Please help #Malawi

Southern Malawi was hit by Cyclone Freddy.

My home city, Blantyre, was hit badly. Many parts of the city experienced flash floods and mud slides. Soche, Manja, Ndirande, Chilomoni, Machinjiri.

Other parts of southern Malawi are suffering. Mulanje, Thuchila, Phalombe, the lower Shire, Zomba.

The equivalent of 6 months of rain fell within a few days.

The destruction is unprecedented. Many areas are cut off as bridges and roads have been washed away.

The worst storm in decades.

I have been watching Cyclone Freddy since the end of February. All along, I was worried it would hit southern Malawi.

I experienced Cyclone Ana last year.

And now Cyclone Freddy.

Since last weekend, I’ve been reading and amplifying tweets from Malawi. Connecting with friends on Whatsapp.

My thanks go out to Onjezani Kenani and team for their immediate response. You are heroes. Zikomo.

To all of my readers: Please don’t forget Malawi.

Please help Malawians to rebuild their livelihoods.

Buy Malawian products.

There are many world-class products. Macadamia nuts. Kilombero rice. Soybeans. Groundnuts.

Coffee from Satemwa, Mzuzu, Njuli, Chipunga, Namikango.

Tea from Mulanje and Thyolo.

Ask your local café to offer Malawian coffee and Malawian tea.

Consider travelling to visit Lake Malawi. Lakeshore hotels and cottages are open.

Support faith-based charities and local help organizations. My family founded and maintains Chombo children’s home in Chirimba, Blantyre together with a dedicated team.

Together we will help and rebuild.

Ancient poetry that I heard today:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

Psalm Chapter 46: Verse 1 to 3

I love this poem sent to me via Whatsapp

by Nyambeye Wa Salanje

Amidst the rolling hills
and plains of green,
A storm has brewed, a tempest unforeseen.
Cyclone Freddy, with its fierce might,
Has plunged Malawi into a never-ending night.

The rain has fallen, incessant and unrelenting,
Floods have ravaged, nature’s wrath unyielding.
The rivers have swollen, their banks overflowing,
Roads and bridges destroyed, the damage ongoing.

The land is scarred, the mud and stones a grave,
As lives are lost, and families left to grieve.
Electricity is gone, water pumping halted,
Hunger looms, crops destroyed, the people dejected.

Oh God, hear our plea, and see us through this plight,
Send us your love, your mercy, your light.
We call upon the world, to lend us a hand,
To help us stand again, and rebuild this land.

Malawi may be battered, but its spirit remains strong,
Its people resilient, despite all that’s gone wrong.
Together we shall rise, and overcome this test,
For our hearts beat as one, with hope and faith, we shall rest.

Via Whatsapp

My robotic future

I chatted* Facebook support to get an issue at the day job fixed.

The Facebook support person decides to call me.

I answer the phone and don’t understand a single word.

Another call. The same experience.

Having spoken to a lot of support hotlines, I know the company wants my consent to record the call.

don't be a robot
“Don’t be a robot”

A robot is reading a German text with a strong American accent. I have a Swiss cell phone, live in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, and I am German-speaking. A German message is good.

However, a robot trained on American English will get the pronunciation totally wrong.

It was incomprehensible. Gibberish.

I chat with the Facebook support person. They still want to call me.

I try to press the usual keys, and get in on the 4th or 5th call.

Rather than dissing the robot for not knowing how to pronounce German, I say test your client-facing interfaces and channels. Most people will give up.

*to show I am 199% comfortable using digital.

Less is more: Creating display ads in different sizes

The challenge:
For 6Sense display and Google Display networks, I encounter ad sizes which are incredibly small (for mobile use).

A poster ad promoting a garden event in Lausanne in 2019

Display ad sizes vary immensely. There are very wide banners. Skinny and tall skyscraper ads. Squares. Oblongs. For use on desktop and mobile.

At work, I pick a mix of sizes for desktop and mobile.

Unfortunately, despite guidelines and templates, our “texts on ads” tend to be too long. Especially for mobile sizes.

Pédaler, ça réchauffe!
Ad in Geneva promoting cycling

My analogy for paid digital creative copywriters:

Consider a poster ad along the side of a road. You are travelling on that road on a motorbike at about 50 km/h, with your mind full of your own tasks, thoughts, ideas, emotions.
You pass the poster ad.
The question is: What will you be able to grasp “in one glance” from that poster ad while driving past?

if you think about it, it's so weird that companies can hang a poster showing some glass, metal and plastic
People walking past a Samsung ad at Basel SBB train station

Digital ads flow past you as you travel from web page to page.

Minimum requirements:

  • Easy-to-read
  • Clear message
  • Able to grasp message in 1 glance (or, increase curiosity, so that they look again)
  • Shorter is better

Developing Future Sales pipeline:
I want display ads to be memorable.

In B2B advertising, 95% of the time our potential clients are not in market. However, when those 5% come, I want to be “top of mind”.

Creative FC Basel ad.

Your tips? Any learnings to share with me?

(All photos are snapshots of posters that I noticed while cycling or walking or travelling. IMHO, you can learn a ton by observing. At my day job, I don’t do physical ads. I prepare digital ads for B2B.)

The CMS of the day

WordPress dominates the CMS market. A statistic floated by this week, citing over 60% market share.

Via this useful GSC template for GDS, I landed on this page, discussing the dilemma of choosing the right CMS. Wanting to switch from WordPress to a new CMS is about:

  • Questioning my current usage. Do I need all the features WordPress offers?
  • Can I do better with a newer CMS?
  • Am I ready to break things to start from scratch?

Given that this WordPress install is more of a playground for me.

A sandbox to try things and reflect on articles I read.

A place to collect snapshots and memories. I happily don’t worry much about which CMS to use.

I’ve reduced on plugins. Planning to kick out even more.

I am more baffled by the fact that I am still using the same CMS. 18 years later. I think that continuity is valuable.

We have it in our own hands to reduce WordPress bloat.

Memory Corrosion

Besides demand generation, being invested in brand activities to be “top of mind” when clients move into the buying phase is super important. Here’s a recent piece that I bookmarked on LinkedIn.

“95% of B2B buyers are not in-market for your products right now.”

This LinkedIn Marketing article describes a concept called memory corrosion.

“When given the choice between reach and frequency, one should choose reach”. Source: LinkedIn

Chiperoni weather

When temperatures drop in Blantyre, tweets show up in my timeline. Kuzizira. Rainy drizzle weather. It’s chiperoni time in June and July.

I am far away from Blantyre in sunny and warm Basel.

Enjoying a very warm and sunny European summer.

Trying to get into the habit of writing on my own blog instead of someone else’s social media platform. I love reading old blog posts here on

Perhaps I can revive the habit and post regular updates?

June has been a great month in terms of personal sporting activities. I found a good cadence. I hope I can keep up the momentum in July. My motto is: Every little bit counts.

I found out that cycling in my neighbourhood is a way to catch up on those activity kilometres that I used to do on my daily bicycle commute. With less red lights and car traffic. Note to myself: do more of that.

summer time
Summer time

Coffee from Chipunga, near Mzuzu

I finished drinking my souvenir of Malawi coffee last week.

I like the strong, rich flavour of Malawi coffee. It’s strong, it’s chocolatey, it’s earthy.

Each time I wonder how I could help to promote Malawi coffee and its unique taste in Europe. Rather than importing green beans, could we import roasted beans? Rather than mixing different kinds of beans, could we promote single origin coffee? How would I start? What do I need to consider?

finished drinking my packet of Chipunga coffee from Mzuzu in Malawi. I love the strong flavour.
Malawi Coffee

If you are interested in learning more about Chipunga, they have a website.

Chipunga Coffee is grown at a high elevation in a cool, wet climate, on terraces of deep-brown-reddish free-draining soils.

Chipunga Farms Ltd

There is a cool project where you can subscribe to receive different kinds of Malawi coffee. Currently, on a hiatus it seems, but please check out A Coffee Basket from Malawi.

Why do I use LinkedIn – and other questions

I’ve been asked to talk about LinkedIn. This isn’t the first time. Most of the talks, I’ve given were about how to use LinkedIn “technically”. Given that LinkedIn has been available for over 15 years and there are many excellent online courses and webinars on how to use LinkedIn features, I suggested a session on “Why do I use LinkedIn?” instead.

From a more personal point of view.

I am planning to talk about my own use of LinkedIn.

Why I am using LinkedIn to build my personal network.

What the perceived added value is for me.

spiral up
Looking up

I think it’s about what works for me, what benefits me.

Sometimes platforms stick. Sometimes they don’t. Who knows, maybe Instagram is a better business platform for you?

to do list
To do list

Why do I use LinkedIn?

