It’s a #BlogEATBlog World….four people, hotdog toppings and a Sunday in Brick Lane

Posted by Chris Green on Tuesday March 13 @ 9:53 pm

This past Sunday I was fortunate enough to take part in the third heat of #BlogEATBlog, a good natured cooking contest involving some of the web’s leading food bloggers and tweeters, and the superb hot dogs of Big Apple Hot Dogs.

The task was straightforward – make my own gourmet topping for a gourmet hot dog. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it looks.

After multiple test runs and a frantic Saturday producing litres of the final mixture, I had produced my ultimate hot dog topping – a creation I’ve called Damson Relish:

Recipe (made in small batches)

  • 2kg Home Made Gherkins – diced
  • 800g Red Onions – Coarse Chopped
  • 20 Red Chillis – finely chopped
  • 20 Green Chillis – finely chopped
  • 200ml – 10yr Old Single Malt Scotch – we used Ardbeg
  • 1litre Damson Mixture
  • Rosemary – to taste
  • Cumin – to taste
  • Paprika – to taste
  • Cajun Spices – to taste
  • Salt – to taste
  • 40 Rashers of Smoked Streaky Bacon

After two weeks of pickling in a secret mixture of vinegar, spices and seeds in the cupboard where we keep the snow shovel, vacuum cleaner and the electricity meter, drain the gherkins and dice into nice big chunks, then fry off the excess moisture and put to once side.

Coarsely chop the onions and then marinate in the Scotch. Hold back some of the scotch for use later.

Finely chop the chillis, mix with the marinated onions and lightly fry off the excess moisture.

Recombine the gherkins on a low heat, add salt and spices to taste and stir in.

Then add the Damson mixture and simmer on a low heat.

Add in the rest of the Scotch once the mixture starts to thicken. Then allow the mixture to simmer and thcken some more until sticky.

Rest and cool.

You then end up with something like this:

Thanks to Sue Aron at The Art of Puddings for the help on the Damson mixture front.

On the morning of the contest, I crispy fried the bacon and blitzed it into small pieces for sprinkling on top of the mixture.

So, having created the mixture and loaded it into Tupperware boxes, I headed to Brick Lane’s Vibe Bar where I met up with Abiye Cole from Big Apple Hot Dogs (@bigapplehotdogs) and the three other competitors.

In addition to me, three other contenders took part in this heat (the third of four heats), each bringing an excellent, homemade and exciting twist to topping a hot dog.

First up was Paul Lomax (@paullomax) with his Canadian-inspired Poutine Hot Dog. A mixture of homemade cheese curds, gravy and crunchy topping went into this one. By far the most unusual, and very tasty too. Great combination of textures and favours.

Next was Rose (@_RosieT) with her classic Chilli Cheese Dog, with a mixture of yellow and red cheese, this not only tasted nice, but had a classic American look.

Finally we have Sam (@steampie) with his Bourbon Bacon Marmalade with Crispy Leeks. Delicious topping, and the Crispy Leeks were fantastic. We were adding them to everything at one point, and they make a great bar snack on their own.

Here are all four toppings on Abiye’s amazing fresh hot dogs.

My hot dog is liberally topped with the Damson Relish, then topped off with sprinkled crispy bacon to add a nice smoky, salty bacon crunch. Frying off the gherkins ensures they retain their crunch, even after the cooking and combining with the sauce mixture. The chillies add a small amount of heat, but mostly contribute flavour and colour, while the ‘drunken onions’ that were combined with a generous potion of peaty, smoky Scotch proved to be a real winner with the customers, as well as adding a unique flavour to the overall relish.

Overall I was really pleased with how the relish turned out. The feedback from the many Big Apple Hot Dogs customers that opted to have my topping on all or part of their hot dog was really positive, as has been the feedback on Twitter.

The winner of my heat has yet to be announced, but whoever it is, along with the winners of the previous two heats and this coming Sunday’s fourth heat, they will go through to a grand final to become overall champion and have their name added to Abiye’s cart. It’s not about the prize, it’s about the build 🙂

If you came along and tried the toppings, do please vote on Twitter using the hashtag #BlogEATBlog.

