Writing

Back in the days when my thoughts were more interesting, I wrote articles for a couple of websites.

[16/07/2012] Taking a ‘start with why’ approach to design

The days of the humble report are surely numbered. Infographics, self-service reporting, BI dashboards and real-time analytics have usurped the humble report. Instead of knowing how many widgets we produced last month, now we want to know what the likely impact is going to be of next month’s unforeseen event on our ability to reach the financial measures of our balanced scorecard for the current financial year. …more…

[22/06/2012] Blinded by the plan, ignoring the benefits

I fear the wrath of project managers everywhere when I write that delivery against planned timelines is unimportant. The success of a project does not depend on whether the changes were implemented by some, often random, predetermined date. The success of a project depends solely on whether the benefits promised (and paid for) were delivered. …more…

[18/08/2011] Understanding connection types across social networks

My company is hard at work in the final design stages of a Web service which has an enterprise social flavour. In the throngs of a design session this week, we got talking about “handshaking” on social networks – the whole process of inviting people to be inside one’s own sub-network, accepting/declining invitations and how that shapes the information that is shared. …more…

[18/07/2011] What does Google+ mean for your social media policy?

Two weeks on and the dust is still settling on Google+. Here on TNW we’ve dissected it every which way and continue to make observations as we use it more and more. Today I was preparing some work for a client on social media policy and it immediately struck me how G+ challenges a significant implicit assumption I’ve often used in development of social media policy. …more…

[20/06/2011] LinkedIn: How to up your game

In the wake of the LinkedIn IPO, Alex Wilhelm wrote a feature to get you started on the professional social network. In this post, I want to enable you to step up your game and become a more serious user of the network. …more…

[30/05/2011] Nobody drops the ball on purpose – usability and enterprise social networks

Recently I’ve started being far more up-front with colleagues about progress on tasks. It’s not that I ever set out to communicate badly, or – gasp! – let tasks slip by, it just happens sometimes. New tasks and conversations come into my head and some of the older ones fall out of mind. …more…

[03/05/2011] Angry Birds Achievements – another app opportunity?

According to my Achievements page I am a True Angry Birds fan (I’ve played for at least 15 hours). I’ve even got the very smiley face badge to prove my love. Before you wire a telegram of congratulations, note that I could still progress to Angry Birds Addict (30 hours). In fact, I suspect that if South African Airways hadn’t barred me from using my phone inflight, I’d be there already. …more…

[12/04/2011] It’s not who you know, but who you can find

Over the past two years I’ve been involved in designing and demonstrating enterprise social across a number of sectors and geographies. In this Facebook age there’s always excitement around the discussion aspects of the software — chatter among employees drives increased engagement and buyers instantly recognise this. I’ve noticed that the least sexy requirement is often the one at the cornerstone of the business case: the ability to find people within the organisation.

With a bit of reflection, it makes perfect sense. Small teams all know each other’s strengths, weaknesses and experience base and when team members draw on each other they are able to achieve all the benefits of working together. In larger organisations it can be hard to tap into this. Very, very hard. …more…

[28/02/2011] Enterprise social, rich feature sets and a counter intuitive truth

In the past fortnight my company’s use of Yammer has dropped from dozens of posts daily to pretty much zero. We’re a medium sized business of 160 people spread across 3 locations plus a collection of client sites – our need to connect hasn’t changed, our platform has. We’ve recently rolled out the first iteration of enterprise social features to our own internal management portal. …more…

[21/01/2011] What website(s) would you be willing to pay for?

For a few months now Jimmy Wales’ haunting eyes have been stalking me on Wikipedia. Admittedly, I am a regular user and believe in paying for content – so I might even fall for the puppy dog eyes. Wales’ appeal, coupled with the ongoing debate around news content paywalls, did get me wondering – of all the sites I use, which would I be willing to pay for? So I’d like to ask you the same question… …more…

[05/01/2011] Why isn’t texting on iPhones awesome?

