AfroTech plenary poem read by Nikky Norton Shafau

Really enjoyed Afrotech festival and I really enjoyed Nikky’s poem at the end of the festival. Its always interesting to hear which bits are picked up on twitter, in blogs and if you are lucky in poetry. So cleverly pieced together and made into a

As you can somewhat annotate on soundcloud, I added links to my slides mentioned in Nikky’s poem.

Nikky also recorded a bunch of interesting interviews with people like myself during the 2 days of the festival. Well worth listening to for some interesting insights.

Afrotech Fest 2018 keynote: Diversity and the joy of being different

Ian Forrester at Afrotech 2018

The slides are now public on google drive (unusual but I do tend to create and edit them on google slides to be honest) and of course in the usual place of my slideshare presentaion. Its a long one but I could do it with all the videos a tad over 30mins.

They are thought provoking and full of references to some excellent research worth reading and digesting.

Massive thanks to the organisers and the audience for bearing with me through the keynote of 106 slides…

Continue reading “Afrotech Fest 2018 keynote: Diversity and the joy of being different”

Talking at Afrotech festival 26th Jan 2018

Afrotech Fest 2018Afrotech fest 2018I haven’t been blogging much recently, mainly because I am writing 3 different presentations. My first big one is for the Afrotech festival, which I have the absolute joy of keynoting at on Friday 26th Jan. I spoke at a much small one in Manchester awhile ago and you can see the presentation here.

When Florence asked me to talk, I jumped at the opportunity and its turning out to be quite a festival. Love the fact its being arranged by 6 amazing black women too.

The festival is a response to the underrepresentation of black people in the technology industry – especially those who are marginalised in additional ways – as well as tech conferences and festivals being too expensive for many to attend. We want to create a festival that is intentionally diverse and inclusive of those often excluded.

We look forward to welcoming you, whatever your age, gender, class or ability. Whether you’ve never written a line of code or regularly contribute to a huge project, Afrotech Fest is for you.

Tickets are available now, if you are in London end of this month (Jan 2018). Get yourself down to Richmix to discuss and see the future.

If you think this is just for the blacks.

We welcome people of all races, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds to attend Afrotech Fest.

So no excuses!

Why I became #Mozfest decentralization spacewrangler?

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Back in October I was again a spacewrangler for Mozfest. I haven’t had a proper chance to write-up the experience since I was going from one place to another. Unlike previous years as a spacewrangler, Mozilla themed the festival around the internet health report issues.

Originally during Mozretreat in Tallinn, I was going to spacewrangle the privacy & security space but during the workshops decided that decentralisation was under represented. Under represented as its always seen as technical, too difficult a problem or in the realm of who cares?

Decentralization in Mozretreat
An internet controlled by many, no one actor can own it, control it or turn it off

In the discussions in Tallinn it was clear the root of the issue is Power! Its what lives deep under the data ethics, hence why I keep mentioning data portability (the ability to own and not be reliant on one system/service)

…power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely – Sir John Dalberg-Acton

Big centralised power tends to lead towards corruption. A good example of this is the dating industry which is centralised and treats its customers like cattle. There is something about these centralised services which cuts people off from each other, hence everything is mediated through the centralised server. Of course they would claim its to protect the users, which is certainly partly true (based on the amount of women’s profiles which say please no pix of your parts) but thats not the only thing they do…

So with all this in mind, I switched from privacy and security which had enough momentum; to decentralised with a Z; poor Erika had to hear me joke/moan about it everytime (thanks Erika for being such a sport).

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

The timeline from the Mozretreat to Mozfest is pretty aggressive, and with just me and Viki working on the whole decentralised space at the time. It became clear we needed to have more people. In past Mozfests, its been a team effort of Jon, Michelle, Michael, etc. However earlier in the year Jon told me he wasn’t spacerangling this year. Jasmine had stepped back from spacerangling last year anyway, so I thought long and hard about what people would be ideal. This was all during working out the call for participation. I asked a few other people and luckily 3 out of the 5 people I asked agreed. The wrangler team now included Tim and Jon from BBC R&D, then Mark joined a bit later.

Organisation of time and space

It wasn’t easy as everyone was super busy but we made it work using lots of google docs/sheets, github, google hangout, skype, trello, etc. As I was the most experienced there was a lot of weight on my shoulders but by the time we started getting proposals in, things felt better. After the call closed, we read every single one rated and ranked them all. First cut was the travel stipend ones then the others afterwards. There was something strange that the quality of the proposals seemed to better in the middle of the call. The late & early ones seemed less thoughtful.

The wall of mozfest issues in the decentralisation space
The wall of mozfest issues in the decentralisation space

The months moved on and we slowly cut the list down to 44 proposals. By September there was a lot of logistics work including working out where everything was going to fit (we had selected far too much). We ended up with 3 talk (learning) spaces, 2 workshop (shed) spaces and 1 gallery space; 6 things happening in parallel just in the decentralised space alone. It was going to be tricky but I thought we can manage it with 5 spacewranglers. Unfortunately Viki couldn’t make it but at the last minute Jon convinced 2 trainees from BBC R&D (Kristine & Kristian) to join us, without them it would have been near impossible, very thankful for their help and stepping in at the last minute. If there wasn’t enough challenges, our commissioned artist (Archana Prasad) also ended up not coming from India due to illness. This made us scramble a little to come up with an overall theme to fit, which was the one thing which I knew we didn’t do such a great job on as previous years (the library) & (ethical dilemma cafe)

#Mozhouse (Royal Society of Arts)

Philo talking at Mozhouse

Mozfest this year tried something quite different from previous years. Instead of the weekend festival in Ravensbourne alone, they hosted a week long of events at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA). The events were very varied and the space was opened as a co-working space all weekend. This seemed to be very fitting with the RSA’s own plans for a 21st century coffee house?

