Category Archives: Uncategorized

Who’d be a Trustee Then… Oh, I am!

The thing is I secretly quite enjoyed not being on the board of any organisations for the past year… well sort of. 😉


So I have finally given in (or should that be volunteered!) and am now a Trustee of Hambleton FoodShare. Just a small local charity trying to do some good, but with a very well run AGM (and I should know, I’ve run a few – both good and bad to be fair!) and a lot of dedicated volunteers. Lots of plans and ideas to expand in the future, so that all sounds good.

What you really need to sort this out is a “Wicked Mess”?

So, I recently went to a really interesting and different view on Project Management by Martin Price, entitled The Single Minded Project. A very more personal approach to Project Management with some really intersting concepts that organisations can implement – do read his site via the link.

What I really liked was another concept he touched on, that projects are either:

  • Tame: Straight froward and understood but “boring”
  • Mess: Straight forward but not well organised, or with external influence getting in the way
  • Wicked: Not well defined and likely to diverge into something else
  • Wicked Mess: A bit of both!

Much more about this here – worth a read:

Email Security – If I’ve told you once…

Over the past few months, I’ve had several conversations about emails and the security thereof, these usually end up with the other person gasping when they realise that lack of security “normal” email offers (also the fact that email delivery is not immediate, but that’s another post!)

Yes it is a pain that customers can’t just email you their personal and private information, but if you let them (and that includes providing a public email address on your website) then you could inadvertently end up processing this without realising it.

So what to do about this then:

  1. Don’t publicise email addresses (this reduces you spam as well)
  2. Get an SSL Certificate on your website (https://)
  3. Use a contact form to allow information to be encrypted in transit – Contact Form 7 is easy, simple and free for WordPress
  4. DO NOT have this information emailed to you by the website – this isn’t encrypted in transit
  5. Use something like Contact Form DB to securely capture the data and then email you a secure link to access it

That’s all well and good, but how do you reply back?

That’s the tricky bit! Realistically you need to look at a Secure Post Office solution like RMail or (if you use it) Office 365 Message Encryption. NB: Emails between the same email system (so GMail to GMail, Office365 to don’t need to be encrypted as they never leave the providers systems – however establishing what systems the other person are using is not straightforward!

So what am I saying here…

It’s really about educating everyone involved. Even if the other party insist that you email something and it’s OK as you’ve “password protected” (note that’s not encryption) then you simply can’t risk it. If this is the sort of thing you regularly need to do then you need to put something in place to deal with it.

Bid, bid, bid…

June appears to have become national bid writing month, including those classics such as “Tender asked for X, we decided not to bid, tenderer then realises they want Y and we have 2 days to do a month’s work!”, “Not hearing anything back for 6 months and then all of a sudden wanting to award a contract” and the ever useful cry on the team of “What’s in this for us if we win it?”.

The worse thing about writing bids is poorly written tenders. You’d be amazed the minimal level of detail some tenders include and the issues that leads to. One of the biggest mistakes in tendering is to think that you are giving away “secrets” in your RFI – hence minimal (or non-existent) levels of detail are included and you wonder why either a) No one bids, or b) responses are nothing like what you were expecting!

So, if you are thinking of writing a tender, please, please, please include the following:

  • A summary overview of your organisation’s operating environment
  • What other suppliers/systems/organisations you work with and how they interact
  • What you actually want! (Yes, I know, but you’d be surprised…)
  • Prioritization of what is most/least important – MoSCoW is a great method for this
  • Make sure you pick suitable size organisations to tender for your contract – big corporates aren’t going to be interesting in you £50k piece of work, but lots of SMEs are

Remember, its better to have a potential supplier say “Sorry, this isn’t for us” than it is to string them along and suddenly realise that you’ve just awarded a contract to an organisation that thinks they are providing something completely different!

As a wise person once said… Better to have two decent tender responses than 20 [less good] ones!

Time to Improve Business…

So last week, I somehow managed to find the time to attend a meeting of the Northallerton Business Improvement District.

What I really liked about this was not only that local people were getting on with trying to sort this out themselves, but that they weren’t planning to be reliant on grants from the Council / Local Authority (which of course we all know can dry up at any minute!). They have a very brave approach, taking their idea to a public vote of all the local businesses, for an additional levy of 1.5% of their business rates. Clever really, if businesses are up for it then they vote to chip in and can also elect who is on the Board of Directors.

It is however all or nothing, so a majority vote means they are all in or all out…

That said, they hope to raise £150,000 a year and run for a sustainable 5 years – that’s enough time and cash to make some real progress… We will wait and see!

Couldn’t quite get out of anyone what the structure of the new organisation was going to be, but it sounds like a good candidate for a Community Interest Company to me.

The youth of today…

… know how to code, it would appear! Logo

So I’ve been helping out at my local Code Club in the library. Once a fortnight the usually peaceful setting becomes a little bit more noisy for an hour after school. The kids get to make a different project each week using Scratch, which teaches them new coding techniques (this week we all got a bit lost with Forever and If loops).

The kids seem to really enjoy it (lots of “Wows” when things start working) and are learning something new, so all good there. Hopefully it will help them in the future to understand a bit more about how computers work.

Looking back, a long time ago I wrote an entire Dungeons and Dragons game in BBC BASIC and look where that ended me up!

Websites, Websites, Websites…

… sometimes they can just make you scream!

So I’ve spent quite a lot of time sorting out a load of sites/domains/hosting in the past few weeks. I have to say its my least favourite thing, but hey ho, its needs doing.

What has become apparent is that most people have no idea about the complexities of MX Records, DNS Servers, Hosting Platforms etc. that are behind the average site. Also there is always at least one organisation that didn’t realise that they don’t own their own Domain Name!

Some useful sites and tools on this topic:

  • Fresh Sites – need WordPress hosting with free site migration (Neil is a star!), then look no further
  • Domain Lookup Tools – Essential if you are trying to change DNS entries
  • Site Up Time Monitor – Want to know if you site is down before your hosting provider does, this is excellent (and free!)
  • Broken Link Checker – Scours all your sites pages for links that don’t go anywhere