10 years of Thinking Digital, still going strong

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017

Its kind of crazy that Thinking Digital is 10 years old now. I still remember meeting Herb Kim for the first time at a BBC Innovation labs event. He convinced Adrian to take 5mins and talk about coming back from TED global and wanting to create a conference with similar outlook in Newcastle. Yes! yes, I laughed at him but later did say if he gets it off the ground I will support him in anyway I can. That was over 10 years ago and the first Thinking Digital happened in 2007 and was amazing (such a shame I didn’t write about it).

10 Years later, its still an amazing conference, attracting more and more new people all the way to Gateshead/Newcastle. Every year people ask what am I looking forward to? and every year I pretty much say I haven’t even looked at the schedule, as I just know Herb has created a exciting and diverse line-up. My trust in the conference and Herb is super high and he never lets me down.

As per the last 8 years, heres my personal highlights of the conference, but honestly every speaker was great including Tom Scott, Dan Biddle, Darren Jobling and Adrian Westaway.

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Simon Singh

I was aware of Simon previously but I found his geeky interest in mathematics pretty exciting and intriguing. I’m much more likely to keep an eye out for those cryptic mathematical equations now more than ever.

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Richard Wiseman

Richard is another one of those figures I’ve heard of but never really checked out. He was also a great follow after Adrian Westaway’s magic + design (which only missed out from my favorites because I heard Clara talk in Manchester and spent some time getting to know the amazing Special Projects, still love to work with them on Perceptive Media). Richard broke down magic tricks and focused on our (lack) attention.

Really nicely done and ever so funny too! Certainly someone to watch out for in the future.

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Mike Mullen

Fintech is something i’m less interested in but since using Monzo, started to get more interested in. Mike is the CEO of Atombank and his talk was actually really engaging. The story of how he moved from CEO of First Direct wasn’t fully explained but how he got started again and facing new challenges was fascinating. He described banking as a Rules based industry and talked about how the pace of change is based on who’s got the money; which currently is older people but thats changing which changes the dynamic of banking. Also found his idea of killing customers to see how much they are willing to put up with (think RyanAir) interesting. Such a good talk to kick start the conference too!

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017John Kershaw

What can I say about John, which I haven’t already said?

He finally revealed the full story of what happened with Dragons Den as he did in this blog post. He also revealed quite a bit about TV production generally. To be fair most of it was, “yeah and…?” to me but for most people the shine of TV production is a bubble they haven’t ever seen inside of. As Debra said, John is a highly invest-able guy with plenty of good ideas and I’m expecting some great things in the near future.

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Dr Justin Sanchez

Justin works for DARPA and is focused on Human brain interfaces. Something which gets talked about quite a bit especially since the debate around machine learning has matured quite a bit. Justin talked a lot about Direct brain interfaces and the benefits to restore memories and provide benefits beyond imagination.

All I kept thinking was about the ethicals of all this stuff, surely DARPA are somewhere along the line interested in using this as a weapon or defense? Justin did well to positioned DARPA as doing impactful things like kick starting the ARPnet which the internet was built on.

Although I wasn’t totally convinced, its hard to think about tapping into the CNS and PNS without thinking about films like the Matrix, Existenz and the Black Mirror S3ep2 Playtest. While Justin talked people on twitter mentioned Inception, especially when he talked about architecting spaces. Funny because the pasivdevice in inception is military (think Department of Defense? not DARPA?).

That’s why the military developed dream sharing-a training program where soldiers could strangle, stab and shoot each other, then wake up.

Plenty to think about!

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Dr Anita Sengupta

There little I can say about this talk except wow!

I knew landing on Mars and exploring it was extremely difficult but Anita explained the whole life-cycle of the work and basically there wasn’t single persons mind which wasn’t blown at the end.

Simply incredible and great to hear the facts behind the headlines…

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Sophie Bostock

Very fitting talk as it was recently mental health awareness week. Sophie talked about mental health through the lens of sleeping and pretty much the quantified self, although she never actually said those words. She talked about sleeping apps and CBT – Cognitive behavioral therapy as a service you can access anywhere from your phone via a app. Which brought up the credibility question.

Don’t worry she said, these apps are about to be rated/checked in the same way medicine is. So hopefully removing the crap from the good. She did mention other metrics such as cost and accessibility but never the data ethics worry I have with all these things.

