Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bold Plans for Early Retirement

On the 12th of this month, TT of Retire at 30 started a blog. Yes, the title is a giveaway as to the subject matter.
It is as bold a plan as you like but you've got to love a blog beginning with the end in mind. From what I've read of the blog so far, you could even put a little faith in TT doing it.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

New Resource For Corporations

Just over a week ago ex-google Director Doug Edwards launched his xooglers blog. A home for former google employees to reminisce. This is his alternative plan to writing a book.

So far, most of the commentary about this blog are notifications that it exists. Artem of GooglePlanet came close to making a point on the implications.
It is a great idea to have an opinion also of those, who quit.
Shel Holtz naturally took up the PR lane.
it is a venue where dirty laundry can be aired and a company embarrassed.
I'm going to approach this with the feeling that this is potentially a great resource for the subject employers to harness some of the old talent that has moved on. Currently, many medium - large companies have problems with extracting information from employees and indeed employees can struggle to find a platform to offer their opinions.
But this is easily remedied if the company is willing and can certainly be settled internally.

Ex-employees no doubt still have a lot to offer and a willingness to share. Sure, they are not on the payroll so the terms are I can write anything I like and it is fully public but hell, you do get what you pay for.

In the case of Doug Edwards, it looks like he left of his own accord to be a full time dad. Google assumingly remunerated him well enough to be able to do that and he still seems to have a fondness for the company. Hence he will offer opinions of value no doubt.

In this new media society, there is the possibility for a person to amiably leave a company, change employer, run with an idea for the new employer that he wanted to do with his old employer but didn't have the freedom to do it, talk about its success and his old employer stands to benefit from the wisdom gained:
  • Either that this new idea could have worked for them (maybe it still can)
or maybe a more valuable lesson:
  • that the reason they did not implement this idea first was because they were not open to it in the first place.
Hat tip: Shel Holtz

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

S.A.D therapy

As, like a lot of bloggers on the northern hemisphere are pointing out, it is bloody cold out there the past few days. Previous warnings of it being a cold winter are being held up and vindicated as locally we have had the first snow in November that any of us can remember (normally a White Christmas is doubted because it usually hasn't snowed until the point).
As I was peering at the screen at about 18:15 I realised that I was really about to crash out and spell "hbngjyvmfktu67" on the keyboard with my face. Since I had also fallen asleep at 18:30 on Tuesday, I had form.

Sick to death of treating such early evening tiredness with traditional caffeine I thought I'd try an alternative approach.

As a child, I was wary and discomforted by precipitation. One day, after getting off the bus, getting drenched I decided to be done with it. Stripped down to the shirt yelled out the immortal words: "Come on then!" and bam. The rain stopped. Now I have no qualms whatsoever about going out in the rain, just having to sit in soaked clothing for the working day makes me think twice about taking the weather head on again.

So, I thought I'd try a similar act again. Not to mention that after coming back from market, where granny fetched a less than desirable price of 5 shillings, I was sick and tired of that money going towards this month's gas bill that doesn't even feel like it is keep the home warm.

Off come the superfluous layers and out I go onto the balcony, blessing the whipping wind. Low and behold, after five minutes out there I waltz back in and feel the benefit.
Still feeling warm, still awake and spirits considerably lifted. Recommended practice if you want to help fight the S.A.D symptoms.

However, I'm thinking I should be worried that the cures to my psychological ailments seem to revolve around stripping off...

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

I'm a Blogging Case Study...

Believe it or not (for the record, it took me three readings to sink in) Australian communicator extraordinaire Lee Hopkins chose to use my blogging development story as a case study, whilst announcing that he has added me to his prestigious list of "Cappuccino reads".

Lee has singled me out to illustrate the thoughts, actions and outcomes behind starting a blog.

In light of this event I think it is only fair that I offer some elaboration as to where I fit in on the blogosphere and where I feel I am personally with the blogging cycle.

I first started out with a bit of political commentary. Easy but importantly personal ground. Most folk have a viewpoint and there is often no right or wrong. It is confidence building, you get used to the medium and vitally a feel for how regularly you can post.

When Lee says you'll get missed when you're not there, it's true. Show loyalty to your readers by being consistent. Blogging isn't an obligation, but that's no reason to not be courteous and let your readership know either implicitly or explicitly how long it'll be before they will hear from you again.

I didn't know which direction I was going to take off in, it wasn't an issue for me when I started.
From an earlier post of mine:
I started out with designs on just commenting on the news (for my personal benefit as much as anything else). The signs that I was interested in writing about productivity, self management and the like was pleasing to the eye.
Without knowing it, I was going in the right direction.
Essentially, if you are starting out, you can use your first month or so to get your eye in (regularity, comfortable style, broad area of interest) and after that start bringing in the real content you want to deal with.

