How can you achieve communication enlightenment? It's easier than you think.Read More
What feels normal to us, seems extraordinary to most others.Read More
In the writing game, I feel that you need to consume more than you produce. That is, writers should really read more than they write. Busy lifestyles command more of our time in ever thinning slices, but reading should be a top priority for anyone who communicates in a professional setting. How you divide that time is up to you: some prefer magazines, others prefer non-fiction. I maintain that a variety of styles and sources is best for a well-rounded “education” on writing. I think reading deeply is as important as reading widely. The path to mastery is not one, but many. I try to read the most pertinent in my collection at least once a year, to remind myself of certain facts and certain perspectives.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
I’ve mentioned this book on the blog before, but it’s more relevant than ever. Those scratching their heads at how the US populace could elect a Reality TV president, this book written 30 years prior gives insight other commentators merely skirt around. I mean, we already had the Reality TV war (Iraq) and the Reality TV terror attack (September 11), was a Reality TV leader of the free world that far-fetched? Postman shows us a media culture obsessed with “feel-good” over “facts,” and the biases of our mediums that conspire to keep it that way.
Language in Thought and Action by Samuel I. Hayakawa
The “popular” text on General Semantics and language studies, a must for those who want to discover their own semantic biases and the biases of others. It too delves into logic games, multi-valued orientations vs. two-valued “absolutisms”, poetry and the advertiser, what words really “mean”, and much more. An essential book for those working in communications.
Nineteen-Eighty Four by George Orwell
This book was one of the first I’d read in high school and has stuck with me ever since. I think I’m attracted to the linguistic element of the book, Newspeak, and the narrowing of our experience as Big Brother eliminates complex ideas. “You don't grasp the beauty of the destruction of words,” says Parsons, our protagonist Winston Smith’s co-worker in the Ministry of Truth. Reading it sends a chill down my spine each time. Compare “Ministry of Truth” to “Social Justice” or “Fake news.”
Ubik by Philip K. Dick
One of the first ever books I’d read of Philip K. Dick, and one that demonstrates the power of words to craft an alternate reality. The mention or non-mention of certain phrases and passages turns a world on our head, as does the revelation and suppression of certain bits of information. It’s a philosophical tome, a book about running out of time, and much more.
Do you have once-a-year-books?
John, a man in his late 20s, well-educated, and from a loving family home is sitting across from two executives in a modern, fishbowl-style boardroom. We hear the faint murmur of keyboards clacking, phones warbling and footsteps on carpet. John has hung up his suit jacket on his chair. Amanda is looking through his crisp white resume, scribbling notes and lines on it every so often. Peter, who is wearing an open collar chequer shirt, has his hands clasped in front of him on the oak table. John is angling to be their next communications manager.
John feels that the interview is going well. He’s answered all their questions without so much as a stumble, and the vibe in the room is upbeat, positive. He has a strong rapport with both Amanda and Peter, and they seem to be warm to him.
“So,” Peter says, “Do you have anything you want to ask us?” Amanda places the resume on the table and meets John’s gaze.
“I do,” John says, smiling. “What happens if you don’t find a suitable candidate?”
Both stare him a blank.
John clears his throat and shuffles around in his chair. “For this job, I mean. What happens next?”
Amanda narrows her eyes and cocks her head. “I’m not sure what you mean by that.”
“Well, do you each have a boss? Someone you both report to?”
“Yes, of course,” Peter replies.
“So, let’s say you don’t find the right person. What happens next?”
Amanda and Peter turn to each other. Wheels are turning in Amanda’s head as she begins her reply at John
“Well, we’d have a meeting with our senior partner in charge of recruitment,” she says. “We’d outlay all the candidates and provide reasons why they were unsuccessful.”
John nods his head. “Yes, go on.”
Peter leans back, easing himself into the hypothetical.
“Then we would plan for how to fill the position.”
“I see,” John says. He searches his lap for a moment, and asks another question.
“So how would you find new candidates?”
“Oh, we’d ask the recruitment company to conduct a wider search. Cast a wider net.”
“Would you offer more money? More benefits?” John asks.
Peter cracks a wry smile. “That’s up to our senior partner,” he says with a smirk of pride.
A beat of silence follows. John is lost in thought for a moment.
“And who would be responsible?”
Without hesitation, Peter answers.
