One Man and His Blog: October 2012 Archives

October 2012 Archives

October 31, 2012

The Skill of Short, Sharp Blogging


Antony Mayfield picked up Steph's post - and my follow-up -  about bringing back the blog - and keeping it short. But he laments his struggles in keeping things concise:

Although, I am not off to a very good start. This post is already expanding to a medium-size post...

Short, sharp blogging (in my experience, at least) is built on two principles:

  1. Connect the thought "that's interesting" with the action of writing the blog post as closely as you can. Don't leave tabs mouldering in your browser, don't leave draft posts in your drafts folder. Get it done, and get out. 
  2. Be very clear what the point you want to make is, make it and quit. Over a while, the various pots will built into a narrative of the issue you're exploring - and you can bring that narrative to a peak, if not a climax, by writing that longer post. But save that until the point where the creative damn is going to burst, by letting some pressure out over time with those short posts. 
Short form blogging is a matter of time disciple and focus - but it's rewarding, useful to the reader, and really refreshing in an age when too many "problogs" read like serialised instruction manuals...

October 30, 2012

Verifying #sandy

Oh, Sandy...

It's been a busy night for the many journalists covering the impact of Hurricane Sandy on New York City, not least in separating the wheat from the chaff:

For reference:

October 29, 2012

The Two Tier Tablet Market


In the shadow of a hurricane, Google launched some new tablets, a phone and a revamp of the latest version of Android.

Pondering this, I've come to the comclusion that we've actually got two tiers of tablets: the Google/Amazon content tablet tier, and the Apple/Microsoft PC-replacement tier. 

Which paradigm will win?

The axe falls at Apple

Big news from Cupertino:

Apple announced on Monday a major reorganisation of the top leadership of the company that leaves SVP of iOS Software Scott Forstall out of the picture. Forstall will be leaving Apple next year.

iOS6 Maps claims its first casualty. And with Jony Ive now in charge of human interface, I think we can look forwards to a future with much less skeuomorphism in it…

Recently hired SVP of Retail Operations John Browett will also depart the company

Everyone who ever set foot in Dixons will be deeply, deeply unsurprised by this. Apple's most bizarre hire in years is rectified. 

HTML for journalists - free

Knight Mozilla is running a free, two hour basic HTML course for journalists:

Are you a journalist who is interested in getting an introduction to tags, html, and all that extra text you see if you "view source" on an article in your content management system? Do you want to learn the fundamentals to websites in a fun, supportive environment?

Great idea. Invaluable skills. Go. :-)

[hat-tip: Joanna Geary]

The Back to the Blog challenge


For the next ten days, starting tomorrow (Tuesday), I'm going to write a post a day. I'll keep it short: blogging used to be quick and dirty, and somewhere between the arrival of Facebook and Twitter, posts have started growing into long essays that take hours to write.

Great idea. I'm getting increasingly uncomfortable with handing over content to Twitter and Facebook just because it's short. This is a space I own and control. I need to nurture it more... and so I'm joining in. 

What could be more Brighton than TEDx and cupcakes?

TEDxBrighton CupcakesFriday, as anyone who follows me on Twitter will be aware, was TEDxBrighton. It's my second TEDx event (the first was TEDxTuttle a few years back), and the only one I've been involved in organising - although just as a storyteller (which in this case, essentailly means blogger). And I had a blast. After a few technical hitches with the sound in the opening minutes, it ran very smoothly indeed. Feedback from friends who were there was largely positive - most thought the speakers were a mixed bag, but there didn't seem to be universal agreement about who were the good ones and who were the bad ones, which was a good sign of diversity amongst both the audience and the speakers...

I, sad to say, got virtually no time to network, as I was busy either liveblogging, or editing photos or video to add to the liveblog. You can find all the liveblogging over on the TEDxBrighton site. My thoughts about the contents of the talks are percolating, and I'll post more about the day in a little while.

In the meantime, I'd just like to highlight these:

TEDxBrighton cupcakesThe format of a TEDx event is rigorously - and I mean rigorously - controlled by the TED organisation. Fair enough. It's their brand, they're sharing it, and they're entitled - sensible, even - to protect it. But the area outside the main event is where the organisers can really cutomise it. Natalie Lloyd did a fine job of bringing in lots of Brighton organisations and bodies into the main mingling space outside the Corn Exchange, to give the event a pretty multi-generational feel:


But the only part of these I had actually time to experience were the wonderful cupcakes baked - in a 13 hour baking marathon - by this cake-baking lady:

Emma Jane, baker of Brighton cupcakesEmma Jane was also one of the few people I didn't already know I got the chance to chat with. I was obviously delighted to discover as well as being a cupcaking creation fiend (and they were a great source of sugar for a energy-sapped liveblogger...) she's also an avid blogger at Cakes and Catwalks. She's even blogged about the experience of the day - which was something of a mixed bag for her, sadly:

I love TED and really enjoyed the talks again this year, I also met some really lovely people and very much appreciated the 'thank you' I received in person from many of the delegates and team - also the tweets that people sent me and seeing photos appearing of my cakes across social platforms was very rewarding. But I had to request that delegates were told a)- that there were cakes and b)- where to find the cakes. I guess I kind of assumed that having asked me to bake 350 cupcakes (which were branded for TEDx), that people would be encouraged to enjoy them.

Which brings us back to the brand control aspect of TEDx events. What you can and can't say about sponsors (and indeed, the various behind-the-scenes folks) is pretty limited. It's a tricky balance - but I think Natalie did a pretty fine job in her first outing organising an event like this.

