In through the ears, and out through the fingers

A good morning for podcast listening on the train into London.

First up Morning Coffee Notes for April 14th from Dave Winer, in which he answers questions for Robert Scoble and Shel Israel about how and why he started blogging and what was the story with the creation of RSS, oh yeah and remembers he hasn’t paid his taxes…yet.

Then into Bicycle Mark‘s first Portugese-only Audio Communique #27 – “fantastica”…was just one of the words I managed to understand – but why does he talk about Madge so much – madge this, madge that. My experience of Portuguese (apart from my inability to spell it straight off – keep forgetting the second u, putting it in and then taking it out again) is that some words are easier to understand written down and some are easier to understand when spoken – so perhaps I’d be able to understand more of a film with subtitles – don’t know until you try.

Finally an IT Conversations/Tech Nation with Moira Gunn interviewing Keith Devlin from Stanford University about innate mathematical ability in humans and many other animals. It’s a really interesting conversation that walks the line between saying “Well….duh!” and “Hey there’s probably something interesting in this” Bonus point – Keith Devlin has a similar Northern English accent (at least to my ear) to David Gurteen – Now I’ll find that one’s from Liverpool and the other one’s from Hull!


I [heart] BBC

Seven Quid TV StampPeople coming to live in the UK from elsewhere, particularly Americans, are often astounded by the TV Licence, which is how we fund the BBC. For some it confirms their idea that we’re all submissive, unimaginative and just a bit dim when it comes to commercial opportunities, for others it looks like yet another communistic bit of state-sponsored theft.

So, just putting aside for a moment the fact that I hear a lot of Americans saying that they’d do anything to have TV and Radio without pushy advertising (but presumably, like Meatloaf, they wouldn’t do *that*) and the huge cultural benefit and joy I’ve had from BBC productions all through my life, here’s one example of why I don’t mind paying for my TV licence one bit; and here’s another

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Murdoch’s internet speech

Pay upPerhaps the only advantage print has over online for me is that I was able to sneak a look at this FT article while waiting in an office lobby today without paying for the privilege.

News Corp. does provide full text of the speech though (link from Jeff Jarvis).

On balance I’d say “Too little too late, Rupe” but he won’t go down without a fierce and bitter fight. He almost gets it – but he still sees the environment as one where there are people who sell the news and people who buy it. He talks about a decentralized model, but then seems to think that a huge centralized organization like News Corp. can somehow still dominate it. Interesting too that he drops in a reference to podcasting and video.

Nice article on digital radio on p19 of the FT as well, including podcasting and a plug for podshows. Just in case you’re down the library tomorrow…

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Podwalk010 – Thank heaven for sugar barons

Tate Turbine HallOk, so I didn’t think this one through entirely.

1. You are not allowed to take photographs in the galleries of Tate Modern.

2. It’s generally so quiet and people are walking around looking for interesting things that I felt even more self-conscious about talking.

So 3. There are many more edits than usual but fewer photographs and not much of *my* voice at all. It’s mostly those exhibits that make a sound and the sounds of people taking tours and talking to each other.

The Tate Modern site has more on the Bruce Nauman sound installation including an interactive version that doesn’t quite match the reality because the only sounds that overlap are adjacent ones – as you can hear from the recording, you can actually hear everything reverberating around the huge space of the Turbine Hall.

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Understanding Customer Focus

04 what does it mean to customersI’ve been looking back at some work I did a couple of years ago on customer focus for a large government department to try to explain how a simple Pinpoint workshop works – I’m having trouble writing a case study (soooo boring) so I just thought I’d write it out here and see where that got me.

I’d forgotten that the original brief was to find some different communication form for talking to as many people as possible within this department about “customer focus”. The perception (in grossly generalised terms) was that people were more focused on their given functional tasks and rarely questioned what value they were adding for the end users or customers or did anything to find out whether the service they provided was useful or met a customer need.

So first of all I designed a Pinpoint workshop to run with a selection of senior managers from across the organisation (people who pretty much already got customer focus) to talk about this and what should be done.

This workshop asked the following questions:

  • What does Customer Focus mean to us?
  • What does Customer Focus mean to customers?
  • How good is the Department at Customer Focus?
  • What are the characteristics of excellent internal communication that would improve our Customer Focus?
  • What communication products would improve the Customer Focus of the Department?

I wish I could say I entirely planned it this way, but the way it turned out was that as well as understanding better what customer focus meant in this organisation, everyone said: “This is great, we should make this workshop into something that everyone can do”.

So we came up with this amended version:

Who are your customers? This warmed people up and got some of the stuff out of the way about differences of opinion on this subject – in government departments some civil servants still see ministers as their key customers!

What does Customer Focus mean to you? People talked about feedback, communication, building relationships, responsive action.

How well do you involve customers in what you do? Naturally some people felt better about this than others – depending on personal experience and the nature of their jobs.

What does Customer Focus mean to your customers? Here people thought more about quality, responsiveness and meeting expectations.

What more could we do to involve customers in what we do? This varied between teams depending on what their level of interaction with customers but it generally brought out high-level ideas about improving the quality and quantity of communication.

Then depending on what ideas had come out of that, the group was split into two or three sub-groups to look in detail at what ideas they had about improving how they involved customers. This involved an ideas gallery session asking them to come up with Ideas, Barriers and Resources required.

After creating these and discussing them, the team came up with an action plan for themselves (what to do, who would do it, by when, with help from whom). The team also had to come up with a contact to liaise with the customer focus team to let them know how they were getting on and where they needed further help.