We ran our first community of practice event in London too, which was well attended and included colleagues from the object based media team.

Databox meet York Uni

I also attended a few other events including Mel’s slidedesign and the glassroom which I wrote about already, it was also a good time to arrange meetings with people including Nesta. Later in the week, spacewrangler duties increased meaning more time at Ravensbourne oppose to the Mozhouse, this means I could only attend the first part of the databox event. But I was able to capture the interchange between Nottingham Uni (Databox) and York Uni (OBM engine). The conversation at the table in Mozhouse will have big consequences for the living room project and more.

Mozhouse was a very good idea and I think with more events using up the space, it could really add something different to Mozfest.

#Mozfest 2017

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Mozfest is always something you are not totally sure will work but it always does. The space was tight but my gut reaction of the layout was just about right. We squeezed in 6 spaces and it wasn’t so bad, although talk space 3’s intimacy was a little lost sadly.

This year Mozilla used Slack to bring conversations with spacewranglers and session owners together, it kind of worked but there was some missed/dropped conversations between slack, github and emails. There was a discussion about Mozfest using the centralised Slack service oppose to decentralised systems like matrix and mattermost, but it was a matter of practicality at the time. Maybe next year Matrix could be be the host? Sure Matrix must have a feature some serious dataportability features.

The reason why I mention Matrix, is I was seriously impressed with the Matrix people. They really got the while Mozfest thing and setup Matrix node (a mini PC) over the course of the festival weekend. It ran for most of the weekend and was perfectly timed for their session. As it was federated, when the PC did hit a problem, the other Matrix servers took on the processing instantly.

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

As always I never get the time to wonder around the other spaces due to spacewrangling in one zone. But I did get to see a few other things including the Privacy & Security space (they shared the floor with us), Unbox space and tiny rolling IOT home.

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Some of the highlights included when Storj labs failed to turn up and having to announce to a busy audience of people this fact. I said people could leave as the session facilitator was no where to be seen, or they could talk between themselves. Of course being Mozfest, the expert audience started talking and 40mins later they were still talking and Mich Baker had joined the conversation. This sums up the emergent nature of Mozfest, spacewranglers are simply constructing the environment for this all to happen.

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Another few sessions were cancelled including the much  wanted connected world of music, which I had planned straight after Kristian’s Smart Blockchain Indie Film Distribution, and the Internet Of Things. Another well attended interactive session with lots of questions and discussion asking the expert audience again instead of speaking at them. Very happy we were able to host the session as we seeked out using decentralised solutions on existing problems rather than just talking about the underlying technology.

Another good non-technical session I poked my head into but knew would be good when choosing it was the co-op talk. On the face of it some might ask whats that got to do with decentralisation? But it fitted the wider theme of power and distributed and federated power.

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Although we did have some sessions which were about the technology too. One example was host your data on the peer to peer web with Dat. I walked through the session a few times and was quite enjoying it and wish I could have attended the whole thing.

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Seeing a youth led session Introducting Code Club in the decentralised space, Mark talking to a very nervious Abhiram before his session Demystifying ethereum to build your own decentralized app (Ðapp) using blockchain, seeing people around a table wiring their own fibre hosted by Neharika.

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Let’s Keep Our Chat Local was the Matrix session and although waking back and forth, I caught enough to learn quite a bit about Matrix service. Earlier that week I had installed riot.im app on my Android tablet and through-out the week finally got myself on the server.

To prove the power of Matrix, they had already setup a bridge to the #decentralized slack channel and made it super easy to talk between the services. On top of all this, I saw audio/video messaging over matrix, something around VR and other very cool things. I took away the need to investigate more, and maybe consider using it for decentralised dating?

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Dating on the Open Web with Evan was good but I’ve gone into a lot of detail in a previous blog post. We needed more conversation, which is why I did a follow up on the Sunday.

Spacewrangling for Mozfest again was really good and maybe slightly less stressful except the unexpected surprises near the end. I think we got a real nice balance of topics through-out the decentralised spectrum. From general interest to deep rooted knowledge, everyone was catered for making decentralisation interesting to everyone. Next time, I would work harder on the theming because although the theming and navigation was mixed together, in retrospective we could have set this much earlier and included the likes of databox project into the experience. I was impressed with the diversity of speakers and audience. There was a deep fear we would end up with all white men and actively worked hard to make sure this wasn’t the case.

Party at #mozhouse

Party time

The night parties at Mozfest have always been great and the Saturday night one was good but I did prefer the creepy one in 2016, however I know immersive theatre isn’t everyone’s bag. The venue of Mozhouse/RSA was great and it would have been great to throw some more of the rooms open to others to do things like host a game of werewolf (for example).

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

We had hoped to secure someone from the decentralised space to play at Mozhouse but it didn’t happen. However on the Sunday night party, I did get to DJ on my pacemaker like previous earlier Mozfests. Unfortunately I didn’t record the mix but I can assure you  it was really good and got quite a few people dancing.

Thank you to all!

Mozfest 2017

I want to thank the wrangler team Viki, Jon T, Tim C, Mark B, Kristine and Kristian. Sarah A, Erika D, Marc, Emse, Dan R, Solana, Sam B, all the other spacewranglers, Ravensbourne’s staff including Claire, our decentralised sessions owners who did a excellent job through all the chaos.

The attitude and spirit of the session was higher than ever before. It might be the fact they could talk beforehand via Slack or something else? Even with the challenging emergent environment, imagine doing a large 50+ people session about digital colonialism with no chairs! This happened and we/they made it all work regardless.

