Archery: Hanson Bowmen

Had a wonderful day on Sunday. Me and Richard, along with the other members of Kings Norton Archers attended the shoot at Hanson Bowmen near Derby. It was a fantastic day. For me and Rich it was a pretty early start he picked me up from my place at about 06:30 am and took me over to his new place at Benson School. We made breakfast for everyone else and made sandwiches and got everything together we would need for the day … before setting off at around 08:30

When we arrived there we got kitted up and registered for the shoot. We then split into two groups Richard, John, Alex and Phil were in one group and Me, Simon and Ciff were in another group. This meant that we didn’t actually see the other group till the end of the day ( or for five minutes when we broke for lunch and caught up at the tea tent). Cliff, Simon and me were joined in our group by Bob Tate from Wolverines Archers – a wonderful wonderful man who was joy to shoot with, not only was Bob a very good archer but also a great person and in many ways a wonderful ambassador for this sport.

Our group finished the shoot around about 4:30 so we were out there for a just under six hours, and I have to confess it didn’t feel like six hours , but by the end of the day everyone felt physically tired, it’s hard work walking through a muddy wood all day long. For the most part it was dry but there were some short spells of rain – but this didn’t dull our enthusiasm and certainly didn’t stop us enjoying the day.

I was also very proud of the fact that I scored just under 400 points, Cliff was our leading scorer but Bob came third overall for the day which he thoroughly deserved.

Here’s a few pics from the day but As always you can view the pictures from the shoot here.

Kings Norton Traditional Archers, from left to right: Phil, John, Alex, Richard,Simon, me, Cliff

Me shooting in the rain …

Bob Tate from Wolverine Archers, a true gentleman and wonderful archer!

Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck

Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck by Chip and Dan Heath is absolutely brilliant!

At many times in our lives and especially within the context of business at some point you will need to get a point across that is critical to your success and the success of those around you. If you are in a relationship the very same thing is true. That success comes down to your ability to create a compelling communication. At it’s core thats what this book is about – communication – and it provides many examples of how to successfully communicate ideas but also what makes them stick. Conveying a message well is good, but conveying that message and having people act upon it is better, and invariably that’s what makes ideas stick.

If you haven’t read this then you need to!

The Myths of Innovation

The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun is a small but powerful book about innovation.

Scott has a wonderfully engaging writing style – it’s friendly, conversational, full of humor and informative, which I found was extremely well suited to the task in hand. He provides examples of how innovation works, where innovation comes from, and debunks several popular myths of innovation, pointing out that whilst there is a ‘eureka’ moment, there’s a whole lot of hard work which lead up to it in the first place.

For me this was actually quite profound given that myself, Rob, Chris, Alan and Ross spent a month sequestered away working on developing a prototype – we were given the shortest of briefs a problem to solve and were asked to come up with something compelling and innovative – during the course of that month we had our own ‘eureka’ moments and we can certainly attest to the hard work that was involved before we reached that point. In fact it’s something I’ll talk about far more when I discuss another book: Swarm Creativity: Competitive Advantage through Collaborative Innovation Networks.

As for Scott’s book it really is well worth reading and I can’t help but agree with Don Norman who said this about the book:

The naked truth about innovation is ugly, funny and eye-opening, but it sure isn’t what most of us have come to believe. With this book, Berkun sets us free to try to change the world, unencumbered with misconceptions about how innovation happens.

The Starfish and the Spider

I finally managed to finish reading several books. The first I want to talk about is The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom.

This is a excellent book that makes a very compelling case for decentralization in organizations and businesses. The authors contrast the Spider which represents top-down management, with the Starfish which is essentially headless … all its “legs” go in any direction it wants to … but the starfish still moves and is effective.

Whilst the first few chapters of the book present a couple of case studies and examples that serve to illustrate the main themes of the book. It’s really from chapter four onwards that the book picks up pace as the authors discuss operational principles behind decentralised organisations – the need for pre-existing networks as a substrate, the role of catalysts and champions to activate leaderless organisation, “circles” as their chief co-ordination mechanism, and “ideology” as the glue holding everything more or less together.

