Performance Anxiety

On StageI’ve not posted in a while, for which I apologise. Partly it’s because I’ve been so busy it has been hard to get my head out of the day to day demands of client work and write something meaningful or useful. At the same time the interval since my last post just compounds the pressure to come up with something worth reading.

If you’re out of practice with something (like blogging, public speaking or shipping product) then you worry about the impending event you’re giving a talk at or the blog post you owe your subscribers. Obsessing over every last detail does you no favours.

Get back into the swing of things. You can correct the typos on your blog post later (you’ll notice them much more easily after you hit publish!). Try your talk out on an audience of friends or colleagues and take their advice on making it more compelling. Ship a functional v1.0. You can patch the non-showstopping bugs in v1.01. Launch the website with one of the 300 images on it not looking quite as good as it could, instead of waiting 2 weeks to re-shoot. You can swap it out later.

As a wise man once said, Real artists ship.

Now go ship something.

image credit: Daves Portfolio

My One New Year’s Resolution: Shower More

Elephant ShoweringNot that I think I need to for personal hygiene reasons (unless all my friends are far too polite) but I get most of my best ideas in the shower, away from a keyboard.

Way back in season 1 of Mad Men, Don Draper tells Peggy

Think about it, deeply. Then forget it. And an idea will jump up in your face

You don’t have to be in the shower for these ideas to come to you. The best part about it is that you can be doing things that are good for you, like working out in the gym, running or cycling. The main point is to do something that allows your mind to wander over things, much in the way you’d look through a box of your old stuff in the attic. Just be sure to have a way to capture that inspiration before it vanishes again by the time you get back to your desk.

image credit: Chester Zoo via Creative Commons on Flickr

Why I’m buying an iPad

I’ve decided that I’m going to buy an iPad at the first opportunity I get, so here are my reasons:
  • I want it
  • It’s new
  • It’s interesting
  • It has an Apple logo on it (see 1 & 2 above)
  • It’s either going to change the way we think about computers, or it’ll be a total flop, in which case in years to come it will be a collector’s item
I think that’s a pretty good set of reasons and if you don’t, I don’t care – and here’s why, my final reason:
  • Because spending time reading any more ‘iPad sucks’ or ‘iPad is the second coming’ blog posts and articles, and potentially responding in the comments, or getting drawn into discussions (arguments) about what the iPad is, what’s missing, whether those things will be present in iPad 2.0, and whether people should buy one, I’m going to spend that time working productively, earning the money to buy it with.
So I’m getting off the fence, getting down to work, and buying an iPad when it comes out (probably the mid-range 32Gb 3G equipped version, in case you were wondering).
Now go make your own mind up.
UPDATE: just in case you’re wondering about whether I’m blindly ignoring ‘what’s missing from the iPad’ – I’m not, I just don’t think those things are important.
Flash – when using my iPhone I don’t miss Flash. If I come across a site that is dumb enough to have an unskippable intro, I just leave. Web video uses Flash because Flash was in the right place at the right time. The YouTube app on my iPhone works just fine thanks, streaming H.264 video.
A camera – because video conferencing is SO important? I’m not going to use this thing to take pictures with even if it had a camera. I’ll use a camera. I will still be able to one-way video conference (Fring for iPhone does this now, with one-way Skype video). There might be a camera in the rev 2 of the iPad. That won’t be enough for me to upgrade as I don’t consider a camera all that important.
Multi-tasking – for the most part this is a pointless gripe. Background notifications work perfectly well for most things you’d think you need multi-tasking for. Some people raising this criticism seem to be so blinkered as to think you can’t listen to music while doing something else. You can. Furthermore, all this is based on iPhone OS 3.2, the version that the SDK is currently at. We’ll see iPhone OS 4.0 in the summer, which may or may not have multi-tasking, for devices with Apple’s custom designed chip, as used in the iPad.

Do yourself (and a friend of mine) a favour

MacGraPhotoYou’ve probably seen those crazy Mac app bundles – pay a little over the price of one (usually shareware/trialware) application and get loads of other completely unrelated apps as well.

They’re excellent value even if you want just one of the included apps – you’re bound to find at least one other application that will save you time and/or money, and some big ticket items such as Parallels Desktop for Mac have been included in these deals.

It’s surprising it has taken this long for someone to put together a bundle where ALL the applications in it are centred on one area. Anyway, here it is: MacGraPhoto, a bundle of seven image related apps for Mac, all Apple Design Award winners or Apple Staff Picks. All for under $40.

