Is silicon valleys dystopia the public sectors utopia?

I was listening to the start of This week in Tech on Monday morning as they talked about the Guardian piece titled Smartphone addiction, Silicon valley dystopia and other related stories. I couldn’t help but feel something was missing from the discussion.

The discussion focused on how to solve some of the points about unethical attention manipulation, filter bubbles, smartphone addiction, etc; all from an North American point of view. There was a sense if this was left to the government to regulate it would be a very bad thing but they were searching for a middle ground and failing. They acknowledged companies need to make money and making their services addictive/sticky is a part of this, but there was a feeling there has to be something in the middle?

Of course they never mention the public sector, as it doesn’t really factor? Its very binary and thinking about it, even in Tristan’s essay there is little notation of the middle ground.

I wonder if silicon valleys dystopia could be the public sectors utopia? However if the message is North American, it’s very unlikely to include anything about the public sector, just governments and business?

The barbershop world is ripe for disruption

I was talking to a guy in VividLounge recently and we were talking about the new trend for barbershops to create high quality promo videos for themselves. In actual fact when I was getting my hair cut last week at Barberboutique, Damien mentioned the new trend for  videos to be taken out side the shop rather than inside. The whole idea of pictures of people in the chair having their hair cut is old news it seems.

Look at whats on Youtube, theres some serious videos and theres a certain house style which is starting to emerge. Lots of them have taken the gentlemans therapy to another level with Coffees, Whiskey and even Champagne. But I feel theres plenty of room for disruption… Especially around the business models.

We need more social and community focused startups

I wrote about a number of people who JFDI and how this may have the ability to make gentrification and other social conflicts a little more easier on a community.

On top of that I’ve been thinking how the traditional business models of shareholders wanting continues growth year on year is causing so many issues (well that and diversity). Anyway it got me thinking, maybe social and community startups are the new (ecstasy! I’m kidding, just following my previous post) thing. Don’t get me wrong theres been social enterprises for many years but this is something slightly more appealing.

ROI Pam Warhurst-10

Just flipping do it already!

Without knowing it, they are embracing the same approaches and plans as startups. Crowd funding, flat structures, lightweight project management tools and an attitude of just fucking do it . All are the hallmark of the following projects. James Headifen who runs the Ancoats Canal Cleanup project. Pam Warhurst  who started something  in Todmorden (still need to visit) by simply doing something  which is highly copyable and makes people happy. Homebaked a co-working space, bakery and the cornerstone of the local community, MadlabUK and DoES Liverpool a hacker and community space, giving room to a number of different types of niche hobbies and activities. Run very much in a JFDI style.

Closing the Deal

Chewing the fat with Chris

Me and Chris Northwood were in Vividlounge having breakfast thinking/talking about where startup culture starts to go wrong. We talked about the built to flip mentality and how that mentality is poisonous. Build your algorithm, get your users and market for me users. Nothing new and interesting for developers or designers to be involved in. Chris thought suggested it might be anti-developer , while I think it might be ultimately anti-human and progression.

Too many entrepreneurs, he believes, have a “built-to-flip mentality, as opposed to a built-to-last, built-to-change-the-world mentality.”

I mentioned this blog post I was writing in my mind, and talked about the examples I listed above. Social enterprises, ethical startups, what ever they are called… We need to foster and support more of them (this links to Adrian Hons talk from TedxLiverpool about supporting those who are brave enough to take up this challenge). But if you were starting a social enterprise, where would you go?

When I show people around Manchester’s northern quarter, I tend to have a story which I tell people. If you are setting up a business, the coffee shops of the northern quarter are a great place to get inspiration and get work done. But if you wanted something a little more focused,there is a co-working spaces in Madlab on Friday and there is the classroom. If you wanted more, the next step would be Techhub Manchester and beyond that you could get yourself a little office.

Dreamy Saturday Morning.

The local spaces on your doorstep

Chris suggested Libraries could have a role in this? University libraries are fruitful places supporting students for hours and hours working alone and together. Why is the public libraries not the same? Unlike Techhub which is driving you towards a more traditional startup outcome. Imagine a library as a co-working space with focused advice on how to run a social/ethical/community business… In return you get a free space and access to more resources including maybe funding?

For example we have our islington wharf residents meetings in the local NHS centre which has plenty of rooms not in use after 5pm. Because we are a local and non-profit organisation, we can rent the rooms for free. Certainly beats trying to hold a residents meeting in bar/cafe or one of our living rooms. There are tons of places like this which are underutilised but we pay for out of our taxes. These places can be the difference between a small gathering in a coffee shop and a place to actually bring people together. The library is ideal in my mind.

I’m aware of things like the Coworking directory but there is something interesting about supporting other non-profits in a public space.

Talking to Davemee one of the founders of Madlab, this blog might seem slightly simplistic, native and may misunderstand the extreme difficulties in getting a social/community/non-profit business off the ground. But I argue it should be as simple as setting up a startup and what a time to do it

Freemium dating gone horrifically wrong

Online Dating for Bears

Lunch time at work is a interesting experience. Somehow we got into a discussion about online dating and Elizabeth asked me what kind of sites I’m on, out of curiosity. I mentioned I only do free dating sites and before you knew it we were on to a discussion about freenium dating sites vs paid sites.

The logic seems to conclude that a paid for sites would attract a better match, however in my own experience this is not true. Actually the opposite seems to apply, with the tricks the paid for dating sites pull on you. But we started wondering… If you were really evil or lack in moral judgment, what kind of things would you do?

Here’s some suggestions,

  1. Default all profiles would be ugly (there was a suggestion of green on brown with comic sans) unless you pay for colour changes and font faces changes.
    There would be a charge for every character over 320 characters (it was suggested 140 actually). Bit like plenty of fish’s extended profile.
  2. Depending on the time of the month certain words would cost less and more. Of course there would be a algorithm working out the most likely used words in profiles. But the cost would be reversed, as to charge the most for those words in their prime like selfie. Likewise Phrases go down in price depending on over use of the word across the site.
  3. There would only be allowed one photo like eBay use to have. More photos can be added at a cost of course. Oh and the one photo would be restricted to 256 colours and a size of 640×480. If you need colour, you can choose a animal photo which best represents you. One photo to impress… make it a good one.
  4. Messages can only be accessed on the site or the application. There will be strict limits of 10 meg storages and of course all messages will be monitored and fiddled with. So there will be no swearing, rude or lude content (lots of dating sites do this to kill off email and phone number exchange in messages). It would also have the right to change words and sentences to aid with communication. Well I say aid but expect all type of nonsense and mucking around.
  5. All messages will start at 200 characters maximum and grow by 10 characters based on the messages exchange. You
  6. Matching algorithms will be switch depending on paid membership. If you want the super-dooper algorithm you got to pay. And remember you have no idea how good it is till you try it out, at which you are offered the mega search for another upgrade in membership… Of course this time it includes advance options, thankfully. Okcupid already has multiple methods/algorithms for search and some are only accessible to paid members.
  7. Conditions for using the site is allowing the site to have access to your Facebook account. Not just for authentication but so it can read and write to your friends. If you want to stop the spamming, you need to pay for the yearly membership. Remember when Plaxo and many others did this to convince your friends to join?
  8. Don’t even get me started on adverts, you never seen adverts like this before, well maybe. Not only will you see them on the site, but also in your facebook timeline because you allowed us to do so, duhhh stupid…! Of course we could hijacking your cookies for even more fun, unless you pay the subscription money but that would be so… wrong!
  9. Feeling the pitch when it comes to the matches, well don’t worry most of them will be automated bots sent to lure you into paying even more or at least another few months of subscription. Hummm where did I hear this before?
  10. Of course our starred profiles will be ranked highly and you will need to digg through those before you get to the cheapskates. As a free user, you will have to do this with no sort and no option of how many users per page. Good luck with that…
  11. Did I forget to say, how our search doesn’t work correctly for free users. You will have to search through male and female users from all over the world till we can find a way to fix it. Of course paid users get access to the beta server which does support these (some people say) essential things.
  12. Random username allocation. Don’t like your username which was randomly given to you? Well if you pay the money, you can change it. Don’t pay, and you will have to put up with snugglemuffin666 or even snddjoidjidb81.

I could go on but frankly you go the picture. Some sounds a little crazy while others you may recognise from being on paid for dating sites. Free dating sites are rarer than they should be, but the freemium sites are going to be the next big thing. Don’t believe me? Look at Tinder.

Sell the sizzle not the steak

I attended a networking workshop at the BBC the other day. I was wondering how it was going to go, because sometimes the workshops at work can be hit and miss. The trainer for the workshop was down to earth Darren Jenkins from digienable. Darren was good and his advice was welcomed.

Now I know most of you are saying why the heck are you (mr social butterfly and social geek event organiser) doing at a networking workshop? Well most of the things I do are picked up after working it out for myself rather than learned. When I signed up I wanted to understand what other people were told because I’ve seen some weird stuff.

Anyway during the workshop, I listen and chipped in now & then. But what got me thinking in the middle of the workshop is the similarity to dating. I hadn’t really thought about it in this way before, but the more Darren talked and I thought about it. The closer to dating it sounded.

Most of you will be thinking “Duhhhh yes of course, relationships are relationships be them business or a love interest” Laid out on paper it makes sense, but I’ve never really put it on paper like that.

