My planned long drive to Bristol


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This week I’m on holiday. Unlike most people, I won’t be travelling to some new destination full of sunshine and hot sand. Instead I’m going to drive through Wales down to Bristol.

Its a long ride (300miles!) and I will be stopping over somewhere in the middle (lets hope I don’t end up in a B&B with dogs!). And I’ll be honest I’m a little scared, but I got plenty of time and don’t need to be in Bristol till Wednesday afternoon to meet good friend Claire. I’ll then head over to my parents afterwards.

This is part due to my new years resolution about driving in a different country. I know Wales doesn’t really count but its a big test run for Scotland, Ireland or France. I also saw Graham Hughes again at TedxLiverpool (which I’ll write about later maybe) his world record visiting every country on planet earth without flying is incredible and inspirational. My old colleague Matthew Cashmore drove to Russia on his motorbike but to be honest I’m not certain my scooter would survive such a ride, hence I’m signing up with the AA just in-case.

I’m hoping to film as much of the ride as the battery will allow using my helmet mounted HD camera (you can see a snippit here). But I will be recording the journey with my tracks on my Nexus 5. May just bring the work phone just in-case of emergencies.

Weather looks to be good throughout, wish me luck!

Best for purpose apps on wearables

Android Wear and Moto 360 Smartwatch

Found via Adewale on Google+ of all places..

Watered-down smartphone apps are spreading like weeds on Google’s new wearable platform.  If you want an example of everything wrong with smartwatch apps right now, just look at all the Android Wear calculators.

Since I got the pebble smart watch, I have been asked again and again why not get a Android Wear?  For me besides the questionable battery life and overkill on screen size, I also haven’t seen much which makes me want one. Yes Google Now is compelling but not enough to fork out serious money.

However the questionable app question does apply across the board. There are some very questionable apps on the pebble too. They can do with looking at the recommend developer list.

  • Does the app provide a useful service in specific situations where taking out a phone is impractical?

  • Does the watch show users something important that they’d miss if they didn’t take out their phones in time?

  • Does the watch app save significant time without sacrificing significant functionality?

These are pretty good points… And some of the examples make sense.

Delta’sAndroid appis another example of a wearable app done right. If you check into a flight on your phone, the watch automatically provides up to date gate information right on your wrist (question two) and presents your boarding pass to use at the gate (question three).

Similarly,Allthecooks’ Android Wear functionscan save time by showing recipe instructions on your wrist. Having those instructions follow you around the kitchen makes a lot more sense than having to constantly look back to your phone or tablet for reference.

The pebble has little to no input but I have already seen apps which try and input data via a bluetooth back channel from a bluetooth headset via the phone. For goodness sake, leave it alone!

The pebble is great for notifications and to be honest I wouldn’t want to see it used for much more. Getting developers to accept its limits should be easier than Android wear but you know what people are like, push and push.

As Adewale says…

The future isn’t about trying to do everything with one device – it is about finding therightdevices to do thingsyouwant to do, and to do them in thebest possible way. Forcing an app onto a form factor it is ill suited for does injustice to both you, the concept of the app, the platform, and worst of all – your users.

Couldn’t agree more…

Do you want to know a secret?

Secret

I have installed the Secret app but everytime I look at it, can’t decide if I should sign up or not.

If you don’t know Secret app

Secret is a mobile app (iOS and finally Android) that allows people to share messages anonymously within their circle of friends, friends of friends, and publicly. It differs from other anonymous sharing apps such as PostSecret and Whisper in that it is intended for sharing primarily with friends, potentially making it more interesting and addictive for people reading the updates wondering if its a friend they know.

The problem I have is, do I trust them to keep my secrets secret? First clue is usually in the Terms of Conditions and Privacy statement.

Looking at the ToC and Privacy, theres nothing insane described but I’m sure when Facebook was first described in the EULA it was all smiles but….

We change these Terms of Service every so often. If we make changes, we will notify you by revising the date at the top of the policy and, in some cases, provide you with additional notice

I imagine after a few months the terms will change and suddenly the secrets are less ummmmm secret?

