This week I spoke I had the enormous privilege of speaking at the Brighton SEO Conference – and it was fab. I’ve been going for a number of years now and I’ve always been impressed by the general vibe of event – it really embraces the idea that if you are passionate about a subject and you want to share your learns with others, then there’s a good chance you’ll get a slot. It’s also been an event where you can build up a lot of contacts, and I’ve certainly benefitted through the years from the people I’ve met each time I’ve been there.
This year was extra special because I had the opportunity to speak on stage about the ways in which you can work with internal teams to deliver your big SEO projects. You can access the slides here and I’ll be posting the video after the Brighton SEO Virtual event on September 23rd. I really enjoyed the whole process of preparing my slides for the event with support from the conference team, alongside a WhatsApp group they provided with the other presenters – we certainly helped each other get psyched for the big day itself!
Thanks to everyone who attended and we had some great questions afterwards. I’ll be posting some notes once the video is available, but in the meantime you can register for the virtual event here: https://www.brightonseo.com/
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It’s been over a month now since I watched Bo Burnham’s ‘Inside’ and, I must admit, it’s made quite the impact. Like most people in the UK (and perhaps over a certain age) I randomly clicked on a thumbnail in Netflix without knowing exactly what I was going to get.
This is what it felt like when I realised what it was I was getting.
So, yes, it’s provoked some pretty deep existential thoughts that haven’t been entirely resolved by watching Harry Kane smashing a penalty on repeat. Perhaps, what I’ve found most disturbing is how well Burnham predicts his film is going to be processed by the internet once it’s been released – like the endless commentaries on YouTube that don’t seem to add anything other than pleasing our algorithmic overlords. Well, at least ‘Inside’ has more Lols…
The other thing I am finding hard to process is the fact that one of his tracks in the film is shaping up to be an absolute SUMMER BANGER. I mean, look folks – it’s even been included on the New York Times’ ‘At Home and Away Summer Playlist.’ 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 I honestly can’t really think of a track less summer ‘feel-good’ than a person sharing their experience of panic attacks over a sick beat. Not that I’m knocking the tune, or Bo here.
So those are the things I’m currently thinking about at the moment. And then I’m also thinking about all those exceptionally clever parts of the film, LIKE MOST OF IT. Like when Bo apologises for ‘not being able to play the guitar very well, or sing’ – and then goes on to both play and sing very well. Because you’re then left thinking ‘did he just say that off the cuff or did he rehearse that?’ And then you start to realise you are watching an onion of many, many layers.
Lastly, I can”t finish without saying just how great the songs in this film are. Like really good and ‘my gosh that must have taken a fair bit of time to get that right.’ As someone who’s written many ‘this is so bad I can’t upload it’ songs, I just need to doff my pitiful music-making cap here. Especially, when you get words like:
“The livе-action Lion King, the Pepsi Halftime Show Twenty-thousand years of this, seven more to go Carpool Karaoke, Steve Aoki, Logan Paul A gift shop at the gun range, a mass shooting at the mall.”
So, I’ll end there with just the recommendation that if you haven’t watched it yet, watch it – even if it’s just for the BANGERS.
During lockdown I’ve been really proud of making a little music – you know, updating my old plugins, buying the odd piece of hardware now and again. TRYING TO MAKE AN EFFORT.
I also bought a nice little sea shell to go with it all. Look.
And then someone posted this to the internet this week…
And then this…..
And even this…
It turns out, this is Martin Gore’s home studio. Let me repeat that – HOME STUDIO. Just when you think you’re getting somewhere…
I once met Martin at a Nitzer Ebb gig back in the ’90s. I asked him for an autograph, which he really wasn’t happy about, and then we watched someone being booted offstage by the lead singer. This was at the time when it was very much the done thing for fans to get up onstage to then dive headfirst into the mosh pit – but apparently this wasn’t the done thing to do on this particular EBM night. I think about that moment quite often.
