Ted.com Massive-scale online collaboration

I rarely watch “normal” television now and when I do it tends to be more factual rather than soap (as they drive me up the wall). Ted.com has been a fabulous resource of viewing material.

As such I would like to share a recent video from the site, that took and 10 second task and made it epically useful. I’m not going to say any more as it’ll spoil the presentation:


Why I am Envious of a Cocaine Addict

To explain this properly I need to share a short story with you. I am fully aware that this article is controversial by its very nature, if you read it in full, you’ll understand how on earth I could possibly come to the conclusion I came to.

Friday Drinks

To set the scene its Friday and I’m out for an evening drinking with some friends, we’ve met up at one of my favourite bars, its a boat called the Apple in the centre of Bristol and they only serve cider (hence the name).

After having an evil “day after” a few weeks back suffering from mixing 10 or more different ciders, I had decided to stick with cans instead of tap house ciders and Thatchers Gold was my poison of choice.

After a couple, we decide to move on, pay a visit to Vodka Revolutions and proceed to drink some vile concoction called “Mojito”, which had more ice & plants in it and is positively evil. Although this did spur some random photo’s that were promptly uploaded to Facebook and possibly the worst close-up shot of me was taken.

After finishing off that interesting mixture of plants (mint apparently, tastes rank on its own), ice, some sugary powder base (not cocaine!!) & alcohol we move on to the next bar, where some old friends are spotted. They’re positively wasted, although suited up in the traditional recruitment consultant grey suits, loud, but still holding it together.

Another round of Mojito’s arrive and this lot made the first round taste like lemonade, as I think the bartender put too much of or the wrong sugar base in it and ruined them completely. Anyway, after one of them falling over & promptly ejected by the doorman, the other two deciding enough was enough, decided to leave and one was left, let’s call him “Dave”.

After another mixer round of rum & coke, washed down with a pint of Strongbow, we moved on and ended up at another bar, feeling pretty alert after the thus-far alcohol intake, I started to listen in on a conversation between Dave and another. Now this is where it got interesting.

Dave has been a long term coke user that had progressed to rocks (or known as crack, which is the most addictive shit of them all), in the next 10-15 minutes I hear one of the most horrific stories I’ve ever heard on how it’s affected Dave’s life, in and out of CA rehab, family & relationships.

The guy literally poured his guts out to us in those few minutes and I was speechless (which for those who know me personally, it can be ni-on impossible to shut me up after, even before drinking). It was a journey that I am personally so glad I’ve never taken, although none-the-less exceptionally interesting, although I feel ‘horrific’ is an understatement.

Dave left us around 2 am, we were pretty sure he was off to score before bed, I had another pint after he left just to try & comprehend what I had listened to.

The Only Positive Point

Now where the hell could I get envy from in such an awful turn of events I had just been privy to?

It’s simple, motivation.

Now here’s the thing, do you think Dave would be wide awake and in his office by 09:00 the next morning? You bet your ass he was going to be. He’d have been in there before 9 and on the phones straight away, driving results to fund his habit.

Now do not believe for one second I am an advocate of hardcore drug abuse, my line has always been alcohol, tobacco and trying (badly) to chat up the opposite sex, of which the latter I gave up on 12 years ago (getting hitched next year).

Sometimes we all lack motivation, I know I do at times. However, in this extreme case, pretty-much the only positive I could pull from it, was that regardless of what events unfolded in Dave’s personal life and putting every bad effect of coke to one side that he would be highly motivated to succeed.

eBay Sales Count/History Does Impact Sales

In this article I’d like to share an observation of my own buying habits and it actually surprised me afterwards once I had analysed my own buying activity and spotted something I had glazed over in the past when purchasing from eBay.

Picking Processes Apart

My online buying experiences are far from the norm, typically I analyse each & every step, work out what processes are being actioned and how they appear to the user. It’s an annoying habit I have, as I’m used to working those processes from the backend to the customer, so I’m always ultra curious on what the “I” as the “customer” sees of them.

I needed some professional lighting for my office, as the lamps were just not cutting it and had decided upon two softboxes as a kit from eBay. You would have thought my first choice would have been a seller that had an ultra clear description, in a professional template with superb product images and all the bell’s & whistles that I have become to expect…

But No!

