Mike Vickers' Blog

April 26, 2010

Instant Communications – Think twice

Filed under: Communications — derryvickers @ 9:07 pm

Andy Gilpin at the West Lothian Coffee Morning last Friday brought up two communications topics worth considering a little further:

  1. Stop wasting time following your emails.  Look at them before 9 am, at lunch time and after 6pm
  2. Tweets are now being archived in the US.

Number 1 is certainly worth taking note and if possible following.  The trouble as I see it is, checking emails as soon as they arrive is at best only justifiable if you are waiting for a reply,  at worst it is habit forming – it’s like smoking, hardly rewarding but something you must do.  In the old days the Royal Mail delivered your letters by 9 am and you lived with it – now you can see you emails arriving as snippets.  Mine appear at the bottom right of the screen.  But like all habits you can live with them or take pills to help give them up.

To me far the more important one is that Tweets are being archived.  Already every note you ever wrote is now available to everyone across the globe whether they want just to look in or worse, dig up some incriminating evidence against you.  You can still delete your tweets as you can your discussions on Linked-In but soon they will be archived and it all becomes too late, they are for posterity

It first struck me hard that everything would never be the same again when I followed the Hutton Inquiry into the death of David Kelly – remember Hutton – it was only seven years ago.  At the inquiry a whole raft of emails were brought before it written by everyone from the PM downwards. 

Andy said that emails should be at most a couple of lines long, but to me they are the replacement of the letter.  With the letter you had a chance to reread what you had typed or further back in time what someone had typed on your behalf.  You had time to reconsider – tone down any aggression, be more polite, less libellous.  No more – you look at the text on the screen – looks OK – Send and it’s gone after five, ten minutes thought, no more.   I’m sure that some of the emails that came before Hutton would never have gone out as letters.

More recently Stuart MacLennan, potential Labour candidate no longer – sent stupid tweets; even 140 chars is enough to finish yourself off for life.  I bet the Foreign Office chappie circulated his funny ideas to welcome the Pope as an email – he has now been moved elsewhere!

So what to do:

  • Take a little time, waste a tree, and print your emails, read them then send them.  It might just save your reputation.
  • Tweet softly because you tread on my dreams (with apologies to WB Yeats)
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April 19, 2010

Social Media & The Future of the City

Filed under: ecademy, In Our Time — derryvickers @ 9:44 pm

I start this blog by unreservedly commending, as I do so often, the Radio 4 Programme ‘In Our Time’ hosted by Melvyn Bragg.  The programme goes out live every Thursday morning at just after 9 am.  Melvyn introduces a topic which three academics discuss for ¾ hour.  Last week it was the Zulu Wars, the previous week it was the essayist William Hazlitt but the programme I want to discuss here is the one covered on the previous two weeks before Hazlitt.  The Discussion was on The City from the earliest times to the present day.  The population of Ur in 2000 BC was sixty thousand, China too had large cities at this time, then came Athens which was in comparison relatively small, Rome was around 1 million and Bagdad was in its hey day around 2 million.  Of course much of the two programmes concentrated on European cities.  London featured large, and as a largely trading city with its narrow streets was contrasted with Paris and its wide boulevards which was built to celebrate the unity of France and magnificence of its kings. Few people actually live now in London and the better off commute into Marylebone whilst they in Paris stay in the centre and walk to work – what a nice idea!

Many interesting facts emerged: cities have always been disease ridden and their population’s death rates have been higher than their birth rates, hence they have relied heavily on immigration form the surrounding countryside.  The US being individualist favours the car as a means of transport in the city whilst Europe being collectivist increasingly favours public transport.  Cities have never lasted indefinitely; Ur, Athens and Rome all passed into antiquity.  Currently industrial cities such as Detroit and Liverpool are dying and careful thought needs to go into what to do with such cities.

One point brought up was to why cities have come into existence and have grown over time and are still appearing in South America for example. Trading was the prime reason, initially in agricultural produce, but then government needed to be centralised, and the point was made that people like to meet face to face whether for business or just socially – in clubs and coffee houses and in meeting rooms etc.   They also like to visit the big shops.

