Some useful reading

I’ll post some more in-depth thoughts on both of the books I’m currently reading, but having already been inspired to rethink various aspects of our work on creativity, marketing and technology, I wanted to recommend Paid to Think: A Leader’s Toolkit for Redefining Your Future by David Goldsmith, and Future Minds: How The Digital Age is Changing Our Minds, Why This Matters and What We Can Do About It by Richard Watson.

Paid to Think is a structured approach to the various elements of leadership. I should note that I was kindly sent a review copy, and that the reason for the delay in publishing an actual review is because unusually, the book is prompting me to pause and put the various lessons and techniques into practice, including into live client work.

Future Minds is a book I wish I’d read when it was published in 2010, but picked up as the Kindle edition is currently discounted to the impulse-friendly £1.49, and although I don’t necessarily agree with every conclusion in it, there have been a number of points which have caused me to re-frame my thinking on specific topics.

Both are well worth checking out for yourself – Paid To Think encompasses more than the title suggests, but is probably more suitable for those either leading/managing a business, or looking to take on that type of role in the future. Future Minds is suitable for anyone with an interest in technology and the changes it is making to society.

The transformation of media technology

I’m not that old – despite what my young son might say. But remembering a time before broadband internet was commonplace, when records came on vinyl and videotapes were rented from a local corner shop, I’m occasionally amazed.

In the last 24 hours;

  • I streamed a movie from the 90’s via Lovefilm on the Xbox 360.
  • I listened to songs from the 80’s on Spotify
  • I read a classic book from the ’60s on my Kindle which I’d bought on the Amazon site during lunch at a client’s office, and had already been downloaded automatically before I cam home.

And people wonder why media businesses are in confusion? It all seems as natural as breathing now, but,

  • Lovefilm – launched in 2003, Xbox streaming 2011.  (VHS lasted from around 1976 to around 2008)
  • Spotify – launched in 2006  (Vinyl records became popular in the 1920s)
  • Amazon Kindle – launched in 2007. (Paperback books hit around 1935)

All three of the prior technologies are still widely available – paperbacks still sell in large volumes, vinyl is still produced, and although it’s 4 years since the last dedicated video player/recorder was made, the functionality still exists in tandem with DVD combo machines.

Yet for me they’ve been comprehensively replaced by tech released in the last 6 years.

And we’ve still got the internet of things, and 3D printing, about to break with the disruptive level of the launch of the internet.

 

Breathtakingly incredible…

Catching up on essential tech reading: Hackers and The Art of Intrusion

Electronic books still have an oddly high price in certain niches, despite the fact storing long tail data products doesn’t actually cost very much. As a result I recently went on a bit of a secondhand book buying spree on Amazon. Taking a bit of a break from constant social media updates and obsessive RSS reading means I’ve had time to catch up on various books which really should be essential for anyone in the technology space.

 

Hackers by Stephen Levy:

It’s hard to believe that I hadn’t got around to reading Hackers – it’s a legendary book charting the history of computing and the pioneers involved. First published in 1984, and re-released in 2010 as a 25th Anniversary Edition, it really falls into three parts. The first looks at the origins of computing, and hacking at MIT. The second features the Homebrew computing club, which spawned Apple and many other companies, followed by the final section which focuses on the exploits of early videogame company Sierra Online.

What unites the book is the ‘hacker ethic’ which it really defined in print for the first time. Whether it’s The Tech Model Railway Club at MIT who first started sneaking into the huge but primitive mainframe computers in the 1960s, the hardware hackers creating home computers, or the developers who became superstars due to their success in the videogame industry, the common thread follows the rise of the hands-on hacking imperative, and the way it was first threatened and then subsumed by business interests. It’s interesting that the book ends with the lone figure of Richard Stallman, the ‘last true hacker’ and founder of the Free Software Foundation, as the rise of Free Software / Open Source has fueled a resurgence in open software and hacking which has again led to hardware innovation in 3D Printing, Drone aircraft and more.

