Samsung and the future of workplace technology

imageI was recently invited to Samsung’s Futurescape event to take a look at some of the company’s ideas on the future of work. I had no idea that Samsung was involved in the enterprise tech space but I suppose it makes perfect sense. The consumerisation of IT is an unstoppable trend, so of course the company which sells so many devices to consumers is going to be looking at how it can play a bigger role in the corporate IT infrastructure. The company currently has 120 people in the UK working exclusively on enterprise IT infrastructure and expects 25% of its business to come from B2B by 2020.

About a year ago Samsung released a technology called KNOX for Android, which enables devices on that platform to be effectively ‘containerised’ to keep personal and work data entirely separate. The idea is to make it safer for employers to allow their staff to use their own phones for work, because the business can exercise enterprise strength control over the work related part of the phone without ever having access to the user’s personal data. KNOX is gaining widespread approval and Google has recently integrated it into the Android system.

Another main topic of discussion was the growing wearables market, which is surprisingly turning out to be more than the passing novelty a lot of us expected. One of the things I learned in this session was that the devices are proving popular for environments where hands-free access to computing is useful, such as emergency services and logistics. It seems that the demand for wearables in enterprise is coming from roughly the same applications where ruggedised devices would be used.

Meeting and collaboration
I’ve thought for a long time that the number one current business technology that really needs to die a quick death is the conference call – they’re painful and unproductive. Samsung had some ideas to share around this space too, and showed off its vision of the future of conferencing which seems to be based on the idea of people being able to seamlessly participate in videoconference type meetings from multiple locations on whichever device they find most convenient.

The phrase used was “blurring the lines between physical and virtual meetings” – I think this makes a lot of sense, and personally can’t wait until the business world moves on from cold-war era conferencing technology. Whether the technology will work as well in practice as it does in my imagination remains to be seen…

I think this is all heading in an interesting direction. For decades technology innovation has been driven from the enterprise into our personal lives – we all got personal PCs and Blackberries because we used them at work and they just seemed so damned handy. But now it’s flowing back in the opposite direction, the tech we have as consumers is often far more advanced and intuitive than the clunky stuff we use at work, so businesses are being forced to move on from the safety and security of proven enterprise technology and adopt the platforms their employees are asking for.

Companies like Apple have largely ignored this opportunity, perhaps because enterprise infrastructure is scary and complicated, but if Samsung and others can help CIOs learn to love and trust their technologies, we could see radical changes to the world of work in the coming years.

(n.b. – Samsung is not a current or past client, and I have no commercial relationship with the company.)

How to keep your corporate blog regularly updated with fresh content

The number one reason that corporate blog projects fail is that they run out of steam because nobody can think of anything new to write a post about. Pretty soon somebody notices it’s been months since the blog was updated, but nobody wants to take responsibility for kickstarting the project again, so the whole thing just gets taken offline instead.

How can you avoid this happening to your new corporate blog? One word: planning. Setting a blog up is the easy part, keeping it alive for the first year, long enough for it to become ingrained in the company culture, is the hard part. Fortunately there are some fairly straight forward steps you can follow to give your blog the best possible chance of survival.

Regularly brainstorm content ideas

Once a month gather your team together and come up with a big list of ideas for blog posts. Hold the brainstorm at the same time every month forwarn the team that they always need to come with at least three blog post ideas – so there are no excuses and they will have plenty of time to think ahead.

Once everybody has shared their own thoughts use the rest of the meeting to see if the team can build upon each other’s ideas, or collaboratively come up with some new ones. Do this every month, no excuses.

Create an editorial calendar

Build a twelve month calendar of blog posts, and start by populating it with the ideas your team has already produced. Think about events throughout the year for your business, such as new product launches or marketing campaigns, and think of any blog posts that could support those events. Next, do the same for any major industry events that might effect your business and customers, conferences, awards, and so forth.

