The myth of being indispensable

When you first get a job, you turn up early, take instructions, work diligently, keep your head down and try and do your job as best you can. If you do a good job, one day you might make team leader, become a manager, and help other young people develop up through the system. The story is the same whether you work in a factory, an office, a parliament, a kinder, or at home answering service requests for an international software business. Work hard, develop skills, be awesome, save money, raise kids, buy a house, retire to praise, go on a cruise, and then spend your years painting watercolours or touring with a caravan.

Success in this world is doing what you are told, being obedient, and ultimately being replaceable.

No matter how hard you work in your job, there will always be someone who can do it cheaper or faster than you.

Challenge the status quo and you go from being indispensable to detached, free, and independent. Embracing your own creativity builds a defence from the world of dependency and fosters passion, personality, and connectedness.



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Does the new domain space .melbourne have a future?

Melbourne has always been both the hippest and most normcore Australian city. Obsessed with cafes, coffee, fashion, sport, the right schools, and real estate Melbourne is either incredibly hip or dull and boring depending on which end of the Hume Hwy you live.

What Melbourne does have, is a vanity domain space – .melbourne.

I recently spotted a puff piece in B&T cheerily titled “5 Marketing Benefits Of .melbourne And .sydney Domain Names”.

As a former employee of a domain registrar who was deeply involved in the release of a lot of new domain names like .kiwi, .club, the awesome .tattoo, and many others, I was interested to see how .melbourne was going.

Would I be surprised and delighted that the citizens of my hometown had been inspired to register their own .melbourne domain in the tens of thousands?  Had Melbourne residents been filled with parochial pride at the thought of owning their very piece of virtual Melbourne real estate?

Sadly no.

.melbourne looks like a bit of a disappointment. To put it in terms Melbourne inhabitants would understand, .melbourne is like a quiet cafe with bad coffee somewhere in a busy East Brunswick strip.

With 4,668 domains registered 10 weeks since general release, just over 467 domains have been registered a week. In fact averaging out the registrations makes the performance look better than it really is – only 8 domains were registered in the past week.

Compared with .london which has had 2,882 registrations a week, .nyc which has had 4,503, and .berlin which has had 3,542, it’s pretty uninspiring.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 9.19.33 pm

It’s worth noting that .berlin had a bit of head start with many thousands of domains being given away for free. This has made .berlin the fifth highest ranked new domain space. Unfortunately, the ntldstats data shows that only 17% of domains are being used so it’s unlikely .berlin will remain a top ten new domain space for very long.

Comparing the usage of the city domain names is interesting. Even though .nyc has achieved the highest average weekly registrations, like .berlin it has a fairly low usage rate with only 25% domains being used. 38% of .london domains are being used, and in some good news for .melbourne, 76% of domains are being used.

I’m unsure why so many are being used (or more accurately, are pointed to active name-servers) but it does point to a potentially high renewal rate. I suspect the high rate is because most names have been snapped up by proud government related bodies and local authorities.

For comparison about 40% of .com domains in use is believed to be around 60%.

One reason why .nyc might be smashing it is reasonably priced. A .nyc can be registered for around $31 through Name Cheap while .berlin, and .london are around the $45 mark and .melbourne is $69 through Crazy Domains.

Melbourne real estate really is more expensive than New York.

What about population? Each of the city domains requires a geographical address in the city to be registered. The exception is Vegas which is understandably easy and open to anyone (and anything).

Well, .melbourne is pretty unpopular here too, with only 0.11% domains registered for each Melbourne resident. .berlin is the most popular due to the free-for-all in 2014.

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So, what does it all mean? Is there a future for .melbourne? Will we soon be drinking at (available as a premium name for $4k) while planning a trip to while complaining about (happily both are registered)

It’s hard to tell what the future is for .melbourne or any of the new domain spaces. But without a big increase in .melbourne domains registered it is hard to see any genuine affection for the domain developing just because “Internet users can feel confident they’re dealing with genuine and trusted entities” as the article claims. It all sounds pretty dull and boring. I would love to see the credible research into what makes “Internet Users” confident. I suspect it ain’t a domain name.

.melbourne needs to do more than make Internet Users feel confident. It needs to capture the spirit of the city and inspire creativity. Until it does it will remain dull and boring, a bit norm core.

All metrics current at the time of writing

The picture is of Bourke Street in the 1950s. This was a time when the pubs closed at 6pm and the city was devoid of hipsters and deeply conservative.

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What would Seth do?

Seth Godin is an Internet legend, the master of short, focussed and very entertaining paragraphs, an author of an incredible 17 books, and a revolutionary into the transformative force of technology.

It’s probably not fashionable anymore, but Seth is an inspiration. A free thinker, a visionary, an amazing communicator.

