A week of amazing things.

3 amazing things happened this week

First – the fundraising target for my Long Walk on Camino de Norte was reached in less than 24 hours.
Then I hired a developer to work on an ongoing experiment – SnaptimeApp – and this was the fastest hire on Upwork in 8 years of using the service.
Finally, despite some setbacks, we launched Amazemeet to the world.

Reaching and exceeding my Long Walk fundraising goal

I don’t usually ask people to fund things I believe in – usually I fund to the extent of my means and do the best I can. This time is different.

This time I wanted to create awareness and amplify the amount I was prepared to contribute for a cause so close to my heart.  So I went ahead and created my first ever campaign on Just Giving and set a modest £1000 goal.

Within 12 hours I was 90% to that goal and by the next day , it was entirely funded. This triggered my goal matching and doubled the goal.

To say I’m blown away is an understatement – I was thrilled to tears – sobbing as I read the messages of support and having my faith in humanity rekindled to a blaze.
Thank you so very much.

The campaign has so far raised £2050+ for the Invest in M.E charity.  I have since increased the goal to £3000. There are 15 or so weeks to the start of my walk and there is still plenty of time for you and others to contribute to this effort and truly make a difference getting both help and justice for the sufferers of this brutal condition. Please support generously.

As I chatted with my best friend Joel about how the fundraising was going – he said he had been researching the Camino de Santiago and discovered his family namesake – Robert Langton – the Bishop of Salisbury and Winchester – had also walked and documented his Camino in 1520. So now this is getting weird  but pleasantly so. I guess everything is connected after all.

Record awesome hire on Upwork

Since I joined the freelance work platform in 2007 , I have been convinced that for any digital work,  the future is freelancing and remote freelancing at that and Upwork (formerly oDesk) is an amazing platform dedicated in bringing that future to the present.

In all the time that I have been using it – my average time to find and hire talented people has been pretty short – from 5 hours to a couple of days. This week, however, I beat this record with a time to find and hire of 90 minutes and that included 2 Skype based interviews. That is a phenomenal time – made only possible by the work that Upwork has done to facilitate the interactions between providers and purchasers.

Amazemeet launched

The startup that I have been building for the last 12 months was finally launched this week – although it didn’t go out on the 14th of January as I had hoped – we got it all lined up and released on Saturday 16th January.

This has been a real labour of love and I’m incredibly proud of the work me and my team has done on this. Now to see the workers of the world – fed up with crappy meetings – show it some love.

Please check it out and share it. You may very well save someone’s life with it 🙂

I'm going for a walk

The Short and Sweet

Between May 8th and the 20th , I’ll be walking 214km 240km of the 815km long of the Camino del Norte – the northern route of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
I’d like you to support me and my selected charity and invite you to join me.

Walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela

Millions of people from all over the world have walked to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. The routes they have take over the ages are called the Camino.

For whatever the reason people make this ‘pilgrimage’ – spiritual, recreational or simply popping out with the dog for a pint of milk – this is a chance to connect with whatever you need to connect with.  In my case, my dog, myself and your donation for a great cause.

Ultimately I intend to complete the entire 815km northern route in 4 visits. This is the first visit, the second is tentatively planned for September 2016 and the rest in 2017.

You can see more of the route I’ll be taking here.

Make every kilometre count

I’m making this journey because I’m fit and healthy and fancy a walk. There are thousands of sufferers of M.E in the UK  – including my best friend Joel – who can’t walk 100 yards without feeling totally exhausted. They’d love to do this – but they simply cannot.

They – like Joel – used to be fit and healthy until they suddenly got severely sick and never got better –  like a permanent severe flu. Their lives have been put on painful pause by M.E and their recovery put on hold because the UK Government and medical establishment are hiding their heads in the sand on this. It is up to the general public – you , me and InvestinME – to move this forward.

So I need your help.

I need you to put your hand in your pocket and sponsor this walk. My target is £1000 and I’ll even match donations up to that target.
Give what you can and more importantly share this we need to raise awareness  as much as we need to raise money.
Sponsor me here now:
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

About Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E)

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is a systemic neuroimmune condition characterized by post-exertional malaise (a severe worsening of symptoms after even minimal exertion). It causes dysregulation of both the immune system and the nervous system. The effects of ME are devastating enough to leave 25% of patients housebound or bedbound. For moderate to severe patients, living with ME is like living with late-stage cancer, advanced stage AIDS, or congestive heart failure for decades. – www.meaction.net

Living with ME is like living with late-stage cancer? That’s pretty rough – right? Now imagine that is your life for the next 5, 10 or even 15 years,

You would think that with such chronic pain, suffering and lower quality of life affecting so many people with this condition that there would be state funding to fund research into the condition and develop a cure or definitive treatment. Not so – in the UK,  the funding to date – of  £2m over the last 25 years  – is entirely embarrassing.

