A real, honest sincere thank you Manchester

I wrote about the Manchester Arena bombing on Monday night and how I personally been dealing with things. Of course I wasn’t directly affected and I guess its not hit me as hard partly because although it wasn’t far away, I’ve tried not to keep looking at the news and social media. Well actually I’m limiting my sources and general browsing.

Everyone deals with tragic circumstances differently and its important to seek out what helps and be open to it.

This is why I love Dan Hett’s piece in the MEN about the last 48hrs after trying to find out what happened to his brother. I call it real, honest and fitting.

I know a lot of people want some level of privacy during this type of thing but I think the manner in which Martyn lived, he was such a known figure, it’s quite fitting to who he was.

I hate going into clichés but Martyn just had this completely unstoppable lust for life, it was unbelievable. He was the most memorable character you could conceive of. Annoying as f*** all day but just the most memorable guy.

Rest in peace to everyone who died on Monday night, young, old, no matter what religion, ethnic background, sex or sexual preference. Everyone deserves to live life because life is so finite. Tragic attacks like this is a reminder of this and reminder to each one of us all.

Charity Speed Dating – Monday 12th June

Let's Talk About Sex

A friend from work is arranging a charity speed dating event in Manchester… yes, charity & speed dating… if you are single, whats not to like about this?

Tickets are only £14 for a night too. Oliva is after 15 men and 15 women (its a straight event) and good on TV21 for giving Oliva their room free for the night too.

Join the event and you will spend the evening meeting and talking to up to 15 different people three minutes at a time. All the proceedings go to ICS and the venue is booked for the whole evening so once the main event is over there is nothing to stop you from getting to know that special someone a little bit more.

 

The Manchester Arena bombing – Mon 22nd May

Manchester before the arena bomb
Only a few hours before darkness and the Manchester Arena bombing

Its a difficult time being in Manchester at the moment. This time yesterday (Monday 22nd May) there were sirens, helicopters and a general unknowing. I had not heard the bomb blast, as I live quite far away (25mins walk) but can see the area of Victoria from my windows. I was also catching up with Supergirl, so maybe the bang was mixed in with the sound from that.

It was my wonder why there was so many sirens which led me to look at Facebook and Twitter. Before long it was clear something terrible had happened in the Victoria area. Then it became clear it was the Manchester Arena, somewhere I had visited on Thursday (Manchester after hours) & Friday (Silicon drinkabout) last week.

It was clear there were a lot of people and children shocked, hurt and at a lost to what they had seen and experienced. A lot had no way of getting home and just needed to be reconnected with loved ones. There were people posting they had spare rooms, and I really considered doing the same but decided I should go and help out if possible.  However, Greater Manchester police’s twitter account told us in no certain terms, stay away and stay safe, this was now a live crime scene.

I stayed up till about 2am, as unconfirmed reports flew in from social media and some news outlets. Although I wanted to stay up longer, I decided this would not be a good idea. So I sent my parents a message saying when they wake up don’t worry I’m fine (which they never saw till they contacted me this morning). Posted a few tweets and went to bed.

I was in London during the 7/7 bombings and experienced similar emotions of not knowing and listening out for more/any-news. It was a terrible time and I think the watching and waiting made things far worst. Its too easy to watch the news and be in a state of panic each time you see the breaking news banner. Or read something someones posted.

This is why the next day, although keeping a slight eye on what happened, I went to work and tried to carry on with my life as best I could. I know Manchester is no stranger to bombings but I felt it was ever so important to try and keep some normality, as thats exactly what the bomber was trying to disrupt.

Of course my heart goes out to everyone involved or loved ones who are still not found like friend Dan Hett.

But you really see the dark side of organisations, politics and religon in these moments.

But of course these out weighted by moments of absolute joy and delight by a factor of 10.

I believe Manchester, like London, like Paris, like many others… won’t let these acts take over our way of life and I’m very happy to be part of a city who come together when it matters the most.

I have hope people missing will be found, hopefully alive and well. We will not fall down the path

My highlights of TedxManchester 2017

TedXManchester 2017

I had the joy of being one of many in the main theatre in Home for TedXManchester 2017 (number 5 I believe?). Once again arranged and produced by the incredible serial successful event organiser Herb Kim and the thinking digital team, with a varied range of people plucked for their interesting stories, projects or surrounding concepts. I got my ticket late because the first lot sold out in under an hour! But I was very lucky and looked forward to the line up without really looking into each speaker.

Of course last year was special to me, as I took to the stage to tell the tales of dating in the new millenium with dating against humanity. But it’s always interesting to sit in the crowd and experience the whole thing as an audience member.

The whole event was good but here are the talks which really stood out for me.

Mr Bingo

TedXManchester 2017

I had no idea who Mr Bingo was or what he had done, till he took the stage. He is just a funny guy who does funny things with analogue media; like drawing extremely rude things on cards and posting it to people who request them. I mean he’s trolling them but only because they requested to be trolled. Sounds like self abuse almost?

Its weird but I thought the whole thing was hysterical. I took a shot of one of his cards and been getting a little attention for it, can’t think why? (pleads innocence but of course I know why!)

Sophie Scott

TedXManchester 2017

There was a host of things Sophie said which was fascinating, but the bit which stuck for me was the detail about our attention and our voice. She told us when we talk our brain turns off the listening part. I’m sure this isn’t strictly true but an interesting thought, specially when thinking about how we hate hearing our own voices and why certainly people tend not to realise others are making points too.

She then went on to suggest our voices are wired for much more than just communication, using beatboxing as the ideal example of our voices as instruments.

Lots to take away and well delivered…

Jennifer Arcuri

TedXManchester 2017

There is little I can say about Jennifer which I haven’t already said about her at the last Thinking Digital Manchester. She talked passionately about hacker culture and how important knowledge was in the internet connected world we inhabit. Always a pleasure and wish I could make it to the first HackerHouse/Madlab course in March.

Jonathan Kay

TedXManchester 2017

Jonathan was a weird one and divided people from what I heard in the break later. He started his talk/act at the back of the stalls by heckling Herb as he gave his introduction. Then moved forward to the stage followed by a remote camera person, so people in the upper levels could see what on earth was going on.

His aim of the act was to get the audience to speak to each other and heck even touch each other (I know shock horror!). Ok at one point he did suggest kissing the person next to us but that didn’t go down so well. It was entertaining and the bigger point of actually talking to the people around us, wasn’t lost on myself and others.

What really brough the whole thing home to me, was the fact a friend sat in the seat next to me was feeling extremely uncomfortable about the act and wondered if someone would be picked out of the audience; because that would be terrifying. Thinking back to Carrie Green in TedxManchester3 and I said would it be so bad?

I think the point was made…

Helen Czerski

TedXManchester 2017

I have heard Helen a few times at previous Thinking Digital’s and honestly every time I hear her talk, she just oozes wonder and excitement for science and the universe. You can’t help but feel excited when she talks. Always enlightening and always reignited my interest in sciences.

Michelle McGagh

TedXManchester 2017

I don’t know what to say about Michelle, except wow and wtf! basically Michelle decided not to buy anything for a year. She did point out buy nothing day which is the same day as black friday; but one day is easy right? Why not spend nothing year?

This really got me going because she made very good points about our quick fix consumer culture and the logical conclusion of this all. But unlike the a preachy lecture about how bad we all were, she put herself through a year of trying to live it.

The results were funny and sometimes tragic. I’m not very frugal at all but I typically don’t spend much money on buying stuff. Tend to spend more on experiences and doing things. But recently I made the decision that if was getting old or causing too much effort to keep it going, I should trade it in earlier than later. I’ve spent too much time, fighting to keep things going when I should have just got rid of it and moved on.

So to hear someone actively trying to not to spend anything, and not because she couldn’t afford it – was a little shocking. The full extend of her frugaleness was quite something and reminded me of when I left the hospital almost 7 years ago and seeing my bank balance, because I simply had not spent a single penny except paid my usual bills etc; It was amazing… Maybe there was something to it, I thought as she left the stage.

Andy Burnham

TedXManchester 2017

It was a surprise to see Andy Burnham on the TEDx line up, knowing how TED doesn’t like politic talks, but I have to say although he spoke with passion and made some good points. I couldn’t help but feel the us and them argument a little too simplistic. Centralised power does have a tendencancy to turn corrupt but there is also some good things about it too. If I was talking to Andy directly, I would point to examples like the states, where each state can pretty much set their own rules but the united states system can over rule them; and in some cases thank goodness otherwise slavery, marital rape, etc would still be enforced (although then you get crap like the bathroom nonsense, with the centralised power making backwards decisions).

I also think Andy a few times pointed the finger at the south vs the north, when what he really meant is the country vs westminster. Anyway it was interesting and good to hear, even if I’m not certain on everything said.

Dan Machen

TedXManchester 2017

I liked Dan’s talk, it was a number of things I’ve been thinking a lot about. Attention and Intimacy. I was surprised he never mentioned Sherry Turkle but the quote from William Bernbach was a good place to hand a lot of thoughts. I had never actually checked out Tristan harris, but after Dan’s talk I had a deeper look at him.

Very interesting stuff which I agree about quite a bit (expect a longer blog about him soon). I’ve also been thinking about people not platforms, putting more emphasis on human time and less on productivity. It’s all very interesting in the face of machine learning and AI; I can feel the quantified self/movement (they are quite different) right in the middle of all this, along with data ethics.

Back back to Dan’s talk, I did find the point about the smartphone being a hammer and would we take our hammer out in a meeting? Put it on the table? Interesting… To be fair when he talked about it, I did picture the business card scene from American Psycho, when he mentioned the hammer on the table.

Lots to take away and think about…

TedXManchester 2017

Of course there was plenty more good talks including Isaiah HullVolker HirschSquirrel NationTash Willcocks and Ukebox; which made the ukulele actually interesting. The only one I didn’t enjoy was Nic Cary from Blockchain, which actually has made me want to move my bitcoins from my blockchain wallet to somewhere else. I was actually thinking maybe its time to have my own personal offline wallet?

Another TEDxManchester with plenty to think about and another high bar for TEDx’s to try to achieve, well done to everyone involved.

M14 impresses all the dragons in their den

vlcsnap-2017-02-20-00h55m42s512

I have to give a massive congrats to John Kershaw from M14 industries, who took the previoulsy mentioned Bristlr app from niche dating to hosted matching platform (very much selling shovles during a goldrush). Yesterday he appeared on the BBC’s Dragons Den and struck a great deal with Peter and Nick for a reasonable percentage of the business.

Of course John had a viewing party with friends, investers and family. Its season 14 episode 15 if you are looking for it.

John’s written his thoughts up here.

Before Nick showed his hand, and it was looking like I might get investment from all five dragons simultaneously, I started to internally panic. This isn’t how this happens.

After all the Dragons had given their offers, I knew I’d have to go with Nick and Peter; they have the experience and if they’re not willing to share, I don’t have much choice.

And it’s at this point where an interesting thing happens: I forgot everyone’s names.

Certainly another great story for Manchester’s Startup community and the early investors who saw the potential of M14 industries early on. I personally was always impressed with John and although we sometimes disagreed about what should be next on the task list, its great to get the validation that it wasn’t just a silly app!

I won 2nd prize at #Smutslam Manchester

I already wrote about smutslam manchester  and how I thought it was a fun idea. So I went along (alone, due to friends dropping out for various reasons).

I had no intention of talking, but Cameryn and helpers really put me at ease. I looked at the form with my drink in hand on the top floor of the kings arms in Salford. People were encouraged to fill in a question for Cameryn’s fcukbucket, which she would pull out during event.

2017-01-31 19.42.51

So I thought about it and asked Cameryn if the story had to end in a sexual manner? She said no, real life isn’t like that! Perfect answer, so I put my name in the “Smut slammers” glass.

The evening really started with a bang, Cameryn gave a entertaining talk about a sexual experience on a british train. Then explained the rules to be very clear. The evening move forward with talks by different people but what surprised me was having my name read out right before the break.

I was quite shocked even though I had only put it in the glass about 30mins before. I thought about a couple story’s but I remember Ross saying how good the disabled toilet incident story was (haven’t posted this one). It was fun but a little nerve racking with no slides or notes. I just talked and removed the less important details.

Like the other storys, I’m not going into details I can never do them justice, you needed to be there… Some were tragic, some hysterical, but all true and told from the heart. I described mine as somewhat Adrian Mole, which was picked up by a woman after the break. She told a story of a missed opportunity too.

In the second half, four more storys were told including the winner which was closely tragic and full of thought. The whole room was gripped by the story.

By the time the judges had decided, I was very convinced my story wasn’t going to be in the top 3. It was annouced there was a tie for 3rd place, then the lady who also described her story as like Adrian Mole with another man. Still thinking, I know who would be 1st and a idea who might be 2nd, I was gobsmacked when my name was announced as 2nd.

I was simply blown away, especially since there was some great well told stories and mine was much closer to rating 15 rather than 18.

The prizes were sex toys and the overall winner picked something which I couldn’t really described easily (I think its something for the very sexually mature I assume). I choose the purple vibrator, thinking it might be a nice gift for one of my female friends.

Vibrator

The whole event was fun, cheerful and I felt extremely welcome. I had thought it might be heavily kinky but it wasn’t, it was both kink and vanilla (I picked that up from what some people were saying on the night). Its going to run every month now and theres going to be monthly events in Manchester, London, Brighton, Bristol and Edinburgh.

Honestly it was a fantastic evening and so glad I went along, highly recommended for a good times, good atmosphere and good stories. Thanks to Cameryn, the judges and the whole team which made it happen.

Worth saying Cameryn is looking for a more accessible venue and a local sex toy supplier.

Smut slamming stuff in Manchester

Smut Slam 20130603_009

It was through Girl on the net’s blog that I first heard about #Smutslam.

I checked it out and thought it was a great idea, especially since I’ve wanted to go to a Moth live and more #nsfw Risk live events. Both are fancinating insight into the richness of life and human connections.

… the idea is that people put their names down to tell one short (less than 5 minute) story from their sexual past, and then eight to ten names are drawn at random. If you’re picked, you go up on stage to tell your story, and then there are prizes and fun and all the good stuff. You don’t have to tell a story, though – if you’re shy you can just sit in the audience and enjoy listening to other people’s.

I checked out the London one and wrote a task to consider running one in Manchester, as I think its a great idea and theres plenty of interesting stories I’ve heard from others. But when looking into it over brunch in Ezra & Gil, I saw there is a Manchester one already setup.

In actual fact, Cameryn Moore, the “award-winning playwright/performer, sex activist and educator, and former phone sex operator.” is relocating from Montreal to Manchester, so I look forward to more of this. Certainly makes GeeksTalkSexy and Relationships 2.0 seem like a PG-13 movie.

I’m certainly going to check one out, I won’t be putting anything in the pot but listening and enjoying the evening.

Anyone want to join me?

Ancoats… hip? upcoming?

The Ashton Canal by Ancoats

Ancoats is the area just north of the city centre in Manchester. It has a large population of people who have lived in and around that area for generations. From the things I’ve seen, it use to be the Italian Quarter.

When I first came to Manchester 9 years ago, it was seen as a place you don’t want to go too often.

I still remember talking to a taxi driver asking for New Islington (about 5 years before the Tram stop opened), he seemed very confused and when I finally showed him on google maps; he laughed and said “You mean Ancoats!

Although I don’t strictly live in Ancoats, I live between Ancoats and New Islington in the ward called Bradford. Basicilly for aguement sake, I live in Ancoats or on the edge of the northen quarter.

Recently its started going through the genertification phases. I assume it started once different groups of people started making it their homeincluding myself. So many changes than Rudys Pizza place has been named best Pizza place in Manchester and beyond. Vivid Lounge named second best thai restaurants in Manchester, although its a local cafe under my flat. I’m seeing the Ancoasts Coffee company beans appearing all over. Recently theres been a restaurant called squid, matcha tea room and some clean living restuarant called Kettlebell.

Kat with cocktail

And its not just the food places… The area is growing homes, unique flats, schools, hackspaces, nurseries, etc. No wonder its been featured among the hippest places in the UK.

Now listed among the hippest places in the UK , Ancoats has blossomed beyond recognition into one of Manchester’s best areas for independent food and drink.

The district was home to some of the largest mills in the city. It fell into disrepair after the slump of the cotton industry, and was more notorious than it was desirable. But the forgotten corner of the city soon attracted low-budget creatives. As the trendy Northern Quarter became satiated and prices rocketed in the city centre, young entrepreneurs looked slightly further afield to set up innovative new businesses.

Now, old mills are regenerated by indie cafes, restaurants and bars with a focus on high-quality, artisan products. One journalist for the New York Times heaped praise on the ‘ entrepreneurial spirit ’ of the area, while the San Francisco Chronicle named Ancoats as a must-see area for any tourist in 2017.

Some people are calling it the new Northern Quarter. But in reality, it’s an eclectic, inventive, and exciting foodscape all of its own.

Waterside # 2 - New Islington, Manchester

Certainly a shift from Ancoats very different past.

DJ Hackday has been cancelled…

Paul Devro

Unfortunately the DJ Hackday which was meant to happen on 13, 14, 15th January in Manchester has been cancelled. Its a little heart breaking but myself and Simon always knew if things were not setup before December, it would be buried in the festival holidays.

Don’t worry we still have plans to move forward with a hackday in the same venue (MMU Shed).

Thanks to everyone who took an interest, we haven’t forgotten you and we’ll be back in touch once we got another solid date. Don’t forget if you would be interested in being involved in the organisation of the event, get in touch.

Till then keep an eye on DJHackday.com, the hashtag #djhack and our lanyrd event.

Dj Hackday: Jan 14/15th 2017 in Manchester

Remixing a part of who we are - Doug Belshaw

In my last mega blog post about Futurefest, I talked about millennials thinking.

Millennials charactistics include

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

This very much applies to something I’ve been trying to get off the ground for a long time (5 years!).

DJ Hackday, is a hackday for not only for DJs but for remix culture.

Remix culture, sometimes read-write culture, is a society that allows and encourages derivative works by combining or editing existing materials to produce a new product. A remix culture would be, by default, permissive of efforts to improve upon, change, integrate, or otherwise remix the work of copyright holder

My personal thoughts are, DJ culture was new exciting and things were moving and changing all the time. We had vinyl, record players and mixers. But people were innovating and doing new things on top of that. Then the technology changed from spinning discs (Vinyl, CDs heck even Minidisc if you must) to Solid State/Digital. There was a lot of push back and there still is… But you can’t stop the future.

However we adopted the digital methods to do exactly the same thing. You can see this in the vast amount of digital dj tools, 2 decks and a mixer. Skeuomorphism hell! And it needs to die! Because a good 20 years after the first Mp3 dj software (virtual turntables by Carrot innovations). The interface, method and general approch is exactly the same.

virtualturntables
2 decks and a mixer (kinda) – 1996
hqdefault
2 decks and a mixer with extras – 2016

That’s more than half my life time! That has to be some kind of a joke!

Ok under the hood things have changed but not far enough and wheres the distruptive changes? The DJ world still seems to be stressing out about auto BPM? Its happened get over it. For a whole culture built on innovation and creativity, it seems highly ironic?

5 years ago at Mozilla Festival I convince the lovely Michelle Thorne of this and I was able to run a prototype of DJ hackday during the festival. Out of it came a DJ first multitrack stem/format called 8trk.

But this was just scratching the surface of a much larger problem with DJ/Remix culture. I put together some slides which horrible to read back through as they are 5 years old, but its been super useful when talking to people and companies about what DJ hackday could be about. It was due an update and thankfully I can finally tick this off my list.

While talking to many people and companies over the years, some of got it and some have asked why isn’t it part of Music Hackday?

I have spoken to the Music hackday people about DJ hackday and made a very clear distinction between what they are doing and what I’m trying to to.

My estimations is the internet 1% rule applies here.

The 1% rule is a rule of thumb pertaining to participation in an internet community, stating that only 1% of the users of a website actively create new content, while the other 99% of the participants only lurk. Variants include the 1-9-90 rule (sometimes 90–9–1 principle or the 89:10:1 ratio), which states that in a collaborative website such as a wiki, 90% of the participants of a community only view content, 9% of the participants edit content, and 1% of the participants actively create new content.

90-9-1

In the case of DJ hackday; out of 100 people…

  • 90 will be consumer (lurkers/watchers)
  • 1% will be makers (creators)
  • 9% will be remixers (editors)

Music hackday cators for the 1% and of course moving remixers and consumers into makers. DJ hackday is moving consumers and makers into remixers. Its a very viable area with plenty of people doing interesting great things already. Everyone we have spoke over the last 5 years have gotten the concept and really want to see it become a real things now.

Myself and Simon have started a Lanyrd page to start building support and getting more people interest. Its also one of Mozilla Festival’s Fridge events, which is fantastic as it shows the progession from its small prototype to a full blown event and Mozilla are always a supporter of remix cultures.

Capitalising on the recent interest in the Get Down on Netflix, which sums up a bit of why DJ/Remix culture is important. I created some simple teaser posters. Expect a proper poster in near future but right now, its about getting the word out. And we’re really targetting those who never thought of themselves as DJs or participating in remix culture. People like you!

As the year counts down towards Winter, I’ll be looking for people to help and other companies to join the DJ Hack. We already have some great names (tbc) and starting to sort out venues for the night events. Of course we already have the MMU Shed for the main hack which is a great space for a hackday. The actual hack dates are Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th January, with a social event on the Friday 13th January and post hackday party on Sunday evening somewhere we can try out some of the hacks.

If you are interested in helping out on the day, know a great venue, like to support in some way, set a challenge or want to come help organise it. Get in touch…

Feel free to ping myself a tweet or drop a message via email, my contact form, comment, etc… I’m quite easy to get hold of.

Flying into storms

Landing after a storm
The scene after landing in Manchester Airport

Finally back from Amsterdam after IBC 2016; the weather was incredible. Weather wasn’t far off in the UK it seems. However on flying back to Manchester, we hit a massive storm. The flight was only meant to be 55mins but we were up in the air for 90min.

On tweeting the above, Andrew sent a tweet.

On the review, it certainly looks about right, I certainly spotted a coast line.

Flying through and around a storm

To be fair once we finally landed and I tried to get a train home, I found out the train line was flooded and no trains were running from the Airport. They said the same was true of the tram but James seemed to get through? Ended up getting a Uber and being very surprised it wasn’t surge pricing. Felt a little sorry for most of the other people who were stuck waiting for trains. I was a little miffed but I didn’t know how bad things could have been or was in Manchester.

Manchester’s first Cocktail Festival

cocktail hour

For seven days in August, Manchester is throwing its first ever cocktail festival.

Now, we’re a city who enjoys a good slurp on a classic concoction, but even we didn’t see a dedicated festival committed to this refined drinking trend coming.

From August 8-14, Manchester Loves Cocktails (yes, yes it does) will bring together more than 20 fine drinking establishments from right across the city for a full week of unique cocktails and more than 40 special booze-themed events.

Why? Because as the founder of Manchester Loves Cocktails Nick Fox says: “The standard of cocktails in Manchester are now on par with top bars of London and New York.” That’s why.

Best of all is the cocktail price tag – each one setting you back a handsome £4.50 with your festival wristband.

Some questions…

Whats taken so long, where do I sign up and whos with me?

Viewers might find this disturbing

Manchester Ferguson protest

The last 2 weeks have been difficult to take. Theres been too much I have wanted to say and so much I have wanted to do. I have been thinking and deeply worried we have taken a few steps backwards in evolution.

For me two videos have summed up so much, and I do worry they exist in spaces like Facebook.

Video one is the shooting of Philando Castile, a black man in St Paul, Minnesota. #Blacklivesmatter but you can clearly see this isn’t the case, in a city I have visited and actually enjoyed in the past.

The second video comes in the days after the EU Referendum or Brexit. It shows a racist tram abuse at 8am in the morning in Manchester.

Each person who filmed the killing and abusive attack, showed incredible bravery to stand up and put a camera in the face of such situations. If you are old enough to remember the Rodney King beating, its important to remember George Holliday who filmed the beating.

Another angle on the MOSI experiment

Let's Talk About Sex

I wrote this a while ago last year, to be fair just after going to the Horizon dating experiement which later appeared on BBC Two

Its been about 6 months roughly since I was involved in the MOSI experiment around speed dating. It was the most scientific thing I have done till I took part in the Horizon dating experiment (blog is written but I can’t publish till the TV show goes out – next year)

But I was wondering what was the results of the MOSI experiment? I haven’t heard anything but to be fair I did go on the date with one of the woman I met through the speed dating. She was nice and there was quite a bit of common interest but I got the feeling it wasn’t to be when we split the bill.

I was thinking while reading Jonah Berger’s Contagious, about social proof and how the experiement about the science of popularity in dating is also a experiment in social proof. But to be fair I kind of already knew this, just hadn’t explicitly thought about it that way.

social proof

So weird when you remember beauty lies with the eye of the beholder.

Whats it like to be a Airbnb host in Manchester?

AirBnB kinda sucks

Zoe pointed me to the medium blog One year hosting on Airbnb.

I thought was actually quite interesting, so I thought I’d do something similar but maybe less quantified.

I moved to Manchester 8 years ago and moved to my own flat 6 years ago. I bought a two bedroom flat mainly so I could have family & friends over without building a bed in the living room each time. Originally it was going to be my computer room complete with server and all type of tech. But I ended up putting a sofa bed in there and never really using it much. It was a bit of a waste to be honest, and I always felt a little bad about that.

As one of the earliest movers to Manchester from London as part of the BBC’s move to media city UK. I saw the potential for maybe renting my spare room to people moving up and finding their feet. Heck I’m right by Piccadilly station and they were building a new tram station by me (new Islington) making getting to media city easy as pie. There is a private Facebook group for movers and I kept an eye on that for potential people.

There was quite a few people doing the same and they would list their places on spare room and elsewhere. I was going to do the same but never around to it. I didn’t really want someone for months at an end because I wanted the flexibility if a friend wanted to stay over. I had previously had a flat mate (Tim) and he was great (saving my life and all) but I said to him that I was going to live mainly alone. It was something I just needed to do

I had heard of airbnb but thought of it like couchsurfing which another friend (Dave) had used a lot. It was somewhere between needing to put my spareroom somewhere to show people on the Facebook group and half looking for a flat mate, partly from the guilt of not using the spareroom much. That make me actually look into it and ultimately put up the listing.

Skies above Manchester
Double in Manchester City Centre

My listing was very honest, maybe too honest. The photos are a little crappy and I didn’t stage anything (no ironing of the sheets, photo retouching, etc). I also didn’t use a wide angle lens like airbnb’s photographers do. Nope the room is small but has a proper double bed, some draws and a mini wardrobe. I decided the biggest selling points of the flat was the separate bathroom (I tend to use my on-suite for everything), the amazing views, its location and my flexibility. This is why I made the first photo a sunset from the living room. I keep thinking I need do better about the photos but frankly i’m happy with the little extra money and I’m not doing it to get rich (unlike some people)

On that front, I actually add restrictions to put certain people off.

  • You can not book my room on the day. I had enough of last-minute requests and frankly the kind of people putting in the request seemed a little sketchy. The weirdest one is a man who wrote a message like I had already accepted his request, he wanted to know where to go to meet me!
  • I always get into a conversation with the person. If I get a bad feeling I make an excuse and reject their request. I need to know they are coming to Manchester for a purpose not doss at mine, eat my food (there is a story there) and drink all my cocktail spirits.
  • I wouldn’t do instant book, for the reason above I don’t use instant book, I need to get a feel of who the person is. I’m also ruthless with checking their previous bookings, social media profiles and offline ID. My bare minimum acceptable is a verified phone number, email, at least one social media profile. I need a good photo of the person and one or two positive reviews. If no reviews I’d need to know they have done the offline ID check. It’s off-putting but it’s my home and I want to know exactly who they are. Also I checked with my insurance and this is important if Airbnb’s insurance doesn’t cut it and I need to use my own.
  • All guests need to go through verification. I turned this on because it made sense for me.
  • I charge over the recommended price. Airbnb has data on all the places similar to yours and how well they are doing. The algorithm then calculates a recommended price which will attract people and earn a good return. The problem for me is I don’t want a lot of people, I don’t need the room always in use. It’s optimised to get more people and thats not for me. It also requires you really change it quite a bit or rely on them changing the price. I swear a few times I seen the price go as low as 19 pounds a night, this is not workable for me.
  • I have a list of things which I’m allergic to which I have listed on my profile. The big one is no cooking baked beans in the flat. I can deal with almost anything else but I can’t have that in my flat. To be fair most hosts don’t let people cook, but I think thats pretty tight (imho) and unfair if you are there for over a week.

Some numbers. To date I have had a lot of enquiries for my spareroom (73, I took the time to respond to). Some months it’s every week some months I get nothing. I have had 15 people in the years I have been doing it. The average stay is about 3-4 nights and I mainly get males (unsurprisingly), but had a good number of females. If you count actual bookings, its not far off half. But its only because Caroline rebooked many times. My next guest is female. Exact earnings I do know because Airbnb does tell you but I’d rather not say, but it’s worth saying I did look up the maximum you could earn before paying excess tax and I am quite a way off. Paypal did think I was doing some money laundering and cut me off for a while, which was painful.

Most of my guests are from the UK but I’ve had a couple from the states and western europe. Once again if I was doing things by time, Portugal would be the biggest percentage by far with the UK second and America third. I don’t tend to get many people just wanting to party, mainly becasue of the restrictions I have put in place I believe.

Incidents? Nothing major my front door has been left open, somebody complained I didn’t have enough takeaway menus (I have none to be fair) and I have found something very surprising in the fridge one day.

I have heard of some real bad stories and to be fair my own experience in Japan does remind me how bad things can get. Also how tricky getting help out of Airbnb can be. I would do everything I can to fix things myself before embarking on getting help out of them. Although to be fair they have quickly modified peoples reviews when they break the guidelines (not deliberately or maliciously)

Positive experiences, I have many!

Catherine was the first woman who stayed at mine and she was wonderful, shes also the one who finally convinced me I should finally go to the ballet I was thinking about. Darren was so pleased about the place and was kind enough to let me cousin and friend stay in the living room while he was there. I don’t even know where to start with Caroline…

She certainly stayed the longest at just over 3 months but was a pleasure to be around. We had some great conversations and had a routine of watching the Affair together. She certainly became more like a flat mate than a airbnb guest which was fine, except I needed to redecorate my flat, which also involved storing stuff in the spare room. It was a shame to see her go, but things were not working out for her career wise too.

All of these people wrote me glowing reviews and gave me a lovely present to say thank you. Caroline even wrote me a number of lovely post it notes during the months, one still exists on my noticeboard. Will have to encourage more guests to do this after seeing Rehan’s book.

Having Vivid Lounge downstairs is incredible and always gets super high praises from guests, no wonder it was voted one of the best thai restaurant in Manchester recently. Most of my guests drop in there for drinks or food at some point. I’m actually writing this while sipping a coffee in Vivid, trying to get use to British Summer Time

I would encourage everyone who has a spare bed in their house to list their space on Airbnb (if that’s legal in your country). It’s a great way to boost the economy of a city/country because there are thousands of other tourists who like to visit different cities but are not able to do it because the hotels are too expensive.

As for me, I am deeply honoured to have been a host for the hundreds of guests who stayed at my apartment and gave me a chance to contribute to their first amazing experience of Amsterdam.

I would echo most of Rehan’s thoughts.

But I have to say you have to sensible about everything. I know friends who have taken on Airbnb and been unflexible or not willing to trust the person with keys, etc. Trust is a two way street and my faith in humanity is strong, but I’m not blinded by making huge amounts of money. This is the classic money clouding judgement/decision making process. Yes you could make quite a bit of money but you will end up taking more risky people and do you want the hassle of replacing stuff after someone decides to have a party in your flat with a bunch of friends or even people they met that night?

I know theres a lot of tension about Airbnb, especially with what Berlin did, others are sure to follow suit. Some of the Manchester flats management agents won’t allow Airbnb to happen within their flats. But as I said previously, we need to think differently about the people who are renting a whole apartment or house from those like myself who are renting their spare room or a sofa in the case of Rehan at first. Its a great way to meet different types of people and its always a interesting talking point in conversations, dare I say it could help make you interesting?