Although the events of the book took place in the 1960-1980s, not only are those ignorant of history doomed to repeat it, but the motivations and concerns of the people involved in each section are as relevant today as they were at the time. How can you motivate hackers and those who work on projects for the joy of them rather than pay? Or what role should intellectual property and copyright actually play when business and technology innovation come together?

It’s eminently readable, even for people who don’t care about machines like the PDP-6 or TX-0 at MIT in the AI lab being run by some of the ex-TMRC. Despite the acronyms and some detailed explanation of the processes involved in various groundbreaking programs, there are plenty of anecdotes such as AI robots escaping their lab, or the habits of passionate anti-smoking hackers to persuade fellow diners in restaurants to extinguish their cigarettes.

I’m pretty certain this is one book which will be staying at the front of the bookshelf for dipping back into.

 

The Art of Intrusion: Kevin D Mitnick and William L.Simon

Infamous hacker (using the negative cyber-criminal interpretation of the term) turned security consultant Kevin Mitnick has written various books on the subject of business intrusion with co-author Bill Simon, and whilst Ghost in the Wires covers his own story as America’s most wanted computer criminal, The Art of Intrusion is interesting as it tells the stories of various successful exploits in accessing sensitive business data.

Benefiting from his hacking reputation, various people felt safe in admitting the mechanics of both computer intrusions and those using social engineering – although names of individuals and companies are often changed for obvious reasons. Mitnick apparently judged the voracity of the exploits and is pretty open about how trustworthy he considers each tale.

Despite the idea of glamorous computer crime capers, The Art of Intrusion is a much more technical book, going into a fair amount of detail into how each hack was accomplished (Without giving away exactly how to imitate each exploit). It also features Mitnick’s consultancy as he advises companies on how to avoid falling prey to the same problems at the end of each chapter.

Even if you’re not particularly interested in the technical aspects, particularly as the book is six years old at the time of writing, there are plenty of important lessons about the mentality of those who might be targeting your online business, as well as decent advice for all staff to avoid physical intruders using persuasion and social engineering to gain access. Particularly detailed are the exploits of the legal hackers – those performing penetration tests to analysis weakness for a business, including getting into the secure areas of a casino in Las Vegas, for example!

 

Why I love writing and technology…

…because done well, both can inspire people to act.

Whether it’s laughter or tears, love or hate, making a purchase or revolting against a government – both can provide amazing tools to inspire and encourage.

It’s how I ended up combining writing and marketing.

And it’s why I don’t dream about one day turning this business into an ‘SEO’ agency. Or a ‘social media’ agency.

I dream growing this business into something larger which is known for being able to enable change and action both internally and externally.

And it’s why I also think a lot about how that looks in terms of structure and recruitment.

And both of those issues are likely to become increasingly important this year, so if that’s the sort of thing you might be interested in, please do get in touch. Location won’t be important, but the right ideas will…

Key trends for 2012: Digital Disruption gets Physical

It’s the trend and prediction season, and there’s one overarching theme which ties together the main three technology trends I believe will break into the mainstream in 2012. Over the past decade we’ve seen a huge amount of disruption triggered by increased internet access – both in terms of speed and availability. The access to information and entertainment has had a massive effect on media and entertainment industries, whether through legitimate ways to access content or piracy. And we’ve also seen new tools and changes in collaboration, business practices, marketing, freelancing, crowdsourcing and much more.

But the majority of these changes have all been concerned with the fact you can transmit information and content effortlessly around the world. The key change for 2012 is that three major trends and breakthroughs will have a far bigger impact than ever before on the physical world. All three have been discussed and reported in technology circles for months, years, and in one case, decades, but all of them are reaching that tipping point where ‘normal’ non-geeks are interested and getting to the stage where they will start to invest with their cash.

