Technology

Measuring Impact vs Hours Worked

I was recently given the pleasure of having a tour of the FaceBook Campus in Menlo Park, California.

There are many stories of how amazing Facebook is and it didn’t disappoint. The campus is very much focussed around people. Some examples:

  • There is as much food as you will ever be able to eat and all food is free, breakfast, noon and night. There’s also a candy and ice cream shop that serves up free desert.
  • They have a retro gaming room
  • There is a bike stop that will repair your bike if you have cycled to work
  • One of the buildings has a roof top park where you can go sunbathe or just have a walk.
  • They have a beauty spar on campus that offers massage therapy and other spar treatments.

All of the services above are offered to employees for free; if you didn’t have anywhere to live as a Facebook employee I’m quite certain you could move onto campus and live for 2 or 3 months with no real difficulty.

What I found really interesting though is that the investment Facebook makes into its people doesn’t end here. The culture at Facebook is to work as and when you want to work. Employees don’t have set hours, they instead are tasked with work to do and are sent away to do it. Facebook doesn’t care when the work is done as long as it is.

Performance at Facebook is measured in terms of impact; as long as you as an employee are having impact on the organisation and are getting through the work that has been assigned to you everyone is happy.

The other really cool thing is that if something doesn’t work, or makes people miserable they change it. A great example: In the early days of Facebook code used to get pushed on a Tuesday evening so often engineers would work into the night. As a result people always felt sluggish and unmotivated on a Wednesday and didn’t want to focus on meetings. To address this all meetings were cancelled on Wednesdays and the day is now known as “No Meeting Wednesday”.

Speaking as a business owner the model portrayed above is a scary thought. The idea of saying to your staff work when, where and how you want to work but just get the job done is a great idea but conventional wisdom would say that it shouldn’t work. I mean, if people don’t have to work why would they choose to?

The fascinating thing is that not only does it work at Facebook, it clearly works brilliantly! Everyone I spoke to seems to have a common purpose, working towards the same goal; all part of the same team working towards the same end point. This is the culture that I really believe most companies can only dream of creating.

Having toured Facebook there are ideas I now have that I want to put into practice within our own working environment at Footsqueek; in some ways having seen it work at Facebook it feels like some of the ideas they have about there working practice is common sense.

One thing that really interests me (and also massively scares me) is the idea of letting staff work the hours required to do the job. Facebook would argue that there is no point being at work 40 hours a week if you can do the same work in 10 hours and also do it better because you are well rested and motivated having had a good massage.

If you are reading this the challenge I lay down to you is to look at working practices within your organisation and then ask your staff what would make like better. If they say working less do you have the guts to say “Ok, work when you want to work; just get the job done”? Even if you think that’s to extreme, I wonder want other changes would make your staff happier?

 

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Categories: FaceBook, Social, Technology, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

iOSDEVUK Review 2016

IOSDEVUK is over for another year; our annual pilgrimage to Aberystwyth always end in a sad train journey home – all the better for the knowledge we’ve gained throughout the week.

As is tradition, here is my round up of the week and my very best bits!

Running A/B tests on your app using Firebase Remote Config and Analytics

Todd Kerpelman

Prior to iOSDEVUK I hadn’t come across Firebase. This tool is phenomenal and can do brilliant things that allow you to control detailed configuration of your app without the need to submit your app for an apple review. Watch out for a blog post tutorial soon showing how you can set it up in a basic project.
Todd was a brilliant speaker, very engaging. One of my favorite talks by far!

Diagnosing Allergies

Emily Toop

This was quite simply interesting. Emily sneezes a lot and is using iOS to track her sneezes in order to help work out what’s causing it. It’s a real world use case for how mobile technology can be used to collect high volumes of data, analyze it and then make use of it in the real world. If you get chance to listen to Emily talk about her sneezing I would highly recommend it.

I’m an Idiot

Richard Turton

Sometimes as developers it does us good to remember that we are all human, we all make mistakes, miss the blindingly obvious and ultimately we are all idiots …. Sometimes.
This talk reminded me that if we need help, we should ask for it and if we share knowledge the community is stronger for it. My take away message from the talk though was that under no circumstances should you ever try to be CLEVER! It always backfires.

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Steve Scott

Steve Scott

Scotty is a brilliant speaker! He has a habit of stating the blindingly obvious in a hilarious way. Scotty reviewed where we have come from as developers and where we are going to; the underlying tone of the talk was the fact that while iOS is a very rich place today for developers this is unlikely to remain the case forever. This changing landscape is part of evolution and even visionary entrepreneurs can’t predict the future! He also emphasised that sometimes people do get it right – can you believe that less than 40 years ago it was considered ambitious to have a computer on every desk, in every work place and in every home!
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Review of the Year

Dave Verwer

No-one knows the world of iOS like Dave Verwer, writing iOSDEVWEEKLY really does give him an insight into our world like no-other. The stats Dave is able to create showing who is reading iOSDEVWEEKLY are a portal onto the iOS Development Community that just blows you away. Brilliant speaker and in my view Dave is one of the cornerstones that makes doing what we do so interesting.

