A Message from a Manx Manc

I was going to blog about my recent trip to Manchester, ruminating
about my spiritual heritage in the bustle of the city. But then I was told
“There are two boats every day”, a saying any “come-over” will be used to hearing.

I moved over from Manchester in 2005, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the city I love and developed myself in. Now, I live amidst the beauty of the hills and glens of the Isle of Man. I enjoy fantastic views across the sea and over Maughald and Ramsey. The island offers not only a relaxed pace of life, but also a serenity
that cannot be had in the UK. My reasons for moving on to the island are varied,
others’ will be different, but a large number of people have moved on to the
island. These are known in the Manx lingo as “come-overs”.

Come-overs represent over 50% of the people on the island. These people
occupy jobs in all strata of the Manx economy, from the labourers on the
building sites to the financial CEOs of the international finance industry.
Come-overs bring with them high standards in education, professional training
and years of experience in a variety of industry sectors. They are a breed that
yearns for a change in their pace of life, but are not necessarily shy of

It’s not easy getting on the island. To legally occupy a position in the Manx
economy, a work permit is required. The criteria for a work permit is that the
position being applied for must have been advertised to the general Manx
population and not have been filled with an appropriately trained Manx-born
individual, or likely to be filled by such an individual within a 12-month
training period. The objective of this is clearly to ensure that the Manx are
given every opportunity to obtain employment on their home island. For myself,
this procedure took 3 years. The number of jobs that were appropriate for me was
limited, add on the requirement for a work permit and it is easy to see why it
can take a while to get on the island. But I did it. I remember opening the
letter to this day, it was a very happy moment for me.

There are no asylum possibilities, no social welfare benefits and you
certainly don’t get a free ride from the authorities. To claim many social
benefits, you must have been resident on the island for 5 years. Council houses
(known as Commissioner’s Houses) will not be available for 10 years, and rent is
not cheap.

So it requires a determined effort to “come over”.

Despite all this effort, and the contribution that “come-overs” make to the
island, there is an unfortunate hostility targeted at people.

Let’s consider it from the Manx perspective.

The island, until recently, was a dying island. Its children were moving
“across” to the UK, probably after studying at a university and gaining
employment. There were no real opportunities on the island. Its Tourism
industry, which enjoyed its heyday during the Victorian era (the island still
sports Victorian attractions, including railways, a pier and horse trams) was
rapidly declining as people started to fly abroad. Then, as a result of a change
in fiscal legislation, the island was afforded low-tax status, resulting in an
influx of major international finance houses. This has changed the face of the
island not only economically, but also architecturally. Alongside the Victorian
pubs in Douglas lie the glass ultra offices such as Royal Bank of Scotland
International. This has created thousands of jobs for islanders and
off-islanders, and creates a real career path for Manx people to follow with
many opportunities available.

So why the hostility?

The work permit legislation serves to limit the incoming labour force and
ensure that Manx workers get the first opportunities of jobs. If there are no
suitably qualified workers available on the island, then it is logical that
companies will have to look further afield. I fully agree with this procedure,
even having to wait 3 years to get to a point to be lucky enough to go through
it. My work permit must be renewed every year for five years. Seems perfectly
fair to me.

Incoming legislation currently going through Tynwald (the name for the Manx
government) will require similar assurances of commitment to the Manx economy
and culture for incoming off-islanders as the tests that have been introduced
for immigrants in the UK. A test will ensure that people are aware of the Manx
traditions, laws and way of life. I was not required to go through this stage,
but I was so committed to coming over here I expect I would have passed with
flying colours!

The benefits to the Manx economy of “come-overs” must be immense. Not only
can companies and individuals on the island now access their own skill-base, but
also the skills of a vast array of new individuals, such as individuals who have
been taught in universities and colleges, with the latest of teaching and
techniques. These will be brought on to the island, and be introduced in some
way to the working environment of the island’s businesses. New skills,
particularly Internet skills, are proving invaluable to island’s economy. A
number of web development agencies, IT consultancies and software houses are
situated on the island, and then there are the e-gaming opportunities the island
is keen to attract. The Space industry is also being courted. This industry of
all industries requires the keenest, most intelligent people available, and
requires a wide and far-reaching net for their recruitment.

We also contribute to the Manx economy. Sure, the island enjoys a low-tax
regime, but that low-tax regime is essentially supported by the fact so many
people are paying into it. The island has seen major public investment, not
least of which is a new hospital, with the latest in medical technologies such
as MRI scanners being available.

Sure, I’m guilty of complaining about the Manx way of life, the lack of
entertainment venues on the island or such like. But it is my choice to
complain. It is also my choice to stay. I love Manchester, but I also have a
number of issues with it. I defy anyone to be truly happy with their environment
or country of residence.