Trends for 2012 #1: 3D Printing:

Having previously predicted that 2012 will be the year of 3D printing, I have to lead with it. Since writing that post in August (which was one of my most popular), the profile and interest in 3D Printing has only risen. We’re still at the stage where people can find new ways to utilise it every week, whether that’s criminals using it to produce credit card skimmers, the highly debatable use of creating gun parts, or the potentially life enhancing application of 3D printing to create new bones. One of the reasons I love 3D printing so much is that it’s still at the stage where it’s advanced enough to be indistinguishable from magic, but sadly I suspect that era will be over soon, and we’ll see more companies probably publicly demonstrating how they’ve been using it in-house for rapid prototyping etc.

  • In addition to the BBC link above, it’s being featured by the likes of The Economist, highlighting celebrity 3D printer Jay Leno. We’re already entering the cool celebrity endorsement stage.
  • DIY 3D Printers are coming down in price – e.g. $500. OK, so we’re still at the stage where you need to assemble your own kit, but when the existing companies build enough demand and scale, or when you get someone like Samsung or Toshiba in the market, the ability to source parts in massive bulk and package them in something that’s consumer friendly will rapidly change. How long before a bright pink or blue 3D printer covered in cartoon characters is on the shelves of Toys R Us for example?
  • Having seen Makerbot gain funding and more media attention, now Shapeways has raised $5.1 million for the alternative approach of remotely producing whatever designs are sent to them.
  • The tech, the stories and applications are a dream for anyone in marketing – if any 3D Printing company wants to chat to me about the possibilities, I’d definitely be interested. I can’t think of many technologies that have so many simple yet magical ways to entice consumers
  • And there are a number of startups now building their businesses on the platform of 3D printing, for instance, building personalised robot figurines to order, which leads me nicely onto the second trend…

 

Trends for 2012 #2: Robots in the workplace and your home:

Robots have been around for a long time in both science fiction, and in the workplace. As ideas and mechanical automatons, they’ve been around for hundreds of years, and in an industrial setting, they began work in the 1960s. More recently, their military use has skyrocketed – for a detailed look I highly recommend Wired for War by PW Singer, and their use in warehousing and distribution has been documented in various places. So why am I tipping something so old and obvious as a trend for 2012?

  • For one thing – use in the home, and the drop in prices. A basic Roomba robot vacuum cleaner costs £239.99 on Amazon, comparitive to a number of Dysons, for example. Sadly robot lawnmowers are still equivalent to the highest end of the human directed version, but I’d put money on that changing in the near future. And when that happens and you send one out, all your neighbours will suddenly get a prime view of it.
  • And the other is the increased sophistication of their role in the workplace. Korea is trialling robot prison guards, Toyota has unveiled 4 robot health assistants due on the market around 2013, and they’ve already got competition from the Riba healthcare robot due to 2015, amongst others. President Obama has already announced the U.S will fund the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, which is part of the many efforts to enable robots to interact with humans in their work, rather than simply isolated on a production line doing a very simple task.
  • Again, cost is an issue with a current personal robot costing $400,00. A bit much for personal use, but costs will decrease rapidly – in 1973 the first personal computer cost around $200,000. And in the workplace, more specific requirements and designs lower the cost to the point where investing is a case of direct comparison with a human equivalent. Whether or not you support or use immigration or cheap labour for repetitive tasks, there are still costs involved and potential problems which robots could answer. And given we’re on the cusp of self-replicating robots and machines, 2012 probably won’t see a personal robot butler in every home, but will see more businesses investing in them, and more widespread use of the single-task robot in your personal life.
  • And one element which might help that spread and help the adjustment is the rise of home working and telecommuting, as there has been work and research which leads to the use of robot ‘stand-ins’ for workers away from the office for meetings etc (The same thing still continues in virtual worlds, despite the perception of business ‘failure’ in places such as Second Life – and the use of more traditionally framed virtual collaboration tools could well lead to a resurgence in the future, particularly with more senior executives of an age where virtual worlds in video games are second nature)

 

Trends for 2012 #3: ‘The Internet of Things’

Possibly the clunkiest name for any trend, but fairly self-explanatory when you realise this refers to connected devices. Again, this isn’t a radically new idea, and comes accompanied with references to the internet fridges we all failed to rush out and buy. But that was before the iPad started to replace a recipe book on the kitchen counter, next to the internet-connected radio and the smart phone.

