15 January 2012

What about dirt?

Exec Summary: Old school farming, chemicals and excess cultivation destroy the soil, bought a farm (picture), link to an old school farm with a really interesting grazing system, a little bit about poo.

Hi All,
           We just got back from our Christmas holidays in Australia, what a great recharge for the batteries! While we were there we found a little place in the world that we think might suit us and put a contract on that piece of land (we had been looking for 10 years!) Some 65 acres near Hobart where, hopefully, we will one day move and grow some animals and some veggies and live a quieter and more sustainable life. It did strike Toni and I that sitting in a metal tube (plane) for 8-12 hours, 20-30 times a year might not be exactly in line with the highest ideals we have for how we want to live for the future.

Lovely piece of the world........some day I will sit here and watch my sheep.
I've been doing some research into soil and other things agricultural (as always with mixed success into the reality of things). Some sources tell us that there are between 10000 and 40000 microbes in a single spoonful of topsoil. In many parts of the planet it seems that the topsoil is almost gone because those "using" it have failed to replenish it with manure or nutrients after the harvest. One example given was that soil in some places has become almost an inert growing medium where a farmer MUST add chemicals just in order to grow something. This sounds pretty sad to me.

The only farming I know was what we were taught at school (an Agricultural college) and from my uncles, Opa, Pop (mostly veggies) and my dad. The systems I observed were almost exclusively based on a variety of enterprises that support and sustain one another and the land. How did it come to the fact that most commercial cattle, chickens and pigs are now produced in feedlots and these animals never get to be a real pig or a chook or a cow? I'd much prefer a steak, some bacon and a roast chook that had spent at least part of life running amok and being as piggy, chooky and cowy (not a real word?) as possible.

The alternate view is that pasture fed animals can be sustainable and that land can be re-invigorated.......by a liberal application of poo! It seems that the local food movement, urban farmers and the family "small" farms that still exist are linked by poo. That is, they all see the benefits of farming sustainably and returning nutrients to the soil. One of the best examples given was by the worlds most famous farmer, Joel Salatin. The Salatin family owns and runs 550 acres with 100 of those pasture. Joel describes his system of running cattle on a fresh "salad bar" of grass daily and then following up with the movable chicken arks 4 days later to eat the larvae in the cow manure and spread it over the pasture for him. He manages to make a living by "stacking" enterprises on his hugely fertile land (made so by management of what goes in and out of the soil), and terms himself a grass farmer whose main mission is to increase the happiness of his earthworms - everything else follows  from that apparently.

www.polyfacefarms.com The Salatin family farm - good website, very interesting.

So what has dirt got to do with changing the world? Well - it seems that the anecdotal evidence points to:

  • Productive "dirt" being in the hands of agriprenuers who have killed it with chemicals while chasing a short term profit (for about the last 50 years or so - the good times are over and this system has failed or is likely to fail),
  • It seems like it might be possible for smaller holdings to support one family or more through stewardship of the earthworms (worked for thousands of years before the chemical brothers decided their way was better),
  • It might also be possible to reinvigorate a plot of land by returning to first principles and eschewing the chemical fertilizer (and high cost) spiral of modern farming by choosing to get hip deep in crap (preferably from poultry, pigs, sheep and cattle - in that order!)
So, you want to change the world? Start collecting crap and start hoeing it into your dirt! Them plant some veggies ok?

Thanks for reading.

5 December 2011

Innovation & Creative Sites Worth Visiting

Hi All, Just a few innovation & creative links I wanted to share with you:

www.kickstarter.com Use this site to obtain funding for a new idea. Check it out, a great concept. Used for consumer products, books, movies, poems, music, anything really. Inventors find funding through offering something to their funders (like a first edition or something).

www.quirky.com This is the website of a crowd sourcing product maker. The Quirky team seem to have a fantastic grasp on how to take everyday things and reinvent them in innovative ways. A better mousetrap? Probably in the works at Quirky. You can also get paid for your ideas and contribution to a product. The perfect solution for anyone not short on ideas but a bit fuzzy on the execution and low on time.

www.inventables.com This site boasts that it is the hardware store for innovators. I signed up for the email newsletter. Some of the new hardware items coming on to the market are pretty cool. I have no idea how to use them but it has been great to see what people are dreaming up.

www.inhabitat.com I have found this site to be a great resource for all things related to green or eco design. Some really great articles on urban farming for example.

www.appmakr.com This website is one of those "platforms" that helps users make simple apps for iPhone, Android and Windows. I tried a few and found this one to be pretty great for a number of reasons. The in built functionality they support is pretty good and does allow for a phone gap or HTML5 drop-in by you (i.e. full customization). The service is also free (with ads in your apps) but the ads don't look too bad and you can easily make an app without ads for an additional fee.

