The dyslexic success which is IKEA

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It was Zoe who pointed me at the secret taxonomy behind IKEA’s product names. I always knew there was something behind the product names but had no idea it was all the idea of a dyslexic man thinking about the world and where things fit within it.

Bookcases are named after professional occupations (Expedit means shop keeper) or boys’ names (The bestselling Billy bookcase is named after IKEA employee Billy Likjedhal). Outdoor furniture is named after Scandinavian islands (Äpplarö an island in the Stockholm archipelago and Västerön is in Aaland). Rugs are named after cities and towns in Denmark or Sweden (Ådum, Stockholm, Silkeborg), while bed sheets, comforters and pillowcases are named after flowers and plants. (Häxört or circaea lutetian is an herb in the primrose family).

The rules for naming were devised by IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kamprad, who struggled with dyslexia and had trouble remembering the order of numbers in item codes.

This lead me to find out more about Ingvar who I knew had a checkered background, especially with the Nazis.

I didn’t know he was dyslexic but this strikes such a cord.

One day, it is reported that Ingvar Kamprad overheard one his draughtsman (a kind of designer or engineer) named Gillis Lundgren. The man had difficulties fitting a table into a transport. After many unsuccessful trials he shouted out loud: “Oh God! Let’s pull off the legs and put them underneath!” Ingvar Kamprad understood that his employee was correct in his assessment of the situation. Moreover Kamprad understood the potential of this remark.

Soon afterwards IKEA introduced new product lines of furniture which were designed to be sold unassembled. In this way the cost for manufacturing (no more assembly) and logistics (standard transport costs due to optimized measures) could be reduced significantly.

Great insight, which started a great business… Should have known

 

Dyslexics thriving in the workplace

Reading the Dyslexic Advantage
Quite a few people have said good things to me since I posted about reading the dyslexic advantage. On Saturday I finished the whole book and although there are so many great sections the last one had so much to talk/blog about

The last section which is all about work, and so very fitting…

For individuals with dyslexia, good-fitting jobs have several common features. First, they engage strengths and avoid weaknesses. As we’ve discussed, many individuals with dyslexia excel in big-picture reasoning, or the ability to see the overall features, “contours,” or implications of objects or ideas. The occupation or position in which they best display this ability depends upon which MIND strengths they possess, but as a general rule, jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well stress problem solving, troubleshooting, fixing things, coming up with new ideas, thinking about what’s missing or not being addressed, or telling stories (e.g., sales, counseling, coaching, advertising, entrepreneurship).
[…]
In contrast, individuals with dyslexia often struggle with fine-detail processing, mastering routine procedures to the point of automaticity, or rote memory. As a result, they often find that jobs that stress repetition, efficiency, consistency, attention to details, use of procedures, application of fixed rules, or routine processing tasks (especially clerical tasks that involve the manipulation and use of written symbols) are a poor fit.

I can’t tell you the cognitive pain of repetition, I find it super uncomfortable and far prefer the new and unknown. My mind wonders and before long I’m innovating my way out of doing the task as is. Better way to spend my cognitive surplus?

After choosing a job that seems to be a good fit, individuals with dyslexia should work hard to optimize that job environment by being proactive in pursuing opportunities, self-advocating with supervisors and co-workers, building partnerships, pursuing leadership opportunities, and using technologies to maximize their productivity.
Many individuals with dyslexia are especially good at spotting opportunities that others have missed and then aggressively and proactively taking advantage of those opportunities. Professor Julie Logan cited this ability as one of the most common characteristics she’s observed in the dyslexic entrepreneurs she’s studied.
We’ve also observed this ability in many of the individuals with dyslexia we’ve interviewed—and not just in business. Astrophysicist Matt Schneps told us, “One thing I’m very proud of is that I’m very good at taking advantage of opportunities. If I see something I think is useful for me, I think about how I can make the most of it and take advantage of that.” Because of this ability (and strong self-advocacy skills like those we’ll discuss later), Matt has been able to enjoy four entirely different careers over the past thirty years, all with the same employer.

Making and taking those opportunities is a big thing, which I’m certainly hard-wired for. Most people take and give out business cards as a brush off but I take them seriously. I do like to meet or follow up, see if theres a chance for collaboration. I’m also generally interested in the person and if I can connect them with someone else I might know.

A second key feature of jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well is that they engage interests. While everyone works better on tasks they find interesting and enjoyable, individuals with dyslexia are often especially dependent upon interest to produce their best efforts. In contrast, when tasks fail to engage their interest, they often struggle to perform well and remain focused. This is largely because many of the rote or automatic skills needed to perform routine tasks require more focused attention for individuals with dyslexia. This need for heightened attention can be difficult to sustain unless there are things about the job that are especially interesting. When work heightens interest and mood, dyslexics typically respond with greater creativity and performance.

Absolutely, like most people I assume but I guess I actively find my mind drifting away to more interesting things. Focus is difficult when not in my wider area of interest. I mean I’m curious about lots of things, so its really got to be something poor/bad for me.

A third key feature of jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well is that they focus on results rather than on methods. Many of our interviewees mentioned that they often perform tasks in unconventional ways—frequently of their own devising. For example, more than half told us that they solved math problems differently from how they were taught by using unconventional methods that made more sense to them.

This is something I’ve known for a long while, I can’t help but find alternative ways to do things. This is why if you tell me a task without the bigger context/picture I find it frustrating as hell. I’m always thinking about the final impact not the individual steps to get there. Those are just details to me. Reminds me of Do you have humility, a sense of craft and can you hustle?

