Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Technology Is Eating Itself, But We Won't Follow It

'Out with the old & In with the new' is the thought that crossed my mind earlier today, as I struggled to get my now ageing 'laptop 1', multitasking as efficiently as it would have even a year or so ago. I've known for a while that it needs to be cleaned, stripped and taken to the recycling centre nearby, but that slight luddite mentality of 'nah..it's got a few more months left in it yet' has kept me using it as a tandem workhorse.

But the reality is that it's knackered. It overheats quite quickly, as I can hear from the internal fan kicking into action within five to fifteen minutes of it being turned on. If it was actually worked on whilst being sat on a physical lap, it'd probably burn the user's legs somewhat in the process. All in all , I'll give it until the end of this month and then it's time to do the 'last rites' on it and that's the end of another era in my working environment.

We've quite recently also seen the end of another CES , and looking back it was the usual tantalising mixture of brilliant, good, bad ( the grillbot...an automated grill cleaner) and even ugly.

In essence the above smattering is only a drop in the ocean of silicon, sweat, brainpower and brilliance.  But what struck me about some of the better ones, were that they wern't anything groundbreaking in the conventional sense.

In other words, they were brilliant redesigns being improved upon, or simply revived. The 'new' super-8 camera by kodak and the flexi-thin screen by LG, for example, are great reiteratons of existing and now defunct ( in the case of the super-8) devices.

And the same can be said of our current generation of smart-tech devices, such as the tablets, laptops and all of our smartphones. Each successive release is a combination of :-

* faster, lighter, brighter (both the screen AND in the choice of aesthetic casing)

* more or less complex


*either more or less expensive than the previous generation device range/set.

The same ruling can be applied to ancillary devices such as smartwatches and V.R. ( virtual reality) headsets, too. Although as these are still very new to the marketplace, the development and innovation cycles will have their own curve and skew. However, it must be noted that the watches haven't yet taken off saleswise with the same gusto as the smartphones that they were ( and are) designed to be a counterpart to, even though they've been around for almost two years.

All the aforementioned is something I've been bearing in mind somewhat, whilst working through the clean, strip and backup processes involved before disposing of a laptop. And there was a cluster of conclusions I reached, which became further enchanced when I realised that a lot of the software I used regularly, was effectively next generational addendums and 'vitamin enriched', welcome reiterations of previous versions. In effect :-

* We're reaching near superflous levels of development in technology . e.g. - how smart can a smartphone now be? how is (or will) V.R. be improving your life on a day to day basis?

* the rate of change is now slowing down..the growth is exponential. 

* People's jobs are now starting to be superceeded by technology

More importantly in such uncertain times, (in terms of resources, public and political unrest) , whilst technology is helping us to make connections around the globe quickly, and potentially help each other  more efficiently and succinctly in times of crisis, what about the rest of the time? Are people still as inclined to spend time with and even help each other?

Can technology be blamed for our slightly odd 'so near, yet so far' way of relating to each other?  Or is there another endemic issue with regards ambition, survival, and the last burning embers of the industrial age, which we've remarkably kept blazing hot in their near charcoaled state , even though we're aware they have reached that near-carbon level because we didn't know when to stop?

Is that a cynical viewpoint? At the least, it's food for thought. At the most, there is some truth in there.

More importantly, maybe we've almost forgotten when to slow down and  tend to ourselves internally like we used to. In essence, we're accelerating our lives at a previously unheard of rate, yet we're not self regulating like we used to.

The irony is, in wanting more control of our lives at a day to day level, we've relinquished a lot of it to devices and gadgets both hard and soft, which we're now more dependant upon than ever before.

Is that the right thing to do? Only time will tell. But somewhere the balance seems to be tipping over to excess. And if that is the case, then nature will act to correct this.

In other words, our biological make up will prevent a loss of control beyond a certain level, so we can continue to grow, learn and expand both inwards and outwards.

I was originally going to call this article 'technology is eating itself out of existence'. But my optimistic side doesn't believe that's true. At least not yet.

