Jiva Technology

Bristol, British City 1951

Being a Bristol-based company, we’re slightly biased, but for all you fans of Bristol out there, this one’s for you. To say that this is ‘one from the archive’ seems like something of an understatement, but take a look at this film commissioned by Bristol Corporation in 1951, as a promotional tool for the Festival of Britain:

Bristol, British City 1951

Despite being over 60 years old, it’s pretty familiar in many ways. It’s not so much the people or the place that seem like a relic from the past, but the paternal (and the City Corporation were mostly men) attitude of the local government that seems so out of place. The other big change is the amount of manufacturing that took place in the City back then. It makes you wonder how a film of Bristol 2015 would be viewed in 2079. Perhaps it would be amusing for our grandchildren to see all those digital agencies, media companies and hipster beards on show.

Amazon Dash and all that.

Amazon Dash, Amazon Prime, delivery drones and instantaneous gratification. “I want it now” is one of the big trends in tech at the moment, as if waiting a day or so for that new T-shirt is suddenly unacceptable. It feels like the ultimate end-point of consumerism; the asymptote (for all you maths-nerds out there) of a curve that started in the fifties and accelerated with the advent of e-commerce.

Since the mid-nineties, we’ve been hearing of the benefits of having a fridge that will re-order milk and a washing machine that will autonomously replenish detergent. Sure enough, the 2015 version has arrived with a tie-up between AmazonDash and GE Appliances. Both very laudable companies, but this hardly qualifies as saving the world. What’s different now with the 2015 vintage of this trend is the sheer volume, scale and audacity of the ‘instant availability’ industry. I mean, do I really need the skies swarming with drones so that I can get my detergent in under an hour? Especially given that it takes me approximately 3 minutes to get to my local shop (owned by a member of our community) to buy from  a wide range of detergents thank you very much.

I understand that companies like Amazon have to be seen to be delivering the next big thing, but do VCs need to keep funding startups that will do your ironing in less than five minutes (there probably is one, but I haven’t checked)?

There are some serious problems in the world that could usefully harness the best brains and without wishing ill on the instant-delivery industry, I hope that we can get through this fad as quickly as possible so we can get back to the serious job of saving the world…

Tutorhub Q&A: Locke & Rousseau

Tutorhub Q&A has a habit of throwing up left field questions that generate interesting answers. When I’m browsing though questions and taking a look at the myriad of answers, I often find myself thinking, “I didn’t know that”.

Given the recent debate about rising inequality, the intense interest shown in the work of french academic Thomas Piketty and the surprise success of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election, a question regarding the seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophers John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau reminded me that we’ve been here before. Rosie B’s succinct and elegant answer as to the importance of these two intellectual heavyweights to the French Revolution reminded me how often the great minds of the past can talk to us through time. It’s not just in science that our world today is built on the intellectual achievements of our forebears. It’s also a reminder of the importance of liberal arts at a time when we have a minor obsession with science, maths and technology.

Rosie B‘s response to the question on Locke and Rousseau reminds us how fresh and relevant these ideas are today:

Locke was the first with his rather bold ideas that essentially all individuals are born equal. We are born without innate ideas, simply the rules of society were what defined each individual i.e. the church determined what was morally acceptable and what was not. The society a person grew up in dictates who you are, according to Locke; we are all born with a “blank slate”.

Education is a sequence, from learning, though understanding to mastery and application. Understanding how to apply 400 year-old ideas to the world around us requires a mastery of the subject and considerable insight as to how they can be applied to the world around us. Few people are willing to necessarily make that effort, but for those that do, the rewards can be considerable.

Do two-way rating systems change behaviour?

Uber, in common with a number of prominent market platforms, allow both sides of the transaction – driver and passenger – to rate their experience. Your rating as a customer is not available through the app, but anyone who uses the service a lot should know that if your rating slips under 4.0, you may find it hard to find that ride home. You might even be surprised on the sort of things that irritate your Uber driver – things that lead to an ill-fated slide down the rating system. I love talking to Uber drivers because they are generally so positive about the service, but I was surprised that beyond the obvious issues like being drunk, being obnoxious or not being where you said you’d be, issues like asking for the music to be turned up too loudly could cause me to become a ‘bad customer’.

It made me think, ‘do rating systems actually change bad behaviours?’

The whole point of a rating system is for good drivers to get the most work and for bad customers to change their habits. But if I don’t know my rating, or how I’m rated, how can I change my behaviour? Perhaps it’s just a mechanism of protecting drivers from the worst of modern manners? What if I don’t even know there is a rating system?

Recommendation engines and rating systems have always suffered from the achilles heel of, ‘one man’s heaven is another man’s hell’. Unless the system has an intimate knowledge of my own personal taste and values, a 5-star mechanism will never serve a real purpose. Perhaps it’s just a ‘door close’ button a lift – it doesn’t do anything except make me feel better; that I’m in control of my surroundings…


Regus House
1 Friary

Temple Quay
United Kingdom