28 February 2009

Yes it's Caturday but ...

funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more puppies

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

21 February 2009


This one's not really a joke - to find out more about how to help animals check out WSPA.

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

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14 February 2009

I know it's really Caturday but ...

these Shiba Inu puppies are too cute to ignore

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7 February 2009

Serious Caturday

more animals

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1 February 2009

This blog is moving ...

After a number of years using blogspot I've decided to move this blog to my own server. A big thank-you to all you've read and commented over the years. All the old posts have been moved over now.

From 1 Feb 2009 this blog will no longer be updated. I'll be posting over at the new Aide-Memoire and there is a new RSS feed too.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

31 January 2009

This blog is moving ...

From 1 Feb 2009 this blog will no longer be updated. I'll be posting over at the new Aide-Memoire and there is a new RSS feed too.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Ceiling cat on vacation ...

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

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30 January 2009

Has web 2.0 gone mainstream?

Given the statistics in this 2007 report from Avenue A Razorfish and recent anecdotal feedback from non-geek friends, students and relatives web 2.0 is firmly entrenched in the mainstream.

Ordinary people regularly get their news by checking online newspapers, flick through YouTube when they are bored, share links to online media and upload family photos onto Facebook.

Heritage media is unable to provide fast enough access to news in a crisis. So when events like the recent Mumbai attacks occur ordinary folks turn to social media for their real time news updates.

Since the launch of the iPhone and other smart phones (like my beloved HTC Dual Touch) ordinary people are also discovering that they can access web services via their mobile devices relatively easily.

This all adds up to web 2.0 being mainstream. It also means that it's not just about geeks anymore. This is borne out on Twitter, where recently a bunch of lawyers have been using it to communicate with each other.

It is not a bad thing that the time of the geeks is over for web 2.0, it means that the geeks are moving on to the next big thing. More about that later ...

[Image source: Avenue A Razorfish]

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

29 January 2009

This blog is moving ...

From 1 Feb 2009 this blog will no longer be updated. I'll be posting over at the new Aide-Memoire and there is a new RSS feed too.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Future of the web ...

This chart from 2007 shows the trajectory of the web future moving in a straight line from where we are now (or were in 2007) to the future of web 4.0 and beyond. But I don't think that the future of the web will such a simple story.

Innovation always comes unexpectedly and from the periphery. What we know will be changed by the next wave of innovation just as our world was changed by web 2.0 and its associated new business models.

What is termed web 3.0 is pretty much here already and is merely being tweaked. But it is the next generation of web that is up for grabs. I'm watching out for the next disruptor. It might not even be a cutting edge technology. Instead it might be an existing technology used in a new way or in a new context. Remember that mobile phone text messaging was old technology that resonated in a new way with younger mobile phone users and generated an entirely new business model.

None of us know what the next generation of the web holds. But we do know that work being done now in artificial intelligence, new interfaces (like Microsoft Surface), wearable computing and semantic computing are all possibilities.

One thing is certain, the next big thing will surprise us in one way or another. Once it is here it will seem obvious, but as usual it isn't obvious until it gets here. That is the way of the future.

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28 January 2009

Goal setting is not enough ...

Many time and productivity experts recommend goal setting and suggest writing down goals to help focus on them. But what is it really that stops us from achieving those goals?

Perhaps we are starting with the externals - i.e. the goals - before looking at the internals? We need to look at our goals in a different way if we really want to make changes in our life.

The internals really need to be aligned to achieving the goal otherwise it is just a struggle. Here are some of the things I do:

  1. Look at the goal and check if it aligns to personal values & desires.
  2. Identify habits of thought or behaviour that help or hinder achievement of the goal, work out how to reinforce the positive ones and minimize the negative ones.
  3. Define the required action steps for achieving the goal, set target dates, write them down & tell other people about them (that makes it harder to weasel out later).
  4. Ensure that the goals are S.M.A.R.T.
  5. Monitor progress and adjust plans accordingly.
  6. Use affirmations to reinforce goals and new habits.
  7. Don't give up, be persistent.
The key here is aligning internals - values, desires, thoughts, habits and behaviour - with the goals and linking them to structured plans of action.

Another important thing to realise is that we are unlikely to achieve mastery of new ways of thinking or doing immediately. There is evidence that expertise can take up to 10,000 hours to achieve. So there will be stumbles and failures at first. It is important to persist through these - and this is where the affirmations come in handy.

But what matters most in achieving goals is persistence, as Calvin Coolidge once said:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”
By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

27 January 2009

The User Revolution & IT ...

