Archives for category: Technology

I wrote recently about how many of us are in front of a device keyboard all day and manage to get by with 2 or 4-finger typing, rather than potentially the 10 digits at our disposal. When was the last time you saw a job ad for an predominantly office-based role that wasn’t for a PA or secretary that said ‘since the majority of your time is desk-bound, you must be able to type 50 words a minute or more to apply’?

When I had a few months off between jobs about 15 years ago, I went to a typing course. I didn’t last more than a couple of weeks. Even though I wasn’t working, I couldn’t spare the lost productivity while my typing speed was cut into a quarter of ‘slow’. I didn’t have the time to engrain the behaviours to see the long term benefit.

Because I’ve probably typed a million words since then, I’ve improved my typing ‘organically’. I’ve made it up as I go along. My organic typing is now a flurry of activity as hands cross over each other and fingers overlap. I look like a piano player when I type, and it’s hardly a virtuoso performance.

Interestingly, one of my brothers can type properly, and he’s had some issues with RSI – repetitive strain injury. I wonder if the act of anchoring your wrists down more and being more regimented with the spaces your fingers occupy makes you more prone to these injuries of ‘isolation’ compared to the organic way of letting the fingers go where they want to and damn the downturn in efficiency.

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How many of us spend large amounts of time at a computer, device, smartphone or other digital device? What do we do on them? Well, principally we’re typing our part of some dialogue.

Isn’t it amazing that computers have formed the central role in our working and playing lives yet so few of us can type properly? What a bonus it would be to type as fast as we can talk, as fast as we can think even. How much more productive could we be?

Many of us continue to get by on 2-finger typing. I’ve graduated to 4-finger typing, with the occasional thumb for the space bar and the pinkie for the return key, when I don’t use the dictate function on my mac. It’s still painfully slow, but it’s progress of a kind I suppose.

I find it flabbergasting that the primary and secondary schools my kids go to don’t get typing and keyboarding lessons. Boys and girls both need it; it’s an essential skill for the modern world, even if we never type anything during our working day.

We’re all looking at the keyboard, when we should be looking at the screen. There’s a metaphor for life in there somewhere.

I travel on Ryanair a lot, at least twice a month. It’s an affordable, efficient and on time airline. I’ve written about the airline a lot on this blog, too many links to insert here and also I notice there’s no search function on my blog, which I must fix – but, trust me, I’ve written about Ryanair a lot.

They’ve improved the way they treat customers over the years. After flying with them hundreds of times, I’ve never had to amend a pre-booked flight before, however. It’s a scam.

Many months ago I booked a long weekend away for me and Her Ladyship to Rome. She’s never been, so we were really looking forward to it. Out on the Friday morning, back on the Monday evening. Perfect.

Then my good lady got offered a new job, a great job. The only snag was that she had to start the Monday we were flying back from Rome, so I needed to cut short the holiday by one day and rebook the return flights.

Firstly, they stiff you €40 per flight to re-book. Painful, but not the end of the world. Secondly, the new return flights were for some reason really expensive, more than the original out and back flights combined, so I parked the change for a day or two to think about it.

As luck would have it, the next time I looked at the new flights I was in a brand new browser session, and had forgotten to follow the process of re-booking the pre-booked flights. Lo and behold, the price of the ‘net’ new flights was less than half the price of the ‘rebooked’ new flights going through the re-booking process.

Armed with this insight, I looked at re-booking both the outbound and return flights and going somewhere much cheaper that Rome, either Edinburgh and London. The re-booked flight prices were over twice the price of making a brand new booking.

So Ryanair charge you €40 per flight to change your flights and more than double the prices for the pre-booked flights. It’s a really laborious, painful process in their legacy system, too. It’s also a scam, plain and simple.

The original flights to Rome were €370. Brand new return flights to London were less than €100. To change the Rome flights and re-book to London would have cost us an additional €180, after the €370 credit had been applied.

I’m now looking at cancelling the flights to Rome. I’m not hopeful of getting anything back.

