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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Women Would Rather Give Up On Bedroom Frivolities Than Lose Access To The Internet

Posted Saturday, October 13th, 2012

If we ever needed any additional proof that we are so reliant on the technology that we have in the modern world then a recent Sex and Social Media survey conducted by Cosmopolitan should provide it. Regardless of whether you are a technology evangelist or a total Luddite technophobe there can be no denying that the modern world is extremely reliant on things like the internet with mobile devices, computers and social media running through our daily existence. The Cosmopolitan survey seems to confirm that with a staggering 57 percent of women taking part in the survey claiming that they would rather give up the bedroom antics rather than lose access to the internet.

It appears that females have become so reliant and addicted to what’s going on in their virtual worlds that they would rather lose some of their real-world experiences rather than miss out on the latest happenings on Facebook or Twitter. The survey saw 1,020 women taking part with the ultimate aim to try and gauge just how big an impact the online world is having on real-life relationships and friendships and their sex lives.

57 percent of women preferring online chat to real-life intimacy is bad enough, but the survey also reveals that 21 of those women polled also admitted to disengaged from the act of coitus to check their Facebook account or send out a quick cheeky tweet to their followers. With that said, it is also evident that technology and internet access isn’t bring all relationships to a damning end with approximately 66 percent, or 680, of the women involved saying that they have used the internet and their mobile devices to send risqué snaps of themselves to their partners.

Checking Facebook or Twitter in those intimate moments may be a little insensitive but it can hardly be classed as the world’s worst crime, but with that in mind it is worth remembering that with great internet power comes great responsibility and it seems that one in six of those women who embarked on an affair thanks to social media. Forty percent claimed that flirtation had happened over a social media site with a person who wasn’t their husband or boyfriend with 170 of those women involved saying it went further.

The internet, social media and technology in general may be affecting our lives in extremely positive ways and making the world a much smaller and more connected place to live but it is also evident that it can easily detract from living in the real-world and cause some extremely serious relationship issues.


How long until you’ll be buying your groceries with your phone?

Posted Friday, April 8th, 2011

In light of recent advances in technology– the mobile payment sector is fighting to be the next big thing.

While our friends in Asia and parts of Europe have already been making purchases with their phones, mobile payments in the UK haven’t really taken off.

The biggest problem with mobile payment and top of everyone’s greatest worry is security. When it comes to people’s payment processing, data is of the utmost importance. People are generally very reluctant to enter their payment details when very few sites offer any obvious security measures.

There are 3 important factors to think of when you’re making a payment:

• Make sure it’s only sent to the POS system, rather than passing through third-party services.
• Your payment details are stored carefully on your phone
• Make sure it is encrypted when it’s sent to the POS system

However, despite the security measures and concerns million os people use the POS terminals and systems which in actual fact aren’t that secure. Ironically, there is no evidence that mobile payment is any less secure.

Starbucks has recently started accepting mobile payments. They claimed 3 million people paid for their coffee using the company app.

How long will it be until we pay for our Sunday newspaper using your smartphone?


Growing Your Business: 5 Tips from the Co-Founder of Foursquare

Posted Thursday, March 25th, 2010

smallbusiness, 23 March

As co-founder of the Internet’s hottest startup, Foursquare, Dennis Crowley knows a thing or two about growing a small business.

Foursquare is a location-sharing mobile app that lets users check-in to venues, share that check-in with their friends and social media sites, and discover friends, tips, and popular places nearby. The startup launched one year ago, has attracted massive press coverage, and has grown to around 600,000 members.

This isn’t Crowley’s first success story as a technology entrepreneur, and given that he’s also worked for Google, his perspective is colored with the sagacity of knowing that being nimble, lean, and fast can be just as effective — if not more so — as having bigger budgets and more manpower.

Over the years, Crowley’s learned several key lessons applicable to small businesses. Here are five that small business owners should take to heart.

1. “Twitter is your best friend”

Crowley speaks of Twitter as a distribution channel for all types of communication, and describes it as the most immediate way to connect with customers.

“At Foursquare we use Twitter for a little bit of everything: Good news and bad news, press clippings, RTs [retweets] from other users and customer service inquires. We’ll tweet when new versions of our apps are ready for download and tweet when our database is experiencing hiccups. Keeping users in the know doesn’t take any more than a few seconds and your most loyal users will spread the word via RTs.”

