A weekly round up of news and views from the tech, creative and business world.
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Code for all
Recent reports show that only 18% of computing professionals are women. This has prompted organisations to spring into action in an attempt to inspire the next generation to be more comfortable with all things digital and code.
Google has invested $50 million into ‘Made with Code.’ The programme is aimed at inspiring young people, particularly girls, to get into coding, with the help of diverse role models; from MIT Media Lab to Mindy Kaling. Closer to home, MB has been working with UK organisations and charities this week to champion the same cause. We joined the BBC Connected Studios team to workshop app ideas aimed at teaching girls to code, and participated in the annual Apps For Good Awards, mentoring children to create and pitch an app concept.
All these initiatives are aimed at younger audiences, as research has shown that girls decide before they go to university or college whether coding is for them, so they need to be won over early with exposure and encouragement. Hopefully initiatives such as these will inspire the next generation of young women to enter the computing workforce, but half the battle has not been addressed – which is changing the nature of organisations which they will enter. We need to ensure we also create an industry which is more welcoming of female participants in order to fully reach an equal playing field within the profession.
Glass is here, form a queue
Google Glass is finally coming to the UK, and it’s up to you to decide if you’re excited about that. In San Francisco, the gadgets have been a hot button topic for a while now, with Glass wearers being termed “Glassholes,” or worse yet, assaulted for wearing them. The tension in SF is partly a byproduct of the booming tech industry and the impact that it is having on non-tech workers in the city. Since Glass launched, there have been numerous accusations aimed at Google, from vacuuming up real estate in popular neighborhoods, to pricing SF residents out of neighborhoods they’ve lived in for decades while simultaneously blocking public bus stops with the exclusive employee shuttles. When you add all of this up it isn’t hard to see why wearing a flashy, expensive Google product around town (and especially to seedy dive bars) might make some people upset.
Currently, Glass seems to have polarised opinion. Those who are vehemently anti-Glass are hell-bent on making anybody who uses the gadget seem like an insensitive antisocial gentrifier with money to burn; while those who are aggressively and unabashedly out in day-to-day life pointing their Glass at everybody they encounter on the street need to recognize that their presence is going to make people uncomfortable for a while, and there are times when you really just shouldn’t be wearing it. Even Google is telling you to not be a Glasshole.
Is the UK’s relative distance from the Valley, coupled with the famous British ‘lets not make a fuss’ attitude, going to make for a more positive reaction to Glass? Or start a new wave of Glarsehole accusations?
Have you ever felt a pressing need to talk to someone, despite having nothing to say? No? Neither have we. Yet an increasingly popular app (with $1.2 million committed from investors) facilitates just that; attempting to expand the possibilities of communication by drastically limiting them. Yo is a mobile app with a singular function, sending a notification that is received as a pop-up with just one word: “Yo”.
Yo is the logical development of a long-term trend in apps that purposefully limit communication, in an attempt to enforce brevity (in the case of Twitter’s 140 characters) or encourage creativity (in the case of Snapchat and Vine). Many have criticised the app’s limited functionality (including Stephen Colbert and the creator of Dilbert), speculating it is a sign that the bubble for messaging apps is about to burst, despite Facebook’s recent entry into the market and Snapchat’s continued growth.
Other critics have attempted to look past the hyperbole surrounding Yo, at the potential of communication that focuses on context, rather than content. Examples of Yo’s business use revolve around automation: a user might receive a Yo from Starbucks when their drink has been prepared, increasing the speed of service at the cost of the simple joy we derive from human contact and seeing misspelled variations of our name.
The real significance of Yo lies in the intimacy it promises users and potential protection from surveillance. The meaning of a Yo is kept between the sender and receiver, meaning it is almost impossible for anyone else (including the NSA) to understand, without knowing intimate details of the users’ relationship. Jordan Cook from Tech Crunch notes “you’ll feel a very real difference between a ‘Yo’ you get in the morning from a friend and a ‘Yo’ you get at 2 a.m. from a friend with benefits. Trust me.”
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