Don’t forecast 10 years ahead

tarot-991041_640An article on Medium written at the end of 2015 tries to predict how we will be living in 2025. The problem with predicting so far out, and ten years is far out, is that we cannot possibly know how things we haven’t even thought about will dramatically impact our lives.  It got me thinking what someone in January 2006 would have missed when predicting how we would be living in 2016. Continue reading

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Why I have really joined the smartphone crowd

iphone4A few years ago I wrote about my experience of changing to a Nokia (now Microsoft) Windows Phone. I was a fan of the Nokia hardware design, and was working at an ERP software company that had a partnership with Microsoft, and I didn’t want to be like the crowd (i.e. iPhone or Android), so it seemed a reasonable decision to go the Windows Phone route. I also referred to reports about smartphone market share that I thought were biased – see here.

The truth is that now I have joined the crowd, the iPhone crowd. Continue reading

Windows Phone rant

Just a quick rant about Microsoft’s Windows Phone.

phoneI have a Nokia (now Microsoft) Lumia smartphone running Windows Phone 8.1. There is a function called Internet Sharing, which allows you to use your phone as a Wifi hotspot for other devices, and it has been working fine for me – that is until I came back from the USA (see previous post).

Now, when I switch on Internet Sharing to allow my Windows laptop to have Internet access, the browser shows that it can’t connect to the DNS server.
When I checked the Windowsphone.com site for queries on Internet Sharing,  it seems that Windows Phone caches DNS settings, so somehow I reckon my phone has US DNS data still on it.

Here’s the rant – you cannot reset or clear the DNS cache on Windows Phone. The only way to do it is to reset the entire phone! Microsoft, really, that’s your solution?

Contemplation is important

contemplateIn an increasingly fast-moving world, some people are beginning to realize that slowing down and having time to think is important.

Back in 2010, smartphones seemed to herald a new always-on, rapidly moving world. An article in Forbes seemed to sum up how people thought mobility would improve the world:

… coordination replaces planning … we are seeing more work processes move to approaches that favor just-in-time coordination over advanced planning. It is more efficient and more flexible … As we find ourselves tied to mobile devices, coordination will increasingly become the organizing principle that defines how we get work done; we will become a network of spontaneous gathering, loosely coordinated agents in constant contact.

Spontaneity and speed seemed to be the rallying cry of the new world. In the business world, we were told how connectedness and speed will improve factory operations and process efficiency in warehouses. It looked like we were moving into a world where continuous activity and 24/7 real-time response would be required.

However, some dissenting voices were being raised. One of the major proponents of a ‘slower world’, Tony Schwartz, wrote an article in 2012 saying that:

Speed is the enemy of depth, nuance, subtlety, attention to detail, reflection, learning, and rich relationships — the enemy of much, in short, that makes life worth living.

… Speed is a source of stimulation and fleeting pleasure

… The faster we move, the less we feel, which may be a primary reason we move so fast. Most of us are more worried, uncertain, and insecure than we care to acknowledge, even to ourselves. Moving fast keeps those discomfiting feelings at bay.

Around the same time, the founder of an African startup believed that smartphones and 24/7 response capability might be making us less productive and

jeopardizing long-term productivity by eliminating predictable time off that ensures balance in our lives.

John Wegner, the Director of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research at Angelo State University, wrote about a former time:

… where boredom reigned and no one cared.

He noted recent research showing that:

… boredom is good for the brain. Evidently, boredom switches our brain’s little buttons and the synapses and neurons start firing on more cylinders, pushing us to creativity and intellectual growth.

Adding to the argument, an article in the New York Times on The Joy of Quiet quoted some famous authors:

Henry David Thoreau reminded us that “the man whose horse trots a mile in a minute does not carry the most important messages.” Even half a century ago, Marshall McLuhan, who came closer than most to seeing what was coming, warned, “When things come at you very fast, naturally you lose touch with yourself.” Thomas Merton struck a chord with millions, by not just noting that “Man was made for the highest activity, which is, in fact, his rest,”

That article also also quotes from Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows, about tests that found:

after spending time in quiet rural settings, subjects “exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory and generally improved cognition. Their brains become both calmer and sharper.” More than that, empathy, as well as deep thought, depends (as neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio have found) on neural processes that are “inherently slow.” The very ones our high-speed lives have little time for.

