Generative Hobbies

Maldives Complete generative hobbies

So why am I going full speed ahead into year 15? People continue to be surprised that I don’t make a penny out of Maldives Complete…it is one big, expensive hobby for all intents and purposes. That might sound dismissive, but Seth Godin thankfully has a more eloquent perspective on it:

  • “Some people say “hobby” like it’s a bad thing. In a race for more, it seems as though doing something you don’t get paid for, something that requires patience and skill–well, some people don’t get it…A generation or two ago, hobbies were things like paint by number or candlemaking, or perhaps a woodshop. That’s changing. Not simply because computers allow us to be far more professional, but because the very nature of the output is different. This might be the golden age for a new kind of hobby, one that’s about community, leadership and producing public goods, not private ones. Because it’s so much easier to connect and because ideas multiply, the generative hobby gives us a chance to make a contribution, even (especially) when we’re not at work. Sharing ideas, leading, connecting. Perhaps “generative contribution” is a better name for it.”

Other examples of such hobbies are Wikipedia and Github. in fact, I’ve often thought of Maldives Complete as an interactive Resortipedia for the Maldives. Even the blog posts are mostly constructed to be used as referenceable info as opposed to timely broadcasts.

Why Do I Do It…Every Day

working on MC

“And whatever you spend in good, it will be repaid to you in full, and you shall not be wronged.” (Quran 2:272)

Most every anniversary of the website, I do another instalment of the “Why Do I Do It” (the second most frequently asked question I get) series. Once again, Seth Godin has captured another dimension to this expensive hobby which contributes to my daily drive to uncover the latest information and draft up hopefully helpful perspectives…

  • “Is there something you do every day that builds an asset for you? Every single day? Something that creates another bit of intellectual property that belongs to you? Something that makes an asset you own more valuable? Something that you learn? Every single day is a lot of days. It’s easy to look at the long run and lull yourself into skipping a day now and then. But the long run is made up of short runs.” – Seth Godin “The Daily

Maldives Complete is my daily dose of sunshine, my periodic prescription of paradise.

Sharing Daily…It’s Worth It

Seth Godin - maldives beach

Happy Birthday to Seth Godin. Seth is of my inspirations to the wide range of blogging that I do, the most prominent of which is Maldives Complete here. These days you can’t swing a palm frond without hitting a blogger (especially in the Maldives), but when I started in 2009, the whole medium was quite novel. Seth was one of the first to embrace and extoll the platform and provided lots of tip and insights both explicitly and through example of his own work.

  • This is post 7,000” – “The secret to writing a daily blog is to write every day. And to queue it up and blog it. There is no other secret…The discipline of sharing something daily is priceless. Sometimes there are typos. I hope that they’re rare and I try to fix them. Over time, the blog adds up. People remember a blog post a year after I wrote it. Or they begin a practice, take an action, make a connection, something that grows over time. The blog resonates with people in so many fields, it’s thrilling to see how it can provoke positive action. It’s true that I’d write this blog even if no one read it, but I want to thank you for reading it, for being here day after day. It’s more fun that way.”
  • Susdat” – “Writer’s block is a myth, a recent invention, a cultural malady. More important than the output, though, is the act itself. The act of doing it every day. When you commit to a practice, you will certainly have days when you don’t feel like it, when you believe it’s not your best work, when the muse deserts you. But, when you keep your commitment, the muse returns. When you keep your commitment, the work happens. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads it, buys it, sponsors it or shares it. It matters that you show up. Show up, sit down and type.”
  • Gaztelugatxe – “There’s an island off the coast of Spain that houses a church. The church has 230 steps to the top, and it’s said that it’s worth the climb. What a great expression. Gaztelugatxe can now mean, ‘it’s a lot of steps, but worth it.’ The opposite of fast and easy but worthless.”

The first two posts referenced above talk about ‘daily practice’ and while I may not post every day, I would say that I do something on Maldives Complete every day – respond to emails, update date, investigate leads, research pieces, etc.  His thoughts help to express the answer to the 2nd most frequently asked question that I get (the first being “What is the best resort”), and that is “Why do you do Maldives Complete?”.

