Twitter #FF’s , (Don’t do it.)

#FF's Dont do it.

#FF (Don’t do it)

I’m writing this post late on Thursday evening, and my thoughts are already turning to one of my tasks for tomorrow morning – sending out my #ff mentions. But, then that got me thinking…is this just another social media ‘ritual’ that started out as a good way to ‘recommend’ people and is now just a way of clogging up our timelines.

I have been guilty of sending out #ff mentions religiously but as of today I will no longer be doing that.

Instead, I am going to make my #ff mentions real and more meaningful. So rather than compose a tweet with a list of @users I am going to select a few and take time to make the tweet count.

Take a look at the examples below…what one stands out most to you?

#ff My great friend and mentor @goshensai and an awesome trance vocalist

#ff @joebloggs @joebloggs1 @joebloggs2 @etc @etc 

So, before you go into the #ff mode,

Stop, choose some special followers and send a meaningful mention.

What are your thoughts on Twitter #FF’s, do you do them or not? Let’s hear your thoughts.

Our Guest Blogger is
Tim Thomson
Manager at Vine Conference Centre

I want to stand on a platform with regard to this matter.

bridging the gap

Choosing a platform

During the time of election fever and the stance of many politicians and the media flooding our households, Internet and newspapers with all the spin and comments of election contenders, it occurred to me that many of them are launching the election campaigns on a platform of one thing or the other. If it isn’t the NHS it is migration and immigrants.

It got me a thinking

It started me thinking of what is the platform I stand on with regard to my business and how it operates and runs and then to take it into the techie world, what Social Media and Internet platforms do I use to get the message flooding to my customers and potential customers worldwide.

Platforms there are so many

It is the case that there are so many platforms, as with the election there are so many stand points that people take and you don’t know at times which one to believe, so we base our beliefs and decisions on past experience and their record if they have done the job before. When I set my company up I knew I did it out of passion. I wanted a company that had a drive and passion for what it did and did it well and honestly. So that was my initial platform if you like, I then structured the offering my company had around this. My testimonials from clients were my gauge as to whether I was achieving this each and every time. Then learning and tweaking happens. No one is perfect and it is the driving force behind our actions that should be considered.

So honesty, integrity and doing the best job as promised was my platforms and I hope I have achieved them as often as possible.

The other thing I did as an organisation was start to business network, before I even setup as a company I attended some networking groups to find out what business was saying about the climate and how they were getting on. I wasn’t setting up blind as they say. This paid off and I have continued to business network to this day. It is a great place to bounce ideas around, meet great people and pick up so much information and ideas.

What about online platforms?

With regard to online platforms, I have always been as you can imagine, the company is called IT Turning Point, very aware of what technology is doing and where it is taking us. The Internet has been with us for years and introduced so many changes in the way organisations and customers operate that it has dragged some organisations into the 21st century screaming and kicking.

The key of course is to decide your best and most appropriate route to market and then target the majority of your efforts there. This of course sometimes takes more than one attempt to get it right and is what I like to call a toe in the water scenario. We try and see if it works and tweak and try again until we hit the sweet spot. I decided early on to have a website and had it up and getting found before the official company launch, so when I launched people had a shop window to visit.

This of course was mentioned on all emails and literature to drive traffic in that direction. The site was optimised at the time for the search engines and we were off.

Social media was my next area of consideration and what should I do here and which platform would be best for me to use. I did the following and it has worked for me over the years.

My company was primarily B2B so LinkedIn to me was essential and getting my profile up to 100% as it was at the time and then making good honest connections with potential customers, existing customers and other companies and contractors that might be useful for me to touch base with and bounce ideas around. A company LinkedIn page was setup as well as my profile and maintaining it and promoting it became a goal.

For more awareness of brand name and getting me more widely known quicker I also thought that Facebook would be a great place to have a business page. So off I went on my next platform and got that page up and running and started to gain likes and awareness.

Remember, I am always aware of where technology is trying to take us and I launched a Twitter account at the same time to take advantage of the profile raising for my brand name.

In the corner of my eye I was always reading techie articles about search engine Optimisation and how you can get found online to make sure my efforts where not all in vain. This kept me informed that Google the main and most popular search engine was changing what it calls it’s algorithm that checks the Internet to find you and me and was placing more emphasis on Social Media activity and content. So this means and still does today that you need your website optimised, but you also need to be active in the realm of social media. You need to have link popularity, which means people are coming to your site from various locations and landing there and then leaving to go to other locations from your site.

Other social media platforms are out there, Google+, Kiltr, Pinterest and Instagram. It was now a case of deciding which platforms I felt I could benefit from and manage easily.

Again tools were there for the managing and these have helped immensely. Such as Hootesuit, highly recommended and there are others.

