Benefiting from the data dividend

The think tank Demos has published a report outlining the opportunities, and the barriers to achieving them, of big data in the UK.

Big data promises much, including improved efficiency and decision making as well as encouraging the public to engage more directly with government.  However, delivering on these promises is challenging and Demos believes that government must transform the way it collects and collates data if it is to maximise and exploit it appropriately.

Barriers to the benefits of big data

  • Some public servants remain to be convinced of value of big data
  • Lack of analytical/quantitative skills – not just in government but in the population as a whole
  • [Lack of]transparency between public and private sectors


  • Government needs to make radical changes to how it collects and collates the data
  • Frontline staff  should have mobile devices to help them gather and access data real time
  • London data store a great example
  • Improve UK skill base in data analysis
  • Ensure data generated by contractors are shared
  • ‘Modular’ or crowdsourced approaches will improve democratic participation and data analysis
  • London’s Data Store is held up as an example of providing a single access point to public data (in this instance to data generated by the Greater London Assembly)

The report also focuses on other key issues, including data governance and accountability and data co-production.

The full report, The Data Dividend is free to download from Demos.

‘Unfriend’ – social profile pruning on the rise

Online reputation management is increasingly important.  A report from the Pew Research Center suggests there is an increase in social media profile ‘pruning’ and editing.  Growing numbers are saying that they have deleted ‘friends’; untagged photographs and removed comments left by others.

The survey sampled 2,200 US adults, 63% of whom had social media profiles (up from 20% in 2006).  58% have set their profile as ‘private’ while 20% say their main profile is completely public.

Key findings


  • 63% have deleted ‘friends’ (up from 56% in 2009).
  • Women (67%) are much more likely to do this than men (58%).
  • Younger people more likely to do this than older users


  • 44% have deleted comments made by others on their profile
  • 37% have removed their names from photos

Privacy settings

  • 67% of women restrict access to friends only compared with 48% of men
  • Men (26%) more likely to choose fully public profiles than women (14%)
  • 48% reported some level of difficulties in managing privacy controls; 30% say they have no difficulty.

Did I really post that?!

11% have posted content they regret.  Men and young people profess the most regret!

The rise of the ‘digital omnivore’

ComScore has published its latest report on the mobile landscape, analysing key trends and statistics from 2011 and predicting growth and usage patterns for 2012.

The report focuses primarily on the US, Canada, Japan and the so-called EU5 (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) and explores the growth of smartphone adoption and shifts in digital media consumption.

Rapid adoption of smartphones

There are now more than 100 million smartphone owners in the EU5 countries, representing 44% of the total of mobile users.  In the UK and Spain smartphones have already exceeded 50% of the total mobile markets.  The popularity of smartphones and the wider availability of wifi networks are both contributing to an increased consumer engagement with mobile media – browsing the mobile web, downloading content or using apps.  The UK was second only to Japan in mobile media usage and this behaviour increased 9.2% across the EU5 in 2011.

Changing behaviours

Mobile devices (including e-readers and tablets) are already driving 8% of internet traffic in the US and the figures are set to rise globally.  Mobile devices are changing the ways in which people access digital content and interact with social networks.  Users are becoming multi-device consumers – now regularly using several ‘screens’ (including tablet and mobile devices) – to access mobile content.  These ‘digital omnivores potentially offer significant opportunities for app developers, publishers and advertisers and it is critical that they understand how users are engaging with content on the go.


The figures suggest that over half of US smartphone users are using their mobile devices inside ‘bricks and mortar’ shops, for a number of purposes including price checking/comparison, product reviews and finding discount vouchers.  Retailers need to understand how people are using the devices in their stores and look for opportunities to be gained from this behaviour.

Social networking

In December 2011, more than 48 million EU5 smartphone users used their devices to access social networking sites, or blogs, at least once.  More than 50% of them were accessing social networking sites nearly every day.  The most popular activities in the EU5 were reading posts from personal contacts (79.5%) and posting status updates (65.2%).

Social networking is set to become an important player for brands and advertisers, particularly as people increase their interaction with mobile content and use more location based services.

Career development for information professionals

This week, Aslib’s new Business Information Community of Practice (BICOP) held its inaugural meeting at London’s City Business Library.  Attendees heard from Goretti Considine, Business Librarian at the City Business Library, about zero budget marketing (blogged by Business Information Review here) and from Jeremy Clarke, of Sue Hill Recruitment, who spoke engagingly about how information professionals can manage their career progression.