Maybe it's time we slowed down, so that we can see the roses. Then we can think about stopping for a bit to smell them.

And then we can decide how to cultivate and nurture our gardens for the future, so others can learn by example.

Like most romantics, I always have faith in mankind, in that things will eventually work themselves out for the better. That's because as complex as we are, we created the technology, not the other way around.We created our own shovels, trowels and wheelbarrows, too.

It looks like now's the time to get the gloves & tools out of the shed. It's always good to cultivate the ground when it's soft.

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Thursday, 14 April 2016

The Gordian Knot; Cut Through The Mess In Your Social Media Life.

The Gordian Knot is the stuff of legend. And to write about it in depth would take up a paragraph (and beyond), so in brief..

A quick definition of the gordian knot

That looks complicated, doesn't it?

Alexander the great was the one to break it. There just seemed to be no other way to get around (or over) it. That sounds like a pretty drastic piece of action to take, but he had the confidence, the willpower and more importantly the sense of purpose that the action he would take would solve the problem. He didn't think about the damage (potential or otherwise), or any associated cost of doing things this way. He just 'knew' this would work. And in life, sometimes that's the only way to do things.

Most intelligent people with a rational mind and balanced point of view, wouldn't want to take any sort of action where they haven't had the time to weigh up the pros and cons sufficiently enough to ascertain the risks versus the gains or losses.

However, there are times when hitting the metaphorical (and proverbial) 'delete button' is not only a relief, but easier to do because it forces you to take stock and start again, should you so desire.

I did that recently on a social media platform. It was my linked-in profile that became 'cyber-vapour'*, which is why I no longer put it up at the end of each post as a clickable link.


Because it had a lot of information on it which was generating some odd responses.  For starters, I was getting confusing requests, which wern't correlated to what I wanted workwise. 

Over time I'd built up a contact list of over 500 people, but the reality was I'd only interacted with  100 or so of them over many years of use. In essence, I'd kept it up there as a super-C.V , which itself is a showcase for your skillset.

However, it was a mess. There was lots of qualifications listed ( im grateful and blessed for being able to do those), with different skillsets and work bio info et al all mixed into various types and sections, and the whole thing had multiple focus points to look through. 

Ultimately, it wasn't getting me a productive return anymore.  For me, this was and still is the point of linked-in , which I see as a professional networking and communications portal.

So although I've saved the profile in document form on a backup drive, It may be some time before I make another one. The reasons are simply geared around time and energy, with the cost-to-benefit ratio of both being prioritised in other areas right now. But I'll have a fresher look at things in that regard, at some point in the future.

So why have I gone into length about this?

Simple. If there's a gordian knot in your social media and internet presence, then I hope you have the courage to cut through it. It's not that difficult, and you can always start again on a clean profile ( or page) if you have to.

Why not get the sword out and hack through the weeds in your 'net presence right now? Putting it off for too long, will mean less energy and less motivation to do it. If it can be fixed without a 'complete-delete'*, then do that. In fact, the latter option is usually the first option and rightly so.

Of course, some of you will have that perfect set of social media presences, so you don't need to do a thing (at least not right now). I bow graciously to all of you for keeping on top of it so proficiently.

Speaking of change,  it looks like we're getting some consistently sunnier and warmer weather in my area. It's time to check on the state of the garden.

From the looks of things, that could do with a major overhaul, too.

* (c) S R DHAIN, 2016.

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Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The Unpredictable Results Of Predictable Thinking.

For all our organising, scheduling and designated, conceptualised formulae and systemic approaches, we sometimes don't quite get the results we're after.

In essence, not everything tends to go as planned.  John Lennon was famously quoted as once saying that 'life is what happens to you whilst you're busy making other plans' . 

So in effect, there is something else going on whilst you're trying to figure out what you're going to do right now and in the future, both immediate and otherwise. And no matter what we do, we're at the mercy of 'that' as well. 

