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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Joining the BBC

A quick bit of housekeeping. This is my last week working with Essential Research. I’ve had a fantastic two and a half years working with the team, and learned an incredible amount. While I can’t talk about many specific things, I have been fortunate enough to work on some projects that have received industry recognition, and these are pretty representative of the areas I’ve been privileged to contribute to. I wish them all the best in continuing their success now that they have been acquired by SPA Future Thinking. However, I bid them goodbye as I have been presented an opportunity too good and too relevant to my interests to turn down.

Next week I’ll be joining the BBC, working for the Audiences team within BBC Future Media. My role will be as a Research Manager working across Digital Media, but with a primary focus on Mobile, Social and Syndication – areas in which I have previously written about.

I’ll continue writing here, and possibly even redress the dwindling frequency of posting. But in accordance with the BBC’s guidelines this will remain a completely personal blog and not intersect with my day-to-day professional responsibilities or interests. This means I won’t be commenting on or opining on news stories that involve the BBC or its partners.

I’m really appreciative of the discussions I’ve been able to have with people as a result of this blog – here, elsewhere online and even occasionally in person. Thank you for your attention and provocation.

sk

Pulled apart by horses

What with studying and preparing for my first conference, I’ve had quite a busy year. I was looking forward to winding down for the Christmas break with some reading, and to then fully get back in the blogging saddle.

Alas, this won’t happen. Events, dear boy. Events.

I work in a small team (five people) within a small company (eighteen people) doing largely ad hoc work. Through separate, unrelated events, my team will shortly become two people (temporarily).

Our view on the Iron Triangle (below) is that time is the variable that will be impacted first when events change.

iron triangle for project management

As such, my working hours will inevitably be increasing until he hire new people. And so this blog will see reduced activity for a while (unless I either queue up posts over the break, or squeeze in short posts such as this one), though I do want to publish my thoughts on some of the excellent presentations at the recent New MR conference I (virtually) attended.

In the meantime, if you know any research executive or managers that want to do media and technology research for an award-winning company (we’re up for another one on Monday) based in Putney, then get in touch. My email address is on the about page.

I really enjoy working for a small company. But at times they can certainly get their salary’s worth.

sk

Two years old, and recommended reading

It’s been two years since my first, tentative, blog post at this address. I’m pleased that it is still going strong but I have been a bit neglectful of it. So, over the coming months I’m going to attempt to do the following

  • Refresh my blog roll – something which is long overdue
  • Post more regularly – I don’t want to commit to an artificial schedule, despite the recent regularity of my Sunday posting. The content on this blog is the most valuable thing – certainly to me, since it helps me formalise my thinking – and it shouldn’t be compromised for the sake of frequency
  • Start a blog project/series – due to a rather hectic start to the year, my news-gathering is on hiatus. However, there are a couple of things I think would work as part of an ongoing theme, rather than a single entry blog
  • Investigate porting the blog over to a hosted domain – I bought a URL and hosting a year ago, and then did nothing with it. There is no overwhelming need to have my own website, and I’m slightly concerned about porting over links and the RSS feed, but it should be something I look into to
  • Resume my link updates

And this last bullet is where I am going to start. We are who we know, and I am regularly educated and inspired by a whole range of content across the web – both “professional” and “amateur”.

When posting new content on my blog, my priority will always be to first be selfish – write content I want to, that can help benefit my understanding or thinking. However, I haven’t been generous enough recently, and I want to resolve that by sharing my inspiration.

My link updates stopped around a year ago, pretty much when I changed jobs (draw your own conclusions) but I’m going to attempt to resume them on a weekly basis.

I’m also going to be changing the names of the posts to “Recommended reading”. “Link updates” sounds too automated. What I am trying to do is curate the best things I have recently read, and convey why I think they’re so good.

So, without further ado, here are eighteen posts I’ve read over the past month that I’d recommend (future posts won’t be this long, but I’ve got some catching up to do:

Learning and working

I loved this Wired article on how athletes are increasingly turning to video games in order to help them learn their strategies. It makes sense, since the Madden series is arguably the most complex game on the market. Technology democratises information, and augments and improves our talents in our chosen fields.

