Zopa – Social Lending

June 25, 2009

If you, like me, are sick and tired of hearing about your hard-earned cash going to fund someones pension who doesn’t deserve it, or how about paying for a dirty movie, or paying for a duck island, well try out Zopa.


Zopa is a way of avoiding banks altogether, and is known as the “Human way to get a low cost loan.” You can stop putting your hard earned cash into the banks, and instead, directly help the economy by reaching out to people who need it the most.

I believe that this website has been out for a while, but I only recently came across it myself. It’s unique and different to see a financially based website be so outwardly “web 2.0” with bright colours, round bouncy writing – basically a website that you enjoy to look at. None of this corporate imagery, blues, greys, big words… instead a totally user friendly website. It is completely unique in the services it provides, with an idea that is so old and has been adapted to the internet.

Obviously they have to do a credit check, you can’t have CCJs, loads of defaults on credit history… standard things. But once you’re in the clear you can lend, or borrow, to your hearts content.

Last month I went into Barclays to apply for an overdraft of £100, not a lot when I have much more than that going into my account monthly. The assistant was wonderfully helpful, very nice, put all the details into her computer, waited 5 minutes, then informed me that the computer had, in fact, said no. Minus the cough. I was horrified. The overdraft was to see me through to the end of the month, preventing any payments that may bounce, and in turn, give me a bad credit history, and in turn, deny me from applying for overdrafts in future. So you see, circular issue, and not going to be fixed.

No longer do we have the chance to negotiate with bank managers on loans, rates… all those kind of things. Now we have the cold, corporate, unfriendliness, unnegotiable computer program to deal with, who doesn’t have emotions and therefore can’t care about my predicament.

Now, lets take a look at Zopa.

I can do a profile all about myself, why I need a loan, why I am a respectable human being… and that I will definitely pay it back.

Or, I could read people’s profiles, and decide based on the information before me whether I want to lend to their cause or not.

Zopa has re-humanised the process of lending and borrowing, I mentioned earlier that Zopa is a step forward… infact it is really a step backwards away from the computer-run worlds of banks today. Giving something a face makes it much easier to part with your cash.

It’s like being angry at a car who has cut in front of you on the motorway; when you drive by them and look in to see a mother driving her two young children to school, and they’re singing along to “Piano Man”, tell me you don’t calm just a little bit. All part of the humanisation process.

There are fees involved so Zopa can make their way, so read up, but the concept is terrific.

Note: Shout out to Dave for contribution of inspiration for this post.


Sinead tagged me for this, and being unable to ignore things like this incase something bad happens as a results – I had no choice.

Here are the rules:

1) Put the link of the person who tagged you on your blog.
2) Write the rules.
3) Mention 6 things or habits of no real importance about you.
4) Tag 6 persons adding their links directly.
5) Alert the persons that you tagged them.

So… without further ado…

1)  I have random obsessions with certain animals – and often want to own as a pet. The desire to own an otter was the most recent one.

My Pet Otter

My Pet Otter

2) I think I have a slight case of ADD, and I believe it was caused by the internet.

3) Sometimes, I want to cry when I see old people.

4) I would easily go back to college and do another BSc and another MSc in IT related disciplines.

5) I am happiest when singing, composing and playing my guitar. All. At. Once.

6) Every day I tell myself I will be the best I can be.

I’m tagging… uhm… Renaldo, The Empress Molly, Lee, and I don’t know anyone else hehe…


May 1, 2009

Saw this in a shop in Poole – you can get a £5 reward if the shop attendent doesn’t give you your receipt.

Just make sure you keep your receipt as that’s the only way you can claim your reward… FAIL

As those of you who have been waiting patiently for the results of my research, well, you shall finally be rewarded!

As I will be submitting this to a journal in the hopes of being published, I cannot post up my entire document, however, I will summarise very briefly a few points here:

Title: Gender-bending in virtual worlds: Investigating need for achievement between goal-orientated and non goal-orientated environments.


The aim of this study was to examine a potential relationship between gender-bending online and Need for Achievement (nAch in goal-orientated (World of Warcraft) and none goal-orientated environments (Second Life). Gender-bending has existed online since the creation of MUDs (Multi-user Dungeons) and chat-rooms (Donath, 1998).

There were two stages to this study. Firstly, participants took part in informal interviews (n=6) to accumulate rich data involving their motivations behind gender-bending. Secondly, participants (n=253) responded to an online questionnaire to find out their motivations behind why they gender-bend, and to find out their level of Need for Achievement.

Findings show women in a goal-orientated virtual environment with high nAch are more likely to gender-bend then women with lower nAch. Findings also showed that that men who gender-bend have lower nAch than men who do not gender-bend in a goal orientated environment. There was no difference in nAch scores between individuals who do and who do not gender-bend in a non-goal orientated environment. Findings implicate that reasons for gender-bending differ between environments types, additional research is warranted into investigating and discovering further motivators for this behaviour.

What does this all mean?

Well, from my one-on-one interviews I found that:

World of Warcraft

  • These users gender-bend primarily for game achievement reasons
  • Secondarily they gender-bend because the character looks visually more appealing
  • Thirdly because the character looks stronger and then leaves the user feeling more powerful

Second Life

  • Second Life residents had more complex reasons for gender-bending
  • Exploratory reasons – some interviewees were transvestites, transgenders and whose sexual orientation was bi-sexual and these factors had strong defining reasons as to why they gender-bend online
  • Deceptive reasons – some interviewees wanted to protect their real-life identity by being something totally other online

The above results were very interesting but required far more research to fully understand the reasons for gender-bending online.

From my survey:

Need for Achievement (nAch) refers to an individual’s desire for accomplishment, mastering of skills, control, or high standards (McClelland, 1965).

Women who gender-bend in World of Warcraft had a higher need for achievement score then women who did not gender-bend in World of Warcraft.

  • The conclusions we can draw from this include that as playing as a male character is recognised as being more difficult then playing as a female character (Suler, 2004), women who play as male avatars have a higher need for achievement. The game is more challenging and they enjoy it more once they have successfully completed tasks as a male avatar.

Men who gender-bend in World of Warcraft have a lower need for achievement score then men who do gender-bend.

  • The conclusions we can draw from this are that as playing as a female avatar is recognised as being easier then playing as a male avatar (Suler, 2004), males who play as females have a less-challenging game. As individuals who score highly in need for achievement require a level of difficulty that they must master, means that playing as a female avatar for this purpose means that individuals will have a low need for achievement score.

There is no difference between need for achievement scores between individuals in Second Life

  • There is no goal to achieve in Second Life, therefore there is no beneficial reason to playing as a male or female avatar.

Phew, so there you have it, summarised version of my research! Long over-due. Results in June… wish me luck!


McClelland, D.C. (1965) Toward a theory of motive acquisition. The American Psychologist, 20, 321-333.

Suler, J.R. (2004). Do boys (and girls) just wanna have fun? In A. Kunkel (Ed.), Gender communication (pp. 149-153). Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Publishing.

WordPress iPhone app

March 5, 2009

What a wonderfully usable iPhone app that wordpress have managed to roll out.

I literally signed in about 60secs ago and I’m already writing a blog entry. This is how all applications should be- easy to interact with and minimum fuss and details.

As I have learned recently media ultimately needs to be engaging and wordpress app is a great example of that. When you’re on the go, it’s ideal for making quick blog posts which of course you can add to later if needs be!

Thesis update:
Thanks to everyone who took part again, I’m currently looking at all my results and I will report back in a few weeks about it!

Congratulations to t-girl85 who won the €50 amazon voucher!


February 10, 2009

As many of you may know, I have a keen interest in the area of Usability.

The idea of creating persons, scenarios, prototypes, wireframes really does excite me, and the possibility of working in a job which involves these kind of tasks really is terribly exciting.

Over here, very few web design, new media agencies hire people who are usability experience experts. They hire programmers and designers, and the pressure is put on the designer to create something that is inherently usable, even though a lot of designers that I know, would be primarily creative, and whose designs would reflect creativity and not necessarily something that is usable.

The few companies who do actually have the ‘middle man’ are the companies who create long-lasting, rich, user-friendly, high-revenue generating websites. Creating an ultimate user experience ensures that people will return to the site, and that people may repeatedly spend money with you.

Standard users aren’t going to grasp that a website they have visited is incredibly usable, but they will notice one that wasn’t usable at all, they will struggle to complete a task, and they won’t return!

Put more money into usability I say! Especially in these times – putting a small amount into something which may generate you high-revenue is very worthwhile! Better than putting a huge amount of money into a site that doesn’t generate you any return as a result of bad user-interface design.

Well we can always rely on Stephen Fry to have amazing judgment on new gadgets and technologies, Twitter has not escaped his watchful eye, thats for sure!

Tweet with Twitter

Tweet with Twitter

I have been following Stephen Fry on Twitter for a number of months now, and have been enamored with his interesting tweets. Especially when he was filming a documentary and kept his follows updated on every step he took.

Now, since mentioning being on Twitter on Johnathon Ross TV show, his following figures have soared, so much so that he had to release this on his blog to give people guidelines. Popular man!

If anyone is interested follow me on Twitter. I frequently Tweet about Usability, Accessibility, HCI, Web Design… occasionally song lyrics. It’s been an interesting tool to keep in touch with people, and to meet new people with as well. Sinead Cochrane really deserves the praise for this for introducing me to Twitter.

The ease of use, and the accessibility of Twitter is what really has driven up it’s numbers. People can use Twitter using their PC, from their Mobiles, PDAs, Iphones etc. 140 characters means you have to say a pretty short message, short and sweet I guess, but this is what is really it’s a charm.

Without having to sit down for hours at a time, reading/writing a blog post, take seconds to update and inform, elaborate later if needs be. In a time when everyone seems to be rushed off their feet, Twitter allows us to take 5 minutes to be kept updated on many people at once.