Let Them Drown – a 10 tweet summary of the 2016 Edward Said London Lecture, delivered by Naomi Klein

The 2016 Edward W. Said London Lecture was delivered by Naomi Klein at the Royal Festival Hall; entitled “Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World”. Here’s a short summary of this excellent lecture:

Why should we care about climate change?

Climate change is inherently political. It involves people, power and suffering.

Caring about the environment is not a liberal indulgence. ‘The environment’ isn’t somewhere else – our world is our shared political landscape.

Klein noted that water stress and conflict often correlate: “The brutal landscape of the climate crisis”

Othering and environmental damage go hand-in-hand

Klein identified the pivotal intersection between seeing groups of people as ‘other’ – as inferior and with lesser rights – with environmental damage.

Desire for economic growth is the dominant western value system. The values of indigenous people are seen as less important. So their resources can be exploited without their consent, and their links to the land can be severed.

This ‘othering’ can happen with whole nations, such as Iran, where Orientalism was used to justify the 1953 anti-democratic coup.

And until we recognise stateless people and people fleeing climate change as refugees, we’re failing our fellow humans because we see them as lesser.

What could the future look like?

We shouldn’t just see climate change as caused by a monolithic ‘human nature’. The forces behind climate change – capitalism and environmental destruction – have always been contested.

“Climate change acts as an accelerant for our social ills… but it could be the catalyst for the opposite”

Klein challenged the audience to take a broader view of our lives and their significance. What does it mean to have a good life on this planet?

Klein argued that political and environmental action are inherently bound together. Communities owning and controlling their own renewable energy is an example of the joined-up progress we need.

We can’t just prioritise our own country when thinking about climate change. Doing so is to accept a hierarchy of humanity.

And we can’t just think through the framework of neo-liberal consumer choices. Environmental-political change is bigger than that. You can form coalitions that are bigger than those you’d expect from individual consumer choices alone:

Cognitive Technologies – the real opportunities for business – course notes

In late 2015 I completed an online course on cognitive technology. Here’s a summary of my notes. (NB the course is free to take, and is running again from 14 March to 13 June 2016)

What is AI?

AI is not about machines ‘thinking’ like humans. AI is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that would usually require human intelligence.
e.g. cognitive (planning, reasoning, learning) and perceptive (recognising speech, understanding text, recognising faces)

“As soon as it works no one calls it AI any more”

We expect AI agents to:

  • operate autonomously
  • perceive their environment
  • persist over time
  • adapt to change

Drivers of change in AI

  • Moore Law – microprocessors are 4 million times more powerful than they were in 1971.
  • Big data – low cost sensors, social media, mobiles, the internet gives us more data; combined with better techniques for working with this data.
  • The internet and cloud computing
  • Improved algorithms


Representing knowledge in a computer, using it to reason and plan automatically.

  1. Rules-based systems: Rules base, inference engine (to apply rules), working memory (contains all the information it has to assess). Best for situations with a small number of variables.
  2. Taxonomy: Helps to organise data into a hierarchy.
  3. Bayesian networks (Bayes nets): Useful for situations in which your confidence about a belief may change as your knowledge changes. They can represent assertions, and degrees of certainty. Can help with diagnosis, reasoning from symptom to cause, or for prediction. Less good when you have lots of variables, or when you want to recalculate the entire network.

Some algorithms used in machine learning:

  • Neutral networks – Good for pattern recognition. e.g. speech recognition. (segment audio signal onto phonemes, then associate phonemes with words in the dictionary; named entity recognition.)
  • Support vector machines – good for classification and regression. Often used for off-the-shelf supervised learning. Straightforward to train and implement, and allow a lot of variables. Helpful for Feature engineering.
  • Ensemble learning – using a collection of different models, and combining the output to obtain a stronger result. IMB Watson used this when playing jeopardy. Better than just using any one method.


Automatically devising a plan of action to achieve goals given a description of the initial state, the desired goal, and the possible actions.
e.g. getting from Times Square to the Bronx Zoo.
Search through possible actions to find a sequence that achieves the goal.
Challenge: managing complexity and computation time: combinatorial explosion.
Replanning is important too, to deal with developing situations.
Applications include: Google navigation, unmanned vehicles, robotics.


Improving performance automatically. Machine learning is the process whereby machines improve their performance without explicit programming. Machines discover patterns, make predictions, and become better over time with exposure to data. This helps in situations where we can’t anticipate all situations, or when we don’t know how to program the solution (e.g. facial recognition)

Types of machine learning:

  1. Supervised learning – learning by example.
    An agent is given pairs of information – input (or a number of inputs) and output.
    This allows the agent to understand how to produce the desired output, even for unknown inputs.
    It’s called supervised learning because we use labelled data to train the model.

    Main tasks: Classification (output is one of a set of discreet values) or Regression (output is a number)

    Applications: Sales forecasting, image recognition, text classification, health.

    Challenges: Acquiring and labelling training data; can be expensive to create data set.

  2. Unsupervised learning – discovering patterns in data even though no specific examples are provided.
    e.g. clustering – given a large set of similar items, discover ways to group them into subsets

    Challenges: algorithm has to determine which attributes should be used to group items; sometimes it’s hard to decide where to place an item.

    Applications: Customer segmentation; Social network analysis; Defining product baskets; Topic analysis; Anomaly detection – e.g. looking for outliers in manufacturing.

  3. Semi-supervised learning – unsupervised learning with human interaction to fine-tune
    e.g. giving feedback on the number of clusters, or suggesting attributes for matching.
  4. Reinforcement learning – learning by trial and error.
    Agent acts in unknown environment, responding to sensory input. Responses shaped using rewards or punishment.
    Agents take into account actions and sequences of actions when associating them with rewards or punishments.
    Works best with closed-loop problems – i.e. ones in which there are no inputs other than those caused by the action of the agent

    Challenges: time consuming with many actions or chains of actions; requires a lot of computing power; trial and error has a cost – e.g. learning how to trade on the stock market, so use it when the costs of trial and error are low.

    Applications: physical control systems e.g. elevators or helicopters, or recovering from damage by learning new ways of walking; in some domains it’s our only option.


