Lets meet Ian Forrester

For a while I’ve been thinking maybe I should have a Wikipedia page, not because I’m some kind of celeb but rather to capture all the different things which have been mentioned or interviewed. However I know this is a very bad idea. So I’m trying to keep a log of them in standard notes and maybe add them to my aboutme page. Currently it feels like I’m writing the history of me (or even the story of me).

Anyhow, its interesting to write and read over. I’m trying to be objective and use the wikipedia rules for verified sources. Theres some key points including my brush with death, the inclusive board top 100,  but also some more fun parts like the recent blog from the BBC GEL team, lets meet Ian Forrester.

In this instalment we speak to Ian Forrester, Senior Producer (and ‘Firestarter’) at BBC R&D. Ian recently made the Inclusive Board’s top 100 list of most influential Black, Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) leaders in UK tech. He talks about his journey to the BBC, memories of epic food fights and his interest in empowering the citizen.

I know everyone has a story/book in them, but I certainly think mine will make a interesting reading.

Bloody Mountstevens! I really hated that job, but loved going to replay records to spend my hard earned money on vinyl.

Another busy month or so

Its going to be another busy month or so…

Tomorrow we start to Build a healthy public service internet in the first forum during Mozfest weekend. This will be further explored at Mozfest in the decentralised space on Saturday afternoon.

Not long afterwards I’ll be going to Skopje along the same lines as last year when I was in Sarajevo. This time we have the results of last years workshop, the living room of the future.

Then Berlin for Most wanted music with a adaptive narrative conference talk more focused on audio than video and our first perceptive podcasting workshop. Now this exciting but scary as its completely beta and being developed right now.

I’m back in Berlin not long afterwards for a look at object based media and how machine learning can work together for the future of storytelling, quite similar to TOA 17 but more exploring and more I can talk about now compared to then.

Finally wrapping up with a critical panel discussion titled New platforms, new ways of storytelling at the future of the book in London. I expect a few things I said at Oreilly’s Tools of Change in 2012 are still very relevant. But also Perceptive podcasting will be much more mature by then.

All exciting but quite a bit in one go…

If you have no control over your identity you are but a slave?

How self sovereign identity could work

Its twice I heard something similar to this now.

First time was from Gregor Žavcer at MyData 2018 in Helsinki. I remember when he started saying if you have no control over your identity you are but a slave (power-phased of course). There was a bit of awe from the audience, including myself. Now to be fair he justified everything he said but I didn’t make note of the references he made, as he was moving quite quickly. I did note down something about no autonomy is data without self.

Then today at the BBC Blueroom AI Society & the Media event, I heard Konstantinos Karachalios say something very similar. To be fair I was unsure of the whole analogy when I first heard it but there seems to be some solid grounding for this all.

This is why the very solution of a self sovereign identity (SSI) as proposed by Kaliya Young and others during Mydata speaks volume to us all deep down. The videos, notes from that session are not up yet but I gather it was all recorded and will be up soon. However I found her slides from when she talked at the decentralized web summit.

This looks incredible as we shift closer to the Dweb (I’m thinking there was web 1.0, then web 2.0 and now Dweb, as web 3.0/semantic web didn’t quite take root). There are many questions including service/application support and the difficulty of getting one. This certainly where I agree with Aral about the design of this all, the advantages could be so great but if it takes extremely good technical knowledge to get one, then its going to be stuck on the ground for a long time, regardless of the critical advantages.

I was reminded of the sad tale of what happened to Open ID, really hoping this doesn’t go the same way.

British Digital Corporation? Radical thoughts?

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour

You might have noticed I haven’t been blogging much recently (there are many reasons) but I’ve been doing a lot of reading and have a ton of things to blog.

One such thing is Jeremy Corbyn’s 2018 Alternative MacTaggart Lecture or rather his big, bold, radical thinking on the future of our media.

Big and bold maybe, radical? I’m less convinced but the interesting part is section 4, where he outlines plans for a British Digital Corporation.

The final idea I’d to share with you today, which I hope will generate some new thinking, is about how we, as a public and the media, as an industry take advantage of new technology.

I want us to be as ambitious as possible. The public realm doesn’t have to sit back and watch as a few mega tech corporations hoover up digital rights, assets and ultimately our money. This technology doesn’t have an inbuilt bias towards the few. Government is standing by and letting the few take advantage of the many using technology.

