Thursday, December 17, 2009

Upgrading from XP to Windows 7 on the HP Mini 5101


I decided to upgrade to Windows 7 Professional on the HP Mini 5101 from its base install of Windows XP so sent off for the "free" upgrade from HP which requires US$19.99 for postage and handling.  From the time I placed the order until the DVD arrived in my hands in New Zealand was 9 days.

Since I do not have a DVD drive for the HP Mini I copied the Windows 7 installation files to a 4GB USB Stick using WinToFlash (which had been recommended by a work colleague) on another machine that did have a DVD drive.  WinToFlash creates a bootable Windows install on the USB Stick, was reasonably intuitive to use, and took about 30 minutes to complete (I suspect my Anti-virus program slowed things down).  Upon completion I noticed there was 409MB remaining on the USB Stick.

I checked in the Bios on the HP Mini and by default the option to install from a bootable USB device was turned on but changed the ordering so that USB Hard Disk and USB SuperDisk were prior to the Hard Drive; I wasn't sure which of these it was but suspected it would be one of these.

After ensuring that all files I cared about were backed up and I had extracted a copy of the "System Information" (Start --> All Programs --> Accessories --> System Tools --> System Information, and then choosing Export from the File menu), just in case I needed a setting, I was set to go.

I put the bootable Windows 7 USB Stick into the HP Mini and started the machine and it started the Windows 7 installation process.

I then selected to do a "Custom (advanced)" install which overwrites the previous OS and does a clean install.  I don't believe an upgrade option is available from XP to Windows 7, and even if it was my preference would still have been to do a clean install.  Of note, the installation process does copy the previous installation to a Windows.old directory.  I also noted post-installation that at least one of my other directories still existed, so maybe it wasn't as clean as I thought.

Once the installation had mostly completed (~20 mins) the machine then rebooted and wanted to re-start the installation process from the USB stick.  I subsequently removed the USB stick and rebooted the machine and it started up nicely and completed the remainder of the installation (~10 mins) and then rebooted again.  Other than needing to remove the USB stick, no user input was required.

I then went through the remainder of the installation but found that I couldn't get the Wireless connection working.  I was however able to connect to the Internet via a network cable connected directly to the router, so downloaded the latest Windows Updates since I had read something about these fixing a number of problems and knew there were some HP specific upgrades included.  Unfortunately this didn't help (or at least it didn't appear to).

Next step was off to the HP site to download the Broadcom Wireless LAN Driver for Windows 7, install and then reboot.  I didn't think it had worked at first but then (after getting frustrated searching for a solution) noticed the famliar wireless icon in the taskbar and from there was able to connect up to the Wifi; Yay!

I then continued to download and install other drivers and software from the HP site; ADI SoundMAX,  "Essential System Updates for Microsoft Windows 7", HP 3D DriveGuard and PDF Complete.

So I got there in the end but it took a little more effort than I originally envisaged.  It is running nicely now and seems to be quite fast.  I have just started installing all of my other standard apps, Firefox, Tweetdeck etc. and so far no problems at all.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur by Sir Richard Branson

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book from Richard Branson.  This is a good inspirational and motivating book that is very easy to read.  I knew that there were a number of Virgin companies prior to reading this book, however I was not aware of how many different industries Virgin is involved with (music, mobile, space travel, planes, trains, finance, health clubs, …).

The culture of Virgin is a key component of the why the Virgin companies have been successful.  Whilst there is not a step by step guide for how to build a successful company, there are many useful insights and lessons learnt.  Caring and Encouraging your people, Customer-focus, Innovation, Embracing leadership, Fun, Learning from mistakes and Social Responsibility are key attributes I now associate with the Virgin brand.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My base Windows install

I have just gone through the process of setting up a new Windows PC and thought I would jot down the current applications I have installed:
  • The machine came with XP pre-installed and, for now at least, I've decided to keep it.
  • Downloaded the latest Windows Updates
  • Installed Firefox, with the add-ons of Delicious and IE Tab
  • Tweetdeck (which also installed Adobe Air)
  • Upgraded the Flash Player (when prompted by the browser)
  • Installed AVG Anti-virus Free and removed the previous anti-virus solution
  • Irfanview

In terms of other software I expect to install in the imminent future:
  • Notepad++
  • Open Office
  • Video viewing software and codecs as required
  • Canon Camera Software
  • WAMP Server (for if I decide I want to do development on the machine)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nokia E71: How I use mine & thoughts in general

details-images-main01 I have had a Nokia E71 device for several months and thought I would share what apps I am using on it and experiences so far.  All the applications mentioned in here were freely available for download.

