How I made £10 when I was 14 (I think)

There seems to be a rash of news articles at the moment along the lines of:

How I made a gazillion when I was only 16

I never had that experience, but I did have a valuable life affirming experience that involved a £10 note.

In my teens, my daily routine before and after school was to get on my bike and cycle into the town where I lived to a small newsagent just off the market square.

There I would pick up a pile of newspapers which had already been labelled for me by the owner of the shop. The papers would be deposited into a large PVC messenger style bag which carried advertising for the local evening paper and I would head out.

My attire was entirely governed by the weather. Fine weather called for shorts and t-shirts. Rain called for a kagool and waterproof trousers, but no gloves because that slowed you down. Wintry conditions required a move to a thick coat, thick trousers and bikers gloves which, in those days, were long and came half way up your lower arm.

We delivered in all weathers. There was no option to call a parent and ask them to come round with you in their car.

Each of the rounds that we went on had a number, and an informal place in a league table from very good to quite bad. The place in the league being defined by three things – how many papers needed to be delivered, how many awkward deliveries their were, and how good the Christmas tips were. I started on a reasonably good round, eventually moving to a very good round. I can’t remember what number the round was, but think it was 7, it didn’t have too many papers, it was in the town so had few drives to go down and the Christmas tips were supposed to be excellent.

There was another huge advantage to this round, the people were pleasant.

There was one particular row of houses where you delivered the paper through the rear door because there wasn’t good access to the front. The rear gardens were relatively small yards and on most days when the weather was good the people who lived in these houses were in the back yard enjoying the sunshine or hanging out the washing. But even in poor weather they would look out for you and give you a wave as you went by. A smile and a wave goes a long way when you are wet through to your underwear and can’t feel your fingers. I would always return the greeting.

One year, at Christmas, I was delivering to the houses on the row and it was raining. There’s a particular type of rain in the area where I grew up which has travelled across the North Sea from the Baltic and slices through you as you travel through it.  As I reached the end of the row the older couple who lived there open the door for me and handed me an envelope. I thanked them for it and gave them a Christmas card whilst depositing the envelope in to my PVC messenger bag.

It was only when I got how that I open the envelope – it contained £10.

These people weren’t rich, but they were generous and £10 was a very generous tip.

That £10 didn’t make me rich, but it did teach me a very valuable lesson about generosity of heart as well as financial generosity. It wasn’t the £10 that made me remember them, it was their smile and their wave. The £10 was an unexpected bonus.

Office Speak: “Agile with a capital ‘A'” and “agile with a small ‘a'”

We have a way of co-opting words into office speak. The latest for many people in the technology arena is agile.

The word agile means:

able to move quickly and easily.

Something that many organisations aspire to do. They want to move more quickly and without it being so hard to do. In our office speak this has become known as “agile with a small ‘a'”.

This word has then been co-opted by a methodology that was birthed in the software development arena, but is becoming more widely used outside that arena. In our office speak this has become known as “Agile with a capital ‘A'”.

We need to differentiate as we speak so that we know which meaning is being used. It’s easy in written text, but as we speak we have no way of differentiating and sentences can have a very different meaning depending on which is being used:

“My customer wants to be more agile.”

Meaning: customer want to be able to move more quickly and stop taking so long to do anything.

“My customer wants to be more Agile.”

Meaning: customer wants to do a better job of adopting the principle of the Agile Manifesto.

This is where it gets fun, because one of the ways a customer may become more agile is by adopting Agile. Which is easy to understand written down, but when you are speaking you need to say:

one of the ways a customer may become more agile with a small ‘a’  is by adopting Agile with a capital ‘A’.

That’s clear isn’t it?

But it doesn’t stop there. There’s also lean and Lean and sometimes Lean and Agile are used together to help organisations to become more lean and agile 🙂

There’s more, don’t forget about safe and SAFe, waterfall and Waterfall, word and Word, workplace and Workplace, need I go on?

I’m off now to write a few words into a Word document for an organisation that has a nice workplace next to a waterfall about how they may communicate using Workplace as they move away from Waterfall toward Lean and Agile, because they aspire to become more lean and agile 🙂

It was harder than I expected to evict my iPhone from the bedroom

Like many people I have used my iPhone as a alarm for years. I take it up to bed with me, plug it in and leave it to wake me up in the morning, or that’s what I thought.

I’ve read may article on the problems of having your phone in your bedroom but my biases convinced me that I was immune to the problems highlighted.

For those of you who don’t know that a smartphone in your bedroom is a bad idea there are a number of reasons but they primarily come down to the impact that using these devices has on our brains. The smartphone is, for most of us, the portal into the highly addictive world of social media. Social media is constructed to grab and retain our attention, which it does by feeding the brain with exciting things – bright colours, moving objects, attention, etc. Our brain doesn’t just switch off from these stimuli and go into a deep sleep, our brain needs time to wind down from the effects of the high calorie inducement.

There’s also a physiological reason, the smartphone screens give off light that impacts upon our levels of melatonin, a sleep inducing hormone. There are ways of reducing this impact, for some phones that requires an app, on the iPhone it comes with Night Shift mode that reduces the problematic blue light frequencies.

My biases convinced me that as long as I enabled Night Shift mode I was pretty immune to the impact of social media – I was wrong.

Something broke through my biases and I decided to invest in a traditional alarm clock; evicting the iPhone and leaving it downstairs to charge. Sounds simple enough?

Making the change was much harder that I was expecting,  It’s been over two weeks and still, every evening I will at some point reach for my iPhone. I’m not sure what prompts it, but the urge is there. The action was so habitual that I didn’t even know I was grabbing for a social media fix. I’m sure that this automatic response will pass, but it hasn’t yet.

Also, I’m not sure I can claim any great impact on my sleep yet. I wasn’t expecting to be able to get to sleep quicker, because that’s never been a problem. What I was hoping for was better and longer sleep as part of a general improvement in sleep hygiene, but that hasn’t yet materialised. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to switch back to having the iPhone in the bedroom, but it does mean that I need to keep working on it.

We live in a sleep deprived world and I think we need to do more to help people understand its importance. This isn’t just about a feeling of well-being, our poor sleep may by killing us.

QUOTE: “But algorithms can go wrong, even have deeply destructive effects…

“But algorithms can go wrong, even have deeply destructive effects with good intentions. And whereas an airplane that’s designed badly crashes to the earth and everyone sees it, an algorithm designed badly can go on for a long time, silently wreaking havoc.”

Cathy O’Neill


Anatomy of a Phishing Email

I received an email today which was purporting to be from Apple Support telling me that my AppleID had been locked.

This email was quite similar to other emails that I’ve received from Apple it had an Apple logo on it and the fonts were all Apple, but this email had a number of giveaway signs that it wasn’t what it purported to be. All I had to do, all you have to do, is look for them.

These emails are deliberately structured to get us to react within the first few seconds before our rational mind has kicked in. What we have to build is a reflex that says “what?”, our rational brain will then wake up and start to point out the things we should have seen in the start and there were quite a few of them in this email, things like:

Email Subject


The subject of the email makes no sense. It doesn’t even relate to the issue within the body of the email; “New Statement Updates” a statement, about what? “login from other browser in Denmark” isn’t English and everyone knows that you don’t put a space before an exclamation mark.

Email Sender

AppleID - Sender.png

The sender of this email claims to be, but does a reasonably good job of showing that this is just a front. The real sender of the email is something radically different.

This message is from a trusted sender?


There’s a poorly created graphic at the start of the email that is trying to mimic something that does, but it’s clear it’s a graphic and not a very good one at that.


Text Inconsistencies

AppleID - Footer.png

There are a whole set of inconsistencies in the text that is presented. The most obvious is in the footer where there is underlined text that would normally link somewhere, but no links have been included. The creators of this email don’t want you going off elsewhere.

There’s another reason for this, it’s an attempt to circumvent the SPAM filters. Emails with multiple embedded links are treated more suspiciously.

The text of the email as a whole, once you read it, should also raise suspicions. The English isn’t great, including basic things like capitalisation and repetition.

The first line is as far as you should need to read:

someone else enters your password, security questions, or other account information incorrectly too many times, your Apple ID automatically locks to protect your security and you can’t sign in to any Apple services.

“someone else enters you password”?

This doesn’t take any special skill it takes reading and suspicion.

Misdirected Links

AppleID - Link.png

The text of the email then invited me to click on a link that said it was to This is the primary purpose of this email – getting me to click on this link. is the right place for me to go to resolve any issue with my AppleID, but the link associated with this text isn’t to it’s to somewhere else which I’m sure will look a lot like the account page, will ask me for all sorts of details and pass them on to a number of individuals who’s purposes will be less than friendly.

I have clicked on the link, and although the SPAM filters let the email through the link checker told me that the link was unsafe and advised that I go no further.

It’s also worth noting that the text is written without the https:// at the front of it to try and circumvent the spam email filters.

But that’s not all.