Some key lessons from Jeremy:

  • If you are concerned with job security, you should focus on your employability and not your employer
  • Keep an eye on the roles being advertised and analyse the skills requirements
  • Take time out to review your skills, identify skills gaps and to create a personal development plan
  • Some senior level competencies are invaluable, whatever your sector.  These include:
    • Diplomacy and political sensitivity
    • Financial literacy and financial management skills
    • Good line management capability
    • Leadership skills –becoming a ‘go-to’ person in your organisation
    • Network, network, network!
    • Make sure you understand how your team/department budget works and how you fit into the overall structure of the organisation
    • Keep a record of achievements, compliments and positive customer feedback(someone in the room referred to this as a ‘brag file’)

There are so many skills development routes open to us.  A quick hands-up vote revealed many people in the room had mentors, often from outside the information profession.  Acting as a mentor can also be a great means of personal development.  Attending, speaking at – or even organising- learning networks such as BICOP are invaluable too.

The attendees at BICOP certainly demonstrated high levels of competence when it came to networking.  The room was buzzing with conversations and it seems that there is still a high demand for business focused networking opportunities.  You can read more about BICOP here.

The Cost of Knowledge versus Elsevier

There has been much coverage recently of the website petition launched by Cambridge mathematician Timothy Gowers, winner of the Fields medal, to encourage academics to publicly declare that they will not support any Elsevier journal. According to The Cost of Knowledge website, more than 6000 academics have currently signed up. Robin Peek takes an in-depth look at the issues in this ITI Newsbreak.

The kindness of strangers – marketing through recommendations

When it comes to social media, personal recommendations are a valuable commodity.   The power of ‘like’, ‘share’, ‘retweet’ and +one is that these recommendations mean more when they come from others.  People outside the organisation can become our most powerful and influential advocates.

The challenge for information professionals is that there are so many social media tools around.  Which ones should we focus on?  Do we really need a presence on Facebook, in Google+, on Twitter, in the blogosphere, on LinkedIn etc.  The answer is that we must be active on any tool where relevant conversations are happening.

Sometimes relevant conversations can happen face to face.  Having heard about Pinterest first through a Facebook friend, and second at the recent NetIKX social media event, it was a real world conversation with Phil Bradley that alerted me to the value of this new social tool.   Pinterest provides social bookmarking with images.  Although still in beta form, information professionals should be alert to its potential – Pinterest is already driving more traffic to retail sites than Google+.

On Pinterest, users create folders for images, describing their contents using freetext tagging.  This is something which information professionals are very good at.   You can use Pinterest to search images and to find experts and interested people.  It is also an excellent marketing tool, and can draw people onto your website.  It has enormous potential to market what it is that we do to a wide audience.

So if someone invites you to join Pinterest, you should accept the invitation and explore its potential  as a potentially powerful marketing tool for library and information services.

Libraries popping up

The ‘pop-up’ movement of restaurants, shops, bars, cinemas, galleries and cafes brings together new audiences for temporary events in what are often underutilised spaces.

London department store Selfridges has opened a pop-up library in a basement space.  The library is one element of the store’s Words Words Words festival.

Meanwhile, Surrey County Council is preparing for an increase of visitors to the county who will be attending Olympic Games events in 2012.   The Council is planning to open ‘pop up’ information points for visitors, staffed by library and museum staff.  Other initiatives planned ahead of the Olympics include free wi-fi being rolled out in all Surrey’s public libraries.

The pop-up movement shows how you can match innovative ideas and projects for your customers with larger scale events and initiatives.


“A good time to be original” – lessons from the movie industry

In the early days of knowledge management, organisations focused on maximising the value of the workforce.  New structures and ways of working were explored.  One of these structural models involved the creation of ‘dream teams’ to tackle specific projects.  The teams might cut across hierarchies and departments but the members would be chosen as being the most appropriate for the project.  The right people at the right time would come together, deliver a project successfully and disperse into new project teams.

This model was often referred to as a ‘film production’ model.  A film producer’s role is to bring together the right script, talent, funding, marketing and distribution to deliver a successful project.  What, then, can we learn from film producers?

