Thursday, December 29, 2005

Clean Firetrucks

Seth Godin is quite an amazing blogger. Strangely enough I don't subscribe to his feed or regularly visit his weblog. I always wait until someone points to his genius before I find out what he has written. Odd, he's the only blogger I have done this with. But to hell with that, I want to get to the source first now!

Moving on. Chris Brogan's post Clean Fire Trucks points to Seth's post of the same title. It is short so I'd advise you at least give it a quick skim.
For that post he took a little heat, deservedly if you take what he wrote purely at face value.
Ethan Johnson accused him of bubble thinking (the notion that what applies to you must apply to everyone else), a viable interpretation of the post.

I just find that Seth is happy to post with his balls resting on the table, points lightly coated in controversy. From what I know, that's just the kind of guy he likes being.

Why this strikes a chord with me is because of a term that gets banded about at my office every so often, a lot in the early days: Firefighting.

Absolutely nothing to do with real life fire or fire fighters, of course. I just naturally took Seth's post in the same light. A colourful, fictional setting in which to place the tip of doing the work that adds the most value opposed to work that best saves face.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Manage by Setting Boundaries With Freedom in the Middle

An oldie, but a goody.

From Jeff Immelts comments from Fast Company magazine April 2004 issue on things leaders do.
7. Manage by setting boundaries with freedom in the middle.
"The boundaries are commitment, passion, trust, and teamwork. Within those guidelines, there's plenty of freedom. But no one can cross those four boundaries."
One of the new themes as companies are emerging from the crator the dot com bubble left behind is that risk is now acceptable again.

Risk nowadays isn't so much product based, the imprint sadly left by the first few years of this century is that products have to be safe. Where risk is being taken is in the day to day workplaces. Allowing employees personal freedoms to find out what works for them and how they can better improve their working day.

These suggested boundaries are a great means of getting the right mix of how much leaniance the employer should give and how much liberty the employee should take.

Hat tip: Kevin Meyer

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Good Use of Annual Leave

I'm not one for doing reviews of the year or watching such like formatted television shows. That said, because my annual leave is worked on a calendar year basis if I am to take an objective view of how well I used I am making use of it I have to mull over 2005.
  • End of January - A good few days off to go up Snowdon with my fellow badgers.
  • End of April - Another good trip, this time going up Scafell Pike up in Cumbria.
  • Early August - Home for a couple of days, getting to see a friend and her new born.
  • October & November - Long weekends all over the place to soak up a large chunk of days.
  • December - A single long weekend.
I recall very clearly that when I was taking the days off early in the year they were digging into my allowance prematurely. I have previously always saved up holiday for the second half of the year. It turns out, that the leave I did take in the second half of the year was nowhere near as good as that from the first.

In October and November the leave I took distracted my focus away from work and felt very frustrating afterwards. There was a method behind this: taking these odd spells of leave meant I didn't take on too much project work during this period and therefore opens the possibility for my last day to not be the hectic mess I usually find they are. Also, being back in a few days meant that middle distance tasks could be left until my return and not require the dreaded 'handover'.

My leave pattern is inherent from my days doing blue collar work. The job would be pretty much the same daily and my absence wasn't particularly notable to the business because I just needed to provide a pair of hands. My life in the white collar world is different, my skills are individual and the work is varied. As such I need to change my ways.

So I unveil the 8 week cycle. It goes something like:
1 week look-up
2 week preparation
2 week implementation
2 week follow up
1 week annual leave

This is a personal schedule because I have been in my job for a long enough spell to be able to judge when my work patterns fall, I am fortunate enough to have a large leave allowance and I know I benefit a lot more from structured living.
Apart from the August bank holiday the English national holidays fall perfectly into this cycle too.

I get myself 6 project cycles each year. Before I enter 2006 I know how 3 of them will be filled. Going to plan, this should be a real winner for me.

From the small searches I've done I haven't found anyone that has looked into the subject. I would have thought how people use their holiday allowance would have had more prominence on the web.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

New Management Blog

Fresh from the presses this very day, Dilza Weblog offers two quality and lengthy posts:

Making the most of your leadership abilities

How to make time work for you?

If you have any interest in leadership or time management then I strongly recommend that you check these pages out.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Blogroll - Useful or Space Filler?

John Wagner wrote a post last week Open your eyes to the new wave of PR bloggers. The commentary was based around the notion that the same old links of the "A-list" bloggers appear everywhere and the new voices (or old ones that do not indulge in self promotion) seldom get a look in.

John recommended that if you are compiling a blogroll you should do some research first. I disagree with that approach. Purely because I believe a blogroll should be based on what you naturally read.

I commented to his post:

For me:

Blogrolls serve the purpose of listing the author's set of blogs that they actually read for the benefit of the reader.

The same as profiling documentaries reveal the heroes and influencers of the subject artist, blogrolls perform that role for blog writers.

If your blogroll is a genuine list of the places you visit/read/subscribe to then that's a blogroll.

Anything other than that is courtesy links and should be labelled as such.
Subsequently, Mason Cole agreed with me. Always nice to have support.

It takes a little work but then blogs are all about the personal touch.
One problem that I have noted is that their is the potential of a new blogger to run out of steam. When amending "my reads" today I had to remove a couple of lesser known bloggers that have disappeared (not blogged to their typical pattern, without providing a courtesy notice) for over a month.

That's probably more of a reason why the "A-listers" are always prominent.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Everyone is a Start-Up Company

Kathy Sierra asks today: Preparing kids for the future... what advice would you give a 14 year old today?

My initial goes to teaching them synergy.

My secondary instinct is when you hear people talking about sales and marketing, listen. You're going to have to do it for the whole of your life and you could waste years of your life not knowing it because you not likely to get taught about them explicitly.

These two vital areas of modern living aren't excluded from a youngsters' development but they are rarely clearly addressed either.

It was all handled in isolation. Sure, for a school fete, I was in a small team that made some Yule logs one time. We had to think about costing and finding an appropriate price and then basically put them on a stall and hope they sold. That was as close as Home Economics got to economics.

In graphic design being able to draw fancy and know layouts were the core learning objectives.

And one of my finer childhood gripes was that Business Studies was taken away as an option for my year(grade to Americans, I'd imagine) and labelled as a class for the less intelligent (I.T was another subject I was brutally dissuaded from for the same reason).

I am talking about the mid-nineties here. Kathy's graphic goes back to the 1950's as the time where the attitude was different. I can tell you that less than 10 years ago state school education felt like being handed the methods of the dark ages and then passing us off into the world of modern work.

Quote from Kathy:
the most important preparation skills/orientations today are:

* Creativity
* Flexibility
* Resourcefulness
* Synthesis
* Metacognition
(thinking about thinking)

Synthesis is the best of a very good bunch here. Children don't understand how the sum of their education fits together and then think of some of their subjects as throwaways because they can't see the interest in them.

English (/your native language) writing + graphic design = marketing material
English speaking + drama = Presentation
English speaking + drama + geography = Sales
Statistics + English = Analysis
Science/Art/Tech + Maths + Graphic Design + English + Drama + geography... (you get the picture) = end to end business functions/processes

Miss a couple of subjects out because you don't like them and you limit your capability to produce the skills you may need for a successful career.

Personally, I'd love to see the day where every child's secondary school education has them treated as if they are launching their own single employee start-up.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Comments Vs Searches

This post is a complete rip-off from Shel Holtz's Comments Vs a little green icon post he made earlier today, but I'm hopefully going to use it to prove a point.

The contentious item is conversation. Can you have a conversation without allowing comments?
My short answer is a very simple yes. My longer answer is yes, but it's a different conversation than could be had by comments only.

They fill entirely different roles from my perspective.

For example, I will not make a comment on a post that has a lot of comments. Despite the fact that I love the Creating Passionate Users blog, I will not comment there normally. That will not stop me entering the conversation by making a post here about it though, if I have something noteworthy to say on it.
By this very nature, I will enter the conversation without hearing what everyone has to say on the matter. Maybe because I don't have time, maybe because I'm not interested in reading everyone's take on the post.

For me, comments should be short and snappy. Make it nice and quickly and get to your point sooner rather than later. It is the place for concise compiled opinions.
If you have longer reflections to make you really should be an author yourself and indulge us with your commentary in your own home (blog).

And there's another difference: comfort. I feel much more at ease writing freely on my own blog than I do commenting on someone else's. Anyone that comes here is here for what and/or the way I write. Anyone reading the author's post is there for their own commentary and style.

Personally, I am a big fan of the trackback concept. Not such a fan of the implementation. It is not neat, it is not seamless and it is not efficient for authors. For Blogger uses it means using another site with another bloody username password, lots of clicking and copy/pasting... it is just hideous.
Although for readers, it is almost as linear and easy as comments.

Search is good but still requires more effort that reading a linear set of comments. Still, you get to find new places which is always a plus.

Check out my comment on Shel's post. Spot the difference between the style I use here and the style I use there, illustrating my key message from this post: different communication channels breed different conversations.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Buncefield Oil Depot Fire

This event made its way into my brain through a dream. Sleeping with the TV left on BBC News 24 meant that when I subconsiously heard it as the breaking news at 6am I disolved it into the dream I was having.

Because of this, it took me a while this morning to substanciate fact from fiction. Quite disturbing in retrospect.

With a fire this massive, this intense (the explosion was allegedly heard in The Netherlands) it means we are being told that it is quite unlikely that we will find the true source of the accident.
I find that quite terrifying. The biggest incident of its kind in peace time Europe and the ins and outs of it will end up being circumstancial.

Injuries were scarce because of the timing, first thing on a Sunday morning. That alone should dismiss the early fears of a terrorist attack. I can't believe there are houses and other industry in such close proximity.

Watch out for the financial implications to hit tomorrow. House prices around fuel depots dropping, oil/petrol price jumping up and the aviation industry taking a hit.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Nick Robinson's BBC Blog

This is why I'm not a journalist. When I find a subject perfectly suitable for posting about I leave it a few days and others swoop in. British business communicator expat (is Amsterdam really a place to take your wife and kids?) Neville Hobson, half the genius behind the Hobson and Holtz Report was the first in from my "blogging circle" on the BBC's Newslog updated by political editor Nick Robinson.

Another great sign that the BBC is bringing forth two way communication with its audience making a license payer feel that he gets another way to express his point other than on Points of View. Speaking of, Nick tries his hand at a Wogan-esque link through his notable comments on his post Have I got Newslog for you?

He made a good show of himself too, on the Have I got News for you? programme which finished airing all of fifteen minutes ago.
Opening with a nice joke about the modernised Conservative Party. "They've changed their voicemail. It starts: "If you want some... ... press the # key".

Its good to see Nick's work in a new medium, by the looks of it he gets a longer leash for his blog than he does on the 6 o'clock news. Team up with Mark Mardell and then you have got one hell of a blog.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Hospital Food Slammed For Low Spend

ITV News has been quoting £2.38 as the figure that average hospitals spend per day per patient providing three square meals. They didn't mention drinks on air so I can only assume that the spend on drinks is 27 pence to make up the sum they are using on their website coverage of the story.

This is being branded scandalously low, though it doesn't sound too bad to me. That's pretty close to a figure I aim to sort myself out with, and I have nothing like the buying power that the NHS has to purchase ingredients at trade prices.

What I find most offensive is the notion that a minimum spend should be implemented. Minimum standards should not be based around price, it should be based on nutritional value. The government and food agencies are quite willing to band about recommended daily intake of food groups. 5 fruit or vegetables a day, 6 grams of salt a day, 90 grams of fat per day, etc, etc.
How about forcing food standards up in hospitals by meeting the nutritional requirements that are suggested to avoid a return visit to the wards.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Chelsea 0 - 0 Liverpool

The headline is short and sweet, the game however, wasn't.
Nothing in the way of exciting shots or saves. Two horrendous tackles, Essien's especially, is all that is going to be remembered about this encounter.
Remind me never to waste two hours of my life watching a Chelsea vs Liverpool game again.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Smoking Age Up To 18 Proposal.Just The Start...

Oh boy, do all the opinions under the sun come out when topics on addictive substances comes up. 24 hour licencing just came into affect in the UK for alcohol and now this for smoking, to keep up with our continental cousins in Europe.

This is stupid. People under 16 smoke now. They will still smoke. They do not only smoke when the are legally able to. The Government needs to get out bit!
Toby Howe
, Ashford, Kent

it should be raised to 70,
, doncaster

Prohibition doesn't work, education doesn't work. How about we just allow people to make their own decisions?
Paul Davies, Bournemouth, United Kingdom

It took a couple of pages to get through to this notable comment:

Raising the age limit will just add to the legal confusion that that already exists for young people in this society. Ok to marry & have kids at 16 but no alcohol or vote till your 18. Such age based rules often create a 'one rule for them, one rule for us' feeling and can reinforce a distrust for all law amongst those legislated against. And lets face it, legislation has never stopped people using or selling drugs anyway.
, Edinburgh

Close to the mark. Though contrary to Ian's thoughts, I believe this will decrease the legal confusion.