I previously had an Okta Touch (aka HTC Touch) which was a touch screen device so I wasn’t how I would find the E71.  After one day with the E71 I was however pleasantly surprised to find that I was really enjoying the E71 and was not missing the touch screen much at all.  This still holds today although I must say I am tempted to get an iPhone.

Connections

One of the best applications I installed early on was Birdstep SmartConnect.  This enabled me to create connection groups and to then put a number of my connections (e.g. HomeWifi, WorkWifi, Telecom Data) into a group and prioritise them.  This group is then treated as a standard connection for any of my applications.  This enables me to then be using Wifi if I am in range of one of my known Wifi spots or if not to use standard Mobile Data.

It is also worth mentioning that the Nokia E71 works excellently with my BlueAnt Supertooth 3 bluetooth handsfree kit.

Profiles & Similar Settings

The E71 enables me to have different profiles for Work and Personal.  I decided not to bother with having two and knowing whether if I was changing a setting that was global or for a single profile. 

I configured my screen to also have applications that I regularly use, including the camera at the top right so that it is quick to get to (unlock, move left, click).

Applications

For a Web browser, I have tried the pre-installed Web browser and Opera Mini and can’t say I’ve really enjoyed any of them, but do tend to keep going back to the pre-installed Web browser which is usable but nothing special. [Update 9 Nov: I have just tried Opera Mobile 10 Beta and it seems to be the best Symbian browser I have used]

For mapping the pre-installed Nokia Maps application is okay, but my preference by far is Google Maps.  This is a must to install, inc the YouTube app and Search box.  I update my location on an ad hoc basis using Google Latitude, but make sure to exit Maps (or whatever Google app I have running) properly so as not to consume lots of data.

I have tried lots of Twitter clients and found Tweets60 to be the one I keep going back to.

I have found Sports Tracker to be quite useful for getting data about how far I’ve walked, how fast I managed to ski a run etc.  It has even motivated me to to go out for a walk, and it is nice how if you take a photo during your exercise, this will be marked on the map with where you were at the timestamp of the photo.

The camera (from what I’ve found) doesn’t support geo-tagging of photos.  The photos incidentally are of a reasonable quality, although it’s not the best in low light conditions.

I use Mail for Exchange regularly.  Despite it not synchronising items sent from my computer, the functionality in general is good enough.  I do like how it keeps my Contacts synchronised across my PC and Mobile, regardless of what I update it in.

I updated the version of QuickOffice that came with my phone and have found this to be very useful, particularly for reading attachments in email messages.

I use Shozu for uploading of photos to Twitter (via Twitpic) or Flickr.  Shozu also supports lots of other sites too (YouTube, Facebook, Blogger, MySpace and many more).  I have found however that it doesn’t always exit, but its not a biggie.

For currency conversions I use WorldMate.  This was installed by default but I needed to update to the latest version.

Midomi is quite cool for singing/humming a song and getting Song Name and Artist back, although it appears my singing is quite bad.

Other

One useful feature I found early on was that holding down the Home key displays all applications currently running.  I have found this to be a useful way to know whether I’m running something that might be consuming data in the background.

All-in-all I find the E71 to be a good device with good voice quality, form factor, and quite like having a full QWERTY keyboard (Yes, I find it is big enough to use).

[Disclosure: I work for Telecom, but these are my personal views, and not influenced in any way whatsoever by my employer]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sliders: What’s important for your project?

