Cyber-attacks and staying private

Cyber-attacks on banks have been high-profile news in the UK.  £1.3 million was taken from Barclays when a computer was hijacked, while police foiled a similar plot against Santander.

The Bank of England’s policy makers have responded, drawing attention to the ‘potential vulnerabilities’ in the banking system, including old and complex IT infrastructure and a reliance on centralised systems.

Concern about a lack of preparedness against cyber-attacks was also expressed at a recent London meeting of information security risk and management professionals. Delegates discussed the ‘perfect storm’ of cyber-security risks – the widespread adoption of social media, cloud services, mobile devices – combined with the proliferation of unstructured data.  Potential risks to organisations include intentional or accidental data breach; social media account hacking and identify theft.  (Government figures for the cost of cyber-security breaches have been discussed previously on this blog.)

The UK is a global leader in identify fraud.  Fraud is said to have cost the UK over £70 billion in 2012 and nearly a quarter of residents have fallen victim to some form of identity fraud.

Staying private

Personal data is ‘the new oil of the internet’ according to the World Economic Forum. Increasingly sophisticated criminals are using the information and data we share to develop ‘spear-phishing’ targeted email campaigns or are able to glean personal details such as pet’s names or mothers’ maiden names which can be used to answer security questions.

As information professionals we are well-placed to help our organisations – and individual colleagues – understand the new information landscape and to help them stay safe and secure.

Phil Bradley is speaking about Privacy (session C103) in a special session at this year’s Internet Librarian International conference.

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Cyberbullying, trolls and good manners

Anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label has surveyed over 10,000 young people in the UK about their experiences of cyberbullying.  70% of respondents aged between 13 and 22 claim to have been victims of cyberbullying and over a million young people are subjected to ‘extreme’ online bullying every day.

In 2012, the charity ChildLine held over 4,500 counselling sessions with children and young people who were concerned about cyberbullying – up 87% in a year.  Boys and girls are equally as likely to be victims.  Facebook is the most common place for young people to be victimised, followed by Twitter and

Meanwhile, YouTube has announced that it is reorganising its comments field, which previously had been structured to show the most recent comments at the top.

The changes use modified versions of Google+ comments which will use signals such as people you are connected to and social affinity to help display customised and more meaningful comments.  The aim is to increase the likelihood of ‘engaged discussion’.  New moderation controls will also be rolled out, so channel owners can manage and review comments and block certain words.

It’s not simply social media sites that have decided to change – or even close – their comments fields. has announced that, despite its aim to foster ‘lively’ scientific debate, comments are no longer welcome on its site.  It blames trolls and spambots and quotes research which suggests that uncivil comments and attacks can change other readers’ interpretation of the original posting.

Trolls and shamers

The shaming of Twitter trolls has also been news over the last few months.  Cambridge University professor and TV presenter Mary Beard shamed a troll who backed down quickly when Twitter ‘threatened to tell his mother’.  Boxer Curtis Woodhouse was the victim of a troll and managed to track him down to his own home.  Once again, the troll apologised.  An article in Wired describes how a delegate at a conference tweeted a picture of two other delegates who had been making ‘not cool’ comments.  The story went viral and people lost their jobs.

Etiquette experts Debrett’s have bewailed the decline of etiquette in the digital age.  The application of a combination of common sense, empathy, good manners and ‘social resilience’ could benefit all of us.

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Open access: academic libraries and article processing charges

Despite challenges, the new emphasis on OA provides librarians with a positive platform to re-establish their role in the research process.

A new report published by SAGE explores the current – and future role – of academic libraries in helping implement OA processing charges.  The report explores the current state of the art, and shares recommendations.  Although librarians support the goals and principles of open access, the OA mandates from funders are creating many challenges.

Institutional policies – still evolving

  • Although some participants reported full OA policies were already in place, the majority of policies are still ‘evolving’
  • Libraries at every participating institution are involved in OA policy development
  • Institutional repositories are an essential element
  • Participants expressed concern at possible shortfall in funding for author pays (‘gold’) OA publishing (RCUK is currently making some funds available)
  • Some institutions are making up the shortfall; others are not

What roles and tasks are librarians undertaking?

