the pressure of immediacy

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Mobile phone and the Japanese 2

— Image via cocoarmani

First, I want you to apply the following quote from this Fjord iPad post to all modern smart phones –

It may seem like a small change, but a generation which has instant access, quite literally, at its fingertips, will be a quite different generation to that which did not. We used to consider that someone was erudite if they had spent a number of years accumulating knowledge and expertise which they could deploy at the precise moment which it was required.
Given that this information is all now on hand, people will come to rely more on an ability to recall data from the system. Ability to focus, and knowledge of the best places to look, will become the most important facets to consider. These are fundamental changes.

The key word/sentence I’m going to zero in on this time is ‘the ability to focus‘.

We’re losing it. 

Second, I want you to think of that thing where you’re talking at the pub and someone says: ‘Oh did you see that thing today? Oh my God it was soooo funny! You haven’t seen it? No, I’ll pull it up.’

Not only is it massively anti-social (we’ll come back to that), but also – in the time that it takes you to reach for your phone and start googling for ‘IKEA Monkey’ or whatever, the conversation has undoubtedly moved on and no one is actually that interested come sharing time. Forget it. Move on. Leave it.

It doesn’t matter.

These two notes are what, to my mind at least, drive the ill-perceived pressure of immediacy. As in, just because we can look up just about anything on the glass screens in our pockets doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. The pressure to know something immediately is balderdash. It is fallacy, claptrap, and poppycock. It is a make-believe blanket of self-made suffocation that we have placed upon our own social and professional situations that really has no need to exist at all.

So what do we do? 

  1. At dinner, play the phone stacking game. I have and it works.
  2. At work, create a digital hat stand for meeting rooms.
  3. At your desk, invest in an NFC-enabled on/off mat for your phone.
  4. At the pub, focus on your friends.
  5. At home, unplug your WiFi; break habits.


Two quotes for you –

‘If we learn to disconnect in order to connect with ourselves, the impact will be amazing’
– Arianna Huffington

‘I wish I’d spent more time on the internet’
– Nobody on their deathbed, ever.


Stop. Think. Breathe.

Stay in the moment.

The pressure of immediacy does not exist. 


Back to Africa

Moleskine entry: August 5th, 2009

Lucozade Energy Challenge number three begins. It’s about 9pm at the time of writing, the plane is taxiing to the runway and we’re very nearly on our way.

The task this time round is white water rafting on the Zambezi river. First stop: Cape Town, South Africa. From there, onwards to Livingstone, in Zambia. After that? God knows.

Wherever we end up, I can not wait.

The challenge is different in oh so may ways from those that have gone before. First of all, this is the first challenge that we’ve had any official Lucozade presence with us. Sam and I both report into our respective agencies who, in turn, report into Lucozade/GSK. Their main contact there? A guy named Nick.

I first met Nick during the final stage of my interview process for the gig that I’m writing to you from now. An Aussie and all round nice chap, he’s a welcome addition to the team.

Speaking of ‘the team’ I’ve already mentioned Sam and I are back on the case, this time however we’ve been joined by four freshl graduates from Scotland. Kenny, James, Wullie and Stuart. All good lads and all, it would seem, on the trip of a lifetime. Our first video is already in the can and I think after a small amount of coaxing, they’ll be talking and playing up to the camera in no time at all. After all, the more personality and energy these guys have, the easier my job gets.


We’re flying over Brighton now, crossing the English Channel. At last my mind has found peace. I mentioned that this trip was different; we’ve had a longer gap between this and the the last. Ten days in fact.

Quite possibly the longest ten days of my professional life.


The Science of Sleep

This post is inspired by conversations that end with Zzzs

A long time ago, I used to suffer from really, really bad insomnia.
Really bad.

Night after night I would lay awake, staring at the ceiling, waiting for the sandman to take me and yet night after night I’d be lucky if I scraped two maybe three hours at best.
Not good.

A few days of this is enough to drive anyone crazy, but this went on for months.

Jack‘ nailed it best when he said:

With insomnia, nothing’s real.
Everything is far away.
Everything is a copy, of a copy, of a copy.