I’m definitely not anti-Manx, either. I take care to maintain and protect the
environment and keep the beauty of the island, whether that be picking up litter
to walking with due consideration over its hills. I am also in the middle of
learning the local language of Manx Gaelic, something that the vast majority of
Manx don’t do themselves, or even consider as a worthwhile endeavour.

So the next time I am told to get on the boat, I will not only tell them
“actually, I prefer to fly”, but also point them in this direction.

Maybe you disagree? It is provocative topic, after all!

When love succumbs to work

Finding the best partner in your life: work or love?

Sigmund Freud“Love and work are the cornerstones
of our humanness.”

This week I am going to change my perspective on work slightly. My question
to you this week is how to maintain an effective work/life balance with that
special someone in your life. Yes girls, it does come from bitter experience,
and no, I’m still “unavailable”!

I am a worker. I was born to work. I was brought up by my mother to believe
that nothing comes for free, and by working hard and to the best of your
ability, you can expect to succeed in most things you do. This has stayed with
me through school, college, saw me through university and now in work and
business. My day has always been long, and varied. I’ve always had things
buzzing round my head at various times of the day, according to the task at
hand. It’s me, it’s how I am.

Recently, especially, I have been working a fair bit. While not divulging too
much about how much, I will say that those close to me have been neglected
somewhat. By neglected, I don’t mean forgotten about, taken for granted or
actively ignored. I mean my ability to socialise with those close to me has been
significantly curbed as a result of a major project I have been involved in. For
instance, my day is spent at the office of my employer, then continues when I
get home; while I just add and fix issues that have come up. Weekends have been
invariably spent on major tasks that require focus and attention, without
distraction. It’s an unfortunate side-effect that this reduces the amount of
time available to actively socialise with people. Sure, we talk over meals, we
spend time watching TV and spend time with friends. What really suffered is the
ability to be able to allocate time for people.

Wait a minute, I remember being told in no uncertain terms that “allocate” is
not a great word to use. No, I mustn’t “allocate”, I must “make time”. A subtle
difference, I appreciate. In the midst of deadlines, requirements and
expectations (both personal and from others), it can be a challenge to
affectively maintain the balance between work and …. love.

It’s like a fellow blogger previously said on this site; you need the ability
to say “No”.

So we know I am involved with a fair bit of work, but what of other, more
“normal” people? People who are required to work long hours in their normal work duties? How can they say “No”? Overtime quickly becomes expected and family life can become just as stressful as work. While more fathers are becoming
increasingly more involved with their children’s lives, in terms of working from
home and “spending time with the kids” after a hard day’s work, there are also
Dads who struggle to eat before crawling into bed after work. Is it not
unreasonable to say “Stop!”?

It’s a question of priority. Previous to this big project, we used to go
walking, bike riding and spending time with friends. When we moved to the Isle
of Man, we promised ourselves to walk much more than we used to and take
advantage of the facilities and attractions the island has to offer. Now, three
years on, it seems that we have forgotten this promise. Luckily, the major
project on which I have been involved was spent over winter, so opportunity for
outdoor pursuit was limited. While that was brilliant for giving me more time
for work, it did result in my neglecting of people close to me. I developed a
sort of “tunnel vision”. I knew what my targets were, and I worked hard every
weekend to meet them. If I didn’t meet them, then my evenings during the week
were spent “catching up”, or fixing issues as a result of the weekends work.
Unfortunately, this excluded much else. And not only those humans who are close
to me …. indeed, a beautiful Mexican lady I bought last year has also been
neglected, who cost me a small fortune. No, I did not procure the services of a
Mexican lady, the beauty of whom I speak is my Fender Stratocaster guitar!

So, after a weekends hard slog over Easter, I have promised myself, those
close to me and my guitar that I will make time for them. My workload has
lifted, partly as a result of completion of tasks, but also because of making a
firm commitment not to “over-do things”. This will mean that I can guarantee at
least a day a weekend for leisure pursuits or other “quality time. (Disclaimer:
I can accept no responsibility in weather conditions which may or may not cause
my workload to increase according to project requirements; or to external
factors or emergency situations which may require workload increases at short
notice).But this is a decision I could take myself. It’s coming into summer, the
island is starting to restore to its summer beauty and even the busiest of
people cannot fail to feel invigorated by this time of year. I am in charge of
my own destiny, to some extent. What of others?

How do those people who have to put in extra hours say “no”? It may be due to
project commitments at work, or due to the increased workload as a result of
tourism – or in the Isle of Man’s case, the upcoming centenary of the TT Races.
Whatever the reason, other people cannot be as flexible as me. Those who work in
tourism may have some flexibility in their shifts, so they get time off with
their children every other weekend, or only work 4 of every 6 days. But what of
those who feel obliged to work hard? Slaving away at their desks as the sun
beats down around the office outside?

