Tag Archives: education

Book Review: Authenticity – What Consumers Really Want by James Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II

Perhaps Variety would describe Authenticity as "Aficionados of Academic Books will Savor The Approach"
Perhaps Variety would describe Authenticity as “Aficionados of Academic Books will Savor The Approach”

Authenticity by Gilmore and Pine has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com, from 27 reviewers. I found it dull, boring and purely academic.

In 1999 I went to the cinema with my wife to watch the award-winning “The Thin Red Line”. I like war films, especially about the Second Word War. After a while we walked out of the cinema because we were both bored and thought there were better things to do. 15 years later, it now has a rating of 7.8 out of 10 by 121,086 users on IMDb. Perhaps we missed something from the film.

Perhaps Big Data can show a correlation between The Thin Red Line and Authenticity. At least with the film I think we saw about an hour before leaving. With the book, I left it on page 27 (out of 251). And that was on my third attempt – I trudged through a few pages, left it for weeks and tried returning. Continue reading Book Review: Authenticity – What Consumers Really Want by James Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II

How education, healthcare and politics are going to be transformed in the new digital age

I’ve been working on a new presentation for Endava’s Future of Digital Payments event in London at the end of June. The talk will link the Government’s work on the Identity Assurance scheme with the architectural changes that retail banks have been implementing to enable mobile banking through APIs.

Imagine a digital identity as trusted as this paper book
Imagine a digital identity as trusted as this paper book

Banks have been relatively slow to implement APIs, but it will open up more opportunities than they would have imagined at the start of these programmes.

This got me thinking about how identity assurance and digital identity could transform other industries.

Continue reading How education, healthcare and politics are going to be transformed in the new digital age

QR codes 101

QR code examplesThe photo opposite shows two adverts from an in-flight magazine that I saw recently (they weren’t facing each other in the original magazine). Both adverts have a QR code in the bottom corner of the ad.

The first question any self-respecting marketer should ask themselves is why put a QR code on an in-flight magazine. The user can’t zap the code and see the website on an aeroplane.

So the first rule, is use QR codes sparingly. Don’t use them at all on in-flight magazines.

Next, I ask you to look at the hotel advert closely. Are you capable of typing into a browser the domain name at the bottom of the advert next to the QR codes? I would imagine most people are capable. So there’s no point of having the QR code there, which goes to the exact same URL (I’ve tried it) as the human readable domain.

On the Wenger watches ad, the QR code is more sophisticated. The QR take you through to the Seaforce range of watches, which matches the model in the advert. That’s a start.

If you are thinking of using QR codes, do so sparingly. And if you still want to use one, please include a referrer code (you can make one up) to track how many people zapped the code.

Back to the first rule: if you’re using a QR code, make sure someone will have an Internet connection where they see the code.

The pen is mightier than the Xbox

Bradley Howard in Calligraphy
Calligraphy – lesson 1 results (thanks to the hard work courtesy of N. Howard aged 10)

Here’s an interesting anecdotal story to consider (and I’m still working on what the conclusion is!).

My children are aged between 6 and 11, and are at primary school. Like most, if not all their peers, they spend most of their leisure time on the family PCs and Xbox. They watch films on Netflix (on the Xbox). In summary, they are as technically literate as any primary school children can be.

One of the teachers at school recently offered years 5 & 6 (that’s ages 9-11, covers three of my kids, and is a story in itself) an extra curricular calligraphy class. The teacher received such a great response that he now offers two full classes. There are around 60 children in each year of the school, and half of them are interested in calligraphy.

I mentioned last week the Margaret Thatcher special edition Times paper edition was more effective than the electronic/ digital edition.

Despite the constant yearning for the Xbox and PC, it seems that children find writing with a pen just as attractive as a hobby.

Why do we need libraries in 2013?

The Study Space in full at the library
Do we still need libraries?

Readers of this blog will know that I’m a bit of a fan of the author Richard Watson. One of the topics Richard regularly writes about is public libraries and their role in 2013. I use my local council library sometimes when I work from home and just want to get out of the house for an hour or so, usually to concentrate on writing a document or presentation.

What it is about libraries that helps us concentrate? I think there’s a psychological element to it. I think we walk into a library, see the shelves full of books and our brain kicks into super-thinking-mode. Perhaps it sends us back to our childhood when we visited libraries and were told they were the source of learning and reference (i.e. before the Internet).

In 2012, due to the recession, 200 libraries closed in the UK. Is this a problem?

Today, I went to the local library to produce a document for work. I worked from home today and as usual I had a few conference calls, intermittently punctuated with a few disturbances on Skype and email, and I needed to focus. I sought the library as a refuge. However the study room was closed (as you can see from the sign above) which was on the front door of the library.