The nature of Foursquare may position it to be more heavily followed than the typical small business, but the point here is that small business owners should use Twitter to compliment their day-to-day work experiences.

2. “Keep it light”

The Foursquare team lives by this mantra, so while they share everything from where they are to what they’re doing, they’re doing so in edible, consumer-sized bites, perfect for the sporadic attention spans of their audience.

On this front, they’ve opted to use Tumblr as a lightweight blogging platform. Crowley explains, “On our company Tumblr we’ll post the success stories our users send in, write recaps of what goes down at Foursquare HQ meetings, and post pics of what we’re having for lunch. Our staff is full of personality and we try to show that as much as we can. The story of 16 guys and girls crammed around four tables is much more interesting than the story of a faceless Internet startup.”

Crowley also advises to apply the “keep it light” philosophy to all customer-facing initiatives. He also suggests that small business owners don’t have to be “all business, all the time.”

3. “Guerilla customer service”

Foursquare is by no means perfect. As a young startup, the company faces the challenge of keeping their servers running as they attract record levels of activity, and doing so always in the public eye. It’s a daunting position to be in unless it’s approached head-on, and that’s what Crowley and his team do on a daily basis.

“We’ll use Twitter Search to search for things like “foursquare sucks,” “foursquare broken,” etc. to find people who are experiencing problems but who would probably never submit a support ticket. With a quick @reply we can often shed some light on the issue and do it in public.”

The same guerilla-style customer service is perfect for small businesses, especially with regard to negative press or unflattering blog posts and comments. Crowley says, “don’t feel shy, jump in and comment. Making yourself part of the conversation shows users you’re listening and care about the issues they have.”

4. “Small and scrappy marketing 4eva”

Not everything should be expensive, especially when it comes to marketing. Small businesses could easily be intimidated by the money that bigger companies can throw at large campaigns, but bigger isn’t always better.

Steal a page from Foursquare‘s play book and get scrappy. Take the SXSW Interactive festival. Inside the convention center there were dozens of sponsors with huge tents and elaborate setups. Here’s what Foursquare did:

“Instead [of formulating a marketing plan] we did two things: #1. Took all the swag we had (pins, stickers, temporary tattoos) and put them in ziplock bags. Everytime we found a user that told us how much they loved Foursquare (and there was an army of them!) we gave them a bag of swag to hand out to their friends. #2. We picked up a rubber Foursquare ball and a box of chalk, drew a Foursquare court on the ground outside the convention center and played for four days straight (and yes, we are still sore).”

The game was a huge hit and attracted the attention of conference goers and big media alike. Crowley continues saying, “Thousands of people stopped by to see what was going on, say hi, play a game or two, and pick up some swag. It gave people the chance to meet our team in a super informal setting (playground game!) and hang out with us in an environment where phones and laptops were completely out of the way.”

5. “Show off your team”

The scrappiness didn’t stop with fun and games. Crowley also used the offline event as an opportunity to introduce users to team members, and vice versa, in a playful way.

Crowley states, “We designed our business cards as collectibles — collect all 6 and unlock a Foursquare badge. Once word of this got out, people were looking all over downtown Austin for employees just so they could introduce themselves and collect a badge. Every time we handed out a card, we got to meet one of our users. Actually encouraging people to reach out and introduce themselves to your team puts a name and a face on the products you’re building. It also helped us start a dialog with people who’d probably never introduce themselves.”

It’s a smart strategy that small businesses can emulate to create more personal connections with their customers.


Curtain twitchers, the CIA and the rise of Facebook

Posted Thursday, October 1st, 2009

New technology and old-fashioned curiosity have made social networking so hot that everyone is cashing in. Nico Macdonald helps you sort the tweets from the bots

 Design Council

If everyone felt like Jerry Seinfeld, Facebook wouldn’t exist. The comedian observed: “As an adult, it’s very hard to make a new friend. Whatever group you’ve got now, that’s who you’re going with. You’re not interviewing, you’re not looking at any people, you’re not interested in seeing any applications.”

