Day one Nanowrimo

nanowrimo

So I started, which I guess is the only way to begin.

1,000 words was my goal for each day – I’m not aiming to write that novel in my first real attempt. I have a few short story ideas that need to be put to bed – aka finished! Or at least explored enough to say they are dead and gone.

Today I worked on a science fiction piece, which mixes politics, family disaster, war and biology into a tragedy where the main character needs to make some decisions and finds out the truth to his past… At least that’s how I have it in mind for the moment.

The 1,00 words today extended the story to just over 4,000 words in total. I have a feeling the end result will be around the 10k mark (maybe more maybe less it depends)…

I plan to let this draft sit for a while and move on to some other ideas until I come back to edit and fix any error etc.

This way I might be able to get 2 or 3 short stories banged out in November and get me into the habit of writing more regularly…

I’ll post back sometime into the month and see how I am going.

Advertisements

Imperium City

In order to keep my creative juices flowing a friend sent me the image below (artist linked in the image) and asked me to write 10 sentences to describe the image.

Well I wrote 10… ideas, some of them grew to be more than a sentence. Some might turn into stories themselves…

Anyway in preparation for Nanowrimo I wanted to post this and we will see if they will become more than the short glimpse they are now or whether the idea will bloom and grow into something.

lms_imperium_city_by_andreewallin-d2zt7h0

They call it the dark zone, as if there was no light down here, it was true there was never any sunlight, yet I never knew a time when there was no light.

Maybe fifty years ago the Ressha was ‘whisper quiet’ like the faded advert said, yet Tarquin always wore his headphone on the commute from work.

The hotel was nestled amongst a jumbled assortment of bars, clubs and strip joints, Jamison knew they would not look for him here, he paid cash and headed to blissful oblivion.

Imperium City. Indistinguishable from the any part of this continent. Another five blocks of different colour wearing thugs. A temporary home to drink and forget.

Jonas grinned wild and wide. The bustle of the street flowed around him as he stared in wonder at the lights, sounds and movement around him. The cab drove off, its engine’s buzz adding to and becoming one with sounds around him. Stirring from his wonder Jonas turned to find a way into Peter’s apartment.

She watched him as he hurried down the near deserted street, his eyes wide in fear. He turned and she saw the line of blood on his shirt where the arc of spray had ended. She had dropped her guard on the first one, had been distracted by the thrill of the kill. Yet she was amazed how easily she had caught up, how easy it will be to take him. She smiled again, and stepped out of the shadows. She would take her time with this one. She would feast long and slow.

“I.. I.. I got n.. n.. n.. nothing” stammered the drunk “I.. I .. GOT NOTHING!” yelling to everyone and no-one. Travis watched for a moment as the drunk stumbled and bounced off the wall of the alley. His mutterings slowing fading as the darkness of the alley closed in. Travis turned to the camera held by his assistant. “I know we can’t help everyone, but I will make it my mission, if elected, to help those we can”. His pale blue eyes sympathetic in the harsh LED light. “And done” said the assistant with a grin only a 20-something-recent-graduate can muster. “Coffee?” “Sure, my shout”. Travis looked back down the alley thinking of some way to rid his city of the filth.

It pulsed with the traffic the hum of lights and whirls of colour flashed and flared. The competing sounds from the open doored clubs merged and flowed into the street. The suited people morphed into night mode with less cloth and more stumbles. This place never slept, the movement never ceased. The city fed off the people casting them free only as dry empty husks.

Ten thousand credits. Ten thousand credits. The thought thundered through Bevan’s mind. What would he do with that much? He smiled and slipped another cred into the slot. Maybe this time. He thought. Maybe this time.

“Another quiet run.” Simone said to her co-pilot. “Affirmative” replied the neutral flat voice. Simone enjoyed the android’s minimal conversation, it allowed her to concentrate on her instrument panel. Unlike a few of her peers Simone trusted her co-pilot to the scanner. “Operative 576 identified at 40 degrees to port” the calm unemotional voice said. Simone slowed and turned the craft to the new heading. “Target is locked, confirm fire order”. “Confirm civilians are clear” Simone ordered. “Negative” came the response. “Track and wait” Simone countered the fire protocols, “Request ground forces, we are going to be the eyes for this one.” A pause. Simone saw the communication indicator light up and die. “Affirmative orders confirmed and ground crew dispatched”. Simone kept the craft aligned with the target, allowing her co-pilot to guide the ground forces in to capture position. All the while a nagging thought picked away at the back of her mind, what if the co-pilot had refused to wait, what if it had fired on the civilians? What was really sitting beside her?

