Why is the war in Iraq still going on

There are some unbelievably heart wrenching photographs on the internet showing the grief of people at the loss of a loved one during the Iraq war. It makes me cry even though I do not have anybody even remotely related to me who has been killed in this war.

memorial-day-2007This picture of a girl lying on her loved ones grave is particularly sad. I can really feel for the young girl and her loss.

What gets to me is the senselessness of the whole operation. I can kind of understand if young men and women in the armed forces are killed while protecting their fatherland. I get it that that’s what the army of a country is for. And I’m sure the men and women who have signed up to serve understand the deal.

What makes me ache is the fact that the war in Iraq is not waged to save the USA and the UK from immediate attack. The citizens of the USA and the UK are not at risk and their lives are not at stake. There is absolutely no threat from this country in the Middle East. There never was. There certainly isn’t now.

Yet a total of 4 300 US men and women have had to die for this senseless mission. Officially the number of wounded is at 31 285, but estimates place this figure closer to 100 000. Many of these wounded people are now severely disabled and will not be able to live their lives as they did before being sent away on a totally senseless mission.

What is even more incomprehensible is that the American people and to a lesser extent the British people are not rioting about this. Where are the protests, where is the pressure on Obama to stop this senseless war. And It’s not as if he didn’t make an election promise to do something about did.

I didn’t see his election promise say that he would withdraw troops from Iraq to send to Afghanistan? I though he said he would be out of Iraq and bring his men and women back home. There is another senseless war playing out in Afghanistan. What are they doing there?

Let’s not forget the civilian deaths that these senseless wars are causing. That lovely ‘coleteral damage’ story.  Iraqi deaths due to US Invasion is estimated to be 1.3 million in May 2009.

Does this super religious christian country called the USA have no conscience about this? Killing over a million people for what? If this carries on it’s going to be another holocaust. Yet there isn’t sufficient noise being made to stop this bloodbath. Has the holocaust not taught us anything. What about the genocide in Rwanda.

Just because Iraq is not about Jews or it’s not about people killing their neighbour it isn’t important? Iraq is about super power nations getting together and unauthorised and against the United Nations vote, invading a foreign country for no reason.

There was NO REASON to invade Iraq. And of course some people are going to point out that at the time President Bush and PM Blair believed that there weapons of mass destructions in Iraq. But within a few months it was understood that there were none to be found.

So what are the armed forces still doing in Iraq? Six years after they discovered there were no weapons of mass destruction. Why is there no major uprising by the people of the world to stop this senseless war? Why is the USA allowed to continue with the terrible killings?

Sure we are now told that  they are being kept in Iraq as peace keeping forces.  Some peace. Suicide bombers killed 60 people near a holy Shiite shrine in Baghdad and a further seven dead in Diyala in one day in April 2009.  In fact that month 355 Iraqis were killed.  Can you imagine the outcry if 355 American civilians were killed in the USA or in the UK.

But Iraq? Who cares? And we wonder why the Middle East is the breading ground for terrorists against the West. Is nobody in politics making the connection here? Obviously not, otherwise the troops would have been pulled out by now.

Greed drives the financial markets

Greed makes the world go round, the world go round, the world go round! It can also kill the world. An interesting article in the Independent, which should be compulsory reading,  written by a person who worked on Wall Street makes for an eye-opener of a read.

This quote from the article is what made me nod my head. It rings true.We have seen it happening right now in the financial markets.

“It’s not that people in the City or on Wall Street are necessarily bad people, it’s just that they, like almost anyone, will do anything to keep their million or ten million dollar paycheck. They’ll creatively interpret data, they’ll understate risks, they’ll put the best spin on things. Some will lie, cheat, and steal. But most of them, like most of us, will simply resist looking at the world from any perspective other than their own. And if we are intelligent, we will keep a careful watch on them – both now and into the distant future.”

If one reads the article closely one becomes aware of the fact that the financial markets were driven by greed rather than by good business practices. Derivatives were started to give farming, manufacturing etc access to capital during seasonal off times, amongst other reasons.

Now derivatives are there for financial market players to make huge monies from. The financial market place now drives the process rather than the players who need the money.

