Monday, 26 November 2012

Facebook: privacy statement



Here we go again. Sorry if it's a bit tedious to keep banging on about Facebook hoaxes, but this seems a good place to share information.

I've seen several of these postings among my friends (who are intelligent people, I hasten to add) in the last 24 hours. Please note, people, that this is complete rubbish: it first went viral some months ago but is back now. Do not copy and paste it. It won't help you or anybody else.

In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention). For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!

(Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws. By the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook's direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates. Facebook will effectively own the copyright to your photos and images and be allowed to use them in any way they choose to).

Rather than re-invent the wheel, please simply read this very clear article written by the good people at Mashable.com, and similarly the excellent and reliable Snopes.

You will NOT be protected in any way by posting this bit of nonsense; and apart from anything else, if you are really concerned about your photos or text being used unlawfully, (a) don't post them on the internet in the first place, or (b) ensure that your postings are available only to friends - and by that I mean real friends, which is what your facebook contacts should be anyway.

This posting, incidentally, is public, and I lay no claim at all to the information in it... feel free to share it.

PS, much later in the day: a couple of superb retorts to this matter that have appeared today. First, from the superbly-named Facebook correspondent, Scumbag:


- with the comment:

Posting a notification on your Facebook wall that the photos you posted of your boobs are private property, is as effective and legally binding as smoking two packs a day, but writing on your packs of cigarettes that the content of the pack is not allowed to damage your lungs.

And finally, a word from the caped crusader:


Saturday, 15 September 2012

Facebook: private, public


I've been seeing quite a few of the 'find your profession by birth' postings recently, and they make me uneasy. Bear in mind that if you are at all concerned about the possibility of identity theft, your date of birth is one of the first things needed by the thief. Add your full name and they're partway there. I don't know how much detail this particular 'game' goes into - for obvious reasons, I shan't be trying it out myself - but if you are looking at it, ask yourself how much information you want to share with non-friends.

You may also find it helpful to read this article on the very useful Facecrooks site.

What I find particularly interesting is that in the same week, there's been another one doing the rounds - totally at the opposite end of the spectrum:

"To all my FB friends, may I request you to PLEASE do something for me: I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you. However, with the recent changes in FB, the public can now see activities in any wall. This happens when our friend hits "like" or "comment", automatically, their friends would see our posts too. Unfortunately, we cannot change this setting by ourselves because Facebook has configured it this way. So I need your help.... Only you can do this for me..... PLEASE place your mouse over my name above (do not click), a window will appear, now move the mouse on “FRIENDS" (also without clicking), then down to "Settings", click here and a list will appear. REMOVE the TICK on "COMMENTS & LIKE" by clicking on it. By doing this, my activity amongst my friends and my family will no longer become public. Many thanks! If you would like to protect your privacy Copy and Paste this on your wall and your contacts can follow suit too."

What will happen if you follow the instructions above? You won't see the comments and likes of this particular friend. That's all. If they are real friends, it rather defeats the object of linking up with them on Facebook at all. For more details on this particular bit of nonsense, Facecrooks help us again here.

I'm just waiting for the first time I see both of the above being posted by the same person, who is panicking about their posts being seen beyond their own friend circle but at the same time will gladly give out a date of birth to a complete stranger.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Thinking there must be an easier way? There is.

When I work with my clients - whether they need help with their home space, office space, clutter clearing, computers or whatever - one issue that arises time and time again is that we so often don't know what we don't know. We struggle with a process or a technique because that's the way we've always done it - not realising that a change of approach can make life so much easier.

My challenge is "If you find yourself thinking 'There must be an easier way', then trust me - there always is."

This is especially true when using a computer. A great example of this was when I was asked to help a colleague on a completely unrelated difficulty ("it won't print", I think), and discovered that he was keeping a grid of numbers in a Microsoft Word table - and then using his calculator to add up the totals. I copied and pasted the table into Excel (which he'd never used before ["only the Accounts department use that, don't they?"]), put in an extra row for the totals above his manual totals, copied in the automatic formulae, and hey-presto: all the calculations happened as if by magic. (Not only that, but he discovered that a large number of his own manual calculations had been incorrect.)

