Dedicated to being different: the #responsiveorg

Today I spent most of my time in a *space* in London talking about change.

Sounds horrid doesn’t it? But truly this – alongside moving house recently – has been the most transformative day of this year for me, and probably many years before it.

Why? Like a 1960s happening it would be hard to explain if you weren’t there. But in a nutshell:

1. Like minded people came to an event in London in their own time to share ideas about changing how they do work, how their organisations did work, and fundamentally who they are and who their colleagues are as individuals.

2. An unconference was held, where the attendees of the event defined the agenda and facilitated discussions about their chosen topics. Unlike your usual conference, there were no rock stars. The connections I made, the challenges that were laid before me without prejudice, and the conversations I was party to were the memorable moments.

3. Everyone was friendly, intelligent, creative, articulate and willing to share experiences. Sometimes even saying hello can feel difficult when you’re at work. The level of openness I experienced was unprecedented for me outside of some of my closest relationships. And these people were all strangers when I arrived.

4. I ducked out at 10pm, when the conversation had covered sex with robots, how teenagers are taught about anal on YouTube, and how we are in the middle of a New Renaissance. These topics aren’t typical of my usual Saturday evening.

The purpose and true substance of the event will be covered elsewhere, and no doubt extensively. But these are the reflections of someone who has experienced the #responsiveorg movement for the first time, first hand. Now all that remains is for me to work out what to do with all of this new input. And for that alone, I thank everyone involved. Salute!

People are more important than technology – a story about Enterprise Social Networking

Can I see your passport please?

Can I see your passport please?

I arrived at the boarding gate pretty early for me and benefitted from going straight to the front desk due to my frequent flyer privileges (believe me, no queuing = a great experience). Being a modern sort of chap I handed the lady on the left of the gate my iPhone with my boarding pass on it and greeted her with a smile and a hello.

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Digital literacy for grown-ups (part one)

Image

Within all the chatter amongst consulting types about ‘digital transformation’ it is generally agreed that in parallel with continuous investment and clear strategies for technology, companies need to think about how their staff are going to use this stuff.

(I shall ignore for the moment Avinash Kaushik’s often ignored assertion that 90% of your budget for technology – in his case, analytics – should be spent on the people rather than the technology itself. But it’s an interesting thought to keep in mind as you read through this post…)

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Advanced Media Studies for 9-year-olds

We’re growing up in an age where our children will not know a time when the Internet relied on wires, when TVs used to have manual controls and when we only had 3 channels of telly and a handful of newspapers to provide information about what was happening in the world.

In the late 1980s and 90s I was taught that the information age meant that my generation would need information filtering skills. Due to the volume of information, any ordinary person would need to understand how to decipher who was talking, how to establish how their background and agenda influenced the message, and therefore whether to trust what was being said – or seek out alternative views. 

Kids today will need more than that. I understand that in schools kids are taught how to remain “safe” online by avoiding ‘stranger danger’ on Facebook and the like. I am sure that increasingly being digitally literate means the deciphering skills I learnt about during my GCSEs and my degree will become inbuilt.

But are kids being taught about the algorithms that drive what they see online in the first place? Do 9-year olds know how the Google algorithm ranks web pages and PPC ads to give them the top result for “Horrible Histories”? Do teenagers understand the cookie tracking data and personal information stored about their ‘Likes’ in order for Facebook to present them ads about Azealia Banks’ latest release – and indeed stop them from downloading it illegally?

This is Advanced Media Studies – not just knowing how the media manufacture and produce the information we consume but how our new ‘windows on the world‘ use data about us and our behaviour to filter on our behalf. To be successful in the new information age our kids will need to master the mechanics of production as well as its outputs.

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” *

ios7 screenshots

This week on t’internets the Twitterati have been set alight by the hype surrounding the “design” of Apple’s new iOS – version 7. I say “design” because many of the commentators have been quick to highlight the aesthetic qualities resembling those of Apple’s key competitors, whether they be Google’s Android or Microsoft’s Metro UI schemes. To my mind these debates are inevitable but unfortunately lack much in the way of value.

The debate lacks purpose because after a while, and specifically for interfaces that are often used, aesthetic aspects become secondary to utility. It’s also been proven that UX designers themselves are very poor judges of the quality of an interface based on looks alone (see Dillon and Black, Aesthetics and user performance [PPT]). That is not to say, however, that aesthetics are not important. It is more that aesthetics are just one element of the experience and should not be assessed in isolation.

Aesthetics and emotion in digital interfaces is a topic that is endlessly debated in UX circles. Stephen B Andersen in particular makes a good case for how aesthetic excellence creates a more emotive bond between your product and your customer, and how brand also plays a role in helping people forgive disappointing functional design or lack of utility.

And while aesthetics are important, there are so many more important topics to focus on. It’s a shame, for example, that the aesthetics debate around iOS7 will most likely cloud the very interesting direction Apple is taking towards integrating its mobile devices and its laptop and desktop machines. For me, these are the new parts of the Apple user experience that will have lasting impact once the new OS appears. There aren’t so many pretty pictures to accompany those, unfortunately.

And so, the blog and tech journo hype machine rolls on to the next big launch. We will have to wait until the autumn to see whether iOS really improves the user experience.

* Quote from Steve Jobs, 2003

2013 part two

Spotify playlistHalfway through 2013 and the last three months has seen some stonking releases particularly on the album front. Daft Punk’s return and the new one from the Disclosure boys are sure to be in many people’s end of year lists.

The Spotify playlist below goes from live Scandinavian post-rock/jazz (played by a symphony orchestra) to slo-mo folkstep and RnB, then storming house and slamming techno, with a blast of Wiley at the end.

Notably I haven’t come across much in the way of storming straight hip hop LPs this year though. Suggestions?