Make sure you are ready for yourself before making the world ready for you.

Or something to that effect...

As for where I am now, I have found a nice comfortable seat in the blogosphere. Taking in and disecting communication, technology, productivity and knowledge management content from leaders of these fields and giving them the man on the ground perspective on or after application. Occasionally, I'll whip some ideas of my own ideas into the mix.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sony Hell, as the Rootkit Scandal Continues

For the first time a company hits both ends of the spectrum on this blog. After praising the Bravia LCD advert I now have to spill my venomous thoughts on the rootkit saga that has been plaguing Sony BMG this month.
I neglected to mention that the advert notably leaves tagging on its Sony brand right at the end and then only very briefly. Smarter would have been to leave it out, here's why.

I have never heard a comment so disgusting from a company executive but I have mixed feelings about whether I want to hear the like again.

Try this for a quote: "Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?"
That comes from Thomas Hesse, president of Sony BMG Global Digital Business, on a NPR radio report. I couldn't believe it when I read it on Neville Hobson's blog and so had to listen for myself.

This company forces you to download software, reportedly with no good notice of the rootkit, which leaves a hole for exploit on your PC opening it up for malicious code. Yes that could be as sinister, perceivably, as a key logger program looking out for your bank details. Nothing to worry about?

I have never heard anything so flippant and horrible from a trading company and I live not 20 miles away from a company in Britain that got caught up in a pickle, selling arms to Iraq.

So, confirmation that if Sony chiefs have this sort of attitude, I will not knowingly be purchasing any of their products again. Playstation 3 Vs Xbox 360, it's a walk in the park for what my decision there is going to be.

Why the mixed feelings? Well, I'd rather have the company spill out their policies on this issue now than when I've got the disc in the drive.
If any other company wants to lose business by saying what you don't know won't hurt you, speak up.

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The Ongoing Words of Peter Drucker

One of the things about great people is that they do not often receive the accolade they deserve until after their death. On hearing of Peter Drucker's passing earlier this month via his grandson Nova Spivack I amongst the first of these people that had never heard of him before but will benefit from his wisdom, no doubt.

I have been looking for methods and teachings on self improvement, particularly where to put in the most effort for best results.
Ed Batista has quoted Peter on one of his recent postings.

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Looking in the Wrong Places for Energy

To add to my catalogue of reforms (a few more months of this and I should really run for parliament): compulsory cycling.

Why? Because we are so firmly wedged between a rock and a hard place that Nuclear power is now on the table and likely to be taken up as leading scientists are confirming that there will be a power gap without them and that it is unlikely that renewable sources will:
a) be able to provide enough power
b) be set up in time for before the old power stations are forced into decommissioning

Not that I am particularly against Nuclear power. Since you typically can't build anything within x number of miles from it a Nature Reserve tends to spring up. There is also the notion that it is so safe because it is so dangerous. Known danger is much easier to draw up safety plans for than unknown dangers.

Either way, back to the point, cycling. I may be oversimplifying things, but essentially all we do with burning coal and gas in create steam to turn turbines. The same can be achieved by burning calories...
30 minutes exercise a day, our government states. Lets put two and two together. We get our exercise (we need it, we've been told) and we make headway into powering the country.

Too simple?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Inefficiency and Progress

Yes, I was thinking the same thing when writing the title: surely a contradiction in terms.

As Peter Cochrane points out in his latest post on silicon.com How many keystrokes does it take to buy coffee? it is sadly not the case.

If you don't click the link the answer to the question is 48 (that's right, Peter is one of them counting folk). 48 keystrokes on a till for a cup of coffee and that is paying in cash.

This sort of inefficient activity in going on in all sorts of businesses because it is tolerated in the name of progress. The manager of that establishment was evidently not a hardened buyer, else one quick user acceptance test would have killed the sale dead and (s)he would move on elsewhere.

This is money in the bank. Customers (external or internal) hate queues, being put on hold or any other implication of being held up by waiting for their transaction/query being typed up; employees hate needless, repetitive, dull tasks. This is doubly so when it has to be performed embarrassingly in front of a customer.

Customers just want their goods sold or queries resolved as quickly as possible.

Theoretical graph on Customer Services contact from my own experience at least:



No one wins from poor, unnecessarily long transactions, even the vendors once their client realises what they are stuck with (for now).

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Young Singles and the Housing Market

Whilst I'm using Coutts' figures. Wow, are my generation getting stuffed on the housing market. At age 18 when I first started working and looking at moving a decent starter home was going for £70,000. With no parent assistance, a young adult needs time to save a deposit.

5 years later, those same houses are going for £125,000+, but mortgage lending guidelines are still pretty much the same as 5 years ago. They can lend 2.5 (as a couple) or 3.25 times your salary. Average income in the country being on or around £22,000 looks like a newcomer to the housing market is going to need a £50,000 deposit.

This is the situation Gordon Brown has overseen as Chancellor, lets hope he makes a better job at fixing the mess as Prime Minister.

Time to go and do some reading to see if their is some aid somewhere...


UK HOUSE PRICES FOR A TYPICAL FIVE BED PROPERTY Source: Coutts
(£'s)


2005

2000

1990

1980

London

1,740,000

879,295

591,559

209,718

South East

956,000

578,978

361,832

128,174

South West

750,000

408,097

268,301

98,869

East

774,000

446,223

306,422

107,867

West Midlands

650,000

357,797

248,973

74,273

North West

616,000

325,193

245,537

72,704

East Midlands

576,000

303,261

221,589

72,609

Yorkshire and the Humber

586,000

288,821

225,819

72,991

Wales

540,000

285,934

223,165

68,309

North East

530,000

267,955

203,280

67,570

UK average

771,800

414,155

289,648

97,308



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Whose Millionaire is it Anyway?

I've been reading up on personal finance over the weekend (case in point - one of previous posts) and so natural linkage points me in the direction of a couple of articles on millionaires.

Not coincidently, a couple on MSN Money UK.

Not necessarily an authority, but I'd at least like to find them credible. But there are two articles posted two days apart with have a radical difference on the figure of UK millionaires.

The source (Coutts & Co) of Alex Coakley's article puts it at 425,000 after a rise of 80% in the past five years whereas Robin Amlot's article has its figure from HM Revenue and Customs who have it down as 220,000 or 0.37% of the population.

I haven't found a source to support the HM Revenue & Customs claim (as Robin says himself, you would have thought they'd be the ones in the know) but the Centre for Economics & Business Research (CEBR) backs the Coutts & Co figure.

It must have been a good few years back when I read a figure of 80,000 which even then I thought was high.

So, 350 millionaires in my home town alone. They don't half keep themselves to themselves. :)

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

UK Gun Crime - If the Police Are Getting Shot...

Gun crime in Britain is by no means one of the more common crimes commited in the country. But after the events of Friday 18th November in Bradford where a WPC was fatally shot, even this small proportion of crime becomes the more concerning.

Home Office spin off website has the figure of gun crime as a proportion of all crime down as 0.17%. Tiny percentage. Huge number.
When you consider that the Crime Statistics website states that there and around a about 6 million crimes recorded each year (assumingly the figure is up this year than on the year to March 2004).

Still, a conservative estimate means that this figure translates to 25 gun crimes a day in this country.

When I first heard of the story I thought it would have to be a shot to the face. Turns out the officer was shot in the chest. Body armour only offers limited ballistic protection. My god what a message to send out.
We will send unarmed, poorly armoured police officers to attend armed robberies.

This doesn't do much for public faith in the force. If the police cannot effectively protect themselves then how are they expected to protect us?

Rather alarmist I know, but my perception of gun crime was lower than what it really is, not something expected by the Home Office.

Armed police for armed crimes, surely.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

When to Credit it and When to Debit it

Ramit Sethi is an intriguing individual and makes does a lot of good in his blog I will Teach You To Be Rich. He is young and not afraid to admit when he gets things wrong. A quality that is often missing from us twenty-somethings.

A damn good point about sensible economics for frivolous types that are way too happy to control their money comes in a round about way from discussing a Bank of America feature...

Why ever use a debit card? It is standard for Credit Cards to offer 50 days or more interest free on purchases. Pay on the credit card. You've got a month to put that money (still sitting on your regular account) somewhere it'll accumulate a return. Pay off the credit card in full at the end of the month.

Earn interest on money you've already spent.
Improve your credit rating.

Too easy, surely...

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Sony Bravia Advert

As I've said before, credit were it is due.

Sony have done a great job with their advert for the Bravia LCD TV. An innovative and importantly real ad. Quite a spectacle. My fellow Badgers were going on for a few days about this advert, especially the music on it, and I still haven't seen it on television so resorted to viewing the online version.















Who says you need sex and violence to grab attention?

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Blurry Lines and The Speed of the Blogosphere

If there's one thing I love about blogs it is the speed in which they work, a story travels and the pitch delivered. Before blogs I was very used to forums where the original poster controlled the topic and the entire audience would be gathered on the one spot.

Now, the blogosphere treats things differently. Every individual can take the one story to their own home and play it out to their own audience of invited (or otherwise) guests.

Seeing the Print Vs Online debate of Allan Jenkins and Steve Crescenzo continue provides an interesting case. With blogs it is always personal, but you can never tell how much. And here is no different.

The latest installment has Allan firing back at Steve and the fact the Steve failed to provide a link or trackback to Allan's original post for his readers to reference.

Sure, it was evident that Steve picked an angle and rolled with it. Taking offence at Allan making a comment that could include him:

any IABC member can go into the blogosphere and find 50 better articles than CW publishes in a quarter


I'm interested more in the cross-site nature of the conversation and the tools used. What gets said in comments, posts, trackbacks. What works better.
What benefits does Steve gain from not allowing trackbacks or linking on his posts?

Update - 16/11/05 23:15: Seems they are both taking it in good fun. Allan being more used to Steve than I am naturally, can spot this. I've spent far too long moderating forums and seen these sort of disagreements descend to anarchy I guess. It's a new world.
Steve also holds his hand up to the linking and trackback issue being technical ignorance. Darn, I was hoping he was making a stance!


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Life and Death of Print

In connection to my previous post, it was Shel Holtz's post Who speaks for the future of print? in which he points to the spat between Allan Jenkins and Steve Crescenzo that made me go look at Steve's blog. I have been reading Desirable Roasted Coffee for some time, but had trouble accessing it of late, for some reason.

How you like your text is a very personal thing, as illustrated in the passions displayed in Allan's original post Will you read your newspaper -- or Communication World -- in three years? and Steve's Leave my print publications alone! post.

This brings back memories of the text vs audio debates that were popular a month or two back.
Similarity being which medium I choose to read my text depends on where I am and the circumstances I want to read in.

Blogs, articles, short sharp research (see the pattern) this I prefer to read online. Fiction and lengthy works (Seth Godin's ebooks even) I prefer in print.

I don't tend to have the situational circumstances to deal with. I refuse to take read a book in the bath (the laptop has got no chance!). I rarely read in bed but will experiment to see if I am a paperback or digital sort of guy.

I sit squarely in the digital/print generation divide and feel every part of it. I won't give up either but choose which is best suited for the job.

Print has got many, many more years ahead of it yet. It is just the content type that is certainly up for change.

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Discovering Steve Crescenzo

I remember a couple of months ago Steve Crescenzo's name coming up. It was Shel Holtz announcing that he was being put up so that he could attend Steve's wedding. Nice.

It was only today that I took the opportunity to pop on over to his blog Corporate Hallucinations and my god, what a hoot. The man is hilarious and absolutely non PC.

Not afraid to insult anyone, no part of the corporate world is safe.

On why he doesn't read too many blogs:

I don’t read all that many blogs.

Mostly because I find too many blogs spend far too much time talking about . . . well, blogs. They’re constantly reaffirming the importance of blogs, and the blogosphere. They are forever quoting other bloggers who are reaffirming the importance of blogs and the blogosphere.

It gets boring, after a while. And it has a masturbation feel to it that I find makes me feel uncomfortable.


The man has got a point...

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Productivity Tips, 7 For Now...

I highly recommend reading Sharon Richardson at Joining dots. From Data to Knowledge and Beyond... is an exceptionally good post and the lastest gem is Seven Productivity Tips.

The factors of productivity are highly subjective, hence Sharon states herself that avoiding micro management may be disagreeable. This isn't even dependent on the person, it can be dependent on the person at that point in time. Most of the time I like to be given a task and a long leash to get it done. Other times (possibly when I am inundated), it may be more effective to spoonfeed to get it done.
The key is to know your staff and colleagues. Be able to judge when it is best to micro manage the job at hand or not.

Typing up, tip 1. Absolutely agree here. If you have to write up you owe it to yourself to learn to type to the best of your ability.

I'd also advocate the interviewing technique. There are times, an individual alone is not best placed to extract knowledge from their head. Interaction means at least one other person is understanding your thoughts before it is written down.

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Unrealised Milestones and Lessons Learnt

This is a little introspective, but bear with me.

In the spirit of Allan "International Man of Mystery" Jenkins passing his blogging anniversary without notice, I realised that I had similarly gone past the six months barrier without notice. A little jolt passed through this badger's nervous system. I hadn't been able to keep a hand written journal for more than two months despite many attempts of trying, promptly burning them after reading through the first entry out of sheer embarrassment.

Over the past couple of years I've struggled to think of myself as the same person I was "x" amount of time ago. I recognise the decisions I made last month, but wouldn't recognise me in passing two years ago. This line of thought serendipitously gives me the understanding of how people can possibly not take responsibility for their actions.

Still, going back to those old posts to see what I was about six months ago proved quite insightful. My first post Tory Liar Campaign I'm still quite proud of. It was nice to be proved right as well. A reminder that I was charmed by Tony Blair in the ballot box, not so welcome but a good experience to remember. Rather like getting your hand stuck in the cookie jar for the first time.
I started out with designs on just commenting on the news (for my personal benefit as much as anything else) The signs that I was interested in writing about productivity, self management and the like was pleasing to the eye.

Without knowing it, I was going in the right direction.

But most important note of all is that technorati tags are your "get found by search" friend. With amateur being especially productive, even when it was combined with News+Photography to complete the full tag. Can't imagine why...

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Monday, November 14, 2005

The Wrong Approach to Bullying

Bullying in schools in the UK national news again, being labelled an epidemic in light of two recent horrific attacks on schoolgirls where one had their eye injured with a pair of scissors and another attacked by a gang of girls after received two academic awards.

A Childline worker says that children need to be told right from wrong and be taught respect.

Half right, if that. It is virtually genetic to know right from wrong and if not it sets in at a very early age. The exceptions are ridiculously small and these people have mental conditions. Bullies are fully aware of what is right and wrong but just don't care.

Being taught respect is a good idea, but will not address the problem on its own. The biggest problem is that their is no effective punishment or deterrent. If a child gets the idea in their head that they can bully and receive no consequences for it.
Here is a big wake up call. Suspension is not a punishment. These kids barely want to go to school as it is. Suspension is the worst sentence for wrong-doing going. For the love of all that is Holy, think of something else.

Until bullies find that there will be undesirable consequences to their actions, bullying will continue.

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Cold War 2.0 - Governments and the Internet

Discovered on Nicholas G Carr's Rough Type blog a rather brilliant post titled Cold War 2.0. Most notable thing, the Russians don't get a mention. Hard to think of them being so quiet on the web front but true enough, I rarely hear a thing from/about them on the net.

I'm not a particular fan of web anonymity but I'm not thrilled about the prospects of the current governments regulating the internet either. Hard to please, sure I am. The next few years will bring on an uncomfortable time for the internet. Regulation is likely to be over-zealous and set the resource back a couple of steps.

I barely think of nationality when using the internet, the only time I ever really ever notice it is when it comes to time zones and I'm instant messaging Australians in mid-morning when they annouce they are going to bed.

The commerce element may need government interference/control. The web community doesn't.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Amateur Photography and News Submissions

This evening I have discovered Mark Hamilton's blog Notes from a Teacher and have been trailing through his archives. A post of note was Protesting "Amateurs" from back in August. The issue is somewhat more sinister than I first gave reckoning.

It revolves hand in hand with citizen journalism but images are treated a little differently from words when it comes to ownership. Large media organisations will likely claim rights to all photos a reader submits as part of the small print to get out of any legal wrangling.

This puts two things on the line: Professional's pride and jobs. Free amateur photography live at the scene will have an appeal to both hard profiteering corporations and those in genuine desire to bring all the news as real as it can be.

It is a contentious issue, whether to seek payment or not for such works.

The idea of media offering payment for all citizen journalism images may be dangerous in that it might provide an incentive for citizens to put themselves in the way of danger. But it doesn’t seem fair that in submitting an image to a media organization, the creator is in effect signing away copyright.
Should citizens really be so foolish as to endanger their life for meagre profit. I would hope not, but the green does funny things to the mind.

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Robotics, Should We Really Go There?

The notion of Web 2.0 makes me thing more about the future of technology and its sensitivity to humans. Thanks to films like Blade Runner, Terminator, I Robot and The Matrix robotics has found itself a doubting public reception when it comes to researching machine emotions.

The benefits of having applications read human emotion are appealing. This entry on the Nerdshit blog brought more uses than I had previously thought of. Quickest example is for voicemail. Judging by tone, pitch, speed a program "reads" the emotion involved in the call to place it in priority order in the queue. Nifty.

This isn't a problem. The problem comes when you give it arms and legs and make it think it is human. At that point we will be confused about how to treat it and it us. The motivations for such things will be profit and creating life (becoming God, as it were). This will lead to a conflict of ideas of how to treat them and conflict in general.

Along with cloning, a great idea with great potential but naturally created humans cause enough destruction on their own without. Once humanity conquers their inate inner demons then it might be time to pass on the perception and the peril of emotion to such creations.

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Work/Life Balance Vs Work/Life Integration

Shel Holtz raises an interesting point in For Immediate Release Show #84 on the issue of work and personal life. He says that we are moving away from work/life balance into work/life integration. I agree with him, at least when you are narrowing it down to white collar work.

The 9 to 5 day is becoming less desirable. Working from home is on the increase. Business is generally demanding less sociable hours.

However, there are a great number of obstacles. It requires trust and intelligence on both the side of employees and employers.
In the past it has been typical of employers to say "For 7(8) hours a day, five days a week, I own you."
During those 7 or 8 hours you should be doing nothing but work (excluding official breaks). This model makes things perfectly clear but is not intelligent. People have issues on their mind from time to time, distracting them from work. What is more sensible, working through a whole day with half a mind on the job or getting the issue resolved in 5 minutes/half hour of the morning and working the rest of the day without this personal issue hanging over your head?

I'm not a believer in these kind of statistics myself, but the cost of stress was measured at £5.3 billion (pdf) in the UK alone a couple of years ago. Businesses however, should take note and be doing as much to relieving as much stress on employees as possible.

Life integration is the sensible approach to employees you trust. Motivated employees want to work and will do what is necessary to get the job done. A motivated trustworthy employee needs to feel comfortable in their workplace. As long as both parties know that the other will make allowances when circumstances force the issue, both will get what they want.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Attention Rights and Ownership

I browse ZDNet daily and so it was very hard to avoid Steve Gillmor and the whole AttentionTrust.org thing. I didn't grasp the fundamentals of it to begin with and so left it alone until it developed into a topic that people had been discussing long enough that the innovators will start describing the subject into terms for the common man.

It seems I concern myself with two (both) arms of attention data. Firstly, what I pay attention to and how the data that I make by distributing my attention can help me. The second arm is what data companies collect about me in order to market products to me (or people like me).

Seth Goldstein voiced views I share on the Gillmor Gang show. Using the example of Amazon.com and the purchase data they keep on your account. They have recorded your attention and keep hold of it for both parties to use on their site. That's great, but the problem is that you have generated that data but don't have any easy access to it unless you are on Amazon.com. You cannot transport this data to Ebay for example, for personalised searches. Also, you cannot keep it to yourself, selling it on to other parties that want you to buy their products.

Hell, I may even put it on my blog or website so that it gives spammers something legitimate to work with. Spamming is only evil because it is unsolicited and intrusive.
Imagine having your full attention data, centralised and searchable with one focused point for advertisers to contact you. Very few people have only one email address. I personally wouldn't mind having one email address or equivalent point of contact to have advertisers reach me. But then only when it is being used intelligently.

If you want to sell me stuff that I might actually buy (software, developer books, Warhammer) then this is great. I don't always want to be the one searching for the place to shop from, it is OK for advertisers to come to me provided I let them in by saying:
"Yes, look at the subjects I pay attention to, the products I have paid money for. If your products/services fit this bill then I may be interested in what you have to offer."

Eliminate these tickboxes and other nonsense that we have to read through the small print of everytime we purchase anything. Eliminate these black market mailing lists. Have everything out in the open (or not) as the individual chooses.

This is my first set of thoughts on the subject, which I find more intriguing the more I think about it. More to come in the future no doubt.

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Better Conversations: Message Boards or Blogs?

Again, like my last post, this topic was inspired by listening to the FIR: The Hobson & Holtz Report #83.

This really depends on your definition of a better conversation.

Message boards have conversations which are more connected, they are on the same page. I run a forum and have done for years. Message boards are easier to navigate, no doubt. It doesn't require circumnavigating websites.

However, blogs produce higher quality conversation. They are not as rushed as forums replies are. The author takes a lot more care over what they say when writing it into their own blog or when commenting on other blogs leaving a link back to their own blog in the hope that readers follow the breadcrumb trail.

Simply put, it is a question of quantity versus quality.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

What is the Point of Internal Communications?

Pointed on to this onrec.com news report on a LexisNexus survey by Neville Hobson on For Immediate Release show #83 I thought I'd mull over the highlighted findings.

The two main issues facing communicators are keeping communications interesting and capturing employee interest. Nothing surprising here. Also, the most important aim of these comms is to keep the staff informed of organisational changes. Again, lacking in surprise.

But is this right?

Not to me. The most important part of internal communications is employee engagement. If an employee is unengaged with what is going on in the rest of the business they will struggle to make advised beneficial business decisions.
Employees don't want to do a dull 9 to 5 day, 20%-25% of a whole working life from 18 to 65 spent just doing a job because they have to make money somehow. They want to be stimulated, listened to, feel part of the process of making the company work. If internal communications is only a one-way street (a channel for notifying change) then a vital opportunity to tap into the energy of the workforce is being missed.

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Forbes, Blogs and Timewasting

Forbes magazine has taken a hit recently due to an article it published which took a rather disapproving and un-knowledgeable tone to blogs and the blogosphere. Apparently, afterwards they revealed that is was an attempt at creating conversation (at the cost of their credibility) opposed to writing in ignorance.
Really, I've read the thing and find it far too scalding to use that argument. Either way, I'm not too interested in Forbes. There has to be an agenda against blogs, it is healthy I would guess.
All of us on this side of the fence know that blogs are an incredibly useful tool. Although there is the potential to do the sort of damage mentioned in the article it really is hard for a blogger to cause a massive impact without having a point. Individual blogs tend to be part of communities and a blogger has to build credibility to be taken seriously.
The natural evolution of the blog is that the unsubstantiated claims made on blogs will be rooted out and the author ridiculed out of credibility, ultimately doing more damage to the author than the company they are trying to attack.

An article based on poor information in a newspaper still does more damage than a blog doing the same thing. No need to single out just because the common man now has a voice.

Commentators:
Donna Papacosta
Neville Hobson
Steve Rubel
Shel Holtz

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Perceptions of Time Management

How familiar is this story posted anonymously on InfoWorld last week about expectations from above titled Working for Dilbert's boss? I got pointed there from reading Andy Keith's post Do you work for Dilbert's boss? on the New Equities blog, extending the story to his own experience.

For me, there are two real factors to address when you are in this position. Because influencing other people is an unpredictable art, these factors are related to what you do: The documentation you keep and the communication you send out.

If you end up working a 90 hour week for 3 weeks to do a project you have measured will take 12 weeks at 70 hours a time then the burden is on you to stress the absolute limit to your manager. I can only offer limited sympathy if your manager puts a similar sized project on you shortly after but only gives you 2 weeks.
If you truly have reached your limit on the previous project then you should make this one no more stressful. Provided you have stated clearly that you worked at top gear before, your manager has no choice but to acknowledge that this deadline is on their head and not yours because you have explained and reasoned your maximum capacity.
If you haven't been listened to, that is poor management and responsibility will be evident and fall at management level.

The second is to document your ass to Hades. Sadly (or not) in working life we will find ourselves having to work far beyond reasonable expectation. The way Andy's manager approached the problem is the way to go.

I recall working with a terrific QA manager who went to great lengths to raise everyone's awareness, especially in regard to what was and wasn't doable within a given release time-frame. First she would lay out how much time was required based on the expected number of test/fix cycles. If the schedule was tight, and cycles were going to be limited, she would list where corners would have to be cut. Marketing, development and other stakeholders then signed off.
You are a professional; you know the score and what can be delivered and what cannot when you are given a timeframe. The responsibility is still on you communicate what these are. Of course, you are going to bend over backwards to get things done but at the end of the day you stated a timeframe, it was undercut and so both parties know things are going to get missed off. You will know what they are or what areas they will come out from. Set your stall out early.

Make sure expectations and accountability are shared out properly. Everyone is always under pressure to produce results. This is your part, as well as getting the job done. More precision information means better business decisions.

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Renault Clio Ad Nails It

I don't believe I've done it before but I'm going to start putting my hands up to advertisements. Anything truly notable, I'll give a brief word.

The New Clio advert featuring Jeremy Sheffield and Annelise Hesme is a quality commercial in my book and that of my fellow badgers. One great thing that came out of this century is the change in British attitude to foreigners, the French traditionally being the old adversary.
When I was growing up and reaching adulthood in the '90's there was a fair share of anti-French sentiment in my upbringing. No more than any other child at the time and more in jest than anything else, but it was still there.

Nowadays, it is barely heard of or noticed and great integration adverts like this latest one and even the Thierry Henry ones that preceeded it have helped turn attitudes on its head.
Twice the Va Va Voom. British and French working together.

Sure, if this ever comes up in conversation and I say "Yeah, that advert really makes me want one" I'll be referring to the incredibly cute Frenchwomen more often than not. But still Renault aways does look good in my eye because year on year they have a good marketing team which puts together a great advert. If the company has a great marketing department then it makes me more inclined to think they would have hired as much quality staff in their other departments too. That's what you want from a first impression to give you the edge.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Giving up on Multitasking

Multitasking effectively is a skill in itself. You have to maintain concentration on many different jobs over a prolonged period of time, removing some tasks they are completed and bringing new ones in as you take on more work to fill the psychological void you have just created by clearing your last task.

Through Jack Vinson's Knowledge Jolt, I came upon a post by Dale H Emery titled Multitasking and conflict. It is well worth a read if you have any interest in personal effectiveness.

