Tools: SiteStacks – spy on on any website

SiteStacks is an excellent addition to the toolset, allowing you to examine the technical stack of any website and understand how it is built.

I’ve used a number of similar tools in the past to examine the WordPress theme and extensions in play, but this tool is slightly different in that it gives the entire tech stack in play.

When you visit the SiteStacks homepage, you simply put in the URL of the page you wish to analyse, and a list of the technical components in play are displayed.

This is useful for finding server platforms, analytics tools, e-commerce services, email and even security tools.

Each component gets a link to a description/review on Siftery which gives you more information on the service. SiteStacks also has a Chrome extension to deliver the same functionality.

SiteStacks is currently free and delivers a useful service which is a great addition to the toolbox.


Seen: Darkest Hour

This is a review of Darkest Hour, a film starring Gary Oldman, Lily James and Kirstin Scott-Thomas.

There have been a lot of Winston Churchill ‘impersonations’ recently, Brian Cox in Churchill, John Lithgow in The Crown and now Gary Oldman inhabits the role for Darkest Hour.

The film takes place in the early days of World War Two, with Winston Churchill taking over the role of Prime Minister at a crunch point in the fight against Hitler.  The storyline is well known, against long odds and a seemingly insurmountable situation, Winston manages to rally the British people, and then his party to have the confidence to fight back.  The film ends with boats sailing towards Dunkirk in another passage of war that we know well.

darkest hour

No review of this movie can be written without considering Gary Oldman’s amazing interpretation of Britains most famous wartime PM.  It is an excellent portrayal, aided by prosthetics and some poetic license, Oldman takes on the physicality and persona to great effect.  From the drinking habits, a healthy disrespect for the rules and his nap time, to his irascible treatment of staff – he is amazing throughout.  The speech patterns and mannerisms match completely, and I came away feeling I’d watched a fly on the wall documentary for some of the scenes.

This isn’t a perfect movie, the dreamlike car journeys through London followed by an ill-judged (and made up) scene on the London Underground made me realise this had some license.

All of that said, Darkest Hour will win awards. Gary Oldman is superb, and Lily James plays his secretary Elizabeth Layton brilliantly.  Kirstin Scott-Thomas is imperious as Clementine Churchill and the whole supporting cast are top notch.

Overall. 8/10. IMDb.


Heard Words : Punishing The Other Person



Working Out Loud Circle – Week One

This is part of a series of posts documenting my journey with a Working Out Loud circle, as defined in John Stepper’s book; Working Out Loud: For a better Career and Life.  You can read the rest of the series here. 

On Friday, I met the rest of my Working Out Loud circle in the first of our 12 weekly meetings.  We’re a pretty spread out group, coming from South Africa, Australia, Liechtenstein and two from the UK.   We’ll meet on Friday morning at 9 am UK time, and it was a good way to start the day, connected with an energetic and motivated bunch by video.

Working Out Loud Circle

The nature of timezones meant we had four of us with coffee mugs, and one with a glass of wine – which just reinforced the global aspect of our circle! I promise that it wasn’t my breakfast Beaujolais!

So, what did we do?

The Working Out Loud Circle programme has some great guidance documented. We’re going to stick to the plan and so for week one, we covered four main activities:

  1. Some brief introductions.  We’d wisely written a short bio/intro in our Slack channel. So we were just saying ‘hello’ on this call and starting to get to know each other.
  2. A quick opening statement about why we had joined a Working Out Loud circle.  For me, I’m looking to figure out how I can build my network and contribute more frequently to the people I connect with.  I suspect my goal may change, and one the pieces of advice that the group had was to ‘not fix on the goal too much’, as there is a tendency to update and adjust the goal as the circle progresses.
  3. A short exercise to begin building our relationship list. These are the people that we will be connecting with and building relationships as we work through the 12 weeks.  This was interesting as the members of the circle immediately thought to add the other members, which demonstrates some common goals and hopefully some early rapport.
  4. Finally, a short sum up of the activities from this week.

My key takeaways from Week One

  • We have a great bunch, diverse in backgrounds and locations, and a good energy around the circle.
  • Our goals are both distinct but have some similar threads which mean we’ll all be able to help.
  • For a first meeting, we were remarkably open and sharing – which to me demonstrates that we’re already ‘leaning in’, and we have already assumed positive intent.

What did I do directly?

I’m using this section each week to capture what I did directly as a result of the meeting and hold myself accountable.

  1. Shared my contact details with the whole circle.  Email, phone, twitter everything.
  2. Connected with those members that have twitter accounts.
  3. Built two twitter lists – one for my WOL circle, and one for the people on my relationship list so that I can stick close to what they are doing.
  4. Wrote this! Although I’ll hold it as a draft for a couple of days.

Read: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

This is a review of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.

I’ll be honest, this has been sitting in my reading pile for months now. I saw it referenced in an article by Tim Ferris when he was talking about ‘Tribe of Mentors’.  I thought it sounded interesting and bought it on impulse. When it arrived, I thought it looked a little ‘light’ on practicalities for me and held back.

