When unfriending is the friendly thing to do

I’m not a great social media junkie; I think I have a Tumblr account, somewhere.  I don’t have an Instagram account or use Reddit, and whilst Blackberry Messenger is (apparently) installed and available on my Blackberry I don’t have anyone to talk to on it except charming young ladies who seem to be short of friends and clothes.

I DO, however, use Facebook extensively, and to a lesser degree Twitter.

The rules of the game for me is that Twitter is for following companies, folks I do business with, magazines, websites, etc. Anyone or anything that I’m interested in but wouldn’t necessarily want to discuss my favorite films, the weird dream I had last night, politics or religion. I.e. – contacts, colleagues and comrades.

Now Facebook is rather different – that’s family and friends and some friends of friends – on the whole people that I care about in terms of their day to day lives – their ups, downs, successes and failures.  Folks who at some level or another I like or love, and who I’d happily spend time with in the pub or around the dinner table. Facebook is also where I am who I am – the unadulterated me. You’ll get me on bad days, good days, I’ll talk about cats, blog posts, state of the garden, food, my faith, and occasionally my politics. I’ll bitch about work, go ga-ga over a new TV show, share cat videos and generally project an online presence that, for better or worse, is similar to what folks get from me on a daily basis.

Facebook is, for me, the world of and according to, Joe.

Every now and again I do Facebook Purges.  These may sound quite Stalinist, and I guess at one level they are. I’m getting rid of folks who no longer belong in the filtered society of my Facebook friends list.  I’ve read all the articles about creating closed worlds of people that you agree with, and the problems that that can cause when interacting with wider society.

And I’m not bothered. The different view points I get from Twitter or trips to discussion boards.

Facebook is where I don’t mind my views being challenged, but I expect the challenging to be in a respectful way.  Facebook is my online living room; I don’t mind intense discussions around the dinner table at home; I would object if someone came in and started ranting at me for my politics or religious views.  In fact, I’d not expect such people to come and visit me at all if that was all they were going to do….they’d come over rather like the bods on the High Street with the placards proclaiming that the Second Coming is nigh and that Socialist Worker is the answer to everything.

Being a God-bothering man means that I will and I expect to get my faith questioned; I don’t proselytise too much on Facebook, and I think that most folks I know respect my views (though they may disagree with my belief in sky-pixies).  My political views are quite a hotch-potch, though, and this has caused increasing amounts of friction, especially with regard to Brexit.

The automatic response of some folks that everyone who voted to leave the EU was a racist bigot was quite hurtful – I’m a leaver and can walk and breathe at the same time, don’t drag my knuckles, and don’t believe that ‘they should all go home’.  I believe in giving home to genuine refugees. I also believe that we should have some degree of control of borders, and that international trade deals are not always good. And that building in a transnational super state in Europe may not be the best way to world peace.

Some folks I know have debated these issues with me and we’ve agreed to disagree. I may have moved closer to them, they may have moved closer to me. Others just called me names and I’m afraid I unfriended them.

And that was probably the kindest thing to do; unfriend on Facebook, keep on Twitter, keep contact to some degree in the ‘real world’ if necessary but avoid that risk of either person saying something that they will regret online in the heat of the moment.

At the moment another purge is in the offing; there are some folks who I rarely seem to engage with on Facebook and all I see from them are shared statements – often politics of one sort or another – or anti-faith posts of varying types.  Nothing ‘original’, lots of viral stuff.  It feels like having the folks with the ‘Jesus is nigh’ and ‘Socialist Worker’ placards simply turning up at your house and standing in the living room, waving the placards and shouting slogans.

No thanks.

Come and be my friend when you have something more to offer me than slogans.


Today you, tomorrow me

The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is feed the cats, then make tea, then sit and allow some of my higher brain functions to come online, usually whilst browsing Facebook.  There then comes a point where abstract thought is possible and then I like to write.

The nice thing about the Facebook browse is that sometimes it gives me the idea for the day’s blog post.  That was the case today – I came across the phrase “Today you, tomorrow me” in a set of stories about people being given help by total strangers with nothing being wanted or expected – or even accepted – in return.