Caught up with Tom Austin at the Gartner conference in Sydney in late 2008 and he shared his perspective on the web 2.0 user revolution and its impact on IT.

Tom started out by asking how organisations fell so far behind user & internet trends. He noted that in business attention follows budget. And the IT budget is focused on delivering SLAs and applications that support the business, keeping the lights on not on innovation.

According to Tom businesses are not seeking out richer more sophisticated 'bleeding edge' technology that enables people to get new & better jobs. Then he asked the question "Where is real innovation happening?"

He argued that maximum innovation happens at grassroots with users in how they apply technology. Commenting that maximum innovation happens at the periphery and not at the centre, which is the space occupied by enterprises. From Tom's perspective "web 2.0 catalyzes consumerization and five major mutually reinforcing discontinuities". The discontinuities, that mutually reinforce each other, are:
  1. open source

  2. SaaS

  3. global class

  4. web 2.0

  5. consumerization
The buzzword arc that reflects this includes: on demand, IT utility, Saas, and cloud. He noted that "users are doing this [i.e. buying access to web 2.0 applications or services] on their corporate cards as if it is a lunch" or are using things like using iPhones instead of following the corporate standards.

Also once users start using "global class systems" like Amazon or eBay where they don't care what browser or OS you are using it changes user expectations of what corporate IT should provide.

This is major disruption that is enabling users to access global class systems outside of the IT department. So Tom sees IT departments as competing against the great entrepreneurial wave that is seeking to be the next Google.

This all means that IT is changing, and the changes are in the operational tempo of IT departments:

enterprise v internet
project cycles = years v hours
project life spans = decades v months

According to Tom (and I agree) "most IT organisations cannot do both of these well - CIOs need to realise they can't do it all". There is generally nothing more fatal than a corporate IT department that thinks it gets web and web operational needs.

Some more gems from Tom include:

"demographics is destiny"

"you can predict for groups of people how they use technology "

"decision makers are the 60 year old group"

"rabble rousers are the 23 year old group"

"with democratization of the technology it means that the 2nd group can now get their own technology and know how to use it"

"even in companies with 2000 or more than 15% of knowledge worker use their own notebooks at work"

"data shows that IT & non IT staff use web 2.0 technology also "

"75% end users are using web 2.0 applications from work"

"77% IT pro users are using web 2.0 applications from work"

"both groups report they think only 40% of other staff using same"

All of this is real food for thought for corporate IT. Trying to hold back this tide of user empowerment might make them seem a little bit like King Canute.

[Picture: King Canute]

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

26 January 2009

Cloud Computing - are we there yet?

Way back in the early 1990s Sun Microsystems had a slogan "the network is the computer". It did not make sense to any of us back then. However, today it is a different story. Today we are rapidly moving our personal applications into the Cloud sometimes perhaps without even realising that it is happening.

Here's some examples of how we're already using cloud computing in our personal lives:
  • Gmail & Google Calendar for all your email and appointments
  • Facebook for all your friends
  • LinkedIn for all your business contacts
  • Blogger, Wordpress or another hosted blogging platform for your diary
It might be time to make a backup of some of that info that you've got floating around in the cloud. Only a few months ago I was unable to log into Gmail for 3 days. And recently there was a total data loss for JournalSpace blogging platform, where all blogs going back about 5 years were wiped out. What price then cloud computing?

There is some way to go yet before we can really trust the cloud. But rest assured it is coming. In the future people will laugh at the quaint idea that we once had stand alone computers and storage.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

25 January 2009

This blog is moving ...

From 1 Feb 2009 this blog will no longer be updated. I'll be posting over at the new Aide-Memoire and there is a new RSS feed too.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Why not give peace a chance?

During our busy lives it seems to me that we often let the chances for peace pass us by. And how does this happen?

It happens with our reactions to things, to events, to words and actions by other people. For example, the snappy response to a question asked when we're busy, or the angry outburst when things don't go as expected. The responses we make to these things can often lead to friction or bad feelings.

One of my old bosses used to tell me that I needed to act not react. His idea was that reaction was an instinctive, visceral and almost unthinking response. While he believed that action was a considered response to a particular person or situation.

Just think about this for a moment:

  • What would happen if we decided not to react instinctively to people or situations?
  • What would happen if we decided not to protect ourselves before it was necessary?
  • What would happen if we took a few breaths before acting instead of simply reacting?
Would this give peace more of a chance to grow in our lives? I'm going to give it a try, it's a simple change that will cost nothing and it might just make the world a slightly better place.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

24 January 2009

Itteh bitteh Caturday

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

23 January 2009

This blog is moving ...