Email newsletters were the next thing I had always ran since setting up and had made a decision that a monthly newsletter would be the thing. So to this day we send out a monthly newsletter to a database of people who have signed up for it. Again there are laws about spamming people.

Have we reached our goal?

No, is the easy answer, we are always looking at tweaking and changing what we do and managing it differently and we do use other mediums to get the message out there, such as PR articles to business press, etc. We also run an online blog about technology amongst other things.

All these various platforms have meant that we have been able to vary our offering and develop it over the time the company has been running and as long as we keep to the company platforms of honesty, integrity and doing the best job as promised then we will keep it up.

I hope this helps, let me know your thoughts on the whole area of platforms, online or offline.

The Communication Revolution

communication revolution

Communication Revolution

Nice to talk to you, how are things going?
Can you drop me a day and time for a meeting?
When can we talk about the training you need?

You know I see around a hundred questions a day coming my way in various guises and usually keep on top of them, but I have noticed recently that I have dropped the ball on a couple and  wondered why.

I use technology for most things and particularly admin, tasks and communication so how can this be happening? Well in fact the very saviour that I use to keep me organised is the very thing that is making me drop the ball.

How is technology failing me?

I have been doing some historical research and asking the question of how we communicate and of course using my age, no comments here please, as I remember using various versions of communication over my years in industry and business.

Here is a rough breakdown of what I experienced: –

  • Phoned into the office once or twice a day to see if there were any messages for me
  • Got a pager that bleeped when the office needed me, then found a phone and phoned into the office
  • Technology improved and I got given a pager that had a scrolling screen across the top and I could read the messages. This was amazing, where was technology taking us?
  • Got my first company car with built in car phone, large box in the boot and aerial on the roof. The handset took up most of the foot well and a microphone hung in your face as you drove. But, hey that was advances in technology and don’t be fooled I loved it. It also meant I now couldn’t hide anywhere.
  • The next was a company car with a cradle and no large box in the boot and no aerial on the roof. The phone had it all built in and could be removed from the car. What…I was lost for words and it was great. It fitted in my pocket and I could call the office or any clients I wanted. This was just amazing.
  • Then on top of all this I was given a small portable compute that had all my product range on it that I was selling and could work out a quote on the spot for a client. I was then hooked on technology. The tech kept me informed and allowed me to be more flexible in what I was doing, simply brilliant. I could juggle all these no problem and I was mobile even back then.

So where are we now? And I still haven’t answered why technology is letting me down?

Yes, sorry was caught up in nostalgia when times were developing fast and things were simpler.

Now I sound like my gran.

Well, now we have the Internet, the cloud, the web, back then we didn’t so communication was done differently. Now I can get communication from all sections of the Internet that I am active in and believe you me there are a lot of them. Because I am also mobile a lot of the time these communications come in as I am on the hop and I read them quickly and think I will answer that when I get back to base and have time to think it through and check a few things out.

So where do my communications come from now? Well here is the current list and I may have missed some: –

  • Letter, or snail mail as it is called.
  • Emails, quite a lot of emails to various accounts I use
  • Direct messages I get from Facebook, three possible accounts
  • Direct messages I get from Twitter, three possible accounts.
  • Emails I get from LinkedIn
  • Messages I get from my blog I founded and write
  • Messages form my website activity
  • Messages from any LinkedIn groups I am in
  • Messages from Facebook pages I manage
  • Google Hangouts, sometimes a few open at one time talking to more than one person, like holding two phone calls at once.
  • Skype, which I must admit I don’t use a lot really
  • Phone calls on landline and on mobile
  • Text messages
  • Even my file server at home emails me when it updates or has had a problem…….

So my dilemma is that I have on occasion been out the office and mobile and got a message through one of these mediums and read it over and thought I will answer that once I can put a reasonable response together. I then get back to base and there is something in my mind about a message I must answer so I open my emails and check each account, all emails have been read, which of course they have as I looked at it when I was out and about. So it doesn’t jump out at me.

Or on occasion I can’t find an email and think how else did the message come in and spend a bit of time going through all of the above until I hopefully stumble across it. An example recently was one that I had read over when I was out and about that it was a direct message and then my day got busy and confusing. When I got back to base I looked and it wasn’t there. I checked emails and other areas and couldn’t find it. Finally I think found it as a direct message to one of my Twitter accounts I use.

So maybe you can see my dilemma, the very thing I have embraced to make my profile and business public and found easily is also the very thing that is causing me to be juggling so many forms and ways to communicate that I occasionally drop the ball.

What’s the solution, or is there one?

Well, the solution is obviously a difficult one. I could peal back the activity to the essential areas and not over complicate things. Hence only check and receive important messages. But being into all the aspects of the current Internet I find this difficult to rationalise. I even teach people to use it to its fullest. No I will just have to be more organised again and make sure I am aware of the source of communications that come my way and prioritise and deal with them as appropriate. A few extra hours each day might be useful.

