BarCampSheffield (UnSheffield)

Warning this post is mainly insider baseball politics, aka its not of much interest to most people, just those involved and those who are interested in the movement of BarCamp.

So I asked Emma Persky what she thought after the whole thing had finished as few moments ago. She said, she's not made up her mind. And you know what she's right. I can't quite make my mind up about BarCampSheffield either. For a lot of people reading this, they maybe thinking a barcamp is a barcamp what is all this about. Well running up to the event, there has been a lively discussion surround BarCampSheffield. The event was officially named UnSheffield and the barcamp part dropped, but it kept the barcamp fireball logo. Jag Gill one of the organisers of the Sheffield event had this to say about the change.

BarCamp Sheffield has evolved to Unsheffield. We’re taking the technology unconference format to a broader public. We pushed some of the boundaries of BarCamps last year, and we’re continuing to do so this year under our new name, which is intended to reflect its broader content, format and appeal.

The principles of participant-generated content still remain at the heart of the event, and we’re encouraging a strong focus around the event theme – Future Users of Cool Technology. Integral with the unconference will be public workshops that create a bridge between local and regional talent and the international event and its contributors.

At the GeekUp Sheffield birthday party we laid out some of the plans for this year’s flagship grassroots digital event. In keeping with the Future Users theme, we’re looking for public spaces to extend the unconference to public workshops and symposia, thereby spreading the joy of techs to non-geeks in the city and region.

Emma Persky picked up on this and pointed out, and have to say quite rightly that BarCamp isn't exclusively about technology. And wrote this quite sting reply on her blog.

I’m fed up of people perpetuating the myth that BarCamps are just for techies. Seriously fed up. Yes, there are a bunch of technical folk who attend these events, and yes they may be the majority, but that majority is not large. Out of all of the many BarCamps I have ever been to I have rarely been to a “technical” talk, and only myself given one that was in any way technical (that was demonstrating my dissertation project and was seriously cool).

By segregating “geeks, hackers and core techies” from regular people you are only diving apart the community of people who desire to “share and learn in an open environment.” And yes, we are one community, with members from all sorts of backgrounds. Our community is defined by our desire to share and learn, and not by the types of activities we do (hack, paint, fish, etc.). Anyone, from any walk of life, any background, and profession and or any experience level should be comfortable being a member of this community.

Emma is right, but the way she says it alienates people. On Saturday there was a point when there felt to be a standoff betwen Emma and others. This doesn't help anyone let alone those caught up in the debate as such. Alistar tried to defend some of the positions of the Sheffield crew, but it was no real use because Emma was after all, right.

So how did it pan out? Well I didn't make Friday night or the Saturday welcome talk. But everything I experienced was exactly like a barcamp with noteworthy exception. One of those exceptions was the end talk/Inspired Ideas Surgery. Everyone was gently pushed into attending this session at the end of Sunday. The session was a chance for a few voted for ideas to be put forward in front of a small panel. To me this felt a little forced and to be honest by 5pm on a Sunday I had just wanted to have a couple of drinks and chat with people. Instead I started falling a sleep in the warm room. Emma also pointed out that some of the panelist were sponsors. Talking about giving sponsors room, Evernote were giving time on a Saturday to “show us” Evernote. What was funny was that, it wasn't actually Evernote, instead it was some company which works with Evernote and frankly, I knew about more about Evernote that they did.

At this point I want to stop and say, the event was enjoyable and I want to give the guys a huge amount of respect for what they have worked on and achieved. I never went to the previous barcamps in Sheffield but have to say, last weekend for me was a better described as a festival. Imran Ali created the Leeds Web Festival which included in the middle of it BarCampLeeds. This made sense, he didn't mess with BarCamp, just put it in the middle of a range of events. No one battered an eyelid. However Sheffield decided to follow suit and build/extend/evolve BarCamp which caused all the comments and high feelings. Imran's approach is better thought out and celebrates each event as a part and whole of the bigger picture. From a sponsorship/support point of view, he's also put together something which is easy to understand, follow and ultimately sponsor/support. While to support something like Unsheffield would be a hard sell. Theres a lot of value in the BarCamp brand and its a event which the BBC has supported across the UK including recently BarCampLondon6, BarCampNorthEast2, BarCampLiverpool, etc. If someone pitched UnSheffield to me, I would say its too confusing and ultimately would not benefit from any sponsorship because its a confusing message to back. Now to be fair they did secure a lot of sponsorship elsewhere, which is great but I'm just saying from my perspective looking at everything.