Jobs that allow flexibility can open the door to success for dyslexics. It’s often while devising new methods for routine tasks that dyslexics come up with innovative approaches that save time, effort, and expense and improve outcomes for everyone.
[…]
There is evidence that this kind of flexibility is often more easily found in positions very near the top or the bottom of the structures of large organizations but in shorter supply in the middle. Professor Julie Logan has found that although many large corporations have CEOs with dyslexia, fewer than 1 percent of middle managers in such firms are dyslexic.

Now this is very interesting detail… Be interesting to look into the stats for the BBC via the BBC’s Neurodiversity project.

Some large companies, like his former employer Intel, manage to maintain their flexible attitudes despite their size. Douglas Merrill also told us that supporting this diversity in thinking styles was one of his primary goals as chief information officer at Google. Douglas worked hard to give employees the greatest possible flexibility in choosing the work habits and technologies that allowed them to be their most productive. When a company shows this kind of flexibility, it’s likely to be a good fit for individuals with dyslexia. Of course, there’s no employer that can provide more flexibility than oneself, which is one reason why so many dyslexics start their own businesses.

And theres a long long list of successful dyslexic entrepreneurs. Interestingly the guardian piece pretty much says the same thing as I read in the dyslexic advantage.

Its a great book, I do wish it was more dyslexic friendly to read but the content is certainly incredible.

Reading the dyslexic advantage at last

The Dyslexic Advantage
At long last I started reading or rather listening to The dyslexic advantage. I’m totally blown away by what I’ve been reading. I mean I knew most of this but the science behind it and how it can be a super power; has literally shocked and moved me. I have written about my own dyslexic a few times including in everyday life, in the media and my thoughts about how it may affects relationships.

From the very start the book sets its agenda, to look at dyslexia strengths and less about its weaknesses…

Most books on dyslexia focus on problems with reading and spelling. While these problems are extremely important, they’re not the only—or even the most important—things that individuals with dyslexia find critical for their growth, learning, and success.
As experts in neuroscience and learning disabilities, we’ve worked with hundreds of individuals with dyslexia and their families. In the process we’ve found that individuals with dyslexia often share a broad range of important cognitive features. Some of these features are learning or processing challenges—like difficulties with reading and spelling, rote math, working memory, or visual and auditory function. But others are important strengths, abilities, and talents; gifts we call the dyslexic advantage. While these features differ somewhat from person to person, they also form recognizable patterns—just as the different musical works of Mozart are distinguishable yet recognizably the work of the same composer.

Theres many paragraphs but I wanted to share some of the key ones I’ve read so far. The whole book focuses on M.I.N.D strengths, which are the 4 key strengths dyslexics share or in parts.

I personally have a strong amount of all 4. They are not saying its only dyslexics which have them but much more likely and much more strongly. Think of them like the Big 5 personality traits rather than Myers-Briggs types.

  • M-Strength for Material Reasoning, which is primarily reasoning about the position, form, and movement of objects 3D space
  • I-Strengths for Interconnected Reasoning, which is primarily the ability to spot, understand, and reason about connections and relationships (e.g., analogies, metaphors, systems, patterns)
  • N-Strengths for Narrative Reasoning, which is primarily the ability to reason using fragments of memory formed from past personal experience (i.e., using cases, examples, and simulations rather than abstract reasoning from principles)
  • D-Strengths for Dynamic Reasoning, which is the ability to accurately predict using patterns derived through experience the future or the unwitnessed past

The I, N & D Strengths are very much a key part of me (M too, but maybe a little less so). I always seen the world in one massively connected ecosystem. Everything is connected and its hard trying to explain to others how it all meshes together.

Patterns are observed and seem to stick in my mind. They seem to exist as a narrative or at least are stronger as narrative. This is extremely useful when finding my way places again unfolds as a narrative rather than a map or directions.

For dyslexic brains, excellent function typically means traits like the ability to see the gist or essence of things or to spot the larger context behind a given situation or idea; multidimensionality of perspective; the ability to see new, unusual, or distant connections; inferential reasoning and ambiguity detection; the ability to recombine things in novel ways and a general inventiveness; and greater mindfulness and intentionality during tasks that others take for granted.
Nondyslexic brains often excel at applying rules and procedures in an expert and efficient manner. Dyslexic brains often excel at finding “best fits” or at ad hoc problem solving.

I hadn’t really thought about it this way but makes so much sense. Maybe this is why Art just makes sense for me. Its also clear a gist, conversation, sentence or just a word can spring tons of connected thoughts. For example the idea of “local evil” which was a title for a event had my mind cycling for weeks.

The cluetrain manifesto is another example, from the 95 rules I could almost tell the thesis as a complete narrative without reading any of them. My favourite being #7 Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

The power of Interconnected reasoning lies in its ability to link all of an individual’s knowledge, ideas, and mental approaches into an integrated conceptual matrix. This integrated matrix is incredibly powerful because it allows objects of thought to be approached from many different angles, levels, and perspectives, so they can be seen in new ways, related to other phenomena, and understood in a larger context. The three core skills, or I-strengths, that help form this conceptual matrix are the abilities to detect relationships between different objects of thought, the ability to shift perspectives or approaches, and the ability to reason using a global or top-down perspective.

Can’t tell you how useful this is, its sometimes hard when explaining to others different angles or the bigger picture. Maybe this is why the end of interstellar just made such sense and I actually use it in a few presentations.

Variations not versions
While talking about D-strengths and the incredible power of insight, this point was made.

“Given a problem and an hour to solve it, we typically spend the first three minutes intuiting the answer, then spend the other fifty-seven backtracking . . . to check our results through data collection and deductive logic.” According to Sarah, this intuitive approach “functions in leaps rather than by neatly ratcheting intervals” and is “less lineal than iterative or circular.”
This intuitive approach—used very heavily by individuals with dyslexia who excel in Dynamic and Narrative reasoning—can be very powerful, but it does present a problem: when viewed from the outside it can look an awful lot like goofing off.