Some other great sites (just for some of the services they offer):

www.zite.com  If you have an iPad then you simply must get zite. When you do get it you can basically make you own magazine/newspaper (or rather, Zite will do that for you). This isn't your average RSS feed collector app but it has an algorithm inside to learn what you like and to give you more of it. I was blown away at how quickly Zite started delivering me exactly what I wanted on a daily basis - I was engrossed in every article. How many of us could pick up a magazine or newspaper and say that? Try it, you will be impressed.

www.docs.google.com I love google docs for hosting all kinds of files and sharing documents

www.dropbox.com Also a great cloud "soft-drive" for you to park documents and files, even photos. Has a great photo handler that will make a sharable gallery out of any photos you drop in the photo folder.

picasa.google.com Like google docs but for photos.

www.flikr.com The yahoo version of picasa

groups.google.com Now this is useful for a number of things. As a forum or "group discussion" (well, that is a forum isn't it?). One of the coolest things you can do with a google group is create group messaging by emailing one address. So step 1 - create your group, step 2 - add people and their emails to it, step 3 - you get a group email address. Anyone can now use that email address to contact everyone on the list. Good idea for sports teams, class coordinators, sales reps etc. I like this feature and even though you can do this manually on outlook and other email applications I think google groups is a winner for public events and community groups.

Thanks for reading, I hope you find some useful ideas & tools through these links.


Five Ideas to Change the World: Issue 1
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3 December 2011

21 Thinking Cards

Hi All, I've been working on the 21 Thinking cards from the Five Ideas simple creative process. I thought these might be useful for "flipping" through during creative work.

Mostly, I had to keep referring to the list when I was using the prompts myself and I wanted to have them as cards, in a book or on my phone as flashcards or similar.

Here is a link to the "21 Thinking Cards" book. I was originally planning to make a kindle version but I wanted to be able to give it away for free so this is a PDF (approx 9MB, 65 pages). Feel free to download and distribute as much as you like.
This uses a publicly shared file uploaded by me to google docs. You could use dropbox.com, box.net, iCloud or a number of other cloud document services to do something similar with word documents, presentations, spreadsheets etc.

Here is a link to the "21 Thinking Cards" album. You can flip through the cards themselves.
This link uses a publicly shared photo album from Picasa (google). You could also use a service like dropbox.com or flikr.com to share photos and albums like this.

Let me know what you think.

A description of what a thinking card is.
Here are 2 of them as an example:

An example of the thinking cards

All 21 will be in a mini-book to be released shortly

I've also been working on an Android, iPhone and Windows mobile app for the thinking cards so you can scroll through them as prompts during brainstorming or ideas sessions. I've loaded the iPhone version on my 3GS right now for testing. So far managed to get:

  • A feed from the blog
  • A feed from Facebook
  • A scrollable album of the 21 Thinking cards.
It hasn't been as easy as it might sound but I should have it working by the time I fly to Australia on Tuesday. Here are some screenshots from the iPhone version. The Windows and Android apps are available for download at the top of the blog page on the left (.apk and .xap files). I could only test those ones in simulation so let me know if you have issues.
The news stream
access to the thinking cards book through the app
feeds from this blog

splash screen - love that picture
all the cards are in a flippable photo album  in the app
Well - add that to the the list of things learned this year.

Toni wants me to make an app called "iWidow", basically she thinks she is an iWidow and that I'm actually married to the MacBook, iPhone and iPad and not her some days. I just hope she knows that I am enjoying myself and that no gadgetry could ever compare to how much I love her :-)

Thanks for reading.

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1 December 2011

Augmented Reality and Open Source Farming

Hi All,
I've been working on a few of the concepts in book 2 which will largely be about agriculture. Some of the interesting topics (well, I think so) I've been thinking about include:

  • Open source farming (open source in terms of design of farming technologies and fertility)
  • Augmented reality farming and anomalies
  • Local food production and some practical projects

Augmented Reality Farming
In terms of Augmented reality farming let me explain. I vividly remember my year 8 agriculture teacher (yes, I went to a school that was also a farm) explaining that the holy grail of agriculture was to identify and explain positive anomalies in production and husbandry. Sounds a bit dull?

What he meant was that if you are walking through a paddock and notice that a certain area of crops grow better than the others then you should attempt to find out why and then use that knowledge. One simple example is a greener stretch of grasses in a dip of land (i.e. the dip gets more access to water than the areas around the dip) so the grass truly is greener on the other side so to speak. Of course we can get much more sophisticated than that.

I used the creative process that I outlined in book 1 to find new ideas - one of the ones that jumped out was a fusion of agriculture and emerging technology - maybe you can think of a way to use this better than me but I'll outline the basics.

