Prepare to have your mind blown. Ever wanted to copy some text from an image? A new extension for Google's Chrome web browser enables you to do exactly that.
Project Naptha claims to use "state of the art computer vision algorithms" to read text in images - and once the extension has been installed, means you can simply click and highlight any text you see in images - just as you would if they were plain text on a webpage.
Which is brilliant for when you see your friends post those awful "inspirational quote" type images on Facebook, and want to do a line-by-line debunking of them in the comments below.
The extension is rather new and is being developed by a one-man-band, but is already rather impressive. One planned future feature is built in translation of text in images. And how cool would that be?
Oh god, this is real. You have to watch this video. At an event about "social media marketing", presumably attended by the sorts of people who talk about "brand engagement"... someone thought it would be a good idea to do, well, this...
Click play, and cover your ears.
Here's the thing though... did they know it would be so awful? At the time of writing it has had 73,000 views... were they setting out to create a viral marketing hit? Did they know if it was so bad then we'd end up sharing it? It is some great meta-joke?
Or is it just modern day alchemists turning out to be unbearably out-of-touch? You decide.
Hull City Council have launched a new Bitcoin-style cryptocurrency in the city and yes, surprisingly, this isn't an April Fools joke. After making enquiries, the council have confirmed to me that yes, it is definitely real.
Stories started appearing yesterday - which is usually a sign of greater credibility when you're writing something on the internet on April 1st. According to CoinDesk, the intention is to use the currency to tackle poverty.
Apparently the way it will work is by paying local people in Hullcoins for certain activities - such as volunteering, and also accepting Hullcoins at local food banks (though Hullcoin allocation will not be dependent on volunteering - it will be allocated based on poverty/need).
Whilst it may sound bizarre - it just might work. The virtual coins won't have any impact on benefits received in real money - because the currency is currently unrecognised by the UK government. There's also the precedent of other local currencies like the Brixton Pound. Whilst the Brixton Pound is not a cryptocurrency (it is made of a quaint material known as "paper"), the idea with it is that it is issued and spent locally in Brixton - to support the local economy. Hullcoin could end up playing a similar role.
On a technical level, the computer used to generated Hullcoins (the "mining rig") has apparently been donated by an anonymous benefactor, and the currency is apparently based on two different mining scripts: Feathercoin and and Ven - the use of a mixture being designed to create greater stability in the currency.
So it'll be an interesting experiment - and it'll be interesting to see if the first government-backed cryptocurrency will turn out to be a success.
There's a huge cultural shift taking place in the western world, as slowly but surely country after country are finally legalising equal marriage. You may have noticed the shift happen this weekend in Britain, when suddenly it was so that the government didn't care about your biology before allowing you to register your marriage.
This shift can be seen as not only are laws changing, attitudes are too - with more and more people saying that they're comfortable with the idea of equal marriage. Heck, look at the polls. In America for example, in just a few years support for equality leapt almost 20%. And things are only getting better all of the time.
Which is why Mozilla's recent decision has been a little odd.
In case you missed it, the Firefox creators have decided to go against this decisive wave of history by appointing a new CEO who opposes it. A few years ago Brendan Eich donated to a group supporting Proposition 8, the ballot measure in California that outlawed gay marriage. Oh dear.
The blowback from this has been significant. Apparently three Mozilla board members have resigned. Though the linked article claims this is because of concerns over Firefox OS, it does seem a little coincidental, right?
Worst of all for Mozilla, the wider Firefox using public's reaction has been just as harsh - with many users deciding to boycott the browser, or simply switch to competitors.
Now, even if you ignore the substance of his views on equal marriage (you shouldn't, as it is important and he's very wrong), there is a wider issue: is this backlash not evidence of a really terrible appointment?.
Mozilla is a charity foundation, and Firefox is a piece of open source software. Unlike a company. The whole reason it continues to exist is thanks to the goodwill of its user-base, who both help develop the software and evangelise its use. Part of the appeal of running Firefox is that because it is backed by a charity and not a huge corporation, it somehow feels weirdly more ethical to use their software than the likes of Internet Explorer and Chrome.
Sure, for all we know Eich may be a brilliant CEO. He might be great at meeting executives, managing staff and pushing development forward... but all of these skills become worthless if he's killing the image of the Foundation to the outside world. Whilst some companies may not see a problem continuing to deal with Mozilla (profit is profit, after all), individual users are fickle, young and opinionated, and chances are many of them don't want to support a backwards old man.
Perhaps unfortunately, the logo of the Mozilla Foundation is a dinosaur. Maybe it is time for the foundation to publicly get out of the stone age too?
