Are habits a positive?

Been reading ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg.

Regular habits could perhaps add up to more than their parts – compound habit’s. These compound habits then build up to create strongly positive or strongly negative effects.

Mr Duhigg talks about the habit loop: Routine – Reward – Cue – Routine – Reward – Cue … and how to recognise it and break it.

Its interesting to read about how much of human behaviour is linked to habits or unthinking.
Confirms the idea that if you making it happen for the customer without them thinking must be a winner. Similar to utility companies loving it when you pay by direct debit. Your in a habit of using them and once you start on that path it may take a long time or dramatic change to get you to recognise and reassess. How often have you gone with the flow and just auto continued your car insurance without getting comparative quotes? It was easier but would it be a positive habit to always get comparative quotes.

Ties up with the idea of system one and system two thinking in ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman.

Have to think what positive habits I can adopt and how many things are done without thinking or on auto pilot and how to recognise them. Are all those habits positive? Probably have to say no. Thing is to stand back occasionally check the loops your in and see if they are effective. If you keep doing the same things you can’t expect the outcome to be very different each time.

Also could your business create or encourage habits in your customers. Could you be a habit for your customers, even if that does seem slightly sinister. If it was easy to buy widgets on your site and they did it once painlessly they have less reason to look else where. Do they get in a habit of using you without actively considering their choices next time they buy a widget?.

Started me off thinking about some new (to me anyway ideas), which is always good.

Is writing blog posts a positive habit? I’m going to consider that for a while and reassess if spending time writing blog posts is productive. So don’t expect any blog posts for a while.

How many ‘friends’ can you have?

Been thinking about friends recently, with everyone seeming to want everything to be ‘social’. Yes you can go on facebook/twitter/linkedin collect likes, followers, plus ones. I’m thinking you should class them as something other than friends. So say you have 23,000 likes or 25,000 followers how much are they really worth surely friendship is related to the costs of aqisition. So if you have a genuine friend you probably spent time building that friendship. Regardless of how you did that. That seems on an entirely different level to someone who you clicked ‘follow’ on a profile page.

Many social networks seem to be more about a build up of noise. Which is probably fine if you just want to create noise around your product launch or buzz around an event. Its just not the same thing as friendship.

When you read about Dunbars number which seems to show a limit on meaningful social connections we as humans can cope with as being around about 150, you can see that perhaps having 5000 connections on linkedin is near to meaningless.

Can you really say what those peoples skills are or relate to them in any meaningful way. When asked to endorse them can you even do that?

Perhaps the new term for these connections should be something like on a scale from real friend, the person you’ve known for years and would help in any circumstances 10 to a minimal connection like ‘a like’ at 1.

So all I need now is some kind of term for these new 0 scale friends what should you call a tenth of a friend?. Bruce Schneer suggests clique member < 5 to tribe member >= 1500.

I guess in the end these networks give you an indication of whats happening amongst a group, you just have to watch out for the bias. Are those connections meaningful?

Alan Turing

I like Turing and he was born in 23rd of June 1912 so he would be nearly hundred now. He was an interesting guy so at some point I drew a picture of him not sure why now.

Something not everyone knows about Alan is that he was, in reversal of math geek stereotypes, a distance runner. Running from meetings when he worked outside London after the end of the second world war.

Not going to rerun his life history you can read about that everywhere. You can even search a multicoloured search engine you might of heard of for ‘Turing birthday’ and you get a result.

I especially like the stories about him trying to teach his computer in Manchester to write love letters.
Also the story about him filling in his home guard registration form and his logical response to the tick here to indicate that you understand you are under military discipline. Don’t tick the box how could you gain from it?

turing running

References Books:

Turings papers


  • Bletchley park its pretty neat especially if you a bit of a geek (computers the size of small rooms!) but interesting historically too. I went on bank holiday for William Kates wedding avoided it nearly completely, Result!

