Facebook: The Global Power Buster?

The Facebook statistics look impressive to some and perhaps worrying to others.  How could 500 million people spend 23 hours of every month browsing the Facebook website? That is a whopping 700 billion minutes per month. 

At ClickTell, as part of a large research and Business Analytics project we have been studying the business model driven sustainability of social networking sites and the short and long term Return On Investment prospects for investors. Faced with the Facebook data, we reframed the above statistics and asked a number of different questions, one of which simply was: What are the implications of these statistics on, of all things, the global power consumption?

Our calculations estimate* the annual consequential user specific power consumption to be 28000 billion watt hours. Put another way, the global Facebook users’ power consumption over a twelve month period is equivalent to powering one million working 50-watt light bulbs constantly for a period of 64 years. 

And how does this level of power consumption compare to the annual electric power consumption of, for example a country? Using the latest available figures (2008), the combined power consumption** of Jamaica, Kenya, Haiti, Latvia, Nepal, Malta and Brunei was less than our estimate for the annual global Facbook users’ power consumption.

These jaw dropping figures are not necessarily unique to Facebook. We believe other organizations whether social networking or not will benefit from reframing the “picture” they hold of their organization. 

At ClickTell, we believe that in the not too distant future and before the time when energy rationing may become the norm, Governments of the world will inevitably have to perform a “true” cost/benefit analysis of such services.  On the basis of this, difficult decisions would have to be made; decisions that would by today’s standards sound most undemocratic.

Please contact ClickTell to find out how we can help reframe your data and re-engineer your business model.

* For a "near-worst-case" scenario where all users use a desktop PC. Total power consumption for PC, Monitor, Router and Speaker(s) assumed to be 200 W. Note: In these calculations we have not accounted for the power consumption resulting from the running of the Facebook’s own operations and the Internet Access Network. 

** Electric power consumption measures the production of power plants and combined heat and power plants less transmission, distribution, and transformation losses and own use by heat and power plants.


Twitter: The psychology of why criticising it creates a defensive reaction

Why do you think people get so defensive when Twitter is criticised?

Malcolm Gladwell:
Weird, isn’t it? Do you think it would make matters worse if I admitted that I also hate the iPhone?

The above exchange took place during a New Yorker “Ask The Author Live” session where Gladwell was answering readers questions related to New Yorker article, “SMALL CHANGE, Why the revolution will not be tweeted”.

At ClickTell, we don’t think it is weird at all for the Twitterati of this world to get defensive when Twitter is criticised. Our Behavioural and Social Psychology Unit offers a logical and scientific explanation for such defensive forms of behaviour once a “commitment” (such as opening a Twitter or a Facebook account) has been made.

Close inspection of relevant research publications in peer-reviewed journals of psychology, reveal a wealth of proven techniques for gaining compliance from unsuspecting targets. Historically these powerful insidious tools of persuasion have been used by “highly successful” salesmen and the advertising world. However of late, the operating models of many social networking sites appear to be leveraging such techniques for the purpose of attracting and retaining users. This may or may not be a conscious decision made by these companies.

Commitment decisions (such as opening a Twitter or a Facebook account), even when found to be erroneous, have a tendency to be self perpetuating. That is, the person involved will often make up new reasons and justifications to support the wisdom of the initial decision – there is simply an inbuilt desire to be consistent.  We see this as one of the main reasons why, for example tweeters can get so defensive when Twitter is criticised.

There are a number of techniques available for strengthening the initial commitment level and the ensuing desire for consistency.  And yes, just as there are psychological techniques for gaining compliance there are also “weapons” for reversing the situation. Will you please contact ClickTell to  find out more?


The Paradox of Water

“Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Time of the Ancient Mariner

Many of the great civilizations were formed around rivers and waterways. Mesopotamia, that very cradle of civilisation had two major rivers - Tigris and Euphrates - running on either side. The same holds true today; you would have to be mad to move to a house with no running water.

Well, that's exactly what I did when I moved to our small holding in Shropshire (England) ten years ago. A tiny shallow well had been the main source of water to our property since 1848. Shallow wells heavily depend on rainfall. So it is quite simple - a sustained dry period means very little or no water at the tap. It is as simple as that. No water authority to complain to and no water bowsers in sight.

The little well remained faithful until 2006 when on one sunny August day I had to inform our guests that there simply was no water in the tank. The water in the well had reached the lowest level ever and was in the process of drying up. I could not help feeling like the character Jean de Florette, desperately seeking an immediate solution to this fundamental a problem.

We managed – just. Tenko-like rationing meant that there was just enough water for the very basic needs. A large supply of bottled water (of all things) carried us through what proved to be not only a taxing, but also an enlightening period.

Being far away from any mains water with no forseeable rainfall meant we had to look elsewhere. Considering nothing was coming from the skies we decied to look underground - 50 metres underground in fact. A borehole tapping into aquifers is, for now, our salvation. I say "for now" as the supply of groundwater is also limited. Only 0.9% of the total water supply of the world is groundwater.

