The crisis of masculinity on BBC Merseyside’s upfront Sunday 23rd July 8pm

Fatherland
Fatherland has much to say about the state of Masculinity, but so does Trainspotting 2

The time has come around, its been a while since the last debate on BBC Merseyside Radio. We scratched the idea of Masculinity and tomorrow its time for the radio debate.

Guests include Ngunan, Elisa, Ahmed, Matt and Myself.

Tune in live online from 8pm BST.

Your telling me theres no need for feminism?

The fact most males are paid way beyond females is terrible, but hardly surprising.  The gap is pretty vast. This is part of the reason why I find it extremely hard when women, have said to me in past, theres no real need for feminism anymore. Very difficult indeed!

On hearing the story break, I wondered if Jodie Whittaker will earn the same kind of money as previous male doctor whos?

There was also another story which no one really picked up on, but it was noticed by a few and later acknowledge by the BBC.

Trade union Equity said in a statement: “The apparent pay gaps in gender and for those from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background are troubling.”

There is also a gap between the pay for white stars and those from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background.

George Alagiah, Jason Mohammad and Trevor Nelson are the highest paid BAME presenters, each receiving between £250,000 and £300,000.

The highest-paid female star with a BAME background is BBC news presenter Mishal Husain, who earned between £200,000 and £250,000.

9 extraordinary days of the Manchester International Festival

All my Mif2017 events

When I first came to Manchester, one of the many reasons I stayed was the international festival. It wasn’t just the festival but it was kind of mind blowing to have so many premiere art events in such a short distance and reasonable priced. The big one which I will never forget is Marina Abramović’s presents which surprised me at the time and then blew me away i retrospect. 2 years I watched a contemporary ballet called the tree  of life and there has been plenty more great experiences.

I bought quite a few events early May in between my travels. I missed the opening of the tickets, so a lot of events were sold out so I grabbed what I could even if I didn’t know so much about the events.

Here’s all the events I went to and really enjoyed…

MIF Opening: What is the City but the people? : Thursday 29th July

What Is The City But The People

I actually applied to be one of the people to cross the massive yellow catwalk which was constructed in Piccadilly Gardens. But while applying for it, I received a form asking a ton of questions about my profession. There was about 25 points and I couldn’t say yes to any of them, so I assumed I most likely wouldn’t be selected (rightly or wrongly).

I actually shot a ton of footage for the event, which I won’t lie was incredible. Each and everyone had a fantastic story, from a refugees who have made their way across europe and parts of the middle east, people who have had sex changes, people with chronic diseases, drag queens, teachers, 2 people on a blind date, cyclists, nurses, beekeepers, cake makers, a woman with a new-born baby, Ian Hislop the Architect, Noel from Oasis etc. It was incredible but the two which really got me was the woman who was celebrating her 100th birthday this year; and a man who was raped and in the attack passed HIV. Just incredible and as the screens said, maybe this is just cities – but it is this city.

It really reflected the diversity and of the city in such a great way. It was a real high and well worth watching the video although you couldn’t beat being there. So great it didn’t rain, because that would have ruined everything.

Not related to MIF but after the high of the MIF opening, at the barber the next day. A man walked in without an appointment and when he was offered one with female barber could cut his hair. He refused saying he wanted a male barber. Felt like a bump back from the previous high.

Party skills for the end of the world : Friday 30th June

Party Skills for the end of the world

I had no idea what I had set myself up for. It wasn’t till I saw a poster while taking the tram one day. I knew it was immersive theatre but I had no idea how immersive. So the vague ticket description saying wear suitable shoes had me wondering for a long while.

When I got to the secret venue, my Uber driver was confused and asked if I was in the right place? To be fair I was thinking the same thing too.

Of course I can’t describe all which happened because that would spoil it for others and frankly it would be pretty impossible to do this justice.

So here’s some pictures

Party Skills for the end of the world

It started with a good classic martini or in my case a few (I also made a dirty martini, that was the cloudy martini I had before the alarms went off).

Party Skills for the end of the world

We were moved deeper into the derelict building and then free to try a number of skills to take forward to the end of the world.

Party Skills for the end of the world

At some point more alarms and we were moved quickly through the building. Now I see why suitable shoes are required

Party Skills for the end of the world

Finally we ended up in a big room with a band playing something I imagine Underworld would play at the end of the world.

Party Skills for the end of the world

Then after a speech and blessing we were free to play in a vast building, and play we did till about midnight. I rejected the idea of going to the old pint pot because I had another MIF event at 1030am the next morning.

