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Just say no

I’ve been freelancing now for a month or so and I am loving it.

The best part of it is feeling OK about saying no.

Saying no to a projects I think I’d be no good for

Saying no to something I’m not intersted in

Saying no because I want to spend more time with Fin

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not turning down stuff left, right and centre. But the power of being able to turn something down is one of the most attractive aspects of this gig.  And hopefully it will free me up for the fun stuff and the fun people – and there is a lot of that about.



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It’s been really interesting listening to the responses kicking around about the flood levy proposed by the government. There is another debate to be had as to whether we need a permanent disaster fund, but it’s pretty clear the flood devastation across QLD, Northern NSW and Victoria has resulted in significant infrastructure devastation. Not the devastation that is covered (hopefully) by a home insurance policy, but the type to hit roads, rail lines, and other public facilities we take for granted like parks, pools, public spaces…

Another debate needs to be had about whether there should be anyone living in the low lying, flood prone areas, but agagin – that’s another debate to be had. What is clear is that people need help now.

It appears though that Tony Abbot has been campaigning off the back of the levy. And thanks to that piece by John Birmingham, I have been alerted to the stingingly funny post by Girl Clumsy.   If you object to paying the levy, she will pay it for you. But there is a catch. Read about it here.

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Influential Ellen

Resigning has meant a lot of reflecting. Best project? Best hotel stayed in? Best group ever? Best post-work drinking session? Funniest office moment? Lots of “top ten” lists have been created in my mind over the last seven days.

The one “best” lists I have been doing a lot is the people I have worked with. The best people I have worked with share some common characteristics. They have been eccentric, brilliant, creative, difficult, curious, insightful, passionate, unreasonable, pains-in-the-arse.

But who has had the most influence on my career? For that we need to go way back to 1999, where I quit my job as a surveycraft programmer at Colmar Brunton not sure about what I wanted to do and Ellen Baron said “Hey, why don’t you try out Qual? I need some help with project management. You ca do that part time while you work out what you want to do.”

In about two weeks I was bustling down Illawarra Road with a video camera filming a lady shop for food, and then back to her house in Petersham to film her cooking some Vietnamese dishes (which we got to eat!). I could not believe that people got paid to do this.  Ellen kept asking me things like “what did you notice about so-and-so”, and “How do you think this impacts the client question”.  She’d listen to what I said, encourage me to think more about an issue, and then let me get out and film more people. More people shopping and cooking for us. Teling us their stories. Introducing us to their families. Sitting down and eating with them. I used to go home and cook the dishes the ladies taught me. Then I edited the footage into a movie for the client. It was stuff I did at uni thinking I’d never be  able to get a chance to do in the “real world”. Yes – you could get paid to do ethnography. It was a revelation!

Then we analysed what we had seen. We drew diagrams, we talked, we threw ideas away. Ellen pulled everything together and we presented it to the client. They loved it. Everyone was excited about what they had seen. It is still my favourite project I have ever worked on.

Ellen left Colmar Brunton and went to The Leading Edge. I left Colmar Brunton and took a year off to try something else out and see if research was what I wanted to keep doing.  When I was thinking about getting back into research Ellen said “come and talk to them at TLE – it’s a good place to work.”

So that’s ten years ago. During that time Ellen continued to have a big influence on what I was doing. She had (and I’m sure still has) the wonderful ability to hear you trying to articulate an idea – then hand you a book to read, and say “have a look at this; there may be something in there for you.” So you went away and read the book, and had the “tah-dah!” moment. She’d let you find the answer yourself – knowing full well what it was, but not spoon feeding or telling you the way to go. Just suggesting, nudging, hinting. It made a lot of us great researchers. We picked up a lot. We began to flex our own muscles, so she’d challenge us with bigger issues, bigger roles, bigger stakes. But she’d aways be there to help; and again, not by taking over and telling you the answer, but by working with you, and giving you the spit and polish on a project to make it sing. I was really sad when she left TLE (in 2008?) but excited for her as she set up her own company, Ruby Cha Cha.

I am indebted to Ellen for a few things. The first is making research fun. Fun for researchers but also the participants of research, so we all got a lot of joy out of it. She is a huge consumer advocate – fighting their case in boardrooms all about the place. She taught us all that their stores were the centre of being successful, and if we could convey their issues and needs then we’d done a great job.

The second is being in my corner more times than I could count. I was a stubborn little shit at the start of my career. Difficult, feisty and more often than not a pain-in-the-ass. And if things were ever going a bit awry it was Ellen who would tell me to pull my head in and encourage me to keep going.

Ellen – you got me into a career that has been infinitely interesting, challenging and most of all fun. Thanks for your patience and brilliance!