The ability to take in information in a human-like way: through speech, text or vision.

  1. 1. Natural language processing (NLP) – software that processes human language.
    e.g. understanding or producing. Break down doc to sentences, then words, which are understood using grammar rules

    Challenges: context is tricky: e.g. “he saw her duck”

    Applications of NLP: summarising documents, translation, extracting info, question answering, writing stories, analysing customer feedback. Medicine and Law

  2. Speech recognition – recognising words, tone and emotion of human speech
    Steps: break wave form into phonemes, then match these to words, then put these into an appropriate sequence.

    Challenge: accents, background noise, homophones, need to work quickly. (I wonder how we could add contextual information to understand the set of phonemes)

    Applications: hands-free writing e.g. medical dictation, controlling devices, computer system control, surveillance,

    Future: mine broadcasts and recordings of human speech.

  3. Computer vision – the ability to identify objects, scenes and activities in images. e.g. face recognition.
    Has to build up from pixels to coloured areas, and then objects.
    Machine learning can be used to train object recognisers. error rate 2010-14 reduced four-fold

    Applications: Handwriting, medical imaging, autonomous driving, surveillance, gesture detection. One useful current application is recognition of where spare spaces are in a car park.

    Future: recognition in video, and events detection. This is hard because of the complexity: connecting recognition over time

Physical interaction

Types of robot:

  1. Manipulators – physically anchored to their workplace
  2. Mobile robots – e.g. drones
  3. Mobile manipulators – e.g. humanoid robots in films

Elements of robotic systems:

  • Mechanical and electrical engineering
  • Machine learning
  • Computer vision
  • Planning
  • Speech recognition
  • Sensors – e.g. range finders, location sensors, proprioceptive sensors (knowledge of own position), force and torque sensors
  • Effectors

Applications of robotics:

  • Manufacturing
  • Agriculture
  • Healthcare
  • Hazardous environments
  • Personal services
  • Entertainment
  • Human augmentation

Uncertainty is a challenge for robotics – e.g. needing to take action based on incomplete information, or dealing with an unexpected environment.

Business applications for cognitive technologies

  1. Product
  2. Process
  3. Insight


Embed cognitive technologies in a product or service to help the end user.
e.g Netflix film predictions, which drive 75% of Netflix usage; Google Now / Siri; predictive text.

How cognitive technologies can improve products:

  1. Convenience
  2. Simplicity
  3. Confidence
  4. Emotion

Questions to help you decide whether to embed cognitive technologies in your product/service:

  • Would people like to use it hands-free?
  • Is your product too complex?
  • Do customers have to make complicated choices to buy your product
  • Would a natural interface help customers bonds with your product?


Embed technology into an organisation’s workflow, to increase speed, efficiency, quality.

Automate internal processes, e.g.:

  • The Hong Kong subway system’s preventative maintenance programme. Scheduled by algorithm.
  • Georgia’s campaign finance commission. Uses handwriting recognition to handle the volume of work.
  • Cincinatti Children’s Hospital. Uses NLP to read freeform clinical notes to find patients who might be eligible for clinical trials. Reduced nurse workload on this area of work by 92%.

Automate expert decisions.
Relieved skilled workers of unskilled tasks.
Automate unskilled work.


Improve decision making by analysing large amounts of data – including unstructured data – to discern patterns or make predictions.
e.g working out someone’s risk of developing metabolic syndrome, and which medical interventions were most likely to improve patient health.

Benefits: better, faster decisions that can improve operating and strategic performance

How to find opportunities: See where you have large or unstructured datasets that haven’t been fully analysed; look for processes where the value of improved performance is high.

How to decide whether and where to incorporate cognitive technologies in your organisation – use the “Three Vs” framework

  1. Viable – e.g. perceptual tasks (involving vision, speech, handwriting, data entry, first tier customer service), analytical classification and predictive (forecasting, document review and summarizing), decision-making tasks (situations where knowledge can be expressed as rules, data-driven decisions), planning and optimisation tasks (e.g. scheduling)
  2. Valuable – where it’s worth applying. Involve business processes with costly labour, where expertise is scarce, where there is a high value in improving performance, or where you can deliver features or experiences that your customers care about.
  3. Vital – may be required if: industry standard levels of performance demand their use: online product recommendation, spam filtering, fraud detection; scalability – e.g. processing handwritten or printed data, analysing large amounts of social media.

The impact of cognitive technologies on work

There’s a debate – will machines take our jobs, or will they increase productivity and growth – and demand for human skills? Tasks requring adaptability, common sense, human interaction, ambiguity and creativity will be beyond the reach of machines for a long time. AI is most likely to replace highly-structured back-office roles that don’t involve many customer interactions.

Risks of automated systems:

  • Not infallible. They may eliminate operational human error, but that doesn’t mean that they’re always right.
  • Humans can lose skills if they don’t practice them
  • Humans are bad at monitoring information that remains constant for long periods of time, which may lead to errors being undetected.
  • Poorly automated systems can undermine worker motivation

Approaches to automation:

  1. Replace – completely replace a human performing a job with a machine
  2. Atomize and automate – break jobs into narrow tasks, and automate as many of these as possible. Humans are still employed, but in more of an oversight/remedial capacity.
  3. Relieve – automate tasks that are dull, dirty or dangerous.
  4. Empower or augment – make workers more effective through technology, e.g. by automating brand-new processes.

Strategic choice for approaching automation:

  • Cost strategy – use technology to cut costs by reducing the workforce, or through reducing errors and rework.
  • Value strategy – use technology to make workers more effective, or reassign workers to higher-value work.

Skills that will probably be desirable in the future:

  • The ability to work with cognitive technologies
  • Hyper-specialisation of skills or knowledge that are unlikely to be automated by computers
  • Empathy, creativity, emotional intelligence

Mobile engagement seminar – Charity Comms

A summary of Charity Comms’ Mobile Engagement seminar, 23 March 2016. I attended via Periscope, and share a few observations on this experience at the end.

