About Val Skelton

I am the editor of Information Today, Europe. On the main site, we cover news and publish feature articles by information, research and knoweldge practitioners and thought leaders. On this blog, we aim to cover other topics of interest to our readers.

Author Archive | Val Skelton

Dangerous and negative selfies

 Young women urged to consider unexpected consequences of ‘sexy selfies’ while footage of a man taking a ‘dangerous selfie’ in Spain has gone viral.

Research undertaken by the Oregon State University has revealed that women respond negatively to ‘sexy selfies’ of their peers.

Elizabeth Daniels* studies the effect of media on the body image.  She says that young women are often pressurised to portray themselves as sexy.  Daniels set up two Facebook profiles. They were identical in everything but their profile picture.  Although photos of the same person were used, one was ‘sexier’ than the other.  58 teenage girls and 60 young women were asked to comment on the profiles.  The respondents found the ‘non-sexy’ profile to be prettier, more competent and more likely to be a good friend.  Daniels advises young women and girls to choose profile photographs that showcase their identity – not simply their appearance.

Meanwhile, in Spain a bylaw is attempting to stop people using cameras at the running of the bulls festival in San Fermin. Those failing to comply may be faced with fines of up to €3,000 for endangering themselves and others.

Three people – all British citizens – have been fined so far including one who used a drone to film the bull run.  Police are also looking to identify a man seen taking a dangerous selfie as he ran ahead of the bulls.  He is now known on Twitter as ‘the idiot with the mobile’.

People were also attempting to take selfies when the Tour de France was in the UK. An American cyclist dubbed their attempts ‘a dangerous mixture of vanity and stupidity’ – which seems to be a perfect description for many selfies.

* Daniels’ research was published today in the journal “Psychology of Popular Media Culture.” The article, titled “The price of sexy: Viewers’ perceptions of a sexualised versus non-sexualised Facebook profile photo,” was co-authored by Eileen L. Zurbriggen of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Time wasting at work

How much time is wasted at work being non-productive – and what can be done to improve the situation?

In Sweden, several employees of the Social Insurance Agency have been discovered browsing on the job.  The Agency found that employees had been visiting non-work related websites while being ‘inactive on the work system’.  One employee spent 50 hours of work time visiting 350 websites while another spent 47 hours on non-work related browsing – mostly on Facebook.  One of the employees was fined half a month’s pay.

Meanwhile, self-employed entrepreneur Maneesh Sethi, has been measuring his own non-productive time at work.  Using an app called RescueTime, he discovered he was spending up to 30 hours a week on non-work related sites such as Facebook and Reddit.  Looking for help to keep him focused, he advertised on Craigslist for a ‘faceslapper’ to hit him every time he attempted to visit his social media sites.  He reported a massive improvement in his productivity.

Since that experiment, he has gone on to develop a wearable device that will monitor the wearer’s ‘bad habits’ and give them an electric shock if they slip into their old ways!

Research published by CareerBuilder looked at the obstacles to maximising productivity in the workplace. Mobile phones, gossip, social media, noisy colleagues, meetings, speaker phones and email are all cited.  73% of the participating organisations had attempted to implement measures to mitigate time-wasting at work, including blocking some websites, monitoring internet usage and limiting meetings.

But what if you want to be distracted at work?  Helpfully, econsultancy has provided a list of 11 websites and Twitter accounts that can help you fill your days unproductively, including the useless and ironic time-saving tips of @TwopTips – example:

Make yourself feel more important by referring to your tweets as “content”.

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A simpler life – the secret to happiness?

Survey of 16,000 people around the world explores contentment.  Is a simpler life the key to happiness?  Or is it being Danish?

On average, 77% of respondents from 20 developed countries* declared themselves to be ‘happy’ and the rate rose in the world’s three happiest countries, Sweden (88%), Canada (86%) and Australia (85%).

Happiness levels were lower overall in Europe and the Spanish were the unhappiest of all – only 59% reported themselves to be happy.

In contrast to their current levels of happiness and their feelings of optimism for family and community, only 22% of people said they were optimistic about prospects for the world as a whole, a proportion that fell to 20% in the US, 15% in the UK and 6% in France.

A simpler life

Many respondents reported they felt the world was changing too fast and over half of them wanted to slow down the pace of their lives.  64% said that people ‘led happier lives in the old days’.   Many complained about the intensity of their digital lives – 78% of Chinese and 71% of UK respondents agreed “I am constantly looking at screens these days”.

However, 61% of the respondents felt that technology was part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Another route to happiness – be Danish?

Does Danish DNA hold the secret to happiness?  Researchers have been exploring the link between gene mutation and happiness – and are calling for further research.

* Ipsos Mori questioned people in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UK, US

 

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The future of bookshops

I like writing about bookshops.  In fact I wrote about ‘the perfect bookshop’ for the Sunday Observer when I was a teenager.  It was my first time ‘in print’.  I’ve not seen a copy of the article for years and can’t remember what I wrote.  I like to think that I described a bookshop with sofas and cups of tea and that I was years ahead of my time and that I invented Waterstones.

