Appsterdam

Had a fantastic few days last week presenting at APIStrat2014 – a conference for the emerging API economy. It’s great to people from across Europe coming together and what really struck me is the sense of openness that permeates the group. Like the open platforms we were there to eulogise, there is a real sense of sharing and lets walk this path together. I came away buoyed by the fact that API understanding – and ultimately adoption – is only going to continue to grow.

You can see my slides below based upon my personal experience of trying to develop an API community in a sector that three years ago was no way ready.

Good to see some familiar faces in town…

Me and my clicker

Err what’s an API? Lessons on driving API adoption in the “not for profit” sector from Jamie Parkins

Stepping on to the ladder – 10 tips for first time home buyers

This is a presentation I’m about to give at work during one of our regular brown bag sessions. If you are thinking of getting on the property ladder then have a read and let me know what you think? I hope there is something in there that helps?



And so it begins…

Slowly going backwards, sideways and upstairs. Rapidly going broke.

Dig dig dig

A Twitter For Business M@sterclass

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Last week I got the chance to visit Guardian Towers – an establishment I’ve long wanted to visit given how much I read the paper – for a Twitter masterclass with Tony Le Mesmer. When I say Tony, I mean David Schneider - a man responsible for many an Alan Partridge line down the years and therefore a thoroughly decent guy in my book.

Whilst I’ve been on twitter some 5 years now, it was a chance to hear how die hard users of the service use it as a tool for growth in respect to business and how to grow an audience of followers. Whilst it strayed away from being a 101 on how to use the tool, it was certainly interesting to hear how Twitter is being used as a tactic for reach.

So what did I take away?

1. Contract & Craft your tweets
With 140 characters to play with you don’t have the space to write an opus. Find ways to truncate your message without losing the impact of delivery. Try writing your tweet in draft, then editing it until it is punchy, to the point and bereft of waffle. Imagine you were being charged for each character you used.

Ensure you address people by their @ handle for maximum impact and use hashtags sparingly but smartly to ride at the very least the crest of a particularly topical wave.

2. Corporates should embrace Twitter in every respect
Yes, we know that most brands now feel they have to have a twitter presence. And that’s great. It’s another form of communication that customers, fans, the aggrieved etc can leverage. What I really took away was that the most successful accounts (where reach, amplification and followers is a yardstick for “success”), are successful when they embrace the spirit of the service. That means everything from being irreverent, funny, informative but mostly human. Not easy when the various company leaders are watching the feed.

There are experts out there now who will run such accounts for companies, which some may scoff at but you can see how employing or at least empowering someone to create a tone of voice for your business on twitter can pay dividends.

 

3. Turn to Twitter in times of trouble
When IKEA launched their new ad campaign featuring some slightly un-canny valley type dolls, some of their customers freaked. Understandably – they look weird. But the bods behind your flatpacked coffee table, played on this to their advantage. Approaching those that had called them out on Twitter they turned that negative into a positive, reinforcing their brand as something a customer would want to remain loyal to.


4. Invest in your profile. It can make or break you

Easy to under estimate, but the twitter profile is your split second chance to convert a reader into a follower. For a medium driven by a character limit of 140 seconds and thousands of tweets per second flying around our devices, your chance to ensnare someone is surprisingly limited. So go back, take a look at your profile and see how you can improve upon it. Some of Schneider’s tips included a focus on brevity, humour and the key themes you will normally be tweeting about and similarly a profile picture that either tells the reader who you are or at the very least the type of personality you present online. Not easy I know – my profile needs radically improving – but an easy one to lazily dimiss. In short treat your bio like you would a piece of SEO copy.

Hackathon – Live Hacking

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0900 – Early bird catching .Net worm

I’m here at Level 39, Canary Wharf for what is going to be a weekend of hacking on behalf of Cancer Research UK and JustGiving. It’s going to be a fun, energetic and potentially challenging weekend and I’ll be adding notes, thoughts and live updates as we go…

0945 – Richard Taylor, Executive Director, Cancer Research UK

Energising the room and setting us up for the weekend by giving an inspirational speech on why Cancer Research UK does what it does.

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1015 – Dr Tom Powles

A doctor at UCL and Queen Mary College, London bringing to life the research and work that funds raised for Cancer Research UK enable. This is ultimately why we’ve rolled out of bed so early today. To empower experts and life changers like Dr Powles.

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1035 – Presentation of the fundraising ideas

The energised bunny that is Daisy from Cancer Research UK is now introducing us to the teams that will pitch the ideas for this weekend’s hack from various Cancer Research UK employees. These are the kernels of an idea that we hope will blossom into something amazing over the weekend and then finally be accepted by Cancer Research’s Innovation Team for further development.

1130 – Brainstorming

We’ve broken into mini teams and are starting to share ideas, early thoughts, concerns and questions.

1200 – Some bloke talking about JustGiving’s APIs

My turn to pitch the JustGiving platform to the room, highlighting the range of Cancer Research projects we have supported to date from Race For Life and Dryathlon to Stand Up For Cancer.  Albeit, mainly technical info, you can see my slides here.

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Back straight Parkins!

 

1230 – Obligatory sticky note time!

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1335 – Refuelling

We’ve even having our thirst quenched on brand, and there are rumours that the Red Bull has arrived.

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Glug, glug, glug…


1545 – So who wants to be team lead?

Daisy has just announced its 45 minutes until teams have to demonstrate their first round of concepts. Cue lots of panicking and rehashing of paper prototypes.

1625 – Coding, coding, coding…

1655 – First round demos

The three teams are running through their first round of pitches. Sharing progress to date, hurdles and asking for suggestions of help or advice. Interesting idea of awarding virtual beers based upon effort to date. Some will be drunk, some will be going thirsty.

