Friday, January 25, 2013

Thought for the day

I was having a sort out of a box of cards the other day and I found this one that a friend had sent me. It’s such a beautiful photo and a pertinent quote that I thought it worth sharing.

big heart_0001

If you’re reading this on a device that doesn’t show pictures or you’re unable to see very well and are using a screen reader, it’s an image of an alley way, or ginnel (as you’d say up North), lit at ground level by many very bright lamps which illuminate the whole path.

The quote on the card is from Ben Sweetland, an American author, and says: ‘We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own’.

Have a happy weekend.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Key trends for 2013

Service design consultancy, Fjord, has presented its annual trends prediction. It’s in a lovely slideshare format (see below) with some thoughts on the rationale, impact and what you can do about each trend. Some of the trends resonate more with me than others. And for those who are reading this on a mobile device and, perhaps, cannot access the slideshare content, here are the key trends.

1. People are ruining everything… for traditional business. This is a big one! The technology users are doing it for themselves when it comes to crowdfunding, content creation and more. And it has never been easier. There’s no point fighting this one either. Embrace or die.

2. I belong to me. The personal data battlefield. Ah yes, the ‘Big Data’ chestnut coupled with users growing understanding of what it means to them personally, and how some of them raging against the big data machine and are demanding control of their own information.

3. Dawn of the personal ecosystem. Connected objects start to take their place right by your side. The internet of things becomes a reality. Access to data means we can make decisions about our house, our shopping, our health and more from the comfort of the palm of our hands. This creates what Fjord calls the ‘personal ecosystem’. No question, items like fitbit and Nike’s fuelband have been a runaway success and we’ll see many more of these kinds of gizmos being used in day to day life. We’ll definitely see more of these in the coming months and years.

4. Keep it simple stupid. Good old-fashioned KISS principles make a comeback. I’m wondering if this is just wishful thinking on Fjord’s part or not? I agree, they’re great principles to stand by and I wish more businesses and developers would use them but I fear humans are not always that smart! We’ll see.

5. Revolution in Retail. The online/offline distinction disappears. We are right in the heart of the retail revolution right now. If retail doesn’t change, our High Street will continue to die. Traditional retailers have been far too slow to adapt and understand the changing customer needs. Pop-up stores, virtual stores, payments on the move – they’re all here.( At the same time, I don’t want to see the High Street die and for retail to become solely a warehouse distribution business. I hope that we see some innovation this year to make the hybrid sustainable and to find new ways of invigorating the High Street. Says the former shop assistant, so I may have some personal bias here!)

6. Access is the new ownership. What does it mean to own something in the digital age? This is a really interesting area. We’ve seen the rise of rentals and subscriptions from cars to holiday homes to music to books and more. How many subscriptions can one person manage? And what happens if you have no money and lose access to everything? Where are the swapping platforms, the digital versions of our libraries? And what else will we see going to this model? I still haven’t manage to get rid of my books, CDs, vinyl, videos or DVDs. And I could certainly use the space, but the online services aren’t quite there yet that meet my personal needs in those departments. It’s only a matter of time though.

7. Learning gets personal. How being online is transforming the way people learn. This is very exciting. And game changing. What will the future of learning look like? What will a text book become? Will we need to remember things in the same way? Does this change our attention spans for the better or worse? What about accessibility for those with visual, hearing or other impairments? We’ll be looking at this in one of the Heroes of the Mobile Fringe sessions next month.

8. You talking to me? Exploring new challenges in human-machine communication. Ah, yes. Voice. What do we do with that? How many times have I found myself typing furiously on Skype or email or Facebook to an individual when it would have been a whole lot quicker and easier to talk? I’ve just gotten out of the habit and am now forcing myself back into it because, it’s, you know, productive! I still can’t see myself talking to my phone or laptop, but hey, I never thought I’d be working in the mobile industry so anything can happen. I’m interested to see what innovations happen in this area and what it takes to succeed.

9. The mobile gap. Business plays catch-up with adoption. Fjord says it so much better than I can. ‘The speed of movement to mobile has amazed everyone. But it has not been matched by the speed with which most organisations are able to monetize it.’ There’s nothing I can really add to that although Fjord does have some good tips of starting points and things to think about in the slideshare below.

10. Think like a start-up… and act like one too. Wow. That demands massive change for most big companies. One that they’re probably able to embrace in concept only rather than actual delivery. We’re talking culture change here and that’s hard to do. It’s worth thinking about though and anything that brings down barriers in companies and aids collaboration, serendipity and innovation, I’m all for and I would definitely encourage. Not everyone is ready to be in a start-up though so you may lose people along the way…

Thanks for the food for thought, Fjord. What do you think?

