Suffolk Twestival 2011: Please join the Community

Twestival (and Twitter) is all about Community - let's pull together and show what Suffolk can do!

The year has flown by since 2010’s Suffolk Twestival  held in Bury St Edmunds. I joined-in at the very last minute and helped drum up a bit of support. For me, attending was a defining moment in our lives (having relocated to Suffolk from London 6 months previously) – I have to say that the people I met that evening and continue to meet through their Twitter social network have been amazing. I’m truly honoured today to call so many my friends.

Twestival was conceived by a lovely person called Amanda Rose a few years back when Twitter was just an emerging social networking platform and it was the serious early adopters who saw its potential. She organised a bunch of Twitter folk (Tweeps) to get together in a central London venue and raise money for charity. Amanda best describes Twestival’s origins and how the Twitter community was mobilised- together raising a staggering $1.2m to date!

Talking Suffolk, the turnout in 2010 was modest (but of wonderful quality- for instance our guest speaker was Jamie Riddell ) and it feels as if Twitter has “gone mainstream” in Suffolk since then! – that’s why we’ve set ourselves a regional fund raising target of £5,000 and I feel with everyone’s help we can support all the wonderful volunteer work our Suffolk Twestival Regional co-ordinator continues to put into the day’s events- she’s the wonderfully organised and inspring Emma Jell to whom we owe many thanks!

For those of you who’ve heard me speak evangelically on social media, you’ll know that I attempt to demystify social media and social networking tools by encouraging you to think of them as community tools. These tools help us restore and extend our sense of community (an old fashioned concept that I feel we’ve all lost to a certain degree). Twitter restores the sense of community – it works, trust me!

Twestival is also about community and this year we are fortunate to have the opportunity to raise funds for a local Suffolk Based Charity. Twestival HQ has given us the go ahead to raise money for The Suffolk Foundation and specifically for their Suffolk Disability Care Fund: a fund that awards grants to disabled Suffolk residents who may not otherwise have support from  the NHS, Suffolk County Council or other statutory providers. Clearly, with all the recent pressures on funding, a gap that desperately needs plugging.

I’m going to be sharing my experiences in the run-up to the event on 24 March, when I’m looking forward to meeting some of the recipients of past funding and interview the Development Director of The Suffolk Foundation to name a few – all the content will be posted on the Suffolk Twestival social media presence.

A group of us have got together and donated time and various other things in the quest to reach our fundraising target and to help the disabled in need in Suffolk.

Thursday 24th March promises to be a fun-filled day of community. The Suffolk Digital community has got together and will be holding events (all proceeds to Twestival). Please check out the website for further details. The day culminates in an evening event at The Brewery Tap in Ipswich.

I’m going to be donating my time between 10am and 3pm and holding a one-on-one Surgery either in Woodbridge or Orford (venue to be confirmed) **UPDATE**: I’m going to be at Pump Street Bakery in Orford and you’re welcome to hit me with your most challenging questions. If you need to know a little bit more about me – have a read through my profile on my business site, Any Other Business. I’m happy to talk to you about business models, process, technology,  growth strategy and social media (amongst others). I’m sure my independent perspective on your business will be valuable and is well worth the £25 per half hour session that you’ll have to donate to Suffolk Twestival’s cause.

Tickets will be available soon and should be purchased from the official Suffolk Twestival page. Once you’ve purchased your tickets please get in touch with me at contact at adrianmelrose.com to schedule a slot between 10 and 3pm.

Otherwise, as I did last year – I’ll be in touch with local businesses to get them to attend as many of the day’s events as possible and if you can’t make it- hopefully you can make a donation in cash or in kind. Please get in touch if you’d like to help and participate in this fabulous Suffolk Community.

2011: Shaped by San Francisco. Eat to Live.

Both December and Dreamforce 2010 feels distant now. A conference that drew me to San Francisco as one of the 30,000 delegates but one of the few from Europe. I had a brilliant time and left a Salesforce.com evangelist excited about the opportunities it presents my business. Yet this post isn’t about the cloud, technology or how this conference will shape my curiosity in 2011, it’s about something different and even more exciting and empowering.

It all started when Marc Benioff the founder of Salesforce.com opened his second day keynote introducing the enormous contribution that he and the company he leads is making to the Pioneering field of research medicine and he concluded by inviting us to attend a lecture track of “Unusual Thinkers” during the day’s itinerary.

