Monthly Archives: January 2011

Public vs. private information

Sky just announced that football pundit Andy Gray has had his contract cancelled as a result of the leaked revelation that he made sexist remarks about a female assistant referee whilst speaking to his colleague Richard Keys, off-air and the leaked videos later published via YouTube. The recording and video was allegedly leaked by a Sky employee as it was recorded on Sky “time”. 24 hours later Richard Keys resigned claiming there were dark forces at work.

This once again raises the question of what is private information and what is public and how organisations and individuals control the flow and react to breaches. Keys was quoted as saying “if off air conversations were made public then there would be no one left working in the country”. I think he is referring purely to the media but his point is relevant. Social media exploded the story as Twitterers and the like distributed information about the YouTube videos. Both men have lost their jobs because there [allegedly] personal views were made public.

Whether women need protecting from this type of discrimination is arguable, and in this case, it can also be argued that Keys and Gray both made comments that directly related to the job they do and the industry they represent. With such influence comes responsibility of course but up until Saturday no one was wise to their personal views and the work they did was not in question. There are similar stories about employees being suspended from major blue chips because of their political views and activism which has become known because of leaked documents – BNP membership being a well-known case.

If, as Keys suggests, all private conversations were made public, where would we be? With the growth of social media is it really possible to keep one’s personal views private and does this increasingly mean that we all now have to be careful that our personal views are not made public if they conflict with the job we do? How do we judge who will “rat us out” and who won’t? Does the need to be politically correct mean employees have a new anonymous weapon to score points against rivals or disliked colleagues? Views?



I thought I should get some value from my UPA (Usability Professionals Association) membership this year so I attended a talk by Andrew Harder (no, the irony wasn’t lost on me) of Nokia. The theme of his talk was the agency / client divide and it was very interesting getting his perspective as someone who has moved from an agency to a global organisation and how he now views the work of researchers. I would have liked to ask how he views Nokia as someone from an agency but the Q and A session was rather sadly monopolised by someone with a monologue or three rather than a question.

I won’t recount the entire session, worthy though it was of being reported, but the bit I really liked was concerned with cutting out the fat and getting to the juicy morsel of key information that the client is looking for. The analogy Andrew used was from Ernest Hemmingway’s book “The old man and the sea” and it worked superbly.

The story is told of the struggle between an old and experienced fisherman and the catch of his life. The fisherman goes further than ever before to end his unproductive spell and eventually catches the largest Marlin he has ever seen. After a 3 day and night struggle he eventually kills the Marlin but cannot bring it aboard his boat so instead lashes it to the side. He heads for home, weak after the long struggle and facing a long voyage, leaving a trail of blood as he goes from the Marlin. A new battle takes place as the old man fends off the attacks of various sharks attracted by the blood but eventually tired and having lost his harpoon he is unable to fight them off and they eat the valuable meat leaving only the head and carcass still strapped to the side of his boat.

Before the sharks had eaten the Marlin the old man was questioning the worthiness of those back at shore that would eat such a magnificent fish following the enormous struggle he and the Marlin had endured. However, after returning with just a carcass to show for his efforts, the old man reflects that he should have simply filleted the Marlin and brought the best meat back to sell.

Is less more when providing research findings? This is the underlying message which I agree with. Thoughts?