Finally, think about general calendar events that could provide content opportunities: holidays (Christmas, Easter), sporting occasions(Olympics, World Cup, Wimbledon), political dates (national, local and European elections), and any other calendar events that you could hook onto.

Update the calendar every month, so that you always know what you’re going to be publishing far ahead of time. This doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous and write posts in response to current events, it just means you’re not completely dependent on inspiration striking every week to keep the blog updated.

Assign responsibility

For each item of content in your calendar put three names next to it – who will write it, who will approve it, who will publish it. Maybe some of those will be the same people but the point is to ensure that somebody is accountable for keeping the blog moving forward – if a post in the calendar is not published, make sure there are consequences.

One of the most common problems for corporate blogs is that they are treated as an optional side-project rather than something which forms a key part of somebody’s job responsibilities. Whoever is driving the blog project should keep a close eye on how frequently it gets updated – if things start to slip, find out why.

Measure and share progress: each month put together a quick report showing what has been published, any reader comments, how many social media shares for each post, and some top line web traffic stats (number of visitors for each post, overall number of blog visitors). Share this report with the team responsible for the blog and anybody else who might be interested. Demonstrating progress every month in this way will help keep people interested and engaged in the blog project.

It’s also good to share the blog and its success with a wider internal audience as this can help get more buy-in for the project, and might even encourage others to get involved by contributing posts or at least ideas.

9 excellent reasons to start a blog for your business today

  1. A blog gives your business a great platform to regularly communicate with your customers, partners, investors and other stakeholders in a way that enables you to completely control the message, which you simply cannot do through traditional media relations.
  2. But unlike that long list of dull, dry press releases in your online press centre, people will actually read and what you post on your blog – so long as you publish content that’s written in accessible, honest language rather than the hyperbole and biz-speak that makes most marketing communications unreadable.
  3. People are more likely to share blog posts with their own networks if they find the content interesting and relevant. Nobody ever shared a press release on social media, except the person who wrote it.
  4. A corporate blog is a great way to get feedback from your audiences, through the comments feature. You can test ideas, canvas opinions and generally encourage your readers to share their thoughts by leaving comments on your articles.
  5. A blog will do wonders for your business’ SEO. It’s simple – search engines love websites that have lots of fresh, relevant content added on a regular basis, and a blog is a great place to publish it. If you add a blog to your corporate website and religiously post new articles at least once or twice a week, you will start to see noticeable traffic increases within three months. And the most important part of this is that you’ll be ranking highly in search engines for words and phrases that are relevant to your business, so all the extra traffic will be highly qualified
  6. Your company is most likely full of great stories and ideas that would be interesting to the outside world. The press won’t write about everything that happens in your business, but a blog is the ideal place to share these stories. And that holds true for other content too: photography, infographics, research and surveys, you name it. If it’s interesting to you, it’s probably interesting to others in your industry.
  7. A blog can lead directly to increased sales. Think about this: if you have a corporate blog where you publish lots of good quality articles about your market, the products and services you offer, and the challenges faced by your customers, then the chances are good that when potential customers are Googling for information about those things, sooner or later they’re going to find your blog. This will increase brand awareness and sales – if you use web analytics smartly, you can track how people come into your site through a blog article and then go on to request more information or even make a purchase.
  8. You can use the blog to raise the profile of your executives and position them as industry experts. By encouraging key people within your business to share their specialist knowledge in thought leadership articles, you can establish them as expert industry commentators and this will help your PR team to secure opportunities for them to comment in the press.
  9. A good blog is also a helpful tool for internal relations, because it lets people inside the company know what’s going on around the business. Encouraging staff to contribute to the blog helps them feel more engaged and gives them an opportunity to tell the world about their own part in your business’s story, which in turn helps create more interesting content that shows the human side of your organisation.

Net-neutrality is really important and you should be paying attention

The principle of net-neutrality is that all traffic which moves across the internet is treated as equal by ISPs and is given the same bandwidth. Whether you’re playing an online game, streaming a movie, visiting a website or downloading an app, your ISP should treat all of those things the same way.