Some key points, which really hit home…

First date, first contact
The politics of who pays extends deeply into networking. Darren talked about trying to buy the first coffee or paying for everything to make a good impression. Of course I disapproved. But at least he told it as it was… “Its a power play…

Selling the Sizzle
You got a short time (1min) to tell the other person about yourself, what you do and your general thoughts about things. Sounds like Speed dating, but no were actually talking about networking.

One thing which I’ve not been doing recently is selling the sizzle. When speed dating recently I’ve been under-selling how great things are for myself by describing what I actually do rather than the effect. Not sure why I’ve been doing this but it certainly applies for dating as well as networking…

Social object theory
Of course no workshop would be complete without a bit of give and take. Darren was good enough to remind me to sell the sizzle, so I thought I’d talk about social object theory. He never heard of it but had been using it, regardless.

It was a good workshop and funny to hear Darren is partner to Liz Hardwick from Manchester Girl Geeks.

A Rant About Women by Clay Shirky

A Pensive Clay Shirky

If you’ve not been following the heat/blowback from Clay Shirky’s rant about woman then its worth reading and following some of the strongly formatted comments which follow.

Personally I see what Clay is trying to say, but I don’t think its written as elegantly as he was thinking. That or he’d felt like causing a bit of a storm on the internet for a while. I wanted to pick up on two comments which sum up my thoughts…

Simon St.Laurent says:

There are two basic problems with this piece.

First, telling other people that the way to fix their problems is by being more like you is rarely a good strategy. It might work one-on-one occasionally, but the larger the cultural boundary this approach tries to cross, the less likely it is to produce much besides sparks.

Second, the behavior prescribed is behavior that a lot of us – men included – would like to see reduced rather than increased, punished rather than rewarded. That the first two examples both involved telling lies, however white they might seem from this perspective, doesn’t help make the case.

Stepping back and asking about how people listen seems to me a lot more likely to work than telling people they need to change how they talk.

There is a certainly amount of arrogance is asking someone to be more like yourself… I certainly don’t like it.

Marcus Brody says:

You’ve got the problem backwards. It isn’t that more women (and men) should act like hierarchical assholes, it’s that those assessing performance shouldn’t be so lazy that they only notice assholes. Your argument boils down to: people who assess performance are lazy and don’t bother to think critically so they are easily swayed by false aggrandizement. If you want to change the assessors opinions you should lie because the assessors don’t put in the effort to tell the difference between falsehoods and reality.

And you know what, most assessors are lazy, so lying does pay off. The call to action, though, shouldn’t be for more lying, but rather, less indolence on the part of those who are in a position to judge others.

Unfortunately for Clay, your starting to see this type of headline come up – Shirky: Women Need to Strap On Some Balls . Geez, wonder how long it took to create that headline…

What ever happened to Wonderland?

The Dragons, elite business experts standing next to a wall

Update: Although I'm blogging about Wonderland, i dont think much about the content. But I'm not its target audience. I'm writing mainly about the concept and the business of Wonderland not the magazine's content. It would be like me saying Red or Cosmo are not good. I'm entitled to my views but being outside of the target market makes it difficult to judge fairly. aka, do not buy Wonderland just because I blogged it please.

Almost a year ago the BBC series Dragons Den finished its first run. I enjoyed every moment of it and am happy to hear its back on our screens (and online via imp of course). But it makes you wonder what ever happened to those other business ideas which received funding? (Yes the BBC should do a run up on what happened next…maybe even just as a podcast, iptv or something for those people interested) Specially the very much debated Wonderland magazine.

Well after a short dig around, I found a couple of things. A interview after appearing on the Dragons Den. Actually Startups.co.uk has a few interviews with previous Dragon Den entrepreneurs.Then the big news, from this page. Its actually on the right hand side of the site and reads.

By Kate Boulby

Wonderland, the new luxury glossy mag from BBC2 Dragon's Den joint winner Huw Gwyther, went on sale yesterday.

The magazine will initially be priced at £4.95, with a starting print run of 140,000 copies. Publishers eventually hope to sell up to 100,000.

Targeted at both male and female readers, Wonderland will cover everything from fashion, film, music and product design to stage and art. The first issue also features an exclusive interview with The Aviator's film production designer Dante Ferretti.

Dragon Den, which was shown earlier in the year, featured contestants pitching business ideas to the expert “Dragons”.

So I plan to drop into a large WH Smiths and see if I can actually find a copy, get a real feel for it myself. Hopefully I can find a copy and post a few pictures online, till then the flash animation has been updated and restyled so at least its not so ugly, and gives you a rough idea of how the magazine looks.

Finally found it in the local WH Smiths

Wonderland magazine cover

More photos can be found in my wonderland tag stream.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]