Monthly Archives: February 2010

What’s That Coming Over The Hill? It’s Ski Cross!

This fantastic new sport is wowing crowds at the Winter Olympics in Whistler where many of us are seeing it for the first time. It’s a combative blend of boarding, down hill skiing and bizarrely, Motocross. The results are fast moving and highly entertaining.

What happens is this:-

Four skiers set off together from gated traps at the top of the course. They encounter a range of obstacles on the way down, from the double set of vertical snow walls called Wu Tangs (after the band apparently), to the high banked curves and huge jumps. They battle it out all the way down, looking for places to pass with inevitable crashes. The top two go through to the next round.

It’s brilliant to watch and very exciting. From one camera angle you see them come flying over the hill like the Banana Splits.

So why the buzz?

Well it’s totally hard core, mad and chaotic. It requires strength, skill and a lot of bottle. But I think the main thing is the human interaction. Why have one person barrelling down a hill on skis when you can have four?

It’s easy to see who has won and you don’t have to keep tabs on complicated times and leader boards and they wear coloured bibs for easy identification.

But it is dangerous. You are never far away from a spectacular crash which can result in serious injury. One skier said taking the jumps felt like crashing out of a second floor window. Not surprisingly some professional skiers won’t touch it saying it’s too dangerous.

For them, Ski Cross should remain what it clearly is, an Extreme Sport.

Have you got the Ski Cross bug or do you think it is just too dangerous?

Social Networking phobia-something else to worry about.

I would like to welcome Internet Psychologist Graham Jones to my blog today. As you may know I don’t think we can afford to ignore psychology and the impact it has on how we communicate -I blogged about it here – not so long ago.

Graham has some ideas on why we might be reluctant to get stuck into social media like Twitter. Here is his piece:-

Some individuals are so frightened of meeting other people they become reclusive. They don’t venture out of the house and even answering the phone creates enormous feelings of unease. These people have social phobia, a condition that has only been recognised for the past 25 years or so.

Thankfully, there are treatments – from counselling to drugs and even surgery. Depression is often associated with social phobia, so treating this can often make people more willing to accept contact with other human beings. Even so, for the people who have social phobia, life can be a struggle.

You would have thought the Internet would help. After all, social phobics can lock themselves away at home, but still do all their shopping without ever having to go out of the house or see another person. Sounds like bliss for the person who is seeking isolation.

However, the way the web is working these days is increasingly social. Interaction online is fast becoming “the norm”. Interestingly, though, that is leading to an improvement for the true social phobic individual. Therapists are beginning to use the Internet to help treat people with social anxieties of all kinds. Using social networking sites in a controlled way, under supervision from a counsellor, means that people can gradually interact and they discover that encountering others is not the giant problem they thought it would be.

The issue, however, is that a new problem is arising – what you might call “social networking phobia”. This is where people develop all sorts of fears and concerns about social networking – often without foundation, based on rumour and speculation more than anything else.

For instance, some people believe that they might “do something wrong”. This is a typical concern with any technology and often holds people back. Assuming that they “might break it” or that they won’t be able to “undo” any errors, is what prevents many people from using social networks.

There is also the worry that having typed something on a social network it is “there forever” and if you make a comment in haste, you won’t be able to retrieve it and thereby save your reputation. So, the theory goes, it is best not to take part.

Equally, there are endless stories in the media about how “bad” social networking is. Recently, headlines screamed that “Facebook causes cancer”,  “Children exposed to pornography, prostitution and drugs on Twitter” and “Sex offenders booted off MySpace”. These headlines alone are surely enough to put off anyone with doubts about social networking.

As more and more people use Facebook –there are now 400m users – so too is there an increase in concern and anxiety about social networking. Larger numbers of people are avoiding social networks, or leaving them because of worries and anxiety about using them.

It all boils down to one simple psychological requirement – control. We have an inbuilt and desperate need to be in control of everything we do. That’s why we get frustrated at work with bosses who want to dominate and control us. It’s why many of us don’t like flying, because we have given up control to someone else.

On the Internet, if it is our own website, we are in charge. But if we accept comments, we are relinquishing some of that control. Equally, if we sign up to Facebook and start connecting with our friends, we allow them to say what they want about us – in public. We have lost control.

So how can you regain control, yet still take part in the social web, avoiding anxiety about what’s going on with the Internet these days?

There are three things you need to do:

  1. Take part: If you are not involved in social networks, other people can still talk about you and your work. It’s rather like your friends talking “behind your back” down the pub. If you are not there to defend yourself, they can make up all sorts of nonsense. You need to be involved.
  2. Blog: Having your own blog means you can start to dominate the web. The more you produce material about you, your work and so on, the more the search engines will favour your material over the rubbish other people produce about you. Their negative material will plummet down the search engine rankings once you become a regular blogger.
  3. Monitor: Use tools such as Google Alerts to get updates on every mention that is made about you on the Internet. You can then see what was said and whether or not you need to respond.