From 1 Feb 2009 this blog will no longer be updated. I'll be posting over at the new Aide-Memoire and there is a new RSS feed too.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Hope is not a strategy, so what are we going to do?

It was very interesting to watch the 2008 US election campaign with all its talk of hope.

Checking Wikipedia, a definition of Hope "is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life."

But hope is not a strategy by which one can achieve change. So it makes me wonder what concrete actions Obama will take to bring about change. And how he will do this in the face of the multiple challenges facing the US and the world.

Some the challenges for the US and the world include:

  • wars on several fronts
  • continued terrorism
  • economic crisis
  • growing unemployment
  • growing divides between rich and poor
  • high expectations from diverse supporter groups
  • shifting relationships on international stage
Hope is not going to save us. Nor is focusing only on the problems. The real challenge will be in harnessing the hope and turning it into energy directed towards positive change.

This is where ideas of resilient and sustainable local communities really come into play. Just like we've heard for many years it is time to think global (in terms of hope) and to act local (in terms of positive actions).

Hope is not a strategy, and hope without meaningful action plans is merely wasted energy.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

22 January 2009

Is it time for a new approach to management?

The traditional approaches to managing organizations have been optimized so much that there little improvement that can be made. At the same time there are huge changes in society and how people want and expect to work.

With the growth of collaboration technologies such as web 2.0 and entry of generation Y into the workforce things are starting to change.

The time has come to ask if the real change for organisations is away from the centralised bureaucratic model of the early twentieth century?

If that is the case, then what should our new model organisation be modelled on? Everyone knows that somebody has to be in charge - or do they? What would happen if:

  • ... we decided to trust people to do their jobs?
  • ... management became a dialogue instead of a monologue?
  • ... collaboration and collective intelligence was the order of the day?
  • ... we used technology to enable all of this?
None of this is to say that quality is unimportant, or that meeting business targets is unimportant. By the way, who says that quality cannot be built in using trust and collaborative work practices?

But for all of these changes listed above to work it is necessary that there is two-way communication, clarity of & responsibilities, clarity of strategic purpose and tactical execution. The principles of agile software development and scrum exemplify this approach. All of these changes call upon better management practices than we often see in a command control environment.

Most of all these changes work from a presumption of trust. I've worked with organisations where the mere idea of trusting the staff is horrifying to managers.

The important thing for managers to remember is that the control you have is only an illusion anyway. Nothing a manager achieves is done without the participation of others. Imagine how much more could be achieve if the others were actively engaged in the process rather than just along for the ride.

[Image source: USDA Farm Service Agency]

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

21 January 2009

American burgers - now I get it!

For many years I have thought that American friends were delusional when they rhapsodised about their burgers.

After all I had eaten at McDonalds so I knew what an American burger was like.

However, at the urging of several friends I tried some real American burgers on a recent trip to San Francisco.

The burger places recommended were Jeffrey's and In-n-out, both of which I valiantly tasted in my attempt to find a great hamburger.

At In-n-out I went for the 'animal' style cheeseburger with fries and a chocolate shake - as my friends had told me it was a very tasty burger. It was in fact a completely different kind of food that perpetrated on me previously as a burger by other purveyors.

But then someone said that Jeffrey's did an even better burger. So off I went (through the worst traffic on El Camino Real) to share a burger lunch with IdaRose.

Again I picked the cheeseburger, but this time added chilli cheese fries (a meal in themselves) and a chocolate shake. The burger was great, the chilli cheese fries amazing, and the shake was the best one I've ever had.

Now I know why my American buddies rave about their cheeseburgers. These real burgers are a tasty meal. They are nothing like the plastic shams that are perpetrated on the rest of the world.

Seriously if you find yourself in Menlo Park grab a Jeffrey's burger and if you see an In-n-out drop in there too.

[Image source: me this is my burger plus chilli cheese fries at Jeffrey's in Menlo Park CA]

*Note: Neither Jeffrey's nor In-n-out have given me anything (yet) but I am amenable to free burgers when next I visit the US.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

20 January 2009

How Resilient is Australia?

Reading this book at the moment - Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects by Dmitry Orlov. It is very interesting to consider how Australia would manage.

Orlov considers America and its current situation in the light of a possible economic and social upheaval. He compares the American situation against Russia performed during its collapse after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Orlov brings a fresh view of the US and his ideas (which I hope are all totally wrong) are food for thought.

The big question for me is how different or similar is Australia to the US in this context? What are the factors that give us resilience? What kinds of things can be do to build up our resilience in the face of upheaval?

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

19 January 2009

Why do we wait until funerals to say positive things about someone?

