ia play

the good life in a digital age

Archive for the ‘guardian’ Category

my second Guardian job

without comments

After working in the Guardian library I started my MSc at City. To pay the bills I worked on the Guardian website at night. The website wasn’t run out of the main Farringdon road office but from an attic in Ray Street, accessed via what seemed like a goods elevator.

I written about the pleasures of night shifts before, and my abiding memory of this time is the beautiful, out of this world taxi rides home along embankment through an empty city.

The Guardian was also responsible for my only (brief) spell of vegetarianism. One shift I was charged with sifting through images of burning cows to add to the Foot and Mouth special report. Following that with a walk home past fast food shops and their waft of burgers was a bit too much.

I cracked a few months later, roasted a chicken and ate pretty much the whole thing.

Both the best and worst night shift ever was the night of the US election. Instead of the night shift being the usual mundane whirr of hacking the daily paper into a website, it was how I felt a newsroom should be. Realising around 3am that George Bush was the next US president was not so uplifting.

At the same time, my friend Sally was working on one of the Guardian’s digital experiments, the weblog.



That coincidence meant that in autumn 2000 I covered for her whilst she was on holiday and allows me to annoy Martin with having blogged before him.

It was also the first time I was required to look at porn for work, as my stint coincided with Richard Desmond buying Express newspapers and the weblog editor wanted us to link to one of his *other companies* but one that wouldn’t cause too much upset.

So stint two was memorable for Richard Desmond, burning cattle and George Bush. And for the realisation that these websites need a lot of organising.



Written by Karen

August 29th, 2012 at 6:42 am

Posted in guardian

my first Guardian job

without comments

So I’ve left the Guardian again.  Maybe it’s a sign of age but I’ve been thinking more about my previous jobs at the Guardian than the last 2 years.

I began my first stint at the Guardian in the last century (just). The role was a library trainee. During the interview it was casually mentioned that the rota for Millennium new year had already been completed and the successful candidate would have the pleasure of working new years day. So my century began in the Guardian office, with a hangover and a sense of being hard done by.

The interview day had kicked off with a general knowledge quiz in which I was fine with the names of shadow cabinet members but only knew half of “who are Barak and Mubarak?”. Later we had a group interview. It was not as terrifying as I’d assumed, for the depressing reason that seeing other people give terrible answers reassures you that at least you didn’t say that. The individual interview was memorable too, not least for the question “how do you cope with boring work”.

I got the job and moved to London to live with my grandparents which added a surreal air to it (my grandad would warm my gloves in the morning before I went to work).

In the mornings we filed newspaper cuttings. In the afternoon we checked the automatic feed for the digital archive, shifting bylines out of standfirsts and reintroducing ampersands where they’d been garbled.

The electronic archive interface, 2001


Sometimes a journalist would come by. Only Gary Younge left a good impression.

There was the odd side project, sifting through microfiche for original serialisations of Dickens novel or contemporary World War Two reports. Absorbing, hypnotic stuff.

We answered enquiries from the readers, tracking down articles from just the flimsiest of recollections. Going further than we were supposed to made the work into something more akin to a game. I still remember the lovely surprised thank-you letter from a reader when we sent him a copy of an old Telegraph article that he’d remembered as being in the Guardian.

By the time I left, I’d learned the surnames of all the Spice Girls, developed a fleeting interest in football, and had an invaluable body of knowledge about personal finance. Most things are interesting once you read about them everyday.

I’d also made contact with the fledgling Guardian Unlimited team, which turned out to be more useful than the Spice Girls and the football but arguably less useful than the finance.

I never worked in a library again but I still feel on some deep infrastructure level that I am a librarian.



Written by Karen

August 28th, 2012 at 6:40 am

Posted in guardian

leaving the Guardian

without comments

The end of my second stint at the Guardian is nearly here. I’ll be  finishing a few things off over the summer and then moving on.

I’ll remember this stint for my ‘3 users a week’ user testing, setting up the product voices panel, and testing a prototype I made with Xcode. The kind of work that is being taken to a whole different level by Craig Spencer, now heading up the Guardian’s UX research.

The best times were more fun than any other time in my 12 year career.

I’m not leaving a purple dog-filled office this time, although it’s not often you get art galleries in the office basement. Grayson Perry’s Map of Nowhere is quite good for IA inspiration at the moment.

It’s been a gift working with  Martin, Lynsey & Alastair: sketching in Camley Street Nature Reserve, munching our way through Eat.St and drinking/goose watching by the canal.  I’m very very sad that our little UX team is dispersing but I suspect I’ll work with them all again on other things.

Things to take away this time:

  • nothing beats working with developers who can build it *better* than you drew it
  • you must always stick things on the walls
  • it’s amazing how fast you can get stuff done if you don’t ask if you can do it

Written by Karen

June 18th, 2012 at 6:02 am

Posted in guardian

back to the Guardian

with 2 comments

The Guardian was my first job out of university.  I’m back 10 years later and the office is a whole lot shinier and is also closer to my house. So far, so good.

I’ve been surprised at how pleased I am to be getting back to the media.  I think it’s the culture of trying new things, of  exceptionalism and something about being engaged with the outside world.

But the very, very exciting bit is I get to work with Martin again.

On the downside the dogs in office count is likely to be zero.

Written by Karen

February 21st, 2011 at 6:38 am

Posted in guardian,work