Another giant: cocoate.com

A final thank you (not really belated, I found them after the previous post) to cocoate.com

A flaw in my HTML mark-up was causing some screen elements to misalign on a few devices. Nothing really serious, it was just that the third column on the people page dropped on some of the less popular browsers.

cocoate's explanation of the 960-grid mechanisms was wonderfully clear.

Thank you folks. Or should I say "Merci bien mes amis"?

Thanks to the giants upon whose shoulders I stood

Once upon a time (1966 was the first time), I'd learn a programming language and then apply this knowledge to whatever problems were chucked my way. As I've got older, I decide what I want, then go online for help in doing it. Okay, it doesn't make me a professional coder but I learn plenty along the way and end up with a website that I'm in charge of and can change at the drop of a hat.

Without Google and the World Wide Web, Lord knows what I'd have done. But, thanks to them and all the places they led me to, I have a site which, while falling short of elegant, does what I want. More importantly, I hope it gives its visitors an enjoyable and useful experience.

This post isn't about the website, although you may need to know that it's epocselet.com in order to understand some of the comments below. This post is about recognition of all those people and places I discovered on my journey. Without their help, I would still be trying to learn JavaScript or PHP from scratch.

Here they are, in order of the number of hits I recorded in my Firefox History file. First the top ten (the first three were on tap continuously):

Hits

??? Microsoft ExpressionWeb4 was an invaluable website development environment.

??? W3C's Markup Validation Service. As the name suggests, it checks the validity of web pages.

??? Firefox Web Developer tools – especially Web console and Debugger.

230 stackoverflow A marvellous forum which covered pretty much everything, including PHP, JavaScript, HTML5 canvas and colour drop-down menus.

131 w3schools.com An online reference manual which I referred to for JavaScript, HTML5 Canvas, HTML colours, JS programming tips/demos and string parsing.

101 JQuery Radar Plus Mehdi Tazi adapted Ryan Allred's Radar Chart. I adapted Mehdi's. Figuring out how it worked was like solving a giant puzzle.

 55 The PHP Manual and source of everything.

 51 Radar Chart JQuery Plugin Ryan Allred's original code.

 29 Plusnet's 'friendly' area. I used it for CGI and PHP hosting stuff.

 28 SitePoint is a great source of web-building help. I used it for Canvas, HTML5. PHP, JavaScript, Radio button array and 960 grid stuff.

 

Now for the rest of the top 20. They may be lower in hit count but they were no less valuable – a single hit would often point me in the right direction:

19 Mario Lurig's PHP code checker came in handy when the PHP would stall.

 7 Maths Is Fun took me back to schooldays to remind me about radians, sines and cosine. I could remember 'sohcahtoa' but couldn't remember what practical use to put it to.

 6 tuts+ explained the 960 grid system, but also explained other things, including HTML Forms.

 5 The jquery learning center does what it says on the tin. I used it as a reference for scopes, arrays and operators.

 5 960 grid system. I found the 960 24 grid system perfect for laying out the web pages (and, often, changing them quickly.)

 4 A simple guide to HTML came in handy for checking how to include JavaScript in HTML.

 4 Six Revisions is a website hints and tips site. I used it to read about the 960-grid-system and HTML5's canvas (on which the charts appear).

 4 Chris Pietschmann kindly explained how to colour dropdown items in an HTML form.

 3 Chris Wiegman showed how to dig out the correct IP address for a visitor. (If you're with a hosting organisation, you're still fairly anonymous though.)

 2 Home & Learn helped me a lot with understanding how to work with the HTML5 canvas.

 

Other honourable mentions should go to:

Google Analytics – which keeps an eye on visitor behaviour.

The many people who looked and commented as we went through. I guess some would prefer not to be named, but you'll know if you were one of them. A big thank you to you. I learnt something new from every single discussion.

Finally, my partners in crime Dr. Bill Nichols and Martin Banks.

It's been a blast. It made me remember why I loved programming. But also taught me that I could never make a living at it these days.

Thank you all for five very interesting months.

telescope or epocselet? Which way are you looking?

How often do you glaze over when someone enthuses about a product or service because you don’t “get it”?

They blast off without the faintest idea about your circumstances, your needs or your desires. Result, a baffled story-teller and a semi-comatose listener.

In extremis, it’s the religious zealots who knock on your door. But milder forms exist – the Facebook enthusiasts who are always trying to shove some dodgy philosophy down your throat – usually through pictures or video links. (Recommendation: ‘unfollow’ them – they stay in your friends list but you’re spared the distraction.)

AquaChartImageSadly, these zealots exist in business too. Some organisations are so wrapped up in their own inventions that all their publicity and promotional activities are inward-looking. Self-obsessed, if you like. And this goes for the company spokespeople too. Anyone who says ‘we’ more than ‘you’ is likely to be guilty of this.(By the way, you can get a chart of where you stand, by doing this quick assessment – it takes just a couple of minutes.)