So ultimately I did have a good time and I wish the guys luck in there next event. Team work alone was excellent, the venue was ok if a little noisy sometimes. Food and drink was all good (cooked breakfast on Sunday morning, was lovely even if I did miss the eggs). The turn out on Saturday seemed to be quite large and diverse while Sunday was quieter there still seemed to be about 40+ people floating around. Saturday was closer to 80-90, so I've heard. The sessions were as you'd expect at a barcamp, varied and some better that others. I gave two talks of my own, one about social engineering a nd scamming, the other was titled the state of the nation, and involved a talk about the digital britain report and how to it enable it ourselves. The comments and discussion are not meant to be some kind of attack, instead I would like to help with the next one.

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Spinningfield’s outdoor cinema

The Spinningfields district of Manchester is to become a destination for film buffs and sports fans alike, thanks to a new open air cinema.

Spinningfields is right between the city centre and the start of salford, its a great little area with some fantastic places to live and rent. This news about the outdoor cinema is good news, specially with it only being 10-15mins walk from my own flat. The choice of films is so so, but also the proms and there's sports. What surprises me is that the popular castlefield area didn't do the same. There's actually a amphitheatre there already, so rigging up a massive screen would have been easy as pie.

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Enough with the Appstore model

Doc Searls has quite a lot to say about the Apple Appstore in a blog post which centred around yet another application that Apple decided not to allow into there store, for reasons which are frankly questionable.

Apple’s App Store is an eWorld that succeeded. A nice big walled garden. Problem is, censorship isn’t good gardening. It is, says Corynne, “not just anti-competitive, discriminatory, censorial, and arbitrary, but downright absurd.” Or, as my very tasteful wife puts it, unattractive.

From Corynne’s post

iPhone owners who don’t want Apple playing the role of language police for their software should have the freedom to go elsewhere. This is precisely why EFF has asked the Copyright Office to grant an exemption to the DMCA for jailbreaking iPhones. It’s none of Apple’s business if I want an app on my phone that lets me read EFF’s RSS feed, use Sling Player over 3G, or read the Kama Sutra.

In the end, Apple backed down and reversed the decision but without putting on my Apple bashing hat on, this troubles me. If Microsoft did this to Windows Mobile, I would jack them in and move to something more open such as Android. There is some merit to a appstore and I'll give Apple credit for popularising the idea which had been tried elsewhere before. But at some point a open model has got to make a lot of sense. I was listening to Ryan Block on a podcast today talking about the Palm Pre. One of the comments he had about the iphone appstore was the amount of crap there is in it. He says he generally doesn't even bother looking through it anymore, instead he relies on the recommendations of friends and family. This model is exactly what I told the Windows mobile team in Mix09. People show a app and then can exchange the app to there friend via bluetooth, mms, etc. I'm not saying the experience of bluetooth is great but it works and totally breaks the wall of the appstore model. So much, that Microsoft as well as Apple have had to tighten up the appstore model to refuse any alternatives models and worst still nanny its audience.

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Hosting DrupalCampUK

Recently there's been talk about what events BBC Backstage and myself have done in the North. For all the talk, I have not run a Manchester BarCamp and from a business point of view, I've not run anything like mashed or hackday. Instead we've been waiting and watching, I would say becoming a good citizen and looking where it makes sense to get involved. The BBC Manchester building on Oxford Road isn't ideal for large events unless we use a studio, so I thought. Since the Ubuntu 9.04 launch party which crammed about 80 people into our BBC Bar, I've been thinking about the ability to maybe support some kinds of camp events.