I must confess to a love affair with water that started when I first removed the cover to our shallow well and peered into this “blue gold” - A gift that mother nature had so selflessly brought to my door step for centuries. I would also like to think that my distant Zoroastrian heritage had long ago planted the seeds of respect for all natural gifts including water into my genetic path. Especially so given that Zoroastrians saw the role of mankind to protect the “Seven Creations” comprising of sky, water, earth, plants, animals, man and fire. Of course, the purifying role of water in for example ritual washing or ablution is well documented in most major faiths.

Moving on to the 21st century how do we set out to protect rather than just consume this gift of nature? How do we best begin to see water not as a right but a finite, precious entity?

Undoubtedly science, innovation, regulations and new management techniques all have a specific role to play in the more appropriate and efficient use of water and energy. Granted, we are extremely resilient and undoubtedly have been designed to procreate, progress and innovate. But total reliance on this approach introduces a potential flaw - our perceived technical mastery over everything including water can lead us to a false sense of security. We would do well to complement our scientific excellence with instilling a sense of consciousness, social responsibility and more importantly a genuine respect and humility towards nature.

It does not take droughts, flash floods or another Tsunami or Hurricane Katrina to see that despite the phenomenal progress of humanity, we are all subject as individuals to the most basic needs in life.
Note: This article by Dr Sepe Sehati, Co-Founder of ClickTell was originally written in April 2008, for Coolaworld an environmental organisation.


Watch out Oxford & Cambridge: A new disruptive innovation in University Education?

If empires come and go, once big corporations disappear into the abyss, why should universities of today be here tomorrow?

At ClickTell we truly love innovative and disruptive ideas. Although the majority of conventional universities do a good job in providing their basic task of educating, we see very little timely and sustainable innovation directly coming out of the majority of the world universities.

Ironically some of the most successful global companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft were founded by university drop outs.

Yesterday, a number of leading academics (including Niall Ferguson) announced plans to set up a private university college in London, UK. The New College of the Humanities (NCH) where courses will cost (£18,000/year) twice as much as mainstream English universities, will offer one to one tutorials and the students will be taught by top British and American academics.

In addition to its core modules NCH will also teach modules  in logic and critical thinking, science and financial literacy. This is a step in the right direction. However, in its current form NCH suffers from a general widespread failing in university education: That of not getting the right mix and the right balance of science, logic, psychology, humanities and arts subject and cross fertilising them to develop courses fit for the needs of today’s challenging world.

Indeed, a world faced with challenges which can no longer be addressed by merely a “vertical” thinking approach, but instead a world which requires a thinking and doing network of interlinked “horizontal” and “vertical” approaches.

In addition, we would do well by shifting the balance by bringing in more science and engineering students and exposing them to the world of management, humanities, psychology and such like rather than continuing with the reverse.

Professor Grayling, master of the NCH said, “If we are to discover and inspire the next generation of lawyers, journalists, financiers, politicians, civil servants, writers, artists and teachers, we need to educate to the highest standards and with imagination, breadth and depth."

But the world no longer just revolves around lawyers, journalists, financiers and politicians. Professor Grayling makes absolutely no mention of scientists or engineers. Granted he is referring to a college of humanities. But in our opinion we can only claim to offer a truly wholesome innovative education when we have addressed the issues raised above.

Contact ClickTell to see how we can help shape the academic needs of your country or institution.


Be Aware: Health Risk Statistics could damage your health

If you are about to make a major health related decision on the basis of the statistics provided by your healthcare professional you really need to make sure you are aware of three different statistical presentations of risk reduction.

This is because both the healthcare professionals and patients/consumers are most likely to change their choices when the same risks and risk reductions are presented using alternative statistical formats, namely:

  • Relative Risk Reduction (RRR)
  • Absolute Risk Reduction (ARR)
  • Number Needed to Treat (NNT)

To illustrate, imagine your doctor tells you that having a certain operation or taking a certain pill will:

A. Cut your risk of getting a serious disease in half – a 50% reduction. Would you have the operation/take the pill?

Now suppose you were instead told that;

B. The risk is 2% for people who do not have the operation/take the pill but your risk will be reduced to 1%. What would your decision be now?

And what if you were instead told that;

C. Only one of every 100 patients who have the operation/take the pill will actually benefit from it. Would you still make the same decision?

In the examples above the doctor is presenting the same information in different ways – in example A the format used is RRR and examples B and C use the ARR  and  NNT format respectively.

At ClickTell we have been aware of such practices and have had anecdotal evidence that this does affect healthcare decisions.

The findings of a March 2011 Review of Studies including scientific literature going as far back as 1887 and published in The Cochrane Library show that both doctors and patients are largely unaware of these different ways of presenting the same information. The findings also demonstrate that the format in which the data is presented has a profound influence on healthcare decisions.

Contact ClickTell to find out how we can help you or your organisation to make more informed evidence-based decisions.


Did Angela Merkel heed ClickTell’s warning?

In our 27th May Tweet regarding Google’s decision to locate one of its data centre’s at a Finish coast  – we asked whether in the wake of Fukushima  it was astute to locate even a data centre at the seaside, let alone a nuclear power station.

