Now comes coding…Digital has gone granular

Following Social Media Week in September, marketers are reflecting on the reminder it gave us that no matter how well versed in strategy and steeped in experience we are, we can’t escape the fact that digital and social are the new old terms. But digital is taking on another, new and more technical edge (yet again). Companies at social media week offered coding workshops – reflecting the upswing in the popularity of Web development, boosted by our very own UK based Silicon roundabout in London and US sitcoms aired in the UK such as Silicon Valley.

Free coding workshops and coding websites such as Code School and Code Academy are also gaining ground in the popularity stakes and inches in the media as they do. These courses offer everyone from any profession the chance to get hands on Web and app design and experience. Why do they want to? Well, the age old adage remains true; knowledge is power. And in this case, having a technical mindset, one which helps you to remain on top of the processes behind the most important digital platform – the Web – is becoming increasingly helpful. From understanding how to change a colour on a webpage to getting to grips with the latest content management system, even basic coding knowledge can help all to make small efficiencies in the day to day project management process.

racepoint_commsblog_nowcomescoding_digital15This is the part where this article may give you pause. You may be asking whether you really need to know how to code or whether it’s enough to rely on that cool looking digital guy or girl in the hooded sweatshirt? The truth is that digital has gone granular. Strategy for content and earned media used to be able to cut it, and then digital came along and tweeting and posting on Facebook was the thing to engage customers in a two way conversation. Then automated marketing tools enabled the ability to track and really understand our customers before engaging with them. Programmatic added another dimension by enabling marketers to launch real-time in a box campaigns to multiple regions meaning we could better reach customers in real time. Now comes coding – it’s not new but it’s certainly a new way of looking at how to manipulate the platform powering these marketing tools. And it’s in this ability that we can really drive efficiency benefits and personalise their services.

There is absolutely still a need to focus on the macro – content strategy and development is the cornerstone of every good marketing plan. But those who create the content – marketers – are often the most likely to also take informed decisions on how content is disseminated and the budgets, strategy and design that accompany the new digital landscape – videos, apps, infographics, websites and logos. For this, knowledge of coding is necessary.

In fact, this knowledge has multiple advantages. In learning the basics of Web languages – HTML, CSS and Javascript – that help to build marketing tools across common platforms you’ll be able to communicate more readily with development teams, have a better grip on development timeframes and how to customise you content management system for your unique requirements.  So coding isn’t just another fad that is going to pass while we all sit tight. It’s certainly one I’m still trying to get to grips with, and will continue to.

In praise of Ada, storytelling and unsung heroes

When Racepoint met with Suw Charman-Anderson back in March this year we were struck immediately by her story.  Suw is the founder of Ada Lovelace Day, which she established in 2009 with the aim of raising the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (often abbreviated to STEM).

Suw

Spurred by a lack of visibility of women in STEM, Suw set out to use the power of role models to inspire a new generation of innovators and inquisitive minds, while reminding the world of the inspirational work that has, and is being done, by women in scientific and technical fields.  As the first female computer programmer – Ada Lovelace was the ideal person to represent the cause.

Six years later and Ada Lovelace Day has evolved to become an incredible example of what can be achieved with determination and passion.

O'Reilly Media sharing stories

Oreilly media– sharing stories for Ada Lovelace Day

This year, in celebration of Ada’s 200th anniversary, Ada Lovelace Day has seen 130 independent events taking place in 67 cities, 19 countries, across 7 continents, generating a huge amount of buzz and participation across social channels and major media outlets.  The real power in the movement has been in the storytelling – individual passions, challenges and accomplishments detailed with meaning and relevance as well as a good dose of heated discussion stirred up with hashtags and brand campaigns.

Norway celebrates Ada Lovelace Day

Norway celebrates Ada Lovelace Day with a record-breaking coding class

As an agency with a close involvement in science and technology, we were inspired by our meeting with Suw to take a closer look at the work that is being done around STEM skills and diversity.  What we’ve discovered so far has been fascinating – watch this space for our first report.  It’s been incredible to speak to individuals who, like Suw, are driving change in how science and technology is perceived, taught and promoted and the efforts being made to ensure STEM careers, skills and knowledge are made relevant and accessible to more people of all ages.  These efforts are critical in the quest to foster greater participation in, and understanding of, the digital world we are shaping and making.

