This week at the Boagworld Meetup, we discuss remote working, finding meaning in our job and the terror of preparing a presentation.
About This Season
Meetups and conferences are great for making industry connections and getting support from peers in the community. However, attendance isn’t always easy. It can be expensive, and it’s hard to find the time.
That is why on this season of the Boagworld Show we are holding virtual meetups, where we will have drop-in guests, group discussion and audience participation, all recorded live.Why Not Join Us?
- What Is Customer Journey Mapping and How to Start?
- Sales Funnel: How to Build an Effective User-Centric Funnel
- They Shoot Browsers, Don’t They?
- Express VPN
Paul Boag: This week on the Boag World meetup, we discuss remote working, finding meaning in your job and the terror of preparing a presentation. This episode of the Boag World Show is sponsored by Frontify and Adskills.
Paul Boag: Hello and welcome to the Boag World Show. This season of the show is a series of virtual meetups of web professionals, well professionals in the loosest sense of the word, recorded live in front of a studio audience, well, not really a studio audience and-
Marcus L: In front of the people who are attending, Paul.
Paul Boag: Yeah. And with drop in guests. However, this week, as always, as you’ve already heard is Marcus Lillington as always joining me, he’s always, he’s a consistent in it all. Hello, Marcus.
Marcus L: Yes. I’m a constant even, maybe.
Paul Boag: Yes.
Marcus L: Although I quite like being a consistent. It’s like your own band member. Paul Boag and the Consistents.
Paul Boag: Yeah, no that works. Yep, definitely. Definitely I’m good for that. So, yes, just let’s explain the premise of this season. Essentially we’re going to try and recreate the idea of a meetup, right? Because that’s the one thing I love about the web industry, especially in the past, is that … well, it’s true today actually. There are so many meetups and there are so many conferences and people come together and they share their problems, they have a good old moan about clients and we just hang out together and spend a bit of time together.
Paul Boag: But, I know it’s not always easy for people to go to these things. Many people, as Katie has already said, live in the middle of nowhere, like I do myself. Or, alternatively, you might not know of meetups in your area. Conferences can be expensive. So, I thought, well, let’s try and create a little meetup where we could get everybody together and we could talk. Christian Heilmann’s in the room as well.
Marcus L: I know, wow. Royalty’s arrived. Jeremy and Chris.
Paul Boag: Well, yeah. Are they not like us that they’re secretly the has-been’s that had their moment and then the crown was passed on to other people. I don’t know.
Marcus L: Other people, we don’t even know who they are any more.
Paul Boag: So, Andrew wants to know whether we’re going to be paying for virtual drinks. There is a bar open that you can find at your local off-license and you can buy your own drinks.
Marcus L: I should have tea today because I’m not feeling very well. I’ve been not feeling-
Paul Boag: Oh, you’re always not feeling very well.
Marcus L: No, no. You’re always not feeling very well, Mr. Boag. And I’m normally fine but I’ve had cold since the middle of December and I thought it had gone away for about a week and it came back yesterday evening. And I’m really, ugh.
Paul Boag: Wow.
Marcus L: So if I start … Oh, thank you Michelle. At least someone’s being sympathetic.
Paul Boag: Yeah well, whatever. We don’t really care about that. So the idea is that in the room you can chat as much as you want to. Introduce yourselves to one another, that kind of stuff. We’re also going to get you on the show, as much as possible, as many people as we can. But one bit of housekeeping before we go. If you want to know when we’re recording these live, if you’re listening to the recording of this rather than the live event and you want to know when they’re happening, you can go to subscribe.boagworld.com/community. That will let you sign up and get notifications, which is why we’ve got so many people in today, which is good.
Paul Boag: Shall we get somebody on the show? Who shall we get on first, Marcus? You pick.
Marcus L: It’s got to be Jeremy.
Paul Boag: It’s got to be Jeremy. All right, let me invite Jeremy, I’ve got-
Marcus L: Get someone with a bit of class on to start it off because it’ll only go downhill from then onwards, no doubt.
Paul Boag: Are you saying that Jeremy is the classiest guy we have in the room? Is that what we’re saying now?
Marcus L: He’s probably the most experienced, there you go.
Paul Boag: He’s the grayest, probably.
Marcus L: Oh, I don’t know. Look at me.
Paul Boag: Oh, I don’t know, Jeremy looks pretty gray. Hello Jeremy.
Jeremy Keith: Hello Paul. Hello Marcus.
Marcus L: We can compare our grayness.
Jeremy Keith: Yeah, I think I might have you beat Marcus.
Paul Boag: There was one conference I saw advertised on Twitter and it was a series of pictures and Jeremy was one of the speakers. It was actually, Jeremy was the only man. There was a line up of female speakers. I nearly tweeted, I resisted the temptation to tweet, “It’s good see that ghosts are being represented in diversity line ups,” because he just looked so pale in the photograph that it just really made me giggle. I’m sorry Jeremy, I haven’t spoken to you for ages and now I’m just being rude to you.
Jeremy Keith: I am very pale. I mean, I’m Irish, what do you expect? So now the hair matches the skin.
Paul Boag: Yeah. So how are you? What are you up to these days?
Jeremy Keith: I am very well, thank you. I’m currently chatting to you.
Paul Boag: See, that’s useless, isn’t it? That’s what I’ve come to expect. Is that the Clearleft offices you’re in?
Jeremy Keith: Yes, yes. I’m in the Clearleft studio, at my desk. I might have to shoot off for a meeting in a while, but yeah, it’s a fairly quiet day here today. Some people in, working away.
Paul Boag: So what kind of work are you doing these days, because you don’t seem to be speaking at conferences quite as much as you were at one stage, or am I imagining that? Just, you don’t go on about it as much.
Jeremy Keith: You might be imagining it. It was a fairly busy year in 2019 and I do have some things lined up for 2020. In fact, that’s what I’m currently working on. I’m using this time while it’s quiet at the beginning of the year to try and get a new talk together.
Paul Boag: So what you going to be talking on? Give us a preview of what your in subject is at the moment.