There is also a spin-off bonus in this strategy; you will discover that you cannot break things. You might make the odd mistake here and there, but your increased use of online technology will help you understand that you can remove errors. You will also realise that Facebook does not cause cancer and that it is populated by genuine, nice, happy, positive people who are “on your side”. True, there is the oddball around, but that’s the same for your office, your street and the local shopping centre. Don’t worry about it.

And remember, if people with true social phobia are being treated with online social networking, then those anxieties the rest of us have about using the social web can’t be that difficult to overcome.

Lucy says “Thanks Graham. Take a look at his useful website or contact him using the links below and see what I had to say when I guest posted on his site here.




Tiger Woods and the Lifecycle of a Sports Star

The thrill of sporting success was ours for a moment there, when Amy Williams won gold for the UK at the Winter Olympics.

It was a time to feel proud that despite no proper facilities and a spindly sledge, a gifted amateur could cross over to the big time and bring home the first individual Olympic Gold for 30 years. Hurray !

But what a contrast over at the other end of the sporting life-cycle. There was Tiger Woods on a podium pleading for his career, or that’s what it felt like.  Cowed and broken he apologised in as many ways as his publicists could think of, with hand on heart -Tony Blair style-  for emphasis.

Was it so long ago that we were hailing Tiger Woods for his amazing achievements? The world number one who broke through the race barrier and gave hope to millions of mixed race and coloured kids. Yes you too can play golf (if that is what you really want to do.)

One of the facts that comes up about Tiger Woods and his career is that he has amassed the biggest earnings of any player in PGA tour  history.

Which of course is the problem.

Unlimited cash, unlimited opportunities to get up to no good and hang the carefully crafted image of a family man.

Amy Williams has broken down no barriers to civil rights, facts about her come more homespun.  She likes to make tiaras in her spare time. Her nickname is CurlyWurly.  She calls her skeleton sledge “Arthur”. (So far we have no details on Tiger’s pet names but please lets not go there.)

She is at the stage in her career where we are getting to know her and would rather hear about her cutesy side than about her ambition and undoubted steely determination.

Amy is no doubt being lined up for a big future. Agents, sponsors, I get the idea all would be welcome to allow her to carry on training and winning medals. And goodness she deserves it !

At the other end of the sporting spectrum Tiger Woods vows to respect golf (perhaps respecting women might have been a better idea ?) and the money men crank up the clamour for his return.

We Deserve More Than Valentines Day.

I took time out this week to see a couple of movies. What a contrast !

One was a derivative shmaltz fest, the other a nuanced exploration of modern love and business morals.

You can guess which one was “Valentines Day” ? The other was “Up in the Air” with George Clooney.

While one is mass market and from the director of Pretty Woman and the other is verging on the art house, I don’t see why movie making for a big audience should lower the quality by so much.

Valentine’s Day has multiple story lines and takes place over a single day in LA, much like Robert Altman’s excellent Short Cuts. There are nods to that film  but the magic fails to rub off. Many stories doesn’t make it complex.

Up in the Air on the other hand sticks to a more linear story-line but is full of  complexity. The George Clooney character runs away from love and meaningful human relationships choosing to spend his time in airplanes.

Yet he knows that his work , which is basically flying in to offices to fire the staff, requires humanity. When they try to replace him with a computer he fights for the right to be there in person.

Clooney finally  experiences an epiphany about his personal life only to find that it’s too late.

Love in all its complexity is right there in this movie, although this is no romance, rather a hard-edged look at the real America. Not the America of flower shops and candy but corporate America with its  grey office spaces, business conferences and threat of  unemployment.

Sorry to have such a downer on all that pink candyfloss but at it’s centre Valentine’s day lacked an essential ingredient that Up in the Air possessed, heart.

10 News Stories You Couldn’t Make Up

The new quiz show “The Bubble” is based on the You Couldn’t Make It Up school of journalism.

Celebrity comedians and commentator types are denied access to all media for three days before being brought to the studio and quizzed on the weeks’ news. Can they tell the difference between real news and stories that are just plain made up?

Will it highlight in a hilarious satirical fashion just how far fetched the news agenda has become or has it always been this way?

With this in mind I have scraped together 10 real life news stories that you just couldn’t make up:

1. October 2009 TV networks in the US broadcast live footage of a run away balloon feared to contain a six-year-old boy. The parents later admit it’s a hoax linked to their plans to land their own reality television show.

2. July 2008 serial celebrity mum Angelina Jolie has twins taking the total to six.

3. Anti-corruption officials in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu find a way to stop airport workers taking bribes. They issue them with pocketless trousers.

4. A man in Sudan is forced to marry a goat after being caught behaving inappropriately with it. Despite  first being reported in 2006 this story quite literally refuses to go away and is viewed regularly on the BBC news website.

5. A Welsh language road sign goes up in Swansea without being checked over by a Welsh speaker. It reads, “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated”.

6. Labour MP David Wright becomes embroiled in “Tweetgate” after appearing to describe the Tory Party as “scum-sucking pigs”. He suggests the tweet was doctored by someone hacking into his account and apologises.

7. There are reports from Newsham, North Yorkshire that a pheasant is terrorizing a village – trapping people in their homes and attacking residents in the street. The vicious bird is said to have launched several unprovoked attacks on men, women, children, prams, bikes, dogs and cars.…treet.html

8. It is reported that a school pupil who wrote only the ‘f’ word on an exam paper is awarded points for trying.

9. BBC presenter Ray Gosling is questioned by police over a TV confession that he killed his former lover by smothering him.

10. It is whispered that government departments have been squabbling over who has the right to promote the idea that choirs are good for your health.

Do you have any news stories you “Couldn’t Make Up ?”

Psychology,you can’t afford to ignore it.

“All economics is Psychology” says Chris Anderson in his book  Free the future of a radical price.

I would go further and say pretty much everything comes down to psychology.

It is so basic it should be taught in schools.

The way we feel when we act is key to everything from making a purchase, learning a skill, disciplining our children or getting on with our partners. It is incredibly powerful and can even dominate things we know to be absolute.

Take for example 2+2. We know that this equals 4 and always will do. But as  children  we may repeat the sum over and over again on our fingers because we have not yet developed the confidence that it will always be the same.

When you are confident of an outcome you can comfortably take things to the next level. Once I am confident that I won’t drown in the swimming pool I am able to learn the techniques I need to swim with a stylish stroke.

Once I am confident that the Italian café provides me with superb coffee everyday I  might try it out for lunch.

As a  swimming teacher or café owner, knowing how my customer feels can help me enormously in providing them with the skills and services they want. I need to use basic psychology to judge when they are ready to go to the next level with me and then lead them there. Can you see how this might help in other areas of your life ?

It’s not just in confidence-building that psychology plays such an important role, although I challenge you to think of any job that does not involve the transfer of confidence from you to the client.

Take the psychology of price. Charge too much and your client feels ripped off. Charge too little and your client thinks you’re no good.

What about the amazing effects of just being heard ?

Life coaches, hypnotists even doctors perform a common basic function; listening to their patients. Some damaged individuals who get little attention in life,become addicted to hospital visits because people hear them and pay them attention. Children in small classes flourish because, for once, they can be heard.

Popular psychology was once a big deal in the business world and has fallen somewhat out of favour. Now we hear a lot about Trust and Community and building Relationships. But at bottom, they are all versions of the same thing; building confidence and the desire to be heard.

Would You Pay For Exclusive Access To Online Expertise ?

There’s a row going on and I’ve got stuck in !

It goes like this:

Would you pay for exclusive access to online expertise ?


Would you pay for exclusive online expertise from those who you thought espoused the philosophy of giving away free tips, in order to create trust, which is then rewarded down the line as goodwill builds and  reputation increases ?

Probably not.

There is a new paid for community called The Third Tribe and I didn’t think I had a problem with it until I got involved in a discussion about it at Altitude Branding

The people behind The Third Tribe are social media and blogging superheros like Chris Brogan and Darren Rowse from Problogger who have undoubtedly helped many, many people with their free advice.

As far as I can see it the Third Tribe is about monetizing their kudos. It’s a half way house between the marketing of old in which selling was of the hard  variety and the  philosophy which is at the heart of social media; sharing freely with an open group. This new set-up is a paid for online community, with exclusive access to movers and shakers.

I certainly don’t disagree with charging for expertise. Everyone offering a service has to make a living. I trained for a post-graduate diploma in journalism and then spent 15 years at the BBC learning the craft of communication. That is not knowledge which should be thrown away.

I work hard at blogging three times a week and read everything I can on the subject so I can help people who are going on the same trip. I want to be paid for that and no one would argue that so should the blogging ‘stars’ – they should obviously be commanding  the top rates.

But sharing knowledge online, posting on forums and using Twitter to connect with really interesting people should not become an exclusive event. I don’t want to see the velvet ropes go up. If the top thinkers are at the private after-party aren’t we all just a little bit worse off ?

What do you think ?

(By the way, this is an important debate and I don’t think anyone, whatever position they choose to take should be labelled whinger or whiner. Just thinker.)