Tag Archives: manchester

300 seconds to tell your story

Sharon O'Dea - intro

I have always wanted to help people around me, its in my blood and I sometimes end up doing it regardless of my work load (must stop doing so). Anyhow a few months ago I ran a series of events as part of the BBC’s Connected studio called BBC Connected Social. One of the events was a ignite event about design. Although I tried to get a number of women involved, I got nowhere.

This didn’t go unnoticed and to be fair rightly so… The event went ahead and was a success but I couldn’t help but feel crappy about the lack of women I got onboard. I have been known to level criticism at some events for the lack of women and diversity but I couldn’t make it happen myself.

Ever since (and to be fair before) I’ve been thinking about putting on a conference with the aim of encouraging women to give public speaking a chance. I originally thought about working with Madlab to put on such a event, specially after the last girlgeek barcamp (bracamp) and my rushed look at the success of Girl Geekdinners.

Anyway after getting a chance to hear Melinda’s (miss geeky) views on 300 seconds I joined the dots and connected people.

I believe the event matches the BBC values nicely

We respect each other and celebrate our diversity so that everyone can give their best.

I’m now super stoked to be able to say the 3rd 300 seconds event will be at the BBC, MediaCityUK.

What is 300 seconds?

300 Seconds is a series of talks by and for the digital community. We believe that digital is better when we can learn from the brilliance of the many, not just the few. With our events we hope to give our peers, and in particular women, a means of gaining confidence and experience in speaking in public.

On the Thursday 14th November, you can get your tickets now to apply to speak or just listen and support. Of course the event is open to men as well, so what you waiting for? Go get yourself a ticket and I look forward to seeing you and sharing the special surprises we have installed for the night.

Top 10 tech hangouts in Manchester

Madlab

Inspired by The next web and Martin’s Tweet for the Top 20 tech hangouts in new york city. I thought well I’ve not really done one for Manchester’s geek/tech scene. I’ve done some posts for top first dating locations which seems to get a lot of search engine referrals. Heck I’ve even talked about coffee shop clashes.

So here’s my list of the top tech hangouts in Manchester…

  1. Madlab
    Go there anyday almost anytime and it will be full of geeky/tech interested people. Its amazing the diversity of people and interests.
  2. North Tea Power
    Although a coffee shop, its usually full of people on laptops working away on startup ideas and new types of projects. Excellent coffee with plentyful types of tea. Owners are lovely people and take their coffee seriously.
  3. TechHub Manchester
    You heard of Techhub, well its the same formula just in the north of England. Of course this is where serious tech startups go to be taken seriously by investers of all kind. Its not the kind of place you can just rock up but they do have social events including Silicon drinkabout every Friday evening. There is also a Northstar Cafe (thanks Angie) below which you can sometimes find tech people and its only 5mins from Piccadilly Station.
  4. Takk
    New on the scene, and forms part of the new Northern Quarter or new Piccadilly Basin area. Putting the old Drip coffee to shame and taking a clues from North Tea Power. This rapidly is becoming the coffee shop work and be seen at. Now if only they can sort out the opening hours, like NTP.
  5. The Classroom
    The coworking space which is along side bakerie’s pie and ale store. This coworking space is membership only but pretty cheap if you want somewhere more social to work but not have the hassle of ordering coffee every hour or so.
  6. Common/Home sweet home
    When Edge street wasn’t so cool and didn’t have street lighting (I still think it doesn’t?), there was a bar with the full title, a place called common. Common has been around for years and hosted many social events in the past. Right next door is home sweet home which has established its self as a great place for the more chilled nights out. Of course both face Madlab, so its easy to go from Madlab to Home sweet home to Common in one evening/night.
  7. Castle hotel
    I am not a fan of the castle, but if you want to find techies, hipsters and digital folk, the castle hotel is a must. People seem to like it a lot while I always wonder where the cocktails are. But I’ll give it something, it certainly attracts tech people in the know. Oh and I have no idea if it really is a hotel or not.
  8. Cornerhouse
    The cornerhouse cinema is one of those places which is full of art people but you sometimes find an event which attracts tech people. Its generally a very cool place and one of those places which really attracted me to live in Manchester all those years ago.
  9. Kim by the Sea
    Just around the corner from Manchester’s Technology park, I’ve been there a few times and each time theres a mix of hippies, artists and technology people. Nice big portions and earthy feel which makes a difference.
  10. Terrace
    I haven’t seen it yet, but Madlab and terrace have come together to do a co-working space of there own. Meant to be a nice space, a little better than the classroom I hear. Terrace is of course another cool bar, usually quite loud not ideal for a chat

 

A long ride out to sheffield and back

Ride across the Peaks

So this time I went through the mountains of the pennines along the woodhead crossing, stopped in Sheffield and then back through along the forever talked about Snakes pass.