Say what you will about the Bitcoin community, but at least their hearts are in the right place. Sure, some may claim that they're all neckbearded libertarians putting their money into a quasi-legal currency that is backed purely by hype - but at least they know when someone is in need. At time of writing, they've raised nearly £20,000 to give to Satoshi Nakamoto.
Let's be clear - they're not giving the cash to the anonymous man who has dubbed himself 'Satoshi Nakamoto', who invented Bitcoin - but are instead interested in giving to Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, who following a big story in the newly relaunched Newsweek was 'outed' as the Bitcoin guy... even though he strongly denies his involvement. As you might imagine, this led to a whole bunch of journalists camping outside of his house and bothering him. At one point last week it got to the point where journalists were livetweeting as they chased him down.
Earlier today Nakamoto (the real one) put out a statement once again denying his involvement - and has also revealed some difficult personal circumstances. Specifically, in the statement (which as far as I can tell was to Reuters journo Felix Salmon), he talks of difficulty finding a job, recovering from an operation, and having to cancel his internet provider because he can't afford it.
So Bitcoin to the rescue, right? One XBT user, Andreas M. Antonopoulos, took it upon himself to organise a collection. Here he explaining why:
I'm fundraising for Dorian Nakamoto, the person named in the newsweak article.
I have no idea if this person is Satoshi, though it seems increasingly unlikely. However, it doesn't matter either way. If this person is Satoshi, then the funds are a small "thanks" and won't make much of a difference.
However, if this person is not Satoshi, then these funds will serve as a "sorry for what happened to you", help with medical bills his family is facing, any legal bills they may incur, or anything else. Most of all, it serves to soften the damage caused by irresponsible journalism and to demonstrate the generosity and empathy of the community, which I know is huge
Apparently if Dorian doesn't want the cash, it will be directed to a charity of his choice - and if he won't choose a charity, then it will instead go to the Electronic Frontiers Foundation.
At the time of writing, the fund is currently at 45.18239084 BTC - or around $28,000 or just under £20,000 in real money. Of course, being Bitcoin, tomorrow that could fall to being worth £1 or £1million. Apparently the BTC will be converted to US dollars at the end of the month.
The BBC have this morning announced a new version of the iPlayer will be launching across all of their platforms. The upgrade brings a few new features - and crucially is aimed at making things more user friendly.
The big visual change looks set to be in the direction of an iOS7-style "flat" design - which has become increasingly popular (Samsung have also been jumping on that bandwagon with the Galaxy S5). This has been coupled with a great reliance of visuals - with lots more images and apparently a more 'responsive' design, as they say in techie circles. This means that the iPlayer should work across a wider range of devices with different sized screens and different methods of input.
The big benefit of this for users is thought to be that links shared to iPlayer programmes should work across devices - so if you click a mobile iPlayer link on your computer, you want just have a tiny box on the screen to watch.
There are some other nice user interface enhancements too: you can now favourite programmes from the player whilst watching, and the searchbox will autocomplete. If you stop watching something half way through, it is easy to resume viewing as the iPlayer will have a "recently watched" section.
Each TV channel's page is also getting a redesign which again is more image heavy. We're assuming in the screenshot below that the design shown is unique to Cbeebies... or BBC Parliament's Select Committee coverage is about to get a whole lot weirder.
If the Beeb do opt to give each channel its own colour scheme (etc) in these sections then it'll be an interesting departure from the black and pink we're used to. Perhaps readying distinct identities for when BBC Three goes iPlayer-only next year, so it doesn't just become a nothing?
Categories are also getting a makeover - not just visually but taxonomically. The "factual" category is being split up into a number of other strands like "food" and "history" - apparently because it reflects how viewers actually describe programmes. Given his relentless ubiquity on every BBC news programme though, we're pretty surprised to see that UKIP leader Nigel Farage hasn't been given his own category.
What is nice though that apparently signed and audio described programmes are getting their own category - which should make it easy for viewers who need them to find shows that support them.
Perhaps the biggest potential change is the inclusion of programme "collections" into the iPlayer proper. These have been going for some time on BBC Four - in which they'd dig up thematically related old programmes from the archive to complement the new stuff on the telly. Is the BBC planning ahead for when they can finally make huge swathes of archive programming available? Will we eventually see the BBC Archive folded into the iPlayer too?
Wolfram Alpha creator Stephen Wolfram has lifted the lid on the new Wolfram Language for computer programming in a new video. We don't really understand exactly what it is or how it works... but watch this video and you'll agree with me that it is mindblowing.