In August 2015, OFCOM announced that smartphones are now the most used internet device
“Mobile is not the future – mobile is happening now”

“Where are they now? Probably not in front of a computer…” – Tim O’Donnell, operations director, Precedent

Mobile isn’t just about access to the internet – it’s about location services, and functionality like sending text messages.

“It’s not your sector that sets the benchmark.”

Rising expectations are set by the best experiences. e.g. people pay for coffee or the tube using their phone, so they expect donating or signing up for a fundraising event to be similarly easy or they’ll just leave. (I think there’s also a potential for competitive advantage if you do a better job than other organisations in adopting.)

Mobile is different as a channel and a technology to desktop. People think about, and use it, differently.
Use is often more casual, time poor, and relaxed. Perhaps copy needs to be custom-written for mobile, to be shorter and snappier.

Thinking with your thumbs – catering for your users on the move – Chloe Bryan-Brown, web manager, Coram

Coram’s mobile strategy covers

  1. Design (have clear call-to-action boxes; make forms as easy as possible to complete)
  2. Content (make your content easy to scan. Chunk it.)
  3. User journeys

SafetyNets – innovative support for sex workers via smartphones – Matt Haworth, co-founder, Reason Digital and Hannah Shephard-Lewis, safety outreach digital lead, National Ugly Mugs

Reason Digital worked with National Ugly Mugs to create a decentralised, real-time, location-based information sharing system that sex workers can use to share ‘dodgy punter’ information with other app users nearby. This avoids an organisational bottleneck. People can contact the police if they choose, but they are in control.

A good example of the usefulness of user testing in generating insights that a design team would probably never think of: one user remarked that as the background was white, it would illuminate her face. This would mean that she wouldn’t use the app. So they knew that they had to change the background colour to black, so that use was more discreet.

The Big Pathwatch – crowdsourced data gathering – Daniel Brett-Schneider, head of engagement and Eleanor Bullimore, engagement manager, Ramblers

The Ramblers built an app to generate information on the accessibility and state of repair of the country’s path networks.

Lessons learned building the app:

  1. Give yourself lots of testing time. The app was set to launch on Monday, but limited testing time meant that it wasn’t ready in the app store when they left the office on Friday night.
  2. Check that registration is easy-to-use and that it doesn’t have problems
  3. Location services were faulty

The user base was a challenge:

  • Fewer than 50% of app users were already members of Ramblers. This wasn’t expected. (I wasn’t sure if they’d planned to convert this new audience into members.)
  • Existing members of Ramblers weren’t keen on the app. Most didn’t have smartphones, and often weren’t sold on the idea. I wonder how early on in the project this was known.

Favourite jargon for the day: “onward supporter journey development”.

Attending via Periscope

This was my first periscope event. Here’s what I thought:

  • At the start of the event, there were around 15 people. By the end, there were about 10 people.
  • We lost connection for a few minutes a few times during the afternoon event. Everyone seemed to be re-invited, though, so most stayed in the broadcast.
  • The picture quality was a little grainy, so text on slides had to be large to be legible. Audio quality was quite good.
  • You could share messages with other people watching the periscope broadcast, but they disappeared after a second.
  • There wasn’t really a back-channel, like you’d have on twitter. I was on twitter at the same time and there was more engagement there.
  • Charity Comms did a good job resourcing the periscope feed, reinviting people when there were connection troubles, and scanning for questions to be asked during the in-person question-and-answer sessions. If you are thinking of hosting a periscope session, I’d recommend having someone dedicated to inviting people and handling the logistics.

The DSDM Agile Project Framework for Scrum

I’ve highlighted a few key points from the DSDM Agile Project Framework for Scrum. I’d strongly recommend reading the 2014 White Paper produced by Andrew Craddock, Keith Richards, Dorothy Tudor, Barbara Roberts and Julia Godwin for the DSDM Consortium. Download the 22-page white paper. (DSDM is ‘The Dynamic Systems Development Method’.) The paper provides a useful summary of Scrum and Agile methodologies, and reflects on the integration of more granular sprint-focused methodologies with larger strategic project governance frameworks.

The usefulness of combining Scrum with DSDM

The Agile Project Framework for Scrum “brings together the strength of DSDM at project level and the streamlined simplicity of Scrum at the delivery team level”
Scrum is focused on the product rather than the project, “so more emphasis is placed on incremental release of a product in the context of a product lifecycle than is placed on formally ending development work after an agreed period of time.”


DSDM ‘Foundations’ phase covers the full breadth of the project, but deliberately avoids going into detail. This is very different to the ‘Analysis and Design’ step in a waterfall approach.
The Agile Manifesto values values working software above comprehensive documentation.
The DSDM Agile white paper follows this: “break the illusion of security and stability that comes from document-driven, predictive processes. Specification of every detail of requirements, solution design, plans etc. in documents that get ‘signed off’ by stakeholders before work is allowed to progress is now widely accepted to be both wasteful, in terms of time and effort, and ineffective as the basis of governance and control. AgilePF for Scrum embraces the need for high-level versions of requirements, design and planning artefacts in the early phases of the project to frame development and delivery and to support governance.”

Collaboration over contract negotiation

“Typical commercial contracts assume that a traditional Waterfall process under-pins development and, accordingly, ‘a fixed price for a fixed specification’ is the standard for project contracts. Agile projects emphasise collaboration, and therefore contracts need to reflect this.”
Contracts should be “‘light touch’ and ‘guiding’ rather than being ‘detailed and prescriptive’.” “the Product Backlog may represent a contract, effectively defining the scope of a project. But it is cast at a high level and requires customer collaboration with less formality to flesh out the detail of requirements throughout the iterative development of the solution during the project lifecycle.”


  1. Focus on the business need
  2. Deliver on time
  3. Collaborate
  4. Never compromise quality
  5. Build incrementally on firm foundations
  6. Develop iteratively
  7. Communicate continuously and clearly
  8. Demonstrate control


Traditional approach:
Fixed: Features
Variable: Time, Cost, (in practice) Quality

AgilePF Approach:
Fixed: Time, Cost, Quality
Variable: Features

One of the four project variables must be flexible: “With proper planning, any three of the four project variables can be fixed provided one is allowed to vary.”
Agile PF fixed time, cost and quality and varies the scope of the features delivered.
To reach this point in the foundations phase, “an understanding of the high level features is required, sufficient to provide a sensible estimate for those aspects of the project that are fixed. At the same time, it is normal for a subset of the features to be identified as mandatory.”

