Newsletter No.14

No particular theme this time but hopefully an interesting and useful mix of things that have caught my eye since the last one.

Social Scoring

Patterns were always going to be the next big thing. Once you have lots of tools that make it easy to make information available you get lots of noise. In fact you want lots of noise. What you then want are tools or practices that help you extract the signal from the noise. It is interesting to see businesses cottoning on to this and beginning to track who adds more signal than noise and who are ending up having most influence. Once they get even more willing to do this then we get closer to Doc Searls ideal with VRM where they start to tailor products, services and delivery down to the individual user. Exciting or scary? Let me know what you think.

Questions and answers.

There are a couple of interesting tools that aim to help you get answers to questions from real people rather than search engines. Aardvark has been around for a while, and was bought by Google earlier this year. It allows you to ask questions of you social networks and searches to find the most likely people to be able to give you an answer. A new service called Quora takes this idea and combines it with a wiki approach and allows you not only to ask questions and get answers from your network, but also to then be able to rate, edit, and organise the answers. I have always thought that the social web was all about learning and these tools take this a step forward.


I am a big fan of the writing tool Scrivener and have been using it for many years. The developer, who is British, recently launched not only a very impressive version 2.0 of the software but also a Windows edition. The reason I love the application so much is that it makes it easy and fun to write, chunking bigger articles into manageable bits, and making structuring your writing really easy. I use it for essays, blog posts and even this newsletter. There is a series of great videos which explain Scrivener and its delights.

The Do Lectures

I was very honoured to be asked to take part in this year’s Do Lectures held in wild, west Wales. The highlight, amongst many, was to find myself sitting beside the campfire sorting the world out with the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. I reckon this is the contemporary equivalent of having a natter with Guthenberg! Anyway, you can see the video of my presentation along with some really inspiring speakers here.

Twitter birthday

Thanks to someone spotting that your profile page on Twitter for iPhone tells you when you first posted on Twitter I realised that I have been tweeting for four years! If you use Twitter and don’t have an iPhone but still want to find out your twitter-versary the TwBirthday makes it easy to find out.

Best Blog Post

Some time ago I was asked by the son of a friend of mine to write a blog post about his headmaster’s decision to ban Facebook from his school in Denmark. I was happy to oblige and the blog post kicked off a great comments thread with some fascinating divergence of opinion. I have reproduced the post below but do follow this link to read the comments thread.

Some thoughts on schools banning Facebook


´╗┐Banning Facebook is like banning the telephone. What people in authority don't realise is that it is just a tool. Any tool can be used or misused. What they should be focussed on is harnessing its potential not being paranoid about what people do with it.

Facebook, like so many social tools, is actually primarily about learning. Yes learning what people had for breakfast - but also learning news, learning what works, learning what books are best to read, learning where to find the right bit of information.

It is particularly ironic when schools ban Facebook as they are the very ones who should be teaching effective use of this technology - not keeping their pupils stuck in some industrial, factory model of learning.

Recommended Reading

Kevin Kelly’s Out Of Control has always been one of my favourite books about technology and its impact on society, so it was with eager anticipation that I opened the Amazon packaging on his new book What Technology Wants. I am still reading it but have no hesitation in recommending it. He argues that technology is an extension of evolution and follows many of the same principles, leading to the possibility that it has its own direction and outcomes independent of what we think we want it for! Kelly’s style is very readable and the quality of his thinking is, as ever, humbling. 

Productivity Tip

I am often asked how I cope with the volume of information afforded by the social web and I have become more and more interested over the years in finding ways of improving my productivity. In previous newsletters I have written about my use of GTD from David Allen, someone else I got to meet at The Do Lectures, and Daylite, but while these help me know what I have to do they don’t make it easier to actually sit down and do it!

Thanks to Anthony Mayfield I now have a very effective solution. The Pomodoro Technique is as very simple way of packaging up your time that makes it much easier to focus and be productive without feeling overwhelmed by the amount you have to do. The process is deceptively  simple but do take a read at the inventor’s excellent outline of the process. If you get interested, and have a Mac, I can highly recommend Concentrate as a tool to help you follow through on the Pomodoro principles.

Thanks again for reading and as ever let me know what you think of this newsletter and do recommend it to others if you consider it useful.