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13 Apr 12 The new business book: Quick Wins, lipstick, pigs and sausages

lipstick on a pig

“As a quick win, do all of it; make this sausage sizzle”

One of these days I’m going to write a business book called “Quick Wins, lipstick, pigs and sausages” because that’s all there is to business. I’ve read a few of these management tomes and they mostly say the same things, all of which is garbage. Given that I’m now closer to the end of my career than the start of it, I have valuable experience that needs to be passed on. I’ve come to the realisation, that someone should tell it how it is.

It will start from the premise that no one in any position of corporate power knows what they are talking about. It will demonstrate that for all the pontificating on the careful management and controlled manipulation of markets, raw materials, resources and intelligence, in reality everything in business is based on expediency, short-termism and the subjective opinion of the guy in the meeting on the biggest pay-grade.

It is all predicated upon the abuse of ‘business speak’. I remember working for a FTSE 250 plc company. The Head of Technology called me one day, saying to me (in my capacity as Head of Design), “Dave, we’ve built 250 screens that need designing by next week”. I remember being silent for the longest time. He eventually said “David, are you there?” I was buying time to try to address this situation. I said “That’s like saying I’ve built a 250 bedroom house, can you come and architect it”.

“That’s like saying I’ve built a 250 bedroom house, can you come and architect it”.

The conversation went down hill a bit after that, but my intransigence went up-hill, all the way to the CEO. He called me. “David…” he said (people always call me ‘David’ when they are asserting authority over me. They call me ‘Dave’ when they are trying to manipulate me). “We have the sausage, we need you to give it the sizzle”. I was silent again. I thought “this is software, it isn’t a sausage. You don’t mash it all together and then design a bread-roll round it and call it ‘mortgage processing software’”. Indeed it turns out that if we explore the sausage metaphor further, it hadn’t made it past the pig stage of the process. At that point it wasn’t even offal. In due course I remember finding a corporately acceptable way of  showing how their £20Million product was actually about as technically effective as a dead pig.

This is known as ‘corporate suicide’. Not joining in the collective corporate delusion, particularly when it is a £multi-million fuck-up, is not good for your career. The board needs to hear that it will work. Sooner or later someone will jump up and say “I can make it work”. They get money, a new job title and lots of people to work for them. The thing that cannot be said is, “It’s broken, it won’t work, it’ll never work” even if it’s true …particularly if it’s true.

Not joining in the collective corporate delusion, particularly when it is a £multi-million fuck-up, is not good for your career

Meanwhile, back at my FTSE 250 company, I and my whole team was ‘restructured’ fairly regularly after that. They kept giving me new bosses who repeatedly tried to make me say the sausage worked when patently it didn’t. Eventually, I left and sure enough, a year or two later the company share price plummeted from 238p to 17.5p overnight. It became insolvent because their sausage was broken. Worse, the bangers were bust, had been for ages, they wouldn’t admit it and they crucified anyone who disagreed with them. The book identifies this type of behaviour as, Corporate Delusional Chipolatis. This is a classic error, simply by making it sizzle, doesn’t make it a sausage. Try it yourself, take some dog shit, throw it into some hot fat and listen to it sizzle. Just dont convince yourself its a sausage and dont eat it. Critically, if you run a business, dont sell it to anyone in pretty packaging claiming it is a sausage, thats when things go wrong.

It was during this time that I first time heard the phrase ‘lipstick on a pig’. It’s a fairly well known phrase amongst developers and designers. It refers to a really bad system with a pretty interface. No matter how much lipstick you put on the thing, it is still a pig (what is it with web development and pork based metaphors?).

The last time I heard it was as I joined a company running an affiliate site. As I was joining, I spent half a day being briefed by my predecessor who just got straight down to it. “The website, he said, is ‘lipstick on a pig’”. It all seemed uncomfortably familiar. Shit system being propped up by under-utilised, over-skilled software development engineers doing menial things like creating pages on the site, running reports and mending dozens of bugs every day. The quandary was why, if they had recognised porky in lip-gloss, were they not doing anything about it.

Within about three months I had found out. I just went straight in and devised a plan to create a new website that had a robust structure, state-of-the-art functions, a content management system, as well as lots of really ordinary things that every other website had. Good, you might think. Well not really, which is why my business book is needed. That is not the way you do things in business. People feel comfortable with smoke and sparks coming out of the machinery while a couple of people in overalls, sweep up and paint it over to make it look like everything’s fine. Strategic thinking is not for the twat in the overalls. Shit he might actually change something. It would mean that people up the chain of command would have to do things for themselves, like add pages, pull their own reports, take responsibility for their own areas of the business. It would also reflect badly on the people who had presided over the current smorgasbord of offal, pig, sausage and lipstick.

…the company went into a spin and people started calling me ‘David’ a lot

So, here was a proposal for significant change. The company went into a spin and people started calling me ‘David’ a lot. I sensed nervousness from middle managers who had become used to running their functions via email instructions to the development team: “…put up a page; run a report; make me some graphics; strike all that, I got it wrong, start again; etc”. Companies have things called ‘other staff’. These are people who are comfortable shifting the shit downhill until it can go no further and then complaining about the stinking mess it creates. Other staff think it’s okay to behave like this, indeed they don’t know any different and refuse, in the most part, to accept any alternative. Read the book, it’s all in there and one of the key rules of business is: Change is bad and and must be stopped dead in its tracks. This may surprise you, but it shows why my new book is so important.

