Friday 6 November 2009

How to get a job in a recession

Been meaning to write this for the last month but my new role has predictably distracted me.

This is a summary of my 'moving jobs' experience in the middle of a recession over the last few months. I have some people to thank, some sites & recruiters to recommend and some to, well, not recommend. I also have a (hopefully) useful collection of tips on how to get through the process.

Recruitment Experiences

I spoke to a LOT of people. This is a summary of those experiences.

I wanted to use The Ladders but they were far too busy trying to upsell me to realise they were showing me premium ads that had expired. They should have put my needs first and their needs second. They didn't.

I contacted a whole host of recruitment agencies relevant to my sphere. 90% did not bother to show any interest. This as probably more to do with the fact that there were less roles around so they were picking candidates very carefully to maximise their chances of getting commission. Fair enough. I am no 'unilever guy' so took no offence.

I signed up for Guardian Jobs of course but alas every job of interest that I was monitoring via job aggregator (a must-use tool) seemed to just forward me to the Guardian homepage. Very irritating. The jobs direct on their site worked well as you would expect. You'd be nuts to not use Guardian Jobs.

A friend worked at Michael Page and hooked me up with the right person. I think they did a fab job but I am just not cut to standard size and I suspect they found it hard to place someone as, ahem, unique as me, in a pretty dry market. Hats off to them though.

Andy Levis at Propel (was at Norton Leigh at the time) deserves a major mention. A smart and friendly chap who I came too very late in the game (again thanks a friends referral). Andy was ready to leap into action if needed. Alas, t'was just not meant to be this time.

Top marks are reserved for the fantastic Becky Folb at Major Players. She worked so hard and came through for me alas I went another way at the end thus denying her a commission reward. She deserved it but I had to make the best choice for me. Top marks though and if you are a digital specialist looking to move you really should contact Becky.

Recruitment Tips

Focus on the Lemonade:
Attitude is everything. I needed to move on (due to a merger resulting in the company relocating up north) and it was daunting, to say the least, to be accepting redundancy in the midst of what looked like a horrible recession.

I focused on one word to get me through it: Lemonade.

I figured that regardless of how things turned out the best approach was to make the best lemonade I could out of the lemons around me. Pure positivity. And frankly, it worked.

When negativity strikes (and it will) I recommend you deal with it swiftly, decisively and pull out even the smallest positives. It is vital you take a win, no matter how small, away from every situation to better enable yourself to remain positive.

Leverage your network:
You know lots of people hopefully, some relevant to your line of work, some might know others who are. Email them. Ask them for advice, leads, tips. Engage with them. The more people you engage the greater your chances are going to be. Go through your social networks (FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc) and contact those that might be of help. If you don't ask, you definitely will not get!

Don't be afraid to ask for advice:
Nicholas Butler (aka @loudmouthman) gave me some great advice and I remain very grateful for it. As suggested directly above I had sent my CV to a few people I paid attention to on twitter and beyond and Nicholas was one of those who responded.

Nick gave me some of his precious time on skype and his advice was simple and brilliant:

Include your Twitter address, web address and LinkedIn address on your CV.

If you are digital and do not have a twitter account, a blog or website and are not on LinkedIn you should resolve that asap. I honestly had not thought of that before and it made a huge difference. I had a pretty good CV but adding a social media section made my CV stand out and literally every person who saw my CV after that rewrite commented first on that section of it. I even took Nick's suggestion further and also included a mention of the number of LinkedIn recommendations I had gathered over time.

Blow your own trumpets:
If you don't big yourself up who will? Whilst in any role for any company keep a running tally of your key successes to ensure you do not forget them down the line. Then when job-hunting make sure you include the pick of the bunch in both your CV and subsequent interviews.

Do your research:
No doubt you will do your prep for the interview, the standard stuff about the role, the company and so on. But, and especially in digital land, chances are high that the people interviewing you will have a social footprint. You will be amazed at what you learn about them in advance of the interview. It helped me feel more relaxed and any and every angle counts. And let's face it, chances are they are going to check you out online too so you may as well level that playing field.

Some quick interview tips:
1) Never read from notes in an interview.
2) If they say you have 15 minutes to do a presentation be ready to do it in 10 in case they are pressed for time.
3) Always look forward, leave any 'current job' baggage outside.
4) Weave successes into answers.

Anything to add? Good luck!

Thursday 5 November 2009

Politics Post-Twitter

Lucky enough to have attended the Tweetminster event discussing: Will digital technology give power to the people? (which you can observe the tweetstream for here) and it got me thinking.

When digital and social technology including Twitter etc has had time to properly impact on politics I would expect that the sophistry that permeates politics nowadays will be gone. MPs may be on Twitter but the majority cannot cope with true social media. They will wither on the vine and make way for even more media savvy types. But media savvy transparent types as opposed to media savvy manipulators.

However, as more people go social, it is likely that MPs will restrict their time for constituents (was discussing with the chap behind They Work For You New Zealand) but the question will be how they do this.


Sunday 1 November 2009

Whats wrong with twitter lists & how to fix the problem

Everyone went nuts for Twitter Lists. As soon as the whiff of their existence was detected, like the technocrack addicts we are, we wanted an invite. What did it do? Who knew? Who cared? Just, lemme in!

Understandable of course.

So when I got access I was very excited. And sad to say, woefully underwhelmed with what I found.

I can create lists of people, to aggregate their content. So if you are looking for a group of social media experts, great news, there are loads of lists of such experts.