The phrase apparently comes from the Spanish; an entry on an ‘urban dictionary’ website tells us:

From the Spanish “hoy por tí, mañana por yo”, it is used to “justify”acts of kindness toward strangers.  For example:

“Thanks for helping me with my flat tire. Please accept this $50 as a token of my gratitude. ”
“No need. Today you, tomorrow me”

I guess it’s a more graceful response than my usual ‘Fuggedaboutit’!

I had to sit and think for a few minutes about it. Today you – today, you are the one needing help. Tomorrow me – tomorrow I may be the one needing help.  It’s ‘Pay it forward’ – I guess that it’s easy for us to think of such a gesture of kindness as a form of enlightened self interest, or spiritual insurance of some sort.  If that works for you, then go for it – help someone out because you never know when you yourself will need help.

As a Christian, I look at it slightly differently; for me, as a recipient of that help, I’m aware that I’ve done NOTHING to warrant it from the people giving it, except share the planet. That’s how we also look upon the love of God – we’ve done nothing to warrant it, but we get it.  And on giving help out, a Christian isn’t being helpful to get in to God’s good-books, but because the grace of God is working through them to  do good works.

However, you view it – it’s an excellent philosophy to live by.  I’ve benefited from the kindness of strangers over the years, and I hope that I have managed to give something back to other strangers.

I’ve also experienced incredible kindness from people who I do know – albeit slightly – when other people who I might have expected to offer help to me in difficult times have not been able or willing to do so.

Apart from the actual ‘getting me out of the mire’ gratitude I’m also grateful to all those who’ve helped me  in this way because they have added to my faith in human nature. They’ve also helped me to not be judgmental, and to remember the times when I was possibly not as helpful as I could have been.

Take a look at how you might be able to ‘pay something forward’ in your lives. You don’t have to have spare money, or even masses of time available. And it needn’t be a big thing. We have no idea how important the relatively trivial events of life may prove to be in the great scheme of things.

Today you, tomorrow me….


Dandelion Breaks and how to avoid them

I have always been a great fan of Berke Breathed’s cartoon strip ‘Bloom County’. For those of you whose life is as yet incomplete, lacking reporting from the strange world of Bloom County, I refer you to https://www.facebook.com/berkeleybreathed/ where the current ongoing daily adventures of the characters can be found.

Originally Bloom County stopped being published in 1989 or thereabouts, and was reactivated in 2015, and details the adventures of, amongst other characters, a penguin called Opus, a dodgy, sleazy lawyer called Steve and a monster-packed anxiety closet.

But for me, the most important thing to come from Bloom County was the concept of the ‘Dandelion Break’.  When life became too intense for Opus, he would decamp to the top of a local ‘grassy knoll’ and sit among the dandelions for a while until he gained his composure.  Here’s the strip in which I first saw the concept used…


I doubt a month goes by without me resorting to a virtual dandelion break of some sort.  In fact, with my inability at gardening I can, if needed, indulge in a real life dandelion break for several months of the year by simply going in to my back garden.

What’s lovely about this particular script is that whilst the details in that first panel have changed, the course of Opus to resolve the anxiety is still valid today…turn off the tech.  For those of us old enough to have been around the first time, the list of news stories being broadcast is a litany of anxiety from the 1980s – the old Soviet Union, teh Lebanon, Central America, Northern Ireland, the Falklands – the great Cold War, Post-Imperial, Contra-Irangate hotch-potch of issues that used to give the rolling TV news consuming folks in the world ulcers.

Today it’s Trump, ISIS, the Middle East, the Baltic region, Brexit, climate change, fascism, xenophobia, homophobia…you get the picture.  But today we’re equally – if not more – likely to get our drip-feed of anxiety inducing horror through our social media feed as we are through Sky News or CNN. We tool rolling news and rolled it up and put it in our pocket on our phones.

I was again reminded of this in recent months when I’ve felt the urge for the Dandelion Break growing – not particularly in me, but in lots of people around me and people I know through social media. I recently saw a comment on my Facebook feed to the effect that the person concerned was incredibly depressed to the point of crippling anxiety by the state of the world, and another comment from a gentleman being interviewed:

“When I look to the past I get depressed, when I look to the future I get scared.”

I think I’ll be returning to that particular story on another occasion.

There is certainly enough to make so many people take dandelion breaks that the whole of Bloom County’s grassy knolls would be full of anxiety crippled folks sitting and meditating on the beauty of nature. Everyone has to find their own version of the Dandelion Break to save their sanity…or do we?