None of us are getting any younger

Which means that us younger ones have a duty to create the digital future we want for ourselves. As we get older, our faculties inevitably decline. I have already noticed my hearing and my eyesight isn’t as good as it was and I still consider myself young. It’s just a fact of life. No-one else is going to create this future for us, or if they do, we may not like it, so we have to get on with it ourselves. And there hasn’t been a better time to do this. The barriers to entry haven’t been lower, access to technology is easier, we all have smartphones or tablets or both and they’re getting cheaper, and now, organisations like IC Tomorrow is helping fund the prototyping of some new ideas too.

They recently held a call for entries for their Digital Inclusion Innovation Contest in three specific areas – Sensory Assistance, inclusive media and accessible internet of things. The finalists have been chosen and they’ll be presenting at the final to be held on Thursday 7th February in London. Tickets are free and can be booked here. The contest is in collaboration with the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) and the National Licensing Agency (NLA), University of York and Scope

The following companies will be presenting at the event:

Sensory Assistance – using smart phones to assist older people and people with sensory disabilities. Partner: University of York

· Georgie Last 10 Yards by CIC

· Mobile-phone assisted navigation for visually impaired people by Spiral Scratch

· Tribble Doorbell Alerts by Novoda (video entry below)

Inclusive Media – creating a new digital reader and search tool for newspapers and magazines. Partners: RNIB & NLA

· Matopy, the app that makes newspapers and magazines truly interactive by Matopy

· Georgie Bookreader by CIC

· NewsReader by Assistive Solutions

Accessible Internet of Things – enhancing physical home functions for disabled people. Partner: Scope

· The Smart Hub by Therapy Box

· StarInterface by National Star Foundation and College

· Assisted Independent Daily Able Platform (AIDAapps) by BioDigital Health

In addition to the £48,000 of funding the winner in each category receives, each successful participant will also retain their intellectual property and receive:

· Further exposure to a range of leading sector partners

· The opportunity to test their proposed application with leading sector partners

· The opportunity to promote their prototype solution via the IC tomorrow programme

I know I’m a bit biased here as I know some of the companies presenting. I do have my fingers crossed for Georgie and Tribble.

I’m planning to go to the event. It’s free to attend but there will be limited places so if you want to come, you’d better get your ticket booked.

Oh, and if you can find the video entries from any of the companies listed above, please add it in the comments. Thanks!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Road to Mobile World Congress 2013

mwc2013Goodness me, time doesn’t half go quickly! Thoughts are rapidly turning to what’s going to be happening in Barcelona next month and the annual shindig that is Mobile World Congress. There are a few changes to this year’s event so I thought I’d update you with what I know.
It’s bigger. Quite a lot bigger. They welcomed 67,000 visitors last year and they’re expecting that figure to go up again. It will still cover a huge variety of sectors and covers everything to do with mobile from the boxes that drive mobile telcos to the deeply technical sessions geared at mobile developers to mobile marketing and advertising to the new handsets and tablets to the start-up and entrepreneurial community and everything in between. There is a well-attended conference too but that’s really expensive to attend unless you’re speaking. And with so much going on in the exhibition halls and the fringe events in town, you won’t be able to fit everything in. The theme for this year is the ‘New Mobile Horizon’ (I’m not sure what that actually means, mind).

The event is in a new venue. Yes, that’s right. They’ve moved it up the road to an industrial zone nearer the airport. That means it’s quite a lot bigger and there’s more room for the conference so they can fit more people in. There will also be more space for exhibitors, more networking space and more food outlets onsite. The latter two are essential since there’s nothing nearby at all – not a tapas bar in sight. The nearest places you can go to enjoy off-site hospitality are the very fancy-schmancy high-rise hotels (and their prices to match), Ikea (so you can always get meatballs and a flat-pack cupboard) or a local shopping mall. That’s it. I’ve walked the whole way around the site and that’s all I could find. I took a few snaps as I walked around (see below or take a look on flickr).

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

You’ll need to allow extra time to travel to the new site as well. Your options will be a taxi, a free shuttle bus between the old site and the new one or the train. I don’t think the new Metro route will be up and running in time for this year’s show. Please do leave a comment if that’s changed. You can get an overground train at Placa Espanya. All the overground trains actually start underground and they all go through the station, Europa, which is the stop for Fira Gran Via. Then it’s a 10 minute walk to the venue. I’m not sure how often the trains run, but I think it’s probably every 10 minutes or so. So with having to change trains, navigate Placa Espanya station, get on the train and walk to the new site, it’s going to be a good half an hour at busy times. So you need to allow for that.

Rather disappointingly, once you get there, there is no historical palace for a backdrop, no gorgeous fountains and no view of the city. In fact, there’s nothing there to identify the location as Barcelona save for the odd street sign in Catalan. To get your dose of Barcelona culture, you’ll need to head back into the city as you won’t find it at Fira Gran Via. But don’t worry, I’ll be running the Heroes of the Mobile Fringe festival again and all the events will be in the city so you’ll be able to learn, network and enjoy some Catalan atmosphere there.

And as happens every year, I’m asked the same question, ‘how do I get a ticket?’. Read on for hints and tips on how to secure your free exhibition ticket. The emails have started, so I’ve updated my top tips for you. And just to be clear, I don’t have a secret stash of tickets! I don’t even have one myself yet.

Buy a ticket. A ticket that gives you access to the exhibition is 699 Euros. The price is the same as last year so that’s some consolation. Yes, I know it’s not free but thought I’d better get this one out of the way. Not such a big deal for a senior exec at a large corporate maybe, but certainly a big deal for us lesser mortals who have to watch our budgets more closely. Conference tickets are even more expensive. The good news is that with an expo pass, there are still plenty of sessions you can attend and plenty of things to do do and see.

Buy a reduced price ticket. This one is aimed at SMEs. If you sign up to the B2B Matchmaking service, they put on a speed networking service where you can meet a lot of people in a relatively short space of time. The meetings are all held on site and for the Euro 310 registration fee, that includes your exhibition ticket. So you get some meetings and you get to access the exhibition. Not a bad deal. More info on their 'how it works' page.

Apply to attend one of the App Planet days. This is where the bulk of the tickets get allocated within the developer community. Several App Planet days are scheduled and each host will have an allocation of tickets to give away to ensure attendance at their developer sessions. I know that most of the WIPJam passes have now been allocated, but the others have not yet been allocated. So press the big button on this page to ‘indicate your interest in attending Featured Programme Sessions’. These tickets should be allocated over the next three weeks or so. If you’re allocated a ticket, you’ll get a reference number and a URL and you have to go and claim your ticket. If you don’t claim in good time, your code will be allocated to someone else. So if you do get a code – use it or lose it. At the time of writing, you can apply via Nokia, the Car Connectivity Consortium, Plantronics, Samsung and WIP.

Apply to attend one of the MPowered Theatre days. This is a relatively new stream for Mobile World Congress and is geared towards brands, media owners and the agencies who look after them. Nielson and InternetQ are confirmed partners for this, with more partners tbc. Here’s more information about those sessions and you can click the big button to register your interest for them.

Get a press pass. If you have an audience or community in the 1000s, then you may qualify for a press pass. Details of how to do that are here. I have never done this so do not know what’s involved or how hard it is to get a press pass. If you do have experience of this, then please share it in the comments.

Make friends with colleagues and contacts who are exhibiting. Each exhibitor gets an allocation of exhibition passes to distribute at their discretion. This includes stands organised by trade bodies representing countries and regions. Ask, and maybe you shall receive. This one is going to be down to your existing relationships and networking skills. So check the MWC website and see who is exhibiting who you can ask. They’re expecting 1500 exhibitors this year. The site may take a little time to load for you to be able to search.

Keep an eye out on social networks. Every now and then, tickets become available and get allocated through social networks (twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and/or through various mobile and developer communities such as Mobile Monday chapters globally or local developer user groups. These are either competitions (sign up to our newsletter, add your app to our app-store) or they’re fairly last minute and get allocated very quickly, so you need to be quick off the mark. The twitter hashtag for Mobile World Congress this year is #mwc13 or #mwc2013. Current competitions to win a pass include Appsfuel and InMobi.

So that’s how to score a ticket. Last year, I ran a competition to win free expo passes, but at the time of writing, I have no plans to run a competition. Obviously, if that changes, you’ll hear about it!

So what about the networking? How do I make the most of it?

Good questions.

Congress is huge and quickly  becomes overwhelming. With 1500 exhibitors, after the first hour, every stand seems to look the same and they all merge into one. At least, that’s how it feels to me. Everyone seems to be your ‘best mobile partner’ or ‘best mobile solution’ or carrier grade technology’. Not terribly helpful when you’re trying to navigate around eight very large halls. Equally, everyone is in town and it’s the ideal opportunity to network, to build on existing relationships, to discover new things and to make things happen. However, you have to put the legwork in. So this is what I recommend…

1. Shameless plug alert! There will be a wide selection of events, meet-ups and things to do, see and get involved in at the Heroes of the Mobile Fringe Festival. Background to last year’s festival is here and I’ll start to list events later this week over at Most events will be free to attend.

Heroes has moved on somewhat from last year’s festival. Although the festival will be similar in flavour to last year, we’re also running events throughout the year in other cities. Next month in Barcelona, we’ll be covering a wide range of topics from start-ups to security to finance to emerging markets to mobile marketing and lots more besides. And there’ll be a whole bunch of parties to attend too. So allow yourself some time to attend some of these sessions as you will most definitely meet people there.

