A great way to think big and uncover your company’s potential

Originally published over at Melbourne.co.uk

In a company like ours, where we’re dealing with customers 24/7 and managing the day-to-day activities of the business, finding time to think about the future can be a challenge. There’s always something you could be doing – a ticket that needs responding to, a report to write – but taking a step back and flexing our imaginations from time-to-time is just as important.

In the tech industry, there are literally no limits to what we could achieve, yet as technologists, we can sometimes experience a failure of imagination because everything is a problem that needs to be ‘solved’. Continue reading

The Jubilee Time Capsule: 80,000 memories

Originally published over at Melbourne.co.uk

Memories are precious. You can’t replace them. “Memories are what warm you up from the inside”, wrote Haruki Murakami.

And throughout the 60 years of her reign, the Queen will undoubtedly have inspired countless memories in her capacity as Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth.

I think that’s why I’ve been so personally excited by the Jubilee Time Capsule project, that we are an important part of. It’s more than just a bunch of servers humming away in a datacentre: it’s a unique collection of memories. Over 80,000 of them, in fact, submitted by people from across the world, creating a crowdsourced archive of the Queen’s 60 years on the throne. Photos, videos, text: all part of a digital timeline unlike any other in history. And we’re proud and honoured to be chosen to host this unique time capsule for the 21st century.

In September, the Jubilee Time Capsule was closed for entries and “sealed”. So today, my colleague Steven and I have headed to that London for a very special event. Following the sealing of the capsule, the best 60 entries have been collated by an impressive panel of judges. This Diamond (re)Collection will then be presented to Her Majesty the Queen on a Samsung tablet.

It’s hard to believe that something we’ve been working on over the last year will now be presented to the Queen. It’s a huge honour, of course, but for us it also represents something that’s one of our core values: trust. Trust is something that’s earned, and we’re humbled really, that, as a team of young-ish, northern(-ish) geeks we’ve been trusted with delivering the hosting for a project on behalf of one the oldest institutions in the world.

Thanks must go to the guys at Capsool.com who developed the technology and to our friends at Attido Mobile who designed the iPhone and iPad apps to help people upload memories to the capsule. And, of course, a huge thanks to our support team at Melbourne, who helped design and provision the servers that host the Jubilee Time Capsule. While it was treated with the same love and care as all our customers get, it’s great to demonstrate that the platform has experienced 100% uptime – which is exactly what we aim to offer to all customers.

So as I write, we’re about to set off to the Commonwealth Club now. We’ll be uploading our own snaps and videos from the day on Twitter so keep an eye out over @MelbourneHost.

What’s the value of a testimonial?

Originally published over at Melbourne.co.uk

We’re lucky that lots of our customers recommend us to other people. And some of them kindly offer or agree to give us a few words for our website to share with you.

You might’ve seen them, at the foot of various pages – links to stories about other companies that use our services and are happy to talk about them. Sometimes we link to them in tweets or share them with prospective customers, if they’d like to check out credentials. To be honest, we probably don’t make as much of them as we could do.

But what’s the real value in a testimonial?

Last Monday, I’d had a busy day back after a non-stop weekend. Loads of emails to respond to, content to create and a spot of troubleshooting to throw in as well. Add to that, a bike ride over glass-covered roads and, by the time I got home, I was ready to collapse with a drink.

As is my (bad) habit, I flopped onto my sofa and got out my iPhone. Amongst other things, I checked my work email and saw an unexpectedly swift reply from a customer.

There are times when you see something and you know it’s all worthwhile. One of the reasons I love working for Melbourne is the honest commitment to customer service from every single person. And it’s not easy to maintain that, when there’s a hell of a lot going on at once.

It was an email from Phil at Netweaver. Reading it put a grin on my face and I forwarded it to my colleagues straight away. It’d been a tough day (and it’s been a busy week since) but knowing we’re appreciated and that someone wants to share it with others is a great feeling. And that, for me, is the real value of a testimonial.

If you want to read Phil’s story in his own words, check out his testimonial here.

The secret to good mash – the Daily Mash at #smc_mcr

Originally posted over at Melbourne.co.uk.

If you’re reading this, you probably got to it by reading one of our tweets, checking our Facebook page or maybe you’re even subscribed to this blog. All of these channels are just a bit of the way we like to be a part of a larger community with our customers and hear from them – outside of the usual ways like email or phone calls. We don’t really do any marketing per se: rather, we’d just like to have a chat and see if we can help.

Given that, we were interested to hear our customer Paul Stokes of The Daily Mash speak at last week’s #smc_mcr (Social Media Cafe) in Manchester. The Daily Mash is the UK’s “leading satirical news website” and is perhaps not suitable for readers of a nervous disposition. If you’ve heard of The Onion, you could say it’s a sort of British alternative and, by Paul’s own admission, attempts to be as outrageous and extreme as possible when it comes to satire and parody. After all, this, he says, is the key to avoiding litigation; the parody must be obvious to the reasonable person.

And the fact that they pride themselves on being “anti” social media is something of an enigma. But nonetheless, it works perfectly well for them. Despite being users of Twitter and Facebook – which they describe as their “free marketing tool” – The Daily Mash have no interest in engagement or conversation, which by accepted wisdom is seen a key part of any social media strategy.

The fact is though that they win on their content. Despite – or rather, because of – eyebrow-raising content, readers keep coming back day after day, enjoying the stories and sharing it across their networks of their own volition.

I guess this is a really a reminder that content is all important. You can share and engage and chit-chat as much as you want on social media, but if you’re just a lot of hot air, then maintaining those conversations or converting them into your desired outcome (be it sales, or otherwise) will be a challenge.

iMessage @MelbourneHost with #iOS5

An unedited original of this was posted over at Melbourne.co.uk

Now that iOS 5 has finally come out of beta, I’ve been having fun setting it up on a number of Apple devices at home and work. By waiting until Thursday morning to install it, I seem to have avoided the issues reported by some users at launch. Everything downloaded smoothly and was verified by Apple’s servers without delay.

One of the features I’ve been most interested in seeing deployed on a wide scale is iMessage, which is Apple’s answer to BBM (BlackBerry Messenger). iMessage allows users of all iOS 5 devices like iPhones, iPads and iPods to exchange short messages, pictures and audio or video. It should be automatically set up for iPhone users, acting as a transparent SMS replacement to friends with iOS 5. On iPad and iPod Touch devices, iMessage needs an email address registered with Apple so that other users can get hold of you.

I had a go at setting up iMessage for Melbourne – so if you want to get hold of us, send us an iMessage: inbox@melbourne.co.uk.

iMessage is just another way we’re trying out for people to get in touch. It’s probably best to stick to the usual support channels for directed responses, but if you just want to say hi or ask a quick question, then go ahead and drop us an iMessage.