Party Skills for the end of the world

Interdependance: We need to talk about Power : Saturday 1st July

Interdependence: We Need to Talk about Power

There are so many things to be said about these series of talks and what better place to have them that in the Ancoats Halle, which I have never visited although I can see it from my window. I went along 2 years ago in the old Granada site but these talks were far better and the everything about them was +10 on the previous ones.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk about Power

Seeing Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and David Olusoga together on stage was pretty incredible. Each talking about power from the angle of race. Then when you can’t imagine how it could get better, Bad Language presented Jason Hickel (Writer of the Divide), Andrew O’Hagan and Deanna Rodger.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk about Power

I’ve already made a note to go along to the monthly bad language events, when it doesn’t clash with Volleyball or Werewolf.

MIF tour: Identity and the Fabric of the City : Saturday 1st July

Idenity and the fabirc of the city

After Interdependance in the Ancoats Halle, there was just enough time to head home have breakfast then walk down to Festival Square for a tour of inner Manchester.

My thought was I lived in Manchester for 9 years and still don’t really know much of the history of Manchester (as clearly noticed when going to the Salford Lads club and asking who the man was on the photos? Yeah I know!)

The tour was short but very insightful, as we walked from festival square/albert square to the central library, through St Peters Square, along princess street then china town. Finally we headed to kings street and on to deansgate. Many facts and interesting stories. Will have to go on another one of the tours soon.

Fatherland preview : Monday 3rd July

Fatherland

With my upcoming conversation on BBC Merseyside about the crisis of masculinity. I got a ticket and wasn’t quite sure what to expect; but what I got was quite a surprise and a fantastic theater performance in the excellent royal exchange theatre. I was very fortunate to have snatched a 2nd row seat too, giving real impact to everything I was watching unfold.

The play was funny, tragic and held together really well. I saw the preview, so I expect by the time it was out of the preview it would be even tighter than what I saw. I was also shocked to find out that quite a few of the cast were not professionals.

What if Women ruled the world? : Thursday 6th July

What if women ruled the world

This is the one ticket I couldn’t get first time around. I loved the concept and tried my best to blag a ticket. But luckily after seeing the previous MIF events, I went back to the site and found a bunch of tickets had been released. So I instantly snapped up one and pushed my other commitments for that night (sorry residents committee) but it was so worth it.

What if women ruled the world

Like partyskills & fatherland I don’t want to reveal too much although I am finally writing this on the last day of MIF 2017 (I got back from Berlin too late to really go to any of the ending events). We weren’t really allowed to take pictures too, but as soon as it was finished no one was bothered so I grabbed some of the amazing set and what an amazing location to host it (mayfield depot) which is the same place I saw Adam Curtis vs Massive Attack 4 years ago.

What if women ruled the world

The best way of thinking about what if women… as partly theater play and partly serious panel discussion. I’m planning to watch the other ones just to see how different they were from the one I went to.

My only negative to the event was the chairs were pretty sore on the bottom after sitting for so long. At least with Adam Curtis vs Massive Attack you could shift your weight around a little, although I remember that being too long for standing.

Interdependance: We need to talk about Technology : Saturday 8th July

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology
After going to the first interdependence event in the Halle, I decided to grab a ticket for this one as the theme was technology in Stoller Hall (another place I never been to before).

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology

The introduction of the robot from Sheffield University, and the reaction from the panel especially Joanna Bryson who verbalised her reaction as, ahhhh cute but wait why has it got a feminine sounding name? And why is it trying to act like pet? I’m now fighting not to treat it the way you want me to react. It reminded me of the very first time I saw a Aibo (sonys robotic dog, which I later owned) at the ICA in London. Everyone was so besotted by it then a member of the panel walked across the floor and kicked it off the stage. Of course Joanna wasn’t planning on doing this but her reaction turned to slight anger about the robot.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology

I was also trying to squeeze in more MIF events before going away for a week. I wasn’t wrong, another great series of talks hosted by the Aleks Krotoski. If I didn’t have to rush off to Volleyball to coach, I would have tried to catch up with her and some of the incredible guests.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology
I was very taken by Birgitta Jónsdóttir (who I heard so much about but never met or seen her live) and Laurie Anderson (who I hadn’t really come across before), who were just fantastic in everything they said. Joanna Bryson in the AI debate was off the hook, certainly someone I want to hear more from in the future.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology

On reflection, MIF pretty much couldn’t do no wrong. From the start with the decision to put the people of the city front and centre (I kind which I’d filled that form out now) to the amazing contemporary theatre productions. From deep note taking conversations in great spaces to immersive experiences in derelict buildings.

I was explaining to my sister how incredibly wonderful MIF is and why she should make the trip up to Manchester in 2 years time for MIF 2019. I said this while having dinner at the London Barbican after going to the into the unknown exhibit, which I was looking forward to.

I was deeply disappointed as I didn’t even get see the black mirror exhibit (they turned it off 5mins before the end and I went and visited everything else (theres 3 parts) before being told the exhibit is actually in the public lobby. To say I was peed off was an underestimation. From what I can see of the long turned off screen in the lobby, it would play visions of the black mirror universe.

