Category Archives: Digital

So it’s Valentine’s Day

valentineSo it’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m going to talk about sex. This post may be NSFW, and the same caveat goes for the links.

I was watching Grace and Frankie,  one of the few TV (OK Netflix) shows to star post-menopausal women at the centre of the story. In the final episode of season two Grace finds that sex toys aren’t made for older women, they aggravate her arthritis. The two resolve to start a business making sex aids for older women.

Yep sextech has made it to tv.

Sextech is the attempts to bring the adult entertainment industry into modern life via technology. My first exposure to the sextech industry was a presentation at one of the WebSummits, where a startup had created an app that allowed separated couples to give each other intimate good vibrations. The presenters managed to explain exactly how it worked in PG-rated terms, quite a feat.

As you might guess it’s a male dominated industry. But there are some women working to change that, often by focusing new devices.  In fact the sextech industry has focused on devices, from artificially intelligent vibrators, to men’s pleasure training tools, to an orgasm tracker – a fitbit for sex. And who knows what VR will bring to the bedroom.

There is one notable exception to the device trend; Cindy Gallop is addressing the impact of the pervasive story-line of porn. In this TED talk she explains how bad we are at discussing sex, and asks us to be better at it.  (And the video is NSFW)

Cindy Gallop is driving a social sex revolution, where we become better at talking about sex, more honest about what does turn us on, less reliant on a single-story-line-porn version of sex. She’s gone from being annoyed at the limited view of sex offered by porn to inviting everyone to join the social sex revolution via a documentary.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-14-57-50I know Valentine’s day is supposed to be about romance rather than sex, but isn’t romance just foreplay to the foreplay?

To be honest I’m not really on board with the Valentine’s day thing. It’s true that I’m female and single so you can go ahead and label me as a bitter spinster for that but even when in a relationship I hated the forced feel of Valentine’s Day. One memorable Valentine’s Day the man-du-jour gave me a cactus. Not at all romantic; I appreciated the political commentary of the gift.


 14th Feb: Happy Birthday to me  |  Helen Taylor  |  CC BY-NC 2.0

Cactus  |  Sue Kellerman  |  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Privacy and Data Protection

2016June Privacy

There are no surviving letters from Captain Cook to his wife, she burnt them saying they were “too personal and sacred”. We’re losing the idea that some things might be worth holding as personal and sacred. Part of that is our own doing, we’re sharing more images, texts and posts than ever (today’s count = 2 blog posts, 5 images, 4 links, spread across seven accounts). But a bigger part, a scary part, is from the technologies we use and the changing government rules.

Governments are taking more and more of our data. Last year the UK government expanded its surveillance powers last year with the passing of the Investigatory Powers Bill, which creates a government database to store the web history of every citizen in the country.

But perhaps the most insidious increase in data collection is via our mobile phones. I don’t share personal information on Facebook itself (I lied about my date of birth), but if I leave the application permissions on default then I grant Facebook the right to data from my calendar, camera, contacts, location, microphone, phone, sms, and storage. The location data means that Facebook knows where I live, where I work, and where my favourite cafe is. The contact data means they potentially know my mother’s home phone number.

Your phone knows more than you realise, health data from your fitbit, stored passwords for your banking account, your exact location – either via the location app or via wifi pings. And beyond Facebook we install dozens of apps and grant them permissions, in this edition of the BBC’s “Click” programme they report on an app that collects a frightening amount of data, which happens to have been downloaded 50M downloads.

In general it doesn’t really matter if someone knows where I work,  I publish that information on LinkedIn anyway, and it probably doesn’t matter much that someone finds out where I live. But it might. For vulnerable people – those escaping domestic violence, refugees, protesters – this is information that they definitely want to keep private.  (Here are some practical tips to secure your phone, from encryption to app management. )

In fact the EU Charter on Human Rights asserts that data protection is a human right with the words “Everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her” and there is debate on whether this should be a global human right.  If you think we have a right to privacy then it’s a pretty short step to thinking data protection must be an important part of that.

Tomorrow is Data Protection Day, celebrate by adding two factor authentication to your accounts, checking app permissions and adding encryption to your phone.

