Over the past 3 years I have had the pleasure of working with the Codeworks team as a regular contributor to their Technotes column in the Journal. Writing a total of 20 column on subjects ranging from Gamification of Social networks to Unified Communications.
Sadly due to the recent austerity measures Codeworks has undergone some major changes of late and while it looks like the Thinking Digital Conference will continue and Codeworks Connect will merge with the Hub, it looks very like Technotes will be no more.
A couple of months ago I completed by 20th technotes and created a little infographic to celebrate the occasion showing the titles of the columns along with the main keywords details of the people at codeworks i’d worked with over the years. Little did I know at the time that that column would be not only my 20th but also my last technotes.
To the best of my knowledge I’m the only regular contributor Technotes ever had other than Herb Kim (the head of Codeworks). So I guess in a funny way I’m going to miss it most, and of course i’m going to be biased but there is a real sadness seeing something like Technotes go. It may have only been a little weekly column in a local paper, but it allowed up and coming technical talent, from web designers to internet entrepreneurs to to learn a little about journalism and to share their views with the local community.
User eXperience or UX has to be one of the buzz words of the year, and it seems when it comes to creating the ultimate surfing experience everyone from marketing agencies and pr people to designers and developers wants to get in on the act.
Such a hot topic, had to the the subject of a Supermondays session soon or later, and Joanne Richardson of Orange Bus certainly did it justice this month. Not only did Joanne curate the session, arranging talks from Graham Morely of graphic.ly and Th_nk’s Director of Ux, Lee Alan, but she also presented herself, apparently presenting for the first time, although you wouldn’t have guessed it from her delivery to another full house, this time at Gateshead Colleges Baltic Campus.
The general messages that came from all three speakers was that User eXperience didn’t have to be expensive, but that it should be considered, and that it should be an iterative process, that is to say that it should be reconsidered and revised after each phase of design and development.
For me it was really refreshing to hear the speakers talking about adapting and simplifying, and avoiding feature creep. These days its all to common to see companies adding more and more bells and whistles to sites, without considering whether they actually add value to the user.
I’m going to leave you with Joanne’s closing comments UX is about user stories and about creating “Happy Experiences”, and a reminder from the team that if you missed out on Supermonday this month, then you have a second chance to get out and do a bit of social networking with SuperSummer this Thursday.
If you follow me on facebook, linked_in or twitter you will probably know that I have recently signed up to take part in a very special run in October.
The Himilayan100, is a 100 mile race on the border between India and Nepal, its staged over 5 days, and will take in running over mountains, across rivers, through tea plantations and jungles, and on the third day will also include the ‘everest marathon’.
While its called a race, its actually more of a personal challenge, and it will certainly be the hardest physical or mental challenge i’ve ever taken on. I’ll be facing not only the distance and the tough terrain of the Himalaya’s but also the altitude, starting in the mountain village of Mirik at 6,500 feet and rising to 12,500 at its highest point, where the lack of oxygen will make it extremely difficult to breath let alone run.
So why on earth would an otherwise quite ordinary person take on such a challenge? Well over the past few year I have lost both my Mam and my Mother inlaw Brenda to Cancer, and seen several close friends battling with various Cancers, and I have always said that i should do something to raise both money and awareness for Gynaecological Cancers in particular.
The problem was that both my Mam and Brenda were such inspirational ladies, and showed not only an incredibly dignity but also bravery in their fights against cancer, that finding an event worthy of representing their cause, was not easy.
When i was younger i used to run with my mam, so we thought a sponsored run would be an appropriate event, but which one to do. We spent many hours over a couple of months searching the internet for a suitable run, then eventually Lucinda found the Himalayian 100 mile race. The run is not organized by a charity, so we are paying for the run, and all of the travel and other expenses ourselves, so we can be 100% certain that all of the money raised will go direct to the Eve Appeal (the charity we’ve chosen to support).
