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A quick aside: Do words like objectives, strategy and tactics seem hard to define sometimes? Try this – you’re on a quest. On board a vessel to a specific destination. The vessel is hit by strong tides and all sorts of natural forces outside your control. But the crew have been trained and carefully posted to various stations on the ship. Each time you face that weather, you try to keep on course. Perhaps what seems like bad weather is in fact good, sometimes the conditions propel you faster to your goal. The objective is the land you’re heading for, your strategy is your overall approach to sailing the ship, and the tactics are the individual measures you take to complete the journey.

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marvin paranoid android

Getting unstuck: Douglas Adams and the judo principle

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This is my favourite fable. When something seems difficult at work, I try and apply it. I have Grandpa Simpson-ishly repeated this tale over and over to younger colleagues. It’s worth repeating, it’s a brilliant way of thinking about problems.

“the trick is to use this problem to solve itself”

(Many thanks to Tom Stuart of Codon.com for this post  of his which found the quotes I was looking for. It’s also generally a really, really good blog post.)

This is about the late Douglas Adams writing the original radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As Tom Stuart says, “He wrote the radio series by the skin of his teeth: budgets were small and deadlines were tight, so he was writing each episode immediately before it was recorded, and each episode was recorded immediately before it got broadcast.”


Douglas Adams himself tells it this way:

“I carelessly thought that it might be fun to have Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect thrown out of the airlock of a Vogon ship without spacesuits, just to see what would happen. Unfortunately, of course, if anything was going to happen, I was going to have to think of it. I got very stuck.

The problem was the sheer improbability of every solution I came up with. [The answer] came about through watching a TV programme about Judo.

If you have a problem, said the instructor on the programme, such as for instance a nineteen stone [man] in pyjamas trying to beat you into a pulp, the trick is to use this problem to solve itself.

If you can trip or throw or deflect [him] as he hurtles towards you, then the fact that he weighs nineteen stone quickly becomes his worry instead of yours.

So — I thought — if my problem is one of improbability, let’s use Improbability to solve the problem, so just for the heck of it I invented the Infinite Improbability Drive, and gave myself a whole new thing to write about.”

I’ve used this a few times in small ways at work. When I was working for Rethink Mental Illness, we discovered a seam of awful bigotry about schizophrenia through Google autocomplete (Google ‘schizophrenics should’ and see how Google thinks you’ll want to end that, based on other users’ searches). The idea was to raise awareness by pointing it out in a piece of campaign material – but it was so distressing we decided not to. However, the very fact we had to pull it from the main campaign could be used to make a more general point about stigma around the illness – as occurred in this piece written by my brilliant ex-colleague Rachel Hobbs. In any story, including the non-fiction told by charity communicators and campaigners, being faced with a impassable obstruction can often be used  to make another, different – perhaps better – story.

So if you get stuck, remember the judo throw!

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Tea_bowl_fixed_in_the_Kintsugi_method

Kintsugi – repaired with gold. A visual metaphor for why mental health problems should not be a source of shame – perhaps even the opposite.

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Storytelling is a joke

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Storytelling? Storytelling is hyped-up by communicators (especially in charities and non-profits) – but it’s nothing more than a joke.

And there’s fish involved too. And a goat.

Who both have the same parent.

And it could all have a sad ending.

First, the goat…

goat_eating_grass

‘A tourist is backpacking through the highlands of Scotland, and he stops at a pub to get a drink. And the only people in there is a bartender and an old man nursing a beer. And he orders a pint, and they sit in silence for a while. 

And suddenly the old man turns to him and goes, “You see this bar? I built this bar with my bare hands from the finest wood in the county. Gave it more love and care than my own child.But do they call me MacGregor the bar builder? No.”

Points out the window. “You see that stone wall out there? I built that stone wall with my bare hands. Found every stone, placed them just so through the rain and the cold. But do they call me MacGregor the stone wall builder? No.”

Points out the window. “You see that pier on the lake out there? I built that pier with my bare hands. Drove the pilings against the tide of the sand, plank by plank. But do they call me MacGregor the pier builder? No.

