bookmark_borderInformationally Overloaded

Those of you who have been reading for a while will recognise the title of this post, as it used to be the name of this blog. Then I realised how naff it was and dropped it when the ‘one man’ stuff was borne.

The phrase itself remains particularly apt, probably more so than when I first used it and, with reference to the exponential growth of Twitter, it is coming back into prominence. Social media applications, and the use thereof, shows no sign of slowing. This is a good thing because I firmly believe that social media applications (think Facebook, Twitter and the like) can be useful to many and the basic model of all of these things is based on the premise that “the more people that use them, the more valuable they become”. Which, of course, is (sort of) in direct conflict with those of us fighting information overload.

Of course, we only have ourselves to blame, as the bulk* of the online information we digest is driven by either opt-in or by deliberately choosing to monitor or follow a particular thread of information. This point is crucial. If you feel you are being overloaded by the amount of information you are choosing to receive to parse, be it by RSS feed, email, or directly from a website, then you can choose to reduce that load.

Twitter remains a bit of a mystery mind you, every morning I gain another follower or two, sometimes based on a product name (hello Dyson Airblades) and sometimes on a completely random basis. Or at least I assume they are random because I don’t recognise the person following me, nor do I recognise their website (yes, I do check profiles in case it’s just a username I’m not familiar with) and, as of yet, there is still no easy way to find this out. I’m presuming that this is the same for everyone, and it is just the usual clamouring for ‘Friends’ that so many people seem to think a good thing to do.

Each new social media application brings with it yet another raft of gurus trying to exploit and harness the “wisdom of the crowd” for themselves in a hope of forcing a “Tipping Point” even if their idea isn’t “Made to Stick”. What they don’t get is that this is not just another marketing bandwagon to jump on, not this time. The phenomenon of social media and the way it allows people to connect can be very powerful, but the important piece thing to understand isn’t the fact that people all over the globe are connecting, but because it’s PEOPLE that are making the connections.

The opt-in model is still the most powerful part of all of this, ensuring that those people who are passionate about a product or service can seek each other out and share their thoughts and ideas. Over to Matt Haughey who suggests that companies should:

make awesome stuff that gets people excited about your products, hire people that represent the company well, and when your stuff is so awesome that friends share it with other friends

Twitter continues to be the buzzword of the moment, the numbers rise and more connections are made. I glad to say that I am benefitting from being on Twitter, something I wasn’t sure of even a few months ago. Particularly as some of my peers are now on there, posting ideas and links to articles of interest to my profession. The iPhone is a boon for such things, particularly as Twitterific and InstaPaper to keep a track of “to read” articles and blog posts (Twitterific has built-in Instapaper bookmarking capabilities).

So whilst I’m not blogging here, or on either of my other two blogs, you can find me on Twitter, or read the links I post to my Instapaper account, browse the random things I find and post to my Tumblr account, or keep an eye on the websites I bookmark using You can see my photos on Flickr, and see what music I’m listening to on

It’s a bit scary seeing all of my online data listed out like that. What’s even worse is that I do have an RSS feed that monitors them all… talk about information overload!

* I’m aware that many social applications (or whatever we are calling them today) generate a lot of email notifications, but again, you can usually either turn them off or, you know, opt out of that application.

bookmark_borderFlipping point?

You may, or may not, have heard the phrase ‘Tipping Point’ used to signify “the moment when something previously unique becomes common“. Made popular, although not created by, Malcolm Gladwell, it can be applied most recently to the explosion of people using Twitter, and previously to such web applications/social networking websites, as Facebook.

Which, rather nicely (gee, it’s almost like I planned it!) brings me to my topic. Namely, Facebook and is it starting to tip away from ‘common’ towards something else.

I’m not quite sure where Facebook is tipping towards but there does seem to be the beginnings of a swell, a murmuring of discontent as Facebook continues to grow and tries to adapt itself accordingly. Basically, on a more and more frequent basis, Facebook seems to be starting to irk some people.

In that respect, it’s very much like the noise that preceded it’s massive growth but on the opposite side of the slope, the word of mouth is heading towards negative territory. Anyone else think so? Just me?

bookmark_borderMade to Stick

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck

I can’t recall why I picked up this book, most likely a recommendation from the same sources through which I discovered The Tipping Point (which itself inspired this book), but I’ve been dipping in and out of it for a while and finally finished it this weekend. That’s an indication of my reading habits recently, not any reflection on the quality of this book.

Whilst most would regard this as a business focussed book it, like Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, is more about the ideas than their application. That said there are plenty of concrete examples given to reaffirm the basic premise of the book, that there are six key qualities that make an idea “sticky”:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Unexpectedness
  3. Concreteness
  4. Credibility
  5. Emotion
  6. Stories

It’s a fascinating read, including some well-known ideas (JFK’s “Put a man on the moon in 10 years”), throughout which several thoughts sparked in my brain as I started to connect some of the key qualities in a sticky idea with our profession. After all, what better way to make sure people get the most out of the information you provide than to make it sticky?!

