how to really write.

To answer your actual question, maintaining structure and balance is a huge issue for freelancers, and it’s something that I struggle with even now. I’m not someone who is terribly given to routine, and one of the main ways I keep myself on track is by constantly switching up my routine: a new routine is fresh and exciting, and it keeps you on the ball for a while.

Other tips? Keep your plate filled with work so there is always something immediate to be focused on. And ‘to do’ lists. There is a special thrill in checking things off on ‘to do’ lists.

Your work has been published across the globe, and you are self-described “fluent in time zones.” How do you keep a finger on the cultural and social pulse of global happenings enough to maintain relevance in your writing?

By not trying to stay on top of everything. Obviously you want to keep abreast of the main stories and conversations, but sometimes it’s nice to pull back for a few days and focus on the projects you’re actually working on. Good work requires you to go deep as well as broad.
Other than that, I read a lot. Twitter, RSS feeds, mailing lists, magazines and newspapers, the stories my friends post to Facebook. Sometimes it’s nice to get offline and get back into the “real world” as well.

Did you envision your life taking you in the direction that it has?

You know, it’s funny, because I went back to one of those old websites I mentioned earlier a few weeks back, and my life has unfolded pretty much exactly as I wanted it to when I was 19. Which is pretty amazing when you think about it. It has unfolded so slowly I barely even noticed it was happening, though, which always seems to be the way.

What are your favourite events to attend in London?

It’s a little bit daggy, but I love the Southbank Centre: the Hayward Gallery has London’s best contemporary art, the National Theatre is phenomenal, and then there are all the weird and wonderful speakers and performers that they bring in – recently, I saw Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker talk about fame, and a hilarious bunch of London cabaret performers put on an Alternative (and very dirty) Eurovision. For parties, I like the trashy pop of Guilty Pleasures and the immersive decadence of the Last Tuesday Society. For Literature, Kit Lovelace’s ‘Romantic Misadventures’ readings are always good for a laugh, and I love a good supper club as well. Live & Unamplified is my favourite I’ve attended so far, and I also recently launched a supper club of my own at Hub Islington.

About our contributor // Eliza Dropkin is a lover of live music, good food, and beautiful places. Connect with her on Twitter via @elizadropkin.

Interview: SF Local, Sandi MacPherson of Quibb — June 13, 2013

Interview: SF Local, Sandi MacPherson of Quibb

This week Eliza interviews the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Quibb.com, Sandi MacPherson. Follow Sandi on Twitter via @sandimac.

Sandi MacPherson
Sandi MacPherson

You are the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Quibb. What is it about your job that gets you out of bed and into the office every morning?

Sometimes when I tell people I’m working on a news product, they roll their eyes and say ‘…another one?’. That attitude is exactly what I think makes the job fun, interesting, and challenging. News is a busy space with no clear winner and it’s a huge market. It’s an established product category with a lot of room for innovating, and plenty of challenges to keep the work exciting.

Beyond that, it really is all about the people. I’ve spoken to so many Quibb members that have had really positive experiences (both online and offline) that wouldn’t have occurred without the product, and it’s amazing to be able to help those interactions occur and relationships develop. My experience with Quibb has also been a bit self-serving, in that I’ve built the perfect learning tool for myself. I’m new to the tech/startup world, and Quibb is a professional news product. This means that it allows me to easily find and read about exactly the topics, trends and news that I need everyday. The first thing I both need and want to check in the morning is Quibb, which is perfect!

Some would describe Quibb as a Reddit for professionals. Why do you think this kind of platform is so appealing? 

There’s so much content available to professionals (especially those of us that work in tech/startups) and it’s getting more and more difficult to find really great content. It’s even more difficult to have interesting discussions around that content with topic experts and professional peers. Through the simple idea of ‘share what you’re reading for work’, Quibb allows professionals to share all the great content they’re reading – and with a basic follower model, others can also get a feed packed full of great content, directly from people within their industry. The initial Quibb membership is focused on tech and startup professionals (i.e. designers, founders, VCs, developers), and will eventually allow professionals from any industry vertical to see what experts and thought leaders from their particular niche are reading and what they think about it.  The role of industry journals and trade publications hasn’t evolved at the same pace that social sharing has, and I think there’s a big opportunity to learn from sites and communities like Reddit, Tumblr, Hacker News, and others – but with a context that is 100% professional.