Augmented reality tools would give a farmer or land husband the ability to overlay sensor data, previous crop imagery or some other information over his or her visual reality in an attempt to support finding positive anomalies (and potential ways to improve production or some other positive characteristics of husbandry).

Think of a set of glasses that could superimpose another image or computer generated image on top of reality. Perhaps refer to my earlier post on Augmented reality to get an overview.

From www.seeinginvideo.com. Example just shows a really basic example of what AR could do.
In terms of crop rotation, pest management, planning land development or any other number of actions, this could be a valuable tool that doesn't divorce the farmer from the land itself (i.e., it isn't "book farming", it is innately practical).

Some other examples:
Viewing the trends of an orchard (which ways are the trees growing, which way is best? why are they doing this? View this years tress with overlays of previous year, 2 years ago, 3 years ago etc, forecast next year?)

Viewing augmented reality rainfall patterns historically to support sensible planting or land development to manage run-off or other detrimental events. i.e., the see a model of where water will flow and how much can be accessed by each part of land.

Viewing augmented reality nutrient content (from sensors or static test equipment) over a plot of land to decide upon the best companion planting, best crops to plant or the needs of the land in terms of husbandry based on some future planting plan.

You can probably think of many more.

Open Source Farming
I'm still working with this idea but just imagine that a 4 hectare (40,000 square metre) farm could be found within a city. I know urban farming concepts are not new and I've been keenly reading up on some of the developments in cities around the world. Do a search for:

  • Urban farming, or
  • Window farming

Then you might get an idea of what I mean.

From just thinking.us. An example of an urban farm by design of new construction/development. I think we could have urban farming without changing a thing but of course, new development could contribute as well.

My concept relates to 4 facets of agriculture (I made that up, but these seem reasonable enough "facets"):

  • The land,
  • The labour,
  • The fertility, and
  • The market.
All of these things exist in a city and, in some cases, exist in more abundance or availability than they do in rural areas. An open source farm doesn't imply a free for all but it might imply that we could find some interesting models of production, consumption and value distribution by imagining a distributed farm within a city. In any case - if the economics are workable, perhaps you could even find a business idea in here somewhere.

I'll keep working on it - look for the result in book 2 (sometime next year?)

Thanks for reading.

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21 November 2011

It has been a while.........

Some photos, some farm things, a funny YouTube link (well I think so)
Well, since my last post quite a few things have happened. Lets see if I can recall the main ones:

  • Lili turned 7, we had her birthday dinner in Malmö during a European driving holiday,
  • Yes, we drove 6,000 kms around Europe,
  • We moved house,
  • We went to the dark-side a bought a Macbook instead of a windows PC (shock!)
  • The Rugby world cup was played and won (but not by us),
  • Cigarettes increased in price per packet from an "arm" to an "arm and a leg" in Australia,
  • We had visits from Oma and Opa in Stockholm,
  • I've been to Algeria, Australia, India and the ice hockey (some of these places more than once),
  • We are moving to India next year (well, that is part of the plan).

So, not much really :-)

She take a good photo 'ol Lili does.

Will in Dresden

Our budding model at it again
Did someone say 7 going on 17? At least I'm in this one :-)


Lili in Dresden.

Lately I've been working pretty hard (no surprises there). As part of my relaxation routine I've been meaning to get onto the next book draft I have sitting here but haven't yet found the urge. Instead of that I have been reading up on things agricultural. I added this picture from John Seymour's "Guide to Self-Sufficiency" book - this is his depiction of how to structure 5 acres into 8 plots of half an acre each on a 6 part rotation (where 3 parts are grassed for 3 years in a row and then cropped etc, you know the drill). 

We found an awesome farm in the Adelaide hills on realestate.com.au, ho hum, maybe we will get a bit serious when it is time to come home to Australia (when ever that is). It always relaxes me to imagine growing potatoes and making home cured bacon.

No matter how many times I read his description on how to organise a small acreage I find myself poring over this picture and imagining my own cow, chooks and pigs improving the fertility of 5 acres near Adelaide or in Tasmania somewhere. Yes, you have it right - I daydream about moo poo.

Five acres should be able to support a family of 6 for almost everything. Really? What about Wii, Xbox, amazon and iTunes downloads? Can you grow those on five acres? Well? Can you!
I've also been reading up on India. One of my favorite books is about a shady entreprenuerial character called Balram Hawai, the book is "White Tiger", completely fictional but well worth a read - highly recommended (especially now that I have read it a few times). Michael Sahlberg, a friend at the Indian office put me on to that one. As well as "White Tiger" I'm told that I should read "Shantaram" but it isn't on kindle books yet so we can wait for that. Any suggestions?

