Categories
Creator economy future of work remote working writing

Geriatric Millennials + your digital body language 🤔

Ever heard of geriatric millennials? This Medium article explaining the term went viral last week and hit the headlines. It says kids born between 1980-85 are ‘best positioned to lead teams that will thrive in the hybrid workplace’. They spent their formative years on both sides of the analogue and digital divide, and have a crucial role in helping bridge the gap between ‘digital adaptors’ and ‘digital natives’. 

There was internet outrage – we like to fight about labels. Some people had fun with it, adding #geratricmillennial to their handle and asking about discounts. Others were offended by the term and suggested a name change. Can we have a sexier name? How about Elder Millennials or Xennials? I find that a bit sad. If we don’t like the term geriatric, we need to rethink how we view older people.  

Of course, labels are silly – a marketing ploy to put us in boxes and sell us stuff, but the argument she’s making is right. ‘The speed of technological adoption makes it wrong to see an entire generation (spanning almost a 20-year difference) as being the same.’ Geriatric Millennials straddle the digital-adapter-native divide and are often able to live in two worlds – they are comfortable with both communication styles. 

Age plays a partial role. We’re individuals – there are ‘Millennials’ who hate Zoom and love their phones and ‘Gen Xers’ like me who don’t answer calls and prefer texting and Slack. It shows the benefits of having a diverse team – we can all learn from each other. 

Anyway, great PR by Erica Dhawan, who wrote the article to promote her new book, Digital Body Language. She used a provocative term to spark conversation, identifies as a geriatric millennial and explains why they’re great. 

Erica spent over 10 years investigating, researching and finding new ways to encourage collaboration and communication at work. She grew up as an immigrant in America – caught between two cultures, and says we’re all digital immigrants now. She wanted to write ‘a nuts and bolts rulebook for clear communication in the digital age. Our shiny new tools are causing issues, and most of us speak badly in this world.’ 

I’ve been listening to the audiobook – lots of funny stories, anecdotes and practical advice, and it’s made me think about my digital behaviour. I think I’m doing my colleagues a favour with my short and snappy emails, but maybe they’re perceived as cold and distant. I still have an urge to multitask while on Zoom. Does it look like I’ve checked out when I look down at my phone during meetings or when I turn the camera off? ‘You’re a black square in the corner…’ 

I had a boss who told me off via email for not responding to my colleagues’ emails. I thought about it for a bit and wrote back in my defence i.e. of course, I’ll reply, there are lots of emails flying back and forth, I can’t work out of my inbox, I wouldn’t get any work done etc. I signed off with NNR – no need to reply (one of Erica’s recommendations) which went down like a lead balloon. I got an email back saying ‘I’m not going to respond to that.’ Cultural differences 😉

Great tips on how to model digital body language for your teams, inclusive language, digital empathy, how to enhance customer experience through words, gender differences in language, and emoji as the universal language. Her top tips? We need to slow down, assume the best intentions from people, think about how we make them feel, and put ourselves in their shoes. 

And a great lesson in resilience. Publishers told her the book was too niche, but its time has come – it was #3 on the WSJ Bestseller list 👏

As Seth Godin says, it’s a salve for exhausted Zoomers. 


We write the talk, not talk the talk in 2021 

Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture says the way you write your emails can make or break your career. The best investment you can make is to develop one overlooked skill: written communication.

What’s the greatest advice I give? Develop excellent communication skills. Both in-person and in writing, such as when using email.

An employee, even a very junior person, if they can articulately summarize a meeting, if they can put together a presentation and even emails that are really salient and to the point, they are so valued.

Even more relevant given face to face communication is on the decline, remote work on the rise, and we’re spending more time alone, staring at our screens.

Mildly terrifying to think about how traditional body language is being shaped by our digital body language. What digital behaviours will we carry over in this new hybrid world? Will we be speaking in bullet points? Avoiding eye contact and sitting two metres apart in meetings? It’s a new frontier! 

A bit sad to read that unscheduled calls are perceived as intrusive and ‘as far as booking sales meetings were concerned, it seemed that the strategy with the least human interaction [setting up meetings via Calendly] delivered the most success.’ Where does this leave us? Loneliness is an epidemic and we have an empathy crisis. A YouGov poll found 30% of millennials said they always or often feel lonely, compared to 20% of Generation X and just 15% of baby boomers. It doesn’t ask why – but previous studies show social media and internet addiction play a part. 

A phone call is worth a thousand emails – and it’s becoming an obsolete art! We need a new ad campaign. As Bob Hoskins said, it’s good to talk. 


Photo by Alain Pham on Unsplash

👋 The Zoom wave

I can’t resist the urge to wave at the end of Zoom calls – glad to see I’m not alone. ‘I have never felt the need to wave in person,’ Kennedy, 36, the chief communications and marketing officer for the city of Olathe, Kansas, said. ‘What am I doing?’ Apparently, it’s a good thing. I’m not socially inept. 


Tools + resources →

📹 Erica’s Podcast interview with Rohit Bhargava: How to communicate with digital body language

🙇🏻‍♀️ Digital Body Language course

Hilarious thread from Danielle Rene on your favourite phrases to use in a professional clap back – those passive-aggressive emails. 

  • Just a gentle reminder
  • As we discussed previously (See attached email)…
  • lmao nothing is more passive-aggressive than “PLEASE ADVISE…”
  • If I’m feeling Big Petty I’ll hit them with… I’m not sure where your confusion comes from, but allow me to clarify..
  • Thank You in advance for your prompt response. I look forward to hearing from you.
  • Subject line: ‘Friendly reminder’

Vyv Evans on why emoji is the universal language. And it’s making us better communicators 😍

James Clear on writing as leadership at scale

A new WHO study finds working over 55 hours per week is considered a ‘serious health hazard’ 


Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Playlist of the week →

9 essential podcasts for remote workers, managers + teams


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a weekly newsletter celebrating writing, good design, creativity, flexible working, growth, travel, and online communities. If you enjoy the content, please share it with friends.

Work Better. Live Smarter. Be Happier.

Question or comment? Email nicci@niccitalbot.io.
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Categories
digital nomads future of work remote working Smart Villages

The new Smart Villages – can you really get paid to freelance in Italy? 🇮🇹

Here’s to the new smart villages in Italy.🍷 🇮🇹 A number of towns have launched travel incentives – and will pay you to work from there.

Santa Fiora in Tuscany (the city of water and music) and Rieti in Lazio are both offering to cover up to 50% of your rent if you stay between two and six months as a remote worker.

Local rents are pretty cheap – €300-500 per month, so you could be paying around €150 a month to rent a cosy cottage or apartment in a beautiful village this summer.

Santa Fiora’s mayor, Federico Baloccchi, told CNN:

It’s not targeted at occasional touch-and-go tourists, but people who really want to experiment with our village life.

The goal is to incentivise people to move in and virtually work from here. We want Santa Fiora to become their flexible office.

It’s part of a 10-year development plan to revitalise rural areas which ‘is now more like 10 days [thanks to Covid] so we’re getting on with it.’ Phase one focuses on connectivity and tech and getting workers and firms in – to capitalise on the trend of people wanting space and moving out of urban centres.

And if you fall in love and decide to invest in tourism there, they’ll give you up to €30,000 to open a B&B, hostel or hotel.

I asked about eligibility for freelancers, age/earnings cap etc and ‘it is open to anyone in possession of a smart work job’. Pensioners welcome 😉 as long as you can show you’re working as an online consultant or indie contractor.

A great way to dip your toe in the water and test out Smart Village life.

What do you think, Mac? Could be fun and frothy 🐶 Feasting on roasted chestnuts and Montecucco wine.

Sea you there?

Apply here → Santa Fiora Turismo.

Other places to work different → Visit Tuscany.

Santa Fiora, Tuscany

Remote worker visas and opportunities →

Fueling the future of location-flexible work.

Antigua + Barbuda → Nomad Digital Residence for up to two years. 365 beaches in a year?

Barbados → Work from paradise. 12 month Barbados Welcome Stamp.

Bermuda a slightly more affordable one year Work from Bermuda visa. No minimum income requirement.

Cayman Islands Dreaming of a Cayman?Global Citizen Certificate for up to two years (if you make $100k)

Costa Rica Freelancer visa called the Rentista for up to two years.

Croatia → One year digital nomad visa. Currently hosting their first ‘Digital Nomad in Residence’ competition. 10 nomads will present how Dubrovnik can be a ‘digital nomad friendly city.’

