Thursday, 10 April 2014

Midweek update

Singing Priest ruins wedding, draws focus.
Everyone knows that one person who simply has to be the star, has to have all the attention and it always be about them. If you're thinking that you don't know anyone like that, it's probably you. This priest however has taken the cake. On the happiest day of many couples lives this guy has committed the cardinal sin on a wedding day. He's stolen the brides thunder. There's a special place in hell for people like that.

"Try not to pass out, today's not about you." 

Go home Zoo, you're drunk and a psychopath
It’s been an odd few months for Zoos in the news; we've been heard about a Copenhagen Zoo putting down a baby Giraffe and feeding it to the Lions, then that very same Zoo killing a family of lions and today I read that a Swiss zoo has put down a bear cub because its father was bullying it.

"You're feeding me to what?"

Now I’m not a zoo expert, but surely the idea is to try keep these animals alive? Just a thought off the top of my head but maybe rehouse them if they’re not getting along or there is a risk of inbreeding. Killing your animals, then feeding to other animals and then killing them seems a little twisted, and this is coming from me…

Babies first planned murder
In Pakistan a nine month old baby has been accused of planning murder, threatening police and generally being a little trouble maker. Does Pakistan realise how utterly stupid they are making themselves look to the rest of the world by going forward with this?

Evil has a new face, and it needs wiping.

Today though some sense has prevailed and this pint sized crime lord has apparently been granted bail. To believe that a nine month old can plan a murder is nonsensical, speaking from experience you have to be at least 5 to plan a decent hit, a baby would totally fuck it up.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Keep it simple or GTFO.

Working as an analyst one of the challenges I face is articulating data to people who aren't “data people”. I’m sure most people reading this are familiar with a line graph, bar chart or pie chart, those are good visualization tools for conveying the story that numbers may be trying to tell. You can look at a revenue line going down and say “Holy Santa Claus shit, that’s a problem”. You can look at a pie chart and see that a certain product is selling significantly more than others. It’s not rocket science, and in my opinion a good analyst can present data in a format that non data people can pick up and understand.

However in the last couple of months I've become exposed to a data visualization tool called Tableau that changes all that. Tableau seems to have been created with good intentions of making data easy to understand, but from where I’m sat it looks like marketing people have crawled in its head to lay their eggs inside it’s brain and it has gone downhill from there. This isn't me running down Tableau, I mean the car is an amazing invention, but put a cretin behind the wheel and it’s a cause for concern. Tableau data at times is a confusing clusterfuck of a mess. In my book, If you have to take time out of your day to get in touch with someone to ask what the hell a chart is showing, then I’m afraid your chart is redundant. Sadly in my experience there are often whole dashboards made up of these redundant charts that make no sense to anyone other than the creator of the dashboard.

I was sat in a Tableau training session last week where a participant (with a marketing background I will add) asked how they could make a filter to hide certain lines on a line chart, and hide certain data sources as they didn't want to separate the lines out into separate charts as it would be “too messy”. I suggested that surely the point of a dashboard is to show a snap shot of relevant data quickly and effectively to the reader; and if you’re having to hide data, should it be there anyway? This comment was received as well as a skid mark on a hotel towel. But my point stands, if you’re creating dashboards that the end user has to go add filters, select things and all that noise then you’re asking too much of your audience.


I’m not a fan of dashboards, I say this a lot. I’ll say it again, I’m not a fan of dashboards. They are in my opinion a distraction from answering the important questions that need answering in a business.

Unite States Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld said in 2002:
There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don't know.

Dashboards are designed to look for known problems and rarely allow for accidental discovery of unknown unknowns and I begrudge each and every second of my life that is spent building dashboards, I begrudge them even more now that marketing people want bells and whistles to make un-actionable data even harder to understand.

In short, the secret to making your audience read and understand your data:

KISS (Kiss Keep It Simple, Stupid!)

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

I hate hot desking.

To update on my last work related blog, they gave into my unreasonable demands and I never have to work at the travel company again. Which is good as if I had to spend another second of my life looking at why some family didn’t book a fucking cruise I’d have killed myself and then them. In that order.

So I’m at a new client, a well known telecommunications company, the work is a lot more interesting and focussed on providing a good user experience rather than how many “hits” (people used that phrase at the travel place) a page gets. But today's entry is currently being penned from their Cafeteria as they operate a hot desking policy. This means no one has a set desk and it’s first come first serve as to where you get a seat.