Jeremy Keith: Well, currently I’m scribbling things down onto paper because that’s how it all starts and I’m not sure yet what the subject will be. So, here’s the thing. So while I’m preparing this, I’m committed to speak at An Event Apart, later in the year. And last year at An Event Apart, I was given a more clear brief by Jeffrey and Eric, it was, “You should talk about service workers. You’ve written a book about service workers going off line, do the talk on the book. It’ll be a code talk, right? Practical things.” I was, “Okay, I’ll give it a go,” and did it and turned out well and got good feedback, and it was all fine. But, it’s not really what I do, the practical stuff you can actually take back to work and use in your every day job. I prefer doing the pretentious philosophical high highfalutin stuff.
Marcus L: That’s what we all know you for Jeremy.
Jeremy Keith: Indeed, exactly. I feel like that’s where my heart really lies. So, at the moment, I’m not tied to this but I’m looking at a fairly pretentious highfalutin topic. Well, here’s my codename title so far, it’s called, Assumption Junction and that the talk would be about assumptions. Obviously, in the world of front end, there’s plenty to talk about there in terms of the assumptions we make about peoples devices, their browsers, their network speeds, all of that. Obviously I’d be talking about progressive enhancement without actually using the words progressive enhancement. I’d be talking about accessibility without necessarily mentioning accessibility. It’s the web.
Jeremy Keith: But that topic of assumptions is something that would also potentially cover things like research and UX and any areas where part of your job is to uncover the assumptions and question assumptions and turn assumptions into hypotheses and test them. So, it’s all very vague right now but you asked.
Paul Boag: It sounds in danger of being quite practical minded, I’m sorry Jeremy but actually that’s good advice [crosstalk 00:08:40]
Jeremy Keith: Well, you can get good advice that’s on the level of, “Oh, now I’m going to think about something differently.” You’ve received good advice and now you’re going to see things in a different way. You’re going to observe interactions or things differently. And that tends to be the stuff to and that’s different to the practical advice as in, download this tool or use this code or whatever. Do things in this particular way. That’s practical, or more useful in the short term and I tend to not give that useful practical advice. I give the more big picture practical. Can something be big picture and practical? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?
Paul Boag: Is it not … I think it’s the difference between, my attitude is, tools come and go. Frameworks, whatever. But the underlying mindset is a fairly consistent thing. I think the more you progress in your career, the more you move past worrying about whether you’re using X platform or Y platform or the latest design trend or whatever else. It becomes more about how you think about things and how you problem solve. So it is practical, but in a more intellectual way.
Jeremy Keith: Yeah, and that’s very much where I come from. Now, having said that, with An Event Apart specifically, I can’t really get up on stage and only give the big picture stuff. They do an hour long talk so I can’t stand there for an hour and talk about big picture philosophical stuff. People have paid money. They need something that they can take home and use in the short-term as well as the long-term. So that’s also the challenge of putting the talk together is, where do I fit the practical stuff in with the big picture stuff?
Jeremy Keith: It’s like, if you look back at some of the talks I’ve been giving in recent years, I found they’ve evolved a structure where they tend to start big picture and high level. They might, in the middle, dive down into some practical stuff and then come back out there and finish big picture and high level. And the trick then is make it all working and a narrative structure that sounds cohesive and doesn’t just sound like, here’s a three part talk, you know, big picture, practical picture. That’s the challenge.
Paul Boag: So Ben … I’ll let you go in a minute because you were just dropping in so I don’t want to take too much time, but Ben in the chat room was saying he’s always fascinated by how people prepare their talks, and I agree with him. How do you go about doing your talks? So you’ve got this bit of paper in front of you at the moment, then what happens?
Jeremy Keith: Right, so I actually blogged this. I’ll see if I can fish out the blog post and I’ll post it into the chat.
Paul Boag: Oh good.
Jeremy Keith: I will point out there’s what I say I do and the advice I give to other people when they’re preparing talks, and then there’s the reality of what I actually do. But I will describe the theoretical approach I take. So yes, I’ve got an A3 sheet of paper in front of me and a pen. Where it all starts is, let’s call it a mind map, although that’s a very highfalutin term for these scribbles on a piece of paper. Point is here is, you’ve got ideas in your head, you don’t know if they’ll connect. Not everything will survive to the final talk, but the point is, they’re all in your head and that’s not good. So you need to get them out of your head and down onto something.
Jeremy Keith: Now, I used to do was I’d open up a text file and I’d dump all my ideas in there and I would tell myself, they’re in no particular order. But because it’s a text file, it reads top to bottom. They’re automatically in an order. So by taking a nice big sheet of paper, it adds an extra dimension and you can literally have disconnected things. They’re just scattered all over the place. Now these things are down onto the paper you can start to maybe draw connections, or not. It might be too soon to do that.
Jeremy Keith: The next level is usually maybe grouping things, categorizing them. So for instance, in this case, I realize I’ve got design principles potentially in here. Okay, what can be categorized under design principles? Or maybe I’ve got practical take aways. It doesn’t matter what the categories are, but you get them down into something, maybe Post-it Notes. Maybe bits of card where you’ve got some kind of short hand that you understand what it means. That could be one single word, it could be a phrase, it could be a doodle. It doesn’t matter. It only needs to make sense to you.
Jeremy Keith: Now you’ve got all these bits, Post-it Notes, scraps, you can set yourself the task of expanding on each scrap. So maybe each scrap is going to be a couple of sentences. Just what do you mean by this doodle, what do you mean by this scrap, to write down a few sentences. Again, this could be pen on paper. This could now, at this point, be files on a computer, text files. But you’re building up a tool box of all these paragraphs of things that might end up in the talk or might not.
Jeremy Keith: The nice thing about doing it this way is that you’ve, at this point, you’ve broken down this overwhelming task that was crippling you, which was, I have to prepare a talk, into lots of tiny little things which is, well, actually, by the end of today I want to have expanded three of these Post-it Notes into a few paragraphs or some paragraphs. So that’s nice. It stops you panicking about the big picture thing and you can just focus on the little things. And then when you’ve got this collection of scraps of paper, textiles, whatever, now you can start thinking about arranging them. You start to get into the structural part.