I was recently in an excellent session with key stakeholders for a project, the aim being for the key stakeholders to jointly agree the importance of each of Scope, Cost, Time, Quality, Users and Team and how fixed or flexible each of these is.  Represented by Sliders that cannot be at the same level, this aids in providing a basis for the rest of the project to aid in decision making when trade-offs are required.imageSource: Rob Thomsett, Agile Academy http://www.agileacademy.com.au/agile/sites/default/files/aboutpdfs/AgilePracticesSlidersAgile%20Academy.pdf

Getting agreement by all key stakeholders as to what is important for the project should be achieved in a single session, but what is interesting is the discussion required to get agreement and the information that all parties glean from the process.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Barcamp Auckland 3 Synopsis

Following on from the largest tweetup I've ever attended on Friday night with 50+ people in Auckland (and was awesome), I attended Barcamp Auckland 3 (#bca3) today (which was also awesome). These were both excellent opportunities to network with a wide variety of people, have some great discussions and learn from them.

If you want to know what a Barcamp or Unconference is check out my synopsis of Barcamp Auckland 2.

I attended a number of sessions throughout the day. My key notes (as aggregated from my twitter stream):

Easy iPhone Game Development
  • cocos2d-iphone is a framework similar to Flash.
  • The Spaceship Tutorial (based on cocos2d-iphone ) sounds like it is worth checking out as an introduction to iPhone game development.
Augmented Reality
Marketing & Blogs
HTML5
  • HTML5 attribute types looks great.
  • HTML5 could replace Flash, Silverlight and other proprietary technologies.
  • Apparently more than 90% of Alexa Top 500 sites are not valid HTML.
Starting a business - Making sure you make money
  • Why do people start businesses? "To change the world" is the primary reason, focusing on $ as the primary reason is wrong.
  • Offer something nobody else does: Be first, be best, be available, sell.
  • Consider how to lock people in to your product. "Be likable" vs trying to lock people in (i.e. don't be evil).
  • Most important part of starting a business: Prove the concept.
  • Getting Things Done: Gaps in skill, time, money, milestones, processes.
  • To address gaps in skill for a startup, consider giving people equity.
  • Have good governance as your company grows, get good legal and tax advice.
Miscellaneous
An excellent event well facilitated by Ludwig and the Bartenders.

Other writeups of the day worth checking out:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Be Remarkable, Focus on the Innovators and Early Adopters

51PIn3XfrdL._SL160_

Having read Tribes from Seth Godin and enjoyed it I decided to give Purple Cow a go. Written in a very similar, easy-reading style, I took away two key messages from Purple Cow:

1. Be Remarkable
2. Focus on the Innovators and Early Adopters

Every day, consumers come face to face with a lot of boring stuff, a lot of brown cows, but you can bet they won’t forget a Purple Cow. By building remarkable features into products (as opposed to thinking of marketing as just slapping some paint on top of the product or service) the idea is that the Innovators and Early Adopters (aka the “Sneezers”) will essentially sell the product or service for you. It is therefore important to ensure that it is an easy sell for them.

I found many of the examples to be a bit too US centric but the key points were still easy to comprehend. Whilst the message is very simple, this book provides some great motivational passion for creating products that stand out and make a difference. A recommended read.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Web hosting providers impact language usage: Understand the constraints

There are a significant number of web hosting providers that support PHP or .NET, but I am continually surprised at how few support Java EE, or even basic JSPs.

Some providers also then offer a shared tomcat version which is then only reloaded once a day for changes to deployed apps, which is definitely not ideal if you want to rapidly release a new application.

There are definitely valid reasons for why some languages are supported and others aren’t. In the case of Java it is probably due to the fact there is no safe way (as far as I know) to deploy code into a share VM and it is probably significantly more resource intensive (particularly with what remains in memory). This then drives a higher price point which is often not appropriate for the hobbyist just tinkering with a site.

Google App Engine’s support for Java is definitely a welcome addition, although therefore are many other languages out there that are likely to more commonly used if a significant number of bulk web hosting providers supported them.

I know that I have decided what to develop in based on what the web hosting providers offer at a competitive price. It is worth considering where you are planning to host your site, whether you intend to use a slice of a machine up front, and understanding the constraints before you go too far down a particular path.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Moving Firefox Profile to another drive or directory: How-to

In many organisations a user's Profile size is restricted to a certain size and there is a constant juggling act to try and keep under your Profile quota.

