Business business applications UC voip webrtc

How WebRTC will deliver contextual communication and AI in the contact centre

Contextual communication, AI and chatbots are on track to revolutionise the way we communicate, prompting experts to herald the dawn of a major communications revolution. What about the contact centre, and how does WebRTC underpin this shift towards improved customer engagement?

More than just chatbots

Most of us have already grown accustomed to talking more and more with machines. Consumers have been given a taste of this new era of communication with the likes of Siri and Alexa, but we’re starting to see this new technology make its mark in the business world. Some contact centres, for instance, are starting to use chatbots to deal with common queries and complaints based on database suggestions.  We’ve also witnessed a number of councils using a form of AI as a virtual agent to deal with front line requests. As the number of interactions increases, we can expect to see robots like this learning rapidly and becoming more sophisticated.

However, the impact of AI and machine learning is greater than just for improving chatbots. If we look at the bigger story we can see there is another innovation gaining a foothold in the industry: contextual communication. Made possible by open web technologies like WebRTC, it enables context to be added to every communication to make customer interactions more efficient, personalised and engaged. These contextual communications applications mesh together pertinent information in real-time from CRMs and other databases. The end result is the ability to deal with customer enquiries via web video, chat box or through a mobile app.

The value of context

This is where AI can make a dramatic impact. Determining the right information and communication “context” to serve, informed by a wealth of data, leads to better decision making throughout sales or customer service processes. This ultimately leads to a greater customer experience and applies equally to customer-facing chatbots as it does to virtual assistants. Imagine a VA that could recommend the next course of action for a customer service agent or salesperson to take. Then, move it a stage further and consider that cognitive interactions will understand accents, sentiment and context. This will enable even greater personalisation and decision-making capabilities – a far cry from today’s annoying automated services.

This is how the future of enterprise communications is shaping up –  making communication “transparent”, so it’s integral and inherent in applications, and augmenting it with context. What does it mean for ITSPs? We can start with differentiated propositions offering huge productivity and efficiency gains – and a more natural communications experience for customers.

Join us next week to learn more

We’ll be discussing these impacts and more at the ITSPA WebRTC Workshop next Thursday 28th September, Central London. Both Tref and I will be keen to hear your views on contextual communication and how it can drive new revenue opportunities for ITSPs in the coming years. If you are in London and want to come along, register here – it’s free – using the member’s registration.

Other WebRTC content on this blog.

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NANOG 66 is in San Diego by the sea @LONAP

NANOG 66 – bring your shorts

One of the downsides perhaps of being in the internet plumbing industry is that your Facebook timeline constantly fills up with people  off to conferences in exotic places. Even when they aren’t off to a meeting people are still off to exotic places as they spend their air miles. This week it’s NANOG 66  in San Diego.

San Diego is one of the nicest places you can choose to go to a conference. The other popular destination is Hawaii. I’ve done San Diego but not Hawaii. In fact I tend to avoid conferences that involve long haul travel these days because it’s hard enough submitting your body to a week of conference talks, corridor meetings and the follow on eating and drinking without throwing jet lag into the mix.

Out of curiosity I took a look at the NANOG Facebook group and the NANOG website. The first thing that hit me on Facebook was a comment that told me there were 1002 people signed up for the conference. That’s a lot of people. So many people that you have to figure out how to make the most of the fact that they are all there. The value in these meetings tends not to be in the actual conference material but in the people that attend.

This brings me to my second observation. The list of Platinum Sponsors, organisations that have paid $100,000 to sponsor the three events in the year, includes a business called Addrex. Addrex are an IP address broker. That’s a serious chunk of change they have invested in marketing by becoming a NANOG sponsor. It just goes to show how much money there must be in the IPv4 address game.

internet traffic growthI am more familiar with Sandra Brown and the IPv4 Market Group who very generously sponsored the LONAP dinner last month. LONAP usually sends a couple of people to the NANOG meetings because they are very good recruiting grounds for new members. Most of our big members have come on board as a result of relationships developed at such meetings.

If you are in NANOG this week do take the opportunity to look up Will Hargrave and Richard Irving who will be there representing us.

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The local wide web and the Rangemaster cooker service

Rangemaster cooker service – does your cooker need one? is back in action for 2016 after a very refreshing Christmas and New Year break. Most of you who are friends on Facebook will have seen what I’ve been up to and you can follow my daily non-work-ish diary over on In the meantime I offer you a short not too onerous post on web presence and Rangemaster cooker service.

We have a Rangemaster cooker. For the uninitiated the Rangemaster has two ovens, a grill, five gas jets and a hot plate. It is extremely useful kit for a family with four kids. This is especially the case at Christmas but before the festive season kicked in we had a problem with one of the ovens not working properly. How on earth does one manage with only one oven at Christmas? I’m not sure it is doable.

So one day I got to “get cooker fixed” on my jobslist and did a search for “Rangemaster cooker service Lincoln”. Google came up with a very comprehensive looking site that said it had engineers in our area. It looked a bit too comprehensive for sleepy ole Lincoln and my suspicions were aroused.

I then did the same search replacing “Lincoln” with “Brighton” and came up with the exact same site but this time portraying itself as a local to Brighton. Now there’s nothing wrong with a business being able to do this. It’s making great use of tinterweb to generate business opportunities. However when I’m looking for a cooker repair man I want a competent local guy who can do me a good job at a fair price without involving layers of middlemen and commissions.

The website was ignored and I popped into the local Aga gaff thinking they were the same company. There didn’t do Rangemaster but the guy gave me the name of a man who can. I rang the man and he came around the next day to advise me that I needed a new regulator (sucks in teeth).

Now whilst there is a place for location independent services on the www we have to remember that there are some times when all we want is to be able to pick up a good old fashioned (VoIP) phone and call the bloke down the road for help. The local wide web.

Happy New Year y’all…

Oh btw apparetly cookers don’t get serviced. They get repaired – there’s nothing to service. Also here’s a tip for you. Don’t put cast iron bits off the gas rings in the dishwasher. They get corroded and hinder the spark lighting function.

Also the real point to this post is that local firms need to start thinking about how they market themselves online. Innit.

rangemaster cooker repair brighton

Apps ecommerce End User

Oyster refund yay?

Yay an Oyster card refund

I’m rich! No wait a minute…

Dear Huw Davies

Due to an operational issue, you are due a payment of £2.90. This is now ready for collection at Camden Town.

Payment correction details:
Reason: Payment correction because of an operational issue
Value: £2.90
Reference: 5272976
Collection location: Camden Town
Status: Ready for collection with Oyster card number 12345678910

To collect your payment, touch your Oyster card on a yellow reader at the location shown above when you start a journey.

Please keep your Oyster card number safe. You may need to quote it if you call TfL Customer Services(0343 222 1234).

The only problem with this refund is that I have to go to Camden Town to get it and guess how much that would cost me on the tube? Assuming I am already in Central London. I have probably been to Camden three times in the last five years.

I didn’t even know I had been overcharged. I guess some people do look at their Oyster card credit. I only need to know when it has nearly run out. Why can’t they just credit the card number?

Bit pathetic really innit?

I also have to announce a change in my train ticket collection policy. Having this year lost a couple of tickets and not been able to get replacements I’ve discovered a partial solution. If I opt for “print at home” then if I lose the ticket I can just reprint it.

Now the only problem is that the tickets this year have been lost on the hoof, whilst travelling and therefore nowhere near a printer. The ideal solution is eticketing but in the absence of this very obvious technology at least with print at home I can bring up a pdf (presumably) to show the ticket inspector I have something in the way of a right to be on the train.

That’s all for now folks – at the Euro-IX meeting in Berlin. I may write something up later but it is more likely to be about the social rather than any actual work content.

Auf wiedersehen (pet).

Apps End User phones

12.1-YOG4PAS2QL has just destroyed my battery life

The new reduced 12.1-YOG4PAS2QL battery life

As I was fiddling about on my laptop last night in front of The Apprentice, earphones in listening to music and concentrating intensely on my laptop screen to avoid all contact with aforementioned TV programme which I detest intensely, an offer of a firmware update for my Oneplus One came in. 12.1-YOG4PAS2QL.

