Actions, not words

Some quick thoughts on the Telecom -> Spark thing.

Telecom’s biggest challenge has always been doing less. Like any incumbent telco, it has no end of systems, processes, technology and products that keep getting in the way of having a product line up that’s simple and complete while still innovating at the pace demanded by the telco industry. And despite all that, they’re doing a pretty reasonable job, potentially enabled by the energy injected by new leadership. Anyone paying attention can see that Telecom is moving in the right direction and out-thinking the brash up and coming ISPs and telcos that were doing so much chest beating in the last few years. You don’t hear much from them these days.

On the back of today’s news, marketing chap Jason Paris says in the NBR story comment thread: “…there are still key, fast growing customer segments that tell us they will always just out right reject the Telecom brand.” I have to say I dealt with enough people with long memories in my time there to say with confidence that people have long memories and no-one is going to forget that Spark = Telecom, especially after the front-page stories, tweets and Facebook comments exploding today. And isn’t it Skinny or another of the sub-brands’ jobs to reel these folk in?

Why not just show people that Telecom is able to listen to customers and give them what they want at a reasonable price with great associated story than bet the farm on a new name? This process is well underway already. Why not wait a while and see if it’s still necessary? I mean, today Telecom has announced a pretty interesting foray into TV, precisely the kind of thing you want an innovative, data-driven telco to get into, but the fluff and froth of the rebrand is getting the headlines.

Anyway, it’s happening and I sincerely hope it goes well – the people responsible for pulling this off have a lot of work in front of them. I understand the organisational transformation that started before I left has continued and is making good progress, I hope the re-brand helps rather than hinders the pain and effort everyone’s gone through to get this far.

Would also hope the folk in the shops and call centres are front and centre in everyone’s thinking and there’s more in it for them than a launch party and (another) new set of posters. As we all know, the folk you speak to when your phone or broadband needs sorting out and what they’re enabled to do by the company’s products and processes are far more responsible for a company’s brand than an advertising agency run by one of your board members.

Like I say, good luck to everyone concerned. The last thing any company needs is a clever dick ex-employee banging on about stuff like this, especially without the benefit of actually working at the company and knowing what’s actually going on, which is always vastly different to what you see from the outside / gets reported. I hope that in five years time we’re remembering the awesome products and service coming out of the organisation rather than the name shuffling.

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 Not a Photoshop BTW.

Misc. thoughts:
– Not having the @sparknz Twitter handle among other things is a bit of an issue, but I imagine a large corporate wanting to obtain a punter’s dis-used Twitter handle is not that big a deal to quietly sort
– I await the new branding with interest. My personal opinion is that the agency’s track record is not great when it comes to Telecom and hope they can do better and more sustainable than previous efforts. Let’s face it, the Telecom marketing campaign everyone remembers is SPOT, can’t you guys just, erm, come up with something like that? I joke
– Troy has been kicking arse on the Twitter
– Lance Wiggs’ article is worth a read

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Actions, not words

2013 in mobile phone pictures

Third instalment of mobile phone photos of the year, here’s 2011 and 2012. Big year this year, with new job and a big work trip, and trying to fit everything in.

You can click all the pictures to make them bigger.

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I changed jobs in February…

Ibanez Talman

…and turned 40 in February also. Quite a month. I had a lovely party with friends and family all in attendance. This axe was my mid-life crisis acquisition – it’s been loads of fun.

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The new job’s offices had a pretty different vibe to the last one, in fairness.

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I spent a lot of time this year watching cricket and tweeting about it, happy days.

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This is a traffic light that looks like a TIE fighter.

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Straight to the pool room.

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Wee fella.

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Wee fella and wee girl. Family is going great.

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So this was dinner

I tried to lay off the bad food photography this year, but… you know.

Fire walk with me.

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Most bad-ass birthday cake awardee here.

We got serious about lego this year.

Quick selfie

I got right on board the selfie boom.

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So I went to Bangladesh with the BLACKCAPS. This was Chittagong.

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I never get tired of posting this – signing a bat at Hotel Agrabad over breakfast.

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I saw a number of cool modes of transport in Bangladesh.

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Dhaka.

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This was my last meal in Bangladesh. Bloody good it was too.

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Someone did some pretty sweet burnouts on our street.

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Colleague sorts out hipster DJ at Christmas party.

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Watching the Ashes while BBQing was a bit of a highlight. Merry 2014 all!

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2013 in mobile phone pictures

Some guy on the NZ Digital Podcast

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to chat to Paul Spain and Sim Ahmed on the New Zealand Digital Podcast.