Once you start putting your prospect first (in the same way that all good journalists put their readers first) your story will emerge as something your prospect wants to hear or read. Something that promises to, and will, deliver a desired value. This will lead them to your physical or digital door and, if you continue to play your cards right, you’ll have a new customer.

Common sense? Yes. But, in decades of dialogue with vendors of all kinds, I’ve discovered that many actually fail to make that bridge. They pay lip-service to the principle, but their words let them down. When consulting (often with Martin Banks and, more recently, with Dr. Bill Nichols), we’ve found ourselves using the term ‘looking through the wrong end of the telescope’ to describe this inward-looking approach.

We’ve even created a website called epocselet.com (that’s ‘telescope’ backwards) as an umbrella for our disparate but aligned services. Our focus is firmly on executive management and we’d be delighted to act as guides or sounding boards in the discovery, articulation and sharing of your stories. Use us as little or as much of us as you like.

The journalist’s mantra ‘know your audience’ can be applied equally in business. Change ‘audience’ to ‘prospect’ if you want, but the principle applies to anyone trying to influence anyone else, whether a prospect or an intermediary. If you’re in business, you may have multiple audiences but, at heart, you’re trying to move the same stories through to the ultimate audience, your prospect. You may be trying to influence internal staff, analysts, bloggers, journalists and the many social media cascades. In every case you need to ask yourself, “what’s in it for them?”, in order to refine the basic story to best effect.

Written baldly like that, it seems like common sense. But sometimes it’s hard to change your perspective without independent and objective help. It’s not my place to tell you where to go for this. Anyone intelligent who understands communication skills, your marketplace and who has no axe to grind will be able to help you.

But I have to mention that Bill, Martin and I – solo or in various permutations would be more than happy to help you if you’re interested. You’ll find more about us and our services at epocselet.com

 

Apologies to all the marketing people I’ve insulted

Yes, it's true. I've been known to say rude things about marketing people. Analogue marketing people and, frankly, I can do a good job of justifying these comments.

But, as I discovered recently, there's a new breed of digital marketer about and, if they play their cards right, they can be a force to be reckoned with.

My transition started last year when I talked to IBM's CMO for EMEA (top marketing bod in Europe etc., to translate loosely). I came away with the idea that marketing is moving from an art to a science.

Earlier this year, I found myself doing some training with Marketo, a marketing automation company, among other things This, as with all my clients, involved a lot of pre-course research. I became more and more interested in the subject, way beyond the call of duty, in fact.

When I got back, I carried on digging and this led to two articles for CIO UK. The first is What is marketing automation? and the second is IT's role in marketing automation.

For the marketers who've grasped these new opportunities, I take my hat of to you. For the rest? Well, I'll still proceed with caution.

 

Silo (or Solo) – Collaboration – Social

I've lost count of how many years I've been dipping my toe into the collaboration waters. Certainly, it goes back at least to Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) thirty years ago. By 1988 this was formalised into a time/space grid, so that you had remote/colocated on one axis and synchronous/asynchronous on the other. Not a bad way to characterise many of the collaboration and social tools that abound today.

I mention all this because Agile Elephant's David Terrar invited me to a Future of Collaboration Conference triggered, in part, by the opportunities created by the convergence of cloud, social and mobile technologies. (To my mind, this equates to a transformation in reach and convenience.) Each speaker had ten minutes or so to share their vision. This was followed by a Q&A session and networking. The audience was also made up of industry people, so I expected the bullshit factor to be low. And it was.

Given my background, I wondered what I would learn. Let me list the participants and their roles, and then I'll tell you what I ended up thinking. I'll spare you the blow-by-blow details.

David Terrar chaired the event.

Speakers:

Jon Mell, Social Leader, IBM UK
Alan Patrick, Agile Elephant
David Moore, SAP
Simon Levene, Jive
Janet Parkinson, Agile Elephant
Chris Boorman, Huddle

Questioners (apart from David Terrar and me):

Phil Wainewright, Diginomica
Lucinda Carney, AdvanceChange

Baker Tilly, chartered accountants and business advisers, provided the accommodation and refreshments. (Lovely, thank you).

The first thing I noticed was the lack of evangelism, thank goodness. Quite often you turn up at these events and they're more like a religious revival meeting than a pragmatic look at business needs and applications. Okay – one chap said work should be fun, but he got a slight ribbing for that from some of the others. Work could become pleasant, fulfilling or rewarding maybe, but not fun. God forbid. (Mind you I quite often have fun when running training workshops, so I have some sympathy with his point of view.)

While 'email' and 'social' can be good in the right context, neither is much cop as a sole collaboration strategy. In fact two people branded email 'the enemy' of collaboration and another branded social on its own as 'a waste of time'.

