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Month: July 2011

Estates Gazette launches iPad app

Photo 28-07-2011 01 39 18 PM

The good folks at Estates Gazette have launched their first iPad app. The Special Edition focuses around the property issues (and property people) involved in sporting events like the Olympic Games, coming to a London near you next year.

There’s a real mix of images, text and video, and the whole shebang is free to you on the App Store, thanks to sponsorship from property firm CBRE.

A few more screen shots:

Photo 28-07-2011 01 37 18 PM

Photo 28-07-2011 01 39 10 PM

Twitter account ownership, logic lessons and what the BBC really lost

So, earlier in the week, the world and her husband tweeted and linked this piece, suggesting that the BBC had lost, lost I say, 60,000 followers because Laura Kuenssberg took her Twitter account with her to ITV. The horror. And the predictable warfare between the “social media is a personal medium” and “social media is about marketing messages” camps broke out. (FWIW, I’m firmly in the former camp, for reasons we’ll go into later in this post).

Cue much discussion, wailing and bemoaning and evangelical posturing about who should own what in social media. Ugh. It’s rapidly becoming the new journalists vrs bloggers discussion.

Thankfully, there is some new thinking in here.  I think Martin Belam really nails it when he attacks the other part of the proposition, which no-one else seems to have questioned:

If you take TV as the analogy, when a series on BBC2 that has been pulling in 1.2 million viewers ends, we don’t generally go around saying that “the BBC has lost 1.2m viewers” and assume they are totally lost to the BBC. We expect that they still consume some other BBC programmes, and probably some of them still on BBC2.

Spoilers: based on his sample, the answer is that the BBC lost nowhere near 60,000 followers. Check out his arithmetic and stuff on currybet. So, Martin’s wee bit of anlysis suggests to us that the whole underlying argument of the piece is flawed. The BBC may have lost 60,000 Follows, but Follow does not equate to Follower, because people are capable of following many people. It’s a classic logic error which, admittedly, makes for fantastic linkbait.

So where does that leave us? Well, certainly not with the message that media outlets should own absolutely the Twitter accounts of everyone tweeting for them. John Bethune has some intelligent thoughts on how to address the situation.

Here’s an additional thought: if the BBC had claimed the account, and switched it to @BBCNormanS for Kuenssberg’s replacement, how would the people who found themselves suddenly following a person they did not choose to follow feel? Would they be annoyed that the BBC had forced them into following someone else? Quite probably, in some cases. And there’s a chunk of relationship damage that almost certainly outweighs the costs in terms of Follows inflicted here.

Brands are accumulations of people in the end; people’s work, personalities and output. And any brand that puts all of its eggs in the basket of a single Twitter user or account in putting all its eggs in one basket. That’s foolish. A brand which spreads itself across multiple social media accounts of its staff – of its constituent parts, if you like – benefits not only from reduced risk of loss, but also benefits from the multiple relationship streams developed as a result.

Tom Callow’s piece seems, to me, to be a classic example of the “command and control” approach to brand marketing clashing with the more personalised, distributed nature of social media. And that’s a fight that’s going to be going on for a long time to come, I suspect. But, we can see the outcome already. However much people might like to claim that people do, I don’t have conversations with brands, I have conversations with people. And if they’re good people, I think that much better of the brand.

What the BBC has lost is not 60,000 followers. What they have lost is Laura Kuenssberg’s relationship with 60,000 people. And no amount of Twitter account claiming could allow them to retain that relationship. Guess what? Your staff just got more important.

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How do we report the feelings of suffering?

Bit off my normal patch, but a fascinating read:

Within the swathe of responsible reportage and post analysis, trying to convey an hour and a half of fear, human suffering and “being there” is something journalism in its present form attempts, partially succeeds (to degrees) and also struggles to convey. Within the boundaries of realism and journalism of probity it claims rightly so to make sense – a matter of semiotics and narrative.

David Dunkley Gyimah meditates on ways of capturing the emotion from horrific events beyond traditional journalism.

#likeminds Business Book Club: Making Ideas Happen

Like Minds Book Club Scott Belsky

Those who know me are aware that, on the whole, I prefer the arrive late/ leave late approach to work. I skip the worst of the commuting, get more done befoe I leave home, and generally feel better about life. In my world, the early bird might catch the worm, but it gets grumpy and doesn’t eat it because he feels a little sick.

But some things are worth getting up early for. I’m a big fan of the Like Minds events, and the idea of a business book club from them could just be tailor-made for me. And so, I dragged myself out of bed early enough to join them at The Hospital Club this morning to hear Scott Belsky talk about his book Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality.

After a rather scrummy bacon buttie and some pain au chocolat (which are pretty much worth getting out bed for, frankly), we settled down to hear him explain how the hell to get creative people to actually buckle down and deliver.

Scott Belsky

Most ideas never happen, suggested Belsky. He wishes for an idea meritocracy, where only the best survive… Don’t we all? And he, like the rest of us has become convinced that ideas don’t happen because they’re great. That takes away the romantic notion that a great idea will come to fruition.. Most ideas never happen because of the double-edged sword of creativity. When an idea strikes, energy and excitement is high. But it subsides as you get into execution, eroded by the drudgery of project management. How do you escape the drudgery and return to the excitement? To many of us just come up with a new idea and get excited by that instead, so things never get completed.

One shouldn’t understimate the gravitational force of operations, suggested Belsky. The demands of the grind take over, and the ideas never get executed. A strategic offsite gets overwhelmed by daily life. Creative people tend to be disorganised. So, getting ideas in all about defying the odds. Some teams are able to do that again and agaimn – how?


You have to overcome reactionary workflow, the endless stream of communication that can blight our lives. We’re in the era of reactionary workflow, pecking away at the inboxes of our lives and trying to stay afloat. Belsky gives the example of a friend who commuted by car, and found himself a deep thinking/sacred space while driving. Then he got a new car with iPhone linkage. Goodbye non-stimulation time. Creating windows of non-stimulation where you ignore social media and e-mail inputs and focus down on the things you want to achieve can be incredibly helpful.

And you should spend time on organisation. The equation:

Creativity x Organisation = Impact

It doesn’t matter how much creativity you have, if you don’t invest time in organisation, you will have zero impact. For the last three years Apple, a company reknowned for creativity, has won an award for the best supply chain management. Many have speculated that COO Tim Cook is as important to the company as CEO Steve Jobs.

Other ideas:

  • Organise with a bias to action
  • Go into creativity workshops and focus on the action steps
  • If meetings lead to nothing actionable – replace them with an e-mail? A stand-up?
  • Culture of capturing action steps.
  • Surround yourself with evidence of progress

Communal forces

Three base types of people:

  1. Dreamer – something new all the time. Goes to bed happy when there are new things in the pepline
  2. Doer – says “no”, extinguishes ideas. Goes to bed happy with nothing new in the pipeline
  3. Incrementalist – rotates between the two. They create too much and never scale them.

Value the team’s immune system. Doers can extinguish distractions. Dreamers bring new things. Empower different people at different times based on which of these three groups they fall into.

Share your ideas liberally and allow others to comment on them. Those which garner the most reaction are probably the ones you should focus on.  Chris Anderson just pushes all his ideas on his blog (both internal and external.) Is there a risk of premature sharing, and your ideas being nicked? The benefits outweigh the costs.

Fights force people to explore each other’s opinion. However don’t let these fights push people into apathy. When you stop exploring opinions, you stop performing.

Other ideas:

  • Don’t be burdened by consensus.
  • Overcome the stigma of self-marketing
  • Curate because it attracts attention, and then people will listen when you have something new to say.


And he finshed on a note that I found particularly compelling: gain confidence from doubt.

“If 99% of people think you’re crazy, you’re either crazy or onto something. We shun people before we celebrate them. Status quo is the grease on the wheels of society.”

But sometimes, status quo is another word for terminal decline…

It was a good talk, and I’m now throughly lookiong forward to diving into the book. Scott Gould has already reviewed it, and comments from the other book clubbers should start flowing over the week. Ve Interactive blogged the event, too. 

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Essential reading: Reuters on the NotW culture

Compelling stuff:

“We used to talk to career criminals all the time. They were our sources,” says another former reporter from the paper who also worked for Murdoch’s daily tabloid, the Sun. “It was a macho thing: ‘My contact is scummier than your contact.’ It was a case of: ‘Mine’s a murderer!’ On the plus side, we always had a resident pet nutter around in case anything went wrong.”

Provided that Reuters’ Georgina Prodhan and Kate Holton have properly sourced all of this, and I’d be amazed if they haven’t, it’s damning.

Morning Coffee Reading: 18th July 2011

Commuter's Delight

For the first time in a little while, I caught the train from Shoreham-by-Sea to London for a day at Procter Street. That gave me the chance to catch up on my RSS feeds, and here’s a few things of note:

Coffee from the wonderful Toast by the Coast. 😉

Google+ : Who You Know Changes Everything

Google Circles

I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s very hard to make sweeping statements about Google+ right now.

I’m seeing three principal reactions from people who are using it:

  1. “It’s great. Love it.” – this was my reaction in my post yesterday, and you can see more of it in this public thread I started earlier today.
  2. “It’s dull and empty” – this is summed up by this cartoon. It’s principally a social problem right now – these people have yet to find interesting people on the service to follow.
  3. “The user experience is a real problem”

Initially, I struggled to understand that last response. It just wasn’t congruent with my time spent in the service at all. And then I spotted something in my RSS reader that made it much, much clearer.

Joanne Jacobs has written a long piece of criticism of Google+. There’s much I agree with in there – the current mobile interface is a joke, for example, and the lack of search functionality is shameful – but also bits I disagree with. She’s right to point out that posting from Tweetdeck or Seesmic-like clients would be great, but I think she does Google a disservice by not mentioning the fact that they’ve promised an API for this until the comments. I think it’s perfectly justified to not want to lock down an API when they’re still field testing the service. And I’m not sure I agree with her point on the user experience issue, simply because this statement is just not my experience of Google+:

G+ enables long form posts with long comments.  Sure, this means you can explore an issue in more detail, but because most posts are long, the amount of scrolling you have to do to access new information sources is just unusable.

My stream is largely populated by shorter posts and links, and not with longer posts at all. I’ve hardly seen any in the last fortnight. This, perhaps, suggests that Google+ really is a framework for interactions, and if your social circle choose to primarily engage in long-form interactions, the service is, in its current form, not the place for you to be doing so. Mine aren’t, so it’s working OK, for now.


But on the other hand, people clearly are using it for long-form posts, including some people (in what looks suspiciously like an attention-seeking move to me) are even switching their blogs over to the service. And so Google clearly has a design issue to deal with, because people are using the service in ways it doesn’t appear to be intended for.  Now, if Google really doesn’t want it used this way, it’ll be a self-limiting issue. Those who try will eventually be driven away by the frustrations (or their audience will). Problem solved.

But thing’s don’t often seem to happen that way. Those of us who joined Twitter waaaay back in 2006 will remember a system without any supporting apps, which had no support for hashtags and no support for @replies. The last two were both user innovations which Twitter only supported later. In the case of @replies, they actively resisted the move for a long time, before acquiescing. When it came to retweeting, Twitter effectively bulldozed the user-created style with their own native retweets.

Google+ is even earlier in that cycle. It’s only a couple of weeks into a limited field test – a 0.1 release more than a 1.0.  They’re evidently listening and learning, and with significantly more attentiveness than Twitter ever has. But I don’t envy them trying to build a system that people are forcing into such widely varying use cases.

Confession: I was wrong on Google+

Google+ in action

I owe Google an apology. When I first posted about Google+, I gave in to the snark impulse. And, to be fair, i had reason. Google Wave was an over-hyped road-crash, and Google Buzz was just a road-crash. The company’s record in Social was poor.

And, to my surprise, I find myself using Google+ more than I use Facebook or Twitter right now, and having more interesting conversations. It sits neatly between the two services, being slightly more functional than Twitter, and a lot less cluttered than Facebook. For me, that’s proving to be a sweet spot that makes it a more useful part of my day to day routine. I dip in and out of Twitter to see what’s happening generally. I dive into Facebook once a day or so, just to see what friends are up to. But, right now, I’m going into Google+ periodically through the day for good conversations. And, in that, it’s a truly successful social product.

Now, to be fair, my experience with those older product meant that I went into the Google+  environment forewarned. I’ve not added very many people at all whom I don’t know, and am ruthlessly segregating into Circles at the moment I add them. And that’s what’s made it such a productive environment, because I’ve got so much more control than I do elsewhere. And possibly, that’s going to be the differentiating feature of this product – the control it gives the user.

Here’s a few specific things I’ve noticed:

  1. I have Friends in Google+ who aren’t even in Facebook. There are people who are very, very anti-Facebook, and this offers them the core functionality of the service without much of the cruft that comes with it (mainly, the endless, horrible app-spam).
  2. Circles is more significant than some people think, being less about privacy per se as about control and filtering. Being able to select only certain groups of people to see or share with at any time makes it a much more efficient social environment than Twitter or Facebook. While you can create lists in both of those services, they were retro-fitted and aren’t in the core of the application. Conversely, in Google+, you have to put people into a Circle to follow them at all, so the segregation is built into the use of the application. Plus, it’s fun.
  3. Noisy celebrity types, with huge numbers of followers are actually a definite minus in this service. I’ve dropped a couple of “web celeb” types, just because their streams cause too much noise in my own stream.

So, sorry Google. And good work.

You can find me on Google+ here, if you fancy joining in.

Jon Snow on phone-hacking and the decline of the press

Fascinating post from Jon Snow on the whole Politics/Press/Broadcast issue thrown up by the phone-hacking saga:

The relationship between print and broadcasting has always been tense. We both resent and depend upon each other ‘out on the street’. But these days, the power of print is reducing so fast, that that tension is becoming less obvious. This is one element in what has happened with News International. Amid the dog-eat-dog world of journalism, despite News International’s vast multinational well-connected strength, it has become more possible to risk questioning what is going on.

Decline begets decline…