There is one thing that I've often thought was sadder than a funeral itself. It is the way that everyone stands around saying what they liked about the deceased when they are no longer around to hear it. Sometimes it is even sadder to hear that they never told the person in question.

Why is it so hard for us to say positive things to each other?

It certainly seems easier to be critical and to say negative things. And when you think about this it does start to make sense.

Saying positive things opens us up and makes us vulnerable to the other person and to rejection. While saying negative things closes things down and seems to keep us safer and more distant from the other person.

One change I can make this year is to say positive things to people when I get the chance. Not suggesting to make stuff up, just to speak truth. I'm not waiting for another funeral to say a positive thing about someone. And if that opens me up to rejection then c'est la vie!

[Image source]

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

18 January 2009

Obama talks about continuing the grassroots involvement

How spooky! Just after I posted this morning with some thoughts about Obama and change I received an email from him (as did many others). His email linked to a YouTube video, which is also on my.barackobama.com.

In the video he talks about change and the need to build on the grassroots movement that helped him to get elected. He also announces a new movement called Organizing for America to fight for change in "your local communities". It will be interesting to see how this develops.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Will there be a real change in the US with Obama?

Having recently visited the US it is interesting to consider if there will be real changes in how the US operates along with the change in government.

Not everybody wanted Obama to win. So now we have the some people, mainly the centre and conservatives, feeling disenfranchised. and regrouping for next time, as indicated by these stickers on the right.

And on the other side we have the liberals or progressives hopeful for change as exemplified in the video below.

Also we have Obama faced with the greatest number of crises and threats to the US on multiple fronts since the the 1929 Depression & Second World War. For example, we have the:

  • economic crisis,
  • environmental crisis,
  • increased instability in the middle east and India-Pakistan,
  • increased terrorist threats,
  • breakdown in infrastructure in the US,
  • social fragility in the US,
  • etc.
That is a mammoth list of issues for anyone. And it includes important domestic and foreign issues to manage. I suspect that Obama will need to govern from the centre to maintain legitimacy across the diverse groups for whom he must govern. But he will also need to find a way to work differently with the rest of the world. The US government cannot afford to just invade anyone of whom they disapprove any longer.

How he handles all of this is critical for the US and for the rest of us. One thing is certain, the old and well tried approaches might not be useful in these times.

Can Obama lead towards a real change?

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

17 January 2009

It's Caturday again ...

humorous pictures
see more crazy cat pics

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

16 January 2009

Is 2009 the year of social media & return on investment?

I am now officially bored with web 2.0 and so on. The hype over the past year has been ridiculous. But the whole area of social computing, including social media and social networking will continue to grow.

However, it is likely that the economic crisis will precipitate a focus on some real value (for a change) in the area of social computing and social media.

The real challenge is going to be demonstration of ROI from social computing in a down market.

From a business perspective this ROI will need to be real bottom line costs out or increased direct revenue. This is going to be a big challenge for some social media companies. It also means that the consumer end of the market might not be the place to look for growth. Instead there will be more competition for the enterprise market.

I suspect that in the area of social computing the enterprise market is where the established companies that have a compelling enterprise social computing platform, integration capability and deep pockets will have an advantage.

But all the best innovation seems to come out of difficult times. So we can expect to see new ideas developed in ways we don't yet understand, new business models and new ways of approaching old problems.

[Cartoon source: Geek & Poke]

via Aide-mémoire

15 January 2009

The Ripple Effects of Assholes: When Women Are Treated Badly, Everyone Suffers

Just came across this old post from Bob Sutton (well known anti-asshole activist) is worth noting - in summary according to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology:

"Witnessing the harassment or uncivil treatment of women at work is bad not only for female employees, but for the productivity of the whole organisation."

Read more here...

This in turn let me to ponder the interconnectedness of humans and reminded me of Donne's famous verse:

"...No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee..."

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14 January 2009

How much power do our IT staff really have?

There was a tale in the news in 2008 of a disgruntled city IT worker who effectively blocked all access to the city network. Apparently the network continued to function but he refused to hand over the passwords to management so they could administer it. The story first first came to my notice in September's Cnet News; but it also had good analysis in July by CIO here and here during July 2008.

This is an interesting power struggle. We do not often consider the power entrusted to the IT folks in our organizations. Terry Childs was a network engineer who had created and nurtured the city's wide area network (WAN). Due to resource constraints he was on call 24 x 7 x 365, and he had come to mistrust the ability of others to effectively support the network. Thus other workers in department just left administration of the WAN to Terry. He appears to have been a highly dedicated network administrator who worked very hard but who had a cranky persona and an intolerance for incompetence. It appears that the crisis was precipitated by management changes and actions. It is worth reading the CIO analysis of the case.

