December 20th, 2012Personal
So its that most wonderful time of the year once again.
You’re still maniacally trying to get all those last minute pre Christmas jobs finished off, or have been lucky enough to finish for the year already and are rubbing your peers’ noses in it (you know who you are damn you!)
Year in review posts are springing up all over the place and even more predictions for 2013 coming.
2012 was a great year for me. I moved jobs at the end of 2011, and have spent a lot of time helping to grow a business, been to a conference in Iceland and various others around the UK, even braving speaking at one after a lengthy gap since my last one.
But Blah, Blah, Blah… You’ve clicked on a link that says that a digital marketer has been (badly) singing all over Europe. I might have exaggerated a bit with that title, as I’ve actually only sung in Iceland, Turkey and in the UK, but that’s more than 2 countries right?
So, to amuse my faithful online and offline friends and family, I’ve compiled some pictures and video of some of the high(read low)lights of this.
For the record, I can’t stand my own voice, but I’m all for a little bit of fun at my expense should a suitable opportunity arise. Shockingly, evidence of my singing has actually been requested by a few people, a request I suspect they may come to regret.
So without further ado…
RIMC 2012 After Party
For this one, we’ll have to rely on a picture of Nichola and I singing in the audience, as I couldn’t find one of me singing with the band:
I shamelessly stole this picture from Olafur’s Flickr page – I hope he doesn’t mind!
RIMC was a great trip to make – Iceland is a wonderful country, the people were fantastic, the conference content amazing. I hope I can go again in 2013, we’ll have to see about that nearer the time. It snowed all the time and I didn’t see the Northern Lights, which seeing is definitely on the Bucket List!
BrightonSEO March 2012
A performance we were to reprise even more amazingly with a live Karaoke band at the one in September!
Yalikavak, Turkey, May 2012
Again, I’m limited to pictures with this one, but twice we went to a Karaoke Club in Yalikavak called Zorro M Club (great place – check it out if you ever visit, I’m hoping to return in 2013 too).
After warming up with some Louis Armstrong and Van Morrison, me and my best mate Ben whooped out some Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil, and wowed the expat local crowd (I say “wowed”, they requested that we sung it again when we went the second time and kept calling me the good singer – I suspect their singing pool was somewhat “limited”!)
PeteStock, August 2012
So, for my Birthday, I wanted to organise a big party back at my folks’ house, which had been legendary in my youth for its parties (ones that my parents knew about, but plenty that they didn’t too). Before I started planning my 29th I’d had the seed of an idea to organise it as a mini festival, hiring a band to entertain the crowd, with my sister later organising a band with her as the lead singer, some of our friends as backing an invite for me to do two whole songs with them
This is the first outing of this videos. I couldn’t bring myself to upload it anywhere when Alex first shared it with me, so please, be gentle!
Hallelujah I Love Her So:
p.s. Thanks to everyone that came to that – I had one of the best nights of my life and there are too many people to thank here, without whom it would never happened. You know who you are and how grateful I was for it (I hope!)
BrightonSEO September 2012
There is some video of this one as well, courtesy of Dan:
Me murdering Green Day, Basketcase with a live Karaoke band – if you can get past the first line, it is probably one of my better recorded performances :-S make of that what you will. Live Karaoke band was fun!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Sadly, I don’t know if video exists for RIMC, Yalikavak or BrightonSEO September’s performance of Bohemian Rhapsody – if you have any yourself to add to the post, just let me know and I’ll have a gander. It’s possible that video has been shared with me about this and I have conveniently forgotten about it – who knows!
I hope this is a bit different to the rest of the end of year posts you’ll see, and that this has helped to spread a bit of cheer at this festive time.
Who knows – you guys and gals might all get lucky next year – I have no plans to be singing anywhere at all
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all! Here’s hoping its a great 2013 for theMediaFlow and for all the rest of you!
September 22nd, 2012Personal
Many of the irregular (you can’t be that regular with how I often I post here!) readers of this blog may well recall me having a bit of a whine about delivery issues with products bought online causing me to question whether or not I actually wanted to continue making purchases from websites.
There was a whole palava with the delivery company Yodel that culminated in my getting rather irate and ranty online – but ultimately – this got me nothing (except a whole load of Yodel related web traffic, and the ability to see with the peaks and troughs in traffic on these terms when they are having bad days/weeks).
