Monthly Archives: June 2012

It’s official – the 6 year old’s verdict is that digital magazines are better!

Without any prompting from me, this morning over breakfast, when I was browsing the Metro app on the iPad, little Miss Noble tell us that magazines and newspapers are better on the iPad than the paper ones.  And the Focus magazine from the BBC is right up there as well – we had a quick look at that as well over breakfast.

This is only week 2 or 3 into our digital newspaper experiment but it’s going well and the Metro is without a doubt the clear winner here and leading the way in how newspapers can go digital and do it well.

For my 6 year old daughter to decide in her own mind that the digital versions are better says a lot.  Here’s her thinking as well (she told us why it was better)…

  • It has videos – consumers want more rich media content now
  • It has clever pictures – hi-res photos you can zoom in on and pan about
  • The adverts are funny – with videos and links and buttons you can click

All key points and she’s right.  For us, it’s a much more interactive family newspaper experience now and it’s so easy for me to show everyone else cool photos and stories.  Even 3 year old Mr. Noble needs to see them!

In the Metro today there’s a great story about a cable car in the Swiss Alps where you can sit on the roof for an outside view – see the picture below.  This was a great breakfast table topic as daddy (me) took a trip last night on the newly opened (yesterday) Emirates Air Line cable car across the Thames (London).  And the photos in the app really added to the conversation.  It looks a bit high though (the Swiss Alps one), not sure I’d be jumping to go on it, but maybe – it does look like fun…

Check out the web-site for the Emirates Air Line, it’s a very cool way to cross the Thames – 50m above the river and with some awesome views over London…

And some cool snaps from my first trip across the Thames in a cable car – the perfect evening for it, clear blue skies and the sun just about to set (a bit windy 50m up though).

Another hard run – wrong time of the day

Yes it’s that time of the year – pollen season is here – and the associated hayfever for millions of people.

This time of year running presents new challenges – avoiding grass and parks and generally nice outdoors type areas.  Training plans need adjusting and fine tuning to run in more built-up areas and at different times of the day.  The worst time to run is late morning and early afternoon, when the pollen count is generally at its highest.  So an early morning or evening run sound good.

Why then did I ignore this advice today?  And run on empty again (yes I’ve done this before and know it’s not good)!

An early start today and little breakfast, a busy morning in London (for a very enjoyable Digital Leaders Think Tank roundtable session (more on this in a later post) at the top of 30 St. Mary Axe – otherwise known as The Gherkin – with some spectacular views of London – see below) and hot and muggy weather.  Far from ideal conditions to do a 10k run with a decent time.

But it was on the plan so we did it.  Same route as the last couple of 10k training runs – nice and easy, and not much grass along the way.  Times for my 10k training runs so far vary from 44 1/2 minutes to 47 1/2 minutes – almost a 10% difference.  Today was the higher end – just over 47 1/2 minutes.  Rubbish.  But it should have been expected for all the reasons above.  See my earlier posts for some other thoughts on this.

Only just over one week to go until the British 10k.  2 more training runs planned this week and then 3 next.  Planning to leave 1-2 days between the last training run and the actual race.  With a 9:35am start and in central London, not in the parks, it should be a good time to run.

Just need to remember to eat first…!

Content over consumption – coming soon

A topic that I’ve been thinking about for sometime now and with my own children growing up immersed in technology, have been wondering if content over consumption is or will be a problem.  Is anyone else thinking about this?

Content is everywhere and so accessible and at lower and lower prices, and everybody is creating and publishing their own content.  Blogs, videos, photos, apps, web-sites, Facebook pages and more.  When we access and consume all this content are as focused as we should be?  Are we spending the time the content deserves or needs to understand it properly?

I’m a big fan of digital media and technology and yes I buy into the anywhere, anyhow and anytime philosophy.  I like to be able to decide when and where and how I access the content and what content I’m accessing.

Mrs. Noble’s not convinced about my 2 screen policy in the living room – i.e. watching TV and using the iPad or iPhone at the same time (be it for browsing, Twitter, e-mails or anything).  Her argument goes that I’m not focused on the one activity – one content consumption activity – so I can’t be getting the most out of it.  She has a point and a good one.  Yes it does take a lot for a TV programme to grab my attention fully but unless  I consume the content and focus on it and nothing else, am I off to a bad start?

What got me really thinking about this was a BBC programme that’s on now, called “The Men Who Made Us Fat“, with Jacques Peretti.  The title of this grabbed me and I thought I’ve got to watch it, as it’s surely all about self control so I was dying to see what they had to say and how it can be possibly be someone else’s fault.  But I stand corrected – it’s an eye opener to say the least.  Some critics of the programme disagree – quite harshly – but it makes some very very good points and there were a number of pivotal points over the last 40 or so years that have contributed to over consumption of food, that you can’t argue with.

Keep with me, this is relevant to the subject of content over consumption as you’ll see…

These pivotal points include:

  • The availability of cheaper high calorie food – through sugar and corn syrup.
  • The new idea of a snack – food consumption away from the traditional meals.
  • Counter service food – fast food and takeaways, food when I want and where I want.
  • Food manufacturers creating new low fat alternatives but still full of sugar.
  • And food anywhere, anyhow and anytime – it’s everywhere you go.

And these have all contributed to a growing over consumption of food and yes the related health issues – particularly in the Western world.

Now back to content – let’s look at the similarities…

  • The mass availability of cheap rich media content – e.g. from YouTube.
  • Content snacks as cheap small pieces of content – e.g. music tracks and short episodes.
  • Counter service – content anywhere I want through iTunes, Amazon, Google etc.
  • New types of content from creators – e.g. apps for £0.69.
  • And content anywhere, anyhow and anytime – what the consumer is wanting.

Content over consumption is coming and for some it’s already here.  Is it a problem though?  That’s the million dollar question.  I don’t think so if we manage the consumption properly – and this is down to individuals and parents.  Moderation is the key word and content is good in the right amounts and when appropriately filtered for the little guys.  We don’t want to stop the trends we’ve got now, with everyone being able to create their own high quality content – and build up those associated creative (and technology) skills.  But at the same time we don’t want to create a bottomless content pit where you can’t sort out the good from the bad easily and become overwhelmed by the volume.

Yes content is king but it’s about quality not quantity.

And some thoughts from the Dalai Lama to finish on…

The clouds are here to stay

Following my post last week on cloud computing and reference to Kevin Fielder’s blog post about BYOD and the consumerisation of IT (2 other hot topics), there’s another great post that Kevin’s done specifically on cloud computing and what it is.  It’s well worth a read…

It’s a simple but comprehensive introduction and covers key points including:

  1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  2. Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  3. Software as a Service (SaaS)
And also:

  1. Private cloud
  2. Public cloud
  3. Hybrid cloud

Keep an eye out for future posts here and on Kevin’s blog for more on cloud computing.  It is changing the way we use computers – both at home and at work and now you know a bit more about what it is and where it’s going…

The end of content ownership?

Following on from my earlier post on going digital and what content we’ve gone digital with , I want to go back to the thorny subject of ownership.  Do you ever own content?  Do you need to own content?  What does it matter?

Over the last few years I’ve been reading a series of books called “50 xxx Ideas You Really Need To Know.” – where the “xxx” is not something pornographic but a specific topic or area.  Like Digital, Economics, World History, Physics, Maths, Genetics, Management, Philosophy and more.  They’re all great books, at a bargain price and very very readable.  A little plug here to where you can get them on Amazon – do take a look…

One of these books is aptly titled, “50 Digital Ideas You Really Need To Know”, written by Tom Chatfield (British author, writer and commentator) and is well worth a read.  It covers all digital and technology topics in this space, including:

  • Internet service provision
  • Web 2.0
  • Blogging
  • Aggregation
  • Privacy
  • Hacking
  • Cyberwar
  • Games consoles
  • Mashups
  • Culture jamming
  • E-commerce
  • Location-based services
  • Virtual goods
  • eGovernment
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Free software movement
  • Digital distribution
  • Cloud computing
  • Net neutrality
  • Semantic web
  • Augmented reality
  • Convergence
  • The internet of things
  • Distraction

Quite an extensive list and all in nice chunks of a few pages long.  Under the section on Digital Distribution, Tom talks about the end of ownership and covers many of the points I wrote about before…

Why are we worried about ownership?  Does physical ownership matter?  No it doesn’t.  The content never really was ours and we’ve simply been granted rights to use it – through payment (by whatever means that was agreed etc).  What does physical ownership give us?  Something to put on the shelf and look pretty?  It’s more from an technical era gone by where physical media was the only way to consume the content – that’s it.  Very simple.  We’re now in the digital age and we’re making the – sometimes painful – transition from physical to digital.

It is a transition and as I said before, we’re not talking a big bang approach here where one day everything becomes digital.  No, we need to make a controlled change that suits us, when the technology is right, at the right price and when it works well (with a nice user experience to it).  Some areas aren’t ready yet (e.g. newspapers) and some have been ready for a while (e.g. music).

My on-going experiment with digital newspapers is interesting and the current front runner is the Metro (the free London morning newspaper).  It’s available in the Apple Newstand and is fantastic.  It’s not just a digital scanned version of the paper (as some other digital newspapers are) but a fully interactive version with great ads that are fun, videos, hi-res photos that you can zoom in on and scan around and lots more.  And it’s free every weekday.  Interestingly I’m not alone in my high ratings for this app – it actually won the Newspaper App of the Year Award (at the 2012 Newspaper Industry Awards).

