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May 19, 2013
While pottering around the workshop this afternoon building another Bubblino for a customer, I've had the Downloading Democracy 2013 debate on in the background. There were some really interesting points raised, particularly from Catherine Howe, but also from the other panellists and some of the audience. It's worth a watch if you're into citizenship or democracy.
I found it via a blog post introducing Lobbi from David Wilcox. I'm less convinced about Lobbi itself - my first impression is that it's someone throwing Web 2.0 buzzwords at politics, but I could be wrong.
There are real challenges with the digital divide, but also with building a system that doesn't just replace one elite with a geek elite instead - it's not just about getting people online, it's about who understands the technology at a deeper level, and ensuring that they don't gain an unfair advantage from that (and not by holding them back - more by informing and helping everyone else do the same).
All of which led me to wondering what sort of civic democracy discussions we should be having. And how we should be having them. I'd love it if there was a debate (or a series of debates) where a panel of Francis Irving, Dan Lynch, Maria Barrett and maybe one of the local MPs and some more "off-line" community members discussed some of the issues and started to tease out how we might move towards a more inclusive and better debate on society. Maybe chaired by David Bartlett or Stuart Wilks-Heeg.
Anyone want to organise it? Send me an invite when you get it sorted... ;-)
April 30, 2013
How (Not) to Get Picked
It reminds me a bit of one of the "strategies" in getting on with stuff that I'm fond of quoting (and mis-quoting). It's based on the view that "the Internet views censorship as damage and routes round it", and I tend to reappropriate it as applying "Internet thinking" to problems - see them as damage and route around them.
Lots of the societal issues seem deeply entrenched and hard to fix, yet rather than pour all our efforts into challenging the status quo, it's better to find ways round it that will (hopefully) in time create a new status quo where the established players find themselves irrelevant - at least with respect to the issue you were trying to solve.
It's not about them losing, it's about you creating something new. Focusing on being for that, rather than against the roadblocks has the handy side-effect of a more optimistic outlook, which feels more likely to succeed. It's more enjoyable along the way at least!
The other strategy to help you pick yourself is to follow what's interesting. Russell wrote about how to be interesting ages ago, and lots of it proves true.
Five years ago when I built Bubblino I was just following what interested me. Last week we had the prime location at the Internet World conference showing off Bubblino and a collection of other things.
When you do interesting things, people want to put you in interesting places.
April 17, 2013
Making the Civil Service More Technical
Russell has written an interesting blog post where he explains a bit about the team at GDS: the new, fashionable startup in London that just happens to actually be a part of the civil service - i.e. the Government.
In it he says:
From my perspective, a few steps removed (i.e. although I know quite a few people working at GDS, I've not had a conversation with any of them about any of this), this is just what happens when you get some people who are both passionate about what they're doing and who have the technical abilities to implement or understand it, and give them the authority to get on and build it.
It feels like this is us rediscovering what it's like to have people with good technical abilities in public service. As the existence of organisations like mySociety shows, there are plenty of geeks who aren't driven purely by a billion-dollar IPO, but the tendency towards outsourcing and private provision from big IT firms has meant that the scope for doing interesting and important technical work in the civil service (and in public service in general) no longer existed.
As a result, the civil service role had been reduced to a more managerial one, and you lose a lot of the practical knowledge. Couple that with a risk-averse environment, and you end up with the big - and by inference (though in practice size doesn't correlate with ability) safe - IT firms able to propose solutions which are skewed in their favour.
Hopefully the work at GDS will show that it's possible to have at least some of the technical team within the public sector walls, and with a more agile and responsive approach to building the services they can both be more flexible with working with private-sector teams and provide a better solution for less money.
I also wonder if this lesson maps onto other over-managerial parts of the public sector? Can we take this approach to free up the good, passionate teachers or the doctors and nurses who care about their patients above all else to do their best work?
March 30, 2013
Towards a More Equal Tech Culture
Given the timing of this blog post, it could come across as a response to the Adria Richards incident. It's not, at least not directly, I don't know what specifically (if anything) prompted the posts I'm responding to. For the best commentary on the Adria Richards debacle, see On being adult about childish behaviour... by Tom Coates.