As I see it the problems are three-fold:

1) Anyone can create a list
Regardless of your knowledge, skillset, expertise etc you can create a list about anything and out anyone on it. This creates list spam. Sure people can block a list owner and thus remove themselves from lists owned by that tweeter. But that a) creates list spam and b) puts the onus on me to ensure I am on lists I approve of.

2) Lists are about content first and people second
When you view a list you see the content. Really, lists would be much more interesting if there were just about the people. For me, I have been disappointed 100% of the time thus far when looking at a list as the content tends to be wildly off-topic. This is because of point 3. Additionally, as we can all recommend each other already if one comes at lists from a people angle then what problem does this solve or what ability does this enhance? Given that follow memes like #followfriday are waning due to abuse I would argue this solves nothing and enhances only the negatives of the follow memes.

3) Tweeters are not one-dimensional
This means that the content of a list tends to be all over the place and NOT focused on the topic the list name indicates. So what is the point?

There are many experts out there who have already created lists and most are indexed (that was quick?) on Listorious but browse some of those lists and you'll see what I mean. Finding out who works at Mashable and tweets should not require a third party list. Finding out who Robert Scoble thinks are the Top 10 tech tweeters should not require external lists that he has to manually update. Just follow Robert Scoble to get the picture. Or follow the tech #tag. Or search for tech and follow that RSS feed. WeFollow is more useful to be honest as its the reverse of Lists i.e. we tag ourselves. And even that is flawed due to the gaming of followers. We all know that more or less anything that involves human markup is subject to ego so is gameable, spammable and sadly, ultimately, doomed to be more noise than signal, more crap than crucial.

A more intelligent thing for Twitter to have done would be to allow people to digg both people and tweets. Now, if you took that, combined it with hashtags, you would have an index of respected tweets and tweeters by hashtag etc.

I am still waiting to find a useful list. As soon as I do, I'll recant.

Monday 26 October 2009

Do you fear the fire or enjoy the warmth?

MsMarmitelover runs an underground restaurant that had plans for a couple of Harry Potter themed nights. Small scale stuff really and no threat to a major brand. Until that is, somewhat ironically, a big brand waded in to assert their rights.

The result, somewhat predictably, is that this operation has had more publicity than it could have dreamed of and even I am now thinking of setting something similar up in my local area.

What has the brand gained? Er, nothing really. What has MsMarmitelover gained? Loads!

The brand needed to assert its right to prevent the problem getting bigger of course. Or did it?

Imagine if the brand did nothing and just watched stealthily what happened next. A tacit 'product development' focus group would result leaving the brand still able to assert its rights down the line and giving them valuable insight they might not have thought of.

By showing their hand too early they squashed the idea and will now never really know the value of the idea. Meanwhile MsMarmitelover gets to enjoy loads of free PR and develop a competitor.

That means, assuming brands do this lots (and they do) and that good ideas occasionally result (and they do), that somewhere they have just willingly dumped revenue.


Monday 5 October 2009

Why Taxi Drivers are smarter than Publishers

Mashable's post about magazine publishers trying to add value by putting up walls instead of focusing on, er, adding value got me thinking. Setting up a Magazine Hulu is crackers. Here's why.

Taxi drivers may have their faults but as a brand they deliver. They are the editors of the roads.

And publishers are the cabbies of content!

Taxi drivers are the best source of information both in terms of navigating on my behalf to deliver me to my destination (a real-time location) AND in terms of entertaining me along the way (gags, knowledge, stats, tips, op/ed, gossip etc).

Publishers (aka Editorial brands) are the best source of information both in terms of navigating on my behalf to deliver me to my destination (a trusted source of trusted answers I seek) AND in terms of entertaining me along the way (good user experience, relevant adjacent extras: gags, knowledge, stats, tips, op/ed, gossip, offers, deals, events etc).

If a taxi driver adds value to my journey they get a tip.

If a Publisher adds value to my journey they get data, attention and if they are lucky, subscription revenue.

So the trick is to get me into your taxi, add value and try to monetise that value.

Taxi drivers get you in as fast as possible. The tip meter starts the minute we connect.

Publishers are still trying to figure out how to charge people for getting in.

Publishers are focused on the wrong problem: it's not about controlling access, it's about adding value.


Definition of Purple

I am a fan of Seth Godin and so I just had to share this as literally, the best definition of what he means by Purple

Why is it Purple? Well as CV's and resume's go this is easily one of the most original but also, the guy used his skill to do it.

What would your resume or CV look like if your skill permeated it?

Friday 18 September 2009

Let go to be free

Just posted my thoughts on ooffoo of the September message from the Power of Now 2009 calendar and this time it concerns freedom.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Focus leads to action

Another installment in my series of looking at and giving my thoughts on the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. This time I focus on 'Focus', if you'll pardon the tautology...

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Being Authentic

I have just added to my series of posts on ooffoo regarding the power of now and have this time focused on authenticity and how the ego must be by-passed in order to be authentic.

Friday 11 September 2009

Live the life you've got

Next in my series of thoughts about the Power of Now and this time I am on the topic of Life. Love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

5 tips to have a good holiday

Just blogged about my top tips to have a good holiday. Anything to add? Fave link from the article is this one. Enjoy!

Consciousness & Problems

I have just posted over on the fourth and fifth installments in my series of interpreting the Power of Now. Consciousness & Problems. Thoughts?

Saturday 5 September 2009

Want free consultancy?

Those who know me know I can be a creative fire-starter and a great person to have round the table during a brainstorm. They know I can be tangential, ahead of various curves & 'out of the box' enough to come up with a killer angle. I am very good in some areas (digital, green, publishing etc) but generally good across the board.

So I thought it would be fun to start testing myself publicly, hence this offer of free help.

Why am I doing this?
I recognise that Seth Godin & Cluetrain are right: one must be a purple cow and one must be part of the conversation. By helping people for free I believe I am achieving both.

Want some?
Simply post a comment below outlining your idea. If your idea appeals to me I will get in touch, work it through with you (if it needs it) and write up the answer as a blog post. I would appreciate a response from you after that of course.

If I manage to do one a month that would be a good starting target. Others may help even if I don't. I won't be able to do this for everyone obviously but I'll do my best to help when and where I can.

Why do you have to publicly post your idea?
Well you need to be part of the conversation too. Plus by posting your idea publicly I hope you'll feel pressure to act on it before others do :) And if you don't act on it then why shouldn't someone else? Don't be so selfish ;)

Doors open folks, come on in!

Friday 4 September 2009

Accepting failure

I have just posted the third in my series of looking at and interpreting The Power of Now Calendar 2009. This time it's all about accepting failure and why that is the only path to success. Thoughts?

Monday 31 August 2009

Why Twitter might die and Rupert Murdoch is right

Some topics have been bubbling away in my head and I have been slowly writing them up. Robert Scoble's post today 'Why Google won't create the next Twitter or Facebook or Posterous' has prompted me to now just go for it and hit publish. Am sure it's not finished, but it's ready enough. Look forward to your thoughts.

I think there are some dots to be connected. Am not claiming omnipotence and am being quite general below, for example I know specific types of content will behave differently. Ultimately I just wanted to start some conversations on these key themes which to me seem fundamental to the future of how we all behave online.

No Twoogle?
I believe Google chose not to invest in Twitter or Friend Feed (or even Facebook for that matter). No balls were dropped and no boats were missed. I suspect Google think that the true value of Live Search & the Social web lies in mobile. The fact they acquired Dodgeball and are investing in Wave & Latitude confirms that for me. Imagine blending those three concepts together and then adding PPC and so on? Google can create something amazing, usable, ubiquitous and still tie-up (power their revenue streams?) with Twitter, Facebook & Friendfeed etc, get all of the value from them without having to buy any of them outright. Always the much smarter play to be the network.

Follow the money...
The buzz around Foursquare (Dodgeball 2.0 interestingly) seems to further confirm that we, as consumers and surfers are heading live, mobile and social (LMS). And no doubt Google gets that too. To be honest, I'm not even saying its news really given the presence of social mobile for a good couple of years. And if that's where we as consumers/surfers & Google are heading then business will follow. Logically therefore, a % of our ad spends are heading that way too.

You don't have to be faster than the lion... just have to be faster than one other person running away from the lion, goes the saying. I think that Twitter occupies an awkward space in the middle of the LMS battlefield between Facebook/FriendFeed, Foursquare & Google. It's going to get messy in the middle whilst those three squeeze in on Twitter increasing revenue & share.

Could Twitter die?
Twitter has two choices as I see it:

1) Push outwards and take on Facebook/FriendFeed, Foursquare & Google but thats a big ask of Twitter and requires them to become much more than they are about. Ultimately I just don't think Twitter could integrate location and profile as well and fast enough to compete with the others.

2) Focus and stay simple and pure. Be the sane, easy-to-use, calm space in the madness that will no doubt descend on us when LMS hits. Be SMS 2.0!

For me Twitter etc is great for conversation & engagement and that of course 'might' lead to sales. But it's blurry really and surely not many would, on measuring ROI from Twitter (if they are even measuring it), stop using Twitter etc as a comms tool if the return advised otherwise? Presence in the conversation for any brand (and each of us is a brand now of course) is a pre-req a la Cluetrain. So what choice does a business really have?

If I were Twitter etc I would go for door number two and focus on becoming a simple, ubiquitous utility facilitating conversation. I would productise the simplicity, offer a freemium approach, upsell to business, add loads of valuable functionality around that and maybe offer more granular subscription levels etc. You could then brand extend into video-twitter (30 sec clips?), twitter live events, meetups, networking etc.

What about non-Live Search?
If the revenue future of search is turning its eye to LMS then does that have an impact on the rest of search? I just can't see Live and non-Live search working side by side. They are so different to me. So I am assuming they won't integrate when I say the following.

It could be that if enough consumer behaviour and corporate budget moves to LMS search that the cost of PPC/SEO on non-Live Search might start to make the return less favourable than the same investment might in LMS search. Peak PPC? There is a finite pie to play for in non-Live search of course and I see LMS & non-Live search therefore in a head-on collision.

It's all a big fat juicy if of course but a good set of ifs to start thinking about. Relying on huge volumes of traffic, both paid and organic, to generate revenue at increasing costs may well cause a slow down in our commitment to non-Live search. Imagine that for a minute. Anyone in SEO tempted to prove me wrong might be better spending the time assuming I'm right and preparing some clever moves.

No flies on Rupert!
So if that is all the case then I imagine many will be tempted to divert investment from PPC/SEO, slap a pay-wall in front of everything, offer great value-added content etc and rely on word-of-mouth alone. Less paid marketing, more purple cow marketing. Just enough quality either way to convince enough people to pay enough. Which is interestingly what Rupert Murdoch seems to be doing. Whether it is right or wrong is debatable of course.

Zappa, eyebrows & ... soup?
So content may have been King but I have the feeling it just got slapped back in to its rightful place behind the throne occupied by the genuine king, the rightful ruler: the editor!

