Futurefest 2016 took me by surprise

dsc_0298_1

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.

dsc_0222_5

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.

dsc_0296_1

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.

dsc_0324

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.

dsc_0340

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.

dsc_0339

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).

dsc_0309_2

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.

dsc_0268_2

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).

dsc_0240_3

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

dsc_0272_1

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.

dsc_0264_1

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.

dsc_0244_4

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.

dsc_0324

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.

dsc_0329

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

dsc_0266_1

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.

dsc_0255_2

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.

dsc_0309_2

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?

IMAG3085
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.

The future of digital music? Space for the DJ?

BBC Music on the beat

Thanks to Simon for pointing this out to me. I am very interested as I mentioned to BBC on the beat team.

I’ve been pushing for the future of Djing for years and I thank Mozilla Fest for letting me run something a while ago. One of the outcomes was stem based djing, we called it 8 track. I always felt like we were just scratching the surface and there were many other scenarios which needed to be explored. I especially like the quantified club. I wonder about the line up, it seems very singles music driven rather than looking at mixing/djing. I do wish Mixcloud, Pacemaker and Mixxx were all coming along too!

See you in London?

Dating, lies and algorithms the primeconf talk

The short talk I did for Primeconf is now live like most of the talks on the site. I blogged about the conference here already but its funny looking at the talk from a audience point of view. Not only because there is a 3min section which is dropped in to cover some technical problem, but also because I now notice the lack of smooth transitions between sections. Putting in the books as reference was somewhat missed too, which is a shame.

I didn’t know I was running over, as the mac timer said 6:50 mins when I finished. I certainly wouldn’t have elaborated on certain areas if I knew the time. Its always best to have a countdown clock somewhere very visible for speakers. Must remember to never trust a mac with keynote…¿

So as a whole and based on the fact it is a subset of a much deeper talk. Its not bad. It would be good to explore in more detail some of the sections and bring in some of the video evidence I have. But alas that’s for another day maybe…

Thanks again to Thayer and the prime team for the invite, the amazing venue and recording the talk. The other talks are well worth watching.

2 conferences in 1 week (Sheffield Doc Fest & Primeconf)

This week just passed and I got to say it wasn’t half as bad as it seemed on paper or at least my calendar.

Sheffield documentary festival

Variable Documentary preview

I headed across to Sheffield on Sunday to give a talk with Tony Churnside at the Sheffield international documentary festival about Perceptive Media. It very went well and I kind of wished I stayed over so I could keep some of the conversations going and there was plenty else going on which I wanted to check out.

The festival seems to take over the whole city and the weather was great on the Sunday and Wednesday. Wednesday I didn’t talk but rather supported some collages who showed an early preview of the variable length documentary.

Next year I hope we will have a lot more to show, and next year I hope to spend more time at the rest of the festival.

Best of British / Primeconf

Primeconf: Best of British

This conference which started out on kickstarter and became a real conference arranged by long time friend Thayer Prime. It was a bit of a crazy idea but the result was something worthwhile and maybe the start of something new and interesting.

The speakers were as you can imagine by the title, British speakers.

It really was something special, and it was a joy to be a small part of the whole event.

I gave a shorter version of the dating, lies and algorithms talk I have been wanting to give. So look out it may be back sooner or later as a more involved talk. It went down well although I certainly did take out all the personal stuff and non PG-13 stuff to fit with the code of conduct. Something which sadly later in the day seemed to have got forgotten, with swearing and a questionable slide.

Regardless, I learned a number of things including Priya is behind changify.org  (something which we tried to do ages ago in the form of wedreamthecity) and could be helpful with gentrification and communities. Some other stand out presentations include Pete Duncanson, Chris Thorpe, Herb Kim, Dr Tom Crick, Amy Mather and a special mention of Mazz Mosley’s super low budget style of presentation. Love it! Good to finally meet her too.

Is Thayer going to do it again? I certainly think she should… I’m actually thinking Herb and Thayer could create something which is special? The venue was great (Royal Institution, yes the one they do the Royal Christmas lectures from!) and a good turn out.

Both events were well worth effort of attending and speaking at… For such a packed week going to London twice and Sheffield twice, I actually feel ok. Just a shame my treat of going to Thorpe Park wasn’t anything like when going in March/April.

A few cool events over June

I don’t know about you but my June is pretty packed solid. But theres a raft of events which you may not know about. Here’s a few… (I really feel like I should turn them into microformats or rather RDF/a)

The Best of British Prime Conference – Friday 13th June at The Royal Institution of Great Britain, London. I will be talking about Dating, Lies and Algorithms, as I mentioned before.
Tickets and details are available and if you use the discount code of iknowaspeaker you may get a nice little surprise on ordering tickets.

