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
http://happytoast.co.uk
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