My first conference of 2014 was the majestic Design Of Understanding, otherwise known as the Max Gadney show. A personal selection of what he thinks is interesting and he clearly has good taste.
Will Hudson of ‘It’s nice that‘ started the day with a talk about something born out of a university idea to gather and publish things that make people feel good about themselves. He spoke of how the name frames their approach to content and editorial (you can’t be snarky when your reason for being is showing something nice). He also spoke of the challenges of growth, now he has a staff in double figures he worries about his attitude to risk and does everything he can to not kill the youthful exuberance of ideas. He referenced the young entrepreneurs of today the Zuckerberg’s, Karp’s, etc. but also said age and freedom of thinking is not just a product of age…which is a a relief.
Tony Quinlan constructed a narrative about how companies keep trying to construct narratives….and failing. ‘The moment a company writes down their values they have failed’. The obsession with companies to craft a story, the management version of story, normally where the product or the service or culture was the hero. Most companies avoid stories of failure when most resonance and learning came from those very stories. The micro stories from the water cooler would carry more weight for the brand especially with staff but they are never considered for such corporate messaging. Terry gave a brilliant example of taking the light from stories and applying them in a different context. The sanitation issues of Bangladesh. Villages happy to have a field set aside for defecation needed to be taught about the latrine. The more experts said you should have them the less they wanted to hear it. The key was social status. The message that worked was ‘Marriages where the home had a latrine were more successful’ The use of social status and shaming had a bigger impact than instruction ever could.
David Sheldon-Hicks had the coolest job by far. He designed fake computer interfaces for films and games. His company, Territory Studio, produced the interfaces in the film Prometheus and his insight into how the creation of those interfaces made for a fascinating tale even though he was not the greatest of presenters. The balance of fake/post shoot effects vs real working computer scream on set, Prometheus was more of the latter and the ship had over 100 working screens meaning a lot of cabling and a lot of computers. The amount of craft and skill that went into something that could be on screen for seconds, cropped in the shot or even blurred, was astounding. When asked how they used data to feed the fake UI’s he said
‘As long as you give NASA credit at the end of the film they are happy to give you pretty much whatever data you want’
Andy Kirk gave an excellent statement union of data visualisation. I have attended one of Andy’s data design courses and his knowledge of the subject is exceptional. He spoke of the big data viz events and trends of the year. The New York Times look at how the US speaks, Gun Deaths and lost years, the age of cites and the mesmerising Earth by Cameron Beccario which beautifully visualises wind patterns on out planet. Andy has published his slidesso you can see all the work he referenced.
He also explained the state of the ecosystem and it was clear he had a very negative view of the infauxgraphics (mega long scroll nonsense), visual.ly marketplace (a space for the crap to gravitate toward). He was however more positive on the state of tooling and how the wealth of tools were starting to talk to each other more, holding Tableau and R up as a good example. More work to be done on the explanation of the space from a recruitment and understanding point of view but clearly a real growth area.
Jo Roach the cofounder of Makies, the 3D printed dolls talked of the struggles of being one of use first 3D printing manufacturers and the value of great PR and the luck of timing in the rise of 3D printing and media interest. From 3D printer David Cameron and Prince Harry to the tactic of sharing wildly what they had tried, built and envisioned helped them find a solution to the most random of problems eg the wear and tear on the doll joints being solved by silicone injection. The challenges facing a toy retailer of getting across the ethics and value of design for a £70 item vs a £10 Barbie was their big challenge for the future. I wish them luck and hope they succeed.
I felt that a strange sort of hushed reverence befell St brides for the talk of Durrell Bishop of Berg. Whether that was because people knew of his past or just realised they were in the presence of a great mind it was an interesting phenomenon and one that was cruelly hampered by AV issues. He spoke of the need to face the design challenges of today, rather than the creation of beautiful static things of yesteryear, the vase, the chair, today the need was for the explanation of the technical and the graphical. His way of looking at the humble VCR thought the use of simple kitchen implements (the sieve a screen, a tap for the tuner, a bottle as the recording mechanism etc.) helped see the workings in anew light. A new language for the interaction and behaviour of the machine. We cannot understand that which we cannot see. He called for a need for new designers. We are faced with the new mega systems in the world primarily designed by software engineers. Graphic designers have not been able to step up…who will?