To be honest Snakes pass, wasn’t as scary as I imagined. But there certainly were some corners which I can totally see someone less aware getting caught on. I think I prefer the woodhead crossing for its pure speed and pleasure of driving on top of the mountains but I can see why Snakes pass is a heck lot quicker.

I was amazed at the lake in the middle of the pennines, from my brief look, it seems like there is a pebble/rocky beach too. I might be wrong, I imagine its maybe all just sinking mud and thats certainly not the place to get caught out.

Hope valley is next on my list, but if the weather gets any worst I certainly won’t be driving around the pennines. It was pretty treating when I went out on Saturday, cant even imagine what its like in rain and in the dark!


View Larger Map

For some reason, my phone went a little nutty in the middle, so I ended up with 2 KML files, using Oxygen XML I was able to put the data together. You can’t beat side by side view…

Should have gone dutch when I bounced

November 28th

I’m cursing myself for falling for the stupid mistake of paying for the bill in one of my previous dates in the last few months.

My mistake was paying for the bill in total, something which I don’t usually do.

So what happened?

Well we were having a good time, chatting away and I suggested how about having some food? (because we were in a place where we could switch from drinks to food without moving) she agreed, time had flown by and she was also hungry.

After eating and deciding yes its about time we actually went home, we asked for the bill. Bill comes and I can’t remember exactly what happened but I’m pretty sure I said “Hey no worries I got this one…”

Of course I never really heard from her again. Except shes actually a friend of friends (trying not to give away who it was)

Anyhow months later we bump into each other and I ask her what happened?

The crux seemed to be she wasn’t comfortable with being paid for… Something I can relate to, and something which I usually go out of my way to avoid. What had happened is I thought I’d try paying and seeing what happens, maybe things will turn out different if I listened to thoughts of Ngunan Adamu and others over time.

Well I was right! Her original thoughts of a modern gentleman, was dashed when I picked up the whole bill. And the only person to blame is myself… Yes it was a bit of an experiment on my part but it felt weird for me and I assume felt even weirder for her. Its a shame because although not my usual type of woman, I was certainly interested and would have liked to have gone on a second date…

Moral of this little tale… Should have gone Dutch…!

A good time to be in New Islington?

From the Manchester Evening News via Steve on Twitter,

An ambitious plan for a multi-billion pound regeneration around a new-look Piccadilly station can be revealed by the M.E.N. Town hall chiefs want to unlock the rewards of the planned High Speed 2 rail link long before it arrives – in a regeneration bonanza dubbed the ‘opportunity of the century’. Planners want to create a new ‘gateway quarter’ modelled on Amsterdam and New York.It would be centred around the new HS2 terminal – and a grand new entrance plaza replacing the existing front of Piccadilly station.

The plan would also include:

  • A leafy boulevard linking London Road with east Manchester, ending in a park on Fairfield Street – creating a green corridor between the Medlock Valley and the city centre.
  • A ‘Spinningfields-style’ business centre between Great Ancoats Street and the Rochdale and Ashton canals.
  • An ‘East Village’ of waterside homes, shops and offices in Piccadilly Basin.
  • 10,000 new homes between Piccadilly and the Holt Town area of Bradford.
  • New homes, green spaces and offices on the former Mayfield Depot site.
How Piccadilly station could look after the arrival of HS2

Sure there will be some kick back on the plans but honestly from Piccadilly Station to Great Ancoats Street is pretty poor. Heck part of it is the red light zone. I do wonder about Piccadilly Basin which currently is a nice quiet part of the city but as long as none of the Northern quarter is taken over, I don’t have much of a problem.

If the plans go ahead along with the new retail park which will include a cinema, it will be a great time to have bought at Islington wharf.

Adam Curtis vs Massive Attack

What can I say about my experience of Adam Curtis vs Massive Attack

Connecting the dark, intense music and visual work of Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack with the thought-provoking vision of filmmaker Adam Curtis in an atmospheric space never before opened to the public, this haunted, captivating production promises to completely redefine the very idea of “the gig”.

Hallucinating…!

In the middle of a disused space only 10mins from my own flat, we are treated to a immersible audio and visual masterclass of both. I won’t spoil it for you, but its well worth going and experiencing. It did feel a little misguided in parts but with a little tightness I can imagine it being something of a master piece.

Manchester stand up and say something!

Black and White.

I know how TV works, heck I’ve had more than enough experience of how engineered certain shows can be. But Channel4’s new show right after firstdates is eye spy.

Stephen Fry narrates this new series which tests to see if the people of Great Britain really are ‘great’ and can be heroes when faced with a particularly challenging situation. Eye Spy features ingenious hidden camera stunts that throw up assorted moral dilemmas and psychological conundrums to wrestle with, challenging the notion inherent in many news stories that our ‘once great nation is going to the dogs’. You may say you’d do the right thing in a highly-pressured situation, but only when you’re actually in the moment can you ever really know.

One of the situations was a racist waiter who couldn’t deal with mixed race couples. Actually as the site says, outrageously racist waiter.

The things he said were so direct to the mixed race couple and so loud everyone could clearly hear everything being said.

And he’s the main point of concern for myself…  They ran the test in London and in Manchester. Not just Manchester but Salt & Pepper in Castlefield, a place I would go to with a date (and to be fair most of my dates are European woman)

In London, a place which is more racially diverse (as the programme points out too) the waiter got told to shut up before the couple got up and left. Actually although they ran the experiment a few times the result was the same.

However in Manchester the couple had to endure the out and out ball faced racism of the waiter. In the end they got up and left, after they were told they were upsetting the rest of the restaurant!

No one stood up and said a word, no one said anything, not a single person. They just sat there in silence eating and not saying a word. Not a single person would stand up and say your bang out of order to the waiter. Heck even getting up and walking out would have sent a clear signal that people were not happy, which is what happened when they ran the same experiment in reverse with a white couple in an Indian restaurant.

So it drives me insane to know that if I and a lady was facing such racism, no one would get involved. Not only that people would sit there in silence! Not a single word… (Shocking!) And it wasn’t like the people were old, the people seemed like students into your mid 30s type and should have known better… There is no excuse for saying nothing!

When I first looked at Manchester I did worry about being in a northern city. I seen programmes about other cities near by where separation between the races are closer to something I’ve only experienced in parts of America. Don’t get me wrong growing up in Bristol wasn’t easy. My parents amazingly moved into a area which was very white and survived through all the NF sprayed on the house, brick attacks, etc. I was also one of only 2 Black guys in my primary/junior school. I could tell stories of running away from the National Front (Kingswood was well known for being their stomping grounds) and the different brushes I’ve had with racism including in London a couple times.

What bugs me is like David Starky’s ranting is these people do/should know better. My parents and our old  lovely neighbours supported them greatly and stood up for them. Without their support things would have been a lot worst… So you can see why I’m pissed at those people and I guess the fact Manchester for not doing better.

What kind of society are we if we don’t all stand up for each other?! And yes I know the Bystander effect.

I imagine some of you are saying, stop getting so worked up… its a TV programme and one social experiment (although they did run it 3x to the same effect). Maybe I should remember the benefits of moving to Manchester but its hard to be happy and defend the great city of Manchester in the face of such a obviously bad thing, even if staged for TV…

A singles gastro club night

Barbecue Ribs Green Well Food Macro July 18, 20104

When Josh originally tweeted me, I got to say I looked but was in too much pain to look at in detail. Now looking at it again, I like the idea of the gastro club and I won’t lie foaf dining is a take off that but for people who never met before. This one certainly attracts me like never before. I had considered it in the past but having to get someone to go with was always a issue. On top of that most of my Manchester friends are in relationships so that was always a problem.

A member approached me asking if we could do a special  ”singles” Gastroclub dinner. So I want to get an idea of how many people would be interested in attending. I am only doing this for purely selfish reasons – I want a Gastroclub wedding. NO PRESSURE.

How would it work?

It would be a one off event so the normal Gastroclub dinner would still happen in the same month. We would allow for a longer time to mingle prior to dinner and after. It would be a relaxed event much like the normal Gastroclub except you’d know everyone in the room was single and looking to meet someone. There wouldn’t be name badges or any “speed” meeting of any sort. The only stipulation would be that you have to sit next to someone you’d not sat next to before – to mix it up a bit.

So I’m signed up to see what happens… #GCDinnerDate

Excited! Food and Love what more could you ask for? I wonder how the bill will be worked out… yes who pays on the first date, boom boom :)

Why is it so hard to find a normal, single woman I fancy?

Dating in the 21st Century

So I have been meaning to blog about Northern Lass 32 for a while, since Josh or Tim pointed me at it… She’s started writing a series for the Guardian which has got me going a few times.

Northern Lass, 32, wishes she could just do things the old-fashioned way – flutter eyelashes in a bar. Here, she opens an occasional series on navigating the new dating jungl

Ok so far so good, always good to have some more focus on dating in the 21st century, because it certainly needs it.

…as I quickly found out it’s very different in your 30s than in your 20s; things have changed. In my early 20s, I could rock up to a club and 50% of the guys would also be single. Therefore with a scientific combination of the power of averages and copious amounts of alcohol, it really wasn’t that hard to dance around someone at the Music Box (RIP), give them the eye, pretend you could hear what they were saying, then … BAM! Boyfriend! Well at least that’s how I remember it.

Now however, they are all paired off, settled down, off the shelf and there is the added minefield of multi-platform stalkfests such as Facebook and internet dating sites to navigate.