Tim Bevan is co-founder and co-chairman of the UK’s most successful film production company.  Working Title, founded in 1992, is responsible for such films as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Atonement; Fargo and Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Tim was the guest at the ninth annual Olive Till Memorial Debate, held at Goldsmiths College in London this month.  Interviewed by Mike Goodridge, the editor of Screen International, he shared insights into the business of making movies and some significant transferable lessons learned.

  • Don’t be afraid to learn as you go – Try to learn something concrete after every project.  His work on an early project (My Beautiful Launderette) not only taught him the process of film-making but also helped him focus on what really interested him – the business and creative sides of getting films made.
  • The power of creative partnerships – and of team selection.  In film-making, talent relationships are everything.  Tim has had long-lasting and successful partnerships with people who trust him and understand how he works.   Face to face meetings have proved more informative to him than show reels when it comes to choosing partners.  Sometimes completely counter-intuitive appointments are the most successful (Ang Lee was certainly not the obvious choice to direct Sense and Sensibility)
  • Challenge and push you team – Despite having trusted teams around you, remember that most team leaders will ask for more budget than they really need!  By challenging them appropriately and collaboratively, sometimes wonderful, creative solutions arise.
  • Ensure projects are sufficiently resourced- When resources are tight, you might end up having to complete a project simply because you have spent so much on it already and need to claw some back.
  • Balance your portfolio – Working Title may be working on 60 projects at one time – although many will never be pursued to completion.  They have always balanced box office/commercial hits with other films
  • Speed is sometimes the enemy of thought – when it comes to newer technologies such as digital editing, the simplification of the technology means that some processes become less ‘considered’
  • Dare to be different – particularly in the current climate, other movie makers might prefer to play safe, creating the same movie over and again.  But for those who are steeped in an independent spirit, this is the perfect time to be creative, take a chance and go down a different path.


[The Olive Till Memorial Debate and Bursary are presented by Stewart Till CBE, CEO Icon Entertainment and Deputy Chair Skillset, in memory of his mother] 

A blog post about the decline of blogging

For the last five years the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Center for Marketing Research has been conducting a study about the use of social media in the 500 fastest growing organisations in the US (The Inc. 500.)  The first study, conducted in 2007, found that these companies were much more likely to have adopted blogs than those in the ‘traditional’ Fortune 500.

The latest findings show that the use of blogging in the Inc. 500 companies is declining for the first time. Blogging had declined to 37% from 50% in 2010.  Advertising, Marketing and Media companies were the most likely to maintain blogs (72%) and Government Services companies the least likely.

However, as blogging reaches maturity in these organisations, the use of other social media, including Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Mobile apps, texting, Twitter and YouTube, is growing.  74% of responding companies were using Facebook, and 73% using LinkedIn.

90% of respondents report that social media tools are important for maintaining company reputation and raising brand awareness.  Slightly fewer see the tools as vital for generating web traffic and lead generation.  73% say the tools are important for customer support programmes.

When asked if the use of social media has been successful for their business, the overwhelming response was that it had been.  Respondents mentioned raising brand awareness, networking, thought leadership and the tools’ ability to give the company a ‘personality’.

25% of respondents plan to maintain their organisation’s investment in social media, and 71% plan to increase it.

The report is data rich and interesting reading.  It shows that the use of social media in organisations is evolving, with some mature tools being dropped in favour of newer ones.  A recognition of their value in supporting networking, and new ways of communicating, means that many organisations are planning to increase their investment in social tools.

Two innovative ideas from public libraries

Just in case you missed them, two great innovative library marketing initiatives have been picked up by the media recently.

First, on a Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog, Grant McCracken (who by the way describes the public library rather wonderfully as ‘a place of possibility’), described the Stuffed Animal Sleepover at his local library.

Children brought in their toys and left them for a ‘sleepover’.  The toys were photographed having adventures (being read to, playing on the computers) in the library at night time.  The librarians shared the pictures of their adventures with their children the next day.  Through this initiative, the children began to see the library as a place of magical happenings and the library was able to do things that digital experiences could not.

Second, a wonderful idea from Slovenia and picked up by  Ljubljana City Library ran an initiative offering mystery book packs to customers.  The mystery packages simply had a sticker denoting a literary genre and librarians advised them further on their choices.  Each parcel provided three books – a contemporary work, a classic and one ‘easy to read’.   As Springwise noted, the book packs provided an example of what public libraries do best.  They provided an enjoyable, curated and personalised experience to customers.