Wolfram Alpha is a clever toy that some people have claimed could rival Google for certain queries. It's a "computational knowledge engine" rather than a search engine - so relies on structured data rather than search queries. In other words, if you ask it when is sunset?, it won't just look for webpages containing this information, but will return the data to you as data that could be sorted onto a spreadsheet if you wish.
Whilst this may not seem immediately useful, it's the sort of thing that helps make Apple's Siri so powerful. Siri is powered by Wolfram, and uses the knowledge engine to figure out what you're asking, and retrieve the most relevant data for you. As you might expect - Wolfram is also great at doing some intensely difficult mathematics too.
Wolfram Alpha has been around for a few years now - but only now has the full potential of the Wolfram Language been revealed.
Essentially, to my layperson eyes it appears to be a web connected programming language, that can do some powerful stuff with ease. Rather than have the code sit in isolation on the server it is running on, it is instead connected to Wolfram's great big datasets and computational power. This means that you can do what would normally be complicated tasks - like generate graphs, tables and image manipulation in just a few lines of code.
Perhaps even more usefully is that Wolfram curate a huge number of datasets - everything from countries and flags to exoplanets - so plugging this data into your code becomes a piece of cake.
Apparently the language is based on two key principles: making sure that all of the different functions can plug into each other seamlessly - and to make the code do most of the work, so lots can be achieved with as little effort as possible. Heck, it seems Wolfram can even take plain language and turn it into code.
Most interestingly, the Wolfram Language doesn't require coders to write exclusively in Wolfram, but instead it offers an astonishingly easy way to upload Wolfram code to the Wolfram cloud and create APIs so that other apps can access the data in a variety of formats. So expect to see a huge number of apps and websites all using data generated by Wolfram in the near future - just like Siri does. You might not notice - but apps could be about to get a whole lot more clever.
Seriously - watch the video and your mind will be blown.
A new survey has discovered that (astonishingly) 57% of online shoppers are aware of Bitcoin... yet only 18% may be willing to use them in the future. I know what you're thinking: "I can't believe a currency that isn't backed by either tangible assets or a state bank isn't being taken seriously". But there we are.
The survey was carried out by Clarity Comms, a PR company - so take these numbers with as many grains of salt as you feel appropriate - but apparently they surveyed 2065 online shoppers to come up with these numbers.
Other findings suggested that only 5% of shoppers had used Bitcoin or one of the other crypto-currencies (like Dogecoin, or Litecoin). What on earth is putting people off of investing their money in a parody currency themed around a photo of a dog?!
Apparently when polled on why they are put off of using Bitcoin, the responses were as follows:
63% not understanding how they worked
53% had no experience of using them
52% had security concerns
43% had lack of trust in the protocol
and 29% questioned legality
On this question though, I suspect it is more a result of survey design - with a series of tick boxes listing possible concerns: would 43% of normal people really refer to a "lack of trust in the protocol" if not prompted?
Finally the other interesting finding is the gender split - with Bitcoin awareness much higher amongst men than women (69% vs 45%) and usage too (7% vs 2%). Perhaps this is unsurprising though given that the Bitcoin community's terrible attitude towards women.
So these are interesting findings - clearly the media talking about cryptocurrencies is making a difference... but is it just more heat than noise? The lack of take up suggests that it might be.
Will Bitcoin ever take off? And more importantly, will it manage to avoid a liquidity trap?
Bitcoins! Everyone is talking about them, and only a handful of slightly weird "Ron Paul 2012" types are using them - but they could be the next big thing. The "cryptocurrency" has gained increasing attention in recent months as an intriguing alternative to traditional currencies - not relying on any government to prop it up. There is one problem though... as this Reddit user discovered.
The way Bitcoin works is rather complicated - but essentially, to send the virtual currency you need to use an app to generate a "private key", which you can send to someone, who can then redeem your Bitcoins into their virtual wallet. It's seen as secure, as all transactions are logged publicly (but anonymously), so everyone can see all is above board.
One of the easiest ways to transmit a long private key is using a QR code ("2D barcode") - see they do have a use! Unfortunately, this is where the Reddit user who was trying to pay in a restaurant got caught out... here's how he described the ordeal:
"So, the family and I were looking for a place to eat on Saturday night and we noticed the local steak house (we don't normally go here because it's really expensive and we're currently on welfare (unemployed due to back pain issues)). We don't have a lot of cash but I do have some savings in Bitcoin so we decided to eat here."
"The steak house had a sign in the front window "Bitcoin accepted here", so we walked in, were sat at a table, ordered our food (the wife and I treated ourselves to the more expensive items as a one time thing), then when it came time to pay up, all went wrong. I informed our waitress that I'll be paying via Bitcoin and she said sure, just meet her up at the front till while she gets the manager to help with the transaction because she didn't know how."