Gynaecological cancers are the world’s fourth largest cancer killer of women. Every year a million women are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer worldwide. In the UK, 18,000 women are diagnosed and nearly 7,500 women die every year. And yet, awareness and funding of gynaecological cancers remains low.
The Eve Appeal is determined to change this by funding vital research focused on developing effective methods of prediction, detection, treatment and care that will help save women’s lives not only in the UK but throughout the world.
World-leading research is complicated and challenging, but supporting the my run and the Eve Appeal couldn’t be similar. Simply click here and donate a couple of pounds, and help us achieve our goal of a future where fewer women develop and more women survive gynaecological cancers.
I’m also looking for corporate sponsors, so if you own or manage a business and would like to know more about corporate sponsorship please get in touch.
Following what I considered to be an excellent line up of events in 2009, Supermondays got off to a flying start in January with another great event, in what looks to be a very promosing line up for 2010.
Having seen Tom Fotheringham of DFDS speak on search optimization and google ad words at the Newcastle University Digital Debate last year, i’d recommended that we get him in to speak at supermondays. So i was delighted to see him take the podium as the first speaker of 2010. I was even more delighted to discover that we was in fact not speaking on SEO (which he does really well, but i’d heard before) but on affiliate marketing, – another area that i’m interested in but have no real experience of yet.
As Tom gave us an overview of how DFDS have been using Affiliate Marketing to grow their online sales revenue and how it has become an integral part of their sales strategy, it was obvious that this was an area that he had some really expertise in, both from the point of view of the the advertiser and publisher.
The Advice for both parties was to understand what is is you want to achieve, to stick to your principles as well as your objectives, but to be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances and above all else to be fair to your partners.
The advice to affiliates was to concentrate on one or two areas of interest and avoid spreading yourself too thinly – but at the same time ensure that you had enough breadth to survive should one of your site or affiliate programmes take a downturn, and not to waste too much time on unproductive site. He urged potential affiliates to consider which merchants they’re going to promote and how that might effect your income and credibility and to look at instant returns verse lifetime revenue streams. Tom also reminded Affiliates not to sell themselves short and to demand higher commissions if you are one of the top affiliates on a program, alluding to the fact that many programmes have hidden commission levels.
There was also advice on how to make your affiliate site more successful, by being more creative, using things like video links and competitions to drive traffic as warnings on using things like Ad Words or spam which many merchants don’t allow.
As far as merchants go there was plenty of advice for them too, ensuring that you pick the right scheme for you and that you have the right tools to monitor and maximize returns. There was also advice on ensuring that affiliates were paid properly and promptly,apparently if your sales are coming from affiliates its important that you keep them on side or they’ll switch to another merchant or . Tom also talked about the need for merchant to keep an eye on what affiliate’s were up to and ensure that the merchants reputation was not being tarnished by an affiliate only interested in short term gain.
Second up was former visitor to the Dragon’s Den, “Crazy Ling” (aka Ling Valentine) of Ling’s Cars.
To prove that there is such thing as a free lunch, Ling provide Lunch for all, in the form of packets of noodles (granted they were 2 years out of date – but they didn’t seem to do @JohnCatn much harm when he dared to give them a try).
Ling’s somewhat colourful approach to online car sales certainly seems to be working well, and while she works very hard on coming over as being “completely Crazy”, she is obviously a very creative and very clever business woman as well as being a somewhat likeable character.
What surprised me most was learning that the whole “Ling empire” runs on a code generated by 3 students live on a single server, that regularly goes down a couple of times a week. On the other side of the coin though these 3 students have developed some pretty sophisticated back end stuff that they call Lingo and a user interface called Lingani that tells sales which customers are on the site, how often they have visited and monitors search terms and traffic sources to identify new leads. Another interesting aspect to Lings sales is that all sales are all chat based, with the entire sales conversation being recorded and forming part of the contract.
I couldn’t help thinking that Lings approach relies entirely upon coming up with crazier and crazier stunts to get attention and that there must be a limit to how far this can go, but i guess once she has broken into the market and got a reasonable customer list then she wouldn’t rely upon this approach quite as much. Its also obvious that this only works if your the only person in the market doing this, once there are several ling’s a “rubbish site” is no longer something to shout about.
