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Everyone loves a good digital freebie, right? But what is the cost of free when you are the product?

Are we questioning what ‘free’ actually means? We are so happy with our techy goodie bags that we are guilty of ignoring whether companies are offering free services out of the goodness of their hearts or whether they’re actually using us as the product.

The land of the free

We at Bamboo are web designers and digital creatives so we naturally have a boundless love for all things internet. But, what the internet was when it was first flung into our lives is very different from what it is now in the shiny world of 2018.

The people that created the internet had a lot of well-meaning ideals and created something mindbendingly revolutionary for our age. They built the internet because they wanted to create a free and plateaued information network that anyone in the world could access. They hoped one day that very open information forum would quite literally free people so that we could all gain access to education, improve our health, connect us as one planet and bring about the evolution of humankind. And the internet did just that, an earth-shattering achievement that should make anyone sit back in their seat.

At its best, the world wide web is a digital eutopia, but the internet also has a much more sinister side and like all perfect things us humans got involved and made it not so perfect.

Moneymaker

One way we brought the internet crashing back down to reality is by using the internet as a vehicle for business. As soon as capitalism crept into the seams, equal and free information was bound to wither. There are of course the internet warriors out there who invent systems or tools and release them to the public for free because they want to do good, but there a lot of people who pretend to do that very thing while making a shed load from their users – and that extends to apps, websites, search engines and online services.

To paraphrase the US free market columnist, Milton Friedman ‘There ain’t no such thing as free searching’ and that’s because most free digital products or services make their money by selling on your information and/or advertising to you. The likes of Google and Facebook sell our browsing behaviour onto third parties who then use that to target you more effectively through advertising. Facebook and the Silicon Valley gang then reuse your information to show you those very adverts, thanks to their clever little algorithms who pick up what you click on, write about or hover over.

When companies hoover up our browsing history or the very words we type to sell to someone else, we as people become the commodity. There are many of us that know but don’t care and are willing to take the risk so we can use kick-ass tools and services for free. The problem is though that companies aren’t being transparent so we don’t realise the true extent of how much these companies know about us and sell on to third parties. The very fact that we open our arms up to digital surveillance without questioning it should also ring huge privacy alarm bells for anyone blissfully scrolling through their apps.

Let’s Play

Even if we are sitting ducks and are seen more as dollar signs than users, we must surely be able to choose companies that don’t do that right? Correct, but the problem is that those companies are in the minority, and are losing the battle against some of the worst offenders out there who have eaten up the market.

To give you an example of some standard dastardly practices, we need to look no further than the search engine school bully, Google. The EU recently fined the tech giant £3.4 billion for strong-arming smartphone manufacturers to build Google’s search engine into their phones. How? They refused access to Google Play for any smartphone manufacturer that didn’t build in their search engine. They also took away consumer choice by denying smartphone manufacturers the freedom to choose competitor search systems that Google hadn’t approved.

Google did this because people don’t usually download competitor search engines, they’re more likely to use an already installed one, which meant that Google was able to eat up 80% of the mobile search engine market by forcing manufacturers to use them or be burned by them. It’s also not the only fine they’ve received, the EU slapped them with another £2.1 bn penalty after finding Google skewed the market in favour of their internet shopping service.

The search engine and other digital titans are willing to risk court cases over their illegal behaviour because the potential profit is always higher than the fines incurred. When Google has 80% of the smartphone market they are a literally the God of information and can sell their data loot to the highest bidder. So why wouldn’t they breach a few pesky EU regulations?

The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal is, of course, another colossal revelation into how our beloved apps and social platforms continuously flout our privacy rights as citizens while working in the moneymaking shadows.

And that is the real problem, companies thinking they could do business above the law and users assuming that companies conducted their affairs within the law. In the past, we inherently trusted Facebook, Google et al. much more than we trusted our own governments when we should’ve actually been very cautious of them. We trusted them because they were part of the golden internet generation when mega digital titans could rise up from bedrooms and college dorms, where tech masterminds were inventing tools to improve humankind. But those companies are now wealthier than countries, and that power can be consuming. So they began to act like countries or even Gods, and that is when we and our governments stepped in to protect our freedoms.

Braveheart

It’s a funny state of affairs when the internet, which was supposed to bring power to the individual, is used to strip freedom from users to such an extent that governments have to step in to protect those freedoms by controlling rampant misuse.

And in these pragmatic times, we all know that companies need to make money and can’t operate on lovely hippy ideals, but what we must fight for transparency and our rights to know what companies are doing with our information.

So even if we are the product we should still know exactly what that means and be able to choose how much companies use our data to make money. But we also need to fight for the internet and stop governments killing the very thing that makes the internet magical. A delicate digital tightrope between wanting the internet to be free and being protected from the people that abuse that freedom. We need to step up and proactively find out what’s happening to our data and use that knowledge to stop the tide when one side goes too far and we as users suffer.

One thing that’s clear is we as users are now firmly awake and won’t fall back into our old ignorant slumber. We now know that although we might be products we are also people with governments who won’t forget that the internet belongs to all of us.


Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

We live in an age where modern capitalism is no longer at loggerheads with giving back.

We’ve long since realised that the old dog-eat-dog model, where amoral money making is king, doesn’t quite sit right with us and how we view our role in the world.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) came from our collective will to see companies make money but also do good in the world, to have a society that is capitalist but also conscious. People now expect more from the companies where they work or buy from, they want them to reflect their values and be able to trust them.

It’s a colossal shift in how consumers think, and so companies now have to listen or risk us flitting off and finding a different brand. As consumers, we’ve finally found our voice and understand how to hold companies to ransom – change your ways or we’ll move on – and it looks like it’s working.

Greener Pastures

It’s not a stretch to say that we all want our companies to do the right thing, to protect us and to improve society. But because we are bombarded by information from all directions and every invention is updating at warp speed, we are finding it harder to see what companies are doing behind the scenes. A bit like walking in a digital sandstorm and trying to find a signpost telling you if you’re going in the right direction.

Recent revelations, such as the Facebook data breach, have made that feeling all too fresh in our minds. In the past, we assumed our rights as consumers were set in stone and as citizens, we were being protected. But we now know that isn’t the case and so we expect those companies to do something about it, and quickly.

We have been moving towards this stand-off for a very long time, we are more aware and more socially minded than ever, so when the bubble officially burst we looked past the business sandstorm and started to see all the shady goings-on.  Our loyalty is wavering, and our eyes are wandering to greener competitors and so companies are starting to quake in their boots and are scrambling to find ways to clean up their act.

Listen to me

Many people are still rightly cynical about conscious capitalism, and its shiny image for doing good. They argue the only reason the big bad corporate wolves are getting on the social responsibility bandwagon is that it actually makes them more money, and not because we are crying out for them to change.

But so what if it that’s true? You can’t change such an ingrained money-making mindset in a generation. So if they help make the world better because they’re scared, doesn’t that mean that we are being listened to?

The best thing about capitalism is that it relies on consumers to keep the wheel turning, and so the consumer actually has a colossal amount of power. It isn’t a coincidence that mega companies spend oodles of their precious dough just to understand what you are thinking about and where your buying habits are going. A good marketer always listens to the consumer, because if you stop listening, you can become irrelevant to your market.

And so, if we as a planet are getting greener and more socially conscious, companies will go in the same direction to keep you sweet and to remain competitive.

Magic number

It’s definitely naïve to think that companies give back because they feel guilty about their murky past and genuinely want to do some good. I’m sure they’re many out there that care, but for most it’s about image, legality, customer loyalty and competitiveness.

But that’s because we as consumers expect more from them and will affect their profits if they don’t do something right now. And so, if that’s how companies are going to change the tide and become positive impactors on the planet, shouldn’t we all be shouting CSR business benefits from our urban rooftops?

Away from the crucial moral reasons why corporate social responsibility is important, there are some pretty practical commercial reasons to start giving back to your community. Here are 3 reasons why doing good also helps your business –

1. Improves your brand image

Modern consumers are more aware and awake than their predecessors, especially so in the younger generations. If you look at societal patterns, the more the youth move into employment and consumer behaviour the more companies are going green. Why? Because younger consumers are much more likely to buy from companies that show their corporate responsibility or their will to be as ethical as possible.

A company’s public image is now at the mercy of social corporate responsibility. Buzzwords like ‘community’ ‘engagement’ ‘social’ and ‘green’ are overused for a reason – they are well received by the public because consumers feel good about buying from a socially responsible company that gives back to society.

The savvy marketer will also tell you that improving your CSR programs will help raise your media presence and exposure in the market, which helps shine a positive light on your business image.

2. Attracts and retains investors or business partnerships

Investors or partners want to know that their money is being used properly. In this day and age that involves not just your business plans and budgets, but your strong sense of corporate social responsibility. Why? Because it shows investors that you don’t just care about profit, you care about brand image, the planet, communities and the longevity of your business. It shows you know how to move with the times and listen to consumer patterns.

Investors also want to see that your employees are being looked after. Any good CSR strategy should have employee wellbeing and empowerement as a core part of the CSR plan, because your social responsibility should be internal as well as external.

3. Improves employee wellbeing and engagement

Scores of studies have shown that when you look after employee wellbeing and career progression it improves motivation, engagement and productivity. It even reduces sick leave and burn-out.

Your workplace will become a much more positive and happier environment which will encourage more creative thinking and better work, which in turn raises your profits. Your employees strengthen your organisation and are interlocked with your business growth and profit, and so when your staff are healthy so is your business.