DrupalCampManchester was discussed ages ago and Dan did a great job putting the whole thing together. Being the host, I just stepped in when needed but generally I spent the weekend writing Java/XSL. Everything went well and a special thanks to Herm and Derek for there help from a BBC point of view. The only complaint we had was the heat which is currently broken. But generally there were about 80 smiling faces at the peak but even on Sunday the numbers didn't drop far below 50. Its certain the drupal uk community is certainly a lot tighter since this event.

From a BBC point of view, the event was relatively simple and cheap to host. The biggest cost is actually peoples time to help out. Having someone else also run the event took most of the management out of it. So whats next? TED-X Manchester seems to be next but the dates are TBA. Currently we're masterminding the idea of a Friday afternoon with a suitable event to follow it into the night.

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Time to clear up our Home

We are living in exceptional times. Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth's climate. The stakes are high for us and our children. Everyone should take part in the effort, and HOME has been conceived to take a message of mobilization out to every human being. For this purpose, HOME needs to be free. A patron, the PPR Group, made this possible. EuropaCorp, the distributor, also pledged not to make any profit because Home is a non-profit film. HOME has been made for you : share it! And act for the planet.

I watched this film today and was very impressed by the whole thing. Not only is the overall message not too breachy but its also just amazing to watch and listen.

Where to get home? The home site, The Pirate Bay, Vuse, Youtube, TEDTalk,

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It’s actually not (still) grim up North

Newcastle Quayside

Its been all over my twitters recently but I thought it was worth blogging for those who do not follow me on twitter for what ever reason.

Manoj Ranaweera from Northern Startup 2.0 in Manchester did a event (tech mission in London using Northern startups, Milo Yiannopoulos writes a article for the Telegraph about the event and how he felt Northern startups “were clearly being crippled by a lack of good advice and useful connections.” Then a massive amount of comments but the best comment is from Herb Kim who wrote what might as well be a blog post.

One other thing you should know about Nick is that his start-up,, is actually primarily funded by North East money between NorthStar Equity Investors ( and other North East angels. So, he’s probably “Geordie and proud” for more reasons than merely where he happened to have been born. NorthStar alone have invested £33m in more than 200 North East tech companies in just the past few years.

And continuing the Geordie theme, this is what the Economist wrote in an article entitled “Geordie Tech”..

‘Nor does Newcastle, known more for shipbuilding than for software, sound like the natural home for a high-tech company. Actually, it is. According to Rebecca Harding of the London Business School, of those firms that have started life in the north-east in the past three years, 20% are using or selling technology which was not available a year ago. In Britain as a whole, the figure is 11%. Only London has a higher rate of tech start-ups than the north-east.”

And from the Guardian..

“Just take a walk around the streets of South Shields, Gateshead or Wallsend and you won’t be far from some shiny new IT company. The once-notorious Pink Lane – Newcastle’s former red light district – is currently home to a suite of software developers, while the old casino now plays host to Mere Mortals, a chart-topping game development firm.

And it’s not just Newcastle where the chips are up. Any tour around the region’s hi-tech hotspots should include Sunderland, Middlesbrough and the digital delights of downtown Darlington. Away from the cities, even small Northumbrian towns are proving capable of growing innovative IT companies. Venture to windy Rothbury and you will find a company pioneering technology that simulates touch, while down the coast, the sleepy former coal port of Amble supports one of the UK’s leading companies in the emerging field of locative media.

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Best of E3 on Coop

Who has the best coverage of E3? The Coop guys.
CO-OP @ E3 2009: Microsoft and
E3 Special 02, Nintendo + Sony has all the special stuff from E3 including Project Natal, the controller less interface Microsoft R&D has been working on for a while. Also worth checking out Peter Molyneux's impressive demo of an interactive AI, Milo which is capable of voice, face, and motion recognition through the Xbox Natal stereoscopic camera. Certainly a uncanny Valley moment (explained in text). Sony also launched a new PSP (PSP-GO) which doesn't use those nasty UMD disks, instead its all download only and is pocket size because of this. Sony's montion control lost out to Natal but reminded me of afterglow. However Sony really showed some impressive graphics in the last guardian which actually reminded me of Milo but much less creepy.