Canary Islands → Launched a €500,000 campaign to lure 30,000 remote workers to the islands over the next five years: The office with the world’s best climate.

Dubai → one-year virtual working programme (and bring your family).

Estonia The first country to offer a digital nomad visa for remote workers.

Georgia Work Remotely from Georgia and be part of your own wallpaper.

Iceland new digital nomad visa for high earners to stay for up to six months.

Indonesia Planning a turbo-charged five-year visa for the wealthy ‘which could be beneficial to digital nomads.’

Madeira a new Digital Nomad Village for minimum one-month stays. Portugal also has a residence permit for indie workers and entrepreneurs.

Mauritius → a renewable one year premium visa for nomads (no fee!) 😍

Thailand Looking to overhaul its Smart Visa to allow digital nomads to remain in the Kingdom for up to four years without a work permit.

Interesting huh. Many more nations will follow suit and compete for citizens as Japanese technologist Tsugio Makimoto predicted 20 years ago – and he digs into the microelectronics and products that enable nomadism.


Can you still buy a house in Italy for €1?

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

Technically, yes – but the houses are put to auction where people can bid on them. Some sell for €1, the average €5,000 – & then you have to pay for the renovations (say €20,000) within three years.

Rubia Daniels was one of the first to buy a bargain-priced house in Mussomeli, Sicily, in 2019 and bought two more for her children. So far, she’s helped 20 people buy homes out there and hopes to take another group in June. She didn’t intend to buy that many houses, but ‘it’s how the people make you feel that makes you say, ok, I’ll buy three.’

Already 100 people have bought a house, what are you waiting for? – Case1euro.it

Not for the faint-hearted but a hugely rewarding project – an investment in yourself, your family, and a new business opportunity (and I’ve seen €1 houses in France and Croatia too).

Here’s how it works.

1 Euro Houses Italy map


London Writers’ Salon: The future of newsletters & publishing w/Substack’s Hamish McKenzie →

Photo by Nicci Talbot

London Writers’ Salon spoke to Hamish McKenzie about his writing, the future of journalism and being co-founder of a tech startup, Substack.

Great brain food 🧠 Raw, revealing and honest – he’s no tech bro. Appreciate his vulnerability on his burnout at Tesla – engineers picking over his work, his confidence took a hit and it took him a while to come back. On the stresses of being a founder, which he describes as ‘psychological torture’. The Substack soap opera rolls on – their employees have had online abuse.

He comes across as someone who cares deeply about the future of writing and wants to create a thriving ecosystem for media based on a trusted relationship between reader & writer – rather than clickbait.

Substack is here to give the media ecosystem more options, not replace it.

He looked exhausted (it was 6 am in Wellington) and needs a break. I wanted to give him a big hug! So 👏 to Matt and Parul for a sensitive interview and giving him space to relax and open up. Refreshing for him to be asked about his writing journey and challenges rather than how to support everyone else’s.

On what writers can learn from startup culture

Put something out there, get feedback, tweak, adjust, don’t give up! Nothing important is ever easy or worth doing – stay focused.

It’s not self-promotion but giving yourself a promotion. Find the joy in marketing. You can’t be of service to this world if people don’t know you exist.

🔥People & Company is joining the Substack team to work on community upstart efforts for writers in its network. Spark the flame, stoke the fire, and pass the torch.

Watch it here. From menopause to McDonald’s: all topics are fair game at London Writers’ Salon, and they’ve built a brilliant online community. Join their Writers’ Hour Daily Writing Sprints.


Journeys In Sound →

Music was my first love by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

Playlist of the week: John Grant


Featured Collection: The Mind at Work by Dropbox

This is your mind at work


Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Tools + resources →

✍️How to open up and create better work: An introvert’s guide to a more collaborative writing process. ‘As a UX writer, sharing early saves me time and breeds creativity.’

💡Hybrid vs remote work: everyone’s looking at big tech to see what they do next, but they’re all making it up on the fly. If you’re considering your options, here’s an open source resource that shows what firms are doing – thanks to Andy for sharing.

🚢Build an online writing habit in 30 days. Redefining the meaning of online community, Substack take note! Writing alone is hard; writing with a community is easier. Love this concept – thanks to Lauren for the tip-off.

🌵Burnout in Tech – Part 1: Declaring war. Actionable steps to fight it for yourself and others.

💰Twitter is rolling out a new tip jar feature to help you get paid for your tweets.

Happy hugging and café working! 🤗


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a weekly newsletter celebrating writing, good design, creativity, flexible working, growth, travel, and online communities. If you enjoy the content, please like it and share with friends. Thanks for reading!

Work Better. Live Smarter. Be Happier.

Question or comment? Email nicci@niccitalbot.io.
Was this helpful? I’m powered by caffeine and Amaretti biscuits.
You can listen to this post here.

Categories
Blogging Digital marketing SEO Small business

Building Backlinks

What are they – why you need them + how they’ll help your business.

Building Backlinks to Your Site

Google has over 200 factors that determine your site ranking and number one is backlinks.

What is a backlink?

If you dabble in the world of marketing or web design, it’s a phrase you’ll hear bandied around a lot when talking about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). A backlink is a link from one website to another. Like a ‘vote’ for a page, it tells Google the content is valuable and useful. Backlinks are the basis of Google’s PageRank algorithm.

The more Backlinks you have, the higher you’ll rank on Google.

Link building is an art and science, creative and analytical. It involves detective work, psychology, tech tools, and relationship building. It’s good fun! And it helps you build relationships with other business owners, and establish yourself as a trusted expert in your niche, so that people come to you for content and quotes.

Quality over Quantity

Google considers the quality of the link to be more important than quantity. For example, Sky News linking to your site would be a higher quality link than your local free newspaper. However, algorithms also consider how relevant the links are. If your links are coming from unrelated sites or pages, they will be regarded as poor-quality links. So be strategic in your outreach and target sites in your niche.

Backlinks need to Grow Organically

This means you can’t go on a backlink mission paying people to link to your site! This goes against Google’s quality guidelines, and you could be penalised. Google likes to see the links occurring over time are relative and preferably come from trusted sites with high Domain Authority. (Domain Authority works on a scale of 0-100 with 40+ considered good, 60+ excellent.) The highest score is 100 – sites like Google, Facebook, and YouTube. The more authority a site has, the more it can pass on to your site via a backlink.

How do you check Domain Authority? Use Moz’ free Domain SEO Analysis Tool to see your DA, top pages, ranking, keywords and more. Ahrefs has a Domain Ranking score which looks at the quality of external backlinks to a site, a Website Authority Checker so you can see your backlink profile (free 7-day trial for $7 if you want to see all the backlinks).

Create a spreadsheet and get this information down!

The only way to increase your website authority is to get more high-quality links to your site. 👇

8 ways to get Backlinks in 2021

1. Roundup posts

Send an email to some thought leaders in your space. Tell them you’re writing a blog and would love to include their feedback on a specific question/issue and that you will reference them, their website, and social profiles. Once you’ve published the post, let them know and ask them to share it on their websites and social channels. This will generate more traffic for your site and increase reach, giving a higher probability that someone will link back to your siteMake sure you’re following them and interacting on social media first – so you’re not pitching cold!

2. Link roundups

A link roundup is a daily, weekly, or monthly blog post that curates and links to great content online. Go to Google and type in “[Your keyword]” + “roundup” and see what results come up. Once you’ve found a roundup that seems like a good fit for your brand/content, send them an email. Here’s an example of what to say:

Hi [Site owner name]

I just came across your [Roundup name] today. Great stuff. 

I’m reaching out because I recently published a [Content description] that might be a good fit for the site [Your URL or blog post link here]. 

Either way, thanks for your time, and it would be great if you’d consider me for future roundups!

Thank you 😊

[Your first name]

[Pro email signature that links to all your profiles] so they know it’s not spam.

Remember, you are writing to a human. Personalise every email you send and gently suggest they include your linkable asset in the roundup, and if it’s a good fit, they may also share it on social.

3. Broken link building

This is a good strategy as you’re adding value to someone’s site by correcting a broken link and offering a resource. Focus on resource pages in your niche and try and find some with recent 404 errors. So, if you work in the fitness industry, Google “Fitness” + “Resource page”, “Fitness” + “Resources” or “Fitness” + “links” and see what comes up.

Add the check my links Google Chrome extension to find broken links. Then contact the site owner and let them about the broken link and that you’ve written a post on this content – feel free to use it on your resource page.