Jeremy Keith: The nice thing here is that you could have multiple approaches. You could say, “Okay, I’ll take the obvious one, which is, I’ll do a chronological order of these things, see how that works.” Maybe that works, fine. Or, you try and do something interesting. I ran a workshop on narrative structure where I gave people cards, where they got a random card with something like, flashback, on it. And it said, “You must find the high point of the action and begin with that and then work your way back to explain how you ended up there.” So, point is, that’s structure and it’s now separate from the material. So you can have the same material and try different structures. So yeah, that’s pretty good, that’s all good. And if it doesn’t work, you’re not back to square one. You’re back to square three or four maybe, but you don’t go all the way back to the drawing board.
Jeremy Keith: And then when you find a structure you think is working, then you can start to go into higher fidelity and that would be, getting into the territory of a slide deck and actually designing things. At that point now you’re into a completely separate part of the process, which is the prep. The actually polishing of slides, practicing the presentation, all of that. So I like to break them down. It’s gone through three phases, I guess, the raw materials, what the subject matter is and organizing that in some way. Well actually no, the second part is the organizing. The second part is the narrative structure. You’ve got your raw materials. How are they going to connect together? How do they flow? It’s a very challenging part. And then the third part is presentation. How will you actually say these things?
Jeremy Keith: I think it’s good to have those separate, so you’re not trying to juggle those three things at once like, “Ah, this presentation part isn’t working, and also this narrative structure’s not quite right and I’m not even sure this is what I want to be saying.” These are three things that, like, solve one problem, then solve the other, then solve the third one is the theoretical way I prepare talks. Now, the actual …
Paul Boag: I was going to say, because at that point you were making me feel quite inadequate, that that’s so logical and so thought through and I’m going, “I don’t do it like that.”
Jeremy Keith: I’m actually, at the moment, I’ve got the A3 sheet of paper and I’m kind of procrastinating.
Marcus L: Doodling.
Jeremy Keith: I am doodling and I am procrastinating but I’m going to own the procrastination. This is something that Chris Murphy talked about before, which is that there’s good procrastination and bad procrastination. The bad procrastination is where you literally leave everything to the last minute. It’s the night before the exam and you haven’t studied and at the last minute, you start studying for the exam. That’s no good. But a better form of procrastination is where months ahead of time you begin. You start the thing you’re supposed to be doing. In my case, a talk, whatever. You make a start, and then you stop and you start procrastinating. And then you’ll find loads of other things to do. Like, personally speaking, my house is never tidier than when I’ve got a talk to prepare.
Marcus L: Absolutely.
Jeremy Keith: My desk is pristine once I’ve got something I’m supposed to be doing. You’ll find all these things, these ways of not doing the thing you’re supposed to be doing. But because you’ve made a start to that, you’re also receptive and almost like sponge state. And I find I’ll be listening to a podcast that’s completely unrelated or so I thought to the topic of the talk and I’ll hear something. Or I’ll be watching TV and I’ll spot something and go, “Wait a minute, oh, I think I could use that.” Or, “That connects.” Or, “That’s given me an idea.”
Jeremy Keith: Where actually you’re in a different state of mind than if you literally haven’t even made a start on it. Where you’re kind of open to these connections. And maybe you do end up still doing everything at the last minute, right? You finally get the slide deck together two days before the event or something, but you’ve kind of been working on it the whole time, just not in a very efficient practical way.
Paul Boag: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:18:39] But you’re absolutely right, yeah. Go on Marcus.
Marcus L: Oh no, I’ve always said that because as you know, I write a lot of boring documents. But all I need to do is create the document, give it a name and I’m 20% of the way there on the journey. Before it had the name, zero. It exists, therefore I am now able to continue that journey in a much more comfortable manner. So it’s a [crosstalk 00:19:04]
Jeremy Keith: Everything after that is just an implementation detail.
Paul Boag: Yeah, exactly. Okay, Jeremy, I’ll let you go for now. But I mean, pop in any time. We’re going to be doing these regularly for the whole season. So any time that you’ve got a few minutes to spare, feel free to drop in and we’ll talk about something else completely random.
Jeremy Keith: Well I’ve got no time to spare because I’m working on this talk and that’s basically why I’m here.
Paul Boag: Well, obviously, you are currently procrasta-working. As Jessica Hitch calls it, doesn’t she? All right, well, I hope it goes well and we’ll talk again soon.
Jeremy Keith: All right, cheers.
Paul Boag: Bye.
Marcus L: Thanks Jeremy.
Paul Boag: Okay, so that was Jeremy Keith. It was lovely of him to drop in. Shall we just keep going? I guess this having people on the mic might work. Christian, are you available still to have a chat or have you got other things to go onto because you said you might have a meeting later? While we’re waiting for Christian to reply-
Marcus L: Another five minutes.
Paul Boag: Oh sure. All right-
Marcus L: Quickly, get him on.
Paul Boag: Yes, quick, quick get him on while we can. Oh dear, I’ve done it wrong. I’ve immediately … I’m panicking now in an attempt to get him on.
Marcus L: Press the right button, Paul.
Paul Boag: Oh, so many buttons. There we go. So Christian’s coming on because I haven’t spoken to Christian for flipping ages. I’m very conscious that there are a lot of people in the chatroom that are regularly in Slack and I do want to get them on the show over the season. The reason that I’m inviting Jeremy and Christian on first is because I haven’t spoken to them for ages while I speak to the people in Slack every day. So I’m using this as an opportunity to catch up with people. Hey, hey, it’s Chris, hello sir.
Chris Heilmann: Hello.
Marcus L: Hello, Chris.
Paul Boag: So what’s going on in your world these days? I mean, it’s been so long since we’ve spoken. I don’t know where you’re working or what you’re doing on anything.
Chris Heilmann: I just had my fifth year anniversary at Java at Microsoft. I’m the principal program manager for developer tools there. So basically talking everything about developer tools inside the new Chromium based browser and how it interacts with Visual Studio code and how it actually allows people to build things easier and accessible. So the meeting in 10 minutes is about an accessibility review of the developer tools itself because one of the first things we did was make them keyboard accessible and screen reader accessible because they’d never been before. So now we actually had some testers and we’re going through that one at the moment, so it’s an interesting concept to move from talking about tools to actually building them. I thought it was a natural thing to get into a product manager role there rather than just developing the things because I’ve been developing for 20 years and there’s better people out there and more hungry people and more interesting people to build these things. But the guidance for them not having to sit in meetings is a good thing to move into.