Whilst loving the concept, I’ve managed to cut down my need for Dandelion Breaks caused by the external events in the world by simply not immersing myself in the day to day stream of ‘world news’ stories that buffet us.

I turn off the tech.

I’ve chosen instead to put myself on a strict diet of ‘catch the headlines if they’re passing by’ and focus on things closer to home – family, cats, friends, work, church. I strengthen my relationships with people around me; I look after my own community and my job and my church. I guard my soul, and hopefully support the souls of others.

As I said on Facebook the other day:

“I catch the headlines online and then that’s it. If WW3 breaks out I’ll know when I see a big flash of light and hear the local ‘Comic Book Guy’ say ‘I have wasted my life.’

Being aware of the weight and tumult of the world when we’re unable to prevent it is a form of torture; I prefer to work locally and try to make things better that I can make better.”

We all have circles of action – the world around us in which our doing or not doing something has immediate and lasting action.  The part of our lives where we can do something to reduce our anxieties in a practical manner.  Then we have circles of influence – we might argue a point, make a decision and communicate and delegate action to be done – the part of the world where we don’t necessarily have that direct impact on the world but we stand a fair to middling chance of influencing it.  Then we have the circle of concern – stuff ‘out there’ that we can’t realistically impact.

Right now, I’m pulling back in to my circle of action. My circles of influence and concern can, for the moment, go screw themselves.  I am not going to cripple myself and by extension my family, cats, friends, work and spiritual life by gaining sleepless night worrying myself stupid about issues I cannot influence.

I know that people will accuse me of being isolationist, uncaring, selfish – please fill in your own words here.  But I can do nothing for the world if I’m broken; and the constant, daily – no, hourly – forcing of the issues of the world over which we have so little influence in our day to day actions simply kills us.

One day, I’ll be strong enough to grow my circle of action further in to my circle of influence – to extend the area around my life where I can do things that have a direct impact on reducing my anxieties.  Until then I intend to push my existential anxieties in the my equivalent of the Bloom County anxiety closet, and use my energy on DOING stuff that benefits me and those around me – family, friends, community – rather than getting in to the depths of ‘The world sucks, it’s all pointless.’

I like having the fallback of a Dandelion Break if needed, but it will be down to earth, practical worries that sends me there.





To Peace….

…and before everyone leaps up, glasses and coffee mugs in hands, and shouts ‘To Peace’ back to me, I’m not offering a toast here! I’m thinking that it’s about time we made ‘peace’ a verb.

Henri Nouwens had this to say :

“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love?’ These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will be many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.”

I read this as saying that all those things – smiles, healing, letting go of anger and resentment, forgiving and loving are all wrapped up in some way in that first phrase ‘Did I offer peace today’.

We often define peace in terms of the absence of other things. Peace is what we have when we don’t have war or conflict; it’s when there is no noise or tumult, when there is nothing to disturb us.  Sure, we have ‘peace conferences’ designed to create peace, but even these are really about resolving the issues that lead to conflict.

The word ‘Shalom’ – a Jewish word – is often thought to mean peace, but actually has a deeper and richer meaning.  According to Strong’s Biblical concordance,

“Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.”

Some of that fits with peace, but there’s an awful lot there besides!

When Jewish people wish each other ‘Shalom’ they are packing an awful lot of good stuff in to that single word.  And it’s a word defined in things that are present, as well as things that are absent.

I think we need to start bringing some Shalom in to our own lives and the lives of people around us. We need to start ‘peacing’ – doing peace in our day to day lives.

For me, ‘peacing’ would be about the things from Nouwen’s quote above and the definition of Shalom. When we ‘peace’ we would be looking to bring love, healing, smiles and forgiveness.  We’d be looking to carry out actions or say words that bring about a sense of wholeness and completeness, welfare and safety.  We’d be wanting a sense of harmony and the absence of agitation or discord or conflict in relationships. And we’d be looking to do all we can to bring about a sense of peace and restfulness in a person’s life and relationships.

As a Christian, the start of the Holy Communion part of a service is that we all give one another ‘a sign of peace’, with words along the line of ‘Peace be with you’.

