Archive for the ‘business’ Category

Johnny Beirne – Management Advisory Gun for Hire

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Instead of recommending Johnny in IM chats and in person when I meet people, I might as well do it here and just point them to this post. There are a load of individuals and startups that are looking to get advice on business in Ireland and Johnny is one of many that can help them out. Have a look at his LinkedIn profile to see his experience. Johnny is also one of the people behind and put together the Leitrim Business Network too. Go chat to him.

Cliff Notes via Slide Decks

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Robin Blandford is doing us all a fantastic service. As he reads a book he takes the key points from them and makes them into slide shows for all of us to consume. I’m not a fan of Seth Godin, I think he’s a windbag and loves his own brilliance far too much and that many of his books can be easily compressed into a single blog post. Robin has done this for Meatball Sundae and The Dip. He’s also covered Screw it, let’s do it by Richard Branson and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

second thoughts
Photo owned by twenty_questions (cc)

There are so many books that people recommend one must read if you are into tech, into business, into startups and into politics but it’s pretty damned hard to make the time to read these books while doing everything else. (My current unread stack is about 60) I wonder would it help everyone if we took the books we just read and make slide decks like Robin does. I’m sure the copyright police would get all upset and not realise that the summaries would probably promote sales not harm them. I know I’ll make some summaries once I finish my next books. Web Analytics Demystified and The Design of Everyday Things.

Anyone else want to do Slide Deck Summaries?

Online Marketing – Fail

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

Here’s a little ditty or two.

If you are creating a web service where you expect to sign up people that go online and spend a lot of time online and you don’t have integration with Facebook, Bebo, YouTube, Blogs or any of the new media out there, then you will simply ignore the most active and prolific people online. It’s like setting up a lemonade stand on the outskirts of town when you are able to set up a stand in the city centre for free or put up a big poster to announce your location.

If you rabbit on that online marketing is all about Facebook, Bebo and YouTube and ignore email marketing then you’re not seeing the elephant. How many people have an email address, how many have a Facebook account? Do not underestimate the power of either. 120k active Irish people in one place.

I’ll go back to writing this Online Marketing Course now…

The meme
Photo owned by jenjie (cc)

eBay Ireland Boss sets up Broadband Lobby Group

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

In summary:
1. There is a new non-aligned and impartial broadband lobby group in Ireland. It had a working title of the “Broadband Crisis Advisory Board”
2. John McElligott from eBay had serious reservations about the International Advisory Forum on Broadband since two members had far too many ties with eircom, he later declined an invite to join by Eamon Ryan himself.
3. John McElligott wrote a 17 page report about broadband which cuts through the crap and should really be adopted by the Government. He slams mobile broadband figures being used to excuse our performance.
4. He also seems to have pissed off senior Civil Servants in DCENR and ComReg and they seem to be be conspiring with each other to see who else he was talking to about broadband.

Back in February Simon Coveney TD sent in an FOI request about the International Advisory Forum the Government were putting together. A bland enough request for documentation was asked for and given:

All documentation, including communications, relating to the setting up of an International Advisory Forum on Next Generation Broadband Networks by the Department, including but not restricted to, communications to potential and current members of the Forum. Also including, but not restricted to, any discussion about the terms of reference of the skill set required or any guidelines relating to the calibre of members the Department wished to acquire.

Part 1 of the request (PDF doc) threw up some interesting stuff, though on first glance of the first few pages, it doesn’t look it.

But on page 12 it gets interesting. The head of eBay in Ireland, John McElligott has emailed the DCENR after it appears he was asked to be on this International Advisory Forum. He asks why the DCENR omitted the fact that one of the people on the forum was previously on the board of eircom:

Dated December 18th 2007

Ken, how does Brian Thompson’s bio omit the fact that was was on the board of eircom when it was sold? Omitting such matters of potentially key importance will not increase the credibility of the group.

Now, there are some other bits and pieces too. On page 24-30 is the revelation that another advisory board is going to be launched after pushing from John McElligott:

Dated December 19th 2007

Thanks Ken:
Are you able to tell me about the NAF? Is this the customer body along the lines I proposed?

Reply:Dated December 19th 2007

No, the NAF is separate from the proposed customer body. We have been working on a draft policy paper on NGN/NG Broadband for some time now. We have read many international reports and visited other Ministeries with a view to defining the optimum role for the Government in facilitating the roll out of NGNs. The role of the NAF is to critique the draft policy paper in advance of going out to consultation. The NAF will be made up of EU, US and Asian experts on telecoms and telecom policy and will also include the CEO of Forfas. Minister would like you to come on board an an Irish industry/customer representative. Once the report is published for consultation, we would see the customer body that you have proposed responding with appropriate comments. We could establish the customer body early in the New Year so that it has met and considered customer issues in advance of publication and be somewhat prepared before the paper is published.

and more back and forths:
Dated December 24th at 13.32

In response to your recent emails: We are taking a two stage approach to the polic paper. The National Advisory Forum is being asked to consider and critique the initial draft. The paper will then be published for consultation with all stakeholders, including customers. Minister would welcome your participation in the Forum. An early responose would be appreciated.

