Thursday, 4 December 2014

Is this adaptive digital digitally adaptive stuff just the 'kings new clothes'?

Adaptive, digital or digitally adaptive?
The Kings new clothes?
1.serving or able to adapt; showing or contributing to adaptation :
verb (used with object) make suitable to requirements or conditions; adjust or modify fittingly:
They adapted themselves to the change quickly. He adapted the novel for movies.
verb (used without object) adjust oneself to different conditions, environment, etc.:
to adapt easily to all circumstances.
As with any 'new thing' , or renamed 'old thing' (depending upon your point of view) a body of jargon very soon begins to develop. This is usually a confusing but potentially exciting time in the evolution of a new thing. It is a time when words about things can be given meaning, definitions, context and all that good stuff. It is also a time when it is not quite clear if people are using words literally or metaphorically which gives rise to further opportunities for ground to be gained by those who want the jargon to become linked to their particular meaning,agenda or emphasis. This is pretty much where we are with digital' at the present time. Obviously this statement will be challenged by those who believe that they already have the meaning tied down or at least they have given it the meaning they want and will fight that particular corner....
So there is  a company called 'digitallyadaptive' which is no more than an advertising and marketing agency that is advocating the use of social media in campaigns. However, it is a fact that social media as a very serious social force has come from virtually nowhere in under 10 years and, in our sector we see many people still just 'not getting it'. But, strictly speaking the company name is certainly accurate given the definitions of adaptive and adapt and the fact that 'social media' is viewed by the majority of people 'in the know' to be a 'digital' phenomenon.
Here, with the adjective 'digital', we hit a series of million dollar questions. 
  1. What does it mean? 
  2. How does the context change the meaning - or does it not? 
  3. Is it starting to be used as a metaphor for something very different to any of its standard definitions?
So let's look at the evolution of its definition :
1. displaying a readout in numerical digits rather than by a pointer or hands on a dial: a digital speedometer; a digital watch.
2.of, pertaining to, or using numerical calculations.
3.of, pertaining to, or using data in the form of numerical digits: a digital image;
digital devices.
4.involving or using numerical digits expressed in a scale of notation, usually in the binary system, to represent discretely all variables occurring in a problem.
5.available in electronic form; readable and manipulable by computer:
6.pertaining to, noting, or making use of computers and computerized technologies, including the Internet:
"We are living in an increasingly digital world." 
"Digital activism uses social media to achieve political reform." 
"His blog is a great example of digital journalism." 
"Digital technology has revolutionized the music industry."
The final, or current, stage of this evolution does approach the outer perimeters of how digital is being used by many 'leading thinkers' but not really close enough for the practitioners, the pragmatists and the pedants to think it worth devoting much time to...
It is undeniable that there is a very significant social change, with momentum and observable results happening. It is equally undeniable that digital technology (using definition 6) is inextricably linked to this social change and drive. However it was similarly linked in the days it was called 'e' or 'i' or 't', so what has changed?
Is the digital part of the equation no more than a rebrand of previous 'initiatives' driven by people who want to sell you, or persuade you about, the same old same old?
I think not. It is at this point we need to consider that interesting linguistic change from literal to metaphorical.
1.A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable:
when we speak of gene maps and gene mapping, we use a cartographic metaphor
1.1.A thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else
That is easy enough to understand unless the word 'digital' is being taken beyond that of simple 'metaphor' into the realms of the 'cultural metaphor'......
Any (ordinary) metaphor is only as good as the value in creates in providing new insights and increased understanding,  but a cultural metaphor is even more complex, as it involves aggregations of individuals. 
"A cultural metaphor is any activity, phenomenon, or institution with which members of a given culture emotionally and/or cognitively identify.  As such, the metaphor represents the underlying values expressive of the culture itself.  Frequently, outsiders have a difficult time relating to and/or understanding the underlying values of a culture...
(Understanding Global Cultures: Metaphorical Journeys Through 23 Nations (Gannon, 2001a) Emphasis mine.
If 'digital' is being taken, or taking us, into the realms of cultural metaphor, what does it signify, (note we stop using the word 'mean' at this point)
This is a difficult area as there is currently no widely accepted 'right answer', which is probably significant as we consider some of the characteristics of what we think 'digital' is coming to signify.
Cultures don't develop overnight and the cultural metaphor 'digital' (yes, I've decided that's what it is....) is, i believe, the result of the cultural phenomenon of 'digital natives' ( a term coined by Marc Prensky in his work "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants" published in 2001)
Generally the term 'digital native' refers to changes in which the digital era has transformed the way people born into that era lead their lives. It refers to how they relate to one another, to technology and how it shapes expectations of what can be achieved and how. So now we start to make inroads into the metaphor as we are introduced to cultural elements. These are thought and behaviour shaping elements  that actually have demonstrable effects on the way people expect and choose to live their lives, to transact business and to manage relationships. It is certainly a step change from the literal definitions 1 through 5 above.
As a 'digital settler' (well, I think I am) this chimes with me and I find it both helpful and illuminating. 
In case you were wondering, although  settlers grew up in an analog-only world, they have helped to create and shape the digital worlds contours. They can be quite sophisticated in their use of these technologies, but also rely on traditional forms of analog interaction, (if you can't be a digital native, this is the place to be)
Escaping the tyranny of literalism in the quest to understand cultural shifts is akin to using imaginary numbers to produce very real results from otherwise insoluble mathematical problems.... The results are real, but the mechanisms used to get there may be seen as pretty esoteric.
There is a lot more really interesting stuff on this, but enough is enough, suffice to say that I think the word 'adaptive' is the one to which we must turn our attention.
Digital, both literally and metaphorically, is where we are. This is the name given, the metaphor currently in use, to describe a very tangible and observable cultural movement, born of technology and innovation, with life shaping influence. However, it is those with the inclination, capability, mindset and prescience who will not only identify the opportunities but will also drive forward the required changes to maximise the benefits afforded by the new opportunities. In short, those who see the need for, and are prepared to invest themselves in, adapting to the new circumstances.
These will be the disruptive innovators, the vanguards who enable others to see the future by making some of it happen now. It was the case with the wheel, with smelting, with steam power, electricity, flight, medicine and 'digital'. It will also be the case with whatever comes along next - be it literal, metaphorical or , most likely, both. 
But there will be those who just say 'bollocks to all that, I just want to do me something digital'

