27Dinner launches in Port Elizabeth

Ramon Thomas and friends27Dinner for the uninitiated are meetings arranged by and for bloggers or people interested in social media. They take the form of an informal dinner with a few speakers and have been a hit across South Africa. In Johannesburg and Cape Town these dinners have drawn sometimes as many as 100 people at a time. At least half the audience tends to be geeks or technically oriented people, while the others are a mixture of marketing, public relations, journalists or spectators. Last year I had the opportunity to speak at the 2nd 27Dinner in Durban, hosted by Marc Forrest and was excited once more to be a speaker because it’s may way of giving back to the community from which I have learned so much.

Now I’d like to give this some context because Port Elizabeth is often ignored by people running events, whether they be entertainment (music) or business related events. And I have taken it upon myself to find ways of bringing more important events like 27Dinner or Women4Women to this beautiful part of South Africa. After all I will be spending more time here from June 2008 while I take a mini sabbatical. The biggest thanks has to go to Alan Straton from MyPE for organising the venue, and doubly so for persuading the restaurant to open on a public holiday (27 April – Freedom Day). Greig Timkoe, my friend, and client did the introduction and delivered very short talk on handling workplace conflict created by email. This is a topic of tremendous importance that I would like to see expanded on in future talks or articles on his Peacemakers blogs.

Mark Bloomfield & wifeThe first speaker for the evening was Mark Bloomfield, South Africa’s only Adobe Community Expert. He gave an overview of the Adobe AIR platform which I have used to run the StomperNet Scrutinizer. The AIR platform sounds like a good idea in principle, especially if you are technically minded and understand things like bandwidth, processing power, database calls, etc. Most people don’t, not even people working in the broader technology sector. And therefore this has a limited market potential. Java is similar because it’s platform independent, however it’s different because it’s become more of a middleware application. Adobe AIR created beautiful application which run on your Desktop and reduced the dependence on bandwidth to some extent. Mark closed off with an introduction of a new development platform from Adobe who already owns Dreamweaver and Photoshop. There’s not much I can say about this software because it has not been launched yet. Now to go by the quality of Adobe’s other project this will be a boon for developers professional and amateur alike.My own presentation was an updated version of my Blog your way to becoming and Expert presentation.

Overall this was a smaller event with maybe 20 people attending. There were several who listed their names on the 27Dinner wiki page but didn’t show and that could be because of the week ahead filled with 3 public holidays and I know for a fact many people have chosen to go on holiday somewhere else.


10 Strategies for coping with Scary Times from Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan founder Strategic CoachDan Sullivan, founder of the Strategic Coach has published an updated version of his classic, The “Scary Times” Success Manual: Transforming anxiety about the future into strategic growth, progress and achievement. These strategies seem like common sense but you rarely consider or contemplate them. And once you become conscious of them you know them to be the highest and best approach to dealing with uncertainty in the world.

There is so many distraction in the world you may be confused about what to focus on. And this list gives a solid foundation on which you can grow, slowly but surely, in the best of times or the worst of times. A great philosopher once said only human beings can know something to be rational and right choice to make and yet do the exactly opposite. As I have been saying it’s not about right or wrong; instead it’s about the highest and best approach.

Here’s a summary of the 10 strategies:

  1. Forget about yourself, focus on others.
  2. Forget about your commodity, focus on your relationships.
  3. Forget about the sale, focus on creating value.
  4. Forget about your losses, focus on your opportunities.
  5. Forget about your difficulties, focus on your progress.
  6. Forget about the “future”, focus on today.
  7. Forget about who you are, focus on who you can be.
  8. Forget about events, focus on your response.
  9. Forget about what’s missing, focus on what’s available.
  10. Forget about your complaints, focus on your gratitude.

You can also download and listen to an audio presentation of the Scary Times success manual here. And you can read the full list of strategies here.


