Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Vanessa Vine is a real person


"On Thursday October 23rd, Facebook deactivated Vanessa Vine's personal account without warning (see post attached), giving her no option other than to convert it to a Page - which she has so far declined to do, as years of her personal pictures, writings, correspondence and personal contacts would all be lost."

The above quotes are taken directly from a Facebook page that has been set up to fight for Vanessa Vine's profile to be reinstated. Why was Vanessa's page deactivated? Facebook allegedly claim she has been using a personal page as a business page and want her to convert the type of account. It is suspicious that Facebook deactivated Vanessa's account after she posted the picture in this tweet: https://twitter.com/vanessa_vine/status/525240575134806016

Another quote from the Vanessa Vine is a real person Facebook page: "On the morning of 23rd October, Vanessa Tweeted Boris Johnson with a picture of herself and Caroline Lucas MP holding a piece of the omelette over which Metropolitan Police had threatened Caroline with arrest for obstruction if she "supplied" it to a young man occupying the plinth of Churchill's statue - to whom the Police were denying any provision of food or water."

Facebook deactivated her account giving her the message she shares in this tweet: https://twitter.com/vanessa_vine/status/525274508178247681

Do we live in a democracy? Of course not. Britain is somewhere between a republic and dictatorship. Those who have the power do not want the rest of us to rock the boat.

Even in the dictatorial empire of Rome, prisoners were allowed visitors who supplied them with food and drink. Our government may claim that we the people have no right to occupy public spaces, spaces and monuments paid for by our taxes but they are wrong. When our government turns against us we have a responsibility to stand up for ourselves.

This post is one small way I can support Vanessa Vine. You can visit the Facebook page to offer your support here: Vanessa Vine is a real person

Of course this begs the question, if your account has been deactivated, how do you backup your Facebook data?

Facebook do provide a backup facility: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150118571353989

"Facebook recently introduced a new option to download all your information of your Facebook account. You can download all Facebook album/ photos together in a single click. Also you can download your all Facebook statuses, Wall posts, friend list, Messages, Notes etc."

I backed up my Facebook data earlier this year. I was grieved to find that the backup does NOT include any posts I had made on other people's pages or Groups. Since I tend to be fairly active commenting on posts that is a whole lot of my writing that I have no way to back up unless I individually troll through hundreds of thousands of posts and comments to attempt to recover it.

I've resigned myself to having lost all those comments. I believe Vanessa should be within her rights to demand a copy of all photos and comments she has posted. Thinking about my own experience though, who owns copyright on Facebook? I suspect Facebook claims copyright. Though perhaps not as they would then be liable for defamation...

So, in that case, Vanessa would have copyright to her comments, but (and it's a big but) she would neither have copyright or rights to back up other people's comments. This means it's very difficult to preserve discussion threads. It also means Facebook has a legitimate right to not offer the ability to back up your comments on other people's threads.

Re-reading Facebook's backup page again, they do say this: "Any comments that you and your friends have made on your Wall posts, photos, and other profile content." This means that it should be possible for Vanessa to recover everything posted on her wall at the very least.

Remember, none of us pay Facebook for hosting our data and few of us have read the Facebook terms and conditions. I think how Facebook has treated Vanessa is disgusting but we're all partially responsible for using an unpaid service that doesn't give us the rights we want.

Monday, 27 October 2014

100 Crazy Ideas

 In the Spring of 2013 I was angry. Angry with  the Government, angry at politicians, angry at injustice and incompetence and greed and foolishness.

The UK economy continued to implode and instead of dealing with it, the government seemed hell bent on destroying the country.

I as often do when I'm angry, I started writing, let all that anger express itself on the page.

I didn't want to be angry. I far prefer optimism. I prefer hope. But sometimes we need to express our anger before hope can be heard, before creative ways of dealing with the problem can begin to flow.

As I wrote and thought and researched, finally some ideas started to pop into my head. My 100 goals have transformed my life, was it possible I could use the concept of 100 ideas to propose some ideas of my own?

But who would listen to me? Why should anyone act on my crazy ideas?

Still, as us writers often do, I came up with with a book title: 100 Crazy Ideas to Fix The Economy

Once I had a title, I knew I had a book. I just needed to write it.

That was in the Spring of 2013.

I wasn't ready though. I had two novels that were burning holes in my brain. I've since published one (The Great Scottish Land Grab) and taken the other to one hundred thousand words.

I had it in my head that I needed to have the complete book finished before I could publish and talk about 100 Crazy Ideas. But at the same time, I've always felt that I couldn't only publish the book, that it would be unjust of me to only demand that people pay for my crazy ideas.