The speakers (all leaders in their medical field) spoke on various subjects. The presentation I chose to attend was entitled “Sugar: the Bitter Truth” by Prof Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology

The essence of Prof Lustig’s talk convinced me that the strain placed on our world’s health systems by obesity was a result of the impact that our increased consumption of Fructose Corn Syrup was having on our lives and that obesity isn’t generally a result of Gluttony and Sloth. I really encourage you to watch the Youtube Video – it’s only 30 minutes.

The crux of my understanding: the trouble with processed foods is that the fibre is stripped away from the foodstuff. Take fruit juice for example. I’ve always thought that drinking fresh juice couldn’t possibly be bad for me. But what does a juicer do? A glass of apple juice is produced from a bag of apples and all the fibre is left in the waste disposal process.

There are two problems with drinking juice: firstly fibre is needed because it slows down the absorption of the sugar into the bloodstream. Secondly you end up consuming the sugar out of a dozen apples in a single glass. Before the advent of the juicer we wouldn’t eat a dozen apples in a sitting.  Lustig reminds us that one of the principal reasons food is processed is it to make it freezable. Fibre doesn’t freeze well so it’s stripped from modern food stuffs.

I left illuminated by the damage that an overdose of fructose has on our health – I resolved to cut out juices both from my diet and our childrens’.

That evening I met up with Mike, an ex-colleague and friend who ran the San Francisco branch of a digital business in which I was involved. When we greeted each other I was blown away by how healthy he looked and how much weight he had lost. After hearing President Clinton’s keynote address we grabbed a meal together. The last time we’d done that was in 2007 in San Fancisco in a real American diner consuming the (then) typical american diet. This time Mike sought a vegetarian restaurant and so unfolds the story of how he had transformed himself to the picture of health. It’s all argued in a book called “Eat to Live” by Dr Joel Fuhrman and Mike suggested I read it and persuaded me that it was the only way and that I at least owed it to my children.

It was sold out at Borders on Union Square and I flew back to the UK before I was able to track down a copy. Frustratingly it wasn’t available in the UK on Amazon until a month later but I preordered it and it arrived the day before we left for our holiday in the sun in Egypt: perfect reading material especially because I’ve never been a great fan of fiction.

The book solidly destroys several myths which formed so much of my educational upbringing. Being backed up by comprehensive research, case studies and practical and identifiable interpretation and explanation I found the book gripping.

Here’s a little test: Which has more protein 100g of steak or 100g of broccoli? Wrong! 100g of broccoli has! Dr Fuhrman convinces the reader to be a nutritarian, a title he coined. In an equation that measures the worthiness of food by its magnitude of nutrients as a proportion of callories he convinces us to avoid empty calories – those that leave us feeling empty and  devoid of nutrients. You see: 100g of Brocolli is more than we’d usually contemplate eating in a sitting but it leaves us feeling full having all the nutrients and protein we need but with measurably less calories.

His arguments steer us away from the consumption of animal, dairy and processed foods and he explains why a vegan diet is optimal and that a vegan diet is not lacking in any nutrient even dispelling the common misunderstanding that we need calcium from milk to avoid osteoporosis.

The research and argument is one hundred percent compatible with what I heard in the Sugar The Bitter Truth (above)  and I am sold completely. EAT TO LIVE isn’t a diet it’s a framework for health and disease avoidance.

He makes no bones about the first 6 weeks being a cruel adjustment in which your body needs to cure you of the addiction to toxic hunger and he’s pretty convinced that after the six weeks I’ll not want to go back to my previously errant ways explaining that the taste of low nutrient foods will abhor me.

As I write this I am obese – no better way to put it. I weigh 125kg and have been struggling with my health and finding it impossible to escape the continuing spiral of weight gain. Week before last, one of our daughters friends at school’s dad was taken tragically after seemingly a long fight against cancer and there are far too many people within our circle whose lives are tragically impacted by Cancer.

Convinced of Dr Fuhrman’s case I begin my conversion on Tuesday when I return from holiday – I know I’m converted by its argument just by the way in which it has shaped my holiday food consumption. I’ve avoided the foods that I’d normally be eating in a buffet style menu and I’m already feeling a difference.

This is my fourtieth year and have so much to be grateful for and live for so I’m going to eat to live. I’ll keep you posted!

