Karl Roche

family, cycling and communications



My quick guide to storify – news curation

Apparently I have this blog… been too busy with Smarter Computing that I just never get round to writing any useless stuff on here.

I put this deck together for someone and thought it could be useful if you have never heard of Storify.


Be bored and get disconnected

If you’re anything like me you will be enjoying “Book of the Week” on Radio 4 this week, “The Winter of our Disconnect” about a single mum who disconnects her home internet (removing all screen and phones) so that the family, including 3 kids, can do other things.

This morning I read a post on PR Squared, “The importance of boredom,” how Todd ended up doing very little over the holidays and found that this produced surprising side effects developing a four year plan and having a heart to heart with his son.

The question of homework was raised in Book of the Week but the writer tells of her kids improved marks in school, growing interest in playing musical instruments and reading books (not ebooks).

As author Susan Maushart also points out in the book, a plethora of research shows that multi-tasking doesn’t really exist and digital natives (a horrible term along with digital immigrants) pay a huge price in switching activities from one second to the next. They also have a real problem of being able to hold on to information. You may say that we don’t need to know so much these days as we have Google, but again she points out a huge number of kids need remedial help with searching skills.

Since the summer I have reduced the number of things I try to do at one time, I’ve tried to structure my time better… basically switched some things off. No Sametime (instant messaging) in the morning, I read my mail and get it done much quicker. This gives me time to check out Feedly and all my feeds. No Twitter notifications, I just check it a couple of times a day so when I have coffee so I can concentrate on what I’m doing. Weekend and evenings the computer goes off when I don’t need to work.

None of this is new though (empty your mind) and it’s not saying that any of this technology is bad, it’s just saying that you might want to balance the way that technology is used.

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Gaining personal eminence

Yesterday we had our annual Marketing and Communications get together in Bedfont. We call it a university, as we cover a wide range of topics in a very full day, from business results, future trends, making plans and a couple of guest speakers.


Personal Branding: Revision 2 / 20080115.10D.4...
Image by See-ming Lee 李思明 SML via Flickr

This year we managed to get our Senior VP of Marketing and Communications, Jon Iwata. Jon is a straight talker, not of the hyperbole kind, like Alan Sugar, but the understated kind that lends credence to what he is saying. Accompanied with a dry sense of humor he makes for a very engaging speaker who manages to avoid the management speak so many other people fall into. Actually I have noticed that the better managers really avoid the cliches and management speak that others, possibly trying to impress, too often fall into. I may be unfair, speaking in front of a large audience is not easy task so calling up the frequently used phrases from memory is probably a lot easier.

OK, what was I saying? :o)

So on a panel with Buell Duncan and Andy Pinder, Jon was asked what he does to raise his eminence. Simply stated he spends more of his time looking at where things are going, rather than where they have been and then filling the gap in his knowledge so he can get there. But it is an ever moving target. Couple that with the comments from Andy on changing the current rules, challenging what are widely held beliefs but as Buell pointed out, try to avoid the bucket of stupid pills in the room, there are plenty of people taking those, keep away.


How free and social work together

Giving stuff away for free is bad business, right? Wrong. You’ll probably already know that anyway, especially if you read “Free” by Chris Anderson, or if you use any of the plethora of Google goodies – and who doesn’t. Free is everywhere.

But what about a small business that doesn’t have that huge backing and scale that can reduce the marginal cost to zero and then benefit from the ad revenue that supports it? has become my favorite website right now. It provides tutorials on After Effects (AE) from Basic Training to advanced expressions and camera work – Free. It makes money by selling plugins, footage and audio. But then it even gives some of these away, including a bunch of presets to help you follow and complete the tutorials, not to mention  the tutorial files. So far I have a bunch of great presets, plugins, royalty free textures and clips.

