Archive for December, 2008

Limerick Leader article features Vizitant

December 31, 2008

I was interviewed by the Limerick Leader at the start of December for a rather seasonal article which appeared in the newspaper last week and on their website yesterday. What a nice end of the year for Vizitant. Here follows an excerpt –

"At this time of year the
plight of lonely, elderly people is keenly felt in Limerick, but an
initiative from a local businessman is offering a new high-tech way of
staying in touch, writes Nick Rabbitts
is traditionally the season for family and togetherness, but there are
huge numbers of people in this country whose experience of loneliness
and vulnerability is brought sharply in to focus at this time.Social Entrepreneurs Presentation - small

one of the largest groups of people who experience such isolation at
Christmas is the elderly, something that caught the attention of one
Limerick businessman who has harnessed video technology and the social
networking phenomenon to create a unique product which, he hopes, will
alleviate the loneliness

Knockaderry businessman James Corbett
is in the process of setting up a not-for-profit firm, and its first project is designing an advanced communications system for isolated
senior citizens.

The device – known as Vizitant – is a suitable next
step, following similar inventions which use voice communications
technology to aid the older generation.

Under the plans, James
is looking to hook up a video messaging facility targeted at older
people. For the first stage of his plans – which he has already
received a €5,000 grant from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland – James is
looking to set up Vizitant in old people's homes across Limerick,
having kicked off with a pilot project in Dromcollogher.

April, we heard Social Entrepreneurs were inviting applications for
social projects. I had the idea (to set up a video conferencing
facility) for the last number of years. I think the first time I
thought about it was when I was watching Nationwide a number of years
ago. They had a snippet about a project whereby a team of volunteers
used to proactively make phone calls to elderly people living in the
community. Another project was a call centre in Dublin which took calls
from the elderly, for example if they just wanted someone to talk to.
So I put these two ideas together and thought they could add the extra
element of video," he recalled.

James feels that, while oral
communication is great, older and more vulnerable people also
appreciate seeing a friendly face – and the body language that goes
hand-in-hand with that.

He said: "Voice communication is only a
small percentage of communication between people. Body language, facial
expressions, tone of voice are all the extras you do not get from the
voice alone make an awful lot of difference to communication."

James is currently working alongside the Respite Centre in Dromcollogher to introduce the concept to people there.

have teamed up with WTS Broadband, which has brought wireless broadband
to Dromcollogher, and provided this to the retirement village and
Respite Centre in Dromcollogher. We are setting them up with a touch
screen PC so it makes it much easier for them to take part in Skype
video calling," he explained.

Even just introducing a word like
Skype (an internet based telephony system) would throw a lot of people
– but especially old-age pensioners who are unfamiliar with computer
technology as a whole.
However, James says he thinks that because
the benefit is so clear to older people, this will enable them to get
over the 'digital divide' hurdle.

"Previous projects have shown
that, if people could see a major benefit in something, it's amazing
the barriers they can get past. I've even noticed this with my own
father. He always felt it was beyond him to use the television and the
microwave, but I noticed he learnt how to use teletext, because he was
really motivated to be able to look up the sports results. When you
have that motivation, there is no problem to learn. At the same time,
part of our project is remould and redesign the software to make it as
easy as possible for older people to use."

[See the Limerick Leader for the rest of the article]

Developing a PR strategy

December 23, 2008

Julian Davis, founding Director of Fleishman Hillard,  gave a talk on Developing a PR Strategy at our last Social Entrepreneurs gathering in Dublin. I took the following notes –

  • PR is about more than media/press relations – it's much wider than that.
  • Ask yourself why are you doing it (a particular PR strategy) and do you need to do it?
  • You need to influence people
  • Who are all the people in your target audience? Press? Local authorities? VECs? Parents? Etc, etc. Identify them all
  • You should have a different message for different groups
  • Where is your target audience getting their information? Who is influencing them? And who is influencing the influencers, etc.
  • You might well be better off with one-to-one meetings!
  • Can you say succinctly and clearly what your project is about?
  • Shape your message to who is listening
  • Prioritize key people. What is your key message? What is your key ask/purpose?
  • Have a plan written out and figure out your key channels – e.g., Facebook, meetings, etc.
  • As regards dealing with the press – walk before you run. Start local. Identify people in local radio stations.
  • Understand the different flavours of media/shows – what is suitable material for them?
  • Ask the professionals, PR people, journalists.
  • Let the 'gatekeepers' know what's in it for them. Ask them for advice. Phone them on the right day of the week and time of day.
  • What organizations have mailshots going to your target audience. Can you 'piggyback'?
  • Be patient. And remember that even if you get TV exposure that might not produce the results you would imagine

I would be interesting to know how such advice will compare that on offer at Collision Course in Dublin on January 21st –

"The format will be a PR rep will give a five minute talk about what
PR is about and maybe give some Irish context and then we’ll have an
Irish blogger share their experiences of what blogging in Ireland is
about and then we’ll open the floor so anyone can pick the brains of
this combined group. The idea of this meetup (and perhaps it will become a regular thing)
is for those who interact so much online can share their experiences
with those people employed to try and connect with these digital
natives and give them what they want."