Who would you say your greatest mentor or supporter is? How have they impacted your life or career?

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What a beautiful Sydney day! I got to take my new bike for a spin to the markets, we bumped into some friends there and ate some yummy food, and MM and I did a few things around the house that needed doing.

Perfect weather for bearing the legs!

The great thing about my new bike is that it’s a “ladies bike” – a classic step-through. Unlike my old bike that I had to don all kinds of special clothing, my new bike requires only the clothing I am wearing right now. No special shirts, no clippy shoes and no “age of chance” style cycling tops. And that means I can wear a skirt or dress.

The bike was quite a hit at the markets with a few people asking me about it. Saw one guy snapping a picture which he told me he posted on twitter. My friend Bek had a mini ride of it, and her kids wanted a go to, so they jumped (in turns!) on the back rack and had a little spin.

So, with bike riding in mind, I wore another Dragstar skirt. This time a dark denim one, a Gorman checked shirt I got last week on eBay, a grey cardi and a pair of camper trainers. Later when I got home I swapped the trainers from some mui mui sandals.

Remember – I’m doing this dress/skirt thing for a reason and it’s to raise money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation to help there work at establishing an early detection test for Ovarian Cancer – so dig deep and pull out that small change. Anything over $2 is tax deductible!


*I have to admit – I feel like I am running out of headings featuring “frock” – any suggestions let me know!

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Nothing good started from wanting to be big

OK, that’s not true, but hear me out.

I go to this shop in Newtown and I always leave annoyed because of the woman who runs it drives me nuts. No matter what I say to her – you know, the normal polite customer/shop-keeper chit-chat – she says something so contrary it’s sort of comedic. “Nice day outside ” will turn somehow to something about how shit Sydney Council is. An enquiry if she’s still stocking some little snacks Fin loved turned into a few corkers – such as…

  • Australia is in recession and Europe and the US are in Depression (I had nothing to say back about that one…)
  • The problem with Macro (a chain of organic stores that was sold to Woolworths) was they got too big…(my response was “Yes, so big that he was bought out by Woolworths and made a killing”)
  • etc etc

Anyway, the last thing she said that got me really thinking – annoyed, but thinking – was “Australia just doesn’t have the population.” We got to this point some how after a long fraught “chat” about the size of the organic market in Australia and why an importer has stopped bringing a range of baby snacks in from the UK. I had mentioned how great it was travelling and having organic baby food available pretty much at every supermarket you went to. Well, that set her off. “We just don’t have the population in Australia for that.” She went beyond organic baby food and pretty much slung the “not enough people” argument net over the reason for not launching anything interesting or cool.

A lot of people trot that line out. We just aren’t big enough. Australia just doesn’t have enough people. There isn’t enough people to make that idea work.

That got me thinking about a few things – and mainly about things I’d seen in New Zealand. I used to quite like going there for work as people seemed to be up to a lot of interesting stuff.  Not just the small and quirky brands that seem to pop up all over the place there, but the big mainstream ones as well. None of this interesting stuff seemed to be stopped short by “Well, I dunno, we’re a flipping small country – we better stop here.” Maybe because not having many people is a given. They are small. They move on. They launch cool stuff. I think I drink a Phoenix beverage a few times a week and thank a kiwi for launching here. Phoenix is popping up all over the place – and not just your “artsy inner-city” cafes. Why hasn’t anyone done anything that good here yet? Oh that’s right…we don’t have enough people. Not sure who is drinking Phoenix then.

Here there seems to be some sort of hope that one day there will be a whole lot of extra people to buy these things that people won’t make now because there isn’t enough of them. Working with a few companies over there I don’t think I heard the population argument pop up to shut a new idea down once. Why do I hear it so many times here then? Is it that our friends across the Tasman are a little braver or bolder than us?

I’m not saying that all Australian brands are victims of the “we are too small” curse. The first that pops into mind is Aesop. Another is Dumbo Feather. And there’s a raft of other folks who have no doubt reflected on our neat and small population and launched anyway.

I feel for some big companies that have such huge sales expectations placed on them for any new launch, that they need a “mass appeal” product. But these launches seem few and far between. I can’t think of anything that has come out recently that has set us all on fire – but I can think of a few small ones that have set some of us alight, and we’ve got behind them and become very loyal customers.  Holding out for the big launch looks a little like sitting on your hands holding out for a day when we double in size and then we can breathe out and launch all the cool ideas sitting around on desks, archived away in boxes, generated in work shops, filed away for “later”. Holding out for the “big launch” feels a little like waiting for Godot – absurdist and circular.