Feasibility phase

Quickly established whether the project is likely to be technically feasible and cost effective from a business perspective before proceeding.
“The effort associated with Feasibility should be just enough to decide whether further investigation is justified, or whether the project should be stopped now, as it is unlikely to be viable.”

Plan for organisational/business change

“In the context of a project, the solution will include both the Product (often software) and any associated changes within the business wanting to exploit that product.”

Role of the Project Manager

“Managing an empowered team requires a facilitative style rather than a command and control style. It is usual that the Project Manager takes responsibility throughout the duration of the project. This must include both business and technical delivery aspects of the project, from establishing the foundations of the project through to the deployment of the solution.”

What makes an effective digital donation process?

I’ve made donations to a number of top UK charities. They use these techniques to encourage donations:

  • Promote regular giving
  • Amount shopping lists and user choice
  • Ease of use
  • Images of people
  • Social proof, trust seals, where your money goes
  • Emotional reinforcement
  • Use donations as part of a multi-channel relationship

I’ll now elaborate a little on the processes of Macmillan, Cancer Research UK and charity:water

Macmillan’s single donation process

The Macmillan homepage focuses on people and their stories – each of its sections is lead by a photographed person sharing their story.

The donation ask comes either in the rotating carousel or through the site-wide donation button at the top right of each page.
This provides a clear, route to making a donation for those who want to, but the site as a whole leads with support.

macmillan 1

The donate page:

  • Focuses on people and feelings.
  • Directly addresses the visitor as essential, and asks how much they’d like to give.
    This appeal directly builds on the core Macmillan brand message “so no one has to face cancer alone”
  • Empowers the user with choice – of donation type and amount.
  • Shows, for each of the different donation amounts, how many people are giving the different options. This provides social proof.
  • Prioritises regular giving over single donations, because regular giving is more useful to charities.

Two ideas for how this page might be made even more effective:

  • Reduce the number of options at the top of the page – they may distract the user and reduce their propensity to give.
  • Change some of the accompanying images so that they show people. The image that accompanies the £25 donation features a nurse and a patient or family member smiling at each other. I suspect that this is more compelling than the £50 level which shows a plate of pasta.

Here’s what you see if you choose to make a single donation page:

macmillan 2


macmillan 3

  • From the user’s perspective, the entire process happens on the Macmillan website, and with the Macmillan brand.
  • Emotional reinforcement through the form.
  • Trust seals increase credibility
  • Clear phone number to contact in case of difficulty
  • People can see how far through the process they are.

After the 3d secure step, which I won’t show here, you’re taken to the thank you page:

macmillan 5

The thank-you page:

  • calls you out by name and praises you and your impact.
  • Gives additional actions – sharing through different channels, or campaigning.
  • Isn’t the end of the journey – the user also receives a thank-you email:

macmillan 6

The thank-you email:

  • Gives users a chance to find out more about their donation – which is working to build support or implicitly to upsell.
  • Outlines Macmillan’s offer of support – building a reciprocal relationship.
  • Begins to build a multi-channel digital relationship with the donor.

Cancer Research UK’s single donation process

cancer research uk 0

The Cancer Research UK homepage:

  • Use lots of social proof.
  • Features a clear box for people who have already decided to donate before coming to the site.
  • Incorporates the site-wide donate button.

cancer research uk 0.5

The Cancer Research UK donate page:

  • Uses human pictures
  • Is focused and calm, despite including a range of options. Clearly the different options have been prioritised.
  • Prioritises regular giving.

cancer research uk 1

The single donation form:

  • Subtle attempted upsell to regular donation
  • Empowers visitor with choice about where their money goes – but a simple choice.
  • Gift aid option explained visually.
  • Visitor empowered to choose the easiest payment options that suits them. I chose to pay with paypal.

After taking payment, I then had the opportunity to choose my communications preferences:

cancer research uk 4

I was then taken to the thank-you page:

cancer research uk 5

As with Macmillan, the email thank-you message was used to drive multi-channel digital engagement:

cancer research uk 6

The email shows the difference that your donation makes, but also has secondary actions: taking an exciting quiz on improving lifestlye; an opportunity to get support or to connect; and an invitation to deepen engagement with research.

charity:water’s single donation process

charity water 1

The donate page:

  • Uses powerful visuals, communicating the impact of donations.
  • Reassures you about where your money goes.
  • Is clean and focused.
  • Makes paying incredibly easy

Marvel at the ease of use of the Stripe popup. Why aren’t more charities following the lead of ecommerce and using Stripe?

charity water card 1

The payment form only asks for the bare minimum it needs to take your payment

charity water card 2

charity water card 3

charity water card 4

The thank-you page:

  • is focused, and shows the impact of your donation.
  • upsells to a bigger supporting action – using the principle of consistency.

charity water card 5

The email thank-you leads with an image, and articulates the impact of the cause.

I’d be interested to see this exercise carried out on mobile. How well do the top charities compare?

Eyal: Hooked – How to build habit-forming products

Nir Eyal sets out a framework for building engagement with users of a product, based on repeatedly guiding users through a series of ‘hooks’ to form habits. “The ultimate goal of a habit-forming product is to solve the user’s pain by creating an association so that the user identifies the company’s product or service as the source of relief.” Portfolio/Penguin 2014.

People use their smartphones a lot

  • 79% of smartphone owners check their device within 15 minutes of waking up every day.
  • People use their smartphones around 150 times a day, according to industry professionals

What is a habit?

  • A habit is an automatic behavior triggered by situational cues.
  • Habits require little or no conscious thought.
  • A product has high habit-forming potential if it is seen as useful and is used frequently. Fundamentally your product must solve users’ problems.

The four stages of the Hook Model

1. Trigger

A trigger instructs the user to take an action. Triggers can be external or internal.