We talked about the new role and the old role, tools of the trade, advice for folk and businesses thinking about getting into social media and the separation between yer professional and personal activity online. Sim complimented my eyebrows at one point, which was extremely gracious of him.

Recording the show was a lot of fun – thanks to Paul and Sim for having me on, this new off shoot of the popular NZ Tech Podcast looks like it’ll be a worthwhile listen if you’re into This Kind Of Thing.

You can listen to my episode in a variety of fashions here.

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Some guy on the NZ Digital Podcast

You can’t troll a troll

On Wednesday, I was lucky enough to be on Social Media Club Auckland’s When communities go bad panel, along with Anna Connell, Mike Kooge and Chris Keall.

 
The panel. Photo filched from SMCAKL site

Some brief thoughts:

Being trolled is part of the territory for doing corporate social media. Of course, social media is just people. And some people can be dicks, bluntly.

Basically, someone has to be prepared to cop it, and it’s kind of up to you to develop a range of coping mechanisms (hence my ‘harden up’ comment). It gets easier over time! Caring a lot is a bit of a pre-req for doing the job well and properly, but the downside of that is taking the nastier comments to heart and wanting to throw things against things so they break.

The solution? Realise it’s not you, take breaks, make sure you’re well supported by your company. Easier said than done sometimes, but what’s the point of doing a job that’s easy, hey?

Anna definitely  kicked the crap out of me at pithy tweet-able soundbites. Nice work. And Mike showed there’s some excellent thinking and different knowledge out there beyond the usual voices. Well done.

I was most impressed by Chris Keall’s ‘take panel questions from your phone’ paradigm. Typical innovation incubation on the fly by our top tech scribe.

I realise I talked mainly about Telecom examples, rather than the new job (which is going really well BTW). That’s because I honestly haven’t been trolled very much at all in the new role – which is a nice change! The team going well is obviously a big factor, but even so, the ‘other distractions’ don’t seem to have generated much heat online.

I haven’t been to SMCAKL for a while, but it seems to be on the right track, by the evidence presented on Tuesday night. Fair play and all the best to the organisers and sponsors, it isn’t easy putting something like this on.

 
This is the first time I was trolled on the @telecomnz account, about a day after I took the job.

 

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You can’t troll a troll

Leaving Telecom

Last month I left Telecom – I was six weeks shy of completing ten years there. In that time, I reckon I had about seven jobs, in the retail business, then Telecom Wholesale, then in the corporate relations team, the last two and a bit as social media manager. I want to write some stuff down about it before it fades into `on to the next thing`.

I really loved it there – somehow, I got ample rope to hang myself with on a number of occasions. I went from being kind of buried deep, deep in the organisation (I wasn`t even sure what business unit I was in for the first couple of years, probably more reflective of my own lack of interest than anything) to working right where the shit was hitting the fan and the decisions were being made most days. I am very lucky to have been given the opportunities I was given – and I got to work with the most awesome bunch of people you could ever wish to have as colleagues, and I am not even just saying that.

I really enjoyed the Telco industry, there was much drama between the competitors, industry bodies, media, government. I particularly enjoyed getting to know people at other Telcos when I was at Wholesale, the dynamic of being both competitors and customers and having a beer with the next bloke anyway is unique, to an extent, in NZ.

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 Just hanging out with some colleagues.

The other awesome bunch I got to work with is the Online Response Team, Telecom`s famous(ish) group of volunteers that manage the social media accounts, largely out of the goodness of their hearts. I was part of the team, then became its `leader` (quotes very much intentional) when the social media manager role was created. The model is one I really believe in and I think it worked really well for Telecom, lending the dirty great corporate a little more humanity, which is important, especially in the early days of the ORT. The folk involved in setting  that up, not to mention the Telecom ONE unconferences that  happened each year despite  the political and resourcing  challenges involved, deserve much kudos.

It  was most fun when things went wrong. XT, Chch earthquakes, Abstain, Stephen Fry, network outages and Yahoo! Xtra, you name it. Social media and Twitter in particular were very much part of the front line response to all this, and it was exciting. I spent more hours than I care to think of at work and at home on audio conferences (I even discovered how useful bluetooth ear pieces are, to my shame) with dedicated, capable and passionate folk trying to put things right – we were really good when things were turning to custard. Crisis comms is something I really enjoy, and without being a dick, Telecom is one of the best places to do it –  it’s a New Zealand headquartered company, and we were it, there was no head office coming in to take over when things got interesting.

