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work

Book Review: Remote: Office Not Required

Book Review: Remote: Office Not Required

By Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson

Remote workers unite

I've recently finished reading 37signals' latest book, Remote: Office Not Required. It's a 256-page ode to a new world where remote collaboration is touted as the norm and not the exception. The book also presses a lot on the messaging of long-term happiness and independence in the workplace. Treating people as adults is one of their first premises, although one that is much easier to implement in a medium sized business with great hiring strategies.

Unexpectedly I have benefited most from their chapter on security, where they share their best practices related to cloud services, mobile devices and more.

Even though it's another book that I would definitely recommend – especially if you are serious about implementing or being a part in a remote work structure implementation – I can't help but wonder if I wouldn't be better off if they had decided to use their time to update Highrise, their cloud CRM tool and our relationship software of choice here at Mecenato. It's seriously outdated by now.

 

Yet another wake up call for the ad industry

Yet another wake up call for the ad industry

Shortly after this tweet, the Indonesian copywriter behind it – that had worked for almost three hours straight – was no more. This is another wake-up for an ad industry that somehow still appears to believe that brute forcing hours into work will lead to advantages in the career ladder. Very sad news for her family. I do hope I read no more stories like this in the future.

New work: SoMEDA Forum has launched

New work: SoMEDA Forum has launched

Simple home page design and branding for SoMEDA

Simple home page design and branding for SoMEDA

This week, the Mecenato team helped pushed live a new collaborative initiative in the Middle East: the web presence of the Society of Middle Eastern Digital Agencies (SoMEDA).

SoMEDA started out as a simple Facebook group and a way for collaborators of interactive agencies in the Middle East to share knowledge, collaborate on industry-wide initiatives, and generally meet each other and speak freely. It was born under our faith that there's definitely room for every agency out there to learn, grow and expand, without the cut-throat environment that is usual between competitor agencies.

Our plan is to make this initiative grow, with agencies pitching in to help this site be a repository of template documents, Middle Eastern digital data, jobs board and more, all under a Creative Commons license.

Visit SoMEDA and participate in the forum.

If you are an interactive agency in the Middle East and would like to help on this project, please get in touch with us.

Mecenato: Week Two Review

Mecenato: Week Two Review

The excitement dust settled quickly. Last week was a time of low client prospecting and heavy work. I have been collaborating with a boutique agency located at Dubai's Business Central Towers, very close to the first place I worked at when I first moved into town. I have been dividing my time between this collaboration and Mecenato work at around 80%/20%.

Can't share much on the details of the project itself, other than it involved a bit of digital product benchmarking and enhancing (coming up with new functions, enhancing existing ones), writing three different user journeys for different stakeholders requiring very diverse functionalities, and coming up with new brand campaign ideas to get users aware of this platform.

I can definitely share more on what went on on the Mecenato side:

On the concept of "work networks"
I shared a thought regarding work on my Facebook feed earlier this week. It read like this:

"Here's a thought: as an individual, you can now choose to be part of several social networks. Let's say you are part of Facebook (where you meet and chat with your friends and relatives, where you read this post as well), but you are also part of Instagram (where you prefer to post/archive your pictures), and Twitter (where you go to when you want to drop little snippets of thought). During the course of a day, week or month, you have the freedom to decide how much time you want to spend on each of these networks based on your interests and aspirations on that given time period. So how come work can't be like that as well? Instead of being 100% "owned" by a company, you are instead part of a "work network". You can now decide to be part of other "work networks" too (following the same HR procedures of a normal company). During the course of the week or the month you just decide which network you want to share your available work time with, in exchange for money. How about that?"

Two valid points came out of the comments that came in: the first – the money trail. Where will it come from? How do you deal with taxation? Isn't this as same as just freelancing? The second point was: privacy. If you have workers participating freely in what could be competing networks, how do you ensure that sensitive information is not leaked? Will be thinking about these two points over the next days.

On creating and formalizing processes
As two other projects started to warm up (one in Cambodia and another in Scotland), I am faced with the pressure of putting down some processes in place for sales conversion and relationship management. I am still not finished with the sales deck/biz cards/website, to which I should dedicate a good bunch of time this weekend. I have been uploading content to a new CMS called SquareSpace (very happy with their quality) and just recently also registered the domain mecenato.org. Mecenato.com is still on the works.

On relationship owners and vision builders
Here's another thought: what two functions can't be automated or outsourced by a communication/creative agency? After thinking about this for a while, I distilled it down to this view: the only true core competencies of a creative agency are owning and nurturing the relationship and creating/shaping up a vision for the brands and products. In the times of the medieval guilds, these two competencies could exceptionally be found in the same person: the head artisan was the point of touch with patrons and also the one getting the chisels, paints and wrenches out to build something. He may or may not have had assistants or apprentices, but he was the relationship owner and the vision builder at the same time. Everything else I could think off could either be automated or outsourced.