Some people want that to change, however. Large carriers and ISPs would like to be able to decide which traffic runs fast and which runs slow. This would allow them to charge streaming content providers like NetFlix and LoveFilm to ensure they are able to deliver their services smoothly to consumers. A legal decision in the US this week looks to have done just that, declaring that the idea of ‘net neutrality’ is actually illegal.

There is, of course, a huge conflict of interest here, quite often the people we buy our internet access from also sell us TV packages. In the UK, for example, Virgin, SKY and BT all sell internet/TV/phone bundles (in fact, I’ve recently learned that’s it’s quite difficult to only buy internet access from a provider) and that means they’re in direct competition with a lot of the services you might want to access online. Services they would be in a position to hobble if they were allowed to abandon the principles of net neutrality.

A lot of people think NetFlix and LoveFilm offer far better value than traditional cable/satellite TV providers, but if they had to start paying ISPs to guarantee a reasonable level of bandwidth for their traffic, prices will inevitably rise. The same thing could happen with services like Skype. Quite how a US ruling might impact the global internet remains to be seen, but it’s likely to have wider consequences.

Imagine if Asda owned the road network and could decide which traffic would be allowed to use the motorways – even to the point of stopping other supermarket’s delivery trucks from using the motorways, or charging customers more to travel on roads near their competitors’ stores. That’s what’s happening here, in the digital space.

Essentially, giving ISPs the right to choose which traffic gets the most bandwidth would significantly disrupt the way the internet currently works. Any exciting young company with a new online service could no longer take it for granted that consumers could use their service unhindered over a fast broadband connection. Your ISP could exercise far greater control over how you use the internet.

The net neutrality fight is far from over, but it’s worth paying attention to because what’s at stake here is the freedom to use the internet however you choose, not in whatever way your ISP deems most profitable.

Learning to code as a mid-life crisis

learning to codeIn 2013 I turned 40, and as is traditional for a man of middling years, I embarked upon a path of self-examination and reflection which ultimately resulted in me buying a new motorbike. I also decided it was high time I learned to code.

I’ve been fascinated by computers since I was a kid, and was lucky enough to start a career writing for IT magazines while I was still a teenager but, despite having a fairly technical mindset, I never got around to learning to code. That all changed last summer when I finally decided to make time for it.

My first step, and one which I’d highly recommend to anybody who wants to learn how to create software of any kind, was to start working through the free online version of Harvard University’s CS50 introduction to computer science. It’s aimed at complete beginners and is quite easy to follow – it’s also available on iTunesU if you have an iPad.

I started by watching the recorded lectures on the train to work, and then working through the problems/exercises at home in the evening. It’s a great introduction to some of the key principles of coding, and very quickly I was able to write and compile programs in the C language, something which seemed intimidatingly difficult just a few weeks earlier. C is the Latin of programming languages – if you learn how C works, you’ll find it easier to learn any number of other languages.

To my shame, I started to lose interest in the course halfway through and bailed out. I felt like I’d got my head around the basics, and I was itching to learn something that would be more immediately useful to me. I had a vague idea that creating games would be fun, and JavaScript seemed like a good bet because you can use it for building browser based games, or for scripting a games engine like Unity.

Codecademy and JavaScript

For this, I turned to Codecademy, an interactive tutorial site which features courses on various languages, including simple things like HTML and CSS, so it’s a great place to learn about the basics of web development as well as more in-depth coding.

I found Codecademy to be only partially useful – it helped me get my head around JavaScript’s features and syntax, but even after working through all the lessons I still had no idea how to do any kind of input or output. I couldn’t display anything in the browser window, or let the user interact with a program, so while I felt like I‘d learned a lot about JavaScript, I was still missing some essential knowledge before I could do anything useful with it.