I kept that post updated with my progress, which ended up with me just getting a refund from the supplier & vowing to keep away from Yodel wherever possible.
So, what has happened since – did I lose my enthusiasm for purchasing online? Well, no, of course I didn’t, it’s way to easy to do it, and it typically ends up being cheaper than the high street.
I have found myself continuing to buy things online. Amazon’s allure remains strong, it’s too easy to buy various books, CDs and films from there (as well as office essentials lately), but I have found myself tending towards digital downloads of late – their MP3 store and Kindle bookstore are way, way too easy to buy from, and I also geeked out recently buying a NAS/personal cloud harddrive and media streaming Blu Ray player.
I’ve continued to have a few encounters with Yodel – one of which scared me a little, as they left a bunch of birthday presents unattended by my front door, in pretty much plain sight. That could have been disastrous, but we got lucky in that it wasn’t raining that hard, and at least they delivered it, without leaving it in a bin like many tales I’ve heard about them since.
I will admit though – there have been successful Yodel deliveries too – they seem fine as a delivery company with anything that can fit through the letterbox – I’ve consistently had issues with the larger packages, and still do my utmost to avoid them wherever possible.
I also gave Sports Direct another try, after my issues that led to my initial rant – I found their customer service had much improved since that encounter, and managed to get a new t-shirt for playing football in from them too.
In fairness again to Yodel – they appear to be trying to take some of the feedback they’ve been getting on board. They respond on Twitter now, which was a major gripe – they were impossible to get hold of via any channels that I tried at all.
The lessons I’ve learned from this are going to encourage me to get my Christmas shopping done and dusted as early as possible this year, so as to avoid some of the delivery periods where things will be going nuts for couriers and customers alike.
I’m happy to feel good about buying things online again – it really irritated me as an digital marketer that I’d lost faith in this – as I said before, I’ve always felt an online evangelist, and it was not great to lose faith in something I’d been encouraging others to take part in for so long.
For these markets to continue to grow though, its not just going to be about throwing up a website and starting to sell online. Distribution systems are only going to come under further pressure as time goes on, and uptake increases, and I think that sellers need to bear in mind how their courier selections reflect on them as a business. I understand that margins are tight, but you are in danger of losing repeat custom if you go down the cheapest delivery options and let people down in the process.
But this is also about the user – one thing that I’ve started to do more of with my online ordering is paying for better delivery options. I think as customers, if we accept that we aren’t going to pay for delivery, then we need to be realistic about how that free service will be delivered. I don’t know that its ideal, but I’m coming round to the mindset of “you don’t get nothing for free” – so by paying a few quid, I expect more from it – and demand more from it. I’m yet to be let down by this, though as ever with these things, I don’t expect it to never-endingly perfect. Hopefully, this will draw a line under this topic for me now!
Over and out…
The First BrightonSEO
BrightonSEO has changed a lot since my first trip down to Brighton in December 2009 (I think) to go for a drink with some fellow SEOs. This was my first trip out into the wild that is the SEO community and I haven’t looked back since. That first night I got to meet some industry type folks that I still speak to today, such as Anna Lewis, Any Keetch & Kelvin Newman, although its still with some sadness that I remember it was Jaamit that persuaded me to actually get my arse in gear to go and visit it. Still missed mate, still missed.
Edit: Having been discussing this on Twitter, I wanted to shout out to Fresh Egg and Tim Aldiss as well for their efforts with this as well – BrightonSEO wouldn’t be what it is today without their efforts.
The First BrightonSEO Mini-Conference (but 2nd BrightonSEO)
This was the first conference of any description that I’d ever been too, and with a few short days warning and not a great amount of prep I was actually talking at it too!
I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect from it all really – it was upstairs in a pub called the Quadrant, which in many ways still feels like its spiritual home, although sadly the conference itself appears to have massively outgrown that venue now. It felt like I was talking in front of quite a large crowd, and it certainly got bigger as the day went on, although I suspect I spoke in front of far fewer people than I thought at the time!
(Thanks to Silicon Beach Training for getting me this picture)
I did quite a big write up of this at the time, and whilst I quite enjoyed speaking, I think I would do a better job with it now that I’ve seen a wide range of speakers on a wide range of topics. I’ve certainly learnt a lot more about SEO in the following years.