2. Create your own event. That’s what the fringe festival is for. Create an opportunity for like-minded people to get together, whether that’s a round-table discussion, a panel session, a lunch or dinner, or something else, then go for it. You can promote the event yourself and we can promote it on the fringe festival site too. Please get in touch. I’m very happy to discuss.
Please note, the Heroes of the Mobile Fringe Festival is not associated with or endorsed by the GSMA or MWC in any way. I just want to make that clear. Also, all our events will be in the city centre. We will not be including anything at Fira Gran Via this year.
3. Schedule meetings in with people you *can’t* see easily at home. There’s no point having a meeting with someone who is in an office down the road from you. You can do that any time the rest of the year. Make your meetings brief and to the point and at sensible times. If you’re partying into the wee hours (and some of the best networking happens then), then a 8am breakfast meeting may not be appropriate. Also allow time to get to and from meetings. At peak times of day, and the main drag is very crowded, it can take a good 20 minutes or more to get from the front entrance of La Fira to App Planet (assuming you know where you’re going). And with the new venue being even bigger, it could take even longer. Plus you won’t know the layout until you get there.

4. Be clear on who it is you want to meet there  and why so that when you’re at a networking event, you can say that. The person you end up talking to may not be the right person, but they may know someone who is if they know who and what you’re looking for. Hone that elevator pitch.

5. Attend the parties. To some people, these will seem like jollies and just an excuse to get drunk as a skunk. And true enough, there is an element of that. However, the mobile industry is very sociable and the parties and meet-ups are where I have always met the most interesting people. You need to allow for serendipity at large shindigs like MWC. Hint, Swedish Beers will be on the Wednesday night as usual.

For more tips on networking at tech events, you could do worse than check out Kevin McDonagh’s post on how to attend a conference.

Let’s not forget personal safety.

My last bit of advice is about safety. Barcelona is still notorious for theft. I’ve written about this before. Please be street smart and heed the warnings. It can happen to anyone. And it is an all too frequent occurrence. There are 60,000+ gadget-geek execs in town with pockets stuffed full of devices. It’s like bees to a honeypot where thieves are concerned. Consider yourself warned.

And where to stay.

I always stay in an apartment. I’ve never stayed in a hotel the week of MWC so have no pointers there.
Please feel free to add your own top tips in the comments.

Last year’s Road to Mobile World Congress post can be found here. The comments are worth a look for more advice.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Is wearable tech the new black?

The World According to Tim Green: Christ no, it's wearable tech If you’re at all into technology and have been following CES at all, it won’t have escaped you that wearable tech is hot news. Tim Green has written a hilarious post about it and why wearable tech has no future. It’s well worth a read.
I think what we’re seeing right now in terms of wearable tech is pretty crude. The AR glasses, the wristbands and watches and whatever else is being touted is only in an early iteration. In 10 year’s time, these things will look very different and I suspect, that by then, things will be very different in terms of what’s acceptable or not.
Having done some work in accessibility, I’ve seen some great uses of wearable tech to help people with disabilities. Make them ubiquitous enough, like the cordless kettle, and they’ll cross over to the mainstream. I think that’s the way round it is likely to work as there are very tangible benefits to a fully blind person being able to ‘see’ with AR glasses such as the one’s described in this news video.
As for being the new black for Spring 2013, I’m guessing no. And I think it will be some time before Anna Wintour decides to include this stuff in Vogue.

Have E-Readers Peaked?

I’ve been pondering about getting an e-reader. A dedicated one since I’m so easily distracted by my phone, laptop and tablet. It’s just too easy to switch to chatting on Skype or seeing what my friends are up to on Facebook or Twitter. I also feel I don’t read enough. It’s not for want of books. I have absolutely loads of them! I think I’ve bought them in the hope that you can read by osmosis by them simply sitting on your bookshelves for long enough. I fear that doesn’t actually work…
So I polled my smart friends on Facebook and asked for their recommendations. I wondered if there were viable alternatives to the Kindle. And if not, which Kindle anyway as there are several to choose from? Well, opinions were divided. There was much love for various versions of the Kindle but there were votes for the Nook and Kobo, and also for iPad and iPad mini (although, that wouldn’t work for me and how easily I get distracted). There was even a vote for the iPhone and, from a digital enthusiast, for old-fashioned paper books. I’m as confused as I was before I asked the question. With all the books on my shelves, it’s arguable as to whether I need an e-reader at all since I have several years worth of reading just a few feet from where I’m sitting right now. Hmm.
It raised some interesting questions about the future of e-readers and then I came across this article from MIT Technology Review which suggests that Amazon may well have undermined the e-reader market it created. It looks like sales of e-readers are falling in favour of general purpose tablets.

Of course, these are analyst predictions rather than actual figures for 2012 and 2013 so, we don’t actually know yet. And anecdotally, I see a lot of e-readers on the London Underground every day. And a lot of my friends are enthusiasts judging by their comments.
You may be thinking why this matters anyway? Well, as the author of the MIT article says, it matters because the future of book publishing will be influenced by what devices we use for reading. I’m convinced my reading overall is much higher because I’m online most of the time, but I am most certainly reading fewer books, magazines and newspapers as my time is taken up skimming twitter timelines, glancing at blog posts and reading the first couple of paragraphs of something and then moving on. My attention span is not like it used to be. And if I want to read anything longer than a few paragraphs and really take it in, I have to print it off and read it offline.
Even if dedicated readers become a niche hardware product, e-reading services like Amazon’s Kindle ecosystem most definitely will not be niche. Book stores are already in trouble on the High Street. It’s very hard to compete with what Amazon can offer online, even without the Kindle. But being able to pick up a book on one device, leave it and pick up the book again on another device, exactly where you left off, is almost magical and a very powerful reason for using.
So, will I be treating myself to an e-reader? Not just yet. I’m going to try and work through a few of the books on my bookshelves first.

Mobile Web Best Practices–Free Resource

Mobile Web Best Practices is a great resource that helps you work out strategy, user experience, visual design and development by asking the right questions and pointing you to useful resources to aid your thinking. Well worth a look.

Hat tip to Cyberdees for sharing.


Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Accessibility doesn’t have to be boring

Back in 2011 when I was working on the Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards, I didn’t have a clue about the world of accessible mobile applications. And I’m not sure that many other people had a clue either beyond a small group of enthusiasts. Much of the services I came across were ugly and institutionalised. The devices looked medical and screamed out ‘I’m disabled and helpless’. And I haven’t met anyone yet who wanted to be labelled in such a way. Not only that, but I discovered that some of our favourite household appliances, such as the cordless kettle, were first designed with disabled access in mind. That means that accessible design can appeal to and be useful to everyone.

I’m pleased to see that, a year or so on, things have improved somewhat from my first foray into the sector. Today, I stumbled across a couple of entries to this year’s Innovate UK’s digital inclusion contest and I really liked both of them so I’m sharing them with you.

First up is Novoda’s Tribble. It’s a prototype for a doorbell connected to your smartphone. Initially aimed at people with hearing impairments, but it’s clear from the concept that it’s useful for anyone and in other situations. Have a watch of the video (with subtitles).


Next up is Acuity Design’s concept for PaperRound. This is a news navigation system for those with visual impairments. Again, it’s a neat idea and one that isn’t restricted to those with visual impairments. Other people would find it useful too. The concept and design is explained in some detail in this blog post. If you’ve ever tried to use the internet the way a blind person has to, you’d find it pretty demoralising. PaperRound is one way to make the experience much more enjoyable.

Both these examples show that accessibility doesn’t have to be boring and it doesn’t have to scream out at you ‘I’m disabled and needy’. Best of luck to both companies in the contest. I’ll be keeping an eye out for other entries and to see who wins funding.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Three simple actions to redress the balance

That old chestnut

I’m going to keep this one brief. I’m bored of writing about this old chestnut. I expect you’re bored of reading about it, but the whole issue of the lack of representation of women at tech conferences has reared its ugly head again. I guess I’m partly responsible so that’s one of the reasons for writing about it, yet again.

I happened to mention on my Facebook page that I liked the look of the upcoming Edge conference but was disappointed to see no female speakers listed at all at the time of posting. Not an unreasonable comment – especially given my history in talking about the subject for many years and being a seasoned event organiser. That generated some debate, some interesting links and some feedback and comments from friends and friends of friends. You can read it here 

Following being name-checked in a few tweets, I read a stern criticism of the Edge Conference speaker line-up here where the (male) writer considers it inexcusable that there are no female speakers listed and the unwillingness of the producer to comment on the process. I think the term ‘inexcusable’ is strong. I doubt it was deliberate, but getting more women involved just wasn’t a priority for the organiser. It usually isn’t. In fact, they’ve often not thought about it at all. That’s part of the problem.

Meanwhile, I’m reminded that CES is happening in Las Vegas and I watch this telling video from the BBC on the topic of scantily clad booth babes from the 2012 event and ponder if anything much will have changed. I feel it’s unlikely and shared my thoughts here. And it seems from this year’s Voco campaign to drive traffic to its stand, nothing much has changed at all. You can read about the campaign to boycott Voco here. Their campaign just makes me feel queasy.

I also read about The Atlantic’s idea about boycotting all male panels ‘Men: You can fix this. Refuse to participate unless there are women on stage with you.’ And a friend points me to this useful infographic explaining how women contribute to the entrepreneurial scene.

And finally, I stumble across this blog post and words fail me.

So why am I bothered about all of this?

Technology is a huge part of all of our futures and I want to make sure that female voices are heard so that we play a part in building that future, so that we have a stake in it. So that we can make the future a better place.

