Future thinking: 25 things we learned at Silicon Beached

Bournemouth conference Silicon Beach has added a cheeky little London date to its 2017 activities, bringing a delightful mix of creativity and digital talk to the capital.

It was relentless in its lineup of interesting speakers, who explained how machines are useless at understanding context, how visuals are essential when communicating with humans, and how Buzz Aldrin is planning to create a settlement on Mars. What were our key takeaways from the day?

1.     IHA stands for I Hate Acronyms, says Gemma Greaves of the The Marketing Society. I'm going to be throwing that into conversations with self-styled marketing gurus at networking events to catch them out.

2.     Mel McVeigh from Photobox gave us a ton of useful stats on the power of visual content. Sorry, I don’t have the official source for these, but here goes…

  • Google has 13.7 petabytes of user-uploaded photos, of which 24 billion are selfies. It would take 424 years to swipe through them all.
  • We interpret an image in 15 milliseconds – she also says we take 1/4 of a second to process a visual clue, and that we process images 60,000 times as fast as text. This last one is a stat for which I’ve been trying to find the source for ages. The upshot is, we process images very quickly!
  • We then take up to 2.5 seconds to add context, and up to 10 seconds to decide whether to stay on a website. I'd say that was a generous estimate!
  • Social media activity with visuals gets 40x as many shares as text-only posts
  • Websites with lots of visual content have a conversion rate 7x as high as those without.

I also enjoyed hearing Mel talking about her experiences with machine learning. They can recognise faces and objects in images, but can’t define the meaning. "Can a machine do context? A technologist would say yes; as a photographer I'd say no."

3.     Savannah Peterson is an evangelist for live streaming, and gave us some useful stats to demonstrate the power of video. She has sources for them all in this article.

  • Video content is shared 1200% more than text and images combined
  • People watching video of a band performing live are 67% more likely to go on to buy a ticket for their tour
  • 80% of people prefer to watch a video than read a blog post
  • Companies using video see 49% revenue growth year on year, compared to those who don’t
  • One minute of video is worth 1.8 million words, says Dr James McQuiney from Forrester.

4.     I need to get me to the Design Museum! It was mentioned by a couple of speakers along the way and I realised I hadn’t been for ages. Anyone fancy a trip?

5.     Buzz Aldrin wants to build a permanent human settlement on Mars, and is using virtual reality to give people an insight into what life would be like, explained Hannah Matthews from Karmarama

6.     “There’s no such thing as work-life balance – there’s just life,” is a good way of putting things into perspective when you've gone through divorce, redundancy and bereavement in the space of four short years. Thanks for telling your story, Nicole Yershen.

7.     “Future belongs to the optimists,” said Patricia McDonald.  It's interesting how every event I've been to lately has focused on the future, whereas in recent years it's all been about engagement and grabbing the attention of people right here, right now.  

Futurist Tracey Follows also gave an interesting/depressing stat, that for every five jobs going to men, one will go to a robot. For women, the ratio is 3:1.

8.     But look who's here to counteract any gloom. It's Baddie Winkle! "Stealing your man since 1928," says her bio. How have I not come across her before?!

9.     Shnoosee Bailey from Hey Human explored the ways in which we can use neuroscience to make our creative work stronger. For a brand campaign to succeed, it has to be:

  • Recognised, like the Guinness harp logo and black-and-white pint, or the Lloyds Bank horse
  • Resonant, using evocative language and multi-sensory elements to trigger memories, like Xbox’s ‘Jump in’…Paul Hollywood looking down towards the call to action in a Facebook ad, or Kentucky Fried Chicken’s ‘Finger lickin’ good’ tagline.
  • Relevant, to keep us engaged from the beginning, to the middle and to the end.

10.  Actress Nichelle Nichols was going to give up her role as Uhura in Star Trek, but Martin Luther King persuaded her not to.

11.  Top photographer Paul Clarke gave myself and Becca Magnus a tip on taking great selfies. Distance really shows up in photos, so stand really close together and they look much better. See?

Thanks to Matt Desmier and the other organisers for a great day full of creative sparks. To find out how to attend future events, visit the Silicon Beach website.