As I was saying…

If you were to look at the last posting on this blog, you would see that it was way back in the middle of last summer.

I have been “off the air” for some time, partly being busy with other things, but also because, at the start of November, while I pursuing my teenage son around the garden in the rain, I slipped over on the wooden bridge across our tiny stream.  There was a slow-motion moment as I hit the deck, what seemed like a pause, and then excruciating pain.  I had, it transpired, fractured my hip socket in two places.

In many ways, it served me right and my more forthright friends have said things like “About time you grew up…” and “How old are you?”  Fair comments – but a moment’s lack of caution can do a lot of damage.

To cut a long story short, I progressed through four hospitals, and had a quite complex operation to mend the fractures and save my hip from being replaced.  Suffice to say that – as everyone acknowledges – if you have something seriously wrong with you, you can do no better than the NHS.  And (fingers crossed) this has been true for me, as I encountered a world-class surgeon who specialises in fixing my kind of fracture of the acetabulum.

The big catch is that I must not put any weight on my right leg for 12 weeks, or indeed fly, whilst I am on crutches.  This is certainly a bit of an inconvenience but, compared with what many people have to go through, it is just that – an inconvenience.

The purpose of this blog is to say that I suspect this experience is very good for me in a number of ways.  I am realising at first hand just how difficult even the simple things in life become when you are not fully mobile.  (Fire doors with extra-strong springs become the bane of your life.)  And, how overnight you become very dependent on your friends and family.  It certainly reminds you to say please and thank you!

I have still some five weeks to go before – all being well – I can escape the crutches.  The experience has helped me to appreciate, just a little, how challenging it must be to cope with a disability.  It has made me recognize that fate and/or carelessness can turn your life upside down; and it has made me grateful for that peculiarly British institution, the NHS, and even more grateful for the kindness and consideration of family, friends and colleagues.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get the blog going again – so here goes.  I have at least one post that will go live tomorrow at 9am.  It’s about New Year IT predictions…

Doctor, Doctor, please help – I have too many blogs…

As a fan of all that is “social media”, I tend to try new things and to start blogs – or at least promise to start them.

In my personal (that is, non-work) life, I have this blog on WordPress plus a Twitter feed, both of which repeat onto my Facebook page.  (I also have a LinkedIn page as many of us do these days – is that work or personal, though?)

I am a great fan of the daily photo site Blipfoto and have just taken a look at Pinterest and Tumblr too, although I have not succumbed to any of those yet.

At work, when I became IT Director at John Lewis, I also started a closed weekly blog for all IT Partners in JL.  (Well, it’s nearly weekly…)

And, in recent weeks, I have started two new social media sites.  The first was in John Lewis to support the roll-out around all our shops of our new “Retail Revolution” Strategy.  We put this site together in less than a month on Googlesites, with some great help from Google. It is intended to be fun and engaging, and has – in my view – been wonderfully successful so far, with many Partners around the country logging on to get more information in the form of the presentations and videos that support the Strategy.  They have also become involved in discussion threads.  We have had votes on which question to “Ask Directors” where several of my colleagues and myself have gone online interactively to answer questions.  We have also held a vote on which IT investments Partners would like to see made in the next year.

The other site, which went live today – and made me think about this topic – is another closed site: it is a Portal for the SITA Council.  This is built around WordPress and is the forum for members of the SITA Council who represent over 30 airlines from around the World.  This site has the ability to privately circulate papers and briefings as well as to start discussion topics.

Social media in both of these examples has the ability to link together dispersed business communities – in SITA’s case globally dispersed – more effectively than conventional emails, circulation of papers and relatively infrequent meetings.

Now, I don’t claim any originality for any of the above.  There are lots of examples like this that you will be aware of.  However, what has struck me is the number of different social media interactions I now have – now not just in the personal space like Facebook and Twitter, but now in the business space as well.

Technology is breaking down barriers both of geography and time: we are indeed connected any time and anywhere.  It is also breaking down the barriers between personal and work in terms of interaction.  But how many social media entries can you – and should you – make?

Why Social Networking? Why not?

I was reflecting on social networking and what it means.

There was an article recently in The Times showing how much time people spent, on average, on various social networking sites.  As with all such statistics, the average obviously obscures a huge range.

Speaking personally, I write two blogs – this one and one a closed one at work, I use Twitter quite a lot and have an under-used personal account on Facebook.

Why do I do all this? The simple answer is because I like to.  And why do I like it?  Well, that’s harder to explain.

I like Twitter because it gives me “a sense of presence” and I might well tweet whether anyone followed me or not.  I also like Twitter because I can see what various friends and colleagues are up to, sometimes stimulating messages back and forth.  And I like Twitter because I can follow the Lotus F1 Team and learn what Mike Gascoigne and Tony Fernandez are feeling during a race and – to a lesser extent – follow how Norwich City are doing in the Championship.

Why do I like doing this blog?  Well, I like writing – and always have done.  As a historian and a mandarin (civil servant) you get the habit and a blog is, let’s face it, at least in part the modern way of vanity publishing.

You can use a blog to put your thoughts out there and see if anyone reads them. And, if you are lucky, you can strike up a dialogue or discussion.

I have always felt that the wondrous thing about the Internet was the ability to connect easily with that very small  – or large – group of individuals around the world who are interested in some of the same things as you. So whether that interest is Roman forts on the Arabian frontier in the 4th Century – or, say, pond-life in Norfolk – you can get in touch with those who have similar pre-occupations.

Facebook I am less keen on, although I do use it a little, given its wide-openness or at least the way its settings constantly steer you towards publishing your family holiday snaps to the World:  I prefer to keep mine to real friends and family.

But I guess the real key to social networking is that you can set it to do what you want.  You can follow celebs or friends or minority interests.  You can expose yourself – literally if you feel inclined – in public or carefully reveal just what you want.

So what kind of social networking works best for you? And what doesn’t?

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