"Anyway, the manager rings up the bill and converts it to BTC. He points to the QR code on the front of the register and says "send your payment to this wallet". I did. We waited for the transaction to show on blockchain but it never did. We waited about a half hour and then I noticed something weird. I noticed on the QR code that there was another QR code underneath of it. I informed the manager and we both come to the realization that someone has put their own QR code over top his with double sided tape. FUCK."
"So the manager tells me to repay to the correct QR code and I said no, this is your fault. We argued and eventually the police were called and they didn't really know how to handle the situation. One of the officers even said "why didn't you just pay with real money?" and I almost lost it. In the end we agreed that I'd pay half the bill and the manager would take a hit on the other half. What a fucked up night."
It's funny - for centuries the banks of the world have worked hard to make our money secure - adding endless security features to bank notes, and even choosing pictures of people with big beards, to make them harder to accurately replicate. Along comes Bitcoin with a seemingly perfect mechanism for secure payments and yet it is beaten... by a sticker.
So if you're a Bitcoin trailblazer - watch out, lest you get caught out!
Let's face it - Facebook is the social network you love to hate. Whilst all of the important chat happens on Twitter, and your trendier friends are all Snapchatting each other, we still maintain our Facebook accounts out of grim necessity - because that's where all of your friends from back home can be found.
No one really enjoys it - and whenever they change something, they seem to make Facebook actively worse. Let's face it - if you thought your friends would follow you there, you'd switch to another service... even Google Plus. But what's stopping you is the inertia 300 of your closest friends.
So why is it so rubbish? And why does the algorithm always throw up pictures of babies and weddings? YouTuber Veritasium has a great theory - that has been picking up a lot of attention. Have a watch:
I think the most salient point is the "Like" button distorting the algorithm. In the video, he argues that because people tend to like photos weddings and babies, Facebook will think that this all you want to see - creating a self-perpetuating cycle.
Compare this to Twitter - which is much more pleasant. As the user gets to see everything, and has to choose manually who to follow and unfollow, you can be assured the content will be more interesting. I may not agree with someone on Twitter, but I'll follow them because I find their views provocative, interesting and engaging - but I wouldn't click "Like". Facebook needs to learn that it's okay to be angry sometime too!
The analysis of the "promotion" problem is also a good one - it seems odd that a website designed to help people communicate deliberately prevents its users from doing so - by hiding posts from large numbers of people.
So can Facebook change? I hope their developers watch this video and have a rethink.
What do you think could be done to fix Facebook? Let us know in the comments.
Twitter has always been a good place for unusual people to make an impact. For every inspirational Commander Chris Hadfield, lurking just under the surface is the opposite: the space oddity that is Katie Hopkins, or the insufferable Piers Morgan. Though these travesties have now been joined by another natural enemy of humankind: 300 or so Great White, Tiger and Whaler sharks, which look set to literally make a splash on the social media platform.
According to a report by NPR, scientists have hooked up trackers on to the beasts, and then hooked up their detection computers to Twitter - having it automatically tweet out when a shark is spotted on to the @SLSWA feed.
Fisheries advise: tagged Tiger shark detected at 1.5km off Scarborough receiver at 06:37:00 AM on 3-Jan-2014
As you can see in the tweet above, which is sent out when a shark is approaching a beach, contains data such as the type of shark, the distance and time - so anyone relaxing on the beach can stay well away from the oncoming Sharknado.
Apparently this is all necessary because Australia has the highest number of shark fatalities - with a staggering six attacks over the past two years. It really puts all of those preventable road deaths into perspective.
Of course - there have been naysayers. As I mean, this is pretty similar to the episode of The Simpsons when following a single bear attack the town enacts a "Bear Patrol"... but who's going to say no? Won't somebody please think of the children?
Whilst it may have interesting scientific outcomes, Australia's resident Lisa Simpson, marine biologist Kim Holland explained to NPR that Aussies shouldn't assume that they're safe now:
"It can, in fact, provide a false sense of security -- that is, if there is no tweet, then there is no danger -- and that simply is not a reasonable interpretation," Holland says, pointing out that the reverse is also true. "Just because there's a shark nearby doesn't mean to say that there's any danger. In Hawaii, tiger sharks are all around our coastlines all the time, and yet we have very, very few attacks."
So there we have it - Sharks on Twitter. Now all somebody needs to do is code an app that will play the Jaws themetune whenever a detection tweet is sent out.