Totally different subject. I've seen some bloody funny YouTube videos lately - here is the all time best (explicit language warning). Deathstar Cafeteria

So, maybe I'll find some time to update the blog more often.

Take it easy.

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6 June 2011

Little Boys Love Tents

Five Years Old Boys Love Camping - Even in the Backyard.
Will found this tent at a local shop for 99Kronor (which is super cheap). I found out why when I tried to sleep in it - they removed the last 6 inches of room that would make it habitable by adults of average height. That aside, we set up a pretty good bed in there with a blow up mattress, doonas and sleeping bags (really roughing it). I wouldn't say it was the best sleep I have ever had but Will had fun.

Willem preparing to be a beaver. I had not realised that a pack (?) of beavers can take down 400 trees in a year.

After looking at all the beaver trees Will got a bit of a taste for the outdoors. Lili was at a sleep-over so some 'boy time' was called for, we missed out on killing a buffalo with a stick but this was alot of fun. Here is his tent (found at Rusta for 99Kr ~ $15) pitched about 4.31m away from our backdoor next to the deck.

I wonder how many
 trees a pack of
Wills can take down
in a year

Lovely scenery near the beaver area.

Swedish Allottment Houses and Plots.

The tent and the summer weather made me think about all the vegetable gardens you see around Stockholm. In 1895 the Swedes established allottment gardening as a concept in a town in the South of Sweden. This became so popular that there are now around 26,000 allottment gardeners in Sweden - with their own association thank you very much. The Swedish allottment consists of a small area of land (maybe 250 sqm) and a small house (maybe 40sqm) amongst other similar houses and gardens. In hard times it has been common for people to remain in these allottment houses for up to 20 years. The view expressed by a Swedish social democratic leader, Anna Lindhagen was that:

For the family, the plot of land is a uniting bond, where all family members can meet in shared work and leisure. The family father, tired with the cramped space at home, may rejoice in taking care of his family in the open air, and feel responsible if the little plot of earth bestows a very special interest upon life.

I love these allottment houses. Could you imagine how simple life
would be if you could spend all your time in the garden?

I can relate to that - especially when everything is in full bloom around you. I just want to be outside in a garden growing things (except at this rented house - I mow the lawn though).

We Have Proof!
Well actually this is the second proof of my book. We changed some layouts, paper colours and found some errors that have been fixed up. I thought it came out pretty well except some of the internal images so I need to fix that. I also found one line that was missing a bold font so, it looks like we will have proof 3!

Maybe, if I can finish the updates this week it could be available on Amazon before next week or the week after. I was pretty impressed with Amazon - I ordered the proof one day and was signing for it from a UPS delivery guy the next afternoon. 
My favourite picture of Will and I
 on the Ice on the back cover.

Home spun cover design!
Thanks for Reading.

PS     I changed the font size on this post to make it easier to read - let me know if you prefer it this way.

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4 June 2011

Keep Smiling

Hi All,
         We have had a crap week. I thought I would get some of it out of my system by blogging about it. On an awfulness scale of 1-10 this week rates about a 3 so it wasn't that bad - just annoying. What happened?

  • Car overheated and cost $300 to fix
  • Flew to Washington and SAS lost my baggage
  • Got stuck in traffic for 6 hours on an interstate in the US
  • Was late to a meeting without the things I took to show (they were in my bags)
  • Got charged $1000 for data on my phone as a backup prop for my meeting
  • Got notice that our landlords are returning to Stockholm and would like us to move out a year early
  • Lost my phone in a taxi at Dulles airport
  • I am now horribly jet-lagged
On the flip side there were/are some good things:
  • I got my phone back (for a reward of $160)
  • The meeting went well (how did that happen?)
  • My car now works
  • I met some interesting people
  • We have a long weekend back in Sweden
  • We got the second proof copy of the print version of 5ITCTW-Issue 1
So you can see that things were pretty annoying but not really THAT bad. It all just happened in a 72 hour period where one thing seemed to pile on top of another. I hope that my little list above make YOU feel better. Things could always be worse, in my case I'm sticking with a 3 out of 10 - nobody was hurt and nothing happened that cannot be fixed.

Thanks for reading.

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29 May 2011

Travel Catch Up - Random Stories

Hi All,
         I went looking for photos of the travelling we have done since we moved to Sweden, I found 2000 odd photos on my iphone so I thought I would post some of the interesting ones.

Walking in the forest
 near our house.
Sweden: Autumn and Winter. Local forests in Swedish Suburbia
Dads end up with snow
 in all the wrong spots.
 There are maybe 15-20km of tracks through this particular forest. In the winter there is a short track that can be used in the dark (the sun goes down at around 1430-1500) for running or cross country skiing and in the summer there are a range of different tracks for mountain bikes, walking, running and horse riding. Around the time this picture was taken we were able to pick wild blueberries from right beside the track - they grow everywhere.   