Paul Boag: Yeah. I mean, that was a huge move on Microsoft part to move across to Chromium. How did that come about? Were you involved in that in any way?
Chris Heilmann: Yeah, to a degree. I mean, I worked on the Edge browser before and we realized that while it makes sense to offer another browser and have our own engine, we realized that every developer out there is basically building for Chrome and they made their choice. We realized it’s a tough job to actually make that happen and get people to test on it, because it wasn’t available on Mac, for example, as well. So we thought, how do we make that happen? Do we rewrite our own engine to be available on Mac as well or do we just join the Chromium project? Because the big problem that I saw personally with the Chromium project was that it’s the open source project that runs the web, more or less. It runs all the browsers out there. Visual Studio code is based on it. Most of Node is based on it. Most of Electron apps are based on it and it didn’t have many outside contributors other than one company and that was the danger there.
Chris Heilmann: So joining an open source project with our amount of engineers and actually having not only one company control it, or not control, but actually drive it makes a lot more sense. So I was very excited about that happening. And I was scared of it. I was wondering if it’s going to happen or not or if it’s going to be easy. And we quite nailed it. Now on the 15th is going to be the official release. Not fully like everybody is forced to upgrade to it but it now will be available on all Windows 10 machines and it will be available through Windows update.
Chris Heilmann: I’m excited about that because one of the big things that I found interesting as well is that dealing with other companies on the Chromium project, the first thing when I got the promotion into the principal program manager was like, oh, you should be with the team and my team is in Redmond in America and I didn’t want to move to America. So I was like, what do I do? But it turns out that a lot of the open source project that are based on Chromium are actually scattered all over Europe as well. So I’m working with the Google team in Munich and with the Visual Studio code team in Zurich. So I got a lot of benefits of being in the same timezone as them and also talking to the team in India where we do a lot of the accessibility and Mac work. So, the timezone thing really worked for me being in the middle of the two. But it means that my day just started an hour ago and ends at midnight, so that’s the weird thing about it.
Paul Boag: Yeah, I’m not sure I’d be that keen on that if I’m honest, although better that way round. I’d refer being late, yeah, a late start than an early one.
Marcus L: No.
Paul Boag: Oh, you’re a … yeah, but that’s, you’re a morning person, aren’t you? So, yeah. I used to be [crosstalk 00:24:38]
Chris Heilmann: I think the bigger problem is when mates invite you to go to the pub and I’m like, well, I’m just in meeting three of four today. So, but again, the interesting things was that me complaining a lot about this, they put me into a role of now talking about making sure that the company has better processes of including remote people. So I’m actually in charge now to actually bring up products and ideas and protocols how to actually make remote work happen much better than it is before. Because with a company with 127,000 people, it’s tough to let everybody work from home. It kind of makes sense to be in the office, but at the same time, we can learn so much from what we’ve done, than what I’ve done in Yahoo and what I’ve done in Mozilla where we always worked remote.
Chris Heilmann: I think it’s a challenge that every company is taking on this year. There was somebody else wrote a blog post that this is the year of the remote work. I think it makes sense because I don’t want to be stuck in traffic going to the office every morning. It makes so much more sense to be at home.
Paul Boag: Yeah. Do you think it’s still hard to get that level of collaboration mind, within teams when you’re all working remotely from one another? Because it ultimately, it’s better all to be in the same room isn’t it? It’s a balancing act because I’m a great fan, obviously I’m a great fan of remote working. I’ve been doing it for 17 years or something. But-
Marcus L: The three of us are all sat here at home.
Paul Boag: Yeah. Yeah, I suppose so.
Chris Heilmann: I think that one main issue is that in order to achieve more diversity and inclusion, it’s actually a very good thing to consider for companies because, yes, it’s better if you sit in one room but then it’s also then the same people in one mindset in one room. You go to the office and you’re at work and other people just basically start their day, or they’ve just finished their day so a lot of things that are important to one part is not as important to the other because they have to pick up their children from school or something like that. So it helps in terms of getting ideas across better.
Chris Heilmann: What it also, I like about a lot is that it also forces you to document more. It forces you that every meeting needs to have an agenda that’s getting filled out as the meeting progresses and then if next morning you wake up and the meeting at midnight that you couldn’t attend has a transcript then basically I didn’t miss out on something. And that also means that everybody becomes more effective because if you write things down you realize that you don’t just go into the meeting to hang out for the day in the meeting room and eat doughnuts. You just go there for a reason and you get out of it for a reason as well. So I felt that we cut down our meeting times and our meeting annoyances in the company a lot by actually getting remote people like me involved and making sure that these meetings are much more organized.
Paul Boag: Yeah. No, that’s very true. I agree with that more. Dan makes an excellent point that when you’re working at home and you’re at meetings, you don’t have to share the biscuits, which is a bonus, so there’s that.
Chris Heilmann: Yeah, but you always have to get the crumbs out of your keyboard. That’s the bigger problem.
Paul Boag: Yeah, very good point. Well, Christian, I’m very conscious that you’ve got your next meeting to go to so we’re going to continue the conversation about remote working because Andrew Millar has said that he’s got some stuff to share, so I’d like to talk to him. Maybe you could pop back another time and talk to us a little bit more about Edge because I would love to hear some more about what’s going on there and that side of things. But for now, thank you very much. It was good to talk to you.
Chris Heilmann: Absolutely. [crosstalk 00:28:07] see you soon.
Paul Boag: Right, let’s get Andrew on. Oh, actually I’ve done it again. I need to get more slick at this. Always pressing the wrong button, you see, that’s my trouble, Andrew.
Marcus L: I’m going to have to go and get some biscuits, all this talk of biscuits.
Paul Boag: I know, right? Now I’m desperate for-
Marcus L: I’ve got some, but they’re sort of that way.
