Friday, 29 January 2010

Juxtaposed Lives

I guess we all live juxtaposed lives to some extent. Today I found things more than a little out of kilter.

Working for a Financial Services company, and helping create communication material, I work as part of a team to share targets & ambtions for our part of the business. That can run into millions of pounds. To some people that means I work for "the man".

That's all well and good, but I've never been in the game to make money or feed the system. I'm really interested in people, connectivity, culture & technology.

And my faith is in Jesus, not in anything else.

So today brought an increased tension between all these numbers that get talked about and the horrific realities of poverty and suffering.

Following a meeting at work about how we might tell our story in a particular way, to try and win a lot of business, I was reading this article about what's going on in parts of Haiti. Go on. Read it.

Children the same age as the weeWeir.

For sale.

For a tenth of the price of the much vaunted iPad. A CHILD. While this article brought this smack in front of my face, it's sadly not that this is the first time things like this happen. A quick look at Stop the Traffik's content says that between two and four MILLION people at bought and sold every year. Some for as little as £16 (US$20). WHAT? That's a ticket to Avatar in 3D, a hotdog and a drink. FOR A PERSON?

I was ashamed. I wanted to cry, but couldn't.

I wondered if I should listen to the thought of getting up, lifting my bag, getting on a plane and going to help in Haiti. I knew nothing about disaster relief, but surely another pair of hands is going to help, right?

But I didn't.

Clearly, my first responsibility is to Jenny & Beth.

I see the juxtaposition. And I'm horrified. So what can I do? I'll continue to give finance. Which I'll only earn by having a job. But is that all we can do? As a follower of Jesus, I'll continue to pray. I can also continue to remember.

What else can we do from here? It might be time to run 10k and get you guys to sponsor me to do it. Or it might be time to do more.

What can we do?

Mediated View of the World

At the CofS event I attended last week, I heard Professor John Eldridge talking make reference to us living in a mediated world.

While I would completely agree. But it's nothing new. It's not something that the advent of radio or TV has instigated, it's just become more noticable, we've become more savvy (or cynical) and that the internet has exposed much of it.

Since our earliest days, the evidence suggests that our history has been passed down from one generation through stories, songs, pictures, etching, carvings - the list goes on. By it's very nature, these events are mediated. They are not experienced first hand. So what's the point then?

Our view of the world has always been mediated. In every aspect of life we are given the *facts* from a certain point of view. What's unclear, however, is how objective, impartial or reliable that point of view actually is. I guess that's why it's helpful to get a balanced view of the world. To hear things from more than one person who was there. There's plenty of content I don't watch/read/listen to because I frankly don't think it's reliable.

We're far more aware of the simple (and sometimes complex) plays of the Marketing Professional (a mis-nomer?). Gently manipulating our view of the world to favour their brand of product or service.

If I'm uncertain of the validity of some sources of information, how do I reconcile my faith in God and that there are truths I hold to be unshakeable. Some might argue that these things I hold to be true are only "true" from a certain point of view. Other might say that nothing is true and it's all just a breath in the wind, but the convictions of my soul say otherwise.

The risk is that dogmatism sets in and there's no room for grace. No room for the breathe of God to blow through, bringing life.

So yes, my view of the world is mediated. And I'm not ignorant of that. And I think that's all I can ask for. Other than some discernment of what is really going on.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

We're just friends

I've written before about volume vs quality.

Something I heard last week made me think that we can all have lots of connections with people - either in person or online.

We might have gone to school, played music, worked or even shared food together. Although that last one is unlikely given my appetite...

Or we might have commented on the same blog, listened to the same podcast or joined the same topic-based social network and made a connection through that

Anyway, however we're connected - do we place a different value on how that connection is made?

Whether offline or online, we're still friends - to a greater or lesser extent. Sure we only know as much about each other as we make time to find out, but that doesn't mean we're not friends.

And we can, according to studies, only handle 150 connections anyway!

Or do you see it differently?

