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

Thursday, November 30, 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017 - The Round Up

I can hardly believe that a month has gone by and I have completed the challenge I set myself with this NaBloPoMo thing. And thank you if you've made it this far on my journey this month. There were a couple of hiccups along the way when I got behind and had to play catch-up, or I've had to schedule my blog posts as I was going away for a few days. Mostly though, I've written and published on the day itself.

Some observations about the experience are that some days it's very hard to write anything at all and other days, the words just flow. There's no particular rhyme or reason to that. It helps to feel inspired to write. And I really need to be interested in the topic to write about it. Regurgitating press releases are definitely not my thing.

I've enjoyed the experience a lot more than I thought I would and it's reminded me of some of the reasons why I started blogging in the first place and reminded me of what I used to enjoy about blogging regularly. It's also challenged me to stick to a routine, it's made me more aware of what a month is and what can be achieved in a month (and also what can't). I think (hope) my writing skills have improved. And I've read more widely this month whilst finding inspiration for things to write about. That's also meant I've ventured over to Twitter again on a more regular basis.

The downside of this challenge is that things ain't what they used to be. The traffic isn't here or at least, it doesn't feel like it. And that's because there isn't nearly the same engagement as I might get on Facebook or LinkedIn if I post something there. And if there's no engagement, it's hard to imagine that anyone is reading or is interested in what I have to say. That's my vanity coming through. I write for myself first - this is my personal archive, and you, the reader, come second. I think that's the right way around for a blogger. I don't think it would feel nearly as authentic if I tried to write in a particular way for a particular audience. Or maybe that's the difference between a hobbyist and a pro?

Another thing I'm missing is meeting new people via their blogs. In the early days of blogging, I met many people by commenting on their blogs and getting into conversation with them. I'm still in touch with a lot of those people. Reading someone's blog was a useful way of quickly working out what they were about and where your common interests may lie. Those conversations have now moved to other social media. We all know that. I miss that element of blogging, nevertheless. Maybe as I continue to write, that interaction will start to happen again. And maybe in some small way, I can encourage others to pick up on their blogs again.

And finally, I miss the easy ways there used to be of reading blogs. I used to check in on my RSS feeds most days and catch up with what friends and people I followed were saying. I haven't found a replacement for Bloglines. I probably need to look a bit harder. And I also need to accept my own media habits have changed over the years I've been actively blogging. Something to ponder for another day.

I will continue to write and I plan to write more frequently again. I hope you'll keep reading too.

In case you missed any of my posts this month and fancy catching up, these are the posts in order.

Day 0. Why I decided to do NaBloPoMo and what it is 

Day 1. Swedish Beers (Not Tears) - a shameless promotion for my event on 21st November in memory of Carlo Longino

Day 2. Rodelinda, a Tale of Obsession, a review of the ENO production - it was brilliant!

Day 3. Security, The Internet of Things and The Future of Humanity

Day 4. Two posts today that are connected:
Here are some easy Christmas Presents to sew (as written by an AI)

The Future of Blogging and Communications - some thoughts after the #blogclub panel session

Day 5. Big questions for Big Tech

Day 6. Maps, open data and the call for cleaner air 

Day 7. Children, their mobile habits and the Monqi phone

Day 8. Showing up. Some thoughts on advertising

Day 9. The 25 Most High Tech Cities in the World

Day 10. Tis the Season. A round-up of this year's Christmas TV adverts

Day 11. Are Smart Meters as Smart as they like to think they are.

Day 12. Complex Writing is Good for You

Day 13. On this Day. A look back at Carnival of The Mobilists over the years

Day 14. Mobile Ad Campaign Best Practices

Day 15. Love Theatre Day is Today

Day 16. Thursday Thoughts. Some links I thought worth sharing

Day 17. Bose, Indiegogo and the Noise-Masking Sleepbuds 

Day 18. Is Technology Impacting on Human Joy? 

Day 19. Two posts today

Online Privacy, a Battle that Can't be Won? and
Demystifying Data Analysis

Day 20. What do you do when your boss is an alogorithm?

Day 21. A reminder about Swedish Beers

Day 22. WIP's 5th Annual Developer Relations Survey

Day 23. Watching Good Theatre is Good for your Heart

Day 24. IoT - The Internet of Textiles?

Day 25. What Three things should we teach in school?

Day 26.Will we be experiencing theatre via VR in the future? 