End to begin

The fact that businesses are sitting up straight and realising how important corporate social responsibility truly is, marks an end to capitalism without conscience. We as consumers want businesses to care about us and the places we live and work, so if the only way to do that is to consume or work elsewhere, that’s what we’ll do, until all businesses reflect our values.

We aren’t quite at a point where all businesses are doing good or are doing enough good, but who knows where the shift in our consumer behaviour could take our businesses of the future. I don’t know about you but I’m feeling quite positive, because when something ends something else usually begins, and I have a feeling this new chapter is a lot greener.


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The first ever microchip hurtled into our lives in the early 1960s, since then the clever little squares have completely revolutionised our lives and miniaturised technology, making it more practical and readily accessible for everyone. The microchip is as important as the wheel, bronze, electricity and penicillin for human development.

Any equipment or device that carries out complicated control functions needs a microchip, it’s the brain and the central nervous system of our beloved technological inventions. Microchips were even used for some of our most historic moments, including the Apollo mission. They are in our smartphones, computers, TVs, GPS systems, tracking devices, large processors, planes, trains, identity cards and now even used for medicine.

If you take away the computer for example, which needs a microchip, we wouldn’t have the internet, smartphones, huge processors such as the Hadron Collider or any of the supercomputers that are chipping away at some of the most ‘out there’ human inventions going.

And microchips aren’t just a boundless pandora’s box of information and expert memory retainers, they also navigate and control that information to the right source. The more you think about it the more you realise the colossal importance of our clever little friends. Basically, if microchips were sucked out of our inventions to never grace our lives again, our modern society would fall to its feet.

Microchips have helped people across the planet to work, connect and carry out their daily lives in a healthier and more efficient way. Technology would be nothing without microchips, and technology systematically and unilaterally changed everything for us.

Chip on my shoulder

And because microchips have always had a bit of a revolutionary streak, it comes as no surprise that some of the developments cropping up in the last few years are as weird and wonderful as they come.

One of the stranger ones is human microchipping. The idea behind integrated technology has been coming over the hill for a while – computers went from fixed desks to laps to watches, and phones went from table, wall, to bag and pocket. The trend in technology has always been the smaller and more integrated the better, and what is more integrated than inside our very own bodies?

In the very near future, microchipping people will rock our natural world and will fling it into a new era where technology will be part of our skin. And let’s not forget microchipping both animals and humans has been around for a few years already, with implants for your beloved pets and wayward children readily available.

And mass microchipping of employees is on the horizon – The Swedish Incubator Centre started microchipping its employees in 2015 so that they can operate printers, open doors and use other encoded technology with their personalised microchip. There are also many inventors who are currently working on prototypes which would help us with health problems and mark huge medical advances. Tim Cannon, for example, is developing a chip that can read his internal thermal temperature, is able to connect to his smartphone and can ring an ambulance if his temperature abnormally spikes or drops.

Even though the huge benefits human microchipping could reap is plain as day, anyone with sense will be able to hear the Orwellian bells chiming at the sound of us all marching to be chipped. The untapped potential of tracking our every move, from marketing campaigns to government surveillance, is staggering.

Light of my life

Another project that will blow your scientific socks off is using microchips to turn light into sound. This might sound achingly pointless, but scientists across the world are devoting their lives to achieving this very goal.

Why? Because if scientists are able to make light particles (or photons) do the same thing as electrons in computers it would mark a new computing age. Photons use a lot less energy and produce less heat than our current devices and would work through our fully functioning fibre-optic cables. The problem is that light is too fast, so scientists need to slow it down and they are trying to do that by turning it into sound via a microchip.

In 2017, scientists in Australia had a major breakthrough and developed a light to sound microchip that worked for 3.5 nanoseconds. We are still a long way off a fully functioning chip, but once science cracks the puzzle, they’ll be able to build a light-based computer that would be faster, more efficient and cheaper than the computer you are reading this article on – pretty nifty stuff.

Build me a world

Another awe-inspiring invention currently being developed is a microchip which contains a particle accelerator. Yes you read that right – kind of like a a microchip Tardis.

The Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland has a circumference of 26 Kilometres and is used to collide electrons together. What the researchers at Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg want to do is to create the smallest machine of all time so that they can use laser beams to accelerate electrons within a microchip. If achieved, the invention will be as important as the first ever computer and will revolutionise material science, biology and medicine, especially so for cancer therapy.

The final frontier

As you can tell I’m a bit of a microchip groupie, but mostly an admirer of inventions that change our way of life for the better, inventions that fling us into a sparkling new age. And microchips have hands down helped us to fly forward at warp speed. The next steps for microchips are going to take us on a psychedelic ride into the limits of human imagination, science and technology – the only question remaining is, will it be the making or unmaking of the human race? Like any huge leap into the unkown, the gamble is often worth the reward.

 


Photo by Jonas Svidras on Unsplash

Photo by Brian Kostiuk on Unsplash

We’ve got to a stage in our digital adventure where we’ve reached peak information overload. There isn’t a point in the day where we aren’t thrown a statistic, a graph, an infographic or given a slurry of trends to watch out for.

We are now so bombarded by facts, which often oppose each other, that we are even starting to genuinely believe that facts are relative.

Truth Sayers

One of the reasons for this shift in how we view truth or facts is there are so many well regarded and official polls that have colossally failed to predict voting patterns. And these predication fails have subsequently managed to be part of the mudslide that tipped the world in a completely different direction, Trump and Brexit being the most obvious.

When experts are giving us facts and the reality doesn’t match up, we naturally start to come the conclusion that fact and opinion is part of the same blurry painting, and that one person’s truth is another person’s fiction.

And this isn’t a fringe belief, it’s starting to become an ingrained and popular mindset which has many experts referring to the current era as ‘post-truth’. We are basically living in a time when a fact can be subjective, and that belief is completely linked to how we view, process and interact with data.

The many brushstrokes

When we think of data we think of figures and that those figures are collected, processed and then churned out to show us what is truly happening at any given time. That could either be how long people are on Facebook every day, how many people believe aliens exist or which type of ketchup people shop for in Tesco.

What is consistently happening though, is that people are using a certain bit of data collection and using that as the whole picture. They use one result to tell a version of the story, but not the whole picture.

When you strip out complexity you run the risk of siloing information which often doesn’t show what is actually happening or what people are truly thinking. Much like how priests used the Latin Bible to pick out their own truths in a time when the general population couldn’t read or understand Latin.

We are now digital awakened, so we think of data as gospel. But the data we are absorbing isn’t as much of an all-seeing truth as we like we think, not because the data is infallible but because we aren’t analysing it in the right way. We are relying far too heavily on the cherry picking of data to tell the whole reality of a situation.  And when we cherry pick and don’t look past the data to the human story behind the number we run the danger of misleading an audience or even ourselves in the process.

We are forgetting that behind the data are people, and people aren’t wired like computers, often aren’t that logical or feel inclined to follow a predicted trend graph. Putting the humanity back into how we analyse and process data will ensure that we are more aligned with real thought processes and complex human natures, so we can predict things more accurately.

A great example is writing down everything you eat and drink for a whole month and then collating that data and creating results and insights from it. Some of the results might not make sense or be quite shocking. Say for example your alcohol consumption is a lot higher than the national average for the month and that you actually fall into the category of a binge drinker. But then if you have another look past that one result and go back to the story behind that statistic, the actual truth might be that you like a glass of wine every other night in front of your Netflix binge of the moment.

Raw data doesn’t work or isn’t properly reflected in reality when we don’t analyse what is actually happening behind the scenes, especially when we don’t use context or take into account human nature.

Once upon a time

Many people also think analysing data helps us to be more efficient (which it does) but the reason we all love a good statistic is because it helps us to understand the world and our place in it. Data at its best is useful and relative information which helps us to improve as a person, understand the current status quo and how we relate to one another.

We have started to forget what data truly is. Data is always a means to explaining a story, and we as humans love to communicate and understand ourselves through our stories. When we take out the complexity of life and the many layers of human nature from our data, we lobotomise it and make it float apart from reality. The story behind the data is always what matters.

Humane brain

Data is like music – at its most basic it’s just strings of notes which sit flat and lifeless on a music sheet. But once a musician takes time to find the emotive story of each note and processes it into a melody, the musician breathes life into those numbers and it finally makes sense and relates something to us. The individual notes become part of the entire song.

Giorgia Lupi, Information Designer and Data Humanism advocate, says it best in her Ted Talk:

“To make data faithfully representative of our human nature and to make sure they won’t mislead us anymore we need to design ways to include empathy and imperfection. Use human qualities in the way we collect, view and analyse data. Instead of using data to become more efficient we should start using data to become more humane.”

She even suggests that to bring humanity back into our data the most logical step is to take technology totally out of the question. We should start collecting our own behavioural patterns and using beautifully designed visual graphics to show how we think, feel and behave. We then apply those findings to engineer how our technologies analyse data.

Because technology can’t track our thoughts or intricate moods (yet) it is up to us to put our human spirit into our graphs and figures so that our polls and our predictions finally represent ever-changing global stories, people and viewpoints.

One thing is for sure, once we learn how to combine the power of data and our own human natures, we will create a data culture tour de force. It’s something that the whole technology sector is trying to solve, to be able to combine the best parts of ourselves and our inventions to create emotive and efficient technology.


Photo by Luiz Felipe Souza on UnsplashPhoto by Pankaj Patel on Unsplash

It’s fair to say that there’s been quite a lot of scaremongering about the upcoming GDPR laws flying about the internet and running across offices. You’ve also probably received an Armageddon of email spams from every company under the sun asking you to agree to be spammed for many more years to come.