But you fuck one goat …”

Storytelling is joke telling. It’s knowing your punchline, your ending, knowing that everything you’re saying, from the first sentence to the last, is leading to a singular goal, and ideally confirming some truth that deepens our understandings of who we are as human beings.’

 Now imagine an email that goes like this…

“Subject: Locating a missing fish
Dear supporter,
The orange clownfish (Amphiprion percula) is widely known as a popular aquarium fish.  Like other clownfish (also called anemonefish), it often lives in association with sea anemones…”

Does that ring any bells? It’s the email that the Dad in Finding Nemo would have sent if he was represented by an organisation of bad joke-tellers and bad story-tellers.

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Finding Nemo is a story about the power of story. The reason why Nemo’s dad finds his son is through sharing his simple, moving story across the oceans, until it eventually reaches Australia.

Nemo’s Dad’s story, and the film itself, and the goat joke, share the same principles. They’re personal – told by and about individuals, not faceless groups. And they use the power of anticipation to pull the audience from one end of the story to the other.

The goat and the fish are even more intimately related that that – as I said earlier, they have the same parent. The goat joke reproduced above is told by Finding Nemo’s writer/director Andrew Stanton in this TED talk about storytelling. (And if you read this far because you wanted to know what the hell I was on about at the beginning, he’s going to give me a storytelling gold star!)

‘When you’re telling a story, have you constructed anticipation? In the short-term, have you made me want to know what will happen next? But more importantly, have you made me want to know how it will all conclude in the long-term? Have you constructed honest conflicts with truth that creates doubt in what the outcome might be? An example would be in “Finding Nemo,” in the short tension, you were always worried, would Dory’s short-term memory make her forget whatever she was being told by Marlin. But under that was this global tension of will we ever find Nemo in this huge, vast ocean?’

So what is the sad ending? In microcosm, the power of anticipation is the key factor in clickbait. (And if you don’t know what clickbait is, you simply will not believe it! Check it out here!) Clickbait is possibly devaluing the currency of anticipation. It uses unresolved tension as shiny wrapping around a cheap toy. So maybe this heralds a future where we are crying out for communications that blether on for paragraphs about extraneous detail, barely ever get to the point and then don’t even have a proper

…However, for the time being until that Ballardian hell arrives, Finding Nemo (the story, and the story within the story) demonstrates that a story which uses anticipation-power, as well as the personal touch, can be rewarding and effective.

THE END

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6 Golden Rules for Managing Out-of-Hours Social Media

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The problem with social media is it works anti-social hours…

I’ve written a piece for CharityComms about managing out-of-hours social media. Go on, look at it!

(Someone on Twitter actually said it was the most helpful social media article they’ve ever read, which is possibly the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about me in a professional context. And, yes, I am humblebragging.)

That’s all I’ve got really.

Er…

Here’s a photo of two ponies wearing cardigans.

Bye!

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Rapoport’s Rules (Rapoport not Rappaport!)

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This is half blog post, half Post-It note to myself – because I keep talking to people about Daniel Dennet’s reference to Rapoport’s Rules for argument or criticism, and forgetting what the bloody things are.

Then I Google for Rappaport instead of Rapoport (because I keep remembering Time Bandits actor David Rappaport instead of Anantol Rapoport) …and basically get a bit cross with myself and Google.

Thankfully at some point I find the post written by the wonderful Maria Popova here!

Everyone should read her blog, but just for my own sake, here are Rapoport’s Rules in big bloody letters for my own future reference – and perhaps others.

Rapoport’s rules (as quoted by Daniel Dennett in Intuition Pumps)

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”

  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.

  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

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Charities and the genius in the crowd – Slideshare

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I gave a presentation to CharityComms in early 2014 where this presentation was called ‘An amplifier not a mouthpiece’ – I thought it might be useful to upload it to Slideshare with a slight name change and some notes on the slides.

One thing I think is worth noting – my presentation and the events it describes around the #mentalpatient hashtag (written about elsewhere in this site) pre-dates the spontaneous, user-led #nomakeup selfie phenomenon.

(April 2014 edit ..and #stephensstory!)

