Friday, 17 February 2012

Two in five Brits claim they're getting bored of social media says survey

Fresh research from YouGov’s Media Consulting team reveals that though uptake and usage of social media services remains very high, the restless British public are now demanding more from these kinds of services.

Two in five (41 per cent) of the UK online population claim to be getting bored of social media.

 The research though suggests that Facebook is still king.  Almost two thirdsof the UK online population have used Facebook within the last month, making it the social media site with the highest percentage of active users.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, usage of Facebook amongst younger generations is practically ubiquitous, with a staggering 95% of 16-20 year olds and 74% of 21-24 year olds accessing the social networking site within the last month.

YouTube is the closest social media site behind Facebook with half (50%) of all UK internet users using the site within the last month.

 The other big hitters in terms of active users are Twitter (23%), Windows Live (14%), LinkedIn (13%), Google + (12%) and Spotify (10%).

Interestingly,, the expert consumer financial advice site, now has as many active users as Twitter. As well as articles on financial products, users of the site can create profiles, leave comments and interact in similar ways to other social media sites.

This points towards a new phase - the rise of social sites with slightly more purpose than just connecting to people for the sake of it. Take for example Spotify, primarily a music service, which has recently bolted on social media functions (users have the ability to view their friends’ listening habits and share music via Facebook Connect).

One in ten (10%) active Spotify users now spends more than 14 hours per week using the service. Future outlook for social media sites Facebook’s usage, though still leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, might finally be starting to plateau.

 Just under a quarter (23%) of the British online population, who actively use Facebook, state that they now use the networking site less compared with 12 months ago.

Furthermore, 19% expect to use Facebook less in one year’s time. However, over half (53%) of the British online population, who actively use LinkedIn, claim to now use the site more compared with 12 months ago.

 Further good news for LinkedIn is that 30% expect to use it more in one year’s time. Social is not always the advertiser’s friend Though social media services can provide a wealth of engagement opportunities for brand marketers, it seems that there is less benefit for brands than was originally thought.

For example, just under half (44%) of the British online population would not be more positive about a product their friends have followed and/or liked and 43% are unlikely to talk about a brand on a social media site even if they heard something positive about it.

 In addition, brand marketeers and media owners need to be mindful of new targeting models with just under half (47%) of the UK online population, who use social media services, stating that they positively do mind seeing ads on social media services that are based on their profile activities.

 Dan Brilot, Media Consulting Director says, “It appears that whilst social media can be a key tool in the brand marketer’s armoury, in particular to maximise commitment amongst those already highly engaged with the brand, it has not quite reached the effectiveness necessary to be considered as a truly mass media marketing tool” He continues,“With the ability to share, tweet and interact on any kind of site, almost a given, social media services increasingly need to have an extra raison d’etre beyond merely being ‘social’ to make an impact in today’s crowded market.”

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Times leader calls for a Manchester Mayor

Let's forget all the rubbish in the twittersphere that is being regurgitated about an obscure actress who thinks that Manchester is grim and instead debate more important matters.

Like for example the case for having a Manchester Mayor.There are many pros and cons as the city prepares to vote in May but interestingly this morning's Times comes out in favour of the proposal.

A decade and a half after Manchester’s revival after a bomb attack by the IRA says the piece, the question is whether the city’s great tradition of commerce can spread out beyond the city borders and trigger an economic recovery in the surrounding region.

"For all the many shiny new buildings and expensive restaurants that have greatly improved central Manchester, there are large parts of the city that have yet to feel any great benefit. Manchester is home to 86,000 people without work, and parts of the city do not look and feel as if they are neighbours to prosperity."

And the paper argues that a big figure governing Manchester, tackling the problems of skills and transport, could yet find him or herself immortalised in stone alongside the heroes of a previous era.

I have to agree with the sentiment,I know that Manchester's political leaders don't and have their own agenda's but I think it will be a great way of engaging the people of Manchester in the political process

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Tiny sprinklers that saved lives

They are amongst MOSI’s smallest collection items, but the delicate fire sprinkler heads now on display at the Museum of Science & Industry sparked their own revolution that saved lives and property throughout the world.

Manchester is most known for its role in the birth of the cotton industry, but the heat generated from the machinery combined with dry material and dust in the mills, led to frequent fires, with loss of life and factory buildings, which created an urgent need for an automatic fire system.

In the latenineteenth century Manchester- based engineering company Mather & Platt, a world-leader in textile machinery, spotted the gap in the market and launched a booming business in Automatic Sprinkler and Alarm Systems.

The company has  donated samples of these early fire sprinkler heads, which date from around 1885, and radically improved fire safety in the mills.