But before you fall to the ground and raise your hands to the sky and ask what to do, don’t worry all is not lost – and you most certainly don’t need to do a ‘Wetherspoons’ and delete your entire database just to protect yourself.

All shook up

Let’s rewind for a second and talk about why GDPR is coming around the bend and what has triggered the EU government to act.

There is currently a bit of a shakeup going on between businesses and governments, especially when business is done online. Before, the internet was thought of as a boundless and utopian information sharing tool. The very essence of the internet was to have plateaued and free information. But our technological advances have been moving so quickly that governments have been struggling to keep up and protect citizens properly. And so with all this freedom came a darker side to the internet, and one of those murkier realms has always been data collecting.

It’s common knowledge that companies have been collecting personal data records from us without adequate consent for years. We never really liked it but what could we really do about it?

Well, the EU government has now stepped in to push for more transparency and auditing trails from companies to protect the privacy rights of its citizens. And GDPR is the practical application of the EU government’s wish to create a stricter version of our data privacy laws, which will unify EU member state laws and give more power to the people.

The law will come into action on the 25th of May 2018 and will specifically protect EU citizens from organisations using their data irresponsibly and gives citizens more visibility about what information is shared, as well as where and how companies use their data.

Pretty good stuff right? So why is it sending jitters across the business world?

I think we all agree more data protection for citizens is a good thing, but the challenge now for many companies is to understand what GDPR actually is and how they can become 100% compliant. Any businesses found not following the regulations could be fined up the 4% of the company’s global annual turnover. Although this penalty will be reserved for serious breaches, it is understandably a huge risk to be taking if you don’t swat up enough about how to handle your data properly.

The Big Bad Wolf

There is also a shed load of misconceptions about GDPR laws and it’s sending a lot of companies into a bit of a kerfuffle. The regulations aren’t as scary as most will have you think, and they definitely aren’t a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

So, what can you do?

You can lawfully process personal data without consent if it is necessary for:

A contract with the individual: for example, to supply goods or services they’ve requested, or to fulfil your obligations under an employment contract.

Compliance with a legal obligation: if you are required by UK or EU law to process the data for a particular purpose, you can.

Vital interests: you can process personal data if it’s necessary to protect someone’s life.  This could be the life of the person in question or someone else.

A public task: if you need to process personal data to carry out your official functions or a task in the public interest or you have a legal basis for the processing data under UK law

Legitimate interests: if you are a private-sector organisation, you can process personal data without consent if you have a genuine and legitimate reason (including commercial benefit), unless this is outweighed by harm to the individual’s rights and interests.

Wash my sins away

Providing consent is being talked about a lot for good reason. Companies now need an audit trail or record of when contacts in your database give consent (or permission) to marketing, being contacted or having their information shared. If the reason you are contacting someone doesn’t fit in the above list or you don’t have any tangible proof of consent for your current contacts you need to go and get it.  And when I say tangible proof I mean that you need the date, time, source, IP address and consent statement.

How? Most companies are directly emailing their contacts to ask them to confirm they still want to be contacted and are using a ‘double opt-in’ process. It’s crucial that the consent is freely given, traceable and that they have a choice to not give it.

Another good tip is to give your database a good cleanse. This prep work will mean that you can delete any irrelevant contacts, eroded data or contacts that appear twice. Doing a data cleanse will save a lot of time in the long run because it will stop you or your team contacting an unnecessary amount of people.

It’s also good to keep in mind that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your contacts. Spending time analysing your contacts and sorting them into importance will help with prioritising your GDPR campaigns and help build stronger relationships with your core customers. It’ll also give you a planned strategy and stop you and your team running around like headless chickens.

Hallelujah

If you haven’t sorted out your contact consent by the 25th of May you could be subject to penalties, right? Yes, but don’t panic.

The 25th of May is a cut-off point, but if you haven’t sorted out all your contacts and you aren’t 100% compliant by then just ensure that you have proof that you are enacting the requirements and that you are finalising your data consent or ‘opt-in’ plan. Showing that your data processing is ongoing could stop any infringement fines from occurring. So get your finger off the ‘delete all’ button and start sifting through your database.

Another crucial basis of the GDPR law is that you can send contacts (who haven’t given tangible consent) information if it is in their ‘legitimate interest’. If you can prove the information you are sending could be useful or could interest the person you are contacting, then you are legally allowed to and will be compliant with GDPR. Or in other words, you can choose between double opt-in consent or legitimate interest – music to all marketeer’s ears.

But what does the wonderful vague term ‘legitimate interest’ mean? Can you send adverts about your dance classes to anyone in the vicinity who has two working limbs? No. What you can do though is contact people based on their industry and job title. So what you are emailing them has the potential to benefit their business, themselves or be of interest to them.

As clear as day

There are some things that we all don’t know or can’t predict because the law needs to be alive and kicking to see how the regulations will come into action and how that will affect businesses and individuals. Questions like how does the right to erasure affect archives, how high will the fines be and will suppliers need to raise their prices to account for the loss of lead generation? The fog can only start to lift after the 25th of May when the law becomes a practical day to day regulation that we all work with.

What we all do know though is that GDPR is going to completely change how we receive information and how customers view their own data. GDPR is giving back ownership of our information in a time when information has never been more valuable.

What businesses now need to do is buckle up and except that we aren’t in Kansas anymore, but that Oz might not be such a bad place to do business in. If we accept that we might have to lose a lot of contacts but that we actually gain insight into our most loyal customers, we can actually use the changing times as a way to nurture existing relationships and create valuable content. GPDR will hopefully create a much stronger two-way bond between your business and your contacts, who have opted in to still listen to you.

If you would like to find out more, you could do a lot worse than start with the ICO’s guide for small businesses.

We recently posted a blog about Google so we thought it was only right to also dedicate a blog to the undisputed e-commerce titan Amazon.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Amazon is just an online shopping platform, a quick and easy service that acts as a middleman between you and the products you need.

Amazon is actually a much bigger beast and is growing at a staggering rate. The e-commerce giant owns 9% of the global retail market, is a book publisher and seller, a hardware and software producer, owns a surprising number of the sites including Twitch, IMDb and GoodReads and has most recently purchased the huge American grocery chain WholeFoods. And let’s not forget its plan to become the king of voice recognition, with Alexa and Echo.

Amazon has grown 560% in value from 2012 to 2018. It’s combined net worth is $177.9 billion which would make it the 55th richest country in the world, sliding ahead of oil-rich Algeria and Qatar.  Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, is the richest man in history and would be the 61st richest country in the world. He is currently richer than the wealth of Morocco and Sudan.

The kiss of death

We all know that money means power, so if a company or a person becomes richer than a country, what does that mean in the grand scheme of things? And why is Amazon’s rapid growth worrying so many experts and politicians around the world? Isn’t it normal for global businesses to grow and acquire new assets?

Sure it is, but the way Amazon goes about expanding and growing could be akin to a Pinky and the Brain episode, but where Brain actually succeeds. And I’m not exaggerating. The Bespoke Investment Group has been tracking 54 retail index stocks that have had brushes with Amazon in the competitive market, the negative effects for those companies were so huge that the BI Group have named it the ‘Death by Amazon Index’ and will soon release an ‘Amazon Survivors Index’ for those that have managed to crawl out of the black hole.

A great example of Amazon’s pull on stock markets is their recent Wholefood acquisition, which saw grocery chain stocks plummet as soon as the news hit that Amazon was moving into the grocery sector. And it seems Amazon’s power is so great that it need only mention a potential partnership to affect the stock market. The e-commerce heavyweights recently mentioned a potential healthcare project with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway which saw healthcare stocks start to move into a downward slide.

Why is the stock market so worried every time Amazon decides to move into a new sector?

When Amazon moves into a new sector, its intention is always to rule the waves of the sector it takes on. Amazon does this with two well-oiled strategies – the first is to be loved by their customers and the second is to use aggressive competitive takeovers to continue to rule their present markets and become kings of their future markets.

Track my progress

Amazon is also arguably one of the best customer behaviour trackers out there. Their analysts and algorithms do such a good job of tracking they can predict what we’ll want next. A bit like how the chain Target managed to predict when someone was pregnant just by what they bought. This obviously freaks people out and actually makes us realise the all-seeing power Amazon and the like have, so Amazon instead uses its omnipresence to subtly point us to a tailored e-commerce dreamland for all of our personal shopping wants and needs. Amazon knows that for customers to trust the brand it needs to show a friendly, cuddly face while sifting through our personal information.

They also use their hoovered-up data to see gaps in markets. So, if they see a large number of people searching for something but then not clicking through, they can see customers are trying to find something which Amazon currently doesn’t provide. Amazon then goes out and finds a partner to provide that service (which negatively affects other competitors) or creates a knock-off version themselves at a cheaper price, and effectively puts two fingers up at everyone else.

It also doesn’t have any problem competing with its own investments. Amazon infamously gave 5.6 million to start-up Nucleus for its Alexa powered conferencing tablet, only to release a very similar and cheaper Amazon device, the Echo Show.

Echo Chamber

Amazon, like most Tech Giants, is fighting it out to become the supreme leader of IoT, and specifically of voice recognition. To win, Amazon is assembling a tech army whose sole purpose is to see Amazon’s voice recognition software as the go-to brand in the entire world.

Don’t believe me? Here is a direct quote from Priya Abani, Amazon’s Director of AVS enablement.

“We basically envisage a world where Alexa is everywhere.”