Dyson Hackathon

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This totally blew me away! I’ve been to hackathons before and they are always brilliant fun but then Dyson entered the room with 16 robotic vacuum cleaners! Words cannot describe how good this event was – I still say we were cheated as our balloon burst itself in the final battle, the stewards’ enquiry is still open in my eyes; but I’m not bitter.
Serious kudos though for a job thoroughly well done.

Conferences are an essential part of our learning as developers and have a huge impact on companies. I want to say a massive thank you to Chris, Neil, John and the team here in Aber; once again you have raised the bar and delivered a brilliant event!

So that’s it; iOSDEVUK is over for another year. If you can’t wait a whole year for another conference check out what we are doing in Chester 17th – 20th April 2017. CodeMobile is a brand new developer conference focusing on both Android and iOS Development. We need more events of this type in the community because when you bring developers together it really does create magic!

Categories: Apple, Conferences, Invention, Robots, Social, Technology | Leave a comment

What’s next for the iPhone?

I can’t believe its almost time for Apple’s September event! It seems like only 5 minutes since apple released the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus and yet here we are anticipating the release of the iPhone 7.

I always find following predictions about what Apple are going to do very interesting. The issue is that over the years it has become increasingly hard for Apple to wow me because much of my tech wish list is now complete. In the early 2000’s when I was still in school I used to dream about a phone that could connect to the internet, that would allow me to record video, share photos and listen to my music. I remember being delighted when I got a pocket PC but in reality being really let down by what the device actually did.

All of those troubles are long behind us. So now I ask what else do we want from Apple and more specifically from the iPhone? What is my new wish list? Here are some ideas:

Wireless Charging

This has been tried by a number of companies but its still not quite here. The idea of simply being able to put my phone onto a surface (ideally any surface) and have it charge is a brilliant concept although I accept that it comes with a lot of challenges. This is definitely something I would like to see brought to market with apples usual flair of simplicity and elegance.

Battery Life

Over the years battery life has improved dramatically however the power demands of devices have also increased significantly. I really want a battery that lasts. When I say lasts I want a battery that can take 12 hours hard use and still not give up – I hate having to carry around my charger.

In the absence of a brilliant battery that never dies what about exploring ideas to extend the battery life. I would love to see a solar powered phone that charges from the sunlight.

Dual Sim

This can be done already but its expensive. I really want the ability for my phone to have 2 telephone numbers, 1 for work and 1 for home. It would be great if I could select which SIM I want to use for certain numbers and then also allow incoming calls on the SIMS to be denied based upon a schedule.

Personal Assistant

Siri is brilliant but I still think there is a lot could be done in terms of improving Siri’s artificial intelligence. Is it plausible that one day we could have a conversation with Siri and that the system would answer in an almost human like fashion?

Ubiquitous Internet Connections

This isn’t in Apples control but its important to draw attention to it. I’m writing this while sat on a train on my way to iOSDEVUK. I havn’t had a mobile signal since Shrewsbury. Large towns and cities have now got 4g and that’s great but what I really want to see is 4g everywhere. Some would argue this isn’t worth the investment especially in rural Britain but when you realize what the internet can do for small communities I think its not only worth the investment but is actually an essential investment.

Life Interaction

The iPhone is now an extension of me it therefore makes sense that my iPhone should interact with the world around me. With iBeacons and location services my iPhone is now very aware of where it is but I would like my iPhone to be more intelligent. For example when in any restaurant wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to see the menu on your phone; to be able to call the waitress and even ask for your bill and pay without having to attract someone’s attention? When queuing at Alton Towers wouldn’t it be awesome if you could see an estimated length of time you were going to be waiting; or even avoid the queue to buy tickets altogether by being prompted to do so as soon as you arrive.

Linked to this is the idea of my iPhone being able to do everyday tasks. Homekit has introduced great new features in terms of being able to control my house; heating, lighting etc. I would love to see this expanded and a much greater rate of adoption – why do I need to carry keys for example; surely I should be able to unlock my house and car without a key? Also as soon as I leave home my phone should prompt me to turn on the intruder alarm.

The other thing that would really help us as developers to achieve this is if Apple were to open up the NFC chip so that we can develop applications that use it.

Apple Watch

Quite simply this needs to fully function without a phone. This is beyond running native apps; I want to see full WIFI, 4g connectivity and have the ability to use all features when my iPhone isn’t close by.

 

I’m sure I want and need more from my iPhone and there are a lot of things I could add to this wish list but I’m very aware that Apple Engineers are busy people. If its possible to just achieve the above this year, the rest of my wish list can wait until 2017 J

 

 

Categories: Apple, Technology | Leave a comment

Brilliant UX

I’ve recently found myself talking to people more and more about what makes UX either really really good or really really bad.

I came across this image online which I think sums up best practice of user interface design.

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Its important to look at how this manifests itself in real life. The best example of exceptional user interface design that comes into every day life is the common Door Handle.

doorhandleThe door handle is a brilliant example of user interface design because it is quite simply one of the most intuitive objects of everyday life.

I don’t ever remember being told how to use a door handle; and its a concept that in thousands of videos online you see conquered by children and animals alike with absolutely no direction.

This is so true that in nursery schools often the door handle is moved so it is out of reach of the children because staff know if the children can reach the handle then they will be able to open it.

The door handle is quite simply an elegant solution to a complex problem. It hasn’t been over engineered and actually goes unnoticed for the vast majority of the time. Yet imagine the issues we would have if the humble door handle didn’t exist? We would struggle to open doors, wouldn’t be able to lock doors and secure our property, car boots and cars more generally would face difficulties; and if expand the concept to cover the generic handle how many every every day objects would be effected.

Compare and contrast this to UI on the web. We regularly see examples of good clean UI, simplistic in its nature, not over engineered and easy for our users to understand. One of the best examples of stunning UI on the web can be seen on the gov.uk website.
Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 19.45.46
This website learns from the simplicity of the door handle by making it very obvious what to do. A user has w very clear options when they visit the home page, search or click on a relevant link. When you consider the volume of information published on this website it really is a triumph that it has been categorised into 16 clearly defined areas.

Now lets consider the navigation on this website

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I acknowledge that I have selected an extreme example; but in the website above the navigation is confusing, over engineered and doesn’t help the user to find the content that they are looking for.

The creators of the website above have worked on the principle that everything on the website should be accessible within 2 clicks. While this is a good principle in theory there are times when the rules doesn’t work and simply isn’t helpful to our users. As designs as we search to optimise or users experience by reducing the number of clicks we often find ourselves giving users a greater number of choices which only serves to confuse our users.

The moral of the story here is that we should all try to make our websites more like Door Handles; emulate the simpicity and improve our users flow as they access our online content.

Categories: Design, Technology, UX | Leave a comment

Developer Conferences

If you’re anything like me then you will love a good developer conference! The opportunity to share and collaborate with like minded people is sometimes just what the doctor ordered to help make sure those creative juices are flowing.

Unfortunately, in the UK we seem to have a lack of events; especially outside of London. There are a couple of independent events like iOSDEVUK and a few others organised by the tech giants such as Microsoft and Google. The issue is that the vast majority of events tend to happen in the south, in and around London and often us up here in the North feel a bit left out.

I’ve recently been chatting about this phenomena to some of my developer friends and colleagues; and the conclusion we have come to is that if there are no conferences happening locally to help promote knowledge share and collaboration between developers, then the only solution is to set one up ourselves!

We got chatting with some friends; those friends made some introductions and the result is CodeMobile – a conference specifically created for Mobile Developers. The event will take place just after easter next year (18th, 19th and 20th April), is a 3 night residential and has 2 tracks, one for Android Developers and another for iOS Developers.

In creating the conference we’ve deliberately tried to make it as accessible as possible for developers from all backgrounds. The ticket price is as cheap as it possibly can be (Super Early Bird, £275 & £350 Full Price) which will hopefully allow Indie Developers who are not backed by big corporations to come along; and we’ve been fortunate enough to attract a plethora of speakers from both the UK and internationally.

Putting the conference together over the past few weeks has been an absolute whirlwind of an experience and I’m delighted we’ve had so much support and encouragement from within the developer community. We are now in the process of finalising the speakers list (there are still some great speakers to add to the list) and also confirm details before tickets go on sale on 1st September 2016.

As this is a new conference any help and support you can give will be very much appreciated. In particular we need help reaching out to developer networks and communities to make sure everyone is aware of the event. If you’re involved in a local meet-up or know any developers who might be interested a tweet mentioning the conference website or that tags those who might be interested would be hugely appreciated.

We’ve also opened up the possibility of winning some free conference tickets! If you want to be in with a chance then you just need to get your tweet on on follow the instructions on the Free Tickets page of the conference website.

I would love to hear any feedback about the event that you might have! Also if you have any speakers you would like to see at the event please drop me a line – I can’t promise but we will certainly reach out to those speakers and see if its possible to get them to attend.

My dream for this conference is that the developer community take ownership of it and that it becomes a true community event; to that end if you have any ideas or suggestions please drop me a tweet.

