Nov 29

Little Brother

I popped along to Forbidden Planet today to a book signing by Cory Doctorow, his first in the UK according to the announcer in the shop. It was to buy a copy of Little Brother, a book I’d already read via the free pdf download he provided on the release of hte book in the US, but I enjoyed it so much it was one i had to buy. Thanks to Danie for promoting the signig so I knew about it.

Cory Doctorow and Little Brother (photo by me)

Cory Doctorow and Little Brother (photo by me)

At the same time, I also picked up a copy of Zoe’s Tale from John Scalzi. As with Cory, this is another author I started to read via free books, this time Old Man’s War which was available at Tor. I started reading his blog from there and am definitely looking forward to reading this (Hello John, if you pop by due to the law of Invocation)

Nov 29

Mobile Geeks, Amplified08 and team building

As well as the Pinkerton Lecture, I made my way to a few other events this week.

Mobile Geeks of London. Run by Whatleydude, this event is a drinking and connecting event, run every few months or there about. I got there later in the evening, after my trip to the IET, to find the place buzzing. There was a special preview of a really cool mobile app, involving barcodes, utilising the idea of putting virtual objects in your screen. The project launches next week (it’s a marketing project) and I’ll be writing about it on Digital Stuffing. I had a great time, buying my ticket for the Mobile Industry Review Christmas Presents and having some great conversations.

Amplified08. I managed to get to the last session at Amplified 08, the first in a series of ‘conferences’ trying to connect the multiple networks across the country. My original choice of session was one on using social networks for change, to compare it with the previous night’s lecture, but I ended up skipping that and joining in an impromptu session about Hierarchy of communication and adoption of the tools. There’s no doubt that many people at these sessions are edge cases, using online tools to connect far more than most, but it was interesting to see how we used things differently. We all had out own hierarchy, the different levels and ways you connect with people.

Team Building and Farewell Parties On Friday, the team got a few hours out of the office to discuss some works processes, but if you were following my Twitter stream you would have noticed the conversation varied a little. We talked about internet use, I was surprised of the lack of usage for someone working building websites. We discussed communication strategies, from email and phone only, through to me who uses a lot more channels. Other topics included Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard, co-relation coefficients and the Netflix challenge and the learning of languages. We also got onto London, how it’s a palimpsest of history, multiple layers of meaning. At the end of this, after calling into see James, I went to say farewell to my cousin, who’s back off to Australia after spending a few years here. The pub was just round the corner of Pudding Lane, another reminder of the city’s history.

That’s enough; next week there’s a few things I’ve not confirmed plus a trip to Leeds for the office Xmas party.

Nov 27

London 2012 and Social Media

On the one hand, the Olympics are the most wonderful celebration of humanity, of striving to be the best, faster, higher, stronger as the motto says. On the other hand, I find them – the organisation behind the games – to be one of the most cynical and grasping of organisations, historically prone to corruption, pushing their weight around to control the image, the trademarks, the media rights, anything that generates money.

This evening, I went along to the IET for a Pinkerton Lecture, on using social media to inspire change. Delivered by Alex Balfour, who is the Head of New Media for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, it was a brilliant run through of the social media landscape (targeted at the majority of the audience who wouldn’t necessarily play in the space) and an introduction to what LOCOG is doing when it comes to social media.

As Alex ran through some of the innovations that his team has been repsonsible for, such as putting education packs online instead of using mailouts, of putting information for training camp venues up on the web, I wanted to challenge him. Where was the social media, where was the innovation? What he was talking about wasn’t ‘new’, but only new in the old definition of media. An understanding of the mindset of the overall organisation was given when, in answer to one of my questions at the end of the session, let it be known that the media broadcast rights for the 2016 Games, which included digital broadcast, will be signed up in 2009, 7 years before the games, even before the host city is confirmed. Whilst I could understand agreeing traditional TV rights, how can you even understand what could be done online that far ahead? The reasoning given was financial, that TV rights in effect add a huge amount to the running of the games. But why assign them before you know how much it’s going to cost, before you know which city is running it and how much they need. Given the current negotiations with the London budget and how they are going to afford the games, surely it would be better to sign things up closer to the time, when you know costs AND now what you can sell given a changing rights landscape.

Alex also mentioned that the 2010 Winter games are having to work out how they will cope with the media applications from non-traditional outlets, meaning bloggers and online newsites. I asked about this for 2012, but the answer was not clear about the access that would be granted for online reporters.

