Stop, unplug and listen

Eurasian blue tit
CC flickr image via hape662

The other morning I did something unusual. I left the house to walk to the train station without putting in my earphones.

For me, this is rare. My normal routine has me loading up a podcast within seconds of shutting the front door. I then listen to that for the first 30-odd minutes of my commute, before switching to music for the remainder.

On this particular day I had just minutes to reach the station, so decided not to plug in immediately. When I arrived, my rush was in vain: “Train cancelled”.

So I did something different. I sat on a bench on the platform and just listened without any other distraction. It’s no exaggeration to say it was a revelation.

Rather than the insulated world I’m used to, I truly stopped and paid attention to the world around me.

And the predominant sound I heard was the song of four or five different types of bird, beautifully chirruping and tweeting in harmony.

There was also the low murmur of the ticket attendant talking to a customer and the occasional beep of an electronic sensor, but I was overwhelmingly struck by the serenity and beauty of it all.

It’s so easy to stick your headphones on and block out the world around you – something many, if not most, of us are guilty of.

But changing routine occasionally and ‘noticing’ the world around us is something we should all do.

Try it and let me know how it goes.

Why technology is really not ‘too difficult’ to try and understand

Confused: CC Image via flickr

We live in a time where the pace of change is frenetic. Twenty years ago, there was no Google and no Facebook. Amazon was still only a baby and Apple – while cool – was almost 4 years away from the launch of the iPod.

It’s 2017 and those four companies now dominate our lives. So much so that Scott Galloway has just published a book – The Four – that examines the companies and the effect they have.

The way that technology now dominates the world, it can be easy to shrug when news of the latest ‘big thing’ arrives. As we all get older, the shock of the new can be tough to cope with.

As Hitchhikers Guide author and polymath Douglas Adams once said:

Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works; anything that’s invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it; anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.

Should we not bother?

As someone in their mid-40s, I could be forgiven for being one of those that Adams alludes to – looking at new developments and deciding not to bother.

Scott Galloway makes this point in his book.

The 55-year-old who says (proudly) he or she doesn’t use social media, has given up or is afraid.

But – as far as I’m concerned – that’s the wrong way to look at it. When it comes to technology, it pays to understand, rather than become the expert.

Unless you’re 11 you won’t get Snapchat, but you can at least learn what it is, why it’s popular and how it works.

Scott Galloway again:

Get in the game. Download and use apps. Use every social media platform and try to understand them. Buy some keywords and post a video on Google & YouTube.

It sounds obvious, but so many people don’t try. They assume that it’s pointless. But it isn’t.

Open to all

The one brilliant thing about emerging technology is that it’s open to everyone.

  • Making and editing your own videos can be done on your own smartphone
  • A chatbot can be created in just 7 minutes using a free online product, such as Chatfuel
  • Social media can be played with for free

Don’t tell yourself you can’t do it. Find the time to have a go and discover just how ‘not difficult’ things really are.

Charity vs ethics: you decide

ux-salon-dark-patterns-3-638Ever heard of “dark patterns”? The term was coined – as you can see from the photo above – by Harry Brignull and is used to describe ‘naughty things’ companies do to try and trick you into doing something you don’t necessarily want to.

As companies try ever harder to make money and get more out of people, these dark patterns are becoming ever more common.

So where’s the link to charity, I hear you cry? Well, last night I spotted this tweet:

The crux of the issue is that a £1 discretionary donation was added to the final bill by default, thus making it less likely that it would be removed.

The restaurant concerned – a very good Indian one in Brighton – was very contrite, but rightly pointed out that the £1 charity discretion was clearly advertised and would have been happily removed. Continue reading “Charity vs ethics: you decide”