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July 28, 2014
Interesting Things on the Internet: July 28th 2014 Edition
- What is public? Anil Dash doing a great job of setting out how public/private isn't a black and white issue. "Ultimately, we rely on a set of unspoken social agreements to make it possible to live in public and semi-public spaces."
- "An experience is something that leaves an impression on you; everyday activities ought to do no such thing, or we would all be exhausted within minutes of waking up. Using your phone, except perhaps when it’s brand new, should not be an experience."
And a video of Bruce Sterling's talk at FAB10:
"I'm a smart city but my brain is run in California"
July 21, 2014
Interesting Things on the Internet: July 21st 2014 Edition
- Dark Matter. How museums and galleries should embrace Internet Thinking, but applicable to lots more than that.
- This Is How Your Financial Data Is Being Used to Serve You Ads. Interesting, if rather frustrating, look at how data is used to serve you more ads.
- Thirty Things I’ve Learned. Life lessons. Nothing revolutionary, but good to be reminded of these things.
- An Open Rant Against Birthday Dinners. I'm not sure what a better option would be, but lots of that rings true :-)
- Disappointingly the DRIP legislation was passed this week, so this good speech from Martha Lane Fox was in vain.
- Surveillance and Austerity. Politics these days is all about keeping people in their place, so the powerful can keep consolidating theirs. We deserve a better alternative.
- Don’t blame the mandarins "every department should have its Chief Historian, in order to remind the short term and media-harried boss of the day exactly how many times his recent idea has failed."
July 15, 2014
The Toxteth Jellyfish
I live on the edge of Toxteth, a borough of Liverpool. It is "best" known as the location of the riots in 1981 - you can see the Rialto (a landmark point in the unrest) from my front door.
It's more gentrified these days, particularly the town side of Upper Parliament Street, although it still suffered a little in the 2011 flare-up.
I pass through it pretty often, but generally only the through-routes and during the day. Having heard many scare stories over the years, it was with a little trepidation (though not enough to force me onto the main roads) that I ventured off on foot through the side streets as dusk descended.
It was much more animated than I expected. Not busy, but markedly more people out and about than I'd expect, given the time of day. Both walking somewhere, and pottering about in their front gardens or just sitting on the stoop. Very much Jane Jacobs' "eyes on the street".
I was a few minutes early as I neared my destination, and I wondered if those eyes would become suspicious if I ended up loitering, given it was outside an empty shop.
Turning the final corner, I saw there were three other people hanging around there already. As I approached I greeted them with what sounded like a secret service code phrase - "Are you here jellyfish spotting?". They were.
I'd assumed I'd be the only person out to see tonight's unveiling. I'm not quite sure why, this is Liverpool after all. By five-past ten, when the shutters had opened and we could see the luminescent jellyfish in their tanks, the group had swelled to about twenty - arty types; a few dog walkers; drivers pulled up to see what was happening; a couple of mothers, with their young kids, in their dressing gowns, obviously being allowed up late to come and see the show. I even ended up discussing laser-cutting techniques with an artist who'd actually sent us an email about it in the time since I'd left my flat!
The jelly fish are there for The Physical Possibility of Inspiring Imagination in the Mind of Somebody Living, a Biennial artwork by Walter Hugo and Zoniel.
I don't know if it will inspire imagination, but it was great to see so many people drawn into the depths of Toxteth so late in the evening.
July 13, 2014
Interesting Things on the Internet: July 13th 2014 Edition
This week's "Interesting Things" brought to you a day earlier than normal, as there's still a small window of opportunity for UK citizens to contact their MP about tomorrow's vote on the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill. It's easy to send them an email, just head to www.writetothem.com. My letter looked like this.
- Colonising the Clouds. Could Google, Facebook, etc. start thinking of themselves as the new states?
- Forcing through the surveillance laws is a further erosion of political trust
- Something terrible could be happening in Parliament on Monday and I need your urgent attention.
- DRIP: a shabby process for a shady law.
July 07, 2014
Interesting Things on the Internet: July 7th 2014 Edition
- Retail futures, mediated through our phones. Premature monetisation risks ruining the future city. The slick user story of personalised service, smoothly delivered to the wealthy relaxed consumer as they browse the aisles is seductive. We told ourselves we were “improving” the experience. The reality is going to be every single store, shouting with a desperate digital screech, delivering invasive messages and insta-deals.
- You and your research. Text of a great speech about the discipline and techniques required to do great work.
- The Disloyal.
- Can we stop talking about transformation? Julian on fine form. Looking forward to discussing smarter cities with him at an event on July 10th
- (Not only) Women sailing on a new holistic business wave. Contributoria continues to attract good work (and they've just introduced an option to subscribe to a printed version too)
July 04, 2014
Planning and the Department of Civic Design
Russell's most recent blog post reminds me of when I first started reading his blog. He had some sort of "planning club", which was very alien to me as I had no idea what this "planning" was - as it seemed to bear little resemblance to any of the planning I'd undertaken or encountered up until that point.
Still, as evidenced in his video, it was all interesting stuff. I think going by his explanation that the most important skill of the planner is to get people to do stuff, I'd like to learn to be more of a planner.
Back when I was choosing my career options at school, it was a toss up between computing and advertising. As crazy as that sounds now, given how badly I seem to do at promoting what I do for a living, it's true. Maybe in an alternate reality there's a version of me who had a career as a planner.
