Loving my first Tech Open Air Berlin

TOA Berlin

I was invited to talk at Tech Open Air Berlin (TOA Berlin) a while ago and the week of the event came around much quicker than I thought it would. Because of plans a while before, I had planned to be London to pick up my Estonian e-residency card, go to a semi-internal BBC AI event, visit “into the unknown” at the Barbican and host a lecture about Databox in R&D London (phew!). It became clear it was better to fly from London Gatwick to Berlin and fly back to Manchester (I couldn’t work out how long it would take to get to Stanstead and Ryan Air worked out more expensive once I factored in luggage). This did meaning 3 hotels over 6 days but it was acceptable in my head.

When I finally flew over to Berlin, the storms delayed the flight and when I finally made it to the hotel I was exhausted but noticed that I hadn’t sent my presentation to TOA or at least my updated version. So spent quite a bit of time checking my email to make sure.

I was on at 10:10am in the main conference and was pretty tired by the time I made my way to the venue which was way in the east and required a few changes from Rosenthaler Platz to Funkhaus Berlin Nalepastrasse. On arrival I was taken to the buzzing speakers lounge where I met Laura, who helped sort things out with some serious help from the tech support guy.

Human & AI Powered Creativity in Storytelling

A look at how Human and AI-powered creativity can be combined to build better storytelling

I felt the talk went ok, but it wasn’t my best because I took too long giving only room for 2 questions from the moderator. I certainly felt if it was a hour or so later it would have been far better. Regardless, it was captured and should be on the TOA Berlin youtube channel soon.

After the talk I was locked in conversation with 3-5 people about the data ethic considerations of adaptive media and how on earth this can work. All fascinating conversations which had to get cut a little short as I signed up to do a Ask Me Anything

TOA Berlin

This took part in a plastic dome within a busy room below the speakers lounge. I wasn’t expecting anyone to show up but there were 2 people waiting for me. I was asked about my role in the BBC and some of research we are conducting. Then a 3rd person dropped in. He said he had read my blog and suddenly there was a moment of “uh oh!” But it was fine, although we talk about data ethics and dating. I’ll be honest the AMA was fascinating and quite refreshing.

TOA Berlin

After this and a lack of lunch (my own fault, talking to people), finally started going to different sessions. Most were rammed and I remember going to Why Supermarkets Must be Replaced, Creators & Audiences: An Open Relationship, Motivating Behavior When Attention Is The World’s Reserve Currency, How far can VR go to enhance your sex life? Future of Sex Podcast with BaDoinkVR and The Future of Collective Governance and From Trump To Universal Basic Income: Leveraging Technology To Understand What Europe Thinks.

TOA Berlin

So quite an amazing cross section of talks and sessions!

I can’t emphasize enough how big some of the spaces are and the whole place just felt like it was buzzing. The engagement was high and everywhere I went people were getting involved. I don’t know the total amount of people, but it felt like a few thousands at least. I can only describe it as what I imagine South by South west is like but in Berlin. Theres so much happening and besides the conference there is a whole music track, expo, corporate spaces and even a thing called open circle only for speakers and vip’s. Its pretty overwhelming, but in a good way.

One of the other fascinating things about TOA was the amount of Fridge events or as they call it Satellite events. You can also apply to do a satellite using a online form and a video chat with TOA.

I attended two and had to miss a few because I needed to move hotel on Friday. Here are the two I attended.

Propellor | Forum #1: Using Tech to create the future of Film

I first met Erwin at the Documentary and Factual World Congress in Sweden late last year when he told me about the Propellor film tech hub.  We kept in touch and when he mentioned the Forum would be during TOA Berlin, I was happy to say I would be there too. I agreed to help by encouraging people to think about adaptive media in a workshop of ideas.

Propellor | Forum #1

The event was a satellite to TOA and was hosted at Price Waterhouse Coopers building only minutes from Berlin Hauptbahnhof (if unlike me you go out the main entrance and not the back exit). It started with networking and some canopies then an introduction followed by 3 5min pitches by myself (Adaptive Media), Jannis Funk (distribution of AV content) and Aljoscha Burchardt (Curation of AV content).

Once the pitches were out the way there was time for a few questions. Most of the questions I got were asking how on earth is adaptive media possible, I answered in a quick 1min breakdown of object based media.

TOA Berlin

After this, people grouped around the pitches they were interested in and the DO school took control.

TOA Berlin

It was good workshop with enough push to get things done in time but also allowing things to emerge from the grassroots. At the end of the workshops ideas were presented to the pitch group and the best was then presented to everyone at the forum.

TOA Berlin

I found the Friemily film a great idea so very fitting for adaptive media.

All the results have been written up at propellorfilmtech.com.

TOA Berlin Satellite: Machine Learning, Trust and Public Service

Machine learning, trust and public service

Myself and Ahmed from the BBC Blueroom put in a proposal around a idea/concept of the public service internet and machine learning. Only a few days earlier the Blueroom had put on a AI & society conference titled BBC Blue Room presents Artificial Intelligence & Society. So fresh from that and some ideas from myself and others in R&D, we proposed the question; where does public service fit in the age of machine learning and the business models which come along with automation and algorithms.

Machine learning, trust and public service

TOA provide the space and we provided the workshop/talk under their brand. The space was an amazing co-working space called Mindspace and they were really helpful with everything. The only down side was the workshop was meant to be more participatory but the room set up didn’t quite work for this. The central chairs were not move-able at all. Ideally more of a circle would have been better really.

Machine learning, trust and public service

We were not expecting a huge turn out but thats exactly what we got. As me and Ahmed got started we focused on the business models which are most associated with machine learning. To be honest we spoke maybe too much and by the time the discussion got going, we ran over time. This is also where the layout of the room became a disadvantage. Regardless I drew up thoughts on a piece of paper and mapped out connected ideas (mindmapped it) while people talked and discussed.

Machine learning, trust and public service

There was a lot of discussion about public service and the point of public service. We got talking about why people choose to work in the public service oppose to commercial companies.

The discussion about trust thew up a whole lot of discussion about fake news and disinformation; someone suggested maybe a trusted public entity could have a trusted index score for sources? Something like snoops which are currently having their own problems. This lead nicely on to the transparency question and the fact public organizations should be more transparent than other companies. Which people felt could mean public organisations could benefit from the transparency in choices and algorithms. I earlier called it xray mode in the conference talk.

Collaboration came up again and again, there was a discussion suggesting we should work with not just ARD/ZDF but also Fraunhofer and others like Arte. There was also a feeling, some pioneers in this sector could share insight and new models with less forward thinking public organisations, who are struggling to keep up with the internet age.

TOA Berlin

As a whole I was very impressed with TOA, its really a festival of tech, art and ideas. I saw solar panels made into art, a stage made in the wood and far too much free redbull.

I would highly recommend TOA to others, think SXSW with a strong European backbone, I will make my way back next year.

A step on the way to Diversity?

I understand why the Huffington Post, posted the picture of their editors meeting and to be fair they never actually said it was about diversity. But myself and others looked at it and thought a few things.

There seems to be a lack of black women at the table. To me this reflected the poor state of diversity in the tech sector generally. It almost seems like the 25-30% asian is right on in this picture too. Then you have the issue of them seeming to be middle class and most likely all from a similar class of university (I’m totally guessing and sure will be proven very wrong). Moss code, spells it out in a way I wouldn’t quite go as far.

The diversity in laptops might seem funny, but its indicates a deeper problem I keep seeing. The lack of diversity of thought, fear of individualism and group think. They might as well be wearing the same clothes and the same style hair. Its like those white ear buds, it went from I’m in the same club to a mass thing and you can’t possibily consider another colour. Sad but true

It might seem harsh and there is absolutely no disrespect to Liz Heron or the Huffington Post editors team. Honestly I could walk into most places and find far worst, but its important to note we have got a long way to go and I’m more welcoming to diversity which is not simply replacing one group with another.

It had to be said sorry…

Emerging tech and Future narratives Manchester – #etechmcr

sometimes I forget my world isn't mainstream
sometimes I forget my world isn’t mainstream

I love living in Manchester but recently I noticed there is something missing.

Looking into the future…

I don’t mean tomorrow or even next year but 5-10 years out.

There’s a lot of initiatives like the recently won smart cities fund, graphene institute, quantified self, perceptive media, things/iot startups, open data, LoRa, 5G dev, crypto currencies and even DIYbio, etc… but you need to be in the right circles to hear about them.

So I started a event – Emerging Tech and Future Narratives meetup to highlight them and bring them to a wider audience. The name I will gladly admit comes partly from the amazing Oreilly Emerging Tech conferences.

Every event will be interesting and worthy of your time with special guests and fascinating topics.Not running on a regular schedule, it will be different but will fit around great speakers schedules.

