Category Archives: young people

Microsoft Offers Ad-free Bing Search for Schools

Bing has launched a pilot scheme in the US to offer all schools ad-free access to the platform. 

Bing for Schools also offers enhanced privacy settings and filters to block adult content, along with a digital learning exercise delivered everyday via the homepage at the right level for each student. 

This is the first time a service like this has been offered by a major search engine, giving schools the ‘choice to avoid the commercialisation of student web searches’. More than 800,000 students have already been signed up, from school districts in LA, Atlanta, Fresno and Detroit. 

Parents have the opportunity to earn Bing Rewards for participating schools by using the regular search engine at home – and no doubt a sweetener for the company as it seeks to increase its share of search users. Microsoft says that 30,000 credits will get the school a Mircosoft Surface RT  – which the company estimates would only take 60 regular users a month to do.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here: http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.com/content/microsoft-offers-ad-free-bing-search-schools#d8OAEVqk0mqVt3Zr.99

Q&A with novelist Polly Courtney for Let’s Be Brief

With her first novel, Golden Handcuffs, Polly Courtney turned her back on a “so-called” high-flying career in the City to expose the toxic culture of the industry she worked in.
After this early self-publishing success she won what looked like her dream contract with HarperCollins but quickly found herself part of another corporate machine. Polly very publicly walked out on the deal and has just self-published her latest book, a fictional look at the UK riots in the summer of 2011. And there’s even a movie on the cards.
Q) When did you start writing and why?
It happened by accident. I was working as an investment banker in the city, becoming more and more miserable by the day. I was so disillusioned with my so-called ‘high flying’ career that I felt compelled to write about it so that the world could see the futile work, the hierarchy, the sexism, the greed, narcissism and toxic culture. (This was back in the early 2000s and at that time there was still a perception that banking was an industry that young people should aspire to work in.) Publishers weren’t convinced that readers would want to know about this dark, dirty side, so they suggested I ‘glam it up a bit’. This was the opposite of my goal, so I decided to publish the novel myself. It went on to become one of my best-selling novels, Golden Handcuffs.
Q) Your books are on quite controversial topics – can you tell us a bit about them? And what’s the deal with your (ex) publisher? 
I love to expose some kind of injustice in society. My latest novel is written from the perspective of a disenfranchised 15-year-old and set in the build-up to the August riots, covering the various frustrations that led to so many young people taking to the streets in 2011. Poles Apart is about a Polish migrant and the unspoken prejudice she faces in everyday life. Having successfully self-published Golden Handcuffs and Poles Apart, I was thrilled to get a publishing contract with an imprint of HarperCollins. I didn’t realise at the time, but in signing this deal, I was effectively pushing my writing career in a new direction – and not a direction I wanted to go in.
Q) So what changed?
It felt as though the very thing that made my books different (their ‘social conscience’) was being swept aside as book after book came out like mass market fiction with a ‘chick lit’ title and cover. The final straw was when my fifth novel, a story of a young woman grappling with sexism and ‘lad mag culture’, was given the title It’s a Man’s World and adorned with a trashy cover featuring mainly legs that was cloned from a movie poster. I decided to publicly walk out on my publisher at the book launch and announce my return to self-publishing. When I did, lots of authors got in touch to say ‘me too’!
Q) What project have you done that you are most proud of and why?
Feral Youth, my latest book – partly because it was such a collaborative effort between me and everyone involved, but mainly because of the subject matter. It was a big step for me, writing from the perspective of an angry teenage girl from South London. I was advised against it; people told me I could never make it authentic – but I was determined to try. I think Alesha’s story is an important one that needs to be told.
Q) How important is independent thinking and doing and where do you get it from?
The idea of doing something ‘because that’s what everyone does’ makes no sense to me. Everyone wants to earn lots of money. I don’t. Everyone wants a publishing deal. I don’t. Everyone likes to read books that are just like all the other books out there. Really? Well, I don’t.
My dad had his own business, which evolved as I was growing up, so perhaps I got my aptitude for taking calculated risks from him. My parents have always instilled in me that the most important thing in life is to be happy and frankly, I’m not happy when I’m just following the herd.
Q) What is the key issue for you right now?
It’s the message I’m trying to put out with Feral Youth: that we need to think harder about young people and the stereotypes we’re shown in the press. They’re not ‘mindless criminals’ and they’re not ‘feral’. They’re people and they’re a product of their experiences – so why don’t we focus on making those experiences good?
Q) What’s next?
Feral Youth the movie. Seriously!
::
Polly Courtney’s Q&A is part of the State of Independence series
State of Independence Pop-up Island | 22-28th July 2013
Unit 17 | Boxpark Shoreditch | 2-4 Bethnal Green Rd | London | E1 6GY

