Fox Bytes 20 – the animal analogy issue

Flying cow art by the legendary Barry Downard. Used with permission. See more of his work here.


Like cattle to the slaughter

Nothing says you’re successful in business like a corner office with a view. For everyone else, there’s the bullpen. And you don’t want to be in the bullpen. Successful startups usually begin with everyone packed into a small office space. That’s not bad at first because everyone knows everyone else, and you’re all excited to be part of something new, agile, and exciting. But as companies grow, staff get bigger and a corporate culture takes hold, an ‘altogether’

Fox Bytes 19 – The spin issue

This is going to hurt. Saying “we need a turnaround strategy” is a little like saying, “we need some water”…because you’re on fire! It is a scream of panic wrapped in jargon whisper. It’s also the start of a game of pain. Essentially a turnaround strategy is an admission that the direction a company has gone is wrong, hence the need to turn it around. The ‘wrongness’ is normally shown in successive losses, declining market share, persistent negative cash flows, or loss of employees or clients to competitors. The possible causes are numerous, but usually point towards bad management, a muddled strategy, and a blindness

Fox Bytes 18 – The, like, seriously chilled issue

Icebreakers no longer needed. A dramatic and unfortunate game is playing north - way up north - and it’s pitting economics against the environment. Last month, the Arctic Ocean - normally a no-go area for all but the bravest of sailors in specially-constructed icebreakers - saw the first ever container ship slip alone, and somewhat gingerly, through its seas.  The Venta Maersk sailed from Vladivostok on Russia’s east coast to St Petersburg on the Baltic coast. So what made the Venta Maersk’s trip possible? In brief: global warming. The area of the Arctic Ocean covered by ice

Fox Bytes 17 – The make-believe issue

Funny money

Whereas some games have been around since humanoids dragged their knuckles across the plains of Africa, others have only emerged since those knuckles have wrapped around cellphones. Imaginary money is one of them. Standard (fiat) currencies such as pounds, dollars and rands are issued - and, importantly, backed - by central banks or governments. But they’re not the only way of paying for things.  Over the last couple of years, cryptocurrencies, also called digital currencies, have become increasingly accepted by people and merchants as a means of payment for goods or services. Bitcoin, Ripple, and Ethereum are probably the best known. But there

Fox Bytes 16 – The extremely dangerous issue

A massacre in the wings

A cat-and-mouse game is about to become a massacre. For the last 7 years, forces of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria - backed by Iran and Russia - have been pursuing rebel forces holding out in towns around the country. The towns, and the civilians within them, have been mercilessly bombed into submission; those civilians left alive then flee to the next town.  Western countries, and Turkey, have provided patchy support for the rebels, and, at the same time, tried diplomatic means to negotiate a peace. They have failed. The rebels, now reduced to a ragtag bunch including

Fox Bytes 15 – The uh-oh issue

The deadly game

There’s been a nasty spike in measles in Europe. This shouldn’t be the case; there’s a safe and highly effective measles vaccine. So why is this happening? The overall effectiveness of any vaccine relies on ‘herd immunisation’. If sufficient numbers of a community are immunised, it prevents a disease taking hold in that community. Then it can’t strike those unable to be immunised, such as small children or those too ill to receive vaccines. This is why vaccination is known as a ‘positive-sum’ game - a conscious collaboration where the net outcome for everyone is positive: a

Fox Bytes 14 – the not-what-it-seems issue

When grassroots don’t run deep

The ‘will of the people’ carries power in politics, and grassroots activism is its ‘voice'. But what if the ‘grass’ in question is artificial? Then the ‘voice’ is known as ‘astroturfing’, and you have to be smart to spot it. Astroturfing is the action by persons or organisations to create the impression that a certain product, policy or individual enjoys widespread grassroots support, invariably where no such support actually exists. It can be limited to a single fake online identity with a name suggesting they represent, say, ‘concerned citizens’, and speak on behalf of ‘many’ people (

Fox Bytes 13 – the wild idea issue

Sometimes Mother does know best

Exciting leaps in technology can be possible by imitating evolution in the wild. It’s called biomimicry. Let’s take potential developments in cellphone technology as an example. And insects. Researchers in the US have developed a renewable and biodegradable ‘biobattery’ that mimics the way some insects store glycogen as energy. It could provide 10 times as much energy as a standard cellphone battery. Water is a cellphone’s greatest enemy. Butterflies have specially-textured wings that repel water. So, engineers in Ohio State University have used nanotechnology to recreate the surface of a butterfly wing. The result

Fox Bytes 12 – the dangerously hot issue

The Game: The Arctic is in flames

This year’s northern hemisphere summer has broken records, and the outcome has been deadly. The most visible effect of the scorching heat and unnaturally dry conditions has been the wildfires. Normally this time of the year, TV news carries ongoing coverage of wildfires in California. This year has been slightly different. Coverage has included reports of numerous wildfires in Sweden, Finland and Norway. Whilst fires do occur in these countries, this year it was the sheer number and scale of the fires that made them newsworthy. At

Fox Bytes 11 – the weapons issue

The Game: Strait shooters

If oil is the lifeblood of the Middle East, the Strait of Hormuz is a tourniquet. It is a 3km stretch of water between Iran and the UAE through which most of the Middle East’s sea-transported oil travels every day.  This past week, Iran’s rather tetchy Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) made the Strait their ‘hood, launching a major naval exercise there. IRGC naval exercises in the Strait are nothing new, but they are normally held much later in the year, following a clear announcement beforehand.  As an unwritten rule of the game, other countries bring their navies to