Thursday, December 04, 2014

bathroom themed parcels

So today's a freelance day. Mid-morning I was interrupted at my desk to buzz the postie into the building. Often happens, and is fair enough since someone has to let him in. Then taking the opportunity to go to the toilet (after buzzing the door) turned out to be a mistake: At exactly the worst possible moment my doorbell (the one you have to be inside the building to use) went. argh. So I, um, hurry things along as much as is possible (thinking that whatever the parcel he has, is almost certainly now bound for the sorting office) and (after washing my hands) open the door to hear the sounds of someone about to leave the building. rats. Only (hurrah) postie hears me and (bless him) poddles back up the stairs. With parcels! For downstairs. I hide my disappointment and cheerfully take the parcels to pass on when they get home. I can't remember the last time one of the neighbours did this for me, but I suppose not everyone's in during the day right? Besides I've answered the door now and anyway it's good karma. Day caries on, designing gets done. A few minutes ago I finished up for the day and - spotting the parcels in the hall - I thought "rather than settle in for my evening knowing I'm likely to get disturbed, why not pop downstairs with those" (I know, right? Best neighbour ever. Modest too.) Downstairs don't have a doorbell, but the light's on and I can hear someone singing to himself so I knock. Nothing happens. I knock again. Still nothing, and I'm about to go back upstairs (now feeling a bit peeved) when the door opens and a sheepish, slightly soggy head peers round. Turns out downstairs was in the shower. :D Parcels handed over, and mildly embarrassed pleasantaries exchanged, I come back upstairs wondering if there's some kind of bathroom-ey theme going on with those parcels. I wonder what was in them.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Yesterday I cast my vote for hope. 

It drowned in all the fear. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The eve of the eve of... victory?

Tomorrow is my birthday.

I'll be 37 in an hour and seven minutes (or thereabouts).

I'm tired.

It's been a long couple of years, and I'd love to say that my tiredness is due to tireless campaigning for a just cause since the referendum was announced. It hasn't been. I'm a fervent and committed Yes and have been since day one. I've even done some volunteering to try and get the right result the day after tomorrow. I'd be lying if I said I'd done masses though, or even enough. I guess I'm not really wired that way.

So yes this is a bit of a referendum post.


It's not my last ditch attempt to make up for lost time though, nor do I really expect to convince anyone at this late stage (or in this narrow, forgotten corner of the internet that is my own). Like pretty much every post here for the past eleven and a bit years this is for myself, put it into the world in case it provokes interest/discussion/laughter in the wider world, but if there's a purpose to these posts they're definitely for myself.

I'm not out to make the case for Scottish independence. For one thing it's getting late. For another, so many others have done that much better than I ever could.

This is for me. If it interests/puzzles/amuses you so much the better.

At some point in my dim forgotten past I fell in love. I was taken out of the world I knew for a time. Out of a world of frustrated protest: of miners' strikes and teachers's strikes... a world of loss: friends' parents being laid off (before I even really understood what jobs were), shops that shut and never opened again, mines that were demolished... a world where politics was a byword for being ignored, shunned, forgotten and - above all - trampled on.

My childhood was a very happy, sheltered, and relatively privileged one, don't get me wrong. It just happened in quite a sad, broken place. A place where my rapidly developing vocabulary never managed to make sense of words like patriotism or nationality. Where I genuinely struggled to comprehend how anyone could feel love for a country. Let alone for England*. It happened in Thatcher's South Yorkshire. I challenge anyone to be objective from that starting point, but is anyone ever objective?

As I said, at some point my parents brought me north of the border - I forget the first time - but I do remember that I fell in love.

Like any young love affair it was arguably an infatuation, at least at that stage. I certainly didn't see the whole picture holidaying in Sutherland for two weeks! But something about Scotland always felt different. Felt special. Each time I came back - whichever part of this country I came to - it all felt special in a way nowhere else ever has.

When I moved here to study for my degree, my instinctive (arguably infantile) infatuation matured into an understanding of Scotland as a place distinct from the rest of the country I thought that I knew. An understanding that "the UK" wasn't in fact one place at all. That and an understanding of why someone would die for a place. I began to understand the concept of national identity.

Hardly surprising then that I never left.

Hardly surprising then that almost two decades later, when someone asks where I'm from I confidently, honestly answer that I'm Scottish.