In Islam, the greeting “As-Salam-u-Alaikum” is used – (Peace be unto you”.  This is pronounced as “us-saa-laam-muu-ah-lay-kum”, if you ever want to use it.

The world seems to get nastier and more spiteful and small minded with each passing day; perhaps we all need to start peacing – and if we can’t do it with words (after all, it might seem a bit formal to say ‘Peace be with you’ to the mail man) maybe we need to start doing it with actions.

When we meet people, speak with people, pass people by – carry in our hearts and minds an attitude of peace and shalom.  Bear in mind whether we can give them any of the gifts listed above. And try to peace everyday.

After all, practice makes perfect, which is itself one of those traits of Shalom.


The Birth of a Brand

As some of you may know, I’m on the Board of the Hillsborough Forum, a group that works for the economic regeneration of the Hillsborough area of Sheffield, and also coordinates other activities in that area, such as ‘Yorkshire in Bloom’ and other community activities, such as Community Gardening.  I’m very proud of my involvement with HF – and certainly enjoy working with some wonderful people such as Wendy Wells.

Tonight we had an event to launch our ‘Made in Hillsborough’ brand – an attempt to provide a unique and easily identifiable brand for companies and businesses based in the area.  the brand was designed by local, highly skilled, Graphic Designer Emma Metcalfe and manages to encapsulate all the major aspects of Hillsborough – green spaces, soccer, the Barracks, the range of produce available in the area.  It’s so ‘hot off the press’ that the first time I saw the ‘full version’ of the logo was at this presentation, and it’s a smasher. 

It’s partially visible in the background of the above photograph and on the right you can see a larger version of the logo in all it’s glory!  The launch took place in the Hillsborough Hotel, who provided us with excellent surroundings, a nice buffet and a very nice special brew for the occasion from their in-house Crown Brewery – Hillsborough Pale Ale.  Of which a fair amount was quaffed by all, including me.

There was an excellent set of introductory talks from the Rt. Hon. David Blunkett MP, local author and historian Ron Clayton (Ron – if you’re reading this send me your web site address!!)  and Hillsborough Forum’s very own ‘member of the Queen’s Gang’, Wendy Wells MBE.  And then it was down to networking, brewery visiting, eating and drinking!  And a fine evening was had by all, with your correspondent finally strolling home through the drizzle at 11pm!

We had excellent support from many Hillsborough businesses for raffle prizes and give-aways on the night including Picky Miss Sock Monsters, Imogen’s Imagintion (milinery / hats), Simpkin’s Sweets, Teddy Bear Maker and Funks Butchers.  On a personal level it was great to see old friends again, and make contact with Russell Cavanagh who runs NW Sheffield News Online.  My major social gaffe of the evening was not immediately recognising the very friendly folks from the Java Lounge coffee shop in Hillsborough – given the amount of coffee and cheesey crumpets they’ve served me in recent months that was a wee bit embarrassing! 

But – thanks to all!!  Follow @Hills_Forum on Twitter, and if you want to help plug the brand, use the #MadeInHillsborough hashtag!

A 21 hour working week? Earth calling nef….

I don’t like to admit it in public, but I kind of like my work.  I’m self-employed, in IT.  I probably do around 35 hours a week ‘client facing’ work and probably about 10 hours a week grubbing up new work, invoicing, etc.  I’ll work longer hours when needs be, and slack when I can.  I don’t regard work as the be all and end all of my life – far from it.  But I have found that when I don’t work, bad things happen, usually presaged by letters from the people who hold my mortgage, my bank manger, the utilities companies, etc.  Because when I don’t work, the money doesn’t appear.

I have worked with people from the New Economics Foundation (nef) and have quite a bit of time for them, but this latest suggestion blows my mind, I’m afraid.  They suggest a working week of 21 hours.  Very early on in this piece they do admit that people would have a reduced income.  Yes, typically by about 40 to 50%, assuming a straight reduction.

Don’t get me wrong – I agree with this comment made by the report’s author, Anna Coote:

“So many of us live to work, work to earn, and earn to consume, and our consumption habits are squandering the earth’s natural resources.

“Spending less time in paid work could help us to break this pattern. We’d have more time to be better parents, better citizens, better carers and better neighbours.

“We could even become better employees – less stressed, more in control, happier in our jobs and more productive.