Right. On to the matter at hand.
There are often blog posts and initiatives to encourage more women into technology, and as with all things I'm interested in what actions we can take to make engineering and technology more diverse.
I thought it was great that Alexandra (founder of Good Night Lamp, company I'm CTO for) kicked off a Tech City International Women's Day event and I'd love there to be a programme like the Etsy Hacker Grants here in Liverpool. See this talk on it for more details...
The companies I'm involved in at the moment aren't solvent enough to launch that right now, but hopefully in the future. I did suggest it to ACME/Liverpool Vision for their upcoming digital strategy for Liverpool. Maybe drop them a line to encourage them to do it if you think it's a good idea.
So what else to do? It's one of the (many) things that we worry about among the organisers here at DoES Liverpool. Our Dave ratio isn't that bad, but sadly that's because we don't have very many Daves.
I've always felt a bit paralysed on the issue but, indirectly from Suw's blog post agitating for a female Dr Who I found this post from John Scalzi explaining the issue in a way that I finally understood - Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is.
In particular, in a follow-up post he included this:
Well, that’s up to you, isn’t it? What I’m doing is pointing out a thing. What you do with that thing is your decision.
That said, here’s what I do: recognize it, and work to make it so the more difficult settings in life becomes closer to the one I get to run through life on — by making those less difficult, mind you, not making mine more so.
It's about levelling the playing field for everyone, but not by making it harder for straight, white males - by making it easier for everyone else.
However, that's the only place (I feel) where Straight White Male isn't the lowest difficulty setting - working out what would help matters. We have, thought not as much as we could/should, tried things out: we had a women hot-desk for free to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day, and the last two Barcamp Liverpool events have been Friday/Saturday rather than Saturday/Sunday so that people with childcare to think of can still attend some of it (which shouldn't be a women's issue, but tends to be proportionally so in the UK today).
Our, my, concern is that such attempts are missing the point, at best, or patronising, at worst.
Hence this blog post. What should we be doing to improve diversity at DoES Liverpool and in technology in general? If you're starting a meetup or want to celebrate the next Ada Lovelace Day (13th Oct this year) or International Women's Day or something more useful that I can't think of, and you think I can help, then get in touch.
March 24, 2013
An Assortment of (relatively) Old But Interesting Links
These tabs have been cluttering up my browser for months now... nagging reminders that I'm not blogging as much as I'd like (one of many things I'm not finding as much time to do as I like, but what's new...)
Anyway, rather than just close them, I'll share them here. Feel free to read them and then imagine what the blog post they would've inspired would look like, or write one of your own instead :-)
- Reversing the Decline in Big Ideas
- The Entrepreneurial Generation
- Sending Astronauts to Explore the New Economy (this was a really good one)
- The Local-Global Flip, or, "The Lanier Effect" (actually, this was too - about the Internet's affect on society IIRC)
- 'Smart City' Planning Needs Just the Right Balance
- Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong (this was a great piece about how little sharing actually happens on "social media", compared to shared among people in general, something to bear in mind when the social media experts and companies are trying to persuade you otherwise...)
- No to NoUI (The NoUI phenomenon as a specific term had passed me by, but Timo does a fantastic job of explaining how we should disregard anyone trying to sell us a "seamless, invisible interface")
- He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman
March 04, 2013
Sun, SF, Startups and Sub-par Strategy
It's been a strange day. In the main it's been a lovely day - I've spent it getting brunch and hanging out with a load of engaging and interesting people in the SoMa and Mission districts of San Francisco (we're presenting Good Night Lamp at the Launch Festival this week). It was a warm, sunny day perfect for promenading and chatting, which is what we did.
They are all founders of, or working in, a startup. I don't think I've encountered that since I was in Cambridge, but the difference here is lots of them are startups you'll have heard of. I don't get that in Silicon Roundabout - in a grouping of a dozen or so people there'll be a sizeable number working at digital agencies, and in Liverpool even more will be freelance/agency and a few not in technology at all.
Some of the conversation was about startup culture and how, despite the obvious economic benefits for the winners, it's fuelling a bubble which is spawning lots of me-too and superficial startups, and pricing people (even relatively successful geeks) out of property and gentrifying the city (which is seen as a bad thing).
There's an element of "first world problems" and self-aware I-know-I'm-part-of-the-problem to all this, as I'll readily admit to with my influence on the Georgian quarter in Liverpool, but it's not clear what the solution would be.
At least it confirms that recreating Silicon Valley isn't what we should be aspiring to, but rather we should be looking for ways to combine the economic benefits of a startup ecosystem including some big successes with a skew towards solving "good" problems (where "good" is obviously rather nebulous, but is mostly about not just about creating economic value - so in addition to obvious social good, that would include Flickr, for example, but be less keen on SEO firms or Groupon). And look to avoid creating a monoculture where any one industry dominates the city.
Then when I got back to my hotel, an email to the DoES Liverpool mailing list pointed me at this report on high-growth companies in Merseyside.
It's not a particularly good, or interesting, report but it struck a strange juxtaposition with the conversations earlier in the day. As usual, it makes the mistake of equating "digital and creative" with digital marketing agencies (see Digital? Creative? Startup? for my earlier thoughts on this) and so entirely misses tech startups from its analysis. It also persists in segmenting companies on their local authority, as if Sefton and Knowsley, and to a lesser extent St. Helens, are useful separations from Liverpool for anyone other than local councillors.
It claims to be better than previous, similar reports because of its data-driven analysis. However, whilst using data from Yell.com and Thomson(!) will be an improvement over the SIC codes used by Government, I'm unconvinced that in 2013 it provides as complete a picture as the author claims, and also means it focuses on existing (at best, and historic at worst) companies rather than looking to the future and what could be.
As a result it seems an unconvincing piece of analysis to support the rather atypical local business accelerator programme Project EV. Which is rather apt, in a way.
February 20, 2013
Pondering Liverpool's Digital Infrastructure Strategy
At the end of the working day today, as a bunch of my co-workers at DoES Liverpool sloped off to the pub for a pint, I headed over to Liverpool Vision's offices on the other side of the city centre for a meeting about the city's digital infrastructure strategy plan.
John had been asked to go and represent DoES Liverpool, but couldn't make it and so I went instead. It was one of those meetings where you feel a bit of an ego boost for having been asked, but that's tempered by having to sit through a load of powerpoint slides and you can never work out whether you made any contribution or if it was just another hour-and-a-half of your life you won't get back. Still, you get lovely views over the city from Liverpool Vision's offices.
ACME, the part of Liverpool Vision which helps companies in the creative and digital sector (see last week's blog post Digital? Creative? Startup? for more of my thoughts on that...) are trying to work out what they can, or need, to do to help the city compete digitally. It's not a task I envy.
The meeting itself was to gather thoughts and opinions from local creative and digital firms to feed into the strategy document, which is still being drafted. It was a mixed bag - it got hung up on superfast broadband timescales for something like half the meeting, but also covered the buzz in the city now and how the council should be looking to support the direction and ambition of the companies, rather than defining a strategic direction that each of us will just ignore if it doesn't match what we're doing.
I'm still not sure how these sorts of documents or plans have any real effect, especially when there's little money around to implement them, and a host of funding rules to limit what can be done.
I think my main action point from the meeting would be to send anyone involved in setting our digital strategy a copy of Brad Feld's Startup Communities (see the previous blog post for my notes on that) but here are a few thoughts around what might be useful.
Firstly, I wouldn't worry much about the broadband issue. Include something about encouraging it by all means, but any strategy document in any city will be proclaiming how great theirs is going to be, so it's a useless differentiator. Focus instead on things that other cities won't necessarily have put in.