Firefox is an example of one application that was taking up lots of space in my quota, but I found that there is a nice and easy way to relocate the Firefox Profile to another drive or directory.

Check out Mozilla's Step-by-step instructions for how to do this. This worked fine for me using Firefox v3.0.8 on Windows XP.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Make it easy for your product to be evaluated

I often evaluate products to determine their fit to the requirements I am trying to address.  I do find however that I am often disappointed at how hard it is to find the information I am looking for.

I tend to have lists of functional, technical, operational, commercial and financial criteria I am trying to assess against and the first step is to identity a list of Solution Option candidates upon which I will then rapidly do an initial assessment and triage.

My ideal is to be able to easily find one or two pages that contain the majority of the information I am looking for.  Some sites however make it a very painful process.  Having to watch a video or look through piles of documentation is not desirable.  http://drupal.org/features is a great example of what is good; this is a simple page that contains lots of useful information, and links to further detail. 

I was using a major Software vendors site recently and knew they had a product covering what I was looking for, but couldn't find it by browsing.  The Search Engine on many sites is often the only way to really find content, which is not ideal.

Sometimes companies actually have too many products that only slightly differ, and whilst there may be valid reasons for this, it should be very easy for somebody not familiar with the intricate details of each product (or the desire to evaluate each separately) to determine what it best placed to address their needs. 

If it’s too hard to find relevant information quickly this is a deterrent.  Consider who your audience is and what they are looking for and make their experience enjoyable.  It may be the difference between somebody choosing your product over your competitors.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Keeping Informed: Will Facebook and Twitter bring RSS mainstream?

At the end of January this year there was a poll in LinkedIn asking people how they wanted to be informed about LinkedIn's new features and I was surprised to see how low RSS rated in terms of a preference, particularly when compared with Email Alerts.


This reminded me that despite the fact that I have been using RSS for many years, it just hasn't become mainstream. I moved to using RSS when I found myself going to the same web sites every day to see what was new and that they were commonly starting to have a RSS logo. The beauty of RSS is that the information comes to you in one place rather than you needing to go to each site individually. For more information about how I keep up to date with what's going on in the world, check out "Keeping up with what's happening in the world".

I wonder whether the terms "RSS" and "feed" are just too geeky and this is enough to scare off lots of people. Whilst the RSS readers available today such as Google Reader and Bloglines are quite easy to use and the major Portals (e.g. iGoogle and My Yahoo!) and Web browsers have RSS support, usage of information via RSS is still low. With Facebook and Twitter now being huge aggregators of information for millions of people, maybe the funneling of information from other sites into these platforms and other applications is where the value of RSS will be (and it will be even more transparent than it is today).

I am interested to see whether Guy Kawasaki's MyAlltop will lure across the masses, but suspect that User Experience and transparency via the likes of Facebook and Twitter is where RSS will come to the masses.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Values & Your Personal Brand

Two months ago I read a blog post from Tony Hsieh (the CEO at Zappos.com) titled "How Twitter Can Make You A Better (and Happier) Person" about values that has shaped the way I communicate.

Zappos came up with 10 core values to define their company culture, and Tony has then used these same values as his own personal values as well:
  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble
By embracing these values as his personal values, this has meant that Tony is less likely to complain or vent in his communications (be that Twitter or in face-to-face communications), because it is not in line with the Zappos core values. He instead will step back and try and find humour in a "bad" situation and re-frame the experience in a more positive light.

I think this is a great approach in terms of ensuring your communication is portraying you in a positive light and aiding in building up a personal brand you are proud of. By adopting this approach, I have found that I feel happier and am more inclined to not let a "bad" situation get me down but to instead focus on what can be learned or gained from it. Thanks Tony for some great inspiration.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The buzz of KiwiFoo: some of my takeaways

I had the privilege of spending the weekend with lots of great energising, exciting people doing great stuff in New Zealand at KiwiFoo 2009 (aka Baa Camp).