Please excuse the odd styling and fonts in this – side-effects of exporting/importing files between Mac and PC, which is always ‘fun’.

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Metaphor and mental illness

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A jumble of thoughts… I’ve been reading a lot of George Lakoff recently. He shows how metaphor dominates our language and behaviour. Here’s a bit of Wikipedia:

Metaphor has been seen within the Western scientific tradition as purely a linguistic construction. The essential thrust of Lakoff’s work has been the argument that metaphors are primarily a conceptual construction, and indeed are central to the development of thought. He suggested that: “Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.”

And also, at a less fundamental level, he talks about how language frames work in politics:

The phrase “Tax relief” began coming out of the White House starting on the very day of Bush’s inauguration. It got picked up by the newspapers as if it were a neutral term, which it is not. First, you have the frame for “relief.” For there to be relief, there has to be an affliction, an afflicted party, somebody who administers the relief, and an act in which you are relieved of the affliction. The reliever is the hero, and anybody who tries to stop them is the bad guy intent on keeping the affliction going.

Which I think can perhaps be interpreted both as ‘choice of language has a huge impact on our thinking’ and ‘language is enormously imperfect as a system’. To put it crudely, many we are forced to use a flawed system to do important things. Perhaps this underlines how intent is paramount in discourse: use these tools as best you can and you should be forgiven for errors,  but use the quirks to achieve corrupt aims and deserve condemnation.

Sadly we can’t read minds to confirm the intent, so people with good intentions can be seen as baddies… and that’s why people who are actually on the same side argue with each other on Twitter.

In mental health, the term ‘mental illness’ is controversial – this is from ‘Thomas Szasz’s Summary Statement and Manifesto':

“Myth of mental illness.” Mental illness is a metaphor (metaphorical disease). The word “disease” denotes a demonstrable biological process that affects the bodies of living organisms (plants, animals, and humans). The term “mental illness” refers to the undesirable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of persons. Classifying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as diseases is a logical and semantic error, like classifying the whale as a fish. As the whale is not a fish, mental illness is not a disease. Individuals with brain diseases (bad brains) or kidney diseases (bad kidneys) are literally sick. Individuals with mental diseases (bad behaviors), like societies with economic diseases (bad fiscal policies), are metaphorically sick. The classification of (mis)behavior as illness provides an ideological justification for state-sponsored social control as medical treatment.

This seems to equate metaphor with error, and implies that the mere fact of something being ‘metaphorical’ is the problem. But saying you feel ‘up’ or ‘down’ is also metaphorical, while far less controversial. In fact, Szasz actually uses the word ‘feelings’ for internal emotional states in this statement, and it’s strictly speaking a metaphorical term – he’s not talking about touching anything physically.

However it also talks about the metaphor being an idealogical justification – to me, this is the key issue and a Lakoffian one. The issues is not that ‘mental illness’ is a metaphor, but that it’s – arguably – a bad frame.  Now I’m not actually sure myself it’s a 100% a bad frame – for instance some people seem to benefit from thinking of themselves as ‘ill’.  The charity I used to work for, Rethink Mental Illness, were criticised for using the term and explained that it

…puts mental health on a par with physical illness, which helps people who don’t know much about mental illness to understand how serious it is

Anyway, if this is a bad frame, I personally don’t think it’s used en masse to deliberately perpetuate “ideological justification for state-sponsored social control”  but more because – as Lakoff might suggest – we are surrounded by and immersed in metaphor, for things standing as other things. Sometimes the symbols fail us in one way, but succeed in others, and  it’s a matter of striking a balance. ‘Mental illness’ might be a controversial term but I would argue that it’s no ‘tax relief’ when it comes to who uses it and why they use it.

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Me and the Asda ‘mental patient’ advert

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This originally appeared on the Charity Comms blog in October 2013 when I was still working at Rethink Mental Illness as Digital Manager – I am now Digital Manager at Mind, the mental health charity.

Learnings from a Twitter storm

Asda’s ‘Mental Patient’ fancy dress costume controversy started as a flurry of tweets and morphed into a spirited fightback against the damaging impact of mental health stigma.