Dreams

A quick post from my hotel room in San Francisco. I am a delegate at Dreamforce. Right now I should be putting together a post for AoB’s blog on what I learnt yesterday on day 2 but there’s too much to distill! It will have to wait until I can digest it all. There’s a lot of disruption happening in the Cloud and the scale of the event stands testimony to its adoption worldwide. (there are 30,000 delegates here this week)

In the meantime I thought I’d share this photo with you! Last night we were privileged to see the great Stevie Wonder in concert joined by the Black Eyed Peas Will.I.Am. Something I will always remember.

Tonight, President Bill Clinton speaks to us in is keynote and then there’s Marc Benioff to look forward to this morning – he’s announcing two new clouds in the Salesforce.com cloud suite. You can register to watch the keynotes live at See you all later!

Food Safari: Free Range Pork in a day

A Happy and Healthy Free Range Pig smiling at the camera.

Free Range Pig in a day: What a great day out and it’s all thanks to the wonderful ambassadorial work of Polly Robinson, founder of Food Safari, who has become a hub of the “foodie network” in Suffolk. Undoubtedly, we’re of the generation that’s concerned about understanding the process behind “from field to fork” which is so part of Food Safari’s value proposition.

My wife and I were joined by an old South-African school friend of mine and his wife, who now live in London. They drove up to Suffolk in less than 2 hours early that morning. (It’s a welcome break from the “big smoke”) We felt privileged to take a behind the scenes tour of Blythburgh Free Range Pork followed by a Butchery demonstration and a scrumptious pork lunch. The day’s itinerary offered the perfect balance of education and entertainment (and a welcome break from our children too!) In fact there was so much to learn that I regret not taking notes. (If I’ve got anything wrong  it comes with profuse apology as I am racking my memory to recall some of the terminology, facts and figures.)

Alastair giving us the low-down on the pig unit.

We started the day off with a rather appropriate bacon roll and lovely coffee at the Anchor in Walberswick– a pub that, ashamedly,  we hadn’t visited before (we’re sure to return: it’s fab) and we met Polly and our two hosts: Gerard King who is an Artisan Butcher (my description not his) – to be found behind the counter at the Broxstead Butchery at The Suffolk Food Hall just outside Ipswich. Testing Polly’s nerves, Alastair Butler arrived with minutes to spare – Alastair is one of the two second generation sons who help their father run Blythburgh Free Range Pork.

The space and scale of the operation at Blythburgh Free Range Pork

Alastair was proud of the environment and farming practice of his family run business. We traveled around the Pig units on the back of a tractor hauled trailer and Alastair explained how the pigs were bred and nurtured on the site. I found it particularly interesting as we’re expecting 6 Tamworth piglets this weekend and I bored the others on the Safari with a few too technical/detailed questions. We certainly learned a lot and without boring you I wanted to share what I thought were the most interesting points.

Here are a few of my educational take-outs. Did you know that:

  1. Freerange is important from a welfare and quality/taste point of view.
  2. Shockingly less than 1% of British Pork is free-range?
  3. The only supermarket chain you can purchase free-range pork in the UK is Waitrose. Blythburgh Free Range Pork used to supply Waitrose but has now found its niche and market in supplying Butchers/Farmshops and Pubs/Restaurants.
  4. Organic Pork doesn’t mean that its Free Range and after the Food Safari I will *always* only eat free range pork rather than get caught up by the hype of the organic label which in Pork Farming isn’t as important as eating an organic fruit or vegetable.
  5. Outdoor reared pork, as opposed to free range, means the piglets were born outside but probably didn’t live free range and were fattened up indoors
  6. Blythburgh has more than 20,000 pigs on the land and 600 happy and healthy pigs attend their date with destiny on a weekly basis. Discerning butchers, farm shops and restaurants benefit from the yield.

Gerard gets physical with the pig in his butchery demo

We were greeted back at the Anchor with a refreshing beer (you must try the beer tasting menu – a journey in itself) – and we watched Gerard prepare the half-pig for his butchery demonstration. Gerard and Alastair who shared the spotlight for most of the day are superb presenters and we all shared some laughs from these two charismatic presenters.