Working at the intersection of technology development and consumption we see first-hand how technology is redefining industries, markets and the way we live.  It’s never been a more exciting time to be involved in STEM-led fields as innovation breaks down barriers and creates new opportunities. However, we are charting new waters.  It now widely accepted that new skills and fresh perspectives are needed as technology becomes more embedded in our work, rest and play.  This is driving interesting discussions across education, government and industry, especially around the role of creative thinking, arts, problem solving, communication and the humanities and putting the STEAM in STEM.

And this makes Ada as a STEM role model all the more interesting.

Not only was Ada Lovelace regarded as the first female computer programmer, she was also a creative thinker – terming her approach to combining imagination and technology as poetical science (a strong link to her father, the romantic poet Lord Byron perhaps?).  According to biographical accounts, she thought holistically about the bigger picture, the role and purpose of technology and its potential to society.  Because of this, Ada Lovelace is a great symbol not only for women in STEM but the quest for greater diversity.  STEM shapes our everyday experiences and we can all benefit from greater awareness of the role it plays and the developments underway that will affect our future.  It will be interesting to see how the Ada Lovelace Day cause evolves as a champion for inclusivity.

Alphabet: what does it all mean?

Social media went into overdrive on Monday evening UK time when Google announced a formal restructure of all its businesses, creating a new company called Alphabet. For the man on the street, Google means Search, YouTube, Drive (including Docs, Sheets etc.), email and Android. For the average marketer you can throw various advertising products and Google Analytics into the mix. For business IT managers, it is everything from productivity, software-as-a-service and possibly as a supplier of a search appliance for its internal servers.
Google Logo in Building43

Three different customer types exist and a product set that grows layer-by-layer like an onion. The bulk of Google’s revenue currently comes from advertising due to the clever technology behind it. One can see from Microsoft’s move to the cloud that there is less revenue in cloud computing than in Google’s current business, so when advertising reaches a natural ceiling for growth, services will provide an incremental benefit at best.

Android was designed as a conduit to Google services and for advertising to venture out into the mobile space. But the world’s most popular mobile operating system is not without its own issues. Despite all phones essentially looking the same, there is a massive amount of fragmentation in the Android marketplace, which makes life harder for developers. Google is also a developer, so building applications that it can build loyalty through and make money from becomes more difficult.

Secondly, an appreciable amount of Android devices (those sold in China) and many sold in Russia don’t use Google services and provide little to no opportunity for Google advertising.

This means that Google is forced to make big bets in very different sectors. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, partly because of their entrepreneurial nature to explore new opportunities, built in an ability to scale Google beyond the business lines that I have outlined above. This was apparent from their original IPO share prospectus and accompanying letter. Xerox is famous in Silicon Valley lore for fumbling the future, by inventing lots of products that would be recognisable to us today in the late 1960s and early 1970s, only to see a corporate head office miss the boat. Brin and Page would have had some awareness of this. Microsoft’s inability to leapfrog beyond its core business successfully is probably also a factor for consideration.

Alphabet formalises the framework that Page and Brin had been working to for a number of years.

So what does this mean to Google?

For the foreseeable future it will be more of the same for Google. We’ve the seen the business scale back services; by September last year Google had closed down 30 services. It has cut back the functionality of Google Adplanner as a reference tool, to just focus on sales. Google has continued to prune back services such as Google+ (a challenging task given the tentacles + has across Google’s services). The changes inside Google for staffers also reflect similar moves towards profit optimisation, move away from experimentation and being a ‘mensch’.

The biggest move was to get rid of the 20% of time engineers could devote to projects that interested them. The truth is since at least 2009, the Google myth of people working there to change the world rather than delivering profit hasn’t held sway for a great deal of their staff.

On the outside Google will still likely have playful swag and cool offices, but the reality is that it will be more of a ‘normal’ business. That means that we won’t see the next Facebook coming from within Google and that whilst the speed of evolution will continue to run along at the same pace, substantial innovation probably won’t. This kind of business requires a different kind of leader to Page, and by appointing Sundar Pichai, will create a cultural break from the past. Pichai is likely to be able to get more revenue out of the Google ‘cash cow’ to help drive innovation in these other areas.

Page and Brin are freer to bring their energy to the other businesses in Alphabet. For instance, keeping Nest out of Google allows it to work easier with Google competitors like Apple and Microsoft as part of a wider eco-system.

Lastly, it could be an effort to ring fence Google’s anti-trust woes within the existing business and prevent restrictions being imposed against its newer businesses because of the past sins of the core business.

So what does this mean for marketers?

