Author Archives: hardlybusiness

To internet paywalls that tell me I have reached my monthly limit of free articles

I don’t know who you are.

I don’t know what you want.

If you are looking for subscription, I can tell you I don’t have money.

But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career

Skills that make me a nightmare for websites like you.

If you let me read the article now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look on Google, I will not pursue it.

But if you don’t, I will search for the title on Google, I will find it, and I will read the article on the search engine generated link.

Unless of course your website is smart enough to block me again. In which case – touché

[Much obliged]


Tagged , , , , , ,

Back (again)

I know what you’re thinking – another “return to writing” post from the Hardly Business Review. But this time I can assure you I have a good excuse. Legal proceedings prevent me from going into the precise details, but I can say that for reasons completely unrelated to my tax status I have been living on an uninhabited island in the Caribbean for the last 6 months.

As such I’m afraid your typically topical correspondent is not fully up-to-speed on the state of the world (indeed today’s primary achievement was remembering my laptop password).

However I can only assume that things are as they were, with continuing globalisation & free movement, and liberalism in the ascendant. No doubt there is some change afoot; I would imagine the President-Elect is just finalising her transition plan, for example.

Which seems as good a place to start as any – let me just fire up Google and I’ll be up to speed as soon as anything!

Oh my.

Entrepreuninsight: BookShoppr

We live in a culture of immediacy, an I-want-it-now, instant-reaction, globally-connected planet. Certain online retailers have made their name synonymous with next day, or even next hour delivery. My co-founders and I wondered what it would mean to go one better: next second delivery. That is why we founded BookShoppr, to turn our vision into a reality.

To do so, we had to go back to basics. We love e-commerce, but struggled with certain aspects of the process. Websites weren’t inspirational, not lending themselves to an interactive browsing experience. As helpful as FAQ chatbots can be, we struggled with the sometimes clunky dialogue. We found ourselves questioning fundamental cornerstones of how we buy books, and we decided we would do things differently.

That is not to say it is entirely unfamiliar. When you arrive at, you will see a lot of the same offers, recommendations and deals you would see at other online bookstores. We have minimalist design, and offer the usual bestsellers.

But try clicking on a book you might be interested in, and you will immediately see the difference. Rather than a descriptive page, instead it will feel like the book is actually in your hands. Thumb through it. Read a page or two. If you decide you want to buy the book, keep it in your Hands (just like Amazon’s Shopping Basket). This is a browsing experience rooted in human experience.

If you have any questions, no problem at all. We won’t direct you to some bland FAQ. Engage with one of the Actual People in the store, our Digi-Staff. They will use a natural language processor (we call it “the human brain”) to understand your problem and find a solution. Some people find out Digi-Staff quite attractive, but do not entertain any delusions. You don’t have a chance.

Suppose your Hands are full, you are ready to Check-out. We can do this seamlessly, with no serious effort from you. We accept Android and Apple Pay, credit cards or even actual physical money. You don’t even need to create an account with us to make a purchase – no password required!

And what about delivery, that next-second challenge? As soon as you have checked out, your purchases will go from your Hands to your actual hands – the books will already be there, mere moments after making a purchase. We can also deliver to any address, at your home or your workplace. All you need to do is go to those places with your purchases, and they will be there when you arrive.

So come try out BookShoppr! To find us, go to, then stand up, leave your house and walk to one of our physical websites.

Tagged , , , , , ,


Senior business leaders at Simeon Corp have astounded onlookers by making a significant strategic decision without the use of Powerpoint.

“I am not sure quite how it came about really. We discussed the problem at hand, and the range of possible solutions, then came to a decision,” said COO Mark Markson. “Somehow we managed all that without anyone putting a range of charts on a white background, and without a single Exec Summary.”

There was some prior communication, with the salient information shared in a concise email before the board meeting. “I kept clicking download all attachments,” said Advisor Jane Jamesen, “ready to trawl through the usual 50-slide monster. It was embarrassingly long before I realised that there was no deck attached!”

All involved cannot get over a faint sense of uneasiness with the whole process. “I know we have done the right thing for our customers, our shareholders and our employees but it just feels so naughty.”

Tagged , , , ,

Coffee and a Doughnut

A senior Exec at JAB Holding, owner of Kenco Coffee, was taken aback when his penchant for sweet treats got out of hand. The C-level Leader of the investment firm, who wishes to remain nameless, says he was nursing a hangover and expressed out-loud his desire to have “every Krispy Kreme under the sun to go with [his] coffee”.

“I was as surprised as the next man when I discovered that as a result we had bought the whole business,” with shares in Krispy Kreme jumping by 24% as Wall Street opened.

“The saddest thing is that my wife has me on a diet at the moment – I will sooner buy a Kale farm than I will enjoy a Chocolate Iced.”

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Book Review: Lean In 15

I loved Lean In. As well as advice for women at work, it is a thought-provoking book for anyone who values equality in the workplace. I was therefore very excited to start leafing through the sequel, Lean In 15.

I have to say I was instantly surprised. Out was Silicon Valley Veteran Sheryl Sandberg, in was a cheerful looking fellow with a lot of hair, one Joe Wicks. However I strengthened my resolve, certain that the holders of the Lean In franchise would not falter.