An Post Mobile Virtual Mobile Network ‘destined to fail’ (and other bytes ‘n pieces)

December 22, 2008

{{pl}} Hipermarket TESCO w Prokocimiu {{en}} T...Image via Wikipedia– So An Post think they can succeed, where Tesco Ireland have failed miserably, by teaming up with Vodafone to launch their own mobile (virtual) network or MVNO. Pat Phelan of Maxroam explains 'the logic' behind the move – "stupid, stupid idea, the carriers couldn't pay an post enough to do top ups so they launch their own". Pat continues, "[It's] destined to fail, An Post average visitor age way too high to sell them mobiles."

I'm delighted for Keith Bohanna and team at dbTwang for achivieing the wonderful milestone of a closed Angel round. Keith's been one of the organizers behind CreativeCamp the last few years and recently seconded Conor O'Neills proposal for a BizCamp. When that goes ahead I'm very much looking forward to hearing Keith talk about how the dbTwang team managed to pull off an Angel round, coinciding as it did, with the financial downturn.

– And speaking of camps TeenCamp has a venue!

– Congrats also to Matt and the team at Infurious for getting Masked Marshall into the Apple Store Staff Picks list.

– Paul Campbell has been making great use of screencasting in his work as a web developer and shares some good tips here. I'd take issue with point 2 though – "You shouldn’t do the voiceover while you’re recording the screencast, at least if you don’t want to sound like an idiot." I used to do voiceovers while I was recording my screencasts but regularly paused after stumbling over myself, then just restated what I was trying to say. Using Camtasia I was then able to edit all the stuttering out fairly seamlessly in post production. I found it much easier to synchronize the voiceover and on-screen activity using this method.

Frank Fullard explains how Irish Business Women are 'making lemonade' during the current downturn.

– Haydn has a thought provoking post about the Privileges of Communication.

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Social Entrepreneurs Ireland featured on RTE’s Pobal (video)

December 15, 2008

I wrote a few weeks ago about social entrepreneur Robert Mulhall of Lucca Leadership Ireland – an organization delivering transformational leadership courses to young people. Lucca Leadership was featured on RTE's Pobal programme last week as part of an item about Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. You can watch the video below –

The noble art of looking over the hedge

December 14, 2008

A good friend of mine needed to scratch a technological itch a few years ago and in so doing found a new hobby, which quickly developed into a business, and is now a thriving company. As well as being a true entrepreneur John has a wonderful way with words and numerous entertaining sayings, my favourite of which I only heard from him recently.

"James", he said, "you have to develop the noble art of looking over the hedge". Which almost insulted me at first seeing as I'd always prided myself on an innate sense of curiosity. But 'inquistive' does not equal 'aware'. And 'nosey' isn't the same as 'observant'.

Case in point – I pulled in to the Midway Foodcourt in Portlaoise again last Wednesday while on a drive home from Dublin, as I've done at least a dozen times over the last 12 months. I like this pit-stop because, as the name implies, it's about half way on the journey, has clean restrooms and a good choice of eateries.

But on this occasion I did something I hadn't done previously – I actually sat back and watched one of the five large screen TVs hanging from the wall, instead of ploughing through my email and Twitter stream. Only because it was 9pm and O'Briens Sandwich bar – purveyors of fine wifi signals – was closed,

Sky News was showing but only taking up 3/4 of the screen area. Believe it or not it took a few moments for me to realize that fact – an interesting news item was being broadcast and I didn't instantly notice that the right hand column of the display was blank, except for a few lines of text which I couldn't quite read from my chair, near the opposite wall. How inconvenient! My curiosity piqued I had to go to all the bother of getting to my feet and walking over to the far side. Where I read on the screen – "To advertise here email"

Interesting! It turns out Click2screen is an Irish company whose flagship product is a digital signage software system allowing you to publish media content and data information to any screen. The clever part of the system is an admin console which is accessible through any internet connected web-browser. From there you can manage and edit your file library, screen templates, layouts, and schedules. A good example of their work is the project they did for Bewley's Airport Hotel.

Anyway, while my 'discovery' was nothing earth shattering, it just so happens that I'm currently acting as a technology advisor to another friend who has a large property development going through the planning process. A project which might readily avail of a Click2screen powered display system. In fact, it might just fit the bill perfectly.

Which all just goes to show that it can be well worth while dragging your head out of your laptop screen every now and again to take a closer, more attentive look at the real world around you. And to develop the noble art of looking over the hedge.

