Travel Eyes

Rox I am pretty good at sleeping on planes. No matter what noise is happening around me, I tend to be able to fall asleep without too much fuss — as long as the seat is not too bad. Unfortunately, the seat is not always my friend.

One thing that is important, however, is an eye mask.

When I started travelling for business I resisted the eye mask. It always reminded me of the Top Cat cartoon series. But after using one and experiencing the bliss of in-flight darkness I have never looked back. Until now.

This promotion (thanks to coolz0r) is for Rox … and the pictures look exactly how I feel after a long flight. Sure I get sleep, but I somehow always end up looking a bit freaked out. I would love one of these eye masks for my next trip!

Presentation Porn

A further extension, and more literal version of Michael Wagner’s recent post on Marketing Porn … comes a great story about an unfortunate incident at the end of a workshop presentation given by Rob Campbell. Just goes to show that creative chaos can hit at any stage … with unexpected results. Looking for an authentic storytelling moment? Here is one from Rob’s life.

I swear to God that the following is absolutely true … and it will stay with me for the rest of my life.

So I was in Shanghai on Friday running a workshop. All went really well and by the end of the meeting, lots of people came up and said thank you for what I had taught them.

Anyway, this one lady walked up to me at the end, with a USB ‘Thumbdrive’ in her hand and asked if it would be at all possible to have a copy of the preso. Naturally I agreed and I plugged in her device into my laptop and waited for my computer to recognise it so I could move the file over.

Now my laptop has a program that automatically opens any photos or videos held on a thumbdrive or CD so while I was doing some other work on my computer, I noticed in the background, a bunch of photos had been uploaded. For some reason, my eyes couldn’t stop staring at them, mainly because [1] everyone likes the idea of ’snooping’ on someone’s photos and [2] my brain just couldn’t work out what the hell they were.

Then … like being hit by a truck … my brain finally worked out exactly what I was seeing.

HOME-TAKEN PORNO PHOTOGRAPHS!!!

I kid you not … they were very, very, very, very full on!!! I mean sooooooooooooooo full on!!!! I mean …. BLOOOOOOOOODY HELL full on!!!!!

For a few seconds, time stood still … maybe I froze, maybe I held my breath, maybe I just gasped … but whatever it was, she noticed something was wrong because within a nano-second, she had lunged for my computer mouse and closed the ‘offending’ program shouting, “THAT’S NOT IMPORTANT”.

I was soooooo shocked I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or just sit down and ask for a cup of tea then a cold shower – but one thing I did know was that there was no way I could look her in the face … there was no way I would have maintained control if I’d done that.

Weird thing is, this woman was one of the sweetest people in the conference – she was more likely to be Mother Teresa than Jenna Jameson … but she proved it’s the ‘quiet ones you have to be careful of’! Seriously, I saw parts of her that only a gynaecologist, waxer or boyfriend, should see but I have to admit, I did wish I could have had a longer gawp at the pictures but it was so out of context, my brain just took too long to register what it was seeing.

What made it even funnier was that my laptop was still connected to the projector … so her ‘front bottom’ was on display to the whole room – but luckily [for her] everyone was chatting after a long day so they missed the most amazing 7 seconds of any presentation, EVER!

So how did it end?

Well I copied the file and without either person looking at eachother, we sort of mumbled that it was ‘good to meet eachother’ and she ran out of the room while I had to sit down and try and work out if I’d just seen what I thought I had seen!

So to this poor lady who is the subject of my dedication, I thank you … you made a long flight back to Singapore, literally fly by and I have been laughing out loud at random moments throughout the weekend as I remember the weirdest few seconds of any meeting I’ve ever attended.

Oh and to people who think we rule technology rather than the other way round … don’t get too cocky … if it can screw over the nice lady I met on Friday, it won’t think twice to bugger up your lives when it so chooses!

With thanks to The Famous Rob Mortimer.

S.

Designers are Wankers

While I think the title of this post is great, I think it is a much better title for book! I found this over at Patrick Syms & Yusuf Chuku’s Staufenberger Repository blog.

The Staufenbergers raise an interesting point … over the last couple of years, debate over "creativity" has been heightened and managed by professional consultants. There have been books, discussions, blogs, articles and so on … but much of the debate has been transformed into consultant-speak, tyrranised by the voice of the corporation, and starved of human touch.

And while I am more than happy to hear about companies trying to encourage creativity and innovation, I am just as interested in freeing creativity and innovation from the binds that turn it into process. My view of creativity is a little more disruptive and anarchic than this … and it is precisely those types of disruptions that I am most interested in.

Long live creative chaos!

S.

Ricky Gervais – Microsoft 1

Part one of two faux training videos for Microsoft UK employees featuring Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant in their roles from the BBC version of The Office. There is another one as well … visit Google Video to see for yourself!

Blogroll Love

Often, when I am looking for a bit of hypertext loving, I jump from blogroll to blogroll, never knowing where I am likely to end up. This is part of the fun … and also, often, part of the disappointment. It is fun when you don’t know where you are going to end up … what valuable gem you are going to discover … but it can be disappointing when you end up where you started.

Mike Sansone has a nice categorised blogroll … all focused around blogging, branding and business — the three “Bs”. A more random assortment of links can be found at Marktd … but these can ALSO be browsed by category.

But what are the other opportunities for finding some obscure blog love? Where can you go to find something that is new? What is your favourite method? What search site do you use?

Where do you get your blogroll love?

S.

What the Hoff?

Sometimes when you are loving the hypertext, you can never tell where you will end up. That is one of the joys! But then sometimes you stumble upon a site that gives you a sense of purpose. A direction. So you feel that providing your email address is a small price to pay for a greater good.

And then you get this … as a thank you … and now I feel a little dirty.

Thankyou

Ok … not as dirty as the dog. With thanks to Dino for the link.

S.

ChinesePod

China has been in my blood since childhood. A family friend tried (in vain) to teach me some of the Chinese language when I was about 10 years old — it was not that I was not interested — it was that I was only 10 years old and needed a little more structure to my learning.

Later, while studying at university, I was lucky to share a house with some Chinese scholars who were on a research assignment in Australia. One, in particular, Zhong Ning Ning, was a great man with a true passion for the world. Over a year or so he taught be as much Chinese history as could be crammed into our evenings, and in return I taught him English. I think I received more than I gave … but it was one of the highlights of my time at university … and it fueled my interest in China and its history.

Ning was also a man of great humour. I remember taking him to see Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, and at the "feast" I looked across the darkened theatre to see Ning’s reaction. I had been living with Ning for some time and we had become good friends — I had learned about his childhood, his family (waiting for him to return) and his belief in the communist system. Now, watching a movie with western decadence as one of its core themes, I was wondering what my friend would make of me and my society. After a pause, he looked across, smiled, and said, "wow, big dinner!". Those three words taught me about China than a whole year of conversation.

Over the last couple of years I have had the opportunity to travel to China for business and I have found my old interest in China reigniting. I am fascinated by the language, by the energy of the place, its history and its people. I am overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality of the people who I meet and work with — I have certainly been spoilt by this. And the sheer fact that they can converse in Mandarin, Cantonese and English (not to mention any number of dialects) … embarrasses me by my inability to clearly say much more than "good morning" and "thank you".

So I have started listening to some Mandarin lessons in my car on the way to work. It is slow going, but very rewarding. Even successfully asking "what is your name" elicits genuine joy in the faces of my friends. Some of my pronunciation leaves much to be desired, but I am making slow but sure progress thanks to Ken and Jenny over at Chinesepod.com. If you have an interest in a flexible online system for learning Mandarin, then check it out.

zai4 jian4

S.

Brand-tastic

Olivier Blanchard is "embracing his inner amateur" and has a nice summary of Tom Asacker’s tenth truths of branding. It made me want to explore more … and made me think about why branding blogs hold an interest for me. It comes down to perspective.

You see, I have always "read" things differently — whether it was a book or a situation, my view was often wildly different to the views of others. I used to think that made me strange. I kept my thoughts to myself. But then I started to like this difference … and began to voice my opinions. What I felt was "obvious" would be a revelation to others (admittedly this works the other way too).

And when it comes to branding, I am interested in those activating, empowering and challenging brands. I am not interested in lazy, narcissistic, complacent brands. I am fascinated by those who want to change the status quo … to make tangible change to the lives of people. Real lives. Real change. This is why I am interested in blogs and social media … it is why I don’t care for advertising and BIG ideas. And as Tom Asacker says:

Here’s your way out: Your brand! Understand and embrace your uniqueness, that simple, yet powerful emotional idea that distinguishes you and motivates clients. And then use your brand to inspire confidence and risk taking. Use your brand to attract attention. Use your brand to convey order and focus, and to achieve clarity, coherence, and commitment from everyone. Use your brand to instill a sense of belonging among your customers and associates. Use your brand to inspire sharing, open-mindedness and teamwork. Use your brand to bring creativity to life in the form of new and exciting products and services. Use your brand to prevent panic from creeping in during dufficult times, and to prevent arrogance from settling in during the good ones.

And if I could have said it any better, I wouldn’t have needed to quote it! It is always good to throw some light into the tunnel.

S.

The Servant of Chaos

I was looking back at some early posts and found this one … the first. It captured some of the hope and energy I had/have for this blog, and the blog world in general. Hope you don’t mind the repetition.

We begin with a rant. A rumble. A shout. There is more in the mind, more on the fingertips, more spilling from the edges of our quivering lips than can fill the words of a thousand weblogs.

The diaries of the insane, the newly reposessed, the righteous, the deluded, and yes, even I.
The daily diatribe of the left, the right, the religious and informed brooks no argument.
But we will give them one.

You and I.
We will give them one.

There are more to the words of consumers than the corporations expect.
We huddle in groups, in chat rooms.
We explode on the keyboards of a million call centres.
Our imagination is unheard of. Our thoughts cancel out the process.
We are your hearts and your minds.
We are everywhere, all places, all over the shop.
In your blood, at your workplace.
Serving you tea.
Writing you emails.

Escape?
We don’t really want to, for this is who we are.

One.
More.
A new opportunity opens every day.
It opens with the page.
The pen.
Another rant.
In control? Hell no!
We are in slavery to the chaos of our lives.
This is the manifesto of one.
S.

Google Slap

Terry_logo Google have been the darlings of the web world for quite some time, and yes, they have provided some pretty good stuff for free. But it is one thing to provide tools and technology, and quite another to actually ENGAGE with consumers … I think they prefer to call us "users".

My friend Terry has a website where he posts his flash games. He makes them for himself and gets a genuine kick out of the responses he gets from the people who play them. After quite some time, his site started to attract a bit of traffic, so he turned to Google Ads to help pay for his hosting. And while he thought deeply about placing advertising on his site, he also realised that he didn’t really have a choice … his hosting provider was already closing down the site due to its popularity — it was either upgrade or go home. And as you know, that costs money.

Things had been going well … until an email arrived from Google. They had detected fraudulent activity on his site and were cancelling his account. Immediately.

Of course, a number of Internet companies talk about openness and transparency … but it seems very few practise it. How do you appeal a decision to cancel your account? Who do you talk to? It seems that the only way to find out is to use a search engine to find out. Certainly there is nothing on the specific Google sites to help. And, of course, the best information was to be found on blog sites.

So after following an appeals process, Terry was duly informed that fraudulent behaviour (ie automated clicking) WAS detected on his site and that the appeal was rejected, and there was nothing more he could do about it. The behemoth had spoken. There is NO SOUP FOR YOU.

It is a shame that the companies like Google and Apple (who I have whinged about before … don’t start me on iPods again!) who have deep community support and the technology (and resources) to ENGAGE in dialogue with their communities simply refuse to do so. By doing so, they very quickly and radically turn evangelists into the opposite … these are the negative brand stories that can also spread quickly.

Did Terry cry like a baby? Well not that he told me … but it is nice to see that Google is starting to feel a little bit whiney.

S.