BBC’s role in data-led services

Public Service Internet

Two good blog posts outlining the BBC’s ambitions were posted to various BBC blogs on this week.

First Matthew Postgate (CTPO of the BBC) looks at the BBC’s future role in  a data-led landscape. He mentions the BBC box which then links to work we’ve been researching in BBC R&D around the databox project.

Gizmodo started to unpick this a little, The BBC is Doing Cloud Storage and Wants You to Have Full Control Over Your Data. The interest is a good thing of course…

It was clear to me back when I first spoke to Nottingham University about the databox project, it was something different, a possible way forward following the newly established HDI principles. It was tricky to understand (and you get that sense in the Gizmodo piece) but the box infrastructure kept everything honest. If you told me 4 years later after I first published the ethics of data videos.. I’d be debating with Tim Burners-Lee about the merits of Databox vs Solid at Mozfest 2018… I wouldn’t have believed you.

I look forward to seeing where things go next with Databox/BBC Box, this for me is the BBC embracing the change and doubling down on its public service. But lets not forget the other experiments using databox at their heart as they are also part of the change.

What do the general public think about the internet?

https://vimeo.com/331179758

We (BBC R&D) helped NESTA to explore what the general public think about the internet. It was during a bitterly cold day but me, Rhia and Vicky took to the streets of Manchester to ask the public in a series of vox-pox interviews.

The results surprised me, as it was clear most were concerned and have serious but diverse reasons. Some gave short and some in-depth detailed experiences. The video only scratches the surface.

Over the past few decades, the internet has become the most important infrastructure of our time, radically rewiring how our societies work and how we interact. We asked the BBC to find out how ordinary people feel about these changes – watch their varied answers in the video below.

The video is a small part of NESTA’s Visions for the future internet work.

In March 2019, the World Wide Web turned thirty, and October will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the internet itself. These anniversaries offer us an important opportunity to reflect on the internet’s history, but also a chance to ponder its future.

Massive thanks to the people of Manchester who answered our questions even with the weather at close to zero degrees!

The race pay gap deserves the same attention as the gender pay gap

I wanted to annotate the original Pearn Kandola article with some links…

In 2018, the gender pay gap took up a lot of column inches. Whether it be large businesses having to publicly declare their pay discrepancies, or well-known figures like Jodie Whittaker confirming that she’ll receive the same pay for her role as Doctor Who as her male predecessors, the pressure has been rising and change seems to have begun.

But gender is not the only cause of pay discrepancy; there’s another pay gap just as damaging that hasn’t received anywhere near as much media attention

There’s a long history of BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) people being paid less than their white colleagues. Analyses of pay by race have been carried out in many countries, and the similarity of the results is striking. Generally speaking, in every walk of life, in every craft and profession, minorities are consistently paid less than white people.

In November 2017, the BBC found itself at the centre of a significant gender pay gap scandal. Whilst its race pay gap was just as, if not more, prevalent, far less attention was given to it. The average white male earned:

  • four and a half times more than the highest earning white female
  • seven and a half times more than the highest paid minority male
  • nine times more than the highest paid minority female

The BBC is by no means a lone example, though. Independent Television News (ITN) IN 2018 revealed mean ethnicity pay gap of 16% which rose to 66% for bonus payments

The lack of attention given to the race pay gap is highlighted when one looks at organisations’ responses to dealing with it. Global professional services firm, PwC, also revealed a pay gap of 13% between its BAME and white staff. This gap is almost as substantial as the firm’s gender pay gap of 14%.

Its sad and sobering to read and hear. Why it wasn’t picked up by the mainstream press is a whole different question. Like I seen elsewhere, its much easier to focus on diversity in the form of binary male & female. But the honest truth is diversity is never that binary.

Reporting and transparency around the BAME pay gap is the best way to making this all viable.

The pay gap is a symptom of a wider culture in which black and ethnic minority workers are undervalued and underpromoted.

We need a PBS for the Internet age

PBS - Public Broadcasting Service Logo

Its quite amazing to read this opinion piece in the Washington Post recently… (if you like me are reading it in Europe, you might want to try this one)

Some bits I found amazing to read, especially since the united states’s public broadcast networks are so crippled. This says it all..