Habit-forming products start by using external triggers like email, app icons or notifications, but over repeated hook cycles users form associations with internal triggers. Internal triggers are based on existing behaviours or emotions.

  • External – tells the user what to do next by placing information in the user’s environment. e.g paid (unsustainable, earned (media and PR), relationship (peer recommendations), owned (“Owned triggers consume a piece of real estate in the user’s environment. They consistently show up in daily life and it is ultimately up to the user to opt in to allowing these triggers to appear.” e.g. an app icon, email newsletter). “Without owned triggers and users’ tacit permission to enter their attentional space, it is difficult to cue users frequently enough to change their behavior.”
  • Internal – associations in the user’s memory tell them what to do next. Achieved by tightly coupling a product with a thought, emotion or existing routine.
    e.g. “A need is triggered in Yin’s mind every time a moment is worth holding on to, and for her, the immediate solution is Instagram. Yin no longer requires an external stimulus to prompt her to use the app – the internal trigger happens on its own.”
    So you need to understand a user’s internal triggers – the pains they seek to solve. Focus on these emotions rather than product features. (“Only an accurate understanding of our user’s underlying needs can inform the product requirements.”)
    And don’t just ask people what they want “talking to users to reveal these wants will likely prove ineffective because they themselves don’t know which emotions motivate them… You’ll often find that people’s declared preferences – what they say they want – are far different from their revealed preferences – what they actually do.”
    Ask “why” 5 times to arrive at an emotion.

2. Action

Activity undertaken by a user in anticipation of a reward.
To increase the likelihood of an action being taken:

  1. Make it easy
  2. Maximise the motivation

Core motivations:

  • Seek pleasure and avoid pain
  • Seek hope and avoid fear
  • Seek social acceptance, avoid rejection

The 6 elements of simplicity:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Physical effort
  • Brain cycles
  • Social acceptance/deviance
  • Whether an action is routine/disruptive of routine

To make action more likely, simplify it with regard to the user’s scarcest resource at that moment.

Utilise heuristics to encourage people to take action:

  • the scarcity effect: items that appear scarce are valued more highly
  • the framing effect: people assess information in context – e.g. ignoring Joshua Bell when he performed in the subway, or enjoying identical wine more if told it cost $90 rather than $5.
  • the anchoring effect: people often fixate on one piece of information when making a decision, e.g. buying something because it’s on sale even though another item is actually better value.
  • the endowed progress effect: people want to continue with progress towards a goal. So make them seem like they are already making good progress – e.g. giving loyalty cards starting part-way through rather than at 0%. In a study, both groups had to purchase 8 further car washes to gain a free one, but one group started with 2/10 completion rather than 0/8. This group had an 82% higher completion rate. Linkedin Profile strength uses this heuristic too.

Respecting people’s autonomy makes them more likely to take the action you want.
Telling people “But you are free to accept or refuse” makes them more likely to comply. So when you make a request, affirm their right to choose.
Leverage “familiar behaviors users want to do, instead of have to do.”
“Companies that successfully change behaviors present users with an implicit choice between their old way of doing things and a new, more convenient way to fulfil existing needs.”

3. Variable Reward

Predictable rewards don’t create desire. But variable rewards are compelling. This isn’t because of the sensation from the reward itself, but the need to alleviate the craving for the reward.

e.g. looking through social media and scanning through to find material that might be relevant to you. “The exciting juxtaposition of relevant and irrelevant, tantalizing and plain, beautiful and common, sets her brain’s dopamine system aflutter with the promise of reward.”

Types of variable reward:

  1. The Tribe: feeling “accepted, attractive, important and included”. e.g. people liking your Facebook post or upvoting your Stack Overflow answer. These social rewards, of connectedness to other people, are all variable.
  2. The Hunt: seeking resources to aid survival e.g. material resources or information. e.g. searching through Twitter to find something interesting, or carrying out a Google search to answer a question.
  3. The Self: acquiring a sense of competency. e.g. getting better at a computer game, or improving at codeacademy. In both cases you have feedback on your performance, are improving your self and your skills, and experience variable rewards.

On gamification (“the user of gamelike elements in nongame environments”)

Points, badges and leaderboards only prove effective if there is a fundamental match between the customer’s problem and the company’s solution. Otherwise no amount of gamification will help.
“Likewise, if the user has no ongoing itch at all – say, no need to return repeatedly to a site that lacks any value beyond the initial visit – gamification will fail because of a lack of inherent interest in the product or service offered.”

“Variable rewards are not magic fairy dust that a product designer can sprinkle onto a product to make it instantly more attractive. Rewards must fit into the narrative of why the product is used and align with the user’s internal triggers and motivations.”

4. Investment

The user performs some work that will improve their next experience of the service. This increases the odds that they will pass through the hook cycle again.
Investment happens after the variable reward phase, so users are primed to reciprocate.

Users could be asked to invest content, data, followers, reputation/social capital, skill, time or money.
e.g. inviting friends, stating preferences, building assets, following users, adding photos to Facebook or data to LinkedIn, building a reputation on a forum.

Josh Elman, early senior product manager at LinkedIn: “If we could get users to enter just a little information, they were much more likely to return.”

Investment utilises these heuristics:

  • Subjective value increases as expended time and effort increases. e.g. people value their own origami creations five times higher than other people do.
  • We seek to be consistent with past behaviors.
    Two groups of people were asked whether they’d put up “large, unsightly” “DRIVE CAREFULLY” signs in their front gardens. Only 17% of the first group agreed, but 76% of the second agreed.
    This was because two weeks previously, the second group had been asked to place a much smaller, three-inch sign “BE A SAFE DRIVER” in their windows. They wanted to be consistent with this behavior when the next request was made.
    “Little investments, such as placing a tiny sign in a window, can lead to big changes in future behaviors.”
  • We try to avoid cognitive dissonance.

