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A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

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This is the first of a series of unashamedly self-indulgent posts, looking back at my working year through 2014. It was the year that my work as a self-employed digital publishing consultant really took off, and I’ve done so much this year that I actually need to take stock of what actually happened over the year. Plus, I can share some great photos.

I have never travelled as far – or as often – as I did in 2014. One single trip – to Hong King – probably beat my previous biggest year for travel in one fell swoop. I have, without quite noticing it, become a jet-setting consultant and trainer, and I’ve been really enjoying it. My work has taken me all over the world, and I’ve even roamed a little for pleasure, too.

There are downsides, of course: jet-lag ate me alive in Hong Kong, for example, and that trip cost me nearly a week away from my daughter. But, all in all, it’s been a hugely positive experience. For various reasons 2015 is likely to be less traveled, so it feels right to memorialise a busy year.

Here’s where I went, when and why…

1. February: New York (work)

GridIron in New York

The first of two trips to New York, where I flew in on the back of a storm, and flew out before another blizzard hit. Two days in New York is great fun, the people I was training were lovely – but a six hour red eye flight, surrounded by gaseous teenagers, is no way to get a good night’s sleep.

2. April: Back to NYC (work)

New York Skyline

A few months later, I was back for the second half of the same training course. By then, spring had firmly taken hold of New York, and I was able to enjoy some lovely artisanal coffee in the sun. There were plans for another couple of trips to New York later in the year, but they were eventually abandoned – a shame. I’d really like to spend some more time in the city in the none-too-distant future. These couple of tasters really gave me an appetite for more.

3. May: Berlin for NEXT (work)

Berlin

This was such a joyful trip. I love Berlin, a city (as my colleague Martin Recke says) without a business model. But it’s also a city having a world of fun trying to figure one out. My reason for being there was to attend NEXT, a conference I’ve worked for since early 2012. I love the gig – it’s an under-appreciated conference, whose team are superb at genuinely bringing you the future, rather than an examination of what’s happening now which most tech conferences do. I’ll certainly be back at NEXT in 2015, but there’s a chance I won’t be returning to Berlin during the year – and that makes me sad. It’s the city I’ve visited most in the past three years, and I’ve fallen a little bit in love with it.

4. June: Hong Kong (work)

The skyline of Hong Kong's Wan Chai

Almost exactly three years after I failed to get on a long haul flight, due to an extreme fear of flying, I strapped myself happily into a metal tube, had a nice meal, a glass of red wine, and slept deeply for the majority of the 13 hour flight. So far, so good. However, I’d made a mistake in not pushing hard enough for an extra day to acclimatise to the time difference. The combination of the massive jet lag, and the rampant humidity of the city – it felt rather like being slapped in the face with a fish-scented sauna every time I stepped outside – made this the hardest trip I took this year. Still, it was compensated for by an especially lovely bunch of trainees, who I loved working with. The afternoon we shot video together was one of my working highlights this year.

5. August: La Belle France (pleasure)

Gate in the Woods

Just over a week at my brother’s place in France, not terribly far from Poitiers. A week when I didn’t have to cook, barely worked, and indulged in swims and long walks in the woods. It took me a long way to recovering from the major wobble I’d gone through earlier in the year. (More on that later in the week…)

6. August: The Cotswolds (pleasure)

Calm in the Cotswolds

Another week’s holiday in August, this time with my wife’s half of the family. Lakes, walks, and mediocre food. But Hazel had a huge amount of fun, and so did I, so I can’t really complain. All in all, I took half the month off, which was probably one of the best decisions I took all year.

7. December: Paris in the winter (work)

Christmas at Galleries La Fayette in Paris

Rounding out the year was my annual pilgrimage to LeWeb. It’s been nine years on the trot now, and I’ve come to really enjoy Paris in that time. It’s a city that rises above the worst things levelled at it – the disdain and hostility of its residents – while not quite living up to the most positive things people claim – the whole “city of romance” business. The real city is so much more interesting than either of those extremes.

Phil Libin at LeWeb 2014

Work has become pretty unpleasant for a lot of people, says Evernote founder Phil Libin. Many companies are stepping forwards to try and solve that. When iOS7 came out there was a movement away from skeuomorphic design – where we replicated physical ideas digitally.

We’re still doing that. We don’t need files, desktops and slides – but we haven’t questioned that for 30 years. It’s not quite the death of office apps – but PowerPoint is a lot of what’s wrong in the world today. It’s turned everything into a pitch – and that’s not what every meeting should be. Meetings shouldn’t be just about boring people until they give in. They should be discussions.

It’s not great for the presenter either – you have to take the work you’ve already done and boil it down. Word is good for writing things you’re going to print out. 10 years ago, 80% of what I wrote got printed out. It’s less than 1/10th of 1% these days.

His solution? Turn Evernote into a workspace. Communicating becomes part of the writing. The research, communication and writing can all live in the same place. You have the work, the meeting and the context all at the same time.

Augmented intelligence, not artificial intelligence

Phil Libin talks his long-gone afro at LeWeb 2014

There’s a lot of companies working in making you smarter. Some are taking the parent child, where the tech does the work for you and pats you on the head like a child. Option B is the CEO with an assistant. And Option C is making you into a superhero, with powers to do everything.

Phil doesn’t want to be a child, or have an assistant – he wants to feel like he has superpowers. So, Evernote has a single-minded focus on building this supplementary brain that gives us those powers. Competition is good because it drive you harder, and there’s plenty of it in this space. But Libin thinks no-one is taking the “make big companies feel smaller” approach.

The partnership with the Wall Street Journal is not about giving you a new place for reading it – it’s about informing you as you prepare work. If you’re writing in Word, you won’t get the heads-up that there’s been a breaking news story that changes your context for that work.

The LinkedIn link allows you to connect information about people even as you’re mentioning them in notes.

One phase for all work

Evernote is trying to do away with the discreet “research, work, present” phases. The app will allow you to do it all – and stop you doing things that will make a bad presentation. It’s not necessarily for the same situation as presenting at LeWeb – it’s about having something on screen when you’re meeting with 10 people.

Focusing Evernote on this idea of a new way of working is how they feel that they can have the biggest impact on the world.

Like the liveblogging? I’m part of Events in Progress – a business devoted to helping you capture your event’s content – and making the most of it.


Well, hello, blog. I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting you. I’ve been terribly busy, you see. We’re right in term time at City University, which always keeps me busy – but added to that, I’ve recently landed the biggest contract I’ve had since I went into consultancy, and it’s for one of our national newspapers. Time is at something of a premium.
Plus, my daughter has learnt to open doors and turn on light switches, which means that I’m currently woken by the bed lights going on at about 6.30, with a cheery 2 year old saying “sleeping time is over, Daddy”. And that’s the good mornings. On the bad ones, she’s affectionately poking me in the cheek. 
Little does she know that sleeping time ended when she was born.
So, writing in the evening is not exactly a great idea right now. 

But, the thing is, I promised myself I wouldn’t do this. I would not neglect the blog (and the networking) when I got busy. And sometimes I just have to write myself back into blogging.

And that’s exactly what this post is. 

Hello. Again. 

Hong Kong misty morning

I’m in Hong Kong for the week, running a training course. Jet lag has hit me in an odd way – despite getting a decent night’s kip on a pretty turbulent flight, I woke up at 5am Hong Kong time – which is 10pm UK. My body clock is completely confused, it appears.

Ah, well, the adrenaline of training should keep me going…

sunrise-over-the-waterside.jpg

So, here’s a question. Why am I putting myself through the horror of trying to write something substantive for this blog every single day in March?

Leaving aside the possibility of an unexplored masochistic streak, the fundamental reason is because I want to. I like blogging. I love it, in fact. It’s been nearly 13 years since I discovered it as a medium and it shifted my world around completely. I’m a busy man, though, trapped between a hectic four-day-a-week consultancy career (long may that “hectic” last) and the demands of being 50% of the available parenting resource for a little girl who has hit the toddler years fast and hard, and is accelerating towards the terrible twos as quickly as she possibly can.

The 40s are a problem for modern couples:

The modern 40s are so busy it’s hard to assess them. Researchers describe the new “rush hour of life,” when career and child-rearing peaks collide.

Sell, Sell, Self

This blog has got pushed to the sidelines repeatedly since I became a free agent and a Dad, and the closest thing I have to a New Year resolution this year is to rectify that. There are prosaic, financial reasons behind that: my blog remains my showcase, the source of much of my work, and without it I’m essentially doing very little marketing right now (my workload is leaving little room for the round of coffees and lunches that make up my self-promotion). The busy period will end – and I need something there to keep me in people’s minds.

However, it’s also the place where I crystallise my ideas about the subjects I follow. Some of that “writing myself into existence” has transferred into my lecturing and training, where I’ve been forced into developing a new language around some of my areas of expertise just so I can communicate them effectively – and that’s a subject I intent to return to this month – but my blog still remains the most compelling way of doing so. Why? Well, because I can expose my ideas to the criticism of my peers – and that’s incredibly useful in making sure I’m talking something that approximates to sense.

Blogito Ergo Sum.

The Inspiration

Also, some people have been doing something similar, and that lodged the idea in my head. MG Siegler kicked off the year doing something like this. The Man Mayfield pushed me into subscribing to Dan Hon’s current experiment in daily mailings (leading to his probable nervous breakdown given the volume he produces) has been a daily(ish) prod to my own conscience.

Besides, a couple of recent posts which have garnered good engagement (and I feel dirty using that word) have reminded me that it’s the personal stuff that makes a blog fly. Be it photos from the US, or an insight into an advert I ended up appearing in, that kind of material makes a blog engaging and human in the way some links and commentary doesn’t.

I seem to need to relearn – or, at least, reinforce in myself – these kinds of lessons every few years. That’s no bad thing, because it also forces me to check and re-evaluate what I know in the light of changes that have happened over that period. After over a decade’s blogging, it would be horribly easy to get into a rut – and I don’t want to do that.

The Rebellion

Somehow, over the last six months, I’ve slipped into being predominantly a trainer. The majority (but not the entirety) of my work has been teaching other people stuff. That’s great, as far as it goes. It pays well – very well, at times – and is something I seem to be good at. There’s also a pretty evident gap in the market for someone with my particular skill set, which works well for me.

I don’t want too walk too far down that path, though. I enjoy both the strategic consulting and the content creation aspects of my work, too, and I’m going to be putting some more effort into landing that kind of work in the coming months. In the meantime, though, it’s important to do as well as teach. And this blog is the place where I can do whatever the hell I want – even a stupid writing project when I’m far too busy already.

This is the second in a series of one-a-day substantive posts I’m going to try to write through March.

My Office

Why you shouldn’t be a freelancer, you should be a company:

Remember, you’re not a no-strings-attached temporary employee, you’re an expert in your field whom clients come to because they want the best product possible and can trust to guide them in the best direction possible.

Two years ago today, a shocking meeting in a nasty little HR meeting room put me on the road to where I am today. It may be time for me to take the next step on that road.

Hunter S. Thompson on finding your purpose:

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal) he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

[via Brain Pickings, of course]