In a previous blog, Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me, I refer to Penny Power who makes the point that a major change is taking place in the twenty first century and business will cease to be conducted in closed boxes and will increasingly be open and random.  I argued that large organisations will still be needed, eg insurance and finance companies, but surely most office workers can now do their work from the comfort of their homes rather than to travel long distances to city offices.  If this becomes accepted, and most catalogue sales persons already do so, the size of our present cities could drop dramatically.  They would then be small compact units providing meetings for business and leisure, music and theatre, and for window gazing. Citizens would come to meet, and socialise, and underpin the relationships they had made through social media.

April 18, 2010

Linlithgow accepts the Future City Game Challenge

Filed under: Linlithgow Business Association, Linlithgow Climate Change — derryvickers @ 8:08 pm

Five teams, drawn from across the whole Linlithgow community, took part in The Future City Game held on 24th March under the auspices of the British Council and the guidance of Architecture + Design Scotland.  The Game was generously hosted by Sun / Oracle and has facilitated by Monika Komarowska specially flown in from Warsaw.  Monika had already run 7 successful games across Europe.

The Game normally takes three days but we packed it into a hectic one day.  We started with briefings on Linlithgow as it is at present and its immediate future and what we might have to cope with in 2035 where energy costs could be 10 times what they are today. 

The five teams:

  • sat down to work for each to come up with a solutions as to how the Linlithgow community will cope, sustain and prosper in what will be extremely challenging circumstances.  Needless to say the teams came up with very varying solutions but all featured self sufficiency. 
  • solutions were then subjected to examination by three teams of local experts; business, community and one from the Academy.  The Academy students are of course the most interested of all of us as to life in 2035.
  • presented their solutions to everyone and we all had a chance to vote.

The five teams’ solutions were:

Orange Team   LIFT – Linlithgow Investment Futures Trust – a revolving trust kick started from energy savings and maintained by funds from the community whether business start-ups, Celebrate Linlithgow, natural resources for energy generation, or just investments by the community at large

Yellow Team   Eco Zone – led by ‘the young voice’ with the community providing them with more facilities and entertainment all eco friendly

Red Team       Linlithgow Enterprise Park – creating an enterprise park to encourage talent to stay in Linlithgow.  Built on the North of the Loch so that business is separated from the historic centre which is pedestrianised

Blue Team       Live local Linlithgow – being self sufficient in energy and food, managing waste and focusing on public transport

Green Team    The Living Room – creating a HUB at the heart of the town, making the Cross a place where the whole community, young and old feel at home in its ‘living room’

The winning team – Yes it’s the Orange Team with its revolving trust.  The concept will now be taken forward and hopefully lead to a full feasibility study which could evolve into a Development Trust as created by North Harris, Eigg and Tiree.  In such a trust all members of the Linlithgow community would be eligible to one vote and a trust board would be elected to represent the interests of the community and oversee the operation of the trust and the distribution of the funds.

One interesting point, although LIFT was the winner, all solutions offer a way forward for Linlithgow and are largely complementary and should be viewed sympathetically by the Linlithgow Aspires Project.

Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me

Filed under: ecademy — derryvickers @ 8:35 am

I have just finished Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me by Penny Power of ecademy.

It’s an lovely book to read but I did not find it an easy one to get to grips with.

Ecademy is one of the first if not The first vehicles for Social Media and Penny must be the Social Media-ist par excellence.  Penny sees that being a member of the social media is the way of future commerce in the twenty first century.  As she sees it there is no future for the corporate executive; they are living in a closed box and unless they break out they are doomed to extinction.  (I am remaindered of Tim Smit of the Eden Project saying ‘Focus is utter rubbish – think of everything and take an aerial view’).

In her book she provides a number of attractive examples of social media-ists being known, liked, followed and in consequence becoming centres of excellence in their own fields.  But they are most if not all single individuals providing advice and guidance to others.

I agree that the current economic realities are such that the individual is increasingly king, but I cannot see that large organisations will just fizzle and die. Large organisations are the backbone of modern Western capitalist society as we know it and for that matter all societies since civilisations began back in China.  I would hate to have to rely on an air line with one plane and one pilot to fly me across the Atlantic or for that matter make my own tooth paste. 

I am a member of ecademy and I am clear that Social Media is a powerful vehicle for individual experts communicating, broadening their horizons and achieving individual success, but it cannot, in my view, be the only way forward for civilisation as a whole.  There will always be a role for larger organisations providing the infrastructure to support these expert individuals and provide them with work opportunities.

BTW I am also a member of BNI, the Small Business Club, the Chamber of Commerce and the West Lothian Coffee Morning all of which provide a vehicle for knowing, liking and following me.

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