Despite what I practice, I do preach that individuals should be in charge of
their work, not the other way round. When an individual is ruled by their work,
it ceases to become a job – more a prison sentence. Any sensible or considerate
employer should be able to not only accommodate employees who need to temper
their work commitments, but also be able to detect that problems may be at hand.
I love to work, and I would hate for my personal life to suffer as a result of
my work. But this is a choice I can make for myself. If you are working over
summer, be sure to ensure that your family life does not suffer. Your family may
question the value of the salary that pays the mortgage when they don’t see you,
particularly if you return from work stressed and frustrated. Much better, in my
opinion, to take active steps and step away from the work requirement. The value
of your salary can be more than outweighed by the value of your family.

Why Content Management is a con

The Web is awash with a myriad of content management solutions, but
they don’t necassarily help employee efficiency.

Web Sites can contain thousands of pages. Maintaining this amount of
information can be difficult, and a costly expense on your employee’s time. The
individual(s) who is responsible for the task of maintaining a web-site will
need to be able to publish new content, maintain existing content, delete old
content and manage access to content. This onerous task tends to occur in a
Content Management System (CMS). A CMS is an application that manages the
creation, maintenance, publishing and access of content, typically, web-site
data. One would think that such a system (which ranges in price from Free to
tens of thousands of pounds) would reduce the cost of entering and maintaining
web page data.

I think they’re wrong.

Consider an average web-site, of about 100 web -pages. This site has static
content (privacy policy, downloadable content, etc), dynamic content (news,
photographs, etc.) and a shop. A CMS solution is used to manage the site.

Your Cheque, Sir.

In its initial stages, the Web Site is conceived either by an external client
or within an internally sourced idea or project. We won’t attach a cost to this.
Note that these are internal costs, so £600 per developer-day markup is not
considered. I’m charging this at salary rates, as many web-sites are internally
generated and managed.

After conception comes design. Design requires initial mock-ups to be
created, test-cases for usability (*** up your ears, Designers) and concept
pages. A decent Designer retails at about £25,000 – £30,000 per annum. Let’s say
two weeks were spent on the designs start to finish, so that is £1,041 (£25,000
divided by 12 months divided by 2 weeks).

Following design, we need to settle on our CMS solution. This requires input
from the design team, the development team and management. Take one designer at £25,000, a developer at £25,000 and a manager at £35,000. A series of four
meetings, each with all parties present, lasting for an hour would then probably
cost us about £100. But let’s add another £100 expenses, such as accommodation
for sales reps, flights, etc.

We have our CMS! The cheque has gone through. An enterprise level CMS can
start cheap and end expensive. Let’s say £20,000 for a professional, mid-range
enterprise solution.

CMS solutions can be very complicated beasts, and we need to make sure we are
going to get the most out of it. We need training. And training isn’t cheap. We
need to train our editors so they can edit the content and our developers so
they can extend on the CMS to provide custom content. A training day is going to
be about £600. Probably a week of those should see us right. Add £3,000 – think
of it as an investment in your people.

Let’s just stop and recap our costs so far:

  • £1,000 for designer time
  • £200 for sales meetings
  • £20,000 for our enterprise content management solution
  • £3,000 for training our team for 5 working days

Cost so far: £24,200

The CMS now needs to be installed and configured. Most are pretty simple to
set up, just copy it on to your web server, change some configurations and
you’re off. I’ll probably write this cost off…

This CMS allows editors in different departments to create and maintain
content according to their role, each of these copywriters might earn between
£18,000 – £25,000.  Great! Users feel empowered, they are given training on the
CMS, which ultimately enhances their careers and content is no longer subject to
the bottleneck while IT publish “low priority” content in the midst of their
“high priority” development.

We have an empty CMS, we now need to get the design working
and navigation working within the site. This can be horrendously complex or
stupidly simple, depending on how the CMS application was written! This is going
to need the techies on this task, and a few days of techie time comes in at £70
per developer (again, I’m quoting salary rates, not charge rates). I think we
could probably do with two on this one, so the training for the two techies can
be used to the max. That’ll be £210 please, Sir, for 2 developers over 3 days.
(I think I am being quite conservative here, it certainly took me longer to
figure out using some of the CMS’s I have used!)

