Keep Calm and Start Talking :: Aberdeen mental health awareness event, 12 October

A friend of mine, Heather, is running a mental health awareness event on 12 October and is looking for some support  and/or sponsorship.

The event is entitled “Keep Calm and Start Talking” and aims to enhance awareness of the mental health issues which affect 1 in 4 people, by opening up discussions and stimulating ideas. It is run independently but supported by the “See Me” Campaign (a Scottish Government initiative). The entrance to the event would host a stand where information can be provided on the different illnesses people face and how they can be supported. The second area would contain stalls which each hold an activity promoting positive mental health, and assisting to open up conversations which are often difficult to start. Including: a creative section for making crafts, a music zone to show the effect sound has on our emotions and a hands on coping techniques exhibit. The final section comprises of a seated area with provisions for cupcakes and drinks. Questions on tables would enable discussions with those who have personal /professional experience.

Volunteers are lined up but more are always welcome. Visitors are even more welcome. Material support is also required, although it’s not crazy amounts. Heather is hoping about 200 people to attend. Sponsorship is required for:
- catering of drinks and cupcakes for the event plus lunches for volunteers (circa £400)
- activities supplies which would be mostly printed info sheets and craft supplies (possibly £150)
- ice cubes (any city centre bars watching?)
- plus any publicity support you can offer

This is a really great cause being run independently but with the support of local mental health charities. I’ve asked for enough sponsorship in my career so am putting my money where my mouth is too.

If you’re interested in supporting the event then contact me on and I’ll put you in touch with Heather.

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5 things: summary execution

Five things that I think we might consider summary execution for:

  1. Designing websites using Flash
  2. HDR photography
  3. Verbing nouns (e.g. diarise, action something)
  4. Parking outside of the marked bays
  5. Watching reality TV then boring your poor work colleagues about it on Monday
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It’s that cat again


Mylo loves cuddles. This has been his sleeping position ever since we came back from New Zealand in November…

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Social Media, Social Good – #smwabz

On 23 September, I did a talk about social media and the 3rd sector at the inaugural Social Media Week event in Aberdeen. During this talk I rattled through a load of resources that I’d seen, used and liked so here they are – in no particular order.

Twitter for Good by Claire Diaz Ortiz (@ClaireD), Twitter’s head of social innovation, philanthropy and causes. Twitter’s social good website, highlighting causes they support.

Open Community, a great book for any non-profit trying to build online community – by @maddiegrant and @lindydreyer. Also worth a look is their organisation SocialFish, one of my bibles on 3rd sector social media.

And some ideas of resources and other folk’s campaigns to look at:
SoLoCo – social crowdfunding.
Givey – SMS/Twitter donation system.
Justgiving – online fundraising.
Common Purpose Your Turn Hamburg flashmob – a group of kids organised a flash mob to raise awareness of homelessness – well if they can do it . . .
Common Purpose Young Million campaign – highlighting the plight of unemployed 18n – 25 year olds, and offering them development.
Meningitis Trust – great integration of video and online activities into their campaign.
Beat Bullying and their Cyber Mentors scheme – really innovative use of social media to support young people.
Flock Edu – don’t know too much about it yet, but I’m really excited about social networks as a medium for learning!

I’ll add in some of the main points from my talk in a separate post.

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Five things I do that really annoy my wife

B is a saint for putting up with me sometimes.

So, in the first of an irregular series, here are five things that really annoy her.

  1. Repeat poor taste (well sick really) jokes, normally found on
  2. Witter on endlessly about social media, usually Twitter – and be unforgiving of those who don’t understand it.
  3. Leave bikes (and bike parts) in the dining room and consider them to be a normal piece of furniture.
  4. Watch TV programmes about early-2000s bands and then leave a pile of ‘must listen to’ CDs on the coffee table.
  5. Be too lazy to buy a new hub cap to replace the missing one on my car, but not to see what the problem is.
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Digital photography and the traditionalist

Those who have known me for a while will know that I have deeply held views about digital cameras – well I certainly did have. They could be summarised in short by “digital is cheating”, “I don’t see the point” and “it’s not really art though is it?”.

Well I’m big enough to admit that I may have been a little hasty in these proclamations. Becca (my beloved) has recently bought a digital SLR so I’ve been involved in showing her some of the photography techniques that I know.You know, I’ve found that I sort-of like it.

The definite benefits for me are the ability to try something out and instantly review what happened. No more shooting a couple of rolls of film then suffering the disappointment in the darkroom when you find they’re utter rubbish. Although you still need to wait until you get back to a computer to review the shots properly. Also being able to shoot in either colour or black and white and at different ISOs negates the need to carry several types of film on a trip – and either a couple of camera bodies or suffer the frustration of seeing the perfect shot, just with a different film. And there is always the benefit of being able to upload photos to the web without needing a scanner.

Would I buy one of my very own? Maybe, but not as a main camera. I can’t see me ever stop shooting film as my primary medium, but I could see me getting a micro four-thirds for travelling and carrying around. Although my phone is pretty impressive . . .