Now anyone could do this (they don’t though) but goes further by being incredibly personal. Andrew Kramer presents all the tutorials and injects his own sense of humor into every one. It’s not false or scripted just a guy talking you through how to do cool things. You are as much waiting to see what the next line will be as what the effect will look like. I’ve watched a lot of tutorials and nothing comes close to what Andrew and team do here. Usually they are a pretty stuffy affair or take themselves really seriously as “designers.” Andrew makes fun of himself with his trademark intros to tutorials.. “Andrew (pause) Kramer here.. Video CO Pilot dot Net” in his best film trailer voice on each and every episode. In short he brings personality to the show.

If you look at the Adobe site and check out their good but not fantastic tuts, you will see that they get around a few hundred to a couple of thousand clicks and barely a comment. The things that are covered on the Adobe site are incredibly basic and don’t go into anywhere near the depth that VC does. Videocopilot gets over a million views on many of it’s tutorials (latest one got 240,00 in the first month) and hundreds of comments. Many of the comments are sharing back the things people have made and learned from the videos. Here is a selection:

“Dude your videos are awesome, I just started a couple days ago, and this is the first site I got referred to so ya, Keep on rockin!”

“Man took forever to get to the end of the comments, amazing tutorial you are amazing for letting us view these for free! Very well done. Lol Decepticons XD I think he meant dementors”

“I’m just wondering why you guys offer such great tutorials for free. This place is like going to Graphic Art school with a full scholarship! If I get ever get good at this stuff and make some bills off it, I’ll sure be donating to keep this project alive. Right now I’m in uni and completely yea.”

“God bless you guys! Seriously.”

“Dude you and your team have done wonders to get my knowledge off the ground. Just got hired for my first major gig. Can’t thank you guys enough.”

It’s pretty clear from the comments that many of the people watching them are from all over the world. They are appealing to people in Asia and Africa where teaching of this nature may not be easy to access. Think about it, it’s not easy here or cheap.

So what is Andrew and the team getting out of all this? Btw, the team is only 10 strong. They get exposure, word of mouth marketing, reputation and buyers. They are generating a market of people that go on in some cases to work in the field and use their products. By developing the skills of others they are creating value (an awful phrase) at no cost to me or you. People buy the stuff they make, they feel like this is something they are doing together. Videocopilot provides the free education and people that may never have ever considered buying a DVD of orchestral music or sound effects; HD live footage or design elements pay up for the products.

The community that has now grown around VC is what sustains it as much as the money it gets from the products and that’s come about by giving before expecting anything in return.

Getting to grips with a MacBook Pro and iMovie

So recently I got my new MacBook Pro, thanks to IBM.

We do more and more things now with rich media and especially video that the team thought it would be a good idea to get a few of us in the Systems & Technology Group comms team Macs to help us do some of that stuff ourselves. I’ve never really played with a Mac and so getting used to the keys, touchpad and interface was something new. I’m still not totally happy with Finder. Some features it shares with it’s distant cousin Linux so that helped  little.

What really helps though is the speed. This is has an i7 processor with 8GB memory and a 250 GB SSD – to say it is fast is something of an understatement – especially when you compare it to my Lenovo T400.

Before using iMovie and Final Cut in anger on a real project for work I started using it at home. By the way we got some video cameras too, Panasonic HDC-TM700 which take great video but aren’t supported for direct import into Final Cut. So home movies… I was at my parents a week ago, for my birthday, with my wife and kids. Being that time of year there was loads of food around in the garden and on the trees, so that was my theme, especially as I was in the middle of IBM Summit at Start, for which I knocked up another clip – more on that later.

So this is my first go at using iMovie. May be I shouldn’t be surprised at how easy it is to use but most of the features were pretty easy to work out and there are quite a few others that let you control the action with a bit more control.

So the following Wednesday I think it was I went to Start and got to walked around the gardens and took some clips of the Garden Party in the morning before most of the people show up.

Obviously by this point I had found the music and transition section and was play a bit too much with them. However, it’s not until you’ve played with all the bits and bobs that you realise what works and what doesn’t – plus going over the top lets you find the good and bad in the product.