Day 27. Walking is good for you. A round up of my walking weekend in Yorkshire with the Glamoraks

Day 28. On Setting Goals.

Day 29. I'd love to know more about your air travel habits

Day 30. Well, you're reading it!

Day 30/30 NaBloPoMo

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I'd love to know more about your air travel habits

I'm working on a project for a new client. She's exploring airline travel habits to help her assess market need for some start-up ideas she's brewing up. As such, I'd be very grateful if you would complete one or other of these surveys. This is a global survey so feel free to share with your friends and colleagues far and wide.

If you ever travel by air with children, please complete this survey:

If you usually travel by air without children, please complete this survey:

Neither survey will take very long for you to complete and we've tried to make it as straight forward as possible. Once we have enough respondents to make the results meaningful, I'll share some of the topline findings on this blog.

Thanking you in advance.

Day 29/30 NaBloPoMo

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

On setting goals

It really seems to come around far too quickly, but here we are again and it's less than a month to go until Christmas. It sneaks up on me every year. Just when I think I'm getting organised by getting some presents in advance or by starting to sew my Christmas decorations and gifts, time seems to run away from me and before I know it, there's barely any time at all to do anything.

At the beginning of the year, I set myself some challenges. I've never done this before but since I was going to hit a milestone birthday in January, I thought it would be a good way to focus my year. I was skeptical about doing this. I'm not sure I was even that committed to all the challenges but I put the building blocks in place. Thought through what I wanted to achieve in my life and downloaded a little app, Keep Track Pro (the old version which had the functionality I wanted), to keep track of the numbers and to log when I'd done something towards each challenge. That last bit is important. Having visibility of the numbers and making it really easy to log was key to some of the early successes.

The good news is that I beat my theatre-going goal back in June. I will reach my blogging goal and my making things goal by the end of the year. The fitness and getting into nature goals are about half way there and I'll get a few more sessions in, but they won't be reached, but that's ok. I got part-way towards those goals.

What I've learned about the process is that goal setting can work but you need to do more than just decide to do something. It's important to be clear about the goal, be able to measure it, and, in my case, I shared my goals with some friends so they could help me along the way. I'd go on to say, that I've done rather better with this goal setting than I'd ever anticipated so I'm going to do it again for next year.

I'm still mulling over what the goals should be. I know fitness has to be on there but I need to find a way to make it more enjoyable. And I'd like to include walking again but I think I'm going to get a list of specific walks I want to do and tick those off as I go. I also want creative things to be on there in some shape or form. I'm also going to keep a list of shows attended, but it won't be a goal as such. I think the habit is already ingrained. I'm wondering about making a goal of visiting a specific number of different venues or fringe shows instead of just 'shows' but that may be taking too much on. I'm also going to have the blogging goal in there. 

What I haven't decided on is what work goals I'll set myself. I deliberately didn't set any work goals at the beginning of this year. This experiment wasn't about work success, this was about living more of the life I want to live. But having seen how effective it can be, I'm going to think through what those work goals might be. 

Barcelona and the events I do the week of Mobile World Congress are on the agenda for sure, but I'm mulling over what else would be relevant next year and the year after in terms of events but also some consulting and maybe something else. Who knows? I'm still at the thinking stage.

Do you set goals? Do you use apps to help you with reaching those goals? What works for you?

Day 28/30 NaBloPoMo

Monday, November 27, 2017

Walking is good for you

Of course, you knew that already. I've just spent the last weekend walking in North Yorkshire taking in Malham Cove, Gordale Scar, Janet's Fosse and Kirkby Malham. As you can imagine, it was very cold indeed. I was glad of my merino wool base layers and sturdy walking boots even though it was sometimes cumbersome to be wearing so many layers, especially when walking up a steep hillside. I felt, and looked, like a Michelin man but at least I was warm enough. We had all weather thrown at us at some point in the weekend - sunshine, wind, rain and snow. Sometimes it was a battle of wits to combat the wind and rain and eating your lunch in a biting wind is no fun, but then you're blessed with magnificent views when you get to the top and you can marvel at the wonder of nature from the huge to the tiny.

It's good to get back to nature. I don't do it nearly enough being a city girl. It was one of my challenges this year to do 50 walks in nature. I'm ashamed to say that I'm only half way through that challenge and realistically, I won't reach the target. But it's given me a good indication of what to improve on for my challenges for next year. More on that another time.

