digital afterlife

How to Automate your Digital Afterlife

Have you ever given thought to what happens to our online presence after we die? We will leave digital fragments of ourselves all over the internet. Think of the number of online accounts we sign up to on a weekly basis and the media we push daily to the social networks. It’s not something our forefathers had to worry about, but the internet age will continue to update us into uncharted territory. 


I’ve noticed the growing trend of people who post childhood pictures of themselves on Facebook. Is this a subconscious way of trying to preserve an immortal digital memory of ourselves?


Why does it matter?

This issue of our digital afterlife is particularly acute if you make creative content and would like your digital legacy to continue. If you sell your designs, apps or music for instance, you might want your content to be available after your death, in order to continue to gain royalties or at least give people the benefit of enjoying your work. However, the issue is that our content is being hosted by companies (such as Apple) who require a yearly membership. With all the various passwords and logins we have, one would need a friend or family member to gain access to your media, in order to keep it alive.


Entrust a friend or relative to manage your content

Whether the entrusted friend or family member would want this administrative burden is another thing though! The other issue I’ve thought about is the question of how long your content will even last, given the pace of technology change. Take the Apps market for example – apps need to be updated to be able to run on the latest devices. There is no way I can expect a friend of relative to be able to update one of my apps. Plus, the online portals and processes we learn are so specific and fiddly (and they constantly change), that I would rule this possibility out. Keeping my app collection ‘as is’ might give it 5 years of life, and that’s very optimistic. 


There are some things you can do. It’s a matter of thinking about the bigger picture, so that as an individual content creator, you are pass over your content to a bigger entity. That doesn’t mean giving away exclusive rights though. There are now many marketing platforms that can host your media for you, so that they do the selling, and you take a lesser cut. I partnered with Fingerprint Digital, a kids app platform in San Fransisco, who host duplicate versions of my apps under their brand. They recently made a deal to select app content for the US library network, and this has been great. I could resell my apps on locked down, pre-loaded devices. I also continue to share my icons on The Noun Project under a creative commons license, and receive a small royalty stream from paying members. 


What is the shelf life of media? 

Media formats come and go with the times – look what happened to floppy disks, Beetamax, then VHS, CDs and now DVDs. We have moved to a digital format, and let’s hope that this sticks. If your end format is an image (JPG, PNG etc) this should be good for a while. Wavs and Mp3 music files should also fare well. Video is pretty solid, but with all the different codecs and increasing resolution, your 1080P video may look great now, but is likely to look crummy in a short time, since 4K is now on the scene. Or will it have the vintage cool effect that Super 8 has now? Software and apps will have the shortest shelf life – code and operating systems are always progressing. 


Use an afterlife service to manage your online legacy

Even if you don’t sell creative digital content, you might want to keep your personal photos, videos and messages alive. After death, Facebook will lock your account, so that it can no longer be accessed by family members. So what can you do?

The Digital Beyond is a niche website from the UK that lists all the services you may need for securing your digital content when you pass away. For highlights, see our Automation Software page.


Heavenote – another British startup (why are the British so obsessed with death? Surely there are some Swedish or Danish companies doing this)


This article was inspired by Caroline Twigg’s very moving Guardian article What happens to my late husband’s digital life now he’s gone?




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Air bnb automation

How to Automate your Air BnB Business



While living on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and Kaua’i, I stayed in many Air bnb rentals, and it was a real eye opener. Some people are renting out their spare room to make a little extra cash on the side, and others are renting houses solely for the purpose of renting out the rooms – essentially running their own hotel business. People run Air bnb in many different ways, but generally fall into one of two categories: the ‘live-in’, and the ‘remote.’

The live-in Air bnb host

The Present Air bnb hosts are hands on hosts who actually live there, making you feel like you’re in a real B & B guest house. I think most travellers prefer the human touch, and being able to get tips from the host in person is priceless. I like to meet people, so I personally prefer this type of Air bnb stay. To really impress your guests, and if you want to achieve ‘Superhost’ status, you will need to pamper them by offering them more than they would expect, such as cook them a meal, spend time giving them tips on the area, driving them to the train station or any show of generosity.  

The remote Air bnb host

Many hosts are now running the Remote method, which is more like a hotel or holiday rental. They may own or manage several rooms in properties, and make a nice business out of it. These hosts will communicate with the guests via email, clean the room on check out and arrange the check in for the next guest. Some guests like to be left alone, so this type of hosting is fine, but since you will not be able to make an impression in person, you’ll have to tick all the boxes to make sure your automated Air bnb property pleases your guests. 

