Friday, 2 February 2018

Oh the Places You'll Go... Scottish Edu Projects

The Spy Quest mission in November was a real highlight of some of the recent projects I've been involved with. It was a joy to include my son in my world of work.

I've no idea the extent (if any) that the projects I've been involved with has helped in any way... but here's a summary of some of the Scottish education projects I've pitched in and helped out with.

Instead of simply telling my kids that they can do anything they set their mind to (IF they prepare and do their best), I've done my best to show them.

I wanted to collaborate with people who were doing interesting things with technology in education. Here's the story so far.

December 2010 
Set some new goals either to work at 1) A major tech company or 2) A Silicon Valley start up

The reason? I worked at a company and on a project that I loved for almost ten years, where I did work that I was proud of. I didn't see the subtle changes in culture and today there is little to show for my time due to the company sliding sideways. 

Tech companies and Silicon Valley startups seemed to me to know how to create products that last and where passion, culture, having fun, getting stuff done and giving back are important. But I knew both the risks and chances of success.

March 2015
Because of Sarah Thomas' SXSW Edu presentation on "Minority Women in Tech" I found out about Ramona Pierson and her work with Declara, which was being dubbed as  "The Google of Learning" at the time. This led to an amazing conversation with James Stanbridge, who saw the value in my ideas.



September 2015
Chris van der Kuyl gives a keynote at the Scottish Learning Festival with the call to action for educators to collaborate more. 

I've accurately identified both the chances of success with initiatives like Gazelle and FELTAG, and the reasons why they'd fail but my voice wasn't heard when highlighting the potential barriers.

So, instead of trying to tell anyone what was needed only to be dismissed and/or misunderstood, I simply started on my own. I curated Scottish Schools on Twitter and shared the details.




November 2015
The number of Schools in Falkirk on Twitter was a real bright spot and I shared some posts about Digital Citizenship with others in my PLN


I had a call with the organisers of an event that was promoting Digital Citizenship and said that I'd help with a UK event on one condition... that the event take place in Scotland, ideally in Falkirk.

When planning this event we went looking for funding, the process included asking educators which suppliers they would actively want to see at the event. Twitter and Skype were amongst the unanimous choices.

December 2015 
I established the idea of "Connected Educator Appreciation Day" (Inspired by CMAD) with the idea that it could be a connected educator "Black Friday" where companies who benefit from the advocacy of connected educators could provide a discount etc.


January 2016 
There was also a #DigCitathon, inspired by the inaugural Skypeathon and organised with the support of Edcamp Global organisers.



January 2016 
A UK event took place but was moved so it was closer to London so people could also attend the BETT Show.

July 2016
In collaboration with a number of ISTE PLNs and Declara, I explore Pokemon Go in education by writing a report that is well received by the education community.

September 2016
At the Scottish Learning Festival I was advised to check out what Microsoft is doing in Scotland... I don't need to be told that twice! The data I pulled together confirmed the accuracy of this advice... I found that a lot of hustle had clearly gone into the MIE Expert program.

The last time I checked in on UK ambassadors (maybe 2 years ago), I can't remember how many MIE Experts there were but vaguely recall that there were not too many, and there were definitely only a handful of Google Certified Educators/Trainers.


October 2016
The 2nd US Digital Citizenship event took place and was at Twitter HQ with Microsoft as one of the sponsors. While I was not too involved with this movement as it was off and running, but I do wonder to what extent the Thunderclap I set up a year earlier had regarding this support? May have been no effect, but I can wonder all the same ;)



December 2016
By the time I finished exploring MIE Experts it was coming up for the 2nd Skypeathon and I could only find 2 Scottish educators who took part the previous year... so pulled some more data together from the 2015 event and tried to connect some Scottish Educators with Connected Educators in my PLN to see if I could help get a few more educators Skyping.

Some of the Skype Classroom Connections made during the 2015 Skypeathon

June 2017
I do some research to follow up with my Pokemon Go in Education Report. In the first report I simply curated educator comments and had very little editorial.

This follow up would include lots of opinions about how and where the edtech ecosystem has it's challenges and what to do about it.

