Wednesday, 17 December 2014

I feel dirty, used and abused. Retailers, eh?

Trespass Picture 2

It appears blog awards are like buses; None for ages and then they all come along at once. Yes, after the TGO Awards debacle had finally died down, up pops another “Blogger Award.” This time it’s from an outdoor chain call “Trespass.” No, I hadn’t heard of them either, and I don’t feel great about giving them all this free advertising on my blog.

I found out on Monday afternoon that my blog had been included in their list of Hiking/Walking blogs, along with about twenty others. As I wrote in another post, these days I am not keen to be part of this “how big is your willy” contest, as generally the winners are not those who write the best blog, but those who can drum up the largest number of supporters to vote for them. You need only to look at the winner of the TGO Outdoor Blogger of the Year award to see how that works. However, even though TGO had not asked me if I wanted my blog to be considered for the award I let it go, as I have a soft spot for the magazine.

So what is it that makes me feel like I have been used by this current award scam?

Put simply this retailer is using all the bloggers and the good will of the blogs’ readers to promote their business. They have selected (it was the company’s marketing department that made the selection) NINETY blogs – twenty in each of Running and Hiking/Walking, and ten in each of Climbing, Camping, Cycling, Snowsports and Travel. Those ninety blogs will have a colossal readership ~ probably far more than, say, the readership of TGO. Let’s say that each blog has 300 loyal readers (these are popular blogs, remember) and 10% of these are persuaded to vote. That’s 2,700 voters. Okay, there will be some overlap, but these are illustrative figures, so bear with me. I don’t believe the overlap will be that large, as the company has gone out to find a diverse as possible range of blogs

Most of the bloggers will use social media to spread the word. However, if you try and vote, you find that you need to authorise your selection using your Facebook account, explicitly giving permission for Trespass to have access to all your FB friends as well. Let’s suppose that most FBers have a hundred and fifty FB friends. (That seems to be about average). This means that Trespass now has the contact list for 2,700 x 150 people. That’s 405,000 people added to their mailing lists.

Whatever the overlap, you can see that this is one hell of an easy way to increase your mailing list for very little cost at all. Just the price of a bright young marketing chap, William Wallace. (Yes, honestly.) Apparently all the blog writers were contacted for permission to be included in this marketing exercise, and not contacting me was an oversight.

After a bit of chat with other bloggers on twitter, I decided on the Monday evening that I didn’t want to be part of this. I used the company’s web site contact form to try and talk to their marketing department to have my blog removed from the list. I did not hear anything for two days, so this afternoon I contacted them by twitter and before too long William & I had a discussion and he agreed to remove my blog from their scheme. 

In his last email to me he included the following paragraph:

“I understand your train of thought, but I'd like to assure you that our main intention was to highlight outdoor blogs and give a little back to the community. This is a strategy that we hope to follow going forward with more community based activities which hopefully highlight the benefits of getting outdoors and leading a more active life.”


Well. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

I have since discovered that David Williams, writer of the excellent Fellbound blog has also had his blog removed.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

TGO Challenge 2015: Route: Shiel Bridge - Johnshaven



Our route came back from vetting yesterday, and we were given the thumbs up; No revisions were required. Phil has been busy and all our accommodation is booked. So now all we have to do is plunge our flabby bodies into the wintry countryside to regain a modicum of fitness. Tricky.

For what it’s worth, here’s our route. It’s an interesting mix of landscapes.



We’re passing through the southern Balmacaan before it disappears beneath the Bhlaraidh wind farm. In the past Phil and I have walked through this wonderful landscape in forbidding weather. Dark low clouds and cold drizzling rain suited the place wonderfully, adding to its wild, primordial delights. We have two and a half days of trackless bog hopping here that we expect to be the highlight of our crossing.

TGOC 2015 MAP DAYS 1-3


After crossing Loch Ness we’ll be passing beneath the Dunmaglass wind farm as the last turbines are being erected. We’re keeping away from them and heading to the delights of Glen Mazeran and then a yomp over more trackless stuff as a goodbye to the Monadh Liath as it will shortly be subsumed by more wind farms.

TGOC 2015 MAP DAYS 4-6


We then have a delightful stroll through the Abernethy Forest before climbing up and over some more rough stuff to our Cheese & Wine Party on the Water of Caiplich. We spend the next day and a half making our way to Ballater, taking a few hills in enroute.

TGOC 2015 MAP DAYS 7-9


An afternoon and morning off in Ballater to write postcards to loved ones is followed by a leisurely day and a half to the Mason’s Arms at Tarfside.

TGOC 2015 MAP DAYS 10-12


Then it’s a simple couple of days to the coast at Johnshaven for crab soup. We’ve decided to clamber up the last hill, so we can have a last lingering look back at Scotland.

TGOC 2015 MAP DAYS 12-14


You can poke about our planned route on our route sheet below;

2015 Master Route Sheet Version A.doc

 2015 Master Route Sheet Version A.doc


There you go. This will be my twentieth and last TGO Challenge, and Phil’s twelfth. I will return to Scotland in the future, but only to areas free of wind farms. The way it’s going right now, there’s going to be less and less of Scotland to choose from.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The TGO Awards: If it looks like a duck…




If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

Quoting Wikipedia: The duck test is a humorous term for a form of inductive reasoning. The test implies that a person can identify an unknown subject by observing that subject's habitual characteristics. It is sometimes used to counter abstruse, or even valid, arguments that something is not what it appears to be.

In the previous two posts about this year’s TGO Outdoor Blogger of the Year award there is general consensus amongst those who have posted comments that the average reader of TGO would not see the winning blog as representative of outdoor blogging. Social media – twitter and Facebook – was buzzing. Most were astonished that this blog, so different in style and content to all the other blogs that were nominated for the award, had won. Something wasn’t right.

The following (seemingly valid arguments) are all true:

  • The blog is about the outdoors. There are many pictures of the delightful blogger as though in a fashion shoot for a piece in a ‘lifestyle’ section of a Sunday supplement. And yes; Invariably, the images are taken outdoors.
  • The blogger is to be found in the hills: There was a delightful piece about a wildcamp beneath Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons National Park, complete with a warming tarn-side fire, guitar music and wild swimming. Strangely, that post seems to have been removed today.
  • The blogger is also seen carrying out rigorous gear tests. The choice of rucksack might not have been to the taste of many TGO readers; it might have been shown to best advantage somewhere in Camden or Soho, but beggars can’t be choosers.
  • There is a fine article on outdoor clothing as well: What to wear in the winter in the country. I’m not sure that wasp-waisted party frocks or ballet pumps are everyone’s idea of typical winter gear, but surely, it ticks the ‘winter country wear’ box.

We’re all agreed then that The Girl Outdoors is an outdoor blog. And yes; The Great Outdoors magazine is an outdoor magazine.


So why all the fuss?

Let’s go back to the duck:

  • It does not come close to what normal TGO readers regard an outdoor blog: It looks like a duck.
  • Every other post seems to be an advertorial piece on gear or services: It swims like a duck.
  • The remaining posts are gear reviews – reviews so cursory that they are in fact advertisements: It quacks like a duck.

So I’m totally satisfied that this is not actually an outdoor blog at all, and nor would any loyal reader of The Great Outdoors magazine either. It is a duck. Hence the plethora of comments on my two preceding posts. It must be particularly galling for the other nominees in the ‘outdoor blog of the year’ category to have lost out to a duck.

It must also be worrying for the winners of the other categories as they are seeing their highly prized awards – for indeed they are – tarnished a little by an unseemly spat in the newest category – a category, as TGO said themselves, that had been brought in by popular demand this year.


So what went wrong?

I’m writing this next section as if walking over eggshells. 

After the nominations had closed it was pointed out to TGO on twitter that there was not a single woman on the ‘Personality of the Year’ category shortlist: see Mirella’s comment 2nd up from the bottom.



Women Climb’ then stepped in asking for the gender balance of the nominations for the awards: (2nd comment from the top in the next screenshot)

DW Screenshot_2014-11-23-21-44-44


There was obviously genuine concern amongst the largely female contributors to this thread that women were not represented in anything approaching a realistic proportion of the gender balance in the outdoor world. This is patently true. A good example of this is the fact that there were just two blogs out of the ten nominated in the outdoor blogger category that were written by women. But what could TGO have done about this? Nothing, of course, as they were the blogs nominated by the public.

The odd thing is that after this conversation took place on twitter (there were other conversations dealing with this topic as well) one of these blogs (the duck) came top in the voting and the other, ‘Two Blondes Walking’, apparently came second. And, the duck won by a considerable margin.

Now we have already seen that hardly any TGO readers (apart it seems from Martin Banfield – read his comment here) were aware of Sian’s blog. So they didn’t vote for it. Yet the two blogs written by women came top of the poll. What are the odds of that happening? Any statisticians out there?

Explain. Draw graphs. Give reasons. Show your ‘workings out’ in the margin.


TGO Towers

When this year’s awards scheme was started, the magazine had its Editor slaving away over a hot keyboard. Sometime later Emily went off on maternity leave, which is a joyous thing. But it did leave Daniel, the Digital Editor, with quite a bit more work to do. Of course he has help but TGO is a small ship and there is still a magazine deadline every month and an increasing digital presence to manage on top of this.

It’s been said elsewhere on the last two blog-posts that it was possible to vote and vote often on this particular poll. Apparently this has been the case for the last three years, and in the past there have been numerous cases of multiple voting, but nothing that materially affected the result of each category.

I’ve been told that this year it was unlikely that voters’ IP Addresses were checked. So: Given all that you have seen here, what do you think has happened?


What next?

This is really up to The Great Outdoors magazine. Already we have seen TGO readers cancel their subscriptions. We have seen a great deal of anger and disbelief at the outcome of this particular poll.

I think it’s right that it should be up to the great unwashed to nominate their choice for the public to vote on. It makes sense to keep the numbers to a manageable size so that people are wiling to trawl through the choices available before picking their own winner. However, I do believe that TGO should have the final say on those going forward to the voting stages. Who knows what might be the outcome if a well organised, ambitious blogger (say) manages to garner a fair few folk to get their blog nominated into the top ten? Perhaps that same blogger could go on and muster an active set of the community to support their effort, in order to balance out some perceived imbalance?

Using this system, TGO might be able to avoid the ducks in future.

What do you think? Have your say below. I know you’ll be civil. This place isn’t like twitter.

Thank you.


EDITED TO ADD: if you want a wise and wonderful take on blog awards, take a peek HERE