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Friday, 17 January 2014

2014 - galloping into year of the horse

We're two thirds of the way through January already. How did that happen?

Sure, it's good news for those in the west who are trying to have a "dry" January after an excess of Christmas partying and good news for those of us in the east who having skipped the pre-Christmas slowdown we might be used to, are looking forward to the pre Chinese New Year equivalent.

Chinese New Year decorations go up for Year of the Horse.
Year of the Horse is galloping towards us, the decorations are going up around town, the people are emptying out of town noticeably day by day. And we still have nearly 2 weeks to go! 200m people are likely to be on the move around China over the next 2 weeks. Sure, of the 1.3b people here, that's a drop in the ocean but that's not how it feels if you are anywhere on the public transport system.

Christmas holidays for those that had them are already a distant memory, CES has come and gone bringing with it more focus on wearable technology as the personal data monitoring theme gathers momentum, and "computers" as once we called them get ever smaller, more flexible and more powerful.

CES is just the big shiny toy show for the gadget geek, but as its' name suggests -Consumer Electronics Show,...it's all about marketing really. Who wins in buzz makes share prices rise and fall.

Ray Kurzweil, Google's Chief Engineer, has a more long term view with a remarkable track record / ability for seeing (& in some ways defining) the future.  Shiny toys round-ups from CES abound, but 5 minutes reading Ray's latest prediction piece will be 5 minutes food for thought well worth indulging in.

Albeit, I'd then follow up with this piece from an ex-Googler who moved to China, which gives a good helicopter view of why China is an exciting place to work at the minute. I love it! I can't wait to see what the "mountain thieves" (Chinese copy-cats) make of the e-ink opportunities.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Windows on content... a tablet view

November skipped by without a single post here... mostly because I moved to China and I've been sharing my adventures and discoveries over on tumblr & instagram.

But that doesn't mean I've been digitally awol.. instead I've been busy embracing and exploring growing mobile social network platform WeChat...the power of which is blowing my mind as my Chinese and better connected colleagues demonstrate how they are using it to bank, shop, check in, check delivery statuses.. "shai" (share/show off) anything they eat / see / buy.

As far as I can tell everything integrates seamlessly which is more than can be said for Windows 8.1... which I had to buy with a new laptop before I left the UK, only to find to my utter dismay Dropbox doesn't work properly and I can't get my Skype Voicemail from the Windows App.  Truly appalling. Skype is owned by Microsoft for goodness sake. You'd have thought they might have got the functionality on their own platform right!

Anyway, rant over...albeit I'm going to be mightily cheesed off until that stuff gets fixed.

I've been talking / thinking a lot about mobile & tablets since I got to China... the numbers make the mind boggle and user experience is clearly part of the brilliance of well integrated executions for the platforms.  I found this interesting 360 "you decide what you see"  via the angle of your tablet project courtesy of Springwise. Smart & well worth a watch.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Quote of the day

“Never expect someone to understand change when their livelihood depends on not understanding it”.

AKA Christensen’s ‘innovator’s dilemma’: 

Monday, 7 October 2013

Views on Hot desking... a blessing and a curse

Hot-desking.  It's all the rage in Adland at the moment it seems.

I have decidedly mixed views. I'm all for flexibility in my work environment, I enjoy working with lots of different teams, and I've been largely peripatetic for years, but I'm also currently wrestling with a couple of fundamental challenges.

One is emotional.. I spend 10 hours a day at work on average and I have to admit I like having my own "home".  I don't need an office, but I do like a consistent base to come back to. It's taken all sorts of shenanigans to get a decent sized screen of my own, as they are non-standard in the office, and I like having my own desk calendar for practical at-a-glance headlines, my own keyboard,  phone, mouse and crumbs... it's well known that desks are a health hazard, so I'd rather be sticking to my own germs thanks.