Through this follow up I found out about Spy Quest and had a few meetings with "The Next John Hanke" and his "Ingress for Kids" books and AR game

September 2017
I updated the stats for Scottish Schools on Twitter and found that around 50% of Scottish Schools were on Twitter and offered a few resources and suggestions.


September 2017
Spy Quest Founder, David Goutcher, tells me that he's going to be taking part in the Falkirk Sotry Telling Festival and will be touring schools before the event.

An innovative game that's achieved "Product Market Fit" + A tour of one of the most connected Local Authorities in Scotland + A book signing and game after the tour = Bring the local shopping centre to a standstill.
Image result for spy quest falkirk story telling festival video

November 2017
Microsoft host a number of roadshows in Scotland. While I had zero involvement with this, I mention it here because while am not sure if these roadshows have taken place previously... but, if this is the first time, you've got to wonder if the cultural conditions are looking pretty good ;)

November 2017
The 3rd Digital Citizenship event takes place at Utah and I find out that Westquarter Primary School will be Skyping in to the event and that David Goutcher will be surprising the Digital Citizenship Summit organisers.

The aims of this event when I first spoke to them was to get students to: "Act Locally but Connect Globally" so Spy Quest's Agent Jones asks my son if he would help out with a real live mission to model this message.



December 2017
The collaboration with Westquarter Primary, Spy Quest and the Digital Citizenship Summit organisers continues and develops further during the Skypeathon as eight Falkirk schools take part in a Spy Quest Mission live via Skype




January 2018
BETT 2018 walking around the impressive Microsoft stand was a masterclass in how to put social proof to work. Again I have zero involvement with this except to notice the things that they do differently.

I've learnt such a lot from exploring what Microsoft do differently to other education/EdTech suppliers.

Excel, Word, Twitter, Skype, Blogger and Zeemaps are the main tools that I use with the ideas and projects above and my youngest has been uber-inspired by Spy Quest.

...I wonder what projects and ideas await in 2018. I hope there are a few compelling stories waiting to be told ;)


Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Spy Quest: "Ingress for Kids"... It's Gonna be Big

There's a man out there... walks up Scotland's Streets, 
Been working on the "Ingress for Kids" 
Has been for 7 years. 
And he takes no lip of nobody because he's a bona fide Spy Guy 
And inspires kids to read
And he packs schools and shopping centres
And Children call him Agent Jones
But really he's David Goutcher
He never lets on 
I know because my kid thinks it's real
He let me know a secret and how big his AR game is gonna be
No idea what he's gonna  buy
Gonna deserve every penny 

The third last line of that little ditty isn't exactly true. Because I have explored the way that ideas roll out in 2013 and used Pokemon Go to draw these ideas out in practice... I saw from a mile off that when people say that "Spy Quest is an overnight success" in the not-too-distant future it's because of the hustle that's going on at the moment.

No one is more aware than I am that I've advocated for a few products and ideas that have not always panned out as I thought. With this in mind, the assessment in this post and others in this blog about SpyQuest are not made lightly.

Regarding some of these projects where they promised much (and where I invested as much as ten years of my time), it might be worth highlighting - whether an EdTech startup, educator-led movement or government led initiative like FELTAG - getting everything right is no easy feat.

In my last two posts I wonder about

  • The failure education reform initiatives like FELTAG, compare them with Udacity's success and the impact failed/"evolved" projects like FELTAG will have on young people's job prospects. 
  • How much I've learned from being involved in these projects when they have not worked out so well (and/or failed to live up to their early promise). Reading Zero to One helped assessing the lessons learnt.

I detail my experiences with Spy Quest and reference Peter Thiel's book "Zero to One" to highlight how and why:
Spy Quest... It's gonna be big!

Some EdTech Startup Lessons
So... an update from Angel List highlighted that Peter Thiel and Blake Masters book was at the top of a few must read book lists – so I got it. After reading it I found:

1)      How, why and where my ideas have value
2)      I have a better understanding of why things have been so tough
3)      How some of the projects and collaborations that “failed” were not uncommon
4)      How close I am to “Product Market Fit” with some of my ideas and
5)      Reading this awesome book has helped me figure out what I need to do next.