Edward Saatchi, son of millionaire advertising mogul Maurice Saatchi, is being billed as the UK's answer to Mark Zuckerberg. His private, enterprise focussed social network NationalField is credited as a key tool in President Obama's successful election campaign, and, after successfully expanding the network to incorporate major US businesses, the 26-year old is now hoping that a UK and European launch will similarly drive productivity and efficiency for new member organizations like the NHS.
Articulate, and just as likely to reference statistician Edward Tufte as musician Art Garfunkel, the Oxford and Sorbonne educated Saatchi cuts a figure equal parts energetic and eccentric with his wild hair and unfettered beard.
We caught up with the NationalField CEO to see how the hotly-tipped network was getting on.
Edward, could you give us a brief history of NationalField? How did it get off the ground?
It started in 2007; I went over to the Obama campaign and met Aharon (Wasserman, now NationalField's chief product officer) and Justin (Lewis, NationalField's chief technology officer). One of the big ideas was to register a lot of new voters into the electorate.
Everyone on the campaign was using spreadsheets and Google docs to track the work that was going on, mostly quantitative work; doors knocked on, calls being made, that sort of thing. So two nights after the three of us got together, we'd built the first version of NationalField so that all of our teams could communicate and spread the numbers around.
How did you build the network? What informed its design and the way it works?
We decided that it had to be social. As young middle managers, one of the major problems we faced was communicating up and down the chain of command, moving great ideas from one isolated team to another. Building something that facilitated that was very important.
NationalField understands the hierarchical social graph of your organization. The social networks that cater for our personal lives work on the manual inputs of subscribing to feeds, following and adding friends, whereas this instantly understands who you are within your company.
Is this how it differentiates itself from other networks then? What can be done here that can't already with a combination of, say, Facebook groups and LinkedIn contacts?
A lot of our competitors ported over the ideas of Facebook and the way that that works to the enterprise. Take Yammer, which also does private social networks, all based on who you friend and who you follow. There you have to follow, say, a 200 or a 1,000 co-workers and contacts, so again you're creating your own little silo. The difference here is that it's not based on friending and following. NationalField understands what office you're in, who you report to, who reports to you, and what your role is, what departments need regular contact with you. It builds the feed based on that. You can search for specifics, but the feed is a predictive "push" model.
Hierarchical structures can be a little scary, but it's actually really helpful to understand that in order to present the correct information to the correct people. Also, you're only going to get really sensitive and interesting information going into this if people feel it's secure within the organisation. People are less honest if it's public to the world , but once you start to make it a bit more structured, people are confident to talk through problems; team morale dropping after a staff member leaving, a meeting not going as planned, things like that. It's actually really important stuff that can fall through the cracks until problems really explode, and then all a sudden you've lost a deal and you don't know why there was no communication.
So is it fair to say part of the appeal of NationalField is the way it encourages a competitive edge in the workplace?
Yes. With Facebook, there are interesting psychological processes involved. It's almost a subconscious thing, when you see people sitting there clicking through photos, like some weird primal thing. We focus on metrics, where sites like Yammer have leaderboards of "Likes" and comments, things like that. We have that too, but sometimes that sort of information can be tangential to what's really important to running a business. Is it that important to know who is the most liked employee? Maybe they're really helpful, but maybe they're just liked because they wear cool clothes! Here it's the actual metrics that are the focus, and we heard campaign trail stories of people refreshing the site just to see how their numbers were shaping up compared to other teams. Social can be great in making that data really transparent.
But despite the competitiveness, I've never seen anything mean put up on NationalField. Because it's social, it constrains the negative side of competitiveness, but it awakens in people the fact that everything they do at work is really transparent. People can show just how well they're doing, so it's also much more about recognition in the workplace, what people are proud of. What social can do is make recognition really easy to share, for a manager to give credit where it's due. And with NationalField best practice can be shared too; because we can get what your role is, recognised strengths can be shared to other team members or managers. Did you see the F8 stuff?
Facebook were using a phrase that we love: "Visualise data in ways which tell a story". It's what we felt we were doing right from the very launch of NationalField on the Obama campaign, trying to give each individual enough data so they could tell the story of the past few months of their work.
How did NationalField evolve during those early Obama campaign days? It must have been an intense time and environment within which to be working on a fledgling project?
Me and Aharon were really close friends for several months, and it all clicked when Justin came onboard. Justin was terrible at registering voters! He didn't like doing that. So we were in Savannah, Georgia, and together came up with a way to make the most of Justin's talents, hacking together something really fast for ourselves. It spread and grew in a similar way to those early Facebook days, with universities asking to come onboard; we did the same with the state and national campaign teams, staying up late to make sure they all got onto NationalField smoothly. Because it was based on Facebook in terms of design, it wasn't like we had to go around the country teaching people how to use it, it was really easy, intuitive.
