Working Tools 10 – Facebook

Facebook (FB). By any objective measure, it should be dead now. It lies, it steals, it believes itself to be above moral, legal and contractual considerations.

Increasingly, consumers are aware of this. There is vocal disgust. There are movements urging us to quit Facebook. And yet, the company appears impervious to scandal. We’re told that numbers remain robust.

Frankly, I wouldn’t put too much faith in that, I have no doubt that Facebook has no compunction in lying about numbers. They lie about everything else.

Why stay?

Actually, on a personal level, I am disengaged from Facebook. I have tied down the privacy settings as much as I can, and I no longer post there directly. I stay for two reasons;

  1. Nero’s Notes. To have a company page, I need a personal profile.
  2. As a signpost. When I post articles like this one, some people find out via FB.

However, even these prompts to post are diminishing. Dealing with FB as a small business is almost impossible. To inform:

  1. The FB page points to http://nerosnotes.co.uk but is called pocketnotebooks (the original name of the site). Changing the FB page name to nerosnotes would be confusing. Apparently.
  2. Many products are not available on the FB page as they breach FBs rules. “#DigitalDetox” for example is disallowed for making false health claims…(by nature of its name.) Bots, it turns out, love a rule, dislike an appeal.

Ethical Use

I wrote before about ethical use of social media. I stopped using FB’s advertising tools,  and ads.

Consequently, I have mimimised the data that I give out and I make no use of the data that FB offers me. Nor will I give it any money. I daresay that a combination of those things will mean that my pages appear less often in other’s timelines and the utility of the profile and pages will gradually decrease, dying of natural causes, as it were.

I’m comfortable with that.

Instagram

On the other hand, there’s Instagram (IG). That’s a much different place. It’s lovely. Rainbows and Unicorns. Isn’t it?

It’s true that there is a nicer feel about IG. However, it was bought by FB. There is no indication that there will be any difference in the business model. My response therefore is the same. I’ll keep posting, but I won’t buy advertising, I won’t buy data, and I’ll be very careful about what data I give them.

Conclusion

I’m sure that people working at FB are lovely. However, the single-minded pursuit of capturing personal data for corporate profit means that as an entity, it’s poisonous.

Bottom line for me – people are on these platforms, so I have a presence, but I’m being very intentional about how I use and/or support Facebook Inc.

Going Deep

Nearly there. We enjoyed hosting our friends from Denmark last week. The “Beast”, our car, has new tyres, new brakes and had a full service. Annoyingly, the work on the house drags on into another week, but the end is surely in sight. The corporate stuff is…well, corporate.

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Living the Dream – 34. Renovations

The first round of renovations is now done. (I hope.) The house is pushing 30, and spent a few years unoccupied, and there are some parts of it that are showing their age. Such is the nature of houses. We will have plenty of projects to keep us going. Our first priority was around security, for reasons documented here and here.

Fencing

We have fenced the garden. Don’t get me wrong, we are not living in Colditz Castle, but bad people, or dogs, will have to make an effort to gain entry, rather than step across a low wall. We have added various degrees of electronic security too, the details of which, will, of course, remain confidential. Winter has been unusually wet, and much of the wetness has been violent, so we have had to make several repairs to a flat roof, which the rain overwhelms when the rain is heavy.

Renovations

As ever, the work took longer than expected, cost more than budgeted and bred more things as it proceeded. At times, we have been focusing on the imperfections that catch the eye, rather than the overall impression, which is overwhelmingly positive. However, I have growled. I’m generally an amenable sort of customer, but once disappointed, I get very vocal, very quickly. As I type, on a Sunday afternoon, I have crossed the line between upset to furious. I hope, that with the magic of the internet, by the time that you read this, the contractor will have resolved all outstanding concerns and a smile will be back on my face.

Spice up your life

Two days before my trip to the UK, my office wifi was finally full power. I ran a cable directly from a router down here up to the modem, creating my own private network. It was glorious, until Spice decided it that the cable needed trimming and bit straight through it. While I was away, the builders replaced the cable and I’m back online. First world problems!