I ended up buying from one of the worst combinations of font sizes, text colours and from a listing that had only one image. Pretty poor when you consider that the kit had numerous parts and didn’t show them individually, plus was out of the normal “comfort zone” for buying at £50.

A screen shot of the listing is below, I’d smirk, but it was actually effective for one reason which I’ll show you in a moment:

Softboxes-listing-1

And That Reason Was…

Sales history! Simply put, if +300 people had bought this kit and the sellers feedback was not trashed, then it had to be better than just “OK”.

eBay Sales History Affects Buying Decisions

There were 5 different sellers I was considering during the process and the one that won my business was the one that had the highest sales history count on the listing. Yes, there were cheaper options and this option was not the cheapest by any-means and some of the others on offer were described to a superior level, but they just could not compete with a sales history like that.

Yes, the best match is carried over when using 3rd party tools that reference the previous listing or by using the “relist” button at the top of an ended listing, however, if you do end the listing, then you’ll be loosing the visible sales history count on the listing and from my own personal experience, this can make the difference between making and not making a sale.

Stop - Take Action!Have you consciously bought from a listing because of the sales history on the item too?

White Hat, Black Hat,The Plain Obvious, Interpretation & Application

I’d like to talk about white hat & black hat in this article and what the differences are between them. Also the differences between interpretation & application and why one is pointless without the other.

This article is also written with only two people in mind, if makes no sense to you, then I do apologise, it will to them.

Black Hat

This is a term used to refer to person’s that uses unethical activities to gain information or access to a third party system through un-normal means.

There are a few key terms here that are commonly used, the first is “hacker“, this term refers to someone whom “breaks into” networks or devices for ill-good. The other is a “cracker” who uses “brute force” to gain access networks or devices also for ill-good.

Black hat is naughty.

White Hat

White hat is different, this refers to an “ethical hacker“, using various means to ensure the security of networks, devices or organisations information systems.

News organisations can be perceived as “white hat”, when the information published can be of a dislike to the person’s or entities whom it was regarding. Unlike the “black hat” approach which was for ill-means (naughty stuff), “white hat” is generally either for the wider audience (think news) or for a specific entity (whether a person or company).

White hat is good, although sometimes distasteful to the few.

The Plain Obvious

Sometimes things are blatantly obvious and are in the public domain for anyone to read or to identify. Let’s take the eBay Outlet stores for example, if you call the shop ‘outlet’ or similar, it can be found in Google. If you also give that shop a level that is “not normal” then that can also be easily identified.

Interpretation & Application

This site by definition is not news orientated, there are other sites that make a far superior job (than what I could ever do) and as such I do not compete on a playing field that I do not wish to be in. However interpretation & application is a field that I happily play in.

For example, I will consider the upper limits of what a marketplace can offer, the limitations of what can be done with a single marketplace and why these exist in the first place. It is only in knowing what the limitations are, that one can fully appreciate where such marketplaces fit into a multi-channel environment that merchants find themselves in today, this is a part of interpreting via consideration.

Application is different because it takes the new found knowledge through interpretation and applies it to the real-world. Theoretical knowledge is all well and good, however is pointless if not applied. It’s only in the application of knowledge that new views, thoughts and events can be found and experienced.

So to be ultra-specific in my closing words, I believe you are mixing up black hat & white hat, the plain obvious and are concerned over the interpretation and the application of knowledge.

If you’d like to clarify the stance that I take and where you stand within it, you already have my number, pick the phone up and dial it, don’t “pussy foot” around others, its awkward & inconvenient for them.

The Problem With Being an Entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur isn’t really all its cracked up to be. This is caused by an inherently different view on the outside world. That sometimes rubs up against the norm.

The Way the World Appears

Entrepreneur’s look at the world much differently than the many. This has come up in most of the conversations I had on Friday. One insight I thought was a brilliant example.

While sat in the queue at Tesco’s the checkout girl processes the items across the scanner, but one item won’t scan, so she pops her light on and someone fetches her another. However instead of putting the item with the duff barcode in the customers shopping, the item ends up going back to the shelf.

Sometimes ignorance is utterly bliss (on the part of the checkout staff), but to the entrepreneur it’s a “scream” in their head, that person stood in the queue observing realises, that within a short period of time the same faulty item will be back in circulation and will cause exactly the same issue, but on a different till.