Run in an unconference style, the topics were wide and varied and included a variety of topics such as the opportunities of Real-time data, the Economy, Section 92A, Cloud Computing, Sustainability, Broadband, Building Communities, Working globally from New Zealand, OpenID, Utility 2.0 and the list goes on.

There were so many exciting sessions that one of the biggest challenges was working out what to go to. The conversations during, in-between and after the sessions went early into the morning on both Friday and Saturday nights and were packed with great intellectual discussion and debate.

Some of my takeaways (respecting the FrieNDA rules i.e."what goes on tour, stays on tour") included:

Working globally from New Zealand
  • If we can work out how to work well remotely then this can help to keep smart young people in New Zealand.
  • Different people have different work preferences.
  • Working in a distributed environment does not suit everybody, some people prefer to work on their own, some can't work on their own.
  • Face-to-face relationships are great and being able to have a beer with somebody should not be underestimated in terms of building up relationships.
  • Low office politics is a huge help if working remotely and/or having somebody on the inside to represent your views and keep you informed what's going on.
  • Regular interactions (e.g. via voice conference, weekly updates of what's happened / what's next) are good.
  • Trust and Reputation are key to having good working relationships.
  • The Opensource community is an example of distributed working that has worked many times, and there are lessons that can be learnt from this.
Building communities
  • "Crossing the Chasm" by Geofferey Moore was recommended as an excellent read.
  • The team building the community should have people of different people types (i.e. Big thinkers, Detail people etc.)
  • A Newcomers forum is good to give people comfort in how to interact and not feel that they may be breaking rules and regulations.
  • Dunbar's Number and Maslow's hierarchy of needs are worth checking out.
  • Experience points / Karma systems can be good for allowing people to have extra privileges (such as kicking people off communities)
  • Measurement of community success should including looking from the outside in and from people within.
Utility 2.0
  • Check out Powershop for an example of Utility 2.0 in action for Electricity in New Zealand.
  • Enables consumers to have choice, swap easily between providers, potentially use multiple, flexible payments such as buying in advance etc.
  • Putting consumers at the heart of the business.
Real-time data
  • XMPP is a great protocol for this space.
  • Customers need to be able to determine what level of granularity of information they want to share with people/applications.
  • User overload of data and being able to set thresholds needs to be addressed. i.e. when is it okay to be notified and how?
  • A key question to think about is "What would real-time versions of existing products look like?"
  • An example of a good use of real-time data is that if it is raining 15km away and then starts 10km away, it might be a good idea to inform you to bring the washing in. (Hattip to Rob)
  • Pachube is like YouTube for data and worth checking out.
4 million leaders
  • New Zealand has an opportunity to be the beacon of light for a powerful small country.
  • thinksmall.co.nz is a great place to find solutions to issues facing New Zealanders.

Sustainability
  • Consider the impact of what you are doing to the environment. Is what you are doing sustainable to our planet if everybody was to do it forever?
  • Check out http://lifeboat.co.nz
  • Grow More - this is something anybody can do and very easily.
  • Buy Less - do you really need a new cellphone or ipod? consider the impact to the environment of the waste.
  • Food miles.
  • Tele-commuting.
  • Open source design could be good for products that last.

New Zealand has a huge opportunity on the world stage and KiwiFoo has renewed my confidence that every one in New Zealand can make a difference.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

3 simple questions: Challenge yourself, challenge others, question why

Having worked in a corporate for many years, I find that it is often useful to step back from the every day process and ask a few very simple questions:
  1. If this was my money would I spend it on this?
  2. If this was a startup what would we be doing different?
  3. Is this really a Must Have requirement / Do the stakeholders understand the impact this has to cost, timeframe and/or complexity?
Challenge yourself, challenge others, question why.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Different leadership styles are required for different stages of team development

"The One Minute Manager builds high performing teams" by Ken Blanchard, Donald Carew and Eunice Parisi Carew is an excellent book that simply explains through examples the four stages that teams go through and that a different leadership style is required in each; namely Orientation, Dissatisfaction, Integration and Production.

