Sunday, 24 November 2013

Another Day in Melbourne

I took a strange journey to get here, where I am now. Not in the physical sense - although it was a day's travel, but in the mental and almost spiritual.
At my previous job I was, in my mind at least, on a path to career progression. I was given a lot of opportunities (ones I felt I earned) and it seemed that things were going well. A good job with a career path - I knew it would not be forever, in my mind I had always known that if I really wanted to reach heights in my industry I would have to at least try a different work environment and were I was that meant moving (relocating). I was surrounded by family and friends, with interests outside of work and a huge network to call on.
Then it happened.
I am not sure if I didn't try hard enough, or if I didn't impress the right people or even if it had nothing to do with me at all, but I missed out on a promotion.
I had been working that position in an "acting" role for nearly 12 months - getting some good results and making positive changes. Even winning an award - which I attribute to the changes I had made.
That really set me back, and with a new baby on the way I had to make a choice about my life and my family.
Now I'm not going to get into the whole debate over who should or should not provide for the family - hell if things were different and I needed to I would stay at home with the kids. However, our situation was that I need to be the one providing at this stage and my wife supports that and I support her. As far as I am concerned we are both working full time - I just get a pay cheque for mine!
So I needed to decide if I was going to stay in the position I had (my substantive role) and wait around for another opportunity with no guarantee or look for something else.
I will admit that I was pissed off - I was angry (and so was my wife) and I did really start looking for alternatives.
An opportunity came up, 800 kms away, in a different state far away from any family or friends, with no support network in a very different (although similar) work environment.
I applied for it. Thinking if nothing more this was a chance to get my resume into order and hopefully practice some interview techniques.
Not only did I get an interview (phone followed up by in person) I landed the job a few short weeks before my second child was born.
The decision to take this job came not from the anger and disappointment I had felt but from several moments of serendipity.
Call it fate or whatever but ever since saying yes and exposing myself and my family to this big upheaval the choice has been vindicated in more ways than I can recount.
Today was filled with such moments.
We had learnt about a kids event at Art Play that was on today, it's a short train ride to the City so off we went, all four of us for a day out.
It was a little rainy as we came into Flinders Street station and we stopped for coffee and some morning tea. Then crossing the road to Federation Square we sat and drank and ate while a street performer (from Circus Oz) did a 30 minute show - brilliant, funny and I even partook with some assistant work holding his unicycle.
After the show (we deposited some $'s into his hat because he truly was worth it) we turned to head down to Art Play and walked into the Greek Festival. We also found a Fine Design Market full of wonderful hand and locally made items. Deciding that we had come to see Art Play but wanting to come back, we moved on.
At Art Play my 3 year old played on the equipment while the baby was fed. We met a Chilean family who are over here for 6 years while the husband studies his Masters and Phd (on a scholarship). That put our lives into perspective - our move while a long way was nothing compared to coming to another country with a new language with three children (one born here) and no easy way to get to family. 
After all this play and looking at wonderful things we headed off for some lunch and a rest, and it was here that I realised that all we did that morning was within a few hundred meters of Flinders Station - a mere 30 minutes from our front door.
We planned one event, a trip to Art Play and instead saw, experienced and took part in so much more.
This day is typical of any day out in Melbourne.
We took a trip to Warrandyte last week (when my parents where visiting) and found not only some great shops, a kids play ground, access to the Yarra River and walks but a community theater group with a play that started that night. With grandparental babysitting we got to go and met some theater people - we plan on joining or at least trying to attend more shows into the future.
I took a big risk, and I won't lie there have been moments that we have regretted it, the fear, the isolation, the unknown has contributed to us doubting our choice. We put ourselves out there and asked the universe to give us a break, a break we felt we earned and one that we worked for (and still do).
A friend once told me, "put our good vibes and you shall have them come back at you" - all I can say is that whatever happens and whatever the future holds this choice this step we took has been for the better and can only get better.
Looking to the future.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Apple TV

Thanks to my good friends and colleagues from my former employer I was given a gift card that allowed me to buy an Apple TV.

Why did I go down this path? To have access to stream (through rent or purchase) TV shows and Movies to my TV. Sure the Xbox 360 can stream movies or files I have on my PC but TV show subscription was not really an option (as far as I could tell).

iTunes and Apple have a heap of stuff at a reasonable price that means I can watch what I want without having to either break the law or my budget.

The device is simple to use... as can be demonstrated by the back (where all the important connections are located - the front only have a small white LED to show it is on)

Power, HDMI, USB, Optical and Ethernet (I use WiFi so only have two leads coming out of the device)

The remote is equally simple and built to the high standard you expect from Apple... how the hell they make the remote is beyond me - I cannot see any way to open the damn thing!) - MAGIC!!! DEVILS WORK...

It works great I have been able to stream movies and have subscribed to a couple of TV series...