Most of the UK’s petrol stations are a failure.

Is it always an after thought that you cannot fit a car between two parked cars so that you can reach the unused last pump or was the creation of dual sided pumps “enough”?

Hammered to be a Good Employee

Those years you spent at school, was in a system to create employees, not entrepreneurial people. We’ve been hammered to be “good employees”.

That’s what happened when children started school and not working in the cotton mills or down mines. The motivation was not because of the poor conditions they had to endure, it was because the cotton mill & mine owners, realised that having educated workers meant less hassle and higher production rates.

Note: My history sucks, this is my interpretation of the change.

Entrepreneurs are Rarely Good Employees

Talking from my personal experience here, I did the 9-5 day-job after spending 4 extra years at Uni (short for just about qualifying, chatting up women and drinking too much).

The first proper job I held was the true 9-5. Even then I had worked out numerous ways of making my day less tedious, scripted actions to auto assign engineers to jobs and implemented front line support in the International welcome centre off-the-back-of the line of thought:

“Why should I send one of my guys out, if I can fix it over the phone?”.

A year or so in, I was bored & frustrated, so talked my way into looking after the Rolls-Royce contact in Bristol for the same company, 6 months into that I had got restless again. I had covered so much ground (repairing relationships & machines that the previous good employee had destroyed), I quickly worked out I could filter all calls remotely, while achieving the same, far superior results and promptly started an eCommerce business and left shortly afterwards.

Two software companies, one odd diamonds experience & a business later, the same came true. Entrepreneurs cannot help themselves to look at the world differently.

I saw a tweet pass my desk on Friday from Doug Richards here:

Question: “Can entrepreneurship really be taught?” YES!!!

Corporates try to emulate entrepreneurship through processes, masturbation, sorry I mean ‘meetings’ & diversification. The reality is, that many of these fail. I’m currently reading “On Competition” by Michael Porter (aff link), in a study of 33 companies from 1950 to 1986, they attempted 3788 diversification attempts and managed a ~74% failure (divested) rate. It rarely works and these businesses included names like 3M, IBM, Proctor & Gamble, Xerox and Sara Lee.

So the Problem with Being an Entrepreneur?

Is that entrepreneur’s, just see the world differently. This causes problems. Some are good, some are bad. I could add countless famous names here that have had probably more bad problems and the good problems you know them for. Wins, losses, successes & failures, it’s all the same, its the results of someone looking at the world differently.

So I’m leaving you with this… That screen you’re using to read this on, 100% invented by a collection of people that looked at the world differently. Grab a mirror, does that person also look at the world differently too?

Image source

This Weeks To-Do List

I’m here writing out what my “to-do list” is for the week and thought I share parts of it with you.

Reading

I need to make a serious dent in a book I have been slowly reading over the past few weeks, its called “On Competition” by Michael Porter. I’m now only 75 or so pages in and what is covered is best described as ‘epic’. I’ve never looked at competitive advantages in such detail and finally understand the power of straddling and why the lust for growth can make compromises to a business.

I also just completed Freakonomics over the weekend and have ordered the following book, Superfreakonomics which should be here Tuesday, along with a book I took from Scot Wingo’s reading list called Founders at Work. I have previously read ‘Rework‘ by the chaps at 37signals.

Accountant

VAT registration is on the cards again and a special thanks to Chris from Tamebay on some pointers earlier today. I have a meeting with the accountant on Thursday. I’m also quite excited about this as there is the potential to bring her in on some of the topics that I have to cover as part of ProjectE.

Social Networking

I’m going to flip my usage of social mediums this week, one change I made a week or so ago was to keep the spam down on my personal accounts, for example, not posting updates from here to my FaceBook account. I’m going to take this a stage further and keep as many of the interactions as possible incoming, rather than outgoing, if that makes sense?

Podcasting

You might start to see a new side to this site later this week. I have been toying with the idea of releasing podcasts for quite sometime now, they’re part of the road-map for this site and you might just see this come to fruition this week (but no promises).

ChannelAdvisors Amazon 360

One of the largest strengths of ChannelAdvisor is their ability to create reports that make sense and part of their changes due out soon is something called “Amazon 360”, the Autumn press release is here and I’m hoping on seeing this before it goes live in two weeks time.

