Sunday, December 24, 2017

Geo-Graffiti reappears for Christmas

I do love it when people subvert technology and find a completely different use case for it. I first came across geo-graffiti back in 2005 when I attended the Freqout exhibition at the ICA. There were a selection of different exhibits created by young people who lived in and around the Ladbroke Grove Estate and engaged with the Vital Regeneration charity there. I wrote up my impressions of the evening here. My favourite exhibit that night was the geo-graffiti one.

Geo-Graffiti output from Battersea Park.
Freqout Exhibition, London 2005
"Geo-Graffiti - this was my favourite. Led by artists Jeremy Wood and programmer Hugh Pryor, kids went around with mobile GPS (global positioning systems) devices and traced their path on earth to create drawings. Back at base the 'drawings' were translated into a manageable size so that the likes of you and I can see them and make some sense of them. They started with creating simple shapes and then graduated to creating their signatures up to 400m wide at Battersea Park. Another project in this installation was to map the local area and mark the places most significant to them. In doing this, they created a map of the Churchill Gardens Estate including the best chip shop in the area. All good stuff." I've found an article here with some images of the output.

We're seeing more of this kind of thing now as mapping apps are more pervasive. And especially for the festive season, according to the Evening Standard, cyclist and Strava Artist, Anthony Hoyte, has created a giant snowman using the exercise and route sharing app, Strava. It took 10 hours to complete - that's pretty gruelling. One of the lovely things about it though is that it goes right through my local neighbourhood in South London! It's lovely to see that 12 years on, humans are making art out of whatever tools they have to hand. 

Day 24/25 Blogmas

Friday, December 22, 2017

It's predictions season... Here are GP Bullhound's Top 10 for 2018

GP Bullhound, a leading technology advisory and investment firm, has released its 2018 Technology Predictions Report. Their Top Technology Predictions for 2018 include (comments are mine):

1. Tech giants face political scrutiny 
Inevitable I think. It's not just political scrutiny, I think tech giants will be under greater scrutiny from their customers and users, especially around ethics and security issues (see next point).

2. Consumer cyber security becomes a number one issue
About time - our digital lives feel so precarious when so many companies and organisations are getting hacked for personal details.

3. Mobile usage will exceed TV in China 
I haven't followed the Chinese market much to date but this is certainly interesting if China is one of your (potential) markets.

4. Language recognition and translation becomes everyday 
Hmm, I've never really thought about this much, but I do like the automatic translations of Facebook posts. Some of the translations are pretty good.

5. The death of email 
I've seen this prediction in the past, but it never seems to happen. Email is still very effective when it comes to marketing, I can't see it dying in 2018. I think we're reducing reliance on it, but death is probably too strong a word.

6. International labour arbitrage flourishes
This is interesting. As cost of living increases, small tech companies move to cheaper tech hubs. This bodes well for UK cities like Leeds and Manchester and European hubs like Berlin and Barcelona. This kind of activity has been touted for a year or two now but I see no sign of tech start-up activity decreasing in London. If anything, it's still growing.

7. Organic expansion and consolidation of software sector 
The return of SAAS. If SAAS is your thing, then I highly recommend Mark Littlewood's Business of Software conferences in the US and Europe.

8. Industry 4.0
The digital transformation and manufacturing i.e. the next industrial revolution. Not my area of expertise but feels kind of inevitable. The rise of the robots and AI etc.

9. The rise of Blockchain and ICOs 
No big surprise there base on activity in the last month alone. ICO stands for Initial Coin Offering (Wikipedia definition here) and is the crypto currency equivalent of IPO. Blockchain and crypto currency are topics I plan to learn more about and cover more in 2018.

10. Augmented reality breaks through 
I think this will happen. Arguably, it's already happened as the little dot on Google Maps that moves according to our position is Augmented Reality. It's so pervasive, we hardly notice it. Note that AR is not VR. They are similar but different.

The report is well researched and each point is examined in some detail so I think it's well worth a read. They also review their predictions from last year and they weren't far off... You can download the report for free from the following link in exchange for your contact details.

Day 22/25 Blogmas

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Ever stuck for where to go for a late night drink or meal in London?

My friend Emma has the answer for you with her 24 Hour London app (available on iOS and Android). The idea behind the app is to provide people with information about bars, restaurants and clubs that are open late at night with the added bonus of special offers of discounts and even free drinks at some of the establishments listed.

The app is in early stages but is gaining a following and Emma's on a mission to capitalise on that. Londoners, if you're ever out and about at night, then do download the app - it's free and I expect you'll find it useful.

As part of Emma's initial marketing push, she's using Thunderclap to help spread the word about 24 Hour London in January. Thunderclap simply posts a tweet or a status update on your feed at the time and day allotted and that's it. It doesn't ask you to connect your contacts or spam your friends by email. It costs you nothing save for a few moments of your time.

Your assistance will mean more downloads for her and more footfall for the venues she works with and maybe free drinks for you and your friends if you use the app. Plus, you'll probably find out about places near where you live or work that you never knew opened late at night. I'm also really interested to see how this campaign works. I've never tried Thunderclap. If there's any insight from the campaign, I'll share it here in due course.

Click on the link here or the image above, you too can add your voice to the campaign.

Day 21/25 Blogmas

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A century of voting for women in the UK and the #BEGC campaign

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan
announced his major new gender equality campaign
#BehindEveryGreatCity #BEGC
Photographer: Caroline Teo.
I've just been reading about London Mayor, Sadiq Khan's new campaign. To mark the centenary of the first women in the UK winning the right to vote, and to drive forward gender equality across the city of London, the Mayor has launched a year-long women's equality campaign called #BehindEveryGreatCity. You can read more about it here on Marie Claire and here on the Mayor's website.