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Dj Culture in game at long last


I don't get Guitar Hero or Rockband, it makes no sense to me, I was watching Coop and there was a segment about some guy called Tim Schafer and a game called Brutal Legend.

I've never wanted to play a guitar and honestly don't really find them at all interesting. So I've never really to play Guitar hero, actually I've wondered whats happened to Dj Hero? Well it seems its actually being actively developed by EA and its actually called Dj Hero. I look forward to seeing it and seeing how well it does. Dj Culture/Turntablism needs a good game.

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Add micro-structure to those tweets/microblogs

Stowe Boyd calls it deep structure for twitter, Chris Messina terms it baking in meta into twitter and somewhat jokely picoformats. Call it what ever you like but is aiming to deliver structure to our short messages. I say short messages because I think the thing they miss is the fact thats its not just about Twitter. We use short messages in loads of places including Text messages (sms/mms) and other microblogging platforms.


Over the last several months, I have written a great deal about new types of ‘microsyntax’ for Twitter at my Message blog. By microsyntax I mean various ways to embed structured information right into the text of Twitter messages. The most well-known sort of microsyntax are the retweet convention (or ‘RT’) and hashtags (or twitter tags). (I have also referred to this as microstructure, but I believe that microsyntax is perhaps more self-explanatory.)

These microsyntax conventions arose from the user community, and are variably and differently supported by Twitter and the many clients that are in use. Many people don’t remember that the use of ‘@’ to indicate that a message was to be sent to a specific user’s attention (a reply or a mention) is a convention that grew up with the service’s earliest days.

We have some relatively mature conventions — like hashtags (‘#twitter’ or ‘#ruby’, for example) — that have spread into wide use but are not directly supported by Twitter itself, and where different applications may support them in very different ways.

At the other extreme, we have new conventions appearing — like CoTweet’s use of ‘^’ preceding initial of authors in group twitter accounts, my recent suggestion for ‘/’ as syntax to precede or enclose locations (as in ‘/Germany’ or ‘/156 South Park, San Francisco CA/’), or my proposal for subtags (like ‘#sxsw.kathysierra’ or ‘#w2e.PR’) — and these could lead to confusion or conflicts between contending approaches to the same purpose.

As a result of all this activity, and the potential for collective action in these efforts, we are launching a new non-profit,, with the purpose of investigating the various ways that individuals and tool vendors are trying to innovate around this sort of microsyntax, trying to define reference use cases that illuminate the ways they may be used or interpreted, and to create a forum where alternative approaches can be discussed and evaluated. We may even get involved in the development of proof-of-concept implementations that can act as reference architectures for microsyntactic extensions to the Twitter grammar emerging in the real time stream.

In the upcoming weeks, I and other contributors will be enumerating all the known microsyntax for Twitter, and exploring the interaction of those which each other and with other, external applications.

This is great but Stowe and Chris are under illusion that publishing a pico format is the end of the game. From Chris's blog post,

If I’ve learned anything from the microformats process, it’s that anyone can invent a schema or a format, but getting adoption is the hard part (and also the most valuable). So, in order to promote adoption, you should always try to model behavior that already exists in the wild, and then work to make the intensions of the behavior more clear, repeatable and memorable.

Most microsyntax efforts fail to follow this process, and as a result, fail in the wild. Efforts that employ the scientific method tend to see more success: hashtags modeled the convention started by IRC channels and Jaiku (Joshua Schachter also used the hash to denote tags in the early days of Delicious); the $ticker convention (from StockTwits) follows how many financial trade publications denote stock symbols. And so on.

So when it comes to proposing new behaviors that don’t yet exist in the wild, I think that the project will be an excellent place to convene and host conversations and experiments, many of which will admittedly fail. But at minimum, there will be a record of what’s been tried, what the thinking and goals were, and where, hopefully, some modest successes have been achieved.