Two Key Articles

I’ve got two key articles I have been working on, the first is a critical observation from the eSellerPro council and the other is regarding the limitations on eBay and well marketplaces in general and it’s already raising more questions than it answers. Both are pending authorisation by 3rd parties, so you are may or may not see these this week.

Other Tasks

I’ve still got 4 tasks from last week to complete, none of them were simple either.

The ongoing commitments to ProjectE and the ProjectE 6 are taking up my entire Friday. They’re half way through right now and its too early to comment on their progress, other than we’re at the stages that I expected. We had an exceptionally interesting conversation on Friday regarding pricing strategies I can tell you!

How does this compare to your to-do list?

I Am Failing At… Email!

Email, Email, Email, Email, Email, Email, Email, Email!!!

Time to rewrite the book on email usage for me and this completely down to me failing badly at answering email in a sensible amount of time. Ironically you probably have the reverse of this problem and are addicted to answering email in nano-seconds.

Failure is OK, but not recognising it and then not doing anything about is insanity.

Quick Background

One of my tasks for last week was to reach out to those I felt were “fab” and tell them so. Trust me I got some odd replies, however one was Chris Ducker from virtualbusinesslifestyle.com.

I’m not going to include what I wrote and only part of his reply, put it this way I’d have not replied to it and credit to the chap, he did.

This was his reply:

Hi Matthew

[content here]

Thanks again, and stay tuned – lots of great stuff coming up!!! :-)

C

————————————————————-
Q: Why is this email 3 sentences or less?
A: Click here to find out!
————————————————————-

Chris C. Ducker
Virtual CEO
@chriscducker

The main contents of the reply is irrelevant to this article, what is, is in the link here:
http://www.virtualbusinesslifestyle.com/my-three-sentence-rule/

Quote:

The Solution
Although receiving and replying to email is an important part of my business, I feel it should not BE my business. So, I now treat all email from this blog like SMS text messages from friends. Since it’s too hard to count and limit myself to a number of letters, I simply count sentences instead.

The maximum of three sentences.

What I am Now Doing?

Anything has to be better than what I am doing & where I’m at now with email (which is a backlog & a mess).

I have been failing badly and this may actually work! So if you get three sentences in a reply, you now know why and who’s responsible.

Image source

Your Invitation to ‘Connect’ with Matt

I do not run a ‘product’ based company. Doing so would cloud the line between consultant and competitor. As such I am able to uniquely leverage 10 years of experience over two software providers. that of many past & present clients, to adapt, mould processes and drive results to suit your unique business requirements.

There are a number of online channels out there that are all aimed at keeping people in touch, I’d like to virtually ‘connect’ with you and there are a couple of ways you can do so.

Note: I would have included a video with this to make it more personal, however its out on loan currently.

LinkedIn

I’m a big LinkedIn fan, its like the adults version of Facebook.

You can connect me here http://uk.linkedin.com/in/matthewogborne

Twitter

I have a few Twitter accounts, the main one I use is @MatthewOgborne and the original one is @LastDropofInk and I monitor them both most days. Also you’ll see specific messages on each account too.

YouTube

As you may have noticed, there is a distinct move on my part towards using video content more and mopre here. Its a very personal medium and you’ll literally be seeing a lot more of me!

You can subscribe to my YouTube channel here http://www.youtube.com/user/matthewogborne

Google+

I must admit, I’ve not paid Google+ much attention yet, mainly because I am focused on other sites. However the messages you’ll find here from me are both personal & business related.

Facebook

I’m also on Facebook or rather this site is.

You can find the LastDropofInk Facebook page here, I need to update it after the design change here and will be doing so later this week.

RSS & Email

Did you know that you can have the latest posts delivered straight to your inbox using Feedburner, a free Google App? No, well you do now!

Go to http://feeds.feedburner.com/TheLastDropOfInk and hit “Subscribe with Google”.

Also I have an ongoing mailing list, you can subscribe at the top of this page on the right. I keep communications to a minimum and tend to use it to grab feedback before a large article or event, like the Webinar I held last week.

You can of course just interact by leaving a comment on an article here that you’ve liked, if only yo say “hi”.

