My half marathon experiment

The Pebble watch

This weekend I am running the Reading Half Marathon for the second time.

Last year I did it in a relatively respectable 2:07, and this year – three kilos heavier but with a year’s more running experience under my belt and some helpful advice from my friend and colleague Keith – I’m aiming to get around in under two hours.

It’s not going to be easy – can you help me out with your words of encouragement and your dodgy taste in music?

Yes, I need your help. I recently received my long-awaited Pebble Smartwatch (pictured above). While the Runkeeper app isn’t yet available, this does mean I can control my music and read your tweets, right from my wrist.

So, in a possibly foolhardy move, I’ve set up a collaborative Spotify playlist, and I’m asking you – the people of the internets – to pick my running tunes for me. I need some good running tunes that will motivate me to keep up the pace. What can you suggest?

The rules:

  1. I won’t look at the playlist before I start – I want it to be a surprise
  2. You have until 8am on Sunday to add your tunes – that’s when I’m downloading the tracks from Spotify (in case of streaming problems while running – I’ll ask someone else to do this to maintain the surprise element)
  3. I can skip if I’ve heard a tune before (henceforth known as the Rickroll Rule)
  4. If there’s a tune that doesn’t help me pick up/keep up the pace, or which I really hate (or both), I can skip past that too (the Hawkwind rule)

I also want your encouragement while I run. Tweet me/mock me @sharonodea and I’ll (hopefully) see it on my Pebble. I’ll start running at shortly after 10am on Sunday 17 March, and all being well will be over the finish line by 12.15.

Thanks! I’m still undecided about live-tweeting as I run (as I did for the Ealing Half), but I’ll let you know how it goes after the event.

Breaking the echo chamber: diversity (or the lack of it) at tech events

Late last year the thorny topic of diversity (or lack of it) at technology events was in the spotlight again after the British Ruby Conference (BritRuby) was cancelled following outcry about its all-male, all-white speaker line-up. Following the controversy many men pledged to boycott all-male panels at tech conferences. The idea proved controversial, with bloggers making impassioned arguments for doing so, and as many putting the case against.

A month ago, I popped along to altUKGovCamp (with UKGovcamp postponed due to snow, the brilliant Lloyd Davis and James Cattell swung into action and swiftly convened an impromptu geek meetup event. An un-unconference, if you will.) where this quickly became a hot topic for conversation. Our discussion covered the full gamut of issues, like:

  • Is the lack of diversity an issue?
  • Is it merely a symptom of the makeup of the industry?
  • If it is a problem, what can be done about it?

This proved a lively discussion which generated a range of practical ideas, particularly from the rather brilliant tech entrepreneur Mary McKenna, who noted many of the issues which make women reluctant to put themselves forward to speak – nervousness, undervaluing your own skills – are also those which make women less likely to negotiate a pay rise. She’s already blogged her tips for successfully negotiating a better pay deal, and I said I’d follow up with a post on diversity at tech events. So here we are.

all male panel

A typical panel at a tech conference

Diversity in tech is important

And not just because I’m a sandal-wearing, Guardian-reading leftie. This is a knowledge economy which increasingly relies on digital skills to create products and deliver services. We need more skilled tech people. The world particularly needs skilled creative tech people who can focus on the needs of the customer and find creative solutions. So we need diversity in skills, experience, knowledge and thought, at all levels. Diversity makes tech better.

But the tech industry is male dominated – aren’t conference speakers just a reflection of the audience?

Women are a minority in the tech world, it’s true, particularly at senior levels. But is that chicken or egg? The lack of visible, high-profile women at these events only serves to reinforce the idea that tech is a male preserve.

All-male panels aren’t just the preserve of the tech field either; following the BritRuby conference bloggers took aim at conference organisers in all manner of industries. It’s clear conferences have a problem, and not just in male-dominated industries.

Diversity isn’t just about women

The current debates focus on women, but the fact is panels are overwhelmingly white, and very rarely include people with disabilities.>

So diversity shouldn’t be seen as a ‘women’s issue’; it’s about ensuring conference panels reflect the audiences they’re talking to. Inviting speakers from a wide range of backgrounds might bring a different point of view to the conference, which helps making talks and panels a lot more interesting. It’s been long known that diverse teams in the workplace are more successful– is there any reason the same wouldn’t be true for conferences?

As Mary McKenna pointed out, promoting diversity isn’t just about doing the right thing; it’s also something which makes commercial sense.