“Oh, the recruitment company. They should have done their job, considering we’ve paid for a service.”
Amanda agrees. “Absolutely. If they don’t perform again, we’ll probably find another recruitment company who will.”
“Yes, I see,” John says. “Would the senior partner get upset?”
Peter clears his throat again. “Kevin can be a hot-head at times, but I can’t see him getting that upset about it.”
“No,” Amanda clarifies, “I doubt he’d call for our heads, or anything like that,” she laughs. Peter laughs too, though John can see he’s a bit nervous.
“Cool,” John says. “Well, I can tell both of you right now how you can avoid that meeting, if you’d like. Just a complimentary thing,” he holds up his hands in mock surrender. “No strings attached.”
The pair both lean forward to listen. “Shoot,” Peter says, smiling.
“You could hire me right now, and you wouldn’t ever have to schedule that meeting. Just saying.”
John smiles as both Peter and Amanda chuckle.
A little later, John shakes both Peter and Amanda’s hand and thanks them for their time. He wishes them the best of luck in their search. Peter and Amanda are puzzled.
Evaluate the following:
- Why did John decline the position?
- What did the hypothetical meeting tell John about the company?
- Would you work for this company, given the information provided?
Part 1 of my Bayside Business Network seminar, Turning Phrases, Turning Heads is now available on YouTube! I will make Parts 2 and 3 available to seminar attendees next month (October.)
The first part of the seminar covers bad writing, how to make bad writing good, and improving business relationships by looking at how you write and to whom.
I'm also conducting a pared-down workshop-style seminar at NAB Village on 14 November, 2016. Strictly limited spots! If you want to attend, sign up now!
“Tell me all the details!” is a well-worn piece of dialogue from romcoms and sitcoms – usually as two women in pyjamas hold wine and sit down on a couch. Being the word nerd that I am, I often wonder – what if the storyteller took what she said literally?
The sometimes physicist, sometimes wizard Robert Anton Wilson once wrote that creating a map of a territory – let’s say my hometown of Melbourne – with perfect detail would require a map so large it would be identical to Melbourne itself. It would contain trillions of moving parts, right down to those fast food wrappers blowing about Flinders Street Station. “Perfect detail” is impossible, for our brains cannot comprehend it.
So, communication is imperfect and subject to distortion on the way from sender to receiver. Many businesses bog themselves down in the detail, believing that more detail is better. Heaping more “detail” on with words about your product or service increases the chance of distortion. So the model you present to the world is now:
- Not representative of the whole, and;
- Possibly incorrect once it reaches the person you’re showing it to.
Politics wonks bury themselves in the detail, sometimes reams and reams of it. Apathetic types may bemoan the “soundbite” culture of politics, but politicians are savvy enough to realise detail is unimportant, because detail is incomprehensible. Elections are won and lost on getting the amount of detail wrong. Just look at former Liberal opposition leader Dr. John Hewson lose the 1993 “unlosable” Federal Election getting bogged down in – you guessed it, detail.
How much detail is enough?
So how much detail is enough? Why is detail a bad thing? Of course, it’s neither good nor bad, but most effective when applied with forethought. For a business, too much detail can end up dead on arrival to your intended audience (which is another amorphous blob that contains too much individual elements to get right.) So whatever you end up communicating is incomplete, but useful.
Take my 1:1 map example. A 1:1 map doesn’t help me navigate around Melbourne. However remove most of the detail, shrink it down into a two-dimensional representation, and I can still make my way from Flinders St. to the Town Hall up Swanston in the form of a map. The connection between map and territory is more useful, even with many details left out.
For some, the more you look the less you see. Do you ever feel frustrated by detail?
First off, thanks to all who attended my BBN Seminar at Sandringham Yacht Club on Monday, 9 May. I very much appreciated it! One of the more resonant pieces from my talk was about distance and wordiness. Wordiness - adding too many words for the sake of adding words - creates more distance between yourself and your audience.
The thing about wordiness is this: it creates more flaming hoops to jump through for your reader. If your reader has to sit there, his or her eyes scanning the page waiting for crucial information to leap out at them, they will eventually give up. If people can’t understand the value of your product or service, it may as well have no value.
