Recommending others…

I’ve had a bit of a nightmare day. Having overcome some slight hiccups with work, I then ended up having to deal with some problems at home after our annual heating and boiler inspection. If you’ve ever had a day which is constantly throwing up challenges, you might understand why I’d really like to restart the week tomorrow if possible!

Hopefully you can also take comfort from knowing that you’ve managed to deal with at least some of the problems straight away, even if others take a little more time – that’s what’s keeping me motivated this evening.

But when I thought about my failure to get a blog post prepared for today, I realised I’ve been neglecting something. I’m pretty good at sharing content and recommendations via social media, and it’s really second nature to tweet a good blog post or +1 a presentation. Yet I’ve been increasingly neglecting the same role on my blog, and although I can come up with a couple of explanations (I keep forgetting the PressThis bookmarklet, I feel obliged to write lengthy explanations/counterarguments when I share), they’re not very good ones.

So to start correcting that, here’s a recommendation for a keynote speech and accompanying slides from Dave Cushman at CeBit. It’s a lengthy video, but packed full of a lot of useful info and insight.

And I’ve consciously chosen not to embed the slides or video on here – I’ve been doing some thinking about sharing, particularly in light of the rise of ‘frictionless sharing’, and how it’s changing the interlinks of the internet. More on that to come…

Interesting paywall views from David Cushman

Neither Dave Cushman or The Media Briefing (for which I occasionally write) need much help in the way of the promotion, but as always, Cush has some interesting views on the media and paywalls which are worth checking out. We’ve both got some form in that area, given that we worked together at Emap/Bauer Media for many years – in fact it was Dave who gave me the job of looking after the forums and live chat room for the MCN site in addition to my writing duties, which was a hugely valuable community management experience.

It reminds me of what a great team we had working together for a while -Dave is obviously the MD of 90:10, Angus is a top video producer at Which (who needs to blog more), Tim is an expert on pretty much everything involving digital businesses, but has chosen to focus on multivariate testing, and Matt is able to serve ads and great music with equal talent.

And I’ve somehow managed to fall upwards into providing digital content and marketing for a range of UK and global clients, co-founding a funky design and development shop which is growing too quickly to let us finish our own website, and launching my own niche digital media efforts with OnlineRaceDriver and FPSPrestige. (I almost forgot about Digital People in Peterborough as well!)


The meme-ing of Christmas

I’d been meaning to write about how social networks really do seem to have killed something with regards to blogging – the blog meme. Rather than posting and tagging people to get their opinions, which used to happen a lot a couple of years ago, people are just asking the same questions on Twitter and Facebook. Bit of a shame for longer answers (And the chance to get some backlinks!).

And then Eaon tagged me in a blog meme.Originally started by Rob Campbell.


So, in response:

1/ Best single thing [personal &/or professional] you did/achieved in 2010.

Professionally, the best thing by far has been the fact that rather than sign-on for unemployment benefit whilst applying for every job available, I took the opportunity to try to start my own business. Thanks to a great number of wonderful people I’ve managed to secure some great clients, avoid bankruptcy, and although I’m still speaking to people about potential permanent roles in the future, I can limit it to those opportunities which are truly amazing, and that can stack up against building up my own empire.

Personally, I also have to say I’m immensely proud of finally turning some talk into action, and starting up Digital People in Peterborough. So far there have been two pub meets, with about 15 people coming along to each, plus around 40 people signed up for the old site. So with a new site and a new year, it should be even better in 2011.

2/ Most shameful thing [personal &/or professional] you did/achieved in 2010.

Probably the biggest source of shame has been launching a new business and a couple of personal sites when I have a young family to support and spend time with. The balance between work, my own sites (ORD and FPSPrestige), and my family is getting better with time, but it can definitely be a struggle at times. And as a result, this blog has suffered quite a bit in terms of regular updates providing value to everyone as well as hopefully attracting a little bit of new business. Plus 140Char has been effectively shuttered since October.

3/ Ad industry scandal or scoundrel of the year.

