Bring out the big guns: Chris to the power of 2


When I first started playing with the notion of a “Blogging Dojo“ (and watch this space for more news on that soon), one of the things I did was to put out a blog post asking “Problogger…then who?”

If I’m being honest, I figured this would provoke a reasonable response. The question was genuine. I was interested to know what people thought. It wasn’t a post simply to hook folks in. Yet, apart from one or two Tweets in response the Comments fields stayed resolutely empty, and have remained so ever since.

So – some months later – I’m revisiting it again, and to a degree answering my own question…it’s time for me to bring out the big guns.

Two voices that are becoming increasingly part of my regular blog reading routine are Chris Brogan and Chris Garrett.  Each of their blogs are rammed with great content, with advice that reaches well beyond the  realm of blogging; good stuff for general business, good stuff for relational intelligence.

I’m glad too that Chris Brogan has such close links with the fabulous guys at Like Minds.

Chris to the power of 2 will not be new names to many folks who read johnnylaird.net , but if they are I strongly recommend you check them out.

I don’t think you will be disappointed.

HT to Like Minds for the Brogan pic, and Chrisg for the Garrett pic

Erwin McManus vid

…just throwing out this new vid from Mosaic’s Erwin McManus courtesy of Willow Creek Canada.

Erwin is one of the best communicators out there…

Crave Promo Video from Willow Creek Canada on Vimeo.

More on Erwin at johnnylaird.net

Thank you, Coupé Woman

One of my recent posts talks about taking the online offline.


I experienced another example of a seamless shift from a media point of connection – in this case the TV – to an actual physical point of connection this weekend.

Jan and I had been watching some breakfast TV on Saturday morning and in particular a piece featuring Marsha Coupé of Coupé Woman, a marketing & PR company specialising in Plus Size issues in the UK and US.

Marsha did her cause proud, and made a positive impression on us here at Casa Laird.

So, it was a pleasant surprise, within a mere few hours to see Marsha again; this time in the street in our neighbo(u)ring town. Janet had been particularly taken with Marsha’s positive and empowering message on TV earlier in the day, so made a point of stopping Marsha in the street to tell her so!

I don’t suggest everyone goes around stalking the folks you see on TV, but sometimes it is good to be an encouraging an affirming voice of support.


If you have that chance…take it.

Coupé Woman website
Marsha blogs at Lover’s Kitchen

HT to Marsha for the image

Guesting at Jonny Rose’s blog

If you’re a regular reader of johnnylaird.net, you may want to bounce over to top man Jonny Rose’s blog to check out a Guest Post of mine there…the first of his new series “I Blog On A Sunday”

…and while I’m into gratuitous self promotion, I was pleased to get a shout out from Kapil Apshankar in his post Social Media Success And The Law Of Non-Linearity” when he referenced my recent interview with uberblogger Mike Cliffe-Jones.

Grateful thanks to Jonny Kapil and Mike


Borderless Social Media

A few days ago, Gianpaulo Pietri of Simply Optimal posted his list of “Top 10 Best Cities for Bloggers.”

Now clearly, any list like this is going to be entirely objective, and subject to lots to challenges and observations, but it was interesting enough for me to share on my own Facebook profile.

In response, a Hong Kong based good friend of mine took the opportunity to share his opinion on Gianpaulo’s list, so I thought I’d pass that on to you here:

“SIMON D: This is so Anglo-centric (as in English language) it’s unbelievable. Fact is Chinese is the second most used language online and there are loads of bloggers north of the border (mine, not yours) but you just can’t access them (easily).

Time for you peeps over there to realise it’s all happening over here.

JOHNNY L: On one level you’re right, Mr D, but I wouldn’t be so hard on the guy. (…who speaks English, Spanish, French, Italian & German)

Sure, this post and most of the blogs mentioned start with a heavy English language bias, but the subsequent comments, and the other posts that no doubt will spin off from the initial one will spread the net (excuse the pun) wider.

