Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week

Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Mobile World Congress 2018

Anne says: There’s so much more to Mobile World Congress (MWC) than the main event! Unquestionably the largest annual mobile event, MWC attracts 100k+ delegates to Barcelona – every year! This year, things were a little different. If you’re not aware, there’s some political instability in Catalunya at the moment. The Federal government has taken over administrative control from the state government, who declared independence in October 2017. No-one was quite sure how much this might, or might not, affect MWC. Apart from some protests when the King arrived to open the Congress, the political statements have been kept as a separate issue from the event.

I’m not going to review all the announcements from MWC – you probably heard them broadcast simultaneously through social media anyway. For me, the interest at large events is always the networking, meeting people, listening to different perspectives – but also with MWC, there’s a wide ranging series of fringe events.


In the week preceding MWC there was a series of talks, exhibitions and labs conducted under the banner of Mobile Week Barcelona. The program was fantastic, the speakers engaging and the topics thoughtfully presented by knowledgeable speakers. My highlight was use of Blockchain in Catalunya with implementation intended to manage all citizens data within the next 2 years.


The other fringe series, running parallel with MWC was the Mobile Social Congress. including a screening of the documentary, Complicit: The price of technology and a discussion with the directors. The topics covered were socially charged, quite the contrast to the consumer driven MWC.

The accompanying meet-ups, the fringe events, the activities and the buzz, certainly make MWC one of the most engaging large events I’ve participated in. I’m already planning how to manage to extend my experiences further in 2019.

Watch the keynote presentations via MWC TV:

And for some gender diversity, watch the Women4Tech keynote:

Data-Centric Society – are we there yet?

Helen says: A series of podcasts published by the Financial Review have caught my interest. ‘True Leaders Game Changers Podcast – Society’, is a discussion centred around the use of data in our society and whether we are adopting technology to improve our lives, or are we adapting our lives to technology?

Anthropologist Professor Genevieve Bell comments:

“It is a dance between those two things – humans and their activities are driving technology, propelling it forward, and there are places where companies are operating against profit margins, finding new areas they can take advantage of, and in some ways exploit.”

Asked what a completely data-centric society would look like, Bell responded that we are mostly already in it. The idea of data being used to drive decisions is not new. The census, for example, has been used for years to collect data which in turn is used to make important decisions that shape our society, like where to build schools, roads and hospitals.

Technology has enabled the rapid expansion of services built on algorithms and data consumption.  They have become so common place as to be unnoticeable.  Every day technology touches our financial, work, social and emotional lives. It delivers us instant banking, finds us romantic partners, prices insurance premiums and airfares, updates our personal calendars, alerts us when to leave to make our next appointment, and talks to us through chatbots and voice response machines.

Driving, public transportation, lighting and air conditioning systems, even walking to work (changing traffic lights and setting off the walk sign) involve algorithms. So I’d have to agree, we are already living in the midst of a data-centric society.

Bell suggests that an opportunity sits waiting for those who can work across multiple technology deployments to develop fully integrated systems, for example a transport system integrated with the garbage system that is linked to air quality and noise pollution. She concluded that we need to continue to build a world we want to live in, and both innovation and technology will allow us to do this.


How Vero became the most loved and most hated social media app in a matter of days

“Whether or not Vero is a competent, interesting and above-board social network… for now it appears to have become a victim of its own hype.”

Emilio says: If you’ve been following social media news this week, it would be hard not to miss the buzz around Vero, a new social media platform being touted as the ‘new Instagram’. Apparently, the app has been around since 2015, and it has embarked on its current publicity campaign with perfect timing when users of Facebook and Instagram are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the ad clutter on their feeds.

Vero is pretty much Instagram on night-mode but without the ads. Content is chronologically presented with no algorithms at work and no data being collected from users, according to its terms of service. It is free to use for the first million users – but eventually users will be charged a subscription fee.

However, the quick surge in mass interest and app downloads of Vero seen this week has been met with a sudden backlash and snowballing criticism, after its users were unable to log in and post on the app. Compounding these technical issues were revelations that the app’s owners, whose main business was a construction company in the Middle East, had not paid thousands of its workers.

Despite its promise as the better Instagram and its overnight gains, the barrage of negative sentiment towards Vero has come at the worst time, and may render it as just another social media flash in the pan.


