How Click Farms are trying to rule world (and the internet)

Bandwith servers

Although internet giants like to promote cyberspace as a sunny upland we can all frolic in safely, it is fast becoming clear that the digital landscape is populated with a few satanic mills at the same time – well, content mills, anyway. However, just as we thought we were becoming a bit more sure-footed on our online journey, a new blot on the horizon appears – and this time it’s click farms.

Research has suggested that less than 60% of online engagement is generated by humans – the rest is generated by bots. A recent blog on describes how advertisers are duped into believing their ads are being published on premium sites and getting clicks – when in reality, they are being fooled by bots mimicking the human interaction on a computer.

Click farms are frequently behind fake views – whether it is an organised operation involving banks of computers programmed to detect ads and click away, or just one human and a row of mobile phones in their back room clicking for all they are worth.

What are Click Farms

If you have ever placed an ad online and eagerly awaited all those click-throughs – perhaps promising a whole new panoply of customers, followers or expressions of interest – the phenomenon of the click farm is about to pour silage on your hopes and dreams.

Click farms are a form of online fraud thought to be another gift from Russia with love. Other click farms are available, though, including from China.

The process works by devices or a lowly human sifting through the World Wide Web looking for links or media to click on and engage with. Not surprisingly, the gang-master running a click farm is called a Click Master. So if you have paid for a glowing review of that first novel – or have acquired one million followers from a link, be aware that all those new clicks may well be the result of click-farming.

Systems to detect online fraud can actually become so used to clickbots that they fail to detect them and begin to regard the human interaction as fraudulent – so bang go all those new readers.

This is a process called Inversion – when bots become seen as the real deal and humans become viewed as the fraudsters. Some more sophisticated click farms use actual devices such as smartphones or laptops that are connected to the internet. This allows a more resilient and successful method for click farms because each device has unique fingerprints (IMEI, OS IDs etc) that apps/ads need to verify it is an ‘engagement’ from an actual device and not a simulator.

Automated Click Farming Explained

Down on the click farm, there may be automation and huge banks of equipment programmed to click – the tech searches out links and clicks on them, sending the originator of the link into a paroxysm of delight that their ad, or promotion, or their public profile, has garnered some response from the big wide world.

However, rather than adding to your fan base or acquiring new devotees of your product, or possibly even the possibility of a new job, it is possible a clickbot has simply taken a shine to you and clicked like a crazy thing.

This is not only annoying – but also can soon eat into revenue and marketing budget, resulting in false data about how an ad or promotion has performed.

To rub salt into the wound, some sites hosting ads may actually be aware that data returned on the success of an ad will include clickbot activity, skewing completely any performance stats. This is not only disappointing, potentially it can be a major waste of money – and could even wreck a business if it is planning its marketing strategy on dodgy data.

How Click Farms Work

There are certain websites that will warn clients that some activity may be as a result of clickbots – especially if the activity is coming from users unregistered on the site.

This is often on sites where the client is promoting their own services accessed via an external link, such as on employment sites. One such example is the website, which serves the entertainment industry. Rather than leave its subscribers in a permanent state of excitement over the number of profile views received, the site warns users that a myriad of unregistered users clicking on a profile is likely to be the result of clickbot activity. It is the marketing equivalent of nuisance calls. With unregistered users clicking on a profile, there is a handy IP address given, however, just in case you need to check it out. It may well lead to a click farm if you persevere.

However, there may be other sites where consumers happily place ads to promote their product or services, totally unaware that, among the genuine responses, click farms have been deploying their bots to produce fake views.  In the case of Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, bots can soon eat into that budget without producing any concrete results, such as sales figures. If sites are aware that users are paying for ads that are being clicked on by bots and not potential customers, it leaves an unpleasant taste to say the least – and may actually lead to a legal hinterland involving liability for fraudulent activity. If you are being sold advertising by a site that is aware some of the click-throughs are bot generated rather than being genuine potential customers and you are not advised of this before you place the ad, it could potentially mean work for lawyers.

Consider the irony: malware robots watch ads, monitored by automated tracking software that tailors each advertising message to suit the malbots’ automated habits, in a human-free feedback loop of ever-narrowing “personalization.” Nothing of value is created, but billions of dollars are made. – Douglas Rushkoff

The Damage Caused by Click Farms

People are now cottoning on to the click farm phenomenon – in the long run, fake views will potentially damage any hope of obtaining an honest opinion online. Bots can now sweep the Internet collecting data and assimilating user patterns and language, mimicking human expression in speech and creating false social media accounts. So all those glowing reviews about TV dramas or user responses in comment boxes might just as likely be from as bot as a human being. This means that for consumers seeking honest endorsements or human engagement online, the clickbot is creating a false impression – and the click farm can be extremely damaging, both to businesses and to individuals. It means we have to be wary of where we place ads, suspicious of how many followers we have, slightly doubtful about human interaction and comment online – and on our guard against potential fraud.

Recognising Fake Views

We all like to know whom we are dealing with, but with a clickbot, you will never know, so if you are receiving clicks which are not converting into sales, despite your excellent product and sparkling blurb, become suspicious.

Similarly, lots of interest on a members’ or subscription website might suggest that the unregistered user accessing the profile is actually a click farm at work.

Click-farming also makes a fool out of metrics – even digital giants like Facebook are allegedly all fingers and thumbs when trying to compute data regarding user activity online, thanks to click farms.

Max Read from writes:

According to an exhaustive list at MarketingLand, over the past two years Facebook has admitted to misreporting the reach of posts on Facebook Pages (in two different ways), the rate at which viewers complete ad videos, the average time spent reading its “Instant Articles,” the amount of referral traffic from Facebook to external websites, the number of views that videos received via Facebook’s mobile site – and the number of video views in Instant Articles.”

If click farms are confounding online titans like Facebook, what hope for the digital individual attempting to extrapolate their own metric data?

Fake views – or Fake views?

The political arena is big on canvassing views – but what if a clickbot started clicking on a petition? With so much now taking place digitally – from social media “likes” to canvassing political support and opinion, the click farm has the potential to influence populations as never before.

It is a scary thought that an online petition showing that millions of others think just as you do might represent a hard day’s night for a bank of clickbot machines – or a couple of click farmers sitting in their bedroom with sore index fingers. The world is now almost paranoid about technological intervention swaying election results, but click farms are not just the stuff of conspiracy theorists – they are very real and clicking on a link near you very soon to skew your perception of exactly what is happening in the virtual world and how people are responding to it. And that really is a scary brave new world.

All you need to know about Ideological Subversion

Books by state intelligence

Many people are wondering what an earth is happening in the world – even a once seemingly safe post-WWII western idyll has become confusing, duplicitous and at time downright frightening. There are murmurs about the resurrection of the Cold War – outrage at an American President who does not follow the accepted rulebook; and assassinations on the streets of sleepy English towns like Salisbury.