Thanks to everyone who participated and to all the people who made the journey to Brick Lane to try the hot dogs. We had a great time and I hope you did too!

Speaking at Digital Surrey tonight

Posted by Chris Green on Thursday July 22 @ 8:38 am

I will be speaking tonight at the Digital Surrey group, talking about ‘The financial and ongoing value of web content’.

Digital Surrey is a networking group that grew out of the Farnham Tweetup. Since April 2010 the group has been meeting at Surrey University in Guildford and we’ve had a number of fantastic speakers covering everything from the Digital Economy Act to Social Media in the Enterprise. Now I’m stepping up to talk about how and why individuals and businesses need to do more to understand the cost and value of the content they place online.

I’ll post my slides and any other useful material here after the event. Stay tuned.

Live blogging from Microsoft PDC

Posted by Chris Green on Thursday October 23 @ 2:54 pm

I’m going to be doing another live blogging event, this time on the evening of Monday 27 October, from the opening keynote of Microsoft’s Professional Developer Conference.

We are using Cover It Live again to deliver the coverage, details below. Hope you can join us for what should be a very interesting set of announcements from Microsoft.

Live blogging of the Apple Let’s Rock event

Posted by Chris Green on Monday September 8 @ 4:34 pm

I’m going to be live blogging the announcements from the Apple Let’s Rock event over at IT PRO.

We will be using CoverItLive for the live blogging, providing it doesn’t collapse under the strain, which it did the first time we used it for an Apple event.

Coverage over at IT PRO begins at 5.30pm UK time, with Steve Jobs due on stage at 6pm.

Details below:

The flat-packed mobile phone service

Posted by Chris Green on Monday August 4 @ 10:49 pm

I posted a slightly tounge-in-cheek blog over at IT PRO about Ikea’s new mobile phone service.

You might find it interesting. I like the no-nonsense approach to pricing. Just not sure if it will ever achieve critical mass.

Three new blog posts over at IT PRO

Posted by Chris Green on Thursday July 17 @ 1:19 pm

My blog over at IT PRO has been a bit quiet of late, but there are three new posts this week that you might be interested in:

When is a free laptop not actually free? When it comes with a dongle!

Microsoft planning a Zune-based smartphone

Leaked pics of the Skypephone 2

Please take a look.

The IT PRO contributor/traffic analysis project

Posted by Chris Green on Thursday July 10 @ 11:57 am

Web stats

After one small comment on Twitter about my day spent sweating over spreadsheets, it seems that many people within the IT publishing and PR world are very interested in what I was doing.

Every few months I perform what I call a contributor/traffic analysis. This involves generating a report from the main IT PRO site stats tool that shows the page impressions (PIs) and unique user visits (UUs) generated by author, rather than by article type or section.

I then merge this data with the main contributor expenditure spreadsheet, where we record and track all our freelance spending.

The end result is that we have the traffic generated by an author alongside how much we’ve spent with them over the given period. You divide the amount spent by either the PIs or the UUs and you end up with a cost per PI and a cost per UU, based on a specific author.

It’s not a perfect system, as the PIs and UUs also include legacy content written by that author that was accessed during the given period, not just the new stuff you’ve commissioned and allocated budget for. However, it still provides a valuable metric on the effectiveness of that author’s work to bring in traffic to the site, as well as the cost of acquiring that traffic.

There’s a lot we can do with this data. For example, we can compare the cost of traffic acquisition via a given freelancer’s work against alternative sources, such as newswire copy, pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, traditional marketing, sponsorships, list rental, staging competitions, copy sharing, content licensing deals with overseas or non-competing titles, referral deals with other sites and so on.

Doing this, we can see whether we are achieving a suitable return on investment from our freelance spending, we can benchmark in-house writers against freelance writers and visa versa, we can see which freelancers are popular and unpopular with our readers, highlight popular niche content strands and more.

Why do we do this? As a relatively new publication we re not shackled with the legacy of long-term contracts or historic arrangements with writers. We are also an online pure play, which means all our commercial and editorial focus is directed at the online ecosystem, where readers (or users) wield ultimate power, capable of making or breaking a site with a single shift in web surfing habits.

I honestly believe that in the not too distant future, online publications in all sectors, not just technology, will have to adopt a results-driven approach to freelance commissions in order to maximise revenue and to achieve maximum return from their freelance budgets.