This article struck a chord with it. In striving for perfection, the Duke Nukem game has been in development for over a decade, and indeed has just shut down. There is a point where we have to say that something is “good enough”.

This is quite a short Havard Business blog post on setting goals but I liked the notion that they tend to promote mediocrity rather than excellence. Should we be looking to improve where our skills are lacking – to be well-rounded but average – or should we be looking to push ourselves further in the areas we excel in.

This great post on how to hire programmers is applicable for all industries. Are they smart? Can they get stuff done? Can you work with them?

I liked this New Yorker piece on the reviewers for the Michelin Guide, and the inherent tension there is between objectivity and subjectivity when assessing.

Business strategy

Suw Charman-Anderson has written the best refutation of Google Buzz, and its privacy implications, I have seen. I continue to be amazed that Google just launched this on unsuspecting users, without either a gradual roll-out or a beta label.

I read Venessa Miemis’ post on the Apple iPad after I had posted up my own sceptical viewpoint. A shame, as she offers a comprehensive summary of the different views and issues surrounding the product, with regard to design thinking

Wired has a piece on how a Monopoly online game, intended to be a quick promotional tool, became far more popular than anticipated. Should they end the game as intended, or take advantage of its success and continue to operate it?

It has already made several circuits of the blogosphere, but if you are still yet to read it, I would thoroughly recommend Bud Caddell’s views on what the advertising agencies of the future should be

Julie at Brandtwist says that we need a brand building strategy rather than a social media strategy, and I completely agree.

Consumer understanding

I mentioned Doc Searls’ Vendor Relationship Management concept in a previous post, and this blog post conveys how it can be of benefit to us

An interesting article on the confessions of a book pirate. It is vital to understand people’s motivations, rather than simply castigating and criminalising them.

Village Voice looks at the decade in music hype. I find it fascinating how large swathes of culture can be completely transitory, yet remnants remain and get repurposed by subsequent generations

Marketing and advertising

Helge Tenno’s expanded version of his seven actionable marketing trends presentation is extremely detailed, and packed full of inspirational ideas and quotes on how marketing is and should be evolving.

This Big Spaceship post has some excellent thoughts on why we should move away from trying to create a “viral”, in order to understand how people share and why things spread.

Chris Heathcote looks at all of the different types of screen available, and puts them into context for advertising.

Blogs

Rather than a single post, I urge everyone to visit Roger Ebert’s blog. Ebert is a widely respected film critic who has been suffering with cancer and can no longer eat, drink or talk. He has put a great deal of his energy into his writing, and it is wonderful.

And for those that want yet more reading, Rex at Fimoculous has linked to his thirty favourite blogs of 2009.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/boxercab/427774884/

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Increasing visibility

John recently wrote an interesting post about (good) planners being invisible.

It is a similar story for researchers. After all, aren’t planners glorified researchers? (Well, to some extent, it depends on the type of research but, generally, no.)

John suspects this inherent invisibility, coupled with a desire for recognition, is the motivation behind the many blogs and conferences. It does seem to be a particularly vibrant environment, and from it I’m even able to know the picture I’ve chosen for this post is doubly relevant.

Sadly, this is where the similarities with research end. There are notable exceptions (and I REALLY need to update my blogroll to reflect this), but vibrancy is not a word I would associate with the researchersphere, if such a thing existed. Which it doesn’t.

So why are so few researchers blogging, and even fewer researchers engaging in stimulating discussions? And why is it that research conferences are almost without fail dull and repetitive?

I suspect it may be due to the following reasons:

  • Both planning and research are a combination of ideas and execution. In planning, the former tends to be the most important but in research it is usually the latter. Ideas are harder to replicate (and get away with) than processes, so planners are more willing to share, while researchers are more protective
  • Planning will at worst cover a campaign, and at best the entire product/service direction. Research tends to be project based. It has a definite start, middle and end. There is little chance for serendipity or reaction, and less opportunity to note and act upon interesting opportunities
  • The fruits of a planner’s labour are visible for all to see. Most research is initially designed for an internal audience, who then cherrypick the story they want to tell for an external audience. This inherent, proprietary, knowledge gets locked up and never seen nor spoken of
  • There are far fewer planners than researchers (I assume, I actually have no idea on numbers), and it is a harder profession to get into. Therefore average ability and motivation is higher, fostering a vibrant environment

There are probably many more reasons, but those are just from the top of my head.

