“Meet the man that banned Facebook at work,” was how I was gleefully introduced to co workers when I started my current job. This fearful epithet was not entirely merited on my part – I simply discouraged staff updating their Facebook profiles or tweeting when they were supposed to be participating in conference calls (and being paid to do so).

“Vindication” was the word that came to mind when I stumbled across a report compellingly titled (for me, at any rate): Is Web Surfing Distracting Your Workers?

However, my superficial reaction was premature. According to the research conducted by Harvard Business School research fellow Marco Piovesan, banning such activities is not merely futile but potentially counter-productive. The act of resisting temptation (in the case of the research to watch a funny video or – when reproduced amongst children – to each succulent marshmallow), actually makes people less productive.

So, while idle web browsing can certainly reduce the level of attention and focus that people apply to their work, overtly prohibiting such access could be even worse for productivity.

Here´s a summary of the findings:
• Psychologists have theorized that the energy spent resisting temptation takes attention away from other tasks, but this is the first experiment to test it in the context of a work environment.
• Researchers found that subjects exhibited a decrease in productivity when they were tempted to watch a funny video but then told not to do so. Comparatively, subjects who were allowed to watch the video were more productive.
• The research indicates that prohibiting private Internet use at work is actually bad for employees’ productivity. That effect could be especially critical in jobs where small mistakes could mean a big difference in performance.

Despite the above, I still believe that the benefits of multi-tasking to be greatly exaggerated. My experience at work, instance, is that tweeting and updating Facebook at the same time as doing work is not conducive to effective proof reading, budget planning, contract negotiations, exchange rate calculations or – even – conference calls. Regarding the latter, I believe that all conference calls could be reduced to 15 minutes of everyone genuinely paid attention!

The benefits of social media within the workplace are indisputable – from market research and brand management to internal communications and R&D; such activities should not be considered as “accompaniments” to work but fundamental to it. If your Facebook page requires updating . . . update it, then move on to the next task. This is what I call “uni-tasking”; concentrating on a single task until it is complete before moving onto the next. Do you think it will catch on . . . ?

That’s not to say that there is no role for multi-tasking within the workplace . . . . I’m convinced that it is still possible to eat lunch at your desk, while continuing to email, of course! Does that count?

@RogerDarathe man in the centre has not read this blog

The man in the centre  has not read this post.

So, after months of deliberating and speculation, Murdoch has today come out and announced that access to The Times and Sunday Times’ online content will be charged as of June – with daily access for £1 and weekly for £2.

New websites will be launched in May for each title – replacing the existing timesonline portal – and it sounds like there’ll be limited free access to entice readers once the paid content sites launch.

That a major publication has come out with a paywall is hardly a surprise, but it is certainly high risk. The reception has been mixed – certainly if you simply consider the newspaper content on its own, it seems slightly extravagant to charge for what is currently free; that idea’s not going to get very far in the Dragon’s Den

However, the Times has quietly upped the ante with its acquisition of digital partners and content providers and it could be these added ’membership’ style benefits which could tip the balance between simply paying for news content, and being part of an entertainment hub – the Times is certainly already associated with quality culture and cultural insight.

The major issue this development throws up however is that Murdoch, despite being something of a publishing leviathan, doesn’t own everything online, and if other newspaper publishers go down the same route, the market will become incredibly siloed headlessand surely disenfranchise the customer. (We’ll not mention the problems having multiple access / subs to every newspaper would throw up for a PR Agency).

If key sites have to be individually paid for, it’s going to get very expensive very quickly for a consumer – and micro-payments will only work if there’s a unified platform to base the content on, (rather like a pre-paid Oyster card network for news), which of course doesn’t exist.

We’ve seen the problems similar approaches have encountered in the mobile space with the walled garden approach – surely content owners will have learnt its lessons here?

The internet has democratised information and made knowledge ‘free’ to an extent – does it really need to be boxed back up again?

@wonky_donky

You may have heard or read about two seemingly rather dull announcements from the UK government relating to Met Office and the Ordnance Survey data in the last day or so. What has actually been announced though is quite interesting – and perhaps even revolutionary.

The government has decided to make data from these organisations (or at least a certain amount of it) freely available to the public. What they are hoping to do is encourage entrepreneurs to develop new businesses through the inventive use of this data. It is hoped this will generate tax revenue greater than could have been realised by selling that data for commercial use.

This is a very interesting move on the part of the government that could result in the creation of a wide range of new businesses.

But surely this is a bit too forward thinking of a government that is most likely approaching the end of its days? Well yes it is. The idea was actually seeded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the web, and Professor Nigel Shadbolt from the University of Southampton. Both were recently appointed as government advisers on technology.

For Sir Tim and Professor Shadbolt, the real motivation here will be to encourage the growth of the semantic web, which has been long talked about but painfully slow in realisation.

Essentially, the semantic web is an ongoing effort to make the web more “intelligent” by allowing it to "understand" and satisfy user requests (including requests from machines) to a greater degree. At the heart of the semantic web is linked data and because much of the data held Met Office and Ordinance Survey can be classified as linked, it is essentially semantic web ready, making it ideally suited to the purpose of encouraging the next stage in the Internet’s evolution.

This article from the FT provides more detail on the government’s announcement and is worth reading: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/cdcc60a2-e399-11de-9f4f-00144feab49a.html

@AndyRobertson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Star Wars example of how semantic web works – taken from the excellent folk at http://www.howstuffworks.com/semantic-web.htm