War of ArtAfter a couple of focused business books recently, I decided to give this a try this weekend – and finished it in two sittings.  It is a beautifully precise book, with an economy of language – but it is also engrossing and enjoyable.

The War of Art describes the internal obstacles that inhibit success, collecting them together in a tangible, palpable collective which Pressfield describes as ‘resistance’.  It’s an unseen, malevolent force that blocks so many people from achieving their true potential.

By identifying ‘resistance’, the author also helps shape the attitude and form that the reader needs to adopt, in order to go to battle. By assuming the position of a ‘professional’, he sets you up for the fight.

Fortunately, the professional is not alone in this war with resistance, in the third part of the book we read about the supportive forces we can summon to overcome our adversary.

The book is written as a set of ideas, short paragraphs or vignettes that give an incredible insight into the human psyche.  At turns, the book is practical and helpful and then turns more romantic – summoning muses and angels to help the struggling reader.

The War of Art doesn’t just apply to artists and creators, but to anyone who feels resistance to anything. Resistance to moving on from the past, resistance to healing issues, resistance to moving onwards and upwards in any field.  By defining the challenge and providing inspiration for the battle this book offers an eye=opening approach to the next steps.

I highly recommend The War of Art to anyone who is looking for insight into human psychology and motivation.



Seen : Lady Bird

This is a review of Lady Bird, a film starring Saoirse Riordan and Laurie Metcalf. 

Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson attends a Catholic high school in the ‘mid-west of California’, East Sacramento.

The story, is of Christine’s journey through the last year of high school, as she explores her (sometimes lofty) goals of attending an East-Coast college. Alongside college, there are boys and friends and coming-of-age.  Like other teenage girls, she endures a difficult relationship with her mother, played by the excellent Laurie Metcalf.

Lady Bird

Lady Bird is the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig who wrote the screenplay, with a wonderfully efficient touch – there are few wasted words in the script and the remaining cast are excellent.

For me, the star turn is Saoirse Riordan, who plays Lady Bird perfectly.  She manages the conflict between confidence and teenage angst perfectly and switches between emotions seamlessly.  Riordan has multiple nominations for awards this season, and I see no reason why she shouldn’t be recognised.

I loved Lady Bird, a quiet, thoughtful screenplay which is nicely directed and well acted.

Overall. 8/10. IMDb


Working Out Loud – joining a circle

Earlier this week I posted a review of Working Out Loud: For a better career and life, a book I have found really useful as a guide to working more deliberately towards goals I want to achieve and building stronger relationships and networks.

One of the key ‘go-dos’ in the book is to practice the ideas from the book with a few like-minded individuals in what is called a Working Out Loud Circle.
Working Out Loud fundamentalsToday (19th Jan), I’ll start that journey, meeting for one hour per week with 4 other professionals who have recently finished Working Out Loud and are looking to practice what they have learned.

We’ve assembled through the Working Out Loud Facebook page, connected via Slack and will be meeting over video conference every Friday for the next 12 weeks, with a programme designed to get us practising the ideas to help us build Better Relationships.

I’m hoping that we’ll hold each other accountable, and give each other feedback about what works, and what doesn’t so we can fine-tune our Working Out Loud.

I’m going to capture my key learnings from this exercise here – and hopefully connect to my fellow #wol circle members through my writing here.




Open Banking – Security & Privacy

Open Banking has the potential to deliver huge benefits for the consumer. However, from the press coverage so far this week, customers still have concerns about how their data is handled.

The idea that banks will open their precious data streams, using a standardised set of API’s has the opportunity to deliver big gains.  From new services to improved customer experience, the increased transparency will open up options that could revolutionise the way we bank.

The Open Banking changes made last week are only the beginning, over  the next two years credit cards, savings accounts and more will be added, opening up a world of opportunity for providers and customers alike.

With this new technology comes uncertainty that banks will need to help customers overcome if they are to build trust in new services.

What’s an API?

Open Banking is delivered through the implementation of API’s (Application Programming Interfaces) – which are an intelligent connection between systems that allow for a flow of data.

API’s are not new. They’ve been around for many years and allow us to connect our desktop and mobile banking applications to our accounts, facilitating the secure and private transfer of transactions to where we need them to be.

What Open Banking has done, is standardise the presentation of these API’s so that  (when we allow them to) bank systems can talk to other systems.

So, is my account now open for everyone to see?

Banks traditionally have been responsible for making sure your account stays secure and private, and fundamentally nothing has changed here.   In fact, it’s largely within the banks’ interest to keep that data to themselves, that’s why it has traditionally been tricky to change bank accounts.

Under Open Banking, whilst the method of moving data is standardised this DOES NOT mean there is a free-for-all with information.  Any institutions that require access to your data to deliver a service, will still require YOUR permission for that to happen.