Absolutely… Its always painful to backtrack and explain the leaps in thinking. I know its a important part of the scientific process but it doesn’t stop it being not the way our minds are wired.

To be honest, I felt like its not just the education system which is trying to kick this out of us but also society. Partly if you look at the systems which surround us and who is writing them.

One day at work she was standing by her office window staring serenely out at the mountains while trying to let her mind “ease itself around a problem.” Her CFO walked by her door, looked in, and saw one of “his people” staring out the window, so he snapped at her to get back to work. Sarah calmly replied, “You work in your way, I’ll work in mine. Now stop interrupting me.” Sarah later wrote of this episode, “What this CFO didn’t know was that staring into space is precisely how we work. It is our capacity to throw our brains into neutral and let connections assemble . . . that makes it possible for us to see connections that others can’t. We relax into the work.”

I can’t tell you the disbelieve some people have around me working in the northern quarter. The different buzzy environment completely changes the way I think, like staring out the window or being less focused.

This need for patient reflection can also create enormous problems at school, where time for reflection is in critically short supply. Try convincing a teacher that staring out the window is how you work best or that “getting busy” means you’ll get less done. Yet this passive and reflective approach really is a valid problem-solving method, and there’s plenty of scientific evidence to support its validity and effectiveness. In the research literature, this method of problem solving is referred to as insight.

Absolutely… Says it all! Always said hours does not equal effort. I’m personally more effective late at night, when I’m in a more relaxed state and have room/space to think wider and larger. There was a period when I found it hard to sleep because my mind just buzzed away.

Although insight-based problem solving is very powerful, because much of its connection-making process takes place outside the person’s conscious awareness, it can often seem second-rate, mystical, shoddy, or even slightly disreputable. But there’s an observable neurological mechanism underlying insight that’s been well worked out over the last decade by researchers.

Yes insight is always seen as hooky, non-scientific or a joke. There is a large section debunking insight as this but its well worth a blog post on its own. But I think this is a fitting end to insight discussion.

…As teachers, parents, co-workers, and bosses, we need to be watchful for individuals who frequently reach the right results through insight, and when we find them we need to treat their different reasoning style with the seriousness it deserves. Not all staring out the window is productive reasoning, but quite a lot is; and it’s important to understand that some people—including many of the most creative—really do need to “relax into their work.”

I haven’t even finished the Dyslexic advantage but I’m already raving about the book. Its clarified many things and given much more fuel for the things I kind of knew was true but found hard to explain. Gaining deductive logic or insight about my insight (ha!)

This is the kind of book with some tweaking could be a very powerful book for young dyslexic children growing up. Its a little inaccessible but the audio book is great and having both really works.

The effect of spotify on music generally

Dear musicians who make £0.0033 per stream on our utopian music platform
Dear musicians who make £0.0033 per stream on our utopian music platform, haha, hahahaha – Spotify. Thanks, 2016 we made lots of money via Jason Lytle

It was Mike who sent me a link to this classic piece of culture jamming seen in Bristol. Of course it’s not by Spotify, but they (whoever is responsible for this work of genius) went as far as to use their logo and typeface.

It was only less than 24 hours previously at my new years eve party, when a couple of people wanted to control the music playing. I know wanting to control the music isn’t anything new; but I’m finding people are assuming the music is from Spotify.

Before the holidays, I was at a party where the music was chosen by people typing names into a laptop connected to the sound system. As you can imagine, people would select a few tunes and queue them up. Then someone else would come over and select more. Some  would then shift around the playlist to move their tunes to the top, etc. It was a bit of mess with different people deleting other people’s selected tunes and others hogging the playlist. The inner DJ in me, choose to turn my back on everything and ignore the chaos.

The mindset has changed and although I love what Pacemaker are doing. I do slighly wonder about the future of mixed music. Theres a sense of instant gratification in playing track after track in a playlist and bumping things up and off the list, rather than trusting a mix to take you on a great journey. Maybe this is why I never use spotify and use mixcloud more? Delayed gratification is something which seemed to go right out the door with the increase in blood alcohol levels

Of course this is absolutely nothing compared to whats happening with the artists of course. Which leads right back around to the culture jamming in Bristol. Like Uber, the big behemoths across the sharing economy (if thats what we are to call it) are most likely to feel pressure in the long run from more humane practices such as Juno. Or at least I certainly see becoming true…

What if Spotifiy was a Coop?
Seen this during the mozretreat at BetaHaus, Berlin

There is a blog draft which I’ve had saved about the state of business now and into the future. Its big and likely needs slicing into smaller blogs but cooperatives are certainly a big part of it.

Ben pulled me up on this recently surround Evernote

Ian, are you against these companies making money/turning a profit? I’m curious how you otherwise see them paying for both the innovation and the on-going costs of running the service?

I replied without the links (but now I can finally put them in)…

No I’m not against that Ben Metcalfe, I’m in favour of up front telling people up front what they are getting into. You have to be honest and say EULAs are a joke no one reads except myself and a few others.

I’m also not a fan of massive endless profits growth which ends up ruining the companies…like Twitter, Pebble, Evernote, etc, etc. I see it over and over again and I think the likes of the media are also part of the problemhuge valuations attracting/temping more startups to get involved.

Its a mess and killing the long term sustainability of a exciting future.

This starts to summarize some of the main points of the longer blog post…

It’s routine, not time, that makes you old?

It’s routine, not time, that makes you old says Janet Street-Porter

I have tried to get into a routine for many years, but its just not worked for me. Maybe it just isn’t me or I think the whole thing is a little dull, incompatable with my life outlook and unconventional thinking.

