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…

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 #Futr of everything 2012" href="http://cubicgarden.com/2012/05/25/the-futr-of-everything-2012/">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 #Futr of everything 2012" href="http://www.thinkingdigital.co.uk/">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