1000heads in my Moleskine

The Caribbean - Sep 13th

Molekskine entry: September 12th, 2009

Second entry today. We’ve arrived in St Maarten and I am happy. The reason?Β  Yesterday I verbally accepted a role at 1000heads.

This is pretty big.

You see I left SpinVox with the full intention of going freelance for a while. Maybe start my own business etc… And so when I initially approached Mike Davison (MD @ 1000heads), it was about how I could help them out on a one, maybe two day a week basis.

However, upon meeting him – for the first time I might add – I knew it could lead to good things.

My decision making process is often quite intense and I never, ever do anything unless I am 100% certain it is the right thing to do. Yes, I take risks. Everyone does. But they are calculated ones and every possible outcome is noted and accounted for. Suddenly I remember I was chess champion at school. Makes sense.

I digress.

I met Mike after the Wyoming leg of the Lucozade Energy Challenges but before the Alps (challenges two and three respectively). In the time between those trips I had planned to try and work exactly what it was that I wanted to do. This of course didn’t happen and if anything my choices were muddied yet again. I blamed Mike for this. Entirely.

I thought. I worked for a bit and then I thought some more. All the while trying to work out where I should go next.

I met with Mike again.

As before, he and I spent most of the time talking about our mutual visions and beliefs on branding, community, word of mouth and crucially our respective futures. I told him I was still trying to work things out and also that he had made things much harder.

Mike was great. “Go. Enjoy the Alps.” he said. “Speak on your return.”

I went. I came back. I knew.

1000heads was the way ahead.

Strange Days

The following entry is verbatim (unless stated otherwise), from the date given below.
Reading back over it all now, it seems so far away. Glad to finally put it to rest.

Cheers.

Wow.. Brick Lane is buzzin' this afternoon! :D

Moleskine entry: August 23rd, 2009

I haven’t written here for almost a fortnight. Instead I’ve been spending my time writing up my Moleskine notes to date and updating them to my blog – where hopefully you’re reading this entry now (albeit later than originally intended).

Sitting here on Brick Lane, sipping coffee and watching the world go by is allowing me time to reflect. The past few weeks since I came down from the Big Horns have been tumultuous at best and at worse, just plain upsetting. But here we are, just 24hrs before my departure from SpinVox is announced and I am full of glee; the future has never looked so bright and exciting. Opportunity really is everywhere.

Note to self: email Gary Vaynerchuk, say what you like about him. He’s an inspiration to us all.

Gary, if your Google alerts have just fired off and you’re reading this now, thanks for the reply – I know you’ll reply. That’s the kind of guy you are.

—— NON MOLESKINE NOTE ——

I wrote this entry on 23/8/09 and sent the following email when I got home later that day:

Hey Gary, not sure if you remember me, we met at the Blog World Expo last year*.
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Your session was inspiring and when I asked you a question on scalability, you answered it well and then called me out on my girl back home πŸ˜‰
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She and I are still together and we’re very, very happy. I wanted to mail to let you know that tomorrow I’m quitting my job as Head of Digital & Social Media at SpinVox**.
I’ve been there for two years now and I decided not soon after I saw your talk that 2009 would be the year I made the leap to go freelance.
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So yeah, here’s to the great beyond!
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And thank you, Sir. I’m getting ready to KILL IT.
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Cheers,
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James Whatley

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*It was a good day! πŸ˜€
http://www.flickr.com/photos/whatleydude/2872601269/
**Obviously this isn’t public yet! I’m going to blog it tomorrow morning πŸ™‚

Gary always replies. Ten days later, he did just that:

“James, I wish you the best and luck πŸ™‚ and thank you. PS:Β I’ll be in the UK soon, let’s catch up.”

Sadly, I missed Gary when he was over in London last, but I did finally manage to catch up with him when I was in Texas recently. He remembered our brief exchange and asked how things were getting on with both the new job and of course, my sweet love. It’s having that kind of memory for names, faces, people and places that really makes a difference sometimes. Like I said, it’s inspiring.