It simply isn’t good enough and I’m taking this walk partly to raise awareness of both the condition and the lack of emphasis on it. Please help me in doing both.

Join me

My 214km walk is in 10 stages and if you would like to join any of the stages – that would be wonderful. Here are some things you need to be aware of:

  • you need to be fit and able to commit to complete whatever stage(s) you join
  • you’ll need to make your way to the rendezvous location the evening before the start of the stage with whatever gear you need
  • If you would like to do a multi-day walk with me – you might have to rough it. My dog and I plan to camp in a tent most of the time but there are very basic hostels called Albergues that you can bunk in.
  • We’ll walk for 6 – 8 hours a day and eat ,drink, muse and recover for the rest of the time.

If all this still excites you – please send me a mail and lets plan our camino. Please make sure you also make a donation to the cause too 🙂

A Super Special Limited Offer

I’m a sought after world class agile coach – you cannot hire me until 2018 because I’m all booked up to help organisations deliver value more effectively and joyfully . If you would like to spend a day walking and talking about the challenges you are facing as a manager/Scrum Master/whatever in a tech organisation struggling to deliver value effectively – then make a minimum donation of £500 to the cause above,  get your walking boots on and lets talk. I guarantee you it will be the best £500 your company ever spent.

Limited to first 3 people only.

Updates on my Camino

I intend to keep this blog updated of my progress before, during and immediately following the walk – so be sure to bookmark and follow along.

You can also “like” my Facebook page here to stay updated.

Love with Dead Things

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Our walnut tree gives us lovely walnuts and dead leaves. Both are lovely in different ways.

I actually love sweeping up the leaves, hearing them crunch underfoot and , occasionally, making art with them before they go on to the fire heap to get turned into another form of energy.

Take Back Sharing: Why #Uber , #Lyft and #AirBnB are not part of the sharing economy

Sharing is… a babysitting circle

When my wife was growing up, her parents  – like many young parents of the day – needed to organize childcare.

They were far away from extended family and only had other young families around them. So they organised around shared needs – all the young families needed to have some respite from their kids once in a while.

So they formed a babysitting circle. There was no money involved – they simply took turns looking after each others’ children and if someone needed to take multiple turns, they basically gave an IOU and paid back in additional sitting when required.

Sharing is… esusu or a Voluntary Credit Union

Growing up in Yorubaland, there was a credit structure where members contributed a fixed amount into a pot and each month, one of the members would take the entire pot.

Example: if there are 12 friends and each contributes $1000 into the pot every month, then every month, one person could take $12,000. By taking the pot, they go to the end of the queue – they can’t take from the pot for another 11 months.

This structure is great for large purchases or one-off large financial needs. There is no interest or APR nonsense. Simply pooling and sharing of resources. It gave each member the strength of 12, once a year.

Sharing is…. a Lift Into Work

At my very first programming job, I caught a ride with my friend Paul Green.

He had a nice car, I didn’t have one – but more importantly he lived close enough to me and was happy to give me a ride to and from work.

Paul never asked for any payment, though I did buy him a tank of fuel every week or occasionally I paid for his lunch.

Sharing is… street Wi-Fi

When I lived in the UK, I once asked my neighbors if they would like to share WiFi. It made no sense to me that we should each pay £20 a month, when for a single payment of £40 we could buy a router and share only one ADSL subscription.

I was surprised when they declined. You cannot help some people.

Sharing is… oranges and lemons

Today I live in Spain. There are lots of orange and lemon trees and so much fruit is wasted because , often, it is more expensive to pick them and sell them than it is to leave them where they fall.

Most times when we go into my local butcher, we are offered bags of oranges and lemons – for free. Sometimes my other neighbors with orange trees will happily brings us bags of oranges. Free.

Sharing is good. It brings us together, reduces waste and helps us meet our shared needs in a very human way.

And then there are Uber, Lyft and AirBnb

The ‘sharing’ economy has been described as the economy where individuals with an asset – a car or housing – could rent out the asset when they weren’t using it.

How is this sharing? How is this not the same as the Hilton group of hotels renting out its rooms or the Yellow Cab company renting out its spare seats to commuters?

The only difference is that the owner of the asset is an individual, not a recognised business entity. This does not make it sharing. At least not the sharing that generates positive emotion and meeting shared needs.