I checked the study room, and confirmed that it was full. It was mainly occupied by teenage students, probably preparing for their A levels (aged 18).

Here’s some research into the number of libraries by population of the UK compared to the US, China and India:

Country Libraries Population
Population per
US 121,169 315.651 2,605
UK 5,502 63.181 11,483
China 55,000 1,354 24,618
India 7,943 1,210 152,335

I wonder where these students would go if the library was closed. It seems very short-termist to reduce the learning capabilities of a country during a recession.

After the recession we’ll consider what we should have done differently to improve the education of the population to take maximise the market potential afterwards. It seems now would be a good time to open more libraries.

How to get a free education

open-site.org contacted me and asked me to review the video above and asked me to include a link to it.

As far as videos about the social media videos go, regular readers will know that I like the socialnomics09 YouTube videos such as Social Media Revolution, and I’ve even seen those videos used for customer pitches.

Open-site.org’s video is very well produced but it’s still not as good as the socialnomics09 ones. However, I started looking around the open-site.org web site and it’s fascinating.

Open-site contains links to education course material which is open source – i.e. links to coursework, arranged as a syllabus.

Let’s say you want to learn something about accountancy. You can select accountancy from the homepage. The next page contains relevant accountancy educational material.

You can also select which level of Accountancy you want to study for… from Associate’s to Master’s to a Doctorate. There are no fees, and no commitment.

I’ve been interested in studying an English writing course and found a great syllabus via Open-site. The content is picked from blog articles, YouTube, podcasts and other education sites.

It doesn’t appear to be computer generated – it really feels like it’s been hand selected by experts and each link says how long it will take to cover the topic.

Open-site has opened up a whole area of the Internet that isn’t widely known. Open Education has some large funding from people, and some well-known universities including MIT have put courses into Open Education.

Open Education is a great idea. Quite how it can be certified into an industry recognised diploma is an interesting challenge, however the core ethos of providing education to everyone, without any cost is admirable. 

I would imagine it will eventually follow open source software, where the core materials are free, and the tutor support, exam and certification will be available at a chargeable cost.

Delete the save button


One of the joys of having children is looking at the world as you know it from a completely different viewpoint. Watching my own children use the Cbeebies website before they could even read remains the best demonstration of usability that I’ve ever seen.

My children now span school years 1, 4 and 5, and from about year 3 onwards, a large proportion of homework is done on a computer. My kids’ school uses a national website where kids have their own login, and it sets the homework for the child. Wikipedia has replaced Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Google Image search has brightened up essays.

Most of the time, the kids use [the excellent] Google Docs for documents (they’re a little too young for spreadsheets), and they use PowerPoint for presentations. However there’s a huge usability difference between the two applications which the kids really struggle with – and it’s a major difference between Google and Apple iOS versus Microsoft applications: the concept of ‘saving’.

If you’re a child who’s grown up with Google and iOS devices, the concept of needing to ‘save’ stuff is alien. You don’t need to save or even confirm changes on an iOS device. You don’t need to save notes for the device to remember them. And in Google Docs (now Drive), you don’t need to save documents either.

However as soon as children start using Microsoft Office applications, they need to save their documents and presentations, and suddenly the complexity of computers comes crashing down – drives and drive letters, folders, even filenames add on a level of technology that Google and Apple have done such a great job of removing for the last five years.

The next version of Office needs to address this once and for all. The necessity of files and all of their relations – drives, folders and file extensions, can now safely be removed.


The classic school system


Our son is ten years old, so it’s time to start looking for a secondary school. Being our eldest child, the experience is new for us, and it’s quite strange walking around schools because they are so familiar, yet we haven’t been to one for twenty-something years.

All our kids go to the same primary school. I only remember specific events from my primary school (such as one of the buildings catching fire during the school day). I remember a particularly strict teacher announcing “today the government has banned teachers from throwing a chalk duster (a hand side piece of wood with a cloth on the underside to wipe the chalkboard) at children. Well if anyone here misbehaves, I’ll still throw the duster at them.” And he did.

To be honest I was a pretty dim child until a couple of years into secondary school when it all ‘clicked’ and studying became easier. I don’t really remember the class layout at primary school very well, so when we picked a primary school for our children, we just wanted to find somewhere the kids would be happy and enjoy school.

Secondary school is different though, because the results of secondary school – GCSEs, put people on the path to choosing their career – through A Levels, which in turn help decide their degree at university, which will hopefully get them their first job.

We have visited a couple of secondary schools so far, and from the moment you walk in, they are very familiar. Despite the fact that both the schools that we’ve been to have been built in the last ten years, there’s an immediate feeling of deja vu.