I started poking around JavaScript forums and Reddit’s ‘Learn JavaScript Properly’ community, which were all helpful, and got hold of a copy of JavaScript: The Definitive Guide, which seems to be the bible for this subject. This all helped me get a more practical grasp of JavaScript, but by this stage I’d come up with an idea for a web-app I wanted to build and reached the conclusion that I needed to learn PHP for this.

PHP is a bottomless can of worms

I worked through the Codecademy PHP track to get up to speed with the basics of the language, and got hold of a copy of Programming PHP, which is a useful reference and tutorial. Since I already had a clear idea of what I wanted to build, I decided to get stuck in and start creating the app that I had in mind, learning as I went along.

Learning PHP is something of a trial. The language itself was fairly easy to pick up, but I’ve found that every time I ask for help online (usually on Reddit’s PHP community, or the coding Q&A site StackOverflow) I seem to open a can of worms. There are a number of issues with PHP that learners should be aware of; mostly the problem seems to be that the language has evolved quite dramatically in recent years, so a lot of the online tutorials you will encounter are out of date and will teach you bad things.

Usually when I ask a question about PHP to fix a small problem, there are a lot of helpful people who will explain at length why everything I think I know is wrong, out of date, insecure and likely to cause the internet to explode. To make things worse, the people who reply to your questions online will not only explain why you’re wrong, they’ll also put a lot of effort into disagreeing with each other about the best way to do things.

It’s a painful process, but it has forced me to learn a lot more about best practices, instead of simply hacking together a solution that ‘just works’.

The app I’ve been working on is almost finished, and every single piece of code has been rewritten several times, even when it worked fine to begin with, just to make the code cleaner, more optimised and secure as my understanding has evolved. Although I’m sure that in the eyes of a veteran developer my spaghetti code still looks appalling – but it works, it’s stable and secure, so that’s a start.

Next steps

During the learning process I’ve been compiling a list of ‘known unknowns’ – stuff that I need to learn to grow as a coder, but that has had to remain on hold until I’ve built a working version of the app that I can share with the outside world.

Frameworks – a framework (like Cake PHP or Laravel) is a library of code that takes care of common tasks so that you can focus on building your app instead of reinventing the wheel all the time. Apparently all professional developers use frameworks, so I think I need to learn how to use one, and Laravel seems to be the way to go.

More professional tools – I’ve been doing all my coding with Notepad++ so far, but I want to learn how to use a more heavyweight IDE and things like Git for better version control (I’ve accidentally overwritten new code with old a couple of times, which is enough to convince me of the value of this).

Object Oriented Programming – my first experience of programming was with BASIC as a child, so the procedural model of coding makes sense to me (do this, then do that, but only if X is true), OOP is an entirely different way of thinking about code and it’s a bit of a tricky concept to grasp. I’ve started to get my head around it while I’ve been building my app, but there’s a way to go yet. Still, it seems to be something that all ‘real’ coders use, so I think it’s an essential next step.

It’s taken me about six months to get to my current level of being able to build a functioning app with fairly clean code (albeit old-school procedural style code), and my next exercise is to overhaul and rebuild the app using the tools I’ve just outlined. Once I’ve done that I think I’ll be able to reasonably call myself a professional level coder.

Is it time to fire your SEO consultant?

seo spam blog
This is not what a professionally managed corporate blog should look like.

You might have noticed that a lot of corporate blogs are terrible. Frequently they’re full of bland articles that don’t say anything meaningful and, even if they’re grammatically correct, they’re written in a very clumsy, unreadable style.

How can this happen? Why do some quite impressive businesses allow such utter garbage to be published on their blogs? Whenever you see a blog like this on a corporate website, it’s a pretty safe bet that an SEO person is behind it. I’ve spoken to a few companies recently where they know their blog content is awful, but they put up with it because their SEO consultant has told them that this is what Google likes.

Plenty of SEO people are great at what they do and I don’t want to tar the entire discipline with the same brush. But there are some SEO ‘experts’ who think that the best way to get your website ranked highly in Google is to stuff the blog full of spammy copy that’s been heavily keyword optimised, with absolutely no regard for how it might appear to a human reader.