Next months Supermondays will be welcoming, Leeds based PHP developer, speaker and blogger Lorna Jane Mitchell to speak on Web services, a growing area of application development and where they fit into our existing application architecture.
Twitter is fast becoming one of the most effective ways to communicate over the internet whether its socially or for business, if used effectively its low cost, fast, far reaching and high impact.
But how do you measure how effective your tweets are, how far your reach extends are or how much impact you have upon the twitterverse? And is it possible to see what effect individual tweets have. As with all things sometimes this comes down to quality not the quantity, how useful your tweets are to your followers and how influential the people that you follow are. Luckily there are a few tools out there that will help you analyse all of this and help determine whether you’re a connector or an influencer.
Twitter Grader - A really popular service that gives you an overall score, along with follower time lines and analysis of your most powerful followers and suggestions for what you could do to improve your score.
Klout - Graphs your influence against your audience in relation to your peers, indicating your influencers and those that influence you. Twitalyzer - A very powerful tool breaking down your influence into various categories and charting which way they are moving – although i found a little confusing in its use of terms like velocity and generosity.
Tweetstats - this colourful little tool analyse everything from what time of day or day of the week you most often post to who you retweet or reply to the most.
Tweeteffect - looks at your follower numbers charting which tweets increase them numbers and which decrease them. This gives you a better idea of what subjects are popular and which are to be avoided and sometimes even what tone of voice works welll and which doesn’t. Armed with this information you should now be ready to go out and make your opinions heard, the only question is will you use this new found power to save the world or sell some handbags.
There’s been a lot of hype about 3d and how its the future of cinema, some people have even gone as far as saying that it will become the future of both television and computer displays within the next decade, so I couldn’t help but go and see the 3d experience for myself yesterday.
I’d recently had a discussion recently a friend on the board of the Tyneside Cinema, and he had told me that there were a couple of competing new technologies out there, but the James Cameron movie Avatar, was the big real-3d spectacular that everyone was waiting for. The temptation with 3d is to want to create a story around a set of 3d effects that you want to show off, with spears being thrown out into the audience or big explosive effects, but Cameron above all things is a storyteller, so if anyone was going to make a movie that would use 3d to make the telling of a story stronger and not to manufacture a story around a set of effect it would be Cameron. That being said, Cameron also has an impressive track record when it comes to making big budget effect movies having written, directed and produced, The Abyss, Aliens and Titanic to name but a few.
So did Avatar live up to expectations? For me it would have to be an unequivocal yes. The movie not only seamlessly integrated computer generated worlds and real world footage, but it integrated both into a pretty good 3d experience. Cameron’s genius in story telling gave this movie the appearance of a movie crafted by someone who’d honed his skills in 3d over a life time, rather that the reality of it being a landmark movie. There were great effects, in fact a couple of times i found myself ducking to dodge some of the projectiles coming out of the screen, but what impressed me most was the subtleties that 3d brought to bring the planet “Pandora” to life. Not only did they create a new race of people for the movie, but an entire eco system, I especially liked the idea of the fluorescent moss on the trees that glowed after someone stood on in, and the way that several species had similar traits like double sets of limbs, and the storytelling was fabulously delicate, the bonding between the species that was integral to the story in a myriad way, but Cameron introduced it slowly enough that the audience realized this for themselves long before they were old about it.
Of course 3D isn’t particularly new, i remember going to see Jaws 3d almost 20 years ago, back then they used the old fashioned red/blue lense disposable glasses. there weren’t particularly comfortable to wear, and from what i remember there were only a few scenes in the movie that actually used the 3d effects. I’m pleased to report that the new glasses were a huge improvement, much sturdier, almost like sunglasses that are recycled after each show, i’m guessing with some sort of plain porarised lenses to create the 3d effect.
Was 3d the perfect cinematic experience? Well while it was quite good, the big problem for me was that everyone was wearing dark glasses, and going to the cinema is about a shared experience, its about laughing with the rest of the audience or those fleeting moments when something happens on screen and you turn and look at your friends and see that shared smile or the tear in their eye. The other problem I had with the 3d itself was that it became a little distracting when items where only partially in shot , when objects moved into or out of shot, or when I moved my head and the perspective didn’t move with me, there were also less notable problems with shadows and light effects in the 3d areas.
To sum up, Avatar is a fantastic movie, i’d put it in my top 20 movies, it has some great effects, and the 3d added to the story telling rather than detracting from, 3d glasses have improved a lot in the last 20 years, and i could imagine there being a huge market for designer 3d glasses for next years must have Christmas gift, but i hope that film makers will use it sparingly for movies that will benefit from the added depth rather just for the sake of having the movie in 3d and I don’t think we’ll be tuning into the news at 10 in 3d anytime soon, or donning those 3d glasses to knockout a bit of excel or powerpoint.
This morning as I went to add the new SuperMonday Into video (from Your Film) to the davidcoxon.com/blog, I thought that as 2009 draw to an end it might be an ideal time to do a little 2009 in brief post. It was only when i started to run through the years events that i realized that it was going to pretty tough to do it in brief, there was so much happening.
The Supermondays events have turned into a bit of a “must go” event for me this year, not only because i’m now on the advisory committee, but because they have cover a massive range of subjects from databases, to video and sharing to version control, with a regularly changing format and venue, i’d defy anyone in IT / web to say that there hasn’t been an event for them.
Not only have Alex, Ross and the Sailor Girl team managed to fit in a monthly event, they’ve have also managed to put on some great one off events throughout the year: Cloudcamp , Superstartup, Supertelly and SuperChristmas to round the year off.
Supermondays were the latest organisation to get the Your Film treatment with a preview at SuperChristmas, and I think I even Managed to put in an appearance in this one.
There have been some cracking Thursday Fizz events organised by Stuart and Matt this year, including everything from a curry night with codeworks , to a wine tasting at the mining institute and a party in the park. Thursday Fizz has a strong emphasis on networking and having fun and is geared towards the creative side of the industry, can’t wait to see what they come up with next year.
With all the other stuff that they get up to , you sometimes have to remind yourself that the codeworks team, but on a monthly Think and a Drink event and they certainly know how to party with the Pud and the summer Net together…
I’m still not entirely sure what VBUG standards for, but i did manage to get along to a couple of Jonathon and Andrew’s events in 2009, and saw some stuff on Windows 7 and 2008, and I may be in a minority here but i actually quite like what Microsoft have been doing recently . While where talking quick hat tip to Jonathon Noble, who received a coverted Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award this year…well won mate.
North East IT Community
One of the groups that I have learned most from this year has been the IT Community group headed up by David McPherson, this is very much aimed at IT managers and has demonstrated some great tech ranging from security stuff to virtualization with a fair bit in between.
Tuttle North East
Justin Souter started a Tuttle North East group up in 2009 and we had a couple of interesting meetings in the pitcher and piano before deciding to moth ball it with the increasing number of events going on there just didn’t seem to be time for another.
The business School at Newcastle University introduced a quarterly early morning lecture and networking session, I only managed to get along to one of the sessions, but i learnt a lot, with great talks on email marketing from Iain from Mobious and search optimization and Adwords from DFDS seaways’s Tom Fotheringham.
I only discovered North East Telly, after their Super Telly collaboration with Supermondays, but managed to get to get along to their year end talk from Mike Dicks as well. They are based at Northumbria Uni and I found both events really enjoyable, not only did they have a great venue, and fantastic speakers, but they do a fantastic buffet as well…definitely be trying to get along to a few more of their events in 2010.
Ian Simmons from the life centre, has set up a North East Dorkbot group for the serious hardware hackers amongst you, however i’m trying not to get along to this group as i really don’t have the time to get into playing with hardware as well as evrything else…but it does look like fun.