As if this were not enough, there is Brexit – the result of a democratic vote that has bemused and infuriated those for whom the European Union signals peace in our time and a beacon of egalitarianism.

Some feel the unexpected result of the vote was down to the same forces that allegedly rigged the US election – Russian bots and fake news; others suspect that those who voted for Trump and Brexit were misled and did not understand what they were voting for. But how is it that the European Union and politicians like the Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton can win hearts and minds in the first place?

Ideological subversion – influencing the influencers

Ideological subversion was a tactic openly used by Soviet Union to influence an entire nation not overnight, but over generations.

The strategy worked by targeting the public influencers in society – academics, intellectuals, students, public figures like actors and celebrities, the fabulously rich; and, of course, the media. Once you get your message across using these mouthpieces, very slowly, a consensus of opinion – what is right and proper – begins to take hold in society, until everyone is singing happily from the same song sheet and any dissent is seen as exactly that: dissidence (or maybe stupidity or ignorance).

How to win friends and influence a nation

Ex-KGB agent Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov was born into the beating heart of the former Soviet Union in 1939, as the son of a high-ranking army officer. He defected in 1970 after becoming disillusioned with the Soviet regime. Fluent in Indian languages and culture, he also worked for the Soviet press agent Novosti, known as a front for the KGB. He understands ideological subversion because as a KGB agent he was trained in it – and it was a tactic used in both Vietnam and India.

In an online interview with G. Edward Griffin in 1985, Bezmenov explains how the strategy of ideological subversion works – a process that can take at least a generation and involves four distinct stages of manipulating a nation:

  • Demoralisation
  • Destabilisation
  • Crisis
  • Normalisation

“Ideological subversion is the process which is legitimate, overt and open – you can see it with your own eyes. All you have to do – all American mass media has to do – is to unplug their bananas from their ears, open up their eyes, and they can see. There is no mystery. There’s nothing to do with espionage.

“What it basically means is to change the perception of reality of every American to such an extent that, despite the abundance of information, no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interests of defending themselves, their families, their community and their country.”

The process is also known as “active measures” – and governments which practise ideological subversion are in it for the long haul.

“It’s a great brainwashing process which goes very slow, and is divided into four basic stages, the first one being demoralisation. It takes from fifteen to twenty years to demoralise a nation. Why that many years? Because this is the minimum number of years which requires to educate one generation of students in the country of your enemy, exposed to the ideology of the enemy.”

With such definitive timescales, it should make it easy to pinpoint in history when the technique to influence an entire nation and change its collective thought patterns first started. Bezmenov is very clear that ideological subversion is not the stuff that James Bond is made of: it is not espionage. Neither is it a Communist or Leftist witch-hunt – in fact, KGB agents were instructed not to bother with trying to turn those of left-wing persuasion, but to aim “higher”:

“Cynical, ego-centric people who can look into your eyes with angelic expression and tell you a lie. These are the most recruitable people, people who lack moral principles, who are either too greedy, or who suffer from self-importance, they feel that they matter a lot.”

How do we know what to think?

Now immediately we might start thinking about one or two world leaders who fit the profile and whose public persona, unpopular views – non-politically correct, nationalistic, or simply cruel policies – are an affront to what we have come to understand as the accepted norms and values of fairness, equality, openness, unity, invisible borders and non-nationalistic, non-protectionist policies.

But if ideological subversion can be used to promote the ideas we may consider anathema – can they not also be used to promote the ideas which we have come to believe are right and proper, that form a consensus among us as to what is acceptable and what is not?

Never before in the UK in recent years has a vote caused such dissension as Brexit – which overturned everything we had come to believe about the state of the nation, only to reveal an underbelly of non pro-European sentiment and nationalistic pride that sits uneasily with half the population after forty years of European unity.

Britain joined the European market in 1972 – and successive generations grew up not knowing anything about pre-EU Britain, except what their grandparents might have told them. Indeed, the recent Brexit vote to leave the EU has frequently been blamed on the elderly.

In the US, the vote for Trump has been blamed on rustbelt communities whose livelihoods were affected by the manufacturing downturn in the States, just as in the UK, miners and steelworkers found their traditional skills no longer wanted.

What was once the backbone of both countries was replaced by an economy dependent on financial service industries – and a lifestyle that grew up around that, starting with the champagne swilling yuppies of the 1980s and ending with a monumental banking crash in 2007/2008, just three decades after the tumultuous Stock Market crash of 1987.

However, the 2008 global banking crash signalled a global division in which it became clear that, whereas bankers and financiers were the “haves” whose livelihoods were protected with bailouts, their customers were often the “have-nots”, losing their homes and often livelihoods as the banking crisis deepened.

Although controls were placed on the markets to prevent another banking crash, it seemed as though, once the worst was over, life in the world of high finance continued pretty much as usual after 2008. Indeed, the high-roller lifestyle has been promoted as desirable by the media – we see celebrities, social media stars, well-heeled academics and the global privileged daily in the news: we follow their lives and thoughts on social media, we now listen to their opinions and perhaps admire and aspire to their lifestyles, even to the point of extending ourselves financially to achieve them.

We literally put our money back into the pockets of those flaunting themselves before us in the media on yachts, in desirable homes and wearing covetable brands, to try and achieve a standard of living beyond our reach, because that is what we are fed through marketing and media channels as the new norm that we should be achieving; rather than saving and spending within our means, as previous generations did. There has been a massive shift towards consumerism within a few generations, with the cost of essentials like housing rocketing far beyond the reach of people on low to middle incomes. Even choosing an energy provider has become like a game of Russian roulette as costs soar.

Getting behind the Left – or getting left behind?

Currently in the UK, we are witnessing before our eyes the rise of left-wing politics again – the issues promoted to and among students, and even schoolchildren, include environmental issues and climate change, anti-Israel sentiments, protests against white colonial history, and general opposition to what is seen as the establishment. The phrase “pale, male and stale” is now bandied about regardless of any equality legislation, because it is deemed an acceptable phrase within the current collective consciousness.

However, to return to former KGB agent Bezmenov, apparently we need have no such notion of the privileged Leftist movement assuming power if ideological subversion is involved:

“They serve purpose only at the stage of destabilisation of a nation. For example, your Leftists in the United States, all these professors, and all these beautiful civil rights defenders, they are instrumental in the process of the subversion. Only to destabilise the nation. When their job is completed, they are not needed any more. They know too much.

“Some of them, when they get disillusioned, when they see that Marxists-Leninists come to power, obviously, they get offended. They think that they will come to power. That will never happen, of course. They will be lined up against the wall and shot. But, they may turn into the most bitter enemies of Marxist-Leninists when they come to power.

“And that’s what happened in Nicaragua. You remember most of these former Marxist-Leninists were either put to prison – or one of them split and now he’s working against Sandinistas.”

