Monthly Archives: March 2009

Earth Hour

Like many others, I spent an hour contemplating candlelight on Saturday evening – observing Earth Hour: switching off the lights for an hour.

I like it – I listened to some lovely music; I looked at the faint crescent moon setting to the north; and I thought why people around the world were, like me, sitting in the semi-darkness.

There are some lovely pictures taken during Earth Hour – before and after images, showing the effect of switching off the lights on monumental buildings. It is impressive – you see so much when the lights are switched off.

(There are more pictures on flickr.)

But it got me thinking… What are all those lights doing on in the first place?

It actually made me angry: all these big, famous buildings – the Houses of Parliament, the Sydney Opera House, the attractions of Las Vegas – switching their lights off on this one, nominated, special evening.

Why? Why do they need to switch the lights off? What on Earth are the lights doing on in the first place?

Earth Hour was very special; it was lovely sitting in the candlelight. But it shouldn’t be special; it shouldn’t be something that just happens once a year: these buildings shouldn’t have all their lights on that they need to switch off: all the energy lighting the sky; all that power, wasted, the carbon poring into the atmosphere.

If we are serious about climate change – and I believe I am – this shouldn’t be a once a year thing. These lights shouldn’t be on that they can be switched off in the first place.


Barcamp Scotland: the social in social media

This is the second Barcamp Scotland I have been to – I went last year, as well. Although it was the same format, they actually felt like quite different events – this year seemed less technical, with more discussion, which may not have benefited the organisers so much – the event was sponsored by 4ip, the innovation arm of Channel 4, and Informatics Ventures, an arm of Edinburgh University.

The difference may just reflect that I knew more about what I was doing and what I wanted to get from the day, or perhaps with the spread of social media, BarCamp was attracting a broader spectrum of people – included those that were interested in the effects of new media as well as the technology itself.

There seemed to be a theme for the day: the social in social media. The discussions I went to were about the effect of social media in organisations and culture. It was an interesting day. Continue reading

Corporate Governance and the Credit Crunch

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a talk by Norman Murray, chairman of Cairn Energy, on corporate governance. He was quite circumspect about his views on corporate governance and both the causes of the economic crisis and what the governance structures and processes might need to be as a result of increased regulation in the future, but it did get me thinking.

Alistair Blair’s column in Investors’ Chronicle, No Free Lunch has been quite critical of governance processes, particularly regarding Fred Goodwin’s pension from RBS (apologies if the IC articles are behind a pay-wall).

After a quiet few weeks, Fred Goodwin’s pension arrangements have returned to the headlines again today, as Paul Myners was grilled by the Treasury Committee. Goodwin, the former chief executive of RBS, has become a public hate figure, the face of grasping bankers and the credit crunch, with the Prime Minister threatening legal action against the disgraced banker, although it became apparent that there were no legal grounds for any action, and deputy Prime Minister Harriet Harman then invoking ”the court of public opinion” and saying that “the Government would step on”. This sounds like a bizarre threat of retrospective legislation simply to get at a single individual – as if Parliament didn’t have better things to do.

Myners described how the deal struck between RBS and Goodwin to ease his departure was negotiated by the chairman of RBS, Tom McKillop, and another director, Robert Scott. Scott, who was the chairman of the remunerations committee, and McKillop ceased to be a directors in February 2009.
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Mike Masnick on Silicon Valley and Innovation

Mike Masnick, CEO of floor64 and founder of TechDirt, was in Edinburgh this week, and he talked to the Edinburgh e-club about Silicon Valley: why it is like it is, and how it got to be like that.

Mike showed figures that Silicon Valley received twice as much investment as the whole of New England, which itself received twice as much as the largest next investment area. This article shows the same: in 2004, Silicon Valley received $7.1bn in venture capital, New England $3.0bn and metropolitan New York $1.5bn. That is a huge amount of investment pouring into a tiny area.
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ARGs, social media and organisations…

The Economist has an interesting article in its Quarterly Technology Review about “alternate reality games (ARGs)” (link possibly needs subscription to work – sorry if so!) and how they are being used for advertising – to build or change the perception of a brand. For instance, McDonald’s ran an ARG as a promotion coupled with the 2008 Olympics, and there were ARGs to promote “The Dark Knight” prior to its release in cinemas.

I have been thinking about this in relation to the way organisations use social media, and their role in training and development.
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