How about encouraging more women into technology, and to starting tech startups? There was one woman in the invited group today, and in the introductions she discounted herself as "just here with him". Aiming to change that would be a great start. Liverpool has had lots of groundbreaking women in other fields in the past, and I think we should be encouraging that in technology too.
More technology startups is a strong focus of many of us in the DoES Liverpool community too. I've written recently about how they differ from "digital and creative", and that's spawned some good debate on the DoES Liverpool mailing list. I did promise ACME a position piece about this last summer, which I've still not managed to finish, but this recent blogging is (in part) me working out some of my thoughts on the topic.
As to areas of opportunity for the city to take the lead, they already had Open Data in their slides and I suggested (as everyone would expect...) the Internet of Things. In both cases that's only because there are people and businesses in the city already doing good work in those areas, and that's how the strategy should work. For emerging technologies, it always needs to be led by people on the ground working in whichever particular tech. So find the good companies, and follow them.
With open data, there's a lot the council can do to open up its own data. It's less clear how they can directly support the Internet of Things, although opening up sensor data and providing ways (APIs, etc.) for others to access infrastructure like Walrus card and the "Boris bike" equivalent would be good. Helping promote the technologies to the rest of the city would be useful too - a more switched on populace will help provide local demand for the tech startups products, and also be more likely to come up with new, related ideas which would (hopefully) lead to more startups.
February 19, 2013
Blog All Dog-eared Pages: Startup Communities
A few others had read it and recommended it following that, but I hadn't had chance to look at it until the weekend just gone. It's a fairly compact read, and I got through most of it on the train ride to and from Hebden Bridge for the Bridge Rectifier Howduino.
If you've any interest in encouraging more startups in your community, you should pick up a copy. Check out the Steve Blank review if you want a good primer on it, or read on for the snippets (lots for such a short book!) that resonated with me while I read it.
[...] Boulder is an incredibly inclusive community. Although there is some competition between companies, especially over talent, the community is defined by a strong sense of collaboration and philosophy of "giving before you get." If you contribute, you are rewarded, often in unexpected ways. At the same time, especially since it's a small community, it's particularly intolerant of bad actors. If you aren't sincere, constructive, and collaborative, the community behaves accordingly.
It's my belief that Boulder is unique because the entrepreneurs and other participants in Boulder's startup ecosystem have a greater sense of community than anywhere else in the country. The ethos of mentorship and support by the people who comprise Boulder's startup community were firmly in place when TechStars arrived in 2007. David Cohen's brilliant idea was merely the lightning rod that sparked one of the greatest job-creation engines our country has ever seen.
The biggest observation I can offer from having a front row seat to seeing Boulder becoming one of the hottest startup markets in the United States over the last decade is that there was no strategic plan. Government had little to do with it and there weren't committees wading in bureaucratic quicksand wasting hundreds of hours of people's time strategizing about how to create more startups. Boulder caught fire because a few dozen entrepreneurs believed in their hearts that a rising tide lifts all boats and the derived great pleasure from helping make that happen.
[In her book Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128, AnnaLee Saxenian] persuasively argues that a culture of openness and information exchange fuelled Silicon Valley's ascent over Route 128. This argument is tied to network effects, which are better leveraged by a community with a culture of information sharing across companies and industries.
"The Boulder Thesis", Feld's framework for how to build a sustainable startup community:
- Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community.
- The leaders must have a long-term commitment.
- The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it.
- The startup community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack.
I define an entrepreneur as someone who has co-founded a company. I differentiate between "high-growth entrepreneurial companies" and "small businesses". Both are important, but they are different things. Entrepreneurial companies have the potential to be or are high-growth businesses whereas small businesses tend to be local, profitable, but slow-growth organizations.
Great entrepreneurial companies, such as Apple, Genentech, Microsoft, and Intel, were started during down economic cycles. It takes such a long time to create something powerful that, almost by definition, you'll go through several economic cycles on the path to glory.
Everyone in the startup community should have a perspective that having more people engaged in the startup community is good for the startup community. Building a startup community is not a zero-sum game in which there are winners and losers; if everyone engages, they and the entire community can all be winners.
