My 5 most influential books

The most important bookshelf

I’ve been meaning to write a post about my beloved books. In the last four years I’ve really found a facination for books. Before that I may have read (cover to cover) two books in my entire life – even at school I avoided them.

Now days, however, I have to hold myself back (buying new books) – unless the deal (usually Amazon) is too hard to ignore. And of course Amazon doesn’t help that cause either. Their retail marketing precision is faultless. I get my weekly Amazon email with recommended books – a must-read email. The ease-of-purchase process is within touching distance – the one-click purchase option.

So I decided to take a look at my books and hightlight the 5 I thought have most influenced me and my career (and my life in some ways):

1. Communicating Design
Dan Brown

Communicating Design


2. Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide
Amy Sheun

A Strategy Guide


3. Purple Cow
Seth Godin

Purple Cow


4. Don’t make me think
Steve Krug

Don't make me think


5. The Principles of Beautiful Web Design
Jason Beaird

The Principles of Beautiful Web Design


5 ways to build online communities

Building online communities is easy isn’t it? I mean you see many communities on the web so surely it’s reasonably easy to do? As I’ve recently discovered it’s not as easy as it appears, however it is fun though.

I was recently given the job of Wiki Community Manager (a promotion in my eyes) at my company – a community building project. My first (and most important) priority is to build the wiki community. Specifically, to get people signed up to the wiki and engaged. Also, ensure user profiles are adequately completed with avatars, contact details and company association to aide search. The most difficult aspect is the complex nature of the wiki community: various interest groups, different functional roles and personal interests.

1. Love what you do
Before you can start to build a community you need to be passionate about the subjects and topics. Being truly passionate makes being part of the conversation that much easier. I look at Pete Cashmore (aka Mr Mashable) for inspiration. Whilst it’s his job he manages to be extremely passionate about ‘all that’s new on the web’ – not only is he very busy pushing out content for his community but you can also feel it in his writing. Your community users will sense your passion and will become passionate too.

2. Understand what the community likes
To truly engage you need to understand the discussion. You need to understand what makes your users tick too. Some contributors will be more active than others. Use these users to leverage discussion and bring other users into the discussion. You start to act like the bridge between users and build discussion networks and a community.

3. Get involved and constantly monitor activity
Be very involved. Participate as much as possible in as many discussions as you can. By being involved you’re able to garden the community and keep momentum going.

4. Have a plan
Whilst not always easy try and formulate a content (discussion) plan. Naturally, you can’t control what your users say but stimulate discussion by referring to topical news. Content that’s recently will always get attention. So, if you know a big event is coming up start planning how you might start discussion. If possible establish contact with thought leaders well in advance and attempt to get them prepped before the occasion.

5. Be patient
Not all things on the web comes quickly. Like SEO, brand respect etc, it takes time. So don’t give up too soon. Instead keep at it, eventually you’ll see your rewards.

Usability testing

One thing I love about my job – Digital Manager – is its wide ranging activity set. I get involved in various activities like email marketing, web design & feedback, formalisation of online procedures & spec writing, strategy consultations, community building and much more (perhaps another post). One area I’ve not done much work in is Usability Testing (which I love), however this week is quite different.

Yesterday I met two guys – Phil & Cyprian – from Webcredible (Usability Specialists) for a kick-off meeting ahead of two tests we’ll be conducting next week. Today I meet Leisa Reichelt ( to participate as a test subject in the redesign project – an open community-driven feedback project.

My career tides are changing and I’m slowly moving into activity areas I love and feel our business needs to focus on (and where I’m best suited).