…one of the key rules of business is: Change is bad and and must be stopped dead in its tracks

Anyway, back at the affiliate web company… The MD of this organisation read business books too, indeed he once had a business mentor who told him to ‘organise, delegate and supervise’.  However, I examined the philosophy in detail and was able to redefine it correctly as: ‘make it up on the spot, delegate from a distance, disappear for days on end and terrorise over the telephone’. And this pretty much describes what happened next. It was a classic example of what my book will refer to as ‘The inverted power/responsibility curve’. There is a misconception in the world at large, that as one scales the corporate ladder, one takes greater responsibility, while at the same time getting more control over situations, resources and budgets. But that is why my book is needed. That doesn’t happen. What happens is that you become responsible for things that you have no control over. “Dave…” people say “you’re in charge of the website, make everything as big as everything else. Make everything the same colour and squeeze all of it onto a single screen.” This means that they get their own way. It also means that when it fucks up, they can hold you responsible for it because you did it and you have a job title of ‘manager’.

And I have tried saying “This is madness it won’t work” they then say “David, stop saying ‘no’ you’re so negative at times” or “I need to see evidence that it isn’t working”. Holy Moses! If a soldier stands up in no-mans-land wearing day-glo orange, pointing at the enemy, shouting ‘you’re shit and you know you are’ sooner or later he is going to get all the evidence he needs that this is a bad idea. Sometimes, experience (or even common sense) is enough to let you know when something is a pure lunacy.

If a soldier stands up in no-mans-land wearing day-glo orange, pointing at the enemy, shouting ‘you’re shit and you know you are’ sooner or later he is going to get all the evidence he needs that this is a bad idea

Now you are not going to have to go far in your career, before you are introduced to the concept of ‘quick wins’. The phrase has crept into the corporate vocabulary and has morphed its meaning. It’s like the buzz phrase generator, a way of generating utter garbage that sounds credible and gets you your own way.

Account manager: “So it’s four websites,  new branding, a blog and a fully functional ecommerce system …and we need a quick win on this”.

Developer/Designer: ”…and which bit is the quick win”.

Account Manager: “All of it is the quick win”

Developer/Designer: “No all of it is the entire project, a ‘quick win’ is a section of it that we can deliver ahead of the final deadline in a flatter-to-deceive exercise to give the impression that we are making good progress or, more usefully, delivering a key component ahead of the final delivery”

Account Manager: “Don’t be a twat, just do it by the end of the month”

Developer/Designer: “I can’t commit to that. You can have it done properly by a sensible deadline or quickly and falling to bits”

Account Manager: “We’ll take it up with the CEO shall we?”

[ten minutes later]

CEO: What’s your problem with this quick win

Developer/Designer: “I just want to know which bit of it is the quick win”

CEO: “All of it”

Developer/Designer: “So it’s not a quick win, it’s a ‘rush job’ where inevitably something will go wrong since generally we can either do it quickly or do it properly, we always fuck up if we try to both at the same time.”

CEO: “Call it what you want, just do it fast and no errors. And it better not fuck up, because it’s your responsibility to make sure it doesn’t.”

Account Manager [scuttling off chatting to the CEO]: “I told him it was a ‘quick win’…”

The man in charge gets his own way, you take responsibility if it fucks up

I inherited a website once and when asked for my initial impression of it I said “It looks like if you dropped it, it would rattle and smash when it should look like it would land with a cushioned bounce.” This confused everyone. So I explained that there was lots and lots of little bits all over the screen with harsh colours and sharp edges and none of it sat well together. I explained the interface usability theory and practice and dumbed it down to show how you couldn’t find any one thing for everything else getting in the way. Eventually I found a load of analytics that supported all this, but still I got this relentless resistance to any idea I might propose. When I eventually said we should go for a redesign, I got given the task of proving the need by delivering a major set of benefits, like massive traffic increases, streamlined process flows and increased conversions and all of this through some “Quick Wins”.

“Just change a word here, and a button there, five days work at the most…”

Four weeks later as the goal posts continued to fly about like Shergar with the shits

Four weeks later as the goal posts continued to fly about like Shergar with the shits, the ‘Quick wins’ became slower, the remit extended and the expectations were raised. The MD would start every tortuous meeting with “To my way of thinking…” and then the sentence would deteriorate into a load of subjective opinion basically leading to one of the founding principles of my book: The man in charge gets his own way, but you take responsibility when he fucks it up”

‘Quick wins’, watch out for that in the new book – it will have a spin-off series and a movie all of its own.

Enough for now. In the next instalment, I will be examining the process of dismantling all that is good about interface design in order to integrate it into Agile software development methodology. Its done by developers using mustard gas and water-boarding the designers.

12 Sep 11 My life as a rock star

As long ago as 1981 I formed my first band, called The Syndicate.

I was in a school band before then, but I don’t count that – it didn’t have a name, but that has been a recurring theme of the bands I have been in. I played bass which I hate and could never do very well anyway. A guy called Dave Amos was on guitar. Another school friend called Paul Coxon was on lyrics and vocals, but he never sang anything. Thinking back, his lyrics were, at best, on a good day, with a lot of generosity of spirit, total toss. His singing was not quite up to the level of his lyrics.

Our guitarist… was motivated to forge the link between music, woodwork and motor mechanics

It was Dave’s band really. We had to practice at his house, that’s how you could tell whose band it was. Musically, Dave knew all the notes and could play any chord, any guitar solo and every song ever written. The trouble is he knew how to suck the passion and life out of everything he played. He was good at maths and physics at school and music was a bit like that to him – a soul-less series of things that got put together through necessity rather than fun.

