The Social Networking Maze

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As a self confirmed ‘geek’ I like to think that I am fairly ‘IT savy’ and can find my way around most computers and their associated programs. As such I am the first port of call at work for my ‘more challenged’ colleagues, this is something that I am happy with, I can help them in a fraction of the time it would take them to sort the problem. This is very much the usual way people learn IT in the real world as I see it.

However, with the growth of interest in social networking within the business world the stress on ‘non techies’ is as far as I can see about to reach overload!

The older social networking sites – MSN, Facebook and Bebo to name a few, have always been the domain of youth, with Facebook being the site people ‘grew into’ when they started college. There is therefore a new work generation coming through who are comfortable with social networking ( most under 30).

However, we are now seeing with the availability of mobile web via smart phones (iPhones, Pocket PC’s and Blackberries mainly) many of these social sites being accessable 24/7. The most obvious of these being Twitter, a real child of social networking but rapidly becoming one of the most active, if not the biggest.

I discovered Twitter via certain internet sites that I regularly visit, I thought I would follow some, a great idea as you get the updates instantly! Little did I know that I would soon start posting and have my own followers. I still find Twitter great for getting instant news from the BBC and other organisations (even the RICS my professional body uses it). I now also use it to show when I have updated this blog – clever!

At work we have started to use Yammer – in effect an intranet related directly to our email users (only they can access it). Again it can be used on smartphones (excellent iPhone app) and in this way gives instant access to messages, even with text notifications. This works well, but only if the entire firm embraces it – and this is where I see a possible problem.

Non ‘techies’ find all of this either scary or pointless – they have email (and in our case exchange based so instant via our iPhones) so why do they need this addition?

To me its obvious – instant information / messaging between ALL staff at once, and in the case of iPhone users anywhere, email does not give this across all users. However getting people to accept this is not always straight forward. Especially to the non social networking generation (which to be honest I fall into age wise).

On top of Twitter and Yammer, we have Linkedin. This is actually like Facebook for business people and probably the best external network for ‘adults’ as it is purely business driven. Considering it is attempting to attract a fairly large section of the non social networking generation I find it fairly un-user friendly. Remember I am a self confessed ‘techie’ – so how does a ‘normal’ older businessman find it?

This is my main concern with this current surge in networking. It will happen and become more and more a part of business. But will a sector of the economy just find it too much and get left behind? We must make sure it is not us that wither and die!

On that point it’s now off to try and get to grips with Google Wave, the next big advance in social networking? Lets hope it’s nice and straight forward to use………..

EPC – help or hinderance

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As a recently qualified RICS Commercial Energy Assessor I have developed a close interest in energy use and management in the commercial property world, and how the Government are reacting to the challenges it presents. It has opened my eyes to certain issues which will become more important to the property industry over the next decade.

Of particular interest to me as a commercial energy assessor is the EPC or Energy Performance Certificate. Introduced to comply with the European Energy Performance of Buildings directive of 2002 this has required all

Example EPC

commercial buildings marketed or changing hands since 4th Jan 2009 to have an EPC. This document confirms the energy rating for the building, not how much energy it uses (a DEC confirms this) but how efficient it is – much like the ratings on electrical goods, the presentation is even similar.

Unfortunately for the Government (and Energy Assessors), their introduction followed quite closely the collapse of the property market. Consequently their uptake has been slow due to reduced property deals. They are also viewed somewhat cynically by the market. Why bother spending good money on one when it is only a legal requirement but does not benefit the property or the deal?

Because of this the cost, and arguably the quality of many EPCs, has fallen to a very low level. But is this cynical view of the market correct, or is the market missing the point and the benefit of the advice it receives with an EPC?

Surely if the current down turn has taught us anything it is to control cost? Yet we still pay little or no interest to the energy we waste in our lives? At this point we need to establish whether or not one considers rising CO2 levels as a problem, frankly it is not clear if it is causing Global Warming (or if it really exists) but in general terms it can’t be good for the planet – what ever your view!

Buildings account for approx 50% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions, so some form of control and reduction has to be a priority – and 20% of that total is from commercial buildings. The UK Government has also undertaken to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050, so this issue is not going away!

The EPC calculation method is extremely complex, it is modelled by software called SBEM (Simplified Building Energy Model) created by the BRE (Building research Establishment) which requires very accurate information to be input to provide the correct answer. Despite its name the software is far from simple, and it takes time and skill to correctly obtain and enter the right information. If to save time the assessor  uses the softwares default settings it is possible to enter data that provides a ‘worst case scenario’ rather than an accurate and potentially better rating for the building.

Is this important? Yes, I believe it is. As energy costs rise more and more, the efficiency of buildings will become more important and be used as a marketing tool (as a practice we are already beginning to see this effect). Consequently if a ‘cheap’ hastily produced EPC has been obtained which gives an inaccurate and poor rating to the building this will make it less attractive and potentially less valuable to the market.

Add to this the possibility of Property Rates being linked to Energy efficiency in the future and the benefit of accurate EPCs can be seen.

You have been warned……………..

Only a hamster?

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It never ceases to amaze me just how the British love their animals. As a family we have the usual collection of pets; one cat, two cold water fish (gold fish in my day) plus until last night two hamsters.

The hamsters are the subject of this blog. Steve and Viv joined us 18 months ago following a visit by the hamster from the nursery my wife teaches at over a holiday period. Both kids decided that they would like hamsters, so we duly obliged.

Viv was our daughter’s (named after Vivian Westwood) and Steve was our son’s (named due to an escape attempt on his first day – Steve McQueen). Both were characters in their own right. Steve was a fat chilled out guy, Viv a somewhat neurotic lady! I never expected a hamster to be anything other than ‘a hamster’, but both were rather endearing.

Unfortunately Viv started to decline two weeks ago and was ‘dispatched’ by the vet last night to stop her suffering further. Our daughter is obviously distressed, as I would expect. But the condolences received from everyone at the vets’ was a bit of a surprise!

Perhaps being a country lad I am a bit ‘hard’ when it comes to animals? I don’t know, but I do feel that the different approach to animals between ‘townies’ and country folk may be symptomatic of lots of society’s current problems?

Certainly the farm and animals at Edwalton Primary (the school that I am Chair of Governors), helps the children get used to animals mortality. The pigs and sheep go to the butcher and no pretence is made of this. However the kids look after the animals happily, fully aware that they will go for food. But they still want to make sure they have a good life. Surely that is a healthy approach.

Don’t get me wrong – we will all miss Viv, but she was only a hamster!

Hello world!

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This is my first effort at a blog. I intend to try and update it as regularly as possible, however the first few blogs will without doubt be part of a steep learning curve!

I have recently qualified as an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) Assessor, and have some views with regards to that and the current views on climate change and the way forward for both the general economy and particularly the property world in respect of ‘green issues’. I will expand on these on my next blog entry – which will be hopefully longer and more interesting!