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Guilty of Google

So the Law Commission has put out a call for the prosecution of jurors who research their case via the web. By way of a quick introduction, the Law Commission is a wholly independent body set up by Parliament to review and recommend reform of the law in England and Wales. A number of jury members have actually already been jailed for this type of activity. Potentially 2 years inside currently awaits anyone or an unlimited fine for digital misdemeanours committed in court. However, the Law Commission points to the current inconsistency associated with this approach and points to the need to replace this with a more standard tariff and approach in future. The Law Society said: ‘While use of the internet is part of everyday life, its inappropriate use by jurors is proving to be an increasing problem for courts. It is essential that jurors only hear the evidence about the case as given in court.’ The Law Commission has also called for powers to be granted to judges to confiscate juror’s smartphone and internet enabled devices taken into court. Sounds simple, but things are never as straightforward as that. How exactly does one stop a juror from conducting pre-trial research over the web outside the courts or in-between daily sittings? Self-incrimination? As they say in court, the jury’s open on the feasibility surrounding this currently.

Facebook’s proposed ‘Sympathise’ feature, would it push your emo button?

One of the latest Facebook rumours currently doing the rounds focuses around the introduction of a ‘Sympathise’ button. Apparently this came about as the result of a recent hackathon, you know one of those all day/night (or several day) creative events, usually involving 100+ developers in a lecture hall or large communal space somewhere in an intellectual/inspiring organisational setting. Encouraging people to engage on a more emotive level in response to what they read on the web shouldn’t really come as any surprise in terms of an evolution from a simple ‘Like’ or thumbs down conventions associated with evaluating the quality of content or agreement to a view or opinion expressed on line. However, somehow it does. Can you truly instil a real, true, sense of sentiment in something as simple as a button? I really hope this does see the light of day as a ‘working experiment’ so we can learn and find out more about actual user behaviours and the true sentiment behind them. That goes for both ‘publishers’ who include it as part of their content feedback eco-system and those who use it as a response to published content. This would help to answer the nagging doubt currently in my mind as to whether this will ever amount to anything more than a simple superficial, self-serving feedback feature, I sincerely hope there’s more to it than that and I really do mean that.

Evernote getting increasingly physical

Hands up if you’ve not heard or never used Evernote? Whilst I can’t see those hands, I’d bet those of you with hands firmly placed down at your sides would be in a significant minority. Evernote’s freemium model, offering free services of value to a wide customer base is really helping to pay dividends. From an initial 16 months to break the $1m barrier, Evernote blasted through this benchmark figure in just 5 months for its Business proposition and just 1 month for Evernote Market, the latter launched in September of this year. But that’s only just part of a wider success story. Evernote’s physical products haven’t exactly being slouching around in the meantime either. Currently they’re accounting for 30% of total market sales. It seems we can’t get enough of the brand, from socks to backpacks, post-it notes and hybrid physical to digital products. Driving increased physical sales in a rapidly growing business is a great place to be, not least given the high brand visibility such physical products afford. Take note, our love affair with Evernote looks well and truly here to stay.

Droning on

You can pretty much buy everything you’re ever likely to need for Xmas from them. People love them and soon-ish they could be winging their way to you to hand deliver that special delivery. This follows recent news that Amazon is currently exploring the usage of unmanned drones for residential customer delivery. Technically the correct term is an “Octocopter’ on account that they are powered by eight simultaneous rotating blades-clever eh? But before you get too excited this could take up to 5 years before this delivery mechanism becomes reality. That’s according to Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos. This isn’t just a technical challenge, for example the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to approve the use of unmanned drones for civilian purposes and that’s likely to take some time to resolve for obvious reasons. But, just think, it’s Xmas 2018, you’ve just placed an order online for a sub-2.3Kg item (including postage and packaging) and within 30 minutes a drone taxies down on your front doorstep to deliver that last minute gift for a beloved relative. Maybe accompanied by a little festive jingle or greeting? Nice. Of course, nothing’s ever as simple as all that, but an exciting glimpse into the future all the same. And, at this time of year let’s not spoil that magical thinking, which could one day become a reality. In keeping with that yuletide frame of thinking…if Amazon is Santa, that must make the drones its little helpers right?

Open sesame

Now, would anyone like to have a guess what the most commonly used password is currently? (Clue it appears in the opening line of this article). Yes, it’s ‘password’, of course. Next up comes 123456. This comes of the back of the list compiled by a guy name Mark Burnett whose research took in some 6 million unique user name and password combinations readily available in the public domain (interesting insight in itself!) Now with a figure as large as that, the next logical step he took was to reduce that number down to a more manageable 10,000 name/password combinations. Perhaps, surprisingly, 91% of all passwords appeared in the top 1,000. It looks like a case of the ‘longtail’ very much being in evidence here. Besides the usage of numeric and the ‘password’ password thing, names, sports, and expletives all appear highly. So, whilst the technology might be becoming more sophisticated, we, as users, appear to be lagging behind. Of course, what we don’t know from the stats alone is to the level of perceived ‘sensitivity’ associated around the information being accessed. That said, there’s also a predilection to use the same password across different logins. Granted, ‘password’ would logically be exempt from that, but I'm sure the same couldn't be said for the other 999, or at least very few of them. Where passwords are concerned, just stepping out momentarily to think about the consequences of some of our (and I use that term broadly) online actions surely wouldn't go amiss. Setting a password after all should be as easy as 1-2-3 even if that isn't the mental model for the password entry itself! I'm wondering if there’s more which could be done as a micro-interaction’ or piece when setting a new password e.g. ‘password strength indicator’. Maybe something around, dare I say it, ‘gamifying’ this micro-interaction associated with the password strength indicator might be order. For example, replacing weak, medium and strong with something more reaction-provoking- ‘superhero’, ‘average Joe’, ‘Rookie’. After all, who doesn't like a superhero? And, giving personality to an account creation screen wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing either. 

A ‘bikeable’ app solution

It’s common knowledge that a sizeable portion of downloaded ‘apps’ suffer from single time usage syndrome. Whilst this has fallen in recent years, clearly a sign of our more considered approach towards app purchase decision making, around 1 in 5 apps still suffer this fate. So, when news of a simple but really useful app comes my way, I like to dig a little further, time permitting. A colleague’s announcement of a bike theft from right outside our Bristol office, also probably helped to pique my interest on this one. For those who don’t know, Bristol is a cycling city which is great from a health and eco-perspective, but can also provide easy pickings for the opportunistic bike thief as a result. This is more than just an app and really shows how digital and physical can work together to provide a simple, yet creative solution towards (unfortunately) addressing everyday common issues and challenges - in this case keeping a bike secure in a public space! The solution involves a bike lock which sends a warning alert to its owner should thieves try to tamper with it. What’s more the technology has a wider application. By taking advantage of bluetooth tech it would also be appropriate for cycle hire, allowing users to lock/unlock their hire bike once their hire fee has been paid. What’s more being wireless it can unlock without the aid of a key based on the user’s proximity to the aforesaid vehicle. Now that’s an idea which shouldn't require too much peddling to generate the level of interest it deserves. Time to get on my bike (if it’s still there!) Merry Xmas everyone!

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