Ten brilliant things I read in January


January is done and I’m feeling pretty happy about it. While there have been a few good bits, for the most part, the first month of 2016 has been pretty shite.

Aside from Bowie, Rickman, Wogan and the rest – and the fact that going back to work after Christmas is just the worst – I’ve lost two of my four guinea pigs this month, one I found dead in her cage with her body being cuddled by her favourite companion when I got home from work one day, the second dying peacefully in my arms this weekend. I mean, that is just rubbish, right? It takes away any shine from me starting my new podcast or my new band getting its first ever gig booked in.

However, in a bid to try a get some more positivity out of a negative few weeks, I’ve dug through my bookmarks in a bid to share with you some of the best things I’ve read online. I’ve managed to trim it down to ten very worthy reads – from the fascinating to the funny…and one about metal. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

1. Who controls Your Facebook Feed (by Will Oremus, Slate)

This is a fascinating glimpse into Facebook’s notorious algorithm, which aims to make your experience using the world’s largest social network as enjoyable and useful as possible. This is a long read, but so very worth it.

Top quote

“Facebook’s algorithm, I learned, isn’t flawed because of some glitch in the system. It’s flawed because, unlike the perfectly realized, sentient algorithms of our sci-fi fever dreams, the intelligence behind Facebook’s software is fundamentally human. Humans decide what data goes into it, what it can do with that data, and what they want to come out the other end. When the algorithm errs, humans are to blame. When it evolves, it’s because a bunch of humans read a bunch of spreadsheets, held a bunch of meetings, ran a bunch of tests, and decided to make it better.”

Read it in full

2. App makers Reach Out to the Teenager on Mobile (by Conor Dougherty, New York Times)

If, like me, you like making decisions based on data and insight, you’ll really enjoy this article. Broadly speaking, it’s telling the story of some focus groups that the app Wishbone has been running with teenagers to make sure it’s app is meeting the needs of its users. That bit is interesting enough, but it also offers plenty of insight into the mindset of how a teenager in 2016 is likely to use their phone.

Top quote

“App makers fear this kind of juggling the way TV networks fear DVRs. Each time someone leaves one app for another, there is a chance that user will never come back. And since apps make money only when users are plugged in and absorbing ads, the number of monthly users is less important than how many users they get each day — and how long they stay.”

Read it in full

3. The 10 best reactions to the new BBC Three logo (BBC Three)

On the internet, everyone LOVES it when brings out a new logo. BBC Three’s new effort caused plenty of chatter earlier this month. What’s interesting is how the Beeb took control of the conversation and collated some of the funniest reactions to their new logo into this Buzzfeed-style list. Obviosuly, there aren’t many brands that could get away with posting this sort of reaction, but when it works, it’s a lot of fun.

Top quote

Just go and read it – the PacMan and W1A references are a particular highlight.

Read it in full

4. Social Media Resolutions for Higher Ed: Lessons Learned at #PUSocialDay (by Eva Kubu, Princeton University Career Services on LinkedIn)

Princeton University Career Service held a conference entirely dedicated to social media and it sounded amazing! From inspiring sessions right through to having a photographer on hand to offer people free profile shots for their LinkedIn profile, this looked like an incredible event (and featured my friend Eric Stoller on the bill too!). This roundup of the day is inspiring stuff.

Top quote

“Imagine bringing your entire University community together for a conference on social media to collectively raise the bar on all social efforts across campus. Further, imagine if you were also able to gather faculty, staff, students and alumni to learn, share and connect—across units and departments—and most importantly, across generations and the globe.”

Read it in full

5. Can Germany’s manufacturers do digital? (BBC)

So, it turns out you can’t do digital engineering in the same way that you would engineer a car. It also turns out that, when it comes to digital, Germany is lagging behind many other countries – this piece from the BBC offers great insight into what’s going on.

Top quote

“Many new services are built on the sharing and mining of “big data”, something that jars with German attitudes to privacy, shaped by years of post-War division and East Germany’s feared Stasi secret police. Germany has been slow to embrace social media. The country has relatively few Twitter accounts. German Facebook accounts are often opened under a pseudonym. The opportunity for German manufacturers to make use of big data is probably slimmer than that of their foreign counterparts.”

