Tag Archives: Reading

Book Signing 2.0?

Last night I attended a unique event – what we think is the first ever “virtual book signing”!

Well, you’ve just published a book… it’s all about working digitally and online “in the cloud”… and you want to publicise it and bring readers and friends in on the gig in a social way. My friend Kate Russell is exactly that person – she’s just published Working the Cloud and decided (somewhat experimentally) to hold a book signing that all of her friends, fans and readers could take part in.

So last night, a number of Kate’s friends and colleagues got together in London and contributed to a live broadcast Google Hangout, while she chatted with invited remote guests, along with a few folks who wanted to get copies of the book signed. We were in a “party room” and able to dip in to the conversations when appropriate.

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The evening was a lot of fun, and I think the result was some interesting conversations about doing business using cloud services, as well as some learning about how these kinds of events can work :-) we even included some of my #techgrumps buddies in the hangout!

Just to be clear – I wasn’t just “ligging” here – I’ve been a fan of Kate’s through her work on Webscape and Click and other endeavours for many years, and have been able to meet her at a few tech events, so I was really delighted to be invited along. I bought my copy, and I’ve read the book this week (it’s a very approachable style and easy to get into), and so far I’m about 60% through. I’ve reviewed the book on Amazon too, but I won’t repeat that word-for-word here!

Working the Cloud is a great read, and if you have watched Kate online or on broadcast, I’d say it’s “very Kate” in style… when I’m reading I can often hear her chatting through the content in my head. That means it is down-to-earth, practical, and useful. I’d say it’s a book aimed more to the small-t0-medium business market where folks are just trying to get their head around moving to using cloud-based online services; but it is also a great read for anyone wanting to learn which services really do offer the most value, and as I’ve tweeted lately, it also has some superb content covering online branding, identity, and use of social tools for communications and engagement. I’ve been online since, well, I started to borrow the school 14400 baud modem to dial up BBSes during the school holidays in the 80s – pre-Internet – and I live and breathe the cloud space, so I’m always excited by a book which still manages to surprise me with new things I’d not tried or heard of before – this is one of those!

Oh, and if you do pick up a copy, check out the fun Aurasma-app-based additional content you can unlock by pointing your smartphone at the cover – and check out the nice app for iOS and Android that enables Kate to share more information to keep things up-to-date. Really nice thinking and a way to apply digital tools to the age-old problem of currency of information in printed material.

Summary – thanks Kate for inviting me along, and well done on a lovely book!

 

Pern passes

This may seem like a total non-sequitur after my past few blog posts – but it is something I feel absolutely driven to post. Via a tweet from Cory Doctorow, I learned that Anne McCaffrey has died.

I’m 35 years old. More than 20 years ago, I was at school, studying for my GCSEs and later my A-levels. One of the subjects I studied was English Literature. I love reading. I love literature. I love imaginative, creative writing.

There was, obviously, a set curriculum of texts I was expected to read, learn, and internalise. Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy, and others. I’m glad I have that grounding. I was also allowed to read anything I wanted, from an early age – and I gravitated towards novelisations of Star Trek, of the Neverending Story, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and other science fiction and fantasy stories.

Around the age of 12 or 13 I stumbled upon the Dragonriders of Pern series. At the time, I was interested in Games Workshop and Warhammer… a fantasy world involving dragons and, ultimately, a rediscovery of technology, was an obvious step.

So, I started to read the Pern chronicles. I remember reporting on them in my “reading diary” aged around 12 or 13 – a series of books about a near-mediaeval planet where dragonriders saved the population from the deadly Thread. It wasn’t until I read The White Dragon that I really appreciated that this wasn’t just a trash teen fantasy series – themes of erotic passion, love, independence, adventure, and intelligence were involved (and would connect to science fiction, computing and other directions beyond that tale).

I’m deeply saddened to learn that Anne McCaffrey has passed. Her tales and her books truly did light up my early teenage years. I loved the Dragonriders of Pern stories and I hope that others will connect with them in the same way in the future. Thank you, Anne.

Whuffie and the importance of loyalty

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been dipping into Tara Hunt’s book The Whuffie Factor. I’d intended to write a post discussing the book in more detail, but a case study has just presented itself which brought my plans forward!

