Dystopia UK

Over the past few nights, London has been ravaged by riots. Apparently caused by a community backlash in response to the killing of a criminal suspect during an arrest, it has spawned a whole sequence of riots across London which have spread to some disaffected areas across the UK. It’s not the epidemic that the media (and especially Twitter) would contend, but it highlights a discomfort in the inner cities – and this makes the new middle class (which includes anyone reading this) really uneasy.

But we have swathes of the twitterati middle class shouting “mindless! thuggery! scum!”. They’re pointing from their lofty pedestals at the disaffected.

Because the people rioting are obviously mouth-breathing morlocks. Would it actually be better if they had raised the Penguin Classics section, if there were youngsters running through the streets clutching works by Austen, Wordsworth and Shelley? We live in the most “aesthetic” era in history, enabled by technology. Of course they’re going to steal technology.

Thomas Jefferson:

“A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither.”

Because it’s important these people are imprisoned. For decades. That’ll help. This is the same genius that wanted the Army on the streets. People would die (and yes, it’s even more scary that he has a seat in the House of Lords. Obviously didn’t turn up to the orientation classes).

I imagine a dystopia caused by this willingness to turn to force, to fight fire with fire. To turn our armies, populated by the young and disaffected, upon their brothers and sisters.

So we surrender the streets to the Army and sit comfortable in our homes. Rather than resolve the problems. Yes, I hold the perpetrators of violence and destruction wholly responsible for their individual actions but I hold society (not just the government) responsible for creating a situation where the only response is violence. Why is it that we can find billions for corrupt bankers but we are being asked to tighten our belts when it comes to education, health and social wellbeing. Because the destabilisation of the banks would cause the disintegration of the country? Surprise surprise. Your actions to save everything may have caused the current unrest.

A change in society would require more effort. The disaffected will destroy everything they do not have a personal investment in. This has been shown time and time again. And yet projects which benefit the disaffected, which channel their abilities constructively, are being cut time and time again.

We’re going to have to be part of the change we wish to see.

Principles of Public Service

Selflessness
Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.
Integrity
Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.
Objectivity
In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
Accountability
Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
Openness
Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
Honesty
Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
Leadership
Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.

Workplaces of the Future

I read this when it was first published. In it, 37Signals talk about their workplace experiment in terms of three things. These are three changes to their workplace which were expressly designed to make employees happier.

  1. Shorter work weeks
  2. Funding people’s passions
  3. Discretionary spending amounts

The trick is to make changes in the workplace which improve the quality of life of your employees while, at the same time, being smart about tax implications. Paying people more money will not motivate them because it leads to an environment that rewards certain activities over others (especially in a commission driven environment). These activities are not often good activities. More money tends to be a demotivator – that’s not to say it’s not important to pay your people what you can afford. One of the worst addictions to be in the grips of is the monthly salary. So – pay as much as you can afford in order to remove that from the table as a barrier for happiness but if you want to improve the quality of life for employees, it’s very simple.

If you’re a customer-facing business, then the first one is hard but not impossible to implement. The taxman doesn’t care if you work 4 days rather than 5 and, as long as the work is being done, neither should your customers. And some industries already do this. Try and get a haircut on a Monday. This is investing in employee productivity.

The second is only hard because it involves cash but really we’re talking about a training budget. It doesn’t all have to be business relevant because the business will prosper with better educated, happier employees. Whether someone wants to learn to be a programmer or wants to take up sailing as a hobby, it’s important to be an enabler. This is investing in employee happiness.

Harder to justify but employees should be given freedom in improving their productivity. Whether this is buying a bigger monitor or two, a new computer, a bicycle, vanishing off to a conference or needing new software tools or books, then why would you not invest in it. This is investing in employee environment.

As an employer, I enable some of this already in my business. I don’t personally receive any of these benefits but I know they’d make me happier.

The Future of Consoles

Epic Games’ president Mike Capps opined in an interview with IndustryGamers:

“Your iPhone 8 will probably plug into your TV, or better yet, wirelessly connect to your television set to give you that big screen gaming experience with good sound,” Capps explained. “So really, what’s the point of those next-gen consoles? It’s a very interesting situation to be looking at. That’s what we’re starting to think about more… not how do we scale from some Nintendo platform to some other future console.”