So, one of the more ambitious ideas I’ve heard is to set up a publicly owned British Digital Corporation as a sister organisation to the BBC. The idea was floated by James Harding, former BBC Director of Home News in the Hugh Cudlipp lecture earlier this year.

A BDC could use all of our best minds, the latest technology and our existing public assets not only to deliver information and entertainment to rival Netflix and Amazon but also to harness data for the public good.

A BDC could develop new technology for online decision making and audience-led commissioning of programmes and even a public social media platform with real privacy and public control over the data that is making Facebook and others so rich.

The BDC could work with other institutions that the next Labour government will set up like our National Investment Bank, National Transformation Fund, Strategic Investment Board, Regional Development Banks and our public utilities to create new ways for public engagement, oversight and control of key levers of our economy.

It could become the access point for public knowledge, information and content currently held in the BBC archives, the British Library and the British Museum. Imagine an expanded Iplayer giving universal access to licence fee payers for a product that could rival Netflix and Amazon. It would probably sell pretty well overseas as well.

I find this interesting mainly because I still think the BBC is still best placed to do this, rather than set up a new corporation. If I didn’t think this was still true I’d be rethinking what I’m doing at the BBC.

The thing I do think could work is a collaboration between different existing companies/institutes/organisations to a make something like Corbyn is talking about.

Now that would be radical…?

What is the Public service internet?

Myself and the Hon's

Its been thrown around a lot and if you search for the term public service internet you will click on something from Adrian Hon or Dan Hon. You will see stuff from others like chromatrope and even my own posts in searches. Or good searches will reveal related terms like Digital public space from newspapers like the Guardian and of course straight from Tony Ageh.

But not much from the BBC, so its quite exciting to finally see something more official.

BBC R&D researching the public service internet and looking for partners who share similar values.

We present the Living room of the future…

living room of the future flyer

I’ve been working on the living room of the future and write about it quite a few other places including the BBC R&D blog.

Its part of the reason for the radio silence recently, but honestly the team of 3 universities and 2 arts organisations have been hard at work to create the live demonstrator of the living room of the future.

living room of the future

I won’t lie, its bloody exciting not only for the experience but what it enables and stands for. I highly recommend taking part in the research if you are able to come to Liverpool from Thursday 3rd – 8th May.

Of course I don’t want to reveal too much and although its hard to do much of a spoiler as its about a shared experience. Our twitter bot is doing a good job showing the inners of what going on if you are wondering.

There has been a question for a while which people always ask. Why the living room? To which I answer sensitive place, common private area for discussions, there are existing social hierarchies at play in the space and its place for small audiences. Its also a complex space which I’ve seen talked about a lot recently.

BD3-34 - Pilsen St bedsit with armchair

I found Millennials don’t need living rooms, piece from the Independent fascinating.

A prominent architect has argued millennials do not need living rooms and their housing prospects would be greatly improved if size regulations were overhauled.

Patrik Schumacher, who took over as head of Zaha Hadid Architects after the legendary founder died in early 2016, said “hotel room-sized” studio flats were ideal for young people who led busy lives.

In a paper published by the Adam Smith Institute, he suggested size rules should be reviewed to increase the number of studio flats available to those on lower incomes.

While a 25-square-metre flat is the minimum in Japan, in the UK the minimum is 37 square metres for a one-bed.

Although reading through the piece, it sounds like a land grab to change the regulation and fit even more property in smaller spaces. There is a slight point that the price of property is super high and this could help (IF) prices don’t increase they are currently.

Polly Neate, CEO of housing charity Shelter, hit back at the architect’s remarks. “Tiny homes don’t necessarily mean cheaper homes, and at Shelter we know that having a decent place to live is vital for people’s well-being. So compromising on space and quality isn’t going to do anyone any favours,” she told The Independent.

“Homes in the UK are not expensive because they are too large, they are too expensive because our housing market is broken. When big developers realise they can squeeze, for example, 20 tiny homes on the same patch of land that once fit just ten then the price of land will rise to reflect this.

“The solution to the housing crisis is not to build ever smaller homes but to bring down the price of land and build the type of genuinely affordable homes that people actually want to live in.”

My thoughts went back and forth while reading but I wondered if the living space is squeezed what will disappear? Maybe the living room or kitchen will be first to go, looking at Japanese flats for example.

There was a choice in building the living room of the future, that it should be big or small? What was it it and what wasn’t. We decided on small to reflect the trend on smaller shared spaces and the need for the 3rd space.