Sheffield Documentary Festival 2014 – running from 7th – 12th June in Sheffield. Myself and Tony will be presenting at the Shefdocfest (8th June) about Perceptive Media. And Matt Brooks and Rhianne will be showing off a research preview/alpha of the previously mentioned variable length documentary (11th June).

Film Data HackathonAbandon Normal Devices (AND), in partnership with the BFI are running a weekend (28 – 29 June) hackathon about everything cinema  – from selecting the right movie, to how we watch them, and what we think to how we share our thoughts afterwards and everything in between. Tickets are available now.

More Bubbles Than Balls reception – for drinks, conversation and a celebration of all things Urbanista. Tuesday 24th June 5:30pm – 7:30pm at Velvet Central, 2 Mount Street, Manchester M2 5WQ.
Tickets are free and can be booked.

House Party 14 – is the first unofficial housing fringe event, providing a grassroots alternative to the annual CIH housing conference in Manchester on Tuesday, 24 & Wednesday, 25 June.
The waiting list is available.

Re:Fest! – Tuesday 17th and Wednesday,18th June at the Black-E Community Centre in Liverpool. This is the second Re:Fest! event, building on the success of last year’s event in Nottingham.
Find out more and book free tickets.

TVX Hackfest – June 25th at Culture Lab, Newcastle University. ACM international conference into interactive experience for TV and new media experiences is 26-27th June but there is a hackfest before hand.
To find out more including team sign up.

Derren brown is back in the Lowry theatre in Salford Quays with the new show infamous. Very limited seats left…13-21st June

Thanks Jane and Hwayoung for the heads up…

The drinking society of the geeks

Moët Dom (DOM?) Perignon

Who could forget the night during the end of the @media social in 2006. To cover the bar minimum we had to drink £1300 of champagne in 90mins! That night was messy and will go down in geek history forever

 

In the blog “how to be a right old plonker”. I put the hammer down on the notion that being a man, should be defined by the drinking your doing.

Be a regular at more than one bar and A glass of wine or two with lunch will not ruin your day

So I wrote…

Please! Come on, being a man shouldn’t centre around drinking

Then @jmurphyuk wrote in reply to me…

“Please! Come on, being a man shouldn’t centre around drinking” unfortunately for MOST in this country… It does

Slightly chilling thoughts from Jmurphyuk i think. You only have to watch a episode of 24hours in A&E to get a glimpse of the problem at large. But most of those people are drinking for escapism, its sometimes what they look forward to (not my words some once said that on 24hours in A&E)

So whats the modern geek’s excuse for the drinking? This is something which hasn’t been missed by others. Does Our Industry Have a Drinking Problem? by Rachel Andrew on alistapart really brings home the problem in our industry and geek culture.

At a conference recently, I had to leave for part of the afternoon to take care of some technical support for our product. When I returned to the venue, at about half-past five in the afternoon, everyone was holding plastic glasses of whiskey and cups of wine or beer.

At an event where I spoke earlier this year, some wondered whether one of the other speakers would be able to make their talk after having drunk so much the night before.

Almost every conference’s second day opens with attendees being asked how their hangovers are. Second day early-slot speakers joke that no one will turn up anyway, or they’ll all just be staring into their coffee. It has become normal, in fact expected, that drinking and staying out late is what we do while at conferences.

And Rachel is right… it is slightly worrying how this is the norm of the conferences.

I originally thought it was just the UK and maybe parts of western Europe but that certainly seems untrue.

The alcohol-fueled nature of our industry events therefore raises an issue. As a speaker, I want to be available to people who have bought tickets and attended the event I’m speaking at, and if the parties are the place to do so, then I need to be at the parties. For me this doesn’t raise any moral or personal quandary, although I’d sometimes rather be in bed so I can go for an early run before day two begins. Some speakers or participants, however, may find it hard to attend social events where alcohol is the main theme. Of course it’s possible to attend these events and not drink, but being the sober person at a party gets tiresome.

Yes its a dilemma because you do want to socialize and also be fresh for your talk on the next day. There have been a couple of times when not so much the drink has caused me to wake up slightly unprepared, but rather being up chatting over late drinks in the hotel bar. The Mal in Newcastle, Encore in Gateshead, Holiday Inn and in Greenwich, London are included in my list of late night minimum sleep. Great times but boy oh boy could I have done with some sleep instead of debating the ins and outs of Perceptive Media.

Drinking is part of our culture/society like it or not. But I got to say the last paragraph does sum it up.