The need to switch off and slow down is even being recognized by world leaders. On Tony Schwartz’s Energy Project site, there’s an article about the need for contemplation and reflection:

It’s not possible to move from one activity to the next at blinding speed and be reflective at the same time. The more complex and demanding the work we do, the wider, deeper and longer the perspective we require to do it well.

[an] observation by President Obama caught on an open mike during a stroll with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain in 2008:
“The most important thing you need to do [in this job] is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you’re doing is thinking.”

… good judgment grows out of reflection, and reflection requires the sort of quiet time that gets crowded out by the next demand.

… Regular reflection also provides the space in which to decide what not to do … Time to reflect is what makes it possible to prioritize.

There was even a conference, Wisdom 2.0, which addressed the issue of “the insidious costs of moving so relentlessly and at such high speeds”, where senior business leaders discussed the importance of time to contemplate and meditate.

My view on the Forbes comment about coordination replacing planning is that it omits the fact that to coordinate also needs time. We need to start challenging the current views about pace and activity. It would be nice if companies started instituting practices, such as Google’s chill rooms, to encourage more contemplation time.

Need an antidote for speed? In his 2012 article, Tony Schwartz suggested the following to help you slow down:

  • Designate one meal when you will take the time to notice the aroma, flavor, and texture of what you’re eating.
  • Curl up in a favorite chair after work and spend at least a half-hour reading a book purely for pleasure.
  • Take the time to really listen to someone you love, without interruption, for as long as it takes.
  • Choose a place that interests you and spend a couple of hours just exploring it without any specific end in mind.
  • Reflect before you go to bed and write in a journal what you are grateful for that day, and what went right.
  • Above all, slowly build more strolling, dawdling, moseying, meandering, musing, lingering, relishing, and savoring into your life.

Smartphone apps change the daily commute

For years the commuting trip to work was a gamble I took every morning.

The route I take is never covered by the radio traffic reports, so I was never sure what the traffic would be like, and how long it would take to get to work. There were mornings when I had to get to a meeting but the traffic was far worse than I expected and I was late, even though I left home early.

Now thanks to an app on my smartphone, and the data the app uses, I have a better idea of traffic conditions. Not only that, I can review different routes to see which might be better.

HereDriveCommuteI’m referring to the Here Drive+ app on my Nokia Windows Phone. The My Commute function on Here Drive+ allows me to view different routes I have used to get to work. It shows how long each route will take and indicates where the traffic flow is bad.

I had to initiate My Commute and let it run during my first commute in order to store my particular routes, but after that the routes are saved. Like Google Maps, it will also calculate a best route.

According to one article, the Here traffic algorithm works by aggregating data from various sources into the cloud, and giving almost real-time reporting. In most cases that is sufficient for me, however I look forward to a real-time traffic alert because traffic jams seem to happen very quickly.

Reading about the company, which is part of Nokia, it seems to be part of the new wave of connected in-car apps that will re-design the driver interface.

Mobile marketshare – think regional, not global

When I see smartphone market share reports, like the one from Gartner quoted in the Seattle Times, I wonder if anyone realises that there is a problem with ‘global’ reports.

The reason why I believe global reports are a problem is that they obscure the fact that market shares for this type of technology are not globally uniform, and can be very different between regions.

It’s wrong to assume that  Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century is true. In fact, a recent article that examines Friedman’s view notes:

The world is still far from flat today, and, in many industries, it’s likely to retain its curvature for quite some time to come.

A more detailed mobile market share report shows how the market shares can vary widely by country.

It does amaze me though that US writers seem surprised that the market share patterns in their country are not followed elsewhere – even when the reasons are pointed out.

For technology companies, therefore, check what type of technology your industry is in. Is there significant regional variation? If so, do you know what the reasons are, and how can you address them?

Upgraded to Windows Phone 7.8

I have just upgraded my Nokia Lumia to the Windows Phone 7.8 (that’s the brand name, the software version is 7.10.8862.114)

Microsoft has improved the user experience with features like additional background colours, and the ability to resize the tiles. They also seem to have improved the resolution on the screen so content looks clearer.

There’s a blog here that provides more details.