For each stage, it is clearly articulated what the Characteristics are, what the Needs of the team are, what the Issues are that need to be addressed and what type of leadership style is appropriate.

It is a very quick and easy read, written as a conversation, and I found it very easy to relate to when I looked at various projects I had been involved with. I will be re-reading this again.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

NZ newspapers are embracing New Media

Impressed by all the ways the NZ Herald is allowing people to get the latest news (Twitter, RSS Updates, Widgets, YouTube, Digital Replica, Email Updates, RSS Feeds, Mobile, Paper Delivery), I decided to look into what some traditionally Old Media newspapers are doing with New Media in New Zealand; The New Zealand Herald, Otago Daily Times, The Dominion Post, Waikato Times, and the other "Newspaper" sites hosted on the Stuff.co.nz platform.

The New Zealand Herald - http://www.nzherald.co.nz/

At the base of each page, the NZ Herald promotes all of the ways they allow people to get the latest news.


Each post enables people to distribute the content further via Email or IM.


Blogs are also a component of the site where people can comment on a variety of topics. There are however no general commentary features for non-Blog news stories.


Otago Daily Times - http://www.odt.co.nz/

The Otago Daily Times has an RSS Feed and also sports an Online Poll.


Another feature it that they enables users to post comments to any story, and make it easy for the story to be submitted to various online services such as Delicious, Facebook, Digg etc:


The Dominion Post - http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominionpost/
Waikato Times - http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikatotimes
Many more "Newspaper" sites hosted by Stuff.co.nz


The stuff.co.nz platform hosts many of New Zealand's newspapers and consequently have a very similar look & feel and make use of its common capabilities.


Prominent on each page is the ability to set up a variety of alerts, including RSS feeds.


In terms of distributing the content further "Email a Friend" links are easily found associated with all stories.


Although these sites have the concept of a Blog, there is no ability to post comments, other than a more generic "Have your say" feature that is not associated back to the blog post and is akin to sending in a new news story.

Conclusion

It is great to see New Media being embraced by so many newspapers in New Zealand. Admittedly many of them are hosted by stuff.co.nz and whilst this platform is not as rich in its adoption of New Media as The New Zealand Herald, there is the advantage that if this platform gets updated that many readers of the various different newspapers will benefit.

The Otago Daily Times capability of allowing people to comment on any story and to easily submit stories to a variety of Online Services is something I would like to see on more news sites.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Embrace change, be a heretic!

"Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us" is an easy read from Seth Godin that presents the case for why You should be leading. Everybody can inspire a tribe towards collective action, regardless of where they sit in an organisation, and this book challenges you to step up, lead and challenge the status quo.

There are some great snippets of information throughout, and I agree with most of what he is suggesting re Leadership, although there is also a hate message re Management that I think is a bit too strong. It is a good book for motivation and whilst not prescriptive in how to lead provides some good pearls of wisdom for leading in the digital age.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

BlueAnt Supertooth 3 & Selecting multiple contacts on Windows Mobile 6 - Arghhhh!

I purchased a BlueAnt Supertooth 3 bluetooth handsfree kit yesterday and spent several hours trying to find an easy way to get the Contacts list from my Okta Touch (aka HTC Touch) which runs Windows Mobile 6 Professional and failed.

The BlueAnt Supertooth 3 is a nice device and pairing it with the phone was super easy (I was up and running in about a minute!), but getting the contacts across was a challenge with Windows Mobile 6 since there is no option to select multiple contacts to Beam (send via Bluetooth) across. The benefit of having the contacts on the device is that when there is an incoming call, the callers name will be announced.



I tried a variety of methods, including trying a piece of software that claimed to enable selection of multiple listings. Well, to be fair it did allow selection of multiple listings, but trying to do anything with them as a group failed.

I then tried sending the contacts directly from my PC via Bluetooth but for whatever reason had no joy that way either.

In the end I resorted to copying the contacts across one-by-one, and even though this was annoying there weren't all that many contacts that I needed across and it probably took me less than 30 mins.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reciprocal Status Updates between Facebook and Twitter




John Battelle raised a discussion on his blog on the connection between Twitter and Facebook for status updates, and that Twitter is a Facebook Application but Facebook is not a Twitter application (but should be). I totally agree.