The drag and drop interface does mean you can create videos in seconds, but for tight editing it wasn’t always the right tool but as it integrates into Final Cut I found a rough cut can be exported as XML to Final Cut – just don’t bother adding fancy transitions or music as all will be lost in the move. Simple cross dissolve will remain though.

So Final Cut is the next thing I need to take a look at and start playing with, think that will be a longer job.

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Where are my files?

Ice and snow London #uksnow
Image by AndyRob via Flickr

Seems the Pimsleur files were the wrong ones, I found the Danish set not the Chinese set.

Anyway, day 2 and I’m not only totally unaware of what is happening on #CBB7 but keeping up with the meditation and reading. The snow put an end to sorting out the language course with the eldest at home today. Not only because she was about the house but as she always tells me not to talk Chinese as I’m English and only her and mummy are allowed to talk Chinese. Bless, she is only 4 and has a better grasp of Mandarin than I probably do of English.

The meditation is surprising me, I found an old cd “Insight Meditation” and playing that to start with, it’s a nice way to ease back into it. Actually finding I want to continue after 30 mins but decide not to as it’s best to leave it while it is still enjoyable.  It helps to have a nice space at home as before the only place I could really relax was in the temple.

So like everyone else we had a load of snow, as I said before, the kids were off school today – we made a snowman and saw a fox in the garden – he looked very healthy in his bushy winter coat.  Often see his footprints around  here and much easier to spot in the snow. I think he was enjoying the relative peace and quiet the snow has brought with it.

It’s nice to slow down a bit and have a proper winter.

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Update on my 2010 objectives

After a quick virtual prod by @thomasj and a peek at a blog post he sent me I decided to actually write down so quantifiable goals around my objectives that I wrote earlier today.

Hong Kong CNY 2004
Image by ragtagman via Flickr

Very realistic ones too. After reading the wonderful said post by @penelopetrunk they had to be. Taking my lead from point one “think small” these are something I know (may be I hope) I will complete with a little effort and so change my behaviour in a real way over the long-term, much like someone that needs to change eating habits.

So, here they are, although I can really think of a good goal for being more organised. Well not yet…

1. Reading: 10 pages of a book every day – after meditation

2. Chinese: 30 mins a day, one section of Pimsleur.

3. Be more organised..?? if you have an idea for a goal here, let me know.

4.  Meditation: 25 mins each evening after kids go to bed

Day one is a success, apart from the Chinese as I couldn’t find the files, I have now, but I’m writing this. Have to say it is nice to sit down in peace and quiet for half an hour and do nothing (or try to). I read 20 pages in a few minutes before realising that the boiler outlet had frozen so had to go outside to knock off the ice.. yes, it’s that cold.

Will keep this up until the end of the month, see how well I have done and possible bore both of my readers senseless with tales of reading books and meditation – but in Chinese. Yeah right.

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I won something

Not the lottery, stopped doing that years ago. This is an IBM award for spreading the love about social media in IBM.

flying papers
flying papers by Aldor

Some people think I should talk about these sort of things mroe often, ok, here goes.

The full name is “BlueIQ Most Valuable Ambassador” which along with 9 others I won in the first half of 2009. It is actually the 4th consecutive time I have been given this award, which I think shows how much I enjoy and believe in what we are doing.

The idea of the award and the BlueIQ community (it’s global not just the UK)  is simply to help other IBMers get as much value out of using social media as possible. This can be as simple as a one to one education session but go all the way up to looking at ways of changing culture and processes to be more social in outlook.

Although just about everyone in IBM has contributed to one (usually several wikis) or commented on a blog or w3 article, there are many less obvious things they can be doing that improves their working life, expands their network, makes finding stuff quicker and improves their employability.

Anyway, so a global community of nearly 900 (and growing) ambassadors are there to help, to sort the wheat from the chaff of new applications and websites, to enable employees. As you know I work in internal comms, which we call Workforce Enablement so it fits right in with what I do.