A mercifully brief section of my presentation is on YouTube if you are interested.
Growth of the Conference
Over the following couple of years, the popularity of BrightonSEO exploded.
I first met my now business partner Nichola Stott at the next one where she was talking, and met a wide range of hugely interesting folks within the industry over the course of them as a whole.
From the top of my head, I think the next event was about 150-200 people in a large room upstairs in a community centre, growing to 400 odd at a university building with the next, through to filling the corn exchange at the one before last.
I think this was around about 500 booked in, although there were some inevitable no-shows (and I could be totally wrong with these numbers).
A recurring theme for me at all of these events is the amount of people that I’ve met for the first time that already feel like they’ve been friends for years. Social media does a really good job of the introductions, and so many people I’ve gone on to meet, its just felt so easy and natural. In many cases we actually have been talking for years by that point, so perhaps that’s natural!
What has evolved at the BrightonSEO’s is a real sense of community as its continued to grow. Every time there are some familiar faces to catch up with (many that I’ve only ever actually seen at these events), and as each year goes on, its grown further. I really hope that this can continue as it continues to evolve in the future.
Spring 2012 BrightonSEO – Fun, Games & Karaoke
This one was the biggest one yet, with over 1000 people at the sold out in minutes event.
I won’t do a write up of the content as such of this event, as this has been covered in great depth in some awesome posts elsewhere, including these:
- http://delicious.com/stacks/view/EwV9qd (great stack of coverage)
And below are most of the slides etc:
- Future SEO Vistas
- (Re)Launching a Brand or Product online Effectively
- Microformats and SEO
- Searchbots – Lost Children or Hungry Psychopaths?
- It’s Only Words? Working with A Content Strategy
- Advanced Search Queries for SEO
- 20 Tools You May Not Have Heard of But Should Be Using
- Sell the Sizzle Not the Search
- SEO & PPC Working Together in Harmony
- I Believed Authors are the Future
- Mobile Serendipity: How Google Plans to Send Search Results to Users, Before You’ve Even Thought to Look
Instead, I’ll look at some of the fun things that went on that day that I got involved with.
First of all, I raised my hand to get involved with an on-stage competition:
This involved being the first one to hit the target with an awesome nerf gun rifle. Fortunately my opponent didn’t quite manage to hit the target with their first three efforts, and I lined up the shot, had a loosener with the first, shooting just over, and hit the target smack bang in the middle with shot number 2.
BOOM – I was in the final, much later in the day (just before the day at the Dome finished up)
Whilst Kelvin was getting this setup we had to keep the crowd warmed up. For my bit I talked up the later Karaoke on the pier, and was nearly convinced by the crowd to break in to song A cappella, but fortunately I forgot the words of the main tune I’ve been practising for PeteStock of late, and my phone was mercifully turned off so I couldn’t jog my memory in sufficient time to have a go. But I did promise to sing Bohemian Rhapsody later that evening, and my later fate was sealed (although, I had already promised Kelvin when talk of Karaoke was first mooted a few months ago)
When Kelvin was ready for us, we found out that competition involving a head to head match up in Street Fighter 2…
I’ll confess I groaned when I saw this – I never had a console back in those days, and whilst my opponent had never played the game, I had and I knew I was bad at it! Needless to say, I put in an embarrassing show that would subject me (rightly) to mockery for the rest of evening (and for some time since).
Before leaving for the day, I also managed to get the ShitForLinks stuff that I’d bartered for ahead of the event:
I’ve fortunately never really been that fazed by a bit of banter, or doing silly things for the amusement of others.
So on that note, here is a little video of me singing Bohemian Rhapsody (badly as ever for those that have heard me sing it before), featuring some awesome accompaniment from some friends (Kelvin, the organiser of BrightonSEO, Ben “yesiamben” Pritchard and Dom Hodgson from EmberAds and clicknmix):
I think the incessant cackle of laughter tells its own story really – hope you chuckled too!
Bigger thanks has to go to Kelvin for organising all these events to. Good work sir, and please, on behalf of all of us – please keep them coming! Now that you are finished here, go watch the “proper” videos of the presentations from the last event.
April 4th, 2012Personal
Well, it seems that I won’t be getting my parcel… Yodel have now sent it back to the retailer, who in turn told me that they will issue a refund when they have received it. I have asked for an immediate refund, as its only been sent back to them as Yodel appear incapable of actually organising delivery of this item, but this is being ignored. Net result – I will actively avoid purchasing from websites that will deliver with Yodel only… An entirely unsatisfactory result for all parties, that has left a rather bad taste in the mouth really…
So sad, as I really should be an evangelist for online purchasing.
It seems to me, particularly in light of recent media reports claiming Yodel want more money from their retailers, that they built a business model around pitching themselves to retailers at a price that was never going to make them money, undercutting competition to win contracts and are now whining that they are not profitable. I would suggest that this was always going to be a recipe for disaster – and one that was never going to have customer service as a central tenet. Ah well, I’ll have to head in to town when I get a refund and look for some shoes there!
If you’ve followed my Twitter stream over the last 10 days or so, you will no doubt have seen me moaning about Yodel Delivery Problems, and I am getting massively frustrated with the horrifically bad service (it can barely be called service really) that I have been receiving from them.
I’m currently questioning if I actually want to purchase items online at the moment, as they have become the “cheap” courier of choice for the cheaper ends of the Internet.
All I want is my parcel and Yodel have made me question whether or not I want to continue purchasing items online.
I’m an online marketer, and have traditionally been an evangelist for all things ecommerce based. I find this a sad indictment of this company (who I know deliver for Amazon, a company that I have historically purchased from frequently and am questioning doing so again in the future). Does anyone know of a list of websites that use Yodel? As that is likely a list of websites that I will not be purchasing from again in the future!
A lot of the rest of this blog is going to be quite ranty – you were warned!
So, last Saturday (24th March) I purchased 3 pairs of shoes as well as some shorts ahead of my holiday next month from a sports retailer. Not a shop that I like to visit really, but they were cheap, they looked as if they’d look pretty good. I have a tendency to break shoes quite a lot, so I wanted to cover myself by purchasing a few different pairs.
The retailer dispatched this pretty much immediately, and it was “out for delivery” on the Monday morning on the 26th. Great I thought as I would be in all day to take delivery.
Waited around all day and nothing… No card, no attempt to deliver, no notification of it not being able to be delivered that day.
I gave them the benefit of the doubt and waited around on Tuesday too, though was somewhat perturbed that the tracking didn’t budge from “Parcel returned to delivery depot – 26/03/12″. Frustratingly as of the morning of the 04/04/12 this hasn’t budged.
By Wednesday I was starting to get a bit more irritated so I dropped Yodel an email before 7.30am, trying to find out what is going on (its seriously not easy to find a number on their website where you can actually speak to anyone). I asked, quite reasonably I thought:
“I’ve noted… that these items were out for delivery on the 26th March – which I was present at my property all day for. Was a delivery attempt made?
If so, why was there no card left behind? Also, why was this not taken out for delivery yesterday. Can you confirm to me when this is due to be delivered?
I will be at my property all day today
I got an auto-responder in return – and nothing back at all. I got busy and forgot about things until Friday, where I tried to call only to have to negotiate an auto-dialler. Seeing as dispatch hadn’t occurred that morning I looked to arrange delivery for Monday morning.
I followed this up with an email where I was getting more frustrated at this lack of communication with Yodel:
“I must start out by saying how frustrated I have been awaiting a delivery from Yodel this week…
…did not leave the house on Monday – if a delivery attempt was made, it was not to this address, and no card or notification has been left. I would imagine your order tracking system would have some form of notification that a delivery attempt had been made within this, so had initially assumed that another delivery attempt would be made on the Tuesday.
I checked again on Wednesday, and there had been no change to this status by the time my item left dispatch previously on the Monday. As a result, I used your web form to ask for further information and to ask if it would be delivered that day, or today being Friday.
As I had heard nothing back from anyone at all, I phoned this morning and have arranged for delivery on Monday.
Can you confirm that my delivery for the ***************** item will be delivered on Monday as I have just arranged via telephone?
If you cannot confirm this, can I have details on your complaints procedure please?