The butchery demonstration was a great intro that convinced me to book the last place on the Pork Butchery Course that Food Safari runs with Gerard early next year. The Anchor’s chef popped in to the demo asking Gerard for the rack of loin chops for our lunch and we watched him lovingly prepare the meat before it was whisked off to the kitchen by Polly. Gerard shared some insights on the challenges of his trade which I now easily understand because they are obvious, practical constraints. An example, a celebrity chef recently put pigs’ cheeks on the map as the fashionable ‘thing-to-dish’. The reality is you only get two small pigs cheeks out of a single animal and Gerard needs us, the consumer, to eat all the different cuts from a single animal. From now on, I’m going to Gerard to buy our meat because I look forward to learning about all the less popular but equally as delicious cuts and he’s obviously a keen chef too so along with the cut he’ll tell me how to deal with it in the kitchen to get the best out of it.

Our first sausages!

Our first sausages!

The hands-on part of the course involved us making our own sausages and we ate them before tucking into the most delicious pork chop that we’ve ever had. The combination of the free range pig, charismatic butcher and top-notch chef really treated us to a top-class meal finishing the day off in quite a style! A true understanding of “field to fork”. Thank you Polly & Food Safari – we’ll be back for more!

There are a few more photos on flickr. We also attended the Food Safari – Seafood in a day course that I blogged here.

UPDATE: almost at the time of writing this, Polly independently explains to us The truth behind the label: Free Range versus outdoor bred and reared. – Its worth reading as a further illumination!

Our friends all the way from the "big smoke"

I admit: I can’t afford to ignore the Facebook wave.

Do yourself a favour and please watch just the first 4 minutes of this and then read what I have to say about Digital Tomorrow Today’s Course that I am attending.

The YouTube above I saw live a few weeks back at the jam packed Royal Fesitival Hall. Benioff (Salesforce.com‘s CEO) asked us whether there was any reason why Software for the Enterprise shouldn’t be more like Facebook.

What staggered me is the statistic he opened with:

To reach 50 million users:

Radio took 38 years;

TV took 13 years

Internet took 4 years

Facebook did it in 5 months. “

I’ve lagged behind many people in my use of Facebook but, after hearing what Benioff has said I need to change my ways. Sure, Twitter for me is my network of choice but Facebook is a force to contend with just on the numbers alone. Facebook’s reach and adoption cannot be ignored. I find it fiddly though. Maybe because I haven’t invested enough time in Facebook so I have decided to fast-track my learning by attending Digital Tomorrow Today’s course Facebook, Linkedin, Foursquare and more – How to harness the wider social networks for business success hosted by Jamie Riddell. I met Jamie through Twitter and we live just up the road from each other and have much (especially in the Digital space) in common so guess, by way of disclosure, we’re friends.

I have enrolled on the course  as I want to start understanding the power Facebook can have in the hands of a business user. I have to say I really need to get up to speed with how to build and maintain pages and all the tips and tricks that I just know Jamie will be able to share. My sister runs a small business called Melrose and Mutt and she is pretty excited to be going to the course this Thursday.  As far as I understand- she’ll be able to place an ad only under the noses of dog owners in the UK or if she chooses just a particular segment of the dog owning population. That’s just a simple example of the power Facebook offers communicating with your target audience.

Jamie’s holding the course on two dates in Suffolk (which incidentally is just over an hour out of London Liverpool Street Station) and you should get your tickets early.

I’m going to the later one in November. I don’t think you should miss it!

About being Outnumbered

"Some Dads are most unhelpful whilst glued to their iPhones"

It’s customary for our two daughters to leap out of bed long before I’m forced to. Recently I’ve been left wondering whether it’s the joys of a good morning kiss/cuddle that draws them into our bedroom or whether it’s the prospect of playing with the iPhone or iPad.

This morning there was hardly a pause between the kiss and the iPhone request/demand which prompted me to curse our 5 year old’s addiction to the dreaded device and a bout of self-restraint kicked in allowing me to settle for this:

Me: “Leave that silly iPhone alone”

Her: (in a stern and serious tone) “Daddy, how can you call it silly when it’s so useful? You spend the whole day reading your messages!”

Me: “Don’t you want to tell me about your dreams rather than play with the useful iPhone”

Her:  “Sigh, oh dad, don’t worry, mummy told me that girls can do two things at once”

I’m off to audition for  “Outnumbered” except I’m outnumbered by girls too.

Twitter: Don’t cry wolf. Why Game Changing?

