Benjamin Ellis

Jamin on the Net

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I’m on the Phone…

SavedPicture-201321184244.jpgThe good folks from NokiaAtWork have put a Lumia 920 in my hands for this month. I unwrapped it last night, and had my contacts, calendars and email set up in a couple of minutes. The Windows Phone 8 interface is refreshingly different (more on that in another post) – it’s very clear and easy to use.

Day one has been interesting! A good portion of the day was spent stuck on delayed trains, first in to London, and then out of London. During the day…

On the Nokia Lumia 920 I:

  • Paid for my parking for the day
  • Found out why my train was late.
  • Re-arranged two meetings, while on the train.
  • Replied to a dozen or so emails.
  • Got an address I forgot to look up.
  • Touched base with some good friends.
  • Replanned two train journeys.
  • Took several photos.
  • Located a coffee shop.
  • Made an eBay purchase.
  • Skyped with Caalie at the office.
  • Checked in on FourSquare more times than is healthy ;).
  • Followed the Twitter stream for two events.
  • Documented a system redesign
  • Caught up with the days’ news.
  • Found a petrol station.

On My Macbook Pro I.:

  • Showed someone three web pages.
  • Carried it around like a dead weight.

Oh, and I wrote and submitted this post… Via the phone too…I might not take my laptop in to London again this month. The future of work seems to be mobile :)

Posted 1 year, 10 months ago.

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30 Months on a Week Without Google

Small things can have large consequences! In December of 2009, as he snapped a picture of my with his newly acquired Google phone, James Governor casually challenged me to take a week off from using Google’s products. It seemed silly to miss a rare opportunity to beat James in a challenge, so I thought I’d give it a try. “How hard can this be?” I thought. And so, my week without Google started.

Little did I know, 30 months on, that I’d be on various news sites around the globe, the subject of a BBC news article and be interview on drive time radio shows as far afield as Australia. Welcome to The Internet, as they say.

At first it was difficult going without Google, then it became really hard. And that was back in 2009, when Internet Explorer had 70% market share, Chrome was a twinkle in Google’s tummy, Android tablets didn’t exist, and a Google phone was a novelty. Fast forward 30 months, and the Chrome web browser has 35% market share, my local O2 store is packed floor-to-ceiling with Android handsets and tablets, and Google+ is finding a user based beyond just Google staffers.

Interestingly, the Safari web browser issue that discovered during my week without Google has lead to a reported $22 million settlement with the FTC. And, in the 30 months since, Google has combined 70 different privacy policies down to one (for better or for worse).

As I originally said, I have no beef with Google at all – I think they do some amazing things, and provide some brilliant services that I am fantastically thankful for. Yes, Google have made some snafus in the UK, but they also make it fantastically easy to see at least most of the data that they collect about you, and you can even get a copy of it. That’s pretty cool. Hello Apple, are you listening?

“If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” blue_beetle

SXSW Attendee – complete with Tiny Foil Hat and sleep deprivation

Now, I’m not advocating running around with a tin foil hat on, but I am advocating being smart about what you do on-line. Here in The UK, the government is trying to help, but the recent cookie law does almost nothing to help with transparency and privacy, and has done everything to make some of the things I do at work an utter pain and ruin my Internet experience (although it’s not quite as challenging as life 2.0).

Tony Benn once posited this set of questions for anyone living in a democracy:

“If you meet a powerful person–ask them five questions: 

  • What power have you got?
  • Where did you get it from?
  • In whose interests do you exercise it?
  • To whom are you accountable?
  • And how can we get rid of you?

If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system.”

I think there is a similar test for on-line services. Before you click that connect button, or agree to terms and services, ask these five questions of the site owner:

  • What data are you collecting about me?
  • Where do you collect that data from?
  • Who benefits from the data you hold?
  • Who is your business accountable to?
  • How do I get you to remove all data about me?


Posted 2 years, 4 months ago.

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NEVER forget your mission NEVER divert from it

So today’s big news is about Twitter acquiring Posterous. It lead me to tweet this:

“Eeeek… Posterous acquired by Twitter?! People, NEVER forget your mission, NEVER divert from it. If you do, you WILL fail.”

Which, based on the replies, requires a bit more explanation (other than explaining what has caused me to start making mouse noises).