It showed that charity campaigns are no longer just dreamed up in meeting rooms and pushed out to the waiting general public. They can just happen, brought into existence by the audiences themselves in an amazingly exciting way.

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As a charity, we’re used to reacting quickly to emerging events. This often means connecting people with information and support online; we’ve also done things like live tweeting during potentially controversial mental health programmes. Then there are days when news of Asda’s stunningly insensitive Halloween outfit – comprising a torn, blood stained shirt, plastic meat cleaver and gory facemask labelled as a ‘Mental Patient Fancy Dress Costume’– hit the national headlines.

On the evening of 25 September we were preparing to release a report about the fact that thousands of people with mental illness are dying needlessly every year. It was called #LethalDiscrimination because of the way the issue is being overlooked – little did we know that mental health discrimination was going to dominate the news agenda in quite the way it did. After 10pm, our associate director of campaigns alerted me to the fact that a Halloween costume was being discussed on Twitter. “Everyone will be running away from you in fear in this mental patient fancy dress costume,” went the product description.

I was at the train station on my way home, hurriedly loading up the Asda webpage and tweeting as I went. One way of dealing with a breaking situation like this would be not to say anything until various colleagues are consulted. I suspect what stops some charities from engaging fully with social media is a fear of saying the wrong thing – an attitude that might suggest our role is primarily to lead supporters by taking careful steps forward.

Responding to our Twitter followers, I asked them to bear with us while we absorbed the news and asked Asda what was going on. Any fear of ‘saying the wrong thing’ was not applicable – our supporters wanted to know what was going on too.

We at Rethink Mental Illness, our mental health charity ally Mind and the Time to Change campaign we run together – all released statements and provided interviews to the press.

There were people who identified the anti-ASDA outcry as ‘political correctness gone mad’. This was quickly refuted by the spontaneous emergence of a #mentalpatient hashtag, which saw people with mental health issues sharing everyday pictures of themselves to make the point that ‘mental patients’ are, as Rethink Mental Illness chief executive Paul Jenkins said, “not a strange group of other people locked away at the fringe of society.”

Both Rethink Mental Illness and Mind retweeted the photos throughout the day – stigma confronted and confounded by the creativity of individuals. The consequences of stigma are nothing to dismiss: as Paul said, “the sense that others may fear you can be the last straw.”

We hoped to boost the grassroots campaign and inspire confidence with a #mentalpatient snap of our casually-dressed colleague Lizzie ‘photoshopped’ into the original ASDA product page. The Facebook post was our most successful ever, reaching 150,000 people and motivating yet more people to join in the #mentalpatient fun – and it was fun!

As the dust settled on Friday, we received an email from a creative agency referring to the previous day’s events, seemingly hoping to secure business from us. They talked about how they could help “educate our audience”, which struck me as an increasingly archaic attitude – especially in these circumstances. What we at Rethink Mental Illness are doing on social media is holding a conversation. We’re chatting with some of the most highly-qualified people in the whole of the mental health world – our ‘experts by experience’. Increasingly we’re finding that our role is to simply empower them and amplify their voices. What the Asda protest should demonstrate to any organisation – charity or otherwise – is just how inspiring and influential your audience can be.

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Brad Bird’s anecdote of Gower Champion, the theatre and film director of the 30s, who walked into a theatre to see the cast just standing around on the stage, the choreographer just sitting there in the second row with his head in his hands. Gower goes “What’s going on?” “I just don’t know what to do next”, the choreographer goes. Gower replies “Well do something, so we can change it!

Source

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‘The Bob Test’ for online donation

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Mark Lawson’s recent interview with Bob Geldof revealed that lessons about usability can come from nearly 30 years ago. When reminded of his infamous swearing on Live Aid in 1985 Bob says to Mark:

“I was complaining about the fact that, at the time the announcers, the DJs, were talking about writing in your cheque but that world had gone, and it was like ‘No, it needs to be more immediate, get on the phones'”

And then they played the clip which revealed that Bob didn’t say “Give us your f**king money” at all. When the DJ host said “We’re going to give the address first aren’t we?” He responds: “F**k the address, let’s get the numbers”.