If, for whatever reasons, you would prefer not to participate, Minister would welcome your contribution as a customer and we will revert to you at that stage. I wish to emphasise again the confidential nature of this matter.

Dated December 24th at 15.49


Thank you for the note. I will revert to the Minister with a reply in the New Year.

Per my notes, I have concerns regarding the independence of a number of the proposed forum participants. I’m not sure if such credibility risk is in anyone’s interest, least of all the Department.

On page 43 and 44 we get a better picture of this proposed customer group:
Dated December 19th 2007, sent to Minister Eamon Ryan direct:


Per our discussion, please find attached some options for individuals who could be part of a Customer-based broadband group:
A number of online entrepreneurs (e.g. a leader from one of,,,,
A few of the large online multinationals. These are Google, eBay, Amazon and PayPal
A Bank (e.g. AIB Internet Banking, Banking 365, etc.)
Online travel company (,,
Government Departments that genuinely offer online services (e.g. Department of Finance –
A University or IT or both
Consumer Representative, though only if they have a fact base from their members e.g. NCA

Other points related to its “constitution”, which we believe are necessary to ensure success include:
* Create a body similar to the Motor Insurance Advisory Board where clear terms of reference and ambitious timetables are adopted for the implementation of the recommendations
*This group would be charged with getting to the bottom of what’s really needed to achieve the rollout of high quality broadband and plot a path to delivering this. It should identify the real issues holding up progress to date and describe plans with how to deal with them. The goal is that we end up with a connectivity infrastructure that is truly competitive. Perhaps is could be called the “Broadband Crisis Advisory Board” or BCAB.
* This group should ve very small, say 10 people. It should be convened by the Minister, with representatives from government, various agencies, education, and the commercial sector. It should be representative of the voice of the consumer, and they should be technology neutral.
* Our technology decision-making will be led by industry for a, many which are already in place. The BCAB should only refer to these where substantive issues relate to competitive issue and (c) above.
* The BCAB should represent the voice of the customer – those of us who use the infrastructure provided by the tech sector. It should also be non-partisan. Therefore, it should not include representatives of eircom, the ALTOs or ComReg, though they will likely present their views to the BACB. Recommendations from the BACB impact these parties.

Roll on to Part 2 of the request.

Nothing much up to page 18 though on that page it states:

John McElligott
eBay Ireland.
Invited on 19 December 2007, much querying on his part.

Page 19 has letter from Minister Eamon Ryan (dated January 21st 2008) asking John McElligott to join the forum. He eventually declines on Feb 8th.

Roll on to part 3 of the FOI PDF
Page 2 to page 24 of this document is great.

First we’ll go to around the page 21 mark:
A letter dated January 6th 2007 sent to Eamon Ryan and Micheál Martin

Thank you for the invitation to participate in the National Advisory Forum, which I received via Kenneth Spratt. I am considering being part of this, and will return to you with a decision in due course.

I would be delighted to participate in the forum if I felt it would make a difference. However, given what I have learned regarding the Forum to date, I am not yet convinced it is the right group. I have three specific concerns regarding its constitution:
1. Does the specific background of certain proposed Forum members inspire the desired level of confidence?
2. Are we missing the perspective of some leading markets which are our neighbours?
3. Can we boost the “customer perspective”?

Some colour on these three points:
1. Some of the proposed Forum participation may result ina reduction in external credibility. For example, one proposed participant has recently compeleted a study on models of separation – which was funded by eircom. Another participant is a former Chairman of eircom. Curiously, these two facts were omitted from the otherwise lengthy resumes I received. I am not in any way indicating that these participants would be in any way prejudiced or partial in their forum participation. However, given out need to establish credibility, I could well forsee a circumstance where the Forum’s credibility could be challenged.

2. Two of our closest neighbours (the UK and Netherlands) are stellar examples of leadership in Connectivity. Yet, curiously, the Forum has minimal participation of direct industry experience from these markets. This may be an oversight as (a) Political leadership is acknowledged to have contributed to UK leadership and (b) Northern Ireland has seen significant success, and it’s “only up the road”.

3. There may be a lack of “customers” in the forum. Per our meeting last month, I recommend adding more than just myself.

To this last point, I am currently convening a group of Irish eCommerce and eBusiness leaders to lobby in 2008 for greater progress in this arena. To date, the response to my outreach has been enthusiastic. Several of my peers believe that Market Failure is costing them dearly, and fear that current, lacklustre NGN plans will mean that Ireland continues to lag in the online sphere – possibly permanently.