But then what do I know about this aspect of the market. All that is apparent is that extraordinary, beyond belief and reason, salaries and bonuses are paid to a few people.

They might have received slightly less at the end of 2008 but the rate is picking up again. Check any of the major US financial institutions first quarter 2009 balance sheets and you will find huge allocations of money under provision for staff payments.

Huge. Again. Right now. While the rest of the ordinary people lose their jobs and their homes these greedy individuals are again enriching themselves at the expense of you and I. And yes, it’s me as well living in the UK. It’s global.

No words.

Interesting site has just popped up. One that Goldman Sachs is furiously trying to shut down. One wonders why. If one has nothing to hide…. www.goldmansachs666.com. Trying to expose the greed?

How to forget a loss of $1 billion – easy if you are Goldman Sachs

Creative accounting. That’s how it’s done. An excellent article in Huffington Post, which should be compulsory reading by all citizens of the Western World, spells out how the likes of Goldman Sachs do it.

Out of the several exposés provided I’m just going to shine a bit of light on the first one that Arianna Huffington talks about. This one is Goldman Sachs. This company, which switched to a bank in September of 2008, posted a fabulous profit for the first quarter of 2009.

I use the word fabulous in its true sense of the word. Made from fables. The profit was $1.8 billion for the period of January to March 2009. Goldman Sachs ‘forgot’ to mention in the first 12 pages of their report that it had lost $1 billion in December 2008. In one month.

But now in this creative accounting patch, it was posting a nice little profit. So why, one would imagine would they need to pursue this bit of accounting fable?

To pay executive bonuses of course. What stupid questions we ask. They have shown this fake profit in order to raise money so that they can pay back the US government bail-out money, called TARP. That money comes with strings attached the main string being reduced pay packages for the ruling folk.

If Goldman Sachs were serious about raising money to pay off debt they would cover the money borrowed from Warren Buffett first. The reason being that Buffett managed to squeeze them for much higher interest than the government did. With other words Buffett’s money is much more expensive.

So if one were serious about ones business the first debt to pay off would be the one costing the most. But then that would mean one would still need to curtail executive bonuses as TARP dictates.

What to do. Easy. Pay off TARP first to get out from under that pay restriction. In any case, if things go awry the taxpayer will bail out again, won’t he. Phew. Nasty system this capitalism. Always thought that was money and opportunity for everybody, not just money and opportunity for a very few.

Wrong again.

Social media may put back political power into the hands of the people

The Twitter Revolution which played out in Moldova recently is an indication of things to come. It’s an example of how the power of social media may be used to influence the thinking of people.

There have been fun get-togethers before where social media was used to create awareness of an event and invite participation. These are called Flash Mobs and their success depends on a whole bunch of people meeting at a pre-set spot to do some mostly harmless activity together.

Activities could be just standing in a group, or dancing while listening on earphones or riding bicycles in a pattern. And after a pre-set time of activity the group disperses again or gets together for a more relaxed party usually involving liquid refreshment!

In some instances Flash Mob activities have frightened the authorities and participants often participating in totally harmless and fun activities have been detained and charged with some kind of public nuisance crime.

This time a crowd of people using communications tools such as mobile phones and the internet’s social media facility got together to demonstrate for greater accountability by its government as well as freer elections.

That is what the majority of the young people thought they were doing. However, it seems that there was a very sophisticated small group of people who had other thoughts. What was supposed to have been a peaceful gathering ended up in riots and the ransacking of buildings.

Now one can speculate that this small group of instigators might have arranged the entire Twitter Revolution.  This is something only the secret service, and it seems it could be Russian in origin, will know for sure.

One thing is sure though young people would not have felt compelled to participate if there was not discontent with the political system in the first place.

Having said that, as with all things internet, users must be aware of the constant hovering in the wings of trolls and nasties who relish in the thought of causing real chaos.

Taking some positives out of this scenario one can take hope that the speed and spread that one can now communicate with using social media tools will allow people to take some political power back into their own hands. Politicians beware!

Anger at world leaders

A great selection of photographs reflecting the clashes between protesters and policemen recently in London during the G20 summit are worth viewing here.