On trying out Olark's chat system
Besides working on content for the upcoming Mecenato website, there's a web tool I have always been intrigued about: those little bottom right chat windows that offer website users a way of providing feedback or talking live to a sales agent. I've settled on a provider called Olark (olark.com) and set out to install it in my personal portfolio to give it a go. It's pretty simple to have it running, and you can get it hooked up to your Mac's iChat client, so whenever you are online the window is automatically made visible in the website. I managed to have a quick chat with a few visitors from Denmark, UK and the UAE. Liked the direct two-way connection and the tool's robustness for sales leads generation. Will definitely install it on Mecenato's product pages.

On running ads on Facebook
Just started running some ads for the Mecenato page on the Facebook platform. Will report on my findings soon. What I can tell already is that the system is indeed pretty simple to use. However, I think that if you want proper effectiveness from it, you need to put your head on creating good segmentations and variations of your creative. It's a mix of science and creativity to get those right.

Sources:
http://www.olark.com/
http://www.squarespace.com/

Drop me a note or a comment here if you wish.

André Amaral
@andregoiano

Mecenato: Week One Review

Mecenato: Week One Review

So it began. Like the legendary captain who burned all his vessels upon reaching the enemy's shores, Mecenato has finally started pushing forward on its mission of developing a new experience for commissioners of creative and knowledge work. It has been seven days of intense learning, random explorations and radical habit change. I'll try to share weekly updates as constantly as possible, in an effort to be as inclusive and transparent as the web allows, and hoping that any mistakes and pitfalls can be avoided by others. Before I begin, I'd like to be clear that I'm neither a native English speaker nor interested in devoting too much time to perfect flow and style for the copy of these updates. I hope they come out without too many embarrassing mistakes.

A few of the week's challenges:

On not having a set schedule
Waking up Sunday morning to a blank calendar was frightening. Almost intimidating. What should I do first? What's the most important task I need to take care of today? This basic exercise of prioritization is often ignored or outsourced to others when you are working at an established company. I decided to focus on finding a good place to work from and mapping out all the elements Mecenato would need to go to market with its offer. In Make Business Hub, a small café/co-working space in JBR, I found the perfect place to work during the first few days when my laptop was still getting fixed. They have a handful of Macbook Airs lying around that you can use (pretty much for as long as you'd like) for the price of… ordering a cappuccino really. Good value for my limited cash, I'd say.

On setting up operations in the cloud
A clear advantage for companies beginning in 2013. The volume and quality of business services hosted in the cloud is solid now, and is growing every day. I chose a few that I was already acquainted with: the new Basecamp for project management, Highrise for CRM, sales and leads, Google Drive for file hosting and basic word editing/spreadsheets. I've heard of Podio.com and have actually tried them out, but found them to offer too many options too early on. They flood you with customizations, which is great for control, but not when you are just starting and need to focus all your energy on preparing your company's offer. I have started using Pulseapp.com for cash flow and am currently looking for a time tracking option. Something that works well on a smartphone would be ideal.

On creating a brand story from scratch
Mecenato is a Portuguese word. I've chosen it partly because I'm proud of the country I'm from, partly also because Brazil is the upcoming South American giant that the media seems completely infatuated with. But mostly because what the word means (patronage) is the best description of what I would like Mecenato to deliver: a return to the times of patrons and artisans dealing with each other directly. No sellers, no unnecessary party crashers. Only people that add value. That can create something out of nothing.

On kickstarting the online presence
Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn company, website. So much content to produce and schedule in, so little time. The LinkedIn page was the first, and after a few problems uploading image files, we managed to list our services, share a bit of content and understand what are the paid options available for job listing and ads. I am currently running some ads to a highly targeted UAE audience, to which I am paying USD0.21 per click. However, 700 impressions later, nothing. Zero. Wondering if it's the offering or the platform itself. When was the last time you've clicked on an ad on LinkedIn? Facebook presence is on. We are still figuring out how to get ahold of either the @mcnto or @mecenato handles on Twitter. Both are registered but feature no single post.

On generating leads
Being from a creative background, I must confess the lead generation part of the enterprise is probably the scariest bit for me. Value creation: fine. Marketing: fine. Selling: ouch. It is at the same time of the highest priority and also a skill that I have managed to avoid for almost ten years of my career. The projects just landed directly over my desk before! More on this arena soon. I must say, though: I've landed my first client on day four.

On beefing up the network
The idea: start with a strong inner core of members and work the way up from there. So that's what I have done. I've approached 7 really talented folks who also happen to be my friends to help Mecenato in critical areas like design, new media, content, business. However, they are all either fully employed or pretty busy creating their own initiatives so I need now to find ways to automate the search for talented creatives. oDesk and Elance will play a role when it comes to very specific functions and project requirements, but for broader open-ended thinking I will still trust referrals. If I can automate that, I will.

Would love to hear your comments, if there's any.

André Amaral
@andregoiano