Thursday, December 4, 2014

Artificial Intelligence - should we be scared?

"The primitive forms of artificial intelligence we have have proved very useful. But I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Once humans develop artificial intelligence it will take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete and would be superseded." - Stephen Hawking

Although I respect Mr. Hawking I think he might be missing the point.  I see AI and other things influenced by technology such as the Internet of things (IoT), wearable technology, etc. as taking humanity to another level.  Whereby we can use our brain and heart power for more useful things than we have up until now.

Technology is an enabler and as with any tool it can do good things and it can also do not so good things.  It's like a knife which can be used to prepare food and nourishment or can be used as a weapon.

Whether we like it or not technology is becoming an integral part of our lives - the key is it's application and use kind of like most anything in life, moderation is key.

There are times when it's wonderful to go offline and spend time in nature without the distractions that today's connected world offers......but that's for another blog post. :)

Monday, February 24, 2014


Ok now that I have your attention let's discuss error messages.

I've hate error messages not because of any rational reason but more of an emotional one.  It brings me back to being a kid and doing something wrong and being scolded for it.  "David that's wrong."  Well that didn't teach me anything except that I did something wrong.

Remember the early days of Microsoft Windows and the error messages they would display?  You know the ones, the popup message box with the red circle and a white X?  I still have nightmares about it sometimes - just kidding.

Now compare that to an experience with someone who is teaching you something new, lets say, how to ski.  How effective will that person be in getting you to learn by "yelling" at you that you are doing it wrong.  Successful teachers point out what's being done wrong, and help the person to correct the behaviour themselves.

In my professional life I've been involved in many different projects where customer facing systems were being created and these error messages were taken as simply a fact of life and not as something that needed to be looked at more than just facts.  I've always been in favour of making error messages not only human, but also fun, informative and educational.

An example, a banking client wanted to redo their ATM (automated teller machine) user experience.  So as part of the initiative, I suggested that in addition to using language that the average person uses, they should also use humorous text for when there were problems with an ATM (because we all want our money NOW) and to actually give information that helps the user solve the problem they are facing.  So in the case of the ATM not working - the error message would say something like "I'm really sorry but for some reason I'm not working properly" and then providing a listing of the 3 nearest ATM's.

Studies have shown that we human beings are more open to information when it's shared in a way that makes us smile, helping us to relax and process the information without the regular negative emotional association.  

7 Of The Best Error Messages On The Internet

Saturday, February 22, 2014

It's not the device, but the ecosystem that's key!

I've been reading a lot of articles about how it's no longer about what device is accessing the Internet or the network but more about building the infrastructure and who is accessing it and it's really interesting to see how for example Google's approach with not caring what type of android devices are accessing as long as that's what's accessing our network now you have apple entering the scene saying okay we have less phones start access the Internet but at the same time they have the highest percentage of actual purchases through the devices so guess rethinking back to my days in early mobile banking mobile payments e-commerce etc. 10 years ago that it's coming to a full circle whereby the device that you having your hand in your pocket will be the access item for many things maybe for your house for payments etc. it's about simplification of getting rid of all these difficult means of payment cards cash this transfer that transfer but the problem is is that there are so many different ways to do these mobile payments thinking send to bank accounts etc. but nobody's really looking at it and aren't at least not many companies are looking at it from the outside in to say how can we make this user experience the easiest and most convenient possible thereby taking the hassle out of making versus with the assistance of location Devices you can now tell us where and offer them deals and opportunities or what not but I don't think that's what it's about I think is really about simplifying the purchasing process to say it out it would be amazing if you just walking to the store pick up the stuff that you want and walk out the door he don't even have to go to register this is the kind of way that I see how the future of commerce is heading

Apple Is Already Building Its Next Massive Business And No One Seems To Have Noticed

To be or not to be....unapologetically yourself

I've been giving the thought to what it means to be authentic, real and true to oneself as well as to others.   I've read a lot of self-help books and have had people in my life (friends, colleagues, family, therapist, doctor, manager) try to help me by advising me what's best for me.  While I appreciate all this advice and direction, I came to the realization that my admiration for others is actually not always the best thing.  Who knows who you are better than you yourself.  But what I have a problem with is people who are helping others while not helping themselves - as a result of this duality and not being authentic these people might actually doing more harm by "helping" than they even might realize.