In a way most of the images show a slant towards a sympathy vote for the demonstrators. There are more shots of police angrily beating into the crowds, than of the hurling of objects and other antisocial behaviour by participants. Or that’s how I saw them.

Irrespective of the slant, it still makes me wonder at the demonstrations and the anger shown on a lot of the faces of the protesters.

In recent years these kinds of summits whether at Davos, in Italy, London or this week-end in Strassbourg where the powerful leaders of big countries meet to discuss the futures of the citizens of the world have brought with them strong waves of demonstrations.

There seems to be a feeling of helplessness in the world.  That is amongst the ordinary folk. These are the people who work hard, bring up children, send them to college to ensure a bright future for them and save for a retirement.

Yet somehow these very hard working people are at the mercy of the powerful financial institutions. Not only that, they are expected to bail these financial institutions out of the mess they have slid in due to some shady practices brought on by greed.

Sure the financial institutions are at the beck and call of their more powerful shareholders who are also standing with their hands out for large pay-outs.  It’s a vicious circle. One thing is for sure though, the ordinary people, the ones demonstrating are not the recipients of large dividend cheques.

But what can one do as an ordinary citizen? It’s pointless even participating in the political sphere as it is seldom that an honest politician will be able to make a difference against the other lying and cheating folk.  If in fact he or she survives any length of time.

Voting for politicians doesn’t provide much recourse either. Most politicians are in it for themselves and the power kick they can get rather than actually delivering for their constituents. And sure, there are some honest ones. But the majority at the top are the ones that dictate policy and they do not seem to worry too much about the common people.

Yet demonstrating doesn’t seem to make much difference either. Even the huge demonstrations against the war in Iraq held by UK citizens made no difference. The idiots at the top still decided to go for it. And one can see the results. Fail would be a good word to describe that little exercise in futility.

What else could one do to change the world to be more equitable to all its citizens? Difficult question to answer. I certainly can’t.

Maybe the internet will provide a greater platform for people to get together and voice their anger and disenchantment at the way the world leaders are running the show. It is after all the one town hall area everybody with access can meet.

Fun toys or maybe the next big technology thing

Watching what my younger daughter gets up to in geekland is always interesting. She is one of the early adopters of digital technology. Thanks to her I have been a Twitter member since January 2007, months after she had joined of course, and had a page on Facebook before most other Old Timers. An iPhone made its way into our UK house within three months of the US launch.

But even with this track record I was somewhat taken aback when she announced that she had signed up for a week-end course in electronics. Huh? Circuit boards and soldering irons? Yes, she was going to use her Flash AS skills to talk to circuit boards and make them do stuff together.

This particular course was run by two bright people. One, Dr Brock Craft, working at the London Knowledge Lab where the course was also being held, has a fascinating background. His focus is on Information Visualisation and physical computing. Read more about his latest fun stuff he ‘plays’ around with on his blog.

The other co-presenting bright spark was Alias Cummins, a Flash Developer par excellence. The course covered the beginnings of working with Arduino using Flash. The ultimate goal was to get to a spot where the students could get Flash to talk to an integrated circuit using Arduino. The primary development language would be ActionScript 3.

Daughter came back quite inspired and demonstrated how she could light up little bulbs on her circuit board using her Mac and Flash and how to manipulate images on the computer screen with a light sensitive bulb and lever attached to the board. Now I am waiting with bated breath what new stuff will come out of that.

The other somewhat ‘unusual’ project she has been amusing herself with is as collaborator in a friend’s MA Communication Design degree project. It involves an interesting foray into a different perspective on user interface design. It further makes use of Flash programming with a view to making the software work on a multi-touch table.

The three whiz-kids converted our lounge/diningroom into a studio recently, with umpteen computers, a data projector, Wii remote perched on funky legs and other gadgets scattered randomly around. It’s a truly international collaboration with Johannes the multi-touch table developer coming from Germany, Mel the MA student from Austria and Niqui from South Africa. If this is what makes young adults happy, then the world is in a good space.