Nanowrimo

A colleague, who I have done work with and I get along with in a stranger “we don’t really know each other but we can talk for ages on the phone and find out we have similar interests” kind of way, is, I found out the other day, a published writer.

I have yet to get Matthew’s book, it was self published and is available on Amazon (yes I linked to it so you can buy it!).  We talked writing and how I dabble now and again with some short stories or scenes and ideas. My creative outlet.

He asked if I was going to Nanowrimo this year, and I said I didn’t think I could.

Now for those that don’t know Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month. You start on 1 November and writing each day you can finish a novel in a month. First rough draft in any case. You can find out more and even register and track your attempt at the Nanowrimo site.

Now Matthew didn’t want to listen to my excuses, I don’t have a planned novel, I’m not sure I will have the time to write that much in a month, and many more. He just said, give yourself an hour a day and write.

Now the premise of the month is to write a novel (if you stick to the format you can and people have!). But it isn’t all about completing something as grand as that. It is about writing, about getting into the routine.

It is in fact about doing it.

So in a state of weak will I have decided to at least give it a go.

One hour a day to write something.

It could be the same story line or many stories or scenes or maybe more blogs like this. It might not change the world but it will give me something to create and maybe birth an idea or two into the world.

So join me if you want or maybe check back later and see if I post something I have created… you never know!

Targeting your Product

As a marketer I enjoy looking at how different brands, that sell a similar product, target different segments or markets.

Take for example the two Australian fashion swimwear brands Aussie Bum and Budgy Smuggler.  Both make and sell men’s swimwear products, most well know for their  brief or ‘speedo’ style togs.

However, they are very different in the way they approach marketing, branding and indeed the target audience they are selling to.

aussiebum-banner

Aussie Bum, don’t just sell swimwear, they are probably more well-known for their underwear but they sell lifestyle and surfwear as well. They have a highly curated marketing and branding stream. The products on their website are shown on models in various settings, often the beach. Aussie Bum use video on the product information page. Every image or video is of a high production value and feature models, mostly buff muscular types.

aussiebum-red

Aussie Bum are across a range of social media platforms. Including Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo and You Tube.  Each of these platforms are aligned with a similar banner image and often the same image at the same time. This is planned and well executed campaigns – obviously selling a product while always selling the same brand image of Aussie Bum.

If you doubt yourself, wear something else.

This is a brand for confident, guys who match (whether real or imagined) this image of good looking fit men.

aussiebum-wj-blue

Aussie Bum are also known for the WonderJock, these products are design to enhance assets of the wearer. Which in my mind is very fitting with the over all image of the brand. The curated images and well managed social stream are all about a perfect image, perfect body and look. This is traditional and well understood marketing for fashion.

budgy-smuggler-logo

Budgy Smuggler also sell other things than Men’s swimwear. They sell Women’s swimwear, kid’s swimwear and Active wear. They also sell Custom swimwear, these can be branded for a club, special event or just one offs.

The (men’s) products on the website are displayed by showing an image of the product. No models, or videos, just a front and back of the design. The other interesting difference is that there is only 1 style for men’s and 2 for women’s swimwear. They do show the women’s swimmers on models but these are studio only and not on site at a pool or beach.

budgy-missing-pieces

Budgy Smuggler are also on social media, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  They have a more disparate strategy for these channels, the banners across these pages are often totally different. The images on each of these streams are filled with reposts from fans. They are natural shots of people wearing the brand in different locations.

budgy-fan-made-image

These are not models, they are not curated and professional images. Most of the image are fun, silly and in some instances showing guys in ‘Budgy’s’ in non standard locations, i.e. NOT at a pool or the beach! Sometimes this has gotten people in trouble.

This fun carefree attitude is seen in the sporting teams that get custom smugglers and recently culminated in the competition to search for Australia’s most Ordinary Rig.

budgy-ordinary-rig

Conclusion

So we have two brands that sell very similar products in two completely different ways and to different target markets.

Interestingly both are doing very well and selling internationally, all from Sydney, Australia. The power of their marketing is very strong and each caters to a different audience through very different ways.