Automation = Streamlining

Both types of Air bnb hosting benefits from some automation, or streamlining. You don’t have to deck your house out with high-tech gadgets, as things will inevitably break down or malfunction. That’s just life. People still need to be involved in case things go wrong. When running your Air bnb business, here is a guide to help you automate the process as much as possible. Although I’m not an Air bnb host, I’m writing this from the point of view of a guest. 


8 Ways to Air bnb Heaven


1) Print out a welcome note

airbnb welcome note

Having an information pack or letter is a no brainer, but some hosts we stayed with didn’t even have one. It will save you time to have everything about the house and area written down in one place. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t talk to your guests, but if you’re out when your guests need the info, it saves you having to repeatedly email directions and local advice each time.


2) Get your inventory sorted

air bnb inventory items

Air bnb Hosts take note – as a guest, this is the bare minimum I expect in a rental. (I’m not happy if I can’t make a coffee in the morning!)

The basics: unlimited fast wi-fi, fridge, microwave, filter coffee maker + filters, cups, cutlery, towels, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, hair dryer. 


3) Work out your key system

airbnb keys check-in

If you don’t want to hang around to physically hand over keys to each guest, there are some other methods to consider. One host in Hawaii simply left the keys under a coconut by the door, but not all places are like Hawaii! 

The ultimate in Air bnb automation these days is the use of a keypad combination door lock. If you can get one of these fitted, it means you can simply email your guest the combination, which frees up your day or evening. Remember that guests can arrive any time. It may not be possible to fit this type of lock on your front door though, as you may live in an apartment block or you might have several doors to entry. 

If you want to be really high tech, you could consider using a Smartphone activated lock such as the forthcoming Lockitron and Ring. However, it relies on your guest having mobile wi-fi, and not all international guests will have this when they arrive at your house. 

Failing this, you could buy a solid postal box with a combination code, which contain the keys inside, and install it firmly to a wall outside your house. 

You could have a local friend or family member give the keys to the guest, but if you don’t have anyone available, there are now services that handle this such as Urban Bellhop.


4) Have a cleaning system 

airbnb cleaning services

You can automate nearly everything in an Air bnb rental, except cleaning. So until we have robots that can wash and change the sheets, this is the one thing that needs maintenance when each guest checks out. Mosts hosts do the cleaning themselves, but some hire cleaners or use a managing agent for this. 


5) Use Instant book

air bnb Instant Book

If you’re a trusting person who wants to cut out the delay of screening new guests, just set up your Air bnb account for Instant book. 


6) Include a video package

air bnb tv netflix

Including Netflix or Amazon Prime Video is a cheap way of giving your place the edge over your competition. Just make sure you have unlimited wi-fi, and that it’s fast enough for good streaming. 


7) Home automation

air bnb home automation nest

Installing a smart thermostat could save you a lot money on energy bills if you not around to monitor the heating. The Nest thermostat programs itself to set optimal temperatures, saving energy for homeowners by up to 20 percent per month. There are many brands offering home automation products now, make sure you research what’s out there.


8) Add some complimentary gifts

air bnb complimentary gifts

A little complimentary gift for each of your new guests is a nice finishing touch, which makes you feel like you’ve arrived in a posh hotel. One host we stayed with gives his guests a box of local chocolates, potato chips and water bottles. It must have worked because we stayed a second time at his place at the end of our trip!


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The Singularity

When will the Singularity happen? (infographic)

As digital replaced analogue, perhaps artificial intelligence will one day surpass the brain’s cognitive capacity, a tipping point referred to as the “singularity.” – Andy Haldane

So when might this event happen? Ray Kurzweil, one of the leading thinkers on A.I estimates it could happen as early as 2045. Fortunately he’s an optimist, but let’s hope he knows what he’s doing, because he now works for Google. In terms of what the Singularity is, we can either look at A.I being a separate intelligence to ours, or if you believe in transhumanism, then you will be uploading your mind to a computer, to actually merge with A.I.

After a bit of online research on the history of artificial intelligence, here is an infographic I designed to make sense of it all. Icons come from the Noun Project. Artist credits are here.

I’m at the start of my A.I journey, so please leave your comments on future predictions below!