Looking at the other side of the living room project, it was also fascinating to read about the UK’s first smarthome with Apple home kit baked in. The obviously scares the life out of me but every buyer of smart homes should read the house which spied on me and also the follow up which explains how it worked.

The house which spied on me

In December, I converted my one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco into a “smart home.” I connected as many of my appliances and belongings as I could to the internet: an Amazon Echo, my lights, my coffee maker, my baby monitor, my kid’s toys, my vacuum, my TV, my toothbrush, a photo frame, a sex toy, and even my bed.

Its super revealing and a very good long read. It speaks volumes about the different data which flows around our homes and spaces like the living room.

So what you waiting for, get yourself a ticket now!

10 Years in Manchester this week

Hulme Bridge

What on earth am I still doing here?

10 years ago I made my way up to Manchester. I hadn’t really spent much time there. First time was staying in the Copthorne hotel in Salford Quays for a BBC Innovation lab and i wasn’t impressed. But I gave the city another chance deciding its going to be a new challenge, new place to discover and a better lifestyle than staying in London and moved. I was more or less right…

Why I moved to Manchester…

Time has gone by quickly and if I didn’t have blogs and calendar events going back that far I might have forgotten. To be fair a lot has happened in the 10 years, here’s just a few picked randomly.

I have visited both Manchester City & Manchester United stadiums, although not a football fan. Seen the Manchester riots and the same city come together to clean up. Likewise for the Manchester Arena attack and how the city rallied together.

The weather I have to admit is sometimes pretty dire sometimes. I tend to bring my windproof umbrella everywhere with sunglasses if there is a hint of sun. From what I can tell most Mancunians, refuse to take an umbrella which seems insane to me. Manchester sits in a bit of a bowl and so although the mountains are clearly viable but the rain does gather over the high land.

The people have been generally good, I was worried about diversity but weighted up everything and decided it wasn’t any worst than a lot of places in the UK. Ultimately I didn’t feel like I would be in danger due to my race, especially in the city centre. I was right.

When I was first introduced to Manchester and looking for somewhere to live Hayley from the BBC showed me around a place called Cholton and I remember asking her about the city centre, to which she laughed and said no one lives there. She was likely right at the time but I made the right decision at the right time. The city centre is so walkable, skateboard-able and crammed with so many bars and cafes. Weirdly I hardly drunk booze in London or Bristol but in Manchester I started to indulge my cocktail tastes. You could say Manchester drove me to drink, but in a comfortable relaxed way.

Public transport in Manchester still baffles me. The tram is great and living near Piccadilly station is a great location. But the lack of a viable Oyster card type system is frustrating to say the least. I still remember taking a bus down Oxford road for 80p then being charged £3.20 on the way back. Something about a magic bus although operated by the same company and the exact same route. The city centre free buses are good too but generally you can walk from one end to the other in 30mins. The scooter had been great for longer distances not easily covered by the tram or train. I also find it crazy you can get back from Leeds at 2am but the last train from Liverpool is 11pm!

Equally baffling is the amount of gravy put on anything from meat to chips and the Mancunians & Liverpudlian accents which even now still has me scratching my head, even now!

Like a friend, who told me to go back down south, soon after I moved up; I should stop moaning frankly life is good. There are always frustrations, but the city and people of Manchester have been good to me.

It was a good idea to move up really early instead of later; I know many who didn’t come and for many reasons but I was just at that moment in my life when it wasn’t difficult to up and leave London. Life has massively improved and I generally think some of that is down to new friends, the costs of living and being able to make choices which fit. I also seem to have a knack for picking places which get gentrified.

Will I be here another 10 years? Its hard to tell. Considering Cardiff, as the BBC is moving its base to the centre of the city. Its also closer to my parents which is a plus. But I certainly feel the effect of Brexit and unsure how long I can put up with the change of attitude. If an opportunity came up I’d certainly give it some consideration but it would have to be in another city for sure.

Our listening project conversation in full

Ian and Kate

Remember ages ago when a slice of me and Kate’s conversation for the listening project ended up on BBC Radio Manchester and BBC Radio 4? There was much more to the whole conversation and you can understand how I ended up ruff camping on a Irish cliff face in a camper van.

Holiday with Kate in Ireland

It will be forever in the National Archives for generations to hear.

Conversation between friends, Kate and Ian, about the benefits of travelling and the differences in what they want from a holiday.

The Listening Project conversations collectively form a picture of our lives and relationships today. Recordings were made by BBC producers of people sharing an intimate conversation, lasting up to an hour and on a topic of the speakers’ choice.