No Apple ID

The ultimate give away for this email being a phishing attack is this – there is no Apple ID associated with the email address that this email was sent to.


Every time you receive an unexpected email you need to learn to say “what?” and in so doing trigger your rational brain to think. Once you start thinking you can often avoid future heartache.

Technologist – Agents of Social Change

The other day I sat down with a colleague and recorded a podcast in which we were chatting about the ways in which technology drives social change.

Out of the back of that podcast a couple of people have asked about getting more details and this is partially a response to those requests.

One of the social changes that I became aware of recently was the way in which we now use YouTube to solve problems. We used to have a friend who we would ask and they’d show us, or we’d read a manual, now we watch a video on YouTube.

Technology has always driven social change. As I sit at this desk I overlook a street that has been tarmacked to allow cars to run on it. Many of the people around me drive to work, something that they wouldn’t have been able to do before the advent of the car precipitated a social change. The arrival of the car has changed the way we now build cities and the way we interact with our neighbours. The social change caused by the car hasn’t all been positive though, decreased mobility has caused many health issues, early cars weren’t very safe,  environmental pollution is another factor, the growth of the car also lead to the creative destruction of the coach building and many horse related industries.

The people who saw the potential of the motorcar became agents of the social change that it brought. Some of those social change entrepreneurs became celebrated, others were more hidden, but eventually there were millions of people involved in that social change.

In time society recognised the change that was happening and started to build regulations around it seeking to protect against the problems being caused. Car safety tests became an industry partly because regulations demanded safer cars.

These technology driven social changes are not one-off events, they are happening all of the time, probably sparked by the first person who worked out how to create fire or perhaps even earlier than that.

As technologist we are driving changes in our society, whether we like it or not. We are the agents of social change, and that cycle of invention-change-regulation is playing out before our eyes every day.

Much of the technology change is enabling things that our parents could only dream of. I can’t imagine being in a situation where I can’t communicate with all of my family members. The Internet has enable boundless communication to almost every corner of the world, and mostly for free. Every day I talk to people from at least two other continents and often more than that. That’s changing the way that our society works. I have friends who speak to their adult children every day and sometimes multiple times a day. That wasn’t possible when I was a young adult, even if I wanted to speak to my parents every day, I couldn’t afford to.

There are technologies coming that will significantly change the way we live our lives in the future. There’s much talk about the impact of robots and jobs that will be impacted, but there’s also a whole set of new industries that are going to be enabled. Robots will give some people with medical challenges a quality of living that they can’t achieve. We’re already having conversations about the regulatory frameworks that are going to be needed for those robots.

The in-ear translator is already here, if not mainstream, a role we might have expected to be done by a fish at some point in the future 🙂 These are just the latest in a growing list of technologies that we may choose to wear about our person in the future.

There are a number of recent examples of the regulatory steps in the cycle.

The World Economic Forum 2018 at Davos is currently meeting and one of the big subjects is the impact of social media companies:

Social networks would be regulated “exactly the same way that you regulated the cigarette industry”, Benioff told CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “Here’s a product – cigarettes – they’re addictive, they’re not good for you, maybe there’s all kinds of different forces trying to get you to do certain things. There’s a lot of parallels.

“I think that, for sure, technology has addictive qualities that we have to address, and that product designers are working to make those products more addictive, and we need to rein that back as much as possible,” he added.

Facebook should be ‘regulated like cigarette industry’, says tech CEO – The Guardian

And also:

The prime minister is to ask investors to put pressure on tech giants to deal with extremist content on social networks.

Theresa May will say at the World Economic Forum in Davos that investors should consider the social impact of the firms they invest in.

Social networks need to stop providing a platform for terror, extremism and child abuse, she will stress.

Davos: Theresa May to warn tech firms over terror content – BBC News

Which is an interesting call from Theresa May as that’s exactly what some Apple’s major investors did recently:

Two of the largest investors in Apple are urging the iPhone maker to take action against smartphone addiction among children over growing concerns about the effects of technology and social media on the youth.

In an open letter to Apple on Monday, New York-based Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) said the firm must do more to help children fight addiction on its devices.

Apple investors call for action over iPhone ‘addiction’ among children – The Guardian

Meanwhile invention continues at a pace and the agents of social change go about exploiting that technology for the benefit of customers and the cycle moves on.

An inventors moral responsibility for their invention is an long debated subject. I think that the moral responsibility on those of us who utilise a technology to do so in a way that doesn’t bring harm is a bit clearer, but what do we do about all of the unforeseen consequences? Perhaps that’s a post for another day.