Good on these guys for trying to focus efforts, I think there is a tall hill in front of them but even if they can convince some of the applications/service makers to use some of the microsyntaxes that would be great. Of course its got to come from both sides. Look at the L: syntax which came and went, even though was using it.

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Palm Pre: The web gets its first native phone

Never been a fan of Palms, I've always opted for the Microsoft PocketPC/Windows Mobile options but thats about to change with the launch of the Palm Pre. Some people are saying this is Palm's last stab at the market which they let trickle from there hands and going by the reaction in my aggregator, it seems like a good one. Us europeans are having to wait for ages because Palm went for a CDMA phone to kick things off instead of GSM, which I think is frankly silly but I understand the reasoning behind it. I really want to get my hands on one but not as much as this lady, who turned a shop into a drive-thru in her rush to get one, it would seem.

As usual there's tons of information about the phone including deconstruction photos and some good reviews. Will this make a impact? I think so. When I first heard about the WebOS, I was sceptical but it seems to be there and according to themselves, is not a second class citizen. Chris Mesina said to me a while ago while at the Next 09 conference that anything which leverage the web like this is on to a sure winner. This is the way things will be built in the near future. After the GoogleWave and now the launch of the Palm Pre, I'm in no doubt that Chris is right.

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Mike Arrington doing what he does best, trolling people

Found via Rain Ashford and My aggregator.

Leo Laporte calls out Mike Arrington of TechCrunch after Leo got mad at him for implying that his opinion of the Pre was effected by the fact he had a free review unit

Although Leo's a little extreme in his action, I can totally understand why, does anyone remember this? Yes once again Mick Arrington cant think of anything to say except troll. Its boring and tiresome but causes a reaction which gets him further publicity. You can tell he totally gets off on this stuff, you only have to look at the smile at the of the BBC video or listen to him say to Leo “what are you going to do about it?”

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Does Ridley Scott watch R&D TV?

R&D TV episode 2 is indeed out and we're noting some interesting blog entries. A cpuple of them have had me commenting. FoodieSarah or Sarah Hartley caused a little stir with her blog entry titled “mash this, whispers aunty beeb.” I personally felt she missed a few key points which I highlighted in the comments. The next web had a entry titled “The BBC wants you to remix Jason Calacanis.” and wins for the best screenshot of Jason Calacanis. The post was a little more balanced and sympathised a lot with the problems we had faced putting the whole thing together.

Interesting face Jason

I started to comment on the next web blog post too but thought it might be worth writing this on my own blog. I saw on Creative Commons that Ridley Scott is going to make a Web version of Blade Runner and its going to be licensed CC-BY-SA which is highly creditable in my book. I'm not saying we have any direct influence on Ridley but surely things like R&DTV adds to the overwhelming feeling that content creators should consider licensing there content openly.

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ITC: How the Web Ate the Economy and Why This Is Good for Everyone

Lots of people talk and watch TEDtalks but they forget the original pioneer of bringing conference presentations/talks to the people. IT Conversations which is now part of the conversations network.

I just heard a fantastic talk from Douglas Rushkoff from the Web 2.0 conference. Here's the details.

A few “bugs” in society from hundreds of years ago have had profound consequences for society today, according to author Douglas Rushkoff. In this presentation from the Web 2.0 Expo he points out two false assumptions about the world, their medieval origins, and how the internet has provided a brief window where we can fix them.

One myth is that corporations promote free market capitalism, but they were originally monopolies granted by royalty to prolong and fund monarchy. The other myth is that currency is money, but national currency has prevented thriving trade among peers that existed in ancient times. The new opportunity the internet provides is to make a living by building and keeping businesses that create value for other people, rather than large corporations.

You can listen online or download the whole thing here. I also noticed there's a video for the talk on Rushkoff is always a profound speaker who I've always had time for. Yes he waves his hands around a lot and is kind of vague on somethings but he certainly gets you thinking.

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