Category Archives: events

Passing notes in school

Ugh I’ve had a kind of emotional hangover since about lunchtime yesterday. I feel rotten about getting stuck in a cynical snarky frame of mind. To blame twitter would be like blaming my exercise books for having blank sheets at the back that were perfect for writing notes to pass in class. To blame anyone at NESTA would be like blaming Mr Liberal for not being able to control his pupils. And to blame any of my fellow participants would be saying “they made me do it, sir”. Oh bugger, now I’ve got the Grange Hill theme running round in my head.

But anyway that’s what I did yesterday, I regressed into can’t-be-bothered schoolboy (the one who ended up with average O-levels and piss-poor A-levels), a role I reprised at university as smart-arse know-it-all (who had to pull far too many all-nighters to get a 2:1). People found some of my twittering amusing but it wasn’t really a productive use of my time to sit there snarking, steadily becoming more frustrated and in the end getting, well, a bit depressed really. In fact I felt just the same as when we had that backchannel hoo-ha at LesBlogs2.0. Stuck in a room with far too many smart people not able to say anything while some other smart people sat on the stage and weren’t able to say enough. But I have to recognise that that’s just how I see it, it doesn’t mean that everyone else had the same reaction.

The thing I can take responsibility for is that I went into it entirely unconsciously – I didn’t really look at the programme, as was evidenced by my shock on arrival at the scale of the whole thing. If I had thought about it, I would have known that I was likely to rebel against the keynoting and panelling and would have planned to do something entirely different and positive with the opportunity instead of sitting there and trying to disrupt it. The only bit I behaved in was Bob Geldof’s bit – he’s a great performer and I’ve loved him ever since he tore up that picture of John Travolta on Top of the Pops.

So I’m sorry NESTA for poking you with a stick. I’m sorry Jonathan Freedland for calling you names on twitter. And I’m sorry to myself for using up a valuable day so miserably.

Ho hum. On to better things. I’ve sat in similar events and said “We can do better than this” I don’t think that’s true – it was a great event, but the programmed content was not for me. What I will say is “We can do something other than this – in fact we already are” That’s where my effort’s going today rather than in trying to pull somebody else down.

Bonus Link: The bit that Geldof quoted from WH Murray

Cognitive Surplus at Conferences

It struck me that Clay Shirky’s lovely notion of cognitive surplus has another expression in these panel and single speaker conferences. Where sitcoms mask cognitive surplus, occasions like this NESTA Innovation conference amplify and magnify it. We have 3,000 smart people (ok not smart enough to not come, but pretty smart nonetheless) sitting in a room listening to 4 other smart people on stage. The weight of ideas, thoughts, inspiration and excitement is enormous, and for me anyway painful – we all rush out to grab food and talk rapidly before coming back in to listen to the prime minister. Gaaaah! Cue Desperate Housewives.

Tim Berners-Lee on web science.

Just a snippet. Cross not to have power supply.

Sir Tim says something to the effect of:

People doing interesting things fall between stools. The web has to be thought of as humanity connected, rather than an interconnection of computer systems. And you have to remember it’s big, very big and it’s complex. It’s not apparent yet what all of its characteristics are. We don’t know yet for example what the blogosphere is and how it will behave. We just don’t know – we can’t show that it’s stable. So we have to study it, we have to understand it better so that we can take care of it.

The Innovation Edge

Live blogging a bit from the Royal Festival Hall as and when today. No power in the hall at all, so currently on 53 minutes :P

We’ve got a whole bunch of big names talking to us this morning, TB-L & Bob Geldof with a rumoured appearance by the PM. First impression – it’s bloody huge! We’ve heard talk of 3-4,000 people. The hall is full and I think we’re just about to be moved out of the front-row seats we’d grabbed by being the first in. It was too good to be true.

Or maybe not. No, we’re sitting still Ha Ha!

What’s the web for?

A slow project this one. Ask as many people as I can remember to do when I’ve got my camera with me to answer a “simple” question – “What is the web for?”