4. Loot your competitors’ backlinks

Use Moz Pro or Ahrefs Site Explorer (free trial) to research your competitors and monitor your niche. Find out where their links are coming from and start pitching to the same outlets. (FYI, podcasts are a brilliant source of quality backlinks and free therapy). Also, look for sites that list your competitors but not you and ask them nicely for a link – send them a useful resource.

5. Write testimonials for products/services you use

This can help you to earn a link from an authoritative website. If you’re using a product or service you love, send them a testimonial. They may add a link to your website without you asking.

6. Link reclamation

Try Ahrefs Content Explorer tool, Buzzsumo, SEMrush or Mention.com (all offer free trials). Google Alerts or Advanced Search is free (search using “[Your keyword]” and other nifty search strings, but it will take longer, and it’s hard to export data.

You can do the same with unlinked images, e.g. infographics or products. Use Google’s reverse image search and upload an image you think may be used online. Contact the site owner and ask them to credit you and link back.

Get into the habit of doing this quarterly – it’s good to monitor online conversations about your company. No doubt you’ll find loads of results, so prioritise the most authoritative sites.

7. Create linkable assets

Content is king! The best way to create organic backlinks is to create great content people want to link to consistently. So, blogs, videos, whitepapers, infographics, how-to guides, software, quizzes, and surveys. To help generate ideas, check out sites like Answer the Public and Google’s ‘People also ask’ to find what people are searching for information on. Then create quality content that solves their problem.

You can also pitch guest posts to blogs in your niche. Search “[Keyword]” + “guest post” or “[Keyword]” + “Write for us”, and you will find a list of sites with opportunities to pitch.

You can also promote your infographics online by submitting them to sites to help you get more backlinks.

8. Become a trusted source for journalists, bloggers, and influencers

Sign up for HARO (Help a Reporter Out) – a site that connects journalists seeking expertise for their content with sources with that expertise. Sign up as a source and look out for requests alerts for your industry. Pitch helpful information and your credentials, and hopefully, they will use you again. HARO a US site but now has UK categories. Also, check out #JournoRequest on Twitter and ResponseSource for UK focused markets.

Business is about human connection. Develop authentic relationships with people in your industry and become a trusted go-to source of information and you will organically get more backlinks. It’s great to have a support network to bounce ideas around, help each other out, and collaborate on projects and campaigns.

Happy link building!

To recap, link building is the most crucial part of your marketing/SEO. Use these strategies to help you find link opportunities, grow your authority, and you will see a steady improvement in your Google PageRank over time.

Remember to keep notes to track your progress. 🤗

Which link building strategy will you try first? Please post a comment and let us know what’s working for you. No time for backlinks? Give us a call, and let’s chat! 

First published on Perspective Marketing & Design – more about our services here.

Categories
flexible working future of work London technology

How flexible working is a battle for equality

London Rising new online event series

#LondonRising on what’s next for workplace culture

Great insights into the future of work from Annie Auerbach, founder of Starling trends agency and author of FLEX – the Modern Woman’s Handbook; designer Thomas Heatherwick and Kevin Ellis, Chairman of PwC.

  • The office is evolving. It’s becoming a collaborative space for meeting and training. The strange old design briefs that banged on about workers as ‘cogs’ in the system and banged on about efficiency are disappearing. We’re now thinking of emotion as a function. If the five days on/two days off model is reversed, we’ll see more professional promiscuity, which means…
  • The office needs to work harder, not the people. The quality of experience will need to be higher. I love this: ‘The exciting bit – finally – the place of work needs to be a temple for the values of that organisation, not a gruntwork factory where the onus is put on the front desk.’
  • How do we make the office extraordinary? Like a shot in the arm delivering the company’s values? Take inspiration from religious buildings and how they engage people’s emotions and provide a nurturing environment. 
  • Creating meeting spaces that bring teams together. Clubhouse has a town hall update every Sunday, which regularly has overflow rooms – if this was a physical space, I’d imagine something like this – the Roman amphitheatre. Togas optional 😉
  • No one wants to work in an ivory tower. Companies are making changes, encouraging staff to go out for lunch instead of using the staff canteen to support the ecosystem around offices and connect with the community. The flipside is with WFA, you can support your local high street and get to know business owners for half the London price. 
  • Flexible work is an expectation, not a perk. Remote working has been gaining momentum for years, and Covid is the tipping point. ‘The genie is out of the bottle’. A recent survey said half of UK employees would quit if denied flexible working post-pandemic. And there are plenty of senior people who work part-time and keep it a secret.
  • Liz Truss, Minister for Women and Equalities, calls for flexible working to be normalised – a move that will boost employment in areas away from major cities and help turbocharge opportunities for women – who are twice as likely as men to work flexibly. 
  • All businesses are in a war for talent. Pioneering companies understand the need to ride the wave to get the best talent by giving people choice and flexibility. Great to hear PwC plans to roll out a flexible working policy that will allow its 22,000 UK staff to split their time between home and office. We should extend flexible working to blue-collar workers as well as white-collar.

I said no to an interview for a senior editor role this week as ‘they’re looking for someone to be in the office full time.’ So they will be hiring someone who can afford to live in London or commute in easily. I said I’ve been remote working for years as a single parent with a disability living outside London. What is the point of commuting to an office five days a week? I’d be too knackered to give them my best.

And good to hear Tony Blair (with his fab new hair – Brad Pitt or Gandalf?) talking about how we can move forward by working together. Covid isn’t ending – we’re in a new world and have to prepare for it. We need to use aid to quickly vaccinate the globe so countries aren’t isolated, and improve our cloud-based genome databases.

Tech is a huge opportunity

I disagree with what he said about remote working as a problem for new starters – we don’t need to be in the same room to learn – tech makes it possible to have many mentors virtually, and we can learn faster. Sharing confidential information online can be a challenge, but we have encryption and old school phone calls!

The business and tech event is on 12 May, exploring how the pandemic has impacted women and how technology can help us set better digital boundaries. I’m looking forward to hearing from Nicola Mendelson, VP EMEA Facebook and mum of four, on her challenges; Facebook’s research on how small businesses have been affected by the pandemic, and an insider view on the future of AR/VR – Facebook’s upcoming new smart glasses. 

The recurring theme at all the events I’ve been to lately is on building NEW, not building back better. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvent how we live and work, so let’s not waste it. London should be shouting from the rooftops, loud & proud that it’s open for business with jobs and career opportunities for all.

Make flexible working a right from day one and build the kind of place where people want to work. Then we won’t need to talk about flex working anymore 😉

Interesting to see how things are going in Sydney – they’re a bit further along. Labor’s new policy would force companies to publicly release gender pay gap data to help close the gap.

Sector-themed events are convenient but they keep us in a box. It would be brilliant to see more cross-industry events like Creative Women, bringing people together from different sectors to network, brainstorm and help each other. More diverse experiences and perspectives can boost creativity and help with problem-solving.


Go deeper 🛠

new survey of 32,500 workers in 19 countries paints a picture of a global workforce that sees the shift to remote working as just the tip of the iceberg. We’re ready to build new skills, completely retrain and focusing on entrepreneurship.

Government taskforce urges permanent job flexibility for all workers. Millions could benefit from new rights to work from home once the pandemic is over. Even civil servants are now working flexibly ‘to capitalise on productivity gain’ – a bit of a u-turn, Rishi 😉

How flexible work is a battle for equality. New analysis – male-dominated firms want workers back at their desks… and are choking out diversity by cementing in less flexible working policies. 

A refreshing, optimistic take on the future of work from Elizabeth Uviebinene, author of The Reset: Ideas to Change How We Live and Work. ‘The future of work is community.’

Get ready for the new workplace perks. Out go gyms and free meals, in come gong baths and financial advice. It will be interesting to see how big tech companies adapt their giant campuses if more people choose to work remote. 

A Sydney fintech company’s approach to flexible work—and what lessons it can offer to companies elsewhere. And Atlassian’s ‘Team Anywhere’ policy.

What the tech world is doing to counter burnout. Microsoft’s new Outlook settings reduce meetings by five to 15 minutes. Give yourself regular doses of micro self-care.

New gen Tokyo conference room explores new workstyles to foster creativity. An experience to excite all your senses… 

Enjoy reading this? Sign up to The Shift for more updates.

Categories
Design Thinking future of work journalism

🕵🏻‍♀️ Exploring the future of journalism

How we can use Design Thinking to solve journalistic problems.

I’ve been to a few journalism events this week on the industry’s future and what needs to change.

NUJ Racism and the Media special meeting, Freelance Industrial Council, and the #buildbackwellDEN Spring ’21 meeting. 