I had a client that was all into arts and crafts – her business was making custom greeting cards, candles, gifts, that sort of thing. She knew her website content wasn’t working, so I looked through it. Her writing seemed stilted and impenetrable. I didn’t understand what she was selling or why she was selling it. As part of my usual process, I conduct an interview with my clients to get information on the business. It allows me to get to know who they are as people, so I can better express their unique point of view. The person I talked to was such a departure from the “person” on the website, I was almost beside myself. Jamie, or Freckles as her friends call her, was colourful, bubbly, friendly and her website was grey, static, lifeless. It didn’t make sense!
Freckles didn’t play to Freckle’s strengths. Freckles made a craft corner in her bedroom into a hobby business, which is now her full time business. She had that playful, youthful energy about her, and it wasn’t anywhere on the website. That’s because her copy didn’t cut to the core of what Freckles was about – making custom candles and gifts for you is your gift to her. It didn’t come through because there were just too many wrong words on the page for people to get a sense of her.
A lot of writing is cutting. Stephen King said it best – writing (or any creative endeavour) is all about “murdering your darlings” – cutting the unneeded words, sentences, paragraphs. However, the process of writing as writing isn’t thought about as talking onto a page. That’s kind of what it is – we’re substituting our ears for our eyes. What we can't hear we see, and what we're told to see, we imagine. We want to lead our reader down a path toward understanding, familiarity and above all, trust.
It works with business, it works with dating, it works with any human interaction - if you're writing, just be yourself first! It closes your "credibility gap" from page to person.
What do you think? Does wordiness turn you off?
To talk copywriting (accounting...website development and everything else) you're always welcome to come along to one of Bayside Business Network's networking nights at the beautiful Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Sandringham. It's on Wednesday, the 4th of May. Click here for more information!
I'm delighted to formally announce my seminar for the Bayside Business Network Seminar Series! Here are the details:
What’s the secret to a great turn of phrase? Can you learn to think different? Or can you Just do it? Can a simple clutch of words turn a brand from meh into I’m Lovin’ It?
Turning Phrases, Turning Heads takes the mystery out of words – business’ most powerful ally and most fearsome foe. Learn simple ways to turn drab prose into clear, concise and dynamic writing. Enhance your business by mastering the basics of rhetoric, persuasion and cutting through to customers (well, metaphorically of course.) Spur your thoughts into intention, your intention into action and your action into success. (I’ll also teach you the term for that rhetorical turn of phrase, too!) Learn the best tips for keeping people on your site, buying from you and coming back for more.
Lapsed writers, nervous scribblers and maths nerds all – you too can coin masterful phrases and turn heads in this fun, engaging and enlightening seminar!
Cost: FREE for members, $25 for non-members.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens drowned us this summer, with merchandising ranging from mascara to oranges on store shelves. Once I saw the new film, I wanted to see the original theatrical versions, undiluted by George Lucas’ meddling. Lucasfilm insists they no longer exist. Of course, legions of fans took it upon themselves to reconstruct the films using a variety of sources. The most controversial change in the first film takes place in the Mos Eisley cantina scene. (spoiler alert – but really, you should’ve seen Star Wars by now!) Green gilled and bug-eyed Greedo corners smuggler Han Solo. Han’s a marked man and Greedo’s itching to collect. In the original version, (after stalling and Han drawing his blaster) Han shoots Greedo “in cold blood.” Here’s what the shooting script says:
“Suddenly the slimy alien disappears in a blinding flash of light. Han pulls his smoking gun from beneath the table as the other patrons look on in bemused amazement.”
Later revisions show Greedo shooting first, then Han and Greedo shooting at the same time. “So what?” you might think. This visually insignificant change is one that contains multitudes.
It’s supposed to inform viewers that Solo isn’t so trustworthy. Ben and Luke have put in their lot with this low-life braggart. We’re supposed to feel uneasy about this hasty alliance. It changes the tenor of the film. Han could have sold Ben and Luke if captured by the Imperials, left them for dead at any time, etc.
Another far more tragic example of subtle changes having long reaching effects was during the last gasp of World War II. Japan, threatened by invasion from the United States and fast running out of resources, was determined to fight until the last man. The “Big Three” (United Kingdom, Soviet Union and the US) issued an ultimatum for surrender to the Japanese. The Japanese responded in the negative, but suffered from mistranslation. A word – mokusatsu – has two meanings in Japanese. The first being “ignore” and the other, “refrain from comment.” It was the difference between “let us think about it” and “We refuse!” If the message was translated as “no comment,” the Japanese and US may have arrived at a surrender deal, preventing the twin atomic horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This misinterpretation struck consequences far beyond the imaginations of its writers and readers.