The thing I got working today was AirPlay... this is brilliant. I watched the new Doctor Who mini episode regarding Paul McGann's Doctor (number 8 for those counting at home) regeneration... Go see it if you have not...  Anyway I obviously wanted to see it on the larger screen after seeing the video initially on my iPhone. Easy with AirPlay - I swiped up, hit AirPlay and bang it started to play on my TV...

Same with videos, images, music and more on my iPhone. Truly this is the feature that makes the Apple TV....

And a good thing it have AirPlay.

While the remote is simple it lacks a hell of a lot. I want to search I need to move a cursor around to type single letters - more often I go to my PC and using iTunes search to buy/rent whatever I want. The device is great to play things through BUT not to find them. The menus also seem to be too deep take too long to get to the part that you need to... Not what I expect from Apple.

Apple TV is great but it is not perfect.

For a comparison maybe I should try Roku 3


Monday, 11 November 2013

Getting Fit... one lap at a time

Those that know me or follow me on Twitter have been bombarded by my #swimfit tweets. I have been going to the local indoor pool after the kids are in bed in an effort to lose some weight and ring my general fitness up to speed.
I've been a fan of swimming for a long time - running puts too much pressure on my knees and the gym is just too much for me. I like the quiet and almost trance like sound of the water and my breathing, and when tired you can move into the recreation area and just float.
However I do struggle with breathing and getting my timing right while swimming freestyle - so I usually end up doing more laps breaststroke but in my mind at least I am doing them.
I have taken some swimsperation from instagram and follow a few official and unofficial swim pages. Ones like this...

I'm never going to win a gold medal, I'm not the fastest at the pool nor the thinnest or best looking - but I know I am giving it a go and getting better very time.
In the end that's all we can do - my  motto is the only person I need to beat is the one I was last week.

Sunday, 10 November 2013


A good friend of mine, Tracy Verdugo) will be publishing her first book next year. It's based on her art classes and the techniques that she uses.
This is her specialty and she has created opportunities all over the world for her art classes - the book is a natural extension of that.
For promotion Tracy has used Social Media to it's full power - she is on her various pages on Facebook (her personal page has reached capacity at 5,000 friends and her business page is at 2,500). She is real, approachable and connects with all her friends and fans - from this she has been able to run her classes all over Australia and USA.
She has now started her campaign for her book - with preorders open (Fishpond for Australian shoppers or Amazon) already she has been able to create a buzz from her fans and gain sales.
This got me thinking about how to best promote something in this new world - this smaller world within the internet and how individuals have been able to create niches and opportunity.
I work with marketing and media however I have always been promoting something an entity bigger than an individual - mostly with the budget of an individual, however at least something that was already in the mind of the public.
I've been heavily involved in mass marketing bus, train visuals, TV commercials (with great success - see video below), online display and search advertising and print. I've managed online social media staff across several platforms and linked with major statewide and national brands. Yet always it's been a product or a place - never a personality. I've tried to use personality but it is hard to do within a corporate environment.

However I see the benefit of a more personal approach to marketing - especially in the realm of selling something that person owns or has created.
It's not something limited to the small time or the novice either - Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer are some of the bigger names out there promoting their work - I would not have known about Neil Dr Who short story if he had not tweeted it.
John Scalzi has created a suite of opportunities for his work, from books to his involvement in TV Shows and Computer Games.
Wil Wheaton sold his book Happiest Days of Our Lives from his website (hell he and his wife spent a weekend or more packing and posting them out... I know I got one). In fact most of the people I read or listen to I follow, like or read about via the internet and various forms of Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and such).
It's also not limited to the "official" pages either. The best news about The Cure is Chain of Flowers a fan channel who post songs as they are played in gigs around the world - or link to tips and bits of news.
What's common about all these things? What is it that makes them great and makes so many people follow, like or be part of them?
I looked at Charlie McDonnell - first UK You Tube account to hit 1 million subscribers and now sits at over 2 million. How did a teenage boy from Bath, England gain so many to follow and like him? It's simple - it's what Tracy does. He has been himself, warts and all, he connects not because he is a salesman or trying to be whatever is the latest fad or do whatever (think Justin Beiber here - he is a product first a person second...) This has become his job - his career. He also plays music and has commenced writing and producing short films (check out his Tea Chronicles) with a feature film in the pipeline.
So if you are looking to create an opportunity for promotion via the digital world the only advice I can see and I can give - is be yourself and let your work sell itself via you...
I also think that you need to create content and be online as much as possible - allow people to see you - post pictures and links to things you like - cross link all your bits of Social self to a central place that has the real information especially the link to how they can buy your stuff... Don't be a salesman but be someone that people want to buy from.
Handy links for those who need them...
Hugh Howey on why he favors self-publishing
Adventures in self-publishing: Why I took a year's work and tried my hardest to give it away
Self Promotion
Take Control with Independent Publishing