On a recent business trip to New Delhi, I was out for lunch with colleagues when conversation turned to the price of mobile data. Us foreigners at the table bemoaned the price-per-Gb in our home countries, meanwhile, the locals could barely contain their laughter…
An overnight success in the world’s 2nd most-populated country is nothing short of breathtaking.
In June 2015, IDC estimated there were 5.8 million 4G LTE subscribers in India. In a country with a population of 1.3 billion that’s a rounding error.
Yet, as I type this now in October 2017 India has 81.56% 4G LTE coverage, better than most countries in Europe and snapping at the heels of city-nation, Singapore.
Isn’t that a huge waste of bandwidth?
Well no… Just months after the IDC estimate was published a new service, Reliance Jio, was launched, and everything changed.
Reliance Jio launched commercially on 5th September 2016 and… *deep breath*… acquired 50 million subscribers in 83 days.
That’s 400 new subscribers every minute.
That’s a faster user acquisition rate than any consumer company in history, including Whatsapp, Facebook and Skype.
Within a few short years we could find our banking system is bankrupt. No, I’m not trying to predict another subprime mortgage collapse, and this isn’t another anti-Trump message of doom (although his lack of understanding of ‘the cyber’ and affinity with traditional business models will not help the United States of America weather such disruption). Instead, the rise of the ‘Blockchain’ simply renders banks unnecessary.
Why do banks exist?
Banks exist because storing your cash under your mattress isn’t very secure. But what is it about banks that makes them a safer place for your hard-earned wedge?
According to legend, the the Knights Templar invented the first form of modern banking in the 12th century. They would take in money from Christian crusaders, pilgrims and travellers in return for a slip of parchment that detailed their deposit. Further along their journey they could swap their parchment at a ‘Templar House’ for gold, silver and whatever-the-hell-myhrr-is up to the value they had deposited. Sound familiar?
As for security, the Knights Templar were some of the most fearsome warriors around. They didn’t need to chain their pens to the desks, if you nicked one you’d do well if you only lost a hand…
The first Templar banking system relied on low literacy levels. Basically, the hope was that the parchment could easily be overlooked by groups of medieval chavs rifling through your pockets looking for gold coins. Eventually, the parchments were written in code (encrypted) to avoid them being tampered with. Ironically, it is encryption which is the basis for Blockchain, which may end up destroying this old-style of banking.
Remember when the internet was in its infancy? We all had to put up with little 468 x 90 banner ads everywhere you looked – and sometimes we clicked them because we didn’t know better.
As time went on we grew smarter, we were able to tell the bad adverts from the good, and the emergence of online advertising bumped the ugly out of the marketplace entirely. And now, our brains automatically blank out adverts to keep us focused on the content we went to the site in the first place for. Many of us use ad-blocking tools so our brains don’t even need to perform the mental airbrushing.
But what if those adverts were trying to tell us something really important?
What if the Emergency Broadcast System was hooked into those banner ads trying to give us forewarning of an avoidable cataclysm?
Social Engineering refers to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information.
It is becoming increasingly common by malicious actors (bank and identity fraud, for example), but is also becoming a core part of many companies’ business models.
It all started innocently enough with the Social Graph. The ability to link people with other people, events, photos and products via rich, meaningful relationships turned the one-size-fits-all internet into a personalised window where the chaos suddenly started to shape itself into something we recognised and could engage with on a more emotional level.
Google do a lot of good things. They host free webfonts to make the web a nicer place to be. Their cloudy PaaS service, Engine Yard, gets rave reviews. Their maps are better than anyone’s, their mobile OS is the most popular in the world, and their photo hosting offer is second to none. But they can be very evil sometimes too.
For the last few days I’ve been seeing this ‘privacy reminder’ popup whenever I go to Google (including by searching in Chrome’s address bar). And it stops you dead in your tracks. You have to read through all the legalese before it lets you search for pictures of cats. Well I just don’t have time for that, I need instant cat gratification now!.
That sounds so wrong.
Anyway, I had a quick scan through the privacy reminder and immediately smelled a rat… It all seems really un-evil at first, you can choose to switch off some of Google’s invasive behaviour by following the handy-dandy links in the privacy reminder itself. Wowzers! What a nice thing to do. I opted to switch off all the weird adverts-following-you-around settings. They’re here, in case you’re wondering.
This morning, while trying to debug our big ol’ web project in Visual Studio 2015 I encountered a problem – it held me up for a while so I wanted to quickly blog about the solution in case it hits you too. When hitting F5 to start debugging, Chrome launched but then immediately Visual Studio detached from IIS Express and showed the following error:
A process with the ID of <id> is not running
True enough, IIS Express wasn’t running…
Open Wide and Say ‘Ahh!’, Mr Windows
I ran a Repair on IIS Express 10.0 in case it was an issue with that, or the self-signed SSL certificate it uses to host web projects over a secure connection…. but still had the same problem.
I then created a brand new ASP.NET MVC 5 project and hit F5… but that ran fine. Hmm, curious. That let me know IIS Express was fundamentally OK, and the issue lay with the big ol’ web project.
Microsoft are usually pretty good at logging when things go wrong so I fired up eventvwr, the Windows Event Viewer, and saw the following error being thrown by IIS Express:
The Module DLL C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Web Tools\AspNetCoreModule\aspnetcore.dll failed to load. The data is the error
Today I closed a chapter in my life. After nearly 4 years tenure at a company I wanted to reflect on the things I learned over that time.