A sentence that should strike fear into anyone that has seen enough doomsday films and doesn’t want Alexa to hear their every conversation (even if it forgets it). Or doesn’t want to see a company have pan-global access to a whole lot of personal data.

And when Priya Abani says everywhere she means everywhere. Amazon’s plan is to build Alexa software and hardware that can be built into anything and everything – from light bulbs and jewellery to cars and fridges. And this isn’t a lofty business strategy, Amazon is already working with partner brands to make that happen in the very near future.

Amazon basically wants to be the all-hearing ear in the ‘woke’ IoT world.

Jeepers Creepers

Have I scared you enough? No? Good, let’s move on to books.

Another business venture is their online publishing platform and their bookselling arm. Although great for self-publishing, smashing the old publishing barriers and gaining access to cheap literature, it actually serves as a commercially funnelled service for Amazon.

Amazon can pick and choose which books you see and which are recommended for you. Which means it can engineer which books become more successful. And not only can it do this on its publishing and e-commerce platform it also owns goodreads.com, which rates the books. A three-wheeled attack strategy that the Trojans would be proud of.

The end is near

Just joking.

But as Scott Galloway rightfully says in his insightfully hilarious video about tech companies and their mounting grip on the world – it is our role to put pressure on governments to hold tech companies to account so that they follow the same rules and laws that we and countries are governed by.

The internet and technology is truly a wonderful thing and has brought innovation after innovation to create a modern world full of possibilities. But like its inventors, us humans, it can have a darker side that we need to watch out for and not shut our eyes to.

There is a huge global shift ongoing at the moment to bring a bit of light and governance to some of the murkier realms of technology. What we need to do, as a global community, is strike the right balance between governance and the fantastic freedom and reach the internet and technology gives us. If one takes over the other one, that is when we must step in.


Photo by Andres Urena on Unsplash, Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Lights, Camera, Action

We were recently part of a video that celebrated the Northern Quarter for all of its creative flair and independent spirit. The video, to us, is a testament to what this area is about – working together to make a place the best it can be and to support each other to kick down the status quo. To do things our own way, because it’s the only way we know how to be. And most importantly, the friendly and happy vibe that seeps through our graffitied red bricks.

What we love about working in the Northern Quarter is the obvious freedom that mills about the area. People are just being themselves and are encouraged to make that into art or business – and what could be greater than that?

My achy breaky heart

We’ve written quite a few blogs about the Northern Quarter, it’s the sort of place that just needs to be written about. Anyone who’s walked along its streets, socialised in its bars and cafes or worked from its converted warehouses, understands what we mean.

For us, the Northern Quarter is the emblem of a city that was born to break rules. If Oxford Road is the brain then the Northern Quarter is the beating heart of an already iconic city. The lifeblood that pumps creative spirit across the streets and keeps pushing us all to proactively disrupt the norm.

And why wouldn’t it? When you have a surplus of talented people in a teeny tiny area who like nothing more than to do things their own way, you get a cultural hotspot that ticks to its own rhythm.

Define me at your peril

The Northern Quarter is a hard one to define because it has so many different identities and reasons for existing. I also feel like it doesn’t like to be labelled, so every time you try, it shirks it off and shows you another side to its personality.

The area is made up of about 20 streets and is packed to the brim with freelancers, tech entrepreneurs, food innovators, baristas, mixologists and quirky shop owners. A stone’s throw away from Piccadilly Gardens but still manages to feel like a tucked away urban village and part of a global movement. The area is also one of the most popular nights out but still somehow clings to its underground, creative soul.

And let’s not forget the striking graffiti murals splashed across our beloved red bricks. For me, the colourful walls are a physical reflection of what is going on inside our buildings. People living and working together so that we create something that is unique and that can be shared. And so our street art has inadvertently made the Northern Quarter an external art gallery with forever changing exhibitions for anyone who lives there or visits.

The Northern Quarter also loves hurtling itself into innovative ways to create and do business while at the same time cherishing the pubs, restaurants and shops of old. You don’t truly understand the Northern Quarter or the Mancunian mentality until you understand it’s love and respect for the old Manchester scene. That’s because people remember what the old city did for the metamorphosised, global city it now is. The old Manchester’s rich, unique identity acted like the backbone or the strong foundations to help the changing city to flourish and beat its colourful wings.

The streets of old

If you don’t know what I mean by the ‘old city’ or the ‘old Northern Quarter’. In the last 20 years, Manchester has gone through a phenomenal change, thanks to investment and retaining fantastic talent and innovative business, especially so in the tech world.

The Northern Quarter started off as an area mainly used for wholesalers, factories, live music, pubs and adult entertainment – much like Pigalle in Paris, minus the British pubs. The area then slowly turned most of its depots and wholesalers into colourful independent little worlds.

The thing is, even when it was a bit neglected and mainly used to keep stock, it was still very edgy. It is a colossal mistake to assume the Northern Quarter ‘got cool’ circa 2005. That creative rule-breaking heart was always there, it was just bubbling beneath the surface and hanging out in backstreet pubs and underground haunts. Any of the old and still veteran pubs in the area, such as the Castle and Gulliver’s, are a testament to its rich and deep-rooted, alternative spirit.

It’s also where, in my opinion, the village feel comes from and our famous friendly natures. Part of the Mancunian DNA is to help each other out where we can and to talk to each other as neighbours. It’s not uncommon for someone to strike up a conversation with you at a bar, sat next to you in a café or even at a tram stop. And crucially they don’t have an agenda, they just want to have a chat and connect with another person.

And because the architecture of the Northern Quarter is more compact, this friendly nature comes out even more and is allowed to skip and hop across each little business pocket. The will to help others and connect without agenda has naturally infused itself into how we do business and is why creative, independent thinking and business gel so naturally in the Northern Quarter.

Sticky Seats

I recently read a great article about Bishopthorpe Road in York, where an architect explained that the streets where people feel like hanging around are often the best streets to be on. They stick around because there are activities to enjoy and places to collaborate as a community. And inadvertently, by sticking around they help make the street and even better place for even more people to hang around, both economically and creatively.

The power of human connection works when people create an area together and fashion it to be both purposeful and fun. And when a place hits that magic formula the galleons start to flood into that area. Subsequently, independent business owners who were trying to keep afloat while sticking to their creative guns, have more wiggle room to do exactly what they want and in turn, attract the people that want to see them strut their creative stuff.

The same can be said for the Northern Quarter I think.  The more people came to wander around the eclectic streets and invest in our independent businesses, the more creativity rose to the surface and became a viable business option. A lovely social circle, where we all work together to make something really quite special.

A look at who’s killing it in the Mancunian digital scene.

We live in a country of inventors and self-starters, with 75 companies launched every hour in the UK. And what’s more, successful business ventures are no longer a London only affair. We are now living in a time where 3 out of 5 high-growth companies are actually located outside of the capital.

Location, Location

Choosing where to start your business is crucial for any business, and that includes digital trendsetters. London, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, Cambridge, and Brighton are all spearheading huge digital growth in the UK and are great places to start a tech business. But let’s concentrate on the city that warms our heart the most – Manchester.

Ah Manchester. The home of the Eccles cake, The Smiths, Acid House and Emmeline Pankhurst. The city that spat out the industrial revolution and threw in the computer for good measure. The Northern Giant is now the largest tech cluster outside of London and in the top 5 best UK cities to start a business. It’s also creating a bit of a digital name for itself on the global stage, featuring in Europe’s top 20 list for digital innovation and generating tongue-in-cheek talk about Manchester becoming the UK’s Silicon Valley.

Wonderwall

It also happens to be the city where Bamboo is based. We weren’t at all surprised to see Manchester feature in the top 5 UK cities for start-ups and freelancers.  Manchester is a city that has lots of business opportunities and room for everyone to make their mark, but also feels a bit like an urban village with really strong social networks.  It’s not rare to bump into someone on the street or see someone you know at a meet-up event or working out of a cafe. We are also lucky to have genuinely helpful business relationships and local government support, with some really impressive digital investment, support initiatives and readily available resources in the local area.

We’ve also always found it really important to big up and encourage innovation and community in the Manchester digital scene. One of the things we love most about working in the city centre and out of Ziferblat Edge street is that we constantly meet other inspiring Mancunian businesses, especially start-ups. And even though we’ve been going for a while now, we still remember our start-up days – the excitement of creating something new, the boundless possibilities and of course the massive business fails that you learn from.

It’s fair to say that in 2018, the city has become a bit of a start-up machine. For us, start-ups always bring something fresh and innovative to the Mancunian table, helping to spruce things up and keep the city making digital waves. Manchester has always been doing its industrious, creative thing both in the city and globally. But in the last few years, the city has really got its digital strut on.

So we really wanted to write a blog post that would showcase some of the best new talent out there. To celebrate proper Mancunian innovation for 2018 and the most exciting Mancunian start-ups out there at the moment:

Radio.co

A start-up radio platform that wants to haul radio into the digital age by making podcasts a daily, relevant hobby. The site works a bit like a radio version of Youtube, you can create your own radio station or page and get followers or listeners for your page. They even have a great broadcast live tool. They also secured 300K worth of funding. Definitely one to watch.

Wakelet

Just out of the start-up bracket (est. 2014), Wakelet is an innovative content curation platform and social app that is trying to give users more freedom in the quality of relevant content on the web. Posts are called ‘wakes’ and user can create portfolios, collections, tell stories, annotate and create their own private and public content pages.  A bit like myspace 5.0, Instagram and Pinterest all combined. The founder, Jamil Khalil, received 1.1 million in funding to kick off Wakelet.