Paying the Price of Admission

It was my ex-wife Sarah who introduced me to Dan Savage many years ago. She use to listen to his radio show and podcasts about life and relationships. Ever since I have kept a ear out for his insightful notes on relationships and life.

Paying the price of admission is a fascinating idea.

…the personal sacrifices, large and small, that make long-term relationships possible. For some, the price of admission—what it costs to ride a particular ride—includes “taming one’s sexual desire for the sake of another.”

I would say this is the compromise, but it always sounds like a negative thing. And to be fair theres a lot of negativity towards compromises.

The price of admission sounds a lot more like a neutral and when ever I hear it, I think roller coasters and that can’t be a bad thing…. *smile*

The other thing I find fascinating about the price of admission is the notion of act as if or fake it till you make it.

…the idea is to go through the routines of life as if one were enjoying them, despite the fact that initially it feels forced, and continue doing this until the happiness becomes real. This is an example of a positive feedback loop.

Its makes clear sense when thinking about one person but is really interesting when thinking both people in a relationship is doing this for the benefit of their partner first and themselves secondly.

What happened to Pigeon post?

You might have heard Amazon are serious about their drone based delivery system for certain items, I assume for their prime customers.

In the letter (pdf), Amazon’s head of public policy, Paul Misener, says that “in the past five months we have made advancements towards the development of highly automated aerial vehicles” for its new service, which it calls Amazon Prime Air. Misener says the five-pound limit covers 86% of products sold on Amazon.

Meanwhile, the FAA’s British counterpart told the Guardian that it could foresee a time when, once drones have proven their airworthiness and ability to avoid obstacles safely, they would be allowed to operate autonomously

I wrote about Amazon Prime Air, which myself and many others thought was a publicity stunt (although to be fair Adewale was right on the money). I  also wrote about pigeon post, which something which I thought was flipping crazy but might actually work.

Nathan Rae is the man with the vision and I recently saw him and asked him what he made of Amazon Prime Air? He said it was good news but what makes Pigeon post really special is the protocol. That protocol is physical package protocol (PPP?)

Thats where the magic is…

We need more 21st Century Mindful Leadership

Transformational Leadership

Laura tweeted a link to 21st Century Mindful Leadership, which I had a read of and sent her a link fromUmair Haque.

I liked a lot of what was said from Susan in the post. Here’s a couple parts which really got me.

As we head further into the 21st century the ancient concept of systematic hierarchies where people are ranked above or below one another is fading away. And it’s a good thing because science is recognizing that authoritative, egotistic and critical behavior actually goes against the grain of our innate nature.

When I read this part, I just can’t help but think about that striking thinking digital talk by Blaze. As Laura mentioned when I spoke about Blaze’s talk… Nature and Biodiversity is critical and Susan’s just picking up on the tail end of the inevitable trend.

I certainly like this maybe because it reflects my own view of what leadership is or at least should be… The summary at the end finishes it off for me nicely.

Standing on the edge of the 21st century we have the ability to create more good in the world than ever before. Globally, leaders have a responsibility to develop inner resilience, clarity and vision coupled with a compassionate understanding of humanity in order to effectively lead us through complex challenges.  With the willingness to work together we have the chance to initiate sustainable solutions that will improve the lives of every single person on earth — the opportunity of a lifetime.

Absolutely… Couldn’t have said it better myself, except we need more enlighten leaders and leadership. We need to push for better leaders and not put up with the same crap from the same sources.

Perceptive music and beyond

Pet Shop Boys at the Brits 2009

Media relies on the ability to engineer peoples emotions. This can sound pretty bad but all media from romantic comedies made for cinema to the old classics from Shakespeare. The effect of media and ultimately storytelling has always fascinated me and I’m sure its the same for most people. Its hardwired in to us as Jason Silva puts it.

The ability to engineer someone’s emotions is interesting from a story point of view. However if you add broadcast, you can do this to a nation or the whole world. But like the 10% of any audience, which are highly suggestible, how do you reach the others?

