There's been a game of blog tagging going on in my corner of the blogosphere of late. I was just about to start feeling a little left-out because no one had tagged me when Eric Peterson did so (back before Christmas, in fact). Since I'm now on a 9-hour flight to Seattle, this seems the perfect time to tell you five things about me that you might not have already gleaned from my blogging:
- Dyed-in-the-wool techie. There's no point denying it - I'm a techie at heart. This became clear to me when I was chatting with a colleague at MSN the other day; he'd explained to me that he'd come to MSN via Procter & Gamble and Amazon.com. When it was my turn to talk about my background, I got about half way through my tale about how the combination of Windows NT's multiple input queues and Windows 95's superior interface (despite our protests that it didn't support true multi-tasking) had finally sounded the death-knell for OS/2 (I was a pre-sales Engineer on the product in the early 90's; Microsoft was the Devil incarnate to me then) before I noticed that my colleague's eyes has glazed over and a line of drool had appeared at the corner of his mouth.
Other tricks I can perform in this vein are explaining why the integration of data and application logic in the Lotus Notes/Domino server is a brilliant but flawed idea (brilliant for its simplicity; flawed because it runs so counter to the way the whole of the rest of the world thinks about client-server application development), and how the product's CORBA-based Java API really, really sucked. You really want to sit next to me at a dinner party.
- Marketing luvvie. Or a marketing lover, at least. Marketing communications - particularly words (spoken or written), branding and design - holds a fascination for me, which is why for most of my tenure at WebAbacus/Foviance I held the title of Marketing Director (even though I also headed up product development). There's nothing (well, maybe nothing - see above) which gives me more pleasure than a well-turned piece of ad copy, or a nicely designed logo. I led the rebranding task for Foviance (though I have to say that the name wasn't my first choice) following the merger of WebAbacus and The Usability Company, involving many deeply pleasurable hours at the chi-chi offices of Firedog in Soho (London) looking at logo designs and ruminating about the relative merits of orange and green. My wife finds it astonishing that I can fidget my way through the first half of a TV programme only to become riveted to the screen when the ads come on.
- Sleeping partner (with bouts of insomnia). A few years ago, in the wake of the dotcom bust and in that uncertain period when you've decided you want to have a child but haven't succeeded in creating one yet, my wife decided to start her own business. Mirrormirror sells lovely luxurious items for women - candles, cushions, jewellery, things for the kitchen - and has just had its third successful Christmas (sales are up about 70% on last year). My role in mirrormirror is as the banker - but I also get involved in various marketing activities (see 2 above) and bits and pieces of site design (see 1).
My wife maintains an interesting blog about the business and her life as mother-cum-entrepreneur, which has had a truly remarkable effect, causing the main site's natural search rankings to go through the roof (nothing like fresh content to get the Googlebot excited) as well as locating the incomparable Helen who is running the UK end of the business now that we're in the US.
Much as I might grumble about the impositions that mirrormirror makes on my free time, it's an invaluable source of insight into the world of (very) small business marketing. Our marketing budget is just a few hundred pounds a month; experimentation is still very costly (as we've discovered on more than one occasion when we spend 500 quid on an ad which generates no revenue). Coupled with my WebAbacus experience, I like to think it gives me a bit of an edge over some of my colleagues who've been in large organizations all their lives.
- Operatic tenor. Sounds good, doesn't it? I've been a sort of semi-professional singer for the past 15 years; most of that has been tarting myself round various London churches who have professional choirs and filling in (known as 'depping') when the regular choir members can't be there (which is more often than you'd imagine). Sadly, this line of work has tailed off dramatically since the arrival of my daughter a couple of years ago.
The operatic bit comes in because I've also sung in a number of amateur opera productions in the UK, the most notable of which was in a performance of Madame Butterfly (as Goro, sadly, not Pinkerton) at the fabulous Minack Theatre in Cornwall. By some not very great coincidence, the chap who sang Pinkerton - Neil Jordan - is also a Microsoftie, and has also relocated recently to Seattle from the UK. Watch out for the cheese, wine and opera parties to come, Seattleites... :-/
- Desperate dad. An appalling cliche, I know, but I am father to a 2-year-old girl, Lulu (she's currently sitting next to me leafing through her copy of the "Fun with Spot" sticker book, narrating each page, when she should be obediently sleeping). She is a constant surprise and delight to me, as well as being more work than I thought humanly possible. Her favourite things are her black and white stuffed cat, Jessie, counting, colours, and the Space Needle.
Hope those tidbits are of some interest. I'll be passing on the tag in the next couple of days; I'll add links to the bottom of this post to my taggees when they've posted!