The #Futr of everything 2012

I was privileged to attend the Future Everything 2012 Festival this year. At the conference, there was really great talks and the line up was full of twists and turns. The best talks I’ve blogged about here, but its worth noting most of them were good.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir is a member of parliament of Althing, the Icelandic parliament, formerly representing the Citizens’ Movement, but now representing The Movement.

I didn’t actually see Birgitta talk but I was standing outside watching the #futr twitter feed. The discourse was fascinating as it seemed to blow up like a timed bomb. There was some pretty radical things been said and to be honest everyone was loving it. Certainly wish I had forced my way through the bodies and the heat into that keynote talk. Likewise I would have liked to have seen the Cooperative talk and Rufus Pollock as I’ve not seen him talk for the good part of a decade! Although it was great to have Rufus say hi as he did remember me even after all those years…

Interestingly there was quite a bit of corridor chatter about the changes in politics from the likes Loz Kaye who stood for the pirate party uk with my ex-flatmate (tim) and maria in the recent Manchester local elections. Theres a real feeling things are for the better.

Rohan Gunatillake

Rohan Gunatillake presents one of the most original talks you are likely to see this year – on how people are using technology to reinvent Buddhism. Rohan was recently named in Wired Magazine’s The Smart List 2012: 50 People Who Will Change The World.

Conservative, dogmatic and authoritarian… religion is the final frontier for innovation. And even though Buddhism has been the world religion most comfortable with evolving into each new culture it meets, it too is struggling to be of service and maintain its integrity in the face of the rapid changes of digital culture.

Not realising, I already knew Rohan from previous meetings while in London, it was great to go out to dinner with him later that day and have a good old natter in the Northern Quarter restaurant

When I first heard about the talk I was rightly skeptical, but what it boiled down to a talk about wellbeing, health and spiritualism of modern digital life. What got me was when Rohan pointed out if you turn off your phone, its not actually off. Theres still this space in the mind which thinks about what calls, texts, tweets, etc you might missing. And thats where he got me. Notifications and distrations is already something I’ve written about and why I love Gnome shell (although I made changes to make it more operating system like – couldn’t live without seeing how much battery life I have in minutes for example).

Anyway back to Rohan, his app buddhifiy is miss leading and like the start of his talk, I was a little put off being a non-believer but by the end there was enough good stuff for anyone to take away. I would love to get Rohan and Bobby together at some point. Bobby can learn a lot from Rohan about light touch apps and Rohan a lot about wellbeing.

Patrick Bergel

Animal Systems is a creative technology company. Their inspiration comes from nature – studying biological and social phenomena from an information-theoretic standpoint. They also build practical, accessible, large-scale applications, including a new platform to network many devices. At FutureEverything they demonstrate their system, explore the pre-history of computing and answer some important questions: for example, is a butterfly a barcode?

This talk was more interesting from a R&D point of view. The idea of using bird like chirps for machines to talk was actually quite interesting. Patrick even suggested it could be a way for the internet of things to communicate like how birds do. There was quite a lot questions about the secure nature of the communication to which patrick said, its wholy insecure but they might have ways to do security alongside the chirps. was only one of the things they had come up with and he kept making references to how unique butterflies. I think looking at nature for answers to some of our more complex problems makes a lot of sense and Patrick and Animal systems might be someone to watch carefully in the future.

Identity and Privacy Panal

They tell us to share. To share information and data, to share personal thoughts and insights, our opinions and ambitions. By sharing we circumvent the digital barrier and reappear on the inside as one of those in the know. We share to such an extent that we are all co-contributors of an encyclopaedic data-cloud of unimaginable proportions.

We like to believe that this digital tome is protected in some way. That entries are kept safe and more to the point private. But it isn’t, quite the opposite. Now, more so than ever before in the digital age, we are at risk from attack. So how is it now that we are supposed to stay safe online and are we foolish to believe we can continue living, working and sharing in an open digital existence?

The Identity and Security panel was decent with a bunch of experts pushing systems which had a more friendly face than things I’ve seen in the past.  There was a emphases that we’re skating on thin ice and it won’t be long before However nothing will beat TedXBradford where the air was literally sucked out of the room by the last speaker – Paul Rogers.

Net Neutrality Panal

Likewise the panels about producing a living and net neutrality were also interesting and somewhat noteworthy

Catalyst from Lancaster University was interesting for introducing everyday people to new technologies. In actual fact what i found interesting was the notion of making people consider there geeky side and join the much talked about classes of the hackers. Fitted well with my thoughts around the internet of things, diybio and producing a living, etc. Tools of change was the strap-line and the speaker Juliana Rotich was a perfect compliment to the whole project.

Juliana Rotich

Juliana is originally from Kenya where she spent her early life and schooling. She later moved to the US where she majored in IT and has worked in the industry for over ten years. She was named in the Guardian’s Top 100 Women in Technology in 2011.

She collaborated with the online community and co-founded Ushahidi, the Swahili word for testimony. Ushahidi is a web-based reporting system that utilises crowd-sourced data to formulate visual map information of a crisis on a real-time basis. In Kenya it was used to map out incidents of violence.