Meeting up in pubs and attending conference parties will always be part of our industry, and an enjoyable part for many of us at one time or another. If the conference you attend is your only one that year, then having the chance to let your hair down with peers you rarely meet in person is not a bad thing at all. However, I’d like for drinking not to be what defines these events and those of us who attend them. We become more inclusive the less we look like only a certain type of person is part of “us.”
Well said Rachel

Hacking your input and outputs

Hacked... Learn, Build, Share

I had the pleasure of supporting and attending Hacked.io which was a hackday in the most traditional sense of the word. Run by the Geeks of London for 02 Labs, it couldn’t have been more fitting to hold it at the 02 arena (the old millennium dome). Now I knew the plans ahead of most people but I didn’t really think that I might have been a good part of the inspiration for the event.

Melinda broke it down for Ankur Oberoi at 5am.

“Ian use to run Geekdinners which we use to go to. Then went on to run BarCampLondon 1, 2 and 3. After which he ran the first hackday and over the air. Most of the Geeks of London went to the events and once Ian moved on, he passed on geekdinners to me and Cristiano. So we did that and formed the geeks of London. Then we took over Barcamplondon. Now I guess we are taking over hackday. Taking it back to the original idea of sharing ideas and knowledge” (power phrased of course)

On the walk back to the hotel at 5:30am I thought about this… Not only am I delighted to be a inspiration but I’m also over the moon that they have given these events a level of professionalism and sustainability which I could not. No matter what I say about hacked.io, I was blown away by the little things and the ultimate aim of open sharing.

I’m kind of gutted I didn’t hack something myself, but talking to people I learned a bunch of things and some of those things I’m following up with.

Hacked.io promised a lot and deliver much back many things…

Very long queue outside Hacked.io

Of course this is the same team which mainly wrote the controversial hackday manifesto. So it would make sense to compare Hacked.io against there own thoughts…

Announcing the event
Once you know when and how your event will take place, you’ll want to tell the world about it. At a bare minimum, you should decide on a canonical place where all public information about the event lives – this might be a dedicated web site, an event on an existing event online service or some other place which is publicly accessible.

Once you’ve decided where that location is, use tools like Twitter and Facebook to make people aware of the event, and also consider which Google Groups and mailing lists developers relevant to your event may be hanging out. Don’t spam them, though – nobody enjoys that.

On Announcing everything seemed perfect. Everything you needed to know was at hacked.io and the almanac seemed to have all FAQs ready to go. I also felt they hit the right level of communication. Not too much and not too little. Maybe from a supporter side a tiny bit more might not have gone a miss. But generally it was all good.

Registration was cool but my allergy information did get post in the mix. And I did feel sorry for those who were waiting in the massive line for a long while.

The venue should be relatively easy for people from outside of town to locate, with good public transport links. If it’s difficult to reach, try to provide alternative means of transportation, such as coaches to/from local transport hubs throughout the event. Provide a full address, and if necessary, additional instructions to all attendees well in advance of the event.

Include instructions/contacts/getting in arrangements, too (i.e., what to do at reception/security desks).

Print big signs that will guide your attendees to the venue (and in some case inside the venue).

Hacked.io starts

The venue was top class and a dream to be able to use. The transport links to the 02 are great and I do remember the first time Cristiano and Kevin told me they were looking to use the 02. I was gob smacked. How on earth did they pull that one off?  I had looked at the 02 when we were working on Hackday but it was far too expensive. Transport wise its got plenty going for it and heck its easy on the tube. Many signs and even billboards pointed people in the right direction. There were even helpers guiding people to the right place. Of course getting back was easy even at 5:30am due to the 24hour buses which run to central London when the tube stops.

Of course the venue was accessible with lifts and what not, maybe the stage needed a lift too? And I found the security staff quite firm but nice. I think they were a little bemused by the whole event.

Date clashes. One of the most frustrating things for attendees to see is two similar events on the same day in the same area. To avoid this, check places like Lanyrd, Eventbrite, Meetup, and ask on Twitter “is anything going on in X on X?”. Remember that people may be travelling long distances for hack days, so even if an event is a few hundred miles away, you are still diluting your potential audience.

Always a hard one to solve but they got it out there early enough and the only clash I saw was with Mozilla’s Party Hack which I believe was cancelled when the clash came to light.

If attendees are staying overnight, then a separate (dark, quiet) area should be available away from the hacking should people decide to sleep. If possible, this should be several areas potentially including dedicated areas, for example male/female/mixed, minors (+chaperones?), snorer/non-snorer, night-owls/early birds.

I didn’t check out the sleeping arrangements because I stayed up till 5:30am then walked to my hotel in Greenwich. I noticed there were areas upstairs for sleeping and I assume they were separated or whatever. While downstairs was a place for hacking all night. Of course some people fell a sleep at their computers.

