Thinking Digital 2009 videos now available.

By now, most of you probably know that the Thinking Digital Conference does a great job, bringing some of the greatest speakers, thinkers and doers in technology to the North East (of England). The conference is fast becoming the leading conference of its kind and getting an out standing reputation both locally and globally, but unfortunately not everyone can manage to get to the conference, so following in TED’s footsteps Codeworks (the organizer) have decided that content as good as this, is something that everyone should be able to access, its just too good not to share!

Thinking Digital 2009 Speakers video’s

Its not quite the same as being at the conference, as you don’t quite get the same sense of scale, or the electric atmosphere you get when you but 500 of the most energetic, forward thinking people in technology, social media, enterprise and entertainment in the same room, but it certainly gives you a flavour of the event.

As any readers of my blog will already know i’m a big fan of TDC, i just find these keynotes, fantastically inspiring, and could watch them over and over again.

Here are a few of my favourites:

Johnny Chung Lee,  Johnny is a researcher into interface technology, currently working at Microsoft, he’s done some amazing things with wii motes and this talk will blow you away with talk of audio interfaces that actually enable you to feel 3d models of objects.

Thinking Digital 2009 Talks: Johnny Chung Lee – Research into Interface Technology from Herb Kim on Vimeo.

Caleb Chung, Caleb is the man behind the Pleo and the furby, in this video he gives an insight into what it takes to creator these crazy creatures. Who could resist watching a mix of cute cuddly creatures and electronics.

Thinking Digital 2009 Talks: Caleb Chung – Beauty and Magic from Herb Kim on Vimeo.

Dan Lyons, aka the fake steve jobs, this is just one of the funniest talks i have seen, it literally had be in stitches at this years TDC.

Dan Lyons @ Thinking Digital 09 from Herb Kim on Vimeo.

Sancho plan, what can i say these guys were just awesome

Thinking Digital 2009: Sancho Plan Live Performance from Herb Kim on Vimeo.

Looking at the list of speakers its actually really hard to pick a handful of favourites as they are all so good, Tara Hunt (miss rouge) as always was fantastic, as was the talk on Particle physiscs, the pirates dilema,  to name but a few. But take a look for yourself and see which you pick as your favourites.

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Another milestone for Supermondays

This month’s Supermondays was a bit special, well for me it was anyway! Not because it was on databases, (not that I have anything against databases of course!) or because it was in one of the beautiful old University buildings, but because it saw a landmark in Supermondays development. Contrary to what I said last month, this month was in fact Supermondays’ 1st birthday, so it was quite fitting then, that it was this month that Supermondays founders Ross and Alex, announced that Supermondays is to become a CIC (Community Interest Company). What this means in real terms, is that we will be able to apply for funding and raise money for sponsorship of bigger and better events, perhaps bringing national and international speakers in and hiring bigger venues for some meetings, maybe even the odd sandwich. The CIC is of course is not allowed to make a profit, and all funds must be used for the community, so no big pensions for the Ross or Alex. This might all sound a bit complicated, but there a couple of things you should remember, Supermondays is there solely for the benefit of the people that attend, everyone will have the opportunity to put themselves forward as a speakers and there won’t be a membership fee. I was delighted to be asked to be a member of the CIC, there will be 4 members in total, myself, David Lavery, Mike Parker and James Rutherford. This number will increase as the organisation grows. The role of members is to support the directors, help steer the direction of the CIC and to help ensure that the group are being represented.

But that’s all for the future, so I guess I should really say a little bit about, how mondays session went. This months Supermondays came from the university’s Bedson building, a rather grand red brick building with high ceilinged lecture rooms with old fashioned wooden benches, and plush curtains. This proved to be the perfect setting for this months session which was comprised of 3 talks on the theme of databases. Ross Cooney, kicked things off with a brief history of databases, and the key people that shaped the databases we know today. This was followed up by David Lavery with an excellent talk on how databases have changed over the years in terms of their practical use, and what you needed to do to run some pretty basic functions. From what I could make out databases have come a very long way in a very short time, either that or David is actually 102 and started work from the age of five. David wrapped up with a quick demo of his latest database project. Finally there was a talk or Raquel an open source database project the university are working on.

So, all in all an excellent event, with a bit of history and some ideas for the future.

Posted in featured, learning, supermonday, universities and training bodies | 2 Comments


I booked my  TEDx Newcastle ticket, based solely on the strength of the TED brand and my experience of what Herb Kim and his Codework’s team had done with the Thinking Digital Conference. To be honest, I’d booked the first day tickets were available and not had a chance to look back at the site to see which speakers had been confirmed or what they were going to talk about. I’d heard on twitter that the bgroup’s Chris Stainthorpe was doing something, as was UX expert Andy Budd, but that was about all I knew.


