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GV Blogger Interview: Sylwia Presley

Sylwia PresleySylwia Presley is our Lingua Editor for Global Voices Polska (Polish) and an occasional author for Global Voices Online, but that doesn't reflect what she really means in our community, where her contribution on the internal mailing lists is received as inspiring and proactive. A prolific blogger and Twitter and Facebook user, I still don't know how she manages to get time to do all these activities.. and these are not the only things she does! So let's get to know her a little bit better in the next lines.

- Hi Sylwia, tell us a bit about you and your life, please.

I was born in Poland and at the age of 18 moved to Hungary to study, and later to work in Budapest. I studied Hungarian, German and American linguistics. During studies and first years of employment at Nokia and TCS Hungary I supported a Montessori high school helping talented youth from local Romani minorities to reach higher education – basically teaching English during evening class. I worked with local Polish scouting group and stayed involved in organising subcultural cultural events. I also started my adventure with photography then.
In 2006, when my son was born, I relocated to the UK and joined a word of mouth agency, 1000heads, where I am until now using my personal passion for blogging in daily work.

- How did u get involved with GV?

I read about GV Summit 2008 in Budapest on a brilliant Polish blog written in Hungary and really regretted that I missed it (I already lived in the UK at the time). I noticed that GV Lingua had no Polish translation so I suggested helping out. I also posted few articles about Poland, but my main focus so far was ensuring the Polish Lingua goes live and grows gradually. Once this is accomplished I hope to spend more time on articles about Poland. I also want to get involved in Global Voices Advocacy one day fairly soon.

- What are the challenges you have faced at GV in Polish?

The first challenge was to create a dedicated team and I think that after few months we are there now. I think it's an on-going process though – the more content we have, the more exposure we get and thus more volunteers. There are eight girls working on GV Polska now – we all support each other not only in translating GV content but also outside of this voluntary work. It takes a certain amount of content for audience to understand what GV Polska is about, so I am glad we are working on this now. GV Polska went live recently and we have started working on other supporting mechanisms (mapping out the countries we post about on a Google map, so we do not focus on few regions too much, but try to show events in all parts of the world; engaging in conversations outside of Twitter and gradually establishing more personal relationships with Polish bloggers and social media fans). I think in another six months, we will see the results of our current work outside of the main platform.

- How do you insert GV Polska on the local blogosphere, have you had problems with it?

I think establishing an on-line presence is a lengthy process, and we are beginning to gain readership on the site, but also discussion in other platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Blip (Polish Twitter) and Flaker (also a Polish site). Our presence on Twitter has given us an amazing push in terms of readership, but also interactiveness – we talk about our articles there. Now we need to bring those discussions on to the Lingua blog :) Flaker is a good site for incorporating GV Polska‘s presence in Polish social media, so we work on that too. I also think it's a very complex process and consists of different elements (I would love to see what other Lingua teams think!). I think one, probably the most important factor is the demand for information. I think we need to target the right people and gradually we are doing so. Our challenge at the moment though is the fact that we only have one of our team members is based in Poland, so it's difficult to spread the word about the site in local communities if our private networks are based elsewhere. You also need to remember that we are reporting on discussions, we do not generate them, which restricts us in taking active part in discussions in local blogosphere. I think we need to gradually build up our content and think outside the box on how we can establish on-going strong relationships with Polish bloggers. What proves effective at the moment are the Twitter and Flaker engagements and our personal relationships with local bloggers. I think it's a good starting point.

– Sylwia, as a lingua editor what do you perceive will be our challenge in the near future?

With GV Polska, we will now gradually work on other tools around the main blog to reach out to different audiences and to relate our articles to different topics in Poland. Now that we have reached our first 100 posts, we have something to show and we can develop a stronger presence in Polish social media. Our next challenge will be to encourage our readers not only to read, but also to comment on our posts and with this to have a large community of GV Polska readers who spread the word about GV's message, although with current trends of moving away from commenting on blogs to discussing blog content in other places online, we might instead invest our time there. I really hope that we will be able to do something offline for our Polish readers soon, to bring our message closer to every day reality of Polish citizens – simply to show them who we are, why we do it all for free and what is the aim. Quite frankly, I want to use my other projects, like Bar Mleczny and Barcamp Transparency (next year planned for Poland too) to help to spread the word about GV Polska. I also think that posting in English about Poland will help promoting work of GV Polska better, so that will be my next, personal task.

Now, in general terms, I am not sure if it's a challenge or just something to think about, and it depends on resources too, so might not be a short term plan but I think there is one bit of communication missing from the current model, which is addressing local issues and conversations in local languages. Somehow I feel it's a missing bit in closing the entire circle of information sharing. I also think it would help Lingua sites in addressing the local audience and promote Global Voices‘ message locally – I mean if I talk about discussions related to other countries in Polish to Polish audience it's great, but I think it would be also very exciting to be able to address Polish issues there. Now, I am not sure how the model would work – that would be another project, ‘Lingua Local’ if you like. We could have a separate team in place to post updates on local conversations, or engage translators (who are also authors in many cases) in this additional activity. I am confident that if the rest of the community is up for it, one day we will be able to consider this option too.

- As a translator, how has GV improved your skills?

First of all I do not work in translation at the moment so it's great to keep doing it for GV Lingua. My jobs were always related to translation but not specifically based on it, so it's good I can keep this learned skill active and practice it in my free time. It's one of those things that is worth keeping alive, and while you are doing it you develop constantly.
As a team we always discuss any problems in translations and support each other, which I find really helpful because there is sometimes need for second opinion. We use our Google group to post questions and quite recently we started weekly meet-ups on IRC to discuss GV related issues and gossip a bit;)
I also think I translate faster now, because I want to do the posts and all the other activities related to it – tweet it, map it, etc. The great thing about Global Voices content is that it is very rich in different topics and cultures – so we not only learn while working, but become exposed to various types of information which we might not always read about elsewhere.

- This is going to get a long answer I think. Sylwia, what other internet activities do you have?

Well, I have few on-going presences and more current projects. My first blog, written in Polish is very personal. My English blog is related to my work and interests (social media, ethics, activism, photography). My Hungarian blog is written for friends, but not too often. My son's blog is updated for his UK based family, but also for my friends outside the UK. I am considering bringing them all to one, self-hosted platform now.
I use Twitter (@presleysylwia) and FriendFeed for business networking and communicating with the local community, learning and sharing insights. Flickr is my photo sharing place where I meet interesting artists. Qik and YouTube are places where I share video updates – rather diary of what I do. I use Facebook, Nasza-Klara (Polish social network) and LinkedIn for networking – depending on whom I want to reach. And no, I do not spend all day on all those sites:) I use them each in its own rhythm, whenever required ;)

As for projects there is Bar Mleczny – blog aiming to bring UK-based Polish bloggers together and cross the bridge between British and Polish cultures. It's still a small, one-year-old baby, but with dreams to grow big and one day open an actual dairy bar in Oxford combined with arts, music and support for the local Polish community.
I have co-organised Barcamp Transparency this summer, where we talked about transparency issues in open government, social media and cyber-activism. We want to take this barcamp to Italy, Poland and Spain next year, as well as repeat the one in Oxford. I think barcamp is the best format for creative meeting of people from different business areas on a specific topic. It's free, flexible, but also very specific and practical.

I also got involved in Oxford Twestival in February and have repeated it now, in September. This event brings together all the important aspects of my life really (maybe apart from motherhood;)) – charity work, art and social media in real life. Sometimes people think or actually practice on-line presence completely separating it from every day life, but for me all the online places I am in simply document and enhance my reality. Thus, I am happy I can do a party for similarly minded people who all come over to a pub in Oxford to listen to good music and poetry and all this to raise money to support Oxfam's work in Mali. I am also happy that Oxford can be a part of this global initiative. We have managed to raise £1,570, which is a great sum for such a small community (60 attendees!). And we had fun! I am sure there will be another Twestival in Oxford in spring and I hope I can get involved in it too.
I have also helped out in social media strategy on few other voluntary projects, like World University Project for instance, and I hope to do so in the bear future.