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Lastly I’d like to thank the audience who attended this excellent festival and attended a lot of the decentralisation space. The engagement was higher than last year and rightly so, the work we put into getting a balanced set of talks worked out very well.

If it was just Mozfest, it would be great but add the glassroom exhibit and #Mozhouse and you got something much closer to the impressive festivals like TOA Berlin and SxSW. The extra days before the festival really elevated it beyond previous years and likely kept the festival base in London for the foreseeable future?

You can see the whole schedule on Guidebook and of course the proposals on Github.

 

Teretulemast klubisse: Estonia e-Residency

My Estonian e-residency ID
Its really mine, no matter what my thumb is hiding

Finally while in London, I got to pick up my e-residency pack.

It was a bit of rush to get to the Embassy of Estonia as they are are only open certain times of the day. But once I got there, answered a few questions with my passport, gave up a few fingerprints and waited a bit; I was presented with my pack which included the digital identity card, USB reader, instructions and secure pin and puk numbers.

USB reader for Digital ID card

It was pretty painless and the lady behind the glass was pleasant enough on a hot sticky day.

Of course because I’m using Ubuntu, it was never going to be as straight forward as plugging it in. In the FAQ’s theres instructions to get it working on Ubuntu.

digital id card in USB reader
Of course I hid the important info, but thats the card in the USB on my Dell XPS 13.

As it was late, I decided to do it tomorrow night, as I was tired even with the espresso I had late night.

Many people have asked what I’ll do with it now I got it?

Digital signing is certainly one of my things I’ll be doing more of. I have other plans to use it for authentication, as its backed by the state of Estonia. I’m still unsure what .ee domain I should buy too. Will I setup a bank account? We shall see… Its a very interesting time to have loose ties to the EU.

My Estonian e-residency has arrived

estonian e-residency conformation

A while ago I was in Tallinn and applied for the Estonian e-Residency as a result of what I heard and after deciding their was enough upsides to the residency.

Well Wednesday I got a email from the Estonian Embassy in London…

This is to confirm your digital identity card has arrived to the Estonian Embassy in London and is ready to be collected.

Excellent news… I hope to be picking it up sometime in June.

Barbican’s black mirror exhibit

Black Mirror s1 ep 2: 15 million Merits

Interesting news recently, that London Barbican will be opening a exhibit around Black mirror episode S1 ep2: 15 million merits

I’ll be personally interested to see how far down the perceptive media (or as I use to call it intrusive TV) route they go? Also be interested to see if they use the chance to educate the public about data ethics and the value of data like the science museum have done.

Futurefest 2016 took me by surprise

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I have known about Futurefest for years since the first one in Shoreditch town hall about 3 years ago. But was never able to attend due to clashes with the London Design festival which runs around the same time of the year. This time around there was enough time between them and not really being involved in LDF besides attending events, I had the pleasure of attending and presenting the work I’m pretty passionate about.

Having looked at the programme briefly online, I was very convinced this would be great use of my weekend, even so close after IBC 2016 and Mozilla Festival 2016. The variaty of talks was something you only really see at the better established conferences like Thinking Digital, and all for not a lot of money in my view.

I was pretty blown away by the gender split, I first thought it might be because I spent 6 days in a heavily male dominated IBC but I started to do a rough count in my head. It was 60/40 split towards female, amazing…

The first part of my day involved working with Victoria K to fix my presentation which had been converted over to Powerpoint with the usual weird and wonderful problems you get when moving between Libreoffice & Powerpoint. We straighten it out and embeded the videos. I could then relax and attend the sessions.

Unlike most conferences, the sessions were weirdly positioned, with some starting at times like 1505 and 1150, then they would run for 15, 30, 50mins. There was also no set time for lunch or breaks, you had to work it out yourself. This made networking less possible but I quite liked the idea of no formal lunch time as I tend to eat later than most.

My session was titled Data ethics in the time of perceptive media, and I almost missed the start of it due to talking in the speakers green room. Luckily Nesta’s Lydia found me chatting away and we made for the glass box room. Just enough time to mic up, drink some more coffee and sip some water.

I moved quickly through my 58 slides in less than 20mins (20 seconds a slide) giving more time to get Q&A from full packed in audience. I didn’t realise that the talk would be so popular but people told me they couldn’t get in and had to watch from the outside of the glass (sorry if you were not able to get in). The questions, I had already kind of prompted in the later end of the presentation but people got the idea BBC were doing everything to research how to stay trusted but also carve out the new opportunities in a very open way.

After the talk and Q&A, I had quite a few interesting conversations from people asking and enquiring into how deep we were research into the ethics of data? Of course I gave a massive big up to Rhia, Lianne, Maxine and other research scientists we have in BBC R&D. The discussion moved from personalised drama to personalised learning using perceptive media. Which is when I always link or mention the Psyteach Podcast episode 44Is Perceptive Media The Future Of Education?

The Futurefest really did surprise me, the line up was great on paper but I wasn’t sure if they were  able to pull off such a ambious schedule of talks. On paper it started to look like the festival of dangerious ideas which I have been a fan of. Mixing Love, work and play together really is a tricky combination to get right, but Futurefest/Nesta got it about right. No matter what some white man says, Futurefest was a well deserved glimpse of the future, especially after the male dominated experience of IBC.

Millennial was talked about a lot, I realise although I’m much too old to be claiming to be a millennial. I likely think like a millennial (if we are going to tag a generation in this way). This became clear in sessions Work beyond the workplace, Women will rule the world and Design your own life.

