Category: Conferences

SIBOS / Innotribe

I have been in Toronto since Saturday night and I will be here until Friday all for a little event called SIBOS. For those outside the banking (or maybe more accurately payments) industry it is quite simply the biggest banking conference in the world. This years sprawling venue is the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto. It is huge. The south side of the centre is mostly underground so there are no windows. As if to hide the goings on from the world outside. The bottom floor is made up of glossy trade stands from most of the major banks of the world and quite a few tech vendors as well. There are dozens of conference rooms and meeting spaces as well as the massive plenary room which must seat a few thousand. It is a dizzying scale and I am lead to believe there are over 7000 attendees (apparently there were 8000 in Amsterdam last year).

The venue is so large that it is split by the railway tracks to Union Station. That split could also be a lazy metaphor for the conference. I am not here for the giant tradeshow / business festival of Sibos but the more intimate and future thinking track known as Innotribe.

Innotribe has brought together some of the worlds greatest thinkers and doers on some topics that I, and the team I work with, are very interested in. After two days we have covered in some depth: How social and the associated technologies are changing business, digital identity and it’s many facets and BIG DATA looking at how the cost of CPU and storage means we can capture and aggregate more than ever, can we see new patterns or business models in this ocean of 0’s and 1’s.

The format of the first two days has been speakers imparting their knowledge and insights, followed by deep dive sessions on the topics where it gets a bit more interactive and hands on through a series of exercises. The line up of speakers has been excellent. From players in the new world of banking and finance like Howard Lindzon the CEO of StockTwits to geek gods such as Doc Searles one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto and the driving force behind, the much cooler than it sounds,  Vendor Relationship Management (VRM). The people in the Innotribe space are a real who’s who of the social / tech / banking 2.0 world.

The only slight downside for me are that the deep dive sessions following the talks have been a bit hit and miss. The Big Data session being a great example. Jeff Jonas ran an entertaining session on the group building jigsaw puzzles and what it shows about putting the pieces of data together. This was shortly followed by a pretty dull / vague session trying to represent swift economic growth data in some sort of context. Clearly I like jigsaw puzzles more than numbers and spreadsheets (roll on Playful 2011).

I would also like to see a bit more Q&A with the speakers and though I am not a massive fan of panel debates I am actually missing them at this event because I am keen to see some of these great minds go at it, so to speak. That being said the first two days have been fantastic and have been a bit of a whirlwind. I am trying to get my head around some of the more out there stuff eg Swift Digital Asset grid, more on that in another post, and meeting many, many interesting and frighteningly smart people all mixed in with some good old fashioned jet lag (I type this on my iPad at 4am).

On the first day I switched from the opening Innotribe sessions to the other side of the conference to see a plenary session for the SIBOS track. It was by the CEO of Gartner, Peter Sondegaard, and it was very jarring to see some of the things I had worked on over the last few years ‘Gartnerified’ and presented as confusing graph and visualisations of many arrows and sections that tried to point towards the future of money. It highlighted to me the difficulty in transitioning the thinking of the likes of Innotribe to the world of normal banking and I do wonder if by the time these things are Gartnerified it will be too late for the banks. Time will tell. Now this post is out of my head I hope I can get the hell back to sleep.

Social CRM – I still don’t know what it is

Way back at the beginning of May I was lucky enough to attend yet another conference. This time Social CRM 2011 in London. A day of talks on the burgeoning topic that is a bringing together of the almost ubiquitous word social and the ever so exciting acronym for Customer Relationship Management. It replaced the previous moniker of CRM2.0. Neither of these tags define exactly what it is (just like web2.0 and social media never have and never will).  It is widely regarded that Paul Greenberg has provided the most complete definitions of Social CRM. I hoped that a day of excellent talks on the topic would help clarify things for me. it did not. It did however give me some great insight on what it might be and how the term does not matter one bit.

I find the main lure for conferences is the people speaking i.e. the people I have heard of/follow/am inspired by irrespective of the topic. Sometimes a conference manages to align with speakers and topic but most of the time it does not matter (especially in banking as the conferences on that topic are few and far between).  Social CRM had a pretty strong line up of speakers I wanted to hear on a topic I want to know more about.

First talk of the day was by Brent Leary.  Someone whose work I have followed for a few years now and as well as being an expert on Social CRM he also has pretty good taste in music as evidenced by his regular weekend mixes which feature some of the finest old skool Hip Hop known to man. He began by using the example of Norton (makers of fine computer security products) who have moved pretty much all of their website to Facebook. They feel they will get more engagement from users on THE social platform (750,000,000 users etc) built on top of the web (Will replace http://www.? God I hope not). His other starting example was the beer seller at the Seattle Mariners baseball team. Instead of walking up and down the steps of the ballpark looking for people who want beer he has set up a Twitter account so people can tweet their beer orders. The two examples showing Hyperlocal vs Hyperglobal which JP Rangaswami covered recently when I saw him speak ‘There is no ‘National’ anymore just hyperlocal or hyperglobal if you fall between those then you will fail’. Brent covered a hell of a lot more and his (90s style 😉 slides can be viewed here

For me the best speaker of the day and the one who most looked like comedian Simon Day was Esteban Kolsky.  He started strongly by sharing some analysis he had done with the people tweeting in the room. Apparently their was only one Brazilian currently doing a Masters degree present. He shared the 90s style slide design that Brent had shown to great effect earlier but a passionate and knowledgeable talker will always make up for that.  Esteban focused on the data. The amount of data available is only going to grow. Huge torrents of data from social channels of which 98% is probably going to be noise. There will be an even greater need for smart analytics tools and humans to operate them/make sense of them.  The other thing Esteban was keen to point out was the need for social tools i.e. to allow conversations to take place to be used both inside and outside and to also where possible move towards a hybrid model allow internal and external to meet.  This ties in perfectly with the classic ‘If you are 1.0 on the inside then don’t try to be 2.0 on the outside’ which was excellently covered by Lee Bryant a while back.  Esteban’s beautiful slides are here

Esteban on the right obviously

The prettiest slides and most intriguing use cases of the day came from Catriona Oldershaw of Synthesio. This was not your usual event sponsor presentation it did feature the product quite heavily but did so with very relevant and interesting case studies while not being too gratuitous. Take note dull sponsors/vendors *cough* Salesforce *cough*. Catriona also go the biggest laugh of the day be referring to the Pippa Middletons Bum Twitter account which sprang up after the Royal Wedding. One of Synthesio’s clients is Regaine (the hair growth product) as such they were monitoring social media around the Royal Wedding and they had serious chat with Regaine about doing some adverts relating to the wedding because there was so much chatter about Prince William needing some! In the end they decided they could not react in time and that the brand mentions they were getting were good enough. It did highlight how monitoring needs to be treated with importance in an enterprise  and not just a couple of people watching. If it was built into their processes could Regaine have got an advert out in time e.g. 12-24 hours?