It was fascinating to watch the first experiments. With a gadget like pen, a Mac, the Wii controller and data projector they were able to manipulate the circle images which were projected onto the wall. With other words they were twirling the circles on the wall with the pen gadget. As an aside, it was quite surprising that all three of them were on Mac. Wouldn’t have seen that a few years ago.

As with the week-end course on electronics, this particular project was fun to watch taking shape but didn’t really register on my mental screen as being anything else except a typical academic theory project. After all touchscreen technology has been lurking in the wings for years never truly coming into its own. Even Microsoft is playing around with tables.

That was until I spotted this video. For once a Digg friend actually sent me to something worthwhile. Light bulbs went off. I could have been Britney Spears stepping out of a taxi with the Paparazzi attention she normally gets, that’s how many lights went off.

The video is of a TED talk by researcher Johnny Lee who put together an interactive whiteboard with about $50 worth of gadgets, a computer and projector saving about $3000 in equipment costs. It was exactly what had happened in my lounge a few weeks ago.

Even as techno-illiterate as I am, I could see the possibilities a bit more clearly. After all I should have more faith in my daughter. What she finds fascinating could be the next big thing. So if anybody feels inspired and wants to send her some Shekles so she can have fun doing more research stuff rather than slogging away at Flash Development, feel free!

We reward bad behaviour

Listening to the UK’s Classic FM today, a dramatic and thundering rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto by the Berlin Philharmonic under the baton of Herbert von Karajan and pianist Yevgeny Kissin gave me goose bumps. It also reminded me of a recent article on von Karajan in the newspaper. Celebrations of von Karajan’s 100th birth year anniversary are about to get underway.

As a kid I grew up in a classical household. This meant that only classical music was allowed. My mother dictated to the rest of the family what could be considered good music and what was rubbish. And at the pinnacle, the absolute Mt Everest of good music taste, was any recording with von Karajan as conductor.

Due to this fairly obsessive support of a conductor, never mind the extensive vinyl collection of his work at my home, I ended up taking some note of this musician. It wasn’t difficult as Von Karajan was probably one of the earliest exponents of celebrity culture in modern times and an expert player in the art.

I have to add the disclaimer of the modern times. There were many people who really knew how to milk the celebrity way of life well before the Beckham’s, Paris Hilton’s, Lady Di’s et al graced the covers of the popular print media and now of course the pages of the internet as well.

The newspaper article mentions a YouTube video taken of a final rehearsal before a studio recording. It’s totally staged and for the benefit of future purchasers of the music who ‘need to know in order to buy’ what unbelievable care was taken during the rehearsals.

Besides the posturing during this made for film rehearsal, I seem to remember a fair number of minor scandals about women, women musicians at the Berlin Philharmonic, autocratic treatment of musicians and such like that regularly popped up in the media.

In fact one particularly nasty bit of personal history is his membership of the Nazi club which he acquired in 1933 already, and just in case the powers to be didn’t have a record of that, he joined again in 1935. This was certainly during a period in Germany where this was entirely voluntary and well before the strong arm tactics by the SS was a huge incentive to take up immediate allegiance.

He also, it seems, managed to sideline other competing conductors to leave the playing field open to himself alone. And he wrangled huge performance fees which meant that he managed to leave a huge tax sheltered estate of £200 million at the time of his death in 1989, which is an enormous sum for a conductor.

Reading through the more honest and frank articles on Herbert von Karajan in the media, online or otherwise, and adding to what I remember of him, one gets the feeling that this was a fairly obnoxious and selfish character.

The spin-doctors of the music industry are promoting his centernary and with that his recordings in the hope of making money on sales of CD’s and Box Compilations. One would imagine that not that much of von Karajan is available for illegal download, so this could be a lucrative venture on behalf of the music industry.

But then what is the point you might think of all of the above hot air. After all, whether the man was a nasty bit of works or not, he was a great artist. But that is exactly the question I ask. Should one reward nastiness or at the least pretend it doesn’t matter.

Can one divorce the man from the work. Or with other words, can one still buy that fabulous pair of shoes even if they have been made in a sweat shop in China. Is that example too extreme? The question is surely whether unethical behaviour should be rewarded and not to what degree the behaviour is unethical.