The Tingle Makers, Open for Business

Nat says: This isn’t the first time I’ve written about ASMR – or “Autonomous sensory meridian response”. Funnily enough, I’m listening to an ASMR video on YouTube as I write this blog post. The online phenomenon, which I’ve been following for several years now, has grown increasingly popular with more people knowing, or at least hearing, about the ASMR world. What ASMR is, and what it does, has often left people perplexed – especially if you’ve never listened to a recording. ASMR artists aim to relax you or help you get to sleep by their ‘trigger’ methods, which often involve making noises via the brushing and tapping of objects, or whispering into a microphone. The people who listen to ASMR have described the resultant feeling as a type of ‘brain-gasm‘ or a tingly sensation running down your spine and limbs.

In 2017, two (female) artists were the first in the world to have their respective channels of ‘Gentle Whispering‘ and ‘ASMR Darling‘ surpass the 1 million subscriber mark for YouTube ASMR artists. Both women earn a form of income from making their videos, and so do many other artists who promote paid products or receive donations from their fan base. The shared article, however, is about ASMR moving away from its digital origins and instead connecting to fans in the physical world. In one such place, known as ‘Whisperslodge’ located in Brooklyn, NY, patrons can pay to experience the tingly sensation as a type of pseudo meditation experience that mixes theater with therapy. The lodge welcomes its visitors to a room bathed in soft, gold light; and they are then treated to the sensory effects of ASMR such as up-close paper crinkling, light clicking, and even brushing on your skin – as depicted in the photo for this piece.

I wanted to share the article to highlight the new types of businesses that are emerging as a result of digital technology. However, in this case, the digital craze has resulted in a physical change; whereas normally the focus is the other way around in which there has been the digitisation or automation of a physical process. Who would have thought that you could make an income from riding the coattails of a super weird online phenomenon? I think the reason I like ASMR is not just because it’s so incredibly odd, but because its aims and purpose are for a good cause – of making people feel good just by appeasing their senses. Furthermore, the ASMR community of millions of followers online are often people who have the nicest things to say on the YouTube comments section. You might as well do yourself a favour and check out an ASMR video to see what all the fuss is about.


7 ways to improve your company’s employee experience

Jakkii says: In our work as human-centred digital workplace designers (what a mouthful!), a core part of our process is to understand the current employee experience as it stands – for different employee types – and then working within the organisation’s context to help them shape and improve the employee experience as it relates to the digital workplace. Accordingly, I read with interest this short piece in CMSWire, which draws on input from a great Future of Work analyst, Alan Lepofsky.

The 7 ‘methods’ the article includes are:

  1. Borrow from the consumer world
  2. Break boring cycles with creativity
  3. Ask your teams: how can we be different?
  4. Prepare for new tech, embrace consumer advancements
  5. Take risks in your workplace
  6. Respect employee feedback, encourage positives
  7. Embrace messaging apps, social networks

I think there’s merit to each of these suggestions, depending on context. However what the article fails to explore in any detail is why and how these approaches will improve employee experience. Rather, it focuses largely on a premise that seems to be surmisable as: ‘this is what we do in our personal lives so we should do it at work too.’

There is undoubtedly merit to looking to consumer experiences and technology to see what works well, and why it works well. It’s also important that we have one eye on the future, per point 4 – what are the tech advances being made, how might they impact our workplaces, and how can we prepare for – and implement – them in our context that will work for our business & our employees? But if we’re going to continue to focus on the employee experience, it isn’t enough to look at technology; it isn’t enough to make sweeping generalisations about how all people behave (or how all people of a certain generation behave). We must understand our people, understand their work, understand their context, and make concerted efforts to improve the experience in a way that makes sense.

What is your workplace doing to improve the employee experience?


Sydney Business Insights – The Future, This Week Podcast


This week: lawyers v. AI, logos all the same and ring my bell. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week:

An AI just beat top lawyers at their own game

Why do Google, Airbnb, and Pinterest all have such similar logos?

Amazon just bought video doorbell company ring for $1 billion – 5 years after it failed on ‘Shark Tank’

Other stories we bring up:

This AI checks NDAs for free – and offers a glimpse of the future

The Lawgeex challenge

See the evolution of Google and Airbnb to Spotify and Pinterest logos 

DoorBot pitch (Shark Tank Season 5 Episode 9) 

Smart doorbells are vulnerable to hacking

NASA slams Musk for putting a Tesla into space

We leave you with this” – Aussie blokes training for the Winter Olympics in outback down under