Can bookshops survive?

But how are these ‘bookshops of the future’ faring now?  In the US, according to the latest statistics, publisher revenues from digital products have outstripped those from traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ shops for the first time.  Revenues from downloaded audiobooks, for example, were up almost 20% in 2013.

Other changes in digital reading

The US is also experiencing a decline in the dedicated e-reader market.  People are increasingly reading on their tablets or smartphones and are not using dedicated e-reader devices.   Multi-feature devices are killing off the specialised ones – and this is a problem for publishers.  Writing in New York Magazine, Kevin Roose says that those using e-reader devices benefit from a more immersive reading experience – and are reading more.  When they are reading on their iPhones or tablets a range of other information is competing for the reader’s attention.

Digital in-store and re-inventing bookshops

Meanwhile in London Foyles the Bookshop has relocated to a new site on Charing Cross Road and undergone quite a transformation. You can see a nice time-lapse video of half a million books being moved on YouTube.   In this article, Ben Davis visits the new store to test the digital in-store experience as he set out to find a specific book.

A feature in [The Economist's] Intelligent Life asks architects and designers to design a bookshop.  Their responses include: download and vending walls; literary sommeliers; social reading experiences – the bookstore becoming (like the library) a social experience rather than a place purely for commercial transactions.

Finally

If anyone can help me locate a copy of my Sunday Observer magazine article, I would love to hear from you!

Sources: The Bookseller; Publishing Perspectives; econsultancy; Mashable.

 

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Spammers, spam – and Monty Python

Research explores how key spam players interact.  Canada’s new anti-spam legislation came into effect in July 2014. 

It is estimated that over 14 billion spam messages are sent around the world every day.  Researchers at Aachen University in Germany and the University of California, Santa Barbara explored the three key elements required in a spam campaign – the list of victim emails, the content, and a botnet.

Experts specialising in each of these three elements have emerged, selling their expertise in a ‘prosperous underground economy’ and building their own versions of customer loyalty. By seeking to better understand the relationships between the key players, it’s hoped that researchers can develop more effective anti-spam measures.  (You can download their findings here.)

Meanwhile, Canada has rolled out new legislation that aims to tackle the issue of spam.   The Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) is outlined in summary here.  Although the potential fines are high, the fact is that any organisation following good practice will not fall foul of the new legislation.  You should have clear unsubscribe processes, and have the permission of the recipients to send them commercial messages.

And of course, the legislation is only relevant for email addresses in Canada (.ca)

And now for something completely different

Spam of the edible kind features in a famous Monty Python sketch (described in this humourless Wikipedia entry).   In July 2014 the surviving Monty Python cast is taking to the stage for the first time in decades.   The 20,000 tickets for their opening night at London’s O2 Arena sold out in a record breaking 43 seconds.

The ‘Tour’ is embracing social media. Fans can follow the Tour on Twitter and appear on the fan wall by using the Tour Hashtags.  They can also treat themselves to a Ministry of Silly Walks app and  join the Python Spam Club.  Which begs the question, what if your spam is about the spam club?

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Information Management: past, present and future

Information Managers looking to be strategic influencers and advisors

LexisNexis has surveyed 500 people working in information services in a range of roles across Europe.  In depth interviews were held with professionals in France, Germany and the Netherlands and a broader survey was sent out to information professionals across Europe.  Finally, the researchers interviewed senior academics to review the findings.

The findings map out the progress from a ‘physical world’ of information to a digital one.

Key themes identified in the report

  • Adding value – information managers are under pressure to deliver business critical insight, and drive new market opportunities – they are equipped to drive competitive advantage
  • Information overload – information abundance and the range of sources brings new challenges for those tasked with delivering actionable insight and meaning
  • New skills – information professionals acknowledge the importance of communication and technical skills but are also clear they need to develop ways to help others understand and interpret data.  This includes creating visualisations and presenting information in dashboards – and helping others to interpret results.
  • Under pressure – 42% of respondents said they felt rushed/pressed for time at work frequently or very frequently.  Information professionals are under extreme pressure to maintain quality services, rapid response while meeting the increased expectations of the internal customer.  At the same time they need to demonstrate value to the organisation.

New roles for information professionals

Roles have already evolved away from information facilitation to information analysis.  Respondents felt their roles within organisations would shift seeing them have more strategic influence across the entire business.

The report includes extracts of interviews with leading academics who bring their own perspective to the findings.

You can download the LexisNexis White Paper here.

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Workplace trends – meet the no-collar workers

If you’ve just about got your Gen-X and Gen-Y straight, meet a new group of workers.

There are already, according to the latest estimates, 40 million millennials in the American workforce.  A recent MTV study set out to understand what drives and motivates this generation at work.

