Movie: The Equalizer (2014)

The Equalizer is the new Denzel Washington action film from the director of Training Day. It’s a little over 2 hours long, with a slow build, some well orchestrated set pieces, and a truly disquieting bad guy – some scenes are uncomfortable viewing.

It’s a muted performance from Washington, but this well suits the character in question. If you’d like to watch Denzel Washington be a nice guy with a dark past, and you don’t mind some uncomfortable scenes, this is your film.

Movie: The Matrix (live with SSO)

Watching The Matrix some fifteen years after its original release (with my then-girlfriend, now-wife beside me again), but this time with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra live at the Opera House along with the movie.

With the exception of the flip phones and the occasional CRT monitor, the movie stands up well. Does it pass the bechdel test? Disputable. Do the combat scenes seem a bit slow compared to more recently released films? Sure. But there are some great quotes, and you can feel the influence of some of its lines.

There is no spoon.

Apple TV: Doubt (2008)

Apple TV: Doubt

When a Philip Seymour Hoffman movie comes up as the 99c movie of the week, you rent it, even if you’re not sure when you’ll have a chance to. Happily, I was able to make time. While not mentioning by name the accusations made against a parish priest (Hoffman), the inference is strong. It’s a well structured film, and has enough of a level of uncertainty throughout that it’s more about the characters than the underlying issue.

If you’re in the mood for a thoughtful drama, this is one to watch.

Movie: What we do in the shadows

Movie: What We Do in the Shadows

Having been a fan of Eagle vs Shark from many years ago, I thought this New Zealand comedy would be similarly enjoyable. It’s a mockumentary, tracing the adventures of a share house of vampires in Wellington. A journey through a lot of vampire / horror tropes, it manages to combine dark humour with the gore of a real horror film.

The trailer gives an insight into the humour of the film, without giving away all the jokes, nor really a sense of how intense the scary moments are, nor how gory it is. If you found something like the blair witch project overwhelming, you’ll want to skip past this one.

If you can get past that, there’s plenty to laugh about.

Notes from parenting course

Kel and I went to a parenting course this weekend: there were lots of notes handed out, but there were also a few additional recommendations made: both books and articles.

If you want a better understanding of parenting, these resources might be helpful:



book: the laws of simplicity

Book: The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life)

John Maeda has worked in industry, and more recently as a design teacher at MIT. I grabbed this book from the library from a recommendation from the Boagworld podcast. It’s a short read (only 100 pages) but provides a helpful framework for thinking about how to reduce the complexity in a design project.

There are ten laws in the book, and a postscript:

1 reduce (she – shrink, hide, embody)
2 organise
3 time (savings feel like simplicity)

4 learn (brain – basics, repeat, avoid, inspire, never)
5 differences
6 context

7 emotion
8 trust
9 failure

10. The one: away/open/power

Insecurity: Be neither too insecure to start something, nor so secure that you don’t recognise your failures.

Maeda puts a lot of himself and his experiences into the book, and it’s richer for it. The sense of (8) trust leading to simplicity, for example, is illustrated through the notion of a sushi master, to whom you entrust your meal, and receive a beautifully tailored experience without having to make difficult choices.

It seems a book that’s worth spending an hour reading, and some further time considering how to simplify those things we create.

new watches and the shrinking attention span

A bit of insomnia struck around 5am Sydney time, and I thought I’d check the predictable hysteria around the new Apple product launch. As everyone expected, there’s a new set of phones, and a new wearable device: the Apple Watch, as they’re calling it.

The headlines are varied, but predictable: “everything you need to know about” and “why I won’t be buying one” pieces were written within the hour of the announcement. There’s plenty of places to read such things, but I think the product announcement raises some additional issues.

An article at (satirical news site) The Onion written over a month ago – Americans demand new form of media to bridge entertainment gap while looking from laptop to phone taps into the issue that the device raises. Never mind that the announcement of a consumer electronics product (not even available for sale on the day of announcement) is a major global news story, pushing everything else down the headlines.