Another interesting case study shared was around the use of Synthesio by a certain hotel chain who were trying to link comments made online via Twitter/Trip Advisor and through their feedback channels to actual rooms in the hotel. So if customer x commented on the cleanliness of their room (room 316) on Saturday the 2nd of July they could check the room, work out cleaning rotas etc. Real actionable feedback. Catriona’s slides are here

My final favourite from the day was a talk by Richard Hughes on ‘Why your company needs a managed Social CRM platform’. Now this presentation was for a vendor selling products that allow you to host your own community instead of using all the free(ish) ones out there such as Facebook & Linked In so I was not expecting much. My scepticism however was short lived as Richard made a very well reasoned and entertaining argument. He used a classic quote to exemplify his thoughts ‘It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.’ Lynden B. Johnson famously said this of J. Edgar Hooover and the point being that it may be worthwhile providing a platform for conversation in areas that you own to help you at least have some control of the situation. Although you can’t exert too much control. Richard gave excellent examples of Apple and how they exert a little too much grip around their online community (banning people from talking about beta fixes/releases, responding as little as possible etc.) leading to people seeking other forums to get richer sources of information. I would love to see banks have open support forums on their sites but would they be able/willing to let users talk freely? Richards slides are here

Should we have our own communities or use those outside our control?

My takeaway from the day was that the main focus for Social CRM is customer service via so called social media channels. I think this is the obvious starting place but it is what comes next that is of real interest. The linking into existing operational systems and business processes is where the cool stuff should happen providing it is changing those systems and processes for the better. There must be a view to two way dialogue not just broadcast marketing. It is still very early days for Social CRM and I am not sure a useful definition of the term will arrive. The one I am working towards is around actually talking and listening online to customers because that is what will get things moving and make change happen. Paul Greenberg managed to boil down his definition from 18 paragraphs to 71 characters ‘The company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation’. Companies will increasingly be measured based on the types of response they make. Let’s see how that pans out.

The only Jobsworth worth listening to

Thursday the 5th of May saw a few folks from the organisation I work for head off to the Institure of Directors Hub near Liverpool Street to hear a Jobsworth speak at the Financial Services Club. Not just any old Jobsworth though, and not really a Jobsworth at all. The Jobsworth in question was actually JP Rangaswami, Chief Scientist at Salesforce and the man behind the Twitter account @Jobsworth. I had been looking forward to this event for a long time, in fact a very long time as it had been cancelled 3 times due to JP’s hectic travel schedule and this event was almost cancelled as well. Thankfully JP agreed to speak even though he was suffering from jet lag having just returned that day from San Francisco.

The evenings host, Chris Skinner, gave JP a warm introduction and provided an overview of his background (Used to be CIO at Dresdner bank, ex Chief Scientist at BT and now of Salesforce) and why he was here this evening (because he has been providing fantastic insight and thinking around innovation, collaboration and communication for the past 20-30 or so years and he has a few things to share…he has a lot to share actually and is a big advocate of sharing as much as possible).

He began with a rather stark statement ‘People have the lowest expectation of valuable output in innovation terms from the banking industry’. JP was very sympathetic to the bankers plight around innovation saying that the ‘conditions inside the financial industry are very adverse’. I found myself nodding along wistfully…

The cheery tone continued as he discussed Clay Shirky’s thinking around the collapse of civilised societies and the causes.

1. Act of God
2. Overfarm the envionment – Strip it of all the natural resources
3. Ecological balance – The failed introduction of a new species making another extinct.
4. Collapse due to the society becoming so complex it would no longer function. The one most likely to happen to banks? Surely not…they are such simple and straight forward organisations? 😉

A great quote from Clay’s piece rings a few alarm bells

‘Tainter’s thesis is that when society’s elite members add one layer of bureaucracy or demand one tribute too many, they end up extracting all the value from their environment it is possible to extract and then some.’

With the scene set somewhere between depressing and suicidal, if you work in a bank, it was on with the show. JP had three themes weaved into his talk that I think were roughly broken down as disruption, communication evolution and designing for the loss of control.

Incumbents vs Disruptors. We started with communications disruptions. When ISPs began causing AT&T a major problem in the United States was when they started charging $20 a month for access to the Internet. AT&T the dominant market player, the one with unrivalled scale, owner of the majority of the actual network infrastructure found their actual cost to provide internet access was $28 dollars and that was without any profit for them.

Clayton Christensen’s work on incumbents was mentioned, specifically his study on the the fixed disk drive market. A classic case of a technology that the incumbents wanted to make cheaper, better, faster. A technology the disruptors wanted to in some ways destroy.

Incumbents are at a disadvantage in as many ways as they are at an advantage. With AT&T is was the layers and layers of business process, infrastructure that had built up over time and meant they had no way of reducing the margins. With the disk industry it was clinging onto a dying technology or sacred tenet. Disruptors may have high innovation levels with low performance/takeup/scale. This must still be seen as a danger. Hanging on to dying business models is just dumb but how many organisations are smart enough to see they are dying let alone that they should not be so sacred and are willing to kill them off? To truly innovate you have to challenge those sacred things. In big organisations this is near to impossible (especially in banks) ‘You can innovate over there in that area we don’t care about’ was direction that JP had been given in the past.

The word Bankrupt literally means a failure of trust, at what point does the lack of progress or innovation start to effect how much customers trust you? He finished with some scant crumbs of comfort ‘I have a great deal of sympathy for the people in this room’.

Communication Evolution.
JP began by rolling out the fact that social media messaging volumes overtook email in September 09 (not sure of the source? Or what denotes social media messaging but the point still works). His youngest child has owned a Blackberry for 2 years. She does not subscribe to any email provider on the device. The Blackberry that most bankers carry almost singularly for the purpose of corporate email is being used by different groups in a completely different way. For his daughter it was all about group broadcast and presence provided by the Blackberry Messenger Service.

Half way through next year sales of smartphones & tablets will outsell both desktop and laptop PCs combined. Facebook continues to grow at a never before seen rate and only a fool would think it will not overtake the population of China (1.3 Billion) by 2020. How long have smart phones been on sale vs PCs? These forms of communication are growing at a rapid rate they are changing how we communicate and the language we use. How long did it take to stop using ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ and revert to ‘you’? How long to switch from you to ‘U’?

The iPad is only 13 months old, iPhone 4 years (and I think the Nintendo DS should be included in this) and a ‘2-3 year old child now touches a TV screen, not to put their sticky paw prints on it but becuase they expect some feedback/interaction.’ The physical household is no longer 4 or 5 people gathered around a TV. It is more like 6-8 communities. The average household has 6 Tvs, 3 PCs and 4 smartphones…

As technology becomes more advanced and available to ever greater numbers of people it becomes a means of speeding up evolution. With the continued compression of analog tools into smaller digital form factors such as the iPhone with its ever growing Swiss army knife of sensors such as the compass and gyroscope. The fact these devices are getting ever cheaper helps to accelerate the growth of innovation due to the nature of a reduced cost of entry.

‘Technology allows you to have claws or armour before you have evolved to have them yourself.’

Designing for the loss of control. This was the topic I was most looking forward to. It ties in to a lot of things that I believe and as such I was keen to hear JP talk after reading many of his posts on the subject. Designing for the loss of control for many still working in an environment that is locked down to the nth degree via things like the corporate desktop which JP likened to being the equivalent of being stuck with a bakelite rotary dial phone. He continued ‘God help you if you have to deliver to/from a locked desktop’ at this point I think quite a few people in the room were fighting back tears and reaching for the sleeping pills.