How to stop smoking one day at a time

There are some addictions that are so common you may believe they are normal like drinking coffee or for some people smoking a cigarette. I was probably 12 years old when I tried my hand at smoking one of my mother’s cigarettes. She’s since quit about 20 years ago before my sister was born. And it’s so funny after all these years of divorce my ddd still smokes the same brand, which shows they had at least this one thing in common. I ended up developing this habit early on in my teenage years, reaching it’s peak during my high school and university years. This was likely the age which was most impressionable. There was a sense at the time that smoking was cool, fun and the in-thing to do. There was also the drama of hiding or doing things behind your parents backs and even the thrill of being caught every once in a while. Continue reading “How to stop smoking one day at a time”


Two simple steps to reducing your cellphone stress levels today

As far back as 2005 WebMD reported on how cell phones raise stress levels. And more specifically how it is blurring the lines between your professional life and your personal life. Now in South Africa you add in the frustration caused by load shedding, a high violent crime rate and you have enough of a mixture to send stress levels into the stratosphere.

Anyway I have implemented the following two strategies to reduce my dependency on my cellphone and the experience has increased my general well being because I decide when and where to respond to my cell phone, not the other way around.

1. Change your voice mail. 

For the last several weeks I have been using a voice mail message on my cellphone suggested by BulkSMS. The reaction has been varied from a blanket acceptance by at least 70-80% of callers, confusion by about 10% while the remainder continue to leave voice messages as normal. One very good suggestion was that I insert my name back into this voice mail because people who have been referred to me may believe they have the called the wrong cellphone number. The best part about this particular voice mail is that it forces people who contact me to get to the point. They are very specific about the reason why they are making contact. Even better yet, when they do not follow-up with an SMS I never call back any  more because it probably was not that important to start with.

2. Keep your cell phone on silent (vibrate mode):

The reasoning behind this has been simple: If I am doing something, and I have left my cellphone somewhere else, while I don’t hear it, I can focus on completing what I am already involved in. There is a real danger that increased switching time in the myth of multitasking will continue to raise current levels beyond the current 30% and the overall result will be increased draining of your attention. The relief that comes with this particular strategy has been incredible. I think this policy of mine must drive some of my callers insane in the membrane 😉

I’m curious, what have you done to remove or reduce the stress levels caused by your cellphone?


WordPress Blogging wp-content/1/ Trojan Malware Virus

Wordpress for DummiesIt’s been 4 years since I left the IT security profession to focus on research and training. However, I am glad to have this background because it helped me to appreciate the subtlety of this hack into the WordPress blogging software. It first came to my attention when I noticed a folder named “1” as in the number one, while uploading plugins to the wp-content folder on my web host. As the sophistication of web applications continue to increase, the propensity for trojans or malware increases. This also explains why ramonthomas.com may have dropped out of Google for a few months and the traffic on that blog took a huge dip.

Anyway I found this excellent blog article that explained the whole thing. It’s critical that all bloggers who use WordPress check if their host has been infected with this trojan and malware virus. And this experience once again reminds me of the importance of regular backups. The great thing with WordPress as with all content management systems, is that it separates content from the software back-end. This particular problem infected a series of blog postings with hidden javascript code.

On a side note I would like to recommend the following open source or free anti virus tools for your desktop:

Reminder: if your PC or laptop is already infected with a computer virus it’s wise to use the web-based Trend Micro Housecall to scan your system live from the Web. And where possible ensure that your anti virus software integrates with your email so that all incoming and outgoing emails are automatically scanned.


Our kids are being bullied to death

written by Prega Govender

100 children tried to kill themselves in the past year because of their classmates’ cruelty

When a Johannesburg schoolgirl missed class for a week after her father was shot in a hijacking, she expected fellow pupils to comfort her.

Instead, the traumatised 15 year old was bombarded with more than 80 nasty e-mails a day — accusing her of bunking school to have an abortion.

The Grade 9 pupil was an emotional wreck after becoming the target of relentless bullying by a group of five girls at school.

She is among thousands of pupils who fall victim to cruel school-yard bullies every day.

A major study on school violence by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, to be released this month, found that more than one in 10 pupils is physically bullied.

The study, involving 12700 primary and high-school pupils, found that bullying was one of the most prevalent forms of violence in schools.

