A little while ago I was lucky enough to attend my first, but hopefully not last, Mozfest. I didn’t entirely know what to expect apart from lots of ‘open web’ information and ideas. The timetable wasn’t released until the day before and it was live updated through the entire weekend. It was a great mix of structured and unconference.
Quite a bit of my time was spent working with a team assembled on the first day on a project to simplify mobile giving. I won’t describe the final output as there’s a great blog post about Pass the App here. What I wanted to share is the striking difference it made by considering the problem from a platform perspective.
Thinking from a platform perspective really focuses you on the purpose and key features you need. A platform isn’t (primarily) a perfectly designed end consumer product in itself – it’s a tool that others can use to build their own version of something. This gives you an objectivity that quite often gets lost in projects where you’re building the finished public facing website or app.
I found focusing on empowering others through a platform is hugely empowering in itself!
As an aside: I also spoke to SourceFabric about why I was at Mozfest from UNICEF UK. Excuse the Ummms.
For the last two years I’ve been leading UNICEF UK on a journey to become digital first, something the org committed to in 2010/2011 as part of the 5 year strategic plan.
I’ve spoken and written about our digital transformation journey a few times. I’ve also chatted to a few people from different charities who are considering their own journey. When I’m asked what my top tips are I typically highlight two things:
Don’t underestimate your own preciousness
You need to empower everyone to use digital channels and ways of working, letting some mistakes happen or project timings extend. Letting go can be hard if you’re used to being the direct deliverer with a level of specialism that has taken years to acquire. It can also be hard for an organisation to take a possible hit on quantity and/or quality while the learning curve takes over.
You just have to let go – letting others learn through doing is critical for change to happen.
Be prepared to sacrifice short-term wins for long-term gain
Transformation is a long journey – this is often at odds with the usual character type in digital. We’re enticed by the almost overwhelming industry speed and we tend to see new opportunities and quick wins everywhere. I’m sure I could spend my entire time bringing great results through fixing and activating new things.
You need to focus on getting the long-term infrastructure (tools, skills and behaviours) in place. This isn’t the kind of stuff that shows immediate results and with finite resources you have to make a choice.
Now we’re a couple of years into our journey we’re taking a hard look at how far we’ve gone and what the next phase is. If you have 10 mins please take our survey.
Watch this space …
Yes – smart glasses are what many are talking about. They may still be a little bit glitchy and gimmicky but Pebble has already shown our appetite for wearable screens.
However that’s not where big change is expected next year. We still have far to go to understand and apply the full potential of mobile with cloud tech.
That’s why it’s so exciting …
My storify summary from Guardian Activate can be found here.
There’s a moment when there’s no turning back, you’ve done as much preparation and contingency planning as possible and the rest is down to whether a celebrity footballer does something that goes ‘mega viral’.
Soccer Aid is a bi-annual TV programme that raises money for UNICEF. It’s a fantastic live TV event when celebrity footballers, and celebrity non-footballers compete. In return for a great afternoon of telly the viewers are asked to spare a moment to make the world a better place for children by donating to UNICEF UK.
So what exactly does this mean if you happen to be the digital team @UNICEF_UK?
Preparations start-up to a year in advance, and are usually coordinated by a Soccer Aid Digital Producer contracted for the project. There are three core digital streams; marketing, social engagement and tech. I’m going to focus on tech to keep this as brief as you can for something that covers around 12 months work!
There was one time (I don’t hesitate to say it was before me, even though I’ve been in the situation during my career) when the worst happened. The UNICEF UK website went down during Soccer Aid.
So now we do a whole host of scaling up, streamlining and performance testing to make sure there’s a reliable web presence and donation funnel in the lead up, just after, and most critically- during the TV programme.
This involves optimisation of the main website and creating a flat (non-CMS) microsite for the highest peaks. We fine tune the website application layer and database processes. Plus we increase the number of servers and use CDN for hosting of any image and video.
Last year we also channeled most of the online donations traffic to a BT MyDonate funnel to push the heaviest lifting outside of our environment. This decoupling meant we could still serve some content if the donations funnel went down, or vice versa, still gather donations if the website went down.
Once we had our approach built we carried out our first performance test, this identified more tweaks to be made. There were two other tests throughout our preparations. They not only identified issues that were fixed but also gave us an expectation of what contingency to plan.
To help with this we had one or two team members casually browsing the website during the tests to observe the experience during heavy traffic. This meant we could begin to think what to say to users if it happened for real.
If you’ve never done it before – it’s important to note that performance testing is best when its on your live site so it’ll probably mean a few late nights so you don’t affect your regular users during the day!
Coupled with this preparation we also had a very detailed contingency plan. It mapped out the various possible scenarios and the actions we would take, including who would take key decisions. This was co-created with suppliers who were actively monitoring and on call through the peak moments.
The night itself was a long one. We had one of those moments, a celebrity injury which swelled (couldn’t resist the pun!) the conversation.
Fortunately the tech all went well, hitting our ‘max tweets’ threshold three times is another story…
Quick note: This is a re-post: I created this blog post originally for the Web Managers Group
This thursday I attended the Augmented Reality Summit, its been going for a few years but this was my first. Here’s a quick summary of my key take aways.
- AR has grown from a niche techie interest to something that is viable for consumers in the last year.
- There is ongoing convergence of wearable technology and AR. Oculus rift and Smart glasses being the obvious examples.
- Google glass is being viewed as a conversation starter to get the key issues, like privacy, worked through quickly. Smart glasses have been around for a while.
- QR codes are mostly outdated already as markers – image recognition is widely possible. I’ve never been a fan of QR.
- AR and future mobile devices have the potential to disrupt the games console market by being just as powerful.
- The key challenges:
- battery power; use runs down your battery quickly, but the industry is working on processors and software to help.
- GPS accuracy
- interoperability; there’s no standards yet!
- quality content.
- Lighting; accuracy can be affected by light variation but you can always use the flash on a phone to help.
- Markers; picking a strong image is critical in avoiding temperamental ‘pick-up’ in the AR reading.
- Apps; custom apps exist at the moment because the off-the-shelf ones give limited interactivity and content options.
- Aurasma; is relatively widespread in its adoption and has cheap / free options for creating AR triggers. Blippar and Zappar (and others) are yet to offer this.
- Telegraph; created an AR enabled newspaper to promote ad sales, the initiative (including a competition for agencies) generated £500k in ad sales 8 weeks.
- ADSA created an in-store Easter event with Zappar
- Education and AR blog
- An AR phrase book
And here’s a tweet summary of the AR Summit in storify.