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Apple, what a nice bunch!

OK, so my 3 Apple devices (2 x iPhone 5 & an iPad Retina) are meant to be an aid to productivity, to make life easier and more connected and to give easy access to the services we need through the biggest app library on the planet.

Which was pretty much all true until IOS 8 - and it's equally impotent variant upgrades came along. The operating system from hell - and like all fundamentalist versions of hell there is no going back, it's a one way street.
So why have I turned from being moderately OK with overly expensive bits of glass and metal from a supplier that needs to get out from up its own.... well let's leave it there, to dreading switching the devices on?

It seems like a game of Russian roulette in terms of which of my (paid for) business apps won't work today - will it be the expenses app? Will it be the Office app or the parking app - I'm sure you get the picture, or not if the picture is part of an app that hitherto worked without fault!

Of course the question of apps working or not becomes academic when the networks that simply connected a week ago are sometimes not even detected this week or when they are they take an eternity to connect..... Making carrier pigeons seem like a quicker and more attractive communication proposition....

Come Apple, seems like you are making Samsung's job far too easy.....

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Government Digital Service... Love 'em or hate 'em?

Geeks in jeans are the Treasury's new heroes, is the title of an article in The Times today by Rachel Sylvester .... and IMHO it is very good.
We hear all manner of horrors about 'GDS' - the provenance of which, though often unknown, is almost certainly located in the heart of 'the establishment' or 'career civil servants'. However, assessing this as a citizen looking in I cannot help think how admirable are the aspirations and how it has been a long time coming in government.

By natural disposition I always like the 'move fast and break things' approach in certain areas....and this is one of those areas. 

It's by no means a done deal, and certain politicians have staked their Cabinet, if not political, careers on 'success' , but credit to them for actually finding a parapet and sticking their head above it!

Obviously I recommend you buy the Times, preferably 'digitally' and look at 'Opinion' on pg 21.... but failing that, here's the article:

