Category: Social

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Project Management

I’ve worked in a new role for nearly two months now, as a Project Manager for Score Communications.  It’s been a very relaxing transition from my earlier more technical roles.

I’m really enjoying working with a great new team, and the support and help they’ve given me so far as I settle into the new role.  The challenge I face is how to make my mark on the company without adding ‘red tape’ to their development work.  I know all too well that having to fill in too many forms and statuses can make the job of administering/developing very tedious.  The key part is capturing project timescales, rather than developer timekeeping.

The next few months will be incredibly challenging, but hopefully even more enjoyable.  I look forward to sharing a bit more information about our ‘stack’ and what tools we’re using in the future; I also hope to get feedback from the people reading this blog about what they use.  We’re playing around a bit with Agile Methodology, whilst trying to transition from the existing methods.

I’m also hoping to use the blog a bit more – much of my time over the last few years focused on my online presence on Twitter, LinkedIN and Facebook – a much lazier approach to ‘Social’ Media.  I’m also hoping to kick off a few side-projects and keep my technical skills up to date.

Active Traffic Management

As many motorists in the UK will be aware, over the last few years there has been a massive increase in ‘Active Traffic Management,’ which came from a decision to prevent the ‘environmental impact’/cost of widening the M42 motorway south of Bimingham.  Well, as one of the lucky people that call the ‘South of Birmingham’ my home – I’ve benefitted from this new system, and also seen it extended up and down the M6 past Birmingham, just about covering my entire commute to work.

Ok, I’ve only been commuting this route for the past three months, though I have noticed a few key problems with the ‘Active Traffic Management’ system that probably require a more sophisticated form of complaint than a ‘blog rant’ – but who knows, it was worth trying it here first.

For those of you unaware of ‘Active Traffic Management,’ it consists of overhead gantries every x metres along the motorway, with a nice LED sign above each lane showing either the speed limit, a big red ‘X’ for Lane Closed, or an arrow, pointing either to the bottom left, or right, advising the motorist of which lane they should filter into.  There are also big information display board at special intervals (and before junctions) that advise motorists of issues ahead on the motorway network, and provide nice little diagrams for how to get off at any particular junction (as the junction dynamics change depending on the lane closure).  There are also average speed checks along the entire route, as well as nifty ‘traditional’ speed cameras every so often, to catch out the unsuspecting driver who strays above the limit imposed on the overhead sign.

Having my leg broken by a car, you think I’d have a bias towards slowing them down, but surprisingly, I don’t.

The problem for me lies in that there doesn’t appear to be a ‘level of assurance’ in the quality of the overhead sign.  A few months ago I was driving home at 2300 hours from Manchester, and pulled onto the M42.  The traffic was slowed to 50mph by the overhead signs (without a decrement from 70 to 60 to 50), and it was shown that lane closures would be ahead.  The traffic cones soon came into view, and I was shuffled down to the slow lane, with 50mph passing over my head every few metres.  Not long after I’d been driving, the speed limit reduced to 40, and I noticed a car come up behind me, clearly doing more than the 50 they should have been – and not looking like they’d be slowing to the 40 I was adhering to.  I then looked up, and the next sign was showing 20mph.  20MPH!!  I had to either slow down to this new sign, or face the fact the guy behind me was either going to career into me, or into the unsuspecting workmen that this very system was designed to protect.

Luckily for me, and them, they were able to slow down – but not without them rudely beeping their horn (which I know to be illegal past 2300 hours on a weekday).  The speed limit then increased back to 40mph, so I felt a little less bad – but then back down to 30mph.  They must have thought I was teasing them.  When I finally got to the end of the roadworks, I sped up to 70mph as fast as possible, and they joined me – pulling funny faces and signs out of their window, then speeding off at a speed considerably faster than me.

The problem I have here, is that there should be some legislation (or programming control) preventing the signs decrementing by more than 10mph between two signs.  I understand that in certain emergencies it is necessary to put the signs up immediately – but to have planned works without considering the effect of lowering the speed limit on the motorway to 20mph.. well it just seems ridiculous.

The second problem I had with them (that caused me to write this post in the first place), was on my way home the other night after work.  The motorway was then again brought down to one lane, using the aforementioned arrow system.  It correctly put us down to one lane, then as soon as the cones were signally us all to move over, the signs above changed to show all three lanes open and running at 50mph, despite us being limited to three lanes.  When the cones stopped, there was no difference between what had been shown on the gantries with the lanes closed.  It really annoys me that millions has been spent on this system, yet it is being used incorrectly through laziness.  This is not a technical issue – it is simply a lack of pride in doing a job well.  When thousands of hours of time must have been spent on the technical proposal and the theories into fluid dynamics and traffic movement – the implementers have appeared to ignore any use of controls to keep from adversely affecting traffic flow rather than increasing it.  I’d also love to see a few days a week with the ‘Active Traffic Management’ turned off completely, to confirm whether or not having it on has made a positive different or not.