  • Entering into publisher OA agreements
  • Allocating funding for individual papers – including one library which split its total funds into equal quarters for the year
  • Most reported a low take-up of APC requests by researchers – many librarians are working to educate and advise researchers
  • Working with publishers to administrate the cost – a task which many reported as frustrating or overly-complicated


  • Funders should provide clear guidance on reporting and measurement
  • Publishers need to better communicate copyright options and which of their publications are RCUK policy compliant
  • More robust systems for managing APCs are needed
  • Cross-industry initiatives and international standards should be developed

The report Implementing Open Access APCs: the role of academic libraries summarises the round table discussions of a panel of academic librarians and other interested parties and is available for free download here.

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Online piracy in the UK

Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, has released its latest report on online copyright infringement in the UK.  The report, which covers March – May 2013, reveals how the majority of copyright infringement is carried out by a small number of people.

The report shows that 2% of copyright infringers were responsible for 74% of all online piracy.  The remainder of the infringements were carried out by “a long tail of casual, low level or infrequent” infringers.

Six types of online content are covered in the report:

  • Books
  • Computer software
  • Films
  • Music
  • TV programmes
  • Video games

Books and copyright infringement

  • An estimated 1% of UK internet users accessed at least one e-book illegally during the period
  • 31% of those using e-books paid nothing
  • 49% paid for all their e-books
  • Interestingly, those who had downloaded at least one e-book illegally spent more overall on e-books than those who paid for all their e-books
  • Those who downloaded a mix of paid for  and free e-books consumed more than any other group

Computer software copyright infringement

  • An estimated 3% of UK internet users accessed or downloaded at least one software product illegally during the period – the equivalent of 21% of all those who consumed software online
  • 74% of those who used software illegally were male
  • 69% of those who used software illegally were under 34
  • As with books, those who downloaded some e-books illegally, those who used pirated software spent more on average than those who did not

TV programmes copyright infringement

  • An estimated 6% of internet users downloaded at least one TV programme illegally during the period (18% of those who consumed TV programmes online)
  • 60% of those who downloaded TV programmes illegally were male
  • 67% were aged between 16-34

The report (Online copyright Infringement Tracker) can be downloaded here.

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New York shooting – citizen journalists on the scene

On September 15th 2013 (as reported in the New York Times), police officers confronted an ‘agitated’ individual and used their firearms, missing the suspect but injuring two bystanders.  After the incident, The New York Times was able to identify the (unarmed) individual, name the shooting victims, describe the extent of their injuries and report from the Police News Conference about the incident.

Before the ‘traditional’ journalists got hold of the story, however, members of the public were recording, and editorialising on, the incident.  At least one person tweeted a picture of one of the victims, almost certainly before their friends or relatives had been informed.  Several YouTube videos of the incident have been uploaded (a simple search will bring up results).  Eye witnesses claim the agitated man had been run over – the police later denied this.  The incident is an example of instant news reporting – often a mixture of documentary, supposition and emotion.

Independent, verified news reporting is considered by many to be essential to democracy.  Does the replacement of traditional forms of news media by new models of information gathering and distribution (e.g. citizen journalism, crowdsourcing, Twitter) make democracy more or less vulnerable?  Or do the two enhance each other?

Riptide is a fascinating ‘oral history’ of the meeting of quality journalism and digital technologies in the US.  Actually, it is a written report drawn from interviews with movers and shakers in the news industry since 1980.

The report looks at the disruptive influences of digital platforms, the decline in traditional journalism jobs and new digital news economic models.  The report covers the early days of teletext all the way through the development of the WWW, the boom and bust, cable news, the emergence of the blogosphere, social news and ‘pay to play’.

The report also includes videos and transcripts of all of the interviews, including this one with star of the London 2012 Olympics Tim Berners-Lee.  It is also illustrated with fantastic images.

(It is worth pointing out that the report has come under some criticism since its release.  Of the 61 ‘media movers and shakers’ the researchers interviewed, a mere five were women – all of whom were white.  Only two non-white males were interviewed.  Moves are underway by some of the report’s critics to conduct further studies.)

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TV viewing trends

The latest report by Ericsson ConsumerLab explores the ways in which connected devices are changing the ways in which consumers view TV and video content.

