What makes you unique? How were you made? And how can we use that information for the good of humankind? These are the sort of questions biologists are asking themselves and which have helped them to invent some of the most forward-thinking biological machines out there. Machines which have the potential to stop epidemics and make distant planets habitable for us humans.
Living cells are nature’s most efficient and sophisticated machine and scientists can now read DNA like code. They can actually do much more than read it, they can also write and manipulate it, much like a computer programmer. How have they done this? Well, without delving too deep into the kooky world of DNA, biologist have managed to unlock how DNA works, i.e. how it compresses so much information. They then delved into the data compressions to unlock strings of letters and code that basically make up any living thing.
And genomes are a massive part of biological coding. They’re basically like operating systems and the cells the hardware that boots up a genome. Scientists now have the building blocks they need to create cells themselves and have already created synthetic cells that act like natural ones. They can even reprogram cells where they swap one genome for another, which is called genome transplantation.
They’ve also gone one step further and actually created biological printers and wait for it – biological teleportation machines. That’s right, teleportation. It might sound like something out of Star Trek, but it’s actually already been invented. Both devices translate biological information into digital code which can then be sent to any computer in the world, downloaded and then made into a synthetic cell.
Crazy right? But if you think about it properly, converting biology into code is as ‘out there’ for us as fax machines were in the 80s. People couldn’t comprehend how you can send information across the air for it to print out words and images, and now we use the same fax function via our smartphone without a moment’s hesitation.
The final frontier
Scientists across the world are promising that synthetic cells will spark the next industrial revolution and will change the human race for good. It is going to transform economy, industry and sustainable initiatives for future generations. Here are a few ways that genetic coding could change our lives for the better –
Making clothes from renewable biotechnology
Creating plastic from bio-engineered and degradable synthetics
Bespoke health treatments for patients which can be downloaded to their hospital bedside
Rapid and local response to pathogens and epidemics
Rewriting our own code to prevent disorders such as cerebral palsy and illnesses such as cancer
When it comes to synthetic cells, the sky is not the limit. Dan Gibson, one of the leaders in synthetic cell development, predicts that we’ll be able to transmit data code to other planets including medicines but also synthetic organisms to create oxygen, food, fuel and building materials to make distant planets habitable for us. We’ll be able to send out a message in a digital bottle to anywhere so that it can bring life and health to those shores.
The questions now aren’t what we can do, it’s actually what we shouldn’t do. Biological coding has the potential to do great things in the world, but like any invention that dramatically changes the world, it could do colossal damage when in the wrong hands.
As the biologist, Riccardo Sabatini, says in his Ted Talk “The more we learn about our genetic code, the more the world will be confronted with decisions it’s never had to make before – about life, about death, about parenting. We are touching the very inner details of how life works. It’s a revolution that cannot be defined in the realms of science and technology, it needs to be a global conversation, with artists, philosophers and politicians .”
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.
We recently posted a blog about GDPR, and how the new regulations are going to affect how you contact your most loyal customers and your potential leads. But GDPR is going to change a lot more than that, it’s going to change how people interact with marketing content, how they come across it and in turn engage with your brand.
Because we all can’t spam our contact list anymore we need to rethink how we interact with and interest our audiences in what we do. A great (and compliant) way to do that is to use your blog to its full extent. If you don’t have one, put it on your to-do list, because having a blog on your website can create some seriously good results for your business.
Have I got news for you
Blogs are a great way to drive traffic to your website because your news and posts have lots of useful words that fly into Google and get picked up by anyone typing queries that match your content.
Say for example you own a restaurant and your write a blog about the best cake recipes of the season, someone might be searching for a birthday cake with trendy flavours, come across your website, look at the menu, like it and book a table for their birthday bash.
Google also enjoys a good blog because it loves nothing better than good quality content, so the clever little Google algorithms will favour your website above others on search rankings because you are writing relevant information that Google knows people want to find. Your content is like a magic door for Google, you help their bots link their users to the information they are looking for.
