The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson [Book Review]

The Ascent of Money The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson [Book Review]
The Ascent of Money” by The Ascent of Money, by Niall Ferguson, Penguin Press. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

I was recommended this book through my work last year and was disappointed to find out that it wasn’t available for Kindle. Luckily when I was given a book token as a gift; this title was first in my head. It was pitched to me as a great way to understand the various financial instruments and how they’ve been introduced over time and it definitely was.

Beyond the introduction of certain aspects of finance; this book also gave a great feeling for how certain times throughout history have been reflected in our monetary tools and how these same tools are used to impact entire nations and the societies within. I hadn’t realised just how interesting financial history could be until I acquired this book and would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest the financial system or money beyond every its simple every day use.

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World on Amazon UK

Beyond the Cloud: When Good Tech Goes Bad

cloud frustration Beyond the Cloud: When Good Tech Goes Bad

So many of our applications are “moving to the cloud” or at the very least relying on information or authentication from the web. But what happens when you don’t have constant internet access or your connection is limited in some way. These are all things I would start to discover when I made the decision to go travelling beyond a simple holiday with my girlfriend.

It all started two weeks before leaving when our internet connection was cut off prematurely and we relied on our UK 3G/4G data plans as the sole internet provider with an old cracked iPhone 4 essentially acting as the house modem. The first thing that started to fall apart was Dropbox, usually a great tool for keeping your files synced across all your devices with a backup in the cloud.

As a heavy user of Dropbox I’m regularly working on several projects which are all stored wholly inside synced folders. Day after day the pace of work began outpacing the speed at which my mobile connection could sync the data. When it finally came to the time to leave the country and I realised there were further files from multiple portable hard drives that needed to be synced it really got out of hand. Eventually I left the country for with approx 6,500 files in synced (many of which were small but essential design and code elements used in development work so we’re not even talking movie style files here).

Once we had arrived at our destination the next thing to start causing havoc was Evernote; a note taking tool that is the digital equivalent of a note book, a central repository for mainly text based content that is synced across multiple devices. Unfortunately with most free WiFi networks at our destination requiring you to login with either a linked email/phone once concurrent connection was the max and time was often limited to 10-30 mins of free access. Suddenly all the notes if amended on a tablet on the plane were out of sync with other devices and any that I’d created fresh didn’t even exist on the other devices.

For the first month of travel we travelled around in a campervan and internet access was even less consistent understandably, however the use of most devices, excluding our cameras, was too. Finally when we found our way back to the city not only was the already a backlog of previous files waiting to any with Dropbox but we had a number of photos to add to the backlog.

Eager to jump into work and begin discovering the local community a few new local online accounts and corresponding passwords had to be created. Of course these were all automatically added to 1Password; password management software which generates unique and secure passwords that are encrypted and synced over all your devices… You guessed it, now every new password was silod on the device where it was created and either didn’t sync because all devices weren’t online at best, or the tiny encrypted file was pushed to the back of a 7k long list of files to sync with no way to prioritise at worst.

Cloud syncing of personal data hasn’t been the only issue either! When visiting an Internet cafe that runs on limited data tariffs, automatically updating apps were straight out of the window after eating an entire sessions worth of data in seconds on separate occasions with both my phone and tablet. Even when only focusing on required updates you can chew through a full session of premium data for apps that seem to have required updates every other day.

It’s only been about two months without regular fast broadband but the effects are already considerably hitting my productivity and perceptions of cloud reliant or enabled software. I haven’t even touched on the one concurrent device rule on many free and premium WiFi networks that effectively lock you out of certain two factor authentication methods.

If we are going to continue to move into a world of device agnostic software based in the cloud, there are some serious hurdles that will need to be overcome for both software and data management. Whilst I have the “luxury” of experiencing this whilst on extended travel, what happens when these issues come up in extended regional outages or mission critical deployments? At the base consumer level this could be frustrating, but at the business and organisational level these problems could be crippling.