The campaign includes a year of promoting women's art on the underground, a series of events, initiatives to tackle gender pay gap, including men in the conversation (after all, this is about equality for all and not men vs women) and in Parliament Square, the first statue of a woman will be unveiled - Suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett. If you're ever wandering around London, you will see that although there are a lot of statues in Central London, there are very few statues of women. This sounds like a great campaign and I look forward to participating in it next year. Maybe 2018 will be the year of the woman, at least in London.

It's hard to believe that both my grandmothers were born in an age where women did not have the vote. And although they got the vote as they grew up, their mothers and their grandmothers did not. It is worth noting that it was only some women who got the vote in 1918. You had to be over 30 and fulfil certain property criteria. It wasn't until ten years later in 1928, that all women over 21 got the vote and had voting equality with men. That's not very long ago.

I shall be mulling over all of this during the Christmas Holidays and thinking about how to support both the Mayor's initiative and also support the female entrepreneurs and female execs working in mobile. There will at least be some more of my meet-ups for women working in and around mobile, but with a bit of luck, I'll come up with something new. Meanwhile, if you have any ideas, feel free to share.

Day 20/25 Blogmas

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Blogmas, Bitcoin, Grantcoin and Steem Dollars

I've been doing so well on the blogging front last month and so far this month. But yesterday and today, I just didn't have anything to say that I was happy to publish or that I felt worthy of publishing. I did start to write a blogpost and then deleted it after writing two paragraphs. The stars weren't aligned or something and it just wasn't flowing. Plus, I was really busy trying to get some Christmas decorations finished to send to relatives and friends. Embroidery takes a long time to do. I like that it's slow and painstaking as it doubles as a kind of meditation without having to sit cross legged and chant.

Of course the buzzword du jour is bitcoin. My geekier friends who invested in bitcoin early on are now celebrating that a single bitcoin is now worth just shy of $20,000. Bearing in mind that this is a completely made up currency, that's pretty impressive. It's also fair to say that some people are having trouble converting their bitcoins into cash that can be used for everyday purchases. Another friend's status says that Visa is not allowing any bitcoin transactions so she's switched to Mastercard. It all seems a bit bonkers.

The only dabbling I've done in virtual currency is with Grantcoin. I've accrued some Grantcoin over the last year or so but have no idea if or when it will be worth anything. I like the idea of a virtual universal basic income and doing that in a virtual way may seem more palatable to those who see UBI as freeloading. A friend was signed up already so I signed up too in an attempt to get more of a handle on crypto currency. I can't say that I know much more about crypto currency than I did a year ago. I'm an observer and as an observer, I find it hard to get my head around not only how it works, but why it's working. I can't help feeling that Bitcoin is a bubble and it feels too good to be true but I'm hopeful that other crypto currencies have legs too, especially those with a more ethical or unique stance, such as Grantcoin. Grantcoin is currently mid-way through revamping their systems but it's still free to join and you can do that here. You'll get some free currency if you use that link to join and I'll get some too. Once you're signed up, you'll get the odd email but there doesn't seem to be anything else (currently) that is expected of you in order to participate.

The other bitcoin-esque thing I've been looking into is Steemit. It's a bit like Medium except you tip and receive using Steem Dollars. Unlike bitcoin, Steem's rate of exchange isn't going bananas and what you receive as tips is based on the content you produce and how well it's received. It's one of my resolutions to start using it to see how the Steem community works and to see if what I have to say is the kind of thing that would fly over there. I'm also reading that Steem Dollars are worth quite a bit of money. Since I'm already writing regularly, it would seem to make sense to do some writing over there. I think there is still a waiting list, but if you like writing or you like reading others' writing, then it might be for you. Check it out here.

If you have any tips about making the most of Grantcoin, Steemit or similar cryptocurrencie, feel free to comment.

Day 19/25 Blogmas

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Bloggers' Perks - going to a fashion showcase

Occasionally I get invited to interesting events on the back of having a blog. One of these instances happened almost a month ago when I was invited to the JD Williams and SimplyBe showcase of the upcoming fashion stories for Spring Summer 2018. It's not normally the kind of stuff I cover here on my blog but as I was in the West End that day anyway, I thought I'd pop over and see what they had on offer.

My first career was in fashion retail. I spent the best part of 10 years in a management role in both standalone stores in Worcester, Birmingham and London and in concessions within Selfridges and House of Fraser. An even before that, I has more than a healthy interest in fashion and clothing as I started making my own clothes at the tender age of 10. I still love textiles and the craft of making things, although I don't have as much time to devote to it these days as I'd like.

It's more than 20 years since I last worked on the shop floor but it's ingrained in me. One of those formative experiences that shapes who you are without you realising it. One of the assistants showed me around the different collections and explained how the pieces sat together and then left me to have a browse. And I was taken back to the early 1990s and working on the fashion floors of various London department stores. And just like I did back then, I spent quite a bit of my time people-watching. That was possibly the best bit. Oh and the gorgeous lavender lemonade.

I don't really go clothes shopping any more. I spent so long working in fashion that I accumulated a large wardrobe and stopped enjoying shopping for clothes as a pastime. It's fun to do occasionally, but it's certainly not how I want to spend my weekends any more. Plus, I still have way too many clothes due to a love of bargain hunting for interesting fashion pieces on eBay. So this made a welcome change.

