Digital Detox on Thisissamstown.com

Back to stone age, a digital detox with #TCMarcia

I know storms. I know gales. Being born in Brittany, I have been used to strong winds, massive waves crashing inland, bad weather overall. I even celebrated a new year, when living in Scotland, stuck in my flat, seen waves the size of a two-storeys building crash inland, pushed by winds blowing at 170 km/hr.

This was nothing.

I had never faced a cyclone. I have found myself in one now with Marcia, the tropical cyclone hitting Queensland.

A cyclone is a traumatizing experience. And beyond that, puts things back into perspective.

Home alone

With due respect to Macaulay (borrowing the title of this major piece of art), sitting home, waiting for and going through a cyclone involves little fun. From getting ready to following the forecasts before just sitting it and feeling the damage, the overall experience proves a long frustrating run more than anything.

Furthermore, with the power going down – and the internet – a window on the outside disappears. When the phone network falls as well, reaching friends and family becomes impossible.

I was listening, yesterday, to an interview made by Jason Roulston, at Just Digital People, and one point mentioned was that making (lots of) money does not matter much in the end if it means that it keeps you away from friends and family.

Call it the Scrooge principle for instance. Your gold can’t offer you a beer or give you a hug.

As true as it is, it also felt like so déjà-vu and common logic for me after more than 15 years of working and never really gunning for the money.

But it needs to be said. And repeated. Again and again. Reflecting on it now, I could say that again a thousands time. People are key. Not the money. And when your neighbourhood is being torn to pieces, regardless of origins or riches, comfort is only to be found in them, people.

Which, in the end, makes the experience more traumatizing when even phone lines are down and you can not reach people.

Digital desert

A digital desert. That is what happens when the Internet is down and so is the phone network.

Following on my previous point, this desert proves the worst as it makes it impossible to check on family and friends and prevents from reassuring them as well.

People end up waiting and wondering … .

This is the time when smartphones prove either dumber than dumb phones and the old fashion radio becomes the most wanted piece of tech around. Talk of a jump back in time by almost twenty years.

Beyond not being connected anymore, this sheds some light on how fragile digital jobs can be. No internet, no data, no way to work … . Just because of an outburst of wind and rain.

But this is only frustrating. The unsettling side of it is going from information overload to nothing.

With the internet running, I could see the forecasts, the tweets, the (scary) evolution of the cyclone up to category 5 as hours were passing. But once everything crashed and the cyclone was there, no information were to be found anymore apart from general radio reports.

All of a sudden, people find themselves in the dark.

This is an experience similar to looking at someone throw a punch, in slow motion, when the target is your face.

You know it is coming, you see it, can think of how bad it will hurt, take time to look at the ring on one finger which is going to butcher your cheek but you have no chance at all to avoid it, do not know what the exact outcome will be and how badly you will be hurt.

We could follow Marcia, define the course, the fact that it would hit hard but then … . Nothing more but a blank space and questions.

Make the call

Back to business, somehow, this also translates in everyday’s life. Be it on a personal side or at work.

I am often stunned (or pissed off) seeing people sticking to email and holding on to it like their life depends on it. For one major reason – which also helped texts and messaging apps grow that much – people fear speaking to people.

We live in a world where people would rather send a dozen emails, asking a dozen questions, rather than just place a call and sort things out in a matter of minutes.

Yet, in a crisis situation, with phone lines down, when being able to place a call becomes the only way to know about the safety of loved ones, priorities change. Calling turns into a necessity.

I place calls. And being stuck, not able to call when I am wondering whether my family is safe makes it even more unbearable.

This is a cry for all stupid spammers out there, grow some heart (…) and use your phones when that is so easy to do it.

TBC …

To be continued. Shit happens – and is due to keep happening. Life is just a matter of keeping track of  priorities and of what matters most.

Family is key and so are friends. Technology, if massive, finally weak and not necessary. Guts, lost for many in the workplace but maybe found by others.

That is one take of that experience. Some people suck, some are great but the best ones always shine in darkness and prove amazing when crisis strike.