Its not about the technology

Its not about the technology its about what the technology allows you to do. ooh shiny

Good developers care about the how a great deal, always wanting to do things in new and shiny ways. The only problem is they can end up with their head in hole admiring the ‘reverse widget symmetry’ or some other such guff. Customers don’t care about the how they just want the end result. Which is probably fair enough.

Its in the interests of the customer for the developer to do things well because in the end it will cost them less. So a good developer should find out about new technology and see what other people are using it for. I just have to keep reminding myself that its the end result that matters not the technology. The technology is just a tool like a hammer, using any technology is fine as long as its suitable for the task in hand. Just cause all the cool kids are using ‘{XYZ SHINY THING}’ doesn’t mean it makes sense to use it for everything. Your old hammer works fine for old hammer tasks, its the result that matters.

How to think about SEO

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is not a big mystery. People/Salesman make it out to be some clever technical thing or magic. They say they can get you to the top of Google if you give them enough of your hard earned cash. Even worse than that is where you end up in a position where you pay some agency hundreds of pounds a month and then are afraid to stop paying them. Just in case whatever voodoo they were doing, was actually effective.

What a search engine wants

Think about what your favourite search engine wants to deliver for its users. They want people searching to be returning relevant results that are interesting relevant and authoritative on the subject searched. They want to bring their users great information and absorbing sites.

What you want

You want to deliver a great experience for your visitors, you want people to stay on your site find out about your ‘widgets’ or services. Order your widgets or deliver the information that the person using the search engine wanted to find out. If your delivering that then search engines will find you site it’s gold for them.

People who tell you they know how Google works

Only Google knows how Google works precisely, everyone else is looking on from the outside. Sure outsiders can draw conclusions but you have to be wary of someone who tells you they know everything, they don’t. There aren’t single factors, search engines would be stupid if they just used one signal. Beware of “If you do X” you will get to be “top of Y” engine. Search engine companies have clever people working for them, they aren’t going to overly swayed by just one factor. Even if they were at one point, that will change in the future and if it did you would suddenly drop in position.

Questions to ask SEO people

There are good SEO people but you need to sort the wheat from the chaff. Here are some questions to ask them.

  • Ask them for sites that they have worked on.
  • What difference their work made.
  • How long that took
  • What they did to make that happen.
  • They should be able to provide you with statistics

If you don’t understand what they say or they blather be wary, and avoid people like the man who just rang me and managed to run google into his companies name like he was part of it. Like if he said it fast enough it would subliminally sink in.
In general think as you make the change will this make my site better for humans?.

If your site is better for humans its better for Search engines.

Your cheapest employee

Your website is your cheapest employee. Working for you day and night, providing a first point of contact for customers. Telling everyone it meets about your organisation and extolling your virtues.

  • Answering there common questions about you
  • Explaining your products and services
  • Generating a great first impression
  • Providing your contact details

and that is only the start of what it can do for you.

Take a step back, look at your site afresh and check your site is creating the impression you want. Poor thing deserves it, all the overtime it does for you.

Update your own website

Ideally you should update your own site, you know a lot more about your business than anyone else. Even the most conscientious designer or marketer won’t have the same knowledge of your industry as you have. They won’t use the same words and phrasing as your customers. Sometimes that’s a good thing giving a new perspective but if your audience are experts on something they will appreciate your expertise.

An ornithologist will know that bird watchers like the term ‘birders’ but don’t like ‘twitchers’ just small mistakes like that can really turn people off.

Once was on the panel for a pitch where the pitcher kept referring to the area by the wrong name. Only slightly wrong but we knew we were not in that area so it became a distraction from what she was saying.

Sometimes its like journalists, when they write about an area that you know and they get that wrong, you lose faith in what they write about subjects you know nothing about.

Let your web developer build the site let them do the CSS, HTML, Design, Coding that is what they are good at. You are an expert on your subject/business sector, that is what your good at. With a modern content management system your web developer is just enabling you to get your expertise across.