Mixed gender teams do better. That’s what the research tells us, over and over. You’re better off with an average ability mixed gender team than a high ability single sex team if you want to be more profitable, more productive, happier. My conclusion is that mixed panels and mixed line-ups will mean a better conference, a more productive networking event and more knowledge sharing. And more women in tech will mean we’ll have created a better future for ourselves.

And my hunch is that if we can get more women to participate, then we’ll get more of everybody to participate. This will make it better for everyone.

Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I’m idealistic. But I don’t think this is too much to ask. It also isn’t down to one group of people to fix this. We all have a part to play.

three film stripThere are three simple things that, I believe, will help make the situation better. (I’ve talked about them on Facebook as well)

1. Conference and event organisers need to be more mindful about getting more female speakers involved and make a concerted effort on this. Different people need to be approached in different ways. Try new ways to get more women involved.

2. Women need to step up and get involved. Be counted. The more you do this, the easier it gets. Get on with it. [Need some tips on how to be a good speaker? There’s some great advice here.]

3. Men need to defer to their female colleagues once in a while. When you're asked to speak, why not suggest a female colleague instead so they can get the experience and exposure? Your company still gets the kudos. The knowledge is still shared.

In doing these three things, there will be a knock-on effect that more people will get involved from all aspects of our society and from all backgrounds. This is a good thing and I don't think it's too much to ask.

And finally. I know that getting more women into tech needs to be tackled in our schools as well. I fully support that. The two are not mutually exclusive. Every little action counts.

I sincerely hope, that this is the first and last time I feel compelled to blog about this in 2013. But it’s not up to me. It’s up to all of you out there to do your bit too. Are you in?

Chestnut photo used under Creative Commons License. Photo by PracticalOwl.

Linkage ‘n stuff

linkageInevitably over the Christmas and New Year holidays, I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading stuff rather than writing stuff or doing stuff so here are a few links I thought were worth sharing.


13 Things to remember for 2013 is a lovely post from Documentally. It’s a reminder of the things in our life that really matter and what he’s going to do about it. Well worth a look to inspire you to think about how you want to live your 2013. I know it gave me food for thought and I will be returning to it during the year.

Why the past always seems happier than the present I’ve had plenty experiences where I’ve not necessarily enjoyed them that much while they were actually happening, but I have enjoyed them a lot in retrospect. A bit weird that one, but maybe dining out on a story is sometimes more fulfilling?

Note to self: Productivity is about constraints and concentration.

The Anti-Social Era – Lessons learned from Vimeo’s founder There’s some good advice in this post. Worth a look.

Amazon is not a commerce company The author explains how Amazon is innovating and is a Big Data company and that businesses should be following its strategic path. Big Data seems to have appeared in a whole bunch of 2013 trends posts and when it comes to data crunching, Amazon probably has a head start.

Is retail going the way of newspapers, books & music?

This short piece in The Grocer suggests that UK retail is not in a good place. Retailers are finding it tough to find rents and rates with declining numbers of people heading to the shops and increasing numbers of shoppers choosing to do that from the comfort of their phone, tablet or laptop.

I started my career on the High Street. Firstly managing a family-owned restaurant and then in various women’s fashion outlets from Worcester to the West End. It’s where I learned how to do business and I learned about customers and merchandising and sales and probably lots of other things too. I still like to spend time in my local town centre and do shop locally a lot of the time rather than relying on online commerce. I still like to touch and feel my groceries before buying them and there is also the human contact element. I work from home a lot of the time with just my laptop for company. And although social media is great and I love chatting to friends and colleagues online, I do need to see real people from time to time. And the High Street is where I can do that. The greeting I get every time I go into my local newsagent is fantastic. It makes it a real pleasure to go in and spend money there. It’s where I top up my Oyster card. I figure I’d rather give him the business that do that online automatically.

The march to e- and m-commerce is unstoppable. Even if the government can put procedures in place to stem the tide a little bit, it won’t stop it. And that’s making the assumption that they can or want to do anything about it anyway. I do see that our High Streets and our communities need to evolve in the digital age. Having been in a recession for the last few years, I think we’re getting over the shopaholic tendencies we may have shown in previous times. Terence Eden is predicting the death of the High Street this year – well, in terms of Telco representation at least. And the Telegraph suggests prospects aren't that bright either and explains the results of some of the UK's largest retailers in this post.

At the same time, I’ve seen a resurgence of markets locally – first Brixton and now Tooting. I’m also seeing craft markets seem to be thriving and locally at least, there are plenty craft workshops going on in High Street premises, usually pubs, but it’s still the local High Street. Is this sustainable and is this the start of what our high streets will look like in the future – places to meet, hang out, learn stuff rather than participate in rampant consumerism?

Something I’ll be watching and thinking about in 2013.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

So this is New Year..