"Game Changer" is a strong promise Twitter.

I caught a retweet from Andrew Gerrard last night when he broadcast Mike Butcher’s tweet about Twitter announcement being a “game changer”. So I waited up until midnight in the UK*

Prior to the announcement, there was much speculation regarding an acquisition of Twitter by Google which I discounted heavily due to the accepted belief that Twitter won’t sell out (yet). What could be game changing?

Then I discovered it was some over-hyped release about bringing a new feature to Twitter’s web version. Now are you sitting down? All it turned out to be was Twitter deciding to display embedded media in a new pane to appear next to your tweet-stream. Glory be! Its the sort of feature that user’s should have demanded years ago. How does this impact your life? Well if you use Twitter on the Web then it may enrich your experience, but I use various Apps built on the Twitter API and that means last night’s game-changing news changed nothing in my life.

Why I am writing this post is more to explain my disappointment. Its a real pity that Google didn’t get hold of Twitter. I just cannot respect Twitter’s tardy development cycle? This combined with their inclination to piss-on the development community whom have been forced to develop applications using the Twitter API. Twitter just appears to be copying these developers. First they brought out their own Twitter app for the iPhone (actually acquired what they thought was the best) and then an iPad app. Then they copied TweetMeme with their Retweet button and now they’re trying to mimic desktop apps. On that subject: does Twitter limit the API calls made by their own apps in the same way as outside developers’ apps? I’m not sure of that answer.

@Onlygeek, reckons last night’s announcement was about giving them the facility to bombard the web-based twitter user with advertising, a credible analysis in my opinion.He also points out that Twitter can’t reliably advertise in their API stream (filters could be designed to pick these adverts out) – and that’s probably why they’re desperately trying to grab the APP market.

I just feel Twitter should stick to their own knitting: its not as if they haven’t got loads to do to get the API serving out stable and more frequent calls. Stability and Scalability should be on their agenda. The point of having an API is to allow the nimble, agile and creative development community to listen to the Twitter users and serve up something good. Yet, Twitter seems to have dived into a realm almost ignoring their core development priorities.

I can just imagine the push and pull in the Twitter boardroom. Their strategy seems so confused. Announcements like the one that Neville Hobson highlighted gives you an insight into their thinking. I am sure Twitter is a social network to most users, Neville. Twitter can position itself all it wants.

So Twitter, you’ve cried wolf, I won’t be staying up to listen to your “Game-Changing plans” next time. It may have slightly altered the web-based twitter users but frankly hardly game-changing.

* only to find that Scobleizer’s live stream of the press meeting was flash based so I couldn’t watch it on my iPad and I didn’t stir the house by going downstairs.

John Lewis: our relationship is over (open letter)

Dear John

I have always loved and respected your John Lewis brand. In the past its commitment to customer service has always magnetised me. We had our wedding list at yours. We decked all our halls with John Lewis bought regalia when our children were born. You always gave me the benefit of the doubt when something wasn’t right for me or when it didn’t work. No quibble- the customer was always right. That approach bought my loyalty and our relationship was a mutually happy and fruitful one. Then it all changed.

When we renovated our kitchen last year we bought a new cooker, and Miele larder fridge. If I recall we spent close to £4000 with you including a few other bits for the kitchen.

I tried to delay the delivery of the cooker because our kitchen wasn’t ready. Your call centre staff told me to phone Britannia cookers. I was confused. The cooker I bought was a John Lewis Brand- its pictured with John Lewis emblazoned on its frontage. I asked who Britannia was and you told me I had bought a Britannia cooker. This was news to me. I then was given a number to call at Britannia and they couldn’t help me delay the delivery presumably because they weren’t as committed to their customer as you, John, used to be.

The cooker arrived and remained boxed-up for a couple of weeks and when we opened it up and had it installed it didn’t work. It was dead on arrival. Again I called you up and you told me you couldn’t help me and that I should phone Britannia. I had to shout at Britannia to get them to help me and even after shouting at them they could only send an engineer 10 days later just before having to cook Christmas dinner.

Now it’s a repeat of that experience. There is a fault with our Miele fridge. Its only 10 months old. I thought Miele was a premier brand. When I phoned you, John, you told me you couldn’t help me and that I should contact Miele directly. You didn’t even give me a number to call. You were open that Sunday afternoon to take my call but Miele wasn’t. So I logged a ticket on Miele’s website on Sunday afternoon and on Tuesday I still hadn’t heard from Miele so I called them. They had no record of the web tickets I had logged on Sunday. All they could do is promise to send someone around in two weeks time. Two weeks time? For a 10 month old premier brand that wasn’t working?