So why do we have this attitude and why does it feel New Zealand doesn’t? Or am I delusional and NZ has the size issue as much as we do? It just seems sometimes like “size” is an easy excuse to be a bit ordinary. And that my friends, is very sad.

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Facebook – damned lies and other rubbish

Interesting. Just reading “Facebook Executive Answers Readers Questions” in the NYT and his explanation of the difference between a deactivated account and the deletion of an account.

As previously posted here I deleted my account in 2008 and it wasn’t easy. I had to actually find a site that gave instructions on how to find the button to push to kill off my account because it was impossible to find just navigating blind through the facebook site.

Here is the readers question and the response for facebook.

“What happens when an account is deleted? Do one’s posts on walls, photos, and fan pages remain visible on the site? How long does user data remain on your servers? — A., Texas

You can either deactivate or delete your account. When you deactivate, your profile information and content (photos, videos, etc.) are immediately made inaccessible to others on Facebook. However, this information is saved in case you decide to reactivate later. Some people leave Facebook for
temporary reasons and expect their information and content to be there for them when they return. Messages you’ve sent or Wall posts you’ve made remain, but your name appears in black unclickable text (since your profile no longer appears on Facebook).

If you never want to use Facebook again, you can delete your account. Deletion is permanent, and the account can’t be reactivated. When we process your deletion request, we immediately delete all personal information associated with your account. Messages and Wall posts remain, but are attributed to an anonymous Facebook user. Content you’ve added is deleted over time, but isn’t accessible on Facebook, and isn’t linked with any personal information about you.”

Curious given that…

1) when I set up my account again recently I was immedialty offered up a list of people they thought I may like to add as friends. These were people I had been friends with on my old account. I used the same email address as I had previoulsy used so I can only assume they were matching my old data via this. Strange given that he states above “we immediately delete all personal information associated with your account“. Must have just been some bazaar coincidence that they suggested to friend a whole bunch of people I know out of all the gazilion faceboo users they could have pushed up. Yes, that must be it…

2) As mentioned in the last post I also got a pop up message last week asking me if I’d like to add a “back-up email account” and it displayed two email addresses that I had used at different points on my original account – which had been supposedly deleted by facebook. It made some glib apology about how they were sorry if these weren’t my email addresses. Gee thanks.

I SOOOO want to delete my account again, but what if some turkey decides to set up an account in my name? My email address isn’t that hard to find!

Deleted my data my arse. These guys are liars and what they are doing with people’s personal information is ILLEGAL.

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Goodbye facebook…again

This morning I decided to delete my facebook account again. In 2008 I shut my account down as I was uneasy about their privacy settings and the lack of transparency with what they did with your data. But I started it again as a way of keeping in touch / getting back in touch with people while I am on mat leave. I have been careful about what I post – I am certainly not as open there as what I used to be. But the privacy of my personal information or lack there of, is something that bothers me. There also has been recently an amazing amount of security breaches where people’s information (conversations etc) been accessible or available to 3rd parties (see two posts by Danah Boyd here and here for more information – with links to articles outlining these worrying breaches).

Given facebook is a “closed” network I feel people get a false sense of security about what people can and can’t see about themselves. This is unlike twitter, a social network tool that is very transparent about what information they collect about you and what you share with others.

When I shut down my account in 2008 I had to jump through lots of hoops to *delete* the account (not just suspend it). And this week I was surprised when facebook asked me if I’d like to add a second email address to this new account and offered me up two old email addresses of mine that I had previously used TWO YEARS AGO ON AN ACCOUNT I HAD ALLEGEDLY DELETED.

The lack of transparency on this social network is bullshit – no matter how private you try and keep what you post, it appears that others will still have access to it, and facebook itself does not delete any information about yourself despite a clear instruction to. What concerns me now is that if anyone sets up account pretending to be me, they essentially will be offered up personal data that is stored on facebook despite my understanding that this has been deleted.

Anyhow what this means is that I am keeping the account going, but not posting anything there again. I prefer to be on twitter, where I am 100% clear that what I post is visible to anyone who cares to take a look.

I do not appreciate a site

a) that pretends to be closed or private…
b) shares my information with others I do not want it to / have not opted in or agreed to the sharing of information
c) that has serious security breeches that allow others to see my personal information
d) that has scant regard for people’s desires for protection and privacy of their personal data
e) that makes its privacy settings so dense that it is almost impossible to delete an account
e) …and if you manage to find the option to delete your account THEY KEEP YOUR INFORMATION ANYWAY

So if you want to reach me, find me on twitter (@kelpenhagen) or email me – kelpenhagen (at) gmail (dot) (com).

Love Kel x

pardon my french, but you get the idea...


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