And passing school classrooms is identical. OK, the chalkboard has been replaced with interactive white boards – with a live browser next to where the teacher is writing notes, but the rest of the environment is the same. There are kids at the back who just-don’t-want-to-be-there. Children are sitting copying down the teacher’s notes verbatim. And three quarters of the class look bored.

One of the other parents pointed out to me that in the last twenty years the rest of the world has moved on so quickly due to technology – email, mobile, the Internet, miniaturization, and so on, yet school life is identical.

I am not suggesting that kids now stay at home and learn through Facebook apps. Unusually I don’t have a shoot-from-the-hip suggestion for improvement, although I can only agree that having 30 children listening to a teacher for 40 minutes, then moving on to the next lesson, seems archaic.

I’m interested to know how other countries organise their education system for 11-18 year olds.

When we go on holiday we often discuss with friends who live there, that their schools are structured differently – especially school days and times – yet most of them claim the English system is held up as the most effective system they’ve come across.

So maybe the English system is the ‘best’, and some things such as our children’s education, should be left alone.

Photo courtesy of Philip Howard (not a relation) on Flickr

5 child safety online tips


I remember that when I started studying Computer Science at University (in those days it was a Polytechnic), in the first lecture we were told that at any social gathering we shouldn’t tell anyone we were studying Computer Science because the conversation would either stop immediately, or follow the route of “ah, that’s interesting, do you know how I can fix my [insert electrical item here]?

One of the questions I get asked a lot is how I help my kids stay safe online.

I’ll start these tips with the viewpoint that the Internet is 99.9% a good thing for kids. I think it’s better than television, which is a passive, brain-switch-off experience. It’s a type of entertainment as much as educational experience for children (and adults) which should be embraced.

My kids range between five and nine years old although I think this advice is useful for any children up to about twelve. Here are my top tips:

  1. Keep the family computer in a visible place. I don’t agree with kids (under twelve) having a PC in their bedroom, or for that matter, a laptop which can move around the house. We have a family computer on the corner of our living room and kitchen, so we can always glance across and see what the kids are doing.
  2. Enable fast escalation. Our kids can approach my wife or I at any time and say “Why is this happening?” on the computer and we’ll always try to help. Like anything with children, if they feel they might be told off, they won’t talk to an adult, so whatever happens online we’ll always make them aware it’s not their fault.
  3. We use free Family filtering software – the Windows Live Family Safety filter. Each of the kids has their own user accounts and we have another one for guests. Family Safety provides time limits (which we enable for weekday mornings) as well as stopping some sites. For our five year old, it’s on maximum control setting and for the nine year old it’s set to block anything adult and allow most other sites. At the moment none of the kids are allowed Facebook, although we do allow YouTube because they like listening to music and you’d be surprised how young kids don’t realise that YouTube contains videos that aren’t music related. 
  4. Using the family filtering software we regularly check their accounts (it takes seconds) and make it very clear that we check what they’ve been doing online.
  5. Stay aware of latest scams, websites and general web trends and behaviour. This is easier for our household because of my job, but my wife is still aware of most online ‘problem areas’.

Even with all these tips, my wife phoned me at work last week to say one of the girls had asked her to look at a website she’d been using. On the site, which is a Flash games-based website aimed at young girls, there is a chat functionality, and someone on the site had been chatting to our daughter and been totally vulgar.

My wife took a number of screenshots, of which part of the chat window is shown above. I contacted the website to make them aware of the incident and haven’t heard anything back from them.

I started off with these tips saying how the Internet is 99.9% a good thing for kids. Our experience highlighted that you need to be extremely vigilant of that 0.1% element.

Some academic work on the agenda

Tomorrow I am doing a short lecture at the School of Management at the University of Southampton showcasing some of our recent work. One of the nice consequences of working with clients who are huge superbrands is being asked to present our capabilities to other organisations. One of the lecturers, Dr Bev Hulbert approached me at a recent conference after I spoke about Spots V Stripes and asked if I would talk to his University class.

I know many people who criticise universities for not keeping up to date with ‘the real World’ (I prefer to use the verb “‘tainted’ by the real World”) and yet those same people refuse to help universities to do so by giving a little time to them. These short sighted views make me pretty mad (you can tell I’ve been using the Tube recently!)

The reason I’m doing the lecture tomorrow is quite straightforward:
  1. Spread the Endava brand (Hey, I’m being honest)
  2. Spot talented students (still being honest)
  3. These students will (eventually/ hopefully) find jobs and need companies to build the infrastructure Endava can provide
  4. It’s necessary to educate the next generation – and with university funding being reduced, it’s important the private sector helps to fill in the gap
  5. Working with young people gives a new perspective on work – and I always end up learning something else myself