What has happened to you John? Why do you think I bought the fridge from you? I could have bought it from anyone for a very similar price but I chose you because i thought you cared. You used to take ownership of me as a customer; you use to nurture and protect our special relationship. I complained to you John, and was told that it was better for me to contact Miele as it removed the intermediary and when it comes to diary scheduling it was more efficient. That part I may agree with but why didn’t you get Miele to call me? Why did you leave it to me to end up fighting with Miele who after all that fuss, managed to improve their service time by a full week at the expense of my blood pressure.

I gave you my money John not Britannia or Miele. You convinced me to buy that fridge with all your classy marketing and with the brand promise that I had encountered in the past. Why have you suddenly entrusted the service delivery to people you don’t manage or control? Why have you passed the buck to people who don’t care about the things I used to value in our relationship?

Miele has let you down, John, because they don’t care the way I think you still do. They have caused you to lose me as a customer. I am writing to you hoping to hear about the steps you are now going to take to change this

You have to own and control the entire customer experience otherwise don’t fool yourself about your ability to retain your customers

Let’s just be friends.

Adrian

UPDATE: Response from John Lewis that came in same day, before close of business. I mark them 10/10 – text book answer and felt sincere. This means they do still care but I shall remain skeptical until proven otherwise. There is still no case (no matter what the logistics) for letting someone else deal with your customer. The *only* reason people continue to deal with John Lewis is that they make a difference on a customer service level. They should never forget this.

I have remove the writer’s name and email address to ensure that readers channel their complaints through the correct Customer Complaint procedure (detailed on their website). My experience is that its a process that works.

============

Dear Mr Melrose,

I was sorry to receive your e-mail in relation to the manner in which we have managed things for you recently. It was concerning and disappointing to read about the service you received when you called to report an issue with your cooker and Miele larder fridge.

First of all please allow me to convey my sincere apologies for any inconvenience we have caused you. Here at John Lewis Direct we endeavour to provide a first class service to all our customers and I apologise this was not the service you have received.

At John Lewis, we are reliant on some of our stock coming directly from our manufacturers and being delivered by their couriers. This allows us to achieve our aim of offering a wide range of products to customers all over the United Kingdom, as efficiently as possible.

Whenever we require one of our suppliers to deliver or organise a repair on our behalf we expect them to provide the same high level of care and service our customers expect when they order from John Lewis. That being said however, I completely agree that John Lewis is fully responsible for your order and any aftersales issue.

As you have been advised, we do feel that it can be more beneficial and quicker, for our customer if they deal with the manufacturer directly as a convenient date for delivery/repair can be agreed between both parties. When a query is raised with our online customer services team (as you did in this instance) this is passed on to our customer support team, for them to contact the manufacturer on our customers behalf and arrange a date for delivery/repair.

I do wish to stress here however, that I am in no way trying to justify or make an excuse for the service you received. I find it completely unacceptable for our apparent refusal and unwillingness to help when you called, first to report the fault with the larder fridge and especially when Miele were quoting you a time of two weeks before they could send round an engineer.

Please be assured that I will be speaking with the agents you have spoken to and will express my disappointment at their handling of your order. I will also be highlighting the issues you have raised with the manager of these agents to prevent this situation from happening again and where necessary, additional training will be provided.

Our staff should be aware that customers are within their rights to refuse to deal with the manufacturer directly and in these cases,  if there is any issue with the service being provided by the manufacturer, then John Lewis will offer our full support in an attempt to get the issue resolved swiftly. I am genuinely sorry and embarrassed that this was not your experience when you called.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to write to us, to highlight your concerns, and I trust that I can at least reassure you that your comments will be instrumental in allowing us to improve the service we provide to other customers and, I hope, to you in the future.
Should you have any further issues then please do not hesitate to contact me on 01236 634 681 or alternatively by replying to this e-mail.