Singularity infographic


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digital nomad Backpack toolkit infographic

The Digital Nomad’s Backpack (Infographic)

There is something great about fitting your mobile office into one backpack, sitting down in a cafe or co-working space and getting down to work. Here is an infographic I made, containing the typical bunch of accessories that I usually have in my Digital Nomad’s backpack. This toolkit of gadgets and apps should be all you need. Now go find some wi-fi! 



I personally use a 13inch Macbook Pro, which is powerful and portable. If you’re looking for a practical laptop case that’s very light, padded and also waterproof, I use this one by AquaQuest (In case you have the ridiculous fantasy of kayaking with your laptop to do some remote work!)

Aqua-Quest 13 inch Waterproof Laptop Case 

Aqua-Quest 15 inch Waterproof Laptop Case 


Read about my experiences working remotely in Myanmar and Hawaii.


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The Future of Automated Jobs

The automation of jobs – will my skills be automated?

Will a robot take my job?

The rise of the robots and the automation of jobs is a hot topic at the moment, and countless scare stories have appeared online. The replacement of jobs involving repetitive tasks and decision making with computer algorithms has been happening for years, from data entry to automated phone systems to the stock market, but in the coming Ai revolution the question of whether there will be enough new jobs created from the lost ones is in debate. 


There are fears that a skills gap has emerged, in which a tech elite create a wealth disparity, with the highest paid jobs being in software. Instagram was a company with only 13 staff, and was sold for $1 billion to Facebook after only 15 months. There is something ruthlessly inevitable about the tech companies’ facilitation of our lives, and how we suck it up. Uber drivers are just a stopgap before the human driver is replaced by a driverless car within 10 years. 




These startup ideas are great for the customer, but will future generations have any work to do? And seeing the gigantic figures made by tech startups, will they expect money for nothing and their cheques for free? In 1930, English economist George Maynard Keynes predicted on-going technological advance and workers being replaced by machines.  Yet far from being a threat, Keynes viewed this as a huge opportunity.  He predicted that, by 2030, the average working week would have shrunk to 15 hours. Technology would give birth to a new “leisure class”. 


Figures are being predicted that as much as 80 million US jobs could be automated, and UK economic policy maker Andy Haldane recently said in a speech that maybe the Luddites “had a point after all”. Haldane cites the issue of automation being different this time, due to the “rapid emergence of smart machines, jet-propelled by modern computing.  These machines are different.  Unlike in the past, they have the potential to substitute for human brains as well as hands.” He also wonders if it would be a good thing if this utopian leisure dream was to come true:


“Whether that path is desirable, for individuals or societies, is less clear.  Studies show (work) really isn’t just about the money.  Work creates a sense of personal worth and social attachment.  Its loss serves as a personal and societal blight.” – Andy Haldane


According to a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte about 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerisation over the following 20 years. 


Which jobs are at risk of automation?

Try out BBC technology’s handy tool to find out your automation risk.

according to the tool, the most at risk jobs are Telephone salesperson, Typist, Legal secretary and Financial accounts manager, but it’s a long list. Doctors and Accountants should worry. I would welcome the automation of accountancy, because I seem to spend days each year on my paperwork, while they charge a fortune for doing the filing! 


My evaluation as ‘Graphic Designer’ (although this is a very vague great description of what I do) came out at only a 5% risk. But I would disagree with this, as I’m pretty sure even creative skills are at risk too, so look out for that article! 




My experience of ‘Skills Shift’

As a designer working with ‘new media’ – a term that started when web design became a skill, I have seen the pace of technology change rapidly from the start of my design career. As a freelancer I’ve always been determined to be independent and to carve my own way. This has left me open, but also vulnerable to changing trends in media use. My design career took off when I learnt Flash animation, in the days when personally I found the rich media experience of the web exciting.


Look how robotic websites are now – most sites, including this one, are templated and grid-like, in order to satisfy the need to be responsive to both desktop and mobile devices. The iPad was the initiator of change: a device that blocked the Flash experience for its web browsers, so that web design and development was forced to change to the web standard Html5.


Ironically this sudden death of Flash on the iOS devices brought me a better opportunity. I had made my living from animating Flash banners for years, which I hated. I took my Flash skills, learnt basic AS3 coding, and started to develop kids apps using Flash with the Adobe Air plugin for mobile devices. I was now an app developer and publisher of my own content, selling my apps through the Appstore, Google Play, Amazon and Nook store. Flash may have died as a platform, but it’s still the most versatile creative software. It can be used for drawing vector graphics, animating, making interactive presentations which are exportable to video and html5. So when media changes, there’s still a chance to transfer our skills.