Many bloggers are aware that things are going on big time in China, but in a blogging and broader Social Media world that feeds on itself through dialog, the English vs Chinese variants language barrier is going to be pretty huge and an obvious handicap. Add to that the Chinese Government’s attitude to open information and difficulties with the “low control” digital environment much of the rest of the world inhabits…and there’s a pretty big mountain to climb. Having said that; it will be climbed!

I do understand what you are saying though. I kinda expressed similar feelings here in a post called “Who are the truly global blogging voices?”

SIMON D: I think I’ve said before that one of the things I’m doing at work is looking at machine translation. Now if you’ve ever used the “translate” button on your browser you’ll see that the technology has a fair way to go but I can assure you, from someone in the translation industry, that it’s very quickly getting much better. “

What this does is open up non-English language posts/blogs/websites to anyone so the linguistic barrier you’re talking about isn’t as high as it seems.

With regards to China, well yes, the Great Firewall is obviously an issue but what you’ll find is the really interesting people know how to circumvent it so the posts are out there.”

This dialog now appears as a Comment on Simply Optimal. I’ll be interested to see if that stimulates further conversations.

With a weird sense of synchronicity, I also bumped into a fascinating site/blog called “Geeks On a Plane” via a Tweet from self described “US/Asia cross border biz dev guy ” , and Forbes Blogs contributor Ray Kwong.

Ray simply said “Giving it a gander: “Geeks on a Plane – Asia Tour 2010 – Episode 1.”
That was enough to pique my interest and send me to the vid shown here:

I’m not entirely sure about the HK Movie/Kung Fu or whatever intro, but this video is kinda fascinating.

Whilst my friend’s observation that some English language bloggers assume nothing else is happening in the blogosphere, I’m convinced that scenario is rapidly changing. Translation technology is – as he says – improving very quickly, and I believe there is also an air of change in the way we in the West are willing and able to engage beyond our usual cultural comfort zones.
Long may it continue!

More Geeks on a Plane stuff…

Are you a New Dork?

HT to Bernie J Mitchell for pointing me in the direction of this…

Well, are you?

Take the online offline

Janet and I travelled to the wonderfully picturesque little West Yorkshire Town of Hebden Bridge last week, principally to hook up with John Siddique, a massively talented online buddy of mine who I first got “talking” to after having enjoyed a piece he did on TV about famed English poet Ted Hughes & Celtic Shamanic Poetry”, and firing off a quick email to say I appreciated it.

John is an outstanding author and poet.

For me, that’s one of the wonderful things about the web, and more specifically Social Media; the chance to connect.

However, for all its digital aweseomesauce, the real magic happens when you take the online offline, and make the effort to meet with those new friends.

Much as I love it, all the good stuff you can share with your online community is magnified when you can kick back and spend time with those folks…drink a coffee together, share your stories, laugh together, bounce around your ideas and just share a little of your life space with a like mind.

So – John – thank you for taking the time to….take the online offline

London Social Diversity

I’ve posted before about Socially Diverse, a fascinating project from DC based PR Prescriptions’ James Walker.
Recently, James asked me a few questions about the Social Diversity found in London, and my responses are here.
There was one question that I couldn’t in all honesty answer with any authority at this stage.

James asked…

“How do you see the diversity that physically present in London represented online? Are there popular sites or niche communities where you have seen diverse groups gathering online?”

So, I’ve thrown out a few Tweets to explore the question.

Already I have to give a shout out to 2010 Black Weblog nominated IAMTHENUBLACK who have run with the ball a little, and connected me with some of the excellent sites that may provide some of the answers to James enquiry.

Who else out there can help me on this?

A few pointers:

• Who are the UK bloggers providing a forum for their own ethnic communities, or whose blog content focuses on their ethnic identity?

• Are there leading UK based bloggers out there who are really pushing the blogging medium in and of itself, who also happen to be Black, or Asian or British born Chinese…or from any or many ethnicities?

• Is there anyone in the UK who is blogging on diversity, or perhaps exploring the multiracial/mixed race experience in London?

