Twittering away at SLA in Seattle

sla_twitter_cloudThanks to the Yankee In Canada (otherwise known as Daniel Lee) for producing an SLA twitter cloud for the recent conference. The cool image below was produced using Wordle, and is based on analysis of the 1,194 tweets produced during the conference.

I even managed to contribute a few to the total myself, which was fun while it lasted.

The Business & IP Centre takes on twitter

First we blogged, then we facebooked, now we are twittering here at the Business & IP Centre.

Although Web 2.0 expert and commenter Leo Laporte has been extolling the virtues of twitter on his (unrelated) shows since it first started a couple of years ago, I remained to be convinced. But now we are engaging with this form of real-time web community to see what will happen.

In order to understand how twitter works have a look at the Twitter in Plain English video below. This is from Common Craft the same people who created the Wikis in Plain English video I blogged about in March.


Facebook comes to life at the Business & IP Centre

FacebookSince first joining Facebook a few months ago I have had mixed feelings about this latest (and greatest?) form of web social media. I am sure this is also true for many of you too  based on conversations I have had.

The downside are the high level of childish applications which can appear to dominate Facebook, such as Hot or Not, and variations on that theme. This is particularly annoying as Facebook is marketed as a more professional and mature version of Bebo and MySpace which are specifically aimed at children and teenagers respectively.

However, there are significant upsides to using Facebook, particularly communicating to far flung relatives and friends. It also enables me to keep a weather eye on my two teenage kids (but don’t tell them…)

Another real benefit was shown last night when we had a networking meeting at the Business & IP Centre to celebrate reaching 1,000  members on our Facebook group. It was wonderful to meet the real people behind their Facebook profiles and to engage in conversation in the way that is only possible face to face. We have posted photos up on our page to prove it was ‘real’.

Alex BellingerAlex Bellinger the founder of SmallBizPod was there with his microphone and plans to put up a podcast on his site shortly.

Social Enterprise – Inspiring Entrepeneurs

The evening after the Teenpreneur event we held one focussing on Social Enterprise.

The speakers were Tim Campbell, founder of the Bright Ideas Trust, Sophi Tranchell, managing director of Divine Chocolate, Zarine Kharas, founder and CEO of Just Giving, Kresse Wesling, director of EAKO, Babaloo and Bio-Supplies.

All four speakers were truly inspiring, starting with Tim Campbell racing through his talk and questions before rushing of to speak at another event. He was very complimentary towards Sir Alan Sugar, and explained how supportive he had been during their two years working together after winning the first Apprentice series.

Sophi_TranchellSophi Tranchell explained the story behind Divine Chocolate, a brand I can personally vouch for as I buy it regularly from our British Library shop. From it’s foundation nearly ten years ago it experimented with a new business model in which the co-operative of cocoa farmers in Ghana owned shares in the company making the chocolate bar. These farmers now own an incredible 45 per cent of the company since The Body Shop made the decision to donate its shares to them.

They are now ambitiously taking on the American market in primarily to generate more sales which will bring more benefits to the farmers who grow the cocoa pods.


On yer bike (Freecycle)!

I have been a fan of charity shop giving (in particular Oxfam) for many years. However they understandably can’t take many items. So what do you do?

You join the Freecycle Network which currently consists of 4,134 groups with 3,927,000 members across the globe. It is a grassroots and entirely non-profit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. Due to the local nature of the exchange it also helps reduce your carbon footprint.

Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer to keep out spammers, and I have found a group for my local town. In the last two years I have ‘Freecycled’ three bicycles, two dead computer printers and a sofa-bed. Plus I acquired two boxes of unwanted candles.

If you want your bicycles to go to a really good home I suggest using Re-cycle.

Anita Roddick an inspiration to so many

I was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Anita Roddick while I was away in Vietnam. I was lucky enough to meet her several times during visits to the Business & IP Centre for her free Ask the Expert sessions with entrepreneurs.

The first time I met her I was surprised by how small she was. Given her reputation I was expecting someone much taller. However her energy and enthusiasm more than made up for her physical stature. She was such a positive person and made such a positive impact on business and the wider world.

Under her influence the Body Shop was one of the first companies to prohibit the use of ingredients tested on animals and one of the first to promote fair trade with third world countries. She was also involved in activism and campaigning for environmental and social issues including involvement with Greenpeace and The Big Issue. In 1990 she founded Children On The Edge, a charitable organization which helps disadvantaged children in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Anita Roddick

Making a noise on the Net

Today I saw (heard would be a more appropriate description) a free program that can turn a PC into a talking computer.

Thunder software is produced by a CIC (Community Interest Company)  run by Roger Wilson-Hinds and Tim Carrington. It has already been downloaded by 16,000 blind and partially sighted web surfers and is only just a year old.

It was fascinating to watch and listen as Roger navigated the web using the reader to guide him. It made me appreciate just some of the challenges blind web surfers face. Especially when one considers how much information is now only available through the web.

Roger also has a blog The Blind Blogger where he sounds off about internet issues for the blind and partially sighted.

3,000 into 100 will go (won’t it?)

The UK government has a very ambitious target of reducing the number of business support schemes in England from around 3,000, to no more than 100 by 2010.

Admittedly the current set-up is overly complicated, and in my experience people starting up in business are often confused about where to go for help and support.

The aim is for Business Link to become the primary route and the Government is seeking views on how they can be developed to play this role. The closing date for suggestions is 14 September, and the worryingly long email address to send them to is – small investments that make a big difference

Here is another great example of how the Internet can really make a positive difference in people’s lives by connecting those who need small investments with those who can afford to invest. lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on, you can “sponsor a business” and help the world’s working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you’ve sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.”

What is great about the site is that you can choose from hundreds of entrepreneurs and projects and then follow their success (or failure) on-line.

According to Andrew who is one of the lenders:
I loan because: We so make so much money in the western world compared to people in developing countries. I’ve met families in Indonesia, Samoa, Cambodia and elsewhere whose monthly budget is about what I make in an hour. Thank you, Kiva, for making it so easy for those of us with some extra money and an understanding of the huge role that small loans can play in the lives of people around the world to help out a little.

Social = Enterprise

Tim Smit founder of the Eden Project has a very expansive view of Social Enterprise. He thinks all entrepreneurial activities should be social:

“The only distinction I can see between social entrepreneurship and ordinary entrepreneurship is the ultimate disposal of the surpluses or profits that come from that organisation, and the philosophies behind the protocols of the management. But if you had a business that was ethically sourcing its’ products, that was making as light a footprint as it reasonably could, that was treating its’ people well, and was trying to create products of social benefit or joy. After it achieved all those things I don’t really care what it does with its’ surpluses or profits because it would in my view be a social enterprise.”