Facebook – The Daily Telegraph of the Digital Age?

Born in 1988, I’m slap bang in the middle of Generation Y, or the Millennials. Or even Gen C. Which isn’t actually a generation, but more of a state of mind, according to Google. This 20 year period covers people born between 1977 to 1996, or alternatively 1982 to 2001, depending on who you ask. Simple. 

But the rate of technological change over the last 10 years has seen Myspace giving way to Facebook and then Twitter then Pinterest then – you get the picture.  I’m part of the begrudging, but enslaved Facebook faithful. I text and use Whatsapp. Email and Twitter are both indispensable. 


So can you really say that someone born in 1998 uses technology in the same way as me?  We decided to find out, so we interviewed two 14-year-olds, a boy and girl, to see how they are using the devices they own and share. Surely those with digital in their DNA will run rings around me, a mere digital native? 


Surprisingly, or not for a couple of teenagers, they were as excited about tech as they are about everything, which is rather little, but they clearly can’t live without it. 


Five messaging apps in one day 


Freya, disgruntled owner of a failing BlackBerry, as well as an iPod, hops between the two devices depending on the task at hand. That means BBMing and chatting with her friends and following funny accounts on Twitter when her main handset allows. She switches when she wants to use Instagram and Snapchat – for chatting to people without BBM, and the “funny pictures” that make it better than Whatsapp. All on a daily basis. Add to that Skype, Facetime and ooVoo – for those urgent group video chats – and you’d think they’d have run out of things to say.  


She uses a computer “if I have to”. And Facebook? “I deactivated my account. It’s boring.” I feel a twinge of sadness for my twisted old friend. So what would Ben have to say about a platform that has changed my ability to communicate as much as it has my concept of privacy? “I just left my profile. It’s boring,” he confirmed. Ouch. 


No TV, no computer, iPad gathers dust 


Ben’s a lucky iPhone 5 user, and also shares an iPad 2 with his brother, but he doesn’t use it. “I don’t watch TV. I don’t use a computer except at school for course work. Nah, I don’t have email. I tend to just use my phone. And that’s really just for apps.” Like Freya, he uses a combination of messaging services, iMessage, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter every day. When people don’t have iMessage, he texts people.  


Uninterested in the latest games consoles, he plays Clash of the Clans four times a week, where he sees ads for games in-app, but just ignores them. Freya identifies 4Pics1Word as a game that’s been doing the rounds at school, in the past she would have clicked on the “silly pop-up banners”, but not anymore, she says. Apart from that, neither consumes a great deal of content other than funny things their friends allegedly spew out all day long. Even wearable tech doesn’t really strike a chord with our teens. 


Battery life an inter-generation concern 


So what’s the best thing about their phone? “Being in touch with everybody, otherwise you’d just bored out of your head and have nothing to do,” Ben said. “And music I guess. When you’re travelling a long way.” He admits Maps is useful “but I don’t really use it,” he says. “I can talk to friends I don’t see often and it entertains me,” Freya adds. Both identify battery life as the killer of their mass communication lifestyle. 