I guess the down side of doing social for such a large, service orientated company is the `always on` nature. There was never a moment, when I was with the kids at the beach, on the bus or out drinking when I wasn`t thinking `I wonder if something is kicking off on Twitter?` Often folk  in social media roles are their own worst enemies, preferring to spend their bus journey looking at the work Twitter instead of playing Angry Birds. It is a great and wonderful thing that folk have a public, social way of getting a company`s attention, but in darker moments it felt like a public 0800 complaint line. Corporate social media asks a lot of the people responsible for doing it, and while spreading the responsibility among, say, customer service or  marketing or PR or wherever may take away some of its charm, spontaneity and human-ness, it`s important for the people themselves` human-ness that this very public face of the company is empowered and well supported, both process-wise and emotionally. And they get an actual break every now and again (even if this must be rigorously policed!).

I`m not a legitimate geek by any stretch, barely able to operate a mouse properly, but I loved working at a tech company, with lots of people that Knew What They Were Talking About. In the social media role I got a deep appreciation for mobile technology – a good and fast smartphone with a sharp camera and decent connectivity is the knife and fork of the role. I was extremely lucky to be handed a succession of shiny toys to play with, and I`ll miss that a lot! I liked that at Telecom we worked on making people`s lives easier and better – although, going by my own experience, I sometimes worried that we were just making it easier for people to work *all the time*. Telecom is of course a large (by NZ standards) corporation, with all issues that brings – restructures are part of life, and we got used to them to an extent, but I`m feeling for my ex-colleagues now. I understand why, but it won`t be easy for those involved, something Telecom acknowledges themselves, of course.

Anyway – it was great, and it has taken something special to get me out of there. I`d like to thank (if they`re reading!) all my ex-colleagues and managers for being so cool. Thanks for having me.

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Leaving Telecom

2012 in mobile phone photos

I enjoyed doing this post so much last year, I’m doing it again. 2012 was ‘a bit calmer than 2011, but a bit more exhausting’.

At Mount Maunganui, there's piles of timber people have dragged up from the water every couple hundred meters #rena

At New Year’s at the Mount, there was still Rena debris washing up.

70s era Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet as seen at Tauranga model railway club expo

Thanks to my four year old, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the wacky world of model railways.

There we have it, chips omelette

I did a lot of bad food photography – I’ve left most of it off this post, except for CHIPS OMELETTE! H/T The Kitchen Maid.

Lunch at Euro. Recommended.

Doh! #foodtweet

I baked a lot of bread this year.

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I also started blogging as part of the Corporate Lunchbox team – it’s fair to say my contributions have been sporadic so far. These burgers are from Char Grill.

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I did enjoy a lovely meal at Depot.

Just hangin' out reading the news and that cc @cateowen

The fantastic @cateowen let me sit in the 3 News chair. In fact, most of the cool shit I did this year is thanks to Cate. Ta :)

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I got to be Jeremy Clarkson for a weekend.

THE JUDGE

And here is THE JUDGE!

#ladsweekend prep coming along nicely

Had yet another v. successful Lads Weekend, at ‘catching fish’ and ‘binge drinking’ levels.

Fish for tea #ladsweekend

 

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Work-wise, I enjoyed myself thoroughly, even though it was another challenging year. Lot of issues, lot of change. I was even on the bloody telly at one point. I’m missing a lot of the folk in this picture.

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The Telecom ONE unconference was another raging success, with bonus manly-disregard for safe trailer stacking practise.

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My rugby team The Chiefs only went and bloody won the title. I was very happy.

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Scenes from last night #aintnopartylikeahamiltonparty

The 40th birthday parties kicked right in.

Retrieved these from someone's paper recyling. Bit weirded out but mostly stoked.

Two childhood flashbacks – I fished these MAD magazine paperpacks from a paper recycling facility because HOW COULD YOU THROW THEM AWAY?!?!, and commandeered the family lego for my kids.

In other Lego news, a bad-ass spaceship.

I got on Instagram, and found it’s useful mainly for taking photos of ‘things’, or close up photos of objects. They could be it Def Leppard tapes or drawings of a man with a toilet for a hat. For proper photos, it’s still Flickr.

I met Hillary Barry. She was lovely and didn’t mind having her photo taken with Mr Arkward arm.

I had a STORMING year, tech-wise.

This photo is the remains of my beloved HTC ONE X – which I smashed, to be replaced (thanks to me bursting into tears in front of our FANTASTIC device team in a most un-manly fashion), with Samsung’s S3, which I also lurve. Both these phones are big, with bright, vivid screens and superb cameras. Fast. You name it. I rely on it / them a lot to get stuff done, whether it’s work, organising our chaotic weekends or just fecking about on the bus.