Disclaimer: it’s worth restating that all content on this blog represents my personal opinion and my own experiences.

whuffie factor

Image courtesy of missrogue

The Whuffie Factor talks about the importance of establishing, growing and maintaining social capital in your market and with your community. The concept of “whuffie” is drawn from Cory Doctorow’s novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (which I just started to read), which presents a world in which an individual’s social capital, or reputation for good deeds, is visible to others in an augmented reality, built-in heads-up display which everyone has. People can earn whuffie through good deeds and behaviour, spend whuffie in asking for favours, and lose whuffie in acting in some negative manner. Tara suggests that organisations and individuals that participate in online communities have exactly the same experiences, although whuffie itself may be less immediately tangible than in Doctorow’s imaginary world where everyone is wearing a whuffie badge.

So, on to the case study.

I’ve been an O2 customer for a long time. Before I got the iPhone 3G on UK launch day last year, I’d been an O2 customer on previous handsets and price plans. Actually, I had a relationship with the company stretching back to when they were BT Cellnet – a looong time.

My experience with the iPhone has been wonderful. Ignoring the device itself (this post is not about that) – the tariff was reasonable, I had unlimited data at varied speeds anywhere in the UK, and access to two wireless hotspot networks, the Cloud and BT Openzone. Life was great. I believe it was the best deal in the world on the iPhone.

Last month I decided to switch broadband suppliers, after Tiscali/Pipex were acquired by the Carphone Warehouse. Listening to the advice of many of my friends in the Twitterverse (Whuffie lesson – socially-connected individuals value personal recommendations above any others), it didn’t take long for me to select O2 as my new supplier. I felt comfortable with that, having had an excellent experience with their mobile service. I have to say the switch was painless and the service and performance of my new connection has been excellent.

Whuffie++!

Just after the switch, I thought about getting a broadband dongle for my Mac. Naturally, as an O2 customer with two of their products, I thought I’d ask in an O2 store what kind of deal was on offer to loyal subscribers. “No special deal, sir” – I’d have to go with their regular package, which is far less competitive than T-Mobile, 3 or Vodafone (I only really wanted to use the 3G modem occasionally, so I didn’t want to sign up to a contract on that).

Whuffie fell off.

Yesterday, Apple announced the iPhone 3GS. It’s an exciting device with some mouth-watering new capabilities – a better camera at last, a speed bump, voice recognition, a compass, and greater memory capacity. Oh, and it has the capability of being used as a 3G modem, which would mean I wouldn’t need a separate dongle for the Mac. Seems ideal. In short, I’d take one in an instant. I also discovered yesterday that O2 has a Twitter account, which I started to follow when I realised that it seemed to be a real person engaging in conversations, and not just a stream of PR pronouncements.

There’s a wrinkle here, though. In order to take an iPhone 3GS on launch day, I’d need to buy myself out of the final 6 months of my existing 18 months contract (in my case I’m guessing that will be a straight 6 x £35, not cheap), and then buy the phone on a new contract. So the reward for loyalty and being prepared to sign up for a long contract is having to pay more for an upgrade to the new technology. People are also concerned about the cost of O2’s tethering plans, which don’t entirely surprise me given my 3G modem experience.

Whuffie? Plummeting.

A couple of people have noted on Twitter that those complaining about the situation are either whinging in general, or that they don’t understand the concept of a contract. In my case, I fully understood that I was signing on for 18 months – it just seems bizarre that it is non-transferrable and that I’m actually penalised for staying with O2. It’s not like I’m heading off to another network.

Shane Richmond over at the Telegraph has an excellent summary of the issues, so I’m not going to pick through the situation point-by-point. Some of the commenters are right on the nail, too.

The Twitterverse is fairly upset about all of this, with one person going so far as to set up a petition (I’ve not signed it, as twitition doesn’t use Twitter’s OAuth option for login).

I phoned O2, at the suggestion of the O2 Twitter person, since “upgrade costs will vary”. The lady I spoke to claimed that no pricing information was yet available (odd, since there’s a page on the O2 website with that information), and then said that for upgrades, they were offering existing customers the option of downloading the new software onto their current phones, or buying themselves out of the existing contract.

I’m disappointed. Right now, I’m actually thinking that the Palm Pre looks interesting. It’s a shame, as I’m an Apple user and I think the iPhone is an amazing platform – but O2 just jettisoned the good reputation that it had built up, and made themselves far less likely to be recommended by me in the future.

End of case study. The conclusion here is that Tara Hunt has it completely right. In today’s social web-connected world, whuffie is important – potentially vital – for companies, as well as for individuals.

How did I hear about Tara’s book? I’d been following her (@missrogue) on Twitter for a long time, recognised her as someone I respect and like through her great blog, HorsePigCow, and I was excited to hear about her book directly from the source. Here’s my personal recommendation: get hold of a copy of The Whuffie Factor, read, and inwardly digest. It’s a great, enjoyable book. I think you’ll like it, too.

