Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Glastonbury Goes (even more) Digital

IMG_20110626_164602In case you hadn’t heard, it’s the annual pilgrimage to Glastonbury Festival of the Performing Arts next week. And it’ll be my 7th visit. It is the largest green field festival in the world and has over 175,000 visitors.With that many people, there’s a lot of infrastructure to put in place – sanitation, water, waste, food, parking, camping, entertainment, power, connectivity… those last two are important for the administration of the festival but also to us lowly festival-goers.

Even though one of the delights of the festival is going back to basics and, if you spend your time in the permaculture garden, the green fields, or the tipi fields, then it’s also rather lovely to spend time in nature and living ‘off-grid’. However, you still need to find your friends, find out what band is next on your ‘to see’ list, when and where your woodworking workshop is on, or when your appointment with the reiki healer is. We also use our phones for telling the time. When you don’t have a mirror, the front view camera is also useful to check you don’t have mud smeared across your face! Over the last 15 years or so, our day to day behaviour has been subtly and not so subtly changed by the mobile phone. And because of that, at the very least, we expect to be able to power up and to have connectivity. We also expect our favourite festival to supply us with an app to fulfil all our festival line-up needs.

So connectivity – it’s always been an issue at Glastonbury. So many people, in a small amount of space, all wanting to connect at the same time. It’s fair to say that coverage has been flaky over the years, SMS turn up days later, if you get a call, you can’t hear what people are saying anyway as there’s always a lot of noise, and if you get a text or email, and it’s sunny, you can’t read it anyway. Still we try. And we expect it. How else are you going to find your friends?! We are so unused to saying ‘I’ll meet you at 4.30pm by Gandhi’s Flip Flop (it’s a rather good veggie curry stall) and sticking to it. We’re reliant on SMS and other messaging services to keep our friends and colleagues updated as to where we are and how far away we are from them.

The festival has had on-going sponsorship from Orange, and now EE since the merger with T-Mobile, so for me, connectivity has never been much of an issue. And EE does have exceptionally good coverage on the site, including 4G and also, there’ll be Wi-Fi too. We allegedly had Wi-Fi last year but I never spotted it in action. I can’t say that coverage for O2 or Vodafone customers is as good.

Then there’s battery life. Oh what a joy to have the very basic phone last year with a battery that lasted for several days! At best, you’ll get a day out of your smartphone. A lot of phones these days do not have replaceable batteries so you have to either have a charged up battery pack (extra weight in your backpack – albeit small) or you have to queue for hours to sit by your phone that charges up way more slowly than it ever would at home.

This year, there’s a solution. You can buy an EE Festival Power Bar and swap it for a fully charged on on the site each time yours is drained. Well, you could… they sold out a while back. Hopefully people will be nice and share theirs around but who knows. Fortunately, I’m volunteering this year and at our camp we’ll be able to charge up our phones without queuing for hours. I’ll still be taking my extra batteries and battery pack.

And now for apps… there’s a Glastonbury app. There’s been a Glasto app for at least 7 years and it’s never been much good. It has improved somewhat, but there are still usability issues with it. I think they’re probably trying to get too much into one app. And the app is only any good if you have a higher-end smartphone with plenty memory left. It’s a chunky old file. And it’s only Android and iOS. So for BlackBerry or Windows Phone users, erm, tough.

There are a couple of new digital innovations this year. First up, the 100 page programme is now available as a free PDF download or as an interactive app for iPhone or iPad. I can’t imagine the PDF rendering particularly well on a small screen but we’ll see.

Download the programme here.

More interesting is the fact that they’re using contactless payments on site this year. This can be with a contactless card or with the Cash on Tap app. Of course, this will only work if the connectivity holds up for the terminals and you haven’t drained your battery or lost your phone in the mud on your way home from Shangri La at 4 in the morning!

More about EE’s Glastonbury services here.

Last year’s post in the same vein: 2013 is the year of Glastonbury Mobile.

