And here I am predicting the Facebook Ad system

January 23rd, 2018

August 2007 in the Sunday Tribune:

Google are one of the most powerful technology companies ever and are the undisputed King of search with many pretenders to their throne. So why is a social networking site slightly better than mySpace or Bebo going to potentially be their most serious threat ever and not Microsoft, Yahoo! or Ask.com?

The hottest tech website this year so far has been Facebook. What once was a website dedicated to American college students proudly displaying their drunken pics and videos has now gained so much mindshare that even Rupert Murdoch, owner of Facebook rival mySpace has publicly stated he wishes mySpace were more like it. Individuals and businesses are flocking to join the latest online hotspot but the site isn’t so hot with search engines.

Unlike other social networking sites, Facebook does not allow search engines to come in and snoop around and catalog all the media being created and consumed inside this massive online community. For search engines like Google who are proud of their ability to monitor the web for newly uploaded content and display it in their search results as quickly as 15 minutes later, the inability to access a vibrant and energetic community creating millions of new pieces of data every day makes Google less powerful and less useful. Google’s motto of “organizing the world’s information” might need to add “except the data of 50 Million Facebook users”.

As with all social networks, their shine fades and people will move on to the next bright young thing. Being accutely aware of this, Facebook started giving developers access to the technology behind the site, allowing anyone to build applications which could plug directly into the Facebook. In one bold move Facebook turned itself into the web’s version of a lego set, where anyone could build any kind of creation on top of it. This new open “platform” is only around a short few months but already 1000s of new web applications have been built for Facebook which in turn has attracted millions more people to the website, causing them to create even more content Google can’t get to but the Facebook search engine can. Search companies see Facebook as a giant blackhole on the web because these Facebook applications suck in the world wide web but no data ever escapes back. Facebook now offers all their own content on top of everything you can get elsewhere online, so there is no need to leave.

If facebook offers everything to their users, then people will spend less time on the open web, which will naturally impact on Google and their ad revenues. With Google properties and partner sites getting used less, this is going to impact on Google ad revenue. Google as well as being a search company is the most successful online ad company ever and much of this is down to their relevance technology which matches the most suitable ad to whatever webpage is being viewed.

If Facebook emulated Google’s history and used an ad system like Google’s but tied into the detailed profiles of millions of Facebook people, they would easily out-Google Google. Ads on Facebook could be far more relevant than anything Google could offer, ecnouraging ad companies to flock to Facebook and pay a premium on ads, netting Facebook a fortune and hurting Google yet again.

With Google bloodied and battered from losing market share and ad revenue, Facebook could do one final thing to seal Google’s fate: Enable outside search. Facebook could build their own Google clone into Facebook offering internal and external search, tailored to the preferences of each individual with ads equally tailored. People currently speculate that Google might buy Facebook but maybe Facebook will end up buying Google?

Me on the iPhone in 2007

January 16th, 2018

Found some old articles I wrote for the Sunday Tribune and ENN.
This is one about the iPhone before it came out and whether it will decide telecoms standards and destroy the competition.
May 2007:

So far just Steve Jobs from Apple and material girl Madonna have Apple iPhones but that still hasn’t stopped people from deciding that the iPhone is better than their own phone. The iPod generation has a lot of faith in the Apple brand. Apple has yet to disclose what wireless broadband option will be in the European release of the iPhone in November. Could a brand alone decide whether WiMax, Wifi or 3G is going to be the most popular wireless technology in the next few years?

In a survey done recently by Strategy Analytics, 90% of mobile phone owners said that the Apple iPhone was superior to their current handset. While the iPhone does appear to have some superior aspects such as a large display, a built-in iPod and a touch-screen interface, the startling thing about the survey was that nobody surveyed had actually used the iPhone but just watched a video about it. Apple predicts they’ll see 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008. Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson were already worried about the iPhone but this survey has probably helped give more of them sleepless nights. Phone manufacturers shouldn’t be the only ones to be worried. Billions of euros have been invested in Wifi, WiMax and 3G broadband which are all types of wireless broadband and if Apple becomes the most popular phone manufacturer it will mean they could call the shots on wireless broadband in Europe and delegate the other two technologies to the could-have-been section in the history books.

In America, Apple has signed an exclusive deal with AT&T to be the mobile provider for the iPhone. The wireless options for the iPhone are WiFi and EDGE wireless broadband. EDGE is also known as 2.75G network technology, an inferior version of the 3G broadband that is on offer in Europe. For the launch of the European iPhone, Apple is keeping their cards very close to their chest on what wireless technology they’ll use. Europe’s biggest mobile phone networks have been courting Apple to get an exclusive deal with them for the iPhone. Vodafone, 3, O2 owner Telefonica and many others are all jumping up and down shouting “pick me”. While 3G technology is the most popular form of wireless broadband in Europe, WiMax technology is also being used in some locations in Europe. WiMax also has considerable backing from Motorola, Intel and Clearwire.

3G has been available in Ireland now for a few years and consumers are set to benefit from a looming price war between o2, Vodafone and 3 after 3 dropped the monthly cost of their mobile broadband service to €19.99 a month. WiMax still hasn’t taken off here though Irish Broadband and eircom have been trialing it of late. eircom also have a 3G licence which they recently acquired so their options are open. Digiweb have also been talking about using yet another technology to offer mobile broadband. If the Deus ex Machina that is the iPhone impacts on the telecoms market the way the iPod forced massive changes in the music industry then fortunes could be won or lost on the whim of Apple.