And the key development is that the infrastructure is now available in ever-growing areas – ever-faster broadband, wifi, power lines etc.

  • Consider that the EU has already seen fit to sign a framework for privacy for RFID applications, which power the connectivity.
  • Businesses are already there – remember the warehouse robots from our last trend? RFID. Want to be able to connect all your vehicle assets? RFID. Want to be able to track all your inventory, no matter where it is in the supply chain, down to a single box? RFID.
  • Increasingly we’re controlling more of our lives from a small group of devices – smartphone, tablet, laptop, Kinect etc.
  • There are already a huge number of applications and businesses utilising existing technology, such as Arduino, to allow your plants to message you when they need more water, or your doorbell to text you when someone rings it.
  • And remember the Internet Fridge back in 1999? Well, it’s back and wifi enabled. And given that the likes of Tesco have started using augmented reality to allow you to snap a picture of your groceries on the wall of the underground station while you are waiting to come home, suddenly being able to access what’s in your fridge and what you need to buy when you’re out and about suddenly doesn’t seem quite so daft…
  • If that all seems a bit too far – consider the amount of self-diagnosis being utilised in cars. And imagine the time and frustration saving when your rubbish washing machine is internet connected? This isn’t about using your tumbledryer to surf the web – it’s about saving time and effort when it breaks by contacting the engineers directly to let them order a part and come and fix it, rather than trying to arrange an appointment via a call centre for someone to come and look at it, go away again, and then come back with the right bit to fix it.

 

The implications of 2012’s Physical Disruption

The one outside element which might have an effect on the timescales is the perception of the global economy. I don’t think that will slow 3D printing particularly, as tough economic times tend to see a rise in DIY and self-repair, plus investments in items which are very much about longterm quality and value.

It may be harder for robots to be accepted into the family – they inherently seem more frivolous, even with the argument that the time-saving means more productive work can be done to show a decent return. In the workplace the cost savings are more immediately apparent and the future looks less accessible for anyone in an unskilled manual labour role. Much as the longterm prospects for call centres might start to decline this year, which I don’t think anyone except employees will mourn (Sorry for the few good call centre people I’ve dealt with).

Put simply, 2012 is the tipping point, I believe, for small business of crafted products. I remember watching a presentation video, which I believe was JP Rangaswami (Annoyingly absent in every history and bookmarking tool I use, so I’ll continue to try to locate it), in which he talked about a return to a pre-Industrial Revolution business world, and 2012 seems to be the point where that becomes an increasing reality. Big brands will continue to exist, but already they’re moving to a world in which they retain their size by the interests they own and the backroom elements they can provide more than leading the storefronts and businesses with their brands.

That has positives – at the point were you can save money by printing your own products rather than paying to import them from outsourced manufacturer in Asia. Optimistically, saving on the more menial healthcare tasks may allow for more training and specialisation in more complexity, assuming the NHS isn’t completely destroyed. And a connected house should mean more time to be productive or relaxed.

But it also has scary implications for employment – the easy reassurance is that when the economy improves, everyone will be back in work and everything will be OK. But the effect of digital disruption has been that it creates money, and employment, but in sheer numbers the workforce will always be much smaller than what was replaced, as we increasingly use algorithms instead of humans. Extend that further out into unskilled and semi-skilled professions and we need to rapidly reconsider the education system and the industries which the UK and the world will be pursuing in the future, and how that maps out against the world’s population.

So that’s something to look forward to next year.

Plane crazy

I seem to split my time between making predictions about future business and technology, and looking back at the past. Maybe it’s my age or fatherhood, but I seem to be finding links between the two far more readily, especially when my son is involved, although this time it’s more about just enjoying the fantastic machinery on show at Imperial War Museum Duxford.

Duxford Air Museum

Spitfire at Duxford, with Concorde in the background

It really is a cool place to visit – 200 planes, 50 tanks, and enough to keep a young child entertained while his dad admired everything from fighter planes to commercial airliners and the occasional Spitfire. Plus, it’s the only time I’ve ever been buzzed by a jet fighter in true Top Gun style whilst sitting and eating an ice cream.