Digital Bridge

The founders of Digital Bridge are Mancunian home space innovators who have created an augmented reality platform that allows customers to try home décor in their own home before buying it online.  You just need to take a picture of the room and upload to your computer to start digitally decorating your space.  Pretty nifty stuff. They’ve already received 450k worth of investment from high flyers such as John Lewis.

Athletec

A start-up dedicated to building technology that enhances sport training. One of their most exciting inventions is Corner a wearable performance tracking device and app for elite athletes, especially for boxers and coaches trying to push for improved performance.

Nuuk

A crowdfunding platform service that helps start-ups get the funding they need to launch or start a critical new phase. They work on Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns helping flourishing ideas with lead generations and socially powered investment. They helped raise a colossal $18 million dollars in  2016 and 17 for SMes and start-ups.

Digital Behaviour

With all this creative innovation flying about we can’t wait to see what other creative and inspiring people pop up on the digital landscape in 2018. One thing is for sure, Manchester is in pure digital flow right now and, as always, is dancing to its own unique rhythm.

Everyone loves Google right? What’s not to like. A free online search engine that gives you instant access to any information you want. A digital library of Alexandria that you can keep with you in your pocket and access on the go.

Google entertains us, educates us and helps us navigate our way through life. The search engine is so integral to our modern world that we’ve made it into a verb. We even use it to end debates or arguments.

The Big Question

Who hasn’t heard ‘According to Google…’ and listened, wide-eyed, as the Almighty speaks and someone’s theory is either tossed out or given the golden seal of approval.

Have you ever heard someone say ‘well Google is wrong’? Did you laugh that person out of the room with a ‘Google..wrong? what an absolute nutter’ type response?

We have an unshakeable bond and trust with Google that goes far beyond its role as a useful information tool. Think about how many times you use Google in your day, how many times it’s helped you work something out or made your life simpler.

Google can help us with practically anything. Want to know how to get to your interview? Need to buy a sewing kit to upcycle your tea towel? Want a recipe to make bread? Need to ask something in Spanish? Just google it.

Our first port of call is to ‘google it’ because it always has the answer. It’s proven itself as an all-seeing, all-knowing information portal.  Even when someone tells us reliable information, we still google it, just in case they’re wrong. We trust Google above anything else.

A great example is following directions given by mere mortals. I’ll give you an example out of my own life – I went to an event last week and went to the wrong location. The very nice man who answered the door explained in detail how to get to the right venue. I listened to exactly none of it because I knew I could use Google. I thanked him, left and then got out my smartphone. I even got slightly annoyed that he wasted 3 minutes of my life explaining where to go when I was late and have Google Maps. I’m pretty sure his directions were exactly on point, but I had my blinkers on and wanted to listen to the only voice that counted.

I’m not alone in thinking this way. The fact that we tend to go straight to Google before we go to friends, family or even books is a colossal change to how we interact with and trust information. We are slowly but surely using one source of information to form our entire perception and knowledge of the world around us.

And it doesn’t stop there. We don’t just ask Google practical questions, we also ask it the most intimate, existential questions that pop into our heads, the questions we are too scared to ask the closest people in our lives.

What’s so bad about googling something you aren’t sure about?

In theory, absolutely nothing. But there are 2 important points to keep in mind –

  1. We aren’t cross-checking information from other sources
  2. We are swapping multiple sources of information for just one

The Gospel Truth

The fact is we aren’t second-guessing Google as much as we should. If Google started pointing us to badly researched articles, far too many of us would believe the information in the article because Google recommended it. Maybe some of us would search for a couple more articles, but those articles still come from Google. The number of people that actually look through real books and magazines or even use a tandem search engine is very low.

Our growing habit of not cross-checking facts via different mediums gives us tunnel vision information, especially when looking up history, culture, political beliefs and the daily news. So when Google modifies its algorithms and Google ranking criteria (which it does often to keep one step ahead of the ranking tricksters) it actually has a detrimental effect on our perception of truth and facts.

For example, if the algorithm starts favouring one website link over another, you are more likely to read it and take it on board as part of your opinion on a subject. Google algorithms quite literally change us and the world around us. Like an existential game of digital chess.

Blast from the past

And then there’s fake news and social media, how readily it’s shared and how much it can influence elections, political movements, and our own views of the world. Google sits in the middle of it all, helping us glide through the fake news clouds, bouncing from website to website.

Propaganda or fake news also isn’t a new thing. The powers that be and the institutions they belong to have been doing it for a very long time. What is different though is the way we gain access to and how much we are exposed to propaganda, and Google is intrinsically part of that shift.

In the past, we would tell our priest (or equivalent) our deepest darkest secrets and we would change our view of the world based on what they told us. They were our existential guides, who would help us navigate the world according to scriptures. Many people still do this, but lot’s of us have decided that we want to make our own way in life.

What we don’t realise is that Google has taken up that empty space. Algorithm led content acts as digital scripture and the pragmatic priests are the website creators sitting on Google’s ranking lists.

Our need to be guided by some sort of institution never went away. We are still highly influenceable and need more knowledgeable people to form our opinions – whether we are religious or not doesn’t change that fact. We still listen to our teachers, government, and experts because we want our views to be confirmed, we need people to help us fill knowledge gaps and tell us what information we should believe. Google is a bridge between all 3 types of authorities, throwing in a boundless library as an additional perk.

The Almighty

So the ultimate question is  – if Google content is digital scripture and website creators the priests who create the scriptures, what would Google then be?

……….I can already hear the torches being lit.

I recently went to a tech talk in Manchester where a speaker introduced his topic with this – “We are now naturally urban animals” Or in other words, we’ve moved on from our rural origins, have long since walked out of the savannah and our chosen birthplaces are now among skyscrapers.

The hills are alive

We’d certainly be forgiven for thinking that we’ve turned our backs on our old ways and that we’ve evolved into concrete dwellers. As trends go, we have consistently been leaving our rural homes behind since the very first cities shot up. On average, 74% of all developed and 44% of all emerging countries are now urban.

But aren’t we forgetting something? Isn’t nature where our origins lie, isn’t it still our habitat?

Moving to the big smoke has always been about getting a job, finding new opportunities or leaving a ‘worse’ life behind. It’s never been about putting ourselves in concrete mazes away from nature, it’s just become a by-product.

There are also scores of studies that prove flora and fauna aren’t just pretty, they are integral for our health and sanity. Increased exposure to nature is directly linked to decreased levels of stress, depression and anxiety which often have a detrimental impact on physical health – which means we need to be near nature to feel better.

Windows Explorer

Our online spaces are, in theory, the most far-flung spaces from physical nature, and it is perhaps for this reason that we are constantly designing and coding with nature in mind. Perhaps we are unable to truly design or invent anything completely outside of our own viewpoint or experience and so logically our most high-tech inventions have their origins in something that already exists in nature.

Take the internet itself, which represents a spider’s web in its most simplistic form, and how our brains make connections in its most complex. Or if we think of ‘the Cloud’ it works in a very similar way to how we store memory.

You can link the structure of code to how soil works for living things, it creates strings of organic matter (or code) which forms connections and binds those separate connections to form more complicated organic structures.  Even our phones are created to work in tandem with how we think, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to use them or understand how to extract information. Our smartphones sync so well with how we communicate and connect ideas that they now feel like an abstracted part of ourselves.

Our most forward-thinking robotic experts are also building biomimetic robots to either to look like us or to represent an animal or the best parts of lots of animals that already exist.

Let there be light

We are also slowly realising that the concrete gap between us and nature needs to be bridged with metaphoric gardens.  Biophilic design, or designing with nature in mind, is a great practical example and is a trend that is moving at the speed of light.

We are quite literally bringing natural elements through our windows and into our internal spaces. Panoramic views, wood, indoor gardens, rooftop greenery, natural colours, open spaces, floor to ceiling windows and circadian lighting are all trendy examples. But biophilic design reaches far beyond architecture or office décor and has jumped right into the digital world.

Gone are the fluorescent colours and jarring navigation of the early noughties. Our websites and social media accounts are now designed with clean lines, simple navigation and fluid connections. We are creating open, light and welcoming digital spaces that mimic our old natural spaces.

SEO is also riding the trend. Most words that have a naturally meaning score highly on user retention and engagement. Words like social, open, organic, natural, green, local, sourced, community and space, are all prime terms for websites and branding, and are all systematically linked to nature and our roots.

Another great example is UX design, which basically foresees what is going to happen to our online behaviours and physical designs around those predictions. If you ask any UX designer they will agree that it’s paramount to create navigation from A to B, B to C and C to A in the most fluid possible way, because it is a sure-fire way to create a positive and productive user experience. It is because of this that internet spaces are now completely interlinked, just like our real lives because conversation and communication are naturally fluid and interconnected.

Digital Organisms

Our mass urban exodus also doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down anytime soon. In 2050, 70% of the world will be urban. The challenge for the future will be adopting practices and developing innovations that truly merge nature into our physical and digital spaces, so that we create real urban jungles that are healthy for both us and the planet.

I think it would be naïve to think we can go back to a simpler time, but what we can do is use both the future and the past to create a balanced present where urban and digital nature more than just lovely a sounding paradox.


Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.

Where is your phone right now?

Mine is flashing next to my laptop as I write this, never too far away and always patiently waiting for me to over use it. I’m not the only one who feels like they’re on their smartphone too much, with 50% of teenagers admitting that they are probably addicted to their phones.