At home, I obtained an iPad 3 and the Apple TV for home. Will save the in-depth run down for a future post, but yeah, they’re all fantastic.

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My wee chap and my wee girl (she’s a bit bigger now). Family is the whole point, team.

Top parenting tip: multiboxes and coaxial cable make great toys for ten month olds

 

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2012 in mobile phone photos

This ain’t no funky follow party

In the last month or two, I’ve been on an unfollow binge.

 
 @richirvine ‘following’ stats July – October 2012

When starting out on Twitter, I followed my mates who had blogs, then sportspeople, then local media and online types. I was as free and easy with the follow button as I am with peanut butter on toast. I’d go through other interesting people’s follow lists and follow away with what turned out to be reckless abandon.

Like (I suspect) many professional SM-folk, I followed many people out of professional obligation. Competitors, customers, industry types – which is all well and good, but for the odd occasion they spoke up about something that may become an issue for the employer, the trade off was often a whole lot of irrelevance.

Slowly things became more and more out of control – people you thought would be fun turned out to be too noisy, too whingy, over share-prone or self obsessed. I’m loathe to begrudge anyone a decent bit of self-obsession (hey, check out the domain name of this site!) but this was *my* Twitter – I wanted it to be awesome.

I think everyone owes it to themselves to make their Twitter great. Those pithy little updates and avatars are much more personal and important to me than, say, Facebook with its ever-shifting rules, ads and stuff a mysterious, unaccountable algorithm thinks (THINKS?) I’ll like.

And so, I started unfollowing. My inspiration was this article, Why I just unfollowed everyone on Twitter. Killer quote: “It’s exhilarating.” Unfollowing *everyone* seemed a little extreme (quite tempting though!) but like eating chips, once I started, I found it hard to stop.

Many of the accounts were pure newsfeed accounts I’d long since lost interest in and had been mentally skipping over anyway. Many people were the professional-obligation crowd* and others were friends of friends I’d followed because they were friends of friends, but it struck me I was getting mentally involved with people I didn’t actually know. Which, on paper, felt weird. Unfollow.

Google has a few tools for managing Twitter followers, but I found it easier to just go through my follow list in a web browser and start unfollowing manually. It didn’t take very long, I unfollowed a 2-300 people and I’m much happier. My Twitter feels leaner, sharper and has more meaningful updates, better signal to noise ratio, all that.

Like any time I dramatically cut back on RSS subscriptions (here’s another good article) or what have you, I don’t miss it. And because I’m a recidivist offender when it comes to welcoming feeds, accounts or noise into my life that will easily distract me, no doubt I’ll have to repeat the process over at some stage, but I’m (generally) OK with it.

Yes, I’m aware this post makes me sound like a dick, but I assure you that’s not the intention – I just want my Twitter to be a nice place, and make it about what works for me rather than trying to be everyone’s mate. Or something. One of the things I love most about Twitter is that you control completely what you see and can quickly change it if it’s not working for you. Don’t put up with noise, claim back your Twitter people! For you!

 

* This is a valuable search tab I have saved for making sure I don’t miss mentions of the employer, with the added bonus of seeing who says what about the employer when they think you’re not seeing it, by not using the handle.

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This ain’t no funky follow party

On the box

So I was on the telly, along with Simone McCallum and Rick Shera talking about this ruling in Australia where by companies are responsible for everything that appears on their Facebook or social media pages.

My (expanded) view is that social media should be literally social – a two way conversation between companies, their customers and their online communities. Of course we keep a close eye on what’s on our page – like Rick says in the clip, you can’t just set up a Facebook page then forget it. We also make no apology for removing posts that are non-family friendly – much offensiveness is automatically headed off at the pass by our profanity filter (great to finally make use of my specialist profanity knowledge in a professional situation).

 
 Getting a quick game of Angry Birds in.

I’d personally be disappointed if a similar ruling here meant a moderation step before people could post on one of our pages. If we set our slate out and ask customers to let us know what they think, folk should be able to say what they like, within reason. A moderation step would make the whole exercise less, well, social.

As for the process of being filmed for the telly and that, it was fun if slightly nerve wracking. And weird to see yourself on the box, but I imagine once you reach full Brislen level, you’d be used to it! The kids loved it. My greatest concern was that one of my mates, seeing the ‘I get an email to my phone when there’s a Facebook comment’ comment would post mass hilarity on the page. Hasn’t happened. Yet. My phone went nuts on the night with relatives txting and kind people tweeting – thanks to everyone who tweeted, you are too kind.

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On the box