So that was 2013 (or what I do for a living these days)

A lot changed for me professionally in 2013. In March, I left the Telegraph, where I had worked for more than 10 years. I had been Head of Technology (Editorial) since mid-2009 and before that Communities Editor, Online News Editor and a few other roles before those. Leaving was quite a change but it's been brilliant so far.

"So what is it you do now?" has become the question I am most frequently asked. Sometimes even I'm not sure what the answer is. There isn't a concise way to describe my job, though I've settled on 'technology writer and digital media consultant'. For those who want more detail - and to remind myself of everything that happened - here are some of the highlights of my working year.

The ebooks
In the space of a few weeks in the autumn of 2013, I published three ebooks. The first, Computerised You, is an Amazon Kindle Single about wearable technology. It was well-received and led to a trip to Iceland in October to speak about it. In March this year, I'll be discussing the book at the Wearable Technology Show in London. 

Computerised You was followed by two ebooks published in partnership with Touch Press, one of the leading developers of apps for iPad and iPhone. The ebooks, published on Apple's iBookstore, were Touch Press's first iBooks and were free to download. The first covered Apple's iOS 7 operating system and the second was about the iPad.

Now I'm working on publishing Computerised You on other ebook platforms and after that I'll start thinking about the next ebook.

Journalism
I haven't quite given up journalism. Since leaving the Telegraph I've written for Stuff, The Independent and the Bookseller but I didn't have as much time for journalism towards the end of 2013 because of the ebooks I was writing. I'm hoping to be a little more active with tech journalism this year.

Consultancy
The rest of my time has been devoted to consultancy and freelance copywriting. I've been writing about technology for the World Economic Forum, which has led to some fascinating interviews about things like robots and biomedicine. I consult for Bloom.fm, the streaming music app, in a wide-ranging role that includes marketing and PR advice as well as some copywriting.

Other clients in 2013 included Nesta, for whom I wrote a couple of feature articles, O2 and Hope & Glory PR (a comment piece about 4G), 3 Monkeys Communications (the introduction to a report about the tech cluster in Brighton) and Lyonsdown, for whom I am a columnist.

If I can help with one of your projects in 2014, please get in touch.

Computerised You: now available from Amazon

My Kindle Single about wearable technology, Computerised You: How wearable technology will turn us into computers, was launched by Amazon today. Here's Amazon's description:

"In this authoritative but sometimes alarming report, Shane Richmond describes the revolutionary developments in 'wearable' technology. From Google Glass to the advent of brain implants, technology is getting personal, and the difference between people and machines will soon be hard to tell."

The piece is a quick read but it covers a wide range of wearables, from the health and fitness gadgets to communication tools like Google Glass, and it considers the risks as we collect and store more data about ourselves, as well as the potential for brain implants and similar futuristic concepts.

Why forcing an iOS app to quit won't speed up your device

Apple has released iOS 7, the latest version of its mobile operating system, and it's a drastic change from all that has gone before. The changes are covered in my new iBook, Guide to iOS 7, published by Touch Press. It also includes 20 tips and tricks for iOS users. One of them seems to surprise so many people that I thought I would share it here.

A few weeks ago, I asked users of Apple's iOS devices to share the tips they would give people who were new to the OS. Lots of useful suggestions came back, via Twitter, but several people said that new users should be told that it's important to quit apps that you aren't using. I was surprised by that because, as far as I knew, it isn't true.

The theory is that forcing apps to quit - by double-tapping the Home button to open the multi-tasking menu and, on iOS 7, flicking the apps up off the screen - you will free up system resources and minimise battery drain. It seems that a lot of people consider that to be a pro tip.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work. Once you switch away from an app in iOS, it is suspended. iOS remembers the state it was in when you left it so that you can go right back to it on your return, but the app is not actually running anymore. The only exceptions to that rule are apps that have some background functionality, such as streaming music apps or apps that can upload files in the background. However, even those will be suspended after a certain period of time.

If an app is malfunctioning then, yes, forcing it to quit is the answer. But in normal use force-quitting apps will not make a difference. Explaining this can be difficult because some people simply do not believe it. They swear that they have seen an improvement in the performance of their device after doing it. All I can say to those people is that they are mistaken. I've checked with Apple and I've checked with independent developers and the answer is the same: force quitting apps will not save battery life or improve performance of the device.

In an attempt to combat the misinformation I've added that as one of my iOS Tips and Tricks in the Guide to iOS 7 that I have written in collaboration with Touch Press. It's the first Touch Press iBook and it's free so if you're an iOS 7 user then I recommend downloading your copy now.

Solving Twitter's money and troll problems with a tick

That little blue tick next to the names of certain Twitter users means that the company has verified their identity. They are who they claim to be. A least, they are if Twitter did its job correctly. The beneficiaries of the tick are mostly public figures: celebrities, athletes, journalists, authors and so on.

Yesterday, Twitter said it was launching a filtered view of the replies and mentions that Twitter users receive. There are three options: view all replies and mentions; view them 'Filtered', with spam removed; and view only mentions from Verified users.

The feature, TechCrunch explained, "lets celebs hob-nob in peace". Twitter abuse has been an increasingly visible problem in recent months. Last month, in protest at rampant threats of violence towards women, several media types boycotted Twitter for a day. If such boycotts were to become a regular occurence or if some celebs left the service entirely then Twitter would be damaged. Its reputation would suffer and some users, many of whom use the service only to follow celebrities, might leave. The new filter offers a solution of sorts, allowing the Verified to talk among themselves, with any abuse filtered out. But what if Twitter went further than that?

Read More

World Economic Forum Technology Pioneers 2014 and Airbnb

The World Economic Forum this week announced its 36 Technology Pioneers for 2014. The WEF has been selecting a group of Pioneers every year since 2000. Google was a Pioneer in 2002 and otherss include the Wikimedia Foundation (2006), Twitter (2010), Spotify (2011) and Kickstarter (2012).

I've written a post for the WEF Technology blog about the background to the Pioneers program:

The Pioneers are small, entrepreneurial businesses working in all fields of technology, from healthcare and the environment, to robotics and new media. What unites them is their potential to have an enormous impact on society and business. Certain themes emerge year after year, reflecting the consistent concerns of the 21st Century world, such as the need for cleaner energy and the growing pace of communications and connectivity.

In a separate post, you can read my interview with Nathan Blecharczyk of Airbnb, one of the 2014 Pioneers.