What does our desire for wearable electronics tell us about our state of mind? Until today’s product launch, the primary use case I’ve heard for a “smart watch” is to access notifications from apps, and to work on the usual phone functionality when it’s too much trouble to lift the phone out of your pocket, swipe to unlock it, and check a particular app.

Are we letting the ongoing desire for the latest shiny consumable make decisions about the kind of people we want to be? To set the standard for what we want to prioritise (the urgent versus the important)? To push our attention span shorter and shorter? To limit our ability to deal with boredom?

There are a lot of screens around me as I write this. I’m trying to be more judicious in my choice of screen time, and more deliberate in what I do with my attention. Will you join me?

Making sense of Facebook Page Insights

Sending a message out on social media (well, any digital communication, really) is like sitting on a desert island with a message in a bottle, waiting to be rescued. Your message is very important to you, but to someone sitting on the beach at the end of the world, it is much less interesting.

And this is the dilemma that Facebook has had to deal with. The organic reach for company brand pages has dropped significantly since the “good old days” of 2013. In their official response to the drop, Facebook said that it’s not about pushing company pages toward paid promotion of posts, but about providing its users with content that best matches the reason they come to facebook.

As a company, FB is looking to put the most relevant content possible in front of its users, so they spend more time on the site, and consume more advertising. Thesse ads take up more and more of the “feed”, in both mobile and desktop versions. 

For page owners, what do we then do with the audience that we’ve built up? When a given pitch can only reach a single-digit percentage of the overall audience base, is there any point in having fans anymore? Of course there is. And a well-written post can still reach a good number of people, even without promotion.

If you’re looking to improve the effectiveness of your page, you will want to have a look at the analytics that FB provide for free. But how to make sense of them? There are infographics and blog posts that can help you make sense of the terms involved. This will help you see what percentage of your fans are seeing the posts you are putting out, to the limit of accuracy of the data provided, but don’t be too distracted by these numbers.

The number of likes, comments and (most importantly for reach) shares are one factor in determining the success of your facebook page, but unless you’re looking at the facebook page as an end in itself, what you should really be tracking is how the facebook page is helping you reach your actual goal.

If your goal is to have people read an article, then track the number of clicks through from the facebook post to the article (and then look at your analytics to see how long people are spending on the article page, or if they are scrolling down to the end of the article page). 

If your goal is to sell products, then you want to measure – at the very least – how much traffic you’re getting to your site. Perhaps moving straight from reading a post to making a purchase is too much of a challenge – is there some way you can measure how a call-to-action in a post can move them further into your sales funnel, so that you can make a stronger connection? Perhaps an email list would be the next logical step?







cafes on instagram

Instagram (a social network bought by Facebook for around $1B, even though they had no revenue source at the time, and still have a fairly low level of revenue coming in) is still in its early stages as a social network. I’m fairly selective with who I follow on instagram, which means I’m still able to look at all the photos of the people I follow.

This is significant: I crossed the line a long time ago with twitter and with facebook, and just dip in occasionally and read whatever I can make time for. Instagram feels different, though: with its minimal (effectively nil) advertising, it still feels like a place that’s about the exchange of ideas rather than a commercial place where everyone is providing data for the service to sell.

Sure, Instagram is building up a database of places, connections, images, networks of sharing the same as the other players, and its (rarely seen) error messages are now hosted on facebook servers, not independent servers, but it still *feels* different.

And so Instagram is still a place where brands can interact with their followers in a more human way. I realised this when I started unfollowing brands/commercial accounts that they were managing to reach my subconcious in a more profound way than simply advertising. On Instagram, everything is just a photo, so commercial messages are, I think, less prone to banner blindness than on other platforms.

What does this mean for cafes in particular? I follow quite a few coffee-related accounts, many of whom for people I have met (though, with the exception of the occasional free coffee sample, none of whom I have a commercial interest in), and thought I’d share a few observations.

