Where do you work? I've been a freelance writer since 1994, and I have almost always worked from home. It offers its benefits - the coffee is free, there's a well-stocked fridge, and there is always an office cat or dog available to lower your blood pressure. You get to arrive at work whenever you please, and you get to work in your jim-jams, all day, should you wish.
But there are downsides, too. Isolation. A lack of people to bounce ideas around with. A distinct dearth of office camaradarie. Let's face it: for a freelance worker, working at home can be dull, and lonely. And that temptation to work in your pyjamas all day can be a curse in disguise.
Coffee shops and libraries are alternatives, but they're largely transient. You may get to enjoy the ambient background buzz, but you are unlikely to really connect with someone who has the same mindset as you. What's the answer?
Co-working spaces aren't a new thing, but they create new possibilities. Known in the past as as 'telecottages', they have been gaining traction. For a freelance worker, or for someone starting out building their own small company, a co-working space can be a godsend.
Co-working spaces are best when they play host to a co-working community. The community is really the meat in the sandwich. Without a community, a co-working space is little more than a collection of desks and a whiteboard. But bringing a collection of like-minded people together can produce a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
What does a co-working community look like? It shares an element of commonality. It may simply be that all of the members work in the same field. Maybe a cadre of coders can come together to lend each other support and advice, for example. Or the sense of community could be little more than an ideology, such as subscribing to the notion of quality in work. For some, simply sharing a fabulous working space can be enough.
There are various approaches to co-working. Some of them emphasise the community, and the space is secondary. One example is Jelly, an occasional get-together where people in an area arrange to work together in a temporary space, such as a coffee shop or a person's home. For writers in particular, National Novel Writing Month hosts a series of 'write-ins' where people gather together to work on their novels. These are valuable initiatives. Working together encourages and inspires people.
I like the idea of co-working communities because they help you to manifest your own ideas. As a freelance writer I have had lots of business ideas over the years, but I have never got any of them off the ground, because I didn't have a community of people around me that could help me to make it happen. It is very difficult for one person to make a large project work without the help, support, and skills of others.
Other co-working initiatives focus on the space and the community together, as a single entity. I recently set up The Office, a co-working space and community based in Vancouver, it brings together a selection of people with different skills. I have graphic designers, coders, copywriters and videographers. There's an ounce or two of social media in our skill set, and one or two startups too. I created a set of principles for The Office, that everyone is asked to abide by when they come to work in the space. The principles are pretty basic. Integrity, honesty and transparency figure highly, as do the willingness to commit to something larger than yourself, and be fulfilled in your work.
The idea behind The Office is to make individuals more powerful when they come into the space. We host speaking events and workshops on a regular basis, and also encourage people to share what they're working on via 'show and tells' with a networked projector.
The ultimate goal behind this not-for-profit co-working space is to create a fund using any surplus revenue. Rather than the founders taking a profit, we pump the money back into the fund. Any member with a socially progressive business idea that needs help to get started can apply for funding, and can also use the skills of the community to make their businesses happen.
The Office is based in Vancouver, and most of our readers are in the UK. Otherwise, I'd invite you to stop in for coffee. But for freelancers in our fair city, it is turning into a sanctuary for people to come and work at, and feel at home.
What's your ideal working environment?
How can you make money developing IOS games? An informal survey conducted by one developer suggests 'be in the top 10%'
Owen Goss, an independent video games developer based in Guelph Canada, surveyed 252 developers who created games for Apple's mobile operating system, to find out how much they earned. The survey took place online over seven days. It turned up some interesting results, one of which was that the Pareto principle seems to apply to IOS app revenues; a small number of developers earn a large part of the cash.
One of the great things about being an app developer for Apple's mobile operating system is that the App Store can be used to market your app for you. Millions of App Store users can see it. However, that is also part of the problem: there are many apps to choose from, and it is easy to get lost in the crowd.
On average, games developers make about $165,000 from a title, but here is where statistics can be misleading. That is the mean average. The median splits the developers in half. 50% of developers have made less than $3000 lifetime revenue from the App Store.
The revenue curve is exponential, because the few developers who are most successful make most of the money. Those in the 75th percentile have made roughly $30,000 lifetime revenue from the App Store. The bottom 25% of developers have made less than $200. Those lucky 4% of respondents who are most successful made over $1 million.
Getting into that successful 10% at the top of the pile isn't rocket science, but it isn't easy either. There are some pointers.