The subject of content ownership is one that’s being actively debated and discussed online and elsewhere.  Here’s a link to an interesting article by from mid-2011.  A few changes since mid-2011 but still relevant…

The Future of Entertainment Summit 2012 was held this week in London, with some great speakers from across the content, entertainment, digital and broadcast space and some great discussions.  I wasn’t able to attend this year but was watching Twitter closely for the updates on what was being said.  See a few of the Tweets from the day below all around content and consumption…

It isn’t about ownership anymore and it doesn’t need to be.  It’s now about consumption and access to content, and yes now the digital consumer!  The next challenge is guaranteeing that access – keeping your internet connection (as it is now) up and running and what happens when it goes down.

10 top running tips

10 tips from my previous blog posts on how to get the best out of your running…

  1. Always use Vaseline – read more (this helps with the infamous runner’s nipples)
  2. Don’t run on empty – read more
  3. Don’t run when not feeling well – read more
  4. Vary your training and run some hills – read more
  5. Ignore the weather and just run – read more
  6. Do some intervals (run slow and then fast and repeat) – read more
  7. Have a plan – read more
  8. Don’t forget to recover – read more
  9. Be motivated – read more
  10. Set a pace and keep to it – read more

These are tips that I’ve found work very well and help you improve – both speeds and distances covered and they help to keep injuries at bay.

One extra one not mentioned – let’s put in as number 0 – so right at the top, get good shoes!  So so so important and it makes a huge difference.  Go to a specialist running shop – like Sweatshop – and get professional advice.  Try the shoes out, test a few pairs and see which suit you best.  And the blog post about the good shoes tip is here.

Yes dad does know everything – Happy Fathers’ Day

As a little boy you grow up convinced dad knows everything there is to know.  He answers all the questions you have, with what seem plausible answers and nothing throws him.  Nothing.

As you grow up and perhaps study more specialist subjects – e.g. physics like me – dad knows the bits around the edges but less of the details, but still a lot.

Then as you start working and start a family of your own, you begin putting all the stuff that dad taught you to good use and hey it works!  And yes when you have your own little ones, dad still knows a lot – he brought you into this world – but he’s letting you have a go now and taking a back seat and watching (no doubt with a smile).

Then as your little ones grow up and they ask you the same questions – and yes they are tricky – you suddenly become the dad that knows everything.  That’s part of the job.  And if you don’t know something straight way you find out – now a whole lot easier with Google and team.  How did my dad figure out things he didn’t know?

Recently my dad’s blown me away with answers to things that I’ve been pondering.  Some major stuff and thought provoking and others facts that I needed to know and didn’t.


The major stuff – the size of the universe.  Having studied physics at one of the best colleges there is (Imperial College) and being fascinated by the subject, probably even more since college, I like to think I have a good all round understanding of it.  But infinity throws me – and the ideas that the universe isn’t infinite or is infinite.  Neither answer makes sense.  And either answer leads to more questions and mind blowing thinking.  How can the universe have an edge?  What’s on the other side?  And if there’s no edge and it goes on forever that can’t be right, can it?

In steps dad – now retired and enjoying life to the full but still the font of all knowledge.  A chat with dad about all sorts and we started talking about this, as you do.  Not an issue for dad, it’s simply our lack of understanding of what an infinite universe is.  We don’t yet understand the answers properly.  Genius.  That actually makes sense.  We’re just not there yet in how we think about this.  I’m happy with this explanation – time to move on.


The race. Why do we run this distance?  It doesn’t make sense – why not 1600m which is pretty much a mile?  Why this odd distance?  A call to dad… 19th century international politics is the answer.  100m we understand, ok it’s Metric, the British weren’t, but it’s a nice number.  200m is just 2 x 100m, 400m is 2 x 200m and 800m is 2 x 400m – logical steps.  So the next one would be 1600m yes?  No. 1600m is just under an official Imperial mile at 1609m, so pretty much a mile!  And a mile is an Imperial (British) measurement – and there was a need for an international compromise on something close – so 1500m was picked.  Not too dissimilar from why some countries drive on the left – like the UK – and others on the right.  But that’s for another post!

So yes dads do know everything and then soon after you discover that grandad’s know just as much if not more!

Happy Fathers’ Day dad and to all dad’s everywhere!

“A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms even when his hands are empty.”

It’s all about excellent service

A great post here that talks very nicely about building a culture of service excellence in IT.  Written by Glenn Remoreras – another fellow IT professional – and his blog is well worth a read.

Service excellence in technology is what I’m all about and it brings my passions of great service and the latest technology together.  There are sadly only a few organisations that provide great great service, in or with technology but Glenn’s post nicely gives some ideas as to what it takes to build a culture that can deliver.

