2021 trends and predictions, with analyst Josh Bersin

eLearning Learning 2021 trends and predictions, with analyst Josh Bersin

This year, just about everything that HR people do was significantly affected, with very little time to prepare and a constant need to communicate with employees and understand their issues.

Josh Bersin, global industry analyst

HR has always been at the heart of business and critical to its success, but in a year like 2020, they’ve been among the real heroes who have emerged. CHROs are now taking a clear seat at the leadership table, with their insight, advice, and decision-making essential to business continuity and to supporting the workforce.

For a deeper look at the “state of the union” for HR and learning at the end of 2020, along with a review of 2021 trends, Strivr CEO Derek Belch chatted with analyst Josh Bersin in our recent webinar. They talked about the evolved employee experience, the new definition of “going to work,” and the importance of power skills and diversity training. 

Here’s a recap of what we heard.

The current state of HR: an evolved employee experience

In the last year, the employee experience has changed radically, as many office workers have adjusted to remote work, and those on the floor at physical stores and plants have taken on new operational protocols in the time of a pandemic. 

How to roll out new processes faster & more effectively

HR leaders have had to tune in closely not just to how employees perform under pressure, but how they’re feeling in terms of their mental health, physical health, and even things like their home internet speed. 

A lot of companies are using diagnostic tools such as surveys to achieve this. While a lot of organizations have traditionally performed annual employee surveys, now they’re happening far more frequently. Bersin shared the example of Hyatt, which sends an employee survey daily to take feedback on the experience employees are having both in the workplace and remotely. 

Companies are also realizing they have to update policies that normalize “going into the office” for everything. While at first remote work seemed like a temporary fix, now, leaders are realizing that we’re clearly evolving toward a permanent hybrid model of work. Continuing into 2021 and beyond, people will be in the office, sometimes, for some things, but not always. 

We won’t call it “working from home,” either, because now employees have learned they can work from anywhere they have an internet connection. No longer do they go to work; work comes to them.

Bersin’s workforce predictions for 2021

What else should we expect from HR, learning, and development in 2021? Bersin leaves us with a few highlights.

The mainstreaming of digital transformation

“Next year is the year when digital transformation will seem normal, and people will be more comfortable with it,” Bersin says. “It will no longer feel like a project sponsored by a consulting firm, but instead will be about humanizing it and sanding off the edges, because this year, everybody basically did digital transformation at record speed.”

More relevant digital tools

Along the same lines, Bersin predicts a rapid adaptation from the tech market to support our increasingly remote and hybrid ways of working. Many big companies are already exploring Virtual Reality for training both the essential and remote workforce. 

Explore our customer stories

A growing economy

“The economy feels like a horse pacing the barn, just itching to get out and get going,” Bersin analogizes.

In other words, with such positive transformation occurring in companies over the last nine months, he expects a jumpstart on hiring and unemployment to start ticking down again.

The importance of “power skills”

2020 has shone a light on the priority of teaching employees stronger soft skills — though Bersin prefers to say power skills. Included in the list of power skills are attributes such as patience, empathy, listening, caring, and forgiveness. In particular, power skills are critical to getting through tough conversations with employees and with customers. 

These are really important skills, and every single company I talk to is focused on coaching and training its leaders to improve in these areas.

Josh Bersin

Equally critical in the learning sphere is a focus on training for diversity and inclusion. We’ve seen the role of diversity manager grow in importance, and existence, year over year. Yet, Bersin acknowledges that diversity, equity, and inclusion are not simple HR fixes but major cultural changes that require purposeful, ongoing training initiatives. 2021 will certainly see continued focus in this area.

More attention on L&D in general

Bersin says, “We’re beginning to realize that creating great capabilities in the company isn’t simply about buying a piece of software and turning it on. It’s a hands-on, consultative responsibility.” The role of L&D as central to this effort, as L&D leaders look to tools such as Immersive Learning to create both onsite and remote opportunities to instill company culture and teach valuable skills.

The skills of the future

As we transition from the current state of HR and L&D into all the rich possibility 2021 holds, Bersin expects the employee experience to continue to evolve in the direction of flexible work, more sophisticated digital tools, and increased opportunities for learning. 

At Strivr, we are building the skills of the future with an Immersive Learning platform. Explore the resources below to see how, or chat with a Strivr expert.


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The 512KB Club

Hacker News The 512KB Club

The internet has become a bloated mess. Massive javascript libraries, countless client-side queries and overly complex frontend frameworks are par for the course these days.

When online newspapers like The Guardian are over 4MB in size, you know there’s a problem. Why does an online newspaper need to be over 4MB in size? It’s crazy.

But we can make a difference – all it takes is some optimisation. Do you really need that extra piece of JavaScript? Does your WordPress site need a theme that adds lots of functionality you’re never going to use? Are those huge custom fonts really needed? Are your images optimised for the web?