I tried it out at the Tuttle Club a few weeks ago. This is what came out of the mouths of some of the Smartest People in Social Media (TM)

So there are two ways I want to take this forward. I want to do it with a more diverse group of people, and I want to edit a bunch of them together in a watchable way. Your thoughts on how to do this are welcome.

I have more. I will release them. Soon.

Dynamic Compartmentalisation

Breakfast and conversation again yesterday, courtesy of OneAlfredPlace and Steve Moore I love the way that Steve keeps playing with different formats. This one involved three cool people (coincidentally all members of my twitterstream) Jeremy, Kevin & Matt from Penguin, The Guardian and Channel 4 respectively, all talking about what happens next in their worlds, ably steered by Rebecca Caroe. As Matt disarmingly pointed out, when you ask people in the vanguard of change what the future will be like, it’s not surprising that they describe a scenario in which there are really cool jobs for people like them. But as I feel part of the same vanguard, I’m not going to disagree with what they were saying. The common thread for me was that they all see their jobs as doing away with technology dependent descriptions of what they do (sell books, paper, TV programmes) towards being in the market for ideas and stories. I wanted to ask to what extent they saw themselves as competition for each other, or more properly for our attention.

Mark has captured the nugget in what Matt said about some current C4 research on teenage net use.

“Seems one girl the researchers were following was hanging out online doing amongst other things a spot of the hi-speed Instant Messaging that only the young can really manage for any length of time.

She had sorted all her contacts into 6-7 or seven groups – schoolfriends, family etc but also “bitches” “wankers” and so on. What was striking though was the way in which she switched contacts between the groups in real time. Even if the members of her different social networks remained mostly consistent over the short term, their roles were in constant flux. And those are just the small set of folk she is in regular contact with regularly…”

Read the whole thing for Mark’s point on this (as well as some bonus Tommy Cooper) but what struck me was how it fits with what I’ve been saying about compartmentalisation – that the way we dealt with having larger numbers of acquaintances than 150 was to split them up (at least in our heads) and make sure they never came into contact with each other (except when we wanted them all to share something with us – weddings – or where we were no longer in control – funerals – both of which, especially with the addition of alcohol can become explosive situations). I see a lot of people struggling with the problem that online social networks make compartmentalism more difficult. It seems to me that the solution here though is a creative third way – keep the idea of compartments, but treat them much more dynamically.

As usual, I feel I’ve taken hundreds of words to say something very simple and obvious. Sorry.

Solo? Going?

Going SoloOne of the things twitter has taught me is how fragmented our social networks are. Not everybody who reads this blog knows everybody who reads this blog. So there will be some folk who don’t know Stephanie Booth in fact she teetered on the edge of my network mostly through the european KM folk until twitter made us all feel much closer.

When I last saw Steph, in Berlin at the girl geek dinner, she had a twinkle in her eye and shortly thereafter announced the reason to the world – Going Far is going to be her vehicle for running cool events and the first of these will be on May 16th in Lausanne – Going Solo a conference for people who work by themselves (and with others) on a freelance basis, covering how to run things in a business-like way, how to market, how to charge…etc.

The thing I like about this is that it’s another example of the demand side supplying itself – the speakers already announced are Suw Charman, Stowe Boyd, Martin Roell and Laura Fitton rather than some list of people you’ve never heard of organised by people with no idea of the industry and totally pwned by their sponsors.

There’s a few days left of early early bird discounts but even after that the fee’s under £200 for another month. Should be manageable from most parts of Europe. And unlike many such conferences, you’re likely to learn enough from it to make it pay for itself quite quickly. If you can’t currently recoup the cost of the day, travel and accommodation in a couple of days of consulting, then you *definitely* need to go and learn how to :)

Just to be clear – I’m not involved in the organisation of this in any way beyond friendly chats with Steph from time to time – but I have great faith in those involved that they will make it a really special day. I’ll be booking my place just as soon as those invoices get paid :)

Bonus: You can see Steph talking about it herself in the corridors at LIFT08 last week.


Unpacking that it’s a barcamp for people interested in the Web for UK Government – all of those terms are very widely defined.

