Monday, 1 December 2014

Writing projects for 2015

Category 1 - new for 2014

Now I have officially given up on astronomical researching and writing I have a gaping chasm in my weekly timetable which I am going to fill by returning to the safe familiarity of postal history.

I have a number of possible collecting and then displaying projects in mind, a couple of which have just started going through the "Is there enough material to purchase at an affordable price?" process.

I might, or indeed might not, consider creating a "Stamp Collecting from A to Z" blog and/or book. I have yet to convince myself that I have the motivation to do the job properly but I would rather not even start work if I thought that only something second rate would emerge.

Category 2 - continuing projects

Images from my grave-hunting blog ( will continue to appear on the plethora of cemetery related Facebook groups. There are over 30 of these groups but many are barely viable with few readers and even fewer posters.

The Social History Facebook group ( I created has over 1600 members but most don't appear to read, comment or contribute and so any quoted membership figure creates something of a false impression.

By definition ghost writers have to remain anonymous. One book I ghost wrote appeared in 2014 and it has sold much better than even my most optimistic predictions. I have had two other formal proposals and I have promised those concerned that I would make a definite decision by January 1st 2015.

Category 3 - officially kicked into the long grass

Although I have been approached to write a couple more books on amateur astronomy - one on variable stars and another on astronomical data mining - I have decided not to accept the commission. The books I published in 2014 received good reviews but the total sales have been disappointing despite me engaging in a sustained marketing campaign on the relevant Facebook groups. If the two proposals had included an element of "money up front" it might have been different but I wasn't tempted by yet another "jam tomorrow" scenario.  

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Unreliable v unpredictable

Which is more annoying - a colleague who is unreliable or a colleague who is unpredictable? In my experience the unpredictable colleague is far, far worse.

School Governors are all unpaid volunteers and there is no ethical, logical, moral or practical reason why 90% of the work always seems to be done by 10% of the members. But that is the way it usually seems to be.

As Chair of Governors I am encouraged to delegate work to other governors partly as a contribution to succession planning but primarily to keep my workload manageable. The reality is that if I delegate work to one of my unreliable colleagues I can be at least 70% certain that it will not be done by the deadline. But at least if the person is consistently unreliable I know that it would be a prudent precaution to have a back-up plan for when they let the team down. I have known people who had over 9 months to do a 2 hour task but when the relevant agenda item was reached they claimed to have been "too busy" to do the work. It adds insult to injury that they usually appear totally unembarrassed by their own failure.

An unpredictable colleague - and I have one particular governor in mind - might do the allocated task well, or badly or not at all and there is no way of telling in advance which way they are going to behave. I feel obliged to "give them a chance" because at their best they are excellent but all the time the uncertainty of what will happen on the deadline day is gnawing away at me. If I do the work myself, "just in case", I might be wasting my time because when the time comes they might have done all that was asked of them. But if I don't do the work and they haven't either then the result can be very serious for the school.

Almost inevitably I do the work, feeling aggrieved and exploited, but half the time it never gets used!