My colleague was flabbergasted by how much time he had previously wasted by trying to do the computer's job for it (and, in this case, doing it less accurately). As the office in question was at a local council, this was effectively tax-payers' money that was being wasted every time he took three times as long as necessary to perform this particular task.

The point was that it really wasn't my colleague's fault. He had never been shown how to use Excel as a tool; the fact that he'd discovered Microsoft Word tables on his own was quite an achievement. He didn't know that he didn't know. If he'd known that he didn't know, he could have asked the IT department to help him out. I only discovered the situation by mistake, and was able to save him time in the future that was vastly in excess of the time it had taken me to train him in the solution.

Does this apply to you? Are you struggling to operate processes that seem to be taking forever? Is it too easy to make mistakes?

If so: please let me help you. I can promise you faithfully that if you brainstorm a few regular processes that are causing you to struggle, in a fairly short time I will be able to provide solutions for the majority of them; and if I can't, I'm likely to know somebody who can.

Computer processes are the most likely area where this situation arises, but it's not unusual for the same to apply with the arrangement of furniture, storage, filing or any other objects in the home or office.

Remember: if you think there must be an easier way of doing something, there is. Just let me help you to find out what that easier way might be. Contact me today - and let's find it for you.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Little time, big difference: special offer


I posted yesterday about just how much can be achieved in a short space of time. So let's tie it up in a neat little parcel for you, complete with red Working Order ribbon...

Two hours of consultancy time is usually charged out at £80. For the rest of the month of July, I'm offering this at a very special £50. (See 'Practicalities' below.)

What could I help you with in two hours?

  • We could go through your house or office and find opportunities to improve storage, shelving, furniture placing.
  • We could actually declutter that cupboard, that set of drawers, that wardrobe you can't face - yes, it really could be possible in that time.
  • We could spend time at your computer, finding easy ways to achieve regular tasks, or helping you find faster, more elegant ways to do things.
  • We could look at ways in which you might streamline your diary and contacts.
  • We could work together on your use of social media, showing you how to control Twitter and Facebook, rather than letting it control you.

These are just a few ideas. What do you think? Go on, give it a try... contact me today, and let me know how I can help you.

A few practicalities:

  • This offer is open to work booked by 31st July, and performed by 31st August, 2012.
  • Travel expenses will be charged at 40p per mile.
  • For a two-hour session, it's not really practical for me to travel further than around 25 miles in each direction! So this offer is limited to those roughly within that area (have a look here for my location in the heart of Norfolk).
  • Usual terms & conditions and payment conditions apply.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

A little time can make a big difference

I had some training myself a few days ago. Although I love designing websites, I haven't had many dealings with WordPress, and when a new client asked for some help with this, I decided it was time I found out some more. So my good friend Jim Drew of Business Equip, who is a real expert on these things, spent just one hour with me - giving me an overview, addressing the specific difficulties my client had encountered, and outlining several possible ways forward. The cost, for one hour's training, was very modest; but the effect on my confidence with this technology - and that of my client - was worth far more.

It's equally true of many of the services that I offer. While some jobs may take a full day, or several days together or spread across a period of time, it's also very satisfying when a brief session of just an hour or two can make a big difference - with minimal cost and stress. For example:

There's one of my favourite IT clients: a wonderful octogenarian (do you think you're too old to use a computer?) who calls me from time to time with a neat list of queries that she's been building up. We sit down and focus on those specific needs, for around two hours, and then I might not see her again for months. She's left comfortable with the knowledge she's gained, and happy to continue on her own.

There was the lady who used just two hours of my time to make suggestions about better storage solutions in her flat. We didn't actually do any physical work; we simply planned, threw ideas around, checked some possible storage purchases online, and I left her with a shopping list and a plan of action. She called me a couple of weeks later, completely triumphant at the changes she'd been able to implement, but "I would never have managed it without your ideas".