My thoughts of a box with advertising surrounding you like 15 million merits, where the screens would pause and play a high pitch noise till you look again, certainly was over-thought. I guess? Maybe a suggestion for 2 years from now, as I can imagine creating this for MIF 2019 using existing technology.

I said it before but the MIF (Manchester International Festival) was one of those things which makes me very happy that I moved to Manchester. Yes could do the same in other cities but the size and culture of Manchester makes it seem like the ideal match. If you haven’t been before, mark it down in your calendar for 2 years time!

What a excellent 9 days! Just excellent!

Jodie Whittaker is the 13th Doctor Who

I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender
I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. This is a really exciting time and Doctor Who represents everything thats exciting about change – Jodie Whittaker, 13th Doctor

Bold move by the BBC and its a long time coming

I say bold but it really shouldn’t be a “bold” move, not in this age. I mean Starwars, Ghostbusters, Torchwood, etc, etc… Its certainly a long time coming… Cut to the joy and outrage on social media.

The DuVernay Test is Bechdel Test for race?

I suggested there needed to be a Bechdel test for race. Then I saw a retweet from Cindy Gallop.

The DuVernay test completely passed me by last year, in the mists of the whitewashed Oscars.

 

 

Teretulemast klubisse: Estonia e-Residency

My Estonian e-residency ID
Its really mine, no matter what my thumb is hiding

Finally while in London, I got to pick up my e-residency pack.

It was a bit of rush to get to the Embassy of Estonia as they are are only open certain times of the day. But once I got there, answered a few questions with my passport, gave up a few fingerprints and waited a bit; I was presented with my pack which included the digital identity card, USB reader, instructions and secure pin and puk numbers.

USB reader for Digital ID card

It was pretty painless and the lady behind the glass was pleasant enough on a hot sticky day.

Of course because I’m using Ubuntu, it was never going to be as straight forward as plugging it in. In the FAQ’s theres instructions to get it working on Ubuntu.

digital id card in USB reader
Of course I hid the important info, but thats the card in the USB on my Dell XPS 13.

As it was late, I decided to do it tomorrow night, as I was tired even with the espresso I had late night.

Many people have asked what I’ll do with it now I got it?

Digital signing is certainly one of my things I’ll be doing more of. I have other plans to use it for authentication, as its backed by the state of Estonia. I’m still unsure what .ee domain I should buy too. Will I setup a bank account? We shall see… Its a very interesting time to have loose ties to the EU.

My weekly smartphone use…

At the Quantified Self conference a few weeks ago there was a very interesting conversation & social experiment about smartphone use. Ever since I’ve been getting more interested in the good and bad uses of smartphones, even gave a summary of ideas collected over the different sessions.

But I’ve been thinking about my low usage at the conference and decided to seek out an app which just counts the usage and nothing more (most have other types of permissions to do all types of other things). Found Timefactory’s Time used did pretty much this (although I’d like a proper data export option), seems low on resources and very simple.

So above is my regular usage of my Nexus 5X over the last week, and this week was a regular go to work everyday and social event most evenings kind of a week.

Its low, agreed but I didn’t go out to not check it or anything. I carry my Nexus with me pretty much everywhere. But having my pebble smartwatch and other devices around me certainly has a massive effect on how many times I actually have to turn on the phone screen.

Look forward to sharing the month summary too.

Standardnotes my alternative choice to Evernote

Standardnotes

This is continuous fight I keep having with myself… For quite some time I’ve been looking for an alternative to Evernote on Linux & Android. I got it down to 3, Turtl, laverna and standardnotes.

In the end I decided Standardnotes mainly because I needed something which easily syncs like simplenote and I guess evernote. I liked the idea of being able to run my own standardnote server in the future. But the biggest thing for me was being able to convert my evernote notes. Yes it costs but I was happy with the terms (client side encryption) and comfortable with the payment which is less than evernote anyway. I also been looking a little deeper at Standardnotes. The privacy and sustainability statements are just stuff of dreams. Theres very few other services which can say and do these things.

What about the others?

Turtl, was good but the interface drove me a little nutty, having to login each time and no offline support? Maybe in a few years if the project gets more development it grow into something special and I’ll check it out again.

laverna is also good and is very quick and easy to get going but its mainly built around the browser as it uses javascript. There is a android app coming but its not there yet and syncing is tricky because it stores everything in the browser. I think you can move this to a sync container like dropbox, google drive, etc.

Standardnotes

With Standardnotes., I have added it to Wavebox, installed the Android apps (doesn’t install on my ereader as it needs Android 5+) and paid for a year subscription.

So far so good!

I do still use Simplenote for quick and temporary notes, but not I installed the the Linux app, this may go away too. Now I just need to sort out my imported 2177 evernotes!