What are you experiences of this phenomenon, is it something you have experienced or is it just me?

The Deep Web?


The Deep Web

In today’s ever changing world we are becoming more and more adept at creating names for things. Being into technology and the uses of it, I always think I am ahead of the game or at least trying to be and then a term pops up and I think, here we go again.
So when the term Deep Web came around I thought let’s actually look at how this is being used and what does it mean to the layman, now and in the future?

So how is it being used?

Well it is a term that talks about areas of the Internet that main stream, search engines just cannot reach. It is so buried that they don’t see it or how to get to it. Here is one definition I found for it.

Deep Web (also called the DeepnetInvisible Web, or Hidden Web) is the portion of World Wide Web content that is not indexed by standard search engines.” This is from Wikipedia and can be found here

This of course this has led to other definitions and I love the idea of standard search engines being like a fishing net cast across the sea and only catching fish in the top layers, then deep web is at the bottom layers and the net doesn’t go that far. Traditional search engines cannot see or retrieve content in the deep web. So they have named the section of the web that is indexed by standard search engines as the Surface Web, Yes another term to get your head around. You tend to wonder if Spiderman has all this trouble.

So is this the same as the Dark Internet?

The popular thinking is that the Deep Web should not be confused with the Dark Internet, which refers to network hosts and the Internet that no one can reach.

Why should we even be aware of the Deep Web?

Well most of the use of the deep net is perfectly OK and the usage need not be thought of anything other than perfectly innocent. However, government agencies and enforcement agencies are concerned that it could be a place where serious criminals can hide and carry out some unscrupulous activities. This of course will lead to, what seems to be the main way that things are handled today, passing laws that treat everything as the same and where this maybe catches some of the intended targets it also causes the innocent who were going about their normal business up to this point to have issues and have to change almost everything they do at present.

Remember most of the Deep web is Ok.

Of course there are loads of conspiracy theorists out there who claim all sorts about the use of the Deep Web, from one article I saw when researching saying that contract killers use it for activities, again this was from a tabloid known for it’s out there opinions that have sometimes little basis in fact. Down to webmasters keeping their websites away from standard search engines for security and other reasons.

To summarise

I think the problem, like many times in the past: is going to be unscrupulous people using an area of the Net that can be of benefit to organisations in a safe and useful way. This will cause paranoia and worry to users, governments and authorities. So legislation will come about and whether this causes all sorts of issues in using the Internet in the future we will have to wait and see. With everyone becoming more mobile and more and more dependent on the cloud and net technologies then these are going to be interesting times.

Your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman…….

How far will you let technology take over?

Is technology taking over?

Is technology taking over?

Lately I have had conversations with quite a few businesses that are all adopting technology at various levels. Some are all for it and adopt the latest and greatest systems to make their workload more manageable, others keep what they see as a safe distance between them and technology.

I must admit even the smaller things, like I always used to have a pocket diary and a desk diary in the past and used them all the time. Now I have a smart phone and tablet and they hold my diary and to do list all in the cloud and they ping and pop to remind me of what the next event in my life is. A small change you may say, but a massive one for some business owners and personnel.

Other things such as keeping documents on a drive that automatically backs up and then having another backup of key areas in the cloud as well, just in case. Before that I had paper lever arch folders all along a large shelf that used to dispense them on my head as I passed by on many occasion. Less clutter I suppose.

Technology reliance

So am I too reliant on technology or is this OK and where do you draw the line?

What brought this post on was an article on the BBC technology news page that stated that Samsung have warned against talking in front of some of their smart TV’s as they listen for commands to be voice activated and record conversations and share them to third parties. I was and am shocked that this could even be happening and I am for new technology and where it can take us. Listening, recording and sharing a conversation that I am having in my own living room is just not on. It is a stage too far. We are all told that security is all down to us and we need to take care and not share the wrong info with the wrong people and keep our passwords secure. Then I read this.

I feel that the use of technology is great and has revolutionised the way I operate and I would say mostly for the better. But I am also not keen on the larger companies trying their arm with stuff like this. No way. A rethink is needed here and I assume that Samsung and others will realise this and make changes.

Should we be frightened?

This should not scare us away from anything technological as there are problems with every method you have of working and it is not always the medium that is causing the issues. So adopt what you feel comfortable with but don’t shy away from trying new ways of handling your daily tasks and workloads. If need be get advice and move a step at a time. Years ago everything was posted and then faxed, and then emailed. Even that is getting superseded by instant messaging systems.

Who knows where we will be in a few years’ time. Breathe and move on….

OnePlus One Phone Review

OnePlus One Phone

OnePlus One Phone


Before arriving in the land of OnePlus, I had owned an HTC Desire, HTC Desire HD, Nobrand Chinese Phone™, and a Nexus 4 – the N4 being the nicest phone I had owned to date. Being nexus device, it was thoroughly hackable – I was frequently installing different ROM’s, kernels, etc. to get the most out of it. In finding out about the OPO, I was looking to see if the same flexibility would be present (and guaranteed to remain so). I wasn’t disappointed.