Apparently, according to Bezmenov, it also happened in Grenada under the revolutionary, Maurice Bishop, in the 1970s – and in Afghanistan, under Taraki, Amin and Babrak Karmal, “with the help of the KGB”.

It is a rather bleak vision of what might happen once ideological subversion begins to take hold of a nation – the spreading political confusion, opposition and violence in society, until crisis point is reached and civil unrest completes the destabilisation process, before normalisation can begin.

The endgame of ideological subversion

So what does Bezmenov offer for the future of a country in the grip of ideological subversion?

“It’s the same pattern everywhere. The moment they serve their purpose, all the useful idiots are used. Either be executed entirely, all the idealistically minded Marxists, or exiled, or put in prisons like in Cuba. Many former Marxists are in prison.

“So, basically, America is stuck with demoralisation. And unless – even if you start right now, here, this minute, you start educating new generation of Americans – it will still take you fifteen to twenty years to turn the tide of ideological perception of reality back to normalcy and patriotism.”

Bezmenov was speaking in 1985. Is several decades of ideological subversion what it takes to make a nation great again – or did Trump actually upset the planned apple cart when he managed to win the vote?

We may never actually know what is really happening in the world, or even our own nation. But just when we think we know what we think, maybe that is the time to question how we actually came to think it and why. Media outlets have already drawn comparisons between what is currently happening in the US and the process Bezmenov described three decades ago.

In a recent book by former debutante Charlotte Bingham – whose father John was an MI5 agent – it is revealed that, in the 1950s and 1960s, she was set the task by her father of helping to recruit agents from among the acting fraternity.

Her father, John Bingham, was the inspiration for John le Carré’s George Smiley. Le Carré’s real name is David Cornwell and he worked for both MI5 and MI6 in the 1950s and 1960s, before leaving to become an author. His half-sister is the actress Charlotte Cornwell, his half-brother, Rupert, once worked as The Independent newspaper’s Washington bureau chief.

It may be hard to imagine your favourite thespian, musician, social media, soap or reality star knee deep in the murky world of ideological subversion, but next time a celebrity utters words of political wisdom, or backs a politician, perhaps recall the words of Bezmenov for a moment:

“Cynical, ego-centric people who can look into your eyes with angelic expression and tell you a lie. These are the most recruitable people, people who lack moral principles, who are either too greedy, or who suffer from self-importance, they feel that they matter a lot.”

More info
Read G. Edward Griffin’s 1985 interview with Ex-KGB agent Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov here.
Spies and Stars by Charlotte Bingham is published by Bloomsbury and costs £16.99

A beginner’s guide to Blockchain (explaining to a 5-year-old)

What is Blockchain

“The blockchain is an indestructible digital ledger for keeping track of economic transactions, which can be programmed to maintain not only financial transactions but virtually everything that has value.”  – Don & Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution 2016

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a term nearly everyone has heard of and yet many still do not know exactly what it is.

For centuries consumers have used financial institutions like banks in financial transactions. The bank or other financial institution oversees and administers the financial transaction, such as paying bills, paying a mortgage or withdrawing or paying money from and to accounts.

The digital world has now challenged the monopoly that banks and other financial institutions once held.

Although it is now possible to access and use a bank account online rather than visiting a branch, blockchain has now removed completely the need for an agent such as a bank to provide the means of paying bills or carrying out other financial transactions.

When you make a financial transaction using blockchain, it is recorded electronically on a digital ledger that is open to everyone’s scrutiny if they are also on the same network as the computer the transaction is made on.

Those who own Bitcoins – or other cryptocurrencies such as Litecoin – as well as other assets held virtually have access to the network using a password issued to them.

As a safeguard against fraud or other irregularities, all the other computers on the network must approve the transaction, just as the teller or chief accountant at a bank might scrutinise a financial transaction before approving it.

As soon as the transaction has been sent to all the computers in the network, it is added to the network’s electronic ledger and is indelibly recorded there.

Each transaction is recorded using a hash – eg 00001# – and the blocks of new transactions form a chain so that they are connected to one another. Each block refers to the previous one, making fraud very difficult to carry out because the whole chain is affected is anything is changed.

Each computer on the network will also have a copy of the transaction on record, which is why it makes blockchain transactions less vulnerable to fraudulent activity. Because each block in the chain refers to the previous block, making illicit changes is almost impossible without detection.

Once approved by the network, the financial transaction takes place and will remain as an entry on the digital ledger, which is available to view publicly forever.

The blockchain system of transactions also checks to make sure that each Bitcoin involved in a transaction is only used once.

History of Blockchain

Blockchain has been around since 2008, when an anonymous person using the name Satoshi Nakamoto developed the system to enable remote financial transactions online using Bitcoin. Blockchain is essentially the public ledger which records cryptocurrency transactions.

You may recall that 2008 was also the year of the global banking crisis, which exposed flaws in the banking system.

Since blockchain was developed, many have promoted it as the new, safe way to transfer money and assets.

The identity of blockchain founder Satoshi Nakamoto has never been revealed.


The basic purpose of blockchain is to act as the digital ledger of cryptocurrency transactions and also asset transactions. Assets can be referred to as Ether, so in this case there are two types of blockchain – Bitcoin Blockchain and Ethereum Blockchain to record the different types of electronic transactions.

It is being suggested that cryptocurrencies and blockchain will eventually make traditional banking using an intermediary, such as a third party financial institution, unnecessary, as consumers can send money to each other and pay for goods directly anywhere in the world using blockchain.

The Pros and Cons of Blockchain

Advantages of Blockchain: 

The advantages of blockchain are that it enables electronic transactions to be made directly without the need for a bank and so is much quicker, giving the individual more control and eliminating errors.

It also allows parts of the world without any banking facilities to be able to transact with one another. Residents in Venezuela began transacting in bitcoin recently when the value of their local currency (Bolivar) began experiencing hyperinflation.

It is estimated a blockchain transaction is ten times faster than current banking technology.

The system also gives added security to financial transactions, reducing fraud, because of the way it operates using cryptography, with each transaction referring to the previous one in a chain and being recorded permanently in that chain on a digital ledger sheet that is public.

There is also no government interference in the currency or technology as yet, as with established currencies subject to government interference.

Disadvantages of Blockchain:

Cryptocurrencies – despite not being subject to government interference –

have still proved to be volatile when subjected to market conditions. Because Bitcoin is new to the markets, the rate can fluctuate daily and sometimes dramatically, according to the actions of those investing in the currencies.

To use blockchain technology requires a certain amount of computer knowledge – just as using digital banking does. Using blockchain involves creating a virtual “wallet” to store your cryptocurrency or assets – and maybe even using another system of digital storage to transfer currency or assets to, known as “cold storage”. Cold storage wallets are offline – not connected to the Internet – making them secure because they cannot be accessed except by the owner. There are companies online offering this offline virtual storage. For the less technically minded who are not used to the virtual world, setting up blockchain wallets and transferring cryptocurrency and assets to offline wallets might prove a challenge.