That’s it, I look forward to ‘connecting’ with you!

Matt

The Only 3 Podcasts I listen to & Why

In the next few minutes, I’ll be taking you through a little bit about podcasts, what you need to listen to them and the 3 I listen to and why.

More podcasts than video channels

Podcasting has really taken off in the past few years and is more prolific than video, although I suspect as more and more devices integrate to the likes of YouTube, that video will become the more popular format.

There are millions and millions of podcasts and wading through them all can be difficult, that’s where iTunes comes in handy as the podcasts are well organised and you can easily find a topic that interests you.

iTunes is required

ITunesWhile not absolutely required as I’m sure there are lots of “other” podcast sites, I’ve only really focused on iTunes. You can navigate a selection on the Apple website, however you really need the iTunes application to dig deeper and its free and can be found here.

The iTunes application lets you navigate the the podcast sections (and lots of other stuff too) and will manage the subscriptions you chose to subscribe to.

I personally find the app “clunky” (sorry but it is, must be Windoze eh?), but its worth figuring out as it makes subscribing and managing the subscriptions much, much easier.

The Business section

Now I’m only really interested in the Business section of the podcasts on iTunes and a direct link to these is here. The vast majority are free and there are also some paid-for versions, however I’ve never looked at those.

The variety is huge and you’ll find the obvious publishers, like the BBC and Bloomberg, I’ll leave you to dig around and see what you can find.

My top 3 podcasts that I actually listen to

Its quite tempting to just subscribe to everything, but frankly you’ll never listen to half of it, so instead I found a more focused approach worked and I never miss an episode of the three chosen podcasts and I strongly suggest you limit yourself to just a few and commit to them as well.

Six pixels of separation

While my first, this is always the last one I listen to in preference of the other two. Really informative and I find the presenters easy to listen to and equally I enjoy their content. You can find their podcast here.

Smart passive income

Pat Fylnn is author comes across as an extremely authentic person and holds little back. He’s a role-model that I’m using for some of the new projects you are experiencing. Frequent guest speakers and some really interesting insights. You can find Pat’s podcast here.

Virtual business lifestyle

Chris Ducker is well connected and I actually have three podcasts waiting to be listened to. One is with the legend “Chris Brogan” and another person of personal interest is “Gideon Shalwick” due to his activities with on-line video.

I like his[Chris’s] voice and the topics he covers. You can listen to his podcast here.

Summary

My biggest tip is to try and limit the number of podcasts you subscribe to, otherwise you’ll do what I did and get overwhelmed. I’ve found my three and they’re great when out on the bike, hiding from the kids or like right now, I have the speakers on and listening to one while I type.

You don’t need iTunes, but it makes life a lot easier and there is only one place you need to check for latest versions. In my example, that would be three websites, that ain’t going to happpen.

Stop - Take Action!What you waiting for?
iTunes is free and there is an obscene number of podcasts out there and I’m sure with a little narrowing down, you’ll find your 3 podcasts too.

Sneak Peak at ProjectE

Here’s a quick peak at a tiny part of ProjectE

Note: The red bit is on purpose, it would give too much away ;-)

What is an eBay Listing Template-1

5 People I Follow & Why

I’m on a 10,000 word bender today for ProjectE and need a warm up and this is it. If you’re not on this list, don’t get your knickers in a twist, I probably value your input so much I want to keep it ultra secret :)

Sooo… now to the five people I follow regularly and why.

Rob Cubbon

 Rob CubbonI’m not sure how I found Rob, it was probably via Twitter. I’ve since spoken with him a couple of times and even laid down an “affiliate challenge” to him (I’m waiting…. I’m not letting you win thou!).

The content that he’s created is absolutely fantastic at both his personal site at robcubbon.com and one of his other sites at wordpressseomarketing.com and I’ve found both to be a brilliant resource. This is why this site has a sign up form on the right from one of his articles, although I need to do more.

Put it this way, when I get stuck with WordPress, Rob is the person I ask. You can follow Rob via his twitter feed here.

Seth Godin

I mainly like Seth as he has less hair than me.

But seriously this chap is amazing, I think I’ve now read or listened to 6 or so of his books. I even bought a purple jumper, solely because of his book “Purple Cow” and he is one of my virtual mentors.

