Tuesday, 13 March 2018

There's something about Lionel

We are storytellers for business, that’s us.
Our stock in trade is the sitcom. You know the kind of thing - a steady set of characters in an easily recognisable setting: Fawlty Towers; IT Crowd; Big Bang Theory, name your flavour from manic to ironic to sardonic.
Take our two ‘signature’ series – ‘Restricted Intelligence’ and ‘Tuesdays with Bernie’. Funny, yes, but also explicitly didactic on Information Security and Compliance and Ethics, and calling out the all too human behaviours that go with them. Over the years we’ve honed a process: extensive canvassing on the industry live issues; scripts vetted by the Obi Wan Kenobis and Princess Leias of the information security and compliance universe.
Laugh and learn, learn and laugh. Yeah, simple … you might think.
However, we paused in our tracks when a long-time client asked if we could do a bit of pruning on a couple of episodes where, post #metoo, a judgment call delicately flipped from one side of the line of propriety to the other. Understandably this has provoked a spate of introspection. The navel, as it were, is out and we’re gazing at it. And there you go, see, a classic bit of gentle casual innuendo.
The mood of introspection intensified when another client requested a copy of our company policy on bullying and harassment.  This is an easier fix - as a media producer and film industry employer we have adopted the industry gold standard as laid out in the BFI (British Film Institute) Feb 2018 Guidance. This puts the power firmly in the hands of the victim or the complainant with zero tolerance on bullying and harassment.
But what about those other lines, the fuzzy ones blurred by individual taste? We are all the products of our own times. Let’s take an extreme example, for the purposes of calibration. Say the fondly remembered cult movie ‘There’s Something about Mary’. This marked a point in cringe comedy where the ground broken by ‘Animal House’ tried to enter a normative territory where we were asking ourselves what will we put up with. Watching this the other night, the scenes where the protagonists show themselves to be *icks* have very much become the norm, giving us gems like ‘The Office’. However now the stalking and objectification of Cameron Diaz, and Lee Evan’s impersonation of a disabled professor are most definitely not alright. They were offensive then, but now we have the discourse and weight of opinion to say ‘No’.
So, what about ‘Restricted Intel’ and ‘Bernie’ - both (very) short-form sitcoms in which character and environment have to be delineated swiftly. This requires pulling on some tropes and types, some of which probably started way back in Ancient Greece and have travelled to us via Torquay (Manuel) and Slough (Gareth), aka the ‘fool’. Take Lionel in ‘Restricted Intelligence’, the self-important, but lovable dope. He never learns. His self-belief is mountainous. Over episodes and now series a ‘shorthand’ has developed, supported by soundtrack and other bits of production to bring maximum behavioural enlightenment in minimum time.
And, especially because it’s all about awareness and behavioural change the office in all its facets is up for grabs, such as the way they are as much about relationships as much as they are about work. Take these stats from a vault.com survey in 2016:
Of those who have dated a co-worker, 42 percent said they had an ongoing, casual relationship; 36 percent said they had a “random office hook-up;” 29 percent had been in a serious, long-term relationship; and 16 percent had met their spouse or partner at work.”

So, you might think it wouldn’t be plausible to create an office devoid of romantic undercurrents. This is certainly tried and tested fertile territory for comedy. Take ‘The Office’ and Dawn and Tim, [Jim and Pam for our friends in the US]. Their sweet and charming ‘will they won’t they’ was played out over 2 whole series and a Christmas Special. Perfect. So why is this so tricky in the world of the Information Security sitcom? These are fine lines. The potential viewer is not an individual who has a choice in whether to tune in, but this is often mandatory training.

So, best assume your viewer is the person with the greatest discretion or powers of veto?

Frankly that makes for comedy that isn’t very … well … funny.

We're rapidly realising that it takes a constant process of reviewing and negotiation. Check your lazy and easy assumptions at the door, sure, but actually looking at the gut feeling you've relied on for so long, that's way harder.

Take this scenario, for example, introducing a new character, the non-nonsense female  boss. Establish her with the killer heels and the kick-ass soundtrack - ergo she must be a tiger between the sheets right? Er No. That's an easy one, irrelevant. 

Okay, try this on instead. One character has a crush on another, they use an online office survey to find out details so as to create the perfect introduction, an everyday Privacy or GDPR story of office folk. Trickier. Sweet or creepy? Creepy or sweet? Well, you could call it objectification - we don't know what she/he thinks of being the object of desire after all, and if it is unwelcome, well that's harassment. So it's a minefield and probably best avoided as the mainspring for your story. But sometimes you have to show bad behaviour in order to educate, and for our part when we do show something objectionable, we call it out explicitly within the episode to make it clear that the behaviour is not acceptable.

The point about 'The Office' was it developed over time, a very long time. When Tim/Jim & Dawn/Pam finally did get together the world seemed to breath a sigh of relief. We knew exactly how both parties felt about the situation and that was very much the whole point. Likewise in short form comedy, paradoxically go slow, play relationships even handedly, consensually, over seasons, not series and you may get the authentic office romance you wanted after all. 

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Best of Intentions

Happy New Year to you. Here's hoping 2018 brings health and happiness in equal measure. Right off the bat we've got National Data Privacy Day on 28th January. Just the moment to slip in a plug for our Restricted Intelligence Privacy Edition, tackling all the important GDPR issues plus vanity shame, social inadequacy and cheating.

We're also chuffed to bits to be taking our unique storytelling approach into the Healthcare sector, where patient privacy is a huge topic. And of course, not forgetting Season 5 of Restricted Intelligence. Thank you for your input on the stories that are most important to you. Your ideas will be coming into full blossom in late Spring.

So in the spirit of the best of intentions, we're launching these natty New Years Resolution posters with some pointers on self improvement. Far be it from us to throw shade on the simple pleasures in life. Who doesn't enjoy starting up arguments with complete strangers on YouTube comments and of course, you can never have enough 'HammerTime'. But if you can't manage it in January, when the the diet, let's face it is as good as it's ever going to be, when can you?

You Say Privacy, we say ... er Privacy

So, you're all set for National Data Privacy Day. While there may be general debate about how to pronounce the word but there is growing consensus around its importance.

Clearly Miss Reynolds here, getting ready for her close-up, in Episode 5, 'Mr Cellophane', won't be taking any nonsense. It's difficult to imagine say a "Carphone Warehouse' scale breach of customer and employee data happening on her watch. She knows the danger lies in the behaviours of individual employees, and that's what she takes a tough line, well on everything pretty much. 

Restricted Intelligence: information security in a box.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Dont Panic! ... these people are professionals.

It would be fair to say that the last couple of months have been nothing less than epic. 

There are new Seasons of 'Tuesdays with Bernie' in the can plus all new stuff on Privacy and Healthcare polished and ready to go. We are also beyond excited to welcome our new 'Bernie' guy - Adam Unwin. And of course Charlotte is as ever the point of contact for all things 'Restricted Intel.' Obviously though, the big question is - 'what will we be pulling out of the bag for our legendary Christmas Viral?'

Here's a reminder of some of our mini Christmas epics

Flamethrower or tweezers? 

There is a concensus that while GDPR represents a massive challenge on a technical, planning and organisational level there will be an upside. Clearly preparation for it’s arrival represents a chance to weed out, prune and generally put a flame-thrower to superfluous or irrelevant data amassed over the decades as well as limiting and protecting future data. However another equally huge challenge and opportunity lies in the field of human behaviour. You could say the degree of success of the implementation of GDPR is potentially as varied as the leaves on the trees, or the blades of grass in the garden, in other words the individuals in any organisation or company. It requires awareness, understanding and engagement at a truly granular level. To borrow a line from Julian Jordan at SolaGroup, in his GDPR Summit event presentation,

'Computers don't make breaches, people do' 

So the paradox, to the individuals in an organisation, GDPR or information security can seem just plain banal or trivial. In fact not very engaging at all. And that is precisely where the danger lies. People might not value that information or regard it as being worthy of protection, and anyway,
‘… we’ve got security, right?’

Monday, 19 June 2017

Start Spreading the Word

Lionel doing his best Christian Slater impression.
HP has announced they are producing a 12-month digital TV series starring Christian Slater. The programme, entitled “The Wolf,” aims “to raise cyber security awareness at work, perhaps leading to an increase in cyber security jobs.”

“Wow,” you’re saying to yourself, “Where have we heard an idea like this before?”

First, let’s just say we believe imitation is the highest form of flattery. So thank you, HP. Weve been producing a programme to inform businesses on cyber security for a few years now and we welcome you to the conversation. We are flattered and honored. More perspectives and more insights mean more opportunities to learn. To quote a wise sage, A rising tide floats all boats. And we certainly like to have our boats floated.

Its interesting to note how the two programmes are very different from one another. The Wolf is gripping drama, while Restricted Intelligence is a sitcom (that often feels like a gripping drama to its characters). And with Christian Slater playing the hacker, you get to see things from a very different point of view. Sort of the yin to our YOW! We are curious to see how this plays out for The Wolf, though. Nobody meets hackers. Will this turn into a chess match? The Wolf makes his move, the office makes theirs, back and forth until The Wolf has exhausted his hacking arsenal? Isnt that how chess works?

HP’s programme will be five total episodes, released over the course of a year. We havent heard whether they will produce more that could depend on the story and how this first series concludes. And while we are fans of Mr. Slaters, we will be cheering for good to prevail. Thats just how we roll.

Since we first started producing Restricted Intelligence, weve always encouraged the idea of getting the conversation started. With The Wolf, a new voice joins the conversation, a new voice that brings new ideas and new perspectives. If there is a downside to all of this, its that it probably isnt a good time to get into hacking.

And, oh yeah, Mr. Slater if you’re reading this, we really are big fans. All the way back to “Heathers.” If you enjoyed the HP production, and you’re still itching to spread the word about cyber security, have your people call our people. (Also, please note, we don’t really have people, so just feel free to call us direct.)

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Our Funny Business

People come up to us all the time and ask, “How can I be funny?” Okay, well, maybe not all the time. And maybe it’s not people. It’s actually—

Okay, fine, we often ask ourselves “How can we be funny?” And after an extensive but fruitless search on Google for “funny making software,” we’re reminded of a formula handed down to us from on high. It’s the formula for a joke and it goes something like this:

Tragedy + distance = comedy

You might be asking, “So an earthquake on Neptune? That’s funny?” First, we would correct you: They don’t have “earthquakes” on Neptune, they have Nepquakes. Duh. Second, when we say “tragedy” and “distance,” we’re talking in very loose and general terms. After all, what may be tragic for some of us may just be a bad hair day for someone else. And there’s a ton of different types of distance: physical, historical, emotional, and so on.

We at Restricted Intelligence deal in tragedies, there’s no way around that. Email hacking, phishing, security breaches… None of these are a source of joy for anybody (except maybe the perpetrator). So how do we make them funny?

That’s where the distance comes in. And it’s where we have to do some balancing and juggling, too. Now, we could set this on Neptune, but who knows how business works on Neptune? We could decrease the distance a bit and hold up a mirror, but that’s hitting a little too close to home, which isn’t funny.

Instead, we split the difference. We make creative stories close enough to the viewer’s experience so they can relate (password issues, phishing scams, BYOD, and so on), but create a context that’s a little further from reality: larger-than-life characters, scam emails that any reasonably intelligent human could pick up on, and the list goes on and on.

