2007: The Year the Future Began

2007 was the year I got into social media. I had kind of forgotten that. It was only by listening to David Terrar at the Enterprise Digital Summit this month that I realised just how pivotal that year was.


David mentioned five reasons why he believes 2007 was a “tipping point”:

  1. “The iPhone was announced (but it was a slow burn)”. I was the proud owner of a Blackberry at the time. It took me until mid 2011 when Vodafone gave me a faulty Blackberry to switch to the iPhone.
  2. “Twitter took flight (and became a company)”. I was an early adopter. Colleagues introduced me to Twitter and, after some initial reluctance, I got hooked.  It is probably because of my background in journalism that I “got” Twitter right away. Having to restrict content to 140 characters felt like a familiar challenge… like having to craft a concise headline for an article (I still haven’t warmed up to the new 280-character thing by the way… ). A couple of years later, Twitter became the engine of a project I did for the European Training Foundation which put me in contact with an amazing group of women bloggers from the Middle East and North Africa.
  3. “Zuckerberg had just turned down 1bn $, but opened up Facebook instead”. I signed up for Facebook while researching its story for my book. But it took me until late 2010, when I bought an iPad, to start spending time on it. My relationship with Facebook is complicated. I have had both terrible and wonderful moments on it.
  4. “We all started talking about Cloud”. And here I have to admit.. I didn’t. Cloud felt like a distant future in 2007… Little did I know!
  5. “It’s the year that social media started to really mean business”. People began to see consumers being influenced by products recommended on social media channels. Social peer reviews started to matter.


That was then. David also talked about the future and emerging trends. He started off with quantum computing… a favourite of mine. It is exciting that quantum computing is going to help in areas like drug discovery.

Another trend is AI, whose revenue, according to Tractica, is going to reach 60bn $ by 2025.

And then we have the IoT.  Gartner is predicting 25 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020. “Everything will have an IP address”. A fascinating IoT device is Kone’s connected elevator. Kone is linking its elevators to the Cloud and by analysing data coming from their sensors, it can tailor maintenance to each individual lift.

David ended his presentation by talking about the 8 Building Blocks of Digital Transformation. One of them is the “permanent state of reinvention” companies that have embarked on a digital transformation journey find themselves in.

Reinvention is also happening thanks to the application of AI (or cognitive computing) to the world of work.

And this was my topic at the Summit. I took part in a panel and answered questions about the use of cognitive, in particular chatbots, to the workplace. As an example, I mentioned Bob, a chatbot that supports Checkpoint, a performance management platform used by IBM for its 380,000 employees. Bob answers the questions you might be too shy to ask your manager (like… what is the average amount of time people spend in my job?).

If you have read my blog before, you probably know that I have a bit of a fixation with bots.

Lately, I have been wondering whether it is really necessary for chatbots to sound like humans.  According to a Wired article I read recently, the answer might be no. The author thinks the bots we have at the moment sound like “19th century butlers”. They use convoluted language and don’t get straight to the point.

I had this experience with Siri lately when I asked for the number of a restaurant. I got it but then… Siri went on to ask whether I wanted to dial that number. When I said “yes, please”. Siri answered “you are very polite” instead of calling the restaurant. As you can imagine I went… What????!!!

This is an example of what Wired calls skeuomorphic design, which happens when “an object in software mimics its real world counterpart” (like the floppy disk icon used to save a file… Do we really need it?? When was the last time you’ve used a floppy disk?!)

The idea is that skeuomorphs slow things down. Because of the way Siri talks, it took me longer to make a restaurant reservation.

I have to admit… I like my bots to sound more robotic and less Dickensian.


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