Wednesday, 28 November 2007

What use is Twitter??

When I describe Twitter to people, I often get blank stares.

"Why do you need more interruptions in your day? Aren't you already busy?"

Here are two examples of the true power of Twitter:

* Last Friday I was having real trouble with WordPress. In frustration I twittered "Wordpress, what part of
don't you understand?"

It was more of a rhetorical question than anything, but within the hour Nick Hodge from Sydney tweeted back the answer! (It's
, if you're interested.)

* Later that day, I sent out a tweet for feedback on some design tweaks to Again, within the hour, I had some feedback from a 16-year old freelance designer in Auckland!! (feedback which I'll attend to very shortly, Ludwig - thanks again!)

Is it just me, or is Twitter getting more social?

I've noticed a couple of things lately:

1) The A-listers, heavy outputters of information like Jeremiah Owyang and Robert Scoble, have slipped off the radar. They've been characteristically transparent about the reasons why - mostly, they're busy (which is a relief! They're human too!).

2) The rest of us - not especially famous people, but often producers of their own content either blogs podcasts or online video - seem to be commenting more often about more things and getting more conversational.

Maybe it's just that I've recently tapped into a vein of particularly chatty people, and been replying a lot more often. But it's great to see Twitter being used to its potential.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Do you love....?

Work without love is slavery.
Mother Teresa

Super-cool idea

School students think of an idea - a warrant of fitness reminder that flashes when your warrant is due. Auto Association licenses the idea for $60k. Brilliant!

Time for a change | Idealog: the magazine and website of creative New Zealand business, ideas and innovation

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Categorisation and Miscellany

I've just been skim-reading the list of Web 2.0 Lists. Fascinating.

It's a great ready reference - I added it to my bookmarks straight away - but it also reflected some of the desperation we are collectively feeling about information anxiety.

I've been facing the same challenge close to home, as we've been working on nailing down our SimonYoungWriters service offering to a product set.

So now, instead of just saying "we'll write whatever you need written" (which is still true) we're now offering newsletters, articles, press releases, website copy, brochures, instruction manuals - etc., etc. Watch the SimonYoungWriters site for the changes soon.

But as I was imposing this order on apparent chaos, my mind was raging. This may help stimulate people's imagination to see what we can do for them, but it doesn't really reflect the service we provide.

I feel like I'm stuck in the middle.

On the one hand, I've got the old, product-centric way of thinking. If I want to streamline my business, I need to turn it into a factory, making standardised products.

On the other hand, I'm the guy who wrote the article on Service-Dominant Logic, which says we've got it all wrong with this product-centric thinking. I'm also a fan of what I've heard of David Weinberger's book Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. Certainly a related YouTube video strongly resonates with me.

Stratifying leads to fossilising. That makes sense to a part of me, but putting the other point of view into action is proving difficult.

I guess I need to keep searching. Read some of the academic papers and case studies, get Weinberger's book (anyone want to get me one for Christmas?)

Monday, 19 November 2007

Pretentious post of the day

What I like about postmodernism is its emphasis on dialogue and discovery. What disturbs me is the apparent undercurrent of distrust, many times assuming the worst possible motives of the deliverer of a message.

In postmodernism, things are rarely what they seem. Sometimes that's good, but when things actually are what they seem, it's not good.

(Written in response to an email from a colleague who said my article on the service-dominant logic of marketing showed good balance but, "with some reading between the lines i think there is some hegemonic protectionism kicking in.")

(Disclaimer/Clarification: This is not a direct response to the "hegemonic protectionism" comment, but rather the seed of a thought of an idea that sprang from it)

(and also an excuse to use up my big word quota for the week)

Friday, 16 November 2007

NZ business needs more mad young things!

I had a fantastic time at the Exporting Beyond 2007 Summit at Sky City yesterday. Sadly, I was probably the youngest there (and at 32, that's not saying much).

  • Short. It started with lunch and finished after 4pm. That's what busy people will go for.
  • Focused. There was a real sense of urgency about this, and a sense that everyone in the room could make a difference.
  • Interactive. After a 45-minute intro speech, we got into elective groups, about 15 people around the table, and threw our ideas around. True Wisdom of Crowds stuff.
Key insights I gleaned:
  • We're so comfortable right now in NZ that we're in danger of being numb to the future - we need to focus on exporting or our future generations won't be able to live this same lifestyle.
  • To do that, we need to tell stories and share more.
I'm sensing a cultural disconnect here. The needs - telling stories, sharing and collaborating - are quite touchy-feely, yet the people there yesterday were CEOs, mostly focused around finance and the economy, rather than the "softer" disciplines like psychology or language.

The way it was positioned - as an "Exporting Summit" for "CEOs" - probably failed to attract the kind of people who can inject some much-needed fresh thinking and creative solutions.

People like the kids who are taking risks and making lots of money. Chances are none of them would consider themselves "exporters" or even CEOs.

The event also highlighted the fact that we kiwis are paranoid about competition and largely unwilling to share. That's another post for another time! Stay tuned.

Rod Drury > Ponoko makes the New York Times

Rod Drury > Ponoko makes the New York Times

Woohoo! Well done guys!

Friday, 9 November 2007

I don't look like Jesus any more

(but hopefully I act like Him!)

In a rash moment (actually, it was dry skin) I went all the way when shaving. Not sure how long this clean-cut will last.

Anyway, speaking of Jesus, I watched Walk the Line again last night.

That is such a good film. Brilliantly put together, raw, powerful, harrowing, touching. A true tribute to a genuinely honest man. When the same guy impresses Billy Graham and Quentin Tarantino, I'm impressed!

My favourite scene - the very last scene in the movie. It's not very eventful, but it stands starkly in contrast to the rest of the movie. For once John is not escaping his troubled family, but going back in an opposite spirit. Instead of returning his father's emotional poverty, he's able to love the loveless.

Anyway. I'm raving. Must be time for lunch. It's a bit cold out though, especially around the face!

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Making sense of dollars

Some people just "get" money. I don't.

Sure, I can do my business' accounts every year, but talk to me about cash rates and inflationary reserves and my eyes glaze over. As a journalist who reports on marketing, I need to upskill in this area.

So I've just finished reading two books that I hoped would give me the inside track on economics and money management:

Kissing the Frog: The magic that makes you money by the Brothers Middleton
Economics: A little book of big ideas by Matthew Forstater

Frog Kissing

Kissing the Frog is a brilliant idea - a storytelling approach to learning about investment.

The story follows Goldilocks as she seeks advice on investing in property, shares and businesses. Along the way she meets just about every fairytale character you've ever heard of, which is very smart, because it ties abstract financial and economic principles to familiar fairy tales. Somehow, along the way, the principles start to feel simpler and more familiar than they actually are.

It's not for kids, mind you. The Brothers Middleton try to spice up the story a little by adding a fair bit of sexual innuendo, particularly about that Prince Charming.

Because Frog is not just a dry treatise on investment, it's free to explore the more emotional side of investment. For me, anyway, the principles were easier to understand because they were told outright, and then explored through a story.

The Brothers Middleton also use different characters to educate us about different approaches, for instance the September hare's cautious, long-term approach to share investment, compared with the March hare's approach to high-risk, high-return options trading.


I got really excited when I started to read Economics: A Little Book of Big Ideas, but my enthusiasm dulled slightly as I went on. It promised a bite-sized approach to understand the big ideas of Economics, but I found it hard to discern a coherent structure.

It is bite-sized - each key economist gets just a double-page spread each - but is arranged by subject rather than chronology. I'm sure there is a structure to it, but it's quite hard to figure out, unless you already know all the stuff you got the book in order to understand.

The language could also be more accessible. However, that's a tall order when balanced against the need to fit someone's life work in two small pages.

So maybe Economics: A Little Book of Big Ideas isn't for beginners like me, but more useful for students of the field who need some quick revision.

More on economics in my review of Das Kapital: A Biography, and my thoughts on why we need to learn about money at Leadership Issues. Plus, a review of the Australian book Affluenza and the book Medici Money.

In coming months: a review of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations: A Biography.