Good talk which raises plenty more questions… Unfortunately I never quite got time to grab Sophie or get her details.

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Chris Turner

Chris a goofy white guy who raps about anything and everything was amazing. He came out rapping after Imogen and instantly got the audience going. After rapping and talking about the key rules for rapping, he then asked the audience to pull things out their bag and rap about them in one continuous stream. The rules Chris talked about were the same for improvisation really.

Stay in the moment, don’t over think things and don’t worry about it.

It also reminded me of my new years resolution to take a improvisation class. Forge about rapping in the shower, which Chris recommended; I need to make this happen for sure!

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Imogen Heap

Up till the conference I had no idea who Imogen Heap was. I gather she was involved in the music business but her interests in digital technology were pretty deep.

Imogen has a big interest in changing the business of music by taking advantage of decentralised systems like blockchain and the concept of smart contracts. She talked bout how everybody talks about this being a golden age for music listening, but is the true of music creation?

I instantly started thinking there are so many connections with the work I’m doing around decentralisation (blockchain for music use/rent/buying), object based media (huge amounts of metadata which isn’t included in music) and dj hackday (music metadata affecting the world around you/quantifed club style). This was further confirmed when I bought a ticket to her cellia event after the conference.

Although there was lots of technical problems, the points were made and the 42 city tour of the world next year sounds very interesting. Plus her performance was actually musically good. While Adam Stark & Imogen talked about the glove technology, I looked it up hoping it would be a open source project. Although it isn’t, its funded by UWE, Innovate UK and others; putting it in the field of academia. I wouldn’t be surprised if theres a push to open source a part of it alongside selling the actual gloves in the future?

Once again if it wasn’t for Thinking Digital, I likely would never known about Imogen and some of the cross over in thoughts and ideas.

Sarah Raad – The Gratitude Habit workshop

Sarah Raad

Sometimes you meet someone and the connection around ideas and view on life are perfectly matched. This was Sarah.

Sarah who is an amazing woman runs a marketing company called Tent has a side hustle called Simple happy life

The idea is simple (pun-intended). Learn to have a gratitude habit by being grateful for the things you have right now. Ideally you would write these down or share them in some way.

Of course it sounds too simple (pun again) but Sarah pulled up many scientific research leading to the same conclusion that a gratitude habit can really be the building block for a more fore-filling life.

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017

The first exercise was to get to know each other by saying who you were, why you were there and say why you were grateful for the picked topic out of gratitude jar. I picked by random friendship which I had plenty to say. Interestingly as I heard other people talk, it was fascinating to hear how open or closed they were with their thoughts.

Of course I’m quite open with most of my thoughts. Without really thinking about it, I was practicing some of the gratitude habit already. I also remember a thinking digital workshop I went to the year after leaving hospital from Bobby at the now gone Happiest. Of course one of the happiest items for a happy life was Gratitude.

During the workshop, it was clear to me that some of the exercises although very/quite private needed that wider interaction to make them really sink in (in my honest opinion); but its very hard to do this unless its a safe & comfortable environment. Very hard to do during a workshop in a office. This is something me and Sarah discussed after the workshop in a cafe afterwards and during the TDC dinner later. I remember also trying to recite bobby’s quote about negative thoughts.

We have roughly 60,000 thoughts a day and 95% of them are the same as yesterday and 80% of those are negative in nature.

We talked a lot and it was refreshing to have quite deep and I guess some would say intimate conversation about life, politics, happiness and the world. Lots was shared and I feel extremely gratitude to have met Sarah.

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017

Thinking Digital once again is such an incredible conference and I’m very grateful to be there and gained so much out of a conference which I originally scoffed at… Here’s the next 10 years!? Herb?

Decentralise or Decentralize this and everything?

Silicon Valley season 4

Decentralise or Decentralize that is always a question I have… Of course being British, the first one is correct (I joke!)

Its fair to say I have been thinking about decentralisation quite a lot recently, but its not the first time. Conversations with Adewale has always got me thinking about this all.

Partly due to Mozfest/Mozretreat this year and thinking about it in terms of power structures; which I’ll explain more in another blog post soon. But I found a number of interesting points about decentralisation which I thought I’d share….

I’ve been thinking about the differences between Centralised, Decentralisation, Distributed and Federated; as I joined Mastodon and thought a lot about Jabber, Status.net and Laconica. Can the user the experience be better than the centralised services? Theres potential but is the will there?

Kevin Marks shared a link to a piece about Silicon Valley series 4 and how the main character Richard is interested in building a more decentralised internet.

In the first episode of the new season (Season 4) of HBO’s Silicon Valley, beleaguered entrepreneur Richard Hendricks, asked by eccentric venture capitalist Russ Hanneman, what, given unlimited time and resources, he would want to build.

“A new Internet,” says Hendricks.

“Why?” asks Hanneman.

Hendricks babbles about telescopes and the moon landing and calculators and the massive computing power in phones today, and says: “What if we used all those phones to build a massive network?… We use my compression algorithm to make everything small and efficient, to move things around…. If we could do it, we could build a completely decentralized version of our current Internet with no firewalls, no tolls, no government regulation, no spying. Information would be totally free in every sense of the word.”

Hel-lo! Decentralized Internet? That’s a concept I’ve heard bubbling around the tech world for a while now, but not so much in the consciousness of the general public. Is HBO’s Silicon Valley about to take the push for a Decentralized Web mainstream?

Of course decentralisation isn’t a panacea and shifting the power from a centralised power comes with roles and lots more responsibility. It also relies on correctly informed citizens. This is why the distributed and federated models are much more interesting in my mind…

A couple people mentioned Brexit is a type of decentraisation, and I guess it is but further encourages thoughts about distributed and federated. Manchester recently got its first Mayor because of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016 which is a type of decentralisation I guess.

Its clear the internet could do with less centralisation but unless its as good or better a experience for people; why would they switch? That warm fuzzy feeling is powerful but not strong enough, you only have to look at the wake of decentralised social networks to see evidence of this.

People’s enthusiasm for federated decentralised $WHATEVER seems inversely proportional to the practicality of their plan for achieving it

And thats just the developers, goodness knows what the users enthusiasm levels are like? Surely one day it will just work and users won’t even know its been built that way.

Dare I mention my thoughts about distributed online dating? Imagine that!

Paul Revere Williams architect to many

Some of Paul Williams architecture in LA

I was listening to 99 percent invisible’s latest podcast episode about Paul Williams, the famous architect who was never really mentioned or credited in history. His story is quite incredible to hear from many different points of view.

It’s hard to say exactly what motivated Williams to pursue architecture. He didn’t know of any other architects as he was growing up, and didn’t really know that architecture was a profession. He did have a natural talent for drawing, and then somehow decided that this was the job for him.

Hudson says that her grandfather’s high school guidance counselor advised him not to pursue architecture, telling him “he should not try to be an architect. He should be a doctor or a lawyer because black people would always need doctors and lawyers. And white people would not hire him as an architect and black people couldn’t afford him.” Still Williams refused to let go of this ambition.

I always wondered what would have happened if I pursued architecture too, I was put off by 7 years of college, although 6 years of design focused education wasn’t far off.

…some clients were taken aback when they first met Williams — people who “came because they may have read about him,” Karen Hudson explains, “but didn’t realize he was black.” They weren’t sure whether to sit next to him or even whether to shake his hand. To put them at ease, Williams would keep his distance, sitting across the table from them, and as he asked them what they wanted in their home,  he would draw preliminary sketches upside down, so they could see their vision evolve as he drew. This helped put them at ease but was also just impressive in itself.

I have gotten this a few times in the past, mainly before you could look me up online. The name Paul Williams and even Ian Forrester could be anyone but I guess unconscious bias makes people think white males?

The distance thing is also something I’m very aware of… as a black man. Being able to draw upside down is super impressive and I imagine he had a lot of practice.

Williams wasn’t the first or only architect to draw upside down, but his consistent use of this skill illustrates the lengths he went to accommodate his white clients. He dressed impeccably, worked tirelessly, and tried to excel in all respects, simply to be accepted.

Enough said, but sadly…

Despite his vast volume of work (and being the first black member of the American Institute of Architects) Williams has remained relatively unknown, at least until recently. “Every black architect I know is familiar with Williams,” say Phil Freelon. “And I haven’t met a white architect yet who knew who I was talking about if I were to mention that name. And we need to change that.” This is why Freelon nominated Williams for the AIA’s highest individual award: the Gold Medal.

