Growing Europe’s economy: the role of ICT

The European Commission has published a scenario-based report on how the innovative rollout of ICT can bring about economic growth.

The report, written by The Conference Board, considers two driving forces:

  • The pace of economic growth – fast or slow
  • The European digital market – fragmented or integrated

By placing these forces on a simple ‘two-by-two’ axis, the report explores four possible 2017 scenarios.

Scenario one – The Digital Rainforest

In this scenario, an integrated Europe-wide market for ICT is able to take advantage of global improvements in the economy to compete worldwide.  In this market, rapid growth and change requires flexibility and agility and the market is likely to be characterised by constant change and disruption

Scenario two – The Digital Glasshouse

In this scenario, the integrated EU marketplace is hampered by slow economic growth.  However, Europe will benefit from an internal market that functions more smoothly.

Scenario three – The Digital Desert

Here, slow global economic growth and a fragmented marketplace hampers the growth of the European ICT market

Scenario four – The Digital Savannah

In which the EU market remains fractured but worldwide growth means many firms simply ignore the European market seeking to grow beyond Europe’s borders

Recommendations

The report calls for rapid action to ensure that the European market can maximise tis potential as the world’s largest economic bloc.  A high quality and affordable infrastructure of high speed fixed and mobile broadband is vital.  At the same time, efforts to upskill the population must be improved and a regulatory environment, which supports sector growth, must be established.

“National governments and the European Commission must commit to a long-term coherent and strategic vision for the role of ICT, reforming and investing where necessary…. To further innovation and [lead] by example”

More information.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

‘Convergence is King’ in the new information industry

In the new information industry, neither content nor technology is king.  It is the unique combination of both which is driving the sector.

With the start of a new year comes a flurry of reports and posts predicting emerging trends for the year ahead.

One of the most interesting to emerge so far is Outsell’s Information Industry Outlook 2014 report.  Last year, Outsell explored the theme ‘the new normal’ (which was the key theme for Internet Librarian International in 2011).  This year’s report, ‘Convergence Now!’ explores new partnerships and the creation of new information products that bring together community and commerce.

The report explores an information industry that includes both the ‘traditional’ (e.g. news and yellow pages, both of which are declining) and new players.  Growth information sectors include educational technology, health IT and marketing services.

Convergence – key trends

  • New partners, new competition – industry leaders such as Thomson Reuters and Reed Elsevier are partnering and competing with for example IBM, Deloitte, Oracle
  • No more ‘mobile’ or ‘digital’ - a new focus on cross-media approaches mean these words will gradually disappear and we will be offering simply ‘services’ or ‘strategy’
  • New solutions – combining content, software, community and commerce to create platforms that support workflow
  • Face-to-face – at the same time in-person events which offer ‘extended engagement’ are a strong market
  • EdTech – the move to digital will not be rapid but will continue.  A hybrid model market will continue for years
  •  STM – Open Science is ‘here to stay’ – bringing threats and opportunities to the industry

As usual, the report concludes with a list of companies to watch over the next year.  These include big established players, such as Amazon and Elsevier, but a number of new players working in the content market.  Examples include Hypothes.is, a non-profit offering ‘open annotation’.

The report is free to download from Outsell.

Christmas food in the library

The Guildhall Library, in the City of London, holds the UK’s largest collection of food and wine related materials, including many early recipes.  This massive collection formed the basis of a lecture by Peter Ross, the Librarian, on the history of Christmas food in the UK.

The traditional image of Christmas fare, including large turkeys and Christmas puddings, is associated with the Victorian era – particularly the Christmas feasts described by Dickens in Pickwick Papers and of course A Christmas Carol.  Turkeys were first imported into the UK in 1526 – and they became popular very quickly.  Before this time, medieval Christmas feasts (for the wealthy at least) featured peacock, swan and decorative pies baked with inedible pastry crusts.  For the very wealthy, servants were employed to carve food into bite-size morsels and dress it in sauce.  Forks had not yet been invented.

Medieval life was very much dictated by the church – and this included the concept of ‘fast days’ when no meat could be consumed.  Not only was Christmas a ‘feast’ holiday, but it made sense to slaughter animals to save on the expense of feeding them through the lean winter months.