Thank you Peter and Blake!

“How much of what you know about business is shaped by mistaken reaction to past mistakes?”

Is one of the questions that is asked. I’m not sure that I’ve had that many mistaken reactions to past mistakes, but I sure have learnt from each and every mistake. I know that
  • I worked on an innovative project that had value, but the opportunity was wasted, because the Managing Director decided to take a slide down Jim Collins "5 Stages of Decline"
  •  I have given my time freely to a number of projects but that the culture wasn’t quite right.
  • Organizations that can clearly articulate their core values are in a far better place than most organizations... But I also know that a lot of people’s idea of core values = A cat poster
I value educators (and my!) time! I also know that my reputation is all I have. If I recommend a project that doesn’t pan out, then people may be less likely to look at any others.

However, getting this mix right is very difficult. How difficult? Well there seems to be 2 Unicorn Companies (A valuation of over $1 billion) in Scotland at the moment... But the seven companies that the "PayPal Mafia" went on to create at all worth $1 billion!

In the past I've written about tools that looked pretty useful. Today I am a lot more careful when it comes to the product AND the culture and team before recommending any product or ideas on this blog.

Some Personal Lessons and Experiences
When Tony Blair was banging on about “Things can Only Get Better” and David Cameron was championing “Aspirational Families” and the banks were giving 125% mortgages things were going quite well for us… I had taken some risks and chances that saw us going from minimum wage to "doing OK".

After working with what might be seen as the Del Boy of Scottish EdTech, I set my sights on collaborating with people who create great products – Major Tech companies and/or Silicon Valley Start ups - No easy task for a random EdTech sales guy!

Trying to achieve this has led to an alternative lifestyle – one that has led to plenty of scarcity and stress.

The choices made and the psychological price of entrepreneurship has led to asking some difficult questions as provider and parent.

What’s all this got to do with anything about Spy Quest? Well, EVERYTHING!

Product Market Fit... And Zombie Loyalists
Last June I met David Goutcher for the first time. I got The first Spy Quest book, Polybius, after we met and my youngest son soon became a fan - I soon followed - as I saw how the book and game brought reading to life and had a positive impact on his confidence.

Since last June David and I have kept in touch and I've pitched in as and when I could to assist with some of the projects he's been working on. I've written 3-4 posts in support of David's work, here are three reasons why I'm a fan:

1)     I’ve sat at my laptop trying to make ideas work with nothing more than an outdated laptop and my kids have seen no outward signs of any progress being made – Nor have I at times! 

However, I have been edging towards “Product Market Fit” (Slowly… but surely) and David has helped me to demonstrate the value of some of these ideas.

2
)      I have seen how David treats his fans. I’ve not read about any core values... I’ve seen him live the values that are important to him!

When a founders actions towards his fans remind you of Peter Shankman's Zombie Loyalists... you sure do sit up and take note!

3)     Last but by no means least, David has not only inspired my kids with his work... he has also helped me to demonstrate the value of what I’ve been working on to them too. Thank You David!

The mission that Agent Isaac went on in November is a day that Joy from Inside Out would call a “Core Memory”… I certainly won’t forget it in a hurry!!

The story that I told on this mission was one that’s told regularly in our house... but telling it on a mission with other children and someone my son looks up to sure did seem to make a difference!

Last month my oldest son came with me to a Scottish Community Manager Meetup where I presented on my experiences making the transition from sales to community management, which David also attended.

We traveled back with David and he re-iterated the importance of what I had been working on to him.
I’m sure we are not the only family that’s seen better times but find ourselves under a bit of stress. 

If David’s work can bring books and reading to life and inspire the children in one household, why can’t he do it for a lot more? The answer isn't only none... There is no reason he can't, it's also... That he does!

In Zero To One Peter Thiel highlights how hard it is to pick a winning investment... he also provides some fantastic insights and advice about the culture he established at PayPal.

Whether looking at the technology used, the impact on literacy, questioning is Spy Quest has achieved “product market fit,” looking at the organizational culture or just generally looking at the way he inspires kids because of the way he treats his young fans.