A few decades ago, a format war occurred between betamax and VHS and betamax ended up losing despite it being a superior format. Once again we could have a war of technologies where it is not about which is the best technology but about the power of a brand, the twist this time is that the brand that decides the fate of these technologies is a total outsider. While Apple must be a waking nightmare to everyone in telecoms, have you heard that Google is building a phone…

Just a band … Route around your obstacles

January 10th, 2018

I’m going through old things I wrote that I have stored in Google Drive. I found an article from the Sunday Tribune I wrote ten years ago and then I found this that I wrote for Tommie Kelly that is live here. Going to reproduce it here now as I think it’s still apt.

Damage: Route around the old grey-haired white men

There are three main links you can right click and open in a new tab as you start reading this meandering post.

The first link is to what is now a seminal article by Kevin Kelly called 1000 true fans where he riffs on the idea that we don’t need to be superstars and have mass market attention to be a success. Work at working with a smaller number of fans but fans who have your back and you have theirs. Uncompromising happier days await.

The next link is to Marc Andreessen who created Netscape, Opsware, Ning and so much more. The guy is a billionaire and one of the smartest men on the planet. He too has a seminal essay called Software is Eating the World and it in he shows that people writing code are disrupting and destroying the old guard in dusty old industries. You do not need to be a coder to read this, This article needs to be read by everyone.

The last link is to a YouTube of Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip called “Thou shalt always kill” and midway through the song the singer tells us

“The Beatles… Were just a band.
Led Zepplin… Just a band.
The Beach Boys… Just a band.
The Sex Pistols… Just a band.”

Software, as it eats the world is changing how we exist. We don’t need media owned and controlled by crazy white old men anymore, we don’t need to rely on banks run by corrupt greedy white old men anymore, we don’t need bloated publishers run by … there’s a pattern to this, right? We can now talk to people who appreciate our work and time and geography don’t matter. They can come to us and our work can go to them. If you were living in a one horse town and were amazing at a niche skill, you will get local attention and praise and that’s it. Oftentimes things are hobbies because we can’t feed our kids from what we earn from this hobby. In the always-on, instantly connected world, that’s all changed. I dream of the day I can live by the sea and still do my day job. Broadband is nearly there in deepest darkest West Cork and off I’ll go and I’ll work with a small number of people that appreciate my work and I appreciate their candid and constructive feedback. Now, to be clear, this is different to having a bunch of yes-men and women.

Let’s look at “media”. We had to look after journalists and researchers before. Work with them and harass them if needs be for them to tell the world about what we do. Telling the world by either getting them to write a story or buying an ad next to a story. Media in the traditional sense had limited space, had bosses with bias and had hectic cycles. Even if what you had was a good story, it might not get picked up. The Internet has ensured that this old way of getting large-scale attention is no longer needed. We can talk to fans directly. We can be the media and the PR agency and the ad company now. A blog, Twitter, Facebook, we can get to most people by these mechanisms alone. I ran Measurement.ie in February in Dublin and ticket sales were all a result of just promoting the event online and at that nearly exclusive promotion on Twitter. I didn’t need to send a press release, talk to newspapers or radio stations about it and the event sold out. My sponsors however and their clients would still read these media institutions so they did traditional media about their sponsorship. If your fans or potential fans are only reading newspapers, you have to be there. But they’re not. More people over 55 are receiving shitty updates from Farmville than are reading the Irish Times daily.

Let’s look at Banks. What an obsolete thing they are becoming. Paypal can do payments and card processing. A Twitter co-founder has released Square allowing you to take credit card payments with a tiny device that plugs into your iPhone and you swipe the card along it. For loans we have Kickstarter and we have Fund It specifically for The Arts in Ireland. Kickstarter and Fund It too are lovely little stomping grounds allowing you to do small projects and get experience of selling, budgeting and PRing your project. Taking what you learnt, you can go and build bigger projects. See this interview with Philly McMahon about his take on Fund It. I look forward to the days when some sort of currency can go from my wallet to someone else’s without the banks taking their sweaty fees from us.

Publishing. Talent hunters, agents, asking friends of friends to get your work on the desk of someone that delivers coffee to the PA of the woman that throws manuscripts in the bin… A blog, some fans and them talking about you and the publishers can come to you or you can just self-publish. This is not a platitude. The Internet makes it easier for talent to be spotted and evangelised. I say, easier, it does not mean if you have talent you are guaranteed fame but it makes it easier. Again, start small, get experience and build on that. Try something on a platform like Amazon and learn from it. Do not make the mistake though of trusting it and signing your life away to it. Amazon too in time will get eaten by other software and it is rapidly becoming the type of old-school industry we rally against.

The Internet is a router, built on routers. By that I mean if someone blocks you, be they media, publishers, banks, route around them. The Internet was built as a way of preserving communications if a nuclear attack wipes out an army base or city. Obstacles, whatever their form are damage, so route around them.

Minor Threat… Just a band.
The Cure… Just a band.
The Smiths… Just a band.
Nirvana… Just a band.

Threads – Part something something

January 7th, 2018

We’ve been watching Jean-Claude Van Johnson, an amazing JCVD show where JC plays himself but he is also a spy using acting as his cover. Trailer. It’s hilarious and he is perfect at comedy. A recent show ends with M.C. Solaar’s Nouveau Western. I remember the sound and the video. Couldn’t remember the Director – Stephane Sednaoui. Look at his body of work. Some amazingly stylish music videos that defined the 90s. Give it away. Mysterious Ways. Queer.

And he did a few for Mirwais. Including Disco Science.

And from his album Production, flowed some amazing music. And Madonna had him work on Music. When you listen to both you realise they are cut from the same cloth or are Side A and B of a record where each of the duo take a half and follow their vision but they’re too in synch to be too different.

And now I’m listening to Uffie because Mirwais produced some of her work.

Move to the Valley

January 3rd, 2018

This was written in December 2007 for the Sunday Tribune. Some parts have aged well and some … I was either still in Silicon Valley or was just back. I was very critical of Enterprise Ireland and not much has changed in 10 years. All their work is based on fomulas created from 10 year old business books that were written by people who wrote books to deflect from being shit at business. Those who came along didn’t want to make much noise as they were tied to the EI noose to keep their business alive. I think one of the companies that came on the tour is still alive which after 10 years from embryonic stage, is good going. The Sunday Tribune of course is not. But I own the domain name and still get loads of press releases.

==
“Move”, the one word summary from billionaire Marc Andreessen on how to build a successful global technology company. This week I was embedded in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley with 26 Irish people from 14 Irish tech startups. Palo Alto is a city strewn with addicts wherever you go but instead of heroin or crack, the natives are hooked to networking and building better relationships with people. Andreessen, founder of Netscape, Opsware and now social network creation site Ning was one of many executives to take time out of their busy lives to meet up with Irish companies, just as unknown back home as they are in the Valley. Andreessen was quite happy to give a private hour-long Q&A with these visitors from Ireland. On elaboration Andreesen said that inter-networking with people is one of the most important things for any business and the greatest place in the world to do business is in Silicon Valley. Should we just pack our bags and look for networking chances in them thar hills, the same hills our ancestors mined for gold?

Andreessen wasn’t the exception to the rule either, earlier in the week a Facebook VP gave a personal tour of Facebook and brought in their top brass to meet these Irish companies who for now had nothing to offer them. After the tour our group were personally walked to our next meeting a few blocks away by one of their Vice-Presidents and he personally thanked us for choosing to visit Facebook, something echoed by Microsoft the next day too and other companies all through the week. Ever been thanked when walking out of a store in Ireland with empty hands and full wallets?

Silicon Valley Caltrain

Mark Zawacki leads the Milestone management consultancy group and took time out to do a free consulting session with the visiting Irish companies, he suggested that the philosophy of Silicon Valley is that relationships are the currency of business and pointed out that the vast majority of the billions invested in tech every year are local investments whereby investors are giving money to people they have good working relationships with already. Even Irish CEOs attending the Enterprise Ireland Leadership for Growth initiative that took place in Stanford broke their curfew and met with the other Irish to exchange thoughts and contact details. Everyone gets hooked.

Ger Hartnett from Limerick based Coclarity summarised the experience of many on the tour “We heard the same key message consistently; contacts and relationships are crucial and it was contacts and relationships that helped us meet Marc Andresson and Ross Mayfield who were extremely generous with their time. ”

Not everyone though can afford to up sticks and move to the centre of the tech industry universe even if it offers so much. You don’t have to move though to take advantage of the Valley. Ross Mayfield from Socialtext gave sage advicento the Irish startups on how he manages a multi-million dollar company using free tools for online conference calls and long-distance phone calls. While his main office is in the Silicon Valley and he meets more venture capitalists and industry bigwigs on his smoke break than Irish businesses would meet in a lifetime, most of his team only meet up together in one place a few times a year. Mayfield seems to have found an ideal balance between keeping the addiction to maintaining Valley connections alive and not pricing yourself out of a market which expects products to become cheaper every year.

With cheap and direct flights to San Francisco and already existing Irish Networks in place in the Valley perhaps we should move our monthly networking events to Palo Alto and skip Dublin altogether or encourage Valley events to move 11 hours away to Ireland. A finger in each pie is an advantage this time.

Ones to Watch – the 2018 biased edition

January 1st, 2018

Previously on Ones to Watch: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 2008, 2007.

This is the 12th iteration of Ones to Watch. I’ve been thinking for a while about these type of lists and how subjective they are and exclusive but exclusive with emphasis on exclusion. So many lists you see around the place are “mates rates” type lists. I find people for the Ones to Watch from people I know or notice in my day-to-day journeys online and off. 2017 was busier than ever, moreso after starting a sabbatical type thing so I’ve not interacted and watched people do interesting things compared to before. 2016’s list was the same too. I’m referencing the Pattern Recognition post I wrote as it glanced at the idea of confirmation bias too. My lists like most are in a bubble and are totally biased. That needs to change.

Here’s a fun thing to do with you and your “woke” friends:
Each of you write down the names of 5 Irish women who are inspiring for a podcast. Now compare notes. Louise Mcsharry will be on it because she deserves to be. Maeve Higgins maybe? One of those influencer people who have bought followers and the media are too thick to realise? Katie Taylor? Claire Byrne? Clare Daly? Alison Spittle? Louise O’Neill? 2.4M women you can choose from and the overlap is going to be staggering. A great start but quite predictable list is media personality or known of because of winning an award. Name someone from the Traveller community. Great you have John Connors too, now name another one that didn’t star in Glenroe. How about an Irish black male that isn’t a sports person? A person with a disability that isn’t doing Special Olympics. Someone that hasn’t done a TED(x) talk? It’s okay, we’re all in bubbles. We seem to reference the people just like us and then one or two people each from a minority community who it seems are there to talk about being a minority from their community. Like has been said so often, how often do you hear a working class Dublin accent on the radio outside of reporters interviewing locals about a shooting or the death of a homeless person? Arts programmes to a small degree.

And I’m just as guilty with events I do. Measurement 2016 was an all-female lineup. The rule we enacted was even the tech people that would be on stage had to be female. A male-free stage. It worked, in so far as we pulled off the event, though it made a loss but that’s because I’m great at ideas crap at business. It showed it can be done though and I was hoping like many of the other ideas we did, that it would be copied by others. The lineup of Measurement was all people from inside my bubble and I have done nothing to break it or expand it. Nice and safe people that I mostly knew, some I knew for years. Now you are generally risk-averse for these things when you are starting off so you go with people you know won’t go lala and alienate or get you sued. Which is why you always hear the same voices on radio. They’re trusted and SO very predictable so you can plan around that. Media production is all about cookie cutters. The new Jamie Oliver yeah?

It’s like that thing for nearly a decade where you ask the Irish tech heads to name a woman to speak at a conference and it was Martha Rotter or Clare Dillon both at Microsoft at the time or Jane ní Dhulchaointigh from Sugru. And then shuffling of feet. Well done lads. For them and me it was a case of look further afield.

Louise Mcsharry’s podcast Fresh had two guests that I never heard of at all. This is great, more please! 50% totally new on any media production is great. (at time of writing 4 were listed) Stevie G is doing remarkable work in Cork on a thriving hiphop scene and dance scene with so much young talent. Never heard of these folks either. Good. Following people totally not aligned to my interest on Twitter has seen me encounter all new ideas via their Likes and RTs. This is good.

So my Ones to Watch is going to be the “unknown unknowns” this time. I think I need to make 2018 the year that I change the lens on my vision and look for other sources and spaces. Time to stop going a little outside my circle and go way outside. A friend of a few friends I’ve heard mentioned is not enough. So what I’m doing is, I’m leaving people that are reading this to comment and recommend people they are finding interesting and are ones to watch. Maybe nobody comments! Anyone that recommends themselves gets deleted of course. Be humble. So off you go, who are the Ones to Watch in 2018? Tell us.

Pattern Recognition – How being able to spot patterns gives you an advantage

December 28th, 2017

Pattern Recognition
A post in the need of an editor…

I come back again and again to the idea of pattern recognition in business and life. I time traffic lights – I count as the lights change from one coloured state to another and back and forth as cars go through junctions and people cross. I watch the traffic lights at the next junction down. I know when to get ready to go so as it hits green, I’m moving. However experience also allows me to know that someone will be breaking the red light nearly 50% of the time, pattern recognition comes from experience. I do the same counting when I’m the pedestrian, though I give no leeway to cars that try and break lights.

In medicine respiratory rate is a key part of the Early Warning Systems they have for patient monitoring. Studies have shown that a change in respiratory rate can signal (sometimes hours in advance) that a patient is in decline. Watch for that change in pattern and save lives.

The idea of writing something on pattern recognition came again from a recent article I read about “The Roofman”. Jacob Shelton studied a few McDonald’s and realised that the core proposition of each restaurant and the corporation is that they are all cookie cutter restaurants that if it could break into one he could break into all of them. So he did, 40 before he got caught. But then studied his prison and the patterns and escaped from that.

Terry Kniess did extreme pattern recognition of The Price is Right and won it all. He taped 3 months of shows and started seeing prices repeat. (keep reading though)

And David Phillips bought pudding and soup, got the Salvation Army to remove coupons from them and they got to keep the food (he got a tax rebate cos charity donation) and he ended up getting a million travel miles. All after seeing a pattern and seeing it play through if he added himself into the pattern.

Systems

Patterns, algorithms, systems.
Giving a box of chocolates to cabin crew on a flight, even a Ryanair one will get you special treatment. But Ryanair will fire a staffer if they give you a free coffee or sandwich if they give you free stuff. Yet, they do. The system says they can’t do that but the system never considered the public giving them a box of chocolates either. What happens if you add in an unexpected kindness into the equation of a scrooge airline? Change the pattern or at least make it wobble? Unexpected kindness is like caffeine with painkillers, it brings a state-change faster. A toblerone can get you very far in an organisation you are accessing, if genuinely given. Recognise the pattern and mess with it and see what happens.

I would think computer security experts are like that in a way. “This is what happens when A sends this to B” “What if we send C attached to A?” “But people don’t do that”. You can break into a computer system with a large amount of pure luck if someone didn’t lock it down in the most basic way or you can break into a highly sophisticated system because you have years of experience and you’d studied this system and have an amazing knack of thinking on your feet. You’ve got the receipts, you’ve the data.

