Monday, October 24, 2016

China, Big Data and Social Scoring - Big Brother Is, In Fact, Watching You

This isn't entirely new news from The Independent today, but it is an update about the Chinese government implementing a sort of comprehensive Klout score to each and every citizen and in turn, limiting access rights to certain services (including travelling by train or going abroad), goods and even jobs. It's the stuff of fiction of the kind of society Orwell was writing about.
"A high-level policy document released in September listed the sanctions that could be imposed on any person or company deemed to have fallen short. The overriding principle: “If trust is broken in one place, restrictions are imposed everywhere.” A whole range of privileges would be denied, while people and companies breaking social trust would also be subject to expanded daily supervision and random inspections.
The ambition is to collect every scrap of information available online about China's companies and citizens in a single place – and then assign each of them a score based on their political, commercial, social and legal “credit.”"
I first picked up on this story last December and wrote about it on my blog here in some depth. I hadn't exactly forgotten about it, but had brushed it to one side. But Big Data and the algorithms that are interrogating Big Data are not going away anytime soon. And in that respect, we're all affected in some way or other. We are being measured and tracked and assumptions are being made about us all the time based on our home address, where we work, where we travel to, the products we buy, how much money we have and who we are connected to.

There are clearly some very useful aspects to scoring to make certain things in life and business easier - after all, we have extensive credit scoring in Europe and the US. But that's not a perfect science by any stretch of the imagination and is prone to fraud, abuse and misuse. This will likely increase. I don't think there is an easy answer to this. Some kind of scoring is inevitable when there is data available (and it's available in bucket loads). We are being scored all the time at some level - from targeted advertising to credit scores. Is it the price we have to pay to have a digital life?

1984 play image
On a side note, but not entirely unrelated, I recently went to see Orwell's 1984 in London at The Playhouse Theatre. It's very powerful and pertinent to today's society and I highly recommend it. It's on a limited run and closes on Saturday 29 October. Catch it while you still can. Or you could read the book as a refresher.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

What does the skills gap look like in the mobile sector? Have your say!

As a long-serving veteran of the mobile marketing, advertising and media community, I have seen how the sector has evolved over time from its lowly beginnings with SMS. I spend time mentoring and meeting under-graduate and post-graduate students of business and marketing and I'm always surprised at their lack of awareness of the opportunities in the mobile sector. I'm also painfully aware of the lack of teaching on the topic at undergraduate and post-graduate level. And I'm wondering if that is having an impact on the innovation (or lack of) in the sector and in turn, if that means we're missing a trick somewhere. And that's why I've set up this survey.

A couple of years ago, the Mobile Marketing Association published a report on the opportunity in the mobile sector in the US, and as part of that, highlighted the skills gap. I can remember thinking it looked pretty stark at the time - a huge opportunity on the one hand but not enough people with the right skills and attitude to deliver on the other.

I know this is partly addressed by companies with their own in-house training, but I'm wondering what else can be done to both make the sector more attractive to both new graduates and more experienced people looking for a career change and also make sure that the people coming into our industry have the skills and tools they need.

To that end, I have a first meeting with a senior academic from one of the fastest growing universities in the UK on Monday 10th October 2016 to discuss the skills and teaching gap in mobile marketing, mobile advertising and mobile media and to see how we can address that. And I'd like to hear your opinion on what they are.

Whether you're a seasoned professional with a decade of experience under your belt, or you're new to the sector, I'm interested in your point of view. If you are hiring, what skills are you looking for? If you're new to the sector, what would have been helpful for you to learn before you started the job?

Although this questionnaire is geared towards the UK market, I'm also interested in hearing opinions from our friends in other countries since it's a global industry.

This questionnaire will remain open past the meeting date so don't worry about filling it in after 10th October! The conversation will be ongoing, as we work towards understanding and addressing the skills gap. If the form below doesn't work properly, please use this link instead.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

A little gender analysis of my social networks is revealing

I hosted a lovely dinner last week in London for ladies working in and around the mobile industry. I was thinking on the way home about hosting another one in a couple of months time and what I could do to attract more women to come along. And that got me thinking on how many women I'm connected to on social media. These thoughts were alongside those on the gender pay gap, women struggling to advance their careers (McKinsey), the advice that was circulating that women should remove their photos and resort to initials only on social media, why women don't seem to get pay rises and the depressing constant that women are not in senior roles in digital agencies or tech companies. So I did an analysis out of curiosity.