JP had recently visited Salesforce new acquisition, Heroku. The office environment was not your traditional one. ‘There were no desks, how do you design for a workplace with no desks? or no fixed wires?’ Do these locked down restrictive environments of banks lead to locked down and restrictive solutions being developed inside them? ‘If you design things that work only in a narrow alleyway then customers won’t go there’ or they will hate you if you make them go there.

Inside the banking world there are so many conversations around innovation. Meeting after meeting on innovation. Outside the traditional banking world innovation is just happening as people are just building, building, building. They don’t have the layers of process and bureaucracy. They also don’t have the other intrusions that bankers face…

‘Have you thought of the compliance implications?’ ‘No I have not thought about them at all…what do you take me for?’ A familiar sounding story from JP’s time at Dresdner.

To truly innovate you need to challenge these rules, barriers and constraints because innovation happens outside them. You will fail but you need to store those failures and use again in the future.

‘That’s not the way it works at our bank’ ‘Well good luck to you and see you in 10 years when your bank fails.’

And that is my recollection (limited by my note taking) of the event but there was so much more (Google prediction API used to see which employees work best next to each other and the work of George Gilder to name a couple). If you get the chance to see JP speak then take it. That being said for all the wit and wisdom of JP the best quote of the night actually came from my colleague Darren after the event ‘One of the best talks I have ever heard and also one of the most depressing’ said because he agreed with pretty much everything JP said and he knew we were pretty much powerless to do very much about the things that needed to change. Mr Rangaswami was right to have sympathy for us.

Thanks very much to Chris Skinner and all at the Financial Services Club for putting on the event (if you are interested in banking events like this you should probably join the FS Club). You should of course subscribe to the feed from JP’s blog and read it as often as possible as it just might stop you being such a jobsworth.

DellB2B: A Day of Three Parts

Two weeks ago I was invited to the latest Dell B2B huddle. The event was organised by Kerry Bridge, community manager for Dell in the UK and Neville Hobson of FIR. This is the third of these events and I was lucky enough to attend the previous one.  The purpose of the day is to look at social media use for business to business. The day was split into 3 parts. First up was a small lunchtime roundtable which was held at the Thomas Cubbit in Victoria. Four people had been chosen to speak about the progress in social media from a business to business prospective. I was one of them, as were Ruben Govinden from Transport for London, Richard Robinson from Google and Thomas Power from Ecademy. A few journalists were also in attendance which meant I was a bit nervous about saying the wrong thing and leading to me being mocked in the press or even worse, sacked. The lunchtime chat was hosted/refereed by Stuart Handley the head of comms for Dell in Europe.  I won’t talk about what I said you can read about that on (the site that the journalist sat next to me was writing for). I have not been sacked yet so my words cannot have been too controversial.

Ruben Govinden from TFL spoke about how they used social media to deal with crisis comms situations and spoke about the infamous case of an employee who was caught on film being abusive about an elderly passenger. Social media had helped the story spread like wildfire it had also helped TFL contain the story. Ruben told how they had limited the effects of the story in a matter of hours, in relation to identifying the employee, but I got the feeling that consensus on the table was that as people knew exactly what the incident was it was a case of damage limitation. Either way is is an interesting use case and a stark reminder that everyone has a camera these days.

Thomas Power spoke about his company Ecademy and the difficulties they faced working with so many businesses. The business networking site has around 400k members. Ecademy are present on an ever growing number of sites and their members are all looking for help on these increasingly disparate and seemingly never ending platforms (sounds familiar).

Richard Robinson, Head of Business Markets at Google was also in attendance and he spoke of how social was changing everything.  I asked him, with tongue firmly in cheek, when they would build a really great Twitter search engine and whether or not they had any internal social media monitoring tools, or planned to get into the social media monitoring game (all 3 skillfully unanswered/denied). Having said that, the products they do have in place today are very good e.g. Google Realtime Search, Google Trends etc. I just want something that allows me to search every tweet ever and have the greatest social media dashboard ever created. Is that too much to expect of Google?

The second part of the day saw us head off round the corner to Google for a presentation and Q&A session with Brian Solis followed by 3 unconference sessions on B2B related topics. For those of you who are unaware of the work of Brian Solis then I urge you to check out his blog if you have any interest in social media and its wider implications for businesses.

Brian recently became part of the Altimeter group joining other social media luminaries such as Charlene Li and Jeremiah Owyang. Here he will focus more on the research side of his work, as he stated ‘Social Media is less about about technology and more about anthropology, psychology and sociology. It is all about human interaction’. Too many people forget this and concentrate on the shiny new thing. Brian gave an example from one such company that he had carried out research for and found a massive 89 mentions on Twitter. Brian found a lot more conversation about their brand on blogs and forums but they were seen as old fashioned and the company wanted a Twitter strategy not a social media one.

His recently revised book Engage covers just that, how companies must engage to remain relevant in the world of the social consumer. If you are not saying anything in social r not adding value to the conversations being held there then you cease to be part of the buying decision. The social consumer will not take the normal sales funnel route. If you are at all interested in social media usage for business to business (or customer) intereactions then I highly recommend taking a look at Brian’s slides and having a listen to his talk which Neville recorded and edited and is available here.

The unconference sessions passed by in a bit of a blur. I missed the first slot (I was chatting to Brian about if he had ever worked with banks, yes he had and he sympathised with me about the complexities involved) but the two I did attend on influence and what it really means, hosted by Luke Brynley-Jones, and digital DNA a look at how growing up digital is altering how the next generations view the world by Andy Piper of IBM were very interesting. The session on influence looked at how social capital is now coming into play with people’s interactions with companies. Awful things like Klout score and peer index rankings are getting certain customers extra perks. I suggested a mortgage linked to your Klout score (the higher the Klout score the lower the mortgage rate). I said that I thought it was a terrible idea but it made for an interesting discussion and a couple of people thought it was a good idea!

Andy’s digital DNA session was a quickfire look at the impacts of growing up as a digital native. He referenced Don Tapscott’s book Growing Up Digital which details how his kids have grown up in a digital age and how he sees that has altered there development compared to his own growing up analogue. An interesting discussion followed around the perception of all Gen Y/Gen 0 etc. being tech savvy but that was not the case. We also had a little chat about white washing, which is where kids are deactivating their Facebook accounts when they are not logged on to prevent anyone from tagging them or making a comment on any of their content while they are offline. Privacy awareness at work.

The third and final part of the day was a ‘Tweetup’ and as it was St Patrick’s Day it seems only right that it was held in a pub and that the pub had a pretty generous free bar tab. It gave me a chance to have a chat with a few people that I follow on Twitter but have never met in real life. Alan Schoenberg who works for the CME Group and is an active financial services Twitter user (a rare but compelling breed).  The aforementioned Andy Piper who is an interesting character from IBM, as well as his day job looking at exciting things like MQ he also creates the Dogear nation podcast as well as being one of their key social advocates. James Whatley of 1000 heads, is a mobile guru and is also doing some interesting work on social CRM. Last but not least was Gabrielle Laine-Peters who had just returned from 3 months in South Africa where she had driven 1300km on her own, swum with penguins and managed to bill a winery for teaching them how to use Tweetdeck, clearly I am in the wrong job.