Do you think the popularity of news/content aggregation will continue to grow, and do you have any predictions for the future of the content sharing website?

There will always be a need for professional news. I believe that great content will win, irrespective of where it comes from.

Traditionally, news organizations have been about vertical integration of content, ads, and distribution. Now this ecosystem is becoming fragmented, where each of those 3 is its own ecosystem. Great content will increasingly find distribution because all of the aggregators and various curation products exist and are seeking that content out – they’re making it easier for people to find it

In the past, the editor-curated model was the most popular – someone within a news organization was responsible for determining (based on a variety of factors) which content to promote. Today, people are more enabled to seek out content that interests them. Running this experiment over the past few years, it turns out that sometimes this leads to more funny cat pictures and less serious journalism. The news market will grow and become more efficient over time. Similarly, I believe that we’ll create and people will find much richer and fragmented ways for both distributors and creators to monetize their audience via many different publishing platforms across many different monetization models.

All of this means that everything is becoming more complex… but that’s what an efficient marketplace looks like, that’s what progress in this space will look like.

You’ve been a leader in ensuring transparency between the Quibb and its users throughout the site’s development. What do you see as the benefits of transparency, and what advice would you give to young startups looking to be proactively transparent for their user base?

I’ve written lots of posts on Quibb – everything from why I’ve added new features, to explaining what I’m working on at the moment and why. Personally, I don’t really think of it as a novel approach, and don’t really understand why I wouldn’t act this way! Part of the reason why it makes sense specifically for Quibb (and potentially other products in this product category) is that the product itself is the members – it’s built on their connections, the content they share, the discussions they partake in. It would be silly for me to not initiate a relationship with the members. Also, I often say that I view all Quibb members as ‘mini-advisors’. My background isn’t related to tech or startups, while almost all Quibb members have expertise in an area that touches the product (e.g. interaction design, email deliverability, community management, etc.).

The fact that I’m so open is a way to initiate discussions with members whose opinions and thoughts I really value, and can learn a lot from as I try to make the product better.

You previously spent your career as a climate change and cleantech professional. What do you attribute as the cause for your move from the environmental sector to the startup world?

It’s complicated 🙂 I worked for Environment Canada (Canada’s federal environment department) directly out of school, followed by positions with a few smaller climate change non-profits. After realizing how hard it is to actually have an impact and create change through those types of organizations, I decided to go back to school and get my MBA, focusing on Corporate Social Responsibility. I was very disappointed when I realized that all of the things that I was learning about there wouldn’t be very impactful either. Since 1/2 an MBA is both useless and expensive, I decided to finish my 2nd year – but I shifted my classes to align with my personal Plan B, which had always been entrepreneurship, specifically something tech related. It’s then that I started going to some startup events in Toronto, and got a taste for all of the things I could potentially work on and create. I started by working on a professional volunteer matching product, but never made it very far. I realized pretty quickly that while the Toronto startup ecosystem is full of talented, super smart people – the quickest and easiest way to de-risk any idea or product that I would work on in the future would be to move to the valley. So I did.

Which Bay Area events or communities are you involved in?

Honestly, not very many. The community that has developed on Quibb has provided me with more connections with great tech and startup people than I could ever hope for! I’ve hosted a few Quibb member-only events too (one in Palo Alto, two in SF, and most recently one in NYC) which have gone over really well. I’m hoping to do more of these in the future, as I think that connecting with Quibb members that you meet online is really important, and helps to strengthen those relationships.

Blue Bottle or Philz?

New Orleans Iced Coffee from BB – straight black (…which I have to convince them to serve to me, most occasions).

_

About our contributor // Eliza Dropkin is a lover of live music, good food, and beautiful places. Connect with her on Twitter via @elizadropkin.

Link Love Roundup — June 10, 2013

Link Love Roundup

take-a-break

The next time you take a 10-minute break, check out these 10 reads we’ve gathered this week.

  1. Ignore The News by Stef Lewandowski
  2. On Online Communities, Burnout, & Feeling Like Not Enough by Meighan O’Toole
  3. Cutting The Bullshit by Chris Yeh
  4. Stop Trying To Be So Human by Gareth Kay
  5. We Are All Internet Addicts by Jared Keller
  6. Don’t Sell Your Time For A Living by Andrew Chen
  7. Email Is People by Whitney Hess
  8. Choose Collaboration Over Competition by Courtney Carver
  9. The Quiet Ones by Tim Kreider
  10. Beyond Money And Power by Arianna Huffington

Thanks to Melbourne Curator Kat Loughrey for link contribution. 