Diaries are a wonderful resource for those interested in the history of Christmas food.  Samuel Pepys’ 17th century diaries describe several Christmas meals, featuring beef, mince pies and ‘plum pottage’ – perhaps an early form of plum – or Christmas – pudding.  Parson James Woodforde kept diaries for many years in the 18th century, describing Christmas dinners as a student at Cambridge University and later the dinners he provided for parishioners (boiled rabbit, onion sauce, beef, plum pudding and mince pies).

The traditional twelfth night cake featured tokens which encouraged those who found them to ‘reverse roles’ – acting as for example the king or queen for the party.  Role reversal is of course featured in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.  As this tradition began to die out, the tokens or charms were transferred into Christmas puddings.

Visit Guildhall Library’s website for more information on its collection of food-related material.

cat with figgy puddingMerry Christmas – and no eating in the library please!

Cat with figgy pudding – courtesy of PeonInChief via Flickr.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

Grumpy Cat and twerking – popular search terms of 2013

Winners this year include Prince George (the new royal baby), the iPhone 5  and twerking.

US searches

The US top ten of Yahoo search terms is the usual reassuring mix of celebrities (Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber), technology (iPhone 5) and gaming (Minecraft).  For expert editorial analysis you can do no better than Ron Burgundy’s explanatory video available on the Yahoo website.

Bing has also released its analysis of the top US search terms, showing the top tens in a range of categories including most searched for musicians, sports teams and people.  Prince George was Bing’s most searched news story in 2013.

Bing figures also include searches for social media, apps and streaming websites.

US: Pinterest , Harlem Shake and Candy Crush

  • Bing’s figures show that Pinterest has entered its top ten of social media searches for the first time this year and has taken second place, with only Facebook ahead of it.
  • Harlem  Shake was the most popular meme in 2013, followed by Grumpy Cat
  • Candy Crush was the most searched for app, beating Angry Birds into second place

UK Bing searches

  • Twitter has replaced YouTube as the UK’s most searched for social media site
  • Facebook takes fourth place, behind LinkedIn and Skype

Meanwhile, YouTube has released its top trending videos for 2013.  Norway’s The Fox takes top spot, followed by the original Harlem Shake.

Twitter has also released its 2013 review, including this wonderful month-by-month breakdown of top news hashtags and photographs from people on the spot.

The Google top search terms are expected to be released later this year.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

How to be happy – love, friendship and altruism

The Grant Study is a 75-year longitudinal study of Harvard graduates (1939-1944) and ‘disadvantaged’ youths growing up in Boston (1940-1945).  All white American men, the subjects were followed for 68 years.  One of the Harvard graduates was John F Kennedy.

Subjects were evaluated at least every two years using questionnaires, medical records and personal interviews.  Data was gathered about their mental and physical health, career enjoyment and their relationships.

For 40 years, George Vaillant has led the study and written books on the findings. Despite the mass of data and analysis accumulated, Vaillant sums up the key to happiness “Happiness is love. Full stop.”

  • What goes right is more important than what goes wrong
  • A happy childhood is preferable but an unhappy one can be overcome
  • The ability to achieve [emotional] intimacy is the strongest predictor of health and happiness in old age
  • Participants did manage to change over time; many found love and happiness for the first time later in life

Happiness at work

According to new research from Glassdoor, you could also choose to work in one of the happiest workplaces:  Twitter, Facebook and Google score well in the happy workplace charts.

And finally, if you’re a librarian don’t read articles such as this which define librarianship as a dead end job and imply we’d all be a lot better off if we became nutritionists….

Additional source: Huffington Post

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

From Selfish Giant to Slumdog Millionaire – lessons from Channel 4 film and drama

Sometimes it is good to step outside of the information echo chamber. 

What can we learn from leaders in another profession – one which seeks to balance creative vision with tight budgets; is challenged by new formats, technology and delivery channels; has to balance multiple stakeholders; is threatened by pirated content, and is working to meet the anytime, anywhere demands of end users?