Calling what Uber, Lyft and AirBnB do ‘sharing’ is fraud. It is a misappropriation of a word. It is a hijacking of a noble intent for the purposes of marketing what are essentially platforms to create small sized businesses, whose motivation is to make money.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I support Uber, Lyft and AirBnb, if only because they are disrupting the established order of things – but I disagree deeply with the use of the word ‘sharing’ to describe what they do. It is nothing more than marketing bullshit.

So I have a really small ask. Uber, Lyft , AirBnB and others in the same mould of creating platforms that enable mass supplier markets; the press that reports on these kind of businesses and everyone involved in them – please stop calling what you do ‘The Sharing Economy’.

Thank you.

Why This Matters

This matters because there is a real sharing economy and it is not driven by profit. Its participants are the kinds I have described above. They are  individuals and businesses who are trading non-financial assets for their own mutual benefits and usually shared need – not profit.

It matters because a sharing economy focuses on shared needs and trust to work together to meet them. It takes deep trust and the skills and emotional investment to establish such trust to make a sharing economy successful. The participants of a sharing economy are not relying on a Terms of Service or the threat of litigation to police their trust based agreement.

It matters because admitting purely transactional, profit driven participants into this economy diminishes everyone else and reduces the power of the idea of sharing. It confers an undeserved legitimacy to such participants like Uber and AirBnb. It is putting the wolves dressed like sheep amongst the sheep.

Do you agree with how ‘sharing’ is being used? What have been your experiences of participating in the sharing economy?

I’d love to talk more about this. Consider leaving a comment below or tweeting @mhsutton.


Featured Image By: vishwaant avkCC BY 2.0

My Offer Of Being Helpful A Little Everyday (almost)

What makes the world go around?  I think part of the secret sauce of what makes the world worth enduring is neither money nor fame. I think that it is being helpful to other people – personally and professionally.

One of my life strategies is giving freely what I have to get what I want. I practice this both professionally and personally and it has overwhelmingly been a successful strategy. Living this way has brought me into some pretty interesting collaborations and I’ve met so many beautiful people.

So I want to do more of this.

I have decided to offer time  – one hour a day, 4 days each week – to anyone, from anywhere to explore anything. 

SoHelpful

 

Details of my Offer

  • I shall be using SoHelpful.me to offer this help and it will be free, forever. Book me on my SoHelpful.me page.
  • The slots are 30 minutes long and to make it most accessible there are slots AM and the PM and are typically available Monday-Thursday.
  • The slots are first come/first served and are open to individuals and groups.
  • It is free to book and meet with me during those times. I will never charge for this time, though I reserve the right to cancel it.
  • Even though it is free – I am asking and trusting that people who book me do not undervalue my time by not showing up without notice.
  • Recurring bookings are discouraged because I want as many people to have a chance to get some help. But I may make exceptions.

How Might You Use This

Here are some ideas depending on your context of how you might use this:

  • You’re thinking of starting a Startup – I can help by sharing what I have done and what I am doing – also what I have learnt. Or mostly I can shut up and listen and help you sanity check your approach, devise experiments etc. Let’s see, why not book a slot on my SoHelpful.me page
  • You’re working in a broken company and need to talk to someone who understands – I work in trying to help broken companies fix themselves and help people get more Joy. I can help with strategies to create awareness for change in your company.
  • You are part of an agile team/department/company and would like to get some help about practices, pains etc – I’ve worked with agile teams for over 12 years and coached companies for over 7. I can help development, product  and management people. Maybe I can remote facilitate something, observe and help you improve your process or help with some mini training. Let’s explore –  book a slot on my SoHelpful.me page
  • You are trying to find strategies for enabling conversations in your circles and life – I struggle with this too and I can help with building rapport, asking powerful questions, facilitating large groups and having non-violent communication. Book a slot on my SoHelpful.me page and let’s get the conversation started.
  • You just need someone to talk to who will listen, never judge and will only offer suggestions if you invite them? Let’s do it – book a slot on my SoHelpful.me page

I’m excited about this decision and my offer. It fulfils my need to be helpful and be the shoulders that others might stand upon as they reach for their stars.

I look forward to being so helpful to you on my SoHelpful.me page 

psst… do someone a favour and share this.


Featured Image By: Murray BarnesCC BY 2.0

Re-Imagine and Reuse.

My bro sent me these images showing new and imaginative ways old products are reused. I feel very inspired – if a little inadequate a designer!

What interesting ways are you reusing old materials?

ps: I don’t know what the copyright status of any of these images are. If you believe any of them are not to be freely published under some sort of creative commons license, please let me know and I shall take them down.

Wickedly witty caption seeks hilarious illustration for fun times.