The event was a very interesting, thought provoking and inspiring (and a little bit of nerve racking) day. Thanks again to Kerry for inviting me and I am really looking forward to the next one. Assuming I am lucky enough to be invited.

Thanks to Benjamin Ellis of redcatco and SocialOptic for allowing me to use his fine photo. You can see more photos of the event by viewing the DellB2B tag on Flickr (Including one of me with a beer in my hand and wearing a green garland…it is called networking I believe)

A bank geek goes to The Story

A telephone bell rang in darkness. When it had rung three times bedsprings creaked, fingers fumbled on wood, something small and hard thudded on a carpeted floor, the springs creaked again, and a man’s voice said: “Awreight pal, Taxi’s ‘ere.” (Apologies to Dashiell Hammett for the blatant plagiarism/vandalism)

Friday the 18th of February meant I was awake early for the journey from Sheffield to London to attend The Story. For those unaware The Story is a one day conference about stories and story telling.  I think you will all agree this is something that a banking innovation geek should be attending. If not, let me tell you the tale of the day and try and convince you otherwise.

First up were Ben & Lucy from the Ministry of Stories. They told the tale of the Monster supply shop in Hoxton. Selling fantastic goods for all your monster needs.  The shop is a front though. For something great. The back of the store hides a room used to help kids write creatively. They run free work shops to encourage them to tell marvelous tales and ensure their fertile imaginations are not destroyed by dull things like school.  They are run by local volunteering writers, artists and teachers.  Inspired by the work of Dave Eggers in the US, I found what they were doing to be truly fantastic.  At the end of the talk a little creative exercise was tried. The crowd had to design a monster. Lucy would ask what a part of the monster would look like and how it would feel. People shouted out. The monsters description was written on screen. This was then going to be drawn during the day and auctioned off to the highest bidder. The results are at the bottom of this post. The process made me think of design by committee and how people just shouting things out lead to monsters being designed. The problem being that they did not set out to design a monster…

Adam Curtis of the BBC and the man responsible for the excellent Power of Nightmares documentary, told how the BBC were losing faith in the web as a means of telling stories. He went on to show a clip of an Afghani reporter interviewing a member of the Taliban. The clip showed the Taliban fighter admitting they had burnt down schools but only to stop the infidels doing so first. The short/soundbite clip formed part of a news package. The thing is the story behind the clip was far more interesting. It turned out the reporter had almost been killed by allied forces as they thought him to be a terrorist. he was actually a poet and had fled the Taliban. He became a reporter and was sent into the lions den with men he feared who also threatened to kill him. Adam played the full version of the clip. It showed the reporter asking more questions but you could now see he was visibly terrified. One of the reasons for his terror was that the other, very heavily armed, Taliban fighters were circling the camera (walking in front of shot) in a show of constant intimidation. Very powerful and far more engaging than the soundbite. I don’t have the ability to do justice to Adam’s talk. Check out Antony Mayfield’s much more detailed piece to get a better sense of what he said. The thing I took away though was that giving context to the story is very very important. Sound bites and copy written pieces offer no engagement no sense of awe. That is something that needs to be addressed. How do we add context to our stories? How do we let people delve deeper?

For me the the most effecting talk of the day was by Karl James. He confessed upfront that he was not a story teller just a listener, a facilitator of stories. He explained, with the help of some very powerful audio clips, how people that can truly listen allow people to become more articulate about the story than they ever would for a poor listener. Listening helps them to open up and expand. There was the story of Jane a 38 year old woman who had been raped at the age of 14. She had not let herself become her story but had grown because of it. She was strong, confident but through listening Karl had got to previously unheard elements of the story. As the clip played and Karl quizzed Mary on how it had affected her and then how it affected her family it became clear that the thing she had really lost was her brother who had ceased to be part of the family.

Original Photo by Toby Barnes

Next up was Chris a friend of Karl’s and the father of a young daughter who had become very ill. Karl asked the question ‘What do you wish you had known on day one of finding out your daughter was ill?’ following the question a long pause followed, all that were heard were the noises of thought as Chris tried to pull together an answer. The pause between the question and answer lasted 19 seconds, Karl told us after. That 19 seconds was a long time. A few hundred people in Conway Hall awaited the answer in rapt silence. As a recent father that 19 seconds allowed my thoughts to wander to places I did not want them to go. How would I answer such a question? Would I ever want to be in the position to be asked that question? When Chris finally answered he said that he would tell himself that you can not deal with this alone. You could hear and feel the huge burden he had been subjected to. I was very thankful that it had not been me.

I was not sure how much more I could take of this. Karl began to talk about children at a central London school. I thought if these next clips were about child abuse I would have to make my excuses and leave (‘Something in my eye, *cough cough* must get a drink etc.). Thankfully they were not but were interviews with so called problem kids and how they were totally disengaged from school life. How they had no respect for people who had no respect for them. In the end it was about child abuse just not the kind I worriedly expected but none the less it still had an effect on me. I would highly recommend you take a look at Karl’s slides and listen to the audio of his talk to hear for yourself and see if you agree with me or think I am just a soppy new dad! It certainly made me think about my own listening skills and how they could be so much better. What would the impact be if everyone was such a good listener?

The headline act of the day was creator of Father Ted and the IT Crowd, Graham Linehan. He was interviewed by geek author and copyfighter Cory Doctorow. Graham is a heavy user of Twitter and he has recently started writing with 7 or 8 people he found funny on there. Graham had used to Twitter to facilitate rewrites during filming he gave the example of calling out to his Twitter followers to come up with a term for ‘backside’ that they could use on the show. Bike rack was the one he chose. He was trialling new tools to see if web 2.0 could facilitate collaborative writing. He was using Basecamp to allow the 7 or 8 people from Twitter who were based around the globe to work together on writing a sitcom (global collaboration in action). Some things had worked well others not so much so it was still a work in progress.

Original Photo by Matt Ward

Graham talked of how he was trying ‘systematise goofing off’. Spending hours on social networks can justifiably be called research when you write a sitcom about I.T. Geeks. Graham did have systems in place though. He spoke of his old system of lots of coloured cards filled with stories ideas or situations.  They were colour coded based on character the situation related to. He would set them out on the floor and try to pull together and link the story elements. The internet had unsurprisingly proved a rich vein of situations that could befall Moss, Roy and Jenny. He did a quick bit of Googling and found his favourite photo of all time from the classic, Awkward Pet Photos. He posted the photo to Basecamp and said too his writing colleagues how can we get Roy into the situation? Know where you want to get to. Then find the way there. If only more creative projects stared this way. Especially with guidance from Awkward Family Pet Photos.

The Story was not like the normal conferences I go to. It was all the better for it. I like to attend conferences that stretch my mind and change my thinking. I like conferences that have side stories.  That inspire new forms of story telling. All the while thinking how can I relate this back to the work I do. The story succeeded massively on that front for me.  If you work on Innovation, irrespective of the industry, then getting out of your comfort zone and going to something a bit left field can help expand your thinking greatly. A big thanks to Matt Locke and all the organisers of a fantastic day. Looking forward to the Story 2012…it sounds like a futuristic one. Finally here is the monster that was created on the day and the description (specification?) that defined how it might look.