Getting an OPO

This is the trickiest part. Having found out about the phone late summer, I was only really in the market for a new phone around October – this was, as family can vouch for, my time of bombarding social media feeds with competitions (winning is better than buying on the wallet) and posting inane chatter on the OnePlus forums. This is the prescribed way of getting an invite, which currently, of December 2014, is the only real way of getting a device (the two preorders seemed a bit shambolic with many users complaining of problems placing orders).

Unpacking the OPO

The OPO arrived in reasonable time and I set about unboxing it. What arrived was an envelope which contained a box, which just so happened to have more boxes inside. Boxception. However, a nice boxception with the inner boxes being fashionably designed and pleasing to look at. This being said, I didn’t look at them for long. The device itself is a large (coming from an N4) phablet, with a nicely textured back (I ordered the 64 GB “sandstone” model). I also ordered a clear clip-on case to prevent the device getting mangled when lying on desks.

Here are some pictures of the unboxing (admittedly, pretty poor pictures – I was in a hurry to unbox!): Images of unboxing. There’s also a size comparison between the Nexus 4 and the OPO.

Notice the plain, cardboard box that it all comes in. Fairly minimalistic!

Initial Impressions


“This thing is BIG, but not too bulky…” This would be how I feel about the device a month down the line. It’s a big device to handle. My Wife is completely not interested in using it, as it’s too large for her hands. My hands, whilst not gigantic, have pretty good reach…and I still find myself using both of them to access menus.


In use, the OPO is a fast, responsive and pleasant device. CM11s (the custom version of CyanogenMod that runs on the OPO as stock) is well tailored to the device. I had no lag flicking through menus, no issues watching Netflix, or streaming content. It’s quite hard to tax the quad core 801 – 3Gb RAM helps to keep things moving along.


The 5.5” screen is gorgeous. I had read online that the colours aren’t as vibrant as other devices, and the blacks aren’t as black – I haven’t found this to be the case. It looks good. It responds well. The colours seem reasonably accurate – enough for a phone anyways. I don’t plan on doing huge amounts of image/video editing on the OPO!

Does it fit in pockets?

Sure does! Gets a bit awkward trying to sit down sometimes, but a little shuffling and all is well. If you’re a skinny-jeans type…you’ll definitely need another solution though!


Does it work well as a phone?


How does it cope with media, Netflix, Google Play Music, Movie files etc.?

I’ve not noticed any slowdown, or difficulties in playing files, until I started using a Lollipop ROM where codecs weren’t quite plumbed in. This was soon resolved, and now I can watch movies and listen to music/podcasts to my heart’s content.

Any good as a PDA? Is the term ‘PDA’ even still used?

Seems to be. The large screen is excellent for reading emails and web pages, viewing calendar entries, as well as social media feeds. The only downside to such a screen is the distance your fingers have to travel: the OPO is a big phone. As for using the term ‘PDA’, this was how I used to rock and roll: Palm IIIe.

How’s the camera?

As far as phone cameras go, the OPO is pretty good! I’ve never had a phone camera that can take such detailed and rich photos as the OPO. The ability to shoot and save a .DNG is a boon too: when things aren’t quite right, you can quickly adjust in your favourite editor and hopefully sort them out. They offer much more latitude than the standard JPEG output. See this link right here for some examples.

That screen looks good, but is it a pain to hold and use? How does it fare with colours? What about this yellow tinge™ I’ve read about?

A wee bit pain is a good thing, right? Means you know you’re alive! This was a valid concern for me when purchasing the phone – the Nexus 4 is a 4.7” device, so screen size wasn’t an issue as my ever-agile thumbs could quickly jump across the whole screen. Whilst the OPO did present problems at first I quickly adjusted – there’s a crafty way of holding it one-handed that allows for a slight adjustment and the top of screen is then usable. Take my word for it!

The yellow tinge that folks have been moaning about – this I did notice, and it bothered me for all of 30 seconds after which I realised that the amount of time I’d be staring at a pure white screen was pretty minimal. I’ve stopped noticing it now, and it hasn’t affected my use of the OPO at all. Even on text-heavy sites, where there’s lots of white-space its fine. Seems like folks have been finding this to be an issue that resolves itself over time (or with the use of a UV lamp…): Reddit page about the issue going away.

What’s the battery life like? Does it last all day with moderate usage?