From the very first time I encountered this country I've felt there was something special and different about it. Over the past few years that feeling has driven me to learn more about my adopted home, and what makes it different. The more I've learned the more convinced I've become that this place could - and should - be so much more than it's able to be as part of the UK. That it could and should be a better home for the people who live here.

Tomorrow is my birthday.

Birthdays for me have always been good things. Life has - on the whole - been kind to me, and each year I've lived to date has been better than the one before. Birthdays for me are a time of happy reflection and optimistic hope.

The day after tomorrow... the day after tomorrow I optimistically hope that this magical wondrous adoptive home of mine will see in itself what I see in it. Will for the first time in three hundred and seven years (or thereabouts) take control of where it's going and how it's going to get there.

That would be an amazing start to my year.

* A word I was shocked to learn later in life I had - as I believe most people south of the border do - unconsciously mistaken as synonymous with "the UK".

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Moves off

This morning I reluctantly deleted Moves from my phone, and deleted my account from their servers.

I'm sad to lose it. I forget exactly when I started using the app, but - since they very kindly let me download all my info before I wiped it from their servers - I know that the app remembered for me. I started using it in June 2013. Since then I've been thoroughly enjoying having a quiet, beautifully designed little tracker app telling me where I've been when and how much exercise I'd got in the process.

Then last month Facebook bought them.

My gut reaction was distrust, but Moves promised they'd remain independent and not commingle data with their new data-farming overlords owners.

So I carried on using the app until this morning. This morning it wanted me to install an update and accept revised terms and conditions. One of the main revisions explicitly allowed them to "share information, including personally identifying information, with our Affiliates (companies that are part of our corporate groups of companies, including but not limited to Facebook) to help provide, understand, and improve our Services."

Um. No thank you.

Now it's important at this point to mention that I am not a privacy nut. I accept that living in the modern world means I leave all kinds of metaphorical foot, finger and face prints all over everything. All the time. I'm fine with that. I mean - d'uh - here I am blogging after all.

Partly I'm happy enough that the sheer volume of data about all of us out there secures the data collected about me by burying it in all the other data about everyone else. Partly I'm confident that I'm not really doing anything that draws attention to me, except where I've intended that (like writing a post here and tweeting it). Mostly though I'm relaxed about data collection because I tend to choose how and to whom I volunteer potentially sensitive information, and what I get in return.

When you boil it right down, I used Moves because they provided a service I really valued and - as an independent app - I was happy with them benefitting by gathering some data about me. Nothing's actually free after all.

Facebook's core service is of no interest to me whatsoever. I don't value it, so I don't use it. I've stayed in touch with the people I wanted to, and maintain those connections just fine through various other routes. As Facebook's grown more all-pervasive I've, on occasion, looked at their terms to see what the "cost" of joining is and whether the (minor) benefit of having an account on this increasingly widely used platform would benefit me enough to merit giving up whatever it is that Facebook wants in return. I keep coming back to the same conclusion: that Facebook wants to aggressively harvest data about its userbase in order to sell aggressively targeted advertising.

I have an unusually low tolerance for advertising at the best of times.

So I deleted Moves. I don't trust that the (moderately sensitive) data I was happy with an independent Moves using, won't in some way be used to harangue me to buy crap I don't want now that it's "shared" with Facebook. I especially don't trust them fudging this whole issue - as the Guardian point out - by drawing a distinction between "share" and "commingle" but failing to articulate the nature of that difference.

Put simply, data "payment" for free services needs to meet a cost benefit analysis like any other transaction, and (for me) the cost of giving my data to Facebook makes the benefit of using Moves too expensive.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Just a quick one, as it's a gloriously sunny bank holiday and I want to get to the pub. But I also want to point out this brilliant piece in the Guardian from earlier this week.

Responding to the (totally understandable) outrage at The Mirror using a stock photo for their front page article on food banks, the Guardian's head of photography writes a gentle thought provoking piece highlighting the importance of truth in photo-journalism... and it strikes me there are plenty of us in the design/web/marketing world who could stand to take this onboard too.

People are cynical. Give them a chance to poke holes in what you're saying and they will.

Stock photography can do just this. If we choose it poorly or - much worse - try and palm it off as something it isn't, we lose our audience's trust and (in doing so) lose our audience.

Right. That's quite enough pontificating from me. Pub.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Truth in advertising.

So. This week I found a new (to me) gay dating app called Mister.

I like it.