Financial institutions are already investing in Blockchain and developing their own brand of the technology.

Research from the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council reveals that currently just 0.075% of global GDP is held in blockchain – around $80 billion; but if the technology becomes widely accepted, it means anyone with access to a computer can make transactions without the need for a bank.

Banks and other financial institutions are already spending millions on developing the technology, so it appears that, in the future, blockchain may well become the accepted way to pay bills, send money or transfer assets.

The future surely looks bright, with other companies such as Facebook and Whatsapp are also considering using blockchain technology others include cloud storage.


The shortness of time and how it often passes unnoticed

Ancient Athens - historic times.

Ever since the poet Virgil bequeathed us the phrase “tempus fugit” – time flies – mankind has been officially battling time. It was, of course, the Roman emperor Julius Caesar who tinkered with the calendar, ensuring that the Roman system of measuring days and months kept civilisation on track. Thanks to Julius Caesar, time is not as evenly marked as we think, of course – every four years we have an extra day on 29 February as a result of his re-working of the calendar.

Today, more than ever mankind is battling time, despite all the digital calendars and devices reminding us of our busy schedules and appointments. Recent warnings about global warming have given the world around 12 years to get its act together before it’s too late. The day when time runs out is one none of us ever wants to see.

Unfortunately, when we are battling time, we can only know when it is too late, when it really is too late – when we have missed that deadline, are late for that meeting or flight, or have missed the kids’ school play.

Time is, of course, one of the most important elements of business and commerce – the global Stock Market is governed by time, both in its opening and closing and the timeliness of deals as the market fluctuates. Profit and productivity go hand-in-hand in business, with time underpinning the latter.

Digital distractions

However, as well as digital aids to help us manage time, there are also digital distractions – too much time spent on social media, losing track of time playing computer games, or spending an evening online shopping, or browsing holidays or hobbies, can all eat into the daily schedule, often leaving us feeling as though we have wasted time, or even our part of our lives.

It is common to feel, however, that sometimes time goes slowly – usually when we are not enjoying ourselves or are under stress – and sometimes it seems to go quickly, usually when we are relaxed and happy.

Lifestyle gurus now help us make the most of our time, increase productivity and learn to achieve what is called a life-work balance. Darius Foroux has a vast archive of helpful articles on how topics such as how to deal with procrastination or how to improve by 0.1% every day. It seems a minor achievement to aim for, but sometimes a little can amount to a lot, especially when battling time constraints and trying to get the most out of the time you have. You could, however, spend hours reading up on how to save time and improve yourself and your life, but if you reap some benefit, then perhaps it is worth the time doing so.

Going round in circles

The human body has its own time cycles – what we now call biorhythms – which can supposedly affect how we feel and bring about physical changes in the body, emotions and even intellect, according to Wilhem Fliess, a 19th century otolaryngologist. Biorhythms remain a controversial theory, but it has also been found that medication or recreational drugs can produce a change in people’s perception of time – and even speed up the sense of time in the case of drugs like amphetamines, or make time seem to pass more slowly in the case of sedatives or anti-depressants, which slow down the body’s responses. Researchers have also found that, when the core body temperature is raised, our sense of time speeds up – which is perhaps why we feel more active in warm weather and time seems to go more quickly as we enjoy ourselves in the sunshine.

But emotions can also play a part in our perception of time: psychologists Kathleen Vohs and Brandon Smeichel have found that when people suppress emotions, time appears to slow down – little wonder that that business meeting in which you feel like thumping the desk in frustration seems hard to get through, whereas the successful meeting seems like a breeze.

Time management

So in a fast-paced global economy, where productivity and profit go hand-in-hand, how can workers harness time to their own needs without having to work 24/7 to make a buck?

Time management is one of the biggest buzzwords of recent years – along with work-life balance. Often it can seem easier said than done, given the demands of work, family, commuting and making some time for relaxation or simply to collect your thoughts for the next onslaught.

Time management is now recognised not only in business, but also in the treatment of depression and anxiety, where workloads and personal commitments can play a role in causing mental health conditions if an individual begins to feel overwhelmed by life.

Chartered occupational psychologist Emma Donaldson-Feilder offers tips to the NHS on time management – here is what she advises for cases of “Stop the world, I want to get off”:

Work out your goals

Work out who you want to be, your priorities in life, and what you want to achieve in your career or personal life. That is then the guiding principle for how you spend your time and how you manage it. Once you have worked out the big picture, you can then work out some short-term and medium-term goals. “Knowing your goals will help you plan better and focus on the things that will help you achieve those goals,” says Emma.

Make a list

To-do lists are a good way to stay organised. Emma prefers to keep a single to-do list, to avoid losing track of multiple lists. Make sure you keep your list somewhere accessible. If you always have your phone, for example, keep it on your phone.

Focus on results

Good time management at work means doing high-quality work, not high quantity. Emma advises concentrating not on how busy you are, but on results.

Prioritise important tasks

Tasks can be grouped into four categories:

  • urgent and important
  • not urgent but important
  • urgent but not important
  • neither urgent nor important

People with good time management concentrate on “not urgent but important” activities. That way they lower the chances of activities ever becoming “urgent and important”.

Practise the ‘four Ds’

One study found that one in three office workers suffers from email stress. Making a decision the first time you open an email is crucial for good time management

  1. Delete: you can probably delete half the emails you get immediately.
  2. Do: if the email is urgent or can be completed quickly.
  3. Delegate: if the email can be better dealt with by someone else.
  4. Defer: set aside time later to spend on emails that require longer action.”

(Source: NHS)

Take a break

It was Charles Darwin who encapsulated the need for taking a break when he said, “A man who dares to waste an hour of time has not discovered the value of his life”. Of course previous generations did not have the pressures of the digital age to contend with, but we all know the pleasure of taking a quiet moment for ourselves when the going gets tough, even if it is just a stroll around the block or a water cooler break.

Balance is at the heart of time management – frantically fill every minute and we risk becoming burnt out, even if we are enjoying ourselves. Squander too much time and we feel lazy, neglectful, under-achieving – never good for self-esteem.

Perhaps we need to return to Ancient Rome, after all – this time to the philosopher Seneca, who made a name for himself without spending hours on social media:

It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.

But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity, we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is – the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it.”

As the saying goes, use it or lose it – but being busy doing nothing occasionally might actually be good for the soul, too.

Who and what are social influencers?

Sigmund Freud may be the father of marketing as we know it, but these days there are new beardy influencers on the scene in the shape and form of hipsters, whose image of old school, wholesome (and whole food) values is now used to sell everything from Fair Trade to high-end luxury brands.