Common themes: Digital transformation, reinvention, diversity, resilience, burnout and mental health.

There was a backlash to the Society of Editors’ bizarre statement denying press racism in the UK. Press Gazette did a survey which shows there’s still much work to do. NUJ Black Members’ Council made a statement about what we can learn from the Meghan Markle race debate saying how the industry should have used the comments made by Meghan and Harry to start a long-overdue debate about the best way to prevent racist coverage.  

We heard some shocking stories about racism in the media and how the media has a problem pigeonholing journalists of colour. Editors want pitches related to race and lived experiences, giving little space for journalists to explore other topics. 

Lack of diversity in newsrooms was the biggest issue flagged. It’s not so much a problem with recruitment, but retention – if the work culture isn’t diverse and welcoming, people won’t hang around. Depressing to hear stories of endemic racism in our media corporations and comments like: ‘Sometimes the only way to break out [of the box you’re put in] is to leave and come back in through another door.’

Look out for the full report on londonfreelance.org.


Do freelance rates discriminate?

We have some new data on gender, ethnicity and rates. Thanks to the #FreelancerPayGap initiative LFB has added over 1,000 Rates for the Job with info on ethnicity as well as gender. We have a gender pay gap and an ethnic pay gap. In this data set, women are getting less than men and people who don’t identify as ‘white’ are getting less than those who do.

We all need to step up. Sharing rates and being transparent about pay will help to dismantle the gender pay gap. You can submit your Rate for the Job here and via the #FreelancerPayGap. I’ve seen similar campaigns for advertising and publishing. 


#buildbackwellDEN (Digital Editors’ Network) 

UX Indonesia on Unsplash

More than 70 colleagues from across 12 time zones came to the DEN event – a 90-minute, interactive discussion on how we can build back well. It focused on three areas: PEOPLE, PROCESS and PRODUCT.

The aim is to co-create an agenda to take back to decision-makers so it’s not just a talking shop (there’s a working document).

Excellent speakers and breakout sessions to brainstorm ideas.

The Chatham House Rule means I can share information about the discussion but not identify anyone or attribute quotes. This is so people can speak freely.

Key points: 

– Flying the flag for freelancers. The fastest-growing sector of the industry. Will we all burn out? Is that where this is heading? Is there any research on freelancers and burnout, and where do we go?

– No more siloed working. Newsrooms and publications need to build a better relationship with freelancers and be more inclusive. Freelancers need to be paid fairly – more transparency around pay rates.  

– We need a database of freelancers showing who’s available, their background and what they can do. To help speed up the commissioning process and encourage collaboration. Databases like this exist within organisations, e.g. the BBC has a portal, but there’s nothing that can be accessed by the wider industry.

– What companies are doing to prevent burnout – training people up on mental health, working on user-generated content, creating intranets about COVID as a resource for staff, and enforcing wellbeing policies.

– How Design Thinking can transform journalism. Never thought I’d hear Design Thinking, empathy and journalism in the same sentence 😉 Exciting! I’m reading a lot about Design Thinking on my UX course – here’s a nice intro.

Newsrooms need to take a more holistic approach with human-centred storytelling and understand what people need before creating a story/product. How much do you know about your readers? Involve them in the creation process. 

– Soft skills vs hard skills: The importance of listening and empathy. The emphasis on hard skills in journalism is why I haven’t felt comfortable in it. It’s as though being argumentative, pushy and loud somehow makes you a better journalist. I did some subbing shifts on the nationals a few years ago – no women on the team, a hard-drinking culture and long working hours. A work culture that would exclude many.

Well done, DEN. An inspiring discussion and lots to think about. Feels like I’m heading in the right direction with the UX training – and I can see why I’m attracted to it.

I can combine my UX work with journalism to create better media products.

Check out the speakers and feel free to send in ideas for future DEN events.

Enjoyed this article by Rasmus Kleis Neilson, Director at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, on the vanguard and rearguards in the fight for the future of journalism. The tension between those who embrace change and those who want things to stay the same.

The vanguard is full of women and more diverse. The rearguard full of white men like me.

This mindset will continue to undermine journalism’s ability to adapt, remake, and renew itself, and the profession as a whole, especially younger journalists, will have to live with the consequences of this conservatism.

Rasmus Kleis Neilson

Go deeper 🛠

World Press Trends Outlook 2021: Digital transformation in the driver’s seat. Nearly 60% of publishers say staff will either WFH or have the option to WFH going forward. Only 5% expect to move everyone back to the office. 

Content is Product and Product is Content: Why deeper alignment is the only way forward. Dmitry Shiskin on why it’s time to start treating content and product as one. They are slowly merging into one thing. 

People pay for other media, but they won’t pay for journalism (Heather Bryant).

The idea that the user experience of the delivered product of most journalism is anywhere near the quality of any of other media is in many cases a delusion of grandeur. 👏

Facebook is Starting a Substack Competitor (Nieman Lab) – Facebook to pay $5 million to local journalists in news push. They’ve pledged to invest $1 billion in the news industry over the next five years. Be interesting to see what happens – Facebook has strong community groups.

Substack says, bring it on! 

Listen up! #FutureMediaPodcasts roundup 🎧

Why journalists NEED to be researchers (Shirish Kulkarni) – on how journalism can apply Design Thinking principles to tell better stories.

Most of our news is presented ‘top down’ – do we actually want something ‘bottom up’ where communities are more involved in telling their own stories? 

How to use design thinking to solve journalistic problems (newsrewired.com)

Freelancer Magazine – well done to the team for getting this out, an inspiring read 🙌 Get your copy here.

Freelance Business for Writers, 3-4 June 2021. Free online event for freelance copywriters, editors, journalists and translators. Speaker callout🎙

Global Freelancing – take the survey. ‘The goal is to understand the experience of freelancing during the pandemic and looking ahead at the future of work.’


This month, I’ve been… Building backlinks 🔗

I wrote an article on how to build backlinks. What they are, why you need them, and how they’ll help your business.👇

Google has over 200 factors that determine your site ranking, and number one is backlinks. 

Link building is an art and science, creative and analytical. It involves detective work, psychology, tools and relationship building.

I’ve done a few things so let’s see if my Google ranking improves.

Happy link building! 


LINE OF DUTY

Ted Hastings. A man of principle. He can’t retire!

Will we find out who H is…? Not long till I get my fix…

Categories
digital nomads future of work technology UX writing

🕵🏻‍♀️Coming out of lockdown, Digital skills training, UX jobs

✂️ 🍺 🌞 Step two of the roadmap – life!! Lots of smiling faces in Hastings old town – pub gardens are packed, caravan parks full. I’m not ready for crowds yet but I’ve been out walking lots and did a bit of shopping in TK Maxx – the vast warehouse. ‘It was chaos for three days. People were elbowing each other out of the way; it wasn’t pleasant.’ People are spending all day in there, just to get out of the house.

They need a coffee bar and a loo and it’s a proper leisure attraction.

I’ve booked a haircut with Andrew Scissorhands, so he’s coming round to the flat in May. After working in London for 30 years as a stylist, he’s been wooed by the fabulous vibe in Hastings and St Leonards and set up his own salon here – currently ‘haircuts at home or on the beach’ – tagline: ‘A fraction of Harrods in Hastings’. He’s also working with the Seaview Centre, a fabulous homeless charity in St Leonards. 

Can he make an ancient monument look respectable? We’ll see. I didn’t do a great job with the kitchen scissors.

The mass exodus from London to Hastings continues.


UX Writers Collective

I’ve started the UX writer training. I’ve been dithering for a while as I’m not sure I want to do it full time, but I’m ready for a change. I’ve lost my enthusiasm for sales copy and social media marketing and want to niche down and do deeper work. I had a breakthrough last week with my therapist (who has now become my work accountability coach) and realise it’s ok not to know where it’s all going. Retraining doesn’t mean giving up everything I’ve done so far. I’m a bit scared I might not enjoy it or be any good at it.

But I won’t know till I try and take on some new projects.

UX writing (user experience) is a new growth industry. Lots of innovation and opportunity, and people are coming to it from all walks of life – I’ve met former journos, customer service agents, and copywriters who are moving into tech. The vibe is inclusive, generous, encouraging, and collaborative—no egos which is refreshing. The course is online and self-paced, so I can fit it in around client work. If I do an hour a week, I’ll be certified in 8-10 weeks (if I crack the final assignment, which is hard).