Snow is fun...for a week or so..... 

Really beautiful, even if the time is 3pm!

secretly we are gritting
our teeth because it is
minus 20 degrees,
not smiling :)

The photo here of us in the snow shows Lili, Will and I at Tomteland (Santaland) about 300km (4hrs) North of Stockholm. It was so cold, just as we arrived the snow really started to fall heavily, it took us about 6 hrs to get home, we used to GPS to predict where the road might be, we couldn't really see it :) The photo to the right shows a sunset (around 3pm) in the local archapelago. We took a ferry tour with our friend Lisa from New Zealand. It was nice to sit in the heated ferry, sip some glogg (spiced wine) and sail through the ice. Now that it is summer again I'm looking forward to getting out and exploring at least a couple fo the 80,000 islands right on my doorstep.
Will hanging around in Paris
France: Autumn. Paris was interesting but fairly dodgy......
When we were in Paris we rented a little flat on a market street - it was pretty convenient to everything we wanted to see. We had some highlights like the various parks we went to, hot chocolate at Angelina's etc (make sure you do this if you have kids - they will remember it for life). One thing we did notice though was the number of scam artists and pick pockets around the place. We were prepared for some of this but nothing prepared us for the blatant 'stalking' we had to endure every time we went outside or on the train. In the end we assume it was because Toni wore a red jacket and had a handbag with a sling (which made her an easy target). I learned to pick the 'baddies' pretty quickly after the first day or two. This photo of Willem was taken during a break while walking along the river to Notre Dame, the rest spot was perfect because we had a stone wall behind us and could see people approaching from both left and right (yes, it was that bad).
UK: Easter. So is this a beach?
Willem thought the beaches at Lyme Regis were pretty cool. He had never seen a beach made of rocks, he was in his element until he threw one too many as he got tired and hit himself in the head. We were pretty happy at having travelled to the UK for Easter and finding a week long heatwave (between 25-27 degrees everyday).
So, I have plenty more where those came from. Not right up there in terms of changing the world (at least not for anybody except us). We have seen and done an amazing range of things since we got here. Looking forward to our summer holidays through Germany and Italy.

Thanks for reading.

22 May 2011

Sunny Days and Book Covers......

Hi All,
          Well, the sun is shining here in Stockholm which is a perfect opportunity for a BBQ - we will have some friends around for one this afternoon. We have been lucky with BBQs. The New Zealand embassy moved out of Sweden last year, our kiwi friends Nick and Rachael were kind enough to offer us their gas BBQ. So much easier to use than heating up coals! I'll try to get a picture for next time. It might be a good time to take a photo because I have just mowed the lawn (or rather, tended to my lawn full of weeds).

A while ago I mentioned that we were on holidays in the UK. Toni, the kids and I went to Axminster (Devon) which is about 2 hours further South than Stonhenge. Our original aim was to go and find some sun but also to relax in some green countryside after a long winter in Sweden. Well, we got that, and more. It was 25-27 degrees everyday, beautiful sunny days, not a cloud to be seen.

Stonehenge was pretty amazing. We ended up going twice because on the first day we were so excited that we forgot to put the SD card in the camera. Well, this is a polite way of blame-sharing so that nobody thinks it was Toni who forgot :)

Book Update
So, we have been getting alot of sun which is great. If you are wondering why this is a recurring theme for me then you should spend a winter in Stockholm (and also try to time your visit so that it coincides with the coldest winter in 100 years). It hasn't been all sun here in Stockholm since we got back. I took the opportunity during the last rainy weekend day to have a play with some new cover images for the book.

I like the one in the middle at the top right now. The current image is the bottom left. We need to decide on one before the book goes to print (right now we are only on Amazon for Kindle in electronic format) and then it is easy to change but not that desirable. The proof copy of the manuscript is under review right now, maybe you will see Five Ideas in bookshops in a few months. Tell me what you think of the drawings. We also need to keep in mind that the 5 covers need to be related but slightly different. Here is a working concept:

Things have gone pretty well in the first week, I took a few days off from book stuff but it has still been busy. Still getting things set up like author pages at the various websites and things like this, the $0.99 offer has been very popular so we will just leave it like that for now - the more people who can find and read the book the better!

I had an interview with a magazine last week who want to feature the book. That was a bit of fun - it gets released on Monday so we will see how it looks. We were also fortunate enough to get a review by one of the top 25 reviewers at Amazon "Reviews by Rebecca", she awarded us 5 stars! I was very flaterred by the write-up which you can find on the books sales page at Amazon (just click on the links to the right of the page).

Thanks for reading.