In all the hullaballoo about smartphones and the app generation, it’s often forgotten that there are some basic functions which a phone needs to perform: calls and messages. The smartphone should’ve raised the bar – not just maintained it. There are many features of other text based channels (email, IM) which were not achievable on phones of five years ago but, with the screen real estate and UX sophistication of today’s devices, these features should be creeping into text messaging.

The iPhone introduced some new texting features – think threaded display and visual voicemail – but there are many things my 5 year old Nokia could do which the iPhone still can’t. Even the Palm / Treo devices had apps which souped up the messaging. …more…

[06/12/10] Grassroots enterprise social networks and the path to IT anarchy

The incredible growth of Yammer has lifted the lid on a relatively new debate in the software world – should software be introduced in the enterprise by a central IT function or by the users themselves?

Until just a few years ago, the idea of users introducing new software themselves was laughable – most corporate computers tend to be “locked down” to a greater or lesser extent. With the increasing sophistication of SaaS offerings, the IT function no longer holds the keys to the golden gate of software goodness. …more…

[19/11/2010] Beware the inadvertent commitment

We’ve all been there – the client starts a sentence with “While you’re working on the widget design, please could you also…” and at clocking out time you’re working on a widget supplier brief while everyone else is catching up on Eastenders.

As consultants, its natural to want to be agreeable to client requests. Happy clients are much better at paying invoices than unhappy clients. But saying “yes” to every request is ultimately a recipe for your own failure and not delivering on your contracted commitments is a quick way to turn happy clients into unhappy clients. …more…

[10/11/2010] Could Yammer be the death of your organisation?

Yammer boasts that it is in use by over 90,000 companies and organisations, including over 80% of the Fortune 500. That’s an incredible achievement, but its also quite scary.

Many Yammer initiatives are opened by a few engaged people who pull their organisations into the amazing world of enterprise social networking. How many of those organisations are likely to have considered what happens if there is a data breach? Or have they considered what their clients would say if they knew sensitive client issues may be discussed on Yammer hosted forums? …more…

[15/10/2010] The lighter side of day one

Everyone has something they look for on the first day of an assignment. For me it’s quite process driven – I want to know if I can get an ice cold diet coke (inputs) and whether the toilets are clean (outputs). …more…

[27/09/2010] 6 design considerations for your enterprise social network

For many years it seemed that our online lives were quite disparate from our work lives. Web services such as Amazon and eBay grew increasingly sophisticated whereas in many offices we were stuck with applications which were out-of-date before they were even rolled out. Well – the times they are a’changin. Corporate applications are learning from web applications and users are expecting increasing sophistication in our work environments. … more …

[24/09/2010] Hitting the ground running on day one of your assignments

I recently started an engagement at a new client and was amazed to arrive on the appointed first day and find a desk, a PC setup for me with a user account, email, printers, etc and an access card. By 10:00am I had been taken on a tour of the facility, done the obligatory health and safety briefing, been shown the coffee facilities and met a few of my key contacts. By 10:15am I was in front of Outlook and setting up meetings for the rest of the week. …more…

[19/09/2010] 5 trends that will shape the next few years of social media

The past few years have seen some spectacular changes in the technology that embeds itself in our daily lives. The perfect storm of social media, smart phones and location awareness is only beginning to take full effect. We’ve gazed into crystal ball and considered how we think these technologies will combine to become such an established fabric of our lives that in the next few years what we’ve written here won’t be considered amazing at all. …more…

[09/09/2010] Curated.by brings a meaningful way to curate and share Twitter content

The web created pages we wanted to return to, so browsers began saving local bookmarks. Then came the likes of Delicious which allowed people to share their favourite sites and pages. A few years later Twitter revolutionised the way we share content and site links. Twitter Favorites allowed us to “remember” favourite tweets in a sort of stream of consciousness. Now curated.by, currently in closed beta, bridges the gap between Twitter Favorites and social bookmarking. …more…

[02/09/10] Handling Facebook friend requests from colleagues and clients

We’ve all received that dreaded friend request – the one where you didn’t fall out of touch, you stopped calling on purpose. Clicking the ignore button is easy and has few consequences. It can get tricky when you have to see the requestor every day at the office – how do you handle it when colleagues or clients send you friend requests? With more and more companies writing social media policies, it’s becoming one of the thornier questions to consider. …more…

[19/08/2010] Could this be the dumbest forum post ever?