So when David Cameron and the other ConDems are reading over their legislation on increasing the speed limit to 80mph, please can they spare a couple of hours to look over the crippling ‘Active Traffic Management’ that may – or may not – be improving Britain’s motorways.

Health and Exercise

I’ve once again decided to try harder to get myself into shape, and as always with the help of peer pressure, I’m more likely to succeed.

I’m recording my eating and drinking habits here – with a nice graph of my daily weight.

I’m also recording my exercise in that spreadsheet, but also on Endomondo.

If there’s anyone out there with any tips/suggestions, I’d be glad to hear them; please comment below.

Birmigham and Solihull Rugby [Sponsorship Opportunity]

This offer may be of interest to you and your company.

For this seasons Main Club Sponsor, we are doing a prize draw. We are looking for companies to give £500 to enter the draw for a prize worth around 15-20k. The prize draw will take place as soon as we have enough companies taking part. Every company has the same chance as each other.

For the company that wins the draw, they receive:

– Company logo on the front of the Home and Away Shirt
– 5 Advertising Boards including one where the directors sit
– 4 Seats available in pre-match hospitality at every home game
– 4 Season Tickets
– Tannoy Announcements at every home game
– Company Logo on front of match day programme and on ‘Sponsors and Partners page of the programme.
– Full page advert on the opening page of the match day programme
– Shared advertising campaigns
– A PR opportunity to confirm the deal
– Company’s advertising board in the team photo for 2011/2012 season
– Table of 4 available at the club’s End of Season Dinner

If we get enough people, we may do other draws on the day e.g. sponsorship on the arm of the shirt and some player sponsors.

For the companies that are unsuccessful, they will recieve an advertising board for around the ground and a season ticket.

For more information, please contact Ben Seifas on 07894 783129 or

Tag Sri Lanka

It’s one of those posts that I’ve been hesitant to write for quite some time; mainly due to the fear of not having enough knowledge at the time of writing leading to an inability to do justice to the subject.

One of the guys who keeps my twitter feed turning over is Daren Forsyth (@DarenBBC), who is currently the Marketing and Communications Director for the Organisation Tag International Development(@tagdevelopment).   Their aim is to ‘design a better world,’ by using specialist people in specialist areas – by coordinating and funding that work.

Over the last few months, Daren has been tweeting about one such project based in Sri Lanka (@TAGSriLanka).  The aim of the project is to get used Android phones into the hands of Sri Lankans.  TAG are looking for donations of Android Phones, Solar Chargers, and also monetary donations, in order to develop the cellular network in the region.

Earlier today I can across a post on the TAG ID blog. Read it here. It discussed how through Art Therapy and Religion, communities can be rebuilt following 30 years of Civil War.  It should be of no surprise to see what aid givers can learn by giving people to tools to express themselves when there is a language barrier.

It’s interesting that the lack of electricity being a number one threat to the rural community – not because it’s seen as a convenience – but due to it’s role in elephant control.  When i visited the small village near Anaikatti in  Kerala, they had a problem with elephants trampling houses and destroying crops at night time, and whereas villages down the mountain had electricity to power their electric fence – they didn’t.

TAG Development will no doubt have similar problems to face in Sri Lanka, but the main reason for the post is to advertise their efforts to collect Android Phones in order to get them into the hands of the people of Sri Lanka.  As there are also a fair few programmer-types that read this blog, it may also be an idea to discuss possible uses for Android Handsets, and application ideas and development to suit the project.  If you have any thoughts, ideas and suggestions, please either comment on the blog below, or find @DarenBBC and @TagSriLanka on Twitter.

Electricity Development

In Kerala, I visted a village high up in the mountains that was disconnected from the main electricity grid. It was, however, connected to a smaller local grid. This grid though was smaller and suffered loss of power most days, and rarely lasted the whole summer.  This is mainly due to Kerala’s reliance on hydro-electric power, and with smaller monsoon rains, coupled with population increase draining the reservoirs faster, the situation is unlikely to improve without developing other means of electricity generation.

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The really ironic thing about it all, is that Kerala State are introducing new methods.  They’ve erected massive wind turbines across the local landscape, and one right next to the village.  The unfortunate thing about this, is that in order for the electricity harvested by the wind farm to be useful to the local community, it would require a substation.  This substation is situated a few miles away down the valley, and the electricity produced by this turbine allegedly isn’t connected to the same grid that the village are on.