What a fantastic idea combining lunch with a monthly meet up and tech talk, unfortunately i havn’t got to as many of these as i would have liked, but the culture lab team had a pretty busy year with putting in appearances at the maker faire, the wunderbar festival and a host of other events as well as running a number of events of thier own, including one on curating digital that i really enjoyed. And not forgetting their Render exhibition.
On top of the regular groups, that have kept us all busy this year their have been some pretty outstanding events.
This year the Tyneside cinema played host to an event called Clicks or Mortar, which was a kind of symposium on how to make venues and content worked together to engage audiences. The keynote speaker for this event was Peter Greenaway who more than lived up to everyone’s expectations with a fantastic show..and some phenomenal artwork.
After a fantastic performance in 2008, the pressure was on herb and the Codeworks team to pull off another great event in march, and i think they managed to exceed everyone’s expectations with a great mix of content, entertainment and networking. Its quite hard to sum up and i’m a little biased as TDC is right on my door step and i’ve had a hand in some bits of it over the past 2 years at least, so here’s what some of our friends had to say about it.
Still not convinced, well here’s a few of the high lights to remind those of your that made it this year and to show the rest of you what your missing…
NB. Herb tells me there are only 50 tickets left for 2010 with over 3 months to go.
Following hot on the heals on the TDC success, codeworks introduced a 1 day next generation event for graduates this year following a similar format. Its a while since my graduation, but i was lucky enough to be invited along to the speakers dinner the night before a meet a few of the keynote speakers.
2009 was a pretty tough year for many industries not least for the Games industry, so Game Horizon, was more important than ever this year and i was lucky enough to get along and catch Microsoft’s very own Steve Clayton doing his session.
Alistair Mcdonald once again organised another great event by all accounts at the centurion in town this year, but once again family commitments got in the way and i only managed to catch a couple of sessions, although i did help create the logo which was fun.
This year the life centre played host to the first Maker Faire in the north east which judging by the numbers was a great success, with people coming from all over the country to join in, including some friends from the BBC backstages team (Rainycat and Cubicgarden).
This year should have seen both a Tyne and Tees twestival organised by Aoife and the gang, but they ended up combining to 1 large event at Haults Yard, with all sorts of fun activities from virtual grafitti competitions to pop star games.
I managed to get a really last minute place on one of Laura Madison’s ‘Brand Orienteering’ workshops..which has to win a prize for best value for money at just £25. The course was really hands on and made great use of the 2-3 hour session, focusing on what it is makes a brand a sticky brand and how to really make people really connect with you and your brand.
The original inspiration behind the Thinking Digital Conference, was the TED event in the states, so it was no wonder that when TED decided to syndicate some of their content to local independently organised TEDx events Herb Kim was the man to take on TEDxNorth, including the event at the Tyneside Cinema. With talks from the likes of Andy Budd and Chris Stainthorpe
This was the second of these conference organised by business link and the CIM / CIPR. It was a conference i wanted to go to as a refresher course for the chartered institute of marketing diploma i did a long long time ago, so i didn’t know much about the speakers before i got there, there were some great sessions from the guy behind the cadburies gorilla Ad and the guy behind the success of the Eden project, but i thing i learnt most form the talk on the difference between the way that men and women shop…very insightful, and now i know exactly why a trip to the Metrocentre with Lucinda takes so long.
Possibly one of the craziest IT related event i attended this year was Byte Night North East, organised by Derek and Jerri from bond Solutions, Andy ‘the boy’ Walton now at Aspire and Linda from Action for Children, we managed to get around 50 business men and women sleeping out on the street outside of BALTIC to raise money for Action for Children a very worth while charity.
Now in its second year, the event was staged at the stadium of light again, bringing together local councils, charities and community organisations and tech communities to foster good working practices and digital inclusion.
And finally who could forget the “grim up north” incident, I don’t think there was a single person in the North East that didn’t express and opinion one way or the other after ‘that arcticle’ appeared. But having had a bit of a go at the region, Milo did manage to make it ‘Up North’ to see the state of the North East for himself and went on to make a pretty fair video for Tech Crunch.