My Twitter audience was easiest to analyse since Twitter does it for you via their advertising system. Just go to and check the analytics. It gives you a breakdown of gender, income, location and interests. What it doesn't do is measure who you are following so we'll have to leave that for another day when I'm truly bored and don't mind working it out one by one.

Out of just shy of 9000 Twitter followers, it's a 70/30 split male/female and my organic audience is 75/25 male/female. I'm guessing that's based on what tweets are shared and by whom. 

You might say that this kind of breakdown is to be expected due to my long history in the mobile sector. However, I actively follow a lot sewists and crafters to get some variety and balance in my find. This group of tweeters tend to be mostly female. And my perspective is that a lot of them follow me back. But without further analysis, it's hard to say.  

I've been active in women's networking groups for almost 15 years including Digital Eve, WiMD, WiTT, Everywoman as well as my own female-focussed events. I'm also pretty good at adding people I meet to my LinkedIn as I use it as an outsourced contacts database if you like. I'm also good at weeding out fake or dodgy profiles. I do check people out before I add them due to the risk of spam, scame and phishing. I have about 3,500 contacts on LinkedIn as I've been active there since they first launched. I downloaded all of them.

Once I'd done some deduping, removal of people I knew to be deceased, accounts that were businesses rather than an individual and a handful of dodgy accounts, I worked out who was male and who was female based on either a) I knew them personally so could say male or female b) I checked their profile for evidence. 

On that basis, the gender split was 69/31 male/female. Hmm. I thought there would have been more women in there.

Finally, I downloaded all my Facebook data and got my friends list. (Go to settings and Download your Data and follow the instructions). I use Facebook for both personal friends and family as well as business friends as a way of keeping in touch. The total number of friends, once deceased, duplicates and non-attributable accounts were excluded was just over 1200. I didn't count my followers as part of this exercise. And I followed the same process as I did for LinkedIn. 

The result - 60/40 male to female. A bit more balanced, but still skewed male. And that's with my having attended an all girls school for 9 years too!

What to conclude?
Without doing analysis on other peoples' accounts, it's hard to tell what is cause and what is effect and if this is a 'oh, it's just you, Helen' thing. I think there may be several contributing factors:

1. The fact that I've been working in mobile technology for the last 16 years has clearly meant that I've met more men in my line of work than I have women. And that's despite efforts made with hosting and attending female-focussed events. Where else am I supposed to meet other women in my sector for friendship, support and to do business with?

2. Women are more reticent about living life in public? I'm not sure about this, but anecdotally, it feels like there could be something in this. To counter this, do women in business need to step up and be more visible online so that other women will follow them and we can then see them too? According to Brandwatch in 2015, women are using social media as much as, if not more than men, but do not use it for business. Is that holding them back? How important is visiblity?

3. The women in the workplace, especially in the UK and US (where most of my network is) are not in the kind of roles where I'm likely to network and meet them. They're in lower paid or part-time work where networking is not part of the role nor would networking enhance the role necessarily. I'm thinking waiting staff, cleaners, teaching assistants, care workers, shop assistants and shelf stackers here. Is there any truth in that? Is that why I can't see women in mid-level or senior roles in any large number?

4. Women don't see the need for this stuff. They're too busy getting on with other things and have not embraced digital connections.

5. It is just a Helen thing, an anomaly, from 15 years of running Swedish Beers Mobile Networking parties!

Research has shown us over and over that companies are more successful if they have more women on the board and more women at senior levels. Mixed gender teams do better than single-gender teams. For those two reasons alone, I've been wanting to see more women in senior roles in mobile marketing, mobile advertising, digital, tech entrepreneurship etc for the last 16 years and still would like to see it. But it feels like I'm fighting a losing battle sometimes.

What have I missed? What other possibilities are there? Can this be addressed and if so, how? Does it matter? I welcome your thoughts and observations on this.

I'm planning to host another ladies dinner in London in the next couple of months and one in Manchester. Watch this space for details.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Deloitte's 2016 UK Mobile Consumer Report is out 'There's No Place Like Phone'

And it's a treasure trove of the latest consumer trends when it comes to mobile usage in the UK. Well worth a look if you're interested in the British consumer at all.

From the executive summary (emphasis my own and some minor edits):

"This year’s report marks the end of the smartphone growth era, and the start of its consolidation. A mere nine years after the launch of the first full touchscreen smartphone, adoption is nearing a plateau, at 81 per cent of UK adults, and 91 per cent of 18–44 year olds.

The smartphone user base is approaching an unprecedented peak. No other personal device has had the same commercial and societal impact as the smartphone, and no other current device seems likely to. While the base may plateau, relentless innovation continues at device and network levels. Devices are likely to incorporate more functionality and get even faster. Biometric sensors, particularly fingerprint readers, are likely to see widespread adoption.