—— NON MOLESKINE NOTE ENDS ——

So what next?

The original plan was to go freelance. Yes, that’s right… FREELANCE. Freelance what though? That was the burning question and one that I had time to work out with the helpful guidance of my peers and mentors.

But, as we now know, what was originally scripted never came to pass.

August 1st, upon return from the good ol’ US of A, was to be the first day of the rest of my life. I had handed in my notice at the end of June, prepped a blog post and, with Lucozade ahead of me and who knows what after that, I was ready.

But instead, August 1st passed without event. I was still an employee at SV and, even though I had a couple of consultancy gigs lined up, suddenly I had no time. SV respectfully asked that I didn’t leave just yet and in all honesty, as far as I knew, we – as a company – were under attack. I wasn’t about to turn away in their darkest hour.

Turned out it wasn’t even midnight yet and the Sun had only just begun to set. SV’s darkest hour was a long way off indeed.

Come July 27th when I (almost quite literally) rode back into town, a fair few were waiting for me to put things right. And put them right I did. The internet was full of rumour and misinformation. Respected journalists and bloggers had been led a merry tale about the innards of our business and they swallowed every word.

“Silly.” I thought “Real silly. Surely it must be obvious that these are just ex-employees out there trying to bring us down?”

Surely? I set about putting together the most robust of rebuttals I could and based on what I thought was ‘the truth’, I responded

“I was, alas, on holiday last week and all Hell seems to have broken loose and in that, a veritable maelstrom of accusations, mis-apprehensions and sometimes just plain lies have been circulating and permeating around this lovely world we call the internet. I am, to be honest, amazed at this – and would quite like to set the record straight…”

“Hoorah!” they exclaimed, “He’s back!” they cheered, “At last… this whole thing can be put to bed.” and, for a while, it was.

Naively, I had taken on the BBC and came away with a bloody nose. In the quiet moments that followed it slowly dawned on me the magnitude of everything that had happened.

The British Broadcasting Corporation James. Really? You didn’t think they might have actually researched their story somewhat?

But what of SV? My pride and joy?

Quiet. Nothing. Not a dicky bird. The silence was deafening.

We changed tact. A ‘tech demo’ was called for. What started out initially as (and I quote) “We’ll get that Rory chap in and show him the software, he can see we’re telling the damn truth!” slowly descended turned into a big blogger open day.

My trip to Africa [for Lucozade Challenge number three] had been delayed by a few days and by the looks of things, I was going to be around for this. Excellent.

Even before the first meeting, alarm bells were ringing. This really wasn’t going to work. Not this way. The company had effectively deceived their fans, betrayed the community I’d helped to build over the past two years and anyone they invited in was going to be out for blood. It was that simple.

Friday I told them it wouldn’t work.
Friday I told them what they were coming for.
Friday I explained that, if we were really going to do it, then this is how it should be done.

First we should address each and every accusation, tell the assembled guests what the accusations were and then completely blow them out of the water with the facts. Then – and only then – should we get on with any kind of demo.

I walked away. I remember it well. They ignored my pleas and carried on constructing their own death by Powerpoint. Good plan. Invite bloggers and journos all the way out to Marlow to show them a Powerpoint presentation. Yeah, that’ll work.

I went home, sad. Knowing that Monday would be the end.

That was until Sunday. About 22:07 to be precise, my Tweetdeck chirped with the following tweet:

I turned to my flatmate “Um….”

“What is it?”
“Apparently I’ve just quit.”
“What?!”

Well, yes. That was kind of my reaction too. First the tweets started flying in, then the blog posts followed and then, two hours later, an apology from TechCrunch Europe (a career highlight I promise you that).

As it turned out, one particular TC hack had written a pre-emptive story about my leaving and had accidentally hit publish. Thing is, and this is where things get muddy, as I explained earlier, I was all set to leave that summer anyway.

Step back with me for a moment back to Christmas ’08. I’m lying on the floor at my parents’ place, reflecting on the year gone by and contemplating on the year ahead. Things were good, great in fact. I’d just finished five months work on the SpinVox Wishing Well, Mobile Geeks of London was flying quietly and 2009 had the potential to be big.

