Loving my first Tech Open Air Berlin

TOA Berlin

I was invited to talk at Tech Open Air Berlin (TOA Berlin) a while ago and the week of the event came around much quicker than I thought it would. Because of plans a while before, I had planned to be London to pick up my Estonian e-residency card, go to a semi-internal BBC AI event, visit “into the unknown” at the Barbican and host a lecture about Databox in R&D London (phew!). It became clear it was better to fly from London Gatwick to Berlin and fly back to Manchester (I couldn’t work out how long it would take to get to Stanstead and Ryan Air worked out more expensive once I factored in luggage). This did meaning 3 hotels over 6 days but it was acceptable in my head.

When I finally flew over to Berlin, the storms delayed the flight and when I finally made it to the hotel I was exhausted but noticed that I hadn’t sent my presentation to TOA or at least my updated version. So spent quite a bit of time checking my email to make sure.

I was on at 10:10am in the main conference and was pretty tired by the time I made my way to the venue which was way in the east and required a few changes from Rosenthaler Platz to Funkhaus Berlin Nalepastrasse. On arrival I was taken to the buzzing speakers lounge where I met Laura, who helped sort things out with some serious help from the tech support guy.

Human & AI Powered Creativity in Storytelling

A look at how Human and AI-powered creativity can be combined to build better storytelling

I felt the talk went ok, but it wasn’t my best because I took too long giving only room for 2 questions from the moderator. I certainly felt if it was a hour or so later it would have been far better. Regardless, it was captured and should be on the TOA Berlin youtube channel soon.

After the talk I was locked in conversation with 3-5 people about the data ethic considerations of adaptive media and how on earth this can work. All fascinating conversations which had to get cut a little short as I signed up to do a Ask Me Anything

TOA Berlin

This took part in a plastic dome within a busy room below the speakers lounge. I wasn’t expecting anyone to show up but there were 2 people waiting for me. I was asked about my role in the BBC and some of research we are conducting. Then a 3rd person dropped in. He said he had read my blog and suddenly there was a moment of “uh oh!” But it was fine, although we talk about data ethics and dating. I’ll be honest the AMA was fascinating and quite refreshing.

TOA Berlin

After this and a lack of lunch (my own fault, talking to people), finally started going to different sessions. Most were rammed and I remember going to Why Supermarkets Must be Replaced, Creators & Audiences: An Open Relationship, Motivating Behavior When Attention Is The World’s Reserve Currency, How far can VR go to enhance your sex life? Future of Sex Podcast with BaDoinkVR and The Future of Collective Governance and From Trump To Universal Basic Income: Leveraging Technology To Understand What Europe Thinks.

TOA Berlin

So quite an amazing cross section of talks and sessions!

I can’t emphasize enough how big some of the spaces are and the whole place just felt like it was buzzing. The engagement was high and everywhere I went people were getting involved. I don’t know the total amount of people, but it felt like a few thousands at least. I can only describe it as what I imagine South by South west is like but in Berlin. Theres so much happening and besides the conference there is a whole music track, expo, corporate spaces and even a thing called open circle only for speakers and vip’s. Its pretty overwhelming, but in a good way.

One of the other fascinating things about TOA was the amount of Fridge events or as they call it Satellite events. You can also apply to do a satellite using a online form and a video chat with TOA.

I attended two and had to miss a few because I needed to move hotel on Friday. Here are the two I attended.

Propellor | Forum #1: Using Tech to create the future of Film

I first met Erwin at the Documentary and Factual World Congress in Sweden late last year when he told me about the Propellor film tech hub.  We kept in touch and when he mentioned the Forum would be during TOA Berlin, I was happy to say I would be there too. I agreed to help by encouraging people to think about adaptive media in a workshop of ideas.

Propellor | Forum #1

The event was a satellite to TOA and was hosted at Price Waterhouse Coopers building only minutes from Berlin Hauptbahnhof (if unlike me you go out the main entrance and not the back exit). It started with networking and some canopies then an introduction followed by 3 5min pitches by myself (Adaptive Media), Jannis Funk (distribution of AV content) and Aljoscha Burchardt (Curation of AV content).

Once the pitches were out the way there was time for a few questions. Most of the questions I got were asking how on earth is adaptive media possible, I answered in a quick 1min breakdown of object based media.

TOA Berlin

After this, people grouped around the pitches they were interested in and the DO school took control.

TOA Berlin

It was good workshop with enough push to get things done in time but also allowing things to emerge from the grassroots. At the end of the workshops ideas were presented to the pitch group and the best was then presented to everyone at the forum.

TOA Berlin

I found the Friemily film a great idea so very fitting for adaptive media.

All the results have been written up at propellorfilmtech.com.

TOA Berlin Satellite: Machine Learning, Trust and Public Service

Machine learning, trust and public service

Myself and Ahmed from the BBC Blueroom put in a proposal around a idea/concept of the public service internet and machine learning. Only a few days earlier the Blueroom had put on a AI & society conference titled BBC Blue Room presents Artificial Intelligence & Society. So fresh from that and some ideas from myself and others in R&D, we proposed the question; where does public service fit in the age of machine learning and the business models which come along with automation and algorithms.