The photo and description was taken from from JulieBee’s excellent post

Ignite London 4

February the 8th 2011 will long be a landmark day for me. It was the day I first got on stage and spoke in front of a room full of strangers. It was also the day I went to a cracking event. The event was Ignite London. For those who are unaware Ignite events are a night of quickfire presentations designed to enlighten in a short time. Twenty slides which auto advance after 15 seconds give the presenter 5 minutes dead to tell a story, share some insight and get off stage. The venue was 93 Feet East on Brick Lane in London and the organisers had lined up 18 speakers including little old me. I received a tweet out of the blue asking if I would like to talk at the event. I instantly said no saying I was neither smart enough or interesting enough. With a little encouragement I was persuaded into submitting a talk outline. This was subsequently accepted leaving me in a state of panic. But enough about me (for now) what about the actual event?

The list of speakers was very impressive indeed. It contained a few people I had heard of before and quite a few I followed on Twitter already. The night was split into three blocks of six speakers. The venue was nightclubesque and as it filled up the temperature rose as geeks piled into the narrow space in front of the stage. Randomly one of the attendees (spotted by my eagle eyed boss) was Sally Bercow the wife of the House of Commons speaker.

The first session was of a very high quality indeed with talks on snobbery around wine making, sensory food experiences, saving libraries and a look at who owns your data. The highlight of the session for me was Charlotte Young who talked Art Bollocks. She did not actually talk Art Bollocks but dismantled it completely. Very very amusing indeed or should I say the narrative form attempted to derive mirth from the introspection of self via the exploration of a conceptual paradigm held within everyone of us. I am not very good at Art Bollocks. Watch the real thing instead.

Second set of speakers raised the bar again. A fascinating talk on Transport map designs by Maxwell Roberts, a look at the classic I-Spy books, Paul Clarke rattled through why music is cheating. A look at how some forms of music are actually unplayable. Michael Reeve decided to live his life by the roll of a dice. This involved it actually controlling his movements round his flat, meaning he spent a lot of time trapped in his bedroom (dice can be cruel).

My favourite talk in the second session was Steve Berry’s talk on How George Lucas destroyed the British toy industry. Steve had written a great story (which he read from a music stand) that told how George Lucas’ master stroke at getting merchandising rights not only made him a billionaire it started the downfall of great British toys.

The final session contained my speaking slot. I was second on and I have no memory of the person before me as he spoke at a lightning pace and, ever the optimist, my thoughts traversed the spectrum of what could go wrong with my own talk. As I was introduced on stage as a banker from HSBC I expected the odd pantomime boo but thankfully not, all I received was warm applause. The talk passed by in a blur. I had difficulty looking at the screen in front of me instead opting for the one behind leading me to turn around like an idiot for the first few slides. I remember forgetting one key line around slide 6 which seemed to take an eternity to pass to slide 7 (15 seconds is a strange element of time when stood in front of a few hundred people). I also remember getting a laugh/groan for my exceptional slide on APIs (see below). It think it went ok in the end (I even got a few nice tweets) and the sense of relief as I came off stage was immense.

I could now fully enjoy the final 4 speakers which was fantastic as two of them were in my opinion the best of the night. Firstly Leila Johnston of ShiftRunStop fame, talked about making things quickly. Leila’s talk resonated very strongly with the work I do and I will be ensuring lots of people internally see the video once it is posted. Leila had 3 rules.

1 – Stop Caring, about the past, the future and perfection. Leila mocked those who ‘Were the first bloggers’ or ‘Who had the idea for Twitter years before. Forget the past let it go. Make things fast to keep motivation levels high
2 – Stop Having Ambition. It just shows that you are not happy!
3 – Stop Making Claims. on your CV, on your blog etc. ‘All supplementary writing = distance’ as I type this I know I am doing wrong as I should be making things.

Really great talk and though Leila is lucky enough not to work in a large organisation I feel the lessons in her talk are applicable to all. Until the video is posted you can enjoy Leila’s slides in all their animated glory, including a great use of the flame transition, over here.

The final talk of the night was by geek comedian Tom Scott. His previous Ignite talk about a near future flash mob scenario is the second most viewed Ignite talk of all time garnering around 225,000 views. It is well worth a watch (stating the obvious). For his talk this time he used similar subject material but instead of highlighting the speed at which connections can be made and events can unfold powered by the web he looked at the wealth of public data available on social networking sites and the speed and ease at which they can be accessed. The slides/display was generated in realtime (sort of) pulling personal data from Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook. Addresses and phone numbers came flooding by on the screen like an endless stream of user stupidity/naivety. I won’t spoil the payoff of the talk but it was very impressive and lead to me posting this ever so eloquent tweet. And that was that (well there was a visit to a curry house, when in Rome etc.) I had spoken in public, in front of strangers, about banking, and not been bottled. I had more importantly also attended a great event and been enlightened many times. A massive thanks to the organisers for such a fine event and a special mention to Richard for asking me to submit a talk.

My slides are embedded below and if you go to Slideshare you can see my script (that I loosely followed / mostly forgot) and I believe video will be arriving shortly (gulp) and you will be able to find them here when it does.

Can Silicon Valley disrupt banking? – IgniteLDN4

View more presentations from Aden Davies.
UPDATE: The video of my talk has finally been posted.

BarcampBank London 4

A few weeks ago I finally made it to a BarCampBank. These informal gatherings of banking geeks are held annually, in London and usually on a Saturday. Thankfully this years was on a Monday the day before Finovate.

which meant I was able to attend. The event was held at Nesta (The home of innovation apparently).  The day was hosted by Dave Birch from Consult Hyperion and was sponsored by the Cabinet Office (and Consult Hyperion and Bullion Vault) who were very interested in alternative currencies and community funding, which gave the topics an interesting spin as well as introduce some different folk to the BarCampBank world. The format of the BarCamp is unconference so at the start of the day people post the topics they would like to discuss on a wall. These are then grouped together and themes identified.

Five breakout areas were defined and a session was held in each area. I attended 3 sessions, which were…

The potential impacts of NFC. A look at what is coming in the world of Near Field Communication. With the launch of the Nexus S by Google NFC is finally available in our stores and Apple are strongly rumoured to include NFC in the next iPhone and iPad. Will this be the start of a sea change in payments with tech companies getting increasingly involved? Or does control still rest with the payment networks and banks? This was quite a heated debate with people from O2, The GSMA, PayPal and other interested financial companies. Talk of Apple dominated the conversation to begin with. The general consensus was that they would not make a dent as it will be too expensive for retailers to upgrade their payments infrastructure for seemingly little benefit.  I am not sure I agree with this as the cachet of being able to pay with your iPhone will be a great incentive in itself let alone the loyalty factors that could be involved.

What next for P2P business models.
A very interesting panel which was dominated by representatives from P2P lending companies Zopa and FriendsClear.  Giles the CEO of Zopa explained the complexities in starting a P2P lender. The ability to operate as a sort of mutual was hamstrung by the fact that considerable funding was required to get started so these companies will need relationships with traditional banks for quite some time.  I asked a question of whether Facebook was a realistic competitor to Zopa but this was dismissed as the regulation requirements would be too onerous for them to even get started (rumours are that Facebook considered buying P2P lender Prosper in the US). I think if Facebook Credits gets a decent foothold we will certainly see them try something. We moved on from money to other forms of currency that could be traded P2P. Peoples time and effort were one and energy was the other future alternatives mentioned.