Think about that. 

On a basic level, it's the whole concept of living and co-exisiting, as well as working with other people. Even those of us who spend more time working alone ( I go through phases of that), still have connectivity to the world at large via a smartphone and/or an internet connection. 

Beyond that, it's what can be called fate, karma, luck, blessings and so on. Or 'force majeure' spread out to varying degrees, over a lifespan. 

I mention all of this as innovation is also subject to the same forces. 

Consider the evolution of technology in the last decade. More specifically, let's look at the development of smaller form technology, such as smartphones and  tablets. 

Could anyone at Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Blackberry and many other companies whose names escape me right now, have imagined even five years ago as to how big the customer and user base for this format of technology has become? 

I'll hedge my bets and say no. 

At some point, all of the aforementioned companies have innovated. That is a risk. No matter how many pre release surveys you do and even with multi level UX/UI design teams feeding  back into themselves and each other, it is a calculated gamble as to whether your product will take off and have a lifecycle which allows successive development. 

However, if any of these companies had played continually safe, then where would we be today? 


The innovator's mindset is about risk and failiure. Success is the end goal, for obvious reasons, but it's in the stumbles along the way that the real learning and growth take place. 

And it's bearing that in mind, that I always hope for someone somewhere to take a chance and not seem so predictable in their conceptualisation, in order to allow the alchemy of 'force majeure' to do its work even more effectively.

It could be someone like you or me. Or numbers of us, in teams. 

Maybe we're already doing that in a smaller way, by using the products on a regular basis, and then occasionally sharing our findings, tips and moans (i suspect the latter is more likely) on the internet & social media. 

But more could be done. That requires trust. And that in itself could be a risk.  Risks carry costs, and the opportunity cost of taking each risk, is money saved for further R&D for newer products and/or profit margin.

Playing safe is necessary to earn a living. But playing safe doesn't create the husks of innovation that drive forward change and even create new industries, with the offshoots occasionally becoming bigger than the original idea. 

I'll be in the market for a new smartphone later this year. I'm hoping it'll have something quirky in the design. Refreshingly different, yet recognisable. Even oddball and 'eh?' will do. 

Rightly or wrongly , it will make a handful of people sit up and take notice. 

The devil may be in the details, but there's also genius within the flaws. But it can sometimes take longer to see the latter.  Then it's a question of following to change and improve or discarding the concept. It'd be nice to have a blend of both options.   

Maybe I'm in a minority on that front. I hope not. 

Here's to innovation and great design; both with or without the alchemy generated by the  unpredictable results from a predictable mode of thinking. 

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Sunday, 10 April 2016

Reducing The Noise: Stop, Read and Think or Ignore.

How do you use social media?

Are you a proactive user or do you read & respond? Or maybe you just read, ameliorate and go back to whatever it is you're doing at the time?

Consider this. In the physical world, when we're having a conversation, do we talk over each other constantly or do we wait for our turn to speak?

More importantly, do we listen to what the other person is saying before we respond?

It sounds obvious, but on social media we don't necessarily do the same.

I've noticed this on the posts I've put up, and also with others. If the numbers were and are to be believed, then in some cases this should be adding up to a lot of serious influence and potentially a level of clout and power which could have great growth and marketability.

But it doesn't quite work that way. 

In effect, when we stop listening to the other person, we cease to understand the message being conveyed & we just talk to fill the gap. Together with a smidgeon of common sense, It's the inner 'count of two' ( a brief moment of reflection ) that does the work.  That's when you can decide to try to understand or ignore the information conveyed.

With regards to social media, how many times do you click on a link, and then move away from it within seconds, or don't click on a link and give it a like anyway?

If you don't do any of the aforementioned, then I thank you profusely, because you're contributing to  reducing the level of noise and confusion on the swathes of social media outlets and portals out there. It's more honest, and although it would potentially mean a leaner timeline, it would lead to more value for all.

So why are we all posting more frequently?