TEDx North

If you’re not familiar with TED, firstly where have you been the last few years? (its a pretty big conference!) but let me tell you a little about it, it stands for Technology Entertainment and Design, and its about as close as you get to a religion in the tech community. It started in Long Beach, California in 1984 and has grown to include a second annual global conference in Oxford. The conference in fact has been so popular that they started making the talks freely available to everyone via the internet under the tag line “ideas worth spreading”. Thousand of people now watch these files online each day, but the organizers realize that watching them online individually wasn’t the same as watching them within a social setting, so they came up with the idea of TEDx where the video could be watched communally on a big screen with friends and colleagues, the way the talk would have originally been delivered. TED licensed the rights to hold independently organized TEDx events around the world, mixing watching classic archive TED talks on the big screen and hearing new speakers live. These new talks are then in turn added to the archive to be watched around the world. Anyway here a short video from the organisers;

Now that you know about TEDx,  you’re probably wondering about how TEDxNewcastle went. Well it was held at the Tyneside cinema, one of my favorite venue in the region which was a great start! The food at the tyneside is usually pretty good, as is the quality of their AV, and the odd little bar on the stairs kind of pushes everyone together, so its not bad for networking either. Having been to a few events this year, I found myself amongst friends,which was nice, but I also met a few people that i’d only ever spoken to over twitter and a few new faces as well.

For me it was an exceptional event as many of the speakers talked about UX or user experience. UX is an area close to my heart, as you probably gathered i work in a public art gallery, and we take user experience very seriously, regularly looking at our own service offering and how we can improve it. What inspired me, was how some of the ways that the speakers had taken this on board and found ways to express it visually, or to influence users perceptions and openness to UX.
Chris Skip did an interesting talk on privacy, emphasizing that while its great to share that you need to at least consider what the implications of sharing your data, images and video may be. Its very easy to give away enough for your identity to be stolen and once something is shared its pretty tough to get it back, so share but do it sensibly. I think my favourite quote from his presentation was to be “beware geeks with gift” – very true Chris!

Herb Kim and Chris Staindrop discussing privacy

Herb Kim and Chris Stainthorpe discussing privacy

The conference ended with the great news that Herb had also secured a licence for an event next year probably around June in Gateshead.

Related posts: TEDxNewcastle Am I being brainwashed
Related photos: davidcoxon on flickr

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A bit of a Microsoft thing

I’m not sure if this is something that I should be saying out loud, but in addition to being a big Apple fan, for the past few years I have been increasingly a fan of Microsoft. Of course they have always been a bit corporate suit to Apples jeans and t-shirt (usually black), they do have actually have some pretty cool stuff, I don’t know what I’d do without mesh, and photosynth and to an extent bing are also pretty useful too. That being said they didn’t do themselves any favour with Vista which in my opinion was simply awful .

One of the things that I like about Microsoft is that they run some great support programmes, I having been running Windows 7 ages now, under the beta programme  and the Technet programme is also really good for anyone working in IT.

As part of the technet programme they run a series of roadshow (that regularly visit Newcastle). This gives techies and system administrators, a chance to see working demos of new technologies and talk to experts as well as other IT pros in the area.

Last Wednesday, Vbug Newcastle at the university, was just such an opportunity. Unfortunately I was running a little late having been at an North East IT community meeting on the otherside of town (more about that in another post) and I missed the first talk.

In an amazing feat of timing, I arrived just as the pizza got there, so was relived to see Jonathon Noble standing holding the door open. There was a reasonable crowd, with 4-5 people up from Microsoft and a few people from the uni as well as a few familiar faces and a few new (some of whom I was delighted to see again at supemonday this week).

The second half of the event was a talk on Windows optimized desktop from Microsoft specialist Dan Oliver. Somewhat unnervingly Dan talked about “vista plus extra stuff”, personally I prefer to think of Windows 7 as something other than Vista,  as it really is a considerable improvement on Vista and I thing they need to distance themselves from the ‘Disaster that is Vista’.

But once I got over the “Vista” thing, there was some really interesting stuff, some of it was the sort of thing you’d expect, its greener, its more compliant, there is a lower cost of ownership, it’s a fundamentally secure platform. The were some bits I hadn’t heard about before like bit locker to go,  virtual desktop infrastructure,  the asset intelligence service and there are apparently more desktop repair tools and virtualized app streaming. Dan also talked about the concept of a rich client infrastructure replacing thin client.