Update: levelling off…

OK. Having followed some of the discussion on the @O2 Twitter channel today, my attention was drawn to the notion of the Priority List, which is an account feature I’d previously been unaware of, as I’d opted out of marketing material from O2. The only thing is, there’s no easy way to find out which “level” of priority my account was set at. I logged in to my account through the website, and found a contact number which got me through to a really helpful lady (evidently not the same number I’d called this morning, not sure what happened there). I explained that I potentially wanted to upgrade, and that I’m a customer of both a pay monthly tariff and the home broadband service. The customer service rep very helpfully and patiently went through all of the upgrade options with me… and it looks like it’s not quite as dire as I’d thought – my potential upgrade date is earlier than I’d feared, but I’m still unlikely to be getting an iPhone 3GS on launch day.

So kudos to the helpful customer service staff, and I’m also impressed with the resilience and patience of the @O2 person. That has gone some way to restoring my opinion, even though I’m still disappointed with some aspects of the upgrade process. The Priority List is actually a way of rewarding customer loyalty, but it just hadn’t been on my radar.

The final word on this, from my perspective, is that it’s still somewhat confusing, and I’d particularly advise O2 to make their Priority List stuff more visible and simpler to understand. I’d also suggest that people give them a call and check individual circumstances!

Thoughts on Thames Valley Social Media Cafe

I’ve long been interested by the Twitterings and blog posts about the Social Media Cafe / Tuttle in London, but since I’m so rarely in London these days I haven’t yet had the opportunity to get along to one of these gatherings. When I read that Neville Hobson, Drew Benvie and Benjamin Ellis were proposing to have a similar gathering for the Thames Valley region in Reading, I was was one of the first to put my name on the wiki.

The event was held at Workhouse Coffee in Reading, which as it turns out it pleasantly close to Reading West station, so I caught a train up on Friday morning and wandered along. Despite the fact that I took both a camera and a camcorder, I entirely failed to take any footage, so I’ll have to refer readers to Drew and Neville’s photos from the event. Workhouse Coffee is a wonderful place – the owner has a great deal of knowledge and the beans are freshly ground in perfect measure to create just the cup you’ve asked for. I noticed on the blackboard that they have a MySpace page… and apparently they are also now on Twitterread Drew’s blog entry for the details! If you want something strong, I recommend the Java, incidentally.

What about the content? Well I wanted to go to meet people, and I had no preconceptions as to what the event entailed. As it turned out, Steve Lamb (@ActionLamb) and Drew (@drewb) are folks that I’d met briefly in the past, and I’ve been following Neville (@jangles) for longer than I care to remember, or so it seems in the modern world where the Internet randomly compresses or extends time in my mind. Everyone else counted as a new acquaintance – it seemed as though we gathered an interesting mix of tech and business perspectives, PR and journalists.

I’m not going to recount every discussion, but just to give a flavour of the variety, there were about 15 of us and in a 90 minute period I had conversations with most people, taking in topics such as: Government 2.0; Agile development, large corporation software development practices, and componentisation; coffee (!); podcasting; Blue Fusion; using social media with a marketing focus; how best to combine social media tools for a seamless customer experience; why it’s still important not to have a Flash-only website; Online DNA; Grown Up Digital; Home Camp; how to use social bookmarking; the slow death of print media and how bloggers might save local journalism; rebranding; flexibility at work; and Twitter (phew!).

A whole bunch of new contacts and, I hope, some interesting new side projects have been generated as a result of the discussions. Based on the meetup I’m delighted to have met (as well as those I’ve already mentioned) @warrilowpr @adrianmoss @nickydavis @ravinar @mattbrady @johnmcg and @saqibs.

I hope to be a regular(-ish) attendee at these, but it’s going to be dependent on schedules. I highly recommend the mixture of people and opportunity to share new ideas – do come along in future if it sounds interesting. Thanks again to Neville, Drew, Benjamin, and our unsuspecting hosts at the coffee shop!

Other write-ups from Adrian, Catherine, Drew, John, Matt and Neville.

Five books you (and I) should have read in 2008

It’s a simple list, this one. I’ve read the first two (both of which were excellent), and urgently need to read the other three!

  1. Here Comes Everybody – Clay Shirky
  2. Dreaming in Code – Scott Rosenberg
  3. Tribes – Seth Godin
  4. Grown Up Digital – Don Tapscott
  5. Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell