In memory of Damian Cox

Damian with a pie butty
Only in Manchester can you get a pie butty, held by the late Damian Cox.

Damian Cox was more than a character, he was an incredible outspoken figure and a joy to be around. It was a shock to hear the news that he had died suddenly.

The funeral is this week and unfortunately I’m in Maderia Portugal for ICIDS 2017 and can’t be there. Death is always shocking and scary but having been so close myself I tend to have a slightly different view on death and want to celebrate life more than ever.

Because of this I wanted to share a few of the reasons why Damian was just such an amazing person.

When I first moved up to BBC Manchester on Oxford Road I met quite a few people and I did some publicity work for the BBC as they wanted to recruit more locally. Now I don’t know for sure, but Damian claims he joined after seeing my mug shot somewhere. He use to call me the pin-up boy, which use to make me laugh, even many years later.

I clearly remember him showing me some of the northern delights like the pie butty which without realising made it to the top of the only in manchester list in buzz feed.

At BarCampMediaCity, I clearly remember Cristiano coming to me and someone else on the Saturday evening and saying, we need to talk to security because someone is clearly drunk; he was joking, laughing, touchy and being loud about everything.
I asked who (wondering) and Cristiano didn’t know his name but described him having a flat cap, northern accent and cheeky smile. Within a single heart beat, I remember saying with someone else; is it Damian Cox? Christiano looked puzzled.
Thats just Damian, he’s always like that… we laughed.

Damian was fun, full of spirit and a joy to be around. He told it exactly how it was, wouldn’t hold back and wouldn’t be without his flatcap. Even during the heat of of Hacked.io in the O2, he stood out due to that bloody flatcap!

Hacked 2013

He will be so missed by not just by his family, friends and colleagues; but BBC North and Manchester. He embodied the reason why the BBC moved to Manchester.

Rest in Peace Damian Cox

Dyslexic minds in conversation at the #listeningproject

We did it… Myself and Kate!

On Friday  25th October 2015, myself and Kate met in the Media City Piazza where the Listening project booth was located for the day.

The BBC Radio 4 Listening project

After a chat with the lovely producers and some signing of paperwork, we paused for thought while the Director General (Tony Hall) was meant to visit and have a look around before we recorded. However Tony took too long and we pressed ahead regardless.

The BBC Radio 4 Listening project

Once in the booth we made ourselves comfortable, one of the producers explained she would only make hand gestures if things were not clear or the conversation dried up. Of course the only gesture me and Kate got was at the end, telling us it was done.

https://twitter.com/sarahkatenorman/status/647344266113630209/

Its hard to explain what happened in the conversation and I had hoped to linked to the audio files from the blog post (promise to do this once its live). The conversation was fun, interesting and bouncy (my word for dancing from subject to subject in a flow way). As I thought, Kate was a excellent partner in crime and to be honest we could have rolled on for another few hours I reckon.

Talking about time, I was very surprised when we were told to stop, as it only felt like 30mins had gone by in my head. This is certainly something I talked about in this blog entry about dyslexia, flow and time management. We slipped into a mild flow state of some kind.

And somewhere near the end, we both agreed to be taken out of our comfort zones for a weekend/few days.

The gravitas of this decision only hit me after the end of the recording when I thought…

“Oh this has been recorded and archived for the world… whoops!”

The BBC Radio 4 Listening project

It was fun and really enjoyable, I can’t recommend it enough to other people. But honestly it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as fun unless Kate.

Such a great friend! I can’t wait to listen back to the whole conversation and share with the world. This for me is an example of what I was talking about at BarCampManchester6 which I just came back from.

The secret of luck or the richness of life… We took the opportunity and are richer because of this experience. Plus it makes ourselves much more interesting, as it adds to our character and experience.

The BBC Radio 4 Listening project

300seconds at the BBC Media City

Becky, Rosie, Jasmine - The R&D girls

It wasn’t Ted and it wasn’t TedXSalford (still need to write up my thoughts on that conference). It was something new and fresh… 300seconds I wrote about a while ago announcing its first regional (outside of London) event at Media City UK. New fresh and something which would actually help the people giving the presentation as well as inspire the audience.

The line up for the event was great balance of talks by women who all had different levels of talking experience. They all had reasons why they wanted to give it a try and frankly all did a fantastic job! Nerves and all!

Kylie Hodges, Bliss, The World of Social Media, Premature Babies and International Engagment
Jasmine Cox, BBC, Maker of Things
Ciara McVeigh, Discerning Digital, You Don’t Have to be a Geek to Work in Tech

300Seconds at BBC North

Victoria Sorzano, BBC, Confessions of a Digital Witch: Finding your Niche
Amy Lynch, ThoughtWorks, The underrepresentation of women in tech conferences
Rebecca Gregory-Clarke, BBC, How to Build a Weather Robot

Rosie Campbell, BBC, Using Game Theory to survive in a hungry tribe
Catherine Jones, Science Museum, Turning a 1920′s radio into a 21st Century Exhibit

The videos for the talks will be up on the 300seconds you tube channel in the near future.

Robin and Amy Lynch

I wanted to say thank you to BBC R&D who supported the project along with BBC North. Louise Blythe for her lovely hands off coaching and great 3 useful points for communicating an idea to someone. Robin Cramp who has seriously become a superstar MC for conferences, he’s so funny and so entertaining I think he may deserve his own show. His wheel of feedback was simply hysterical.

Fantastic night and I’m happy to say we’re already in talks about doing another in 2014, so look out for your chance to sign up and put yourself forward to talk for 300seconds.

300 seconds to tell your story

Sharon O'Dea - intro

I have always wanted to help people around me, its in my blood and I sometimes end up doing it regardless of my work load (must stop doing so). Anyhow a few months ago I ran a series of events as part of the BBC’s Connected studio called BBC Connected Social. One of the events was a ignite event about design. Although I tried to get a number of women involved, I got nowhere.

This didn’t go unnoticed and to be fair rightly so… The event went ahead and was a success but I couldn’t help but feel crappy about the lack of women I got onboard. I have been known to level criticism at some events for the lack of women and diversity but I couldn’t make it happen myself.

Ever since (and to be fair before) I’ve been thinking about putting on a conference with the aim of encouraging women to give public speaking a chance. I originally thought about working with Madlab to put on such a event, specially after the last girlgeek barcamp (bracamp) and my rushed look at the success of Girl Geekdinners.

Anyway after getting a chance to hear Melinda’s (miss geeky) views on 300 seconds I joined the dots and connected people.

I believe the event matches the BBC values nicely

We respect each other and celebrate our diversity so that everyone can give their best.

I’m now super stoked to be able to say the 3rd 300 seconds event will be at the BBC, MediaCityUK.

What is 300 seconds?

300 Seconds is a series of talks by and for the digital community. We believe that digital is better when we can learn from the brilliance of the many, not just the few. With our events we hope to give our peers, and in particular women, a means of gaining confidence and experience in speaking in public.

On the Thursday 14th November, you can get your tickets now to apply to speak or just listen and support. Of course the event is open to men as well, so what you waiting for? Go get yourself a ticket and I look forward to seeing you and sharing the special surprises we have installed for the night.

How I work…

Ian @ BarcampLondon5 - Day 1

A survey went around R&D today and after answering all the questions there was a blank area for other comments…

I’m sure I haven’t thought of all the weird software/network combinations that are in use. Please use this box to add any info you think I need to know.

To which I wrote

I have machines on multiple networks…

One on the R&D network,
One on the BBC internal network
One on the plain Internet.

I tend to keep the BBC internal one (running Windows 7 – which I have Admin rights) at work because its useless outside the BBC due to the constraints placed on it.
The R&D one has two profiles on it. One profile is setup for the R&D network and the other is setup to use the plain internet wifi. This means I don’t need to carry around multiple machines just one and user switch profile on Ubuntu 11.04.

The software I use is Thunderbird for email mainly on the R&D network because Evolution (my usual mail client) doesn’t support Socks5 proxies. I tried to get Evolution working because I really wanted to get the BBC network/Exchange calendar working in Evolution but it wouldn’t work without root access!

Its important to have a plain internet connection because I tend to work at home and from different places. The Webmail without the SecureID pass has made life a lot easier but I really would like to have some kind of 2 step authentication. I’ve enabled it for my Google Mail account for example.

I tend to send emails for calendar requests to my gmail, just so I can sync my Google Calendar with my BBC calendar. Google Calendar Sync seems to fail maybe because I have too many items or it might be the two step authentication? End of the day its not as reliable as send it to my gmail.

Its interesting because things are really starting to change and it starts with the change of outlook on the systems people use and work with everyday. Gone are the days of strict control of the employees machines… This surely has to be a good thing?

A few months into media city…

Its been about 2 months since we moved into Media City. Brendan created a video which give a nice overview of the great new space we have.

A couple of months ago BBC Research and Development’s North Lab moved into its new home at MediaCity UK in Salford. The old base at Oxford Road in Manchester had been home for a good few years for some so, while excited about our shiny new facilities, it was with fondness and some sadness that we bid the Outside Broadcast building, ‘round the back, in the carpark, goodbye. Above is a short film about the last days of Oxford Road and the start of our new working lives in Salford.

There’s no doubt, its great being in Media City. Specially when the sun is shining.

There are some downsides like the lack of a BBC Club but on the upside there’s a massive sense of anything can and will happen if we want it to. And to be fair the work I’m on, reflects that (more on this in the near future).

BarCampMediaCity

For example, BarCampMediaCityUK. After 5 years of trying to do a BBC hosted barcamp by multiple people, we finally got the ecstatic yes from BBC Workplace, who to be fair has been nothing but great with there lovely floor walkers and generally useful security guards. We hit them with the concept of the stay over they took it all in there stride. I swear if we said we want to run a barcamp for 7 days they would have considered it. The barcamp is just getting off the ground but there will be more details coming along soon enough…

Back to MediaCity, the downside of having no BBC Club has meant we’ve had to entertain ourselves. Its still early days but we regularly have Tuesday evening drinks in the canteen/cafe/restaurant, which is a great chance to meet new faces. Not quite sure how it will scale but we’ll iterate I guess.

The public zone

I’ve started a circus skills event outside on the grassy areas when its sunshine and there’s also the Salford cinema club. Others events and things are a foot including curry nights, yoga, the last friday club, etc…  And thats just the start…

More shops are coming and Salford University is going to open right next door so its going to be quite a hotspot.

New Islington Tram test

Getting to MediaCityUK has been pretty easy for me to date. I walk down to Picadilly Station and jump on a tram directly to mediacityuk if I’m in no rush or maybe a tram to Bury if in a rush. It takes about 35mins door to door and should get slightly quicker when the SportsCity/Ashton tram extension opens. I’ll be able to jump on a tram at New Islington and change at Picadilly. Its maybe quicker to walk down but with a yearly travel card and not in rush, I might as well make use of it. The line is believed to open in time for the new football season, but thats just hear-say, although its worth noting there running tests every night right now.

New ways of working isn’t just a saying, we’re really trying out new ways of working. I personally work from the Northern Quarter quite a bit. Not only that there’s a whole bunch of changes happening with regards to our machines. We already upgraded to Windows 7 a while back but dear I say it, Ubuntu and other gnu/linux operating systems are being somewhat tolerated. Of course in R&D, it has been for quite sometime.

My only complaints right now are, the lack of a cash machine in mediacity as the restaurant only accept cash (although they are going to put in place a credit system soon) and when it does rain, the run across the Piazza can be very cold and wet. Right now its amazing in the sunshine…

The move to Media City was a good move and I’m very glad I made the jump when I did. Now I look forward to do some amazing things in our new home and break all the rules with collaborations all over the world.

This is why the BBC faces a massive change

This is going around the Social media circles right now

Jeremy Clarkson has blasted the BBC’s move to Salford – branding the city a ‘small suburb’ and saying he would quit rather than relocate.

The Top Gear presenter used his Sunday newspaper column today to take a swipe at the corporation’s decision to move a string of departments to MediaCityUK.

He described Salford ‘a small suburb with a Starbucks and a canal with ducks on it’ and said that he would resign if the motoring programme was moved north.

Clarkson – who reportedly receives a £2m-a-year salary from the BBC – claimed the decision to move five departments to brand new buildings at Salford Quays was based on politics, saying ‘it was a box that has been ticked’.

Clarkson, you can take or leave him. I’m not exactly a petrol head, so I’m only loosely aware of what he does on top gear… But some of his comments are just stupid and well ignorant

Some people simply have no vision and frankly need to roll over and let someone in who does have the vision and maybe the guts to give it a shot. This big head stand in the way of the people who will ultimately save the BBC. In actual fact if you read the whole thing, even with publication bias and all that out the way, its maybe the swan song of a long over-due industry on its very last legs.

First steps in Media City UK

Media City UK

Usually on Fridays I tend to work from home or rather from a lovely tea place (called North Tea Power) in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. Unless of course I’m required to be in for a good reason.

However my boss suggested I might want to try working from Media City this week? I thought about it and come last Friday morning after seeing my NHS nutritionist, I took a ride down to Media City.

Entering Media City was a little confusing mainly because I was riding and had to find a specific car park with spaces for BBC Staff. I found the right car park after a while and parked up in a car parking space. I’m really hoping they sort out proper motorcycle parking because I don’t really like the idea of parking my scooter in a massive car parking space. Car drivers have a tendancy to run over motorcycles and to be fair I don’t really want to use up such a big space. I don’t believe it will always be like that, thankfully.

Adhoc desks

After wonder out of the Car park and along to the BBC buildings (Dock, Bridge and something else) I headed to Dock where R&D North will be based. I was greeted by a friendly smile from BBC Workplace security guards. A lot of the security from Oxford Road are in the new Media City office, so its a familiar faces instead of whole new faces.

In the building, I can’t really express the feeling of new and shiny but at the same time the feeling of home. There’s a lot of strange but bold shaped furniture but I like the way its all pretty easy to move about and reconfigure. Most of them also include power points and Ethernet which means there very useful as places to plug in and get some work done.

Power and Ethernet everywhere

I was sat on one such table and had a couple of adhoc meetings with people on the desk. Nothing major just a couple of quick chats about upcoming projects… The furniture suits it perfectly. I know they won’t be everyones cup of tea but there pretty good for me.

At this time there is wifi but its locked down using 802.11x, which I have quite a bit of experience with when Ravensbourne College did the same 10 years ago. I didn’t really bother to see if I could get it working with Ubuntu directly but this guide makes it sound easy enough. There should be public-ish wifi at some point soon, but not yet. And of course R&D will have there own network along with there own wifi.

There’s some really nice touches like the welcome to your meeting room card, meeting room names based on BBC TV shows and the sometimes slightly odd wall paper

Its funny because Media City just like New Islington needs shops and services. Right now the Lowry outlet mall is the only place to get drinks or food but that will change. Talking about Food the restaurant isn’t bad, can’t quite see how it will be big enough for everyone once they move in but I guess there’s always the idea of having other food places in the other buildings. And of course there will be the usual food/drink outlets flocking into the area at some point.

I’ve added Media City UK to Wovox.com but so far its struggling with my picture uploads and the rotation. Hopefully I’ll get the shots on there pretty sharpish.

Our public gardens

The public zone is pretty nice and there’s plenty of seats for the summer months. Its nice having the tram so close but I do wonder how it will be day in day out. I’m already looking forward to riding it so I can finally regularly read my kindle and mix on pacemaker. But I don’t fancy some of the delays I’ve heard in the past. This is certainly why I’ll keep my scooter for those days when I need to get there quickly or the tram isn’t working so well.

The balcony

The Balcony areas look great and alot more useful than the ones at White City. I can’t wait to get some wifi out there and maybe a run of power and work out there all day during the summer months. Actually surprised there’s not already power of some kind out there?

Don’t get me wrong not everything is perfect, but I actually like the colour scheme and the general feel of the place. I’m still wondering how it will be when you have to run across to the canteen during the rainy months. Everyones skeptical about the hot water taps but I’ve seen and used them in Germany and Holland in hotels, and they are extremely effective and always hot when I need to use them. The lack of microwaves in the coffee area is a pain but they have there reasons.

Dock House signs

I’m sure things will change when it comes to Media City but I guess I won’t really find out till I’m settled in properly, which looks to be pretty soon. We missed the 1st wave because our floor wasn’t done for various reasons but we’re in the 2nd wave and we got our induction next week.

Exciting times… (you can see the whole set of photos on flickr in this set)