Goodbye Felix Dennis

Last week, someone very special to me died. I could have sworn I posted here about his passing, but the week was a bit of a blur and I clearly hadn't.

Last year's post about him (Poetry in Motion) will give a flavour of my feelings about Felix.

BunchBooksLogoRead his 'company poem' The Bearded Dwarf to get a sense of what life was like aboard the good ship Dennis Publishing, or Bunch Books as it was when I worked there. (I understand Rolls Royce was none too happy about the logo. I knew life there would be a blast as soon as I saw it engraved in the glass above the entrance door.)

Felix took me on to help create a personal computer magazine. This swiftly turned into the relaunch, in September 1979, of Personal Computer World.

 

Here are some posts I made in Facebook last week – the only place I semi-publicly shared my thoughts and feelings.

23/6 RIP Felix Dennis, wonderful man, good friend. We're gonna miss you so much.

 

23/6 Me, Sylvie, Felix and mystery person in foliage. March 1st this year. Didn't know it was our 'goodbye' to Felix. Lots of great memories of the man.

FelixSylvieMe+other Small

 

24/6 When I met Felix Dennis, he took me to the art room where they were laying out John Wayne's obituary. I said, "I didn't know he'd died." Felix said, "He hasn't yet, but he's very ill." Eye opener for me.

What has amazed me this week is that papers and online sources have had years to get the facts right about Felix, yet they still manage to screw up his biographical basics.

It makes me wonder how much of what we read is similarly incorrect.

 

25/6 I go to sleep thinking about Felix Dennis and I wake up thinking about him. It's like an infection of the brain. He's never far from my thoughts because he had such a profound impact on my life. I'm probably going to shut up about him for a while but, before I do, I'd like to share a couple of his insights with you.

One is a scan of an interview I did with him years ago for the now defunct "Sustainable Solutions" magazine. It was so completely against the sustainability grain that the publisher loved it.

The other is the pdf of his excellent lecture (Journalism or Churnalism) on why the reader is king.

Enjoy. And take heed.

Goodbye Felix. Thank goodness you've left such a huge written and recorded legacy.

 

29/6 If you think you've got a great story about Felix Dennis, check these out first. They are utterly brilliant. (They're tributes from people who've worked for him.)

 

You don't have to agree with everything Felix did, few people would, but he was a man of utter conviction, he was honest, he was an inspirational publisher and he made a massive difference to tens of thousands of people's lives. (Maybe more than that.) Including mine.

Thank you.

 

Advertisements

25 years of clients: alive, eaten and dead

I’ve been training mainly IT companies for over 25 years, mostly in partnership with Martin Banks. I thought it might be interesting to find out where all these companies are now,

After a lot of digging, I found out that about 20 percent are more or less untraceable – either out of business or fragmented and buried deep in multiple owners. About half are still ‘themselves’ and the remainder are now part of other organisations.

Here are a couple of charts which might interest you:

ClientDestinies

 

The chart below shows which companies have been absorbing other clients.

ClientEaters

. If you want to find out more, ownership details and website links are on my website.

What Tebbo did next

Looking back at the past five years, it’s been a lot of fun and I’ve worked exceedingly hard on three major projects: Freeform Dynamics where, as an analyst, I became deeply involved in social, cloud and environmental aspects of ICT. Then Blue & Green Tomorrow, where I launched, edited and wrote all the news and many features in the print edition. Then 6Connex EMEA where I consulted (and still do) on all manner of things – mainly writing stuff but also getting roped into the technical side of things as well. As a virtual event company, 6Connex also has a strong environmental angle.

Following a particularly large project which almost gobbled me up, I find that I can rebalance my life somewhat. So I’m back to doing more writing – monthly in cio.co.uk, about individual CIOs and their sustainability efforts, and private commercial writing (B2B). I even run the odd writing skills workshop.

I’m also training in media skills either solo, with PR partners, or with Martin Banks, depending on what’s required. Clients are usually blue chip ICT clients but I’ve also worked with a chemical company, a charity, some engineering firms and a university.

No doubt things will unfold in interesting and unexpected ways. They usually do. If anything changes radically, I’ll let you know. You still won’t see many blog posts here in the short term, but I wouldn’t rule it out long term. At the moment, my editing and blogging urges are more than satisfied with The Right Thing To Do?.

So there we are, just in case you were wondering. If you’re not, I guess you wouldn’t have read this far.

 

What if climate models are wrong?

Plenty of people will argue for and against climate modelling. Some in far more detail than I’m able to understand.

One man who’s spent the latter part of his career challenging the modellers is Richard Lintzen, professor of meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, his career is now winding down.

It doesn’t matter what ‘side’ of the climate debate you’re on, it’s important to keep up with all points of view. Especially expert points of view, like Lintzen’s.

