Of course this would be a disaster for Curitiba. It’s a fantastic city that is clean, safe, and has buses that people actually use. A complete contrast from the edginess of São Paulo or the favelas dotted all over Rio. It’s the last place that you might expect to fail when Brazil has also been building new stadiums in places like Manaus and Cuiabá.
But what I found irksome when listening to the BBC coverage was the vox pops they used when characterising Brazil. There was a university professor who talked about the culture in Brazil that everything can be done tomorrow. There was the miserable commuter who spends hours travelling to and from work each day – on a good day. There was the small business owner who said how terribly difficult it is to do business in Brazil.
The coverage wasn’t balanced or fair. I have complained a fair few times about the challenges of living in Brazil, notably things like the bureaucracy associated with buying an insurance policy or registering a car. Simple transactions that should really be easier, but on balance I actually like it here. It sounds irritating to hear the BBC doing a cultural hatchet job on how all Brazilians are lazy, feckless, and would rather not do anything today because there is always tomorrow.
I run a business in Brazil. If a contractor delivers anything late then I don’t pay them. If they let me down more than once I will never work with them again. If they don’t deliver a quality service then I negotiate a new price. I haven’t had very many problems at all with this idea that nothing ever gets delivered on time – I had far more trouble when I ran a business back in the UK.
Small businesses in Brazil benefit from a simple tax structure. You just pay tax on the revenue coming into your company. No need for complex offsets or depreciation, just pay a fixed percentage on your revenue. Imagine if Starbucks was doing that in the UK, rather than transferring profit to Switzerland therefore reducing the local profit to nothing and therefore paying little or no corporation tax.
And small business owners get paid on time in Brazil. When I send an invoice to a client I tell my bank that I have sent it and who it has gone to AND when they are going to pay. If the company doesn’t pay then my bank will chase the company – like my own debt collection service. Imagine if small companies in the UK could rely on their bank to help them this way? Why don’t they do it?
There is a very vibrant start-up culture in Brazil and loads of technological innovation taking place in the big corporates and the tiny micro-businesses. State governments are handing out cash to entrepreneurs all over the country without demanding equity in return because they are actively trying to stimulate the start-up culture and the benefits that one big success can bring to a region.
I know that balance doesn’t make for a great story. It’s easier to get clicks on a story if you tell a miserable story, rather than try spreading the good news, but in the year of the FIFA World Cup Brazil is getting showered in bad news. Everything is late, the people don’t want it, it will all be a disaster…
Well there are some great interesting projects taking place in Brazil that are redefining how people work, people are demanding and starting to get more political transparency, and some of us are looking forward to the World Cup – even though I don’t have a single ticket for any of the matches!
In May 2009 I had noticed that quite a few of my virtual Twitter friends seemed to be living or working quite close to me in Ealing, west London. This was not as strange as it might seem, there were a lot of media people in the area with the BBC and Sky close by plus quite a few advertising and PR firms in the area.
But I still found it intriguing so I tweeted a message suggesting that any other Twitter users from the area come and join me in the Rose and Crown pub on a Friday evening. And so on Friday May 29th 2009, the Ealing Tweeting – better known as #ealingtu – was born.
If you Google “Ealing Tweetup” now, it gets mentioned around 8,000 times. That’s because it grew into a regular gathering of people in west London with an interest in social media up to the point that when I left the UK, the last tweetup I managed to attend had about 250 people attending, a couple of live bands playing and free drinks from the bar!
On that first occasion in May 2009, there was no sponsorship or free drinks or live music. However, there was around a dozen people who randomly came together to have a chat with some strangers just because of a tweet. And the nice thing was that they were not all from the media or PR or advertising businesses.
There were local politicians, teachers, journalists, photographers, actors, charity workers, and business consultants. It was a real mix of professions and everyone was drawn together because of where they lived and the use of Twitter.
The event was never formal or organised. Sometimes people complained that they wanted it to be more structured, with name badges and a list of attendees, but I never really saw it that way. Even when I convinced some companies to shell out so we could have free drinks, what they got for their money was very much up to them.
If you had a pub full of bloggers then what would you do? I think the very last thing would be a hard sell on your products or asking people to tweet in return for a pint. The companies who supported the event could see the value in it and the event has persisted.
