New Oxford Guide to Local Independent Shops launched

This is a great idea, a guide showcasing 85 of Oxford’s best independent shops. I like to support Oxford businesses where I can, and this can only help me.

It looks like there is a site coming to thinklocally.co.uk too, so that will be worth keeping an eye on.

Book keeps Oxford independent (From The Oxford Times)

How Google Notebook can help with your Christmas shopping

As well as search, Google Reader, and Gmail, there is one other Google product I’ll use every day, and that is Google Notebook. It works so well for me for making todo lists, storing links and information, and sharing with other people. You need a Google account to use it, and once set up you’re able to create multiple notebooks for whatever you want. It is worth also installing the Google Notebook Firefox extension, as that then gives right-click access to store links instantly, and a popup mini-version of your notebooks in the bottom-right corner of the page you’re on.

How will this help with your Christmas shopping though? Well, let me explain:

1. Making your Christmas shopping list

As you search online for potential presents across several sites, simply add the page for each possible item to a notebook just for presents. Make notes and comments on those links, compare the prices and ideas, drag and drop them order of which are the best. If you have a lot of presents to buy, you might even want a notebook for each person. Add text notes in the same list as well, reminders or a list of what you have to find. I’m also doing a todo list in one of my notebooks which is my Christmas card list, reminding my wife and I of who we have to send cards to (more on that shortly).

2. What about my presents?

Wish lists have been around for many years now, Amazon being perhaps the best and most well-known example. How do you create a wish list for several online shops though? Well, as above, add all the items you’ve found to a notebook.

When your list is bulging with goodies, go to sharing options for that notebook. Say yes to making the notebook a public web page and save. You’ve now got a page that you can send to your friends and family to let them know what you would like for Christmas. In the top-right of your notebook it will now show as published, with a link to view that page. Do note however that this is a public page that anyone can see.

You can add, change or remove notes from within your notebook, and your public wish list will be automatically updated.

3. Organise Christmas together

If you go back to the sharing options, you can also invite other people to collaborate and use the same notebook. Do this if you don’t want to make your list public to anyone. In this case, anyone you invite can edit and add to the notebook in the same way you can. I’m using this option to plan Christmas with my wife. We’ve got our todo list, a list of presents we need to buy for our collective family and friends, and our Christmas card list. Obviously I’ve also got a separate private notebook for presents I might get her too.

So there you are, a few simple ways to use Google Notebook to help get ready for Christmas. It is a wonderful little tool for all sorts of planning tasks, and it is nice and easy to get even newcomers used to using it.

How do we stop the Starbucksification of the Cowley Road?

The Cowley Road in Oxford is starting to change shape at the moment. Not in terms of it being dug up and rerouted, as seems to happen every few months, but instead the start of its Starbucksification. There is always a churn of shops on such roads, but it does seem to be the start of something more significant. Several shops have closed recently, some of them citing excessive rent rises. Three of the longer term shops that have gone are Coopers newsagent, The Bead Shop, and Panda Records.

We’ve seen the arrival of a large Subway (with another only a few minutes away in St.Clements), and Costa Coffee is due to open an outlet soon as well.It’s starting to look like more of the larger chains are on their way too. I can’t see it being more than a year before we get our first Starbucks, and then the virus of the chain will really kick in. Not to mention the replacement of The Venue/Zodiac with the Carling Oxford Academy.

By co-incidence, I was listening to an interview with William Gibson today, on the BoingBoing.net podcast. He was asked which he thought was the most futuristic¬† city in the world, and he felt it was Berlin. One of his reason for this was that the retail space was a lot cheaper than in other cities, and it meant that smaller, innovative and interesting shops were able to set up there and trade successfully. He wondered aloud how this could be achieved in older cities such as New York or London, and one of his suggestions was that on new developments, there should be sets of retail spaces with very small floorspaces. The idea behind this being that chains wouldn’t be attracted to the smaller shops, and they would thus appeal to the smaller retailer.

Interestingly, this is the same solution presently employed to preserve the nature of the Laines in Brighton. Apparently they have a conservation order on the area, which prevents new retail spaces over a certain size, or knocking through into another shop. From my own experience, you do get an interesting mix of shops there.

So perhaps this is what is needed to help Oxford’s Cowley Road maintain some of its sense of character. It would be a shame for it to turn from what it is into yet another high street.

A nice place to shop online

Just a quick plug for a friend of mine. She has started up an online toyshop called HappyHappyToyToy. It sells mainly Japanese toys, and seems to be getting new items added every so often. I ordered some Hello Kitty items for a friend’s birthday, and they arrived very promptly, so I am one happyhappyflotskyflotsky. Have a look!