It’s a chilling lesson for clarity and precision in communication. We may think that subtle differences make no difference, although we're proven wrong time and time again. If you believe that words are your ally, do – keep in mind words might turn on you without provocation. Remember always: "Expect to misunderstand and expect to be misunderstood."
A month or so ago, I was humbled to be a guest on Active Elements Radio The Pointy End podcast, hosted by Dr. Leslie Fisher. Dr. Fisher is a good friend and colleague of mine, and we've had many long conversations about a variety of topics during our meetings at the NAB Village. The Pointy End is his podcast series looking at "the pointy end" of what people in small business do, in probing and insightful detail. It's a relaxed but no less informative talk...I hope!
It was a great privilege to guest "star" on the podcast, which you can hear above. We talked about the "pointy end" of copywriting, its relation to journalism and media culture as a whole. About 40 minutes - let me know your thoughts in the comments!
I've always wanted to say I write "award-winning" copy. Now I can! I've won the 2015 APAC Insider Business Award for Best Copywriting in Melbourne!
According to the mag, "It is the job of the 2015 APAC Insider Business Awards to seek out the very best firms, departments, individuals and initiatives from across the Asia Pacific region and to reward their innovation, client care and, it goes without saying, stellar performance over the past 12 months.
"[APAC Insider] takes rewarding the top performers in this region very seriously and each award programme and category has been meticulously tailored to provide a comprehensive overview of the very best each market, industry and sector has to offer."
A great Christmas present for I Sell Words copywriting, no?
The kind crew at SavvySME asked me to write "My Story" for their series on people starting small businesses. Here's an excerpt on how I started freelance copywriting with a link to the post below:
In the twilight of 2013, I was sitting at my desk. I was sitting, writing content for the new .au Domain Administration website. Instead of paying the developer to sort it out, that job as Marketing and Communications Officer, settled on me. I leaned back in my chair, daydreamed a little before thinking; “You know what? I bet I could do this full time. I bet I could do this full time and make even more money.”
A few months later, I quit auDA and started I Sell Words. The End.
Well, not quite...
How one copywriter embarked on a futile crusade to clear the Atlantic of Words from crap.Read More
I've been copywriting for one of my dearest clients, Savvy Finance, for over a year and a half. Like every business reliant on technology, I back up. Everything. Once to the cloud and again on an external hard drive. Looking all the content I've written for Savvy, I've chalked up 330 articles at the time of writing. Without giving too much away, that's 138,600 words. That's over ten times as long as my master's thesis. The U.S. National Novel Writing Month sets a 50,000 word benchmark - and that's an entire novel. In essence, I've written 2 and a bit books' worth for that great company, and I'm happy to have done it.
So why can't we all write that book? Or at least, something of equal or greater length. It seems that I've already written a few "books" since I started my business all those months ago. Speaking from my own perspective...well, it's all about perspective.
Writing isn't a "supertask" but it can sure feel like it
Writing a book or a long-form piece can feel like a task that will take the better part of your life to complete. It's a supertask - a task which takes infinite time to complete. Sort of like writing down the history of your life in pinpoint detail. It can't be done.
Writing a book can, especially if you break it down into chunks. Or, don't even think about it like a book. A book I'm currently reading, Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard. It's based on his boyhood, growing up amid World War II in Shanghai. Delving deeper, it reads like a series of vignettes tied together by a common theme. Unconventional, but it works. It won him the James Tait Memorial Prize and a Man Booker Prize shortlisting for his efforts, too.
In your mind, talking is a form of action
Have you ever caught yourself thinking about sending a reply text to someone only to realise you haven't actually done it? Talking about doing things is a form of action in and of itself, although it produces nothing of value. Even subvocalising is a form of "action" for some people. A little less conversation and more action. In fact, this blog post is a product of that - I didn't just think about writing this blog post - I actually did it!
Writing long pieces is what other people do
What's the difference between you and a novel writer? The novel writer was once in your position, now they're published.