They’ve got pretty much everything from vintage biplanes to the Eurofighter, SR-71 BlackBird and of course, Concorde. And I have to admit, not being privy to the joy of travelling across the Atlantic in under 3 hours, that I was a bit surprised it wasn’t a little more glamourous.

Duxford Air Museum

The seating in the Concorde at Duxford (Admittedly it was used for test flights)

But besides the wonder of seeing all these amazing machines up close, whether it’s the SR-71 BlackBird I had as a poster on my wall, or the Russian T-34 tank, I did wonder about the fact that it appears aviation seemed to stop around the time computers and the internet began to exist in the 60’s and 70’s.
I don’t mean that we don’t all cram into budget class on a 747 for our holidays, but all of the amazingly futuristic designs seem to have been replaced by pure utility, much as we once had Cadillacs with huge fins and now have sensible hatchbacks. And I’m wondering why we aren’t seeing a return to amazing designs?

After all, there must be some way that the increase in virtual conferencing reducing business travel, and the increases in environmentally-friendly travel could give rise to transport that looks amazing whilst saving the planet? Not everyone who wants to prevent global environmental catastrophes wants to drive around in something that looks like a jelly mold or a box on wheels.

It’s that belief that everything has to be OR, rather than AND. The web has to destroy print, rather than both existing in a completely different way. And the internet and the environment demand that we end up travelling in dull tedium, as experienced by every commuter on a daily basis, rather than something cool and interesting.

Want me to increase my efforts to recycle and turn the heating down? Find me a way that I’ll be rewarded with something like this on my driveway in 10 years.
20110828_066.jpg

And while I’m talking about how great planes are – it’s not flying people hate. It’s the fact that airports are soulless, miserable places which increase boredom and anxiety, before the joy of passing through customs, and then the loss of control as unexplained noises accompany some stranger hurtling you into the air at 300+mph, whilst knowing you’re likely to be stuck circling round a destination in the middle of nowhere, waiting for your suitcase to appear alongside 20 identical examples, and then the fun of customs in a different culture.

On the plus side, Duxford is great, and I’m seriously thinking of their membership package just to get the tour of this rather famous plane:

Duxford Air Museum

The Sally B - Also known as The Mephis Belle

 

2012 – the year of 3D printing?

It seems like I’ve been talking to people about 3D printing for ages, but it seems like momentum is really gathering for it at the moment as it starts to reach a wider audience, and with the news Makerbot Industries has just secured $10 million of funding.

Frustratingly, and out of character for me, I can’t find a blog post noting when I initially heard about it, although it must have been around 2009, as that was when the initial press reports started appearing, and I do remember being familiar with it before I read the awesome Makers by Cory Doctorow, which I then bought for my dad as a far more inspiring and clearer explanation of the possibilities than I could manage. And in addition to promising myself a Makerbot and Arduino board by the end of the year back in January, I’ve mentioned it to a lot of people over the last few years. In fact, my stock answer when people ask me for any tech prediction or investment tips has been ‘3D printing and robotics’. The use of robots is delivering disruption in everything from bomb disposal to warehouse management, and 3D printing is going to have a more immediate impact on manufacturing in the very near future.

And as recently as this afternoon, I was reminded of one of Clarke’s laws – ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’, as I showed some very digitally savvy and clever people some Youtube videos to explain 3D printing and left them amazed.

One of the best examples is this video showing the manufacture of a wrench (or adjustable spanner in the UK) simply by scanning it in 3D and pressing ‘print’.

And the possibilities are amazing – already people are creating full sized replica motorcycles, working planes, guitars, sculptures, complex gear mechanisms, and a huge range of protyping applications which aren’t even being publicised, although this promo video for a printer gives some idea of the breadth of the options:

And of course, there’s Makerbot’s products, which can be purchased for under £1000 and then sit next to my home PC churning stuff out, before I can progress to the larger models:

Why is 3D Printing about to hit?