I am very passionate about social media and the positive effect it can have in supporting work of individuals, as well as organisations. I am trying to feed as much information as possible to the GV community, but I also do not want to be monotonous:) so I am trying to feed the information which can be crucial for us. I am a strong supporter of Twitter in our work too, and I think it's great we are gradually moving to other types of social media and reaching out to different audiences. Global Voices as a site and as a community has a great potential and I am very happy I can be a part of it!

- Not all of us manage to succeed at promoting our sites on Facebook and Twitter. What suggestions can you give us?

I think one point is not to push it if you do not feel you enjoy doing it. So the first step is to check your options – mainly the local community of Twitter, Facebook or other online places. If you think you have good audience there and you can bring value to their community (you have people on Twitter who talk about citizen journalism, current events, social media, etc) it's worth trying to build a GV Lingua profile there. You do not have to update it on a daily basis – everyone has their own rhythm, but it's worth doing it in a genuine, natural, personal way. With the site content, which is strongly related to online communities we all bring value. And I am sure once you start talking to others and networking you will see that the presence is not only fun but also works in both directions – you will get fed with interesting facts, local social media events, projects. Just do it;)

- You mentioned photography as a personal interest, what is your approach to it?

Photography and poetry (recently also video) are my passions. I believe in harmony in life, and without art my life would be unbalanced – photography is a way of showing the world how I see it, how I feel about things, what stage of my life I am in. It is my private mirror, but also my statement, if that makes sense. I like experimenting with different ways of communication – it might be the linguist blood in me (my mother is a linguist;)), but generally the photos I take reflect the way I see the world: in details, working out the general trends form little bits and pieces – a mosaic of a kind. I take photos when I feel like, but I do have a target of one exhibition per year to ensure I do not neglect this bit of my life. So far I managed to over deliver on that front, so I can relax and invest more time in social media projects.

- What about other interests? Let's say books, movies, the usual thing?

I like fusion jazz and anything related or created in post-modern style, maybe this is why I like the interactiveness of the web so much. And I have my ‘the best’-lists:) Books: Umberto Eco ‘Name of the Rose’ (1), Anne Rice ‘Interview with the Vampire’ (2), basically everything from Erich Fromm and Jean Baudrillard (3). Films: ‘Total Eclipse’ (1), ‘Before the Rain’ (2), '28 Days After’ (3). Painters: Van Gogh (1) William Wharton (2), Georgia O'Keffee (3). I better stop now, it starts to look like a Facebook meme:D.

Thanks Sylwia.

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12 comments

  • Great interview! Even having met Sylwia in person, I still didn’t know much of this about her life (I hadn’t known that she lived in Hungary until Marietta told me). It is interesting to see how Global Voices content sparks conversation on other platforms … and how difficult it is to aggregate all of that conversation in one cohesive place. I think that will be one of our big challenges over the next few years. Or, on the other hand, maybe that is just the natural evolution of social media and of Global Voices: we bring conversations together only to inspire new conversations elsewhere.

  • It’s so nice to read about Sylwia! I remember when I was introduced as featured author for Hungary, together with her totally inspiring personality, she impressed me by that she speaks fantastic Hungarian. :)

  • What David said. Another great interview and opportunity to learn more about a GVer!

  • I’d like to think we can inspire more conversations leading to actual change, as well as stay cohesive and strong in our own message – I am convinced it’s possible regardless of the tools we are using;)

  • Thank you, Marietta, I had really good teachers and inspiring environment of Buda and Pest to pick it up!;)

  • Amazing, exciting stuff. Good on you, Sylwia.

    She hasn’t mentioned that she also put tireless energy into this years Twestival Local.

    I don’t know how she does it
    Claire
    x

  • […] to have all my current initiatives in one piece, and good to know that others share my thoughs. Here is the entire […]

  • Thanks for everything you do Sylwia!

  • Many thanks Sylwia & Juan for this for this great interview. I learned a lot!

  • Thank you Sylwia! I too have a resource which I thought would be useful to learn to speak Hungarian

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