Monthly Archives: July 2015

Look mum, I'm on TV!

Keep calm, and look like an idiot ;)

Those who have met me will know that I’m not exactly shy when people start asking me questions. I will happily dominate a discussion and will talk at length on subjects that I’m comfortable with. I appear confident when doing public speaking because I generally pick subjects I know well, and I have a pre-prepared script that I can work from.

Turns out, however, that an unscripted interview in front of cameras is a completely different beast. I was interviewed for the Mustard Business Extra show today which, while not an unmitigated disaster, wasn’t exactly my finest hour.

It seems that what I thought was my “look calm, relaxed and cool” pose is actually my “look really uncomfortable and unnatural” pose, and my usually eloquent verbiage was replaced with slightly halting babble.

As I was answering the first question my brain was having the following monologue:

“OK, say something articulate… no! Articulate, you idiot! OK, now hit them with your expansive… er… list of… things you say – dammit, words! Vocabulary even! Too late, keep going… OK, you’re waffling now, bring it to a close. Now to make a strong point about… what was the question again?”

With the large number of YouTube videos I’ve made I have finally become comfortable with listening to recordings of my voice, but I’m still not comfortable watching video of myself so tomorrow nights airing could be a tad excruciating. It doesn’t help that I thought it was a talking head setup so I rocked up in shorts. Good thing you can’t really see my battered old shoes 😀

Drinks and glasses all set up for the guests

Narrative

I think I surprised a few people last night, which was good. I’d been invited to launch my book at an event sponsored by Birkkets LLP and asked to ”say a few words” to the guests. I’m not entirely sure I’m capable of ”a few words” so I set about putting together a 15-20 minute presentation that quickly spiralled into a 30 minute one.

Ordinarily my talks are technical in nature, and while I try to keep them amusing they are always going to be a little dry. The skill level and experience of the audience can vary from school children to highly skilled techies, but the relative skill level of the audience tends to be constant. A book launch organised by a law firm presented a big problem: the audience was going to be diverse.

Then there is the overriding problem that it’s a book based on a blog that’s probably been read, at least in part, by most of the people present. So what exactly do you talk about?

In the end I talked around some large life events that, ultimately, put me in a position to be at Rainbird and attend Techstars. This was done to the backdrop of a bunch of nice photographs I have.

The sum total of the talk could be condensed to a single, short paragraph:

“How did I find time to write a book? I didn’t, I wrote a blog instead and then published that.”

But that’s not exactly a compelling story. People don’t want to hear the how, they want to hear the why. They want to identify with the experience. The trick is to spin that into a cogent tale. For example this entire post is a segue from a simple statement, to a short explanation of that statement with a big dollop of narrative in the middle in order to justify posting it.

I think I told a compelling story last night. The audience seemed to enjoy it. I know I did. People laughed at the right parts and appeared to be listening intently – this may have been a pleasant surprise to some of the audience. Sadly it also means that expectations will be adjusted accordingly for any future talks. I need to find a new audience with low expectations 😉

Apple Watch: Three Weeks In

I was a little late to the Apple Watch party. Initially I was going to get a small Watch Sport which I ordered on day 1. So oversubscribed were the pre-orders that despite placing the order within seconds of pre-orders opening I was already bumped to the 3-4 weeks delivery timeframe.

I then book an appointment to try on the Apple Watch and realised the device isn’t quite as big as I thought. In fact I much preferred the larger version. So I cancelled my order and placed a new one. Which placed me in June sometime for receiving it.

Then my headphones got washed. At just shy of 1 Apple Watch in replacement cost I was faced with a fun decision. Given how much use my headphones get I cancelled the watch (again) and ordered new headphones.

Fast forward a few weeks and I managed to sell some old camera kit to fund my third attempt at buying an Apple Watch. Successfully this time. I’ve now had it for 3 weeks.

The Good

I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting with the Apple Watch. It’s a bit of an odd device. It doesn’t exactly do much, but then that’s the whole point. It’s just there when you need it, which is great.

I have two kids and do a lot of walking with a pushchair or pram. Trying to get your phone out of your pocket for simple things like checking the time, or the last notification is a royal pain in the behind. having all that on my wrist is a Godsend.

I also now do a lot more walking. The gamification of exercise stats with goals and badges to achieve mean I will actively now go for a walk on more sedentary days (Sunday especially) in order to achieve my daily goal and not jeopardise my weekly and monthly badges. This can only be a good thing.

I spend less time glued to my phone. Alerts come to my watch and I can quickly filter them there instead of getting my phone out and then getting sucked into all kinds of other things.

It took me a few days to get the balance of alerts right – I’ve turned off email notifications for example. I’ve also changed how alerts work on my other devices. Instead of a barrage of alerts on multiple devices the watch now handles most of the load.

And I have a watch back. I like watches, and on top of that they’re a fashion statement for me. My last watch was more expensive than the Apple Watch and did nothing but tell the time and, as far as I was concerned, look good.

So, three weeks in and I’m very happy with my purchase… but it’s not perfect.

The Bad

There are those who would argue you should never buy the first version of any produce (the Rev. A version). Wait for the second version where the flaws and issues are ironed out. This is not an unfounded view, just look back to the original iPhone or iPad.

The Apple watch has problems. It’s slow. Loading a new app can often take longer than the screen stays awake for. Some of the UI elements can be hard to press. Some things are non-intuitive, and I just hate having superfluous apps on there that I’m never going to use (although I suspect that will never change given it’s the same on iOS).

Some of my issues will be addressed in the next version of the OS which is due out in a few months.

I also have no idea how strong the screen actually is. My last watch supposedly had a sapphire screen and I managed to quite conclusively scratch that. I actually take the watch off at the gym for some exercises rather than risk banging it with weights. I’m probably being overly cautious, but I rather that than a damaged watch.

The Ugly

The button above the digital crown is utterly useless to me. I don’t use my watch to initiate contact with people so having a button dedicated to that is pointless. I want to be able to map that button to something else. The activity app would be a much more sensible binding for me.

The calendar app doesn’t show a month view for anything other than the current month as far as I can work out. I can’t think of any reason why. Finding appointments outside of ‘today’ is non-intuitive and the whole app needs a rethink.

Sending the funky animated emoji to non iMessage destinations just fails with a standard “message failed to send” error. At the very least this should be a specific “iMessage is needed to send these emoji” type message, and ideally it should try and work out up front if you can even send them.

The basic strap is a pickpockets wet dream. It’s secure enough to hold the watch on your wrist, but comes off very easily. I was very aware of this when walking around London. I think if I lived there I would have invested in a different strap.

Oh, and the battery…

Is fine. Seriously. I generally have 40 something percent left at the end of each day, and the one night I forgot to charge it I was able to get enough charge on it while I got ready for work for it to be fine throughout the day. I could see how heavy use of the heart monitor, along with using it to play music to bluetooth headphones all day, while messing with the screen lots will cause it to go flat quickly, but that’s not exactly a fair example of usage.

And charging it overnight isn’t a problem for me either. I charge masses of stuff overnight already. I’m not overly bothered about sleep monitoring (had it before with my Jawbone Up and it didn’t do much for me) and I never used to sleep with my watch on anyway.

Techstars – CTO Club Reprise

There is nothing like the buzz of a new Techstars cohort. That raw energy, waiting to be tempered in the forge of 13 gruelling weeks into laser focused businesses that will either win, or die trying.

The Techstars Clock Of Doom

It’s day 3 of the London 2015 Summer cohort, and the first CTO meeting, which I was kindly invited to host. I wrote the following about the CTO meeting in our cohort:

The first rule of CTO club is that you don’t talk about CTO club. The second rule of CTO club is that if you don’t get stuck into the chocolate croissants near the beginning of the meeting I’m going to have eaten them all.

Both rules still stand, and although I didn’t see any chocolate croissants I did polish off the pain-au-chocolates in short order.

I also said:

The CTO meetings are likely to be invaluable to me as, while I bring a fair amount of experience to the table, most of that experience is as a developer. OK, so I’ve been a team lead, development head and even a Head of IT before, but all that’s crammed into the very last portion of my career. Part of me still views myself as a naive 22 year old who’s just starting out in a support team.

As the ”experienced” CTO here to help guide the others I think that whole ”I’m making this up as I go along” holds more now than it ever did. I have a t-shirt that reads ”Don’t copy me, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing”. I may need to wear this more often.

It was great to see the enthusiasm of the CTOs in this new cohort, and wonderful to see the beginnings of the cross-pollination that happens when you put a bunch of tech companies in close proximity. I look forward to seeing their progress.


If you’re interested in following this cohort there is a new (hopefully daily) blog by Rosario Garcia de Zuniga, CTO and co-founder of Headliner which you can find at http://my-leitmotiv.com/.