Can this be changed? In the widest research sense, probably not. But there are pockets of innovation, some truly excellent researchers and massive differences in the nature and scope of project work. So there is some hope.

On January 1st, I said I wanted to read less things, but better. I ended up switching to a more time-consuming job, so just ended up reading less. This blog also became noticeably quieter since I switched jobs, and my link updates stopped.

This coming year, I want to move more from passive to active. There may not be a researchersphere, but I want to do my part in fostering thought and debate among my readers (thank you for persevering with me) and those I read.

Jeremiah Owyang says he likes to pay himself first – he does that through his blog concentrating his thought processes and the recognition he receives for it. I’m not very good at getting up before 8am (or noon on weekends), so I’m going to try to end the week by paying myself.

That will involve more time spent not only reading but also thinking, writing and talking about things. Some things directly related to research (though these thoughts may go on the Essential blog, which currently features our 2009 Christmas awards), and other things related to media, technology and marketing. And I’m also going to try to resuscitate a truncated link update.

I wish you all a prosperous 2010

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chaoticgood01/3786273684/

A second set of eyes

In my last post, I attempted to make a few calculations around the return on conversation. Rather embarrassingly, I suffered a temporary mindfreeze regarding the definition of a percentage, and so my calculations were out by a factor of 100.

This is my blog, and – unless I am directly linking to someone else – everything here is the work of me and me alone. This has its upsides and drawbacks.

One of the obvious drawbacks is my idiosyncratic quality control. Sometimes I may dwell over a post and its formulation for an age, other times I will quickly bash something out without due consideration to checking grammar, logic and facts.

For the most part, the reader may know no different. Some posts may be perceived to be a better quality than others, but unless there is a really obvious error – like yesterday – there is little indication as to how long the post took, or how much effort was put in. As Mark Twain once alluded to, it often takes longer to craft a succinct output.

In my day job, this doesn’t happen. There are project leads, but there aren’t projects with only one person working on it. It may take slightly longer to coordinate around different individuals, but ideas are bounced off of one another, different perspectives are compared, and details are checked. Nothing leaves the office until at least two people – one of whom is normally at a senior level – are happy with it. This is a crucial component of our approach – we require absolute conviction in what we are doing.

Quality control is absolutely vital. Without it, there is no trust.

So, mea culpa – the quality control on this blog has been found wanting. I’ve relearned an important lesson, and I hope this doesn’t affect your impressions of this blog too negatively.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hotcherry/

New job; Possibly a new blog

On Monday I will be taking up a new role as a Quantitative Research Manager at Essential Research.

This is an exciting opportunity for me to work on some extremely interesting projects (some of the clients they work with are on the website) in areas of media and technology that fascinate me.

Yesterday was my last day at ITV. I had a great 16 months there, learning a lot from some great people. While it is sad to say goodbye, I’m really looking forward to starting in my new role.

This move shouldn’t substantially change the content of this blog. Although I’m moving from a position where my research was for external use to one where data will be proprietary and confidential, I’ve tended to repeat the insights of others rather than talk in detail about what I’m currently working on. So that won’t change…

What may change is the location of this blog. After some advice from Katy, I’ve bought a domain name and am about to purchase hosting. I’m a bit reticent about moving right now, as I’ve recently been fortunate to attract some new readers and inbound links. Once things settle, I’ll looking into porting things over and resetting my Google juice to zero.

In the meantime, thanks for reading.

sk

New Year; New Resolutions; New Approaches

NB: As a rule, I try and avoid the circular pitfalls of blogging about blogging – fimoculous sums it up nicely. However, this post touches on additional points so,  as it is a new year, I’ll make an exception.

