Second hand servers + personal data = $35 million

Morgan Stanley is one of the most renowned banks in the world. It started business on Wall Street in New York back in 1935 and has grown so that it now has a market capitalisation of around $150 billion and employs approximately 70,000.

It’s obviously good at a lot of things but one area it wasn’t so good at was looking after the personal data of about 15 million customers.

Probably one of the first things that come to mind when protecting the personal details of clients are the security systems to protect the data within the bank such as passwords, firewalls, etc.

The problem for Morgan Stanley though was the data that was in computer hardware that was scrapped.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused Smith Barney (Morgan Stanley’s wealth management business), of “astonishing” shortcomings.

The problems arose when Morgan Stanley disposed of thousands of hard drives and servers.

On multiple occasions a moving and storage business with no experience in data destruction services was hired to decommission these hard drives.

In other words, the hard drives and servers which were being scrapped should have had all the personal details removed.

Unfortunately this didn’t happen and instead the moving business then sold thousands of these devices to a third party. This third party then resold them on an internet auction site.

Some of the devices were subsequently recovered but the SEC said that Morgan Stanley “has not recovered the vast majority of the devices”.

The devices which were recovered were found to contain “thousands of pieces of unencrypted customer data”.

The end result is that Morgan Stanley has agreed to pay a $35 million penalty to settle charges.

There’s a valuable lesson to be learnt from this as responsibility for the safeguarding of personal data remains with the organisation and this includes making sure that the destruction of hardware containing that data is done in such a way that the data is erased and does not find it’s way into other people’s hands.

Big 4 Students Cheat in Ethics Exam

Albert Einstein famously said that “relativity applies to physics, not ethics.”

The point here being that morality is a concept that applies to everyone, and there are no exceptions that make it OK for a person to lie, steal, … or cheat. This seems like a fairly intuitive observation, but as a recent news story suggests, it’s clear that not everyone abides by the rules of ethics.

A group of audit professionals working for Ernst and Young in America made national headlines back in June when they were revealed to have cheated in, of all things, an ethics exam. You’d think these students would be well versed in the difference between right and wrong, but as this ironic transgression shows, the wise words of Einstein and other moral philosophers had made little impact.

According to the results of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), 49 EY audit professionals cheated on exams over multiple years in order to acquire and maintain their Certified Public Accountant licences. They succeeded by using answer keys and sharing these amongst their colleagues. In addition to the 49 main offenders, there were several other staff members who did not cheat, but still violated the firm’s code of conduct by knowing about the offence and failing to report it.

Ernst and Young agreed to pay a record $100 million fine to US investigators, and released a statement in response to the wrongdoing:

“Nothing is more important than our integrity and our ethics,” the statement read. “We are confident that the outcomes of the undertakings will reinforce steps we have already taken in the years since these situations occurred. “Sharing answers on any assessment or exam is a violation of our Code of Conduct and is not tolerated at EY. Our response to this unacceptable past behaviour has been thorough, extensive, and effective.”

So what lessons can we learn from this story?

In short, if you’re studying for your ACCA exams, avoid any sort of misconduct at all costs, ironic or not. Here are a few tips to get you through this stressful time without resorting to cheating.

– Study: It sounds obvious but the only way to get through your exams is to study hard. Given we’re an ACCA Platinum provider of courses we’d strongly recommend one of our ACCA eLearning courses and you can register for a free ACCA demo course here.

– Be prepared: Preparation is key to exam success, so don’t leave everything to the last minute. Our courses include a unique study plan tailored for you which uses elements of Artificial Intelligence. This sets out recommended dates for studying based on your study style but the key thing is not to leave it to the last minute!

– Stay calm: Exams can be stressful, so it’s important to keep calm and not let your nerves overwhelm you. Get plenty of sleep the night before your exam, and take a moment to think about each question before you rush into an answer.

Good luck!

10 reasons to become ACCA or CIMA qualified

If you’re considering a career in accountancy, then you’ve probably already heard of the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) exams. After all, a lot of people consider one of these qualifications a prerequisite to exploring this career and are often listed under required qualifications in job interviews.

However, if you’re still not convinced, here are 10 reasons to become ACCA or CIMA qualified!

