WhatsApp groups are here to stay, what do we do about them?

Institutions, whether they are colleges, schools, businesses or public bodies now have a choice: lose influence to the WhatsApp juggernaut or get back in the driving seat by owning the online conversation space themselves.

I’ll quickly explain the issue in this article, however if you still don’t think there’s a problem then go away and read this long Guardian article What’s wrong with WhatsApp and come back here when you’re ready to hear the solution.

Secret WhatsApp groups abound wherever a community exists. …


Soon we will need a licence before we can open a social media account.

Technology often accelerates past regulation, but when regulation catches up it often has similar characteristics.

When cars were first introduced there was no driving licence but it soon became clear there was a learning curve before you sat behind a potential killer machine.

Driving licences protect both the driver and their passengers, other drivers and bystanders. By enforcing a minimum set of standards and training we have become reasonably sure that anyone behind the wheel of an automobile has a basic competence.

Enforcement of the rules…


Making friends and hanging out with your neighbours reduces the number of social purpose car journeys.

Street parties are a great way to help you make friends locally.

Winton Ave street party c/o © MuswellMetro

It’s a simple formula and anyone can benefit, whatever their age:

The more time we spend hanging out with neighbours the less time we spend travelling to meet friends further afield.

Reducing our travel times means less energy consumption, gives us more leisure time and saves the planet.

Triple win!

Bring on the street party season.


Brexit is a political earthquake.

Earthquakes are caused when tectonic plates are meant to have shifted but haven’t. The longer the build up of pressure, the bigger the earthquake.

While many have accused Brexiters of fantasy in how they perceive an exit from the EU, the real fantasy is the one Britain has been collectively living in for the past 40 years of EU membership:

That fantasy that we are still an independent nation.

The earthquake is our realisation that we are not.

Till now, we have mostly all believed that our journey as a society is being decided by…


Big fish, little fish — coexistence needs fair market rules.

British MP Damian Collins landed a fair punch on Facebook yesterday (Facebook offered preferential access to data, UK alleges — FT) when he called out private developer whitelisting as anti-competitive.

Developer whitelisting is often part of an insidious tech platform strategy of “developer bait and switch”. This is where developers, independent businesses, are

  • baited with free access to platform data, encouraged to build businesses and then;
  • switched as the platform clones their business and charges for data access to continue, or closes off access entirely.

Developer bait and switch has long been a dirty growth strategy of Silicon Valley’s tech…


Primary school kids need to learn the fourth R that will prepare them for the digital age — Reporting

For generations, we’ve taught our children the 3 R’s — Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic.

But for our modern, digital age where content can come in any medium and some to be trusted more than others, there’s a now a new, pressing requirement.

We need our kids to understand how the distribution medium itself has shaped the content they are consuming.

We need to teach them a fourth R — Reporting!

At the most basic level, it’s common sense, we all know a graffiti message is different from a road sign. You wouldn’t use a graffiti sign to navigate with!

But…


Today’s DCMS questioning of Facebook head of policy Richard Allan (full video)

In today’s DCMS Committee questioning of Facebook I had a real sense of the wrong questions at the right time.

Let me unpack that.

This is the right time (never has there been a more right time!):

  • 2.2 billion people on a single digital platform — never before has humanity been so united.
  • A single, centralised provider of a rich communications network — not since the Roman empire has so much design and governance power been concentrated in a single entity.
  • There is still a chance for “one internet” to win out — the trend is away from this…


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As we watch the grinding saga of the American congress grilling “big tech” execs from Facebook, Google and Twitter over Russian meddling in their recent presidential election — we can see new regulation beginning to form in the minds of the US lawmakers: ideas such as the “Honest Ads” act are getting air time.

However, writing new national laws, complete with their local peculiarities, will not produce good regulation of an inherently global industry.

To regulate properly, we need a global response to social media regulation not a local, national one.

America is so dominant when it comes to digital…


We learnt today that Facebook is funding digital ambassadors to teach online safety, particularly around bullying, in secondary schools: Facebook to train teens as anti-bullying ambassadors

I welcome this development as it is at least a start and in the right direction! I like the idea of engaging peers as ambassadors at the secondary level.

However, digital education in the UK remains woefully inadequate when compared with the expected scale of the digital economy and our part in it. For example, only 35% of ICT teachers actually have a relevant ICT qualification!

As more and more of our lives have…

Toby Beresford

We are generation internet

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