Of course, I got nothing back at all…
So, come Monday morning, I was starting to lose my patience when I saw that the “redelivery” that I’d instructed them to perform was not happening. I started writing another email to them, when lo and behold I got a response, to the very first email I’d sent on the Wednesday 5 days before:
Thank you for contacting Yodel.
Our system shows that your parcel is located at our Southampton Service Centre.
Your enquiry has now been forwarded to the Service Centre where arrangements will be made to deliver your parcel as soon as possible.
Unfortunately at the minute wer are unable to advise you of a delivery date due to the Service Centre Experiencing operational issues.
Please accept our apologises.”
This infuriated me and I replied very quickly to this one – I started to get quite a lot snarkier, I won’t deny it, and I don’t envy the people that work in Yodel Customer Services.
I ranted about response times being unacceptable and then pretty much wrote what I’ve written so far as this blog. This time I got a really speedy response “I do apologise for any inconvenience this has caused. We are currently investigating why you have not received your shipment.”
I waited a few hours for them to not get back to me and then followed up with another email:
“Clearly, there is no desire to be assisting me here, or communicating what might be happening with my package?
6 hours further on, no change to order tracking.
No notification that my item was not going to be delivered today as I’d arranged on Friday.
No real communication as to what is happening, or when this is going to be resolved.
When can I expect to receive these goods? Can someone call me to discuss these issues?
I am bitterly disappointed in the service levels I am receiving from Yodel”
In fairness, again, this time they responded pretty quickly:
I can only apologise
Southampton do have operational issues at present and we are trying to gain a resoloution for you
We cannot pass on any more details than this at present as Southampton are doing all they can to try and receover these issues
I then reasonably asked “Has Southampton had “operational issues” for that entire time? I’m going to investigate with my social network connections if any others have had issues at that time, and I expect to be notified at the earliest opportunity as to when these issues will be resolved, and delivery can be arranged.”
I did ask my social network, and frankly no one had a good word to say about Yodel, though I didn’t really find anyone else that was having specific delivery issues like me in this area.
I left them alone for most of yesterday, and still heard nothing else, so come the evening emailed again asking a few pertinent questions:
“Any news on when I might finally receive my item?
Or when I can expect to find out when I might possibly receive this item?
Are there still “operational difficulties” in Southampton?
I will be in my property all day tomorrow, though cannot guarantee the same on Thursday.
Do I need to do anything to facilitate receiving this delivery?
If you cannot fulfil this delivery, at what stage can I get a refund?
Can someone call me to explain quite what the hell is going on here?”
I also asked how to complain – so if anyone wants Yodels complaints email address, here you go as the response I got was:
“Thank you for contacting Yodel.
We are currently investigating why you have not yet received your shipment.
The email address for our complaints department is firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to log a complaint.
Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience caused.”
So… what do Yodel do when they are investigating this? I suspect not a lot, in the hope that you will just leave them alone.
Does anyone have anything good to say about Yodel? I’d experienced their delivery service in the past, and it was adequate but I never felt compelled to rant about it like I have done here (and like I did once with Royal Mail for an incident that seems like nothing in light of this).
All I want is my parcel…
Read the rest of this entry »
February 29th, 2012Personal
I was watching the BBC news this morning, and grew increasing irritated about repeated comments of “it’s easy stacking shelves”.
These people have clearly never done it! This was presenters as well as guests brought on to talk about the topics, one for it and one against. They all seemed to say exactly that though, and it really raised my hackles.
I’ve worked in retail for a number of companies – most horrifically Asda, when I took a job with them as a Christmas temp to get off the dole. I quit there about 5 months later (I grafted so they kept me on after the immediate Christmas rush) and moved to Co-op as it didn’t involve a 30 mile bus commute – I could walk instead, and it was just over a mile.
The job was not easy!
Working in the alcohol department, stock is heavy, it attracts dust, things get broken and require cleaning. You have to manage stock levels, prioritise stock to get out when you have limited staff to put it out in busy periods (and need to focus on getting stuff out that sells). You have to make sure the products are laid out in a sensible way, with similar items, and you have to make sure that the bottles face forwards (you would not believe how many people used to find this hard!). I’m sure I’m forgetting some bits, particularly from Asda, as it was a job I hated, and I’ve blotted as much of it from my memory as possible.