Americans like public media. NPR still consistently ranks among the most trusted news sources. Likewise, Americans have rated PBS among the most trusted institutions in the United States for the past decade and a half, according to polls conducted on PBS’s behalf. But these services operate in an increasingly challenging environment. Government cuts have forced public media to become far more dependent on listener contributions, sponsorships and private donors. These organizations have had to chase audiences migrating to private platforms along with the rest of the media, meeting audiences “where they’re at.”

To their credit, public media have made an impressive effort to upgrade on a dime. PBS states that its Digital Studios division averaged more than 38 million views per month on YouTube. NPR recently co-published a report about the promise of smart-speaker devices such as Amazon Echo for audience growth.

Rather than let public broadcasters who have accrued so much public trust languish — or, worse, be co-opted by a tech industry that has a vast interest in how its portrayed — both our federal and state governments need to play a more active role in public media’s health and digital future.

What the Internet needs is a fresh infusion of public media, properly funded and paired with federal policy that puts the public interest first.

Reading this piece, further reminds me why the public service internet research work is so critical. Without public media, we are lost. Can’t even really imagine what it must be like working for PBS and NPR consistently being knocked and sliced down. I mean the BBC has troubles but not like these (yet).

Re-decentralising the internet recording at Futurefest

Futurefest 2018 panel

I had the pleasure of being on the panel of re-decentralising internet at Futurefest, last summer. (when England was still in the world cup and the weather was super warm) Feels like so long ago. I’m quite glad its audio only because I was sat in the sunshine sweating a lot!

The internet isn’t where we want it to be. With power increasingly centralised in the hands of very few players, citizens have little say in where we want the internet to go next. But challenging existing dynamics won’t be easy: we find ourselves caught in the crossfire between the dominant American models (driven by Big Tech) and the increasingly powerful Chinese model (where government reigns supreme). Is there scope to create a third, European model, where citizens and communities are in charge?

In this session, we discuss alternative trust models for the internet. This session is part of the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet initiative. We will hear from Manon den Dunnen, strategic specialist at the Dutch National Police, Ian Forrester, Chief Firestarter at BBC R&D and Marta Arniani, innovation strategist and founder of Futuribile / Curating Futures. Chairing will be Katja Bego, senior researcher at Nesta and coordinator of the Next Generation Internet Engineroom project.

Thanks Katja!

The horizon dating experiment on TV again…

Horizon dating

It was Valentines day a little while ago and while I was busy. I guess someone at the BBC thought it would be a good idea to put up the Horizon Dating Experiment again.

I got a whole bunch of people asking me if they saw me on TV recently… Well yes you did and there is a story worth reading behind it all. I’m not the only one who blogged about it too. To be fair it all started with Rachel Clarke who pointed it out the call to me after my bad experience with the Year of making love.

Horizon dating experiment

To be fair although its back on Telly again, the best example of where the Horizon dating experiment popped up has to be on a plane at 36000 feet. Found via my good friend Claire

Back of a airplane seat

 

27-28th Feb is Manchester’s first Storytellers United Hackjam

storytellers united hackjamOn the Wednesday 27th – Thursday 28th February in Manchester’s first Storytellers United Hackjam.

The hackjam is run with support from BBC R&D and BBC Academy, MMU’s School of Digital Arts (SODA), Storytellers United, Popathon, University of York’s Digital Creativity labs and Creative England.

Its a 36 hours hackathon around responsive/perceptive/adaptive media experiences. Participants work as a team to brainstorm ideas, create prototypes of their own storytelling experiences. They will compete against the clock, not against each other sharing knowledge and expertise as they go. They won’t be alone, as they will have some excellent mentored by industry experts sharing their knowledge and experiences. Its all part of BBC Academy’s Manchester Digital Cities week.

The hackjam is only part the story. On the late afternoon of Thursday 28th Feb there will be a mini-conference titled Storytelling in the Internet Age. Where promising prototypes will be demoed to the audience.

Collaborating together

Ideal participants are from the creative sectors such as,

  • Freelancers, Sole-traders and SMEs working in new media fields combining data with media,, may have tried twine, eko, inkle, etc
  • Producers and Directors interested in adaptive and non-linear narratives, may have tried twine, eko, inkle, etc
  • Developers and Designers with an interest in audio & video combined with data and used javascript libs like the VideoContext.js, Seriously.js, etc
  • Students and Academics with a deep interest in object based media, adaptive narratives, interactive digital narrative
  • Artists exploring mixed media and non-linear narratives

Tickets are free but an expression of interest, with no guarantee entry.

See you there!

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?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cubicgarden/14702809615

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.