in Energy

Going green by using less fossil fuel. Are we moving in the right direction?

In 2015 23% of the electricity in the UK was generated from coal. In 2016 this was down to 6%. Twelve months ago, on 21st April 2017, for the first time since the Industrial Revolution (135 years), 24 hours passed with no coal being used to produce electricity in the UK. Coal fired power is thankfully on the way out.

It’s a worldwide trend too. Costa Rica last used fossil fuels in June 2016. Iceland runs from 100% renewable sources, and Sweden is also 100% fossil-fuel free. Italy is not there yet but aims to be coal free by 2025.

Smaller scale, but important – last year my web hosting company went 100% into green electricity. So it’s possible for smaller companies to lower their fossil fuel use too.

And bang up to date, Apple have recently announced that they are now using green energy across their entire (and not insubstantial) business empire.

It’s all part of a huge environmental picture, but these important elements in the removal of reliance on fossil fuels can only be positive and moving us in the right direction.

The Earth says thank you.

Keeping an eye on a cruise ship

Sometimes just being able to do certain things in 2018 seems remarkable.

So, the parents-in-law are off on a cruise this week, and after a few clicks on a website I get this view of one small part of the world bristling with ships going about their business. And in amongst there is the cruise ship they’re on.

Not sure which bits about this are so remarkable. The fact that a ship can be tracked at all. Or that this information is publicly available, so quickly, so easily, so cheaply. Or a reminder of the scale of activity that is out there at any one time (here it’s shipping, but it could be air traffic, road traffic, rail traffic or so much more). Or the fact that we can take this for granted and just get to assume that accessing this sky high view of our world is now normal. Wow.

Anyway – enjoy the cruise. And everyone else on all those ships on this image – have a safe trip.

Norwich bus swallowed by road 30 years ago

You know you’re getting old when an incident you remember from whilst at university gets back onto the BBC news to commemorate its 30th anniversary!

Whilst in my final year at university we got news of a double decker bus being swallowed by the road near to where my student digs were.  It was well worth a watch at the time.  Sinkholes were not a thing then, it was long before the Internet  existed to keep us amused, and it was probably the most exciting thing in Norwich that month.

And now the BBC tells me it was 30 years ago!

Artificial Intelligence. Time to start applying our own intelligence to this opportunity and challenge for the future

Today the House of Lords publish a report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) – “AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?”

This very comprehensive report from a select committee setup to examine this up to date topic, underlines the importance of this developing technology on the future of the world, the UK and our lives.

In practice we’re already surrounded by Artificial Intelligence (or machine learning) embedded in so many forms into the way we live our lives. But we’re only starting out on this journey of discovery, development and opportunity. What’s to come?

In the 1980’s, whilst studying Computer Science at university, we were already excited by Artificial Intelligence. The Turing test was an active discussion, we played with “expert systems” as we knew them then and we were told then to expect great things from AI. Except it seems to have taken a while since then to take hold. Decades in fact. But things are accelerating. AI dominates technology talk as well as increasingly popular news. It’s an economic driver worldwide these days. Challenges placed before AI (beating humans at Chess and then at the more complex problem of Go) are tumbling away. 

Want some examples close to home? Take a look at the recently started Machine Learning journal (blog) from Apple. Siri, image recognition, character recognition and more that you take for granted in your iDevice all have some pretty amazing AI related work behind them. Dip into this article about linguistics just to get started and then start to reassess what you think AI is all about.

So who knows what the future will bring? Opportunity? Threat to jobs and industry? Destruction of humanity through ‘the singularity’?

The importance of AI is underlined by the very fact that the Lord review has happened at all. There’s a lot to digest in this report and I’m only part way through digesting it all, but business leaders will now be examining this in some detail – not just the technologists I’m sure.

I’m keen to see how AI is going to impact the charitable sector – especially smaller charities, and I’m hosting a discussion workshop this month exploring the topic. AI is here to stay and is going to change our world. Will it change our sector? I’m interested to find out.

Hull City of Culture 2017 – just the beginning?