Shockingly, our handy digital helpers have only been around for 18 years, that is a shorter amount of time than most people have spent on this earth, yet they’ve managed to turn our lives inside out within a blink of a screen shot.

Like any 18-year-old, smartphones are fresh faced and doggedly shaking up our way of life. How much time we spend on them, the way they’ve changed our hobbies, what we view and read, how we search for information and communicate, and even our attention spans have been deeply affected by our clever devices. But the influence that smartphones could have, has the potential to become a lot deeper and weirder.

Through the looking glass

We type our thoughts, habits, conversations, relationships, passions, hatreds, careers, and hobbies into our screens. We use it as an extension of our own brains, to help store information, jog our memories and communicate.

You may think that we keep a lot from our phones, but it’s a lot less than you think. Smartphones aren’t just about apps or social media, they also monitor what you look for and how you use your phone when you are alone and left to your own devices. And all that information isn’t lost or static, it’s stored and, according to experts, gives each smartphone user a unique code or a digital personality.

It might also explain why we feel strange being away from our new best friends for too long or why we feel such a compulsion to use them as much as we do. We aren’t just addicted, we are also developing a symbiotic relationship with our phones.

Brainless

Symbiotic smartphones might sound like one of the new Black Mirror episodes, but it’s actually something that is already happening to us. We might not yet put 100% of everything we think and feel into our phones, but we are relying so heavily on them that they are becoming our surrogate brains or at the very least an external hard drive for our thoughts and lives.

Relying on our phones to do what our brains are actually good at, means we are systematically using our brains less. Our cerebral supercomputers are being side-lined for an external device and experts are warning it could have an irreversible effect on how our brains work.

The smartphone revolution is moving so quickly that it is becoming a slippery beast, and the scope of information at our fingertips is enough to overwhelm and affect even the most ardent memories and those who still know how to focus.

Beam me up

And things aren’t going to stop there. Smartphones are already IoT enabled with software such as Siri, and so if you choose to have voice activation on your phone, it effectively listens out for keywords so that it can instantly react to your instructions. What if in the near future the likes of Siri become an obligatory function that stores your every conversation to predict how it can help you with your daily life and long-term goals?

Even weirder, what if smartphones could start recognising and recording our body language, all in the quest to become the dream personal assistant. Face recognition software is already a well-established tool that is used for passports, law enforcement and less serious apps. It isn’t a huge stretch to assume that one-day technology could also start to recognise body language and blur the line between us and our phones so much that the line won’t even matter anymore.

Cycle of Life

Everyone likes a happy ending, so you’ll be glad to hear that it isn’t all doom and gloom.

We always do the same thing when inventions change our way of life. We tend to go full throttle into a movement, panic and then end up finding a balance between the old and the new, and eventually even strengthen our roots with the old ways. Think chains vs. independent businesses, the industrial revolution vs. environmentalism, fast food vs. clean living, capitalism vs. ethical consumerism.

Technology’s opposite, physical engagement, will come back to the forefront, because our current relationship with our phones is unsustainable and because we always go back to our innate needs.

We can already see the tide starting to turn. Huge watchwords such a tech fatigue, digital detox and tech free days are storming their way through the smartphone clouds. We might still have our heads firmly stuck in the digital sand, but we will never be able to alter our need for physical interaction in the real world. And this intrinsic need will create a future where will hopefully find a much-needed balance between pouring ourselves into our digital soul mates and actively searching for those healthy and brilliant moments when we live completely free from our digital devices.


Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.

It’s official – Bamboo Manchester has spent 365 wonderful days as Clockwork members at Ziferblat Edge Street!

We’ve had a fantastic first year co-working from Ziferblat Edge Street. We still love coming to work knowing that each day will be different – from how the space is used by everyone in it, to the people we meet or the eclectic events constantly going on in the northern quarter’s very own eccentric grandma’s living room.

The origins story

We were actually looking for a fixed office space in the area when we first decided to take the plunge and become northern quarter co-workers. We’d rented an office in Bury for a few years but felt the next logical step was to work more centrally and have a Manchester post code.

We decided to start looking at offices in the Northern Quarter and spent a whole morning traipsing around the quirky red brick streets. By the end of the morning, we’d gone from one white washed room to another and hadn’t really felt that lightbulb moment where you think ‘this is our kind of office!’.

After what felt like the millionth drab space, we went for a much-needed break and decided to put our feet up and eat some cake at Ziferblat. As we sat in the communal living room café, we watched the friendly buzz mill about the room. People were playing chess, working from their laptops, playing on the piano, and having a good chat over a cup of tea on the balcony.

We realised right then that Ziferblat was the sort of place that we’d love to work in. It was the complete opposite to the standard office spaces were looking at. It was brimming with creative character, was friendly and sociable but also had a calm feel about it – exactly what we needed for our web design business!

We then bumped into Ben Davies, the Marketing Manager at Ziferblat, who genuinely loves the living room area so much that he works in the open space with fellow Ziferblatters. We told him our plight over a cup of tea and he told us about the Clockwork Membership.

Let there be cake

Sometimes in life those perfect moments just come out of nowhere, and this was one of them. We’d stumbled across not only the ideal space for us but also the perfect office package. We didn’t even realise that co-working would be ideal for us until we walked into the Ziferblat doors looking for refuge from a draining morning. And there we were, happily signing on the dotted line for membership and a Manchester post code.

Since we became loyal Ziferblatters, a number of surprisingly brilliant things have happened to us. We firstly realised how truly great co-working is and how much it suits what we do. We then noticed a lot of freelancers congregating and eating a lot of cake together on Fridays.

Katy Carlisle, who is the founder of Freelancer Folk, welcomed us with open arms and we are now part of her friendly remote worker community. We meet every Friday and not only socialise but help each other out and even work together on projects. It’s what all offices should be like – open, supportive and motivational.

We’ve also had the privilege to collaborate with other inspiring people just by working in a space that is social and open to genuine conversation with strangers. We’ve even met new clients by having a good chat in the kitchen, sharing co-working tables or having collective breaks in the sofa areas.

We also realised that having the flexibility to work how you want and in whatever type of space you feel like, is helping us be more creative and work more productively. We’ve even branched out into video creation and are working on a rebrand to reflect our Mancunian co-working awakening (watch this space!).

In the end, having that break was one of the best decisions we’ve made, not only for Bamboo but also as individuals. It still makes us tremble in our co-working boots knowing that we could’ve missed working here if we hadn’t given in to our love of all things cake!

Manchester is a city that has something about it. You can’t quite put your finger on it but it’s there, chatting in the old city pubs, brainstorming in basement warehouses, or weaving along the industrial streets. Northern city dwellers forever doing their own gritty, creative thing.

We first moved into the Northern Quarter because we wanted to be more central for our clients and get a Manchester post code for Bamboo. But in the end what we got was much more than an address, we got to live and breathe what the city is about and reflect that in our work. Breaking norms, doing our own thing, laughing about it and then breaking norms again. Creating something from the richness of the past and making it completely, inspiringly new.

Red Brick Road

In our mind, Manchester’s uniqueness, in part, comes from the fact that it was the starting point for the industrial revolution. To create such a global movement which transformed the planet’s future has to take a very unique way of thinking and some stubbornly forward-thinking guts.

But post-industrial Manchester was in danger of living in the shadows of its past and resigning itself to a very long concrete slumber. Luckily, Manchester’s never-ending love of music and unique art rose to the challenge and kept the creative candle burning, making sure the Mancunian spirit never really burnt out.

Then when Manchester’s time came again, purpose flooded back into our empty red brick buildings and made sure music wasn’t the only thing shining across our city. Warehouses were splashed with street art, Victorian mills adapted into creative spaces, and empty factories became digital hubs. The transformation happened when Manchester needed it most and made it that little bit more special.

Let me go my own way

This city is also in creative flow when it revives the past but doesn’t drown in nostalgia, when it isn’t afraid of blending the old and new by letting them clash and collide until they learn to be in each other’s company.

Manchester also doesn’t care about what is expected of it, and often rebels against that expectation. Which is also where our simmering hatred of most things from London comes from, and why the city quickly wriggled off its ‘Northern Powerhouse’ title – because it’ll most likely achieve the same thing but in its own way.

Even the architecture doesn’t care about what a city should look like. Towering glass structures sit next to elegantly decaying Georgian buildings, as do Tudor houses and concrete tower blocks. Manchester’s architecture is a defiance of standardised beauty and architectural norms, which is the perfect backdrop to what is happening on the streets. Heritage being reaffirmed with innovation. Creativity coming from the freedom of disregarding rules.

Family of strangers

Something we also love is that we work in an urban cosmopolitan city that still acts like a local pub. Stranger talk to each other at bus stops, laugh together in queues and chat about the weather in cafes. It’s this mix of innovation and genuine friendliness that creates the unexplained buzz flitting around the streets and helps to slow down the train to pretentious city living.

Working in the northern quarter, which acts like an urban village, has also helped us be more creative and productive just by being a part of something truly exiting. We are all talking, inventing, and creating an idea of a city together, and it’s inspiring to build and adapt to the times together.

Bamboo’s coffee adventures at Ziferblat, Edge Street

Coffee has been married into our lives for a very long time. From the first people that discovered the beans, to the millions of coffee shops across the planet. We just can’t get enough of the stuff.

In recent years, coffee culture has been working fervently underground. Coffee experts have been toiling away in backrooms to ensure that the coffee poured into our porcelain cups is lovingly cared for before we put coffee to lips. Experts, such as Sean from 92 degrees in Liverpool, concentrate on sourcing good quality beans and meticulously processing them into great coffee. The time, temperature, and nature of the roast all adds to why some brews beat the rest of the flock.