Renovations II

We now have an electric gate and video doorbell. The bell rings to a video screen in my office and in the kitchen, so an unexpected bonus is that we now have an intercom.This is proving surprisingly useful.

Working Tools 9 – Social Media

Using social media: A hot-button subject right now. One upon which, I am no expert.

Usage

As an individual, I have accounts at Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Micro.blog. I have had, and probably still do own accounts at Google+, Pinterest and Vero. Nero’s Notes posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Lime Training and Consultancy posts to LinkedIn and Twitter.

This post will be be advertised on several of the above feeds. It is very possible that you, much treasured reader, came here via one of these channels. Neither of my businesses have actual shopfronts, they exist online. Whilst not the only channel available to me, online presence is important. It’s worrying therefore, that so many folk appear anti-social media at the moment.

Facebook

Honestly, I’m conflicted. Facebook, which also owns Instagram and What’s App, an app that I use for Messaging, is attracting all sorts of headlines for the wrong reasons. I’m sure that the vast majority of people at Facebook are lovely human beings, but from the outside, the company is an underhand, toxic, scary nasty thing. It lies, dissembles and ruthlessly exploits consumer ignorance or apathy to trade in private data and manipulate people for profit.

Part of me wants to publicly blow up my Facebook profile and urge everyone I know to do the same. As it’s the company that irks me, rather than the product, that means Instagram and What’s App need to go too. Just as I resolve to leave, my business voice pipes up. “What about customers?” People come to the web shop from Facebook. And from Instagram. Would those people come if there was no presence of these channels?

Twitter

Hmmmm…Twitter. Twitter is a polarised place. Frankly, often, it’s a horrible place. Navigating Twitter requires a calm mindset and an ability to ‘walk away’. I do participate in some #chats that are positive, fun and useful, but general scrolling on this platform can be fraught. Again, on a personal level, I wouldn’t miss it. I know many people see Twitter as a place that allows the far right too much platform and freedom; my own view is that none of these platforms give a hoot about one side or the other, they are purely focused on engagement – and hate, engages.

Any that follow me might be sceptical of my claims above. For someone who doesn’t like social media, I sure do post a lot on social media. That conundrum is easy, I use an app called Buffer. I will write a separate post on how I do that.

I have been trying to reconcile a position where I don’t want to be wasting time on social media, but I do want to be posting on social media. Such a position feels hypocritical.

Conclusion

Social media is neither good nor bad. It’s both. Rather than feeling that I must walk away from certain platforms, I have been working on designing an ethical use policy. I’ll post about that here too.

Crunch

I wrote last week about pace. Well, strictly speaking, I wrote it the week before last. Days later, I boarded a plane and flew to the UK for a long weekend. Back in Cyprus, I attended a Symposium on financial crime.

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Living the Dream – 33. Settled

My trip to the UK presented an unexpected challenge. Snow had settled. The aircraft landed on time, I switched on my phone and it burst into song. Multiple message notifications flooded in.

Settled
Localised settled snow

Snowmageddon

Landing late at night rules out public transport as a realistic option, although I usually permit myself a private transfer at any time of day. However, my driver couldn’t get to me. Paul has never let me down and is a straightforward man. If he said he couldn’t get through, then I was happy that it was impossible. Heading to passport control, I called a hotel or two. No room at the inn.

Eventually, I found a room and headed to the shuttle bus-stop. Cold though it was, there was a distinct lack of snow. Not a flake of it had settled, in fact. The snowfall was unusually localised. The real problem, for me, at least, was around Basingstoke, with the M3, A303 and A34 all being closed. Lorries had jack-knifed.

Fortunately, I had no commitments for Saturday morning and was able to get down to Mum early the next morning, before hooking up with some friends to catch up, drink beer and watch rugby.