This is where the OPO shines for me. I commute to work (roughly 40 minutes each way) and I enjoy listening to podcasts there and back. On previous phones, I could do this but would always have a nagging sensation that I’d run out of juice if I then wanted to view media/play games/photo edit etc. during the day. With the OPO, I don’t need to worry: the SoC (SnapDragon 801) has a nifty feature for audio playback which really maximises battery life. Watch the video explaining it all here. This has certainly proved true for me. Negligible battery drain whilst commuting, enough juice to back up the phone, download and flash ROM’s, play some games (Godus is the current favourite) and pfaff around on social media. Photos and the occasional video on a lunchtime stroll happen fairly regularly. At the end of day, I’m sitting happy with 30-40% left. This is without any custom kernels or underclocking.

So you enjoy some gaming – what games run well, and how’s the performance?

So far I’ve played some Ravensword (which runs well, but I’m convinced could look better), Godus, Carmageddon (looks identical to how I remember it back in the day), Cogs…so some new, some graphically intensive. So far, nothing has troubled it, although I did notice that Godus had intermittent issues – but I thought this was more likely the nightly CM12 build I’m on rather than the OPO.

There was a recent kerfuffle between OnePlus and CyanogenMod…

Ah, yes. This came across as playground politics. The OPO is still guaranteed updates for the next two years from CyanogenMod, so I’m not that bothered.


Are there any caveats with the device? Anything that should make a potential buyer reconsider?

The only thing that I’ve read, that really seems to be a tripping point, is the returns procedure. It seems to be overly complicated and I’ve not really read of anyone successfully managing to return a device…but then again, I’ve not really been needing to research this as my OPO is currently working fine.

The only real caveat for me is the unwillingness of insurance companies to insure. My current company rejected my custom after I informed them I would like to change my policy to cover the OPO. Supposedly the OPO wasn’t shipped from Britain (it was, from the British warehouse OnePlus put in place). I reckon they didn’t know what it was, and so refused to insure. For £281 delivered though…is insurance something I need to concern myself with? The verdict is still out!


Any last words?

Buy this phone. If warranties are a concern, realise that you’re getting a high-end device (I know it’s not cutting edge, but then for £281? C’mon!) For not a lot. The build quality is good, the individual components are great, and the overall experience is pleasant. I’ve not looked back! This is genuinely the best device I’ve owned so far.

Guest Blogger this month is Gordon Thomson BSc Hons Applied Computing, Application Developer.


big data

An SME owner’s (non-technical) perspective on the impact of Big Data.

People like to compare, categorise and count. From basic ‘one, two, many’ counting systems to hyper-complex variations on different types of infinities, we seem to be impelled to view patterns, detect trends and evaluate our daily experiences, individually and collectively, through numerical frameworks. At a mundane level, we value our work input in terms of money earned and measure business performance by accounting for profit or loss; more imaginatively, we give dimension to the universe by calculating light-years between galaxies to which none of us could ever travel, but which we like to count anyway!

Over the last 60 years, computers have enabled us to count (and record our totals) at an increasing pace and to a magnitude that would have appeared both incomprehensible and functionally senseless to many of those early IT pioneers. “Why would we ever need to count so much, so quickly?”, they might have asked. The current benefits of storing petabytes of data on the internet on a daily basis (Google processes lots of petabytes, by the way) were not so obvious in the 1950s, when the technological challenges were focused on making the great mainframes hulks more reliable and keeping them cool enough to work. But now, our IT capabilities have made the compilation of massive data-sets seem almost routine. Big Data, as a concept, is emerging as the latest evolutionary step in a line which includes its earlier diminutive cousins – relational databases and data-warehousing.

But doesn’t the ‘Big’ in Big Data signify that it is only of relevance to big organisations and groups which can access and analyse it? As a small B2B business owner, I don’t believe that to be the case, so here’s my take on what the existence of Big Data means for SMEs. I’ll start with two brief scene-setting questions – How have we created it and why do we think it’s worth having?  

How have we been able to collect so many data-sets, public and private, in such a comparatively short period of time from the birth of the modern computer? The expansion of IT and the internet into daily living– and their adoption and understanding by the masses in the last two decades via PCs and smartphones – have allowed us to record our counts super-massively and with unimaginable speed. The sense of amazement I felt in the late 70s when hearing that a program would be able to carry out the calculations necessary for a college project OVERNIGHT appears embarrassingly naïve today. We’ve all heard the one about the computing power that guided the first men to land on the moon – that there’s more ‘oomph’ in a modern washing-machine chip now than in the whole of NASA in 1969 – stretches the comparison somewhat, but it makes the point that almost-microscopic processors are now orders of magnitude more powerful than their pioneering mainframe progenitors. And today, when we can link up computers in very large arrays to view the universe, analyse statistics on diseases via PCs connected across continents or announce our every waking thought on vast social media ‘soapboxes’, then our sense of conquest – that there is no piece of recordable data out there which we cannot collect and store – becomes limitless. Which leads me to ‘why’?