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1800 – Beer powered coding

The beer trolley has done the rounds (thanks Ed) and ideas are slowly starting to emerge on screen. It’s not quite The Matrix, but lines of code are starting to be committed. Meanwhile here are 5 nice fundamental tips for running a great hack.

2112 – Coding to the beat

The music is on full blast but the hard work continues. A  few look set to pull an all nighter. The APIs never sleep…

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0915 – The morning after the night before…

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A wise person said…

The energy levels may be a little low but the enthusiasm remains and if anything yesterday’s  ideas are starting to now become a little more tangible. I can see sketches turning into mock ups, and databases being scaffolded.

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1649 – The judges arrive!

No limos, no pomp and ceremony but they are here! And we’re just 45 minutes from the 3 hacks being presented to the room.

1702 – A timely reminder of why we are here

1713 – A survivor’s tale

Davina, a cancer survivor talks to the audience, highlighting the ongoing battle we’re all here to tackle. Her family has been blighted by cancer and it’s truly inspiring to hear of how she has come through this battle thanks to research.

1730 – Pitch time

And at last we reach the final leg. The three teams are now presenting their final work. This is when we enter the scary and exciting realm of the live demo! Good luck to all!

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LifeList #16 – Move House

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Suess

After months of trying to move home, it came down to the most stressful 24 hour period of my life (for so many reasons!) but Dr Seuss is right. Smile – we did it!

Scoring At The Rookery End

Interesting…oh very interesting! Just look at his face!

Banging one in at the home of Watford FC, in front of an almost empty Rookery End stand!

You can watch the full video of our WIFC Yellows v WIFC Reds below, complete with Alan Patridge co-commentary.

Moving Home, Agile Style

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Any Product Manager worth their salt will at least have heard of the principles of Agile development and Kanban. Whilst this is not a post on the merits of either, it is interesting how elements of these disciplines are starting to creep into other parts of my life. As I’ve mentioned before I like organisation. Everything in its place. Everything clearly tagged. It may drive some folk mad, but it’s how I operate and in a sea of increasing information I find it one way to at least stem the tide, if you’ll forgive the ocean-faring pun.

So when two weeks ago our offer on a house in Watford was accepted, my organisational radar started to bleep. Quite loudly. After just one day, emails and then paperwork, started to build up. Forms to fill in, documents to counter sign. You know the drill. Now whilst delegation remains a skill that I’m pretty crap at, I knew that I needed to share the work load and quickly so I turned to an online Kanban board that I have played around in the past – Trello. As a piece of software it visually represents objects (or in this case tasks) moving through a process. And it is proving to be invaluable!

House Move | Trello

So why does Trello fit the bill?

  • It is simple and easy to use. Create a ticket, add some details, drag and drop. Easy peasy.
  • It’s free. When you’re negotiating over thousands of pounds its nice to have something that doesn’t threaten to eat into your finances.
  • It’s mobile. There is an app that notifies you when cards have been updated and it is easy to update. This has proved really valuable when on long drawn out conversations with mortgage lenders and you need to recall some small statistical detail such as your National Insurance number or the email of your estate agent.
  • When you think of a new task that needs to be done it’s easy to add to the board in seconds and then fill in later. No more scraps of paper that you may lose or forget, which could prove costly.
  • I feel in control. Whereas in the past on previous moves I have taken a reactive role, Trello is allowing me to at least enjoy the sense of being in control. In a flash I can see what is required of me or others, I can delegate tasks and I can rank them. It saves time and reduces anxiety.

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Overall it is helping to relieve the stress associated with moving house. A place for everything and everything in it’s place…until moving day.

Climbing Everest One Floor At A Time With My FitBit

For the last two months I’ve been tracking my daily activities with the help of a FitBit. It’s one of these Internet of Things, that is garnering a lot of positive press right now. In short, its like a pedometer that you wear which then tracks your daily steps, sleep, weight loss and a few other more bespoke indicies. It’s also as cute as a button and synchs to your iPhone so you can carry your data around with you.

Fitbit Ultra Wireless Activity Plus Sleep Tracker_ Amazon.co.uk_ Sports & Outdoors

It’s too early to tell if my overall health is improving as a result but I’m certainly a lot more aware now of the cycles my body goes through. Being able to record my sleep patterns has already seen me focus more effort on getting what I would term a good night’s sleep. I’ve also worn it when playing football and it’s interesting to see how much ground one covers (especially when chasing after pacey forwards).

Fitbit Dashboard

One of the metrics it tracks is Floors. Each day it will tell me how many floors I have ascended and descended thanks to the inbuilt altimeter. Add up all those stairs you go up and down each day. It soon stacks up and by gamifying the experience they have already made me more likely to turn down the work lift or the easy option of the Bakerloo Line escalators. I walk them instead.

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Most days I seem to do the equivalent of around 30 floors (they count a floor as a 10 foot rise or fall) so I thought why not turn this into an even steeper challenge – Climb Everest!

The maths is simple to work out. Mount Everest is recored as being 29,029 feet high. That’s therefore the equivalent of 2,903 floors to climb or descend. At an average of 30 a day, that should be achieved in 97 days. So here’s my personal challenge. Starting February 1st I will attempt to climb the equivalent of Everest by 30th April, 2013.

Unpicking The Thin White Duke

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Ok so the results are in and David Bowie, aka The Thin White Duke, aka Ziggy Stardust, aka David Jones, aka That Bloke From Labyrinth won out with 21% of the vote.

So from starting February 1st I plan to listen to the following albums.

I reckon that takes me from Croydon, onto America and then finally east to Berlin – which cover what most critics seem to suggest were his best years. I’ll report back what I think.