Thanks To May’s Advertisers — June 5, 2013

Thanks To May’s Advertisers

Big thanks to last month’s advertisers:

Interested in advertising on The Fetch? Check out the options here. If you’d like more details or would simply like to chat about how we can assist you, please email advertise@thefetch.com.

Interview: SF Local, Karen Kang of BrandingPays — May 31, 2013

Interview: SF Local, Karen Kang of BrandingPays

This week we interview branding expert, author, founder and CEO of BrandingPays, Karen Kang. Follow Karen on Twitter via @karenkang.

You are currently the founder and CEO of BrandingPays. What do you focus on and why do you love branding?

I’m a brand strategist for corporate and personal branding.  The focus of my company is on consulting, seminars and personal branding coaching. I love branding because clients find it so empowering.  When you have a visible and respected brand, the world knows when and why to engage with you. Opportunities come your way because you have added value in a unique way. It is so rewarding to help clients have those aha! moments that transform them from mere players to leaders in their niche.

You recently published and completed a book tour for The Five-Step System to Reinvent Your Personal Brand. As we have often been led to believe that the Internet can endanger our privacy, how would you coach an individual on the merits of using social media publicly as a part of reinventing their personal brand? 

If you want to have greater opportunities in business, you have to brand yourself online.  One of the best ways to do this is to find an area of thought leadership that will differentiate you, and start sharing your expertise on social media. If you haven’t yet developed an expert platform, perhaps you can begin to add value by curating information from other sources.

Does everyone need their own brand? What happens if people don’t like what they’ve become known for and they want to change industries or career? What tips do you recommend?

Everyone already has a brand—some are weak and some are strong.  If you have a weak brand that doesn’t stand for much, you need to figure out what you want to be known for and start branding around this.

I recently helped a school teacher repackage her former high tech business experience, political background and science credentials as the perfect skill set for a school principal prepared to  face the multiple challenges of school finance, parent involvement and science and technology preparedness.  With her new positioning, she recently accepted her dream job as a middle school principal.

Branding is not rocket science. However, most people don’t know how to be strategic about their own personal brands.  I wrote BrandingPays so people would have the framework, tools and examples to brand themselves for a successful career or business.

You worked for a number of years as a principal and partner at Regis McKenna before starting your own consulting firm. What advice would you give to professionals looking to strike out on their own?

If you are a professional services provider, your personal brand is critical.  Make sure that you understand the ecosystem for your business, and develop relationships with key influencers.  You will be credible from the get go if the right people endorse you or introduce you to others.  Be sure to give influencers a clear, concise definition of what you do and how it benefits your customers.  Make it easy for others to advocate for you.

You need a good website that not only tells your story in a compelling way, but interacts with your customers.  Consider adding your Twitter stream, videos or other interactive media to your home page to communicate your personality and that you value education and engagement.  Show rather than tell.

You’ve said that personal branding can make the world a better place. What do you mean by that? How has living in the Bay Area shaped your personal brand? 

Imagine a world in which every person were known and recognized for their unique talents and value.  Not only would we all have better self-esteem but the world would work more efficiently with the right partners engaging with one another to create new opportunities and new value—together!  That is what personal branding, done right, can achieve.

The Bay Area has had a tremendous influence over my personal brand.

Living in Silicon Valley where so many great companies started as a germ of an idea, I couldn’t help but feel that anything is possible. Companies here are reinventing business models, markets and themselves constantly. Therefore, taking an innovative approach to my own career and my own brand just seemed natural.

Which SF events do you look forward to each year?

I have been so busy doing speaking engagements around my book that I’ve had to pass on many great events in the San Francisco Bay Area.  However, I have enjoyed local TEDx talks, and I’m looking forward to being both a speaker and an attendee at this year’s Red Herring Conference in Monterey and the Ascend West Coast Conference in San Francisco.

_ _ _

About our contributor // Eliza Dropkin is a lover of live music, good food, and beautiful places. Connect with her on Twitter via @elizadropkin.

%d bloggers like this: