Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

This week I am looking at creativity. What does creativity mean to you? How do you maintain it and how does it manifest in your life?

These five posts should get you thinking (and hopefully acting) this monday!

  1. In the hustle and bustle of a busy life, Drew McLellan asks, how do you maintain your creativity. What do you do, what do you read and where do you go to make sure that your creative focus remains strong? Read Drew’s tips here.
  2. The Wall Street Journal reports that we should give up coffee and start daydreaming. It appears that all that coffee keeps us on a too-narrow focus and that we need to broaden our vision and begin daydreaming. It seems that the lack of attention is really just a door into a creative world that is just waiting for us.
  3. Mark McGuiness takes a walk on the wild side and interviews everyone’s favourite Twitter personality – the BadBanana. Tim Siedell – with almost half a million followers is a testament to the power of social media – showing that a niche focus and a unique voice will build you an audience.
  4. Richard Huntington discusses crimes against participation – and reminds us that we have to be a little more creative and a little more focused when it comes to online participation. Rather than thinking about what we can get people to do, we should be asking “what would I participate in”.
  5. Take a read of Rob Campbell’s series of creative insights masquerading as rants – all published while here in Australia as part of the AWARD awards program/Circus conference. He reminds us that the right creative solution for your client doesn’t always mean writing an ad – and that the best advice sometimes means ignoring everyone else’s advice.

Five Reasons NOT to Renovate Your Bathroom with Harvey Norman

When I worked at IBM, I often heard the quote, “no one ever got fired for buying IBM”. I loved this as an idea – and still do. It neatly encompasses the robust, trustworthy status of the big blue brand. It provides customers with the promise that while the price may come at a premium, that delivery will be flawless; and it provides employees with a rallying point, something to live up to. And in my years with IBM, I saw this promise fulfilled by teams of talented people. Not only were these people experts in their field, sometimes they came close to genius.

Recently, I went through the exercise of having my bathroom renovated. Now, I like to build things in my shed, but I am far from professional. I was more than happy to turn this over to professionals. Sure it will cost, but I wanted the expertise and experience. I didn’t expect a genius, but I did expect flawless execution. I did expect them to deliver a superior customer experience.

This did not happen.

So if you are in the market for a bathroom renovation and are considering Harvey Norman Renovations, then closely read these five reasons NOT to renovate your bathroom with Harvey Norman:

  1. The sparkle ends when the contract is signed. Our designer was great. He guided us through the myriad choices and budget options. Nothing was a problem and his suggestions really did help. But once the contract is signed, you are in a whole other world. The charismatic designer is replaced by the grumpy, uncommunicative subcontractor who invades your house and sets up camp. There will be problems and a million reasons why something cannot be done – or done well. You’re in for an argument every day.
  2. Sales bait and switch. The designer will sell you a vision for your new bathroom. That’s the one that you sign up for. But the reality is quite different. Take a look at the table below to see the silver words and an explanation of what they mean.
  3. The design is the blueprint, unless it’s too much work for the contractor. If you’re like me, you will be relying on the expertise of “Harvey Norman” to complete your bathroom to the best of their abilities. You’ll be expecting them to work to the agreed design and promise. But there will be many things that just seem to be “not possible”. Where something is “not in the design” it will be classed as a “variation”, but where the design appears to involve substantial effort, work arounds will be the order of the day. Note, while Harvey Norman variations will cost you extra, your variations do not result in a discount. It’s amazing what can actually be done if you push hard enough, but then again, it’s another argument that you have to have. 
  4. The site supervisor is non-existent. When something doesn’t go to plan, who do you speak with? When you want to check or validate the work of the contractor, who do you turn to? As explained above, I’m not a building professional. I rely entirely on the expertise, experience and goodwill of what I thought was Harvey Norman. Our “site supervisor” was only “on site” one day – in three weeks. And then, for a grand total of about 15 minutes. The small changes, accommodations and variations accumulate each day. There’s no supervision and no second opinion on the direction your bathroom is taking.
  5. Start and end dates. There is no end date in your contract, so your contractor can drag your project on as long as it takes. Our contractor would start about 11am and work on and off for a few hours before heading home for a well-earned rest. As to start dates – we weren’t even scheduled to start with the contractor – the paperwork had to be “found” and the work had to be scheduled – but only after a series of phone calls that got us all off to a bad start. What were we thinking? We’d only given them TWO MONTHS NOTICE to start.

Table of Harvey Norman Renovation promises and what they really mean

Promise What it means
“We do everything but the painting” If you can badger the contractor enough to actually do his job, you might have walls that will only need a couple of days sanding before you can paint them.
“We strip out everything and you’ll get a completely new bathroom” We will replace the wall below 1200mm which will be covered with tiles anyway, but above that you’ll still have the same old gyprock you thought you were getting rid of.
“Patch and make good” Actually replacing gyprock and cornices is not part of our deal – even if we have to smash it to fit. We’ll cover it up with a dash of plaster and hope we can make it look at least half as good as it was before we got here.

So – how did it all turn out? I’ll let you know when it is actually finished. In the meantime, I will write up some tips for “getting what was expected from Harvey Norman Renovations” – and even share some of the work in progress pictures.

Note: the image above is from Flickr. It’s not my bathroom.

UPDATE: Kudos to the Harvey Norman social media team who contacted me via LinkedIn. Good to see. Here's hoping that this leads to others having a better renovation experience.

Using to Find the Best Time to Tweet

I can remember years ago, being obsessed with email marketing metrics. I loved experimenting with email blasts to see what would work – from subject lines and call to action messaging right through to the time of sending. And it was this last one – the time of sending that really made a difference. Sometimes the open rate would double within a 20 minute window (and the same with clickthroughs).

But what about tweeting? Is there an optimum time for sharing a message or a link?

A way of distributing and measuring your tweets

StumbleUpon is one of those social media platforms that have been constantly hovering in my consciousness for years, but it never really captured my imagination. Occasionally it would remind me of its presence with an avalanche of traffic hitting my blog after a well timed “stumble” from some generous soul, but it never made it into my arsenal of social media tools. Until now.

supr-clicks StumbleUpon is a social network that allows its members to rate and review websites. The underlying social network, recommendation engine and tags allow us to easily discover content that matches our own interests and tastes, and to share it with others who share similar interests. It uses the simple “thumbs up / thumbs down” mechanism and can bring your website to its knees if a well-connected SU member rates you well.

But like many people, I have been using Twitter for this sort of interaction and recommendation. – or sometimes Hootsuite – are my Twitter tools of choice to shorten long URLs and to provide metrics on clickthroughs. But what I really needed was a way to know WHEN to tweet. I didn’t just want analytics, I wanted insight. That’s where StumbleUpon’s comes in. combines the URL shortening and funky reporting of with the added depth of StumbleUpon. So now I can share a link with Twitter and ALSO share it with StumbleUpon. And in a relatively short period of time (even a few days), I have been able determine when the most effective tweeting times are.


As you can see, the two most effective times appear to be just before 7am and just before 5pm. That means just before most people get to work and just as they are finishing up for the day (in Australia). The 7am tweets also correspond nicely with the afternoon on the west coast of the USA.

And I know this after using for just under a week. As more data is gathered, I am sure these suggested posting times will shift. But thus far I have been super impressed.

There is plenty more to learn about – and you can certainly dig down deeper into individual posts. But there’s also much you can do with StumbleUpon such as reviewing sites and building your connections.

But what are you waiting for? If you haven’t joined, do so. Install the bookmarklet to make link sharing easier, and connect up your Twitter account. Oh, and don’t forget to share this link and vote me up 😉

Five Reasons to Visualize Your LinkedIn Network

We all love a pretty picture, right? Well, here is a nice application of network data from LinkedIn Labs (they have a labs group – who knew?). Basically, you login to LinkedIn and the tool processes your network information and turns it into a stunning network map. Then it is up to you to label the groupings of colour that represent your connection bases. Here’s mine.


And while this is cool in and of itself, the other thing that I like is that it is interactive. So not only can you click on each of these points of connection to see the person you are connected to, you can also see where your points of connection overlap. This gives you some sense of who you know, who you both know – and therefore some context for conversation – especially where your connection is purely virtual.


This can also yield insight. For example, I didn’t realise that David Alston from Radian6 is connected to Venessa Paech, the community manager at Lonely Planet until it was revealed here. But it makes sense. Especially if Lonely Planet use Radian6 for their social network monitoring.

So now I have (at least) five reasons to visualise my LinkedIn network:

  1. Surfacing connections: A little quick thinking can yield real value. Think through the reasons WHY people know each other and you will generate some real insight.
  2. Recommendation: Next time I speak with Venessa, I can ask for her opinion or recommendation on Radian6 (should I be considering it)
  3. Relationship and context is enhanced: knowing who and knowing what adds depth to online relationships. This is essential in a world where business relationships can be carried out across geographic boundaries
  4. Demonstrating the value of the network: Building out your personal network can take a great deal of time. Sometimes you won’t know when you will get a return on your investment. This sort of tool makes a network of business connections far more fascinating.
  5. Firing-up your creativity: Maybe this is just me, but there is something slightly addictive in this. Being able to click and connect is allowing me to see possibilities I simply had not realised. The power of visualisation feels like it is making sense of the underlying network data for me, and freeing me to think about action (what to do) rather than figuring out where to go.

Now – that is useful!

The State of the Internet in Australia – one size doesn’t fit all

It is rare to see Australia-specific internet usage statistics freely available, but ComScore have released a grab-bag of aggregated data that you can use to impress your boss, your client or your nerdy partner. Sure you have to register before you download, but it’s well worth it.

The data is for November or December 2010 and includes:

  • An in-depth analysis of the online audience in Australia and how we compare to other countries
  • Overview of key trends in use of social networks (we are loving photos and shifting away from instant messaging)
  • Retail has grown year-on-year and we DON’T always go to offshore sites for ecommerce
  • Travel planning continues to grow strongly – with the Qantas website leading the way
  • We may like to visit entertainment/video sites, but we consume less than our global counterparts. Expect this to change as the NBN amps up our download speeds

One aspect that surprised me, is that our consumption and usage of finance and business sites is growing and at 52.1% has higher reach than the worldwide average (which sits at 45.2%). It’s a wonder that we are NOT seeing more innovation on these corporate/finance sites given such usage.

comscoreOz2011There’s some great information for marketers in the report – so do download it.

The one thing that is clear is the correlation between heavy web users and what they do online. The top 20% of web users consume 61% of online page views and 61% of all time (minutes) spent online. This means that you need to DESIGN your digital strategy around these behaviours (and activities) in ways that activate and engage these audiences in quite different ways and in different places. It’s not a one-size-fits-all world anymore.

Google Search Gets Even More Social

In light of my recent post on networked group think, I am concerned at Google’s recent moves to extend their social search functionality. One of the reasons Google was valuable to me was due to its wide net and broad focus. Social search may just make Google too narrow for my liking – ut I am pleased to see that individuals are at least able to customise the social sources of your searching.

So far this new version of social search seems to only apply to US-based accounts – but expect it to come to a search engine near you, very soon.

Ideas, Innovation and the Danger of Networked Group Thinking

Last year, when Steve Rubel looked into the figures from and realised that Facebook is driving more traffic to news portals than Google is, it appeared that we were witnessing the beginning of a trend, not the end of one.

Since that time, there has been a lot of hype and discussion about Facebook’s 500 million members. Some claim it’s a landmark and that Facebook will just continue to swallow the internet whole. In fact, for some people that I know, Facebook IS their entire experience of the world wide web.

This seems to be confirmed by the following graph from which shows the traffic trends for Google and Facebook seem to be converging. Or more precisely, Google is dipping down and Facebook is ascending.facebookvsgoogle2010

Now, I have written about this as a phenomenon before. Social judgement not only happens online – it has been happening in every social interaction since the dawn of time. But increasingly it seems, we are relying on who-we-know to know what we know. This sounds great in theory – smart people filtering, curating and sharing their knowledge and expertise – bringing order to the chaos of abundant information.

But I wonder …

Are we limiting the gene pool of our ideas?

Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From reminds is that innovation, invention – or what he calls “the slow hunch” – require the time and space to collide with other ideas. (HT to Chris Noble for the video.)

What if social networks reach a certain point and then begin to shrink? What if the noise to signal ratio becomes so large that we begin to partition ourselves and our interactions to those of “like mind”. Steven Johnson says “Chance favours the connected mind” – which I love. But what if those ideas swim around in ever shrinking ponds starved of oxygen by the blue-green algae of group think?

I don’t know about you, but this is not the internet I want to play in. It’s not the internet that I want to do business in.

Get out of your internet comfort zone

Years ago when I ran a creative team, I used to regularly drag them away from their desks to visit cultural spaces. We’d go to the Museum of Contemporary Art. We’d catch buses or trains. We’d experience the day-in-the-life of everyone else. I saw it as fuelling their creativity, and it worked.

It worked because it reminded people to be social. To be social in their experience and in the work. It brought a social connection and a context to their creativity. It’s part of what I am calling “The Social Way”.

But now I feel we need to increasingly push ourselves outside of our internet comfort zones. We need to click those links randomly. We need to visit, search and read sites that are outside our narrow focused expertise.

What are we looking for? Our next great idea. I’m hoping to collide with one today.

Come to Coffee Morning During Sydney Digital Week – March 7-11, 2011

 SDW Coffee mornings is an informal get together that happens each week in Sydney. No topics are off the table. But neither is it structured. It’s open to anyone and everyone. Many attendees are interested in social media, but we also attract people with interests in advertising, marketing, technology and web development. Occasionally we host international guests who want to experience good coffee and conversation first hand.

Now in its fifth year, Sydney Coffee Mornings happen from 7am each Friday morning (with most people arriving after 8am) – at the Single Origin cafe – 64 Reservoir St, Surry Hills.

During March, as part of the ad:tech Sydney conference, @coffeemornings will be part of what is being billed as “sydney digital week”. The line up is:

If you haven’t been to Sydney coffee morning before, please make Sydney Digital Week, the week that you do!