Consumers in 15 countries* were asked about their TV and video viewing habits.  The findings show how consumers are increasingly exposed to content and how this ‘wealth of choice’ is changing attitudes to video and TV programming.  This includes a shift away from scheduled TV, even amongst older consumers and late adopters (41% of 65-69 year olds are using streamed video at least once a week).

Key findings

  • 72% of respondents watch videos via a mobile device at least once a week
    • 42% do this outside their home
    • Linear/scheduled TV is used for social viewing.  This includes sports and other live events which people watch ‘here and now’
    • Video on demand (VOD) is becoming ‘relaxation TV’
    • 82% of respondents are using YouTube or other User Generated Content (UGC) sites at least monthly – and 25% of them are doing so on mobile devices.
    • The trend to ‘one TV, many devices’ continues as does that of multitasking while viewing content
    • Multitasking – 49% of respondents will look for content about what they are watching
    • Social viewing – Almost a third of respondents will take to social media to discuss what they are watching
    • Place-shifted viewing – a new phenomenon which sees people break up their viewing – they may watch part of the content while travelling and the rest at home for example

Paying for content

With the exception of China, the research shows how more people are reducing spending on TV packages, or S-VOD (subscription video on demand).  The report predicts that new commercial models will emerge, which combine affordable monthly subscriptions with unobtrusive and customised advertising.  Consumers place advertisement free, HD quality content at the top of their wishlist for their TV/video experiences.

(*Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the UK and the US).

The report is available to download here.

A second report, this time focusing on the US video streaming market, found that 51% of Americans aged 13-54 are video streaming at least once a week, with the figure rising to over 60% for those aged 13-33.


Generational diversity – strategies for the ageing workforce

The number of people in the UK employed over the age of 65 has reached the one million mark.

The demographics of the ageing population are astonishing.  Today, the median age (where half the population is older; half younger) of the world population is 28.  By 2050 the median age in Europe will be 47 and 22% of the world population will be over 60.

A report by organisational development experts Talentsmoothie explores the implications of the ageing population for businesses.

‘A new career stage’

In the UK, the number of working pensioners increased by 85% between 1993 and 2011.  Employees now have the right to work beyond statutory retirement age – many of them want to do so, or are forced to do so by economic circumstance.  This ‘extended career’ stage is currently not being managed by employers and the report calls for organisations to focus on proactively managing this career stage – beginning well before statutory retirement age.  65% of organisations participating in the research said they were ‘reactive’ rather than proactive when it comes to discussing retirement with employees.

Similarly, employees are often not keen to raise the issue, fearing that raising their concerns will ‘rock the boat’ and trigger redundancy.

Skills gaps

Over the next ten years, the UK (and many other countries) will experience skills shortages.  Research from a number of sources, including CIPD and McKinsey, predicts skills gaps and a shortage of school- and college-leavers to fill vacancies.

The report describes older employees as a ‘hidden talent pool’.  In the UK organisations such as DIY chain B&Q and building society Nationwide have made a positive effort to employ and keep older workers on board.  The benefits they have reported include reduced employee turnover, improved customer service and increased profitability.  In Japan, Toyota is addressing the ‘knowledge drain’ of retired employees by re-recruiting them to work part-time.

Generational diversity

The oldest Gen-Z youngsters are already 18!  As they begin to join the workforce we will have an increase in the number of ‘five-generation’ workplaces.  Employers need to understand the generational diversity of their customer base and their workforce.  They need to develop policies and working environments that maximise the benefits of multi-generational organisations.

And all of us should overcome our fears of discussing ‘the R-word’ – retirement!

The European internet economy – a manifesto for growth

How can Europe grow its internet-led economy?  The Startup Europe Leaders Club has made 22 recommendations in its new manifesto.

The independent group of leading entrepreneurs has been asked to act as a steering group for European policies on tech-led business growth.  It has now summarised its 22 ideas into a manifesto structured into five themes:

Education and skills

  • More ‘digitally confident’ teachers
  • Instilling children with a passion for entrepreneurship
  • Encourage students to start businesses before they graduate, when they are least risk-averse (this is much more common in the US – 20% of CalTech and Berkeley undergraduates have started their own business)
  • Large companies should offer training programmes to the general public

Access to talent

26% of European employers have difficulty filling roles because of skills gaps and shortages.  The manifesto also describes what constitutes a ‘brain drain’ of entrepreneurs setting up businesses in Silicon Valley rather than Europe  The manifesto recommends:

  • Roll-out of a pan-European startup visa, making it easier for non-EU citizens to start a business and hire non-EU citizens
  • Europe must launch targeted campaigns to reverse the brain drain.

Data policy, privacy, protection

The manifesto cites outdated and inconsistent data regulations across Europe.  It recommends:

  • A unified data protection law
  • Revising the ‘antiquated’ requirement that EU businesses must keep their servers in the same country
  • Opening up government data
  • Encouraging governments to ‘think digital’

Thought leadership

  •  Appoint a Chief Digital Officer in every country of the EU
  • Create a best practices repository
  • Establish a Digital European Forum

The manifesto also considers improving access to capital and other ways to support entrepreneurs.

You can read the manifesto – and sign it if you wish – here.

UK – 750,000 digital workers needed by  2017

Meanwhile, a study by Development Economics (on behalf of O2) reveals the demand for skilled staff in the digital economy.

The report calls for improved collaboration between the private and public sectors and says that government support for digital skills development is vital in providing work opportunities and to stimulate small business.

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Facilitating access to free resources

Academic libraries are moving away from ‘content purchasing’ models to ‘facilitating access to content’.  And an increasing amount of this content is free.

Taylor and Francis has published a white paper exploring the challenges and opportunities faced by the library community of facilitating access to free resources.

How much free content is out there?

  • In May 2013 Google indexed 45 billion web pages
  • Between 1993 and 2009 the number of OA articles increased ten-fold; the number of OA journals increased from 740 to 4,769
  • By December 2012, the Directory of Open Access Journals listed 8000+ titles
  • According to the Registry of Open Access Repositories there are over 3300 OA repositories

91% of librarians surveyed by Taylor and Francis ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that free resources add value to the research process.  However, discovering and facilitating access to such sources can be a challenge:

  • Lack of metrics and evidence to demonstrate the value of free content
  • Lack of metadata and the challenge of identifying access and reuse rights
  • Concerns over permanence of OA sources


  • Librarians need to educate institutions that their role goes beyond purchasing content
  • Work needs to be done to prove return on investment for time spent enhancing the discoverability of free content
  • Work needs to be done on the development and adoption of metadata standards
  • There should be increased collaboration between librarians and users to select content
  • Librarians should continue their focus on improving institutional information literacy
  • There should be more comprehensive indexing of quality free resources by discovery systems

Taylor and Francis held one focus group in the UK and one in the US. In addition they conducted in-depth telephone interviews; desk research and an online survey with over 500 responses.

The White Paper is available here.


The psychology of sharing

If we understand what drives people to share content online, then we can appeal to their motivations to connect our content with others.

The New York Times Customer Insight Group has collaborated with Latitude Research to gather insights into what drives people to share content online.  It describes six personas and explores ways to appeal to them.

“I share to enrich the lives of those around me”

The research shows that the very act of sharing helps people to process information – 73% say sharing helps them process information more deeply and thoughtfully.  However, the vast majority (94%) are careful about information overload – they report that they “consider carefully” how useful the information will be to those they wish to share it with.

Other reasons for sharing:

  • To support issues or causes (84%)
  • To stay connected (78%)
  • To connect with others with shared interests (73%)
  • To feel more involved with the world (69%)
  • To give others a better idea about what matters to them (68%)

Sharing personas

  • Altruists – reliable, thoughtful and connected sharers
  • Careerists – sharers of business interests and ideas exchanges
  • Hipsters – creative sharers who see sharing as ‘part of who they are’
  • Boomerangs – provocative sharers of [often controversial] content
  • Connectors – planners and sharers who bring others together
  • Selectives – careful, informative and selective sharers of content

If you want your content to be shared by others, some rules are relevant irrespective of the personas of your target audience.  Keep your message simple, embrace a sense of urgency and show a sense of humour.  Above all remember that ‘being shared’ is just the beginning - remaining engaged is the most important aspect of all.

Download the research.

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