“It is time to break the power of the old industrial clock, take back our lives and work for a sustainable future.”

But I’m afraid that this approach is typical of the new left – legislate and push the impact of policy on to the people.  Changes in people’s habits come from the people themselves.  I consume less than I used to, spend more time being a better citizen, and am more productive in my working life not because I work less hours but because I manage the time I do spend working more effectively.  The idea of breaking the old industrial clock is another piece of left wing thinking.  Guys, don’t know how to tell you this, but the old industrial clock has already stopped and some of the biggest issues around working conditions today are not hours based but revolve around:

  1. When and where the hours are worked  employers are inflexible, often insisting on the 9 to 5 regime sitting at a desk when it’s not actually necessary to get the job done.
  2. The nature of the job – many job types are fleeing the UK leaving us with skilled technical service work, the professions, retail, leisure and service sector.  Most of these jobs rely on people being there to deliver.  A 21 hour working week means that to cover time when people will want to do things, 2 people will need to be employed where one was before. 
  3. The fact that the cost of living has greatly increased – people are working the hours they work because they need to to keep a roof over their heads.

I’m not at all impressed by this report.  The report acknowledges a massive cultural shift – indeed it will be, making a MORE stressed workforce as people start wondering where the money to pay their bills is going to come from.  More people will have to be in the workforce; whilst we have 2 million unemployed, I doubt that that would cover the requirements of halving the working week for most people.  And the idea that everyone will join hands and walk happily in to tomorrow’s rainbow future of good parenting, good charitable works and a new worker’s paradise is rubbish.  Good parents are good parents because they want to be, irrespective of the hours they work.  People doing good works in the community – again, many of these do this not because they have time in abundance but because they make effective use of what time they have.

People are not necessarily going to go and do worthy things in their communities, no matter what we may wish to believe.  As a pragmatist, I look around me and see that what most people want to do with their time off is chill out, relax, consume and make full use of the recreation industries.  I doubt taht this would change if they were given more time to do it in.

Give people a 4 day weekend and I’m not sure that people will actually thank you for it.  Especially when the bills come in.  But Governments will love it – they get to reduce the unemployment figures at one fell stroke.  And it puts all of our finances on that much more of a knife edge – all the better to keep us in line.

John Healey – Caring, sharing New Labour – repossessions can be good!

Unsurprisingly, repossessions are at a 14 year high.  It would have been unthinkable for the recession to have had any other impact on householder finances, as is indicated by this report on the BBC website today.  So it was pretty useful for John Healey, the current housing minister, to be interviewed today on Radio 5.  I say ‘current’ housing minister because it’s quite possible that by the time you read this he will have either been fired or done the honourable thing and quit.

Basically, he’s reportedly said that “It can be the best thing for some people to be repossessed.”  Yup, that’s right – check out Guido Fawkes here.   Now, just in case you’re feeling confused that a member of the party that is purportedly ‘for the people’ is advocating that being evicted is acceptable for some, I will remind you which party he belongs to.  New Labour.  That’s right.  Not the Tories, but New Labour. 

Now, my initial thoughts were that he’d basically put his foot firmly in his mouth and what he’d really intended to say was ‘It’s never the best thing for people to be repossessed.’   That was a reasonable expectation of what to be expecting from a ‘socialist’, after all…but I did a Google search and…oh dear.

Unfortunately, this sort of caring approach to the property owning democracy is nothing new for Healey.  Take a look at his coments from last year where he lauded a fall in home ownership.  So it would appear to be more policy than slip of the tongue.  Which makes you wonder what the housing policy of this Government really is. 

  1. Housing policy is to push people out of owning their own houses back in to state or local authority owned housing, redolent of East Germany in the 1970s?
  2. Housing Policy is to remind anyone who owns a house that they cannot necessarily expect any help if they are threatened with repossession?
  3. Housing Policy is partially dictated by the banks who want to get some easy money back by repossessing a few more people.
  4. Housing Policy – like other policies – is to made so ludicrous that New Labour cannot possibly be re-elected and they’ll escape the consequences of their totally fucked-up handling of the economy.

You pays your money, and you takes your choice.

But if you’re one of his constituents – sack ‘im in May.  You know it makes sense.

Sheffield Sevenstones – Public funding for private gain?