 In 1883 Sir William Mather purchased the rights to manufacture and distribute the Grinnell Sprinkler from Frederick Grinnell, a pioneering US engineer, incorporating a soldered link that breaks at a predetermined temperature. Water is then released over where the fire was detected.

The Grinnell Sprinkler was more efficient than earlier sprinkler heads, which did not have an accurate operating temperature and in some cases did not efficiently discharge water onto the fire.

 At its height in the 1960’s, Mather  employed some 6,000 people at its Newton Heath factory and throughout the World.

Eamonn O’Brien worked in Mather &Platt’s Fire Engineering Department for more than forty years.

 He recalls: “I was employed as a ‘machine setter’ in the sprinkler department, for a short time in the middle 1960’s. These specially-made machines were designed specifically for the manufacture of sprinkler bodies and component parts which make up the finished sprinkler.

Approximately 100 female workers were employed in this department to machine, assemble and test the numerous types of sprinkler heads being made at that time, producing tens of thousands per week.” Mather and Platt supplied textile mills throughout the world with this new revolutionary system, which continues to be the basis of fire protection methods today.

Tide turning or a statistical quirk as inflation falls sharply

Inflation is on the way down although the sharp drop this morning may have quite a bit to do with the fact that last January's hike in VAT is now out of the system.

The consumer price index(CPI) fell to 3.6 per cent from last month's 4.2 per cent according to figures out this morning from the Office of National Statistics. RPI annual inflation which includes Mortgage interest payments was 3.9 per cent in January, down from 4.8 per cent in December.

According to the ONS, The largest downward pressures to this change came from fuels & lubricants, products bought in restaurants & cafes, tobacco, vehicle maintenance & repair, the purchase of new vehicles and alcoholic beverages.

Annual inflation has now fallen by 1.2 percentage points since November 2011; the only time there has been a larger fall over a period of two consecutive months was between October and December 2008.

The rate still remains well above the Bank of England's rate of 2 per cent but yesterday's forecast from the CBI suggested that the rate will be a lot nearer to the target by the end of the year

Monday, 13 February 2012

No double dip recession says the CBI as another forecast shows worrying signs for unemployment

Growth will restart in 2012, but high levels of uncertainty around the economic outlook, mainly driven by the situation in the euro area, mean growth will remain subdued, particularly in the first half of this year.

That's the latest analysis from the CBI who this morning in their latest forecast suggest that growth this year will be 0.9 per cent, a little down from November’s forecast (1.2 per cent).

The survey also predicts CPI inflation will fall towards its target levels of 2.2 per cent by the fourth quarter of 2012, and will remain close to Bank’s 2.0 per cent target throughout 2013.

This.they say, will relieve some of the pressure on household incomes, with consumer spending picking up slightly in the second half of this year.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said: “Economic conditions will continue to be tough, especially in the first half of the year, and the UK recovery will depend on the successful resolution of the Eurozone crisis.

But he adds, "some activity has picked-up since before Christmas and the mood among many businesses has improved, with exception of companies serving the UK consumer where business remains flat. “Although risks remain we expect growth this year, improving modestly in 2013, primarily driven by positive net trade and business investment."

However more bad economic forecasts this morning from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

They warn that unemployment in the UK could reach 2.85 million by the end of 2012 as the jobs market faces its most difficult quarter since the recession.

The Labour Market Outlook survey, conducted by Yougov for the CIPD reveals that a rising number of private sector firms surveyed plan to make redundancies.

The study shows that the number of companies set to hire is now much lower than those that warn of cuts.

The results also suggest a further widening of the north-south divide in job prospects.

Gerwyn Davies, Public Policy Adviser at the CIPD, said of the report: “Whereas employers were in ‘wait and see’ mode three months ago, more private sector firms, particularly among private sector services firms, have decided to push the redundancy button in response to worsening economic news. This will exert yet more pressure on a jobs market that is buckling under the strains of contractions in economic growth and public sector employment. The fear is that these existing pressures, which include a widening chasm between the employment prospects of those in the north and the south, will become greater still if business conditions do not improve in the next few months. With many employers telling us that access to finance has been a big factor in preventing them from creating new jobs over the last two years, and with net private sector hiring intentions now on the slide, the labour market case for government action to increase the availability of credit to businesses is stronger than ever.”

Technology: source of happiness or anxiety?

A subject dear to my heart which is to be discussed next week at the Manchester Salon?

With the huge rise of social media and more and more people placing their private lives on public display, some are now beginning to question whether unfettered technological advance is necessarily a good thing.

The Salon has organised a discussion featuring prominent speakers David Lewin and James Heartfield. Beyond the internet and social media, the impact of technology on the environment – epitomised for many in the current controversy over shale gas fracking - is leading liberals to question the validity of technological advancement for its own sake.