This fits with what I do in BBC R&D and hope to combine some of our thoughts with the wider digital community in the North west and beyond.

I want to thank Jennifer O’Grady for clarifying my thoughts on this in a Friday lunchtime conversation in the northern quarter.

Dope: Its hard out here being a geek

Dope

I watched Dope on Sunday afternoon only a few hours before I gave a talk about the lack of black people in the technology sector at Afrofutures.

Malcolm is carefully surviving life in a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles while juggling college applications, academic interviews, and the SAT. A chance invitation to an underground party leads him into an adventure that could allow him to go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself.

There is much I can say I loved about the film which currently has a rating of 7.5 on IMDB (stick that in your IMDB party game)

Warning mild spoilers ahead

Malcolm and his friends are teenagers growing up in LA, they are geeks, play in a rock band, get picked on at school, etc. You would be forgiven for thinking – “this is the start of a typical hollywood coming of age film..
The big difference is they are black americans and living in a culture which doesn’t encourage geekness.

The film starts with the excellent point of, looking at the definition of Dope.

  • Slang for an illegal drug (you got any dope?)
  • A stupid person (you are such a dope!)
  • Affirmation of something’s greatness (that is so dope!)

These themes run through the whole film and connect everything. Malcolm attempts to try and avoid being pulled into the society which surrounds him. There is no doubt this is a coming of age film but the class discrimination and racism really lifts it way above the rest. Even when Malcolm is forced into the world of drug dealing, he uses his brain to get out ahead of the crooked society.

I won’t lie, dope reminds me of some of the dilemmas I faced while growing up (of course to a far lesser degree). I use to think everybody faces these things but it seems not.  The conflict of being geeky and not wanting to make the mistakes others fall into featured in my mind a lot. I came out on top but like Malcolm, there are things which I won’t forget and certainly shaped my personality.

The presentation I did for Afrofutures is here., the link with Dope comes in about slide 18. I certainly feel its not good enough to blame the tech sector alone. No, we got to look at the the way things shake out in the culture too. Yes there is a big lack of black people in tech, especially in higher positions but also the culture doesn’t exactly encourage people to embrace our geeky side. Its almost discouraged I feel.

This has lines or connections I believe with the fact their are amazingly senior black people in many other professions including law,  financial services, pharmaceuticals, etc. But very few in the tech sector, especially at CEO level.

I know this is all a massive generalisation but from what I have seen growing up, it was a fight to be openly curious, interested and switched on or as I prefer, geeky. I imagine lots of black people bury it and ignore it. Or it gets beaten out of you at some point verbally or even physically. You literally have to fight. Some give up fighting and forever regret doing so for the rest of their lives…

When looking at the diversity figures, in every case I found. White people were followed by Asians people.  You only have to look at the CEO of Microsoft and Google to see this in full effect. From a outsider view, their culture encourages geeky people. However in black popular culture (generalising again) I am almost embarrassed by the negativity to being geeky and different.

Its was depressing to research but it was worth it because its out there now and its a start of a important conversation for me.

I can only hope the next generation will see right through all this all and make positive strides ending up with a diverse workforce. Originally I was going to submit this to Singleblackmale but I didn’t feel it was the right place to host this at this stage. Maybe I’ll do a more critical blog for them in the near future.

As the tagline to Dope says: Its hard out here being a geek…

Growing worries about our tech driven culture from Aziz

Friendly Conversation

You can add Aziz Ansari to the growing list of people reconsidering the effects of our technology on our culture. He joins Sherry Turkle and Andrew Keen with his latest book…

Modern Romance, an interesting book full of interesting research about how people meet, and mate, in the modern world.

First heard about on the Freakonomics podcast

I’ll be checking it out soon… as it looks like a good one.

…The rest of the book deals with online dating, dumping, sexting, cheating and snooping on your partner, all of which have been made easier by the rise of the smartphone and the private world we create behind its screen. This is territory already explored by theorists such as Danah Boyd and Sherry Turkle and OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder, but Ansari helpfully masticates their findings down for a general audience. He is neither a tech evangelist nor a luddite: the gadgets might be constantly updating, but human nature is slower to change.

Learning from nature with biodiversity

Biodiversity

I had attended the Manchester girl geek barcamp (aka BraCamp) on Saturday at MMU. It was well attended and great to see so many people and it really makes me think there is till room for another Manchester BarCamp?