Right, must dig out my wellies and give them a bit of a clean before I head off next week!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Mobile and media linkage for a Friday afternoon

It’s Friday afternoon, so maybe you’d like to line up a bit of reading for the weekend? If news and media are your thing, here are a few links that may be up your street. And a few other ones besides. Enjoy.

An Empirical study of factors that influence the willingness to pay for online news – I’ll be honest, I haven’t read this yet, but it certainly looks interesting. It’s on my reading list for my journey up to Manchester tomorrow.

Publishers just don’t get mobile. This is a piece by Jez Walters who wonders why publishers just don’t get mobile. It’s well worth a read. I would argue that it’s not just publishers who don’t get it, but they probably have most to lose right now by not getting it. I meet media owners all the time and some do mobile better than others and some put more resources and effort into mobile than others. Interesting times indeed.

Who killed magazines? Another piece looking at the demise of the mobile magazine app. It’s from a US perspective, but there are some good insights here as to what could kill your mobile app strategy before it has even started.

Decline of newspapers hits a milestone with lowest print revenues since the 1950s. Print ad-dollars are not being replaced by digital ad-dollars. As if we need telling again, but just in case you do….

Native advertising works at treat but is dependent on platform and device: ‘native advertising – where an ad matches the form and function of the user experience and feels less intrusive – is pulling up trees in terms of reader engagement and click-through rates (CTRs). Hearst Publishing, which has 300 magazine titles to its name, let the cat out of the bag with its disclosure that a native ad campaign within Harper's Bazaar achieved a CTR of up to 1.5%; that compares with the US industry average of 0.1% on traditional display ads.’ Read the article for more.

Nine lies we tell ourselves about mobile (especially pertinent for those who are newer to the sector). An excellent read.

Measure for measure, the difficult art of quantifying return on digital investments. This is an interesting read from CapGemini Consultants, but the irony is not lost on me about on their choice of medium to share this report. This e-book is unreadable on my laptop screen, let alone a mobile device. It’s easier to handle if you download the whole thing as a pdf rather than struggling with their ebook format. If you can bear to work through that, there are some nuggets in there.

We can’t escape that the World Cup is looming and as part of that frenzy, the IAB and OnDevice Research have created a rather lovely piece of work looking at the global mobile perspective of the World Cup 2014. If you are doing anything in sport and mobile, or your customers are, this is worth a look.

This week’s Mobile Fix from Addictive! is a cracker as usual. Well worth a read.

The New York Times innovation report is still on my reading list. Hopefully I’ll get round to this one at the weekend too.

Mary Meeker’s annual slidedeck of key internet trends is out. Essential viewing for anyone with even a vague interest in digital and mobile technology. Plenty ammunition in this deck to convince your boss to go mobile sooner rather than later.

And now for something completely different… LJ Rich, who some of you may know from BBC Click, has written up about what it’s really like to live with perfect pitch. It’s totally fascinating. ‘For me, a laugh is almost always in a major key – crying is almost always in a minor key, regardless of language’ and other gems. A must read.

What I’m up to next week…

It’s a busy time at the moment, what with consulting projects, speaking gigs (including a recent trip to keynote a conference in Norway) and plotting my own events. And next week is particularly busy. If you’re in Manchester or London, you may want to join me.

momomcr logoMonday 9 June – Mobile Monday Manchester demo night. I’m chairing the event and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the different companies have to offer. It should be a good night and I’ll report back on proceedings next week. Tickets have sold out, but if you’d like to come, drop me a line and I’ll see if I can get you in. Or contact the lovely Sabine directly (she’s in charge you see!). If you’re in Manchester and fancy a catch up before demo night, I have some time on Monday afternoon for a coffee. Get in touch if you’d like to meet.

the europas 2014Tuesday 10 June – The Europas! Mike Butcher and his team have put together an unconference by day and an awards ceremony by night. There are just a few tickets left if you’d like to come by. I believe there are some open mic spots as well as different sessions to delve into during the day. I’m interested to see what the conversation is around mobile.