On the other hand, as a musician, I was nowhere. I bought a bass because I worked out that everyone else wanted to play guitar. Playing bass meant I would be able to get into a band more easily. I mean, four strings, four fingers on each hand, two fingers for each string – it’s got to be a piece of piss. That seed of a hypothesis was never really bore fruit – it’s bloody tricky to play bass. But motivationally, I had it sussed. I was in it to give Bob Dylan a day off from time to time, lose my virginity, get discovered and become a squilionaire. Our guitarist, on the other hand, was motivated to forge the link between music, woodwork and motor mechanics.

We never played a gig, we never really got through a single song. We just plodded along with everything turned up full while Dave went through every note in every order on his plank of a Stratocaster copy saying things like ‘switch to 13/15 time now’. I was never going to get discovered, laid or rich in this band.

So I knew what not to be when I formed the Syndicate. It needed to be be my band. I needed to be the guitarist, I needed to write the songs and we had to do gigs and it had to have a name. The Syndicate was a great band – very raw but very good, the songs were alright and we did some great gigs – a memorable one at Trentham Rugby Club springs to mind and one at Wolves Poly Students Union. It was a sporadic thing. Most of the members were either at college or travelling and when we all got back together we just played music.

Before we played a note there were musical differences between Joe who liked Bowie and looked like Robert Smith and Ziggy who looked like Mungo Jerry and liked something but couldn’t quite describe it to us

When I was 20 I stopped my travelling for a while and decided to get educated so I went to Coventry Poly. But instead of going to any lectures I joined any band that would have me. At college I was mainly in a band with no name and no songs and no fucking idea. Before we played a note there were musical differences between Joe who liked Bowie and looked like Robert Smith and Ziggy who looked like Mungo Jerry and liked something but couldn’t quite describe it to us – he never really stopped fucking about with his flange pedal long enough to play any of it to us. They both fucked off by year two – one failed his exams, the other just vanished. I joined a band up in Birmingham called  The Moving Stares or Go No Stop, depending on who you asked – but more about them later.

In the meantime back in Stoke my first band, The Syndicate, kept changing names. We were Sid Ego and The Superegos for a while and some other names. We were living all over the country so it was disjointed. We recorded some stuff that was played a bit by a local DJ who was just known as ‘Tank’. We did a load of 30 second jingles for him to do his local DJ impressions of Dave Lee Travis to. There were a heap of them like electro versions of Petula Clarke’s Down Town and a flat pick, blue grass version of Happy Birthday and other stuff.

…our early recorded music was great quality, but all about menstruation, wife-beating and penis envy. The DJ was having some problems getting away with this on the play-list at the weddings

In return he used to play our recorded tracks at all of his gigs. The recorded tracks, however, were all a bit right-on. My brother was also in the band. His girlfrend was making an Arts Council funded film about feminism and being blokes we told her the original music by the all-girl band was shit and we would have to re-do it all properly. So we took a huge chunk of Arts Council budget and headed off to a pro studio in London (next door to Liberty as I remember). As a result, our early recorded music was great quality, but all about menstruation, wife-beating and penis envy. The DJ was having some problems getting away with this on the play-list at the weddings he did, but credit where it’s due, he aired the music.

Terry fucked off with the takings before the gig was over. The two bands were left with the club management (and bouncers) not letting us have our gear back

Anyway, the DJ knew one of the former managers of Stoke-on-Trent’s slimiest hot-spot, The Place. This guy had been fired for some reason – which we were about to find out. He was called Terry someone. He got us and another band from Stoke (called Single English) to do a gig at Jollees. It was Terry’s shot at becoming a pop impresario. But he did fuck all to promote it. We and the other band did all the posters, sold all the tickets, got it mentioned on the radio and so on. We managed to get about 800 in there. But Terry fucked off with the takings before the gig was over. The two bands were left with the club management (and bouncers) forming a solid wall of fat and bone between us and our gear and the only chance of us not ending up wearing the amps on our heads was to settle the rent on the venue that Terry hadn’t paid. Fucking mess. Someone called the police, and about 4.00am we got our gear back and Terry had been tracked down to a flat over a pub and was busy getting his head kicked in by the bouncers. Lesson learnt about doing gigs – get paid up front and get your gear out as soon as you’ve finished playing. But it was a good gig – it went really well.

I fucking hated Picksie by this point. Rehearsals consisted of him saying things like ‘we’re going to get fifty school girl ballerinas all caressing hypodermics while the band play Jerusalem on Jews harps’

Meanwhile back in Cov, I had given up on my course and spent all day in my student house playing guitar and then hooking up with some musos in Birmingham most weeks. There was a singer called Picksie who was very theatrical. There was also a brilliant keyboard player called Carla. She was already doing sessions. She had done the keyboards on some Fine Young Canibals tracks by the time I hooked up with them as a guitarist. We got a drummer from another band and Carla’s ex-boyfriend came in as bassist. We spent all our time not doing gigs, but in a studio in Aston making demos and videos which we sent to The Tube every month. And every month they wrote back saying that we were just too theatrical for them. So Picksie would get even more theatrical and outrageous and we would then video it and send it to them. This went on until they just stopped replying at all. I fucking hated Picksie by this point. Rehearsals consisted of him saying things like ‘we’re going to get fifty school girl ballerinas all caressing hypodermics while the band play Jerusalem on Jews harps’ and me saying ‘how much effort do you have to put into being such an utter wanker’. Meanwhile the rest of the band would piss off to the pub.

I was going to put all those romantic star-struck notions behind me… there were thousands of people visiting the National Garden Festival and someone had to tell them where the toilets were.

