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 (

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”?

Categories: Social, Technology | Tags: , | Leave a comment

QR Codes

At Footsqueek we have recently been doing a lot of work with QR Codes. We are using them as an educational tool to allow schools to make wall displays much more interactive.

A couple of years ago QR codes seems to be everywhere, on every high street, on business cards, in shop windows, and on membership cards to name but a few. Recently they seem to have been less prevalent and i’m wondering why that is – has the technology been and gone so quickly?

Perhaps people are looking for technologies to make their lives easier – having to reach into your pocket to get your phone to scan something seems easy enough but maybe its viewed as to much effort or to consuming to really make life easier. After all do we really need to see the content that is linked to from the QR code.

I still speak to countless individuals who have no idea what a QR code is or how to use one – on that basis maybe the technology piqued before its time.

That said we still find it useful in an educational context so maybe there are some specific markets – are you using QR codes? How do you use them?

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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:

Categories: Automation, Robots, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Social Review of 2014

As we wave goodbye to 2014 and look forward to 2015 I find it fascinating to review how technology has changed and evolved society throughout the year and speculate what the future may hold. So heres 5 things to remember about 2014 and a few predictions for 2015.

5 things from 2014

1. 2014 was the year of the big social crazes! Who didn’t neck nominate? and I can’t believe anyone avoided the Ice Bucket Challenge? If you’re interested heres mine!

2. Data security and privacy has been right at the forefront of our newsfeed. The year started with 4.6 million snapchat accounts being compromised, followed in April by the target heart bleed fiasco which exposed the payment details of 40 million target customers. In September 5 million gmail passwords were released on a Russian bit coin forum. 145 million accounts were stolen from eBay in May; several celebrities learnt why they need to have good iCloud passwords and most recently Kim Jong Un and North Korea hacked Sony Pictures in an attempt to prevent the release of The Interview. if there’s one thing to be learnt by all of this it is that data is still not secure online and companies have a long way to go to ensure that our data is protected.

3. The CIA joined Twitter in June – but they can neither confirm or deny that this is the case.

4. In September Apple launched the latest iPhone(s). The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus are the most advanced handsets ever – in my view the most exciting feature is the introduction of Apple Pay which allows consumers to pay for goods using their phone instead of their credit card. This isn’t available in the UK yet but I really think it has the potential to change the way we pay for goods and services forever! They also launched Apple Watch – personally i’m not convinced about this one yet but i’ll let you know when I buy one in 2015.

5. Talking of Apple Watch wearable technology seems to have had some big hits this year! Google Glass was launched as a premium product in the uk; keeping fit with fit bit, Nike Fuel Band and other similar products seems to have suddenly become cool. I bought myself a Pebble smart watch (and so did at least two other people I know) – I know hardly makes it main stream but you had to at least consider that some of this stuff is catching on! Maybe 2015 is the year of the wearable.

So thats a brief look at what has caught my attention during 2014 – any thoughts on the 2015 trend?

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Rules on the golf coarse

I’ve recently started having golf lessons and I’m really enjoying it! I’ve been really surprised by how quickly I’m learning the sport and how quickly I’ve been able to see visible improvement.

As a result I’m spending more time at the golf coarse; something which is taking a little getting used to is the quirks of golf etiquette – “no trainers in the club house”, “no mobile phones on the fairway”. No one tells you these rules unless you break then – hence the fact that I’m now eating breakfast outside in my trainers – in fairness it’s warm enough but it has made me consider whether sometimes rules for the sake of rules becomes annoying.

It reminds me of a great online community started by a friend of mine, Andy Clark, while at university. “Stick it to the man” was all about breaking seemingly pointless rules that could never really be enforced and in reality didn’t matter “No Walking on the Grass”, “No standing on the bus”, “No birds”. Some of the photos are really inventive and you can still find it on twitter @stickit2_theman. Hope you enjoy 🙂

Categories: Golf, Social | Leave a comment

WWDC just around the corner


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!

Categories: Apple, Apps, Technology | Leave a comment

A Speech at the Wedding of the new Mr. and Mrs Roberts

Now this is technically nothing to do with technology (although it is very social). My best mate Mike Roberts got married yesterday and I thought it would be opportune to post a copy of my speech online ….. lets call it an act of public record 🙂

Ready Mike?

