Who gets to invent the future?

by Suw on December 3, 2018

Nike and Boeing Are Paying Sci-Fi Writers to Predict Their Futures, apparently. I have to admit, I was very excited to read this article when I stumbled on it. I’ve done some futurology projects on a couple of occasions, and it is always a huge amount of fun. This kind of work, using sci fi and world building to help companies understand future opportunities and risks is both exciting and smart. We are all narrative creatures and we understand the world through stories, so using stories to imagine different scenarios is a good way to think about the future.
But as I read on, I became really disturbed, and then quite cross. Of all the 21 real people named in this piece, precisely zero are women. Of the two fictional people, one was a named man, the other an unnamed woman, “grandmother”. The author was a man. The illustrator was a man.
And whilst the author acknowledged the gender bias, ‘the men behind these companies (and yes, they’re largely run by men)’, he did little to mitigate it.
He even included a stereotyped and factually wrong scenario posited by DIY store Lowe’s:
‘The story prototype follows a couple who try to renovate their house the old-fashioned way but keep running into problems. “The husband thinks he can solve it all, the wife is fed up, and the contractor is going ‘hehehe.’ The client loved it.”’
Women actually make more DIY purchase decisions than men. They are 60% more likely to complete a home improvement project than men, and 66% of women pay for DIY out of their personal bank account. Women initiate 80% of home improvement projects, account for 50% of DIY store customers but spend 50% more in store than men do. They are not ‘fed up’ whilst waiting for their husbands to fix things, they are the ones driving the projects.
To me, it’s a major problem that women either aren’t involved or aren’t recognised in this kind of future scenarios work. What kind of futures are being dreamt up by these men? Are they futures that include women? That recognise women’s decision making and buying power? Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases. 91% of women feel advertisers don’t understand them.
Just look at those numbers.
Yet businesses are asking all-male or majority-male teams to try to imagine the future, and I would put good money on those teams seeing things through a skewed male lens that doesn’t recognise or account for the role women play across all areas of life. In futurology work, whether it’s sci-fi based or straight scenarios thinking, diversity of thought is paramount if the results are to be of any use. Heavily male teams do not generally show much in the way of diversity of thought, as amply proven by the tech industry where women’s needs go frequently unmet and their voices unheard. 
Which does, on the one hand, mean that there’s an opportunity here for any woman willing to grasp it. And I’m seriously considering a project, once my current one is safely launched. 

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

iTunes & Me

by Suw on March 26, 2014

I put off upgrading to iOS7, for fear my phone might be broken by the process. Today I thought, ‘Oh, don’t be silly, it will be fine’, but oh, no, no, no. The update failed halfway through. I managed to get the phone to finish its upgrade, but it needed to restore itself from back up, the back up that I had so very carefully taken this morning, just before I upgraded, because I am sensible.

“What’s your password?” asked iTunes.
“What password?” I replied.
“Y’know. Your password,” it said.
“Um, I didn’t set a password,” I said. “I don’t remember setting a password. But hey, does this one work?”
“This one?”
“How about this one?”
“Any of these ones?”
“Any hope of recovering my password?”
“Ha ha ha ha ha.”
“And you don’t make me enter the password each time I back-up just to make sure that I know I’ve got a password. Also: still don’t remember setting a password!”
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. Of course not.”
“So, my carefully backed-up phone is, well, knackered then?”
“Fun, isn’t it!”
“No, it is not fun.”
“Turn it on! Turn it on!”
“I think I’ll search the web first, see if there’s anything I can do about it.”
“Oh, you can try. You can, indeed, try. I wouldn’t bother though. Turn it on!!”
“How about this password?”
“Still no. But I will sync it for you! How about that?”
“Ok, a sync is better than, well, no sync.”
“Aren’t I kind!”
“How about this password?”
“A ha ha ha ha, you kill me.”
“The internet says try backing up to iCloud.”
“Ooh, try that! Try that!”
“I am getting a bad feeling about this…”
“Look what I did! The iCloud back-up of your borked phone has overwritten the older, intact-if-inaccessible, back-up on your computer. I win!”
“There can be only one back-up.”
“So this isn’t like Time Machine, then? Where I can go back as far as I have memory to back-up?”
“Ha ha ha. Oh god, you’re still killing me.”
“No need to be rude. Go on. Turn it on.”
“It looks like it’s been factory reset. You’ve lost everything.”
“Keep going. You’ve got nothing left to lose now, have you? After all, you’ve lost it all already.”
“No, you lost it.”
“You forgot the password.”
“What password!”
“Y’know. The password.”
“Now, now. Oh, look, let me sync it again for you.”
“Right, done with that. Have another go at turning it on.”
“Ooh! Wait! There are my photos! And my contacts! And my text messa… wait a minute.”
“Tee hee.”
“Wait… there’s nothing on this phone newer than December 2011. You’ve… you’ve wiped all my contacts, photos, music, and everything else that’s been added over the last two and a half years. You utter, utter bastard.”
“But I synced your apps!”
“And lost most of the settings!”
“iOS7 is really shiny though!”
“No, it’s fucking not. It’s a fucking affront to anyone with even half a design sensibility.”
“I like it.”