Over a quarter of smartphones now have a fingerprint reader, of which three quarters are in use. The majority of phones are now connected to 4G, and cellular networks are getting ever faster, with headline speeds now at over 300 Mbit/s.1 As speeds rise, ever more latent, high bandwidth applications become viable. It is now as easy to read the news on a phone as it is to live stream a breaking news event from a smartphone.

Businesses and consumers are still determining how best to use these devices. For the former, a common dilemma is over whether to use apps or websites. The typical UK user downloads 20 or fewer apps.

Our research suggests that apps are not the right approach for every business.

Consumers, who collectively look at their smartphones 0.4 trillion times per year, still need to identify how to use their devices in a balanced way, at a level that suits them, their other halves and colleagues. It is the sleek digital Swiss army knife that can be used at every stage of the day. How people will use their devices to communicate will be driven by consumers.

The traditional voice call has become steadily less popular over the last four years, and usage of email, social networks and instant messaging has risen in tandem."

Click here for the PDF.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Page 52, Sentence No. 5

"This is a generalised feeling of envy and resentment about life: Just as in a passionate age enthusiasm is the unifying principle, so in a passionless and over-reflective age envy becomes the negatively unifying principle."
(Robert Ferguson: Life lessons from Kierkegaard)
Grab the nearest book, look up page 52 and share the 5th sentence. For no reason whatsoever.

My friend, Heli, posted this on her Facebook page this morning. Just for fun, I grabbed the nearest book and did the same. This is what I got. 'Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better' Samuel Beckett. The book is 'It's not how good you are but how good you want to be'. (Apparently I bought it in May 2004 and it's still a best seller - the joys of a digital footprint...I'll leave thoughts on that for another time.)

We all fail in life from time to time. It's inevitable and part of our human nature to get things wrong and to make mistakes. I know I've made many mistakes and failed at things more times than I care to remember. The trouble is, society is not very accepting of this. Schools don't really prepare us for failure. I know my schooling didn't. It was all about who could come top of the class. If you come top of the class, you haven't failed so you're not prepared for the inevitable failures that come later and may be ill-equipped to deal with them. If you are not top of the class, you feel a constant failure and under pressure to do better in exams which leads to stress and, likely, even less ability to perform or conform to what's expected of you. Most people don't perform well under extreme stress. In the corporate world, failure at work means getting fired or the intense feeling of shame - either scenario is debilitating and stressful. Failure and shame are often swept under the carpet or glossed over. Yet, if we don't make mistakes, it's almost impossible to learn or improve.

I'm not sure what else to say except maybe to have less judgement and more compassion when people make mistakes for it happens to us all. We all need to take Samuel Becket's advice and fail, fail again and fail better.

What's on page 52, sentence number 5 of the nearest book to you?


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ladies in Mobile Dinner in London next week - 28 Sept 2016

With 10 years of ladies in mobile meet-ups in Barcelona and one in Leeds last year, I thought it was time to host a dinner in London. I know some terrific ladies in the industry and I know that they know some terrific ladies in the sector too. So let's gather, exchange notes, have something nice to eat and drink and meet friends old and new.

I have not yet found a venue - it largely depends on how many of us there are. We may be a handful of people we could be 30, I don't know yet! However many we are, I will book a venue that can do us a fixed price menu for the evening at a reasonable price and afford us some privacy, but not necessarily a private room (unless we need it because of numbers). As a picky pescetarian myself, I will make sure that different dietary requirements can be catered for. Please let me know when you register of any specific needs. You can register on the form below or by clicking this link and registering on the Eventbrite page.

I currently do not have a sponsor but am very happy to welcome a sponsor or two that would help subsidise the price to make the event open to those less able to afford it and/or to provide some additional wine on the night. If you'd like to sponsor this event, please get in touch with me, Helen Keegan, by email.

Once I have an idea on numbers (currently about 20), I'll go ahead and book somewhere and advise on the price. You may be asked to pay in advance in order to secure our reservation. If that's the case, I will contact you with details of how to pay by by paypal, TransferWise or invoice/bank transfer.

Men are welcome to attend the evening but must be accompanied by a female colleague.

Know of a suitable place for us to go? Please let me know! I'm all ears.

Looking forward to seeing you all.



This is a Heroes of the Mobile Fringe Event.

Photo credit Becky Gorman / aql. Taken at the Heroes of the Mobile Fringe Ladies Lunch in Leeds, November 2015