• Broadening out from blogs, are there people exploring the same issues with other Social Media Tools?

You may also want to check out this little review about the book “Not Like Me” which appeared this week at Eric Bryant’s blog


Let’s get the conversation going!


HT to the Afropean Choir for the image

Barry Furby

In the short months since I became aware of Barry Furby, I’ve quickly become an admirer of his drive and entrepreneurial nous, as well as his genuine way of authentically valuing relationships  beyond the “what can you do for me” paradigm.

So, I’m glad Barry has been able to take the time to answer some questions and be the latest interviewee here at johnnylaird.net


Q: What made Barry Furby the man he is today…who were your early mentors and influencers?

Firstly Johnny, thanks for allowing me some time in the limelight of your blog, it looks like a great series of interviews and thoughts coming together here. What a challenging first question to kick us of…

In life, it has to be my family, my father and both grand fathers are/were great gentlemen, hard working, respectable and loving. Now that I have a family of my own (Oscar 16 months &  2nd son due in a matter of weeks), I make every effort to make the most of opportunities to provide for them, and develop my understanding of the world we live in to pass on to them.

In business, I’ve worked always worked so reactively and instinctively, it’s both a strength and weakness that I try to balance on an almost daily basis. In the last 2-3 years the biggest influencers have been the people I communicate with on a daily basis (Yourself, Shannon Boudjema, Adam Vincinzini, Bernie Mitchell, Scott Gould) and the places that they send me to read, this includes the Seth Godins, Chip & Dan Heaths, Stephen Bayleys and Roger Mavitys of the written world.

Q: Can you tell me something about the genesis of your current projects; the really early days when you moved from ideas and concepts towards something that started to become tangible.

I sat in soul-less sales offices for months leading up to going out on my own and setting up Fresh Resources and Social Media Monday, I was telling myself it wasn’t the right time (with a new born son and few spare pennies), then the penny dropped! If something begins to feel right or excite you then go and do it. I saw an opportunity to grow a business in an emerging market, and a community of likeminded individuals who I could learn from, be-friend and provide a valuable service to. Straight out the starting blocks the excitement had caught me, the learning curve began, and I haven’t looked back.

Q: My impression is that you are a guy who has come a long way pretty quickly. Is that the way you see it too, and if that’s the case how do you explain it?

The learning curve I mentioned, that’s not been far from vertical, but I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. I worked my trade for 4-5 years before I set up Fresh, so that element of setting up was actually less risky, I was confident in my ability to win contracts and secure talent for my clients. Social Media Monday in terms of the community and events, that was a new experience and something I’d never even looked at before. I saw the value in offline events, relationships often take on a stronger form when they’re built up with layers of communication, mutual value and handshakes. Events, Technology, Community and their impact on Business have really captured my attention and it’s something I’m definitely planning to take further.

Q: You have an incredible network of friends and associates. What kicked that off?

I’d like to think that making these relationships mutually beneficial are the reason that they’ve flourished, in a time where all of us are still learning about emerging tools, applying lessons learned and understanding the psychology of community applied to business we must make the work we do Win-Win-Win, that’s personally, emotionally and in business.

Q: What makes someone a good networker, and how do you deal with balancing authentic relationships with strong and successful commercial initiatives?

Hidden agendas, Broadcasting and Self promotion all #FAIL, I really believe that if you go into these relationships thinking how can I help that person then the rewards in return will be double, now I don’t mean that like giving xmas presents to get one in return, but Seth Godin says “if you make a difference, people will gravitate to you. they want to engage, to interact and to get you involved”, I’d be delighted if the work I do gets me anywhere close to this.

Q: We’ve talked about how things started off for you, so where are you now with Fresh Resources and Social Media Monday?

5th of August 2010, is Fresh Resources’ 1st Birthday, and the September Social Media Monday will be the 12th so we’re one year in on paper and it only feels like the beginning of the journey.