Working in this industry you often find yourself surrounded by driven, entrepreneurial individuals who, by some personal endeavour, are out in the world to make a difference and hopefully a pretty penny or two along the way. Coming into contact with these types of individuals day in and day out, you’d be unsurprised to learn that eventually, some of it rubs off on you.

And so it was, on Boxing Day morning, I started laughing. Laughing and laughing and laughing. It was then I knew that 2009 would be the year that I left SpinVox and finally broke out on my own.

Fast forward to June 2009 and plans were in place. I’d spent sometime earlier in the year over in L.A. scheming with my good friend Matt Singley about the future and slowly getting my head around the next step forward.

However, the big SV also had change in mind. People started losing their jobs, friends of mine were made redundant and, although my role was safe, the team had changed considerably since I’d joined 18mths previous. My old boss who, due to some restructuring was now no longer my direct line manager (but still a trusted friend), he and I discussed the prospect of going freelance. There was potential for SV to help me through. My new boss was on board as well. It all sounded good enough, the company was happy to support me during the changeover period and didn’t actually want to lose me as an employee/advisor. So whatever they could do to help, they planned to.

While this was going on, I received an email from the guys running the Lucozade Energy Challenge:

As you probably know, I threw myself into that project and well, the rest is history.Β  It’s funny, the very day that SV and I agreed on the terms and conditions of my new job role/transition was the exact same day I landed the Lucozade gig. Like it was meant to be.

The following day I told the guys at SV that instead of aiming for a six month transition, it would be more like six weeks. I had enough holiday to cover off the first two Lucozade challenges and after that, I’d leave and be out on my own. Scheduled departure date; August 1st 2009.

Here I am, twenty-three days later and at last I’m leaving. When I was hired I made it my job to provide an open an honest voice for the company that I’d grown to care for so much. When this was no longer possible, I couldn’t do my job. Leaving the company has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make and it hurts. But I have to admit that the company lied: to its staff, to its customers and to me.

Tomorrow I get to tell the world I’m out of here, the sun is shining and the world is a beautiful place.

Who’s hungry?

Moleskine entry: August 23rd, 2009 – ends

Facing fears

I used to hate PowerPoint.

Hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it, HATE IT.

For years, I refused to take part. If I had to give a talk or a presentation of any kind, I used my words and speaking abilities only.

“I don’t need slides” I used to say…
(whilst slightly looking down upon everyone else that did)

That was until my employer asked me to travel to Germany to speak at the annual Voicedays event in Wiesbaden. A presentation was required and well, I didn’t have one.

Procrastinate, I did much.

That was up until my then boss casually mentioned in passing that the only reason I hadn’t started my deck yet was because I was afraid of it.

“You’re afraid of PowerPoint.”

“Am not.”

“Then do it then.”

“But…”

“If you’re not afraid of it, do it.”

He was right. I was. My fear? Where to start? What if I get it wrong?
I didn’t know what to do.

“Tell a story.” he said, “You like post-its, start with your key points on some post-its. See where it takes you.”

I grabbed some nearby post-its, a black marker and – a few mins later – I came up with this…

Genius? No.
The rantings of a serial killer? Maybe.
Cracking my fear of PowerPoint? Definitely.

I’d found my story, the notes were to be my kickers and this below, was the presentation I eventually gave to a room full of delegates at Voicedays ’08:

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That’s how I cracked my fear of PowerPoint; by telling a story using post-its. They became my kickers. I knew what story I wanted to tell and, by using the stickers as great big reminders/cheat sheets, I ensured I didn’t lose my way.

If you’re struggling with a deck yourself, get offline and start playing with paper & pens and just see where it takes you. You never know, you might start here and end up here.

Good hunting.

Interesting times

Moleskine entry: July 27th, 2009

262 new emails in my personal inbox.
178 in my work inbox.

Something has happened. A look, a search and lo, some rather vexed ex-employees have attempted to ‘blow the lid’ off the operations at SVHQ.