My mum was reading a story in the daily mail about Janet Street-Porter and how shes do her own thing and ignoring what society thinks. She even mentions the F word, familiarity

Familiarity extends to so many aspects of our lives, from choosing the same telly dramas, playing the same old CDs we bought years ago, and going to the same shops for food and even clothes.

Another reason why routine is so attractive is that we worry life will not come up to expectations. Why go out and meet new people (always a frightening experience) when we’ve got a full complement of old pals already?

Only by taking a deep breath and talking to a stranger do you give yourself the chance to find out something new. Of course, you can chat on social media, but the physical experience is the most rewarding.

I have had similar conversations with multiple people about this type of thing, and always walk away thinking routine is quite corrosive. I understand its harder once you have a family but its worth doing and maintining as you get older, as Janet makes clear.

 

Replacing Evernote with …?

Dead evernote

I’ve been slowly replacing lots of the apps I’ve used in the past. I already wrote a few posts about it. But the big one is replacing Evernote. Now I’m not jumping on the bandwagon but frankly its always drove me a little nuts the lack of linux support. Especially with frameworks like Electron. Its a bit of kick in the teeth and although their webapp has gotten much better, the lack of offline support makes it a killer for everyday use. Yes there is Nevernote, which become Nixnote but Java!

So I tried switching to something else. I landed on Simplenote as its got clients for every platform and it actually syncs across them all like Evernote. This I thought was perfect then somewhere between deciding to move and actually exporting my data out of evernote (thanks to Wine – Windows emulator for Linux); Simplenote removed (?) the ability to import data from evernote exports. Yes I could do some horrible automation but it would be a real pain.

To my mind, their is two parts. The syncing part and the editing part. Most of the note taking apps seem to combine both parts. This is why I liked Tomboy notes but the client was poor.

So I’m looked for something which seperates both parts and can be replaced easlily enough (open enough to do this too). It also needs clients for Linux and Android (web would be a plus). Attachments, encryption, dataportability, etc are high on my list. These are quite different from what Tom is looking for I feel. For example I never used the evernote clipper and have other native solutions for that.

I found these and might give them a try…

  • Laverna needs a Android client, which they are working on. Uses Dropbox or something else for syncing.
  • Standard notes also needs a Android client before I use it, uses a opensource server to sync but its very early days. Although its interesting to hear the developers thoughts on Evernote. Thats a whole lot of puff but standard note does look promising.
  • Turtl has all the clients I need but uses its own sync server, however its opensource and I can later run my own (noticed theres a docker image). I’m currently trying this one out and its working quite well, but I’m still waiting for inport support of my evernote data.

I also found while browsing around Tagspaces, which isn’t stictly a note taking app but has potential to be so much more. Clients for every platform, opensource and can be selfhosted or synced via dropbox, etc.

Sure to update people once I find something which can replace evernote.

 

A recent write up about Object based media while in Babelsberg, Germany

Feeding the giants panel at Changing the Picture

I have recently been talking in quite a few places to get the word out about the great work BBC R&D are doing around the future of media. One of those places was at the Changing the Picture conference in Babelsberg (near Potsdam and Berlin).

They did a quick review of the conference and the panel I took part in was featured. I have to say it was one of the most lively panels which was perfect for the after lunch slot. Oh and theres a few mistakes like me being from London UK, but I’ll over look them.

Ian Forrester, Senior Firestarter Producer at the BBC (London, UK), and journalist Jan Lerch addressed in the Fireside Chat “Feeding the Giants: Storytelling for Social Media Broadcasters” the controversial question whether and to what extent large corporations in the technology sector and social media can establish themselves as new, major actors in the entertainment industry and how content producers can cooperate with them. Forrester introduced BBC’s innovative new strategy of  “Perceptive Media,” to be tested in 2017, which allows content to be reshaped based on information about the viewer, creating a unique and profoundly affecting viewing experience.  Lerch gave insight into the way technology platforms set requirements for creatives. Nevertherless creatives can push the limits of  existing platforms of social media giants in new and exciting ways.

Dyslexia, creativity and diversity

The advert that caused controversy, asking for dyslexic people

I am a subscriber to the codpast which is a excellent podcast about dyslexia and dyspraixa. Almost every episode is great and I started going through the back catalogue a while ago. There are some suprises like how I kind of warmed to Peter Stringfellow (I never thought I ever would).

But the most recent one really got me rewinding once I finished in the shower (I tend to listen to podcasts in the morning while getting ready for work)

Creativity is often seen as the preserve of artists, musicians and writers, but Chris Arnold, founder of ad agency The Garage, sees creativity as an essential aptitude needed to make it in the world of business.

With dyslexia and creativity tightly linked, Chris put his money where his mouth is and courted controversy when he posted a job ad stating, ‘Only dyslexics need apply’!

 

I wish there was a transcript but its such a great listen…

What do I make of the advert? Well the word “Should” makes all the difference in my mind. If they said they would “only” accept dyslexic people that would be rightly breaking equality law. The law which is setup to help.

 

This time next week I’ll be at #mozfest 2016

Global Village at Mozfest

It’s that week heading into the Mozilla Festival. As usually I’m pretty hectic with things to do and think about. Every year I think why do I put myself through it?

Spacewrangler is something which takes some time to explain and I tried to do so previously and here. But I explain it as running your own conference within the wider framework of the Mozilla Festival.

Its hard work but ever so rewarding!

There is no other time or place when you can put together a mini-conference with sessions and exhibits; schedule everything in the open and fly in great workshop speakers locally & around the world. It’s quite amazing and every year I think how is this even possible?

For example in the Home section of dilemmas in connected spaces.

There are 24 sessions which are a mix of workshops, talks, games and exhibits. They have all been scheduled by myself and I have personally checked all the sessions to be sure they fit with the narrative of the home and the wider dilemmas in connected spaces narrative.

BBC R&D’s partnership with Nottingham University is clealy evidenat this year with Homelab Kitchen meets Databox and Broadcasting through objects both appearing in the line up.

Preparing for Mozfest 2016

I especially find the openness of the whole festival and Mozilla incredible and inspirational. Everything from the open calls to the curation of the sessions. Its a very open process… Its a logical conclusion of most of the values built into barcamp, hackdays and other community centrered events.

Mozilla recently announced the complete lineup/schedule for the festival, which was a bit of a scrable because sometimes things are not quite settled till the actual day. Its the beauty of the festival, things can shift and change; but there is a tension with people wanting to schedule their time to get the best out of the festival.

This year we (myself, Michelle, Jon, Micheal and Dietrich) will build on the previous 2 years and intergrate even deeper with the rest of the festival. If you thought the banyan tree was great, you seen nothing yet! In the space, dilemmas in connected spaces, we have a camp site, the secret garden, a studio and of course the home complete with a post Brexit political experience setup and run by Alex and Peter.

Global Village at Mozfest

Mozfest is a experiece and a half, and always a highlight in my calendar.

You won’t want to miss this years festival and tickets are still available, but be quick as it always sells out.

Trust, Context, Magic & Empathy at Thinking Digital Manchester

Thinking Digital Manchester 2016

You have to give it Herb Kim and the rest of the Thinking Digital team. They always seem to pull off a great conference. Thinking Digital Manchester 2016 is another great example to add to their pretty flawless record.

I felt there was a theme running through this years #TDCMCR… Trust, Context, Magic and Empathy

I have always wanted to take to the stage of Thinking Digital and 3 years ago I joined Adrian at Thinking Digital Newcastle when the Perceptive Radio got its first public showing during a talk about the BBC innovation progress so far, since moving up the north of England. I got the chance to build on 3 years ago and talk about the work we are doing in object based media, data ethics and internet of things. I’ve been rattling this around my head and started calling it hyper-reality storytelling.

Thinking Digital Manchester 2016

Usually I take quite a few good pictures but always reliant on other peoples photos when I take to the stage. However this time the lovely Kate was there to snap photos on my own camera.

Thinking Digital Manchester 2016

The only down side of Thinking Digital Manchester this year seemed to be the technology. In Sarah Drinkwater’s talk the battery went on the microphone which needed to be swapped. In Clara Gaggero‘s talk the clicker really had fun and games. Luckily they replace the batteries before I took to the stage.

Thinking Digital Manchester 2016

There was some great talks and the selection was spot on, but the talks which really got me mind mapping and nodding my head were these ones.

Amber Case

Thinking Digital Manchester 2016

I had the joy of having dinner with Amber, Herb and Rick on Sunday night, when we “nerded out” according to Herb Kim. I never really bumped into Amber before but it was crazy the amount of people we knew in common. We had to send a picture to Dietrich who I’m working on Mozfest with.

You could get a sense of the same kind of people who influenced Amber including Tantek, Searls, Rushkoff (which I keep referencing but not wrote nearly enough about). She talked about designing calm technology (marking this one under empathy & trust), which reminded me of the slow movement in ethos. She pointed out the term comes from a paper published by Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown of Xerox Parc in 1996. Its been revised here too. The attributes of calm tech intrigued me further and summed up some of my bigger thinking around data ethics.

  • Quietness is important
  • Technology should amplify the best of technology and the best of humanity
  • Technology should communicate not speak
  • Technology should respect social norms

It felt like this could be a useful framework for judging the mental impact of technology, something Sherry Turkle talks a lot about. The attention economy is something I do talk about quite a bit and although there is a lot of discussion about it. I do think it defines a lot of the choices I make.

Really interesting talk with plenty to take away, look forward to the next time I bump into Amber.

Sarah Drinkwater

Thinking Digital Manchester 2016

Sarah’s talk was a good one and gave me joy hearing the core message of Great things happen in groups. Something I subscribe too deeply when thinking about collaboration and community. It also brought me back to the BBC Backstage community group I managed a long time ago, especially when she ran through the core learnings

  • Listen
  • Build on what already exists
  • Don’t own culture or community
  • Be flexible
  • Keep delighting
  • Stay human

Stay human echoed Amber’s talk when she mentioned “Machines don’t act like humans – humans shouldn’t act like machines

The thing which tipped the balance for me about Sarahs talk was about lifelong learning and the changes in our work lives. I referred to this in a blog post reporting back on my thoughts on Futurefestblog post reporting back on my thoughts on Futurefest and called it millennial thinking. I think the experience revolution was right on the money.

Clara Gaggero Westaway

Thinking Digital Manchester 2016

I bumped into Clara and her partner during the Thinking Digital dinner and we had a chat about some of the work she had done previously for the BBC. It was clear she was full of experience and when she mentioned a colleague who had left recently, knew I would have to drop into their studio next time I’m in London.

Clara’s talk was a summary of the work they had done over the last decade and she tagged them by Context,  Empathy and Magic. She showed a bunch of work with Blackberry and made it clear context isn’t enough, you need Empathy. She was right and made the point very strongly in the work they did for Samsung around phones for older people (so-called silver phones). I love how they tried different things and realised what the problem area really was instead of reinventing the phone.

Just when you thought it can’t get any better, Clara unveils the magic. Bit planner, a calendar which is physical and digital. This is something I have personally explored in some of the research I have done at BBC R&D with the physical playlist machine. The ability to have a physical and digital working together at each of their strengths is ideal and currently feels like magic.

Ironiclly a day later Paul Coulton from Lancaster University a partner on the physical playlist machine, tweeted about the latest version of the physical playlist machine.

I have been planning out Mozfest 2016 and wanting to create something like my wall at work, which syncs between the wall and a digital manfestiation of the same thing. In the ideal world both would sync no matter what changes but at least with bit planner you can sync the changes to the digital copy.

Very smart and can’t wait to have play with it. My only hope is she made it quite open, so we can hack on it and hopefully improve it. Me and Imran were talking about adding NFC to remove the taking a picture part of it.

Clara expect me around soon to see what else you are up to and explore what you might do with perceptive media and objects.

Sam Aaron

Thinking Digital Manchester 2016

Is there anything I need to say about Sam and SonicPi which hasn’t been said before?

I think Sam is a great person and you can’t help but be enchanted (magic, you see) by what he is able to create and very quickly. But what I love about Sam is he always ties what the sonicPI and live coding to the solid mission of digital literacy for young and old. Because of this I have been trying to get him involved in DJ Hackday as I believe the mission of democrasitation of remixing and digital literacy overlap well. In trying to convince him to get involved, he made a bit of crack about djing on stage which wasn’t missed by myself.

Sam you are going to be involved in some way for sure, even from a far…! Always great and always lovely to have some music during thinking digital.

Jennifer Arcuri

Thinking Digital Manchester 2016

Jennifer pretty much blew up the stage with her bright and californian style of talk. I had never heard of her before but by the end I was very convinced. The weird thing is at the dinner the previous night, I had seen her but never quite got the chance to talk to her as I was talking to Ed Barton about mixed reality most of the evening.

She talked about Hackers and made it very clear the differences in this murky world which most people don’t really venture into. She gave some great examples including Aaron Swartz. It was suprising how few people had heard about hacker culture outside of the mainstream nonsense.

Ultimatley it was a exciting rallying call for the curious, modifiers, hackers to make, break and do for the pursuit of knowledge. I’m hoping to check out a few of their courses when they have a place in Manchester, because knowledge is power and protection. I also want to explore and see whats the limits of possibility when it comes to internet of things.

James Veitch

Thinking Digital Manchester 2016

There is little I can say about James except, Herb was asking me why I prefer Geek to Nerd. James is hysterical and is a one man performance in himself. I can’t work out if its a magic act as such or just him.

He just seems to nail it at the right moments. Lots of laughter and so very relavent to the internet age. You really could imagine a whole night with him like how nerdcore with girltalk became a thing. Maybe a different kind of standup show.

At the afterparty, I got a sense if its an act; he’s pretty amazing at it. It always reminds me of the chinese man with the fishbowl (and more) in the prestige (spoilers!). But like Ros Bell says maybe its time already?

Another thing about Thinking Digital is the showing of (it would seem) random videos from around the web played to the audience after coming back from breaks. One of those videos was the DNA Journey.

It kicked started a bunch of tweets and to be fair quite a lot of emotion all aroundI had to dry my eye a little before getting on stage, poor Clara who had to follow that, luckily she had a great talk.

Although these were the ones which touhced me. I have to give credit to everybody who talked. Myles Dyer, Ed Barton and Amy Zima were very noteworthy. Got to love Herb geeking out with Dave Asprey on stage about the bulletproof lifestyle…

Thinking Digital Manchester 2016

All said and done, the TDCMCR crew did a excellent job again. As Thinking Digital moves into its 10th anniversary, it will be fancinating to see where it goes next.

Great work again Herb and Co.

What are hyper-reality experiences?

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I talked previously about mixed reality but the consensus seems to be VR+AR = Mixed Reality… it looks like that ship has sailed and no matter what I say nothing will bring that back. So I have started talking about hyper-reality when discussing perceptive media across objects and things.

You could say its like a theatre cast in your living room and starts to answer some of the questions about perceptive media killing the shared experience. Theres already people hacking things to media, BBC R&D even experimented a long time ago in this area with the famous dalek example and of course the Perceptive Radio was just the start. The second version of the perceptive radio, did actually include more connectivity options to reach out and interact with devices in the local space such as Philips Hue lights, bluetooth devices, etc. It seems so simple but the big difference is they are reacting to the media rather than being thought about at the script/narrative level. With object based media (media+metadata) we can get to level much richer and interesting than ever imagined perviously.

Imagine what would happen if the director/writer could start to specify these type of experiences, the same way a director chooses to show certain characters in certain light, angles, etc. However the big difference is it can be contextual, flexible and scalable for 1 or many more people. How about that for a shared experience?

Of course this  brings up many ethical questions, data dilemmas, and questions about graceful degradation and progressive enhancement for media experiences. But I’m going to side step that in my blog for now. There are too many questions and research is well underway.

Ethics of personal data videos

Hyper-reality (or shall I call it hyper narratives, certainly can’t call it hypermedia) extends the narrative into the real world. This is fascinating because;

I contest this is closer to alternative reality gaming and the very popular immersive theatre works such as sleep no more. A problem with both is the scalability and consistency of experience, but whats great about them is the unique and shared experiences.

The Verge recently did a whats tech podcast which talks about immersive theatre, alternative reality games and the logical future of this stuff. Like the psychtech podcast episode 44, it highlights a lot of my current thinking and how all these things are connected. I always said the Internet of things needs a narrative because right now it all feels to service/utility. Even Google’s home project lacks that human-like narrative.

Internet of things needs a narraive

Some will sniff at this blog post but hyper-reality is the best word I can think of to explain what happens when you mix media objects, physical things, storytelling and context together.

Building virtual worlds is nice, augmenting the real world is better. However in my mind the future is those who explore the cross over of things, devices and media. Can you imagine the incredible levels of immersion?

 

Futurefest 2016 took me by surprise

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I have known about Futurefest for years since the first one in Shoreditch town hall about 3 years ago. But was never able to attend due to clashes with the London Design festival which runs around the same time of the year. This time around there was enough time between them and not really being involved in LDF besides attending events, I had the pleasure of attending and presenting the work I’m pretty passionate about.

Having looked at the programme briefly online, I was very convinced this would be great use of my weekend, even so close after IBC 2016 and Mozilla Festival 2016. The variaty of talks was something you only really see at the better established conferences like Thinking Digital, and all for not a lot of money in my view.

I was pretty blown away by the gender split, I first thought it might be because I spent 6 days in a heavily male dominated IBC but I started to do a rough count in my head. It was 60/40 split towards female, amazing…

The first part of my day involved working with Victoria K to fix my presentation which had been converted over to Powerpoint with the usual weird and wonderful problems you get when moving between Libreoffice & Powerpoint. We straighten it out and embeded the videos. I could then relax and attend the sessions.

Unlike most conferences, the sessions were weirdly positioned, with some starting at times like 1505 and 1150, then they would run for 15, 30, 50mins. There was also no set time for lunch or breaks, you had to work it out yourself. This made networking less possible but I quite liked the idea of no formal lunch time as I tend to eat later than most.

My session was titled Data ethics in the time of perceptive media, and I almost missed the start of it due to talking in the speakers green room. Luckily Nesta’s Lydia found me chatting away and we made for the glass box room. Just enough time to mic up, drink some more coffee and sip some water.

I moved quickly through my 58 slides in less than 20mins (20 seconds a slide) giving more time to get Q&A from full packed in audience. I didn’t realise that the talk would be so popular but people told me they couldn’t get in and had to watch from the outside of the glass (sorry if you were not able to get in). The questions, I had already kind of prompted in the later end of the presentation but people got the idea BBC were doing everything to research how to stay trusted but also carve out the new opportunities in a very open way.

After the talk and Q&A, I had quite a few interesting conversations from people asking and enquiring into how deep we were research into the ethics of data? Of course I gave a massive big up to Rhia, Lianne, Maxine and other research scientists we have in BBC R&D. The discussion moved from personalised drama to personalised learning using perceptive media. Which is when I always link or mention the Psyteach Podcast episode 44Is Perceptive Media The Future Of Education?

The Futurefest really did surprise me, the line up was great on paper but I wasn’t sure if they were  able to pull off such a ambious schedule of talks. On paper it started to look like the festival of dangerious ideas which I have been a fan of. Mixing Love, work and play together really is a tricky combination to get right, but Futurefest/Nesta got it about right. No matter what some white man says, Futurefest was a well deserved glimpse of the future, especially after the male dominated experience of IBC.

Millennial was talked about a lot, I realise although I’m much too old to be claiming to be a millennial. I likely think like a millennial (if we are going to tag a generation in this way). This became clear in sessions Work beyond the workplace, Women will rule the world and Design your own life.

From my vast notes in a mindmap (would share but they only make sense to me), millennials charactistics include

  • Multiple things going on
  • More likely to do things they are passionate about
  • Blur work and play and enjoy it
  • Like to reinvent themselves

This doesn’t seem to uncommon to me, but to be fair the people I tend to surround myself with likely subscribe to a bits of these notions too.

The sessions which really stuck out for me were.

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Work beyond the workplace by Anjali Ramachandran

This talk started out with AI isn’t going to kill off our jobs and via Dan Lyons new book (I’m still gutted I missed him when he was in Manchester) Distrupted, we ended up reestablishing a new business culture. I had heard of Responsive.org but never really looked into it properly. Something to add to my task list. It all felt reminiscent of Blaze at Thinking Digital Newcastle 2014. I was hoping to catch Anjali about this.

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Design your own life

I really enjoyed this talk and quite enjoyed the nature of having the social space outside the main rooms in the open air. Its the kind of thing I enjoyed about BarCamps (sessions spaces in weird and wonderful places). Nesta’s set designer was doing a great job.

The talk by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, was deeply funny but also full of interesting points while flogging their book (which I did end up buying, but missed the opportunity to get it signed). The crux of the talk was using design methodology to design your own life. Research, prototype, evaulate and repeat. This is where some of the Millennial thinking popped up. They also described other traits which they saw as positive for designing your own life, a strong sense of curiosity and natrual intuition (something which I’m less and less of, sadly). They also dropped something they called dysfunction beliefs, which I’ve been refering to as old fashioned thinking in the past.

There was so much captured and said, I think I’m going to wait till I actually read the book. Shame I didn’t get it signed.

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Shifting identity

This was part of the theme Future love and I have to give credit to the whole theme, which was expressed in a adult and smart way. Sex and the office had Cindy on the big stage and was great, but shifting idenity really pushed things into a new terriory.

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Gender fludity is a area few people talk about and I was exteremely proud to witness Bill Thompson,  chair a tricky subject in such a playful way which made everybody feel at ease.

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The very idea of male & female was kind of torn up, as Bill suggested was the promise of the early days of cyberspace. Everybody on the panel talked about gender on a spectrum, being the new normal. Interestingly a woman, who was born legally a boy talked about the external desire to be extremely feminine. As she said, you could switch gender but don’t you dare float in the middle!

Changing people’s world view was dropped in by one of the panelist, along with be a roll model, communication through demonstration and of course tollerence. Pretty sure it was Cindy who said “look in who you are, that’s the only way to know who you are.” I totally agree, which reminds me of… Of course, this is extremely difficult or potentially dangerious for some people in some places (sadly).

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Very fitting end to a incredible panel in most other conferences but certainly contender for the best panel from Futurefest. I glad I missed out on hearing Brian Eno for this panel, it was so worth it.