I love digital but, hey, people, remember it is just a tool.

The competitive advantages of startups on Thisissamstown.com

The competitive advantages of startups

Startups are the new darlings of job seekers, investors and markets. But what makes them so different and, first, more capable of achieving success in an ever growing competitive world.

They collaborate and work as a team

As opposed to traditional companies, this may be the number one feature that makes startups so different from corporations.
People – and departments – talk to each other, work together, in one word, collaborate.
Just compare it to a traditional model where, for example, the technical guys show mostly disdain for the marketing guys (who spend the money they are “creating”) and vice versa (marketers unhappy to work with people who can not explain what they are doing with real words … ).
As bad a joke as it sounds that is everyday business in far too many companies at the moment and something startups do not have to cope with. They are built on the actual principle of collaboration and sharing. Even with extended teams, even with staff dispersed all other the world.

They fail and rise again 

Startups are based on people, often a small amount and for a noticeable amount of them often built on a business model still to be validated. Recipe for failure ?
Maybe but not necessarily since these companies also know they may be wrong or could fail and that is part of their DNA. Which also means that with agile structures and agile minds, they are ready to pivot and completely turn around their whole business fast enough to avoid failure. Or rise from that crash with an other product/business already on the launchpad.
Since failure is definitely part of the startup equation, so shall be plan B, C, D and so on. And feel free to add numbers, invent letters or use visuals to name all the other backup plans.

They are eager to succeed 

With the risk of failure comes great will to succeed. A startup is a business run by a commando team all striving towards this one goal of making the company a success.
In real life that means not delaying this sensitive call or questioning sending this note to a customer. That also means going the extra mile to reach people and getting creative. Without the power of a renowned brand behind them, without a strong presence on the market or famed references, people have to make the difference. And find new ways to reach out to the most inaccessible contacts and make the most of every single opportunity to pitch, present or just get in touch with potential customers, advisors or ambassadors.

But … 

Beyond these advantages, startups need not to get lost and stick to basics.
Do you want unicorn employees or do you actually want people bringing in ideas but also participating in the reflection and adding value? Not just knowing it all and not developing – their own selves and the company.
Do you also need to burn funding on the perks race or rather on making sure the company can keep offering these perks forever ? That is staying in business and growing.
Last, depending on your market and product, do not burn your one shot on an MVP – make it an acceptable product at least.
And keep kicking giants in the … business!
Work hard, play harder, work even harder - on Thisissamstown.com

Work Hard, Play Harder, Work Even Harder

Work hard, play harder, work even harder - on Thisissamstown.com

“Work hard, play hard” … and beyond. Some words I have made mine in a slightly updated way.

Work hard, play harder, work even harder!

No bullshit. Living and working in a personally organised way but being held accountable for everything. This does translate in working remotely but getting things done. Working without a 9 to 5 schedule but still delivering and more.

Being free. But free to work and deliver.

Startups perk picture on thisissamstown.com

The one perk startups do not offer

Startups perk picture on thisissamstown.com

(Image credit : Alleywatch)

Want a startup job ? Everybody does nowadays. The “cool” jobs, teams of ninjas, rockstars and co, the ping-pong tables, free food and crazy offices in the Valley or some cool startup district.

And with high levels of funding and attractiveness, startups still can afford to fight for the best of the best over money and perks.

But the one perk is missing … 

As much as a hipster working on his Mac at Cool Beans can be a usual sight in San Francisco, it does seem that this same hipster will not be found, working, at a terrace in Paris or the beach, at Bondi.

Pure geographical logic.

Not really when considering the hip and promises of the startup world where “remote” is a common word.

However, a closer look at this world, the jobs advertised and the everyday chatting does uncover a bit of truth. Startups, the cool kids, are old geezers in the end.

“Telecommuting” vs “remote” 

Remote seems to be the word for startups. Telecommuting the one for all these corporations with employees allowed to work from home.

Yet, beyond wording the reality of working unattached to an actual desk takes different turns when comparing startups and larger corporations.