Best of the Maldives: Pizza – Taj Exotica

Taj Exotica - bling pizza

Friday night is pizza night (and a tub of Haagen Dazs). And a pizza that just sizzles with Seth Godin’s “remarkability” factor is Taj Exotica’s “$200 pizza”…

“Inspired by the thousand dollar New York Pizza, Chef Kermani came up with the brilliant idea of the two hundred dollar pizza, which became a famous sensation within the whole Taj Exotica culinary experience. This pizza has captured the hearts of so many guests; people have blogged, photographed and written about it. This four quarters, fifteen inches pizza is filled with the best ingredients hand picked from around the world. The base of this pizza is completely covered with Philadelphia cream cheese with one quarter topped only with waygu beef carpaccio and kalamata olives. Second quarter of the pizza is topped with roasted French duck and Foie Gras with Italian truffles. Another quarter is topped with Italian Porchinis, white parma ham, completely covered with parmesan cheese. The last quarter of the pizza is topped with jumbo lobster medallions with Iranian caviar topped with a finishing touch of 24-karat edible gold leaves. This pizza is served personally by the executive chef, Kermani, sprinkled with thirty years old balsamic, trickled right in front of the guest. This is followed by two glasses of champagne and a photograph with the chef. This photograph is gifted to the guests upon their departure as a part of the memorable two hundred dollar pizza experience.”

In Godin’s “Purple Cow”, he describes how “remarkability” is literally the ability to get people to “remark” about your product. The way you would ‘remark’ to your friends if you passed a purple cow in the field, “Guess what I saw?…”
In the ever escalating arms-race of the super deluxe Maldives resorts, I often challenge them to ask themselves, “What is the story that your guest is going to tell on the golf course or at the Mah Jong table?” It won’t be the pina coladas, sunsets or palm trees. For the multi-millionaire set, these things are rather pedestrian. The “$200 Pizza” does pass that test though. I don’t care how rich you are, not many folks have had a “$200 Pizza”. It is a form of metonymy where a small part of the luxurious experience encapsulates the lavish extravagance of the whole holiday. And in this age of Instagram, where unless you take a picture of it and post then it didn’t happen, bling pizza is ideal Instagram fodder.

The pizza also provides a good illustration in “impact” gift giving.  The price of a gift is governed by two variables – 1. the general expense of the item, and 2. how high is quality of the version you got.  If you want to give a great gift, focus on #2….

  1. Determine your budget
  2. Divide by 10
  3. Identify items that generally cost that amount (the one-tenth)
  4. Find a version of the item that costs 10x the norm

The pizza is great example.  A typical pizza costs around $20 in many places in the world.  So the $200 Pizza is a 10x (order of magnitude) more expensive version.  Another good example is a Christmas gift Lori got me.  I needed collar stays (the little pieces that you put in nice shirts to stiffen the collars).  I like nice shirts and so Lori got special collar stays.  The regular brass ones normally sell for about $5 or so, but Lori bought me lovely silver ones with mother-of-pearl.  They cost $50 (the 10x rule).  The exceptional versions that she found made the gift special (and when I am going to special occasions, I always use them…no one can see them, but I know I’m wearing them).

The problem is that many people focus on #1.  They want to give an impressive class of item (like a watch or a TV), but then can only afford to get a crappy version to fit their budget).  No one if happy with a crappy watch, even if it is a watch.

Lori was able to get something exceptional without breaking the budget because she got a simple type of item.   Not all people can afford the $1,000 cognac and $10,000 suite, but many Maldives visitors can splash out on a $200 pizza and enjoy having a slice (yes, pun intended) of world-class extravagant luxury.

And finally, a lobster pizza in Maldives!!

Exotic(a) pizza with extra bling!

Even More Why Do I Do It – Ruckusmaking

Bruce Maldives beer

Criticism is easy. Very little is perfect in life and it’s easy to just call out all the imperfections. My recent Maldives tour brought home this realisation as one of the challenges I relish in my resort research is uncovering and highlighting the distinctions of each resort. Not what makes them special (being in the Maldives is what makes EVERY one of them special), but what makes them distinctive. That takes a bit more discernment and insight. It’s awfully easy to complain that the butter was too cold or not cold enough. It’s much harder to figure out what part of the meal was most unique.

This is my “Ruckusmaker” focus. Referring to Seth Godin’s concept of someone who speaks up for something they believe. My belief and my mantra is “There is no ‘best’ resort, only the ‘best’ for you. And with over 100 to choose from, there is something for everyone.”

Seth himself is someone who often gets asked why a best-selling professional (multi-millionaire) writer like himself would devote so much effort to a daily free blog. One of his motivations is articulated in his post “Say Something”…

“There’s a lot to admire about the common-sense advice, ‘If you don’t have anything worth saying, don’t say anything.’ On the other hand, one reason we often find ourselves with nothing much to say is that we’ve already decided that it’s safer and easier to say nothing. If you’ve fallen into that trap, then committing to having a point of view and scheduling a time and place to say something is almost certainly going to improve your thinking, your attitude and your trajectory. A daily blog is one way to achieve this. Not spouting an opinion or retweeting the click of the day. Instead, outlining what you believe and explaining why. Commit to articulating your point of view on one relevant issue, one news story, one personnel issue. Every day. Online or off, doesn’t matter. Share your taste and your perspective with someone who needs to hear it. Speak up. Not just tomorrow, but every day. A worthwhile habit.”