I’ve been in sessions so far about Managing Risk (war stories about how to get stuff done without getting fired or in a scrap with IT people), Communities of Practice (Steve Dale on the difficulties of getting I&DeA to move from knowledge-repository to connecting people) , Twitter (Jenny Brown opening up a discussion based on why she loves it) and right now I’m listening to Tom Steinberg talking about MySociety. And we haven’t had lunch yet.

I can feel the overstimulation already creeping in. I’m going to do a sesh on Social Media Cafe around 2pm I may also do a Seesmic demo.

Professional Crap Sifters

sep 07 049It seems that London’s opera critics think that Sally Potter’s Carmen is, well, a bit crap. I can’t comment, I haven’t seen it yet – but I still love the blogging and videoblogging over on the ENO’s mini-site. A couple of the critics have been a bit sneery about the whole 2.0 angle on this but I think they’re missing the point – the show may be gimmicky (err.. I don’t think opera folk call it a show, but you know what I mean) but the blog isn’t – I really think it’s taken a big step in a new direction for the Arts, opening up the creative process and the backstage, as the production progressed, rather than filming a fly-on-the-wall and then stitching it all together later. This shows up “what *were* they thinking?” as lazy rhetoric – you could have seen what they were thinking by following the site. The real question for the critics is “if they’ve been talking about what they’re going to do for so long and in such detail, why did the bits you don’t like in the production come as such a surprise to you?” and why weren’t you writing something about it back then?

I really hope that the ENO has the courage to keep that material up and to carry on with this experiment now and into future – it adds a layer of interestingness before you see the show as well as afterwards – it’s icing on the cake. As I say I haven’t seen the show, so I don’t know if this is an occasion to peel the icing off and give the cake to the dog or whether this is professional critics talking out of their arses again. Now is the time for the Carmen folk to get the conversation really going – fight back or surrender, doesn’t matter which, but say something.

The thing is that critics are part of the problem with opening up performance to a wider audience. The good news is that their power is diminishing as we gain the opportunity to hear people we know and trust talk about what they like and don’t like. I much prefer getting recommendations from my friends and I look forward to seeing some ordinary people’s reaction to Carmen, people who don’t have any prejudice against ENO and don’t already have a fixed opinion about how this opera needs to be done in London today.

I went to a C4 Education screening last night entitled “TV is dead?” My answer – read my blog (two years ago! – funnily enough about the same time as I started thinking about blogging for theatre) The bit in the programme where, if I’d been at home, I’d have been shouting at the telly, was when someone from the Beeb trotted out the old line that in future, as media professionals, they would be the people that we could trust to sift out the crap. NO, BBC, STOP! I don’t want your opinion on what’s crap and what’s not, I want you to make excellent programmes that no one else can make. More “Dr Who”, “Comics Britannia”, “Windscale”, “The Mighty Boosh” (oh God! *More* Storyville, not less!!!!) and fewer animals stuck up trees and celebrities who can’t tap dance.


I really liked that younger people were included in the debate in a fairly unpatronising way, though friends and other regular readers know what I think of panel sessions.

Missing from last night was any recognition that the internet is about social interaction not content delivery (just like TV has always been) and so you should be concentrating on making stuff that people want to interact around rather than worrying about how they get it and whether everyone’s paid exactly the right money (whole other rant on that one – tell us straight – how much money gets spent on protecting rights? – how much more or less is it than the amount of money you currently lose to “piracy” – how much more money might you actually make if you weren’t so tight arsed about it all – *hint* watch Radiohead very carefully)

Also missing was any glimmer of understanding that advertising might not work any more. The real question here is “TV Advertising is Dead?” And it comes in two parts – 1. People don’t want to be interrupted or fed commercial information any more, they want it self-service and 2. The current advertising sales model is based on pulling the wool over the eyes of advertisers with extrapolations from sample audiences – what happens when you (and they) start to get real audience numbers in real time based on actual attention data from your viewers/subscribers in a form that makes comparison with other online media forms more like-for-like?