Trying to make some sense of it all

I’m still trying to get to grips with the course of events in the UK recently. Since the Brexit referendum, of course, but increasingly over the past few days. I’m getting a bit tired of the Facebook echo-chamber and so given that I have a blog I figured I’d take a momentary break from talking about tech to think through these issues. But here’s a tweet to give some Tech Business angle to this post.

OK with that out of the way let’s get on with things.

The Conservatives apparently want to shame British firms into hiring more British workers by making them publish how many non-British workers they employ. And most Brits apparently support that position.

Similarly, they, apparently all of a sudden, want schools to list how many foreign-born students they each have. And there are also the reports about the Foreign Office not wanting to use foreigners in some advisory work to do with leaving the EU.

Meanwhile, the de facto opposition party (UKIP) has experienced thuggish behaviour and somehow this is considered acceptable by the UK electorate. And in a surprising twist, a UKIP representative has spoken out against these Conservative ideas.

I’m a member of the liberal, cosmopolitan elite. In the referendum I supported Remain. My sympathies were to Leave based on the mess that the EU has made of Greece. But the absence of any realistic vision for how Leave could work meant that, for me, the whole thing was flawed. I suspect that most (all?) other voters also have their own reasons that defy stereotyping. I certainly didn’t enjoy the Remain scare-mongering. For what it’s worth I also have a healthy scepticism of experts – they crop up all over the place and I’m not always convinced of their insight. However I do have to admit that some of the worst scare-mongering (I seem to remember £1 being predicted to fall as far as $1.28) has now come true so I do wonder what else will be coming over the horizon.

Anyway, back to the plot. The public was asked a question and in a close result the public answered it. Brexit was about leaving the EU. I hope that however Brexit gets implemented it is not a simple Tyranny of the 51%. But that’s not what worries me most. What worries me most is that, based on the noises that we are hearing, Brexit is increasingly becoming about xenophobia, not about the EU.

Since the referendum result racist incidents have increased. Over the past week we’ve seen these latest nationality-related proposals. Obviously I’ve never met any of these people and don’t know what their motives are, to what degree they believe what they are reported as saying, to what degree they are grandstanding or just doing their job or whatever. But something is very concerning indeed about the content of this debate.

Let’s come back to the Name And Shame Businesses Who Employ Foreigners idea. The Party may now be back-pedalling on it but remember that, firstly, it was seriously considered, and secondly, the reality is that apparently most UK people support it. I do expect it to come back in another guise sooner or later (consider the example about profiling non-Brits in British schools). So let’s imagine that, in order to try to improve standards of living, British companies are somehow encouraged to hire native Brits rather than foreigners. It’s easy to see where this will end: They will hire based on nationality rather than ability; so they will perform less well; standards of living won’t increase as expected; immigrants will get scapegoated even more; and the cycle will repeat itself.

Whether in our out of the EU, this country depends on immigrants and will always depend on immigrants. Immigrants disproportionately contribute to the UK, despite the views evident in the YouGov poll. How to reconcile these contradictory facts is something I would hope our leadership manages to lead on, rather than just scapegoating immigration as they seem to be doing. I do have a general faith in common sense, decency and democracy so I remain optimistic, but it ain’t easy. Maybe I’ll have to stay up to watch the US Presidential Debate tonight to remind myself that it could always be worse.

Update 31st December 2016:

One thing that has been playing on my mind is the clear strength of feeling on the subject. There was a James O’Brien LBC clip doing the rounds a while back in which a Leave voter was finding it hard to articulate why he wanted to Leave (probably something to do with immigration). Getting out-talked by a talk show host isn’t the interesting thing here. The interesting thing here is that towards the end of the call the caller says he is willing to suffer 5 years of financial/economic hardship in order to get to a better future. That level of self-sacrifice is pretty incredible.

On the importance of climbing trees

Wow. So about a year ago I was going to resurrect this blog. And then work got incredibly busy and my best intentions got swept aside.

So here’s another go. For my first post in a long time I wanted to write something a bit more personal.

I’ve seen a lot of postings/commentary about school age starting. Probably due to the fact that my peers are in that sort of place. And wanted to share a personal view for what it’s worth.

My wife and I thought long and hard about where to send our kids. As any parent would. Luckily we have/had the luxury of a choice.

In the end we went for a system where reading doesn’t start till 6 or 7. 

For me, at least, I was more than happy to delay the start of formal reading in exchange for earlier exposure to foreign languages.

And so far there seem to be no ill-effects. I’m more than happy that they spent their early years climbing trees rather than trying to learn to write. Plenty of time to put away childish things later on. Mens sana in corpore sano


Cough cough

It’s getting a bit dusty in here. Time to sweep the old cobwebs away.

I can’t believe it’s near on 4 years since I last posted here. Looking back at my posts and even some of the recent comments it feels great to see that some of what I had to say then is still of relevance and use. And it’s inspired me to try to start again.

Also, to be honest, I’ve noticed a large increase in spam comments getting through recently which prompted me to log into WordPress to clear them out.

Back in the day I had 2 blogs: Alan Buxton’s eSourcing Place, where I blogged about eSourcing from the point of view of being the guy who headed up the product at TradingPartners; and Golden Pebbles where I would get more technical. I imagined the audience would be pretty different for both. And at one point they even had their own domain names.