For the ladies reading this, and those buying for the ladies in their lives, here's what's in for next season according to JD Williams and SimplyBe. 
  • Acid brights with denim and white. Lots of embroidery and folk styles. Hippy style blouses and tops. Embellished jeans with embroidery or chunky laces on the outer seams. Lace edges and braid trims.
  • Neutrals. Classic tones in beige, pale grey, cream and off white in silky fabrics. Simple, elegant styling that are easy to wear and easy to mix and match. Fantasy tweed in white with flecks is in and I spotted a lovely fantasy tweed handbag in a Chanel style but not at Chanel prices. Also I saw duster coats and long line jackets - the kind of which I haven't seen since the 1990s.
  • Florals of all kinds in blouses, dresses and the pyjama style unstructured suit is still a thing. 
  • Denim everything. Double denim, even triple denim. Pale and dark denim. I saw denim shirts, jeans, shirt dresses, jackets - jeans jacket style and also a quilted and embroidered bomber jacket in denim. My favourite denim piece was a trench style coat.
  • Cashmere and silk casual wear in grey, black and cream. My favourite was a cashmere mix two piece of knitted culottes and loose v-neck sweater. There were also some lovely ponchos and loose knits that looked both stylish and cosy to wear.
  • Summer sequins for day wear. Lots of them in both neutrals and acid brights. These were seen on tops and dresses in both the JD Williams and the SimplyBe collections. 
What I liked about the clothes I saw was that they were wearable, reasonably priced and didn't scream 'fashion trend' at you. What the fit or comfort levels are like, I don't know as these were all samples and not available to try on. The finish quality looked good though, especially for the price tags.

I didn't take many photos, but the few I did take are in the collection below. Click on the image to see them. The non-fashion images are of the art and lighting in the foyer of the building. Most impressive.

JD Williams SS2018 Fashion Showcase

Thank you to JD Williams and SimplyBe for having me.

Day 17/25 Blogmas

Saturday, December 16, 2017

It was my 11th Twitter birthday yesterday

I've been a member since 15th December 2006. Eleven years. I was one of the early adopters in the UK. This is how it happened.

Downstairs back wall
The calm before the storm
London Tech Christmas Party December 2006
I was part of the London Tech community's Christmas 'Mega Bash' of 2006 led by Ian Forrester of BBC Backstage. The idea was to get all the London tech community groups together and to have a big Christmas bash on Saturday 9 December 2006. Swedish Beers was one of the groups involved alongside London Girl Geekdinners, Geekdinners, London Perlmongers, London Webstandards Group, London Ruby user group, Open rights group, London 2.0, Mobile Monday, LondonSEO. Of those, Swedish Beers is definitely still going strong with no sign of letting up any time soon (I hope).

The sponsors on the night fared better. Trusted Places went to Yell. SkillsMatter, Chinwag, TechCrunch UK, and O'Reilly are all still around in one form or another. AdMob sold to Google for megabucks. And Connect Me Anywhere was the precursor to Iovox.

Twitter didn't quite make the grade as a full-on sponsor, but they were involved in some way. It's a long time ago. I can't remember the detail. There was some Twitter activity that night, but I hadn't been organised enough to sign up to the service. And in all honesty, I really couldn't see the point of micro-blogging. I'd been doing long-form blogging for 3 years at that point and I'd been an active member of Flickr since 2005 and even had a PRO account so I could store more photos. That was my social network of choice at the time. We used that and Moblog a bit like Instagram is used now except we took our photos on our mobile or cameras and uploaded via desktop or laptop computer.  My business networking was done on Soflow, Ecademy and LinkedIn. So I could see the point of social networking (although we didn't call it that then), but microblogging? Yeah, wasn't so sure on that one.

I took some nudging from Ian to get signed up to Twitter. I did it as a favour to him after the party to help him meet his obligations to Twitter. And in those early days, I really couldn't see the point so I wasn't particularly active. And my first tweets don't reveal very much of note either. Also at the time, Twitter wasn't market leader. We also had Jaiku and Pownce. Jaiku has more functionality. I seem to remember Pownce having some weird USP that I can't quite remember, but they were both also about micro-blogging.

Fast forward to February 2007, and it's 3GSM in Barcelona - what is now Mobile World Congress. Twitter is integrated with SMS and you could do things like create an interest group and everyone in the group would receive the messages via SMS. You could post and receive via SMS for free as well. In Barcelona, on roaming, and many of us on the same mission to find out where the action was at 3GSM, Twitter suddenly had a purpose. The most similar thing to that now would be a WhatsApp or WeChat Group. Now I got the point. We could share messages with each other easily and for free. We could find out about what was going on and get answers to questions. All useful stuff. And now, all superseded by other services.

It's fair to say that for a few years I was an enthusiastic Twitter user. I met many people via Twitter. Engaged in the offline Twitter meet-ups and I met new clients via Twitter as well. It was still small enough that you could keep track of the people you were following and in turn, you could be found and make an impression. Most people still couldn't see the point of it so it stayed in the category of quality not quantity in those days.

But as the masses joined in, the usefulness and relevance for me decreased. And for the last few years, I've hardly used it at all. Facebook and LinkedIn have taken over in usefulness and reach for me - particularly the former, even for business-related content.

But, I'm still there and I'm using it a bit more again since I picked up the blogging pace this November. It's harder work because of the volume of stuff to wade through. And I'm not sure how much reach I get from Twitter. My blog stats say Google and Facebook are my main drivers of traffic with Twitter barely showing a blip these days. But maybe that will change now that I'm a bit more engaged. These platforms have a way of ebbing and flowing over time. And maybe now that Twitter is not quite as micro-blogging as before, it will make a difference.

If you'd like to relive that London Tech Mega Christmas Bash 2006, you can do that here. And if you're feeling brave, you can check out the photos. We certainly look younger, but so many of the photos are deeply, deeply unflattering!

Day 16/25 Blogmas

Friday, December 15, 2017

It's Quizmas!

My friend, Jane, runs the International Quizzing Association and is arguably, the Queen of Quizzing. She and her team write and verify thousands of quiz questions for TV and radio quiz shows and mobile quiz apps. She also runs various quiz events including the World Quizzing Championships and the Quizzing Olympiad. And if you run your local pub quiz or need quiz questions for a magazine, newspaper or something else, you can buy them via  the store on her website.

