One on One with the Wallaby Whisperer
Fortune has not afforded me a life where I can be on the road all the time. I do travel often, but to fill the gaps, I turn to social networking. One site in particular caught my eye back in March of this year, www.beBee.com. It’s a relatively new site founded by two extremely savvy entrepreneurs based in Madrid, Spain. Launched in February, 2015, beBee’s growth story has been nothing short of remarkable. In a sea of social media startups, beBee has achieved escape velocity with close to 11.5 million members from 100 countries. They are clearly on track to reach their goal of 40 million members by end-2017. But what attracted me, in particular, to the site was it’s international flavour. I am currently “on the road” and right now am sitting in “Ah Teng’s Bakery” at the Raffles Hotel Singapore facing one of my greatest fears, a durian puff, and conversing with an Aussie friend I met through beBee. He is of course, the debonair and ruggedly handsome world traveller, Ken Boddie. If you’ve spent any time on beBee no doubt you would have encountered his delightfully warped Aussie charm and teddy bear friendly wit. He’s been interviewed before on beBee (here), but I thought I’d spend this warm tropical morning digging a little deeper, getting to know our reputable Aussie bee a little more.
Dean – Ken Boddie, I understand you are relatively conversant in Bahasa Indonesian, so “Selamat Siang” my friend. Let’s start with a quick self-introduction.
Ken – Good to catch up with you, Dean. It's hard to believe its only six or seven months since we met on beBee. There's a lot of water under the troll-free bridge since then - all of it crystal clear and just the right temperature!
I used to describe myself as an engineer, but now that I am only working part time, I no longer feel defined by my occupation, but think of myself as a regular traveller (and like you, Dean, I wish I could travel more), an enthusiastic but amateur photographer, a writer or commentator (on whatever takes my fancy), occasional poet, husband and father.
Born and schooled in Scotland, I learned my profession initially based in London which was my bachelor base in-between work trips for many years. I am now based in South-East Queensland, which my wife, Bakti, and I have called home for longer than anywhere else since we got married, over 34 years ago, My chosen specialty as a geotechnical engineer ('dirt doctor' to the uninitiated) has allowed me to work in many countries, and to get into a few scrapes and uncomfortable places along the way, but "all experiences gratefully received" and I also have a lot of good memories of those early career days. This same passion for the mechanics of soils and rock eventually afforded me the opportunity to settle and put down roots here in Oz, the Lucky Country. This was after a five year sojourn in the Land of the Long White Cloud, where both our kids (now adults) were born.
Dean - Wow that reply took a while! I've since hopped on a plane and am in a tiny boat in Aberdeen Harbour, Hong Kong, on my way to dinner. Well reading your articles, it certainly appears you haven't lost that Great British sense of humour despite your years in exile. So tell me about beBee. Where were you publishing before discovering beBee and what led you here?
Ken - Some of us have to work for a living, Dean-san ..... well at least Tuesdays through Thursdays. Keeps the grey matter from focusing on an ever diminishing vortex of dad jokes. Incidentally, say hi to Aberdeen Harbour for me, junks and all. Having been born and brought up in the fair city of same name in the north-east of Scotland, called the 'Silver City' due to its muscovite biotic granite buildings, I always wanted to visit the 'other' Aberdeen, but didn't get around to my first trip there until much later on in life.
So where was I publishing before beBee, you ask? My writing skills were honed in producing myriads of technical reports over a period of far too many decades, taking care to be oh so overly precise with my choice of words, grammar, sentence construction and comma placement (Susan Rooks eat your heart out); all in order to avoid, heaven forbid, the dreaded ambiguity or the litigation beacon at the end of the trail. Then I discovered an audience other than technocrats, as the editor of our local swimming club newsletter in Newcastle (NSW, that is, and not the similarly coal-reliant town in Geordieland). These guys appreciated my sense of humour, or perhaps it was just that nobody else wanted the job, but it was a jolt that I needed to further my interests in self expression for the hell of it, instead of the daily drudge of soil classifications, analytical clarifications, and "it is suggesteds", "it is recommendeds" and "it is concludeds".
Then I started 'sharing' my worldly experience on various aspects of 'how to do's' on the Dark Side of SM. Yes, my name is Ken and I was a Linkaholic. Unfortunately, as we all know, there are way too many people out there giving sage advice on 'how to do' various aspects of careers advancement, time management, project management, etc, etc. But try and find someone who wants to 'engage' on the Dark Side and yep, after less than a year, I was miffed at getting too little return with my boomerang.