Most people do not realise that most IT departments concentrate key information like this in the hands of very few people. They do not realise how vulnerable their organization is to incompetent or malicious acts by those few. And they are often not particularly grateful for the work that those few do.

It is not uncommon for IT workers to work a full 5 day week and then to be asked turn up on weekends or after hours to undertake essential works. In many cases they are not paid overtime for that extra work. Many IT workers are also required to be on call 24 x 7.

The role of IT can often be challenging. If things are working and all is going well nobody is grateful, it is just their job after all. But often it is hard to obtain the necessary resources - like redundancy - to ensure that all go well without interruption.

In the event of a breakdown or service interruption IT staff work until it is fixed (sometimes for several days in a row). Afterwards there is usually the ritual search for the guilty. Rarely is the guilt ascribed to the initial lack of resources that could have avoided the event.

Rarely are IT departments rewarded for problem avoidance. Instead resources are focused problem rectification rather than avoidance, thus causing a predictable cycle of failure and fixing.

We should be very grateful to our IT staff. Given the power they hold over our systems and our businesses, and how badly they are often treated, it is amazing that they do not take this power and use it against us.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

13 January 2009

Can the Banks Really Change?

Back in November 2008, before the real seriousness of the global financial situation had become apparent, I attended a Retail Financial Services Panel Discussion & Luncheon in Sydney. The topics proposed for the panel includes:

  • Competition and customer acquisition amid the credit crisis
  • Group strategy post-credit crisis - what will consolidation of the sector mean?
  • Life after the 100-point check: The business opportunity and customer experience
  • Innovation in the retail banking sector - how are you going to engage customers moving forward?
  • What is going to positively and negatively impact your customers?
  • Effective and efficient processing via various channels
  • Positive and comprehensive reporting
  • Outsourcing of back-end processing by the major banks
An insight hit me during the panel discussion. Never before had I heard bankers say the words "responsible lending" so many times.

For my sins I have spent most of my adult life working in banking & financial services, so there has been plenty of opportunity for me to hear the words "responsible lending". But in fact, this was the first time ever that I had heard those words fall so liberally from a banker's lips.

Usually the term "responsible lending" falls only from the lips of a banking regulators (ASIC or APRA in Australia).

In addition, the panellists talked a lot about "proper pricing and assessment of risks" ... whatever the 'new' normal is" (Jim Cock, GE). This does not bode well for borrowers. It sounds like banks are not sure how to properly assess risk anymore. For Cock the key message was about the importance of good data so that risk can be effectively priced, he also spoke glowingly of the need for positive credit reporting (which IMHO is a bane in the US and will do us no good as consumers).

Bostock, from the NAB and newly arrived from the UK, noted that the UK had already moved into a phase of asset deflation and that this was having a flow on effect to jobs and mortgage repayments.

Each panellist expressed hope in various forms for the future. Each talked about how they were going to differentiate from their competitors on customer service.

The quote of the day was from Bostock: "There is not a lot of product innovation in retail banking products, so it is all about customer service". Have to admit, as a bank customer & ex-employee, I was LMAO at that comment.

Given that product innovation in retail banking is one of the factors behind the current financial crisis we can all be thankful that the banks are moving away from it. Instead they claim to be focusing on customer service.

I do wonder how much we will feel the joy of this re-found focus on the customer? Especially when it is coupled with a renewed focus on risk and effective pricing of risk. I suspect bank customers are in for rough days ahead as banks try to maintain their profits in a changed world economic landscape.

For the record the panellists were:
Peter Hanlon, Group Executive, Retail and Business Banking, Westpac
Jim Cock, Managing Director GE Money Direct, GE Money Australia & New Zealand
Graham Heunis, Head of Personal Financial Services, HSBC Australia
Tim Bostock, State General Manager Retail Financial Services NSW & ACT, National Australia Bank

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

12 January 2009

Kevin Kelly & the Evolution of Technology

Here in this TED talk Kevin Kelly talks about the evolution of technology. Kevin is one of my favourite thinkers about technology and our relationship to us. Here he asks "what does technology want from us?"

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

HR Futures Conference Melbourne 26 Feb

For anyone who's into human resources, social media and technology issues you need to know that my buddy, Michael Specht, is running the HR Futures Conference in Melbourne on 26 February 2009.

It's a one day event that will bring together speakers covering HR, Recruiting and Technology to discuss how social media, innovation, culture and technology empower, attract, engage and evolve employees.

