Thinking Digital Conference

The thinking digital conference was great. At one point I twittered that I felt like I was at TED. And seriously I wasn't joking. some of the speakers like Aubrey de Grey, Ray Kurtzwell, Helen Fisher, Jonathan Harris, Tara Hunt, etc, were top notch speakers and worthy of the ticket price alone. But rather that go completely out there, the conference was unpinned by a lot of business type talks like for example Greg Dyke, Doug Richard and Casper Berry. There was also the usual what is the future of mobile, green technologies, the future of media and social networking. All the panels were interesting and included a bit of time for some good crowd questions.

So a quick time out for some of my favorate talks. Helen Fisher's talk was simply amazing. She deconstructed why woman are in the position there in now and what the future spells for woman. As Helen calls it woman are shedding 1000's years of a farming lifestyle in favor of something much natrual like in the stone age. Helen asked the question What is love? and pointed at 3 parts of the brain. 1st one being sex (drive, lust,etc), 2nd being romantic love (passion, obsession, etc) and 3rd being deep feelings of attachment (calm, monogahmy, security). Helen sees the first part as a way of getting out there looking for a partner, the 2nd part to keep you faithful and the 3rd part to able you and your partner sane enough to raise children. Pushing things along Helen asks the question if we know about these chemical reactions in the brain, can we have casual sex? Yes we can but the brain systems are stimulated and there is a 1/3 chance you will fall in love with your casual sex partner. Its also possible to have the brain parts act upon different people. Aka you have the drive to have sex with one person, feel loving to another person and feel safe and calm with another person. There not connected.

Female sexuality is growing – Woman are as sexual as men! Always have been. But on the other hand Men are as romantic as woman, Men always have been. Some world wide trends, Fact! When woman are better educated, or higher income theres more sexuality. People who divorce have more sexuality, people with access to conception are more likely to express there sexuality,

21st centery marriage, a marriage between equals is now commons. Divorce isn't a fail, its a positive things.

A few other things, picked up from Helens talk
1. Bad – Use of Anti-Depressions, the drugs kill the sex drive, performance and Fantasies. Helen believes it also effects your romantic love and attachment brain areas. Helen calls it the numbing of the world
2. We working harder on our relationships that ever before.
3. Divorice rate is flatting out, maybe because we're marrying later
4. Peer marriages / marriages of equals are here to stay, Marriages are also happier maybe for the same reason.
5. Middle age isn't the end, there are drugs which can help you keep the drive. While the romantic love and attachement comes natrually.

I had heard some people moan about the conference being not like your traditional Technology/New Media conference. Well maybe if you had only hear the title you might be mistaken for what the conference was about. But one look at the list of presenters and there would be no doubt what kind of conference this was going to be. I mean can you imagine Ray Kurtzwell at Future of Webapps? Xtech (maybe), Web 2.0 expo, etc. Nope theres always been a need for a high end conference in the UK for a while, yes it will be expensive but you don't get this kind of quality for cheap. It was a risk which did pay off, the codeworks team are already talking about thinking digital 2009 which I'm sure will be even better and even better attended.

The Venue for Thinking Digital was the Sage2 in Gateshead. I've never been inside of it before but it was a excellent venue for such a event except one thing. Power for the audience. I know there were quite a few people blogging and once they had run out of battery power they looked for anywhere to plug in and charge up. If the team had just spread some 6ways across the bottom and top of the seating, then chained them along a few meters then used black tape to keep them stuck down, it would have covered the problem. It was sad to hear too, because the speed of the network was blazing. I was uploading videos of about 100meg to in less that 5mins flat. Flickr photos were painless too, I sometimes reduce the resolution on photos to flickr, so uploading is quicker. But there was no need. During uploading to Blip, I saw a peak of 891kbps. So total kudos to the best internet conference experience I've ever had next to Over the Air.