So the outcomes were:

  • A better and shared understanding among the participants of what customer focus really meant.
  • Some broad ideas for improvement that might be picked up later
  • An action plan for specific things to do in the short-term
  • A link with the centre to help make sure things got done, or at least moved forward

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Getting back on the KM track

Recently I’ve been meaning to get this blog firmly back on the wider KM track. I’ve been particularly passionate about weblogging, tagging and borderline obsessive about podcasting (you probably didn’t notice…) but returning to David Gurteen‘s Knowledge Cafe tonight after a few months of not attending reminded me that these cool tools are just ways in which we do the important stuff, which is about how we manage the organisation of people. I resolve to make more links in future back to this core – yes making podcasts is cool, but I’m much more interested in using them in an organisational context, to improve corporate communications for example, than I am in becoming an amateur radio presenter.

The Knowledge Cafe tonight was pretty much a re-run of the networking session that Mick Cope did at the Gurteen Conference a little while ago – I had to leave dead on 8pm and so perhaps there were more insights in the after-exercise plenary, but it was also a useful, if wearing, opportunity to get up and think about giving and getting in a networking situation and to make some new, useful contacts, particularly for Public Service Conversations.

I guess the insight for me was that I rarely go into that sort of situation expecting to give AND to receive – I either call someone for help, and am entirely focused on my need, not expecting to have to give something in return, or else I call someone to offer help but am not open to how they might be able to help me out. I think I have quite a good handle on what I can offer people, but it seems to me that a useful exercise would be to have an ongoing wish-list – things I want that I can’t create on my own, but which someone else might have a surplus of, for those times when just such a person happens along.


Lost for Words (yes I was, several times…)

This little fella wants you to be...
In which Jeannine Saba of Lost for Words meets the world’s worst audio interviewer and is mysteriously compelled to tell him the story of her amazing business [parental warning: contains repeated & annoying mmmm-ing, uh-huhing and one explicit reference to cheesecake].

This is the first in an occasional series of interviews I’m doing with friends of mine who have cool businesses.

I think this is just the sort of business that cries out for a blog – a high-value bespoke product range made with great passion. It’s a testament to how hard Jeannine’s worked at getting good press that she’s got so many customers through that avenue, I’m sure that a blog would add another stream of people queuing up for these gorgeous (and I’ve told her so, but I repeat it here to ram the point home).

So if you’ve a special someone to buy something unforgettable for, and you want them to be lost for words fire up your e-mail and get on to jeannine AT sabadesigns DOT co DOT uk

[Disclosure: Jeannine's been a good friend of mine for a couple of years now and we give each other mutual advice and support in business however she didn't have to pay or give me anything to get me to say nice things about her products]

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Podwalk 009 – South Bank

Blackfriars BridgeThe Podwalk009 podcast was meant to come to you earlier, hot off the minidisc as I ended the walk in the land where the baristas wear black and green. But I had a Starbucks wi-fi malfunction and then I needed lunch and nothing in Tate Modern tickled my fancy. There will be a visit to the former Bankside Power Station in the near future, but not yet folks, not yet.

Meanwhile you can follow along on the Podwalk 009 flickr photo set (if flickr is working – it’s seemed slow and clunky for a couple of days – paying the price of success?)

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Evan Williams is interviewed at Ipodlounge (says Dave Winer on his newly minted and quoted thusly:

“…More good ideas in the world. More knowledge. Less ignorance. Less conspiracy. Less corruption. And more funny. That seems important to me.”

Mmmmmm… “More knowledge. Less ignorance” – hey you know a great way to deal with that – talk to people direct about what you’re doing instead of chatting to an invited audience of people you know in advance are going to agree with you, and write a blog (yeah 10 contentless posts in as many weeks is fine) that’s so poorly maintained that archives from a two months ago throw a 404. Now *that’s* funny!

You know what would make this oh so much better? Can you say “Here we are folks with the first Odeo podcast”? Obviously not.

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I’m amazed at how many people continue to end up here looking for stuff on Alan Sugar and BBC Two’s The Apprentice – surely other people are blogging about this more than me?

Anywho – I’ve missed a couple of episodes (goodbye to the dreary Rachel and Sebastian) but just saw tonight’s Farmers Market show. It really showed how people just don’t listen to what they’ve been asked to do. This week’s task – as Alan Sugar so graphically demonstrated (while subtly reminding us that he’s still in the computer manufacturing business) – was about ADDING VALUE.

This was a task where you really had to do some thinking up front, starting with the end in mind – work out how much you thought you could possibly sell, of what, from a Market Stall at Ally Pally and then go all out to get the ingredients for the cheapest possible price, all the while thinking about the biggest possible margin – presumably bottling tap water wasn’t an option.

Then set prices very aggressively at the start of the day, working the numbers as you go and cutting the price to squeeze every last drop out of the market. But most of all ENGAGE with your customers – what a privilege to get the opportunity to speak directly to every single person!

And at the end of the day, the winning team were the ones who’d kept costs right down – negotiating free professional cooking in return for promo work on the day, for example AND were out there talking to people, offering generous samples and going oooh aaah isn’t it lovely, buy some now madam, show me the money.

The other team may have run more smoothly in the buying and production phase (putting aside some horrible spending mistakes) but none of that counted when they couldn’t sell for toffee (except for Paul – I have to say that ‘cos someone might read this to Paul and he might get cross – it has been known)

This is only going to get better in the last four weeks. My money’s on James or Saira (although neither of them really need a job with Sugar) – Miriam has just about used up her nine lives, and Paul’s close to the edge – Raj and Tim are actually dull and inexperienced enough to be natural management trainee material – but this ain’t Reality it’s Reality TV