Polish your app
the best IOS apps look good. They are shiny, just like the phones they run on. Games are properly play tested, and gameplay is well thought out, so that there is a solid progression throughout the game.
Do your own marketing
Doing your own marketing is also important. Simply relying on being featured in the App Store isn't a realistic business model. Good marketing includes understanding social media and soliciting user feedback.
Don't race to the bottom
There are thousands of apps for the IOS platform, many of them doing almost exactly the same thing. Your app will succeed on its quality. Don't be tempted to rush it out. Concentrate instead on making it better than the others available.
Look for new opportunities
New social media networks and other developments such as Apple's iCloud promise to disrupt games development. These opportunities along with in-app purchases, can be used to maximise your revenue.
It's hard to find originality in the oversaturated app landscape, but not impossible. Spend more time in conceptualisation, and ensure that your idea stands out from the crowd.
With Apple's iPhone 5 rumoured to be launching next week, this will be a big quarter for games developers. Will you be ready to capitalise on the ongoing success of the platform?
How much value is locked up in our social data? The information that we enter into our social networks already has explicit value. LinkedIn can tell a recruiter who you work for, and what you do there, along with what skills you have. But what implicit information is embedded in that network, which it isn't obviously communicating?
Tacit information in social network sites may include how often you post, who else you know on that network, and perhaps most importantly, what kind of person you are. A resume says one thing, but the way that you interact online says far more - and recruiters may soon be able to mine and quantify this information.
Sentiment mining is a good example. Companies such as Attensity and Lexalytics already produce systems that analyse text to produce structured data. They use these techniques to help customers with tasks such as customer relationship management, advertising optimisation, and social media monitoring. But when it comes to social media mining, these techniques are still relatively rudimentary. Searching Twitter streams for "British Airways" and "sucks", or "terrible" to see which customers are irritated so that you can reach out to them is a basic operation.
But your language says far more about you than whether you've had a bad experience on British Airways. In their book, Tribal Leadership, Dave Logan and John King identify five stages of maturity in leadership. As individuals become more mature and better able to lead, their maturity is evident in the language that they use. The language that you use at stage one is markedly different than the language you use stage five. It's more negative, self-centred, and generally victim-like. At stage five, you are using language that is more positive, and community-focused. You revel in other people's success, and identify goals that are bigger than yourself.
Heidegger once said that language is the house of being. Your language defines how you are in the world. So the way that you conduct yourself on social media sites is about more than simply avoiding unprofessional behaviour. Not posting drunken pictures of yourself on work-related social media sites is basic common sense. The smart candidate, however, will use such sites to show how mature and helpful you can be. What kinds of things are you saying on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and how are you bringing people together and helping others? How often do you post intelligent answers on Quora and Stack Overflow?
Right now, recruiters may scan such sites manually to see what kind of leadership potential you have. In the future, natural entity recognition algorithms might score you based on parameters such as these. In an algorithmic world, such things become increasingly likely. Are you ready?
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0545817/ "You're a tiger! Grrrr!"
That was my favourite line from Dearth of a Salesman, a programme in Steve Coogan's Coogan's Run comedy series. He played IT salesman Gareth Cheeseman, a greasy, awkward little bag of anxieties, attending a sales conference and trying to further his tin-pushing career. It was a stereotypical portrayal of IT salespeople, of course. In reality, they're a knowledgeable bunch, with good interpersonal skills, well-versed in the art of understanding what customers need. But the biggest challenge facing IT salespeople today - and the industry trend that would leave a real-life, witless Gareth Cheeseman behind - is that customer needs are changing, dramatically.
Managed services is the cause of it all. With everything being offered as a service, the patterns of IT usage are changing. In Cheeseman's time (Coogan made the programme in 1995), IT salespeople sold hardware, and the software to run on that hardware. But as managed services take off, commentators believe that hardware sales to conventional customers will decline, even as it is bought in increasing quantities by third party service provides. Instead, IT departments will eventually buy managed services that they resell to their internal customers.
There will be iterative steps along this road, of course. Private clouds will create a class of managed services designed to run inside organizations, still administered by IT departments, using their own hardware. But a trusted cadre of sysadmins and business analysts are telling me that this will effectively be replaced by public clouds over time as IT departments simply turn more of their equipment off altogether.
What happens to the IT salesperson in this scenario?
Firstly, they will be selling to different people. Expect them to deal more directly with line of business managers in customer organisations, who have wrested budget away from IT to make their own purchases.