There are at least two simple reasons why this approach is not just wrong, but highly damaging to the brand:

1)      Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that this approach does have some merit and brings potential customers to your corporate blog. Instead of finding something useful or interesting (which, let’s not forget, is what they were actually searching for) they’re confronted with a wall of badly written SEO copy. How do you think that affects their opinion of your organisation?

2)      It probably doesn’t even work very well as an SEO tactic. The more recent updates to Google’s algorithms (i.e. the software that decides which pages are listed at the top of the search results) have been heavily focused on promoting good quality content and downgrading poor quality content that’s been designed specifically for SEO purposes.

Most serious SEO professionals these days agree that consistently posting great content that your audience will find interesting enough to share with others is the best way to improve your site’s performance in search engines. So what’s good for SEO is also what’s good for the brand.

Your blog should be a place for helpful articles, thought leadership, interesting infographics, engaging video and anything which lets your customers know that you understand their needs. If your SEO guy still thinks presenting your site’s visitors with spammy, meaningless garbage is a good idea, maybe it’s time to fire him.

Facebook newsfeed update what you need to know

Yesterday Facebook announced some changes to the way newsfeeds work, which will be implemented over the next week or so. These changes will impact the user experience and brand pages on Facebook.

Obviously the best way to understand the changes will be to play around with the new system, but in the meantime here are the two main points about the changes:

1)      Photos will be bigger. For most Facebook users sharing photos is their main activity on the site, so the new timeline will make it easier to view them

2)      Users can now narrow their newsfeeds down to focus on specific content. For example, you could ask your timeline to only show you updates from close friends, or from Pages you’ve liked, or just photos, or just music (e.g. Spotify) updates, and so on

What does this mean if you run a brand page? This is purely speculation, but I think it means you’re going to have to work harder at offering great, attention grabbing content because it’s going easier for users to ignore your page even if they’ve liked it. If users have the choice to only see updates from their friends, which is kind of why most people use Facebook in the first place, they’re going to need a really compelling reason to click on that tab which tells Facebook to show them updates from fan-pages.

If you were cynical, you could come to the conclusion that this will encourage brands to pay for more adverts on Facebook. It’s easier for people to ignore fan page status updates but paid-updates will continue to appear throughout the user’s newsfeeds, so that’s going to be a guaranteed way of reaching your audience.

It’s also worth noting that the new larger photo formatting will also apply to fan page updates and adverts, so you should consider these changes when you’re adding images to your content. You can see what the new timeline will look like and add yourself to the waiting list here.

TweetDeck beastliness – what you need to know

If you’re on Twitter, there’s a good chance you use the TweetDeck app, either on your desktop or mobile device. The bad news is that Twitter has decided to discontinue the desktop and mobile versions of the TweetDeck app, and you’ll probably find that these will stop working properly over the next couple of months – the official announcement about this is on Twitter’s blog here.

The good news is that TweetDeck will continue to exist as a browser based app at: and this works in exactly the same way as the desktop app. Alternatively, if you use the Chrome browser, you can get a plugin that will provide the same functionality.

In theory, you could use the web version of TweetDeck through your mobile device’s browser, but that’s not going to be a happy experience for you. There are a number of alternative third party Twitter apps for all mobile platforms, but Twitter’s mobile web interface ( is pretty solid so I’d recommend that.

Creating successful Facebook fan-pages for B2B brands

CaptureLet’s not beat about the bush. B2B brands are boring, consumers aren’t interested in engaging with them and there’s absolutely no reason for them to have Facebook fan pages, right? Wrong – in this post I’m going to show you how some B2B companies are using Facebook in surprising ways.

Before I dive into some examples, I want to share a thought that Joe Hanley, IBM’s external comms director for EMEA, imparted to me when we were chatting about the challenges of doing PR for B2B brands. All brands, somewhere along the chain, are consumer brands.