Kingston-upon-Hull has a reputation. The only thing is, what is that reputation? I’m not from Hull, but it’s now on my doorstep and I’m essentially a tourist here. I’ve heard many reputations over the years – some brave (its role during WWII), some inspirational (as a thriving port in the past), some fresh and innovative (Siemens is here now as a centrepiece of the offshore windfarm industry), but much of it is negative and overrides pretty much everything else. Hull at the bottom of every sort of social league table you can think of. But now Hull is UK City of Culture 2017 and it looks to me like it might gain a new reputation.

The promotion is everywhere – and I don’t just mean locally – national media covers Hull in a positive light now. The city is filled with people like never before. We have city urban landscaping underway, new arts and culture venues and a packed cultural programme. I’m only just starting to experience it all and it’s great! We’re only three months into twelve busy months and it’s now about working out how often to get to Hull.

So what will happen to Hull’s reputation? There’s positivity all round at the moment (and Hull seems to have got the City of Culture programme nailed – well done organisers). But, when it’s over what will be the legacy? There will still be buildings and structures, but what will be the reputational legacy? Will it help Hull longer term? (What was the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics for that matter?). This will be one I’m going to be interested in for a good few years to come.

And if you can make it – come to Hull. Have you heard? It’s City of Culture this year…

How to make a neat .pdf of a Mailchimp newsletter

Today’s How To:
So I’m sending out my e-newsletter via Mailchimp, which naturally hits mine and everyone’s inboxes as an email. I also want to make a neat and tidy .pdf version to send to certain recipients and for various uses.  Best way to create the .pdf?
Solution used: in email client (Postbox nee Thunderbird) set Print Setup and remove all header and footer bits and pieces. Can’t just then Print it as it will include the mail metadata – sender, subject, date etc. Solution is to forward the email (to create a new version), manually delete the header info in the new version (leaving just the body of the email) and then print it. Hey presto – neat and tidy and ready to use…

December “View from the Top”

Very pleased to have today published the latest issue of my “View from the Top” e-newsletter about governance, trusteeship and sector leadership.  Has become a monthly challenge to come up with new and unique article ideas to stir the fires of Good/Better Governance in the charity sector whilst not just rehashing news and ideas from elsewhere.  Low readership at the moment, but hopes of “if you build it, they will come”.  Would like to grow quality contributions from others so I’m not the only ‘voice’ in the newsletter. It’s my experiment in finding unfunded ways to change sector governance for the good.  Now on edition 7. Can I keep it going throughout 2017? …

JRF and removing Poverty in the UK

Some issues are just so important that you need to give them your attention.  Recently I spotted an article on the Joseph Rowntree Association (JRF) website which caught my attention about tackling poverty in the UK, but today this has been brought more keenly into focus by a report issued by the National Audit Office highlighting the failure of the benefit sanctions system in the UK.  The failure of sanctions is not exactly surprising, but the affirmation through the NAO report highlights again the need to tackle poverty in the UK head on.  It’s shameful that a developed nation such as the UK in the 21st century should even have an issue around poverty, so the work from the JRF recorded in their report – “We can solve poverty in the UK” – is worth a lot of attention.  It’s my #longread for the week.

Starting up Facebook Workplace

We’ve dipped our first toes in the water this week with the new Facebook Workplace. A private, group based, Facebook provided online space which we’re going to use as our company staff communication tool.

Up to now we’ve been using private, P2/O2 themed WordPress sites that I’ve built and managed for the past few years, but which have seen reducing connections with staff as our workforce evolves.

There have always been other options – Yammer and Slack being two more specific one’s I’ve played with. But this new Facebook product seems to be the closest to what we need.

So after it being launched in the UK, I requested our site and it’s now live and operational. First staff on board and first conversations taking place. We’ll see how it proceeds…

screenshotq1

Personally I’m quite a hater of Facebook and the negative influence it has on society, but after investigation, this – quite separate – tool seems to have the right approach for what we need. There are some challenges – no way to embed a Google calendar or create ‘pages’ of information for example, but the positive benefits of me not having to build or maintain the staff website specifically will hopefully outway the niggles. Anyway, watch this space for further feedback and progress as we play with the new tool.