Good Coffee is also a staple for any urban co-working space, and very important to the average freelancers and remote worker. So when Ben, Marketing Manager at Ziferblat, invited us and other Ziferblat friends to a coffee tasting of the most expensive brew in the world, Gesha Village Coffee, we threw out the Nescaf’ and listened to Sean from 92 degrees with bated breath.

Freelance folk, Manc Made, MCRhookup and Fraiche Ink were also the resident coffee drinkers, on hand to taste the record breaking brew and listen to Sean, who explained the legend of Kaldi, or the Ethiopian goat that discovered coffee, and why Gesha Village sold at auction at an eye watering 85 dollars.

According to Sean, Gesha village has ideal natural conditions and ecosystem for making the best coffee in the world. The farmers also did something very unusual for the coffee world, they left the coffee plants alone and let them do their thing. Their gamble paid off when the beans went to market and broke coffee bartering records.

So is coffee ever worth paying £85?

All we can say is that tasting the best coffee in the world is like when you think you know what vodka tastes like, and then you try a good vodka and you realised you’ve been sipping on fuel for most of your life. Or more poetically, a bit like seeing colour for the first time, the colour of velvety brown.

Why people want to know the story behind the brand

Humans have always connected through stories.

Even when we didn’t know how to write, we passed on stories through folklore, songs and pictures. Some of our most beloved stories and books are actually just modern versions of the most ancient of tales, which shows how truly enduring a good story can be.

And so it comes as no surprise that we want exactly the same thing from our favourite brands. We want companies to tell us why they are doing something more than what they are doing. We want the back story, the origin of the idea, the raison d’être.

Hole in my soul

I’ve talked a lot in my previous blog posts about brand ethics and how consumers are getting tired of being obviously sold something. In the same vein, nothing sells less than knowing that behind the snazzy product or sleek website is a hollow company that effectively has no soul.

What do I mean by this? Well, people want to humanise brands to emotional engage with them. They want to know that the brand reflects their ideals, projected image and values. The easiest way to humanise a brand is to tell the reader a background story.

That is why so many adverts and promotional material now shy away from obviously promoting the benefits of their products, focussing instead on their core principles and how they reflect society’s values. Think about how adverts have changed from the ‘buy me now’ 1950’s poster to the ethereal embedded videos that now freestream on your Instagram or Facebook.

Paint me a picture

Some companies don’t market their product at all, but gamble on the fact that an abstract and engaging story will translate their brand idea and make it more memorable. For me, the undisputed UK maestros are the producers of John Lewis Christmas adverts. Each video never talks about what John Lewis does or sells, but always goes viral and becomes a staple annual discussion point around the Christmas table.

Getting people to truly engage with your brand without actually selling what you do is a very clever thing to achieve. People will always promote your brand when they want to share a great story, and will accept that part of sharing that story is also talking about your brand.

Digital Ancients

Like most things in life, branding has come full circle. Forward thinking Marketeers have realised that tapping into ancient traditions that stand the test of time, such as storytelling, is a sure fire way to get their audiences more engaged.

In the end, it’s quite ironic but also comforting to know that in our modern, digital world we engage the most with a brand when it lets us do what our ancestors did – share stories that speak to us and bring us closer.


Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.

Getting through to your audience has never been more complicated.

We are living in an age of hyper-communication where each individual, on average, processes the equivalent of 174 newspapers and is exposed to an estimated 10,000 adverts every single day.

The hurrier I go the behinder I get

Cutting through the noise and grabbing fickle attention spans means that content must be engaging, digestible, genuine, and quick.

People essentially want to know the core point of any online content in under 2 minutes. 80% of people won’t read to the end of your page and most of your audience will only read 20% of any web content you post.

With these depressing statistics to hand, the only way to persuade audiences to read on is to galvanise your page titles and make sure that your first few points really pack a punch.

Made in his image

And let’s not forget the colossal importance of videos and images that give the reader a quick energy boost between grammatical constructions.

Infographics came on the scene to transform deep data into visual short hand. These visual ‘word bites’ are an extremely effective way of sharing a lot of information in an easily digestible and shareable format.

 

So why use infographics?

  1. Visuals boost engagement

    The human eye is naturally drawn to images, users pay more attention to graphics and are more likely to linger and retain more information because you have engaging visuals.

    ‘Engagement’ is banded about a lot on marketing sites, all that it really means is that there is a two-way interaction between the audience and the source. Infographics are the best of both worlds because they combine detailed information with images so that you get the necessary attention and engagement from your target audience.

    Crucially, they help move your content away from static results nestled in lengthy paragraphs and elevate data to build a visual information grid that captivates the reader.

  2. Infographics are more likely to go viral

    When a reader is engaged and believes that the information will also help others, they are more likely to share and generate a social media snowball effect.

    Visuals are a great way to highlight important information that your audience might not have time to read or even skim through in the body of your text.

    Without visuals, especially infographics, insightful and shareable information can often be over looked and can disappear into the pool of content swirling around the internet.

    Infographics help users immediately process and instantly relate to what you want to get across, which are the building blocks of social engagement and ultimately creating a viral post.

  3. Infographics are highly shareable

    Some people don’t actually need to go viral and just want to create enough awareness to start attracting new customers or increase their followers.

    Infographics are a great way to achieve sustained awareness and increase web traffic to your page or social accounts. They are a great tool to reach every corner of the internet and spread awareness far and wide.

    You can pin infographics to Pinterest, tweet one via your twitter account, share via private message or embed an infographic into your blog.

    A relevant and useful infographic will increase your site’s traffic because the people that share it will also link to the source and you will create organic traffic back to your site. You can also add HTML coding to your infographic so it becomes searchable and helps increase your google rankings.

    You can even let your infographic loose in the real world and print it for marketing campaigns, presentations, posters or leaflets. In fact, it’s a wonder an infographic isn’t taking over the world as we speak.


The Circle of Life

The reason infographics work is because they don’t just emit out information, they use engagement to push people to share which draws the audience back to you, your company or your online passion.

The circle works because, when you do it right, the traffic loop should never end. Your information is out there and every day someone is picking it up, and the more its shared the more it will attract users right back to the source.


Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.

What does your online presence say about you?

‘Who am I?’ is a timeless question, and answering it has never been straight forward. Your true self not only changes through time and experience but is also adaptable to different situations.

Then there is the projected self, or how you show yourself to the outside world. You could call this your public profile or your own brand. The projected self is basically a more socially acceptable you that can jump more easily through life’s many complicated hoops.

In the past, this would usually mean understanding how to act respectfully in society within the laws and social rules of the time. Now, there is an additional way to project yourself, and that’s through your online presence.

Forever Me

The main difference between how you project yourself face-to-face with someone and declaring who you are online is that your thoughts and ideas are written on the internet with permanent marker and can be accessed globally.

If you aren’t very savvy on your privacy settings, any prospective boss, new love interest or potential follower can search where you went out when you were 18, what music you liked when you were 25 or what political beliefs you had when you were 30.

Away from your private online moments, there is also the intentional, public image you are uploading on the cloud. What you are doing on the internet matters not just now but in the future and the idea that you can balance separate personal and professional images might apply in your real life, but the distinction is blurred on the internet simply because both worlds can search for you.

Here are 3 examples that come to mind:

  1. If you own a business and don’t regulate all your online accounts, including your personal social media, you are setting yourself up for a damaging impression from a potential client who will automatically carry out a google search.
  2. If you are a CEO and share environmentally focused articles on your social spaces but your own company has no environmental image or accreditation, the two online profiles will look at odds and both will seem superficial.
  3. As an employee, shouting loud and proud about any idea on a public platform that is opposed to your organisation’s values can often lead to disciplinary action.

 

Push the Button

In a world that is quickly throttling towards never being offline, understanding how to balance your personal and professional online presence is crucial. Finding the balance between respectability, reputation and originality has always been a goal in life, but now getting it wrong can have a much more lasting effect.

The internet is what it has become today because we not only extract information out but we also constantly add our own selves into the framework, and simply pushing a button can catapult a thought or view across the internet. Knowing your own moral limits, personal values and professional goals are key in being able to navigate a digital world riddled with communication potholes.

The ultimate solution is knowing what to put under lock and key, understanding your online rights, keeping up to date with current branding trends and knowing what to SEO like mad.


Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.

Sharing is caring

Are we transcending traditional social media?

There is a lot of online buzz about whether social media has replaced traditional marketing and journalism. The short answer to this is yes in a fashion it has, and quite a while ago.

What is more importantly happening is that traditional social media channels are being completely overhauled in favour of one streamlined and integrated communication space.

The clever coders and designers, that have helped each social media giant rise to fame and cling to it, have adapted their platforms to their users by using social media analytics to track how their platforms are being used and then adapt them accordingly. Some platforms are even letting their code change organically with each end user. This means that we are quite literally evolving and transforming social media channels just by using them.

If humans are naturally social, and want social media that can give them the most rapid, easy access and logical way of communicating then the unfaltering end-point will be that separate social media accounts will be transformed by their very users who will need all the channels to be part of one global platform.

Welcome to my world

Social media works because it lets us connect to others better and helps us feel part of a network. The birth of social media is often attested to Facebook, but often the invention before the invention is the place you should be looking.