This is basically the award that welcomes an architect into the cannon of all-time greats. Past winners include Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Thomas Jefferson. Now, 37 years after his death, Paul Williams will officially join their ranks.

This award means a lot to Freelon and other African American architects in terms of general visibility. “There are very few African American architects working in this country, relatively speaking,” says Freelon. Just “2% of licensed architects in this country are black. And one of the ways you would want to combat that is to raise the visibility. [You] make sure people know this is a great profession and that young people see it as a possibility and as an option for them.”

Hopefully blogging this will encourage people to listen or read the transcript. Its a short story with lots of interesting links and discussion.

 

Barbican’s black mirror exhibit

Black Mirror s1 ep 2: 15 million Merits

Interesting news recently, that London Barbican will be opening a exhibit around Black mirror episode S1 ep2: 15 million merits

I’ll be personally interested to see how far down the perceptive media (or as I use to call it intrusive TV) route they go? Also be interested to see if they use the chance to educate the public about data ethics and the value of data like the science museum have done.

How does look Ubuntu without convergence unity?

Ubuntu Convergence

Mark Shutterworth announced today that Unity the default desktop enviornment which comes with Ubuntu will no longer be developed. It was based on the concept of convergence which to be fair was a good idea.

I personally didn’t really like Unity for desktops and never really got to play with Unity on a smartphone or tablet. I needed to make a lot of changes to make it more useable although I did find it slightly quicker than Gnome Shell under Ubuntu. But Gnome shell is just great to use for many reasons including its many extensions and lack of clutter is just right.

The bigger news is the concept of convergence seems to be under some doubt too, which I assume puts Ubuntu phone, tablet and tv at some risk? Weirdly enough just like the Boot2Geko/Firefox phone project?

In the meanwhile, for those thinking this is the end of Ubuntu… they are very wrong.

GnomeShell is one of many including KDE and more…

My highlights of TedxManchester 2017

TedXManchester 2017

I had the joy of being one of many in the main theatre in Home for TedXManchester 2017 (number 5 I believe?). Once again arranged and produced by the incredible serial successful event organiser Herb Kim and the thinking digital team, with a varied range of people plucked for their interesting stories, projects or surrounding concepts. I got my ticket late because the first lot sold out in under an hour! But I was very lucky and looked forward to the line up without really looking into each speaker.

Of course last year was special to me, as I took to the stage to tell the tales of dating in the new millenium with dating against humanity. But it’s always interesting to sit in the crowd and experience the whole thing as an audience member.

The whole event was good but here are the talks which really stood out for me.

Mr Bingo

TedXManchester 2017

I had no idea who Mr Bingo was or what he had done, till he took the stage. He is just a funny guy who does funny things with analogue media; like drawing extremely rude things on cards and posting it to people who request them. I mean he’s trolling them but only because they requested to be trolled. Sounds like self abuse almost?

Its weird but I thought the whole thing was hysterical. I took a shot of one of his cards and been getting a little attention for it, can’t think why? (pleads innocence but of course I know why!)

Sophie Scott

TedXManchester 2017

There was a host of things Sophie said which was fascinating, but the bit which stuck for me was the detail about our attention and our voice. She told us when we talk our brain turns off the listening part. I’m sure this isn’t strictly true but an interesting thought, specially when thinking about how we hate hearing our own voices and why certainly people tend not to realise others are making points too.

She then went on to suggest our voices are wired for much more than just communication, using beatboxing as the ideal example of our voices as instruments.

Lots to take away and well delivered…

Jennifer Arcuri

TedXManchester 2017

There is little I can say about Jennifer which I haven’t already said about her at the last Thinking Digital Manchester. She talked passionately about hacker culture and how important knowledge was in the internet connected world we inhabit. Always a pleasure and wish I could make it to the first HackerHouse/Madlab course in March.

Jonathan Kay

TedXManchester 2017

Jonathan was a weird one and divided people from what I heard in the break later. He started his talk/act at the back of the stalls by heckling Herb as he gave his introduction. Then moved forward to the stage followed by a remote camera person, so people in the upper levels could see what on earth was going on.

His aim of the act was to get the audience to speak to each other and heck even touch each other (I know shock horror!). Ok at one point he did suggest kissing the person next to us but that didn’t go down so well. It was entertaining and the bigger point of actually talking to the people around us, wasn’t lost on myself and others.

What really brough the whole thing home to me, was the fact a friend sat in the seat next to me was feeling extremely uncomfortable about the act and wondered if someone would be picked out of the audience; because that would be terrifying. Thinking back to Carrie Green in TedxManchester3 and I said would it be so bad?

I think the point was made…

Helen Czerski

TedXManchester 2017

I have heard Helen a few times at previous Thinking Digital’s and honestly every time I hear her talk, she just oozes wonder and excitement for science and the universe. You can’t help but feel excited when she talks. Always enlightening and always reignited my interest in sciences.

Michelle McGagh

TedXManchester 2017

I don’t know what to say about Michelle, except wow and wtf! basically Michelle decided not to buy anything for a year. She did point out buy nothing day which is the same day as black friday; but one day is easy right? Why not spend nothing year?

This really got me going because she made very good points about our quick fix consumer culture and the logical conclusion of this all. But unlike the a preachy lecture about how bad we all were, she put herself through a year of trying to live it.

The results were funny and sometimes tragic. I’m not very frugal at all but I typically don’t spend much money on buying stuff. Tend to spend more on experiences and doing things. But recently I made the decision that if was getting old or causing too much effort to keep it going, I should trade it in earlier than later. I’ve spent too much time, fighting to keep things going when I should have just got rid of it and moved on.

So to hear someone actively trying to not to spend anything, and not because she couldn’t afford it – was a little shocking. The full extend of her frugaleness was quite something and reminded me of when I left the hospital almost 7 years ago and seeing my bank balance, because I simply had not spent a single penny except paid my usual bills etc; It was amazing… Maybe there was something to it, I thought as she left the stage.

Andy Burnham

TedXManchester 2017

It was a surprise to see Andy Burnham on the TEDx line up, knowing how TED doesn’t like politic talks, but I have to say although he spoke with passion and made some good points. I couldn’t help but feel the us and them argument a little too simplistic. Centralised power does have a tendencancy to turn corrupt but there is also some good things about it too. If I was talking to Andy directly, I would point to examples like the states, where each state can pretty much set their own rules but the united states system can over rule them; and in some cases thank goodness otherwise slavery, marital rape, etc would still be enforced (although then you get crap like the bathroom nonsense, with the centralised power making backwards decisions).

I also think Andy a few times pointed the finger at the south vs the north, when what he really meant is the country vs westminster. Anyway it was interesting and good to hear, even if I’m not certain on everything said.

Dan Machen

TedXManchester 2017

I liked Dan’s talk, it was a number of things I’ve been thinking a lot about. Attention and Intimacy. I was surprised he never mentioned Sherry Turkle but the quote from William Bernbach was a good place to hand a lot of thoughts. I had never actually checked out Tristan harris, but after Dan’s talk I had a deeper look at him.

Very interesting stuff which I agree about quite a bit (expect a longer blog about him soon). I’ve also been thinking about people not platforms, putting more emphasis on human time and less on productivity. It’s all very interesting in the face of machine learning and AI; I can feel the quantified self/movement (they are quite different) right in the middle of all this, along with data ethics.

Back back to Dan’s talk, I did find the point about the smartphone being a hammer and would we take our hammer out in a meeting? Put it on the table? Interesting… To be fair when he talked about it, I did picture the business card scene from American Psycho, when he mentioned the hammer on the table.

Lots to take away and think about…

TedXManchester 2017

Of course there was plenty more good talks including Isaiah Hull, Volker Hirsch, Squirrel Nation, Tash Willcocks and Ukebox; which made the ukulele actually interesting. The only one I didn’t enjoy was Nic Cary from Blockchain, which actually has made me want to move my bitcoins from my blockchain wallet to somewhere else. I was actually thinking maybe its time to have my own personal offline wallet?

Another TEDxManchester with plenty to think about and another high bar for TEDx’s to try to achieve, well done to everyone involved.

The dyslexic success which is IKEA

059/366

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 ÂŁ0.0033 per stream on our utopian music platform
Dear musicians who make ÂŁ0.0033 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.