By this time, I was leaving college and the bright lights of a job at The National Garden Festivals in Etruria beckoned. So I left the band. Nine days later Carla called to say that they had all got pissed off with Picksie and kicked him out. Carla, the bassist and the drummer had also got an audition for a 12 month paid contract and would I do it with them. It sounded like cruise ships, so I was a bit dismissive. And anyway, I was going to put all those romantic star-struck notions behind me and get on with doing a real job; there were thousands of people visiting the National Garden Festival and someone had to tell them where the toilets were.

Turns out the audition was to become the rest of Everything But the Girl (behind Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn) for an album and a tour and they got hired.

Last time I saw Carla was in about 1996 at Glastonbury. I bumped into her wandering about all the shit chic stalls. We chatted for a while. She was actually working there, with Billy Bragg – She went straight from EBTG to working with Billy Bragg and has done keyboards on everything he has recorded since and every tour he has done as well.

We were on a TV show called No Stilettos with Eddi Reader of Fairground Attraction and got to do our sound check with Suede and we jammed with The Trashcan Sinatras into the wee hours

At that pount I took a break from guitar (I actually felt like throwing the fucking thing away). I wandered off to Snowdonia and became a climbing instructor, I didn’t even have a radio, cd player, tape player or any other music for a couple of years. It took almost ten years to pick a guitar up again which I did when I moved to Glasgow. Good times knocking out rock’n'roll with a jazz drummer from Derby, the original bassist of Wet Wet Wet and one of the first guitarists from Altered Images – we even hung about with Texas and Gun and did a lot of jamming with them all. We were on a TV show called No Stilettos with Eddi Reader of Fairground Attraction and got to do our sound check with Suede and we jammed with The Trashcan Sinatras into the wee hours and I even did some guitaring with Blue Nile. It very much felt like the rock’n'roll lifestyle. We got VIP passes for the Stones gig at Hamden Park where Gun supported them. Good days and a great way to waste your life away in poverty.

And over the years you forget how fucking cold, poor and miserable you were, one step from being a millionaire in a mansion and one considerably shorter one backwards to being a smackhead in a squat. I moved on, it wasn’t going to happen and I wasn’t going to die for the cause. Since then I have done solo spots at a few festivals locally and I do a bit of harmonica and guitar from time to time with my brothers band in Devon. They have been going about 25 years and they do a lot of the music festivals in the South West, some covers, some original compositions …and some of my songs as well. I ought to do the same. You can’t explain to others how great it is being in a band.

…but looking back, my best shot at fame eluded me by 9 days

05 Sep 11 Footbollocks!

Throw that shit away, it’s got to look good with a pair of jeans in a bar in Torremolinos

3-0 to the pricks from the marketing department

I ran a design seminar on functional design at the University of Gloucester the other day. I first did this sort of thing when I was doing my MA in Design some years ago and when I get the opportunity I always take it.

So following the England v Bulgaria match, one of the undergraduates asked me what about the design considerations of the new England football kit.

Well it’s a joke really, isn’t it? A bit of a ‘lust child’ begotten when design is raped by marketing. So I got into a rant about it. Fortunately, these days, no one takes seminar notes, they just record them on their iPhones. So deniability goes right out of the window, but the student was good enough to send me a transcript of my rant…

Generally speaking when making sports apparel, the designer starts by thinking about how to make the team stand out. Players need to see each other across a green pitch with a muddy and multi-coloured crowd as a back-drop. The design process will then go on to consider things like: will the cut allow good movement without providing too much material for the opposition to grab hold of; how will the shape and drape allow air to flow through the garment; How will the fabric aid breathability; will it wick and disperse moisture and keep the wearer cool and dry; etc.

Then the marketing guy will stick his head round the door and in fluent bollocks, say “Throw that shit away, it’s got to look good with a pair of jeans in a bar in Torremolinos”.

Well you might as well give them the truth. If he’s going to be a designer, he’s going to find his ideas prostituted in a marketing brothel fairly frequently.

27 Jul 11 Gordon Ramsay’s Fucking Formula

gordon ramsayGordon, tonight we watched your Kitchen Nightmares USA. Actually, Gordon, we seem to watch it every fucking week. No Gordon, calm yourself. I must confess, I am not really a fan. In truth, we’ve lost the remote control. But Gordon, we do watch and I am dismayed. Dismayed Gordon. Gordon you may be working on the premise that once seen, no one would bother to watch the programme again. But for us Gordon, it is different. We have seen it more than four times. And Gordon, once you’ve seen it once you’ve seen it once you’ve seen it once you’ve seen it once you’ve seen it once you’ve seen it once too fucking often.

Gordon, to be fucking brutal (which I know you’ll appreciate) there are no fresh ingredients. It’s mechanised, mass produced, rehashed and reheated before being served to several dozen people on a distant digital channel. You’ll probably appreciate that metaphor Gordon, but will you find your own formulaic recipe a little tedious?:

  1. Gordon shows up at a restaurant and says “Fuck off”
  2. Gordon eats some food and says “Fuck off”
  3. Gordon tells everyone to “Fuck off”
  4. Gordon shows up the next day and tells everyone what’s wrong with them before telling them to “Fuck off”
  5. Gordon watches them all make a mess of serving for an evening and says ”Fuck off”
  6. Gordon sends in the interior decorators then tells them (restaurant owners not decorators) to swap their Duck a l’Orange menu for fish fingers then forces the waiters to tell the sou chef to ”Fuck off”
  7. They all think Gordon is a genius and so he tells them to ”Fuck off”
  8. They make a complete arse of themselves so Gordon shouts “Fuck off” and this makes them do it right just in time
  9. Gordon walks off down the street and says ”Fuck off”

Every fucking week, Gordon, every fucking week. Maybe once you could sing some Fats Waller or interview Frank Lampard. Perhaps you could tell us something we don’t know, like why your face is too big for your skull, but no Gordon. You try to shock us all by saying ”Fuck off” even though it’s the stylistic equivalent of tinned custard.