There were a range of good talks and I did a few myself including one about diversity which was a bit of Blaise’s amazing talk from Thinking Digital and my thoughts from Singleblackmale. I thought I didn’t do a good job explaining where I was coming from, but I left enough room for debate afterwards.

I got speaking to Laura Gordon afterwards to see what she thought of the talk, see if I drew enough web between the two (on paper) quite distant subjects. Laura said something so profound that I was scrabbling to write it down in Evernote afterwards.

She basically said, yes… In biodiversity in life/nature/tech is essential. Then proceeded to give examples of what happens when there is little or no biodiversity. One such example was what happens when you get pure bred animals.

I had never really thought about diversity in these terms before, but I was aware of biodiversity however hadn’t linked the two in such a way. Thank you Laura!

Top 10 tech hangouts in Manchester

Madlab

Inspired by The next web and Martin’s Tweet for the Top 20 tech hangouts in new york city. I thought well I’ve not really done one for Manchester’s geek/tech scene. I’ve done some posts for top first dating locations which seems to get a lot of search engine referrals. Heck I’ve even talked about coffee shop clashes.

So here’s my list of the top tech hangouts in Manchester…

  1. Madlab
    Go there anyday almost anytime and it will be full of geeky/tech interested people. Its amazing the diversity of people and interests.
  2. North Tea Power
    Although a coffee shop, its usually full of people on laptops working away on startup ideas and new types of projects. Excellent coffee with plentyful types of tea. Owners are lovely people and take their coffee seriously.
  3. TechHub Manchester
    You heard of Techhub, well its the same formula just in the north of England. Of course this is where serious tech startups go to be taken seriously by investers of all kind. Its not the kind of place you can just rock up but they do have social events including Silicon drinkabout every Friday evening. There is also a Northstar Cafe (thanks Angie) below which you can sometimes find tech people and its only 5mins from Piccadilly Station.
  4. Takk
    New on the scene, and forms part of the new Northern Quarter or new Piccadilly Basin area. Putting the old Drip coffee to shame and taking a clues from North Tea Power. This rapidly is becoming the coffee shop work and be seen at. Now if only they can sort out the opening hours, like NTP.
  5. The Classroom
    The coworking space which is along side bakerie’s pie and ale store. This coworking space is membership only but pretty cheap if you want somewhere more social to work but not have the hassle of ordering coffee every hour or so.
  6. Common/Home sweet home
    When Edge street wasn’t so cool and didn’t have street lighting (I still think it doesn’t?), there was a bar with the full title, a place called common. Common has been around for years and hosted many social events in the past. Right next door is home sweet home which has established its self as a great place for the more chilled nights out. Of course both face Madlab, so its easy to go from Madlab to Home sweet home to Common in one evening/night.
  7. Castle hotel
    I am not a fan of the castle, but if you want to find techies, hipsters and digital folk, the castle hotel is a must. People seem to like it a lot while I always wonder where the cocktails are. But I’ll give it something, it certainly attracts tech people in the know. Oh and I have no idea if it really is a hotel or not.
  8. Cornerhouse
    The cornerhouse cinema is one of those places which is full of art people but you sometimes find an event which attracts tech people. Its generally a very cool place and one of those places which really attracted me to live in Manchester all those years ago.
  9. Kim by the Sea
    Just around the corner from Manchester’s Technology park, I’ve been there a few times and each time theres a mix of hippies, artists and technology people. Nice big portions and earthy feel which makes a difference.
  10. Terrace
    I haven’t seen it yet, but Madlab and terrace have come together to do a co-working space of there own. Meant to be a nice space, a little better than the classroom I hear. Terrace is of course another cool bar, usually quite loud not ideal for a chat

 

Singleblackmale on tech assisted dating

Proximity London

I’m proud to say Single Black Male took my application and said yeah they would like to me to write for them.

My first piece just went up live on the siteTechnology Assisted Dating

Today’s guest post is from a writer from across the pond. I’m sure he thinks Americans are <redacted>, so be sure to prove him wrong by showing him some love in the comment section below. LOL! Welcome today’s post from Ian Forrester. Enjoy!

*********

I live in Manchester, no not Manchester Alabama, Georgia or anywhere in the states. Manchester in the United Kingdom or England. Yes, SBM has gone slightly international but fear not the reason why I talk about Manchester is to give some context.