Alex covered some of the initiatives they have been running with, for example one around the handover parties that took place in August, where they asked people to contribute videos and images of celebration to add to a video they would show at the parties. Another example would be a call for images and content that could be used as part of the venues, either a collection of the content built up over the lead into the games, or ‘live’ stuff created during the games. They are working in a difficult environment, hampered by what sound like unbelievably stupid rules, such as a ban on linking to any site that is not a sponsor, but I’d like to see how they are going to approach some of the challenges

  • One of the basic tenets of social media is sharing. How are they going to let people share the Games, through images, video, remixes, mashups of broadcast content (after the live broadcast)etc if all the ‘rights’ are tied up.
  • With the assumption that every single person at the games will have a mobile phone capable of photography, video capture and live broadcast to the web, how are you going to support that?
  • The sharing of content is often dependent on the use of tags but most of the expected tags wouls be copyrighted or trademarked. Are you going to police that?

One definite conclusion I came away with is that the games will allow social media as long as they control it, as long as it’s on their terms. A couple of videos were shown, one from the Handover celebrations and one from the announcement of the London win. I was in Trafalgar Square that day and recall vividly the rush of adrenaline and the euphoria of that moment, but it’s indelibly linked in memory to the happenings of the day after, so much so that I can’t watch celebration pictures without getting emotional. As I was listening to the how they plan to manage and initiate social media conversations, I was watching news and images come in on my phone about the Mumbai terrorists attacks. There is much irony for me in the contrast of social media used to connect people about what is happening in the world in real time compared to what the Olympic Committee may be forced to do, which is use the tools to leverage a commercial connection.

Nov 24

Survivors – What would you do

Survivors, a re-imaging of the 70’s series devised by Terry Nation, started last night on the BBC and there was a minor Twitter flurry of discussion about it. There’s been mixed reaction to the episode, including these from Jason, and from Savage Popcorn.

One common question that popped up is what would you do in that situation, how would you rebuild. Well, the odds are that you, or me, or most of everyone would be dead anyway. The show said something like 90% infection, which would still leave 6million in the UK alive, but the impression was there were a lot more dead than that. Even if you weren’t killed in the first infection, you’re going to have to be lucky and good to escape ongoing death from disease, cold or starvation in the first year or so.

The first episode ended with our group of heroes finally meeting and wondering what to do next – only one of them had done any thinking and collecting of goods to get to the next stage. The rest seemed woefully inadequate in their outlook. But, if, by some chance, you did survive, would you have any idea of what you would have to do? I thought I’d throw up some thoughts – and these have been done with no research, just mulling around what would need to be put in place. I’m pretty sure if I looked, I could find a whole bunch of websites giving me the information I needed. One assumption is that there is enough stuff around to survive the first month or so. Canned food, bottled water and transport with available fuel, to get to somewhere. This is about longer term thinking.

  • Key things are shelter, water, food and sanitation. You’ll need a place to live, which has its own water supply – a well or a spring – and has arable land to grow food. Ideally, it should be defensible; law and order won’t be around and humans tend to fight a lot, especially over resources. A septic system would be a advantage.
  • Ideally, you’d want to be away from any nuclear plants and from prevailing winds that could bring radiation. I’m not sure how safe these plants are with no electricity, no water and no manning, but some may go boom.
  • You’ve found your farm, castle or where ever it is. (I fancy Windsor Castle actually, but probably a little too close to major population centres for the start, so it would be smelly and potentially disease prone in the beginning.) Now you need to start stocking it. First of all, work out where to get fuel, stock up some tanks so you have transport as long as possible. Go and raid supermarkets and get enough food (tinned, dried) for at least a year.
  • Find a library/book store and grab lots of practical books for the things below. Also writing things and lots of paper, so you can start recording the new history.
  • Hope the farmer had a shotgun and rifle, if not, go find some. You won’t be the only one, you’ll probably have to defend your place and you can go hunting.
  • Tools – axes, knives, carpentry, farming, scissors. As much as you can
  • Find some generators. You’ll need to have the option as you build up for the longer term
  • Clothes and linen- stock up with tough stuff, it’s going to have to last. Store a lot for future use – including material. You’re going to have to learn to weave at some point but t may have a lower priority than starting the food supply.
  • Growing things. Find agricultural suppliers and get everything you can – seed, fertiliser, pesticides.
  • Animals – sheep for wool, cows for milk, meat and leather, pigs for meat, chickens for eggs and meat. Rabbits, guinea pigs and all the small stuff could be good.
  • Farming. you may have a tractor and enough fuel for one year, but longer term I’d be looking for a plough and some horses. You should probably grab some horses for transport as well, along with some bikes
  • Medicine. It’s not going to last, but grab what you can. Antibiotics, diarrhoea medicine, painkillers, antiseptics. (Stock up on soap as well). Iodine tablets may be useful as well

Now, you have to learn how to use all these things, how to farm, how to metalsmith, how to manage sanitation. A bit of medicine.

What have I missed, what else would you add to the list to gather and control in the first year?