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

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.

Business schools and MBAs – what do employers want?

Are business schools losing their credibility?

Hult International Business School commissioned research to find out what senior level executives, managers and academics feel about the current state of business education – in particular of MBA programmes.  Interviews were conducted around the world, although the majority of those participating were based in organisations in North America.

Key findings

The ten skills and abilities the interviewees identified as critical are:

  • Ambiguity and uncertainty – graduates need to be comfortable when there are no clear answers – and to be able to cope with failure
  • Communication – excellent skills in all formats
  • Creativity – unique approaches to tackling challenges
  • Critical thinking skills – deep analysis and the formulation of solutions
  • Cross-cultural competence – graduates should be comfortable dealing with diversity
  • ‘Execution’ – getting things done and making an immediate impact
  • Integrity – ethical principles in public and private
  • Sales skills – including persuasion and influence
  • Self-awareness – including an understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses
  • Team skills – working in global and collaborative workplaces

The research also calls for business schools to concentrate on simulating ‘real world experiences’ and to move away from theoretical teaching.

The challenge of connecting the ‘real world’ to academic research is also discussed by Tse and Esposito on this London School of Economics blog.  In it they suggest that accreditation leads to too much standardisation across curricula and ensures that business subjects are ‘compartmentalised’.  They consider this compartmentalised approach to be one of the major factors in business schools losing credibility with the business community.

Obviously, it’s not just employers who may question the value of university courses.  With many economists failing to predict the global economic crash of 2008, the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics is calling for radical changes in the way economics is taught. They too highlight the lack of interdisciplinary approaches.

Learning from the world’s top brands

Google takes top spot away from Apple

This year’s BrandZ report has been released.  The researchers analyse corporate earnings and combine this data with large-scale consumer research in 30 countries.  The findings demonstrate what is important to consumers around the world and what trends are driving – and disrupting – brand growth.   There is much to be learned from how top brands build and maintain relationships with their customers.

  • Google, Apple and IBM take the top three slots in this year’s global top 100.
  • This year’s top European brands include SAP, Deutsche Telekom, Louis Vuitton, and BMW.
  • Brands based in Europe have increased by 19% in value in the last year, up from only a 5% rise last year.

Consumer trends

  • Authenticity – “sometimes the most compelling aspect of a brand is the product itself”
  • Convenience – consumers want to seamlessly combine online with physical – e.g. the growth in click and collect
  • Customisation  and personalisation – self-expression and a focus on ‘the unique’
  • Localisation – ‘local’ implies quality, reliability and attention to detail
  • Seamlessness – brands need to make the transition between physical and virtual invisible
  • Technology – new technologies are both enhancing and disrupting brands. Wearables are converging technology with clothing
  • Trust – consumers expect brands to keep their promises whether implied or explicit.  Banks are continuing to experience the long-term effects of lost trust even as they try to change because of continued revelations of past mis-deeds

How to grow your brand value

The researchers draw lessons from the best performing brands:

  • Forget ‘the customer comes first’ but focus on ‘each customer comes first’.   Forget old archetypes and use data to help you be truly consumer-centric
  • Stand for more than profit – but make sure your brand purpose is relevant to what you do
  • Be ‘meaningfully different’ so that customers can understand your brand and what differentiates you
  •  Be ‘mindfully present’ – use discretion on social media!
  • Stay relevant – respect your heritage but stay up-to-date
  • Be agile – planning is important but so is flexibility

The full report is packed with essays, infographics and data and may be downloaded here.

The second digital revolution

New information seeking behaviours mean libraries and publishers have to change.

People are increasingly creating and consuming information on the move.  This, combined with the growth of cloud-based products and services, is challenging the traditional workplace environment and opening up new opportunities for agile working, personal development and how we spend our leisure time.  The first digital revolution took place in fixed space – in the office, the home and the library.  But the second digital revolution is taking place on the move – and this has enormous implications for the continued existence of libraries and for publishers of information.

