Reading, writing, arithmetic, coding?

Following the implementation of a raft of changes to the national curriculum, children starting primary school from today will be taught how to write computer code. Starting with basic comprehension and learning how to create simple programs (“Hello World!”), they are required by the time they leave primary school to be able to “design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems”. Translation: app stores will be inundated with “Flappy Bird-esque” games within the next five years.

Joking aside, I think this is a long overdue step in the right direction. Certainly within a UX role, while there might not be much of a need to use coding on a day-to-day basis, having an underlying knowledge and understanding of coding practices and concepts ensures the ideas and wireframes produced are feasible and can be understood by the developers who take them forward. 

After I looked through the curriculum changes in more detail, I do hope further changes are made to increase the exposure to user-centred design practices within these classes before Key Stage 3. As we know, there is little point having a nation of super-coders developing beautifully coded websites, programs and applications if those solutions don’t meet the needs of the users in the first place.

In the meantime I’ll keep myself happy with the knowledge that I’ll be getting a few more phone calls from my oldest nephew asking for help to debug his program! Although that will mean spending a few hours this weekend brushing up on my skills…! 

BBC News: Pupils begin 'tough' new national curriculum

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It’s been a busy month at Twitter, with two new features announced. The first was a subtle change to their definition of the ‘Twitter timeline’, meaning that someone’s timeline may now feature tweets from people they do not follow if Twitter deem that tweet to be “popular or relevant”. The justification behind this was that “our [Twitter’s] goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting” (it all sounds very ‘Facebook-y’ doesn’t it!?). 

Guardian: Twitter: it's official, get used to tweets from people you don't follow

One of the great advantages with Twitter is its customisability, you can follow exactly who you want and conversely ignore who you want. They might also be a reason you actively don’t follow someone, for instance because of their political views or a lack of anything interesting to say. By showing tweets outside of your ‘following’ group, Twitter risks annoying users by pushing content to them that they have actively decided not to see – moving away from mantra of giving the user what they want.

The second feature is that access to Twitter Analytics has been made open to everyone (as long as you’ve had your account for longer than 2 weeks). This means data-lovers can now see demographic data about your followers and how many people see/click on a tweet. As you can imagine there has been far fewer complaints about this, although I’m not sure some people will be too happy to see how few people actually read your daily pearls of wisdom! 

More droning on about drones

It seems like articles about drones have been the backbone of this blog series in recent months, so I’m happy to report another one to have hit the headlines. 

As reported back in December's Industry Commentary, Amazon were exploring the use of ‘octocopters’ for delivering small packages. While this could have been seen as a rather clever Christmas-time marketing ploy, it appears they weren’t the only company looking at delivery-by-drone – Google have announced their ‘Google X’ research facility have been developing a similar system. However unlike the drones you might have imagined whilst reading this, they propose using 5ft-wide single-winged vehicles to deliver goods via fishing wire from 150ft off the ground.

Having one of the biggest tech companies in the world investigating drone-use greatly increases its future legitimacy and you can quickly imagine some of the positive ways that drones could be used in remote areas (for instance, delivering supplies to isolated communities or aid supplies in war-torn countries). However there has been little change to the issues and concerns previously highlighted about increasing the use of drones, which will be the biggest barrier that Google and Amazon will face in turning this research into reality.

Guardian: Google reveals home delivery drone program Project Wing

Blackberry, MP

David Cameron has revealed that he relies on his Blackberry when on holiday to allow him to “run the country remotely”. It’s incredible to think that in a relatively short space of time the development of smartphones has allowed one of the world’s leaders to feel comfortable to fulfil his role of PM using such a device. 

Despite this endorsement, there has been little improvement in Blackberry’s share in the mobile market, with reports suggesting that they will soon fall to 4th in the UK smartphone user base behind Windows Phone. Maybe their solution is to exploit this government link further. “PMQs, sponsored by Blackberry” anyone?

Monkey copyright 

Finally after the controversy about the free distribution of a ‘monkey selfie’ by Wikipedia, the US Copyright Office has updated its rules to state that creative works produced by “nature, animals or plants” are exempt from copyright.

I bet the monkey went ape after hearing that news.

Telegraph: Monkeys, ghosts and gods 'cannot own copyright' says US