Blogging – 5 years on (well nearly)

I’ve been blogging for nearly 5 years now. It will be 5 years proper in April, but I’m likely to forget then, so I’m commemorating this event now.

A Trip to Hadrian's WallActually my first post was on 04/04/05 and sometimes I wished I’d posted a day earlier so it could have been 03/04/05, but I wasn’t that fortunate.

The first words weren’t very profound, but we’ve been on a long journey since then:

Welcome to my new home for Oak Grove.

This site will continue to focus on my work-type related stuff. I’m also planning something new for more general information and musings.

Graham

The description of “work-type related stuff” has probably been quite fair. My work is quite broad and increasingly focussed on concept and ideas rather than on technology products. The change in post topics has reflected this – I don’t think I’ve written about a technology product for some time, and the most popular posts at the moment are on team dynamics and rich pictures.

I continue to be hugely interested in how technology can add value to peoples day to working life – and the massive void between the technology available and the technology being exploited. Businesses move at a pace that is a mystery to me and I have to admit that I am still perplexed by what it takes to influence people to change. Someone once said “when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change – you will change” but that seems a bit negative.

Writing about concepts is much more difficult than writing about products, the audience is smaller too, but I’ve always written about things that I find interesting and will continue to do so.

The work on rich pictures has lead to some great conversations with my peers and customers. Much of this conversation has been carried out behind the firewall, as we move forward with our own internal social and enterprise networking exploitation, something that wouldn’t have happened 5 years ago.

Over these last 5 years my working life has changed massively, but there are yet more massive changes ahead. I think I’ll leave that for another post though. One of the things that I do intend to do in the coming months is to revisit the subject of the brain mainly to assess how this changed the way that I think personally.

Castle CragBack then I wrote under the name “oak grove”, there’s some history to that name, but I’m not going to get into that today. One thing that has changed has been the lack of Jimmy and Grandad. I’m not sure why that happened, it just seemed to come to a natural end. Perhaps it’s time to bring them back. What do you think?

I’ve also been writing my Blessings posts for most of that time too; these posts come less often mainly because I find they need a bit more work and for me to have the time to be creative. Some of the responses that I receive to these posts are wonderfully profound and often a privilege to receive.

To those of you who have been with me on this journey – thank you for your input. To those of you who are a little newer on the road – welcome.

The IT Vendor – Pen League Table

I’ve been travelling a lot over the last few weeks visiting many IT vendors. One of the things that most of these vendors decided that we needed was a pen. Leaving aside the irony that IT vendors want to give us pens it was interesting to notice the difference in the pens that we were supplied with.

Do the pens say something about the companies? I’ll let you decide on that point.

Starting from the top of the picture:

IT Pens League

Cisco

The only pen to come in a pouch. A very professional pen meant for serious people. An enterprise pen.

This is a heavy pen (but not the heaviest) which is going to be solid and reliable. It’s also the only pen with a lid meaning that is sits very nicely in the hand and is quite well balanced.

As for colour – it’s nearly black, so it’s conservative even in it’s colouring.

Writing Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Salesforce.com

In complete contrast to the Cisco pen, the Salesforce.com pen is an incredibly cheap pen.

The pen I was given is actually broken. The reason it is the only pen pictured with the nib showing is that it won’t go back in and it has a crack down one side.

This pen did come in a kind of a sleeve, but it was really just a plastic wrapper. The side of the pen shows the logo, which is, of course, the name and the web site address.

Colouring – it’s silver and red which I take to be bold but not really funky or cool. It’s corporate, but not really corporate.

Writing Stars: ⭐

Eucalyptus

This is the only pen in the set to have a logo, a company name and a web site address. Perhaps this says more about Eucalyptus as a young organisation than anything else.

It’s a nicely weighted pen, on the light side, but with a good grip.

The pen itself is a Smokey black, but it writes blue. It might just be me, but there is something wrong about a pen that is coloured black, but writes blue.

It writes well and starts from the off, not requiring any warming up.

Writing Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

VMware

This is easily the heaviest pen in the set. I wouldn’t want to write with it for long, my fingers would drop off. It’s a proper metal pen and you definitely know if you drop it on the desk, actually the whole office knows if you drop it on the desk.

This time it’s a blue colour pen – that writes black (What are you guys trying to do to me?) Having said that, the blue does appear to be the standard VMware blue that they use in all of their material so works as a branding tool.

It writes well enough, but for such a heavy pen there is no grip to step it sliding around your fingers.

This pen also rattles a bit, I really dislike pens that rattle as I write.

Writing Stars: ⭐ ⭐

Appirio

Not sure quite what to say about this pen. There’s no logo on it, or any writing. It came with a notebook with the company name on it. I’m not sure whether putting the name, or logo, or web site address on the pen was too expensive for this relatively new organisation, but it’s certainly an opportunity missed.

I have hundreds of this type of pen and quite like them. The only think I don’t like about them is that I have a habit of twisting the clips off the top of them and it’s almost impossible to twist it back on.

It’s silvery see-through with a black grip. Not much to say really.

Writing Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Google

I did have a couple of the Google pens in different colours. One of the things about having children is that pens quickly get appropriated to other purposes. On the colour front, as you’d expect, the pens were all in the colours from the Google logo.

No need to put a web site address on this pen.

It’s a perfectly adequate, functional, plastic, writing implement. The grip is good and it’s a good size for my hands.

A green pen that writes blue, but somehow I can cope with that more than a black pen that writes blue or vice versa.

The kids regarded this as the cool new pen to take into school.

Writing Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Microsoft

We did go and see Microsoft, but they didn’t give us a pen – they gave us a drinks bottle.

Concept of the Day: Cultural Plasticity

I’m not sure whether this counts as a real fully fledged concept, or just an idea, or actually even whether there is a difference.

PisaThe idea comes from Jonah Lehrer over on The Frontal Cortext blog where he reflects on the diversity of music that we enjoy (his pretext is the events at the MTV awards with Kanye West and Taylor Swift).

It got me thinking, in what other ways are we culturally plastic:

  • Food: The range of food available in the UK is incredible. Foods from every country in the world and even fusions of different food types. We skip between them without really thinking about it, something that my grandparents would never have done.
  • Video/Television/Films: I know a few people who will only go to the movies to see a certain type of film, but there aren’t many of them. And the range of film genre is increasing all of the time.
  • Reading: Looking at the book shelf beside me there is a huge variety of material. There’s no Mills and Boon, but apart from that there is practically every other type of writing.

So what impact does this plasticity have on the world of work?

Teams that accept diversity work better and produce stronger results. As people become more tolerant of, and learn to enjoy cultural differences hopefully this will be reflected in teams. This will be especially true for international teams which will become more prevalent as technology enables it.

I suspect, to, that people we start to choose the places where they work on the basis of the diversity of the culture. Places with a monolithic culture we be regarded  as stale and dull. Skilful business managers will be able to create diverse cultures that are highly productive.

Engaging with Paper and Interactivity

I was at a session on Friday with a client and a number of our own people.

Blackpool Prom Scuptures at SunsetI could have presented my material (I think I knew most of the answers) and told them my opinion. But I wanted a bit of engagement and I find that people don’t engage with presented material, they become passive, sit back and just receive.

Why did I want engagement? The main reason was that I wanted them to start to own the things that we were talking about.

My solution was simple, but the impact was profound – I got A1 sized print-outs of uncompleted slides and asked everyone to get involved. Rather than starting with a completely blank piece of paper we had somewhere to start from, but there was still plenty to do.

Straight away people were engaged, they were so engaged that it took us a good 15 minutes to explain what we were doing. From the start the discussion was about “we” not “you” – “What are we doing?” Everyone was hooked in right from the beginning.

Armed with the A1 sized pieces of paper and a pen we went on to fill in the information with everyone contributing as we went along, even arguing vehemently about the content. Different people added value and it became a team effort with everyone contributing.

I don’t think that anything was put on the paper that I wouldn’t have put on the slides beforehand. What was different was the commentary that went with it, different people stating one opinion over another. I’m sure that each person who left that session learned something that they wouldn’t have done with a presentation.

The material wasn’t any different, only the media.

I’m not suggesting that we should do all sessions this way but what I am saying is that we still have a lot to understand about interactivity.

  • How would this session have turned out if we had used a 3D world?
  • What if the material had focussed on scenarios?
  • Was it the paper that made it interactive?
  • Was the interactivity partly because the set-up was a bit like a school classroom?
  • Would the session have been the same if we had interacted with a virtual piece of paper?
  • When are you best to simply present?
  • What does art have to teach us?
  • What does journalism have to teach us?

I still have a lot to learn.

Ignore Everybody – and other quotations

As you may have noticed I really like quotations, I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s because they are nice and short and I don’t really like reading anything too long.

I really like Hugh’s take on a set of quotes that come from the chapter titles of his new book “Ignore Everybody”:

Ignore Everybody

I particularly like the line “Everybody has there own private Mount Everest they were put on earth to climb”.