The 512KB Club is a collection of performance-focused web pages from across the Internet. The one and only rule for a web page to qualify as a member is…

Your total UNCOMPRESSED web resources must not exceed 512KB.

If you’re interested in getting your site added to The 512KB Club, all you need to do is follow these instructions:

  1. Do a GTMetrix scan on your website.
  2. Once complete, click on the Waterfall tab to make sure the uncompressed size of your site is less than 512KB.
  3. If your site satisfies this requirement, submit an issue on GitHub with your URL.
  4. I will then check your site with GT Metrix. If it’s qualifies, I will add it to the list below.

If your site qualifies for The 512KB Club, I will add it to one of the following 3 teams:

  1. The green team is for sites with a total uncompressed size of less than 100KB.
  2. The orange team is for sites with a total uncompressed size of less than 250KB.
  3. The blue team is for sites with a total uncompressed size of less than 512KB.

Once you’re a proud member of one of the teams, you are free to use one of the banners below on your own website. You can either save the SVG or use the code snippet below (remembering to change the name to whichever team you’re in).

green team banner

orange team banner

blue team banner

<a href="https://512kb.club"><img src="https://512kb.club/images/green-team.svg" /></a>

The 512KB Club appears to have sparked some interest in a lot of website owners and the whole thing has become somewhat a race to the top.

If you have optimised your website further and want to change your number, just add a comment to the GitHub Issue that you originally logged. I’ll then get a notification and will make the changes.

That’s a great question!

I decided to start this project for a couple of reasons:

  1. Most, if not all, of the sites listed below are personal sites. Many of which are blogs. The 512KB Club is a great way of discovering other blog owners who are also interested in minimalist/efficient web design. Think of it like a modern day webring.
  2. It’s a bit fun, so why not?

See a problem on this site? Maybe there’s a site listed that’s not longer live, or no longer qualifies for the club. Or, maybe you just want to get in touch for some reason.

If so, the easiest way to get in touch with me is to use the contact page on my main website.


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A Book about Aircraft Scale Drawings Creating with Inkscape and Gimp

Hacker News A Book about Aircraft Scale Drawings Creating with Inkscape and Gimp

This June I started working on a new (fourth) edition of my book about aircraft computer models. Actually, I am finishing its first volume (“Preparations”). It describes how to prepare accurate reference drawings of a historical airplane, on the example of the P-40. Below you can see two of its pages (as they appear my screen):

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Figure 114-1 Two pages from my new book

Comparing to the third edition, I altered here the proposed workflow, using Inkscape as my basic tool. I also wrote more about eventual errors, which you can find in typical scale plans. In the appendices I included a section about the original P-40 blueprints, which is based on the posts from this blog. Here is the link to the excerpt from this publication. It contains the table of contents. I expect to release this book in January 2021. (I will write a post, when it will be available).


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A diversity training success story

eLearning Learning A diversity training success story

Like many organizations in 2020, Ansira’s leaders have been trying to improve their approach to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Public conversations about systemic racism, the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the Black Lives Matter protests that took place across the globe spurred executives at the 100-year-old marketing services firm to take a hard look at how they were addressing DEI — and what more they could be doing.

“George Floyd’s death in May, and the social unrest that followed, left us wondering ‘what is the appropriate response?’” says Robb Farrell, AVP of learning and development for Ansira in Dallas.

Leaders across the company agreed that they needed to address the micro-inequities and unconscious bias that might be permeating the Ansira culture — and they all made public commitments to doing better. “It has been one of my proudest moments at Ansira,” Farrell says.

Lunch is not enough

At the time, the company had no formal diversity training in place. However, Farrell had overseen a diversity training program in his previous role at computer security company McAfee. “It had a tremendous impact on the organization,” he says. “People there are still talking about it.”

Unlike many diversity training programs that focus on actions leaders can take to engage employees of historically marginalized or underrepresented groups — take them to lunch! Invite them to speak in meetings! — this program focuses on self-awareness and the differences between intent and outcome. “Even if you don’t intend to be biased, if someone has a different perspective on your actions, you need to pay attention to that,” Farrell says.

Farrell reached out to Steve Young, senior partner at Insight Education Systems, a management consulting firm based in New Jersey that provides leadership, diversity and inclusion consulting services, to create Ansira’s new program. They launched the first of three sessions for 250 Ansira leaders and managers in August.

The course, called MicroInequities: Managing Unconscious Bias, establishes the link between diversity and its influence on leadership effectiveness. The course helps leaders understand how the messages they send are interpreted, and how that drives (or disables) commitment, loyalty and business performance.

Helping managers link diversity to business performance is critical to the success of diversity training — and why these programs so often go wrong, Young says. He notes that many white male leaders still think of DEI as “charitable work” that is all about helping women and people of color to advance — even if they aren’t the best people for the job.

“If you want DEI efforts to work, you have to get out of the realm of ‘doing good deeds’ and focus on making it an impetus for the business,” Young says.