Being aged 16 & 17 is a strange time. Not sure whether you're an adult or child. The current layout of teenage milestones don't help.


Minimum legal age 16

Minimum legal age 17

Minimum legal age 18

How about
Minimum legal age 16

Minimum legal age 18

Much less confusion, less divorce, less inexperienced drivers on the road. The government could well be on a start to fixing things up if they let this through.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Instant Public Justice

I've been thinking a lot about attention data after I wrote my first assessment of it a good few weeks back.
An incident today gave me some scope... information on certain dangers just doesn't seem to exist. I observed a dangerous driver in a superstore car park this afternoon.

Man in dark red Fiesta is at point A just coming off a roundabout. We are in a queue just before the pedestrian crossing. This card carrying member of the Clownshoe Association drives straight by us, on the wrong side of the road and going about 5 times over the prescribed 5mph limit. On the wrong side of the road through the pedestrian crossing and parks up in the pick up point. Is he picking someone up, of course not. He gets out, selects a trolley and waltzes into the store. Fully certified arrogant idiot who irrefutably deserves some punishment.

As a pedestrian I hate road crossings, because there are morons like this behind the wheel. This is 3pm on a Sunday in a supermarket car park. Busy as hell and liable to having masses of children being dragged unwillingly to do the weekly shop.

I could report the incident, but the man was in his late thirties/early forties, he evidently just drives this way. It'll be a lot of effort on my part, he will no doubt maintain his licence and the same stupid attitude. The world will be none the wiser.

What can be done? Do the police provide a list of dangerous drivers like they do paedophiles for the benefit of local constituents? No, not really. If they did would anyone read it? No not likely.
This would be nice data to keep. Could potentially save your life, but attention will never be paid to it until it is too late. It won't be until after someone dies or is injured that this will lookup up.

So, public displays of criminal activity (however *minor* they may be classified) goes unpunished. For the short term, I propose a public instant justice system.
15 people witness an incident that is illegal but would never make it to court or force the felon to change their ways in any form, should have the right to a public flogging. We're at a supermarket, there's bound to be plenty of rotting veg for the task.

The criminal is publicly shamed and all that witness the incident that previously thought nothing could be done get some well deserved satisfaction.

There's no point in having minor crimes adjudged as criminal if you can't arrest or enact justice for them. Problem solved.

N.B This post was originally going to be named "Data that can save your life... but probably won't". The more I wrote, the more militant I got and so thought I'd change the title.

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Believable Contact

Formerly when I was cold-called I was polite and listened to the pitch mainly because I didn't want to be rude. There was also about a 0.05% that the caller would offer me something I would be interested in so I thought I'd spare 10 seconds or so on the off chance.
Notice the word "was". Now, there is no chance that anyone is going to sell me anything over the phone. There's no trust, there is no transparency. There's no common sense.
3rd parties, typically off the back of my mobile phone provider T-Mobile, call me and ask the same basic questions and realise they can't offer my a cheaper service and hang up. What's the point in that? If you're going to be sinister enough to acquire your customer mail listings you should at least pay up for some information that is going to be useful to you.

The new approach from cold callers is to ask "How are you today Mr Hill?" before getting to the point. Great, but still doesn't help if your using poor information to make a sale.
Today's call was "you're postcode has been selected as a possible venue to be a showhome."
Hello? 23 year old male, living alone, doesn't sound like showhome material to me. Also, if you know anything about that postcode then you know you're looking in the wrong area.

If this cold calling lark didn't work then they wouldn't do it but somehow it must do. Some folk just want an excuse to hand their money off I guess.

I haven't taken to asking for company names yet (wonder why they are never forthcoming with that) but I think I may just do that now for naming and shaming purposes.

Check out Seth Godins recent cold call experience.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Positive Emotional Attitude and Fortune

I remember back to my teenage years where the emphasis first came to me to adopt a positive mental attitude. My, that concept feels so old and alien now.
Not to say it didn't have its place. It served a purpose (and still does). Much better than a negative attitude of any kind when trying to get on board, it at least makes change and living with change easier than it could be.
However, a mental attitude is still very much all in the brain. A positive emotional attitude is greatly more desirable.

Fortunately for us all this comes from both sides of a message. An emotional response benefits all, the message gets through successfully and the recipient is engaged and motivated.

As much as you'll find people relentlessly stuck in the present, we all want to feel happy about the decisions in our lives. And decisions ultimately bring change.

Cold hearted logic is great, but hit the emotional level for the best results.

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