Yet, for most of us, the social instinct is deeply ingrained. So deeply that, by the age of seven, research suggests, two thirds of American children have an imaginary friend. Technology has made it possible for us to connect with real friends in undreamt of ways. When Tom Coates, a staffer in a London office of Yahoo!, needed a break, he decided the best way to round up some company was to post this message on Twitter, a hip social networking service: “I need to go for a walk to clear my head. Yauatcha for macaroons anyone?”

Social networking is such a phenomenon that many employers – even the CIA – now have Facebook pages and use the site as a recruitment tool. The agency plans to launch its own staff social networking site called A-Space.

The wisdom of friends: the psychological argument for using social networking sites full of ‘people like us’ is compelling. But how long with the fashion last? And what do sites need to do to increase their reach?
Asking all your friends if they’d like to join you for lunch would once have been impractical. But sites like Facebook allow us to gossip and curtain-twitch online, be bored by someone else’s holiday snaps without visiting their house, plan a business meeting and accelerate the getting-to-know-you process. Instead of taking months to realise that a new acquaintance, like you, can quote Seinfeld scripts verbatim, you can join a group of like-minded souls in minutes.

New technology, old-fashioned curiosity and a dollop of ‘wisdom of friends’ psychology have made sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo immensely popular. A 2007 survey found that 48% of American teenagers online visit social networking sites at least once a day and 72% use them to make plans with friends. In the network age, computing power is in the hands of more people and is tackling new challenges. We’ve moved from using computers as work objects to the widespread use of computing-enabled things – laptops, mobile phones, games consoles – to manipulate emails, diary entries, instant messages, contact information, URLs and blogs wherever we are.

Social networking is driven by significant technical developments and rapid social change. The current fears for – and of – teenagers – may explain why they have become core users of social networking sites, spending more time at home on the internet. As a rule of thumb, for every hour we spend on the web, we typically spend 23.5 minutes less with friends and family.

The culture of fear and decreasing trust have made some wary of encounters with strangers and reluctant to embark on deep personal relationships. Surveys show that a record one in four Americans say they have no close friends at all. Many prefer ‘safer’ relationships mediated, to an extent, via a screen, where they can connect with a wider circle of friends in a non-committal fashion. Consumer trends analyst Linda Stone calls this “continuous partial attention”, adding: “To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognised and to matter.”

Cheaper travel and a more integrated global economy, where staff change jobs more often and are more likely to work abroad, have played their part too.

Keeping in contact, avoiding cowboy plumbers
The functions social networking best supports are, in a nutshell or seven:

Familiarisation and maintaining contacts. From status updates and edited profiles you build a rounded picture of an individual. People you know may share this with you – to varying degrees – if asked. Essentially, human knowledge is being connected by the network (rather than embedded in it – the goal of so many past computing visions).
Swapping, sharing and storing of ‘objects’ – photos, movies or songs – online. We can be told when something of interest has been uploaded.
Group discussion, which is moving to social networking sites. Contributors’ real names and pictures can be displayed and you can check their profile.
Finding and hiring skills. The self-employed already use sites like LinkedIn to get in touch with businesses and customers regardless of location.
Online or internet-enabled applications which allow us to manage tasks, meetings and diaries. You can, for instance, open up your diary to contacts.
Campaigning. You can network with people with the same ideology. But the likes of Facebook can’t, by themselves, reinvigorate the democratic process.
Searching the web. Social networking can reveal, filter, enhance or shape the data we find when searching. We can link, recommend or rate almost anything and form an opinion influenced by our knowledge of the contributor or the number of recommendations. In a world full of cowboy plumbers – or so reality TV shows would have us believe – we might be relieved to find one implicitly recommended because they’re linked to someone we know. Friends or contacts are acting as ‘trust engines’, and by answering, friends build their relationship with you and increase their kudos with others.
While Google focuses on computer science, engineering and performance, Yahoo! has focused on what Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product strategy, calls “better search through people”, buying bookmark-sharing tool del.icio.us and photo-sharing site Flickr and developing such services as Yahoo! Answers.