Now before I sit down …. As Mikes best mate I think it would be wrong of me not to break with tradition and say one or two words to ensure that the assembled company gets a full picture of the man that we all know fondly as Mike Roberts

I got to know Mike way back in 2005 when we both started University. We’ve got to know each other pretty well during that time and it also means that I have a number of stories that I could tell; some are very appropriate for an occasion as Mike and Keri’s wedding – and some I imagine he would like me to forget.

Having not planned this in any way ….. I have decided that I would like to share one story with you today – but I think it only fair that Mike should select the story that I tell.

So Mike …. I have 3 envelopes ….. would you like me to share Story 1, Story 2, or Story 3?

(Story 2 was chosen)

Story 2 – Amsterdam

During the 2nd Year of Uni Mike and I were given an opportunity through the Students Union to have a free trip to Amsterdam. Now, it would be fair to say that Amsterdam has a certain reputation; and it would it would also be very unfair for me to disclose everything that may or may not have happened on that trip – after all, for my own sake, and the fact that I value Keri as a friend, what happened in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam – isn’t that right Mike?

Now Mike, to my knowledge has always been good, never done drugs or experimented with things that he shouldn’t. So as students of good standing when we in Amsterdam we decided to see the city by hiring bikes.

Now Mike and me have never been the most active of people – and riding around all day on a bike is probably not our idea of a great day out.

Fortunately, in Amsterdam the weary are able to rest and recover in one of the many “Coffee Shops” within the city. Now coffee shops have a certain reputation and Mike as a good Christian boy didn’t abuse his standing as a good student – but he did spot sitting on the counter a very nice display of cakes – he bought one ….. and the waitress very kindly pointed out it was buy one, get one half price …… and it would have been rude not to ….. right?

So he came and sat back with the group and started to nibble his cake when suddenly someone shouted, “its five to six, the bikes need to be back by 6 – we need to go”.

So not wanting to carry the cakes home, Mike picked up the first cake looked at it, shrugged his shoulder and in one big gulp, swallowed it whole. Not content with eating only one cake he then took the second cake it went the same way.

Announcing he felt fine, we left the coffee shop, got back on the bikes and off we go.

Now previously Mike hadn’t been a very enthusiastic rider but suddenly found new energy and took off up the road and quite a pace.

It would be fair to say that initially the bike was ”wobbling” a little bit. But the space cakes lived up to there name, the Bike stopped and without taking his feet off the pedals both Mike and the bike fell smartly to the left landing with thud on the pavement.

Mike wasn’t in a good way for the rest of the day – he managed to attend a meeting with the reps of the travel company – announcing in the loudest voice you’ve ever heard that couldn’t hear what the person at the front was saying, that’s the person who paid for the trip …. And he actually didn’t care.

He slept for a good part of the day in the “Hans Brinker Hotel where we were staying – and if you remember Mike this is the hotel that announced proudly on posters in reception ….. “New for 2007 ….. doors”

He did make it up later in the evening for a tour the city – but I think for the purposes of today this story has probably gone far enough …. After a few later tonight I’ll be happy to complete the tale should anypne want the full details.

On that note …. It is a shame not to share stories 2 and 3 – but I won’t – I want to take this opportunity to say that Mike is quite simply an amazing guy – the best friend anyone could wish to have and someone that I am very proud to have in my life.

When you met Keri it visibly changed your world, and it changed the world of those who know you best.

I think you’ve found a wonderful girl Mike and I can’t wait to get to know more of Keri’s family as the day goes on. On behalf of all of your friends in Chester I hope both yours and Keri’s dreams come true and that together you are able to go on and Change the world.

Love you both

Categories: Social, Travel | Leave a comment

@United Airlines: How not to do customer service

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m the first to give credit when customer service works but also believe that when companies fail it needs to be pointed out so that they can improve for the benefit of everyone in the future.

This is especially true when a company is attempting to use technology to better assist customers – or in this example further frustrating customers by not using the technology effectively.

The background
I came to America for the Apple World Wide Developer Conference flying with United Airlines. The plan was to fly Manchester to Washington, Washington to Pheonix, Tuscon to San Francisco, San Francisco to Newark, Newark to Manchester. Lots of flights but I’d made sure that on every leg of the journey there was plenty of time for connections and was genuinely very excited.

What went wrong?
Now we all know that things do sometimes go wrong and sometimes it’s about how companies respond that can make or break the situation.