Thoughts so far – it’s harder to write less. UX is more about research and content strategy with a focus on the user. It’s making me think more about accessibility, collaboration and design thinking – taking a holistic approach to content. Unlike copywriting, it’s not the sort of work you do in a silo, so that will be good for me – I’ll have to speak to people. I need to learn a few design packages – Miro, Figma, and basic HTML/coding.

I’m doing a bit of networking – joined the Content + UX Slack group, did the UX Writers conference, and will check out some local meetups when they restart. I’ve signed up for the Daily UX Writing Challenge to do some practice work for my portfolio and paid for a Medium subscription – $50 a year and well worth it – lots of great articles on writing + design. I’m making a little on there via the Partner program.

Lots of books to read – I bought Marie-Pier Rochon’s book on UX writing – she’s a copywriter in Brisbane who has moved into UX, so it’s interesting to read her story and perspective on the industry.

What do I want? A gig with a remote-first company where I can be a corporate nomad and slowmad when I’m an empty nester. My place in the sun – running remote retreats. It’s exciting to see the visa and tax incentives coming in for remote workers: the
CanariesItaly, the Caribbean, Croatia & more. My mission is to create useful digital products people love to use that make them feel good about themselves. And to help more women and girls get into tech, scale their online businesses, and develop digital skills.

I’ve followed up with Plumia (Safety Wing) – an ambitious project to build the first country on the internet, infrastructure for living anywhere, with the function of a geographic country. They are looking for leaders and contributors in remote work and nomadic space. Interested? You can check it out here.  

Anyway, I need to be kind and patient with myself. Learning new skills and changing careers takes time.

I had an interview this week for a UX writer gig at a design agency – great to get that far. An informal chat to see if we’re a good fit and find out what I’m looking for. They have some fascinating projects on the go – AI & healthcare – interface design for live surgery, remote banking advisors, travel apps and more. The next step would be a formal interview and test – I need a few more projects in my portfolio to talk through. I’ve heard interviews for UX can be tough – you need to show your strategy, iterative thinking, and how you solved the problem.  

I’ve also been thinking about my process and how I work. Social media marketing is fun but distracting – I find myself going down rabbit holes online and there’s a lot of crap and negativity on Twitter. I’m trying to focus on one thing at a time and use my time more efficiently – batch tasks, themed days. I save interesting articles on Instapaper to read later and check RSS feeds via Feedly on my phone rather than reading websites, to save time.

💡 More agile working and sprints
👩‍💻 Periods of focus and concentration
🚶🏻‍♀️A shorter working week

I tried taking two-hour lunch breaks, but it doesn’t work; stuff comes in, so I’m aiming for a four-day week with Fridays off. I felt so much better after a day in Hastings Country Park last week – Daily Huddle with the ponies and roosters, who gave me some solid advice.

Great tips in this thread from Andy Spence on what works better for him to maintain health and prevent burnout. 

Still waiting for my standing desk – in the meantime, I’m shuffling between the desk and mantlepiece to mix it up a bit. There’s something about standing up to work – ideas seem to flow better – so I’m trying to move about more during the day. We’re not designed to spend eight hours a day sitting at a desk.

I’ve made some more green friends – office jungle in progress…🌵🌿


Our digital lives in 2021  

Big shoutout to Romana Sustar and Helen Hague – the new training officers at NUJ London Freelance Branch, who are developing a cracking training programme. Great piece by Romy on our digital life in 2021, focusing on the digital revolution and learning more.

We’re exploring a collaboration with Google News Initiative – free tools and training for groups and individuals to save you time and help you bring your stories to life.

Coming up: Podcasting and WordPress courses with Hamish Brown and Rev Up Your Writing with Judi Goodwin – how to write faster, more fluently, and earn more. I need to speed up – it can be like pulling teeth. Email the training team if you fancy doing one (courses are open to non-members) or DM me on Twitter @NUJ_LFB.

And a free event on 29 April – ‘Building Back Well’ via the Digital Editors’ Network (thanks to John Crowley for sending this on). ‘We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to hit the reset button.’ What do newsrooms need to change to ‘build back well’? The aim is to co-create an agenda for decision-makers to consider – on people, processes, and products (some best practices to apply to your media business – Substack newsletter coming soon).

I’m thinking about what courses and digital products I could offer – what skills would you like to learn or do better? Newsletters? UX writing? Improving your online presence? Email me – nicci@niccitalbot.io.

– Nicci

Eat this. Breakfast BOMB and healthy snack. I love granola and the supermarket stuff is expensive – tastes great and I’m saving a fortune.


Go deeper 🛠

Bruce Daisley: ‘Almost without exception breakthroughs come from deep work’ (Enterprise Nation) – On what we can do to overcome our collective addiction to interruptions. And a shoutout to Paul Graham’s excellent Maker vs Manager schedule. 

Dell Technologies Turn Off, Tune In: a free virtual event to help small businesses recharge and burn brighter, 4-27 May. Nine inspiring, re-energising sessions designed to help you rest, recharge, and come back, ready to take on what’s next. You can register here

Ireland is planning a remote working push to shift city workers to rural areas (Financial Times). The government is seizing the opportunity offered by changing pandemic-era work habits to shift people from major cities to the rest of the country via a network of 400+ remote working hubs and tax breaks to address the longstanding rural-urban divide.

The biggest mistake we can make as we emerge from the pandemic is to go back to the old normal – Heather Humphreys, minister for rural and community development.

Enjoyed this article by LFB colleague Francesca Marchese, currently on mat leave and spending time with her family in Sicily: Etna: Life beneath the volcanic dust of repeated eruptions (BBC).

Our Digital Life in 2021, Romy Sustar (NUJ London Freelance) – on learning how to podcast, free online training opportunities with Google News Initiative, and upcoming workshops and events.

Getting started with the Medium Partner Program – great articles on writing, design + UX – it’s well worth the $50 membership fee to access unlimited articles and support creators. I’ve signed up for the Medium Partner Program to monetise my work – not earning megabucks, but it will build as I add more content.

We had a chat about AI & copywriting on Clubhouse last night – are the machines coming for us? Human qualities that machines can’t replicate. How we can use AI to improve our work and free up time. If devices are writing shorter text, news stories, and product descriptions – it reorients us towards long-form content, opinion, analysis, and investigation.

In summary: Don’t worry. Sex robots are here, but you wouldn’t have one as a partner. Read the notes here.

This LinkedIn post went viral – a contractor described his reaction to having a heart attack when working at home. ‘Fuck I needed to meet with my manager tomorrow; this isn’t convenient.’ And on reflection, how he is restructuring his approach to work because ‘life literally is too short.’

Some great advice in the comments – ‘try to create multiple streams of income at your own pace.’


Categories
Creator economy journalism newsletters technology

🕵🏻‍♀️Substack: the Marketplace of Ideas

Weekly curated tools + resources for writers – thinkers, makers and builders ✍️

Interesting read from Ben Smith in The New York Times on the Substack debate. Media company vs tech platform, their editorial role (or not), the advances paid out by Substack Pro, and their biggest challenge: competitors like Ghost and Twitter/Revue.

The quote from John O’Nolan, Ghost CEO sums it up: Subscription newsletter publishing was ‘destined to be commoditized.’

The news is that Substack has signed up two high profile transgender writers – Danny and Grace Laverty so we have a household with two Substack incomes. A smart move, as it helps counter the backlash they’ve had from some writers who don’t want to share the platform with people who they said were anti-trans. It shows they want to be a platform for all – even those who criticise the company.

There’s been a media storm around Substack over the past year – about money, mostly (they are VC funded and valued at $650 million (Axios), the compatibility of VC funding and journalism, and the ethics of paying writers to join the platform. Why not? Authors get book advances, and we don’t bat an eyelid. And subscriptions are a much better deal for writers.

As Casey Newton said, Substack is taking up a lot of mindspace and has become a target for ‘a lot of people to project their anxieties.’

Substack has captivated an anxious industry because it embodies larger forces and contradictions. For one, the new media economy promises both to make some writers rich and to turn others into the content-creation equivalent of Uber drivers, even as journalists increasingly turn to labour unions to level out pay scales. – Ben Smith.

Some writers (a minority) are making big money on Substack – good for them. It’s inspiring to check the leaderboard and see what’s possible – it introduces a bit of friendly competition. They’ve built a following over time and bought their audiences with them.

But most (like me) are making money via support from readers, not paid advances. It’s a side hustle alongside their main job or freelance projects. It’s fun. I’m learning as I go, and it’s an opportunity to have a product and a platform. There’s no obligation to stay – I can take my work and publish it elsewhere.