Anyway. We had soup and crisps for tea. We made it ourselves (not the crisps, they came in a bag from the supermarket) but we made the soup and it’s not difficult. The thing is Gordon, what separates me from you, is that while I too can rehash, reheat and reproduce a given style, I can also make soup without saying ”Fuck off”

02 Jul 11 Your Horoscopes for this month

  • Aries You will develop bed sores and a deep admiration for Dundee Cake
  • Taurus You are planning a dream holiday at the moment but you will be falsely imprisoned for war crimes (and incidentally the holiday company will not let you have your deposit back)
  • Gemini Sadly, it turns out that of all the people you’ve ever known, the only one who has your best interests at heart is the dead singer Roger Whittaker.
  • Cancer For some reason, all your plans for life are left in tatters. But console yourself; the person you love is saved from the pain because they are on a plane, with your life savings in a suitcase, to meet their lover on a Pacific island
  • Leo Love is in the air for Leo this month. Watch out for an old man with halitosis wearing a grubby raincoat and a Nike baseball cap. he will avoid direct eye contact and fiddle around in his trouser pockets a lot. This is your new soul mate for eternity.
  • Virgo On the 28th of the month you will fall into a threshing machine
  • Libra Your plans to set up a single-cell organism farm in Patagonia hit a set-back when the amoeba stampede.
  • Scorpio You’ll be ruled unfit for trial, but they seem to think you’re just fine for sentencing and execution.
  • Sagittarius Your plans for retirement are severely tested having spent the last twenty years unemployed, you worry that the change in lifestyle won’t suit you.
  • Capricorn You have to stop worrying about what everyone else says, especially nonsense like “You should dress better,” “Nice people don’t do that,” and “Put down the gun and release the hostages.”
  • Aquarius You’ve always thought of yourself as the ultimate cat person, but you’ll change your mind this week after you are caught and prosecuted.
  • Pisces You will soon make a comfortable living exploiting other people’s deep-seated anxieties and crippling fears.

29 Jun 11 Creative and Jobless

…and I’m going to start this half way through a sentence, because that’s the way it happened. I was half way through a day, halfway through my lunch and half way through an email marketing campaign that was going quite well. Then I found myself halfway out of the door as, half way through the same sentence I was just talking about, we were all told the company was closing, there wasn’t enough money to pay us. Could we all go home and fill out some forms.

So I started looking for another job. I don’t really mind which job. I am a sort of a General Practitioner of marketing and design. I can identify the issues, come up with the right plan, do most of what is needed until you get to hand coding web fronted software (the web equivalent of a triple heart bypass) and then, like a GP, I know which consultant to call. I am experienced and qualified in, web design, graphics and marketing and creatively disposed to the application of these skills.

“…you are creative aren’t you?” which means “I’m ignoring everything you say. I also think ‘creative’ means ‘stupid’, so I can patronise you and you won’t realise it. Now go away and colour something in…”

I do well in most places that I work. I win awards and people give me that special respect that creative people get, you know the damned by feint praise respect where they say “…you are creative aren’t you?” which means “I’m ignoring everything you say. I also think ‘creative’ means ‘stupid’ so I can patronise you and you won’t realise it. Now go away and colour something in”.

Clearly there is an acceptance, at some level, that creativity is attached to personality. It is not a process per ce and therefore is not a machine that gets switched on only when necessary or super-powered by anything other than coffee. But when you search for jobs you find ads saying things like “Are you a Creative Genius?” they go on to say “…Must be able to manage budgets, pray to deadlines, run Prince 2 Project Management software, commit to best-practice business processes …and while creative, must have no trace of independent thought. This role involves agreeing with everyone else.” I had an MD once who used to say to me “We’ve got the sausage – you give it the sizzle”. I used to think “Sausage – it’s supposed to be software! Anyway it’s not a sausage, it’s not made it past the pig stage of the process and I can daub lip-stick all over this pig, but it’s still going to be a pig – it needs redesigning, not repainting”.

It makes you wonder why anyone wants a creative genius. The phrase ‘If you keep doing what you do, you’ll keep getting what you get’ springs to mind as the subtext of these ads is ‘we’re going to keep doing what we do, and so are you. But you’re responsible for making sure that we start to get drastically different results. Don’t argue just go and colour something in – and make sure you do it in a corporately compliant way’.

…it’s difficult to maintain a respectable level of mendacity because, having asked for a creative genius, they have sat you in front of a creative retard

But you need a job and so you go to the interview prepared to say ‘well you’re the boss’ to the inteviewer when you mean ‘you’re a fucking imbecile’. But it’s difficult to maintain a respectable level of mendacity because, having asked for a creative genius, they have sat you in front of a creative retard. Through some quirk of natural injustice, this is the prick who will mark you out of ten for your creative genius-ness. It’s like the pot calling the kettle-drum ‘fish’; there is no way you can communicate with this person in a meaningful way. So you just say what they want to hear: Q. Can you sprout wings and fly? A. Easy peasy.

Then, should you get the gig, you’ll spend 51 weeks each year kowtowing to a self-important wanker. But if you are lucky, for one week of the year, when they are away or busy or otherwise distracted, you will get to be spontaneous, creative, unfettered by corporo-bollox and make an important difference. They will then say things like, “Ahh if only you’d do this all the time” or “That was my idea”.

