So it’s Valentine’s Day

CM2017_02_love.pngSo it’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m going to talk about sex. This post may be NSFW, and the same caveat goes for the links.

I was watching Grace and Frankie,  one of the few TV (OK Netflix) shows to star post-menopausal women at the centre of the story. In the final episode of season two Grace finds that sex toys aren’t made for older women, they aggravate her arthritis. The two resolve to start a business making sex aids for older women.

Yep sextech has made it to tv.

Sextech is the attempts to bring the adult entertainment industry into modern life via technology. My first exposure to the sextech industry was a presentation at one of the WebSummits, where a startup had created an app that allowed separated couples to give each other intimate good vibrations. The presenters managed to explain exactly how it worked in PG-rated terms, quite a feat.

As you might guess it’s a male dominated industry. But there are some women working to change that, often by focusing new devices.  In fact the sextech industry has focused on devices, from artificially intelligent vibrators, to men’s pleasure training tools, to an orgasm tracker – a fitbit for sex. And who knows what VR will bring to the bedroom.

There is one notable exception to the device trend; Cindy Gallop is addressing the impact of the pervasive story-line of porn. In this TED talk she explains how bad we are at discussing sex, and asks us to be better at it.  (And the video is NSFW)

Cindy Gallop is driving a social sex revolution, where we become better at talking about sex, more honest about what does turn us on, less reliant on a single-story-line-porn version of sex. She’s gone from being annoyed at the limited view of sex offered by porn to inviting everyone to join the social sex revolution via a documentary.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-14-57-50I know Valentine’s day is supposed to be about romance rather than sex, but isn’t romance just foreplay to the foreplay?

To be honest I’m not really on board with the Valentine’s day thing. It’s true that I’m female and single so you can go ahead and label me as a bitter spinster for that but even when in a relationship I hated the forced feel of Valentine’s Day. One memorable Valentine’s Day the man-du-jour gave me a cactus. Not at all romantic; I appreciated the political commentary of the gift.

Images: Hearts |  Suju via pixabay  |  CC0 1.0 

Cactus  |  Sue Kellerman  |  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Privacy and Data Protection

CM2017_01_privacy.png

There are no surviving letters from Captain Cook to his wife, she burnt them saying they were “too personal and sacred”. We’re losing the idea that some things might be worth holding as personal and sacred. Part of that is our own doing, we’re sharing more images, texts and posts than ever (today’s count = 2 blog posts, 5 images, 4 links, spread across seven accounts). But a bigger part, a scary part, is from the technologies we use and the changing government rules.

Governments are taking more and more of our data. Last year the UK government expanded its surveillance powers last year with the passing of the Investigatory Powers Bill, which creates a government database to store the web history of every citizen in the country.

But perhaps the most insidious increase in data collection is via our mobile phones. I don’t share personal information on Facebook itself (I lied about my date of birth), but if I leave the application permissions on default then I grant Facebook the right to data from my calendar, camera, contacts, location, microphone, phone, sms, and storage. The location data means that Facebook knows where I live, where I work, and where my favourite cafe is. The contact data means they potentially know my mother’s home phone number.

Your phone knows more than you realise, health data from your fitbit, stored passwords for your banking account, your exact location – either via the location app or via wifi pings. And beyond Facebook we install dozens of apps and grant them permissions, in this edition of the BBC’s “Click” programme they report on an app that collects a frightening amount of data, which happens to have been downloaded 50M downloads.

In general it doesn’t really matter if someone knows where I work,  I publish that information on LinkedIn anyway, and it probably doesn’t matter much that someone finds out where I live. But it might. For vulnerable people – those escaping domestic violence, refugees, protesters – this is information that they definitely want to keep private.  (Here are some practical tips to secure your phone, from encryption to app management. )

In fact the EU Charter on Human Rights asserts that data protection is a human right with the words “Everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her” and there is debate on whether this should be a global human right.  If you think we have a right to privacy then it’s a pretty short step to thinking data protection must be an important part of that.

Tomorrow is Data Protection Day, celebrate by adding two factor authentication to your accounts, checking app permissions and adding encryption to your phone.

Image: Occhiata   |  Franco   |   CC BY 2.0

 

Learning about Digital

It’s a digital world. I was reminded recently of just how digital it’s becoming speaking to a retired friend who doesn’t have a computer. It’s going to be almost impossible for her to pay her rent by the end of the year. Because I spend so much time with people who are digital savvy, if not digital natives, I tend to forget just how many levels there are to digital learning.