Maldives Complete, making a ruckus for 7 years!

“Marketing and Differentiation: How do you choose?”

Hotelier Maldives

I try to help.

Most of the material on Maldives Complete is aimed at helping prospective visitors to the Maldives decide on the best resort for them (my response to the question I get asked most frequently…”there is no *best* resort overall, just the ‘best’ one *for you*“). As I’ve discussed many times, I’ve leaned towards more of the underserved groups like families going to there, but over time I’ve covered just about all niches including the mainstays of honeymooners and now, especially after the Dive Site database addition, divers.

One group that I also help where I can are the resorts themselves. A number of resorts follow the “Things I Haven’t Seen Yet” series. I always have delightful, extended chats with the resort management and the Ministry of Tourism when I visit. After nearly 20 years of visiting and over 50 resorts visited, not to mention my countless hours of on-going research and input from the website fans, I have many thoughts and perspectives about the Maldivian experience.

A number of resorts will often pitch me that their resort is a “Best of the Maldives” candidate for some special feature only for me to deflate them by citing several resorts who offer the same thing. On the other hand, I always uncover unsung treats on their island that they didn’t even know was unique in the Maldives. My island tours are like mini treasure hunts for me seeking out these overlooked gems as well as missing (incomplete!) data and photos of the property.

Recently, I was invited to do a guest piece by one the leading publication for the industry, Maldives Hotelier – “Marketing and Differentiation: How do you choose?” It discusses a principle at the heart of good marketing, the destination of the the Maldives itself and any self-respecting resort – “distinction”. A big nod to Seth Godin “Purple Cow” thinking about being “remarkable” as well as other tips I have noted during my travels here and elsewhere. And all about finding both the gems on your property as well as *being* the best resort for maybe not everyone, but certainly for many.

Seth-urday Buffet

Maldives Buffet

My other popular blog (I have 4) has a semi-regular piece called “Seth-urday” featuring material from Seth Godin who I have referenced here on a number of occasions as a bit of an inspiration to the whole “Best of the Maldives” section. This week, Seth published a post “The buffet problem keeps getting worse” which illustrated another perspective for my obsession with resort esoterica…

“Here’s the thinking that leads just about every all-you-can-eat buffet to trend to mediocrity. ‘Oh, don’t worry about how fresh the mashed potatoes are, after all, they’re free.’ Indeed, as far as the kitchen is concerned, each individual item on the buffet is ‘free’ in the sense that the customer didn’t spend anything extra to get that item. The problem is obvious, of course. Once you start thinking that way, then every single item on the buffet gets pretty lousy, and the next thing you know, the customers you seek don’t come…Successful organizations often beat the competition by turning the buffet problem upside down. ‘Let’s make these the best mashed potatoes in town–who knows, next time, that guy out front will bring his friends.’ The mashed potatoes aren’t free, the mashed potatoes, the wifi and everything else you do are an opportunity. The cheapest and most effective marketing you’ll do all year.”

While it is an illustrative metaphor, Maldives resort are literally dominated by buffets for much of their food service. A number of my “Best of the Maldives” pieces have indeed been buffet items picked out from obscurity for their distinction. I guess I am now on the hunt for the best mashed potatoes in the Maldives!

Expensive Hobby

Gapingvoid Expensive Hobby

I still get asked ‘Why do I do it?’ And even with my 9 answers enumerated previously, this trip made me realise even more…

    • Adventure – I realised that my trip was more of an ‘Adventure holiday’ of discovery than an idyllic holiday of chilling out (which is a bit counter intuitive given the Maldives’ fame for ultimate in relaxation). Asking why I do it is similar to asking why a mountain biker spends his holiday toiling over rugged terrain, or why a camper sleeps on cold hard ground or why an athlete goes to a boot camp. To many, the work and effort seems less vacation-like. To me, it’s part of the allure.
    • Digital Vision – I’ve been focused on the Internet and its technology since the 90s when Microsoft “turned on a dime” to embrace it. It is a central part of my professional career, interests and expertise. I have my own interpretations and vision of the trajectories and issues in the still emerging digital world. And Maldives Complete is both my expression and experimentation in that domain. One dimension of a dynamic that intrigues me is the cataloguing of information. The conventional wisdom is that brute-force search engines are the end-all and be-al of information access, but I think the Internet world supports and calls for more models than this as the Google Search has a huge number of shortcomings and gaps. Search is not a Filter. It is a perspective touched on by Internet maven Seth Godin in his post “Sort & Search”…
      • “Search is powerful, essential and lucrative. Google demonstrated just how much value can be created when you let people easily find what they want. Sort, on the other hand, is easily overlooked and something that most of us can can work with. For example, the way a restaurant sorts the wines on the wine list at will have a dramatic impact on what people order. If you list the cheap wines first, people will probably end up spending less. And when your wine list migrates to an iPad and you let the diner sort by price, popularity and other indicators, consumption patterns will instantly change., Zagats, Kayak and hundreds of other sites let you sort by quality, ranking and price. Not only does this change the way we choose, it also changes the behavior of the those being ranked!”
    • Fun. Earlier this year, my friend and prominent Internet artist Hugh MacLeod published this piece (see above) and it captured another reason. Working on Maldives Complete is fun. It might be an ‘expensive hobby’…but the alternative is even more expensive.