If you are a real-time microblog that is all about “what’s happening right now”, how does buying a blogging platform make any sense? It’s a classic piece of mission creep by Twitter. Over the last several months, the platform has been gradually shifting its focus, and this latest acquisition is another swerve in the path.

The position of the interior is that you end up constantly looking to ways of making land grabs into adjacent spaces. That might seem sensible to the average MBA, but in the world where platforms rely on people’s passion and their descretionary effort, diluting the focus of what you do is a dangerous thing. Users can become confused, distracted and ultimately disillusioned.

However, the bigger signal here is that Twitter is less and less about the early adopters and more and more about the late majority. It’s switching from “many producing little”, to “the few producing much” – and that is back to where we started.

By switching from spontaneous output, to more and more curated or meta content, Twitter risks steering itself under the juggernaut that is Facebook. In the on-line world, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery, it’s simply a death wish.

Always remember what it is that you, uniquely, do best. And never, never divert from that.

Posted 2 years, 8 months ago.

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8 Reasons I’m Missing the Nokia n8

likeminds - Self Portrait - Nokia n8 style! by Benjamin Ellis
likeminds – Self Portrait – Nokia n8 style!, a photo by Benjamin Ellis on Flickr.

Bit of a tech tragedy at the weekend – and a bit of an embarrassing one. My trusty Nokia n8 was sitting on my desk, peacefully minding it’s own business, when a 25Kg studio monitor fell off of the wall and landed on it.

To the n8’s credit, there wasn’t a scratch on it, and it seemed to still be working fine… But when I switched it on the next day, it was clear that the screen had taken the brunt of the non-accoustic ballistic attack!

I’m always bemused by people being bemused by me having an n8. Why that and not something else? The top 8 reasons it has been my handset of choice:

1) Amazing coverage (the sheer joy of making calls while iPhone users battle with voice mail and standing on tip toes to make a phone call…

2) Great Twitter client – Gravity is still the most powerful twitter client I’ve used. Easy to upload photos (see point 8), and manage lists and following across the dozen or so Twitter accounts I help to look after.

3) Skype – great over wifi, Skype keeps me in touch when I’m on the road. And it integrates wonderfully.

4) FM transmitter – hop in the car and listen to my tunes, without battling with wires. Benjamin FM ;).

5) Battery life – my experience with Android and iOS handsets has consisted mainly of desperately hopping from one power socket to another from 4 hours into the day. With the n8 I go on trips overseas and don’t even need to take a power lead. Win!

6) USB master socket – plugging in a memory stick or a USB keyboard is much more straight forward than pairing bluetooth keyboards and ejecting memory cards. It’s a surprisingly neat feature.

7) HDMI output – yes, I know lots of handsets have this now, but the n8 was my first experience of quite how useful this is – even in the business world, were I seem to be doing most presentations via an HDMI equipped large screen these days.

8) The camera – you must have heard how good the camera is by now? :)

So there you go. I’m missing the n8 :(. What next? I’m not sure. I had a bit of a soft spot for the lemonade green n8 I saw at the launch. The e7 looks like an interesting variation (I have a bit of a fetish for built in keyboards – like the n900). And, of course, the n9 has been announced… Tough choices!

Too busy playing to get a good Nokia N8 shot.


Posted 3 years, 4 months ago.


Recommendations for Someone new to Twitter

Nisha Pillai (@island_nisha – do say hello to her if  you are on Twitter) asked me what advice I’d give to someone new to Twitter. Here are my thoughts, as I await my next cup of coffee.

1. Give it a try.

[for those of you not on Twitter already, it is free and quick to set up. If you are nervous, you can protect your tweets and use a pseudonym – although if you really do have something to hide, you might want to stay away. It is a very public platform]

Twitter takes quite a bit of perseverance. The first time I used it, I gave up after a day or two. I’m glad I came back.

It took about 6 months for Twitter to really start to ‘work’ for me, in terms of understanding it, and feeling confident in interacting with people. Press in. Keep trying it. Experiment. Talk to people who seem to get a lot out of it. Find people that you know, that you would like to hear from. Figure out what works for you. You don’t have to be Stephen Fry or the boy/girl next door. I see dozens of different ways that Twitter works for people. As long as the way you are using it isn’t needlessly annoying people, it’s probably ok!