Secondly, commissions will change, because instead of selling servers and software licenses that require significant up-front capital investment, salespeople will be hawking contracts in which customer subscribe to online services for set periods of time. Customers will often pay for these services in smaller, more regular amounts, chalking them up as operational expenditure, which means that compensation packages for salespeople may change.
Perhaps over time, though, the biggest challenge facing IT salespeople is that they may not be needed at all. Don't get me wrong - there will still be some tigers out there, roaming around, clinching large, intricate corporate contracts. But if line of business managers end up buying a lot of their functionality online by simply purchasing a number of seats for an online service from a web site, that leaves the sales force out of a job - or at least selling to a far smaller number of specialist data centre operators. Are you exploring your options?
So, I'm hoping you've seen the Social Network by now. Aside from the elegant, Oscar-winning soundtrack and the superb, Aspergers-like performance from Jesse Eisenberg, it should be valuable watching for any technologist - especially those who are thinking about going maverick and launching their own startup.
One thing that came out of the movie is that building relationships, rather than database tables or system architectures, is often the hardest part for anyone trying to get ahead in technology. This is particularly true for technologists trying to turn their ideas into commercial ventures, because they need others to help them spread the word. Relationships are everything in that situation. How can you network and ask people for an 'in' if you don't already know them?
There are a few ways to help build a community around your startup concept. Here are five tips to help get your idea from inside your head into the business world.
Use social networking
Some social networks are now emerging that can help like-minded technology entrepreneurs to leverage each other. It is possible to create or join groups on LinkedIn that serve as sub-networks of like-minded people.
Other networks are emerging dedicated to the startup community. Fowndr is a relatively new, invitation-only network designed to connect entrepreneurs together, enabling them to share ideas and resources with each other.
Still others include StartupSpace. And then, of course, you'll find real-world entrepreneurial events via meetup.com. You can never have too many of these networks - as long as you monitor and maintain the profiles that you register, and use them effectively.
Twitter is an obvious channel, providing you keep your startup's Twitter profile focused and on-topic. Use it to point to blog posts for your startup (you have a blog, right?) and make a point of following useful and relevant Twitter users, to get yourself noticed and build up a following of your own.
Build a demo
Ideas are cheap. Execution is everything.
Have registration conversations
In west-coast self-help language, these are conversations that not only inspire your target, but which compel them to jump on board and do something to help you. It is all-to-easy to end up grovelling for someone to help you with your idea. Don't. Instead, establish a commonality between the both of you. Find out what it is about them that interests them in your project. Explain why you're committed to your idea, and what makes you passionate about it, because without that, you won't be able to get them involved.
Ask them for exactly what you want, even if it sounds unreasonable. You'll often be surprised at the result.
Take up shared space
I'm a freelancer. I love working in coffee shops, people watching, and soaking up the atmosphere over a latte and a laptop. However, the thing about working on your own is that it makes relationship building rather difficult.
Look for shared working spaces - telecottages, startup hubs, call them what you will. One that I'm considering taking space at here in Vancouver is The Network Hub, but similar spaces are cropping up in various cities. The advantage of these places is that they give you a healthy collection of like-minded individuals, with skills in areas that you'll need help with. Want a designer for your logo? A copywriter for your web site, or a coder to help you get your tech startup off the ground? These places have a habit of harbouring all these folks in one spot. It's like a social network in its original, physical form, that often ends up with a night at the pub.
Give your project away
This is perhaps the hardest thing for entrepreneurs to do. After all, your project is your baby, right? Sharing ownership with others feels like giving away your secrets, and letting others benefit from your hard labour. But there is such a thing as entrepreneurial karma; give something away, and it will come back to you seven-fold. By sharing your project with others and giving them ownership, you'll receive investment in time, money, and active participation. They will be more inclined to contribute their skills, and to bring other contacts in who will help to grow your community.
Follow these basic steps and you'll find yourself further along the road to success. As an entrepreneur currently building up a community for my own project, I can attest to their value.
Does your company have a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)? If so, what do they do? Investigating incidents is a big part of a CISO's job. Liaising with the compliance team is another. But perhaps one of the biggest challenges in creating a culture of security within an organisation involves user engagement.
Building a user engagement strategy is a long-term, holistic process for an individual. It involves building relationships with multiple levels of management inside an organisation, and effectively speaking a variety of languages, both technical, and managerial. How can you structure an engagement strategy for maximum effect?
The first step in any engagement strategy is alignment. When first joining an organisation, a CISO might spend months identifying and engaging different stakeholders to understand their needs and concerns. A CISO must understand business strategy, and identify major changes within the company, including acquisitions and moves into new markets. Financial limitations and competing initiatives within an organisation are also extremely relevant here.