The first flight was great, we landed in Washington and everything seemed spot on. Unfortunately there was a short delay (2 hours) on the Pheonix flight but that wasn’t going to be a problem as we would still land in time for me to get the last shuttle to Tuscon.

We boarded the plane – unfortunately due to a technical fault we were left sitting on the Tarmac for 3 hours while engineers attempted to fix the issue. It became apparent that the fault could not be fixed so we were asked to get off the plane and head to an alternative gate a 30 minute walk away. We then boarded the new plane and were kept waiting a further hour while bags were transferred before finally taking off – landing in Pheonix around 7 hours late meaning I had to sleep in the airport for 4 hours as I had missed the last shuttle. My 24 hour journey became 35 hours

The flight from Tuscon to San Francisco was without incident.

Returning home was an entirely different story. First I arrived at San Francisco to be told that my baggage was over weight. Now this seemed odd to me as it was the same weight as when I arrived in the US – I hadn’t added anything to the suitcase.

The flight was initially delayed by an hour due to storms in Newark, they boarded us onto the plane and then made us wait on the Tarmac until takeoff. They openly admitted that we were going to travel in a smaller plane than originally planned but the jet they put us onto was not a suitable size for a 6 hour flight in my opinion.

On the way into Newark we were put into a holding pattern for 45 minutes before landing some 90 minutes late. The connecting flight to Manchester had also been delayed (i guess fortunately) by around 2 hours resulting in an extended travel time back to the uk.

Flights get delayed all the time?

This is true, and is not what has promoted this article; throughout my whole experience with United I have found them unreceptive, and unwilling to offer customer assistance and support.

What I expected vs what I got

I thought it worth while to publish some constructive feedback for United that may assist them in making sure that customers like me are happy in the future even if there is a delay.

1. Poor signage – on several occasions during the trip the airline failed to update the signs accurately often stating incorrect destinations on gates, or just not advising passengers what was going on. This just leads to frustration and confusion …. Get the simple things right.

2. Airline staff not present – when there is a delay we like to talk to someone in the know about what’s going on. My experience with united is that checking desks are typically unmanned with little or no information being posted. This leaves passengers frustrated and over time leads to angry customers – I witnessed one example of such frustration being taken out on a member of staff which could easily have been avoided.

3. Delayed in Washington for 6 hours meant that all of the passengers needed food. No one wanted to eat at 1am when we eventually took off so it would have been a nice gesture to offer passengers a meal voucher as compensation – nothing materialised.

4. United did offer a compensation of a reduced internal US flight to passengers on the Washington flight. Clearly no consideration here for international passengers. It would ave been better to ask passengers how they could help. I’d have been delighted if there had a shower available to use.

5. Don’t load passengers onto a plane until it’s ready t take off. Sitting on the tarmac is not a fun experience especially if its several hours before a long haul flight. If you are going to do this at least offer passengers a cup of coffee – it’s only polite!

6. This is where technology hits. United have a Twitter account @united that claims to offer customer service to passengers. I tweeted @united several times during my trip and found that they tended to ignore me. Now I admit I maybe sent a few to many tweets, but the irony is that the more they ignored me the more I tweeted. If you are going to use social media as a means of customer service then you need to engage your passengers; asking what they can do to help and then ignoring the response only infuriates people. I would have settled for an apology, maybe a free cup of coffee?

They asked me what they could do so I tweeted back “give me an upgrade, or a refund” at least answer and say that isn’t possible and offer an alternative – as it stands I have the impression they were only paying me lip service and never actually intended to do anything which begs the question why are they using twitter at all?

7. If a bag is heavy on the way out charge for it then ….. If you carry the bag out of the country you surely have a duty to bring it back?

8. Always make sure there is a meal on a long haul flight. There wasn’t one from San Francisco to Newark – 7 hours including the delay is to long to go without food.

Now I’m not saying that doing all of the above would have made me happy about the delay; but I would have walked away thinking that @united had done all they could to make the situation better and that they cared about me as a customer.

As it stands I’ve left thinking that @United Airlines actually couldn’t give a stuff about me or how their failures have impacted my trip. I’ll certainly avoid flying with @united in the future and I wold strongly encourage others to do the same.

Maybe the true test of United’s customer service is how they respond to this article. Will they take on board the suggestions? Issue an apology? Admit they got it wrong? Do @United actually care?

Have you had any good or bad airline experiences? Maybe you to have flown United – what was your experience? Comment on the blog or tweet @United to let them know!

Categories: Customer Service, Social, Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at