Vogue-magazine-British-iPhoneWednesday 11 June – Responsive advertising briefing with Brand Perfect and Elizabeth Line of the Studio, Condé Nast, New York. It should be a really interesting discussion over lunch getting some insight into how Condé Nast operates in our new digital world. Tickets are £30 or free if you’re a member of the Brand Perfect community (it’s free to join). Details here.

what's next lbiThursday 12 June – What’s next in mobile? is on at DigitasLBi and I’m doing a session with Rafe Blandford, Ilicco Elia and Sergio Falletti talking about apps vs. web amongst other things. It starts at midday and goes on for the whole afternoon with a variety of sessions covering pretty much all aspects of mobile as it pertains to brands. It’s also free to attend but space is limited. Message me if you’d like to come or get in touch with Julia Conroy at DigitasLBi to request a place.

And then on Friday, it’s back to my desk and catching up on a week’s worth of emails and the like….

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

12 Reasons to love Wychwood Festival

wychwood_festival_js_140214I was lucky enough to be able to attend Wychwood Festival for the third time at the weekend. It was their tenth birthday to boot. Due to commitments at #Regenttweet, I was only able to go for the last day but it was a great day and I still got to camp and do all the things I wanted to do. Plus I got up close and personal for Sunday’s headline act, The Boomtown Rats, which was one of my main reasons for going. I last saw them a very long time ago and although Johnny Fingers is now enjoying life in Tokyo, the rest of the band were definitely up to the mark and Sir Bob was on top form.

But that’s not the only reason to love Wychwood Festival. If you’ve never been to a festival or not sure about the whole camping at a festival lark, let me reassure you that Wychwood is a great place to start, especially if you have children. It truly is one of the best festivals in the UK for children as my friend Jane has written about over on her blog.

Let me give you 10 more reasons to love Wychwood Festival

1. Clean toilets. No really. They were kept really clean, fully stocked with toilet roll – even on Monday morning as we were leaving, and they had plenty of flushing toilets too if you were so inclined. Seriously the best festival toilet experience ever.

2. It’s a manageable size. You can pretty much see where everything is, you’re not far from the car park, the stages are just a few minutes from each other so there’s no tramping for an hour in mud between stages to see your favourite bands. It also means it’s a quick nip back to the tent or Happy Camper, in my case, to pick up a sweater for the evening or drop off purchases made at one of the many stalls.

3. Free lock-ups. They have these at Glastonbury Festival and I volunteered for them there one year. They’re great. You can leave whatever you like there – whether that’s money you don’t want hanging around your tent, spare phone, your bike, your rucksack – seriously, you can leave anything there. They’re open 24 hours a day so you can drop off and pick up at any time and all they ask you for is a donation to charity. £2 is probably about right. No more worrying about leaving your valuables in your tent or your car.

4. It’s the easiest camping ever. Also accessible if you’re in a wheelchair. There’s lots of space for starters so you’re not sharing tent nylon with your neighbour and you can really make it home for the weekend. Not only that, as the festival is on a racecourse, there are concrete paths everywhere so even if it has been raining, you don’t get the levels of mud that you get at other festivals. I even brought my suitcase and could roll it along the paths rather than lug my backpack out of mothballs for the night. I also spotted a fair few people in wheelchairs. As the terrain is so flat and there are lots of paths, it makes it that much easier if you’re in a wheelchair. Brilliant all round!

5. Arts and crafts – there’s stuff to do for grown ups as well as kiddiwinkles. I made myself some enamel earrings, joined a drumming workshop, and if I’d been there the whole weekend, I would also have done some yoga, ukulele playing and maybe even some wood-carving and had a massage afterwards to boot. As it was, there’s only so much you can fit into one sunny afternoon in Cheltenham.

