Priceless in so many ways…

I’m sure you might have already heard about the rather amusing Wikileaks video embedded below, but just in case…

If we can put aside the specifics of Wikileaks and Julian Assange for the moment, probably the most important thing to have come out of the events is that there’s an increased awareness, debate and discussion around whistleblowing, transparency and information sharing, and certainly Wikileaks has played a large part in that due to the media partnerships it made for leaked documents, and the media coverage of what has happened since. The combination of the importance of the leaked content, and the fact that it was disseminated with the maintstream media made for something which grew beyond most anonymous blog posts or forum messages, for example.

I was originally going to write that even if it had just made a handful of the governments and companies which engage in behaviour damaging society pause to reconsider, then it had done something valuable – at which point a paradox hit me.

When we talk about the efforts of big business against file-sharing and piracy, a large part of the argument is that you can’t stop people from sharing content when it keeps evolving to be quicker and easier. All that happens is that you drive the most hardcore further underground, nibbling at the very edges where those who can’t be bothered with the potential risks or the added hassles might be affected.

So flipping this around, the increase in document leaks could also simply hinder those who weren’t particularly evil or adept at hiding it, whilst those who are far more invested in their actions and determined will find better ways of hiding what they are doing – from whisteblowers, established aid charities and organisations, and any investigators from foreign governments etc.

Of course, then you can move into the actions of Anonymous and Lulzsec, and debate whether more direct attacks via hacking can be justified if they’re done with the intention of highlighting important issues.

Information to action:

The interesting thing for me is what comes after the information is released. Do we see it on the whisteblowing website, or reported in the media, and then get back to everyday tasks, or does it have some effect on the way we act. And if the effect is big enough, are we actually able to turn it into positive action?

It’s interesting that in comparing whistleblowing and piracy, there’s one key similarity. The power of both governments and big business are most definitely interested in curbing both actions by ‘private citizens’. Both can lead to economic or civil problems for both seats of power to have to deal with, and both are greatly enabled by the digital age.

The question isn’t how we can do these things, or even whether they, in themselves, are currently morally and legally acceptible, but really about how they can be used in the longer term to create change that actually enables a better way of life for the maximum amount of people, and what that might look like. And the key to that stage of social, legal and political evolution will be if the likes of Wikileaks leads us to more  routes for effective action, rather than focusing on the specifics of Julian Assange and the documents released so far…


How things are changing

I just posted a comment on Lois Gray’s latest post, which celebrated the third birthday of his children rather than his usual stream of quality tech news and insight – having a child at a similar age, I identified with the relationship his kids have with technology, and it made me consider the rate of progress and how institutions in education are going to need to adapt their systems and topics even during the course of a year, and certainly in the course of a child’s time in the school system, rather than over the course of generations as previously seemed to happen.



It also reminded me to post up some interesting stats that have been cropping up and I haven’t had a chance to share – all of which are symptoms of a wider change:

  • 1/5 of UK grandparents are using social media – and a lot of them are very active, not just registering and then forgetting about it.
  • The Royal Mail is cutting thousands of jobs as the volume of letters sent each day dropped 22% – I can’t remember the last time I sent a letter which wasn’t required for business reasons. I do still send greeting cards, and often mail eBay and Amazon items to people, but if I’m not using email/social networks, the phone is the personal communication choice for me (Either my mobile or Skype these days!)
  • 53.5% of US internet users will read blogs this year – Ignoring the argument over what a blog actually is these days (Is Techcrunch a blog or a media site? Is Tumblr blogging or microblogging? Does any normal person actually care about these semantics?) – it’s interesting to note that this prediction by emarketer is despite the huge numbers of people claiming blogging was dead due to Facebook (Which was recently claimed to have lost some users for the first time), and Twitter.
  • The UK bought 20% more eBooks last year – That’s only going to increase – I wonder if there are also stats for downloads of free eBooks, and how many more were purchased that weren’t recorded, such as the eBooks almost every marketing blog now offers?
  • 42% of UK adults don’t read a daily newspaper – I’ve spent 10 years thinking and talking about the future of print and digital media. The ‘death’ of print always involved overestimating the rate of change and the lack of support for niche print products, but the need for printed news delivered to your door in the morning was initially removed by radio, then television, then the internet, and now the mobile internet.

Steering a course through all of this can be challenging, but the core principles of business,marketing and being a human remain the same… It’s how you achieve them that differs, and how you can improve on them by utilising the most relevant bits of technology.

Scolari sacking shows short-term stupidity

I’ve been a football fan for as long as I remember, which is around 28 years – and for that whole time I’ve supported the same team through victory and defeat. The first 20 years or so were mainly defeat, with the last eight actually having some notable victories.

Scolari by toksuede (CC licence)

Scolari by toksuede (CC licence)

But being a Chelsea fan is becoming increasingly embarrassing as despite massive funding, they seem to be ignoring examples of lasting success to always focus on the shortterm. Since the three-year reign of Jose Mourinho included winning the Premier League, we’ve had Avram Grant, who lasted one season, and Jose Felipe Scolari who lasted about half a season.

Yet look at the other leading teams in the Premiership: Alex Ferguson has managed Man Utd for 22 years. Arsene Wenger has managed Arsenal for 13 years. Rafael Benitez has managed Liverpool for almost five years. Martin O’Neil has managed Aston Villa for two-and-a-half years.

There’s a bit of a pattern here.

I’ve written before about the value of belief – and it’s something that requires constant work and attention. If you’re a manager or player who has seen little loyalty or time given to your colleagues, it’s going to affect your belief, no matter how much you’re paid.  That’s not to say pressure and competition aren’t useful, and disastrous results shouldn’t be risk-free, but it’s useless having a stick without a carrot.

And I firmly believe it applies to business, or any organisation.

People need to feel secure enough to be able to take risks and try new ideas, or you’re left in a business where innovation is stifled, and that will lead to a steady and slow decline… One which will takes more resources and effort to change, the longer it continues…

Cosmetic changes to Twitter….

The official Twitter blog has details of the unheralded and overnight cosmetic changes which have been made to Twitter, with the removal of the Archive page, and the navigation tabs finding a home on the righthand side of the page.

So far, I’m experiencing the ‘Supermarket Effect’, which is demonstrated when your local supermarket moves everything around – and even if it actually makes shopping quicker, you still complain for the first 30 minutes that you can’t find anything.

The only problem which does immediately stand out is the fact the search box has been removed from my main page, which is a pain as I often search for people who might be on Twitter but haven’t shared their username. It’s now hidden under Find People, and then Search, which adds two clicks every time I want to quickly check someone.

It’s also a big problem if I’m trying to locate someone I’m following or someone following me (Over 1200 people each time), and I can’t remember their exact username.

You do get the options to customize the look of your page, which is kinda fun, I guess. Bearing in mind I have little skills when it comes to design, it’s something I won’t be spending much time on!

Update: Is it just me, or have the times and dates for updates become italicised? They just look a little ‘odd’ to me…