M14 impresses all the dragons in the their den

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I have to give a massive congrats to John Kershaw from M14 industries, who took the previoulsy mentioned Bristlr app from niche dating to hosted matching platform (very much selling shovles during a goldrush). Yesterday he appeared on the BBC’s Dragons Den and struck a great deal with Peter and Nick for a reasonable percentage of the business.

Of course John had a viewing party with friends, investers and family. Its season 14 episode 15 if you are looking for it.

John’s written his thoughts up here.

Before Nick showed his hand, and it was looking like I might get investment from all five dragons simultaneously, I started to internally panic. This isn’t how this happens.

After all the Dragons had given their offers, I knew I’d have to go with Nick and Peter; they have the experience and if they’re not willing to share, I don’t have much choice.

And it’s at this point where an interesting thing happens: I forgot everyone’s names.

Certainly another great story for Manchester’s Startup community and the early investors who saw the potential of M14 industries early on. I personally was always impressed with John and although we sometimes disagreed about what should be next on the task list, its great to get the validation that it wasn’t just a silly app!

Scratching the disappointment of masculinity on radio

BBC Merseyside debate

Its been a long time since I was last on BBC Merseyside.  has flown by, but I’ve done a lot in that time. Ngunan has asked a few times if I would come back on the show, and with Valentines day coming up, I agreed.

Theres a lot of history between us, especially when it comes to who pays on the first date. All we needed was Jody to complete the trip down memory lane.

In the middle I did give my 4 things for Valentines day from a singleton to the other million singletons in the UK.

  1. Get busy and don’t dwell on previous relationships
  2. Reconnect with old friends
  3. Get out of you’re comfort zone
  4. Do something constructive

Things took a interesting turn as we started to unpick why… I won’t spoil it but I’ll be back to talk more about the disappointment of masculinity, something I picked up from Trainspotting T2 a few weeks earlier.

Trainspotting director Danny Boyle has revealed that its long-awaited sequel is going to be about “manhood and disappointed masculinity.”

I have clipped the audio without the music on archive.org but you can hear it in full on BBC iplayer.

Open collaborative recipes for everyone?

Cooking!
Imagine if you took GNOME Recipes, A open collaborative cookbook whose cuisine is curated by people; and made its core object based like in BBC R&D’s Cook along kitchen experience aka (CAKE)

You could write tools and editors to make the recipes have everything needed to fit with the cooks skill level, ingredients, time, allergies, preferences, party size, etc… I mean who wouldn’t want to describe every aspect of their special dish? (I’m avoiding the copyright/licensing questions for now)

Now that would be something, Clasen? And what better community to kick start such a thing? Dare I bring up the BBC recipe headlines only 6 months ago.

Seems like a no brainier to me?

Join us in exploring object-based media making tools


Like visual perceptive media? Like the concept of perceptive radio, like the javascript libraries we have put out in a open and public way? We want you to come on board and join us…!

We (BBC R&D) have been exploring the new reality of creating object based media through a range of prototypes. I have been exploring the implicit uses of data and sensors to change the objects; or as we started calling it a while ago Perceptive Media.

The big issue is to realisticily create and author these new types of stories, requires a lot of technical knowledge and doesn’t easily seat in the standard content creation workflow, or does it? We want to bring together people in a workshop format to explore the potential of creating accessible tools for authors and producers. Ultimately seeding a community of practice, through open experimentation learning from each other.

The core of the workshop will focus on the question…

Is it desirable and feasible for the community of technical developers and media explorers to build an open set of tools for use by storytellers and producers?

During the backdrop of the International Sheffield Documentary Festival the workshop on Monday 13th June will bring together, and are putting out a call for interested parties to work together with the aim of understanding how to develop tools which can benefit storytellers, designers, producers and developers.

We are calling for people, universities, startups, hackers and companies with a serious interest in opening up this area; to reach out and join us. Apply for a ticket and we will be in touch.

The BBC horizon dating experiment

Horizon dating 2015-09-12
My scientific perfect match

The Horizon episode: How to find love online just aired and here’s a blog I wrote straight after filming for the show. I have no idea what just happened or if I’ll even be involved, but judging by whats been seen so far, it looks like I might be. I trust BBC Horizon have done everybody proud but he’s my view on what happened that afternoon in central London.