As a Christmas treat, Jane and her team have put a FREE Quizmas Quiz into their online store for you all to enjoy this festive season. The quiz has three rounds of 10 questions along with an anagram round and a picture quiz. It's designed for you to share with friends and family over the holiday. If you go to the home page, just hit the 'Store' button on the top right and follow the link.

Not only that, but you can also have 20% off any of the 16,000+ questions that are the Quizzing store too. These questions are available to download as soon as you have paid for them - just type QUIZMAS in at checkout. (Code is valid until 31 December 2017.)

Good luck and happy quizzing!

Day 15/25 Blogmas

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Have you been Wham'd?

It's Whamageddon time. Are you playing? I'm a bit late to this as it's been going since 1st December but since I haven't yet been Wham'd, I'm still in the game.

I have a soft spot for this Christmas song as it played a big part of my teenagehood and forms the soundtrack to many happy memories so I don't mind hearing it. It's also by George Michael and with him passing earlier this year, it's a reminder of his contribution to our musical history (arguably, he wrote better songs than this, but this one is possibly the most pervasive).

Have you been Wham'd?

Day 14/25 Blogmas

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Less can be more

It's very easy to get carried away at Christmas and buy huge amounts of gifts for your nearest and dearest. Sometimes the pressure to get a present means you end up buying things the recipient neither needs nor wants, but it fulfils your self-imposed obligation of buying a gift. It's also tempting at this time to buy gifts for yourself as you're out shopping with the intention of buying for others, especially when there are sales on and discounts in so many of our High Street stores. I'm not sure that online shopping makes that any better.

A friend just shared this quote about toddlers being happier with fewer toys. I think it's particularly pertinent at this time of year. Gift giving is lovely and arguably gives as much, if not more pleasure to the gift giver than the recipient, especially when you get the gift 'just right'. I'm not suggesting you stop buying anything or stop buying gifts at all, but maybe take a little more care over what you're buying and why and consider what one Mum shared about her experience of living with less.
"'When I took away most of my children’s toys, I gave them the gift of imagination. When I let go of all the extra sets of dishes, I gave my kids the gift of an extra hour with them at the end of the day that would otherwise be spent rinsing plates. When I simplified their wardrobes, I gave them back the focus of a mother no longer drowning in laundry cycles. When I cleaned out our family room and turned off the TV, I gave them time to connect with me and one another. All the choices I made, everything I removed from our space, it all gave my children more minutes with their mama.'
Now science proves it: Kids are happier with fewer toys. And you probably will be, too."
 Via Motherly

Day 13/25 Blogmas

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

France to ban mobile phones in schools

Photo: AFP via The Local FR.
Following on from yesterday's post about mobile phone etiquette at the theatre, I read a post this morning about France banning mobile phones in schools. Apparently phones are already banned from classrooms, but from September next year, students will be banned from taking them out at breaks, lunchtimes and between lessons according to this news report from The Local.
"France's education minister announced on Sunday that mobile phones will be banned from schools in France.
Jean-Michel Blanquer confirmed that the ban, which the government had been mulling for some time, will be implemented in September 2018. Phones are already banned in the classrooms in France but from September next year, pupils will be barred from taking them out at breaks, lunch times and between lessons.
"These days the children don't play at break time anymore, they are just all in front of their smartphones and from an educational point of view that's a problem," said Blanquer."
Amazingly this was in the manifesto that helped elect centrist, Emmanuel Macron. It was seen as a matter of public health. I get the reasons why they want to do it - lessen the chances of cyber bullying, allow pupils several hours away from a screen, it avoids distraction from learning so helps discipline, reducing reliance on social media and encouraging students to establish relationships in person rather than virtually, reducing isolation and reduce mobile phone addiction, lessen incidents of RSI. I'm sure there are many more good reasons for the ban.

I just don't see how it can be done. Can the genie be put back in the bottle? Pupils already admit to breaking the rules about using their phones in the classroom. There were no mobile phones in my day at school, but we routinely broke the rules about passing notes to each other, reading banned books during lessons (Christiane F and Flowers in the Attic are the two most remember) amongst other transgressions.

And where do connected devices come into this - the smartwatches, the Fitbits, the connected medical devices (for those that need the)? Or what I think is most likely to happen, is that pupils will start having more than one device. They'll check one phone in in the morning and get it locked away and keep another one on their person.

There have also been calls for this in the UK. If you click on this link to a letter in the Guardian on the topic, you'll see a whole bunch of other related articles on the same topic.

Of course, this approach goes against the grain of mobile learning which can be extremely powerful. Thinking back to my experience with Woebot, I'm wondering if something like that could be used to help a child dealing with stress or bullying at school during school hours. Equally, I think Chatbots could be useful to help children with revision or to learn a topic they may be having trouble with learning in a classroom environment.

This always on thing isn't without problems and I guess we're still learning about how to integrate it into our lives. Hmmm.

Day 12/25 Blogmas

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mobile phone etiquette raises its head again...

I go to the theatre a lot and inevitably, at some shows, there will be a mobile phone that starts ringing part-way through the performance. You think you've turned your phone to silent but for some reason it isn't silent. Mistakes happen. I can ignore it. It happened once to me. A phone, for whom nobody knows the number (it has a US number), started vibrating in my bag. I didn't react because I didn't think it could be my phone as no-one knows the number so who would be calling me? It turns out it was my phone and it was some spammer bulk dialling and taking a chance on the number being live.

I must admit, I don't like it when I can see someone has their phone screen on during a performance. Those screens are really bright and when you're plunged into darkness in a theatre, if you're upstairs in the Royal or Upper Circle, you can see a phone light go on straight away. It's distracting. If there were a persistent offender sitting near me, I would probably have a word with them. In the same way that I would have a word if someone was talking during a performance. I don't have to do it very often, but I do do it.