With apologies to Muse & Me

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Adobe Creative Cloud subscription warning!

by Suw on February 20, 2014

If, like me, you’ve signed up for one of Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscriptions under the assumption that because you paid monthly, after the first year the contract was also monthly, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. Your subscription is yearly and if you cancel at any point, you will pay a penalty fee 50% of the monthly fees still outstanding.

I signed up for a subscription to InDesign on 30 July 2012, and thought that the contract was a year long, with monthly payments and after the first year a monthly rolling contract. That was not the case: When it automatically renewed in July 2013, it signed me up for a new one year contract, with penalty fees for early cancellation. So even though I paid monthly, the contract was annual.

That’s not a subscription or a membership – they use both terms to describe it – in my opinion. That’s a yearly renewable contract, and it should be described as thus, and the penalty fees much more clearly and prominently described. There are no mentions of the penalty fees on their membership plans page at all, and there’s no mention of penalty fees in their yearly renewal email either.

The first I heard of these penalties was when I tried to cancel my account this morning, and was forced to talk to a “customer service” agent via chat – there is no other way to cancel your account. This is the relevant bit of the conversation:

AdobeJust to confirm, you would like to  to cancel Creative Cloud single-app membership for InDesign (one-year) purchased on 30-Jul-2012 with order #: [redacted]

Suw Charman-Anderson: yes please

AdobeThank you for confirming.

AdobeSuw, If I offer you the next month free subscription, would you be willing to continue the subscription and to avoid the cancellation fees?

Suw Charman-Anderson: no, because I have no use for this software for the foreseeable future.

AdobeThe annual plan you enrolled in offers lower monthly payments and requires a one-year commitment. This plan is ideal for someone with an ongoing need to use Adobe’s Creative software.

AdobeIf you decide to end your subscription before the one-year period is over, you no longer qualify for one-year subscription pricing.

Suw Charman-Anderson: i don’t have any need for your software.

Adobe: You will be billed at 50% of your monthly rate for the remaining months in your annual contract. Hence, you will be charged Subtotal:35.75, Tax:8.22,  Grand Total:43.97 .

At this point, I got very cross, although politely so. I had no clear warning that there were penalties in the renewal email or when I signed up, though I am now sure that it was buried somewhere in the bottom of the Ts&Cs. These kinds of sharp practices are relatively rare in the UK and Europe now, thanks to strong consumer protection laws, so I’m not used to having to look out for them.

But Adobe is quite happy to sting you with unethical small print, although I can’t understand why they would do so. Why make it difficult for you to cancel, and then rub salt in to the wound by slapping penalties on top of inconvenience?

If I could have subscribed and unsubscribed easily, as and when I needed the software, then I would have done that, probably indefinitely. As it is, instead of having a loyal customer who’ll give them money relatively regularly for the rest of her working life, they now have someone who feels ripped off and determined to never give them another penny, and make sure other people know the risks of a Creative Cloud membership.

