Thursday, December 13, 2012

Which iOS maps app?

Like pretty much everyone else I moaned and complained when iOS 6 removed the Google Maps I'd grown to rely on and produced a much inferior alternative.

Since then I've grown to appreciate the (normally accurate) turn by turn navigation, something Google hadn't offered. And I've begun to notice slight improvements in the mapping accuracy.

So far though I've found no use for the satellite flyover and near 3D view, apart from the initial flurry of interest.

Now there's a Google Maps app for iOS again and I installed it almost as soon as I could. They've introduced turn by turn navigation to match Apple. And it is so nice to have the public transport info back, along with traffic. But I can't find Street View.

And the Apple Map is obviously what I will get when I tap on an address in, say, a contact's record.

So it's swings and roundabouts still. Both will occupy a corner of my screen space and I will use whichever is best in the location I find myself in.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The problem with #LinkedIn endorsements

LinkedIn remains one of my favourite resources.  And I certainly understand the pressure on them to innovate new features and secure new business and revenue models.

But the latest 'endorsements' feature just isn't working for me. It's a case of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" ... Read on to discover the paradox.

It's too easy to succumb to the LinkedIn invitation to endorse people I'm connected with for skills that, honestly, I'm not certain I can vouch for. I just don't have the time to work through each of my contacts and give careful consideration to their claimed skill set; still less to volunteer skills that they may not have laid claim to. And, frankly, I really don't know many of them in enough detail to vouch for their claimed skill set - we may have worked together in a different context, so I've not seen some of those skills in action.

It's so much easier to click one button to endorse all the listed attributes.

Besides, the psychology at work here is something about "I'll endorse you, in the expectation that you'll endorse me back." It's like the pressure in Facebook and Twitter to accept a friend request, or to follow-back a follower.

So, sadly, what in theory is a great idea, giving an extra dimension and richness to professional public profiles, is being debased in practice to the point where, already, endorsements don't in practice carry much weight.

Except if you don't have any: and herein lies the paradox. The endorsements don't necessarily mean much; but not having any does! The absence of endorsements means that you've not been playing the current round of the social networking game, or just don't have enough engaged followers.

It's a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario.
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Friday, December 7, 2012

Unforeseen consequences of re-purposed technology

When I first uploaded my photo to a web service like LinkedIn I never imagined that one day there would be facial recognition technology which means that anyone with access to my photo from a different context can pull up the information about me from LinkedIn.

And then link from there to other databases about me, once they have my name and other key information.

Now the UK Government is planning to join up records across a number of government-owned databases as an alternative to the scrapped Identity Card scheme. Links will be made between the Royal Mail, the Student Loans Company, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Education Department, the Welsh Government, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority and more.

This will prove a super way of authenticating claims to individual voter registration, and is apparently cheaper than the scrapped Identity Card scheme. And for the stated purpose of voter registration it's probably not controversial in a country where it's obligatory for voters to register, even if they don't exercise their vote.

However, how will this technology be unexpectedly re-purposed in the future?
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dealing with a media storm

Today's news included reports that Max Clifford, PR consultant and publicist to the powerful, has been questioned about alleged offences from the 1970s.

His solicitor quickly published a masterful example of how to deal with the publicity around issues:

Max Clifford is being interviewed by police.
Mr Clifford will assist the police as best he can with their inquiries.
When we are in a position to provide further information, we will.
Notice a number of key elements:

  • The statement is very, very brief. The more you say, the more options become available.
  • It acknowledges fact(s) that can be easily verified independently; so there's no point trying to hide them.
  • It asserts that Mr Clifford will do his duty and co-operate fully, positioning him as a good citizen.
  • The final sentence attempts to close down further debate at this point, but in a manner that appears open and helpful.

This is a good boilerplate example to keep hold of as a model to use when appropriate.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Two years ahead of my time?! iPad replaces laptop

Online and mobile presentation company Brainshark, Inc released a survey in September saying that 92% of iPad users already find that it supplements their laptop; while 51% expect it to replace the laptop within two years.

I've (almost) done that already: last week I didn't switch on the Windows device once, though I did do quite a lot on a MacBook Air. However, I almost never travel with a laptop now: the iPad is smaller, lighter and faster to boot. And with Remote Desktop software I can even get at a virtual PC if I need to.

Other amazing stats from Brainshark:

  • When using their device for business, owners say they check work emails (82%), do Web research (72%), use business apps (46%), and view or deliver presentations (74%).

  • Users say the iPad has been a boon for work, making them: More productive – 64%; More successful at their jobs – 1 in 3 (32%); Able to close a deal – 1 in 5 (21%); Able to impress clients – 30%; More connected while traveling – 79%

  • When traveling for business, 89% of iPad owners report using their iPad. Currently, 60% of users say they bring their iPad and laptop with them; more than 1 in 3 (35%) bring just their iPad and leave the laptop at home.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ethics drive social media, like it or not

Yesterday I was asked to begin to help a local church to develop its social media guidelines for members to follow. It'll be an interesting project.

My first thought is that it will prove a really clear indication of what the church members really believe. If I say it's wrong to drive above the speed limit, but often drive too fast, then what I really believe is shown by what I do, not by what I say.

Just in the same way, if we pay lip service to principles like "speaking the truth in love" but then use social media to spread gossip, or make accusations about others, then we are displaying a credibility gap; what's normally called a breakdown in integrity.

We have to look for principles to follow because the technology changes too often for rules to work for long.

Many schools, companies and other organisations have a social media policy in place, and have sanctions available to help to enforce them. But in a voluntary community such sanctions aren't appropriate, or available. What to do about what can only be social media guidelines?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Benefitting from a single focus

One reason why I won't be buying a Windows 8 tablet anytime soon is the home screen. Last week I was at the Microsoft campus in the UK and had my first opportunity to try one of the new devices for a few minutes. I found myself mesmerised by the constantly changing tiles on the home screen, always presenting me with new information.

And there lies the problem. It's way too distracting. I already have to fight to think through a situation for a few minutes without interruption. (One of the reasons why I enjoy going for a run: to clear my head for half an hour, keeping fit in the process, and thinking, with only the occasional incoming call to disturb me.)

My regular Windows desktop glories in its multi-tasking, alerting me to a contact signing in to Skype, yet another email arriving, even just that Norton is cleaning the disk or making a backup. Each alert catches my eye and takes a little bit of my concentration to decide if I need to take action.

Even my preferred MacBook Air has its temptations for distraction: I can get Skype and email alerts clamouring for my attention there, too.

Yes, I know I can turn most of these things off. That takes desire, motivation, skill and time; and regular maintenance. This time saving tech steals my time in keeping it working the way I want it to.

One of the many reasons I've fallen in love with my iPads and iPhone is that they hide their (crude by comparison) multi-tasking behind an all-screen focus on what I'm doing now. I get a subtle top-of-screen alert to incoming emails; but remain focused on this article from The Economist; or that presentation I'm preparing; or the web page or Twitter stream I'm reviewing; or that spreadsheet or PDF or document ...

I can switch between these things so quickly and easily. But by not seeing the proliferation of windows competing for my attention span I find I'm more productive and much less distracted. For me, the animated tiles of the new Windows versions seem a step backwards to a messy desk state. I have enough trouble concentrating to be productive without "upgrading" to something that'll make that harder!