The most likely outcome will be that publications begin paying writers purely on how much traffic an article pulls in. Also likely is that commissioning editors will need to take a more frequent and brutal approach to deciding which freelancers to commission regularly and which to drop from their rotation, based on the kind of metrics I am currently looking at.

What does this mean for freelance writers? For a start it means that freelancers will need to think about their working processes and the relationships they have with the publications that commission them. Right now it is far too common that a freelancer will get a commission, write a piece to a given word count and word rate, file it, invoice and get paid. The freelance writer is almost entirely detached from the process that takes place after the piece is filed and published. This will need to change going forward.

Freelance writers need to maintain responsibility for content and for ensuring it can reach the widest possible online audience even after the copy has been filed.

Things that freelance writers will need to consider and change their working practices to incorporate:

Search Engine Optimisation – This is key to the future of online publishing. All writers, whether they are in-house or freelance need to understand the importance of making copy search engine-friendly. That means understanding how search engines interpret content, how they look for keywords and what relevant keywords are popular at the time of writing and publishing. Writers also need to track the online zeitgeist to understand what search terms, themes and trends are popular, in order to incorporate them, where relevant, into an article.

Content Seeding – With publications looking at the audience traffic an article receives as a measure of success (as well as looking at traditional elements such as whether it is well written, accuracy, relevancy and how current the information is), the writer needs to take on some of the responsibility for promoting that article and extending its reach. That means seeding links to content to relevant locations where the links will bring in additional traffic. Also, think about whether the piece you are writing will appeal to the audience of the popular social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Slashdot, StumbleUpon and Reddit. We want readers to submit your content to these services, and it is in the interests of the writer as well for readers to do this.

Stickiness – This is one of the biggest issues affecting any online publication. A reader has arrived at the site to read a specific article, now how do you keep them there to read more than just the single piece that brought them there? The most effective way of doing this is for the writer to cross link to other relevant content on the site. If you are writing about, for example, the Microsoft Yahoo takeover saga, reference and link back to previous relevant articles that publication has published on the same subject, especially if you wrote them as well.

Comment Generation – Your piece needs to spark debate among readers. It needs to encourage them to post comments, engage and debate other readers on that site. The conversation should not end with your final paragraph, but should stimulate the reader to participate in the conversation, add knowledge and share alternative viewpoints.

Multi-skilling – Online journalism is about more than just writing, it is about providing complete coverage in the most appropriate media form, and doing it in as timely fashion as possible. You are covering an event for a publication; you need to consider visual elements as well as written. Think about how you can incorporate video, audio and images into the piece to maximise the effectiveness of the piece. Waiting for images to be sent over from a company or PR agency may be counterproductive to publishing a timely and informative piece, so be prepared to take your own photos, shoot your own video and record audio content for inclusion in a podcast. You don’t need thousands of pounds of equipment to create audio or visual material that is suitable for publication.

IT PRO gets a new look

Posted by Chris Green on Monday June 9 @ 11:01 am

New look IT PRO web site -

Following a huge amount of work by my editorial team and the Dennis web team, the new look IT PRO web site went live this morning.

The new look site represents an important stage in the progression of IT PRO, and will allow us to do a great deal more in terms of how we produce coverage what format we publish our content in.

There are one or two small kinks that we are working out, so if you find anything that looks like it might be a bug, please let me know.

Happy Birthday Herman Hollerith, the overlooked pioneer of modern computing

Posted by Chris Green on Friday February 29 @ 11:18 am

Herman Hollerith

I’ve written a blog post over at IT PRO about Herman Hollerith, one of the founders of IBM and the man who pioneered modern data entry computing

Please take a look.

Coca Cola – now DOS compatible!

Posted by Chris Green on Wednesday February 27 @ 10:18 pm

Coca Cola is DOS Compatible in Spain

Originally uploaded by Ewan Spence.

Just finished a Skype chat with Ewan Spence, who is over in Spain at a media conference. Our VoIP call was interrupted by Ewan cracking up, when he spotted this DOS reference on the bottle of Coke we was chugging.

Yes, it’s a geek joke – and it’s a funny one!

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