Oh, and the one thing that we didn’t mention as part of the Comedy Formula but is absolutely crucial: No one really gets hurt. And by that we mean no one really suffers. Egos may be bruised, careers sullied, but no one gets hurt. It’s like with great slapstick: people fall from buildings, get hit with bricks, step on nails, but they dust themselves off and get back to the story.

So now you know our secret formula. We take the scenarios you’re familiar with, we see how almost cartoon-like characters deal with it, and we make sure there’s no injuries at the end. You and your team, in turn, get to have a laugh and walk away with new tools in your fight to secure and protect your company and your customers’ information.

Just don’t tell our characters. They take this stuff very, very seriously.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Minding Your Business

Funny thing, people.

One minute they’re worried about their personal information and Googling “Facebook privacy” or “Instagram government surveillance” and the next minute they’re posting photographs from the bachelor party in Las Vegas or video from their tequila drinking competitions. Privacy is a hot topic not just in the business world, but in our culture at large. People seem more than willing to post just about anything, until they sense their content is being seen by someone they hadn’t expected to look.

For businesses, the issue cuts both way: we must be mindful of what we post from the office or from a business device and we must also be mindful of our customer’s sensitive information, too.

Privacy has become a very public topic.

Which is why we’ve created a special series dedicated to the subject of privacy. And, ironically, we’re hoping everyone gets to see our very privacy series. To kick off the series, we introduce the ironically titled “Nothing to Do With Me.” In it, Lionel complains about his participation in a meeting he swears has nothing to do with him. Spoiler alert: It has everything to do with him.

This first episode also marks the return of series four vendor Mia and introduces a new character, the savvy new head of Privacy, Anya. Plus, everyone’s favorite IT manager, Ian, makes a typically awkward appearance.

The second episode, “Nobody Reads That Stuff,” finds Mia seeking advice on the nuances of the Terms and Conditions document. It seems that Jack and Lionel have some ideas concerning data gathered from customers – ways of taking advantage of the data that could mean big sales for the company, but ways that could be disastrous for the company’s reputation.

But who would find out since nobody reads that stuff, right?

In a nutshell, the episode is an awful lot like the scene in “Jurassic Park” when Dr. Ian Malcom declares, “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.” Except in this case, it’s not scientists. And also our dinosaurs aren’t so scary. It’s the consequences you should be afraid of.

Whether it’s medical information or new tattoo photography, people have a right to control their personal information. And we in leadership have a responsibility to guide our teams through the proper use of information, both their own and the customer’s. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for anything to happen within your own organization to learn about the consequences. We can tell you about Lionel’s experience.

And we won’t spare any details.

Want a sneak peek? Check out the series trailer!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Use Your Parental Controls

As many of you know, we have produced a line of videos to teach parents how to safely steer their children through the oft risky online world. And because we’re serious about the issue (as well as being remarkably generous), we’re giving the series away for free.

So far, we’ve covered Facebook, YouTube, and Google – sites which may seem innocuous enough, but can prove quite troublesome when young ones are left to navigate them unattended. But one need not look very far to see there are security issues everywhere. Take for example this story about a security breach involving everyone’s favorite blocky distraction, Minecraft.

It would appear our work is not quite finished. And we’d love to continue producing these videos. So we’ll pose the question to you: what applications concern you most? Are you curious about Snapchat? Do you have Twitter concerns? Tell us (by emailing Katie or Jess) about what sorts of challenges you face as parents. We’d like to start the discussion that will ultimately lead to more and more families creating cultures of security in their homes.

Granted, when it comes to technology, kids are so far ahead of most of us that we often consider them our first line of tech support. In fact, we just learned from our kids that this big gray button on our keyboard is called a “trackpad” and helps us navigate throughout our computers and also through “cyberspace”!

But when it comes to protecting them from potentially harmful sites and activities, there’s a lot more all of us can do. And it starts with training.

Check out our series here. And if you have trouble using the link, ask a kid for help.