It's mostly full of Americans* (of course - there are so damned many of you guys!) but that's not the point. The point is, that it's specifically billed as the gay app for grown ups and - shock - the users actually seem to have taken this to heart! It's full of funny, interesting articulate blokes who talk to each other like real human beings. Even though they're on the internet!

I know. We can do that. Who knew. 

Anyhoo, as much as personally I'm loving the app & enjoying the chat on there, professionally I'm loving Mister's marketing. It's smart & funny & honest

I like those things as - I hope - you may have noticed. 

It's fun to see a relatively successful product employing much the same approach I'm trying with my own business: be honest, be yourself, be engaging & the rest will follow. 

I especially love two of their "adverts" YouTube videos: clearly styled as pastiches of Apple's old "Mac & PC" campaign. The two chaps on screen represent themselves & (simultaneously) the tone & content of their online chat with each other. It's really beautifully done & I can't stop watching them - in fact the only reason I'm only raving about two is that I can't find more than those two - if you're reading Mister - either "encore!" (if there are only two) or sort your YouTube channel (if there are more lurking there that I - a former librarian - have been unable to locate).

I like sharing things and want to share these two vids, but - conscious that much of my audience (unlike Mister's) may never have encountered some of the contextual aspects of these funny, honest little observational gems, I feel a little preamble is in order. 

If this falls under the heading of explaining the joke & killing the funny, forgive me. 

So, follow the links when you've read my guff. OK? Unless you've ever used Grindr in which case you'll get it immediately.

Vid 1: "Shit guys on Gay Apps Say"

Context: some of you reading this (who btw can thank your lucky stars!!) will never have encountered either bro'lish or cyberamnesia. Trust me. Both are very, very real. In fact I think I've had almost exactly the same conversation as we see here (though I probably didn't ask about sports).


Many of the guys in most gay chat apps will use words of one syllable (or worse: lol) in lieu of actual conversation & will still be bewildered (and possibly sad) when this fails to forge any kind of connection with the fella on the other end of the line.

Most marketers of gay chat apps seem utterly indifferent to this yawning chasm in their "communication" product, and will instead blithely assume that bombarding potential users with (unrealistic) images of who might be waiting on their app will win the day. 

This ad gently, humourously underlines the flaw in how many of us gay men have taken to "chatting" online, and by doing so, beautifully underlines what the product (the Mister app) is, and is not.

Vid 2: "Bear Talk"

Context: Happily the guys at Mister did some of my work for me here. Well, actually here

Watch that video "why bears woof" & you'll get a sense of what the bear community's tounge in cheek defacto greeting "woof" is about. Assuming you didn't already know [winks at Phil].

"Woof" is used on bear, and bear-ish sites though & - just as in the ad - it means many things depending on the context. It's a kind of catch all friendly verbal wave of the hand... that any of us who identify as bear or bear adjacent** cringe at ourselves for using, yet still sometimes hide behind. Yes you do. Honesty remember?

What's lovely about the "Bear Talk" vid, is how it acknowledges that (as we see in "why bears woof") that self-same community recognises the limitations of "woof" and wants to communicate more, better, to engage more fully and more diversely with each other. Sadly all too often the atmosphere or tone of the chat products we're using online makes it easy to fall back on a cliche.

Mister picks that up and runs with it, again - gently, humourously and (since - in contrast to "bro'lish" - the owners of this daft net -ism are on board with  Mister's product ethos) with a sexy sense of play. 

It's beautiful. 

Truth in advertising. And a product that kinda lives up to its own spiel! Hurrah!

Food for thought for those of us advertising & marketing our own products (or, indeed ourselves!): be genuine, be direct, be engaging & be witty. But above all have a rewarding product waiting when you've caught the audience's attention. The rest falls into place.


Since Mister so kindly linked to this post in their members email this week I figured I should say "hi" to anyone arriving here by that route, and link back to my profile on there.
* I have nothing against 'murcans, in fact evidence suggests I'd enjoy the company of a great many of you, but until we develop teleporters it's frustrating when all the guys I want to chat with are on the "wrong" side of the Atlantic. Huff.
** For the record cub. Kinda. Insofar as I do labels.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Just a moment

Out walking by the canal. Admiring the daffodils. 

The sun breaks through the day's overcast just as the small boy behind me on his wooden push along bike pauses his excited "bbbbbbrrrrrrrm" noise to make a cheery "beebip" as he passes. Meanwhile up ahead the man walking his dog briefly makes aeroplane arms as he peels off the towpath into Harrison Park. 

I love springtime.