Sounds like some really interesting speakers & panellists: e.g. Thomas Shaw CEO of Recruitment Directory, Riges Younan CEO of 2Vouch, Geoff Jennings Director & Founder of Online Recruitment and David Talamelli Senior Recruiter from Oracle Corporation.

As Michael says:

"The day will feature ten different speakers across seven presentations and two panel discussions with topics covering recruitment, learning, professional development, and legal issues as they related to Web 2.0"
For more info check out the website

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

11 January 2009

Safety and Western Society

I have been cogitating - always a dangerous thing to do. The subject is safety. In the past safety was a rare and precious commodity. For example, until the advent of the police force in England it was not safe to travel on the highways without armed guards & people could not walk the streets safely at night.

We take very lightly the privilege of driving kilometres without worrying about highwaymen, or being robbed by footpads. But we are very lucky that we can walk out of our houses without much thought for our safety.

In other parts of the world life is unsafe and everyone is vulnerable to attack. We owe these feelings of safety to such foundations as a civil society, a police force, standing army, and stable society & economy.

It seems that our world is changing. With the unfolding of the global financial crisis we might not be able to rely upon those foundations of safety in western society. Are we moving into a time where we will be unable to rely on a stable economy and society for our safety? Will we be able to afford a police force and standing army to guard our safety?

It is interesting to consider how we might manage in a post-western world?

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

10 January 2009


The question of whether or not people of our time are resilient enough to deal with adversity like previous generations was a topic of discussion at one of the Girl Geek Dinner's last year. It reminded me to dig out these favourite quotations.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit." Aristotle

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." - Confucius

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not... nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not... unrewarded genius is almost legendary. Education will not.... the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." President Calvin Coolidge

"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference." -Reinhold Niebuhr

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Even more Caturday-ness

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

9 January 2009

Memes & hyper-ness

Here in a TED talk Susan Blackmore discusses how humanity has spawned a new kind of meme. She argues for the teme, which spreads itself via technology, and invents ways to keep itself alive. This is a very provocative argument and is worth a look.

Hat tip: @misswired

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Yet another Twitter Top 100 List ...

All those top 50 or top 100 Twitter user lists that enumerate the so-called Twitterati sort of annoy me.

In fact, they annoy me so much that, a while back, I created Yet Another Twitter Top 100 List .

How do you get on this list? You just add yourself and get an instant self esteem lift.

If you are not on one of these lists (or you feel a mild sense of irony) feel free to go and add yourself to this list. If you feel like it add yourself more than once. After all if being a the list once makes you feel good imagine how much you'll when listed twice?

Go on - there's plenty of space left - then you too can be a Twitterati as well ;)

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

8 January 2009

Does sharing your goals with others help?

I've been a big fan of telling as many people as possible about my goals so it is harder for me to back out of them. Also getting people to join in with me is very helpful. It is encouraging when there is more than one person working to achieve the same goal.

Yesterday I discovered a great online tool for getting people to join with you on endeavours. It is called PledgeBank [HT: @stephtara]. The site works on the basis of:

"I’ll do it, but only if you’ll help"
The idea is to use positive peer pressure to improve the community. I've signed up to the Ada Lovelace Day pledge. There's lots more challenges to check out on the site, and you can setup your own pledges really easily.

Go on set up a challenge and get some other people involved - I dare you!

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

How can you follow more than 150 people on Twitter?

When I first started to use Twitter there was a small and fairly tight knit group that I followed and who followed me back. It really felt like a community and there was a sense of intimacy. The feeling of intimacy was supported by meeting with a lot of these folks in real life.

But over time the follower count grew. I don't check the numbers like many seem to, but it must be over 1,000 mostly mutual follows by now.

Sometimes I am asked how it is possible to follow so many people,especially in the light of ideas like the Dunbar number of about 150 people.

It has made me think about how I see Twitter and how it works for me.

Twitter is like a river that is always flowing, whether I am there to see it flowing or not. From time to time I come to the river and watch it flow past. While I'm there interesting conversations and tweets catch my eye and I respond. New people say interesting things and I follow them. Then I go away again, and still the river of Twitter continues to flow. It is important to maintain a zen like calm when I cannot see the river flowing past.

Twitter is also a bit like being at a cocktail party [HT: @mediamum]. When you arrive the party is under way and conversations are happening. But unlike a cocktail party in real life, it is a lot easier to chime in on the conversations in Twitter. Also because you are not physically present it is easier to interact with people you don't know. In this environment it is easy to build up relationships that involve weak social ties, but which are really quite powerful in different ways.

It can be hard, with so many contacts, to stay in touch with particular individuals. I always read @ replies and DMs (direct messages) and respond where it makes sense. This is where tools come in handy so that none of these personally directed messages are missed.