There are many types of coffee-related accounts: equipment vendors (eg thejuggler_ssm, lamarzocco, synesso_factory), roasters (eg griffithscoffee, tobysestatecoffee , camposcoffee), cafes (eg brewtownnewtown, circaespresso, fleetwoodmacchiato, kitchenbymike, thegroundsofalexandria, reformatorycoffeelab, smithteacoffee, vellanero, johnsmithcafe, substationcafe), cafe staff (eg charlescameron, tobyornot), hybrid accounts (eg atallandsundry, fleetwoodmacchiato, grindespresso), and – it could be argued – cafe bloggers or patrons like myself (eg bitterbliss, cafedave, beansproutcafe).

As with any social media approach, if you’re looking to be effective in your use of Instagram, you need to start by asking yourself why you’ve set up your account: what you’re hoping to get out of it. Ideally this will align with some higher-level business goals that you have.

The one outlier in the set of accounts above is the hybrid account. As a cafe owner, there are some big hours. It can be difficult to separate out your personal life from your cafe, but the experience of following the cafe when you don’t know the owner can be confusing.

The best of cafe accounts highlight those times of day when you would most like to visit a cafe: muffins fresh out of the oven, a new menu item becoming available, or the new beans you’ve brought in. Bringing in the personality of the staff from your cafe is a good way to remind your customers of why they visit the cafe.

While encouraging customers to take photos of your cafe might be a negative in terms of turning over tables, if you want to increase the level of engagement with instagram, there are a variety of steps you can take:


  • improve the quality of plating your food, or of your latte art
  • prominently add your instagram account name to your menus / at the cash register
  • repost the images of your followers
  • make sure your cafe location is on facebook places so people who visit your cafe can discover each others’ photos
  • increase the amount of lighting / natural light in the cafe
  • serve foods / place settings in a way that is easier to capture in a square frame
  • create a unique visual feature in your cafe that people who visit can include in their photos
  • create a uniquely named menu item (eg brewnut) to make sharing easier


Adding an instagram strategy to your cafe’s social media marketing mix can be a helpful way to gain more customers, and more repeat customers. Make sure you build in a way to see how many people are coming to the cafe from Instagram (some free stats are available at the time of writing from iconosquare – here’s the hashtag search for #brewtownnewtown – you’ll need to log in with an instagram account to see it).

Let me know in the comments below if you have a favourite cafe on instagram.

John Smith, Waterloo

John Smith Cafe, Waterloo

Rebel Roasters Coffee. 1 John St, Waterloo. As it turns out, there are many reasons to visit John Smith, but it is the giant copper sign that made it first hit my to-visit list. When you walk in, you’ll see lots of little pots of micro herbs, and a community garden on the cul-de-sac outside: there’s a commitment to fresh food, and to encouraging growing your own food (though we see a food delivery coming in while we’re visiting, so they’re not entirely self-sufficient).

Veggie Breakfast - John Smith Cafe, Waterloo

The food is impressive. The vegetarian breakfast above is the ingredients you’d expect, but prepped in unique ways. A couple of pulled-pork choices in there, something for most palettes, and the ubiquitous Brewnut, from Brewtown Newtown.

As strong as the food is, it seems that coffee is the focus. There’s the usual mix of espresso, pour over and cold drip, or you can order the tasting plate ($10 at time of visiting), and popular with the food bloggers. An espresso and ristretto on your choice of single origin coffee, so you can taste the difference between the two extraction methods, a piccolo latte, and a cold drip. It’s a significant caffeine intake, so I just sip them, but they’re passionate about the coffee presentation and making sure you are happy with your choice.

Coffee Tasting Plate - John Smith Cafe, Waterloo

The decaf is also well treated, but don’t expect as much respect from the staff if you order it.

Lastly, step up to the coffee bar for a chat about coffee, and to settle the bill.

where the magic happens - John Smith Cafe, Waterloo