At the weekend, I booked a viewing for a house that I hadn’t seen the details for. Today, I had a text message (still to Mr Davis) informing me that that house had arrived on the estate agent’s books.
So I called the agent and asked if I could see the details with some photographs, maybe. At which point, the very friendly woman I was speaking to proceeded to describe the house to me in intricate detail. It has a white front door, she told me, an 8-ring-hob and range cooker, concrete walls around the front garden…I had to interrupt her, as it could’ve gone on indefinitely.
She’s sent me the details of the property on email instead. Of course, the link goes to a 404 on the agent’s website, and the images embedded in the email are all broken. I think someone out there doesn’t want me to see this house.
In the meantime, I attempted to find the property my own way on their website. Instead, I came across this little beauty – a fairly ordinary house but all means. However, the copy describing this house was anything but ordinary:
Seeing is believing, so take a look at this house and you will notice how many opportunities are about to explode in front of your eyes. Don’t mistake those fireworks for the 5th November, it’s the electricity of the expectation that you are about to get your hands on what is the equivalent to the holy grail.
I am sure you will be in total harmony as you start your journey of exploration throughout this house. On the lower ground floor you have an excellent sized room which the current owners use as an office or this would make an fantastic bedroom or second lounge if you need that extra space. Relax, inhale and exhale, listen; You can’t hear any noise in this cavern. Just silence, until it’s shattered by your music or television or entertaining.
Weigh up the options, you may want to grasp the opportunity of taking advantage of the planning permission that is granted for another dwelling to be built to the side. Hypothesize about the opportunities that could be unravelled for you and your family as if all your Christmas’s and birthdays have come at once.
Whoever wrote this – I love you.
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I haven’t posted on my blog in a while. But my recent struggles with trying to buy a property have inspired me to start up a new mini-blog within this one, about my experiences with estate agents.
Follow our journey as me and my partner, Keith, try to buy a property, no matter how hard estate agents try to get in the way.
This isn’t technically day one. In fact, we’d come within weeks of exchanging contracts on another property until the purchase unfortunately fell through. So now we’re starting again from scratch.
On Saturday just passed, I registered with about 10 estate agents in the local area, careful to tell all of them exactly what we’re looking for. For the purposes of this blog – I will give you a short list:
- Detached or semi-detached house
- 3 or more bedrooms
- Within 1 mile of a train station
- In Rainham, Rochester or Gillingham.
- Off-road parking
- Downstairs loo
- Utility room
- On a quiet road
Today, I receive a phone call from an estate agent who wanted to tell me about a property desperately. I called him back, at which point he immediately referred to me as ‘Mrs Davis’ (I’m a Miss, thank you) and proceeded to tell me about a bungalow he had for sale approximately 2 miles from the station.
I referred him to my above list of requirements, at which point he said I was on his system as looking for ‘bungalows’. I assured him that wasn’t the case, but he seemed somewhat unwilling to admit his staff had made a mistake. With that now fixed, he proceeded to tell me about a lovely detached property with all the right features in the right area…but £40k over our budget. Thanks!
Secondly, I had a text message from another estate agent. It reads as follows:
‘Hi Mr Davis take a look at this, a 5 bed terraced in Eastcourt Lane, Gillingham. I’m already taking calls on this one.’
So, my name’s wrong, and we’ve told them we won’t consider terrace properties. On top of that, it’s well over a mile from the station.
I’m also delighted to have received this eloquent email in all-caps:
“PROPERTY IN A FANTASTIC AREA OF CHATHAM!
A VERY DESIREABLE AREA CLOSE TO THE TRAIN STATION ON FOR A FANTASTIC PRICE THIS 4 BEDROOMS HOME SET JUST OFF MAIDSTONE ROAD IN CHATHAM.”
Wow – if it’s in a ‘desireable’ area of Chatham I have to see this! but I click on the link and am taken to the website of the agent with no clue as to how to find the details.
All things considered, I’d say that’s a pretty good day one.
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Today, the BBC posted an article titled ‘Woman and tech: Why don’t girls want to be geeks?’ As usual, the article points to differences between girls and boys, men and women. I’m going to quickly cover that off – before moving on to my own experience.