Are you a good murderer if you have only killed one person, or do you need to have killed five to be considered a nasty. You still ride to hunt a fox even though you don’t kill it anymore. But you certainly scare it half to death, with other words a kind of animal torture.

We have become so immune to moral issues that we might not even blink anymore at the news that von Karajan was a card carrying Nazi – twice over. Amy Whitehouse receives five Grammy awards in 2008 even though, according to media reports, she is a drug addict who drinks alcohol and snorts coke during her public performances, never mind what else she gets up to in private or not so private.

Looking at the kind of bad behaviour that regularly gets rewarded, and often with huge sums of money and acclaim, should we be surprised that some of our young people are swearing in public, wielding knives and guns and killing people who have the courage to object to their awful actions.

Jacob Zuma – the vote of the squatter camp

A fair amount of drama is happening in the old homeland this week-end. It’s the Mbeki/Zuma stand-off in the high street, guns at the ready. For the bulk of the white population, as well as some of the Black Diamonds a name given to the emerging black middle class, this is a scary time. The ANC, the ruling party of South Africa, is getting together this week-end to appoint its new leader.

As so often happens, coincidentally I am reading Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine and the chapter on South Africa is particularly relevant to the entire Mbeki/Zuma debate. I strongly recommend this book. It is worth reading.

For me the issue about the leadership of the ANC boils down to one thing and that is the fact that the ordinary citizen in South Africa is no better off now than during the apartheid years. The reader may replace the word ordinary with the word black.

In fact some of the statistics I have seen recently have shown that the bulk of the black people are worse off economically than under apartheid rule. And yes, some of the whites have also seen a drop in their living standards. The black South African may have the vote, but the majority are starving and living in slums.

The ANC led government may have provided the citizens with cheap housing and services such as running water, electricity and landline phones. However, the cheaply built houses are falling apart and the people can’t afford to pay for the services.

Some stats from Naomi Klein’s book which were recorded in 2006 show that the number of people living on less than $1 per day has doubled from 2 million to 4 million by 2006 (from a CSMonitor report). Between 1991 and 2002 the unemployment rate for black South Africans has more than doubled from 23% to 48% (report in Le Monde diplomatique).

What happened in South Africa? Where did the rainbow nation go wrong? Of course economists will state that nothing went wrong. The SA economy is booming, inflation is under control and eventually the wealth will trickle down. I don’t think so. There is a world wide trend of labour losing jobs or workers forced to live on less income.

A United Nations University study reports that 2% of adults in the world own more than half of the global household wealth. 10% of adults account for 85% of the world total and the bottom half of the world adult population owns barely 1% of global wealth.

Going back to South Africa, when the ANC took over after democratic elections, Mandela and his government tried to address the inequalities the apartheid years had inflicted on the majority of the population. Every time they moved in this direction, such as land redistribution, the developed world punished them by withdrawing its investments. No matter the road-shows that the then VP Mbeki and his Minister of Trade & Industry Alec Erwin held to get the world to invest, they came away empty handed most of the time.

If South Africa wanted to play on the global economic stage, it had to follow economic principles set down by the powerhouse economies of the world. And these included such killer steps as keeping inflation low at all cost. As an aside and talking of killer steps, watch the current Governor of the Reserve Bank kill off the growth by hiking interest rates and pushing the cost of borrowings out of reach of the manufacturing sector. More job losses?

It has taken years for the ANC led government to earn some brownie points on the global economic stage. Even taking on and paying off the debts incurred by the apartheid government has not been enough to provide sufficient credibility to the external dictators.

After all the kowtowing and letting of blood at the demands of the IMF, World Bank, International Trade Organisations and other foreign institutions, these brownie points are still not sufficient to encourage a flood of investment into the country. It has purely stopped the large scale exodus of money out of the country.

According to Naomi Klein, one further important reason why South Africa’s democracy ‘was born in chains’ was local white business. In retrospect this makes total sense to me. According to Klein, white owned South African business dictated the shots during the negotiation period before the first democratic elections. White business felt that the black masses could have the political clout as long as the economic one remained in their hands. Who cared about the vote as long as the bank balance was as high as ever.