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I recently saw ‘Tangled’ – an animated movie of the Rapunzel story. Very enjoyable.

As it often happens, a funny visual came to mind and an even funnier caption that I would love to match with an illustration to make a single panel comic.

To have maximum effect,  I don’t want to reveal the caption until it is paired with just the right illustration.

As a starting point – I had a Larson-esque style comic in mind, but I’m open to other styles.

Have you got illustrative skills or do you know someone who does and who might be willing to do this for free?  Drop me a comment or tweet me.

What is in it for the artist?

Well,  you get to collaborate on something fairly hilarious.
Lots of people will see it (well, a few really cool people at least)
Also, you get to co-own its copyright (if that floats your boat – although I’m happy to make it CC with attribution)

And if it works out we could make it a regular thing. Who knows where it might lead and who doubts it will be fun getting there?

What you get when you make smart people do stupid things

This post is a little overdue.  I promised my daughter I would post her experience as she described it to me and here it is.

My daughter Brianna is 16.  She is pretty smart (aren’t all our daughters!) and recently did her GCSEs  (the exams young people do in the UK after 5 years of high school).

Actually when I say she did her GCSEs, I mean she did some GCSEs.  You see, Brianna’s been doing them sort of staggered over the course of a couple of years. Her school encouraged her to sit for the subjects she was showing strength in early (like a year early), basically to give her a few chances of getting good grades – a practice run of sorts. It’s a great idea – can’t fault it.  You can use the system as an improvement tool or as a testing only tool. Taking the exams repeatedly and exploring the student’s weak areas and then focusing energy on improving that is a great way to use a dysfunctional system that places so much emphasis on how you do in a 2 hour exam!

Well, Brianna did her English exams earlier on in January and she got a great grade – an A!  So when the exams came round again in June, she was surprised to be told she would retake the English paper. Hadn’t she already aced the exam? She may have had weak parts of her knowledge, but what did those matter if she aced the exam?  In any case, those could be improved without her sitting the paper again.

Side Notes

A side note about exams and the propaganda of how good a school is.  In the UK, schools are judged, in part, on exam results. On how many students got an ‘A’, ‘B’ and so on. Not much is given to the innovation and creative thinking of young people or the real life application of knowledge or how well their learning was facilitated.   As a school, if you put 80 students up for exams and 80 of them got ‘A’ , you are considered the best!

Ok, so now you have an idea of how the system works, perhaps it’s clearer why a school might put a smart kid into the same exam twice.  If she aced it once, she most probably would ace it again – so they get twice  the kudos for the same student.  It’s the kinds of academic double accounting that would delight Enron management. This is what what the Politicians make the ‘educators’ do in order to survive in this system. It’s simply bananas!

Also, a side note about Brianna and exams. They place a strain on Brianna, she gets tired and worn out. Her school know this and yet, knowing fully well both her previous grade and her health concerns they still insisted she sit the paper.

Brianna 10 – Silly School 0

Well, my darling Brianna did something that surprised and delighted me in equal measure.  As she sat for the English paper the second time, she took the decision, independently and without declaration, to stage a most fantastic protest.

She ignored all the set questions on the paper and penned a letter to the unknown examiner. Brianna wrote about pop culture, what bands she loved. She wrote about current news items and ,fantastically, about the unfairness of making a student sit an exam they had already passed, again. In her own words:

.. I wrote my opinion on current pop culture, my opinion on issues in the news currently, why I think it’s unfair to make someone who already achieved their target resit the exam when they have exams they haven’t yet got their grades in. I laid it all out the way we’ve been taught and used all the different presentational features but just didn’t look at the content of the paper

I always knew her intellect was sharp (goodness knows I have been on the receiving end of it once or twice), but to make such a silent yet bold act of protest gives me huge pride and a quiet assurance that at least one young person in this generation of gamers and stylistas is going to give the establishment a run for its money.

There is an examiner out there who marked a paper that was entirely a letter, who – whatever they think of Brianna – cannot have failed to be surprised. I hope as an educator that they recognise that they are not alone in challenging the nonsense that government policy vis-a-vis testing as a means of measuring learning is. I would give that paper a A+ for both ingenuity, civic innovation and creative expression!

From my generation to yours, Brianna, thank you.

An Experiment for Good.

By: PeteCC BY 2.0

 

This weekend I’m taking a break from ServiceChat.

I’ll hang out with my family and go to some friends on Saturday for a BBQ and on Sunday, we’ll head to Salobreña for our first San Juan celebration (no , I don’t really know what it is either!).