One of my favourite talks of the day was from Matt Sheret of the Government Digital Service talking about a subject I have no real interest in, comics. It is just a medium that has kind of passed me by but Matt’s interest, enthusiasm and knowledge for the subject just pulled you in. He explained how to read comics…a seemingly needless exercise but his explanation the gaps between the panels acting a context, making the reader work to fill in the story for the next scene. He spoke of the challenges of new methods of consumption effecting how comics were read, touch screens lending themselves to the flicking between panels and giving the capability of zooming into the scenes. The challenges of the form across new mediums, that morphed and jumped across new channels such a twitter, tumblr, YouTube and ending up at lost and broken urls on MySpace or trapped behind the broken iOS updates of apps. He gave a brilliant quote about the failing of the old world to adapt to the new
Middle aged future
‘DC comics is a good example of how moribund an industry can become when you just have 40 year old white guys writing stories for 40 year old white guys.’
The last ‘talk’ of the day was actually Max interviewing Russell Davieswhile using a set of slides Max had created as some thinly veiled reference to his questions. Very thinly. It was of course brilliant. What follows is a lot of notes/quotes and rambling explanation from me.
Russell has lots of experience working with big organisations (Nike, Microsoft, W&K and now the Government) and he seems to effortlessly produce solid gold nuggets of insight every other sentence. I like to think these are a mix of the cuff thoughts beautifully worded mixed with some well honed bon mots crafted over many a plate of eggs, bacon, chips and beans. So here are the best quotes I managed to (hopefully correctly) capture;
On Nike Run London. A campaign for W&K to get non runners to do a 10k run. ‘no inspirational Nike shit, this will be hard, the first month will be hell but it will be worth it’. It was about helping people start, not becoming the very best athlete.
‘We advertised all over the underground to catch people at their bleakest moment’
He gave some great insights on why Nike were better than the other sporting goods manufacturers. They hired people who could get things done by any means. This meant they could deliver just an extra 10% more than the competitors.
‘The only hard problem in big organisations is getting something done’.
When Russell questioned why they did not try and fix the internal problems he received this amazing piece of wisdom about large organisations
‘No matter what you fix in big companies the crap always arrives’.
Nike also had some good habits that helped them immensely. Regional managers would be set the normal sales target but also if you could not show that you had done something new each quarter then you would be done for. Another example of doing differently was the brief for the World Cup. A series of pictures of Ronaldinho that just said things like ‘Fast’. No laborious guidelines and rules, pictures and a word. ‘Post literate’ A kernel of an idea and latitude.
BoJo, MaGa & RuDa
On brands ‘The only people who believe in the power of brands are those that sell belief in brands and those that are really against brands.’
‘Brand is a poisonous word. Brand is just a side effect of an interesting project’
On the advertising industry and his time at Wieden’s.
‘A lot of my success has been making the type being big enough and not mumbling. Clarity is key.’
He spoke of how Wieden’s had a way of framing the work that made them stand out
‘Try and make it better than anything you could look at, at the time’.
On pitching he was a big believer in just saying what you really mean. An example he gave was an architectural firm that presented to some board and just stood up and said ‘look at this building it is beautiful’. A person with charisma and a clear message not laden in concept will more often than not win out.
‘Advertising is a brilliant industry to leave. It is like a foundation course for the creative industries’
Russell has also been lucky enough to present to Jobs and Gates….
‘Billionaires are the best people to present to as they have no concept of constraints. To successfully present to company CEOs you have to realise their weakness, the gaps in their power’
Calling back to Will’s talk at the start of the day it was clear he was not a great fan of the Silicon Valley obsessed tech world and the fascination with young white startup stars.