I didn’t have masses of battery left so plugged it into the wall in the kitchen and returned to my state of ignoring the TV. You might ask why I even bothered sitting in front of the TV when we have a perfectly good living room to retreat to. However Mrs Davies likes the programme so it’s a way of us being together whilst doing different things. Sweet huh? 🙂

This morning I woke up to a fully charged phone with a few bug fixes and security updates. I scoured tinterweb to see if my issue with answering the phone was fixed (see yesterday’s post on Oneplus one freezing on answer). Most online resources just seemed to repeat PR blurb and what I could find suggested not.

One of the notional fixes was an improvement to the power consumption and thus battery life of the Oneplus One. Now I have to tell you my Oneplus One battery life has been great. Not any more it ain’t.

By 9.20 this morning I had about 3 hours left. Wot! People don’t have time to deal with this kind of crap. I am being driven ever closer to a different phone. Changing the settings to power saver just added an hour and dimmed the screen to the point where I’d need to shine a torch on it.

On top of all this I spent some time this morning uninstalling apps I never use – free paris wifi, KLM, stuff like that. I came across something called Truecaller. I didn’t know I had Truecaller. It has zillions of downloads. I don’t appear to be using it but it seems very suspicious if you ask me. It helps prevent incoming spam calls by screening the call against a global database. The problem is it obtains the global database from the directories of all its users.

Now this isn’t necessarily any different to Google knowing everyone’s email addresses but it feel a little uncomfortable. Maybe I’m worrying over nothing and I don’t appear to be using it anyway. Maybe it’s spyware!! It seems to have permission to access practically everything on the phone!!!

Anyway enough of this rant. 12.1-YOG4PAS2QL battery life turns out to be v disappointing. The clock of patience is ticking away on the Oneplus One.

Apps Business business applications webrtc

Winners of Genband WebRTC Apps Competition

Metronet win prestigious WebRTC Apps competition.

The WebRTC apps competition we ran in conjunction with/sponsored by GENBAND came up with three clear leaders and one eventual winner. One entry showed how WebRTC would be monetized and the others presented their solution it as an an overlay to existing support services.

The idea was that entrants would be given free accounts on the Genband Kandy WebRTC Platform as a Service and then use those accounts to put together innovative service ideas.

The eventual winner was Metronet.

The judges were hugely impressed at the number of levels Metronet were able to utilize WebRTC and KANDY. The technology was used in a mobile devices, M2M connectivity to their monitoring systems and integrated into their core CRM platform. The solution also utilized messaging, file sharing, voice, video, conferencing and collaboration.

Metronet have based a large amount of their success in both their Data and Voice offering on their proactive customer service and saw the potential to be able use WebRTC to grow that service commitment still further. The underlying monitoring platform was already in place so triggering a the group message to the Engineering Application from there was quite simple. Metronet were able to use the KANDY reference mobile apps to very quickly allow the engineers access to the group from both Android and Apple mobile devices.

By then adding WebRTC calling into their NOC CRM they were able to build a consolidated environment fault resolution environment for voice, video, conferencing and collaboration with the result of a “cradle to grave” resolution for faults so inevtiably improving already impressive SLAs.

Everyone involved would like to congratulate Metronet for their entry and look forward to seeing more of their inventive use of the technology.

Stuart Goble, GENBAND VP Sales UK, Ireland and Nordics was pleased with how the competition and sponsorship went: “Metronet took a real business problem and defined a solution using KANDY technology.  The application is built with a combination of rich-messaging and real time voice and video provided by the KANDY platform.  KANDY provides a set of tools that makes the process simple for IT developers, allowing very specific applications like this to be cost effectively developed.”

In conclusion:

  • Winner is Metronet – WebRTC and Metronet portal advances engineer response
  • Second Place – Manor Telecom – WebRTC powers the “
  • Third Place – DRD – WebRTC powers Uboss Test line functionality

See our WebRTC section on this blog for other related posts.

Apps Business webrtc

Second WebRTC Apps Competition finalist

WebRTC Apps Competition finalist DRD Communications.

The WebRTC apps competition we ran in conjunction with/sponsored by GENBAND came up with three clear leaders and one eventual winner. One entry actually showed how WebRTC would be monetized and the others presented their solution it as an an overlay to existing support services.

The idea was that entrants would be given free accounts on the GENBAND KANDY WebRTC Platform as a Service and then use those accounts to put together innovative service ideas.

The second WebRTC Apps Competition finalist was DRD Communications. DRD will be more familiar to you as the holding company that owns the Vanilla IP Broadsoft wholesale provider..

DRD’s simple but very effective entry showed the simplicity by which WebRTC via the KANDY APIs can be integrated into existing successful applications to provide useful day to day functionality. The original scenario allowed DRD to add a test calling function to their augment their market leading back office provisioning, billing and integration Uboss but the same JavaScript APIs could have just have easily been used to provide voice and video access to a support engineer or sales representative. Additionally using the conferencing and collaboration functionality provided by the KANDY platform those conversations could allow users to be walked through configuration or other troubleshooting scenarios on a shared screen.

The judges saw that the DRD’s development company were implementing small and simple code additions to an already powerful management platform to provide significant functional options. The code they used meant they could quickly apply the WebRTC/KANDY functionality to other areas of the application allowing them to react quickly to Uboss developments or potentially to a customer’s needs.

This application is likely to one of the big wins for the WebRTC technology.

See our WebRTC section on this blog for other related posts.

Apps Business business applications webrtc

GENBAND Summer of Apps WebRTC Competition finalist Manor IT

WebRTC apps competition winners include monetisation of the technology

The WebRTC apps competition we ran in conjunction with/sponsored by GENBAND came up with three clear leaders and one eventual winner. One entry actually showed how WebRTC would be monetized and the others presented their solution it as an an overlay to existing support services.

The idea was that entrants would be given free accounts on the GENBAND KANDY WebRTC Platform as a Service and then use those accounts to put together innovative service ideas.

The first of the finalists was Manor IT:

Manor IT  

Manor IT’s “WebPhoneBox” entry impressed the judges as it directly monetized the WebRTC where as other entries used the technology to augment services improving existing commercial or business process functions. The Website allowed Manor to  address the maximum subscriber audience on two levels. Firstly it was designed so you could use the service without having a to register an account just like a “PhoneBox” but secondly the access could be from any device and network without having to download an app.

To make a call the user logs onto ‘” website (currently this function is in beta and not openly available) and enters the dialed number, payment method and payment amount. This information is then securely passed to the Manor IT Application Server. Alternatively existing account details and DDI can be used.

The Application Server verifies the payment details with the appropriate financial house.

The destination tariff is identified via Manor IT’s JeraSoft rating platform providing a maximum call duration. An authentication token is then provided to the KANDY WebRTC platform and passed to the web browser which then initiates the call

The call can then be established through KANDY and via Manor IT’s Session Border Controllers utilizing and utilizing Manor IT’s full LCR. 1 minute before call is cleared down a pop up allows the user to top up the account.

Using this method of paying for a call groups of people can share PC or Tablet devices far more easily as logging out of the website or the time restrictions on the access keys meaning there is no fear of other users accidently using their credit. The inbuilt WebRTC protocol NAT traversal and variable codecs on the media path coupled with the use of HTTPS on the signaling path means that any network should be usable even if it is locked down for SIP (e.g. Hotel WIFI) or has complex NAT or bandwidth issues.

Overall this was a simple idea that used various properties of WebRTC to provide an innovative solution and Genband congratulate Manor IT and their development are Devine IT

See our WebRTC section on this blog for other related posts.

Apps End User mobile apps spam

WhatsApp spam

WhatsApp spam endemic

whatsapp spamAaaargh just received my first WhatsApp spam message. I don’t even use WhatsApp though I do have the App on my droid. It’s getting uninstalled right now.

The spam originated from someone who created a group , added me to it, sent the spam and then removed me from the group. Must be a machine in play there.

An App must truly be labelled useless if all it does is serve you with spam.

I also still get phone call spam. I spent much of this afternoon getting my Snom M700 DECT system working. Wasn’t totally straightforward as it isn’t a Voipfone supported device but they have some great engineers and we got it sorted.

So now our home phone number points at two Snom DECT handsets (kitchen and TV room), a Yealink (conservatory/office) and on the CSIPSimple App on my mobile. I was just running through the ringtone options with the family when a son told me my mobile was ringing. This was somewhat confusing as so was the phone I had in my hand. Trouble is I was trying out a ringtone when it happened so little old me got confused initially.

I eventually did answer the Snom only to find it wasn’t a sales call from the subcontinent but a survey (from the subcontinent). The caller told me he was from a company called UK Surveys, or simlar. I asked him where in the UK he was and told him I didn’t trust him so he put the phone down on me. Oh ok.

I told the family that these calls would start getting less frequent as I would be implementing call barring where the inbound number was withheld. This raised a chorus of complaints on the basis that the call might be important. My view is if a person doesn’t have the courtesy to tell me their number they don’t deserve to be answered.

Anyway we are now a landline-less household. The home number is virtual. It is the way of the future present. I am now also WhatsApp-less. A truly uninspiring experience. At least WhatsApp spam is no longer going to be receivable on my phone.

See previous tome on WhatsApp. If you get WhatsApp spam they have a page on the subject that isn’t massively helpful.

PS I realise some of might not consider one spam message to be “endemic”. I do.

PPS I’m back. Hols are over. They were great. Now I need to get some work done and lose some weight.

Apps Engineer webrtc

WebRTC week on



Once more it’s WebRTC week on The last time we did this the week was very kindly sponsored by our good friends at ipcortex. Their CEO Rob Pickering assembled a great collection of guest posts on the subject which were very widely shared.

This week’s posts are sponsored by global voice infrastructure player GENBAND. I have worked with GENBAND for the past 10 years. The business, formerly the Nortel carrier division, has come through a difficult time in the telecoms world and has emerged as a very strong player.

This summer I am running a WebRTC Summer of Apps competition based on the GENBAND Kandy platform – register your interest here.

That GENBAND also sponsor this week of WebRTC posts is therefore quite appropriate. The guys at GENBAND have put a lot of effort into sourcing some very interesting pieces which I’m sure you will enjoy. We have great posts going out every day at 1pm.

Note the posts published during these sponsored weeks are not allowed to be sales pitches. However the theme is usually something from a field in which the sponsor may be considered to be an expert. Don’t be surprised then if posts sometimes refer to work/products/solutions owned by the sponsor.


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Sentiment analysis experiment ends

Sentiment analysis experiment ends

I’ve ditched sentiment analysis as a metric on the website. The idea that we might be able to rate broadband providers according to social media sentiment was a good one but in reality most people commenting on their broadband provider were slagging them off (to use the venacular).  Most positive vibes were being generated by positive marketing initiatives by the ISPs themselves, and then mostly by TalkTalk who seemed to be extensive users of Twitter. Nothing generally to do with customers unilaterally praising their ISP.

It is interesting to see sentiment analysis creeping in to more and more places in our lives (ish). During the general election it was being used to gauge how parties were doing. In fact for it to be anything other than random guesswork we found that the results needed to be 100% human generated.

In other words we couldn’t leave it to a computer to decide whether a tweet was praising or condemning an ISP. The English language has too much scope for misunderstanding. In theory this manual activity could be outsourced to somewhere with low cost labour but then that ran the risk came with a very high probability of it being done by someone whose first language was not English and who would therefore be facing some of the problems of the computer in identifying the tone of a tweet.

We bore the cost of getting this work done in the UK for some months but in the end decided the feature wasn’t worth it. It was an interesting experiment.

In the meantime we still have the Customer Service metric – how long it takes an ISP to answer the phone and where their call centres are typically based (ie UK or India). We will also no doubt introduce others but in the meantime are concentrating on pure marketing activities such as the pig racing and the bulletproof broadband videos (both also featured on this site if you’re interested).

So there ya go. The sentiment analysis experiment was an interesting toy but in the end didn’t cut it. You have to move on.

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Slightly confused of Lincoln

HP printer delivery either 09.13 or 13.56

You see before you a bewildered bloke. One where there is a risk of extremes of emotions on this, a pleasant if slightly breezy English summer’s day. My HP printer delivery is either going to be at 09.13 or 13.56.

HP printer deliveryComing out of the pool changing room this morning my pocket vibrated. It was a text message from DPD saying that my HP printer delivery will be executed (word chosen to startle, albeit momentarily) by Ian between 09.13 and 10.13 this morning. Impressivo I thought. Just time to get home and eat my banana.

Munching away at said banana at the breakfast table I logged on to the DPD website to see if I could physically see where Ian was. Confusingly the website told me that it wasn’t Ian coming but Dean. Wosgoinon I thought! The next minute  second text came in confirming that indeed Dean was the logistics operative entrusted with the delivery of my new printer. Not use of word delivery instead of execute. Gotta mix it up.

Now there are a number of possible scenarios that could explain this sitch:

DPD, on behalf of HP may have made a simple mistake in allocating the job to Ian. Ian may not actually be in today – annual leave or maybe even off sick. For Ian’s sake lets hope it isn’t the latter. Ian may also have enthusiastically shot off leaving the HP parcel behind. He may even have said “That’s too heavy for me with my bad back. Let Dean take it”.

It may also be that HP have erroneously shipped two printers and they have been shipped separately. In this case I’d probably be able to sell one of them on eBay. Result.

doorbell rings

That was Ian at the door with my part shipment. Everything but the printer itself! Ian enquired as to my puzzled expression (DPD drivers are known for their empathy – it’s in their training) and I was able to explain the events of the morning thus far, as conveyed to me by sms and to you in the copy above.

You need to know that the conveyor belt at DPD in Lincoln broke down this morning so when the four delivery lorries (big business this) arrived at the depot all the parcels had to be manually handled. Manual intervention, as I’m sure you all know, leads to mistakes and the two packages didn’t end up in the same cage.

The upshot is that Dean himself is bringing the actual printer this afternoon. “Funnily enough” said Ian “I have just seen Dean driving down Wragby Road in the opposite direction” I live on Wragby Road. Funnily enough I didn’t laugh.

Ah well (said in a somewhat sanguine voice). I’ll pop into the office now then and come back for lunch.

In case you didn’t read it the HP printer delivery was for this bit of kit wot I wrote about yesterday. The HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw printer. Does double sided printing you know? :)

Business business applications gadgets

I bought a printer

HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw

Good news – Your order for the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw has been accepted and we will start processing it now.  We will send you an email once your order has been dispatched.

You can track to your order online at any time by signing in to your account and then in the top right hand corner of the page hover over “Your Account“ and select “My orders” from the drop down menu.

If you provided a mobile telephone number you will receive a text message* the night before your order is delivered giving you the option to:

  • Select an alternative delivery date
  • Opt for delivery to a nominated neighbour
  • Collect the parcel from your local depot

You’ll also receive a text message on the delivery day giving you a 1 hour delivery window so there’s no need for you to wait in all day*.

I bought a printer. It’s the first one I’ve bought in 3 1/2 years. When I bought the last one I took out a 3 year warranty and it died on e earlier this week. It wasn’t in fact the printer that I originally bought that died but the fourth incarnation of the original. None of em lasted a year.

The warranty is up now so I figured I’d invest in something a little better. I bought a HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw. Still took a 3 year warranty though. Good value if you ask me.

In some respect this is a small admission of failure. I’ve been working as a paperless business. It isn’t totally possible to do that as legal documents often need printing. Moreover the family has specific needs. Printing boarding passes, homework etc I know boarding passes can be electronic but it isn’t always practical especially with a youngster flying to Madrid quite soon. Youngsters don’t always have phones suitable for airline apps/electronic boarding passes.

I am now strangely excited by the fact that I am about to be the owner of a HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw laser printer. This printer has a NFC interface so I should be able to tap it with my droid and print off a doc/photo/something else. Good eh?

None of this is what prompted me to write this post. It’s just the fact that I am going to get a 1 hour delivery window. Simple innit? Why can’t other vendors do the same? So do I know but not all. My daughter is about to return home from her year abroad and is sending a suitcase by courier in advance (so her mum can get a load of washing done probs). Mum, or someone has to wait in all day because we don’t get a delivery window. We do get a tracker on that one but not a 1 hour window.

I’m even tempted to “collect the parcel from a local depot”. Fwiw. I’ll let you have an update on the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw printer once I get it installed. Does double sided printing you know? 🙂

Apps End User

Technology: a generation gap or fear of the unknown?

Fear of tech – can’t understand it meself 🙂

Zoe Easey is a web dev and co-founder of Epix Media. She discusses the fear of tech and whether it is a generational thing.

I have friends and work contacts that constantly profess “I don’t do tech” which scares me a little – how can you not ‘do tech’, you surely can’t avoid it these days? Are people really that fearful of it or is it just an excuse to avoid particular jobs or tasks?

It’s not necessarily an age thing either. In my career I’ve worked with people of all ages and it has  made me interested in whether there is really a generation gap with technology, or whether some people just ‘get it’ and some don’t.

A few years ago I was of the perspective that as the generation that grew up with PC’s and other tech in their homes got older, the gap between those that adopt and embrace tech and those that don’t would shrink. Now I’m not so sure.

I have customers reaching retirement that embrace technology: WordPress, social media and more, and whilst they admit to it taking them longer to learn they crack on and get to grips with it, fear-free. I know of people in their 50’s that can find new things on their iPad much more quickly than I can on mine! On the flip side, I know of people their early 20’s that don’t understand social media, or why people share so much on there, or why it’s important for their business to be part of the social conversation (especially if they are being talked about already). The latter particularly surprises me as things like Facebook are highly likely to have been a much bigger part of their social life as they grew up.

Recently I was introduced to the concept of “micro generations” in technology, whereby tech is moving so fast that the gap in knowledge and what’s ‘cool’ can be massive between people of similar ages. Where tech is concerned the term ‘generation’ doesn’t mean 30 years, it can be as little as the iPhone5 and the iPhone6 being released. There are probably also micro knowledge gaps between tech adopters as we all use it in different ways. Whilst one person may be an expert in one area, or in the use of a particular phone or app, another person may not have ever interacted with them. The important thing here is that the adopters will have the right mind-set to learn if they need to, where as the “I don’t doers’ might not.

I guess there are other factors that impact the tech adoption gap too, such as location and environment. People in areas with poor internet connectivity or from more remote areas may not be pushed as far into the world as technology as those in environments that have the first access to 4G, superfast broadband and other tech related schemes. Just because someone was born in an era where tech is prevalent, it doesn’t mean it will be a key factor in their life. In some cases they will be aware of technology, but not understand its purpose or significance.

I understand that some people don’t feel technology is important to them and part of that may be because it’s still fairly new in the grand scheme of things. But it has moved faster than anything we’ve seen before and I wonder what will happen if people continue to shy away from the basic tools that are ingrained in many people’s lives. Where businesses are concerned their competitors will become more efficient and leaner than they are and they will miss out on tech that can help put systems and processes in place to improve in so many areas. From a non-business perspective technology if nothing else is heaps of fun and makes things much easier. We’ve been a convenience culture for some time now, and tech just helps us be lazier in the tasks we don’t enjoy and get things done quicker – who wouldn’t want that!

Embracing technology isn’t difficult when approached with the right mind-set. It doesn’t mean you have to go and shove all data you own in the cloud, or that it has to cost your business thousands of pounds – but just having a common sense approach can make your business and life more efficient.

I don’t think you need to be a programmer to understand tech, my interactions with people and those that have surprised me over the years is testimony to that. The “I don’t do-ers” just need to push the fear aside and grab themselves a handful of confidence. As long as they don’t give their bank account details to a Siberian prince and are smart about what they post online, they’re unlikely to hit any major snags.

So, encourage your friends and family to not be afraid, tech doesn’t have to be complicated or scary. And when they say “I don’t do tech” tell them “tough, it ain’t going anywhere!”.

Zoe started Epix Media in 2010 and has over 8 years’ experience as programmer and graphic designer. During the last 5 years she has focused on growing the business with her co-director, ensuring they stay on top of the latest tech. This along with great customer service means Zoe is well on the way to proving you can be successful AND nice in business!

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Women in tech week social stats

Women in tech week on attracts high level of social media engagement

It looks as if we will be carrying one or two women in tech week posts over into this week but as of this morning the statistics look very good.

12 posts received a total of 694 shares split as follows:

  • 275 Facebook
  • 245 LinkedIn
  • 133 Twitter
  • 17 Google+

Makes you wonder why anyone bothers with Google+. I certainly only do so on the basis that it may help with SEO rankings. As far as comment numbers go there does appear to be a trend to comment in the social media streams of sharers rather than on the blog itself, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. The number of LinkedIn shares points to a high proportion of business people reading the posts.

Three posts drove the numbers. Chris Conder’s exposition on rural broadband, Liz Fletcher on the acceptability of drinking prosecco for geeks (ok it was about more than that) and Helen Jeffrey on how to be a woman in tech.

Chris Conder stimulated comment and debate from a number of prominent individuals both in the media and the internet industry. The issue of rural broadband still generates a very emotional response from people affected. ie those who can’t get decent internet access.

The common denominator here was I think the size of an individual’s social network. Liz is very well known in both prosecco drinking circles and the internet plumbing industry and Helen is internationally known in the publishing game. She must be because her Facebook posts over the weekend contained views from plush bars in New York where she was celebrating the 4th July.

Regardless of the number of shares received by any individual none of this week could not have happened without the support of contributors who have been very generous with their time and for which I am very grateful. There was a terrific mix of posts covering a range of tech subjects, most of which demonstrated an in depth mastery of their subject.

The themed weeks on this blog are becoming increasingly popular. To call a “women in tech” week a themed week is somewhat unfair labelling, or at least a poor application of a label. It’s not like a week of posts on the Internet of Things, or Cloud Technology. Women in Tech is not a theme per se. However most of the contributors are friends (and hopefully the one or two I didn’t already know are now friends) so perhaps we can call it a female friends of Tref week.

If you have a good idea for a future themed week feel free to drop me a line. I have started to get quite a few unsolicited approaches offering guest posts. These mostly get ditched, especially the ones that begin “Hi there” but some do make it through so don’t worry if we don’t know each other. You do need to be someone working in industry though and not a professional writer placing posts on behalf of clients.

Updated numbers Wednesday morning bring the total to 743 shares and comments split as follows:

  • 279 Facebook
  • 280 LinkedIn
  • 141 Twitter
  • 18 Google+
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How to be a woman in tech

How to be a woman in tech

When the wonderful @tref was looking for ‘women in tech’ to write a guest blog I had to answer a few questions: am I in tech, how did I get here, and what can I do to encourage others?

What do you do?

I perform the pivotal role of interpreting business needs to technical people and analysing the potential of technical developments for the board and business team.  To do this one has to be an excellent communicator, be able to manage demanding priorities calmly and effectively, and have an understanding of the evolving technical context.  The publishing company I currently work for is small but ambitious, constantly looking to implement new projects and initiatives.  The continually-evolving technical environment demands drive, the ability to evaluate systematically, and unswerving support for and appreciation of our tech team..

How successful is this?

The magazine I work for has had constant growth in both circulation and revenue.  This is even more impressive when considered against the backdrop of declining print in many sectors of the publishing industry and publishers’ struggle to embrace the benefits and culture of new digital technology.  The challenge is an ongoing one and not to be underestimated.

How did you get here?

I am living proof that coming from a non-technical background is not a barrier.  Women can combine their innate communication skills and strategic abilities with an analytical approach, to support and implement complex projects – ideal attributes for a digital world.

I first worked (in the distant past) at a small consultancy firm, initially as receptionist, moving on to the documentation department (they had the first word processors from the USA – with 8 inch floppy disks!), where I supported projects by creating inputs on punch cards for mainframe processing.  Exposure to the first home computers, the ZX81, C64 and Spectrum, led to playing with machine-code programming, contributing to ‘Zipper Flipper’, a game produced for the Spectrum, earning a grand total of around £4,000 in royalties!

I spent the next 20-odd years working with databases (dBase and Pervasive SQL) and personal computers/networks, principally specifying, implementing, and supporting software (developed in Psion Archive initially, then C and C++) to manage subscriptions and royalties for publishing companies.  At its height we provided software and support to over 100 publishers, sending billions of copies to subscribers, and processing millions in revenues.  (I also had two children).

Six years ago I joined the London Review of Books to lead a new team, initially to manage the build and implementation of a (then) new @LRB website and newly digitised archive (and no, I had never done that before).  This intense period of work culminated in a successful launch, on time, and very positive feedback.  Now I am an Associate Publisher and lead on the analysis of digital performance and the development of digital strategy for the business.

What about outside of work?

As a long-time supporter of Scouting, I used a global database to run an international educational programme for 40,000 people at a huge camp in 2007.  I have a great interest in the campaign for rural broadband access, which led to the choice of my MA research topic; “The use of social media in enhancing volunteer engagement”, a case study of a community website fighting for rural broadband in Cumbria.

I like to think that the re-evaluation of the ‘fibre tax’ and its impact on rural broadband initiatives was prompted in some part by my advocacy on behalf of rural communities with BDUK in 2010. As a follow-on from that discussion, I was invited to write a report for BDUK considering the implementation of a practical strategy to support data-led community-based decisions in the delivery of super-fast broadband.

I supported a local school in a voluntary role, working as part of their Membership and Development Committee and helping them to become the first state school to implement an alumni database and website.

How can I become a woman in tech?

Be curious.  I believe it is vital to examine how different sectors approach the use of technology and social media.  I believe that the educational, arts, public, private and voluntary sectors have much to learn from each other.  I am actively engaged and interested in the use of technology to empower individuals, companies, not-for-profit companies and charities.

Find your ‘digital north’.  I have often wondered why some people ‘get’ digital, and some do not – most often when facing barriers constructed of anxiety and fear.  I put my comparative ease with the digital world down to playing around with machine code and BASIC all those years ago.  So – make something.  It has never been easier to learn.  You do not need to be a coder to work in tech – but it really helps to understand the basics of how coding works!

venn_diagram_example (1)

Image credit: @davidshrigley

Be digitally creative. Take part in a hackday or two. I have been to several hackdays: Culturehack East, the National Archives hackday, EdTech hackathon at Google Campus, and Hackthespace at Tate Modern.  Meeting and working with people in a creative digital space is incredibly motivating and I have always learned a lot.  You do not need to be a coder to take part – just enthusiastic about digital.

Find your passion.  Mine is data – I love it.  This has led me to great conversations and connections – entity extraction from our archive with the BBC R&D department, for example.  I also have the innate conviction that you should build capacity over one-offs (almost) every time.  The exception is if you are making digital art!

Experiment.  If you have the opportunity to push the boundaries, take it.  I was lucky enough to run a fantastic digital project for The Space, a BBC and Arts Council project.  The project explored the idea of a ‘digital essay’.  The work, created in collaboration with the writer Will Self, and Brunel University, is called ‘Kafka’s Wound’.

Bring others with you.  This can be very hard to do.  There is fear and anxiety around the unknown.  I am about to run a second mini-hackday for my colleagues.  Last year we had a great day mixing up mostly non-techie people and letting them loose with paper and pens as well as laptops.  The results were brilliant and the follow-up survey provided both solid evidence of the benefits, and suggestions for improvements.

Connect. This is fairly obvious.  I can trace much of what I have achieved in the digital space to the decision in 2009 to find out what Twitter could be good for, and if I could make a difference using social media.  I have met many, many people on Twitter before meeting them in real life (and some I am yet to meet).

Draw.  Use paper and marker pen.  If you can’t draw something, it’s very hard to explain it, even to yourself.  It works for me (and I am terrible at drawing).

Listen.  Engage with your technical people – have discussions, find out what they find interesting, ask questions, encourage everyone to speak. Understand as much as you can.  Be patient.

Volunteer.  Use your technical knowledge to support a local cause that inspires you, be that World Scouting, community broadband, or your local school.  If you find others there to work with, all the better, but I have often found myself the lead in terms of technical understanding.

Get to grips with business.  All technology is embedded in a business.  Understanding the structure of business and how it works is vital if you want to straddle the tech and business divide.  Running my own business was the foundation of my expertise, backed up with an MA in management, which I really enjoyed.

Explore organisational culture.  Understanding the culture of an organisation will help you make moves towards organisational change.  If you work in an organisation that is not a start-up (likely) then there will probably be a big shift required in order to embrace and take advantage of the opportunities digital can provide.

Look ahead.  See what’s coming up – keep an eye on it.  Expend some budget on R&D and make some of the advances in tech real for your organisation – it need not be expensive (cardboard headset and smartphone to demonstrate 3D video, for example).

What’s next for you?

As everything continues to shift the possibilities have never been more interesting.  I am looking at how the cultural sector is adapting to digital, and there are some big projects out there.  In my dreams I will one day do a PhD.

Final words?

Follow your interests. Become (almost) indispensible.  Experiment. It’s great if you can manage it!

Other posts in our women in tech week include:

Geeks do drink prosecco by Liz Fletcher
Network filter bypass solutions by Rhosyn Celyn
Network Automation by Leslie Parr
IX model defended by Valeria Rossi
Board level veteran sees progress by Lesley Hansen
Rural broadband solutions by Chris Conder
Pebbles, Pebbles everywhere by Sarah Baskerville

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The conversation is moving to a few places online

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I used Skype Out yesterday

My six monthly Skype call

I used Skype Out yesterday. I’d previously had an email from Skype telling me my Skype Out account had been frozen because I hadn’t used it recently. That’s because Skype is quite expensive compared to other VoIP services so I dropped it. Still had about £6.60 in there though and i was dischuffed to say the least to think that Skype might happily pocket this.

Unlocking the account was simple enough though and Skype told me that as long as I used it in a 6 month window the account would remain active. I find it convenient to keep that account just in case of emergencies so I rang my dear old dad in the Isle of Man. As it happens all the DECT handsets in the house needed charging so Skype was it. Not an emergency mind you but hey…

I’m now ok until sometime in December at which time I’ll do another keep alive call, maybe to me dad again.

You might ask why didn’t I just use my mobile to call dad. That’s because the rip off mobile networks categorise the Isle of Man as overseas and charge international rates. It is actually overseas but the fixed line networks treat it as an UK number.

Although I said Skype was more expensive than other voip services I still have approximately the same amount of money in the account. It’s all relative.

If anyone wants to call me my Skype address is I do have an account that is something like Trefor.Davies but I lost the password for that yonks ago and moreover can’t remember which (probably long defunct) email address I used so had to set up a new one. is good anyway.

When turned into a business I decided not to have phone numbers so my contact details are [email protected] (G+) and (Skype). In reality I also use my mobile phone number although when I recently changed mobile networks I did consider just getting a data only sim. I figure that at this stage of the game that was a step too far.

Feel free to give me a call on either of those addresses. I’m a pretty approachable guy:)

PS lots of Skype stuff on this blog – check it out here.

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QR Codes only – no prices on display

Impressive display in Music shop has no prices – just QR codes.

Joe and I were heading out to Carrefour in the Pigalle, as you do, to get some basics in for le weekend. Yanow, beurre, jus d’orange and so on. On the way we came across what seemed to be the biggest music shop we had ever seen. The interesting thing about the shop, apart from it being rammed with fantastic gear which, Joe being a musician was of instant interest, was that there were no prices on display. Only QR codes!

Only problem was that without mobile data connectivity we were unable to browse the prices. I use the EE £2 a day flat rate roaming for calls and texts back home but not their rip off mobile data service. Even the guy in the EE shop thought it was a rip off.

It didn’t really matter as we were saving our cents for croissants and vin rouge but the concept of not having any prices on display was novel in this day and age. Each item had more than one QR code so I suspect some of them were prices and some were info on the product.

This again is very progressive. You don’t spend cash on expensive musical instruments and kit without first doing your research. I remember once going into Currys to buy a TV. I know very little about TVs and deliberately keep it that way. So when it made sense to buy a flat one we could stick on the wall instead of using the dinosaur that took up half the room I figured it would be useful to ask an expert.

The expert to hand was fully trained in the art of reading and just read out the three line feature set that came with the pricing label on the display. Doh. A QR code would have been very handy on that occasion although in reality, like many other gadgets today, there is very little to choose between products.

It reminds me of the time we were setting up We rang USwitch or some simlar site to talk to one of their experts. See what the pitch was. The guy was totally useless. All he could offer was the fact that Virgin had the fastest broadband.

QR Codes linked ot product information are clearly the way forward. Some shops might want to push the products that give them most margin but that isn’t the customer friendly thing to do.


Ciao amigos.

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Expensify – another online revelation

Expensify makes expenses simple to submit

Everytime I find a new service that I think is great and realise it’s been around a while makes me realise how behind the times I am. All my LONAP expenses now go on to Expensify. It’s like my experiences with Uber and AirBnB. Just so easy to use.

I know that most of you will have been using the service for yonks so you’ll have to bear with me. I now scan in my receipts using the Expensify Android app and they appear in my account all broken down into VAT etc. Add a category from a drop down box and submit report. Magic.