He wasn’t frustrated about Live Aid donors not being motivated enough, he was swearing about the rubbish means of donation being offered to them…about usability!

It’s rare that the issue of charity donation is talked about so publicly and emotionally. A TED talk by Dan Pallotta was – rightly – shared a lot and applauded. His main emphasis was on the destructive tendency of seeing charities as needing to perform ‘efficiently’ at the expense of grand ambitions that can achieve huge outcomes and even change society.

It’s hard to imagine an  inspiring TED talk about ensuring online donation journeys are fast, focused and incessantly optimised. But what’s the point of big, hairy, ambitious fundraising goals if the user is left waiting for the page to load, or distracted by other links, or slapped with a massive interstitial Cookie warning?

Many charity websites have have superb  donation journeys. But some seem to act as if getting people to click on the Donate button is the objective, that getting us to want to give is enough. A bit like the short-sightedness of the DJ on Live Aid who shows a moving and inspiring film, then asks people to remember where the chequebook is,  go and hunt for an envelope and ask someone for a pen (instead of just reach over and pick up the phone).

Motivating people to donate is the art, but it’s nothing without the good ol’ boring craft of test, tweak, polish (repeat) – user-focused processes, which Bob Geldof might say are also deeply f**king important. Perhaps charities should run ‘The Bob Test’ – would the online donation process make him swear and, if so, how badly?

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Does your charity punch above its weight in digital? Check the PAW Score!

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PAW-cat

There’s a fair bit written about how charities can use digital to ‘punch above their weight’. But exactly who is doing it well at the moment? 

The PAW score is my name for comparing two charity performance indicators from Third Sector Research – the Charity Online Index and the Charity Brand Index. The raw data is freely available from Third Sector Research in the form of report previews.

I wanted to see how my charity (I’m currently Digital Communications Manager at Rethink Mental Illness) fared in terms of how we ‘punch above our weight’ – hence PAW – for digital performance, and thought that a simple comparison of the two indices would be interesting. And I think it is!

However, what it isn’t is perfect – it is *just* a comparison of two rankings from the same organisation, nothing more…(except an excuse to use a photo of a punchy kitten).

The full blog post contains the full data and lists, so I made it into a PDF – and you don’t have to give me your email address to get it :)

And here’s the Top 10!

 

Charity digital PAW score 2013 – TOP 10

Brand Rank-Online Rank

1 Wood Green Animal Shelters 90
2 Eden Project / Eden Trust 74
3 Sustrans 65
4 RAFBF / The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund 59
5 Rethink Mental Illness / National Schizophrenia Fellowship 55
6 MSF UK / Medecins sans Frontieres 41
7 ActionAid 40
8 Tearfund 39
9 The Children’s Trust 39
10 Girlguiding 38

Feel free to leave a comment – thanks!

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9 great things from the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath

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I love Chip and Dan Heath, as is noted elsewhere in this blog, so I hope that they won’t mind me pulling out a few tiny (ish) chunks from their change management book Switch for this piece. There’s some great stuff here but far more in the book itself so buy the book or get it from the library – it’s interesting and useful!
howtomakeaswitch
Extract from Switch by Chip and Dan Heath

1. The Elephant and the Rider

One overriding concept in Switch is to see people as having ‘an Elephant and a Rider’. This is the Heath’s way of splitting one’s emotional and quick to react persona from the logical and analytical one. For example, the Elephant goes charging off if alarmed, and sometimes the Rider struggles to control it. The model works pretty well – certainly the mental image is simple and sustains well across different applications. It’s certainly a bit more mentally sticky than Daniel Kanneman’s System 1 and System 2 for intuition and reasoning respectively (which seems to be a very similar duality to the Heaths’).

2. Bright spots

Bright spots are the glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel that the Heaths implore us to search for when surrounded by apparent dead-ends. Even a glimmer of light can lead to important, effective change. The Heaths relate the story of an aid worker addressing high infant mortality in a community. Just one or two families did not fit the pattern, and it turned out they fed their children in a different way to others – not hugely differently, but enough to make a crucial change. They latched onto this fact and spread a minor behaviour modification which saved childrens’ lives.