I update my Facebook status with my Twitter updates and have found that it has generated some good discussions on Facebook. This is however a one way update and conversations do not span across both systems which is not ideal.

I predominantly have a different set of people on Facebook than Twitter, so find that sharing the status works well for invigorating discussion. It would however be nice to be having one conversation, and not conversations independently on each platform.

The thread based approach of comments on Facebook aids in providing more structure that Twitter could benefit from, and for conversations to nicely span across both platforms, I think this needs to be addressed. Between this and Facebook Connect, I think there is a solution if the various parties want it to happen.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

If you call a meeting you should be responsible for the Meeting Minutes

I am of the opinion that whoever calls a meeting should be responsible for ensuring that Meeting Minutes are circulated to all attendees.

It is a good habit to get into, and can aid in reducing issues being relitigated and having a record of when decisions were made. It does not need to be an onerous task and only the key points need to be captured.

Meeting minutes should be circulated within 24 hours of a meeting occurring, whilst the information is still fresh in people's minds; I often strive to get them out within an hour or two of meeting completion.

I use a standard (yet simple) template for my meeting minutes which aids in me being able to quickly type them up. I tend to in fact usually type up the vast majority of the meeting minutes during the meeting and then tidy it up and distribute afterwards.

If it is a regular meeting I usually have the first agenda item being agreement of the previous minutes, and sometimes will include the full list of open issues, risks and decisions, although have found that these tend to be better managed when stored externally.

My Simple Template
Meeting Minutes Template

Sunday, January 11, 2009

How Social Media applications helped me this vacation

The end of my Summer vacation has come to an end, but it is interesting to think back on how this holiday was different from others, primarily due to the use of Social Media.

Social Media applications are based around the concept of user-generated content and include the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Photo sharing and Review sites, all of which I utilised this holiday period.

We spent the holiday period in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand in a few different locations (the Waikato, Whitianga, Napier & Taupo). At these locations we often did not know what restaurants and cafes were good, so other than just using the Internet for what to do in an area, we used http://dineout.co.nz (a restaurant/cafe review site with user-generated content) extensively to validate or find what restaurants and cafes we wanted to try. I also submitted my own reviews for a large number of the places we visited to dineout (see here for my reviews).

Jane & I also wrote a number of blog entries over on our Food, Wine & Family blog at http://sinnjoy.blogspot.com reviewing wine, food and whatever else we were up to which did include sorbet and icecream making (in reverse order):
We also uploaded a number of photos to flickr (and Jane's) with mine also being linked through to facebook. This combined with me tweeting where we were, what we were doing, that a new blog post was up or that I had uploaded photos, generated a number of comments from friends/followers and suggestions of where to go for dinner (Thanks again to Rachel and Dave).

Uploading photos to Flickr and Facebook we found to be a great way to share our daily experiences and by tagging people in photos on Facebook an easy way to share pictures with people we caught up with along the way.

A well-enjoyed "connected" holiday...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Why & How I share what I'm doing / finding

I am a big advocate for sharing information, be it personal or more business-oriented information. I share information from experiences at restaurants, what I thought of books I have read, where I am, links to things I think are interesting, productivity tips, experiences with programming languages and the list goes on. There is obviously also information that I do not share widely (if at all) due to confidentiality reasons, or if I do share it I only share it to a closed community.

Why?

I share information for a number of reasons, including:
  1. Sharing enables others to learn from my experiences.
  2. I can learn from others, and by Sharing this lets others know what I am up to or what information I am finding that I think is interesting. I may not even know initially that they have knowledge or interests in a particular area.
  3. Communities of Interest and Friendships evolve by finding people with similar interests. If you don’t convey to others what your interests are, you are closing out a potentially large community of people.
  4. Sharing in a written form (in particular with blog entries) enables me to write down what is otherwise a bunch of ideas and thoughts in my mind that could do with a little more structure and bit more focussed thought. These can then be good for me to refer back to or to direct others to.
  5. The Conversations that can arrive through sharing information are often great at challenging me to look at things from different angles and further my thinking and knowledge.
  6. Being able to catch-up with people in person can be easier if you know you will be (or are) in the same place at the same time.