Research director Patrick Burton said the investigation identified the increasing involvement of girls in bullying. This was confirmed by an educational psychologist, academics and organisations.

Childline said at least 100 pupils a year attempted suicide after failing to cope with bullying.

Describing the syndrome as having reached “pandemic proportions”, Childline’s national co-ordinator, Joan van Niekerk, said the helpline received one or two complaints of bullying at schools every day.

Childline’s KwaZulu-Natal office, which receives the highest volume of calls, records about 1280 complaints of bullying a month.

Van Niekerk said the organisation received an increasing number of complaints about girls being bullies. She said this was mainly emotional and verbal bullying.

In the UK and US, the term “bullycide” has been coined to describe suicides sparked by bullying at schools. Between 1994 and 2005, 75 “bullycides” were recorded in the UK.

A study on pupil absenteeism in South African schools released last week found that bullying was a significant contributing factor.

Figures supplied by the North West and Free State education departments show that 20 pupils were expelled for bullying in the past 12 months, and 50 suspended from class.

The Free State Education Department forced 12 bullies to take transfers to other schools and referred five cases for possible prosecution.

In one of the first court cases involving a claim for damages for bullying, a Pretoria parent is claiming R150000 from the parents of three pupils who bullied his son at a primary school in Centurion. The trio allegedly played the boy a song “especially for his mother, who is a bitch”.

Other recent cases of school- yard bullying include:

  • An eight-year-old Durban schoolgirl, who had just lost her mother, was continually robbed of her lunchbox and other possessions by three older boys, aged 10 and 11, before she was indecently assaulted by them in an empty classroom; and
  • A seven-year-old Grade 1 pupil at a private school in Johannesburg, whose parents had just divorced, become clinically depressed after being subjected to bullying by a nine-year-old classmate.

Janine Shamos, project director at the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, said the older boy tripped the seven-year-old, bashed his head against the wall and threw his possessions into the dustbin.

“The little boy had stomach aches and developed a complete fear of going to school, but did not tell his mother because he didn’t want to put more pressure on her after her divorce. ”

Johannesburg-based educational psychologist Wendy Sinclair, who said she dealt with four to five cases of bullying a month, said it had become “the norm rather than the exception” in schools.

“Cyber-bullying has become increasingly popular, especially with girls, as a tool for bullying others. It has become much easier to humiliate, abuse and threaten others because the messages can remain anonymous.

“Many victims of bullying are so traumatised and disempowered by the bullying that they often express, in therapy, a desire to die rather than suffer further humiliation and abuse.”

Professor Corene de Wet from the University of the Free State said a colleague’s daughter had regularly played truant after becoming the victim of bullies.

“She’s been receiving nasty SMSs. She comes home crying because she’s not part of the “cool” group,” said De Wet, who conducted a study on bullying in Free State schools two years ago.

Samantha Waterhouse, advocacy manager for a group known as Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, said provincial education departments’ initiatives against bullying were “hopelessly inadequate”.

“I don’t think educators really know what to do about it, ” she said.

The North West Education Department said its anti-bullying campaign for this year included an anti-bullying poetry competition and a road show.

This article was originally published on Sunday, 6 April 2008 in the Sunday Times.


Why you should never get back together with your ex-girlfriend after a break-up

Received the following email the other day…

Hi Ramon, my girlfriend of 1 and half years recently broke up with me. We lived together and she decided that she wanted to move out because she didn’t feel the same way about me as she did before. I feel as though my life has ended. I really love this woman and would do anything to have her back. She has moved into her own place and seems very happy. It kills me just thinking that she is going to be with some other guy one of these days. Do you think it is possible to get this woman back?

My first response…

Yes, it’s possible. And NO its a bad idea. You have what they call one-itis in the seduction community. You have vested WAY too much on this one woman and you feel like you do not have any other options. Before I say more about this, tell me in what area of your life are you successful, growing, focussed, energised right now?

Continue reading “Why you should never get back together with your ex-girlfriend after a break-up”