Writing isn't it's own reward
If you're writing for the celebrity and the riches, don't. Writing creatively is one of my "rewards" for a day's job well done. It's up there with exercising, cooking a tasty meal and hanging out with friends. Writing should be its own reward. Doing it for others seldom yields good results.
What is your experience with these sorts of writing tasks?
It's been a whirlwind few months at ISW, with plenty of new projects coming in. One aspect they all share in common is authenticity.
Authenticity is hard to come by in this day and age. The paragon of "authentic" media in the face of "stodgy old fossils" is the VICE brand. VICE was founded in Montreal in 1994. VICE was and still is printing a free "edgy" and in your face magazine, satirising and promoting new trends, music and underground culture. By the end of the decade, they had local editions in the US, UK, Australia.
In the late 2000s, they moved into new media, producing documentaries on topics the "old media" found unprofitable. Now they have a weekly documentary series screened on premium cable channel HBO. They're also launching a half-hour daily news bulletin. It was transformed from a locally funded zine into a $915 million (US) digital media empire. Though they've reined in their brash and often controversial style, they've made a killing by staying true to their authentic roots - even if their success is underpinned by commercialism.
Businesses, like individuals, believe they can achieve greatness by "faking it" until they make it. For VICE, being who they are without apology launched them to unsurpassed heights while comparable media companies fell.
Do you strive for authenticity? Do you know a business or company that might benefit from a dose of authenticity? Let me know! I'd love to have a conversation with them.
Just a short note to showcase this awesome new ad for my friends (and by my friends) at the Animation Company.
Sam and the Animation Company are one of my dearest clients, and I was lucky enough to help write the script for this short attention grabber. I was especially proud of the tagline I came up with - keep an ear out for it!
The Animation Company is a Sydney based corporate and business oriented animation studio. They're always creating engaging, informative and attention-grabbing animation in both 2D and 3D.
To find out more about the Animation Company (with website copy by me!), click here.
Ever since high school, I've turned to the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius lived almost 2,000 years ago. He was a great Emperor, general and statesman of the Roman Empire.
Whether at governing home or locked in the horns of battle, he wrote little reminders to himself based on the stoic philosophy.
So profound were these aphorisms they were bound up into twelve books known as the Meditations. I recently "upgraded" my dog-eared floppy of the Meditations for a hardbound book.
It's been the companion of many high-flyers since their wider publication centuries ago. I too have some meditations on copywriting i've inked over the past year and a bit, and I'd like to post them here for my own and others' reference.
Meditations of a Copywriter
- This isn't God's work. You're not a "word wizard," a "verb herder," or anything remotely like it. You're a copywriter and you seek to improve your craft every day. There is no end to your apprenticeship. Total mastery is sailing on a ship of fools.
- Passion sells. I find myself enlivened talking about my work unlike ever before. I talk for hours about it with clients and colleagues. This is your advantage. Use it.
- If you can't help, add or improve, walk away. Some people turn to me for advice and new words when they don't need them. It is not my place to sell people words they don't need.
- Cut always. There's rarely a good piece of work that could be great with a few choice edits. Edit always; cruelly and judiciously.
- Best is the enemy of truly good. If you find you could've phrased something better or wittier months after the fact, let it be. If you didn't slouch about with the time allowed and did the best you could do, take comfort.
- Let things settle. Words don't improve with age, but an editor's eye does. Take the time to embrace the process. Draft, draft again and finish the journey.
- Improve yourself when distracted. Sometimes the mental tank will empty. That's fine. Don't read rehashed listicles, faff about on twitter or endlessly scroll Tumblr. If you need a distraction, read or do something of substance.
- Rhetoric is eternal. Rhetoric and persuasion has been around since the time of Marcus Aurelius himself, even before. Don't be fooled by newfangled "silver bullets," and "super sales words," because they aren't. You and your clients will be left wanting.
- Miracles don't happen behind a desk. Get out of the house and expand your route. You'll be surprised at what you can find. The world will enrich you in one way or another.
- Simplicity is key. No one cares if you rattle off $10 words in $100 lots. People aren't impressed. People are impressed when you flip the mundane into something profound.
- Look at the bright side. You're doing what you love, every day. When things get tough, push harder. Persistence will pay.
Do you have meditations? What are they?