Time banks, where people are paid in units of time were a popular topic on the day. The example often rolled out was if someone in London cooked a lovely meal for the elderly parent of someone from Sheffield. Then the person in Sheffield could cook a meal for someone there. P2P networks at their most fundamental level. The creation of energy was also seen as a future tradable element. As solar panels and turbines become increasingly prevalent then it may become possible to offload unused energy to the grid for others in your community to use.

The importance of Identity. Another favourite topic of mine. The discussion around identity was probably the most lively of the three I attended. Topics ranged from the inevitable Banks as digital identity holders to the complexities of anonymous or partial identity management. The graphic example given was a frequenter of a fetish club whowould need to be identified in some form to attend while keeping there real world identity secret. They might also need some way of linking that anonymous identity to real world medical records should something go wrong. Like I said it was a lively debate.

With the conference being held the day before Finovate it meant quite a few people had flown in from around the world.  This gave me a unique chance to meet some of the banking geeks I follow on Twitter in real life for the first time. This presents a tricky challenge though as you have to recognise people based on their 48×48 pixel avatar photo. I managed to meet up with Frederic Baud and John-Christophe Cavelli of Parisian based P2P lender FriendsClear, Yann Ranchere a financial tech blogger based out of New York as well as meeting up with previous acquaintances such as Brett King who had flown in from Singapore.  I chatted, too briefly, with Dan Mullineux who is the creator of Money Toolkit and is apparently ‘Filling in where UK banks are failing to do mobile banking properly’ which is nice of him.   Another interesting person was Rachel Sinha who is doing some lovel sounding visualisation work for the Chartered Institute of Accountants and is working with the godlike genius that is David McCandless.  She was also baffled by the fact I was meeting people in real life that I only knew through Twitter. I also met someone from the company I work for, Tom Cannon, for the first time even though we had spoke, emailed and tweeted in the past. In the pub after the event I saw someone passing round dodgy but cool looking bank notes. It was Susan Steed from the New Economics Foundation who is involved in the Brixton Pounds local currency project and she kindly let me have some of the notes…not sure when I will be in Brixton next though.

11 Brixton Pounds

All in all a very thought provoking day and I met some very interesting people, well for bankers at least.

Interesting North

Saturday the 13th of November was a date I had been looking forward to for quite some time. This day saw the culmination of a lot of hard work by Tim Duckett, Greg Povey and a band of merry helpers that I was lucky enough to be one of. The hard work was to set up a conference in Sheffield based on the Interesting conference run in London. Interesting has been run since 2007 by the post digital god Russell Davies. Tim Duckett, an Interesting veteran, had the idea of transporting the concept to Sheffield and I suspect he did not really know how much work that idea would entail. Numerous planning meetings were held in local public houses and Chinese restaurants. Following these planning sessions lots of work was undertaken to get to this day. Saturday the 13th of November was the day Interesting North opened its doors to the lovely ticket buying audience.

Cutlers Hall

The team had an early start with the majority of us arriving at 8am to set up the grand venue that we had chosen, Cutlers Hall.  When I got there things were well underway with the AV all set up and the only thing for me to do was help with hanging some bunting and then get ready for registrations.  I never knew how much hard work signing 250 people into an event was but let me tell you it was difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.  Thankfully the rest of the day was being run by Tim and Greg with an efficient air so the good folk that did show up were not to be disappointed.

The plan was 20 talks, 2 coffee breaks and lunch all in just 7 hours. Ambitious? Foolish? Either way it represented great value for money for just twenty English pounds no matter what happened.

As much as  would love to write about all 20 speakers I lack both the energy and skill required to do so.  Instead here are a handful of my favourites.

The first talk I had earmarked as must see, was by Stefanie Posavec. I first became aware of Stefanie’s work a few years ago when I came across her lovely visualisations of On The Road by Jack Kerouac. Her talk for Interesting North was on Baseball Scoring. Stefanie bravely asserted that Baseball was better then Cricket (she is of course wrong) but did recover by telling us that an English man made Baseball the sport it is today by introducing peanuts and beer. Stefanie explained the intricacies, differences and notations used in Baseball scoring.  It was clear that she was passionate and emotionally linked to Baseball scoring as she admitted that she would only score the game in the same way her father does.

All round nice chap and black pudding fan, James Boardwell, asked ‘As we peddle more how might cities change’.  Following a recent cycling accident where James was hit by a taxi and unsurprisingly came out worse. James wondered if the city could be made softer to benefit the cyclist rather than the car driver. He showed a fantastic automated bicycle parking machine from China, some amazing stunt cycling that made the most of how our cities were already laid out and he also got a little over excited on stage over bike porn.

Peddle Peddler

James Wallis deserves a special mention for the funniest talk/list of the day with his fantastically titled session called ‘Works of Fiction with Really Stupid Titles Involving the National Socialist Government of Germany 1933-1945’ or to put it another way books with Nazi in the title. As someone who works for a bank my favourite was ‘Gnome: A young Swiss banker deals with the Nazis, He remains ambivalent’

Frankie Roberto had the tricky task of enlivening the crowd post lunch but he took it in his stride with a passionate talk about the joys of Lego. As well as showing a photo of his fantastically organised Lego collection (think lots of well labelled tupperwares) Frankie also covered the issues that the passionate community of AFOLs (Adult Fans Of Lego) spend a lot of time discussing such as the colour tone differences of new grey bricks, dodgy product tie ins e.g. Shell and the tricky issue of minifig skin colour.

Best game of the day was designed by Oli Shaw. Oli spent a year studying the behaviours of people who fall asleep on public transport.  Oli has built up a splendid collection of photos of these sleepers. He told of, and showed, the innovative pillow usage, considerations of how to deal with your bags (hold on tight or be more nonchalant) and the contagious nature of the sleeper. As his studies progressed he began to add game mechanics to these photos assigning points for sleepers e.g. 1pts for a sleeper, 2pts for a unique sleeping position, 3pts for use of a real pillow and 10pts for capturing someone mid yawn.

As the sun set and the grand room began to darken the stage was perfectly set for Marcus Brown a.k.a. The Kaiser a.k.a. Jack The Twitter a.k.a. Sacrum.  Mr Brown told a tale of how he had lost 12 days, ended up in a tent camping in a field even though he hates camping and does not own a tent.  Following this he checked himself into a mental institution. The most engrossing and affecting talk of the day.

Marcus Brown

Last speaker of the day was Toby Barnes, MD of Mudlark. Toby is good friends with Greg but the fact he was on last and that it was at least an hour later than he was originally planned to go on meant that as he was being wired for sound he had some harsh and very amusing words for Greg which I can’t repeat here but that made me laugh a lot. A theme which continued through his talk.  Toby told us of his love for the future with a special mention of modernist architecture. As a child growing up in in Portsmouth he would love to visit the, now sadly derelict, Tricorn shopping centre.  The fact this futuristic concrete vision has now fell into disrepair highlights how we no longer have the desire to build and invent the future we were promised in the design, science fiction and future gazing of the past.

Toby was also concerned that the so called good guys in popular works of fiction such as James Bond and Star Wars were always blowing up really cool architecture e.g. Blofelds Volcano Lair and The Death Star. His other concern was that we have all these cool futuristic things today e.g. iPhones, and that we take them for granted. A point which he made by referencing Frank Chimero’s post ‘There is a horse in the Apple store’ which looks at how we take the extraordinary for granted.  My poor usage of the English language really does not do his talk justice and hopefully the video of the talk will be online soon.

Once Toby had delivered his excellent yet depressing talk (I want the future we were promised as well) it was time for Tim to wrap up and get the rapturous applause his tireless work deserved.  After that it was off to the pub for a well deserved pint or six and to finally get the chance to chat with the audience, speakers and fellow organisers.

I would like to add that it was an honour to be involved (although my contribution was minuscule) and I have to take my hat off to Tim for pulling this together.  A truly amazing feat and I am so glad the day went as well as it did as he truly deserved it. Also a special mention for Greg who worked his own special blend of magic to make the event what it was all the while maintaining his dry caustic wit.

You can find out lots more about what went on at the Lanyrd page where we will collate all write ups, photos, videos and anything else we can post online. I have taken a few average quality photos and for some much better photos I strongly encourage you to check out Dan Sumption’s images of the day.

Internet Identity Workshop – Europe

I recently attended the Internet Identity Workshop. An event organised by members of the Identity Commons, which bring together decentralised identity evangelists hence their creation of these sessions in a number of locations around the world.  My knowledge of this subject is limited at best but I am very interested in learning more because I agree wholeheartedly with the principles and desires of this group. It is worth noting I was a little apprehensive about attending this conference due to my previously mentioned lack of knowledge, which lead to a bit of late night revision prior to attendance.

The day began with me trying to find my way to the venue (Macmillan Hall in the University of London) from my hotel (the Radisson Grafton). Even though it was only a mile from the hotel and I was equipped with a GPS enabled iPhone it still took a lot of wandering around the University College of London (the college bit makes a big difference as  it is the wrong location) before I found where I as meant to be. Once I finally found the University of London and Macmillan Hall I registered, gathered my credentials and headed in to the venue. The room for the event was marble clad with high ceilings.  The room was dotted with carpeted panels to try and dampen sound reflections (they failed). The chairs were laid out in two concentric circles. I shuffled in, grabbed a drink, found a seat in the outer ring and opened my laptop. It is also worth noting I am awful at networking. I find it very difficult for some reason, to wander up to strangers, at an event that you have both paid money to attend so clearly have common ground to talk about, and introduce myself. Also the early arrivals at the conference were all middle aged males who looked like they spent a lot of time in front of computers. I realised I needn’t have worried about fitting in.

Things finally kicked off at 9.30 with organisers and facilitators for the day, Kaliya Hamlin (also known aptly as Identity Woman) and Heidi Nobantu Saul. Kaliya explained the reasons behind this meeting of minds (essentially make online identity better) and the format of the day, unconference. Heidi ran through the logistics of the day including the rules and expectations of the day e.g. If you are not learning or contributing feel free to fly between sessions like a butterfly and if someone mentions a TLA (three letter acronym) or something you don’t understand pause and ask them to explain.

The Rules...

There was then a series of intros where everyone in the room stood up and said a few sentences about themselves (always nerve wracking). Then came the session creation. A4 paper, coloured pens and anyone who wanted to create a session got writing. Upon completion we had 31 sessions covering all manner of ID related geekiness. Tech protocols/concepts such as WebID & DNSSSEC, privacy levels, tiered ID providers, European equivalents to NSTIC and finally ending up with digital death. Session slots were chosen, similar topics were merged and my own personal agenda became pretty evident.

Session 1 – Mydex Personal Datastore Announcement. One of the recurring themes of the day was around personal data stores. These are, in the words of Mydex.

‘Personal Data Stores are designed to restore to individuals control over the management and sharing of their personal data online.’

A key piece in the move to Vendor Relationship Management (VRM), Personal Datastores (PDS) provide a framework for users to store, manage and utilise their data rather than the multitude of companies that do so today.  Mydex announced their pilot PDS. They have signed up a number of relying parties including councils (Croydon and Brent were mentioned), the DWP, Yougov etc. For a much richer description then why not listen to William Heath from Mydex tell you more about it. Very interesting looking service and I managed to have a few chats with the creators of it and they happened to mention that they had interest from a few banks. I wonder if Sheffield Council will be interested?

Session 2 – WEBID & DNSSEC. Thankfully two of the five sessions for this time slot got merged into one. Even more thankfully they were the ones I wanted to attend (in hindsight I may have been wrong).  First up was Henry Story to talk about WebID (formerly known as the less snappy FOAF & SSL).  Henry whizzed through a set of slides, that at normal pace I might have understood a bit more clearly.  The basic principles (I think) behind WEBID are the concept of you have a specific URI for your ID which can be checked as part of the logon to services.  The logon process is dealt with during the actual web page request using existing protocols HTTP and TLS.  The other element involves the authorising site to request a WEBID certificate from the user. This very manual step in the demo kind of killed things for me and until we have active agents in browsers it will be unusable for most users.  I really can see the potential in this tech (discoverability, federated nature of the ID) and I really liked the mention of using this built into crypto USB sticks for physical device logons.  But work is required to make idiots like me understand and therefore use it.

I had struggled a bit with the first half of the session the second half just killed me. DNSSEC is, according to the idle mans research source ‘It is a set of extensions to DNS which provide to DNS clients (resolvers) origin authentication of DNS data, authenticated denial of existence, and data integrity, but not availability or confidentiality.’ I can see how this could help with some of the request steps of WEBID.  Unfortunately  the topic was presented with no slides or pretty pictures and such a complex and dry subject left me reaching for my laptop to see what else was going on.

Lunch = Chicken Massaman curry and a chat with some nice people from Vodafone R&D project, One Social Web. More on that in Session 4…

Session 3  – Project Nori Demonstration. Project Nori is an open source, open standards compliant personal data store. This gives users the ability to create their own datastores on their own servers.  This hands control of your data back to you….assuming you are smart enough to set up your own datastore. Markus Sabadello, one of the creators of Nori, gave two demos of the technology.  The first showing its potential as a datastore and how you would interact with services online.  He used the example of ordering a Pizza.  No need to fill out your address details when ordering online you click a button it goes to your PDS and returns the requested fields. I asked if this should be two way i.e. should I store my order history with the company on my PDS. In future when I interact with them I can show them what I have bought in the past and they could market to me accordingly (free garlic bread for you as you eat here every week).  The current implementation does not deal with two way data passing but will do in the future.  This conversation thread lead to a long discussion on data schemas required to store all the potential data (Mmm Pizza Data Schema) which it was widely agreed would require some standard schemas to be created.