Does NationalField cater for anonymity, if say you had a major or controversial complaint that you were worried about attaching your name to?
One of the interesting moments when we first started was around the "Ups and Downs" feature we have, which lets you flag the recent pros and cons of working at your company. We started with it completely bypassing middle management. We thought people would have no fear speaking their minds as, in larger corporations, often you've never met the top level executives if you work further down the chain. But then middle managers started saying, "actually, this is really undermining us". Which was a valid point. So we went back and worked in every single manager up the chain, and we found then that people felt completely protected, as middle management couldn't block something reaching the top levels. It changes working cultures, creates a place for constructive criticism and makes companies responsive and understanding. Once people start using it, people don't feel the need for anonymity. It's honest; social networking has brought down dictators, and it'll democratise the work place too.
So Barack Obama is obviously very social media savvy, and NationalField was instrumental in driving efficiency in his campaign. How does social media affect the public's perception of a potential candidate?
The cliché is that it presents a "connected person", but it really is a very practical tool, connecting with a lot more people. I don't know quite how all the party leaders managed to choreograph getting onto Google+ on exactly the same day! But it's helpful. President Obama is the best at harnessing it. He's actually comfortable with it and his campaign is organised around it. You still need an offline organising element, and for us technology was in service of the field. An online only campaign is very artificial. But if you do it in a way that emphasises community organisation and encourages volunteering and team building and so forth it's great.
Gearing up now for the Obama re-election campaign, has NationalField's role changed much in the interim years?
Yes, in the beginning its role was survival, like how the "hell do we keep this thing alive?" Now it's embedded in the organisation of the administration, and has been for a few years. It's becoming more of a platform, where you can build apps etcetera, so instead we're the portal for people who want to connect with organisations, letting them promote themselves, their work and internal apps. The emphasis now is on changing companies and work practice, and building the platform.
Does Obama make for a good boss?
He makes an incredible boss. At the inauguration ball he came and spoke to us all and said, "look, you're going to go back out into the world, back to companies or non-profits, and I want you to take with you the methodology that we created on this campaign, being bottom up and paying most attention to the field work". Because he'd been a community organiser far longer than any of us had, he had a real respect for the people on the ground. I got to meet him a few times through the course of the campaign, and he's very inspiring.
You're the first to admit that NationalField visually apes Facebook. Facebook's Chris Hughes is even on your board. Is visual familiarity important to the success of an online product?
Yeah, I've been saying it but I haven't really thought about it as a rule. I don't know why people would bother creating something for the workplace that isn't familiar to us through our consumer lives. At this point it just seems petty and pointless. It's ridiculous to be expected to learn a new system. The consumer world, through dealing with hundreds of millions of people, has figured out really smart ways to move information, so why should we ignore that? You should use systems that are really super familiar.
So moving onto the UK/ European launch. You've got the NHS as a new member, but running a national health organisation is a vastly different beast to running an election campaign. How can NationalField help the NHS?
We actually started in the US with Kaiser Permanente, the largest American health organisation. We got a real insight into how healthcare works with that. I think the thing that is important in health is that your patients remain the most important people, so if you can get people on the ground really connected, working together to cut costs while improving patient care, you can make a big difference. Because the NHS is so big, getting people to share best practices around cutting costs is really helpful; great ideas can be isolated in one place for years, but as we've seen with Kaiser Permanente, you can use NationalField to move such information around really really fast.
We met a woman when going up and down the country with the NHS who said "I can go home and tell my daughter I just got Facebook training." The positive energy that goes towards this, compared to if we were creating clunky intranets (which we're out to destroy), makes people feel they're not being forced to learn a new clunky thing. That should be a paradigm for what people are building.
Have there been many tweaks needed to bring the network to Europe?
It's interesting, I haven't been asked that before. Nothing drastic comes to mind. Language; so we added international localisation, having it in the language of your choice. But we haven't even needed to make any terminology changes. Because Facebook again has given people a feel for how information, should move and what they can expect from a feed, it hasn't had to be changed that much. It's kind of like a global thing, something that plays into that paradigm we mentioned earlier, building things that are familiar from our consumer lives. In the English speaking world we're all going to the same websites. Take the Huffington Post's UK launch; it has a little flag saying it's our version, and that's very nice, but it doesn't matter, I'm familiar with the way they present something and I'd be perfectly happy to read the content just through the way they present information.
How about international, cultural differences? Have their been any particular nations that have been more or less receptive to NationalField?
I think it's the same as what you'd imagine with Facebook and Twitter. The speed of uptake really parallels it. Younger generations in each company tend to get it first, say a new leader in a new department of an organisation, they want to make a change. I wouldn't say it's nation by nation, it's more about somebody wanting to build something that a new generation coming into the workforce can understand.