From my vast notes in a mindmap (would share but they only make sense to me), millennials charactistics include

  • Multiple things going on
  • More likely to do things they are passionate about
  • Blur work and play and enjoy it
  • Like to reinvent themselves

This doesn’t seem to uncommon to me, but to be fair the people I tend to surround myself with likely subscribe to a bits of these notions too.

The sessions which really stuck out for me were.

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Work beyond the workplace by Anjali Ramachandran

This talk started out with AI isn’t going to kill off our jobs and via Dan Lyons new book (I’m still gutted I missed him when he was in Manchester) Distrupted, we ended up reestablishing a new business culture. I had heard of Responsive.org but never really looked into it properly. Something to add to my task list. It all felt reminiscent of Blaze at Thinking Digital Newcastle 2014. I was hoping to catch Anjali about this.

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Design your own life

I really enjoyed this talk and quite enjoyed the nature of having the social space outside the main rooms in the open air. Its the kind of thing I enjoyed about BarCamps (sessions spaces in weird and wonderful places). Nesta’s set designer was doing a great job.

The talk by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, was deeply funny but also full of interesting points while flogging their book (which I did end up buying, but missed the opportunity to get it signed). The crux of the talk was using design methodology to design your own life. Research, prototype, evaulate and repeat. This is where some of the Millennial thinking popped up. They also described other traits which they saw as positive for designing your own life, a strong sense of curiosity and natrual intuition (something which I’m less and less of, sadly). They also dropped something they called dysfunction beliefs, which I’ve been refering to as old fashioned thinking in the past.

There was so much captured and said, I think I’m going to wait till I actually read the book. Shame I didn’t get it signed.

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Shifting identity

This was part of the theme Future love and I have to give credit to the whole theme, which was expressed in a adult and smart way. Sex and the office had Cindy on the big stage and was great, but shifting idenity really pushed things into a new terriory.

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Gender fludity is a area few people talk about and I was exteremely proud to witness Bill Thompson,  chair a tricky subject in such a playful way which made everybody feel at ease.

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The very idea of male & female was kind of torn up, as Bill suggested was the promise of the early days of cyberspace. Everybody on the panel talked about gender on a spectrum, being the new normal. Interestingly a woman, who was born legally a boy talked about the external desire to be extremely feminine. As she said, you could switch gender but don’t you dare float in the middle!

Changing people’s world view was dropped in by one of the panelist, along with be a roll model, communication through demonstration and of course tollerence. Pretty sure it was Cindy who said “look in who you are, that’s the only way to know who you are.” I totally agree, which reminds me of… Of course, this is extremely difficult or potentially dangerious for some people in some places (sadly).

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Very fitting end to a incredible panel in most other conferences but certainly contender for the best panel from Futurefest. I glad I missed out on hearing Brian Eno for this panel, it was so worth it.

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Love as risk

Frank Furedi deserves a mention because his understated talk seemed to hit all the right buttons. Once again I was franicily mindmapping. My ears really picked up when early in the talk he mentioned “Women who love too much.” A certain friend (they know who they are) has recommended it to me but I’ve never read it. (Keep meaning to dust off my kindle library card option).

Frank slowly deconstructed how we want/have turned love into something safe, predictable and machine like. We want certainly but love is a risk, as Frank says “love is meant to be dangerous, its a risk

I asked Frank the question myself, Simon, Jane and Anna had talked about a month or so earlier. Frank was quick to add more and point out we have rengated love to a transaction. His most powerful example was partner over lover. There was also mentioned about Japanese sex lives (video).

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Women will rule!

This is when I first saw the debate platform and what a debate to have on it. It was Cindy who mentioned how training data wasn’t diverse and ended up killing women and children. Weirdly enough I heard a whole podcast from 99 percent invisible about the problem with averages. She also made it super clear as the host, this isn’t about women per-say, but rather diversity and it starts with young women.

I found Cindy extremely powerful as a host and she really got things moving with quotes like “History is white washed by white men” and “Old pastie men

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I can imagine how alienating this might all sound to white men. But frankly the time for tip toeing around the subject has gone and passed. The woman from the apprentice, Melody Hossaini got a bit of a backlash for trying to fit in to the systems rather than fix or reinvent them. Especially around the idea of quotas in jobs. Bridget Minamore was right on the button with her passionate rebutal of Melody’s thoughts on quotas.

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The debate was good but just as it heated up, time was up. I would have paid to see more of this debate.

Other sessions worthy of note included Cindy’s only provocative talk from the Explore stage. I’ve said far too much about Cindy in this blog and the previous oneprevious one, but she had such an amazing influence.

BBC’s Colin Burns on the debate stage for From design thinking to design playing. Where Colin explained the design process using an imaginary fish.

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Dj Spooky’s Future of love music, which really gave a real understanding into the way he thinks as zipped around his ipad from application to application.

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Anne-Marie Imafidon’s the future is young women, which was only bettered by the discussion on the debate stage.

Futurefest took me by total suprise and it was incredibily good value for the price. I have compared it to Future Everything and the Festival of Dangerous ideas; I’m sticking with that because the diversity of the subjects and ideas was incredible. A welcomed change to the line ups and style of conferences we’ve gotten use to. Something between a festival and conference with a sharp edge which got people thinking.

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Thanks to Lydia for convincing me a long while back to get involved and the rest of the team for a great conference. Glad I could play my part, and I’ll be back next year likely under my own steam unless I got something which fits with the themes for 2017.

Legendary Cindy Gallop at #futurefest

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Everyonce in a while you meet someone who makes you take stock. That person is Cindy Gallop who I had the joy of meeting and hearing live at Futurefest 2016.