Anyway, the real reason I'm writing this blog post is actually to take issue with a throwaway comment Russell makes at the start of the video - that town planning was invented in the 1960s.
According to a rather interesting little exhibition at the that I never got round to blogging about (back in November 2009 it turns out), town planning was invented much earlier with the first university department for it founded at the University of Liverpool in 1909.
That had the much nicer name of the Department of Civic Design. Maybe that's something we should re-appropriate for a mySociety-style smart city movement?
My favourite bit of the exhibition was finding out that the department was founded with a grant from Lord Lever, he of the soap fame, when he handed over his winnings from having taken the Daily Mail to court for libel.
I took a couple of photos of the exhibition, but it turns out they're mostly uselessly blurry. This one, however, deserves more of an airing - I'm sure it'll come in handy for smart city slide decks...
Update, 9th July 2014: Thanks to Tristam on Twitter for tracking down that the picture was drawn by Patrick Abercrombie in 1913, and then updated in 1933 for his book "Town & Country Planning"
June 30, 2014
Interesting Things on the Internet: June 30th Edition
- On Taxis and Rainbows. How not to anonymize data sets, in this case NYC taxi journeys.
- A protest bot is a bot so specific you can’t mistake it for bullshit. Really tempted to write a bot to track the number of jobs lost/created according to estate agent/regeneration press releases. Think it'll have to wait until I've more time.
- The open source revolution is coming and it will conquer the 1% - ex CIA spy. I wonder if this provides at least one vision of an alternate future in a serendipitous response to last week's Maximum Happy Imagination?
- Of Moonshots and Slingshots: Bringing Policy and Technology into Planetary Alignment "It's been a long time since any nation staked its national pride on exploring space, or, frankly, doing much of anything useful at all"
- In Deep. A wonderfully written account of a deep cave exploration expedition.
- The Disruption Machine. Another long read (like the caving link), this time an interesting critique of innovation and disruption.
- The coolest culture hack of all is not hacking your culture. Culture is too important to hack.
- Corrupt Personalization. A great article, with good concrete examples (from Facebook in this case) of how personalization can be a bad thing.
And a video to watch this week. Vinay Gupta setting out some plausible utopias:
June 23, 2014
Interesting Things on the Internet: June 23rd Edition
- UK intelligence forced to reveal secret policy for mass surveillance of residents’ Facebook and Google use. So, AIUI, the Government would need a warrant to read an email I send someone, but not to read a private message sent via Facebook or Twitter...
- Anne, Sue, Bob and Nigel too, a short story about privacy, politics and the press. Part of the reason the previous link is an important, and disgraceful revelation.
- Be Nice Or Leave.
- Maptime: Changing culture in geospatial tech learning, one meetup at a time. I've been wrangling OpenStreetMap data to produce laser-cutter files of late, so rather envious of beginners mapping groups in other cities.
- Six steps to better business digital of things. I do wonder if the field that "Pretend Office is one of the best companies in the field that it’s in" is writing strategy documents for the council. Or maybe some other local companies...
- The sun does not rise: How magical thinking haunts our everyday language, and fossilised ideas live on in even the most sophisticated science
- Maximum Happy Imagination. Matt Jones pointing out how all these visionaries who look to disrupt everything always seem to stop shy of disrupting the consumer-capitalism environment itself...
June 16, 2014
Interesting Things on the Internet: June 16th Edition
- We lost the war. Welcome to the world of tomorrow. This piece on surveillance technology could have been written today. However, it was actually written back in 2005!
- The art of asking: or, how to ask and get what you want.. This is something I still struggle with, especially when it's for important things like work. Go on, hire me to build you an interesting IoT device. (Always be practising ;-)
- And via that last link, also Creative People Say No. I always find that tricky to balance, particularly while trying to grow a culture, which puts me more in the manager role where you have to be available to help people...
- Industry clusters: The modern-day snake oil. It's all about the people. As ever. Which makes it trickier to engage with. (But I don't think it's impossible. Anyone want to pay me to work up my ideas into an alternate strategy?)
- Leila Johnston is interviewed by Cory Doctorow. Lots of good thinking about tech, art and capitalism (but much more readable than I've just made it sound!)
- Consumers, users, people, mammals. Russell doing his usual sterling job of clarifying things that you hadn't spotted needing clarification until he showed you.
June 09, 2014
Interesting Things on the Internet: June 9th Edition
- Nobody Goes to Art School to Make Money, so Fuck Off. "In other words, we went to this art school because we too are interested in programming and making, but disagree with the rest of what we see in the tech industry now."
- The Good, the Normal and the Everyday. Thought-provoking ruminations on craft, democratized design and making.
- Reality Distortion Field. There are no short cuts, just enjoy the work and get on with it.
- Designing the Good Life: The Ethics of User Experience Design. Lots to chew on here, about what work you undertake. Not just applicable to designers.
- Mike Monteiro - How Designers Destroyed the World. And once you've read the slides in the previous link, go watch this.
- Adam Phillips, The Art of Nonfiction No. 7. "The need not to know yourself. Symptoms are forms of self-knowledge. When you think, I’m agoraphobic, I’m a shy person, whatever it may be, these are forms of self-knowledge. What psychoanalysis, at its best, does is cure you of your self-knowledge." (there are more bits I could quote, but that was the one that drew me in initially)