It even has the facility to email receipts. So Uber taxi trips, where you get sent the receipt as soon as the trip is over, are just forwarded to [email protected] and they appear in my account. Oo. Other than restaurants and bars why would I ever ask for a paper receipt again? Hotels can usually email you a PDF receipt.

Sometimes you do have to wonder whether technology makes life harder than easier because it is prone to go wrong. I have to say though that this isn’t my experience with the aforementioned applications.

So now I do all my accounts online using Freeagent, pay my bills automatically (actually only HMRC payments are automatic – they don’t give you a choice 🙂 ) using Lloyds online banking, file my expenses online, book my road/train/planetravel online and upload the receipts via email. I also sell event tickets using the Eventbrite cloud service and I use Google Apps for business in which all my work is done online.

Like I said, sorry if none of this is new to you. I was so excited I had to get it off my chest:) Most of my working life I’ve had to submit expense receipts with forms filled in. There have been times when I’ve had six different currencies to account for. Six different forms. Not any more  mwahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaa.

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Working away from home & Natter

Natter Natter Natter Oy Oy Oy

The nature of the modern world is that people frequently have to travel as part of their job. In the internet plumbing game this is even more the case. I don’t think I’ve ever worked in an industry that has more conferences and meetings. In the UK alone there are 4 x 2 day LINX meetings, 3 x UKNOF meetings (that seem to extend to two days one way or another), a couple fo LONAP events, two ITSPA workshops and numerous miscellaneous other events.

Being involved with LONAP I also have other international events such as Euro-IX and RIPE meetings to attend.

The point is that wherever one goes one’s office goes with you. It wouldn’t have been so many years ago that this would not have been a simple activity. Taking this to the extreme I remember early on in my business career having to send a proposal to our New York office for onward transmission. The whole thing was faxed. I had a word processor but not email. The internet was in its infancy and applications a rarity.

I made many last minute changes to the somewhat substantial document but each change had to be made entirely within the page. I had to be able to refax a single page without having to change any of the other pages as this would have meant resending the whole document. We won the business btw 🙂

That sort of activity would have been unthinkable in our modern fast moving world. I’ve just had to fill in a new supplier form for an organisation I am doing business with. It needed a signature. I don’t do paper! I very rarely have to print anything out so this form is a bit of a nuisance.

No problemo. I scribbled my signature on a scrap of paper, took a picture, uploaded it to google drive, cropped and trimmed, inserted into the doc and downloaded as a pdf for sending. Hey presto a signed doc. Whether they accept it or not is another issue. These things are sent to try.

Today I am working from a hotel room in Liverpool – the featured image is the view from my room. Iconic. I’m not using the hotel WiFi as I have my EE MiFi which is more reliable. At least more reliable than the free WiFi. The premium service might be ok but hey…

I’m here because my dad is in hospital for an operation. Tref’s taxi service etc. As it happens both sisters had the same idea so we are having an unscheduled family get together. It’s worked out as I then didn’t have to get up at 6.30 to take dad to the hospital.

natterAnyway it’s actually just a normal working day out of my hotel room. As I was lying in bed this morning catching up on stuff on my intergalactic hand held communicator I was shoved an ad for Natter by Twitter.

Natter is “yet another social media platform”. I guess. You are only allowed three words. I signed up and had a play. My first attempt was “one two three”. Then I realised this was quite boring so I decided to see what I could get away with. I went for “supacalifragalisticexpialidocious  Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism #Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis”.

Natter came back with messages:

Just Three Words, please! (You can also include one @username and a #hashtag) and

is too long (maximum is 75 characters)

I looked up the last two words btw but the first I already knew.

I can’t see Natter becoming the hit that is Twitter. Note the 3,544 followers cf the 34 Million of @Twitter. This means it’s guaranteed to be successful but hey… Other than signing on to make sure I get a decent username (tref) which I do for new things that I come across, I am unlikely to adopt it. I haven’t got any followers and follow noone. I also note that Natter was launched in Bath in 2011. It must have just got some cash to advertise but in four years I’d have thought it would have already come to my notice if it was going to take off.

I do quite like the idea of keeping it short. After all Snapchat has taken off with exactly this philosophy though others have also gone before and failed. There was a 7 second video service whose name totally escapes me but seems to have disappeared from view.

I suspect 3 words ain’t enough though. Now the Haiku is a different game. With the Haiku you have 17 syllables to play with and the result could be quite classy. Constraining people to writing only in Japanese poetic form might limit the audience but we aren’t in this game to pander to the masses are we? Eh?

I’ve rambled on enough. This self indulgent blogging is all very well but there is a business to run. From my hotel room.


PS I’m on Natter

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Phone picks up NFC signal from wallet

NFC signal WTF?

Just noticed btw that my phone has been picking up an NFC signal from my wallet! Took me a while to figure out what was going on. The phone kept pinging an unfamiliar sound when I put it down near the wallet.

It’s a slight worry because whilst I’m sure my phone wears a white hat who knows what other devices there are around that might just be sitting there listening for NFC enabled devices. I only have an oyster card and my bank debit card with NFC enabled but the latter is very specifically the one you don’t want anyone gaining access to.

Now I’ve not researched this so don’t know what security arrangements are built in to the NFC chips but it does raise an eyebrow.

I’ve looked at NFC as a transport mechanism for a few different business opportunities, largely as a means of engaging advertisers with punters. Up until now it hasn’t flown. Originally one of the reasons was that NFC wasn’t supported by Apple. Now Apple do support NFC but it is only as a means of accessing Apple’s own payment gateway.  It’s not any use for transmitting other files.

The Apple use case includes having to have your thumb on on the home button to authenticate that it is you using the NFC for payment. Sounds like Apple getting deeper and deeper into personal info on you if you ask me. Next up will be DNA recognition!!! The fanbois will say I’m getting paranoid and that I should just accept all this “yes master stuff”. Well no thanks. We can fight this nyahahahahahahaaaaaa.

Y’all have a great day now. Would you like ketchup with that. I see your DNA suggests that you are a ketchup kind of guy.

PS if you don’t know what NFC is read about it here. Other mobile app stuff on this site here.

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Sky News on Snapchat

Obvious one really. Nobody wants to watch repeats of the news so Snapchat seems to me to be the perfect vehicle for it. This is why Sky News and Sky Sports have announced a new Snapchat app.

The one thing I have had against Snapchat, apart from the unwanted spam from Team Snapchat that I can’t seem to switch off, is the fact that it’s an ephemeral service. It doesn’t store what is sent. This is likely why people use it but I like to fill up data centres with stuff that never gets looked at again and just contributes to the growth of big data.

News is different. How often do you find yourself saying to yourself “o gawd not this again”. Usually when your on a car journey and have to listen to multiple bulletins about politicians having a go at each other about how they are all such slimebags1.

There is only one thing better than having the news on Snapchat and that is having no news at all. The world would be a happier place if all we could watch were repeats of Dad’s Army, Tom and Jerry, Top Gear and Futurama (only the first two were mine). The Tom and Jerry has to be a Fred Quimby though. I digress.

This Sky announcement is another step towards the ever shortening of our attention spans. In fact why do they even bother with Snapchat when Twitter is clearly the ultimate medium for this kind of stuff. Not only is a tweet very quick and easy to ready but half the time it’s disappeared below your screen so quickly that you haven’t even had a chance to read it. Perfect when it comes to bad news tweets, or election tweets from politicians having a go at each other yet again.

I specifically note the political thing because I live in the bellweather seat of Lincoln and we have them all mooching around kissing babies, inspecting new bits of equipment that will lead to new jobs and generally seeking media exposure of any kind. Today it’s Geo Osborne. Next week it’s Glen Millerband Dave Ed Miliband.

Dunno why I’m getting overtly political just now. I am not affiliated with any party btw and am happy to engage with politicians of all hues. I only recently found out (after 26 years of marriage!) that my wife is interested in politics. This might explain why son 1 did a degree in history and politics and why son 2 is lining up to do the same.

Son 2 in particular can’t understand my apathy and unwillingness to engage in political discussion over the dinner table when all my TV (1) and Radio (many) appearances have by and large been to discuss political stuff.

I’ve rambled on far more than intended and certainly not in keeping with the short attention span instant gratification we demand in our lives nowadays.