So if it makes so much sense, why are there so few women speakers at tech conferences?

Good question. Here’s some of the reasons which have been suggested:

  • because of a lack of confidence
  • because they lack experience and are unsure how to write a good proposal
  • because they don’t see other people like them speaking, and feel uncomfortable being the only woman there
  • because they don’t think their work will support sending them to the conference
  • because they have childcare or other commitments that limit their ability to travel
  • “we’d love to have more women on the panel, but we haven’t had any submit proposals”
  • Because conference organisers – consciously or otherwise – seek out male speakers more actively than female ones
  • Selection committees may be biased against female speakers when selecting papers
  • There are fewer women in the field in the first place, so the lack of women speakers just reflects this

So what can be done about it?

The discussion at altUKGovCamp covered a wide range of ideas. Widespread threats to boycott all-male panels have certainly succeeded in drawing conference organisers’ attention to the issue. What’s clear is that conference organisers have a clear role to play in promoting diversity in their conference lineups.

Quotas provoked some fierce debate, with many suggesting this is tokenistic and ultimately devalues the contribution of women who are selected – suggesting perhaps that they weren’t selected on merit alone. Others felt a firm commitment to have, say, women make up a third of speakers signals a strong signal to those attending that diversity is a real issue. But it’s also bloody hard work.

Conferences are big business, and conference organisers are not charities. Those conference organisers who are making real efforts to recruit more diverse speakers are to be applauded for their efforts. But the fact is, it is a real effort – this blogpost from Courtney Stanton explaining how she got 50% female speakers at a video game conference illustrates it can be a real pain, and when you’ve got venues to book and tickets to sell, it’s a hassle one can easily do without.

If you’re organising a conference, here’s some advice:

  • Timing. if speaking at your conference is contingent on attending all three days (plus a half-day travel each way) you’re already making it more difficult for someone with caring responsibilities to attend.
  • Say it. Why not put a diversity statement in your call for submissions, making it clear your conference values diversity and actively welcomes papers from women and other under-represented groups. Let people know they are welcomed (here’s a great example from J Boye)
  • Be proactive. Check websites focusing on women speakers, get in touch with potential speakers who may be reluctant to put themselves forward, ask potential speakers to recommend others.

But making conferences more diverse takes both sides. Women need to put themselves forward, too. Here’s some tips for women who’d like to speak at a conference but aren’t sure about how:

  • JFDI. Speaking at a conference is a great way of boosting your professional profile.
  • Speaking in front of hundreds of people is a little scary. But you don’t have to start there. If you’re not sure, start by running a session at an unconference or doing a quick Ignite-style presentation to get a feel for it, and work up from there. Starting at a lower-key event gives you a chance to practice your material and get over your nerves
  • Don’t undersell yourself. It’s all too easy to fall prey to imposter syndrome and think you’re not good enough. Fight those negative feelings! What’s the worst that could happen?
  • Make some noise. If you’re asked to speak at a conference, don’t keep it to yourself; mention it on your blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, and so on. Once you have a track record as a speaker you’re more likely to be asked again.
  • Advocate for other women. If you’re asked to speak at a conference, ask the organisers if they’re interested in hearing from more women. Get them in touch with some of the brilliant and talented women you know.

Having a greater variety of voices, backgrounds and experiences represented makes conferences better. But for that to happen, organisers need to be more proactive about it, and more of us need to get over our nerves and put ourselves forward.

To that end, Mary McKenna and I will be holding a session at the rescheduled UKGovCamp next week for anyone who’d like to raise their professional profile by speaking at events but isn’t sure where to start. We’d love to see you there.If you’ve got any other thoughts or suggestions on diversity at tech conferences, let me know via the comments.

Creative Commons photo credit: miss604 on Flickr

QR WTF: transitory technology and internet immortality


An unquestioning press release re-hash on The Guardian’s website today claimed “traditional graveyards are being transformed through technology with interactive headstones providing a revolutionary way for people to remember loved ones.”

A £300 QR code etched into granite, claim Dorset funeral directors Chester Pearce, will enable visitors to learn all about the person buried, rather than being limited to a name, age and date of birth and death.

Or will it? QR codes attract significant criticism for being fiddly and hard to use, but in many cases this is simply because they’re used in entirely the wrong contexts.