I’m writing this the morning after the BBC Horizon dating experiment in central London (Sunday 13th September 2015).

We were asked and signed a contract saying we wouldn’t talk about the programme till the TX (TV transmission date). However the programme should have gone out by now.

It was an interesting time and the experiments were quite good too. From what I gather on the day, Hannah Fry wrote an algorithm to match people and Xander? I heard Xander is going on 3 dates today (day after the experiment). With the algorithm, she (Hannah) needed a large pool of people to match him with but also she wanted to see if it worked for other people. Hence the afternoon-evening of Horizon dating (I’m sure this will change).

Ok being brief (very hard for me). We were divided into 4 groups using colour wrist bands, then did some rough speed dating (I say rough because it there was no real flow, no direction and we were kind of left to get on with it, with the occasional call to change).

The four groups were…

  1. Told everybody in the group was matched and we actually were (this was my group – Yellow)
  2. Told everybody in the group was matched but that was actually was a lie
  3. Told no body in the group was matched but actually everybody was
  4. Told no body was matched and no body actually was (control group?)

You can see how this all works right?

The results were actually quite good and seemed to go with the algorithm and the priming of what were somewhat told. Hannah seemed confident it might actually work beyond this stage.

There was another test but to be honest, I got pulled away to do some stuff in a back room to the waiting camera about online dating. So much I wanted to say, but was told to keep it brief and look directly down the lens of the camera (hate that). Anyway I briefly touched on things related to my experiences and observations, should be interesting enough.

After some finger food and lots of chatting with various people, the results were announced to the room. They were cavatted with the notion, it was getting most matches in the room rather than most ideal matches.

Regardless, our usernames were read out and we stuck our hands up to show pairings.

My match was a woman who I had speed dated earlier but thought we didn’t really get on because of my lack of knowledge about the smiths. Can I remember her username? Nope, but we did take a couple selfie on both our phones.

After the matching, were had the opportunity to spend time together just chatting away and some quick interviews from Zander and Hannah.

Weirdly enough, my match lived in Bristol, had lived less than a mile away about the same time I lived in Croydon, London and shared similar views on certain things. Of course the location stuff  is a coincidence, as there was nothing in the questionnaire about previous locations, etc. But interesting one regardless.

We chatted away then we talked about circumstances currently. I wrongly guessed her age and it turned out we were quite distant on age and places in our lives. She had 3 kids, while I’m obviously child-free. It was clear the algorithm did work but only on the matching part, but did not factor in all the other things like looks, circumstance, desires, etc. The stuff which is unquantifiable?

End of the night, she left and we said goodbye while a bunch of us went to the Yorkshire Grey pub (George would be so proud) to discuss and carry on into the night. It was a warm night, so we sat outside on the benches, telling dating stories to each other. It was an nice end to the evening.

The last lot of the Horizon dating event

Everybody I spoke to had a good time they also had some good and bad stories about dating in recent times. The matches were somewhat hit and miss. Some numbers were exchanged but to be honest I think there will be maybe one or two who actually carry it further than a date or two (which still means Hannah’s algorithm would beat the year of making love!) . My match I’m unlikely to meet again, we didn’t swap anything and the pleasantries at the end of the night said it all. The initial excitement just seemed to break down once we discovered the difference in lifestyle, age and place in life.

Over drinks much later, a couple of us stayed out till about 1am. mr30notsoflirty, asked me if there were others I was interested in. I said yes and funny enough she was in my speed dating round, which meant she was likely matched quite highly with myself (remember I was in the one which was matched and were told so). I got a hint there might be some actually similarity in outlook earlier on but then got pulled away to do the pieces to the camera. There was another lady who stayed out later but had to get a train back to Kent, who was quite intriguing asking lots of questions about the scientific nature of everything, especially when I mentioned my geekness for dating. At the market place bar, we talked briefly and she said the comment of the night.

“You smell really good…!”

“well thank you” I said in return with a puzzled look on my face

Over all, it was intriguing and I’m happy to say Horizon did me and the BBC proud. It was pretty fluid, they seemed to get lots of footage (which I wish they would talk to BBC R&D about, as each couple have a interesting tale or two I’m sure). Met some lovely people and  my fears of the Year of making love were ironed out with the small contained venue, good people and a professional but friendly crew.

Just hope this is reflected in the show when it went live…

Update…

There’s a iWonder guide related to the programme (BBC iplayer).

On watching the programme, I was surprised how much of the vox pops from me made it into the programme. The show was mainly about Xander and the challenge of getting him a decent match. But it was clearly me on screen…

In the end, it was stalemate between the matching algorithm and random choice, which was a good conclusion I felt. Makes you think as you sink money and time into online dating, right? Also summing up why I find this area so interesting.

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A couple of things interested me, Helen Fisher and Lucy Brown‘s theory sounds interesting but once again where’s the paper or study? Prof Eli Finkel is absolutely right its somewhat rubbish and theres lots of papers proving it, even OKcupid’s OKtrends blog (and the deepend blog) doesn’t go into enough detail or give up the data for others to pull apart themselves. Xander was also wrong to say he was skeptical of algorthims, it was the premise which he wasn’t happy with. Even Hannah at one point said she wasn’t sure about the data which drives the algorthim she wrote.

I have already publiclly said it just doesn’t add up and the number element looms large. Hence why I chalked it up to the birthday paradox after much thought.

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While watching the show, my twitter and facebook was pretty busy, so busy I had to watch it again on iplayer. But some things came up which I wanted to reply to…

Xander and Hannah! Yeah they were very comfortable with each other, a few of us kept saying surely the two should get a room? But we all knew Hannah was happily married, but was so strange that Xander finally met a woman who from the back looked like a shorter version of Hannah. I actually thought it was her at first glance. Then I remember talking to some of the guys on the day, saying how she was very attractive.

During the show there was some comments about the lack of sexual diversity,  and I wanted to say, yes most were straight but there were a few gay couples too. The cameras missed a lot on that day but thats TV for you. There was also a diverse age range from quite young right up to much older than myself. Culturally it was quite diverse also, the BBC certainly did a good job and its important to once again say what you saw on screen wasn’t just it.

As a whole it was good and enjoyable, BBC Horizon did a good job touching on aspects of online dating problems and joys. Even down to Xander’s text exchange at the end of the programme. The whole worrying about what to say how long it takes for someone to come back to you is a real drama in modern dating. Although I do feel for the woman who went on the date with Xander because shes going to get a lot of angry women looking for her now…

Massive thanks to, Rachel Clarke I may have missed this great opportunity if she didn’t tweet me ages ago.

12 years at the BBC, and still a outlier

Tony Ageh

Recently Tony Ageh joined the New York Public Library as chief digital officer, as pointed out in the guardian

I had a lot of time for Tony and he was one of the people who attracted me to the BBC. I had no idea he had only joined 2 years before myself. But he was incredible and pulled no punches in what he felt was right. A lot like Tom Loosemore and others, he was public service to the bone. Something which I personally think it critical as more and more of our public services are being suffocated to death… slowly…

Frankly the BBC needs more people like Tony and he will be sadly lost. I found this part really interesting…

I would never have left the BBC but the opportunity is greater than I could have imagined,” he said. “I was good for the BBC because I was so unlike them, and didn’t want to be like them. But I told them that they have to shape this challenge, the internet, before it shapes you.

I feel the same, if I was to leave it would have to be such a great opportunity. in another public service focused company.  I also feel like I’m right for the BBC because I don’t fit the BBC mould. I would go as far as to say he has Humility, Craft and Hustle.

I’m sure I wrote or have said somewhere how I was not a fan the BBC, mainly for its lack of diversity in programmes, especially around underground music (hey I was young and a raver). It just didn’t reflect anything which spoke to me sadly. I didn’t even engage with the other (arguably much more important) aspects of diversity but it most likely played their part in forming my opinion.

The BBC is changing, not quite fast enough for me but the people make the difference. Like a recent q&a with a high-ranking person, where someone asked about more women in engineering. I was thinking in my head this is important of course but it’s about diversity not just gender. The answer, had me clapping my hand in my head. Its about diversity of people, thought and approaches. Perfect, I had to write a email afterwards thanking that person.

People like Tony and others are rare because the system filters them out. I’m sure I wouldn’t have got into r&d if it was to apply, and even now in my 12th year (yeah beleive it or not! It just happened around my birthday) I’m still not looking to fit in. Its not in my nature as a outlier… But likewise theres no hiding from the daily challenges and politics. As Tony said…

People do well that run towards the problem, not away from it.
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.”

Good luck to Tony and I look forward to hearing what he gets up to…? Sure it’s going to be great!

Its reminds me, I was listening to Gimlet’s reply all and there was a really good piece about diversity.

BBC Horizon explores how to find love online

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Its weird how things all seem to happen at once… First my TEDxManchester talk, then a chance enounter on BBC News 24 Live stream with LJ Rich, then me and Kate’s listening project recording is edited for Radio4. Now the BBC Horizon documentary about finding love online.

They were nice enough to tell us this afternoon via email, but I wasn’t sure I could blog it (nothing on their programme page or facebook page either) till I found it in the Radiotimes.

Update – The programme information page is up.

The internet has transformed every part of our lives and is now changing arguably the most important – our love lives. Internet dating is a cultural phenomenon and is now the second most common way that couples meet. But what is the best way to make the online search for love successful? What are the ‘matchmaking’ algorithms that the big companies use? Do they really deliver the goods, is it really clever marketing and actually a giant con – is there really any science?

Funny enough Mr30notsoflirty and Maren I met through the show filming (as you will find out soon, in a post I wrote straight after the filming). We were talking about the trailer on twitter, and Mr30 said he spotted, Mr30 and some other people. I watched a couple times and spotted myself! Scary stuff!

BBC Horizon dating experiment

So look out on Monday 25th April at 9pm – 10pm on BBC Two. It will be fancinating to see how its all crafted into a hour show and how much success they have in the matches compared to the Birthday paradox.

Hannah Fry the pressure is on…!

One BBC for everybody

 

Interesting tweet from Buzzfeed who were talking to Netflix’s CEO, while talking about the BBC and Top Gear.

Hastings: The BBC has been a pioneer. They have been the first to invest in technology like the iPlayer, which has done a great job. … [In the future] they’ll have to get rid of the iPlayer branding. It should just be the BBC.

What comes to my mind…?

In writing, you must kill your darlings.”

Well that, Chris’s post and the many conversations I have had over the last 5 years.

Kate Country Girl, Ian City Boy

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I was talking to my parents and told them to keep an ear out for the listening project conversation me and Kate did last year. We were told it would be on BBC Radio 4 on Friday night and Sunday Omnibus. But it was so funny seeing the programme information page for it with our smiley faces. Country Girl and City Boy is a fun title of course, and I can imagine which part of the conversation they might be playing, I assume a similar part to BBC Manchester

BBC RD ethics of data videos on youtube

The ethics of data videos we created a year ago are now finally on youtube for everybody to watch on the BBC R&D channel.

You might remember it was a project which I talked about last year.  I have personally refereed these videos many times and would still like to see the hours of footage we shot, be used in the future. I mean we had some great guests and a lot of what they said was gold dust.

These videos are also the first public videos to run through a new experimental R&D tool for automatically putting transcriptions into a existing video for subtitling.

If you haven’t seen the videos, this is the time to go check them out, very relevant even now, and enjoy the automated positioned subtitles.

Our listening project conversation on BBC Radio 4

The BBC Radio 4 Listening project

Its weird, I seem to be popping up in a few places in the coming months.

Seems there is a very good chance I’ll be in BBC horizon’s how to find love online, then theres my TedXManchester talk, first dates if I ever hear anything back from them.  But of course there’s the listening project which Kate was kind enough to join me on.

Today I learned, myself and Kate’s conversation for the listening project will be on BBC Radio 4 in the next month.

Friday April 8th at 23.55 and then repeated again on the Sunday omnibus on April 10th. They should make a good birthday present.

I have no idea which bit they will play but if its anything like BBC Manchester’s edit, it should make a good listen.

Horizon’s How to find love online, coming in summer

Thanks to Mr30notsoflirty for the tweet pointing at the new Horizon line coming soon to BBC Two.

Interestingly… I thought they would push for a valentine date. But the love online is in the second half of the line up, meaning  you will have to wait for June or July. Of course I can’t say anything but you can look some of the run up.

Unfortunately I can’t see the video because I’m currently outside the UK and my proxy isn’t working as expected at the moment over this slower connection in Lagos, Portugal. But I gather it includes scenes of people I will know quite well… So instead here is the summary from the site.

How To Find Love Online
The internet has transformed every part of our lives and is now changing arguably the most important – our love lives. Internet dating is a cultural phenomenon and is now the second most common way that couples meet. But what is the best way to make the online search for love successful? What are the ‘matchmaking’ algorithms that the big companies use? Do they really deliver the goods, is it really clever marketing and actually a giant con – is there really any science?

Dr Hannah Fry studies patterns in human behaviour and has been studying the underlying algorithms that power internet dating sites. Dr Xand Van Tulleken is single and looking for love and, with help from Hannah, he experiences the world of online dating, from creating the perfect profile to looking at the biological basis of love.

Me and Kate’s holiday thoughts on BBC Radio Manchester

I knew nothing  till Elizabeth tweeted me with a slightly cryptic message. I only guessed from the holiday reference, that it must be the listening project audio conversation me and Kate had.

The BBC Radio 4 Listening project

I was starting to wondering if they were going to use the audio ever (I even eluded to it), but just like that, it pops up in the middle of nowhere. Early morning breakfast, can’t even imagine what the listeners must have thought…

So you may want to hear the audio? Well you can listen on BBC radio iplayer, its about 1hour 55mins in to the programme (only on iplayer for another 28days). Or you can catch my clipped version on archive.org with additional comments from Alison and Phil (BBC Radio Manchester presenters)

I won’t spoil it but if you enjoyed that small clip, wait till you hear the rest. There’s some classic stuff in there, can’t even imagine what generations to come will think of it.

Kate strikes a pose

Massive thanks Kate for being such a great audio partner in crime for the listening project. Now I just need to find somewhere to scare the living daylights out of her… Any ideas send them to me.

Dyslexic minds in conversation at the #listeningproject

We did it… Myself and Kate!

On Friday  25th October 2015, myself and Kate met in the Media City Piazza where the Listening project booth was located for the day.

The BBC Radio 4 Listening project

After a chat with the lovely producers and some signing of paperwork, we paused for thought while the Director General (Tony Hall) was meant to visit and have a look around before we recorded. However Tony took too long and we pressed ahead regardless.

The BBC Radio 4 Listening project

Once in the booth we made ourselves comfortable, one of the producers explained she would only make hand gestures if things were not clear or the conversation dried up. Of course the only gesture me and Kate got was at the end, telling us it was done.

https://twitter.com/sarahkatenorman/status/647344266113630209/

Its hard to explain what happened in the conversation and I had hoped to linked to the audio files from the blog post (promise to do this once its live). The conversation was fun, interesting and bouncy (my word for dancing from subject to subject in a flow way). As I thought, Kate was a excellent partner in crime and to be honest we could have rolled on for another few hours I reckon.

Talking about time, I was very surprised when we were told to stop, as it only felt like 30mins had gone by in my head. This is certainly something I talked about in this blog entry about dyslexia, flow and time management. We slipped into a mild flow state of some kind.

And somewhere near the end, we both agreed to be taken out of our comfort zones for a weekend/few days.

The gravitas of this decision only hit me after the end of the recording when I thought…

“Oh this has been recorded and archived for the world… whoops!”

The BBC Radio 4 Listening project

It was fun and really enjoyable, I can’t recommend it enough to other people. But honestly it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as fun unless Kate.

Such a great friend! I can’t wait to listen back to the whole conversation and share with the world. This for me is an example of what I was talking about at BarCampManchester6 which I just came back from.

The secret of luck or the richness of life… We took the opportunity and are richer because of this experience. Plus it makes ourselves much more interesting, as it adds to our character and experience.

The BBC Radio 4 Listening project

Me & Kate in the national archive?

Kate strikes a pose

So remember when I said I loved the idea of the BBC listening room?

Well after a little tweeting and a couple of emails, myself and good friend Kate have secured a spot on the listening project site and in history. Yes at some point in the near future you can listen to the discussion of us two as we talk about something (undefined as of yet) for a short while. Goodness knows what people will make of it in decades to come.

Some of you might wonder how did this happen? Heck if you read the blog before, you may say why Ian oh why?

I would direct you to the secret of luck or the richness of life.