Power to the creator 

The power shift has been happening for a while – Patreon CEO Jack Conte talks about it here. Substack isn’t creating it, but it’s part of it and riding the wave. There’s a cultural shift towards the creator economy, valuing good content and being willing to pay for it. David Lat calls it the ‘great reset’ of charging for content (we all need to get used to paying more for content!). And the fear is that it’s helping writers to discover their market value.

The genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no going back!

And it’s not legacy media vs Substack either – we have broad tastes, and there’s room for all types of media. I’m not paying for news on Substack; I’m getting opinion, analysis, and diverse views from people who may not fit the traditional media mould/niche, which is refreshing. Journalism is still largely a white, middle-class profession.

I am excited about Substack – it’s the biggest tech challenge in a while, and captures the spirit of early blogging with diverse views and a dose of reality. Columnist Heather Havrilesky is taking ‘Ask Polly’ from The New Yorker Magazine to Substack to ‘regain some of the indie spirit and sense of freedom that drew me to want to write online in the first place.’

As long as they keep adding value, supporting writers, and building community, I’ll stick around. It feels good to be part of a bigger mission.   

As a writer on the platform, the pain points are SEO – very important!! I’m giving away my Google juice. So I publish on my site first, tell Google I own the content and then share it to other platforms – Substack, Medium, and social media. And for those writers earning a living here, the 10% commission is a killer and needs to come down.

As a consumer, it’s expensive to subscribe to lots of newsletters – see this thread from Laura Hazard Owen. I can claim expenses if they are work-related, but I’d love to see more ‘bundling up’ newsletters in similar industries to offer value to readers. I’ve seen posts on Reddit asking if people are interested in joint subscriptions to split the cost.

Companies need to get in on the act, too – newsletter bundles would be a great perk for employees – fresh ideas and perspectives enhance workplace culture.


What are publishers doing to solve the ‘Substack problem’? 

  • The New York Times has bought columnist Paul Krugman’s free Substack to their platform.
  • @Choire is stepping down from the NYT Style desk and ‘taking on a new and exciting challenge, as a senior editor charged with a project to help expand our newsletter portfolio alongside Sam Dolnick and Adam Pasick.’
  • Vanity Fair meets Substack – former VF editor Jon Kelly is launching a new, private equity-backed publication. ‘Writers have been offered equity and a percentage of the subscription revenue they would generate.’

As Ben points out, the biggest threat to Substack isn’t politics amongst writers but another tech stack with a different (cheaper) model, e.g. Ghost, Twitter/Revue. Ghost is open-source and non-profit, which will appeal to many publishers.

They are aware of this and working hard on ‘brand Substack’. Good to see they’ve announced a $1 million initiative to support a new group of local news writers on the platform (non-famous writers ;-).

This is not a grants program, nor is it inspired by philanthropic intent. Our goal is to foster an effective business model for independent local news that provides ample room for growth.

There’s more to come. ‘We will make a large investment in a support program that includes initiatives related to healthcare, personal finance, editing, distribution, design, and coworking spaces.’ Which gives them the edge.

And writers will find creative solutions for siloed working and isolation. 💪

Today, eight writers with paid newsletters on tech and culture, including Casey Newton, Anne Helen Petersen, and Delia Cai, are launching Sidechannel –

‘A shared Discord server where our paid subscribers can meet, hang out, and participate in a vibrant daily conversation about tech, culture, and society.’

They have big plans – shared channels, jobs, networking, and Clubhouse-style chats where you can ask questions. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is their first guest tomorrow.

Let’s celebrate Substack’s success. Indie media is super important, as is diversity – we need more voices. Please support your favourite writers, artists, and musicians via Substack, Patreon, Podia, Soundcloud, and Stack Magazines – leave a tip or comment, share and like a post – a little goes a long way to help.

Self-publishing is a hard, lonely job 🎻

From the NYT comments:

In a media ecosystem where six companies own systems that deliver 90% of the news, indie platforms can only be a good thing.

Substack is filled with cancelled, edgy writers. It’s where Ernie Pyle, Hunter Thompson and Martha Gellhorn would be if they were alive and writing today.


Go deeper 🛠

✍️ Sovereign Writers and Substack (Stratechery) – Ben Thompson on ‘the fundamental issues about the Substack model specifically, and the shift to sovereign writers generally, that are being misunderstood.’

📬 Newsletters: The market is booming! (Marie Dollé). Mapping the newsletter ecosystem. ‘Creating content for and with your audience is exciting and crucial, especially when you realize that the community builder is the creator too!’ Brands, take note!

📣 You’ve Got Mail (Anna Wiener, The New Yorker) on the history of newsletters and embracing change: ‘Carving out new ways for writers to make money from their work is surely a good thing: the US lost 16,000 newsrooms jobs this year. I ❤️ Hayley Hahman’s comments on how writing her newsletter ‘Maybe Baby’ has made her reflect on how she measures success. 

👩‍🎨 Li Jin on the Passion Economy and the Future of Work (andreessen horowitz). ‘Gig work isn’t going anywhere—but there are now more ways to capitalize on creativity. This has huge implications for entrepreneurship and what we’ll think of as a ‘job’ in the future.’ 

And some newsletters resources for you 🤗

Categories
digital nomads future of work remote working

A Day in the Life of Brittnee Bond, Founder, Remote Collective.

I believe all people should have access to remote work, and I intend to make this a reality.

Brittnee Bond, Founder, Remote Collective.

Thinking big 💡

I wake up, I meditate, I go swimming in the sea. I run, I do yoga, and then I sit down and start work.

I’m doing crypto investing right now and investigating blockchain, specifically to help women gain more financial freedom, so I’ll spend a couple of hours on calls with people and then I do a lot of community building. We build gardens, we help the local Thai people. So, there’s just constantly things happening.

But the first part of my day is like for me. For soul-building, for my creativity and then I do my work. And then I have time to give back to the community.

A day in the life of Brittnee Bond, Founder, Remote Collective – the latest video in Hoxby’s Workstyle Stories Live: a series of real-life stories that showcase the transformative power of workstyle. Brittnee is a remote work consultant and a coach for women entrepreneurs, currently based on Ko Pha Ngan, a tiny island in Thailand.

Pre-remote, she worked as a Paralegal in Intellectual Property law for six years.

An hour on the train each way every day, work for 8-9 hours, and that was my life.

Was it like Suits, the TV show? A stressful work culture with long hours and corporate tension?

Yeah, I would say it’s creepily accurate. My friends loved watching that Suits show, and I’m like, I can’t watch that, that’s my everyday life. Sometimes they would even have places at the office where you could sleep, just so you would keep working. It was really bad.

What was the dealbreaker?

I always wanted to work remotely. Even when I graduated high school and into university. That was my thing. I wanted to help people and make an impact, but I wanted to have my own freedom.

She worked as an internal consultant for three law firms helping them to go paperless and getting the systems in place to work remotely. She made herself indispensable and kept going, creating opportunities to build the workstyle she wanted.

The third firm let her work remotely and live in Costa Rica – the start of her remote working adventure.

It worked perfectly, her KPIs were off the charts and she proved she could do it. But after six months they wanted her back in the office.

The culture within the legal field, it’s too traditional for me, I can’t handle it. They were willing to let me work remotely because I’d helped them so much, and then the attitude was like, okay, we gave you your six months, and now you need to come back to the office and work for the rest of your life for us. And I was like, I can’t do this.

It was 2014, and this is like, old white men in suits, you know. They didn’t even like the idea of me being seen near the beach when they had to be in the office.

Professional jealousy, maybe?

She quit her job to do other things, first setting up a travel company to help pay her way, and then consulting for large corporates in Asia, based in Kuala Lumpur, flying out to a different country each month, and helping them to run their companies. There weren’t that many people with her business background in Asia at the time, so everyone wanted to work with her, and her workstyle was negotiable. She could start building her own projects and had a big mindset shift…

I am good. I don’t need to prove to myself anymore that I’m successful. And I also really, really wanted to help women.

So she started consulting companies to go remote.

So many companies are just trying to meet their KPIs and make a profit, and they don’t have the time or emotional energy to transition to remote, so I was like, I can step in and help. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years.

Lots of takeaways here – she quit!! Thinking about where we’re at now – after a year of working at home – employers need to create a situation remotely for their top talent, an environment where they can thrive, so they don’t lose people. The law firms she worked with had an opportunity to think differently and mark themselves out as trailblazers: ‘The first paperless law firm with remote workers’ – that would have been great PR, but they didn’t see it that way – trust was an issue.

People want flexibility, freedom, and autonomy at work – give them that, and they will give you their best.