I've loved helping others all my life but I've realized that it became an addiction and a distraction to not having to deal with my own "demons".  We think helping others is going to solve all our own problems but we should be taking care of ourselves first and foremost - listening to our body and what it's telling us (no not the mind).  When we are doing something good for others we feel great - fine no problem.  But we tend to project this image of positivity and wonderful and greatness but at the same time we're avoiding dealing with our own inner challenges or problems or whatever you want to call it.

We are so afraid to show that to the outside world, even social media is somewhat to blame that we want to put things that are only positive.  When is the last time you put a post that could make you "look bad".  Of course this is a generalization but I'm realizing that many people are not being true to themselves and therefore they can't be true to the outside world, even though they try there's something that just doesn't sit.

So one of my experiments is that with all that I'm posting online and also how I act in the real world, I'm trying as much as possible to be my true self and not to put any filter on what I write.  Take it or leave it that's your choice.  I don't want to be a role model or even an example for others, I just want to be myself and perhaps it will inspire others.

Showing that we are complexly yet at the same time simply beautiful beings with all the ups and downs, anger, happiness, sadness, excitement, illness, health - all of it together because that is what it is to live life and that is what it is to be human. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Rags to riches - what doesn't meet the eye

From all the news about the acquisition of What's app by Facebook I think it's quite interesting that most of what I read is potentially missing the most important point of the event.  Although it's being mentioned most of the headlines are focused on the money aspect and rags to riches.

Sticking to simplicity no matter what.

These guys created something simple that's easy to use but the point is they were simply solving a problem with respect to communication and they stuck to that simplicity without complicating it in terms of how they're going to raise money, having ads as part of the app or other "trivial" aspects.  They were even so humble that they didn't have a sign on their building where they occupied offices and they refused to have a PR department or other type of spokesperson or even marketing.

They let users and the old fashioned "word of mouth" be the true test of how good their product was and also represented their marketing.

What came first, the chicken or the egg?

It makes me think back to my time in Russia 10 years ago when I launched the first interactive mobile banking service in the country, it was a time where I feel that I was most successful in what I have done because I believed truly with passion what I was doing was something that was of value to other people, namely customers.  Today mobile banking has become a standard product/service for more and more people.

What's missing today is that business is focused on making money as the goal rather than it being a by product of focusing on solving problems or having a passion for something.  Many people and businesses have been blinded solely by whether something will make money or not.

I think that the problem with today's business or society in general is looking for a way to make money as opposed to stripping away this factor and say okay if I do what is I'm passionate about and actually I'm helping to fulfill someones need and doing that something is my passion -  the money should then come on it's own.  Some might say it sounds crazy but I believe that it works from personal experience as well as in being first hand observer to activities I'm involved in.

Non-profit is not about money, or is it?

I'm a non-paid board member for Viazard a non-profit based out of Brno, Czech Republic.  One of the projects is the conversion of part of a cold storage facility in a multipurpose site that includes a co-working space, gallery, theatre, exercise area, maker space, and cafe called Industra we have two passionate people from the cafĂ© who have decided to take the skills and their passion that they acquired while they were living and working in London and be part of Industra Coffee.  So far the results have been quite interesting.  Of course it's on a different scale than Facebook's purchase but I see the correlation between the fact that when you have passion and you you don't have to convince people because your passion shows and people then join because they believe and can relate somehow to the story that you're telling

WhatsApp’s Founder Goes From Food Stamps to Billionaire

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Calm in the eye of the storm

I just realized that it's Christmas is only 10 days away and I'm as cool as a cucumber - I don't think I've ever been this stressless with respect to the holidays.  My plan is to just "show up" and enjoy the atmosphere the holidays were meant to be about in the first place.

This year I decided not to give any presents and also not to expect any.  And if someone decides to give me a present they'll receive a big smile from me and the heartfelt words of gratitude "No, thank you." My family think it's strange but that's ok I've always been the black sheep in their eyes so this really doesn't surprise them.  When I told my dad I think he was caught off guard (probably he had already bought something) which makes me think, who are we buying for anyhow? Ourselves or the other person?

I've been thinking a lot lately about how the holidays have changed over the years.  It's an incredibly commercial event leaving people stressed out and frustrated for a variety of reasons - spending money on things others probably don't really need, feeling obligated to be with people we don't see or communicate with the rest of the year, (insert your reason here).

I remember my dad and I having a conversation a few years ago about how people in the Czech Republic after the Velvet Revolution in 1989 were happier than they are now when it came to the holidays.  Ironically the paradox of choice has in the last two decades became an illness suffered by many Czechs without even realizing it.