Image: Occhiata   |  Franco   |   CC BY 2.0


Learning about Digital


It’s a digital world. I was reminded recently of just how digital it’s becoming speaking to a retired friend who doesn’t have a computer. It’s going to be almost impossible for her to pay her rent by the end of the year. Because I spend so much time with people who are digital savvy, if not digital natives, I tend to forget just how many levels there are to digital learning.

1 Beginner

Familiar with tools like word and excel, can use the internet, understands the risks and knows what signs to look for to check that a site is safe.

Learning focus = tools.

2 Effective

Can use all the tools, websites and apps in daily life.  Can do basic trouble-shooting when things go wrong.

Learning focus = autonomy

3 Mastered

Can use tools independently and teach themselves how to use new tools, can find new information and tools, can contribute online to social media or discussion groups, understands “netiquette”.  Has strategies to avoid trolls, scams and social engineering. Can work with colleagues online

Learning focus = behaviours

4 Professional

Your role at work is around digital, either in producing content, running digital campaigns, online marketing, digital projects or change management for digital transformation.

Learning focus = delivering value

5 Mentor

Leading digital transformation or development of new ways of working in digital. Expert at using the collaboration techniques including Work-Out-Loud and Results Only Work Environment.

Learning focus = helping others increase their digital knowledge

Do you agree? Are there other levels or things you’d add to these levels?

Let me know in the comments – I feel a series coming on.

Image: Kids these days | Louise McGregor  | CC BY-4.0

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; 404 Errors

What does the 404 error on your site look like?

  • Start with 10 points.
  • +5 for a search engine on the page
  • +3 points if there’s any ‘sorry’ or empathy expressed
  • +2 points if there’s a home page link
  • +1 point for any other useful link, up to a maximum of 5
  • – 5 points if the layout is confusingly similar to all other pages on your site
  • – 5 points if you return to the home page
  • + 25 points for any humour or demonstration of your brand values.
  • Lose all points if it mentions 404 anywhere on the page

How did you do?

Here’s how some of the smartest brands score, with the page that inspired me to look into this as the final example.


10+5+3+2+0-0-0+25 =45 GOOD

There’s some empathy shown, a search bar, a homepage link, and a cute sketch connected to their origins as a sales platform for craftspeople.



10+5+0+0+0-5-0+0=15 MEH

Very boring generic page, looking very similar to every other product page, at least they blame themselves. Nike are such heroes when it comes to branding I’m surprised that this is so dull.



10+5+3+2+1-0-5-everything =0 BAD

The page is text heavy compared to others, and the search is under a link, rather than a simple search box, but they lost all points for saying it was a 404 error. It’s a correct statement, it’s just not helpful.

When I first looked for the 404 page I typed into the URL bar, and was automatically redirected to the homepage, this was the only site I found that did this.


10+5+3+2+25=45 GOOD

As you’d expect from the brand behind every geek’s favourite toy, Lego have a suitable graphic using Lego minifigs. There’s a search engine in the header bar, and a link to the home page. My only quibble is that the explanatory text below the image is tiny, it would make more sense to take that text and replace the “Page not found” text which is slightly technical




10+5+0+0+1-0-0=16 MEH

A totally simple flat functional page. I wanted to take points off for using the passive voice in the sentence but I haven’t.



10+0+3+2-0-0+0=15 MEH

Functional, only one action you can take. Amazon are incredibly data driven so the lack of any apparent thought in the design of this page suggests to me that it’s either super low traffic because people use the search box rather than type URLs, or that Amazon don’t see any opportunity for conversion to a sale from this page.


Ben & Jerry’s

10+5+3+0+0-0-0+25 = 43 GOOD

Ben & Jerry’s are a fun-filled brand and it’s spread to their 404 page. Not only have they got the search engine, they’ve suggested a brand name for you to search. Very cute image that matches their text. And, now I want ice cream.



10+5+3+2+1-0-0-0 = 18 MEH

I’ve included Siemens as an example as it has solved an issue many European countries face, a multilingual audience. In their case they’re a German company, but with international customers so the information is presented in English and German.

There is a small joke on the page as well, the coloured pixelated image moves, giving you the impression of a TV screen that’s lost its connection, geek joke.