I value having my own chair, set up how I like it without having to spend 10 minutes adjusting it so I don't get back ache. I like the ability to leave my to do list (normally on a collection of post-its) in situ and a small but reasonable set of drawers to keep my nominal desk clutter in... be it biscuits, emery boards, a hair brush, hand cream, paracetamol, spare tights..... just stuff that I don't want to carry around all day everyday as well as a laptop and headphones, but  are good to have to hand, not a walk around a floor away and are pressed into service fairly regularly. Fundamentally as a planner at heart I also read books, yes the old printed kind... these don't fit into a ridiculously small 20cm square buckets either. Grrr.

Much of that's just piffling personal preference and habitual stuff, so no big deal in the grand scheme (well maybe other than having my biscuit tin to hand... that's serious!)

Professionally however I'm also seeing mixed impacts of the moves to hotdesking.

Cross-fertilisation of knowledge and ideas is great and sitting with different people definitely helps from that angle. Variety being the spice of life!  However, there's some challenges too:

Email is a necessary evil  we live with which we should all try to minimise. Personal relationships still count, which is why despite Skype, Hangouts and video conferencing sometimes we all just need to get on a plane or go to a face to face meeting.  An hour in a meeting can usually move things forward far faster than 72 emails.  So in the new hotdesking world I'm now finding I am sending more emails not less, something that goes against what I believe in simply because my productivity losses are increasing trying to resolve things face to face. I used to know where people sat, now I go to look for people on a different floor, spend 5 minutes wandering around looking for them, can't find them, can't leave them a note cos I don't know where they are sitting without their physical presence as visual reference, get stopped by someone else, and end up having lost time and failed to accomplish the task that would have taken 5 minutes to resolve with a quick chat so end up back downstairs sending an email.  I might as well just work from home if the face to face contact is becoming less practical.

My other concern is about managing teams and specifically growing junior talent.  We all sometimes need space and time to think in peace,there's generally so many people in my office wearing headphones anyone would mistake us for a call centre at a glance.  However, whilst an occasional sitting on your own so as not to be distracted is useful, as a manager it's hard to know what your team is up to when they are scattered around the floor.  Moreover, it's harder for everyone  in a team to keep up with what's going on in a fast moving world if they are all scattered, and I am deeply concerned for the youngsters who are brought in in grad teams, tend to stick to the company of sitting with their immediate peers (understandably), but in so doing are going to miss out massively on the opportunities to learn by osmosis and being involved in the day to day conversations and banter of sitting with a team of mixed experience levels. It's harder for managers to spot problems but also identify top talent if you don't have regular un-structured interaction with your team.

Monday morning rant over!  Still, did mean I finally put fingers to keyboard after 2 months of blogging silence! Sailing season must be over ;-)


Friday, 26 July 2013

Nourishing my inner nerd



Love this work from Nivea... Helping the consumer, and putting an ad close to the point of use. Simple, smart, probably not cost-effective at scale, but nonetheless award entries and social shares still have their value!

Digital dreariness, user experience & other musings

Wow. Something of a milestone. My first blog post since March, and it's almost August.  Rubbish.

I can make plenty of excuses...part ongoing deadline hectic-ness at work, part offshore racing season making demands on my time both in terms of time on the water and behind-the-scenes onshore and online, and maybe some small part of me (irrespective of the lack of either spare or available time to devote to writing), just hasn't been really excited by much in digital of late.

The march towards mobile / multi-device behaviours goes on a-pace, display /video formats evolve, (Solve Media's genius idea being one of my current favourites),  Facebook adds new formats, integrates vertically with handsets more, the measurement debates continue to rage, the data data everywhere meme continues to evolve and accelerate, but all are established themes now.

Nice touch from Barnes & Noble... make sending a baby gift super simple and immediate. Native Advertising can work!
There are still an astounding number of businesses large and small failing to grab the bull by the horns properly, standing as timidly on the edge of the digital diving board as I was standing on an Atlantic beach in Portugal a month ago.  The difference being after a test-the-water paddle, I took a deep breath and took a run at it and had a very lovely swim.  It's rarely as bad as it initially feels once you are in. Digital is no different.