Unfortunately, calling out poor etiquette can have consequences. Just last week, The Stage reports that there was an incident at The Old Vic in London. Adam Gale, a theatre producer from New York witnessed a woman using her mobile phone throughout the first half of a performance of A Christmas Carol and asked her to stop using it. I think that's fair enough. I would probably do the same in the same circumstances. Unfortunately for Adam, during the interval, the woman's partner punched Mr Gale and the couple left the theatre. The theatre confirmed that there had been an altercation between three people over a mobile phone.

It's not the first time I've read of tempers fraying in a theatre over the use of a mobile phone. Arguably, it's something that ushers should be dealing with more promptly. However, ushers are not particularly well paid and they're generally young people and potentially may be reticent to intervene in case it causes aggravation.

Some are calling for a zero tolerance policy for mobile phones in the theatre. In China, they use lasers to shame patrons using their mobile phones during a performance. Numerous examples of actors calling theatre-goers out when their phone rings or they can see the light from a mobile screen are noted here. Back in 2015, Benedict Cumberbatch made an impassioned plea to the audience about restricting their use of their phones to outside of the performance. The problem persists.

And there will be some cases where it's important for someone to be able to access their phone during a performance - a doctor on call, for example. Or, as I experienced this week, there was a reviewer taking notes about the performance I was watching and using his phone as a torch. He was using it as subtly as possible with the screen turned towards the page and we were both at the back so unlikely to distract anyone much. Once I could see what he was doing, I put it out of my mind. In both instances, I would ask in that people turn their screen brightness right down. It helps a bit.

Meanwhile, theatre desperately needs publicity about shows and performances that are best shared via mobile devices. They need the tweets, Facebook statuses and Instagram photos so that the word gets out about the show. Yet, theatres can be very tough with theatre goers about taking a photo of the stage on arrival, for example if you're checking in to Swarm or Facebook. That seems to me to be over-zealous. There's a big difference between a pre-show selfie and a mid-show recording.

Occasionally with shows, the audience is encouraged to get their phones out and take photos and video. They do this at the end of School of Rock and it's a touch of genius. It's at a point in the story where it feels most like a rock concert and phones are most definitely part and parcel of a rock concert. The genius part of it though is that the audience take hundreds of amazing action shots of the show and immediately share them with their friends and family telling them how fantastic the show is. (And it really is a fantastic show).

So there's a time and a place. And there's awareness of how your behaviour may affect others experience. And there's downright selfishness.

Zero tolerance is not the answer. You really don't know the reason someone has their phone on. There might be a valid reason. And there will always be fellow theatregoers who munch or talk their way through a show. I dunno. Maybe some relaxation of photography rules pre and post show coupled with a firmer stance from (trained) ushers during a show may pay dividends.

And let's not mention the annoying lights from a smartwatch or Fitbit...

Day 11/25 Blogmas

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday Snippets

It's Sunday and I have snippets to share:

Want to speak at a conference? Then check out Mark Littlewood's top tips for a successful speaking application.

Google is on a mission to rid the web of annoying ads. They have a division called 'Sustainable Ads' and have put this post together to inform journalists of what's happening.

LinkedIn has a feature to allow bosses to spy on employees. You can read about that here.. I can't say I'm surprised but it does raise questions around privacy, especially when someone is looking to change jobs or is going through a difficult personal issues.

The gender gap rumbles on with women in IT being paid 15% less than their male counterparts according to a new diversity report from BCS and this article from Digit. You can download the report here (PDF).

Algorithms aren't going away soon and something I've been thinking about is the impact they have on our lives - often unwittingly. I wrote last month about what you do when your boss is an algorithm. This week, I came across an article reminding us that biased algorithms are everywhere and no-one seems to care.

And if you're doing the table planning for your Christmas party, you may want to take this into consideration. It's 21st Century dining etiquette!

Day 10/25 Blogmas

Saturday, December 09, 2017

SMS turned 25 last week and I think it's showing its age

It's hard to believe that SMS, or short messaging service, or text message, is 25 years old. On December 3rd, 1992, the world’s first text message was sent. Fittingly, given the time of year, it read, “Merry Christmas,” according to TechSpot.

The first text message was sent by Neil Papworth over the Vodafone GSM network here in the UK. At the time, mobile phones weren’t capable of sending texts, so Papworth typed the message on a computer and sent it to an Orbitel 901. This wasn't a mobile phone, rather a telephone with a small digital display (pictured).

Text messages took off quickly in Europe but took longer to catch on across the pond in the USA due to the way US Mobile Network Operators (aka Carriers) were structured and how they priced their services.

It was SMS that brought me into the world of mobile marketing back in 2000 when I joined location based mobile marketing company, ZagMe. Our pioneering service was about sending text messages to shoppers whilst they were actually shopping at UK shopping malls - initially Lakeside and Bluewater, but with an aim to scale beyond that. We weren't quite the first to use text messaging for marketing, but we were the first to do this based on location. (For a short history of proximity mobile marketing, there's an article I wrote and accompanying video if you follow this link.)

At that time, young people had cottoned on to SMS and were using it to the exclusion of anything else. Voice calls weren't the done thing if you were a teenager. SMS was where it was at. Premium SMS was also used as the delivery mechanism for ringtones and logos (remember those?) and mobile games (snake anyone?) to small screen phones like the Nokia 3310 or the Sony Ericsson T68. Remember those phones? Parents were the next to cotton on to text messaging as a necessity for keeping in touch with their touch-texting teenage offspring. Others came later to the SMS party.