1. Access to global work opportunities.

Both ACCA and CIMA are globally recognised qualifications in over 100 countries, which means that they are great qualifications for those who are considering working abroad.

2. You’ll gain practical experience.

Theoretical knowledge is important, but it often does not surpass practical hands-on experience. Both the ACCA and CIMA qualification works to prepare you for the reality of a career in accountancy, by providing you with all of the necessary skills to succeed.

3. You’ll gain expert-level knowledge.

No matter your previous experience, once you’ve got an ACCA or CIMA qualification, you are prepared to begin your professional accountancy career, because you’ve worked through an extensive and detailed curriculum.

4. You can study on your own terms.

You can study for the ACCA and CIMA certification whenever you want, meaning you can balance your studies around your career, university or childcare responsibilities. Our ACCA and CIMA courses operate online so you can also study from the comfort of your own home.

5. You can increase your earning potential.

When it comes to applying for jobs, the more skills and qualifications you have under the belt, the higher your earning potential. As a result, you can apply for higher-salaried positions within accountancy despite being relatively new to the industry.

6. You can stand out in the job market.

On average, 118 people apply for a single job opening. As a result, you need to find as many ways as possible to enhance your resume – and having additional qualifications under your belt is a great way to achieve this goal.

7. You can fight off imposter syndrome.

According to a recent study, 70% of workers experience imposter syndrome in the early stages of their career. That is the fear that they don’t belong in their position, perhaps due to a lack of experience or knowledge. As the ACCA and CIMA qualifications prepares you for a career as an accountant, it will be easier to put these worries to bed. Not only do you deserve your position, but you have all the skills you need to perform well and impress.

8. You’ll learn something new every day.

When you are studying a course as varied as the ACCA or CIMA ones you will learn a lot of new things, which is a great way to ensure you remain focused and invested in your studies.

9. You’ll progress in your career quickly.

While the speed at which you obtain your ACCA or CIMA qualification will vary depending on your study patterns (part-time, full-time etc), having these credentials to add to your CV will enable you to progress quickly in your career.

10. ACCA and CIMA are badges of honour.

The ACCA and CIMA qualifications are highly-regarded in the world of accountancy and finance – as a result, they’re a great credential to put on your resume.

If you’re studying for the ACCA or CIMA qualifications but feel as though you need a helping hand, why not sign up for one of our eLearning courses?

Led by industry experts, they are designed to help you get up to speed with your studies while developing the skills you need to succeed. Register for a free demo ACCA course today on this link or a free demo CIMA course on this link to find out more!

Not the best way to resign…

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of someone resigning from their job?

Perhaps an early morning meeting with their boss?

Maybe a polite letter to the company explaining why the time has come for them to move on?

Well, not so fast. Some workers are more inventive than that. According to reports in South Africa, one worker decided to exit in style. Instead of writing a letter or holding a frank meeting with his superiors, he decided to take “extreme action” on his boss’s desk after mistakenly believing that he had won the lottery. Now the man in question has no job, no money, and is facing criminal charges.

But what went wrong?

It turns out that the quitter was a victim of a trick. The worker in question allegedly played Lotto and Powerball every week. The morning after one fateful Powerball draw, his brother decided to prank him. He bought a ticket with the previous day’s winning numbers on it and gave it to the man in question.

Convinced he had won, the man marched to his company’s office where he had been working for the past twenty years, defecated on his boss’s desk, urinated around it, and then shouted at colleagues, telling them what he thought of them (which wasn’t nice stuff, by the way). He then marched out triumphantly, believing he was a multi-millionaire.

Unfortunately, the man hadn’t won anything. And now there is little prospect of him ever getting his old job back.

There is hope, though. He could still win the lottery next week…

Cash is king but jewellery looks nicer…

Before cash came along, people used to barter. Somebody who had grown vegetables would exchange potatoes they’d grown with a baker who’d baked bread. A farmer would exchange a cow with someone who had grown rice. And so on…

This was all very well if you had lots of vegetables or lots of cows but exchanging 1,000 kg of potatoes for the latest Xbox or taking a cow with you to pay for cinema tickets was never going to work.

As a result, along came cash.

The Lydians (now part of Turkey) are widely believed to be the first Western culture to make coins and their first coins came in to existence way back around the time of 700 BC.

Since then things have developed.

