Monday, 28 February 2011

"Oi! Turn That Phone Off!"

I was in London a couple of weeks ago and dropped by a curry house near Tavistock Square for a bite to eat in the early evening. The place wasn't empty. There were a few couples in there. One or two people working away from home on their own a little like me, dipping into a paperback, a magazine or using their smartphone in between courses.

There was a table with a couple of guys enjoying a meal after a days work, chatting about their day and what they had planned for the rest of the week.

The place wasn't quiet. Neither was it too noisy. If you wanted to you could listen in on the various conversations going on around the place. At one point, one of the two guys chatting about work got out his phone and let his colleague listen in to a voice-mail he'd received, maybe from a colleague, a boss or a customer. The volume of the phone wasn't any louder than the conversation they'd been having but almost as soon as playback started I sensed guy at a nearby table having dinner with his wife/girlfriend getting agitated. I mean really agitated.

After about twenty seconds of the message he scraped his chair back, leaned dramatically across the room and loudly shouted "Excuse Me!" at the blokes listening to the phone. He was incandescent.

The chap playing the message switched it off and put his phone down. He and his friend awkwardly began to carry on with their meal. The attention of the rest of the diners in the place was directed at the guy who'd loudly and somewhat dramatically complained, who, red in the face, began to tuck back into his curry.

Things got back to normal.

Now from a digital etiquette perspective, I'm pretty sure that playing the message out loud on speaker in a restaurant was out of order in some way (I've just read this article in Fast Company which brought this tale back to mind) but in reality, the overly-dramatic hissy-fit played out by the offended party caused much more of a commotion and some embarrassment for all concerned.

I suppose it's all about context. For me eating my workaday dinner alone in a neighbourhood curry-house, the whole scene played out for me as a little side order alongside my main dish. If I'd been in there with my fiancee about to go down on one knee over a tarka dahl, maybe I'd have felt a little more aggrieved about the disrupted ambience. However, the volume of the message was no louder than the conversation going on across the restaurant, so I just wonder what makes the tinny, digital quality of a recording that much more offensive than a nearby conversation between two people. It certainly generated a hair-trigger response.

I thought it was interesting to watch actually, How would you have felt?

Photo:  Skip the Filler

Thursday, 17 February 2011

So, who trained you to use Facebook then?

I'm doing some interesting work with a couple of customers at the moment who are thinking about how their organisations can cope with the demands of Generation Y, both as customers and potential employees.

Twenty years ago, one of the reasons people liked to work for big companies was because they had access to better tech than they had at home. These days, people routinely access more powerful and sophisticated devices and web-services at home than they are able to use at work.

We're thinking about how to create open policies which enable them to use their own devices, apps and social tools whilst at work, without adding unnecessary risk to the organisation. There's a lot to think about.

I was chatting to a colleague about the project and showed him the slide above. He's in the midst of delivering a major enterprise social software implementation and a big chunk of his budget is dedicated to user training. So, you can imagine that his instant take on the picture above was...

... "so who trained everyone in Facebook, Twitter, PS3, iPlayer, eh?"

I thought that was a very good question.

How about you?

Friday, 11 February 2011

Hey Project Manager, How Does Your Garden Grow?

About five years ago we had our garden landscaped. I know that sounds poncy, especially as we've only got a small garden, but we had some 'high-level business requirements': clearly defined areas, colour throughout the year, nice fragrances, low-maintenance, etc.

We gave these requirements to a designer who drew up a plan for us to review and approve. We then passed the work to a landscaping firm who, working to the plan, sourced the plants and project-managed the levelling, turfing, planting etc. Great. We've been very pleased.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, the project manager from the landscaping firm called me up out of the blue. He wanted to call around to see how the plants were maturing and have a look how the garden was developing as a whole.

Don't forget, this project ended five years ago!

Now, there was certainly a commercial angle to his visit... there may have been some rework to do, restocking of certain plants, rethinking of certain schemes, but in this case, other than one or two early plant deaths and the odd leggy herb, the garden has matured as originally envisaged.

But here was a project manager interested in learning more about his craft, both from his successes and his mistakes. He wanted to learn what happens to plants in our climate, at our altitude, in our location.

Now a post-implementation review is best practice for project managers in all walks of life. However, such is the pace of change, that even the best of us forget to go back and do this even when we are working to timescales of five weeks, never mind five years!

So, this attention to detail impressed me, especially as there was no immediate commercial benefit to the landscaper straight after his visit. But guess who I'm going to recommend to friends? Guess who will be the first person I call when I do need some more work doing in my garden?

Just a thought, but maybe we should all make sure that we carve out enough time to go back and ask our customers how things are growing?

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Keeping Your ID in Your Mobile Phone - Safely

Many people leave their ID documentation at home, including their driving license, passport, etc.

I now carry a photograph of all of these important assets around with me in my iPhone.  Normally I'd recommend @evernote as a good place to store this stuff, but as the app isn't password protected, I feel better keeping it in one of the many photo apps which requires a password before access is granted.  The photographs are encrypted and, once transferred to the app and deleted from the standard iPhone photo library only accessible to you.

If it's something like a library, gym or swimming card, featuring a barcode, the receptionist may even be able to scan the card directly from your phone... carry your card with you the first few times just in case.

pic: Laika-chan

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Toy Division

I love this:

tibbr - At Last! An Enterprise Social Media Tool based on sense

I attended the launch event for a new enterprise social media platform called tibbr last week in Southwark.  Made by Tibco, the platform extends their reach from their solid base in the corporate middleware and BPM world out across the organisation.

Enterprise Social Media is a beginning to creep onto the agendas of corporate boardrooms in Europe, but few organisations understand the blurring of identities between employees, customers and the company itself.  tibbr is ahead of the game in enabling a sophisticated blend of enterprise information with personal social media tools.  

The cloud-based app brings together the best of public and private social media platforms by enabling users to aggregate feeds from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, with people followed at work, internal processes eg invoice payments or expense claims and internal themes like marketing, HR or business development and access all of this on a clean-looking Facebook-style wall.

I was quite impressed.  It will give many of the existing enterprise tools which have been clumsily constructed from applications designed many years ago to do something else, a significant run for their money.

Check it out:

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

TRULY Great Film from Daniel Pink on Creativity and Motivation

At a great creative session in London which took up much of Thursday I got pointed in the direction of this fantastic video about just what motivates us to do good and... and what doesn't.  It really is worth watching:

To Infinity & Beyond - How Pixar Encourage Creativity!

Also at the Creative session I attended last week I was handed a copy of an article from the Harvard Business Review about How Pixar Fosters Creativity.  

It's a subscription only arrangement I'm afraid, so I can't share the whole article, but take a look at this and listen to the audio that goes with it.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Social Media Awareness for Children - Useful Film

I don't do much journalling per se but after a busy and diverse week I've gathered up lots of things which I thought I might share.  Here's the first.

I had an accidental meeting with @dughall, @chrisrat and @joga5 on Friday which bounced around various topics.  @dughall and I are shaping a social media surgery for Key Stage 2 children and I was pointed to a useful video which, whilst probably aimed at children a little bit older, packs quite a punch in its warning around the risks to privacy associated with social networking:

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Twitter and the Custard Tart Disaster

Last Sunday I spent the entire afternoon over a recipe to which I'd allocated about half an hour when flipping through the recipe book in the morning.

It was for a Fig Anise Custard Tart and I'd chosen it from the Thomasina Miers recipe book 'Cook', which lives on our shelf of cookery books. I'd been drawn to the recipe because the flavours sounded great, but also because of the breezy story which accompanies the instructions on page 198:

"This pudding was the result of having some friends over for lunch and at the last minute suddenly deciding they did need a pudding after all."

That was all I needed to hear... I made sure we'd got the ingredients and thought nothing about it until I re-entered the kitchen in the afternoon planning to make it.

Three-and-a-half hours later I was ready to serve a dish that tasted pretty good, looked only marginally better than the dog's dinner and for which I'd really lost my appetite.  


Well this recipe was really three recipes in one. I needed to make pastry, which needed to sit for at least half an hour before it could be put into the tin.  It then needed to be blind-baked before it could be filled and cooked again.  Separately, I needed to simmer the figs in a syrup of water, Ouzo and sugar for twenty minutes whilst also creating a custard from a million egg yolks, some star anise and orange zest, part of which needed to infuse for an age.

In and amongst all this, I stupidly grabbed the pine nuts rather than the dried white beans to sit on top of the greaseproof paper whilst blind-baking the pastry- the value of which easily exceeded the actual cost of the pie.  What's more, I forgot the greaseproof paper the first time and had to throw the lot away and start the process of making pastry all over again.

Eventually I got around to the custard,the last phase calling for at least 30 minutes stirring on a low light, only for it to curdle at the last minute!

I served the slop up and everyone was very kind... they had endured my drama-queen histrionics, the clattering of pans and Sunday-league language for much of the day and felt that anything other than meek thanks might just nudge me over the edge.

Now look.  I made some mistakes in there that weren't the fault of the author or the recipe, but even without those disasters, the recipe involved a whole world of juggling and complexity for a keen but workaday home-chef like me.

My point?  Don't lose your audience. 

Don't forget who your are writing for and don't get lost in your own fabulousness.  This isn't particularly a dig at Thomasina who I like a lot... I hear St Jamie of Oliver has also got into a spot of similar bother over the grassroots unachievability of his so-called '30 minute meals'.  It's not a dig at anyone, but it's a reminder to me, you and anyone who harbours a passion for anything.  Don't forget how much time and effort you've put into the subject that makes your heart beat faster over the years. Don't forget that you are probably more than a couple of pages ahead in the manual than many of your readers.  

Whether it is design, technology, social media, stamp collecting or ballroom dancing, it's brilliant that you want to share your passion, but even the basics are a lot harder than you remember.  Be patient.  Be realistic.

Think abut Twitter for example.  I always say that it takes an investment of up to 6 months to really 'get' Twitter.  To really, really, get it and make it work for you.  To know the tools, tricks and techniques.  To cultivate a following and to locate people who can offer great things to you.  

Twitter looks easy.  It has low barriers to entry with free apps, easy websites, ubiquitous mobile phones, but getting people to stay on board and overcome the apparent vacuousness and loneliness of the first few days in Twitter is hard.  They need mentors not teachers, they need patience and understanding, they need encouragement, support and ideas.  They don't need to be told, 'it's simple', when really doing it justice is far from that.

Everyone of us has a passion for something. Many of us want to share it. That's a beautiful thing. Don't waste it by forgetting who you're talking to.

pic credit:  Emilian Robert Vicol