It makes sense really because if Google is sending people to the wrong sites and those sites start to generate eye-popping bounce rates, Google users are more likely to use another search engine that guides them to the right information.
You are basically doing Google a huge favour when you write up a blog and post regularly, it knows your website is active and that you have enough keywords to interest the person looking for your exact topic, so it lifts you right up the search chain and attract website visitors who aren’t necessarily looking for your brand but would be interested in what you do. An online SEO tango and a match made in heaven.
But be careful, writing keywords just for Google is a big no-no, and Google is training its bots to spot blogs or websites that are just trying to drive traffic. It also doesn’t create the best relationship with your customers. The digitally savvy Joe Bloggs knows what you are up to and will make you seem conceited and only interested in bringing them to your site. It’s actually a mutual respect thing, if you show that you value what your customers care about they will in turn value what you do.
1 in a million
You also set the tone for your brand when you concentrate on your blog. It’s not a coincidence that the blog or news section often has high web traffic. People want to understand your backstory and what you are about and want to know if you have the same beliefs and values as them. The blog should always be part of your whole brand image and provide a holistic view of who you are, with the ultimate goal of encouraging engagement and loyalty from your audience.
Say you are an organic cheesemaker and want to attract the more alternative people your area, writing blogs about the environment, local collectives and social cooperatives will not only ensure your star cheddar flies off the shelves but also matches your brand voice to your audience, heightening awareness in the local area as you go.
It’s also important to not just make up an image to attract a certain type of person. People are very content savvy nowadays, they’ve been around the digital block and know a red herring blog when they see one. If you are a cooperate money making machine and need to attract millennials, writing about how much you hate plastic and love a good recycle will look like a cheap tactic to clean up your image just to attract the Facebook generation, and definitely won’t look like your writing and business values are sincere.
Most businesses also have a list of competitors as long as their arm. Having a refreshing and insightful blog will often distinguish your brand from the other 10 web designers, law firms or café owners in the area. It will also ensure that the people who see your website and then contact you, connect with who you are and will mean you are more likely to build a quality relationship.
The royal treatment
Quality really is the watchword as we move into the bright and shiny new GDPR world. The whole point of the regulations is to protect people from unsolicited and irrelevant content, as well as their undeniable right to know what is happening with their personal data.
The point of quality content is to generate not just a quality image but to also nurture important customers or people who are highly likely to become customers. Marketers are harping on about engagement and not growing because the nuggets of gold are actually within a much smaller circle than you think. Getting your core audience to interact with you is when you are much more likely to get brand loyalty and increase your sales.
So Instead of just throwing out a net out to see how much you can get, concentrate on the people that are already interested. Spending time understanding those people more will help to drive a stronger and more targeted marketing plan across your business and will ensure that you attract more of your core audience without jamming email campaigns down their throat.
Basically, instead of throwing out the net, create an oasis so the fish come to you.
And part of that content oasis is a regular blog, which is shared on social media and which tackles what the people in your industry are most interested in without directly selling anything.
Are you listening?
I go on about this a lot in my blogs, but using analytics really is key to understanding your audience. If you don’t have a look at what is happening behind the scenes you can’t know if your dastardly content plan is working.
I’ve lost count of the number of blogs I thought were lukewarm on the relevance scale but actually generated the most page hits, engagement and longest page duration times. These are kernels of information that you can use to improve and hone your content so that you hit that bullseye every time you write and keep on interesting your audience.
In the end, content marketing is a long road paved with potholes, and you won’t get results straight away. But is it the sort of slow burner that is worth the time invested. Knowing what your audience wants to read means you know that your brand is relevant, and you understand who you are to your customers, which is half the battle to winning over their hearts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Colours are essential for branding. A bit like how coffee is essential to all my mornings. 90% of all snap judgements are based on colour alone and 80% of all the information we receive from logos come from the colours contained in it. We see colours way before we even process the design or content. Colours are basically the god of snap judgements and hugely important in decision making.