The weekend wouldn't have come together at all had I not stumbled across Glamoraks - a blog by Melissa Talago and related Facebook group aimed at women walkers. I joined with the thought that seeing others talk about their walks, I could be encouraged to do it more to fulfil my goal for the year. It didn't quite work out that way, at least not yet.

I am rather glad I decided to join the group's first weekend away in a YHA Hostel in Malham - a place I've never been and didn't know I wanted to visit until I got there. I persuaded one friend to join me, but apart from that, I didn't know anyone else in the group of 15 women from all over the country. That can be daunting. I wasn't sure who I might end up sharing a room with or what the other women would be like and could I hack walking in the cold. As it happens, I had great roomies and made new friends and ate good food over the weekend whilst getting some (very) fresh air and exercise. And all because of the serendipity of social media and having stumbled across the Glamoraks blog.

I'm not sure what lessons can be learned here. Perhaps it's about taking (calculated) risks and trying something new. Or maybe it's about the reach of social media and the power it has to connect people and join them together in a common purpose. Or is it learning that the challenge is worth it as you get rewarded with fabulous views and a sense of achivement. Or is it about finding out how good the Ordnance Survey subscription is for walkers as it works offline and you can zoom in on the screen? It's probably a bit of all of those and more. Whilst I mull that over, take a look at some of the pictures I took. If you click on the image, it will take you through to the album on Flickr.

Walking Weekend in Malham

And here's the official video of the weekend.

Day 27/30 NaBloPoMo

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Will we be experiencing theatre via VR in the future?

RSC Titus Andronicus 2017
I've been reading about a study by the RSC and Ipsos Mori done during a run of Titus Andronicus in Stratford earlier this year. They were exploring uses of new technology, such as VR (virtual reality) in the theatre.

In the experiment, a group of participants viewed a 360 degree film of Titus Andronicus via HTC Vive VR headsets and wore heart rate monitors. The film was created by Gorilla In The Room. The experience allowed participants to move their head and could view any aspect of the theatre, stage, audience as they wished as if they were seated in that position at the theatre. This was compared with a previous project to monitor the emotional engagement of a theatre and cinema audience by the same research team.

The 360 degree filmed VR experience was viewed in 5 parts – rather than in the usual 2 parts that you would experience in the theatre or cinema. There were a mix of short breaks as well as a main interval where you would normally expect to have one.

These results are based on the data from 107 participants and some of the findings include:

There are more people with a raised heart rate in Theatre at the very start of the performance than we see for Cinema and 360 filmed VR experience - this is perhaps driven by higher levels of anticipation and excitement.

Watching Titus Andronicus raised heart rate to a level equivalent of a 5-minute cardio workout”
Audience heart rate is raised to the level of a cardio workout zone for an average of 5 minutes (3% of time) across the full performance of Titus Andronicus[1]. This is consistent across participants in Theatre, Cinema and the 360 filmed VR experience. This chimes with my piece earlier in the week of research into the Dreamgirls audience.

Men showed a greater emotional reaction - The heart rate data of the men in the study suggests a very slightly greater increase in reaction compared to female participants. I wonder if this was down to the subject matter. I can't say I've ever been drawn to watch Titus Andronicus.

A 360 degree filmed VR experience has the power to transport you into the theatre. 91% of those watching the performance via the VR headset felt there were times when they were physically present in the theatre. This compares to approximately 63% for those watching the show live on screen in the cinema. That sounds very promising for the future of theatre and having the ability to bring a very full experience of the theatre to the living room.

Theatre wins out over cinema in overall positive engagement and empathy. Participant feedback indicated greater overall positivity (excellent/awesome etc.), engagement (gripping, thought provoking, empathy etc.) and shock in Theatre – with more attention to the elements of staging, costume, set, plot, music and choreography. Those watching via 360 filmed VR also had a higher level of emotional engagement than the cinema audiences.

Lower shock levels in the cinema may indicate that viewers feel further removed/desensitised to the violence/gore. However, cinema was perceived to be significantly more ‘moving’ than either theatre of 360 video - possibly due to the cinematic style directing the viewers eye to the details of actor expressions (e.g. tear rolling down Lavinia’s cheek) which are often missed by theatre audiences due to the distance from the stage. You can't get close-ups in the theatre like you can on a cinema screen.