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If you don’t know Cindy Gallop you might want to check out her TED talk, make love not porn and I’m surprised I didn’t mention her talk in no fap. I reconised her in the speakers lounge but wasn’t sure where from. Then after the first talk, I knew where from.

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Almost everything she said had me nodding my head and thinking she is ever so right. From the panel discussion about shifting identites to women will rule.

She was so open and honest about everything. Some of the best parts include her thoughts on the crisis of people not talking about sex and other related things. This came up in Sex and the office: the future of love and work. She made the great point of the increase in sexual ignorance. Pretty sure she made the point about China’s increase in sexual diseases too.

Her thoughts on equality, diversity and inclusion was simply breathtaking.

I imagine many people will not be happy with this but frankly Cindy tells it as it is… blowing shit up, changing things as she goes.

Expect a full blog post about Futurefest soon…

A workspace with such a view?

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Imagine if you’re workplace had such a view…

The blog I wrote about my Airbnb hosting experience to date seems to have gotten quite a bit of interest.

A few friends have decided it might be for them but I also received a email about vrumi from Claire. Vrumi is different from places like Zipcube because its tackling the long tale of usually forgotten spaces; spaces like my own living room!

Could my flat be the perfect place workspace during the day?

London is full of rooms that lie empty during the day because their usual inhabitants are out at work, away at university, or have left home altogether. There are all sorts of spare rooms – box rooms, underused dining rooms and sitting rooms – gathering dust. And there are rooms that were designed for a specific purpose – a home gym or music room, for example – which don’t get the use they might.

What if all this empty space, in a city in which property is at a frankly eye-watering premium, could be put to work? And why stop at London?

Its basically Airbnb for workspaces and is about to include Manchester.

Sunset over Manchester

I like the idea and think its a good one but not quite for me personally. Don’t get me wrong I know quite a few people who have been inspired by sitting in my flat looking out the windows. A few of my Airbnb guests have sat and marvelled at the view, while others have felt inspired enough to get a ton of work done. Heck when the Tesco delivery people come, they always say something about what an amazing view.

But I have a small flat and its really made up for me. If I was in something slightly bigger, I might have considered it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the vrumi grows and grows with the price of space going up, the nature of work changing and coffee shop culture clashes a real thing. It looks like you can rent a space cheaper than places like ziferblat, and likely have a better experience?

The BBC horizon dating experiment

Horizon dating 2015-09-12
My scientific perfect match

The Horizon episode: How to find love online just aired and here’s a blog I wrote straight after filming for the show. I have no idea what just happened or if I’ll even be involved, but judging by whats been seen so far, it looks like I might be. I trust BBC Horizon have done everybody proud but he’s my view on what happened that afternoon in central London.

I’m writing this the morning after the BBC Horizon dating experiment in central London (Sunday 13th September 2015).

We were asked and signed a contract saying we wouldn’t talk about the programme till the TX (TV transmission date). However the programme should have gone out by now.

It was an interesting time and the experiments were quite good too. From what I gather on the day, Hannah Fry wrote an algorithm to match people and Xander? I heard Xander is going on 3 dates today (day after the experiment). With the algorithm, she (Hannah) needed a large pool of people to match him with but also she wanted to see if it worked for other people. Hence the afternoon-evening of Horizon dating (I’m sure this will change).

Ok being brief (very hard for me). We were divided into 4 groups using colour wrist bands, then did some rough speed dating (I say rough because it there was no real flow, no direction and we were kind of left to get on with it, with the occasional call to change).

The four groups were…

  1. Told everybody in the group was matched and we actually were (this was my group – Yellow)
  2. Told everybody in the group was matched but that was actually was a lie
  3. Told no body in the group was matched but actually everybody was
  4. Told no body was matched and no body actually was (control group?)

You can see how this all works right?

The results were actually quite good and seemed to go with the algorithm and the priming of what were somewhat told. Hannah seemed confident it might actually work beyond this stage.

There was another test but to be honest, I got pulled away to do some stuff in a back room to the waiting camera about online dating. So much I wanted to say, but was told to keep it brief and look directly down the lens of the camera (hate that). Anyway I briefly touched on things related to my experiences and observations, should be interesting enough.

After some finger food and lots of chatting with various people, the results were announced to the room. They were cavatted with the notion, it was getting most matches in the room rather than most ideal matches.

Regardless, our usernames were read out and we stuck our hands up to show pairings.

My match was a woman who I had speed dated earlier but thought we didn’t really get on because of my lack of knowledge about the smiths. Can I remember her username? Nope, but we did take a couple selfie on both our phones.

After the matching, were had the opportunity to spend time together just chatting away and some quick interviews from Zander and Hannah.

Weirdly enough, my match lived in Bristol, had lived less than a mile away about the same time I lived in Croydon, London and shared similar views on certain things. Of course the location stuff  is a coincidence, as there was nothing in the questionnaire about previous locations, etc. But interesting one regardless.

We chatted away then we talked about circumstances currently. I wrongly guessed her age and it turned out we were quite distant on age and places in our lives. She had 3 kids, while I’m obviously child-free. It was clear the algorithm did work but only on the matching part, but did not factor in all the other things like looks, circumstance, desires, etc. The stuff which is unquantifiable?

End of the night, she left and we said goodbye while a bunch of us went to the Yorkshire Grey pub (George would be so proud) to discuss and carry on into the night. It was a warm night, so we sat outside on the benches, telling dating stories to each other. It was an nice end to the evening.

The last lot of the Horizon dating event

Everybody I spoke to had a good time they also had some good and bad stories about dating in recent times. The matches were somewhat hit and miss. Some numbers were exchanged but to be honest I think there will be maybe one or two who actually carry it further than a date or two (which still means Hannah’s algorithm would beat the year of making love!) . My match I’m unlikely to meet again, we didn’t swap anything and the pleasantries at the end of the night said it all. The initial excitement just seemed to break down once we discovered the difference in lifestyle, age and place in life.