Now whilst I am happier working for this client than I was the travel idots, or the soul sucking supermarket chain I have come to develop an intense hatred for hot desking.

My reasons are as follows:

1) I have no idea where the fuck anyone is.
If people are in set desks, you can glance quickly over, see they’re not there and come to the informed conclusion that they are not there. That’s some Sherlock level shit right there. With hot desking you look over to their desk, realise that they don’t have a desk and have to scan the face of every single person in the office until you deduce that of all those humans, they are not one of them. This isn't an instant process. Neither is contacting to them to find out where they are.

2) No one knows where the fuck I am.
Came in today and saw no desks. Fine. I said hi to some people and got set up here in the cafeteria. I had a Skype message from my boss asking where I was. He said that someone from there had contacted him saying they hadn't seen me and was I working for them today. I was here the whole time and rather than speak to her colleagues who I had greeted earlier, thought it was prudent to contact my boss and drop me in it. Helpful.

3) I need my set space.
I mentioned this before when I was at the soul sucking supermarket. I want a set space I can make my own, we spend most of our waking lives with the people we work with at the place we work. I don’t feel settled and comfortable constantly packing up and carrying all my shit with me when I leave to repeat it the next day. I want a proper desk, with a chair and desk set to match my comfort requirements and a space to make my own.

4) It’s loud as fuck working in a cafeteria.
I like peace and quiet, and space to work in. As of writing this I have neither. I’m sat next to some jackass talking about how he enjoys living in Kingston and how nice his neighbours are, but he’s concerned with the damp in his bathroom. He likes the location as it’s easy to see his family which is nice but it’s far enough away they aren't under his feet all the time.

Why am I going into this level of detail about this ass-hats conversation? Because if I’m going to be bored to tears by it, so are you. If I can’t have the right environment to do work in, I’ll write a shitty blog instead.

5) It’s tight fisted.
You’re a multimillion pound corporation and you’re telling me you don’t have the coin to buy and allocate fucking desks? Find out who’s in the office every day and give them a desk. Those who aren’t give them a shitty hot desk in the disabled toilets.

Another thing that’s fucking me off today is that the wifi barely reaches the cafĂ©. Shan't be investing in any of their home broadband!

Thursday, 13 March 2014


Wikipedia defines an intervention as “an orchestrated attempt by one or many people – usually family and friends – to get someone to seek professional help with an addiction or some kind of traumatic event or crisis, or other serious problem.”

Today I am writing an intervention to some regarding a current trend that is getting out of hand.


I call your bluff.

I do not have issue with all beards, on the right person a beard looks great. Could you imagine Santa, or Gandalf without beards? Bizarre right? When thinking along more attractive lines, on the right guy a beard can cause a fair amount of genital sogginess. But we’re not talking about beards on the right guy. We’re talking about the kinds of beards that can turn a seven into a three or lower.

We're talking patchy as hell "chemo-beards", beards that just make a guy look like a market stall version of Gimli, beards that are all wiry and look like ball hair. Beards that are at that awkward "terrorist" stage but not long enough to be classed as "wizard". There are so many beards that are just awful. Beards that it seems blind some to how bloody awful they look.

A cause of the problem seems to be a lack of originality; an alpha male of a group of friends starts sporting a beard and then betas start to follow. Omitting the fact that the alphas are hotter than a pair of rats fucking in a wool sock and the betas in most cases are not. It’s the David Beckham principle, the guy is hot enough to pretty much do what he wants with his fashion or grooming and still amazing, yet when people try copy him they look like homeless people with an addiction to fake tan.

Utter nonsense.

Further adding to the problem are hundreds of memes posted around Facebook and Instagram in support of beards, some are funny, some are mundane but none of them are highlighting that some people have no business having a beard. Some people who are on their best day are a high 6. (Their. best. day.) People who through a myriad of reasons have seen sense to voluntarily take that high 6 (at best) and flush it to a low 3.

Play to your strengths chaps, just don't put all your eggs in that grotesque face basket you have going on.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Trust your gut, quit.

I’ve been at my new job for 3 weeks and I’m client facing sometimes. Yes I know, I’d not put me client facing either but there we are. Anyway one and a half days a week I’m required to be at a well known travel company and help them out with their analytics. Whatever there conversion rate does, be that increase or decrease, Monday mornings are in full scale panic mode.

What they need to realise is that they sell some very expensive holidays, and speaking from personal experience, I don’t part with £1000+ very quickly. I shop around, I do my research, I check out competitors. I don’t go to a site, skim over some details, enter my details and pay. I doubt many people do. Because of this the price, and the nature of the business their volume of bookings is low, and very erratic on a day to day and week to week basis. If you look at their conversion rate on a monthly basis and compare year to year you can see some trends and make decisions based on that, and in my opinion it’s not an issue or area of concern.

Monday morning at many online retailers.

Yet for the last 3 weeks doing a day and a half there rather than doing what I do best (analytics, insight, kicking hornets nest and having a nice supple ass) I’ve been doing what I would describe as pointless donkey work looking at why the conversion rate has gone up or down. Exciting. It's not the kind of work I want to be doing. I worked out that the amount of time I spent looking at why a 0.02% change in conversion had occurred that the amount my agency were billing them was costing them more than the change in revenue. Redundant and pointless.

Pair my displeasure for the work with some unprofessional rudeness I experienced Monday, and you've got yourself a pissed off Joey.

This week my manager who usually goes with me to the travel company is in Dubai and said to me as long as I do the 1.5 billable days there he didn't mind when I arrive and leave on Monday and Tuesday, and knowing that the travel company are panickers I figure it would be beneficial for me to arrive Monday to provide them with the support they need to cope with the usual Monday panic.

So I arrive in the morning and reception phone up to the Web Manager Witch who let her know I've arrived, she was busy, probably panicking about how inept she is and how she’s been promoted way above her competency level, so she sends someone else to buzz me in.

Still has better people skills than their web manager.
I begin investigating as to why one guy didn't fancy booking a cruise that weekend and around 2pm the web witch flies in from behind me and starts waving paper in my face asking where her dashboards are as she had not received them from my boss. I said to her that I was not aware what their current status was but was sure that he would have sent them to her and asked politely if they were buried in her inbox somewhere. She then said she had checked (absolute fucking bullshit) and then demanded I get hold of my boss then and there to establish the whereabouts of said reports.

I told her that at that exact moment in time he was on a plane and not contactable. She then tutted and sighed and asked if these dashboards were something I could do then and there, I said possibly yes but I’d need to know what the reports were, and be sure of the data (4 days exposure to an implementation is not in my opinion ample time to be confident you’re looking in the right place at the right data) and by the time I’d spent the day doing that, my boss would probably be online and be able to re-send and it would probably be an ineffective use of my time.

From here she then said that she had me for another day as I’d only been there since 1pm. I said I had been here all day and she only had me another half day to which she disputed until I pointed out that reception had phoned her on my arrival to let her know I was here. The Web Witch then insinuated that I’d not been doing anything since my arrival as she hadn't set me anything, I corrected her and showed her what I had been doing so far. She then asked that I give her and her winged monkey training in Omniture, which I said I could, but only having 4 or so days exposure to their set up it would be very broad on the general use of the tool, and not too specific on their implementation and it may be more beneficial to wait until my manager was back to go over their implementation for all of our benefit. Again, met with tutting and eye rolling.

Not a good way to win me over.

One thing working for the soul destroying supermarket chain taught me is that you can generally tell when you’re going to fucking hate somewhere you work in the first week or two. I stuck it out at that hell hole when I really shouldn't have. We spend most of our waking lives, not with our loved ones but at work. It seems insane to voluntarily spend time somewhere that makes you wish you (or your colleagues) were dead.

So this time I trusted my instinct and quit.

Unfortunately the boss being in Dubai and doing it over a Skype chat is difficult, but for me to stay it would have to be agreed that I’d never go back to the travel company again, and I don’t see that happening seeing as the role was created to handle the extra (nonsensical) work they are sending my agency.

We’ll see what happens in the coming days.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Subscribe to WWE Network.

This week WWE launched the much talked about WWE Network. For those of you who aren't wrestling fans think Netflix for WWE. For those of us who are fans it’s a much greater offering than that. For quite some time now WWE has grown through acquisition, most notably purchasing WCW and ECW in the early 2000’s. However they have also been actively acquiring other defunct wrestling promotions vast video libraries, to the point now where they are able to offer at launch some 10,000 hours of on demand content. Not to mention broadcast content. In my book, that’s quite the offering.

Although not officially available in the UK until the end of 2014 / start of 2015 I have found you can access it if you have an Apple TV and use the US Netflix workaround, you can see the WWE Network icon and subscribe (for 6 months which comes to £39.99), then you can link that to your WWE account and view as much content as you like via browser, mobile or tablet.

Right there in the middle.

Day one I found the live programming worked fine, no buffering or annoying loading times but the on demand content was not so smooth running, it refused to load or when it did cut out a lot to buffer then died on its ass.

I didn't get much time to play around with it the rest of the week due to pain in the ass commitments like work and such but last night I sat down and watched one of my favourite pay per views as a kid, Survivor Series 1994 and it worked perfectly. The picture quality was surprisingly good and much better than my now worn out VHS copy, or the annoyingly edited tagged classics version.

As with any online launch some kinks are to be expected but overall compared to other day 1 launches I have personally worked on, or been a customer of this wasn't bad at all and seems to be improving every day.

Some nice things to note:

1) WWF is clear and present.
There is no blurring out of the logos or annoying muting when someone says "WWF" which if you bought any of the older events on DVD like I have can really detract from what you're watching.

2) Events appear to be as originally broadcast.
Some may find this bothersome but they've left in the original sponsor messages and back stage WWF Hotline segments, which don't add anything but I'm not feeling like they're cutting things out.

Some improvements / things I want in the future:

1) Every episode of Raw / Smackdown
I'm sure it will come but how cool would it be to relive the attitude era from the start, week by week? They have a couple of episodes from 1998 and I will be watching those at my earliest opportunity but they need every episode.

2) Every episode of defunct shows
I've seen on YouTube some pretty cool matches from Shotgun Saturday Night, which I don't believe we got over here in the UK, I could be wrong. Some of the Sunday Night Heat's from the attitude era were pretty cool too, remember when creative had something for everyone? Perry Saturn dated a mop. It happened and we need to see it again. I was never a WCW fan in my teens and I feel I've done WCW and myself an injustice. I'd very much like to see what I missed out on during the Monday Night Wars.

3) All of the everything!
I'm greedy and WWE has so much content, put it all up!

In my opinion a good launch (not great, good) and I'm excited for what's to come. If you can go subscribe!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Failure is an option, indecision is not.

After a much needed break I returned to gainful employment last week for a usability and design agency in London. I promised myself I’d never work in London as the city does to me what New York does to Homer Simpson. If you haven't seen the episode the gist of it is that New York is a cesspit that drives Homer insane. Between the flooding delaying the transport and my hatred of London I'm not at my most tolerant, shocking I know.

Pretty much me during any commute.

In my new role I'll be managing a few key accounts which I'm looking forward to, but in the meantime I've inherited some work for a key competitor of the supermarket chain hell hole I was contracting with up until December. Apparently my experience there was a key decider in them assigning me this project. Joy.

The problem is, in essence much like that of the hell hole in that they are new to analytics or not data people and Monday morning are a flurry of manually updating excel dashboards, to forward on so that some other cog can copy and paste some numbers into a power point, to present to a room of bored people who in turn do nothing with that data. They have too much reporting and not enough analysis and in turn no decisions are being made. In a nut shell, the whole thing is a colossal exercise in futility.

The account manager for the supermarket chain has recognised this problem and in their infinite wisdom has decided that the solution to too many reports / dashboards and not enough action is... ANOTHER REPORT.

Yes that's right gentle reader, to simplify this for non data people, this is like saying "Do you know what will solve all the problems with this flooding: cleaner water".

Looking at this with my experience with a main competitor of theirs, and using my amazing powers of common sense I can tell you that building another sodding report, using a tool where they have to download a reader to open the file, or log into a web hosting service to view the data, is simply not going to change anything.

The problem is a culture of needing to appear to be busy without having any accountability and dodging making decisions. In my opinion there are far too many people employed today who drag their heels through fear of making the wrong decision and end up making no decision, which in my eyes is worse. If you screw up and make the wrong call, you can learn from that. Failure is a good thing, if you learn from it. Making no decision and wasting the resources going into reporting is in my eyes a hell of a lot worse.