Irish Times Equality Tribunal story

December 13, 2008

Heather Rosen was a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland 2005 Level 2 awardee. A story in Thursday's Irish Times dealt with a large number of cases which,
facilitated by Heather, were brought by members of the Travelling
Community to the Equality Tribunal. The cases were investigations into
what the Traveller families experienced as discriminatory treatment
from Clare County Council and the story centres on the fact that
Heather has been fined for “obstructing the work of the tribunal”

"CLARE COUNTY Council asked the Equality Tribunal to investigate the
personal finances of Traveller advocate Heather Rosen, and threatened
High Court proceedings if the tribunal did not stop her representing
Travellers at their hearings.

This is revealed in documentation
released by the Equality Tribunal into one of the failed discrimination
cases taken by Ms Rosen on behalf of Clare-based Travellers."

If you read that article it's worth referring to the commentary on the UCC Law News Forum for a less tinted view –

"The facts are complex, but it involves a series of cases brought by
members of the travelling community surrounding the service provided by
Clare County Council arising from the travellers' applications for
housing and related accommodation needs and linked issues.

In an unusual move, the Equality Officer (sitting as the Equality
tribunal) required that the travellers attend for a series of
"callovers/hearings" which would take place on two particular days.
When families did not turn up, even though their representative was
present, the Officer decided that no prima facie evidence of
discrimination had been provided and therefore that the claims failed.

The travellers were represented by Ms Heather Rosen, and the
Tribunal went on to decide that Ms Rosen had obstructed and impeded its
investigation and hearing of the cases. The Tribunal was of the view
that Ms. Rosen had wilfully abused the Tribunal process and had sought
to manipulate the manner in which she carried out her investigative and
decision making functions. The end result was that Ms Rosen was ordered
to pay expenses of €200 in the main case and a large number of similar
cases. (See particularly Paras. 6.1 to 6.13).

The decision raises important procedural issues as to whether the
Tribunal took sufficient account of the difficulty involved for a
representative in gathering together a large number of claimants who
are members of the travelling community for a callover/hearing. The
whole idea of a "callover/hearing" seems strange in any event. There is
a reference in the decision [para.4.5] to a tragic death of a young
traveller woman having occurred close to the time of the callovers, but
an adjournment only being granted in the case of close family members.

All in all, it seems unfortunate that the Tribunal did not proceed
to a full hearing of the substantive issues and a large number of
traveller families may well be left with the impression that the state
apparatus is acting against them rather than facilitating their claims."

What is Social Entrepreneurs Ireland? (video)

December 11, 2008

Barry Keane from IrelandonBusiness went along to the awards night 2008 to find out –

Bytes ‘n Pieces

December 8, 2008

This is actually Tom's Restaurant, NYC. Famous...Image via Wikipedia

  • Frank Fullard is one of the people behind a boot camp for 500 young entrepreneurs in Mayo and learned some very interesting things – “I
    learned that when you treat young adults as adults they will behave
    accordingly. I learned that our society is considerably more ethnically
    and culturally diverse than I had thought it to be. I learned that our young people are imaginative, creative, and entrepreneurial. Above all I learned that, despite all who say otherwise, our future is optimistic, bright, positive and progressive.
    The Z generation, or the We generation, call them what you want, have
    the where-with-all to take us out of the mess we have created for them.”
  • Limerick-headquartered WorldTV is a “next-generation
    online video service that lets users create full-screen, TV-like
    channels online”
    . And now it’s developed “a
    new advertising programme that will turn these users into future media
    , according to SiliconRepublic.
  • Loving the Irish sutainable living blog Greeme which covers entrepreneurial ideas like Freight*BUS“This innovative new design combines a
    passenger-carrying bus with that of freight haulage. It can be
    reconfigured in seconds by the conductor or driver to carry freight and
    passengers. Furthermore, passenger space & freight space can be
    easily adjusted to match demand.
    This flexibility is in part due to ceiling-suspended pairs of seats, which can be completely folded out of the way.”
  • Phoebe Bright in Cork has an interesting suggestion for bars and restaurants facing a downturn – “How
    about attracting a new market. People who eat on their own but don’t
    want to eat in a resteraunt on their own. Have a sitting every half
    hour and whoever wants to eat are put together on a table together.”
    I know nothing about the food business but I love to see people putting their thinking caps on instead of whinging about how the sky is falling.
  • And on that note Robin Blandford wrote another blog post that really resonated with me – “Imagine if… we had a mission as a country. A mission to be the first
    country in the world to do something incredible. Imagine if the Irish
    Government decided that a cheap way to start bringing winds of change,
    create new jobs, create new companies, create new markets, would be to
    undertake a world first mission we could all join in on. All talk
    about. All look forward to. All focus on.”
    I’m still processing this ‘call to arms’ and personally think it needs to percolate from the bottom up not the Government down. Perhaps an Irish X Prize of sorts. More on this later…
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