Next up, is the email turning down the offer to be on the forum and annoucing the new broadband lobby group has been set up:
Dated February 5th 2008

Per our communication, I will refrain from participation in the NAF.

Two developments from my side are:
1. We eBay have engaged on this issue with a very wide range of stakeholders. Based on these discussions, I am happy to send you my thoughts on what can be done to address our issues. I intend to do this by the end of this week.
2. Today we convened a meeting of serveral business comprising a “Broadband Customer Group”. This group included 12 companies including (i) local eCommerce players and (ii) US Multis with an interestin this. We had a very fruitful and forthright discussion. In due course, we may reach out to you as a group.

On February 8th McElligott sent Minister Ryan and Minister Martin a 17 page document about Broadband in Ireland. It’s a fantastic document, well worth reading.

Part 4 of the FOI PDF contains mostly crap about hotel costs except for one email. An email where the an Assistant Secretary in the DCENR bitches about the head of eBay Ireland and his attitude and mention how they have been talking to ComReg about him too:

Dated January 7th 2008

I don’t understand John McElligott’s reaction to the invitation to sit on the Forum. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to invite him as he’s clearly not comfortable with the idea. Now that he’s setting up a lobby group perhaps his contribution might best be made during the public consultation stage. We have no other lobbyists on the NAF ( we didn’t consider him to be one in the formal sense when we invited him) and to include one will lead to calls from others to be included. I understand he has sent a questionnaire to ComReg, they’re to send me a copy and find out who else received it.

We’ll prepare a response for the Minister.

A fun week

Friday, June 6th, 2008

I’m a little hoarse. I’ve been talking shite all week. I was in Waterford on Tuesday to give a full-day Business Blogging Course which seems to have gone quite well and I was in Galway on yesterday to give two half-day business blogging courses to about 28 people in total. A lot of travel, a lot of mileage but this lad kept me company and helped out on the days. I hope we see a good few more business blogs start now as a result.Tom and Mary in Waterford and Adele in Galway deserve much praise for putting the events together and subsidising the courses too for everyone.

Met Ina today who gave a far too brief (because I had to leg it back to Cork) tour and history of Galway and a history of Galway that’s not just on the default tourist books. We also had a lovely lunch in Nimmo’s. Ina should consider doing a blog on the secret Galway that exists that the tourists never see and many locals may never have known. The story of the Russian links to a Mausoleum in a wood in Galway was fascinating.

Diver going off the board
Photo owned by Boocal (cc)

Also met John Breslin today at Open Coffee Galway and he gave a tour of the DERI facility. Love the stuff they’re doing with sensors. Got some insider stuff about which is exciting and will be revealed in time. Also met Ross from who was in Galway for the week. Also met James. Hello to all the open Coffee peeps too! Been a fun week but now I think I’ll crash before my short trip to Berlin next week, back in time for Dublin and Prince, then London for Interesting, then a business blogging course in Dublin on June 24th, then Darllight on the 27th and some talk on the 30th. Remember I said blogging will be light? It might continue to be.

Dublin Midweek Movie Club

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Barry has set up a group in Facebook called the Dublin Midweek Movie Club:

For those who love to go to the cinema, but don’t always have a buddy to go along with.

The aim of the group is to meet up on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and go see a movie together in one of Dublins central cinemas (Cineworld, Savoy & Screen – for now). The group meet a few minutes before screening and then after the film have a bit of a chinwag over a drink/coffee.

New members and non Facebookers welcome!

Nice idea that. Wouldn’t it be also nice to see a website about Movies or something like that to get involved too? 🙂 Were I a cinema on those quiet evenings I’d make an effort to get that trade.

Photo owned by Natasha Tylea (cc)

Wanted: People to install WordPress without robbing others blind

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

From talking to more and more people at the Blogging courses, there seems to be a few cowboys in Ireland who are charging from €550 to €1500 to install a default version of WordPress and for those new to the blogging world, they don’t know if that’s fair or not. It’s not. I’m looking to compile a list of those who want to earn an easy bit of money to install WordPress on websites for those on the Blogging Courses. I’d prefer to make this list public so everyone can benefit and I have to do less work since I’ll just say: “See this page”.

If you want to be listed, add your name here, with rough prices and what you can do or if you prefer not to list prices that’s grand but I will be telling people that anything over €300 for a standard default install or upgrade is not value for money. We’re talking 1-2 hours work at most unless their webhost have all sorts of “fun” setups.