Google is likely to pursue a steady as she goes approach. The focus will be to optimise revenue, so there will be tension with agencies on advertising practices. We’ve already seen this, with Google restricting methods of buying YouTube advertising. These changes will impact the advertising technology business around programmatic advertising.

The picture with SEO is more about slow and steady change; Google has evolved its Panda index changes to a rolling change rather than the massive shake-ups of old.

More information

Android Fragmentation Report August 2015 – OpenSignal
2004 Founders’ IPO Letter – Investor Relations – Google
Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, then Ignored, the First Personal Computer
What’s eating Google’s brand | renaissance chambara
Why Google Employees Quit? | TechCrunch
Google Tightens How Advertisers Buy YouTube Ads | AdWeek
Google’s $6 billion miscalculation on the EU | Bloomberg Businessweek

Inclusive innovation – #ILookLikeAnEngineer is only the start of the conversation

Forget the #tubestrike – there’s a new hashtag in town, and it’s spurred some healthy debate here at Racepoint towers. Coverage continues to gain traction around Isis Anchale, the 22-year-old engineer at the identity management firm OneLogin, who agreed to participate in a recruiting ad for her company, leading to a raft of sexist comments based on Anchale’s attractive appearance. “I think they want to appeal to women, but are probably just appealing to dudes,” wrote one Facebook commenter. “Perhaps that’s the intention all along. But I’m curious people with brains find this quote remotely plausible and if women in particular buy this image of what a female software engineer looks like.”

The Twitterverse is a-flutter with image after image of women engineers showing support for Anchale and her cause with the #ILookLikeAnEngineer trending as we speak – and we’re loving seeing this support pour in. But from my perspective the discussion reaches far beyond issues of feminism and women in tech. In her own words in a recent blog, Anchale states that “this industry’s culture fosters an unconscious lack of sensitivity towards those who do not fit a certain mould.”

isis_anchalee_engi_3398011b

This is not a bra-burning, “I am woman – hear me roar” moment. (Although as a colleague mentioned to me earlier today, we have a way to go on that front. The real measure of success from a PR person’s perspective, in her words, will be “when I no longer have to pitch for a feature on “women in tech”, but rather am just pitching for a feature that’s relevant to the client and by chance my spokesperson is a woman.”)

The wider topic this raises is that the industry should be conscious of any type of barrier that may hinder innovation. By creating a hostile environment for any person who may not fit the traditional mould, we are potentially discouraging the development of brilliant, exciting new solutions products using technology. Movements like the indomitable Martha Lane-Fox’s Dot Everyone campaign and the fantastic Ada Lovelace Day coming up in October to celebrate women in STEM, illustrate that we are headed in the right direction – but there is a long road ahead, and we need to challenge preconceived ideas at every turning point along the way.

Anyone who loves tech should feel passionate about making it as inclusive as possible. Keep your eyes peeled for more on this topic from the Racepoint team – we’re planning an exciting event later this year to keep the conversation going. Come as you are – because ANYONE with the right skills, knowledge and enthusiasm can be an innovator and we need to keep breaking down these barriers, gender or otherwise.

 

Cloud World Forum: A misleading title for a developer focused event

Cloud World Forum was a little quieter than usual this year, most likely due to the blazing sun that was beating down outside as we graced the interior of the Kensington Olympia’s exhibition hall last Thursday.  The title of the event seemed a little misleading; while there were present a handful of cloud and data centre, backup and storage vendors, the focus this year seemed to be on attracting the developers and the start-ups.

Cloud World forum

The agenda therefore was undeniably skewed towards how to use technology effectively and efficiently (on a budget) and on how to attract developers. As technology adoption grows, many products are now becoming a commodity (including cloud) and it is the online services, apps and technology behind them that are able to help them stand out in often crowded markets.  This seemed to explain the drive from vendors at the show to appeal to more developers or build out a community from a small and in-demand talent pool as a means to differentiate through digital innovation.FullSizeRender 1

To add to this trend, the rise of hardware vendors and OEMs reaching out to developers has grown. With many hardware producers trying to transform into service providers through new platforms that offer enterprise services, it was no surprise to see Samsung alluring developers by discussing the benefits of its software development kit. The company is also aiming to attract Independent Software Vendors and developers to expand its growing ecosystem of resellers and partners for Samsung KNOX, its Android-based solution specifically designed to enhance security of the current open source Android platform.

We’ll write up more this week about the agenda at the event, some interesting discussions on marketing cloud or developer technology and building stories around products.