David Lewin is a lecturer in philosophy at Liverpool University and interested in how philosophical approaches to technology can yield fruitful analysis.

James Heartfield is a founder of think tank, audacity, and has spoken widely in the past in the favour of industrial development and the benefits it can bring mankind.

The discussion will aim to draw out what our current relationship with technology tells us about the direction society is heading in, and how technology can help it resolve problems along the way.

It's taking place on 20 February, 2012, at 6.45pm, £5 entry. Venue: Shakespeare pub, Fountain Street, Manchester, M2 2AA

For further details on the event and Manchester Salon’s activities, contact Simon Belt at or ring 07809 669824

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Christianity under attack,Athens in flames and the case of the Corrie copycat killer-Saturday's papers

A quick look at Saturday's front pages and some of the stories inside.

The ruling yesterday on a case brought by the National Secular Society on the saying of prayers before council meetings gets a lot of coverage.

The Times says that he right of Christian worship in schools and Parliament faces a fresh assault as senior members of the Church of England acted with barely disguised fury at the decision, branding the verdict a “silencing” of the Christian voice in Britain.

The Mail brands it an assault on national heritage as it reports that atheist former councillor Clive Bone started the case against Bideford town council in July 2010, claiming he had been 'disadvantaged and embarrassed' when religious prayers were recited at formal meetings.

Whilst it reports that former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey warns that our faith is under siege.

The Telegraph says that government ministers are encouraging councils to openly flout a High Court ruling banning public prayers during meetings. It leads with a report that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has suggested that wealthier savers should be stripped of the higher-rate tax relief on adds that the proposals would see tax relief halve from 40 per cent to 20 per cent.Alexander also wants workers on the minimum wage, who earn up to £12,500 a year, to pay no income tax at all.

The Independent that energy companies are on the edge of a £15b profits bonanza.The figures,adds the report will be £2bn higher than the previous year's profits. Meanwhile, with the Met Office predicting more freezing weather, Britain's estimated 5.5 million households struggling in fuel poverty will be forced to decide whether they can afford to turn on their heating.

And more freezing weather is on the way according to the Express which predicts half term snow chaos on its front page.

The Guardian chooses to focus on the Greek debt crisis predicting that the country is grappling with whether to leave the Euro reporting that riot police clashed with protesters on the streets of Athens, and five ministers resigned in protest at the scale of the spending cuts demanded in return for a new €130bn bailout.

The FT meanwhile reports that David Cameron is calling for a truce over bank bonuses in the UK.In an attempt to repair relations with the City,the Prime Minister wants to draw a line under weeks of public acrimony.

The Mirror reports on the case of the Corrie copycat killer reporting that in a chilling imitation of Street villain John Stape, a teenager beat his victim, doused her body in petrol and set fire to her house.

The Sun looks at the affairs of this week's Euro Millions lottery winners reporting that the estranged mum of EuroMillions winner Matt Topham joked she needed to win the Lottery to pay for a holiday.However the paper says that sources say she won't get a penny of his fortune after she cut off contact.

Elsewhere the row between Argentina and Britain continues to escalate.The Guardian reports that Argentina has accused Britain of deploying nuclear weapons near the Falkland Islands and "militarising" the south Atlantic.

Violence continues to escalate in Syria.The Times reports that clashes have moved to the northern town of Aleppo as large car bombs which exploded in the town, one of the last areas of relative calm.The Government reported that the explosions near state buildings killed 28 and wounded 235.

Finally with valentine's day approaching the Independent reports on the art of kissing as it says that the meeting of mouths isn't only about sex and romance – it also conveys powerful cultural messages.

Friday, 10 February 2012

New exhibition at MOSI shows museums can help disability

Men labelled with learning disabilities have created a film and an exhibition related to their favourite collection items at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI),

 The project, which is associated with Manchester mencap and a researcher from Manchester Metropolitan University, highlights the therapeutic benefits of museums and other arts institutions for disability groups during a time of proposed funding cuts and welfare reform.

Manpowered: A Men’s Group Challenging Disability is the first exhibition in MOSI’s new Community Exhibition Gallery, and features striking artwork, photographs, a cartoon strip, and museum collection items such as a 1910 miner’s lamp, early light bulbs, and a 1960s reel tape recorder.

The objects were chosen during handling sessions in MOSI’s Collections Centre. The men attended regular sessions at MOSI, where they looked at historic objects and used these as triggers for discussion about their thoughts and feelings. They learnt new skills such as research, interviewing, filming and photography, and worked with art, craft and poetry to create the exhibition and film about their lives with learning disabilities.

 The project led to many therapeutic benefits for members, including improved confidence, inspiration and new skills. One man rarely went out before he attended the sessions and was extremely shy, but is now a leading member of the group, while another has gone on to do a photography course.