What a surprise – Sheffield City Council and Yorkshire Forward are planning to  chip in £20 millions towards helping kick start the stalled £600 million ‘Sevenstone’ retail quarter in Sheffield City Centre.  Don’t get me wrong – this area of the city centre could do with some redevelopment.  Whether this project is right and whether it was timely is another matter and not one for discussion here, but throwing public funds in to the development at this time is in my opinion not a good move.

The developer, Hammersons, claim they can’t support it at this time.  Now, I acknowledge that it’s been a hard time for property developers (mind you, the good times were brilliant for you guys, so don’t bitch and whine too much) but gentlemen, planning ahead and possibly losing money is all part of the game of free-market capitalism.  Whether the improvement to Sheffield really needed a £600 million project that would further draw shoppers away from the existing suburban shopping areas like Ecclesall Road, etc. is another question.  After all, Meadowhall showed the impact of an out of town shopping centre on city centre shops, so I guess this development will have the same effect on shopping areas outside the city centre, but what ho.

Hammersons develop these places to make money from.  Look at their portfolio – some massive developments – places like Brent Cross, the Birmingham Bullring, prestige developments in Europe.  All impacted by the recession, but that’s the game. 

It appears that the developers of Sevenstones have concluded that a £20 millions input from public funds will kick start the compulsory purchase process that will in turn (somehow) facilitate further development.  Hold on, if the £20 millions for CP can’t be found without going to the public purse, where the Devil is the remaining £580 million going to come from?  I’m not a financial whizz kid, and would truly welcome someone coming to me and saying ‘This is why, it’s OK, there’s a logical reason…’

So…first of all, any property developers reading this….please tell me how this works.

Now, here’s where I put my tinfoil hat on and enter conspiracy theory territory.  At the moment, that part of Sheffield is half demolished, half still (barely) operational.  But as it stands it’s possible that the Council and property developers could, for example, put a much smaller amount of money in to the area and build a much less grand and less joined up development but that would be affordable in the current financial situation and re-activate retail activity in that area.  This might well have to happen in 6 months time when existing CP orders run out and issues about land acquisition for the project can potentially become major stumbling blocks.   Now…if the CP orders are all followed through and the land acquired, and existing properties demolished, it becomes much easier for the Council to turn around in a year’s time and say ‘Ooopps…we need MORE money, but we must rebuild this area, so…..’

Hammersons have put £60 millions in so far.  The Council will be borrowing £10 millions of the £20 millions required to carry the project on. 

Sheffield has some thriving out of town shopping areas despite the best efforts of current and previous Council administrations.  I am proud to be associated with Hillsborough, and often visit places like Darnall on business.  A fraction of the money being spent here could make a massive difference to local, community-based retail and other economic activity in this city.  The shops that will be in the new development are not going to be small stores with local connections; they will be the usual suspects in terms of High Street homogenisation.

The public sector is once more bailing out large private sector concerns because ‘not to do so would be disatrous’.  Sounds familiar?  Think banks.  Same argument, and I think we all know that the beneficiaries are unlikely to be the people of this city.

The Social Media Numbers Game

twitter-logoI’m old enough to have used an address book and still have a Rolodex on the phone table.  When I actually sit down and think about the people with whom I have reasonably regular ‘quality’ contact in a 3 month period, either electronically or face to face, it probably amounts to no more than a hundred or so.  I guess it’s safe to say that in the world of networking I’m a ‘quality over quantity’ sort of fellow.  I’ve never been a great collector of large numbers of business cards or people details – collections are fine for stamps, coins and locomotive numbers but are kind of creepy for people. 🙂

Back in the late 1990s / early 2000s I used a networking site called Ecademy – I stopped after a while because it seemed that people were making contact with you purely from a sales oriented viewpoint.  Allow me to explain – if I’m interested in AI, and someone brings something to my attention that’s even vaguely related to the field – that’s cracking!  That’s exactly what I’m there for – and hopefully I’ll be able to reciprocate.  On the other hand, if someone steams in with a ‘Hi, I’m Fred, I’m in marketing, blah, blah, blah’ I get the feeling I’m receiving a boilerplate message which is likely to end up as a boiler room selling attempt.  The site seemed to encourage numbers of contacts over quality – and that’s one of the reasons why I eventually jacked it in.