Tessa Ross is the Controller of Film and Drama for Channel 4 and recipient of the 2013 Bafta award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema’.  Her projects included Slumdog Millionaire, A Field in England, In Bruges and The Selfish Giant.  She came to film via theatre and – speaking at the Olive Till Memorial Lecture* – described a ‘drift’ into her current role rather than a firm plan.  She commissions films for the Channel with a ‘tiny’ budget of £15 million a year.

Her responsibility is to spend that budget wisely and to help people fulfil their creative vision.  Her role requires her to combine creative mentoring, experimentation and risk taking, in depth knowledge of the industry and the people within it, team development and creative matchmaking – and financial and business acumen.

“I think you’re brilliant.  What can I do to help you?”

For Ross, talent rather than the medium is her objective.  The vast majority of projects brought to her will not be made and Channel 4 may not be the right home for everyone’s idea.  But for those that she does work with, her focus is on helping them fulfil their creative vision.  This requires tenacity and sometimes a long-term commitment (One of her recent films, Under the Skin, took 13 years to make it from script to screen).

Channel 4’s remit encourages eclectic storytelling and experimentation.  The recent ‘magic mushroom/civil war’ film A Field in England was the result of an experimental masterclass in making a low budget feature film.  It was released simultaneously on multiple platforms.

Ross works with – and helps to develop – creative talent and her role requires a wide-ranging skill set.  Many members of the audience, the majority of them film students, expressed their interest in working with Channel 4 – and her.  And who wouldn’t want a mentor like that?!

*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 at Goldsmiths, University of London’.  Previous speakers have included Danny Boyle and Tim Bevan.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

Selfie is the word of the year

“Is this a selfie which I see before me,
The angle toward my hand? Come, let me tweet thee*”

Oxford Dictionaries have announced that their word of the year for 2013 is ‘selfie’.

Over the course of the year, the frequency of the usage of the word selfie (the act of taking a self-portrait) has increased by 17,000%. Several spin-off terms have also emerged, including ‘drelfe’ (a drunken selfie) and ‘welfie’ (a workout selfie).

Once again the word of the year showcases technological and social trends that impact the general consciousness.  (Last year’s words of the year included ‘omnishambles’ and ‘hashtag’.)

Other words shortlisted in 2013 include bitcoin, showrooming and <shudder> twerk.

In the Netherlands Participatiesamenleving – ‘participation society’ – has been named as the word of the year.  One of the runner-up words was socialbesitas – ‘addiction to social media’ – a word which some of us would find useful – and apt!

The German slang word of the year is ‘babo’. It derives from a Turkish word meaning boss or chief.

Selfies – selfish or ‘another way to connect’?

According to mobileYouth, 48% of the photographs posted by UK teenagers to Instragram are selfies.  Graham Brown’s slideshare presentation challenges us to look beyond the surface ‘narcissism’ of the selfie and encourages us to think of it – like Blipfoto – as ‘ordinary people doing ordinary things’.

The Oxford University Press blog explores the history of the self portrait – from early daguerrotypes onwards and *Alice Northover has rewritten Shakespeare for the selfie generation.

Finally, here’s a wonderful selfie image, taken by Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the last Czar of Russia.  One hundred years ago.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

Women at work – quotas, booth babes and clones

Two of Germany’s political parties have reached a policy compromise supporting the ‘Frauenquote’ – a move to regulate the representation of women on the boards of large companies.

The policy would require companies listed on the German stock exchange to have at least 30% women on their boards.  It would also require large firms to publish their plans to ensure more women land top executive roles.

Similar quota policies already exist in Belgium, France, Italy and Spain.

In a blog post on Harvard Business Review, Joan Williams, author of What works for women at work, looks at a recent Gallup poll about people’s attitudes to female bosses.  On the surface, things are looking up.  Of course you would expect more people today to prefer a woman boss – or to have no gender preference – than did 60 years ago.   However, she then highlights a number of research projects which examine the ongoing negative gender dynamics in the workplace.

No matter what your view of the existence – and the need for – quotas, when you read the disheartening comments made in response to a blog post about the use of ‘booth babes’ at an IT exhibition you can’t help but feel that there is still much progress to be made.

