Digital by Default Discussions: Mike Ellis

Mike EllisThis week Mike Ellis has accepted my invitation to basically provide a blogpost for me 🙂 An additional bonus is that the ‘access to internet’ question finally makes some sense!

I’ve known Mike for a few years now. He was the driving force behind Bathcamp – organising the first two full bar camps (including the semi-legendary Black Rat fuelled Bathcamp in a field!) and with a small band of helpers managed to make the monthly Bathcamp nights at the Innovation Centre a must attend for geeks from Bath, Bristol and beyond.

Even more so than me Mike has been a believer in the ‘nail/hammer’ school of digital strategy – also known as WordPress is the answer to everything 😉 Well that has been the case anyway since he shock off a case of classic ASPitis.

These days Mike has abandoned the ‘bright lights’ of Bath (ha!) and has moved with his family to a shack in Devon somewhere – I’m only jealous about half the time.

Joking aside Mike is genuinely someone who knows his stuff in this space and someone whose opinion I value – he has worked for Waterstones, the Science Museum and Eduserv implementing digital strategies as well as getting hands on and has even written a book (and is now working on a novel.)


North Devon

Current job:

I’m co-director (with my wife) of – we’re a little digital agency that works with museums, not-for-profits and others, doing WordPress builds, training and consultancy.

Current mobile device (personal & work if different):

iPhone 4. The (now) slow one.

Current computer (personal & work if different):

Macbook Pro, maybe 3 years old now. But: I bought an SSD for it recently which pretty much made it a new computer.

One word that best describes how you work:

In moderation. That’s two words, but “moderately” wasn’t quite right.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

We work for ourselves, so have total flexibility about how and when and where we work. For me the main good thing about this is that I have worked out (or more accurately – am working out) when to stop and when to say no. So whereas “working for myself” means “busting my balls until I die” for a lot of people, for us it means “working gently at a pace we like and with people that interest us”.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

Well, probably two things. The first is related to the previous point – as a society we seem to be naturally programmed to earn AS MUCH AS WE CAN, even when it’s at the very obvious detriment of family, health and the important things in life. When you work for yourself this can be incredibly unhealthy if you don’t know when to stop.

The second is that technology marches inexorably on and it’s easy to start feeling that you’re getting left behind. When this happens I take a step back and remind myself that no-one in the real world actually cares much about the technology and content is (still) everything – and I feel a lot better.

What’s your access to the internet like at your office?

Oh how we laughed.

We work from home for 2 days a week during the summer – and there it’s a wholly amusing 1Mbs, which is fine for admin shizzle (and, bizarrely, for Netflix..?) but not so fine for anything that involves any lifting and shifting. In our office (in the sprawling urban metropolis of Bude) we get about 7Mbs which is perfectly good for what we do. Back in Bath I had a theoretical 60Mbs at home but tbh you only need that if you’re an illegal downloader, which as a law-abiding internet citizen, of course I wouldn’t dream of.

If you could change one thing about your job what would it be?

Probably only one thing – we’re now 90 minutes from the nearest train station and although that distance – and the remoteness – is the whole reason we like where we are – it can be a horrible ballache trying to get to places. Clients, yes, but also sushi, art galleries or a blinding curry. But you get used to driving everywhere and it’s not as big a thing as it once seemed.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Is a piano a gadget? A piano.

What are you currently reading?

I’m usually reading about 6 things at once, so to avoid boring people:

– the uncool answer: Lee Child – One Shot. I’ve read this one (in fact, all of them) about 10 times. They’re total shit but I love them. Shh.

– the cool answer: I also just started Paul Auster’s Moon Palace. I just finished The book of Illusions which I thought was ace so am seeing whether this one matches up. Next in my list: Cannery Row, as Steinbeck is just the most incredibly poetic and amazing stuff I’ve ever waved at my eyeballs.

What do you listen to while you work (assuming you are able to)?

A lot of ambient and clicky stuff – ASIP mixes, Black Dog, BoC, Donnacha Costello, The Field, stuff like that.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Relax, you’re going to die” or maybe the slightly hackneyed “The best things in life aren’t things”.

Yeah. I’m an old, bald hippy 🙂

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