Previous events have banged on about the need to change a company's culture or boasted of coming 'disruption'. Utterly unhelpful. This isn't how stuff gets done. Far better to introduce collaboration tools which fit business needs and, if possible, integrate it with what exists. Do this in a few key areas (with board level support, of course) and things start to catch on as others see (or are told about) the business benefits of these new ways of working.

Social – people communicating openly and freely (with business intent, of course) – isn't going to happen without trust and that doesn't come without knowing each other (usually through at least one face-to-face meeting, but relationships can form through voice, video and even, dare I say, email).

As collaboration, then social, activity spreads vertically and horizontally through an organisation, culture change will follow. When it extends beyond the company boundaries to partners and customers, it will alter the way the organisation listens, responds and collaborates. Silos will be breached and individuals will become more aligned and harmonised with business drivers.

Everyone – the company, the workforce, partners, customers and prospects will benefit. That's the promise. And it sounds good to me.

And now I'd better go, before I'm accused of being an evangelist.

Something for would-be writers and spokespeople

Videos

Tebbo's Tips

All the above are free.They help you get started with handling the media or with business writing.

I created them because organisations need to influence their prospects, customers and other stakeholders either indirectly through the media or directly through their own efforts, whether they're self-published (company website/blog) or through submission to a media company. (See Tom Foremski's EC=MC: Every Company is a Media Company if you want to read more.)

The top image links to two videos, each broken down (if you want) into eight mini-videos of approximately two to five minutes duration. The bottom two link to downloadable pocket-sized memory-joggers. (They're actually A4 and come with printing and folding instructions.) If you prefer, just go to tebbo.com which also includes some useful links.

I offer all of this free of charge. In one respect it's me 'giving back' and sharing my knowledge. In another, I hope they reflect favourably on me and my work and attract people who'd like me to work with them. They're all Creative Commons – share by all means, but please don't alter them.

The videos are hosted on YouTube and the memory joggers are hosted on Google Drive. I had some fun writing the delivery script for the Tebbo's Tips memory-joggers, but that's another story.

I hope you enjoy what you see. I showed a few of my more critical friends and they've been very kind.

I'm enormously grateful to Alison O'Leary for agreeing to work out some questions and grill me for the videos. And, of course, to all those customers, friends and colleagues that have helped me throughout a most enjoyable career. Which, incidentally, I hope is far from over.

Blog navel gazing over

My last blog post prompted Euan Semple to post two more of his own. These grabbed far more attention than mine and led to some interesting debate, much of it on Facebook where he's recently taken to repeating his blog posts.
 
Before Euan got involved, I was getting an even mix of opinions. Some who thought I was right to not post much, if at all, and others who thought I was mad to even think of stopping. Then, when Euan got involved – the first time to share my angst, the second time to rail against someone who said "blogging is just showing off". (One riposte to that was the sensible, "Blogging is so varied you can't make blanket statements.")
 
Let's cluster some representative comments. Draw your own conclusions.
 
First of all, why blog at all?

  • Your blog is your gravitational centre
  • Write for your community
  • My community is so small we may as well meet down the pub
  • My community is global, we can't meet down the pub
  • I'm going to move back to my blog to serve my interests rather than some IPO'ed profit engine's
  • If I post knowledgeable/interesting stuff it leads to opportunities
  • Writing forces me to think and get feedback
  • Co-creation results in greater/deeper insights
  • Co-existent thoughts rob dominant thoughts of power

And here are some tips for would-be bloggers

  • Don't do it if your heart's not in it
  • Be selective and deliver gold
  • Be an example of good writing
  • You stand or fall by your content
  • Get people to think, not tell them what to think

Some commercial organisations see blogging and commenting as an obligation. (See the 'heart' comment above.) Someone suggested it's a publishing strategy, just like the pamphleteers of old but with the world as their potential audience.
 
When I was an established columnist, Dave Winer wrote his first blog post. I remember thinking "Who does he think he is?" One of Euan's comments took me right back to that moment. But it's only now, 19 years later, that it's dawned on me what irritated me so much. It was his use of the first person. He was writing as himself, as if he were important. In several years as an editor, writer and columnist, I always tried to avoid the first person. My attitude was "I'm not here to promote myself" (except through the byline, which few people notice).
 
I have a massive list of more great comments eked from the Euan posts, but I'd like to conclude this post with a rather elegant contribution from Vicky Smith (reproduced with her permission). Thank you Vicky. Here goes:
 

"Blogging offers egotistical natures a platform to broadcast and attention seek. For others, it's a release of private thoughts in a more therapeutic manner (one could maybe say both make the blogger feel better). For others again it's for money… This discussion has prompted me to think of blogging like art or painting, a form of self expression, which just happens to be shareable online. I'm sure many artists would like their work seen more, be it for making money or for ego, others less so because it's more a private hobby for personal reasons. It all just depends. We're all different, and it's a platform for expressing those differences, if one so wishes in whatever way one wants."