Another thought provoking Thinking Digital

Thinking Digital 2018

Thinking Digital is always a great conference and I try to make sure I get to Newcastle for each one. Now in its 11th year, its clear there is no sign of it slowing down.

This year I booked quite late and missed a number of excellent workshops, so ended up doing the startup thing. It was the first time I had been involved in it but it was really interesting. Thinking digital switched to a one and half format a long while ago and I got to say its working well. After the mass dinner on the workshop day it was a early start for the conference.

Herb always does such a great job that I rarely even look at the schedule in advance, and I wasn’t wrong.

In the usual manor here is my highlights from Thinking Digital 2018.

Thinking Digital 2018

Graham Richter

Surprisingly gave a talk about blockchain and communicated it extremely well. I have heard many people try and explain blockchain to regular people and either confuse the audience or do a dis-justice to blockchain technology. Maybe this is partly why blockchain gets such a bad rep by so many people. At Fuel 2018, a speaker who I gather explained blockchain in 2017 had to come back to explain again in 2018, acknowledging how much he confused people the first time around.

I also never heard of tip your farmer but I love the idea and it perfectly illustrates the kind of applications blockchain could empower and drive.

Thinking Digital 2018

Paul Irwin

I already wrote about  which happened at Thinking Digital during Pauls talk earlier which  I needed to address sooner complete with an update.

If I could ignore the tshirt I would be clapping along with everyone else. But Paul’s choice of tshirt made it very difficult to take what he was telling the audience in. As he said before it was removed? (my non-official twitter client still has it)

Think your blog says more about you as a person that me as a speaker. Interesting read though. Keep up the good work.

He might be right and thats on me but its the truth. I wasn’t going to clap along with everyone else if I wasn’t feeling it. I was being true to myself and you can’t take that away from me.  But I did want to say Herb and the Thinking Digital production did a amazing job against the difficult odds. No matter what they did it was going to be criticised by someone, and they did the best in a very difficult place. I seen/heard too many other conferences completely wrong foot themselves into oblivion when faced with such a incident. For example CHI 2018 with OKCupid’s founder, which had a session afterwards to discuss the outrage after the keynote.

Thinking digital 2018

Ravinder Dahiya

Although quite a dry academic talk, the content was quite amazing. The whole idea of e-skin just conjures up so many thoughts and ideas. The videos spoke for themself pretty much and gave me much greater appreciation of skin generally.

Thinking Digital 2018

Yang Dan

On a similar vein, Yang presentated her research on sleep. The power of sleep is getting very well known in the circles of health and wellbeing. So it was quite a surprise to hear Yang’s research as she was able to suggest to mice to sleep with direct amounts of light on identified parts of the brain. If that wasn’t crazy enough, she could reverse the process in a similar way. It was incredible to see and the research felt like something out of inception.

It was a suggestion not a go to sleep now, meaning the mice would find somewhere they felt comfortable like their nests and go to sleep there. Instead of falling to sleep straight away. Like in inception…

Cobb: How complex is the idea?
Saito: Simple enough.
Cobb: No idea is simple when you need to plant it in somebody else’s mind.

This level of suggestion is quite something…

An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.

Talking to Yang afterwards, she was clear its only under lab conditions with mice. Shes a long way from humans but identifying the part of the brain has many promising outcomes for those who suffer with sleep problems.

Thinking Digital 2018

Dave Evans

I first saw Dave Evans at FutureFest 2 years ago and was impressed enough to buy the book designing your life. Designing your life is all about applying the discipline and practice of design to your life. For a designer like me this makes a hell of a lot of sense; especially when you start to question those dysfunctional believes.

Generally I would lean on get curious, talk to people, try stuff, tell the story then repeat.

Dave was gracious enough to run a session over lunch time on a aspect of designing your life. To be honest I really enjoyed the workshop and learned something about myself which I hadn’t really considered before. Most of designing your life is online but the book is once again great to lend to  friends and family.

Thinking Digital 2018

Tatiana Simonian

Tatiana approached the subject of wellness and mindlessness in our digital lives. Although not ground breaking, it was a welcomed talk and likely quite new for lots of people. It certainly felt like there was a whole load more to be said, as she touched on the area of diversity, diverse thinking and inclusion. Certainly would have liked to hear much more about her thoughts in that area.

Thinking Digital 2018

Sarah Wiseman

Sarah had the audience in giggles as she talked about the new language of emojis. From their incredible popularity to groups & communities repurposing emojis for different purposes. There was a very serious point made about trying and failing to interpreting language, emojis  and emotion. Something I picked up in Rana June’s talk from Fuel too.

Thinking Digital 2018

Julie Freeman

Its great to see data being used beyond the screen and Julie’s project exploring data as art material and objects enriched with data; gave me new insight for the objects of immersion work I’ve been working on for a while.

You know when you should work with someone, Julie is that person and luckily I got to spend another day with her during University of York’s data stories hackday.

Thinking Digital 2018

Mr Bingo

Now to be fair Mr Bingo always steals the show and this thinking digital he did it again in Newcastle. I never question Herb’s excellent curation skills but Mr Bingo as the last speaker would have been great as a nice light end to a already excellent conference.

If you haven’t been to thinking digital before, next year get your butt in gear and save a date in your calendar for 15-16th May 2019.

10 years of Thinking Digital, still going strong

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017

Its kind of crazy that Thinking Digital is 10 years old now. I still remember meeting Herb Kim for the first time at a BBC Innovation labs event. He convinced Adrian to take 5mins and talk about coming back from TED global and wanting to create a conference with similar outlook in Newcastle. Yes! yes, I laughed at him but later did say if he gets it off the ground I will support him in anyway I can. That was over 10 years ago and the first Thinking Digital happened in 2007 and was amazing (such a shame I didn’t write about it).

10 Years later, its still an amazing conference, attracting more and more new people all the way to Gateshead/Newcastle. Every year people ask what am I looking forward to? and every year I pretty much say I haven’t even looked at the schedule, as I just know Herb has created a exciting and diverse line-up. My trust in the conference and Herb is super high and he never lets me down.

As per the last 8 years, heres my personal highlights of the conference, but honestly every speaker was great including Tom Scott, Dan Biddle, Darren Jobling and Adrian Westaway.

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Simon Singh

I was aware of Simon previously but I found his geeky interest in mathematics pretty exciting and intriguing. I’m much more likely to keep an eye out for those cryptic mathematical equations now more than ever.

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Richard Wiseman

Richard is another one of those figures I’ve heard of but never really checked out. He was also a great follow after Adrian Westaway’s magic + design (which only missed out from my favorites because I heard Clara talk in Manchester and spent some time getting to know the amazing Special Projects, still love to work with them on Perceptive Media). Richard broke down magic tricks and focused on our (lack) attention.

Really nicely done and ever so funny too! Certainly someone to watch out for in the future.

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Mike Mullen

Fintech is something i’m less interested in but since using Monzo, started to get more interested in. Mike is the CEO of Atombank and his talk was actually really engaging. The story of how he moved from CEO of First Direct wasn’t fully explained but how he got started again and facing new challenges was fascinating. He described banking as a Rules based industry and talked about how the pace of change is based on who’s got the money; which currently is older people but thats changing which changes the dynamic of banking. Also found his idea of killing customers to see how much they are willing to put up with (think RyanAir) interesting. Such a good talk to kick start the conference too!

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017John Kershaw

What can I say about John, which I haven’t already said?

He finally revealed the full story of what happened with Dragons Den as he did in this blog post. He also revealed quite a bit about TV production generally. To be fair most of it was, “yeah and…?” to me but for most people the shine of TV production is a bubble they haven’t ever seen inside of. As Debra said, John is a highly invest-able guy with plenty of good ideas and I’m expecting some great things in the near future.

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Dr Justin Sanchez

Justin works for DARPA and is focused on Human brain interfaces. Something which gets talked about quite a bit especially since the debate around machine learning has matured quite a bit. Justin talked a lot about Direct brain interfaces and the benefits to restore memories and provide benefits beyond imagination.

All I kept thinking was about the ethicals of all this stuff, surely DARPA are somewhere along the line interested in using this as a weapon or defense? Justin did well to positioned DARPA as doing impactful things like kick starting the ARPnet which the internet was built on.

Although I wasn’t totally convinced, its hard to think about tapping into the CNS and PNS without thinking about films like the Matrix, Existenz and the Black Mirror S3ep2 Playtest. While Justin talked people on twitter mentioned Inception, especially when he talked about architecting spaces. Funny because the pasivdevice in inception is military (think Department of Defense? not DARPA?).

That’s why the military developed dream sharing-a training program where soldiers could strangle, stab and shoot each other, then wake up.

Plenty to think about!

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Dr Anita Sengupta

There little I can say about this talk except wow!

I knew landing on Mars and exploring it was extremely difficult but Anita explained the whole life-cycle of the work and basically there wasn’t single persons mind which wasn’t blown at the end.

Simply incredible and great to hear the facts behind the headlines…

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Sophie Bostock

Very fitting talk as it was recently mental health awareness week. Sophie talked about mental health through the lens of sleeping and pretty much the quantified self, although she never actually said those words. She talked about sleeping apps and CBT – Cognitive behavioral therapy as a service you can access anywhere from your phone via a app. Which brought up the credibility question.

Don’t worry she said, these apps are about to be rated/checked in the same way medicine is. So hopefully removing the crap from the good. She did mention other metrics such as cost and accessibility but never the data ethics worry I have with all these things.

Good talk which raises plenty more questions… Unfortunately I never quite got time to grab Sophie or get her details.

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Chris Turner

Chris a goofy white guy who raps about anything and everything was amazing. He came out rapping after Imogen and instantly got the audience going. After rapping and talking about the key rules for rapping, he then asked the audience to pull things out their bag and rap about them in one continuous stream. The rules Chris talked about were the same for improvisation really.

Stay in the moment, don’t over think things and don’t worry about it.

It also reminded me of my new years resolution to take a improvisation class. Forge about rapping in the shower, which Chris recommended; I need to make this happen for sure!

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017Imogen Heap

Up till the conference I had no idea who Imogen Heap was. I gather she was involved in the music business but her interests in digital technology were pretty deep.

Imogen has a big interest in changing the business of music by taking advantage of decentralised systems like blockchain and the concept of smart contracts. She talked bout how everybody talks about this being a golden age for music listening, but is the true of music creation?

I instantly started thinking there are so many connections with the work I’m doing around decentralisation (blockchain for music use/rent/buying), object based media (huge amounts of metadata which isn’t included in music) and dj hackday (music metadata affecting the world around you/quantifed club style). This was further confirmed when I bought a ticket to her cellia event after the conference.

Although there was lots of technical problems, the points were made and the 42 city tour of the world next year sounds very interesting. Plus her performance was actually musically good. While Adam Stark & Imogen talked about the glove technology, I looked it up hoping it would be a open source project. Although it isn’t, its funded by UWE, Innovate UK and others; putting it in the field of academia. I wouldn’t be surprised if theres a push to open source a part of it alongside selling the actual gloves in the future?

Once again if it wasn’t for Thinking Digital, I likely would never known about Imogen and some of the cross over in thoughts and ideas.

Sarah Raad – The Gratitude Habit workshop

Sarah Raad

Sometimes you meet someone and the connection around ideas and view on life are perfectly matched. This was Sarah.

Sarah who is an amazing woman runs a marketing company called Tent has a side hustle called Simple happy life

The idea is simple (pun-intended). Learn to have a gratitude habit by being grateful for the things you have right now. Ideally you would write these down or share them in some way.

Of course it sounds too simple (pun again) but Sarah pulled up many scientific research leading to the same conclusion that a gratitude habit can really be the building block for a more fore-filling life.

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017

The first exercise was to get to know each other by saying who you were, why you were there and say why you were grateful for the picked topic out of gratitude jar. I picked by random friendship which I had plenty to say. Interestingly as I heard other people talk, it was fascinating to hear how open or closed they were with their thoughts.

Of course I’m quite open with most of my thoughts. Without really thinking about it, I was practicing some of the gratitude habit already. I also remember a thinking digital workshop I went to the year after leaving hospital from Bobby at the now gone Happiest. Of course one of the happiest items for a happy life was Gratitude.

During the workshop, it was clear to me that some of the exercises although very/quite private needed that wider interaction to make them really sink in (in my honest opinion); but its very hard to do this unless its a safe & comfortable environment. Very hard to do during a workshop in a office. This is something me and Sarah discussed after the workshop in a cafe afterwards and during the TDC dinner later. I remember also trying to recite bobby’s quote about negative thoughts.

We have roughly 60,000 thoughts a day and 95% of them are the same as yesterday and 80% of those are negative in nature.

We talked a lot and it was refreshing to have quite deep and I guess some would say intimate conversation about life, politics, happiness and the world. Lots was shared and I feel extremely gratitude to have met Sarah.

Thinking Digital Newcastle 2017

Thinking Digital once again is such an incredible conference and I’m very grateful to be there and gained so much out of a conference which I originally scoffed at… Here’s the next 10 years!? Herb?

Best of Thinking Digital Newcastle 2016

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Yes I know its actually Gateshead but Herb Kim did call it TDCNCL after the newcastle train station short code? This also cuts out the confusion with Thinking Digital Manchester & London.

I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get to Gateshead for this years Thinking Digital as its harder to justify with the Manchester one right on my doorstep. But there is something about the venue and atmosphere in the Sage which just makes a already excellent conference, great! Hall 2 in the Gateshead Sage is compact but the arrangement of seats just makes everyone feel like part of the event. This year was different as this year Thinking Digital went ahead with the 1.5 day format. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work but it seemed to work…

The workshop on the first day kicked off procedings. I signed up to the clearing the air workshop which I felt could have some good tips for running workshops and meetings in a more formal manner.

I wasn’t disappointed as I came out with lots of different techniques for getting a constructive meeting for all. At one point, I asked a question of Alison and she got where I was going with it down to a tee. You mentioned neurodiversity and started to give tips considering a range of diverse people.

It was Saul Cousins I think, who said this workshop wasn’t his first choice but he was very glad he choose it as a second place. Because I got agreement to come at the last minute, I had less choices but I was very happy with what I got back. I also found parallels with what me and Marie had done at Thinking Digital Manchester last year. We all seemed to be hovering around the same ideas.

As usual I tend to pick out the best talks and give them credit.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Mikko has spoken at Thinking Digital Newcastle a few times if I remember correctly and everytime I have nothing but praise for he talks. He’s got a endless supply of stories from the dark side of data security. This time he’s focus was on ransomware, this seamenly new type of crime. Seamenly because as Miko pointed out the AIDS malware was writen many years earlier and did the exact same thing.

During the end of his talk, I was also thinking about the lack of diversity in devices and services. This came after Mikko mentioned some ransomware which searches for Apple time machines and encrypts that too. I guess the job is made easier by most Apple users using the defaults? Easy of use or opionated design being exploited?

Lots to take away, but the main one being don’t click those links in emails (yes this was drummed home through-out the talk)

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Sarah I hadn’t actually come across before in real life but I was a little bit aware of her in passing through things I had read surrounding ethics of data, blockchains and idenity blogs. Herb set her up and she explained not only what a blockchain was but also why and where they are useful. It was a hard task but Sarah did a good job without getting too lofty.

I caught her briefly afterwards and said what a great job she had done and that we must get together and talk about the databox work, which I believed UCL are a part of. Hopefully next time I’m down in London and schedules work out.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Edward is a drummer influced by the prodigy album Music for the Jilted Generation, who then wanted to create house music using drums. Yes it sounds kind of insane but true. I mean how do you bang out a consistent 130 beats per minute over the course of 4-8 minutes? Thats pretty serious before you even consider all the other stuff which goes into house music.

Luckily with the advances in technology, its become a lot easier to control more elements from any interface you are happy to use. Ed performed and showed how it all works. I was certainly bouncing my head around as he played.

Ed contuned the great legacy of music at Thinking Digital.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

James talk frustrated me mainly because Microsoft Bing seemed to be capturing contextual data but for the simple (I say simple but compared to more interesting uses) sake of a better search result. This wound me up because I’m sure I tweeted something like…

This is only half the puzzle.

This is something I’ll touch on in my presentation in Bucharest. You need both contextual data and adaptive narratives. Google’s effort to understand the semantic meaning behind web pages, allows them to adapt the search results. Hence I ask (regularlly in Manchester) “should I take my umbrella with me?” It knows where I am, knows roughly where I’m going and the weather report. Rather than send me a weather pre made weather report, it answers back with a tailor answer drawn from the data its understood.

I’m not saying this isn’t what Bing is also trying to do but it didn’t come across that way. I felt they were missing the bigger picture.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Tom is usually the final talk but after 9 years doing many things including lighting his sweater on fire, coming back from the future and many other interesting antics. He injected his style of famous style of humour into the emoji debate.

Funny and enlighening? Thats Tom Scott.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Katherine talked dispelled the crap (litterally) of whats going on in our gut. She talked about the microbiome and how it all worked. It was a good talk which honestly I hadn’t really considered or thougth about before. It was good to hear most fermented veg was as or even better than those probiotics yogurts which are all the rave now. More Kimchi and Miso is something I wrote into my mindmapped notes. Never really been a fan of those yogurts, always left feeling slightly sick.

The best image has the be the one below which sums up more than anyone would ever want.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

With Tom moved from his regular slot, I was wondering who could possibily end Thinking Digital on a high like previous years? Step forward MT Rainey OBE.

I knew nothing about MT, but it become very clear that she had worked with Apple and Steve Jobs in the very early days. I simply can’t do her talk any justice in my review as she covered many accounts of meeting Steve Jobs. She also touched on the multiple films including the latest one (steve jobs) and the Ashton Kutcher one (Jobs). She felt the latest one (Aaron Sorkin’s) was more correct but Micheal Fassbender got steve very wrong. He was more like Ashton Kutcher, which to be honest makes a lot of sense.

Lovely quote to consider in her talk about Steve Jobs…

Ideas are a powerful patient for a brand

And the observation about lack of woman in Apple and the movies

It was another great Thinking Digital and I got to give John Thorp, Irini Papadimitriou,Will Dracup and Joe Faith credit for some very good talks too. I believe all the talks can be now watched here.

The 1.5 day format worked, my only grumble is when I go to Thinking Digital Newcastle, I tend to take most of the week. This means I’m fully present in the conference, open minded to all the talks and thinking about the connections. With a day lost, I felt the need to get back into emails during my stay, when usually I would leave it to next week. But I do totally understand. So over all it worked…

Best talks of Thinking Digital 2015

Thinking Digital 2015

Another year has flown by and I’m able to reflect on the Thinking Digital conference again in a blog post. Unfortunately this time I missed the workshops as I was giving a presentation at the BBC Connected Studio Drama lab in Shoreditch. But I jumped the last decent train to Newcastle and got there for 0045.

Because of the late arrival, this had a slight impact on my sleep and so I missed the very first talk of the day by Luciano Floridi. It was one which I had hoped to have seen, especially with my work around ethics in data. A lot of people talked about it, so I’ll have to check it out for sure.

Here’s my highlights of another great Thinking Digital conference. Can’t wait till see it in Manchester by the way!

Steve Mould
Steve Mould

Steve I heard talk last year at Thinking Digital a while back and he was excellent then and he didn’t drop in form this year. Touching on the Quantified Self, Data Portability and the consequences of our data collection. It was well meaning, funny and also full of things to think about. Already seeking out Festival of the spoken nerd

Seb Lee-Delisle
Seb Lee Delisle

Seb I’m sure I have met before but his talk was about the elegance and joy of coding. Of course this included coding live which was funny and painful all at the same time. Only the brave do live coding in front of a audience at a Ted like talk. Well done Seb for making it a joy.

Sam Aaron
Sam Aaron

Seb wasn’t the only one to do live coding from the Thinking Digital stage. Sam, took to the stage with Sonic-pi and belted out live music while explaining what he was doing and how. As always with live coding there were issue along the way but Sam kept his calm and humor. So fun, he was invited back to do an encore. Excellent stuff, may have to play myself, and I’d love to see a DJ version (maybe time to hack the code at DJ Hackday?)

Alexandra Depledge
Alexandra Depledge

I had never heard Alexandra’s story about hassle.com but I did try and use them to do my ironing a while back (which failed). Her story was pretty entertaining and gave a realistic view on startup culture. It was well told, passionate and emphasised the JFDI idea.

Jennifer Morone
Jennifer Morone

Jennifer was recommended by myself to Herb and although Jennifer was quite nervous, the points came across well. I think a lot of people who had never really heard of her or consider what extreme capitalism would be like. Some of the slides Jennifer put up were fascinating. There was a price on how much her natural waste costed if you were interested in purchasing some! We also had fun thinking about what happens if Jennifer was to have a relationship.

Partnership, merger, vicious takeover were all considered over drinks afterwards. Although funny for us, this is a reality for Jennifer.

Stefanie Posavec
Stefanie Posavec

Stefanie was fantastic and I kind of wish Jasmine was able to hear her talk (will have to wait for the video). Stefanie’s rebel against infographics was kind of fascinating. I disagreed with her on a lot of what she talked about but her focused seemed to be somewhere between Art and Design. For example the idea of data gathering by hand and the level of endurance needed is frankly insane, although I know people do it. Interesting point made about the behavior changing through the process of actual effort.

Catherine Mohr
Catherine Mohr

This one really got me, its spoke volumes. Catherine talked about surgery robots and the trend to towards smaller and better operations but her point is we need to turn our attention to diagnosis. Lots to think about and shes very right…

Thinking Digital 2015
Tim Leberecht

I loved this talk by Tim. Adding the romance to business. I took it as putting the human into business. If you take one of his slides you get the general picture. I felt this was a interesting talk when you consider the creative destruction talks by Max Lines of UberUK. Danger over data.

I especially like the un-quantified self over quantified self.

I don’t quite think romance is the right word, but I like it and it conjures up interesting visions in our super efficient and predictable business world. I like it all but I wonder if its all marketing or is there substance behind it?

#LJtunes
Lj Rich

LJ pretty much stole the show with her improvisational system. Basically #LJtunes is a idea which LJ thought to play tunes on a piano in the style of a different genre than originally produced. For example Lionel Richie in Dub Step, on a classic piano!

It was amazing, engaging and full of interesting tip bits, LJ was so great.

Herb Kim changes his shirt

I have to say almost every talk was great but these are the ones which stuck out for me. Other talks worth noting include Russell Davies, Ade Adewunmi, Tony Hey, Holly Goodier and Ken Banks.

I know some people didn’t like the dry ice machine but to be honest I quite liked it. It worked well with the music talks and added even more atmosphere. The idea of having one type of ticket was good but meant you had to be at the door pretty early to get a good seat.

Herb Kim is on fire with 8 years under his belt now. No wonder he’s so happy (with his new shirt style). Roll on Thinking Digital Manchester and the new format Thinking Digital next year with a starting price of only 99 pounds!

Amazing conference and amazing job done by everybody involved!

QS Metadating in Newcastle

Metadating

A few weeks ago I was accepted for Newcastle Culture Lab’s Metadating research trail.

The research was more about our attitudes to sharing personal data than dating. However they did invite singles and included a number of events which included speed dating. I guess also meta-dating would be factually correct as we were talking about dating while dating.

Metadating

There was homework which had to be done on the run up to the event. You were given a booklet which you could fill in as much as you were comfortable with. On top of that was some blank generic graphs which could be filled in with our own data. When I say our data, it could be any Quantified Self data, from how many coffee’s you had over the week to you’re more intimate data like you’re sleep cycle daily. Everything was up to you to declare, which gets around the problem of using Quantified Self data in research. But it also makes it difficult to compare. Luckily this wasn’t about the data metrics.

Once at the event (I rolled it into a wider visit to Newcastle’s Culture lab where I talked about ethics of data, a visit to Newcastle’s Makerspace and Campus North. Didn’t make it to the beach however). I was one of the  first to turn up as I was heading home to Manchester on the last train. It became clear the problems I had with thestarter, were pretty much reversed as very few women turned up. (this is a issue I’d love to spend some time sorting out one day)

The PhD students lead by Christopher had bought some nibbles (olives, cheese sticks, etc) and lots of Cava. By the time we done the icebreaker it was down to the group discussions about our data with a Cava in full swing.

Metadating

We were split into two groups and we started critiquing the anonymously data sheets. It was fascinating to hear other peoples views on data points, dread to think what people said about my sleep cycle and steps per day. It also became clear the data may have been fudged in parts by others. To be fair I did use real data but choose to leave off some of the measurements. Everything was recorded by camera and audio dictation, which I bet made for some very interesting insight into data sharing.

By the second half, the cava was certainly having a bit of an effect and peoples lips loosened. Just in time for the speed dating portion. Now to be fair Chris and the other students had never been speed dating, so it was a little odd but the imbalance in men, meant we had to do it in two parts. On the speed dating, we discussed each others data sheets and more (ooeerr!) We were given the opportunity to write something to each person later.

Metadating

Another eye opener for me was at the very end when we constructed the perfect and worst dating profile for set people from data we made up. The eye opener for me was building a dating profile for a women who was career driven. All the guys around me seemed to not like her, while I was asking if she was real and where can I meet her? (Cava had certainly kicked in by then)

The event ended about 8:45pm so quite a bit over time but as people started shifting to the local pub, I had enough time to quickly have a drink then head to Newcastle Station for my long train ride home.

The metadating event was fun and to be honest the culture lab students may have gained a ton of insight from the frank and slightly loose lipped participations on the night. I imagine the Cava was bought expecting the full board of people but with the smaller number and the stand ins, there was plenty to go around.

I am surprise I didn’t fall a sleep on the train. However to be honest it was so busy down to York, theres no way I could fall a sleep. I’ll save my journey for another day…

The metadating event was great fun and from a research point of view I’m very interested in what comes out of it. Its a shame a bunch of women didn’t turn up but the students did a good job thinking on their feet and making it work. I suggested to Chris and Bettina that if they did it in Manchester or London it would be packed out, and I would certainly support them in the research.

Metadating in Newcastle

Couple in a coffee shop

Metadating… by Newcastle’s Culture Lab (I must declare I’m working with these guys in BBC R&D’s User eXperience Partnership, but this is nothing to do with me. I was told about it and went wow!)

Exploring the Romance of Personal Data, A singles dating event, hosted by researchers at Culture Lab

Ok you got my interest already… The Quantified Self and Dating?

We’re all creating more data about our lives, be it on social media or on our smartphones. Nowadays, people even use technology to track themselves and record how active they are, where they’ve been or how well they’ve slept. But how public should this data be? What would this look like on a dating profile? Would you like to know how late she works or whether he’s a night owl? Just how much does he workout? Where’s her favourite coffee shop?

Meta Dating is a free singles event for people interested in data and dating, hosted by researchers at Culture Lab, Newcastle University.

We’re looking for single people who have some experience of online dating to take part, meet other singles, have fun, and explore the romance of personal data!

Of  course I signed up straight away… I am a little worried about how they are going to collect all my data  but I’ll worry about that later. One of the questions asked was, why you? To which I roughly replied…

I’m a fan of the Quantified Self and use Online and Offline dating services all the time. I’m also working in the Quantified Self area in regards to the ethics of data and new storytelling experiences. I’ll be really interested to know if theres any link between the data about ourselves and data in whom we seek.

As most of you know, I tend to hold quite strong views about online dating and the process which services claim to use to match people. I pretty much damned most dating sites for doing nothing more than simply bringing people together like Facebook. Shuffled my feet at the idea of using algorithms to match people. And even made jokes about using things like smell to match people. But whats upset me the most is the lack of scientific methodology to solve the problem.

Well here’s my chance to see if there is something to it or its simply a joke like quantified toilets and premium dating. Be fascinating to see how they get over things like looks, interests and things which are just you like race, height, etc, etc… or will the results come back with something similar to the idea of the unquantifiable?

The best of the rest of Thinking Digital 2014

Thinking Digital 2014

As mentioned in the previous 2 blog posts. Thinking Digital 2014 was excellent and further proves this conference is getting better everytime.

I pulled out 2 great talks and already wrote about them previously…

But there were more great talks, worthy of talking about.

Thinking Digital 2014

Jeni Tennison
Got to love Jeni, shes wonderful, warm and so down to earth. I’ve known her from my XML/XSLT days. Her talk reminded me of the struggles and endless fight to liberate data when I was leading BBC Backstage. Those fights are almost never ending… Glad to hear some of the battles are finally being won.

Thinking Digital 2014

Meri Williams
I have known Meri for years and years and always associate her with Newcastle. But I knew she worked very internationally. Her talk was great and had me thinking alot about my own position. She said we should all be asking ourselves, “Can someone like me can be successful here?” I specially like pointers to Dan Pink’s Drive and the term seagulls management. Great talk Meri, lots to take away…

Thinking Digital 2014

Mariana Mazzucato
Never heard of Mariana but after an introduction from Chi Onwurah the local MP for Newcastle or Gateshead. Mariana launched into a massive talk, outlining how the public sector should/could act more like the private sector. Ultimately she started to debunk the myths of public vs private as she does in her book entrepreneurial state (must look into this). This renew my faith in the public sector again.

Thinking Digital 2014

Erin McKean
Returning to the Thinking Digital stage again, Erin this time turned her talk towards new types of discovery. She said discovery should be ambient and contextual. Almost feeling like serendipity. I would suggest perceptive as a way to think about this stuff?

Thinking Digital 2014

Jennifer Gardy and Peter Gregson
Another returning speakers and this time teaming up together to do something new. This time Jennifer and Peter decided to visualise DNA through the medium of music. Some artistic direction was applied but the result was beautiful.

Thinking Digital 2014

Hayley Parkes
Hayley provided more music and what stunning music. So stunning that I dare not take a picture while Hayley was playing because the sound of the prism spinning might distract from the music. I was amazed at the story of Hayley and further provides me with the joy to know that the debate over nature vs nurture is wide open.

Thinking Digital 2014

Suzy Muclahy
Following Jennifer and Peter, Suzy Muclahy explained a number of the processes in the brain and body. The most interesting one for me was the stroke, which is something like #mybrushwithdeath. I later spoke to Suzy about a number of things including #mybrushwithdeath. Such a shame we didn’t get to spend more time talking, because we were bouncing from subject to subject.

Thinking Digital 2014

Steve Mould
Wasn’t expecting much but Steve’s talk about science and ultimately self siphoning beads was funny, witty and entertaining. I especially love the dubstep remix.

Thinking Digital 2014

Jemima Kiss with Christian Payne and Meri Williams
In a nice turn around for Thinking Digital, Jemima chaired a panel discussion mainly about the post-snowden era and whereables. As you can imagine, it was all about post-snowden and Aral’s recent talk. The last 5mins was about whereables and to be fair it wasn’t anywhere as interesting as the rest of the debate. Great to hear Jemima go through the timeline of what changed since last year.

Thinking Digital 2014

Tom Scott
After Aral’s talk and the panel discussion with Jemima Kiss, the mode and tone was low. Not because of the great talks but because there was a feeling that things were not right in the digital world.

Tom Scott’s finishing talk was Tom in 2030 looking back and talking to us in 2014. The main message was don’t panic, humanity will live out and we will prevail. And he’s right, don’t get me wrong. Everything is worth fighting for, but in the end we will prevail. We owe a lot to each and everyone of the whistle-blowers, hackers, journalists, etc which help us make sense of whats happening out there. Privacy is a human right and there will be a massive backlash once people feel its gone too far. The question is when enough people think its gone far enough…?

Thinking Digital 2014

A very fitting and uplifting end to another fantastic Thinking Digital conference. I’ll be clear and say all the speakers were great and although they may not have gotten on to my highlights list, they were all great. Thanks Herb and his wonderful team for putting on yet another great show, I especially like the Q&A by the way (more questions from the crowd please!)

Tickets for 2015 are live now by the way. Looking forward to another exciting thinking digital…

TDC14: Forget skynet, female-kind is ready for the shift

Thinking Digital 2014

I love conferences which have me almost punching for the sky in a FTW! (for the win) style. Thinking Digital 2014 almost had me at points punching the sky. Now in its 7th year! Thinking Digital hasn’t lost any of its impact and is still a pleasure to attend and take part in.

There is always great talks from the stage and I always have a hard time writing up the best ones to me. But this year I have had to separate out a couple of talks which really got me going for different reasons.

The one previous to this post is Aral’s talk from Thinking Digital and my personal thoughts interleaved. The next one I had to separate out is part two of Blaise Aguera y Arcas’s talk about machine intelligence and social changes. I got the feeling Blaise, had wanted to do this talk for a long while but never really had the platform to do so till Herb Kim allowed him the space to bring his thoughts together.

The basic talk was…

machine intelligence + (gender selection + sexual and lifestyle freedom) = post subsistence economics.

Each one Blaise wrote about on his blog a while back.

He started off talking about everybody is worried about machine intelligence over taking human intelligence, the singularity, etc. Replacing jobs isn’t new and actually the move away from back breaking jobs isn’t such a bad thing. The move away from these back breaking jobs which require a lot of testosterone to jobs which are collaborative in nature is a good thing.

Then on to trends showing what females earn as a whole against their male counterparts is increasing but the amount of females university and beyond educated is growing massively compared to the males. Aka there will be many more women earning much closer to what men earn. We may see the end of the glass ceiling at long last?

Thinking Digital 2014

Right with all that in mind, less testosterone driven jobs and finally a culture more accepting of collaboration plus a workforce to suit. You got a different mindset writing the machine algorithms and code to power the machine intelligence.

Thats the basic premise (and I know it hinges on a lot of stereotypes and questions, I may be doing Blaise a disservice but to be honest you need to hear Blaise talk about it and making the points. The crux is that women will dominate economically and society will reflect and favor a less testosterone driven approach going forward. The idea of machine intelligence given a cock and balls was floated as a very bad thing. Interestingly

This for lots of male kind is worrying as they suddenly feel the strangle hold they held for so long slip away. There will be a backlashes and your already seeing some of it including the redpill community.

Thinking Digital 2014

In a surprising move by Herb, he opened the floor for questions. Of course knowing me I had to ask a question. I thought about it but had to tell the question is something I didn’t really think too much about because there was plenty of thoughts and connections floating around my head. The question came out and with some clarification I made the hole a little deeper for myself.

The question I was trying to ask was about the social backlash from female-kind (Blaise had only talked about the male backlash). I also used stereotypes to illustrate the point including the height factor, suggesting women may want a testosterone driven man over the alternative. By this point it was pretty much over and I gave up making the point. But interestingly Jemima understanding where I was going with the question, chimed in and gave a better question based on what I meant.

It was a truly fascinating talk and my number one highlight of Thinking Digital 2014. I really feel like I’ve not done Blaise’s talk enough justice… Hopefully once the videos are up, I will link to them and revisit this one. I said Blaise’s talk could be summed up like this. Machine intelligence + (gender selection + sexual and lifestyle freedom) = post subsistence economics. Somewhere in there diversity of ideas and thought is changing the way we think about machine intelligence and this is a very good thing. Not everything has to be zero-sum and like it or not that seems to be a testosterone fueled thing.

Here’s Blaise’s thought from his blog which gives a lot more insight and information, than I could.

Documentarlly did a great little interview with Blaise on Audioboo

Machine Intelligence

I think that just as the Inter­net has been such a great dri­ver of change across so many spheres over the past 20 years, we will see machine intel­li­gence in the same role over the com­ing decades.

Today, we are as an intel­li­gent species essen­tially sin­gu­lar. There are of course some other brainy species, like chim­panzees, dol­phins, crows and octo­puses, but if any­thing they only empha­size our unique posi­tion on Earth— as ani­mals richly gifted with self-awareness, lan­guage, abstract thought, art, math­e­mat­i­cal capa­bil­ity, sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and so on. Many of us have staked our entire self-concept on the idea that to be human is to have a mind, and that minds are the unique province of humans. For those of us who are not reli­gious, this could be inter­preted as the last bas­tion of dual­ism. Our eco­nomic, legal and eth­i­cal sys­tems are also implic­itly built around this idea.

Now, we’re well along the road to really under­stand­ing the funda­men­tal prin­ci­ples of how a mind can be built, and Moore’s Law will put brain-scale com­put­ing within reach this decade. (We need to put some aster­isks next to Moore’s Law, since we are already run­ning up against cer­tain lim­its in compu­ta­tional scale using our present-day approaches, but I’ll stand behind the broader state­ment.) When we reach this point, we will find our­selves no longer alone. It’s dif­fi­cult to over­state the impor­tance that moment will have in our future history.

It may well result in fur­ther non­lin­ear­ity in the “rate” of his­tory too, since minds and what we’ve dreamt up with them have been the engine behind his­tory and its acceleration.

Gen­der Selection

For many thou­sands of years we’ve lived in a male-dominated soci­ety. I don’t think that we’re shift­ing toward “female dom­inance” so much as I think that the whole idea of dom­i­nance is a male par­a­digm, and that it is this par­a­digm that is being selected against— by increas­ing pop­u­la­tion den­sity in the urban cores, increas­ing edu­ca­tion, larger work­ing groups, increas­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion, ris­ing tech­no­log­i­cal lever­age, global trade and so on. It may be dif­fi­cult to imag­ine this now, when the vast major­ity of the world’s cap­i­tal is still in the hands of men and many of the STEM fields (which are also among the highest-paid) are still over­whelm­ingly male, but I think that men— and espe­cially “manly men” exhibit­ing many of the clas­si­cal cor­re­lates of high testos­terone— will be at a dis­tinct dis­ad­van­tage in 30 years time. This rep­re­sents a pro­found upset of the patri­ar­chal sys­tem that has defined vir­tu­ally all of recorded his­tory, so … it’ll be a big deal.

Post-subsistence Economics

As machine intel­li­gence, robot­ics, and tech­no­log­i­cal lever­age in gen­eral increas­ingly decou­ple pro­duc­tiv­ity from labor, we will con­tinue to see unem­ploy­ment rise even in oth­er­wise healthy economies. The end state is one in which most forms of human labor are sim­ply not required. In 30 years, if not sooner, we will be fac­ing this unprece­dented sit­u­a­tion— and whether it’s heaven or hell depends on whether we’re able to let go of cap­i­tal­ism, eco­nomic Dar­win­ism and the Calvin­ist ethics that implic­itly under­lie these sys­tems. With­out a change of course, we will see mass unem­ploy­ment drive a rad­i­cal accel­er­a­tion of the already dra­matic imbal­ance between the very wealthy few and every­one else, lead­ing to ugly con­di­tions in the cities and ulti­mately vio­lent uprising.

On the other hand, if we are able to set aside our Calvin­ism, we will real­ize that given the tech­no­log­i­cal effi­cien­cies we have achieved, every­one can live well, with or with­out a job. Cap­i­tal­ism, entre­pre­neur­ship and other sys­tems of dif­fer­en­tial wealth cre­ation could still func­tion on top of this hor­i­zon­tal base; but every­one must be fed and housed decently, have access to free health care and edu­ca­tion, and be able to live a good life. I assume the nation-state will still be a rel­e­vant legal and eco­nomic con­struct in 30 years (though I’m not sure, as cor­po­ra­tions or pos­si­bly other struc­tures will com­pli­cate the pic­ture); my guess is that we will see both paths taken in dif­fer­ent parts of the world, lead­ing to mis­ery and war in some, where either the ben­e­fits of accel­er­at­ing tech­nol­ogy are slow to pen­e­trate or Dar­win­ian eco­nom­ics are left unchecked.

Sex­ual and lifestyle freedom

In 30 years, I think that not only will the more pro­gres­sive places in the world have fin­ished rec­on­cil­ing them­selves to the wide spec­trum of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and expres­sion, but also to a wide vari­ety of life con­fig­u­ra­tions beyond the nuclear fam­ily built around a sin­gle life­long pair-bond. There are many forces con­tribut­ing to this shift, and I sus­pect that an empir­i­cal case can be made for this in much the same way as for the gen­der ideas above. This is the least devel­oped of my six ideas, but one that I think will have pro­found implications.

My highlights of Thinking Digital 2013

Herb Kim gets TDC13 underway

Herb Kim the founder and creator of the Thinking Digital conference.

This is my usual best of Thinking Digital… Bear in mind I missed half the conference as noted here.

Julian Treasure got us thinking about our hearing and how important it is. I specially liked two statements he made. Sound has a impact on cognition and don’t architects have ears? He pointed to some very nice spaces with apple styled touches. The kind of place most people would agree is nice but once he mentioned the amount of sound bouncing around the surfaces and reflecting off the floor, it was a different matter.

Maggie Philbin is one of those people who you grew up with on screen and she had become a geek hero of many men in the UK. The Tomorrow’s world presenter talked about technology for a bit then got around to her main points about the lack of diversity. Something about hearing it from Maggie really laid it out for lots of people. I had the pleasure of seeing Maggie giving the Perceptive Radio a once over too. What a woman!

Maria Giudice

Maria Giudice was a interesting lady with an interesting story to tell but what I really took away was her DEO idea (Design Executive Officer). She correctly pointed out CEO’s mainly don’t have the background of designers and those who do, generally break through because they are natural disruptor, people centric, intuitive, imaginative, etc. She had a DEO toolkit which included…

  1. Change mindsets about design, Design = change and change leads to radical change
  2. Focus on people and relationships
  3. Think we not me, collaboration is the name of the game
  4. Champion creative culture, Write on the wall make it a creative space
  5. Iterate and change, be open to change
  6. Be true to yourself

I guess if I wanted to know more… I would have to buy the book which is coming out soon…

Aza Raskin
Aza Raskin I have had the pleasure of meeting before years ago when he was working with Mozilla. Then I also got to eat dinner with him during the first night with others. Aza is one of those people who you can’t help but like. It was a really interesting time chatting with him too because his company Jawbone had just bought Body Media for 100million. Aza had no problem with talking about such things and was happy to talk about the quantified self elements of Jawbone including the wrist band Jawbone up. It was even more interesting to me after just been at the Quantified Self europe conference a week before.

Aza’s main point was about Design being the art of turning constraints into solutions. But are we actually asking the right questions? Do we even really understand the problem were solving?

Lots of food for thought… And I’d love to know more about the Jawbone hack!

Sugata Mitra
Sugata Mitra is always impressive and was one of my highlights of last year but with New Zealand teachers Jo Fothergill & Tara Taylor-Jorgensen who had flown 1000’s of miles to come talk at Thinking Digital the talks were even more epic. You can’t help but feel the educational system will be fine when he talks. I also had the joy of hooking up Jo and Tara with mr whirl wind Alan O’Donohoe before they flew back to New Zealand. Chance and opportunity came together at just the right moment I think.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes on reflection was maybe the best talk of the conference.

On New Years Day 2009 Graham Hughes, set off on an epic journey from his hometown of Liverpool. He wanted to show that the world is ‘not some big, scary place, but in fact full of people who wanted to help you.’ He used buses, taxis, trains and his own two feet to travel 160,000 miles, 201 countries in exactly 1,426 days – all on a shoestring of just $100 a week.

I’m not usually the biggest fan of the talks about the amazing things people have done but there was something extra special about Graham. He was just a everyday  Jo. He made it into every single country on planet earth without flying not even once. Such a epic story and the story was told so well with some incredible sub-stories, when the videos come out for Thinking Digital 2013, you must see this video. Epic and so down to earth. I also like to think I helped him with an introduction to someone I know at YouTube. I believe his storys are good enough to make him a bit of internet superstar, hopefully the youtube connection will be the start of it. Actually I need to check in and see if anything happened?

Jack Andraka
Jack Andraka I didnt’ quite get at first but as he told his story how he applied his mindset to the problem of pancreatic cancer, after losing a family friend to it. Using just Google he researched a new pancreatic cancer test that is 168 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive and potentially almost 100% accurate. He’s only 17, openly gay and already been described as the Alan Turing of our age. His talk was exactly what you would imagine from a 17 year old guy. All over the place but understanding the gravitas of what he was explaining you couldn’t help but feel how epic his journey has been. I really wished I had stopped and chatted to him in the hotel the next day, could have called a taxi and still have made the train.

Tom Scott burns his top to make a serious point

Tom Scott… What can I say. A talk you can only really do once and once only. Fire and Tom’s hoody, heck what more can you ask for? No but seriously Tom delves into the idea of archiving our memories. This is something I tried to do a while with my old phone. Memories are funny things, and they certainly make you pause for thought. I for example have my yellow Brazil football top, I’m surpised it even fits from 1998! The same year I went to Ibiza and go that crazy Brazil haircut. Maybe I should set fire to it too?

Aral Balkan

I already talked about Aral Balkin in a previous blog but he was rather good even if I disagreed with a lot of what he was saying. Well rehearsed and cleverly put together for the maximum effect each time. I won’t take that away from Aral, well done.

Also worth mentioning…

Chris Thorpe

Rachel Armstrong

Chris Thorpe and Rachel Armstrong for expanding our minds further than I could maybe take at that moment. My notes are pretty flat but I remember being slightly moved by what they were saying.

Alexa Meade

And finally, Alexa Meade for simply stunning pieces of art which I had only seen once or twice. Important never to forget the impact art can have in a new medium. Painting directly on to people is something very special and the time and dedication really impressed me. She was such a lovely lady too. I don’t know if I would ever let anyone paint on top of me. The feeling of uncleanliness would maybe drive me slowly nutty.

Another great Thinking Digital conference, I just wish I had seen more of the first day…

Storytelling from Thinking Digital 2013’s stage

Ian on Stage at Thinking Digital

Thanks to Documentally for the picture

Thinking Digital 2013 for me started on Monday with a lovely dinner with a number of other people in Newcastle. I find its always worth booking in and getting to Newcastle/Gateshead a day early so your not flapping around and carrying luggage. But this time I specially need the time to make sure Perceptive Radio was fine. Anyway at the dinner I met quite a few people including Aral, Aza and others.

The next day I spent most of the morning making sure Perceptive Media was working as it should. Surprisingly it everything worked as it should and brushed up on my presentation before heading to the Thinking Digital workshop Harnessing the power of story

Great leaders beginning with the Alexander the Great, have long known the emotional power of story in helping engage people behind a cause or a company. Today more than ever in our chaotic world of information overload, facts are not enough.  We want something that’s meaningful, a message that is compelling and memorable. Similarly, understanding our own story helps us to relate to others and the world around us, to understand how we can contribute and what drives us beyond a paycheque.

The course was fully booked and seemed to be filling up with even more people.

Mari talked about the hero’s journey in some depth and at the end split the group up into 3. Those wanting to exploit stories in presentations, those who wanted to use stories to get a better grip of there careers anwent for the d those wanting to better their lives. I originally signed up for the first and through the process of the hero’s story decided actually I’d like to see how this could help my career but by the decision point decided actually I’ll see what if anything this could do for my life.

I found the whole thing really interesting but the details I’m not going to reveal in my blog sorry… There was something very strange about the instructor. She seemed to know everything about me, I couldn’t work it out. Had she gleamed all this from our brief chat on the phone and by googling me? If so I’ve been far too public 🙂

Later it turns out that I did know her but hadn’t recognised her till she wore her glasses… I say this because it slightly freaked me out. But only slightly… By Wednesday I was running on adrenaline and you needed to be for the 7am start.

I love Thinking digital except this time I missed most of Wednesday preparing for my time on stage with manager Adrian. If it was just 5min talk it would be fine but doing a couple of workshops in lunch with something your not certain will work as expected was scary.

You know how they say don’t work with young children or animals? Can I add robots and machines to the mix. The biggest problem I had was the wifi which required you to press I accept to get online. How do you do this on a device which has no screen at all? On top of that each client was isolated on the network, so you couldn’t ssh, rdp, vnc, or anything into another machine. This made setting up the radio for the environment very tricky (to be honest I was tearing my hair out by 9:30pm)

Anyway I solved the problem and I decided the wifi leases were maybe long enough to allow me to take the radio offline. So I did and during the talk on stage I did the grand reveal of the perceptive radio. After the grand reveal and Adrian finishing up, I didn’t have the heart to grab it in the middle of Maggie Philbins talk, so shes got it on the counter while she talks about Tomorrows World. Ironic don’t you see…

After the talks, I took the Radio downstairs for the public demos. There were only meant to be 2 but due to demand we stretched it to 3. Anyway I can happily say they all went extremely well, with me showing some of the basic functionality and of course playing the whole Breaking Out play. Questions were well received and lots were new to do with the radio. Just enough adrenaline to do an audioboo with Documentally.

Perceptive Radio and Me

You don’t want to miss the Audioboo Documentally recorded after I finished the workshops, to be fair I sound knackered but it still came across well. Cheers for the photo too 🙂

I won’t lie, once my commitments were fore-filled and alittlebit had gotten me a very lunch (bless her motherhen reactions), I crashed as the last of the adrenaline left my body. The live lounge was my paradise for the next 20mins (dark with a projection of what was happening next door) while I caught up with some nap time. Kate assure me I wasn’t making a sound, so thats great. That power nap really did something to me and I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the conference.

Thinking Digital 2012 my highlights

Another year and another Thinking Digital. This year the programme looked very strong, and thankfully I can say one of my highlights was from the BBC.

5 Years now and thinking digital is winning more even more new fans, Martin Bryant from the next web wrote his thoughts about the conference comparing it with TED. It seems crazy than over 5 years ago I heard Herb Kim talk about a TED like conference in the North East and I pulled him aside and said “are you for real?” So determined Herb was, I couldn’t help but offer support where ever possible. In actual case I’ve wrote about Thinking Digital every single year except 2010 when I had my bleed on the brain, and thanks to Herb I was there in spirit as such. Theres no doubt in my mind Thinking Digital is the english TED and it will go on to be something even better.

Magnus Lindkvist

On the first day, it was the thinking digital university and there was some great courses to be involved in. In the end I went with the one which best fits my work. A Practical Guide to Predicting the Future by Magnus Lindkvist.

At one time or another, if not everyday, we are all called upon to try and spot trends and/or predict the future. It’s pretty tough to do well. Magnus Lindkvist is considered to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on trendspotting and is the author of Everything You Know is Wrong, The Attack of the Unexpected and When the Future Begins. In addition he is a wonderful speaker and workshop facilitator. As one person commented, “Listening to Magnus Lindkvist is like rejuvenating your brain.”

In this session, Magnus will share some of his insights on the pitfalls and practice of trendspotting and trying to predict what will happen next. It will be a fascinating and fun workshop that could change the arc of your organisation and maybe even your life.

In the area of trendspotting, theres a lot of different approaches and some are as good as throwing a ball into a pit. But Magnus did a good job breaking the task down. His spectrum of predictability gave some scale to the levels of predications and with Tennis Balls, Fingerprints and the Human Brain in mind off he went.

Pearls of wisdom? Well there was a lot of common sense including news is blinding and slow moving things no one notices because the human brain is crap at recognizing tiny changes. The human mind is crap at thinking about cultural changes, example? Why does the Jetsons still have woman as the housewifes? The best people who predict the future are generally loud and good at convincing people even when wrong.

His talk was equally good and different examples helped… Lets just say I’m now a follower on twitter.

So what was my highlights?

Pam Warhurst

Pam Warhurst

Pam was like a lightening bolt, her no nonsense style and talk totally blew away the audience, she almost received a standing applause for everything she had done in Todmorden. Really got me thinking about the community I live in and should I be pushing much harder to achieve the community spirit she’s achieved. Incredible and also one of the great treasures Thinking Digital uncovers.

Peter Gregson

Peter Gregson

You got to hand it to Peter, lovely guy and after the failed attempt to demonstrate his computer assisted music sequencing system working on the first day, he came back on the 2nd day to a massive round of applause. Excellent music and great idea. Look forward to hearing and seeing more on the Space soon.

Mikko Hypponen

Mikko Hypponen

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Mikko during the speakers and VIP dinner. It was great talking to him and I didn’t know he was going to take the more personal security and privacy approach. We had a good chat about world security and social engineering. Mikkos talk was really good and I felt like he had much more to say but there was plenty to make people think. It wasn’t as scary as Paul Rogers talk at TedXBradford who I recommended to Mikko at dinner but plenty to take away. Another great talk and great to see Thinking Digital trying different types of talks.

Ken Segall

Ken Segall

Didn’t really want to like Ken but I found his talk fascinating, maybe in the same way I would find Steve Jobs if I was to heard him live. Ken had some choice words including… Being simplicity isn’t simple, Why add complexity, think common sense. Simplicity isn’t a trend its forever, its burned into our wiring. However when Ken made the comment about Apple’s rivials creating 16+ types of machines to face up against Apple’s 4 types. I disagree with about choice being bad. The business models they are using is wrong in my view. Very good talk and great opener to the whole conference.

Adrian Hon

Adrian Hon

Adrian is a great guy and friend, always been loved what him and his brother have done from a early time. Great to hear what each of them are doing but Adrian really got me thinking about Kickstarter. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard so many stories about kickstarter but to hear about Zombies Run, well it got me really thinking about the possibility of using a store of ideas to see if any of them were worth pursuing or not. More details about that hopefully soon. But excellent talk and great to have Adrian’s deeper thoughs along side his current work. Credit to Adrian if things go the way of crowd funding.

Sugata Mitra

Sugata Mitra

I had no idea who he was till he started talking about his great hole in the wall project. Then I was transported back to 2000 in the doors of perception 6 conference in Amsterdam. I remember hearing about the project and thinking wow, how amazing one person can make such a difference. I was a budding interaction design student with no real idea of how much these things would shape my life in the future.

I remember there was some discourse about how much the children had learned years later but its great to hear Sugata is still trying out different methods to educate some of the poorest people in the world. Granny Cloud sounds crazy but who knows in 12 years time, I might be saying how much of a impact that had. Seriously Amazing talk… Ended the first and long day on a total high.

Ralph Rivera

Ralph Rivera

Now Ralph is my managers manager but since he joined the BBC replacing Erik Huggers I’ve had nothing but praise for him and his style of business. Seeing Ralph at Thinking Digital adlib with about 3 slides was captivating. He got the tone perfect and made it into one of the best talks of the second day. It was so good hearing what I thought of Ralph being said by others in the conference. There was even talk about Ralph for BBC Director General. I was so proud to be at the BBC after hearing ralph talk about his own background and why the BBC must pivot for the sake of the country and the industry.

Tom Scott

Tom Scott

You have got to hand it to Tom, he is one of the gems of Thinking Digital. He has spoken at every single one and each time his portfolio of work increases and gets better. To have Tom end the conference was a great honor and a great move by Herb bringing balance to Peter Fitzgerald‘s talk from Google. Don’t get me wrong Peter was good but even the Google in me was getting a little twitchy. Tom shattered the utopian dream but only by putting a few holes in the corners.

Great to see Tom has calmed down a little, he’s really carving out a niche besides the likes of ZeFrank. Great talk and great presentation, hopefully he won’t be too big for next years Thinking Digital…

Jennifer Gardy

Jennifer Gardy

Jennifer’s presentation was special for me because my ex (Sarah) was also into Epidemiology. Not only that Sarah was the person responsible for the TB register in London and we would regularly talk about how TB was a massive killer and unfortunately no was talking it very seriously. A lot of the terms and methods Jennifer described were strangely common to me and I can only guess it comes from Sarah.

Jennifer did also make reference to the fact that she started a A-Z book of diseases which Tom Scott and a few others put together in this great animation in a matter of days.

Sebastian Seung

Sebastian Seung

Every year theres one talk which gets me very excited about what were learning about ourselves. Last year it was eat to defeat, this year its the Connectome. Sebastian is uncovering how the brain is wired and with it how things like autism might be caused. The problem is the brain is just too dense and trying to track the connections is a very manual job. But if you can gamify and crowd source it, would it be a easier problem to crack? Well thats what Play.eyewire.org is all about. Sebastian is after better ways to make the game more fun and more interesting. I might be able to help.

Alan Moore

Alan Moore

Between Alan and Magnus I was really getting the feeling my thoughts around disruption and future thinking are maybe much more relevant than I had imagined. Letting the legacy die was a theme through out…

Where Alan got me was the “putting economic value on every aspects of human existence is a very bad idea, deconstructing the human is not a good idea.” This ties nicely with my thoughts about online dating and trying to understand what is chemistry? I think this is also when I wrote in my evernote notes, that I’m going to put forward to Herb a epic look at online dating and love as a presentation for maybe next years Thinking Digital.

My manager Adrian, says its clearly not BBC when I talk about love/sex/dating but if you dig a little deeper. What I’m actually doing is trying to deconstruct these notions. Maybe I am deconstructing what it means to be human in a clumsy way when I do events like Relationships 2.0 (Thur 7th at FYG Deli). I know for a fact I’ve had arrangements with people about the events and my dating experiences and actually what there getting at is the deconstruction of human emotions?

Plenty to think about but Alan did leave these points to think about…

  1. Change the pattern, the limits of our language is the limits of our world
  2. Adaptive go beyond the conventional
  3. The default setting is open, the world is open.
  4. Participatory culture, not social media.
  5. Craftsmanship. Is what we do good for us all?
  6. Seek epic wins, transformational wins

Other notable speakers…Tom Chatfield, Zach LiebermanRosanne BachmanSimona Francese, Peter Fitzgerald and Jessica Latshaw for some great music (love her deep smoky voice!)

Gateshead by night

Like the Future Everything conference, there is so much more I could write about and I have a lot of notes to follow up in my evernotes. It was an amazing conference and I’d say out of the 5 maybe one of the best by a little bit. Everything just gelled from the section tagslines to the application Gospalware created for the conference. Having the sponsors down in the tea and coffee area instead of the barber room.

My only gripe is not having the Dinner next door to each other like usual and not being able to ask questions. I also wished I could have gone to some more of the university events but had to choose one over the others.

If this event doesn’t put Thinking Digital on the map for conference goers in the UK, I don’t know what will!?!?

Here’s to Herb, Codeworks, the sponsors and everyone I met during the week… To the next 5 years!

Official photos and my own creative commons licenced photos

Thinking Digital 2011: Touching the emotions

May is a strange time… It seems to be the start of a series of conferences in the North of England including Future Everything. In this case it was time to head up to Newcastle/Gateshead for the inspiring and always fantastic Thinking Digital conference.

Herb Kim

Like Future Everything, I missed last year due to the bleed on the brain. Herb Kim last year gave me a shout out, live on stage (of course I wasn’t there) but this year he did the same in between a couple of speakers. It was very touching and later on Adrian pointed out that there was something in the conference booklet too. So thank you again to Thinking Digital and Herb Kim.

Generally the conference was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, lots of people I kind of remember and lots of people who remember me from previous years. It was very noticeable to me, how badly I forgot peoples names but hey I have a great excuse… 🙂 It was also great seeing Marissa Mulvena, Kate Norman and Emilia Flockhart along side all the other lovely people.

The Workshop – The Practice of Happiness – Bobby Paterson

Happiest

I attended and enjoyed the practice of happiness with Bobby. I didn’t quite know what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. Bobby ran through a whole lot of inspirational books that he had read and would recommend.

Its fair to say it was a decent summary without touching any of the religious or overall self help stuff. Bobby quoted Jim Rohn saying Happiness is not a accident nor is it something you aspire to, its actually something you design or even architect. Quite fitting with the talk from Bill Thompson at Future Everything about designing your future.

Some interesting facts. We have roughly 60,000 thoughts a day and 95% of them are the same as yesterday and 80% of those are negative in nature.

Then following that Bobby directed the questioning to work. Does your companies attitudes and values align with your own personal values? Luckily I would say indeed it does. He then went on to talk about Tony Heish from Zappos as a great example of what can be done in work. Bobby also hit the point about being more transparent and what that could mean for happiness.

He then talked about the social network (aptly named happie.st) he was setting up off the back of his research into happiness. There’s 7 happy habits as Bobby called them running through the network. Those habits are…

  • Wisdom
  • Gratitude
  • Getting Active
  • Journaling
  • Eating Healthy
  • Mantra
  • Meditation

To be honest and I did say this to Bobby, its a nice idea but I’m concerned about the social networking aspect of it. I think for it to be truly useful it needs to be more fluid than yet another social network. I understand there’s the ability to send stuff into other social networks but honestly its needs to be something more transparent. I was thinking about a microformat for wellbeing and good habits could be interesting. Of course Bobby could keep the social network too, but aggregate stuff outside of it.

Highly valued characters

End of the day, it was a good talk and I am intrigued specially with my own shift (still not sure how I feel about this movie) or lifestyle change.

And that was just the workshop…

The conference was even more fantastic. Like Future Everything I’ll just run through the highlights of the conference but I wanted to also wanted to discuss a few of the conference things. You can think of it as feedback to the Thinking Digital committee.

  • I loved the idea of having a smoke machine go off when the speaker went well over the time. It was used a bit at the start but I didn’t see it again. What happened there?
  • I really wanted to ask questions, but there was never a chance. According to Jas, something changed in 2010 and so there was no more questions. Anyway, no worries, I got to speak to everyone afterwards.
  • It wasn’t just me who had a quite sore behind from the seats in the conference venue. Could really have done with a pillow or something. Not a big problem because there were the right amount of breaks and even better they were just about the right length.
  • The meals were pretty good, very healthy but I wouldn’t have minded a little more variety. Good idea having bags which you can shift around with and having the sweets upstairs.
  • The Wifi was a problem but got better, I do wish there wasn’t the webpage authentication because its a real pain on a non-laptop device like my kindle.
  • Power wasn’t a problem for me because I was on the Kindle, but I heard a few people say they wished there was a secure place to charge laptops between sessions.
  • The dinners are still excellent in Thinking Digital. The combination of food and drink means everyone stays till the very end and goes no where. Don’t ever loose that part of thinking digital.

Right time for the best talks of the conference

Erin McKean from Wordnik

Erin McKean

Erin McKean likes to call herself a Dictionary Evangelist. She is the CEO of the new online dictionary Wordnik and prior to that she was the Editor in Chief of the New Oxford American Dictionary. She is the author of ‘Weird and Wonderful Words’, ‘More Weird and Wonderful Words’, ‘Totally Weird and Wonderful Words’, and ‘That’s Amore’ (also about words).

Erin from Wordnik gave a great presentation about building the largest Dictionary. The presentation was pretty straight forward but fascinating. The new developer API sounds like tons of fun.

Wordnik fits really well with my thoughts around the way language evolves at a fascinating pace. Hopefully we can help Wordnik in some way in the near future.

Conrad Wolfram, Wolfram Research

Conrad Wolfram

Conrad Wolfram is European founder and CEO of Wolfram Research and its worldwide strategic director. Since 1988, the Wolfram group has built the Mathematica computational software and since 2009, the spin-off Wolfram|Alpha knowledge engine.

Another great talk with some useful examples on demonstration.wolfram.com. Interestingly Wolfram have launched a computational document format (CDF)

CDF—the computable document format—is a way that we’ll be releasing soon of very easily creating dynamic, interactive, documents that immediately build on all the algorithms and automation that we’ve been setting up in Mathematica for the past 24 years.

I assumed it would be XML based but its unfortunately not. Anyhow, the reason seems to be sound due in part to the Mathematica engine being embedded in part in the document.

Sam Martin, Manspaces

Thinking Digital - Sam Martin

Author Sam Martin shares photos of a quirky world hobby that’s trending with the XY set: the “manspace.” (They’re custom-built hangouts where a man can claim a bit of his own territory to work, relax, be himself.) Grab a cold one and enjoy.

Just as Herb Kim said in his intro, you kind of don’t really want to like the talk but honestly it was an insight into how people get away and use there own spaces. Some would have liked to ask questions about the notion that its man spaces instead of just work spaces? Oh well I guess they could twitter him, if they were that upset. Good talk and plenty to think about

Nancy Duarte, Duarte Design

Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte is one of the world’s foremost authorities on presentation development and design. She is the founder of Duarte Design, who specialise in presentation mastery and visual communications. Duarte design is also one of Silicon Valley’s most successful and largest woman-owned businesses.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Nancy at the speakers Dinner before the conference and I was already a fan when we talked about Prezi (which Matthew Postgate used in his presentation and I’ve written about before) and she said it can be useful in a very small number of cases but generally it distracts from the core messages and the flow of the presentation. And after listening to her talk, shes totally right, can you ever imagine Steve Jobs or Martin Luther King, using Prezi? Not a chance in hell…

The analysis of the flow of the best presentations is killer information. Once you know and understand it, its really obvious but very powerful. Thank you Nancy… I’ll hopefully improve my presentations forever more.

Dr Vincent W. Li, Angiogenesis Foundation

Thinking Digital - Vincent Li

Li tackles a common denominator of disease called angiogenesis, or new blood vessel growth. He created the Foundation in 1994 and currently oversees the Eat to Defeat initiative and ENABLE project, a global system that integrates patients, medical experts and healthcare professionals and democratises the spread and implementation of knowledge about angiogenesis-based medicines, diet and lifestyle.

Vincent gave an emotional but very smart talk about the research he and his brother have been working on. Angiogenesis is the process of growing new blood vessels from pre-existing blood vessels. This process is also how tumors go from dormant to a state of malignant. Some foods can give the effect of a Angiogenesis inhibitor or Anti-Angiogenesis.

Yes if you understood correctly (videos should helps), we might be able to prevent Cancer by eating more of certain types of food. Which types of food, I bet your wondering? Which ones? Well here’s the full list and I’ve picked out the surprising ones…

  • Dark Chocolate
  • Green Tea
  • Maple Syrup

But its not just cancer… Angiogenesis is a major factor in other medical conditions such as Obesity and Stress.

Its a lot to take in at first and to be fair I really need to do some more research into these claims but honestly if eating more fruit and vegetables helps to defeat cancer and other problems, then I’m there. I’ve already made huge changes in my lifestyle, if this works or even if it doesn’t I’ll certainly be stacking up my shopping trolley with more things from the list.

I did get a chance to talk to Vincent about the whole thing and he was very open to hearing the good and negative comments. The problem seems to be the lack of a clinical/scientific trial over a wide group of people. He said they have trials over 100,000 people but they were not clinical due to the nature of the subject. It was expressed that trying to do a mass clinical/scientific trial would never really be achievable because there’s far too many factors to consider.

Its important to remember this is all preventive not a cure.

Anyway… Something to check out for sure.

Mary Anne Hobbs, XFM

Thinking Digital - Mary Ann Hobbs

I have to admit I had not heard any of the back story of why she had left the BBC, and she wasn’t actually on the schedule but with all the craziness of the ash cloud and speakers stranded in different locations. Herb convinced her to stand in for someone else and tell her side of the story.

The interview was done by herb and felt like he had planned it from the very start. Very professional but with hints of friendliness. It was a excellent interview and one of those pinnacle moments in Thinking Digital which defines the 2011 conference…

The Others

Thinking Digital - Tom Scott

Its also worth mentioning Steven Bathiche, Walter de Brouwer, Paul Smith, Matthew Postgate, Carlos Ulloa, Casper Berry, Tan Lee, Gred Leonhard, Jer Thorp, Atau Tanaka, Heather Knight, Ewan McIntosh and finally Tom Scott. All added equally good talks and worth mentioning. Musical interludes by Badaia was certainly interesting but after the 3rd time got a little tiresome.

Would I say Thinking Digital 2011 was better that 2009? Well I would say they were about the same, both had tiny things you could groan about but on the whole they were amazing and a truly inspiring.

Excellent work again, Herb and the Thinking Digital team, can’t wait for 2012…

Frank Rose – The Art of Immersion – Wed 13th April

Art of Immersion

The amazing Herb Kim asked me a while ago if I’d be willing to be on a panel with Frank Rose, as part of the think and a drink session in Gateshead college. Of course I thought about it for maybe a few minutes and agreed. No but seriously this time, I checked out the topic and wondered if I would bring anything to the session. Luckily the subject matter is something I think about a whole lot plus I happen to be writing a technote for Perceptive Media (previously known as Intrusive Media)…

Think and a Drink – The Art of Immersion

We’re delighted to welcome one of the world’s most insightful technology writers, Frank Rose, to the North East in April for the launch of his new book ‘The Art of Immersion’.

In the book Frank explores the future of media, advertising and storytelling. Frank Rose is a long time contributing editor of Wired Magazine (US) and he’s making the long trip from San Francisco especially for the event. As a contributing editor at Wired, Frank has spent the past decade writing about the impact of technology on media and entertainment. Along the way he covered such stories as the making of Avatar, Sony’s enormous gamble on the PlayStation 3, Samsung and the rise of the Korean techno-state, and the posthumous career of Philip K. Dick in Hollywood.

The event will be the next Think and a Drink in the calendar and will be run in collaboration with Wired Magazine, Gateshead College, Northern Film & Media and WW Norton Publishers. Frank will talk about his life and give an overview of The Art of Immersion.

A panel session will follow Frank’s talk and we’re pleased to have some important local figures from the digital world, offering their thoughts and insight into the where we are now and where we’re heading in the digital sector. The panel will consist of Paul Smith, Never Odd or Even, Agnes Wilkie, Northern Film & Media and Ian Forrester, BBC R&D.

There’ll also be the chance to meet Frank during a book signing session and of course as with all our Think and a Drink events, we’ll have networking, food and refreshments.

The Thinking Digital Conference – 21st – 23rd May

Thinking Digital

I've been meaning to blog about this conference for bloody ages, everytime I go to do it. I remember I'm still offline most of the time. Anyway hopefully this blog post will attract a few last minute choosers and attract more people to the several days of events.

So when I first heard about the thinking digital conference I was in a innovation lab in the north west. Herb Kim of codeworks was saying a bit about codeworks supporting BBC innovation labs and then at the end he did a sneaky pitch about the singularity and it all ended on a slide for a conference he was planning. When I spoke to Herb afterwards, he explained how he had gone to TED in the states last year and wanted to run something like TED in the UK. Those words I have heard else where but when he talked about some of the speakers he had at the time, I was much more convinced this could be closer that anything else I've been to before (i've never been to TED and I've only watched Pop!Tech streamed). So anyway I wanted to help make this a reality and part of that was telling people about the conference, recording it and sponsoring a couple of the events surrounding the event. So we came to conclusion which fit both parties.

So not only is there the conference which may seem quite high cost but actually isn't for the amazing array of speakers from across the world and ideaophere (yeah I just made that up) but its in Newcastle/Gateshead so the hotel prices are not stupidly priced and hell its good to get out of London sometimes people. Lets be honest, its only 3 hours on the train from Kings Cross and that train has plugs in every seat and free wireless unlike the bloody Virgin train which has 2 power sockets per table and no wireless at all. But another reason to go up to the conference is that on the Friday is there will be a geekdinner sponsored by Backstage.bbc.co.uk and then BarCampNorthEast on the Saturday and Sunday. The very first 2 day overnight stay barcamp in the North of England so far. This is a great chance to experience barcamp as it could/should be. I know quite a few Londonerners are traveling up for the whole thing, conference, geekdinner and barcamp, so thats great. But why haven't you signed up? Do you really have something better to do? Didn't think so.

There are still some tickets left over for the conference. Look at these great names.

  • Greg Dyke , former Director General of the BBC.
    I came in when Greg decided to leave. It was a shame because I heard so much about him afterwards and I would have liked to have worked under him.
  • Doug Richard , formerly of The Dragons' Den on BBC2 and founder of Library House
    I've spoken Doug before but not at length and I've not heard speak for a while now. So it would be good to see wheres he at now
  • Ray Kurzweil, noted futurist & author of The Singularity is Near
    Do I need to say anything about Ray?
  • The Fake Steve Jobs aka Dan Lyons, senior editor of Forbes Magazine & author of Options.
    I'm interested why a journalist would do this and whats been the outcome of this since. I also think this will be a session I would like Sarah over at reading the cluetrain to maybe hear.
  • Steve Clayton, Microsoft Partner Group, UK CTO
    Self confessed geek in disguise, this guy is a good guy making waves in Microsoft.
  • Tara Hunt, founder of Citizen Agency, San Francisco.
    Tara is simply awesome, every time I hear her talk she fill my mind with so many things that I had only briefly thought about. I also like to think of Tara as a friend so it will be good to catch up. I also know she'll be at the barcamp, which is great news.
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