A digital revolution, masterminded by a team of dress-down civil servants, could save the taxpayer billions.......
A quiet revolution is under way in government. It is being engineered from a modern open-plan office in Holborn, halfway between Whitehall and East London’s so-called “Silicon Roundabout”. This is the headquarters of the Government Digital Service, an outpost of the Civil Service that is all water coolers and break-out zones. Here nobody wears a suit. Teenagers in hoodies type furiously at Apple Macs, under the motto: “Be consistent, not uniform.”
On one side, the work programme for the creation of an online public sector is set out on an enormous whiteboard known as “the Wall”. It is covered in fluorescent Post-its and scattered with pictures of the Ant Hill Mob from Wacky Races — stickers, a note explains, which show proposals that have “not come through approvals board”. In any other part of the Civil Service machine, bypassing the system in this way would be frowned upon but at the Government Digital Service such creativity is encouraged. Staff like to quote Facebook’s slogan “Move fast and break things” to describe the culture change that is under way.
Sir Humphrey Appleby would be horrified but the hero in Holborn is the Apple founder Steve Jobs. The average age of staff here is eight years lower than in the rest of Whitehall and the youngest software developer was hired straight out of school when he was only 17. In Downing Street they talk of the clash of “the geeks and the grandees”.
For years, government IT has been a nightmare of spiralling costs and incompetent contracts for super-computers that never worked. Now it is seen by the coalition as a huge opportunity that could save billions of pounds for the taxpayer over the next ten years, as well as dramatically improving the delivery of public services. Last year £500 million of savings were announced and the annual cost reduction is predicted to rise to £1.2 billion by 2015, creating what Francis Maude, the minister responsible, likes to call “pain-free cuts”.
As if to prove the point, the computers at the Government Digital Service cost at least two thirds less than those in other departments. At the same time the average cost of a digital transaction is 20 times lower than using the phone, 30 times lower than the post and 50 times lower than a face-to-face arrangement. There are implications for every part of the public sector. By introducing digitalised construction programmes across Whitehall, the Cabinet Office believes it can save 40 per cent on the cost of building secondary schools.
This is not, however, just about saving money; it’s also about catching up with the internet age, which has transformed the balance of power between politicians and the public. People who are used to ordering books on Amazon in a few seconds or arranging supermarket deliveries from the train on their iPad, are no longer happy to wait in line and follow a bureaucratic paper trail when it comes to dealing with the Government in the Google age. “We are redesigning the relationship between citizen and State,” says Mike Bracken, the head of the service. “There’s a conceit at the heart of Whitehall which is that you should know how government works in order to deal with it. In fact, it should be about what does the user need?”
The website recently won the Design of the Year award, beating the Olympic cauldron and the Shard. Now, slowly but surely, the geeks are working their way through the departments, transforming the way they operate. A team from the Government Digital Service has just been sent into the Department for Work and Pensions to make sure that the complicated technology required for the implementation of the new Universal Credit scheme actually works.
Already, a foot-high pile of documents required to set up a Lasting Power of Attorney has been reduced to an online form that requires a few clicks on a keyboard. The Rural Payments Agency IT system has been completely redesigned to enable farmers to apply for grants using Google maps rather than relying on inspectors in wellies. Not only is this easier to use, it is also more reliable — since 2005 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has had to set aside £600 million to pay for fines as a result of errors generated by the old system. “When some big policy doesn’t go completely to plan in Whitehall, people say ‘that’s damaged trust in government’,” says Mr Bracken. “But in fact every time someone has a failed transaction or calls a contact centre and can’t get through, that damages user trust much more because it meaningfully affects their lives.”
What is fascinating is that while other parts of Whitehall are looking to privatise services, the Government is bringing technology back in-house. More than 250 people work at the Holborn HQ. Mr Bracken says that “an 18-year-long period of aggressive outsourcing of technology skills . . . is now at an end”. To the Treasury, the benefits are clear. One outside contractor was going to charge £30,000 to change a logo on a department website — the job was done in 15 minutes by one of the Government Digital Service’s teenagers in jeans.
Mr Maude talks scathingly of an “oligopoly” of large IT contractors whose time is up — until recently 70 per cent of the money went to only seven large contractors. Indeed, the Office of Fair Trading has launched an investigation into whether there is a lack of competition in the supply of technology to the public sector, with the biggest companies earning about £10.4 billion from the State.
The Government is now actively seeking to renegotiate more than 100 contracts and the aim is to get out of as many as possible altogether. Half of Whitehall’s IT contracts are coming up for renewal in the next two years and Stephen Kelly, the Government’s chief operating officer, is playing hardball. “Our message to the oligopolies is: ‘Change and you can have a long-term future, but if you can’t then tough’,” he told me. “The Government had thrown the keys of the castle over to industry and we want them back.” Mr Kelly says he will be sending “emergency SWAT teams” of negotiators into every department over the next few months to “wear the badge for the taxpayer” and ensure that no more expensive dud deals are done. There is a deliberate drive to use small British start-ups rather than large global corporates if outside help is required. Ministers say that they want to be on the side of the insurgents rather than the Establishment.
There could be trouble ahead. The large contractors have already started grumbling to their Whitehall friends. The mandarins are not happy about the attack on their power bases. But the geeks are relishing their fight with the grandees. As Steve Jobs once said: “It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.”