All the videos I shot are online already, but the quality is low, if I had knew what uploading would be like, I might have opted for VGA quality. There were other cameras shooting the whole thing, so I assume, one was for archiving and the other for the live screens inside the venue. I asked permission before and I think you'll agree, although the records are complete the quality of the sound and vision wasn't the best. Fear not there is a set of audio only podcasts which need to be edited by myself and uploaded to Blip.TV and IT Conversations.

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So on top of the thinking digital conference there was also a barcamp arranged by Gareth and Alistar. I had heard there were troubles with the venue right to the very last day regarding costs but the event went ahead without a problem. Unlike most other barcamps, the North East one took place in a small art gallery in Newcastle. the venue was very open and sometime you did get bleed from other speakers near by, but generally the spaces were big enough to accommodate most people. There were 4 spaces, and 2 of them had projectors. So most people opted for talks instead of presentations. These actually worked very well, for example Tara Hunts talk about mind hacks was attended by almost everyone in a werewolf like circle. But it wasn't just the celebs drawing the crowds, a session about the gender unbalance in geek events went down a storm and some of the guys said they felt privileged to have been involved. Smaller talks like the OLPC vs Thin Client computing went down well with some passionate debate. Talking about passion, the werewolf games after midnight started a huge debate about cross examination and the rules of the game. Without going into so much detail as to bore you all. If you got someone defending themselves and you want to butt in on a point. I feel you should be able to, if its very relevant and timely. No you can't start a conversation and no its not in the rules, but hell i'd let it go if I was moderating. Having official cross examination time slows the game down and isn't always needed speacially if the players are as passionate to kill the werewolves as last night. Another point about yesterday, never listen to a player for the final word once the game as started. Always speak to the moderator directly as he/she will give you the correct/right answer. Not one which suits themselves. Emma did a great job of telling everyone the rules but after the cards were delt. This is maybe the reason why the werewolves won the first game so easily.

Generally the BarCamp lacked people, there were at the peak about 40 people i beleive. About 10 stayed over which is a good percentage I guess. The food was ok, but we could have done with some more variaty I guess. There was also no end session, just everyone going to Belle & Herbs (which is great) which was a shame because it would have been nice to get peoples view on how it all went. I also felt having some people wondering through the barcamp looking at art pieces was a little ignoying and made me feel a little less trusting of leaving my stuff around. The board slots were also quite empty too, this could be down to the lack of people. If we had more people say 80, it would have felt more packed and more like a event. Overall it was a good event and worth attending, Gareth and Alistar worked hard on this event with additional help from people Vikki and Meri. I wouldn't mind using the same venue again for number 2. But theres already plans a foot for number 2. Keep your eyes peeled

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The second day at the Thinking Digital conference

Aubrey de Grey

Session 5: Mobile 2.0 panel debate

— Gerard Grech
— Vikesh Patel
— Mark Selby
— Bradley de Souza

Greg Dyke interviewed by Andy Allan

Session 6: Unconventional Wisdom
Aubrey de Grey

Carl Honore
Dan Lyons (a.k.a. Fake Steve Jobs)

Session 7: Globalisation – Opportunity or Threat?
Jessica Flannery
Claire Nouvian

Session 8: Management & Leadership
Richard St John
Dan Pink
Doug Richard

Conference close – reflections

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The first day at the Thinking Digital conference

Tara Hunt talks about BarCamp

Backstage is supporting the Thinking Digital conference in Gateshead/Newcastle. Its a new conference along the lines of TED/Pop!Tech but based in the North of England and not exclusive to the in crowd.The conference has great wireless and so we're able to upload videos straight from the conference only a few moments after the speaker was on stage.

Day one

Session 1: The Future of Media
Matt Locke
Eric Lindstrom & Steve Jelley
Jeremy Silver

Session 2: United We Stand

Darren Thwaites
Ian Kennedy
Tara Hunt

An Entrepreneur's Story
Sean Phelan

Thinking Digital Tech Demo

Steve Clayton

Session 3: Happiness
Helen Fisher
Caspar Berry
Jonathan Harris

Session 4: The Singularity
Ian Neild
Ray Kurzweil (via Teleportec)

Almost every talk is special but all the talks about happiness which I have to say were the best of the day.