1 OK I believe the word currently in favour is “dodgy” but it’s all the same and all said under the protection of parliamentary privilege 🙂

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Randomly dictated

voice recognition

Giving the kids a lift to school this morning. T I thought i’d fill in some time was waiting for the kids to get ready by randomly dictating a post.
New line
I i also did this yesterday from the cafe in the office because i didn’t have a key with me and i was there before everybody else. 3 lot of errors in that situation because i had to keep my voice down and i’m not sure of the quality of the wifi in a cafe. I’m finding that at home when i don’t have to whisper or atleast speaking subdued tones and with good wifi at i’m able to speak quite quickly and the dictation turns out quite well. In fact it looks as if ur speaking more quickly turns out a better quality of dictated post. At least with the interpretation of the words are concerned if not the quality of what is being dictated.
New line
You could actually get quite used to do this if it wasn’t for the fact that speaking out loud in the office is going to be a disruptive to the other people in the office a good way, and efficient way of writing text. Nowadays my handwriting skills are very poor because most of the time i’m using keyboard i can see in future if my typing skills might suffer because i will just be using my spoken word.
New line
In one sense this will be coming full circle time with only the spoken word existed there was nothing there in terms of the written word available or having been invented yet and in fact the language that use these days probably reflects the language used by cavemen from the stone age in it uh know what i mean. I’m sure that the cavemen would be insulted to think that i was saying that their language wisdom downs but she hasn’t arrived on the scene at that time.
New line
Which 8:35 there are signs of life signs of children getting ready getting the shoes on. I’m already ready i’ve had my coat on for 15 minutes. I had to go out and check the diesel levels in the jeep. Where ok i can get them to school so i don’t know that getting back from school. 🙂

Stardate wednesday bingley to school mr spoc


There ya go – back to typing now. It’s not bad, and I know I’ve written about it before but I thought it was worth an update. The most interesting aspect of it was the fact that it quite liked me speaking quickly.

Bad Stuff Business ecommerce Engineer internet online safety Regs security surveillance & privacy

A quick guide to problems that will arise if we implement further internet surveillance measures

Snoopers Charter revisited

The aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo murders has lead to goverment and opposition calling for more internet surveillance. Here are a few points for your consideration.

  1. Storing this data will inevitably result in it being hacked, left on a train/taxi on a laptop/memory stick and details of a government minister affair with another MP being made public. Example here (29 Jan 2015)
  2. The overhead associated with having to gather and store the data in a secure way will be proportionally huge compared to the size of the business and to the number of customers for smaller ISPs. This will result in the government deciding not to force these businesses to store the information and settle just for the biggest 7 ISPs aka the Digital Economy Act. The consequence will be that potential terrorists will just use these smaller ISPs for their internet services leaving a big hole in the “surveillance net”
  3. The resources required to make this happen will be huge. The French government already knew about the Charlie Hebdo killers. They just lacked the feet on the street to keep tabs on them. Diverting staff to managing the data gathering project will mean even fewer feet on the street or divert cash from adding more feet.
  4. The technical challenges with managing sender and receiver data for email clients is not small due to the hundreds of different clients out there with non standard formats.
  5. Most email is in any case encrypted these days and is run on platforms that are not necessarily owned by UK businesses. The difficulties associated with extracting these data will not be small (if not impossible). Ditto social media platforms.
  6. Forcing these platforms to provide a back door into the encrypted data (assuming it will be doable) will erode trust in areas of the economy that also rely on such encryption such as banking and ecommerce.
  7. Businesses will move away from the UK. It will be the start of the rot and leave us with a reputation akin to China et all when it comes to “surveillance society”.
  8. Terrorists will move deeper into darknets and continue to kill innocent people.
  9. On balance I’d spend the money on more feet on the street.

The rush to call for the snooper’s charter to be implemented would result in a bad law that will not have had adequate scrutiny. My wife and one of the kids were in the audience during last night’s BBC Question Time filmed in Lincoln’s Drill Hall. I watched despite it being well after my bedtime.

None of the panellists or the audience really had a grasp on the issues which reflects its highly complex nature. It’s very easy for MPs to support this type of legislation. Most right minded people will agree that it’s a good thing to stop terrorism. It’s just that they don’t understand the implications.

Check out other snoopers charter type posts here.

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Online life – more trust being placed in mobile devices & airbnb

In which I book a flat in Paris using airbnb

Had a really good online experience last night. The Davies’ are off to Paris for Easter to celebrate our daughter’s 21st birthday (I know I know I don’t look old enough). She will already be there so transport and accommodation for the remaining five of us ain’t cheap and takes a bit of shopping around. I booked Eurostar and then looked for accommodation for 5 people

The daughter will have a flat in Paris by then and the small army of mates she has invited over will be laying claim to that space. A hotel can get expensive. An apartment was the answer.

I ended up on for the first time. I’m not into renting a room in someone’s house whilst they are there but airbnb also do whole house rentals. I booked 2 flats. One for the week that we go over at the beginning of Feb to do some flat hunting, open a bank account and get an NI number. The second for the family for Easter weekend (bear with me).

I found a nice 3 bedroom place in Montmartre but needed clarification as to what constituted a “bedroom”. You see some places where a curtain down the middle of the room turns that room into a 2 bedroom flat and one of the beds is an airbed. I’m after quality.

I sent a question to the owner and retired upstairs. In bed an sms came in with the answer. 3 proper bedrooms with proper beds. Sorted. I was going to leave the booking until the morning but noticed a red button on my phone inviting me to confirm and pay for the reservation there and then.

Clicking on the button took me to the Play Store, downloaded the airbnb app and let me finish off the transaction. Totally seamless. A serious joy to use.

This ranks with Uber as one of my recent “discoveries” of highly useful and functional mobile applications. I also now manage my bank account from my mobile.

The point is that up until fairly recently I wouldn’t have touched financial transactions with a bargepole when using my mobile. I didn’t consider it a secure enough device. Now I’m spending thousands of pounds at the click of a button.

What’s changed. First of all the bank made a point of stressing that it would cover any losses incurred as a result of use of the phone app. That was good enough for me. That also removed the barriers for me to use the phone for other financial transactions.In fact these days I am far less reticent about storing my credit card details with online retailers than I used to be.

My phone really is becoming my global personal management device. I do everything through it. I also use 2 Chromebooks. One in the office and one at home. I used to think that the phone would one day replace a PC. All it would take would be a screen and a dock next to the keyboard – see my CES 2012 non report which mentions this.

Reality is that is what I already have. The Chromebook, which is a considerably cheaper device than my phone, is effectively that keyboard and docking device in one. That’s because nothing of real value is stored locally on either my phone or my Chromebook. It’s all in the cloud.

If push came to shove I could do without my Chromebook, as long as I had my phone. This actually sits quite nicely with my CES 2015 post earlier this week. In that post I discussed the fact that we never see revolutionary new products at such trade shows. However  mature products can eventually look revolutionary when you look back and compare them with their functionality at launch. I used the iPhone as an example.

Now I look at the whole concept of the mobile device and see that it really has become the stand out revolutionary gadget that makes a huge difference. I’m not sure that the current “wearable” revolution/fad is going to have the same legs. Unless wearable devices are just the evolution of the mobile phone form factor and we have a cheap and perhaps disposable User Interface device to replace what we now call a handset.

I can envisage walking in to a room and using a display in that room in order to see the emails/IM/video coming in on my by now tiny handset that sits in my watch or on my keyring. We already have the prototype of such displays with the TV and the Chromecast.

I  have regular hangouts with my daughter who currently lives in Toledo (she gets around). I see no reason why these hangouts shouldn’t happen on the TV, voice-controlled. We are almost there. Slap low cost displays around the house and you could do the same thing in any room. The only thing missing is the camera on top of the display. Mere detail.

This all came about from finding that airbnb was a joy to use. Life really is now all about the mobile device and the cloud1.

I’m digressing a bit but the one surprising change in the market is the reduced dominance of the mobile service providers. Telecoms services are rapidly homogenising into a single service set with fixed line broadband perhaps being the leading play. Mobile/cellular connectivity is just something you use when nowhere near a wifi connection (that’s the way it’s going even if it isn’t quite there yet.  It’s certainly true where home use is concerned).

It’s a tough old game, telecoms. For years telcos have been fighting against the race to the bottom. Who can provide he cheapest services. To counter this they have tried to introduce added value services. TV is the only successful such service that people are willing to pay for.