These are the conclusions of David Nicholas of the pan-Europe research organisation CIBER.  He explained how he had come to these conclusions at the latest NetIKX meeting held in London.  He described how he and his colleagues use technology to record millions of digital footprints and how this provides high-value insights into how people really interact with information.

He describes a world in which ‘horizontal’ information seeking (shallow and skimming) has become much more important than ‘vertical/deep’ activity. Users are bouncing around, clicking on hyperlinks that discourage deep engagement.  They are hyperactive (looking at one page before moving on); unsophisticated searchers and generally ‘promiscuous’ – 40% will never return to the webpage.

CIBER has conducted research on the Europeana website. As far back as 2010, their research outputs described the critical importance of the visual and the moving image to users.  The latest Europeana figures show that mobile access to the site is growing five times as fast as from fixed devices.  Mobile users are ‘information-lite’ users – they use abbreviated search and spend less time on the site.  They are seeking immediate answers.  Peak mobile access is happening at the weekends and evenings.

For the younger generation in particular, mobile devices are trusted ‘complete’ sources of information – in contrast to libraries which they view as ‘incomplete’. Conditioned by texting they have a ‘fast food’ attitude to information.  Mobiles provide access to everyone anywhere and OA models are simply increasing the information haul.

Libraries need to articulate the value and rationale for their collections in the borderless information landscape.  They need to emphasise their capacity for quality control and assurance in a ‘fast food’ world.

David Nicholas was speaking at NetIKX. The second speaker was Max Whitby of the innovative app publisher Touch Press.  His presentation, showcasing the innovative content of best-selling apps, highlighted that clever publishers can create content that meets the needs of both vertical and horizontal searchers.  Rob Rosset has written about his presentation on the NetIKX blog here.

NetiKX has also written about David Nicholas’ presentation here.  You can find out more about NetIKX here.

 

Chatham House rules! A historical digital archive for the 21st Century

Leading international affairs think-tank has released its digital archive.

Chatham House in London is the home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs which, by bringing together academics, researchers and decision makers, has helped shape and inform policy for almost 100 years. The famous ‘Chatham House Rule’ helps facilitate open and honest communication.

Chatham House Online Archive (1920-2008), published by Gale (part of Cengage Learning) is making over half a million pages available to researchers and students interested in politics, international law, economics and international relations.  The archive features fully searchable documents, transcripts of speeches and audio recordings of world figures including Mahatma Gandhi and Henry Kissinger. The Archive offers “unique insights” into political developments in the 20th century.

The publishers and Chatham House celebrated the launch with a high profile debate on how a deep understanding of the past can inform our understanding of the present and influence decision making.  The speakers (including David Stevenson, Professor of International History at LSE; Anne Deighton, Professor of European International Politics at the University of Oxford); debated whether lessons can be learned from the Cold War (particularly the end of the Cold War) to inform our understanding of the current political upheaval in Ukraine.

The final speaker, Times journalist David Aaronovitch, celebrated the arrival of the digital archive – and digitisation in general.  For him the resources and expertise of Chatham House help journalists get to the heart of the dilemma and are an essential part of the journalist’s toolkit to facilitate understanding of current affairs.

For more information on the Chatham House archive, visit the Gale/Cengage Learning website.

Baby-boomers and Millennials online

Growth in the numbers of people online is being driven by the over-65s.  But the way they use the web is different.

In the UK the number of over 65s (‘baby-boomers’) accessing the internet increased by over 25% in 2013.  The percentage of those over 65 who are going online reached 42% in 2013.  According to Ofcom’s ‘Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report 2014’ the use of tablets by this age group is a key reason for the growth.

The figures show that over 65 year-olds:

  • Spend much less time on average online  (just over nine hours) than16-25 year olds (just over 24 hours)
  • Are less likely to use a range of online services with the majority of them carrying out just two activities (browsing and emailing)
  • Spend less time accessing social media  with only 30% regularly doing so (compared to 68% of other adults)

Meanwhile 16-24 year-olds:

  • Are much more informed about protecting personal information
  • Are more likely to have blocked people
  • Are (according to research by Merchant Warehouse) ‘pulling ahead’ and having higher expectations as consumers

Similar patterns are being reported in the Netherlands.  The over-65s in particular have made great advances in their understanding of the online environment and 86% of the Dutch population can now send emails.

However, this understanding of the tools does not necessarily mean that people are equipped to evaluate what they are finding online.  Younger users are less likely than the over 65s to question online sources.

Digital support for the elderly

A report from Nesta describes how social entrepreneurs and digital technologies are being used to provide help and support for the elderly.  Examples include a service linking keen cooks with elderly people who need a hot meal, to an app that helps members of an individual’s ‘care community’ to organise their time and allocate tasks.

Sources: econsultancy; DutchNews; Nesta.org; ITProPortal.

 

The tablet market in Europe

Tablet users will increase by double digits in all EU5 countries in 2014.

Tablets are continuing to take market share away from traditional PCs.  Worldwide shipments of PCs dropped by 9.8% in 2013.

Figures released by eMarketer predict that the number of tablet users in the EU5 countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK) will exceed 100 million by the end of 2014.  Figures are expected to increase to almost 150 million by 2018.

The rate of tablet penetration is increasing across the whole of the EU.  The figures predict an overall penetration rate of 31% by the end of 2014, increasing to 44% by 2018.

Of the EU5 countries, the UK leads the way with a predicted 41% by the end of this year, rising to almost 58% in 2018.  France and Germany will see the highest growth, while growth in Italy and Spain will be slower.

Over in the US, the tablet market is maturing.  According to new figures (again from eMarketer), almost half of the US population will use a tablet device at least once a month in 2014.  Overall growth in tablet devices in the US in 2014 is estimated at 11%.

This growth means that tablet devices are challenging PCs as the major digital video channel. 77% of tablet users will watch video via their devices at least once a month in 2014 and the amount of time spent watching tablets is growing faster than on any other device.  According to eMarketer, based on current trends “it’s an inevitability that in the near future tablets will overtake time spent with video online [via] desktops and laptops.”

Sources: eMarketer; ITProPortal.

Privacy, social media – and lavatories

In the United States advisors to the White House have published their review of internet privacy and are calling for an Internet Privacy Bill of Rights.  Is ‘privacy’ possible in the era of big data and social media?

Twitter is reportedly looking to develop a ‘whisper mode’ that will ensure users can keep their conversations private without having to move to one-to-one direct messaging. This seems to be in addition to Twitter’s much-discussed, but not yet delivered private messaging app (see this article in Endgadget).

Talk of a whisper mode has come too late for one Swedish student.  Her abusive tweet about a lecturer (details of which have not been published) have led to her being suspended for two weeks by her university, which found that her lecture hall tweet was “meant to violate and ridicule” the teacher.

A private pregnancy

Meanwhile in the United States a Professor at Princeton University set about trying to keep her pregnancy a secret from Facebook and social media advertisement algorithms. Apparently, pregnant women are considered a ‘marketing goldmine’ and their data can be worth 15 times as much as other people’s.   Over on ThinkProgress.org she describes how she tried to hide from ‘big data’.  Her activities ranged from asking friends and colleagues not to mention her pregnancy anywhere online to buying baby products with cash to setting up a new Amazon account with an anonymous delivery address.  Not only was attempting to keep her pregnancy a secret difficult, it was expensive (losing loyalty card discounts etc) and extremely time-consuming.  You can read her full interview here – a fascinating story about the reach of big data and the compromises we are all making, every day.

The hoax quantified toilet

This fake story about the installation of ‘intelligent lavatories’ in a Canadian conference centre, raises some interesting issues.  The idea that public facilities could be collating useful public health data is not that far-fetched after all.  In fact, in a real piece of research 70% of respondents would be willing to share their ‘toilet data’ – for lower health care costs!