Ben also says load times between apps are annoying, as well as the sign-up process when connecting to wi-fi. He suggests making it automatic. Freya, a lone Spotify Premium owner at school, thinks it would be good if more than one person could listen to the music service. But she complains it takes too long to get new music. 


Tech jobs?? 


And despite this heavy usage, both have little knowledge of the fact that they could make a career out of all this. Phones are banned in school, and will be confiscated, they say. When they do IT, Freya admits she “doesn’t really get it,” while Ben says “they don’t really talk about technology jobs at school.” So. Facebook is about to become an antique, at least in developed markets, facing similar problems in the future as the printed press does today. Email’s days could be numbered, and while there is no dominant messaging platform for this Chat Generation, the medium is certainly smartphones for the forseeable. 


Let’s hope it’s not too late to funnel this constant connectivity and conversation into something useful. Lol?


Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here:  http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.com/content/facebook-%E2%80%93-daily-telegraph-digital-age#MmHiAA4isLQZlmjD.99

Generation Wireless – Will women and unconnected majority lose out?

Generation Y Millennials – aged 18 to 30 – will be led by a group of tech savvy, switched on young people who believe they can change the world, says Telefonica survey of 12,000
Telefónica UK has released the results of the largest ever global survey of Generation Y Millennials, broadly seen as those aged 18 to 30 that have lived most of their lives with access to the internet. The mobile operator, owner of O2, spoke to more than 12,000 people across 27 countries in six regions. 
Given the tech focus of the report, it is clear that many see the global internet revolution as empowering, useful and necessary for future personal and global success. The research found that 76 per cent of this group now owns a smartphone, highest is in Asia thanks to hugely tech-savvy populations in Japan and South Korea, at 83 per cent, and lowest in Central and Eastern Europe at 60 per cent. Look to your left and right. No matter what your political leaning, and whether you think it is always a positive thing, it is clear that we are always-on, media gorgers. 
Much of what they found won’t come as a shock. In North America, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe and Asia, all of these young people agreed that the economy is the number one issue. In Latin America and the Middle East and Africa the answers differed – with social inequality and terrorism topping each list respectively.
A significant majority, 63 per cent of Millennials globally, believe it is difficult for their generation to progress from school to adult life. With unemployment rates in many of the countries surveyed highest among 16 to 24s, this comes as little surprise. And news of the consequences of ageing populations has clearly reached our young people too – 39 per cent expect to have to continue to work indefinitely and not have enough money to retire. When asked whether they thought employment was a right or a privilege, 55 per cent said that having a decent job was the former versus 45 per cent who picked the latter. A bit of a leading question? It is an economic imperative – we all have to eat. More positively, and hopefully without delusion, 68 per cent of those surveyed believe that they have the opportunity to be an entrepreneur.
Telefónica claims to have identified a new kind of elite – 11 per cent of Millennials globally – who are not defined by metrics like socioeconomic status, but by their access to technology and opportunity. While their immediate priorities are the same – family, school and friends come first – 44 per cent of these leaders believe access to technology is important to success, compared to 30 per cent overall. “These people are at the cutting edge of technology and highly interested in what happens around them from a political standpoint,” said José María Álvarez-Pallete, COO of Telefónica on launching the results. “Politicians around the world must see that technology is going to influence the future. But this is not just for government but for business leaders too,” he said. 
Speaking in a keynote at the launch, Julian Genachowski, former chairman of the US telecoms regulator the FFC and head of Obama’s tech strategy during the 2008 election, said that the world is now engaged in a “global bandwidth race”. As healthcare, tech, government and people move increasingly online, countries are now concerned with giving companies and citizens the quickest access. But given that only one in six of the world’s population actually has access to the internet, 1bn people, it is clear that socioeconomic status, which gives people access to technology and opportunity, is likely to still dictate who the winners will be.  And while many young people are switched on, politically speaking, as Álvarez-Pallete mentioned, many aren’t. Recycling is the acceptable face of the green movement in developed nations but sustainability goes out the window when you see flights to Barcelona for £49. Meanwhile, literacy and access to basic human rights and services, let alone internet, are also hopelessly lacking in large parts of the world too. 
The UK’s young people appear to be are more tech savvy than their global counterparts, the survey found, with 49 per cent here saying they have an excellent knowledge of technology compared to just 30 per cent worldwide. Tech is now seen as more important than any other subject, with 25 per cent saying it is critical to future success, compared to economics and science both at 18 per cent or languages with just eight per cent. There are certainly jobs to be had in tech, in fact, there is a skills shortage. On top of that, 76 per cent believe technology makes it easier to get a job – many jobs are only advertised online  – so job search, application and even doing many of your average Western jobs is an increasingly digital pursuit.
A “new gender gap”, as if we need one, was also outlined by Álvarez-Pallete, with men around the world much more likely to consider themselves at the cutting edge of tech – 80 per cent vs 69 per cent. Those that believe that tech is the most important factor to ensuring future success also saw a contrast – 42 per cent vs 29 per cent. It appears that women, yet again, are likely to be left behind.
But why would a company like Telefónica want to know just what little old us think of our future anyway?
“For a company like us,” Álvarez-Pallete said, “we need to understand what’s going to happen for our industry and for our customers. This is the largest technological revolution in human history and Millennials are the drives.  We deeply believe that we need to understand what’s going on to have an idea of what the future will look like.”
Take that to be altruistic, after all Telefónica has its own start-up accelerator and is working with the EU to create a young entrepreneurial community of 300,000 people, along with many other worthwhile initiatives. Or look at it with a keen eye. We are a huge target market for advertisers and will continue to be so into our later years – more than 90m of Telefonica’s 316m customers worldwide is a Millennial. Companies like this need our custom, our data and actually depend on our success. But given how events have unfolded around PRISM and GCHQ, I’m just surprised they didn’t have access to all of our vital statistics already!
My favourite stat from the report was that 89 per cent of everyone surveyed believes that the best days of their country are yet to come. In a world of economic uncertainty where we fumble from one political problem to the next, I’d like to hope that they’re right!