Yahoo! and Marissa Mayer did sound very corporate and old-fashioned when calling for a termination of remote work in the company. The corporation did look like a corporation.

However, from personal experience and encounters, an observation has to be made. Corporations do allow a lot more true remote work than startups do.

A quick look at jobs advertised on AngelList for instance does show some “Remote OK” ads. Out of which, the remote is basically about living in San Francisco, New York, etc … and having the possibility to work from home.

Not everybody is Buffer 

Remote, by Buffer’s definition is the ability to sit in a country, whichever it is, and work from there. They are a social media darling, with a transparent culture but have also truly embraced what remote is about.

Sure everybody likes to get a free coffee in the morning, relax on bean bags and play some video games during breaks. But how does it translate to simply being able to work and live the dream ?

Being able to work and travel, live abroad and deliver is priceless. That is a perk that should top all others.

But it does seem, in the end, that the cool kids only innovate, disrupt markets and industries but … do not dream.

Freelance by @SPGroupLtd

Going Freelance

Freelance by @SPGroupLtd

After years of providing internal and external consulting, to colleagues, customers, business partners and startups, I am setting up shop and offering to assist with marketing, business development and digital management.

Needing to review your brand’s presence on social media, develop a strategy ? Or looking at additional resources for content creation, copywriting or just managing the tools and presence. Translation (English/French) is also available.

Wanting to get in touch with customers and have real discussion ?

Feel free to get in touch for a chat & a quote : @sampavin / @SPGroupLtd or via email samuelpavingroupltd [at] gmail [dot] com

Uber logo for "An Uber apology" on ThisIsSamsTown.com

An Über apology

Uber logo for "An Uber apology" on ThisIsSamsTown.com

A little before Christmas, the worst happened in Sydney. Martin Place suddenly became the center of attention when one man took hostages the customers of a café and the the whole started fearing about whatever was happening at that time.

In the wake of this event, Uber sent a communication that would trigger an immediate and angry response from the public. A tweet I came across, boasting surge pricing in order to draw drivers to the scene and “help” the people of Sydney get away from the danger zone.

More than a communication mistake. Just sheer stupidity from any point of view.

And on December 24th, an email came from Uber Sydney. A letter of apology. I copy the whole text below :

The events of last week in Sydney were upsetting for the whole community and we are truly sorry for any concern that our process may have added. 

Our priority was to help get as many people out of the CBD safely in the midst of a fast-moving event. The decisions we made were based only on helping to achieve this but we communicated this poorly, leading to a lot of misunderstanding about our motivations.

Surge pricing is algorithmic and kicks in automatically when demand for rides outstrips the supply of cars that are on the road. This encourages more drivers to the area where people are requesting rides. As an increasing number of people were requesting rides that morning in the CBD, surge pricing came into effect automatically and this is when you might have seen higher prices.

We didn’t stop surge pricing immediately. This was the wrong decision. We quickly reversed course and provided free rides to people needing to leave the CBD. In the end, no rider was charged to leave the CBD on Monday and all higher fares resulting from surge pricing earlier in the day were fully refunded.

It’s unfortunate that the perception is that Uber did something against the interests of the public. We certainly did not intend to. We will learn from this incident and improve as a result of this lesson. Uber is committed to ensuring users have a reliable ride when they need it most – including and especially during disasters and relevant states of emergency. We take our community commitment very seriously in the 250+ cities Uber serves around the globe.

Please know that we have listened to the feedback and we are working to standardise a global policy to ensure we’re serving communities in the most efficient, effective and helpful way possible at all times. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims’ families, those that were injured and the Sydney community of which we are so proud to be a part.

The “mistake” was more than a mistake as it led to misunderstanding and did seriously hurt the brand. Especially at a time when Uber should definitely not have to be handling more “shit” than it does already.

Let this serve as a lesson for every social media manager, for every brand representative out there. Whatever the situation, whatever the need for speed that social media push on people, just sit down, relax and … Think before acting stupidly!