I’ve only used two – Funtastic Photos (by my good friend Sam Rowlands) which works great with iPhoto to put an huge array of effects and output formats at your fingertips, and Graphic Converter, which does most of the things the average user thinks they need Photoshop for. The others all look pretty neat though.

Go bag a bundle now. The offer’s on till the end of November, it also makes a great Christmas gift for the digital camera toting Mac user in your life.

20 Years of Freedom

Czech flagToday’s post is in honour of my adopted home and the 20th anniversary of the fall of Communism.

On the 17th of November 1989 life began to change dramatically for the citizens of Czechoslovakia. By the 29th of December, Alexander Dubček, instigator of the Prague Spring reforms in 1968 was speaker of the federal Czechoslovak parliament and Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright and poet was elected President of Czechoslovakia.

Every 17th of November the Czech and Slovak Republics celebrate the ‘Struggle for Freedom and Democracy’. In some ways to think that a whole 20 years has passed, in other ways it’s an incredibly short time – recent enough for me to remember what it was like watching events unfold on TV as first East Germany then other Communist regimes crumbled under the will of the people.

There’s been an immense amount of change here since the Velvet Revolution . First the Velvet Divorce in 1993, and shortly thereafter Havel was (re-)elected as President of the Czech Republic (and as a new country his two term limit started anew).

I didn’t get here till 2001, and in just 8 years Prague has changed a tremendous amount. In May 2004 the Czech Republic (as well as Slovakia and a number of other former Eastern Bloc countries) joined the EU.

Since then, as a marketer I’ve watched with interest as businesses here come and go. The weak, inappropriate and poorly researched have folded, fairly predictably whilst the strong, well run and marketed ones have survived and excelled.

As a citizen I’ve enjoyed living here and can honestly say that apart from the overabundance of shopping malls and the effects of increased private car ownership every change that I’ve witnessed has made life more pleasant, cleaner, easier and safer. ‘Service with a snarl’ is becoming less commonplace as more Czechs who have lived abroad in their youth return and won’t stand for sullen wait staff and unfriendly shop clerks.

I don’t know if this is quite the ‘victory for Western ideology’ (that’d be capitalism, for those keeping score) that was envisaged as the Iron Curtain came tumbling down but I’d take Michelin starred restaurants over being bugged by the secret police and spied on by my neighbours any day.

Image credit: Tico, via Creative Commons on Flickr

What’s the last Purple Cow you bought?

Seth Godin (and others) are always talking about being ‘remarkable’.

Given that we’re all susceptible to remarkable things and feel a need to share them so I thought I’d share my most recent purple cow with you.


That’s the exterior of the building our apartment is in. We moved home about a month ago and when we were looking at places to rent this one stuck out – literally. The bay window in the turret gives a 180 degree view and has great light for reading.

What’s the last purchase you made because of something remarkable?

Coming down with a cold? Try this Atomic Soup

blowing noseI started to feel a bit unwell yesterday evening so I resolved to make up a batch of the nuclear weapon I unleash upon the threat of a cold. It’s based on recommendations of a couple of my friends. I’d like to call it Dragon’s Breath Soup, but that name’s already taken so I’ll call it Atomic Soup. You can make a chicken or vegetarian version.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A big saucepan, preferably a casserole – we’re making a load of this soup ok?
  • Water – about half-fill your pot with it
  • Chicken (or vegetable) stock or stock cubes
  • Root vegetables – I’ll leave this to your taste, but any of: celery, celeriac, carrots, chop into small pieces
  • Ginger, shavings if you can (I use a vegetable peeler for this)
  • Garlic, chopped
  • Fresh chillies, finely chopped. De-seed them only if you’re particularly sensitive to chilli. If you’re worried it will be too spicy, deseed half of them.
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Optional: one whole cooked chicken (I cheat and get a cooked chicken from the local supermarket), in pieces (separate the breast meat, you’ll want to eat that)
  • For extra credit (for the flavour): fresh coriander (cilantro) and thai basil, chopped

Making it’s easy, start with the water, then the stock or stock cubes, then other ingredients, in the order they’re listed. Let it simmer for an hour or so, stir occasionally.

How do you know it’s right? Your throat should tingle as you taste it. Making it milder only harms its efficacy, so don’t do that. I’m not sure whether it’s the garlic, ginger, lemon juice (vit C) or chillies or simply the combination of all of it, but it seems to knock an impending cold on the head.

Here’s hoping it works for me this time, it has done in the past.

Photo credit: Jiva, via Flickr