The five fundamental questions for building effective hooks

  1. What do users really want? What pain is your product relieving? (Internal trigger)
  2. What brings users to your service? (External trigger)
  3. What is the simplest action users take in anticipation of reward, and how can you simplify your product to make this action easier? (Action)
  4. Are users fulfilled by the reward yet left wanting more? (Variable reward)
  5. What ‘bit of work’ do users invest in your product? Does it load the next trigger and store value to improve the product with use? (Investment)

Be wary when designing a product that you do not use yourself, even if doing so for positive reasons.

“Heady altruistic ambitions can at times outpace reality. Too often, designers of manipulative technology have a strong motivation to improve the lives of their users, but when pressed they admit they would not actually use their own creations. Their holier-than-thou products often try to ‘gamify’ some task no one really wants to do by inserting run-of-the-mill incentives such as badges or points that don’t actually hold value for their users.”
“fitness apps, charity Web sites, and products that claim to suddenly turn hard work into fun often fall into this category.”
Peddlers tend to lack the empathy and insights needed to create something users truly want. Often the peddler’s project results in a time-wasting failure because the designers did not fully understand their users. As a result, no one finds the product useful.”

The stages of Habit Testing

  1. Find out who the habitual users are of your product/service.
  2. Find out how they started using the product to identify the Habit Path – “a series of similar actions shared by your most loyal users”
    “For example, in its early days, Twitter discovered that once new users followed thirty other members, they hit a tipping point that dramatically increased the odds they would keep using the site.”
  3. Alter your product to nudge new users down these same habit paths. E.g. twitter encouraging new users to instantly begin following others.

Opportunities for new habits are presented by new technologies, new behaviours, new interfaces.

Security Focuses: The Science of Cybersecurity – a summary

Today I attended Security Focuses: The Science of Cybersecurity. Here’s my inexpert summary of the event.

The costs and risks of security are increasing

  • 90% of large businesses had a security breach last year.
  • Security breaches are becoming more expensive: £1.15 million in 2014; £3.14 million in 2015
  • 1,000,000 new pieces of malware are created each day.
  • 14x increase in infections year on year.
  • When Target was hacked, its CEO and CIO resigned. So directors’ jobs are more vulnerable to security risk.

Basic framework for cybersecurity

  • Assess
  • Detect
  • Protect
  • Respond

Reactive approaches to security aren’t good enough. We need a proactive approach, with a broader vision

Talk Talk only noticed they were hacked because their website slowed down. So they probably aren’t an exemplar of best practice.

Threat Inteligence allows us to:

  • identify and resolve internal and external threats.
  • understand how attackers think and behave, and select appropriate countermeasures
  • focus our security resources in the most important areas

We need a broader approach to cybersecurity:

  • Holistic view of systems needed, not a silo approach (e.g. via end-to-end cloud systems, rather than having server security separate to firewall)
  • of external threat environment (e.g. via a threat exchange)

The future of cybersecurity

Analytical detection is more sophisticated than signature detection

A signature approach is the most basic; rules are a bit more sophisticated, correlations are better still, but an analytical approach is strongest for identifying security issues.


Your internal understanding of your network estate is different to how external attackers will see it. So it’s useful to carry out external footprinting.

Hackers can use less well-defended elements of an organisation’s web presence to successively break in to other areas.

e.g. lots of the 2011 Sony hacks were on smaller, national sites. The hackers had a better understanding of Sony’s footprint and vulnerabilities than Sony did.

The commoditization of exploits

Charl van der Walt’s excellent presentation was my highlight of the day.

Zerodium recently paid a bounty for jailbreaking iOS9:

Zerodium can now sell knowledge of this exploit to clients.

Because Apple doesn’t know what the exploit is, these clients can reliably use this exploit to attack people.

Government security services want reliable exploits like these, which leads to this commoditization of the exploit market. It also leads to the industrial use of these purchased exploits as they are employed at scale. This is in contrast to the more patient, research- and expertise-led footprinting carried out by other attackers, which presumably requires much more resource for a given output.

I found the day an interesting overview of the cybersecurity space. The biggest single improvement I’d recommend for next year is including female speakers – the keynotes were entirely presented by men.

Harnessing the Web – MemberWise – a 20 tweet summary

Today I attended MemberWise’s Harnessing the Web conference. I’m largely new to the world of membership, so I was hoping to understand how other organisations were using digital to promote and deliver their membership offers. Below I’ve summarised the key points from the sessions I attended, in 20 tweets.

Chemnet gains – online support for the next generation of membership

Users expect:

  • Easy-to-find content
  • Easy-to-access content
  • A focused, unclutted experience
  • Consumable, interactive content
  • Trusted quality

User participation encouraged by giving them points and badges. Probably socially powerful signals in their own right, but additionally powerful motivators for an audience thinking about UCAS applications.

A membership community requires ongoing investment:

  • Content planning is very important to sustaining engagement
  • Chemnet is planning to make improvements over time.

Creating a thriving online membership community

User needs must be the driver for creating a community space. If it doesn’t meet a user need, you’ll struggle to build engagement.

“Focus on user behaviours, not features.” Focus on understanding your users’ needs, not the specific mechanisms you’ll use to satisfy these needs. That’s your designer’s job.

Know the purpose of your community, and have a plan in place for community management and content. And resource it.

Know what will make your space better than anywhere else. The importance of quality, easy-to-find content was mentioned again.

The GpmFirst platform is focused on social learning – a community of practice, participating, sharing, and creating knowledge. It seeks to empower users.

When starting a new community, take the ‘lean community’ approach:

  • Start very small, with a minimal investment, with a basic product.
  • Observe how this product performs and how people use it.
  • If it fails, you can close the project having invested only a small amount.
  • If it goes well, you can make targeted improvements.
  • This approach reduces risk.

Summarised in three steps:

  1. Start by finding an overlap between user needs and organisational goals
  2. Plan for active, high-quality community management
  3. Test, measure, learn, repeat

Web chat – making life easy for your members – Caravan Club

I eavesdropped on this presentation via twitter.


So web chat can help you understand where people are having problems on your website, and obtain a stronger understanding than a Contact Us form.

I’d like to know how the costs and staffing challenges compare to phone calls.