Of course, hipsters are not the only social influencers today helping brands build strong relationships with customers and potential customers. But the power of personal recommendation has never been stronger in the marketplace when it comes to shifting product – and mid-level influencers who reach out to like-minded souls through social media, tweets, blogs and podcasts can help shift product and build customer loyalty often more effectively than using high-level influencers, simply by adding the personal touch.


In 2018, one of the top social media influencers is entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, whose investments include Twitter, Snapchat and Uber and whose firm VaynerMedia has worked with corporate giants such as Unilever and GE. Vaynerchuk can be found on YouTube (#DailyVee) and answering questions about social media on Facebook (#AskGaryVee).

Then there’s former Apple evangelist Gary Kawasaki – now a brand ambassador for Mercedes Benz and keynote speaker for Audi, Microsoft and, of course, Apple. Kawasaki is on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. He has 1.44 million followers on Twitter alone.

Social influencers like Vayneychuk and Kawasaki are literally all over it when it comes to social media and there are many more mega-influencers representing the high-end of social media influencing – the message from them all is inspiration, inspiration, inspiration. I did it – you can too. It’s enough to make anyone feel motivated and social influencers can get rich quick

Targeting potential customers via blogs, vlogs or other social media and paying social influencers for their endorsements can motivate potential customers simply because the social influencer has already built an audience on trust. Followers of social media gurus have the same values and outlook – meaning the influencer has done all the hard work in attracting an audience to a brand. According to Adweek, around 25% of marketers say influencer marketing is the best way to boost customer numbers, with Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube attracting the most millennials to the marketplace.

Wish fulfilment – virtually

Identifying useful social influencers before their input is required is a smart cookie – getting to know an influencer does not happen overnight, but once the relationship takes off, the brand can too. Social media posts are basically an entrée into a life and a lifestyle – exactly the hook brands need to attract consumer interest and build brand loyalty. The social influencer can become the pathway to wish fulfilment for an online audience, with each new post   potentially opening up a new and enticing world, as well as engendering a sense of belonging to an aspirational and exclusive club – “people like us” –whether the brand is encapsulating homespun eco or high-roller values.

Millennials more than any other group – and millennials include lots of sub-groups, including our friendly hipster – have been found to be more responsive to peer opinion in making purchase decisions, perhaps because they have been exposed to the online community for most of their lives and empathise with and trust the concept of the online forum better than anyone. Adweek says that millennials are more cynical about traditional marketing and ads – with just 6% finding traditional online ads “credible”. In December 2017, Forbes reported that millennials say they are more likely to buy fashion online through recommendation, perhaps because of a distrust of traditional marketing, with 72% of millennials splashing the cash on fashion and beauty products featured on Instagram.

Research shows, however, that 89% of brand marketers questioned agreed that social media influencers could “positively affect” how consumers felt about a brand. That is some endorsement of the role of the social influencer in marketing strategy.

The future for social influencers

Of course, audiences change and new brands come to market, just as new influencers do. Mega-influencers have been around for a while but the intimacy of the mid-level social influencer online is still relatively new. Social media influencers may attract more discerning millennials than other tried and tested marketing methods, but it remains to be seen whether brand loyalty built via social media can last a lifetime, as millennials age and the digital world changes. It may be that one day the social influencer will seem more telegram than Instagram. This means that social influencers need to change and grow as the digital world does to retain their position in marketing.

Social influencers – the new leaders of the pack

It was Viennese psychologist Ernest Dichter who came up with the theory that the irrationality of consumers in making a purchase could be used to devise a strategy of “smart selling”, based on hidden fears and whims in consumers. Dichter made a fortune from his theories, encapsulated in his book The Strategy of Desire. Basically, the consumer splashes their cash on “illusory brand images,” which, in a nutshell, means the object of our desire is not necessarily what we think it is, but what we want it to be and believe it to be: and in this day and age, is what the social influencer leads us to believe it is – something we desire and believe people like us should have because we trust the social influencer to be real.

The influencer is the new leader of the pack – but the pack is, of course, recyclable. The focus group may have shifted imperceptibly online, but moving with the times has never been more crucial for brands and social influencers in the quickfire digital age: if you want to get ahead in marketing, get ahead.

Are you addicted to social media?

Social media usage has become a way of life for most young adults, with over 2.19 billion users signed up to Facebook alone as of 2018.

Meeting new people online – and even new partners – is the modern way to conduct relationships, but imagine if you had a friend or partner who constantly talked to you, was in your face 24/7 and who even managed to get inside your brain while you slept, perhaps urging you to wake up and start chatting again? That is exactly the relationship many users are having with social media platforms – and to the extent they are being termed social media addicts.

The need to be liked

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, are perhaps the most well known social media platforms. But now almost every website has a forum or meeting place – or enables users to leave comments and interact with other users, spawning a generation of web users who feel increasingly compelled to leave their mark online whenever the opportunity arises. This is further encouraged by rankings, ratings, likes and shares, all helping to build a picture of how popular a user is.

The cult of personality is a mark of success online and the urge to be successful online has never been greater – there is now a generation of social media users who have never known life without an online profile and all that that brings.

Addicted to likes

A growing awareness of how social media can hook users into becoming a slave to ‘like’ has prompted research into how addictive social media is. Scientists have found that, just as praise and popularity in real life can generate a happy glow in people, the buzz getting a ‘like’ online generates results from similar chemical responses in the brain.

When we are happy and our self-esteem is boosted, the brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine and levels of serotonin also rise. These two chemicals in the brain are known as the “happiness” chemicals. Dopamine levels rise to their highest when we are in love and feel all dizzy and excited – the buzz you get from a great work out at the gym is also due to dopamine and serotonin.

It is a great feeling and it is now known to be addictive to the point that an entire generation of young social media users is already addicted or is in danger of becoming addicted to ‘likes’ online, fuelling a need to be constantly checking social media websites. But just as ‘like’ makes us feel good about ourselves and want more, it can also lead us into a darker place.

Social media and depression

There are have been several reports in the media about how young adults have struggled with depression, even to the point of taking their own lives, with social media use thought to have played a role in their condition.

Research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology finds that a major factor in the link between social media use and depression is the fact that viewing other people’s lives online can lead us to make unfavourable judgements about our own lives. Young people can be particularly affected when they see their peers apparently having a much better time than they are or appearing to be more popular. Young adults have even been known to exaggerate their lives just to appear more popular and successful on social media. It is when viewing social media leads to feelings of inadequacy, failure or unpopularity in an individual that depression can result.

What is depression?

Depression is caused by changes in the brain – and often occurs after a major trauma in an individual’s life, such as bereavement, job loss, divorce or moving house and leaving behind friends. The hippocampus, where memories are stored and which also controls sleep, appetite and sex drive, shrinks when people are depressed – as a result, memory recall can be affected, sleep is disrupted, sex drive can diminish and eating patterns can change. Feelings of isolation and loneliness develop.