Thankfully all 360 cupcakes were consumed in the end. Here's Flora Koska, speaker at the event, choosing one of them:


October 26, 2012

The TEDxBrighton choir

Liveblogging: TEDxBrighton

TEDxBrightonI'm liveblogging TEDxBrighton: the Generation Gap all day today. Follow it on the TEDxBrighton site... (and say hello if you're there)

October 25, 2012

Dear Superman, about that blogging thing...

An open letter to Superman:

Firstly, let's talk money. I assume you are being paid at The Daily Planet? You are? Well being a blogger is slightly different. As a blogger, you are expected to eat your "raised profile" sleep under "increased traffic" and wear "more followers".

She has a point - I doubt even Supes can build a profitable blog at super speed. Perhaps he'll have to do it the Pete Cashmore way, and run it from his parents' basement in Smallville...

October 23, 2012

Clark Kent quits newspapers to become a blogger...

Superman stands up for journalism...Tomorrow, newspaper journalism loses another icon. Clark Kent, well-known reporter on that famous Metropolis organ The Daily Planet quits, to go into online journalism

That's right, Superman is getting out of print journalism, and he's not the only great icon of comics to leave the business. Two years ago, Marvel moved that great newsman J. Jonah Jameson (of Amazing Spider-Man fame) into politics, to keep him relevant...

Superman writer Scott Lobell had this to say:

"I don't think [Clark Kent]'s going to be filling out an application anywhere," the writer says. "He is more likely to start the next Huffington Post or the next Drudge Report than he is to go find someone else to get assignments or draw a paycheck from."

You mean... Superman is about to become a blogger? The horror! The horror!

It's something when the comic book industry (widely available to read on your tablet, via Comixology-based apps...) are writing the eulogy for your industry. 

[via Romenesko]

The psychology - and neurochemistry - of social media

Twitter - so addictive

Absolutely fascinating look at the neuroscience that underlies behaviour patterns on Twitter and other forms of social media:

Researchers have previously shown that certain online activities--such as checking your e-mail or Twitter stream--stimulate the brain's reward system. Like playing a slot machine, engaging in these activities sends the animal brain into a frenzy as it anticipates a possible reward: often nothing, but sometimes a small prize, and occasionally an enormous jackpot. The response to this unpredictable pattern seems to be deeply ingrained, and for the most basic of reasons: precisely the same cycle of suspense and excitement motivates animals to keep hunting for food. 

Twitter is feeding sweet dopamine crack straight into your pleasure centres...

Update: Steve Ranger has pointed me to his useful piece on the various research approaches being taken into the impact and power of social media on psychology. Nice to see some rigour being applied to the generic posturings of the social media gurus... ;-)

The BBC, Savile and editors under pressure

Charlie Beckett makes an insightful point about last night's Panorama covering the BBC's multiple failures to expose Jimmy Savile as a paedophile and sexual predator:

Likewise, let's put the Newsnight controversy in perspective. The Newsnight debacle is familiar to anyone who's seen editors under pressure make unfortunate decisions in a culture where risk is rarely rewarded and where 'brave' is a term of mockery. I doubt there was any direct attempt by senior bosses to kill that film.

It's very easy to go hunting for people to blame in a situation like this. Far more often it's the culture to blame - but a culture is still made up of people. A lot of people. In many ways, that's worse. 

October 22, 2012

Two screens, all horror

Watching the BBC Panorama show on the BBC and Jimmy SavilleWe live in a world where journalists hacked a murdered girl's phone - and where the activities of a serial sexual predator like Jimmy Savile went unreported for decades.

British journalism has a lot of questions to ask of itself. 

October 21, 2012

Tech City's new Shields

Interesting interview with Joanna Shields, ex-Facebook and now chief executive of the Tech City Investment Organisation:

“London has access to government through Westminster, you have the creative industries [and] you have the financial sector. You almost have Washington with government, New York with financial and advertising and creative and Los Angeles with creative all in one city and within a few square miles.

“This is the gateway to the world. It should not be a stepchild to other cities. It should be in its rightful place as the centre for innovation, the digital industries. The time has come.”

I think she has a big challenge on her hands, but she has the right pedigree and attitude.

Oh, I say


Not what you expect at your breakfast table from a broadsheet…

October 19, 2012

A small milestone (and what people miss about journalism)

passionatelycurious.jpgI just got my first click-through to this site from a blog written by one of my students on the City University journalism MA. It's a small milestone, but one that made me oddly happy. 

Thanks for the link, Jess.

I rather like this, from her first post:

One of the myriad things to strike me during my first week at City is that journalism is not merely a synonym for writing.

As a second-hand book shop loving, endless note-scrawling English Literature student, I had rather believed otherwise. Yet prior to the printing press, the concept of media existed purely via oral communication, its roots embedded firmly in the social.

A point too often missed, I think...

Online publishing needs to get personal

Andrew Sullivan nails why traditional publishing brands struggle to bring their readers with them online, in a piece about personal migration on reading from print to digital forms:

But it takes guts to actually make the change. An individual can, overnight. An institution is far more cumbersome. Which is why, I believe, institutional brands will still be at a disadvantage online compared with personal ones. There's a reason why Drudge Report and the Huffington Post are named after human beings. It's because when we read online, we migrate to read people, not institutions. Social media has only accelerated this development, as everyone with a Facebook page now has a mini-blog, and articles or posts or memes are sent by email or through social networks or Twitter.

In my half decade or so of directly working on migrating existing print titles to the web, I only saw the traditional brand creating sampling, not loyalty. People may sample based on existing brands - they stay (or not) based on the people.

The best brands can become meta-brands, acting as an umbrella under which the people-centric brands (journalists and other contributors) can operate. But so many publishers - and their marketing departments - just can't make the cognitive leap to understand that the whole structure of branding changes online. 

The Guardian responds - to your screen

Three times the responsive GuardianThe Guardian's gone public with its responsive beta site (which should scale beautifully to whatever screen size you're using). This is what the future of site design should look like. Probably. 

Of course, as a regular and attentive reader of One Man & His Blog, you knew about this weeks ago... ;-)

October 18, 2012

The hyper-revolution - a video

I'm such a sucker for these things, and this is a well-done example...

Subscribe to OM&HB by e-mail...

I've just restored the ability to subscribe to this blog via e-mail. The old plugin I was using went haywire, and had to be killed. So, I'm starting from scratch and using MailChimp to deliver the e-mails. If you'd like the lastest from me in your e-mail in-box once a day - subscribe below:

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Email Format

Powered by MailChimp

Interhacktive Reading: 18/10/12

Community folks at NEXT BerlinSome community-related links, mainly for my community and social media module students at City University - but shared for the betterment of all... 

Verifying the fireball

Is this video real?

Malachy Browne does the verification. That's how journalism is done. 

October 15, 2012

Institutional Knowledge Transfer (journalism edition)

A City University lecture roomActually, as annoyed as I am with BT - 11 days without phone and broadband and counting - that's far from the only reason I've been quiet. I've been to Berlin for NEXT Service Design, which took my focus away from here. I have a small and unpredictable baby who makes working from home an interesting challenge sometimes. (She's giving my wife a hard time and pretty much refusing to sleep, even as I write this...) But equally, I've taken on a new part-time role that's consuming a lot of my time as I get used to it.

At the beginning of this academic year, I started as a visiting lecturer on the journalism MA at City University. I'm online lab tutor for the Magazine and Financial journalism students, and running the community and social media module  (part of the Interactive Journalism MA) with Judith Townend. I'm really enjoying it - but getting up to speed is taking me some time. (It's also amusing my wife hugely; she's a proper lecturer - in molecular biology - and is finding my baby steps into academia entertaining.)

The contretemps I had with Joanna Geary at Hacks/Hackers Brighton a couple of months ago actually helped me decide that this was the right thing to do. Underlying my challenge to her about a version of online community-oriented journalism history that began in 2008 was the loss of institutional knowledge that so many of our publishing companies have suffered in recent years, as the 2006-era online innovators get pushed out, and younger (cheaper?) people brought in instead. There's a discontinuity, a lack of working overlap between the groups that means experiences are forgotten, lessons lost.

Well, teaching at a university, embedding those lessons into a new generation of journalists, is fun, and it helps solve the problem. What's lost to one company, benefits many. That's got to be good for journalism. 

October 14, 2012

Silenced by BT

Apologies for the patchy posting around here - I'm now in my 11th day without broadband or phone service at home, thanks to BT. I reported the fault on Thursday 4th as soon as it happened. By the time I was back from Berlin on the 10th - exactly nothing had happened. BT hadn't even passed the fault on to Openreach.

Nearly 5 days on from that call, I've had a lot of reassurances - and no action whatsoever. 

I'm compiling notes and records of what's happened, and once I'm connected again, I'll post my experiences in detail. It's a fascinating case study of how all the social media customer support in the world is useless, unless they actually have the power to get something done. BT is passing the blame to Openreach - but I'm a customer of BT, not Openreach. Promising action, and delivering none aggravates the situation, rather than helping it. And this sort of tweet just seems designed to annoy...

Will keep you all informed, as best I can. :-)

October 11, 2012

Andrew Keen and the death of privacy

KeenHas social become a disturbing orthodoxy? Andrew Keen thinks so… And he's kicking off an event called Creative DigiFest 2 at the University of Southampton 

He's a fan, as he outlined in the Cult of the Amateur, of the world of the gatekeeper, of those who create being an elite, professional call. As media has been democratised, the world has become a Hitchcock movie, we've slipped into noir…. The amount of personal data travelling over the network is rapidly growing - and he's painting a picture of where that's used to identify the stranger next to you, to give you as much information is available. In Hitchcock's Vertigo, the detective knows nothing of the woman he's been paid to follow - there's no Twitter or Facebook to look her up. The film is a wonderful warning about falling in love with something that isn't true, can't be true, that can't exist… There's this idea that the internet is bringing the human race together, based on the idea that the network is liberating. It's a similar idea to Marx's idea that the industrial age would allow humanity to achieve its potential. 

Sean Parker - one of the early investors in Facebook and co-founder of Napster - wants to eliminate loneliness. That's what he said when he launched his newest startup. It's become the defining characteristic of Silicon Valley. Collectively, the grouping of apps and sites that make up social media are progressively destroying any idea of privacy. He cites everything from Waze (which I used to get here) through to the obvious ones like Twitter. There's a social reading site, which he considers a contradiction in terms. He has a go at Yammer - which allows the end of loneliness in the workplace. 

Highlight is a "fun way of learning about people nearby". That mean learning about strangers. That means doing away with loneliness. The Truman Show is a classic warning about where we are going. The destruction of privacy which seems so absurd in that film, is being celebrated in Silicon Valley. Mark Zuckerberg has said that we have only one identity (and Keen thinks he wants to own it). He's wrong. We have many identities. Keen asks us to declare that we want to live without privacy, to return to the world of the interdependent village, where all business was public business. 

Most of us are mini-celebrities, but we can't handle it. We make fools of ourselves, we humiliate ourselves. Technology isn't doing this to us - technology is reflecting us. Narcissism has always existed, but the internet is enabling it. The internet is like a huge pile of free drugs in the middle of the world.

Yet, any writer that isn't on Twitter should have his hands chopped off… Visibility, you see, is a necessity, but also a trap. The price of these services is our data, and the new oil barons of the information age ar ethe founders of Facebook and LinkedIn et al. Free is the great seduction. As value and reputation migrate to the network, we are paying a heavy price for free. We need data literacy, not tech literacy. Social media helped trigger the Arab Spring, but it's also being used by governments to spy on their people. 

Big brother is gone. It has been replaced with little brother. We're all little brothers now. Perhaps we now need an On Digital Liberty. He recommends Quiet, a celebration of the introvert, and the ability to create separation. 

We need to:

  • Fight the economy of free. It's destroyed the entertainment industry, now it's destroying us. What I had for breakfast isn't something that Zuckerberg should be able to sell to Kellogs. 
  • We need to focus on the economic value of privacy - it's something that will have appeal to consumers if presenting the right way
  • We need technology to forget. Data should degenerate as our bodies degenerate. What make sue human is our ability to forget. 
  • We need to see government as a solution not a problem, curbing the market's data abuses.
  • We need to become data literate, to manage our reputations, and learn to lie when we need to. 

Mark Zuckerberg wants to own the narrative of our lives - that's why he invented Timeline - but we need to reinvent dark rooms to protect ourselves from that. 

Q. Are these just teething problems? 

A. Possibly - but possibly not. I hope they are - that's the point of my work and the work of others. 

Q. What are the consequences of embedding the right to be forgotten in law?

A. The other side of the argument is losing heritage for future generations. It's very complicated, and their could be unintended consequences. One of the great issues of our age is 'are we all public figures now?' - if so, we have a responsibility to leave our data to others. I don't think we do…

October 9, 2012

Meaning - the man without e-mail

Luis Suarez

Nearly four years ago I liveblogged Luis Suarez talking about his nine-month old project to abandon e-mail. How's it going, after nearly five years? Well, he's still not using e-mail, and he hasn't been sacked yet, and he's lost a load of weight, based on photos from the two events...

His talk was as much an interaction with the audience as a talk, and not really a great opportunity to liveblog - but here are my notes:

  • 71% of the employee workforce is totally disengaged. 7/10 don't give a shit about you. Employees are not their to do your work, but their work. This is your problem
  • We're going to stop using e-mail to bully, to build power, to cover our arses. Half of some employees' workday goes to e-mail. What a waste.
  • By dropping e-mail, he's both challenged the status quo, and shown people a better way of working through being open on the network. Four years ago, everyone thought he would be fired. Now, he's featured in their video adverts for their social business offerings.
  • He believes in what he's doing, he owns his work. He lives in his networks.
  • He gives a shit about what he does.
  • Define how addicted you are to e-mail. Resist the urge to respond to e-mail. Inbox zero is bullshit. It doesn't exist. Break the fucking chain.

And that was that. Now I suppose I ought to write something about what I took away from the day...

Meaning: Vinay Gupta on the perils and possibilities of the future

Vinay Gupta

Catching up on my liveblogged notes from last week's Meaning Conference - I ran out of laptop battery, so couldn't post them at the time. 

The second act of the afternoon session is kicked off by a man who doesn't get out of bed for less than 1% mortality...

The rise in computing power between 1990 and 2020 will be insignificant compared to the rise in the thirty years thereafter. Solar panels will be cheaper than coal by 2020. If you're under 30, you've never really seen change, because it take those 30 or 40 years to really become visible.

What does that have to do with Hexayurts?  They're built from standard industrial manufacturing sizes of materials - sheets and half sheets. If the hippies had had these things they would have won. Burning Man is covered with them. In year 10, it's starting to acquire exponential momentum.

Our houses are three things: accommodation, storage of wealth and investment. Right now - accommodation is well met, storage of wealth and investment are ruined, because prices are going down. If we build millions of new homes, you can drive prices down so far that everything changes. Mortgages go away. Ireland has 200,000 empty units. The over-build is gigantic and we won't let the housing prices drop, because no-one wants to admit that the houses aren't worth what they once were. The market is totally illiquid. Abundance breaks the financial system.

Economists get a bad rep, but there are some good new ones. The new economists:

  • Coase - companies are efficient pockets of command-and-control within market chaos. But that only holds for some costs of decision making.
  • Nash - it's possible that everyone can get stuck in a situation which will destroy all of them, because the costs to the individual of changing the situation are too high - you need co-ordinated action from all - the goat rodeo.
  • Benkler - new kinds of value creation exist in an abundant information, cheap communioncatin world. It appears commons based per production works bett than capitalism.

Valve is apparently the most profitable company per employee in the world. They mythology is that you pick and choose your projects in the company. It has no internal coercive structure. If you drive out fear, you get good quality communication. Hierarchy create fear which reduces productivity. The boss of Valve can't get his own games made - but the people who work for him make him $300,000 a year. The pyramid doesn't work in this environment. It's an internal anarchy.

Hexayurt is not a business. There's no bank account. There's just a domain name. Yet, it's the most efficient shelter in the world, and its growing exponentially.

Windows is a corporate ecosystem, and is full of evil midgets - the crapware. Apple is a benign dictatorship - unles you're the app developer who gets kicked out of the store. Linux is structured like the Goth tribes that sacked Rome. The secret to Open Source success is looking like you can finish it on your own. They've sacked the server market and haven't quite done the same with desktop. Apple has put a thin level of dictatorship on top of Open Source BSD and sacked Microsoft, but you can't contain the anarchy.

The three futures:

  • Cheap energy, cheap information
  • Resource scarcity and war - the classic bleak future
  • Decentralise (Naxalites) - a machete version of capitalism

Fear of the nuclear bomb stopped us thinking rationally. It might all work as long as we can get the nanotechnology or biotech risk under control. Stop anyone making an open source 3D printer for genes...

We could end up in a world where the largest functional organisation is 24 people for 4.5 months. Could happen. To survive, we need one planet consumption and no apocalypse technology.

They did a book: The Future We Deserve. Sourced on Twitter, two weeks to edit. Go.

Margaret Elliott wants Mutuality Forever!

Margaret Elliott

Catching up on my liveblogged notes from last week's Meaning Conference - I ran out of laptop battery, so couldn't post them at the time. 

In 1976, Margaret and friends set up a workers co-operative called the Little Women Shop. They learnt new skills, that changed people's lives. Everyone learned all aspects of running the business from each other. They sold up in 1980, because the economic climate was terrible, and they wanted to pay back their startup loan.

Once you've worked in a co-operative, you get the bug. They moved on to setting up a home care co-operative, based on the system for granting additional payments on benefits for home care. Those additional requirements payments were withdrawn, and the business petered out. She went to work for the Prince's Trust.

But the co-operative bug was still in her system. Next up: Sunderland Home Care Associates. They're serious both about the co-operative ownership - and about business success. They started in 1994 with 20 people, now it's 440. They have £170,000 profit on £5.5m turnover. They help older, disabled and vulnerable people remain in their homes as long as possible. They provide academic support for students with disabilities.

Independent Futures - helping people with learning disabilities live on their own, and use micro enterprise to give them meaningful lives.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Meaning: Pamela Warhurst on Incredible Edible

Pamela Warhurst

Catching up on my liveblogged notes from last week's Meaning Conference - I ran out of laptop battery, so couldn't post them at the time. 

Pamela's here to tell us a story about making the world nicer. Todmordon has fruit, vegetable and herbs springing up all over the town. They've developed vegetable tourism. They have a huge challenge ahead of them. The way we're living is passing on a rubbish legacy to our kids.

Is it possible to find a unifying language to talk to people regardless of age or income? There is one: food. So, they didn't bother with a strategy document, or a proposal. They gathered around a kitchen table. And they decided to spin community plates, like circus plate spinners. Let's think about what happens in our gardens, and streets, and community places. Let's teach each other about food. And let's move from that to buying our food locally.

60 people came to the meeting. They didn't talk about climate change, they talked about food. They didn't ask permission. They didn't ask for a cheque. They had to see off the nay-sayers. The power of small actions is awesome. Your little bit of action will help other people come together.

This world is not for the faint-hearted. The models of the past are not the ones we need for the future. They do propaganda gardens, because her mate hates the word "guerrilla". They took a verge, which had been neglected and left to go wild (and become a toilet), and made it a garden, and six months later the council started mowing it - and put a bench in. One person took her wall down, took the flowers out and started growing fruit in her garden. And put up a sign saying people could take it. For two years no one did. And then they started...

This is not a movement for articulate Guardian readers. If you eat, you're in. People started picking veg. One family picked veg, and then brought back soup made from it. They'd never talked to each other before.

They use edible flowers sometimes, so as not to upset the "in bloom" people. They planted a garden in front of the police station - the police now look after it. And they'll tell you that environmental damage in the area has halved. So, male competition being what it is, the fire station decided to join in. Beyond that, they took the prickly plants in front of the new health centre, and replaced them with edible plants. People are walking into the health centre surrounded by things they have only ever seen wrapped in plastic at the supermarket.

They went into the station, they went into the graveyard...

And from that they've moved into training people in cooking what they've grown, and to sharing lost arts, like pickling, preserving and skinning. They bought every market trader a board, on which they could chalk their local goods. It started conversations, which reminded people why markets are different from supermarkets.

They didn't get good response from local farmers, so they build the demand themselves, using things like the Every Egg Matter campaign, and some are starting to join in. They took some waste land, and created a market garden training centre.

They're just a "working class northern town doing veg" but they're featured on TV all over the world. And there are 33 towns following them...

Believe in the power of small actions.

October 8, 2012

Beginning and End

Spotted at NEXT Service Design...


NEXT Service Design in the window


October 5, 2012

The power of "why?"


Christopher Murphy, writing for Multidisciplinary Design on "human resource"

It's no wonder monolithic businesses often fail. They grow and, in so doing, lose sight of what matters; people become humans and, in that subtle, but important semantic shift the people - the passionate individuals who drove the business forward, who gave it its lifeblood - become disillusioned and leave. The business, however, moves on, like a giant machine, unable to comprehend the significance of what it just lost, unable to understand the consequences of its now mindless actions.

Here's a thought: this shift often coincides with a business losing its strong sense of "why?" Why does it exist? Once, that would have been to "do a great job of providing X", where X is their line of business. At some point, the answer becomes something between "to continue existing" and "to provide stable income for senior management". 

Humans are very motivated by "why?" - they are very unmotivated by those other questions. Never underestimate the power of "why?".

October 2, 2012

Hacks/Hackers Brighton: a more Responsive Guardian


I missed the first speaker - Sarah captured some notes in a Google Doc

Andy Hume, The Guardian

The Guardian pushes its content to multiple channels. It has the highest largest combined monthly digital and print readership of British quality titles. The website is kind of a big deal - it brings in both readership and revenue. It should be the jewel in the crown. They've done the new shiny - iOS and the like, but the web remains pretty central to The Guardian's digital stuff.

They have two sites - the desktop site and the mobile site. They have Java files detecting mobile and tablet devices and routing them to the mobile site. It's very easy to just take the desktop site and cull it down until t looks like it might work on mobile. That's fundamentally the wrong approach to responsive design. The main page is about 1.5Mb to 2Mb in size. It's doing a lot of stuff. It even works in Lynx - a command line browser for UNIX. 

Responsive design is just another facet of progressive enhancement. It allows you to add more functionality depending on the capability of the device you're using. Once you're aware of the device's capabilities you can reposed in a way that's appropriate. We think that the web has about 2bn users - that leaves expansion room of about 6bn. The chances are that the new users won't be sat in front of desktop computers on biug fat pipe connections to the internet. 

80% of its new development work is done in the open: What they're exploring is a mobile-first responsive design. They experiment on 

Hundreds of little images take a long time to download - the bottleneck is the latency for each connection it has to set up. Reducing the stuff on your page is really critical. On the home page, for example, they only load four or five preview images. The Guardian would love to have its typefaces across all the digital products - but every typeface costs 125k to 150k in download. So, they detect the device, and chuck away the typefaces for a good proportion of them, as they won't display well. We ensure that they are only downloaded once - and we store them in local storage managed within the browser - essentially for ever.  They only download stuff towards the bottom when you scroll to the bottom - no point in doing it if you never scroll there. 

They have a content store, a Web content API in front of that, and all the different channels access the content via that. The website knows nothing about the content, and the content doesn't know how it's going to be displayed. They now need a set of editorial controls that are decoupled from how things are presented. The central editorial tool can make decisions, and ll the clients can leverage that. The current tool is very visual - you are manipulating the site. The CMS is written in house, and is extraordinarily powerful - but it doesn't scale across these other platforms. It's very focused on desktop web browsing. The solution? A tool which searches the content API for new content - and then uses an algorithm to decide how important is. An editor can make a judgement tool about what is important. You are no longer thinking visually, but in terms of prioritising. 

The other problem is advertising - which has traditionally been in very fixed formats. That doesn't work in mobile. It - perhaps - needs to be more tied at the content level - tagged in as it comes out of the API. 

Continue reading Hacks/Hackers Brighton: a more Responsive Guardian.

October 1, 2012

Meaning: Alexander Kjerulf on the happiness beyond job satisfaction

Alexander Kjerulf

Why is there so little concept of happiness at work? In Scandanavia there's even a word for it: Arbejdsglaede

It's not about being deliriously happy, it's about that feeling of kinda liking what you do. It's a feeling, not job satisfaction. A lot of companies measure and try and improve job satisfaction. Arberjdsglaede is how you feel about your job, job satisfaction is what you think about it. It's measured through a cerebral exercise of judgement. 

Anyone can have it. Sewage workers have it. You become part of the team when you have your first head-under accidental dunking... 

What make you happy at work? Pay? Perks? Promotion? Good coffee? None of those. 

1: Results

Making a difference - being proud of what you do - feeling that you did an awesome job, and contributed positively. It doesn't need to be in a checking-off tick boxes way. Not completing tasks - but knowing that you made a positive difference. A lot of jobs offer this - and some don't. Say... you make landmines. Is that meaningful? To most, probably not. 

2: Relationships

It's very banal: it's when you like the people you work with. Everything goes easier when you like each other. Knowing something about the person behind the professional title - when you have a coffee break in the work place, take the time to talk about other things than work. More and more people skip coffee breaks and eat lunch at their desk, missing an opportunity for this. 

The Meaning crowd

He had us greeting, complimenting, and touching each other to prove this. 

About 30 to 35% of the English hate their jobs. Why do we put up with this? There is an idea that work something slaves do so free men have time for philosophy and sports that started with the ancient Greeks. This came to the fore in the industrial age - that was a terrible time to be a worker. The attitude is that work is something you have to do. 

We spend most of our waking hours at work. It's the number three factor in life happiness after a romantic relationship and family. People who are happy at work do better work. Chasing success thinking it will make you happy is a failed idea. But working at something you love is more likely to make you successful. 

Southwest Airlines make employee happiness their number one priority, because that will make customers happy which will make investors happy.

What can you do? Really greet co-workers tomorrow, do random acts of workplace kindness, give yourself a little me time - and write down three things which were really awesome at work today. 

Happiness at work is something you create together, every day. It's a great business strategy. 

Meaning: Karen Pine on how to change your brain


What do businesses do when the way to develop people? They put them in the equivalent of a classroom. We go on a course, the employer tick a box, and then we go back to our desks and do what we always did. Why? The brain is a habit machine. When we learn, we create connections between neurons. The more often we use a pathway, the more likely we are to use it. Our brains are hard-wired for inertia. Argument doesn't make a difference - action does. 

She cites the example of a 42 year old engineer with a stressed life - redundancy at work, difficult children at home. Work put him on a Do programme to reduce stress. One day, he was given the task of a 15 minute walk. He did it after work. And continued doing it each day. And then, one day, his autistic child came with him. And started talking to him. It's really difficult to make big sweeping changes in you life - but you can make small changes, and create ripple effect. If you do nothing, nothing will change. If you do something, you don't know what might happen.

To change behaviour, you have to break down old habits. We all have behavioural patterns we use all the time, but we also have ones we don't use that could serve us well. On the way to a crucial strategy meeting, one operations director got a Do message telling him to be unassertive. He was persuaded by a colleague to give it a whirl. At first it was hard, but then he listened and learnt. He discovered that one that he thought was on his wavelength wasn't - and the ineffectual one was asking probing questions and insights. If you keep reusing the same behaviour trait - you'll just stay where you are. You stay on that same brain pathway and don't develop. 

Just having one behaviour is like going around with just hammer. Sometimes it'll help, and sometimes it will smash everything to pieces...

To grow the toolkit, you make people more flexible, and you do that one activity, one Do at a time. The adult brain can rewire itself - but you do it by changing people's behaviour not people's thinking. It's CBT turned on its head. 

Meaning: Indy Johar on the micromassive society

indy Johar

The firm, the corporate entity, is a relatively recent invention. It was born in the 18th century, and a vehicle for efficient exploration of other of the world.

In 2010 he went to Detroit, and visited where the Model T Ford was built. Henry Ford was famous for paying more than average - a lot more. Why was he paying more than anyone else? Because he lost so many staff each week. Why? Because they were asked to doing the same thing again and again. It was the end of craft. Seven years later, the car had become stylised. It was being sold as a lifestyle image. As purpose was removed from work, it was transferred to consumption.

In 2004, he was working for a practice of 17 people. At 17 people, they were designing handrails for hospices with nodules, as the tactile memory is the last to go. At 64? The detail was lost. They were creators of images, not details. That says something about how we manage size.

Until 1998, he was at architectural school. He realised that the decisions of how a wall was made were being pulled from the craftsman building it to the architect designing it. The meaning was being stripped from the crasftman's work. 

There are diseconomies of scale - which are under-discussed. The losses of management are significant. We're moving into a civic economy. Since the 1960s, very few large organisations have been born. It's a trend. We're starting to have to look at what the informal economy means. The accelerated reputation economy is becoming more important than contracts. We can start holding ash other to account in small ways. We could all underwrite Stowe small amount for a loan. We can all start to aggregate in ways that haven't been done before - and that starts to redistribute power. 

Rutland Telecom is a great example of people coming together to create micro-infrastructure. 

The Hub is like a co-working space - but it's global. Not corporate clonal, but locally-owned global. All The Hubs together owned the idea and assets. It signals that we can build a civic global. There are 32 hubs around the world. Imagine what you could do with that with a university. 

Micromassive - the idea of how resources is pulled together is huge. The web is allowing us to make co-operative structures fractional and sharable in a way they never could before. 

Social - can be outcome, method, governance, ownership and inputs. But their all linked. They're all converging. In 10 years, we'll just be talking about social business as the way to do business. The funder is just one stakeholder in the process - the model of clients is different, because everyone is one.

Architects should be social liable for the buildings they design. It would ensure that I did everything possible to make that building a positive social outcome. If the local authority could sue me as an architect., I would have to work differently. But then you could librate planning. Why would you need it?  

In London Zoo, the only way out is through a tacky gift shop? It's a charity, I'm a member. Why? They're legally obliged to maximise value for their purpose. Single purpose vehicles are problem. Finance is changing - capital is starting to have to become intelligent. One VC says they're getting 40% returns - because ether think this is the future. 

There's a shift from management to co-ventureship - it's replaced by servant leadership. It's a fragile thing, easily destroyed by someone trying to take the reputation for themselves. 

Streetcar is not a sharing economy product, it;s a rent economy one. There is a risk we will be moved into a rental economy, where the assets are owned by fewer and fewer people. You end up with no assets. Sharing assets is different, because we actually build resilience. We have to be very careful about what we mean by platform. Platforms should be though of more like states than corporates. If we let assets be stripped away, be become very exposed to shocks. 

Meaning: David Hieatt on jeans and purpose

david hieatt

Imagine that one day they made you stop doing the job you love. That's what happened to Cardigan. The jeans factory closed, and 400 jobs - in a town of 4000 people - went away. 

Imagine what you'd do, if you sold your company and realised that it was a mistake. That's what happened to him. He toyed with the idea of getting back to making jeans - but does the world need another jeans maker? No. There are enough unsold ones in the US to last decade. 

But something needed to be done for the town. So, he started a jeans company. And they got six months of orders in the first few days - they had to stop taking ordes. 

But it was a good match. He could market jeans. The town could make them. The taxi drivers could teach you how to make jeans. They had people who had spent 50,000 hours making jeans. They were grand masters of jeans making. 

So far, they have 10 people. 10 out of 400.

It's a great story - manufacturing comes back to a town. It isn't enough.

Their coin pocket fits an iPhone. But quality isn't enough.

We have to have ideas.

The things we own, tell stories about us. Think of children's' beloved toys.

Now, think of the space where the internet - which tells stories - and the luddite desire to make objects last.

What if jeans had a story? The secondhand jeans market is stronger than the first hand one... If your jeans end up in a secondhand shop with a story attached, is that interesting?

The Antiques Roadshow is interesting for two reasons - you find out if you're going to be a millionaire, and what your object's story was. 80% of the market for jeans is for pre-washed jeans. Industrially was he dot make them look old. We can't afford the £1million market to fake history for our jeans. That puts us in the 20%.

So - we have the denim breaker club. You give students jeans for six months, who agree to wear them, and not to wash them. To record their history. And when we sell them, you get 20%. Planet earth is better for out. Our margin is better for it. But it's an experiment. We need ideas, because there are 390 jobs left to go. 

In 20 years' time we'll thank the bankers for making a mess of everything. It's such a mess that we'll have to do something extraordinary again. They made such a mess that everything has to slow down. I love Kickstarter - I love anything that starts putting the banks out of business.

We need big, bold, brave ideas. If you have them, I love you, and I want to make jeans for you. 

Meaning: Caroline Lucas asks when is enough enough?

Caroline Lucas


We need to throw away the old box, not think outside it. We need to give up on the idea of continuous economic growth. Its costs are too high. We need to see the economy as a possession of the environment, rather than the other way around. 

The green economy is more labour-intensive than the fossil fuel economy. It provides jobs to be a route out of our current economic difficulties. Globally, subsidies for fossil fuels are six times higher than for renewable energy. Imagine if that was refocused. 

We're stuck in an odd paradox. We have companies trumpeting their environmental credentials, even as the situation gets worse. Planes may be getting more environmentally focused - but as the planes get more green, their use goes up. It's a net loss.

There are some signs of hope. No-one wants your products - they want the use of them. B&Q realise that people want a hole in the wall, not a drill. So why not rent them? The need gets met, but resource consumption goes down. A human-powered MP3 player that looks like a plaster... Skype and Spotify stop us using planes or the plastic for CDs. You can make carpet tiles from recycled yarn

What would replace the mechanism of capitalism that requires endless growth? This is a dangerous idea. But growth is creating dysfunctional, unequal societies. Happiness does not reply on it - that's about happy families, meaningful work and connected societies. Right now - unless there is growth, people lose their jobs, taxes drop and public services erode. We need a new macro-economic model that takes account of the limited resources of the planet. If the biosphere isn't getting any bigger, the sub sphere has to achieve a steady state. 

A steady state is not a failed growth economy. A helicopter is designed to hover. An aircraft... is not. We need a helicopter economy. We need the same amount of better stuff, not more of the same stuff. We need to reform taxation, working hours and practices, pay structures, It's ambitious stuff - it need shift is attitude of politicians and the expectations of the public. We need to make the future we aspire to more positive than the fossil fuel driven one. We need enlightening people in business, in politics and in every walk of life. 

Unless people like you care - nothing will happen. 

Meaning: Stowe Boyd on Postnormal Culture

Stowe Boyd

Stowe Boyd is encouraging us to actively imagine a future where we ahem to rethink the fundamentals of business and society. Too much "social business" thinking is just too timid, he suggests. We have a challenge - we are always one step behind. We can only see the present clearly once it has become the past. But he's gonna help us try...

We're moving from a solid to a liquid world - the rate of innovation is growing exponentially. Great for medical research, for example, but bad for newspaper business models and the funding of investigative journalism. Social business has been an attempt to adapt to these changes. Things that arose in the social media world started to infect the business world. The big picture drivers are more important than the marginal economic benefit. Social business is post-modern. 

The loosening to connection to employers and employment has been largely negative. Huge tranches of jobs are being swept away by automation and computers. Are taxi drivers next, killed off by automatous vehicles. 

We've renovated our business by sanding the floors and painting the walls, not moving the walls around. 

This is a concept used by the military to define decision-making problems in war:

  • V = volatility
  • U = Uncertainty
  • C = Complexity
  • A = Ambiguity

It applies to our lives now. Cities, like social networks, increase social density. People move there because they're cheaper, you can make more money there. They innovate out of proportion to their size. New York has low numbers of gas stations and air-conditioning costs because of that density. 

VUCA undoes the conventional style of leadership. 

Marketing latched onto social media as another channel - but they got infected by it. They started using it internally as well as externally. They wanted to do more of it - and it infected the whole business. But the old company is still there - it just has a new layer on top of it. Research shows that if you increase people's social density - give them more connections in the business - they're happier and more productive. This is independent of any other changes in the business. People will use these tools to make work better - even if management do nothing. Businesses are going to get more porous - weaker barriers between departments, weaker barriers between the organisation and the rest of the world.

Companies are decreasing their office space and allow employees to work whoever hey are. A Citrix study suggests that companies are planning 6 seats for every 10 employees. 

Swift Trust: human beings have the capacity wired into us to co-operate. That's why freelance style projects - like Hollywood movies - work so well. People will come together and suspend their disbelief, do their work, and not bother with the battles for dominance and power in established organisations. It's projected to be 40% of the creative and professional working the US. This means companies can be more agile and experimental. That means that there's less commitment to workers, to their skills, to their pensions... 

Social business doesn't really support social business yet. The tools don't really facilitate it. They don't interoperate very well. 

So, what do we need to imagine? The Schutze method - that allows a huge number of people to vote on particular issues.

We need to move from exploitative models, to models based on people's relationships with small groups, that builds up based on the fact that everyone is connected.  Our leaders are not giving us visions of the future. We need to do that for ourselves. 


Follow me on

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2012 is the previous archive.

November 2012 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.