18 to 25-year-olds in the UK Send 225 Messages a Week

While SMS is still the most widely used messaging service both in the UK and the US, at 96 per cent and 92 per cent respectively, multiple messaging services are now used by 75 per cent of people across both countries.  

Users of BBM send the largest volume of messages in the UK, an average of 110 per week, according to the survey done by Acision. SMS is second highest, at 75 message per week, Whatsapp at 74, with iMessage and Facebook Messenger on 64 per week. 


Young adults in the UK, not surprisingly, send 22 per cent more than any other age group – 225 every week. SMS still rules in the US however, with 111 messages sent on this channel every week. Young people aged 12 to 18 send 150 texts on average every week here.


Most people message more than 24 people on average across all these platforms, with many seeing SMS as more appropriate for work and OTT for friends. Women also send more SMSs than men. Many of the 1,000 people asked in the US and UK say they prefer OTT because these apps have richer features, like confirmed deliver, speed and cost, which was particularly important in the UK.   


On the launch of the results, Glen Murray, SVP and GM of Acision in Europe and Russia, took these results as another warning to mobile operators to up their game. “Operators have to be able to monetise five or six different things to compete today,” he said.  


The research, perhaps necessarily, did not look at all of the OTT apps used in both countries, which have evolved to services like Snapchat, Skype and MessageMe. 


Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here: http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.com/content/18-25-year-olds-uk-send-225-messages-week#zcDjEpvkFd14ovTf.99

Who was Boney M Anyway? Or why it’s no surprise you don’t know who Margaret Thatcher is (was)


At a pub quiz a few weeks ago our team had an average age of 30(ish), with only my boss (yes I spend my spare time at quizzes with my boss) over the age of 50.

