Unlike any of our direct competitors, finnCap has the achieved the FCA approved situation where retail investors who sign all the relevant risk statements are able to read the same research (on house stocks only) provided to institutional investors, significantly broadening the wider understanding of the corporate clients we represent. After the frequent occasions where it’s necessary to work into the wee small hours it’s gratifying to review the readership stats and see the benefit of our efforts.

Compared to the 3,000 or so who subscribe to our formal research, Tech Chat is sent to a far more exclusive list. This is the 312th Tech Chat, initiated as a weekly product in 2009 but now, as you may have noticed, a touch more sporadic (but still with weekly aspirations!). Coming up with regular and frequent interesting topics or anecdotes can be something of a challenge. Reviewing the Tech Chat back catalogue for inspiration, I noted that 5 years ago this week we published one of our best received Tech Chats, measured by subsequent inbound emails, banter, empathy and appreciation (followed closely by the one where we pointed out that users of www.ashleymadison.com ‘s biggest risk was if the site was hacked – which it subsequently was). Shamelessly, therefore, I’m reproducing that one here. But for the fact the kids are a bit older now, and put me to bed as opposed to the other way round, it still holds true….

As a child of the 70s, calculators were the new tech when I was at school – advances meant that by the time I was 13, mine was solar powered, had a game, and played “when the saints go marching in” – there’s progress for you. Teachers still insisted on never using them (preferring slide rules); and when I went on to university we even had to refer to Parry’s Valuation Tables, with Lotus 123 being regarded warily, and Excel merely a glint in Bill Gates’ eye. While one can understand the logic of learning the fundamentals of mathematics e priori, computers are better at processing data than humans, and we justifiably rely on them now. It’s a fair swap – they process data, we’ll cope with subjective interpretation, emotions and fine motor skills. However, smartphones now deliver so much processed data to us, to which we are evidently addicted, that Nomophobia, originally coined as a satirical term for those who seemed to be anxious of being too far from their phones, is now a genuine status of anxiety – if not a full blown fear.

At a show we attended this week, Microsoft’s “Chief Envisioning Officer” opined on man’s relationship with tech – particularly how creativity has died since concentration levels are now so low that inspirational thought has no time or place in our lives. He suggested several modern concepts: open plan offices are the death of productivity, which I couldn’t agree with more; email is an unwelcome distraction and rarely as urgent as the sender thinks it is, if not entirely pointless in many cases. The point is that we are first generation digital tech users and we are still establishing parameters on how to use the new possibilities in our lives. Pointless smartphone over-use can be defined as “skimming”, as I fear most people probably do with these articles – scan through, see if there is anything that grabs the eye, and otherwise ignore (leading to the new email response “TLDR”: too long, didn’t read).“Snacking” is the socially contagious habit of having a minute spare, and grabbing your phone to check it: you see it on the tube every day, where people must have been out of the office for almost five minutes before they check – and once one person checks, everyone else checks, passing it on like a yawn in a crowd. It even brings work unnecessarily into the home, where having wound down from another trying day and, say, putting the kids to bed, you check your emails in a spare minute while they brush their teeth – and you see an email that promotes within you a rising froth of rage from some internal or external moron – lifting stress right back up, giving your reading of Harry Potter an overly aggressive and intolerant tone, and ruining an otherwise calm bedtime. Your approaching Zen calm from domestic bliss, which leads to better health and more inspiration, disappears with your good mood. The children return from the bathroom again convinced of your schizophrenia. Did you really have to check it there, and then? Resist.

The lie of multitasking, encouraged by smartphones, reduces efficiency by a third (and ignore the prevailing sexism: men and women, in tests were equally incompetent when multitasking). If you are trying to write a report and an email pops up, with no discipline you read it. Having been distracted, your brain enjoys the completion of a data rush and so while Alt-Tabbing back to the note you check the weather, then maybe the BBC news website, quickly flick to Whatsapp or spoil yourself with a gaze at Instagram, and finally return to the report, which you then need to concentrate on once more. The total time wasted of a single distraction before you return to full productivity, in Microsoft tests, is 23 minutes.

With Microsoft’s visionary guru suggesting we therefore refer to tech much less and much more effectively, how did we apply this logic to stock recommendations? Five years ago we referred to WANdisco, and First Derivatives for their Big Data processing capabilities, which still hold true. We talked of CityFibre, since taken private and doing its best to keep BT honest and the UK out of the dark ages in broadband terms. I can even see in this the germination of one of our ongoing principles for investment in tech, which remain true – favour stocks which deliver the “automating [of] the unglamorous” so as to allow computers to do what they’re best at, so that humans can deliver the subjective interpretation and application.

Not that you can or will, but do try: put your phone away; switch your email off and deal with it at appointed times only; and work from home whenever practical, so that the necessarily social and cerebral elements of work can be separated……..but as inexperienced 1st generation digital tech users, it’s not as if any of that’s going to happen.

I look forward to your TLDR replies

Happy Friday