Tech Crunch

10+5+3+2+1-5+0=16 BAD

I deliberately looked for these pages in a browser without an ad blocker. I understand that ads give sites like Tech Crunch the revenue to keep going, but in this case it makes it very difficult to see what I should click on. I’d suggest forgoing the revenue on this page and just helping people find their way. Likewise the most popular article list, obviously I don’t have data and Tech Crunch do, but it’d be interesting to see how many people clicked from this page to a “latest” article.



10+5+3+2++0-0-0+25=45 GOOD

It’s helpful, easy to read, funny and right on brand.


You can check the “you’re lost” page (aka the 404 page) of any site by typing “” into the URL bar, so for example. See if you find it helpful – that’s the first test – then look at whether it’s on brand or offers some brand experience for any lost visitor.


I just found the Virgin’s 404 message,  it’s the cheekiest yet.


Trend Watching Seminar

Bright Idea1 hour, 5 big ideas, 10 trends, loads of examples.

The second session of the Trend Watching Day in Amsterdam promised us the “10 Newest and Most Actionable Trends for Right Now”.

I’ve described the ideas and the trends, and tried to capture some of the examples. I’ve included the best of the examples mentioned that I could find described online.

The workbook that came with the seminar encouraged us as participants to think of what we could take away from this and use immediately.

Lens of Human Needs

There is a big temptation when talking about trends to focus on technology, to look at the newest, latest and greatest from the technology sector. There’s so much going on in the world of technology that it’s easy to forget that human needs are constant and it’s only by meeting those needs that technology is useful, interesting and forms part of a trend.

(1) Beneficial Intelligence

We’re used to talking about “artificial intelligence“, the idea that a system can take information from the environment and take action to optimise the result of whatever function it is performing.

Beneficial intelligence takes the same concept but looks at it through a human lens; use data to give context to help decision making and increase positive experience.

For example Prizm analyses the music play lists of whoever is connected to the device and provides an optimised stream of music to meet the group’s music tastes.

(2) Internet of Shared Things

The “Internet of Things” becomes internet of shared things, as technology meets the sharing economy.

For example Bitlock enables the sharing of bikes, although with a staring price close to the price of a second hand bike in Amsterdam I’m not sure it’ll fly here.

The concept has become interesting to some larger companies; Audi has launched “Audi Unite” in Sweden where groups of up to five people can jointly own a car. This extends the concept adopted car sharing networks such as Car2Go.

 Compelling Brand is About Emotion

Even in a world where a drone will take your photo a compelling brand is still about feelings.

(3) Two-way Transparency

Rating our experiences with companies has been around a while, some companies are are also rating their customers. AirBNB might have been in the lead here, letting both hosts and guests rate each other.

But other companies are getting in on the act and rewarding their customers, The Art Series Hotels in Australia now use “reverse reviews” to give feedback on their guests with the tagline “it pays to behave”.

Prêt à Manger, a chain selling gourmet, ready-to-eat food based in the UK, apparently gives staff a “freebie allowance” to use on customers who stand out as friendly. I must smile more next time I visit one.

(4) Insider Trading, Companies Appeal to the Personal

H&M vacationMake your internal policies a point of difference, make it public and use it in PR for your company.

H&M included their 5 week vacation policy on billboards – presumably in the US, since this is a standard vacation allowance in many parts of Europe.

Intel pledged 300M USD to build a more diverse workforce and announced it at a major electronics show.

Earlier this year Vodafone announced a global maternity leave policy, backing it up with a business case that highlights the importance of good maternity policies in keeping talented women at the company.

Peer Economy

Peer-to-peer transactions, collectively known as the sharing economy build value.

(5) Very Important Peers

Working on the old principle of ‘it’s not what you know it’s who you know’ companies are figuring out how to get individual consumers in touch with the right person – either because of what they know or what they’re doing.

Lopeca connects you to local people who can act as a virtual tour guide showing you their city via their phone.

(6) Peer Armies

Companies are finding ways to mobilise “peer armies” to answer questions, and help others. (I think Army is a poor analogy here, but I’m sticking with the Trend Watching nomenclature).

AUDI in Sweden launched “snow rescuers” app to connect you to another AUDI driver, one with a 4WD, if you’re stuck in the snow.