Yes those days are pretty much long gone. Many of my coupled friends say pretty much the same, go down the club and find someone ffs. Well its not that simple, specially when older and somewhat wiser?

a few of my friends had tried Internet dating and loved it. So, figuring I had nothing to lose but a subscription fee, I signed up to Guardian Soulmates and Match.com. That was 12 months ago, and wow has it been an interesting ride. The messages and dates have ranged from the lovely to the out-and-out bonkers.

I will say this now… I have tried both Match and Guardian Soulmates. Thinking was Match might have the biggest selection and Guardian Soulmates would be full of left leaning woman who might fit nicely.

Match.com for me was a total joke, I signed up for 1 month to try it out and although I did talk to a few woman nothing really got far. I did go on one or two dates but what that was about the time I really noticed how much people will lie in there profiles. Not just a bit but quite a lot… Lies about all types of things. Heck since then, I’m sniffy about all types of things.. Had a woman once lie about which country she was from, why? I have no idea!

Guardian soulmates… worst still. Why? Well its simple.

Everyone laughs at the uniform dating advert on TV. Uniform dating sign up if you wear a uniform, signup if you like people who wear them, heck sign up if you dont! Enough said really!

Well Guardian soulmates is pretty much the same. I met people who bought a guardian paper once, or those who honestly have never bought a guardian paper ever. Worst still I met a woman whose politics was right leaning. Don’t get me wrong I’m not going to reject someone just because there politics are not aligned with mine – that would be very bad. But you expect someone on Guardian Soulmates to have a slightly left leaning viewpoint on the world.

Internet dating is a bit like catalogue shopping for someone you want to hang out with. Little thumbnail pictures of, in the Guardian’s case: X hanging out with friends, or X building an African village and then X skydiving for charity. Or in Match.com’s case: X lifting up his top to show his abs and his ex-girlfriend’s name tattooed on his chest.

Among all the faces and messages, I started to communicate with a few blokes that seemed nice so started to meet up for the odd date. But a pattern emerged. All the guys I got on with and fancied didn’t come from Manchester. Derby, Sheffield, Kent, Liverpool – all great dates, all who I would see again. Manchester, on the other hand, seemed to be a hotbed of dating disaster.

If you are comparing online dating with looking in a catalogue, your maybe not taking it seriously? I do know what she means about the photos and I’ve already had my say about those. And I won’t lie a pattern is emerging for me too, mainly to do with the Cholton area of Manchester, although I wouldn’t say I have any hotbed disasters, there have been a few places I would be weary of in the future.

The further examples of dates further drive me to start “The Life and Opinions of a Datasexual Gentleman” (or some such title) – thanks Janet Davis.

Generally I’ve met woman like Northern Lass 32 (although I’ve never bumped into her directly I don’t think) and frankly they have taken everything for a joke including meeting up in real life. Usually its there first time ever meeting anyone through the internet and its all…

a little surreal..?

Chill and take your time, stop rushing and just let things wash over you as interesting experiences

Heck worst comes to worst you could write a fictionalised, very contemporary, digital 21st century story connecting the rollicking & romance of 18thc classic. But of course not before I do… *smile*

updated…

I had not looked at the comments for that post till Vickytnz made a interesting comment about them. Wow, seriously wow… Maybe I should reconsider my contemporary fiction…?

The first Manchester Quantified Self Meetup

Life logging

I can happily tell the world that Manchester’s first Quantified Self Meetup will be Friday 5th July at MadLab.

Madlab will update their calendar real soon but you can sign up using Meetup.com for free.

I will be giving a talk about my work time, foodfeed.us blog and fitbit to kick start discussions. Of course we’re looking for other speakers to join me and talk about there own experiences in quantified self.

When:
Friday, July 5, 2013 – 6:30 – 8:30PM
Where:
Mad Lab: 36-40 Edge Street, Manchester, United Kingdom

Details:
Manchester QS meetup consists of Show & Tell where people present or simply talk for 10-15 mins about their experience and experiments with self-tracking, quantifying and self-hacking whether it involves devices, applications or not.

This part lasts till about 8:30pm. We then move next door to Terrance or Common, which is an essential and integral part of the meetup, as important as the first part the ‘Show & Tell’. If you can join us, I encourage you to do so. Not only it’s always good fun, the conversations are equally interesting.

Peaktime trains vs Hotels

Overhead power lines

I can happily say I have to date never knowingly paid for a peak time ticket to London.

Even when going back and forth to London from Manchester for those meetings with the rest of the BBC, I just couldn’t do it.

Two questions bugs me around this…

  1. How can Virgin trains charge more than a hotel in Central London (booked within 24hours) for a peak ticket?
  2. Why is there peak time from 3pm – 7pm if you leave London but not the same if you leave anywhere else at the same time?

The current price of an Anytime peak return is £308! This means you can get on a train anytime and return anytime within a month. Even if you don’t need that level of flexibly, the cheapest peak time return tickets are roughly £217. Yes you can get 2 singles but there still roughly a total of £210 and you must go on that train there and back.

An Anytime off peak return is £77.30 with the same return anytime within a month. Giving you plenty of flexibility (just remember to avoid the 2nd peak time).

To be fair all these prices are based on a booking within a month of travelling and are for Virgin Trains to and from London. If you book over a month before the prices do lower and 2 months before can be reasonable. Just a shame the discount fares are not that great.

So saying all that, what I worked out early on while at BBC Backstage was, if you take a off peak train and stay in a hotel, its still cheaper than a peak time train fare. Yes believe it or not, and its not one of those crappy unknown hotels, I mean the likes of Holiday Inn, Ibis, Ramada, etc. So not your elite or boutique level hotels but a good hotel with a good bed and breakfast. Plus I don’t mean booking way in advance, I mean booking within 24hours.

The only issue is you have to give up your night before to catch the off peak train.

For many this is a absolute no way/no chance. Its hard enough going down to London to spend a night or two away from the family, let alone prolong it by adding more time away. I totally understand and who am I to judge, but for someone like myself, this is a great opportunity to save some licence fee, sleep soundly over night in a hotel and wake up early for that 10am meeting. Sometimes I even get the chance to meet up with old London friends on the Sunday, which certainly sweetens the deal some what. At least it doesn’t seem like I’m using my personal time for work then.

Frankly I hate getting up early, and there is nothing better than being able to get up later and still make that 10am meeting, without worry about delays or scrapping for the last seat on a stupidly packed peak-time train.

The height factor?

Tall woman (photo: Marion) #floreo #panni

Josh sent me a link to this survey of people in the UK and more interestingly the height factor.

“Love the way you (don’t) lie: Manchester men among most honest online daters in UK, survey reveals”

Dating site WhatsYourPrice.com, which allows members to bid for their dates, released a survey about how often people lie on their online dating profiles. The study asked 15,200 UK members, and Manchester came out in the top five in honesty. The poll revealed that 82% of Manchester men are honest on their profiles, ranking them fourth highest in the country. Manchester women came in at sixth with 78% being honest. The study found that overall 34% of women and 21% of men lie on their online dating profiles.

Ok so nothing new there…

Embellishments included in online profiles can range from small tweaks such as adding a few inches onto height to fabrications of fictional identities. The study shows however, that women most frequently lie about their age and career, while men are most likely to lie about their height and career. Founder and CEO of WhatsYourPrice.com Brandon Wade said: “It’s interesting, though not surprising, that men are lying about their careers. “In this economy, it is very likely that a man is unsatisfied with his career, and might embellish his online dating profile as he would a resume to make himself more appealing.”

Interesting height still matters for a number of a reasons… I know men who wont date anyone taller than themselves Okcupid has something to say about this too

REALITY: People are two inches shorter in real life.

Okcupid has tons of interesting stats to answer the question Do taller guys have more sex? The answer, to a degree, is yes, and they then expand on it… But whats even more interesting is the fact 5′ 4″ woman gets 60 more contacts each year than a six-footer.

It’s plain from these two charts that women six feet or taller are either less attractive to men or are considered too intimidating to message. The data also raises the interesting possibility that these tall women are much more likely to sleep with a man who does approach them. Compare the 6′ 0″ woman to her 5′ 4″ counterpart: the taller woman gets hit on about two-thirds as much, yet has had slightly more sex partners.

But back to the other post…

Dating expert Alex Mellor-Brook of Select Personal Introductions, Manchester, says that the survey shows how difficult the dating game has become. He said: “It’s great that the guys in Manchester are doing so well in telling the truth.

“I can understand height being a point that guy’s lie about.

“It is one of the main criteria that would be high on a woman’s wish list.

“Fashion has a lot to do with this, as shoes get higher, women do not want to be towering over their guy.

So generally, Men prefer shorter women and women prefer tall men? (not saying I do personally) Thats got to suck for the short guys, specially with the trend to towards women with bigger and taller platforms shoes… But what I’m more interested in the fact height factors really high in the list when it could be a problem.

Even when Year of making love experts (if you can call them that and thanks to Pebaline for spotting our YOML expert sticking his nose in on other stuff) were shocked by the reaction of couples who had an unbalanced in height towards the female.

Single black male have a ton of reasons and also ask the same question. The ones which is most cutting and which seems to go through most peoples minds is…

Masculinity - In her own words “Being tall gives you that athletic persona, and makes you more of a man”.

There seems to be a height factor…Superficial, stupid, old fashioned? like it or not…

Good places for first dates in Manchester

Koffee kiss

Following my last few posts about dates and information for those interested…

Now I have to point out that I am still single and therefore this means all my tips obviously have not worked. There also more for fun that anything and shouldn’t be taken seriously…

I wanted it to be more like this than this (or heck this)…

  1. Bakerie (anytime)
    This place is perfect. Not only is it a great place to take a date but its also a nice place with a good choice of wine and food. Just dont order cocktails because it will be a disappointment. You can also transfer from a few drinks to a meal with or a sharing platter… Its also got an amazing atmosphere, which is dark and low lit by small lights and tea lights. Its a lively place, so its best to do the date before 8pm if possible. Fridays and Saturdays are extremely busy. Also if you get the chance check out the tasting bakerie for that extra special date. Reviewed by Manchester confidential
  2. FYG Northern Quarter (anytime but lunch time)
    FYG is a wine kind of a place and of course if you do transfer, food is great… A sharing deli platter for two could be lots of fun if it wasn’t surpassed by the Chocolate or Cheese Fondue on some Fridays. The atmosphere is usually quiet with the hummm of people talking and a bit of music in the background. The owners and staff are lovely and ever so friendly. Wine selection is up there with Bakerie but the more quiet environment is handy for inmate chats. Recently reviewed by Manchester confidential
  3. Soup Kitchen (before 10pm)
    Large bench tables like you see in Wagamamas but can be nice for meeting up for an early evening drink. They seem to have tons of different beers and some wines. The food isn’t bad but nothing compared to FYG or Bakerie. Its also not sharing food. The soup kitchen has a downstairs club which gets loud and I gather the upstairs starts to rise later in the evening too.
  4. A place called common (before 9pm)
    Another classic place like Soup Kitchen, lots of beers and some reasonable food. The music gets loud after 9pm, so you may want to move on by the late evening. The booths make for interesting inmate spaces although they are a bit big for just a couple.
  5. revoluciondecuba (weekdays)
    Out of the northern quarter now, its a new rum cocktail bar near deansgate with plenty of seats and booths. Cocktails and South American Beers. Its more mainstream that the rest but still a good place during the week but avoid on weekends its packed full of people and loud music. Food is good and can be ordered up till late.
  6. Apotheca (not on the weekend)
    Laura pointed out this venue is used for Coronation Street now and then, but this venue is full of lovely moveable sofas and has some fine cocktails. Next door is dough pizza kitchen if you want to grab some late night food. The venue is usually buzzing but not loud unless Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Careful of the quiz which sometimes happens, but you can avoid it with some foresight.
  7. Oddest Bar
    I had to include one from Cholton otherwise people would complain. I have been to the Oddest quite a few times as its just off the Cholton tram stop and tends to have a buzz which means you can have drinks till late. Its a chain with other Odd bars in Manchester, but the Cholton one is the best I have to say.
  8. Home sweet home
    Quiet little place next to Common, they do hot food and cake till late plus all types of drinks (even some cocktails). Its a great place for a intimate chat before going home, as there is no loud music to fight with. I always found its evening staff friendly and the place never full after 9pm
  9. Knott Bar (FB site, geez get a real site!)
    Another one of those pubs which serve all types of beer but has a great atmosphere. I use to go there all the time and Sunday afternoons can rather special. No loud music and plenty of space most of the time.
  10. Rain Bar
    Old classic for me, the drink selection isn’t great, same goes for the food. But there’s lots of corners and even outdoor spaces by the canal for good laughs and intimate chats. Shame food ends so early, but its a good venue for meeting and a few drinks.

A couple notables…

Dukes 92
If its sunny and your date is much earlier in the afternoon, dukes92 has everything you want (beers, wine, bbq, sharing food). However it might this year see its popularity undone by The Wharf in Castlefield. Its also not the place you go for quiet conversations really!

Simple
I use to love Simple before the camera in the toilet shocker. You could go for a quiet drink and the venue would slowly transform into a late night drinking venue complete with loud music. Shame, never been back after that shocker.

Future Everything 2013

I had the pleasure of attending Future Everything again this year. Manchester’s answer to SXSW in my own eyes. Now in its 18th year (I believe Drew said to me) its decided to move from the already packed May month to the earlier month of March. As usual theres a conference line up somewhere in the mists of the busy festival of events.

The themes this year are

These are my highlights from the ones I attended…

Future Cities…

Dave Carter

The never conventional Dave Carter is a real asset to Manchester, I can’t give the man enough credit for what he says and what he goes and does… It was great to hear his version of ask for forgiveness not permission.

Martijn de Waal did a talk titled A tale of 3 cities… social cities of tomorrow. In the talk about 3 cities in South Korea, Songdo, Homdu and Seoul City. Songdo was the perfectly designed city of the future, clean, designed and all that. Homdu is organic in its design and gives rise to some strange human made constructions. Seoul City is a responsive city with lots of systems which allow feedback and change. Its almost responsive in nature.

Rest of the talk was about the differences and how the platform of the city can best help the citizens within it. Which kind of city would people like to live in kept coming up, and generally a balance of all three seemed to be the general view.

I could hear the sharp intake of breath when Scott Cain of the TSB (Tech strategy board) made a comment about something being in London because that makes the most sense. But no one picked him up on it which seemed a missed opportunity.

Redsigning the Future

The redesigning the future talk was interesting but bugged me…  I think it bugged me for being very vague and not revealing a lot. I certainly got a lot more out of the talk with Magnus at Thinking Digital 2012. There were some stuff which was thrown out including the notion of “Super density” which I gather is the opposite of unevenly distribution. A day made of glass was mentioned a few times along with the science fiction condition and internet fridge too.

Which leads me nicely on to the after event called ideas are theft.

It sold its self outspoken, fun, spiky and dangerous but it turned into one of the biggest let downs in Future Everything history. What got me was there was some great panellists including Dave Mee, Usman Haque and Natalie Jeremijenko. All would be fun and could talk about stuff in a spiky dangerous way if the moderator would shut up, questions were any good and made sense. The 2nd half was better but to be honest the damage was done, people started talking within themselves and the guests looked pissed off. I know it was meant to be funny but it felt very amateur which isn’t what I associate with Future Everything.

On the Data Society front…

The super smart Mel Woods seems to be the person behind the interesting project I experienced called Chattr. The premise is simply to wear a microphone and have your conversation turned into a twitter transcript. You can see the transcripts if you look at the twitter bot ChattrLeaks or hashtag. There was a delay as everything was recorded then on handing the recorder back its send to the 3rd floor to be transcribed and tweeted. For me it was the balance of privacy which was super interesting. For example a conversation later with a freelancer had to be deleted because I didn’t feel comfortable with it being tweeted even though I was very careful not to repeat anything she said.

Of course when I first got the mic, I couldn’t help but spill lots of pearls of wisdom to the world…

“I would never invite someone over to my house on a first date” #chattr

— Chattr Leaks (@ChattrLeaks) March 22, 2013

The point of the project is to feel the tension between public and private. For someone like me to feel that tension, it certainly did the job well. Really got me thinking Mel, well played!

Farida Vis and Usman Haque had a session I wish I had attended from the very start. Living in an age of Algorithmic Culture is something I’m very interested in, specially in regards to big data. They digged into the idea of algorithms and are they useful to us? Farida joined the algorithm with the health of a company. Which got me thinking about something I saw where the company banned certain users from inputing more data because it was unbalancing the algorithm and causing excess processing time. Could it be possible to starve or bloat an algorithm (ultimately hack it) to slow down the processing? Farida and Usman did agree, that most startups use external processing power and yes that could if left unchecked cause excess processing and therefore money.

I’d love to dig into love in algorithms with these guys one day, but thats another blog post and maybe more soon.

API Economy

On the Creative Code front I saw a number of mini-hack events and also a good discussion about the Politics of Open Data and API Economy. Some good thinking about moving away from the big players such as Facebook and Twitter. Also talking about not just simply running to the next big player, so no running to Google plus (specially with whats happening with Google reader!)

There was a thought that the only way to run a API was to charge for it which had me reaching for the sky but there was so many questions I missed my chance. There were a number of artistic talks but none really stuck in my head or had me typing on my tablet. Bringing the archive to life with BBC’s Tony Ageh was interesting to hear where we are years later. Tony even suggested a date of finishing, which if I remember correctly was 2017? Awesome work… Except I have no idea why there was a makeie doll on the panel? Maybe only Bill Thompson knows…?

Makie

The Future Everything Summit was a good one, the venue in Piccadilly place is a lot better than MOSI and I liked the little touches like the honestly payment system for lunch and the like. I do agree with Imran that the layout and signage could do with a designers eye because it didn’t make total sense. I did like the fact hacks and bof/unconference events were happening in the spare spaces, this felt closer than years previously. I gather there was a lot of speakers who dropped out at the last moment but it all worked and it felt like a good event. You could hardly go wrong for less than 100 pounds.

Good job Future Everything, I look forward to other summits through out the year?

Why I shut down BBC backstage

BBC Backstage Meets the NW communities networking bash

George sent me a tweet saying how much Elizabeth Murdoch loved BBC Backstage, as she mentioned it in her speech to the Edinburgh TV Festival last year.

The BBC has been the market leader for building new relationships and services with creative’s from every sector. Be it the early ground breaking Backstage initiative for technology engineers.

Shes right and it does beg the question, why is there no more BBC Backstage?

I thought this was covered in the BBC Backstage ebook which was put together by the lovely Suw. But it looks like I may have been slightly mistaken. On top of this, I keep making reference to this blog post which I never seem to quite finish. So enough, its finished and out there for all to read…

First misconception: The BBC never shutdown BBC Backstage

Actually I did… When I first mentioned the possibility of closing down BBC Backstage to Adrian (my manager) he thought I had totally lost it. I remember a meeting with Adrian and Matthew (head of R&D) where I talked about shutting it down and I gave my reasoning which made soften the blow a little. I had thought long and hard about leaving BBC Backstage and passing it on to someone else younger and full of energy (I even had a number of names put forward to consider). But it didn’t make sense.

The problems with Backstage were not about who was running it but more about what was happening around it (as we will see in number 4)

Second misconception: The BBC sits on a ton of data.

The core of BBC Backstage was the backstage license which is founded on non-commercial reuse of data. This gave backstage the license to go around the BBC educating/persuading/convincing stakeholders about the benefits of open data at a time when data wasn’t a big thing. The problem is the data wasn’t ours. For example the Met Office would make the weather data available to the BBC under strict licensing. Deals were done for non-commercial use and it was always neigh impossible to reverse a deal without effecting the production side of the things.

Lots of people imagine most of Backstage was hacks. In actual fact lots of it was people experimenting.

Third misconception: Developers found new business models

This backs off the non-commercial problem. Because everything was under the non-commercial license, when things like the Apple App Store came along and offered developers clear ways to make money from their work. We had to shut down a lot of prototypes and tell people not to use BBC backstage data in there apps.

This was actually a issue from early on when Google Adsense, offered developers a nice way to make a small amount of money based on numbers of people who came to the site. It was argued that if developers made enough money to just cover the hosting of the prototype, we could turn a blind eye to. This wasn’t sustainable as it kept coming back to bite every once in a while. But it wasn’t till the App stores when the number of prototypes and services wanting to go commercial blew up.

Once developers learned it was actually against the terms and conditions, they naturally moved on to other platforms.  We did talk to BBC Worldwide many times about working together but it just wasn’t to be.

Forth misconception: The Open Data Revolution passed it by

Backstage had a hand in getting this revolution going in the UK and beyond. 7 years later, we had influenced everyone from other companies to the government. We were there right at the start of this revolution and fundamentally changed the BBC’s thinking about data. However it was clear this was just the start and as a part of BBC R&D, it was right to move on and have the same impact in another emerging area. The developer network part of Backstage was tricky to balance with the push to drive forward.

We did think about splitting it off and working in partnership with others who were later to the scene but it just didn’t quite happen and in the era of cost cutting and doing the things which really have an impact for our audiences it was harder to justify.

Fifth misconception: It was all about DRM and the BBC wanted rid

Looking at the mailing list, its easy to imagine it being all about DRM and not a lot else. But in actual fact while the DRM debates rages on, there were lots of people creating and making lots of prototypes. Lots of them were documented on the website but there were some which were so illegal there was no way I could put them anywhere public. Those were more of a look what we could do…

Even though they were much more black/grey around the licensing terms, they drove the imagination and clearly got a number of us thinking what if…? One such example is the widely talked about blast from the past called Panadora PVR (now called Promise.TV) which lead to Tom Loosemore’s talk at Etech 2007, the Edinburgh TV unfestival and the building of the infamous BBC Redux.

The BBC gained a lot from having the debate and being rather open about it all.

Sixth misconception: There was no money or love for BBC Backstage

This is somewhat true and false. Yes it became more difficult to justify and we had gone through quite a difficult patch, while losing some key people to project. On top of that we had a new head of Future Media (Erik Huggers), moved into BBC R&D and was shifting the project up to the north of England to fit in with BBC’s increasing push to solve the London and South East bias.

Everything was changing and everytime we took BBC Backstage in a different direction, there was push back from the dedicated community. To me this is the way of the world (forever changing) but it certainly makes funding such projects difficult when you want a 3-5 year plan.

There was much love for BBC Backstage from Future Media and other departments in the BBC, there was lots of talk about setting up other Backstages in different areas as a outreach project alone it hit audiences the BBC was not so good at having conversations with. The formula was repeatable but should it be? We could have done Mashed all over the UK but was that a good idea? I certainly didn’t think so and ultimately my thoughts about driving forward were correct.

Seventh misconception: We ran out of steam

Ok this might be true to a certain extent. But not from the lack of trying… You only have to look at the new things I’ve been working on since, including Channelography, Perceptive Media, etc. There is still fire in myself and I still have a lot to give… During that time, I will admit I was well over worked and I was being contacted by many people on the off chance just because I was out in the open. This certainly slowed down daily looking through BBC emails. Hence why I now have a another BBC email.

Ultimately I want to think everyone who has been involved in BBC Backstage in the past (too many to name). The decision was made under a ton of stress on my part but I felt I was making the correct decision for everyone including the founders, the BBC and the community. Then and even now. I mean can you imagine BBC Backstage in 2013!?

Things need to end (such as BBC Backstage, Innovation Labs, etc) for others to spark, grow and mature like BBC Connected Studio.