Thursday, 28 February 2013

33% into Lent Challenge

OK, notwithstanding the obvious difficulties in really experiencing this challenge when you live in hotels and work as a CEO,  I still find myself hit by certain 'realities' that are completely outside my comfort zone or experience. A challenge this ever about my 'attitude'.... was when I was packing for the week, which I knew involved two flights. I try only ever to fly with just hand luggage as I hate waiting at airport carousels, so packing for 4 days away with only a mid size rucksack is a challenge. This is especially so when it involves a laptop and tablet in your 6kg weight allowance.....My immediate though when packing was just pack the two shirts etc you will need for the period covering the flights then just buy stuff (shirts, ties etc) when you need them!! I know, hardly an attitude that aligns with the spirit of the challenge....Anyway, I am now an even better luggage packer and lighter traveller than I ever was, and I was pretty good. However, it's the coffee thing that gets me most often. I have a couple of hours to kill before a meeting so I would normally just find a nice coffee emporium (that sold nice cakes) take up residence and buy what I wanted. But,again, although justified by my job its not the spirit of the challenge. Then the thought struck me about those who have every waking hour 'spare' but without sufficient money to even consider a single trip to such a place let alone anything I really am drinking less coffee and eating less cake (which isn't a bad thing). I did buy a glass of wine last evening which blew 40% of my weekly spending, and it was a cheap wine. So, Thursday and have got £3 left for week.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Over 1 week in . .

Well, in some ways not doing bad - only spent £1.20 last weekend (on a piece of cake - luxury)- although this week I have had to spend £4 on some cough medicine, I was gutted. Today I spent £1.50 (on a piece of cake), but someone else paid for coffee :)

I can't help thinking about how false my job makes this challenge and how lightly I am 'getting off', but it is a real eye and mind opener. Four and a half weeks to go.....

Saturday, 16 February 2013

4 days into the benefit lent challenge...fair to middling

In some ways not a lot to tell, although I am venturing out on 2 wheels (with no engine) today...  I also feel the need to say, and it won't be for the last time, that I am extremely aware that what I am doing doesn't even come near to the real thing which is reality day after day for, sadly, an increasing number of people.

I like coffee. I like nice coffee. I have, for four days at least, actually avoided  just poping into Costa or Nero, or, for tasteful Londoners, Fleet River Bakery on a whim. I have been counting though, and on Thursday, without thinking, I found myself on seven, yes seven, occasions about to stroll in and order goodies...OK, I didn't, but it was only day 2!!
Anyway, the coffee has a more serious point... Today, at breakfast, I went straight for the nice coffee, which was in the house so that's OK (but when it's gone it's gone.. . ) and then remembered we have sachets of instant, filched from hotels, - what to do?  Well, it wasn't the outcome that got me (I am drinking the nice coffee as I type this - but when it's gone.. . ) but the thought process.

The speed with which thoughts such as 'why shouldn't I?', 'I deserve some nice coffee' and so on leaped into my mind was quite startling. Now, if I really was going through the hardship of actually having to survive on benefits I absolutely know that, because the situation would not have been my own doing and I would be seriously looking for a job, I would very soon be thinking, not that I 'deserve' something, but definitely that 'I don't deserve this'!

And that would be the first step to accepting the undeclared cash in hand job, or the looking for ways in which one could 'leverage' (hate that word, but it fits the purpose) extra benefits. That is said without any judgement whatsoever simply an acknowledgement of the reality of a situation and what you would do for yourself and your family.

It may well be that people of stronger character would not follow that path whatever the circumstances, but the purpose of this challenge was to gain just a glimpse of what it is like to 'walk a mile in someone elses shoes' and, on reflection, what the experience teaches me about myself.

It looks like rain, should I go out on the bike?....or not?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The benefit challenge begins

Well, it's the start of Lent so it's time to get going, although i'm not sure where as I can't afford the petrol. (:-D ) I will be asking a friend if I can 'lend' a bike when I get home (I realise the correct word is borrow, but I am from the NE so was using the vernacular)..anyway, HC can expect a call.

Good news, I have found an extra £3.50 per week spending money, downside is that it has cost me my last remaining life insurance policy... so i'm worth nothing dead anymore (I feel safer already!!!...)

So, in this new view of the world, its amazing what the prospect of an extra £3.50 means.... if I am really disciplined during the week, at the weekend I may ( possibly) be able to choose between a nice latte (small) or a bottle of Aldi wine... or maybe, as its cold, have the heating on an hour longer, or supplement the £35 p wk food budget. I didn't realise I would have so many choices as part of this challenge (please note the irony), although they are somewhat different to the choices I am used to regarding how to spend money.

Because my job is somewhat different to many of my friends there are some challenges about how things will work when I am at work, but I think I have ways to deal with that in terms of 'lifestyle'. I'll only be drinking very skinny drinks - and they will be from a tap! unless I find the odd benefactor.

It is somewhat strange that my first meeting on the first day of the challenge is a lunch in Whitehall....but I promise to have small portions and no pud....

Time to head into the day.