Thing is, Mike, with the addition of an Apple TV, we can already do this. And this sort of talk lends some credibility to the notion that Apple might get in bed with television manufacturers or maybe even make their own.

If we can do this with iPhone 4 (and arguably with the 3GS), then what might the iPhone 8 bring – considering that it’s due to hit in around 2014-2015, it’s an interesting question.

If dedicated under-set consoles are already pumping out high def graphics, then where will the technology go next? I’m looking at pico projectors to accompany my iPhone and iPad so that I’m completely mobile – though I note that there’s still an issue with decent sound.

I remember watching a NORTEL show reel about how they saw the future and it had us all running around with touch screen phones and placing them in cradles in our homes and cars and accessing everything from these tiny devices. I reckon the NORTEL visioneers would have been thinking about personal jet packs and a removal of balkanisation of states when they penned that vision but we can do this pretty much now. Wirelessly.

The future of consoles is mobile.

Apple people: ravenous, extravagant, worldly

John Gruber highlights that Gogo Inflight WiFi usage reports iPhones are nearly 2/3 of mobile devices using in-flight services, the iPod touch makes up 20% and Android makes up 12%. By these numbers, three quarters of handheld devices accessing this WiFi service are made by Apple.

He also points out that the iPad accounts for more than a third of large screens (which carry a higher tariff) accessing the service and Mac OS machines make up a further 20%. So, over half of the “large” screen devices accessing this WiFi service are made by Apple.

In attempting to interpret this I’m going to make two sweeping assumptions.

  1. Apple people are data hungry, ravenous in their consumption of news. They’re more tech-savvy, more travelled and generally more worldly.
  2. The service is an additional expense and people who use Android (and other mobile platforms) are cheap. Or they read dead tree books.

While this assumption may be countered by the appearance of a data-hungry, extravagant and outward-bound Android user, I think the trend holds. And developers will continue to target the platforms owned by potential customers who have more cash, want to try new things and enjoy their technology.

Mister Incredible

31st October 2009: My good friend and partner-in-crime Stuart, gets married and there’s a fancy dress themed reception. Arlene picks out a Mister Incredible suit for me (and she goes as Dorothy).

31st August 2011: For my wedding anniversary, my wife buys me a wetsuit and then insists I wear it, strike a few poses and then posts them on the Internet.

So yes, you can all have a good laugh 🙂

Nintendo redux: it’s not an either-or

In May 2010, I wrote abut Nintendo vs Apple:

Get out that scam of selling plastic! There’s no need for it considering every DS Lite and DSi has had WiFi for years. So, yes, in three years Nintendo has been made to look like a dinosaur but declaring war is not the right thing to do.

Nintendo and Apple are not necessarily enemies and I find it simplistic for them to consider themselves to be enemies. Look at SEGA – which has brought Sonic, Golden Axe and Football Manager to the iPhone among others.

Yesterday, Don Reisinger wrote on Slashgear: Is Nintendo the Next SEGA?

SEGA’s decision to end its hardware development and focus solely on software was a controversial one at the time, but it made quite a bit of sense. The company had solid game properties, led by Sonic, and it knew that it could sell them on multiple platforms.

It’s a similar story for Nintendo. If the game company sees its hardware business start to take it down, it has the software it needs to make the landing a bit softer. With Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and others, Nintendo is arguably the most successful software developer in the game industry.

Imagine if Nintendo produced versions of Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong and others for iOS. 200 million devices out there. And a multi-player Super Smash Bros on iOS would easily sell for $9.99. Same for Mario Kart. And if they did the same for Android, they could easily trounce the recent lacklustre efforts of Sony to enter the app phone gaming market.

Since 2004, Nintendo have sold 146M DS units (of all types) and since 2006, they’ve sold 86M Wii units. (source: Wikipedia)

In half that time, Apple has sold over 200M iOS devices. (In April, Apple said they had sold 187 million, and in June it was 200 million – calculate that delta!).

And this doesn’t need to be an either-or situation. You don’t have to give up all of the hardware and just make software – but doing some controlled licensing of the popular titles could provide a real kick to their fortunes. My kids show their own interests – they’d rather play Tiny Wings or Sooziz on iOS than any of the (much more expensive) DS titles.