Don’t change your flights once you’ve booked them with Ryanair. They have you over a barrel and will ride you like a rocking horse, to mix some wooden metaphors.

I use Google Chrome for my web access. I use it on my Mac laptop.

Sometimes I’m just browsing. Most of the time I’m working. Sometimes I’m doing highly repetitive things like making small changes to web site text pages, via a content management system (CMS).

It’s the small things that make the difference when it comes to usability. I really like the circular timer thingy on a chrome browser tab. It’s so simple, and yet so communicative, instructive. When you do a ‘send’ like clicking a link or submitting something the circular thingy goes one way, and then when you start to ‘receive’ like getting a new page back or updating the page, the circular thingy goes the other way. When the browser fully delivers the page, the thingy disappears and the tab favicon comes back. I see the process every time I compose and update this post.

It’s not in the middle of the screen, obscuring your view and your productivity, like the pinwheel of death. It’s up in the browser tab.

This is great when you’re doing lots of updates, because as soon as you see the circular thingy reverse its direction you know you can switch to another tab, saving lots and lots of milliseconds, which add up over time and really help you out.

Well thought out, simple and illuminating. Marvellous, magical usability.

Software can help us improve our productivity and automate our operations, which in turn can feed better revenues and increase profitability. Many of us feel strongly that automating B2B processes are the way to go. Removing manual tasks helps people focus on the areas where they can really add value.

With new software coming in, it’s easy to forget that you’re not actually buying software, you’re buying change. This is where the problems start, because you need to manage change. It’s not something we humans are particularly good at it. It’s why 70% of change programs fail.

With any kind of change program, you also need to change your processes. Before you start the change, you need to audit, improve and tweak your processes. Then, with the new processes in place and properly embedded, you can bring in the new software, the change.

If you don’t do this, you’re simply spending money and automating the mess, the current mess you have.

And that’s probably worse than doing nothing at all.

In the B2B sales and marketing conversation it’s hard to imagine anything more important than content. It’s important to have lots of content, because then you can design more workflows to build the engagement and you’ve a larger base of material to recycle from. But the quality is more important than the quantity.

In the good old days, by which I mean the noughties, it was about attracting people and then working the leads.

That doesn’t cut it these days. It’s no longer about aiming solely for a form submission with some precious contact details because someone wants to download an ebook or register for a webinar. If the content is poor quality, you lose them and they won’t come back. Today’s best companies nurture their prospects with good content and score their leads according to fit and the degree of interaction. Good companies only pass leads onto sales when those leads have passed a certain score and demonstrated they are interested to a certain degree.

The good marketing companies – with good content that they trust – are not passing over a lead as soon as someone submits their details for the first time. This is why the content has to be good. If it’s poor, it’s probably the end of the relationship before it’s begun.

‘Let’s maximise our webinar registrations and then call them all in case they don’t attend. Also, the ebook is not quite what it’s built up to be, so let’s make sure we follow up with everyone who’s downloaded; we don’t want to lose them.’ Nope, you already have.

This is the real importance of good content. It’s not a hook to get them in and lock the door behind them. It’s an invitation to build something, and throughout the ensuing relationship you’re only as good as the last piece of content they got.

I reached a thousand connections on LinkedIn the other day. Given that I almost never connect with someone I don’t know or have not worked with, I consider this a function of my advanced years that I’ve been able to accumulate what is in theory a valuable network.

Of course, there are various tiers to this network. Some of the people in it I actually can’t remember, so I either worked with them very briefly a long time ago or I connected with them when I was under pressure to break my 2 cardinal rules. Others I know better, and others again are part of a small coterie I know very well and would reach out to for help or to give help.

Interestingly, I only realised I was on 998 connections after I had sent out 3 connection requests. I wondered who would be connection number 1,000. Number 999 would be in the top 3 of all my connections influence-wise, and would be a well known name in the Ireland business community. Number 1,000 was someone relatively senior in the UK with whom I have only recently starting working. Number 1,001 is a friend of a friend who has not accepted my request yet.

