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This week we’re revisiting one of those favourite, well-thrashed topics - whether txt spk is mangling the good old English language.

The Mail recently revealed that, according to reports from the OCR and Edexcel exam boards, teenagers are “abandoning basic grammar and punctuation and resorting to text message slang in A-levels and GCSEs”. Some pupils “even lack paragraphs and basic punctuation”., the internet education portal, recently gathered together data from sources which included the British Journal of Psychology, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, and America’s Public Broadcasting Services (PBS).

Given the amount of texting that young people do, it’s only natural that professionals in education are concerned. Among Americans, for example, 75% of teenagers text, sending around 60 messages a day, with older girls reaching the 100 mark.

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As we’ve often said, the true test of any communications system is whether it can provide the kind of mission-critical messaging vital for applications like appointment reminders, service alerts, field employee notifications, fraud and balance alerts, PIN authentication and customer service. And we’re happy to report that directly routed SMS, delivered over a premium SS7-grade mobile network, wins out every time.

Further proof came when we heard that SMS is now relied on by many government and public sector bodies within the UK. One such example is the Northumberland Constabulary. Responsible for law and order throughout the largest geographical area of any UK police force, they rely heavily on local initiatives like Pub Watch, Rural Watch and Farm Watch to spread word of incidents within the local community. And often, the most practical way of doing that is through SMS.

Take missing persons. Very often such an individual has no wish to respond to messages from friends and loved ones. However, an SMS with a police Sender ID is far more likely to be answered, allowing the force to confirm the whereabouts of the person and whether they require extra help. The force also uses a local network of taxi drivers and B&B owners which they can call upon when necessary.

Or take the local volunteer mountain rescue teams. At one time, calling them out required a lengthy process of ringing round to establish who was available. Nowadays the same job can be done with just a simple SMS sent out to all volunteers using the type of technology they already carry, a great saving in both time and money.

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Do you smoke after text?

30 September, 2013

It’s a great title. But not original. It was actually taken from a New Zealand report on the results of a study which looked at the effects of using text messaging to help people quit smoking.

This trial took 1,705 mobile phone owners who wanted to quit and randomly assigned them to two groups. Either to one which received regular, personalised text messages offering support and advice on stopping smoking. Or to a control group which did not receive these messages.

Once the first group had quit, they were given a month’s worth of text messages to help them along. While the control group got their free month after six months, to help with providing feedback.

The study found that more participants had quit by six weeks from the first group (28%) than from the control group (13%). It concluded that because it was affordable, personalised, age-appropriate, and not location-dependent, such a text messaging programme did offer the potential to help young smokers quit.

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Farming is vitally important to developing countries. In 2008 the World Bank estimated that, for countries with annual per capita incomes ranging from $400 to $1,800, agriculture employed about 40% of the total labour force.

Improving efficiency and productivity is crucial to reducing poverty, but too often the smallholder is at a disadvantage when it comes to growing and marketing their produce. Situated in often remote locations, it can be difficult for them to get access to information like weather forecasts, ways to combat pests and diseases, and the latest market prices. In fact, the GSMA has estimated that crop yields in developing economies are 60% of those in developed countries.

For this sector the mobile phone is critical. With penetration rates predicted to reach 101% for developing countries in 2014, small farmers should at long last have the key to improving their livelihood, in their own hands. And SMS is central to much of this. Let’s look at a few examples from the many applications that are already being successfully deployed out there.

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‘The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.’

Apart from being handy if you’re ever thinking of taking a bath in the Amazon, that little nugget of information was the ‘set text’ for the Guinness World Record for typing a message on a touch-screen mobile phone. Holder Melissa Thompson from Salford accomplished this thumb-tastic feat in 25.94 seconds using a Samsung Galaxy S, with SWYPE technology, which allows input without taking your finger off the screen

Invited to have a go at a promotional stand in Salford Quays, Melissa beat the previous world record by just under ten seconds. Franklin Page from Seattle, US, had typed out the same sentence in 35.54 seconds just months before, but Melissa completely blew this out the water.

Even so, she admitted she was out of practice, adding “I used to do a hell of a lot [of texting], but it’s died down recently. But clearly, I’ve not lost any of it”.

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