I’ve noticed in recent days that I’m being followed by people who are following thousands of others.  And the odd thing is most of them appear to be selling something that is as relevant to me as a comb to Sir Patrick Stewart.  The ‘Bio’ of one such follower (soon to be ex-follower in my daily purge) – “A Business Dedicated to providing free online MLM training videos, articles, books and webinars”.  If I received an email like this I’d call it spam – pure and simple.  I know that Twitter has policies around spam, but my point is that most folks following 20,000 people seem to be in the MLM, ‘sales and marketing’, ‘social media consultancy’ sort of areas.  They’re cold calling – they sure ain’t networking.

Bottom line – there is NO WAY, realistically, that the content generated by the 20,000 people these bods follow is ever registering in any meaningful manner with these people – I assume it’s simply being harvested electronically and searched for keywords that might suggest a sales lead. 

Joe’s categorisation of Twitter users…

  1. Vast number of followers, smallish number of followed – publisher / celeb.
  2. Vast number of followers, vast number of followed – probably sales / mass marketing
  3. Smallish followers, large number of followed – probably spammer
  4. Smallish followers / smallish followed – personal / business networking

OK – it’s not a brilliant classification but it works for me.  Just watch out if you’re in category 2 or 3 ‘cos I’m binning you!

 Whilst I was drafting this yesterday, I came across this piece on the same topic:  http://juliorvarela.wordpress.com/2009/12/28/when-twitter-numbers-are-meaningless/

Don’t get too hung up on your numbers on Twitter.  If you’re following lots of people, just check WHY.  Do they add value to your day?  Amuse / entertain you?  Educate you?  Guide or enlighten you?  If not, ditch ’em.  And those following you – just take a look at their numbers and think about what I’ve said.

And I hope you don’t chuck me off your lists. 🙂

In the long run….

450px-Clock_of_the_Long_Now…we’re all dead, so goes the old joke.

I’ve found myself thinking of ‘the long run’ increasingly often over the last year, and I’m not sure why.  I think partially it’s due to having children around on a reasonably regular basis for the first time; I’ve found myself thinking more of the world that they will grow up in to, and how the activities of the human race in my lifetime will have influenced that world – for better or worse.  some of you may recognise the image on the left – it’s a picture of a model of the ‘Clock of the Long Now’ – a timepiece designed to keep reasonably accurate time for 10,000 years.  I like the idea of thinking that far ahead – whether it’s realistic or not is the question, I guess.

Years ago I remember reading that when the ‘big’ cathedrals were built – places like Notre Dame in Paris, or theBasilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence – it was taken as a given that some of the people who started building the place would not live long enough to see it completed.  The Basilica, for example, took 170 years from inception to completion.  Imagine – a life expectancy of maybe 40 was pretty good going for those days, so it would be possible for 4 or 5 generations of a  family to work on the building, most of whom knew that they were committing their skills and lifetime to something they would never see completed.  And this in a time when the Black death was all over Europe.  I imagine that part of what drove people was faith; a belief that what happened in your life wasn’t the end of things, but just the beginning, and that building such edifices would help ensure your soul would be well received in Paradise!

Gardens are the same – many formal gardens literally take 100 years to mature to the vision that the garden designer envisaged.  And the owner of the land on which the garden was being built and who was paying for the garden would know that he was planning for the future, and leaving behind (and paying for) a legacy that he would never truly enjoy.  There’s a rather nice comment about the wisdom of a society that plants trees for the future in this blog entry from November.

It’s the combination of altruism and faith in the future that fascinates me; it is a combination of values that I think is lacking today.  We seem to have ended up in a culture of short-termism.  Which is incredibly ironic when we live so much longer than did our ancestors; maybe we’re just not so sure about our future prospects, or maybe it’s our Governments thinking in 4 year chunks.  But we don’t seem to have the faith to build for the future anymore.  I don’t really see anything being built that will first of all survive more than a century or so, and certainly nothing of the scale and majesty of your Duomos, Notre Dames or Towers of London. 

It’s a great irony that we might leave so little that survives more than a few centuries that our descendants of a thousand years hence (should we leave any behind) might regard the times we’re now living in in the same way that we regard the so-called ‘Dark Ages’.