Junk mail, smart address books and over-engineering
Social networking sites need to improve. As Facebook’s personal profile – which includes favourite music, TV shows, films and books – is completed manually, it is of limited use and soon out of date. Profiles would be richer if they drew on actual activity, such as the music we buy or play. Artificial intelligence-based tools could help others access a user’s locally stored information. There is a risk of over-engineering, though. An element of a profile or relationship can be extracted or inferred but do we want to share it with everyone? Giving users visibility on – and control of – what they share is a design challenge. Already LinkedIn lets you ‘View my profile as others see it’.

Sites need to be accessible and to hand, as easy to use as a stapler. Modern mobiles and smart phones like the iPhone have feature-filled browsers. A site such as Jaiku offers a dedicated application for modern Nokia devices that identifies your geographic location to your circle of friends. You could have a smart address book that tells you if a contact you plan to call is busy or abroad. Giving physical form to such ideas is the Availabot, a pop-up figure that stands up on your desk when the contact it represents comes online and falls into a flaccid heap of despair when s/he goes away.

Exhaustion, Rupert Murdoch and evolutionary psychology
The subtlety of human relationships can’t be over-estimated. We finesse what we tell different people, even lie. There is a danger that concerns about privacy, and scares based on extraordinarily rare – but shocking – abuses of social networking tools, may deter people from using these sites. Worries over security, time wasting and other abuses has led employers to block access to Facebook.

On a practical level, there is a danger of exhaustion. Coates says: “The amount of sites using social networks is so substantial that [registration] is no longer something people will go through again for no obvious reason.” Sites could be integrated as an external service to other sites. If LibraryThing could access your Facebook profile, it could show you books your friends liked. Profiles could be abstracted so they can be ‘applied’ to any site or service. So far, this has had little success, but as social networking profiles are made easier to edit and when this approach presents a competitive advantage, the ‘abstract’ approach may flourish.

Rupert Murdoch’s strategy for MySpace raises another issue. MySpace plans to run a TV series about showbiz wannabes as it strives to persuade users to linger longer, so they can be targeted by ads. If these sites are not full of user- generated content but have content developed by professionals, does that extend their appeal or fatally undermine it? Facebook has announced it will start targeting ads based on user profiles. Will users be deterred by advertising or welcome it? Concerns about privacy have been heightened by Facebook’s plan to allow (user-controlled) elements of profiles to be indexed by Google.

Historically, human relationships have built over time from face-to-face encounters, in which we use body language and other cues to assess honesty. By contrast, the ease with which we can indicate friendship with social networking allows us to appear to have a cohort of friends. There is some science behind Seinfeld’s gag. Evolutionary psychology suggests we are hardwired to remember no more than 150 people. These smaller, more intensely focused groups have often been responsible for scientific, technical and intellectual breakthroughs. The trajectory of social networking is in our hands. Will we, as a society, take these services seriously – or be satisfied to play online with our new ‘friends’?


Mercedes Campaign Focuses on Image, Not Recession

Posted Friday, June 19th, 2009

Car companies like Hyundai and Ford have been showing solidarity with consumers recently, running ads promising that the companies will help them should they lose their jobs.

The New York Times, June 18th 2009

Mercedes-Benz USA is trying a different way to get customers to buy cars as it introduces its updated E-Class Series. The ad campaign for the midsize car, available as a sedan or a coupe, is the company’s biggest in two years, estimated at $75 million. It does not talk about great value or good deals. Instead, it focuses on the cars‘ technology and heritage, a somewhat standard approach for the brand.

“Everyone has that trigger that’s going to get them out there in the marketplace again, assuming that they have the means and they’re just choosing not to spend it,” said Alex Gellert, the chief executive of Merkley & Partners, part of the Omnicom Group, which created the Mercedes print and television ads.

The E-Class update is meant to turn around an alarming sales slide for Mercedes, which is owned by Daimler. Its United States sales have declined 28.7 percent this year from the same time in 2008, according to the company. May sales were even further off, falling 33.4 percent from May 2008. The United States turned in the worst showing of any geographic region in May.

Even given the sales challenge, Steve Cannon, the vice president of marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA, decided not to echo the recession-conscious marketing that other car manufacturers have used. Hyundai promised to help customers pay for their cars if they lost their jobs, an offer Ford and General Motors soon matched. A recent spate of ads for Honda‘s Insight described it as “designed and priced for us all.”