Meanwhile a report on the makeup of Swedish boards (by the Albright Foundation) found a distinct lack of diversity.  Most were full of people similar to each other in gender, skills experience or contact networks.  An Albright report from earlier this year shows that there were more board members called Johan in Sweden than there were women board members!

Additional source: The Guardian.  Thanks to @pennyrleach for the booth babe story.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

Paper and digital archives – preserving the present for the future

Germaine Greer, the author and academic, has sold her personal archive for £1.8million.  She is to donate the proceeds to support a rainforest charity.

The archive will be housed by the University of Melbourne in Australia and contains over 150 filing cabinet drawers of correspondence, manuscripts, videos and audio tapes, lecture notes, letters and diaries. Over the years, Greer has corresponded with some of the key thinkers, politicians, writers and actors of the age (Margaret Atwood, Indira Gandhi, Warren Beatty).

Germaine Greer herself has said about archives that they are “the paydirt of history… Everything else is opinion. At a certain point you actually need documents.”

The University of Melbourne archivist (Dr Katrina Dean) said that Greer’s archive had been “meticulously maintained” and some of the correspondence represented “a rich vein of social history on social, sexual and intellectual challenges and changes”.

In a piece for the Independent newspaper (31st October 2013), author Simon Garfield wonders whether this is the last of the great ‘paper-based’ author archives.  Salman Rushdie’s archive, which has been held at Emory University in Atlanta Georgia since 2010, is a mixture of digital and hard copy files.

The University of Melbourne is working to ensure Greer’s archives are available to future researchers and academics.  In 2012/13 the British Library was contemplating the 100 websites it felt should be preserved for future generations.  The websites it chose to preserve would somehow provide a state of the nation/way we live now resource of inestimable value to future researchers and historians.

One of the sites chosen was Blipfoto, a photo journal website which encourages members to take and save one photo a day – with accompanying explanatory text. The website now holds thousands of authentic pictures and stories.  It is, as Hazel Hall has written “…a collective record of human history”. It is images with context and meaning, which sets the site apart from the millions of images being saved (with no metadata) every day on other social media sites.

For a visual of how the size of curated photo collections compare with the mass of photographs on Facebook see the wonderful photograph taken by Starr Hoffman of the CEO of Blipfoto speaking at Internet Librarian International. 

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

Teenagers, Facebook and message apps

If teenagers are losing interest in Facebook, where are going – and why?

Facebook’s Q3 earnings statement revealed that it had exceeded its revenue targets.   However, in the company’s accompanying comments it also revealed that it was seeing “a decrease in daily users, specifically among teens”.

As Facebook becomes increasingly popular – even with parents – it is at risk of losing any element of ‘coolness’.  Teenage interest is splintering into a number of other tools and apps, including Instagram, Tumblr, Pheed, Kik and WhatsApp.

There are 2.1 billion mobile device owning young people in the world and 36% of their money is spent on mobile services and products.  They are a big potential market for any social network and a decline in popularity with such an influential group is important.

Piper Jaffray surveyed 5,200 teens of whom 33% said that Facebook was their most important social network.  Although still a high figure, it is down a full 9% in a year.  Twitter is catching up with Facebook (30% reported it as their most important tool).  Tumblr took 17% of the votes.

A preference for mobile message apps

Writing in the Observer newspaper, Parmy Olson discusses teenagers preferences for messaging apps.  Mobile message apps (such as WeChat and WhatsApp) offer private, real time chatting with real friends – without advertising and without broadcasting to an entire network of friends and acquaintances. Message apps are incredibly popular – about 90% of the population of Brazil uses them; three-quarters of Russians, and half of Britons. WhatsApp has over 350 million monthly active users around the world.  The early adopters and power users of these apps are under 25 years old.

The messaging services also offer private sharing of photographs (which teenagers love for a variety of reasons!).  But they are also developing into social media networks in their own right, in Asia in particular.  WeChat, KakaoTalk and LINE have millions of users and provide messaging services, games, music sharing and stickers.

Sources: MobileYouth;  Parmy Olson The Observer;  Forbes; Tyntec.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]