There is no "leader of the leaders." The best startup communities are loosely organized and consist of broad, evolving networks of people. By having inclusive philosophies, it's very easy for new leaders to emerge organically. Furthermore, there are no votes, no hierarchy, no titles, and no specific roles. Since the leaders are entrepreneurs, they are used to ambiguity as well as a rapid and continuous evolution of the community.
The startup community is always evolving. If the entrepreneurial leaders try to control this evolution, they will fail and undermine their previous efforts. Instead, entrepreneurial leaders should embrace this evolution, encourage and support new things, people, and ideas, and recognize that other entrepreneurs' leadership is additive to the system. Rather than view it as a zero-sum game, in which there's a leader on top, they view it as a game with increasing returns, in which the larger the number of entrepreneurs involved, the more great things happen.
Finally, if you work for the government and are excited about entrepreneurship, don't be afraid to engage deeply as a participant in the startup community. This will be after hours and on weekends, just like everyone else. But you'll be welcomed. And who knows, you might decide to be an entrepreneur.
Universities have five resources relevant to entrepreneurship: students, professors, research labs, entrepreneurship programs, and technology transfer offices. The first two resources, which are people, are much more important than the last three, which are institutions. The idea that people are always more important than institutions is fundamental to creating a healthy startup community.
If someone is visiting from out of town, the leader should quickly introduce the person to about 10 people she thinks are relevant so the visitor can quickly get a bunch of meetings set up to explore the local startup community. Although a leader can occasionally chaperone a person around, it's more powerful to get the community to work by building a culture in which everyone in the community is willing to spend time with someone new in town.
On the idea of giving people who say they want to help a simple task to do, that will aid the community
A quarter of the time the person does the assignment and reports back. This is useful, because I can now filter this person into the category of "a doer." Every startup community needs people to do things; there are an infinite number of specific tasks that are needed on an ongoing basis. Finding people who are good at just getting stuff done is hard.
On experimenting and failing fast
One easy filter [for an idea or project] is whether leaders for the individual initiatives emerge on their own. If the leaders of the overall organization have to assign the initiatives, then these initiatives likely are of lower value. However, if participants in the organization or the broader startup community step up and take on the specific initiatives, their chance of succeeding is much higher.
Interestingly, I did notice the patriarch problem when I engaged with the Denver startup community. It was something that stood out early on; Boulder operated as a network and Denver operated as a hierarchy. In Denver, it mattered who you were, where you went to school, where you had worked, and who you knew. In contrast, the only thing that mattered in Boulder was what you did.
This pretty much sums up the difference in attitude I felt when moving to Liverpool from Cambridge. Liverpool welcomed me regardless, whereas Cambridge seemed full of the old guard who were passing judgement over whose ideas were worthy enough to indulge. Not exclusively, obviously, in either city, but noticeable.
Government is another instigator of feeder control. Although this happens at a federal, state, and local level, it's most obvious at a state level. A new governor is elected. After the typical six-month settling in process, he and the recently appointed head of economic development declare that innovation is a key driver of economic growth for the state and they convene an "innovation council." This innovation council takes another six months to get going while it recruits the appropriate high-profile members. It then creates a set of high-profile public events to spread innovation across the state. Everything is abstract, filled with pomp and circumstance, and usually disconnected from whatever is actually going on in the startup community.
[At the BDNT events] We were also getting regular requests for nametags. Surprisingly, the event still felt intimate, even though it was 40 percent new and averaged 250 people per month. We opted to try something different and went for chaos over formality. At the beginning of BDNT, the seated audience was asked to take one minute to meet someone new. The room erupted into a roar and it often took five minutes to quiet everyone down and start the show. Today each event begins using this icebreaker technique.
BDNT succeeded for the same reasons most startups succeed; a stubborn founder with a vision, an ability to creatively adapt to market demand, and free beer.
A dozen years ago, Phil Weiser, now the dean of the CU Law School, started an initiative that is now called the Silicon Flatirons Center. I tease Phil constantly about the name because I strongly believe "Silicon [Insert Geographic Landform here]" is not a good name for anything. He responds, as every dean should, that a significant financial contribution will cause a name change.