I’m not strictly an ad man, and don’t fancy picking out something from one of the bad advertising lists elsewhere, so I’ll generically call out all of the businesses who typically spend lots of time and money on shiny adverts which promise lots and don’t deliver.

That includes companies who are now claiming to be social or engaged as bandwagon jumping, but haven’t invested the time and effort behind the scenes to make it part of their actual business process. At it’s core social media and engagement is about customer service and conversation, and not pitching someone one week and then sending him a generic PR link-building request the next (It’s happened to me several times as people failed to click on the About page on this site, for example).

4/ Your overall rating for 2010 out of 10. [1 = shit / 10 = showoff]


It’s been a challenging year, and the current economic and political environments aren’t making life easier. But I’ve managed to conquer several obstacles, and I’m pretty proud of both my business, and some of the resulting efforts of my clients. I don’t think 2011 will be easier or any less hectic, but I’ve got a far clearer picture of what I need to be doing, and it seems like the last month in particular has built a lot of momentum for 2011.

5/ What do you think will be the most overhyped advertising related subject of 2011?

Augmented Reality (AR) is a good example of fantastic technology which really isn’t being used very well by a lot of people. (Looks like Forrester agree with me on that one). But I can’t see that stopping more companies jumping on mobile, tablets and technology like AR without stopping to sort out their underlying business strategy and approach first. I’m confident that most magical solutions generally fall back to a base level fairly quickly, and that includes Apple platforms like the iPad and the iAd ad network.

Technology is awesome and something that I truly love, and there are great opportunities in utilising new technology as soon as possible. But if your basic plans don’t work with the most basic of tools, then any new technology solution is just going to mask it in the short term.

Who am I tagging:

Apparently I need to pick on five people and distract them from their Christmas relaxation, so I’ll go for:

Are efforts to get boys reading more barking up the wrong dead tree?

As a relatively new father, I’ve suddenly become far more interested in the educational merit of the transition from dead-tree print to digital,  in addition to the implications for journalism and marketing.

So I paid a little bit of attention to the Oxford University Press launching a range of ‘computer-esque books to encourage boys to read‘. (link to BBC story).

Apparently the books have been tested in 2000 schools, and can be made interactive via CD-Roms (Are we back in 1995?) and whiteboards.

Two quotes in the BBC article got me thinking:

One from Charlie Higson (author of the Young Bond books):

‘”The point is that books are different to computers – that’s the whole point. If kids want to play with computers, they’ll play with computers, not read these stories.”

And one from Elaine Millard from the National Assocation of Teaching English

“What we have to do in schools is get that enthusiasm back for words on the page.” (emphasis mine)

Seems to me that Charlie makes a very good point for all print businesses – instead of bemoaning the fact that kids or adults are spending time on computers, perhaps we should either be making better print experiences, or better online experiences?

And I think that ties into the idea that we need to only have enthusiasm for words ‘on the page’.

Because, presumably, going into the school library and spending 40 minutes trying to find the right entry in an Encyclopedia bought the last time a school governor donated funds in the 1990s has more merit than searching Wikipedia, and it would be impossible to find literary merit in staring at a computer screen, or to combine something like a great computer game with some humour, intelligence and problem solving?

Coincidentally, whilst writing this, I spotted Dave Cushman linking to Dr Chris Thorpe‘s thoughts on both Dave’s book, and the power of print.

There’s an interesting change taking place – I still love reading books, and used Christmas as a chance to catch up on quite a few, and I can agree to an extent with Chris that reading print can have benefits (not getting distracted by links, or by other online services would be probably the main point which couldn’t be replicated online).

But what’s also interesting is that Cush’s book collects and organises thoughts which have appeared on his blog in a way that perhaps gives them more meaning due to the recurring themes – but the interactions that led Chris to read it is from meeting in person, and doubtless interactions via email and social networks.

Perhaps it’s not the actual content of great books which would have to change, but the ways in which we can help people discover them?

As an example, off the top of my head – people seem to have vastly different views on the idea of enjoying Shakespeare outside of academia, which seem to be driven by how they experienced it. For instance, I had some great English and History teachers who really put some life into Shakespeare – and also had parents who took me to see a handful of excellent Royal Shakespeare Company productions – some of which transposed Shakespeare with modern props and settings – Julius Ceasar stood in a transformed Kent sports centre next to a tank for example.

So rather than trying to corral kids into reading books by imitating things they’d rather be doing, perhaps we should be looking at how the things they’d rather do could be inspirational and interesting – could there be English and History scholars having conversations on Twitter, or could kids be siding with the Montagues and Capulets on a Facebook application?

After all, most of the books I read are by people I can contact via their blogs, emails and social networks and engage with to increase my understanding. Why should kids be denied the same opportunities?

The important thing is that we should be teaching children about the huge amount of ways they can find, enjoy, share, discuss, and interact with information in every format, and the benefits of each. And ensuring that we work with them to make sure what is produced is something engaging rather than patronising.

Thoughts on the Online Community Building Manifesto

Despite a very kind email from the author, Rich Millington, I’ve been a bit remiss in not posting about his Online Community Building Manifesto (link to the PDF). (As a bonus, he’s also on Twitter).

It’s a call to change the way we think about online communities, and one that’s shared by a few people, myself included, but Rich has expressed it with a nice clarity.

We know about technology and we love the internet, but we (in general) don’t know half as much about the people forming communities and about ways to get a better understanding of what they’re doing and what their needs are.

He also raises good points about balancing what we learn about technology with other disciplines including psychology and sociology (with some helpful links to some interesting sources) – I won’t say any more in an effort to encourage you to go read it and leave him some comments.

He’s not alone in his thinking, but the benefit of the manifesto will come if it helps to join some of the minds in this space.  I’d include people like Dave Cushman, Mark Earls, Neil Perkin, and others who regularly appear in my RSS feeds but whose names have deserted me for the moment…which I shall rectify with a bit of an overhaul of my link lists shortly. It’s something that has been implemented in Seth Godin’s private Triiibes group (somewhere I need to spend more time if I can).

And there’s a real tangible personal benefit to social media/community/tribes people – technology is constantly shifting, and being an expert in Facebook or Twitter will start as an asset, become normal and then be old-fashioned and replaced by something new – but the lessons learnt about people will transfer to every network and device. They’ll evolve, but the changes with each evolution will work across platforms and devices and won’t rely on php, flash or javascript!

That’s why I posted on ‘Why Belief Matters‘ back in November, and used football and motorsport as examples. It’s the ‘why’ and the ‘what for’ of any community, and it comes from the people, not from the technology!

Two good excuses to invest in printed materials…

It’s very rare I purchase a book. The last two were Tribes by Seth Godin, and Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur by Richard Branson, both of which have a lot to teach anyone in business and in social media marketing.

(Incidentally, after writing about Business Stripped Bare, here, a nice young lady named Natalie emailed me to say that there’s a widget to display the first 43 pages of the book, which you can see here. Meanwhile, my thoughts on Tribes and how to get it for free, or just 95p on iTunes are here.)

Anyhow, if you prefer to read from a printed page than a computer screen, then there are two more additions that I can recommend investing in.

The first is Dave Cushman’s The Power of the Network, which collects his white papers and more into a single download for 49p, or in printed form for £4.98 via print-on-demand site Lulu. (Disclosure – Dave is a former colleague and friend of mine – enough that I’m credited in the book!). Well worth reading – or buying for someone who is interested in how social media is changing. It’s particularly interesting due to Dave’s lengthy experience as a print journalist and sub-editor before his ever increasing adoption and insight into the changes multimedia is having on everything around us. He’s running a blogger review programme – and also giving any profits to Kiva, which allows you to fund people to change their lives and make their own way out of poverty.

The second is Jonathan MacDonald’s Every Single One of Us: Vol 1 The Communication Ideal, which looks at the underlying principles and makes bold predictions for the future advertising, marketing and personal brands – and is relevant for anyone in the media, internet and mobile industries. (Disclosure: I’m a very small part of a distinguished list who were involved in supporting and helping it’s creation). Jonathan’s CV speaks for itself! Plus he’s probably the closest thing to a legitimate social media rock star, thanks to his musical talents. It’s a £2.99 download or £14.95 for the print edition, and all the money is going into a collective pot to continue the concepts he’s building as part of a group. You can see it explained in a far better way, here.

Actually, cobblers to it and I’ll add a couple more – Joseph Jaffe is offering a very special deal for people buying certain amounts of his books Life After the 30 Second Spot and Join The Conversation  (I’m a big fan of Join the Conversation), ranging from signed copies to a day’s consulting. Take a look at the offer on his blog, Jaffe Juice.

Now I know a lot of people reading this will probably have heard of these people, read their blogs and be familiar with their work (or at least you should!), but the print editions are perfect educational materials for anyone who still associates a ‘blog’ as being something where a geek talks about how he sits at home on his Xbox, talking to his virtual friends. This might help them realise that in the modern world, everyone is doing it via mobile, internet, their console – and that to really be a geek you’d have to go much further. That’s why I love the fact that Seth Godin references the term Otaku, which I’m familiar with due to my love of video games and Japanese culture. It’s for anyone with an almost obsessive interest in something, whether that’s social media, videogames, motorcycling, football or anything else.

There’s a great William Gibson quote from the Observer used at the end of the Wikipedia article:

The otaku, the passionate obsessive, the information age’s embodiment of the connoisseur, more concerned with the accumulation of data than of objects, seems a natural crossover figure in today’s interface of British and Japanese cultures. I see it in the eyes of the Portobello dealers, and in the eyes of the Japanese collectors: a perfectly calm train-spotter frenzy, murderous and sublime. Understanding otaku -hood, I think, is one of the keys to understanding the culture of the web. There is something profoundly post-national about it, extra-geographic. We are all curators, in the post-modern world, whether we want to be or not.’

So go and buy some presents for the Otaku who don’t realise that’s what they are, and how the web can empower their interests, specialities, and dreams.

(And seeing as I’ve got the books, I’ll have a smart phone, a net book, an MP3 player and a new car stereo please!)

Losing a colleague, gaining a consultant?

Bit of a weird post this one. My first boss at Bauer Media (Emap in those days!), and social media theory sparring partner Dave Cushman has revealed he’s leaving Bauer Media to start a new role with Brando Digital on October 27. You can find out more on his blog.

I definitely wish him the best of luck, and I’m hoping he’ll still have time to argue, debate the details of social media every so often.

Getting Shirky on camera

Excuse the bad pun, but friend and colleague Dave Cushman has started posting a series of videos from an interview with Clay Shirky (author of Here Comes Everybody).

Well worth watching.

And if you need another reason, Clay’s still holding the number 2 spot on the infamous ‘Rock Stars of Web 2.0‘ list on

The Add Friend on Facebook T-Shirt and integrating real world brand advocates…

It’s interesting to see how the fairly disparate network of friends, colleagues, and random people I’ve built up over the years can sometimes converge on a topic from a variety of different angles…

Take mobile phone QR codes appearing on T-shirts for example. David Cushman has picked up on the use of them for football shirts, or any branded product. So if someone has some Nikes you like, you stop them, point your phone at them, and get taken to somewhere to find out more and purchase…
He also makes the great point that many, many important Word of Mouth conversations about a product are still happening face-to-face, rather than all on the more trackable internet.

And almost simultaneously Angus Farquhar was emailing me about this:

Found via airtight interactive, it’s one of several T-shirts and bags available which mean you can be added by anyone you meet. I’m not sure there’s a good thing in general, but it would definitely have uses at conferences/business meetings. Lost your business card? Just flash your chest at prospective clients!

If they do take off, it’ll be interesting to see if GapingVoid switches to doodling on moving people…