Tag Archives: smc

Does Manchester need a tech night?

Geek Graffiti

My friend Chris has something which has been bugging him. He told me while we had a late breakfast in VividLounge.

There’s something that’s bugged me about events in Manchester’s tech scene for a while. There are a lot of great specialist events, and a lot of networking events, but there appears to be little in between, ones that cross knowledge sharing with networking, other than the now-defunct Social Media Cafe, the Northern Digitals BLAB Talks, and ThoughtWorks’Manchester Geek Nights. However, BLAB Talks are geared more towards the creative side of the industry, rather than the technical side and Manchester Geek Nights speakers appear to be limited to ThoughtWorks.

The specialist events are great, but there’s just so many of them, that it’s impossible to attend even just the ones that are interesting to you, and the networking events tend to be heavily geared around alcohol and drinking, which in itself is problematic and can be exclusionary.

When I lived in Oxford there was a great event I attended frequently, Oxford Geek Nights, which basically has a format that fills a gap that I think Manchester now has, so I’d like to start running a monthly series of nights in this format, and hopefully some other people think this is a good idea too.

When I was in London during the first dot com era, I was also going to many specialist events. Most were around startups and money. When that all fell apart the events dried up or became even more specialised. So London geekdinners was started following some loose events in America by the same name. I’ve already mentioned how much of success the girl geekdinners have and are. Funny enough (I believe) the Oxford geek nights were setup following Nat and Simon (founders of Lanyrd) after they enjoyed going to the London Geekdinner and wanted to bring a slice to Oxford. Similarly Geekup and London Tuttle club (forerunner for Social Media Cafe Manchester)

The main reason why I bring up the past again is because there seems to be a cycle. The cycle seems to be flick between general and specific events. Theres certainly a need for both, but sometimes there feels like theres many more of one that the other. Both type of events are tricky to keep going and seem to

Its great Chris feels the need to setup another event, I think it will go down well. I can help with advice on the venue side, but I honestly think a venue won’t be too much of a problem and I certainly would love to talk at one of the events soon.

Make it so, Chris!

I on the other hand won’t be setting up any other events. Between BarCampEdu, 300 Seconds, Quantified Self and a possible next season of Relationships 2.0 (previously called geeks talk sexy). I have little spare time, plus its great when someone else stands up and does something rather than waiting for others.

Although I’ve been thinking about geekdinners 3.0 (maybe to replace relationships 2.0). The tag would be the geeky side of everything… Maybe next year. Rather than people you expect, we would have people from different areas who talk about the geeky side. For example a chef to explain all those different knives, a street artist to explain the world of street art. I tried to do this with geekdinners before but didn’t push beyond the industry much. Maybe now’s the time…?

Make it do, Ian! Maybe I will…

Seek forgiveness not permission

Seek forgiveness not permission - SOTM

Just come back from another #SMC_MCR (Social Media Cafe) and SomeoneOnceToldMe was talked about.

Of course I added my own which I’ll talk about once it goes up. However Mario highlighted the picture above as a example.

Now for me this is Tom Loosemore’s famous phrase. So famous, I don’t actually know where it originally comes from till now…

I’m now aware thanks to Paul Downey its credited to Grace Hopper

What’s more she achieved all of this in a world of institutional discrimination against women and whilst working inside an authoritarian bureaucracy, which is probably why she is often attributed with the quote: “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to seek permission“. The breadth of her accomplishments led to her earning the nickname “Amazing Grace”

Tom said “I have stopped using that phrase! See http://vimeo.com/58798945

Shame because it still rings true… No matter what Tom says now, he’s influence is clear to see. And with that in mind, I rip the picture from the example for my blog. Sure Mario will understand

Perceptive Media Launch at Social Media Cafe Manchester

If you’ve not experienced Perceptive Media yet, stop reading and go to futurebroadcasts.com to listen to the Breaking Out audioplay.

We’ve been sitting on Breaking Out for months slowly improving it as the browsers caught up with what we were trying to get them to do (WebAudioAPI is very topical at the moment). When we first started there was no way it was going to work in anything but the latest chrome. However things are starting to change…

Anyhow because of the wait to get things working correctly, we picked a date to release much later than expected. That date slotted right in between the end of the Euro 2012 and The 2012 Olympics. That date co-insided with SMC_MCR’s July event, the event where I first talked about Perceptive Media openly for the first time.

Elliot Woods

The event hosted at the excellent Cornerhouse Cinema was great. First up was Elliot Wood discussing the process behind his most recent digital art installation in Korea with studio Kimchi and Chips. Really interesting as there were some key points which matched some of our thinking. Mainly around openness and generative/organic systems.

Tony looking nervious

After the break came some announcements and then Perceptive Media with me and Tony.

We quickly ran through our reformatted presentation from the EBU in April, to lay the context for those who were not at the SMC event in February. Afterwards we went into a live demo of Breaking Out the audioplay.

Listening to Perceptive Media

The audience enjoyed the play and seemed to respond well to part of the play I’m not going talk about now.

After hearing the audioplay we switched to a panel discussion with me, Tony Churnside, Henry Swindell (from the BBC Writers room) and Sarah Glenister (the writer of the script from the BBC Writers room). We also had Mark Boas and Mark Panaghiston (from Happyworm, the developers) on Skype just in case.

The questions were coming thick and fast, at one point I counted about 20 hands up of the 60 strong audience. Lots of questions about the idea of Perceptive Media and quite a few about the storyline. It was great having Henry there because he laid it out from the writers point of view. Sarah jumped in and gave her point of view writing the script, something she just published on the BBC Writers room blog.

Sarah at SMC_MCR eventMartin hard at work

The event was a big success for ourselves, SMC and everyone involved. The feedback we got was great and we did record the event for the purposes of research.

Following on from the launch. We’ve watched the prototype spread to quite a few places.

The BBC unveils its first perceptive media experiment and you can try it now – Martin wrote this pretty much live from the event and its gone a few places. And it appeared on Techmeme for a couple of days.

The BBC opens up its first perceptive media experiment and you can try it out right now

BBC demonstrates revolutionary perceptive media – Nice

BBC perceptive media brings the next big thing in tv and radio

Angie chan who did the illustrations talks about the project

Metafilter goes off on Perceptive Media – Would love to join this debate but alas I’m not going to get involved in the debate.

Google+ also has a few comments

Very early stage thinking around Perceptive Media

Some people may have heard me mention Perceptive Media in conversation before but it wasn’t till yesterday than most people hasn’t ever heard of it. At Social Media Cafe Manchester (now named #SMC_MCR after the hashtag) it was revealed to the web native audience what Perceptive Media was.

Martin has written up the presentation on the Next Web. But I wanted to clarify a few things.

Perceptive Media isn’t a BBC project (as such), its the result of watching hackers and early adopters during the BBC Backstage days and spotting where trends may be heading. Its a BBC R&D idea which been kicked around quite a bit by me and finally started to grow some legs in BBC R&D as a really interesting body of work, as a result of the questions it raises. So its actually very early days and if you talk to most BBC departments they will have no idea what you mean. Actually lots of people get confused between Perceptive, Personalised and Pervasive. I guess both have the ability to transform our media landscape…

But in this case we’re talking Perceptive media… So what is Perceptive Media?

“It takes narrative back to something more aligned to a storyteller and a audience around a campfire using Internet technologies and sensibility to create something closer to a personal theater experience in your living room…”

Of course this would be of interest to the BBC because we have many storytellers/narrative writers who would love to be able to tell stories like they were around a campfire. But its got to be clear this is my thoughts and not the view of the BBC. And with that I wanted to clarify a few other things…

Here’s how it would work – a TV signal would be sent, as normal, to your set-top box or TV. However, the hardware in your living room would be able to modify that signal with information about you, to create a subtly different version of what you were watching, personalised for you.

Its not Personalised TV… At SMC, I talked about how a storyteller has a sense of where there going and can make slight changes for the audience (around the campfire remember) not a single individual. I mean who wants to sit around listening to a story written for a friend? TV consumption is usually done in groups not as individuals and Perceptive Media is meant for this. Although later Martin says…

There are many challenges for Perceptive Media right now – for example, if five people with varying backgrounds and tastes were watching together, how would the software know the best way of showing the programme to suit them all? Forrester said that it would take all viewers into consideration and display something that suited them all – but would that really work?

This is exactly why were researching to see if it would be possible. Its a brilliant research question and such a great one for storywriters…

While the BBC’s experiments are at an early stage, it’s easy to see how other parts of the media would be attracted to Perceptive Media. Imagine the fun advertisers could have, tailoring ads to your circumstances and tastes.

At the subject of what others (such as advertisers) would do with such technology if it existed was discussed at great length. I did show a clip from Black Mirror ep2. Mainly to discuss what others (aka non BBC) may be thinking in this area. This caused much outcry as you can see on the #smc_mcr hashtag. Maria said this which sums up the privacy side of perceptive media.

#SMC_MCR: the Black Mirror episode ’15 Million Credits’ hints at the future of perceptive media <– VERY SCARY & UNACCEPTABLE

The questioning was actually very good and I wished I’d recorded some of it as some real valid points were raised but there were a lot of questions which I had raised myself for research questioning already.

Giving the presentation at SMC was maybe badly timed because it would be much better to have a clear demo/prototype to get a feel for whats possible and how it could work. Instead, I got carried away with my own excitement of the early idea, maybe? Almost everyone I’ve explained the concept to date, has been as excited as myself. So its maybe easy to see why I pushed forward with it.

So, what exactly does the BBC have cooking in its labs? Forrester wouldn’t say precisely, except that it was aiming for “low-hanging fruit” at first, while he showed a picture of a radio on a slide. Perceptive Audio? It’s a possibility, but we’ll have to wait to see what emerges. Whatever the case, this is an early-stage research project, so don’t expect a big launch for the technology any time soon.

Indeed you won’t see this technology for many years, at least from the BBC but you may see prototypes and demos. Perceptive Audio would be a very interesting concept (hence perceptive media not perceptive tv).

I am writing a paper about Perceptive Media which I hope to maybe one day make it out into the public realm, but I still believe in places like SMC to exchange knowledge and ideas. Thanks to Martin for writing it up, and I hope to give another presentation once we have a better grasp of some of the answers to some of these questions. Till then, there is a public diigo group where we highlight some examples which we think might be interesting…

The Future of Social Media Cafe Manchester

SMC at the BBC

Josh and Martin said they would write up what happened a while ago. I didn’t know but Martin wrote up the evening on the Social Media Cafe website, some time ago.

Last week, a good 25 or so people joined us at Common to discuss the future of Social Media Cafe Manchester. We thought it would be good to give you a bit of an update on what was discussed and what happens next.

A number of successes for Social Media Cafe over the past (almost) three years were noted. Particular highlights included the way it’s spurred a wide range of projects and other events around the city, the debate about the impact of the iPad, and the talk by Greater Manchester Police about their Twitter experiment.

However, there was a general agreement that the event had lost a lot of its edge of late and that ‘social media’ was now such a commonly used term that the event’s name was heading towards irrelevance – you might as well have a monthly ‘Email Cafe’. Therefore, whatever Social Media Cafe becomes, it needs to capture the zeitgeist of digital culture and continue to attract a diverse crowd of professionals and hobbyists while welcoming anyone who wants an introduction to the Manchester digital ‘scene’.

There were mixed feelings as to the ‘professionalism’ expected from the event. While some felt there should be more time put into arranging ‘headline’ speakers weeks or months in advance, others felt that the relaxed, ‘human’ aspect of the event was more important than any ‘professional’ image.

With regard to a venue, there was a feeling that a regular, predictable home would be beneficial, allowing people to always know where they’ll find it. The Northern Quarter (including The Castle), Ancoats and Salford Quays (the BBC) were mooted as possible locations for venues, although there was a debate as to whether or not people would be willing to travel to the Quays.

Branding for the event was given some thought, with a suggestion that changing the name may ‘throw the brand out with bathwater’. Others thought a new name was a necessity, although there were no suggestions as to what that might be. Another change suggested was simplifying the online presence – suggesting that “The Ning” (this site) was perhaps not focused enough.

Thanks to everyone who came down to take part – it was really encouraging to see so many people turn up and offer their input. Julian, Josh and I will be meeting to make some decisions informed by the discussions we had last Tuesday and we’ll be posting an update soon with more information about what happens next.

There’s a whole number of comments from people but I’m not sure most of the people who were at the meeting even know the post went up sometime ago. I only found it when I was wondering if I could sign up to talk at the next one.

A lot of people don’t know but Social media cafe is based on Lloyd Davis’s Tuttleclub which was based on Ian Forrester’s London Geekdinners. So I’ve got form in this area…

So my thoughts are…

Yes keep the name, social media cafe Manchester works but I like even better the smc_mcr shorten version. Maybe moving away from the social media part by using smc_mcr could work?

A mix of headline and adhoc speakers seems to make sense, this does require more preparation but this can be a shared responsibility between a small group of people. Not the 25 who showed up but maybe 20-30% so 5 or so people, could share the responsibility. Different speakers attract different crowds of people, as I discovered doing Geekdinners, of course some will regularly come turn up no matter what. In Manchester and surrounding area there is plenty of talent so there’s plenty of space for dual tracks or a a single track. I personally could find something to talk about at every smc_mcr, sometimes it would be work related and sometimes it would be personal.

Having dual tracks is better but I’d put up with a single track of 3-4 speakers if they were short and kept the time for presentations down to about 10mins. Something like a double length ignite may work.

Moving it to Media City UK makes a lot of sense to me. I know people say its too far but frankly its once a month. If you can’t make it there because you can’t be bothered then, maybe Smc_mcr doesn’t actually need you. But I’m also thinking it should switch between venues (alternate). Sounds a little crazy but it could work and its certainly better than 3months one place, 1 month in another then another 3 somewhere different before having to find somewhere else. Smc_mcr is a good enough event to travel for.

I also don’t but this argument that there’s no venues in Manchester… Why not use Home sweet Home (which just opened up next to Commonbar), Speak to the people at Drip cafe and ask if they can stay open longer once a month, now Moon bar is open again I’m sure they will be looking for a regular influx of people. I’m also sure there’s been quite a few venues I’ve wondered pass who would love regular events like smc_mcr. My biggest bet was on the new vivid lounge which has a delayed opening once again. Point is, I’m sure with a little bit of work, I’m sure we’ll find somewhere suitable, it may not be in the Northern Quarter, but it will be within the city centre. Theres places like Rainbar which could be ideal.  I refer to the Manchester map

Something which never got talked about was charging for smc_mcr? No I don’t really like it too, but it means the venues in the city centre will be much more open to hosting such an event. Most bars do drink minimums, which can be easily hit with 50+ people. It might put some people off, but for the sake of having a quiet room with a projector, I’d certainly give it a shot.

What ever happens, its rapidly heading to the first Tuesday of the month… I got plenty of stuff to publicise including barcampmediacity.co.uk and salfordcinemaclub.wordpress.com.