Paul Boag: They’re out of reach. Well, wait until we start talking with Andrew and at that point you could sneak off and grab yourself biscuits, yeah.
Marcus L: Yes, they’re really nice ones as well.
Paul Boag: I know. This is working really well. I’m quite pleased with the way that this is going so far. It feels all very natural and very organic and a bit of a chat, yeah.
Marcus L: Andrew did say earlier that he wasn’t sure whether he’d actually be able to talk but …
Paul Boag: Oh well, perhaps he’s going to turn down my invitation, we shall see. Apparently he’s on screen, apparently, but I can’t hear him.
Marcus L: He’s running down the hallway, isn’t he? To find an empty room.
Paul Boag: Oh, right. We’re waiting for Andrew to reconnect. So in the meantime, while he’s doing that and trying to … he clicked something and now he doesn’t know what he’s clicked. Oh, Andrew. I’ll give you another invite. Oh, you’ve got … I’m going to remove your invite and give you another one. This is slick this bit. Right.
Marcus L: Yeah, it does make excellent podcast listening for the people at home.
Paul Boag: It does, it does.
Marcus L: This is just the waffle in between. Bear with us folks, it’s worth it.
Paul Boag: Yeah, absolutely. We normally have waffle in between. I’ve got all these questions that people have submitted that I was going to talk about as well.
Marcus L: We’ve got 14 more episodes after this.
Paul Boag: I know. I’m not in a hurry. Hey, I know what I can do. While we’re waiting for Andrew to come on, we will do a sponsor.
Marcus L: It’s an idea.
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Paul Boag: So, Andrew, hello sir. It’s been a while since I’ve spoken to you as well. How are you doing?
Andrew Millar: Not bad at all. How are you?
Paul Boag: Yeah, pretty good. So you’re opinionated on remote working. I didn’t know that. Is that a particular bugbear of yours?
Andrew Millar: I wouldn’t say I was opinionated but I’d quite like to do it a bit more but just in the kind of industry that we have, we have a culture of, everybody needs to be in the building and everybody needs to be in the same room. We started to try and split teams away but it’s how you keep them engaged a bit more so that you’re not losing contact with them. I’d quite like to let people work from home more but how do you keep the accountability of getting stuff done and making sure that people are responsible and I think, as an industry, we’re needing to mature a wee bit more. So I was interested in what other people do and how they get round about it.
Marcus L: I think that we’re way ahead compared to most industries.
Andrew Millar: I mean in higher education, rather than …
Marcus L: You’re, right, right.
Andrew Millar: Yeah, yeah.
Marcus L: Okay.
Paul Boag: Yeah, that’s a good point. Claire in the chatroom has just lept in, “No, in higher education we suck.” Well, she didn’t quite say that, but I’m paraphrasing.
Andrew Millar: I think we’ve come a long way and I think the technology’s coming but I think there’s an age range of people that just, if you’re not in the building then you’re not really doing the work, so that’s where it’s hard.
Paul Boag: Yeah, that’s a cultural issue, isn’t it? I think the only way you can overcome that is by experimenting with it, trying it out and seeing, seeing what the productivity is and have some metrics that you can measure. It’s pretty much like anything isn’t it? Even when you’re designing a website you’ve got to go … you’re trying to convince stakeholders to do something that they don’t want you to do on the website and you say, “Well, let’s have a trial period and we’ll gather some data.” It’s the same flipping principle, isn’t it really? I think … sorry, go on Marcus, what were you going to say?
Marcus L: I was going to say, I’m a huge fan of mixing it up. At Headscape we always do two days in the office where we’re all together, sometimes more than that but usually two a week which allows two for home and one for going to meetings or whatever in London or whatever I need to be doing. But I just find that mixture is ideal because I you get … I think it is valuable to be able to talk to each other and to bat ideas around a meeting table. I think you do get stuff done that is more difficult, let’s put it that way, over things like Slack and the like.
Marcus L: But equally, I find that I don’t get much done in the office. A lot of ideas happen but I can’t nail myself down to really work on that document I was talking about earlier, to finish it off, do the other 80%. So to continue what Paul was saying, if you’re going to do an experiment, maybe just do the one or two days at home a week or everyone has Friday at home, I don’t know, I think that’s quite a common thing. I don’t know.
Paul Boag: I mean, in an ideal world I think we would probably flip it on its head. At the moment, the presumption is that you should be in the office. That’s the default. But actually, I would be tempted, if I was god of the world, to change it the other way round and say, “Look, by default, people work at home but there are certain things where you need to be collaborative and you need to work together.” For example, I recently got-
Marcus L: [inaudible 00:35:07]
Paul Boag: Yeah. I recently got approached but a client in Dubai that wanted me to do customer journey mapping, a customer journey mapping workshop and obviously me flying out to Dubai is not exactly cheap so I was trying to think whether there are ways of doing that remotely. I kind of got it to work in principle but it wasn’t as good and it felt like a bodge.
Paul Boag: Also, the other thing I always worry about is, when you’re working remotely and you’re not with various people, you get that problem of you’re not working across silos. That it’s very easy to fall into that habit of just throwing it over the wall to the next person. “Oh, I’ve done my design bit, now I can pass it off to the developer.” While, if you’re sitting right next to the developer, then there’s more kinds of collaboration going on with that kind of stuff.
Paul Boag: But yeah, it’s a tricky one and getting people … it’s a cultural thing. I just think it’s going to change with time. As Bob puts it, we need to kill off everyone over 30 and then it wouldn’t be a problem. But [crosstalk 00:36:16]
Andrew Millar: I might have an issue with that now.
Paul Boag: Yeah, yeah. I think we all might have an issue with that. All right.
Marcus L: I’m heading towards double 30.
Paul Boag: Yeah. Crikey.
Marcus L: Oh, hang on a minute. It’s not a big birthday for you is it this year, Paul? No, you’re-
Paul Boag: No.
Marcus L: … you’re still a few years to go.
Paul Boag: No, I’m still a few years behind you. Andrew, you were going to say something.
Marcus L: Sorry Andrew.
Andrew Millar: I would say that we’ve worked with an agency based in London and we’ve worked remotely and we’ve worked over Slack and GitLabs and Hangouts and actually it’s been really good. We have a better relationship with them, where we’re separated by all these hundreds of miles than we do with some of our colleagues just down the other end of the corridor. So I think it’s to do with the relationship you have with people and how they can work with each other.
Andrew Millar: I think the technology, we have a lot of people still on desktops that are tied to their desk and they don’t want to actually have a machine at home, a business machine. They don’t want to do that. I think it is a cultural thing that will take time and we’re getting there but it’s slow in some respects.
Paul Boag: Azlan’s saying that the policy at his company is that they don’t have a policy. It’s just basically something that you agree on an ad hoc basis with your line manager as is required and I quite like that really.
Andrew Millar: Yeah, I mean, we do that. I mean, we do work from home at times but sometimes we just have to be in the office as well.
Marcus L: That depends on the thinking behind that. If the thinking behind it is along the line, oh you can take as much holiday as you like. When actually, if that means that we want you to feel bad so you’ll only take 10 days a year instead of 25 or whatever, then yeah. Oh yes, of course you can work from home, no one else does. You know, that sort of thinking.
Paul Boag: You should feel bad for being different. Anyway, Andrew, thank you so much for joining us and I’m sure we’ll see you pretty much every week, knowing you. Do you actually work? Do you do anything?
Andrew Millar: Sometimes. I just come in and hurl insults and then go away again. That’s my kind of way of operating.
Paul Boag: That’s your thing. Drive by insulter. Well, we’ll hold you accountable next week. Everybody in the chatroom needs to insult you when you’re the one of camera at the moment.
Andrew Millar: They all left when I came in. I noticed about three or four people upped and left, so …
Marcus L: Oh, he’s not famous.
Paul Boag: Oh dear. Never mind Andrew.
Marcus L: Neither you or me are famous either, internet famous, Paul Boag.
Paul Boag: I am obviously of a different tier to you two. Mainly because I have the power to do this. I’ve just closed Andrew out.
Marcus L: Oh, wow.
Paul Boag: I’ve chucked him out. Didn’t even say goodbye. That’s how arrogant and rude I am. I know, I’m a nasty man, Andrew
Marcus L: Yes, nasty man.
Paul Boag: So …
Marcus L: My tongue was firmly in my cheek, Dan, who says, “Let’s not do the famous tag.” None of us are famous.
Paul Boag: No, Dan obviously hasn’t been in our chatroom a lot. We often joke about all the bullshit that goes around that. Absolutely. Do you know what? Can I have one more person on the show? Azlan, are you happy to jump on the mic for a bit because I’m really interested in the new place that you work. Because just … I’m going to give Azlan an invite so that I’m actually prepared this time and then I’ll explain why I want to get Azlan on while he connects. So I’ve just sent you an invite Azlan.
Paul Boag: Now, Azlan works for JustGiving, which are a brilliant organization that makes it really easy for people to fundraise for charities that they like and that kind of stuff. Now, I’ve just been through the loop of signing up for JustGiving as a charity because there’s a charity that I run and so we wanted to get on JustGiving. It’s come such a long way that site since I last looked at it. It was a pleasure to use and so I’m just a little bit interested to find out a little bit of what’s going on behind the scenes at JustGiving really.
Paul Boag: But yeah, it’s a really great tool and it shows of very well how websites evolve over time. It’s changed so much. Hello, Azlan. How are you doing mate?
Azlan Cuttilan: Hello.
Marcus L: Hey Dude.
Azlan Cuttilan: All right, Marcus.
Paul Boag: Hey dude? What’s this suddenly? Well, Azlan always has been a bit of a cool dude, hasn’t he really?
Marcus L: Exactly. Although, I’m quite sad that I didn’t note how much, even more, Christian Heilmann looks like Robert Plant. He’s kind of older now. For all the young people in the room, that’s the lead singer of Led Zeppelin.
Paul Boag: There you go.
Azlan Cuttilan: He really, really does look like him.
Paul Boag: I’m sure he’s actually styled himself accordingly. So, Azlan, tell us, how long have you been at JustGiving now?
Azlan Cuttilan: Oh, about five months now, so not that long.
Paul Boag: Oh right, so still quite new then?
Azlan Cuttilan: Yes.
Paul Boag: Right.
Azlan Cuttilan: Still haven’t gotten out of my probation period.
Paul Boag: Oh dear.
Marcus L: Oh blimey.
Paul Boag: So we must be really careful what we say, right? Isn’t JustGiving wonderful? I imagine it’s such a lovely place to work, isn’t it Azlan?
Azlan Cuttilan: In all honesty, it is. It really is. So, when I was looking to go there, I wasn’t specifically looking to go to JustGiving. I was interviewing for a number of places and I’ve reached that point in my life where I just decided that, you know what? Work is great, I enjoy what I do but I need to get a better work/life balance. The amount of money that I was taking home, provided I didn’t take less, it was enough to be comfortable, so it wasn’t about the money. It was about going to a place that I felt comfortable with that I felt was going to be a good place to work, that I could enjoy it and I could go home every day and be proud of the work that I do. And know that, actually, I am making a difference.
Azlan Cuttilan: Because one of the reasons that I started down the front end side of things was because I could, at the end of the day see, “Hey, I’ve written some code,” and I can visually see it there, the effect of what I’ve done as opposed to backend where it’s like, “Hey, I’ve made an array of data.” Which the backend engineers, I do know they get quite excited about how performant that is and that process but that doesn’t really do it for me. I like to go, “Hey, look at all these really lovely animations and how accessible this is,” and that’s what does it for me. So that’s why I went down the front end route. I have that satisfaction at the end of the day.
Azlan Cuttilan: But as I’ve progressed, I wanted satisfaction from being able to say that actually the work that I do is benefiting people and it’s making peoples lives easier with what they’re doing. There is a task that somebody has come to the site to achieve and let’s find out how we can make that really simple for them to achieve what they want to do because ultimately, that’s going to help with the business goals as well. So, there was that.
Azlan Cuttilan: And then throw in the fact that JustGiving works with charities and the thing that you’re then trying to help achieve is that the charities get donations or that a crowdfunding page gets donations and raises money for social good, is the term that we use at Blackboard and JustGiving. Actually, that becomes even more so and then you add on top of that that actually Blackboard, who own JustGiving and JustGiving have this attitude within the company that they actually want to give back to the community all the time.
