Real just got shit

There's been a flurry of chatter following Stephen Poole's article in the New Statesman; Why are we so obsessed by the pursuit of authenticity?

I occurs to me though, that there's an obvious and inexorable path that the drive for authenticity ought to take. And rather than thinking of this growing realisation as some form of awakening to the duplicity of corporates like Tesco owning faux-indie coffee shops, surely the fact that Tesco has been revealed as deliberately masking its identity is just another step down the road to what I can only imagine is a theoretical singularity of truth and authenticity. Where presumably we'll find a baby in a wicker basket, or something.

Briefly uncomfortable perhaps, but not entirely unlike yanking on a curtain to discover that the Great Oz is in fact a charming if misguided old gentleman.

Regardless, I do suspect that behind the quest for authenticity, exemplified not least by personal blogs like this one, never mind high street brand pretending to be indie - lies a subconscious desire for truth and integrity in a world increasingly marked by the unceremonious dismantling of institutions like celebrity, church and state.

And I wonder when we look back decades from now if we'll see this era as the sketchy origins of the future utopian society that science fiction has long since imagined for us. That's somewhat naive, admittedly, but nonetheless a more up-beat plot than the 'we're all going to hell in a hand-cart' refrain we often hear.


Ethics In Business II - Prelude To The Maddening

It's troubling. Either I'm somehow subconsciously ascending to some higher plain of heavenly rectitude and the world is the same as it ever was, or the morality of the planet has degraded to the point that a stranger would just as soon as nick your watch as ask you the time of day.

All I know is I've still got the hump about business ethics, or rather the ever growing black whole where they used to be.

What have we become...

PS. I realise these pleas when read a certain way might mistakenly betray the impression of your correspondent succumbing to a deepening, spiralling madness inside which I may well have surrounded myself with photos of my unethical protagonists with their eyes scratched out and pinned to the walls around all me, curtains closed, a single track of Norwegian black metal blaring incessantly, piles of unopened mail behind the door, weekly Amazon Prime deliveries of bulk-buy tinned food and toilet rolls. That will later descend into some perverted mission to serially dispose of those who pollute the sanctity of the pristine chapel that is my concsiousness.

But that would be reading too much into them. The postscripts, I'm not so sure about.


Ethics In Business

Warning : unbridled righteousness ahead. It's my blog, you're free to change channel at any time.

I've been active the UK's software business for twenty-five years this year. Most of the people I began my career with are either retired or dead. So, entirely on the basis of the Last Man Standing principle, accordingly I've just appointed myself as the industry's village elder.

And this elder is pissed off with his village.

I've identifed an employee of a (large) competitor anonymously shilling on various forums for their company, and shilling subjective negativity about Xero*.

It's the latest in a line of what have been in most cases minor ethical transgressions but which, cumulatively, don't smell at all right.

Sometimes they're funny, particularly watching people clumsily shilling on Twitter like a latter-day idiot version of WWII radio progaganda. That stuff doesn't tend to find its target and actually does more damage to the person who's making a fool of themselves.

The stuff that pisses me off, though, is either at the mostly harmless end of the spectrum; opinion from people with conflicts of interest who don't explicitly disclose their interests (I'll charitably excuse them on the grounds of forgetfullness), right through to the more pernicious anonymous shilling. 

The internet is amazing and for many, many worthy reasons, anonymity on the internet is amazing, too.

I like lists, so here's a list of what I think.

  1. Success comes when you work hard, do a good job, have a little talent and sometimes get a little lucky.
  2. Success doesn't come when you employ clandestine, dishonest tactics to negate inherent deficiencies in 1.

Admittedly, that was a short list.

But it pisses me off, and not in a manner that should give solace to the people who cheat like this. It's more of a fundamentally disappointed in humanity kind of pissed off.

Call me old fashioned - or even naive - but I think there's a place for ethics in business. And not just a place. A huge fucking mega-temple of ethics, with angels and harp music on permaplay and carved effigies of Michael Landon and everything.

Whatever gets you through the night.


* I hope the irony of me talking about Xero on my personal blog isn't lost on anyone.


A Close Shave

The nerdiest way to (almost) start a fight. Ever.


Lukewarm Soup

This Sunday morning I've been doing some early spring cleaning on my MacBook, organising my email into annual folders, deleting old files etc.

One of the things I started doing last year was to take the time to unsubscribe from any promotional emails I get that don't help me, things like special offers from hotel chains I've used in the past. Or just plain old spam where my email address has somehow ended up on a supposedly premium list of subscribers.

One of the interesting things you notice when you undertake a batch of unsubscribing is the variable quality and ease with which you are able to unsubscribe.

The best experiences are properly branded landing pages that don't invite you to click any more buttons or key in your email address to confirm your desire to unsubscribe. It's also acceptable for some degree of survey asking why you're unsubscribing.

However, the vast majority of unsubcribe process flows are generally quite offensive, particularly when set agains the polish and sparkle of their front facing marketing websites.

It leaves you feeling like you complained that your soup could have been a little warmer and thirty seconds later you're sitting in the back alley, having been physically ejected out the back door of the restaurant.

It's not uncommon for it to be just a plain unsubscribe button (often not even centred) and processes that ask you to rekey your email address are as annoying as they are suspicious, and it's not unusual to be greeted with hugely patronising copy like "We're really sorry to hear that you no longer wish to receive our awesome newsletter." The bottom of the barrel are those unsubscribe flows that demand you reply to the email with the words "Remove" or "Unsubscribe" in the subject. It's clear these businesses are running email software they got free on a magazine cover CD in 1998.

When you think about how much effort, investment and focus is employed by businesses on their shop frontage, it's amazing to see the way they handle people who wish to unsubscribe from their emails being such a blind spot.

Just because I'm unsubscribing doesn't mean I hate you, nor that I won't use your company in future. But if you treat me like a scumbag when I take the time to ask you to stop polluting my inbox, I might just change my mind.