We decided that we’d try to double our points on the noughties round – steering well clear of the 70s ‘mum and dad school reunion round’ – as it was the decade that most of us remembered most clearly. Yes – we could have gone for the 90s… Perhaps if we were cooler, we would have.

So we powered through Vampire Weekend and Kelly Clarkson and bumped ourselves up from second-til-last to fourth. Hey, we didn’t win, but we were nearly on the podium. Think about how those guys in second place felt, knowing how close they were to stealing victory.

Anyway. During That 70s Round, my boss exclaimed: “How do you not know who Boney M are?!?” “Err… I recognise the name but maybe because I wasn’t alive in the 70s? And nobody seems to mention them in passing..? And I don’t listen to Smooth and 6Music doesn’t seem to remember them either..?

Wikipedia, knower of most things, knows that “the group was formed in 1975 and achieved popularity during the disco era of the late 1970s. The group has sold more than 150m albums and singles worldwide with most sales in the UK and Germany.” So Boney M is plural. Who knew?

A pretty huge chunk of history has passed me by but hey, perhaps I’ll go back in time and ask my mum to mention everything she thinks I might have missed. Anyway, they don’t teach pop music at school – although they do at this university…

“Many have taken to Twitter today to pour scorn on many of its younger users who didn’t (or lolz pretended they didn’t) know who Margaret Thatcher was.”

So just as my boss was surprised about this, many have taken to Twitter today to pour scorn on many of its younger users who didn’t (or lolz pretended they didn’t) know who Margaret Thatcher was. She became head of the Conservative Party (or the Tories, as they are now more popularly known) in 1975 and was succeeded by John Major in 1990. Anyone 23 and younger obviously never experienced life under Thatcher and they don’t really teach politics at school either – lest we actually all understand what the hell is going on.

Two years ago, as something of a political buff who knew that a lot of my friends were in the dark about politics, I pitched this idea to the head of BBC Learning:

The Future Project: What is the ‘left’ and ‘right’? Why is our population ageing? Who makes the decisions?
The Future Project attempts to answer these questions in an easy-to-follow, interactive and fun way. Think Brian Cox, but with politics rather than planets. It is for those of you who want to watch Question Time, but first you need to know why these issues matter and what they mean for the future. If you know who Nick Griffin is, but don’t know where his views come from, or you know that the climate is changing, but don’t understand when or why it will affect you, this is the show for you. All the topics discussed over the series are genuine concerns put forward by you, addressed in a non-political way. By the end, you should be able to understand current affairs and make more informed choices about voting and about your future.

He said: “I’m afraid I can’t see this working – I’m not sure what’s in it for most of the audience. It feels like a great thing in the Twittersphere, less of a televisual piece.

If these Twitter admissions show us anything, it’s that some young people have the whole world at their fingertips but have no idea who some of the people that shaped their lives are. They do not even know we had a woman prime minister – no wonder female representation in parliament is still woefully low. But how do you know what you’re looking for if you don’t know what you’re looking for… or aren’t really looking? And where can you go for impartial political information?

As it has been acknowledged throughout the day, Margaret Thatcher was a divisive political leader, hated by many on the Left, celebrated by many on the Right, with many others impressed, upset and elated. But you have to know your Left and Right before that means anything to you and it is very hard to get unbiased facts from either side. And even to get ‘truth’ and ‘fact’ from the media – where Mail and Times readers alike go for their ‘own brand of objectivity’ – it depends on who’s telling you. What they keep in, what they leave out and at which points they give you a knowing italicised word.

So you’d think the BBC would be the perfect spot for this kind of information, but alas, no. ‘Head to Twitter’, I hear you cry, ‘hey, the BBC has now placed  a Twitter feed firmly at the centre of its new news operations’, but we all know that is just awash with Left and Right leaning know-it-alls and bemused teenagers who don’t know how to use Google. I blame Tony Blair – surely you know who he is?

But what does it matter anyway? She’s dead. Let’s just say, she was made out of iron, she hated women and although she never lost a general election (?), she didn’t have as many hit records as Boney M. And her name isn’t as funny.

