Thursday, 31 December 2009

Singing without voices

If you know me, you'll know how much I love singing.

It's energising, soothing, and helps me with my breathing. When I have bronchitis, I'll mime; when I'm working, I'll do it sotto voce; when I'm in New York, I'll do it walking down the street (no-one looks); when I'm writing a speech, I'll compose it like a song.

I've got a thing for a capella singing - singing without instruments - but did you know you can also sing without voices?

I went to British Sign Language classes for a couple of years* and one of my favourite parts of the course was the "singing" - we each had to prepare and interpret a song of our choice, in sign language. Huge fun, and also very moving to literally see the songs brought to life in the students' hands.

Here are a couple of examples of songs interpreted in sign language - in these videos it's American Sign Language or ASL. I like the way Stephen Torrence conveys the range of emotions in the Miley Cyrus song, and the bit at the end where he renders the "Oooohs" is really cute.


Video also available on YouTube here.

And as it's New Year's Eve, how about Jonathan Coulton's "The Future Soon":

Video also available on YouTube here.

There are also sign language choirs; I've dabbled in a bit of public performance myself. Have a look around on YouTube, or better still, try and get along to a live concert.

*The best thing I received from the course was the ability to be the BSL interpreter for my sister and brother in law - both Deaf - when my niece was born by emergency caesarean. It was an incredible night and a huge responsibility as I translated for the anaesthetist, the surgeon and my sister. My niece is now 7, hearing, bilingual in English/BSL, and proper feisty. I, on the other hand, now have an enviable sign vocabulary of labour-induced expletives and gynaecological terms.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Twitter: learn more about your follow relationships

Twitter's all about followers.

It's not about buying or spamming them, but about building up relationships and sharing information with them.

It's also public and transparent (unless you choose to protect your updates).

So here's the thing: you can see who your colleagues, competitors and opponents are talking to - or neglecting to talk to! If you're a politician, candidate, journalist, blogger or in business, it's well worth checking Twitter following relationships and making sure you're not missing out.

Here are three tools I use regularly to find out about the networks of my followers, (and their followers and their followers' followers!) plus one recommendation for you to follow:

  • Friend or Follow


  • As the site says, "Who are you following that's not following you back? Who's following you that you're not following back? Find out!"

    There are three tabs: following (people who you follow that don't follow you back), fans (people who follow you, but whom you don't follow) and friends(reciprocal relationships).

    It's easier than trying to figure out the same thing by looking on the main Twitter site. You may spot some followers you'd missed, and with whom you'd like to reciprocate.

    You can even export the lists as .csv files!

  • DoesFollow


  • Dead straightforward. Just enter two Twitter usernames and get a "yup" or "nope" answer.

  • Who Follows Whom?


  • Ever got a new follower and wished you could check which friends you have in common, the way you can on Facebook? Well, you can with Who Follows Whom?, and it even goes one better: you can enter up to five usernames and see whose gangs you're all in.

  • @goodbyebuddy - follow Goodbye, Buddy on Twitter and they'll send you a DM when someone unfollows you. I love the way they don't sugar the pill - my last DM from them was: "Well, well, well. What have we here? @mmhmmshns unfollowed you. They were never your real friend anyway."

    There are other similar services, but for cheekier and funnier unfollow messages, give this one a try.


  • By the way, you don't have to restrict yourself to following people whose networks overlap a lot with your own, or even at all. It's good to be a pioneer sometimes.


    UPDATE: Goodbyebuddy has now changed the way it works. It no longer automatically sends Twitter DMs when someone unfollows you. From the Goodbyebuddy website:

    All you have to do is follow @goodbyebuddy on twitter and visit this page. You might have to wait a day or two until your unfollower stats show up.