A few things seem to be heading towards the perfect 3D printing storm. Early adopters are already talking a lot about the opportunities, including many people I have a lot of time and respect for. The mainstream media are starting to pick up on it again, and explain it in a way which fascinates people. And when you think about the range of promotional merchandise which could be produced, for example, it’s easy to see that a company could actually save a fair amount of money by running their own 3D printer rather than using foreign labour and a intermediary company.

There’s also the financial situation for most people, and times of austerity often lead people to invest in better longterm products and solutions, including buying better quality products which will last, and looking for ways to fix and improve things rather than replacing them. Give me a way to replace all the broken parts of toys in the house, or various gadget parts, and I’ll soon have recovered the purchase price.

Then you’ve got the fact that you can already print 3D chocolate creations – bang goes the chocolatier industry – and Cornell University have already been looking at ways to produce all types of food from basic ‘food inks’, and even human organs and body parts.

It’s hard to imagine how many industries and businesses will be affected, and how quickly the disruption will take place, given the real world implications are far more immediate than even the digital disruption of the internet has managed. There are plenty of people who resisted going online, or didn’t see the benefits – show them a quick, cheap and easy hip replacement that works and has no waiting time and they can see why it’s worth it straight away!

The biggest challenge to 3D printing:

The only challenge to 3D Printing will be the bane of all disruptive digital technology – copyright. Both Makerbot and Fab@Home are open-source projects, and I have no doubt that any attempt to block access to the technology and raw materials of 3D printing will be immediately worked around.

The biggest problem will be whether existing industries can do anything to initiate copyright law not only for replacement parts for their specific products, but also newer ideas. And they’ve got a huge incentive – take motorcycle production, for example, where a £10,000 motorcycle built entirely from new spare parts would cost over £50,000.

3d printing will disrupt the world in the next 12 months

MIT are printing solar cells on pieces of paper, Enrico Dini can print buildings from dust, and the first human vein has already been created with 3d printing.

It’s almost impossible to envisage all the opportunities and implications of what this will bring – and if you’re looking for the easiest and cheapest ways to access the technology, there are already companies like Shapeways that will create whatever you’re able to upload. But although I did once wonder about opportunities for a similar business, it’s really a gateway company as the cost of owning your own production continues to fall to the point where your garden shed is a mini-fabrication facility for anything from paper models to human organs. And considering the cost of a Makerbot Thing-o-Matic is already down to $1299, it’ll be interesting to see how their new investment could lead to even further price reductions in the short term. That’s just from economies of scale etc with the existing technology, and not even accounting for the inevitable improvements in how 3D printers are actually made. Self-replication isn’t exactly unimaginable.

I don’t often gamble on making predictions for something as radically unpredictable as technology and the impact it will have on the world around us, but 3D Printing for me is beyond the introduction of the smartphone, and rivals both the internet, and even the invention of the computer. The question isn’t if it will be the most radical change since the industrial revolution – the only question is when…

Great book for fans of technology, futurism or ‘fracking cool robots’

As a New York Times bestseller which has received countless positive reviews, and which features a quote from The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart on the cover saying ‘This book is awesome’, it’s safe to say you may have already heard about ‘Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century‘ by P.W. Singer, but if not, I strongly suggest you take a look at it.

I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in technology, futurism, AI, etc whether or not you have an interest in the military itself or find warfare abhorrent. Singer is quite open in the fact that he has attempted to write for people interested in technology as much as the military, and does a great job of blending scholarly information, awe at the progress of robotics, and character stories in a readable way.

It’s fairly substantial, with the paperback hitting 436 pages before the acknowledgements and footnotes, and the fact I’ve raced through it in a matter of days shows that it’s pretty digestible despite the fact it’s got a lot of interesting, useful and surprising facts. And there are a lot of references to consumer technology alongside the military applications, whether it’s because iRobot split their time between army products and the Roomba, or because warehouse management technology can be applied to U.S Navy ships.