Kate and Ian have been friends since 2007. They met when Ian moved to Manchester from London. They talk about the benefits of travelling and the differences in what they want from a holiday – Ian likes the big city buzz whereas Kate prefers the quiet of the countryside. They discuss Airbnb, a home rental website that Ian uses to rent out his home. They also talk about the differences and similarities in their personalities.

Rethinking Podcasting

Reinventing podcasting
Ok maybe less reinvent and more rethink?

I hinted at Perceptive Podcasting previously in a post about being busy. I have finally come out of that busy period and am UK bound as my passport is due to expire.

Just before the busy period, I drafted a post about Perceptive Podcasting and why it’s not simply another unique project. It went up on the BBC R&D blog recently which is wonderful because I can point to that rather than the other way around.

Perceptive Radio v1

Since we first launched the Perceptive Radio v1 in 2013 as a concept of what Perceptive Media (implicit interaction from sensors & data, adapting media objects) could become; the radio’s have always been a framework to explore further into adaptive object based media experiences. But we have always acknowledged the growing power of the smartphone and how it could be the container for so much more.

Even when we created the Perceptive Radio v2 with Lancaster University and Mudlark, it was modeled around an android phone and extending the sensors. The possibilities of IOT Storytelling with object based media was deep in my mind, along with research questions.

As a person who saw the revolution of podcasting in 2000, I was always interested in the fact its downloaded audio and generally consumed/created in a personal way, unlike radio in my view. I’ve also been watching the rise in popularity of podcasting again; heck Techcrunch asks if it could save the world 🙂

Of course I’ve started a few podcasts myself (recently Techgrumps and Lovegrumps) and love the fact it’s quite easy to get started and it can feel quite personal. I also found the diversity of podcasting quite interesting for example I’ve been listening to the guilty feminist, friends like us and risk, for quite sometime and find them fascinating every time.

Why a client for podcasts?

In 2017, you are seeing more webservices hosting podcasts like stitcher, (heck even Spotify is hosting some). At the server-side there is a lot you can do like dynamically change adverts, geo-fence media, etc. 60db are one such service doing nice things with podcasts but they are limited in what they can do, as they said in a comment on a similar post. But doing this all server-side is a pain, and tends to break the podcast idea of download-able audio (even if you have 4g everywhere), it feels more like the radio model of tuning in.

Imagine if you could do the server-side type of processing but on the actual device and even unlock the pools of sensor/data with the users consent? And imagine if the creators could use this in storytelling too!

Its Personal, Dynamic and Responsive without being creepy or infringing personal liberties, It adaptives to changes in context in real time. It dances with Interactivity and we are also exploring the value and feasibility of object based media approaches for engaging with audience. We believe that this offers the key to creating increasingly Immersive media experiences as it gives more story possibilities to the writer/director/producer. But also provides levels of tailored accessibility we have yet to imagine.

So many possibilities and its made in a very open way to encourage others to try making content in a object based way too.

Keep an eye on bbc.co.uk/taster and the bbc.co.uk/rd/blog for details soon.

In memory of Damian Cox

Damian with a pie butty
Only in Manchester can you get a pie butty, held by the late Damian Cox.

Damian Cox was more than a character, he was an incredible outspoken figure and a joy to be around. It was a shock to hear the news that he had died suddenly.

The funeral is this week and unfortunately I’m in Maderia Portugal for ICIDS 2017 and can’t be there. Death is always shocking and scary but having been so close myself I tend to have a slightly different view on death and want to celebrate life more than ever.

Because of this I wanted to share a few of the reasons why Damian was just such an amazing person.

When I first moved up to BBC Manchester on Oxford Road I met quite a few people and I did some publicity work for the BBC as they wanted to recruit more locally. Now I don’t know for sure, but Damian claims he joined after seeing my mug shot somewhere. He use to call me the pin-up boy, which use to make me laugh, even many years later.

I clearly remember him showing me some of the northern delights like the pie butty which without realising made it to the top of the only in manchester list in buzz feed.

At BarCampMediaCity, I clearly remember Cristiano coming to me and someone else on the Saturday evening and saying, we need to talk to security because someone is clearly drunk; he was joking, laughing, touchy and being loud about everything.
I asked who (wondering) and Cristiano didn’t know his name but described him having a flat cap, northern accent and cheeky smile. Within a single heart beat, I remember saying with someone else; is it Damian Cox? Christiano looked puzzled.
Thats just Damian, he’s always like that… we laughed.