They both use images to convey their brand message, AussieBum are picture perfect models in staged, produced locations. Whereas, Budgy Smuggler are fun, silly and driven by a very large part by user driven images.

Ultimately they are selling the same thing, swimwear… and doing a great job.

Is one better or worse? Which is better? What do you think?

 

Reverse Bucket List

I just read an article on turning your life around or setting and hopefully achieving life goals. Read the full article.

It raised some good questions about the affect of looking at the achievements of others – the 30 year old who retired, or the friend on Facebook who has “everything” that you want…

It can be very depressing.

It’s summed up nicely in the following,

Wanting to make big changes to your life is a worthwhile goal. But it can have the effect of making you even less happy with your day-to-day reality.

Instead of creating a list of ‘wants’ the author looked back to her past and created a reverse bucket list – a list of all the cool, interesting and impressive things that she had done.

So here is a version of my Reverse Bucket List.

  • Recorded and released a CD with my band STOVER
  • Acted in many plays, been in a TV show and was assistant director for a film clip
  • Directed and Produced a number of theatre productions, including Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! (2003)
  • Was also president of said Community Theatre group
  • Relocated to Victoria, with a 3 week old baby… (may be more insane than cool or interesting but definitely impressive!)
  • I had a faux hawk hair cut… with dyed ends! Also went completely white, like really white, almost silver… it was very white
  • Ate dinner with a Geisha (and my wife)
  • Travelled to the US to pick Australian native palm seeds to sell to a horticultural business in Italy…
  • … and probably more

The thing is, sometimes when we are looking forward or looking for the next phase of our lives we need to look back and see what we have already achieved.

When I applied that to my work history I got a similar list of great things (which I hope to place most of on my LinkedIn account).

Give it a go to help get over the depression of looking forward all the time. Reflection is a great tool and the Reverse Bucket List is a great tool to use.

Two Years On

It is coming up to the anniversary of when I was first diagnosed with Testicular Cancer. Life has certainly moved forward since then. I got through the operation, testing and scanning and subsequent three cycles of chemotherapy.

The continual testing and scanning and trips to the specialists – the wait (and hope) for the results, and the relief that all was still well. I was, and am, cancer free.

In a recent visit I was tested for hormone levels, obviously affected by both the cancer, operation and chemotherapy. The oncologist was concerned that my testosterone levels were low. So off I went to the endocrinologist.

I was giving a range of blood test prior to my visit so the team had my latest figures and results. I was seen by a student doctor who went through the initial consult, ensuring all my particulars and getting the details right. She then checked the results and explained them to me.

I am sure Dr Google will give you the facts and figures, but for the simple version as I understand it – there are certain hormones (LH and FSH) that it produces that trigger the testicles to produce testosterone. Now having low testosterone might be a result of those hormones also being low. They weren’t.

Ok no big deal maybe it’s just the affect of the cancer mixing everything else up. However, that would mean that to over compensate LH and FSH levels should in fact be high – trying to make the testicle(s) produce more. They weren’t.

pituitary-gland

So after explaining this the trainee doctor went and got the head specialist. He came in and looked at the results, and was also a little puzzled. He then did a full examination – asking me a range of questions about eye sight, head aches, weight gain… and more.

He then ordered a range of tests including, after some um’ing and ah’ing, an MRI.

After he left, and to the trainee’s skill in bedside manner, I had all that explained to me. She did comments that the MRI was just to rule out anything else as the results were not typical so the Dr wanted to make sure he had ticked all the boxes.

Roll forward a few weeks and after the MRI I was back in to see the endocrinologist team. My hormone levels were still ‘wrong’ with low testosterone and normal levels of LH and FSH. I was also told the great news that I have a small tumour (non cancerous) on my pituitary gland. Which currently wasn’t doing anything abnormal, aside from causing the gland’s stalk to be pushed a little to one side. The hormones all seemed to be at normal levels.

Recommendation was to get me on Testosterone supplements and monitor the tumour – it could be nothing more than a slight aberration in my body – i.e. I always had it and it doesn’t really do anything too bad. Of course it also might grow and therefore lead to other problems down the track! Oh boy ain’t that grand.

Scroll forward again and after my first (rather uncomfortable) injection of hormone replacement I was back to see how the levels had reacted to the change.