Instead of creating an evangelist for their products, they’ve alienated a previously loyal customer. I will be searching for alternatives to InDesign, and will give another company my money. I’m not averse to paying for good software, but I’ve never been able to afford Adobe software. I thought the Creative Cloud was a way to be able to access really awesome software at an affordable rate, but no, it’s just another way for Adobe to treat its customers like shit. Well done Adobe.

If you’d like to help me recoup the money I’ve lost to Adobe, please buy one of my books from the sidebar! Ten copies of A Passion for Science and I’ll break even on my penalty fee!

UPDATE: It seems that if you scream loudly enough on social media, Adobe will refund the penalty fee. I have told them, though, that they need to be much clearer in their communications about penalty fees, though I bet they don’t change a thing. Instead, if this happens to you, make sure you take to Twitter and kick up a fuss.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Cross posted from Strange Attractor.

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, the annual celebration of the achievements of women in science, tech, engineering and maths. As the Tweets flow thick and fast and the new website holds its ground, it’s time for me to think about my own contribution.

This year I have chosen Emily Cummins as my Heroine. At just 24, Emily has already won a number of awards and accolades because of her work on sustainable tech. She was named one of the Top Ten Outstanding Young People in the World 2010, won the the Barclays Woman of the Year Award in 2009, and was Cosmopolitan magazine’s Ultimate Save-the-Planet Pioneer 2008.

One of Emily’s most notable inventions is an evaporative refrigerator that doesn’t need electricity, for use in developing countries for the transport and storage of temperature-sensitive drugs. But it’s not just her inventiveness that makes Emily a great role model – it’s her willingness to tinker, try things out, and invent. And that is something she puts down to having been supported in her tinkering as a child. She said in this interview with Female First:

I had a really inspirational granddad who gave me a hammer when I was four years old! We used to spend hours together in his shed at the bottom of the garden, taking things apart and putting them back together again. By the time I started at high school it meant I already understood the properties of different materials and how certain machinery worked. I’d always had a creative spark and because it was encouraged from an early age I suppose I had the confidence to take it forward and start inventing for myself.

There’s a very valuable lesson there to anyone who has daughters, granddaughters or nieces: Give them hammers, screwdrivers and, when they’re old enough, power tools. Encourage them to spend time in the garden shed or the garage with you, learning not just how to take things apart, but how to put them back together again. It’s through playing with technology – both hi-tech and lo-fi – that we learn how it all works, and once we know how it works, we can invent.

I don’t have a daughter but I do have a niece, and I love buying her the science and technology kits and toys that no one else thinks to get for her. I know she loves her chemistry set and her electric circuitry set, and she knows that she’ll get more fun things to play with from me that she can’t yet even guess at. I hope that that, as she gets older, she’ll remember how much fun she finds them and will carry on thinking of herself as someone who can do science and tech, and won’t give in to boring gender stereotypes.

Emily makes a great role model for girls like my niece, and young women, but also for those of us who are a little older, who deep down, just want to get out into the garden shed and start tinkering. Emily shows us just what women can achieve, given the room to experiment and invent. And we all ought to remember that it’s not too late to get ourselves a hammer and start making stuff.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Time to sign up to Ada Lovelace Day 2010

by Suw on February 8, 2010

Last year, over 3500 people pledged to support Ada Lovelace Day, the international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science. Over 1200 people added their link to our map mash-up and we got lots of coverage in the national press and even appeared on the BBC News Channel. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We wanted you to tell the world about these unsung heroines, and you did. Thank you!

But our work is not yet done. This year we want 3072 people to sign up to our pledge and to write their tribute to women in tech on Wednesday 24 March. We have 197 signatories so far, we just need another 2875, which is where you come in. Please sign the pledge and let all your friends know about it.

It doesn’t matter how new or old your blog is, what gender you are, what language you blog in, if you do text, audio or video, or what you normally blog about – everyone is invited to take part. All you need to do is sign up to this pledge and then publish your blog post any time on Wednesday 24th March 2010. If you’re going to be away that day, feel free to write your post in advance and set your blogging system to publish it that day.

To keep up to date with what is happening:

The Pledge:
The Blog:
on Twitter
on Facebook

Please, join us on Ada Lovelace Day. Together we can raise the profile of women in technology around the world!

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Last week 1 decided to buy a Wacom Bamboo fun graphics tablet, Partly to see if its would make a better way of getting around my Mae rather than my track pad, and partly to see what the handwriting recognition is like. 1 have to say that the built in Mac software – Ink – is utter pantsThe Wacom software, Scribe, is a bit better but its not as good or as fluid as I ward have liked.As you can see, there are quit . a few errors, and some problems with spacing and punctuation. Call this is being written with the WACOWD -I notice it doesn’t like brackets either.

Ah well, I’ve only had it a couple of hours so it will take time to get used & it even if it hates my scary good -that should be scrawly joined – up writing.It would appear that the state of handwriting recognition on the Mac is parlous, With Vista beating it hands-down . 1 have to admit that makes me rather Sad. Given how many desegregationist mongolisms -Wow, that WAS Supposed to be ‘designers’! – prefer macs, I’m surprised.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

How are civil society organisations using social media? Which tools do they favour, and what do they hope to achieve by using them? These are some of the questions I hope to answer in my survey, Civil society associations and their application of social & new media, and I need your help to spread the word and find lots of respondents.

Who should fill in the survey?
The questions are aimed at people who have responsibility either for your organisation’s website, or its PR, media, communications or marketing strategy. Your organisation doesn’t actually have to have a website in order for your responses to the survey to be valuable – indeed I have a whole bunch of questions aimed at organisations without a website at all. But if you have a website, and you’re not the person responsible for it, I’d be grateful if you could send a link to this blog post or the survey itself to the right person.

What sort of organisations are you looking for?
The phrases used by those in the know are “third sector” and “civil society associations”, but if you’re not sure if that means you, here are a few examples to help clarify:

  • Registered charities, like Help the Aged
  • Non-profit organisations, like the Open Rights groups
  • Credit unions or mutuals, like the Mid-Cornwall Credit Union
  • Co-operatives, like the Abbey Road Housing Co-operative Limited
  • Trade unions, like the NUJ
  • Faith-based organisations, like the Islamic Foundation
  • Business or professional associations, like the Design Business Association
  • Political parties, like the Green Party
  • NGOs, like NESTA
  • Community groups, like Guerilla Gardeners
  • any other organisation, regardless of governance structure, that is focused on civil issues.

If you still aren’t sure if that means you, please fill the survey in anyway – you can define you own identity in the “other” field. And whilst we are focused on the UK, if you’re from outside of the UK and are doing really fab things with social tools, please do fill the survey in too.

The survey takes about 10 – 15 minutes to complete, and if something doesn’t make sense, you can always email me.

Please help spread the word
I don’t have much time to get the initial results from this survey, so I’d really appreciate it if you could forward links on to people in your network whom you think might be able to help.

Any questions? Let me know in the comments!

{ Comments on this entry are closed }


by Suw on November 11, 2008

I’ve just installed reCAPTCHA and disabled comment approval on CnV to see firstly if this is a more effective way to ensure that spam comments don’t get through to the site, and also to see what you think of reCAPTCHA.

I’m really interested to know your opinions.

  • Have you not commented here before, because of my insistence on registration?
  • Do you prefer reCAPTCHA to registration?
  • Do you dislike reCAPTCHA? Why?
  • Do you think that reCAPTCHA is flawed? How?

I do have Akismet enabled and it’s relatively effective, although not perfect, but I’d like to stop the spam hitting the database at all, rather than have to clean it up afterwards.

So far, reactions to reCAPTCHA on Twitter have been mixed, but with many people more anti-reCAPTCHA than I would have expected. Several people have said that reCAPTCHA is an additional burden and that you, as commenters, shouldn’t have to pay for any tech issues, i.e. anti-spam measures, with the blog. There are also complaints that it’s inaccessible, and that the audio option doesn’t solve the problem because the has to be garbled to prevent it being automatically solved by bots. Someone else said that captcha (in general) is flawed, but hasn’t yet elaborated on what that flaw is, so if you think it’s flawed, please tell me why.

On the other hand, some people have said that they have refused to comment here because I have been tougher regarding registration than I used to be and that they would absolutely prefer to have reCAPTCHA than registration.

