abyss

14 04 2011

a month ago the situation with XXXXXXXX XXXX was looking buoyant.  a management buy-out plan was being hatched by the business’s original founding MD, and if successful, there was every reason to expect the company to be viable.

by the time i got back from holidays, the silence was deafening on all of that.  turns out that plan turned to dogshit.  other plans may be afoot, but no ones sayin’.  deadlines for placing orders for calendars for next season are looming, and if missed, severely compromise the entire retail effort, and possibly the entire business, as well as many of the smaller local publishers whose sales come significantly from XXXXXXXX XXXX’s retail season.  one of those local publishers is my client#2.

the Voluntary Administrators aren’t going to sign purchase orders for several million dollars worth of calendars for a business that might not exist in 6 months time, so if a new owner with a plan doesn’t come to fruition fast, XXXXXXXX XXXX, several smaller/local calendar publishers, and me, are in dogshit too.

suddenly i’m staring into an abyss of “what the fuck will i do if this all turns to dogshit?”.  i can’t easily survive without client#1, and client#1’s failure might have repercussions on client#2 (more than they already have), which might have additional repercussions on me.

options:  find new clients of a similar vein; or do something completely different.

despite 11 years of self-employment, i’ve barely had to lift a finger to get the handful of clients that i’ve maintained to this day, so finding new ones is just as daunting an option as doing something altogether different.  regular readers will remember i pondered these issues almost exactly 12 months ago, as part of a plan to relocate to Byron Bay.  i’m ashamed to say, i’ve done nothing toward that goal, lulled into complacency & distraction by the rekindling with J.

coincidentally, J is facing the same decision, but for mostly different reasons: tired of his status quo, frustrated by colleagues who don’t share his progressive ideas on UI/UX, but so far not finding a new job opportunity that would satisfy his desire to work in a manner, and with people, who share his views on UI/UX.

we’ve both been reading/listening to various people – industry ‘elites’ even in their own modest way – who’ve risen above similar situations and created for themselves situations where they, for the most part at least, have true independence from the vagaries & occasional stupidity of bosses/clients.  i suspect we’re both mulling over options on how to emulate their success.  it’s times like these i regret not getting into web technologies at any time over the last decade – if I had, we’d probably make a great team (professionally speaking) right about now.

i don’t suffer from real insomnia very often at all, but tonight would be one :-(





cybernetic yogi

8 04 2011

now for something completely different.  this is a comment i just left on leanmeanminimalist.com (and if he allows it to be published, i’ll be slightly surprised ;).  quote:

ok so i’m a bit late to the Lets-All-Realise-Everett-Bogue-Is-Suffering-From-Naivety-And-Megalomania Party. that’s fashionable, right?

i’ve been reading some minimalist stuff lately & it’s been impossible to avoid seeing Everett Bogue popping up everywhere.  so i read some of him too.  before too long, i couldn’t shake the impression that Everett Bogue is just another insufficiently read/educated GenYer who thinks he’s the first person to discover something, but had the nous to capitalise on it and get a bunch of Fellow Seekers to pay him to live The Good Life – for the time being at least.

congratulations Mr Bogue, you’re a the top of a tiny pyramid scheme.  you’ve successfully discovered the ‘secret’ of countless shonks before you.

my best friend spent a year traveling the world – minimalist style – in 1996, and maintain that low-possession-count lifestyle in two of Australia’s busiest & most capitalist/consumerist cities, until his untimely death a few years ago.  minimalism wasn’t anything new then, and it sure as frak isn’t anything new now, although for sure the lessons can be carried into the digital realm.

but inherent in that low-possession-count ethos was an underlying reliance on other people’s possessions typically via living in a room with other housemates WHO PROVIDED MOST OF THE FURNITURE. and fridge. and ice cube trays.  when we took a holiday in Byron Bay, who do you think brought the beach towels?!!

Everett brags about how little he owns on his site.  i couldn’t help but notice there’s no refrigerator.  or beanbag.  who supplies those?  i’m guessing someone else.  that’s not minimalism, that’s an externality of the likes that any economic rationalist would be very proud.

fuckminimalism.com ? no, fuck you, Mr Bogue.  i understood the core of (and resonated with) minimalism from one brief conversation with my best friend 15 years ago.  i didn’t need to (and thankfully now can’t) spend $17 on your ebook to tell me what can be gleaned – for free – from hundreds of honest, well-meaning people.

and us$47 for your Minimalist Business ebook? yer kidding right?  i haven’t bought an ebook for more than $15 from highly talented writers who had something NEW to say.  no surprise you ignored my tweet politely asking why Minimalist Business cost so much.  so much for Twitter being the best way to communicate with you.

as for this $25/month letter.ly cybernetic yogi shit, omg, that’s where you really lost me. as above, just another GenY kid so far up his own fundamental orifice he can’t see that he’s stumbled on what’s already been discovered long ago.  the abundance of nonsense cyber-infused new-age terminology won’t work on those who’ve seen it all before.  Facebook out – Twitter in?  fuck me, you sound like a vacuous fashion queen of the most objectionable kind.