Social media in itself aims to make people more connected – but it cannot protect users from feeling the same distress or depression they might feel in real life when a relationship ends, for example. Online, if a friendship breaks down, or a friend “unfriends” another without explanation, the same hurt and low mood as happens in real life occurs.

That Avatar might protect your identity or appearance online – but behind the tech is a person with real feelings.

Social media is also accessible and relationships can move at a faster pace than they might in real life, heightening the experience very quickly – and for the generations of users who have never known a life without social media, it can be especially hard when their virtual world of friendship and emotional support dumps them back in the real world.

Seeing through the deception

Social media platforms make their money somehow – and that somehow is most often by targeted advertising. But sometimes things can take a sinister turn online – there has been a public backlash since the Cambridge Analytica debacle, when Facebook users discovered their data was being harvested. For thousands of social media users, it felt like a betrayal, given they had been led to believe in some kind of social media Utopia where everything was free and innocent of deception. Individuals and corporates can make the social media world a very challenging and murky place to be at times, however, and it is little wonder people at first get addicted – and then end up depressed.

4 tips for managing social media addiction

The joy of social media is that the user should be able to control it and not be controlled by it. If social media seems to have its hooks into you, here are a few tips on how to put it back in its box and take back control.

  1. Try and limit social media activity to a certain number of hours a day – and if possible, set the time when you will access it. There is nothing cooler than being too busy to check up on everyone else’s life every minute of the day – you have your own life and it will not be half as interesting as it could be if you are busy hearing about what everyone else is up to.
  2. Find new things to do – the big hook with social media is that it is free and easily accessible. But tech that stops you from having real experiences in the real world is counterproductive to having an interesting, healthy and fulfilling life, so join a five-aside-football team, find a climbing wall or sign up for a dance class and meet some new people in the real world.
  3. Monitor how social media makes you feel – if the thought of being without it or the thought of logging onto to it makes you feel anxious or panicked, switch it off for a day, or for longer if you can. Once you have managed to do this, when you return, social media will not seem such a big beast to deal with –and you will see that life goes on without constantly scrolling through updates.
  4. Have more than one set of friends online – it is tempting to gather all your friends in the same place, but try to have different groups of friends on different platforms, so that if one social media circle proves problematic, you can simply socialise online elsewhere for a while. Making new friends on different social media platforms can help you build a network of contacts and friends that could help you get a job, meet a partner, or become interested in a new hobby and expand your social circle so that you do eventually have the sort of life your online friends admire.

The science behind social media addiction 

In November 2017, the founding president of Facebook, Sean Parker, admitted that the social media platform was intended to be addictive and was developed to exploit ‘a vulnerability in human psychology’ – the dopamine hit whenever we receive a ‘like’, which keeps us coming back for more.

In 2016, researchers at Pitt’s Centre for Research on Media, Technology and Health also discovered that, out of a group of study participants aged 19-32, those who used social media more frequently on a weekly basis were 2.7 times more likely to develop depression – possibly because those with underlying depression might be more likely to use social media more often, but also because of the feeling among users of not ‘living up to idealised portraits of life’ displayed online.

With depression now the leading cause of disability globally, according to the World Health Organisation in 2015, it is surely now time for all of us to take a rain check on whether we actually ‘like’ what social media is doing to our lives and our health and relationships.

Is Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain the perfect marriage?

There is only one thing better than new technology and that is two new technologies working together.

The Bitcoin revolution has led to us all becoming accustomed to the idea of blockchain – a complex computerised network which provides a foolproof method of encryption, with each block providing a check on its neighbour in the chain. Or, as the Bank of England terms it, “a technology that allows people who don’t know each other to trust a shared record of events”.

The concept of artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer just a concept and is fast becoming a reality, with medical, military and media applications now harnessing the capabilities of AI. In 2018, Wimbledon and its partner IBM edited player highlights by employing AI to analyse player emotions and reactions, crowd noise and match data, to produce video highlights of matches tailored to audiences.

Why blockchain and Artificial Intelligence?

Blockchains and AI are seen as perfect partners because AI is now being developed to produce algorithms capable of working with encrypted data – and which may in the future be utilised in assessing whether a financial transaction is fraudulent and should be flagged up and investigated as such, a job which currently takes man hours and the processing of large amounts of complex data.

Given how complex it can be to fully assess a financial transaction or investigate a suspected fraudulent transaction, harnessing the power and speed of AI to assess data encrypted in blockchains could revolutionise the handling and processing of data, due to the flexibility and adaptability of AI.

For AI and blockchain technology to work together, however, there has to be a degree of commercial and public acceptance and belief in the partnership.

New tech adoption rates

There is no doubt that adoption rates of new technology are faster than ever – especially when there is a financial and productivity advantage for business. The public, too, must also have confidence in technology which stores and handles their personal and financial data, as well as making assessments of that data, such as for the purpose of detecting fraud.

Transparency is often crucial in fostering confidence in new technology – and with blockchain and AI, this can be difficult, given the virtual nature of both.

Bitcoin has demonstrated, however, that those who are innovators or early adopters of technology often benefit from it the most. It is said that investors who bought $100 of Bitcoin at the start of the boom in 2010 and managed to hold onto it may now be worth around $73m, given the 0.003 cent price of Bitcoin in early 2010.

It may well be the same with utilising blockchain and AI – companies which are early adopters might well find they profit from the enhanced productivity and enhanced data sharing the partnership brings and profit accordingly, before blockchain and AI become the norm in commercial operations.

Nothing is without risk, however, but it is hoped that harnessing the capabilities of AI would reduce any existing risk such as fraud, given the speed and accuracy of the technology in processing large amounts of data – more data leads to improved models and more possibilities for secure data sharing or detecting anomalies in data stored in blockchains. Merging datasets can also create a new dataset, potentially with new business applications using AI.

Monitoring Artificial Intelligence

Bitcoin was also very much a word-of-mouth underground movement at the start – new innovations such as the mainstream use of blockchain and AI together are not likely to be viewed with such suspicion, especially given the cost effectiveness and efficiency of the tech. Enhanced data sharing can lead to innovation and efficiency across different spheres, from enhanced sharing of medical data to processing and checking supply chains to detect product failures.

There will have to be checks in place, however – even though blockchain in itself is a ledger system for storing and encrypting large amounts of data, the utilisation of AI in overseeing the use and security of that data or in detecting fraudulent activity must in itself be subject to scrutiny.

It has been suggested that the decisions made by AI be recorded to ensure transparency and accuracy in the use of AI in blockchain databanks, just as human decisions are logged and monitored. Whether AI will be self-policing remains to be seen, however.

Despite any initial reservations about the use of AI in monitoring encrypted data in blockchains, the adoption rate of technology over the last ten years suggests that the current generation will be susceptible to emerging tech, including unique partnerships in tech such as AI and blockchain.