Meet the no-collars

The no-collar generation is looking for meaning at work – younger workers want to be able to connect deeply with their work. It is this desire for ‘meaning’ that can be misinterpreted as laziness, pickiness, or self-importance.  The no-collars expect to be happy and fulfilled in the workplace and the research found that half of the respondents felt they would rather not have a job at all than have a job they hated.  Loving what they do outranked monetary rewards. Key findings

  • 95% are motivated to work harder when they know ‘where their work is going’
  • 93% want a job where they can ‘be themselves’.
  • 89% agree it’s important to be constantly learning at work
  • 83% want jobs that value their creativity
  • 71% want their co-workers to be ‘second family’
  • 65% believe they should be mentoring older co-workers on technology
  • 60% say if they can’t find a job they want, they will try to create their own job

Keeping employees happy

Openness, mentoring and fun were important factors in the success of Futureheads, an award winning workplace. If these are examples of what employees do want, let’s focus on what they don’t want.  And let’s put a hip-shaking CEO at the top of that list. The CEO of a loss making Swedish public company has made a fool of himself in front of his employees with a self-indulgent, high-spending birthday party.  Cringe! Most of us can now console ourselves that things haven’t got this bad in our workplace!

Cash free and free cash

While a millionaire is giving away cash on Twitter, new tech is enabling more people to go ‘cash free’.

The Twitter ‘free cash’ phenomenon has spread to Europe.  In the US @HiddenCash has been posting clues online to the whereabouts of cash prizes.  The idea was copied in the UK and, it has been announced, will expand into France and Spain.

The idea is simple – the donor publishes clues to the location of hidden cash.  Those who find it are asked to tweet photos of themselves with their ‘treasure’.  The idea is more than 21st century philanthropy – it is also being billed as “a social media experiment for good”.

While some people are tracking down free cash via social media, others are looking forward to a cash free summer.

Cash free

  • London buses have announced they are becoming ‘cash-free’.
  • Following in the footsteps of Burning Man in the US and the UK’s 2012 Wireless Festival, many Swedish music festivals are planning to become cash-free occasions in 2014.  Festival-goers will be able to pay by swiping their armbands which they will have ‘topped up’ with cash before they arrive.

Wearable tech

The smart festival armband is just one example of a connected wearable.  This year’s Brand Z survey (featured elsewhere on this blog) highlights the rapid growth of both the apparel and the technology sectors.  These two sectors overlap in wearable technologies.  A recent example is the proposed launch of Ringly, a gold ring which vibrates and lights up to let the wearer know they are receiving calls or texts. Apparently missed calls of the bane of women who can’t locate their own phones in their own handbags (!)

Ephemeral messaging

“This message will self-destruct in 24 hours”

The growth of ephemeral messaging services and private social networks – individuals want more privacy; companies want to be more like Snapchat!

Path is a private social network that supports photo-sharing and private messaging between close friends.  Each user may include up to 150 friends in their network.  Path has now announced that all new messages will be automatically removed from their servers after 24 hours (downloaded messages will remain on users’ devices).  The service has described these messages as “24-hour ephemeral”.

Ephemeral messaging is of course key feature of Snapchat.  Dating website Tinder is also following suit, announcing that it will be rolling out a feature that allow users to share photos that will disappear in 24 hours.  Apple is also appropriating this feature in iOS 8 due to be launched later in 2014.  Facebook has accidentally revealed it is developing its own Snapchat tribute.

‘Antisocial networking’

Apps such as Cloak and Split allow users to avoid people they may know but don’t want to run into.  The mine geolocation information from other social media tools to let you know if you are about to bump into someone you would rather avoid.

Anomo is an anonymous social app that counters the ‘oversharing’ that many people feel is happing in many social forums.

What about ephemeral messaging in the workplace?

Apparently, Snapchat is already being put to use by insider traders on Wall Street – boo!  Seth Fiegerman explores the growth of startups aiming to introduce ephemeral messaging into the workplace.  These include an app (Confide) to support ‘off the record’ conversations which are encrypted and then destroyed.  Users are barred from taking screenshots.  The tricky path for some of these startups aimed specifically at business is to ensure their business model does not rely on supporting illegal behaviour.

Sources: Mashable; The New Yorker; The Guardian; Gadgetsndtv;

Access to the Internet

Google wants to use satellite technology to improve connectivity

At the beginning of 2014, there were estimated to be between 2.5 and 3 billion internet users around the world – that’s around 35% of the world’s population (data for some countries remains patchy, hence the range in the estimate).  Mobile connections account for the vast majority of new sign-ups.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is planning to improve access to the internet by launching a series of satellites which can help broaden internet access. The plans would cost Google anything between $1-3 billion.

Both Google and Facebook have been exploring a range of technologies to improve connectivity – including drones, satellites and high altitude balloons.   The current Google project is exploring the use of small, lightweight satellites.

Meanwhile, residents of Löwenstedt , a village in Germany, didn’t wait for Google to launch its satellites.  The village has built its own super-fast internet service because their population was too small and scattered for national internet operators to bother with.  Businesses, individuals and villages collaborated to build the network.