Playing around with Raspberry Pi

After a little over three months of waiting it has finally arrived, the famous Raspberry Pi. This credit card sized circuit board has been highly anticipated and praised by geeks across the globe. As a fully programmable micro-computer it has the potential to be a media centre, a basic desktop or even the inner workings of robot. It is a piece of technology which I purchased for no other reason other than sheer fascination.

For those technically inclined its specifications are:

700Mhz ARM CPU
Videocore 4 GPU (capable of running at 40Mbits/s)
256GB of RAM
2 USB ports
1 HDMI port
1 S Video Port
8GB SD Card (I purchased this separately)

The SD card acts as a hard drive in each Raspberry Pi unit, which means installing an OS onto the SD card. An easy process with Ubuntu’s graphical ImageWriter tool which I have running on my netbook but there are more complicated command line methods. For me the whole process of getting Raspberry Pi set up probably took about 30 minutes. I opted to install the ‘standard’ Raspbian “Wheezy” OS which is based upon Debian Linux. However I may attempt running other varieties in the future.

What can I say about the results? Simply wow.

Raspberry Pi really has been designed well and to see how it can run a fully working OS, relatively quickly considering its size, is a sight every geek should witness. Yes, the programmes pre-loaded on the OS are basic but Raspberry Pi isn’t a device to replace your desktop, it is designed to teach programming.

It was created by members of the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory after a noticeable slip in applications and skills from applicants to computer science courses. The reason for this slip? The majority of software today has been completely locked down by companies. Windows 7 and the Apple varieties do not require day-to-day programming in order to get software working. This has caused a whole generation of children growing up in a ‘programme-less’ world. Very different to previous generations who needed a basic knowledge of programming or command line protocols in order to get software working.

Today the Raspberry Pi unit sits patiently on my desk whilst I decide on an interesting computing project which it could be best used for. Should it be turned into a server? A retro gaming PC? Let me know if you have any suggestions.

 

Defining Loyalties: Now a member of Pirate Party UK

When it comes to political allegiances I’ve never been swift to the forefront. To me character matters more than the policy as character will inevitable supersede any written policy. A man could have the best policy in the world but if he is a howling liar then the policy, no matter how good, is clatter. However, this time policy supersedes all as I have decided to become a member of Pirate Party UK.

They are a democratic party with no right or left wing agenda which is set out to stand for our digital rights. The party aims to ensure everyone has real freedom of speech, can participate by sharing with one another and is totally transparent with its communication.

Now that the internet has turned into a global village organisations are attempting to adapt as more of their information and products are shared digitally. If you own a CD then you have the right to copy it onto your .MP3 player, websites should not be blocked and the government must have a better understanding of intellectual copyright.

The Pirate Party UK manifesto sets out extremely clearly some of the key areas they are working on. A snippet of these views include:

  • The Pirate Party wants a fair and balanced copyright law that is suitable for the 21st century. Copyright should give artists the first chance to make money from their work, however that needs to be balanced with the rights of society as a whole.
  • We believe that patents exist to reward the inventors of truly outstanding ideas, not to allow big businesses to stifle competition with an ever-growing tide of trivial, incomprehensible, overreaching patents.
  • We feel that citizens’ right to private and confidential communication is vital and is not being respected; therefore we will forbid third parties from intercepting or monitoring communication traffic (i.e. telephone calls, post, Internet traffic, emails), and require specific warrants to be issued by a court before the police are allowed to monitor traffic.
  • We will introduce laws on the acceptable use of CCTV. While we recognise some arguments for CCTV, it should not be considered a replacement for police officers on the beat, and it must not be used as an excuse for unrestricted spying on the public.
  • We pledge increased government transparency and accountability.
  • We pledge that we will not allow censorship of the Internet for anything except for in the most extreme circumstances (such as in the case of military secrets or images of child abuse).

It strikes me that everything in their manifesto is founded upon an excellent knowledge of how the internet has changed society. At this stage I am only a party member but I have offered to provide advice on certain issues when available. A more intensive role, considering I have just started work in the PR industry, is not possible.

 

Technology should be embraced, not feared.

 

Research into Latent Semantic Analytics

Over the last year the internet has evolved, a transition which we now all abide by although may not have acknowledged. Content is no longer king, context is.

The sheer volume of data being created each minute is staggering (check out this infographic) and techniques are constantly being developed in order to search and organise this data. In the PR industry it is critical to keep an eye on all data relating to clients, surrounding topics and key influencers. The vast amount of content avaliable makes this task easy but only if easy search solutions exist.

For my dissertation I researched a very new area of online analytics called Latent Semantic Analytics. The process has existed for decades but only a handful of organisations have managed to use the mathmatical technique for business means. Within my dissertation I explore the benefits of Latent Semantic Analytics by how the process can create relationships between words depending upon their frequency and contexts.

I managed to gain a First for this piece of research and I am pleased to be able to share it with you all online today. Not only do I hope you find the content of my dissertation interesting but current PR students may find it useful to read in terms of the structure I used.

 

Feel free to share this post with anybody you think would be relevant and if you have any questions I will try my best to answer them!

How I landed myself a Graduate PR Role

It is my aim in this blog post to provide an honest overview of my graduate scheme search and how I landed my upcoming graduate role at Red. This is an extremely “transparent” post which covers my experiences precisely.

 

It would be dishonest for me to say that the only graduate scheme I applied for was Red. Such an act would be lunacy in an economic environment drowned in talented graduates. For the last 3 to 4 years it has been necessary for upcoming University leavers to apply for as many job roles as possible. Graduate unemployment has hit its highest level since 1995; members of my class were not able to leave all their eggs in one basket.

The approach I took when applying for graduate schemes was to ask myself if they filled the below criteria:

  1. Would the role suit my interests?
  2. Does the organisation “feel” right for me?
  3. Will I be able to live on the salary?

When I started applying for schemes in January I made sure that I could answer ‘yes’ to each of these points. Thanks to a superb list of 2012 graduate schemes by Ben Cotton I had somewhere to start. Yet I only applied to organisations who appealed in some way to me. Each scheme I applied for provided me with different processes, different experiences and I am going to share some of what I learn’t within this post today.

Firstly it is important to note that the majority of public relations graduate schemes are not exclusively open to graduate public relations students. Indeed a graduate from any discipline can apply for a PR role. This doesn’t undervalue the worth of a PR degree (we are at an advantage with the skills taught to us) but instead makes the process a lot harder.

Edelman
I was one of the lucky thirty to make it through to the Edelman assessment day. Their process involved the initial application, telephone interview and finally the assessment day. Needless to say making it through to the assessment day alone was a an experience which I was thankful for. On the day I was interview by three individuals within the company, took part in a written assessment and did a presentation to a panel of eight employees. On the whole it went well, especially for my interview as I was rated in the top five.

Edelman was tricky though. Even though most of my assessment day was ranked highly I was considered to be ‘too good’ for their apprenticeship scheme. To this day I disagree with this observation as an experience in a multinational agency such as Edelman would have been extremely valuable. Yet it may not have pushed me considering my already in-depth experiences at Microsoft due to the structure of their scheme.

They clearly value their potential employees as HR assigned me to be interview by their Digital Team – a role which would have put my 9 months ahead of the apprenticeship scheme. Whilst my interview with them went really well I did not get the role with them – competition was too high and another individual (not necessarily a graduate) with more experience obtained the role.

Instead saw my skills to be better aligned in analytics (I did try and convince them that my maths aren’t that good!) so asked me for another interview but with the analytics team. Due to my experience at Microsoft doing Online Advertising I knew that an analytics based role was not quite right for me, after much thought I graciously declined the interview.

Edelman are a forward thinking agency who tried to find a part of their business to plug me into but at this time it did not work. Everyone I met at the agency in London were delightful, very bright but what they could offer me was not quite right in the end.

An undisclosed smaller agency
Out of all the agencies I applied for my most confusing experience was with a smaller agency based in London. Their assessment day involved a group task and presentation, successful candidates were then invited back for a final interview. In particular I found the group assessment nerve racking as one of the candidates (who studies law) recognised me from my blog. Whilst this gave me a push to perform to prove my ‘real world value’ to this follower, it did cause me to worry. Living up to people’s expectations can, at times, be worrisome.

Nevertheless I managed to obtain a final interview with this agency which went incredibly well. By chance I had already seen clients of theirs in the media and could rehearse the media impact of them in 2011 without strain. It is remarkable what stress, focus and the desire to please will do to the mind.

I left the interview almost certain that I would get a job offer from them within the next week. Whilst this delighted me I knew that I was still waiting back from Edelman and had yet started Red’s graduate scheme processes. I’ve never been one to settle for the easy option if a better choice existed and at this stage I was not certain this small agency was right for me – despite the friendliness of its staff.