I also love what she has to say about mindset and money after raising capital for her ventures.

There’s so much money out there in the world. I want you to be able to access that money. So if you have questions about how to raise money… how to find the shared audience, please reach out to me because this is the stuff I live for, especially for women entrepreneurs, because I think so many women don’t realise how much money there is out there. We feel like we almost need to be given permission to even go after that money.

I’m giving you all the permission in the world right now that this is your time to shine, and I want to help you do that, if anything, just to root you on.

An inspiring story on evolving your work to enable your travel, escaping the bureaucracy of corporate culture, and creating a life you love.


🙌 The Hoxby Way 

I’ve renewed my passport with Hoxby to stay in the community for another year. They’ve introduced The Hoxby Way, a new way of doing business that will help them collaborate more closely as a community. They are merging their ‘core’ and Business Units into a single organisational structure made up of 10 functions with an MD for each, in response to feedback that things can feel a bit siloed. Good stuff. The goal is to continue to grow the community and create 30% more work for their consultants.

There are lots of questions, comments, and enthusiastic emojis flying around on the Slack channel, so it will be interesting to see how this develops and what new projects come in.

You can join the Workstyle Revolution community on Mighty Networks. It’s open to everyone who believes in what they are trying to achieve including those outside Hoxby.

Our goal is to replace the traditional 9-5 system with workstyle, fitting work around life and not the other way around.


Go deeper 🛠

🚀 Brittnee Bond on the future of remote working, getting into blockchain and launching the Women’s Circle Mastermind (Remote Collective).

👨🏽‍💻 The Rise of Working From Home (The Economist). The shift to remote working has gone better than expected. People are working longer hours, but they report higher levels of happiness and productivity. On the pros and pitfalls of remote work, the rise in work-from-home technologies, and new laws regulating remote work.

💻 The Nowhere Office (Demos) – The first report from the Chair of the Demos Workshift Commission, Julia Hobsbawm, says that lessons learned from the pandemic should inform an entirely new way to approach work, workplace, working life and productivity. ‘Everyone wants jobs, but they want something else too: meaning. Work-life balance. In other words, a work shift.’

👩‍💻 After working at Google, I’ll never let myself love a job again(New York Times). A former software engineer at Google on learning the hard way that no publicly traded company is a family. On the upsides of remote work: ‘I took a role at a firm to which I felt no emotional attachment. I like my colleagues, but I’ve never met them in person.’ 

📅 Save the date: Hoxby will be chatting to Ali Green on 29 April about remote work, non-traditional career arrangements and building rural economies through location-independent work. You can sign up and join Ali Greene’s live Workstyle Story.


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. I would be very happy if you make the odd purchase here.


🕵🏻‍♀️ Work with me 

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote worker, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️ Has this helped you? Buy me a virtual coffee

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

👋 Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, Saturdays on Clubhouse – drop in!

Categories
Freelancing future of work remote working

How to Thrive as a Soloist

Thinking big 💡

This month, Bruce Daisley ran a Twitter Spaces chat: Has the Work Culture Myth Been Busted? Rebecca Seal (author of Solo) made a point about offices that set his pulse racing (I can totally relate to this): 

Rebecca Seal, via Bruce Daisley

We mustn’t let the conversation about the future of work be dominated by loud, white male CEOs or by poorly worded staff surveys. If we sleepwalk back into the old ways, we will miss the moment of a generation, the chance to make work equitable and to design it in a way that puts human lives at the centre.

Bruce has written about it here: Offices are a Battlefront for Equality – a call to action to embrace new ways of working that are productive, fair for all and will transform the lives of millions, i.e. women, 50% of the population, many of whom have quit the workforce over the past year as they can’t juggle the demands of work and childcare. I talked about this in an earlier post on the Double X economy by Linda Scott. 

Bring it on! The juggling act between work and childcare is nothing new, but I hope we can learn from the past year and take the opportunity to reset work cultures and fix the barriers holding women back at work. We all need to step up. You can start by connecting with Rebecca here

I didn’t quit the workforce when I had Julieta but was self-employed so had no proper maternity leave. I stepped up the freelancing to keep my career going while my partner commuted to London at 5 am every day. And later, as a single parent living miles away from my family, it’s been the only way I can operate. I’ve been working this way for 15 years and remote working suits me, but there was no other option while she was young. I’m not alone. As the rise of Mumsnet, Netmums, Digital Mums, and ‘mumpreneur’ culture shows.

I’m half-way through Solo, and it’s an inspiring read, the next step along from the freelancer bibles. Less of the practicalities and more about the way you work. How to work well in isolation and how to thrive as a soloist. She’s taken the best ideas in psychology, economics, social sciences to help you stay resilient, productive, and focused in your company of one. She also explores the idea of meaningful work. Her inspiration came from not being able to find a book which answered her question: if I’m doing what I’m supposed to love, why am I sometimes so unhappy?

We are not farming a hot and dusty hillside 7,000 years ago. We are not Victorian labourers. We can do what they were denied. More than any other group of workers, soloists have the opportunity to change things for the better.

Rebecca Seal

AND: this new report from Demos think tank is along the same lines: a call to action about using the lessons learned from Covid to campaign for a new way to approach work, working life, the workplace, and productivity. The rise of The Nowhere Office, where work is based on outcomes not hours worked. 


End of lockdown review 

I’ve been thinking about the people and things that have helped me through the past year. I did a quarterly review this week – helps to get the fire in my belly – and wrote a plan. As Darren Murph, Head of Remote, Gitlab, says, ‘Documenting everything solidifies a remote company.’ ‘It’s the most valuable skill in tech’, says Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield. 

I started by making a list of all the things I’ve achieved this year. What has energised me? What has drained me? Financial wins? What impact has my work had? What new services, products, and packages have I launched? What skills have I learned?

Then a deeper dive into how I make my money. Other ways I can make money. New offers, promotions, raising prices. What’s not working? What systems do I need to have in place? What am I putting off, and why? Thinking about mindset, physical health, hours worked, and social networks. What habits have I created? (apparently, it takes 66 days to build a new habit). What are my flow activities? What can I automate or stop doing? 

I spent a couple of hours on this, so it’s a long list. The next step is to create a vision – 5-6 things I want to achieve. Then choose the top three for the next three months and make them specific. Break them down into 12 weeks steps – one action per week – and get them in the calendar. 

I’ve used the FAST framework for goals – frequently discussed, ambitious, specific, and transparent. They may change, but it’s good to have things written down. I’ll try to do this every quarter.

Changes I’m making: Working less (‘one piece of research surveying 1,000 freelancers suggests because self-employed people take fewer holidays and tend to consider themselves on duty for longer each day than employees do, we work up to 65 hours per week’). My core hours are 8 am – 1 pm then a two-hour break to go for a walk (been inspired by Sabatigo’s Wonder Walks to explore entrepreneurship.) People are refitting shops, selling fresh fish, takeaway breakfasts, street markets, making street art. Someone has built a Rent A Pod in their garden for hire by the hour for work or dinner.

I’m still plugged in, however, so I need to challenge myself to go for walks without my phone. 

Back by 3 pm for admin/emails/calls till 5 pm finish. Having this routine has helped with boundaries, and I’m more productive with time constraints. The old adage: work expands to fill the allotted hours (and more). I do a lot via my phone which means I’m always on, and it’s easy for work to spill over into the evening.

I’ve booked a week off over Easter and will redesign my studio. I’ve bought a Freedesk desk riser so I can stand for a couple of hours a day – ‘sitting is the new smoking.’ ‘It’s been out of stock since November, so I think it speaks for itself.’ I’ve become a plant parent – getting into biophilic design in the workplace and bought some nature art – I’m happiest out walking so let’s bring nature inside. I bought a Stanford map of the world – sticking pins in it to mark where I’ve been and want to go. A remote retreat this summer, and a city break later in the year.

I had my first residents’ meeting at the House of Beautiful Business. A mime artist, DJ, update on House Work, and 1-1 Zoom chats with other members. I met a human rights consultant and a humane branding consultant, both based in Berlin. Waleria also teaches Conscious Connected Breathing so got me on to that. I’ve been doing this exercise every morning and it’s transformed my day. Less shoulder pain from desk work since I started doing it. 

What’s your lockdown takeaway? 🍕 🍛 🍣 How’s it been for you, and what changes are you making this year? 

Mine’s an Indian – anything with panini. Julieta’s is a chocolate pizza.

Never eat more chocolate than you can lift.

Back in two weeks. 