‘Being young is not a sustainable business model…The privilege of being able to work 18 hour days with no commitments’
If you keep giving privileged young white men lots of money then some of them will make impressive things but clearly that is a limited strategy in many ways.
Although on he subject of age he wished he had started his Really Interesting Group collective when he was a younger man to benefit from that youthful lack of commitments especially the need to earn so much cash (I must admit I would like to see them reform as some sort of super group in their 60s and see what they would produce). Get a very smart bunch of people with differing but complementary skills and interests and get out of their way
‘The Magnificent Seven as a business model. Give them a mission and set them on their way’.
Either Russell did not talk too much about GDS or I was too busy listening and took lousy notes. What he did stress was the work that had gone into the writing. ‘We have writers, not interested in prose but in communication’ he mentioned that the Government used to write clearly but somewhere lost there way and brand experts got involved and messages got lost in concepts. What the world need was a return to the likes of Tom Eckersley
‘The government used to say things like tidy away your hammers’
And on that note I shall end these very long notes. I could maybe do with a few years at Wieden’s & Kennedy to learn about brevity and clarity. Thanks again to Max for putting on a good show. A great day of increasing my understanding of a great many things.
Yesterday it seems Barclays suffered a serious technical problem resulting in the loss of several critical services inluding ATM’s and Online Banking. What caught my eye about this was that well known Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis tweeted about the outage and used a specific hashtag, #BarclaysGlitch.
I'm hearing people struggling to get access to Barclays. Please share how it's going to #barclaysglitch
Martin has a healthy following of around 260 thousand followers and is very influential in the financial services world in the UK. A lot of people started to use the hashtag to talk about the outage. Barclays themselves then also used the hashtag which is what was really interesting (for me anyway).
We are aware of a technical issue, and we are working hard to put things right as soon as possible. #barclaysglitch
I think this was smart work by Barclays. I wonder if we will see journalists/influencers (ugh) looking to brand bank outages in the future? A race to have the hashtag most used in an outage? Will banks themselves try and add unique hashtags to outages? Does anyone normal use the word outage?
A pretty big week in the Fintech world, the launch of latest iPhone (Will it or won’t it have NFC? Will it have a fingerprint scanner? Will it still be ridiculously expensive?) and it was Finovate in New York i.e. the biggest fintech conference in the world. That is where we will start.
Finovate Fall in NYC
For those unaware Finovate is a large conference dedicated to the new and innovative in the world of Fintech. The format is a brutal 7 minutes, no powerpoint i.e. only demo/actual screenshots/words. If you go over time you are cut off, stray too far from the path and you are gonged! Following from afar via Twitter (one day I will get to go / be able to justify the ridiculous ticket price) there were a few companies that people I trust on Twitter were very positive about. mBank an online bank that has been redesigned from the ground up with the help of Accenture and Meniga(seen before but still impressive). TipRanks a way of rating financial analysts on the accuracy of data they publish. Yodlee for their excellent sounding family focused product, Tandem, which allows differing access levels to be set to account information. Identity provider Miicard launched digitally certified bank statements which is a big step on the digital identity ladder. The videos from all the demos should be available by the end of the month (I will link to them when I have them)
This week it is corporate banking megabash, Sibos, which is being held in Dubai this year and is also the home of the excellent Innotribe strand. Follow the #innotribe hashtag to keep tabs on what is going on but expect design, data, platforms, organisational culture etc to be the topics of choice. More on this next week.
iPhone 5S & 5C launch
With much fanfare and it transpired very little secrecy the Cupertino giant officially announced the 5C and 5S variants of the iPhone. From a Fintech point of view every year it is about whether or not NFC will feature in the handsets. The answer was most definitely no. There were no specific payments announcements but there were several pointers to Apples future strategy. The well and truly leaked fingerprint sensor made it’s official appearance in the iPhone 5S. Building the sensor into devices at scale may be the boost biometrics has needed. It is only in the flagship model though so scale may be a way off yet. This article by Peter Nixey lays out why it will be an important part of Apple’s ecosystem. Following the announcement their were a lot of worried people tweeting about the NSA and also the risk of people lopping off fingers during iPhone muggings. Apple assured users the sensor only works with living tissue…no word on the NSA yet though.