There was the lady whose whole house was in need of sorting; but we spent just one day, seven hours long, on the most troubling room (the sitting room). We ended up with a full car each - hers for the charity shop, mine for the tip - and she looked around and said "It's like having had the plumbers in. Now I can carry on and do the rest myself. The books in my bedroom can now come in here, so the items in the attic that belong in the bedroom can then move in there..." She'd got it. She understood the processes we'd been through, and how to continue with them for herself; but she'd previously been overwhelmed by where-to-start syndrome.

Would it help you to invest in a little time for yourself?
  • an hour of thinking and suggesting, of ideas and discussions on the use of furniture and storage in a problem space
  • an hour learning how to make best use of your mobile phone, and making sure that you never lose contact details again
  • two hours of working through a list of difficulties on your computer
  • a couple of hours spent sorting your filing systems into an order that really works for you
  • a few hours spent working on decluttering and/or organising one room that will get you kick-started to keep up the good work on the rest of the house
... go on, give it a go. You might be surprised just how many solutions we can find together in a short time!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

What it's all about

I sometimes have great trouble explaining succinctly what I do, and what the benefits are. (As any of my friends will tell you, brevity of expression is not really my strong point.) So I was delighted to see that my favourite blogger, the lovely Tania Kindersley, has in her posting today expressed those benefits so much better than I could:

"...once I am actually doing it, I get a burst of energy, and realise that I have the capacity to make my room look really quite nice. The simple fact of moving things around can make a huge difference. Clearing away the clutter reveals the lovely items I have collected over the years, and I may notice them with love, instead of just seeing too much nonsense. The effect of hoovering itself always astonishes me. Just getting rid of a bit of earth and dog hair and the stray bits of grass I bring in on my boots utterly transforms the room. I feel there is a proper life lesson there, something about small, mundane things making a huge difference."

Exactly. So many people consider the processes of decluttering and organising (which are, by-the-by, two entirely different things) and fear the perfection (and unattainability) of minimalism. There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with minimalism if it's a style that happens to float your boat; but for most of us, the 'small, mundane things making a huge difference' are far more achievable and practical.

And as for Tania: well, the photographs of her beautiful residence, way up in the wilds of Scotland, show a home and not a house. A place to live and relax, to welcome guests, to share and to to enjoy. A place where you can put your feet up without feeling intimidated; a place where her small relations can jump around and have fun; a place where the adorable Pigeon (a canine who is adored by hundreds of people who have never met her) will not be told off for muddy paws.

The balance between tidiness and obsession, between comfortable and slovenly, between house and home: that is what it's all about.

(I have borrowed an illustration from the blog posting in question: I hope Tania doesn't mind. This isn't minimalism; but it is a place of beautiful comfort. And I covet that lamp.)


Thursday, 31 May 2012

Colleagues in organising



I'm delighted by, and proud of, the wonderful video (created for us by the superb Media On Demand) of our member conference for apdo-uk a few weeks ago.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Jubilee! Celebrate by getting sorted...



The sun appears to have decided to come back just in time for a time of celebration. Thank goodness for that.

My own contribution in the celebrations will be to take part in our village's Jubilee Party: I'm part of a team providing a concert of music of the kind that you might have heard on the radio in June 1952. Researching the era to provide the appropriate entertainment, it's struck me many times just how things have changed - and how our 'stuff' has changed.

In 1952, the war was still a very vivid recent memory. Some rationing measures were still in place. 'Make do and mend' had been drummed into the British; it was 'the spirit that won the war'. Most people didn't have much, and they were careful with the use of what they did have - whether household items (fabulous new gadgets such as the Kenwood Chef - my mother was so proud of hers!), or consumables such as food.

This 'spirit of the blitz' was a wonderful thing when it came to economy and re-use; a less disposable society than we have now. However, this is sometimes very difficult to deal with from a 'clutter' point of view. It's not unusual for my clients to find it very hard to throw things away - and for them to 'blame the war'. One never threw anything away, and even though that was sixty years ago, old habits die very hard.

