Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Social media and loyalty cards – the next big thing?

Loyalty cards: most of us have them these days. Supposedly we – the customers – derive great benefits from them because we can get “free stuff”. In reality, of course, the real beneficiaries are the producers because they can gather huge amounts of data about our spending patterns and adjust their marketing accordingly. Of course you could argue that this benefits the consumer too: it’s much better to get a money off voucher for a product you regularly consume than for something you’d never buy (I have a cat, so why do I need a dog food voucher?) Very clever.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Risks and safety for children on the internet

“29% of European children aged 9-16 who use the internet have communicated in the past with someone they have not met face-to-face before, an activity which may be risky but may be fun.” This is a quote from the report Risks and safety on the internet. The perspective of European children Initial findings from the EU Kids Online survey of 9-16 year olds and their parents. This report was published on 21 October 2010. It presents the initial findings for the “EU Kids Online II” project which is funded by the European Commission Safer Internet Programme. Its authors are Coordinator Sonia Livingstone plus Leslie Haddon, Anke Görzig and Kjartan Ólafsson.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The curse of email

Overheard on the train to work this morning: "I don't like voicemail. Personally I prefer to use email. You don't have to talk to anyone and it gives you an audit trail." Of course there's nothing new in this, but whereas a year or two ago I'd have expected at least one person in the conversation to demur, in this case there was complete agreement. Now maybe this is not indicative, but my instinct tells me it is. And what a shame if so...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Instant Gratification

When Christmas decorations and adverts start appearing in October you have to start to wonder what's gone wrong! I'm no great fan of Halloween, but I do prepare some goody bags every year (into which I add a small leaflet about the gospel message of Jesus) -- but this year someone actually knocked on the door to "trick or treat" on the 30th, and they were annoyed when I told them it wasn't Halloween yet and to come back tomorrow (they never did). And then we have to listen to fireworks going off for days -- if not weeks -- before Guy Fawkes night. What is it about our society that tolerates, and maybe even expects, this kind of behaviour? It's a measure of greed and instant gratification mixed together. And the sad thing about it is that I don't think it makes people any happier.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Work and Responsibility

The beautifully produced, intelligently written and faultlessly acted UK ITV series Downton Abbey has, among its many moments of thoughtful reflection on society, a scene where the current Earl is talking to a cousin, his only male relative and therefore inheritor of the estate (this is the 1920s).

Thursday, 21 October 2010

ConDem the CSR - or why the Liberal Democrats have sold their souls

So the comprehensive spending review (CSR) is out. As we expected, there are swingeing cuts in the UK Public Sector. There had to be, didn't there? After all, public borrowing was at an all time high. And it was all the fault of those Labour people, who got us into this mess, wasn't it? Sorry, I don't think so...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Bad advertising

Picture the advert: a girl is sitting on the sofa next to her dad. He's eating a bowl Nestle "Oats and More" of cereal and in order to stop her from eating any, lies to her that the cereal is flammable. The tag line is it's too good to share, and other adverts for this product promote similar deception and greed.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Living on a smart planet – is it the technology that counts?

For many years now we have been developing technologies that can help us to detect events (and their pre-cursors). These technologies, put to good use, can help us to provide faster, better, more effective protection and response, whether it is on a global scale (tsunami warning systems), or personal (body state monitors), and whether it is significant (using GPS to help rescue work in Haiti) or trivial (having your fridge send you a text to say that you need more milk). But are they smart? Does this mean we live on a technologically smart planet?
According to the WordNet lexical database of English, the word smart has several possible meanings:

Noun: a kind of pain such as that caused by a wound or a burn or a sore.
Verb: be the source of pain.
(i) showing mental alertness and calculation and resourcefulness;
(ii) elegant and stylish;
(iii) characterized by quickness and ease in learning;
(iv) fresh, impertinent, impudent, overbold, saucy;
(v) painfully severe ("he gave the dog a smart blow");
(vi) quick and brisk ("we walked at a smart pace");
(v) capable of independent and apparently intelligent action ("smart weapons").

That’s a lot of meanings for one word, but basically they boil down to three sets of meaning – one around painfulness, one around elegance, and one around intelligence – and it’s the last of those that is applicable here: when we talk about “smart technology” or creating a “smart planet”, we mean something that is intelligent and resourceful.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Social media brings out the best of us... and the worst

Like it or not, the world of social media is here to stay. Even if you don’t own a PC (or other Internet connected device) at home, the chances are you’ll still come across it at work or amongst your friends and family. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia, Gmail, Spotify, Skype, Flickr ... the list seems endless.