Seth is the man unafraid of bright coloured glasses whereas I am petrified.

Seth is a man who can write huge lists to inspire, provoke, and get you to act.

He is a reminder that you can smash down the mighty walls with creativity, words, and a little lot of pizazz.

If you’re stuck for ideas, are facing a curly issue you can’t get your head around ask yourself what would Seth do?

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2001 space odyssey hamilton watch

What wearables need is a unifying purpose

The hype about wearables is pretty relentless.

At the latest CES, smart watches (I know wearable watches, what will they think of next) were everywhere with CNET calling it a “swarm of smartwatches”.

I’ve been lukewarm on smartwatches and wearables because nothing I’ve seen justifies the buzz. There hasn’t been an iPhone/Tesla/iPad moment when I’ve thought, Wow, I need that.

The reason is that the manufacturers don’t seem to be clear about the problem they are solving. Wearables and smartwatches need a purpose.

Sure there are fitness and health apps, the Samsung Gear smartwatch that could be a genuine phone replacement, but, well there is not much else unless you want a pair of glasses that can help correct your posture.

When Apple launched the iPhone and combined a phone, with a PDA, and an MP3 player  the universe changed. The current batch of smartwatches and wearables don’t have the same unifying, inspiring purpose.

The only problem being solved is the one where I think, I wish I could combine my fitbit, smartphone, and watch. What the manufacturers have forgotten is that a watch is also an item of jewellery, a beautiful piece of art that can subtly announce that I am someone of taste, style, and means.

Apple may have solved this problem with the 18 caret gold Apple watch. The sketch and tap apps are also interesting because they create a new language for connecting through the watch. It will be like a mysterious smartwatch club with secret taps and knocks. This fits right in line with the personal messaging trend exemplified by Secret, WhatsApp, Wickr, and Snapchat.

The Swarovski Shine fitness tracker is pretty interesting because it addresses the fashion factor with a shiny crystal orb type device that looks like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The wearables trend is an interesting product management problem and will be fascinating to watch (pun intended).


Image: The watch was designed for Stanley Kubrick by the US watch maker Hamilton for 2001: A Space Odyssey. I want one. (more info)


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The world is becoming more unequal, so speak truth to power

When I first saw  the HTML title of the tech blog Pando – Speaking truth to the new power – it grabbed me by the throat.

Recently Oxfam have announced that by 2016 the combined wealth of the richest one percent will be greater than that of the other 99 percent unless serious action is taken. To be part of the 1% you need to have $2.7 million in assets or hidden in your mattress.

This is some pretty serious coin.

In Australia, according to the ABS, the wealthiest 20% of households have an average net worth of $2.2 million. Again, this is some serious coin. The poorest 20% of households have a net worth of $31,000.

The recent experience  in Australia mirrors the global trend where disparity in wealth has been increasing. Since the 1980’s the Gini coefficient, a common measure of wealth inequality, has been growing, meaning as a nation we’re becoming more unequal, and wealth is unevenly distributed.

So what can be done?

Pando have it right; we need to speak a our truth(s) to the new power.

Part of the answer lies in digital technology and social media which can amplify the voice of the 99%.

For example Oxfam use digital technologies to help empower Cambodian women by giving them mobile phones. In East Africa mobile phones are used to monitor drought conditions, and in Bangladesh mobile phones are used to monitor storms and rising sea levels. In northern Australia, GPS technology is used by indigenous Australians to develop innovative burn-control strategies.

In urban Australia, I believe there is a correlation between the rise of smaller parties and a fragmentation of the traditional 2 party system which has given rise to the Palmer United Party and gridlocked upper houses of parliament, and the fragmentation of traditional sources of media. The more people abandon traditional media, the more likely they will abandon the traditional political parties.

This isn’t to discount the influence of Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd which owns 65% of all metropolitan newspapers. Rather it is a recognition that there are 14 million Australians using Facebook and 2.8 million twitter users who are accessing news and information in more convenient ways.

According to a poll last year, more Australians are choosing to source their news from independent media, blogs, social media and online. This trend is likely to continue as traditional media models continue to look for new business models to stay relevant.

Speaking a truth to the new power could be as simple as having a blog, promoting it via social media, and having something to say. It doesn’t mean there will be a revolution, but it does mean the difference between being a disempowered subject of power, and an engaged participant in the structures of power, using technology to protest, to learn, to share.

Get on board, get a blog, and say something.

It matters – you could change the world.

Photo (average) taken in Russell Street. An old hardware store which proudly proclaimed that they imported stuff is now a grocery store catering to the new urban dwellers. In one building we can see how a city, and the world has changed.

