Tag 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


Sept2016ExternalitiesI did just one university course in economics and learning about externalities was pretty much my favourite thing. Suddenly it explained a bunch of things that are wrong with how consumerism works. I still see externalities behind a number of environmental, business and humanitarian issues. In fact globalisation and our use of digital make things worse rather than better.

A quick definition; an externality is a consequence of an economic activity experienced by someone else. The consequence could be positive or negative.

The most common example of a positive externality is the beekeeper who benefits from the neighbouring orchard. Since both parties need each other this seems closer to a symbiosis in biological terms but for the economists it counts as a positive externality.

A common example of negative externality is rubbish; in the above picture the rubbish has a negative impact on the environment, on any business relying on the environment. However the neither the producer of the containers, the restaurant packaging it’s food, nor the consumer making the purchase and dumping the packaging take responsibility for disposing of the rubbish and the cost of clearing it will probably fall to a government entity.

We, as a society, try to limit externalities by putting rules in place to limit the effect, and by providing services – well placed rubbish bins on a beach for example. All of which is funded by taxpayers. This more or less works on a local level.


On a global level it doesn’t work out so well.

My mobile phone was probably manufactured in China and used components or elements extracted in a dozen other countries. Some research indicates that up to 50% of the pollution from a phone production occurs at the first step. There’s a long and complicated chain of manufacture but I’m pretty sure zero eurocent of the amount I paid for the phone made its way back to the mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo where coltan.  (Oh wait, I paid nothing for my phone.)

Digital World

Our digital world is creating brand new externalities we haven’t thought about.

Yep, the Pokemon craze is laden with externalities, that’s why museums, locations, city councils, traffic controllershealthcare officials and governments are making a fuss.

In the Netherlands one tiny town, Kijkduin, has been somewhat over-run by Pokemon players, they’re trying to get Niantic to change the game to reduce the number of Pokemon in the town, they’ve found the numbers overwhelming, and there’s a risk to a neighbouring nature area. The town has already put up more toilets and rubbish bins to cope with the crowds. The cost of that is an externality. It’s a cost the small town is paying for the consequences of Niantic’s popular game.

If I were organising events in the town with such a large attendance I’d need a permit, there’d be a fee, and I’d be the one paying for security and clean up.

So when globalisation and digital collide the potential externalities grow, and right now we don’t seem to have a good way of handling them.
Image: Pollution 2  |  Kim Etherington  |  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

When Fixing it is the Wrong Answer

Most of the time when stuff goes wrong our natural reaction is to try to fix it. Especially when we know how, or when there are people relying on whatever is broken or when the need is urgent.

Well, sometimes that’s the wrong answer.

Years ago, when it became fashionable to put big images into powerpoint and possible to use video in a presentation, we had a server capacity issue.  Our department was the last one left in a building and we’d be moving in six months time so our company’s IT felt it wasn’t a priority to install more server space for us.

The result was that every few weeks we’d get panicked calls from colleagues who could no longer save documents, and when we checked we see the disk space properties screen like the one shown above for the shared drive. “Free Space: 0 bytes”.We’d call IT and their solution was to suggest that we remove old or unused files (not a bad idea in itself). So my colleague and I would spend hours putting old files onto DVDs and clearing up enough space so people could work again. We were heroes.

The first couple of times it was pretty easy, but as the rate of content creation increased pretty soon we were struggling to find “old” files. With the result that more than once we removed something that turned out to be needed. We were demoted from heroes to demons pretty quickly.

One weekend the department head came into the office to work on a Presentation of Great Importance. He managed to crash the server, and then could get nothing done. He was furious. His fury only grew when he found out that we’d been limping along with insufficient server space for months. A new server was installed at unheard of speed; days rather than weeks.

He pointed out, quite rightly, that people’s time is worth more than the cost of moving a server.

I thought then that I should have let the server fall over the second time IT declined to help. Sometimes fixing it is the wrong answer.

image disc-space /Christopher Foldi/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Voting for the webware awards closes on 30 April – be quick.

It’s also a way to check out some tools/sites/services you didn’t know about, and yes, of course I voted for WordPress.


Alltop: an online magazine rack

Alltop is a content aggregator bringing together the best content on a range of subjects from AOL to masonry to zoology. It’s a simple concept and they provide a relatively simple tool. They bill themselves as;

Alltop is an “online magazine rack” of popular topics. We update the stories every hour. Pick a topic by searching, news category, or name, and we’ll deliver it to you 24 x 7. All the topics, all the time.

There’s a new development, you can now create your own Alltop, creating an account allows you to create your own Alltop selecting from the available feeds. I created my alltop; collecting feeds from leadership, technology and writing, it’s listed in the blogroll for future reference. There is also an option to republish it on Facebook, or to indulge in a bit of self promotion by going directly to twitter. Alltop’s founder Guy Kawasaki is shameless in his self-promotion on twitter, so it’s no surprise this option features.

For people unfamiliar with RSS feeds it’s great, they can create a sort of “portal” of content they like, they do end up with the magazine rack online as promised.

Also the plus side I did find some sites/blogs via Alltop that are useful, that I hadn’t seen before. But once it’s set up there’s no further use of it. It doesn’t seem to do anything. You can share it – but it’s just your selection of someone else’s recommendations.

I had fun setting it up, but rather than use Alltop I’ve added the useful feeds to netvibes where I can sort them by subject to different tabs and can customise what I see (number of items and add text etc).

I wonder what the next steps for Alltop will be – will I get more tabs? Will I be able to recommend content? We’ll see.