So as a truthful answer to the question Are you a creative Genius?…

Creative? ? ???? /// ??? (aren’t question marks interesting to look at) – As a kid, I was naturally drawn to playing musical instruments, drawing and writing – although I was lazy so a lot of the writing wasn’t written down. I was into the fusion of these things with the day-to-day mediocrity of life – As a teenager I would compose Dylanesque balads about e.g.  going for a shit and then perform these for my rather straight-laced grandparents.

…digging and planting a petunia flower-bed in the centre circle of the school’s football (soccer) pitch for a photo idea I had – that one didn’t go down well…

I liked off-beat comedy such as Spike Milligan. No one else I knew could stand him. Like Milligan, I tended to be naturally lateral in my approach to life. And for most of my childhood, it was a pain in the neck for those around me. Digging and planting a petunia flower-bed in the centre circle of the school’s football (soccer) pitch for a photo idea I had – that one didn’t go down well (Sorry mum and dad, I didn’t tell you about that and in fairness, I never got found out – but I can tell you it didn’t go down well).

I spent two weeks painting the church spire to look like Thuderbird One – the vicar ruined it, he wouldn’t dress up as Mr Tracey.

I worked in Tywyn in Snowdonia as a climbing instructor for a while. I would take to the streets at night in a Banksy-esque way (although this predates Banksy by some years) and create Andy Goldsworthy style sculptures on people’s window sills and car bonnets. And people just knew it was me. Okay Goldsworthy is coffee-table and Banksy is subversive, but I did at least have my own movement – the Subversive Coffee Table movement; for a week or two some kids around Tywyn were copying me. Because of this, I was once asked by the town vicar if I could think of a way to attract young people to the local church. So I went for a fusion of climbing and creativity and spent two weeks painting the church spire to look like Thuderbird One. The vicar ruined it, he wouldn’t dress up as Mr Tracey. I suggested he dressed as Brains instead, but he was just looking at his church spire and whimpering.

I knew that eventually I would have to make a living out of this creativity, simply because I couldn’t have existed in something like accountancy for more than a few days without doing something creatively spontaneous, but commercially ruinous. And while I have mellowed since and qualified in pushing buttons on computers and trying to break the web, I essentially still do the same thing. I get things noticed. People apparently appreciate what I do. I get awards for it from time to time and people say they wished they could ‘think’ like me.

‘Creative genius’ is a silly phrase. But if such a thing exists, it is the sort of thing that happens half way through whatever you’re doing at the time, rather than at the far end of a prescriptive best practice business process.

27 Feb 11 Response 1a to lazy journalism, ill-informed comment and poor punditry concerning Stoke City

stoke - substance of style

Substance over celebrity ponsing around on grass

Every week we are treated to a journalistic feast of faeces concerning Stoke City and their apparently notorious style of play. It is ill-informed at best and generally the endless repetition of lazy journalism, written by hacks who have rarely if ever seen Stoke other than on the highly biased and radically edited clips on Match of The Day.

…they point at us, like a retard points at a helium filled balloon, saying “That’s not possible. It’s evil, it’s witchcraft. Burn them”

Let’s just clarify what’s going on: We are Stoke. The laws of media dynamics dictate that we should gravitate towards the relegation zone and stay there, sinking ultimately out of the Premiership. But we don’t, so the media stands there, mouths open in disgust and shock, as we take points of all the celebrity teams. They can’t get over this apparent anomaly in the universal laws of ‘playing the right way’ which dictate that we should be ‘plucky’, but we should ultimately lose and then disappear, grateful for having been allowed a season of humiliating defeats at the hands of nice teams. So when that doesn’t happen, they point at us, like a retard points at a helium filled balloon, saying “That’s not possible. It’s evil, it’s witchcraft. Burn them”.

That, my fragrant friend, was Stoke. They’re here to stay.

I love it when we remind them that we are Stoke and we’ll play how we want. I actually think that sentiment is under-represented in the media. They cannot know the extreme sense of pleasure I get from being part of the Stoke revolution, the nasty bastards who gatecrashed their beautiful party, pissed on the carpet, vomited on the cake, groped the women, nicked anything not nailed down and then left them in tears as they ask ‘who were those horrible people?’.

That, my fragrant friend, was Stoke. They’re here to stay.

 

11 Jan 11 moneysupermarket.com attempt to bribe and blackmail me

moneysupermarket logo

moneysupermarket.com sent me an email recently asking me to publish an article featuring their new TV advert. They went further and hinted at an editorial line besmirching the character of Lord Prescott.

So I published the article. READ IT HERE

But they didn’t like what I wrote.

So they asked me to remove it …and then tried to bribe and blackmail me…. they really don’t want people to read the article

So here follows the correspondence below, which I publish in full because I think this is now a public interest matter. That means it is subject to a greater responsibility to the public than confidentiality footnotes on emails. Under the Freedom of Information Act, it allows publication of such information in order to make people aware that in this case there are  dubious practices being used to stifle my right of free speech. Why? All because I have called the bluff of a famous and national company who are not only paying a distinguished former Deputy Prime Minister to be in a national TV advertisement, but at the same time they launching an underground campaign to damage his reputation.

Received via the contact form on daveyates.co.uk

***********

From    X (Name removed to protect the individual involved)
Email    *************@moneysupermarket.com
Website    http://www.moneysupermarket.com

Message

Hi,

My name is X and I work for Moneysupermarket.com. We have recently done a video together with former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and I was wondering if you would like to feature it on your website. I decided to contact you due to the nature of your website which I think features some very informative articles on a wide variety of topics. Having previously mentioned him in the past I I felt that you would be interested in featuring this video which hows Prescott in out latest car insurance advertisement and is rather amusing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWpW_5X2EYE). However, it has proved to be an opinion splitter with some people thinking it shows him in a good light and others thinking that he is cashing in on attacking a voter. If you are interested in featuring this video on your website, please let me know. All we would ask in return is a link back to us to acknowledge that we created the advertisement.