In a nutshell, my philosophy is that I can’t possibly know everything that is going on in the business, and sometimes the best people to tell the story are those that lived it, so I can sure as hell help those people get out there to talk and work.

You know, many of us get caught up in what we are doing and although there will always be the geeks, early adopters and simple masochists that want to endure the latest release of everything, not everyone will. So as the human filter for the innovators in IBM we help shape in some way the things that devs come up with and try to get to the people that can find new ways of employing it at work.

Part of the award is that we get to pitch an idea to several of our VPs later in the year… I need to think about that one.

London hosts “International Employee Communications Summit” in June

This year Ragan Communications are holding their Employee Communications Summit in London this year (June 4-6).

This is a great conference for communications professionals which covers hot topics, like social media, by IBM’s very own, Ethan McCarty. In fact there is quite a lot about on-line communications, from intranet redesign to social media and engagement and video podcasting.

I would love to go to this but not sure I will at the moment as we expecting a baby round that time, however, if you are interested I can pass on your name to the conference Director, who may be able to help you on the price – I can’t guarantee anything.

We are used to the likes of Meclrum so it would be nice to see this from what I think are an American outfit although many of the companies are British based, such as the keynote by BT on – you guessed it – intranet. I so want to go.

The summit is actually on 2 days, with a pre-summit workshop….. well before it. Not sure what is in that.

Back home

Been back almost a week now. Just getting back into the swing of things, sleeping, cleaning, shopping and working.

It takes a while, forgot all those passwords, what I do, how I do it.  Surprising how slow it is to remember some things yet cycling to work has been oddly easy.  Perhaps all the walking we did kept strength in my legs – it certainly didn’t do a lot for all the food I was eating.  So much of it and so nice.

Quite easily the most enjoyable time we have had in Taiwan.  May be it is having the kids grow up or just feeling more at home their or even understanding more Chinese than I used to, which is only thanks to my daughter who is totally fluent now with a great accent too.

A couple of days before we left I was chatting to a mummy in the park, she lived in Canada previously although born in Taiwan, where she had been working for the last two years. The opportunities she mentioned were quite eye opening.  She even offered to introduce me but I was leaving two days later and then she was off to China to work on a new business project.  Shocked I could earn more in Taiwan than here in the UK (and also get to learn Chinese which is one of my person goals.)

May be after a few weeks the dream will fade?

Innovation ecosystem and employee communications

That is my job for the next year.  Getting employees, partners, clients and influencer’s interested in innovation.  To be precise much of it will be about telling our communications story… that’s employee communications not telephones.

IBM is way ahead in using new media and social networking tools to enable employees to connect, collaborate and communicate themselves.  Our Media Library, hosts podcasts, videos and the like, has 14000 items and had getting on for 5 million downloads.  The vast majority of those are not produced by the communications function but by regular employees creating and communicating with their communities.

On our blogging site, BlogCentral, we have 42,500 users. How is this helping? Building virtual teams and communities all over the place, making connections and links that would never had happened because most of us wouldn’t pick up the phone to a random person 4000 miles away to chat about LPARS or marketing strategy.  Like mobile phones, we wonder how we got by without them.

Something we borrowed from Yahoo! Hack Day is also kicking off again and provides a great opportunity for us now to get a vast array of people involved in innovation and development that would otherwise not know how…. possibly finding a few great little apps or offering.

Some exciting stuff as usual to happen this year and I haven’t even started on Wimbledon yet.

The Greater IBM Connection

XINGWell I finally got round to joining this Xing group for current and mostly former IBMers.

Having taken up the role of New Media in UK Communications (whatever that means) this seems like a logical step to make, not only to expand my network and keep in touch with old friends from IBM but also to see what it is all about. Is it different from LinkedIn and Facebook?  Well yes, very different from Facebook but LinkedIn, not so sure… need some more investigation.

Anyway, if you are an old IBMer sign up and see some old faces.

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