Myspace, in my opinion, was the grandfather of social media. It has all the hallmarks of all our slick 2017 social apps; you had your own personalised space, you could share your tastes, beliefs and most importantly connect and communicate with other personalised spaces. Myspace was infamously left out to dry because it wasn’t integrated enough, didn’t update fast enough for its users, and didn’t put ease of communication on the pedestal it should have been. In other words, it became a static space.

Then Facebook came along and truly started the concept of social media. It used the concept of myspace and elevated it to immediate communication and used our need for recognition and popularity within digital circles to set the web world on fire. It is not an exaggeration to say that Facebook changed the world, in the very least for the first Facebook generation.

Time for a change

What Facebook and all other major social platforms do well is that they understand that the world of social media is ‘adapt or die’. The user is fickle and will jump to another platform if it fits more with their lifestyle, viewpoint, and modern way of connecting. This has forced the social media channels to constantly react or face Myspace style extinction and so what we are seeing is a mass merge of unique social media features.

Like kids at the playground asked to share a bag of sweets and thinking that by taking half of another kid’s sweet they have more overall.

The list of examples is long but here are 5 that come to mind-

  1. Instagram is becoming the place where you post your status via images (instead of content only on Facebook or even album sharing) You can also post on Instagram and instantly share on Facebook, twitter and Tumblr. Basically, making all three platforms one sharing space via Instagram.
  2. Hashtags are no longer a Twittersphere phenomenon but can be used on any social media and searchable on google.
  3. Instagram and recently Facebook now have ‘stories’ just like snapchat and even have Snapchat style video filters.
  4. YouTube is testing community features to allow creators to share images and text (just like Facebook)
  5. Facebook is trying to be the go to place for sharing stories, videos, and news articles (aka twitter and YouTube).

In their dogged quests to outdo each other, eat up the competition and remove the others individuality, they are inadvertently throttling towards one, open and integrated communication space. Soon all social media will have bitesize and immediately streamable/shareable video, image and content that you will be able to share over all social platforms at once to get the maximum impact.

This then brings about an unavoidable prediction – If all social media is reacting to the user and the user wants to be connected to all platforms at once then an elevated super social platform that transcends traditional social media channels is where we are heading.

And if that is hard to believe, think about if people in the 1960s would have believed how much journalism could change with the invention of an online social address book.


Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.

Why Manchester is becoming a global centre for digital creatives

The red-brick northern giant, the home of Oasis, the set of Shameless and the birthplace of the industrial revolution. The city today is as iconic as it is infamous, as gritty as it is cosmopolitan and as northern as it is global.

Manchester has always been a rule breaker and a thought-pioneer. The city and its inhabitants like to do things on their own terms and in their own way, which has inspired ground-breaking inventions and an outpouring of creative spirit. From the invention of the computer, the discovery of the electron and the creation of graphene, Manchester has never been afraid of using science to create innovative technology.

From the ashes

Manchester’s regeneration after the IRA bomb in the 90s catapulted the dormant city onto the global stage once again. Huge reconstruction and historic investment were pumped into the Northern Powerhouse. The city was rebuilt, re-modelled and transformed until it inadvertently had everything it needed to become the global tech hub it is becoming today: strong economy, cultural heritage, historic innovation, and a surplus of creative people and ideas.

The tech revolution hit the Mancunian streets like a fish to water and took the city on by storm.

Innovative start-ups, digital collectives and tech entrepreneurs filtered into the once empty red brick warehouses and old Victorian buildings. Modern offices, co-working spaces and freelance friendly cafes are now popping up more quickly than quirky restaurants or independent boutiques. And as the city’s architects plan to build up to the sky, similar plans are set in motion for the Manchester digital scene.

What’s all the fuss about?

Manchester is currently the largest tech cluster outside of London, it has the UK’s second largest GVA growth and has the 4th highest digital turnover at £2.2 billion.

Local and national government are intent on keeping this momentum going to ensure that Manchester realises its global digital potential and has recently granted Manchester £4 million to create a tech hub centre which will nurture start-ups, be a place of digital mentorship and help ingrain digital collaboration across the city.

Away from government investment, the city is receiving masses of ex-Londoners as part of the historic exodus from the capital, and is also importantly retaining northern talent who no longer feel the pull to move down south to be able to realise their professional goals.

Welcoming companies as they decide to relocate, open a branch or be based in the northern city is also becoming a common affair. Companies and organisations such as Google, the BBC and Bohoo.com have all decided that Manchester is the place to be. There is even tongue-in-cheek talk of moving the capital up north.

Cobbled Roots

Whether you believe that Manchester will become a totally transformed global digital mega city, that it will cling to its northern-rooted creative identity from yesterdays, or that it will be a mash up of both identities, one thing is irrefutable: Manchester is going through a phenomenal metamorphosis.

The risk with such a dramatic push towards a ‘better’ Manchester is forgetting the city’s history. We risk, like many cities, favouring gentrification instead of accepting our imperfect but real identity. We risk doggedly pursuing global recognition and lobotomising what made us famous in the first place: being Mancunian.

There is however something that will always save us from ‘growing at all costs’ and that is our thirst for originality and our intransient need to navigating our own way through anything, including  becoming a global centre for digital innovation and talent.


Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.

Are Millennials actually 21st century hippies?

Millennials are receiving a lot of, sometimes unwanted, attention in the media. The privileged, digital dream seekers that are shaking up the modern business age.

Millennials though are much more than social media inventors or hipster café owners. They are part of the new technological revolution and are helping to forge a new way of not just running businesses but how society thinks and views itself.

The historic change we are seeing in collective mentality is actually directly linked to how the hippies influenced the 1960s and still have huge relevance to this day.

Power to the flower

The 1960s hippies and the baby boomers in general, were living in a time of social disquiet and heightened war. Hippies were a generation born into a world they didn’t agree with and felt disconnected from, they were misunderstood by the previous generation and felt both voiceless and helpless in the face of injustice.

If we raise a mirror to our own time we see a very similar thing happening now but with a 21st century twist.

The hippy solution was to campaign for the humanitarian ideals of love, justice, and equality. Hippies passionately believed if enough people united on these three common beliefs the government would have to act and the world would change for good.

We all hopefully agree that love, justice, and equality can only do good in the world. But I am sure we also all agree that the hippy dream fell flat on its well-meaning face circa the 1980’s power suit wearing, capitalist mega-boom.

The hippy dream, was in the end just that, a dream; and it lay bubbling below the surface for decades.  Something happened though to slowly re-awaken us, and that something was the world wide web.

Equality Uploaded

The children of the internet and specifically social media were of course the Millennials. This generation grew up with idea that global networks and open, mass communication were not only a norm but a birth right.

Millennials subconsciously wired their brains around accessibility for all and formed their identity around global social connection. Millennials could talk to someone from any country and any background instantly from their dial-up home computer for the first time in human history.

What this openness and accessibility created was the idea that we are not just individuals, forced to be part of an economic dog-eat-dog chain, but that we are in fact a plateaued communication network, which can and does work outside of the current status quo.

This by nature had the hippy fingerprints of equality, love and justice built into the framework. The hippy ideals were effectively uploaded onto our digital world and its main ambassadors were and still are the children of the technological revolution, the millennials.

I am you and you are the internet

Millennials, as a generation, also share that same hippy hunger – to do something good and to make a difference in the world. This innate nature and a digital world at their fingertips, meant that Millennials unintentionally managed to do what the children of the revolution failed to do – they found a practical way to disseminate humanitarian ideals.

Instead of trying to create a shared, ethereal belief to shake up the government, they side-lined the powers-that-be and went straight for tools of the people.  What they helped to create is a living and social hub of connectivity which is so powerful it is now holding authorities, businesses, and social norms to account. It has turned society on its head without the majority of people even realising.

You can see proof of this everywhere. Here are 3 hippy concepts that have been adapted for the modern age, have become mainstream through technology and are widely propagated by millennials:

  1. Conscious Capitalism

Something that sets modern day apart from the 1960s is that we have come to the pragmatic conclusion that necessary evils can’t be avoided. Conscious capitalism was born out of a need to stop the rampant injustices of money over people but also being fully aware of the complexities of overthrowing such a deep-rooted system. Conscious capitalism tries to find a balance between the two, some examples include:

  • Fair Trade
  • Social Enterprise
  • Corporate Responsibility
  • Collectives and cooperatives
  • Ethical marketing
  1. Reinvention of Currency

The idea of currency is changing. The internet has given rise to the question “if we can exchange information freely, shouldn’t we be able to exchange everything else without using money?”

Huge movements have sprung up from this very idea, including bitcoin, streaming, free apps and online courses, skype and even WhatsApp. The very fact that we are trying to find a way of helping each other and running a business at the same time without necessarily paying each other is the modern version of a hippy colony.

  1. Social Media changing Political Landscapes

Social media has inadvertently created a worldwide platform for the common man to be heard. Inadvertently because the main goal of social media in its infancy was to solely connect people. It is now a digital megaphone to shout, debate, laugh about or cry into our opinions, hopes and wishes.

Because major social platforms are free and accessible to all, they subsequently have huge audiences, followings and create immense public awareness. This means that if a social issue creates a buzz or goes viral on the internet it now puts pressure on governments, who need to act because they are voted in by the people angrily typing on their twitter account.

Social media has created the seemingly impossible, it has given a voice to the individual and the government has to listen.

There are of course negatives to the story – fake news being one of the biggest issues of our time and arguably one of the main causes for Trump and Brexit as well as heightened violence and racism in many parts of the world.

However, the overriding point remains that we are now more in charge of our future than we have been before and we are actively using technology to finally push for what society should be – more just, more loving and more equal.


Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.