Jiva Technology

Why the Maker Movement matters.

It’s easy, especially for those of us who’ve inhabited the technology world for some time, to forget that technology is not an end itself, it’s merely a means or a tool to do something better or faster or cheaper or in a different time or place etc. So when an interesting new technology hits the streets,  I have to fight my natural inclination to squirrel into the technology itself and take a step back; one which allows me to assess the impact (big or small) and the potential consequences of the technology.

At the moment, I have my eye on 3D printing and the nascent Maker Movement in the US (and increasingly elsewhere too). In it’s desire for people to seek a more authentic and ‘hands on’ relationship with products, the Maker Movement can trace it’s roots back to the craft breweries of San Francisco in the early and mid seventies, but I think it’s one of those technologies, when coupled with internet based distribution, that has the potential to unlock enormous changes in the way we design, make and distribute the everyday products that we rely on. There was a time when I thought it would be contained to some of the more traditional craft areas, but I was astonished to find people making cars, synthesisers and much more. When Sir James Dyson recently voiced his concerns about the focus on internet startups in the Old Street area, at the expense of ‘designers and makers’ what he overlooked is that the area is also home to an incredibly vibrant and creative ‘makers’. Watch this space.



Is data journalism the new punk?

For whatever reason, my antennae are constantly on the alert for clever ideas that have the potential to grow into something more profound, particularly those that uncomfortably span more than one existing discipline so that nobody starts out as an ‘expert’. A good example is the combination of a growing volume of ‘open data’ with the increasing availability of simple and easy-to-use data analysis tools, spawning the new field of ‘anyone can do it’ data journalism.

Most people go a bit cold when ‘data’ and ‘analyse’ appear in the same sentence. It all sounds a bit too close to maths. But facts are extraordinarily powerful things. They can be used for both good and bad and they can be mishandled and misrepresented; one only has to look at the furore surrounding Wikileaks to understand that. It is sadly somewhat inevitable that with most of us living busy lives, few of us have the time to check whether the ‘facts’ being presented by politicians and public figures are actually true.

Simon Rogers has written probably the best introduction to data journalism. In his eyes, just as punk encouraged kids without musical training to pick up an instrument, so data journalism allows all of us to channel Woodward & Bernstein.

3 things we can all learn from Team GB

Who hasn’t been impressed with the success of Team GB at London 2012? Gone are the days when British Olympians seemed to achieve success in spite of the sports establishment, or were individuals of unique talent. These days, British sport seems to have more in common with a multinational company than with the individualistic brilliance of a Graham Obree (look it up) or a Seb Coe. Which means it may be time for those of us in business to see what we can learn from their success. With the current Olympics winding towards a conclusion, I think there are there things that stand out:

1. Success is about breaking big problem down into the details.

Look at Team GB Cycling. Yes, they have talented and committed athletes, but what’s more impressive is their approach. Take a big problem, break it down into 100 small elements and improve each one by a small amount. Put it back together and you have a big improvement. Ignore any one of the elements and you won’t be successful. I find their approach vastly more engaging than anyone discussion about ‘six sigma’.

2. Success takes time

Having the courage to stick at until you are successful has it’s poster-girl in Team GB athlete, Katherine Grainger. Not content with silver, she stuck at for three Olympics to get gold. How many projects that we know could be successful get binned because of a lack of short term success. Germany’s Mittelstand understand this.

3. Right people, right jobs

Business gurus write about this, business people talk about this, sports teams have to do this. It’s one of those things that nobody would argue with, but (in my experience) very few companies actually pursue.

Tutorhub voted one of the best online education sites

We’re pleased to see that Tutorhub was voted one of the 55 most helpful education technologies recently. It’s always nice to see someone else appreciate your work. You can find out more here.


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