It’s the 6th January 2013. I’m not a big one for resolutions. I think you can set those at any time. But a sunny January day in London is as good as any. And it is gloriously sunny today. So rather than talk about resolutions, I’m going to go public with a few of my goals for 2013. They’re in no particular order.

2013_logo_small1. To make Heroes of the Mobile Fringe 2013 a great success.

This is a big one for me. The first festival last February was a bit of an experiment to see if the concept would work. It did. In spades! And on the back of that, I’ve enlisted the help of my long-time friend and Swedish Beers cohort, Jennifer Hiley, to make it even better than last time. We have some sponsors confirmed already, and will be on the case to get some more involved and to really create some great events and create value and good stuff for sponsors, attendees, volunteers and media partners alike. Get in touch if you’d like to get involved.

2. To continue Heroes beyond Barcelona

I’ve set up a separate company to manage Heroes initiatives and events. The plan is to have a mix of media and events happening throughout the year and we’ll be visiting different cities in the UK and beyond. Top of the list are San Francisco, New York, Singapore, London and Leeds. This will be no mean feat. Running events, for me at least, is an emotional experience. It’s not about the time spent, but about the heart and soul put into it and that’s a much higher price to pay. But I feel the time is right to do this and there are some great opportunities to continue the good work. I have friends, colleagues and supporters across the globe and I’d like to spend more time with them. This is a great reason to do just that!

3. To create more content

This is the year I’m going to learn about podcasting and video. I also plan to write more. I spend too long on twitter and don’t commit to screen what I’m thinking about in my head beyond 140 characters nearly enough. So Plan A is to change that. On the podcast front, if someone fancies helping me get started on the technical side, that would be marvellous. I have some ideas of what I want to do but need some help to structure it and to be able to manage it on my own when I’m travelling. Get in touch. If you’re interested, I’ve started a soundcloud for Heroes podcasts.

4. Continue to nurture my creative side

One of the best things about 2012 for me was my return to spending time making things. I’ve always had an interest in sewing and needlework. I used to make doll’s clothes out of the leftovers when Mum had her clothes altered to fit (she’s tiny, there’d always be leftover fabric). I started doing embroidery when I was 9 and completed a sampler. At age 10, I got my first sewing machine and started to make my own clothes. I’ve also dabbled in cross-stitch and needlepoint. Last year, I learned how to make fabric flower brooches, wet-felting, making fabric wreaths, printing with vegetables and then a successful linocut experiment. This year, I plan to do more felting and sewing and we’ll see what other crafts I end up trying. A big thanks to Gillian at Crafty Pint in Tooting for setting me back on this path. Looks like I might be trying mosaics and decoupage in the coming weeks…

5. To maintain my health

Some of you who know me well know that I had a really tough 2012 health-wise. I’ve managed to get myself back on track, but it took a long time. And it’s something I need to take better care of. I’m not twenty-one any more, alas, so my bounce-back rate is longer each time. So this isn’t about fad diets and detoxing for January. This is about maintaining a healthy lifestyle that works for me. I think I’ve got the knack for it now, but it’s something I’ll be keeping more of an eye on more of the time.

It’s 2013… what might be coming?

2013 no borderIt seems to be the done thing to do a key trends post at the start of the year. It is something I think about but rather than coming up with my own key trends, I’m going to share MEF’s key mobile trends for the upcoming year. They canvassed their global membership and also looked at the results of their second annual MEF Global Mobile Consumer Survey (9,500 respondents) and have come up with their top 10. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Convenience becomes paramount: convenience will exceed entertainment as the primary mobile content and commerce driver globally.

I don’t think this is new for 2013. We’ve seen an increase in mcommerce in the last few years and convenience is the main factor. The smartphone (or tablet) is the nearest/most convenient / quickest to boot up device to get stuff done. It’s a good enough experience to make the shopping process successful. I find myself squinting at my tiny mobile screen for bargains on eBay, when clearly, my laptop or large tablet would be better for the job, but my phone is nearer and I can’t be bothered to move. I’m guessing I’m not only in this consumer behaviour. This can only get bigger.

2. Shift in Payments: operator billing will be overtaken by other mobile payment systems in developed markets.

This isn’t news to me either. At least not when looking at the UK market. The rise of iOS, Android, apps and mcommerce (as in shopping for stuff that isn’t mobile content) is all being done in the online way which is credit or debit card or PayPal. I have never really understood why operators thought they deserved such a huge amount in revenue share when it comes to mobile payments. The value exchange has never seemed fair to me, even less so now when the web is very real on mobile devices. It’s a tough gig for the operators. They’re losing control and/or money in all areas of the business, or so it seems. We still need them to make the infrastructure work but I wonder how they will create new value in the coming years when mobile payments isn’t it?

3. Big Data will drive mobile engagement: widespread rollout of personalised recommendations and alerts based on context and behavioural data enabled by mobile.