Machine learning, trust and public service

TOA provide the space and we provided the workshop/talk under their brand. The space was an amazing co-working space called Mindspace and they were really helpful with everything. The only down side was the workshop was meant to be more participatory but the room set up didn’t quite work for this. The central chairs were not move-able at all. Ideally more of a circle would have been better really.

Machine learning, trust and public service

We were not expecting a huge turn out but thats exactly what we got. As me and Ahmed got started we focused on the business models which are most associated with machine learning. To be honest we spoke maybe too much and by the time the discussion got going, we ran over time. This is also where the layout of the room became a disadvantage. Regardless I drew up thoughts on a piece of paper and mapped out connected ideas (mindmapped it) while people talked and discussed.

Machine learning, trust and public service

There was a lot of discussion about public service and the point of public service. We got talking about why people choose to work in the public service oppose to commercial companies.

The discussion about trust thew up a whole lot of discussion about fake news and disinformation; someone suggested maybe a trusted public entity could have a trusted index score for sources? Something like snoops which are currently having their own problems. This lead nicely on to the transparency question and the fact public organizations should be more transparent than other companies. Which people felt could mean public organisations could benefit from the transparency in choices and algorithms. I earlier called it xray mode in the conference talk.

Collaboration came up again and again, there was a discussion suggesting we should work with not just ARD/ZDF but also Fraunhofer and others like Arte. There was also a feeling, some pioneers in this sector could share insight and new models with less forward thinking public organisations, who are struggling to keep up with the internet age.

TOA Berlin

As a whole I was very impressed with TOA, its really a festival of tech, art and ideas. I saw solar panels made into art, a stage made in the wood and far too much free redbull.

I would highly recommend TOA to others, think SXSW with a strong European backbone, I will make my way back next year.

Back at the Quantified Self conference in June

Quantified Self 2011

I’m back at the Quantified self conference and it’s been a few years since due to scheduling and other conflicts. It’s actually been a while since I talked about the Quantified self mainly because I feel it’s so mainstream now, few people even know what it is, although they use things like Strava, fitbits, etc.

The line up for the Quantified self confidence is looking very good and there’s plenty of good sessions for almost every palette and I’ll be heading up this session while at the conference.

Using Your Data To Influence Your Environment

With home automation tools, it is now possible for your personal data to influence your environment. Soon, your personal data could be used to influence how a movie is shown to you! Let’s talk about the implications and ethics of data being used this way.

Its basically centered around the notion our presence effects the world around us. Directly linking Perceptive media and the Quantified self together. Of course I’m hoping to tease out some of the complexity of data ethics with people who full understand this and have skin in the game as such.

I’m also looking to report back on this conference and restart the manchester quantified self group which went quiet a while ago.

A recent write up about Object based media while in Babelsberg, Germany

Feeding the giants panel at Changing the Picture

I have recently been talking in quite a few places to get the word out about the great work BBC R&D are doing around the future of media. One of those places was at the Changing the Picture conference in Babelsberg (near Potsdam and Berlin).

They did a quick review of the conference and the panel I took part in was featured. I have to say it was one of the most lively panels which was perfect for the after lunch slot. Oh and theres a few mistakes like me being from London UK, but I’ll over look them.

Ian Forrester, Senior Firestarter Producer at the BBC (London, UK), and journalist Jan Lerch addressed in the Fireside Chat “Feeding the Giants: Storytelling for Social Media Broadcasters” the controversial question whether and to what extent large corporations in the technology sector and social media can establish themselves as new, major actors in the entertainment industry and how content producers can cooperate with them. Forrester introduced BBC’s innovative new strategy of  “Perceptive Media,” to be tested in 2017, which allows content to be reshaped based on information about the viewer, creating a unique and profoundly affecting viewing experience.  Lerch gave insight into the way technology platforms set requirements for creatives. Nevertherless creatives can push the limits of  existing platforms of social media giants in new and exciting ways.

Another busy period

Ordinary life does not interest me

For the next few weeks I’m pretty busy. My calendar looks like I may have eaten something I’m allergic to and threw up. Leaving you with that pretty nasty thought.

Some of the highlights include…

Its not so much that I’m doing lots of big stuff, rather all the little bits in between some interesting events. For example getting Visual Perceptive Media on BBC Taster in a sensible way. Writing a paper for TVX 2017, arranging DJ Hackday 2017, etc, etc…

The amount of blogging and tweeting might drop as a result. Sure my 5.5 tweets a day has seriously dropped, but I’m blaming Twitter for that.

I always said an ordinary life does not interest me, and there is a certain amount of hustle involved with this all.

Best of Thinking Digital Newcastle 2016

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Yes I know its actually Gateshead but Herb Kim did call it TDCNCL after the newcastle train station short code? This also cuts out the confusion with Thinking Digital Manchester & London.