Fortunately, the data to support that argument is irrefutable. Studies consistently show that diverse companies are more profitable, demonstrate greater creativity, and have more effective governance and better problem-solving abilities.

I’d like you to meet Jane

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“There is less bickering about what happened, and more focus on understanding why something is happening and how to fix it.” — Kimberly Henderson, assistant vice president of strategy, Ansira

The business case for diversity is clear, but getting leaders to change their core behavior continues to be challenging, in part because most biases are unconscious. If a leader isn’t aware of their biased behavior, they have no incentive to change.

Young addresses this obstacle by helping learners to recognize how subtle, often unwittingly delivered messages set the tone for exclusion and the perception of an employee’s value and performance. The messages are overt, but the meaning is often clear, he says: “The root of good leadership is how you send messages.”

He points to one exercise, in which a leader introduces two team members to a group of clients. The leader describes one using positive terms about their performance and the other using tactical terms describing what they do — i.e., “Bob is an amazing problem-solver who can get any job done” and “Jane is our marketing lead who will walk you through the project plan.” While both descriptions are accurate and neither is negative, the second sends the message that the speaker doesn’t value Jane as much as they value Bob.

That exercise had a big impact on Kimberly Henderson, assistant vice president in the strategy department at Ansira. “It made me think about how I use speech and tone when I communicate,” she says. She admits that she is often in situations where she is introducing her team to clients, and she may speed through the last few introductions to get things moving, but she now wonders what impact that might have on her people. “It made me aware that even if my intent is to hurry things along, it might still have a negative impact,” she says.

It also caused Henderson to think about how she engages with one of her team who has cerebral palsy. “I never caught myself treating him differently, but the training makes me pay more attention to my words.”

I couldn’t help but notice …

That is the kind of impact Young is aiming for in his program, which is interactive and story-driven. “It’s more of a conversation than a lecture,” he says.

In the training, he doesn’t dictate what learners should do or say. Rather, he focuses on a more “Socratic” approach. “You never want to accuse,” he says. “You have to let people do their own self-analysis.”

One way he achieves that is by encouraging leaders to use the phrase “I couldn’t help but notice … ” when talking to peers about biased behavior. He shares the example of working with a female CEO who, while attending a CEO conference, was asked who her husband was — instead of what company she led.

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“Our hope is that we can recognize how big an issue this is and take a solutions-oriented approach to change.” — Robb Farrell, AVP of learning and development, Ansira

At first she wanted to accuse him of bias, Young says. But that would only put him on the defensive. Instead, she said, “I couldn’t help but notice you assumed I’m a spouse and not a CEO. Why did you make that assumption?”

“It forced him to do his own self-analysis,” Young says. It caused the man to explore his own biases in a way that an attack on his character wouldn’t have.

The course explores many other common unconscious behaviors, actions and assumptions that get in the way of creating a truly diverse environment.

Farrell points to a powerful example is the course about empathy, and how empathizing with people who experience prejudice is not a requirement — or even very helpful for creating change. “Empathy can actually be a barrier,” he says. If someone feels empathy for the obstacles women and people of color face in the workplace, they may think that is enough, but it doesn’t change anything. “We need to use data to find inequities, then look for solutions.”

Training is the first step

Early feedback on the training at Ansira has been overwhelmingly positive, with leaders admitting that they recognize biases in their own behavior and reporting they are applying the tools they have learned on the job every day.

Henderson says she has adapted her own behavior and reports seeing changes in many of her peers. She is hearing more inclusive language from senior leaders and notes that her department head has created a safe space to have conversations about racial inequity in the workplace and how the company can close that gap. It has also changed the tone of conversations related to diversity and equality, she says. “There is less bickering about what happened, and more focus on understanding why something is happening and how to fix it.”

Farrell has seen similar changes, including one leader who came to him for help after recognizing bias in the make-up of his own team. “It is starting conversations we weren’t having before,” he says.

He has also received a flood of volunteers from leaders who want to take a more active role in ongoing DEI efforts. “Training was just the start,” he says. “We want DEI to be part of our DNA.”

Farrell’s team is now deploying additional DEI virtual learning courses, which are accessible to 1,200 employees across the company. They are also conducting diversity assessments, establishing employee resource groups and setting KPIs to measure progress and identify problems in the way the company hires, promotes and supports all of its employees.

“Our leaders want to handle this issue responsibly,” Farrell says. “Our hope with the training is that we can recognize how big an issue this is and take a solutions-oriented approach to change.”