Work

The business elements of the trip went well, (you can read about the pen show [here](https://www.nerosnotes.co.uk/blogs/news/south-west-pen-show)) and I was soon back in to the swing of being on the road. Tuesday night, I slept in my own bed back in Cyprus and prepared for Thursday, where I was scheduled to attend a Symposium on Financial Crime.

After a couple of months working remotely, I was suddenly back into face to face mode, from a pen show, through client meetings, to full-blown conference mode, all in the space of a few days.

It strikes me how easy it is to switch mode. The trick, I suspect, is going to be maintaining a balance between my various incarnations. After a few days talking financial services and compliance, I see plenty of opportunities for both business and travel. However – I didn’t come to live here so that I would never be here.

Work on the house has dragged on. Errors and wet weather each playing their part. The garden is completely fenced now, with an electric gate at the bottom. My office is hardwired through to the modem upstairs, and we have a range of electronic security measures in place. Next week, we will be hooked up to TV services.

Settled

I finally feel settled to get on with my writing, my consulting and my ‘notebooking’ from my new home. This feeling will, of course, be immediately tested by warming weather, and inviting golf courses…

Working Tools 8 – Messenger

“A Messenger bag. That’s what I need.”

The ink had barely dried on “Briefcase” and I was already second-guessing the decision. Neuroses apart, an element of my decision was use-case. I explained that a backpack and or a messenger, although my favourite bag style, didn’t work for me when I’m suited and booted. True enough, but actually, this trip, I’m not going to be in a suit. I’m corporate on Monday, but the two scheduled meetings are informal, and it’s winter. I’m likely to be wearing lots of layers and a warm coat.

This changes the calculation. Without the need to look formal, I’m looking for a bag that’s comfortable to carry both in conjunction with a wheelie bag and when manoeuvring through public transport. In both London and Bristol, I’m likely to be walking a fair bit.

So now, my key concerns are carrying the bag around town and in-flight performance. My eye dropped to the Pac-Safe Carryology collaboration. It’s out of stock now, but there are alternatives on the site, and some great images too.

This will be packed light, with the majority of my kit going into the wheelie. Therefore, the messenger will sit easy across the body and have space for any shopping that I might pick up at any point. Somewhere to stow scarf, gloves and hat will be useful too, England in February can be many things, but colder than here seems a safe bet.

The PacSafe’s security features are useful. Living away from the big city has eroded my street-wisdom very quickly. Being able to anchor the bag to the table/counter is a comfort.

The Pacsafe is more capacious than the Tumi and less rigid. It’s therefore more flexible. The bright orange lining is a real feature too. Finding things in the bag is a breeze.

I carry my iPad in the pocket designed for it, and my notebooks sit where the laptop would live, if I carried one. There are a host of useful internal pockets and the large external, protected by a security zip, is a great spot to drop my passport and mobile phone when navigating the airport. This feels a good solution for my travel bag – and currently serves as my daily commute here in Cyprus.

Commute? Allow me to explain, while Spice is still in training, I take the early-morning shift – so I work upstairs from 0530 until around 8, and at various times during the day while Margaret makes our home-life work. Even though the commute is literally a flight of stairs, the Pac-Safe is flexible enough to act as my remote desk.

I’m happy with this change of direction – although that may well have moved on before this even gets posted. To borrow a catchphrase from the PenAddict – “There are worse addictions to have, right?”

Pace

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Living the Dream 32. Travel

As this post publishes, I’ll be setting out on a trip back to the UK. Travel was always going to figure in Living the Dream. I have two businesses based in the UK and though much can be done remotely, sometimes, boots on the ground are required.

The attack on Margaret and Nero led to a reschedule of plans, but as February begins, it’s time to get on the road. Or at least on the plane. I’m visiting my Mum, then off to a pen show to sell notebooks, before coming over all-corporate cobra and meeting some clients for my consultancy business. The trip is as short as I can make it; Margaret remains nervous and even though her sister is here, she will feel better when I’m back home.