How digital acted as a catalyst to transform a traditional business (YHA)

Challenges faced by YHA:

  • cost per booking was very high.
  • Membership in decline.
  • Tactic of forcing membership on all visitors unsuccessful

There was sufficient senior buy-in for investment in digital, and some acceptance of risk.

They used data to inform marketing and development work, which led to increased revenue, which led to increased confidence.
This mechanism powers digital transformation at YHA.

Some specific actions taken:

  • Embedded Trip Advisor reviews on site to show quality of experience. A tough sell internally, and took conviction in the product, but greatly increased conversions.
  • Google 360 tours are very effective marketing tools
  • Users can now search the YHA site based on their interest/activity, then the YHA website suggests hostels nearby. More focused on user needs than asking users to pick a region first, particularly if regions are not intuitive.
  • YHA has ended the tactic of “tricking” people into becoming members. For a number of years, if you stayed at a YHA hostel, you would be signed up for membership automatically. Ending this tactic has reduced the number of members, but increased their engagement.

YHA’s digital transformation has seen good results:

Using user experience to improve online member journeys, optimise new member and student acquisition

The problems that CIPFA user research uncovered are pretty common:

  • Registration was confusing
  • Labelling was based on internal structures
  • Content was overwhelming

I was pleased to see the information architecture techniques of card sorting and tree testing advocated.
Card sorting groups your content into categories, and tree testing checks whether your categories make sense to users.

CIPFA has improved its structuring of content, reduced the volume of text on pages, and moved away from internal language towards language that makes sense to users.

I’ve heard stories of organisations thinking about their website and content at five year intervals so many times. Why is everyone still getting this wrong?
The ever-changing digital landscape – and user expectations – mean that we have to keep adapting. Even if neither of these factors existed, ongoing investment is important to refine and improve your digital offer.

Using digital to streamline the member acquisition process

Round Table had a complicated membership sign up flow. Not so much because they had massive sign up forms, but because of the different internal steps involved in the process, and the amount of administrative overhead associated with these. Processing each new member enquiry took about an hour of admin time.

Digital agency IE carried out four phases of improvement to the process. This was more manageable for everyone. (I lost track of the boundary between iterations 3 and 4 – sorry for any inaccuracies.)

Iteration 1:

  • Remove non-essential form fields from initial form. Ask the bare minimum number of questions to increase conversions. Ask the other questions in a follow-up survey.
  • Validate user details automatically.
  • Improved dashboard for recruitment team.
  • Process for recruitment team to transmit info to colleagues streamlined via email templates.

Iterations 2 and 3:

  • Mobile web forms for recruiters.
  • Contact information sent to recruiter via text, with click-to-phone link allowing instant and easy follow-up of leads.

Iteration 4(?):

  • Recruiter replies to the text message telling them about a prospect now populate the CRM log. This has massively increased compliance with the CRM’s data needs.
  • Website allows users to text to register interest in membership.
  • New website focused on location.

Why was this approach a good idea?

What improvement did Round Table see as a result of this work?

Holding the line: the long and short of a successful CRM integration

“This wasn’t an IT project, it was a businesses transformation project.” Digital and IT projects so often involve business change – I wonder how many people plan for this from the start?

The two hardest parts of the project were:

  1. Data integration.
  2. Process and culture change. You need to run a parallel cultural change project. But how many people plan or put resource in place for this?

At the start of the project, they spent a week or two on “benefits dependency mapping”. This produced an intricate diagram, but, more importantly, a shared definition of project drivers, objectives, benefits, outcomes, and necessary organisational and IT changes. Although I’m not sure that all projects can predict what their impact will be at the start.

One other factor behind the project’s success was setting clear governance from the start, so that decisions could be made with authority.

Before they got a supplier on board, they held workshops to “drain swamps” in advance – explore and investigate contentious areas so that the organisation isn’t considering them for the first time when the agency arrives.

Once the development agency had been chosen, they spent six weeks building a technical proof of concept, to check the technical feasibility of the project, and to check the cultural fit with the agency. Its success built organisational trust.

One quite sad statistic on CRM projects circulated during the day, which came from a MemberWise survey:

Rose: What Makes People Tick – the three hidden worlds of Settlers, Prospectors and Pioneers

Chris Rose argues that the population is divided into three ‘values groups’, each of which relate to the world differently. To be effective, communications have to be targeted to the specific needs of each group.

The core points can be summarised quite easily, but I’d recommend reading the full text to enjoy the examples and case studies. My edition was published by Matador, 2011 (2013 reprint).

What are the three values groups, and what distinguishes them?

Which group an individual inhabits is determined by their unmet needs:

  • Everyone starts life as a Settler.
  • Once their Settler needs are met, they can become a Prospector.
  • Once their Prospector needs are met, they can become a Pioneer.
  • It is possible to go back from being a Prospector to a Settler, but generally going from a Prospector to a Pioneer is one-way as it is based on self-esteem.
Group Unmet need
Settler Safety, security, identity, belonging
Prospector Success, esteem of others, self-esteem
Pioneer New ideas and connections, living an ethical life, self-choice

Why values groups are important

“you can get people in any values group to do something if they are allowed or enabled to do it in a way that meets their needs.”

“The kiss of death for communications across values groups is to try and impose the values or ‘reasons’ of one group on another… Despite what some campaigners may believe there is no universal ‘right reason’.”

“Many ‘conventional’ campaigns have centred on universalist-ethical (eg, save-the-planet) and sometimes rationalistic (eg, save-money) propositions. They have lacked fun, fashion, emotion, visible success – in short, the values to appeal to Prospectors.”


  • Socially conservative
  • Belonging
  • Tradition
  • Focused on the past
  • Like predictability
  • Preferred charity brands: family, life-saving, simple/small-scale actions e.g. Guide Dogs for the Blind or RNLI. Clear, personal, bounded actions – not social change or global issues
  • Discipline
  • Following the rules
  • Being in control
  • Standing up for your family and community
  • (National) Security
  • Being normal
  • Doing your duty
  • Being loyal to those who have helped you and your family/friends
  • Making sure the basics get done – e.g. food, health, shelter
  • Saving lives


  • Being successful and being seen to be.
  • Material wealth
  • Shopping
  • Don’t like being told not to do things or to give things up
  • Focused on the future
  • Avoid political controversy
  • Opportunities rather than connections
  • Looking better or best
  • Soundbites of stories – can be global or local
  • Having fun
  • Being a winner
  • Celebrity

“To engage Prospectors it has to be done on their terms: a better wind turbine than your neighbour, or a donation to Oxfam which will get you talked about in the gym, and preferably make you more attractive to others.”