Ten years ago I was basically saying: 'if information is ubiquitous then access will be less valuable than navigation.' That means having a website for its own sake is of course pointless if you are not helping people find what they are looking for. In the early days the web navigator was search and more recently and specifically, it was Google. However as Google itself has become synonymous with the entirety of the visible web so a more granular navigator has become neccessary. The value of search is not therefore cast in stone. And Google, no matter how good the algorithm is, can never do trust. As Zappa said: The computer can't tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what's missing is the eyebrows.

So we find Google et al trying to combine both taxonomy & folksonomy to compensate/evolve but it doesn't seem to be working as far as I can tell. And as for the symantic web, well, if you believe it's really doable, check out the Zappa quote again. People are just not that structured. Computers cannot be anything else. And ne'er the twain shall meet. Perhaps its time to stop trying to force that marriage?

So, as the uniquity of information and access neccessitates that trust is now again part of the picture who better to help us navigate through a topic than a trusted human editor? No matter how good the soup, one still requires a spoon. Yes you could smash your face into the bowl and lap it up without any other tools but that gets messy and is more akin to how we have used information on the web for the last decade than how savvy users genuinely use the web. Blogging itself is proof of that point.

Somebody wipe the grin off his face, please?
All this means that the value of editors has gone up as the ubiquity of content has increased. People are looking to trust a filter/editor due to the sheer volume of information out there. And we are all editors now potentially. Scoble is proof of that surely. Editorial brands seem to therefore be making a comeback. Some new, some old. Great news for publishers who have for the most part, had a bad decade digitally speaking.

I suspect we are at the start of a period of 'niche power' on the web into editorially-led niches that are ultimately charged-for one way or another. Content may be great marketing for any business but if your entire business is content then the missing piece is either a new business model alongside content or value-added chargeable content. The latter seems logical for most publishers.

The world is not better off without filters. Blogs et al were just the first free phase. Just as we saw magazines and niche take over the world of print, we may well be on the verge of a paid-for editorially-led web; a massive shift in search and finally, goddamn it, a smug Rupert Murdoch.


Sep 10 2009
RT @JayOatway: Can Google Checkout Save The Newspaper Business? Why 'Open' doesn't need to mean 'Free' --

SEP 9 2009
Great debate about Daily Mirror 3am site's 'Search v Loyalty as traffic builder' move over on NMA

SEP 2 2009
No sooner had I posted this than news broke on Sep 2nd via the Guardian that a
Pittsburgh paper launches online charging scheme - hate to be right so soon ;)

Paul O'Connor has written an interesting related piece titled: The Future of Real Time Search – Twoogle? I have commented ... which hopefully adds some value he he he - however they are pre-moderating comments [sigh] so have reproduced my comment here in case it does not make the cut or ever get published etc.

Great article Paul.
I know it’s an odd question but I feel its one worth asking. Why do we need to combine live search and original search? Are they really a good fit? To me we don’t need to as they are not actually a good fit.
Tax & Folk rarely seem to work well together both in terms of society, -onomy’s (both search and categorisation).
Most content on twitter is commentary. Some tweeters have authority clearly and so perhaps there is a meme tracking value for search engines to make their results more dynamically impacted upon by social activity i.e. this link tweeted 100,000 times in the last day means its pagerank should be increased and so on.
But are the everyday thoughts we might have about Michael Jackson really relevant to a search for Michael Jackson? What about in relation to ‘Pizza New York’?
Until we can apply a sense of authority to live search I just cannot see it working.
Using live search to impact on PPC campaigns is a brilliant idea. However leveraging PPC with live search is going to be costly as the context for purchasing that is found on live search is wrong imho. The noise to signal ratio is too high and so the CTRs will be low driving PPC costs up and returns down.
Twitter is a place I go to communicate not shop. But take live search and make it mobile and social (LMS) and I think the context then could often be people seeking pre-purchase recommendations etc which would be ripe for offers etc.
So in that case PPC will need to intuit those opportunities and make more direct offers to keep the CTR up and costs down. I think you kind of make that point above.
I am sure I heard this week about Facebook trialling offers and this is a great idea and supports my point about context. Am unable to find out more about it at the mo though sadly.
I have written a post titled ‘The Death of Twitter & Why Rupert Murdoch Might Be Right’ which I think you might enjoy as it shares themes with the above.
Would love to hear your thoughts…

Monday 24 August 2009

Existing in the now...

I have just posted the second installment on of my look through The Power of Now 2009 calendar. February seems all about existence to me. Love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

The Power of Now & I

Have just posted the first in what I hope will be a series of posts on Ooffoo about my experiences with the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Curious to hear your thoughts.

Thursday 13 August 2009

What's wrong with Death Squads?

This post first appeared here

OK America you win. You caught us. The NHS is basically one big death squad. If you go to hospital here in the UK the first thing they do is remove your bling and any precious metal fillings. Then you are given a gown to wear (you know, the ones that leave your butt hanging out - how perverted is that???) and denied food and beverages. Then a 'doctor' or 'nurse' (failed doctor?) sees you and basically tells you your flaws. Then he (cos we don't allow women to be Doctors, and rightly so!) scratches his beard (COMMIE!) tuts a lot, looks you up and down, walks around you (Nice ass!), physically assaults you and finally tells you that sadly there is nothing that can be done and you need to consider your end-of-life options. And that's just if you are visiting somebody else!

For god's sake America, would you please get real! It's not called GREAT Britain for nothing. This is a great place to live most of the time and the NHS kicks ass most of the time. My wife had surgery recently that had complications and sure it's easy to try and blame people and the NHS but the complications were ultimately normal, pre-warned side effects that happen a lot with that type of surgery. She loves the NHS! Most people who have a problem with the NHS would want it improved not removed! It's not perfect but hey, it's free! Regardless of wealth in this country you can get medical care. You might call that Socialism and if you do then anybody who shows any care for others and altruism must be a goddamn pinko too. We are not Socialists here in the UK, far from it. We have a 'Left-wing' Labour party that is often more right wing than your own Republican party. We have more CCTV than you. We are tracked and monitored to death! Having free healthcare means one thing: there is a bottom line available even to those who cannot afford healthcare. Just ask your self what you would do if you lost your job and benefits and had no healthcare. I defy you for one day to pretend to have no healthcare and try and get treated like everybody else that does not have healthcare. If you then feel the same then clearly you need to asses your end of life options, and frankly, the sooner the better!

And if there is any doubt as to whether I love the NHS or not?

And if you love the NHS too please do your own pic and post a link below.

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Thursday 6 August 2009

The connections between Bees & Being

Interesting post on about The Importance of Bees in relation to the survival of humanity. I am participating in Tweehive and encourage you to join in and spread some buzzzzzzz ;)

Tuesday 28 July 2009

The future of PR, no really!

Between Rubel & Solis the debate on the future of PR has been active for a good couple of years now but for me the above Conversation Prism image by Solis & co is well worth studying and the best thing to emerge yet.

It represents the skill set anyone involved in 'Future PR' needs to have in their toolbox. Engagement and discussion will be the battleground so if it ain't yet purple then as a business you need to invest in getting creative now. From the start. Not halfway through or at the end. Otherwise come the future you'll be left having to buy what your more creative competitors will be getting for free. And that is unlikely to be sustainable for any business.

Thanks to Diana Verde Nieto of Clownfish Marketing for hosting the event where Niku Banaie of Isobar introduced me to the image.

Sunday 19 July 2009

Terrorist Newspaper?

I spend a lot of time mulling the future of publishing and the future of media. I recently asked the following question on Facebook:

Could a newspaper be guilty of acts of terrorism for spreading fear to sell papers?

I had 3 replies, all great.

David N replied:
Good question Al. I think the media tends to position itself as a mirror, observer, mediator of an objective reality but, in truth, is probably the single most active agent in shaping that reality. So yes, imo, they can be responsible for all manner of unethical practice.

Karen K replied:
That's why I believe the happiest and least fearful people are those who don't read/watch news. IMO, if it's big enough or affects me in some way, I'll hear about it via word of mouth. Otherwise, I have my own news to make!

Steven B replied:
interesting having moved abroad recently my consumption of news has changed completely...I get it 100% web (twitter, fb, publicnow,digg, blogs, feeds) no tv or papers and I feel better off for it. used to work in tv so reading all papers daily each with their own agenda was normal. now i prefer as Karen says to make my own news and changes to my own world, everything important filters to me anyway...

I replied:
David is that an argument for the nationalisation of the media? Karen/Steve, very good points and I agree.

The timely updates and exclusive access/sources MSM (Mainstream Media) used to provide are becoming less relevant in a digital age of freely available ubiquitous information. However the value of confirmation and analysis are going up.

It would appear therefore that the media is evolving from being a source of timely information/news to being channels for reliability & analysis. With huge impact on the world as a result....

Curious to hear your thoughts...

Saturday 18 July 2009

My God! It's Full of Stars!

One common thread uniting every person that has ever lived is our search for meaning. Whether we find it or not is debatable of course and what we do with it is often lacking.

For me the image below defines much of the meaning I find. It's why my chosen background is a Deep Field Hubble image. It's why this blog is called Virtual Cortex. The connections between Hinduism & Quantum are well-explored in Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics. To me, that's the direction 'the truth' lies in. And it excites 'the hell' out of me. No pun or irony intended. It literally keeps me smiling and positive and keeps 'the abyss' that human psychology and behavior can sink into at bay.

Have you found meaning? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Who will be my #1sunday this week

Last Friday I tweeted:
Seems to me like #followfriday is winding down now as a what's next twitterati?
As if by design, and clearly proving that great minds think alike, my good green buddy Greensmith tweeted the following today:
Note To Twitter Users: Please Stop Doing #FollowFriday Tweets. Here's why: #fb
And I have to say, I agree with him. The value of follow memes i.e. #followfriday, #ecomonday and so on is eroded when over-used. I myself have been guilty of RTing when I've been included and have tired lately of playing along. At the start it was nice to be named. But recently the value to name or be named is almost non-existent really.

So I am going to do something new inspired by Carla's comments in Greensmith's article. Each sunday I am going to recommend just one tweeter for people to follow. I will not do it at any other time during the week. I will have only one recommendation a week. I will also include a reason why they have been chosen. That should keep it valuable for all involved.

The hashtag will be: #1sunday

Feel free to play along...

Tuesday 14 July 2009


Read an interesting and through-provoking post titled 'The Next Twitter?' and realise more than ever the future of web is already about what comes next after Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Bebo, Friendster et al. Post-social?

For me the best place to look for the answer is to look at what happens around social. To use an analogy let's imagine that social networking sites are bars. We need to accept there are enough bars and the next plays will be in the associated services related to bars. Who makes money from people going out to bars? Food, travel, fashion, others? So three questions to consider might be:

What do social surfers consume?
How do social surfers move around the web?
How do social surfers express their sense of style online?

One might therefore propose that future new developments are not going to be mature (by web standards at least) spaces ie search, social etc. Rather future new developments on the scale of google, facebook, twitter are likely to be in relation to:

- consumption: content - Hulu? et al.
- travel: bookmarking - the longest-burning 'yet to pop' development of the last few years i.e. stumbleupon, yahoo/ - digg and reddit are seemingly too gamed? social bookmarking just did not cross to mainstream yet and I have a feeling it will in the next 2-3 years.
- style: personal sites - I think we are going to see a burst of site-building apps as non-tech people start to want to drive stakes in the virtual ground creating their own hubs and stream aggregating spaces. A second wave of blogging & personal sites? Remember geocities - way too early. What about moonfruit, squarespace, blogger, typepad, wordpress et al?


Mrgn Stnly LOL & Google Sweatshop

Two of my fave tweets from recent days...

Teen world = free content/comms says Matthew Robson. But its the fact this is news to Morgan Stanley is what scares me...

"Give it six months and we'll probably discover Google's sewn together by orphans in sweatshops."

Friday 10 July 2009

The future of Twitter: From cult to utility

Whether Twitter is a cult or not has been approached before by @jayoatway and more recently and more directly by @jtoeman but the time seems right to go take the debate further.

What is a cult?
In uni my best profs told me to start a paper by defining my terms so let's start with defining what a cult is:
A cult is a cohesive social group and their devotional beliefs or practices, which the surrounding population considers to be outside of mainstream cultures. Wikipedia
Twitter is certainly a cohesive social group and our devotional practices, Tweeting, #ing & RTing seem outside of mainstream culture, for now.

6 reasons Twitter is a cult
This checklist of 6 Cult Characteristics by Eileen Barker helps us examine that definition further - Eileen's list is the simplest so I've used that. Perhaps someone else wants to test the theory against the other more complex checklists?

1) A movement that separates itself from society, either geographically or socially;

Twitter is separated from wider society by both technical (using twitter requires basic web skills) and financial barriers (net access needed i.e. mobile phone or laptop) not to mention the requirement of an extrovert personality, one way or another.

>>> Twitter is clearly separate from society, in technological, financial and social ways.

2) Adherents who become increasingly dependent on the movement for their view on reality;

Twitter's role in #iranelection clearly helped define reality both inside and outside of Iran. To the point that the US State Department suggested Twitter reschedule some downtime so as not to disconnect protestors in Iran from the wider world at a crucial time.

>>> Tweeters are clearly increasingly dependent on Twitter for their view on reality.

Interestingly you might argue that my theory falls over as there is no singular dominating voice commonly found in cults and that we are being influenced by each other more democratically. But the presence of trending and a Western, Liberal, Democratic, Capitalist, Technological bias should go some way to establishing that ideological hegemony and a singular dominating content voice exists on Twitter. And if that is not enough proof then you could argue that Twitter does actually have a singular dominating structural voice. More about that in the next point.

3) Important decisions in the lives of the adherents are made by others;

Twitter is software owned by a company run by key individuals. If we accept as truisms (& I defy you not to) Marshall McLuhan's 'the medium is the message' and Mitch Kapor's (@mkapor) 'architecture is politics' (no doubt we could even squeeze in some Chomsky here if we tried) then we must conclude that @ev, @biz & @jack get to define the space and what is possible in it. So at the architectural layer there is a singular dominating structural voice and at the content layer given the bias outlined above in the previous point one could argue the ideological hegemony is the singular dominating content voice.

>>> Important decisions in the lives of adherents are clearly made by others (and the closer to the structural core one looks the smaller that group of 'others' becomes).

4) Making sharp distinctions between us and them, divine and Satanic, good and evil, etc. that are not open for discussion;

You either tweet or you don't. If you do, you are often [random negative adjective] to those who don't. If you don't you are often [random negative adjective] to those that do.

>>> There are obvious distinctions in society between those who tweet and those who don't.

5) Leaders who claim divine authority for their deeds and for their orders to their followers;

Ok, I'll grant this is a toughie as I don't recall @ev, @biz & @jack ever claiming 'God told them to' but then again, an absence of evidence is not evidence ;) If you were them would you say 'God told you to do it'? Probably not. Plus let's face it 'divine authority' could mean different things to different people. Capitalism could bestow 'divine authority' to those in business. A committment to a higher social purpose could equally grant one a sense of 'divine authority'.

>>> The leaders claim 'divine authority' of a sort.

6) Leaders and movements who are unequivocally focused on achieving a certain goal.

The one thing I always come back to when I think of an all-encompassing common thread connecting the 'founders' and the 'tweeters' is social alchemy, whether it's for good, for business, or for love etc.

>>> Twitter's leaders and movement have a unifying goal.

So Twitter is clearly a cult but is that a good or a bad thing? Being a cult in this context and at this time in the companies development has immense value. Being a cult is a good thing.

But in the long-term Twitter needs to stop being a cult and start being a dominant utility. In the same way email is a dominant utility. Think how powerful Twitter could be at the scale of a dominant utility. To do this Twitter needs to do two things really well and really fast:

1) Twitter needs to be even more platform neutral
Twitter is already hugely mobile and it needs to continue that push off the web into mobile as more people around the planet have access to mobiles than have access to the web.

2) Twitter needs to KISS
I think Twitter is spot on by staying focused on providing the architecture and not getting into the 'interior design' i.e. interface apps.


Tuesday 7 July 2009

Sacha Baron Cohen's next move?

Have been wondering for a while what Sacha Baron Cohen's next move might be. Having conquered the world with Ali G, Borat and most recently Bruno one might be tempted to imagine he will go for more of the same.

But I think we need to look at the King for inspiration as to Sacha Baron Cohen's next move. Andy Kaufman went far beyond character comedy and that's exactly where I predict Sacha Baron Cohen will go.

After pulling the wool over celebrities eyes who better to fool next than the general public themselves. I think we should expect significantly different performances designed to bring out the best and worst in us. The key to his getting away with it will be to select a character very off-piste and come from an angle we just would not expect. I expect we will not even realise its comedy at the start.

An interview with Sacha Baron Cohen recently implied he was motivated by politics. That's where my money is going.

Sacha Baron Cohen to spoof the general public as a politician, probably as himself. You heard it hear first.

Sunday 5 July 2009

Wasp Whisperer

I posted an article a while ago on ooffoo and other sites about an experience I had with wasps a few years ago. Still freaks me out to this day but thought it worth sharing.

You're having a laugh, right?

It is well established that laughter is good for the body and soul so what Dr Madan Kataria does and what Yogi Ramesh (The Laughing Yogi seen below) does makes a lot of sense. John Cleese agrees! And come on, admit it. You secretly want to have a go. I know I do.

Advice to a Marketing student

Was recently asked by a young man studying for a Marketing degree (just finished year 1) whether they should finish their degree or get a job and study CIM courses. I offered the following advice:
I think getting a degree is vital. Once you have it, you have it. CIM & experience with no degree will not give you an edge against people who more often than not will have both plus the degree. Once you have your degree you can then study CIM etc and believe me the studying never ends, one way or another. The key is to study something you enjoy.

I work in online marketing and would strongly advise you specialise there. Everything is heading digital. Take as many courses in that direction as possible. The best advice I could give to anyone heading into communications in any form would be:

To be in communications you need to be a communicator:
Go to (there are other platforms but this is the easiest) and start a blog. Pick an obsession you have: a food, a singer, a sports team, whatever. Then blog/write about it, help people find out more about it, post links and so on. Get into the community of people that surround that topic/obsession. Get into blogging, read about what makes a good blog and a good blogger. Obsess about it. Learn about tagging: start an account on Get into Start networking and building up your capacity to project yourself. Learning to market you is the place to start.
What would you have said? I will pass your advice on to him...

Friday 3 July 2009

Top 5 Eco Music Videos

Just posted a Top 5 Eco Music Videos list over on ooffoo - did I miss any good ones? The Johnny Cash 'Sesame Street' cover is awesome! Enjoy...

Thursday 2 July 2009

Twitter Tips: My List of 'Lists of Lists'

I use twitter as you may know and the one great thing about twitter is that there is a plethora of helpful types only to happy to point you at even better ways to make use of twitter.

As the number of said tips grew it became logical to create lists of tips as you might expect. And as the number of lists of tips grew it became further logical to create lists of lists. Still with me? Now there are so many 'lists of lists' out there that I thought I would give you my contribution. A list of 'lists of lists' if you will...

The Ultimate Collection Of Twitter Tips in one seriously huge list by those nice people at Mashable.

10 Superb Social Media Presentations

Top 5 Twitter Lists

Top 10 Online PR Fails

10 Useful Twitter Presentations

Top 10 Twitter Apps

99 Essential Twitter Tools And Applications

100 Twitter Tools To Help You Achieve All Your Goals

Ten Reasons Not To Follow People On Twitter

15 Tools Lists, Twitter Business & Social Life Resources

Top Twitter Tools

16 Bitchin Commands & Shortcuts for Twitter

Have I missed any?

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Post VRM: Towards a consumer-led economy

Last week at VRM Hub I spoke for 10 minutes about my thoughts on the interplay between retail, community and data and how they relate to my own vision of VRM etc.

These are the summary notes I made to speak from. It was recorded too so am sure that will pop up at some point. Curiour to hear any thoughts.
Business takes all the credit but the web and more recently the social web as Adrianna recently commented happened without the help of business. In fact you will recall business had a hard time finding the revenue models on the web as they are now with the social web so why do businesses try and take the credit for driving innovation?

The answer is the establishment of a desirable power dynamic: if we tell them we're in charge they will mostly believe us.

A quick look at the global economy absolutely reinforces this point: If we live in financial times as the FT would have us believe then how do we reconcile the public bailouts, the need for business to come crying to mummy? Let's face it: business is the petulant teenager and wider society is the parent in this relationship. But like most parent-teenager relationships the teens often believe they are in charge. We have gone wrong by letting that paradigm dominate and define. Where's supernanny when you need her eh? We need to re-establish the true power dynamic and for me VRM is the best chance we have of doing it.

If the currency of business is data, and it so is, then VRM is the Robin Hood come to redress the imposed imbalance of wealth and to restore to the people what is rightfully theirs.

Now this may sound revolutionary but it is not anti-business. Far from it. One thing the recent economic strife has proven is that false economy will out. You can run but you just can't hide. So VRM is the true bringer of sustainable (not in the environmental sense mind) business.

Ironically for me the environment & VRM actually do fit together as both seek to address externalities. Again as Adrianna has previously pointed out, data is a positive externality, pollution is a negative externality. Both need to be internalised, valued and paid for. Enter VRM.

My experience in eco retail for Natural Collection is that one tries to take as many relevant social and environmental externalities and address them responsibly. There is clearly immense value to be found in being respectful in this manner. The rise of fairtrade and organic supports this view.

Let me just paint a vision of how the logical intersect between business and people might look in a world where VRM has been a success. Post VRM if you will. What impact will VRM have had? Am curious to explore what a post VRM world might look like...

Why are we called end users? How patronising is it to be the end of the process? It's not about what we are called. It's the fact that we are placed at the end of the chain by business. We are the start of the process. Not then end. No need = no business. At best we are equal partners in a transaction based economy. But this expression by the business world of us being subject to them flies in the face of reality really and is quite telling psychologically, which reinforces the point above about 'the establishment of a desirable power dynamic'.

Lets call businesses end-users for a moment. Imagine that. Consumer needs and wants driving businesses. The opposite of marketing would be sourcing. That's what I want: let businesses come to me! And how do you gain my trust to be able to know what I want? To be privy to my needs? Be respectful and trustworthy. I want to live in a world where I can be friends with a business, where they can be a valued part of my world instead of something to be shunned and inherently distrusted as they have sadly all too often become.

I will end with another quote from Adrianna: "It may actually be cheaper and more effective to treat people with respect and establish relationships with them, so the data they share is of quality that makes a difference to businesses."

What is happening is that the cost of data is being established, the balance of power is shifting and VRM seeks to create the first tools to do the job. Just as the triple bottom line is gaining in market relevance so is respect for data. VRM will accelerate that respect and empower data owners i.e. you and me. As with the environment so with data. Those businesses that embrace this spirit of respect stand to gain the most. Those that don't will die out in time.

Social Networking & Business

I just wrote a piece on about why I believe social networking is good for the health of your business. You might like or have comments to add.

Why social networking is vital for your business

Monday 29 June 2009

Michael Jackson & The Cult of Celebrity

I wrote an article yesterday on ooffoo, the leading green swapping and blogging community I work for, looking at Michael Jackson & The Cult of Celebrity. Crucially, I reveal the identity of the next 'messiah'. Would love your thoughts and feedback.

Sunday 28 June 2009

A Modest Proposal: Death to Fatties

Amanda Platell (Who's with me to get her on the 4th Plinth in Trafalgar Square?) once wrote a Daily Mail piece calling for no NHS treatment for 'fatties' but I don't think it goes far enough.

I know this might be unpopular but please bear with me.

I think fatties should be culled on sight and their blubber used to power homes. Think of the money saved on energy bills? Think of the money saved treating fatties and their related ailments (gastric intervention, cardio, knee replacements, increased cancer incidence etc) on the NHS?

And what a great situation for fatties really if you think about it. What greater motivation could there be to get exercise than an angry mob chasing you? Fatties will be thanking us for helping them.

Going out to get supplies would be so dangerous fatties would either:
  • Run out of food and lose weight at home until they were slim enough to go out
  • Go out for food and lose weight getting chased by an angry mob (Fattie Parkour?)
  • Get culled by the mob and become a power source
And lets face it, the fatties are not happy in themselves so we are just putting them out of their misery. Win-win-win all round then. We need to find a humane way to cull them though. Any suggestions?

No point wasting any time looking for causes of obesity like:
The food industry will have no Big Tobacco-esque case to answer in the future. Obesity is ONLY caused by a lack of willpower to resist eating and to exercise more. If the earth looks flat then frankly it probably is.

Saturday 27 June 2009

A world of rap

Am curious about rap for many reasons and whilst I love some of the more 'classical' mainstream rap like Run DMC, TheStreets, Eminem etc I always like to broaden my experiences. I have been looking for tips for non US/UK rappers so today I asked twitter and facebook and this is the combined response. Not a damn clue what they are saying though. Some gems here...

Cidinho & Doca - Rap das armas


Jahi featuring Nobody Beats The Beats (they're Danish not Jahi) - Radio Raheem

MC Solaar - Gangster Moderne
IAM - Petit Frere
Sian Supa Crew
Booba Pitbull, Game Over, Boulbi, Gun in Hand Feat. Akon

Fler - Deutscha Bad Boy, Ich bin deutscha, Neue Deutsche Welle & Mein Sound
Sido - Warum Bist Do So?, Carmen, Herz, Alpa Gun (featuring Fler)

Avi Mesika - Lemi Korim Ani
Shotei Hanevua
Hadag Nachash - Hene Ani Ba (Here I come)
Hatikva 6 - Gaidamak

Axum (ethopian israeli rap)
Teapacks - Push the Button (Eurovision 2007 Israeli entry)
Subliminal featuring Wycleaf Jean
, featuring Lior Farahi - Tizaher Mimena, Subliminal and the Shadow - Divide and Conquer [Eng Subs]

Teriaki boyz - Tokyo Drift
Afra and the incredible beat box

Latin American:
Kumbia Kings (from Texas US) featuring Ozomatli - Mi Gente

Molesta "Powrót", WWO - Moge wszystko & Tede - Glokk

Leningrad- Menedjer Ska

Daara J

K'naan Warsame

Emmanuel Jal


Anything to add?

This ain't Kansas...

...but it'll do for now. I need a single spot to point everyone at and this blog will serve well for that.

This will be the home of my virtual cortex pulling together my twitter stream, podcasts, blog posts (from here and elsewhere) and so on from this point in time. Previous writings can be found here and here.

What can you expect? Humour, analysis, thought-leadership hopefully. Expect a virtual me. If you know me, you will already be holding on for dear life. If you don't know me I suggest you get a notepad, some redbull and hold on! ;)