Good news testosterone is now at normal levels! Yippee! Bad news the injection didn’t turn me into some kind of Adonis – I feel ripped off… I mean look at those curls!!!! (ignore the peen it must have been cold when the model posed for that one!)

Adonis.jpg

Bad news other hormones are looking a little low. Cortisol levels were low and that was of concern to the Dr. So I am now booked into more tests to see if the result was an aberration or something to do with the tumour.

So now I am well on the way to staying the right side of the cancer – maintaining a negative in the tests and getting further along the journey to getting back to a ‘normal’ chance of any further cancer.

However, now it seems I officially have pituitary disease. Two steps forward, one step back… but we are moving forward.

Aside from a 3 month (painful) jab in the butt I am feeling OK, but still worried about what the future might be.

However, we are off camping for the first time as a family and many more excitements to come – including PAX later this year!

I for one am not giving up yet!

The right attire…

I like to wear speedos.

Yes I wear them to swim laps at the pool – that’s pretty much a standard. If you are serious about swimming for fitness you wear the right gear. Some guys go for jammers others the more traditional brief-style “speedos”.

I am one of the later.

I used to wear them all the time, beneath my board short or swim shorts. However, I always had the desire to whip off the baggy shorts and swim in the streamlined close-fitting snug speedos.

That changed when we moved interstate.

New city, new place. No-one knew me at the pool. Plus we moved to a much bigger city – one with a hell of a lot more people at the pools and more diversity. The fact that pools in the city are a mix of cultures many of whom have not had the US driven ‘fear’ of men being exposed in some way meant that the pools here had a higher level of men in speedos. In fact some nights the board-short wearing guy was very much in the minority.

The first time I went in the pool ‘just’ in my speedos caused me to feel a little bit of fear, a little bit of embarrassment and a lot of unanswered questions. All of which vanish when I pushed off the edge that first time, since I was a (very) prepubescent child of maybe 10 or 11, clad in only a small thin piece of material. The water glided off me, my legs kicked free from any encumbrance and I felt good, I mean, I felt great. I swam so much easier, and on top I felt like a swimmer, like I belonged in the swimming lane and not the walk and talk lane.

That good feeling came from both the way I swam (it really was so much easier), and also the sense that I was (outwardly) unashamed and confident in my body. Now I need to say I am no Adonis, I haven’t got the perfect swimming body (not sure I ever will at 40) but I certainly feel like I look better just by the fact that I do wear swimwear design for swimming.

Two-Little-Boys-in-speedos
Yup kinda like these guys… 

To me wearing a form fitting speedo is akin to wearing a well tailored, good fitting suit. You put on that suit, the shirt, the tie and do your hair well – look in the mirror and you look and feel great. That’s the same feeling I get when wearing the right and (in my mind) the proper swimwear. It’s almost a ‘fake it till you make it’ scenario. Dress the part and you are the part, that kind of thing.

I am no longer ashamed (although I have had moments of doubt) and I am beginning to become less worried about what others may think. Sure I have my days when I get to the pool and see a group of mostly younger guys in board-shorts (mostly just playing in the water) and not doing laps, but I build up my wall put on my game face and walk-on down to the pool deck. Wearing my suit with confidence. It’s also true that I haven’t actually seen anyone looking at me, or commenting to me… so that helps!

Besides, I feel good and I swim better.

That’s the whole point I have to writing this. It’s not about how I look, I would be the first to say don’t take my picture in speedos I will NOT look good. As I said I don’t have a swimmer body, there are no visible 6-packs (the making of a keg maybe) on my belly. I am also hairy… I’m not an ape but there is body hair… proud manly body hair! The point is about how I FEEL.

I feel strong, I feel fit and I feel like a stud!

I will say that when I swim with the kids in the kiddy pool I wear board-shorts. The nature of needing to be the lifeguard and helper isn’t the right environment to wear briefs. That may be more a societal thing than anything to do with me, but it just feels more ‘right’ to at least wear more modest swim attire. It probably shouldn’t but there you go! Life ain’t easy.

So I say if you swim, if you are at least semi-serious about swimming for exercise, remove the board-short, get rid of the drag. At least get a pair of jammers or go the whole hog and ‘don the ‘does. Take it from me, you’ll never look back.

Music from the 1990’s – part 1

So I took on a challenge from a friend on Facebook to list my top 7 songs from the 1990’s. I took that one step further and decided to list my favourite song from each year of that decade. 1990 – 1999.  A task I found hard for more than one year.

I also chose to list the albums that either had an effect on me or was one that stuck with me for more than one reason.

1990

My song for this year was also the big hit from my first ever CD. I also got my first CD player this year. The start of the decade was the start of something bigger. The song might not be the best ever but it meant something at the time.

Albums released:

Greenday released their debut album 30/Smooth
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released The Good Son which featured The Ship Song 
Blue Sunshine released their only album The Glove – first released in 1986 it was re-released in 1990 with some bonus tracks. Main reason I list this is that the band was a side project by Robert Smith (The Cure) and Steven Severin (Siouxsie and the Banshees)….
Roger Walter performed and released his live version of The Wall from Berlin to celebrate the fall of the wall eight months earlier. I have this on cassette somewhere.
Ride released three EP’s marking their debut – later this was released as a combination album. While never reaching the full height they may have deserved this band certainly hit a lot of marks! EP were Ride, Play and Fall 
The Cure released their re-mix album Mixed Up which featured the single Never Enough 
Lush released their debut album Gala and beginning a great career of harmonious singing and great guitar work. Pure Showgazing music.
Enigma’s first album MCMXC a.D. with the single Principle of Lust and Mea Culpa setting this German project up to be a band that will feature more in the 1990’s.

1991

Was pivotal for the rise of Alternative 90’s music. Nirvana was one of the first to rise from the Seattle scene and it had to feature as my song for the year. So hear is the song that many still say was about them and their struggle – Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Albums released:

The Smashing Pumpkins release their debut album – GISH
Big Audio Dynamite II released their fifth album (second under the BADII name) – The Globe
The Tea Party also released their debut album – The Tea Party
I first heard the Red Hot Chili Peppers with – Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Crowded House released the album with most singles ever – Woodface
Metallica rocked the world with – The Black Album
Perl Jam released a defining album – Ten
Blur continued the theme with debut album – Leisure
U2 released – Achtung Baby

1992

A truly defining year.  The Cure released WISH, and I started on a journey with that band which continues to this day. I also saw them for the first time at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, later this year we see them again at Rod Laver Arena – I am going with my mate Les who’s mum took us all those years ago. So it was no surprise that they featured as my song of the year. For the challenge I did Friday I’m In Love, but it could easily have been High or Letter To Elise.

Albums Released:

Shakespeare’s Sister release their second album – Hormonally Yours – Hello being the big single I remember.
Ride also released their second album with – Going Back Again
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released – Henry’s Dream
The Lemonheads brought us “It’s a Shame About Ray”
P J Harvey burst on to the scene with – Dry, she was to feature a lot through-out the 90’s for me…
Eric Clapton “Unplugged” – I’m not sure if he was the first to do this but it was certainly the first I remember of this popular kind of live album
Brian May came “Back to the Light” with his first post Queen solo album since the death of Freddy (second he had released) This was full of great songs and features “Too Much Love Will Kill You” which was also released by Queen with Freddy’s vocals in 1995.
Just for fun I had to mention Ween with Pure Guava – I have the single “Push th’ little daisies” – it’s just silly.

1993

Suede, another band I have followed since they started, released their debut album Suede. Interestingly another band Radiohead also released their debut Pablo Honey. I had a hard time choosing which one… But I had to go with Suede – so here is The Drowners.

Albums released:

Belly released their début album “Star” – Feed the Trees was the single of note.
Another début from the Cranberries with “Everybody Else is Doing it, So why can’t we?” – we didn’t mind it Lingered… (bad jokes!)
Lenny Kravitz came to my attention with his third album “Are you going go my way?”
Depeche Mode brought out “Songs of Love and Devotion” this one got a lot of play during my University Years. Dark room, loud music… a few beverages… you know it!
To get some rock into this line up Aerosmith released it’s best selling album “Get a Grip” – a great little album to get your rock on to!
Blur returned with their second album “Modern Life is Rubbish” – said to have come from some graffiti one of the band saw in a toilet. Also a lot of people say this is a defining moment in the Brit Pop scene this set the band up for their follow-up albums.
P J Harvey followed up one year later with her second album “Rid of Me”
Jamiroquai’s debut album “Emergency of Planet Earth” – I enjoy his stuff but never owned any albums…
More from The Smashing Pumpkins with “Siamese Dream” featuring the hits “Today”, “Cherub Rock” and “Disarm” – this certainly set them up to be the well known band they are now.
Mazzy Star the Dream Pop band released their second album “So Tonight That I Might See” featuring “Fade into you”
Billy Joel brought out his twelfth “River of Dreams” – yes I still like to listen to the “Piano Man”…

1994

This was a massive year. Working out which song to feature is even harder for this year. Three albums stand out.
Suede’s second album and still arguably the best they have ever released Dog Man Star. If I didn’t feature them already they would be here!
Blur released Parklife with great hits Girls and Boys and of course Parklife. Again I should probably feature them but…
I will go with Pulp and there third album His ‘n’ Hers and I couldn’t go past the pop alternative sound of Do You Remember the First Time?. Jarvis Cocker has a way with words and how he presents it…

Albums released:

Green Day came out with “Dookie” – featuring the hit “When I come around”. Probably the first time I read heard them.
Cake came on to the scene with “Motorcade of Generosity” while not a stand out it is of note as this was their début.
Hole released their second album “Live Through This” – of note it was released about a week after front woman Courtney Love’s husband Kurt Cobain died…
Nick Cave and the Bad Seed released “Let Love In”, classic hits of “Do You Love Me?” and “Red Right Hand”
Weezer’s début album (sometimes called the Blue Album) brought us “Undone” and “Buddy Holly” – excellent film clip and a good return to simple rock sound.
Beastie Boys brought us “Ill Communication” – with one of my favourite hits “Sabotage” … gotta love 1970’s era cop show film clip!
Powderfinger’s début album “Parables for Wooden Ears” Another one of those not so much because of any hits but the first it started the band on the journey.
Marilyn Manson brought his special kind of music to the world with “Portrait of an American Family”.
Portishead was again a début album to the world. “Dummy” was critically acclaimed but didn’t reach huge sales.
Oasis also released their first album with “Definitely Maybe” – the start of a huge career of ups and downs…
The Cranberries returned with “No Need to Argue” and the classic hit “Zombie” this certainly set the band up as one to watch.
Nirvana released “Unplugged” after the death of Kurt Cobain featuring some awesome covers this album is testament to the loss we had over the death of Kurt.
Pink Floyd – came back with “The Division Bell” first album since the 1987 “Momentary Loss Of Reason” – this was certainly a great return.
Lush came back with “Split”. My favourite track was a b-side on “Hypocrite” – the cover “Love at First Sight”…

This sums up the first 5 years of the decade… I will return with the second half later in the week.

Life, Challenges, and Goals

So we are nearly one month in to 2016, a year on from my cancer treatment, and the third year we are in Melbourne.

I am settling in to life here, we have built up some great networks and friends. Family life is very good, my eldest is starting Grade 1 and the youngest is growing up WAY too fast. We might not get out as much as we would like (as an adult couple) but we have so much opportunity for so many adventures with the girls (even just on the farm we rent) that we sometimes forget to spent time as a couple.

Socially we have really found our place. I have been able to get back into serious tabletop gaming, including a regular Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Anji is riding semi-regularly and her budding business/hobby (hobby/business?) of fiber making (yarn, wool, and end products like knitted goods) is growing steadily.

I have continued swimming (it feels like I am slowly getting there…) Work is going well and we have achieved some great things combining the region into a cohesive focused group.

Yet there is more that I want to achieve.

I have been reading Will Wheaton and his reboot posts (check out January post to see what I mean). He is monitoring seven categories, things that he wants to change and challenge himself with. I have some similar goals that I want to achieve and I would like to explore ways to achieve them or at least give me space and time to give them a go.

  1. Exercise: This is based around my fitness, I want to increase my level of fitness, reduce my weight and generally be healthier. Now I have been swimming fairly regularly, I just need to keep that up! Goal: Swim at least once per week.
  2. Music: Practise my guitar and record some drum tracks… generally I want to be able to create some music with my friends around Australia and the World – we can do that, we just need the drive! Goal: Play guitar more often and record at least once a week.
  3. Read: In the past I did the Good Reads Challenges – which kinda fell apart last year. I would like to make sure that I read more and in more ways. Because I now drive to work I have less time to read, so I have downloaded some audiobooks to listen to on the commute. Goal: Read or listen to 24 books this year.
  4. Write: I want to do regular posts – non-fiction around my interests and work stuff; fiction – write a few short stories or keep planning that novel. Goal: Write more, a weekly post, or a few hundred words a week on fiction.