From what I’ve seen from David’s work over the last 6 months... Spy Quest looks like the real deal!

Spy Quest... It's Gonna be big! 

Monday, 8 January 2018

Start Up Graduation

Image result for zero to one
When and wherever possible I have explored what Silicon Valley and major tech companies do differently to the rest of the world. 

This post looks and how, after reading Peter Thiel’s Zero ToOne book, it feels like either a new chapter of my startup journey... but personal issues just might mean it's the end of the road.

When I wrote my EdTech report “Developing Relationships andDelivering Value” a big missing piece of these ideas was the concept of “Social Proof”

"No leader can hope to persuade, regularly and single handedly, all the members of the group. A forceful leader can reasonably expect, however, to persuade some sizable portion of group members. Then the raw information that a substantial number of group members has been convinced can, by itself, convince the rest. Thus the most influential leaders are those who know how to arrange group conditions to allow the principle of social proof to work maximally in their favour" Robert Cialdini

The report above was written in 2013 and was the result of some advice that I was given at one of Bill Aulet’s workshops and an unconventional career journey which started in 2010. 

Seven years later, and after reading Zero to One, (A book that stems from Blake Masters notes on a Stanford course about Startups) it feels like something of a graduation.

What did I know about Peter Thiel before reading this book? From the top of my head... I could tell you three things about him:

1)  That he takes culture seriously as I recalled reading about his advice to the AirBnB founders “Don’t F**K Up the Culture

2)   That he was involved with Silicon Valley Venture Capital

3)  That he was a slightly controversial figure in the media and social media these days as he was one of the few Silicon Valley types who publicly supported Donald Trump.

If I thought hard then I might have been able to recall that he founded PayPal.

Like Bill Aulet, Thiel appears to be another Silicon Valley guru who feels that Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.

You don't ignore advice like this! So, for the last few years, I have just pitched in and helped out with any project where the culture looked promising.

This has included assisting EdShelf with their Kickstarter, supporting various EdChats, being an advocate of the Scottish Independence Referendum (Based 100% on the culture and 0% on the politics that wrecked the potential of change because of the cultural conditions), organizing one of the Digital Citizenship Summits, being an active volunteer of a Silicon Valley for a social enterprise network and a number of research and data curation projects.

Reading Richie Norton’s “Resumes are Dead… and what to do about it” helped to demonstrate that my ideas around “Job Hunting” Vs “Job Fishing” and the advice of

"Do the job you want to have before you get it" 

Helped me to see that I was not entirely insane because of my approach to work.

Reading Chapter 8) Secrets 9) Foundations 10) The Mechanics of Mafia 11) If You Built It, Will They Come? of Zero to One has helped to validate my ideas and methods further… and help me see that I’m most definitely on the right track.

Previously I’ve felt that the struggle - attempts to be understood and/or the unfairness of being vilified when trying to good work extremely difficult and frustrating.(especially when you compare it with the good and the greats’ questionable attempts....Pick a number! Gazelle, FELTAG, the fantastic culture of #IndyRef, Developing the Youth Workforce, Addressing the Attainment Gap).

Today, as well as seeing enough similarities in Zero To One in the advice that other successful entrepreneurs, just like discovering the value of "Social Proof" after writing my EdTech report, there are a few other pieces of the jigsaw that I have been able to add to the startup the puzzle.

I can also see that the mistakes made were not "mistakes" but were simply typical learning experiences that many a (more experienced) entrepreneur has fallen foul of as well.

For example, I’ve seen first hand how 'Thiel’s Law' of 

“A startup messed up at its foundation cannot be fixed” 

By working on a project where the two founders 

“Developed irreconcilable differences, where the company was the victim”  

In addition to this the core values were nothing more than a cat poster!