As most people now have high-speed Internet access and a smartphone and are accustomed to new tech, it may be that advances in data protection and data sharing, such as AI and blockchain working together, will be a natural progression, provided there are adequate and transparent checks on the technology or built into the tech.

The man who rescued the Swegway board and made over $19m

Asad Saddique is one of those enviable entrepreneurs who admits that at the time he launched his sure-fire business idea, he knew nothing about entrepreneurship and very little about swegway boards aka hoverboards.

However, as we now know, the world is teeming with entrepreneurial 25-year-olds just like Asad, who have a hunch, go with it and end up making a packet.

When London-based Asad stumbled across hoverboards, they were quite literally going up in smoke.


In 2015, a friend of his invested in a consignment of hoverboards from China and began selling online. His venture coincided with the crash in hoverboards, however, when after several reported incidents involving them catching fire, Trading Standards seized 15,000 boards considered unsafe, eBay banned all sales of them and Amazon ceased sales and instructed customers to throw them away.

It would take a fool or a genius to see the potential in such a debacle, but as hoverboards were literally crashing and burning, Asad Saddique saw just that when his friend offered him the chance to help salvage his hoverboard empire. The deal was that, if Asad handled the online sales and marketing, his friend would handle everything else.

The resultant gentleman’s handshake signalled the birth of the company iSwegway – and Asad and his partner are now one of the UK’s largest distributors of hoverboards through their company.

Hoverboards are now part of a burgeoning family of products – which includes swegways, Segways and uniwheels – transforming how we travel. They are basically one- or two-wheel electric scooters and have the added bonus of being the coolest way to get around in the urban environment, says Asad.

As a result, iSwegway’s business has gone stratospheric – leading to the company to becoming a Shopify Build A Business Competition winner, with the once-in-a-lifetime chance to ring the bell on the New York Stock Exchange floor. Asad and his colleague were also wined and dined and taken yachting – as well as receiving world-class business mentoring from the likes of Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Daymond John.

So how did Asad Saddique go from rags to riches on a hoverboard after simply watching the news one night in 2015? Well, it was a case of fool or genius and it turned out to be the latter.

“Every channel was talking about hoverboards blowing up” says Asad, who suddenly recognised that, as everyone was being told the chuck out their hoverboards, a window of opportunity was closing and he had to get moving – but with limited funds, limited business experience and knowing diddly squat about coding.

Undeterred and convinced he had hit upon a huge gap in the market about to happen, in September 2015, he withdrew $6000 from his savings and got to work. Soon setbacks meant his savings had dwindled – so he did what any sensible businessman would do and took time out to validate his idea before taking any more financial risks. Here is the plan the self-taught Asad Saddique came up with:

– Test And Validate Everything

Using Google’s keyword research and trend tool, Asad determined there was an unmet need in the marketplace, but there was also a healthy level of competition – although not enough to scare him away from cornering the market and taking over the rankings.

Firstly, Asad found an e-commerce platform, opting for Shopify because it was the quickest solution off the peg. Signing up for the trial, he immediately began work and hired freelancers for his website design, while also setting up a drop shipping arrangement.

– Use Common Sense Marketing and Design

Asad knew the basics were crucial and made sure the website had a working phone number, forwarding address, a trust-promoting interface and accessible customer service – something his competitors had not done. For customer service, he set up ZenDesk on the website and customised it.

“I got a lot of silly emails at first,” says Asad. “Questions like, is it safe? How do I reset my board? Stuff like that. But I took all the questions seriously.”

The feedback he got from the questions prompted him to compile a comprehensive FAQ and incorporate some of the queries into product descriptions, which helped long-term with increasing customer service resources, user time on site – a huge influence on the Google ranking algorithm – and increasing conversions.

Asad says clean, bold design is also important.

“As a savvy buyer, I switched roles and put myself in the shoes of the consumer. What would I look for to validate and determine a site’s trustworthiness?”

The result was a corporate-looking Shopify theme, consisting of bright colors and third-party logos such as credit card companies and media outlets.

Asad says speed – appropriately – has always been another big strength of the hoverboard business, as all the initial start-up work was completed in just two weeks, enabling him to capitalize on the media storm surrounding hoverboards by “newsjacking”, in which marketing ideas are inserted into breaking news, creating company credibility, awareness and sales in the process.

– Buy Out Your Competition

On the SEO side, instead of chasing high-competition keywords at first (eg “swegway”), Asad began to optimise for color variations (eg “black swegway” or “blue swegway”) – and coupled with keyword dense but customer-focused copy, the tactic saw the company climbing the rankings over time.

In January 2016, after moving to a third office, Asad decided to acquire a hoverboard blog that outranked his site – even though it was “an old looking site chock full of sloppy text”.

But, as counterintuitive as it sounds, it was left exactly as it was.

 “My developer was shocked at the quality of the site,” says Asad.

“He asked me to make a million different changes, but what he didn’t realise is that Google tracks the user, not just the site. If the bounce rate is high (they visit and leave shortly after), it will negatively impact ranking.

“It was an ugly blog, but the bounce rate was low so I left it the same and just linked back to our site on it.”

In March 2016, Asad acquired another site in the niche – an affiliate site that also outranked his site; and just like the blog, he left it exactly the same. The only change was making sure competing links were removed and replaced with links back to his own site.

Asad now sells boards regularly through those two sites now as well. It is hard to believe that, given the almost immediate success of the business, he is entirely self-taught – and cannot even think of any books, blogs or resources to recommend to others. In fact, he admits he was “too lazy” to even read them, nor did he take any one text as gospel.

“A lot of people think there’s one source or magic bullet – one book or blog that will have a winning lottery ticket in it,” he says.

“It’s better to believe in your own choices and take the action instead.”

And the future looks even brighter, with plans for an electric bike – and sales of hoverboards going through the roof, as iSwegway accumulates revenues in excess of $19m.

“Eighteen to 24-year-olds are buying them for their own pleasure and leisure, then parents and grandparents are buying them as presents,” says Asad.

“We’ve even had corporate clients ordering 50-100 units at a time as end of year incentives.”

From hoverboards to infinity

Asad Saddique even believes that hoverboards could eventually change urban commuting and city life, putting paid to the suggestion that hoverboards are just toys or for leisure.

“Yes, it’s a trend and it could die down in the next 12 months, but I also think it’s catching on with something new in a way which could open the door to a new family of transport.”

Electric one-wheel devices are trickier to manoeuvre – and the most popular device sold on iSwegway is a two-wheeled Swegway with a range of 16 miles and a max speed of 6.2 mph, making it a whole lot more than a toy.

The hoverboard industry is also gaining more respectability after the original bonfire of vanities, with a hoverboard council monitoring safety and quality.

The devices start at £280 and can cost up to around £700 with extended range and speed – making them more than competitive with the annual travelcard into London every day. To travel five or six miles to work using a hoverboard would take around an hour, says Asad – with no cancellations, strap hanging or cattle truck conditions.

“It’s definitely an interesting market – really it’s the personal transportation market, especially in London, where people are spending serious money on commuting already,” he adds.

AI, Blockchain and IoT

Asad is already looking ahead to emerging tech, such as Artifcial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain and automated solutions – including the Internet of Things (IoT), which will digitalise millions of ordinary, everyday items in order to collect and process information to make daily life more connected. “I believe with the adoption rate of technology over the last ten years especially, the current generation is connected well enough that it is inevitable they’ll be susceptible to emerging tech,” says Asad.

“Most have high-speed Internet access and a smartphone – this is all that is needed for this generation to adopt tech advances such as AI and IoT.”

Has Twitter shadowbanned you?

Twitter Shadow Ban

Twitter is all about building communities, right? Building communities so that we can all get to know each other, exchange ideas, chat, share, laugh and generally get along. But occasionally we glimpse a dark shadow behind the alleged open platforms of social media.

Shadowbans have been operating for several years now, with Twitter users sitting twiddling their thumbs wondering why no one reacts or replies to their tweets. Is it something you said? Are you just deeply dull? Did you miss the point totally? Or have you been shadowbanned?

What is a shadowban?

A Twitter account that has fallen prey to the shadowban forces is virtually operating in the dark – you can see other tweeters and send tweets, but no one can see your tweets and thus you are left in cold, lonely limbo, frantically waving but not being seen. It is also called ghost banning or stealth banning.

Releasing the curse of the shadowban

Some Twitter users have taken radical action , have set up a brand spanking new Twitter account and just set off into Twitterland again to grow their community.

Others have been more cunning and worked out how to get their accounts restored and bathed in sunshine again for all to see – including pretending to want to buy advertising, which seems to release the curse within hours.

Why have I been shadowbanned on Twitter?

The most common reason, according to Twitter support, is because it has been identified as spam – if you tweet too much or repeatedly send the same tweet, maybe as advertising, then you might be shadowbanned as spam. If you retweet a tweet from a shadowbanned account before it is targeted, then you, too might end up in the dark. It seems like a clear case of guilty without trial if this is happening. But you are in reality being hunted down and shut down by an algorithm.

Another reason is if you join in criticisms of a blue-ticked account – usually a public figure or celebrity. Maybe there is an algorithm that stays awake all night terrified of any resulting legal action a celebrity might inflict on the Twitter god.

But, recently, a new target of shadowbanning has come to light – the XRP community on Twitter.

The XRP Twitter Shadowban

Most people have now heard about cryptocurrencies – some of you may even have a little stash of cryptocurrency somewhere in cold storage.

But the XRP community on Twitter is increasingly reporting their accounts have been shadowbanned.

Twitter was originally set up by undergraduate Jack Dorsey and co-founder Evan Williams. There has been some fairly traditional investment poured into what was an undergraduate dream since then. If you look at the Twitter website, however, its mission statement reads:

“From our Twitter headquarters in San Francisco all the way to New Delhi, we’re dedicated to building a platform where all voices can be heard.”

Not if you’re shadowbanned.

What is XRP?

XRP – aka Ripple™ – is a platform that enables people to exchange funds. Lately, the actor Ashton Kutcher has invested in it and XRP is now the third most valuable cryptocurrency. Bitcoin and Ethereum are still leading the way, however. XRP was actually created in 2004 and is now used by many mainstream financial institutions and banks.

So why the alleged shadowbanning of XRP communities on Twitter if Ripple is the preferred choice of traditional financial institutions?

There is a chance that intensive tweeting might explain why this community has fallen foul of a Twitter algorithm – or has the rise of the cryptocurrency market as a people’s currency rattled the sabres of the established financial world to such an extent that now they are taking back control?

Where to now?

On 30 May 2018, Twitter Inc hosts its annual meeting of stockholders. The Twitter Inc website is awash with the names of major banks and financial institutions. It is, perhaps, not the people’s platform any more.

If you want to enjoy a more relaxed forum than Twitter Inc’s annual stockholder meeting and keep up-to-date with XRP, join

Want to know if you have been shadowbanned on Twitter? Try the Shadowban Tester, as used by disgruntled XRP tweeters.

And remember, if you have been shadowbanned, try contacting Twitter support and say you are interested in buying advertising. Abracadabra, apparently.

Thank you for reading and don’t forget to check out my next article which covers the future of Blockchain and Artificial intelligence.

How to Open the New York Stock Exchange

Asad Saddique NYSE Opening Bell

There are certain landmarks which might not officially constitute one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but nevertheless they are such a presence in our lives that really they should.

At the centre of our global existence is the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) – operating for more than 200 years, the influence of the companies listed on the NYSE reaches every corner of the world, from big business in global markets, to small communities in the Amazon rainforest.

The NYSE on Wall Street in Lower Manhattan is known as a place of tradition and this continues – since the 1990s, each day a different banner is hung from the facade of the building to celebrate the listing of a company or a special event. Spotify, McDonald’s, Snap and many more global companies have had this privilege over the years, so to join this list of greats when your own company is listed on the NYSE brings a huge sense of achievement.

A time-honoured tradition of the NYSE – also known as the “Big Board” – is the ringing of the bell at the opening and close of the markets. The bell is rung at 9.30am and 4pm – and occasionally some lucky companies get to ring that bell themselves.

On 15 August 2016, it was our turn.

There are three main ways to get your finger on the button:

  • Go public with your company and apply to be listed on the NYSE
  • Request the privilege if you are a ‘deserving, non-profit organisation’
  • Build a great successful business and win Shopify Build a Business*.

Shopify is the platform which enables business to build the web presence needed to succeed, with unlimited bandwidth, added security for your client lists, and hassle-free set up. If you win Shopify Build a Business award, there is no guarantee that the prize will be ringing the NYSE bell – but what a business incentive to be able to walk out onto the floor of the NYSE and soak up the buzz just for one day. We were lucky to win the award and as a result, it was my turn to ring that bell. It is a huge privilege to ring the bell – everyone from politicians to NASA officials have accepted the honour.

The NYSE is the largest stock exchange in the world, with an estimated $23 trillion’s worth of listings. The bell opens trading and closes it for the day, ringing out like a klaxon and accompanied by applause from the trading floor.

The NYSE Closing Auction as the last event of the trading day determines the closing price for each stock – to anyone whose business is listed on the NYSE, the bell is definitely one of the sweetest sounds around and the chance to ring it something to aim for. The exchange was founded on 17 May 1792 and is part of our global history – make it your business aim to be part of that history and ring that bell, too.

You can see me ring the NYSE bell on YouTube.

Visit the New York Stock Exchange online.