Do you still see a generational gap between youth and older members of society when it comes to the uptake of new social media ideas?
I think so, to a degree. We've seen it hit a tipping point now where we're conducting more communication points through social networking than email. A good leader is one that can see the trend and say "OK, let's get ahead of it". Social is a huge wave; there are films made about it, it's a big deal now. Look at the trend lines, look at things that are doing well in the consumer world, and that always points towards how things are going to change in the enterprise world. Our personal systems are much more sophisticated now than our enterprise ones, and a good leader should, or instance, be able to see the decline of email and adapt to that, using a system that everyone understands. It's not just young people who use Facebook, but it is young people who drove its growth.
We've spoke a lot about very large companies. Is using NationalField beneficial to use in smaller companies of, say, 10 or so people?
We actually find that organisations of around 25 people or larger is where you see the sweet spot kick in. Once you're at that point, you cant fit everybody in a crowded meeting room. Communication starts to break down at that point, and that's the ideal point to put the system in place. Beyond 25 people, into the hundreds and thousands of employees, it scales remarkably easily, with your feed out of the box.
How do you feel about being billed as the UK's answer to Mark Zuckerberg?
It's very nice! The thing that I think is cool about Mark Zuckerberg is the fact he was a psychology major. He has a moral mission. Every single time they change their privacy permissions, people feel like "Oh my god, they're trying to push more advertisements my way". But the aim is that really we should be more open about ourselves, which is obviously the end aim of psychology in a way. And I think that's really honourable, and really cool. Our moral mission is, considering we spend most of our waking lives at work, that if you feel like every single day you're working without getting any credit or recognition, that's a disaster, and a disaster we can prevent. The similarity there is the desire to figure out the underlying psychological need that a technology can answer, how we can use technology to make you feel good, make you feel productive.
So with Zuckerberg's story told in The Social Network, who would you like to see playing you in "NationalField: The Movie"?
Ahh, very good question. Who are people with big hair? Ah, Art Garfunkel! There you go. Though his poor hairline seemed to go up and up and up! He's actually a really good actor as well, you should see some of his stuff!
If you're a UK resident and haven't been living under a stone for the last month, you'll know that today is vote-casting day in one of the most closely run General Elections in recent history. Facebook, recognising its platform's ability to encourage people to vote, has added an "I've Voted" button for UK users over 18 years old to mark the occasion.
So far, over half a million Facebook users have cast their vote. The vote tracker sits at the top of a user's news feed as a reminder to head out to the polling station, and while it doesn't directly reveal the voters party affiliation or location, it does offer the opportunity to leave a comment.
The tracker, which was used similarly in the 2008 US Presidential election, also invites users to check out the UK Democracy Facebook page, where vocal voters are engaged currently in some pretty heated debates.
NME and BlackBerry are to team up on a new social network. Breakthrough will be primarily aimed at musicians and music fans, allowing users to upload music and videos onto a network teeming with music aficionados.
Uploaded music will also have a chance of being featured in the coveted NME magazine itself, as well as offering opportunities for bands to play at high-profile shows such as the Lovebox festival in London.
David Moynihan, NME.COM editor, said: "NME Breakthrough supported by Blackberry is a step for us in providing a channel for artists and our users to connect with each other. Our website and magazine play a key role in keeping our audience informed with the latest news and expert reviews, and this new social networking platform is giving our users direct interaction with bands.
"It also acts as an important medium for bands to listen to what their fans want, through a simple rating feature. In addition, we are going to offer amazing opportunities on the site; the rewarded artists will perform at an NME Radar event as well as a key festival this summer."
With NME's cool-seal of approval lending the network some credibility and direct access to key music journos, Breakthrough could be an up-and-coming artists best shot at stardom.
If there is one thing other than "Bigotgate" that this General Election will be remembered for, it'll be the growing use of social media to share party policies and give voice to the nation's voters. From the #nickcleggsfault hashtag to former Labour candidate Stuart MacLennan's offensive tweets, there has been both plenty to talk about and plenty of ways to share and interact during the campaign.
The micro-blogging Twittercraze in particular has caught on with time-strapped politicians and political commentators alike, offering a vast forum in which to throw quick glimpses of life on the campaign trail.
It can, however, be a bit daunting too, with Tweets relating to the election climbing above the hundred-thousand mark during the Election debates.
To help you navigate all the different streams of info available to voters, here is a brief guide to the 15 Must-Follow Twitter feeds of the General Election.
