The energy in teams and collaborations

Saw this tweet from Adewale and it got me thinking…

When thinking about collaborations, I tend to seek out people who provide their own energy and drive to overall project. This sounds simple but its surprising how many people don’t. When it comes to the moments when everything seems to be going slightly wrong, that external energy really can make all the difference.

There’s also so much to be said for generators and capacitors, but even more for the switches and resistors.

A smarter city called Bristol

Giant mirror ball

The city of Bristol has announced a multi-million pound experiment to create the smart city of the future.

As soon as I heard this, I was worried. As there is something about Bristol which I hadn’t really got till I left. Bristol is a city where things are done differently. Where art and business are in conflict with each other and that conflict drives the continuing disruption and creativity.

I needed not worry…

Bristol is Open, the project will effectively turn Bristol into a giant laboratory and look at how big data can be used to solve problems such as airpollution, traffic congestion and assisted living for the elderly. The network could also be used to collect and understand data from the city’s trial of self-driving cars. Bristol is one of four UK cities currently testing driverless car technology as part of a government scheme.

Sensors and other internet of things devices will be hooked up to the network to collect huge amounts of data from the city. In one example it would be possible to use tracking technology to collect location data from vehicles used by the health, education and city transport sectors to try and solve the city’s traffic congestion problems.

I only recently learned Bristol was the 2nd most congested city in the UK and hated by many of car drivers. Hopefully the artistic, creative and playful nature of the city will persist throughout.

Bristol's Park Street water-slide

Got to love Bristol

Alternative user interfaces

I studied interaction design in university and always had an imprecation for good interaction and interface design. Recently I seen a few examples which have got me a little excited.

Ubuntu’s scopes
I like ubuntu’s unity paradigms of scopes and lens, even though I prefer to use Gnome Shell as my default on the desktop. The scopes and lens really make a lot of sense. It was fascinating to see Ubuntu apply it across their phone and tablet. Be interesting to see how it works on Ubuntu TV if thats still ongoing?

Pebble timeline
When I first saw the pebble time interface, I instantly thought, when are they going to roll that across there existing line of smartwatches? If not, maybe I might invest in one of the new ones. Division of a interface by future, present and the past on a watch makes a lot more sense than anything else I have seen to date including the Apple Watch.

Android Material Design
Ice cream sandwich or Android 4.0 was a massive step up in style for Android but Android 5.0 Lollipop really was the first Android when the interaction design was thought about at a deeper level.

I don’t necessarily  like the style of flat plates of colour for example the Google hangout app is just the wrong kind of green for my pallet but the interaction model is nice. Although I have spotted a few places where the rules are broken by certain apps.

Inside the mind of a catfish

Its funny most people haven’t really heard of the term Catfish. I wrote about the term a while ago and mentioned it a few times in passing.

Now you don’t become the wikipedia of online dating without bumping into a few here and there. But I have been lucky to never really fallen for it, but I have been known to play along waiting for the moment when they suggest I give something up. Be it money, photos, phone number, address, etc.

I quite enjoy fishing the catfishers, trying to get into there minds about why they do it. There’s certainly warning signs, just like the scams. In my experience its started with a message out of the blue like “How are you?”, “You like what you see?”, “hey daddy!”, etc

Before long they try and move away from the original platform to something more free like text message, snapchat, facebook, etc. Most of those other platforms don’t really have the protections of the original, and you have to tell them something about you. For example the latest catfish suggested a number of ways to keep the conversation going. Usually romantic or dirty talk, nude pictures, etc.

I did the usual googling, image search, etc to see if I could find where things are coming from. But found nothing, it was actually Chris which found and linked the pictures to the twitter account.

With my latest catfish, we moved to Facebook but messaged only in the other inbox (aka I never added her as a friend). Lots of pictures were shared from a glamour model with the same name (NSFW! Thanks Chris), but I shared not a single thing.

Unlike most catfish, there was a push to hook up quickly. This kind of surprised me, and I agreed to meet up. Outside Tesco metro supermarket in Salford Quays (weird location but there was no way I was going to director her to my flat, she/he suggested it). Unlike other times before, I thought I’d better inform people just in-case.  Anyway the long and short of it, was I popped by Tesco with Chris and nobody showed up.

I thought there would be a no show (she/he/it never replied to messages after yesterday) I assume the fun was done. But to be fair in the past, when they have turned up and sometimes we’ve had a fascinating discussion about why they lied and used somebody elses profile.

It is a shame I didn’t get the chance to find out who was behind the scenes but they have been blocked and reported now. Like I should have done, many of you are saying instead of entertaining there warped scene of fun.

I did elude to this happening before multiple times (you will be surprised how many messages) . Usually I find there stolen/ripped pictures or trip them up on something. One such time was with a woman I’ll call Cat. I found her pictures easily enough and started calling her a scammer. She got very defensive and I convinced her to meet in a public place.

Here’s a extract from my ever elusive fictional book…

We met up in Piccadilly Station. As you can imagine, she was nothing like her profile pictures. I could have had the pleasure of telling her so over and over again but it didn’t seem right. I asked her how she was going to pull off the fact she was nothing like her profile suggested. She said she was so frustrated by me calling her a scammer and she decided to meet.

She was overweight, young and had a friend in tow. She was like one of those girls you see hanging out with skater guys at the park. Over baggy clothes, piercings, slightly frumpy with a bag load of self confidence issues.

I wanted to rip into her about using someone else’s identity but I just couldn’t do it. She was young, foolish and her friend even more so. After a cup of coffee, a pastry and a quick talking to it was time to leave her and her friend to it.

Simon suggested I could seek out catfish but unlike the MTV show, offer support and get into the meat of why they do it. I’m obviously not the man for that but its a interesting thought anyway. Although I do worry some people can’t help themselves, not that counts as a excuse!

The Business of Film with Mark Kermode

Mark Kermode and Ray Winstone

I have to give film critic Mark Kermode’s series about  the economic realities of the film industry, a thumbs up. Its in 3 parts and available forever as a podcast. Its well worth listening to if you are a film fan

Ep 1: Development Hell

Mark Kermode charts the cycle of ‘development hell’, where producers turn in scripts, listen to conflicting opinions and resubmit their work hoping for that magical green light.

I especially love the donnie darko reference and I do think Matthew Vaughn has a very good point.

Ep 2: Getting to the Screen

Mark Kermode examines how films get financed and distributed. The challenge, of course, is that nobody knows the ultimate appeal of the film.

I’m really feeling this as I try and put a project I’m working on forward (I’ll explain more in the future).

Ep 3: The Business of Showing

Mark Kermode considers the crucial moment in a film’s life – the opening weekend. Marketing may convince us of a film’s merit but a tweet can ruin even the most inventive campaign.

I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this type of thing many times over this blog but its fascinating to hear regardless.

What to do with super fast broadband?

Consume Superfast fibre broadband?

I snapped this while waiting for the tram back home last night in Cholton. I read the side bits and thought to myself, they are all about consumption except maybe the the “connect more?

I don’t have a big problem with this but it does make me wonder, that super fast broadband is being sold as a quicker way to consume even more.

For me Superfast broadband (which I’m still waiting for due to the Manchester council highway authority not allowing Hyperoptic to connect it to the loop) isn’t about consumption. I’m already considering what I can do like vpn, plex, hosting, streaming radio station, etc…

Bruce James summed it up via Facebook…

Tragic waste of an opportunity since every TCP/IP based computer has (in theory) the capacity to serve data in a truly decentralised way. But we handed it all over to the commercial interests who gain by centralising and controlling what we watch, play, listen to and buy.

It is tragic and with so much bandwidth the usual excuse of asymmetricity holds far less ground. Hate seeing wasted opportunities.

The science of popularity in dating

I recently watched Hannah Fry: The mathematics of love and I thought it was fascinating, especially the part about beauty, which is taken almost directly from OKCupid’s mathematics of beauty.

It was only a few weeks before I ended up  at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Manchester, on their evening sexology event. They had a number of free talks about sex related topics but they also had speed dating.

It’s speed dating, but not as you know it. Although we can’t reveal the exact details of this experiment, you can combine romance with research in this one-of-a-kind speed dating night. It’s fast, fun and you might just find love…

Let's Talk About Sex

The speed dating was like the many times I have been before but this time, there was a number of small differences and a big twist which reminded me of the mathematics of love/beauty.

Unlike other speed dating events, we only got to meet/date 8 women in total. Everybody also moved around each time. I thought I spotted the twist by the women I met (most were from the University of Manchester or MOSI staff), I was expecting something along the lines of my experience first time I ever went speed dating in London.

Let's Talk About Sex

But … I was pleasantly surprised when after filling in my matches form. I was treated to a form with the popularity of the 8 women I had seen. To make this clear, out of the 8 women I had seen, there was a number of ticks next to them, so you could see how popular they were.

The hypotheses I guess being, would you change your votes if you knew the person you picking is very popular. Or even the opposite way around? This got me thinking, would I change my picks? I generally decide on women based on, would  I want to spend some more time with them beyond the 3mins we had?