Misunderstanding dating apps from a far

"i saw you on tinder" Trastevere 2014

Tinder, tinder, Bloody Tinder!

Even now people keep going on about Tinder…

In the past I have been pretty down on Tinder and to be fair I still am, but its true people do meet, hit it off and even get married via Tinder. Of course I say the Birthday paradox is in play.

dating-against-humanity-48-638

The thing I keep hearing from people (usually in relationships) is tinder IS dating apps. When I tell them there is a new dating app/service every month, they never believe me. At a party on the weekend I tried to put into words why I use OkCupid and recommend other services over Tinder (yes I know they are owned by the same people).

The point I made is that unless you both swipe right, you can’t talk or get to know each other. Thats ignoring the fact men are more likely to swipe right, profiles are mainly pictures with little text and you can’t see the next person (grass is always greener beyond the swipe) unless you make a decision one way or another (gamification).

I insist the system of tinder encourages or even dictates playful interactions. This is fine if you like playing but not ideal if not. Its clear people are using Tinder to fill their time when bored or playing around with friends.

The tinder/hot or not system is setup that way, and the human behaviour follows suit. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it can work the other way but Tinder is strongly built with this mentality in mind. I am reminded of addiction by design, simple as this – tinder is built to maximum shallow activity. There’s no other way around that unless you pay them money.

Other services have similar systems (OkCupid has likes, POF has meetme, etc) but each one of theses have the ability to just see a user and message them. This subverts the tinder behavior but requires more effort like getting over your fear of rejection.

The key point I’m making is each service is different and requires a different way to look at it. For example Bumble although it does have the hot or not dynamic, the system is set up to give the women the control. As a result the behavior of the users is quite different?

It’s a mistake to think of Tinder as the de-facto dating app. It would be like thinking McDonalds was the de-facto of restaurants from those who are vegan!

Now that’s one scary thought, I think we would all agree?

I won’t even dig into why all these people with partners always want to get wrapped up in their single friends lives? Thats best left alone…

Mobiking in Manchester my first experience of bike sharing

Mobike in Manchester

Mobike came to Manchester on Thursday and I decided to try it out after seeing them next to the MediaCityUK stop.

My scooter was having a service and I was at various MIF 2017 events, so I gave it a try on Saturday afternoon between events (long MIF2017 blog coming soon).

Generally it pretty painless, install the Mobike app (make sure you get the right one!), pay a one time deposit of £29 (which is refundable at anytime) then point your phone at a bike’s QR code; moments later it will unlock and you can ride it. It costs 50p for 30mins of ride time.

It’s not bad but the app feels badly skinned with english, there’s still chinese language bits and paying the deposit could be a lot simpler. Theres also more evidence of its chinese  legacy with the share options only being wechat, qq, qzone and sina weibo. No sharing with fb, twitter, g+, etc…

The apps refreshes and shows the bikes near you, which is useful. I did have a serious problem with the app’s permissions which only really needs your location and camera for the QR code reading. thankfully Android 6+ can change the permissions and my app works fine with just those 2 turned on.

The bikes themselves are ok if you are going a short distance but for example I rode 1km which also included a few small hills. The hills were killer as the bikes have no gears and are not very comfortable but practical. The little basket is useful for small things but I kept my laptop bag on my back and put my summer coat in the basket. I didn’t fancy waiting at the lights and someone grabbing my laptop bag.

Honestly I didn’t enjoy riding the bike on the road, on the pavement it handled a lot better. There is no suspicion and the wheels pass every bump straight into your arms and legs. So I stuck to riding on the pavement and canal towpath’s.

When you are finished, you simply lock the bike with the built-in lock and walk away. Simple…

However I didn’t know this at the start but there is a whole system/scheme/behaviour mobikes users have to sign up to.

What are Mobike Credits?

Mobike’s mission is to provide an economical, environmental friendly mode of transportation using innovation and technology. To achieve our mission, we encourage proper usage and do not tolerate misuse and inappropriate behavior. Below are the Credit Points Guidelines:

Each new user will be entitled 100 Credit Points and is able to hold a maximum of 10,000 points and a minimum of 0 points. Higher credit points indicate proper usage and good conduct whereas low credit points indicate misuse and inappropriate usage.

Having low credit points will affect the fare for your trips. When your Credit Points are 80 or lower, the fares for usage will be $100 per 30 mins. (You will be awarded 100 Mobike credits upon registration. For more information on Mobike Credit Point Deduction, refer to “My Mobike Credits”)

All credit point deduction can be found under “My Account” -> “My Mobike Credits” -> ”Deductions”. If there was an error in your credit points deduction, please report the error at the lower right corner of the App.