The article starts with a teacher suggesting that “girls don’t see IT as creative. It is that image of the geek or nerd in a room typing lines of code”. A different teacher said, ‘Boys are… more confident around the technology, whereas girls are a little bit shy, on the back foot before they start”.
This irks me. These observations are based on such a small sample of children that they shouldn’t be extrapolated out to cover the UK population. But more importantly, I believe that these teachers’ preconceptions of girls’ and boys’ preferences in IT could come to influence the way they teach boys and girls in future – therefore perpetuating the issue.
The feminine developer
The article moves on to discuss a successful female programmer called Ms Chessell. She claims that “You can become a leader and you can lead in feminine ways”, including a greater emphasis on collaboration – a supposedly feminine trait.
But in my mind, this constant focus on ‘men’ and ‘women’ in IT (and in society generally) is part of the problem – we’re not ‘people’ anymore – we’re male and female. And when successful female developers choose to emphasise these differences (albeit in a ‘positive’ way), I don’t think it helps anybody.
This article goes on, but I feel compelled to move on myself before I fly into a blind (oestrogen fuelled?) rage.
How college finally broke me
I grew up with computers and have been a very keen gamer since I was 11 (much to my mother’s disappointment). So, when I came to leave secondary school, I decided to buck the IT stereotype and become a developer!
I was one of three girls (out of a class of 50ish) on the IT course at my local college. I got the impression that the boys on my course were surprised to see a girl there – perhaps I’d taken a wrong turn at the ‘health and beauty’ block just opposite? And from day one, they made no bones about showing it.
It’s difficult not to be self conscious in a class full of the opposite sex at a young age – particularly when so much attention is drawn to your differences. I could cope with the mickey-taking, the sexist/sexual jokes, the boisterousness and so on.
But the main problem came with the constant derision of my supposed ability to deal with ‘logic’. Yes, you need an element of logistical aptitude to succeed as a developer. Yes, maths is a helpful skill too. But many hours were spent telling me how I could never be as good as the boys because girls are naturally terrible at these things.
I done a logic!
Until I got to college, I’d always believed that a love of computing would help me make it through. But after years of being told by my peers, the media and industry that girls simply aren’t made to have these skills, I started to believe it. When the coursework got hard, I was embarrassed to ask my classmates for help and eventually, lost all my confidence.
11 years later I’m frustrated and regretful that I let those things get to me, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I cannot stress how damaging it is to continuously persue scientific research and publish articles which aim to prove that women are genetically unsuited for jobs in IT.
Update: I found my Insights profile
The night after I wrote this post, I stumbled across my Insights profile from 2010. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a complex personality test used to work out your working styles. I found some excerpts which I thought were quite interesting, based on the post above.
‘Jennifer is a systematic and organised thinker, with highly developed analytical skills.’
‘Jennifer is painstakingly accurate and methodical.’
‘She tries to use logical principles to make sense of the ideas that constantly arise in her mind. Logical, analytical and objective, Jennifer is unlikely to be impressed or convinced by anything other than reasoning based on solid, concrete facts.’
‘Valuing logical and impersonal analysis highly…’
Filed under: Feminism | 1 Comment
Tags: female developers, feminism
Following the controversy surrounding the attempted rape scene that is to feature in the latest Tomb Raider game, I felt inspired to write my own little piece on Lara Croft as a role mode for young girls.
As my parents likely remember, Tomb Raider 2 was the first game I owned on the PC at the tender age of 11. And boy, did I love that game. It was thrilling, exciting, atmospheric and just plain fun. I gave her feminist credentials little thought at the time, but now I wonder how positive a role model Lara really was for me.
Lara as a positive role model
Even at 11 years old, I was fiercely aware of how few female characters featured in games, particularly as playable characters. In fantasy games, women were healers and magicians, in fighting games they were weak but ‘nimble’, while in many other genres they were simply side characters.
So here I was, presented with the curvaceous, beautiful, achingly well-spoken, terrifyingly athletic Lara Croft as the main protagonist in an action adventure game! Typically a genre dominated by hyper-masculine characters, I was excited to be able to play as a woman for once.