I've a confession to make. I have an addiction. I'm not at all ashamed, despite the dramatic opening. I'm finding myself engrossed by brain training apps.
Many of them are heinously expensive. Paying three figures for glorified Tetris isn't quite worth it. Though I make do with what I have. One app that's made the grade (once I'd exhausted all others) was Elevate. Simple and stimulating. That's not to say they're completely effective, as science suggests.
What struck me immediately was the breadth and depth of the "writing" portion of the "course." One of the portions fortifying the mind was brevity, or omitting needless words. Old Strunk and White may recommended judicious grammatical choices in their masterwork The Elements of Style. Were they actually improving our brainpower?
Perhaps not. The inverse may be true. They could be conserving others' brainpower. In my view, half the battle's won if you're aiming for clear, concise and effective communication.
One side-effect of the academic experience is contracting superfluis verbis; using too many words.
Those privy to the humanities may (fondly?) remember writing essays of pre-determined length. 2,000w, 4,000w, and so on. Why these arbitrary limits? Moreover, why must students learn habits of ineffective communication in preparation for the wider world?
In my view, the academy seeks to conflate "intelligence" with length. If one's professor has trouble navigating Byzantine sentences and concepts, then surely the student has promise. Peppering one's speech with $10 words must indicate a person of higher learning. What nonsense!
Once the student approaches the marketplace, they soon find their unruly and overgrown sentences are in dire need of pruning. It takes many years to unlearn what our student has imbibed. Co-workers, clients and people in general needn't exert mental effort deciphering your prose. It should flow into them as a river does the ocean. Books I find too clumsy or unwieldy seldom go read. Perhaps you do, too.
My best way to counteract bloated prose? Keep writing. If people have trouble understanding your writing, keeping it simple is best. It's one of my (many) philosophies on copywriting.
Enter the Internet to keep one honest - Hemingway App is a free app to help achieve brevity and clarity in your writing. You can mess around with your settings in Microsoft Word, but Hemingway app is so austere and novel I feel our dear Earnest could settle for it over his old Corona No. 4.
What's your take? Is brevity the soul of good writing?
A year has passed since I made the small step into solo working and the giant leap into uncertainty. It was exciting. In some ways, it was also kinda lame.
At my old office job, if an invoice came in, I got up, strode over to the office manager's desk popped it on there. It may as well have gone down the memory hole.
Working solo means (quite literally) working on your own. All those finicky admin tasks that need doing? Those rest squarely on your shoulders.
We live in 2015. We don't have hover-boards yet but we're able to automate our workday experience. I use automation across all my devices (an HTC One M7, Nexus 7 and my PCs) and it makes my working life a hell of a lot easier. Here's my top 3 picks for automation tools.
I am a total Android fanboy. As soon as I get an Android device, I root it (nothing untoward, I promise) and install custom ROMs for peak performance. Pushbullet is the name of a handy tool forwarding notifications across all your devices. If one device gets an SMS, it's pushed to your PC and tablet. If your tablet has one email set up on it, it's sent to your other devices. I can even send SMS from my PC through my phone. It frees up my time to keep working without checking my phone or tablet every so often. (Saves battery, too!)
This is one of those apps that'll have you saying "where has this been all my life?" IFTTT stands for "IF This, Then That," which makes use of all the various APIs and automates tasks around them. For instance, you can send all your Twitter mentions to yourself as a daily digest at the end of the day. I use it with clients to send notifications to their email when I've updated their Dropbox. Another trigger sends an SMS to a missed caller asking them if that number is best to reach them. There's thousands of combinations or "recipes" to try, or set up yourself. Once you find yourself saying "I wish THIS happened when X happens" IFTTT figures out a way!
Ahh yes, the humble (and much maligned) TweetDeck. In its heyday, TweetDeck was the premier "social dashboard" app that handled nearly every major social network: Twitter (of course), Facebook, LinkedIn and even FourSquare. Sadly, Twitter bought out TweetDeck and stripped it of all its cross-platform charm. That's not to say it's still useful. I use TweetDeck to schedule tweets, making life easier when I'm on the run. Buffer does an OK job, but I'm a stickler for tradtion. It just takes the hassle out of scanning all my twitter timelines. Better yet, I can access it from anywhere. Sometimes simplicity (albeit forced) is a good thing!
What are your favourite automation apps?