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I’m now a proud owner of a Pacemaker

Pacemaker still in its box

Yes I did get one. You can see the unboxing sequence here if you like. For me its the thing I've always been waiting for. I never quite understand why anyone would want a ipod or mass storage music playing device. I mean playing music can be done by your phone and when I tend to listen to music, its mixed up. Most of the time I would like to mess with the music, remix it maybe even just speed it up a little or slow it down. Well with a ipod or even a phone you can't (without some extra software). So the pacemaker is the ipod of the remix generation. Yes its expensive (but not bad value compared to the top of the range ipod), yes its going to get out paced by something better in the future and yes its 1st generation so theres lots of tweaks I'd like to see but it bloody works and is addictive.

I did a mix last night at 2am while lying on the bed (yes its super-light to hold) and got my first proper sounding mix going using A9 (original mix) and Body of Conflict (cosmic gate mix). The controls are tricky at first but now I'm pitching and control the tunes like I've been doing it for years. Actually the pacemaker is comparable to virtual turntables or VTT which was the first dj application on the market (way back in 1997). There seems to be no auto BPM but it does give you a BPM counter which you can use as guidance. I am still a little confused about looping and cueing but I can mix in the headphones and put out a decent mix. I expect to be doing more complex mixes pretty soon. I'm just transferring the rest of my tunes over as I type.

Which leads on to some issues I've had already. First thing I did was plug in the power and USB lead (yes it charges over USB and uses a standard usb to mini-usb cable, same as my phone and my bluetooth headset using a adaptor) it pops up as a mass storage device with a folder pointing to a executable for mac and pc. So I ignore that and copy some tracks over to a folder. Eject the device using the standard eject and the pacemaker complains its hard drive needs checking. 1min later its checked and said everything is fine, but can't see the music. So this time I install the pc application using Wine (windows emulator for gnu/linux, although it actually standard for wine is not emulation – those crazy guys). Anyway luckily it runs and doesn't require any weird libs. I load my music in and it starts to work out the BPM and lengths, etc. Then I start to transfer tunes. It only transferred the ones which it had analysed and look inside the .pacemaker folder I could see it wasn't just dumping the mp3 file somewhere. Nope it was renaming them, creating a xml file and adding them to a SQLlite3 database for quick look up. This now means you must use the editor to drag and drop files which is painful. I also can't seem to eject the device from the editor due to wine hardware support I guess, so I end up checking the disc everytime. Its no big problem now because I finally have everything on the device (all 1733 tracks, 15gigs). I'll have to start ripping stuff in FLAC because I got a stupid amount of space left over, plus it does support FLAC, Ogg, Wave, Mpeg3, AAC, etc.

That's my main issue really, but it would have been nice to have a bigger instruction Manuel or even a PDF. All the docs are online and I'm still not online. So generally I'm impressed by the speed and implementation of everything I've seen online in videos. There is another room to plug in a Bluetooth adaptor if I wanted to. It also does charge over USB, so no need to carry any big power adapter ever. My 3 hour train journeys between London and Manchester are going to get more musical it would seem.

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BBC Worldservice win Sony’s new multiplatform award

Snapshot of the website

BBC Worldservice won Sony's first Multiplatform award just recently. The project was the Bangladesh Boat Trip which involved a team of people from across the new media space. Ben Sutherland along with many others internally and backstage's own Premasagar & Annesley of Dharmafly created a complete experience across different platforms. From James Cridland's blog.