After two weeks in the city all most of my software and has finally caught up. I don’t have all the answers or even all of the right questions yet, but it is definitely something that business leaders and people involved with the cloud and software development need to be considering. End users won’t always have the ideal test lab conditions when using a product, if you want them to rely on your software the you need to plan for the issues that will inevitably arise at some point during the life-cycle.


Five Digital Marketing Tools You’ll Meet in Heaven & B2B Advice from René Power

Last night René Power joined David Edmundson-Bird and this years Digital Marketing Communication Management Students at Manchester Metropolitan University to talk about the five most important digital marketing tools.

The Five Key Digital Marketing Tools

  • Your Website
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
  • PPC (Pay Per Click Marketing)
  • Content Marketing
  • Email Marketing

Your Website

Whilst a lot was discuss over the evening one of the key takeaways for the evening is that whatever else you are doing online, every business needs to have a website at the minimum as the core hub for all online activity. Whilst this may seem obvious its important to remember that your site is about what your customers want and not just what you want. It was mentioned that the age of boring corporate sites is past (or at least it should be!) with bold sites like Apple representing the future of web design as well as more responsive sites for mobile.


The next key element of any digital marketers arsenal was said to be search engine optimisation to help your website actually get found. A short poll showed that despite the room being filled with marketers over 90% of people still click on organic results before checking out the adverts. René recommended staying away from black hat SEO (spammy and unnattural link building) especially with Google’s recent penguin and panda updates hitting digital marketers hard. Instead marketers should focus on building links through guest posts, social media connections, great content, organic recommendations and a hint of PR.

PPC (& Paid Promotion)

Pay Per Click or PPC was also discussed as being a key tool, especially at times when your company is launching a new product, releasing a whitepaper, or needs to generate extra website traffic based around an event. Although Google obviously claimed the first mention, social networks got a mention here as well with Facebook PPC and LinkedIn being a viable option depending on the product and audience that you are targeting.

Content Marketing

You really got a feel that the section on content marketing could have taken up an event of its own and René’s passion for it clearly shows in his blog posts on Smart Insights and his own blog. Content Marketing allows you to build credibility with your audience, especially when publishing frequently around key topics even if it feels like you occasionally cover the same ground. As long as you focus on creating great content that is useful or entertaining then there was lots of potential for it to help grow any business. The types of content mentioned included blog posts, whitepapers, and slideshows and Hubspot was an example given of a software company doing content marketing really well.

Email Marketing

The last area discussed was database and email marketing although René was keen to point out it was about more than just getting the email. Seth Godin’s book Permission Marketingwas recommended as a great introduction to the way that he thinks about email marketing and much of digital marketing itself. Rather than just getting the optin you need to focus on “turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers” as the subtitle of the book suggests.

Moving Forward With Digital Marketing

It almost goes without saying that the above tools are important for every online marketer, but it’s always really interesting to hear from the perspective of a more experienced marketer. You may also wonder where social media itself comes into all of the above and it was discussed that this was left out of the session on purpose due to a future event being held for the class of DMCM1213. A short Q&A session held after the main presentation touched on how you bring everything together and also how elements of responsive web design and mobile marketing are changing things.

Unfortunately I had to make an early escape but after connecting with René on Twitter I managed to squeeze in a few more questions relating to B2B marketing as this is one of his main specialities as well as the topic of his forthcoming book. You can check out the full Twitter Q&A below…

Overall this was a very well presented event and René Power proved to be both friendly and helpful. If you ever get a chance to see his speak in person, or perhaps check out his new book I would highly recommend it! And if you just want to know more about B2B digital marketing then make sure you check out  his slideshow below…


Get My New Bitcoin WordPress Plugin For Free

bitmate 150x150 Get My New Bitcoin WordPress Plugin For FreeYou may or may not have heard of a relatively new digital currency called Bitcoin. It is a protocol generated using the cryptographic skills of some of the smartest minds around. Most importantly it is also decentralised and not controlled by any one country or organisation so it is a genuinely free market. You can think of it as currency for the P2P/Digital generation.

I’ve been tracking the Bitcoin currency since about June of last year and in April this year its value shot up and suddenly people all over the world began getting very interested in it. There are now countless articles singing its praises on sites like ForbesEntrepreneurWired and even mainstream media like CNN and theBBC. Bitcoin is finally starting to get the respect and adoption that is needed for mainstream trading.

It was around this time that I decided I was ready to accept Bitcoins as payment within my business so I began looking for a WordPress plugin that would let me accept Bitcoin. Unfortunately there was nothing more than a few payments systems strung together awkwardly so I had to sign up for a Bitcoin merchant account with a company called BitPay.

Realising the potential I also got to work straight away on a Bitcoin WordPress plugin that would let people accept Bitcoin payments without having to sign up for a Bitcoin merchant account. After all why should you need to get approval to accept a decentralised currency?! I’m not against BitPay in any way but I am for having options.

Since then things have come along leaps and bounds and the Bitcoin payment plugin for WordPress should be ready to launch in about a week. However I wanted to do a little extra for the Bitcoin community so I also released a Bitcoin plugin for WordPress that allows anyone to accept Bitcoin donations from their posts. Every author on your site can set their own unique Bitcoin address in their user profile and a donation button gets added to the bottom of their posts (great way to incentivise guest bloggers too!)

Finally the plugin was accepted into the WordPress repository this week. The link you need to download it and more information are available on the official release site here:

I hope you enjoy using it and if you haven’t yet started with Bitcoin then this could be your opportunity to get started without any extra investment. If you like it, I’d love it if you could rate it 5 stars in the WordPress repository or help spread the word with a Tweet or Facebook mention!

How to Block 0845 Numbers on a Samsung Galaxy

Having a business listing in Google Places can be great in aiding discovery for customers and SEO purposes but it can also open the door for a lot of unethical and unwanted commercial calling. Even if your business isn’t listed you might find that your phone number has been “acquired” elsewhere and you are getting a few too many calls about PPI claims, targeted sales and shirt surveys etc.

Finally I’d had enough and decided that the whole 0845 had to go. Everyone important to speak with is in already in my address book or using a standard British Mobile/Landline so I went to set up. I noticed there weren’t any immediately visible tutorials so I had a tinker and decided to share how its done in case others had the same urge.

How To Block 0845 Numbers On Your Samsung Galaxy Phone 

1. Bring up the Phone screen.

wpid ENIMAGE1370348834641 How to Block 0845 Numbers on a Samsung Galaxy

2. Hit the options button and select Call Settings.

wpid ENIMAGE1370348729570 How to Block 0845 Numbers on a Samsung Galaxy

3. Enter the Call Rejection sub-menu.

wpid Screenshot 2013 06 04 12 36 11 How to Block 0845 Numbers on a Samsung Galaxy

4. Tap the Auto Reject List option.

wpid Screenshot 2013 06 04 12 36 51 How to Block 0845 Numbers on a Samsung Galaxy

5. Hit the Create button.

wpid Screenshot 2013 06 04 12 37 37 How to Block 0845 Numbers on a Samsung Galaxy

6. Enter 0845 in the Number field and select Starts With as the match criteria.

wpid Screenshot 2013 06 04 13 41 37 How to Block 0845 Numbers on a Samsung Galaxy

7. Enjoy the new absence of junk calls and follow the same process for any new number combinations that may become an issue.

wpid Screenshot 2013 06 04 12 38 05 How to Block 0845 Numbers on a Samsung Galaxy

You can also block specific numbers if you want to be a little more precise but it seems just as easy to block the lot unless you know you receive official calls from some 0845 numbers (a few banks and phone companies use these legitimately). Hope you’ve found this helpful!

Bonus Tip: Save money calling these types of numbers and more at