2013: in review

Where do I start?

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 17.35.03

Photo from my trip to Aldwych Underground station in November.

Let’s start with numbers.

THE BLOG

The most popular post of 2013 was the publication of a rare DJ set from The Avalanches (I can thank Josh Russell and an appearance on Reddit for that particular bump), and coming in at a close second was my super excited review of PACIFIC RIM back in July.

Overall, stats-wise, 2013’s numbers are down on 2012’s. As you can see below –

Site_Stats_‹_whatleydude_—_WordPress-3

This is down to a number of things. First off, in 2012 I wrote up ‘Five things on Friday‘ every single week, without fail (maybe I should bring that back for 2014). Blogging regularly increases traffic – who knew?

That lift in 2012 combined with a general decrease in posts this year means the disparity is quite large. I’m not kidding on the post decrease either. YOY 2013 has seen my lowest publishing rate for some time. The lowest in seven years in fact.

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 16.49.23

[more here, thanks Jetpack]

So why the dip in output? 2013 has been a very busy year.

WORK

I’ve had pretty much had two jobs for most of 2013 (this is changing next month, but more on that in the New Year – shh), which has been as fantastic as it has challenging. From awesome travel brands kicking ass on Twitter, through to award-winning innovations for an online furniture retailer. To say 2013 had been ‘a bit full on’, would be an understatement – but in the best of ways.

I’m staying true to my mantra of ‘Great work, with inspiring people‘ – and long may it continue.

AMBITION

This time 12mths ago, I set out two very public ambitions. Speaking and Running. How did I do? In the former I set out to beat 2012’s rather lacklustre total of THREE and at least match 2011’s total of SIX.

Looking back over 2013, it looks like I topped out at a grand total of TEN. Each one unique in its own way and each one different from the one before. If you helped me achieve this goal in 2013, then thank you very much – I am chuffed that I managed to beat it so definitively.

On the running front, I started on Jan 1st 2013 at zero. I’m finishing on Dec 31st at 228km, with a couple of charity efforts in there for good measure.

Highlights? The British 10k for CALM and completing the Tough Mudder with Team Expedia at Ogilvy. Again, if you helped me achieve this goal in 2013 – then thank you. I feel an enormous sense of achievement, and I couldn’t have done it without you.

In the New Year I intend to continue these two even further. The speaking one I’ll continue plugging away at it – it isn’t the number of gigs, it’s the intention to keep doing them (and I’ve already got three pencilled in for 2014, and I figure that should be my baseline). And on the running front, I fully intend to smash the 300k marker for 2014.

Hurrah and hurrah again.

PREDICTIONS

In the summer of 2012 I wrote three social media predictions for 2013. Let’s review:

Prediction 1: The outsourcing of community management to emerging markets
I’ve got no proof of this happening yet. But I still think it will, if it hasn’t already (and I just haven’t seen it).

Prediction 2: 2screening + Advertising
The big thing I covered here was about ‘super micro targeting’, eg: Twitter allowing media planners to buy against actual TV shows. BOOM.

Precition 3: 4G networks spurring further innovation
I think I might have been a bit too hopeful on this front. 4G isn’t really hitting the ground here in the UK quite yet, so maybe it’ll be another year or so until it bears fruit.

Final score? 1/3.
Rubbish. My predictions for next year are out, hopefully I’ll do better next time.

FILM & MUSIC & GAMING

Film: I really went for it this year, I saw loads but managed an average of one write up a month (12 film reviews).
Music: Spotify’s got me covered.

Spotify

Gaming: I jumped off the Xbox ship and went for the PlayStation 4.
You should do the same.

ADDITIONAL BITS AND BOBS

AND FINALLY: LIFE IN GENERAL

I’ll be honest, 2013 has been a veritable roller-coaster of a ride. With super high ups, and woefully low downs. At one point, I honestly didn’t know if I was going to make it out alive. But here I am, in spite of it all, still kicking and at the precipice of a whole new chapter.

Who knows how it will work out.

I made a decision a couple of years back to keep a fair chunk of my personal life offline, and I’m pleased to say that I’m sticking to it. My friends, my true friends know where it’s at – and that’s all that matters.

There are some amazing people out there that have helped me through this past year. Friends and colleagues, old and new – you know who you are.

Thank you.

Next year is a whole new adventure.

BRING. IT. ON.

COOL STORY

 

Where’s James?

It’s been a bit quiet around here lately –

S'up :)

1. I got busy. 
It happens. Between work (more on that shortly), organising and speaking at events, and generally a whole bunch of other stuff; life has been a bit hectic. As I said, it happens.

2. No more blogging projects (for the time being at least).
Well, Five things on Friday came to an end, which meant no more enforced blogging, which in turn took my brain out of the habit of writing [here]. Trimming is still on-going, but what with the whole Google Reader thing, I’m loathe to dive into them at the moment.

3. Podcasting.
The Voicemail is where you can find my mobile rantings, in audio format obviously. My co-host is back from his travels now and we’re about to get back into the swing of things. A good time to subscribe, I’d say.

4. Other blogging.
I mentioned getting busy; we relaunched the Ogilvy Soho Square blog (oh yeah, I don’t work in PR anymore, I should write something about that) which, at the time of posting, is 100% my own domain, just while I get it off the ground and cajole a few members of the team into taking part. There are a few posts up already, some silly, some not. If you’re into social media and the latest thinking (of mine) around it, then I suggest you add Soho Square to your reading list too. Follow us on Twitter for when we publish…

Oh, and on a personal note, I’m messing about on Tumblr these days too.

5. What of My Happy Place? 
All of the above means that blogging here is coming last on the list (again, for the time being), but I’ve got a couple of things coming down the pipeline – including my first ever GUEST POST from the one and only Bizhan Govindji.

Amazing, I know.
Here’s a question for you, what’s the most exciting thing you’re working on right now?

 

A day in the life

Of me, not this box – I just like the photo

John Doe deliveries

Recently, on the way back to London after a client meeting, I had an urge to get home and make shoot some stop-motion video. I’ve done a few before and, well, I enjoy it.

Upon expressing this to a colleague, he replied: ‘That’s great! But, I have to ask something: where do you find the time? I love photography but never find the time do it…’

My response?

‘Discipline, time-compression, and a commitment to no wastage are all key. Make [and keep] promises to yourself. For example, I try to do keep Thursday lunchtimes free each week to work on a project of my own choosing. Try that, and then build from there’.

And then thought about it some more and figured that some more analysis might be useful. It’s been a while since I’ve written up my day like this (five years in fact), so this should be interesting (for me, at least).

So here goes: my diary/schedule for Thursday 7th February 2013 –

05:45 – Alarm goes off (on my phone, of course).

05:55 – Record Episode 035 of The Voicemail. We normally try and record on a Thursday night but Stefan is traveling at the moment and he’s being replaced by various guests from all across the globe. This week’s guest was based on the East Coast and it was easier for both of us to shoot at this time.

06:505k run (yup, up to 5k now – every other day too. I’ve come a long way in five weeks, I think a follow up post may be required)

07:40 – Home, shower, get ready for work.

08:00 – Leave for the office.

08:10 – Commute / reading time (current book: What the Plus! by Guy Kawasaki, a recommendation from Stephen Waddington).

08:50 – Pick up breakfast / coffee.

09:00 – Call with an industry peer and trusted friend to discuss a future project.

09:15 – Email, team meetings, catch up with yesterday’s actions / meetings.

10:30 – Social@Ogilvy training workshop (part one)

12:50 – Lunch. Eat. Check in with the team. Thursday project alarm goes off, so I call the venue for #NotatMWC and tell them we’re going to need more room.

13:30 – Social@Ogilvy training workshop (part two)

16:00 – Re-group with team, catch up on projects; share lessons from the workshop. Email.

Sidenote: I’ve got into the habit of screening email whenever possible and only sitting down to respond once or twice a day. It’s helping productivity incredibly. I understand that not everyone can do this, but when you get to the point of being able to – I highly recommend it. 

18:05 – leave the office

18:10 – Commute. Manage to get a seat and start editing the morning’s Voicemail episode (much to my enjoyment – you can’t read audio waves over someone’s shoulder).

18:40 – Stop in town to pick up a cable for my mac, plus stop for a cup of tea with a friend.

19:45 – Time to head home.

20:15 – Get home: dinner, publish The Voicemail, hug the girl, watch a movie (Contagion – dark, yet dull).

23:55 – Time for bed.

Sprinkle the above with a few bits of social media usage (I count 36 tweets, including RTs etc, two Facebook updates, and one G+ update – mainly in the bits between doing anything, ie: walking between stations etc) and that’s just about it.

Alright that was all a bit full on and most days I don’t do workshops, nor do I get up before 6am to record international podcasts, but still – there’s hardly any ‘dead’ time in my day. Ever. But that’s not to say I don’t ever stop, I just didn’t happen to stop on Thursday.

 

New Year, New Choices: Running

Yes, that’s right: RUNNING.

It's time to start running!

noun [mass noun]
the action or movement of a runner: his running tore United to shreds
– the sport of racing on foot: marathon running

_______________________________

I’m not a big one for resolutions. Hell, I haven’t even made any this year. But a strange thing happened on January 1st, something that I’m not sure has happened to me before; I woke up, around 8am, having only had only around 3-4hrs sleep (after much fun and shenanigans on NYE, of course) and I wanted to go on a run.

I hadn’t decided to

“I’m going for a run” I said.

And I did.

And the following day I did it again, and the day after that I ran again, and then on the 4th? Well, then I took a break. It seems not running for years and then taking it up again suddenly and rather aggressively isn’t the way to do these things. There was limping, and a fair bit of pain, and all my running friends (turns out I have a few) came out of the woodwork to advise on all sorts.

So here we go: the complete 100% newbie and unscientific list of things to do if you’re going to start running:

1. Actually go for a run
Yeah, it seems an obvious one but getting out there and doing it is the easiest way forward. Get that out of the way and you’re halfway there. No, scratch that, you’re all of the way there. You have done some running. Well done.

2. Warm up (and then down again)
I didn’t do this at first and I suffered for it. I recommend you don’t make that mistake.

STRETCH

Warming up? Some stretching before you head out is definitely a good idea (thanks to the comments, only stretch AFTER your workout – see I am a newbie! However you should definitely) Consider ‘briskly’ walking for the first five minutes of the route you’re about to embark upon. Stupid really, you’d think people would know to do this. Even when I went for my first run I remember thinking ‘Yup, we definitely used to warm before any sports in PE at school… but I’m an adult now! I don’t need to deal with such tomfoolery!’ – I am a numpty, clearly. But that means you could be too. SO WARM UP, (then do some stretching when you’re done too).

And that’s it really. Straight up – that. is. it.

Warm up. Run. Warm down. Done.

Well, there’s a few more, but these next few are 100% optional.

3. Pick an app
There are a whole ton of sports-tracking apps available for your selection, each of them measuring all kinds of things from the route you take, through to your avg. speed; some can plug into other services and some you can integrate into your entire LIFE.

Endomondo, Run Keeper, Nike+, there’s loads. Me? I’ve gone for Sports Tracker. Why? It’s across the most platforms and, given that I swap phones every month, it’s the best one there is. Your choice might be different. Do some research.

4. Get the right kit
When I say ‘kit’, I mean – these are the things that I don’t run without –

Kit

First up, my hoodie. It’s bloody cold out there at the moment (and it won’t be getting warmer anytime soon) and I’ve got one of those Superdry hoodies which is pretty damn cosy, and good for running in. It’s not rained yet, so I don’t if it does actually keep me Superdry, but only time will tell (christ, rain. I hadn’t thought about that). Either way, it does the job. Winner.

Second, my mobile. Currently Up until yesterday* this is was a Nokia Lumia 920** and [while it’s not the most robust handset in the world] it has done a good job of not only tracking my runs to date, but also providing the tunes to said workouts too.

Finally, some decent shoes!

New trinners

I got the above bad boy Asics from Runners Need on Great Portland Street. They cost me £70 and I got a free gait-analysis thrown in too. I’d never heard of that analysis part before but those running friends I told you about earlier? They all swear by it. Get tested, then get the trainers you need to mate.

Again, this isn’t gospel; you can run in plimsols if you so wish! However, I’m committing to this (hence the bloggage too I guess) and want the kit to see me through. And hey, if you find yourself on the streets of Maida Vale one morning (say around 7ish), look out for this knackered-looking guy –

Morning runs: ain't fun (yet)

– he may even fancy a race!

Maybe.

In time.

Like, in a month or three.

 

*Device at the moment is now the Motorola RAZR i, just while said uber-damaged Windows Phone is in for repair. Still using Sports-Tracker though, which rocks.

 **I know I moaned about it on The Voicemail, but since then it’s really grown on my and I’m actually sad to see it go.

 

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.

Why?

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. 

 

Butterfly effects

Everyone has their favourite toys from childhood, I was fortunate to have a few. If you remember things like He-Man, Thundercats or Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors – then this tale is for you.

When I was a kid my big thing was M.A.S.K.

– aka Mobile Armoured Strike Kommand.

MASK Crusaders! Working overtime! Fighting crime!

I remember one Christmas morning when I walked down the stairs to find Boulder Hill completely all set up and ready to play with [can you imagine depriving me of an unboxing today?!] –  it was brilliant.

Switchblade, Condor, Volcano… the toys were amazing. One in particular, was Bulldog.

Bulldog was an American truck that fell down into a tank-like contraption at the press of a button. After a while (I don’t remember when), the spring loader in the click broke, which basically meant that Bulldog couldn’t return to truck mode.

This video talks you through the general awesomeness of Bulldog. You don’t have to watch it, hell you might even want to just skip it completely. However, the money shot is around 1min in. Y’know, just in case.

To add some background to this story, my father was an extremely talented carpenter and joiner, who owned his own building contracting company. He liked to build things. And as such, so did I. Lego was my thing as a kid, in the main at least, but outside of that you had Zoids.

Zoids were great. A seemingly impossible mixture of prehistoric robotics, each toy came in tiny little pieces that you had to assemble yourself (or in my case, with my dad).

What this all meant was that when Bulldog broke, dad and I set about taking it apart (like a Zoid in reverse) to see what the issue was. The cause: a small dog-leg-shaped piece of plastic that had somehow snapped during playtime. Damn.

‘What do we do now, dad?’
‘Well, now we know what’s wrong, son, we can get a replacement part and fix it.’

A few days later, an eight year old James Whatley wrote a letter to Kenner Parker toys explaining what had happened and asking very nicely if they could possibly send out the replacement part that we needed.

A few weeks later, my mum greeted me from school to tell me that she thought Kenner might have got my letter, as a parcel had been delivered while I was in class – and it had a MASK label on it. We raced home as fast as we could and, sure enough, there it was was: not a small packaged envelope containing the piece we needed, but instead a whole brand new Bulldog. Brand. New.

I still beam when I think about it now.

Two things to take away from that story:

  1. Surprise and delight: I’ve talked about it before, and I’ll talk about it again. It’s nothing new, but it is [still] a beautiful way to deal with your customers. Even now I can imagine that marketing or customer care manager sat at their desk, opening my letter and thinking: ‘Hey, let’s just send him a new one. That’ll make his day.’ – and they were right, it really did.
    .
  2. That one decision, made all of 20+ years ago in a random office somewhere in the UK, had such a profound affect on a little boy that not only does he still remember it fondly, but actually now spends his waking hours working out how he can make his clients’ customers feel just the same way.

That’s some butterfly.