I am both excited and honoured at the opportunity to be part of the first cohort for the BCS F-TAG (Fellows Technical Advisory Group). Looking forward to participating and helping to lead bringing my experience and knowledge as part of this group.
Aim of the F-TAG
BCS’ Fellows Technical Advisory Group (F-TAG) is a diverse selection of experts who will distil insights on cutting edge technologies to benefit the entire BCS membership, the wider industry and ‘UK plc’; F-TAG complements the work of existing boards and groups. Source.
F-TAG is made up of 25 BCS Fellows selected from diverse demographic and professional backgrounds; their expertise ranges from software testing to smart homes. Source.
Our brain is an amazing organ of that learns, remembers, controls, moves, repairs a complex body. It is in control of lots of functions and as part of that it is also responsible for our Logical and Creative Thinking. There are lots of articles that talk about the left side of the brain being responsible for Logical and the right side for Creativity. This was first researched by Roger Wolcott Sperry with his work on the split brain.
Either way the brain is still an amazing thing and you can learn to use both Logical and Creative Thinking techniques, you just need to apply a growth mindset.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
Logical thinking helps us to make “sense” of things, coming up with solutions and in decision making.
The five W’s and 1 H are commonly used as questioning to help form logical thinking. These are
Some add another H – How Much to the list as cost can play an important factor in decisions.
Creative thinking helps us approach things with an out of the box approach and an ability to look at things through different lenses to discover new solutions.
Taking a balanced view across Logical and Creative thinking, the Six Thinking Hats written by Dr. Edward de Bono starts to provide a balanced view by using the idea of parallel thinking to plan and use thinking more effectively. This can include logical and creative thinking.
Blue Hat – Process
White Hat – Facts
Red Hat – Feelings
Green Hat – Creativity
Yellow Hat – Benefits
brightness and optimism
Black Hat – Cautions
Build on the Skills
Learn different ways of thinking
Learn some new ways of thinking that you have not used before.
Practice and mix it up
As the phrase goes “Practice makes perfect”. Using different methods of thinking can bring different views and possibly different solutions to the problem/challenge.
There is nothing better than working with others to bring in different views and ways of thinking that you may not have thought of previously. This is a great way of seeing how other people approach the problem/challenge and help identify if there are areas you can improve/learn on.
Spend some time on creative hobbies that will help you build you creative thinking.
Learning a new skill
Learning a new skill will help you develop your thinking.
We have all at sometime done some sort of experiment, from maybe from a young age as to see which cry and actions resulted in the reward of milk to test driving cars to find which is best suited to your needs before you buy it. These are experiments that produced results from things we have tried and may not have thought about it as developing an Experimental Mindset. In this article I am concentrating on how this applies to data.
Here are my notes from my research into the topic.
Having an Experimental Mindset is one of the key traits in being a Data Analyst or Data Scientist and it is not a new term. This has been around as long as the field of science and research has. These arena have developed methodologies that have been adopted and taken forward by many other areas such as business and computing that can be used for testing and evaluating.
Overlaid with the areas for data this can be shown as:
Observations (Learning) –> Hypothesis (Testing) –> Scientific Law (Evaluating)
Observations (Data) –> Hypothesis (Product/Service) –> Scientific Law (Predictive Model)
Using this methodology, one of the more common types of Hypothesis Testing is A/B Testing. This sets out a framework for a simple controlled experiment against two versions (A and B) to look at the impact of changes to a thing or product. Some useful articles on A/B Testing are listed below that go into the details of it:
I am now nearing the completion of another Personal Journal (Number 30). I was at number 13 when I last wrote about my journalling (No Batteries Required: My Personal Journal) and I am still going strong on writing daily.
My normal journal of choice is a Moleskine Plain Pocket Notebook and all of my journals have followed this type so far. I have found them to be robust enough for my needs and use.
My journal normally has a mix between a Journal and a Scrapbook with inserts/stick in’s of tickets, pictures etc where I think its journal worthy. Journal worthy is mainly things that will help anyone reading the journal to get a feeling what we did and as reminders to us.
“The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”
― Chuck Palahniuk
Although in recent times the amount of inserts has reduced with the stay at home messages.
My pen is normally a pilot V7 Hi-Techpoint which I find flows well over the pages in the journals. I have tried other pens and inks (fountain, ball point, etc) and found these to be the best.
Why do I keep a personal journal:
Daily routine of writing – keeps my mind fresh in writing skills
Keeping my writing skills up in an age of keyboards and touchscreens
Memories so the family can reflect on events
Keeping notes and remembering events
Not everything you do has to be online
My journal doesn’t need a battery
My pen doesn’t need to be cabled or wifi’d to print with it
My journal doesn’t crack when I drop it (although it can get wet)
Downsides of keeping a journal:
No Delete Key – just cross out a word/sentence
Physical Storage of journals rather than virtual
So what does a collection of 30 Journals(2007-2021) look like………
Two reused large shoeboxes full containing around 13 years of journaling ove 4,888 pages.