My New Year’s resolutions are usually disappointing normal – drink less, exercise more and so on. For 2009, I have a different (additional) resolution that I hope I can do a better job at sticking with.

My resolution is to read and write less, better.

Reading

In addition to newspapers, magazines, social networks and bookmarked websites, I subscribe to 202 RSS feeds – reading roughly 2,600 items in the last 30 days (which is down from a high of around 3,300 at one point) according to my Google Reader trends.

This is far too many items.

To overcome this ocean of information, I skim; I parse; I bookmark, never to return. Reading lots doesn’t equate to being well read. How much of this information is actually processed?

So, I’m attempting to change my reading habits through:

  • Blocking time out to focus specifically on reading. I have a terrible tendency to refresh pages and habitually check for updates. It is partly this snacking culture that prompted Nicholas Carr to ask if Google is making us stupid. Will deep reading improve my recall?
  • Using the first three paragraphs (or so) as a barometer. If it isn’t grabbing me, I will stop reading rather than skim through the remainder
  • Focusing my reading subjects. There are many great blogs out there and it is important to have diverse influences, but it is more important to prioritise. So, less of the “nice to know” (SEO is interesting, but it is something I am unlikely to ever do) and the “echo chamber” (I’m well aware of the benefits of Twitter) and a greater emphasis on relevance and innovative ideas. Ultimately, I don’t need to know everything; ignorance in certain areas can be beneficial
  • Bookmarking pages  without reading them. They will contribute to my second point of reference after Wikipedia, without eating into my time. I’m already up to nearly 3,000 items – perhaps growth will be exponential
  • Making written notes on the key passages/insights I read. I am slightly sceptical about this – I’m aware that writing notes can assist recall, but I’m not convinced that it will be time-effective in that I will inevitably make more notes that I will ever need

This “less but better” approach to reading will create conscious and unconscious spillovers into my writing.

Writing

This is a personal blog written in my personal time. Unlike other bloggers, this (sadly) isn’t inextricably linked to my day job. By day, I report and analyse facts related to the business. By night I speculate and opinionate on everything and anything.  These aren’t mutually exclusive but it does mean that I cannot really justify blogging during office hours.

I do not yet know if deeper reading will create or consume more of my spare time. I believe the best form of learning is doing, followed by reading and then by writing (for me, writing formalises rather than creates). As such, I may have less time for writing.

When this blog started, I set out to write at least two posts a week, with the majority under 600 words. I’ve kept this up (even if one post a week was a list of links), but occasionally at the expense of quality – pressing publish before I was happy, or writing about something for the sake of it.

Inspired by Merlin Mann‘s words here and here, I will change this. I will only publish something that I think can be of value when I am satisfied – whatever the length. Maths fans may note that more time per post plus less spare time equals fewer postings. But this may not be the case – I could postpone watching my West Wing box set if needs be.

(Link updates should still appear weekly – though changes to my reading habits may affect their content. As to whether they become less esoteric, fewer in frequency or higher in quality, who knows? I am increasingly using Twitter for recommendations and diverting the more random links to my Tumblr account, so these will also impact)

Regarding content, Mark Cahill splits blogs into three categories – news, criticism and opinion. I have toyed with all three and will continue to do so, but envisage an emphasis on opinion.

Blogging is ultimately a selfish practice – we all have our own agenda for blogging and pure altruism will rarely be the sole motivator. My primary motive is enlightenment – formalising my opinions, and then evolving them through interactions with the blogosphere.

As this is a hobby, I’m unconcerned with hits or monetisation. Therefore, I won’t be pandering to Google-friendly topics, but to what I think is most valuable. My top 5 posts (in hits) for 2008 say it all.

For me, value is critical – both to myself and to readers. Of the above, only the 4th and 5th links are popular due to their value – one for signposting news, one for opinion. Going forward, I will be concentrating on posts I think provide value and can influence – whether news, criticism or opinion.

Inevitably, this won’t interest everyone. Some people like the link updates; some are interested in online video; others may be after research stats. That is the beauty of idiosyncrasy – something that is valuable to one person is useless to another.