My then partner, who no doubt was being kept awake by my incessant restlessness herself, was fantastically supportive and eventually, when it finally started to have a knock-on effect on my working life, she insisted that we sorted this out as – if my work was going wrong, then the next thing after that would no doubt be our relationship…


First thing first – We took the TV out of the bedroom.

I know this seems like a no-brainer, but at that time I didn’t even think about it. I could quite happily sit on the bed, watching TV, (back in the days when I actually watched TV anyway), for ages… It had a built-in video player so on the nights when the insomnia was really bad I’d just stick some Blackadder on or something. Yeah, ‘cos that helped.

After that – Lavender

Lavender spray on my pillows. Lavender bubble bath before bedtime…
Just lots and lots of lavender.

Next – Kalms… or more specifically, Valerian

We found the latter while doing research into natural treatments for sleep troubles etc… I steadfastly refuse to take any form of sleeping tablets and herbal remedies are about as far as I’ll go. The only thing that we could find in the UK that had Valerian in it were these tablets called Kalms. Two of those before bed every night to ‘relieve worry, irritability and stress’ and you’re sorted. Well I say ‘sorted’, I’m not entirely sure if they helped that much, but everything was so gradual.

Finally, and this is one of the biggest things for me by far – Associations.

So what does that mean?

Well, I’ve already mentioned that I took the TV out of the bedroom to aid in my search for slumber. That helped a lot. Not only with not keeping me awake via mere distraction but what it also did was stop me from just sitting on the bed… i.e.: Sitting and not SLEEPING.

Let me explain, y’see – when you allow this to happen, your brain kinda gets used to your bed being just another chair, or a rather in this instance; a big flat sofa, (one for sitting on, not for sleeping).

Once I’d realised this I point-blankly refused to go to bed unless I was so so so so so so SO tired I was falling asleep on my feet. That way, by eliminating all other activities bar sleeping, (TV, Reading, Nintendo etc.), from the bed I managed to train myself associate that physical environment and situation with sleep. Brilliant.

Looking back, this was probably the best thing that I did to get over my insomnia. Obviously the other ideas and actions were also contributing factors… But really, learning to move my work and play away from my place of rest was without doubt the best thing I could’ve done.

You might’ve noticed that the name of this blog is ‘this is my happy place’…
That stems from a number of reasons – all of which resonate quite nicely with the kind of guy that I try to be – but one of those reasons actually relates quite nicely to the accompanying picture…

I like sleeping.

Having had it gone from my life for such a long time I now have the utmost respect for sleep as an activity… and dedicate proper time to it as often as needed.

This isn’t to say that I am lazy, not by any stretch. I just know when I need to rest.

Tying off with associations is a good way to bring this back to my inspiration for this post. I have this habit, when talking on the phone late at night, of falling to sleep mid-conversation.

I kid you not.

I must’ve lost count the amount of times I’ve woken up to find a phone in my hand wondering what the hell was going on. It makes me laugh every time it happens but the caller on the other end tends to get quite miffed. Heh.

Word to the wise – if we’re speaking late at night and I say:

‘Ok, cool. Just headed to bed, will call you back shortly…’

Just. Say. No.

The chances are I will fall asleep…


Night night.

Balls to it! (a Whatley rant-a-thon) Part 2: Facebook Events

WHY OH WHY can I not just hit ONE BUTTON and sync my events on Facebook with every other sodding calendar I have to keep?
See Plaxo/Yahoo/Google/iCal/And any bloody S60 calendar app I tend to be running on my N95 right now…


Talk about a blinkin’ walled garden. Apparently the walls are coming down. Well blow me if that’s not about time. I wrote a piece (that I never published here but hacked it to pieces, updated it and edited the mobile parts of it together here for smstextnews) wayback in September detailing what a pain in the ass backside this was/is.

The piece (entitled ‘Think of the Children’) talked (well – the unpublished parts did anyway) about Jaiku and Twitter and how they can happily ‘co-exist’ within the industry… Hang on – Let me go get the quote:

I’m sorry if this is out of context – but you’ll get the idea:

The walled garden appproach that these services offer mean that interoperability between the competition* (*my definition of competition is anything that competes for my spare time – my Nintendo DS is competition for the book that I’m currently reading for example) is impossible.
Imagine if you will Yahoo Mail refusing to send your emails to a Hotmail (sorry – Windows Live) account and/or a Gmail account.. Ridiculous huh? But this is what is happening currently with MySpace/facebook.


