Be safe, be seen #cyclesafe

Listen to a cycling podcast or read a cycling campaign website and you’d be forgiven for thinking that all of the issues with cycling in the UK are down to motorists, poor road design, and the mixture of large vehicles and vulnerable cyclists.

So, as I wandered from Vauxhall station in South West London to my hotel this evening, I was flabbergasted to see just how few cyclists had adequate lighting.  Perhaps as many as a quarter of the cyclists I saw on the Albert Embankment just after dusk had either no lights, or lights that were so dim as to be useless. I even saw one rider, in black clothes and with no illumination, concentrating more on operating his mobile phone than watching the road ahead.  I also watched as a concrete mixer truck pulled out of a petrol station, then waited for a barely-visible cyclist who appeared a few feet away: nice road bike; nice gear; no lights; death wish?

It’s not an isolated incident either. This morning, I had a ringside seat from the top deck of a bus as I watched a cyclist cut down the inside of a construction lorry, despite large warning signs on the rear of the vehicle warning cyclists of the danger (and the tragic loss of life earlier this week when another cyclist was killed after a collision with a tipper truck – for the record, I’m not suggesting that the cyclist who died was at fault – we simply don’t know – but that there are clear and evident dangers and the cyclist this morning was being reckless).  This is in spite of the efforts of organisations like TfL and RoadPeace with campaigns like See Me Save Me trying to warn of the danger presented by large vehicles. There was an excellent piece on ITV’s The Cycle Show about the issues that truck drivers have in seeing cyclists – and even the dangers that advanced cycle stop lines can present (it’s a pity it’s not been released as a public safety film).

It may be a minority that give the rest of us a bad name (I’m a cyclist as well as a motorist – and I can recount stories of idiot drivers too) but it’s a significant minority and the consequences could be fatal. Maybe the Times’ Cities Safe for Cycling campaign should focus on educating cyclists on the dangers they present for themselves and others, rather than just on the dangers that they face from other traffic.

[Updated 21:56 with reference to yesterday’s tragic death]

The “wheel of fortune”

Last week, I wrote about the White Book of Big Data – a publication I co-authored last year at Fujitsu.

One of the more interesting (for me) sections of the document was an idea from one of my colleagues, providing a model to determine next steps in forming a strategy for embracing a new approach (in this case to move forward towards gaining value from the use of a big data solution but it can be applied to other scenarios too).

The model starts with a “wheel” diagram and, at the centre is the first decision point. All organisations exist to generate profit (even non-profits work on the same principles, they just don’t return those profits to shareholders).  There are two ways to increase profit: reducing cost; or increasing revenue.

For each of the reduce cost/increase revenue sectors, there are two more options: direct or indirect.

These four selections lead to a number of other opportunities and these may be prioritised to determine which areas to focus on in a particular business scenario.

With those priorities highlighted, a lookup table can be used to suggest appropriate courses of action to take next.

It’s one of those models that’s simple and, I think, quite elegant. I’ll be looking to adopt this in other scenarios in future and I thought that readers of this blog might find it useful too…

Take a look at the book if you want to see this working in practice – “the wheel” is on page 37.

The White Book of Big Data

Almost exactly a year ago, I was part of a team at Fujitsu that wrote a short publication called the White Book of Big Data.

This was the third book in the successful “white book” series, aimed at helping CIOs to cut through vendor hype on technology and business trends, following on from the White Book of Cloud Adoption and the White Book of Cloud Security.

At the time, I was keen to shout about this work but couldn’t track down an externally-visible link (and I was asked not to publish it directly myself).  Now, when big data has become such an incredibly over-hyped term (so much so that I try not to use the term myself), I’ve found that the book has been available for some time via the Cloud Solutions page on the Fujitus website!

Irrespective of the time it’s taken for me to be able to write about this (and any bias I may have as one of the authors) I still think it’s a useful resource for anyone trying to cut through the vendor hype.  At no point does it try to directly sell Fujitsu products – and I’d be interested in any feedback that anyone has after reading it.  If you’d like to read the book, you can download a PDF.

As I’ve changed roles since the book was published, I think it’s unlikely I’ll be involved in any future publications of this type (I always wanted to create a White Book of “Bring Your Own” Computing) – unless I can encourage any of my marketing colleagues to sponsor a White Book of Messaging!

MK Geek Night again – and I still haven’t blogged about the last one!

This week sees the sixth quarterly Milton Keynes Geek Night (MKGN).  I’ve attended every one so far and always blogged about them – except the last one.  The simple fact is, I’ve been too busy – but I’m also just a little bit obsessive about these things and wanted to write something before it’s too late…

The last event was fantastic as ever but I’ve lost my notes. I know it sounds a bit like “the dog ate my homework” but I think iA Writer has put them somewhere strange… not on Dropbox (where I expected) but in iCloud, I think – except I can’t find any documents in iCloud (I’m sure I have to use an iDevice of some sort and it will all be fine…). I really should standardise on using one app for this – not the current combination of OneNote/Evernote/iA Writer, depending on the device I’m using…

Anyway, you can catch the audio from the last MK Geek Night on SoundCloud including:

  • Sarah Parmenter (@Sazzy) on designing for the responsive web.
  • Westley Knight (@Meteoracle) on life behind the curve.
  • Michael Fox (@IdleMichael) on how boardgames can make you awesome.
  • Ben Ward (@CrouchingBadger) on setting whitespace spectrum free.
  • Andrew Spooner (@AndSpo) on why mobile audio sucks.

MK Geek Night number 5 was David Hughes’ (@DavidHughes) last night as co-host and organiser but Richard Wiggins (@RichardWiggins) continues to organise these fantastic evenings.  You can find out more on the MK Geek Night website or on Twitter (@MKGeekNight) – but you’ll have to be quick. Tickets “sold” out for this free event in under an hour this time around!

Lyncing to Asterisk

I’m seeing increasing interest from customers in the enterprise voice functionality in Microsoft Lync – particularly for customers who already have an investment in Microsoft products for email, instant messaging and presence (Exchange and Office Communication Server or Lync).

One of my colleagues, Garry Newsham, shared an interesting link with me recently about integrating Lync with the open source Asterisk platform. Whilst this isn’t something I expect many enterprises to be looking at, it might be a project for smaller organisations.

As for me, maybe I’ll have another go at getting IP telephony working in my house, linked to my Office 365 Lync subscription…