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17 May 2011

The Joy of Being Finished - Well, at Least Issue 1

Hi All,
         Well, it has been an excellent week. We got Issue 1 up on Amazon, this proved to be quite a learning experience. Finally, after 3 or 4 revisions we now know how to use the publishing site, update the description and get it priced at $0.99.

Click here to buy it for $0.99.

Alot of people have expressed interest in reading the book but don't know how to get it if they don't have a kindle. Here is how you do it, there are many options. Go and try these things, really, you will be impressed with the kindle software I promise. You will also have access to much cheaper books.

Use this handy guide to set yourself up nicely to take advantage of ebooks on Amazon:

1. Download Kindle for PC, you can then use it to read any kindle book on any PC (or get Kindle for Mac if you are an Apple person),

2. Get Kindle for your phone (iPhone, or other),

3. Get Kindle for your iPad or tablet,

4. Go to http://www.shelfari.com/ you can read the first chapter of most books for free (online),

5. Wait for the iBooks, Kobo, BookNook version to be released via Smashwords (I'm working on it),

6. Wait for the printed version (likely to be around $9.99), I'm working on that too.

One of the great things about kindle is that you can share your 'library' amongst your devices, each of them will know where you are up to in any particular book. My personal favourite methods are to use the Kindle for PC at home and on the iPad on the plane or when travelling.

So - I will take a few days off for now, the sun is shining in Sweden and that is NOT to be wasted. See above for a picture of my local 'beach'. I would really love to hear your ideas after you read the book. I have heard some cracking good ones already (remember rule 2).

Thanks for reading,

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14 May 2011

Book Released. Five Ideas Issue 1


Find the release of book 1 above.

-----post edit--------------
Update: Surprised to make the best-sellers list, debut at #7 in the small business section :o
Thank you readers!
If you want to read it but don't have a smart phone, kindle or ipad then download kindle for PC here:

I hope you like it.


13 May 2011

Five Ideas: Issue 1 *Kindle release soon*

What are you screaming out for? Creativity? No?

Business is. Governments are. Communities will. The digital economy revolution isn't even in full swing yet. Five Ideas: Issue 1 is about getting great ideas through observing simple things.

Fact or Fiction?
  • People think alot without knowing how to be think.
  • People know how to search but not how to research. 
  • First is good, good is better, first and good is best.
  • Open-ness is the way the world wants to work.
  • In the new economy, we all need to 'polish up' our creativity in order to survive. 

Issue 1 will present a simple and accessible method for getting ideas that anyone can use. To prove it to you we will explore the method together and then use it to find some ideas. You can take any of the ideas in this book and start a business or use them however you like.

The last section will help you analyse your ideas for business and discuss the many different qualities of ideas and how to recognise and use them.

Thinking about launching at $0.99
I'm aiming to have this one ready by the end of May. Five ideas:Issue 1 will be available on Kindle and from Amazon in print form to start with, I'm working on formatting for Smashwords at the moment too. A joy, to be sure.

This ended up at about 50 pages, I don't mind that - I cut alot out and put the things I wanted in. I'm not so worried about the length but I was worried that all 5 issues might take me the term of my natural life (plus a bit). I'm much happier that the result is clearer than it was and we can get the ideas in Issue 1 circulating while I revise 3 and 4.

What about Issue 2?
I need to have a think about 2 - I'm currently avoiding it and working on 3 and 4 :)

The book price is not set yet, I was thinking about $0.99 but some proof readers have suggested a bit more. Let me know what you think, I'm undecided. In any case, we can do some 'tests', there are 4 more to come. I like the idea of the Smashwords vouchers so you can offer free or discounted books from time to time.

So, at last I am finally happy with 99% of it. This is a long way from the re-writes! Let me know what you think.


“We're still in the first minutes of the first day of the Internet revolution.” Scott Cook

We now have access to a huge range of information through websites, blogs, documents, e-books and other media at the click of a mouse button or, increasingly, a touch screen.  Do we actually need to ‘know’ anything anymore?  Is it the way of the new economy that the most effective entrepreneurs or the best professionals of the modern world will not be those with the most experience but those who have the best ‘searching’ skills?  This might be true and might even be good enough for basic survival but many futurists agree that the most important commodity in the new economy will be creativity.

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Albert Einstein

Business, government and communities are screaming out for creativity.  By creativity I mean the ability and the competence to have original ideas, re-use existing ideas in new ways, having experience in taking good ideas and analysing them to find something useful.  I don’t think creativity is a skill that can be taught, nor can it be automated in a ‘system’.  I do however, think it is possible to help uncover and nurture the natural talent we all have for being creative.  It might also be a good time to look at educating our children in new ways – teaching them how to learn, research and adapt rather than filling them with facts that are out of date.