As Ben Sutherland says on the BBC Editors blog: If predictions about sea level rises come true, much of Bangladesh will simply be erased from the map. Our aim, therefore, was to hire a boat and use it to travel the long, wide rivers of the country to meet the people most at risk. There were amazing stories […] but not only was the method of getting these stories remarkable, but so was our way of getting it out. We weren’t just using tri-media, and we weren’t just World Service. We were on Radio 5 Live, News 24, Radio Scotland – and on Twitter, iTunes, Google.

In the words of the judges, “it embraced everything from podcasts to GPS and Googlemaps to add value to the listener/user experience and met those listeners where they really lived using third party sites such as Flickr.” They even had the foresight to put those photos under a CC licence, to enable people like me to use them again.

James is right, the foresight to put them under a CC licence but I would also say they went one step further by creating the API for the website. This meant people could look directly at the data underpinning the whole project. How many people did? Who knows, I assume not many. But having the foresight to do this is great and a true testament to the move from Radio to true multiplatform. Excellent work.
I'd better also say I use to work for the Worldservice and have many friends who work there.

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The Thinking Digital Conference – 21st – 23rd May

Thinking Digital

I've been meaning to blog about this conference for bloody ages, everytime I go to do it. I remember I'm still offline most of the time. Anyway hopefully this blog post will attract a few last minute choosers and attract more people to the several days of events.

So when I first heard about the thinking digital conference I was in a innovation lab in the north west. Herb Kim of codeworks was saying a bit about codeworks supporting BBC innovation labs and then at the end he did a sneaky pitch about the singularity and it all ended on a slide for a conference he was planning. When I spoke to Herb afterwards, he explained how he had gone to TED in the states last year and wanted to run something like TED in the UK. Those words I have heard else where but when he talked about some of the speakers he had at the time, I was much more convinced this could be closer that anything else I've been to before (i've never been to TED and I've only watched Pop!Tech streamed). So anyway I wanted to help make this a reality and part of that was telling people about the conference, recording it and sponsoring a couple of the events surrounding the event. So we came to conclusion which fit both parties.

So not only is there the conference which may seem quite high cost but actually isn't for the amazing array of speakers from across the world and ideaophere (yeah I just made that up) but its in Newcastle/Gateshead so the hotel prices are not stupidly priced and hell its good to get out of London sometimes people. Lets be honest, its only 3 hours on the train from Kings Cross and that train has plugs in every seat and free wireless unlike the bloody Virgin train which has 2 power sockets per table and no wireless at all. But another reason to go up to the conference is that on the Friday is there will be a geekdinner sponsored by and then BarCampNorthEast on the Saturday and Sunday. The very first 2 day overnight stay barcamp in the North of England so far. This is a great chance to experience barcamp as it could/should be. I know quite a few Londonerners are traveling up for the whole thing, conference, geekdinner and barcamp, so thats great. But why haven't you signed up? Do you really have something better to do? Didn't think so.

There are still some tickets left over for the conference. Look at these great names.

  • Greg Dyke , former Director General of the BBC.
    I came in when Greg decided to leave. It was a shame because I heard so much about him afterwards and I would have liked to have worked under him.
  • Doug Richard , formerly of The Dragons' Den on BBC2 and founder of Library House
    I've spoken Doug before but not at length and I've not heard speak for a while now. So it would be good to see wheres he at now
  • Ray Kurzweil, noted futurist & author of The Singularity is Near
    Do I need to say anything about Ray?
  • The Fake Steve Jobs aka Dan Lyons, senior editor of Forbes Magazine & author of Options.
    I'm interested why a journalist would do this and whats been the outcome of this since. I also think this will be a session I would like Sarah over at reading the cluetrain to maybe hear.
  • Steve Clayton, Microsoft Partner Group, UK CTO
    Self confessed geek in disguise, this guy is a good guy making waves in Microsoft.
  • Tara Hunt, founder of Citizen Agency, San Francisco.
    Tara is simply awesome, every time I hear her talk she fill my mind with so many things that I had only briefly thought about. I also like to think of Tara as a friend so it will be good to catch up. I also know she'll be at the barcamp, which is great news.
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The apprentice, goodbye to the ice queens