After reading the book I’m left feeling that the notion of leaderless organisations is unquestionably superior both morally and aesthetically – to centralised organisations. Partly because of their structural simplicity and elegance, but also, and more profoundly from my point of view, because they rely so openly on trust and the belief that man is fundamentally good and ultimately because they are capable of drawing the best from people and providing them with truthfulness, meaning and purpose in their life.

It’s interesting to also reflect on the fact that not only do organisations like Alcoholics Anonymous operate as a decentralised organisation, but also organisations like Al Qaeda, and it’s the very nature of that de-centralisation that makes them so difficult to contain.

As an interesting follow up to reading the book here’s a talk Rod Beckstrom gave at Next Web in 2007, that touches on the main themes in the book:



Spent some time talking to my friend and colleague Ian this evening. We were talking mostly about work largely around the Talis Platform and some projects I’ve been involved in lately. We talked about problems and solutions, and how things have been recently for me personally with everything thats happened lately. Anyway during our conversation he said something that reminded me heavily of something Chomsky once said:

There are no magic answers, no miraculous methods to
overcome the problems we face,  just the familiar ones: 
honest search for understanding, education, organization,
action that raises the cost of state violence for its perpetrators 
or that lays the basis for institutional change—and the kind 
of commitment that will persist despite the temptations of 
disillusionment, despite many failures and only limited successes,
inspired by the hope of a brighter future.

                                           - Noam Chomsky

Back at the tail end of 2006, I wrote this about Ian, and it still holds true today :

Our programme lead on skywalk, Ian Davis, is probably one of the finest programme mangers I have ever worked with. Probably because he doesnt think of himself as a programme manager. He’s extremely goal driven and yet a humanist who puts the well being of his team before anything else. As a team leader he’s a pragmatist, but it’s his charm and his passion that has helped bring together bunch of talented geeks and focused them into a team in every sense of the word.

I’m grateful for the support that Ian and many of my other colleagues have given me. It occurred to me though this evening that I can be inspired by the hope of a brighter future, and I can draw that inspiration from the people I work with – like Ian, Rob, Chris, Paul, Richard, Amanda, Justin, Sarah, Dan, Sam, Malcolm, Ceri and everyone else I work with. We are all on a journey together, in more ways than one.

Thank you … all.

For a moment I want to set politics and religion aside.

Richard, asked me to help out with a project he is involved in, really to support another mutual friend of ours Inspector Robert Williams. Rob is stationed at Birmingham Airport and he and some of his colleagues decided to raise money in order to build a restful garden area at at the Royal Centre for Medical Defence in Selly Oak Hospital for soldiers who are in injured whilst serving their country.

The plan is that on the 15th March 2008 a members from the various branches of the armed forces will endeavor to pull a plane across the apron of Elmdon terminal at Birmingham International Airport. After this members of the Armed Forces, Airport Fire Service and Ambulance Service along with people wishing to support the cause will recreate the journey from the airport to RCDM at Selly Oak by carrying a stretcher and a patient – a journey of roughly 14 miles.

To learn more about the event, and how to donate towards it should you wish to please visit

The falling of the leaves


        by: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

    AUTUMN is over the long leaves that love us,
    And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
    Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
    And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.
    The hour of the waning of love has beset us,
    And weary and worn are our sad souls now;
    Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,
    With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.


Faiz Ahmed Faiz

A friend of mine asked me about Pakistani poetry, or specifically whether I’d read anything by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Well I have, and to be honest I’d always struggled with some of his writings – which were often political and deliberately antagonistic towards the ruling elite – he did this by challenging colonial as well as feudal values and as a result he was sent to prison repeatedly by both colonial and post colonial authorities. As a marxist his works reflect a strong sense of both commitment to and empathy for the lower classes. But I don’t want to dwell on the political aspects of his works largely because I don’t actually agree with some of them – I’ll save that for another day :).

What I do want to talk about are the various poems he wrote that dealt with love, loneliness and death. The more passionate followers of his work will often say that Faiz is considered primarily responsible for shaping poetic diction in contemporary Urdu poetry. I suspect they are probably right, whilst I can speak Urdu fluently, I can’t actually read it, so my exposure to Faiz’s works has always been through english translations. I do often wonder whether I do him a dis-service by judging, sometimes quite harshly, what I have read based on a translation, which may or may not genuinely convey what he intended.

Nevertheless, he was a very talented poet, here’s a few of my favourites:

              Some Lover To Some Beloved!
Down the memory lanes, on which
you've strolled since ages past
They will end if you walk farther a step or two
Where exits the turn towards the wilderness of forgetfulness
beyond which, there isn't any Me, nor any You
My eyes hold their breath, for any moment you
may turn back, move ahead, or at least turn to look back

Although my sight knows that the wish is just a farce
For if ever it were to run across your eyes again
right there will spring forth another pathway
Like always, where ever we run into, there will begin
another journey of your lock's shadow, your embrace's tremor

The other wish is also in error, for my heart knows
There is no turn here, no wilderness, no mountain-range
beyond whose horizon, my perpetual sun-of-your-Love can set
May you continue walking these pathways, its better this way
If you don't even turn to look back, it is okay


and …

                   Do not ask, my love.....
Do not ask, my love, for the love we had before:
You existed, I told myself, so all existence shone,
Grief for me was you; the world’s grief was far.
Spring was ever renewed in your face:
Beyond your eyes, what could the world hold?
Had I won you, Fate’s head would hang, defeated.
Yet all this was not so, I merely wished it so.
The world knows sorrows other than those of love,
Pleasures beyond those of romance:
The dread dark spell of countless centuries
Woven with silk and satin and gold braocade,
Bodies sold everywhere, in streets and markets,
Besmeared with dirt, bathed in blood,
Crawling from infested ovens,
My gaze returns to these: what can I do?
Your beauty still haunts me: what can I do?
The world is burdened by sorrows beyond love,
By pleasures beyond romance,
Do not demand that love which can be no more.


… and finally …

I am being accused of loving you, that is all
It is not an insult, but a praise, that is all

My heart is pleased at the words of the accusers
O my dearest dear, they say your name, that is all

For what I am ridiculed, it is not a crime
My heart's useless playtime, a failed love, that is all

I haven't lost hope, but just a fight, that is all
The night of suffering lengthens, but just a night, that is all

In the hand of time is not the rolling of my fate
In the hand of time roll just the days, that is all

A day will come for sure when I will see the truth
My beautiful beloved is behind a veil, that is all

The night is young, Faiz start saying a Ghazal
A storm of emotions is raging inside, that is all.


The Web’s secret stories

Here’s another wonderful ted talk, this time by Jonathan Harris

Jonathan wants to make sense of the infinite world on the Web — so he builds dazzling graphic interfaces that help us visualize the data floating around out there. He presents “We Feel Fine,” which uses a technique called passive observation by scouring blogs to collect the planet’s emoti(c)ons. It’s an amazing social tool. Jonathan also presents and the “Yahoo! Time Capsule,” which preserves images, quotes and thoughts snapped up in 2006. And he premieres “Universe,” which presents current events as constellations of words — a tag cloud of our collective consciousness

The visualisations they have implemented across these applications are absolutely amazing . I’m very very impressed.

Microsoft to give away Development Tools to Students

Microsoft announced that it intends to give students some of its most advanced development tools – for free! Here’s some official coverage over at MSDN. So how do we interpret such a move? Is it an act of desperation or one of sheer brilliance? I personally think its a pretty astute move.

By giving away Visual Studio Professional, along with a slew of other development tool’s they’re trying to gain traction with Student’s – and shape their thinking. As a student I couldn’t afford to buy the Microsoft development tools, so always opted for Open Source tool’s and technologies and working with those tools, and indeed contributing to them, which shaped my thinking and the path that I eventually took. It’s unclear how receptive Student’s will be to this – but make no mistake this about winning hearts and minds, and if you can win them at an early age then your onto a winner – that’s the gamble.

I personally think it’ll be nice to see some more competition … whilst I love Open Source I often think that many OS projects, particularly dev tools, tend to rest on the laurels or assume that since the competition is so expensive it doesn’t necessarily matter if the UI isn’t as good as it should be, or it doesn’t have as many features as a commercial equivalent – User’s will learn to accept any shortcomings. Now as a developer I’ve used many IDE’s and many many tool’s and even I have to admit that Microsoft’s tools are wonderful, in fact it’s interesting to think of which way I would have gone eleven or twelve years ago if MS had provided a similar incentive for us?

I have to confess the cynic me does wonder if this is simply a case of closing the gate after the horse has bolted?