2013-07-21%2003.24.50

The Network. Hack days have special requirements: don’t just trust anyone who tells you that “it’ll be fine”. Think about the networking issues, and verify that they work for the kind of capacity you are going to have. People from the venue or their commercial partner will tell you all sorts of things you want to hear but keep in the back of your mind that they may not have any clue what they are talking about. Given the importance of network access, if you are operating a commercial event consider requiring network performance as part of your contract with venues and suppliers.

One of the bug bears of almost any hackday event. Unfortunately hacked.io was effected pretty badly by 2.4ghz wireless problems. There was a figure banded around estimating 4 devices for every single person in the room. That means supplying wireless for 2000 devices! When we did hackday we estimated roughly 2 devices per person. There seems to be plenty of bandwidth in the backend pipe, because once plugged into a switches (the solution to most of the problems) it was fast and reliable. I had to download the JDK and I blinked and it was downloaded.

So what was the problem? Seems some device was spitting out packets into the 2.4ghz space and disrupting the network at the same time. I have some experience of this when the Nimba virus was prevalent and daily Ravensbourne IT staff would have to go find the suspect before they switched to 802.11x authentication. Nimba would just consume the network and all its resources, before you knew it. All spare 802.11 space was crammed with packets

They had the best guys involved in the networking and wireless. Nexus Global networking battled away till most of the machines were on wired network but it was a black eye on a perfectly run event.

Power wasn’t a problem thankfully, lots of spare power sockets all over the place.

Food & Drink…Not everyone in the technical community is hypercarnivorous. Be sure to check with your attendees for dietary requirements: food allergies, vegetarians, vegans and people with dietary restrictions. Make provisions to ensure they are provided for equally. If you’re on a budget, prioritise allergies and vegan alternatives; the vegan alternative will satisfy most non-allergy based requirements. Common food allergies include milk, eggs, nuts, fish, shellfish, soya, and wheat (gluten).

Food was good (mainly salad pots) and there was pizza as a midnight surprise. The dinner was good because there was tickets for 4 different restaurants in the dome. But most people said the portions were quite small and seeked out more food elsewhere. For example my work friends were lucky to get the thai silk tickets which I gather were in high demand. GBK seemed to be 2nd. Last place was dinner at the 02 lounge Which I got stuck with. The last thing I really wanted to eat was mash potatoes and sausages. Weirdly I couldn’t mix the food according to the lady serving!

For the midnight surprise Pizza hut delivered Pizzas but the word didn’t quite get out so quickly so most of the meat ones were gone and we were left with cold pizza. That will teach me to sit and chat upstairs.

There was some confusion over alcohol too but it worked it self out. There was plenty of Fruit and Chocolate, Crisps, Soda and Water around all day and night too.

2013-07-21%2002.16.34

APIs and Datasets was a interesting angle because unlike other hackathons, there was no set API or datasets to play with. You could use what ever you liked but there were challenges for those who couldn’t think of something themselves or needed to be challenged.

Hacked.io demos

Anyone who hacks should be a allowed to Demo at the end of the event, regardless of the quality or completeness.

Each demo should be given a fixed time limit, standard times are 60, 90, 180, and 300 seconds. Tell presenters ahead of time, let them know how much time remains (either half time cards or an on-screen count down), and don’t let them run over.

Try and communicate clear expectations for the demos to all attendees from the beginning of the event. Some attendees will become frustrated when they see others demo-ing paper prototypes or Photoshop mockups when they believed a working implementation was required. If hacks do not meet these base requirements, they should not be able to win a prize.

The demos were by the book. I was very impressed by the use of Hackerleague. Never used it before but I like it a lot. Now if Lanyrd and Hackerleague could connect together… 90 secs was about right for each hack. The only down side was being split up from the hackers presenting but honestly it was for a short time only.

I was really impressed with the range of hacks, I wrote some down which I’d like to follow up on from a BBC point of view and of course hackerleague makes it nice and easy to follow up.

Hacked.io demos

The amount of Philips Hue hacks was impressive and makes sense because I think a lot of people thought it was a totally closed system which was tied to Apple. The amount clearly points the fact Hacked.io was comfortable. People were willing to take more risks and actually learn something new. That makes hacked.io a success right? A return to the learn, build and share ethics of hackers.

I’d also like to say it was amazing all the extra effort the team put in. There was a theme of dogs over cats, be more curious, plus fun and fake facts in the toilets, magically boxes on the tables, the tag line everywhere and finally the first 100 through the door got a prize! Talk about attention to detail! Now thats how you run a hackday!

Massive thanks to the Geeks of London, 02 and everyone who attended and made it a great event. Like everyone asked me after hackday, so whens the next one?

2013-07-21%2016.42.45