Lucinda Ledgerwood

There was something in I think episode 1 and 3 which made me feel uneasy about the two Jennifers (Jennifer Maguire and Jenny Celerier). They ganged up and no douht bullied Lucinda. Serious you could see how upset she was and other housemates did little to help her. I think there was a point when even Sara, turned her back because she knew it wasn't possible to get a word in between the two Jennys. Anyway, when Sir Alan Sugar changed the teams Lucinda showed what she was capable of, and boy oh boy did she do a amazing job. So good that Lee was singing her praises. She made management look easy and she did in a way which wasn't aggressive or bullying. There's no doubt her management and style was different but in a good way. Shes always colorful and her honesty is unlike anything else I've ever seen.

Anyway, so this week both Jenny's got sacked, which was great to see. They both deserved to go and I'm surprised Sir Alan didn't sack Micheal too. The *uckup over Kosher chicken was beyond laughable. The turning point was when Sir Alan noticed the way both Jenny's used his words against the other housemates. The turn around meant goodbye.

Yes I know Lucinda, isn't going to be hired by Sir Alan, but no one deserves to be bullied and no I don't think shes like Katie from last year.

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Data Availablity?

So i read Myspace have joined the Dataportability group, but then I spotted via Techmeme that they were also launching Data availability? There seems to be little detail about the whole thing now, but it looks closely related to the Data Portability effort.

Anyway, here's part of the alleged leaked press release.

Data Availability is about enriching existing Internet destinations with social functionality and valuable pre-existing user generated content and data. By empowering users with the ability to dynamically share, those destinations will create deeper levels of social engagement and new functionality throughout their site. As the online home to 117 million users worldwide, this groundbreaking initiative enables the larger Web to leverage the highly engaged and passionate MySpace global community.

To ease implementation for participating sites, the MySpace Data Availability initiative uses OAUTH and Restful APIs as its core technology underpinnings. MySpace is using open standards in an effort to embrace the open source community and allow the implementation to be as non-proprietary as possible. Today’s announcement is the first step of MySpace’s larger data portability initiatives coming down the pipeline. MySpace is officially joining the Data Portability Project demonstrating our continued commitment to openness and open standards.

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Computer science has an image problem

John White, CEO and executive director of the computing trade group, says fewer students are studying computer science in college , and too many tech jobs are going unfilled, because young people don't have an accurate picture of the computer scientist.

Hummm, I wonder why? Could it be anything to do with stuff like this?

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My Broken Diabolo

Dead diabolo

This is what happened after I attempted to pull off the next generation of tricks in the world of Diabolism. They take diabolos from Vertical to Horizontal and are usually called Vertax or Excalibur. If performing a suicide and genocide was bad enough, don't even attempt one of these Vertax's. I kind of got it going then it went flying, hit the ground and bounced straight into a brick wall. But to be honest, I think dropping the Diabolo at six stories a few times maybe wasn't that good for it either. So much for diabolism while in Dublin… Can someone tell me how on earth you perform a Genocide Vertax without turning the diabolo into its original purpose of killing people?

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The Sexy little HTC Touch Diamond

HTC Touch Diamond

Via Engadget, iI'm not the biggest fan of the touch range of HTC phones, but this one looks great. I would get one if I was upgrading my phone. And you iphone owners have to admit this phone does look great and has a pretty impressive 3d accelerated interface. What makes it great is its spec, VGA screen, Bluetooth 2.0, Wifi, HSDPA/3g support, GPS (a-gps?), 4gig of storage, MicroSD card support for more storage, 3.2mpx camera, 3D graphics chip, FM radio and Accelerometer. It looks like a LG Viewty but runs Windows Mobile 6.1, how much better can you get? Well I guess we'll find out in a special HTC press launch today in London. Best thing about HTC phones, is there usually priced below Nokia's and always available on Orange first.

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