He has problems with computer modelling. And I can’t say I blame him. I’ve worked in the computer business since 1966 and one of the first things I was taught was the importance of GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Lintzen notes that not enough account is taken of the mitigating effects of cloud cover in the climate models. I’m guessing that’s not all that’s missing.

Call me simple-minded if you like, but I look at it like this: The Met Office, despite its ever-larger spend on modelling systems, keeps changing its mind about short-range weather forecasts. Maybe long-range climate models are more reliable, but I doubt it.

The climate debate is agonisingly difficult for everyone that cares about the future. And it certainly generates enough hot air to seriously impact the climate today. But, as a private individual with virtually no scientific training, there’s nothing I can do about the debate itself. So I subscribe to a ‘sustainability’ or ‘quadruple bottom line’ ethic which aims to balance economics, society, the individual and the environment.

And, yes, I put ‘economics’ first because it’s the lubricant for achieving many of the other results.

All organisations and individuals are capable of seeing whether their choices are, for example, polluting the land, sea or air or diminishing scarce resources. They are all capable of seeing how they can change their behaviour in order to reduce or, in some cases, eliminate their harm. The really clever ones may even find ways of delivering a net benefit to the environment.

It’s only by billions of us improving our choices today that we’ll leave a world worth living in for our children, grandchildren and their descendants.

Do we really need a heated debate based on computer models to shape our future? Aren’t the common sense arguments of sustainability for all going to get us to the same place? And probably more quickly.

 

 

 

 

Small is Beautiful

On June 21 1973, Peter Lewis – the Daily Mail's Literary Editor – wrote a review of a book that was to change the direction of my life: Small is Beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered by E.F.Schumacher.

I rushed out and bought a copy and, among other things, was taught the wisdom of a focus on need rather than greed. It led me to the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG), now called Practical Action, and many other environmental and sustainability initiatives.

I mention it today because, clearing out the garage the other evening, it fluttered to the floor. I thought you might like to read it. Click on the image to see it in a new window (zoom to suit).

SIB

Apologies for its general dishevelment. (And, to those who are sensitive to such things, for the fact it was in the Daily Mail.)

Here on Earth

HereonEarthI finished reading Tim Flannery’s Here on Earth a couple of days ago.

It lays out a fascinating history of our planet, the flora and fauna and their effects on it (including mankind, of course) and what we need to do to ensure our own species survives. We’re the only ones with the intelligence and understanding to change our ways.

His recipe for global cooperation – a shared ‘mneme’ which acknowledges the harm we’re doing and how to reverse it – is plausible in the abstract. But the book contains all the seeds (no pun intended) of why this is a tall order.

As a provocation, the book is excellent. If you’re of a defeatist mind-set, you could end up very depressed by it. Especially if you have children and grandchildren. On the other hand, if you have a grain of imagination, it could start you thinking very seriously about how we get from an unacceptable ‘here’ to a desirable ‘there’.

It will mean change, and that’s the threat to religions, nations, different strata in society, business, politics, and so on. All have to find ways to put our common interest ahead of their own.

The book is very readable for the most part – at its best when describing our world and its mechanisms and, understandably, at its weakest when suggesting a way forward.

But, unlike the alarmist books which simply annoy, it gets you thinking. And, for that reason alone, I think it’s worth a read.

Eggs and baskets

Being away from here has given me a chance to focus intensely on launching a new magazine without too many distractions. We now have five issues under our belt and I have reaquainted myself with the rhythms of conventional publishing. I know where the peaks and troughs of effort lie and I can get back to a more normal and less distorted life in the troughs.

Creating, editing and writing for Blue & Green Tomorrow has been a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. And it couldn't have happened without Simon, Lori and Dominic (publisher, sub-editor and designer respectively) and, of course, our marvellous contributors. Other people take care of 'webifying' the magazine at blueandgreentomorrow.com. You can register (free) which gives you an account tab and access to digital copies of the magazine. Otherwise much of the content is publicly available under the various themed tabs.

Even through the mayhem of the launch, I've continued to do the occasional course on how to handle the media, often with my long-time partner in crime, Martin Banks. We used to call ourselves 'Press Here' but, when we both deviated out into analysis work, we sold the domain and renamed ourselves greybeards. One look at our photos will tell you why. I also run the odd writing skills workshop for business people.

And, now, here I am blogging again. Given the nature of the magazine, I suspect that I'll be blogging more about sustainability (could a word possibly sound more boring?) than about IT. But it's hard to keep me away from software. Talking of which, I now have an HTC Desire smartphone running Android, and jolly pleased I am too. That could be another running theme.

We'll see. But, as you can see from the title, I think that a deliberate spread of activities, providing I can do all of them well, will makes for a more balanced and fulfilling life than having all my eggs in one basket.

So, the last post turned out not to be The Last Post after all, just a pause while I gathered my wits.

See you again soon.

David