I had my fair share of success and failure on the Appstores, and it’s been a huge learning experience. The market was saturated when I started, and it changes exponentially, so that while one is developing an app, the market can completely change when it’s ready for launch! While it’s not a good place for indie developers to make a living, it’s a great platform for long term royalties and reaching people, even if most apps are now free.


And here I am now, learning new skills all the time – infographics, WordPress, Html5 animation, in the spirit of trying to keep up and reinventing myself once again… Just like everyone will be doing in most industries in the future.

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Remote Working Digital Nomads

The Pros and Cons of Remote Working in Paradise


Waking up to the sound of tropical birds cooing and chirping outside, it’s clear I’m a long way from home again. I picked an Air bnb room in a house (which turned out to be a mansion) in the Manoa valley area, a little way out of town from the touristy Waikiki beach. The guy who rents it is in the US military, and says that doing Air bnb works out so well that it covers his rent. The key-code on the front door means that when you book the room you get emailed the door code, so that he doesn’t even need to be there to give you the key. Now there’s an example of smart automation in action!


Looking through the blinds I can see tropical plants and mist covered hills. The sun is out but it’s also raining. This is why it’s called the rainbow state. Take a hike into the hills and you’re bound to see one as we did yesterday in the light and refreshing rain. So where am I? Oahu, Hawaii of course. This place, with lush volcanic valleys and paradise beaches and Jurassic park jungle trails has been an obsession of mine since I had a little taste of it last summer on my honeymoon, and couldn’t stop thinking about it.

The reality of Remote Working

The concept of remote working is now a reality, thanks to the increasing internet speeds in most developed and developing countries worldwide. The freedom of travelling whilst working on a laptop in exotic locations is a dream lifestyle that I put into practice exactly one year ago. I moved with my wife, who’s Burmese to stay with her family in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) for 6 months to escape the English winter. Birds migrate for the winter to warmer climes, so why can’t humans?


Remote working is becoming a growing trend, and the movement for people who live this way are called ‘Digital Nomads.’ Because working remotely is dependant on internet, digital nomads can usually be spotted in coffee shops and co-working spaces around the globe, and it’s been truly noted that these people travel thousands of miles to sit in Starbucks. 


The Dutch designer, programmer and entrepreneur Pieter Levels set up the website Nomad List as a great resource to track the best countries to work remotely in. The top world cites, ranked by cost, weather, air, fun, safety are Chang Mai (Thailand), Taghazout (Morocco) and Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), out of a list of 484 places. The local cost of living, from the price of an Air BnB apartment to a Cappucino are detailed. Levels has no fixed address. Instead, he lives out of a single backpack and works from coffee shops and co-working spaces around the world.



The social media tool Buffer is company that has sewn this idea into the heart of its company ethos. Its career page reads: “work in the place that makes you happy, that inspires you daily, and helps you to become the person that you wish to be. You will work daily with team members scattered around the world and across time zones to build a better culture and product.” 


“In the future every knowledge company could have a distributed workforce” – Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress


Scott Stohler, the travel blogger of Roamaroo describes his travelling lifestyle as ‘Vagabonding’ – which I thought was a hilarious modern twist on the phrase. A vagabond is a person with no fixed home. Swap the coal faced Dickensian urchin of Victorian London with a beach dwelling freelance programmer in Bali and you have a very modern vagabond!


Why travelling makes me feel alive

So why do I do it? The answer is simple. When I travel to new places I’m not on autopilot. I’ve stripped away the repetition and clutter of my home life in London and I’m forced to reinvent, learn and survive in a new environment. Everything’s different – an even the day to day mundane things become interesting. I find even going to the supermarket in a foreign country is exotic, particularly in flip-flops.




Comparing prices and finding new foods to take back to your temporary home feels a bit like camping, but with the added luxury of a real bed, bathroom and desk space. Living in someone else’s house is like being in someone else’s shoes for a while, before things become routine.


Making the remote working lifestyle ‘work’

I’m currently experimenting with this lifestyle, but I cannot yet claim that I’ve cracked it. I do get itchy feet every few months, and like seeing what it’s like to live in a new place, but I’m not one for travelling for extended periods. There must be very few Digital Nomads who can stay on the road for years without feeling homesick, exhaustion from moving around and the inevitable ‘beauty fatigue’ that hits you’ve seen all too many spectacular beaches, mountain ranges and waterfalls. Simon Fairbairn & Erin McNeaney are a Digital Nomad couple who manage it – they have been travelling around the world since 2010! They run a great travel blog called neverendingvoyage, in which they write about the locations they have lived in and share info on how they make a living.