Maybe we're so scared of missing out, that any level of witholding information is deemed a sign of weakness, in case 'the other person' gets there first.

But it's only those with intention, direction and motivation , coupled with a clear statement of purpose, that go beyond the random peaks and troughs of metrics. They have a voice, and it is clearly their own. In short, they are uniquely identifyable.

And unless I'm completely mistaken, they don't post constantly. At least not 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The rest of it involves a combination of luck, zeitgeist, karma, brilliance and the alchemy of tapping into all of the aforementioned without fear of failiure or success.

Either that, or it's the perpetual bombardment of all outlets, all the time. No.. that doesn't sound right to me.

I'll set this to post on twitter. Maybe once a day. Hopefully it'll add value to someone's feed.

If it doesn't, I hope they don't ignore it and yet retweet it regardlessly.

It's ironic, as I was going to call this post 'listen without prejudice', but then thought that doesn't have enough to do with the content within. And the last thing I'd want to do, is add to the noise.

It's time for a mug of earl grey. The biscuits and chocolates are optional

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Friday, 8 April 2016

Social Media : Adding Value Vs Wibble & Waffle

Now that spring is here, it finally feels like this year has trully started for me. The weather has shifted enough for me to feel less inclined to wear winter woollens and thicker sweatshirts and jackets.

Thank god for that.

But in some areas  I'm pushing ( and hard, it must be said), to get some business stuff from last year tied up and checked off . The hold ups are due to a combination of decision chains, of which I'm awaiting responses at different levels and also an odd quirk of luck/fate, where scenarios that were instigated have been held up somewhere, due to a lack of progress at some other level.

In other words, it's analogous to being stuck in traffic and edging along in a  'slowly.. then quickly' manner. There's progress, but it's a little erratic and quite unpredictable.

In effect, the same could be said of other scenarios in general, such as the rate of innovation we're currently seeing in once rapidly progressing areas and fields.

I'm being slightly vague and evasive, because the details of my scenarios aren't going to make interesting reading ( at least in my mind), and that's based on my own stance on common sense and rationality.

In effect, the struggles we currently face at a sociological level due to the use of  technology, are similar. Having discussed the pro's and con's of connectivity before, my attention is only on one thing.

And that is, how much is too much?

I'm refering to our use and exposure to the swathes of information and entertainment ( or 'infotainment', to coin a word), which is more constant and relentless than ever before in our lives. How much of a good or bad thing that is, depends upon your ability to ameliorate, understand and even ignore large amounts of it, for the sake of your own sanity and wellbeing.

After all , no one drank all their favourite beers, whiskies and wines in one day. Or indeed their favourite teas or coffees.

So at what point does a person decide when they've had enough or they can just 'tune out' ?

Is it when the level of exposure becomes a hinderance to their daily routines and affects relationships?

Or is it when the use of social media is no longer returning anything extra, in real terms? In other words, it's until the marginal utility of enjoyment (which does include marketing, but that's another discussion altogether) has now diminished sufficiently to unwarrant regular and/or consistent use.

But our need to interact with each other at a basic biological level is what feeds our need to communicate using some channel or outlet. And that is what social media and technology provides like never before.

However, in the cycle of innovation, social media has now been around long enough to try something different. At least in theory.

In effect, either we're on the cusp of a new age of interaction, which is less intensive and more ( dare I say it) intuitively more congruent with what we want and need at a basic human level.


We're heading for a level of useage that if it were measurable, quantifiable and benchmarked, would constitute addiction and addictive behaviours. Replete with all manner of physical and cognitive side-effects.

It's food for thought. I can only hope it's the former, cause the latter doesn't warrant a healthier society in my opinion. Especially over the long term.

On that note, it's time to pack my gym bag and head out.

I won't share the details of my workout. Not because I have anything to hide, but because I don't consider it to be information worth sharing en masse. 

In other words, it's all wibble and waffle, rather than adding value, as far as I'm concerned.

But each to their own.

Now where did I put my headphones?

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