After a couple of weeks though the agency didn’t get in contact – rather confusing as after a final interview the decision is usually quite quick. I then found out from the manager that the agency had already done some hiring and had yet to make a decision about me, to help make their decision I agreed to do two days work experience for them. Those two days seemed to go well although obviously, being a work experience student, most of the time you tend to feel like a spare part.

After the two days were up a few days passed and the agency revealed uncertainty about my position due to client movements, eventually they were going to award me a role which would start in August.

To be honest my interest in them was dying at this point, not due to their business approach but because obtaining a graduate role with them was really drawn out. Even though I had spent in the region of £80 going to their various days (National Express Coaches and Oyster purchases) they seemed to find it difficult to make their decisions. Whilst everyone in the company was a pleasure to work with and meet I couldn’t commit any more time to processes and start dates were far too late.

Red
Red’s campaigns frequently receive attention in the PR industry; creativity is their weapon and their approach should be inspiring for smaller upcoming agencies. All of their employees were pleasant to speak with, their flat structure even meant speaking with managers to be easy and they were honest throughout the whole procedure. I left the Red assessment day and final interview with nerves and high hopes I wished to suppress. Somehow I knew that they were the agency for me and if they decided against my application it would have dealt a heavy blow.

Thankfully I got the job and cannot wait to start.

I did get rejections
I’m aware that I have only listed three agencies who I managed to get into the final stages for. In reality I also got rejected from a handful of agencies in either the first stages or after telephone interview. The fact I eventually obtained a graduate role in the end shows that every agency is looking for somebody different for their organisation. Whilst you may not make it through one scheme, another organisation may find you suitable for an assessment day and may even offer you a role.

Throughout my graduate job search I have placed a large focus on my emotional reactions towards agencies. This is the first step into my career and so I must take every job offer seriously but at the same time I must make sure that I will grow.

In summary my graduate job search revealed these lessons to me:

1# Check that you keep your top button on your shirt done up. When I attended the Edelman assessment day it was warm so I had my top button undone. Unfortunately I forgot to do it up before the interview. Despite this I was rated in the top five who were interviewed that day but pictures taken on the day revealed the unsightly undone button. Thankfully they didn’t mind too much (some graduates on the day were not even wearing proper suits!) but it is worth remembering the top button.

2# Finding a graduate job is important but make sure the agency is right for you. Some agencies may do fantastic traditional PR but their digital approaches may be lacking. Everyone in the PR industry has to take digital seriously. Think of your CV – do you really want to work for an agency whose approaches are still set in the noughties? No.

3# Don’t take rejections personally. I was rejected in the early stages of Blue Rubicon and Hotwire – yet Edelman, the world’s largest PR agency, accepted me for interview. Agencies look for different sorts of candidates and sometimes we are not the perfect match. Keep applying.

4# When applying for graduate schemes it is important to only apply for those organisations you are actually interested working for. On that note don’t just apply for one or two schemes. Apply for every scheme which takes your fancy. Some applications are deliberately made long to cut down the amount of applicants. Each PR graduate scheme receives between 300 – 700 applications, play the numbers game and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

5# Understand your role, contract length and salary before applying. Someone I know from my class was offered a job at a salary of £16,000 a year. Man cannot live away from home with bills, food and travel on this sort of pay. The minimum salary for a PR graduate these days is £18,000.

6# The chances are that members of your class will probably be applying for the same jobs as you. Your class mates are the competition but don’t let this deter you.

7# During group interviews (which usually involve a task) always remain the courteous person you are. On one assessment day a graduate on my team was incredibly rude, overly competitive and a pain to worth with. He didn’t get the role because no agency wishes to have someone like that in one of their teams.

8# If you have a chance after an assessment day spend time talking with other graduates. Everyone is usually very friendly and talking allows you to gauge your competition. Competition for new talent in the PR industry at the moment is very high!

9# Don’t forget the skills you have learnt at University. Those who do not come from a PR degree tend to forget the basics such as objectives, strategy, tactics and evaluation in campaign planning. Use structures like this to really make your ideas stand out. Make sure you use a mix between traditional and digital PR.

10# The final and most important point of all – RELAX. You have nothing to be nervous about. Nerves can hinder your performance so remain relaxed at all times, enjoy assessment days for the attention you get and before not too long you will land yourself a job.

 

I hope that this blog post has proved to be useful and that I haven’t upset any PR agencies in its publication! Let me know if you have any questions. I would also love to know your best and worst experiences of job hunting.

Don’t fall at the first hurdle…

Elly Russell is a final year student at the University of Brighton who is studying (BA) Hons Business Studies with Marketing. She has a strong interest in Digital Marketing, loves scuba diving and is starting her search for a job for after she has graduated. She has kindly provided this article for the blog giving job advice for the newly graduated.

As a final year graduate at the University of Brighton, I am fully aware of the quiet panic that is going through every soon-to-be graduate’s minds at the moment (along with passing exams) – how to I nail the search for graduate jobs? This is a tricky area and so many people make such stupid mistakes that can so easily be avoided. I’m here to give you some tips on cardinal sins that people are still making and for you not to do the same. According to a study conducted by The Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, there are three mistakes that were the most detrimental to succeeding in gaining a graduate job.

39.9% of graduates were not dressed properly for the interview
This is something that can be so easily fixed. This is a professional situation when you are invited to a company’s office for an interview or Assessment Centre, therefore you must look the part as this is going to contribute towards their first impression of you.

Think about what you intend to wear and go even smarter. This means a suit with a shirt and tie for the boys. The use of an iron is essential and make sure there is no evidence of novelty socks, as hilarious as they are. For girls this is a bit more tricky; keep it simple and if you don’t think you can handle wearing heels then don’t. It’s never worth risking falling on your face in front of your new employer so stick to what you know. Festival bands, tattoos and piercings should be covered up as much as you can – it is not necessarily considered professional and employers are not going to be interested in them so it’s worth keeping them hidden for the day.

29.1% of graduates are late for the interview
This is another area that can be so easily avoided. Aim to arrive at the office 10 minutes before you are expected to show up, so you appear punctual and you can gather your thoughts and your nerves before you go in. If you are travelling by car, keep up with the traffic reports and obviously make sure you have enough petrol and a sat nav if necessary. Parking can take a while as well, so I would leave the house 30 minutes earlier than expected to avoid any unforeseen hiccups and you can still arrive to the interview on time. For those of you who are travelling by train, make sure you don’t miss your train times and try and get an earlier arrival so you can find the office in good time.

25.9% are not prepared for the interview
This is probably one of the most damaging mistakes a graduate can make, as this can imply a lack of interest in the role and creates a negative impression before you have even given them the opportunity to show them what you are capable of. Look up all the information you can about the company, in particular the field that you are going to be working in. It is also worth knowing what competitors they level with and what their angle is in the market in comparison to the company’s capabilities. Sign up to their newsletters and request a brochure if you can, so you have an idea of what their trading operations are. Make sure you have some questions that you are going to ask the company; prepare about 10 or so and memorise them so you are ready when they ask you: ‘Do you have any questions for us?’

So there you have it. By conquering these, you are already ahead of most of the competition in the graduate jobs market and you don’t make yourself look like a fool! Sounds simple enough, eh?

 

That’s it then, I’ve finished University

That is University. It didn’t last too long. Before the first year had even begun the clock had already starting ticking, like unlikely footsteps towards a graduation ceremony. Before you know it University is over. No more assignments, exams or nights out. A move which in all proportions shakes the very foundations of a student’s sole as education has been everything. From the age of three I have found myself subject to the education system. It comes with a hierachy of teachers playing god (especially in secondary school) and University being bridge between studying and the ‘real world’. By the time one hits their early twenties they have usally had enough – I’m twenty two.

Education is one thing but now the hard work really begins. Obtaining a degree, even though the process was mostly affirmable, was a necesity. In terms of the public relations industry a degree has prepared me to build up key skills, understand industry issues, growth patterns and has increased my contacts. Lets not forget that it was also through studying at the University of Gloucestershire that I was accepted as an intern at Microsoft.

The hard work begins with practising public relations, driving results for clients and to build up a strong portfolio of knowledge and experience. Within five years time the degree on my CV will be meaningless unless I can prove my worth by practising public relations. In the beginning this will mean living at home but hopefully, as my situation becomes more stable, I’ll be able to move out.

The biggest loss of University will be the people I have met. In some ways the blow has already been softened, by the time I returned for my fourth final year many friends of mine had already left Cheltenham. Therefore losing contact with people has been a staggered approach but not one I wish to repeat. I expect to keep in contact with the majority of people from my final year, especially through Facebook but undoubtedly I may not see some faces for a few years or ever again. Scary.

For those student who read my blog who still have time at University left – enjoy it. Make the most of your time because the clock is already ticking. There is nothing more daunting than being forced into the real world, nothing more exhilarating either.

Of course the only pressing decision I have to make now is how this blog should evolve. Its title is ‘Musings of a PR Student’ which clearly cannot stand for much longer as the PR student days are close to an end. So a name change is certainly due; should a small design change also take place? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

An insightful, intellectual and interesting chat with Neville Hobson

 

Neville Hobson

Neville Hobson first began blogging in 2002, a hobby which grew to incorporate how a business should communicate using digital communication channels. Today he has over 25 years’ experience in public relations, marketing communication and financial relations. His acclaimed statis is clearly exampled by his popular Twitter profile boasting over 10,000 followers.

Today my class and I were fortunate enough to meet him thanks to our lecturer David Phillips. Due to unforseen circumstances involving smoke and a broken car Neville Hobson met the class via Skype but this by no means detracted from him sharing his knowledge and insight. You can read his views of this event in his latest blog post, which is accompanied with a rather fetching picture of my face (pixalation is a godsend in this case).

During the one hour discussion which involved members of the class asking questions relating to the PR industry Neville Hobson shared his views concerning digital communication, intellectual property laws, ethics and his own online activities. Out of all the discussions my main focus point was the PR industry’s approach to online measurement.

I’m still unsure to whether Neville Hobson knows that I partially analysed his Twitter feed within my dissertation to example some basic techniques behind Latent Semantic Analysis (for more information concerning this technique visit this post). So listening to his views, especially his distaste for Klout, reinforced just how critical measurement is for the PR industry.

The insights he shared concerning measurement were rather similar to mine in the sense that agencies ‘in the know’ are attempting to reach their own standardisations, especially Edelman but pinpointing how reputation should be measured is difficult. Do 5000 Facebook ‘likes’ equate to reputation? Does positive sentiment lead to good reputation? These questions deserve blog posts in their own right.

A couple of members from the class put a heavy focus on the social connotations of social media. How these platforms could effect society as a whole through allowing collaboration in business, schools and in our personal lives. Neville Hobson indicated that it is still the case that the minority of people use these social tools but that minority is growing. Social media should compliment our work rather than become the main objective.

It was a very informative class and a wonderful opportunity to speak with one of the thought leaders in the PR industry. Perhaps the most important question I should have posed to Neville Hobson is “Do you fancy meeting in the future for a beer?”. Hopefully one day.

 

Fancy some Raspberry Pi?

Education secretary, Michael Gove, publically announced in January that the current ICT curriculum in schools is “demotivating and dull”. He was right. Throughout my secondary school years teachers had a limited understanding of technology as shown through their ‘how to use Microsoft Office’ lessons. Children today, even by the age of eight, are competently computer literate due to the technological society we now live in. This makes the current ICT curriculum require radical reform which will teach children how to code and how computers actually work. This reform is now in place.

The UK is investing in a digital economy. In the past the majority of goods were wrought out of plastic and metal – we produced physical items. Today much of our produce is digital and the government needs to put the correct education in place to sustain society for the future.

Part of the problem behind children learning to program is due to changes in the hardware and software market. When I was five years old (1995) my Dad used an internet connected Windows 3.1 machine. I was able to learn some basic commands through MSDOS in order to control functions on the computer. This was closely followed with learning the basics behind HTML. When I was eight I was rewarded with my own Windows 95 computer which I was free to take apart, rebuild and mess with programming wise.

Today computers have changed dramatically. It is much harder for children to learn how to program because the software is closed. It is possible to download free tools online to learn various programming languages but this takes effort compared to my generation where having a basic knowledge of coding was required to even use a computer.

So was born Raspberry Pi, a credit card sized computer which was developed by Cambridge graduate EBen Upton and colleagues that provides children with the opportunity to start programming. It exists today as a small circuit board (no case yet) that can run various Linux operating systems and comes preloaded with Python libraries.

Rory Cellan-Jones with Raspberry Pi

It is the perfect system for adventurous children who wish to explore computers with greater depth. It also turns out it is the perfect system for geeky adults too. Since the Raspberry Pi project was posted on BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones’ blog interest for the device as sparked a huge pre-order list. Not only capturing the imagination of children and geeky adults but for alternative uses such as in robotics courses.

The best bit about Raspberry Pi? It’s price of $25. Although it is a UK project all costs are in dollars due to component pricing and economic stability. If you want to pre-order one from the UK then expect a price of £30. However there are units being sold on eBay for over £100! Madness.

I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these devices. For the moment I’ll wait patiently on the pre-order list for my Raspberry Pi unit. Unless the Raspberry Pi project fancy giving me a unit to review? Wishful thinking!