I would encourage anyone to start journalling – A great view of what you have achieved during a lifetime.
Knock on the door from a person with a delivery said “Took ages to find your house, is your postcode correct?”. Not quite what I expected to hear. Having lived in the house for a number years and the post office delivering to my house with the same postcode I have had since moving in nothing has changed on my side.
So what’s happened. After some simple checks it appears Google Maps have somehow shifted my postcode over a few roads. That does explain a lot as to why some people have found it hard to find my location in the past such as taxi drivers, takeaways and delivery drivers etc.
I have raised a case on Google Maps to have this corrected
It does raise the question though about how reliant we are becoming on technology to find our way and give locations. Following a map on your phones and devices and not refering back to a map or even looking at the street names (Are you on the right road!).
How much trust do you put into your device and gps to advise your location? There are some great and fairly accurate (GPS dependant) tools/apps such as What 3 Words to find a location, but when relying on a postcode, how much trust do you put in it? For me a SatNav or Online Map will get you to the general location. Now you need to use some detective work to find the place your meant to be.
When finding places there is nothing like carrying map. I still have and use an A-Z Street Map when going to some new places and an OS Map. A road atlas in the car to help plan my route and gain my sense of direction for where I am about to travel to (when not in lockdown of course).
I teach navigation as part of my Scouting and Bushcraft activities in my spare time and always start with the basics of maps and compasses. These navigation methods are very relevant and needed, however the reliance on technology to find a way is still the instinctive urge. Using devices to find your way on an online mapping tool will only be as good as your signal and battery life. Saying that, it is always useful to help with traffic information and other things that could delay your journey. As long as someone with a hand cart full of mobiles isnt ruining your journey.
Online maps do have a place and are useful. Backing that up with a paper based map is always a good option. You may find places you didnt know existed locally!
I first wrote about starting a blog and what you need to do a couple of years ago. I am re publishing this as I have recently been asked about this topic, so thought I would bring my advice up to my latest thinking.
Blogging is not always a natural thing for people to do. “To Blog or Not to Blog!” that is the question you need to ask yourself. Should you pick up the mantle and start to write?
Blogging is a medium that has formed a bit part of the internet and in more recent times allowed a platform for the expression of the masses.
Whether you are reading them or publishing them, you will read blogs at some point. Your reading this one, so why not start one yourself.
One of the biggest issues with starting a blog is what content should you be writing about. Having an idea about what your blog is going to be about is the first step. Its not always easy to come up with topics. I have always found great inspiration from “Watercooler Conversations” which don’t always happen at the moment.
A blog is a great way of building your Social Media presence and identity, so the choice of topic and areas covered will play a big part in forming this. Here are some topic areas to help you:
Work based subject area
Re-enforce your learning areas by blogging about them
Hobby or interest
The main key points to blogging for me are:
Don’t be afraid on posting that idea or thought
Don’t be afraid of posting different opinions
You learn things doing research for your blog posts
Blogging helps build your confidence
Blogging helps build an audience
The next stage is to choose where to host your blog. There are many different blogging platforms available that you can choose from. I have listed two Free Blogging Sites below, but there are many more that you can find using an internet search. There are already lots of reviews on which blogging site to choose and it really depends upon your needs. I’ll leave the choice down to you and your own research:
I myself have chosen WordPress as my blogging platform as it is well established and has a set a great features available on the free tier:
Sharing with Social platforms
Scheduling posts to be published at a later date
Good site usage statistics
When you publish a blog, you should use other social platforms such as Twitter, Linked-In and Facebook (to name a few) to share the post which will help build your audience. I do split how I use social media and where I publish to as I think it is important to keep some boundaries between personal and work based output. I cover how I do this in my post about a Personal Knowledge Management System.
Make sure you keep in mind to watch out for the Echo Chamber Effect to keep a balance on what you are communicating about.
Here are some other related posts that you may find relevant:
I am republishing this blog again as it may be relevent for others, so here is the blog:
This is a phrase that I use a lot and I first came across many, many years ago from someone I previously worked with. Since then it has stuck with me.
When writing documents how often do we assume that the reader will know what we mean or understand that just because we know something is there that they do. I have seen many occasions and have fallen into the trap occasionally myself where you write about something in the manner that you know all the facts but don’t convey them.
An example of this could be a proposal or technical document;
The device has two power supplies;
To a technical mind the instant reaction might be that this will probably be connected to two separate power supplies and backed up by generators and UPS.
To a financial mind the instant reaction might be that this is extra cost not justified.
To the engineer who checks the proposal – I wonder how thats going to be configured?
Where in fact the writer forgot to mention that the device was a chassis that needed two power supplies to provide enough power to all the devices placed into that chassis and is fed from one power supply.