Manchester is famous for many things but two lesser known facts are:

  1. It contains the second biggest group of singles in the UK outside London; and
  2. It’s extremely gay friendly.

Now I’m not gay or even bi-sexual but dare I say it, some of my friends are gay (which isn’t saying much living in Manchester). A trip to the coffee shop or a bar is full of surprises. Who has not heard of the likes of Grindr? Grindr is/was extremely popular with the urban single gay males and it seems highly effective in meeting other people.

You could see this as a digital wingman of sorts or a step on the way towards a technology assisted dating/hookup depending on what you’re actually after. Before you get on your high horse, suck in your gut and say, “So sad some people need this…” Just two things to remember:

  1. My gay friends have lots of fun with it (maybe the way dating should be – sort of fun); and
  2. Is this much different than the data and algorithms of online dating?

A little bit of help can go a long way and fellas there is nothing wrong with a little assistance once in a while (now breath out and say it with me).

If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering where’s the heterosexual version?

…I then go on to discuss if proximity based dating is a real thing and has anyone got stories which they can share in the comments.

SBM nicely clean up my grammar and spelling, but generally the words are my own and there will be more guest posts to come.

Its wired, tired and expired time

In the wired magazine style, these are the things I’m thinking about and I’m not. Its not meant to be serious, just a bit of fun! (Honestly!)

Not done one of these since 2004!

Wired

  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Open streetmap
  • Social Engineering
  • Android 4.1
  • Tent.is/App.net
  • Solid State
  • Quantified Self data
  • Sharing implicit data
  • LED
  • WordPress
  • Mozilla Open Badges
  • Github
  • Mesh networking
  • Mobile Ubuntu, FirefoxOS
  • Magnet links
  • Amazon Glacier backup
  • Google Now
  • Fibre Channel networking
  • Xbian on RaspberryPi
  • Love in the time of algorithms
  • Toml
Tired

  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • Google maps
  • Hacking
  • Android 4.0
  • Status.net
  • Magnetic platters
  • Lifestreams
  • Sharing explicit data
  • Halogen
  • Google plus
  • Ubuntu Accomplishments
  • Google Code
  • Metropolitan area networks
  • Android, Windows 8
  • Bit Torrent files
  • Cloud backup
  • Wolfram Alpha
  • Gigabit networking
  • Apple TV
  • The Art of Immersion
  • XML
Expired

  • Bluetooth 1.0
  • Apple maps
  • Cracking
  • Android 2.3
  • Twitter
  • Optical discs
  • Facebook timeline
  • Sharing no data
  • Incandescent
  • Facebook
  • Xbox Live Rewards
  • Sourceforge
  • WiMax
  • iOS
  • Binary Usenet
  • External Drive backup
  • Siri
  • 10/100 networking
  • Roku
  • The Paradox of Choice
  • Json/ini

Top 10 Good Tech Habits

don't feel blue


Lifehacker
has a list of 10 good tech habits to have… Luckily I seems to have most of them, however its good to share them because lots of my friends have fallen fowl of some of them.

  1. Search Google Like a Pro
    Absolutely! You got to know how to use search engines fully…
  2. Back Up Your Computer
    The amount of friends who don’t do this is terrible. I don’t backup everything but the essential stuff I have backed up on Spideroak. The less important stuff I have backed up on Dropbox.
  3. Use Secure Passwords
    If I got a pound for everytime I’ve shouted Keepass!
  4. Know What Maintenance Your Computer Needs (and Doesn’t Need)
    Of course building PC’s in the past and still doing bits here and there, I certainly feel like I know my stuff, although since I moved to Ubuntu I’ve kind of lost touch with my Windows background.
  5. Be Smart About Hoaxes, Scams, and Internet Myths
    Oh I’m across this, snopes and wikipedia is your friend. Generally if you think its all makes sense
  6. Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi
    I’m aware of the risks and never do anything serious on a non-SSL connection. I’m aware of the sniffers and have been known to throw open wireshark every once in a while.
  7. Avoid Getting Malware (and Spreading It to Others)
    Running Ubuntu over Windows means the chances of Malware is less but I’m also very aware of the risks. I usually avoid passing stuff on by just deleting them but I’ve sometimes I report them. Specially banking phishing.
  8. Keep Your Desktop and Hard Drive Free of Clutter
    Check, all good…
  9. Know When You’re Paying Too Much for a Product
    Yes although I won’t go totally out of my way for a deal, as I put a price on my time and effort
  10. Regularly Audit Your Privacy Settings on Social Networks
    My general rule applies… If its private, it shouldn’t be online. No matter what privacy settings you have check the End user licence agreement! That will tell you everything you need to know…