If people also want to be listed for designing themes and so forth. Let me know and I’ll make a list of them too. And no, this is not an invite to debate the security issues of Wordpess and the advantages of other platforms. 🙂

This image got returned for a search for WordPress, fair enough:
Cartel conmemorativo de la Feria de Córdoba
Photo owned by jlastras (cc)

Business Blogging – Irish Case Studies

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

I’ve gone on about it enough at this stage but as I seem to be giving more and more private and public training classes on Business Blogging (there’s an additional afternoon course on in Galway on Thursday now by the way 🙂 ) I thought I’d try and create a public page of testimonials/case studies where those that have Business Blogs can tell others what the advantages having a blog are. What advantages have you seen by having a business blog for your business?

Chicken Salaryman
Photo owned by alisdair (cc)

ComReg bitch at eircom for playing within the rules

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

The Irish Telcoms Poodle (yes I’m bringing it back) yesterday made shapes in the press about eircom and the time it takes them to install phonelines and fix them. ComReg are telling eircom enough is enough.

In relation to installation times, ComReg’s concerns include the welfare of customers who are having to wait more than 6 months – and in some cases over a year – for connection to the public telephone network; targets have therefore been set to require all installations to be made within 6 months, and 80% of all requests to be met within 24 hours or 2 weeks, according to the type of request.

Photo owned by Warchild (cc)

But. ComReg changed the rules of the game about 3 years ago when they extended the install time eircom were allowed to have for phonelines. Before they were allowed a maximum of 6 months and after the USO decision they were allowed 12 months. Now ComReg are saying it’s too long and take eircom to task IF they do it in future. How long have ComReg had the new powers to prosecute and how many customers got screwed over since? Did ComReg measure it, did they care?

This is what Comreg said in 2005(PDF doc):

ComReg recognises that meeting the timescales should not cause undue pressure on eircom. ComReg would expect that the targets will be exceeded in most cases and that the vast majority of requests would be completed within an eight week period. ComReg would not consider it unreasonable for longer periods to be involved where requests involve connections in some situations such as where there are difficulties or delays in obtaining way leaves access for infrastructural works etc. However, ComReg would consider that such longer periods would be the exception and reporting against indicative targets will increase transparency on performance in meeting the Universal Service Obligation.

And then says they’re not going to do anything if eircom go over the time:

ComReg has considered making performance targets mandatory but without the possibility of penalties in the event of failure to comply, such mandatory targets would be meaningless. It should be noted that while the obligation to provide access to the network is a requirement of the Regulations, there is no provision in the Regulations for penalties in the event of a breach.

This is what IrelandOffline said in 2005:

The proposals from ComReg allow eircom to take 4 weeks to install a line for 50% of applications and up to 12 months to install a line for 5% of consumers.

And this is exactly what happened. ComReg created a ruleset that practically encouraged eircom to worry less about connecting lines to their network and the quality of it and thus allowing it to get worse, not better. Back then they had plenty of cash to spend on the network to up the quality and install times, now they’re strangled in debts. The new rules are meaningless and are all a show and nothing more. There will be the usual “reasonable” loophole for all of this.

ComReg’s paymasters at the end of the day are eircom, Vodafone, O2 et al. They take a percentage of their profits as their special tax to run their org. The more eircom and other telcos make, the more ComReg can take off them and pass whatever is left to the Department of Finance. Why would they make life tough for the telcos?

So if eircom don’t meet these new obligations, ComReg will do what:

failure by Eircom to achieve any of the targets as set out in the Decision Instrument in Appendix A would be considered by ComReg to be non-compliance by Eircom with its regulatory obligations and would have the potential to attract enforcement action by ComReg in accordance with the procedures provided for under Regulation 32 of the Universal Service Regulations.

In summary, these procedures would involve ComReg notifying Eircom of a finding of non-compliance with its obligations imposed under Regulation 10 (4) of the Universal Service Regulations and if appropriate, ComReg applying to the High Court for all orders appropriate by way of enforcing compliance by Eircom with its obligations.

Amongst the orders that ComReg could apply for would be an order for the payment by Eircom to ComReg of a financial penalty. ComReg would also expect to seek a declaration from the High Court that Eircom had breached its obligations, orders directing Eircom to comply with its obligations in the future and any further ancillary orders and conditions that should be attached to such orders.

Do you honestly see ComReg taking eircom to Court for any breach? Going to the bloody High Court to fine eircom a few quid? Not going to happen.

More on my views on ComReg.

It is curious that ComReg announce all of this on the day of eircom’s results. Spoiling the party no? Even though the reality is lame, even ComReg getting bolshy in the press with eircom is an interesting departure. Maybe the Minister is applying pressure? Is someone up for reelection as Commissioner? redesign on way – Competition in meantime

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

The Irish Food and Drink Aggregator will be getting an overhaul in the next few weeks as we add a full section to the site for our own content that we’ll be creating from now on. There are other bits and bobs on the way too. Stay tuned etc. In the meantime Gill and Macmillan have a competition to win a copy of the book Grow and Cook by Tom and Johann Doorley. It also includes a recipe since all sponsored posts on have to also provide something of value to the readers.