I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get to Gateshead for this years Thinking Digital as its harder to justify with the Manchester one right on my doorstep. But there is something about the venue and atmosphere in the Sage which just makes a already excellent conference, great! Hall 2 in the Gateshead Sage is compact but the arrangement of seats just makes everyone feel like part of the event. This year was different as this year Thinking Digital went ahead with the 1.5 day format. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work but it seemed to work…

The workshop on the first day kicked off procedings. I signed up to the clearing the air workshop which I felt could have some good tips for running workshops and meetings in a more formal manner.

I wasn’t disappointed as I came out with lots of different techniques for getting a constructive meeting for all. At one point, I asked a question of Alison and she got where I was going with it down to a tee. You mentioned neurodiversity and started to give tips considering a range of diverse people.

It was Saul Cousins I think, who said this workshop wasn’t his first choice but he was very glad he choose it as a second place. Because I got agreement to come at the last minute, I had less choices but I was very happy with what I got back. I also found parallels with what me and Marie had done at Thinking Digital Manchester last year. We all seemed to be hovering around the same ideas.

As usual I tend to pick out the best talks and give them credit.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Mikko has spoken at Thinking Digital Newcastle a few times if I remember correctly and everytime I have nothing but praise for he talks. He’s got a endless supply of stories from the dark side of data security. This time he’s focus was on ransomware, this seamenly new type of crime. Seamenly because as Miko pointed out the AIDS malware was writen many years earlier and did the exact same thing.

During the end of his talk, I was also thinking about the lack of diversity in devices and services. This came after Mikko mentioned some ransomware which searches for Apple time machines and encrypts that too. I guess the job is made easier by most Apple users using the defaults? Easy of use or opionated design being exploited?

Lots to take away, but the main one being don’t click those links in emails (yes this was drummed home through-out the talk)

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Sarah I hadn’t actually come across before in real life but I was a little bit aware of her in passing through things I had read surrounding ethics of data, blockchains and idenity blogs. Herb set her up and she explained not only what a blockchain was but also why and where they are useful. It was a hard task but Sarah did a good job without getting too lofty.

I caught her briefly afterwards and said what a great job she had done and that we must get together and talk about the databox work, which I believed UCL are a part of. Hopefully next time I’m down in London and schedules work out.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Edward is a drummer influced by the prodigy album Music for the Jilted Generation, who then wanted to create house music using drums. Yes it sounds kind of insane but true. I mean how do you bang out a consistent 130 beats per minute over the course of 4-8 minutes? Thats pretty serious before you even consider all the other stuff which goes into house music.

Luckily with the advances in technology, its become a lot easier to control more elements from any interface you are happy to use. Ed performed and showed how it all works. I was certainly bouncing my head around as he played.

Ed contuned the great legacy of music at Thinking Digital.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

James talk frustrated me mainly because Microsoft Bing seemed to be capturing contextual data but for the simple (I say simple but compared to more interesting uses) sake of a better search result. This wound me up because I’m sure I tweeted something like…

This is only half the puzzle.

This is something I’ll touch on in my presentation in Bucharest. You need both contextual data and adaptive narratives. Google’s effort to understand the semantic meaning behind web pages, allows them to adapt the search results. Hence I ask (regularlly in Manchester) “should I take my umbrella with me?” It knows where I am, knows roughly where I’m going and the weather report. Rather than send me a weather pre made weather report, it answers back with a tailor answer drawn from the data its understood.

I’m not saying this isn’t what Bing is also trying to do but it didn’t come across that way. I felt they were missing the bigger picture.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Tom is usually the final talk but after 9 years doing many things including lighting his sweater on fire, coming back from the future and many other interesting antics. He injected his style of famous style of humour into the emoji debate.

Funny and enlighening? Thats Tom Scott.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Katherine talked dispelled the crap (litterally) of whats going on in our gut. She talked about the microbiome and how it all worked. It was a good talk which honestly I hadn’t really considered or thougth about before. It was good to hear most fermented veg was as or even better than those probiotics yogurts which are all the rave now. More Kimchi and Miso is something I wrote into my mindmapped notes. Never really been a fan of those yogurts, always left feeling slightly sick.

The best image has the be the one below which sums up more than anyone would ever want.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

With Tom moved from his regular slot, I was wondering who could possibily end Thinking Digital on a high like previous years? Step forward MT Rainey OBE.

I knew nothing about MT, but it become very clear that she had worked with Apple and Steve Jobs in the very early days. I simply can’t do her talk any justice in my review as she covered many accounts of meeting Steve Jobs. She also touched on the multiple films including the latest one (steve jobs) and the Ashton Kutcher one (Jobs). She felt the latest one (Aaron Sorkin’s) was more correct but Micheal Fassbender got steve very wrong. He was more like Ashton Kutcher, which to be honest makes a lot of sense.

Lovely quote to consider in her talk about Steve Jobs…

Ideas are a powerful patient for a brand

And the observation about lack of woman in Apple and the movies

It was another great Thinking Digital and I got to give John Thorp, Irini Papadimitriou,Will Dracup and Joe Faith credit for some very good talks too. I believe all the talks can be now watched here.

The 1.5 day format worked, my only grumble is when I go to Thinking Digital Newcastle, I tend to take most of the week. This means I’m fully present in the conference, open minded to all the talks and thinking about the connections. With a day lost, I felt the need to get back into emails during my stay, when usually I would leave it to next week. But I do totally understand. So over all it worked…

TDC14: Forget skynet, female-kind is ready for the shift

Thinking Digital 2014

I love conferences which have me almost punching for the sky in a FTW! (for the win) style. Thinking Digital 2014 almost had me at points punching the sky. Now in its 7th year! Thinking Digital hasn’t lost any of its impact and is still a pleasure to attend and take part in.

There is always great talks from the stage and I always have a hard time writing up the best ones to me. But this year I have had to separate out a couple of talks which really got me going for different reasons.

The one previous to this post is Aral’s talk from Thinking Digital and my personal thoughts interleaved. The next one I had to separate out is part two of Blaise Aguera y Arcas’s talk about machine intelligence and social changes. I got the feeling Blaise, had wanted to do this talk for a long while but never really had the platform to do so till Herb Kim allowed him the space to bring his thoughts together.

The basic talk was…

machine intelligence + (gender selection + sexual and lifestyle freedom) = post subsistence economics.

Each one Blaise wrote about on his blog a while back.

He started off talking about everybody is worried about machine intelligence over taking human intelligence, the singularity, etc. Replacing jobs isn’t new and actually the move away from back breaking jobs isn’t such a bad thing. The move away from these back breaking jobs which require a lot of testosterone to jobs which are collaborative in nature is a good thing.

Then on to trends showing what females earn as a whole against their male counterparts is increasing but the amount of females university and beyond educated is growing massively compared to the males. Aka there will be many more women earning much closer to what men earn. We may see the end of the glass ceiling at long last?

Thinking Digital 2014

Right with all that in mind, less testosterone driven jobs and finally a culture more accepting of collaboration plus a workforce to suit. You got a different mindset writing the machine algorithms and code to power the machine intelligence.

Thats the basic premise (and I know it hinges on a lot of stereotypes and questions, I may be doing Blaise a disservice but to be honest you need to hear Blaise talk about it and making the points. The crux is that women will dominate economically and society will reflect and favor a less testosterone driven approach going forward. The idea of machine intelligence given a cock and balls was floated as a very bad thing. Interestingly

This for lots of male kind is worrying as they suddenly feel the strangle hold they held for so long slip away. There will be a backlashes and your already seeing some of it including the redpill community.

Thinking Digital 2014

In a surprising move by Herb, he opened the floor for questions. Of course knowing me I had to ask a question. I thought about it but had to tell the question is something I didn’t really think too much about because there was plenty of thoughts and connections floating around my head. The question came out and with some clarification I made the hole a little deeper for myself.

The question I was trying to ask was about the social backlash from female-kind (Blaise had only talked about the male backlash). I also used stereotypes to illustrate the point including the height factor, suggesting women may want a testosterone driven man over the alternative. By this point it was pretty much over and I gave up making the point. But interestingly Jemima understanding where I was going with the question, chimed in and gave a better question based on what I meant.

It was a truly fascinating talk and my number one highlight of Thinking Digital 2014. I really feel like I’ve not done Blaise’s talk enough justice… Hopefully once the videos are up, I will link to them and revisit this one. I said Blaise’s talk could be summed up like this. Machine intelligence + (gender selection + sexual and lifestyle freedom) = post subsistence economics. Somewhere in there diversity of ideas and thought is changing the way we think about machine intelligence and this is a very good thing. Not everything has to be zero-sum and like it or not that seems to be a testosterone fueled thing.

Here’s Blaise’s thought from his blog which gives a lot more insight and information, than I could.

Documentarlly did a great little interview with Blaise on Audioboo

Machine Intelligence

I think that just as the Inter­net has been such a great dri­ver of change across so many spheres over the past 20 years, we will see machine intel­li­gence in the same role over the com­ing decades.

Today, we are as an intel­li­gent species essen­tially sin­gu­lar. There are of course some other brainy species, like chim­panzees, dol­phins, crows and octo­puses, but if any­thing they only empha­size our unique posi­tion on Earth— as ani­mals richly gifted with self-awareness, lan­guage, abstract thought, art, math­e­mat­i­cal capa­bil­ity, sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and so on. Many of us have staked our entire self-concept on the idea that to be human is to have a mind, and that minds are the unique province of humans. For those of us who are not reli­gious, this could be inter­preted as the last bas­tion of dual­ism. Our eco­nomic, legal and eth­i­cal sys­tems are also implic­itly built around this idea.

Now, we’re well along the road to really under­stand­ing the funda­men­tal prin­ci­ples of how a mind can be built, and Moore’s Law will put brain-scale com­put­ing within reach this decade. (We need to put some aster­isks next to Moore’s Law, since we are already run­ning up against cer­tain lim­its in compu­ta­tional scale using our present-day approaches, but I’ll stand behind the broader state­ment.) When we reach this point, we will find our­selves no longer alone. It’s dif­fi­cult to over­state the impor­tance that moment will have in our future history.

It may well result in fur­ther non­lin­ear­ity in the “rate” of his­tory too, since minds and what we’ve dreamt up with them have been the engine behind his­tory and its acceleration.

Gen­der Selection

For many thou­sands of years we’ve lived in a male-dominated soci­ety. I don’t think that we’re shift­ing toward “female dom­inance” so much as I think that the whole idea of dom­i­nance is a male par­a­digm, and that it is this par­a­digm that is being selected against— by increas­ing pop­u­la­tion den­sity in the urban cores, increas­ing edu­ca­tion, larger work­ing groups, increas­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion, ris­ing tech­no­log­i­cal lever­age, global trade and so on. It may be dif­fi­cult to imag­ine this now, when the vast major­ity of the world’s cap­i­tal is still in the hands of men and many of the STEM fields (which are also among the highest-paid) are still over­whelm­ingly male, but I think that men— and espe­cially “manly men” exhibit­ing many of the clas­si­cal cor­re­lates of high testos­terone— will be at a dis­tinct dis­ad­van­tage in 30 years time. This rep­re­sents a pro­found upset of the patri­ar­chal sys­tem that has defined vir­tu­ally all of recorded his­tory, so … it’ll be a big deal.

Post-subsistence Economics

As machine intel­li­gence, robot­ics, and tech­no­log­i­cal lever­age in gen­eral increas­ingly decou­ple pro­duc­tiv­ity from labor, we will con­tinue to see unem­ploy­ment rise even in oth­er­wise healthy economies. The end state is one in which most forms of human labor are sim­ply not required. In 30 years, if not sooner, we will be fac­ing this unprece­dented sit­u­a­tion— and whether it’s heaven or hell depends on whether we’re able to let go of cap­i­tal­ism, eco­nomic Dar­win­ism and the Calvin­ist ethics that implic­itly under­lie these sys­tems. With­out a change of course, we will see mass unem­ploy­ment drive a rad­i­cal accel­er­a­tion of the already dra­matic imbal­ance between the very wealthy few and every­one else, lead­ing to ugly con­di­tions in the cities and ulti­mately vio­lent uprising.

On the other hand, if we are able to set aside our Calvin­ism, we will real­ize that given the tech­no­log­i­cal effi­cien­cies we have achieved, every­one can live well, with or with­out a job. Cap­i­tal­ism, entre­pre­neur­ship and other sys­tems of dif­fer­en­tial wealth cre­ation could still func­tion on top of this hor­i­zon­tal base; but every­one must be fed and housed decently, have access to free health care and edu­ca­tion, and be able to live a good life. I assume the nation-state will still be a rel­e­vant legal and eco­nomic con­struct in 30 years (though I’m not sure, as cor­po­ra­tions or pos­si­bly other struc­tures will com­pli­cate the pic­ture); my guess is that we will see both paths taken in dif­fer­ent parts of the world, lead­ing to mis­ery and war in some, where either the ben­e­fits of accel­er­at­ing tech­nol­ogy are slow to pen­e­trate or Dar­win­ian eco­nom­ics are left unchecked.

Sex­ual and lifestyle freedom

In 30 years, I think that not only will the more pro­gres­sive places in the world have fin­ished rec­on­cil­ing them­selves to the wide spec­trum of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and expres­sion, but also to a wide vari­ety of life con­fig­u­ra­tions beyond the nuclear fam­ily built around a sin­gle life­long pair-bond. There are many forces con­tribut­ing to this shift, and I sus­pect that an empir­i­cal case can be made for this in much the same way as for the gen­der ideas above. This is the least devel­oped of my six ideas, but one that I think will have pro­found implications.

Highlights of FutureEverything 2014

Future Everything 2014

Another year another good Future Everything festival. It seemed to fly by so quickly and partly because I was roped into the Radio 4 Character invasion day and Vision 2022,thanks for the tweet Julius. So although I was back and forth between different conferences, I did get to soak up some of the good events at Future Everything.

Future Everything 2014

Adrian Hon

Adrian was also involved in the character invasion day and his book History of the Future in 100 Objects made up part of the festival. I have to admit everytime I hear Adrian talk, he spurs a number of ideas and thought. Such a smart guy and plenty of interesting thoughts. My evernote was overflowing from the conversation with him.

Future Everything 2014

Anab Jain

I had not really come across Superflux but Anab delivered a stellar keynote in place of Anthony Dunne. Not only did she talk about the serious disconnect between what Snowden uncovered. But she also touched heavily on privacy, social compliance and the invisible war over autonomy. Not only a great keynote (which I can’t believe  was all last minute) but she also delivered a good fireside chat just like Adrian Hon did.

Future Everything 2014

New shape of things panel

I just got back from Future 2022 and caught the tail end of the new shapes panel. Its always impressive to see people you know very well talking on a panel. Dan W, Tom Armitage, Alexandra DS and Claire Red moderating. Wish I could have heard the whole thing but it was full of interesting discussion about the nature of the maker scene to the unnecessary maker projects going through kickstarter recently. It was certainly one of the better panels I’ve heard in a while.