How?

There are a large number of ways I share information, but in terms of those I use most days:
  1. Coffee & Lunch with work colleagues – you never do know what conversations will emerge on a daily basis, what debates will occur and that’s half the enjoyment of it.
  2. Twitter – for a description of Twitter see ‘So what is this Twitter you keep going on about?’.
  3. Delicious – this is a Social Bookmarking tool whereby you can save your bookmarks for everybody to see and target them for certain people; I would share over 99% of what I bookmark.
  4. Google Reader – this is an RSS reader (which essentially means that new stuff on sites I am interested in from all over the Internet comes to me as opposed to me having to go to each individual site to see what has changed) which allows me to share articles of interest with those who are following what I share.
  5. Yammer – for a description of Yammer see ‘Yammer & Laconi.ca: Enterprise Status Updates / Microblogging’.
  6. Facebook – I respond to Comments others have made on my Wall or to other Status updates, but do not typically update the Status Message or Share any information via Facebook directly; instead these are aggregated from various other sources of information I use, such as Twitter (for the status update), Flickr, Google Reader, Delicious, YouTube, Last.fm, Friendfeed, Slideshare etc. and they just magically arrive at Facebook.
  7. Instant Messenger / Email / Sharepoint / Phone / Face-to-face – standard tools for communication at work.

On a bit more of an ad-hoc basis, some of the other ways I share information:
  1. Blogging – For Food & Wine, where Jane & I have travelled to, and in general more Personal / Family topics I write blog entries at http://sinnjoy.blogspot.com . For more Technical and Business related material I write blog entries at http://gianouts.blogspot.com .
  2. LinkedIn – I try and keep my Resume up to date on LinkedIn to enable people to know what roles and activities I have been involved in. I have also recently also added a Book Review onto my Amazon profile.
  3. Tweetups – These are a gathering of people who are on Twitter to meet up in real life, have a coffee or beer (depending on the location) and chat about whatever. I have attended a couple of them so far. If you are in Auckland on Twitter there is a Facebook group you can join up to find out about or schedule the next catchup called the Auckland Twitter Meetup.
  4. Barcamps / Unconferences / Foo Camps – Unconferences are conferences where the attendees set the agenda at the start of the conference. I have attended a couple of Unconferences now (Barcamp Auckland 2 and TelecomONE Innovation) and these are great opportunities to share and learn. See ‘Barcamp Auckland 2 Synopsis’ for more information about the first one I attended. I will also be attending the New Zealand Foo Camp (aka Baa Camp) this year and will probably make it to the Auckland Barcamp and TelecomONE Innovation unconference (once some dates are set).
  5. Dopplr – I occasionally update my travel information so that I can see if my travel plans overlap with others I know. Since I don’t have many others I know using Dopplr or any other similar tools, this has limited my usage of this.
  6. Amazon – Very occasionally I will write a review for a book I have read.
  7. Plaxo – in the same way that Facebook is updated, Plaxo purely operates as a lifestream aggegrator for me.
  8. Blog Comments – I will sometimes respond to other people’s blog posts with my views which may be simply agreeing with what they have said. Most people thrive on positive encouragement and constructive feedback, and this is a way of encouraging them to keep posting.

Friday, January 2, 2009

"Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" by Malcolm Gladwell Book Review

Based around the concept of thin-slicing, this book promotes the idea that your initial thoughts / gut feeling are often the right way to proceed (but not always). There are many case studies to hammer in the point and look at it from different perspectives. I feel the concept was a bit oversold, confused, and not pulled together nicely at the end.

In terms of the fundamental concept that we can learn to make better and faster decisions when we filter out excess data, I agree. This particularly holds if you are experienced in the field (i.e. with experience comes intuition).

As for the "Compelling", "Astonishing" and "Brilliant" words being used to describe this book, I think that maybe "Thought Provoking with Interesting Stories" might be a better way to describe it.