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


I guess this isn't a new thing - in fact I've been aware of the need to change my behaviour on this for a long time.

Listening to this a week or so, I was reminded of the destructive nature of judging. Especially when it is the type of judging that results in condemnation. I'm not talking about our national legal systems, but our everyday judging of situations, circumstances & ourselves.
"You'll never make it"

"You're no good"

"I'm just always going to fail at this"
I've come to appreciate that, now I'm in my very early Thirties, I'm much slower to conclude that everyone else is wrong and I am (once again) correct. I might talk a good game, that I am right all the time, but I am definitely more aware of when to let things go and see if my judgement was right before declaring it to be the end of the matter. Maybe that's an age thing.

Some might say I'm not getting better at this, but we'll just have to see.

I still remember speaking to a manager at work about family stuff and saying "I can't stand Disney". And I can't. It's true. It drives me crazy. However, that's not what the person was asking about. They were about to tell me about the amazing experience they had with their family - at Disneyland. Oops.

We laughed about my outburst of anti-Walt vitriol (it wasn't *that* bad, honest) and all was well. But the lesson was learned. Actually, Disney isn't bad. Judging that everyone who goes to Disney is vain or empty-headed is just plain wrong. For some people, it's the greatest place on earth.

I just don't think that's me.

So what's this all about? Well, my heart wants my head to be wise. Wisdom comes from understanding - rather than linear thought patterns (which in my experience is how judging can be manifest).

How can I be wise - maybe by seeking to understand what is going on and why. And then looking to see what someone needs to help with that.

Do I see an asylum seeker as a hanger-on or as a person who needs as much grace as I do?

Can I believe that I can do things with music again after a (necessary) quiet period? It's easy to say "where's the time", "who cares about what you have to offer" and "there's no point".

But there's more to life than what we can see with our eyes - and there's more to circumstances than them simply unfolding just like they used to. Too much time can be wasted judging the minutiae of life and I forget just to live it...

How are you at discerning? How can we get better at it?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

None of the above

On the radio the other day, I heard a selection of Vox Pop clips including one where a man said:

"I want an extra box on the ballot paper for the election - a box for 'none of the above'. I don't want any of them".

While an indictment of many political animals in the UK, it got me thinking about who I would vote for.

Then I read Ian Pearson's ideas about re-designing democracy. Read it here.

His central idea:

At an election, why not allow people to vote for the party of their choice and also for the local candidate of their choice. So you tick two boxes, not much extra effort.

It's not a million miles from the current Scottish Election system where you get to vote for a candidate tied to a party and then to vote for a party.

I'd like to see this trialled on a local election and see what happens. See if more people turn out. Sure, some people might not get it first time out - but is that any different from just now?

Have a read and see what you think.

Monday, 25 January 2010

challenging your fish bowl

For many people, the world of New/Social Media is a fish bowl. There are experts - legitimate, wannabe and those who are anything but. There's a culture, a loose set of mores.

I love the possibilities that these new tools for communication offer for deepening our connections as people - for understanding each other better, and hopefully being more transparent.

Last week, I had the privilege of spending some time with a few others hearing a few papers presented under banner of "Virtualisation and Society". Hearing from illustrious speakers like Dr David Pullinger, Dr Heidi Campbell and Prof John Eldridge sharing their perspectives on the impact of technology - and media - was a good stretch of my brain.

Interestingly, a lot of the content came from a different place when I think about those people in this space that I've learned the most from. People I've never met, but respect like Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan and Seth Godin mainly come at this stuff with a Marketing head - therefore about making connections to sell something - from ideas to widgets.

The speakers mentioned - and the others - were much more concerned that what was happening and who was controlling it.

I guess in my naivety, I had never thought about things like that. Okay, so I'd figured out that Google has commoditised our online identities and behaviours to make search (very) profitable for them, and Facebook might be trying to do the same - but can we say the same for Twitter? I'm not so sure.

For some, I guess it doesn't matter, it'll all be alright in the end. And I'm not fearful about who is running the show - I'm pretty sure it's not Rupert Murdoch this time. Phew.

So, anyway, the thing I picked up was a sense of balance. That there's value in hearing dissenting opinion - voices that challenge your perspective. In the end the knowledge of your convictions can mature into wisdom as a result of being tested.

As I said to Thomas recently, I think there's tremendous value is hearing people you don't always agree with.

Now that's not to say you fill your head with things without weighing them up. I'm trying to get better at this.

So what have I done? Re-dressed the balance in Google Reader, taking out some of the Marketing add-ons that I didn't get much from and adding in some *dissenting* voices. All in the interest of healthy, stimulating debate around the topic.

What do you think?

Sunday, 24 January 2010

chrome = quick boot?

While I hope to spend most of my time in the present, I've definitely got an interest in what's next and what opportunites that might present themselves.

So, I try and keep up with some futurologists and what they are banging on about. Ian Pearson talked about something he misses from the past. He misses the Sinclair Spectrum because
"there is nothing on the market now with the same functionality as the legendary Sinclair Spectrum, which used to allow users to play games or write simple programs on it within seconds of switching it on"
While my Android powered G1 doesn't boot up that quickly, having seen the speed at which some netbooks (particularly those running light versions of Linux) can boot, it made me wonder if that's what Google are trying to do with their Chrome OS...?

Saturday, 23 January 2010

it's no' here

Just a week ago, there was still a few inches of snow in our garden, on the way to work yesterday, I noticed a few tiny islands of grubby ice.

Like many things in life, how quickly we forget...

Or at least how quickly I forget. Those moments of wonder as the snow kept falling. Moments of joy as the sun lit up the world, reflecting off the whitened ground. And those moments of skiting down a slope on a piece of plastic.

It's completely right to live here. Now. As asbojesus said:

However, it's good to remember and be grateful. It's good to remember and learn. It's good to remember, lest we forget the grace we live. It's also good to dream, to think about possibilities.

What are you remembering today?

What are your dreams?

Friday, 22 January 2010

What do you know about it?

A calming, perspective-creating piece of film from the American Museum of Natural History.

Being very small has never been so simply stunning to me since our first picture of the weeWeir.

What do you think?

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Is Facebook becoming a Blogging Platform (amongst other things)?

I was thinking about some approaches to social media for a friend the other day and a thought struck me. Just one. But a good one.

In the *past* (just a few years), if you were trying to gather people online around a particular product, service, cause or issue, you'd set up a blog or wiki site and that would be great for publishing. A bit tricky to format if you had zero web skillz, but with time, effort and good content, do-able.

With Facebook launching pages last year, and taking a few feet of their walled-garden, don't you think that this will be the first place many will think to start? It's pretty simple to create a page and share it - for your friends to then share it. And you get analytics (albeit limited compared with other tools). And as people get involved, they get notifications in their feed that show what's going on - driving interest and hopefully building the conversation towards creating community. You'd wonder why someone would go to the hassle of faffing with wordpress or blogger if you can just create a Facebook page and add your content?

Okay, there's lots of reasons why not - like search, like layout contol, like music plugins being poor, like not being tied to *one* platform, like analytics. But if you just want to, say, start a campaign to get RATM to number one in the UK singles chart, why not start it on Facebook and see if it flies...

Just a thought.

Is it any good?

Thank you, Mr Brown

During a recent experience as a customer, I was reminded of the value of listening and staying close to those you consider "customers".

Too often, we get caught up in making the widget, following a process or maybe just trying to make everything fit a way we can handle it. But while there's nothing new under the sun, there's something impersonal about making your customers into something to be processed. Some might suggest that in the need to understand demand, control and manage risk, we become too separated from the person we making the widget/product or service for.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever made something into a process to be done as efficiently as possible?

I have. Sometimes that's alright. Churning out the same item 25 times, for example. When I get asked for a piece of material at work, I find it tempting to always to re-using some previous piece of work - taking my eye off the uniqueness of this piece of work. I'm all for re-use, but not at the expense of impact. Not at the expense of thinking about the audience you are creating for.

Every moment we can create something new. Every interaction can be something special.

Monday, 18 January 2010

What? No and Thank You.

A few weeks ago, I made reference to some car-related challenges we were facing.

The weekend just passed, we collected our repaired car.

It felt like a real struggle to get resolution to this situation, and I won't go into the minutiae of the full story, but there were three significant events:

  1. the car broke down with an almost identical fault that was repaired while under warranty in December. Jenny was headed home with the weeWeir at the time of this happening.
  2. the garage were claiming no responsibility as the car was now out of warranty - resulting in a quite heated phone conversation between Jenny and a service person at the garage.
  3. the 2195 word email I sent to the Managing Director of the company - in which I gave the full story from when we bought the car in June 2009 until the moment the email was sent.

In the end, a few things happened. The car was repaired. We split the cost with the garage, which was a fair result (from our point of view, and hopefully from theirs!). We also learned that there's a lot of things that matter a LOT at the time, but in 100 years will have any impact?

I really don't like complaining. I don't think the world owes me anything and I'm certainly not convinced that everything should be perfect. In fact, I'd much rather take action by not using - or not recommending - a provider, product or service than by shouting and bawling about it. However, this time there was a clear sense of imbalance, and that's no good for anyone. My email wasn't abusive, vindictive or nasty (even if I do say so myself) but it stated what happened and why we felt let down. Our Mini Adventure was made possible by this company. They were *brilliant* at that time. Why not now?

Giving credit where it's due is important. The Managing Director of Eastern Holdings was absolutely first-class in the way he responded to my letter. I'll say it publicly, I would do business with their group again. I might not go back to the original garage, but I have confidence that their business is being run in the right way. Thank you, Mr Brown & your colleagues who helped get this sorted.

Funnily enough, I read this by Seth Godin today. He makes the valid point about the use (or not) of *but* when prefacing a complaint.

Read his post and see what you think.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

My favourite podcasts.

Okay, I promised I'd list my favourite - and therefore the most studiously listened to - podcasts.

So, looking at iTunes, I've got stuff from BAC, TED and WC. But here's the ones I will always keep up-to-date with. In reverse order:

5: The Moth - stories told live, without notes to audiences in the US. Can be funny, sometimes odd, but always an insight into real life in other parts of the western world and how to tell a story.

4:Pods & Blogs + Digital Planet -It's a tie. the former being tales of online culture, technology & innovation from BBC Five Live. The latter being a BBC World Service programe with a global take on what's happening with technology. I probably would have tied three ways with the Guardian Tech Weekly, but it's lost it's way a bit without Aleks and Jemima!

3: Something Beautiful - a (partially) homegrown collection of stories of people's faith journeys. Knowing one of the hosts from back in the day helped me persevere when Thomas was on his soapbox, but the encouragement from listening to these stories has been tremendous. Leaves me thinking what my story would be.

2: Spark - a recent addition to my downloads, but what a quality one. Beautifully produced, witty and packed with insights. All about our digital lives - asking questions about how we live and how technology is influencing that.

And the podcast that always gets listened to first (and often repeatedly) is

1: Mars Hill (Grand Rapids) - teaching from a church in North America might not be the obvious one, but I have found the content from these guys to be thought provoking and continued in a widening of my view of the world.

So that's my top 5!

Thank you to all the producers and contributors who keep my ears filled with varied and helpful things!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Historical Context

Okay, so I'm no Indiana Jones. I'm certainly not a *famous historian*, but something jarred when I read that "windows 7 is the fastest selling operating system in history" (Craig Beilinson, Microsoft Director of Marketing). Well woop-to-do.

But isn't history far bigger than technology and far more complex than how many units have been sold? It felt odd that we can put the sales of software in the same category as the vastness of human experience.

Isn't it limiting?

I get that technology is an integral part of our lives - and in particular in the history of this generation. I can see that. But another statement (one I find a little obvious) is "iPhone 3GS is the fastest, most powerful iPhone yet". At least that statement (banal as it may be) doesn't compare the selling of some relatively short-lived collections of particles with the building of the pyramids, or the fossilisation of aquatic life.

Maybe I'm over-reacting, do you think?

Monday, 11 January 2010

Days like this are sweet

A friend (and former McColleague) used to sing the first few lines of a Chemical Brothers song over lunch. But not like that. At least, I don't think it was like that.

Anyway, yesterday was one of those days.

Okay, so it was my birthday. In case you missed this. But I got a long lie (7.55am!). I also got to play with the WeeWeir for a bit. I got to spend time with parts of my family and speak to others on the phone. I got to take a walk in the snow, investigate a few nooks & crannies and take some pictures. I got to eat cake. I got the surprise of a curry when Jenny came home from work. I got to speak to some friends on the phone. I got a fair few birthday greetings over the interwebs and I got some cards & gifts too.

Days like this are sweeeeeeet.

Thank you, everybody. Let's do it all again soon!


PS - there were things I missed and people I didn't Hi5 and things I might have handled differently, but I mustn't grumble.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Happy New Year

No, I've not lots my grip on reality. Or been frozen in time for the past 10 days (though that's entirely possible given this).

365 days ago, I was writing about Turning Thirty. Today, for the mathematicians among us, it's time I turned Thirty-One. Check me...


What does that mean? Well, I've come to find my birthday as a landmark. Not everyone does, and that's alright, but I like to take stock of life when I mark another year passing in my life. This year is no different - except it is.

Jenny, Beth & I are in a state of transition as we look to sell our current home and purchase another. Let me know if you want to buy it, would you! There's some interesting developments going on with me role at work. Beth continues to grow from an infant into a toddler. But all this change is nothing new. Life is always changing. We are always changing.

So what is this New Year all about then?

Well, as I thoght about this, an email from Clive pointed me towards a talk at Passion 2010 by Andy Stanley. This was just where I was at.

He was talking about some key areas of life.

Imagine 3 chairs that you can sit on -

1) is how you are (character)
2) is who you know
3) is what you do.

We tend to focus on what we do - what Job we will do, where we will do it etc - he said when you look a daniel he was noted for his character, they found no corruption in him.

We focus on who we know - 5000, friends on twitter, networking, getting ahead in life.

We should focus on who we are in christ, and our character - one way of finding this out it is to pick 7 things you would want to be said about you at your funeral.

He suggests that the clearer you are about who you want to be the more you will live it out. This all is held in the light that it is all about God's glory.

Boom. There it is. "7 things you would want to be said about you at your funeral".

So here we go:

* a follower of Jesus.
* a loving husband.
* a great father.
* a teachable son
* a faithful friend
* a willing servant
* a frutiful creator

As I start out on this New Year, year 32 of my life on the planet, my hope is to be these things. Not do, to nurture being.

In many ways, this feels like the culmination of a load of lessons I've been learning over the past seven years. It also feels I'm starting out all over again. And I like that.

There's lots to unpack and a few questions that need answered, but for now, here's to a great year.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Social what?

I wrote this post on 4 February 2010. And it was never posted.

It's funny to see how things have changed in 23 months.

I don't listen to as much of what Chris Brogan or Mitch Joel are saying - mainly as my interest in social media waned a little. Not in the potential of the tools, but perhaps in the incessant need for money to be made. Or people talking about how to make money.

Anyway, I thought I'd post it anyway and see if anyone else found it funny to see how the world has moved on:

Social what?

Some slides explaining what Social Media might be about (first half is good):

How to get started in Social media:

Some fascinating stats about Social Media:

Top Social Media sites:


Food for thought - be a leader by sharing your views, not just name-dropping!:


What is RSS:

You can get a free RSS reader from Google here: Google Reader. The key here is to keep on top of what you follow... I can have anything from 100 to 1000 unread dependant on how much I have been keeping up with reading. Why? Well, there are so many people making noise, it can be good to listen to a few voices more regularly.

Some feeds to add to your reader for Social Media goodness:

Seth Godin: (a fine example of insight, regular posts and some good ideas!)

Mitch Joel: (Canadian, Marketing, Loads of insight on Social Media, Journalism & Publishing):

Chris Brogan: (Brogan is one of the genuine Social Media consultants, you can see one of his presentations/webinars here: His blog:

Jeremiah Owyang: (Social media strategy & an employee of Forrester Research (not his company blog tho!):

track Standard Life on twitter: you get some nonsense, but some gems:,


What is twitter:

(I'd recommend most of the content that Commoncraft put out as it's pretty simple to follow and gives great insight too!)

A CEO who uses twitter:

This is what can happen if you are active on twitter:

The search function on twitter is quite something. You can basically search any keywords and see what people are saying. Then add that feed to your RSS reader and get a realtime update as it develops. People use the hashtag principle to categorise content. swineflu is one of the most popular at the moment.

Okay, so it's all within the fishbowl of the userbase, but as the numbers (and demographics) show, this is not a static community. When Oprah got involved the move to mainstream gathered significant momentum.


You can also set up Google Alerts to send you email digests of any mentions of pretty much any keywords. Check here for more:

Monday, 4 January 2010

I knew I liked the guy...

We've all got our critics. Mark Driscoll, pastor of one of the fastest growing churches in North America, has plenty.

I might not agree with him on everything he says (especially when it comes across that he's got is all figured out), but I did agree with him when he said this:

New Years Resolution #2 - I resolve to make fun of any man who owns anything with the word Twilight on it,...

Perfect. I agree.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Do you have an Open ID?

You probably do and don't know it. If you have any account with Google, Microsoft or Yahoo (and a fair few other services) then you do.

Then why not follow this blog by joining the Friend Connect box on the right hand side.

It'll let me know you care ;-)

Not sure what an Open ID is? Here you go:

Boom: there it is.

I'm sure I've got that title wrong, but I'm not really bothered.

Tom Peters has written some really inspiring thoughts for 2010 here. It's about resilience, expectations and of course - excellence.

Have a read and see if you agree or not.

Is it time to look at our expectations and about our attitude to excellence?

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Impossible is nothing

One of the guys who makes the KC run shared this on Facebook yesterday. Blew me away.

"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."

Friday, 1 January 2010

get drawing

I've been catching up on the blogs I follow over the past few hours...

Dan Roam (author of the excellent Back of the Napkin) shared this story of an airline hostess who encouraged passengers to draw during flight to break things up.

Now, I'm not great at drawing, but that's not the point of the book, or the story. Reading this story made me think about how accessible drawing is. We got the weeWeir a simple magna-doodle-type toy for Christmas (no, it wasn't from Santa), and the story makes me want to encourage Beth to be able to express herself with pictures as well as words.

In other thoughts, I also found it a little odd that people had put the artwork in a museum already. I get the reasoning, but it still seems a little strange.

What do you think? Can you draw?

for the road ahead

So it's 2010. Who'd have thought we'd burn through a decade, just like that. But we didn't, did we? There have been such rich experiences in our lives that I can't help but be amazed we packed it all into a few short years.

Thing is that while I appreciate that it's a new year, it doesn't feel like a New Year.

Why? Well, it's my birthday in a few days (which is not a plea for gifts or sympathy). In recent years, I've found that my birthday is more of a point of reflection and renewing than the calendar year ticking over.

So, I've not really done a lot of thinking about the past year yet - or planing this year either. I'm not quite ready. Reading what Stewart wrote showed that I'm definitely not as ready as he is.

But I will be soon.

I've been thinking about dreams. Some long ignored, others intentionally swept aside, waiting for the right time. I'm asking things like - is now the time. Is this when I should be pursuing that idea further?

All that said, I'm not about to lay out the next 365 days in a rigid template. It's not about having it all figured out.

So, what can we do on 2010 then people? Life is, after all, for living - right?

"Second star to the right - and straight on 'till morning"