Thanks X

****************

From: Dave Yates
To:
X (Name removed to protect the individual involved)

X

I have included the link and a small article on my site. If you would like to discuss any of this further, please contact me by email or on the number below.

Kind regards
David

*******************

From: X (Name removed to protect the individual involved)
To: Dave Yates

Hi David,
I apologise for the fact the email was unwelcome and the point has been taken. You will not be contacted again.

Can I please request that the whole blog mention be removed along with our video?

Thanks
X

*********************

From: Dave Yates
To:
X (Name removed to protect the individual involved)

X

The approach is very welcome. I just think that since you have a commercial objective, you should be prepared to attach a commercial incentive to the request. I do not make a living out of my online activities, yet I still have to pay for the services you wish to market via my website. There is an equitable arrangement just shouting out here and I think you should consider it.

Please reconsider my counter offer.

Thanks
David

**********************
From: X (Name removed to protect the individual involved)
To: Dave Yates

Hi David,
We would be prepared to pay for any such request and if you had asked about the prospect I would have gladly complied. This is something which still isn’t out of the question if the blog mention is removed.

I must advise that the mention of email grammar errors would not be viewed favourably by wordpress due to the potential it has to offend people with dyslexia.

If you could let me know once your post is removed I think we can move on from the matter.

Thanks
X

******************

From: Dave Yates
To:
X (Name removed to protect the individual involved)

X

I’m a little surprised at your response.

I assume that what you are saying is that you are prepared to bribe me with some form of discount vouchers if I pull down the article. On the other hand, you are also prepared to blackmail me since, if I do not, you will try to get WordPress to jump all over me for being insensitive to dyslexic people.

On a point of order, WordPress do not host this Blog, I do. I use the WordPress platform, but as far as publishing standards are concerned, it is none of their business. Additionally, I would go as far as to say that you are incorrect on two levels:

1. As one of few accredited WordPress consultants in the UK, I can tell you that it is not part of the WordPress remit to police publishing standards. It is their objective to provide a publishing platform for others to use. What gets written is not really of any concern to them.

2. The standards of grammar, spelling and so on in an email, even if you are dyslexic, are easily managed via grammar and spelling checks through standard software. You are in a job that involves distributing PR to people who write, either for a living, or as a pastime. It makes you fair game for this sort of criticism.

In the meantime, please let me know what sort of thing you have in mind as far as the discounts are involved.

Many thanks
David

********************

From: X (Name removed to protect the individual involved)
To:
David Yates

Hi David,
I did not attempt to bribe anyone I was merely pointing out a legal opinion I have that it was quite dangerous to say such things in this day and age more for the protection of your website than anything. Of course I can not be certain of this as I haven’t consulted our legal department on the matter.

Additionally, as I understand it you are attempting to bribe us by saying that you will only take this down if we met your demands which again, in my opinion, is legally dubious. This is proven once again by your reference at the bottom of the email to discounts.

Can I suggest that you remove the blog post straight away and we can move on from the matter otherwise I will be forced to consult my manager and/or legal department.

Thanks
X

***********************

From: Dave Yates
To:
X (Name removed to protect the individual involved)

X

Let’s recap…

You asked me to publish this.

I did.

I publicly made the point that as a commercial organisation, with a commercial objective, you should be prepared to offer a commercial incentive – which I believe you should.

You didn’t like it and asked me to remove the blog post, suggesting that you might reward me somehow were I to do so. At that point it became a bribe to my mind. You concurrently implied that you would seek to have WordPress sanction me were I not to comply and remove the article. At that stage it became blackmail to my way of thinking.

I asked what sort of an inducement you had in mind.

You are now accusing me of seeking a bribe! Let me remind you, you offered me a bribe, not the other way around and at the same time you made a suggestion of blackmail. For your information, I am interested in how much because, I’ve never been offered a bribe before – it is a perfectly natural question.

Perhaps you should consult your manager and your legal department, I think bribery and blackmail are probably not good corporate strategies.

All the best
David

********************

From: X (Name removed to protect the individual involved)
To: Dave Yates


Hi David,
1) I never attempted to bribe anyone. I agree that a commercial incentive is a good idea in these cases and attempted to seek a commercial arrangement where we could feature the video and short text with the link back which would benefit us and also put a piece of material which could be of interest to your website readers

2) I made the suggestion that making jokes out of people’s writing could be viewed badly but never once mentioned contacting wordpress, was more a comment on how it could be viewed by others.

3) I requested you remove the post because it is obviously harmful to how we are seen. I don’t question that. I said that we could still continue under my initial intentions if the post was removed as I would ignore that the situation had occurred and realise we inconvenienced you with the email.

I am sorry how this situation has ended up after a harmless approach at a commercial agreement. Had you not published the blog entry you did and had instead approach me by email about the prospect of gaining a commercial incentive for publishing the company video I would have complied without question. I apologise if I have mistakenly read this as bribery but surely you can see why I see it this way just as I can see why you see it your way.

***************

From: X (Name removed to protect the individual involved)
To: Dave Yates


Hi David,
I would hate for all this to end in conflict so welcome any suggestions you have to rectify the situation?