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Love as risk

Frank Furedi deserves a mention because his understated talk seemed to hit all the right buttons. Once again I was franicily mindmapping. My ears really picked up when early in the talk he mentioned “Women who love too much.” A certain friend (they know who they are) has recommended it to me but I’ve never read it. (Keep meaning to dust off my kindle library card option).

Frank slowly deconstructed how we want/have turned love into something safe, predictable and machine like. We want certainly but love is a risk, as Frank says “love is meant to be dangerous, its a risk

I asked Frank the question myself, Simon, Jane and Anna had talked about a month or so earlier. Frank was quick to add more and point out we have rengated love to a transaction. His most powerful example was partner over lover. There was also mentioned about Japanese sex lives (video).

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Women will rule!

This is when I first saw the debate platform and what a debate to have on it. It was Cindy who mentioned how training data wasn’t diverse and ended up killing women and children. Weirdly enough I heard a whole podcast from 99 percent invisible about the problem with averages. She also made it super clear as the host, this isn’t about women per-say, but rather diversity and it starts with young women.

I found Cindy extremely powerful as a host and she really got things moving with quotes like “History is white washed by white men” and “Old pastie men

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I can imagine how alienating this might all sound to white men. But frankly the time for tip toeing around the subject has gone and passed. The woman from the apprentice, Melody Hossaini got a bit of a backlash for trying to fit in to the systems rather than fix or reinvent them. Especially around the idea of quotas in jobs. Bridget Minamore was right on the button with her passionate rebutal of Melody’s thoughts on quotas.

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The debate was good but just as it heated up, time was up. I would have paid to see more of this debate.

Other sessions worthy of note included Cindy’s only provocative talk from the Explore stage. I’ve said far too much about Cindy in this blog and the previous oneprevious one, but she had such an amazing influence.

BBC’s Colin Burns on the debate stage for From design thinking to design playing. Where Colin explained the design process using an imaginary fish.

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Dj Spooky’s Future of love music, which really gave a real understanding into the way he thinks as zipped around his ipad from application to application.

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Anne-Marie Imafidon’s the future is young women, which was only bettered by the discussion on the debate stage.

Futurefest took me by total suprise and it was incredibily good value for the price. I have compared it to Future Everything and the Festival of Dangerous ideas; I’m sticking with that because the diversity of the subjects and ideas was incredible. A welcomed change to the line ups and style of conferences we’ve gotten use to. Something between a festival and conference with a sharp edge which got people thinking.

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Thanks to Lydia for convincing me a long while back to get involved and the rest of the team for a great conference. Glad I could play my part, and I’ll be back next year likely under my own steam unless I got something which fits with the themes for 2017.

More magic leap thoughts

I have been aware of magic leap for ages but since Dave sent me the piece about magic leap; I’ve been looking at more of their work and approaches.

This is when I watched the recording of Graeme Devine at the games for learning summit.

The over all idea of mixed reality I certainly would agree with… The important part is talking about worlds and experiences. Nothing about screens or devices. I would suggest the statement…

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Mixed Reality is the mixture of the real world & virtual worlds. So that one understands the other. This creates experience that cannot possibly happen anywhere else.
– Graeme Devine

…as the Moon shot.

It certainly something I’m also thinking a lot about when it comes to perceptive media. Experience which are simply not possible. The only way this is possible is with the combination of the real and virtual/media world. I’m still inspired by some of the thinking behind alternative reality gaming; mixing reality with directed and scalable experiences.

I also found their company ethos of…

  • People are first
  • What we make will be better, not always new
  • The experience really matters

Quite interesting…

We need a magic leap for the other senses

Good friend Dave mentioned Magic Leap and sent me a link to how it may work. I had a read and although it was a reasonable read, I was less impressed than I maybe should have been. I get Magic Leap is the thing lots of people are getting a little moist about, its seems incredible but I share a small amount of the view-point of the blogger..

Regardless if it turns out to be a consumer success or not, this is the first example of real innovation the tech industry has seen in some time. I am extremely excited to see what happens next for them and looking forward to the shake up this will put on the industry in general.

To be clear, I’m not down on Magic Leap, it is innovative but its more of the same. I only really interested in disruption right now. Something the tech industry needs (imho).

I already mentioned my thoughts about mixed reality and it hinges off the fact it’s not just visual and audible. I draw your attention to the interaction design rant (Touch), Smell and media (Smell) and of course the deeply problematic (Taste).

This paper‘s summary, sums up my thoughts, I feel…

The senses we call upon when interacting with technology are very restricted. We mostly rely on vision and audition, increasingly harnessing touch, whilst taste and smell remain largely underexploited. In spite of our current knowledge about sensory systems and sensory devices, the biggest stumbling block for progress concerns the need for a deeper understanding of people’s multisensory experiences in HCI. It is essential to determine what tactile, gustatory, and olfactory experiences we can design for, and how we can meaningfully stimulate such experiences when interacting with technology. Importantly, we need to determine the contribution of the different senses along with their interactions in order to design more effective and engaging digital multisensory experiences. Finally, it is vital to understand what the limitations are that come into play when users need to monitor more than one sense at a time.

Being able to drive and combine all these things together (even in a basic way – multisensory) has the potential to be far more exciting and immersive than Magic leap could even dream about. And its happening in dark and acdemic corners (I was maybe more excited by the vibrate API draft than learning about how magic leap may work – sad, who knows?). I’m sure they might be thinking the same but the fascination of the tech industry is on higher density A/V. Multisensory is moon shot. Being able to drive these on demand in an ethical, sustainable and contextual way is something I think a lot about with Perceptive Media. Being able to enable anyone to create their own experiences to share is the next thing.