Damian was fun, full of spirit and a joy to be around. He told it exactly how it was, wouldn’t hold back and wouldn’t be without his flatcap. Even during the heat of of Hacked.io in the O2, he stood out due to that bloody flatcap!

Hacked 2013

He will be so missed by not just by his family, friends and colleagues; but BBC North and Manchester. He embodied the reason why the BBC moved to Manchester.

Rest in Peace Damian Cox

A very busy period coming up soon…

Reinventing podcasting

I am preparing myself for another really busy period of time. From Sunday 22nd right through to Sunday 19th November (yes almost a month).

This will mean the usual warning of being busy and not really replying in a timely fashion (what ever that really means).

Some will look at this list and say “ohhhh check you out… lucky devil!

My reply is yes I am grateful (my gratitude habit) that I can go to these amazing places, but even more that I will get the opportunity to talk to new people (audiences, future producers and maybe potentially co-creators). There are some amazing research projects in the pipeline, stuff that once again makes me very excited.

An amazing well loved colleague recently died. It was a shock but further reminds me and hopefully others our time is finite; We need to spend it doing what we love and making positive things happen. Inspire others to do the same and find their inner geekness.

Can’t say too much right now but in Cardiff & York recently, I share my a couple of ideas in the talks. There are slides which are good pointers to the ambition.

If you want to know more reach out (don’t be shy) or even join Storytellers United Slack.

25th Anniversary of Ghostwatch

I saw this in Kim by the Sea after volleyball today. As I tweeted it, I realized many people wouldn’t know what it was because they were too young, not born or wasn’t in the UK to see it unfold live.

From Wikipedia

Ghostwatch is a British realityhorror/mockumentarytelevision film, first broadcast on BBC1 on Halloween night, 1992. Written by Stephen Volk, and directed by Lesley Manning, the drama was produced for the BBCanthology seriesScreen One by Richard Broke, Ruth Baumgarten and Derek Nelson.

Despite having been recorded weeks in advance, the narrative was presented as live television. During and following its first and only UK television broadcast, the show attracted a considerable furore,[1] resulting in an estimated 30,000 calls to the BBC switchboard in a single hour.

Ghostwatch has never been repeated on UK television. It has been repeated internationally, on stations such as the Canadian digital channel Scream for Halloween 2004, and the Belgian channel Canvas in 2008. In 2017, Ghostwatch was added to the American streaming video service Shudder

It does seem crazy the BBC putting out a fake ghost programme on prime time national TV. It reminds me of war of the worlds radio play.

Quantifying your smartphone usage mentioned recently

There’s a recent BBC documentary titled Secrets Of Silicon Valley, its not a bad watch at all. In part 2, the presenter installs an app to see how much time he spends on his phone through out the day. Very similar to what happened at the Quantified Self 2017 conference, but even I almost coked on my tea when the final figure of over 5 hours was announced for the day.

My monthly smartphone usage

Looking at my own usage, over the last month I spent 19hrs 1minute over 384 pickups, looking at my mobile phone.

I admit this is so very low in comparison to others.

By the way I’m still looking for a decent way to do this without abundance of features, battery use and in a data ethical way.

Your telling me theres no need for feminism?

The fact most males are paid way beyond females is terrible, but hardly surprising.  The gap is pretty vast. This is part of the reason why I find it extremely hard when women, have said to me in past, theres no real need for feminism anymore. Very difficult indeed!

On hearing the story break, I wondered if Jodie Whittaker will earn the same kind of money as previous male doctor whos?

There was also another story which no one really picked up on, but it was noticed by a few and later acknowledge by the BBC.

Trade union Equity said in a statement: “The apparent pay gaps in gender and for those from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background are troubling.”

There is also a gap between the pay for white stars and those from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background.

George Alagiah, Jason Mohammad and Trevor Nelson are the highest paid BAME presenters, each receiving between £250,000 and £300,000.

The highest-paid female star with a BAME background is BBC news presenter Mishal Husain, who earned between £200,000 and £250,000.

Jodie Whittaker is the 13th Doctor Who

I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender
I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. This is a really exciting time and Doctor Who represents everything thats exciting about change – Jodie Whittaker, 13th Doctor

Bold move by the BBC and its a long time coming

I say bold but it really shouldn’t be a “bold” move, not in this age. I mean Starwars, Ghostbusters, Torchwood, etc, etc… Its certainly a long time coming… Cut to the joy and outrage on social media.