UX (user interface) people are good at pattern recognition too. They study people and systems and they know if the system does D most people will go ahead and do E. But if instead they make the system do C and then D, then people might instead do F. UX to a degree utilises psychology and data. And psychology is of course about pattern recognition.

Data will make you better at Pattern Recognition.
Experience is data that has been analysed.

“You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads – at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out. “ Charlie Munger on reading.

Buffet and Munger. Two human data processing and analysing machines. I’ll write about them some other time but these billionaires are the Gods of the slow money movement. Reading, analysing, holding, pouncing. Pattern recognition.

Shake the hands of a carpenter or a chef, they’re going to be rough. (BTW, did you picture a man in this scenario? Tut, pattern recognition and unconscious bias). Carpentry is not kind on the hands nor is cheffing. I’m sure you could sit down some carpenters and chefs together and they can exchange war wound stories. Your meal or table might not be as good if it was made by soft hands. Not sure can you ask to feel the hands of your chef the next time you’re out for a meal though…

Complex Systems

Pattern recognition “naturals” are not professionals
You can be a natural at sales because you *get* people and know or have a feeling how to play with them to buy something from you. You can become a great salesperson from lots of experience, hard work and lots of study. Being a natural is an advantage but being enthusiastic is too. The naturals at anything never become the superstars without lots of practice too. Raw talent won’t win the great prizes unless nobody else is in any way skilled. Natural is in the same family as amateur.

Muscle memory is acquired data. The more you do it, the better you get. That data gets more refined over time too. If you watch a lot of comedy – you can predict the next line. Only Fools and Horses, Mrs Brown, Big Bang Theory. “Fucking obvious” comedy it is but only obvious because you’ve seen lots of it and know the pattern. In fairness, three shows of these and you can predict all of the lines but that’s probably because they are influenced by the same old comedic shite that went before them. Carry On, Last of the Summer Wine, Fraiser.

But can you be a writer for the Big Bang Theory from just smothering on that repetition? Well you’re only seeing the end product so you’re only witnessing a single digit percentage of the export. The structure, pace, themes are going to be hard to replicate. (I however think a BBC headline of “A.I. writes perfect copy of Mrs Brown’s Boys” is but months away. I hope Brendan O’Carroll buys that tech and he can live forever as Mrs Brown.)

Amateurs are professionals before getting experience
Maybe you can get a gig writing gags for someone that sells to the Mrs Brown audience? Doing the same thing again and again and looking for a different result is madness apparently. But is that not practice too? The over-used story of Giotto’s perfect circle but he wouldn’t have been able to do that without 100s or 1000s of hours of practice. BTW, not referencing Gladwell’s 10,000 hours idea because like everything else he ripped it off and twisted it.

Media is about systems and knowing that A + B + C = makes a good story. You can work on being the A part of this system. Watching media patterns, the likes dislikes, the things that get the headlines, when there are lulls that your story can get a chance to be covered, knowing when to stay away from pitching. Anyway, a post by me on PR tips based on pattern recognition.

Good Data makes you .. good
I’m a big fan of the show Billions. The dodgy traders in the show like pro gamblers (cos same) have tipsters all over the place letting them know about movements of stock, about financial mischief, giving them shredded documents and piecing things back together. There’s a bit where they use satellite imagery to figure out how much stock a chipmaker is actually shifting. Many of these actions are real. Traders now buy satellite imagery data and can predict how much Walmart is making based on cars in their car parks or how much excess oil there is based on shadows made by oil tanks. Same with crops. Hard to hide your secondary or tertiary data these days.

This is how they were able to predict a sales decline in Chipotle too but they used Foursquare check-in data.
There are so many free resources for mining data on things.

  • Google Alerts to find online mentions of competitors
  • Facebook Ad Data is unreal for market research
  • Google Keyword tool for what people are googling
  • Daft.ie house prices for areas
  • DoneDeal for the what the market will pay for something
  • The CSO
  • Scraper tools
  • Membership directories
  • Paper records – just use TinyScanner or OCR phone photos.
  • Even instruction manuals
  • And books.

I find autobiographies of business people are utter egotistical poo that are designed to just be a PR thing for their business or them rewriting history. Biographies of dead business and historical people are better. Hard Things about Hard Things (the first half) is an exception and a fav though. The best way to read a book when you want to get something good out of it.

How can you get better at Pattern Recognition?
Open your mind’s eye. Do LSD. No, not really. For me it’s just about noticing things. Ever tried a day of silence? No speaking, no devices, no reading or writing. Try that in an art gallery for 2-3 hours. Pay conscious attention to what are background objects or background noises.

There’s a nice book – On Looking where the author brings various people with expertise around her neighbourhood and they show her new things each time. Being better at looking and noticing to me aids with pattern recognition. Learning from others and how they see things gives you a swiss army knife of lenses at your disposal. If you only get views from your narrow field you won’t be very good at pattern recognition. You maybe will be good at Unconscious Bias though.

There’s this link with some advice.

Stop and treat everything like a painting in a museum and it’s raining outside so you have to stay in. Count traffic light changes. When the lights a few 100 yards ahead go to green, how long before your ones will? 20 seconds, 30 seconds. Look above the ground floor of shops, a whole new world. Put your phone in your hand. Notice the shape. Notice the edges. Notice the weight of it. Notice the temperature. How big is it in relation to your hand?

Complex Systems Pattern Recognition

So you’re good at Pattern Recognition, so what?
You’re like a water diviner. The water is below us, dig down. Wow, how did you know? Nothing to do with knowing the waterway patterns… You should start spotting opportunities when you find the patterns. Knowing the patterns might mean using them to get something for you. Like how to get stuff into the media by knowing their patterns. Everyone has their own grooves, know what their groove is and journey in it to get a return. Sometimes it’s knowing what the pattern or process is and using it.

Sometimes it’s knowing how to break it. “This is how it’s always been done.” Nice and safe and predictable. We like our groove. An ass groove isn’t it? How do we use this “always done this way” groove. How did they get to “this is how it’s always been done”? If something changes, can they get out of the groove? Google: history of newspapers. That’s an equation really.

“This is how it has always been done” is a bit like the Bystander Effect too. If the rest of the group behaves like this then you will too. Even if smoke is coming into the room.

Can you remove, replace or add something to the equation to change it? Plan it out, what would happen, what new factors get added when you make a change to the equation? Line them up, press play, see what happens, rewind, move things around, press play again. How do you address what would happen?

I gave a talk (I also I thought I did a blog post but can’t find it) called “Your next business is on Boards.ie and DoneDeal.ie”. Twitter thread of it. If you study the history of newspapers and Craiglist you’ll see how Craigslist killed off listings in newspapers. Then 100s of startups pared off pieces of Craigslist and some became billion dollar operations. AirBnB, Ebay, Grindr, Hassle and so many more in a way were just sections on Craiglist before founders spotted patterns of interest and came up with ways of making these more efficient for people. Spot patterns on Boards or DoneDeal.ie, see what are the sections most popular, see what people are complaining about online about them, make something cheaper or less friction. Unbundle this into an app.

Uber or Hailo/myTaxi
I remember advising a taxi company years ago to get everyone that took a taxi to put them into their phone as Taxi and when they show it to the driver, they get a discount. That “wasn’t the done thing” so they wouldn’t do it. Why should they offer discounts? At that stage it was obvious that everything was going to be mobile but the apps weren’t there yet. There is still ample opportunity to take back from Uber and myTaxi.

Every step is different pattern recognition
Finding your opportunity and starting it is one set of patterns. As you grow the idea there will be other patterns and systems to deal with and you may have to learn a whole new dataset for that or bring in people that have the experience to do that. If you want to destroy your company then bring in a team of MBAs to run the place. So this was just the starter course.

Value – Fuck You, Pay Me

January 14th, 2017

Been meaning to write this for a while but writing anything on a blog takes effort these days when the Twitter/Snapchat/FB timesink takes you away. Just like the remote control turned us into nonstop channel clickers where we never settle on a station, social media is doing the same for longform content. Which is why we’re seeing Tweet 1 of 15 instead of a blog post.

Value

I think we all need to work harder at communicating our value to others and to ourselves. Sadly in Ireland, anything that’s low price is seen as not having value and anything that’s a high price has lots of value. Many times it’s the other way around. I keep on going back to the idea that people won’t buy a newspaper for €2 but will spend €4 on a coffee and buy a few of them in a day. If you are good at what you do, then there has to be a value exchange between you and the person you are doing work for. “A ‘thank you’ costs nothing”, how true. Thanks doesn’t pay for your heating. Thanks isn’t payment but payment is thanks.

Saying no to doing things for people is hard for many of us, isn’t it? We feel that saying no is not nice or is classed as rude. Of late I’m archiving emails and not replying to people that solicit free advice and never want to pay. It’s better than me replying with an invoice for €150, right? It’s taken me years but now when someone asks me to give a talk I ask “what’s your budget?”. For 2017, I’m all about equality. Everyone gets treated the same and gets this as a GIF:

So here is my take on why doing something, even small for free is not good for me or you.

Want to meet me for a coffee?

Let me explain how that works. I disrupt my day to have coffee with you where you want to pitch me something or get free advice from me. 30 minutes means 60 minutes. Me getting from where I am takes 30 mins and going back to where I am is 30 minutes. So that coffee is now 2 hours of my time gone. I’ve knocked two hours out of my flow during the day so that’s maybe an hour to get back into that flow. So basically three hours of my day has been taken up.
Want to meet me for a coffee? €700 cashmoney plz.

Want me to speak at your event?

I am really good at what I do. So when I come and give a talk I will give a talk that normally knocks it out of the park for the people attending. There are few people better than me at enlightening people about digital marketing. Entertaining, educational and inspiring. That’s value. For you and those at it. I’ll make you look good for hiring me in. Asking me to do it for free is disrespectful and just plain miserly. I’m a known entity, this is not arrogance. You’re not doing me a favour here by giving me a platform in fairness. “But you’ll get work from it” is perfectly correct. That’s what happens when you’re good but I created lots of value, return that with money.

Some advice after seeing me talk?

You paid to attend an event that I spoke at? Great. Did the ticket include a short one to one with me? Am I still on the clock? Maybe I am but I am not your employee, please respect that. You can of course email me but see below.

Emailing me a quick question?

Do you think I’m sitting at my computer or refreshing my email on my phone waiting for your email? You sent me a reminder email about the email you sent wanting me to go off and get you a solution for something. So you’d like me to pause paid client work for you or you want me to use up what little non-work time I have to do this for you? Do you even Google Bro?

You’re very expensive

Damned right. I worked a long time for people not to regard me as being low value. Took me 30 minutes to figure out what to do? How long will it take you? How many hours did it take me to get good at what I do? Yeah. My ten years of experience knows where to hit the right spot with the hammer. This has been attributed to Henry Ford in some places and to others before him in other spaces but it’s correct whoever did say it “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it.” — Henry Ford
Or another way, over the next 6 months, that 30 minutes of help I gave you has saved you how much in time or has gained you how much in revenue? Yeah.

There are exceptions

People I’ve done work for before, people I will work for again. People would take a bullet for me, people who are recommending me to others, people who I know will do a favour for me.

When to do something for free

There are times though where you give advice or give talks without payment. Value still needs to be exchanged though.

For a favour:

Shep Gordon, the super-manager to the stars worked a “coupon” system. You did him a favour, he could ask one of you. It worked really well.

New Material

For talks. Like a comedian, when you’re trying out new material you’ll try out the material many times in many locations. Here the value is you got a free platform for untested stuff.

You’re a New Entity

If you’ve not got much experience in public speaking or are not a known entity then go ahead and give a free talk. It’ll get your name on a billing, you’ll be associated with others speaking, if you’re good, those in the room will spread news of your expertise.

You want to level up

Maybe you want to be on the billing as rockstars in an industry, if that’s the case you might work for free and you’d be the one contacting the organisers.

The Database

Some speakers and some sponsors of mine ask for the contact details of those at the event. Nope. I do send out mailers and put contact details and links to special offers in the mailers though. If you’re giving a talk, ask for your contact details to be sent out in a mailer including a link to your website or to your mailing list. You have a mailing list, right? Or I’ve offered a free document to accompany my talks (and mention it in the talk) and that has all my details in it.

References

Get them to write a reference that you can use or they actively go out and mail a few friends recommending your work. A link from their website to yours is good too.

Don’t run your own free talk

50-70% of people won’t turn up if you give tickets away to your event. Charge a minimum price. €5 or €15. No shows are huge the closer to zero the ticket prices are. If someone spent €15 there’s a much greater chance they’ll turn up. Or charge higher but the ticket price can be used as a discount for consultancy or training.

Don’t you organise conferences and not pay people?

Yes, I did. The Measurement Conference is on hold as I need to work on a pricing model where all the speakers get paid. To pay all your speakers at a conference can become quite costly if it’s low revenue or the tickets are cheap. Say you pay each speaker €500 (which is a low price for what they bring) and you have ten speakers, that’s €5k just for speakers. I try and make the Measurement Conferences good value for those attending and try and also keep the crowd small. Tickets were €30, €50, €100 for a full day. Now if you are one of the rake of digital conferences you see in Ireland that charge €300 or €400 and pack 100s of people in to the event, you can well afford paying 20 speakers €500 a pop. I was asked to speak for free at an event in Cork City Hall where they were charging €300 per person and expected 500+ at it. Half the speakers were sponsors too. Please.

Do you chicken out when asking for money

Consider that it’s your money they’re keeping. Find it awkward to ask for money? Hire someone to be your bagman. There are plenty of virtual assistant type services that can email or phone people back and take a booking for your services. They’re happy to email with your rates and asking do they want to make a booking. They’re getting paid to do it.

The Fuck You, Pay Me line is from a Mike Monteiro talk where he quotes from Goodfellas. You need to watch it, it’s the best talk any business person can watch.

2017 Ones to Watch

January 1st, 2017

Well now. I was giving out that 2015 had me catching up with myself. 2016 had me busier than ever. Sure 2017 will be grand, it being an odd numbered year. Also, I gave up bad language in 2016 and none of you fuckers noticed. Langers. It was very interesting, more in another post. Driving and encountering bad drivers was a motherfucker.

2016 was very enlightening for me. A very hopeful year watching young people being self-aware, using well considered and insightful language and wanting change and knowing how to implement that change. Change isn’t rapid but it is the flow of water, even granite loses to it in the end. Now I love the idea of chaos and anarchy but I’m very positive that a new equilibrium will occur in the end.

2016 list did pretty well. Happy with that. 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 2008, 2007.

Ones to watch 2017

So without further ado after all that ado.

Jillian van Turnhout.
Jillian finished up as Senator in 2016 but didn’t stop pushing for the rights she campaigned before and during her Senate time. The rights of children, of those adopted, of those with addictions. 2017 should be interesting as she spent some of her 2016 reloading. Whatever she’ll do, it’ll benefit a wide group of people.

Seán Lynch.
Boy is woke. Seán is Co-President of @OutInUL and Social Media Manager of @LimerickVoice. He’s Q.E.D. for what young people are like nowadays. The snowflake generation that the Irish Times have made up to hate, seem to be the ones that are about equality, fairness and rights for all. Not bad for someone not yet 21. Kids today, sickening isn’t it? Anyway, he’ll be graduating soon, so hire him. I’m sure if he ever sees this he’ll die from the mortification. Side reward.

Frances Byrne.
Chairwoman NWCI. New gig with Early Childhood Ireland. 2017 should be a fun time for us all with a very smart empathic woman pushing for the rights of children and women. Bright futures for all if women and children are finally given rights they were meant to be given a century ago. Dublin supporter though but even your heroes can have some flaws. Makes them easier to identify with.