With his uncanny ability to see straight through bullshit, if there was one person I could only follow, this would be the one.

If I ever need motivation and a firm “slap with a fish for desiring to be a corporate monkey”, I read his blog http://sethgodin.typepad.com/.

Rob Abdul

Rob AbdulI stumbled across Rob when searching the keywords ecommerce expert and he just so happened to be occupying #1 the spot. past the envy part (mainly because of the amount of work he’s put in to get there), turns out Robs a really great bloke (shocker that) and his last tweet sums it up:

Google admit they were at fault – my mother always says, when you admit you were wrong, that makes you right http://t.co/LsNQFE4

Chris Dawson (TameBay)

Chris DawsonTotally hats off to Chris (& Sue Bailey of course), from the booze up when TameBay was first birthday in Manchester a few years back, to today its still running and being frequently updated, which is no small feat.

Normally Tamebay is one of the first sources of news (quicker than AuctionBytes and not USA biased) and most posts are followed by some very interesting & hilarious comments.

Chris Brogan

Chris BroganChris might say “Good night moon”, but I’m sure he doesn’t sleep, he’s really a machine!

Been a long standing follower of his blog at chrisbrogan.com and his musings on his twitter feed. No nonsense advice and suggestions on numerous topics, you really just need to read some of them to see if they’re of as much value as I find them.

Summary

They each add emense value to myself and I sincerely hope these five people can add some diversity into your social ventures.

Now only 9514 words to go before I can escape this office. Better put the coffee pot on I think…

ProjectE Update

Get excited and make things

Photo courtesy of Nitevision

The more people I discuss this with, not only the more positive responses I get back, which is frankly great news, dropping 3/5ths of ones normal salary is a scary thought, but it gets deeper and deeper almost daily.

Focus

For the past two weeks I’ve been able really focus in on what is needed and to put the key tools in place so that the entire project can become scalable.

This has included, the re-working of a bought WordPress theme, the implementation of customfields groups and a clear layout path for the different content types. Up until now I have avoided outsourcing the major parts, however I’ll be drawing the line soon, focusing purely on the content and any additional tasks, subbing out to third parties. While I’m comfortable in most areas, design, PHP, CSS and HTML, these tasks are not the best use of my time and frankly, as much as I enjoy them, they’re better off elsewhere.

Video content

I’ve really got to grips now with video creation and the latest guide has multiple call outs, four content blocks and audio inserts. I didn’t realise how powerful the video format was until I really got stuck in and again the feedback has been fantastic.

There is still a lot to learn and the more I get through the easier they have become, I’m over 10 separate video tutorials in so far and I have two planned for today. The combination of both written content and visual content is going to be key to the project.

Self doubt

This is a huge one for me currently, its the 50/50 scenario, between knowing that I really do know my arena exceptionally well, to thinking its all going to fail and I’ll end up looking like a complete plank.

Having doubts is keeping me on my toes, I’ve got a list of 40 or so articles to produce over the next two weeks and most of these are far from simple and getting progressively deeper and deeper.

Ground work

What I’m finding is that I cannot cover the more advanced topics I’d like to without ensuring that the participants are up to a level to be able to take in fully those topics and going back to the basics. out of the 40 or so articles, probably 38 of them are just the basics and that’s only a small number compared to what I have estimated for the much larger sub projects I have planned.

No previews yet though!

I’ve kept the group of people I have been using to bounce this project off, completely out of the group of peers you may have thought I should be keeping in-the-loop. While this will come later, for now, you’re not the focus of the project (you guys know too much) and I do apologise for not keeping you in the loop, your time will come soon!

The deadline

I’m setting myself an ambitious deadline today of two weeks, 21st July.

This allows me around 10 or so working days to cover as much ground as possible. This is a bit scary when you consider that neither of the co-writers have actually produced any content yet, although I’m really happy to report a fourth is on board.

Your help

Now I did say I didn’t want your input just yet, however one section of ProjectE is a solutions directory. I’ve already received several overviews from different providers and are working on editorial reviews to accompany them with the providers.

“Broadly speaking”, if you are a solutions provider of any form in the eCommerce arena, contact me at matthew.ogborne AT lastdropofink.co.uk