Once tickets go on sale please show your support by signing up to attend if you’re interested and able. It would be brilliant to see you at the event! You can also follow @codemobileuk on twitter, and find all related information on the conference website www.codemobile.co.uk

Categories: Android, Apple, Apps, Conferences, Social, Technology | Leave a comment

Social Media: Does it complement or detract from life?

Social media is key part of all of our lives and everyday it seems that something happens to reinforce its impact on our lives. It is estimated that the average person in america spends upwards on 37 minutes per day social networking and that 46% of web users are influenced by social media when making a purchase (https://www.marketingtechblog.com/2014-statistics-trends-businesses-social-media/).

During the social media boom around 2006 the younger generation (18-30) were by far the quickest to adopt the technology; but recently the largest growth has been seen amongst 45-50 year olds. I think its impressive how older generations are adopting the technology and making use of it in ways that I wouldn’t have even imagined.

Personally, what I find most interesting is that as older generations come on board it seems that the technology is being used more as an extension of social activity that is already taking place offline. One of the most vibrant Facebook groups that I am a member of is the `Consett and District Heritage Initiative. Consett has always had a large number of individuals interested in local history and groups such as this are extending activities that already take place offline to allow a greater number of people to get involved with the conversations and really bring history to life.

With social media being used in this way I wonder if critics ever had anything to be worried about when arguing that online social interaction was going to have a negative impact on real life social interaction. I find that my online life compliments and enhances my actual life and far from becoming more of a recluse it actually causes me to interact with a much greater range of people some of whom I would otherwise not have the opportunity to interact with.

Whats your experience of social media? Does it enhance or detract from your “real life”?

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Artificial Intelligence – Can a Robot Ever Be Intelligent?

I was recently reminded of of a Robot developed by Sony a few years ago called QRIO (Quest for Curiosity). The device had some awesome unique features like the ability to recognise people’s faces and the ability to deal with emotional responses such as anger  or annoyance. One of the most amazing things about the machine is that it has the ability learn.

It occurs to me though that as intelligent as QRIO may seem, and despite the fact that it can copy and remember behaviour the robot is not truly intelligent because it doesn’t have the ability to make independent decisions – it simply does what it is programmed to do. We must therefore consider what we really mean when referring to an intelligent technology and question if technology can ever be truly intelligent.

Aristotle said:

There is only one condition in which we can imagine managers not needing subordinates, and masters not needing slaves. This would be if every machine could work by itself, at the word of command or by intelligent anticipation.

It is possible for programmes to be written that can emulate intelligent anticipation. An example would be a Central Heating system that can be programmed to maintain a certain temperature within a set environment. The system anticipates when the consumer is likely to want to turn the heating on, responds to the environmental change and performs the task.

This is not, however, true intelligent anticipation because the system only reacts when a set of pre-programmed conditions are evaluated as true. To be intelligent the system would have to decide what the required temperature was without any human intervention.

It occurs to me that even if such a system were technically possible consumers would react negatively as the concept comes close to the Big Brother totalitarian state described by Orwell in his Novel Nineteen Eighty Four.

Darwin’s theory of Evolution demonstrates that the human race has evolved into an intelligent species, embracing inteligence to survive; it could be argued that truly inteligent systems are the next stage of human evolution and could be used as a self protection mechanism to assist our survival.

Until technology enables this evolutionary shift we much resign ourselves to devising methods of control for automated systems that make working with technology more convenient for the consumer, while recognising that sometimes a task does not require automation because the consumer is content with the current solution, or because society is not yet ready to embrace the long term possibilities or consequences.

If you want to find out more about QRIO check out these links:

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WWDC just around the corner

wwdc14-home-branding

Apples’ annual developer conference WWDC is now only days away the rumour mill is rife with what to expect during this years event.

Last year I was convinced that the iWatch was going to finally be previewed during the keynote speech but I was left disappointed – industry insiders are still doubting that Apple will feature this at the event this year and with a release of Apple TV SDK also being touted as unlikely it really is making me wonder if Apple are going to announce anything worthy of note that will really get me excited!

It is expected that Apple will announce iOS 8 but my view is that this will not be radically different to iOS 7, the significant changes in the current version of iOS caused a lot of upset amongst consumers some of whom did not like the radically different interface, it therefore stands to reason that any update is likely to be more akin to evolution rather than revolution. Perhaps this year we can expect to see a more radical overhaul of OSX, my concern is that won’t be enough to keep consumers excited about Apple’s Innovation.

I am rapidly reaching the conclusion that Apple need to find a game changer and announce the next big thing! The last true innovation announced by the company was iPad and that was released back in 2010, 4 years in technology feels like a life-time and as a true techie i’m desperate to be wowed! I fear that from what i’ve read so far this year is not going to be that year and we may have to wait until 2015 to see a true innovative twist! That said I will still hanging on every word of the keynote speech on 2nd June and can’t wait for the spectacle – Apple really do know how to put on a show!

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