Lara is introduced to us a super-rich heiress with endless funds with which to fund her adventures and expeditions. I’m not sure how much that devalues her ‘independent woman’ status, but I’m willing to overlook it. Within minutes of the first level, we also discover that, provided the terrain she’s faced with is perfectly flat, she can overcome physical feats the likes most ‘real’ humans could only dream of. In fact, she can handstand, swan dive and shimmy her way through the world’s most challenging landscapes without so much as breaking a sweat.
And what else? She’s awesome with a gun. And not just pansy pistols, but massive guns including M16s and grenade launchers. Even more impressive, she carries her entire arsenal in this backpack.
So to sum up – she’s witty, eloquent, smart, physically capable, exceptionally talented with a range of guns and vehicles, and can take out 2 T-rexs on her own. As a young girl, what’s not to admire about Lara Croft?
Lara croft and her bad points
Lara Croft is physically improbable. Her breasts are enormous, her waist is tiny and, with a pony tail that long, her split ends should be atrocious. Her proportions are so unlikely that even an 11 year old me had to ask how many of her physical feats were technically possible. Sufficed to say, I don’t think Lara has a body image that should be aspired to. Which brings us to the question, why did the developers make her that way?
Lara Croft was coded largely by men, for men (and women to a degree). It can’t be ignored that the large proportion of gamers at that time were men, and one can only assume that Lara’s sexualisation was driven by a need to cater to that audience. But is her physical representation so out of kilter with the real world, including her unlikely measurements, her sexy hip-swing when she walks and the sexual ‘grunts’ she makes when she’s physically damaged, that her physical-self becomes a sort of parody? I’d like to think so, but I think that may just be a side effect. Maybe those elements are what helped me to side-step that particular ‘diminishing’ effect on her character.
Why I forgive Lara her foibles
So, visually, I don’t believe that Lara represents a good role model for girls or women. But the game’s sympathetic treatment of Lara as our lead character and their slightly parodist treatment of her physicality helps me to think more positively towards Lara as a feminist role model.
After all, the viewpoint of the game is such that Lara never looks us in the eye. It does not allow her to be sexualised to a point where there’s an impression of ‘control’ or ‘domination’ that supersedes her own strength and independence as a character. She never gets naked, she never engages in romantic relationships with others and ultimately, she is a positive, female lead.
I’m not going to engage in any debate about Lara Croft in the movies at this point, as I feel a lot of these ideas are ‘broken’ with negative results (despite being a HUGE Angeline Jolie fan). I also won’t discuss the desexualisation of Lara’s physique in the latest incarnation of the Tomb Raider series (a prequel to all the games so far), nor the supposed ‘character building’ aspect of her attempted rape in said game as these are entirely different arguments.
I’m always open to alternative ‘readings’, so please point out any positive or negative aspects of Lara’s characterisation is the Tomb Raider series that may support or go against my conclusion! But for now, I leave you with this:
Filed under: Feminism, Gaming | Leave a Comment
Tags: feminism, Lara Croft, Tomb Raider
Over the past 27 years, I’ve had a niggling feeling that gender equality is still a long way off. After a lot of reading and a lot of thinking back over my life experience, I want to start articulating some of my ideas – to share them, if nothing else.
A conversation I had on Twitter today started me thinking about the concept of ‘gentlemen’. I have a tough time reconciling the idea, as it feels like an outdated concept.
Before I started to label my desire for gender equality this way, I think my drive to be taken seriously as a woman has led me to shy away from special treatment based on my gender. Let me cite some small, yet pervasive examples. As a disclaimer – I know to some of you – these examples sound petty and I will address that shortly.
Always 50/50 in relationships
A particular bug-bear of mine is a door-situation where a man, in his eagerness to be ‘gentlemanly’, will insist of letting me, a woman; go through it first, even if it would be significantly easier for both of us if the man had gone through first.
A second example involves the few occasions I’ve been offered a seat on the tube/bus/train by a man, despite his being at the seat first and being equally deserving of it (I am a woman, not disabled.) I never take the seat.
Another (silly) example is my boyfriend, who always insists on taking the curb side of the pavement to shield me from ‘splashes and dangerous drivers’ etc (he explains that’s what they did in the old days, when they had horses and carts). Frankly, I’m significantly less clumsy than him and therefore a much safer bet for the curb-side, but he simply won’t have it.