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JavaScript Turns 25

Slashdot JavaScript Turns 25

The programming language JavaScript emerged 25 years ago and has grown to become one of the most important pieces of the web and browser applications we use today. From a report: JavaScript is the go-to language for front-end development and has spawned Microsoft’s Typescript, a superset of JavaScript with a stronger optional type system for developers that compiles to JavaScript when run in the browser. Both JavaScript and TypeScript conform to ECMAScript, the standard for JavaScript and node.js, the runtime for running applications outside of the browser thanks to Google’s powerful V8 JavaScript engine. JavaScript’s impact on the web cannot be understated. Tech giants have thrown their weight behind the language. Besides Google’s V8, there are open source projects like React from Facebook and Angular from Google, which help spread web applications across smartphones and desktop. After Netscape and Sun Microsystems — where Java was hatched in May 1995 by James Gosling — announced JavaScript in December 1995, Microsoft promoted Visual Basic (VB) as a standard for creating web applications using VB Script for its Internet Explorer browser. Oracle would go on to buy Sun Microsystems in 2008 largely to get its hands on Java and its huge development ecosystem. The press release about its launch from 25 years ago.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


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China Turns On Nuclear-Powered ‘Artificial Sun’

Slashdot China Turns On Nuclear-Powered ‘Artificial Sun’

China successfully powered up its « artificial sun » nuclear fusion reactor for the first time, state media reported Friday, marking a great advance in the country’s nuclear power research capabilities. Phys.Org reports: The HL-2M Tokamak reactor is China’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device, and scientists hope that the device can potentially unlock a powerful clean energy source. It uses a powerful magnetic field to fuse hot plasma and can reach temperatures of over 150 million degrees Celsius, according to the People’s Daily — approximately ten times hotter than the core of the sun. Located in southwestern Sichuan province and completed late last year, the reactor is often called an « artificial sun » on account of the enormous heat and power it produces. They plan to use the device in collaboration with scientists working on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor — the world’s largest nuclear fusion research project based in France, which is expected to be completed in 2025.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


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I accidentally built a spying app

Hacker News I accidentally built a spying app

In the fall of 2007, my parents gave me an unforgettable gift for my sixteenth birthday: a first-generation iPhone.

I still clearly remember watching the keynote in which Steve Jobs announced the first Apple-branded phone a few months earlier. As a teenager attending high school in my hometown of Vicenza, Italy, I tuned into the livestream just before dinner, carefully listening to every word he said. That evening, Jobs started announcing a “widescreen iPod with touch controls”, a “revolutionary mobile phone” and a “breakthrough Internet communications device”–theatrically pausing before confessing that he was actually talking about one single device: the iPhone. Thousands of miles away from me, you could hear attendees exploding cheerfully through the live feed. Jobs went on demoing this amazing invention that, a decade later, would end up changing much more than the mobile phones market: it directly or indirectly impacted our society through mobile web, app stores, changing work-life balance, and social media.

October came, and so did the day I finally got my iPhone. I was really excited as I was the first one in my social circle with one. Every other teenager (and adult!) that saw my phone reacted in awe and with lots of curiosity. More than a few were also secretly envious, something I secretly did not mind. To add to the novelty, at the time the iPhone was only available for sale in the US.

To get an iPhone for me, my father had to ask a friend traveling to New York on a business trip to bring one back on the plane with her. That was not the end of it, however, as all phones were locked to the AT&T network. In order for me to be able to use my iPhone in Italy, I had to unlock it.

That process required learning a variety of tools and techniques developed by hackers in the community, then documented in various blogs and forums. The first step was to jailbreak the phone, which gave you full access to the system and allowed you to run third-party apps. Then you’d have add one of those “hacking” apps to your phone, which patched the bootloader to remove the lock the US carrier had put on it. Despite sounding like a mouthful, the iPhone hacking community had worked hard on the User Experience (UX), making this entire process relatively easy for most people with basic tech skills.

I really loved my shiny, new iPhone, and I was so excited about it that I was willing to accept many of its original limitations. It only supported slow 2G networks, didn’t have copy/paste, couldn’t transfer files via Bluetooth to my friends, and famously didn’t support Adobe Flash, which was ubiquitous on the web at the time.

However, there was one thing I really couldn’t stand: the Messages application could only store 1,000 texts (SMS).

That was 2007 — before the days of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, etc. Instant messaging was something people did on their PCs only, with things like Windows Live Messenger (née MSN Messenger) or AIM.

For a high schooler like me, text messaging was the main way I kept in touch with my friends daily (what was I supposed to do, call them?). With my carrier giving me a whopping 100 free texts per day (seriously, we had to pay for them), between sent and received texts it would take less than a week to reach the storage limit of 1,000.

That’s when it all started.

Because my iPhone was already “hacked” (jailbroken), as a requirement for unlocking it and use it in Italy, I had full system access already. That allowed me to c extract any document I wanted, including my phone’s text message database.

It wasn’t even a month since I got my iPhone that I had already built a small “app” running on my laptop to archive my text messages forever. I would manually extract the SMS database from my iPhone, copy it to my laptop, then use a set of scripts written in PHP (the only programming language I knew at the time) to store the messages in a local database, and finally display them using a web-based interface.