Future Everything 2014

Liam Young

Liam’s talk was certainly interesting but the sync from the laptop caused the output to fail a lot and sometimes go out of sync.

Future everything had a lot of potential but for me didn’t quite pull through mainly because of my own hectic schedule. Must remember to give it more time in the future. Well worth attending and still very reasonably priced.

Dating, Lies and Algorithms the conference talk?

IMG_0928.JPG

Thayer is a wonderful woman and when she emailed me asking if I would talk at her conference, The Best of British. I thought for about 2mins before agreeing.

I’m going to do something to connect some of the thinking I’ve had about algorithms and dating. Into a unique one time talk. Never to be repeated I can say… Exclusive! So go support.

“Support you say?”

What makes this conference special is its going to be funded by kickstarter…. I know how crazy is that? Confirm speakers include…

    • Alice Taylor, MakieLab, London
    • Chris Thorpe, I Can Make, Oxford
    • Matthew Somerville, mySociety (& many other great things), Birmingham
    • Mazz Mosley, freelance technologist, previously a tech lead @ GDS, Leighton Buzzard
    • Ian Forrester, BBC R&D, Manchester
    • Dan Fairs, SecondSync, Bristol
    • Dr Tom Crick, Senior Lecturer in Computing Science, Cardiff Metropolitan University
    • Priya Prakash, Founder, Design for Social Change, London

 

Well Thayer is the Prime, so trust in her we do.

A waste of everyone’s time

Pre-Show Stage - 1

Martin Bryant’s post titled The art of saying nothing.

It’s a common problem; a high-profile speaker from a big-name firm takes to the stage and manages to say nothing new or interesting during the whole 20 minutes they’re on stage. Any challenging question about the company’s future plans or a controversial episode in its recent past is met with an “I’m not going to comment on that.”

It makes sense – especially for employees of public companies who don’t want to be responsible for a dive in stock price thanks to an unfortunate turn of phrase – but the watching audience is left with… nothing.

Why appear at all if you’re just going to reiterate your company’s mission or story that has been reported time and time again?

This may sound like the moan of a writer looking for stories, but conferences are a powerful opportunity for companies to get a message across. It’s not enough to simply turn up. Give us some news! If you can’t give us news, at least make sure that the person you send to speak on stage has an engaging story to tell.

I’m not a fan of it and frankly I’d rather choose to talk when I got something new to say and can talk somewhat freely. Nothing worst than having to stick solid to a script or not talk about the elephant in the room. Also not a fan of giving the same presentation again and again, I like tweak and change it for the audience.

The opportunity to talk shouldn’t be taken lightly even after years. Its a chance to touch hearts and minds, find collaborators and understand better ways of telling your story.

If your not… your wasting everyones time.

See your self in Quantified Self Europe

I had the pleasure of attending the Quantified Self Europe conference in Amsterdam. It was part of my idea to head towards conferences which are less mainstream and more edgy. Nothing wrong with the mainstream, but I love the idea of finding something quite raw.

The Quantified self I have been tracking for quite sometime and I now I got to realise all those self tracking things I do are just part of my lifestyle.

The conference was more of a unconference with up to 14 tracks running in parallel at some point. There are keynotes and sessions which are attended by everyone but most of the time your walking between sessions and talking to people.

As usual here’s my highlights from the conference…

Your Life Log my privacy

Life logging…

There was lots of talk about lifelogging or photologging. Although not quantifiable as such it came up  in discussions around the Google Glass project. The discussions were centred around the privacy issues of lifelogging using not only google glass. 5 people had been given lifelogging devices and had been walking around the conference for a day or so. They then showed the results on the big screen. The ethics and norms were discussed. Witney talked about being conscious of the device taking pictures and shifting her angle when talking to someone to avoid taking clos up pictures. I described my experience of being audio blogged at Future Everything and how it felt like loosing a sense after it was gone. The same was true of the lifeloggers. Somewhere in the discussion Glass came up again and again. People seemed to feel it would work because the norm when not using it is simply to put the glasses on the top of your head. Simple and elegant way of saying you have my full attention and I’m not logging this.

Interesting points… Photos created by them are not as such images but rather data. From the day, 4% were good images, 40% were too dark and blury and 56% were only useful for data.

Relationship logging

Mood and the yet unquantifiable

There was a clear move to towards the yet unquantified. Mood, emotion, context, relationships, sleep tracking, meme, dreamtracking, mindhacking, etc. One of my favourites was relationship tracking by Fabio Ricardo.

Fabio tracks who he’s talking to, when, where and about what in a series of handwritten note books. The data is quite simple but there is so much of it, it makes for some great insight into conversations and relationships which change over time. Of course I have alot of interest in relationship data but more from a different angle. Had a real good chat with Fabio about his findings and possibilities.

It was also good to see Snoozon also talking as they are working with Lucidpedia who are my choice for mydreamscape. If I can get them to do one thing correctly, that would be the way dream data is entered. Actually I found this app which does a much better job.

