Mercedes Benz Self Driving Vehicles

I recently drove to a hotel in London and parking in the hotel car park I saw a couple of Mercedes Benz cars, which didn’t look quite right.

I took a closer look, these were self-driving autonomous vehicles, they had German number plates.

Not sure what they were doing in the hotel car park, but they looked interesting.

IFTTT will require a subscription

I have been using IFTTT (If This Then That) for quite a few years now. Though over the last few years my usage has got quite minimal. During some research activities using tweetchats and hashtags I did use it quite a bit for work.

Now in the main I use a recipe to post native photographs from Instagram to the Twitter.

So it was with minimal disappointment to read in my inbox this from IFTTT.

Starting on May 23, all free users will be limited to 2 Applets and unable to access Twitter Applets. We hope you understand this change is designed to help us support our community and continue to focus on improving IFTTT. To ensure that your existing Applets continue without interruption, consider upgrading to Pro or manage your Applets via My Applets.

Now the subscription is not excessive, at £2.50 per month, cheaper if you pay annually. However I really don’t think I will get £30 of value from IFTTT over a year. I can configure Instagram to post to Twitter automatically, or I could even just post manually.

I still also get two free applets if I need to use IFTTT.

How do I help to work towards creating more inclusive and equitable AI?

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

There are several ways you can help to work towards creating more inclusive and equitable AI:

      1. Educate yourself about AI and its potential impacts on society, including its limitations and biases.
      2. Advocate for diversity and inclusion in AI development and use, and support initiatives that aim to promote these values.
      3. Participate in AI development projects and ensure that the teams involved include diverse perspectives and expertise.
      4. Encourage ethical and responsible use of AI, and advocate for transparency in its deployment.
      5. Support efforts to address bias and discrimination in AI, including the development of unbiased and fair AI algorithms.
      6. Consider the social and ethical implications of AI when making decisions about its use, and work towards ensuring that it benefits everyone.

By taking these steps, you can contribute to creating a more equitable and just society where AI is used for the betterment of all people.

Tech Stuff: Top Ten Blog Posts 2022

In 2022 I wrote and published 30 posts. In 2021 I published 32 posts on the blog, this was less than in 2020 when I wrote 43 blog posts. Compared to 2019 when I wrote just 18. 

Having some photographs when I visited The Harry Potter Studio Tour I decided to share some of the more suitable photos as backgrounds for Zoom and Teams and this was the tenth most popular post on the blog and dropping six places from last year was: Harry Potter Teams and Zoom Backgrounds.

Despite new posts and more traffic, the ninth most popular post, dropping seven lpaces, on the blog was my post about QR codes on chocolate bars, Cadbury QR Coding and Twirling which has been my number one post for a few years now. It was published in 2015 and was one of many posts I published on the use of QR codes back then.

Number eight, rising two places, was from June 2020 when I wrote about our gas metre: How are we using gas overnight with our new smart meter? Having had a smart metre installed, I started to notice that we seemed to be using a fair amount of gas and electricity overnight! This made no sense, as we didn’t have the heating on, no hot water was running and the only electrical device running was the fridge!

Dropping four places to seventh place was a post from May 2020, on how the amazing BBC Archive had posted a series of images of empty BBC Television sets across the years to be used as BBC Zoom and Teams Backgrounds. I used these quite frequently in my Zoom meetings.


Rising one place at number six was a post from December 2020 about Using iPad as separate whiteboard in Zoom, which was a follow on post from one I had written about using an iPad in Teams

Fifth place was Ten Amazing Winter and Snow Backgrounds for Teams and Zoom perfect for this time of year.

Well we had winter and now we have summer. Going up four places, the fourth most popular blog post on the blog was from April 2021 and was a series of images (virtual backgrounds) I wanted to use for online meetings over the summer: Ten Amazing Summer Zoom and Teams Backgrounds

Dropping two places to number three was Using iPad as separate whiteboard in Teams. This was a post in response to a tweet on the Twitter.

This inspired me to give it a go and see if I could get it to work and as a result documented the process.

.Going up four places, the second most popular blog post was from December 2020, Ten Great Christmas Zoom and Teams Backgrounds. Using the excellent image sites, UNsplash and Pixabay, I put together ten festive images that could be used as backgrounds for Zoom and Teams meetings.

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

In July 2021, there I was opening a PowerPoint file from my OneDrive folder when I got this error message: Sorry, PowerPoint can’t read ^0. I couldn’t open any of my files on OneDrive. Having looked around for a solution and to be honest it wasn’t too much help. I did try and reset OneDrive but this didn’t work. I was convinced that this was a permissions issue rather than file corruption or data loss. The file sizes looked fine for example. In the end though I did come up with a solution which I wrote up as a blog post to help others: Solving the Sorry PowerPoint can’t read ^0 error and this was the most popular blog post this year, rising four places from last year.

Ten delicious festive backgrounds for Zoom and Teams

Time to get into the Christmas spirit in the last few weeks at work with these delicious festive food backgrounds for Zoom or Teams.

Right click the images to download the images.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay
Photo by Michele Purin on Unsplash
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay
Image by Couleur from Pixabay
Image by Couleur from Pixabay

hot chocolate
Image by Sabrina Ripke from Pixabay
cookie dough
Image by Myléne from Pixabay
Image by Willfried Wende from Pixabay
Image by Sabrina Ripke from Pixabay

Culture eats strategy for breakfast, whereas I eat croissant

Forget about strategy and culture, what about my breakfast!

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a famous quote from management consultant and writer Peter Drucker. 

It can be thought that his view was that strategy was unimportant. To clarify this, what he was saying in this quote is that strategy alone is not enough, a powerful and empowering culture was essential in delivering on a strategy. Without that underpinning strong culture, you will never realise your strategic aspirations. When creating a strategy, you may want to think strategically what else needs to be in place to underpin the process.

Reflecting on this quote though, I did start to think about breakfast, and wondered if I could use breakfast as an analogy for effective strategy implementation. As well as strategic objectives, what else do people need to know in order to deliver those objectives successfully.

I do find talking with people about strategy that they often struggle with implementation, the operationalisation of that strategy and the planning required to deliver the objectives of that strategy.

Across different organisations I have often seen the following process used when it comes to strategic implementation.

Write a strategy.

This is usually done at a senior or board level, usually involving some consultants. The end result is a glossy brochure that talks about a vision, values and a series of objectives.

What happens next depends on your organisation, but I often see the following.

Separate departments, sections or directorates, sometimes even teams will create an operational plan. They then map that plan to the strategic objectives, as that will then “deliver” on the strategic objectives for the organisation.

So, what does this have to do with breakfast Well, imagine that your strategic objective is this:

We are committed to offering all of our customers a world-leading, rigorous, delicious, inclusive breakfast experience embedded in a vibrant welcoming environment.

Well’s that’s an easy enough objective to deliver on, isn’t it?


Imagine there are various teams across the business who will support the delivery of this objective.

One team creates an operational plan to deliver on eggs for breakfast. They create a plan for cooking eggs different ways to meet customer needs. The plan is detailed and provides the process for cooking eggs different ways, they ways in which they should be presented, the different crockery required and how the eggs should be served to the customer. They use their own proprietary processes and planning tools, which are independent of and do not interact with other planning tools. However their plan implies that only eggs will be eaten for breakfast and no thought is given to the other breakfast components, as they are the responsibility of other teams.

One team creates a plan to deliver the bacon for the breakfast. In order to be efficient and cost-effective (as another strategic objective sets out that the organisation should be cost-effective and efficient), the team decides that they will use the cheapest bacon available, cook it in advance and then add to the breakfast when needed.

The toast team recognise that they need to deliver toast for the breakfast, but they will need time to workshop the kind of toast required, what bread will be needed, the kind of toaster that customers prefer, or whether they cook the toast to order. They anticipate that this planning and preparation will take at least six months and that it will be another six months before they can actually deliver toast to the customer.

One team makes the decision that they will do everything themselves and create their vision of the perfect breakfast, as they don’t trust other teams, or don’t like their work, they plan to procure, prepare and cook everything by themselves. 

Another team creates a plan to make mille feuille, or pastry cream slices on puff pastry. They recognise that not everyone wants a sweet pastry for breakfast, but they are very good at making mille feuille. At least one customer said they wanted mille feuille (though they didn’t clarify at the time if that was for afternoon tea or for breakfast).

One team decides that they don’t need a plan and will just get on with making the breakfast. They decide to focus on croissant. Before long they start looking at adding ham and cheese to the croissant. Realising after some failures, that croissant are too challenging to make, they go with making fruit scones instead.

No one is making coffee, as they all assumed that another team was making coffee, that was someone else’s responsibility.

The end result is that the breakfast that the customer receives is not quite what they expected. It is inconsistent, there are aspects missing, and no one appears to be taking responsibility for the end result, and are blaming other parts of the organisation for the failure to deliver.

So did the organisation deliver on offering all of their customers a world-leading, rigorous, delicious, inclusive breakfast experience embedded in a vibrant welcoming environment.

Part of the problem is that there lacks a shared and agreed understanding of what a “world-leading, rigorous, delicious, inclusive breakfast experience” actually is.

For some people a delicious breakfast is the classic full English Breakfast, bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms and toast. For others that breakfast needs to include black pudding, beans, hash browns as well as everything else. If you’re vegan though, that breakfast is exclusionary and not what you probably think is a delicious breakfast. If you live in Edinburgh, you might hesitate with a Full English and wonder where the Lorne sausage is.

When it comes to delivering on a strategic objective, it is important that all stakeholders are clear about what the objective means and what success looks like. If your team thinks avocado toast is success and another team is looking at success by delivering a full English breakfast, you are unlikely to deliver on that objective. Defining success and agreeing what that is, is critical to delivering on your vision.

Another issue is that teams are working independently on their plans and then mapping them to the strategy. There are two risks with that, first there could be gaps in the delivery. Secondly teams can create plans for doing stuff they want to do, which may not necessarily deliver on the strategic objective, but as it is in the plan, so it gets done. Teams can also change their plans without reflecting on the implications for the rest of the organisation and that overall breakfast experience.

Of course a single strategic objective is complex enough, adding in more objectives just adds to the complexity.

All teams need to know where the organisation is heading, and how their work (and the work of the individuals in those team) is contributing to the strategic objective. If there is no clarity in vision, no defined values, no sense of direction, then you will not be successful and you are potentially creating and nurturing an inadequate culture.

The key really is that teams need to be clear about what success looks like, their role in delivering that success. They can then plan their work accordingly to deliver on that success.

Next slide please!

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

There is something about the legacy of the pandemic on the phrase   “next slide please” it has almost become a joke during online meetings and presentations. Now as I attend in-person events, people are still making the same joke.

Of course part of the challenge, why this was happening, was the proliferation of online meetings (and events) using Zoom and Teams. Even though it was possible (and some would even say simple) for all the presenters in that meeting to share their slides, often all the slides would be “grouped” together and shared from a single machine. The result was that the person who “shared” the screen would then be the main presenter for all the slides and so any one else presenting would then be “forced” to ask for the “next slide please”.

This was done as it was much easier, especially with multiple presentations, for there to be one presentation. I often saw challenges when different people tried to share their presentations,  sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t and sometimes it was just a faff!

So what is the solution?

Of course with tools such as Teams you can easily pass control of the presentation to another person. You can take “control”.

With other tools this may not be possible, or you may not want to allow others to control the presentation, hence the next slide palaver that we see at events and in meetings.

One of my solutions is to not actually use slides when presenting. 

Wazing the wrong way

I do like Waze and I find that it is quite accurate in terms of arrival times, usually provides effective routing and I like the live traffic updates. I remember once it took me on what felt like a weird route out of Reading, but it took just ten minutes, whereas if I had taken the route I would have taken without Waze (as I didn’t know Reading very well) it would have taken at least thirty minutes. Waze took me down quieter less busy road, so I was out of Reading very quickly.

Recently though it got very confused when I was travelling on the M4 westbound and then got caught in a traffic jam between junctions 12 and 13. There had been an accident and the lorry involved had spilled its fuel onto the carriageway. The police then closed the motorway, so that it could be resurfaced and directed traffic off at junction 12. Well too late for me as I was already way pass junction 12 and close to junction 13.

Of course with the motorway closed, Waze was updated and the M4 westbound was shown as a red and white dashed line indicating the road was closed. Of course Waze didn’t realise I was heading westbound and just assumed I was on the other carriageway and heading eastbound. So it was inaccurately telling me to head to junction 12 and come off there.

Well I couldn’t as I was stuck westbound. 

Eventually after the police started letting traffic through on the outside lane pass the accident, well the fuel spillage, Waze caught up and worked out I was heading westbound after all.

Blue is the colour

This week I was presenting at an online conference and though I usually use my iMac in-built microphone, for this event I was using a Microsoft Surface. I was asked if I had an external microphone I could use as the quality wasn’t very good with the in-built microphone. I do have an external Bluetooth headset I sometimes use for calls, but I have found it can be unreliable when I need it most. So I went to the garage and dug out my old external Blue Snowball USB microphone.

It certainly has a retro feel to it’s look and when I say retro I mean 1950s retro. I’ve had it for a fair few years, well over fifteen I think. It was called a Snowball as it was white ball, well over the years the white plastic and discoloured somewhat, so it is now a faded yellowish white colour. However it worked perfectly and the feedback I had was the quality was excellent.

Think I might start using it more.

If you want one, you can get one at Amazon.

Ten Amazing Winter and Snow Backgrounds for Teams and Zoom

So you’re feeling all snug and warm in your home office, well why not add some wintery charm to your Teams and Zoom meetings with these amazing winter and snow backgrounds.

Right click the images to download the images.

trees in the snow
Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash
snowy lane
Photo by Ali Inay on Unsplash

Photo by Courtney Chestnut on Unsplash
frosty tree
Photo by Tim Tiedemann on Unsplash
snowy mountains
Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash
snow covered trees
Photo by Katarzyna Pe on Unsplash
Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash
snowy mountains
Photo by Alberto Restifo on Unsplash
snowy lane with trees
Photo by TORSPOMEDIA on Unsplash
snowy pines
Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash