About Monty

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.

BOOK REVIEW: The Human Workplace by Andy Swann

The workplace is changing in ways that seemed impossible only recently. Andy Swann’s book explains what is happening in lovely business language.

workplace

I’m really not a fan of business books and as somebody who’s worked from home or a beach for the past decade, I’m not really interested in ‘workplaces’ either, but I really enjoyed this super-fast read.

I’ll disclose now that I’ve met Andy Swann a number of times and although we operate in different, ahem, work places, I’ve always been impressed by his demeanour and manner; he also loves what he does, so I promised that I would review his book.

Admittedly, it has taken longer to do so than I thought because I don’t read business books, but this is a nicely written book that will interest those who work in office management, HR, head-hunting and even psychogeography.

It does suffer from the devilry of small text and font, but that might just be my eyes. Swann uses many modules, graphs and box-outs and they are deftly utilised, not least being on the same page as allusions to them.

So many business books are irritating in that area. On one page is the description, then readers have to go overleaf to find the object of the description.

It’s really easy to read and refreshingly free of anecdotes and clever stories. It gets straight to the point and it’s not surprising that Swann is also a consultant, strategist and public speaker at conferences. It gets to the point.

Being over-critical, it looks as if this book has taken time to be written. Some of the industry examples seem from a lot time ago (18 months/two years!), but that is like any book that is published nowadays; they’re out of date before they’re published.

However, and this is important, The Human Workplace is not time-critical, its messages are current and even visionary, so that slight weakness can be overlooked.

You can buy the book here.

It’s expensive for somebody like me who prefers LITERATURE, but if this is your line of work, The Human Workplace will prove valuable in the way we work and how we do so. It’w worth the £20 or so for a hardback, but Kindle at £12 might be more appropriate.

I would imagine that The AI Workplace will be the sequel, but Swann’s book has at least a decade before it, like all humans, becomes obsolete.

REVIEW: PaMu Scroll BT 5.0 Earphones

The new PaMu TWS earbuds are so cool for listening that your ears may never be the same again.

TWS

Earphones or buds or whatever you’d like to call them are omnipotent and we are literally up to our ears in them.

Some think that we are likely to lose the power of talking to humans because of our bud-like obsession, but when as the products improve so quickly, it’s impossible to stop.

This site has reviewed PaMu products before and they’re received the thumbs-up, not least because we like a crowdfunded product that over-raises and delivers on its product and promises.

Their lates effort, the PaMu Scroll BT 5.0 Earphones have not only over-raised, they’ve smashed it. At time of writing, the raise was more than $260K on an initial ask of $20K, a sum they received in less than 24 hours.

So, what of the product itself? It’s pretty awesome and not difficult to see where the product name ‘Scroll’ came from. The buds roll out as if from a digital Dead Sea scroll, immediately looking as cool as can be.

As we know, looks aren’t everything and any old dead goat (mutton) can be dressed as any young sheep (lamb), but the PaMu Scroll BT 5.0 Earphones are one of the best Bluetooth-associated objects I’ve touched.

Sounds quality was excellent, a huge improvement on the PaMu TWS that was previously reviewed here and the wireless charging is easy and fast.

The shape is probably the most design-beautiful, it’s easy to fold up and put in any pocket of clothings without being uncomfortable and its portability in any handbag or rucksack an utter cinch.

There is still.a month to go before the crowdfunding is over and while we very rarely enthuse about a product during this process, this time we’re making an exception.

One final word or two…

… the PaMu Scroll BT 5.0 Earphones are going to retail at $39, a ridiculously low price, get on the waiting list now.

Fortunately, I have a pair on the table in front, of me, there’s no way PaMu are getting them back… really.

Bitcoin can be widely used for travelling – here’s how

When most people think of buying tickets for a flight, or making other travel-related purchases, they might reach into their wallet for their credit card.  But did you know you might be able to pay with a form of digital cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin?

The process for paying with Bitcoin is very similar to paying with a credit or debit card.  If you’re purchasing online, you’ll simply select Bitcoin as your method of payment.  You’ll then be redirected to a site such as CoinBase, where you’ll follow the instructions to complete payment.

We’ll go through which travel sites accept Bitcoin, best practices when dealing with cryptocurrency, and some pros and cons of using digital currency to help you decide if it’s the right method of payment for you!

Where Can You Use Bitcoin for Travel Purchases?

Although Bitcoin has not yet gone back to its 2017 levels (at one point it had increased over 1,800% in value during the year), it has recently been back on the rise.  It’s still not as widely accepted at many retailers though, and it had a minor setback recently, with Expedia removing the ability to pay with Bitcoin from its website.

But there are still a number of other places that accept Bitcoin as a form of payment!

Travel Agencies

If you’re looking for alternative travel agencies to book flights, hotels, or car rentals, there are several options you’ll have:

Airlines

You can book tickets directly with a few airlines that accept Bitcoin as payment:

  • Bitcoin.Travel – probably one of the more well-known travel sites, you can use your Bitcoin currency to book flights and hotels!  It was established in 2011 with the goal of creating the world’s largest and most trusted bitcoin travel site
  • eGifter.com – eGifter is an online gift card shop where you can use your bitcoins to purchase gift cards at over 250+ different retailers.  This includes gift cards for airlines like Southwest and American Airlines, which you can then redeem for airfare
  • Gyft.com – Gyft is another website that allows you to purchase gift cards with bitcoin. The available options currently include more than 200 retailers, including American Airlines, Delta, Hotels.com, and Southwest Airlines
  • Far Eastern Air – This airline used to be the most used airline in Taiwan and recently confirmed they will now accept Bitcoin as payment for more than 20,000 of its flights
  • airBaltic – Considered by many to be one of the most innovative airlines, it’s no surprise that they were one of the first airlines to accept Bitcoin as payment for tickets to more than 60 destinations in Europe, Russia, and the Middle East
  • FlyPeach – This is Japan’s first airline to accept payment in Bitcoin.  The airline is based out of Kansai International Airport in Osaka, and offers many flights in the North Asia region

Buses

  • eTravelSmart – If you’re looking to buy bus tickets for travel in India, this could be your ticket (no pun intended)!  With just a few clicks, you’ll be able to purchase tickets using this online bus ticket booking portal for more than 80,000 bus routes.  eTravelBus takes Bitcoin payment using the Unocoin payment gateway, which is the equivalent of CoinBase in the US

Hotels

  • 9flats – This is a great option for those looking to book vacation rentals, apartments, or guest houses, and want to stick with Bitcoin

Airports

  • Denver International – If you’re in the Denver area and need to pay for parking at Top Airport Parking, you’ll be happy to know they also accept Bitcoin as a method of payment, in addition to other types of payment like cash and credit cards
  • Brisbane International – The world’s first crypto-friendly airport!  Travelers to this airport are able to use Bitcoin at various merchants

Tourism Spots

  • Caribbean Tourism Organization – There are plans to introduce cryptocurrency payments for tourism services in this region.  The organization is partnering with a local company to implement crypto-based merchant application in this industry
Bitcoin
Paying With Bitcoin Could Be the Ticket to Your Next Vacation!

What Are Some Best Practices for Paying With Bitcoin?

With the run that Bitcoin had in increase in value last year, reaching a value of as much as over $17,000+ for 1 Bitcoin, you might have a lot of questions about how you can invest and pay using this cryptocurrency.  So here are a few tips to keep in mind!

Many major banks no longer allow you to purchase cryptocurrencies with their credit cards, but fortunately there are still plenty of other options.  You can still use debit cards, regular ACH transfers, and peer to peer platforms such as PayPal to purchase Bitcoin.  Each has their own pros and cons in terms of how quickly the transfer can be made, size of the transfer/purchase, and any applicable fees.

You’ll also need to do your research and choose trusted wallets to store your cryptocurrency.  These wallets come in different hardware and software forms, such as apps on your phone, software on your computer, online storage, and physical hardware devices, similar to a USB thumb drive.  Make sure the company you’ll be storing your valuable Bitcoin with is reputable, and not something that will disappear overnight.

The same advice applies for when you are paying with Bitcoin and paying through a travel portal, for instance.  Doing a quick online search to see if a website is legitimate may save you a lot of headache in the future.  If you’re able to find a good number of positive reviews from others, then chances are it’s legitimate.  But if you’re not able to find any information on the website, then you should proceed with caution!

Bitcoin vs Other Payment Methods for Travel

Bitcoin has some pros and cons compared to more traditional methods of payment, like credit cards.  Let’s take a look at some of the differences and when it’s more advantageous to pay with Bitcoin:

Bitcoin Credit Card
No hassles with currency conversion or foreign transaction fees Some credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee of a few percent per transaction
Less prone to identity theft as transactions do not require personal information Personal information is more prone to being stolen from a merchant
More versatile as it does not need to be stored in your wallet Physical card in wallet is more prone to theft
Cannot adversely affect your credit score Making large purchases could potentially affect your credit score
Account cannot be frozen Credit card could be frozen or cancelled by card issuer

Similarly, credit cards also have some advantages compared to paying with Bitcoin:

Credit Card Bitcoin
Rewards for every day purchases, which can be redeemed for future travel No rewards
Higher level of fraud protection. Most companies offer $0 liability for unauthorized charges No fraud protection in the event Bitcoin funds are stolen
Accepted at virtually all merchants Not as widely accepted and may be difficult to find merchants accepting Bitcoin as payment
Perks and travel benefits such as priority boarding, lounge access, free checked bags, trip delay insurance, and more for many premium travel credit cards No special travel-related perks for paying with Bitcoin

Bottom Line:  Is It Worth It to Pay for Travel With Bitcoin?

So which payment method is better, Bitcoin or credit cards?

Credit cards are more widely accepted, and offer a number of perks like fraud protection, rewards, trip delay insurance, and more which are offered on some of the best travel credit cards.

On the other hand, Bitcoin could offer a higher level of safety and security because transactions are not made with your personal information, rather, with an anonymous alphanumeric address.  Bitcoin is also less prone to theft because it does not have to be stored in your wallet.  And you don’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees or currency conversions as you might have to with credit cards.

Ultimately, each method of payment has its own pros and cons, and the decision of whether it’s better to pay with Bitcoin or credit card will depend on your specific travel plans.

EXCLUSIVE Q&A: Govind Balakrishnan, CEO Curio

It’s one of the strangest phenomena in technology, the inexorable rise and popularity of podcasts. While there is any number of places to access such content, one London-based company is focusing on quality.

Curio is a free app that offers curated content that gives listeners the opportunity to fully engage with audio and CEO Govind Balakrishnan talks exclusively about why his company’s product is music to our ears.

govind

Monty Munford: Welcome to Mob76 Outlook, Govind. I believe Curio produces quality podcasts, would that be right?

Yes, that’s right. In a world where everything is available at once, people’s time and attention are scarce resources. Curio solves that by helping people listen to the stories shaping our world as they go about their days.

Through high-quality audio and curation, we give people back time and surface content worthy of people’s attention.

We solve the two biggest problems for people in the world – time and attention. We choose content from the best providers in the world and get that narrated as high-quality audio – saving people the time of choosing the right content to consume.

Govind Balakrishna: Every startup has a founder’s story. What’s yours?

I was a strategist at the BBC and saw the really high engagement that radio and other audio were receiving online. This was particularly heartening when journalists had put themselves at great personal risk, such as in war zones.

At the same time, print engagement was plummeting and this prompted me to ask – why is a 100-year-old trusted medium getting so much more engagement than print or websites?

The insight was that people’s lifestyles had changed and the new world required a media platform that worked seamlessly with their busy, on-the-go lifestyles, while also actually rewarding content producers.

That was how Curio was born.

Would you describe yourself as a media company?

Media is the software that powers society, but we no longer have the time or attention to engage with it deeply. Curio is a subscription-based audio app that helps people live curiously, by allowing us to listen to the stories shaping our world as we go about our busy lives.

Is this the right time for Curio or are you awaiting a tipping point?

The advent of conversational devices, their popularity and the fact that technology is going through a fundamental paradigm shift means this is a perfect time.

Due to multitasking, we are becoming a species that is entering a post-literacy/ post-Gutenberg age. In the same way that Snapchat is a communication medium, so audio and voice will be as well.

It will go to the core of how we engage with media, content and entertainment and how it all fits in and around our lifestyles.

Why is now the right time for Curio?

We want to become the media platform of the conversational future. Most innovation so far has been in the form of functional interaction. But content consumption is also going to move in that direction.

And as it does, it’s going to go beyond one-way consumption to more a more interactive form, closer to augmented reality.

Ever since the year 1439 the visual medium – books, TV, screens – has dominated. When we are visually engaged we do little else. This future, however, will be characterised by audio, conversational interactions and ultimately augmented reality.

What particular problem are you solving?

We are solving the problem of time and reduced attention spans and using the power of audio to help build a more well-informed world effortlessly. In that way, we also indirectly help with breaking information bubbles, fake news and superficial engagement.

In a world where everything is available instantaneously, people’s time and attention are scarce resources and we are just unable to and deeply engage with stories that are shaping the future.

Who are you working with and on what platforms?

We partner with top publishers such as The Guardian, Salon, The Financial Times, Aeon and more than 40 other providers to gain access to their exceptional content base.

Our learning algorithm and human curators then scour their databases for the best content – across various topics which have current relevance, are part of the zeitgeist or are of evergreen interest – and we then get that narrated by the best voice actors in the industry.

That content is offered to our subscribers through our mobile apps, our website and our Alexa skill.

Please take me through a user journey

Simply download the free Curio app and sign up. You can either subscribe to a monthly or annual plan, or listen to a certain amount of content free everyday.

Subscribers get new audio tracks curated across our partners everyday. Much of the content on Curio is evergreen and is easily discoverable. Playlists on topics ranging from Hackers to Privacy, Stoicism to Creativity.

Why is Curio better than its competitors?

We consistently produce high-quality content from premium and niche brands, an all-you-can-listen ad-free experience, best-in-class curation that makes for both a lean-back and lean-forward experience.

We consider rival podcasts to be our competitors, but also traditional radio. One interesting company is Audible, but we believe we offer a more tailored curation, and content that fits any length of time for our audience.

How has the company been funded to date?

We’d like to keep this confidential at this time, but we have been through two early rounds of funding including our stint at 500 Startups in the US.

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