The future and beyond

Until WordPress provide custom feeds, my unique view on value will constrain your enjoyment of this blog. And that view will continually evolve as I learn more from interacting and sharing.

Will I ever find a voice and a constant message? I hope not, as that implies stasis. Will I provide value to myself? Certainly. Will I provide value to others? I hope so.

I’m truly grateful to everyone that persevered with this blog in 2008. I hope you will stick around in 2009, but won’t be offended if you don’t.

sk

Image credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bugbunnybambam/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/neil_b/

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Changes to the blog

This blog is now 9 months old. It has lasted a good 8 months longer than I expected it to, and I am keen to continue. I don’t think I have found my “voice” yet but I have truly benefited from posting – both in terms of the process that goes into formalising my thoughts, and from the feedback and comments I have received. Every day I write or read another blog post, I learn something new.

Anyway, I’ve introduced a few changes to the blog. Briefly, these are:

  • A new WordPress template. I’ve switched to the Digg 3 column template by Small Potato. Reading some of Chris Brogan’s posts on personal branding, I felt it was important to have a customised header in order to distinguish myself. At the moment, I have uploaded a photo I took from the Coney Island Ferris Wheel in July 2008, but I may replace it as I’m not convinced by its congruence.
  • Still on the personal branding front, I’ve pulled in some of the content from my outposts onto the blog through RSS feeds. The format isn’t the prettiest (in fact, it is quite ugly) but I now have my recent activity on Twitter (comments and observations), Tumblr (reblogging random or bizarre content I consume elsewhere), Flickr (photos) and Last.fm (music I listen to) brought in, as well as my favourites in delicious (links to all posts) and Slideshare (presentations I like) – incidentally all of these are already syndicated on my Friendfeed. I tend to use these forums to broadcast rather than converse due to time constraints, but I hope to get more involved as I get accustomed to the intricacies and build up more contacts.
  • I’ve refreshed my blog roll. I’ve removed a couple of inactive links and introduced a whole lot more (if I removed your link, frequency was the only consideration – it wasn’t personal)
  • A Zemanta logo may appear in the bottom right corner of some posts giving the option to reblog the post. Zemanta is a tool that suggests photos, links and tags for your posts based on the content. I don’t find the picture suggest helpful, but the link and tag buttons are both very useful.
  • When I remember, I will link to the post in my signature – that way I can stay abreast of any reblogs – from real people (good) and splogs (bad)

Thanks to everyone that has contributed in any way to this blog, and I look forward to continuing my education into matters of all kinds in the coming weeks, months and years.

sk

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Links automatically opening in new windows

Whenever I link to other pages or sites, I’ve specified that the link should open in a new tab or window. Ever since the advent of tabbed browsing, this is the way I have surfed the Internet and so it made sense to me.

However, my opinion has changed after reading the posts and comments over at Problogger, Useit and David Airey. The choice should be with the user.

This is a policy I completely agree with. The web is democratic and people should browse as they wish. This is one of the reasons why I allow the full text of my posts to appear in RSS feeds. If RSS users want to click through to my site they can, but it is their choice.

I will continue to specify that direct links to files should open in new windows, but from hereon in the majority of links will open in this tab. If you wish to open the link in a new window or tab you can

  • Click the link with the middle mouse button (the scroll wheel)
  • Hold control when you left-click on the link
  • Right click on the link and choose the option to open it in a new tab or window

(I realise that these are PC instructions, but this is what I have and know. Plus, I figure that if you have a Mac you probably know how to navigate already – SIDENOTE: Is it fallacious to assume Mac users are more web savvy?)

This policy should become more apparent in my next, overdue series of links update – which should be up over the next couple of days.

I’d be interested to hear other bloggers thoughts on this – how do you create your links? As I always control-click it had never occurred to me that I might be in the minority. How do you prefer to navigate?

sk

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkmoose/

Vacation time

New York City skyline

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/

Macy’s 4th July Fireworks; Mets vs. Giants; shopping til I drop; Circle Line Tour; Guggenheim; Rockefeller; Lady Liberty; Hot dogs; bagels; cocktails; jet-lag.

I’ll be back in a few weeks.

sk