The telcos problem is that for a service to be a winner, such as airbnb and Uber it has to be independent of the telco. These revenue streams are denied to them.

Back to the science fiction of now almost the only thing that is really stopping me reducing my reliance on the old fashioned keyboard UI is the fact that an open office isn’t the right place to hold a conversation with your display. I also don’t want to spend my whole day talking to a computer. Furthermore voice recognition tech will really need to do something about ending sentences. On my droid I have to say “period”. Who on earth calls a full stop a period???

Mere detail…

1 yes yes ok I know life is really all about happiness and wellbeing etc with a dose of number 42 thrown in for good measure:)

ecommerce End User

Black Friday stuff

Black’s Black Friday – 15% off full priced items

I was lying in bed this morning when Black Friday was all over the news. If this blog is the only media you ever take notice of you need to know that Black Friday is an Americun import designed to try and make people rush to spend money by thinking they are getting fantastic deals on stuff.

So I picked up my trusty phone and looked up Tesco online. Not with a view to buying anything you realise. What do I need? Just to see what kind of bargains were available. Oo, Tesco’s website was busy and I couldn’t get on it. At 7.30 in the morning. People need to get a life!

In the interest of research I went on Amazon. I could access That’s what happens when you own a massively scalable cloud resource. Nothing on there to buy that jumped out of the page though so I visited PC World. The “bargains” on PC World appeared to all have 10% off. Oh.

Now don’t get me wrong. 10% off is a good thing but it doesn’t really seem to be the level of discount that should justify the hype around “Black Friday”. Maybe I’m just an ungrateful sod. Maybe these products are already sold at such competitive prices that it’s difficult to knock the price down any further. No so sure about that when you consider the manufacturing costs of electronics these days must be rock bottom – just look at the components of my dissected Chromebook in yesterday’s post. PC World seems a bloated inefficient organisation to me (allegedly, own opinion etc). Never make the mistake of telling them you are buying something for your business. It takes about 15 minutes to process a credit card when 5 seconds is the norm.

I’m sure that if you shopped around online you would probably find that product you were considering clicking “buy” for available elsewhere at that Black Friday reduced price. Time spent doing due diligence for product purchases online has replaced time spent wandering around the shops. At least in my world it has. Especially when it comes to buying train tickets. Let’s not go there.

Just to round off this somewhat negative post I’d like to share with you the fact that my walk to work takes me by Blacks, the outdoors shop. Their window dressing was using “Cyber weekend” as their promo as opposed to Black Friday. Obvs trying to avoid confusion. I think they missed a trick. They could have called it “Blacks Friday” and demonstrated leadership.

Blacks’ Cyber weekend promo is a perfect example of what I’ve been talking about in this post. They are offering 15% off “full priced” items. Who buys full priced items these days? Maybe I’m just tight…

blacks cyber weekend deals

broken gear chromebook Engineer google

This Chromebook is Dead

Deceased, kaput, no longer of this world – dead Chromebook motherboard

It is with a tinge of no real sadness that I present to you an image of a dead Chromebook motherboard. The Samsung Chromebook too is dead, on account of the non functioning motherboard.

It wasn’t a huge loss because these things are so cheap they are almost disposable. And disposing of it I am indeed doing. The dismembering of the Chromebook, I hesitate to call it a computer because that makes me think Microsoft, has been done for two reasons.

Firstly out of simple curiosity to see what it looks like inside. Secondly although I didn’t keep much data on the 16GB solid state drive there would have been some files of I know not what provenance and so it seemed to make sense to permanently delete this memory. Just what you would have done in the old hard drive days but slightly different.

As you can see the ssd now has a nail in it, driven firmly in by my handy Leatherman Multi-tool. No one should be without one.

The dead Chromebook motherboard itself is worth dwelling on. It’s diminutive nature represents beauty and the plastic shell in which it was mounted, consisting mostly of screen, keyboard and a couple of speakers, evidence of how cheap these things really are to churn out.

It is the future. Low cost, disposable computing resource and User Interface.

I include an earlier photo of the dead Chromebook motherboard for comparison together with

Business google

Bad links

Google webmaster guidelines

This is an interesting one. I got home last night from London having been to a charity lunch at Lords Cricket Ground as a guest of my friend Mehdi Nezarati of esna. It was a great afternoon and will suffice to tell you that lunch was timetabled to finish at 18.30 for you to understand the nature of the “session”.

Before I hit the hay I noticed an email:

We wish to thank you for linking to our site xxxxxx from Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that this link is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

It is important for us to bring our site into compliance with Google’s terms.

Please remove our link from the following page(s):

I’ve removed the links from this post though not from the blog. The two “offending” posts were one that I had written and one which was a guest post from a senior exec in the VoIP industry who also happens to be an old friend.

I replied to the email with the words “you are talking balderdash” (I actually didn’t use the word balderdash but it did start with b) and left it at that. It’s always a bit of a risk to reply to emails like that having spent the afternoon at a charity lunch that drifts into the evening but hey…

This morning I woke up to an email conversational trail that basically agreed with my statement. There is a story behind it. Names are withheld but basically a competitor to my friend’s company had identified hundreds of links to the company’s website and reported them to Google as not being natural.

Google ranks websites by the number and quality of the links into that website. for example gets linked to by the BBC, telegraph guardian and others. This is good in Google’s eyes as these are all highly rated platforms in their own right. I don’t do anything to get these links. They just happen.

Now website owners often pay to generate links. I get many such offers as well as solicitations from people offering free content provided they can insert a link. I turn them all down. If Google were to suspect that was indulging in such activity, or that we were trying to artificially generate links in to us it would be looked upon badly and would begin to affect how we feature in search engine results. ie we wouldn’t feature.

This business can get dirty. Some websites have been know to pay to have such bad links into their competitors’ sites and even to get links in from totally inappropriate sites such as those promoting porn and gambling (I’m told these do exist).

Legit business have to then systematically find these bad links and work their way through the hosts asking for the links to be removed. Alternatively they have to ask Google to not recognise the links.

This is the first time I’ve seen this happen “in the wild” but it is interesting. We did discuss naming the companies involved but concluded this would be too high risk. This stuff all happens in a murky internet underworld and doesn’t get seen by the general public.

Getting back to the lunch. Mehdi is a really top bloke and has spoken at a couple of events the past. His company esna is doing very interesting things in the Google UC space. His guest list represented a roll call of heavy hitters in the communications world. You should expect to hear more from esna.

The lunch was organised by a company called Superskills Experiences run by former rugby players Will Greenwood and Austin Healey. They raise a tremendous amount of cash for good causes. Yesterday was no exception with some of the lots going for £40k or so! Lots of rugby celebs there including Lawrence Dalaglio, Jonny Wilkinson and Sean Fitzpatrick being interviewed on stage In the featured image.

Wales v All Blacks tomorrow. I’ll be there.

Apps Engineer peering

Slack Instant Messaging

Using Slack Instant Messaging for our LONAP communications

Just trying out Slack Instant Messaging for now. My first reaction when one of the boys suggested it was “oh no, not another IM system. Why can’t we just use hangouts, or messenger, or anything we already have.”

I’ve changed my mind. Having a system that is essentially private for one company is great. I get notifications on my Android when a Slack IM comes in. Normally I check my mail for LONAP messages but only do it periodically. We don’t use gmail which is my normal platform for everything else.

Slack UII also have slack for my Chromebook. It’s a web based service so no plugin. At least not one that I am using. I  can enable desktop notifications but have happily left this switched off as I prefer the notifications to come in on my phone. I do like the fact that you can choose keywords for alerts.

It’s generally early days for us with Slack but the omens are good. We are expecting it to turn us into a more responsive organisation. It’s all about serving our members 🙂 We are a very distributed team all working remotely so good comms are essential.

If you don’t know or haven’t been following recent posts, LONAP is an Internet Exchange Point that connects eyeball networks with content providers. We have some major global names as members: Twitter, Google, Netflix etc.

There is a good chance that if you are using social media in the UK you are reaching it via LONAP which has a great reputation as being a network run by engineers for engineers.

As far as Slack goes I have been a user of Instant Messaging almost from the start and have grown sceptical as to whether anyone needs a new service. There seem to be loads of them all over the place.

My mind has been changed, by Slack. I’ll still use Facebook to chat to the kids and Hangouts for the businesses but where LONAP is concerned, Slack Instant Messaging it is.