The sessions helped the men to talk about the personal issues they had previously been too shy to discuss, such as their sexuality and childhood.

Project Leader Michael Richards said: “One of the main problems the men face is having the confidence to talk about the emotions and feelings affecting their mental and physical health, so a relaxed, comfortable and non-clinical setting is essential. The exciting museum environment has enabled the men to do this, for example by talking about childhood memories using items from the collections. The project has been very empowering and effective for the men involved and I believe this kind of community psychology in a stimulating environment like a museum could be an effective alternative to more expensive counselling and other individual-oriented services.”

NHS Bill-It must be stopped before it is too late

In what must be seen as a major blow to the government and in particular the beleaguered health secretary Andrew Lansley,the influential Tory blog Conservative Home has come out against the NHS bill describing it as not just a distraction but potentially fatal to the Conservative Party's electoral prospects.

Editor Tim Montgomerie writes that:

The NHS was long the Conservative Party’s Achilles heel. David Cameron’s greatest political achievement as Leader of the Opposition was to neutralise health as an issue. The greatest mistake of his time as Prime Minister has been to put it back at the centre of political debate.
and continues

Following a week in which it has been reported that certain members of the cabinet reputedly wanted him taken out and shot and despite wholesale support during angry PMQ clashed,this must surely be another massive blow for Lansley,for it is certain that certain members of the Tory hierarchy are behind the article.

As Montgomerie adds

Andrew Lansley will have to move on. He will have to move on because he hasn’t been able to communicate these reforms in a streetwise way and he has been unnecessarily confrontational with NHS staff.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Quantitative easing to continue

So just if we didn't know that the UK economy was teetering on the brink,this lunchtime's news that the Bank of England is to inject a further £50bn into the economy through the mechanism known as Quantitative easing.

Announcing that interest were to continue at 0.5 per cent where they have been now for over three years,the measure now takes the total asset purchases that the bank has made from £275bn to £325bn since it first introduced the measure to ward off the threat of fiscal meltdown.

The critics are still out on this policy.It is technically printing money and putting it back into the economy which can lead to inflation,if demand was increasing but the fact that it hasn't and that the Bank of England continues to do it, merely illustrates the dire situation that we are in.

It is worth reading Daniel Knowles piece on the Telegraph blog where he explains the economics behind it

The reasoning behind the Bank's move you can read Here but suffice to say that the bank has concerns that the underlying pace of recovery slowed during 2011, with activity falling slightly during the final quarter.

Some recent business surveys have painted a more positive picture and asset prices have risen. But the pace of expansion in the United Kingdom’s main export markets has also slowed and concerns remain about the indebtedness and competitiveness of some euro-area countries

Penguin v Argentina

With tensions between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Isles hotting up,the Island's paper has hardly helped to defuse the situation.

Penguin News ,in an article reporting that Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner was going to complain to the United Nations about what she saw as Britain's "militarisation" of the South Atlantic,the newspaper called her a bitch.

 Reaction on the South American mainland has,as you can imagine,not been muted with the Daily carrying an image of Kirchner that accompanied the Penguin News article online given the filename "bitch" when people tried to download it.

The caption has since been modified simply to "Kirchner" but not too late for the twiiterati to launch into the debate

 You can read more about the offending picture Here

Manchester's Archaeological Unit to close

Having been doing quite a lot of research around Manchester's Roman past,I was quite disappointed to read this yesterday concerning the closure of the City's Archaeological Unit.

The unit has done some great work in the past 20-30 years in uncovering Manchester's Roman past but it seems that like many institutions it is facing the harsh economic realities of money. Here is the piece from the council for British Archeology

 The Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit (GMAU) announced yesterday (6 February 2012) that Manchester University has decided to close the Unit as it no longer fits with the University’s research and teaching priorities. The announcement continues:
  The GMAU has provided a high quality archaeological service to the 10 Greater Manchester Planning Authorities for over 30 years. The local planning authorities are looking to secure provision of a planning archaeological service from an alternative provider as a long term solution. Clearly any provision will have to be value for money, ensuring that the Council’s receive the statutory advice which they need in determining planning applications. GMAU will finish providing archaeological advice for all but urgent planning matters from the 16th March so that it has time to wind up its affairs.

 Many CBA members have been in contact about the announcement and the CBA’s Director, Dr Mike Heyworth, has written immediately to the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities to express the serious concerns that the archaeological community has about the future for archaeological services in Greater Manchester. In his letter he has asked for an explanation of the arrangements being put in place to avoid a gap in the provision of archaeological advisory services to planning authorities in Greater Manchester and to support services for the Greater Manchester Historic Environment Record.