Azlan Cuttilan: I shared a thing on LinkedIn where the Blackboard head office, over Christmas, or just before Christmas, every single Blackboard office across the world had a drive where all the employees were donating a toy. It was Toys for Tots and there were photos of the foyer of the head office in Charleston and it was absolutely incredible. There was a row of children’s bicycles about 100 meters long amongst many other things. And these were all being then given out to kids that obviously were going to struggle over the Christmas period.
Azlan Cuttilan: So, there is this incredible attitude there that not only are we … we’re doing the work and sure, let’s get this straight, we aren’t a not for profit company. We do have to pay bills and we do have to pay all the engineers and everything, so yeah, there is money that needs to exchange hands there. But at the same time, we still are in a place where we’re giving back to the community and doing what we can to help out. So yeah, that’s why I made that choice.
Paul Boag: I totally get it. And what I love about … like you say, JustGiving and its parent company, they are a for profit company. They’re not a charity in their own right but that doesn’t mean, it’s not all for profit companies are inherently evil. You can do a huge amount of good being a for profit company. I find that very satisfying, even in my own little company. That most of the time I’m solving first world problems, making something a little less annoying, like were just were saying, which is hugely satisfying. But, that wouldn’t be enough for me. The fact that I can make profit as a company and then I can plow some of that profit back into community activities.
Paul Boag: I have on my desk here, I have little picture of one of the lads at the charity I support. Every time I’m working on a shitty project, every time I’m going, “Oh, got to deal with that client again,” I look down at this little lad on my desk and go, “Okay, if I put up with this shitty client, I get to give … help him in his education.” And so that helps motivate you I think, in some ways, having that bigger picture. So yeah, it’s really good. Thank you for coming on and talking about that.
Marcus L: Cheers Azlan.
Paul Boag: Azlan, I’m sure we’ll get you back on again because I’d like to know more about how JustGiving works but it feels like that’s a different topic for a different time, so we’ll get into that another time. All right.
Azlan Cuttilan: Cool.
Paul Boag: Bye.
Azlan Cuttilan: Bye.
Marcus L: Bye.
Paul Boag: See, I was polite with Azlan. I didn’t just hang up on him willy-nilly.
Marcus L: Yeah, he’s nice, unlike that Andrew bloke.
Paul Boag: Yeah, exactly. There are a lot of people in the room that are resonating that idea of, you get to a certain point in your career where it’s not about the money anymore. Once you earn a certain amount, it stops being your motivator. It’s not even that big an amount. I think satisfaction, work satisfaction is so much more important. I think employers should do better at noticing and paying attention to that. I think there’s a lot of organizations which could attract some really good staff, even if they can’t offer top salaries, because they’re providing some kind of social good and making peoples lives feel worthwhile, so yeah, it’s an interesting one.
Paul Boag: Okay, let’s talk about our second supporter.
Marcus L: Where are we?
Paul Boag: Yeah, I think … who knows where we’re at. I’m kind of making this up as I go along.
Marcus L: I’m quite enjoying this, Paul, though.
Paul Boag: I am as well. It’s a bit scary because you’ve got no idea what’s going to happen.
Marcus L: Crazy people coming into the room.
Paul Boag: Well, I’m not worried about that, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. I got Azlan on and the conversation went in a completely different direction than I expected it to. But that’s cool. It’s kind of nice.
Marcus L: It’s meant to be a chat, isn’t it?
Paul Boag: Yeah, absolutely.
Marcus L: That’s the whole idea.
Paul Boag: Yeah. Our second sponsor is Frontify. Frontify have supported this show before and I’ve worked with them before and I will come on to that in a minute. But let me just explain what they are very briefly. They’re an all in one brand management platform, right? Sounds very confusing and pretentious. Actually it’s incredibly useful. We all have this assortment of different stuff, don’t we? We have our brand collateral, we have imagery, we have logos, we have design systems, we have brochures and publishing stuff, all of that kind of stuff. This provides you a place to keep all of that stuff. It’s got a brand portal, a digital asset management system, a system specifically for design systems.
Paul Boag: So if you’ve got design systems, which I’m a huge fan of and I talk about a lot, then Frontify’s a great place to keep those all synced and up to date. It’s also got a place where you can put all of your web and print publishing material.
Paul Boag: It basically lets you ensure consistency across everything you’re doing as an organization, makes sure that you’re working more efficiently, you’re not spending hours trying to find that image that you saw on something once, you know? It also allows you to involve other people in the creation and evolution of these brand assets and that, I think, is particularly important for things like a design system. But, while maintaining some kind of oversight, so it’s not complete chaos.
Paul Boag: Like I said, I’ve worked with them before and I’ve actually written an ebook for them that you can download from their website, which is about how to practically create this kind of digital governance that surrounds a tool like this. So you can go and download that for free by going to Frontify.com and going into the resources section. You can find it in there along with a load of other great resources that they’ve got.
Paul Boag: The other thing I would say about them is they do have a free package for startups and freelancers. If you don’t have loads of people so if it’s just you and your client for example, you can put all your brand assets that you’re producing on a particular project. Maybe, for example, you’re creating them a new brand identity or a design system, you can upload them to Frontify, share them with your client, absolutely for free. Which is a bonus. So, there you go. That is a little bit about Frontify and you might want to check them out.
Marcus L: Cool.
Paul Boag: Okay, I want to try one question. Do you think we could do one question?
Marcus L: Go on then. Whose question is it?
Paul Boag: Okay, this is a question from, well, we might as well just do the first on the list, mightn’t we? This is a question-
Marcus L: Is it Dave Smith from London?
Paul Boag: No, this is a real question. And by the way, people can submit questions anytime they want. Just drop me an email to Paul@boagworld.com. You can tell that this is a real person because they’re not called Dave or Jim or some British name that came to the front of my mind. This person is called Noah, right?
Marcus L: Okay, yes, all right, I’ll give you that. You would not have come up with that in a million years, Paul.
