Brain Dump

I’m guilty. This is a cliche I use, often to refer to a first draft of a report or a presentation where I’m still figuring out what should be included and what should be omitted. The image to the right is my first draft for a presentation I’m working on about digital literacy.

My “braindump” for a presentation on Digital Literacy

It turns out this is not the meaning most IT people understand from “braindump“, where it has come to mean the mass of information needed to pass an exam – particularly a certification exam – produced by examinees who memorise the questions or record them and then “dump” that information onto a website for the next crop of examinees to use.

It’s considered bad practice by the examiners obviously, as it makes it difficult to assess the real knowledge of examinees. Long term it devalues the certification.

What do you understand by the term?

Going Viral


I overheard a colleague recently asking whether the promotional video being made would be “viral”.

Viruses in the real world are agents of disease, in the computer world they’re malevolent bits of code. So how is it that a story or video “viral” has come to be something good?

In this case it’s about how something spreads, a biological virus travels between people, moving from community to community with the movement of an individual. The sharing of videos or images follows a similar pattern, going from person to person, and jumping countries when a person’s individual network crosses a border. You can see the spread of a single video in the data visualisation below.

When my colleague asked if the video would be “viral” he was imagining the sort of viewing numbers around, perhaps not at the level of Gangham style, a more modest million views. But there is more than a hour of content uploaded to YouTube every second, so how does one video get the kind of spread that deserves the label “viral”?

Mashable offers some clues in their infographic on going viral, it’s less about the content of the video, and more about who spreads it. The right person tweeting your video link, for example, puts it in front of millions of followers and may reach a critical mass audience. When Jamie Oliver tweeted about the Martha’s meals initiative that put her blog in front of a potential audience of around 3 million people.

So when my colleague asked for the video to go viral I had to ask “who in your network could you ask to promote this?” Because viral content doesn’t go viral on its own. That only happens when a network – whether that’s via twitter or facebook, or mainstream media, shares it.

I think you can make a video with great, amusing, valuable content, but you cannot make a viral video. You can take that great video and build a campaign around it to have shared as much as possible, seeking out influential twitterers and bloggers to share your content. And then it may go viral. Unless Psy puts out his new video on the same day.

image Rubella virus (togavirus) /Sanofi Pasteur/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Touch base

I had a call last week from a sales person who opened with the remark “I’m just calling to touch base…”

It has its origins in baseball, where players much touch the bases as the go around the baseball diamond in order for their run to count.

Why is that phrase so annoying?

Other sports’ metaphors don’t bother me – I don’t always understand them but that’s another story. Somehow this one makes me cringe, I suspect because it’s so often followed by deep insincerity or a sales’ pitch.

In this case it was someone selling a conference, it seems to be the season for it as I’ve had a number of conference invites in the last month.

Why can’t people just say “How are you?” or “Are you interesting in buying a better mousetrap?”

Maybe I’ve just suffered too many sales calls.

Image baseball via pixabay

Words Matter

Have you had to read something twice because it really didn’t make sense? Or struggled with sets of instructions to assemble your newest coolest toy? Or been stymied by jargon, legal or technical terms?

How we write matters, our choice of words matter.

I’ve been writing about business cliches this year, there is certainly plenty of material.

I came across a manifesto from Change This on this subject, called the Gobbledygook Manifesto it sets out to encourage marketers and PR writers to write well, and to write with the customer in mind.

Gobbledygook is an English term used to describe nonsensical language, in the manifesto its the language of press releases that comes under scrutiny. Some of the most common terms found are “next generation”, “ground breaking” and “cutting edge”. Clearly not everything can be all of those things.

The Gobbledygook Manifesto is not new, but the lessons still stand. Think of your buyer not your product, keep it simple, and integrate your written marketing materials with your marketing programme.

Image words via pixabay