Our site is now structurally implemented, but is quite, quite empty. We
have a whole bunch of specified content. Some of the content is pretty simple,
in terms of Title and Text; other content requires a bit more effort. The title
and text content is about 50% of the site. We can hand that right over to our
copywriters straight away. So 50 pages to our team of two copywriters will
probably cost £250, assuming each page takes a half hour to type in and

Now we have the clever stuff to implement. We need to implement photographs,
according to photographers license permissions and relavance of content. We need
to publish news feeds according to topic and have that dynamically presented in
a moving ticker tape. We need to integrate into our back office to implement a
shop and provide dynamic company information, such as stock quotes and contact
details of staff on the move. Well, no content management solution will do *all*
that (not out of the box anyway), so we are going to have to budget some IT

We have two developers at our disposal. They are quoting about 4 weeks to do
all this content, end – to -end, though I suspect they are applying the “IT
multiplier”, which gives them time to make a few mistakes (they tell me they are
essential proof of concepts that didn’t work out) and recover within their
project plan. That gives us 15 days of 2 developers @ £25,000 pa – a snip at

We’re nearly there, but before we do, we’d better test this thing. Better add
a week of testing and proofing. So that is 5 days by one person @ £25,000 pa
which gives £350.

My developers are moaning they need a new server to accommodate the new CMS,
but I ignore them on the grounds of budget constraints and they had a new server
last month. So, let’s work out the bill:

  • £24,200 (balance brought forward)
  • £210 initial development (site construction)
  • £250 copywriter time to get the “static” content in place
  • £2,800 development time for 2 developers working on the more advanced
    extensible aspects of the CMS
  • £350 … oh yeah, testing and proofing by one person for a week.

Gives us a nice figure of £27,810.


My argument is that if we take away that content management solution, we are
no worse off. So let’s dismantle this web-site.

Saving: £0 on Designer time

Our artistically-oriented designers are separate to the CMS, so we can’t cut
corners here.

Saving: £200 on Sales meetings

No more wining and dining to spend our money means we have more money to
spend internally, and it doesn’t waste anybody’s time.

Saving: £20,000 Content Management

The web site has a lot of content that was edited in the content management
solution, but what content really needs that level of functionality? We know
that 50% of the content is relatively static, so surely a flat form of
Title/Text should do for this? And what of the dynamic content? Seems to me we
had to develop something for that anyway, so what have we gained? £20,000,

Saving £3,000 Training

No Content Management System : No Training. Investors In People is valid for
the rest of the year, anyway, I’ll think of something else they can be trained
on. “CS231: Conscientious working”, perhaps?

Saving £210 Initial construction

We’re starting to get technical now. My developers tell me that they want to
use ASP.NET, which comes with some raw aspects of content management built-in, something called Master Pages and XSL. Anyway, apparently, it won’t be too big a problem to build a site from scratch, But it will cost more of their time. They
tell me about a week to write an basic web site and content tools using their
existing .NET skills.

Cost £700 for initial development phase

Saving: £0 Copywriter time for “static” content

We still need the copywriter team to put the content in to the site, so we
make no savings there. Maybe I could lean on their manager to get them to work

Saving: £0 (?) on Development Time

The dynamic content will definitely need developer time now we have no CMS in
place. Probably about the same time, to be honest. Although, I’m told that
because the developers don’t have to work within the requirements of the CMS
application and are free to work as they like, within their own framework, it
might even finish earlier. I’ve promised them a beer if they can pull it

Saving: £0 on Testing and Proofing

We cut no corners here! No matter the content management solution, it must
still work!

Let’s consider our revised bill:

  • Saving: £0 on Designer time
  • Saving: £200 on Sales meetings
  • Saving: £20,000 Content Management
  • Saving £3,000 Training
  • Saving £210 Initial construction
  • Cost £700 for initial development phase
  • Saving: £0 Copywriter time for “static” content
  • Saving: £0 (?) on Development Time
  • Saving: £0 on Testing and Proofing

That gives me £5,100.

That’s a saving of £22,710.

If Content Management Systems still sound a good idea, then go for it. I’m
all for their convenience and reliability. Buying a CMS, you know the testing
has been done, you will have support and you are investing in your staff.

My argument with CMS’s is not only their prohibitve cost, but also that they
offer a false economy in terms of developer time as much as cost. Consider a
Shop in a CMS. Ordinarily, this could take a developer a couple of weeks to
implement a basic shop and get it into a testing stage. But this is a scenario
where they hold all the cards: they control the database, the data structures,
the code, the presentation. Everything is theirs. They know how it all works and
can work with it accordingly. That is not the case in a CMS. A CMS brings with
it constraints in terms of security, presentation, content availability, etc.
Each CMS access it’s data in a different way, some present more hoops than
others. You actually reach a point where it takes longer to develop for a CMS
than without.

Seems to me that it is cheaper, AND quicker to write a web-site without a
CMS. With great components from the likes of Telerik, and you can build your own
basic tools behind your web-site to facilitate users’ interaction with data and
content. This surely is where Web 2.0 should be taking us … a leaner, cheaper