Creatively there are more and more brands experimenting and learning which is great news for everyone, more and more campaigns that are properly integrated on and offline, but equally means I'm wowed less perhaps than I was 4 years ago.

Content is a recurring conversation in meetings everywhere. YouTube in May announced it's now seeing 100 hours of content being uploaded a minute. I even updated my annual tracker chart... just never got the chance to post it at the time:


Whilst you could argue around data protection, and Big Brother, I like the fact that Coke have created a feel good content opportunity from the cameras that constantly survey our world.  Don't suppose this will ever be an ad, it's content I found via social referral, and I'm going to share it again because it made me smile and engaged me. The formula for good content doesn't change.. it needs to engage a reaction, and it needs to be visible and discoverable, be that naturally, socially or with some paid-for firelighters underneath to get it going.


But beyond those very human moments captured and shared by Coke, user experience be it at a corporate / company level on an on-site /device level is finally getting more of the attention it deserves... but there's so much room for improvement.

I was astounded recently to find that the HeathrowExpress train website doesn't render properly on a mobile. Really!? Appalling.  A service aimed at business travellers? Primarily, only needing to answer 2 simple questions... what time are the trains and how much will the trip cost me... get a mobile optimised landing page at least.  Fine there's an app if you pinch and swipe around the site long enough... unless you've come in to a page other than the homepage via sitelinks in search.... but this is basic. Hygiene in todays world.

Google & Amazon however, won me over this week, not with their attempts to de-clutter my inbox with new tabs and categorisations but by simplifying my click journey... I didn't even need to read beyond the subject line of this Amazon delivery notification in my inbox to be able to click straight through to a USPS specific delivery page with the status of my order. No need to open an email, click through to a site, copy and paste package tracking numbers, just one click... and there's the info I wanted.


Work smarter not harder. It's a cheesy maxim frequently over-used, but it's those little things in a busy world that will keep me coming back.

Happiness is so often the simple things in life. Sunshine, things that make you smile and fewer clicks :-)

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Age - what's it to you?

Maybe it's because I'm planning birthday parties at the minute, maybe it's because at work they call me Auntie Fiona for to most I'm (relatively) old  I've been pondering on the notion of age. ( I should add that for some of my sailing gang I'm still a whipper snapper with all these crazy ideas about newfangled computers and mobile things, software, hardware, techniques and tricks though, so it's all relative.)

We used to call people over 60 OAPs. Luckily that's evolved at least if into the icky American term "seniors" or the nicer silver surfers, even if I dare you to suggest that to a number of ladies of my acquaintance who would rather not disclose their hairdressing secrets... after all my Mum taught me there were certain questions it was rude to ask.

 I have many 60+ friends, one of the offshore sailors I most admire and sail with confidently and happily is 70. I certainly don't think of them as old. There's no pipe and slippers or bad taste flowery cardigans or "I can't go out Coronation St is on". These are active, confident, outgoing people who mostly have a better social life than I do because they are lucky enough to have the thing I don't have - time, and for many a better standard of living that my generation will be able to afford. In their day mortgages were still big and hairy but rarely had hundreds of thousands in the price.

Society needs to get a better grip on valuing knowledge and wisdom over novelty, more reverse mentoring to drive the digital agenda.  I'm on my own personal crusade to upskill a handful of people, and it's a task that requires bags of patience I'll admit. Alone I can make a positive difference  to a few but not improve the lives of many at scale.  As a marketer, brands could be doing sooo much more to help - this is the age of the brand butler remember? Be useful don't just flog boxes.

So fair play to a brand with a long established relationship with the over 50s... (such youngsters(!)), for encouraging creativity, digital uptake and challenging the stereotypes with the Saga film competition, which somehow I've only just tripped over as digital treasure.

This was the winning entry. Be inspired. Then call your nearest older than you relative without a PC and talk to them about getting them a tablet, and set it up and show them how to use it.



You might want to download some of the Saga Apps whilst you're at it.