2. Don’t try and read everything.

Seriously, your head will explode! It’s not  an inbox, it is one giant, global, watercooler discussion. Stop in, grab a glass, then head back to work ;).

3. Follow people you find interesting/enjoy.

Twitter will give you some suggestions of people to follow and add some to get you started. Feel free to unfollow them! Unfollow them all if you want!

Use the search facility via the Twitter website (it’s right there on the home page) to find people talking about things you are interested in. Search, look. Click through to a person. If they look like someone you’d like to hear from follow them. You can always unfollow them later – it’s just like slipping away from the conversation – they are unlikely to take offence (and don’t be offended if they don’t even notice! It’s not a personal slight).

Lists can also be a way to get started – lists are lists of people, created by other people. When you follow a list, you follow everyone on that list. It is a quick way to find a group of people talking about a particular topic and get started.

4. Say Hello!

If you are feeling particularly bold, send them a (non-creepy!) message, perhaps say why you followed them. For example, typing: “@BenjaminEllis How many basses do you have!? I heard from @caalie it was too many!” – will create a message that I (and anyone who follows you who also follows me) will see. @caalie will see it too, and she’ll probably agree. Again, don’t be offended if the person doesn’t answer. They might not be feeling talkative, they might be busy, or they might just not be sure who you are yet!

If you have something to contribute to a conversation you see, join in. Generally people on Twitter will be pleased to meet you – It is why most users are on the platform after all. It is about meeting new people, and keeping in contact with people you don’t see enough off.

5 Listen. Lots.

Twitter isn’t about the numbers. Being followed by 4,000 people doesn’t prove anything or necessarily enhance your experience. Even though Twitter has got me on to the BBC 6 O’Clock News, national radio, US Radio, and into books published around the world, actually the most valuable thing it has done for me is in enabling me to meet new people, and to get to know them.

You get out of Twitter what you put it, and that doesn’t just mean talking. It means listening too. Many a time I succumb to the temptation to say something, when I should just listen. Some of the people I most enjoy interacting with on Twitter say very little. But they listen lots, and they share what is important, and are they with an encouraging word when it is needed.

Enjoy the journey… Always…


Posted 3 years, 6 months ago.


2010 – The Year That Was – in about 2,500 Photos

Thanks to pummelvision, here is my 2010 – 2,500 photos turned into one four minute 34 second video:

The big event of the year was, of course, South by South West – The largest digital festival on the planet. Once again, a great set of British Businesses set off to Austin, Texas, on the Digital Mission, to network, learn and share. Many familiar faces in the opening minute of the video. Oh, and I got to see Fenech Solar, before then even released their first album. They are slightly massive now!

Yes, there’s a photo of me holding a snake in there. That was at Teen Tech – a brilliant event pulled together by Maggie Philbin, encouraging young folks to get involved in science and technology. Would love to see more businesses involved.

Then there’s Tom Watson (blog) and Cory Doctorow (blog) at the protest against the Digital Economy Bill (now act…) – that was an eye opening bit of parliamentary process at the end of the last government. And the Twestivals (I attened both Farnham and Reading this year) – and of course speaking at Digital Surrey.

Quite a few events at Gum Tree and eBay’s offices this year – thank you for supporting the community guys! Speaking of community, TVSMC has settled into a steady circular of events in the Thames Valley and beyond, with the wonderful Lloyd Davis (who also came ot SXSWi), and electric dress maker Debbie Davis dropping in.

All sorts of other things. Lots of speaking engagements (which I loved!), Gigs (great to have the bass out again), TEDx, RSA events. The two stand-out events of the year in the UK for me were Herb Kim’s Thinking Digital conference in the North East, and Scott and Drew’s Like Minds in Exeter. Two amazing, and very different, experiences.

Social Media in the Business space has gone from strength to strength. Speaking at Dell’s Social Media huddle event caused me to reflect on how much things have matured. Collecting not one, but two awards for Redcatco’s work with TheBlueBallRoom and DHL was a major highlight of the year. Meanwhile SocialOptic’s first service, Milestone Planner, has flourished, starting the year in Beta, and ending the year with customers across 3 continents, a phenomenal growth curve, and sharing the stage with Google, Microsoft and IBM. Not bad!

Here’s to 2011! Have a good one!

Posted 3 years, 11 months ago.

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