I’ve now combined the two into one and look forward to blogging here a bit more regularly than once in 4 years. See you around.

All the best


My New Gig

I’ve recently started at Rated People as their Technology Director.

I find the company fascinating for a bunch of reasons:

  1. They are a marketplace that allows people to find tradesmen very easily. It’s shocking how easy for the user it is, in fact – and I speak as someone who has used the service as a user. The model is pretty similar to – regular readers will know I’m a fan.
  2. But even better than the traditional online marketplace idea, Rated People is more like a dating agency. I don’t go on the site and choose from hundreds of plumbers. The system chooses the best plumbers for me based on my location, budget etc.
  3. The upshot of all of this is that the ratings system on Rated People is the best I’ve come across. It is the hardest to fake. Amazon’s ratings are useless – as a manufacturer I could easily hire plenty of people to post positive reviews of my goods. Even on I could register myself as a supplier, create a number of fake buyer accounts, award myself some contracts and give myself a great rating. On Rated People you can’t just do this.
  4. It’s still sourcing!

On a “small world” note, I was out with one of the guys last night and found out that he once used to be a buyer at Brakes where he used to run their reverse auctions and was involved in the early incarnations of Trade Interchange.


Those of you who follow the TradingPartners Senior Management Team pages will have noticed that I’m no longer there. Yes, it’s right, I have departed TradingPartners.

Over the past half decade with TradingPartners and the decade before with SAP and Ariba I’ve had the good fortune of being involved in a number of great projects and learning a lot about what makes a good piece of business software (hint: it’s not just what they teach you in project management school).

I’m looking forward to putting these ideas into practice in the next piece of business software I build. I expect to be posting less and less here, at least for a while – but at least you’ll know that what I do post will become more and more impartial 🙂 In the meantime I expect to post more regularly over at my other blog – it would be great to see some of you over there.

All the best


Alien Abductions – the most compelling/entertaining theory I've heard

… as told to me by a fellow member of my ante-natal group a few years ago.

Alien abductions are misty recollections of having your nappy (diaper) changed as an infant.

Think about it. What do so many alien abduction stories have in common?

  • Sudden transportation away from what you were doing – a transportation you are helpless to resist
  • Bright lights shining in your face
  • Out of focus humanoid people whose faces are a bit similar to your own, only narrower
  • Being made to lie down on your back while your abductors carry out bizarre medical activities – ofteninvolving the nether regions
  • Being dumped unceremoniously back into the normal world as suddenly as you were taken away.

Hmmm …..

Fame already! w00t

Golden Pebbles has only been going for a week or two and already it’s in the top spot at Google!

No joke. Look here.

Fame Already

Number 1. Numero Uno. The big kahuna.

Ok, admittedly it might have something to do with the fact that I’ve spelt “scaleability” with an “e” and most seem to spell it without the “e”. But heck. It was fun to see some traffic coming through from that search.

Roger. Out.

Where next for Where Next?

One day a long time ago I was trying to convince my CEO  to start a company blog; he ended up convincing me to try one myself. To see what would happen.

So I did. And looking back over these past 20 months I  can say it’s been great fun. And a very positive experience in a number of ways:

1. I’ve met physically and now count among my friends some great individuals who are as passionate about what they do, as I do about what I do. Like Jason who I have the good fortune now of crossing paths with whenever I’m in Chicago.

2. I’ve learnt about new technologies that are now making TradingPartners more effective at product development. In particular Rails (which we use for prototyping) … thanks Doc for posting about Coupa.

3. I’ve learnt a lot. “When Doc Searls first talked to me about blogs being provisional, I learnt something important for myself. Being unsure is a useful prerequisite for learning.” Thus spake JP Rangaswami and he’s right. Blogging ideas, and discussing them is (for me) a great way of thinking my ideas through properly, developing the good ones and jettisoning the bad ones.  

4. It’s also been very flattering to discover that I made it onto page 1 of Google for a search on “eauctions” (in the US only, admittedly – from Google in the UK I am nowhere but even so let me have my moment of glory)

eAuctions Search In Google

However, it has been over a year and a half that I’ve been doing this. Like so many other people with a technical bent, I have a fairly short attention span and always want to figure out how to do/make things better. So while I was on holiday recently – in particular whilst spending an afternoon walking round the near-deserted remains of Rome’s ancient port, Ostia Antica – I had a chance to mull over the direction of the blog and try to figure out where next for Where Next.

Net result: I’m thinking about forking the blog into two: of taking one blog down a supply chain route while focussing another one on the life of a tech company CTO.

With two blogs in play I’d be posting even less frequently than today. But it would mean each would be more focussed which would be more satisfying for me, and hopefully also more usable for readers.

I’ve come up against 2 issues:
1. If I want to use my own domain name then can I still host on WordPress or would I need to arrange my own hosting?
2. What a pain it is to get a domain name. They’re all being squatted, or have been registered and then forgotten. I’ve dropped 2 emails to registered owners of (apparently unused) domain names and have yet to receive any kind of reply. Not even a “No, it’s not for sale”.

Any thoughts?