More interesting was the quiet launch of iBeacons. A single line on one of the slides used to present, this little device brings new capability to Apple and merchants. These little devices can be installed in stores to give microlocation i.e. tell you exactly where a customers phone is. NFC require very close proximity to enable, less than 4cm, it seems something a bit more tap free is seen as the future by Apple. That will be an interesting change in behaviour for customers so used to a physical exchange to indicate money has changed hands. This article on iBeacon by GigaOm gives a good overview as does this one from Fast Company.
More Beacon News
It was not just Apple launching something with the word Beacon in it, PayPal had a much more public and noisy launch the day before the iPhone launch, which was a stunning coincidence. More microlocation goodness, USB interface for the PayPal variant though meaning it needs a constant power source which could make things a bit trickier for installation in a theft free location. I do wonder how will this microlocation / interaction free method of payment play out with people.
The cyber gang is alleged to have tried to use a “keyboard video mouse” to take control of all the branch’s computers.
Stay safe people.
Mini Bitcoin Roundup
The processing power of the BitCoin mining network reached a key milestone recently, It is now capable of a Petahash of processing every second i.e. 1000 trillion calculations per second. If you want to hear a young man explain what that means in a language you won’t understand while demonstrating some of the most painful camera angle switches I have ever seen you will love this video.
Someone has tried to put in real world context i.e. the physical requirements if that was in one data center. Apparently you would need 100,000 of the highest performing mining server, The ASCIMiner ($3,500 each), around 21 MW of power for the machines and the cooling required. It is a lot. Either way what these big numbers mean is the network is growing much faster than anticipated. Still a long, long way to go until all 21 million coins are mined though.
and lastly I enjoyed this long read on Cypherpunks, Bitcoin & Satoshi Nakamoto. A lot of focus on privacy, which Bitcoin is feared for today even though it is not private i.e. transactions and users can be traced. The battle for this will be the key axis on which the success of Bitcoin hinges. Too much provacy and governements will squash it, not enough and will the interest in it remain?
Mobile payments in the UK is sahping up to be a big battle between Vocalink’s Zapp and Barclays Pingit. Pingit has a head start of 18 months, Vocalink has the backing of the other big banks in the form of a joint effort to build a mobile databse for payments but does that backing translate to Zapp? Who will win? Either way Zapp annouced they had partenered with World Pay which certainly adds some clout to their standing. Early days but an interesting battle is emerging.
7 day switching came into effect today in the UK. This measn all major banks must now switch customers over to new organisations inside 7 days. Any financial losses incurred as a failure by the transferring organisation will be covered by them. HM Treasury, like the hipsters they are, have produced an infographic (more a listographic that takes around 7 days to scroll) to explain it in nice simple terms. More importantly will anyone care if all the banks look the same?
The most humourous tweet with the most tenuos link to Fintech this week was this beauty about Capital One’s head of customer service
Well I hope my handful of readers are never gonna give me up. All the links, and more, that I used this week can be found in this handy list. Feel free to follow my FinTechBot on Twitter to keep up to date with the latest Fintech news.
I spent a lot of time out of the office last week so this round up is as much for me than for the other handful of people who actually read it. Let’s have a butchers at what went on…
The ‘cryptocurrency that could’ continues to provide fascinating stories. Last week the California Legislator passed a money transmitter reform bill. The bill aims to make it easier for payments startups to navigate the regulatory burdens of the US’ strictest state but also the home to Silicon Valley. Will it pave the way for more disruption? Will the Governor sign it into law? Assembly member and author of the law, Roger Dickinson said,
“Technological innovation within the money-transmission and payments industry has skyrocketed in the last few years, yet California’s regulatory framework has lagged behind, [...] Providing clarity to existing companies and new start-ups on licensing requirements will ensure a vibrant money transmission market place that is fair for business while protecting consumers.”
Meanwhile the UK there has been sightings of Bitcoins at Number 10 as the Government seeks to understand a bit more about this disruptive little 4 year old. It seems the main concern from the Government is the anonymity of the currency, which in turn is causing the banks to steer clear due to tough regulations especially around international remittances. Can Bitcoin be shoehorned into existing UK regulations?
“The Bitcoin protocol still has huge potential for anonymity,” says Sarah Meiklejohn, who led the research project, “but the way that people are using it is not achieving anonymity at all.”
Forbes tested the anonymity of Bitcoin by purchasing some illegal drugs (‘it’s for research man’) and promptly being busted, not by the police but by researcher Sarah Meiklejohn mentioned above. The Bitcoin client received an upgrade last week to 0.8.4 to improve security for users
GigaOm took a look a the opportunity that international remittances do present for Bitcoin startups as banks close their doors on many schemes, the present a massive need to be filled. The cost of sending money averages at 8.85% according to the article. How much can these new companies shave off that? And can they crack the regulatory requirements to make it happen? Classic innovators dilemma conditions, large organisation exit a risky business and smaller ones come in and make it work for less…then scale upwards. To be continued I am sure.
“To date, online payments infrastructure in most of these countries, including Ireland, has been dominated by lumbering incumbent banks. Accepting internet payments involved weeks of setup, reams of paperwork, and bureaucratic approval processes.”
In better news PayPal launched a new app which had some very innovative features as well as redesigned experience throughout. Features such as order ahead i.e. submit an order while standing in line at a coffee shop, They have also built credit into the app allowing you to apply for finance for those bigger purchases. It all builds on their desire to be seen more as an instore payment provider rather than just an online one. A big challenge.
A new variant of evil looking and sounding banking malware is in the wild. HesperBot (HesterBot named after exRBS chairman would have been a more amusing name) is similar to the infamous Zeus malware and is starting to be seen across Europe. It does the usual awful things like stealing logon data but also seems to be targeting a number of mobile platforms i.e. Symbian, Blackberry and Android.
In more examples of questionable naming,Yodlee has announced its new platform ACE (Active Commerce Exchange). The platform aims to be a one stop shop for financial applications that developers and institutions can integrate with and even sell on. Smart thinking from Yodlee who are billing it as a way for banks to innovate faster, “ACE means banks can iterate and innovate like Google.” whatever that means
There have been a number of glitches recently in US trading systems causing problems with the NASDAQ. This article by Simone Foxman in Quartz asks whether the 13 exchanges in the US is too many (or is 13 just an unlucky number?)
Dan Roosegaarde discusses technology prototypes for interactive road surfaces that display conditions such as freezing temperature or can charge electric vehicles, he also demonstrates fabric that reacts to excitement levels in humans, making it more transparent. He is working on a prototype for a bankers suit made of the material to demonstrate how ethically a banker is behaving. Transparency in action.
The German Ministry of Finance has issued an official statement recognizing Bitcoin as “Rechnungseinheiten,” a legal designation that translates to “units of account”. This type of money is also referred to as “artificial currency” or “side payments.”
Interesting to see how this affects the attitudes of other countries in the EU and the wider world. Regulation however is still doing its best to keep BitCoin exchanges and banks in line. The latest to feel it wrath are the exchange Tradehill, which announced it was pausing trading;
We have recently made the decision to temporarily suspend trading on the Tradehill platform, due to banking and regulatory issues. This decision has not been made lightly and we regret having to take such action. However, we embrace the silver lining of our situation and plan to take this opportunity to upgrade, improve, and polish our trading platform.
The Internet Archive Federal Credit Union (yes it is a real thing) pulled the plug on its BitCoin friendly accounts (I assume they have archived them). They opened the accounts with a cry of “These are not drug dealers, money launderers, or whatever. These are average folks,” they closed the accounts with the slightly less chipper ”Until we have further clarity, we are unable to service some of our corporate members.”