It’s a few less than Will’s but I really can’t commit to any more than that!

Now to plan it I must work out a weekly planner – fit all the work and life stuff and see where I can fit in these goals… Onwards and upwards.

Hopefully I will be able to report back on the achievements (or not) and keep motivated to achieve these 4 things… it’s only 4 things after all!

Personalised Websites – Creepy, or Useful?

It’s the next phase in evolution for the digital world – websites that show content that YOU want to see or hear about. We see it already in tracked advertising, Google display ads (or similar) that promote items you have search for or looked at on sites. These are the hidden in the cookies and tracking data that follows you around the net.

For instance I was looking up some new computer parts, just wishful dreaming on my part, but low and behold when scanning through my Facebook feed what display ads come up? The very items I was looking at on my preferred computer parts vendor website. It’s a direct call to action – hey you looked at these ram chips, don’t you want to buy them? If I clicked on the link I would go straight the page with the item, a Buy Now (or add to cart) button sitting right there for me to press…

But that’s not personalising the website, that’s just marketing (or more rightly advertising) based on my habits or interests.

Website personalisation is about making the experience of visiting a website for an individual, personal to them. Or at least to their assigned persona. Examples are easy to find in the e-retail industry. We have all experienced Amazon’s amazing ability to use our past purchases, wishlist or views to predict other items we might want to buy. This goes beyond the hint of, “other people who have bought X also buy Y, W and Z”.

Amazon Image Personalisation

It’s about pushing items to the users homepage that the algorithms suggest they would like to purchase. These items vary by user based on their history and data gathered about each individual users. The way Amazon can do this is through the user login in and thus identifying themselves to Amazon. It all comes down to analysing the huge amount of data a company like Amazon can collect on it’s customers. Not only limited to purchase and search history, or what pages or items you have viewed. It can also use demographics such as age, sex, location to start to make connections, creating a persona and comparing that with other users within that cohort and analysing their spending habits and what might be similar.

I have a Kindle 2, I have explored the new range of Fire products, what’s on my homepage? See the image above!

This is much like the above computer part example – however it’s all contained with the one site, Amazon.com, and not using advertising to bring the user back to the site, its about supplying content that meets my needs based on my past purchases and searches. It is also delivered in a way that is unlike traditional advertising. The best way for a e-retail site to sell to a user is by subtle and almost accidental provision of the information.

personalized-nytimes

Media or News sites also do this, by personalising a users home page based on their past interests or pages they have viewed before. Some sites even allow users to select what topics interest them. This provides the most dynamic and ‘of interest’ items to the user. It’s about giving users what they want to see and making the use of the site easy and relevant.

The above example of the New York Times shows a different homepage based on the user preferences, or past interests. Delivering content that the user wants to consume and therefore will want to return to the site and consume more. This isn’t about selling something specific like the e-retail sites.

So can you, or should you, personalise your website?

There are three ways that websites can personalise;

  1. Implicit – based on a users past history, purchase history or search terms, could also be the IP address of the user
  2. Explicit –  chosen by the users, could be defined via a login process or membership “I’m interested in…”
  3. Hybrid – combination of the two

A national based company could easily identify the location of users by the IP address information. We see this in global e-retail sites that convert prices to nation of user, or an electricity retailer who provide packages based on your State of origin. These could be further enhanced by a question like, “prices are in AUD is this correct?” or “packages are applicable for Victoria, change state here”. These are implicit and do no require the user to enter anything (unless they want to change the settings).

Once a user logs in or creates an account the wealth of information that can be gathered gets bigger and more specific. It then becomes a matter of analysing the data and creating systems and rules to deliver the right content to the right person.

Obviously you can combine these two systems to serve your customers and users better.

All in all the reason to personalise a website is about answering a users need, whether that providing products or services that compliment and enhance their experience. In essence making the website relevant to the user.

There are risks to use of personalised websites. Many customers might feel like their privacy has been invaded, or might wonder if big brother is watching them. It can seem creepy when a site keeps delivering items or content that feels like it’s reading your mind.

Would you personalise your website for your users? Do you dislike or find problems with personalised websites? Let me know in the comments.