Why is having Big Data beneficial? That’s been part-answered in my introductory comments. We like to collect, compare and count things, and to me, in a sense, the numbers we can define and then amass on our storage systems have become those ‘things’. So, some of the answer as to why we deem it worthwhile creating evermore data is because “we can” (the mountain’s there, so climb it).  Big Data’s existence, as a by-product of the internet-age, reaffirms to us that we can keep tallies of what matters to us. However, whereas, for the first 50 years of the technical development of IT, increasing memory and speeding up the circuitry to pipe the 1s and 0s to their storage point was the main focus (the digits were the means to the end), once the engineering reached a level of efficiency and reliability to guarantee operating stability, deciding what could now be done with the data thereby collected – the things as objects – became the scientific quest.

So, the question has moved on to become ‘what’s the point of Big Data – how can we extract information we believe to lie in the layer upon layer of digital substrates that form the internet’? Can Big Data, envisaged as a constantly growing entity it itself, a real-time flow of interactions across networks  between people and organisations, now be mined by those with the sophisticated analytical skills and insight to ask the right questions, to yield motherlodes of information that could improve our understanding of human behaviour in a vast range of contexts? The answer, of course, is yes it can.

At a practical level, I’ve mentioned Big Data being analysed by astronomers and medical researchers to give but two small examples of how it is being exploited to test theories and hypotheses. There are, of course, other areas where Big Data is providing previously unavailable opportunities for other types of organisations and individuals to delve into data-sets to ask their own questions, be they commercial, not for profit or academic. For example, the main accountancy firms are in the process rapidly developing their capabilities to purchase and analyse Big Data as the value of their compliance services (making sure tax and other statutory returns are being made on time) diminishes and business-advisory (selling knowledge back to a business to help it grow or manage itself better) increasingly generates larger margins from their clients. My focus, however, now turns to what impact Big Data is having on SMEs by considering two cases based upon real contemporary events.

My first scenario originates from the world of banking, admittedly not the most popular of professions currently, but an essential commercial service for SMEs. The analyses emerging from the masses of Big Data on our transactions the banks own are revealing the fundamental changes in the way we use and interact with our money.  Retail banks are closing branches and laying off staff in their thousands, not without complaint or customer reaction, but nevertheless with confidence that it’s the right thing to do. Why? Because they know, from near real-time Big Data analyses, that more customers are using internet banking and a decreasing number see any need to visit a branch (knowing your local bank manager is no longer a selling feature for your banking services – if it ever was for the majority of us). Having access to your accounts from your mobile phone has much more relevance, and therefore more value, for customers. This is not some banker’s hunch; the analytics prove it, right now! They see cash transactions dropping as cards and smartphone payment facilities are used to make 60% of purchases below £20 by some client demographics – and this is not being restricted to younger customers.

So what’s the impact on SMEs of this evidence from banking Big Data analyses? Well, at a basic practical level, it forcefully shows the more ‘cash-based’ trader that offering cashless payment facilities to customers will definitely bring in more business. However, for me there’s an additional learning point that has emerged from the banks’ current infrastructural changes – it demonstrates that Big Data can now be analysed in such a way as to provide reliable answers to increasingly specific and complex questions about commercial activity.

The banks and other organisations utilising Big Data are not ‘taking a punt’ when they decide to implement radical changes in their structure or operations. Rational decisions are being made, after analysing near real-time information, on product development, marketing campaigns and organisational structure because Big Data supports adaptive change to take place based upon what is required today. Likewise for ambitious SMEs, the opportunities are expanding to access meaningful information about their markets in their geographies that is near-real time, not months out-of-date or carelessly slung together from national marketing samples and sold at extortionate rates. Sure there will be a cost to obtain such intelligence, but there are more data-analysis organisations in the market which will provide more relevant and reliable external information than was available before. Big Data will allow SMEs to be more informed decision-makers, just as it has made large organisations more adaptive decision-makers.

My second scenario arises from a recent Big Data analysis conducted by an expanding financial management app company which provides services specifically for SMEs. Basic, easy-to-use (but perfectly functional and compliant) bookkeeping and accounting apps are now being marketed with the small business owner being viewed as the main purchaser, not their accountant. For most of the UK’s 4 million SMEs, getting over the unappealing bookkeeping hurdle could be made really simple (even enjoyable, for some) by adopting any one of the online financial management services such as Free Agent, QuickBooks and Sage Online. These make simple accounting very affordable and straightforward to do and allow the working relationship with one’s accountant to become more productive as the streamlined and rapid data-input process removes the drudgery of the paperwork, allowing a business to keep close to its most valuable asset – its information, i.e. those facts and figures that let it know how it is performing operationally and commercially. And here Big Data and small business inevitably and fortuitously collide.