Of course there are some parts of the book which, whilst interesting, can’t really be applied directly but I was amazed that, with a little bit of creative spin, you could probably adapt most of the ideas within to make your content stickier.

Made to Stick is very much one of those books which hold some simple truths which are well stated and analysed. Throughout the book there are many examples, so getting a handle on what each of the six qualities brings to the table is easy, and to be honest a lot of what is said you probably already know you just don’t know how to pull it all together.

There are some excerpts on the book’s website and if you enjoyed The Tipping Point then give it a look.


I like new things, as my Belbin team role suggests, I am the person who likes to start projects and enthuse others about it before… eventually.. I get bored with it and… ohh shiny! .. something new comes along.

I’m aware of this trait and have developed some internal habits that help me overcome it’s downsides, in other words I’ve figured out when I’m getting bored and so I start to change how I work to make sure that I see the project through to completion.

However my enjoyment of new things is beneficial and I’m constantly looking for new ideas, new inspirations from which I can learn, and for ways in which those ideas can be cross-pollinated (ok ok, stolen) and used in new ways.

One example came about when I first picked up on, after many years of being told to read it by my peers, Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point. It’s a fascinating book and several of the key points can be translated into the technical writing world. One in particular stood out, the premise that an idea could be made ‘sticky’, and got me thinking about how I could adapt some of the methods into my approach to writing and structuring documentation. To my great pleasure that premise has been further developed by Dan & Chip Heath in their book Make it Stick and, although I’m only partway through it, I already have some ideas which may help make the documentation I create more useful to the readers.

There has been some discussion about our profession recently, whether it’s “just a job” or a vocation for some. I think I, like others, fit somewhere in the middle. Whilst I doubt technical writing/technical communications can be seen as a vocation, it’s certainly more than just a job to me, spilling over into my everyday life and thoughts. Typography, design, architecture, marketing and, basically any form of communication, has me questioning and prodding it to see if I can reuse any of it.

These days with personal publishing also a hobby for many, myself included, obviously, then anyone who is interested in communicating ideas and information is able to draw so much from such a wide pool of sources that, and I hold my hand up in admission here as well, I’m somewhat surprised that we have been a little slow to grab onto these new ways of communicating. Mind you, blogs, wikis and the like, are all still very new so I expect that to change over time.

But it won’t stop me constantly scanning the horizon for something new.

Have you taken inspiration from an odd source? Spotted a clever way to tackle information, or noted an idea or two after reading a, seemingly, unrelated book. How much of a magpie are you?

bookmark_borderBooks wot I red

After much deliberation and swithering I ended up taking 5 books with me last week. Well, technically that’s not true. After much deliberation and swithering I ended up packing 3 books and then bought another two at the airport (I know, I know!). So, here are some brief thoughts on the ones I read.

1. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.
Always late to the party, this is a book which most people who would want to read it probably already have. So, suffice to say that I found this hugely interesting although not as immediately personal as Blink. Gladwell delivers a lot of fairly complex information in an excellently languid and accessible style, and whilst he is largely standing on the shoulders of other people, his skill as a communicator is what makes his books so readable. If you haven’t read it, read it. It’s utterly fascinating.

2. The Liar by Stephen Fry
Bought on a whim at the airport, and I’ll admit that I was expecting a lot from this book. Whilst it didn’t disappoint (I really should have taken a dictionary with me as well) it wasn’t as smart or funny as I expected. However that’s not to say that it isn’t witty, irreverent, and wonderfully constructed. A wry look at the world of Eton, Harrow and other such ‘institutions’ it has every buggering thing you expect.

3. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
This book now holds a singular place in my book reading history. For the first time ever, whilst waiting to fly home from Malaga airport, I spotted a man that was also reading this book. Ok, not that big a deal.
And I’ll also be honest and say that I’ve not finished this yet, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it and it is already rating highly on the MMLOGOLAAL scale (“Makes Me Laugh Or Giggle Out Loud And Annoys Louise” it’s a very precise rating system).

Other books taken but not read – a Jeffery Deaver (can’t remember which one), some trashy novel by one of those sexy blog ladies (you know the one), and the manual for my new camera. Ohh and I did start reading Girl With a One Track Mind but, frankly, when you are on holiday with your sister-in-law, there are some things which, well, let’s just say they are best left to the imagination. Although I’m intrigued to see that Louise has it on her bedside cabinet…

And whilst we are on the topic of books, congrats to the lovely Clare Sudbery for completing her second book. I’ll be purchasing a signed copy as soon as is possible, mainly because I really enjoyed her last one!

bookmark_borderHoliday by numbers

12 tapas,
4 bottles of red wine,
2 jogs along the beach,
3 books (The Tipping Point, The Liar, A Short History of Tractors…),
1.5 litres of Southern Comfort,
247 photos taken (50 or so that are any good)
12 litres of Mahou,
2 days of full sun,
4 warm but cloudy days,
1 delicious Argentinian fillet steak,
2 witches (it was Halloween when we arrived),
1 skint knee (not mine),
1 full moon,
1 power cut,
and 632 emails waiting for me this morning.