“There must be very few Digital Nomads who can stay on the road for years without feeling homesick, exhaustion from moving around and the inevitable ‘beauty fatigue’ that hits you’ve seen all too many spectacular beaches, mountain ranges and waterfalls.”


What are the difficulties? 

You’ll need some cash saved up for the first part of your journey. Some people sell all their possessions in order to travel around until they have got their online business setup and bringing in revenue, which can take a year or more. If you’re moving around a lot, you will spend so much time researching, planning and getting from A to B, since everything will be unknown. In a foreign country, just getting a single thing done, such as printing out and sending off a CV (resumé) might take you a full day or more! It can also be lonely, and doubts will hit you early on in your journey. Our minds like security, and yours will be saying things like: “Where the hell have you taken me? What is your big plan now?” If you’re like me you’ll also be asking yourself if you deserve to be in such paradise! Shouldn’t I go back and brace the winter like everyone else? You’ll need to push through these kinds of thoughts constantly. If you’re in a relationship, this will need both of you to be happy with moving your stuff from place to place, and that isn’t an easy thing to balance. 


The next issue is the type of work you’ll be doing. If you’re lucky enough to have a steady flow of client work, then your issue is simply to be in a place where you can get the work done in time over a good wi-fi connection. In this case it helps to be in a time zone ahead of your client (e.g work in Asia if your client is in europe or the US). In my case I’m mostly self employed, so my issue is keeping up the motivation – which is very hard to do in a hot weather country. I’m used to cold and rain, and when there’s nothing much to do outside I think that may be the reason why I turn to creative projects in the first place. So if that doesn’t put you off and you’re up for trying something, then read on. Depending on where you choose to live, your experiences will be wildly different to mine..


Nomad Location 1 – The suburbs of Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

North Dagon


Staying with a friend or relative is a huge help if you have the option, so my wife and I could stay with hr family without worrying about rent. Getting a social visa took several trips to the visa office in the centre of town, which is still without a computer system. In Myanmar, the main hurdle for me was getting used to the extremely poor internet. Picture me walking 20 minutes in the blazing heat to the nearest internet cafe to upload files on a USB stick across an unstable 0.5 meg internet. Life became a constant search for internet, which meant going to 5 star hotel lobbies at first and having to buy expensive coffees! But soon after I arrived, cheap mobile sim cards (which have dropped in price from $2000 in recent years to $1.50!) with pay as you go internet packages were rolled out, allowing me to tether my mobile to my laptop from our home in the Yangon suburbs. Considering the location, it felt like a miracle. 




After 3 months of working for myself, mixed with travelling trips I was pining to get some outside work. I managed to pitch the idea of an ‘App Club’ to a local school, and they agreed, and I then got some great freelance work making video sequences for a Design company fairly near where I lived. It felt like I’d taken a risk and was miraculously rewarded with just what I’d hoped to achieve. Phew! Read more about my Burmese App Club here.


Nomad Location 2 – Air bnbing & Co-Working in Honolulu, Hawaii

So here I am in my next location and settling into my Hawaiian adventure. The most populated island of Oahu has less than 1 million permanent residents, but it has about 5 million visitors each year, mostly from Japan and the US mainland. It’s ethnically very mixed, and is a melting pot of cultures – East meets West, and while it is a US state, the street names are still in Hawaiian, and the original language and ‘Aloha spirit’ still remains. But it’s extremely expensive. Only 50% of residents own their home. The average house is $700,000+ and rents are high. The price of supermarket food is shocking – a loaf of bread is around $5, and 2 litres of milk is $3 or more. A locally grown Pineapple is as much as $8! There are many foods that we just won’t buy here, and it’s actually more cost effective to eat out, rather than cook. One benefit of hot weather countries is we have less appetite, so we eat less anyway. The islands of Hawaii are stunning. There are countless hikes to do on, and of course the islands are surrounded by great beaches:


I’ve been through the usual worries that come with the upheaval of being in an unknown place, and I’m ready to get down to work now. Fortunately Oahu has incredible internet, considering it is brought in through incredibly long undersea cables, stretching from Australia to New Zealand, all the way across the Pacific to Hawaii, to join the mainland USA in a loop. Check out this amazing map of the World’s undersea cables.