The Operators/Carriers of this world have finally come round to the idea that interoperability is the way forward. A quick glance at any website proves this as I would imagine you’d be hard pushed to find a tariff that doesn’t include Xnetwork minutes. Of course, this has not always been the case… but, eventually they (the operators) sat up and listened.
This is what the social networking sites of today should be working towards..


I’m a big fan of the micro-blogging service known as Jaiku. But more so am I a fan of one of the co-founders – Jyri Engelstrom.
He believes [or at least I think he does] in complete and open syncronosity across such services..
This is evident not just through recurring themes on his blog but also whenever he is asked the question:


‘Which is better; Twitter or Jaiku?’


You would think that, if pressed, he would of course say ‘Jaiku’. He would have to! Right? Wrong.
No. Jyri is an evangelist of co-existence… What do I mean?
Twitter works. Jaiku works. Why shouldn’t they work together?
Why insist that the user must choose one or the other and not both?


Taking this theme and expanding on it… – Why can’t I send a message from my facebook to my friend’s myspace?
If I tag a photo on flickr why aren’t my bebo friends notified?
One day, I hope, this will be the case… much like, as mentioned, how Xnetwork minutes are now ‘as standard’…

So yeah – interoperability (or lack thereof) really hacks me off..

But hey – while we’re still on the subject of facebook (ish)…

Cont in Part 3

My faith has been tested…

…in what?
In the level of customer service from Vodafone UK.

(bit of a rant this one – bear with me)

Now… You may have your own opinions on VF (and their services) but for me personally, over the past ten years; having used Orange, o2 and 3 (never went near T-Mobile), I can honestly say that the level of customer service I’ve received from their agents has been second to none.

Customer service is something I believe in. It is paramount to any company which has any kind of customer-facing aspect. This through personal opinion but also from spending a good few years in the CS industry myself…

So. As you know my N95 died recently. The screen was kaput. No matter how much I took it apart and put it back together again…

…it was, for want of a better term, knackered.

What now? Well… Now I call Vodafone Customer Services…

(before I carry on – you guys need to understand that in the past whenever I’ve had any problem my handset VF have ensured that I have a replacement by the next working day. Good? Damn goo)d.

Ok… Are you sitting comfortably?
Then I’ll begin…

06:04 – Our hero awakes to discover the screen on his N95 is flickering…

06:15 – N95 screen goes dead

06:201st Call to VF CS

“Hi there…”

The Dude explains the problem…

“Not a problem Mr Whatley, you are a highly valued customer, call back after 8am to speak to the right dept and we will get a replacement handset out to you first thing tomorrow…”
“Perfect, thank you very very much. VF CS are the best.”

All good….

…or so we thought!

08:342nd Call to VF CS

“Hello there!”

The Dude recounts the previous conversation…

“I’m dreadully sorry sir but we do not have any N95s in stock. We can either send you an envelope for you to send the phone back in for repair or you can take into a VF store who will send it off for you..

(after much to-ing and fro-ing)

“…Err, No. Thank you. I’d much rather wait until you have some in stock. The repair process takes weeks. I need a phone asap..”

Our hero ponders his predicament some more… what if he calls again?

08:573rd Call to VF CS

“Good morning!”

El Duderino once again explains the situation he has found himself in…

“I’m sorry Mr Whatley, we are unable to offer you a replacement handset as the N95 is not covered by our exchange policy..


“I’m sorry Mr Whatley, we are unable to offer you a replacement handset as the N95 is not covered by our exchange policy..

“That’s not good enough, that’s completely different to everything else I’ve been told so far and I do need a phone sooner rather than later.

“Sorry Sir, you were misinformed. Your nearest store is in Slough…”

“Well, I am deeply disappointed with the level of service I have received today. Good bye.”

Surely this cannot be the end for the Dude of Whatley?! Surely he must be united with his phone soon?!