There are still issues with VR. It's not for everyone as it can trigger nausea and vertigo. The headsets are heavy and they're isolating so you need to be in a safe environment to use it as you're completely cut off from all other audio or visual clues as to what may be going on around you.

The RSC is naturally encouraged by the research. Theatre is outperforming cinema in terms of engagement, empathy and ability to shock. Sarah Ellis, RSC Director of Digital Development said: ‘This presented a unique opportunity for us to compare the emotional reaction to one of Shakespeare’s plays on three different platforms. The results have shown us that even after more than 400 years, Shakespeare’s work still packs an emotional punch to today’s audiences wherever and however it is experienced'.

Day 26/30 NaBloPoMo

Saturday, November 25, 2017

What three things should we teach at school?

It's not often that a stranger talks to you when you're travelling on the tube in London, but it happened to me the other night on my way to the theatre. A man, who had clearly had a drink, plonked himself into the seat next to mine. He had his open can of booze in a brown paper bag which is never a good look, and moreover, drinking alcohol is illegal on London Transport. He seemed harmless enough though.

And then he started talking to me. I felt a very mild panic. I mean, it's just not normal for anyone to talk to a stranger on the underground and I'm wondering why on earth he'd singled me out for a chat. I don't remember what he began to talk about. He was having a moan about something or other and I was humouring him a little. And then he asked, if there were only three topics you could teach at school today, what would they be? This was putting me on the spot a little and was completely out of the blue. I'd never given it any thought previously but my answer was more or less instantaneous. I guess this was based on instinct.

The three things I came up with were Reading, Writing and Thinking. The reason being that in our digital world, reading is a universal requirement. I read things all day, every day - on a phone screen, on my laptop, in the freebie newspapers, on posters, in shops, on road signs - the written word is everywhere. Writing - whether that's handwriting or on a keyboard is also a necessity. Learning to touchtype back in 1994 at South Thames College is the best £7 I ever spent. I know new voice-enabled interfaces are coming and even though I have Cortana on my laptop and OK Google on my phone, I still can't bring myself to use them, even if there's no-one around to listen to me.

On the third subject, Thinking, he challenged me asking if it could be taught. I was about to get off the train at this point and I said 'yes'. I didn't really think about it but my hunch is you can teach people how to think by giving them the space to think and giving the right examples and encouragement to do it.

When I was running my own mobile marketing agency, I recruited many young people, most of whom were still studying and were doing a placement with me, or they were new graduates. The ones who were successful were the ones who could think for themselves. Many of the young people I interviewed lacked critical thought and lacked the ability to work things out for themselves. We're talking 13 or 14 years ago now. Online social networking wasn't really a thing at that point for the mainstream. Flickr was the social network I participated in most. LinkedIn was a newish company. Streaming music wasn't a thing. But we did have email, we had Google and Amazon and we had mobile phones with SMS and java games and apps and the first cameraphones.

At the time, the education system was still geared up for more traditional type jobs in marketing and business. Even though the web was huge, it wasn't nearly as pervasive as it is today. Perhaps we needed people who could follow instruction more than they could think back then and that's why degrees were structured to produce those results.

In this current climate of constant change, especially when it comes to internet technologies, one of the key employability skills to have is adaptability. We need to see what's happening and adapt. The jobs we're doing now may not exist in the future. Or if they do, they will be vastly different on a day to day basis. And with increasing reliance on Google or Bing as our external brain, critical thought is essential. We need to work out what's fake and what's real, which things to take seriously and which to ignore, which way to build your software and connect your APIs and which APIs to ignore.

Of course, this is a hypothetical situation. We're not going to be limiting any school curriculum to just three subjects. But what I would like to see is some discussion and thought around what skills we need to perform well in the years to come and maybe use the topics such as history, geography, philosophy or physics to exercise those skills whilst learning a subject at the same time.

It turns out, I'm not the only one who thinks that Thinking is critical for being a successful human being. I've just discovered this article and podcast on the importance of thinking. Check it out for yourself. I think there are some good points in it.

Out of interest, what would your three subjects be and why?

Day 25/30 NaBloPoMo

Friday, November 24, 2017

IoT - The Internet of Textiles?

I think it's a fairly good assumption from a glance at my blog that I'm interested in technology, in particular mobile technology. What some of you may not already know is that I'm very keen on arts and crafts. I particularly enjoy stitching of all kinds. I started sewing clothes for my dolls when I was probably about 6 years old. I learned embroidery at age 9 when I made my first sampler. By the age of 10, I had my own sewing machine and had started making clothes for myself. I still enjoy all forms of stitching and textiles.