Find a Co-working space

Due to being unable to work in my stuffy apartment in the back streets of Honolulu, I’ve joined a slick co-working space called BoxJelly. If features the usual co-working vibe: quiet techies, start-ups, fancy furniture and gourmet coffee next door. Everyone gets on with their work here, so I’ve barely had a chat yet, but at least the music is unobtrusive and I’m getting stuff done (“Get Shit Done” is actually their motto). I’m getting into it.. Let’s hope the local gods of creativity send me a rainbow. 


BoxJelly Coworking Space

The upsides of remote working

  • Freedom and flexibility to work when you want
  • When you work abroad it still feels like you’re on holiday
  • Excitement of discovering new places
  • Taking new risks can make you more motivated
  • Not being online all the time is healthy

The downsides of remote working

  • Internet can be terrible in places (but this can also be a healthy way to cure your net addiction: see upsides).
  • It can be hard to work in a tropical paradise with no air con 🙂
  • It takes time to settle in and find jobs / new clients
  • Flights are expensive if you have to leave for a visa run
  • Having no fixed address means no home deliveries, print-outs and stationary. Be prepared to spend a whole day finding a print shop, post office etc. It takes a lot of time to find your way around a new place, especially a city. 

Tips for getting work in a new place:

  • Sign up to local forums such as Google groups, Facebook work groups etc.
  • Post that you’re new in town, listing your skills and that you’re looking for work.
  • Send out your CV to related jobs. Even if they don’t get back to you, they may forward your CV to someone else. This happened to me.
  • Use to find local groups matching your interests.
  • If you have work to get on with, join a co-working space – which allows you to work with people, coffee and a stable internet connection.

Things to consider when working remotely:

  • What time zone are you on in relation to where your client is? If your client’s time zone is many ahead of you, then this can make things difficult. This is why Asia is a good place to be. When your client starts their day, your previous day’s work is already finished! 
  • There are 2 types of remote worker – the person working for clients, and those working for themselves. The former will need to try out whether their time zone will be an issue, while the latter will face a motivational struggle. 
  • Co-working spaces are useful, but they can feel lonely at first. People are generally there to work, not socialise. The vibe can completely depend on work space and the co-workers who happen to be there at the time. 


remote working in paradise with a laptop


Conclusion – can you really work in paradise?

It’s very difficult. This is an honest blog and I don’t want to peddle a lifestyle that’s not feasible. I’m still very much experimenting with the digital nomad thing. My first two locations were not at all ideal, as I had my own reasons for going there, and if you check the nomadlist site, there are plenty of good, more affordable options. It also depends on where you’re from and whether you can get used to working in a very different climate. I’d definitely recommend trying it over the winter like I have. Good luck to you, and please tell me about your locations in the comments 🙂

Finally, check out my infographic for a Digital Nomad’s backpack. Don’t leave home without it!


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Computer Error Haikus

Computer Error Haikus

From the vaults of the web: here’s a retrospective look at a creative alternative to automated 404 messages, in the form of poetic “computer error Haikus.” The short Haiku poems were created for Sony’s 1998 Vaio PCs.

Computer Error Haikus

 A file that big?
 It might be very useful.
 But now it is gone.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Yesterday it worked
 Today it is not working
 Windows is like that
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Stay the patient course
 Of little worth is your ire
 The network is down
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Three things are certain:
 Death, taxes, and lost data.
 Guess which has occurred.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 You step in the stream,
 but the water has moved on.
 This page is not here.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Out of memory.
 We wish to hold the whole sky,
 But we never will.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Having been erased,
 The document you're seeking
 Must now be retyped.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Rather than a beep
 Or a rude error message,
 These words: "File not found."
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Serious error.
 All shortcuts have disappeared.
 Screen. Mind. Both are blank.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 The Web site you seek
 cannot be located but
 endless others exist
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Chaos reigns within.
 Reflect, repent, and reboot.
 Order shall return.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 ABORTED effort:
 Close all that you have.
 You ask way too much.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 First snow, then silence.
 This thousand dollar screen dies
 so beautifully.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 With searching comes loss
 and the presence of absence:
 "My Novel" not found.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 The Tao that is seen
 Is not the true Tao, until
 You bring fresh toner.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Windows NT crashed.
 I am the Blue Screen of Death.
 No one hears your screams.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 A crash reduces
 your expensive computer
 to a simple stone.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Error messages
 cannot completely convey.
 We now know shared loss.