Ebooks evolving: TEDBooks launch as Kindle Singles

The launch of Amazon’s Kindle Singles has been accompanied by the launch of TEDBooks – short nonfiction works designed for digital distribution by following the type of idea which has resonated from the global series of TEDTalks, and presenting it in less than 20,000 words, which is enough for a single sitting. And you can read them via any device with a Kindle App: iPad, Mac, PC, Android, iPhone, Blackberry and Windows 7 smartphones, as well as the Kindle itself.

Longer than a typical magazine article, but shorter than your typical book, it’s an interesting approach which sees three books available at launch for $2.99. The line-up is The Happiness Manifesto: How Nations and People Can Nurture Well-Being by Nic Marks, Dangerism: Why We Worry About the Wrong Things, and What It’s Doing to Our Kids by Gever Tulley, and Homo Evolutis: Please Meet the Next Human Species by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullan.

The presumption behind the books is that their length and cost will see people choose them in preference to magazines or other short entertaining diversions, and I think it’s a fair gamble to make. I don’t think it would work for everyone, but the ideas which are shared at TED events are always interesting, engaging and designed for you to want more. It also means I can self-serve myself the topics I really want to know about, rather than paying a few dollars or pounds more for a magazine, which often contains things that I either don’t care about or don’t read if time is short.

It’s interesting to see projects like this, and Seth Godin’s The Domino Project, all taking a new look at how publishing works in a digital world, and pretty much starting from scratch and building from there. Does a book need to be a certain minimum length? Does it need a traditional print version, or the standard marketing and promotion? Will people go for something for a couple of quid or bucks, and will they choose that over a longer, more general, and more expensive magazine?

It’s also interesting that these ideas are coming Amazon, TED and Seth Godin, not a traditional book publisher. That’s not to say traditional publishers aren’t changing, but it seems like starting from a fresh perspective could reveal a lot more about the future…

(Incidentally, an alternative source of TED inspiration are the videos of TEDTalks available via Youtube. I can’t recommend it highly enough if you fancy watching talks ranging from the likes of Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Richard Dawkins through to the likes of Christoper ‘Moot’ Poole – the founder of 4Chan.)

(And if you’re intrigued or interested in what books I’m currently planning to obtain for myself, here’s my current tech/marketing/digital culture wishlist on Amazon – this isn’t a cheap ploy for presents (Although they’re always nice), but it’s the one place I’ve gone to the trouble of updating recently with recommended additions to anyone’s library. I’ll have to go back through the various book sharing social networks to provide a complete list of everything already assimiliated. Anyone got any recommendations?)

‘Date Night’ technology lessons…

I took some time out with my better half last night to watch ‘Date Night’ with Steve Carroll and Tina Fey. Besides being a really good and funny film, it also sparked a few thoughts about technology which have stuck with me…

Tech is everywhere:

A USB flash drive is integral to the plot of the film (the unfair but often true stereotype is hearing it referred to as the ‘computer sticky thing’). But more noticeable were the appearances of touchscreen technology and an Amazon Kindle. The fact the Kindle was mentioned by name means it could well have been product placement, but it also needed no explanation for the audience, and showed how mainstream e-readers have become. The better-half was also far more interested in the cool touchscreen technology (Can you really get that stuff now?) than she was 12 months ago – the influence of the iPad/smartphones etc…

Still needs to be easier:

One of the benefits of having an Xbox is that the Zune Movies service occasionally gets updated with some good films – and I can buy and watch without leaving the sofa.

The downside was realising that I’d accidentally bought the film as a download rather than the streaming option – and in HD format, it’d still be downloading now. So after searching around for about 20 minutes, I finally found a way I could access the streaming version – by paying for it again! So what started off as a normal rental cost was doubled, simply because I didn’t pay enough attention…

The cynic might suggest Microsoft and film companies are happy to get double purchases from people making an easy mistake, but the longterm result is I’m less likely to pay for another rental, knowing how easy it is to make a mistake…

And there’s another reason for blogging this:

The final lesson of ‘Date Night’ was a reminder to spend some time actually enjoying the fact new technology enables me to have more fun with my family, rather than an end in itself…