“Prospectors… tend to be more selective and demanding than those from other Values Worlds. You generally need to create experiences, or desirable things, not just offer ideas or information, and whatever you create has to compete with what social events, brands, commerce and media entertainment has to offer.”

“more fun and outgoing, optimistic and expressive than the Settler World, and much more relationship- and possession-centred than Pioneer World with its emphasis on ideas. Anyone wanting to target Prospectors … must focus on these core Attributes.”


  • Love questions, new ideas and the unknown
  • Personal ethical responsibility
  • Thoughtful about ethics
  • Focused on the present
  • Benevolence, global justice, openness
  • Preferred charity brands: environmentalism, overseas aid.
  • Like authenticity
  • Like forming connections and networks

New behaviours generally start with Pioneers, then are commodified and consumed as fashionable by Prospectors, then become normal and adopted by Settlers.

“The persistence of individual action because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do, whether or not there seems any prospect of success, can be a characteristic of Pioneers when they act for ethical reasons (this is, internally referenced ideas of right and wrong), and of Settlers when they act for moral reasons (ideas of right and wrong derived from an external, respected Authority).”

What percentage of the UK population is in each of these groups?

  • Settler – 31%
  • Prospector – 28%
  • Pioneer – 41%

UK, 2008. I don’t know what evidence was used to generate these percentages.

How to get different values groups to take action

Communicate in a way that appeals to each group’s unmet needs:

  • Enhance the safety, security or belonging of Settlers
  • Enhance the esteem of others, or self-esteem, felt by Prospectors
  • Engage Pioneers by communicating in ways that involve ideas, innovation, self-direction and ethics.

What actions are appropriate for different values groups?

You need to make sure that your action is something that the values group you are targeting is comfortable with:

Settler actions should be: simple, discrete, achievable and dependable, definitely uncontroversial and ideally officially-sanctioned, familiar, normal, risk-reducing, control-, belonging-, safety- and security-boosting.
Settler actions should not be: innovative, uncertain, controversial, framed as part of a ‘bigger picture’.

Prospector actions should be: visible, immediate, proven, achievable, fun, displayable, fashionable, uncontroversial, socially recognised, celebrity-endorsed if possible, commodified, esteem-boosting.
Prospector actions should not be: innovative, old fashioned or traditional, about following or breaking rules, renunciation (unless it is to gain more), doing things for other people without social reward, framed as ethically- or idea/theory- motivated, controversial or related to an open-ended problem.

Pioneer actions should be: interesting, novel, ethical, complex, change-focused, about ideas not just ‘things’, authentic, an opportunity to connect with new people and ideas, concerned with beauty, nature or justice, about the bigger picture, framed in a way that allows pioneers to make up their own minds and ask questions.
Pioneer actions should not be: doing things because of other people’s – or authorities’ – beliefs or requirements, restricted choices, based on justification by tradition, or justification through a need to be bigger and better.

How to think about communications

Never think of the population as a homogenous mass.

Try to avoid the term ‘message’. Think instead of using the COMPACT list:

  • Channel
  • Audience
  • Messenger
  • Programme (why you are doing what you are doing: intention and objective)
  • Context (what’s around it in time and space)
  • Action (the action you’re asking them to take)
  • Trigger (motivation of intended audience)

Personalisation – a summary of Together We’re Better, September 2015

A summary of key points from an event hosted by Together We’re Better.

Personalisation is adapting a digital experience to a user’s attributes and presumed interests or needs.

Personalisation isn’t necessarily a good thing – it can come across as good or creepy

A reminder that you should start by understanding your goal, and then work out how to deliver it. Personalisation won’t necessarily be the tool/approach you’re looking for, so don’t ever pursue it for its own sake.

Good personalisation:

  • Marie Curie created a mobile-specific text-to-donate ask because they noticed that mobile users rarely converted on their normal responsive donate page.
  • L.K. Bennett found that UK users were unusually keen on finding out the returns policy, so they highlighted this for UK users

Creepy personalisation:

  • Target predicting when a person becomes pregnant, by looking at their browsing behaviour, and marketing to them on this basis.
  • The well-intentioned Samaritans Radar ran into trouble because of concerns about privacy, stigma and consent.
    There’s sometimes a question about whether to talk about the fact that you’re doing personalisation. Would explaining it make it seem creepy? e.g. saying “We think we know how many children you have.” Would not explaining it be underhand?

    Where can you get the data you need for personalisation?

    • 3rd party
    • From the user themselves, voluntarily (personal data)
    • User behaviour
    • Context

    Trust is important

    When thinking about organisations possessing and using their data, people are concerned about:

    • usage creep
    • lack of personal benefit
    • loss of data

    So to some extent trust is derived from user experience. That’s a interesting and unsettling conclusion, but one which explains why we seem so relaxed about giving corporations loads of personal data in exchange for easy-to-use free tools.

    Giving people the option to access/update/change their data and communications preferences is a better user experience and also good reputation management, as some users will be concerned about this.

    Start small

    It’s better to begin experimenting with personalisation on a small scale:

    • Easier to get the budget
    • Easier to get buy-in and sign-off
    • Easier to manage
    • Easier to track and measure the results – and therefore to prove success
    • Easier to manage data on a smaller scale
    • Easier to manage project risks, and to deal with unanticipated ones that emerge
    • Some things you can do to get started with personalisation

      There’s a lot you can do without carrying out heavy engineering on your website:

      • Video personalisation
      • Email personalisation – and A/B testing to verify the effectiveness of this approach
      • Social personalisation. I’d didn’t get much on this in the presentation and would like to explore this a bit more.

      A useful morning session – I expect to attend the next Together We’re Better event.