Big Data is the new black for everything it seems. Everyone I know who is in tech, and a lot of those who aren’t, are bandying around the phrase ‘Big Data’. I wholeheartedly agree it’s important but most businesses, even large ones with deep pockets, don’t really understand how to data mine in a meaningful way – at least not yet. Soooooo much data has been collected by our network operators, our loyalty card providers, our banks, our ISPs, our email companies, Google, Facebook, foursquare and more. How do you make sense of it all? So I wonder if the breakthrough in 2013 will be that we’ll begin to understand this Big Data thing better this year and make meaningful business decisions from it rather than the stabs in the dark I’ve seen to date.

4. Trust as a critical asset: consumer trust around privacy and data collection will become a critical asset for apps and brands in 2013.

This was an emerging theme last year. MEF covered this in their Heroes of the Mobile Fringe podcast session in Barcelona (blog post here). Security, data, privacy, trust are all murkily lumped together in the consumer’s eyes. They’re different things, but certainly overlap and these are most definitely very real issues. But they’re not just related to mobile or to tech. What we do in our offline worlds also matters in our online worlds and vice versa. Even the most clued-up of us can get caught out. Cloning is a very real issue and Android is full of holes – largely due to poor implementation by OEMs and lazy app developers. And also down to human nature. Ultimately, if your choice is to get instant gratification from a mobile app right here right now vs. not, the chances are, the average punter, will take a risk and download the app or game. How can you protect someone who is making that split second decision? And how can we track what data is being collected, by whom, when and where does it get stored, how is it used etc.? It is an absolute minefield. How do you correct it if it’s wrong, how do you remove it, what happens with it when you’re dead and buried? This one will run and run I think.

5. Usage Convergence: The dividing line between consumer and enterprise-focused services will melt, transforming the way companies use mobile.

I’m not sure what I think about this one. We’ve certainly seen convergence of devices in that business people have chosen to use iPhone as a business device and BlackBerry as a consumer device so I guess we’ll see something play out here when it comes to services. Anyone else have a view?

6. Growth in health and education services: 2013 will see a significant uptake in the use of health and education services, based on interactive mobile content and device penetration. Growth markets will drive this but also developed markets will complement and develop existing systems.

No question there is investment going into these areas. And where resources go, things tend to happen. This is no bad thing. Health and education are critical to modern society. I can see growth markets driving the education element, I’m yet to know where the drivers are for mhealth services. I’m certainly keeping an eye on both sectors.

7. Crowd-sourcing of mobile content: mass-curation of content, such as large-scale photo integration enabling crowd-sourcing of public events imagery, will emerge as a defining mobile apps category, but will experience scaling issues, including transparency and privacy concerns.

I’ve seen several services try to do this but have been unable to get any kind of critical mass to date. I’m not sure they will. For everyone at a mass event to use the same app to do something is going to be hard unless it’s something we all use already like Googlemaps, Facebook, or Twitter. Would I download an app so I could share a photo to a pool? Erm, no. But maybe I’m just too old for this. I’m also not convinced of the longevity of the app ecosystem. It’s seriously hard to make money with apps and the trend I’m seeing is a move to web and less of a focus on apps. But maybe I’m biased because I forget to use pretty much every app I’ve ever downloaded save for a handful that I use on a weekly, if not daily basis.

8. The March of Multi-Screens: In 2013 much of the mobile ecosystem’s energy will target the integration of multiple connected screens, such as TV companion services, to deliver a consistent and complimentary experience across every connected device. 

Seamless synchronisation seems to be talked about a lot but not delivered that well. Friends rave about how kindle has a seamless synch experience and I know many people would like to see that same attention to detail for other services but we’re not quite there yet. It’s tricky to do, but we will see it as we work out how to do this stuff better. And if our M2M world with our connected fridges and cars is to work, we really do have to sort this stuff out.

9. Third mobile ecosystems: Windows Phone 8, Firefox OS and BlackBerry 10 will make progress globally, especially in growth markets.

There is everything to play for when it comes to mobile ecosystems. I’ve had a play with all three of the above, and they all have their strengths and will appeal to different groups of customers. We have also heard that there’s an Ubuntu phone coming out (not sure why we need one, but hey, what would I know), Bada and Tizen are on the market, and I’m interested to see if Jolla can break through. Nokia’s N9 Meego device was a thing of beauty and maybe Jolla, son of Meego, may make headway. And with news that Samsung is moving from Android to Tizen, the game definitely isn’t over.

10. China is coming: Chinese mobile content and commerce vendors will expand into global markets, but will struggle with the complexities of mobile ecosystems and IPR.

China is most definitely coming. No question. I am most definitely not qualified to comment beyond that. Anyone else care to add anything on this point?

I also read Dean Bubley’s Telco anti-trends for 2013 which also make for an interesting read. 

Comments and discussion welcome.