Getting to a 4-figure network, which I consider to be a genuinely powerful network rather than one of those that is ten times the size and built for the sake of quantity not quality, reminded me how little I currently leverage the network that I have worked so hard to build up over the last 10 or 12 years. I must do better with this important, sleeping giant of an asset…

What do you do when you come up with what you think is a genuinely new idea for a business, product or service? Inventions, as we all know, are 1% perspiration and 99% inspiration, so you probably still have one foot in the starting blocks even though you have a great idea.

Maybe it’s such a great idea, so obvious that when you make it a success people will say ‘that’s so obvious, why didn’t I do that?’. Maybe you don’t know if it’s been done before and you’re anxious to get it off the ground before someone else who’s better resourced and financed than you comes in .

I’m not an expert in this area, as I tend to help people scale their start-up, which is a step or few beyond what I’m describing here. Nevertheless, there are two things you can assess pretty easily. First, does this thing, or something close to it, already exist? Second, is there a market for it?

If it doesn’t already exist, it’s often a good indicator of viability if your idea dovetails into some of the emerging mega-trends. You need to look out for articles like this one from people who know the field. Who knows, you might be nicely aligned with some of the future ‘big things’. There’s no guarantee that someone somewhere isn’t already developing precisely your new idea, and you could argue that if it’s been identified as an emerging trend you’ve missed the boat, but who knows, there might be room for more than one player in the truly hot areas.

Sometimes it’s a genuinely new idea that there isn’t a market for, and we’ve all had those, probably several of them. And perhaps it’s a genuinely new idea that we don’t have time to work on, because of other commitments. I had a genuinely new idea about two years ago. I researched it and nothing like it existed, which amazed me, because it seemed so obvious. Two years on, I’m still working on my idea, and it still doesn’t exist.

At some point, you have to forget the genuinely new idea and move on, or go for it. Nothing ventured…

Almost everything we do is secondary. Not secondary in importance, you understand. Secondary as in it’s been done before, said before, heard before, tried before.

We spend 99% of our entire school and college lives learning stuff that has already been figured out. We’re getting it second hand and not doing the primary work, the genuinely ground-breaking stuff. Remember that odd time when you stuck your neck out in school or college and wrote what you felt was something new, a product of your independent thought? I bet it was marked wrong, right? You’re treading where thousands of people have gone before, so your new thing is not thought to be right – thought being the operative word.

So much of what we do is secondary. Our working lives are about replicating processes, re-working, recycling, renewing what’s been done before. So little of it is actually new, never done before.

There is a very small number of people doing the primary stuff. Making the law, setting the precedent, inventing a financial mechanism, product, sport, piece of technology, process, creating something new and valuable. The rest of us are studying it, reading it, criticising it, adopting it, using it, benefitting from it, and sometimes improving it.

In the world of doing primary stuff there is failure, mistakes, false dawns, incorrect conclusions, disappointment and a huge amount of wasted time. But also, by an order of magnitude greater, there is fame, fortune, progress, history, satisfaction, gratitude and humility.

What primary stuff are you doing, or trying to do?

There’s nothing like the physical world to give us a powerful corollary of how it works in the cyber world.

I’m always reminded of this in late December when families and friends get together at the end of a few months of solid graft and a winter vomiting bug or two runs riot, moving through areas like wildfire.

That’s really viral, genuinely viral. You can see why the term virus was coined in the cyber world. A physical virus is an amazing thing, replicating itself, producing different strains and moving quickly through people in different cycles and timeframes.

Millions can be affected within the space of a couple of weeks, brought on by the combination of people being at a low ebb and slightly more vulnerable to infection after a sustained period of work, proximity to others, and mobility within family groups and circles of friends.

I’m always fascinated by how terms like desktop, folder, cloud, virus and so on are borrowed from the physical world for their digital equivalent. They always seem so apt.