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[19/08/2010] Company sued for renaming dissatisfied customer: Mr Stupid Person

Ha’aretz is reporting that mobile network Partner is being sued by a former customer for addressing his bills to “Mr Stupid Person”. …more…

[16/08/2010] What if social media decided the Premier League?

With the start of this season’s Barclays Premier League this weekend, I thought it would be interesting to look at how the various teams would fare if social media engagement would decide the league. You wouldn’t be surprised to find Chelsea at the top of the table with West Bromwich Albion languishing at the bottom, but the rest of the table makes for some interesting reading. …more…

[05/08/2010] Am I the only one mourning Google Wave?

Naturally, there’s been a lot of coverage of Google’s decision to set aside Google Wave. For the most part, it seems the prevailing opinion is that Wave was an innovative solution for a problem that didn’t exist. I don’t agree with this – instead, I think that we’ve missed an opportunity by not considering Wave in the appropriate context. …more…

[29/07/2010] 12 different ways of visualising Twitter data

Some people think Twitter is all about short messages back and forth but we know better. It’s all about generating all sorts of data which can then be sliced and diced into interesting visualisations. Although there are a number of well known services providing user statistics (TwitterCounter, Tweet Stats, etc.), we wanted to delve a bit deeper than that. Here are some of our favourites. …more…

[27/07/2010] Google losing their grip on the straight and narrow

There’s never been a shortage of stylised Google home pages, but in recent days we’ve stumbled across two unusual variants. …more…

[20/07/2010] Today British Airways passengers were able to check-in using their iPhones for the first time

On this morning’s London Heathrow to Edinburgh flight, BA customers were able to checkin using their iPhones for the first time. Although checkin via the mobile site, ba2go.com, has been available for at least two years, the app allows travellers to generate a QR code boarding pass and proceed straight to the gate, subject to the usual baggage and security procedures. …more…

[14/07/2010] The intranet is dead. Long live the intranet.

Prince was wrong – it’s not the internet that’s dead, it’s the intranet. When I talk to clients about intranets as a collaboration hub they cock an eyebrow as if I’m speaking 2003 speak rather than 2010 speak. Some of it may be terminology tedium, but the sentiment is born out of a sense that the intranets of old no longer offer a compelling enough business proposition.

Of course, it’s not entirely true. There are millions of intranets embedded in organisations across the globe. People still sit in front of computers and they still need access to corporate information. It’s not that the intranet is dying, it’s just that it is changing. …more…

[08/07/2010] How sporting events and iPhone apps are transforming the game

Believe it or not, the World Cup is not the only major sports event happening this summer. There’s a host of summer regulars which have recently made their appearance in the App Store, enough to make us sit up and label it a trend.

The Tour de France, Wimbledon and The Open have all posted “official” apps for fans. Quick to pick up on a trend, I decided to have a look at these apps and determine what makes, or breaks, an app for your major sports event. …more…

[01/07/2010] Sure, content is king – but if no-one finds your content there’s little point

Writing great content is at the heart of blogging, there’s no denying that. Getting people to your content is almost as important though. Without successful signposting, your blog posts are like hidden jewels on the beach, waiting for some bloke with a metal detector to pass over and find them. The web is vast and there are no silver bullets, but there are a few things you can do to drive traffic to your writing. …more…

[22/06/2010] To follow or not to follow?

First impressions count.