-- Anonymous Author

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Introvert on social media

An introvert’s view of social media

Using social media is an extroverted activity. Voicing your opinion on Twitter, posting a photo on Facebook and concocting a self-advertising post on Linked in all takes some degree of confidence. You are exposing the little Avatar of yourself to the outside world – to people you may know, but more often don’t know. There’s something very self-conscious about it. All social media users are essentially selling a product, or themselves. As an app developer I’ve needed to post about my new apps and discounts to a public that I don’t know, and get very little feedback from. I don’t enjoy selling. I enjoy making.

I think all human beings need feedback from other humans in person, so the digital space often leaves us feeling empty – like isolated beings in outer space, desperate for others to pick up our radio signal. But sometimes all we hear is our own echo. 


So how do I use social media? Cautiously, and with trepidation.. As a British introvert, I consider myself a double introvert. We Brits find it hard to sell ourselves because, as a culture we find it uncool to boast about one’s achievements, and this is a problem when social media requires a double effort to be heard. If you’re only a digital hologram you’re transparent for a start, and you have no tone of voice, smell or charisma: all you have is a bunch of text and pictures to get your message across.


Peering over the wall 

I actually get a burst of fear as I open Facebook, which feels to me like a Pandora’s box full of faces all jostling for love, admiration and attention at the same time. I can almost hear the sound of real noise coming from my avatar friends, who are jostling for attention. To visualise it, it is like peering over a wall, overlooking a bustling Hollywood pool party. Everyone’s at their best and super confident. I hope not to be seen, but I cling there in an addicted trance, browsing the list of my most extroverted friends projecting perfect world syndrome until I can take no more of the clamour and close the app to make it all vanish.


An introvert’s view of social media


The social networks all have a different feel to them. Twitter is a like a tech party on a swanky high rise building full of cutting edge cool people who make me feel a bit out of place. Do I belong here? Am I clever enough to join in the conversation? Instagram is an easier ride, since it’s a vanity contest full of equally self centred narcissists who don’t know each other. Surely no one can be jealous of strangers can they? Apparently yes, and especially for insecure teenagers who are getting a distorted version of reality at an early age. 

Essena O’Neill, an Australian teenager with over 500,000 Instagram followers has bravely quit the platform, describing it as “contrived perfection made to get attention”, and called for others to quit social media. On 27 October she deleted more than 2,000 pictures “that served no real purpose other than self-promotion”, and dramatically edited the captions to the remaining 96 posts in a bid to to reveal the manipulation, mundanity, and even insecurity behind them.


“Anyone addicted to social media fame like I once was, is not in a conscious state.” – Essena O’Neil

But can you really blame Instagram for the culture that it created? I think not. The company created a great photography tool, but at the end of the day it’s how people use it that’s shallow, false and empty.  A photographer made a great spoof of the site called Socality Barbie.


I realise the only time I post now is if I’m travelling and have some exotic landscapes to share. Since I feel they must be special enough to be ‘worth’ posting, then I can bare to reveal myself for this short period before dropping down from the wall again for a few weeks or months.

When I need to promote myself for work or tell people about my products I use a ‘hit and run’ approach. A few quick posts here and there. That should do it. But don’t expect me to hang around for a ‘like count’ or a conversation. Sorry, I prefer the real thing.  

If you feel that you fall into the introvert category, although no one can be fully introvert or extrovert, watch Susan Cain’s TED talk on the Power of Introverts. She believes Introversion is about how you respond to stimulation. “Extroverts crave large amounts of stimulation, while introverts feel more alive, switched on and more capable when they are in a low key environment.” 


What the social networks have proved is that humans are social animals and need to express themselves. We need to communicate in some way and be heard. Why am I writing this Blog after all? Even introverts need an outlet of some sort. Perhaps the answer is even simpler. As Matt Groening, the creator of the Simpsons simply puts it: “we do everything to be loved.”

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Smartphone addiction

The habit of ‘Checking’ : why do we do it?

From the anticipation of a football match to a devoted fan to a lottery ticket buyer, it appears that human beings are excited by uncertainty. Digital media is refreshed constantly, and the need to access this stream of updates becomes a compulsion for many. So why does our brain like it so much?


The Shallows writer Nicholas Carr’s research reveals ‘Plasticity’ is the normal state of the nervous system throughout the lifespan. “Our brains are constantly changing in response to our experiences and our behaviour, reworking their circuitry with each sensory input, motor act, association, reward signal, action plan or shift of awareness. This has the obvious negative effects, as ‘certain circuits in our brain strengthen through repetition of a physical or mental activity, they begin to transform that activity into a habit. We long to keep it activated. The brain fine tunes operations. Routine activities are carried out quickly and efficiently, while unused circuits are pruned away.” And so we find ourselves reaching for our smartphones hundreds of times a day in a mechanical reflex.


The brain fine tunes operations. Routine activities are carried out quickly and efficiently, while unused circuits are pruned away. – Nicholas Carr


What I learnt from taking a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat, was that our bodies are having sensations all the time. We then react to those sensations instinctively with either craving or aversion – in other words we like something and want more of it, or we dislike it and push away the unwanted thing that comes into contact with our senses. By going cold turkey for that extremely difficult period (no speech, no distractions such as paper and pen, reading or phones) I realised that the cravings disappeared, and that I didn’t miss them. I’m a big meat eater, but the vegetarian food with delicious, and I found that I didn’t miss meat. However, the tricky part is what to do when you leave the retreat, as I gradually returned to my normal habits and behaviour.


In the novel The Dice Man, Luke Reinhart is a bored psychiatrist who comes to his own conclusion that psychoanalysis may have little consequence, a colleague, Dr. Mann thunders back at him: “Each of our lives is a finite series of errors which tend to become rigid and repetitious and necessary… You take away all his habits, compulsions and channelled drives, and you take away ‘him.’ “ In his article The joy of doing the same thing over and over again, Will Self sees repetition as a comfort, ‘because that’s what makes life liveable, isn’t it, knowing what the hell’s going to happen next? And this entails establishing behavioural patterns – what we call at the societal level customs, and at the individual one, habits.’


As an app developer I finally managed to stop checking my daily app sales, which used to give me a dopamine rush as the browser loaded, which then without fail gave me a feeling of disappointment as an indie app developer’s sales are rarely much to write home about. Yet I was compelled to do this to myself every day! So I used the analytics site App Annie to automate the process. Now the reports are emailed to me and I can take it or leave it – it’s kind of like half checking 🙂

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We are automated Intro

WE ARE AUTOMATED : introduction


Welcome to – the site that aims to be the number one resource for all things automated. Automation, in terms of the software revolution currently happening, is both useful and detrimental to humans. We will debate this on a case by case, unbiased basis.


This project started from conversations we’d had about the prevalence of artificial intelligence in sci-fi films, the automation of jobs that are occurring from computer programming, and a philosophical question that both of us had been interested in for many years: to what degree are we humans automatons? And with the web linking us all together, are we becoming a merged consciousness? How much of this blog are ‘our’ ideas anyway? What does an opinion mean now, if a person is interlinked with billions of similar minds receiving the same information?

The mobile phone revolution and the social media boom that followed have captured us all, leaving many hopelessly addicted to their smartphones. The way we use this media is clearly changing our brains and how we learn and communicate. It’s bound to, because as The Shallows writer Nicholas Carr notes: “media not only alters perception, but works on the nervous system itself.”

We are becoming machine-like in the way we take in data. Does anyone else feel that life has become robotic? The technology race feels relentless: never to pause, only to increase in speed and processing power. The coders are in the driving seat, and a steady flow of startups aim to make things ‘easier, simpler, automated’ for us. But it is our lives that are now automated in repetitive processes created by this electronic media. The habit of ‘checking’ is the most addictive, mentally damaging affliction of our time. 


Checking email, Facebook likes, Instagram follows, and frantic Google searches for a quick data hit.. the list goes on. Like digital lab rats, we now need get these habits under control so that we push the buttons out of free will, and not by stimulus.


Our experiences in meditation have taught us how wild and chaotic our stream of thoughts are, and the benefits of remaining in the present moment. How much of our thoughts are repetitive echoes of our past and speculating on our future? How do we break out from this stream of thought and live free and focused lives? After the determinism laid down in our genes and our relentless social conditioning, what’s left? Are we automated beings, or is there really free will? These age old questions never fail to fascinate us. 


This site aims to curate and debate the best of the web articles on the topic of automation with no bias in either direction. Automation is causing widespread changes to jobs and the way we live: for better or for worse we are now all enmeshed in the digital revolution. Automation can free us from repetitive tasks only if we can remain the masters of our minds and not slaves to computer code.

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