It would be about 10 years ago when I first met the Cute Circuit team who invented the bluetooth-enabled 'hug shirt' (pictured). This was ground breaking at the time. It appeared at Mobile World Congress a few times. I think I probably tried it there about 10 years ago. I experienced the sensors squeezing me based on messages the jacket was being sent. The idea behind it being that two people could send another person a virtual hug via the sensors on the shirts they were wearing. It remember it felt a bit weird. It doesn't feel like a human hug, but, like Pavlov's Dogs, one could learn to associate it with a message of love or warmth from a partner.

The same team then went on to experiment with clothing that lights up and have become pioneers, and perhaps, the world's best at doing this. The video below shows an example of their work for U2 from 4 years ago. They've also worked with other artists including Sarah Brightman and Katy Perry. These garments don't come cheap as they're labour intensive to create, but they're highly effective for a stage show or if you want to make an entrance. You can buy some of their items from their website now. The handbag is my favourite but a little outside my price range!

U2.COM - 'She's Gonna Dream Out Loud...' from CUTECIRCUIT on Vimeo.

There are other artists working in this space and it's growing. As is the #fashtech thing. #fashtech covers a wide range of fashion and technology cross overs from providing mirrors that show you in different outfits without you having to undress, to new ways of selling and distributing merchandise as well as technology you wear - from Fitbit devices to new fabrics to connected jewellery to 3D printed clothes and shoes and much more. Some of the innovations will never make it beyond an innovation lab, but some of these things will break through to the mainstream, but it's early days for most.

That's why I was very happy to discover the e-Stitches group who meet every other month or so at the V&A Museum (my favourite London museum). Apparently the group is now about 100 members strong and their focus is on e-textiles. I don't know a lot about this stuff at all, so I'm interested to find out more.

Their next meet-up is on 9 December, is free to attend and will be at the V&A in London (details will be posted here). I'm putting the date in my diary to check it out. I shall report back on what I discover there.

Day 24/30 NaBloPoMo

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Watching good theatre is good for your heart

This cheers me up enormously. This year, I set myself a challenge to see at least 50 shows. It turns out that has been both an enjoyable challenge and a goal I've managed to beat quite easily. If you include the concerts I've been to this year, my total is currently standing at 86. Check out my previous post about how I get to see so much theatre on a shoestring.

One of my other goals this year was about health and fitness. I've not done as well on that score unfortunately. I've been partially derailed by some health issues which are now being sorted out. But there is good news in that recent research shows that going to the theatre is good for your heart!

I've been reading today about a recent small-scale study where 12 individuals were monitored using wearable technology whilst watching a performance of Dreamgirls at The Savoy Theatre. They claim:
"Watching a live theatre performance can stimulate your cardiovascular system to the same extent as doing 28 minutes of healthy cardio exercise, a new study has found.
The research, conducted by University College London and the University of Lancaster in association with Encore Tickets, the UK’s leading independent ticket provider, monitored the heart rates, brain activity, and other physiological signals of 12 individuals at a live theatre performance of Dreamgirls, the Tony and Olivier award winning musical.
During the performance, the heart rates of audience members spent an average of 28 minutes beating at an elevated range between 50% - 70% of their maximum heart rate. The British Heart Foundation identify this level of heart rate as the optimal heart rate to stimulate cardio fitness and stamina. So, although they were seated for the performance, audience members spent an average of 28 minutes engaged in healthy cardio exercise."
Heart rate graph from participants in the study

I'm not entirely convinced one could class this as 'exercise' but it sounds like it's better for you than slumped on a sofa mindlessly scrolling a screen in your hand with another screen on in the background.

What's particularly interesting for me is how we can use wearable technology similar to a Fitbit or smartwatch to measure people's physical response to something. That opens up a whole new range of research that's now, potentially, much simpler to achieve and doesn't need complex, medical grade equipment to do it.


Day 23/30 NaBloPoMo

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

WIPs 5th Annual DevRel Survey - please fill it in! Closes 28 Nov 2017

Do you currently work in a developer relations  role or as part of a developer relations programme at a company/ organisation / government agency ? (If you're after a definition, this article may be useful.) If so, this survey is for you!