I left and moved to Brazil, but Hayden Sutherland took over as organiser, and when Hayden moved to Glasgow, Michael Greer took over and he continues to organise regular tweetups.
I have managed to attend a couple of tweetups since I left London, but it’s clearly not easy being a very long flight away – they need to coincide with one of my business trips back to London. And so unfortunately I am going to miss the next one on February 26th.
This one will be special because Tom Tucker – the boss at the Rose and Crown – supported the idea from the start and he helped it to grow and now he is leaving the Rose. He promoted the events when many customers would ask what on earth a tweetup is all about and he had the good fortune to see it grow and become one of the biggest social media gatherings in London – right there in his pub.
Tom is off to a new challenge in Brighton, but the next tweetup is going to be themed as his leaving party so if you are in London I urge you, go along and see what it’s all about. It is possible to have a social media gathering that is not dominated by people talking about sentiment analysis and how their client reacted to a negative tweet. This is normal people who use social media getting together to have a chat about how it works in their life.
I really dislike insurance companies. They are taking money because of something that *may* happen and every time I have tried claiming insurance in the past the company has always found a get-out clause. Why bother?
Clearly it is important in a catastrophic situation – like crashing the car so badly it’s wrecked – but when the situation is less urgent, the insurance I have bought in the past has never paid.
I even bought an expensive property insurance policy once because I was upset that my previous policy did not let me claim for a stolen laptop computer. I upgraded it, threw in all the added extras and when my bicycle was stolen I felt sure that they would pay – only to find a clause stating that bicycles are not covered when away from the house.
I should have just lied, but then that would be fraud and I have never lied to an insurer to try getting a payout. They don’t pay me even when I try making a genuine claim.
But when I do want to buy a policy I don’t expect to have to go to a broker – not in 2014. I already have a car insurance policy here in Brazil with Porto Seguro. My wife just bought a car so ideally I would assume they could just modify our existing policy to lump the two cars and two drivers all together as one.
No. They can’t do it. I need to just buy a completely new policy and they can’t help me on the telephone – the instruction was to just go to a broker. The broker took the existing Porto Seguro policy so he had all our details from the existing policy – something the insurance company should have done anyway…
It’s not a very good way to treat an existing customer – surely the model any successful company should be following is how to make it easy for customers spend more money?
Photo sharing service Flickr turns ten today. This news has been a little overshadowed by the news that Facebook was ten last week, but I still love Flickr, even though it is now part of the Yahoo! empire.
This is the most popular photo I have ever uploaded to Flickr. It’s my Staffordshire Bull Terrier Matilda wearing a pair of boxing gloves in London. As I write this blog today, this photo has been viewed 12,980 times.
This photo of Matilda on the beach at Woolacombe in Devon is considered by Flickr to be the most interesting photo I have ever uploaded – with interestingness being different to just views because it includes a measure of how many people commented on the photo or made it a favourite photo of theirs.
However, this Rothko image from the Tate Modern art gallery in London comes in a close second…
My photos on Flickr do still get quite a few views. Today they have been viewed 10,693 times and in total my collection of 30,008 photos has been viewed 4,130,107 times. Yes, that’s over 4 million views on my photographs on Flickr!
So happy birthday Flickr and here’s to the next decade
It’s the kind of thing that would have Darwin spinning in his grave. The man who spent years analysing animals and plants all over the world and eventually coining the theory of natural selection would now find that cooking blogs are using his name to describe laziness in washing-up.
It’s symptomatic of many corporate blogs, and corporate writing in general. I was once employed by a big multinational company and asked to produce research for them – thoughts and ideas about where their industry is heading.
When I delivered my initial papers they were all rejected for being too simple. I wasn’t sure what they meant so I asked for some clarification – I was told they just don’t sound like an executive would have written them. I was using titles such as the FT and Economist as guidance for my own style – journals that can explain complex subjects using clear English.
I tried again only to be rebuffed once more, so I went to the other extreme and filled my report with acronyms, jargon, and ridiculous corporate expressions that no “real” person would ever use. “We love it!” was the message from my client and that set the tone of my writing work for them.
Many years ago I made the mistake of booking a trip to Dublin for Christmas. I love Ireland and I love visiting Ireland – though I haven’t been back for a few years now – however it’s not really a good place to be on Christmas Day because everyone is with their family.
Literally everyone. There isn’t a bar or restaurant open on December the 25th so it’s difficult for a visitor trying to experience the city. Now this may all have changed in recent years, but 20 years ago Dublin was like a ghost town on Christmas Day. The only place to eat and get a drink was in the hotel you were staying in.
I went out there for Christmas with my girlfriend. We tried going out for Christmas lunch at a few nice hotels on Christmas day, but found that they were all just accepting residents for lunch – we would only be able to eat in our hotel.
So we went back and started on lunch. It wasn’t bad and there was a group of Australians in the restaurant all determined to have a party so the drink and conversation was flowing.
Then I noticed a couple of old homeless looking guys walking into the reception and quickly getting escorted out again by the security staff. I called over to the hotel staff and said ‘don’t worry about them; let them in for Christmas lunch and I’ll pay for whatever they order…’ I’d probably been enjoying the Christmas spirit quite a bit by then to make such a rash offer.
The two old guys were delighted. They came and joined our group and regaled us with some outlandish tales of their petty crime in and around Dublin. They claimed to be on Christmas day leave from Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, which we all doubted for a long time, but eventually one of them produced a document stating exactly that – they were prisoners who had been let out to enjoy Christmas day! They had to report back to jail the next day…
We let them continue enjoying the afternoon anyway and had a lot of fun talking to the two of them, however they both eventually passed out – probably from not having a drink on the inside then suddenly finding a free bar. The hotel staff carried them out and called a taxi to take them back to the jail that evening.
It was a crazy experience, but a very memorable Christmas day in Dublin.
My wife and I moved to a new town in February. We have loved the move so far and have enjoyed meeting new people and breathing the country air – a big change compared to the streets of São Paulo!
Just before Christmas we thought it might be nice to give a Christmas card to everyone in the neighbourhood. We have met many of our neighbours, but obviously not everyone so it just seemed like a nice way to say hi. Our cards were personal, with a photo of us with our dog Joe so it seemed like a nice way to say hi to people we still haven’t met.
But the experience has been a bit strange. While walking up and down the streets delivering the cards to our neighbours one woman came and stopped and asked if we were begging for cash – in the kind of voice that meant she thought we were not welcome on ‘her’ street. My wife gave her a card and said ‘we live just around the corner from you – happy Christmas!’ I know I wouldn’t have bothered giving her a card, but being nice to someone who is being an idiot is a good strategy for confusing them.
Now it’s a few days after Christmas and only two of our neighbours bothered to reciprocate – not counting the people we actually know already. That’s from about 30 cards delivered.
It doesn’t seem like a very good strike rate, or in the spirit of goodwill and all that. One of the cards that came back was from from our local member of the federal parliament. I’ve never actually met him, but he lives in our street and goes back and forth to Brasilia all the time. Being a politician he could have just handed it to an assistant and got them to sort out a reply, but it was signed from all his family so he should at least receive the benefit of the doubt – whatever his job, he is still a neighbour.
But the funny thing about the cards that did come back is that both of them were also addressed to Joe – our dog… his photo is on the card, but it’s funny to see people write his name on the card too I bet that not many Deputado Federals in Brasilia sent out a Christmas card addressed to a mutt who was once tipping bins over for his dinner.
It was an interesting experiment. Perhaps delivering the cards just a couple of days before Christmas itself was too late for many people to respond in time? Next year I’ll try sending them all out on December 1 and maybe arranging a block party so the locals can all get together at our place.
Mark Hillary is a British author, blogger, and advisor on technology and globalisation with a focus on Brazil. He has written several successful books, including ‘Global Services: Moving to a Level Playing Field’, ‘Who Moved My Job?’, ‘Talking Outsourcing’, and ‘Building a Future with BRICs’.
He is one of the best known tech and globalisation bloggers in the world today with regular contributions to The Huffington Post, Reuters, The Guardian, and Computer Weekly. Mark was one of the official British bloggers covering the London 2012 Olympics. He was shortlisted as business blogger of the year in 2009 & 2011 by Computer Weekly and won the SSON 2011 best blogger award.