This thing I put together worked just fine for me, but I immediately realized the “business potential” of what I had just created. Just like myself, I assumed many others had the same annoyance. I could have used what I learned to help them too, and maybe make some pocket change in the process. As a matter of fact, I did consider myself an enterprising teenager.

The idea had potential, and the “app” I built for myself already provided solid foundations, so I just needed to do a bit more work to turn it into a commercially-viable project.

The biggest challenge was making the solution more accessible to others, including those who were not particularly tech-savvy. That’s when I started learning about app development for iPhone.

Famously, Apple did not want the iPhone to support third-party apps at the beginning, saying developers should build web apps instead. That policy didn’t last long, and with the iPhone OS 2 update, launched in mid-2008, the official App Store came to life: the rest, as they say, is history.

However, the hacking community had already found a way to sideload apps and had even developed an “app store” called Cydia where you could find games, apps, and even mods to enhance the capabilities of the operating system itself. Cydia came preinstalled on every jailbroken iPhone, which meant potentially hundreds of thousands of people had access to it.

Everyone could build apps that would be published on Cydia, as long as you knew how to–something that was not remotely as easy to do as it is with today’s tools. As an enterprising teenager with quite a bit of free time on my hand during those winter afternoons and evenings, I took on that challenge.

The first version of YouArchive.It came out in January 2008.

Today, you would describe YouArchive.It as a cloud service to store iPhone text messages. You could store all your messages in there, then read and search them using a web-based application.

There’s still a video left on YouTube showing the application in action (this was the third, and last, version):

With YouArchive.It came an iPhone application too. Published on the Cydia app store, it allowed importing messages into the “cloud service” directly from the phone.

YouArchive.It was free to use with a limit of 80,000 text messages. Because personal communications can be sensitive, all messages were stored encrypted. With a one-time payment of just €5 (about $6), you could become a VIP, remove any limit and enjoy unlimited storage.

A screenshot of iTextUploader running on a first-generation iPhone

A screenshot of iTextUploader running on a first-generation iPhone

For the next year and a half, YouArchive.It continued to grow organically. A few blogs and websites dedicated to iPhone “hacking” and to the underground app stores wrote about the app. Even a small radio program in the US featured it

I continued developing the app as a side project while in high school. I was also providing tech support and maintaining the infrastructure.

Listening to users’ feedback, I would periodically add new features. YouArchive.It started displaying emojis as soon as the iPhone supported that (outside of Japan, it required downloading an app to enable them). Users asked for and got the ability to restore texts in another iPhone, before iCloud was available. I also implemented other privacy features such as requiring a password to open the mobile app.

Enough users were paying the fee to become VIP that I could cover the costs of running the service–this was before everyone was using Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, so I was renting a co-located physical server which wasn’t cheap–and keep some pocket cash. Not much, but enough to pay for some hobbies and outings with friends.

Most importantly, building YouArchive.It gave me a lot of satisfaction and the opportunity to learn a lot of things about software development, business, dealing with customers and listening to their feedback.

When I finally shut the service down, in June 2010, YouArchive.It had about 32,000 registered users who stored over 76 million messages.

The first, and stated, reason for the deprecation was a technical one: YouArchive.It’s iPhone app required using private APIs, which meant it could not be published on the App Store (and it still couldn’t to this day), limiting it to jailbroken phones only.

The second reason however was the most important to me, even though I have not revealed it until now.

About a year before the app closed, in April 2009 I implemented a new feature that was requested by many users: the ability to upload texts automatically, in background, without user intervention. For paying “VIP” users only, the mobile app could automatically send all new text messages to YouArchive.It, as often as every 15 minutes.

Automatic upload was an incredible convenience for many users that wanted to hoard their texts like me, to keep them forever, search within them, print or export them, or just liked having a backup.

What I didn’t realize at the time, however, is that I had, unknowingly and unwillingly, built a spying tool, and a really convenient and efficient one.

Thanks to background uploads, people could install the YouArchive.It app on another person’s iPhone, set it up, maybe even hide it (something possible on a jailbroken iPhone), and then watch as the text messages come in, almost real-time. Jealous partners, stalkers and the likes could install this tool on an unknowing victim’s phone with relative ease.

I can’t remember how I discovered that — it might have been a support request from a user or a post in a bulletin board. I also can’t know how many people were using YouArchive.It for their own archiving rather than to spy on others. Realizing what my users were doing, however, made me feel really uncomfortable and I did not want any part of that anymore.

As a senior in high school, barely eighteen years-old, I realized for the first time how technology can have a dark side, and how it’s often in our hands, as developers or other creators of technological solutions, to account for unintended consequences.

They say that software is eating the world. That was how Marc Andreessen started his famous essay in 2011, and as we read this nine years later, it is something that should resonate with most people.

If you never read it, or if you haven’t read it recently, I recommend you pick up Andreessen’s article now. Written in one of the most flourishing times for technology, it is an ode to the utterly enthusiastic and optimistic culture that was shaping Silicon Valley and that brought us the tech giants on which we depend on daily: Google, Facebook, Uber, Twitter, Apple, etc (some of these companies had been around for decades, but started expanding significantly again during those years). In Andreessen’s mind, just like in the minds of many others in the same environment and time, a software-controlled future was not only happening and imminent (as history proved him right), but also idyllic. Technology was to be the great force that solved all of the world’s problems, and Silicon Valley was to be the place where that would begin.

As tech companies were “moving fast and breaking things” while working towards “making the world a better place”, they were disregarding the potential side effects of their innovations. Just like me when I created my text message archival app, they failed to consider how their products and services could be misused by some individuals, or negatively impact groups of people, or even cause large-scale socioeconomic shifts.

Perhaps few examples of how unintended consequences caused harm to real people, sometimes even up to death are as strong as what we see with social media.

There are already countless essays arguing how companies like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter have failed us all, us humans, and have invoked for them to be shut down; this article isn’t one of them. I do think that generally social media has the potential to do good things: personally, I appreciate how Facebook and Instagram let me keep in touch with my family in another continent.

I have no doubt that the people building those platforms are good people, with positive intentions. If anything, their only sin is an excess of optimism and trust in the fact that humans always have the best intentions at heart. While that’s true for most of the people, most of the time, sadly it isn’t always the case.

The “like” button, in its various declinations, was meant as a fun way to engage with content our friends posted online. Its unintended consequences included creating a world in which everyone is compelled to always portray themselves under the best possible light, and living a life full of beautiful objects, exotic trips, intriguing adventures. These fun distractions turn into comparing our own life with what we perceive as other people’s perfect existences and make us feel anxious and depressed.

On social media, people tend to create “echo chambers”, in which people surround themselves only with those who think alike. This causes increased ideological polarization, with consequent political destabilization of societies, as well as more unhappiness. Facebook’s solution to the privacy scandals of 2016, including the Cambridge Analytica situation, was to double-down on their groups feature, which are just amplifying reinforcement biases and polarization of thinking.

One of the biggest virtues of social media is their ability to support free speech. A constitutionally-protected right in every country around the world, at least in democratic ones, its defense is a noble cause. However, they also provided a platform to spread misinformation, foreign state-sponsored propaganda, disproved conspiracy theories, and lies that can be outright harmful to people, such as false and unproven medical treatment. Italian writer, philosopher, and Nobel Prize laureate Umberto Eco famously called social media “the invasion of the idiots”.

What’s worse is that the algorithms that control what we see on websites like Facebook and YouTube feed us with content that is more and more extreme and polarizing and provide free amplification to a lot of harmful content. Those algorithms were designed to recommend content based on what users seem to enjoy consuming, with the ultimate goal of driving more user engagement: if you watch lots of aviation-related videos, you’ll see more stuff about airplanes; likewise, if you follow lifestyle bloggers/vloggers, you’ll see more of that content. However, over time certain actors mastered techniques to game the way algorithms work, and push content to users that drives their own agenda; a clear example is RT, or Russia Today, a channel affiliated with the Russian government that spreads misinformation and conspiracy theories on YouTube.

It does not have to be as grim as it looks.

In fact, there’s a lot that the people who are creating new things can do: software developers, product managers, inventors, startup founders, hobbyists… Everyone who is driving the innovation can, and should, take action to ensure that technology has a positive impact on the world, not just on average but at a wholesome.

To start, we need to abandon the assumption that technological innovation is always, necessarily good.

Just because something can be built, it doesn’t mean it should be built. We should begin by stopping and considering how the innovation we are working on could be misused, or how it could come with negative externalities. This is an exercise that software developers tend to be naturally good at, given that considering every possible scenario and every what-if’s around something is a necessity when writing code. A healthy amount of cynicism could be helpful in this case: starting with the assumption that if something could be misused, then it will be misused by some people.

Sometimes the potential for abuse is rather clear, or it should be. The creators of the anonymous messaging app Yik Yak, which for a bit was all the rage on college campuses, should have seen the wave of bullying and harassment coming. Likewise, it should have been fairly clear how the people-rating app Peeple was going to be misused, even by those who did not watch Black Mirror.

Sometimes, instead, the potential for abuse more subdued, and careful thinking and planning is required to account for all unintended consequences. These are the situations in which “moving fast and breaking things” is actually your enemy. This way of working, the norm in many Venture Capital-funded startups, often causes creators to put growth before everything, and is the opposite of adopting a responsible amount of mindfulness.

Instead, you should instead validate your idea, discuss it with others, and while testing prototypes, define meaningful KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) that look at the impact outside of your business goals too. For example, if the sole KPI is user engagement, you could end up writing algorithms that promote polarizing content which tends to be more addicting, but not necessarily positive for the society.

Of course, there will be cases in which we’ll miss things, as hindsight only works backwards. To limit damage and prevent problems from spreading further than needed, creators should periodically re-assess how their solution is having an impact in the broadest sense. Keeping a humble and open mind, or in other terms assuming a “growth mindset”, helps continuously learning and finding surprising things. With constant learning, it’s possible to identify opportunities to course-correct and resolve the issues, real or potential, that could lead to our creations to be misused.

Sometimes that involve simple design changes, for example aimed at making users more in control: looking back, I could have limited the possibility of using my app from ten years ago as a spying tool by displaying a notification every time text messages were being uploaded. Recognizing how much of a cesspool the YouTube comment section can be, Google tried to force people to use real names when commenting on videos in 2013, but quickly reverted the change after facing significant backlash–possibly because the move was designed more as an imposition of their ill-fated Google+ social network than something to actually help the community grow healthier.

However, in other situations doing the most ethical thing might require taking painful actions too, such as pivoting an idea or shutting something down entirely. On this subject, the final episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley show was beautiful, by the way–but I won’t spoil it for you any more than this!

Thankfully, the topic of ethics is getting more and more relevant in software development, and it’s now something that’s taught in college campuses too. We need a new generation of creators that are more attentive to the issues that technology can cause, and not just those it can solve; this includes being more cautious and carefully account for unintended consequences.

The conversation is also getting more mainstream, as individuals are starting to keep tech companies more accountable for their actions. At the same time, governments are (slowly, but steadily) stepping in to regulate those companies’ behavior when they believe society is being harmed: examples include protection of labor and privacy rights.

Tech workers themselves are starting to wake up to the importance of their role, and are now speaking out, with ever-increasing frequency and passion. Employees at companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc, have raised their voices and staged walkouts to demand their organizations to do better at all kinds of things that matter to them, including: promoting diversity and inclusion in their workplace and in the world, protecting human rights globally, protesting the sale of their technology to the military or other organizations perceived as unethical, etc.

These good changes are hopefully the start of something bigger, a moment in which every creator is putting ethical considerations up and front.

At the end of the day, in fact, we are all just working to make the world a better place.


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We’re Against Digital Rights Management. Here’s Why.

Creative Commons » Commons News We’re Against Digital Rights Management. Here’s Why.

We at Creative Commons (CC) have long disagreed with the use of digital rights management (DRM) and technological protection measures (TPMs) in the open environment. We believe that DRM and TPMs should not be used to control, limit, prevent or otherwise affect activities and uses allowed under CC licenses’ terms. Plainly, DRM and TPMs are antithetical to the “open” ethos and at odds with the values of sharing that we support.

What is DRM? DRM consists of access control technologies or restrictive licensing agreements that attempt to restrict the use, modification, and distribution of legally-acquired works. Examples include encryption technology used on DVDs, keys (or passwords) with video games or copying restrictions on ebooks. 

DRM goes against the spirit of open sharing

Most creators who choose CC licenses probably don’t want DRM — they want wide distribution, use, and reuse of their content. Generally, we encourage creators to share their content in “downloadable” and “editable” formats (i.e. DRM-free — without any technical restriction to download, copy, or modify) to make it easier for others to benefit from and use the content, including for educational and socially beneficial purposes. We likewise discourage sharing CC-licensed content on platforms, sites or channels that add DRM to the shared content. That way, the spirit of open licensing is upheld and the legitimate expectations of the public regarding the freedoms associated with using openly-licensed content aren’t compromised. 

DRM does a disservice to the public: it blocks legitimate access to openly licensed content, thereby posing a threat to the universal, fundamental rights of access to knowledge, science, culture and education.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: standing up against DRM is incredibly important for many communities in the open movement, particularly open education. Of particular importance is the ability for educators and learners to “retain” content and “to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage).” 

DRM poses a dire risk to the principles at the foundation of the open movement. DRM often constitutes an unnecessary obstacle preventing access to and use of content for legitimate purposes. When used in connection with openly-licensed content, DRM does a disservice to the public: it blocks legitimate access to the content, thereby posing a threat to the universal, fundamental rights of access to knowledge, science, culture and education. We at CC will continue to advocate against it.


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Creator-Centric Video: The New Normal for Corporate Learning?

eLearning Learning Creator-Centric Video: The New Normal for Corporate Learning?

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No other communication medium is quite as powerful as video is today. Read on to discover the how and why of harnessing the power of video via a creator-centric focus and the right learning experience platform (LXP).

Just as we wondered years ago whether mobile phones would permeate society, video trends and usage have crowned the medium as one of the preferred mediums to impart and consume information today. In fact, over 1 billion videos are watched on YouTube alone each day. As organizations digitally transform, video is an essential tool in the new era of training.

Social Media as the Catalyst for Creator-Centric Content

With the increased adoption of social media, a generation of creators has emerged, with video as one of their main tools for creating engaging content. Thanks to today’s myriad of technologies and tools to help them tell compelling stories, just about anyone can create video content

Similarly, video has been widely adopted in our working lives as an engaging and visual mode of communication that suits a variety of learning styles and preferences. It’s simpler than ever to create video content. As organizations strategize their digital transformation plans, video plays a key role in advancing this agenda due to its ability to engage, retain, and delight distributed audiences. 

Handpicked for you: ‘The Netflix of Learning’: An Appealing But Flawed Analogy for the LXP

Video Isn’t New, It Just Offers the Simplicity That People Want

Video is not new. It’s now been around for decades as a medium. What is new and exciting is the simplicity with which anyone can use video today. 

Anyone can be a creator with the right tools available at their disposal, says Jeff Fissel, VP of Solutions here at Instilled. “This creator-centric mindset is what’s new about video. It’s about the simplicity, the increasing level of comfort people have creating video now, and the incoming workforce that has grown up with technologies that put them in the creator chair,” Jeff affirms. 

Video allows us to communicate ideas more easily, effectively, and in a more engaging and personalized manner. Video can help facilitate ideas from Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) within and across departments, and creators can choose to transmit their ideas either in real-time or by recording themselves. 

Winning Characteristics of Video for Teaching, Learning, and Training

Video is a useful medium because it can be stored, rewound, replayed, and indexed. It’s useful to use because it’s: 

  1. Engaging – the engaging nature of video appeals to a wide range of individuals.
  2. Visual – its visual nature allows audiences to easily follow ideas and information first-hand.
  3. Searchable – these days, many video platforms are indexable, allowing audiences to easily skip to their preferred sections of content.

The visual components of learning have widely become a part of learning and development programs globally. Making it easily accessible for employees to create, consume, and share content is pivotal, particularly for remote learners.

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Continue reading: Why Video Microlearning is Perfect for Combating Short Attention Spans

Changes Forced by the Pandemic Are Here to Stay

The pandemic has in some ways forced us to shift our efforts to video. 

While video may not necessarily be liked by everyone (introverts might find it challenging to create, for example), one thing is certain: it has now become a common way for us to communicate with each other. 

Moreover, it’s digital. The digital transformation that was taking place prior to the pandemic has simply accelerated creator-centric trends and the adoption of video content for learning purposes. It’s happening to the extent that we now expect it in our daily lives, including at work. 

The option of reverting back to only in-person meetings and classes seems less likely. Going forward, we can expect a world of blended work and learning modalities, where online tech tools—including video—will have a lasting place in the way we live, work, and learn. Whether we use live video or create videos to send and share, collectively we need to get comfortable with being part of video meetings or creating video ourselves. 

This ‘forced’ situation has compelled an increase of creators and a rise in creativity. As leaders or individual contributors, creating and sharing video has become mainstream. Let’s also not forget that the format particularly appeals to younger generations of workers who easily engage with video.

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Choosing a Video Creation and Delivery Platform 

When choosing the right video platform for your organization, consider the following features to make video delivery and creation successful.

The ability to organize, categorize, and keep control of your content is crucial. If your content becomes the ‘Wild West’ and no one can easily find what they need—or if no one knows where to look for information—they will stop using it.

Also, look for the ability to create permissions and hierarchies. Choose a platform with hierarchical management of content, not just channels. Many video platforms have a single level of hierarchy which doesn’t allow for proper categorization. Having the ability to go infinitely deeper in the hierarchy becomes an important component of managing video content—video ‘containers’ help organize and nest information as needed.

Want to learn more about video platforms? Explore: Everything You Wanted to Know About LXPs (But Were Too Afraid to Ask)

How to Incentivize the Use of Video Among Staff 

There are many factors that will determine the level of video adoption at your organization. At companies, incentivizing employees to position themselves as SMEs and to share their knowledge through video can be tied to career objectives and advancement. Using video to reskill or upskill also plays an important part in career development.

Providing employees the right training to empower their use of technology, including video, can generally increase workforce retention and engagement—metrics that have become especially important with COVID-19.

Video can be described as one the most flexible, effective, and easy communication mediums available today. Thankfully, there are a number of video platforms available to suit your company or institution´s unique needs. What’s important is to choose a platform you believe will be easily adopted by staff and to enable a creator-centric approach to teaching and learning that will permeate your new or newly-enhanced digital culture.

Learn more about incentivizing and creating great video: ‘Hollywood Hacks: 4 Ideas for Affordable, Professional-Quality Video Learning Content

Creative Ideas to Present Engaging Video Presentations 

Video can be (almost) anything we want it to be. There are multiple forms of video and it’s important to remind individuals that it doesn’t have to be just a ‘talking head’ on a screen. Consider integrating the following design ideas to make your virtual video presentations engaging and memorable for your audience:

  • Add music
  • Use motion graphics
  • Take advantage of filters and backgrounds
  • Build word clouds 
  • Have more than one host to mix up the content

See the power of the LXP and of Instilled by PeopleFluent for yourself. Contact our sales team today.

A version of this article originally appeared on the PeopleFluent blog.


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