Ultimately though I think the thing that will 2009 special for me won’t be any individual talk, event or conference that i managed to get to, it will be the new friends and contacts that i have made. I has been a fantastic year for me getting to know people like Ross Cooney, Alex Kavanagh, David Lavery, Rob Colling, Mikey Parker, Stuart Howard, Dan Howarth, Emma Newman, Heather Baxter, Mandy Charlton, The King Brothers, AndrewWaite, Janet Davies, John Catn and Justin Souter to name but a few.
For me personally there were some interesting developments, I was Shortlisted for the Computer Weekly blogger of the year award, and went from writing an occasional column for the journal to getting a regular monthly slot (which i thoroughly enjoy) I was asked to become a member of the Supermonday advisory group and helped organise Bytenight as well as getting a couple of Photographs into the Sunday Times…role on 2010.
Every year computer weekly runs the blogger of the year awards, this is split into a number of categories from best use of twitter to best security or best green blogger. There is a quite glitzy award ceremony and quite a lot of kudos to go with the title.
The competition generally take the form of open nominations, which are then whittled down by the organisers to a short list of entries, which go on to a public vote. This year I was lucky enough to be nominated for the best professional male category and made it though the shortlist to the public vote.
The competition for best professional male is always pretty tough, and this includes last years winner and good friend, microsoft’s Steve Clayton (the geek in disguise) and to be honest I don’t think that i am in with much of a chance, but it is really nice to be considered worthy of standing in such distinguished company.
I only stated to blog to learn about the technology behind the different blogs, so that i’d be able to help users decide which was the best blog for them. I didn’t start out with the intention of keeping it up, but i kind of enjoyed the process of writing, and playing with different writing styles on different blogs, and it eventually lead to being asked to be a regular contributor to the column in the local paper which in itself is a pretty good reward. So in fact fact the computer weekly nomination is really just the icing on the cake, all be it that nice glittery icing that i’m so fond of.
Every year computer weekly runs the blogger of the year awards, this is split into a number of categories from best use of twitter to best security or best green blogger. There is a quite glitzy award ceremony and quite a lot of kudos to go with the title.
After five years at Codeworks as Copywriter & PR manager, the very talented Mr. Lewis Harrison, is moving on. Lewis is off to write copy for Aviva (Britain’s largest insurance provider) at York.
I first met Lewis about 2 1/2 years ago at the first Thinking Digital Conference, part of which we hosted at BALTIC, shortly after which he asked if i’d be interested in writing a guest piece in the Journal, a year later he asked if i’d like to write a follow up, and 8 columns later he’s still correcting my poor grammer and spelling and managing to make my random ramblings look good in print. I guess i’m going to have to get around to fixing my spellcheck and reading “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”, now then.
In many ways while Herb kim is the face of Codeworks, Lewis has been the voice of Codeworks, writing much of their copy, Tweeting under the Codeworks banner, working with the press and editing (as well as writing) the Technotes column in the Journal.
Lewis I for one will miss reading your rather witty technotes columns. Best wishes in the new job, it been an absolute pleasure to have worked (and been for the odd beer) with you.
Editors Note. Quite why anyone would want to leave a position writing about technology to write about insurance, I really don’t know, but i guess someone has to do it!
Since I started to blog a couple of years ago and more so since I started to attend the Codeworks and SuperMondays events, I have been aware that there are a number of very good North East bloggers. I have always had links to a number of these blogs from my own site, and more recently started to aggregate the rss feeds with google reader.
Yesterday Ross Cooney came up with the outstanding idea of producing a feed aggregator for all the North East IT blogs. He added a discussion thread to the supermondays group on google asking members to add there blog details to the list.
Many of the details submitted were not on my list, so I have been able to updated both the links list and also my google reader feeds, with some great new content. I’ve also bundled the North East feeds into a single RSS feed and added that to the right hand menu of this page.