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Learning how to ride a bike

I was nervous to start with. So was Gabe. The training wheels were off, it was dusk, and there was a warm breeze blowing in from the bay tousling his hair. He was desperate to become part of a club he had been obsessed with from his time wobbling around in nappies. He was desperate to start riding. He wanted to be mobile.

I said, Gabe I’ll hold you so you can get the feel of the bike and balancing. Remember to keep your head up and to keep peddling. He nodded and we started. I ran alongside holding him and gently letting go, letting him feel the bike balancing with him on top and the concrete below.

Not noticing any wobbles, I let go and as the sun started to set and a tan guy in weird exercise shorts skated by checking out the Swedish backpackers, Gabe started to ride a bike.

It was a beautiful moment. Gabe was riding a bike and I experienced one of the greatest gifts I’ve given in my short time as a parent. For some reason seeing Gabe riding confidently, negotiating joggers and roller-bladers and the sheer joy of the moment overcame any of my previous lessons – why Australia Day is Invasion Day, how to make up nonsense songs, how to hammer a nail, and what sleeping in means to me.

Maybe it was seeing his incredible joy at the discovery of a new experience. One so tangible, close, and attainable when compared with the other lessons of childhood which can be somewhat harder.  Even throwing and catching a ball can take time to learn. And now Gabe was riding a fucking bike all by himself.

Riding a bike is important in our culture (in many cultures). It is a cornerstone lesson that all other lessons hang off. Learning how to ride a bike is a lifetime passport to freedom, grace, and speed. It is one of the only leisure activities directly associated with sex – like riding a bike. When riding a bike, you’re more connected with the world, you’re sensuality, liberated from paying bills, earning money, washing the dishes, and sweeping the driveway.

On a bike, you’re no longer an adult with adult concerns, you’re a kid, you’re ageless. You’re like Gabe with wind in your hair, and joy in your heart.

Novelist and future-seer H.G. Wells said “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” After seeing Gabe riding around the St Kilda foreshore, I have to agree with H.G. Wells. Life is good on a bike.

I’ve come close to experiencing the same type of joy, the joy of discovery, in the past six months. Albeit in a clumsier, less elegant way.

After leaving full-time employment and having a break while deciding what I would do next, I discovered I needed a new set of skills. Resilience, honesty, transparency. Not that I was completely dishonest, a flake, or really secretive, but since childhood I had developed a set of behaviours designed to protect me from feeling true vulnerable emotions.

With a lot of time and uncertainty in my life, I was forced to understand that in some ways I was a bit of a creep. A grumpy dad, an unhelpful husband, a TV watcher in the evenings, a smoker (and liar about smoking).

I was looking for freedom, liberation from the habits of the past which kept me flat-footed and trudging along towards somewhere distant in the future. But I had no idea how to find it. In some ways I was like a helpless child trying to cope with some big emotions and anxieties about the future. I’ll write about it more one day, but in the moment I spent with Gabe I saw the same wobbles as I learnt how to balance, and like him felt exhilarated when I recognised that I was learning how to fly.

Learning how to ride a bike is incredible. Spending a lifetime learning is what makes us extraordinary.






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If you use a donotreply address for your emails, you deserve to fail

There’s a convention that corporate transactional and promotional emails are sent from or This is normally followed with a nice message that goes something like:

Please do not reply to this email. Any emails to this address will not be responded to.

How rude and passive aggressive.

What they are actually saying is:

Don’t even think about responding to this email we have sent you because we can’t be bothered responding to it, or even looking at it. It would seriously cost us too much money. Have you seen how much digital talent costs these days? Don’t send us an email. Don’t. You have been warned.


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It’s simple, all the best innovations are

I’ve been reading a lot about simplification recently. About removing stuff and improving products, disrupting markets, and smashing the lazy incumbents. It’s the kind of thing which when you see it, it smacks you in the face and you ask yourself why someone else or you hadn’t done this before.

Some of the great innovations have been about removing steps, making processes easier, and challenging assumptions about that’s the way it needs to be done.

As Evan Williams, founder of Twitter has said, “Everything is obvious once it’s successful. Big wins come when you can spot something before it’s obvious to everyone else.” (more…)

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You are not creating content, you are creating

In his 2010 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Mario Vargas Llosa, spoke lovingly about what reading and literature had given him saying “Reading changed dreams into life and life into dreams”. He goes on to say that without literature, without writing the world would be a darker, more tedious place.

“We would be worse than we are without the good books we have read, more conformist, not as restless, more submissive, and the critical spirit, the engine of progress, would not even exist. Like writing, reading is a protest against the insufficiencies of life.”

You will note that Llosa did not speak about the pleasures of creating and consuming content, or even worse, allude to the excremental pleasures of creating compelling content. (more…)

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