I’m working super hard with a few people in the SMMo community to help extend our community and family of events worldwide, that is truly exciting and there’s an announcement that goes with it that I can’t wait to get out… right now it’s one of those if i told you i’d have to shoot you moments… but it’s exciting and to a degree, a change of direction that will give us focus and help evolve everyone involved.

Fresh Resources I call the day job, and I’m delighted to have close relationships with leading businesses in the London Social Media space, and have been overwhelmed with a couple of kind references we’ve received for our work recently – really great news for the business – and post-baby, we’ll be ready to grow the company (and maybe come to London).

Q:  Who are the people working in your arena now that are inspiring you, and what is it that makes them stand out in a pretty crowded field?

I see myself as slightly detached from the space as I’m not a practising Marketer or Strategist, but a biz owner who uses the tools and facilitates a community and events. So it’s quite easy to step back see what’s going on without seeing people as competition. I feel at the moment there is an element of frustration in the social media industry, frustration with guru types, facebook page merchants and £99-499 a month bundle packages and I understand it, I’m a huge advocate of grown up intelligent marketing and an integrated approach that provides results for business, box ticking isn’t going to get far in a fast paced visible market where your work is accessible and the competition are so critical.

  • Scott and Drew are doing great work with Like Minds, I really like their approach, Gemma Went of Red Cube again has a grown up approach to the space, and we have something happening at our Social Collective conf which is inspired by Shannon Boudjema, Darika Ahrens and Paul Armstrong called #mapMAP a step back asking what’s broken in our advertising model and that’s going produce some really good conversation and a paper that highlights the points made – it should be a great take away.

Q: Could you have done the work you are doing today ten years ago?

Ha, at 16 or in the yr 2000? I think it would have been a very different experience, and certainly would have used different methods and technology. Actually maybe not, I guess it’s happening now because of my fascination with modern day and emerging technology, business and community, I’d like to be successful in trying to find a way for them to work together harmoniously through Fresh and SMMo.

Q: Any final thoughts to share…?

I’m excited about where this space, technology and family of communities will take us… It’s very much a period of learning for me and as I seem to learn best from doing so I look forward to looking back and sharing.

Thanks for spending some time with me.

The new voice of Afrocyberpunk

Earlier this year I blogged about a fresh young writer who was making waves as a writer in the cyberpunk genre. I’ve been keen to find out more about Jonathan Dotse and his Accra, Ghana-based work.

Recently I had the chance to work through some Q&As with Jonathan, and here are the results:

Q: Jonathan, What was it that first inspired you to write, and who are your biggest influences?

A: I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of virtual reality and how media can be used to transport the mind into another world. I began writing because it gave me the ability to create worlds that others could enter as if they had stepped right into my imagination and I showed them around. For that reason, most of my earliest attempts at fiction were interactive hyperlinked stories.

I owe many of my ideas to the ground-breaking work of countless writers and thinkers, so it’s hard to single out a few of them. My greatest single influence must surely be William Gibson, especially if the ripple effects of his work are taken into consideration.

Q: Can you tell us a little about what you are working on at the moment.
A: I’m working on a novel set in Accra, Ghana circa 2060 AD, at a time when clinical neuroscience has reverse-engineered the human brain and uncovered the inner workings of the mind. Two-thirds of the world’s population are implanted with biocores – organic computer interfaces between the brain and cyberspace which link billions of people worldwide to the Internet.

The novel explores the psychological consequences of mind altering technology through the interwoven stories of a data thief, a computer programmer, and a cyber crime investigator who are drawn inextricably into the heart of a dark conspiracy in one turbulent night on the streets of Accra.

Q: You’re pretty much at the beginning of your writing career. Given all of the changes in how writers are able to take their work to market in the 21st Century – in terms of self publishing, ebooks, blogging etc – do you have a particular route you want to explore getting your stories into the hands & heads of your readers?
A: Yes, I intend to make all my stories available online as direct-to-brain neural data downloads… No, I don’t have any brilliant publishing ideas, but I’m willing to explore a lot of the available options when the time comes.
Self-publishing is something I eventually want to try, but for now I need to gain some experience in the print industry, with their rigorous editors and marketing techniques and whatnot. I’m excited by all the possibilities, but I’m being also being careful to know exactly what I’m doing before I jump headfirst into anything.

Q: How is the timeline breaking down of this first Afrocyberpunk project? Do you have plans to publish?
A: I began writing this novel with nothing but the vaguest idea of a plot set in a futuristic North American city, saying to myself I would be done in two months, tops. One year and several plots later I’ve learned that I’m not exceptionally good at planning.

I currently expect to be done by the end of this year, but I keep my focus primarily on immediate issues in the development of the novel so that I spend as much of my time as possible making progress. When I have a completed manuscript I’ll be able to look to the horizon again and speculate as wildly as I like.

Q: Already your work has been highly praised by some the head honchos in the cyberpunk literary world. Can you tell us a little about that? Did that take you by surprise, and how has that positive attention made you feel about your future as a writer?
A: It’s been a surreal experience that on some levels I’m yet to fully acknowledge is truly happening. I was always confident that my ideas would receive a positive response, but I was completely unprepared for the scale of that response. The fact that it has all unfolded on the net only makes it more distant and easier to forget about for long stretches at a time. It may yet take me some time to get my head fully wrapped around the situation. Assuming this is all real and not some elaborate farce, I’ve definitely gained a great deal of confidence in myself and more than enough motivation to keep me grinding through the slow agony of writing a novel.

Q: If Accra is the setting for your current work, where do you think is the natural home of cyberpunk?
A: I think of cyberpunk as a condition that arises when fragments of a social system fail to adapt in a rapidly changing world; when governmental inefficiency and street Darwinism create a void big enough to hide a black market. Rather than having a home in the geographical sense, I expect cyberpunk to thrive in any place where technological advancement meets political stagnation.

On that basis, many parts of the developing world are ideal breeding grounds for cyberpunk, but it would be a stretch to say that this will remain the case indefinitely, particularly as these countries become developed. I also expect the arrival of new technologies to continually challenge the established systems, so I don’t think anywhere in the world is totally immune or automatically susceptible to cyberpunk.

Q: Can there be a life for your stories and characters beyond the written word…what I’m trying to say is, is there a movie tucked away in there somewhere?
A: My storytelling style has probably been influenced more by cinema than any literary genre and I’ve always felt that my writing could easily be translated to film. I actually think my novel is a great movie waiting to happen, but some might consider that a biased assessment, so in the end it’s not really my call to make. I do hope to see my stories end up as movies, comics, plays, or any other format. It’s ultimately my intention to produce work that transcends form and takes as many incarnations as possible, not to mention reaches as wide an audience as possible.

Q: Who are your writing peers?
A: I don’t particularly feel like I’ve accomplished enough to put me in the same peer group as any writers whose work I’m familiar with. It’s even more difficult considering I’m boxed in a rather curious intersection between several genres, but I do eventually hope to join the ranks of contemporary African sci-fi writers such as Nnedi Okorafor and Ivor Hartmann. As I haven’t published any fiction yet I still find it difficult to see myself as their peers.

Q: How do you envisage the future panning out for Jonathan Dotse?
A: I see quite a lot and in so much detail that I don’t really trust any of it, given my history with forecasting. I’m sure a lot will depend on what happens after the novel goes to print and on the chain of events after that. I very much like the 2060s Accra I’ve developed and plan to continue expanding it, whether in the form of short stories or a novel sequel. I can see myself working on some of my earlier hyperlink fiction projects which have waited long to be resurrected. I might find myself writing a complete interactive hyperlinked trilogy and a screenplay for the movie while I’m doing that. And it shouldn’t take more than a few months, tops.

I’m really excited about the quality of Jonathan Dotse’s work…no doubt a name to watch in the future.

Go here for the Afrocyberpunk blog

HT to Jonathan for the image

For more interviews on johnnylaird.net head here