Gain Credit
Each ride +1
Report broken bike +1
Report incorrect parking +1
Using another user’s invitation code when registering +1
Successfully invite a friend to use Mobike +1
Lose Credit
Park in a compound -20
Abandoning the bike when intercepted by police -50
Forget to lock, but eventually retrieve the bike Reduce to 0
Use a private lock Reduce to 0
Forget to lock and bike is lost Reduce to 0
Illegally transporting the bike Reduce to 0

The interesting part is you can earn credits by reporting other uses who have broken a rules, like parking the bike where it blocks the public walk way.

Help others find where you last park

On the trip summary page, you can upload a picture of where you parked the bike and a comment, to make it easier for the next user to find the bike. If you indeed help the next user to find it, they’ll have the chance to validate your information and you’ll get an extra 2 Mobike Credits!

Report bad parking practices
If you see any illegal or poorly parked Mobike, please send us feedback and you will be rewarded with Mobike Credits. To report, you can click the “!” icon in the bottom right corner, click on the “wrong park” button and send your feedback! Please do remember to include the bike number in your feedback.

Of course, I can just imagine how this is going to turn slightly nasty and influence the way people use the service. It’s also not clear how far you can take the bike, not that you would want to ride it to the Airport, and carrying it on the tram would break the rules and leave you with no credits.

I didn’t upload my picture to share with the next person, so I guess some sad person could realistically report it as badly parked? (Although its been moved since!) Be good to retrospectively add a photo too.

The weird thing is, since the mobike is still outside the flats and I keep seeing people messing with it, I keep thinking maybe I should ride it back to somewhere else? Almost feels like my bike and I’m still responsible for it as such… Theres another one by New Islington tram stop, and I did consider parking my bike next to that one. Of course if I did, that would start the money timer again!

Between riding my scooter, catching ubers, walking, taking the tram and skateboarding; it’s closer to skateboarding,. The big advantage is not having to carry it around afterwards, especially if it suddenly rains (its Manchester, so this always happens)! It’s a in-between-er for trams and buses. You could walk, but walking will be slower. Uber will be costly and traffic can be a killer in Manchester. Also as its still new, the chances are, you can easily pick up the same bike when you want to head back.

Generally I think its good for short journeys. Its convent but I would hate to ride those bikes in the rain or any distance over 1km. I do wonder when they will get hacked and how Mobike will deal with that, can imagine some man in the middle attacks already.

Tips for dealing with our unhealthy smartphone addiction?

Smartphones and shadows.

Originally I wanted to write a massive blog connecting the last blog about Thintelligenece, Tristan harris‘ essay reply, what I picked out of the quantified self, my thoughts following visiting Tokyo, Mark Manson’s smartphones are the new cigarettes and reading Alone together.

I found this from dating site review ages ago and it seems apt…

“The problem doesn’t lie with dating apps per se – technology in general is changing how we behave and interact. People are spending more time updating and commenting on their social media accounts than they are having actual conversations or meeting up with people IRL. Take a look at any bar or restaurant, and inevitably you see a group of people at a table, and none of them are talking to each other – they are staring at their phones.”

Theres a common theme that maybe our use of smartphones might not be all its cracked up to be? However I don’t really need to tell you this right? The amount of times I have walked into a lift in the last week, looked around to see glowing faces and no eye contact at all is quite scary as purely a thought experiment. I’m currently at about 90% looking at screens – if you were wondering.

Its quite easy to be slightly concerned, but I’m wondering why my phone usage pick up during the first day of the Quantified Self 2017 conference in comparison? Could there be something in the way I use my phone?

Quantified Self 2017
People put up their hands for how long they were on their phones during the conference

Not only this Aaron Parecki gave a talk about choices when choosing quantified self equipment or packages (as Justin said being things which are a mix of hardware, software and service). There seems to be some tips emerging between the 3 different sources.

So I thought I’d share them together.

smartphones looks

    • Lower the brightness, use some-kind of twilight mode or turn your screen to greyscale.
      As Tristan Harris says apps and operating systems are made to keep you looking and interacting for longer. They have this down to a science now. Theres also tons of research indicating that the blue light from LCD screens messes with your sleep routine, heck I swear by redshift and twilight. The greyscale is interesting too.
    • Turn off all sound and light alerts (vibrate will do)
      I’m totally shocked when I hear someones ring tone to be honest, I mean really? I turned off all notification lights from day one, so surprised when I see a flashing or strobing light on other peoples phones.
    • Turn off that stupid mode when it wakes up your phone screen to show you notifications.
      I always thought it was a iphone thing but seen it on Androids too. I honestly think so stupid as its battery zapping and ever so distracting. This also totally kills the doze mode on Android! Plus think about it, it lasts about 5 secs and if someone sends you a detailed message, you only get half the message forcing you to pick up the phone.

My Shadow

      • Put different apps on another phone, tablet device or smartwatch.
        My tablet is wifi only and has a very different set of apps and use. I also limit what kind of alerts I get on my pebble smartwatch, which also means I don’t need to look at my phone for the time. I had no idea the ipad doesn’t include a calculator? Each device is different and has a different purpose, there are apps which I wouldn’t dare put on my phone but I’d consider it for my tablet.
      • Don’t feel guilty for not picking up the phone!
        The guilt people put themselves under is out of control, no one will notice if you reply 5, 15, 30, 60mins later. You don’t need to reply straight away, unless you are expecting something or trying to get hold of someone.

    It Begins with Bonjour

    • Have some self-control
      Don’t use your phone as a (anti) social crutch; barrier between the physical world and you. I get the loneliness is a difficult and maybe social settings make you feel uncomfortable? But force yourself to be present in the moment, you might be missing an opportunity.
    • Don’t put your phone on the table
      I get it, Doze only works when your phone is flat and left alone for a while but since Android N it now works in your pocket. I use to do this all the time to save battery, at the end of a long conversation it would actually be stone cold! If you must, keep your screen facing down and don’t get tempted to unlock it (You should of course not have that stupid wake the screen up mode too!).
      smartphone
    • Think about your time as important
      It sounds silly when you think about it but our attention is finite and should be treated as important. When thinking about ourselves, we tend to put ourselves down, saying I’m no one special but to be frank we are important! Everyone of us are capable of such incredible things but not if we are all looking at our phones.
    • Think about what you are doing with your phone
      Are you simply filling time or doing something constructive with your time? No judgment about what you class as constructive but adding a like to a friends profile picture can wait. I recently tried to get a friend to do more constructive things with his phone but the continuous (endless/bottomless) stream of social notifications was too great it seems.
    • Stop with the selfies!
      Ok this is just my thing but if you can’t turn to a stranger and ask to take a picture, then something is seriously wrong! Live a little maybe that conversation might turn into something you wasn’t expected. Think about those Snapchat filters, encouraging you to act a certain way... Its not subtle but people get caught up in it and don’t think, and this is what the app maker wants from you. I’ll remind you of the fruit machine flow state which Natasha Dow Schüll, talks about in her book addicted by design.
      Smartphone
    • Stop with phone one upmanship
      I have seen too many times when someone shows something, then someone else pulls out their phone in response. Before long everyone has their phone out looking to out do each other. Theres even silence while everyone looks and pops up for social proof every once in a while.
  • Theres many more
  • …but that will do for now. If you can think of more, add a comment and I’ll likely do a updated blog with more soon.

Thintelligence: Why we don’t move to decentralised systems?

Caught with the cookie jar

I recently posted on Mastodon after attending the doteveryone event in Manchester.

Interesting little rant at the doteveryone event.
Basically pointing to our ultimate comfort with propriety & opinionated software & services when complaining about things like Mastodon, Wire, Signal, etc.

All lack the engaged user base to break through because decentralised/federated systems are “just” too hard?

I say balls!

Maybe actually we’re too lazy and rubbish judging long term benefits in the face of short term rewards? Theres a whole industry feeding our short term highs

Our laziness is chronic and I half understand it but then I’m always reminded of the massive industry setup to encourage us to stay safe in their roach motels.

The term which comes to mind is… Thintelligenece?

The state of mind where a person does something without considering the consequences. The idea may seem brilliant at first, but the after-affects usually prove to be deadly. This phrase was invented by Michael Crichton in his book Jurassic Park (the character Malcolm says it)

I’m not saying installing whatsapp, facebook, etc are necessarily deadly but the lack of consideration of the consequences does make me and others worried. Its the short term gain over long term impact? (more cake anyone?)

Something to think about as you write something for the Mozilla Festival this year!

BBC Newsnight on Cambridge Analytica

Was Britain’s EU referendum hijacked by the American alt-right using a technique known as psychographics? Gabriel Gatehouse from BBC Newsnight reports on the data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica.

I’ve said so much stuff about this already but frankly “Overzealous PR?” is total laughable crap! I actually laughed quite a lot when I heard this. Its very clear they were involved (to one degree or not) and like a kid with their finger in the cookie jar, they got caught.

Celebrating, I didn’t reproduce day

Bill Mahar hits the nail on the head with “I Didn’t Reproduce Day.” Its a  excellent observation of the state of our society, where people are pressured into having children because “you don’t have children?

I know Bill is being deliberately controversial and I don’t really think we need a I didn’t reproduce day but he’s right about this pressure from our society and its not really on…

This will instantly wind up a lot of people, especially those with children. It may feel like an attack on you but its not. Its about giving people the space and freedom to make their own decisions not feel guilt tripping them into something which others think is correct. Similar messages are applied to couples which are not married.

Welcomed back to the Quantified Self

Quantified Self 2017

Everytime I go to the Quantified Self conference (2013 & 2014), I walk away with something more than I was expecting. Its been 3 years since I was last at the conference and a lot has happened in that tme. The Quantified Self has shifted from the heydays of super stardom on the front of wired magazine; to everywhere and nowhere. By nowhere, I mean its not really talked about because its actually everywhere. The amount of people with some kind of app or device which they are actively tracking something is so huge. This also raises the question of Self-Tracking vs. Self-Surveillance (which Jana Beck actually covered in her breakout session); are most people self-tracking or is some other entity surveying them? There’s also a debate about how enabling they really are for most people who received a Fitbit for a present.

Garry Wolf raised the topic of what is the quantified self at the start of the first day in the opening talk. Lots of people answered the question from their point of view and it was good to hear the diversity of answers and people building on the previous one.

When back with Gary, he concluded the conversation with a final thought on the subject…

“Everyday science through examination of yourself”

Gary also noted it’s been 10 years since the first conference and threw out 10 interesting points over the last 10 years, plenty to think about; including a Michael Polanyi quote and a request for people to take part in a live experiment around smartphone use. The results were revealed at the end of the day and were quite a shock. I personally only looked at my phone twice over the first day. But as I explained I have my tablet and laptop. It was interesting to hear I wasn’t the only one to have different apps on their different devices. This lead nicely into a group discussion about smartphone use.

Its so easy to feel the fear of missing out (FOMO) at the Quantified Self conference, as there is on average 8-9 things happening in parallel. You really have to pick and if its not for you, move on. Its very much the BarCamp rule of two feet.

Like the rule of two feet, here’s my highlights of the conference.

Session 1: Show & Tells

Quantified Self 2017

I missed the first one by Jana Beck on tracking crying but I got in to see Aaron Parecki kicked off the ignite talks; he later did a session which I’ll dig into the details of with data portability and data ethics in mind. The big things for me was the micropub plugs. I’m going to simplify micropub by saying its like ifttt but open, decentralised and a W3C standard supported by the indieweb community. That was the point when I thought I need to check this out in detail because it reminded me of the media pipeline thoughts I had a long long time ago.

Ahnjili ZhuParris gave a ignite talk which was all about her quantifying her psychedelic experiences. Yes you heard right…She quantified her drugs use to improve her trips! Truly shows how diverse the things track can be. It was captivating to say the least.

Session 2: Self-Tracking vs. Self-Surveillance

This breakout session run by Jana Beck and was full of interesting points. Of course Hasan Elahi was brought up and the group tried to understand the difference between tracking & surveillance. It seemed to boil down to judgment from which entity? Both have issues including the illusion of perfection which can drive self-tracking; and of course the issues of external surveillance are very well know.

This is where I first met the open university who are working on a project called monetize.me. I also bumped into Kley Reynolds who I’ve been thinking about since 2013, when I heard him talk about using QS data to create a fingerprint for data & identity.

Session 3: Connecting Self-Tracking Data to Home Assistants

In this session I helped a out with another person as the speaker couldn’t make it due to flight problems. Myself and Jacqueline took over the session hoping someone would come with some more experience in using home assistants to track something. I had some experience with Amazon Alexia & Google Home but not for quantified/tracking. I could see how it might be possible with something like ifttt but not directly.

We didn’t have to wait long till some knowledgeable people stepped in and a discussion kicked off. I kept going back to the fact these devices are in group/family spaces. Somewhere along the line, Jacqueline & me started thinking about how you could use these devices to bring together a family and nudge them to eat more healthy through dinner time checkins. I feel theres a unpolished gem somewhere there.

Session 4: Using Your Data to Influence Your Environment

Quantified Self 2017

I ran this session and I knew with a brief skim through object media and perceptive media, Questions and thoughts would come from a very data literate crowd. I wasn’t wrong.

Lost of thoughts about the role of public in a media landscape which can be changed and modified. There was a lot of discussion about why and the true benefits of using personal data in storytelling. In retrospect I should have shown parts of my interview back in 2013: We research how personal data and storytelling can be combined.

Points were made about customization vs personalization; people felt that was a big difference and could be the cause for some backlash. There was also a feeling that they would want to know how much things are customized and why if interested. Also there was a sense negotiation was a key aspect in this all, something we are exploring with the Databox project. There was a sense you could try it with little data shared then decide to ramp it up later to see what difference it made to what you saw first time.

A interesting fact was mentioned that fruit machines can be skinned in as quick as 20seconds. This was mentioned when talking about customization of the reality around you. Which led to Minority Report discussions.

It was a positive discussion but lots of worries about how to tell stories with enough richness/depth to work with the diversity of personal data that may be shared or used.

End of the first day

There was lots of discussions following the smartphone experiment at the start of the day. A small list of good ways to stop being distracted by your smartphone started to emerge.

I used Quality Time and as said previously clocked up 2 checks and only 20secs of actual screen time. Some people ran into multiple hours.

Quantified Self 2017

This crossed with Aaron’s list deserves a blog of its own really… (coming soon – honestly!)

More than optimization (day 2)

Quantified Self 2017

The over optimization intrigued me on paper as there is always a dark sense of over quantification in the hope of perfection? I hadn’t really thought how it could be used in team sports to create personalize routines for each rugby team member instead of applying a routine to the team broad brush; it makes perfect sense right?

Session 5: Making money from your own data with Monetize.me

After meeting Monetize.me in the second session, I went along to a dedicated session. I think the plan for the session went slightly out the window but it was fruitful and it all came down to data negotiation. I did talk about the databox project and wondered how they hadn’t come across each other?

There was a lot of questions about how much is data actually worth? I pointed at Jennifer Moore and her position as the first personal limited company. I also mentioned how fresh/realtime is the data.

Of course this all lead to questions asking if you could treat all data the same? What about data discrimination and finally what are the business models which can emerge and what needs to change for it to be?

I also learned about Bitwalking which generates a crypto-currancy from the amount you walk.

Session 6: How to plan for data access with choosing a QS tool

Quantified Self 2017

I mentioned Aaron Parecki’s ignite talk earlier, and there was plenty more depth in his workshop. Aaron started out explaining the process he’s gone through with quantifying himself. He talked about the pain of data portability through broken devices and closed services. This all lead him to a checklist he uses.

  • How much effort is required?
  • How does it Sync?
  • What is the sustainability of the service/product?
  • What is the data portability options?
  • Whats the competition like?

Each point had a bunch of issues under them for example in how does it sync; breaks down to questions about centralized servers vs direct sync to a local computer/device. Sustainability was focused on business models of the likes of Apple, Google, Fitbit, Jawbone, etc. All very different and it all depends on the user which once they are comfortable they are with it (if everything is made transparent, and the user can make a real informed choice!). I talked about Gadgetbridge in connection with effort and syncing.

Hopefully Aaron will make his slides public (but this needs some more thought!)

Session 7: Self-Tracking for the Good of the World

With my public service hat on, I went along to Justin’s session. We explored some of the issues with the internet and I did say, we should be looking at the work Mozilla are doing around the internet health report, but we focused on other things.

One of those things was the packages; packages being things which are a mix of hardware, software and service. This was intriguing to me and got me thinking about opinionated software.

We talked about the public benefit of quantified health but there was a large conversation about how you compare data when the different black box devices can’t agree on a step actually is. This was when someone suggested some governance and that the Quantified Self site has a large number of devices/services/packages reviewed. Maybe there should be some kind of ranking system and clear indicator of different aspects of that thing (you could use Aaron Parecki’s indicators) . You can imagine the QS community making it clear what devices are to be avoided and best practices.

I tweeted Gary to say its time the Quantified Self got political.

Session 8: Quantified Self meetups

I drifted around a few sessions but settled on a session about the meetups, as the Manchester Quantified Self meetup stalled a little while ago. Last time I was at the conference I was inspired to setup a QS meetup. I’m still inspired to run the meetup but it was great to hear from those new and old to the meetups.

Sharing stories and hearing from Steven who is well known in Quantified Self circles was very useful. There was lots of questions about the choice of the format, use of meetup, etc. Steven pretty much said the Quantified Self will support any changes the organizers make. That would include format, event, description, etc changes.

Like Gary said at the start of the first day, things are always changing and they are flexible to these.

With this in mind, I have kicked off another Manchester Quantified Self with a different format.

The wrap ups

Quantified Self 2017

The last keynote talks were fascinating and centered around circular/cyclical time. The picture of the complexity of patterns summed up so much of it.

The people

The best thing about Quantified Self conference is the people, they are so amazing. No edge, just open and all so geeky. No matter where we were it was great conversations which spilled out from the many sessions I didn’t get a chance to attend.

Quantified Self 2017

On the first evening we started at the Casa balcony bar then had dinner at the Café-restaurant De Ysbreeker and ended up Canvas again. Love that place and its so weird seeing it become this incredible place now from the squat it use to be.

On the second night, we headed out in search of cocktails (theres a story behind this, which I never actually posted till now). We almost ended up at Prik and Blue boy which will make 3 people laugh. This time we ended up in a Amsterdam festival and then a speakeasy place called Door 74. Being a geeky quantifiers, we decided to hack friendship by trying the 36 questions in a group.

We didn’t get far, but I actually think it worked…

Quantified Self 2017

Another great time at the Quantified Self… So much learned so much to think and act on. If I have anything to do with it, I’ll be back next year for sure. Massive thanks to everyone who I bumped into over the 2 full days. It was emotional, fun and exciting all at the same time. Special thanks to the newbies who I spent a lot of time with.

Quantified Self 2017