The other side of Twitter is that you actually get to know people. This might seem a strange idea. But it is possible to meet and get to know people online, and to become friends. There are some folks whom I count as friends - we met initially via Twitter only to meet later in real life and continue building the relationship.

But the challenge with an increased number of contacts is how to manage the conversations. I've found Tweetdeck to be an immensely useful tool, it enables creation of groups. Also Twitter searches, which can be saved to an RSS reader. Mr Tweet is also very useful if you want to work out who else to follow. And Tweet Later is a really handy service.

What an amazing, diverse and interesting bunch of people I have access to nowadays with Twitter. In the past it would have been impossible for me to make contact with so many people in such diverse locations and professions. I've made some good friends, had some interesting debates, and learned a lot. Thank-you to everyone who's participated. Look forward to tweeting more in future.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

7 January 2009

How do I choose who to follow back on Twitter?

A long time ago I confessed to @SilkCharm that I did not get Twitter and was about to abandon it. But at her urging I persisted with the darn thing. Then quite quickly there were a whole bunch of people following me, and it became necessary to develop a set of rules for who to follow back.

My rules are pretty simple and I like reciprocity, real people and conversations.

THE 'NO' QUESTIONS - if the answer to these questions is 'no' then I'll probably follow back:

  1. Does this Twitter account seem to be a bot or a spammer?
  2. Do they just talk self-marketing crap?
  3. Do they just post marketing links?
  4. Do they just have the default avatar?
  5. Do they have only 1 or 2 posts that are old?
  6. Do they have hardly any followers but follow a zillion people?

THE 'YES' QUESTIONS - if the answer to these questions is 'yes' then I'll probably follow back:
  1. Do they have a link to another 'real' website?
  2. Is it a real person or a company that I might want to have a conversation with?
  3. Have they got some recent posts that indicate a person who's into communication?
  4. Does their website look interesting?
  5. Would I want to chat with this person at a cocktail party based on their tweets?
Now this bunch of rules gets applied whimsically depending on how I feel. Mostly I try to be reciprocal but don't always follow people back for various reasons that usually relate to some combination of answers to the questions above.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Twitter is either dying or going mainstream?

Funny how some things change and others don't. Back in the early part of 2008 stories of Twitter's demise were prevalent. I saved this Hitwise chart back in July 2008, which showed how UK traffic was trending upwards. From the perspective of 2009 we can see Twitter remains resilient and has made some significant improvements.

Stories about the demise of Twitter remind of me of that Mark Twain story - perhaps they are slightly exaggerated?

Twitter Prediction #1 for 2009: we can expect to see a plethora of prognostications about Twitter - the platform (its potential scalability, security flaws, etc); their business model (its existence at all, its general crapness, or its sheer genius); and their imminent demise (all of which might or might not be true).

Twitter Prediction #2 for 2009: we can expect to see a multitude of articles, blog posts and videos that tell us how Twitter is really going mainstream now (or not depending on the author's viewpoint).

[Chart Source: RobinGoad @ Hitwise]

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Dear Viewers Using IE6

I don't often just reproduce a copy of someone else's blog entire post - but today I've made an exception for a good cause. My buddy @nickhodge has posted a heartfelt plea to people to upgrade from Internet Explorer version 6. It is reproduced in full but you can see in it's glory over at his blog too.

Since Nick is a Microsoft uber guru type person his advice is worth taking. Also your continued use of IE6 causes untold pain for any IT support people and developers who have anything to do with you. Please upgrade!

On a personal note, I fully support this movement - words cannot explain how much pain cross browser testing for IE6 has caused me!


"Dear Internet Explorer 6.0 (IE6) Users,

Only 20% of browsers in the world are still using IE6, and 22% of visitors to this site are still using IE6. IE6 is the work of the evil @basementcat. I strongly suggest you upgrade to Internet Explorer 7 or 8.

Why? Later browsers support more web sites, especially the many that are now written with Web Standards in mind. Sites designed with Web Standards render quicker as browsers do not have to magically interpret bad code.

Also, security. As Microsoft takes Internet security seriously, there are strong features in Internet Explorer 8 to stop nasty things happening.

So, please upgrade your browser.


By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

6 January 2009

Our measure?

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

I've been thinking about this quotation and tend to disagree with the great MLK on this matter. Perhaps the most dangerous thing for human character are times of comfort and plenty? Because that is when we become self indulgent and lazy.

During challenging and controversial times external forces ensure that we consider where we stand and that for which we stand. But during times of comfort and plenty it is all too easy to drift along and never to consider weighty matters at all.