Pat Phelan.
Is he never off this list? Pat’s done extremely well. And worked so very very hard for it. He says he doesn’t know what he’ll be up to next so maybe he’ll take a bloody break. Yeah right. Watch that guy. If you were able to invest money into the future of people, Pat is one stock you would get a return from. As are most on this list.

Stephanie Francis.
She makes things with code that play well with other things with code and with people. She also works on running a conference. A brief jump to New York and she’s back here now. He works pushes things forward, keep watching what she does.

Conor Behan.
Not just cos tweets like this:

Conor is like the 2FM stuntman, covering for everyone when cover is needed. He’s doing a stellar job on the 8-10pm slot while Louise is off being a mammy. Lots of great music coming out of that show. But more than that Conor is strongly bringing a proper queer perspective to things. #marref really was a very white middle class heteronormative event so it’s nice to see people show that’s just one small section of the rainbow.

Mark Breen.
Cuckoo Events. Multiple winners of Sockies and Web Awards, sharing their expertise with students and anyone that wants to learn. A modern company that is about making the industry and community better. Momentum is building so let’s see what 2017 brings.

Alexia Golez.
what is she building. Finished up in Trustev. Now working on her own project in Limerick. I’ll leave it at that for now cos she knows where I live and is probably working on stealth drones.

Caitlín Nic Aoidh.
Worldwide viral hit. Part of the TG4 team of youngbloods. A media team that brings back fun and creation back into a very stodgy TV media. Also, a very nice person who can control the weather.

Me.
Yeah, I gave MulleyComms 5 years and I said I’d so something else. It’s been 8+ years so for MulleyComms – time to die.
Time To Die

I’ll probably offload the Web Awards, Sockies and eCommerce Awards to someone, preferably as one go. I won’t make the mistake though like I did with the Blog Awards where someone else came along pretending they were a rebooted version of something I killed myself to make great.

So what do I move on to? It’s around us and time and what is does to us. The house always wins.

Also, bad language, FUCK YEAH.

Thoughts on Mentoring – Getting and Giving

August 28th, 2016

I’ve been doing mentoring for a few years now, both with organisations like Local Enterprise Offices as well as private events now and then, when I have time. I think going to a mentor/advisor and being a mentor/advisor is a good idea.

Sadly a lot of charlatans have ruined the idea of business coaching so you now have someone with no qualifications that’s just a liar pretending they have a clue about business. The percentage of con artists in “business coaching” is as high as “social media gurus” that work in digital. The advice these people give is plain dangerous. Just another version of the celeb “nutritionists” that can fix autism with some grape seeds.

Getting good advice can help a hell of a lot. We take advice and pay a good price for personal trainers, we take advice from running coaches, from dieticians, counsellors, we should do the same for aspects of our business too.

I do find value with business coaches but they need to be real business coaches. I did a course at the end of 2015 and start of 2016 funded by Management Works. It was run by Actioncoach Ireland. I got training and advice from someone that was properly trained in understanding businesses and knowing what works for a business. They also had years of working with businesses so had a rich tapestry of experience in this.

Most business fundamentals will greatly help a business when done right but most businesses are too busy being businesses to reexamine the fundamentals and get them right. Coaches can quickly see how your business works and communicate simply what you need to do. These people are worth every penny.

Advice for choosing a mentor, advisor, coach

Some thoughts on choosing a mentor/advisor/coach.

  • Pick a person that will push back against you and tell you (politely or not) that your idea is crap but will go on to say how to change it to make it better. The worst person you can have is a yes person.
  • Choose someone that has experience. Ask for proof. When I see startup advisors who are only on their first company and it’s barely 18 months old giving advice to startups, I want to smother them with their branded hoody. I’m not sure someone in business less than 2 years has any qualification to give you any advice and I wonder why they have time in their new company to be able to give advice.
  • Keep the sessions short. At the end of the session, have a to-do list. In between sessions, implement the to-do list. The standard length that orgs giving per session is 3 hours but after 90 minutes both parties become mentally exhausted.
  • Implement the God damned advice. I’ve found myself giving the same advice to people at mentoring sessions over the years. Same business, new writing pad, same stuff written down and never done.
  • A mentor cannot and should not be able to answer or suggest a fix to every problem you have, and you should have loads. Pick specialists. Get mentoring for just sales, mentoring for finance.
  • Know what you want to cover. I really get annoyed when I ask someone what they are looking for advice on and they go “I dunno”. The clock is ticking, I’m being paid anyway but me being paid to figure out what you need isn’t efficient.

Why you should mentor

I guess this is advice to people that aren’t already mentoring cos the fakesters would be the first to say they’re coaches and are already offering their services. Both giving training and mentoring has made me better at my own business. In a way there is a business advantage to doing mentoring and it’s not the fairly low standard rates you get from State bodies for it. It’s this: the more businesses you encounter, the better you are at understanding business more and understanding markets more. In the Digital Strategy courses I do, we spend time on defining customers – mentoring is a live version of this with companies coming to you and telling you how they work. You ask questions to figure them out even more. I find giving training sessions has me learning new things nearly every time because those on the course ask questions I’ve not encountered before and mentoring is the same.

Will I mentor you?

No. Like I won’t meet you for a coffee to chat about your business. My chunks of time are broken into half day sessions. Less than that and it’s not worth it.