Glenn highlights 5 key points, as values or behaviours, that you need to nurture and develop in your organisation to deliver service excellence:

  1. Putting the customer first always
  2. Creating a culture of collaboration and teamwork
  3. Being proactive (versus just reactive)
  4. Continuous learning
  5. Creativity and empowerment – for innovation and change

Great points and they all make a lot of sense.  I’d go even further and say that it’s not just technology services where these are relevant – but any business or organisation who wants to deliver the best service.  And today delivering the best service is what your customers are demanding.  Are you delivering?

It’s in the clouds

A very topical topic for this post – cloud computing.  It’s everywhere and growing exponentially.  I love the photo below – taken down our road of the telegraph pole (is that still the right term for it?) that pretty much every telephone (and therefore broadband connection) down this part of the road comes from…

Cloud technology is now and it’s about using computing as a utility service – i.e. you use and pay for what you need, when you need it and even where you need it.  Versus the more traditional approach of doing everything locally where you are and investing in your own (quite often expensive) hardware and software.  It’s not a new approach as such, and has similarities with the mainframe services from way back.

A great example of cloud computing, is in the consumer world with smartphones.  I expect to be able to access my e-mails, music, photos, videos, documents and more, wherever and whenever I want and in the way I want.  I don’t want to have to sit down at a designated computer (yes even my lovely iMac) and only be able to access things then.  What if I’m away and need something urgently?  Cloud computing means I can use services that store my data for me and that I can access through the “cloud” – i.e. with an internet connection.  Not just my data but tools and utilities and applications that I want to use as well.  My smartphone is my access portal to the cloud.

Here’s a link to a great blog post from Kevin Fielder – a fellow IT professional (specialising in security) – that talks about this more and also 2 other current trends we’re seeing in technology, that all link together:

  • BYOD – bring your own device
  • Consumerisation of IT

Both phrases I’m sure most people have heard of as well.  But what are they?

In short BYOD is the cultural change over recent years where businesses are allowing their employees to bring in and use their own technology equipment at work and accessing their work technology resources (e.g. e-mail) through that device.  Yes there are security and support implications but these need to be and are being resolved.  Gone are the days when my work technology equipment is by default the latest and greatest, it’s me the consumer driving this (with the latest smartphone or tablet) and I want all my data – work and personal – accessible in one place, and yes I can be more productive like that.

The consumerisation of IT fits neatly in here as well.  As Kevin rightly says, it’s about the blurring of the differences between technology at businesses and for consumers.  I want to be able to do everything from one device, whenever and wherever I want.  And hey if it’s my device, I’ve paid for it and I’m more than likely paying for any monthly charges!  Think about that.

The image above shows cloud computing more from a business standpoint, showing what type of services I (as a business) can access through the cloud.  Creating technology as a true utility service – much like businesses use electricity (without their own generators to create their own) – means that businesses can focus on what they do best and still deliver services using the best technology without massive investments that have to be depreciated after a few years and yes then upgraded.

Another great definition of cloud computing is below…

And going back to my first photo to finish.  Although I’m now using the cloud for my technology, I’m still reliant on this older technology (through the telegraph pole) to get my access.  If that’s not there I’m stuffed quite frankly – not internet connection.  Where’s the redundancy here?  What have my (my road’s) telco provider done to ensure continuity of service if a storm blows this down?  Are consumers thinking about this?  Not really.  What about businesses?  As part of any move to the cloud, businesses need to look at considerations like this urgently.

The 45 minute barrier has been cracked again!

Back to the running theme.  Only 3.5 weeks until the British 10k.  Here’s a quick reminder of the route of the race…

It goes past some of London’s best known (and best) sites and we’ll be able to wave (quickly) at the Queen in Buckingham Palace on way past.  With all the roads closed running along routes like this, it’s special and reminds you what a cool city London is.

For more details on the route and history around the places see below…

It’s going to be a busy race – with some 25,000 runners expected but they’ll be a real buzz about.  The Olympics starts here only a few weeks after and part of the route is the same as planned Olympic Marathon route – very cool.

It starts at 9:35 I think – so not too early.  It’s always a joy commuting up to central London for that time on a Sunday morning though – and typically there’s a normal Sunday train schedule running (i.e. not very frequent).

I’m aiming for a finish time of around 43 minutes on the day.  It may be difficult to start at the right pace depending on people traffic but the overall time is do-able.  I did a great 10k run (on the local roads) a week after the London Marathon and got just under 45 minutes.  A few others since then a bit slower but then a great great run yesterday (same route) and 30 seconds faster.  Sub-44 or even sub-43 is a possibility!

The winner last year came home in just over 29 minutes – that’s insane and awesome.  At the 4 minutes 35 seconds per mile pace again.  Which means they’re 2 miles ahead of me then – 30% of the race.  Amazing!

I’m really looking forward to this run and pushing myself.