It’s difficult to compress the point I am trying to make into a short article on a blog. Books have been written about this, especially worthy ones such as Naomi Klein’s. It can be nothing more than a very superficial process. So why try at all?

It’s the unfair deal that black South Africans have been dealt that has worried me for years. It’s not right that people who really want to work and earn money to feed their families can’t do so. They want to educate their children and ensure a better future for them. The squatter camps are testimony to the fact that the current government has not delivered to its mandate.

Mbeki and to a certain extent Mandela have been running the country with one eye constantly on the approval of the powerhouse economies of the world. Not only that, they are also at the mercies of white owned business at home. They have let their people down. What is so sad is that they have done this inadvertently, thinking they were acting in the best interests of their country and people. But it has not worked.

The people are hoping that Zuma will deliver for them. They are hoping that he will create jobs, provide better health services, quality education and control crime. Will he deliver? I don’t think so. His hands will be tied just as Mbeki’s have been. In essence whether Zuma runs the show or Mbeki, one thing is fairly certain, nothing will change. To gauge sentiment, watch by how much the JSE (Johannesburg Stock Exchange) will drop once Zuma is confirmed leader of the ANC.

And the dreaded question the whites are too scared to ask? Will South Africa end up like Zimbabwe? There are two points here. Yes it will end up like Zim if whites continue to control business. They still do although a few percentages have been hived off to Black Economic Empowerment groups. There is even the odd black CEO. And the second yes, if the world continues to dictate economic policy, it surely eventually will become another African country in pain. It’s what happened, in one form or other, in Zimbabwe and Kenya and Mozambique….

Bring on Flash On The Beach November 2007

The ticket to this year’s Flash on the Beach held in Brighton arrived in my in-box, amongst much celebration. What a conference. It’s only in its second year, a baby really when it comes to building a brand of a conference, and yet it is the most talked about Flash conference, and that not only in Europe. Oh, and it’s sold out, so put your name down for next year.

The delicious part now is to decide what, out of an amazing selection of speakers and topics, I should go to. Of course one of the talks is a given. Niqui Merret, daughter of yours truly, is speaking on Flash and Accessibility. Pirates of Accessibility is a fun title for a talk on a very serious topic – how to make interactive media accessible. So that talk gets inked in straight away.

This is my choice for the first day, Monday November 5, 2007. First will be local wonderboy Seb Lee-Delisle’s talk. I heard him last year and he was amazing. I am sure to be as entertained and amazed as last year. His talk sounds really seriously technical and it will be, but his examples of work will be awesome. Worth it.

Second will be Chris Orwig talking about Story. Branding. Visual design. What I like about this one is the idea of telling a story with a few brush strokes. Cut out the padding, get to the point, don’t waffle – let a picture tell a story.

Anybody into Flash and following the FotB time table of talks, will groan and shake their heads in disbelief. Missing Grant Skinner? How can you. Well. I’m more of a creative thinker and I’m afraid his talk would go right over my head. In any case there is such a great selection of creative material being discussed that it isn’t all about coding. Or is it? Naah.

The next one I’ll amble to will be Carole Guevin who is talking about Self Promotion. And do we all need to know more about how to promote ourselves, our work, our talents and that not only in terms of getting that fabulous job, but more in line with our whole approach to life. Then it’s off to the Pirates of Accessibility talk.

Then we will run to the next venue to ensure that we will be able to hear Robert Hodgin talk about some amazing creative stuff. His work is amazing and I love talks where I say wow every few minutes. Inspiring, that’s what it is.

Day two promises to be as fabulous. I will be standing in line for Craig Swann. Perceptive Interactions + Alternative Interfaces. Sounds intimidating. But first of all I have heard amazing things about him as a speaker, and secondly the summary of his talk re-assures me that it’s not that technical.

Then on to Mario Klingemann whose fame has also reached my shores – or at least my ears. 2D or not 2D that is the question, is his title. And he offers help and support for 2D people who are being pushed into a corner by the loud and brash 3D folk. There seems to be some threat of coding, but will just wait for all the fab examples.

On to Dave Yang who is speaking on Mobile Flash Development. Ok, so some of the technology will be way over my head, but I really want to see what is happening in the mobile environment and there are bound to be some great examples.