On retrospect, I’ll maybe look back and wonder why the company’s founder and masthead kept quiet throughout. For one normally so passionate, up front and inspirational – all was quiet.

Rather naively it would seem, I took it upon myself to get the fire out, fast.

Exit stage right

Aug 31st will officially be my last day of employment with SpinVox.

As you may be aware, things have been quite tense and anxious of late (at least when I’ve been in the country anyway), and it’s become very clear to me that my predicted shelf-life for this chapter of my career was accurate. It’s time to move on.

The past two years have been, in the main, awesome. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot and have had the good fortune of working with some amazing people on some fantastic projects.

In fairness to SpinVox, I had every intention of leaving around about now so this timetable of events has always been on the cards. Trust me when I say: I will take much of what I’ve learnt in my time in Marlow long into my professional life.

What next? Well, I’m talking to some people about prospective new projects, but right now, I’m just looking forward to being back in London and taking a much needed break.

Although, on that note, if you think there’s a project we should be working together on either now, or in the future, then by all means get in touch.

You can reach me – as always – on james at whatleydude dot com

Thanks for reading.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Here we are, nearing the end of November and, what with yesterday being my birthday – WOO- HOO! – I’m now officially working towards getting Mobile Geeks of London V out of the way next week so I can pack myself off for a well-deserved three day break.

I told you before about all the stuff going on this month right? Well, as a result, I’ve now got SO much stuff to blog… it’s quite insane.
To the point where I may have to go back to posting daily again!

So where to start? Spain. That’s as good a place as any… πŸ˜€

As you may’ve noted from my last post, I recently had to travel to Madrid on some work related gubbins.

The schedule was a bit frantic:

Plane here, interview there, car here, interview over there, train to that place, flight to this place… and so on – but really ‘Non-Stop’ really doesn’t do it justice.

However, between all the frantic flying around I did manage to a fair bit of footage while I was travelling – most of it is just me fooling around and stuff… Y’know, the usual πŸ˜‰

Anyway – here’s the end result –

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/2257205[/vimeo]

(this one’s only a couple of mins long – much shorter than my last effort – feedback noted)

What do you think?

The Man from Auntie

“We interupt this broadcast to bring you an important message…

I mentioned last week (amongst other things) that I would be ‘back once again to some cool BBC-based activities’ that I couldn’t actually talk about. Well, I could but I didn’t want to until it was all done, dusted and in the bag as it were… Well in the bag it is so.. Now I can tell you πŸ™‚

This past weekend I was invited onto BBC Radio Five Live‘s ‘Pods & Blogs‘ programme to talk about all things mobile. Well, not all things mobile, (that’d be silly), but just mobile news-based stuff. Things like the T-Mobile G1 ‘Google Phone’, (which I actually got to have a play with a while back), the Firefox ‘Fennec’ Mobile Browser, The Future of Mobile Conference, Mobile Broadband and the new Sony Ericsson W595.

So – for your listening pleasure – I’ve put a little Ovi file together of the whole show. It’s about 24mins long and I come on around the 18min mark. Hope you like it…

You can

download the show Get Adobe Flash player
from the Pods & Blogs website itself but I think it’s only up for a week, so get it quick! πŸ˜‰

In the meantime, writing this up reminded me of the last time I did some stuff with the Beeb. Which, thinking on it, I don’t think I actually blogged about… Hmm. Maybe I should rectify that then? If it’s not too late..

Yeah ok, so way back in March I was invited onto BBC Radio 4‘s Today Programme on behalf of my employer, SpinVox, to talk about ‘The Business of Blogging’… i.e.: What is it I actually do for SpinVox and why (I think) it is important that brands have a presence in the blogosphere..
Because it is y’know… Important.

Rory Cellan-Jones gave his full write-up not long after the show aired but, in keeping with the Ovi multimedia theme of this post – you can listen to that particular segment of the show down below – with thanks to Neil from iGadget Life for capturing it for me.

As ever, your thoughts and feedback are welcome.

J.