Food tracking

Food Tracking

There were a number of talks about food tracking for fitness and enjoyment. The problem is putting in that data so it can be quantified. There is a social pressure involved with taking pictures of food. On one half its good because your sharing and the act of doing so really helps the tracker. For example loosing weight through the fact of documenting. However standing up in a restaurant to take a picture of your food is still generally socially painful. Whats interesting however is all the meta stuff around the photo. The table cloth, the angle, who is with you, where, etc. Taking pictures of what your drinking is very boring unless its cocktails (and Rain did suggest I should take do some cocktail tracking)

But the hardest thing is still how you work out the calories, how healthy the contents is, etc. On top of that we have no idea the overall effect on the tracker. This is all tied deeply into health tracking which was a big theme but isn’t so important to my work.

Visualising data with Rain

Alternative uses for Microdata

I was happy to see big data discussed and talked about at length. But it was even better to see personal tracked data included in that category. I have always stood by the idea of personal tracked data as microdata of big data. But interestingly there was lots of talk about the tracking side (tons on sensors) of the quantified self and not much thought about the after effects.

Generally the data was being used for self analysis or to visualise. Rainycat talked about visualising the data using clothes to demonstrate the data.

Quantified Self Europe 2013

Of course my big thing was Perceptive Media and in fact when I kind of hijacked a Fujitsu Labs presentation. The questions and feedback was a lot better than I first feared it would be. Using microdata to drive and alter media seemed of interest to the people in the room, although there was lots of questions about how?

There was so much more to the quantified self conference, I haven’t touched the crazy amount of sensors and there getting so small. One thing which got me very excited was http://funf.org.

The Funf Open Sensing Framework is an extensible sensing and data processing framework for mobile devices, supported and maintained by Behavio. The core concept is to provide an open source, reusable set of functionalities, enabling the collection, uploading, and configuration of a wide range of data signals accessible via mobile phones.

It doesn’t take a lot to imagine the possibilities for prototyping perceptive media projects using Funf…

The whole conference was made of such great diversity of views and opinions, and I was blown away by the mixed of people.

The missing trackers

Who’s missing from the Quantified Self?

However the session which I missed all of but the last 10mins was, the missing trackers by Witney. Looking at the notes it was a very interesting discussion about the ethics of self tracking and sharing. When I joined later it had turned into a debate about identity and how to put forward the Quantified self in the best light. There seems to be a split of view of how to best promote the Quantified Self movement. Is it best done through the numbers and hard data or through the stories and experiences.

I chimed in with the answer being the stories and experiences, data will loose most people while a good narrative will always attract and inspire people.

Quantified Self Europe 2013

We all Track…

To be honest by the end of the conference I was amazed at the amount of things (media, food, steps, work) I track had not really thought about before. Thinking next year I could confidently give a talk about an element of self tracking, although I’d prefer to come back with some Perceptive Media demos.

I was also interviewed at the conference as you can see at the top of the post. I think it went rather well, except half eaten through an apple and really wanting some water. I did have a shock in the morning when coming down to breakfast. One of the ladies behind the reception said they had heard me on the local radio station. Turns out the local station watch the local hashtags top10 and found the interview and decided to use it. I won’t touch on the licence terms but its good to hear Perceptive Media went out to most of Amsterdam.

The whole movement can seem a bit like a low key cult with people talking about self improvement through data. But I felt welcomed and there’s plenty of rational arguments back and forth. People were open and happy to stop and talk about there self tracking projects or ideas to improve self tracking.

I went away inspired enough to setup a Manchester Quantified Self group, so look out for more details about that real soon.

This movement is certainly on its way up and out to the mainstreamsee you next year?

Talking at Thinking Digital 2013

Ian Forrester, Show and Tell

3 years ago I was meant to stand up at Thinking Digital and call an end to BBC Backstage, although I bet my reasoning wouldn’t be so well reasoned back then due to the obvious. A year before that I had the honour of speaking at Thinking Digital the next generation (a one day event aimed at young people of school age to twenties) and just after that hosting the makers workshop/panel. But having been at Thinking Digital right from the start, I had made talking on stage at Thinking Digital one of my aspiration in life.

Now I’m sooooo excited to announce I will be talking at Thinking Digital about one of my favourite subjects right now – Perceptive Media.

I will be sharing the slot with Adrian who will talk about BBC Connected Studio, like a phoenix rising from the end of BBC Backstage and BBC Innovation Labs.

I have been planning a different type of presentation from my usual one I did everywhere last year.

Expect short sharp and pretty intense… On top of that I’ll be showing something which we believe is a worlds first.

Yes your not going to want to miss this years, Thinking Digital conference

Annotating Thinking Digital my forthoughts and aftermath

My experiments/hacking with the kindle has lead me to this point.

I’m on my way to thinking digital in Gateshead/Newcastle and with the kindle in my jacket pocket and I’m wondering how this whole thing would work. It seems likely that Amazon never really intended for there software to be used in this way and so there will be a massive delay in sharing notes during a conference. But in actual fact, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

When I though about using the kindle for notes, I didn’t want some sudo realtime thing. There’s already plenty of those type of systems. In actual fact just being able to write my own short notes and then share them was good enough. But if I can make some of those notes sharable then even better. Of course if someone else wants to share there notes with me, then cool beans but when I tend to write notes, they tend to only really make sense to the mind of a dyslexic designer/developer (oh thats me).

I guess part of the experiment is working out if;

  1. Is it possible to share notes in a conference setting
  2. How long are the updates between writing it, etc?
  3. How is the kindle going to separate private notes from public notes?
  4. Does it make sense in a conference like thinking digital?

Continue reading “Annotating Thinking Digital my forthoughts and aftermath”

Thinking Digital conference Kindle test1

Thinking Digital Conference Schedule on a Kindle

For those who have been interested in my kindle hacking/project. I’m happy to say the Thinking Digital conference schedule is now up on the Amazon Kindle store.

I might need to do some tweaking and yes it doesn’t look the best but remember it is a hack test and we can clean up the schedule next time for sure.

The first thing you will notice is the schedule actually costs money to download. £0.70 in the UK. The reason for this was down to Amazon. They charge a minimum fee of £0.99 to store and share the book over Amazon’s Whispernet. Although I think this is a bit of a rip off, specially because thinking digital already have a PDF version which they host on there own site, its not bad if this experiment does actually work. And heck, conference organizers could use it to make a little extra too I guess.

The Tweet URLs now seem to resolve to the book ok, which is a promising sign that my conclusions are actually correct.

So next step is to tell Herb Kim about the ebook and add notes next week at Thinking Digital. Hopefully I can pursued a couple of people to add notes too, so we can test the collaborative feature out. If you want to be part of that test, give me a shout… It should work on any device which runs the Kindle software.

A new/different way to collaborate at conferences

Future Everything notes on my kindle

Been thinking for a while about the way I take notes…

I tend to write down short lines of text which tend to make sense to myself only, but I’ve been thinking for a while do I really need my laptop to take notes? Specially since my main laptop battery fails after about 5mins of use (my own fault for buying it cheap on ebay I guess) and my backup battery lasts 20mins maximum.

Here’s my options I’ve been thinking…

  • Use my laptop, bite the bullet and buy yet another laptop, then use Evernote or Tomboynotes
  • Leave my laptop at home, rely on my Android phone. Maybe even buy a spare battery, so I can run it at full power (wifi, bluetooth, etc) all day
  • Leave my laptop at home, rely on my Android phone and work out how to use my bluetooth keyboard with Android. Still need to think about battery however
  • Use my Kindle, which has pretty much endless battery battery and a physical keyboard

Of course I used my Kindle

Kindle powered

The thought was Amazon added a feature which allows you to add notes to a ebook and share it with other people using the Kindle or Kindle reader. The notes are accessible on the web but theres a problem. The problem is Amazon notes only really work as expected with documents on the Kindle store. This means although I am able to add notes to a PDF of the Future Everything conference. First its a bit crap because its a PDF and secondarily I can’t share the notes publicly very easily (its worth noting Calibre does allow you to pull the notes off the Kindle).

Generally the keyboard on the Kindle is ok, nothing compared to my bluetooth keyboard but slightly better that the onscreen keyboard on my phone. The symbols option is a pain but because I’m writing rough notes, it doesn’t matter so much.

Future Everything notes on my kindle

I also had a little bit of a panic when it seemed like most of my notes had gone. But it seems to be a way the Kindle shows the notes. In the end I was able to bring them all back (well they hadn’t actually gone anywhere). I was writing one set of notes per speaker but you can do more, making it possible to tweet/share the notes too which I might do more of next time.

In the picture above you can just about see the little numbers which are the different notes. The Kindle software assigns a number but it might do something different

So where from now…?

Well the Thinking Digital Conference is in less that two weeks, so I’m gearing up for doing the same with this wonderful conference but…

  1. I’m going to get the conference schedule in a non-PDF format from Herb Kim
  2. I’m going to try and get the schedule posted on Amazon’s Kindle Store, so when I share the notes. The actual document will be partly available instead of the usual message about it being a personal document.

If this works well, I’ll try collaborate editing with someone else in future but also if this does actually work, it will be a really nice way to collaboratively edit notes at a conference and I can certainly see it taking off in the future. Specially if as I suspect you can annotate and collaborate on notes on many different platforms and devices together.

I’m surprised no one else has thought about doing the same really, or maybe its just not possible?

Going to Fosdem 2010

I'm going to FOSDEM, the Free and Open Source Software Developers' European Meeting

I’m booked to go to my first Fosdem. Got the train from Manchester to Brussels return for 140 pounds but the hotel (Hotel Centrale) was quite a bit more but right next to the main station and Parc de Bruxelles. Never been to Brussels before, so on either side of Fosdem, I’ve decided to take some time off and have a wonder around the city.

The Fosdem conference seems to be shaping up into a good event too. Here’s a few of the talks I’ll be checking out.

I do wish there was some guys from XBMC and the Apache Cocoon project coming along, but hey I’m sure between the Mozilia, XMPP, OpenOffice and Ubuntu guys there will be lots of fun.