Mesh networking, the Internet of Things, Pervasive Computing – let’s build the future now!

Mesh networking, the Internet of Things (IoT), pervasive computing – these are all threads in the fabric of our everyday (near future) lives.


Google provides superb machine-learning. Apple contributes gorgeous devices and (relatively) seamless user-centric experiences. Companies like Dropbox, Amazon and, intriguingly, Upthere offer unlimited, always-available storage.

But we don’t yet have the software or the infrastructure that knits everything together.

This is such a thrilling time to be working toward building interoperable, cohesive, compelling experiences for myself, my friends, my family, my community.

Let’s go!


Mesh networking, the Internet of Things, Pervasive Computing – let’s build the future now!

What it takes to be a consultant

As I prepare to launch a new phase of my career, I’m mindful of this thoughtful summary of precisely what it takes to be a great consultant by Matt Gemmell. Essential reading for anyone looking to up his/her game in business.

Today is my final working day with Perform and this paragraph sums up what I hope I’ve achieved over the past several years – and hope to do long into the future :

Being a consultant is about diplomacy. It’s about being a fact-finder for the client’s issues, and an interpreter for their wishes and business goals, and a translator between the domain of a difficulty, and the necessary steps to solve it. It’s also always about being an ambassador for the real stakeholders, which are usually the customers.

What it takes to be a consultant

The elegance of simplicity

“People don’t understand the elegance of simplicity,” Willis said once. “If you take a sophisticated idea, reduce it to the simplest possible terms so that it’s accessible to everybody, and don’t get simple mixed up with simplistic, it’s how you mount and present something that makes it engaging.” – Gordon Willis, the great cinematographer who died on the 18th of May 2014, in a piece by the Paris Review

That’s precisely what I strive for when writing copy, planning a project, giving a presentation, taking a photograph. Finding the essence of an idea and expressing it simply, elegantly.

Sometimes it’s an agonising process, but one feels so profoundly satisfied when it all falls into place.

The elegance of simplicity

John Matthews, International Digital Business Traveller

Prior to 2012 I worked with a fair number of international stakeholders and occasionally paid visits to Boston or Milan, but was primarily based in London.

Since the start of 2012, I’ve spent significant stretches of time away from home consulting with clients in person. It’s been an amazing experience to move beyond tourism and learn about different cultures through developing content, products and services.

All this travel led me to develop  techniques to optimise my efficiency whilst on the road. My most effective tool was the purchase of a 3G-equipped iPad and keyboard case, though recently I’ve had to work more with with colleagues who can’t quite shake the habit of using MS Office documents so I’ve added a MacBook Air to my armoury. The Air also affords me more file storage and functionality when I’m away from home for weeks at a time.

When I look at where I’ve spent my time, I came up with the following (excluding travel time and overseas holidays) :


  • 2 months in Paris consulting with clients (spread across 2 and 3 day visits)


  • 2 months in Paris consulting with clients (spread across 2 and 3 days visits)
  • 1 month in Doha consulting with clients
  • 1 week Slovakia with my development team
  • Several days in Slovenia on an “employee of the year” mini-break


  • 7 weeks (and counting) in Doha consulting with clients

As I contemplate another several weeks in the Middle East, I found this piece by Michael Lopp articulates very well how to make travel as frictionless as possible : Practical Advice for the Obsessive Compulsive Traveler.

See you somewhere between London, Paris and Doha soon!

John Matthews, International Digital Business Traveller

Statement of principles

Focusing on making a partnership work is more profitable than focusing on making money.

Love your employees more than you love your clients.

The best new business is your current business.

Price projects by asking yourself what the client’s lawyer would charge.

It’s better to be hired for your work than for your price.

When it comes to getting paid, the first of the month is better than the thirtieth.

Making money off mechanicals, printing and computers turns your business into a commodity.

The books in your library are more important than the numbers on your balance sheet.

In order to love your work, take vacations.

Power, in business, comes from sharing money and valuing love.

Insights about business by late William Drenttel from a 1991 talk he gave at the AIGA National Design Conference in Chicago.

Something for me to remember as I return to work I love from a week’s holiday mooching about London, taking pictures, catching up on cinema and relaxing.


“What do I want?” – the first question in product development (and life)

As an actor, the most powerful question to ask oneself is “what does my character want?” Every subsequent choice the character makes flows from the answer. If an actor is lost in a scene, returning to this question will quickly focus one’s performance on something specific and vital.

The same guiding question applies to finding a new job, working with clients, negotiation and sales or product development. Knowing what a client or customer wants focusses everything that follows on making a genuinely useful and commercially successful product. Muddled decisions that delight no one and frustrate everyone result from not clearly understanding what one wants.

User-centred design returns again and again to “what does the user want?” To orient myself when reviewing a wireframe, design or piece of development, I chose a persona, “get into character” and ask myself as the user "what do I want?“ Everything – decisions about the onboarding flow, the placement of widgets and controls, the most relevant data to visualise, everything – starts there. 

Do you know what you want – and do you know what your customers want?

“What do I want?” – the first question in product development (and life)

Where should one work? Questions to ask and how to decide

I interview developers and project managers for my own division and occasionally for other teams as well and I am always intrigued by the reasons people give for wanting to work at a particular company.

Many candidates say they’re motivated by the content of the products or the hot prospects of the agency. Some candidates talk about their search for ill-defined “challenges”. The better candidates cite a desire to contribute to the overall success of the organisation, to learn and grow with the company.

My guiding question is : “would I need permission to do amazing work here?”

It’s a notion that usually is framed the other way, as an inspirational exhortation : you don’t need to ask permission to do great stuff!

But many cultures – corporate and otherwise – don’t work like this.

Sometimes managers prefer the status quo or jealously guard their centre of power, no matter how disastrous for the company. Other times, there’s absolutely no incentive to do anything but the bare minimum and outstanding performance would draw more questions than praise. I recently had a conversation where I was told: “I’m judged on X, so I really don’t care if [another product] in this department succeeds or not”.

I once worked for a chap who, when I asked for something new and challenging to work on, replied that “you don’t actually have to work that hard – there’s no real room for growth and everyone else is happy with the level they’re at”. That was the first time in my professional life where I found myself in a situation where I was required to under-perform – and it was devastating.

Ever since that experience, I make it a point to tell the people who work for me that permission is never required to do something useful, something kind, something amazing – those are the requirements of the job, after all.

And when I look around at potential opportunities, my top requirement is: I don’t need anyone’s permission to come in, do a terrific job and make brilliant, profitable things for my company and my clients.

NB : Merlin Mann’s great podcast, Back to Work, helped shape my thinking here. Listen – Back to Work, Episode 63 

Where should one work? Questions to ask and how to decide