1 Beginner

Familiar with tools like word and excel, can use the internet, understands the risks and knows what signs to look for to check that a site is safe.

Learning focus = tools.

2 Effective

Can use all the tools, websites and apps in daily life.  Can do basic trouble-shooting when things go wrong.

Learning focus = autonomy

3 Mastered

Can use tools independently and teach themselves how to use new tools, can find new information and tools, can contribute online to social media or discussion groups, understands “netiquette”.  Has strategies to avoid trolls, scams and social engineering. Can work with colleagues online

Learning focus = behaviours

4 Professional

Your role at work is around digital, either in producing content, running digital campaigns, online marketing, digital projects or change management for digital transformation.

Learning focus = delivering value

5 Mentor

Leading digital transformation or development of new ways of working in digital. Expert at using the collaboration techniques including Work-Out-Loud and Results Only Work Environment.

Learning focus = helping others increase their digital knowledge

Do you agree? Are there other levels or things you’d add to these levels?

Let me know in the comments – I feel a series coming on.

Image: Kids these days | Louise McGregor  | CC BY-4.0

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; 404 Errors

What does the 404 error on your site look like?

  • Start with 10 points.
  • +5 for a search engine on the page
  • +3 points if there’s any ‘sorry’ or empathy expressed
  • +2 points if there’s a home page link
  • +1 point for any other useful link, up to a maximum of 5
  • – 5 points if the layout is confusingly similar to all other pages on your site
  • – 5 points if you return to the home page
  • + 25 points for any humour or demonstration of your brand values.
  • Lose all points if it mentions 404 anywhere on the page

How did you do?

Here’s how some of the smartest brands score, with the page that inspired me to look into this as the final example.

Etsy

10+5+3+2+0-0-0+25 =45 GOOD

There’s some empathy shown, a search bar, a homepage link, and a cute sketch connected to their origins as a sales platform for craftspeople.

404etsy

Nike

10+5+0+0+0-5-0+0=15 MEH

Very boring generic page, looking very similar to every other product page, at least they blame themselves. Nike are such heroes when it comes to branding I’m surprised that this is so dull.

404nike.png

Unilever

10+5+3+2+1-0-5-everything =0 BAD

The page is text heavy compared to others, and the search is under a link, rather than a simple search box, but they lost all points for saying it was a 404 error. It’s a correct statement, it’s just not helpful.

When I first looked for the 404 page I typed unilever.com/404 into the URL bar, and was automatically redirected to the homepage, this was the only site I found that did this.

404unilever.pngLego

10+5+3+2+25=45 GOOD

As you’d expect from the brand behind every geek’s favourite toy, Lego have a suitable graphic using Lego minifigs. There’s a search engine in the header bar, and a link to the home page. My only quibble is that the explanatory text below the image is tiny, it would make more sense to take that text and replace the “Page not found” text which is slightly technical

404lego.png

 

Apple

10+5+0+0+1-0-0=16 MEH

A totally simple flat functional page. I wanted to take points off for using the passive voice in the sentence but I haven’t.

404applesite

Amazon

10+0+3+2-0-0+0=15 MEH

Functional, only one action you can take. Amazon are incredibly data driven so the lack of any apparent thought in the design of this page suggests to me that it’s either super low traffic because people use the search box rather than type URLs, or that Amazon don’t see any opportunity for conversion to a sale from this page.

404amazon.png

Ben & Jerry’s

10+5+3+0+0-0-0+25 = 43 GOOD

Ben & Jerry’s are a fun-filled brand and it’s spread to their 404 page. Not only have they got the search engine, they’ve suggested a brand name for you to search. Very cute image that matches their text. And, now I want ice cream.

404benandjerrys.png

Siemens

10+5+3+2+1-0-0-0 = 18 MEH

I’ve included Siemens as an example as it has solved an issue many European countries face, a multilingual audience. In their case they’re a German company, but with international customers so the information is presented in English and German.

There is a small joke on the page as well, the coloured pixelated image moves, giving you the impression of a TV screen that’s lost its connection, geek joke.

404Siemens.png

Tech Crunch

10+5+3+2+1-5+0=16 BAD

I deliberately looked for these pages in a browser without an ad blocker. I understand that ads give sites like Tech Crunch the revenue to keep going, but in this case it makes it very difficult to see what I should click on. I’d suggest forgoing the revenue on this page and just helping people find their way. Likewise the most popular article list, obviously I don’t have data and Tech Crunch do, but it’d be interesting to see how many people clicked from this page to a “latest” article.

404techcrunch.png

Mashable

10+5+3+2++0-0-0+25=45 GOOD

It’s helpful, easy to read, funny and right on brand.

404mashable.png

You can check the “you’re lost” page (aka the 404 page) of any site by typing “companyname.com/anywordyoulike” into the URL bar, so mashable.com/wearefunny for example. See if you find it helpful – that’s the first test – then look at whether it’s on brand or offers some brand experience for any lost visitor.

Postscript

I just found the Virgin’s 404 message,  it’s the cheekiest yet.

201601_404virgin

Image error via pixabay

TNW in Review

I’ve just got back from “The Next Web Europe” conference, there’s a good chance the conference is still going on, at least the drinking/partying fun part of the conference. A few of the speakers triggered my thinking so there will be a few more posts in the coming 1-2 weeks but here’s my summary of the conference.

Location: Westergasfabriek is cycling distance from my house, so that scores it a bunch of points on my unscientific scale. But there are other advantages as well, it’s close to the centre, and set in a park. We were lucky to have sunny days so it was a joy to wander outside in the breaks. The venue for the red stage is an old gas storage silo that’s now been rebuilt, it makes a great shell to stage events.

Organisation: Top. A lot of thought had gone into the details, clever branding throughout, lots of exposure for partners, presenters were taken care of, the MC did a great job, clear signage, there were loads of people on the “TNW” team – and all the ones that I spoke to were helpful. Oh, and the wifi was great, and held up throughout the two days. So a big congratulations to the organisers and the event team.

My only minor complaint; a book giveaway was announced to start at lunchtime, but in fact started at the end of the speaker’s talk. So those who believed the announcement arrived at lunch to be told the freebies were all gone, but you can buy a book and the author will sign. No thanks, I like the guy but his signature isn’t worth the 22 euro price differential (from a kindle edition).

Speakers: This is my subjective judgement, I think there’s a big difference in the American style of presenting and the European style of presenting. Americans seem to go for big statements, dramatic conclusions, and value passion as a speaker. I think European speakers structure their speeches to tell a story, provide evidence, and value charm and audience connection as a speaker. Thus there were a couple of speeches that I really wanted to hear but felt like I was being yelled at. The worst in this category for me was Stefan Molyneux, who is very angry with banks and governments. Granted there’s a lot to be angry about, and since I used to work for a bank I’ve probably heard more of such rants than is good for me but it just felt very… 2009.

I think the speaker I enjoyed the most was Dale Stephens, the founder of uncollege. His parents let him quit school when he was 12 and start managing his own education. I’ve felt for along time that our current education system isn’t fit for the future, and the existing university system is increasingly a very middle-class rite of passage rather than a real education. I’ll have more to say about this in a later post.

Audience: Mostly young, digital natives or near natives, hipster beards abounded. Mostly men – it’s one of the few places I’ve been where there was a long queue for the men’s toilet and none for the women’s. Generally they were enthusiastic about good speakers, but also quick to walk if a speaker wasn’t delivering what they wanted (except for me, muggins, who sat through to the end in hope). I’m a little sad that the audiences don’t stay in the room for the various awards and support their industry colleagues, perhaps next year those awards could be between two draw-card speakers to reduce audience drift.

Stuff I didn’t see: One of the problems of these megaconferences is that there is so much going on that you can’t see it all. So I missed out on some great speakers in the green and blue rooms, a hackathon full of brilliance, and talking to some cool startups.

Purpose: I’ve been to the Dublin WebSummit a couple of times, and left feeling I’d heard from people who are building the digital industry, I didn’t get that at TNW Europe.

It felt more like there were more researchers and commentators on digital than practitioners, this may be partly due to my choice of the red room. I certainly learnt from many of the speakers, but for thinking about “The Next Web” – which is after all the title of the conference – I think the Dublin WebSummit does a better job.

Best Moment: coming back into the room and finding anonymous masks on our chairs. It made the point that we were about to discuss those difficult issues of private vs public.

Plus it led to a rash of selfies, that’s my first ever “selfie” on the left.

The first part of this session was the story of Shawn Buckles, who sold his personal data to the highest bidder – for 350 euro.

At the end of which all those with masked stood for a great photo opportunity.

I guess the ultimate test of value (especially as I pay my own way for conferences these days) is would I go to the next one; yes, I would.

 

Crunchies – The winners

It’s that time of the year –  the crunchies winners have been announced. Congratulations to all the winners – they’re changing the world

I wrote about this, disclosing my votes and giving predictions. I did rather well – in the categories I voted for either my prediction or my vote won 75% of the time. Here’s my scorecard.

Best Technology Achievement
Winner Bitcoin
It’s been all over the news, all over the world. It’s probably the most successful crypto currency we’ve seen, and it challenges the foundation of the financial industry.
Prediction
Best Collaborative Consumption Service
Winner Airbnb
The accommodation service that lets individuals rent out their spare room. The service continues to grow, and this year they’ve launched a couple of innovative ads including the first commercial crowd-sourced vine.
Prediction and vote
Best E-Commerce Application
Winner Wanelo Zero (although the runner up did get my vote)
Best Mobile Application
Winner Snapchat
The service of disappearing messages, a favourite of the cool kids, messages are only available to the recipient for 1-10 seconds.
Prediction
Fastest Rising Startup
Winner Upworthy
The content collator/publisher that focuses on spreading videos and other content on the “stuff that matters”. Their content is well-shared across facebook, twitter and tumblr.
Prediction
Best Design
Winner Pencil, by 53
It appeals to my inner stationery geek.
my vote
Sexiest Enterprise Startup
Winner Zendesk
Customer communication through collaboration, let your team solve customer questions from all sources in one place.
My vote
Best International Startup
Winner Waze Zero (although the runner up did get my vote)
Best Hardware Startup
Winner Oculus VR
3D gaming, geek heaven. I am not a gamer, but I can see that this transforms the game experience, for all games.
Prediction
Biggest Social Impact
Winner Edward Snowden’s NSA Revelations
It forced lawmakers, companies and consumers to think about how we regard privacy. It scared a lot of people who hadn’t thought about how far data surveillance could go. The full impact is still unfurling.
Prediction
Best CEO of the year
Winner Dick Costolo (Twitter) Zero
Best Overall Startup of 2013
Winner Kickstarter
I get a kick out of seeing the great ideas – and having a chance to support them. Their funding enabled some of the other nominees to get started.
Prediction

image oscars via pixabay

Growth Hacker

At first glance this seems a crazy term, but the more I read about it the more it makes sense. Most commentators define it as a role existing on the overlap between technology/development and marketing. Two things that traditionally don’t go together, but that’s because traditionally we have thought in silos. The product development team used their expertise to create something, and then passed it on to marketing to sell. A poor process often mocked, most famously in the tree swing cartoons.

But things in both areas have changed; user feedback as part of the development process, so the development teams are collecting user input online, and using this phase to build an audience prior to launch.

Meanwhile marketing has become an increasingly data-based occupation. That’s the dirty little secret about marketing, there’s a perception that it’s a creative discipline but in fact marketing teams are constantly looking at data on sales, results of surveys, focus group outcomes and customer feedback to find the best ways to communicate the product. As products and communication have moved online so has the data.

Development has become closer to the user, and marketing has become closer to the data and to product development. In fact the two have come to overlap, and the professionals operating in that hybrid space are calling themselves “growth hackers“. They’re either marketers who can code or geeks who get marketing, depending on your point of view. It’s on the way to becoming a recognised profession, last year saw the first official Growth Hackers Conference.

This slideshare presentation points to another driver for growth-hacking; start-ups do not have the budget for full blown marketing campaigns. Plus it offers some good examples, some of which pre-date the term growth-hacker.

This hybrid role represents a breakdown in the old silo’d world of Development vs Marketing, the two disciplines are now  using the same resources and have the same goals. I think the mentality of testing and trying new things usually considered the preserve of geeks is shared in the role of growth-hacker. I’ve tried to represent that new inter-relationship. (I should have given them both happier faces – and shoes for the dev guy).

Not everyone sees this as a new legitimate role, there are those who consider it “just marketing” I can understand that point of view, and perhaps in a few years the people now calling themselves growth hackers will call themselves marketers. Perhaps the the allergy that (some) development and tech people feel for marketing means that they need a new title when they begin taking on marketing tasks. Perhaps marketing departments will be renamed as growth hack centres.

Or the name might turn out to be a fad – and we’ll have a new term for high level innovation in building sales for a company.