An alignment process will help a CISO to target and high initiatives together. Once that he is complete, service delivery is the second key component. How can a CISO build on that foundation of alignment to create relevant services for stakeholders? Think about not only reducing costs and risks, but also adding value to the business in other ways of information security initiatives. For example, delivering the ability to use a panoply of different endpoint devices might help the business to make staff more flexible.
Credibility is the third of four engagement areas for a CISO. Producing statistics and case studies to illustrate the benefits of an effective information security campaign is important if you are to maintain the support of senior management. Nothing says 'success' like demonstrating that achieving a level of security incidents are below the average your industry.
Finally, engagement involves using those around you, and giving up some of the ownership of the project. This is just as true in information security as in other organisational areas. Assuming that you are the smartest person in the room will make you the dumbest. Deferring to experts in a particular field may end up making your project stronger - but you have to identify those key players first, and understand what makes them tick.
Clearly, then, a CISO more than just a technologist or a bean counter. To succeed in this field, you must be a strong, well rounded individual with a robust technical and organisational discipline. No wonder that good CISOs are so rare.
Is the Internet making us stupid? In his latest book, Nicholas Carr suggests that, at the very least, it may be changing our thinking patterns. In The Shallows, he cites a UCLA study in which several seasoned web users were asked to conduct Google searches alongside several web neophytes. Scans show that their brains fired differently, particularly in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is associated with decision-making. The phrase 'this is your brain on Google' springs to mind.
It was further shown that after a relatively short period of Internet use, the brains of the Internet 'newbies' changed to match those of the web veterans, indicating, according to Carr, that it is relatively easy to change the very physical act of thinking through short-term exposure to the Internet. Now, consider the hundreds of millions of us who sit at a desk for hours each day doing nothing but hypertext-based work. Moreover, reflect on how early our schoolchildren are exposed to these new technologies. I was recently informed, to my horror, that my five-year-old would not be taught cursive handwriting because it was no longer deemed relevant. When Apple coined the phrase 'think different', I doubt it meant us to go this far.
Carr suggests that we are beginning to think more broadly, instead of deeply. Cue the by-now hackneyed arguments about modern students' inability to read a full-length novel, and the attention deficit disorder that plagues the average knowledge worker who is torn between a panoply of hyperlinked documents each day.
Such arguments may well be true, but they're also boring, and overcooked. The real meat of the debate lies in whether this switch to broader thinking is a good thing or not. Or whether, indeed, one has to choose between the two, or whether it is possible to maintain a level of both depth and breadth by compartmentalising our usage of online technologies and devoting time to more meditative activities.
One of the most interesting reflections on this argument lies in the London Review of Books. In his review of The Shallows, Jim Holt says that while it may indeed be possible to eventually augment our own 'postcode' memory-the part of our brain into which we cram facts and figures-with search engines, there may be some unhappy side-effects.
It seems ostensibly more productive to simply wire an Internet connection directly into our heads (something which will surely be doable within a couple of decades), and simply use it as a form of extended memory. Why bother remembering when William Howard Taft was US president, when you could simply think a search query and have the data returned to you?
However, things get sticky when one considers associative memory. This, as Holt points out, is the fountainhead of creativity. It is the landscape in which metaphors emerge, and it is the filter through which big ideas ultimately trickle.
Holt points to the French mathematician Henri Poincare, who would immerse himself in facts and theory for days without conclusion, but who would then reach a sudden epiphany in mathematical theory while stepping on a bus. Poincare concluded that soaking himself in ideas and facts enabled unconscious memory to process them in ways that lead to creative results, which appeared when he wasn't even thinking about mathematics.
This is something that computers can't do, Holt says, warning us against throwing the creative baby out with the bathwater. If we 'outsourced' our postcode memory to the Internet, would we eliminate creativity by stifling the subconscious processing of associative ideas?
There is another potential future, of course. Holt is a self-professed late adopter who doesn't have his finger on the technological pulse. Computers might well be able to learn how to process ideas using a simulated form of associative memory, after all. We are already working quite hard at an industry producing semantically linked information storage, in which concepts are wired directly into the data representing them. Semantic search-in which the search engine understands the ideas that you're looking for-has long been a holy grail for the search business, and we are getting closer. Perhaps, in the future, the Internet might have its own 'Eureka moments', without our help? What would that form of digital creativity look like?