The developer relations craft is still relatively new and the community is still learning about it. As part of that effort, WIP has an annual DevRel survey which is now in its 5th year and they're asking all of you who work in developer relations in some shape or form to fill it in.

There isn't long to complete it - the closing date is next Tuesday 28 November 2017 and the early results will be shared at the upcoming DevRel conference in London. Caroline Lewko from WIP will be there to comment on the headline findings. The link is here:

The survey is completely anonymous and no contact information is being collected. The answers given will help people working in developer relations to get better at what they do, how they do it, what's important, best practices and more. You can see 2016's results here:

More about the organisation, WIP Factory, behind the survey can be found on their website. I've known the team for a long time and we've worked together a number of times. They've been immersed in developer relations for more than 10 years.

Day 22/30 NaBloPoMo

Monday, November 20, 2017

Ping pong robot, prizes, beer, mobile chat and more at Swedish Beers on Tuesday 21 November

Not long to go now until the next Swedish Beers bash in London. We'll be back at the Nordic Bar, our favourite London haunt, and as well as the usual chat, drinks and mingling, we will also have a Ping Pong Robot competition to raise funds for Bloodwise.

We're busy sorting out the prizes for that, but I can confirm that two of them are these latest release books.

The first is a copy of The Startup Way by Eric Ries of Lean Startup fame. I heard him speak at an event last week and wrote a few thoughts about that over on my personal blog. I managed to come away with an extra copy of the book which will be one of the prizes tomorrow night.
The other book that's up for grabs tomorrow is Rough Diamond: Turning Disruption into Advantage in Business and Life by Nicole Yershon.

We will also have some collection buckets, so please bring your small change - every coin counts.

If you prefer, you can donate on the justgiving page here

Or you can text in with your donation (UK only). Text BEAT01 £x to 70070 to donate to Bloodwise. The amount can be edited so that you choose how much you wish to donate, so if you're donating £5, then text BEAT01 £5 to 70070 or if you'd like to donate £2, then text BEAT01 £2 to 70070 - you get the idea!

The guest list for tomorrow night is shaping up nicely. If you haven't already registered, please do that here.

Entry is free and we'll have free drinks courtesy of Kindred Capital and Inspiring Interns for as long as the bar tab lasts. Everyone working in, around or interested in the mobile industry from a professional or academic point of view are most welcome. Do spread the word with your friends and colleagues.

Until tomorrow night then!

What do you do when your boss is an algorithm?

I was lucky enough to go to Business of Software's great event in London with entrepreneur and best-selling author, Eric Ries, talking about his new book, The Startup Way. The house was absolutely packed which is a testament both to the popularity of Eric Ries and how well Mark Littlewood and his team organise their Business of Software series of events.

I'm still mulling over much of what Ries was saying and I haven't yet read his book. The question that really stuck in my mind was about what workers will do when their boss is an AI or an algorithm. I've thought quite a lot about working with an AI as a colleague. Arguably, we're already doing that to some degree with our use of online tools such as search, productivity tools, graphic design software etc.

My boss is an algorithm
But what if the algorithm is our boss? Ries cited the example of an Uber driver. Who is the driver's boss? Who do they report to? Who tells them what to do? The answer, to all intents and purposes, is an algorithm (putting aside recent UK legislation about their legal status).

Imagine the scenario whereby a customer uses the app to hail a taxi in a high traffic area where there is a choice of driver. The algorithm decides which taxi driver(s) to show that too. That could be based on reviews (perhaps unverified), where the driver was the previous night, how frequently the driver chooses to drive for Uber, how safely the driver drives, who the driver is connected to on social networks and much more. And in that instance, who do you complain to anyway and what could they do? These algorithms are getting ever more complicated and anyway, this isn't a technical bug, this is an ethical question as much as anything.

I'm afraid, I don't have the answers, but I'm thinking about the implications of this in different aspects of work life.

Free book giveaway
Everyone at the BoS event last week got a copy of The Startup Way. I was lucky enough to come away with an extra copy which will be given away tomorrow evening at Swedish Beers in London as part of the Robot Ping Pong challenge. I do hope you can join us!

Eric Ries' Lean Startup talk & BoS archive
You can see Eric Ries's talk for BoS from 2010 when he'd just written Lean Startup. It's well worth revisiting.

Business of Software has archived all their previous talks and it's a fantastic resource. You can check it out here.

Day 21/30 NaBloPoMo (publishing a little ahead of schedule!)