Over drinks much later, a couple of us stayed out till about 1am. mr30notsoflirty, asked me if there were others I was interested in. I said yes and funny enough she was in my speed dating round, which meant she was likely matched quite highly with myself (remember I was in the one which was matched and were told so). I got a hint there might be some actually similarity in outlook earlier on but then got pulled away to do the pieces to the camera. There was another lady who stayed out later but had to get a train back to Kent, who was quite intriguing asking lots of questions about the scientific nature of everything, especially when I mentioned my geekness for dating. At the market place bar, we talked briefly and she said the comment of the night.

“You smell really good…!”

“well thank you” I said in return with a puzzled look on my face

Over all, it was intriguing and I’m happy to say Horizon did me and the BBC proud. It was pretty fluid, they seemed to get lots of footage (which I wish they would talk to BBC R&D about, as each couple have a interesting tale or two I’m sure). Met some lovely people and  my fears of the Year of making love were ironed out with the small contained venue, good people and a professional but friendly crew.

Just hope this is reflected in the show when it went live…

Update…

There’s a iWonder guide related to the programme (BBC iplayer).

On watching the programme, I was surprised how much of the vox pops from me made it into the programme. The show was mainly about Xander and the challenge of getting him a decent match. But it was clearly me on screen…

In the end, it was stalemate between the matching algorithm and random choice, which was a good conclusion I felt. Makes you think as you sink money and time into online dating, right? Also summing up why I find this area so interesting.

dating-against-humanity-46-638

A couple of things interested me, Helen Fisher and Lucy Brown‘s theory sounds interesting but once again where’s the paper or study? Prof Eli Finkel is absolutely right its somewhat rubbish and theres lots of papers proving it, even OKcupid’s OKtrends blog (and the deepend blog) doesn’t go into enough detail or give up the data for others to pull apart themselves. Xander was also wrong to say he was skeptical of algorthims, it was the premise which he wasn’t happy with. Even Hannah at one point said she wasn’t sure about the data which drives the algorthim she wrote.

I have already publiclly said it just doesn’t add up and the number element looms large. Hence why I chalked it up to the birthday paradox after much thought.

dating-against-humanity-48-638

While watching the show, my twitter and facebook was pretty busy, so busy I had to watch it again on iplayer. But some things came up which I wanted to reply to…

Xander and Hannah! Yeah they were very comfortable with each other, a few of us kept saying surely the two should get a room? But we all knew Hannah was happily married, but was so strange that Xander finally met a woman who from the back looked like a shorter version of Hannah. I actually thought it was her at first glance. Then I remember talking to some of the guys on the day, saying how she was very attractive.

During the show there was some comments about the lack of sexual diversity,  and I wanted to say, yes most were straight but there were a few gay couples too. The cameras missed a lot on that day but thats TV for you. There was also a diverse age range from quite young right up to much older than myself. Culturally it was quite diverse also, the BBC certainly did a good job and its important to once again say what you saw on screen wasn’t just it.

As a whole it was good and enjoyable, BBC Horizon did a good job touching on aspects of online dating problems and joys. Even down to Xander’s text exchange at the end of the programme. The whole worrying about what to say how long it takes for someone to come back to you is a real drama in modern dating. Although I do feel for the woman who went on the date with Xander because shes going to get a lot of angry women looking for her now…

Massive thanks to, Rachel Clarke I may have missed this great opportunity if she didn’t tweet me ages ago.

Embracing e-paper displays in banners

Epaper bus stop

Read on BBC News that…

Transport for London is trialling e-paper bus stops that can display real-time travel information.

Fitted with solar-powered panels, they show how long passengers have to wait for the next buses, as well as route maps and timetables.

Although this is a small trial, it certainly indicates there might be more large scale use of epaper displays. To be fair its not the first time they have been used  Ideally I’d still like to see larger displays as I have talked about previously.

Of course display boards are nothing new in epaper. But what we really need is billboard size.

Space wrangler for the global connected village at #mozfest

Mozfest 2015

I got hoodwinked into spacewrangling at Mozfest again. Not quite sure how it happened again, theres a unwritten rule that unless you flat out reject the invite, you will be involved again

. That and Michelle and Sarah can be very percussive with their super bright smiles. Of course its not just them, you have the Mozilla community (almost family) which are such lovely people you can’t say no.

The festival really starts way before in Spring. For the BBC R&D team (myself and Jasmine) this was the Moztreat in Scotland with our fellow space wrangler Jon Rogers. It was soon afterwards we joined the weekly calls and developed the connected library idea further.

Mozfest Global Village

Like most things in Mozfest, its never quite solid till it actually happens. Meaning the concept of the connected library became part of the Home of the future. This then became part of the global village concept. To be fair I had already set my sights on a much bigger concept of the home of the future. A connected home with spaces which are connected virtually, to explore the concept of home from home and the population increase we are due facing. Homes too expensive that families share them and make use of them in different ways. We didn’t quite get there but next year I’m certainly thinking about it (yes I’m already thinking about next year).

So while the focus was on the library and public and private spaces, I picked out sessions which fit with the humanity theme. For me humanity included inclusion, diversity, storytelling and expression through media. This was boiled down to the line up you can see on the public Github.

Global Village at Mozfest

One of the big challenges with organising such a festival in the open way Mozilla do is to coordinate everybody together and give them the tools they need to get things done. In the past this has been done through a combination of etherpads, google docs and a lot of emails. This time however some smart person thought about using the Github issue tracker? It worked incredible well with all the public calls appearing here. We were then each invited to the repo and could add labels (pathways) or a milestone (spaces). It all worked incredibly well and I’ll consider it for future applications. I did make a joke about forking it to create my own festival one day.