09:244th Call to VF CS

“Hello there, would you be able to put me through to your store in Slough please?”

“Of course Mr Whatley, just looking that up for you now. While I’m looking Sir, is there anything else I can assist you with today?”

“Ah yes, now that you mention it… How would I go about escalating a customer complaint? I’m slightly perturbed about the level of customer service I’ve received from you.. well.. not from You personally, but from the previous agents I’ve spoken with..”

“Well.. er.. yes. Of course sir, I am very sorry to hear that.. would you mind telling me the problem? I’ll make a note and make sure it gets passed to the relevant managers…

…the Dude does so, with gusto… ending with..

“…and of course I understand that none of this is your fault. I’m not screaming and shouting and I’m not a nasty customer. I’m just a nice man, who is a true evangelist of Vodafone, and ultimately VF’s CS, who needs a phone for his personal and professional life.”

“Well I’ll make sure that gets passed on Sir.. and if you hold the line for a second.. I’ll just speak to my manager…”

Holdeth the Dude.

“…Hello there Mr Whatley, we can get a replacement N95 out to you tomorrow.. is that ok with you Sir?”


Now. I MUST point out that CS agents Numbers 1 & 4 were both friendly and really helpful. The 4th one actually could not do enough for me… The 3rd one was my least favourite; she had made her mind up and was not about to try and help any more. Whereas the 2nd one just didn’t really know her stuff… Not her fault, just poor training/consistency.

THIS is the thing that annoys me the most. Yes all the CS staff have the same (if not then extremely similar) training and Yes there are rules and regulations that they must follow…
BUT I cannot help thinking that no matter what – when you get through – you are at the mercy of that particular agent…
i.e.: If that agent has had a shitty day, there’s a reasonably high chance that they’re not going to help you as much as they could.

I mentioned earlier that I have a history in the CS industry… the one thing that I learned from that was that if you scream and if you shout you will very rarely get what you want.
Be polite. State the facts. Do not blame the person who happens to have answered the call. It’s (probably) not their fault…
Which is exactly what I did come call 4. And, because of this, Call 4 delivered what I actually wanted from Call 1.
Another question I have to ask: “How many VF customers would’ve given up after Call 2?”


Anywhoo – as much as this demonstrates the holes that are within the VF CS staff it also demonstrates that you should persevere in the face of adversity! You are the customer and your money is valuable to the network operator.
As soon as they start taking your money for granted then you lose…


PS – Incidentally – again, restoring my faith in VF – I posted the conversation part of this post on a mobile forum that I contribute to – within 24hrs a VF CS agent had logged into the forum and requested that I email the details into him so that it could be investigated further…. Even though the problem, as far as I was concerned, had been solved.

THAT demonstrates a keenness that I admire and as I said – has helped to restore my faith in the VF’s CS.
(which is the one thing that I shout about the most whenever I recommend a network to my friends)

“Your mission…”

“...should you choose to accept it, is to leave the Glastonbury Festival (that’s right Sir, I said leave), and go to Castle Cary train station to pick up a very important person… This blog will self destruct in five seconds..”

……still here?


Yep. Mission Impossible.

Jana’s friend has arrived and is on her way. One problem. We have her ticket. …

“Well that’s fine James..” – i hear you cry – “…just go and meet her at the Entrance!”

Ah ha – good one that. That’s what we thought.. But unfortunately the free coach from the station won’t bring her here without her ticket… So. Being the good friends that we are – we’re on the free bus to the station, to pick up said person, then get BACK on the free bus and head back into the beautiful Avalon that is The Glastonbury Festival…

…and on a final note. I’m really NOT looking forward to setting up ANOTHER tent here:

Last Minute Welly Dash!

I wait in ALL morning for my Wellies to arrive.. And guess what?!

They didn’t.

So my buddy Jana and I just missioned it into Kingston to get some.. The time at posting is 1424 – we gotta be on the coach in an hour. First we gotta navigate the Kingston one way system, get home, pick ;up my stuff..

Go to Jana’s, pickup her stuff..

And then and ONLY then can we head BACK into Kingston to catch the coach to Glasters!