These two thoughts kept battling within me. The desire to earn from my work; the belief that ideas that can benefit society should be freely available.

How to reconcile them?

As I've written and published Land Grab over the summer, I've also spent a lot of time researching publishing and marketing. In my reading I came across Dean Wesley Smith's site where he generously shares two excellent books: Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Indie Publishing and Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing.

I've now read both of these books, both through Dean's website. And I've now bought one. I intend to buy the other next month.

But why buy them? Dean gives them away for free... For starters, it just feels wrong to benefit from someone else's work without paying them for it. For the same reason I don't download pirate movies or music. But also, there is a lot of good advice in these books. A lot to take in. I expect I'll be re-reading both books for years and it will be far easier now I've got a Kindle version.

However, I'm fully aware of open source and even worked for Sun Microsystems back in the day when they were giving software away for free (MySQL, Java). I've never been convinced that giving your product away for free is a good business model. The drop in value of Sun Microsystems stock and subsequent purchase by Oracle may lend credibility to that view.

But, Indie publishing is its own game and as Dean, Joe Konrath and many others have pointed out, giving a product away as a loss leader can work. The trick is to have other products out there to sell at the same time as giving one away. Also, there are many people out there who, like me, if they enjoy a free product, will also go on to buy that product just to say thanks to the creator. Or because it is easier to re-use (think buying a CD after hearing a good song on the radio.)

...and I cannot escape the fact that on my writing journey, I'm at the start. If some of my crazy ideas are crazy enough to work, they could benefit hundreds of thousands of people. (I always dream big ;)

Getting these ideas to as wide an audience as possible seems more important than making a few pounds.

So, I'm giving away my book through this blog, turning it over to my 100 Crazy Ideas for the next few months while I also will eventually be publishing the same book and charging for it.

I sometimes forget to relate my blog posts back to my original list of 100 goals. 100 Crazy Ideas is an attempt to achieve several of them:

Goal 2: To change and influence people through my writing
Goal 64: To be the change I want to see happen
Goal 89: To change laws for the better

The intention is to start discussions. To find out if anyone out there has had the same crazy ideas to fix the economy and to see if maybe the ideas are not that crazy after all. Maybe even to prompt others to share their own crazy ideas in the hope that something can be done to turn our country (and maybe even the world) around.

The fact is that politicians are no different to you and me. They don't have any special knowledge or power that makes their ideas any less crazy than yours or mine.

We need to believe in ourselves. Believe that our ideas can make a difference. Believe that if we work together we can change things for the better.

If you're are curious to find out more, you can sign up for my mailing list and I'll notify you when each blog post comes out. The first of my 100 Crazy Ideas will be published on the 5th November 2014.

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Free eBook - Dragon Lake

My short story - Dragon Lake will be available for free through Amazon Kindle today, Wednesday 15 October 2014 and also from Saturday 18th to Sunday 19th October. As far as I can tell, Amazon's free days tend to start based on Pacific Time so if you check the price on the day and it's not free, try again later!

If you don't have a Kindle you can download an app for most computers, tablets or smartphones that will allow you to download the book.

Dragon Lake is available from these Kindle Stores:



Here's the book's description:

The ruby mines of Tajikistan are long forgotten, except to those who still hunt the precious stones.

For those who are willing to risk mountain crevices and hand carved tunnels in an earthquake prone region, the reward can be great. As long as the stones can be smuggled away.

When one smuggler is caught, no bribes can save him. A jail sentence in Tajikistan may as well be a death sentence.

In the barren mountains of Central Asia, the choice is stark between preserving your secrets or saving your life.

Do review the book after you've read it and let me know what you think.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Why I don't want you to buy my book...

I'm publishing my second story this week: Dragon Lake.

It's a short story and will retail for £0.99 on Amazon Kindle. But I don't want you to buy it.

Here's the book's description:

The ruby mines of Tajikistan are long forgotten, except to those who still hunt the precious stones.

For those who are willing to risk mountain crevices and hand carved tunnels in an earthquake prone region, the reward can be great.

As long as the stones can be smuggled away.

When one smuggler is caught, no bribes can save him. A jail sentence in Tajikistan may as well be a death sentence.

In the barren mountains of Central Asia, the choice is stark between preserving your secrets or saving your life.

The story weighs in at 7,000 words. That's twenty four standard MS Word pages. I'm delighted with it. After spending all summer working on a novel, it's been refreshing to work on something completely different, something darker, something edgier...