Thanks
X

*****************

From: Dave Yates
To:
X (Name removed to protect the individual involved)

X

1) I never attempted to bribe anyone. I agree that a commercial incentive is a good idea in these cases and attempted to seek a commercial arrangement where we could feature the video and short text with the link back which would benefit us and also put a piece of material which could be of interest to your website readers

Bribe: Call it what you want. But it looks that way to me.
“benefit us and also put a piece of material which could be of interest to your website readers”: You presented this with the words “some people thinking it shows him in a good light and others thinking that he is cashing in on attacking a voter.” That is an invitation to scandalise the man. As someone with more than a bit of experience marketing brands via social media, I know an attempt at viral whispering when I see it.

2) I made the suggestion that making jokes out of people’s writing could be viewed badly but never once mentioned contacting wordpress, was more a comment on how it could be viewed by others.

That’s not how it came across to me.

3) I requested you remove the post because it is obviously harmful to how we are seen. I don’t question that. I said that we could still continue under my initial intentions if the post was removed as I would ignore that the situation had occurred and realise we inconvenienced you with the email.

You have not inconvenienced me with the email. It is exactly the sort of content that I like to feature. I rather think you wanted me to put the video up there with a backlink and some comment like “Look! bloody Prescott coining off the back of his assault and battery on that poor member of the public”

I am sorry how this situation has ended up after a harmless approach at a commercial agreement.

What was the commercial agreement?

Had you not published the blog entry you did and had instead approach me by email about the prospect of gaining a commercial incentive for publishing the company video I would have complied without question.

Don’t blame me for not being psychic. You asked me to publish it and I did. If there was an incentive, you should have approached me with that. The invitation was to put a copy of the vid on my blog with a backlink. Nothing else was mentioned.

I apologise if I have mistakenly read this as bribery but surely you can see why I see it this way just as I can see why you see it your way.

Well at least you can see my point of view and I thank you for that.

Kind regards
David

*****************

…then nothing. Do you think I’ve upset them?


10 Jan 11 MoneySupermarket v John Prescott – who’s taking the piss out of who? – I rather think you’re taking the piss out of me

I got this email this morning from Moneysupermarket.com

X (Name removed to protect the individual involved)
Email ************@moneysupermarket.com

Hi,

My name is X and I work for Moneysupermarket.com. We have recently done a video together with former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and I was wondering if you would like to feature it on your website. I decided to contact you due to the nature of your website which I think features some very informative articles on a wide variety of topics. Having previously mentioned him in the past I I felt that you would be interested in featuring this video which hows Prescott in out latest car insurance advertisement and is rather amusing. However, it has proved to be an opinion splitter with some people thinking it shows him in a good light and others thinking that he is cashing in on attacking a voter. If you are interested in featuring this video on your website, please let me know. All we would ask in return is a link back to us to acknowledge that we created the advertisement.

Thanks X

For the moment I will skirt over the lousy grammar and spelling, and the rather slap-dash nature of the email. Next of all, I bet you haven’t read my blog. It does cover a wide range of topics, but none of it is interesting or informative, it’s largely shit. But you’re not after traffic are you – you want the backlink, the bit that only Google sees.

Here’s your backlink – But since this is a commercial request, it occurs to me that the only one not making money out of this is me. No discount voucher for my car insurance, no High Street retail vouchers …nothing. I might as well buy from confused.com. It’s a bit of an insult really. Still so long as I’m not getting anything out of this, neither are you because I have placed a “nofollow” attribute on your link, so bizarrely confused.com get more out of this than you do

Of greater concern to me X, indeed the real reason I am quite angered by your approach is the attempt to smear John Prescott. Like him or hate him, you have paid him to embarrass himself to advertise your company and now you are seeking to start a social media smear of him.Your email snidely drops the hint: However, it has proved to be an opinion splitter with some people thinking it shows him in a good light and others thinking that he is cashing in on attacking a voter”

So, since this is my blog, not your free advert, here’s my opinion. I think John Prescott is someone who, with little education, starting out labouring on merchant ships for a living, took the cause on to promote the the welfare of his fellow workers. Having done so, he became one of the most effective and respected union leaders of his generation. Entering mainstream politics, he saw the rise and fall of the loony left and New Labour and in spite of his ill-fitting image, he rose to become Deputy Prime Minister of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and now serves in the House of Lords.

He was never one to insult the electorate with twisted words, double talk and political expediency. If you hit him, he hit you back, verbally and physically. He came to the fore in a tough blue collar world and rose above most in the duplicitous white collar world.

I think it is shameful that having come to an arrangement to use him in a national TV campaign, you are now seeking to scandalise his motives in an underground PR campaign through blogs.

Nevertheless, had he written an email to me, I would bet that he would have had it proof read for typos, spelling errors and grammatical mistakes.

As for the point you raise, I think he is taking the piss out of himself; punch bag, Yale sweat shirt, etc. I think he knew what he was doing when it was filmed. I just think he doesn’t know what you are doing now in trying to denigrate him through a whispering campaign driven by bloggers on the social media scene.

Nevertheless, in the meantime, you need to stop taking the piss out of me. You may want to treat the former Deputy Prime Minister like crap, but don’t assume you can treat me the same. You want to promote your multimillion pound company through my blog, to help you make even more money. But you want to do it for free and smear someone who helped you promote your company in a TV advert. Well here’s your article, I hope you enjoyed it.

03 Sep 10 Phone hacking claims: John Prescott calls for police conduct inquiry

John Prescott today called for a judicial review of the conduct of the Metropolitan police force in relation to the allegations of phone hacking against the News of the World.

…makes you wonder what he’s got to hide

The former deputy prime minister was speaking after the paper confirmed it has suspended a journalist while it investigates new allegations of the unlawful interception of voicemail. The police have come under pressure after the New York Times quoted unnamed detectives alleging they had cut short their investigation because of their close relationship with the News of the World.