Then I heard about Señor Javier and Señor Juan, through either Jim Murray or Phil Friedman (can't remember which one). I don't really know either of the "He Said He Said" duo, other than swapping the occasional comment, but I certainly owe them (or him, or whoever) for whinging about the Dark Side and pointing the way to beBee, I rebadged a couple of travel posts written earlier on the Limped In thingy, and wow, there was Javier et al actually making regular 'comments' and 'likes' and 'relevants'. I was sold, hook, line and sinker, and the rest, as they say, is honey.
Dean - You raise an interesting point. If I saw your "how to do" articles on LinkedIn, likely I would not have opened them, let alone connect. But it was, I believe, your very first article you published the week beBee launched Producer that drew me in. It was aptly titled "Shanghai - The Paris of the East". So I notice that these days, like me you don't offer life/career advice but rather share experiences. What are your motives for writing now? Do you feel that dropping an agenda (if you had one before) has freed you to be more creative?
Ken – I didn't really think I had an agenda before, Dean, but perhaps I was just trying to expand my present teaching/mentoring role from my own Company into the wider engineering community. Most of my 'Limped In' community were engineers, but I soon found out that not only were the guys at work not regular SM users, but that many of the wider engineering community are also not stimulated by SM and not using it to good effect. Just ask Lada Prkic, who is one smart cookie, but often voices her frustrations at the lack of response to her technical buzzes. I guess that many engineers are too busy designing and constructing and have no creative juices left over for SM.
I'm really not sure what drives me to write now, Dean; perhaps I just get a buzz out of buzzing (pardon the alliteration) or "sharing experiences" as you suggest? Writing posts that are reasonably well received is of course addictive and, in my case, is fed by the challenge of hooking people in, so that engagement occurs. I don't count the 'views' or bother about the 'relevants'. I'm in this game for the comments and the banter, the sharper and wittier the better, but corny cheesy old dad jokes will also fit the bill, as a couple of die-hard protagonists out there will all too well know. I'll mention no names, but you guys know who you are .... pure gold! Then, every so often, someone just says something which makes me think, "That's so obvious - why didn't I think of that?"; and also, there's the occasional, plain down to earth, really nice person, who opens up and lets us see behind the layers of thick skin, which life's less pleasant experiences can motivate us to propagate subconsciously.
But equally important for me is that I also get a buzz from commenting on the posts of others and taking time out to respond in a more meaningful manner than just the minimalist "Great post!" or "Loved your buzz!" I believe it is essential for us fellow honey producers to convey our understanding of the message being communicated by other producers. This is payment in kind for their efforts and is crucial for newBees if we want to keep the honey pots overflowing and being replenished by new fertile raw contributions. After all, Dean, don't we want our newBees to have the same rewarding experience that we regular producers get, and that I'm sure you must get with your soul-sharing buzzes. You never fail to impress with your wide range of subject matter.
Such a pity that so many bees can get lost in the traffic, as posts roll down our respective walls at an ever increasing pace. Hopefully the promised 'sting' will enable us, when it arrives, to bookmark selected bees (Including the newBees) as they produce, so that we spend less time looking and more time reading and engaging.
Dean – I am really looking forward to seeing how “stings” work. I am pretty confident that you Sir will suffer from numerous stings from fans the world over.
Time for a quick fire round. Five questions.
Dean - If God whispered in your ear and offered you the ability to live to 140 years old, would you take it?
Ken - Only if I could have my wits about me and my health, and a good sense of humour, since nothing dies as quickly as a bad joke!
Dean - If your daughter volunteered and was accepted for the first human expedition to Mars, would you let her go?
Ken - No Mars bars in my house! She's good to go, but "come good with a couple of grandchildren first".
Dean - If one day you woke up with the power to talk to your regular visitor, Williamina Wallaby, would you tell the world?
Ken - No way, José, I don't want my lawn trampled to bits by visitors! The first thing I'd say to my little friend would be "Stop with the maltezers, sister!"
Dean - If God told you that the only way to get into Heaven was to live out your years stark naked, would you strip?
Ken - What could 'She' possibly offer me that I don't have now - except 'sting' maybe - and some clothes?
Dean - If you were granted an exclusive 5-minute segment to address the North Korean citizens on their national network, what would be your message?
Ken - Wear comfy undies! They're not likely to listen to anything else.
Dean - I’ve really enjoyed reading your articles this last year. For those that may be new to Ken Boddie, which article are you most proud of as a starting point to get to know you?
Ken - Now for the 'Last Post'. Perhaps this might be a good starting point:
But just like my favourite photo, my favourite post is the 'next one'. so stay tuned!
Dean - I think we all look forward to the day those “dad jokes” become “grandpa jokes”
Title picture - Karaoke with the boys at Kaliorang, near Yogyakarta
Middle picture - Bakti and I at a restaurant in Yogyakarta
Last picture - with a few of my extended Indonesian family outside the front door at home