If Amazon do their thing, the book will be available before you get up tomorrow morning but please, don't buy it... I'll be giving the book away later in the week and I don't want you to miss out.

If you'd like me to email you when the book is on sale, contact me at landgrab AT cafepolitics.net

Or check my Facebook page, or back here on this blog.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Haves V the Have Nots

I was never sure that voting Yes was the right thing to do. But as I watched the results come in at 4AM, I was saddened at such a rejection of hope and optimism.

I never campaigned for Yes or No but did seek the views of hundreds of people as I travelled round Scotland this summer. I found people on both sides echoing questions that were perplexing me.

I live in Cumbernauld, smack bang in the Scottish Central Belt. I've predominantly worked in Glasgow for the last eight years - mainly in the financial sector. I currently work in Edinburgh, again for a major financial employer. I have family in Shetland, Aberdeen, Argyll. I have friends throughout Scotland and have spent far too much time on FaceBook and Twitter, reading the views of both sides.

A question I have had from the beginning - are a majority of people in Scotland sufficiently well off that they would not be willing to risk such a radical change as voting for independence?

I was a No voter until Spring this year when I started the final rewrite of my novel - The Great Scottish Land Grab. My worldview back then was highly coloured from ten years living in England, initially in Uxbridge and then in York - still my favourite city in the world.

I have many English friends, most of whom could not understand why I started publicly declaring I was voting Yes.

I love the English and consider myself British as much as Scottish simply because they accepted me and I accepted them. I've never been a nationalist - even when I used my Scottishness to great advantage while working in Tajikistan.

I have grown increasingly disillusioned with Westminster politicians over the years but as I started entering into online debates I had to say I was just as disillusioned with Holyrood politicians. I could not and can not see any difference between Westminster and Holyrood.

If I had to choose between Alex Salmond and David Cameron I would reject them both. Neither of them have represented me. Both have ignored me when I've responded to their consultations. Both are determined to push ahead with their narrow political agendas, ignoring the majority of the population when we oppose them.

Yet, I changed from No to Yes because I started to believe that independence might just be a catalyst for radical change in the UK. Not just for Scotland but also for the rest of the country. I'm sure it would be tough. I'm sure it would raise many problems but I'm also sure those problems could be overcome.

I woke early at 4AM on the 19th and couldn't resist turning on the TV. The results came in fast, one after the other with No winning greater majorities and the few Yes victories too narrow to make any impact on the overall result.

At just before 5AM that morning, Lord Reid summed up much of what the debate has been about for me. Speaking about Yes victories in my home region of North Lanarkshire and Glasgow he said:

"[These are] areas of ordinary men and women, some of whom are in poverty, some of whom die early. This is not just a vote about independence, its a vote, its a cry out, its a protest vote about the conditions in which people live. So, its not sufficient to respond to it just by saying there will be more powers. The constitutional questions may interest some people, but for other people, its about their children, their education, its about the food banks and that has to be addressed as well."

I work and live alongside people who are doing okay for themselves. For some of them this is an illusion but one I sympathise because I fell for it as well. When you're earning more than you ever have before it is easy to think you are doing okay, even while tax and ever increasing bills mean that larger salary means you are no better off.

But, we are living in a society where inequality becomes greater with every passing day. Zero hours contracts hide the true appaling state of the employment situation. Employment may be falling but for many, incomes are also falling.

Yet for many, myself included, we're doing alright. Why should we risk such a huge, disruptive change that could upset our carefully ordered lives?

I know that I did not vote Yes because I'm poor. I know that many who voted No will have been worse off than I am.

There is no easy divide. A person struggling to support their family on £20,000 a year will be looked upon with envy by someone who cannot hope to earn £15,000. Yet I fear that the vote was lost because far too many of us fell for the lie that we'd be better off together.

When you have something, even when its not all that much, it is very hard to let go of it.

I believe the haves - in general - voted No. I know that there will have been many who are well off and even wealthy that bucked that trend. Still, my perception has been formed from hundreds of discussions I've had round the country this summer.

I suspect the choice is a short sighted one. But, I'm sympathetic to the view that the Yes campaign did not give out enough detail. I tried to set out my own vision for Scotland in The Great Scottish Land Grab. But, I would accept that my novel is a dream, perhaps even naive.

I've spread my own message this summer, neither Yes no No. A third way. I believed early on that no matter which way the vote went, we'd have to fight for the future for Scotland. I just hope that the haves and have nots can find a way to work together to make this country a truly better place.