Throughout the nineties and the noughties, I travelled extensively for work and developed a love/hate relationship with it. Mostly, I love a little travel, am comfortable with more travel and hate lots of travel. As with so many things, it’s about balance. It has been four months since I boarded a plane, so I am looking forward to this trip.

Cyprus to London is a five hour flight or thereabouts. Add on check-in times, transfers then the whole exercise takes nine hours. I’m flying in the evening and will either catch up with some work or some reading. I’m hand luggage only, so that cuts out some of the inevitable hassle of checking in, waiting for bags etc. Living from a small case, is, I discovered, liberating. I have made the decisions ahead of time, when packing. I’ll know what I’m wearing each day, weather and changes of plan be damned.

My last meeting is on Monday afternoon in London and I’m not flying until Tuesday morning. It may be that I catch up with some people, or perhaps not. A quiet evening in London might be just the ticket. If the weather is fine, I’ll walk around town, enjoying the shops, the wine bars and some food. If it’s wet, I’ll nest in the corner of a warm restaurant with a bottle of wine and a good book. As a young man, I loathed eating alone in a restaurant. Now, firmly middle-aged, I rather enjoy it.

Short trips focus the mind too. Having invested time and money to be somewhere, there is a natural inclination to want to make the most of the opportunity. I find myself more determined, persistent and absolute when travelling. There is a certainty about need to make a deal there and then. One thing that I have learned and integrated into my approach, is that I endeavour to complete all trip follow-up before I disembark the return flight. I compose E-mails, formulate offers, ready to send once I have had a chance to review them the next day. This contributes to maximising value from the trip.

Once off the plane, I’ll soon be back at home, playing with Spice and relishing the warmer temperatures.

Working tools 7 – Notebooks

Mike Hurley and Federico Viticci, two of my favourite podcasters, are fans of the “multi-pad lifestyle”. I believe the phrase may have been coined on Cortex, a show that Mike does with CGP Grey, but don’t quote me on that.

I live the multi-pad lifestyle too. They, of course, are talking about iPads. I’m talking about pads. Paper ones. You know, like notebooks. I use a lot of notebooks.

Notebooks
A small selection

Current Setup

Let me give you an insight.

1. I carry a pocket notebook and a writing instrument everywhere. When I wake, it is beside my bed. Then, it lives in my pocket or by my side all day. I use it to record anything and everything. An observation, a thought, an aide-memoire.

2. Bullet Journal is my daily driver. A free-format planner if you like. I track things in here and it serves as my task list and time-blocker.

3. Scratch pad or book. Sitting at my desk, I often think things out on paper. Or doodle. If I do this in the Bullet Journal, I would burn through them.

4. Novel Kit. I use medium/A5 size cahiers. These often come in three packs and I use a pack per novel. One is for plot, one is for characters and one is for research.

5. Learning. A medium or large book that lives in my office. I passionately believe in the importance of learning. Whether that be how to use an app, edit a photo or edit a website, I love to learn. I have one book for media skills, one for corporate compliance stuff and one for Greek language.

6. Procedures. Not the most exciting, but I have discovered that I have an enormous capacity to forget things. This leads to a loop of discovery, implementation, amnesia, which whilst fun, is not terribly efficient. I have started writing these up, and they exist in notebooks and digitally. I imagine that the more team-oriented ones will live in the digital world, whereas my own, – say, photography workflow, will live in a book.

7. Standard Memorandum. Here I record a single thought every day.

You can see why I bought a notebook company.

Benefits

Part of this extensive use is, I concede, a vehicle to allow me to use lovely stationery, but it does serve other purposes too.

I need to make space in my head. Getting things down on paper, allows me to forget them. Once one trusts the system, then having written something down, I can forget it and come back to it at a time that suits me. This is a key element of the Get Things Done methodology and many other productivity frameworks.

I find that taking notes helps me maintain attention. If I don’t, I am more than capable of completely blanking a fifteen minute video.

Reference: Not only can I refer back to notebooks as reminders, I can get a glimpse of what I was doing and feeling at specific times.

Notebooks are important to my workflow. It helps that I love them too.