My concern in this case, though, is that people are being sold a transitory technology for what’s supposed to be a lasting memorial. Let’s look at the issues:

  • The QR code links through to a website giving details of the deceased, as well as providing a comment feature where people can share memories.
  • All well and good – for now. But how long will this last? Who curates the content? Who ensures the domain remains up in five years, ten years?
  • Then let’s look a little further ahead. Despite a great deal of hype, signs are pointing towards QR codes not really gaining traction with smartphone users.  People are talking about the (far less faffy) Near Field Communication protocol performing the same job, better. I would wager that the QR code won’t be around in 2030, let alone 2080.
  • If my wager is wrong, that’s ok, because I’m pretty sure this website won’t exist either – and nor will the ‘lasting memorial’ websites these QR codes point to.
  • So what are we left with, in 2030? A weird design, etched in stone, which no device can decode, and (even if it could) almost certainly won’t point to a live website.

Claims that the QR codes will be “useful to those visiting graveyards to research their family tree” in the future ring very hollow once you think the thing through.

I’m no fan of QR codes, but in the right contexts they perform a useful task. What are those contexts?

As Bruce Willis’s case against Apple over the right to bequeath digital purchases highlights the fleeting nature of online content, many are starting to look at their digital legacy. As content increasingly becomes digital-only, it’s right that we consider the permanence of what we leave behind. But leaving a QR code as your memorial means that you’re merely one whose name was writ in water, not marble.

(with thanks to Adrian Short for the Keats quote).

A stimulating start to CityCamp London

I spent the weekend at CityCamp London, a three day unconference aimed at making London a better place. Brilliantly organised by Futuregov, this was the latest in the worldwide series of City Camps since the movement was started by Kevin Curry earlier this year.

The first day was billed as “Stimulate”, and the speakers certainly met that brief. Leo Boland, Chief Executive of the GLA, began by exploring the concept of ‘the good city’, drawing on the work of geographer Ash Amin. Amin describes the city as a machine, and technology as the life support system of the city. It changes how we look at the city. It helps inform our ideas of past and present, and changes how we appear in the world.

He was followed up by John Tolva’s mind-bendingly brilliant talk on Unmaking Urban Mistakes, looking at system design and the networked city. You can (and, in my view, should) read the whole talk here.  I took away a lot of lessons from this session, particularly on unintended consequences of systems and how we can learn from system failure.

Central to Tolva’s thesis is the role of data. An involved community equipped with data is better able to ask the hard questions. To my mind this applies to any community – whether in a city, an organisation, or a geographically dispersed interest group. Data-centred consultation allows people to interact and debate around a common set of facts.

Next up, Matt Jones from Berg on ‘Vertigo: standing on top of the 21st century in one of the world’s biggest cities’. Vertigo, in this context, is not fear of heights but fear of scale; the sheer scale of the city and the complexity of its systems frightens us. He proposed the concept of a ‘macroscope’, something which will allow us to see the aggregated whole as well as the detail. Technology allows us to see the detail as well as the whole system; he gave the example of Here and There, a horizonless map which shows the whole plan but where the perspective changes as you approach.

What Jones is advocating here is pragmatism.  So for instance he talked about Clay Shirky’s essay on situated software, which suggests we make software good enough for its own context if you want to make it happen. Make software for *your* street, not *the* street, and it stands half a chance of getting off the ground.

We also need to solve vertigo problem if we want to engage people with the issues. Here Jones borrowed the concept of synecdoche from the world of literature.  Synecdoche means making the part represent the whole; we need to make big, terrifying data digestible by real people if we want them to engage with it. By making it human scale, we take away the vertigo that disengages.

Later we moved on to an interview-type session with the RSA’s Matthew Taylor talking to Cllr Steve Reed from Lambeth Council, Caroline Pidgeon from the London Assembly and an opposition councillor from Harrow Council. This was probably the low point of the day, and not just because of the parallel debate about Twitterfall which was taking place on the twitter back channel at the same time.

The conversation seemed to get stuck on the idea that councillors have so many more ways to get in touch with people than they used to – e.g. email, text, Twitter, Facebook. That’s true, but what they were really saying is that there are so many more ways for councillors to talk TO people. At one point we were even on the topic of why email is better than letters – which, given it was a room full of 200 geeks few of whom have sent a letter in the last decade, was simply bizarre. The panel admitted politicians are now putting up barriers to deal with the deluge of communication. To my mind this is a move in exactly the wrong direction; what we need is to move to open platforms and actually have two-way conversations.

Consultation surveys and email do not equal web 2.0, however much councillors like to think it does. In the Q&A following I asked what we can do to improve the understanding of IT amongst those leading local authorities – both elected representatives and leading officers. Bad websites cost councils in the UK £11m per month in abandoned transactions and unnecessary phone/in person-contact. In my experience one of the main reasons council websites are bad is that those procuring them don’t understand online and don’t know what they need to do to make web work. It was disappointing that the panel didn’t really answer the question.

To close up we had three lightning-fast talks from Anne McCrossan, Nesta’s Philip Colligan then Nathalie McDermott, who I could listen to all day. These events can often end in navel-gazing as we lazily assume others think and do things just like us. Talking about her work with disengaged groups, such as men in prison and the gypsy traveller community, was an essential reminder that for many groups there are significant barriers to adoption, access and engagement which have to be overcome.

Sydney’s CivicTec gave us an international perspective on using technology to meet social need. This highlighted some cracking projects, such as a project to connect refugees across borders.

Finally, we heard from Lambeth’s Youth Mayor and the borough’s Member of the UK Youth Parliament. Taking a campaigns-based approach and setting aside a budget, this is a refreshing example of proper youth consultation rather than the box-ticking exercises so many local authorities are guilty of. Other councils take note.

All in all, a highly stimulating afternoon, and an excellent point to kick off the collaborative discussions the following day. If I were to sum up what I learned, it’s probably that literacy plus agency equals active, engaged communities. The role of technologists and communicators is to make this simple – to identify needs, to consult with communities and users and develop solutions to social problems that are tailored to their contexts.

I’m aiming for two more blog posts in the next couple of days, one on the “Collaborate” day (specifically, the sessions I went to), and another with my thoughts on the event as a whole and some esoteric stuff on our relationship with place which I’ve been thinking about since. But I figure if I don’t publish this first post now I never will. So here it is.

CityCamp all over the internets:

Intranets and urban sprawl: a postcard from down under

This month I’m taking a bit of a break before starting my new job  in the new year. In desperate need of some sunshine, I jetted off to Sydney, Australia.

After spending some time lolling about on the beach, throwing shrimps on the barbie and wandering around town wearing a hat with corks on, I decided to head out of the city for the obligatory bush walk.

As I drove out of the city in search of some bush to hike in, I realised that Sydney is huge. It takes literally hours to reach the city limits. My (Australian) host explained that this is a result of Sydney’s short history.


Sydney: this is where it all began

You see, although the area around what’s now Sydney Harbour was home to Aboriginal settlements for many hundreds of years, the modern city is a relatively new one.  The roots of today’s city began with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. This was a ragtag band of soldiers, convicts and a few entrepreneurs looking to make a few quid.

They set up camp in the area that is now central Sydney, naming it New Albion. From these humble beginnings the city has grown. And grown. And grown.

As a city built largely in the age of the car, on land that is seemingly limitless, Sydney has  become characterised by urban sprawl. In fact, it’s now the third-largest urban agglomoration in the world.

It struck me that the story of Sydney is very much like that of your average corporate intranet. Most began life, like New Albion, as a bit of a side project, with no clear aims or objectives.

Sydney's urban sprawl

Sydney's urban sprawl 1917-2031: a bit like your intranet

And just as land and resources seemed limitless to those looking for their quarter-acre plot on which to build a family home in Sydney, so too does seemingly limitless server space encourage intranets to grow exponentially.

An explosion in car ownership enabled Sydney to grow to its present proportions. Similarly, the emergence of piss-easy CMSs meant that anyone can be an intranet’s content author, allowing them to add to the urban sprawl of your corporate intranet.

So, just like Sydney, the history of many intranets means they’ve become bloated and difficult to navigate.

But this is where my metaphor falls down.  Sydney householders would certainly be a bit miffed if you were to knock their homes down or move them to somewhere a bit more sensible. But for intranets, that’s certainly possible.

Here’s are some ways to prevent or fix urban sprawl on your intranet:

  1. Decide what your intranet is for. An obvious point, perhaps, but it’s important to set clear objectives for your intranet.  Think not only about what you want to achieve, but how the intranet will help you get there. Be both specific and realistic.
  2. Get to know your audience. The intranet should reflect the culture of the organisation. Adding discussion groups to your intranet will not make people want to participate if there is no existing culture of participating within the organisation. Find out what users want, but speak also to those who don’t use the intranet much to find out why.
  3. Best before end. Set expiry dates for all content pages, with owners or authors required to review them at set intervals to ensure they’re still accurate and up-to-date.
  4. Is this yours? Pages without owners are the intranet equivalent of those boarded-up houses along the North Circular. If no one cares enough about the content to take responsibility for it, it’s likely few would miss it if you were to delete it.
  5. Remember the law of diminishing returns. Every additional piece of content added to your intranet makes it a little bit harder for the user to find the actual information they need.
  6. Help people find their way around. Investing some time and money in getting your information architecture right will soon pay for itself.  Don’t just rely on the main menus, though: use the left-hand navigation lists and the footer of each page too. Help people get back to the section home,  the home page, and to other related pages. But people have different ways of looking for things, so a good search engine and A-Z are needed too.
  7. Raze your city to the ground. It’s not an option that’s open to city planners, but there are strong arguments for scrapping your intranet and starting again. A clean slate gives you the chance to get your information architecture and governance structures right, before developing your content from scratch so it really meets the needs of your audience. This nuclear option is an expensive one, but one that shouldn’t be dismissed entirely.

Over the coming months I’ll be thinking a lot more about intranets and how we can make them better. What are your tips for keeping your intranet fit for purpose?

First thoughts on Google Wave

The geek community have been all a-fluster since the launch of Google’s latest big project, Google Wave, to a select group of 100,000 testers.

Google Wave is probably best described as a collaboration platform, bringing together the key functionality from email, instant messaging, shared documents and multi-media content. Google themselves say it’s ‘what email would be like if it had been invented now’.

After a long week wondering if Google Wave invites would be retro by the time I got one, mine finally arrived. At last I was one of the chosen few. My initial enthusiasm for it was tempered a bit when I realised the only other person I knew with an invite was Dave Briggs, and he wasn’t even logged on.

Things took a turn for the better, though, when I was invited into a SocITM09 Conference Wave, with Alan Coulson waving live from the SOCITM conference. This coverage really showed the potential of the platform. Alan live-blogged from the event in detail, adding links in where he could to slideshows posted online. This really helped those of us who were interested but not at the event to get a feel for what was going on (especially when combined with the live Twitter stream on the #socitim09 hastag).

At the same time, Sarah Lay and I had a bit of a chat within the broader Wave conversation (this is what Google call a ‘wavelet’).

Right now Wave is mostly a live chat type of system, like a souped-up MSN Messenger, where you can watch people type in real-time, replete with typos and corrections. But beneath the bonnet, it’s no Halfords Hero. It’s packed full of top-notch features and has bags of potential.

Things I learned:

  • Wave looks great. It does some cool stuff, which are better explained by Mashable than by me.
  • As you’d expect from a product that isn’t even in Beta, it’s a bit buggy (I’ve crashed out a few times), but the interface generally works well, is easy to understand and has some interesting features. Search isn’t integrated with proper Google Search yet, so the results are a bit iffy, but no doubt this will be fixed in time.
  • Wave is considerably more interesting once you know a handful of people with logons. Like anything else on the interwebs, unless you’ve got someone to talk to you’re just belming into the void.

Things I didn’t learn:

  • What Google Wave is actually for. For many years now I’ve had the principles of SMART objective-setting drilled into me, where one considers what one wants to achieve before working out how to get there. I’d imagine this applies as much to product development as communications strategy, and I wonder if somehow this missed the key step of identifying the problem before developing a solution.

On the other hand, a lack of clear purpose isn’t always a problem. I mean, Twitter isn’t really for anything, yet it’s clearly successful. I can’t help liking Wave. I’m a massive geek, and I love geeky things.

I’m not sure what use it has right now for council communications. Apart from anything else, you need a decent browser and good connectivity to make the most of it – we often lack both in the public sector, and in many areas of the country (particularly rural ones) our residents do too. The potential is there, but we need the technology to catch up.

Nonetheless, I can see plenty of applications for it in other areas of online life. In our ‘wavelet’, Sarah Lay and I discussed how the interface reminds us in many ways of journalists’ newswires, with rapid and quick-fire updates adding to an ongoing, fast-developing narrative produced by collective intelligence and effort.

I’ve seen this in action a few times; first, on September 11 2001, and second, on July 7 2005. On the former, working in a newsroom I watched the story unfold via successive text and picture updates (from a small number of sources like AP, Reuters and AFP). Four years later, we saw the collective intelligence of hundreds of Londoners quickly produce a summary of events on Wikipedia using a variety of sources and reports.

I can see Wave taking this to its next logical step, with collective effort producing a collaborative document including text, photo, video, maps, links, etc. It has the added bonus that it can be played back, so you can see how the narrative developed.

Now clearly you can’t sustain or develop a platform just so it can come into its own in the case of a huge but fortunately rare event. But the principle – of harnessing collective effort and intelligence to produce a single multi-media document – applies in all sorts of areas.

You could, for instance, use Wave for an online debate, adding different streams to the discussion and enhancing this with text, video, maps, and so on. This can be played back to show the evolution of the conversation.

Michele Ide-Smith posits a scenario where technology like Google Wave could really enhance citizen consultation. Online consultation on a housing development, she suggests, could begin with a short video and interactive maps, followed by discussion and debate on the issue facilitated online. Discussions can be replayed and key points responded to during or after the live event.

Eventually Google Apps and Docs will be integrated with Wave, giving it bags more potential (especially so for organisations that move to cloud computing).

Will it replace email? Maybe. Outside of work, where I drown in the stuff, I use email less and less, increasingly favouring things like Twitter, Facebook and IM, so a product which brings together the best of all of these could be just the thing we need.

I’m still thinking about what, if anything, Wave could do for us internal communicators specifically. There’s now a handful of us with Wave accounts, so I’m hoping to organise an Internal Comms Wave later this week to check out the features and think about how it can enhance our own work. If you’re on Wave and you’re interested in taking part, drop me a line or leave me a comment and I’ll invite you in.

One final thing: I can’t log on to Google Wave without getting the Pixies’ Wave of Mutilation as an earworm. I suspect this is just me. Is it?

October’s dead tree reading list

I love books. I always said when I grew up I wanted to have my very own library. And now I have. I’ve got a ladder and everything.

Granted, my need for a ladder is greater than most.

Anyway, inspired by Sarah Lay and Dave Briggs, here’s my Dead Tree Reading List for this month:


Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear (Dan Gardiner): At work I’ve been thinking lately about how we handle risk. Does our perception of risk create organisational paralysis? Often potential risks prevent us from innovating and trying new things. Do we need to get more used to taking risks?

Most books on risk look at the gap between statistical likelihood and perception of risk; this one goes into the psychology and politics of fear, so hopefully is a good basis on which to look at these questions.

My Invented Country (Isabel Allende): In this book, Allende explores her own perceptions and understandings of her home country, Chile. I admit I’m a little obsessed with South America, but I picked this up as it reminded me of Benedict Anderson’s concept of nation as imagined community.

We Think (Charles Ledbeater): This book explores how the web is changing our world, creating a culture in which more people than ever can participate, share and collaborate. That’s why the web is such a potent platform for creativity and innovation and has the potential to transform our democracy. I love this stuff.

Here Comes Everybody (Clay Shirky): This looks at organising without organisations. The social web gives us the tools to make group action a reality. That, in turn, could change our whole world.

The latter two are part of the growing body of literature (digital as well as dead tree) on the potential of the social web to transform the way we live our lives.

By lowering transaction costs and allowing people to self-0rganise, the web makes possible a whole raft of activity that was previously impossible or simply uneconomic.

So, for example, if you love reading and regularly buy books, you’ll know that new books are expensive. Even when you buy secondhand books, you get charged a fortune for postage and packing.

The social web makes alternatives possible. ReadItSwapIt is a book exchange website which allows users to simply swap the books they no longer want for ones they do want – for free.

Once you’ve finished a book, just register it with ReadItSwapIt and then find a book that you want to read. If someone has a book you like, you can arrange to post them to each other. All you pay is the cost of postage.

In my years of living in poky flats with shelf-space at a premium, I operated a strict(ish) one-in, one-out system using ReadItSwapIt that kept my bursting-at-the-seams shelves at some kind of equalibrium (and saved me a fortune).

A fine example of the way the web can transform the way we do business with each other, if you ask me.

Anti-Disclaimer: Links above aren’t affiliate ones, so I don’t make any money if you buy the books. However, I am probably obliged by my employers to point out there are more free books than you can shake a stick at available at your local, council-run library.