The rules are fairly clear:

  • Any new bank or payment provider that uses Open Banking will be regulated by the financial services regulator in their country of origin,/

Financial Conduct Authority - Open Banking

  • Customers in the UK will be able to find out if organisations are regulated on the FCA website, so any provider of Open Banking services will need to be enrolled with the FCA and have that logo displayed on their site.
  • Open Banking providers are not permitted to take any action on any account with the explicit consent of the account holder.

You can search the Financial Conduct Authority register here. I did a quick search for the app-based Monzo bank that I use, and this is what the register displays:

FCA Register - Monzo - Open Banking

So, its clear from my search that Monzo is authorised – ‘a firm that is given permission to provide regulated products and services’.

However, because I Monzo never connects to my main bank account, I’ve never had to explicitly give permission. If I wanted that to happen (for instance, if Monza introduced a service to display my Santander balance or transactions and I wanted to use that), I would need to explicitly give permission. At that point, I’d recheck that both providers were FCA registered. 

So, Open Banking is safe?

As with any online service, some basic common sense is recommended to ensure your security and privacy, here are some simple rules to remember:

  1. Never give out your online banking password or access codes over the phone or in an email. No bank will ever ask you for a password or PIN number.
  2. Keep your anti-virus and malware software up to date.
  3. Avoid shared computers and networks for online banking.
  4. Protect your password and make them strong.
  5. Know what you are downloading – if it’s a new app that claims to help you save money with your bank account – check on the FCA website and be satisfied that the provider is authorised.

Overall, Open Banking presents no further risks than online banking did until now.

If you don’t give permission, then your banking data stays as secure as it was before the legislation was introduced.   You might miss out on some of the benefits, but you should stay safe in the knowledge that your information is secure.




Seen – Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

This is a review of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. A film starring Frances McDonagh and Woody Harrelson. 

I’ve been to Missouri. A long time ago I visited the state, and I still think the bit I visited was more modern than the fictional town of Ebbing which is the setting for this film.

three billboards

Mildred Hayes (played perfectly by Frances McDormand) is searching for justice for a daughter who was the victim of a hideous crime.  Believing that the local police Chief, Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is dragging his feet with the investigation, Mildred leases three billboards at the edge of town to call attention to the inaction.

What follows is a chain reaction that twists through the darkest turns of grief. Ebbings various residents are both cruel and funny in turn, and tragedy is never far enough from incandescent rage.

From the all-American family man Willoughby to the bum-cop Dixon, played by Sam Rockwell, explosive emotions lurk beneath almost comedic surfaces. France McDormand is fantastic, her anger only giving way to tender scenes when she encounters the spirit of her daughter during a quiet moment.

There is a sense of a Western in much of this film, with many of the big scenes overlooking a modern main-street. Violence is never far away, but never disproportionate to the gravity of the original crime committed.

Three Billboards has been nominated for a raft of awards this season, and rightly so.   Multiple Golden Globes and BAFTA nominations are in the bag, and I fully expect to see this highly rated at the Oscars.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is a melancholic film, but there is very dark humour which made me laugh out loud a number of times, and the script is excellent.  The sadness of a mother who has lost her daughter is not assuaged, and McDonagh delivers a great performance as the hero of the piece.

Overall. 10/10. IMDb




Read – Working Out Loud : For a Better Career and Life

This is a review of Working Out Loud : For a Better Career and Life by John Stepper.

I’ve been interested in the concept of Working Out Loud for some time, having heard it mentioned across various blogs and twitter feeds. It aligns closely with having a Growth Mindset (which Stepper references). In order to have a Growth Mindset, we need to disavow the fear that stops us Working Out Loud. By fostering generosity and strong connections with one another, we can build a more collaborative approach to work.

Working Out LoudWorking Out Loud is a useful and well-written guidebook for anyone who wants to improve their personal brand by making their work and themselves visible.

Following the programme laid out by Stepper, its easy to see how you can ‘Build Better Relationships’ which can enhance your career and life in general.

The author starts with three key questions:

1. What am I trying to accomplish?
2. Who can help me with that goal?
3. How can I contribute to them to deepen our relationship?

By answering these questions, the reader can establish a sense of purpose, which the remainder of the book helps support.

There are five elements to Working Out Loud:

  • Purposeful Discovery
  • Relationships
  • Generosity
  • Visible Work
  • Growth Mindset

The book guides the reader through each of these principles with some background to the benefits, and some practical guidance to establish the right course. Towards the end of the book, Stepper talks at length about ‘Working Out Loud’ circles, which are a way of bringing the learnings from the book to life, by connecting with other readers who share your goals.

I really enjoyed the pace and the structure of this book which combined some high level concepts with some actionable processes to get started. At the end of each chapter there were clearly documented takeaways, alongside some ‘do this now’ sections which ranged from a few minutes. These steps were a key to getting started, and generating momentum rather than just reading a dry text book.

I’d highly recommend Working Out Loud to anyone that was embarking on a programme of personal branding, or wants to build stronger relationships in their career. By following the guidelines in the book, I could easily see a movement of people demonstrating real personal growth.