For example, you might think you’re a B2B tech company, but if all the ATMs in a city go offline overnight because of a bug in your software and nobody can get any cash, all of a sudden you’re a consumer facing brand whether you like it or not.*

The moral of this story is that even if your day to day business does not involve dealing directly with consumers, it can pay to put the leg-work into building a channel where you can establish a degree of brand awareness and trust with a consumer audience.

Here are a few examples of B2B brands with successful Facebook pages:


GE operates in industries such as energy, aviation, healthcare, rail and financial services. Apart from the occasional light-bulb it’s highly unlikely that most consumers will ever directly buy a product from GE, but the company nevertheless has a highly engaging Facebook page with over 900,000 fans.

What GE understands well is that the science and engineering work it does is genuinely interesting to a lot of people, and the Facebook page gives ordinary consumers an inside view of that work in an engaging way. The page features quizzes, photos, graphics, facts and stats, all presented to the audience in a fun format. It works wonderfully, everything posted on the GE page gets a high level of interaction from the audience.

Maersk Line

What could a freight shipping company have to say on Facebook? Quite a lot as it happens. The Maersk fan page provides a ton of interesting content including photography, interesting views of life at sea, infographics about global freight, and plenty more. The formula clearly works, as Maersk has attracted over 700,000 fans to its page.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what drove the company to build a Facebook presence in the first place, there’s  a great article about it here.

IBM Watson

Since IBM sold its desktop computer business to Lenovo, there’s practically no opportunity for consumers to come into contact with the brand in their day to day lives, which means the man in the street is likely to have very little awareness of what the company does these days.

Following the success of IBM’s Watson supercomputer on the US gameshow, Jeopardy, the public was suddenly intrigued by what IBM was doing and a Facebook page provided the ideal channel to let people find out more. The page provides information about Watson, but also serves as a platform for IBM to talk more widely about the technologies it brings to bear on social issues such as healthcare and making cities more liveable.


*I should clarify, this never happened (to the best of my knowledge), but it’s a good hypothetical illustration of how B2B can very quickly become consumer.

Kindle – the small tech innovations often leave the biggest impression

Kindle_PaperwhiteI’ve been working in the tech industry for a long time. I started writing about this stuff in the early nineties, before the web, before mobile phones, before it was normal for people to have PCs at home.

So I’ve seen a lot of ideas come and go, but I still get impressed when things work better than I expected. My wife bought me a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday in November – I’ve resisted ereaders so far because I just like the feel of paper books, but I admitted defeat and started using the Kindle, which I really like for a number of reasons:

  • The backlight means I can read in bed without having a light on
  • It’s easier to read with one hand on the train while I’m holding onto a handrail
  • I can share an Amazon account with my wife so we can read each other’s books on separate Kindles
  • It’s simple to get hold of new books instantly
  • There’s a huge library of free classics to download
  • It’s got a built in experimental browser which works with Twitter

So, fine, I was wrong, the Kindle is great. But that’s not what really impressed me. At Christmas I was given an iPad Mini – again, I’ve resisted getting a tablet because I reasoned that between my smartphone and my laptop PC I had enough devices to cover most situations. We have a Samsung Galaxy Tab which my wife uses around the house, and for letting the kids watch films or play games on long car journeys, but I didn’t really need a separate tablet for my exclusive use.

But I did find myself using the iPad more than I expected, and while I was poking around the app-store I discovered I could install a Kindle app on it which would synch with the same account I use on the Kindle device itself. It would even automatically open to the same page I was on when I last used my Kindle. Then I discovered the same app is available for my Android phone.

So now, wherever I am, I can pick up my smartphone, Kindle or iPad and continue reading my current book right from the last page I looked at. It’s a small thing, and I appreciate I’m probably a bit late to the party with this, but it’s already making an improvement to my reading habits.

These little progressions in technology almost seem to sneak by as time passes, and occasionally I’m struck by just how far things have moved on since I started writing about it all.