Paul Boag: Yeah, exactly. But interestingly, do you know what? Noah is the most popular boys name in the UK for 2019.
Marcus L: Really? There you go.
Paul Boag: Apparently. According to some website I stumbled across.
Marcus L: Dave, Dave in the chatroom says, “That’s actually my name and I live in London.” Fantastic.
Paul Boag: So Noah’s a digital marketer and he says, “There seems to be so much conflicting advice about generating traffic to our websites. Some say that we should be using pay-per-click, others say that we should be using SEO and others argue for content marketing. Which approach is best?” Right.
Marcus L: Depends.
Paul Boag: Of course it does, yeah. But I’m really interested, if anybody’s got any opinions on this in the chatroom, please let me know and just pop them in chat and we’ll read them back. But yeah, you’re right Marcus, of course it depends.
Marcus L: I think if you do or you sell something that’s really, really niche then surely pay-per-click’s got to be fantastic. But if you’re doing web design then it’s probably not so great, for example.
Paul Boag: Yes. Yeah, I think it would be pointless, for example, you using pay-per-click for Headscape, for example.
Marcus L: SEO, well surely good SEO’s just something that you should be doing anyway. Depends what you mean by SEO, doesn’t it?
Paul Boag: And also, he then goes on to say, “Others still argue that content is content marketing,” and actually SEO and content marketing are pretty much the same thing these days. I guess, rather than sitting here and pulling apart poor Noah’s question-
Marcus L: Yes, my apologies, Noah.
Paul Boag: It’s all right.
Marcus L: Most popular name of 2019.
Paul Boag: Apparently so.
Marcus L: Is that in the UK or the world? Or US or what?
Paul Boag: I don’t know. I wasn’t paying that much attention. So my advice, right, before you worry about what channels to use, map your customer journey. If you map your customer journey and out of that you can create … you’ll know the different questions people have, the different tasks they have and the different touchpoints they use, whether they’re using the website, social media, whatever in order to get to your content. Then you can create a sales funnel or engagement funnel around that which you start building up campaigns and calls to action. That’s when you can start going, “Okay, well, because people are asking these questions and they’re looking in these places, then this type of marketing is appropriate.” Whether that be pay-per-click or whether it be SEO or whatever else. So that makes a big difference.
Paul Boag: I’ve got two articles on that subject that you can check out. One is on my website, there’s an article about customer journey mapping. So you can just Google customer journey mapping on my website, or search, should I say. And then the second one is on sales funnels and again, just go to my website and type in sales funnels into the search and you’ll get that back. So yeah, it’s quite a good question mind, I quite like it. But nobody in the chatroom has had anything to say on that subject whatsoever.
Marcus L: Yeah.
Paul Boag: It’s a bit too marketing maybe for our crowd.
Marcus L: Maybe.
Paul Boag: I don’t know, but anyway send me questions.
Marcus L: More, more.
Paul Boag: Paul@boagworld.com. Also, I meant to say, right at the beginning of this session that if you’re in the chatroom and you’re struggling with any particular thing at the moment, maybe earlier just in this meeting just before this call you had some issue you were struggling with, you could have put that as a question. But I forgot to say it. I’ll try and remember next time.
Paul Boag: I think that’s good. That’s a good show. Can we call that a good show?
Marcus L: I think we can. It’s a little bit loose in places but it’s a new format and we’re learning it.
Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative), okay.
Marcus L: But I like it. Oh, lovely show. Thank you Claire. It’s lovely that you’re here. You have to come on, Claire Gibbons.
Paul Boag: To be fair, Claire only turned up halfway through the show, so …
Marcus L: [crosstalk 00:56:38] maybe.
Paul Boag: Yeah, yeah. A big commitment there. Marcus, we may be changing the format of the show but we can’t not have a joke from you.
Marcus L: Well, I’ve got a joke from Azlan.
Paul Boag: Oh, really.
Marcus L: Which is kind of appropriate. It’s also Christmassy related, which and we’ve only just had Christmas, so this is the joke. What do you give a man who has everything?
Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative). What do you give a man that has everything?
Marcus L: Antibiotics.
Paul Boag: I don’t get it.
Marcus L: Oh, come on. He’s got every disease.
Paul Boag: Oh, I see.
Marcus L: He has everything.
Paul Boag: Yeah, no.
Marcus L: Do you want another one?
Paul Boag: Yeah. Although I’m now leaning quite heavily towards Dave’s attitude towards it, which is, each guest should bring a joke and we’d just get the guests to do it because that was pretty dire.
Marcus L: Excellent idea. It wasn’t dire, that was a good joke.
Paul Boag: Marcus is going to tell another joke now.
Marcus L: Just because you didn’t-
Paul Boag: But if anybody else has got … no, shush. Shush, shush, shush. If anyone else has got a joke that they want to give, then we could get you on camera to give it. Because everybody’s very quick to say, “Oh, jokes,” and be mean about Marcus’s jokes but it’s hard to tell them. Go on Marcus, you do another one.
Marcus L: What do you do if you see a spaceman?
Paul Boag: What do you do if you see a spaceman?
Marcus L: Park in it, man.
Paul Boag: Oh, they got it in the chatroom. I think Bob is putting his hands up that he’s got a joke for us, so I’m going to take him up on that. I think that’s what he was doing with his thumbs up but we’ll see. While Bob is either refusing my invitation or panicking hugely because he doesn’t actually have a joke, I will remind people to submit any questions or problems or ideas that we can talk about on the show to Paul@boagworld.com.
Paul Boag: Also, I would encourage you to … No, he didn’t have a joke. He was backed down at the last minute.
Marcus L: That was a classic joke that one, the … I can’t remember how it starts, to do with the Swiss flag. We’ll do it next week.
Paul Boag: Okay. Swiss? Right, okay, fair enough. That’s fine. So, yeah, submit questions you’d like us to talk about on the show. If you like the sound of the chatroom or to come on camera, and you could do that by going to subscribe.boagworld.com/community and join in the conversation for the rest of the week as well. In between shows we have daily conversations, pretty much like this at Boagworld.com/slacking and you can join our Slack chat. But for now, thank you very much for joining us and goodbye.