@uklabour : The official twitter feed for the Labour party, aggregating tweets from many Labour candidates. @SarahBrown10 : Sarah Brown, wife of PM Gordon, tweets very regularly, and quite often replies to her followers. @campbellclaret : Labour sultan of spin Alastair Campbell can be very outspoken on his feed. Definitely worth following. @Dmiliband : Foreign secretary David Miliband's Twitter feed. Keeps it simple, mostly documenting his travels up and down the campaign trail, though a recent "Ross Kemp is a rock star" tweet made me laugh. @JohnPrescott : Another fairly vocal and prolific tweeter, John Prescott surprisingly counts Gok Wan as among his followers!
@Conservatives : The official feed of the Conservative party, again pulling together related feeds from all over the shop. @mayoroflondon : Boris Johnson's feed this one. Another regular user, but has stayed unusually quiet during the election @toryradio : The Tory radio feed founded by Jonathan Sheppard. Calls the Lib Dems the "Fib Dems" on a regular basis. Oh how I chuckled... @iaindale : Twitter feed for Iain Dale, a prolific Tory blogger who considers himself "Much wittier than your average Tory".
@libdems : The official feed for all your Liberal Democrat needs, aggregating content from many pro-lib dem feeds. @nick_clegg : Nick Cleggs twitter feed which is unsurprisingly, though disappointingly, managed by David Angell. Plenty of followers though. @joswinson : Lib Dem candidate for East Dunbartonshire. Jo Swinson tweets a lot, and not all about politics. For instance, her last tweet reads "Digestive Caramels: too moreish..." Mmm yummy biscuit politics.
@tweetminister : Tweet Minister aggregates all the major General Election trends, feeds and hashtags. Be warned however; it moves at a frightening pace and can be quite overwhelming at peak news times. @aiannucci : Armando Ianucci, comedian and writer of The Thick Of It, takes charge of this feed. Always funny, pointed and satirical. @theelectionblog : The feed for www.theelectionblog.co.uk. Lots of good content every day from these guys, who strive to put up one new interview everyday.
Facebook Lite has been shut down by Facebook, after going live just recently in September of last year.
The service was intended to offer a low-bandwidth version of the social network. It stripped Facebook back to its basics (status updates, wall posts and photo uploads) and removed some of the more data-intensive functions such as apps.
"We're no longer supporting it, but learned a lot from the test of a slimmed-down site," read a post on the Lite Facebook fan page.
So why close the service? Well it's likely that demand just wasn't that great; with myriad bandwidth saving apps and Facebook Mobile all available, as well as the growing speeds of internet connections worldwide, the majority of Facebook users just simply prefer the full-fat flavour.
Facebookhave announced that their "Like" button is about to become available across the web. Acting as a content sharing button similar to StumbleUponand Digg, clicking the button when browsing online will send a link to the user's Facebook news stream to be shared with all their contacts after a single press.
The button is to be officially unveiled at the Facebook F8 conference in San Francisco this week, having only been displayed briefly to marketers at a pre-show conference over the weekend, the Financial Times are reporting.
Whilst Facebook believe the "Like" button will make the web more social, cynics believe it to be just another tool for the Facebook team to use to mine data about their users and further refine their advertising techniques.
The "Like" button is already expected to replace the "Become a fan" button tied to brands on the site, with these "engagement ads" already used by advertisers to get access to user's data and to insert promotional material into their news feeds.
In a post that we could just have easily titled "You Should Have Been Doing That Years Ago", Myspacehave today moved into the live music sphere, allowing artists using the site to sell tickets to events and shows on their profile pages.
Alongside the ticket selling tools, the new platform also includes a calendar which you can use to track your favourite artists' tours, shows and release dates, as well as keeping up to date with what your friends are planning to attend too.
Myspace's current database already has 1 million-odd shows listed, so there are plenty of opportunities to try out the platform as well as getting out there and exploring new music.
We all know by now that Facebookhas really trounced the competition in the social networking stakes, but lets spare a thought for those floundering in its wake. New statisitcs published by HitWise have shown that both Beboand Myspacehave had a massive drop in UK usage since this time three years ago.
After a peak in UK traffic in the middle of 2007, Myspace and Bebo have seen a steady fall from about 1.5% of web use to less than 0.2% today. Conversely, Facebook, who in mid 2007 were at roughly that same 1.5% position of UK web use, have gone from strength to strength, now commanding somewhere in the region of 6.22% of UK traffic.
Twitter and YouTubeare the second and third most popular social networks respectively, with Yahoo Answers, Windows Live, Google Videos and (somewhat surprisingly) the kiddie-friendly Club Penguin all featuring in the top ten.
For the full list of stats click here to head over to HitWise.