I decided recognising what Hannah Fry and OKCupid served up, I’m going to play along and only go with the matches who really excited me in the 3mins. Looking at the tickets, there was a mix of unpopular and very popular, not much in the middle.

Right now we (Chris also took part in the exact same thing) don’t know how the matches work out, but I’m expecting the results in the next few days. Lets hope it worked out after filling out a 130+ questionnaire in the name of science, during the process.

Afterwards there was just enough time to catch the last talk which was about pole dancing. I do wish I could have gone to the other talks but they all ran parallel to the speed dating.

Let's Talk About Sex

Generally the whole event was great, but I got the feeling although the speed dating was well thought-out. There was a problem with getting people to commit to the speed dating, but regardless it worked out nicely. As I said before it was the most scientific dating thing I have ever been to, and I have been to quite a few in the past.

Well done to MOSI and I look forward to the next one! Great work… When is the next one?

BBC vows, to finally make it digital

BBC Microbit

Finally after so many peoples attempts to kick start the BBC Micro revolution for the 21 century. The BBC has finally announced its partnership with Google, Microsoft and Samsung to place the Microbit in the hands of children across the UK.

The BBC director general has pledged to do for coding and digital technology what the BBC Micro did for the emerging home computing era in the 1980s.

Tony Hall was speaking after he unveiled details of the BBC’s Make It Digital initiative, a partnership with 50 organisations, including Google, Microsoft and Samsung, that will give ‘micro bit’ coding devices – around 1m of them – to every 11-year-old in the country.

The BBC will launch a season of programmes and online activity, including a drama based on Grand Theft Auto and tie-ups with Doctor Who, EastEnders, and Radio 1.

Hall compared the initiative to the BBC Micro, built by Acorn Computers, which was many children’s first experience of computing 30 years ago.

I can tell you this has been a long time coming and there are some seriously amazing people who have been directly and indirectly involved in the very long run up to this.

So many in-fact, I feel if I was to start naming them, I would do a massive injustice to many many people who tried and etched away at the BBC to allow others to make their voices heard. I once tried to do a mind map of the people connected, and I still have it from many years ago.

I can’t wait to see the microbit in kids hands and see the unthinkable things they will do with it. Its been very well thought out and I love the fact its not trying to replace anything else including the RaspberryPI.

Parallels with American psycho and 50 shades

I watched American Psycho again recently and I thought to myself there are strong parallels with 50 shades of grey. The only difference seemed to be in 50 shades the man is a catch and romantic, while in American psycho he’s psychotic.

Zoe sums it up perfectly in her review of 50 shades.

All good relationships are built on respect, trust and consent – and the one at the centre of this film contains none of that.

50 Shades has been portrayed as a love story which has BDSM as central to its narrative. I disagree. The sex, kinky or otherwise, is actually irrelevant. This film, like the books, is solely about power – specifically, of a man having it and a woman not. It uses BDSM as a inaccurate metaphor to drive the story, but the sex is just a distraction for what is at its heart: an abusive relationship. 50 Shades is not about kink, but about control.

Let me be clear: Christian Grey is a stalker. An aggressive, jealous, controlling man. He is someone who, after meeting Anastasia Steele once, finds out where she works and shows up there unannounced; discovers her private home address and sends gifts to her; tells her to stop drinking when she is out celebrating her graduation; traces her cell-phone and turns up at the bar she is at. These are not romantic acts, they are abuse red flags.

And she is so right…

Patrick Bateman on the other  hand is a more real representation of what Christian Grey really is.

They both are very controlling (look at the way Patrick orders for Celia at the restaurant, and pleasure he takes in doing so. Then compare the with Christian picking the clothes of Anastasia), aggressive and over step any line of decency and humanity. BDSM is simply a smokescreen to mask over these troubled people but only one is classed as a psycho? I think not…

Remix is the future!

Theres the intenet 1% rule which seems to pop up all the time.

I’ve been thinking recently out of 100 people using social media , 1 person will want to create and upload their own media. However 9 people if the user interface is effortless, smooth and simple, would make slight changes to either reflect their own decisions, point of view, etc.

This is reflected in the 1% rule where 90% are lurkers, 9% are contributors and 1% creators.

Its strikes me that many things are missing the 9%. They miss the fact that the 9% can also contribute to the enjoyment of the 90% and be even more interesting than the 1%.

What makes the 9% even more interesting is the fact they are socially creative, sharing as they go.

Everything is a remix and that includes,

  • Git repo forks which is beautiful way to build upon something you’ve seen or used.
  • Creative Commons which encourages you to remix media
  • The fans who spend their own time building on top of the official works to create fan art at places like Deviant Art
  • The millions of meme created pictures which fill social media feeds,  even I became a meme thanks to Tim and Josh.
  • The insane amount of feeds, webservices, APIs and even headless websites which encourage you to build on top of them.
  • The pinterest fans who collect and arrange their pinboards to indicate there choices and style
  • The many fan fiction stories which take characters out of one world and combine them in others

This is why I feel the DJ hackday could be a start of something extra special .

Why blogging is still good for your career

You Don't Understand Blogging Unless You Blog

Tim Bray explains why blogging is still good for your career

Refound via Boingboing

1. You have to get noticed to get promoted.
2. You have to get noticed to get hired.
3. It really impresses people when you say “Oh, I’ve written about that, just google for XXX and I’m on the top page” or “Oh, just google my name.”
4. No matter how great you are, your career depends on communicating. The way to get better at anything, including communication, is by practicing. Blogging is good practice.
5. Bloggers are better-informed than non-bloggers. Knowing more is a career advantage.
6. Knowing more also means you’re more likely to hear about interesting jobs coming open.
7. Networking is good for your career. Blogging is a good way to meet people.
8. If you’re an engineer, blogging puts you in intimate contact with a worse-is-better 80/20 success story. Understanding this mode of technology adoption can only help you.
9. If you’re in marketing, you’ll need to understand how its rules are changing as a result of the current whirlwind, which nobody does, but bloggers are at least somewhat less baffled.
10. It’s a lot harder to fire someone who has a public voice, because it will be noticed.

If I was offering advice to young dyslexics…

… what advice would I give…? Well first I would watch the video above!

This is a question I ask myself after reading the Guardian’s post about writing tips for dyslexic kids.  I think myself and Tom are pretty much in agreement, but here’s my thought alongside his top liners.

Tip 1: sometimes the things we struggle with can be the most rewarding.

I struggled with writing for many many years and now I write almost every single day and publicly. Many of non-dyslexics fear writing publicly but I do it for myself. Its hard when you get people picking holes in your own words but keep going it is very rewarding. Its the grit of getting knocked and coming back stronger, which will make you stronger in the future.

Tip 2: never be afraid to think visually.

Absolutely, and its important not to feel ashamed for thinking differently. You are gifted in many ways. visual and spacial thinking is beautiful and fascinating. The medium still needs to catch up but push it and make it work for you. I’m no longer waiting, I’m building it to suit me. You should do the same.

Tip 3: Try not to get annoyed and throw a book/custard pie/tantrum at anyone who corrects your reading*.

They just don’t understand and will never understand how painful it is having people corrected over and over again. Its not you being dumb, its only one disadvantage, in a massive arsenal of advantages. Feel better by doing something you love straight afterwards if you feel the need to get very upset.

Tip 4: don’t be afraid to surround yourself by what you love.

If you are not doing what makes you happy find ways to escape, ultimately it will make you unhappy. Treat it as a problem which needs to be solved in the most creative way you can. This also applies to people as well. If somebody is making you feel rubbish, tell them and if they still won’t listen, avoid them, basic communication till they change. Love is passion and underestimated by many

Tip 5: if anyone goes at your work with a red pen, grab it off them, snap it in two and throw it out of the window, then ask them to read what you have written, rather than correct it.

Absolutely! Recognise that its always easier to pick holes and correct than start. Put a blank piece of document/paper in front of them and ask them to start writing, see how they get on with the pressure. Conformity is boring and will make you ultimately unhappy.

Tip 6: poetry often works to a structure, you know that a certain line rhyme with another, it makes you think about words. It’s like the foundations of a house are laid out in front of you, and you have to add the walls and roof.

Poetry can be messed with, there is plenty of room for your creativity. The constraints are there to drive creativity not hinder it. Think on your feet and don’t try and emulate somebody else.

Tip 7: don’t be scared of a blank piece of paper, it’s the best thing in the world.

A blank paper, screen, wall, etc are a world of possibilities. Its waiting for your ideas and inspiration. Make your mark and never apologise for making a mark/your mark.

Tip 8: learn about what dyslexia is, read about it, you’ll find yourself going “I totally do that!” quite a lot. There are many others like you, all of them probably have felt isolated, stupid, like they didn’t belong at some point too.

There are others like you and me. If you understand the advantages and disadvantages, you can learn where you’re strengths and weaknesses lye. There are some great people who are dyslexic, but even better you can help others.

Tip 9: writing is about you, they are your thoughts, the things you have to say, and those can never be wrong.

No matter what people say, don’t feel the need to censor yourself and write personal things in somebody elses voice. Be creative with your words and don’t be ashamed when making up new words. Just put some quotes around it, like “thingybob” and then define it.

Tip 10: stop reading this and go write something amazing.

Agreed…  and never be ashamed of your writing and voice.. Anthony below further expands on the themes above…

Phone Etiquette for Dyslexics

I kind of hate voicemail (who doesn’t) but mine are for different reasons. Dyslexia Victoria sums it up perfectly

As a Dyslexic I have issues with different aspects of verbal and written language.  One of my pet peeves is people leaving phone messages. Callers have a tendency to start their message by saying their name quickly, launch into their message which can go on and on and then finish by saying their phone number so fast, it’s practically unintelligible.

I believe there are people who can catch these numbers but as a Dyslexic I am challenged trying to write numbers down in the correct order, especially phone numbers. I will usually get the first two and a couple more somewhere in the sequence of numbers and always reverse the two middle numbers in the last set of numbers. So for example:    1-800-346-0925 becomes –    1-8??-3??-?296

This means I now have to go back and play the message several times to get the name and phone number and some of the message. This drives me crazy..

Yes it drives me crazy too, so much that I changed my voicemail message to ask people to slowdown and repeat their number. I certainly concur with the suggestions…

Here are some suggestions for people leaving messages because you never know if the person writing the message down is numbers and word challenged.

  • When you begin say your name slowly and clearly, who you are with if applicable and your phone number.

  • Say the phone number slowly and clearly and then repeat it.

  • Keep your message short and clear

  • End your message with your name and phone number said slowly and clearly

Early adopters still have a place

Ericsson mp3 player

Early this morning after Silicon Drinkabout Manchester, two friends had a long argument about the need/lesser need for early adopters in developing new products.

I won’t go into details but I’m certainly side on the side of the need for early adopters.
During the argument, Apple, ipod and the iphone came up (interestingly the iMac never comes up anymore). I made the point that Apple generally copy things and improve on them. This reminded me of my first proper owned and bought mpeg3 player. I bought a Samsung Yepp32 from my friend, but about the same time I saw the Ericsson HPM-10  and a few months later I bought one on Tottenham court road.

Ericsson T28 and HPM-10

For me it made perfect sense, why have a separate device when my phone has most of the capability? I swore by the Ericsson HPM-10 and ended up buying only ericsson phones, so I could keep using it. I remember squeezing 2 whole cds of music on to the 32meg MMC card for my ride down to Bristol from London on the scooter. I must have encoded it at 16kps!My friends didn’t get it, why a music player on the phone? It took about 5-6years before the idea of using the mobile for music playback really started to happen.

Without early adopters, I feel the almost relentless push forward into the currently unacceptable and questionable unknown. Just wouldn’t happen.

To be clear I’m not saying early adopters are the reason for why a product or service crosses into the mainstream. But I am saying they/we have an effect which can be quantified and should not be written off.

One of the reasons why I always wanted to go to Tokyo is to explore the vast electronic markets of failed products. Everything from robot dogs to things which never made it out of Japan. I would contest that kickstarter is the new electronic market now? There will be popular products like the pebble smartwatch but theres products only early adopters would consider. Once considered and used, they share.

That sharing is where the norm starts to shift.

Remember having a discussion with a colleague at my then work place, the Odeon Leicester square about what is mpeg3 and what was that funny thing sticking out my Ericsson t28 phone? She had just bought a Sony minidisc and I was explaining why mpeg3 was the future? Years later at a reunion she remained me as she bought a 1st generation iPod a few years later based slightly on that afternoon sitting in the box office listening to badly encoded music.

Her perception of music had been shifted enough to early adopt the iPod before it really hit the mainstream.

Imagine if media could scale?

Variable Length Documentary

People always ask what I do at work or the BBC. I generally and quite flippantly say build the future. It may seem like a bit of a joke but theres quite a lot of truth to it too. One such area of research is around the future of media and storytelling.

I decided with colleagues after the perceptive radio,  the radio needed content of its own. This lead to the idea of a variable length documentary which was first showed at Sheffield Doc Fest, which would scale based on a number. That number could be time, movement, attention, or something else.

Responsive Radio is a new experimental way to make radio content more personalised, relevant and flexible. Responsive radio creates the story you want at the length you’ve time for. And this is just the start of a broadcasting revolution.

Imagine if Serial or any podcast could scale to fit your journey to work? Thats the level of personalisation were talking about here. Non creepy, and actually useful.

The responsive radio (as it became) morphed into a much bigger project and finally you can go experience it for yourselves at BBC Taster. http://www.bbc.co.uk/taster/projects/responsive-radio

Thoughts and ideas of a dyslexic designer/developer