Every online transaction is securely recorded in the Cloud by the SaaS providers – so they collectively have the records of their customers’ businesses writ very large. They know, from the transactional data that we pass to them, how we behave as organisations. For my example,, a financial management app specialising in the SME market in the US, UK and the Antipodes, has used its anonymised data-sets to demonstrate that businesses which invoice promptly using online delivery methods can reduce their debtor days by 40%. Big Data on how SMEs manage their finances, once more in near real-time, has provided contemporary evidence not only that efficient invoicing gets you paid quicker (which we already knew) but also that using email to send out your bills and offering payment services to your customers can get you paid in 24 days rather than 40; this insight could be worth a fair bit to a cash-strapped business. So SMEs, utilising cloud-based financial, administrative and operational apps, can benefit from contributing their transactional records to a vast data-pool which can be analysed to give back information on comparative performance when measured against their peers.

The development of key performance indicators (KPIs) for SMEs will be an increasingly active market in the next few years. Competitive advantage will attained by those businesses which understand the value of devising and measuring KPIs which are specific to sector, geography, technology or markets and which have access to insightful analysts who understand the product or service being offered to customers. Analysis for its own sake has never been sufficient, but Big Data now makes more purposeful, commercially-focused analysis possible for even the smallest of businesses. Knowing why customers accept or reject what the market is offering can be gleaned from Big Data examinations of purchasing behaviour married to key-word reviews of social media comments. While the vast majority of SMEs are not able to do this for themselves, the opportunities to benefit from the existence of Big Data are beginning to open up through the growth in the tailored data-analytics market.

So, by moving into the era of Big Data, our ability to count has moved one stage further along the developmental path that started with ‘one, two, many’. We now, large and small businesses alike, must now count ‘one, two, how many?’ in order to profit from the advantages that Big Data offers us all to improve our analysis and decision-making.

What are your experiences and thoughts on Big Data and how we can use it?

Guest Blogger this month is
Rory H D Cooper
Managing Director
Canmore in Business


My Double Google + Experience

google plus

This is about something that caught me off guard, and I am fairly sure it will have caught others out the same way – so what exactly is it?

To explain – I am very keen on using social media, and have a footprint on most of the main platforms that would help my marketplace and business. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Kiltr, and of course – Google+.

I went about setting up the various accounts, and then proceeded to create business pages. All went well. I had a personal Facebook page and then a company page. I had a personal Google+ page, and then went on to set up a company page.

Following me so far? Good! I was indeed a happy bunny, as all was progressing as I had expected. To bolster my knowledge, I attended various Social Media talks and workshops. One suggested getting your company listed on (what is now) Google Local Listings – so I went about doing this. I registered my location and opening hours, and thus got my business on Google Maps. This means that when someone performs a Google search for me, my company pops up on the right hand side of the screen with all my details. I checked all was working, and yes – there it was! Meanwhile my company page on Google+ was gaining visitors and followers – all was just as it should be.

Now this was around two years ago, and I have grown the page to get it where I want it, everything seemed to be going in the correct direction.

So why is this a Double Google+ experience?

Well this year I attended another talk on social media and the speaker displayed the Google+ page of another business, it had all the default settings and it appeared no effort had been spent on it. I sat thinking how glad I was that I had spent the time on my page.

Anyway, I went back to my desk and searched for my company in Google – it was (happily) listed on page one of the results. I then clicked on the Google+ page link under my company name, and to my astonishment discovered my page had very few followers or visitors. It also had the default settings and appearance! I then launched my Google+ account and went to my company page there, and it was the fully customised and populated one – I somehow had two Google+ pages.

I researched and found out that Google creates a Google+ page on Local, but doesn’t explicitly tell you – however this is the one that any searchers will see. I realised that I really had to fix this. Further research led me to carry out the following procedure, and Google doesn’t make it particularly easy.

  1. Sign in to the Google Local page, this used my business email account – rather than my personal Google+ account – I then made my personal account a manager of the Local Google+ page. I then have to wait 19 days, yes 19 days, before I can make my personal email account the owner of the local page.
  2. 19 days later I logged in again with my business email to the Google+ Local page, and then was able to make my personal email address the owner.
  3. I was then given the opportunity to merge the Local page with my previously created business page. Once this option is chosen you are told which areas will be merged. This new merged page will then have the link on Google maps, and all your company details, as well as all the followers I had built up.
  4. I checked by searching in Google and clicking on the Google+ page link to find the old local page still there.
  5. Once you merge the pages you get the choice to delete the old page, which now shows up as backup of the company page. I deleted it and double checked a Google search to see if anything had changed. They had – and I now had the local page I wanted – the one I had originally set up and gained interest in.

So now hopefully you see the double Google+ problem I discovered, and then thankfully cured.
Please let us know if this has been useful.
Were any of you aware that this issue existed?
We’d love to hear from you!

What do you use to browse the shops?

browser usageImagine the internet as a large series of shop windows from all over the globe. We all need a method of browsing through them, and finding and buying information or physical goods. So, what do you use as your internet browser?