6. Hot showers – this isn’t such a big deal for me at a festival. Why queue when you could be doing something else so a combo of a folding washing up bowl and a ton of wet wipes is how I usually manage. But it is nice to be able to have a hot shower to revive yourself. And if you pick a time that isn’t 9am in the morning, the chances are you won’t have to queue at all.

7. Excellent range of food – and it’s well priced too. Whether you want festival favourites like Pura Vida (Tex Mex), Asian, Lebanese, pizza, chips, crepes or a bacon butty, it’s all there and it’s all very well priced.

8. Beer – for those reading this who like proper beer, then you’ll be delighted with Wychwood Brewery and their Hobgoblin Beer Festival at Wychwood. They had all kinds of beer, pale ales and bitters on offer so for beer fans, it’s really rather good.

9. Superspa DJ Festival Hot Tubs – I wish I’d known in advance they would be there (I’d have brought a swimming costume) and I wish I’d had more time so I could participate. Basically, there was a big chillout tent of hot-tubs with DJs, bean bags for relaxing, a stint in the hot tub, with a drink in hand, and a hot shower afterwards. Nice one!

10. The music – There’s a really good mix of music genres and a great mix of old-timers and new-comers. Despite its relatively small size, there are several music stages, each with a full line-up across the three days. That means there’s plenty to choose from. Here’s my best shot of Bob Geldof.

IMG_20140601_212543607

11. The comedy – when the music is finished in the Hobgoblin Bar, it reverts to a comedy venue and it’s brilliant. It’s always a blast and to be highly recommended.

12. Bonus for the mobilists amongst you. Mobile payments were spotted in the wild. I spied one of the stalls advertising that they used iZettle

. IMG_20140601_161938100

And you could also donate to the lovely people at charity Toybox via SMS text:

Text ‘STREET WEB’ to 70555 to donate £3.
Text Costs £3.00 plus network charge. Obtain bill payers permission.

And what an interesting charity they are – I had no idea that not having a birth certificate could cause so many problems in countries like Brazil.

So if you fancy going to a festival next summer, then I can highly recommend Wychwood. They’ve even set up a special price for ticket sales for next year and you can pay in instalments. It’s currently £99 for an adult weekend ticket including camping and there’s a 2 for 1 offer for disabled visitors – details here. Not only that, you can spread your payments and never pay more than this year’s ticket price with the innovative Ticket for Life scheme.  Pay 25% deposit and then 9 monthly payments by direct debit. What a great idea.

So well done Wychwood. Another great festival under your belt and looking forward to 2015.

p.s. could we have some more female artists please? Thanks ever so.


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Creativity, collaboration and chickens

I went to an interesting talk last night, Creativity and Collaboration, at The Purcell Room in London. It was a discussion, demonstration and performance on the power of collaboration with writer Margaret Heffernan, surgeon Roger Kneebone (what a brilliant name for a surgeon!) and musicians Joanna MacGregor and Andy Sheppard.

Our culture is fixated on winning – whether that’s TV shows turning hobbies into competitive sports (think baking, allotments and dressmaking) or corporate organisations who routinely measure performance to weed out the weakest and focus attention on the strongest or ‘Hi-Per’ as in ‘High Performance’.

During the discussion, each panellist shared their ideas about the value of collaborative working – essentially the antithesis of our current culture of winning – whether that’s a surgeon in the operating theatre, an entrepreneur putting a team together or musicians playing and improvising. The best performing collaborations worked in such a way that mutual understanding becomes instinctive and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Tacit knowledge of each other, built through years of trust, respect, conflict and osmosis, seems to be the key to successful collaborations. But why collaborate at all?

Margaret Heffernan, author of A Bigger Prize: Why Competition isn’t Everything and How We Do Better, explained how competition is actually destructive by relaying the story of an experiment with chickens.