I took the job because I didn’t want to be on the dole. There was nothing else available that I had any skills for. I was 18 – I didn’t have any skills back then. I commuted for nearly 90 minutes, on crappy smelly buses. It wasn’t a proud time in my life.
I then moved to the Co-op where I ran the frozen department of the Hayling Island store. That job was slight better, if only because I could walk to work. But, it was in freezers, at temperatures approximately -36 degrees. There wasn’t much in the way of specialist equipment. I used my own gloves for several months before finally convincing my employers to purchase some that were designed for that situation. I always used my own coat, as there wasn’t one provided.
You think its easy working at -36 degrees? Doing a stock take in there for 4-6 hours? Do me a favour!
Anticipating demand on sale stock. Making sure you ordered the products that ran low. Making sure your actual stock levels matched up with what the computers said. Locating stock that was hidden away at the back of the freezer. These things would still challenge me today!
I still clearly remember the day I passed my probation there. They told me I was an excellent prospect for management training, and that if I wanted to, I could start supervising at nights and weekends. I said that what I wanted in the future was a more typical job, perhaps not necessarily *just* 9-5, but where weekends were sacred. My manager said “that doesn’t exist any more”.
My response was thanks, but no, and I signed up to go back to college the very next day. Working at the Co-op and Asda spurred me into having some drive in my life. If that hadn’t happened, who knows, I might have been a manager of a Co-op by now. Would I be happy? Probably not, but I’d be employed.
I worked 35 hours a week minimum to put myself back through college. I’d broken my ankle the first time I went to college and didn’t have the grades to get in to University. So, I went and got them, working hard throughout both on my studies (well, sort of, the qualification was mostly stuff I “knew” but couldn’t prove) and at work. I paid my parents rent throughout this too – why should I get to live there for free, on a handout? They weren’t exactly rolling in the cash, and I ate a lot of food, so fair was fair!
I got to university and took a job at HMV. I loved this job, but it wasn’t that easy either. There were very defined section standards that were to be adhered to at all times. No more than 6 CDs per pocket, no more than 4 artists per pocket either.
Plenty of staff couldn’t grasp those simple rules years in to working there, as it was too easy to take short cuts. Chart walls were always to be laid out in particular ways. Store card sign ups (god I hated selling those, but sometimes people asked for them) involved some stupidly complex forms, and then involved using a crackly phone line to speak to someone in a really thick Scottish accent that I could barely understand.
Particularly at HMV, customer experience was paramount. You’d bend over backwards to help people find what they were looking for, suggest alternatives or additional recommendations. Manning the tills at Christmas time was bloody tough too. You try and serve 50 people per hour, every hour for an 8 hour shift and tell me that’s easy!
These are physically demanding jobs. They are mentally exhausting. Yes, they can be horrible. But, you know what – I am really glad I did them! I’ve worked labouring at a concrete construction yard and as a gardener too. They were pretty tiring as well, but “stacking shelves” was up there in being tough. It really shouldn’t be belittled in the way I am constantly seeing at the moment
I don’t really know enough of the details of these schemes to pass comment on them specifically, but I will say this. My experiences got me ready for the world of work that I find myself in today.
These days I am self motivated to get things done. I haven’t needed people to tell me what to do for years. I just do it – it gets done. It does seem to me that some people today “expect” to get given things on a plate without putting that graft in. But that perception of mine is almost certainly warped by the same media that irritated me to write this post
I don’t really know that people should be doing this work for free. The premise of doing 2-4 weeks work experience, giving you a chance to impress, work well in the team, learn some useful skills is a good one. My own experience from doing work experience at school for free suggests that this probably isn’t the reality of the situation. That’s sad, and probably why it’s getting so much media attention.
If I had one message to the younger than me folks of today though, it would be this. Don’t turn your nose up at any opportunities. Take them, excel at them – get what you can from it. Move on and develop. It’s all down to you though, no one is going to “give” it to you.
UPDATE: Based on some conversation I’ve had on Facebook, I should clarify I lived in a comfortable house with my parents throughout most of this period. I mostly used the money for entertaining myself. If you define “easy” for a job in a way that means “if most people could do that job” then yes, stacking shelves is probably easy. I just don’t think its helpful to belittle the effort that people put in to work hard in these roles.