Invisible lights


I took a trip to London’s fashionable West End yesterday lunchtime, and one thing struck me above all else. Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are all around us.

LEDs are the light behind our mobile screens. LEDs increasingly provide light in interior spaces. They sit in the lamp clusters on cars. They illuminate television sets. They provide advertising messages and brands all around us (gone are the days of Neon on Piccadilly Circus). I saw one store on Regent Street where the entire ceiling was a big array of the things. And then, come the Christmas bonanza, they are strung from street lights, trees, buildings… whereever they can be found.

It’s a startling development. In recent memory we’d look at a blue LED on the front of some gadget and think it pretty cool. Yet now they have become so ubiquitous they have become almost invisible – which is the sign of a technology that has truly achieved mass adoption.

In years to come, along with the wheel, the printing press, the electric motor and the microprocessor (and a few others beside) I reckon that technology historians will regard the LED as a crucial point in technological invention. In the meantime, we just look at the twinkling lights…


Weeknote 222: Phone meltdown


Things I have learned this week:

- registering for VAT seems like it has been a long time coming (but is here at last!)
Working Unbound is great (just don’t ask me why)
– it’s been a long time since I last took part in a formal debate
– IT sales people are really of a breed
– the next few months are going to get really interesting

Next week: Bollocks to “Black” Friday. It’s my birthday!

Multiple personality disorders

G+ woes

I’ve never been able to get my head around Google Plus. Facebook is largely where I go for not-work things, Twitter and LinkedIn for work stuff. I store my photos privately in Google +, but only because I’ve used Picasa for a few years. I have been known to refer to G+ as the “social network for Googlers”, and that’s not that far from the truth. I can’t even decide on how to write the name of the blessed thing.

But until today I hadn’t been able to articulate why I couldn’t get on with G+. Now I can, and it’s illustrated in the image above. It’s given me multiple personalities based on email accounts, and I just don’t want that.

I’ve got quite a few email accounts these days. There’s my legacy one that I’ve had since 2009. My personal one that I use for not work things. And my one that I use for some work things. Then I have a handful of accounts that clients have given me over the last year, one of which also (along with the three above) runs on Google.

Having multiple email identities is fine. But having email accounts defining your social network account identity isn’t. On something like LinkedIn or Facebook I can have multiple email accounts associated with my social network presence. On G+ one gmail account deliveres one more social network identity. And that simply doesn’t work.

It wasn’t, though, until G+ recommended that I connect with myself because we have me in common that I realised why G+ doesn’t work for me. Now I know.

Engineering serendipity


In the year and a half in which I have been building my business, I’ve had many great plans that have resulted in nothing (or, at least, nothing yet). In the same period my most successful and profitable client relationships have emerged seemingly by chance. A random referral, an email out of the blue, a casual conversation.

Yet of course I’ve been engineering those chances – networking my little bottom off in coffee shops and meeting rooms the length and breadth of London and beyond. But when trying to explain many of my actions to my main shareholder (Mrs B) it’s hard. I’m doing many of the things I do because I instinctively know that doing enough of it will generate work. This is what the department store magnate John Wanamaker was describing when he said that “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.”

The rational, deterministic approach to such problems is to try to convert something necessarily chaotic and complex like networking into something ordered and structured like, I don’t know, a Google Adwords campaign. I prefer to think about how I can engineer as much opportunity for serendipity as I can.

It’s in that context that yesterday I organised a Work Unbound event at my current client’s offices. Work Unbound in short is basically inviting a bunch of people to come and hot desk in an office in which they wouldn’t usually work together. With the technology we have available today we are no longer geographically tied to a particular workplace. Work Unbound tries to mix it up a bit.

I’d invited people from across the broader client organisation, all of whom had some sort of interest in collaborative technologies (and with whom we’ve been working in recent months). First thing in the morning I had a sense of trepidation: not only was I concerned whether anyone would actually turn up, but I was also conscious that to keep the thing vaguely “under the radar” (read: “anyone telling me not to do it”) I hadn’t told that many people it was happening. It’s only when you ship in a bunch of strangers that you realise quite how tied people become to “their” desks in a hot desking office.

The half-dozen people that we had invited all turned up, and got on with their days’ work. We had brief introductions at the start of the morning, and then just worked. There were conversations on occasion, but it didn’t feel particularly out of the ordinary. I guess more so for me as I was in an office in which I felt familiar.

We all popped out for lunch together, and that bonded the “team” and stretched the conversation a little more. and then it was back to the office for more work. Four of us ended up in the pub at the end of the day, and the conversations continued.

Was it a good thing to do? Well, yes. But I can’t quite tell you why. I feel I know some of the people I’ve been working with a bit better, especially because the day wasn’t structured around meetings or workshops which tend to force certain types of relationships or behaviours. That there wasn’t any structure was something that as host made me slightly anxious (were the others expecting me to be doing something more actively?).

But overall, well, I reckon it did something to engineer a bit more serendipity for the people involved. And that will be a good thing, even if at this stage I can’t really tell you why.

Five articles about why lists are everywhere on the internet


This is the most meta-thing I’ve ever done…

Top nine things you need to know about ‘listicles’

5 ways the listicle is changing journalism

5 reasons why list-based articles are so popular

7 reasons why list posts will always work

The one thing that all LinkedIn all-time top ten posts have in common

Extreme fitness


At an event in London last week I was given a rapid demonstration of Microsoft’s first foray into the world of wearable technology – the Microsoft Band. At the end of the pitch I was left somewhat bewildered – the talk of tracking training regimes and exercise sessions and heart rates and calorie intake left me cold. And the thing looked like the latest generation of parole prisoner tag.

As I approach my 44th birthday, I am becoming increasingly aware of health. I try to moderate my food and alcohol intake. I try to walk when I can and track my steps with my Fitbit. But I don’t go training, I don’t partake in sport (unless you count chasing around after a five- and four-year-old as sport, which is debatable).

However my generation seems to be the one that has taken competitive middle aged sport to an extreme. I seem to know a fair number of marathon runners and triathletes. Now fair play to them, but extreme sports (and let’s not beat around the bush here, marathons and triathlons are extreme sports) aren’t the same as keeping fit and healthy. In fact, I have a hunch about who will be first in line for new knees and hips in later life…

If wearable computing is going to mean something to me in the context of health and well-being, it’s going to need to be something a little less about regimes. I don’t want to live under any sort of regime, thank you very much.

Weeknote 221: renewal


Things I have learned this week include:

- starting the morning with a Twitter conversation with Tom Peters makes for an interesting day
– the best laid presentations can always fall a little flat…
– … but I do have the resources to create on the fly these days
– new ways of thinking are always helpful (even if not immediately obviously so)
– having seen Sataya Nadella I still have no idea what Microsoft’s new mobile-first cloud-first actually means

Next week: countdowns continue

Matt Ballantine's thoughts about technology, marketing, management and other stuff…


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