The Lazy Consumer

We’ve all become lazy, we want everything now, and we don’t want to work for it. We want expertise instantly and, as consumers, we want to do the right thing as long we don’t have to expend a lot of effort.

(7) Instant skills

We’d like to be able to do all the cool things, with as little effort as possible.

Instagram is probably the best example of this, turning us all into arty-hipster-photographer types by providing simple filters and tools to edit photos on the go. Obviously we’re not all expert Art photographers because of this, but Instagram photos have been hung in galleries and sold for artistic prices.

New options for the lazy gardener; Seed Sheet, which will help you design a garden online, and then grow it.

(8) Lazy Virtue

Rag Bag recyclingMany consumers have concerns about the healthiness of what they consume, and the sustainability of its production. Our ethical interests can challenge us – I appreciate American Apparel for their “no sweatshop” manufacuturing, but I hate their sexist ads. We’d like to feel virtuous as we shop, and some brands are connecting to this.

The Rag Bag encourages recycling and that minimalist ideal of non-accumulation; simply turn the bag inside out put your unwanted clothes in and send it off.

Warby Parker operates a “buy a pair, give a pair” programme, donating glasses to the third world where they’re sorely needed.

Just make it fun

(9) Small World

As smart phones and internet connectivity become ubiquitous we have tools to connect humans in extraordinary ways.

Tworlds is a photosharing app that connects people across the world who are posting on the same subject based on hashtag eg; two cups of coffee.

Lifetramp aims to connect people with inspiring mentors in a new field. You could spend a day with a cobbler, an artist, or a furniture maker.

(10) Brand fanatics

Sometimes people love a brand way beyond the pleasure gained from the product they own.

Reebok brand fanatics have been getting the logo tattoed as part of the “Reebok Forever” brand campaign.


At the end of the session we were asked to spend some time thinking about the trends we’d heard about and how we could change or business to adopt them. For me it’s more about looking at what is happening in the company and surfacing it to tell the company story in a compelling way. The stories are there already.

Image: Bright Ideas  |  The Pink Lemon  |  CC BY-NC 2.0




TNW in Review

tnwI’ve just got back from “The Next Web Europe” conference, there’s a good chance the conference is still going on, at least the drinking/partying fun part of the conference. A few of the speakers triggered my thinking so there will be a few more posts in the coming 1-2 weeks but here’s my summary of the conference.

Location: Westergasfabriek is cycling distance from my house, so that scores it a bunch of points on my unscientific scale. But there are other advantages as well, it’s close to the centre, and set in a park. We were lucky to have sunny days so it was a joy to wander outside in the breaks. The venue for the red stage is an old gas storage silo that’s now been rebuilt, it makes a great shell to stage events.

Organisation: Top. A lot of thought had gone into the details, clever branding throughout, lots of exposure for partners, presenters were taken care of, the MC did a great job, clear signage, there were loads of people on the “TNW” team – and all the ones that I spoke to were helpful. Oh, and the wifi was great, and held up throughout the two days. So a big congratulations to the organisers and the event team.

My only minor complaint; a book giveaway was announced to start at lunchtime, but in fact started at the end of the speaker’s talk. So those who believed the announcement arrived at lunch to be told the freebies were all gone, but you can buy a book and the author will sign. No thanks, I like the guy but his signature isn’t worth the 22 euro price differential (from a kindle edition).

Speakers: This is my subjective judgement, I think there’s a big difference in the American style of presenting and the European style of presenting. Americans seem to go for big statements, dramatic conclusions, and value passion as a speaker. I think European speakers structure their speeches to tell a story, provide evidence, and value charm and audience connection as a speaker. Thus there wereanti bank rant tweet a couple of speeches that I really wanted to hear but felt like I was being yelled at. The worst in this category for me was Stefan Molyneux, who is very angry with banks and governments. Granted there’s a lot to be angry about, and since I used to work for a bank I’ve probably heard more of such rants than is good for me but it just felt very… 2009.

I think the speaker I enjoyed the most was Dale Stephens, the founder of uncollege. His parents let him quit school when he was 12 and start managing his own education. I’ve felt for along time that our current education system isn’t fit for the future, and the existing university system is increasingly a very middle-class rite of passage rather than a real education. I’ll have more to say about this in a later post.

Audience: Mostly young, digital natives or near natives, hipster beards abounded. Mostly men – it’s one of the few places I’ve been where there was a long queue for the men’s toilet and none for the women’s. Generally they were enthusiastic about good speakers, but also quick to walk if a speaker wasn’t delivering what they wanted (except for me, muggins, who sat through to the end in hope). I’m a little sad that the audiences don’t stay in the room for the various awards and support their industry colleagues, perhaps next year those awards could be between two draw-card speakers to reduce audience drift.

Stuff I didn’t see: One of the problems of these megaconferences is that there is so much going on that you can’t see it all. So I missed out on some great speakers in the green and blue rooms, a hackathon full of brilliance, and talking to some cool startups.

Purpose: I’ve been to the Dublin WebSummit a couple of times, and left feeling I’d heard from people who are building the digital industry, I didn’t get that at TNW Europe.

It felt more like there were more researchers and commentators on digital than practitioners, this may be partly due to my choice of the red room. I certainly learnt from many of the speakers, but for thinking about “The Next Web” – which is after all the title of the conference – I think the Dublin WebSummit does a better job.

selfie with anonymous masks
my first #selfie #notkidding

Best Moment: coming back into the room and finding anonymous masks on our chairs. It made the point that we were about to discuss those difficult issues of private vs public.

Plus it led to a rash of selfies, that’s my first ever “selfie” on the left.

The first part of this session was the story of Shawn Buckles, who sold his personal data to the highest bidder – for 350 euro.

At the end of which all those with masked stood for a great photo opportunity.

I guess the ultimate test of value (especially as I pay my own way for conferences these days) is would I go to the next one; yes, I would.


Crunchies – The winners

It’s that time of the year –  the crunchies winners have been announced. Congratulations to all the winners – they’re changing the world

I wrote about this, disclosing my votes and giving predictions. I did rather well – in the categories I voted for either my prediction or my vote won 75% of the time. Here’s my scorecard.

Best Technology Achievement
Winner Bitcoin
It’s been all over the news, all over the world. It’s probably the most successful crypto currency we’ve seen, and it challenges the foundation of the financial industry.
Best Collaborative Consumption Service
Winner Airbnb
The accommodation service that lets individuals rent out their spare room. The service continues to grow, and this year they’ve launched a couple of innovative ads including the first commercial crowd-sourced vine.
Prediction and vote
Best E-Commerce Application
Winner Wanelo Zero (although the runner up did get my vote)
Best Mobile Application
Winner Snapchat
The service of disappearing messages, a favourite of the cool kids, messages are only available to the recipient for 1-10 seconds.
Fastest Rising Startup
Winner Upworthy
The content collator/publisher that focuses on spreading videos and other content on the “stuff that matters”. Their content is well-shared across facebook, twitter and tumblr.
Best Design
Winner Pencil, by 53
It appeals to my inner stationery geek.
my vote
Sexiest Enterprise Startup
Winner Zendesk
Customer communication through collaboration, let your team solve customer questions from all sources in one place.
My vote
Best International Startup
Winner Waze Zero (although the runner up did get my vote)
Best Hardware Startup
Winner Oculus VR
3D gaming, geek heaven. I am not a gamer, but I can see that this transforms the game experience, for all games.
Biggest Social Impact
Winner Edward Snowden’s NSA Revelations
It forced lawmakers, companies and consumers to think about how we regard privacy. It scared a lot of people who hadn’t thought about how far data surveillance could go. The full impact is still unfurling.
Best CEO of the year
Winner Dick Costolo (Twitter) Zero
Best Overall Startup of 2013
Winner Kickstarter
I get a kick out of seeing the great ideas – and having a chance to support them. Their funding enabled some of the other nominees to get started.

Growth Hacker

At first glance this seems a crazy term, but the more I read about it the more it makes sense. Most commentators define it as a role existing on the overlap between technology/development and marketing. Two things that traditionally don’t go together, but that’s because traditionally we have thought in silos. The product development team used their expertise to create something, and then passed it on to marketing to sell. A poor process often mocked, most famously in the tree swing cartoons.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 6.52.58 PMBut things in both areas have changed; user feedback as part of the development process, so the development teams are collecting user input online, and using this phase to build an audience prior to launch.

Meanwhile marketing has become an increasingly data-based occupation. That’s the dirty little secret about marketing, there’s a perception that it’s a creative discipline but in fact marketing teams are constantly looking at data on sales, results of surveys, focus group outcomes and customer feedback to find the best ways to communicate the product. As products and communication have moved online so has the data.

Development has become closer to the user, and marketing has become closer to the data and to product development. In fact the two have come to overlap, and the professionals operating in that hybrid space are calling themselves “growth hackers“. They’re either marketers who can code or geeks who get marketing, depending on your point of view. It’s on the way to becoming a recognised profession, last year saw the first official Growth Hackers Conference.

This slideshare presentation points to another driver for growth-hacking; start-ups do not have the budget for full blown marketing campaigns. Plus it offers some good examples, some of which pre-date the term growth-hacker.

This hybrid role represents a breakdown in the old silo’d world of Development vs Marketing, the two disciplines are now  using the same resources and have the same goals. I think the mentality of testing and trying new things usually considered the preserve of geeks is shared in the role of growth-hacker. I’ve tried to represent that new inter-relationship. (I should have given them both happier faces – and shoes for the dev guy).

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 1.14.51 PMNot everyone sees this as a new legitimate role, there are those who consider it “just marketing” I can understand that point of view, and perhaps in a few years the people now calling themselves growth hackers will call themselves marketers. Perhaps the the allergy that (some) development and tech people feel for marketing means that they need a new title when they begin taking on marketing tasks. Perhaps marketing departments will be renamed as growth hack centres.

Or the name might turn out to be a fad – and we’ll have a new term for high level innovation in building sales for a company.

Crunchies Time – the Votes are open

It’s that time of the year – time to vote for the crunchies. It’s always fun to check out the nominees and this year’s crop have some impressive nominees. Here are my votes and predictions for each category. (I didn’t vote in all categories).  Go ahead and vote – you’ve got until 26 January.

Best Technology Achievement
Prediction Bitcoin
It’s been all over the news, all over the world. It’s probably the most successful crypto currency we’ve seen, and it challenges the foundation of the financial industry.
My Vote Planet Labs low-cost satellites
It’s super cool, and super geeky. Three NASA scientists have figured out a way to make small imaging satellites (relatively) cheaply.
Best Collaborative Consumption Service
Prediction Airbnb
The accommodation service that lets individuals rent out their spare room. The service continues to grow, and this year they’ve launched a couple of innovative ads including the first commercial crowd-sourced vine.
My Vote Airbnb
It’s a service I’ve used, and I’ve become a fan.
Best E-Commerce Application
Prediction Warby Parker
I’m predicting this more on the basis of an established brand and fan base than anything else.
My Vote Polyvore
Pinterest meets shopping channel. Dangerous.
Best Mobile Application
Prediction Snapchat
The service of disappearing messages, a favourite of the cool kids, messages are only available to the recipient for 1-10 seconds.
My Vote WhatsApp
All the smart features you want from a messaging service. Plus emoticons
Fastest Rising Startup
Prediction Upworthy
The content collator/publisher that focuses on spreading videos and other content on the “stuff that matters”. Their content is well-shared across facebook, twitter and tumblr.
My Vote Lulu
The self publishing site that could help me get any books I do write published.
Best Design
Prediction Tough call; Yahoo weather looks fantastic and their use of Flickr images is smart. But I think the newer options might win.Exposure by Elepath
Beautiful presentation of contributors’ photos, clever interaction, and visitors vote with “enjoy” rather than “like”.
My Vote Pencil, by 53
It appeals to my inner stationery geek.
Sexiest Enterprise Startup
Prediction ClearSlide
A tool to monitor and improve sales, it looks powerful, it’s used by Starwood, AOL and NASA. Slightly creepy in the inherent expectation that all sales people can optimise at the same performance. But – sales wins.
My Vote Zendesk
Customer communication through collaboration, let your team solve customer questions from all sources in one place.
Best International Startup
Prediction Blablacar
A consumer sharing platform that will do for travel what Airbnb did for accommodation.
My Vote Xiaomi
A Chinese company making products with a beautiful design. Watch out Apple.
Best Hardware Startup
Prediction Oculus VR
3D gaming, geek heaven. I am not a gamer, but I can see that this transforms the game experience, for all games.
My Vote SmartThings
I saw them win the Spark of Genius award at the Web Summit in 2012. Brilliant.
Biggest Social Impact
Prediction Edward Snowden’s NSA Revelations
It forced lawmakers, companies and consumers to think about how we regard privacy. It scared a lot of people who hadn’t thought about how far data surveillance could go. The full impact is still unfurling.
My Vote
Schools can never catch up and build the coding skills into their curriculum, this fills the gap.
Best CEO of the year
Prediction Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors
I’m basing this on two things; share price – which has outperformed all other listed companies in this category and the simple genius of Musk.
My Vote Melissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo
After years of stagnation and confusion Yahoo is finally doing something interesting. Mayer has made bold moves, weathered some bad press, and is making Yahoo a player in digital content.
Best Overall Startup of 2013
Prediction Uber
The darling of media and the VC world, and a service  used by the same audience as crunchie voters. Less beloved by French taxi drivers, but I doubt they vote.
My Vote Kickstarter
I get a kick out of seeing the great ideas – and having a chance to support them. Their funding enabled some of the other nominees to get started.

Through the Prism

Surveillance: America's PastimeThe US government has being spying on our online activities. That comes as no surprise, we’ve all seen the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act (FISA), but what is surprising is that it now appears some companies including Facebook and Google have been allowing the National Security Authority (NSA) of the US government direct access to their data via something called Prism.

Facebook, Google, and now Yahoo have issued public statements stating that they are not working with NSA, but complying with legal requests. In an Orwellian twist the FISA prevents any discussion of any requests made under the act, including whether such requests exist.

Facebook and Google both use the phrase “no direct access to our servers”, which is not the same as “NSA doesn’t get our data”, which they can’t say because (a) they can’t discuss anything around an FISA request and (b) they are obliged to pass on data within legal constraints.

The New York Times article talks about some of the technical changes that have been discussed;

one of the plans discussed was to build separate, secure portals, like a digital version of the secure physical rooms that have long existed for classified information, in some instances on company servers. Through these online rooms, the government would request data, companies would deposit it and the government would retrieve it, people briefed on the discussions said.

Which makes it sound like a technical solution developed to comply with a legal requirement, and certainly far less scary than the “direct access to servers” statement that raised concerns.

Mashable takes a similar view, calling Prism a “data integration API” which the NSA would need to analyse and use the data released. Mashable also suggests that the term “direct access” is used incorrectly in the original slide deck, for the simple reason that it’s difficult – which means expensive – to do.

In many articles these technical solutions, and the fact that the servers to host them belong to the companies are cited as evidence that the companies are somehow collaborating with the NSA making it easy for them to get the data. I suspect it’s the other way around; The companies are building these solutions to make it easy for themselves to comply with the law.

So possibly, probably Facebook et al have been acting legally; but perhaps that’s the scary part.

Robin Gross via twitter; the scandal is that what the govt is doing doesn't violate the law

The underlying laws, the Patriot Act and the FISA, raised concerns when they were passed, with cities opting out of the Patriot act, but now that the connection, and the scale of data requested/shared the concern level has gone up a notch. With commentators raising real concerns about the collection, use and safeguarding of personal data in an increasingly monitored nation. As the Guardian revealed the source of the leaked information as Edward Snowdon yesterday they also published his motives; safeguarding internet freedom.

Cyber security is a real issue, and it needs addressing. The global nature of the internet, and the huge potential unleashed by analysis of big data, make the online world a source of genuine crime-stopping information. But the right to privacy is upheld in the laws and constitutions of many countries and it is being eroded.

It would be easy to dismiss that as an “American problem” but it specifically targets foreigners, and our own governments show worrying tendencies to trample over privacy rights online including the Dutch proposal to give police the right to hack as a cybercrime prevention measure. Despite playing up their “Digital Agenda” in recent months the EU has been strangely silent.

Surveillance: America’s Pastime /Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0