Why? Well we always use our senses as a primary decision maker when we invest in something, whether that’s sight, smell, sound, taste or touch.
We like to think we use our rational brain more, especially when we go shopping or pick a company, but we actually use our primal instincts which are governed by the senses. Sometimes we give our rational voice centre stage but only really when the red flags start to flash, or when even your primal urge to throw caution to the wind would actually make your life significantly worse. Think buying lavishly expensive trainers when your bank is already sending you passive aggressive letters.
Impulsivity over sense often wins because split decision making was essential for our survival when we were still cave dwellers. If we were in danger or if we needed to catch prey that split impulsive decision would often help save the day. The problem is that we can’t switch it off, and instead of using our impulsivity to scratch out our own survival we often use it to invest in things we don’t need or to pick one company over another for no real reason at all.
Brands bank on that impulsivity, much more than on carefully weighed up purchases. They use techniques that catch the eye and trigger an instant reaction so that they get noticed and stick in our brains, and the first thing our eyes see is colour.
Colour me pretty
Colour isn’t just the first thing our eyes notice and remember, we also have very strong emotional connections to colours. This might sound a bit out there, but we really do connect moods to colours and subconsciously connect those to something we are reading or buying into. Linking colours to our own experience of the world helps us to better connect with brands and companies. Brands know this and are basically whispering colourful sweet nothings to us all day long.
Colour psychology is actually pretty academic stuff and has been through a lot of research and debate, especially whether colour psychology is personal or generic, or whether we all experience the same thing when we look at a colour. There are theories out there that the most popular colours trigger specific emotions in all of us, for example:
Red: Excitement, youthful, bold.
Blue: Trust, dependable, strength.
Yellow: Optimism, clarity, warmth
Orange: Friendly, cheerful, confidence
Purple: creative, imaginative, wise
Green: peaceful, growth, health
Grey/Black: balance, neutral, calm
Think about some of the most famous companies and the logos they chose: Virgin, Oral B, Facebook, Lego, Carlsberg, Apple, Ikea, WordPress. Think about what emotions each company tries to sell, does it align with their brand colours?
What’s even crazier is that I don’t even need to add the logos to the brands because you’re already picturing each colour. Companies know that colours matter because they are remembered and linked to their values. It’s no coincidence that a lot of tech companies use the colour blue or that a lot of food and beverage companies implement green or yellow into their visuals.
The only snag with applying a broad theory over our individual colour perceptions is that we didn’t all fall from the same tree. Culture, language and personal experience mean that we can have very different emotional triggers to colour.
For example, red is a tricky colour to use in branding. The colour could be seen as exciting and fun to some but could be seen as a sign of danger (another neat evolutionary trick) or erotic to another person. There are also colours that are considered lucky or bad omens in different cultures.
So how do brands decide on a colour if there’s such variation in colour perception?
A lot of companies carry out A/B testing or traditional customer research to understand how their brand colours are perceived in a market or with their target audience. They also carry out a lot of trend analysis where they process specific data to understand general opinion. Google infamously A/B tested 41 different shades of blue for its logo to see which one performed best, which earned the search engine a cool $200m more a year.
In the end, brands do well when they emulate who we are and what we care about. Being remembered and establishing an emotional connection is crucial for any brand because it’s crucial for us as humans, and colour is a huge part of that decision process.
Psst! Did you know that we work on strengthening brand as well as building you a website at Bamboo? If you want to find out more give us a ring or come into Ziferblat for a chat
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 –
We aren’t cross-checking information from other sources
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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-
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.
Hashtags are no longer a Twittersphere phenomenon but can be used on any social media and searchable on google.
Instagram and recently Facebook now have ‘stories’ just like snapchat and even have Snapchat style video filters.
YouTube is testing community features to allow creators to share images and text (just like Facebook)
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.