A 600,000 person study Facebook and Cornell University did a while back but recently came to light might have a clue about how. However there has been a major push-back on the study for ethical reasons.

Facebook’s controversial study that manipulated users’ newsfeeds was not pre-approved by Cornell University’s ethics board, and Facebook may not have had “implied” user permission to conduct the study as researchers previously claimed.

Starting from a different place is Moment.us.(little disclaimer to say I may be working with this Manchester based startup in the near future, but only because their technology is mind blowing)

Moment.us, tracks and follows the users media habits. It watches as you choose songs (bit like scobbling apps like last.fm) when you pick them and records the context of when. Like certain types of song when your going for a ride to work on a sunny day.

Our proprietary algorithm, contextual database, analytics, understanding of and expertise in media, technology and user behaviour. Highly relevant, hyper-personal, socially integrated, context driven mobile experiences for consumers and unrivalled contextual consumer data for commercial organisations.

A while ago we pitched a project loosely called In Tune at the BBC Radio One Connected Studio which we felt was very credible but unfortunately the judges disagreed. Maybe it was the way we pitched it but there was a lot of doubt we had the data to do what we planning to do.

I have seen first hand the data points and been amazed at what patterns of activity our music listening can reveal about ourselves. Imagine what you could do if you were have access to that data and could engineer the music and therefore the experience?

Interestingly Google is getting in on the idea as they recently bought Songza.

Visiting the lake district


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While most people, this weekend were watching the tour de france in Yorkshire. I decided it was time for a ride further a field to the Lake District. Very nice ride with the sunshine beaming down all day… Of course I captured most of it with my head mounted camera and the autographer.

First time ever been to Kendal or the Lake district actually…

Dating feminists

Found via Josh and Zoe on Facebook – Feminist Dating by Emma Jane Unsworth. I would say its a interesting take on what it can be like for a feminist woman dating in 2014.

The comments as you would expect (you only have to look at any of the comments following northern lass writings) are pretty vicious. There are parts I enjoyed and other parts I wasn’t so sure of.

To avoid time-wasters, I recommend sending over this quick questionnaire ahead of a meet: 1. Do you think the 1950s could be described as a golden era for gender relations? 2. Does the idea of a woman earning more money than you bring you out in hives? 3. Mine’s a pint – that OK? Ah, if only it were so simple

Certainly reminds me of the time I went out with a woman in Manchester. I paid for the first round, and she had a pint of beer and myself a cocktail (cosmopolitan). She was ok with it but the guys on the next table were confused. So confused they came up and asked if I had got the drinks around the wrong way!

I have to say Emma’s comments about who pays is a little confusing…

Let’s talk about paying the bill, holding the door open; the kind of old-school chivalry that makes knights of men and princesses of women. Princesses who need rescuing, usually. Now, because it’s not always practical to “rescue them right back”, like in Pretty Woman, this is a potentially perilous area. Is it disempowering to let someone pay the bill if they’re richer and just happen to be a man? Is this not just, you know, socialism? *ducks* All right, all right. Sometimes I do let people pay (hell, sometimes I offer to pay, if I’m feeling flush) but on other occasions I have nearly bankrupted myself for the sake of my pride. Nobody’s perfect.

The lovely women I date, are happy to split the bill and the debate which I tend to have with others (friends and family) just isn’t a issue with modern/feminist women. The decision about if the other person likes you, do not hinge on if he pays or not.

Dating women who identify as modern/feminist is a must for me. Its always been lovely dates and they tend to be the ones I end up being friends with afterwards. Although I have to say opposites sometimes do attract.  Maybe the friction is actually needed?

Choose your ecosystem wisely

Android robot-shaped KitKat bars

In my mind the primeconf online dating talk has a lot of parallels with what I have been looking at in regards to  the different stacks and data ethics.

One of my biggest posts was one about the 5 stacks after listening to Bruce Sterling’s talk at SxSw interactive in 2012.  But came across a really interesting piece while looking into the Google IO.

Its time to choose your religion, Android or iOS?

It’s impossible for Google or Apple to introduce a new feature, let alone a whole new revision, to their mobile operating systems without it instantly being compared to the other’s alternative. The sparks that inflame heated discussions about who’s got the better notifications or smarter multitasking come right from the top of both companies. While unveiling Android L yesterday, Google’s Sundar Pichai took a subtle dig at Apple’s new iOS 8 by saying that custom keyboards and widgets “happened in Android four to five years ago.”

Of course this also applies to Amazon with their recent Firephone, Microsoft with Windows Phone and somewhat Facebook too.

Frankly the copying of each other is boring and getting tiresome. But regardless my bets are still with Google. Although I won’t lie, Google Fit although a better thought out proposition than Apple’s Healthkit, worries the heck out of me. Can you even imagine the insane algorithms which will be built?

Although not a foil hat wearing person, I will say I’m one of those people who removing  Moves app from my Nexus5 when Facebook bought them. And that was for a subset of personal data! I didn’t even stick around to see the EULA change because I had a idea of what they might do with that data.

Life will surely be sweeter once every gadget you own relates intelligently to every other, but to get there, you’ll have to decide where your loyalties lie. And the fact that both Android and iOS platforms are set for their biggest updates in years this fall means that the obsessive comparisons between them will be as salient as they’ve ever been. More than ever, your smartphone preference will dictate your choice of tablet, TV, car, watch, and even fitness tracker.

Its a shame things are this way. For example even Ubuntu are following this route with their Ubuntu Cloud, Phone,Tablet, etc. Whats driving all this besides the money, massive collections of data and customer lock in? User experience…

Last year when Aral gave his talk at Thinking Digital about user experience, I was up in arms again (seems everything Aral says, I tend to get up in arms about).The notion of a single user experience winds me up. Each user (in lui of a better word, citizen, person, etc) is different and although you can build experiences for a bulk of people, we have the technology and experience to build  but enlightening and masterful experiences which don’t trap users in a silky web, where you can only emerge a little lighter in regards to personal data.

What Apple and Google are building is what Nike, Adidas, and all the fashion brands wish they had: a set of concrete reasons to compel people to use one company for all their needs. It’s brand loyalty based on practicality as much as emotional attachment.

There has to be a better way right? Absolutely!

The utopian scenario would be to have one global ecosystem where the communication between Apple and Google was about device interoperability instead of trash talk among execs. In its absence, a few sprouts of hope come from companies like Nike and the Google-owned (but still independently operated) Nest.

Yes, the utopian scenario is what we should be working towards and to be fair, many are. However its very complex to build a excellent user experience across different data sets, APIs and services. Its alot easier to just build your own and force the user experience you think people should have.  As Ade said, people’s enthusiasm for federated decentralised $WHATEVER tends to be very low. I imagine its ever lower when considering the user experience. Getting things working technically is hard enough, so the user experience tends to get shuffled into a later position. I do agree with Aral on this. I would also agree this is part of the reason why the stacks are able to increase their lead and dictate the terms which suit their business model.

The old specter of Apple’s walled garden remains. And the more unified Google becomes, the more it’s beginning to resemble it. The difference with the latest software from both, however, is in the scale of the closed ecosystems that are being built. They are, by design, big enough to fit your whole life into. While the next phone you buy might not last much longer than a couple of years, the ecosystem it plugs and locks you into will likely be the one you use for a long time to come.

I would say its not just about choosing wisely, but also choosing wisely what you do on their platform. Its clear things are more difficult as a result of not being all in with one of the stacks but for the inconvenience and pain of wiring up your own solution between the gaps. It may in years to come make all the difference?

Why I bought a pebble watch

Pebble on my arm

Bobby asked me why I didn’t get Androidware.