Here’s my list:

  1. Recruiting. LinkedIn started out as a recruiting platform. That’s still a large and important part. Example: I actively use LinkedIn to recruit.
  2. Networking. I use LinkedIn to build a net of business connections from my past, present, and future. Providers, external contractors, people I worked with. Example: a contact asked me where to find a UX designer and I shared 3 people that I thought could help her with her search, based on my LinkedIn network. I use the Direct Messaging area for this.
  3. Gathering information. Follow business topics, companies, magazines, and individuals. Example: I actively use LinkedIn to find information about the industry that I am in.
  4. Promoting and distributing information. I use LinkedIn to share info with relevant audiences. Example: A lot of energy is spent on creating content. In today’s world, it doesn’t stop there. Telling people via Paid and Organic that a piece of content exists is equally important as creating and writing the piece in the first place. Distribute everywhere. An Ahref study on 1 billion web pages says approximately 90% of pages do not get any traffic from Google. With a limited paid budget, telling people about the web pages I worked on is 1 way to promote new web pages. Expecting others, that don’t know my employer or my business area, to distribute B2B info, isn’t likely to happen. It starts with me. Raising awareness for the cool projects I work on.
  5. Learning and experimenting. Use LinkedIn to learn what kind of messages and formats work and what doesn’t resonate. Learn how often the organic algorithm shows the message. Which posts it currently prefers. See who interacts with a post. Example: Currently the LinkedIn algorithm favours longer posts with no external links, and a long thread of comments.

LinkedIn has the most accurate database of Job Titles.

Personal benefits:


Posting on LinkedIn at regular intervals gets noticed. My LinkedIn activities help me to stand out. Semrush and other social media tools show my activity levels. It’s a way to stay top-of-mind.

Articles that I promote on LinkedIn have a better chance of ranking.

Sharing articles and posting messages gives me ideas on what topics will work.

My knowledge of Organic LinkedIn helps me with my Paid Advertising projects on LinkedIn.

social media decision tree
Social Media decision tree

My recommendations:

Think about your topics and your goal on LinkedIn. Do you want to add new skills? Do you want to learn about a new topic? Do you want to position yourself as an expert? Do research. Follow their streams. Attend their online events. Add useful comments or ask questions.

Don’t be a robot.

Try your own text.

Be personable.

Use your own voice.

Add value. Add comments. Contribute.

Be a human filter for your employer and your areas of expertise.

People buy from people.

fischer netz am rhein
Fishing net along the Rhine river

Words of caution:

Everything you share on LinkedIn is public or might become public. Don’t post about sensitive topics. Avoid referring to client projects or internal processes.

I would stick to business-related topics for the majority of the posts. There are other networks for your hobbies or your holiday plans. My litmus test is: Would I talk about this in a real-life, face-to-face business context?

You will get advertisers and providers trying to sell you stuff via Direct Messaging. It’s inevitable. Depending on your role, you may want to turn down these requests. Or, learn from them. Sending me a message to connect and then following up immediately with a direct sales request will not be successful. And, it’s an example of robotic behaviour.

The road ahead


Use a tool like to schedule posts throughout the week. Free plan allows 10 posts.

Maintain your LinkedIn profile.

Map our your topics.


Anecdote to remember

I was waiting at a red traffic light on my bicycle. I was the only bicycle waiting. No cars. And the red light phase was quite long.

After some time, another cyclist stopped next to me and immediately the traffic robot switched to green.

I joked out loud: “You saved my day. Without you I would have to stand there all day waiting for the light to change”. I explained my hypothesis that there are sensors that determine when traffic lights switch.

The lady answered. “You’re the third person I saved today.” Turns out she is a train conductor for Deutsche Bahn. Two passengers had a 1st class ticket but were travelling 1 day earlier than their train ticket. Instead of charging a fine, she let goodwill prevail.


Jog log

Dear blog,

I am happy to report that I went running on 5 out of 7 days this past week.

The plan is to replace my daily outdoor swim with a slow jog.

Today I did the 2 hills tour. Starting at Bettingerstrasse, running along the Wiese river, via Sonnenhalde and Wenkenpark. More than 6 km long.

I will try to do the same again this week.

My goal at the moment is to run easy.

Run easy

Favourite podcasts

The Hidden Brain by NPR:

I listened to this one all about debt:

This episode all about scarcity was particularly impressive:

podcast time

Ted Radio Hour by NPR:

About loneliness:

How I built this by NPR:

How Ben and Jerry Ice Cream was founded:

The Story behind Recaptcha:

ARD Radio Tatort (crime fiction in German):

L’Italiano Vero:

The only language learning podcast that I like listening to.

“The boring flower snapshot” returns

The boring flower snapshot is still going strong.

flower power
This week’s submission for the most boring flower snapshot

I cycled past a field of flowers this week and stopped to take some snaps. The light was beautiful. Taken with my smartphone… As they say, the best camera is the one that is with you.

sunrays and flowers
Sunrays and flowers

View my album “The boring flower snapshot” on Flickr.