More Extracts from the ideas section  ***~~~***

I was just talking to myself about you.  I hate Bluetooth headsets.  This is a bit irrational because they are so useful and my feeling about them has more to do with human behaviour than the benefits they offer – I think you know what I mean.  I would like to help the world by suggesting firstly that people should take them off when not using them but also by suggesting that we opt for a device that fits in the ear and cannot be seen. 

  With the evolution of really good voice translation could we start using these devices for more than just listening? Would people use an earpiece that tells them the time or other information when they ask? The earpiece could reach out to the local network of your watch, phone and PC and go searching for the information you need and then tell you about it.

 I can just imagine the social gatherings of the future: I have my Greentooth™ earpiece in and it is whispering the details of people that pass within 5 metres, I ask for more information about Mrs Smith our hostess for the night, she turns to me and fixes me with a pitying stare and asks the strangest question….I reply “No madam, I’m not mad.  I was just talking to myself about you”.


Put it on my watch.  Who carries money these days anyway? The only places you require cash are in the few stores that hold out against the use of electronic funds transfer, some taxis and in places where adoption of the new economy method of payment hasn’t really started to any degree.  The use of electronic funds transfers is so widespread that one might predict that a cash-less society is just around the corner in some locations. 

So, this idea is in two parts – for those clever people who understand how electronic payments work – keep working on new ways for us to exchange credit.  I would suggest that the most successful method in the future will be the one that is taken up most rapidly forcing retailers to adopt or miss out on income.  For the rest of us – we should consider how this will change the way we relate to customers and each other in terms of transferring credit.  A business will need to think about providing access to these types of payment methods or risk losing revenue.

Extract from Ideas for Business ***~~~***


This is a little bit like asking ‘what is a good colour?’ I like blue.  What makes a good idea depends on what you want it for.  Maybe the idea is no good for you today but maybe in a year it becomes useful, who knows (only you do).  To start to be able to analyse your ideas you need to follow Rules 1 and 2.  I’ll repeat them here for convenience:

  • Rule 1.  An idea in your head can only be used by you while you remember it, and

  • Rule 2.  An idea written down can only be used by someone who can understand it.
To know your definition of success is how you can make your initial assessment to decide if the idea is good enough to work with or not.  Try to write the success criteria down too.  

Thanks for reading. Feedback of any kind is always welcome.

Image attributions:
Cover Image of Five Hands: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
All other images designed by: Eight Triangles

3 May 2011

OSAMA BIN LADEN - He owed me 10 bucks........

Well, OBL is dead, or so it seems. Mrs Behrendt isn't convinced.

I will say this on the jokes doing the rounds:
World Hide and Seek Champion 2001-2011 is pretty funny, and
OBL - He owed me 10 bucks (is my contribution).

Now if there is cynicism around the assassination then there is a reason behind that. I don't think we need to set up an investigation to find out why - people have yet to rebuild trust in the US government. So what if Obama is going for re-election, the country got their guy - OBL is dead. This isn't about OBL, it isn't about Obama - it is about doing what you say you will do.

Here is the message (no matter who the US president is) - be a terrorist, do nasty things, wreak death and destruction on innocents and then spend your life in fear because some of our guys with guns will come and find you. Your choice, but we will never give up, it might take 10 years but those will be hard years for you if you are a terrorist - you are on 'the list'.

So, regardless of our 'trust' issues, be they valid or not. Congratulations to the teams of people who have worked on this for almost ten years - you did it, thank you. Don't ever forget - when things are hard the group that prevails is often the one that doesn't give up - no matter what.

I give the demise of OBL a 5/10 in terms of changing the world. Apart from needing a new 'bad guy', the reason I wouldn't put this higher is that we all die someday........the death of OBL might be a 10/10 for some people but the rest of us will move on. We would all do well to remember Martin Luther King Jr: "That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing."

So, OBL owed me 10 bucks - what about you? Do you owe me money?

Watch it sunshine :)

Thanks for reading.

ADVICE INSIDE: Formatting My Book for Kindle - Which Format?

Hi all,
I played around with formats quite a bit on my little test setup. I reckon I have probably generated my book 1000 times already and will probably do it 1000 times again before I'm happy with it. For info on my 'test rig' see the previous article on where to get your downloads and how to actually do it. If the steps aren't clear then let me know and I will put some more detail in there.

I guess the interest in kindle books is on the increase. Having played around with it a bit I can save you some time if you have a book to format for the kindle.

Read on...........

So here are some things I tried and a comment on how well they worked.....

You might be aware that MS word inserts a bunch of additional info in a HTML file when converted. One thing to bear in mind if you are working with an editor like notepad after starting with an MS word file. You will need to 'clean' the HTML tags up quite a bit.

I will assume that most of you know a bit of HTML - if not then go and have a play with some of the language here.

Essentially if you can write a blog or webpage then you probably know as much as you need to know already. If not then concentrate on formatting text, how to use headings and how to italicise or bold your text.

Some things to note about kindle. I am not aware of the extent of the HTML tags supported by the kindle. If anyone knows of a list like this then let me know, this would be very cool. I do have an ambition to provide everyone with a file on this blog that you can download and use as a HTML formatting template, maybe we should have one for word also. This way you will be able to concentrate on getting it the way you want it instead of learning yet another new thing just to move on. Let me know if this would be useful.

Caveat: I'm not sure if some of the things I say below are attributable to mobipocket creator (thanks you guys) or to MS word (I guess thanks to you too). I suspect that mobipocket is 'smart' enough to take things that word does and turn them into appropriate HTML tags that the kindle can handle.

I almost exclusively used


which is Heading 1 in MS word for the main chapter headings. For all sub-headings I used


which is heading 3 in word.

I found it hard to get spaces between headings and paragraphs even if I inserted a HTML
or break (I think I inserted one on the line above to show what happens - it is just like hitting enter but you have a BR inside your < and > - if I actually do it here I will get a new line), essentially a new line. It seemed that Kindle only recognizes one of them and not 2 or 3 in a row. The way around this is you want to create some separation is to use the word feature of continuous breaks. You can find this under insert, break, continuous. Then you get a dotted line across your page which shows the break. Don't forget to put your word in the mode to view all the spaces and breaks etc so you can see the formatting.

What works? 2 continuous breaks after each paragraph heading, 2 between paragraphs, 1 after each bullet in a list (word bullets work fine). Like I said, mobipocket probably interprets that somehow - don't question the magic, just use it and insert enough to get the format you want.

You will need to decide on left or centre justification of headings. I used a bit of both, just to make the text line up nicely with the headings. Have a play with it. You can also add italics to your headings and see how that goes. Colour is ok too.

General text
The text format is pretty standard. I would just caution a few things. 1.5 line spacing seems to do something, double line spacing has no effect at all. Make sure that you have free flowing text in your paragraphs. You don't really get to control the line length on kindle. An example? The kindle user can set the number of words per line or the text size on their machine. Because we have no control over that the best thing to do it to make sure that whatever they do in terms of sizing - your format can still look appealing and easy to read. The best way to test this is to change the settings while you are testing your document on kindle for PC.

So, remove all line breaks etc - you know, don't press enter or return at the end of a line. Let kindle handle that.

What you can control is the paragraph break. Insert a return, enter or at the end of a paragraph to start a new one. I found that a continuous beak or two looks a bit better for my book but I imagine that a novel will be fine with just the new para immediately after the previous one. Have a play with it.

You can use bullets. It took me a while to get it right and have the text 'wrap' properly. The secret was to make sure that the word bullet feature was applied properly. I saw some dots that I thought were bullets after an initial conversion to word. They weren't, they were just dots - these looked ok for a while, until I started to alter the line or page size in the kindle. Advice: if you need to use bullets then just use the word bullet feature.

I did notice that indenting made a bit of a difference on my bullets, also that when using a numbered list that the result of an A, B, C or 1, 2, 3 was a bit random. ie I would put A, B, C and get 1, 2, 3 as the output in kindle (even though word said the opposite - weird). In the end I played with it until I got A, B, C. How this worked was unclear :)

I have had no trouble with images. Just copy them into word the way you usually do. I haven't found any special problems. Just note that some kindles are greyscale in the text, some are in colour. Make sure you consider your whole audience.

Using the Kindle Publishing website
One thing you can do is upload your HTML file to the publishing site and then preview it in a kindle reader (greyscale style). This looks a bit different to the Kindle for PC result you have been working with up until now. The benefit is that this reader is provided by Amazon as well so you know that it is correct (so is Kindle PC but in that version you are checking how your book will look on, well....kindle for PC)

So, without publishing your unfinished book you can go and check out how your book will look on the greyscale version. You even have the option of downloading the file from Amazon that is used to produce that preview - maybe start from there for your next round of editing.

I hope this was useful, as I learn more I will let you know. I didn't want to repeat the zipping up of files and images for final upload, we can go over that in a different blog. For now - maybe this can help you to use the things you already have on your PC (and a few that you can easily get) to get cracking on formatting your book for kindle.

For me - I will keep going with 'Five Ideas to Change the world' Issue 1 - at least the writing makes my wife laugh even if the formatting still has a few weeks work to go. Anyone want to try their hand at some cover art?

I give kindle, the apps, the business model and Amazon in general an 8/10 for potential to change the world. What next?

Thanks for reading.

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