“You could tell the folks there were certainly concerned about the potential use of Bitcoin for illicit purposes,” said Jerry Brito, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, who attended the meeting. “What the Bitcoin Foundation tried to stress is that Bitcoin is less useful for those purposes than other centralized virtual currencies. I think that got through, but the feeling from regulators wasn’t, ‘Oh boy, all of our concerns have been laid to rest now, and thank you for coming.’”
In less serious/regulatory news. RoboCoin, a sort of BitCoin ATM that allows you to exchange it into others currencies has gone on pre order for just just 20,000 dollars.
Coinchat is an Internet Chatroom (remember those) where you smart talking could earn you cash. Effectively paying people to use the site they have got around 8,000 users. The money comes from the sites advertising and is paid in mBTC (micro Bitcoin fragments). This slicing and dicing of Bitcoin into miniscule fragments really is paving the way for true micropayments on the web.
The Yorkshire Bank (a bank which should be the greatest bank in the world but probably isn’t) announced a ‘cloud based shared service alliance‘ with HP. This is an interesting move which sees the Yorkshire Bank move into the bank as a platform territory. They already provide services for some smaller building societies will this new platform draw in a new breed of banking company?
FNB in Africa have launched a cash free cash machine. This seems to go against everything the ATM is there to provide but you can get the next best thing to cash, a little piece of paper that you can take to approved retailers and they give you cash in return. The ATMs are cashless for safety reasons and they also provide access to online services.
As new services atart appearing in the ATM channel, specifically those involving mobiles and the withdrawal of cash then the hackers and scammers are not far behind. Banks are starting to see an increase in SIM swap fraud. Cloning a persons SIM to receive their incoming text messages i.e. one time passwords for emergency cash withdrawal from ATMs.
It seems that the new mobile card reader is the new mobile POS. Every man and his dog in the US seems to be launching one of these offerings and the latest to try is Shopify. They have announced they will be offering a full POS service. The full package they are offering includes an iPad and mobile card readers as well. Selling payments and POS in one tightly integrated bundle (the payments processing is providing by Stripe I believe). Looks like a nice package. Interested to see if these kind of offers make it to the UK.
Transport For London have issued a consultation for going cashless on buses. Technology FTW at first glance but then what do you do about those millions of pesky tourists and visitors each year? Share your thoughts
Another day and another case of PayPal freezing the funds of a legitimate cause / project. This time it was IndieGogo funded project GlassUp which aims to build a competitor to Google’s Glass. They raised over 100,000 dollars but then PayPal froze the funds (since unfrozen). There have been lots of cases of this kind of behaviour but maybe this will be the last. PayPal announced that they were looking to put customers first.
“We’re tweaking our risk models to catch more sharks and less dolphins,” PayPal’s senior director of global initiatives Anuj Nayar
One of Square’s co-founders Jim McKelvey is starting a fintech accelerator called SixThirty. With his learnings from Square and his new found contacts in the financial industry he aims to help new companies avoid some of the hassles Square have faced.
“We could have saved 18 months if we had access to SixThirty when we were launching Square,” McKelvey says.
Their seems to be new fintech accelerators popping up all over the place and I am hearing rumours about a large player in the space looking to set one up in London soon. Very interesting to see what impact this focus on fintech Sillicon Valley has at the moment. Can they get through the armour of the traditional financial institutions and start to truly change banking?
How about a bespoke magazine rack based on a graph of data from the Italian financial crisis in 2011?
And finally here is a story about payments via hugs and touch from back in May that I must have missed due to the arrival of my second son. Thankfully the very smart Dan Williams posted a link to it last week so I got chance to see it. It is work which Dan’s Pervasive Media studio was involved in producing and looked at payments and how they could become embedded in objects and how that could affect our relationship with payments. The strive for all digital everywhere is clearly eroded human interactions especially around touch. This work by Heidi Hinder looks to change all that. Brilliant stuff. Read the research report and watch the video below.