I have begun to turn to this way of thinking, essentially that the bulk of employees are scared and afraid to stick their neck out. Multitasking is a mask. It shields the person away from making a true set of priorities and provides excuses for not getting things done on time.

"Oh, I'm sorry Bill, I've got so much on right now. I'm doing this for Roger, this for Jane and Derek gave me this report to digest which must come to the top of the list. It'll be done tomorrow."

Sure, Bill got his explanation as to why he is still waiting until tomorrow for his piece. But when you give work to someone that is multitasking and you don't get it on time, you tend to have to chase it. When multitasking, the real focus is hard to keep. The central focus remains on getting everyone's request done. The problem is that keeping people apprised is overlooked and seen as time not making progress. That's not a good way of keeping your colleagues/clients sweet and making them feel that you value and appreciate their work.

Some things also tend to get lost in the mire. The less critical tasks and the ones asked of you by the most timid people can fall to the bottom of the pile. No-one is going to ask you to do a job that doesn't need doing. If you think that people do hand you tasks that aren't necessary you must dispute it, but that is another topic. The point is, every piece of work you get handed needs doing and cannot be left to rot.

For these reasons that I have really begun seeing in the past few weeks, I am giving up on multitasking. Moving to a model that is more like:
  • Job in
  • Job allocated a time to be done with full attention
  • Requester informed of where their job is in my scheme of things
  • Job done
If circumstances change, everyone gets contacted with an update. People tend to be more forgiving than you would think provided they know the full story and feel that you appreciate them. Over the past week or so since I have been really been adopting this model, the effects have been very encouraging.

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Effective Listening

Finishing off his two part series on all things aural, Lee Hopkins addresses the 4 steps of effective listening in his latest podcast. Like the first part, well worth 10 minutes of your time.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Force feeding in Mauritania

On BBC 2 tonight, a horrific documentary was shown on the subject of forced obesity upon pre-pubecent girls in a bid to fatten them up and marry them off. This is happening in the African country of Mauritania.
This can lead to appalling medical conditions in later life along with an early grave. And we are not talking that much later either. Crippled in 30 years.

The crime is that the young girls can see what has happened to the women who have grown up like this and they don't want it. Their elders force them into it. Beating them if they don't comply.

This is the part that hurt me to watch. The idea that these girls go along with it in the belief that their elders know better and know what is best for them. This will teach us. Never question the younger generation's right to question us.

David Blunkett Resigns

Oh how quick we forget. I remember the later days of the Conservative Government where the public were largely sick of the sleaze that the Labour opposition had no qualms about assisting the press with.
Labour swept into power on that ticket as much as any other and promised an end to government sleaze. Enter in Geoffrey Robertson, Peter Mandelson and David Blunkett. And it's not as if it is one mistake and you're out the door. Mr Blair keeps inviting them back to do it again.

Mr Blunkett was no doubt the victim of press attention. A witch hunt, as it has been called by some, is too far. You have to admire the former minister's achievements in life. He had to get around a lot of obstacles to reach some of the most powerful positions in the British Isles. However, he lost it at the end and no matter how much good he has done and how much his past and tenacity are to be admired you cannot serve in government when you lose your judgement.
And if you can't keep out of simple scandals like not taking jobs you cannot have and owning shares in companies you cannot own then you really have lost your judgement.

As for claims that Blair is the target, bah! The whole government is the target. Nothing is worse for progress than a complacent government and there is nothing the press love more than a scandal.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Blocks to Effective Listening

Vegemite loving Australian author of the aptly named Better Communication Results blog, Lee Hopkins was produced another great podcast "12 Blocks to Effective Listening". 10 minutes well spent if you want to find out the little habits you have picked up but do not even realise are blocking your path to efficient two-way communication. It will also make you more aware of how intently people are listening to what you have to say.

I have guilty of most of these in my time. Thankfully a good few of them had been identified earlier and are either gone or being whittled away. Due to the nature of this world to flood us with so much information, quality communication is so easily compromised in favour of quanity. You need to pay attention to the factors that are stopping your message getting through.

Discounting, not being able to take a compliment is a commonly regarded way of English life. It is a block (or at least part of one) and does us no good! Every communication workshop going will tell you as much. The sooner we get that out of as an identifying factor of being British, the better.

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If a Change is as Good as a Rest, I am Well Rested

I learnt today that I am going to be moving on to my seventh desk in just over two years. As a white collar monkey, I shouldn't be too surprised. Nothing stays the same for long in a modern office.
I'm very proud of the records I hold in the team.
  • Longest serving analyst
  • Least amount of sick leave taken
  • Most amount of desks used
Shame they can't go on the CV. Still, there was plenty there to fill in the white space last I checked.