When looking at someone’s Twitter page, it’s often in the first few seconds that the decision of whether to follow them is made. If you want to build your follower count, it’s important to think how someone else might perceive you. Here are some of the things that other users will be looking at when making the “do I follow?” decision. …more…

[20/06/2010] Making LinkedIn work for employer and employee

Social media policy development is still in its infancy and one thing many companies are coming to terms with is how to approach LinkedIn. Instinctively, there’s benefit for both parties but working out how to make it mutually beneficial can be quite challenging. …more…

[13/06/2010] Twitter blowing its own vuvuzela

Over the past few days, we’ve noticed Twitter really getting into the World Cup spirit and we’re loving it. For those that haven’t picked them all up, here are the World Cup goodies we’ve noticed on Twitter. …more…

[02/06/2010] Cybersnub: What really happens when you say “no” to that friend request

We all know how hard it can be to say “no” to someone to their face – the shock, the rejection, the humiliation. No-one wants to be the cause of that. But do you know what happens when you say “no” to someone’s connection request? I had suspicions, but I thought I should check it out to make sure I didn’t inadvertently cause offence. So I did some research on the cybersnub across the three biggest social networks. …more…

[27/05/2010] LinkedIn’s Twitter upgrade may be that “light bulb” moment for a new generation of Tweeters

In an upgrade to their Twitter app, LinkedIn have introduced a feature which allows you easily see which of your contacts have Twitter profiles and to add them to your following list. In making the simple connection, I think that LinkedIn may have opened up the wonders of Twitter to a whole new round of adopters. …more…

[21/05/2010] Are you chasing your blog audience away

I was reading a blog post today and was wanting to comment when the site asked me to register. To register? Create an account? That’s a bit 2000, not 2010. ZDNet’s Tom Forenski will never know what I thought about his piece on corporates and social networking. The registration hurdle stopped me in my tracks. …more…

[17/05/2010] How to build the perfect mobile app for your application

Many web content publishers are grappling with the question of whether to publish mobile device specific apps. Although I remember a few of these for my BlackBerry a few years back, it seems to be that the iPhone that is becoming the platform of first choice for most sites. Publishers need to balance the cost of dedicated apps with the improved user experience they offer. In this post I’ll look at my perfect feature set for an app built around publishing existing web based content. …more…

[11/05/2010] Video killed the radio star, Facebook killing the Foursquare star?

Facebook’s long heralded move into location has often had me thinking about how new features launched by established services can have a profound effect on other players in the market place. Sometimes it necessitates a change of strategy, sometimes it is a death knell. I got to thinking about how some recent market changes might affect existing players. …more…

[03/05/2010] Let’s face it, Twitter has changed the way we signpost content

Recently I was working up some entries for a photo blog that I run and it struck me how much Twitter drives the way I wrote the post titles and signposted content in general.

The appearance of Twitter behaviour on Facebook (e.g. identifying friends in comments with @ syntax) suggests that even Facebook – with it’s easy click “share” and “like” buttons – has had less impact on our signposting behaviour than Twitter. It could be argued that Facebook offers a richer user experience, which may be true (and a topic for another time…) Here’s a reflection of how Twitter has driven some common online behavioural changes. …more…

[30/04/2010] UK parties’ iPhone apps, who got it wrong? Who got it right?

All the major parties have talked the talk about learning from Obama’s celebrated success at using technology to build a grassroots campaign which engaged voters and all the major parties have released iPhone apps. I got to wondering – have they blended what they’ve learnt from Obama with the power of the iPhone to engage its users?

In this post, I’ll look at each of the party’s election apps considering where they’ve done well and where they’ve got it all wrong. As a reasonable baseline, I’ll suggest that an app should at least have party news, party relevant tweets and policy information. The thing I’m most interested in is whether the apps provide a platform for interested people to get engaged in party activities. Do the apps allow Joe Public to get involved at a grassroots level? …more…

[23/04/2010] Could it be that LinkedIn just isn’t that innovative?

I was reflecting on the Facebook / Docs.com announcement and couldn’t help but think about how often I actually collaborate with friends on shared documents. Not very often at all. And how often do I collaborate with colleagues and business partners over a shared document? Every single day. It makes more sense to me that LinkedIn should be leading the way in creating collaboration environments.

