Developing a Digital idea without Developers

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This is in many ways a companion piece to my previous post it started out as a version for LinkedIn, but rapidly evolved into something with a different emphasis.

The internet revolution has changed the landscape of our lives, and yet the disruption has only just started. Existing ways of doing business are largely unchanged from the way they were 20 years ago. Hilarious disconnects exist all over, when ultra-slick digital-only processes crash into messy physical transactions.

There is a reason for this. Coders like to code – they like the safe, ordered, complicated-but-not-truly-complex world of programming. And coders are the ones who feel empowered to invent digital businesses. So, of course, the early digital businesses are the ones that can be achieved with purely digital workflows, and don’t require the startup team ever to leave their own world.

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Using FilemakerPro as a RAD platform just got more interesting

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I’ve mentioned before that we’ve used FPro as a type of Rapid Application Development Platform. Building a fully functioning prototype using this high-level (largely graphical) database application has allowed us, as non-coders (albeit with a decent understanding of how a properly architected database should be structured), to develop our therapy-smarter tool in an iterative way, without spending large amounts of money.

Another benefit is that the product we are using remains fully accessible to us at the architecture and data level, and is largely self-documenting. FilemakerPro produces human-readable graphical representations of its database structure as a standard report and the functional scripts are basic-like in their use of real language, and thus easy to follow.

What this means is that, for a team like ours, without coders, the scary step of commissioning native code from people whose work we will ultimately not be able to judge in detail is made much less risky. When we judge that the time is right to take the system to the next level – when we need it to go faster and handle more clients, we will have to get the thing recoded – and this will mean bringing developers in.

For startup teams without coders, this is a terrifying point. How do you find the right person? How do you choose which framework, which language, which platform, which architecture? How can you even begin to judge the recommendations you are hearing? How can you describe the features you want?

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Semantic Scholar trawls unread scientific papers

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New Scientist reports (pay barrier, sorry) that the Seattle based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) has launched a tool called Semantic Scholar, which aims to;

…read, digest and categorise findings from the estimated 2 million papers published each year.

The article goes on to say;

Up to half of these are never read by more than three people.

That’s right. One million scientific papers a year, read by only three people each. That’s some sort of sad exemplar for futility.

Therapy-smarter is the new name for MyPhysioLink

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In April I introduced MyPhysioLink – the physiotherapy start-up that I and my co-founder, Cris Costa, have been working on. With the beta launch of the service imminent, we looked long and hard at the name and decided it wasn’t good enough.

So we are now Therapy-Smarter.com. Visit our website to see what we’re up to, and for the latest news on our progress. Physiotherapists can sign up for a free trial.

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Discoverability, the semantic web and the power of patterns

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Raoul Vaneigem said;

Everything has been said yet few have taken advantage of it. Since all our knowledge is essentially banal, it can only be of value to minds that are not.

But he wrote this before the internet existed. Today, we might add ;

… and is only discoverable by those with excellent search skills and a willingness to plough through endless irrelevance.

Finding information that meets your needs, is written in a language you understand, on the basis of assumed knowledge that you already possess is not at all easy – despite the cornucopia that is the internet. Or is it, because of the cornucopia…?

The problem applies in reverse for producers of content. How will your (my!) little gem of insight ever be seen by more than a few?

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Fairphone 2 open sources its OS

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Fairphone2 - credit: Fairphone

Fairphone2 – credit: Fairphone

I have an FP1 Fairphone. Not the greatest ‘phone ever, but the outcome of an amazing project started by a small group of Dutch activists to develop and sell a smartphone with the best possible ethical and environmental credentials (avoiding conflict minerals, paying attention to worker’s conditions, supporting repairs and recycling, amid other concerns). The FP1 was fairly compromised, but established the outfit, and sold 60,000.

The FP2 is a significant advance, independently verified as the most ethical smartphone available. Most importantly for me, it is based on a chipset which is ‘open’ enough that alternative OS development is practical ( not the case for the FP1). This means that the ‘phone will likely have a longer practical life, with updates potentially available from a variety of sources.

Fairphone understand and support this, and the impulse to write this post is the announcement that Fairphone are going to open the Fairphone OS (an android fork) for community contributions, releasing a set of software tools to support this.

I haven’t got an FP2 yet (not buying a new ‘phone until you really, really need one is the sustainable way, folks, frustrating though it might be). So I’m hoping that, by the time I do, there will be a strong community behind Fairphone, giving me more and better options for using the hardware – which should itself be upgradeable, thanks to modular design.

Interested in Fairphone? Look here. For Computing magazine’s pre-production review, look here.

A better nation?

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“Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation.”—Alasdair Gray

Inspiring idea … but what does a better nation look like? How does it work?

Read this.

In my post TechnoLiberation a few weeks ago, I rather vaguely proposed that the new political/economic paradigm would come up from underneath, that it would be predicated on enormous numbers of people using information technology to create new forms of interaction that worked for humans, that superseded the current models, rather than did battle with them.

Paul Mason’s new book, for which the article is a pre-publication taster menu, makes a much stronger, more detailed, and compelling case that the beginnings of this transformation are under way already – that the economics of information underpin all sorts of human initiatives, on a wide number of fronts, that offer tentative blueprints for ‘a better nation’ in the making.

A better nation – and one which people in technology can easily imagine that they are working in the early days of.

Convergence is coming like a train on rails…

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Blogger Brian Posey, discussing Microsoft’s ‘Continuum’ concept, has this;

In another demo, someone connected their Windows Phone to a large screen and to a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Not only did Office expand to accommodate the larger screen size, but the experience was identical to that of working on a PC.  The presenter even said that with some of the higher-end phone models it will be possible to use your phone as a phone and a “PC” at the same time. It would be possible, for example, to work on a spreadsheet on the big screen while talking on the phone, playing a game or watching a video on the phone’s built-in display.

Using the phone as a PC seemed like a completely seamless experience. The only indication that the presenter was not using a PC was the fact that there was no desktop mode.

This is convergence, and I predict (with my usual complete lack of originality) that it will produce a major upheaval, and the final nail in the coffin of the traditional PC as a consumer device. I’ve been going on about it for ages, but not here so far.

The logic is simple. If you have, always with you, a powerful-enough computer that has access to all the software and data you need, then why would you ever bother to use a different device? Why would you spend out on another powerful computer, with different software, that is effectively immobile – another device that condemns you to continually switching interfaces, worrying about synchronisation, using different networks, different UI paradigms. Seriously, why?

Well, for quite a number of very good reasons, you are no doubt thinking – but the thing is, all of those reasons are melting away, and melting fast…

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Wearable data business models re-imagined

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I’ve been thinking about this, off-and-on, over the last few weeks, ever since I had a conversation with a chap hoping to build up a large database of Type 2 diabetes related stats, analysis of which would allow his firm to develop a tool to help sufferers self-manage their own care.

In the context of our own interest in getting hold of large amounts of data from wearable devices with movement information related to exercises, I began to think about the differences, wondering what they might suggest.

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