I get a number of typical reactions to the these explanations and friend and artist Hugh MacLeod captured some very apropos replies to these reactions (see cartoons above and below). The first reaction I get to my calling Maldives Complete my “hobby” is that “It’s an awfully expensive hobby.” Well, yes, it is expensive…but most hobbies are. Golf, scuba diving, horse riding, restoring old cars, following Springsteen. As Lori says, I am a “Resort Spotter”. Like a “Trainspotter” obsessed with research, finding and seeing every resort and every unique resort feature (and she is much happier being dragged across the Maldives than to obscure railway depots).

A second reaction is that I must be very “talented” to do the coding and writing I do. Quite frankly, the web page coding is not much more sophisticated that one could do after a basic course on HTML and The design is very simple and many have criticized. And the writing is well…more from the heart than from the trained hand. The key to the success of Maldives Complete has been its “completeness”. Keeping all of the data fresh, up-to-date and accurate. That doesn’t take any special skill or talent, just drive to get it right.

Gapingvoid Creativity Drive

Best of the Maldives: Seth Godin – Mirihi

Mirihi - purple cow

Seth-urday today.

Probably one of the more bizarre Best Of’s I have come up with. The Best for Seth Godin.

Seth Godin is one of my favourite writers and one of the world’s top marketing maven’s. In many respects, his perspectives on marketing served to inspire much of Maldives Complete. He has written 11 books, a daily blog post and countless articles, presentations and ‘projects’. Most of his work revolves around the notion of finding and embracing your ‘raging fans’ (aka ‘tribes’). And while I have come upon passionate followings for a number of islands (Athuruga, Biyadhoo and Kuradu come to mind) none seem to be quite so fervid as Mirihi.

Furthermore, Mirihi operates and does a number of things straight from many a Godin books that reinforce and foster this fandom.

  • Purple Cows – The Maldives itself is a ‘purple cow’. Something truly ‘remarkable’ in all senses of the word especially in the ‘remarks’ that it inspires from people lucky enough to visit. In the 100+ strong herd of purple cows that is this archipelago paradise, it becomes a bold challenge to stand out even further. Mirihi has achieved it not with big, flashy ‘wow’ features (like underwater restaurants), but with a subtle combination of distinctive characteristics. It is more like a masterful blended whiskey capturing the ‘spirit’ of the Maldives than a single malt that stands out with a particular feature. Even Mirihi’s tag line reflects this individualised distinction – ‘Mirihi, a unique as you’. Though, I have to confess, it would have been fun if ‘Moo-fushi’ was my pick for ‘best purple cow’.
  • Firing Customers – By obsessively catering to your raging fans, Godin talks about ‘firing customers’. It would seem anathema to some businesses to explicitly turn away any business, but the point is that trying to be all things to all people simply turns away even more implicitly. For example, Mirihi ‘fires’ people wedded to poolside entertainment or their fix of television by having neither pool nor TVs on the resort. It harkens to my common refrain to my most common question posed to me, “What is the best resort?” I always respond, “There is no ‘best resort’, just the ‘best resort for you’.” Mirihi doesn’t try to be everything to everybody. It knows what it is and sticks true to that sense in both its operation and marketing.
  • Online – Godin is one of first and most prominent marketing authors to appreciate the power of the web for bringing together ‘tribes’ of enthusiastic customers. Not just bring the customers to the company, but bringing the customers together. For Mirihi aficionados, the place of congregation is the Trip Advisor Maldives Forum where Mirihi is often cited as a top choice among the aficionados.

Why Do I Do It?

Kurumba blogging

What is most common question I get from folks at resorts when I visit?

  • What’s my favourite resort?
  • What do I enjoy doing the most in the Maldives?
  • How many times have I visited?