This weekend also, I want to try a little experiment, an experiment for good – well, at least start it off.  It is a lovely juxtaposition between my dream and an idea for a game that I have kept putting off.

The Dream

All through my career I’ve met people who have said things like ‘give X away!? why – I’m not a philanthropist’ or ‘why give it when you can sell it’. I’ve quietly listened and argued with that thinking internally.

I am a philanthropist, there I said it.  It’s not a dirty word (at least not how I interprete it). I don’t have much money, nor even much free time.  But I do have creativity, innovation, curiosity and skills and I can/will and do give those and their various products freely to those who can benefit from it.

When I dream about my future, it always involves a few businesses that are generating incomes sure, but also joy.  The money they generate is doing something wonderful in the world, not simply going to pay for expensive, unnecessary stuff.  I’m delighted that I don’t have to wait long to start doing this – I support a few charities but mostly use Kiva to do microlending.  I find microlending to be one of the most respectful and empowering ideas of our age (if you aren’t already doing micro-lending, I encourage you to check it out, you don’t need very much to start and the joy you generate far outweighs whatever limited risk of losing money there is).

The Idea

It’s called Twumps and it’s a game. If  you ever played trading game cards or something like Top Trumps – a stats comparison game based around themed cards, you’ll love what I want to make.
Plus you don’t even have to wait very long to experience it.

The Experiment

Here is what I want to discover:

Can I launch a revenue generating thing that pretty much runs itself and use that to perpetually and increasingly fund the change I want to see in the world?

So, I want to build something (Twumps) that people can play and enjoy and possibly either make donations to or pay something for (this will emerge) and/or generate advertising from and can I extend that by making it continuously and totally fund some good in the world.

How

I want this experiment to be done as transparently as possible. Why?  Well, why not?

Prior to its release, I’ll open a new @kiva account for Twumps  and make it’s transactions public.  Initially I will make all  revenue payable to Kiva directly  (from donations or advertising). If this experiment succeeds, I may deduct enough to cover operating costs (pretty much just the hosting) to keep it running smoothly and pass everything else to @Kiva.  All those costs will also be entirely transparent.

Who knows, this might encourage other entrepreneurs to consider this as a business model – only one in which they do not personally benefit financially but one that they can leave a living trust for good work in the World. Now wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing?

What Next?

Stay tuned, I shall be asking for help.
Very soon I shall need some UI and graphic design help (I’m great at functionality but suck at making things look wow!) and later I shall need players and feedback and later still I shall need things yet unknown!

It’ll be fun.

ps. Please share this.

A Nugget of Delight and Hope for the UK

There is plenty to be cynical in the UK about these days, but during a recent trip (and farewell tour through my old neighbourhood) I found an unexpected nugget of delight that fills me with hope for the future of government engagement in the UK.

Broken Toys and a Note

I used to live in Tamworth, Staffordshire – famous for pigs and the Robert Peel (founder of the modern British police force ‘The Bobbies’).  It is also famous for a castle that marks the seat of the Mercian kings.  Today there is a play area in the Castle grounds that delights modern little princes and princesses alike.

As I wondered through the Castle ground play area with my sons on Friday 04/Jan/2013 – I noticed an area of cordoned off fencing around some play equipment that had been removed.  I knew this equipment, it was in the under fives area and was one of those round-about installations where people get on, and someone pushes really fast and everyone feels queasy with possible projectile vomiting 😉

Now it was gone. In its place was this note, attached to the fencing.

 

This note delighted me so deeply I thought I might share it with you. It says to me that all is not lost within the heart of the State.

I really think that this approach/idea is brilliant and its originator ( Peter Watkins – the person listed on the email  or whoever ) should be commended.  It seems like a genuine interest in trying to engage with their actual users – being humorous,  speaking directly to the children who will use the equipment and offering them simple and descriptive choices of what they prefer.  It demonstrates putting children first and being prepared to listen. Something, sadly, we are seeing less and less of with the UK government.

The area is under the administration of Tamworth Borough Council and I sincerely hope that this is only one example of delightful engagement and interaction with the population of Tamworth.  I would love to hear of more.

Help Me Amplify Goodness

Hey, if you think this is a step in the right direction, please would you consider to do me a favour – tweet about this or perhaps say ‘Hello’ to Peter Watkins at the address above and let him know that you think this is a great idea.  I believe that those of us who work for a world with less distance between people must encourage the behaviour we want to see in this world and not let goodness go unacknowledged.  It doesn’t matter whether you are in the UK or not nor that you think they are just doing their job (in fact I think it matters most!)

What do you think?  Have you seen simple acts of delight that you would like to share – I would love to hear them.