In western society we are particularly prey to this dilemma. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries our society has known relative peace and prosperity. Our children have, for the most part, never known want or need.Most of us have merely to think of a something we want and we can get it. Or rather we could get it, using easy credit or one of those interest free deals the retailers loved.

But now we are seeing a tightening of credit. This means that our retail desires will be harder to fulfil.

The interesting question is how we will deal with this change in our circumstances. Perhaps now we will have the opportunity to test the truth of MLK's saying?

Update: To clarify - I think that the measure of a person is what they do in the ordinary, the everyday and in the good times. During challenging times many people rise to achieve amazing things. But what proportion of a human life is that? It is how we live during the long stretches of everyday good times that is the true test of our character.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

5 January 2009

Friday Drinks in Sydney ...

In Sydney there is a regular Friday gathering of a group of people who are passionate about the Australian internet and technology community.

These drinks go under a few names - Official Friday or Silicon Beach. Whatever it is called everybody is welcome!

The current details are:

  • 5pm at the Grace Hotel in Bar 77 (the mezzanine level)

  • It's on every single Friday (although there was a break for Christmas and New Year)
It's usually quiet enough to talk and they have 2-for-1 drinks until 6.30pm - some beers, wines and cocktails.

Come along if you are around in Sydney, they are a friendly crowd and new people are always welcome.

Here's a picture [source: BigMick] from one Friday last year:

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Why LinkedIn works for me

LinkedIn has become an essential business networking tool over the past year or so. It is taking even more prominence now that we are seeing an economic downturn.

They have made a steady stream of changes and improvements to the site, avoiding the flashy and gimmicky. LinkedIn seemed to realise early on that they were a serious site and did not need to provide fun for members. Instead they have implemented a series of really useful networking tools:

  • groups
  • public profiles
  • introduction facilities
  • free and pro accounts
  • recruitment
A number of people just find LinkedIn to be a bit of a waste of time and space. But as a mobile professional I've found it to be a useful way to keep track of a wide-ranging group of business contacts.

LinkedIn is a low key business networking tool that does not require annoying updates. I can control who can contact me or see my details. It makes staying in touch with professional contacts so much easier, and recruiters can find me so easily.

Perhaps this is part of the answer to my business card dilemma?

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

4 January 2009

The Business Card Dilemma

In 2009 it is imperative to embrace change and find a better way to manage all the cards collected in the course of business.

At present the business cards pile up, then I wrap them with rubber bands. There is no real structure or process.

So the plan is to solicit advice from people for good ways to manage the deluge of cards and to store them in a more orderly fashion.

If you've got any ideas please post a comment, thank-you.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

3 January 2009


funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

2 January 2009

Frost/Nixon & Leadership

Went with some friends to see the film Frost/Nixon last weekend. Frank Langella gave a masterful performance as Nixon, and the supporting cast was superb.

It really made me think about how leadership and organizations are so tightly coupled. In the film, as in the actual interviews, Nixon makes the point that his predecessor is the one who installed the recording equipment into the Whitehouse. However, it was under Nixon that the mere recording of audio information segued into various criminal activities and attempted cover-ups.

How does an organization with great aspirations and traditions like the Whitehouse become to catalyst for criminal behaviour as in this case? From my perspective it comes down to an intersection of leadership, character, desire and culture.

Many books have dissected the matter, and have dissected Nixon's character and history in great detail. But this issue of culture is an interesting one. There is a memorable interchange in the film that encapsulates the Whitehouse culture under Nixon:

"David Frost: Are you really saying the President can do something illegal?
Richard Nixon: I'm saying that when the President does it, that means it's *not* illegal!
David Frost: ...I'm sorry?"

[Source: IMDB]
Here we can see the mindset of the leader - whatever he does is OK - that infected the culture of his organization. Thus when the leader of the organization changes - from Johnson to Nixon - and the culture changes in a variety of ways.

With changes of leadership some changes are subtle and others are obvious. I suspect that this attitudinal change was quite subtle and that it took some time to take root. But it was a critical change for that organization. Suddenly under this new leader a variety of behaviours and ways of thinking were open that had previously been closed.

During the film I found myself wondering how much outside information was allowed to penetrate into the leadership circle around Nixon. Based on the interviews and the results of history it seems like he was getting very little critical input or alternative information sources. It makes me wonder what might have happened without all the groupthink around Nixon.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

1 January 2009

NaBloPoMo - National Blog Posting Month

As a bit of an experiment I'm participating in National Blog Posting Month. The theme for January 2009 is 'change', and since I'm thinking a lot about change right now it seems very apt.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire