Wednesday, 28 October 2015

I went to...BHM Debating Society Public Debate

As a means to gain a more culturally diverse membership and to have an interesting topic up for debate, the UCLU Debating Society ran an event in association with the UCLU BME with the following title

This house believes the different portrayals of ‘race’ in the media is the main cause of institutional racism

The format was simple We had four people as debaters, with two representing the proposition, and the other two the opposition of the motion. Each speaker would have 7mins to present their argument, the middle 5mins would be open for a "Point of Interest" question or clarification from anyone in attendance. With that said, the speaker could refuse to respond. First up for the proposition was BME LGBT representative who opened the debate with a nervous yet passionate argument with the highlight being a remixed rendition of the iconic Jaws theme. The musical interlude was used whilst he was giving an analogy of how discrimition can be suggested, but later cemented, which in turn was to support that media is indeed the main cause of instituional racism.

Dr Meera Sabaratnam gave a very strong response where she very articulately explained that institutionalised racism is ultimately because of the white privileged who exist as a majority in institutions and indeed control the media. To be honest, the debate could have finished there because I felt her response was accurate and delivered with ease.

Now I forget the name of the next chap, primarily because he was a stand in, but he is supposed to be the reigning World Champion Debater, yet I can't find his name on the internet! Anyway, it was clear that he knew how to debate, however, I couldn't help but feel he didn't truly believe what he was saying. I therefore struggled to be moved by almost anything he said, but the next debater helped clarify why he would have struggled to give a convincing case...

The debater in question was Barry Mussenden OBE who successfully energised the audience as he gave a more informal and very personal argument, by explaining the impact that the media had to support the Stephen Lawrence enquiry which he was heavily involved with at the time. He explained though that it was the community that rallied around the family which was the driving force for change, and spot light on institutional racism was shone by this said community, not the Daily Mail.

Things then got interesting when the stage was open to the floor. The best speaker either for, against or on the fence, would get either a bottle of port or a box of chocolates. 

We began with a self proclaimed elderly "Freedom Fighter" who couldn't quite handle the 3min speech time. He raised some interesting points including the inventor of the lightbulb, Lewis Howard Latimer. 

Next was my turn! I didn't really have much time to prepare since I didn't even know that I would have a strong argument to present, but I put my hand up and was successfully selected! I began by making it clear that the media does indeed have impact, but ultimately the most important factor were people you value, namely close friends, family and those in positions of authority. I learned about the issues of dating outside my race, working in a mainly white populated country, living around people who think I was a "packie", by learning from people around me, not from the media. I might have seen a commentary on the above examples in the media, but they were not the seed of thought. I also explained that when you want to convince someone to change their ways, your not going to tell them to watch TV. You really need people to connect with them on an emotional level, to build trust (if it doesn't already exist) and then people will listen to you.

What followed was a very entertaining 5min + monologue from an abstaining member of the audience who didn't really make any sense at all. And he certainly didn't want to give up the microwave despite the rest of the audience and Debating Society board members clapping for him to sit down TWICE. We had two more rounds of speakers from the audience, with a total of nine of us throwing in our two pence worth.

After summaries of the evening by the four main speakers, the Debating Society President announced the winner out of the 9 audience speakers.

And I won!!!

It was a really wonderful night and I'm keen to go back. I enjoyed having such a great opportunity to learn more about the world from such an informed and diverse group of people. 

Bring on the next debate!!!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

I just watched... The Martian

Matt Damon. You're awesome.

The Martian is probably the best film I've seen this year. 

After enjoying a gorgeous seafood feast courtesy of Smith's, I had the pleasure of seeing the incredibly well told story of survival on a desolate planet. But it wasn't a survival horror, and it wasn't steeped in outlandish sci fi nonsense. It was very realistic considering we are still several generations away from a Mission to Mars. Unless your thinking of this crappy movie Mission to Mars, where we are never ready for a film that was as ludicrous as that one.

Anyway, the plot is a simple one, botanist and engineer Mark Watney (Damon) is on a mission with a number of other astronauts playing with Martian flavoured dirt. Things quickly turn sour however when a storm hits their location. Watney suggests to the team that they just wait out the storm, especially since they were having soe much fun playing with dirt millions of miles away from home. After a clear order from the mission's Commander (played by Jessica Chastain who was also in Interstellar as the daughter of a world astronaut which confused the hell out of me), the team plan to flee for their lives. Watney of course gets "fatally injured" and is left behind.

But no! He's alive!

What ensues is a wonderful bit of acting by Damon who convincingly conveys the many emotions one would likely go through when they are the only living thing on a planet. We see him go through highs and lows as he tries to not just feed himself using his own bodily waste but also communicate with NASA by way of a spinning camera

The film is tense, emotional, and fun with a sweet CGI to boot.

The film was so good, I'm tempted to go an watch it again


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

I just watched...The Last Witch Hunter

So thanks to my Cineworld Unlimited Black Card Membership, I had the pleasure of pre-booking an advanced preview of Vin Diesel's latest movie, The Last Witch Hunter

Lets just get this out of the way. Most critics slate the film. Metacritic gives it a 34/100 from 19 critics meaning "generally unfavorable reviews". 

I enjoyed the film if I was honest. Maybe its because I didn't have to concentrate very much to understand the film. Could be because it was the first time I've ever been to the cinema on my own (I find shared experiences are more fun). Could even be because it has Vin Diesel who I think is a cool dude.

The plot is fairly simple. Its really back in the day, like medieval back in the day, and Kaulder (Diesel) is hunting down some Witch Queen who obviously peed him and his friends off enough to warrant sneaking in to her manky cave with torches and swords ready to make her 50 shades of dead. Several of friends die of course, since they are after a Witch Queen, which as the name suggest must be super powerful. Kaulder triumphs, but is then infected with immortality by the dying Witch Queen.

Cue title screen and then we are hurled hundreds of years in to the future where Kaulder no longer looks like some barbarian with a wig, and looks more like he's ready to go out and pick up chicks. After some witchcrafery (I don't think that's a word, but it is now), he indeed does pick up a chick. 

I kinda don't blame him though, she was fit.

Anyway, next comes Father Dolan, played Michael Cain who then monologues about how he writes the personal diary, sorry, "Chronicles of Kaulder" but is due to retire soon.

Without any spoilers, numerous good and bad people die, there's loads of CGI, Kaulder becomes mortal again yet eventually he saves the day.

The end!

Its a by the numbers film with a few twists and turns that aren't that predictable to be honest. The CGI was satisfactory, the action just OK. But the visual effects for the Witch Queen was rather week. I've seen more scary looking women at local hairdressers.

So lets give it a 3/5. Hopefully the planned sequel will do a better job.

Monday, 19 October 2015

I just read...Is the healthcare industry catching up with digital innovation?

This is an article by Jack Simpson @ Econsultancy about the progress in the digital world the heathcare industry is making. As many others would agree, including all those mentioned in this article, the heatlhcare sector is way behind. We have ambition and desire, but our efforts are still very weak. Especially in the NHS, there is a lot of talk, but our efforts are not coordinated, lack enough skilled professionals (from a variety of backgrounds, not just clinical or computer science), and certainly lacks enough funding.
But it is very encouraging to know that so many others are excited about the digital future of healthcare. I'm yet again inspired and have received affirmation that a leap in to IT was certainly the right choice for me.
Happy reading.

Friday, 16 October 2015

HEALTHTech 2015

I attended an amazing evening with some truly inspirational and passionate innovators who together are making Healthcare of the future today.

A collaboration of KPMGs High Growth Technology Group and the healthcare tech innovators group Health 2.0 London, HEALTHTech 2015 was a great opportunity to learn more about numerous successful start-ups as well some of the investors who will fund the tomorrow’s world of digital Healthcare.

The evening began with some networking where one of the interns in my team, Hira, and I spoke with some very interesting people. One such individual is Matt Hartley of Healthforgewhich is a “cloud platform for healthcare app developers”. Matt explained how his start up is trying to help healthcare innovators build their apps without the stress of figuring out how to ensure their solution works in a modern, interoperable healthcare ecosystem. This then means that the app development team can focus more on the UX and core business they are developing. Definitely a business to keep an eye on.

Our first speaker was Robbie Hughes, founder and CEO of Qinec which is a digital health company using real time data to personalise the patient journey for optimal healthcare outcomes. He’s been busy since 2005 and his company is gone from strength to strength. However, he did explain some of the challenges and indeed mistakes he has faced over the years. I can’t lie, his presentation was pitched so perfectly and he handed the audience some real gems.

A great point he made was the fact that so often clinical staff want something new, but for it to be exactly the same as the old. Which is ridiculous, but sadly very true, especially for disenchanted clinicians.

Robbie also discussed some of the really under-appreciated problem with pilot studies; they don’t just take up a lot of time to do them, but it often keeps your best staff members busy too. If a product is really good, often you will know so because of research done before and during development, meaning the product can just be released. It’s also free to the business having a pilot done, but stops you from earning money, which is not useful for a start up with little income or reserves.

We were also reminded that Customer Acquisition Cost which is a measure of how much needs to be spent to gain a new customer, is not just measured in money but in time as well. So seniors and executives can often push for work to be low cost and fast, but this isn’t always the best option.

All in all, it was really great start to the evening.

Next was Dr Nasrin Hafezpaast from Outcomes Based Healthcare (OBH).  As co-founder and CTO of OBH, she is driving forward the adoption of an outcomes based approach to healthcare. It was refreshing to see a fellow medic who has also embraced IT, but she unlike me has a computer science degree too. And as one of Management Today’s “35 women under 35”, she is surely a leader to align yourself with. Her company has received some much needed funding recently from the Outcomes Data Lab and Sense 360 to the tune of £1m and £100k respectively.

Then the audience was graced with the presence of James Balmain, who is Co-Founder and CEO for Zesty. “Zesty allows patients to book healthcare appointments, on any device, in under 60 seconds.” which James had the great pleasure of telling the audience. We were well and truly impressed by the achievements of Zesty, which don’t just include receiving over £10m investment over 4 the last years, but also the impact Zesty has had on improving outpatient appointment efficiency. If they were the sole supplier of healthcare appointment management solutions, they estimate they could earn £810m. So just reaching 10% of the market would make them a very successful company.

Three smaller businesses looking for further investment then pitched some of their exciting work. Breaking Free explained how they are transforming access to evidence-based treatment for addictive behaviours. What struck me was how dated the solution looked, but it was running very successfully which only further highlighted how unimportant UX is to investors and big businesses.

I was much more intrigued by Cambridge Bio-AugmentationSystems which is going to changing the way we treat amputees. Their solution involves a socket fixated to the bone of the stump which skin can grow in to and around. With such a secure seal to prevent infection, the “twist and click” system for attaching a new prosthesis is slick, reliable, and will have a realistic lifespan of two decades. With an $8bn estimated market in 2020, the future is very bright for this start up.

Finally Bleep Bleeps impressed us with their family of devices which made being and indeed becoming parents all that easier. Their products include cameras to check on sleeping little ones, a male fertility tester and an ultrasound scanner. The devices are delightful to look at as each has an easily identifiable face.

Before ending the evening with pizza and doing some networking, I offered the final question to the panel of investors on the night, by asking what their views were on UX and optimising the aesthetics and usability. I received a disappointing yet anticipated answer from both Imperial Innovations and Apposite Capital who not only said that UX wasn’t really that important but also explained that clinical staff, doctors especially were expecting clunky software solutions. Robbie gave are more balanced answer though, explaining that it is indeed important to have a product that makes money but  that one must strike that balance between usability that leads to a product delivered quickly rather than delaying and not selling to anyone. It was James however who echoed my own personal view, prove to the investors how usability will earn them more money, and they will still invest. Ultimately, investors want to invest in a business that will give a return, otherwise they would be simply donating and will soon run out of money.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the event, and eagerly await the next one.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 9 October 2015


So I found this article whilst Googling.
Like many people who work on design projects in general, and not just UX practitioners, its so important to articulate concerns and simple advice so that people actually listen and act upon your recommendations. The challenge, as the article by Tema Frankoutlines, there are three possible reasons why you may feel like you are talking to a brick wall, with usually all three reasons being the case
  • They are impatient
  • Developers and designers don’t want to admit they may have gotten it wrong
  • The company doesn’t want to spend the money
Tema builds a very good case for how you should conduct yourself when you are feeling frustrated that you have the answer to both known and unknown questions that a project faces; be patient and empathic. The developers and the seniors are all human beings with complex emotions and needs. They all want to have a great product but at times have to make sacrifices otherwise there will be no product at all. So being completely against them won’t help. You need to be on their side and speak their language, but also remember that things won’t get sorted overnight. Genuinely care about everyone’s concerns and priorities and work as a team member rather than an employed outsider. Tema sums this up as “Aligning Objectives”, and she is spot on.
Happy reading!, T. (2015). Giving UX Advice: Getting Buy-In. User Experience Magazine, 15(4).

Saturday, 3 October 2015

I’m a student again!

Skinny jeans, hoodies, over-sized glasses.

Backpacks, folders haemorrhaging loose sheets of paper, dangly ID badges.

I’m surrounded by hundreds, nah thousands of students. And I’m loving it.

I’m a student again!!!

My first week here at UCL has been an exciting one. I’m enrolled as a student for the University College London Interaction Centre masters course in Human Computer Interaction with Ergonomics. I’ll be learning about how humans work with technology and how we can design our interactions for the benefit of everyone, not just selfish designers! There are around 60 students on my course, most of which are full time master's students. About 10 of us are doing the masters part time over 2 -3years (I’m just doing it in 2 years)

There are some really incredible people in my faculty. Be it the lecturers or the students, we have such a wealth of knowledge, experience and ideas. But we also literally come from around the world and represent pretty much every continent and most countries. Its wonderful being surrounded by such culturally, professionally and academically diverse individuals.

This is all the more smile inducing when, as one part time student from the previous year put it, “We all have empathy”. We all genuinely care about making the lives of others, or dare I say change the world, through effective user centred design. Now you might be wondering what user centred design actually is. Feel free to check this wikipedia page :)

We had a number of generic lectures which explained the course modules, as well as preparing us for being academics again, especially if you haven’t been to university for a few years, like myself. There was also a very well pitched session on the Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment policy and got attendees thinking about their options if they faced sexual harassment of any kind and what could be the best way to intervene if it was deemed appropriate.

My iPad 4 from eBay
My first lecture will on Ergonomics of Design. I can’t wait! I have my sketchbook (we don’t use notebooks as UX professionals!) and Sharpie (a UX professionals best friend in pen form or “penified”) and iPad 4 with keyboard I bought from eBay for £165 with free P&P. With half backlit display which I only noticed once I locked in my highest bid.


PS the iPad actually works perfectly well, and the backlight is surprisingly nowhere near as bad as it looks in the photo.