Now and again, when I have a free lunchtime, I usually find myself wandering into the same local bookshop to peruse the latest sci-fi/fantasy reads. I’d like to say this daily quest involves navigating poorly-lit stairwells and fathomless basement catacombs – but it’s all rather mundane really with everything stacked neatly into their various expanding sub-sections and plenty of lighting, air conditioning and coffee. It seems that ‘speculative fiction’ (a term I hate) has been a real hit during Covid.
However, there’s one category that hasn’t faired so well and that’s the much overlooked and unloved PHILOSOPHY section. Over the years, I’ve seen this particular area of the bookshop slowly dwindle in size until it was eventually moved to spot you’d really only find if you were lost. Even an attempt to rebrand it as ’SMART THINKING’ hasn’t seemed to work – and so these vertically-aligned relics of the past remain untouched, gathering dust until the nearest flickering basement light bulb eventually splutters out.
So imagine my surprise when, one day, I noticed a new* book on the shelf adorned with the words ’Nietzsche and Hiking.’ It seemed like a curious mix of topics so I immediately bought it and was immediately hooked. Neither completely all about philosophy, and not quite all about outdoor orienteering, it’s really a rather honest account by an author who was so inspired by Nietzsche, he very nearly imploded.
And it’s not hard to see why.
Way back when I was a student studying English Lit, we were given a brief introduction to what was called the ‘Premiere League of Philosophy’. We were told two things: firstly, that we were ’ships in the night’ and would probably never return to this subject again because this topic was, of course, naturally reserved for full-time philosophy students – and the second was to read two texts and comment on one of them. The first was Plato’s account of the beginning of the Universe which was absolutely crackers (honestly, you should give it a whirl) – and the second was ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’. Thinking back, I wish that second text had come with some kind of health warning because I only gave it a cursory read and I was smitten: it didn’t seem to contain any of those long drawn-out logical arguments the other books seemed to bang on about PLUS it was always being referenced by my favourite artists. What wasn’t to love?
What swiftly followed was a real desire to read everything Mr. ‘Dynamite’ had written, without much context and with certainly very little understanding. I soon became an aphorism-reciting cliche and definitely not the kind of person you’d want to meet at parties and casually ask ‘So, how’s life?” It all reached a very predictable conclusion like a scene from ‘Withnail and I’ which I’ll simply leave here with the truism that there’s nothing like having to pay your first month’s rent to make you reconsider your life choices.
Anyway, I wanted to celebrate John Kaag’s book because I don’t think too many people have written such an honest account of how a philosopher can have such a dramatic affect on the psyche of a reader. We’ve certainly seen that scenario played out in various plays, books and film scripts – but not quite in real-life, and probably not with academic professors. The only book that has a similar approach in it’s sensitivity in this area is Yalom’s ‘When Nietzsche Wept’ although that work is entirely fictional which makes Kaag’s confessional all the more thought-provoking. And even if the biographical element doesn’t appeal to you, Kaag makes light work of explaining some of the more complex ideas and characters in this period of Continental Philosophy. It’s the kind of introduction I wish I’d read back when Guinness was only a pound a pint at the student bar – although, perhaps, that’s also another reminder that there’s sometimes more to life than spending your day thinking about things.
The allure of Nietzsche is that once you start listening to his arguments, the questions never quite go away. We should thank Kaag for giving us a personal insight into where those questions might take you – even if that’s to places many of us would fear to tread.
On Saturday morning I got out of bed and ran 26.2 miles around a lake in the pouring rain. In fact, it had rained so hard overnight that in many areas of the course you found yourself slipping sideways down the banks of the lake towards the water. At mile 2 I felt a slight ache in my ankle which I knew it was going to get worse – and it did. As I spent the next four hours negotiating various waves of pain, I would like to tell you that I spent a bit of that time wondering why I put myself through that kind of discomfort each year. But I didn’t. I just kept on putting one foot in front of the other, kept my head up, spoke to other people, made sure I was taking in the fluids and gels at the right time, examining the ground to stop myself tripping over, adjusting the layers I was carrying, breathing correctly, keeping my hat on to prevent sunburn, taking it off when I got too hot, putting it back on…
The point of me telling you this, I guess, is that, after something like 10 marathons, I think the key of having a really good run, is probably not to think too much about it when you’re doing it. It’s a very odd experience but you have to stop you’re mind from wandering otherwise, when you focus again, you can get quite overwhelmed by it all. How bonkers is that?
Another interesting thing I learnt this weekend is just how powerful your mind can be when you set yourself a clear goal. I met another runner who had a serious leg operation a year ago and was going to run the Boston Marathon in a few months. When I asked him a bit more about it, he said he’d already run 460 marathons and wanted to get to 500.
When I got back to my car with my recently-won medal it all seemed to pale into insignificance. What an incredible achievement. I wonder if I could ever get to 50 marathons. Now, there’s a thought…
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This year I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a month-long introduction to Design Thinking with work and it’s been a really rewarding experience. There were about twenty of us in total and our focus during the course was to try and find solutions to some of the challenges faced by charities during this pandemic.
I’m not going to repeat the methodology we used – you can read that elsewhere – but I just wanted to highlight two areas I found really useful. The first was just basic audience research: we were given a series of questions to ask friends/family/people-we’ve-never-really-actually-spoken- to-for-yonks-on-Facebook to find out a) if they donated at all and b) if their perception of charities or general donating behaviour had changed over the last year. We were also asked to note how animated people became when giving feedback on a certain topic and to explore why that might be.
The feedback I got was really varied but there were four main themes that resonated with our group – (a) a general scepticism about the actual impact bigger charities make; (b) an increased emphasis on ‘supporting local’; (c) people wanted very easy ways of donating and (d) people were looking for incentives to donate. Now, all of these points aren’t exactly rocket science but it was really powerful to collect all these opinions ‘direct from the source’ so we could really hear those emotive responses which you just can’t get via a survey.
Anyway, following this initial audience research we brainstormed a number of possible solutions then agreed as a group on a top three that we would take forward to the prototype stage, finally selecting one for our final ‘pitch.’ One of my ideas did not make it to the final round – and that was because it became very complex, very quickly.
I wanted crate a funny version of the Bear Grylls show on Netflix ‘You vs The Wild.‘ This has a basic story arc: you have to help Grylls to get from A-B and on the way there 4 or 5 ‘either/or’ decisions you have to make. I wanted to take this model and apply it to a ‘Make your own Charity promo video’ scenario – you would choose between a number of good and very bad decisions in the creation of your promo video. Instead of helping Bear Grylls, you would be helping a well-known funny celebrity personality who would be trying at all times, to get you to select one of the bad decisions. The point of the whole exercise would be that you’d something learn about the challenges charities have faced during the pandemic, the value a charity can bring to those in need PLUS it would all be hilarious resulting in a final video that could be shared on the socials.*
To be fair, even as i typed that paragraph I reminded myself that that even a simple ‘Choose A/Choose B’ format can quickly become complex, especially if you’re trying tick off a number of objectives in addition. I started to draft the script but then quickly realised I had to sketch out the whole scenario from beginning to end to make any sense of it. And when I started to do that, I realised I had to get feedback on the structure and the whole project in general – in short, I had to sketch a wireframe prototype, discuss with others, making quick amendments as I bounced from zoom call to zoom call. I think with more available time, I would have eventually refined the model into a decent state – but we had a hard deadline to hit so I had to ditch it.
Anyway, my key learn from the whole exercise was simply this: if you have an idea that you think could work, but as you discuss it, it starts to feel complex – sketch it out. The very act of a sketch invites feedback and suggestions for improvements. Confront the unforeseen challenges early in your project and that will save you a lot of time further down the line!
Also, I humbly salute anyone out there creating any kind of visual project – especially if you have to deal with people like me who say things like ‘hey, this would make a cool video, should be pretty easy to do, right?’
For that, you win all the gold stars.
*During this project I never actually said ‘this video will be hilarious’ simply because when people say ‘this will be hilarious’ you can guarantee it won’t be.