3. Knowing is not enough

As the Heaths say, if knowing equated to behaviour change, no doctor would smoke or drink too much. Enough said. We have, as they say, got to ‘find the feeling’. In a similar vein they talk about ‘TBU’

TBU—true but useless. It was paralyzing knowledge.

4. The Miracle Question

There’s a form of therapy described in the book that uses what is called ‘the miracle question’ – “While you are sleeping, a miracle happens and all the troubles that brought you here are resolved. When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first small sign you’d see that would make you think the problem is gone?” Note, this isn’t asking you to describe the ‘miracle’ itself but rather a tangible sign that it happened. At the very least this is an interesting approach in breaking down a ‘massive problem’ into something more bite-sized. Which leads me to….

5 .Their Dad

(Our dad, Fred Heath, who worked over thirty years for IBM, would tell his teams that when “milestones” seemed too distant, they should look for “inch pebbles.” Nice one, Dad.)

6. Destination postcard

In another Heath Bros book, Made to Stick there are some interesting case studies about the need to make strategic goals simple and singular (I quite like using JFK’s “sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade” as an example of clarity and ambition). In Switch the Heaths use a nice image for a smaller, near-to objective:

We want what we might call a destination postcard—a vivid picture from the near-term future that shows what could be possible.

7. Exposure effect

…which means that the more you’re exposed to something, the more you like it. For instance, when the Eiffel Tower was first erected, Parisians hated it. They thought it was a half-finished skeletal blight on their fair city, and they responded with a frenzy of protest.

8. The way that ‘designated drivers’ became a thing in the US

Brilliantly, it seems that having a ‘designated driver’ was created from nothing, simply by infiltrating TV.

Winsten and his team collaborated with producers, writers, and actors from more than 160 prime-time TV programs, sprinkling designated-driver moments naturally into the plots. Segments featuring designated drivers appeared on Hunter, The Cosby Show, Mr. Belvedere, and Who’s the Boss? On an episode of the smash-hit 1980s legal drama L.A. Law, the heart throb lawyer played by Harry Hamlin asked a bartender to call his designated driver. A designated-driver poster appeared in the bar on Cheers.

No-one had ever heard of designated drivers before this – and then people just assumed it was a thing, because it was on TV. Well, if people are going to be led by the media they passively consume at least this is for good (I’m going to stop there before I get all Chomsky…)

9. Identity instead of interest

I’m going to quote a big chunk here because (a) it’s really good (b) I’m not going to be able to paraphrase it that well and (c) I’m that kind of person…

“…when people make choices, they tend to rely on one of two basic models of decision making: the consequences model or the identity model. The consequences model is familiar to students of economics. It assumes that when we have a decision to make, we weigh the costs and benefits of our options

…In the identity model of decision making, we essentially ask ourselves three questions when we have a decision to make: Who am I? What kind of situation is this? What would someone like me do in this situation?

…Because identities are central to the way people make decisions, any change effort that violates someone’s identity is likely doomed to failure. (That’s why it’s so clumsy when people instinctively reach for “incentives” to change other people’s behavior.)”

There’s a great example in the book of how getting people to do a small, neighbourly, action (putting a ‘drive safely’ sign in the window of their house) makes them far more likely to accede to other socially conscious actions that have a bigger impact on their house (massive ‘drive safely’ billboards on their lawn!).*

* – Now at this point I can almost hear Robert Cialdini, author of Influence (another great book  which I plan to write about soon) protesting that this is a case of people wanting to to avoid appearing self-contradictory and therefore untrustworthy. That it is less about evoking a positive sense of identity than it is about triggering a negative one. Well, imaginary Robert Cialdini, you may well be right, but it’s still a great case study. And there’s one about parrots which is better.

Anyway, to find out about the parrots and more, buy the book – I promise you I’m not on any kind of commission, backsheesh, vigorish or cut, it’s just really good. 

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How to get Facebook Graph Search in UK, now

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Didn’t realise this until now – it was announced 3 weeks ago – but you can get the very cool (/disturbing) Graph Search in Facebook UK, with just a simple Settings change.

This is what Graph Search looks like:

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Here’s how to get it:

Click the little ‘down arrow’ menu to get Settings

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Then change your Language to US English.

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Done! Go to your Facebook homepage and see the new Graph Search.

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Why the Radio Times is hated by celebrities

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Jamie Oliver is not the first celebrity to get grief from being quoted in the Radio Times. The fact that his comments in that mag about people in poverty buying cheesy chips and big TVs (instead of fresh pasta with tomatoes and…a fun donkey?…like in the Mediterranean, and that) has forced him onto the white-heat of The One Show to defend himself. And if he’s pissed off at the Radio Times right now, he’s in good company. Here’s Clare Balding and Frances Barber chatting on Twitter:

And here’s an extract from this Digital Spy story about John Simm’s relationship with Doctor Who fans (I really love DS, even if they do feed off the quote-droppings from the Radio Times like glamorous, shiny, fun, gossipy shit-loving flies).

“It’s great to be into something, but for goodness’ sake, really? I’m not the Master, I’m not that evil Time Lord who rules the galaxy, I’m just in Tesco with my kids. Leave me alone!”

However, Simm has since taken to Twitter to claim that the Radio Times had “done a number” on him and that his quotes were taken “out of context”.

I haven’t done an interview for them for many years, because of this. Nasty, spiteful, trouble causing ‘Journalism’. I meant no disrespect — John Simm (@john_simm) May 28, 2013

Then there’s Gabby Logan, and a spat with Jeremy Irons – though Mr. Irons might be on dodgy ground, according to this piece in the Daily Mail:

The editor of Radio Times, Ben Preston, strongly refuted Mr Irons’ claim he had been misquoted.

He said: ‘I’m surprised Jeremy Irons claims he was misquoted by Radio Times. He first complained after we published the interview 18 months ago but after we sent him the full transcript and a tape of the interview we heard nothing more. Perhaps he’s confusing what he said and what he wished he’d said.’

Either way, clearly the Radio Times is picking up a bit of a reputation. How can it keep pissing celebs off like this? Perhaps because it’s the 4th biggest paid-for magazine in the UK and you can’t launch something onto a massive flat-screen TV without it. Pass the cheesy chips.

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Peter Barkworth

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IMG_3903A DVD arrived today and inspired this quickie post about an actor who is nowhere near appreciated enough…

Peter Barkworth is a British character actor who was fairly famous once, even getting a Radio Times cover with his series Telford’s Change in the 70s. His last appearance was in Stephen Fry’s film ‘Wilde’ in 1997 – but sadly he died in 2006. I discovered him thanks to a fellow Doctor Who fan showing me the Ice Warriors, which is now out on DVD (yes, that’s the one).

peter-barkworth-radio-times-coverConsidering Dr Who is sometimes (often?) populated with fairly insubstantial parts given half-baked performances, his work stood out as being unusually authentic and enjoyable for its own sake.

I then found that he also wrote a superb book called ‘About Acting‘ – simply a series of little tips and trick for actors, certainly not anything ‘method’ – and interesting even to non-theatricals. He taught at RADA, and the inheritance of Barkworth’s measured, careful style can be most clearly seen in one of his former students – Antony Hopkins.

However, the role that really sealed me in as a huge, evangelising fan was his turn as Professor Anderson in Tom Stoppard’s 1977 TV play, Professional Foul.

Professional Foul is a superb example of Tom Stoppard being expertly funny, clever and angry at the same time. And Barkworth is perfectly matched to the part – convincingly as intelligent as the character, and even the playwright himself.

Anyway, read more about Professional Foul, or just watch it here. You will be glad you did.

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Object Of Desire – Lytro Light Field Camera

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A camera that takes pictures you can completely refocus after taking them, whenever you want. Oh, and they’re a bit 3D too. Go and drool at the Lytro and read about how they are now available in the UK from £399.

Critics say:

“It’s hard to use, its display is terrible, and outside of a few particular situations its photos aren’t good enough to even be worth saving.”

I say:

But look at it! WANT ONE!

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