Everett Bogue IS what i consider convergence; or history repeating itself, depending on how generous you feel today.

p.s. contrary to you bragging about your google rank for ‘cybernetic yogi’ etc, this (leanmeanminimalist.com) site and 4 others ripping you a new one, were the first 5 hits when i googled “cybernetic yogi”. i pray that when i click on Image search i’ll see a cartoon Yogibear who’s been altered by the Borg.

mwah!

 





the future of calendars

7 04 2011

“I’m not used to paying for calendars like you do here in Australia”.

Past

In one simple innocent statement, my partner highlighted the outstanding success of applying “pop-up retailing” to calendars, first brought to Australia in the mid-90s by XXXX XXXXX, licensing the USA-based ‘XXXXXXXX XXXX’ brand and seasonal pop-up retailing concept.

Back then, and apparently still in many countries, wall and desk calendars were either low-value things that businesses gave away to their customers, a cunning exchange of vaguely themed utility for under-the-radar advertising; or “high end” products in niche retail outlets.

Nowadays, calendar retailing is worth several tens of $M (in Australia), forged in large part by XXXX XXXXX’s tireless efforts to convince shopping mall managers to allocate open floor space for short term rental where – voila! – overnight in October/November a ‘kiosk’ appears at your local mall lined with every type of calendar you could possibly want.  They made easy gifts, Christmas ‘stocking fillers’ for those whom you just CBF’d buying anything more meaningful.  I’ve received a few over the years!

The trick to getting people to part with up to $25 per calendar, where previously they were free from your local mechanic / dentist / etc – is personalisation and self-expression.  The burgeoning range of wall and desk calendars catered to almost every social niche, from every breed of faithful dog and fluffy cat, to side-splittingly funny Gary Larson cartoons.  A calendar hung in the home or office signalled to others what you were ‘into’, and provoked conversation.  Oh, and you could also record what you had to do next week – if you remembered to look at it.

Present

However I believe that gravy train is slowly running out of steam.  I have no insider knowledge of sales or returns, but my hunch is they’ve been either plateaued or been slightly falling for a few years, a drop that’s either been masked by XXXXXXXX XXXX’s progress toward market saturation (geographically, the number of stores open each Christmas retail season), or unfairly attributed to the 2008 GFC & low consumer confidence statistics.  Or both.  I believe there’s another – perhaps bigger – culprit.

We’re nearly 4 years into the smartphone boom, heralded by the Apple iPhone first available in June 2007.  Until then Palm Pilot, Windows Mobile & Blackberry PDAs & smartphones were the sole preserve of geeks &/or geeky businessmen.  Among countless other things, a smartphone gives you a calendar that typically syncs with your desktop/laptop computer(s) including your corporate email/calendar/contacts system, and actively reminds you of imminent appointments.  Add the outstanding success of the iPad a year ago, followed by viable competition to the iPhone (Google’s Android, Palm/HP’s WebOS, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7) and “suddenly” a whole lot of people have a lot less reason to record their plans on a traditional calendar trapped on a desk or nailed to a wall, especially those intended for the office or home-office.

This ubiquity of high-tech calendars has only just begun, and I believe signals the beginning of the end for physical paper calendars.

Future

Sourcing calendars from publishers all over the world, XXXXXXXX XXXX is justified in having the tagline “The Best Selection Of Calendars In The Known Universe”.  But as the retail end-point for many calendar publishers and image banks, XXXXXXXX XXXX’s ability to capitalise on that imagery needs to move with the times – into the digital space.

XXXXXXXX XXXX needs to tackle the smartphone, pad / tablet / slate, & computer calendar reality head on.

Other than the same disease that’s beset most old-media for the past decade, there’s nothing preventing XXXXXXXX XXXX from creating their own software calendar ‘apps’, featuring the same imagery from their paper counterparts.  As a major multi-national paper calendar retailer, they already have the relationships with the calendar publishers & image banks necessary to garner trust to take this step into the digital domain.  It isn’t just XXXXXXXX XXXX who stands to rise or fall on this issue, it’s the entire ecosystem of paper calendar publishing.

Imagine a smartphone app that features all the crowd-pleasing imagery that modern paper calendars are known for, seamlessly integrating into the phone’s built-in calendar system (that syncs with your desktop/laptop computer or office groupware system).

People want to customise their smartphones for exactly the same reason they were willing to blow $25 on a dozen sheets of paper with cool pictures – especially given the ubiquity of Apple’s one-size-fits-all iPhone & iPad where there’s zero ability to ‘theme’ the built-in calendar app.  Part of the appeal of ‘jailbreaking’ an iPhone/iPad is the ability to customise the UI, and – for better or worse – Android and other smartphones offer that ability to customise.

If XXXXXXXX XXXX doesn’t take the lead and bring great themed imagery into digital calendars, someone else surely will.