Image result for cat poster believe

How did these founders meet? Pretty much the way that Peter Thiel and Blake Masters describe when detailing a cautionary tale about how one of Thiel's partners found a co-founder:

"Met at a networking event, talked for a while, and decided to start a company together. That's no better than marrying the first person you meet at the slot machines in Vegas: You might hit the jackpot, but it probably won't work"

I have also experienced the kind of workplace that Thiel describes regarding his work at a law firm

“The relationships between [the partners at The law firm Thiel worked at] were oddly thin. They spent all day together, but few of them seemed to have much to say to each other outside the office. Why work with a group of people who don’t even like each other? Many seem to think it’s a sacrifice necessary for making money. But taking a merely professional view of the workplace, in which free agents check in and out on a transactional basis, is worse than cold: it’s not even rational" 

Just walk around Glasgow at clocking off time and/or listen to how much people moan about their work on the way home from work or in the coffee shop at lunch time to hear how many people are not investing their time well. Based on my own experience I could not agree more with the following statements:

"Since time is your most valuable asset, it’s odd to spend it working with people who don’t envision any long term future together" 

"If you can’t count durable relationships among the fruits of your time at work, you haven’t invested your time well"

"Promise what no others can: The opportunity to do irreplaceable work on a unique problem alongside great people"

Thiel and Masters book also touch on themes from the fantastic Tribal Leadership...There are simply too many successful people with similar experiences for this stuff not to matter if you want to participate in meaningful work!

Tribal Leadership

I’ve no idea what the short term future holds, perhaps it will be checking in and out on a worse than cold transactional basis doing a bit of cold calling, in a cold environment with people who don’t have much to say to one another.

But I feel I know the mechanics of what’s needed and have developed the tools to build a solid foundation and/or know what to look for in new opportunities in work that might make a difference to young people and have the potential to be a game changing stage 5 tribe and be a part of a great team doing great work.

So even if the best short term options are to join the 4% of the Scottish workforce in call centres before these jobs are replaced by AI and chatbots.

I can either keep an eye out for the company that's achieved "Product Market Fit" and has the culture to match...or startup on my own.

Regardless I now know that I've successfully re-skilled in the way that I had hoped.

The start of the post on the following link details what I set out to do when I chose to gave up my most valuable asset, my time, for free: How I Met Your Awesomeness, but like the way Thiel puts it

"Promise members of your team what no others can: The opportunity to do irreplaceable work on a unique problem alongside great people"

To quote Rands hero/anti-hero: "Offer me this and you can have anything I've got to give"

A Quick Word on Thiel and Trump
Thiel talks about how good companies have some secret sauce and, after reading Zero to One, I can’t help but wonder why others who have read the book and the views expressed can’t see how this Silicon Valley VC’s support of Trump isn’t 100% inspired!

At the end of Zero To One there is a chapter called “The Founders Paradox” which talks about how founders can fluctuate from the villains of the peace to hero worship (And back again).

I just don’t understand how others can’t see how, where, why and when Thiel and his support of Trump will be seen as a stroke of genius… and how one day we’ll be celebrating and thanking him for the 0 to 1 master stroke.

Friday, 5 January 2018

DYW... Digital Consumers?... Or Digital Creators? #AppsThatMatter


My attempts to get noticed and collaborate with the kind of tech companies who make a difference has meant that I've had a worrisome and stressful Christmas.

As I reflect on the personal risks and opportunities that lie ahead for me and my kids, I have also had a wider (and deep!) concern about whether or not Scotland is developing a disposable, commoditised workforce and nation of digital consumers.

Fortunately in the New Year, through projects like #AppsThatMatter, I wonder if projects like this could go a long way to Developing the Youth Workforce to be Digital Creators


Politics!
I'm sure some readers will point to some of the fantastic work that the political classes and their cronies do.

All I can say to this is that in 2014 the then FE Minister launched the FELTAG agenda with fine and inspiring oratory like "It's FELTAG Friday... Rocket Boosters on!" and how 50% of all FE College course work would be available online by 2017, with all course material by 2020. As I highlighted at the time Huston We Have a Problem

As these worthy goals should be achieved by now, I checked in on the initiative. Where is this agenda today? No mention of how many colleges have 50% of their course material online but plenty about how "FELTAG has Evolved" and the documents I read are all about "The Spirit of FELTAG" What is this? Some kind of modern day Dickensian novel!