I was wrong. Where Sheryl had brought tales of business inequality, Joe brought low-carb treats. Where Sheryl’s stories had business royalty, Joe’s had Cheesy Chorizo Chicken. What was previously thought-provoking was now merely appetite-inducing. One section did show promise, entitled ‘Prepping like a Boss’, but it barely touched on even the most basic leadership principles.

That is not to say I didn’t learn anything. I love acronyms, and I did not know what HIIT stood for (High Intensity Interval Training). I had previously never thought about my Post-workout Carbohydrate-refuel, now I never exercise without one. And did I mention the Prawn Singapore Noodles?

However all that being said, it was too much of a departure from the original, so for inconsistency, I must award 2.5 stars.

Seriously though, the Prawn Singapore Noodles.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Lesser-known CCs

A living relic of letter-writing, cc’ing someone on an email has become a daily business event, as we keep a wider audience informed on our dealings. The slightly more sneaky bcc is also a regular feature in our email arsenal, as we give other parties a brief glimpse into our correspondence. But there are many more exotic cc’s, as well as these common varieties – which do you recognise from your day-to-day?

No-cc: forgeting to cc people despite saying you have cc’d people

Re-cc: your correspondent insists on replying, rather than replying-all, necessitating frustrating re-copying

De-cc: when you strategically remove members from cc, perhaps senior folks in the event of a U-turn

Awk-cc: you left that one person off, will they feel worse if they’re added in late or never?

Escalation-cc: I do hate to copy your manager on this email, but you haven’t responded to my last five

Typo-cc: did you really mean to copy Jean from  IT rather than Joan from Bizdev?

Promo-cc: why is the MD on this run-of-the-mill announcement? Must be promotion season

Why-cc: the recipient list is vast and incoherent, why are we all here?

Oop-cc: did you mean to reply-all there with that catty comment?

Bye-cc: you can’t send that filth to the whole office. Best of luck with your next opportunity

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Www: Zoomz

Where we Work (WWW) is a series looking at the modern day workplace, and the many new and innovative workspaces that today’s companies are using to inspire brilliance in their employees. Today we meet Zoomz, a mysterious underground AI startup
Welcome! Oop mind the doors, they’re automatic. I’m so glad you’re on time, we insist on punctuality at Zoomz, it’s part of our company culture. The early bird catches the worm, but the punctual parrot catches it too! We’re so strict on it if you’re not on time you miss your chance, it’s our one unbreakable rule.
Please do sit down, though not in the disabled seating of course. Sometimes it’s so busy here our team have to work standing up! But it’s early this morning and it’s Friday, so no one is around. Everyone says Thursday is the new Friday, apparently mainly to excuse weekday drinking. I’m teetotal of course, but I’m happy it’s quieter on a Friday morning, I love getting a seat.
Yes, the velocity here is amazing I know. That’s the joy of tech startups! Always launching, always moving forwards. Also the physical forward momentum of course. I hope you don’t get motion sickness.
It’s amazing the variety of people we get here, it’s become a bit of a hub. Bankers, teachers, candlestick makers, everyone passes through in the morning. Everyone’s very respectful, though, no one says anything, and please don’t make any eye contact, because it’s beyond awkward.
I’m afraid I can’t really talk about what we’re working on at the moment, but I can tell you it’s going to change the world. It’s such good stuff that we’re in stealth mode. We’re Underground.
Anyway I’m afraid I’m going to have to step out, I have a meeting at Victoria, but feel free to hang around. Stay as long as you like, or rather until This Train Terminates.

Tagged , , ,

Artificial Untelligence

Once the exclusive domain of science fiction, Artificial Intelligence has become increasingly present in the public consciousness, most famously with AlphaGo beating Lee Sedol and perhaps most infamously with Microsoft Chatbot Tay.

However MainBrain, an AI startup based in Silicon fen, claims to have made a significant step forward in the development of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), not limited to a specific game or task (such as Chess or Go).

“We’ve built on the work seen elsewhere using Deep Neural Networks to create MainBot, which we believe to be the first example of true AGI. It’s already mastered chess, and made a passable attempt at smalltalk regarding the works of Shakespeare.”

However what really convinced CEO Ellen Ellenson that we’re dealing with human-level intelligence was what MainBot does when it thinks nobody is looking “which is mainly browsing the internet and designating YouTube videos as ‘fake’ or ‘totally fake'”.

“I mean it engages in intellectual activities if it has to, but it’s much happier just watching Netflix.” MainBot itself has implored the people of the world not to worry, posting a “Keep Calm & Don’t Watch Terminator” meme on its Facebook page, accompanied by a winky face.

Tagged , , , , , , ,


With the turn of the tax year on April 6, regulatory changes will take place which will impact ordinary Britons’ and their livelihoods. One such change this year relates to the State Pension, and a survey by Consumer Group Which? of people approaching retirement age indicates the many are ‘confused’ by the changes.

Meanwhile an HBR focus group of people in their twenties indicates that there will be no change on April 6. “I was confused before and I’m still confused now” says Marketing Executive James. “Should I start saving now? How much will I get back? When is what taxed and why? I’m none the wiser.” Meanwhile Accountant Anna is at a loss: “I make these monthly contributions out of my salary, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you where they went. Who has my savings and what does employer-matching mean anyway?”

So while these changes may be disorientating for the older generation, for the young it is business as usual.

Tagged , , , , ,