Yours sincerely,

Customer Relations Manager
John Lewis Direct

Childcare Guidelines: Beliefs

Childcare guidelines need to be given to our childrens’ carers to govern many things including how to deal with our beliefs.  Beliefs emanate from our upbringing and the environment in which we are nurtured. When we decide to bring up children: many of us partner with someone with similar beliefs and our children grow up in the midst of those beliefs. Inevitably, our children grow up under the influence of others too: hence the need for guidelines on this subject.

Personally, we’ve found a fantastic person to look after our two young, inquiring children when we aren’t with them. She’s a brilliant combination of Nanny McPhee and Mary Poppins and she’s a Sexagenarian too which means, arguably she has far more life-skills and experience than we do. She’s also been a nurse in a previous career.
She perfects the balance between fun and discipline and the girls love  her to bits and have thrived under her care. Admittedly they see a a lot of their two parents but we have unpredictable and sometimes manic commitments-  so *our* Nanny McPhee  is a critical pivot we trust and on whom we rely.

We’ve recently been a little blindsided by a set of questions that our almost 5 year old levied on us and it seems as if some of the answers have already been given by her nanny. By their nature, they’re personal so I won’t blog about them but there is a good chance that due to the complexity of the subject Nanny McPhee may have answered them in a different manner to the way in which we would have dealt with them. We’re learning about this parenthood thing all the time! How to handle this?

I don’t think its complicated if managed consciously and clearly. We have decided to supply Nanny McPhee with a list of subjects that we’d like her to get the girls to talk to us directly for the answers. If she’s hit with a question she merely answers “that’s an important question that I think you should ask Daddy or Mummy about” then she needs to alert us immediately and we’ll deal with it based on the way we have agreed to as parents. That’s definitely our right, don’t you think?

Where I also need your help is in compiling a list of the subjects. So far I have:

  1. Religion
  2. Birds and the bees: aka Sex
  3. Divorce
  4. Adoption
  5. Marriage
  6. Homosexuality
  7. Violence and
  8. Death.

What would you add or strike off, and any other advice?

Mark Shaw: “Why I am not following you on Twitter”

Mark Shaw's biography taken from the Hit Me! Internet marketing seminar. Click the image for more information

I first discovered Mark Shaw from one of Francoise Murat’s Retweets drawing my attention to one of his blogposts: “Why I am not following you on Twitter” which frankly is a good piece although its certainly not fresh content.

I read his blog and then looked at his Twitter profile and read a little more about him on his site. The first thing I noticed from his homepage was his claim to be :

..one of the UK’s leading Twitter experts….

That ratio looks a bit unbalanced to me.

Then I re-read the blogpost in question (after I noticed he has almost 60 times more followers than people he chooses to follow). I still took absolutely no exception to any advice he gives, yet felt uneasy about this “Twitter expert”. Then I reread the blog title “Why I am not following you on Twitter” that now felt incongruous. Still not being able to put my finger on it, I drilled down into the comments on the post and Stuart Flatt’s comment provided my bingo-moment:

So Mark, you are actually saying there are only 220 people on the whole of twitter who meet your criteria?

May I be so bold as to say you you only follow people if you believe there is something in it for you?

I just read one level of your tweets. And you only have self promotions and @ replies. Again most of the @ replies are talking about yourself or something you have tweeted.

I had a poke around Mark’s twitter stream and sure enough: Stuart’s spot on:  Mark seems to, most often only engage in conversation with people who initiate conversation with him. Either that or he’s trying to initiate a conversation with an A-List tweep or promote his own business

Why am I writing this blogpost? Everyone is free to follow who they choose, and I have nothing personal against Mark as I know he puts a lot of effort into helping people in his follower base but that, afterall, is his business and he earns a living from doing it. But all this prompts me to remind myself that Twitter is a community tool. Twitter doesn’t change the rules of community. In the offline world community rules have existed since the year dot. The rules touch the way in which we socialise, listen, help, & recommend. For community to work, it needs to be a bilateral exchange. To me community isn’t only about listening for your name to be called out and then responding. Its not about trying to wrestle in front of the influencers and its also not about trying desperately to be an influencer. Its about having an awareness about the community around you. In my opinion, you can’t do that when you’ve got 12,836 people aware of what you’re saying and only being aware of 222, that’s called one-way arrogance (in my book). As I said in the comments on Mark’s blogpost, celebrities like Duncan Bannatyne get away with it because they don’t write blog posts entitled “Why I am not following you on Twitter”

And that’s why, Mark,  I am not following *you* on Twitter.