The second demo showed Nori operating as a node in a federated social network.  The example showed how it could be set up to send, receive and store messages as part of a (open source microblogging platform) federated install. Very cool geeky stuff.  You can see both demos in action on the Project Nori site

Session 4 – One Social Web & W3C Social Web Proposal. Another 2 for 1 session comprising a demo of the Vodafone One Social Web (OSW) project and a discussion around the W3C proposals for the federated social web. The One Social Web project is looking to build a truly federated social network built on open standards (XMPP, Activitystreams, vCard etc.) and aiming to destroy the walled gardens of existing social networks.  Daniel Applequist demonstrated the system by sending messages between multiple users who have their own OSW instances but on completely different servers. The demo while impressive to a geek like me also showed some of the flaws in this decentralised method in that one of the users Daniel tried to talk with could not receive a message because his server was down. Having said that, if it was a centralised system then had the one server been down no one could use the system.  What all this means is that if you have friends on one social network they are no different to friends on another social network. You can talk to them in the same way, share things with them in the same way. The analogy given was the telephone lets you call anyone. Facebook users can’t share a tagged photo with Myspace users. The code is available now on Github if you care to run up your own instance of OSW.

It is the federated concepts behind OSW that are driving the thinking behind the W3C proposal. Daniel, in conjunction with others, has produced a report on the direction of the federated social web
‘…the Social Web should allow people to create networks of relationships across the entire Web, while giving people the ability to control their own privacy and data.’

Harry Halpin (the editor of the report and spit double of Jason Lee, see photo below)  made a passionate plea for these open and federated technologies to shape the way existing social networks operate.  As well as the report they have also created the first Social Web Acid Test (SWAT0).  The test has just six seemingly simple steps:

1. With his phone, Dave takes a photo of Tantek and uploads it using a service
2. Dave tags the photo with Tantek
3. Tantek gets a notification on another service that he’s been tagged in a photo
4. Evan, who is subscribed to Dave, sees the photo on yet another service
5. Evan comments on the photo
6. David and Tantek receive notifications that Evan has commented on the photo

By about step 3 or 4 you would kill any of the main social services in play today. Elements of the technologies mentioned in the report are in play for some social networks e.g. Facebook utilise Activitystreams but true interoperability is a long way off.  The purpose of the report is to try and get the W3C to standardise these building blocks in the same way that they have with things like Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).  Harry mentioned that previous attempts by the W3C to build standards for this had been poor e.g. POWDER but he hoped protocols that had been built by others could prove more successful.  For anyone interested in the future of the social web I highly recommend reading the report.

Harry on the Left, Jason on the right...I think

Session 5 – Personal Data Ecosystem. The last session of the day and it was back to a topic I knew little about before today, Personal DataStores, but by the end of it I knew a little bit more. Lead by conference organiser, Kaliya, it was more discussion based than the previous sessions I had attended which were more presentation based.  The discussion revolved around the concept of the PDS and whether they can become a viable and well used device coupled with sustainable business models.  Kaliya picked on me first asking how could banks use this type of technology? My personal opinion is that while banks will certainly be a major contributor to these data stores in the future today the regulatory issues around holding and transferring banking data would make early involvement very complex.  David Alexander of Mydex explained some of the business models and benefits they are using to sell their system. Primarily the transfer of data storage and retrieval costs to the customer (or 3rd party data store handler) represented major savings costs for organisations. For banks I am pretty sure they would never be able to simply hand over all data to their customers and not store any for themselves so the savings would not be there.  But I can certainly see lots of uses from a customer point of view.

I think the only way these datastores will take off is if major retailers such as Amazon get behind them. They must deliver new value to the users and they must present a more usable experience that what exists today i.e. remove incessant registration form filling. Please read Kaliya’s thoughts on Personal Data Stores and also keep an eye on the Personal Data Ecosystem site for more developments in this interesting space.

In conclusion, the day really exceeded my expectations, my initial trepidation at being completely out of my depth was misplaced as it turns out I know just enough about this subject to wing it. It was also not an issue because everyone there was very friendly and always willing to explain in more detail anything that was not clear.  Only downside would be the room, as the marble walls (even with tasteful carpeted panels) and high ceilings meant that it was very noisy and sometimes difficult to follow conversations in your own session.  I enjoyed the day and learnt a hell of a lot that I will have to spend quite some time trying to shuffle round in my head into something I can take forward. You could say I need a personal Internet identity workshop knowledge data store….Identity based humour is clearly the future.

We Love Technology

We Love Technology Last week I attended ‘We Love Technology’ which was part of the LoveBytes festival in Sheffield.  The day was billed as ‘the latest adventures in the creative  use and misuse of emerging technology. Ten informal presentations by pioneering artists, designers and technologists exploring the theme of digital craft’‘ Which I think sums it up nicely in a couple of sentences.  Here is my take on the day.

First up were Steve Simons and Simon Blackmore of Owl Project who essentially build strange things out of wood such as log based synthesizers.  They demoed their very innovative Sticks UI which essentially requires you to bang together two sticks in a certain pattern to enable basic computer functions and typing,  requires a very good sense of rhythm and patience in abundance.

The best talk/story/narrative of the day was by James Boardwell of Rattle.   The title of the talk was ‘We Are Friction’ and I will make no attempt to do justice to what he said but just point you to the slides and the talk on his site here.  You can also check out some associated discussion around the creation of the talk from the Rattle Blog.

Crispin Jones showed off some of his thought provoking design work in the form of social mobiles, psychic desks,  and USB powered funbots.  His talk dealt with how the design of technology impacts how they are used and as such you can design to create a specific type of use e.g. A mobile that gives you electric shocks if you shout.  Crispin also showed some of his watches which impact the wearer by either giving messages of positive or negative reinforcement.  For example one of his watches reminded the wearer to ‘Remember you will die’ and conversely another watch that told the wearer  ‘All your friends love you’.

The first and only lady speaker of the day was Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino of  I saw Alexandra speak at TEDxSheffield last year and she was again excellent.  The talk was called build for victory and Alexandra started by showing how design, industrial design and hacking are really not that far apart.   As are the UK representatives of Arduino those little boards of fun also got a mention and she also told us to look busy as the Tories are coming.  One of the pieces that they have worked on recently that caught my eye was the Hopper Invasion which was an array of space hoppers attached to pumps that were then connected to the web this allowed people to tweet and interact with the exhibit i.e. pump up the balls.

Matt Pyke of Universal Everything and previously of legendary Sheffield outfit Designers Republic not only wowed people with some stunning animations, processing work and installations at the V&A but he also induced a great deal of shed envy by showing his garden studio. He also showed some old NY Sushi flyers which made me a little bit nostalgic.

Tobie Kerridge talked about his part in some interesting biomedical and cybernetic research as part of the Material beliefs project.  One idea presented here really stood out and that was networked bio sensors e.g. a digital plaster worn by patients that could relay medical information to a mobile device.  This is a fantastic idea but as well as thinking about the tech they also thought about the consequences i.e. what if someone else got that data such as a life insurance company.  The area of personal infomatics continues to fascinate me so this was right up my street.

William Ngan of Microsoft talked about his beautiful generative art which he presented on a Macbook running windows 7 which lead him to explain how he spent much of his time hiding his Mac from Steve Ballmer.

This was not the usual kind of event I would attend but the fact it was in my home city and is a subject I am interested in but know little about it seemed an opportunity not to be missed.  It was a really eye opening day and featured some awe inspiring works of genius.  I was also lucky enough to carry on some discussions afterwards in the newly opened Sheffield Tap which lead to some rather exuberant ideas to be discussed especially around those digital plasters and the concept of barely games.  We love technology, we love art but everyone will always love the liquid that has driven all kinds of craft and creativity…beer.