I can imagine droves of commenters (perhaps unlikely considering the average of 8 hits a day my blog receives) posting that I should appreciate this attitude from men when I’m exposed to it – but my reasoning is this: if I want to be treated equally to men, how can I accept (and appreciate) special treatment that I don’t deserve simply because I’m a woman?
I believe we should treat everyone we meet as we’d like to be treated. I know it’s an old adage, but wouldn’t the world be a better place if we treated each other with a little more respect and consideration?
I have difficultly reconciling these concepts because it sounds like I’m encouraging men to be less pleasant to women (I’m not – see above). But on a very subliminal level, I feel that the special treatment aimed at me as a result of my sex disempowers me. It implies that, as a woman, I’m not able to stand, walk through a door or protect myself from horses and carts as capably as a man.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure most men only have positive intentions – so this isn’t a dig at them. And I know that the notion of being a gentleman is positively reaffirmed constantly by our society and that, in fact, many women love a ‘gentleman’ type.
But do any of my examples or feelings resonate with you – both men and women? Could gentlemanly behaviour ever be considered subversive (even on the deepest, most unconscious levels) or should we be grateful for all politeness?
Filed under: Feminism | 6 Comments
Tags: feminism, gentleman, gentlemen
Last week, I couldn’t attend my Weight Watchers weigh in as I went home for the weekend. I’ve only missed 3 weigh ins in 5 months – but I still received this motivational poem from my leader in my email today:
I know it was half term
Maybe the kids drove YOU round the bend
Could it be that YOU were too busy?
Or that biscuits were YOUR only friend?
I’m no schoolteacher & I’d never tell YOU off
I’m only here to help YOU make sure
YOU get that weight loss
So this week come what may
I want YOU to come back
If YOU’RE losing motivation
Let me help YOU get back on track
I will give YOU a tracker
For YOU to write it on
Soon YOU’LL be amazed at how
Quickly those lbs have gone!
Follow YOUR dream; Take one step at a time
And, despite the challenges; Continue to climb.
Why does she keep capitalising the ‘YOU’? And no, biscuits aren’t my only friend ACTUALLY. In fact, I couldn’t attend the meeting this week as a result of a prior social engagement! With real, HUMAN friends.
If this is what I pay £20 a month for, I want my money back.
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Over the last 3 years, it feels like the world has woken up to the advantages of online content.
Working in digital, I’ve rarely needed to extol the virtues of content. But recently, someone suggested to me that on-site content could actually distract customers from the main goals of a website: to obtain new customer leads.
How could content distract web users?
If you have a company whose operation is based almost entirely offline, your web operation could simply be viewed as a lead-generation tool.
And this makes sense – you have a highly trained call centre that converts customers expertly. Naturally you want to drive people to call you, not to mooch around your website for hours.
And this raises the question – if you weigh down your website with too much content, are you cannibalising your leads?
What do I mean by ‘cannibalisation’?
Joe Bloggs comes to your website with the idea that he might like to buy business insurance (for example). He has a few questions, but he manages to find all the answers using your comprehensive website content (win!).
But now he has all the answers, so he doesn’t need to call your highly trained call centre to ask for help.
Is that an opportunity lost?
I don’t think so.
The overriding suggestion is that businesses can lose opportunities as a result of over-educating their prospective customers. Here’s why I think this argument is flawed:
- Comprehensive content makes your site more discoverable. There’s a good chance your customers found the site in the first place due to a natural search query. With skeleton content that is rarely updated or added to, your site is unlikely to increase its rankings and attract new leads in the first place.
- Detailed, well-written content helps gain prospective customers’ trust. Content is a brilliant way to show potential customers that you’re experts, thought-leaders and that you’re trustworthy. In fact, it’s one of the only ways.
- If web users don’t find what they need – they will leave. If a potential customer can’t find what they’re looking for on your site, it’s highly unlikely they’ll pick up the phone to call you. It’s far more likely that they’ll simply leave and go somewhere else that does have the answers.
- Content is vital for customer retention and social engagement. Customer acquisition is important, but retention is equally so. If there’s nothing for customers on your site, what will make them come back? How can you hope to engage them in social spaces if you’ve nothing relevant to share?
I want to be impartial and consider the counter-argument. So if anyone reading this disagrees with my argument, I’d love to hear your point of view.
Filed under: Content & usability | Leave a Comment
Tags: content, copywriting