On the other hand, one wonders if we've gone too far in the opposite direction. We don't need to be rich to accumulate 'stuff'; much can be purchased with very small amounts of money; and worse, it's much easier to obtain credit in the twenty-first century than it's ever been before. Getting into debt is far too easy.

Clutter is most certainly a relatively new phenomenon - whether because of 'the spirit of the blitz' inability to throw anything away, or because of the rampant consumerism of the last few decades. How would it be if you made a Jubilee resolution to get your stuff sorted once and for all?

If you're willing to take a long hard look at what you have; to consider and be honest about what you do and don't need, what you do and don't love; if you're willing to figure out the right places to keep the stuff that you do keep - let me help you!

In celebration of this Diamond Jubilee, I'm offering you a very special chance to get it sorted...

I'm reserving spaces for up to six clients - one for each decade that we're celebrating - to enjoy an extraordinary 50% of my usual rates. Seven hours' work would usually cost you £280 at my normal rates; these seven people will receive seven hours of my time each (enough to do some serious sorting out, believe me) at the very special price of £140.

What sort of thing could I help you with?

Your study; your filing system; your wardrobe; your sitting room - any part of your home or workplace that needs a good sorting-out. It doesn't necessarily mean throwing loads of stuff away, either; as you'll see elsewhere on my blog, decluttering is just one part of the organising process - it's often got just as much to do with where and how you keep the stuff you keep as it does with the stuff you dispose of.

What do other people say?

For testimonials, either see my website or visit my page on thebestofnorwich.

Think what a difference it could make to you.
If you think this would be a great way to celebrate, get in touch with me today. Do it soon; there will only be six of these special days available (limited to one session per person at this special rate). (Oh, and don't forget to mention that it's the 'Jubilee' offer that you're responding to.)

  • The dates need to be booked for mutually convenient times during June.
  • I am normally able to work weekends or evenings if required at no extra charge
  • Mileage charges will apply in addition to the fees above
  • All normal terms & conditions will apply

What are you waiting for? Let's get it sorted - and have a wonderful Jubilee weekend!

Friday, 25 May 2012

Hoarder or clutterbug?



I've been watching with a mixture of relief, fascination and horror the recent glut of tv programmes about chronic hoarding problems. In my work as a professional organiser, I can truthfully say that I very seldom come across anybody who is a 'hoarder' in that sense. Plenty of folks have stuff they need help sorting, or storing, or disposing of; some may need help seeing the wood for the trees; some may (as one client memorably put it) just be suffering from 'can't-be-bothered syndrome' (that wasn't her exact expression!).

However, for some people it's a far more serious problem, possibly endangering life and limb. Hoarding is coming to be accepted as a genuine psychological and medical problem, in the same way as (for example) alcoholism may become an unwanted behaviour with true roots and potential treatment. They can't (and shouldn't) be dismissed as 'laziness' or 'malingering'.

I have written at some length about my feelings on the matter, and in my capacity as President of apdo-uk - the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers. Our members feel very strongly about the issue, for several reasons.

  • Appreciate what exactly constitutes a hoarder - and when the answers are much simpler and more easily dealt with 
  • Recognise what help is available and where that help can come from
  • From a professional organiser's perspective, to be able to offer appropriate support and assistance - and to know when other interventions are needed beyond those we can offer.

I feel strongly that - as with all unwanted behaviours - we all need to be honest with ourselves: to recognise the help we require, and to seek that help accordingly. Have a look at the article, and see what you think.

Friday, 10 February 2012

What's in a (domain) name?



Most businesses, no matter how small, have a website these days. Whether it's a simple set of information about your business and your contact details, or a more intricate site to sell your products or interact with your customers, it's generally accepted that some kind of online presence is vital.