As I thought about it, I realised that often LinkedIn are behind the curve with new features. I began to wonder if the service lacked innovation. Gasp! Labelling a popular, successful, monetised web business as lacking innovation could be heresy. Let’s see if I can back it up. …more…

[20/04/2010] Lonely Planet’s stroke of marketing genius. Entrepreneurs take note.

Lonely Planet has responded to the ash induced European travel crisis by offering it’s iPhone guides as freebies for 13 European cities.

Travellers will (rightly) be left with a sense that Lonely Planet is looking after them. From Lonely Planet’s perspective, users will get to test drive the Lonely Planet apps which will hopefully drive them to purchasing more in the future. …more…

[19/04/2010] Hear ye, hear ye – making the case for broadcast messaging

I’ve recently been spending a lot of time discussing the integration of social media and intranets with clients of mine. One of the biggest mindset hurdles I encounter is integrating twitter style broadcast messaging into the service. Here’s some thinking to counter the sceptics. …more…

[11/04/2010] How LinkedIn should embed itself into our professional lives

I recently met for drinks with a friend of a friend who works at LinkedIn. At the time, I was working on a consulting assignment where one of our challenges is to design a compelling, social media inspired, intranet experience. During the conversation, I had an idea that brought these two things together: LinkedIn should encourage organisations to host LinkedIn discussion content embedded within their intranets. …more…

[08/04/2010] Hey Facebook! Bigger photos are great but here’s how to really improve your photo app

The recent acquisition of Divvyshot by Facebook got me thinking about the humble photo app. Given the chance, how would I improve Facebook photos? …more…

[23/03/2010] 5 surefire signs your company has missed the point

One thing that gets my goat about many companies going social is that they behave like a Twitter stream and some informal photos on Facebook mean they’re invested in social and talking to their customers. So misguided. Well, what could’ve gone wrong? …more…

[10/03/2010] Keeping on top of your social media inbox

One of my biggest challenges across my social media presence is separating the wheat from the chaff. How do I make sure I’m hearing from my most important sources without resorting to ignoring the others? And how can I do this without having to scour across a number of aggregators many times a day? …more…

[09/03/2010] Owning the conversation must be better than ignoring it

When considering new social media initiatives, one of the most common responses I get is “But what if people say bad things about our brand?”.

Fact of the matter is, whether or not you have a social media presence, if someone has something to say about you – they’ll find a place to say it online. If you’re lucky, it’s a pokey blog in the corner of nofriendsville.com and it is not noticed by anybody. …more…

[25/02/2010] Getting past the Oprah barrier on Twitter

When I’m working with colleagues and clients I commonly hear “Twitter — I setup an account to see what its all about. I followed Oprah and posted one or two tweets. As far as I know no-one saw them so I lost interest because I just don’t get it.”

In this post I’ll try and frame your thinking around Twitter and how it fits into things. …more…

[23/02/2010] Think there’s no room for social media in the workplace? Think again!

Over the past few weeks I’ve had more and more clients ask me the same question: How can we learn from Facebook and Twitter to improve internal collaboration? I’ve been reflecting on this and have tried to translate some of our best loved social networking features into design patterns for consideration when building a collaborative intranet environment.

In this post I’ll look at some of the natural collaborative behaviours that occur in the workplace and briefly consider how to design services for them. …more…

[21/02/2010] Vancouver 2010’s Lost Opportunity

The thing that always strikes me about the Olympics is the visual spectacle — there are intense emotions right at the boundaries of human achievement and that makes for compelling viewing. So, naturally I was expecting there to be a big online fanfare around Vancouver 2010 but a brief scout around the web left me feeling quite empty. …more…

[18/02/2010] Happy landings in Social Media

In recent years, the relationship between customers and airlines has become increasingly taken over by travel aggregation sites. In a cut throat industry, this represents a significant threat to the carriers. The industry is ripe for innovative players to use social media tools to regain control of their customer relationship. In this post, I’ll look at some of the ideas already being adopted by airlines in this space. …more…

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