OK – in reality you should always look for redundancy and in this example that could equal four power supplies, but this example shows how easy one statement can be misinterpreted because it was obvious to the writer and not the reader.
Just food for thought… Try running that phrase against the next document, email, CV, Application, etc that you write and put yourself in the readers place.
The ability to create avatars has been around for sometime, but more recently more platforms have provided this ability to create them. Facebook being one of the latest to introduce a create an avatar based on some standard forms that you can then modify to your nearest look. This has caused a recent splurge of posts on the social media channel as everyone is keen to show off their new avatar.
Some people find using an avatar more comfortable than using their real picture
Other systems use a photo of yourself either uploading or taking a selfie to create your avatar and try to make the avatar more realistic to you.
Most avatar systems are based on a set of generic shapes and colour choices. One of the challenges with using a fully custom avatar in channel where the avatar is an active part of the actions, such as in Virtual Reality and Gaming is the downloading and rendering of the images. Multiple versions of avatars may have an impact/slowdown on a system as it tries to cope with the additional images and polygons to render and process.
I have brought some of my avatars together below to show the different types. These are by no means a comprehensive list of avatars, but a sample of whats available.
In brining these together the differences in how the systems either see me or allow me to interpret my face and features. There is quite a difference across all the systems.
Ready Player Me
The avatar from Ready Player Me is my latest one and create as I needed a virtual version of myself for a virtual experience. Running the web page from your PC/Laptop or phone and take a selfie or use an existing photo creates an avatar that you can then change appearance and colour on.
The output is a .glb file that can be used in creating virtual environments.
The avatar from spacial produces a floating version of yourself using a photo of your face using this as a skin to the model. Out of all my avatars this is the most realistic, but is platform specific.
The Samsung Avatar runs on a Samsung phone (Using an S9 to create these). Taking a selfie you can create a set of AR Emojis/stickers for use in your social channels. It creates a avatr that you can then customise.
Using the facebook avatar creator within the Facebook application you can choose from a number of face shapes and skin tones to set your initial version that can then be customised to be as near as it can to your image.
The X-Box Avatar is built up from a standard avatar set that you can then customise the look. This was the nearest I got to myself using the platform.
There are lots more platforms out there that you can set and customise your avatars in. For me there is a lot of variation in the avatars and only a couple are near realistic for me. The others are good fun though.
The future may see the option to standardise on a set of avatars. Until then happy avataring.
Adjusting to life at the moment can be hard, for many they can turn to the internet, face time, news, online entertainment, statistics etc. A world outside at our fingertips. For some however this isnt an option as they dont have the technology or means to buy it.
Bridging the gap to the Digitally Disadvantaged is a challenge that modern society faces but often ignores. Its easy to concentrate on the mainstream and push aside those challenges that are hard to address. In normal times access to technology through a library, a friend or internet cafe type place was possible, but current measures means these are not available.
For some a TV and Radio are a lifeline that provides them the information they need and they can rely on a landline phone to speak to people, family and friends. For others they may rely on a newspaper. Not everyone has a smart phone, laptop/computer they can use.
The UK Government sent out letter to every household with information in to help those who cant access it. A move that some questioned as to why, probably as they have access to technology. For some people this is the information that they need to help understand what is going on and why we need to take these drastic measures to keep everyone safe.
Digitally Disadvantaged doesnt have to mean that you dont have access to technology either, just the types of technology you have. For example parents who are now home schooling having homework set by teachers and some of this may be to make and build things, print things out etc. Lots of people have smart phones and do alot of their daily lives on it, but not everyone has a printer they can use and in times like these not everyone has everything at home to complete the work they need to do and some things needed are not classed as essential items so cant be easily purchased. There is a mindset that this issue highlights of “I can do this so others must be able to” or naturally assume that everyone can do it. This is just an example I have seen though some social media posts over the past couple of weeks.
There are no easy way’s to address these issue and many issues to address. It will take time, however as a Society we must think about these issues going forward and look for solutions to help others.
There is some help at hand if you know anyone who is over 70 and is isolating and doent have any TV/Radio, the BBC has teamed up with and organisation called Wavelength to provide digital radios to help fight loneliness, and you can nominate people for help.
Here we are at the start of 2020 and the time of many New Years resolutions and good intentions. A good proportion of these will be about dieting and getting fit, but what about getting a learning plan for the new year and boosting your knowledge.
Depending on your life, career path this can be something simple as reading more books on a topic or taking some courses to learn a new skill. This is something you dont have to set at the start of the new year and could be set at anytime, however we normally feel more motivated at the start of a year to set these goals.
Keeping to them can be challenging as when we fall back into our normal cycles, however this is something in your control that can be changed so you can have time to do some learning and boost your knowledge.
“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions. The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free, and that what belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered. You will lament, you will be disturbed, and you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you suppose that only to be your own which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you will find fault with no one or accuse no one. You will do nothing against your will. No one will hurt you, you will have no enemies, and you not be harmed.”