I have been very lucky to have a few excellent – world-class even – mentors here who have taught me things that will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I wanted to share the reflection process with you in the hope you gain something valuable too.
Individual Success Isn’t Success
For a long, long time I adopted the ‘aircraft oxygen mask’ approach to my career: I’ll get to where I want to be first, then I’ll help others. This company has taught me that isn’t the right thing to do.
My thinking was always “I’ll be in a better position to help others” once I hit my objectives, but that simply doesn’t work in practice: without respectful, cooperative development across your team(s), you risk yourself hitting your goals at all, and if you haven’t helped others hit theirs too, nobody wins.
Dare I use the management-bullshit-bingo term ‘synergy’?
My current role here is a technical leadership role – that means I don’t have people reporting to me but I do have authority over technology direction and a remit to ensure conceptual integrity of the solution. I have led project teams before, I have even run small businesses before, but being a leader in a larger company was new to me when I began this chapter of my life, and I wanted to be good at it.
I’ve seen all the memes about the difference between a boss and a leader but for some reason I struggled to enact the differences. However, after some time spent being (in retrospect) a terrible boss, some sage advice from one of those mentors made everything ‘click’, and I was given the mental tools to develop the techniques required to become a good leader instead. (Note, a good mentor won’t give you the answer, but the means of finding it on your own!).
“Take people with you.”
So what does that look like in practice? Last year I was offered the chance to travel to our American HQ to present some new work to 1,500 customers. ‘Prestigious’ isn’t even close – this is a huge event, so compelling that our customers pay us to listen to our plans and roadmap. The trip dripped with a significant amount of attached ‘kudos’ and the opportunity to rub shoulders with the highest of the high in the business. Not only that – the opportunity to ask probing questions to 1,500 customers about our technology direction is such a rare occurrence it was unmissable. The old me would have started packing immediately. Continue Reading “Things I learned at my last job”→
The ‘Sharing Economy’ is disrupting established industries and sending huge, powerful incumbents into a tizzy. Uber and AirBnB have shaken the taxi and hotel sectors, shifting power, control and profits from the RadioCabs and Hiltons of this world and into the hands of ordinary citizens armed with nothing more than a smartphone and a mobile data plan.
The question on everyone’s lips is: which industry will be disrupted by the Sharing Economy next?
A couple of years ago, I was in Portland, Oregon, for meetings with some colleagues. One lunchtime, our discussion diverged from work topics to an issue plaguing our home-lives, an issue common to both the US and UK: the reduction in bin-pickup frequency.
It’s a hot topic.
Dude, Where’s My Trash?
We tossed around some ideas to solve our overflowing bins issues, to solve the problems caused by local authorities switching from weekly to two-weekly pick-ups, and to solve that awkward situation we have all faced: that middle-of-the-night walk of shame, bin-bag over shoulder, roaming the streets like a crazed, ferral cat to find a neighbour’s bin with a bit of space left in it to deposit last night’s curry leftovers and beer bottles.
What does this have to do with the Sharing Economy?
A lightbulb lit: why not create a location-aware, social app to help out? Share My Trashcan was born, $5 per bag, with a $1 kick-back to us, it scales and is simple. But then one of our team mentally cycled through a Lean Startup build-measure-learn cycle and developed the concept, discovering that communities can come together to buy a shared dumpster, which would provide even more space (some of which could be shared with other communities!) and would also be picked up weekly.
Share My Trashcan was dead, long live Share My Dumpster!
The aviation industry is one plagued with red tape and strict process, and not without good reason. With more than half of all plane crashes caused by pilot error, and the flying public unwilling to fly without pilots in the pointy end, aviation authorities are doing everything they can to turn the cockpit into a robotic, process-driven office.
Believe it or not, the problems that pilots face, and which cause aviation disasters, are often the same issues we face every day at the office. So the ways these have been solved and mitigated are worth a look, whether you’re flying a plane, or flying a desk…
Don’t distract me when I’m busy
Take-offs and landings are extremely busy times for pilots. Besides being the cool, calm head there to deal with emergencies when they happen, take-offs and landings are where they really earn their money.
Under 10,000-feet, airline pilots must obey a concept known as the “sterile cockpit”; that means they aren’t allowed to discuss anything except the job at hand. Checklists, departure or arrival routes, weather and radio communication with air traffic control, that’s all, nothing extraneous.
And you can tell when you’ve climbed to 10,000ft even as a passenger, it is usually signified by the pilots turning off the landing lights (the bright white lights in the wing roots) and turning off the fasten-safety-belt lights (as weather permits).
Applying this to the office: We all have busy times, I’ve seen several ways of signifying that you don’t want to be disturbed and just want to get things done. Sometimes small flagpoles on desks can be have status flags hoisted up them, “do not disturb” or “only disturb me if it’s urgent”, for example. Other companies have employed simpler policies, business intelligence (BI) experts BusinessObjects, now part of German megacorp, SAP, uses headphones to indicate disturbability (a word I just made up). No headphones means the door is open. One headphone in means it needs to be pretty important. Both headphones means my head is down and the building had better be on fire…
Be specific when you tell me something
The language used by airline pilots has evolved over decades to become very strict and specific, and not without good reason. The deadliest aircraft accident in history (besides 9/11), where two fully-laden 747 collided on Tenerife’s Los Rodeos airport’s runway in fog in March 1977, has been put down to a misunderstanding of terminology.