 Today Germany’s coalition government announced  the closure of nuclear power plants by 2022. Following the crisis at Fukushima in Japan, Chancellor Angela Merkel set up a panel to review nuclear power.

Nuclear power generates a quarter of Germany’s electricity. Therefore, unless this announcement is followed by successful deployment of other sources of energy, it would be hugely damaging to Germany’s industry and economy.

However, given that Germany has already made huge investments in renewable energy this decision will most likely put Germany well ahead of the game in such a way that it will boost her economy and perhaps more importantly avoid the faintest possibility of any devastating disaster of a nature that can be linked to nuclear power.

Germany has shown extraordinary courage and leadership in taking this difficult decision.

During his recent speech to the UK Parliament, president Obama said “.. The world is at a pivotal moment….The time for our leadership is now.”

Well, there you have it, Europe’s largest economy has just walked the talk and led the world in an area so fundamentally crucial to the existence of mankind.


Britain’s first mobile payment service

As of tomorrow, shoppers will be able to make small payments at 50,000 retail outlets using their mobile phones. Britons can now begin to benefit from a service already available in some developing countries and Asia, where shoppers routinely use smartphones in place of credit cards.

The service will not only provide a boost for the makers of the electronic chip that enables contact-less payment but also the mobile payment service providers Orange and Barclays.

This summer Google, MasterCard, Citigroup, First Data and Sprint will make a similar service available in New York and San Francisco.

Innovative Behavioural intervention

At ClickTell we have a track record in implementing successful innovative behavioural interventions in disparate fields ranging from the environment to healthcare. In doing so we utilise our consultants' in-depth knowledge of behavioural psychology and persuasion principles coupled with other evidence-based behavioural models.

According to a recent study [PDF] on reducing energy use, simple non-expensive innovative interventions reduced energy demand by 1.8% on average, with the effectiveness of individual programs ranging from 0.9% to 2.9%. The study, which followed 750,000 homes in six US states, offered home energy reports containing information about energy usage and, importantly, comparing that data to neighbours' usage.

“To get a sense of the magnitude of these effects, a simple extrapolation of the savings rate suggests that reducing residential electricity usage across the United States by 1.8% would save over 26,000 GWh of electricity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 8.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year – equal to the emissions from three 500-MW coal-fired power plants – and save households just over $3 billion dollars per year on their electric bills.”

To discover how your organisation can benefit from such solutions, contact ClickTell.


The Apprentice: Too much pretence and not enough business?

With the help of new technologies and the spread of Business Analytics, the business world is rapidly moving towards making real-time data and information driven decisions virtually on the go.

Against such a backdrop, the reality TV show The Apprentice (UK) appears to be denying its candidates the use of even the humble Internet to do basic research and gain insight.  Unless clearly communicated and justified by the producers, such glaring omissions can somewhat devalue an otherwise entertaining and valuable programme.

In addition to entertaining, The Apprentice undoubtedly has the power to enthuse would be entrepreneurs. Perhaps this should be its main stated goal or perhaps the producers may find room to sway the balance slightly more towards current business practices and less towards a kind of sensationalism with the sole aim of boosting viewer numbers.

The irony in all of this is that as a “business” The Apprentice is more than achieving its goal of attracting “customers” (the new May 2011 series attracted 8 million viewers). Whether this translates to a sustained long term profit for the nation remains to be seen. What is certain is that although The Apprentice is not a replacement MBA programme there is a great deal more entertainment on the way.


Blending Business Analytics with Sustainability

Organisations are beginning to adopt Business Analytics (BA) as one of the effective tools for staying competitive and profitable.

SAP, the world’s largest maker of business management software and one of the major players in the area of BA has correctly read the near future market needs by complementing BA with solutions for sustainability. This was certainly evident at its annual Sapphire conference last week in Orlando, Florida.

Companies are beginning to appreciate the need for paying more attention to sustainability issues. This is mainly driven by factors such as regulations, brand reputation, the growing importance of energy, environmental issues and natural resource scarcity.

To discover how your organisation may benefit from such solutions, contact ClickTell www.clicktell.com


Puma puts a value on it’s environmental impact

ClickTell applauds Puma, for this week publishing a comprehensive economic valuation caused by greenhouse gas emission and water consumption along its entire supply chain.

For some time now, at ClickTell we have held the view  that in the not  too distant future all businesses will eventually have to account for their use of natural resources. This prediction is heavily influenced by data pertaining to severe & unpredictable weather patterns, continuous increase in the world population, shortages, regulations, price increases and geopolitical instability.

In 2008 ClickTell published a white paper entitled, “Towards a Global Low Carbon Economy: The Role of the Wine Industry”.  The following is a short excerpt from the report which was commissioned by a major wine producer:

“While, apart from the environmental impact, currently the production and distribution of wine may be without economic consequences – this situation is most likely to change in the very near future…..The exercise of appropriately responding to the CO2 challenge will most definitely re-write some of the existing business models and practices in addition to highlighting new business opportunities along the supply chain.”