Kodak Instamatic 92

Anyone know how to get one of these working?


An exciting new adventure

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be joining 1000heads as Community Director in April.

1000heads are a company I’ve heard great things about over the past 5 or 6 years, and I’ve been consistently impressed by their ideas and output. They specialise in word of mouth storytelling, bringing creativity and energy to encouraging participation and collaboration with their audiences for brands such as Nokia, Skype, Benefit and Saloman. Most importantly, their ethics mean they approach all their work with honesty and responsibility.

I’m super excited to be joining them – becoming a ‘head’ myself – and tackling the work ahead. I’ve already been in to meet some of the team and was very impressed by their knowledge and drive – it’s going to be a very exhilarating time.

Sadly, this also means I’ll be leaving Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

It seems to me like a blink of an eye, but I’ve now been at LLR for a over year. In that time I’ve been proud to be part of a team that have achieved considerable amounts; not least launching a new fundraising platform, a blood cancer patient support community and growing social media referrals to the website by over 445%. I’m leaving behind an incredibly talented team with a real passion to make a difference to blood cancer patients’ lives.

And so, onwards, to a new chapter!

Big teams are a big headache

Amazon’s much-feted two pizza teams came into my mind again yesterday, when I read this article from Bob Sutton on ‘Why Big Teams Suck’.

Harvard researcher J. Richard Hackman concluded that four to six members is the team best size for most tasks, that no work team should have more than 10 members… These troubles arise because larger teams place often overwhelming “cognitive load” on individual members. Most of us are able to mesh your efforts with and maintain good personal relationships with, say, three or four teammates. But as a group expands further, each member devotes more time to coordination chores (and less time to actually doing the work), more hand-offs between the growing cast of members are required (creating opportunities for miscommunication and mistakes), and because each member must divide his or her attention among a longer list of colleagues, the team’s social glue weakens (and destructive conflict soars).

Further to this, it also seems to me that smaller teams lead to more accountability and autonomy for each team member. People want to do good work, and if that work can be directly attributed to their efforts then they will put more of themselves into it.

How big are your teams or project groups? Do you think they would benefit from downsizing, or do you believe more hands make light work?

Give your meetings a theme tune

At Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research we have talented, creative people in every team across the organisation. We also need to create interesting, exciting and shareable content for our website and social media channels.

In order to link these two facts, and best utilise these talented people, we needed a way to inspire and capture creative content ideas.

So I started something I called Content Tuesday.

Ostensibly, Content Tuesday is a simple brainstorm meeting; albeit a brainstorm meeting with its own theme tune (if you’re interested it goes, ♬“Content Tuesday. Content. Tuesday.”♬).

Simply put, meeting attendees – who are representatives from teams across the organisation (not necessarily with any digital expertise) – share their ideas with each other, and then decide amongst themselves which ones will be made that week.

Best of all, the most successful idea (measured in views, likes, retweets, reblogs or ♥s) wins a chocolate bar.

We’ve been running it for a few weeks, and have had some wonderful ideas that might not have come out of a traditional brainstorm, like ‘#feelalive Friday’

Or a fancy dress fundraising ideas Pinterest board

Content Tuesday, is a quick, formatted way to generate real insight and creativity from outside a traditional digital content team.

But don’t just take my word for it, here’s Kim and Ellie from LLR to demonstrate how Content Tuesday works:

Oh Canada

For part of last year, I lived in Canada. What a strange country, simultaneously forward-thinking and fighting change.

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Canada knows how to do storms.

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Steamy streets.

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Lake Muskoka

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A late update

Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research

This is probably the latest new job announcement ever, but nevertheless I am pleased to say I am the new Digital Content & Community Manager at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research (yes, it’s a bit of a mouthful – my business card looks like a dictionary).

It was a no-brainer to take the job. LLR are an organisation with a clear and decisive mission – to beat blood cancer – and despite being over 60 years old are making changes to put digital first and foremost in its future; attempting to match younger charities like charity:water or dosomething who can much-easier call themselves digital first. Not only that, they are open-source, actively contributing code back to the community, and had just launched a stand-alone crowd-fundraising platform, PledgeIt.

I’ve been part of this for over two months now, and I can honestly say it has been as exciting and brilliant as expected.

Posted by on May 6, 2013

We need more bookshelves

A few weeks back, I wrote about how it’s annoying that certain popular web things are closed platforms. I was primarily talking about how App.net is taking on Twitter by being infrastructure rather than a platform, but it got me thinking about something else.

At the moment I pay Apple £21.99 a year to act as my music library – iTunes Match – and a very good service it is too.

That is, as long as I continue to use Apple hardware.

If I choose to switch (to Amazon Cloud Player for example) I’m left facing a complicated process of re-downloading and moving my music library to the new service. I’ve long since deleted the actual music files from my computer’s hard drive, not to mention tracks I’ve bought on the iTunes store (which with iTunes Match don’t ever have to download to your computer), so it’s going to be hard. This will be a big problem as we increasingly move from personal storage to cloud services. In fact I’d go as far to say that it’s anti-competitive.

There are already a few media types that are primarily cloud-based i.e. Films and TV Shows (Netflix, Hulu, iPlayer etc), eBooks (Kindle, Kobo etc) and Magazines (Newsstand).

In all the examples above what is ultimately being replaced is the idea of actual, physical copies of media that you keep for the rest of your life. Your collection.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Luddite pining for the days of vinyl, I’m just lamenting the loss of the home bookshelf stuffed with your things. That collection that showed who you are as a person, that made you swell with pride, and that helped you reminisce.

Without getting too skeuomorphic about it I think we need to have a digital version of that bookshelf. A collection of music, films, TV, books and magazines that is truly yours, even if it’s just a list. It should be open and not owned by any one company. Apple, Amazon, Spotify, Netflix et al could provide the actual media from this list – when you give them money – but the list itself would be yours. Your collection.

I love Foursquare (but I wish it was better)

Four months ago I moved from London (in the UK) to Toronto (in Canada) and I’ve started to notice that I’m now using internet services differently than I did back in London.

Saying that, my Facebook and Instagram usage hasn’t really changed. I actively try to avoid Facebook and Instagram is my crack. What I have really struggled with is Twitter – of course it doesn’t help that I don’t follow many people on Eastern Time, and I’m sure if I followed more Torontonians it would become useful – but my old habit of reading Twitter in the evening before bed is useless now, because the only people I follow that are awake at that time are either drunk or insomniacs, it that doesn’t always create great reading.

However, the biggest usage change that I’ve noticed is Foursquare. I find it massively more helpful than I did in London, using it a lot more for discovery with the Explore tab (which is great) and by making lists of places to visit (although I also use the fantastic PinDrop app for that). I still check in to places, mainly through habit, but friend’s checkins and the radar feature are largely redundant.

Because I’ve been using Foursquare in this way I’ve been thinking a lot about the way that the Explore feature recommends places to me. It often will say things like ‘you’ve been somewhere similar’ or ‘one of your friends has been here’, but I really don’t think that goes far enough.

When I’m choosing a bar or a restaurant to visit the decisions I make are often based on my tastes, my personality and the types of people I spend time with. If I loved metal music I probably wouldn’t enjoy a bar that had the latest Michael Bublé album on loop. Conversely, if I was the Bublé’s greatest fan and had scrobbled his album 5000 time on Last.fm, it’s unlikely I’d want to go to hardcore clubnight.

In fact music can be a very strong indicator of personal taste, especially among younger groups, and can have a big impact on the types of bars, clubs and restaurants someone would enjoy.

Why shouldn’t each bar, restaurant and club have an ‘artist inventory’ – the top artists listened to by the people who go there?

When I visited a new city, or if I was exploring places in my own city, I could be recommended bars, clubs and even restaurants based on the types of music I like. Less, ‘one of your friends has been here’, more ‘loads of other people who also like McFly and Wild Nothing go to this bar’.

Of course, Last.FM is largely useless now and the Spotify/Facebook data is locked down, so it would be pretty hard to make this happen in practise, but as the big internet companies gather more and more data on us, who knows? I’m all for data gathering and profiling if it makes real life better.

Opening up ownership of the services we use

Since App.net was announced and launched there has been lots of talk about services as infrastructure – that is, decentralised and open protocols for common internet platforms. An often used example is what email or IM used to look like – a collection of fragmented platforms and standards that couldn’t talk to each other – the idea goes that Twitter, or rather the whole concept of microblogging itself, should be an open set of standards that no-one owned but anyone could build on.

I wonder if we could go even further though? Don’t we need standards for all kinds of digital publishing, storage and communication? Could we have an open standard for open standards?

I can think of a load of services which are suffering from fragmentation. Where I’m currently having to use more than one platform, or couldn’t easily switch providers if I decided to.

  • Texting or short-messaging – think SMS, iMessage, BBM, Whatsapp
  • Video calling – Skype, FaceTime, Facebook, Gchat
  • Photo storage – Flickr, 500px, Google, Facebook
  • Cloud storage – iCloud, Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive, Dropbox
  • Music library services – iTunes Match, Amazon Cloud Player, Spotify

And that’s not even mentioning identity.

Although perhaps maybe I should mention identity, because the slow progress and adoption of OpenID will perhaps give us an idea of how likely or quickly this could happen.