With all the work around the schedule and speakers done by myself, Jasmine took charge of the actual space. Sarah connected us with a number of people including a very talented set designer called Jess. They came up with the concept of cardboard, which involved lots (500 in total) cardboard boxes about 40cms cubes. It all came back to the idea we had originally when we bought a Ikea unit and decided the cube spaces were deep enough for books, picture frames, anything we were planning to do with them.

One of the key ideas was to have actual books alongside generated books. Yes we were planning to print books out in real time. A kind of print on demand service with books showing their status of buffering as they are being printed. Looking back it was ambitious but we did manage to print a few books by Sunday afternoon.

Global Village at Mozfest

The non-generated books were ordered in via a very helpful Ravensbourne librarian called Sarah. She was great and got us as many of the books as possible. For Ravensbourne they would be good for the students to have recommended resources from experts in the industry. Not only that, they would some reasoning why and who recommended it. The list would make a really good resource for the future.

Nicky asked if the complete list would be made public in the future. Fear not… Its all in Google Spreadsheets here.

During the process of putting together the global village it became clear this was going to be one heck of a project and the only way it was achievable was by collaboration. Now collaboration has overhead and especially when working with people you haven’t ever met or can’t get in a room together.

Global Village at Mozfest

We seeked collaborators to create different parts of the global village. After much back and forth we had 4 distinct spaces.

  1. The Library by BBC R&D
  2. The Garage by Dundee Uni and Mozilla
  3. The Garden by the MET office and the Unbox Festival
  4. The Kitchen by Designswam

Each space adopted the theme of cardboard, building out their spaces from the cardboard boxes. It was quite an amazing thing as you can see. Many people said some great things about the whole of the 6th floor where they all existed together. The cardboard was great because it also helped isolate the noise a bit. They also made interesting barriers between session spaces and great stands for various things.

Global Village at Mozfest

Everything from a kitchen table only complete with Alex’s table cloth to a make shift hacked together garden shed. The highlight of the cardboard was the circuital columns designed by Jess which were quite amazing. And just when you thought that was great, you walk into the garden and find the banyan tree. Elegantly put together by the Unboxed festival organisers from India. It was pretty stunning and the space it created within its branches was like nothing you can imagine. I wanted to move the eye contact experiment to that space but it was already being used for something else.

Global Village at Mozfest

Honestly I was impressed (it takes a lot to impress me, many friends will tell you) with all the spaces in the global village. Last year the ethical dilemma cafe up the game and this year we broke through and created something which everybody was talking about. We may not win any design awards for it but it worked so well.

Mozfest this year ran very smoothly, partly because we had most of Friday to setup, unlike previously when we had to rush to do everything on Friday night during the science festival or straight afterwards. This usually leads to very early setup and rushing around on Saturday morning, but this time we knew what space we had on Thursday and Friday we could setup the library and think about the other spaces.

Global Village at Mozfest

During the planning stages of the global village, I had considered workshops, hacks and exhibits. Exhibits would be things which people would interact with independently of a session,  A hack would start as a  workshop and then disappear into the garage for further development. We had a few exhibits of our own including ambient media, our book printing, a cardboard dollhouse, a augmented telescope, digital me, etc, etc. The whole space felt like there was energy and something to see and do. My only regret is not having a little more space for free roaming.

Global Village at Mozfest

The sessions are big part of Mozfest and this year rather than the long running sessions, this time Mozilla suggested a hour long session time. This was good because it meant everybody moved around and settled at roughly the same time. It also made scheduling sessions a little easier but it would have been easier to do if people had known in advance when planning their workshop. For example a few of the workshops, had planned for 3 hours and this was still possible but would break things quite a bit.

Generally everything went into a brand new app created by Ryan at Mozilla. It had been used at one or two other conferences but nothing like Mozfest. It was good and in the usual Mozilla way worked on the open web with some very smart clientside caching for access when the wifi drops out, which I have to say didn’t happen from what I could tell. It got slow sometimes but generally it was good when I needed it.

I didn’t go to enough workshops once again, heck I just caught the end of some of the keynotes.

Mozfest 2015

I was around in the building adaptive storytelling with Lancaster University, who had built a second Perceptive Radio for BBCRD. This time the radio was built as a platform for perceptive narratives. The workshop included a quick demo of the radio in action and then a class getting people to make new perceptive narrative by combining dice. I tried to connect up Brian Chirls with Lancaster Uni but it didn’t quite happen, which is a shame.

Mozfest Global Village

One of my favourite sessions or even pathways (a few joined sessions in a sequence) was around humanity in the form of talking about things which are usually brushed under the carpet. Mental health and happiness in the digital era were discussed in the libraries back room space. A space deliberately tucked away from the glaze of the general public walking around the library space. On reflection this also made the space quite tricky to find and I had a number of people looking around confused trying to work out where it actually was. We had planned to make a map but it didn’t quite happen unfortunately. The Ravensbourne floor plan didn’t really help either, as the space was divided up between the kitchen and the libraries back room by cardboard boxes and a portable screen.

Eye contact at Mozfest Global Village

However once you were in the space it did feel like you stepped out of the festival a little. Nothing like sitting under the banyan tree, which was positively zen liike but a little different regardless.

Global Village at Mozfest

The Banyan Tree was setup by Unboxed festival as part of the garden. It was great but I have to say the MET Office also did great job turning making the garden complete with garden shed.

Mozfest Global Village

Another pathway/theme we had in the library spaces was around diversity. We had a number of talks covering diversity in new and interesting ways. We had a number of talks from diversity in the new economy, hiphop, hypertext and hackerspaces to a zombie apocalypse.

Global Village at Mozfest

There was a micro theme around neurodiversity as the zombie apocalypse workshop was created by somebody with autism, she took part and the feedback was amazingly positive. The hope is to make it a workshop for future BBC diversity training.

Mozfest Global Village

Dyslexia also got a workshop and spawn another ad-hoc session on Sunday afternoon also in the library. Some of us felt the term assistive technology was slightly patronising. Assistive technology should be seamless, not call attention to its self and the user plus just be useful. A artist from the Tate took part and we talked about future plans of theirs to do more around diversity in 2016.

I have to give it up for the excellent agenda and space put together by Alexandra DS from Designswam. The agenda was spot on and so well thought-out. Everything in the kitchen was around the future of the kitchen by looking at gender roles, food production and consumption.

Mozfest Global Village

She tempted people into the area with fresh/local food and some incredibly good workshops given by some great guests. I mean a carbon zero lunch with local cheeses and fruits with a discussion about the nature of carbon zero food, who could resist this?

Mozfest Global Village

Outside the Library, the #HomelabKitchen was the place I spend most of my time. The Garden was on the other side and the Garage was beyond the Kitchen. In the  Garage the BBC Microbit table football was extremely popular and it was great to see people really interested and engaged with the possibilities. Spencer did a fantastic job telling people about the BBC micorbit and what he had done so far with it.

Mozfest Global Village

I didn’t get around to many of the other areas on the other 8 floors! Which was a shame but I did drop in on a few while walking around looking for people and seeking food I could eat.

Mozfest 2015

Unlike previous years, I didn’t get to dj at all, instead there were two options on the table on Saturday evening. One being a quiet night at a hotel bar and the other being a night at Namco station near Waterloo.  They were pretty good options and I think better suited the Mozfest audience. 1700 people would agree and I can’t wait to take the homelab concept to the next level.

Over all Mozfest has grown from strength to strength. Mozilla really shifted into another gear and made Mozfest a unmissable festival.

Global Village at Mozfest

There are so many thank-you’s I would love to say but I fear I will miss somebody. Michelle, Jon, Jasmine, Sarah, Claire, Jess, Mike, Alexandra, Maxine, Misty, Rhianne, Leanne, Mia,, Spencer and Marc all stick out in my mind. But there are so many more including the Salford media students, everybody who did a workshop and session in the global village, lots of the other spacewranglers, etc, etc…

It was a blast, with plenty of opportunities to follow up on.

Sarah always said it was going to be a home run, and it really was…

The global connected village at Mozfest

Mozfest 2014

In two weeks time (November 7-8th) I’ll be spacewrangling once again in for Mozfest 2015.

Sometimes I think I must be crazy but its always amazing how everything comes together on the weekend. You are literately fielding the water with your hands into channels, but far down the river, it all collects into a massive lake of tranquillity and calm.

This year, we are not just running an area, like last year. Oh no that was too easy (I of course joke) nope this year its the global (connected) village which is about 5-6 connected spaces.

What is the Global Village? A collection of self-contained but interconnected places from around the world where participants at Mozfest meet, learn and tinker with tomorrow’s places. The Global Village cultivates leading practitioners to build, teach and advocate for an Internet of things that empowers its users.

Turn off your screen. Close your book. End that meeting. Pick up a sketchpad, a pair of scissors, a hot-glue gun, some parcel tape and come cry “If We Build It They Will Come.” This is a springboard for tomorrow and welcoming place for those inclusive citizens and communities.

The spaces each take a part of the home (note I say home not house) and are then run by friends of  For example our big space which connects to all the others is a library (or even study if you restrict it down to a house). Each unique space will explore the future of that space and challenge the typical notions which make up the future home. The spaces will be littered with provocations and there will be themes around narrative, diversity, inclusion, connection,  wellness and humanity.

If you don’t have a ticket for Mozfest 2015 yet, its time to get one before they sell out.

10 years since the London 7/7 bombings

Evening Standard 7/7/05

Its hard to imagine all the things which have happened since the day I rode my scooter into the BBC Worldservice at Bush House. I remember driving along with Sarah on the back and being overtaken by about 10 police cars and in one hell of a rush. I was near Waterloo and I thought something isn’t right.

By the time I got into work, everybody was standing around watching the tvs. Nobody quite knew what was actually going on, but I remember not being able to leave for our own safety by about 1030.

As like now, I was a keen blogger and I blogged things I heard and read at the time.

Most of the links go nowhere but its really interesting to read out my thoughts following the everything which happened that day.

Well all I personally can say is, tomorrow I will be returning to work and will happily ride the train, tube or a bus. This terrible event points to the fact we helped America in the unjust war were still involved in, although a majority of people here were against it. I do worry that there maybe more attacks like this, but I wont let the fear take over my life in this wonderful multicultural city. The people who planed and executed the bombs are nut jobs and can claim to be of what ever religious background they want. But the fact remains that people who were killed and injured were of all faiths, religions, colour and background. Tomorrow we shall see both sides using the London blasts for there own means but also tomorrow we shall also see a city going back to work with its head up high. Yes I do sometimes love London.

Indeed! It was a scary time to be in London but really focused my views on the war and the government. 10 years later, I feel not much has changed in government I feel, actually its worst. My follow on blog also sounds angry and upset at the same time. Not sure if a year later I felt less upset or just more accepting of what happen? At least the video still exists on archive.org.

So sad to know peoples lives were lost and many many more people are still affected by the result of the ideology of a few nut jobs.