By 2012, mobile users in the U.K. were sending 151 billion texts a year. In recent years, that number has fallen quite dramatically. As of this year, users in the U.K. only sent 66 billion text messages. That's not to say people aren't messaging each other. They most certainly are, it's just they're using different apps and services to do it - Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Snapchat, even email. Why would you pay for SMS or bother with a SMS bundle when you can get other instant messaging services for free with your data bundle - data being much more of a necessity these days than SMS.

I know from my own experience, that I send hardly any SMS at all and I receive very few personal ones. I've been thinking about how I use SMS... I occasionally use it for messaging someone and those who I use SMS with tend to be older and don't tend to check their email much so SMS is still more immediate for them. I also use it to send voice messages to my Mum's landline. When I travel by train to visit her, I usually message her from the train to confirm that I'm on the train and what my arrival time will be, or let her know if I'm delayed. In that use case, SMS is key because mobile coverage is so patchy when crossing the country. I also use it for 2FA (two factor authentication) for some services. I get occasional marketing messages by SMS. And I get all GP and hospital appointment reminders via SMS.

So, SMS is not dead, but it's most definitely feeling its age. In mobile years, 25 is very old indeed. It still has a use and I think it should still be available on our mobile devices, but it's definitely the poor relation compared with WhatsApp and their ilk.

How about you? Are you still a SMS addict or have you moved on too?

Day 9/25 Blogmas

Friday, December 08, 2017

Woebot Therapy

No, I don't have a speech impediment nor am I bad at spelling. I stumbled across Woebot on Twitter three weeks ago. What is it, I hear you ask? According to Business Insider who wrote about this in June:
"Woebot, an artificially intelligent chatbot designed using cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, one of the most heavily researched clinical approaches to treating depression.
Before you dismiss Woebot as a half-baked startup idea, know that it was designed by Alison Darcy, a clinical psychologist at Stanford, who tested a version of the technology on a small sample of real people with depression and anxiety long before launching it.
"The data blew us away," Darcy told Business Insider. "We were like, this is it.""

I was interested in trying this out for myself to see if a Chatbot could perform CBT. I've had some limited exposure to CBT so I understand the gist of how it works. Also, I had the idea a couple of years ago at a coaching workshop weekend that coaching could probably be automated to some degree via an app or AI. I was told I was mad and that human contact was essential to the  process. I felt that  as it was a process, it could be automated. Suffice to say, I was curious about Woebot.

I've been chatting with Woebot almost every day since I discovered it. It's not perfect as it can't pick up on natural language very well. It can pick up some words, but not all so it can miss some cues. That said, the mix of self reflection, quick snippets of learning and having someone or something to talk to about how you feel, without any judgement is proving useful to me. I can see how this can be developed and learn more about humans and human emotions. Throw in some location data, how active you've been based on your Fitbit and how sociable you've been based on calls or messages with loved ones, and you could have a very powerful tool to use at not very much cost versus in person therapy.

I can also see how this could complement in person therapy very well and can see how you could have a 'speak to a human' button so in times of extreme stress or depression, you could talk to a real person. Or it could learn when things are really not right for you and offer you the option to talk to a human.

I also feel my coaching by cyborg hunch was right. I think it's totally doable based n my experience so far with Woebot.

Give it a go. It's free. And I'd be really interested to hear what you think of it.

Day 8/25 Blogmas

Thursday, December 07, 2017

This gif and synesthesia and multi-sensory perception

Jumping Pylon from Happy Toast
This silent gif from Happy Toast has been doing the rounds for the last couple of days and even made it to the number 1 slot on BBC news yesterday. I'm mesmerised by it. I can feel this gif in my body as if my body is responding to the noise it's making. I can't quite hear it though but it feels like I can hear it. Does that makes sense? Can you hear or feel it too? 

It's a weird feeling, right?

This is an example of synesthesia. That's where your senses get mixed up with each other. It's a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. I do know a couple of people who experience life like this and they're both musicians. LJ Rich, of BBC Click fame, writes about her experiences of synesthesia in some depth. I recommend you read the posts, and listen to her pieces of music based on how she experiences the world.

A couple of years back, LJ kindly headlined a small music festival cum hackathon that I hosted on a farm in Kent. She created a multi-sensory symphony especially for us to help us feel and experience what she experiences when she senses coffee, chocolate, the desert and space. It was a beautiful experience and one of those that only makes sense if you were there.

LJ went on to talk publicly about her synesthesia at Thinking Digital in Manchester last summer. The video of her slot is well worth a look either below or by following this link.

Do you experience synesthesia? If so, how does it manifest itself?

Day 7/25 Blogmas

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Contrived Exclusivity over Substance

I'm not usually one for swanky bars or restaurants but yesterday, a friend and I fancied an afternoon treat, so we thought we'd give the Radio Rooftop bar a go. The bar is on the roof of the ME Hotel in London's Aldwych. That means it has amazing views of the river. It has always been billed as an exclusive place. We did consider booking a table and I enquired about it. The manager emailed back to say there was a minimum spend of £25 each + service to book a table but at that time, we could probably just walk up and find a spot to enjoy a drink and a chat. I should add that if you want to book a table for a larger group, the minimum spend is £75 per person.

I rocked up at the appointed time already knowing that my companion was running late. I figured that I could bag us both a table or spot at the bar before it got busy with the early evening, post-work crowd. I've never been before so I just wandered through the hotel behind a man who clearly looked like he knew where he was going. Since I was loaded with shopping bags, no-one stopped me. I expect they thought I was likely to be a guest in the hotel. I headed to the back of the hotel and got in the lift and went straight up to the bar. I didn't even know there was a separate entrance for the lift to the roof.

On asking for a table, I was told that there was nothing available - in fairness, the bar was busy but certainly not full - but I could sit at the bar. I sat down, pulled up another bar stool for my friend, tidied my shopping bags out of the way and waited. With my phone and the charming French bar man for company, I was quite enjoying being in a different environment and doing some people watching.