Even if I was a fan of "The Evolved Spirit of FELTAG" when you look at the tools that are mentioned about #FELTAG on social media, they are predominantly tools that were created in other countries, typically Silicon Valley... As well as a potential disrupter in this space in the not too distant future: Udacity*.

If you care to take a look at my Creatively Disrupt post from 2014 and then check out Udacity* progress since 2014 you will see that ALL of their Nanodegree course material is online. What I suggested would happen at the start of the project has happened.

*Work in FE? Curious about why Udacity achieved what FELTAG did not within the same time frame? See extract at the end of this post.

As usual, I find myself asking at what point are these comments welcome?
At the start when they are accused of dampening the mood... and are ignored?
In the middle when they are dismissed out of hand... and seen as being meddlesome?
Highlighting this now when the observation prove to be right... it comes across as smug and "I told you so?"

I've never been able to figure this one out! I just wish I had a voice... Not to mention the wage that some of these incompetent experts get for doing ineffective work!!

I might not know much, but one thing I'm certain of is that reform ain't gonna come from Holyrood or Westminster... they simply don't care about anything except themselves and/or they are a pretty incompetent bunch. Disagree? I have one word for you: Brexit.

In 2015 I heard about the Developing the Youth Workforce a shiny new plan by the Scottish Government as well as the calls for more collaboration amongst Scottish Educators at the 2015 Scottish learning Festival...I highlighted the same kind of concerns as I did with Gazelle and FELTAG.

The rest of this post considers the Scottish Government's "Developing the Youth Workforce" and "Addressing the Attainment Gap" with my own experiences and how, why, where and when this has been playing on my mind over the Christmas break.

3rd November 2017
Two months ago I asked a group of 5 year old School Children who wanted to make XBox Games or Ipad Apps when they were older, almost all the hands in the room went up.


1st December 2017

A month ago I had Skype calls with Microsoft's "Skype for Good" lead. The next day I presented my experiences going from sales to community management at Microsoft's offices.

My oldest son, who is considering a career in Tech, was involved with both the Skype call and the #Cmgr meetup.


At the meetup Lithium's Chief Data Scientist told us about the advantages of differentiating your product and the dangers of commoditisation

"As the market becomes more competitive, many products and services are being commoditized, where they become indistinguishable in the consumers’ eyes except their price. Therefore, companies engage in price wars constantly to stay competitive. This squeezes the profit margin of brands and threatens their business. Consequently, brands are struggling to differentiate in order to avert the commoditization of their products/services"

I could not help but see large sections of the Scottish Workforce in this commoditisation perspective... all you need to do is check any job board to see how uninspiring the opportunities are. Alternatively look at the fact that 4% of the Scottish workforce are in call centers... about to be replaced by chat bots? Or jobs under threat from cheaper offers from call centres in India?

13th December 2017
At Christmas I was (and still am!) looking for work.On the 13th December I succeeded with this... Erm kind of!

I had the most bizarre recruitment process by an agency for a job - complete with drugs test?! That was a first! Nothing says "We have a great culture and we trust our employees" than the introductory drugs test the minute you get in the door - Their client was a well known Silicon Valley based online retailer.

After some rather questionable practices I was all signed up and was told to get on a bus that leaves City Chambers at 6:30pm and will be dropped off at Bathgate.

I would then do a job that bots will do in 12 months time ... put some boxes in delivery vans from 8pm to 4am (Or for a shorter/longer duration with no say in the matter)

However... when myself and 5 others get there we were told that they had all the people they needed for Christmas, so we sat around until travel could be arranged. I got home at 1 am and felt very much like a commodity!

21st December 2017
Whether standing in a long queue for the games my kids wanted for Christmas, or waiting for packages from the retailer that I had thought had hired me but hadn't... I could not get some of these recent events out of my head.

1) The number of hands that went up when I asked a group of 5 year olds "Who wants to make XBox Games?"

2) Michael Wu's presentation and how things just become commoditised when there is no differentiation

3) My fruitless years of either trying to make a difference and/or finding meaningful work in Scotland with very little support.