Happy Hens in a FieldWhile studying natural selection, William Muir, a geneticist at Purdue University, ran an experiment measuring the egg-laying productivity of two flocks of chickens. The first group was a free flock, the birds could roam and mingle as they pleased, while the second comprised only the most productive birds who were specially picked for their ability as the best egg-layers. The two flocks of birds were then left alone to their own devices for a few generations. When they looked at the birds again, the free flock birds were laying eggs at a furious pace and were healthy. But for the descendants of the ‘high achievers’, it was a different story. Most had been killed by hens that saw them as rivals, and the few survivors were in a sorry state, harrying and pecking at one another unforgivingly.

Does this sound like your workplace? Margaret alluded to the fact that it does sound like many workplaces. I hope it doesn’t sound like yours, but I fear for many that coming top, being the best, is at great expense both to one’s own health and the health of those around you and the health of the business you’re working in. We talk about pecking order, being hen-pecked, being a chicken (i.e. a wimp), headless chicken, chickens coming home to roost, to chicken out. I’m sure there are more. Maybe there’s something in this…? It certainly resonated with the audience as there were gasps as Margaret relayed the story.

I didn’t take notes during the session (perhaps I should have done), but I came away with some thoughts…

Competition isn’t the be-all and end-all. Collaboration is a much more successful, if more problematic and difficult strategy. Egos get in the way. The chemistry might not be right. Timing might be out of kilter. Life throws a curve ball at you. There are lots of reasons why collaborations fail but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

I’ve always enjoyed collaborative work. Perhaps that’s why I still remember my years at Swan Youth Theatre so fondly – we joined together with a common goal, we had limited resources, but found a way to make a production happen, we fought and we argued, we got tired and fraught, but we helped and supported each other, we learned new things and we had a great time doing it. The majority of my early work experience was in stark contrast to this and was much more dog eat dog and much of it was very unpleasant as a result. And pretty much all my schooling from the age of 9 upwards was about ranking in class and being in the top stream. I’m not sure what good it did any of us. I’m quite sure I learned much more during my time at youth theatre.

The panel were also supportive of failure. Our culture hasn’t given much credence to failure, yet we learn most from our failures. All the panellists reiterated that failures (things not going as expected, bum notes, things not going to plan) gave them more agility to deal with change and difficulties in the future. It strengthened the bond of the collaboration in many instances. Margaret explained that failures should be more than tolerated and that we need to learn from them. She said the only failure that she would reject in the workplace is repetition of the same mistake which shows a lack of attention.

The other key thought I had coming away from the talk was about the length of time needed to forge strong working relationships in teams – whether those teams work together from time to time or more frequently. A lot of time needs to be spent in each others’ company in order to build up the trust, respect and knowledge of each other in order to work well together. You have to find ways to overcome conflict too and in doing all of that, you’ll be able to work in harmony – the kind of harmony Roger Kneebone described when sharing a story about the surgical team who had worked for decades together. He brought the team back together for a surgical simulation to try to get to the bottom of how surgical teams work. The simulation was filmed and when you slowed the film right down to see the interaction between the nurse and the surgeon, you could see that the nurse actually passed the instrument to the surgeon before he actually asked for it. That’s tacit knowledge at play. And takes years of practice.

Yet in our current work culture, it’s very common for employees to change jobs every year or two. Research in the US suggests that the average number of jobs an individual will have between the ages of 18 and 44 is 11. That’s a lot of job changes. And that means that these strong working relationships don’t have time to be fostered. Very often when I work with a client from a large company, I’ll know more people at that company than they do. People simply don’t have the time or don’t take the time to get to know their work neighbours. I wonder what we’re missing out on because we’re not forging strong enough connections with each other?

I’ll be adding Margaret’s book to my reading list.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Plus ça change…

change next exit croppedI’m lucky to be born with a curious mind and to have plenty of opportunity to exercise that curiosity as part and parcel of the consultancy work I do. And because of that curiosity, I tend to notice more of the new stuff and because of my experience over 25 years in sectors ranging from retail, the arts, construction, public transport, media, advertising and mobile, I can put some of this into context for my clients when it comes to working with them on their mobile strategies and planning.