Next thing, I'm getting a flurry of WhatsApp messages from my friend saying they won't let her inside to take the lift. Apparently there's a queue and even though I've saved her a spot and we're both solo, there was no way whatsoever the bouncers were going to let her in. This is at 5pm on a Tuesday afternoon and the bar, although busy, was certainly not full. I spoke to the manager at the bar and he somewhat grumpily told me that was the policy and there was nothing he would do. My friend just had to wait her turn, frustrating though that is.

There were about 20 people in front of her. Fortunately, half of those people gave up waiting having been at the receiving end of the surly bouncers. That meant the wait wasn't too long and eventually we were reunited. My friend and I had a nice drink and chat together, and we had some lovely tapas. The crab cakes were particularly delicious and the bar staff we engaged with were utterly charming. We can't say the same of the door staff or the manager unfortunately but we had a nice enough time there.

I think I would describe this as contrived exclusivity.

Did the slightly painful wait make the experience in the bar even better for us? In this instance, I don't think so. I'm unlikely to be adding this bar to my favourite bars of London list.It seems that there are plenty of other customers who respond well to this deliberate positioning strategy. The mix of swanky surroundings, a good cocktail menu, and this contrived exclusivity seems to hit the spot. Maybe it makes people feel special for being the lucky ones who are in there. Perhaps by making it that bit harder to get into, it attracts only a certain type of clientele, and probably a rich clientele and so the visitors there find others just like them. Or maybe there's more to it than that?

I'm not saying the Radio Rooftop Bar has no substance. The food was tasty, the views are great and the waiting staff are very nice, but I can't help feeling that this contrived exclusivity makes the place feel a lot better than it actually is to a certain type of customer.

As so often happens with me, other things crop up in my timeline that are very pertinent to something I've just experienced. When I got home last night, I spotted this on Twitter.
Glamour, as opposed to style, is important in marketing terms so maybe the Power of Glamour needs to be on my reading list. You can get it over on Amazon.

And then today, when I was wondering what I should write about today, I read this article from Vice about how someone made his shed the top rated restaurant on TripAdvisor. It's a fascinating read and tells us a lot about human behaviour. Exclusivity plus high ratings seems to have made 'The Shed' a big hit even though there was absolutely no substance to it at all.

So maybe there is something in this contrived exclusivity mullarkey. I'm racking my brain though as to how this could work in a digital or mobile environment. Something for me to ponder further.

Day 6/25 Blogmas

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Taking stock about job prospects

It probably comes as no surprise that the end of January is prime time for quitting one's job. Such a big decision doesn't come easily and it can take several months to get to that decision and to find another job to go to. Often the Christmas break is the catalyst for change too. Taking time off over Christmas gives you chance to take stock of what you want to do for the next year or years.

From the work I did a couple of years back about the Future of Work, there is not only a skills gap in the UK, especially where technology is concerned, but technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, mobile computing, cloud computing, internet of things and robots is also impacting on the kind of work we will be doing and what jobs will look like in the near future. I touched on this a little in last month's posts, 'What do you do when your boss is an algorithm?" and 'What three things should we teach in schools?'.

And it got me thinking about what skills are required to future-proof oneself and then I was reminded about the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs report from January 2016. Even though it's two years old, it's still relevant. And rather handily, there's a graphic showing what the Top 10 skills required were in 2015 and the ones anticipated in 2020 (which isn't very far away).

Interestingly, complex problem solving is still number one. However, critical thinking and creativity have moved up the charts to 2nd and 3rd position. Critical thinking and creativity are things that Artificial Intelligence cannot do. There's no question that computers can crunch data in ways humans can't, and a computer can even create artistic works. A death metal album from DaDaBots is one of the latest offerings. You can read more about that here. However, the computer that has 'learned' about complex death metal will not wake up one day and decide to create an album of music that is completely original. In the same way a computer that can generate Picasso-like pictures, will not suddenly wake up the next day and generate the kind of artwork that Tracey Emin might come up with.

This stresses to me that in order to be future proof, we need to nurture our creative sides more. In fact, one school in Bradford, in the North of England, found that they improved scores in mathematics without teaching more maths but by spending more time on learning and practising music. It's an incredibly powerful case study and can be found over on Big Think.

So if you're thinking about what your next career move might be, or you're a student and wondering what prospects are ahead of you when it comes to work, you could do worse than consider what skills are required and gen up on the Future of Jobs free report from the World Economic Forum. The full report is here or you can check out the Executive Summary here (PDF).

Day 5/25 Blogmas

Monday, December 04, 2017

A nice sit down and a think

From 'Memorial Bench' blog
The internet can be an amazing place sometimes. The time and energy that goes into crowdsourced information is fantastic. Until recently, I had no idea that people were making maps of public benches so you can find a place to sit down and have a think when on your travels whether that's in the town or the countryside. And it's not just about the benches, it's also about who the bench is dedicated to. So many of our benches have a dedication, especially on benches where there is a particularly good view that meant something to the deceased.

There are a few online resources out there...

A Nice Sit Down is on a mission to get photographs and location of all the public benches out there. It's a bit bonkers, but each bench gets their own page and you can add a bit of blurb to your entry if you wish. There aren't that many benches on the site but you might find one local to you or you can add one that's near you.

Open Street Map (a free, editable map of the whole world that is being built by volunteers) has a list of some of the benches in the world. It's not comprehensive unfortunately. I did a check on a couple of locations I know very well, and the benches I know about weren't listed. It's also safe to say that I found Open Street Maps a bit tricky to work out how to use it. It's a long time since I've had to read a map that's not a street map so I'm rusty on the protocol and on top of that, Open Street Maps seems to be very geeky so may put off the less geeky among us.

