Tag Archives: manchester

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.

 

Northology podcast ep 8 with Ian Forrester

Ian Forrester

Not long after blogging about Northology and the other great things happening in Manchester, its great to be on the show.

This week Nathan talks to Ian Forrester, a Senior Producer with BBC Research and Development, about his move from London to Salford, his work with BBC Backstage and how narrative and story telling is changing.  He also talks online dating, bar camp, geek dinners and many other things he’s involved in.

The interview was a quick thing and before I even knew it was over. Which means I didn’t quite get everything I wanted to say into the interview.

Judge for yourself by listening here or subscribing here.

Manchester’s got everything except a beach

Castlefield <3

I spent sometime in London over the last few weeks for connected studio and a number of work meetings. I got to see a bunch of people I had not seen for a long while and most asked me…

“So how is Manchester, you don’t regret moving?”

Or something along those lines…

My answer is always something like you should come up and stay sometime, its a great city. Almost 5 years and I’m loving it… The great thing is I’m not the only one spotting the fantastic opportunities available. Specially when it comes to the digital world.

The second factor is the sense that a genuine startup culture is being fostered here. The elements have always been in place for this to occur, particularly that Manchester has the largest student population in Europe with over 100,000 currently studying in the city’s five universities.

These include the University of Manchester, which is playing a really important role in the high-tech space. Meanwhile the University of Salford has recently opened a campus at MediaCityUK, designed to encourage creativity, innovation and collaboration between academics, students, professionals and industry, and develop talent for the creative, media and technology industries.

Between the BBC building a massive base here, TechhubManchester, the stupid amount of bandwidth being put into the city and other stories. Its worth mentioning some of the other things happening…

MadLabUK

Essentially a adult/hacker community space complete with different floors running a number of different community minded events. Its amazing and they have expanded already. The owners (4 of them!) hold it all together and even though they struggle most of the time, theres always something interesting on for the local community. I can’t explain how great Madlab is… Everything from Co-working, room hire to the random Art exhibitions and Hackman meetup. Madlab is also the first place to start dabbling with DIYBio which further demonstrates how great a place it is. Well worth a visiting always…

The Classroom

The Classroom is a welcome treat sitting between the likes of working out of a coffee shop and the likes of Techhub which is much more serious about there startup status. It is a co-working space but closer to the kind of thing I’ve only witnessed in San Francisco. Its still quite new but looks to be growing due to the demand.

Northology

The brain child of Nathan Rae (can be found regularly behind a camera on the Manchester scene), setup to highlight key people in the Manchester scene. I had a similar idea a while ago but it didn’t quite work out (smallworld). However Northology is now on its 9th podcast and doesn’t look like its stopping anytime soon. Who knows maybe it will expand to video one day?

FabLab

Manchester’s fabrication laboratory is next door to where I live. Its still doing a great business and I really do need to find something to build. Easily confused with MadLab but completely different, I need a project just so I can mess with the 3D printer, welders, laser cutters, etc.

…and the many coffee shops and bars in the northern quarter and cholton

There are too many coffee shops and bars in the northern quarter and cholton which are friendly to people who want to work out of them or just chillax on a Sunday afternoon. Unlike many places I’ve been to in other cities which will lock down there wifi, block power points and make you feel like a baby eater for sitting 10mins beyond the end of your allocated tea time. Some of the most notable including… North Tea Power, FYG Deli, Common, Soup Kitchen, Vivid Lounge, North Star cafe, Home Sweet Home, sugar junction, etc, etc…

Join me for Cloud Atlas at the cinema this Friday?

If you weren’t sure about Cloud Atlas, not heard much about it, well watch this from Digital Spy… and…

Tom Hanks has claimed that his new film Cloud Atlas is as complex as Christopher Nolan’s  The Castaway star explained that the multi-thread plot of both films challenges the audience.

“There are going to be people out there who are going to say, ‘Who do they think they are to make this movie like this?’” he told The Belfast Telegraph.

“That’s been the case with every great film. I think every audience is yearning to be surprised. I am bored when I walk into the theatre expecting A, B and C, and a movie delivers A, B and C.

“I want to see something brand new that I never anticipated coming a hundred million miles away,” he continued, “And my God, that happens before the words ‘Cloud Atlas’ appear up on the screen on this one.”

Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times, Hanks added: “I loved that it wasn’t going to be simple for audiences.

“Lord, doesn’t that sound beautiful? A film that is original, creative and makes you think. That’s what movies used to be.
“I think it’s as risky as Inception,” he concluded.
Inception was a complete one-off. You saw it the first time and said, ‘How many movies are in this thing?’”

Although I wouldn’t say it was quite as epic as inception, its certainly not far off. This is why  I said on Salford Cinema Club’s micro blog… I will be going to watch Cloud Atlas at the Odeon Manchester Cinema.

If you are also interested in watching this master piece of storytelling and film, give me a shout on twitter or something… Thinking about the 8:20pm showing?

Cloud Atlas is finally coming this way…

Cloud Atlas and Mapo, Seoul
I won’t lie, I’ve already seen Cloud Atlas a few times.

I couldn’t wait and I’m very glad I did, as the film is so complex and very true to the book. Everytime I see it I’m amazed in how rich the plot is and how amazingly gorgeous the each scene looks and feels.

As usual I want to see this in the cinema, ideally at the Manchester IMAX.

The Official UK Release date for Cloud Atlas is Friday 22nd Febuary.

I’m not certain it will be in the IMAX but I’m going to watch it on the Friday…

Who’s with me?

The East Manchester line opens

Metrolink ticket

At long long last… The East Manchester line is opening to the public! But there is a preview from Friday – Sunday for residents who were disrupted by the whole thing…

The new 3.9-mile (6.3km) Metrolink line from Manchester Piccadilly to Droylsden will open to the general public on Monday 11 February – and residents will shortly be sent their free travel invitation.

Once open, it will serve eight new stops – New Islington, Holt Town, Etihad Campus, Velopark, Clayton Hall, Edge Lane, Cemetery Road and Droylsden.

Only 1 year and 6 months behind schedule! (it was meant to be open for last seasons football, aka Aug 2011!)

My yearly pass will run out soon, and I really want to know two things…

  1. Is the New Islington stop I overlook, quicker than going to Piccadilly Station?
    Currently if I’m walking fast, I can walk from islington wharf to Piccadilly station metrolink platform in just over 6mins. If I’m on my skateboard, its even quicker (specially now the barriers are down along the way). They are meant to be building a bridge across the canal, for residents of new islington but even if you cross the canal, the other side has some heavy barriers blocking your way. I’m sure someone will put a hole in the fence at some point.
  2. Which zone is the New Islington stop going to be in?
    Annoyingly Metrolink are still doing the line thing for now, which means if I want to add new islington to my ticket, its going to be another ton of money. Now would be a good time to stop ripping us off and use zones like TFL

So if someone from Metrolink would like to get back to me on some of these questions, comments should now work?

 

Broadcast or Perceptive Media?

I was half watching Newsnight and working on my laptop, on Thursday 31st January on BBC2. Newsnight finished and the weather came on. Now the #uksnow is pretty much out the way, I’m not so interested in the weather.

Anyway as the weather man ran through the upcoming weather forecast, I looked up when the man mentioned Manchester. A few moments passed and I thought well its related to rain, so Manchester is a obvious target. A few moments later, Manchester was mentioned again and I looked up again. My glance become more of a stare as I thought about perceptive media.

The moment of attention or as I like to think about it, a moment of deja vu. Was powerful enough to make me lift my head and divert my attention to the weather for a few more moments at least.

The ability to connect and engage with people using slight differences in narrative. It doesn’t require huge sweeping changes, just clever well written narrative.