With this, of course, goes your email address. The question is, if you've been using a generic email - such as hotmail, googlemail, yahoo, BT or similar - it doesn't match your domain name; and bear in mind that it doesn't look too professional, either. You might have been using joebloggs@gmail.com, but once your business is using the domain name www.greatestproduct.co.uk, you need to ensure that your email matches. Trust me on this one: it's all about professional credibility (as pointed out recently by Heather Townsend on Twitter). I agree! I'm always a little suspicious if I find myself emailing an address that doesn't match the corresponding website.

So how to do this? If you have a website designer, they should be able to set this up for you easily. It can be done in a couple of different ways. First, you might have a redirect - which means that you are still using joebloggs@gmail.com, but messages addressed to joe@greatestproduct.co.uk are redirected (much as snail-mail is when you move house) to your gmail inbox.

(Alternatively, you can use the POP3 or IMAP protocols to collect your email direct from the server of the company that hosts your website.)

The second step is to ensure that your 'official' (i.e. business) email address is used when you are sending emails out. It's no good receiving messages to joe@greatestproduct.co.uk if your replies to enquiries are shown as coming from gmail. There are several ways around this, depending on how you're accessing your messages in the first place (via gmail on the web, for instance; or using Windows Mail, Thunderbird or any one of a number of local email programs). Each of these has appropriate settings to enable you to show your emails as coming 'from' the address of your choice; you'll usually have to go through a security procedure to prove that you are entitled to send messages 'from' that address.

If the above paragraphs send you into a flat spin, don't worry. Either ask your website designer to advise you on the necessary procedures, and preferably implement them for you; or, if you are running the site yourself, have a look in the Help pages of your website host (or web email provider).

Or you could ask a passing friendly geek. Or contact me, if you like!

Either way, do make sure that your site address matches your email address. Not only does it look more professional, but it can also save you a lot of hassle if you need to change your 'real' email address - if, for instance, you run into difficulties with your Hotmail address and want to change to Yahoo (or vice versa), a redirect on your email will mean that all you need to do is to change the address to which the redirect is being sent. Your clients won't need to know that the changeover has taken place. The same would apply if you've been using an email that matches your Internet Service Provider (ISP) - such as a btinternet.com address - and you then change your ISP and lose that email address. Highly inconvenient if you then need to tell everybody about the change.

It's a small detail; but in business, no matter how small or large, it's the details that matter.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

A very special New Year offer: seven swans can stop paddling



It's time for the January sales: a traditional month for bargains. It's also the time when we look at all the Christmas gifts we've accumulated in our already-cluttered houses, and think: I really should sort this stuff out.

Is that how you're feeling? Is there a sense of new-year-resolution coupled with new-year-blues going on? Do you feel - like the 'seven swans a-swimming' - that you're trying to maintain a sense of outward calm, whilst all the while paddling like **** underneath?!

Could you use some help?

I'm going to offer seven days' decluttering / organising services to seven people for an extraordinary 50% of my usual rates. Seven hours' work would usually cost you £280 at my normal rates; these seven people will receive seven hours of my time each (enough to do some serious sorting out, believe me) at the very special price of £140.

What sort of thing could I help you with?

Your study; your filing system; your wardrobe; your sitting room - any part of your home or workplace that needs a good sorting-out. It doesn't necessarily mean throwing loads of stuff away, either; as you'll see elsewhere on my blog, decluttering is just one part of the organising process - it's often got just as much to do with where and how you keep the stuff you keep as it does with the stuff you dispose of.

What do other people say?

For testimonials, either see my website or visit my page on thebestofnorwich.

Think what a difference it could make to you.

If you think this would be a great way to kick-start your new year, get in touch with me today. Do it soon; there will only be seven of these special days available (limited to one session per person at this special rate). (Oh, and don't forget to mention that it's the 'seven swans' offer that you're responding to.)
  • The dates need to be booked for mutually convenient times during January or February, but this offer will only be available until 31st January 2012.
  • I am normally able to work weekends or evenings if required at no extra charge
  • Mileage charges will apply in addition to the fees above
  • All normal terms & conditions will apply
What are you waiting for? Let's get it sorted ready for 2012!