4) How great politicians are with their fine speeches... but how useless they are with implementing the ideas and, most importantly

5) Wondering how many consumers there are of these tech toys in Scotland (Whether games consoles, laptops, phones or the games and apps that people play on them) Vs how many Scots worked on creating any of these games and products?

A Nation of Digital Consumers?
I am genuinely interested in this last question. Who has the stats re: number of Scots consuming all these Silicon Valley based must have tech products Vs the number of Scots involved in creating them?

This is an important point because the consumption of tech is only going to go up in direct relation to the commoditised jobs going down... if we are not teaching creators, what are the job prospects going to look like for our young people?

An extremely important follow up to this line of enquiry is...Just like Artist Taxi Driver's video at Christmas

"Who is there that cares about this stuff any more?"



I've seen the kind of people involved in FELTAG at the start... all the "Look at me, look at me" stuff then they get their Klingon Cloaking devices on if/when you highlight that you tried to raise the alarm.

But no one seems to care when they fail to deliver... there's zero accountability and/or only one or two self interested individuals are the main beneficiaries of these grand initiatives...They've climbed the greasy pole to land their next gig.

It was not until 2016 that I had an appreciation about how and why this happens... and discovered that it happens to the most innovative companies who have most stringent recruitment practices

"One of the biggest lessons I've learned over the years is that the business world (and the world itself) is filled with poseurs. These people are quite clever at figuring out what you want them to say, and then saying it exactly the way you want to hear it. I first learned about the omnipresence of phonies during the early days of Atari. The custom chip business was very difficult and time consuming. and because it could take at least a year to get it working, a whole cadre of people posing as chip designers would always find ways to leave the company or get fired before the chip ever worked. Steve Jobs once told me that there were many employees at Apple who never got a single chip working. I told him it was the same at Atari. These people were able to go from job to job to job, doing something that seemed creative but yielding zero output"
Nolan Bushnall, Finding the Next Steve Jobs


The answer to the question: Who is there that cares? 

It is not with the people who stand up and give fine speeches but yeild zero output. It's with the people who have "Boots on the Ground" "Skin in the game" or however you want to phrase people with commitmentHow This Teacher Noticed A Problem In Her Classroom And Built A Company To Solve It

I thought that my challenges in looking for work in Community Management in Education Technology was because there were few opportunities in Scotland and/or because this was a bit of a niche market.

However... go take a look at how many Tech jobs there are in Scotland. It sure ain't setting the heather on fire! It's far from "Braw" at least from what I can see at the start of this year of young people.

Amazon is an amazingly innovative company but it would appear that the best Scotland can here is warehouse staff and delivery drivers... There's no differentiation so these people are commodities, that is until the bots replace them I guess?


IBM can get bought over and a Scottish manufacturing plant can be moved to China without any hesitation?

So what's going on here then? Who's at fault? The company for looking after shareholders interests? The government for not ensuring that the workforce was not creative enough so the site got expanded instead of closed? Educators for not being relevant to local employers needs?

"If you want to create and capture lasting value, don't build an undifferetiated commodity business" Zero to One

I don't know the answer to this, what I do know is that my kids have an interest in careers in technology but the opportunities don't look as good as they seem elsewhere... Who is it in Scotland that will fix this in the way that Fred Terman did in the 1930s?

Fred Terman was an educator and, as the article highlights, is the Father of Silicon Valley, educators are also more trusted than our politicians... so there's a rather serious precedent for Educators being the catalyst for changing the economic and job prospects of their students.

Here what a Stanford Professor, Sebastian Thrun, is doing today to help with some of these issues

Can Proactive Reskilling Today Prevent Job Loss in the Future

Outside of Tech and regardless of the metric you use the World of Work in Scotland is rather underwhelming... and I'm not sure I'd be too reliant on that #GoDo financial institution RBS given their "Too-big-too-fail... but can't-seem-to-run-at-a-profit-for-nine-years-and-counting-despite-money-being-their-core-business" record.

Unicorn companies 
Two that I could see - Skyscanner and Fanduel.