Bills of Exchange were introduced in Italy in the 12th century (Bills of Exchange are paper documents which enable traders to buy and sell goods without having to carry cash).

The Bank of England introduced printed cheques in 1717.

The first credit card in the UK was issued in 1966.

Online banking was launched in the late 1990s.

Through all of this cash has remained and there are now 180 currencies recognised as legal tender by the United Nations member states.

Things are changing though and Apple, Samsung and Google all have contactless payment systems whereby money is loaded onto an app on your phone and payment can be made by scanning your phone at a contactless terminal.

The company Ringly have taken things a step further though and have a partnership with MasterCard which enables you to pay for items with the tap of a ring.

The rings that Ringly sell (including the ring shown in the photo above) cost between $195 and $260 and use technology to link the ring to your phone to access the Ringly app. The app will then enable payment to be made. This is pretty impressive given that all the technology has to be fitted onto the surface of the ring.

The end result is that you will be able to purchase items via a contactless terminal by simply tapping your ring without getting your wallet or purse out.

So, is this a genuinely useful idea or just a “gimmick”? After all, you’ll still need your phone with you to make a payment.

Either way, it’s a nice excuse if you were thinking of buying a new ring.

Laziness and intelligence.

Are you lazy? Do you know anyone who is lazy?

Whilst a lot of you won’t admit to being lazy (and I’m sure most of you aren’t in fact lazy!), some of you will know somebody who you feel is lazy.

Is it such a bad thing to be lazy though?

Perhaps not, as according to a study by scientists from Florida Gulf Coast University laziness could correlate with high intelligence.

The study found that people with a high IQ rarely got bored. As a result, they spent more time lost in thought. On the other hand, the study suggested that less intelligent people were more likely to be prone to boredom and consequently were more likely to do more physical activity.

The researchers worked with 2 types of students. The first group expressed a strong desire to think a lot whilst the second group were keen to avoid doing things which were mentally taxing.

The participants were then fitted with fitness trackers which monitored how much they exercised over a 7 day period. The study found that people who thought a lot were much less active than those individuals who avoided high-level thinking. Interestingly, this discrepancy in levels of activity only happened during the week and there was no difference during the weekend.

Before any of the lazy people out there start claiming that they are more intelligent, it’s worth noting that the sample size of the test was small and further tests will be needed to prove the correlation.

DR Book $1.2m; CR Cash $1.2m

If I asked you how much would you pay for a book on double-entry, I’m guessing most of you wouldn’t be willing to pay $1.2m.

Whilst accountants the world over know and (sometimes) love double-entry, the most that most people would have paid for a book on double entry would be £20 to £30 when they were studying for their exams.

A book on double entry was sold a couple of years ago though for a lot more.

A great deal more in fact. 

$1,215,000 to be exact.

The book is an extremely rare book written by Luca Pacioli.

Luca Pacioli?

That name probably sounds familiar to many accountants reading this as Luca Pacioli was a Franciscan monk who came up with the concept of double entry back in the 15th century.

The book that was sold is called Summa de arithmetica and was printed in Venice in 1494. It contains the first published description of double-entry bookkeeping.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) hold two copies of the book (neither of these are the book that was sold for $1.2m).

If you’re interested in looking at the contents of Summa de arithmetica you can do so courtesy of ICAEW’s “Turning the page library”.

Summa de arithmetica can be viewed here.

Burning calories and cash

Do you have a bank card and do you go to the gym?

If you do, then watch out if the gym has lockers which are locked using a code on a pin pad.

London accountant, Matthew Spencer, had nearly £10,000 stolen from his bank account and he believes it all happened while he was working out at an upmarket gym in Canary Wharf.

The fraudsters were very clever as it looks like they saw what pin code Matthew used when locking his locker and then when he was out of the changing room used that code to open his locker. Rather than steal his whole wallet though they only stole his HSBC debit card from his wallet.

Having taken his debit card they then correctly assumed that the pin code he’d used on the locker was the same for his debit card.

It was only later that day when Matthew went to buy a tube ticket that he realised his debit card was missing and after checking with the bank found that nearly £10,000 had been spent that day on computers, top restaurants and cash withdrawals.

Unfortunately for Matthew, the bank refused to refund the money as the card was used with the pin code. 

The moral of this unfortunate situation though is that if you do go to the gym and use lockers with a pin code then make sure it is a different code from the one you use on your bank cards.

Something to crow about…

At the time of writing the Puy du Fou historical theme park in France has got over 16,000 TripAdvisor reviews and a 5 star rating. It’s clearly a very successful theme park and it’s the second most visited theme park in France behind Disneyland Paris.

The staff at the theme park no doubt work very hard to keep it running smoothly but there are 6 of the team who are very different.

These 6 team members are hard working but they are different to the rest of the team in that they won’t receive a salary and they won’t have fixed working hours.

Oh, and they are different in that they are crows.

Yes, the 6 team members are birds.

These aren’t just any birds though. They are birds who have been trained to pick up cigarette ends and other small pieces of rubbish. In exchange for dropping this rubbish in a specially designed rubbish box they will receive a small bit of bird food as a reward.

Nicolas de Villiers of the Puy du Fou park was quoted in the Guardian newspaper as saying “The goal is not just to clear up, because the visitors are generally careful to keep things clean” but also to show that “nature itself can teach us to take care of the environment”.

A very nice initiative by the park and certainly something to crow about…

How to impress over a business lunch…

Picture the scene. You’ve got an important business lunch coming up. You want to make a good impression on the person you are meeting with. What should you eat for lunch?

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology has some interesting findings which indicate that if you have an important business lunch, there are various benefits to ordering the same food as the person you are trying to impress.

Scientists from the University of Chicago studied nearly 500 people to identify whether eating the same food helped them agree in negotiations.

The researcher’s conclusion was that people who are served the same food are more likely to trust each other, smooth out problems and make deals.

As part of the study, participants in the research were told to imagine they were “investors” who had to decide whether to invest in funds operated by their “fund manager” eating partners. The researchers found that those people who were served similar food invested more money.

Another interesting finding in the study was the link between food consumption and the effectiveness of advertising. The authors said that “consumers are more trusting of information about non-food products – e.g. a software product – when the advertiser in the product testimonial eats similar food to them”.

Back to the business lunch though and although the research found that there are benefits to ordering the same food as the person you are trying to impress, I’m not sure that if you’re wearing a nice clean white shirt to the lunch meeting you should necessarily follow the other person in ordering that “tricky to eat tidily spaghetti with the sloppy tomato sauce”…

Would you stand for this?

Do you work in an office? Do you sit down at your desk most of the working day?

If you do, then it may be a good idea to ensure you stand up and move around a bit during the day.

Recent research has estimated that 1 in 9 deaths can be blamed on sitting down for at least 6 hours a day.

Let’s pause for a moment as that’s a shocking figure!

In the UK alone that would equate to thousands of people dying every year due to lack of movement and the cost to the National Health Service is estimated at £700 million annually.

Research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health estimated that 17% of diabetes, 5% of heart disease and 8% of lung cancer cases could be avoided with less sitting.

Leonie Heron from Queen’s University Belfast was the lead author of the study and said “You need to put your body under a little bit of stress to maintain a healthy heart and whole system”.

She went on to say that “It suggests that it is bad for our health how our working lives are structured for a lot of people. You can attenuate that risk by being more active in your leisure time, but it’s something employers can look at. Maybe they should be providing opportunities for employees to be active during the day, perhaps making sure people move every hour…or providing opportunities during lunch and coffee breaks.”

My guess is that a lot of you do sit down for at least 6 hours a day working at your computer. It’s probably a good idea therefore to remind yourself to get up and move a bit when you can as it will be good for your health.

Unless, that is of course, you’re getting up to walk out of the office to have a cigarette…

Splash out on a new purchase

The Swedish furniture giant IKEA often comes up with innovative advertising ideas. One of those was when they ran a magazine advert that offered a discount on a baby’s crib to pregnant mothers.

Now, whilst in itself there’s nothing unusual about offering promotions to certain segments of the market, what is unusual is how the promotion is claimed.

The magazine advert ran in an issue of the Swedish lifestyle magazine Amelia, and the full-page advert read: “Peeing on this ad might change your life.”

Yes, there was a patch on the magazine which was an actual pregnancy test. If you peed on it and were pregnant then a discount code would be revealed which would provide you with a discount on the IKEA crib.

A couple of points spring to mind.

Making sure you’ve finished reading the magazine before trying to reveal the discount code is one of them and also an online order would probably be better than taking in the “code voucher” to your nearest IKEA store is the second.

Having said that you have to admire the ad agency behind the novel idea.

Akestam Holst were the ad agency that came up with the idea and they told adweek that “In order to make the interactive functions of this ad work in reality, we had to make several technical advancements. The pregnancy test strip was used as a starting point, which relies on antibodies that bind to the pregnancy hormone hCG, resulting in a color change. For scaling up of this technique and adopting it to the physical format of a printed ad, Mercene Labs has used their experience in development of surface active materials for microfluidics and medical diagnostics. Careful selection of materials, together with a controlled capillary flow have been crucial for the success of this project. Technical advancements made during the work with this campaign have the potential to improve medical diagnostics.”

So all in all, a very unusual advert and whilst some people thought it was a hoax, it is true and the pregnancy test (and discount code) both work.

In summary, it is true and it is not taking the ….

(Let’s just say it’s not taking the mick).

Superman helps hackers.

It’s a sign of the times that hackers are constantly on the lookout for weaknesses in people’s computer security systems.

Individuals can go a long way to making things more difficult for the hackers by ensuring they have up to date anti-virus software in place and that their passwords are good passwords.

But what is a good password?

Before answering that, let’s look at some bad passwords.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) released a report on some of the most hacked passwords. They analysed hacked accounts where details were being sold by hackers.

In one year alone an astonishing 23 million people around the world with the password “123456” were hacked.

You should really hang your head in shame if your password is 123456 as it’s very easy to hack into.

OK, what about the name of your favourite football team as your password. Would that provide you with more protection?

Alas not as football team names are very common passwords.

Roughly 280,000 accounts were breached in a year with the password “Liverpool”. 

“Chelsea” and “Man-Utd” passwords were breached 216,000 and 59,000 times respectively.

Using the names of your favourite music artist also isn’t a good idea.

The most popular passwords using the names of music artists are “blink182” and “50cent” (these are probably popular as they satisfy the need to have letters and numbers in a password).

If you’re a fan of superheroes then avoid Superman, which was the most common superhero inspired password.

So, onto good passwords.

According to Ian Levy, the Technical Director of NCSC, “Using hard to guess passwords is a strong first step and we recommend combining three random but memorable words. Be creative and use words memorable to you, so people can’t guess your password.”

There you go.

As easy as 123 or should that be, as easy as “123456”…

I’ll stick to that…

New product innovation is vital for lots of organisations. Sometimes though the idea for a new product can come from unusual places.

VELCRO is a type of hook and loop fastener which we’ve all seen. It has that characteristic “rasping” sound when you pull it apart and will stick back together with the minimum of fuss. It’s commonly used in clothing and shoes to replace buttons, zips and laces.

So, who came up with the idea?

George de Mestral was a Swiss engineer and in 1941 he got the inspiration for VELCRO whilst out with his dog in the Alps.

He noticed that as his dog ran past Burdock plants, the burrs of the plant (a tiny seed covered in hundreds of microscopic ‘hooks’) would catch onto his dog’s fur.

That was his “eureka moment” and he spent the next 10 years investigating how he could get “hooks” like those found on the plant to engage with the “loops” found on materials.

The key thing was to be able to secure it together but then pull it apart (and then keep on repeating this without it breaking!)

Luckily, he had friends in the weaving industry who helped him work on prototypes and the end result was that in 1955 he filed his first patent for the hook and loop fasteners.

He also needed a distinctive name to go with his invention and he came up with VELCRO.

VELCRO is in fact a combination of the French words “velour” (velvet) and “crochet” (hook). VELCRO therefore in effect means “hooked velvet”.

Since it’s launch it has gone on to become one of the most used items in clothing and all of this came about as a result of a man walking with his dog in 1941.

Does your corporate logo cover a continent?

112 years ago Theodor Tobler and Emil Baumann invented the chocolate bar Toblerone. The name is a play on the names “Tobler” and “Torrone”, the Italian word for honey and almond nougat.

It is one of the most recognizable brands in the world and anyone that has travelled through a major airport will almost certainly have seen the famous chocolate bar produced by Kraft Foods for sale in one of the duty free outlets.

One of the most important aspects of a successful brand is the logo.

The Toblerone logo is well known but do you see an animal hidden inside it?

Toblerone originated in Bern, Switzerland – a city whose name is rumored to mean, “City of bears”. Look at the logo again closely and you will find a bear facing to the right and stood on its hind legs.

Although I’m biased I love the ExP logo. According to the designers it is fresh, sharp, simple and easy to remember. Also, the “ExP Man” in the middle emphasises the people aspect of the business.

It’s great but there is another logo which I think is extremely clever.

If you look at the Yoga Australia Logo what do you see?

At first glance the logo may look like a simple picture of a woman doing her yoga exercise but if you look at it carefully the body posture is creating the Australia Map.

A great design and thankfully I didn’t pose for it as the map would have looked like a crumpled mess.

Exams for sale….

One of the five fundamental ethical principles is Integrity.

Being straightforward and honest is a vital characteristic of being a professional accountant.

Most people who are studying for their professional exams have one thing on their mind. Namely, to pass their exams but four students who were studying for their ACCA exams had other things on their minds and at the same time, were not the brightest individuals out there.

What they planned to do was to register for some Computer Based Exams (CBEs) and then whilst sitting the exams they would use their mobile phones to take photos of the computer screen showing the questions. They would then sell these photos with the questions on them via the internet.

The four individuals involved, Chen Yiyun, Hiujiao Ru, Zehui Gong and Ziying Wang decided to sell the questions on Taobao Marketplace, a Chinese shopping website.

They no doubt thought that this was an extremely clever way of making some money. What could possibly go wrong by taking photos of the questions and then selling them online?

One of the other fundamental ethical principles is that of Professional Competence.

Now, if these individuals had even a minuscule amount of Professional Competence, they would have reviewed the photos before selling them.

Alas for them they didn’t review them.

If they had reviewed them, they would have seen at the top of the computer screen in the photos their ACCA student registration number and the exam centre.

ACCA were made aware of the questions being for sale and made a test purchase on the Taobao Marketplace. Given the student registration numbers were on the screen, they didn’t need a team of top detectives to identify the individuals involved.

Unsurprisingly, the four individuals are now ex-students of ACCA having been found guilty of misconduct and they were ordered to pay costs ranging from £3,500 to £7,000.

Would a good liar make a good accountant?

Do you have children? Have they ever told you a lie? Even a small teeny weeny lie?

Well, if they have then although you may not be particularly pleased with them, it may actually mean that they have good memories and excellent thinking skills.

Psychologists at the University of Sheffield tested 135 children and found that those children that lied performed much better than the honest children in the group.

The children in the study were aged between 6 and 7 years old and during the study they were given a trivia game. The answers to the trivia game were on the back of the card which they had been given. Initially, each child was in a room accompanied by one of the researchers but the researcher then left the child alone with the card with the answer on the back.

Before leaving the room the researcher told the children not to look at the answer but what the children didn’t know was that when they were alone in the room there were hidden cameras which were monitoring whether they would look at the answers on the back.

25% of the group subsequently cheated and looked at the answers on the back of their cards but claimed that they hadn’t cheated when the researcher returned to the room.

At a later stage, all of the children had to perform a separate memory test and the research found that the children who had lied performed significantly better than those children who didn’t lie.

Dr Tracy Alloway, project lead from the University of North Florida was also involved in the research and said that “this research shows that thought processes, specifically verbal working memory, are important to complex social interactions like lying because the children needed to juggle multiple pieces of information while keeping the researcher’s perspective in mind”.

This has got me thinking as a lot of the readers of this blog are accountants or studying to be accountants.

“Thought processes”, “verbal working memory”, “juggling multiple pieces of information” and “keeping other people’s perspective in mind” are all skills which many accountants need.

Does this mean that you would make a good accountant if you were a good liar when you were a child?

Whatever your answer is, I’m not sure I would believe you…

Some spicy people to follow…

There are over 300 million twitter accounts and more than 500 million tweets are sent per day. That’s an impressive figure that works out at over 5,000 tweets per second.

It can be a useful tool for companies. They can use it to engage with their customers and potential customers by way of branding and promotional activities. They can also use it as a form of a helpdesk or customer support. The Dutch airline KLM for example uses Twitter and Facebook to enable customers to contact them and get a reply within an hour.

Most companies will use Twitter to promote items or get their message out but Twitter user @edgette22 has identified a secret the fast food giant KFC has been keeping within their Twitter account.

KFC is the world’s second-largest restaurant chain (as measured by sales) after McDonald’s, with nearly 20,000 locations globally in over 100 countries.

They also have over a million Twitter followers.

But they only follow 11 people.

And the 11 people they follow are a strange mix.

KFC follows:

Geri Halliwell, Mel B, Emma Bunton, Mel C and Victoria Beckham (in other words the 5 ladies who made up the Spice Girls).

They also follow Herb Scribner, Herb J. Wesson Jr, Herb Waters, Herb Dean, Herb Sendek and Herb Alpert.

Or to put it another way, KFC follow five Spice Girls and 6 Herbs.

Five spices and six herbs?

That sounds familiar as the secret recipe for KFC chicken is 11 herbs and spices.

Either the social media department of KFC were having a quiet day and decided to play a few games or it was a deliberate move to get people talking about KFC when their followers were noticed.

Either way, congratulations are due to whoever was behind the idea.

Remind me – what was I going to buy?

Do you wish you had a better memory? Perhaps you do but you can’t remember whether or not you do.

If this is the case then help may be at hand.

University researchers have suggested a simple technique which could improve your memory.

Dr Mark Moss from Northumbria University led a research study which found that students studying in a room with the smell of the herb rosemary (in the form of essential oils) achieved 5% to 7% better memory results than students undertaking similar studying in a room without the smell of rosemary.

Dr Moss reported that the sense of smell in humans is highly sensitive and sends messages to the brain which can set off reactions and responses.

In the case of rosemary, the smell could well result in a better memory.

This view isn’t new though as ancient Greek students used to wear garlands of rosemary in their exams and Ophelia, the young noblewoman in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet said “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.”

So, in conclusion, the next time you are studying hard for an exam it may be an idea to buy some rosemary essential oils to help your memory.

That is of course, if you can remember to buy some in the first place…

(Details of some of the work done by Northumbria University can be found here).

Is this real or not?

That’s the question some Manchester City supporters may be asking themselves soon.

We’re not talking about their performance on the football pitch but rather their move into Facebook’s metaverse.

The metaverse is an imagined digital world that people can explore as avatars. Facebook are leading this new technology, and they’re aiming for “a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you”.

On the football side of things Manchester City are currently top of the Premium League but they are also taking the lead in developing activities in the metaverse with the club recently announcing plans to build a football stadium inside the metaverse.

With the help of virtual reality experts at Sony, Manchester City are hoping to create a world where fans can come together and support their team in ways never before possible.

The plan is that supporters will be able to experience the Eithad Stadium without visiting it in person. They will be able to view a game in real time via their virtual avatar and be able to interact with the people around them.

This could be a game-changer for sports fans around the world who previously would never have been able to visit the real stadium in Manchester but there are also benefits for the club.

“The whole point we could imagine of having a metaverse is you can recreate a game, you could watch the game live, you’re part of the action in a different way through different angles and you can fill the stadium as much as you want because it’s unlimited, it’s completely virtual,” Nuria Tarre, City Football Group’s chief marketing and fan engagement officer was reported as saying to the i-newspaper.

Whilst purist football supporters may not be in favour of virtual stadiums there are benefits to supporters who may not be able to get to the real stadium as well as potentially significant financial benefits for clubs.

Anyone fancy a virtual kick around?

Enjoy the freeze…

Working from home has become a fact of life for a lot of people due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Synonymous with working from home are the video conferencing facilities such as Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams.

The growth in use of these technologies has been phenomenal. Back in December 2019 for example there were on average 10 million daily meeting participants on zoom. Fast forward to today and the daily averages are around 300 million.

The technologies have been incredibly useful for keeping teams together and maintaining working practices but with back-to-back zoom meetings sometimes going on for hours some people are suffering from “zoom fatigue”.

There’s also the issue of what happens if you are desperate for a cup of coffee or a call of nature during a particularly long and boring meeting?

It’s pretty obvious on the screen if you try and sneak out for a couple of minutes and taking your laptop with you to the kitchen or toilet is best avoided.

Enter freezingcam.com which as the name suggests enables you to simply click a button on screen and your webcam will freeze and give the impression that you are having internet connection issues.

After quickly popping out of the room to do whatever you wanted to do, you can get back to your desk, click the unfreeze button and lo and behold you are back at the meeting and everyone thinks you were having internet issues rather than looking for those chocolate digestive biscuits in the kitchen…

Pass the doughnuts…

Does your weight affect the amount of money you earn?

That’s an interesting question and researchers from the universities of Strathclyde in Glasgow and Potsdam in Germany have come up with a potential answer.

They analysed data from nearly 15,000 working men and found that men within that the recommended Body Mass Index (BMI) health range earnt more than those who were outside of the range.

Individuals who were underweight on the body mass index were found to earn 8% less than those who were in the top end of the healthy bracket. They found that the effect was more prominent in manual jobs where no doubt the extra strength of the guys in the healthy weight bracket helped increase their earnings.

What was perhaps surprising though was that there was also a difference in earnings in white-collar office jobs. They found that in the more middle-class occupations the rewards peaked at a BMI of around 21.

It wasn’t just men who were impacted though. The study also looked at the weight and earnings of 15,000 German women and found that the slimmest earnt the most and the obese the least.

Jonny Gifford, of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development was quoted in the press as saying “it is depressing that, in this day and age, looks are in any way a factor in how much people are paid”.

I have to agree with him as organisations should employ people on the basis of their abilities as opposed to how heavy they weigh.

Anyway, best dash as I’ve got a doughnut to finish…

You are (probably) a liar…

Here’s a nice ethical question for you – have you lied recently?

My guess is that you have. Now before you get all righteous about it, I think that you probably did it without even thinking.

Wow, this is pretty worrying isn’t it? A lot of you are studying for professional exams and if I’m here saying that you have lied without thinking about it then what does that mean for your profession going forward?

Terms and conditions (or T&Cs) are essential for companies which are operating on the Internet or providing apps. For example, they clarify the relationship between the user and the supplier and make it clear what it provided. In reality, the chances are that they also limit the liability of the provider!

A report by thinkmoney identified the number of words in the T&Cs of some of the leading apps.

They found that the combined terms and conditions of 13 top apps including TikTok, WhatsApp and Zoom would take 17 hours and five minutes to read!

The longest was Microsoft Teams which was 18,282 words long.

To put this into perspective, there are more words in the Microsoft T&Cs than there are in Shakespeare’s famous play Macbeth (if you’re interested, a mere 18,110 words).

For those of you that are fans of Shakespeare you may prefer Hamlet to Macbeth.

Instead of reading Hamlet you could read the T&Cs of TikTok (11,698 words), WhatsApp (9,920 words) and Facebook (8,588).

A combined number of words for these 3 of 30,206 words which is more than the 30,066 word count of Hamlet.

Back to my original point when I said that you are (probably) a liar.

So, have you ever clicked that you have read and agree to the T&Cs…

Don’t worry, he’s ok…

A few years ago if a company wanted to advertise their products they mainly used the traditional media methods of TV, radio and print.

Nowadays the world is awash with viral marketing and social media promotion.

Although the main delivery methods used in advertising have no doubt faced rapid change I would argue that the basic technique of getting peoples attention and keeping it until the message is delivered in a memorable way is still key.

The “advert” below is in my opinion a great example of how advertising should be done.

It’s got the viral marketing angle to it as it’s great for viewing on phones and computers (and of course pausing and replaying it). It also works for the traditional TV ads.

What’s nice about it is that in less than one and half minutes it covers a range of human emotions. There are also no words spoken and the only text comes up at the end.

It also highlights the power of music in advertising. Three well known songs were used so there was no need to specially commission some song writing.

If you watch the advert without the music it has a far lower impact.

Have a look (and listen) and see what you think.

Oh and in case you get concerned mid way through don’t worry as it’s got a happy ending.

The interesting thing about this though is that it’s actually a fake advert. It was created by filmmaker John Nolan to showcase his animatronics skills.

John is clearly a creative genius when it comes to animatronics film making and I’m sure the big cheese companies would love to have somebody with his skills working for them.