Too right. It was a playful swipe at "Silicon Whatever" that gave us the name for the Cathedral Valley group.
[The Silicon Flatiron Center] expanded the law school's entrepreneurial law clinic to get the law students out into the startup community via free legal support. They reached out to partner with entrepreneurship-minded individuals across campus to start the New Venture Challenge, a campus-wide business-plan competition. They used the Silicon Flatirons platform to regularly bring amazing, interesting people to the CU campus to engage with the Boulder startup community.
Because many of the government leaders, and almost all of the government employees, have never been entrepreneurs, they can't relate to the dynamics of how entrepreneurship really works.
Every quarter I see reports in the local newspaper about things like increased/decreased amount of VC activity in the quarter, the number of patents granted as an indicator of innovation activity, and monthly changes in unemployment. Our governor makes an annual state of the state address in which he focuses on the changes in the state's economic output. The business newspapers report annual earnings, change in stock prices, and total compensation of executives in the same way they report box scores in the sports section. Almost all of this information is irrelevant to a set of entrepreneurial leaders on a long-term journey to create a sustainable startup community.
One of my deeply held beliefs to the secret of success in life is to give before you get. In this approach, I am always willing to try to be helpful to anyone, without having a clear expectation of what is in it for me.
You rarely hear the words "What's in it for me?" around Boulder; rather it's "How can I be helpful?" Introductions flow freely, as do invitations. As I travel around the country, I hear people talking about how easy it is to engage with people in Boulder and how good karma flows freely. This is give before you get hard at work.
In a hierarchy, when someone suggests something, the immediate reaction is to start asking questions and try to figure out why it won't work. In a network, the opposite approach often happens. When someone suggests something, just respond with, "Awesome - go do it." They either will or they won't. You'll recognize this as being similar to the approach of giving people assignments. You get a natural filtering process. If someone doesn't move forward with an idea, no time was wasted. If they do, then the results appear and often more people get involved.
I've adopted this in Boulder. Whenever I want to have a long discussion with a CEO or founder who I'm working with, or need to work through something with someone, we often walk out the door of my office and make a loop around town. More and more, I see other entrepreneurs walking and talking to each other, working through whatever is on their mind, while changing the context from a small conference room to the great outdoors.
Each city [of the four main cities in Colorado, all within 2 hours drive of each other] has a strong individual identity, and civic pride causes many to work hard to highlight their city as the best in the state. This results in another missed opportunity to connect the startup communities in an effort to amplify entrepreneurship across the state.
Almost every person in the room was starting a business [...]. When they asked what they needed to get plugged into the patriarchs I met the night before, I said "Ignore them. If and when you are successful, they will come to you. Go do something great and don't worry about them."
In less than a year, the energy level in Colorado Springs is off the charts. Startups are coming out of the woodwork everywhere and the entrepreneurs are once again the leaders. The patriarchs didn't do it. The ones talking about it didn't do it. The government didn't do it. The entrepreneurs did it!
Less than one in fie of the fastest-growing companies in the United States take any venture capital at any point in their history. Less than 0.5 percent of all new businesses in the United States ever raise venture capital. Where do they get capital if they don't get venture capital and they're too nascent for banks? The usual ways: friends, family, credit cards, and, the best way of financing a business - from their own customers.
February 13, 2013
Digital? Creative? Startup?
I don't think I get particularly hung up over labels. I've worked with people for whom their job title was more important than their pay packet, and as long as the company could conjure up new levels of importance (senior, principal...) they were happy. I've never really cared what was written on my business cards, and I don't think my MCQN Ltd cards list any job title (and I can't be bothered to go and check now).
It has tended to be the same with the company itself. MCQN Ltd has elements of consultancy or digital agency/studio work alongside the longer-term product/startup efforts, and so my description of it matches whatever situation requires the description. If I had to pin it down to one or other though, it would be the product company or a tech startup.