Angel List

Never more than a handful of startups hiring at any one time on this popular startup platform. What about some of the popular entrepreneurial initiatives in Scotland, I hear you cry? I agree with Andrew Mitchell Too much Kool Aid as he highlights:

"The average turnover (£23,129 per company pa) and investment (£22,279 per company pa) is not so good"


Organisational Culture


The majority of Scottish jobs on Glassdoor have ratings of 2-3 stars and the company Head Office is not in Scotland. Only one company, Shuh, featured as a Glassdoor top UK companies in 2017 who have their Head Office in Scotland.

And of the tech jobs that there are - or even if there was an abundance of them - who would get those jobs?

Let's just say, if the status quo continues, I look forward to seeing the attainment gap being addressed as kids from Easterhouse and Drumchapel vie for the same opportunities as the privileged St Andrew's University students.

You only need to compare the pathetic offering of the New Enterprise Allowance and the people who administer it with the support that the "Better Classes" get (Man! The story I could tell about the NEA "Workshop" I attended! It would be hilarious... if it wasn't such a serious issue!)

So my thoughts and experiences with these issues where as bright as the Scottish weather... That was until.

Happy New Year! #AppsThatMatter
As a fan of Adam Grant's work I do what I can to encourage a culture of giving.

This includes reaching out to people in the New Year to ask if I might be able to do them a quick "5 Minute Favor" this is an article that is also part of my core values.

The reaction when I ask people if I can help never ceases to amaze me! But as one very good friend tells me when we share our battle scars from all the "takers" and "fakers" that we've encounter when I ask why we keep plodding on like this in such a difficult space:

"Because there are good guys out there"

One of those good guys appears to be MAD Learn and they have a super exciting initiative which, just like Bloodhound's Education program, could go a long way in inspiring a young creator or two... and help their ideas get funded.

This is not the first time that MAD Learn has been a bright spot, nor am I surprised to be writing about their work again!!

The company staff have classroom experience and have co-created with educators ever since they started. Their engagement at ISTE stood out amongst all the exhibitors as a result of this kind of co-creation and collaboration:



I would encourage anyone in my network and anyone reading this to check out MAD Learn's Mad About Mattering initiative where students can collaborate with young people around the world to create #AppsThatMatter


Are you MAD About Mattering?
MAD Learns initiative could not have a better name as far as this project is concerned.
  • I'm MAD about what matters!
  • I'm MAD about what will matter to my kids! 
  • I'm MAD about the missed opportunity FE had with the 2014 version of FELTAG 
  • I'm MAD about what seems like the now inevitable job cuts to the FE sector as new models could see admissions decline
  • I'm MAD that any tech opportunities will go to the same cultural advantage (family background) that Professor Lewis Termin identified in children with high IQs in the 1920s... This will be perpetuated and built upon with any Tech opportunities, regardless of whatever the Attainment Gap (No progress from what I saw in the last update on the program) thinks it is going to achieve 
  • I've given up with being MAD at the political classes... I simply don't rate them! (If you read Will Blacks Psychopathic Cultures you might find yourself thinking, like I do and that they are the cause of a lot of the problems. They most 100% definitely do NOT appear to the source of many of the solutions!)
FELTAG Vs Udacity - Zero to One
The day after publishing this post I got Peter Theil and Blake Master book "Zero to One" which is a far better way of articulating my views three years ago (And is a far more credible source too) 

"New technology tends to come from new ventures - startups. From the Founding Fathers in politics to the Royal Society in science to Fairchild's "Traitorous eight" in business, small groups of people bound together by a sense of mission have changed the world for the better. The easiest explanation for this is negative: it's hard to develop new things in big organisations, and it's even harder to do by yourself. Bureacratic hierarchies move slowly, and entrenched interests shy away from risk. In the most dysfunctional organisations, signaling that work being done becomes a better strategy for career advancement than actually doing work (If this describes your company, you should quit now). At the other extreme, a lone genius might create a classic work of art or literature, but could never create an entire industry. Startups operate on the principle that you need to work with other people to get stuff done, but you also need to stay small enough so that you actually can.

Positively defined, a startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. A new company's most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think... That is what a startup has to do: question received ideas and rethink business from scratch"