Last week, I was thinking about insurance and financial services and mobile. This week, I’m back at one of my regular stomping grounds of news media and mobile.

Both sectors are rooted in their ways of doing things. Neither has adapted that well to the digital world. Both sectors are aware that change is happening, but neither seem to be aware as to how fast that actually is (hint – it’s faster than any of us can imagine). Neither sector are clued up about technology beyond what they already know and use – in insurance and backing there are legacy systems from the early days of computing and in newspapers, it’s about print production and the technologies around that. And neither sector consider technology to be core of what they do. Maybe they’re right, but my hunch is that that may be holding them back as they’re not able to attract the right people to their organisations.

Interestingly, both sectors now seem to be embracing some developer culture in organising hackathons, opening up APIs for those hackathons and wanting to engage more with the start-up and tech community. It’s tricky though. When you’re not used to sharing, when you’re not used to open dialogue with external parties and telling them what’s actually going on rather than what you want them to know, it’s difficult to start doing that now. And there are so many hackathons going on in London right now, it may well be too late to join that bandwagon and a new format or approach may be required. Nevertheless, I’m pleased to be seeing collaboration activities happening.

I’ll be honest. I was disappointed last week at the FinTech event I attended last week. Nothing wrong with the event per se, but I didn’t see anything new or exciting or noteworthy. The discussions were sensible in many respects and the Aviva CIO was very interesting to listen to. But there was no leadership or real vision for what the future holds in how our daily lives are changing, especially in relation to the internet of things, big data, privacy and therefore what that might mean for the future of insurance or banking for those people.

The global media industry fares a little better although there are glimpses of hope from the UK. Yesterday, I heard some very interesting case studies from Hearst and how it’s tackling new digital properties and how The Times is moving from having readers to having members. And today, the FT.com’s story, as ever, is a strong one when it comes to digital leadership and actually trying new things (car interfaces, smart TV apps) and having its eye on what’s coming next. The majority of media owners I talk to outside the UK are still very wary of making these leaps of faith as they’re not sure what the next thing might be. Most media owners think their competition is other media owners. I imagine it’s not – look at the rise of The Young Turks, Bleacher Report and Jamal Edwards’ SB:TV empire. Bedroom media moguls all of them. No-one saw them coming (except maybe Google, Twitter and Facebook).

Well, I’d love to be able to tell you what that is. I don’t know what it is. I think it would be fair to say that no-one really does. Not even FT.com, The Times, Hearst et al. None of us are fortune-tellers. All those companies are openly experimenting, investing in systems, people and processes that are adaptable to change. Another thing they all have in common is really understanding their customers – bringing the experience back to humans – what we want, how we use our devices, when we use them, the content we want to read, the content we enjoy and share the most – that data driven insight then drives the thinking behind new products, services and revenue streams.

Ultimately, what needs to happen is culture change. Getting the right technology system or platform in won’t save your business. Rethinking your business in relation to the digital age just might. Will we still need car insurance with driverless cars? And what does the future of news look like? It certainly doesn’t look like a printed newspaper.

I’m going to leave you with some quotes that have kept popping up on my radar in the last few days:

Jack Welch — 'If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.'

John Kotter – ‘The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon’

and finally

Karen Lamb – ‘A year from now, you may wish you’d started today’

I don’t need to give you more stats on how mobile is eating the world or the exponential growth of mobile media and advertising. You can use a familiar search engine to find that out. Hey they even have a whole section dedicated to telling about that with Our Mobile Planet. What I would urge you to do is to do *something*.It may not be the right thing and it won’t be the last thing you do either. Don’t be afraid to experiment, to fail, to learn and to start again. Don’t be left behind though. Create a future you, your family, your friends and your customers will want to be part of.