I know, that's not pinning it down to one description, but it's close enough for now.
When I was in Cambridge, it really didn't matter - there you were either building a tech company or you were a contractor (or freelancer) who worked at a tech company. There were some lifestyle businesses which were groups of people providing contractors to other tech companies, but overwhelming if you were talking about tech companies they'd be the sort of Silicon Valley style startups looking to build a website, service or product that would scale massively without requiring the company itself to scale at the same rate. Many were funded by venture capitalists or angel investors, but that wasn't a requirement - there had been enough exits (companies being bought, or floating on the stock market) for some people to self-fund, at least initially.
Moving to Liverpool I encountered a completely new (to me) phenomenon - the digital and creative sector. It seems to be a North-West thing, rather than a Liverpool one in particular, where anything involving computers gets labelled as such. I'm coming to realise that it stems from the advertising agency/media world, which isn't surprising given the strength of those industries in the NW - particularly in television. There are echoes of it in London too, although it seemed to be referred to as new media down there.
I didn't think much to it at first, but I'm beginning to think that it's detrimental to the development of the sort of company I want to build, and the sort of company I think we should be encouraging in Liverpool.
As I see it (and as usual, this is me thinking-by-writing, so more than happy to discuss it), the problem is that it takes the media agency organisational structure as its model. That's great for building web and mobile agencies, who can pull together a website or a phone app for a client, and I suspect Liverpool and Manchester each have more web agencies than Cambridge does. That doesn't mean that either are in the same league when it comes to developing innovative technology or companies like Facebook, or Google, or Microsoft.
I'm not saying we should stop encouraging more of those sorts of companies, but that we should stop lumping the more scalable companies in with them. Scraperwiki already try to do this by calling themselves "a Silicon Valley style startup", but that feels a bit of a mouthful to me. Startup would be the usual term in technology circles, but is often used for any new business these days, so I wonder if tech startup would work?
Identifying tech startups separately will raise the profile of that sort of business, and encourage more people to push in that direction. If we combine that with Liverpool's creative streak, maybe we'll manage what has so far eluded the rest of the UK and build some tech firms to rival the US giants.
January 23, 2013
Links: Design, the Internet of Things, legalities and work
Things are rather busy at the minute, and I'd amassed a few open tabs in Firefox of assorted things I thought "ooh, I should share that" when I encountered them in my RSS reading. Normally they'd just go out as a tweet, with a brief bit of background but as (a) I'm not on twitter as much at the minute (see earlier point about being busy...) and (b) when I am, I'm already sharing plenty of links (partly because we're in promo mode for the Good Night Lamp kickstarter campaign and partly because I've been blogging quite a lot - for me of late - recently) I figured I'd continue the blogging-kick and post an old school link post.
- Hack Design An online course trying to teach developers how to be better designers. I've signed up, and so far it's been quite interesting. We'll see how long I last...
- A few thoughts on design and the internet of things. A fairly long piece from Tim Burrell-Saward, which suggests some design principles for connected devices. It's nice to see other people starting to talk about these sorts of things. I liked "make it Poppins"
- Tom Coates - An Animating Spark: Mundane Computing and the Web of Data. More principles for the Internet of Things, this time from Tom Coates. Principle #3 is excellent, although I'm not sure I agree with principle #7, I can see why he's included it but I'm much more a fan of keeping intelligence at the edge of the network where possible.
- A Moment of Silence for Aaron Swartz. Bunnie Huang sharing his experiences of challenging tech behemoths and how the legal system can be used against someone doing things on the edges of the ordinary. A great post, such a shame it was written in the tragic circumstances of Aaron Schwartz's suicide.
- Hiut Denim - Do the work. Now you're (hopefully) fired up about doing important work and changing the world, a great reminder from Hiut Denim that all we need to do now is the hard work it takes.
Which is a good note for me to end on - part of the reason I've been blogging (a bit) more of late is that it works as a good way to get my writing muscle-memory going, so I can get on with finishing the next chapter of my book (another thing I'm long overdue explaining here, but that will have to wait for another day...)