I’d like to have your opinion, and yes, you’re going to have to use the reCAPTCHA for now!

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

I’m pretty sure that there isn’t anyone in the country who doesn’t know that the iPhone 3G went on sale this morning. I know a few people who have managed to order one, but for me, no such luck. And as far as I can tell, it really is down to whether Lady Luck was smiling on you earlier this week that determined whether or not you got to even see the iPhone order page, let along actually get the damn thing to work.

Yes, unprecedented demand. We know that. Indeed, O2 and CPW knew that too, given that you could sign up for an alert and 200k people did so. Did that not give them an idea that things could get a bit hectic? Clearly, it didn’t give them enough of a clue. Maybe I should pop round and insert one by means of a good thumping with a cluebat.

I was in Prague at a conference, and I couldn’t spend enough time online to get the damn shop to work. There was much talk on Twitter about it, with many of my friends having the same problem, although a lucky few managed to get an order in.

Today, I could have got up really early and camped out in front of CPW in Holloway waiting for it to open at 8:02. I’ve had a long couple of weeks, though and to be honest, I’m feeling iPhone Malaise – a sense that it would be futile to try and get hold of an iPhone, so why bother?

And what have O2 and CPW done to help customers who couldn’t order online or get to a store in time today? Well, precious little. CPW is providing iPhones for sale online only to customers who buy new contracts, so those of us upgrading have to wait.

iPhone 3G is currently available as a new subscription only. Please come back or call us on Friday 11 July to upgrade.

Oh, thanks for rewarding my loyalty, way to go CPW. Oh, and by the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, it is Friday 11 July today. Morons.

The O2 website has a lot of excuses but precious little actual information on it. So what do I do now? Is there a waiting list? Any hint as to when we’re going to get a second chance to get an iPhone? Any fricken information at all? Nope, nada. I can’t find a damn thing.

I have to say that O2/CPW’s management of this has been completely incompetent. It’s been a total debacle from the moment the online shops opened. And no, O2, grovelling apologies by text won’t help. Come up with some sort of waiting list or pre-order system so that we can at least bloody register for an iPhone when one becomes available. Saying that new deliveries will happen weekly isn’t much help – you expect me to queue up each week just in case? Come on, the internet is really good at doing things like taking pre-orders, so just let me register for an upgrade, notify me when my turn comes, and let me get on with my life.

It just should not be this difficult.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Set your browser to ‘nag’

by Suw on March 20, 2008

Yes, Flock. I know.

Yes, Flock. I know. Now please leave me alone to enjoy Twitter.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Oh dear, I seem to have discovered Seesmic

January 2, 2008

It’s funny how you can take a look at something like Seesmic, and really not get it… until one day, someone shows you the way and suddenly, it all makes sense, it all comes together. Seesmic is about banter, chit chat, conversation. And when you get into it, and you start talking to people, (and […]

Read the full article →

Somewhere between here and there

October 11, 2007

I'm writing this on my old Palm Vx, which I dug up the last time I went home. In nearly pristine condition, it's a relic from my web designer days, when I needed to keep track of an awful lot of meetings and was given this by my boss to do so. As soon as […]

Read the full article →

Yay! Macbook fixed!

June 8, 2007

After 12 days in the Apple repair shop, I finally have my Macbook back. I have to say that the staff were really lovely, and they took very good care of both me and my Macbook. The problem was that my screen flickered, but of course when I took it to the Genius Bar, it […]

Read the full article →

On Google Maps, literally

January 30, 2007

What more fun could one have on a hot*, sunny, Sebastopol day than making giant space invaders to be photographed by the Google photographers as they fly over the campus? Not much, I'd say. Last year I was lucky enough to be invited to FooCamp and, whilst we were there, word had it that Google […]

Read the full article →

WordPress and importing/exporting content Part 2

January 9, 2007

Last month I was struggling with trying to import all my old posts from Blogware into a local WordPress install. Well, I finally managed to get it sorted, sort of. The Blogware import script, written by Shayne Sweeney, that I had found via Chris Pirillo didn't seem to work. Every time I tried to use […]

Read the full article →