Spoon-feed us stuff about the Tudors at school and give us unadulterated access to Youtube and you’ll get the young people you deserve.

Written for and first published here: http://www.letsbebrief.co.uk/who-was-boney-m-anyway-or-why-its-no-surprise-you-dont-know-who-margaret-thatcher-is-was/

No More Parties. My Manifesto.

Written for and first published at: http://www.letsbebrief.co.uk/no-more-parties-pt-3/
 
The Labour party had 193,961 members on 31 December 2010 according to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission. At the same time, the Conservatives managed about 177,000 members, so said activist Tim Montgomerie. The fact is – there are many, many more people who aren’t members than are.

There is room for 304 more Labour parties, or 338 Conservative parties. Many MPs have been around for donkey’s years. And a lot of the ones that haven’t have worked their way up as office juniors under the people that have. And, as some guy called Einstein once mused, the issues that we face today cannot be solved by the same thinking that got us to where we are.

Parties actually complicate and confuse – you either agree with them, whoever ‘they’ are, or us. However the political parties often work together in some sort of an unspoken consensual pact to maintain their position. After all, they are guaranteed to be back in office sooner or later. So why rock the boat? 

Cue the Labour party – who’ve been surprisingly quiet on most of the controversial announcements made during the Con-Dem’s term so far. That’s because they are awaiting in preparation for the next time in the hot seat, they needn’t risk putting themselves on the line. Why chance being wrong? They do just little enough that no one can complain. Or they seem so irrelevant that no one actually cares.

Young people are characterised as either not caring enough to vote, or prefer campaigning on single issues. But a lot just feel that politicians don’t represent them, and their vote wouldn’t make one bit of difference. Parties focus their efforts in marginal seats, knowing there are many safe seats where they know they will win because they know enough people feel obliged, or compelled, to vote as they always do and maintain things as they are.

You probably think ‘fuck it’. And that not voting is dangerous. That will show them. But to the parties – it is actually greater participation that will unsettle them – it will make them have to work for it.

I’m not an anarchist. I think we need great leaders, who make good decisions based on the facts they have available, in line with the values of our modern society, for the public good. We need people with style, substance and integrity. We really can’t think so short-term – we are future parents, future homeowners, and future old people. I meet people every day who are doing things differently from community banks to cooperative energy schemes. If you think that something can’t be done, can’t be changed, and that there is not point- that is exactly what they want you to think.

So how could we change this?

Apart from the Human Rights Act – which many politicians claim is the worst thing that ever happened to us – nowhere in one place does it say what we are really all about. Who is Team GB?

I reckon we need to take a huge look at who we are and where we want to go and write down some broad principles. The government is so keen on measuring everything else – why not set ourselves some goals and measure our success. 

For example:
– Sustainable for future generations
– Health, productivity and fulfillment for all
– People before profit
– Fair access to services
– Collaborative approach
– Trust, openness, fairness, fun

We should be able to vote online using our national insurance number. Anyone who says this is open to fraud should a) check how lax the current system is and b) admit they are only afraid that more people might actually do it.

There is no real way of becoming a candidate if you aren’t in a party. 

We should:
1. Abolish parties
Candidates for a given area can put themselves forward, a personal manifesto in line with our new constitution, based on an interest in helping their region. They can also outline any expertise that might make them fit for a particular ministerial job.

Then, like jury service, panels (perhaps with ‘expert witnesses’ from particular fields) pick the most suitable candidates. Then everyone can vote.

2. Failing that – and I’m pretty prepared for it – let’s create a new party. Our Party – The People’s Party – a party that is for everyone’s interests for the future.

People who tell you that things can’t change either have an interest in things staying the way they are (banking, finance, political industries), or they’ve already planned their escape route.
So we have to change it ourselves. We, the people, Team GB. Why not, we’ve got nothing to lose!

Artwork – Aardvark Manifesto 2011. Available here.