Nope. By far the most prevalent question is ‘Why do you do it?’ Or most specifically, ‘Maldives Complete is obviously the result of tons of work, but you don’t make any money from it so…why do you do it??’ The bigger the fan of the site, the faster the question comes up. The home page and About page both have brief comments on my motivations, but they do focus more on my ‘aspirations’ than my ‘motivations.’

For all those head scratchers out there, here are my top reasons I keep ferreting out the data and pounding out the posts…

  • Blogging Fun – One of the most time intensive and most highly trafficked part of Maldives Complete is the blog. This is not my only blog. I also write on the subjects of ‘Leadership and Management’, ‘Embracing Failure’, ‘Dynamic Work’ and ’70-20-10 Principle’. All of those are non-commercial too (as most blogging is). Not related to my day job, no advertising or other remuneration, not selling anything (though I used to sell consulting services around Dynamic Work). On the occasion of my 600th Leadership/Failure post, I wrote a piece ‘600 Posts Later’ which explained some of my motivations such as iterative improvement, serendipity, purge and process, and handy reference trove all of which apply to Maldives Complete.
  • Non-Zero Chance – As an elaboration of the ‘serendipity’ motivation mentioned above, I later wrote a piece called ‘Non-Zero Chance’ which picked up on Dilbert creator Scott Adams’ explanation for his own extensive blogging. He said ‘I make it a habit to have at least one project brewing at all times that has a non-zero chance of changing the planet, or making a billion dollars, or both.’ Admittedly, the chance of Maldives Complete changing anything or making a dime is miniscule, but it is like a lottery ticket that fuels a bit of ‘just maybe’ fantasy that someday it might turn into something really special.
  • Participate, Not Spectate – I love sports, but to play them not to watch them. I play in a basketball league, coach and row sculls, train at the gym and running. But the latest sport event I watched was years ago. I just prefer to be in the action than watching it. My involvement with Maldives Complete means that when I visit the Maldives, I am not just a visitor here for a few days, soaking up the sun, sights and savouries. I get under its skin. I meet people I otherwise wouldn’t meet and see things I wouldn’t otherwise see. I explore it and then participate in it by promoting it.
  • Perks – Now that Maldives Complete is a serious web site (some authorities on the topic tell me it is the top independent web site on Maldives), the resort owners are interested in helping me with my efforts as they would any publicity. Most resorts have standard protocols for providing ‘media’ with certain ‘comps’ and discounts. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the support of these concessions. It’s no ‘free holiday’. First of all it’s not free. We spent more money on our most recent trip than if we had simply booked a simple package (because we had such a chopped and changed itinerary). Secondly, it’s not exactly a holiday. Each day we pack up to move to yet another resort to visit, I take a tour, I take photos, I take notes, I write pieces, I meet with people. Very little of the typical lounging by the pool.
  • Transport Me Away – When I am sitting in my den on a dreary, drizzling, chilly British day (as I am right now!), and I bring up Maldives Complete or some email from resort marketing manager sending me some fresh resort photos, and I feel transported away to this tropical paradise at least in my escapist fantasy mind.
  • World Community Service – I come from an upbringing of community service. My father was a clergyman and my mother ran a community centre. Maldives is a strong and vibrant nation, but it is still growing and has lots of development to do for its citizens to achieve higher living standards by conventional measures. Furthermore, the Maldives is on the forefront of driving environmental awareness and changes so supporting the country helps support that cause too. Maldives Complete is a small contribution to help more people find out about the Maldives, visit there to spend their money, and help build the country.
  • Purple Cow Evangelism – I’m a big fan of Seth Godin and especially his notion of ‘Purple Cows’ – ‘remark-able distinctions that unpin all great marketing.’ Maldives Complete is both a chance to practice what I preach and promote the concept (through the Best Of) section.
  • Hobby – Maldives Complete is my hobby. I enjoy technology and coding the web site. I enjoy writing. I enjoy the subject matter. One person commented, “It’s an expensive hobby.” To which I replied, “Many hobbies are. Car restoring, skiing, collecting.” And my wife added, “And I’m delighted that his hobby is the Maldives rather than something like golf.”
  • Ego – Like most creators and their creations, I am proud of Maldives Complete. Though not perfect, many of the things I’ve pulled together with the site and how I’ve done them. I do get a small buzz when the Aquest Stats shows that it has hit a new high for visitors. But the biggest thrill when someone takes the time to email me saying how much they loved the site and how helpful it was for them planning their Maldive vacation. And that fan mail is coming more and more frequently these days.  Smile

In other words, you might say that ‘I have my reasons…’