I bought the pebble watch from Amazon mainly because I’m a fan of eink (although I read via steve its not actually eink but rather the generic epaper) and I’m not a fan of worrying about charging items, especially things we take for granted like watches. I tried to get one from ebay a while ago but it was at that point when they started to get popular and the price jumped up. Maybe I should have backed the kickstarter at the time.

Androidware looks really good and I love the idea of Google Now on most things but to be honest, it needs to be reliable. And reliable for me includes not having to worry about charging it everyday.

I’m sure I’ll do an update of how I’m finding the pebble in months to come. But right now I’m quite happy with the notifications coming through on the phone screen. i did play with a couple of apps and I like the idea of evernote on my arm and I need to check if I can get google tasks and calendar on there too. Also wonder if theres ifttt.com support yet?

Dating, lies and algorithms the primeconf talk

The short talk I did for Primeconf is now live like most of the talks on the site. I blogged about the conference here already but its funny looking at the talk from a audience point of view. Not only because there is a 3min section which is dropped in to cover some technical problem, but also because I now notice the lack of smooth transitions between sections. Putting in the books as reference was somewhat missed too, which is a shame.

I didn’t know I was running over, as the mac timer said 6:50 mins when I finished. I certainly wouldn’t have elaborated on certain areas if I knew the time. Its always best to have a countdown clock somewhere very visible for speakers. Must remember to never trust a mac with keynote…¿

So as a whole and based on the fact it is a subset of a much deeper talk. Its not bad. It would be good to explore in more detail some of the sections and bring in some of the video evidence I have. But alas that’s for another day maybe…

Thanks again to Thayer and the prime team for the invite, the amazing venue and recording the talk. The other talks are well worth watching.

No compelling evidence online dating algorithms work

Shoreditch dating backlash?

Herb highlighted this on Facebook the other day. It seems to be some shoreditch protest against online dating. I couldn’t find anything else about it, so it might all be a flash in a very small pan but they have good reason to protest.

I quoted in my Primeconf Best of British talk

There is no compelling scientific research indicating online dating algorithms work.

This fact has not been lost on many others. I’m not saying online dating isn’t a bad way to meet someone (heck I still use it) however the chances are about the same as meeting someone on any of the other social networks, chatrooms, forums, etc

Online dating simply connects people, but so does Facebook, twitter, Google+, etc, etc… and they are free to use (yes they use and sell our data but at least they don’t do that and charge us for the privilege!)

The compelling part reminds me of what Derren Brown was talking about at the infamous show.

Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence…

Herb Kim found out where the pictures come from…
It was a protest against ‘Online Dating’ by @rendeevoo – an app that encourages you to ‘Date Offline’ with one click.
As I thought it was a publicly stunt by another dating company trying to convince people to use their service not the rest… Pretty lame, especially because it didn’t make any news and I couldn’t find out who did it… Poor!

The Infamous Derren Brown

Charing Cross Road

Had the joy of going to Derren Brown’s last night at the Salford Lowry theatre with Herb Kim.

Derren asked that the details of the infamous show are kept secret, and I’m happy to keep those details quiet. However, I want to say theres a few other things we learned in the show, which intrigued me.

Its good to be geek
Although Derren didn’t go as far as to say this. He made it clear how much of a pain growing up was for him. He was bullied for being smart and clever. But it was great to hear him point out that his experience made him the person he is today and that all those popular kids end up having a boring adult life due to the lack of having to face adversity in their younger life. Of course Derren is also gay, and that caused a whole ton of additional issues in his teenage years.

Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence
One of the things I always loved about Derren Brown was his smart observations about science and psychology. He has always been interested in psychic readings, homoeopathy, etc and shown how much of a con they really are. This time, he took things further by showing a number of the audience more than usual, while talking about the need for extraordinary evidence. It reminded me of a great film I saw ages ago Red lights.

Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic who has resurfaced years after his toughest critic mysteriously passed away.

If you get a chance to go see Derren Brown live, GO! Its a great show and baffling how even when he reveals how its done, he can do it. Feel privileged going on stage and seeing somethings from a different perspective.

Thoughts and ideas of a dyslexic designer/developer