For a long time, Microsoft had the market sewn up – as it built its browser, Internet Explorer, into the Windows OS – and so everyone used it without giving it much thought. If it works, then why change? Well, people did change – and they did it because they felt that IE wasn’t doing a good enough job of displaying the web to you, the customer, in an accurate and intuitive way. So various other browsers have been developed, and the majority run quite happily on the Windows platform.

I have tried various browsers over the years, mainly on my Windows based machines – and now more recently on my Android based devices – and find each browser to have its own set of positives and negatives. The picture above shows a rough breakdown of internet browsers in use at the moment, mainly for desktop machines running Windows.

So what do we look for?

So what do we look for in an Internet Browser? Are they all the same? Should we be bothered?

It is a personal decision, and you should use which ever one you feel most comfortable with, but be aware of the following areas: –

  • Rendering of web content. Some browsers display web content much faster than others, and for you the end user that saves time and frustration waiting for web pages to load.
  • Security features. Each browser claims a set of security features that allow for secure connections and more secure shopping etc. Check them out and make sure you are happy with what they are offering and how they are handling it.
  • Cookie handling. Browsers each handle cookies, which are small text based files that store some details of your path through the Internet. Most cookies are time saving and harmless, but some are Malware – and can cause popup windows etc. Check what settings each browser allows you to change to get the level of security that suit you and your business.
  • Some browsers allow you to save a list of your open tabs and create a snapshot of where you have been – this is then available when you leave your desktop machine and go mobile. Chrome for example lets me see the tabs I was looking at when I was seated at my desk – and this all leads to an easier work environment.
  • The look and feel. Again, this is a personal choice, some of it is down to the look and feel of the browser. You may find some are easier than others to use and navigate around. They all constantly update themselves, and so just as you think you have sussed the settings and where to find stuff they can change it all. But, hey, that’s computers and applications for you.

Why not let us know what browser you use, and why you use that one. Give us your experiences of browsers you have tried and why you moved on to others.

We look forward to reading your posts.

To have Wi-Fi or not to have Wi-Fi that is the question, whether it is nobler …?

free wifiYou get the picture! I write this after having a short break down in Shakespeare country. On my return, I heard a survey being conducted on the radio.

The presenter was telling us that he had recently encountered a survey that rated the most common criteria that young couples (aged 35 years old or less) used to buy or rent a house.

They were asked what the main reason for the choice was. Of course – listeners were thinking about school choice, local area, number of rooms, was it well priced. Considering the age group, I wondered if the need for high speed broadband might play a major part in the choice – it was revealed I wasn’t far off, it was the second top reason for making a choice. The first reason most of them quoted was availability of a good mobile signal. If the house did not have good mobile signal, most of the other factors didn’t matter – how things have changed over the years.

Now, that was a slight aside, as the main topic here is Wi-Fi (as you can tell from my Shakespearean reference in the title). I am slightly sad (as a geek) and when my wife suggested a cottage to hire, I said to make it remote, and that it MUST have Wi-Fi.

Being a small business owner, I often need the flexibility to deal with potential issues – even when away on holiday.

My wife trawled the net, and found a cottage that seemed to tick all the boxes. I checked it over, it all looked great, BUT it had not ticked the Wi-Fi box – so I told her it wouldn’t do. I should point out at this point that she loves looking for holiday cottages, so this isn’t as harsh as you might think. Off she went again, and soon came up with another solution and shortly after the cottage was booked.

We made it down without incident, and settled in. I gained the Wi-Fi key and connected my tablet, only to find that the Wi-Fi was atrocious – the connection slow and not stable. Mobile phone signal was non-existent in the house, and so you had to dance around outside to try and find a signal that worked. I was not a happy chappy. So it was that tearooms and coffee shops were the next best thing, and I was asking at every one: “Do you have Wi-Fi?”

Surprisingly in such a tourist filled area, there were quite a few owners that looked at me like I had asked for a space age technology they hadn’t yet heard of.

So that brings me back to the question, to have Wi-Fi or not to have Wi-Fi?

Operating in the mobile world now, where we are asked to trust all our data to the cloud and the great storage in the sky, I want to ask you if Wi-Fi should be more widely available than it is just now. Some Towns are even installing it in town centres (although sadly in my opinion, the setup is generally being chosen by politicians and not by specialists – so the Wi-Fi you get it substandard, and it would probably be better if it wasn’t there).

So, should tearooms and coffee shops see this as a must have for their clientele? Or is it something extra outside of the norm, and not their problem. I know I spend time in coffee shops, usually having meetings and catch-ups with clients and other business owners, and we use the Wi-Fi a lot. Being honest, if it wasn’t there, we would very likely go somewhere else.

What are you experiences of Wi-Fi availability? We’d love to your opinion on the above discussion!