Hillman Curtis is next. He will present his journey in producing his latest short film. Having myself worked in the digital film industry, peripherally that is in training, this will be of special interest to me. And then we have Joshua Davis. Saw this fellow many, many moons ago – about six years – in Cape Town at the Design Indaba. I am sure he will be as fabulous now as I remember him from then.

And then to the third day. Definitely will head over to Rich Shupe’s talk on Sound B(y)tes. I mean, who would have thought that a conference on Flash, for computer geeks only surely, could have such an amazing variety of topics. And who should be next on my list but Neville Brody. Oh my gosh. Also somebody I heard in Cape Town at the Design Indaba. Amazing speaker and even bigger creative person.

Then the last few sessions, I’m already sorry that it will be over, and I am just planning my time table. So let’s enjoy first before missing it already, shall we! It has to be Richard Leggett’s ‘Touching the Future’. I love looking into a glass ball and seeing what the future could bring in terms of technology. So this will be interesting, and let’s see if I agree with what Richard will be speculating about.

The final talk for me will be the one by Andries Odendaal. Besides the fact that I would have to, of course, support a fellow South African, I have to admit sheepishly that all those years, even living in the same city for several years, it has to be in Brighton that I finally get to see one of the more famous Flash wizards.

That’s it then. My timetable has been completed. There are a few sessions I have left out, just through sheer exhaustion. But fitter individuals will be able to enjoy inspirational evening sessions as well, and might even make it to the first sessions of the day. I am taking it easier. But intend to enjoy my selections just as much.

For profiles on the speakers and their topics head over to the official Flash on the Beach website at Flashonthebeach.com.


5 easy Steps to follow when starting your own Business

You will look at the five steps listed below and wonder how that could be all that is required to set up a successful business. You will think to yourself, what about money. How do I market the business. Where do I start with all of this. Surely it must be a lot more difficult than this.

The good news is that it isn’t actually. Everything else you can learn by reading books, searching the internet, getting in accountants, marketers and other advisors. Stick to the following few principles and you should be good to start your own business.

1) The supporter
Get close and enthusiastic support. Have a look at how many big businesses started with at least two people. Bill Gates had Paul Allen when they founded Microsoft. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak for Apple. HP were Bill Hewlett and David Packard. Google had Sergey Brin and Larry Page. And there are many more.

There is a reason for this. You need support when starting a new venture. It can be really frightening trying to set up a business on your own. It could mean that you give up before you have a chance to make it. Most successful businesses have had to grow through some tough times. You need somebody who will be enthusiastic when you are ready to give up.

2) The team
Employ staff who share your vision. And if you employed staff who seemed to have shared your vision but eventually lose that enthusiasm, regrettably you will need to give them the pink slip. You cannot build a business with people who do not burn with the fire of enthusiasm for the product or service you are building.

3) The product/service
Decide on something that is unique. Customers will need and want to purchase this. It is not that important that you and your business partner know everything about the product or service. But it certainly helps. It helps to ensure that whoever supplies you or works on the product/service with you isn’t going to cheat you.

If you know you want to establish your own business but are not sure what to do, then have a look a trends. Watch such websites as TrendWatching or Springwise and follow the new stuff that is happening in the world. Adapt a product to fit in with a trend. Make sure to select something that gets your own enthusiasm bubbling over.

4) Be exceptional
Ensure that the product or service that you will be offering to your customers is exceptional. Do not waste your time producing a half baked offering. Your business will not last. Whatever you decide to offer has to be considered so good, that it is talked about. For further ideas on the concept of ‘exceptional’ check out Seth Godin.

5) Lead the project
Be prepared to take chances and make decisions to ensure that it happens. This is not the time to delegate. Ensure your team sees that you are prepared to lead and to make those awkward and tough decisions. They will follow no matter what.

What made me think of putting forward these points was an article I read. It’s by Josh Russell who offered a very good list of pointers for a web-app startup business. Although his points are set out differently to the above, they cover the same principles. Do it with a small team, be enthusiastic, do it well, be innovative and don’t rely on outside people to make it happen.