So I guess most of my objections still stand, although I can see the attraction:

* Monkeys and typewriters. My brother and I have this argument often. He shoots digitally and on automatic  on a D-SLR but has no interest in photography away from taking cool pictures. There is more skill to photography than just snapping away. Whilst I’m no Cartier-Bresson, I take photos for a reason, because they say something, because I’ve sought out the opportunity. It’s the old argument of art versus recording moments and I’m not sure it will ever be resolved.
* Creating cool looking effects in Photoshop but not knowing the photographic history that goes behind them. What is a sepia print? It’s not just an effect.
* The general faff of the huge number of settings – my film cameras have aperture, shutter speed and film speed, not several menus full of modes!
* D-SLRs are so big! They’re hardly discrete for reportage and I couldn’t put one in a jacket pocket.
* I’d rather spend two hours in a darkroom than sitting in front of a computer. I realise that this is a personal choice but I spend far too much time at work working on computers.
* I’m a bit of a luddite at times when it comes to technology, strange as it might seem. I love it when technology makes our life easier, but hate it when it adds complication. I don’t care which is the computer with the best performance or screen, it’s a tool to allow me to interact with the world.
* I like loading film and the mechanical nature of my cameras. It satisfies my tactile, making-things nature. I enjoy spending time in the darkroom and I just don’t think that I would get that level of satisfaction from digital post-processing.

So there you go, maybe I am a camera snob. In fact I very probably am – but I’m working really hard on just letting it all wash over me and not get annoyed by other’s claims of photographic genius!

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Are you a leader if no-one follows?

I've had a number of conversations and read several articles that made me think a lot about the leadership/management boundary. Can you be a leader if no-one follows you? It seems a little counter-intuitive but I think it raises some interesting points.

Why aren't people following?

Is your message not resonating with your audience? 

Are you not appealing to their motivating factors – money, recognition etc.?

Are people initially following then abandoning you?

What are you leading? Does it need to change?

For me this applies both out with and within the workplace. I think that leadership is too often used as an excuse for managers to forget some of the important lessons about teams. Leading is not always about making big, dynamic changes – sometimes it is about maintenance. The style you need to adopt depends upon the situation at the time. It's also about the people and you need to know your teams. For me it has always been team, company then me.

The leaders that I had the most respect for in my early career were Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard of HP. I never met them, but they created a company culture where, even after they'd long left HP and the company I was working for was called now Agilent Technologies, staff were still talking about Bill and Dave walking around the production line in Scotland. My colleagues had real respect for them. But Bill and Dave took a company from a garage in Palo Alto to a multi-national electronics firm – I'm sure the leadership traits were different at different times, but that they always remembered it was about the people.
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It’s the people who make my job

The speakers who you brief and who you leave with your head full of ideas.

The contacts who are really grateful for the easy ways you can help.

The participants who are inspired by the courses that you run; and who then go and change the world.

I'm just there to bring these people together; I don't do the hard work. But I love working with them all.

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Over-stimulation and Modern Life

I’m a child of the smart phone generation. Not an early adopter by any means, but I reckon that I’m always close behind. So Twitter, web forums, rss feeds, email alerts, Facebook, podcasts and a variety of other more conventional media play a regular part of my life.

But recently I’ve found myself pulling away from all this information.  I’ve been switching my mobile into flight mode in the evenings (I have a few eBooks that i’m reading). I’ve barely tweeted for a couple of weeksand not really been on Facebook for more than a month. I keep up with the news that I have to for work, but trends to get a lot of that from radio or discussing things with others.

Why? I just feel overwhelmed with the amount of information. It’s like I’ve turned into some sort of information junkie who can’t wait for his next fix. And can’t drag himself away from it. If I do it too late at night then it keeps me awake. I’m missing out on the things that I enjoy, the fun parts of life, the just being, existing, smelling the roses bits. Life is passing me by.

It doesn’t help that my job engulfs me with everything that is going on in the area. But in order to keep my sanity I need to do the things I love too. Reading real books. Walking with no artificial soundtrack. Taking photos. Just lying down and not thinking for a while. Just being.

So that’s my task to myself for the next little while. Take some time out each day just to be me. Then hopefully the person I was will return.

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What’s your big idea?

What’s your big idea?

I used to have lots of ideas, some of them practical, some of them realistic, many of them utterly ridiculous. They all had one thing in common though: I did absolutely nothing about them.

There was the plan to set up as a consultancy to help people get through the technical details and red tape to install renewable energy technologies into their homes. I got put off by the fear of setting up my own business and not knowing where to start. I was offered a job doing essentially the same thing for an Aberdeen charity but took fear at the low salary – it was just too much hard work and too scary at the time.

There was also the idea to open a custom travel agency that would program a car satnav with a UK tour decided by your interests. Great idea that I could talk for hours (well certainly tens of minutes) about, but would require custom satnav software, me to learn a lot about the UK travel market and a huge amount of research. Realistically I didn’t have the knowledge or the skills so it would be way too much for a first venture.

Now I’m not being too hard on myself really – there are good reasons why I didn’t set up for myself. I didn’t have the business skills, I knew nothing about business development or business planning. But I’ve also not done anything to gain small business skills in this time either.
I want to have a real passion about what I do for a living. I want work to be fun every day. I’ve been dipping in and out of a business book – ‘Rework’ by the guys from 37 Signals. I think that I’ve learned a lot more from reading about software start ups than from listening to the traditional business gurus. Maybe I’m being too idealistic – these folk seem to talk my language (fun, passion, doing what you love) than the guys in suits that you see on TV programmes like ‘The Apprentice’.

What’s my big idea? I’m not sure yet but I know that there is one there. I just need to find it!

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