Christmas Travails

Christmas is really stressful. The men in our house, i.e. me and my two sons are under strict instructions to clean the house today. This is bound to result in family grief, as we won’t have done it to my wife’s standards despite spending bloody hours on it. I can feel the pressure mounting as the clock starts ticking down to her return…

I did a bit of research to see if I could make the process less stressful. Eventually I came across an article by Drew Norman which sets out some of the issues and solutions:

1. Assume it’s dirty.

Most men don’t see dirt. In general, we don’t see half of what needs to be done. They do. So don’t stand around complaining that you can’t clean what you can’t see. Assume it’s dirty, and get busy.

2. Claim some jobs.
Things will be much less confusing around the house, and much more equal, if you claim some specific duties. Doing the washing or grocery shopping is a good start, for example. Stay away from the dusting, since you can’t see dust.

3. Read the directions.
Dish-washing detergents and cleaning fluids of all kinds have directions on them. These are very helpful, don’t bother your wife with stupid questions.

4. Turn off the game, and concentrate.
Whether it’s the iPod, Sky box, or the game you’ve been waiting for, turn off the distractions while you work. Household tasks are mundane, true, but not if you’re learning how to do them right for the first time. Later, if your work has received approval several times, you may graduate to music in the background or something.

5. Do the job, then shut up about it.
Nothing can spoil the effort to help more often and effectively, than to brag about it. Don’t ever imply to her, or (especially) in mixed company, that you are “doing your share.” You are a dead man if you do. You must remember that you are Housework Handicapped. You will never be as good as She, or able to see the whole picture that She sees.

It feels to me like a PhD thesis, and something that could be enormously valuable to mankind in future. Maybe I’ll start with some more research.

Hold on a minute, my wife returns in four hours. We had better get cracking….

Social Media and Business

I was watching the Quiet Man – if you are old enough you will remember this John Wayne classic. Its the story of a man who has to fight his brother-in-law Red Danaher. He’s a man who realises only just in time what he has to do to save his marriage – in this case fight Red.

The Quiet Man

Many businesses are choosing to ignore social media in the same way that John Wayne ignored Red. If you ignore it, it might go away – or it’s a battle for another day.

Many businesses just have not woken up to how social media can help them do the most difficult thing today, in a world where services and products are seen as mere commodities, engage with their customers.

It provides low cost and high impact ways of reaching them. There are four main ways, I believe:

  1. Product Research. Your customers are your best R&D tool. Collecting their feedback and engaging in a discussion with them can give you vital feedback on what’s good and bad about your offer. Simple searching on Twitter allows businesses to see what people are saying about them, and provides the potential for two way dialogue.
  2. Community Building. Who doesn’t want a loyal group of customers? Grouping them together can allow them to share their interests. Facebook has over 300m users, and many businesses now have Fan Pages.
  3. Customer Service. Without spending big bucks on marketing, businesses can engage with their customers on a new level, creating a contact channel for customers. Companies such as Zappos already have all of their employees using Twitter.
  4. Marketing and Promotion. There are new routes to find customers. Channels such as Facebook and Twitter as well as well written company blogs can attract new customers. Facebook is also a marketing channel – one that I have used – which enables you to target small customer group niches.

Historically businesses broadcast their messages – technology now allows two-way customer dialogue. It surprises me that most businesses ignore it.

Zip it, block it, flag it

Children as young as five will be told to “zip it, block it, flag it” in a new internet safety campaign to be taught in primary schools, and a compulsory part of the national curriculum from September 2011.

“Zip it” tells them not to give out personal details online, while “block it” tells children not to open e-mails or attachments from people they have not heard of, and to block off anyone who sends hurtful messages. “Flag it” advises them to tell an adult if something unnerves or frightens them online.

Targeted directly at children, it reminds the older amongst us of the famous Green Cross Code.

Green Cross Man

So is it really necessary? Well research has found that one in five of the 99 per cent of 8 to 17-year-olds who use the internet had come across inappropriate content, and a third said their parents did not monitor their activity online. So the answer is yes.

Businesses such as Microsoft, Google and Bebo have agreed a range of new requirements, such as offering parents more rigorous privacy settings.

We at Beanbag also embrace the new code, and when its detail becomes clear we will implement it across our website.

Staying safe Online

We at Beanbag have been acutely aware of the need to protect our users online. Indeed over a year ago we commissioned and actioned a third-party Child Safety Review. We have also kept in contact with our friends at ChildSafe.

Action has also been necessary to protect our tutor community particularly from the risk of identity theft. Our secure messaging facility allows clients to contact tutors direct, without the tutor having to disclose their private email address or phone number on their tutor profile.

This is an evolving field, and Tanya Byron has been working with the government in an advisory capacity on online safety.

Around 140 companies, charities and other groups have signed up to the new standards. Measures include features such as the heralded ‘Panic Button’ allowing children to report offensive and inappropriate content. Beanbag is primarily used by adults, but recognising this risk we have added a ‘Report This’ button throughout our website.

Details of the new standards are published next week, and we will be looking closely at what we can do to make Beanbag an even safer place for tutoring.