In Memory of is a blog about memorial bench dedications and the views from those benches. The author, George, claims to have always had a morbid fascination with reading the dedications on memorial benches and after a chance conversation with a fellow fan, she started the blog. She adds photos of memorial benches and the views from them on an ad hoc basis. She also accepts submissions from others.

The newest resource on the block comes from my friends Terence and Elizabeth and it's called Open Benches. They've put this together following on from their interest in blue plaques and the wonderful Open Plaques site. Blue plaques commemorate the famous and influential figures from the past and the open plaques site document those plaques and some of the history behind the figures.

For the rest of us, there are memorial benches. Open Benches is dedicated to those benches and they're asking people to take a photo of a bench's plaque and upload it to the site and it will then automatically be added to the map.

So the next time you're on a walk and rest on a public bench, why not take a photo of it and the memorial plaque on it and share it with the world via Open Benches? Not only will you be honouring those who've gone before us, but you'll also be sharing a valuable resource for those who are less able to walk or stand and need to sit down to rest and recuperate.

Day 4/25 Blogmas

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Another contender for favourite Christmas TV advert

You may have read my previous post about this year's contenders for best Christmas TV ad. We'll, there's a new contender from The Co-Op.

The firm deliberately held off from going live with their advert until December. Their feeling was that the Christmas season doesn't start until then and there's too much of a rush to get your and out in November. They wanted to avoid the rush, and I think they probably have a point. But that's not why this advert is a contender for me.

This advert, set to the Britpop classic, Tender, from Blur, has a genuine community feel about it. That's not down to casting the right actors. This is down to choosing genuine community groups rather than faking them. Not only that, but my cousin appears in it! The choir she sings for, The Silver Choir from Wigan, is featured throughout the advert, my cousin, Anne, included. 

The ad has been on rotation on the TV this weekend so it's put a smile on my face every time I catch a glimpse of my cousin and hear her, her choir, and the other local community groups, singing Blur's Tender. The track has been released to raise funds for charity and is in the race for the Christmas number 1 slot.

Here's the ad below for you to see for yourself and more about the ad campaign here.

In case you're wondering which one my cousin is, she's most easily spotted in the end scene wearing a blue dress.

Day 3/25 Blogmas

Saturday, December 02, 2017

What are we going to do about the theatre and the performing arts?

That's the question posed by director, Phelim McDermott, and it will be the question asked in January's annual D&D (Devoted & Disgruntled) open space event. This year, it's being held at the New Diorama Theatre in London on 20-22 January 2018 (that's all day Saturday and Sunday and a half-day on Monday - drop in and out as you please). It's the unconventional convention for everyone who loves, makes and lives theatre and the performing arts.

Who is D&D for? It's for theatre lovers and people passionate about the performing arts. You might work in the theatre, you might not. You might be a teacher or a technician; an administrator or an audience member, all are welcome. A key principle of Open Space is whoever comes are the right people. In fact Open Space works best with a range of people and diverse points of view, so if you want to be there, you ARE the right person to attend.

The weekend event uses the open space format. If you've never done that before, I recommend you give it a go. I think it's a great way to learn, listen and participate. If you've been to a barcamp or unconference before, those are both broadly similar but there's something about open space that I think works even better and allows for all kinds of topics and expertise to emerge and it completely alleviates the need for any kind of Powerpoint slides!

I went along to one of these D&D open space sessions about 3 years ago. The question was something around what an Institute of Improvisation might deliver. It was my first experience of open space and I had no idea what to expect. I also wasn't sure what I could or couldn't contribute since my forays into improvisation were fairly minimal. I was soon won over by the energy and conversations happening all over the building we were in. I'd arrived tired and depleted at the beginning of the session and left more tired, yet energised having had a chance to exercise my brain in a completely different way.

That session then led to myself and Lloyd Davis running various open space sessions covering topics related to artificial intelligence, blockchain and other technologies in relation to the future of work. And very interesting it was too and is something I'd very much like to do again.

I'm thinking of heading down to this event. I've been to 89 shows or concerts this year alone, so I have a point of view of what's happening and some thoughts on what could happen and I'm interested to hear what practitioners are up to in an age of continuing austerity and an impending Brexit. It will also be interesting to stretch my brain in a different way and hang out with a different kind of crowd.

The video below will explain a little more about what's happening, and there's more information and a link to get your tickets on the Devoted & Disgruntled website. See you there?

Phelim McDermott invites you to D&D 13 from Improbable on Vimeo.
A captioned video invitation to Devoted & Disgruntled 13 from Improbable's co-Artistic Director, Phelim McDermott.

Day 2/25 Blogmas #DandD13

Friday, December 01, 2017

I'm not giving up on the daily blogging thing yet!

I got a lot out of last month's daily blogging challenge, so I'm back at it for #Blogmas. The idea is to write something daily, for 25 days straight, in the run up to Christmas and for it to have some kind of Christmas theme. A sort of advent calender for bloggers.

It's fair to say, I may have to stretch that a bit as there's only so much one can write about technology, or even life, and relate it directly to Christmas, and Christmas isn't to everyone's taste either. And it gets overdone too.

So although some of my posts may have a Yuletide theme, and I do love me a bit of Kirstie's Homemade Christmas (and there's a new series starting next week, UK viewers), they won't all have jingle bells on.

I may however share some of my crafting successes (or failures) as well as some commentary on mobile technology, AI and robots, retail, mobile advertising, mobile marketing, theatre and life in general. I do hope you'll join me for the ride.

And if you have ever written a blog, how about reviving it? And if you've ever thought about writing a blog, how about starting one? It's really very straight forward and you could join #Blogmas too to kickstart it.

Day 1/25 Blogmas