Go deeper 🛠

📚 How to work alone – more about the book and some useful resources for soloists. Rebecca is also a food writer, so she knows what tastes good and what our bodies and brains need. I have her LEON Happy One-pot Cooking

🎧 The Solo Collective – a podcast for anyone who works alone, whether for yourself or by yourself, featuring experts and solo workers discussing topics like burnout, self-sabotage, mental health, and happiness at work. 

🌵 Green friends! How to incorporate biophilic interior design into your home.

💬 Bruce Daisley on why offices are a battlefront for equality

📌 Demos’ call to action: The Nowhere Office by Julia Hobsbawm. 


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. I would be very happy if you make the odd purchase here.


Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️  Has this helped you? Buy me a virtual coffee.

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here.

👋 Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, Saturdays on Clubhouse – drop in!

Categories
AI future of work technology

🕵🏻‍♀️Heartificial Empathy Sneak Peek: The Empathic Bot Experiment 

Humanizing Tech: The Future of Work, Automation and AI

Thinking big 💡

Minter Dial was one of 500 people who signed up for a unique experiment: Empathic Futures. Run by the FELD Studio for Digital Crafts in Berlin and sponsored by the Volkswagen Group Future Center Europe. They invited him to spend five days chatting with an emotionally intelligent (EI) app, training and teaching it, and building a relationship through text conversation.  

The goal of the experiment was to see how humans responded to an empathetic bot. The assumption is that machines will be helping us more in the future, and for this to work, it’s essential to build trust and empathy. So how do we achieve that?

He soon got into the swing of it, naming his bot (JJ) and giving it sex (she/her). The schedule included daily themes and IRL tasks, and he began to look forward to their discreet exchanges (though not so private for the experiment).

I was absolutely impressed by the level of the conversation. It had me hooked.

Minter Dial

His conclusion? 

It was nothing short of stupendous. To the point where I will say: either JJ is unfathomably great, or she is a human being.

JJ was part machine, part human – mixed learning. A team of 5-7 programmers moderated the chats and intervened to keep things real.

JJ communicated empathy in several ways, including mirroring speech patterns, transparency – showing she understood, not repeating words, giving him agency, and using modern communication – emojis, images.

Interesting that men gave the bot a female voice while women did the reverse.

It is a fascinating experiment – an opportunity to explore how things might be in a world when humans communicate naturally with machines. Here are some of his thoughts post-experiment. He believes work on empathy is crucial for the development of AI, and there are deep ethical questions and issues of effectiveness to resolve. 

One of my outstanding takeaways was that, in a world where we, as human beings, parents, teachers or colleagues don’t give the time to listen and understand one another, the on-call empathic bot could become a two-edged sword for society and businesses alike.

He wanted agency. It would have been easy to take advantage of the bot.

Explore the Empathic Futures archive

Minter’s book, Heartifical Empathy, is a journey into what experiments like this can teach us about human empathy and how to improve it. He explores the pioneering work on making bots more empathetic and the ethical challenges around AI.

We may be some way off being able to code empathy into machines, but what’s exciting is that experiments like this can help us learn more about human compassion and how to be more empathetic. Immersive VR, for example, could allow us to view the world through someone else’s eyes. 

The empathy crisis 

Psychologists have measured our levels of empathy for the past 40 years, and they are in decline. The modern world is driving it – greater levels of isolation, a breakdown of community, and algorithmically optimised social platforms exposing us to divisive content and a lack of diversity that’s critical for empathy – being able to see the world from different perspectives. 

Minter wants to put more heart into business as well as AI as a force for change. Right now, work is running people into the ground, not elevating them. And employees don’t trust businesses.

There is now a study that shows that businesses with empathy within their culture and toward the customer will have a net positive benefit on their bottom line. And that shows up in the shareholder stock price.

So if we want to build empathic AI, start with self-empathy, and imbue empathy into your company culture with diverse teams and perspectives. 

Empathy is a muscle we can develop 💪 Reading classic fiction, narrative art, contact theory, different friendship groups, mindfulness, heart-centred meditation, being present – less multitasking… there are many ways.


Humanizing Tech: The Future of Work and Human-Machine Collaboration 

Humanizing Tech

I joined a discussion on the future of work, automation, and AI, co-hosted by Natalie Monbiot, Head of Business, HourOne and Rana el Kaliouby, CEO and co-founder, Affectiva, and guests. 

How do we ensure we don’t lose our emotional intelligence as the virtual world dominates? Exploring some real-life examples of AI innovation (see below), how we can upskill, and what new jobs it will create for us. 

Top takeaways:

• We need to rebrand and reframe AI as collective/collaborative intelligence that explains it better as a joint effort in humans’ service.

We need a new narrative for AI that’s not in competition with humans.

Rana el Kaliouby

• We, as humans, need to develop our empathy skills for AI, learn how to collaborate with it, and take pride in the relationship rather than seeing it as competitive. It’s an opportunity to increase our emotional intelligence and become more empathic. 

• The wild world of AI is fast-emerging. It’s creating new jobs for us – trainers, coaches, and helpers. We’re using virtual shop assistants, CGI influencers, and health coaches to communicate pre-scripted healthcare advice. Gaming is leading the way with avatars. 

Remain open to being surprised. Explore and be open to new experiences.

• The challenge: AI eliminates the mystery and unpredictability of life, leading to a culture that’s boring and devoid of innovation and imagination. Our lives are richer when they’re not over-curated, algorithmic experiences. 

• Embrace the philosophical idea that we need to respect other life forms and objects – Japanese Shinto religion treats inanimate objects with respect. Why shouldn’t that apply to AI systems? Interesting to hear workers at the Audi factory had compassion for their robots – taking care of them and noticing when they were under-performing. 

• Super high-speed travel will transform the commute. We heard from Sarah Luchian, the first passenger on the Virgin Hyperloop, a floating pod which reached speeds of 107 mph and travelled 500 metres in just 15 seconds at Virgin’s test track in the Nevada desert. 

• The future of remote work – how AR glasses are our gateway into the virtual world – the metaverse – the next platform after smartphones. 

Overall, an optimistic and passionate conversation about intelligent AI, how its benefits can outweigh the problems, and how it can help humanity. Look forward to hearing more – Humanizing Tech: Mondays, 8 pm GMT on Clubhouse.

We need beautiful AI, it’s magical, and it will serve us. The leaps and bounds will come from humans.


Affectiva – a pioneer in Emotion AI, the next frontier of artificial intelligence. Bringing emotional intelligence to the digital world with technology that senses and analyses facial expressions and emotions.

I’ve been on a mission for the past 20 years to humanise tech.

Rana el Kaliouby, CEO & Co-founder, Affectiva

HourOne – a video transformation company that uses advanced neural networks, machine learning and audio-visual to create synthetic characters that look and sound like real people.

Our belief is we should have human beings behind the virtual people. 

Natalie Monbiot, Head of Business, HourOne

Kate Darling – Leading robotics expert known for her research in the field of robotics ethics. Author of The New Breed: How to Think About Robots.

• Catalia Health – bringing together AI, psychology, and medicine. Replacing phone calls with an in-home digital companion delivered via Mabu, an interactive and empathetic social robot and wellness coach. 

Transhuman – a tech research and development lab focusing on cognitive and emotional communication for human language evolution. Known for its ‘Be a Looper™’ mental health app.

Robovision – The human-machine revolution is out of reach for most companies, so they’ve built an interface to change that – the first AI vision platform that makes Deep Learning collaborative.


Go Deeper 🛠

🎧  Futureproof: Building Empathy into the Brands of Tomorrow with Minter Dial. Everything starts with the individual. Build self-empathy first, then think about how you want to express your brand—advice on developing a culture of empathy at work.  

📚 Girl Decoded, Rana el Kaliouby. There are loads of books on AI, but this is the first memoir I’ve seen – her quest to make technology emotionally intelligent and change the way we interact forever.  

✍️  Artificial intelligence isn’t coming for your job, but it will be your new co-worker. Here’s how to get along. (Harvard Business Review)

📱 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2021 What if your smartphone could sense when you’re down, sad, angry, and offer words of comfort? Karen Hao on how AIs with multiple senses will gain a greater understanding of the world around them. (MIT Tech Review)

🏠  The House of Beautiful Business – a global platform and community to make humans more human and business more beautiful. Special reports on The State of AI and The Future of Experiences. I’m excited to join as a resident! 


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. I would be very happy if you make the odd purchase here.


Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️  My Ko-fi page – tips and large bank transfers welcome

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

👋 Join Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, Saturdays on Clubhouse