“I’d rather tell our brand story, our innovation story, our value story, than join the chorus of everyone else that’s screaming ‘sale’ – that’s about the only message that’s out there right now,” Mr. Cannon said. “Customers have told us, ‘we know there are deals out there,’ so just getting on television with an expensive media plan and shouting, ‘there’s a sale,’ they already know that.”

Although Mercedes wanted to avoid emphasizing sale prices, it did place the starting price for the cars at the end of each television spot and in the print ads. At $48,600, it is almost 9 percent less than the starting price for the last set of E-Class cars, from the 2003 model year. The ads give just the price, though, not the discount. “For Mercedes-Benz customers, $48,600 is a huge value story, and those people know it, so I don’t have to go out and say, ‘value, value’ — that’s not appropriate for our brand,” Mr. Cannon said. “The folks that are looking for a midsize luxury sedan kind of understand the price points.”

For his customers, “I think there’s a level of crisis fatigue and recession fatigue out there, marketing down to, ‘we feel your pain. We’re all in this together,’ versus, ‘this is who we are,’ ” Mr. Cannon said. “All the things that mattered to them before the recession, it still matters to them. But we have to work harder to break through, because the system has been shocked significantly.”


Better by design – the UK’s only way forward

Posted Friday, May 8th, 2009

Britain must learn to innovate or it will stagnate, argues Lord Sainsbury

Lord Sainsbury, The Observer, Sunday 31 October 2004

The UK is facing unprecedented competition in business and intense pressure to deliver quality public services that meet people’s needs and expectations in the 21st century. To rise to this challenge, national performance and prosperity will increasingly depend on the creativity and inventiveness of our people. The DTI’s ambition is to create the conditions where UK industry gains an international reputation for innovation to match our reputation for scientific and technological discoveries.

By more than doubling the science budget, the government is ensuring that the UK remains a leader in scientific excellence. By 2007-08 the science budget will be £3.3 billion, compared with £1.3bn in 1997-08. However, the aim is not simply to increase the volume of pure scientific research. To deliver a new prosperity, we need to maintain our reputation for world-class science and to increase our rate of innovation.

One of the most potent sources of innovation is design. Its impact has been used to transform products, services, systems – entire organisations. Take the Apple iPod. While the technology for its development already existed, what made it such an iconic example of successful innovation was its design. Through understanding and meeting people’s needs and expectations, Jonathan Ive, the British designer behind the iPod, delivered a highly desirable product that was also a system (iTunes) and a service (iTunes Music Store).

Only organisations which think about their customers in this way can expect to succeed. This view is reinforced by a recent study that revealed that the share price of companies which used design well outperformed the FTSE 100 by 200 per cent over the 10 years to 2003.

Unfortunately, UK start-up and early-stage ventures under-use design skills when commercialising technology. Examples such as the WAP mobile phone demonstrate that pushing more and more technology at users will never be the answer. New products must reflect and meet the needs of customers. Successful companies are increasingly using designers and the design process to identify user needs then create products to meet them. At an early stage, technology businesses need to establish what value their products will have in the marketplace before attempting to commercialise them.

The government recognises this challenge and, as a part of the new DTI Innovation Strategy, has tasked the Design Council to deliver national campaigns to enhance innovation through the improved use of design, focusing on the manufacturing and emerging technology sectors. The results from the Design Council’s early work, mentoring a few companies to use design more effectively, demonstrates the potential. For every pound invested by the Design Council, company sales have increased by £14. The goal now is to further develop this support so that it can be delivered through the Manufacturing Advisory Service and other partners across the country. The key policy aim is to get more successful products into the marketplace.

Early work by the Design Council is already resulting in powerful and growing evidence that spending a relatively small amount on design activity in the early stage of scientific or technological development delivers disproportionate benefits – a key one being attracting venture capital.

If design remains a late add-on to new products and innovations, UK business will not fully reap the benefit of innovation. But by encouraging UK businesses to acquire the skills and advice to exploit design at the initial stages, we can give a further boost to innovation, resulting in greater economic performance in an ever more competitive global knowledge economy.

(Lord Sainsbury is Secretary of State for Science and Innovation)


 
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