Read it in full

6. Meet LinkedIn’s Campus Editors, the Students Creating, Discovering and Curating Student Voices (by Maya Pope-Chappell, LinkedIn)

In the US, LinkedIn has hired a load of current students and deisgnated them offical campus editors – they’re using LinkedIn’s blogging platform to talk about a whole variety of things. Not only is it a great insight into University life, it’s also a pretty great CV moment for these students and will really make their LinkedIn profile pop. It actually reminds me an awful lot of the Student Blogs we run here at Warwick – check them out if you haven’t already.

Top quote

“They’re coming up with ideas, helping their peers shape their content and discovering promising writers and unheard student voices. They’re also quelling student’s fears about sharing their ideas on a public platform. “

Read it in full

7. Bomb threats, breakdowns and bongs: the life of a university security guard (by Anonymous, the Guardian HEN)

Probably the funniest thing I’ve read this month – an absolutely hilarious and brilliantly honest account of what it’s like being a campus security guard. It also highlights just how important people are in any campus community. Once you’re done laughing at this column, you’ll realise the moments that make a real difference are all centred around being human. Well worth a few minutes of your time.

Top quote

“Every September, at the start of freshers’ week, you see the kids who aren’t going to join a society, and who won’t be doing neknominate down the union. Slouched with loneliness. Time-bombs, we call them: if you can reach out to them and get talking about Liverpool FC or Walter White, you can stop them going down a bad road. Most of the time we’re the only ones who spot them, because we’re here 24/7. Unless they crack up between the hours of 8.30am and 5pm, they just get emails from other departments.”

Read it in full

8. People are boycotting Gourmet Burger Kitchen and taking down their tube ads – here’s why (by Ashitha Nagesh, Metro)

A particular interesting story that highlights just how much power social media can give to the people. In short, GBK put out a questionable advertising campaign poking fun a vegetarians and instead imploring that they eat their meaty burgers – despite the fact that GBK sells veggie burgers and, in fact, the world’s best burger was recently declared to be a vegan one. The Internet reacted (you really don’t want to push the wrong buttons of a campaigning vegan) and GBK has been grovelling to apologise since. This article gives a good roundup of the reaction – for what it’s worth, I’m vegetarian and I’m not offended by this campaign…I just think it was a terrible idea from the start. Particularly taking place during Veganuary!

Top quote

“Given the enormous contribution of beef to climate change it might be time for the company to change tack and communicate something more positive than the derision of people taking action to reduce their environmental impacts.”

Read it in full

9. Inside the growing social media skills gap (by Ryan Holmes, Hootsuite CEO)

Doing social media for work is really easy, right? I mean, we’re all on Facebook at home, so doing exactly the same for work should be an absolute doddle…or not. As a social media ‘professional’ I suppose I was primed to enjoy this discussion piece looking at the skills gap when it comes to doing social media for work, but it really is a solid read – particularly when it talks about the training that millennials, and not just us older lot, also need. As the piece says, just because somebody grows up being a social media native, it doesn’t make them an expert in using it at work

Top quote

“Ultimately, though, any investment in upgrading social media skills in the workplace is likely to be money well spent. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other networks aren’t going away. Social business has become business as usual. Indeed, social media budgets at companies are expected to double in the next five years.”

Read it in full

10. Giving the Gift of Metal (BandCamp blog)

As something on an ‘and finally…’ piece for this roundup, I couldn’t help but flag the wonderful story #metalbandcampgiftclub – this is a movement where people acorss the globe are giving each other the gift of metal music via BandCamp. That’s a cool enough story alone (I mean, who wouldn’t love some free metal music in their inbox??) but dig deeper and you’ll find more – like the young bands who’ve been able to make a bit more money, or the hilarious incident where one record label assumed someone in one of their bands had died, following a spike in sales. This is a tale about humans being human and making friends through the majesty of metal, and it’s brilliant.

Top quote

“This band from the UK said, “We were able to have practice this week, because we sold a couple more albums.” And it’s a couple more—it’s not thousands—but that’s gas or tolls or guitar strings. For a lot of these bands, that’s huge.”

Read it in full

That’s it for this month – what did you really reading in January? Post some links in the comments as I’d love to read them too!

Image via State Library of Queensland on Flickr’s The Commons


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