Many Thanks to Andrew Westgarth and Jonathon Noble for organising and Microsoft for coming up to Newcastle, while this may have been my first vbug event, but I’m sure it won’t be my last.

Posted in featured, operating system, services, universities and training bodies, vbug | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Friday fun.

This isn’t particularly relevant to the blog, but its kind of fun and it is a friday, so  I thought i’d share it anyway.

I just love the simplicity of this little flash app, its not really much use for anything constructive, but I like the way that the different colours represent different sounds and the way that you can layer the sounds on top of each other.  I’m not the most musical of people, but find it interesting to see how different visual patterns make different audio experiences.

I found the applet yesterday, while I was checking out
If you like this little app chances are you will love the sancho plan, who have a premiere at tyneside cinema next week. Actually next week see quite a choice of events, check out my shared calendar for details.

Posted in event, gadgets | 1 Comment

Presenting at tuesday’s Supermonday

Almost a year ago, I saw something on twitter about this group called Supermonday that had started up in Newcastle, so being the curious sort, I did a bit of googling, signed myself up and went along to the next meeting.

The event at Newcastle Uni, was a debate on various web development platforms, and while a little techie in parts (for a none developer)  was somehow informative and informal at the same time.

Since then I have attended the majority of supermonday events, and got to know many of the people that come along regularly to the meetings, made some very useful contacts,  gained  a far broader understanding of some of the latest technologies being used and o had lots of fun in the process.

A few months ago, I decided that these sort of things are as much about sharing, as they are about learning,  and that i really should signed up to do a talk, at some point. The main question was, what could I possibly share with a mainly techy audience many of whom would know far more than i did on any given subject. Sure i run an occasional class on social networking , but this was normally aimed at people that were quite new to technology. In the end after discussing this with Ross Cooney, i came up with covering how i project managed development of the BALTIC online shop and why we chose to develop this from the ground up rather than using a packaged product.

In someways I was very lucky with timing,  getting to do my talk in the somewhat cosy environment of  the Side Gallery’s cinema space on the quayside, with sligtly smaller  audience than usual of around 50.

It had been a few years since i’d done this kind of presentation, but the talk seemed to go fairly well (i didn’t get booed off the stage and i didn’t hear much snoring, so i guess i was Ok). A few people asked questions at the end and a few people came up to me afterwards and said they’d enjoyed it, which is always good.

On the whole I feel I  got quite a lot out of the experience, of course at first the idea of public speaking can seem a little scary, but it is also something that you get better at the more you get up and do and its  a useful skill to have.

If there is something that you feel you could speak about that maybe of interest  i’d certainly recommend giving it a go.

Following my talk there was an interesting  discussion on version control and the advantages of git versus subversionbetween Paul Callaghan and Alex Kavanagh.

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Not only is it not on a monday, it’s not even in August!

For the second time in the last few months, Super Mondays isn’t actually on a monday. In fact, its not even in August. Its been moved to tuesday, 1st September, and if that’s not confusing enough for you, they’ve gone one better and change venue as well.

I can’t quite decide if its more reminiscent of the drama of a classic detective novel, or the glamour of a grand premiere, but the venue is only going to be revealed a week before the event. It’s more probable though, that Ross has just had a busy week and  hasn’t secured a venue yet! I guess that its also that bit more dramatic for me personally, as i’ll be one of the speakers time around.

Over the past few months, I’ve  been inspired by some great speakers, talking very knowledgeably about fascinating subjects, engaging audience in debates and demonstrating remarkable  technology.  So in the  the barcamp tradition, I volunteered to put something back and  do a stint spotlight.

Having made the decision to do a presentation the next question was, what could i talk about?…I’m not an entrepreneur, with my own start up to talk about, nor am i a developer, at the cutting edge of some new technology or even an academic having just written some fascinating new researcher paper… So what could i stand up, in a room full of geeks, techies and entrepreneurs and talk about?

The final answer  that i came up with, was to talk about my involvement in the development of BALTICs online shop. I described this as “building an e-commerce solution the hardway!“. Despite all advice to the contrary, for my first shop project, i chose a developer with no experience of building an ecommerce solution from the ground up, and briefed them to forget any existing technologies, packages or libraries and start from scratch.

If you want to hear how i got on, you’ll have to register for this months SuperMonday (on a tuesday).

Also up  is a discussion on Version Control with:

Also up is a discussion on Version Control with:
Folders rock — An Other
SVN licks the floor — Oli Wood
Git is ‘geet lush’ — Paul Callaghan

And finishing off, with a general discussion on the BBC, focussing on amongst other things the move to Manchester, and whether they have an unfair advantage providing services in the web environment, with their massive public sector resources.

Posted in creative, featured, supermonday | 4 Comments

Digital North East Stratergy

Towards the end of last week James Burke, posted a very interesting article on his blog. The post entitled Digital North East – a regional #digitalbritain strategy for the digital sector , concerns a draft copy of a development strategy, that lays out plans for expanding the North East digital sector and stimulate the regions economy through digital technologies.

The underling objectives of the strategy are :

  • For the North East to be a European centre for digital sectors; using the region’s active network of sector support agencies and it specific sectoral strengths to drive growth & innovation, enhance the region’s profile and attract skilled workers and new businesses
  • For North East business use of digital technology to overtake the UK average

I have included the entire draft strategy below and would encourage anybody in the North East digital sector or indeed in any business in the North East to have a read and see what is being proposed.

One North East, appear to be leading on this project and working with a number of other regional bodies on the delivery side of the project. A full list of the delivery partners is available on james blog,  as are a number of useful comments on the draft strategy (including a couple from me).

I’m impressed that as a region we are forward thinking enough to create a ‘digital strategy’, however I believe that in order for the project to succeed it is really important that not only the regional development organisations and supporting bodies get involved, but that every business (especially those in the digital sector) take it on board and use this opportunity to help shape our regions digital future.

With the recent release of the digital britain report and all of the discussion around Milo Yiannopoulus ‘grim up north’ post for the telegraph and his follow up for Tech Crunch, there are already calls for some form of debate to discuss how we as a region can take this forward.

Posted in featured, funding, learning, public sector bodies, regional development agencies, start-ups, technology, universities and training bodies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interactive video

There have been a view interesting interactive video projects kicking around recently, including some pretty cools stuff from quicktv and clickthrough,  but to me this technology from Yellow Bird is by far the most interesting thing I’ve seen for a while.

According to  their press release a variant of their technology is being using in the Google Street camera. The system has with six video camera, coupled with some pretty nifty software to produce an all-encompassing movie where the viewer can shift the camera angle to explore the scene from any direction, in a simple flash player format either via the web or offline.

Interactive or emersive video has been around for a while, but up until now its alway been a little clunky, the imagery a little distorted and the views a little jumpy, but the playback on this seems really quite fluid. The blog post that i spotted this video in was actually over 2 months old and when we googled it, we found several similar technologies.

I can’t wait to see how the creatives manage to utilize this kind of technology into all sorts of applications, while it obviously lends itself to concerts , events and virtual tours i’m sure there must be loads of other applications that would work just as well.

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Kicking around the concept of sharding

I was really enjoyed tonight’s (27th july) Supermonday session, the session was split into just one speaker session, followed by a group discussion.

The speaker was John Colquhaun, a research assistant and graduate of computer science from Newcastle uni that has been working on a some software to help doctors communicate risk to patients with cardio-vascular problems. This involved firstly calculating risks based on some existing equations, integrating this into patient records, then expressing the result in smiley faces.

While i found this very interesting, and got the concept, the graphic designer in me simply wasn’t impressed with the graphical representations, the random placement of the smilies and the surrounding white space were very distracting. I think a nice clean representation of a heart with the appropriate percentage of risk ghosted out or something similar would have made it far clearer, far more compelling representation to get the message across, but what do i know!

Unfortunately the IP cameras we brought took a tumble, so there won’t be a speakers video this month.

The second half of the evening was the bit that i actually enjoyed the most, a group discussion, based the question “Do we need to encrypt our data or should we just shard it and scatter it to the four corners of the world? ” Before tonight i’d never heard of ‘sharding’ data, and in fact like many other foolishly assumed it was a typo and should have read ‘sharing’. While it was intended not to have a mediator, Ross introduced the subject and explained a bit about it. Apparently ‘sharding’ like the name suggest involved splitting a file up into a number of shards, each of which is then encrypted and stored on a separate file server in a separate datacentre, so that if any one server is compromised the stolen data would be worthless. Effectively this solution could a cheap, secure and resilient way to store data. The round the table discussion format worked well with various people contributing with their perspective on security , performance,legality, effectiveness and so on.

Ross, who runs an email spam filtering service explained that he received about a million small files a day that he had find a way to store securely but cost effectively store these files and that this was the solution we’d come up with. Kicking the concept around as a group we came up with lots of interesting ideas that we’d probably never have come up with otherwise.

I found the whole idea of thinking about something very new to be quite rewarding, and had plenty to consider on the train home.

Mike Parker of orangebus and Mike Lowenstein of gavurin both announced that they were hiring, so if your in the market for a design, development or sales position give them a shout.

Related links: Andrew Waite’s review of July’s Supermonday meeting on Infosanity.

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