Ushahidi then grew to be an open source platform that has been used in various situations such as the Haiti and Chile earthquakes, the Palestine conflict crisis, and the heavy snow crisis in Washington. As a Program Director she manages projects and aids in the development and testing of the Ushahidi platform.

I was also lucky enough to go to dinner with her along with Rohan in the Northern Quarter one night which was great, didn’t quite get a chance to talk as much as I would have liked but there were so many great people at the table and not enough time.

Bilal Randeree

One of the people around the table also was Bilal Randeree who was from Al Jazeera.

Bilal Randeree is Social Media and Online Producer for Al Jazeera English (AJE) based in Doha, Qatar. He works in the newsroom, using online tools and platforms for news-gathering stories from around the world.

He will be talking extensively about the Arab Spring and the role Al Jazeera played in documenting those events. He will also be looking forward into 2012, predicting what he hopes to see and what he envisages will actually happen both socially and politically in the Arab world.

Very good talk and reminder of the power of the stuff most of us are simply playing with right now.

Social Broadcasting panal

Chris Jackson from Metabroadcast address the key arguments for expanding content delivery to new media platforms, and look at ways to bring online properties into more traditional broadcast formats.

In the Social broadcasting panel I dropped in a few hints at perceptive media, saying we can stop thinking about broadcasting being from glass to glass. It was good seeing Metabroadcast as I’ve not seen them in a while. Certainly need to make the effort to see them and talk perceptive media once I’m in London again (which looks to be the week of the 11th June by the way)

Farida Vis

Farida Vis certainly got me thinking in regards my interest in data and algorithms.

Farida has recently developed an interest in open data and data driven journalism and some of this work (on the future of allotments in the UK) has been published on The Guardian Data Blog and elsewhere in the mainstream media. She is the co-author of the Data Journalism Handbook.

I remember tweeting something  about my interest in dating data and learning more about the habits of people. Heck I started thinking maybe I should do a PhD in online dating… So much to say and discover with all that dark undiscovered linked data!

Carlo Ratti

Carlo Ratti from MIT was wonderful as you’d expect. Sensing cities is a amazing project and has many things to say about sensing people in the home. It was a excellent end to a really good conference. Lots to take away…

The wireless for the conference was pretty ropey on the first few days but it became solid on the last day. I used my Samsung Tablet  to do most of my communications, deciding not to bring my laptop at all. Might do the same for Thinking Digital in a week, however its such a shame because the new battery last 7-8hours without turning off most things. Seems a real waste…

On Saturday I attended Larkin About’s Future Everything play day. Interestingly it was on the same time as Blast Theory’s I’d hide you which is a shame because I would have liked to have given it ago. Although people did look a little crazy running up and down the northern quarter wearing strange gear and a camera.

The Saturday afternoon and evening games were really interesting, but the one which stood out for me was 7 candles.

7:Candles is played in the streets surrounding Contact and across Twitter. A photo-based treasure hunt involving teamwork, candles and interpretative tasks.

Ok yes our team won, but it was a really interesting game and there was some great interaction over twitter. Also reminded me of parts of we dream the city.

What happened to Dj Hackday?

On the cusp of BarCampMediaCity (next weekend) I’m trying to think about all the things which follow on afterwards.

One of the events coming along in the next 2 months is the Mozilla Media Festival which use to be the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival.

Things are still being sorted out but they got a great team of people including Michelle ThorneAlexandra Deschamps-Sonsino and Arran Ross-Paterson. Its happening in my old college Ravensbourne which moved to North Greenwich a few years ago.

I’m hoping to pull together a great team group of people from different companies to be involved in our dj hack challenge.

As mentioned before the best hacks, ideas, etc will go forward into use during the Future Everything 2012 festival.

I’ve emailed quite a few people with this rough description of the challenge and a link to my related presentation

Audio and Music making has gone a revolution, things like Ableton Live and Live Looping has brought new ways to create music. But Dj culture is still focused on 2 decks and a mixer. Next-generation DJ kit has not taken advantage of innovations in music making and has become stagnant. Dj culture has always been forward thinking, but has stalled in the internet era.

So far I’ve convinced, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, RjDj, etc to be involved… But what I’d really like is some more software and hardware makers.

I got talking to Dave a while ago and thought wouldn’t it be cool if we could get the guys behind Free and Open Mixxx software to come along. Of course Ableton would be a natural fit too. Both I’ve contacted… I’ve yet to contact Native Instruments, Virtual Dj, Serato, etc. Hardware wise it would be great to have Vestax, Pioneer, Technics, Numark, etc involved.

There’s also a thought about setting a VJ challenge to go along with the Dj challenge, but thats just thinking out loud via the guys at Future Everything.

Of course if you can help with any of these companies, please drop me a comment or email… Once BarCampMediaCity is over, I’ll be all over this challenge.

Future Everything: If you don’t design the future someone else will…

The Future Everything conference was great this year… The line up was a mixed bag of speakers, which kept me guessing…

As mentioned in the post before, I took notes on my kindle. Here are the ones I highly recommend

Our global urban future

No picture but a great talk about.

The ‘internet of things’, refers to the technical and cultural shift as society moves to a 24/7 form of computing in which every device is ‘always on’, and every device is connected in some way to the internet. However, many versions of this notion rely upon one significant premise: that the thing remains in existence.

Future Everything

Our global urban future

Cities are often said to be humanity’s greatest creation.  It is in cities that most wealth is created and destroyed and it is from cities that most human creations and social innovations flow.

This presentation was a excellent look at our future in a world of cities. Its weird that even with all the disadvantages of living close together, nature tends to prefer cooperative emergent properties. Two examples which were given was the Ant hill and the Beehive. Interestingly productivity decreases with colony size but somehow it works, in actual fact as a city doubles its economic productivity per capita increases by 15%. Jane Jacobs was bounded about quite a bit, with the notion that cities simply amplify interaction including the 16% increase in violent crime.

But Revolutions always happen in cities because groups of people expect better. Finally there was lots to think about in regards to the general speed of cities. Its almost like the gravitational effect of larger objects on smaller objects. There’s more to do and see, so it feels like things are much quicker.

Really got me thinking how I can’t really imagine living anywhere else.

Robots, Editors, Strangers & Friends

Robots, Editors, Strangers & Friends

Meg Pickard and Dan Catt explore some of the ways that attention and social patterns influence the way we discover, consume and curate content online.

Its so strange, I’ve never formally met Meg Pickard but have occupied the same space virtually and physically many times. Her and Dan ran through a bunch of thoughts which although not new to me, kind of crystallised a lot of them.


  • Editors bring the authority
  • Friends bring the relevance
  • Robots bring the interestingness
  • Strangers bring the serendipity

However there was lots of discussion about gaming these patterns. All very interesting, specially with the context that Dan Catt use to work on Flickr.

New Games For New Cities

New Games For New Cities

Against the background hum of continuous technological change, contemporary urban life has undergone lasting and undeniable changes. Our views on public space, civic engagement and what it means to live well in a city have changed accordingly. Various types of organizations seek to influence urban life for the good of society, for their own interest or a combination of both. At the same time, games and play have started to break out of the traditional frame of the video screen. On the one hand, this has given us all kinds of interesting experiments in pervasive, urban and alternate reality gaming. On the other hand, more recently, it has given rise to a program of playful persuasive technology now commonly know as gamification.

Kars started his presentation with the simple question. Should kids grow up with Lego or Starwars figures? The point was about constructive vs surface play. The point was about open ended play, and was played out through out his talk. He felt unplanned playtime for us all was becoming less and less, it was time to return to the Adventure playground.

And I got to agree… Actually my question was about the bunch of skateboarders who use the steps near my flat as a place to challenge each other. Some people really hate them being there although they never actually interfere with people walking by. ISIS also stuck up signs saying no skateboarding which of course hasn’t stopped them. There simply taking advantage of the constructs of our cities, just like the rise of free running. Unscripted play makes our cities fun and a joy to be in, maybe our cities and lives are too structured right now? Serendipity is fun.

Kars called Gamification motivated play and he’s not actually wrong. Its certainly a canny observation which I hadn’t actually thought about before. There’s certainly a rush to inject gamification into almost anything recently. The warning was against shallow play like coke points. Ending with the point I’ve heard many times…

You do not play a gamificated system it plays you…

Where The Robots Work

Where the robots work

For centuries we’ve built our cities around ourselves, and our needs. As our prosthetics have advanced, they’ve shifted according to the needs of automobiles and electricity, but we have remained at the centre. Now, the city is reconfiguring itself around the network in subtle and intriguing ways.

James did a great job explaining how we’ve build places where the robots work. He started off with a picture of a robot jockey and how it was used to replace small children riding on camel’s backs. And somewhere got on how Amazon’s warehouses are optimised for robots over people and how the roumba and neato cleaning robots are like inviting a alien into your living room.


Leave no-one behind

Bill will provide a unique coda to the 2011 edition of FutureEverything, reflecting on the themes explored throughout the conference as well as his own perspectives on areas of the future that hold promise. 

We are increasingly establishing a culture where information has become the modern era’s defining quality. As humanity’s transactions are increasingly articulated and mediated in digital forms, what becomes of those that lack the access or literacy to participate in those transactions? Indeed, is such a civilisation a better civilisation?

Bill Thompson’s "keynote like" presentation was fantastic. He talked about the revolution of tools. Tools that fundamentally change us, change the way we perceive our reality. There was a revolution through literacy century’s ago and it fundamentally changed the way our brains work.

Its hard to do it much justice in written form but I was literally punching the sky inside my mind while he spoke out to the slightly skeptical crowd. I kind of wished it was recorded…

He ended the presentation with a slide saying "if you don’t design the future someone else will…"

The point was Digital Culture is now the dominate culture now. "We won! Digital Culture won…" Thinking digitally is fundamental and analogue thinking is on its way out, like it or not.

A strangely inspiring and excellent talk…

Continue readingFuture Everything: If you don’t design the future someone else will…

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?