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May 25, 2015
Interesting Things on the Internet: May 25th 2015
- False prophets [post 48/100] Beware the shyster futurists.
- My Wife's Struggle With Cancer - The Friend. A heart-wrenching yet beautiful story.
- Tech giants’ utopian branding drifts ever further from their amoral reality. And now that you're thinking about what's important in the world, here's an article to remind you how messed up the frothy tech startup world is...
- My life, standing on the shore. As in freelance writing, so in running a business. Writers just have a better way of expressing that ;-)
May 18, 2015
Interesting Things on the Internet: May 18th 2015
- The only way is down: 18 notes on the UK election. I'm glad I got to spend last weekend holed up in Hebden Bridge busy with load of interesting people at a fun-yet-full-on hack weekend. With a few days perspective, this is the best of the analysis I've read on the election result.
- New Clues, from Doc Searls and David Weinberger. Commandments, rules... a manifesto for the Internet. And if you haven't read their original Cluetrain Manifesto, go read that too.
- ‘Community Led’ – Moving beyond victims and heroes. A good reminder - borne of the lovely news about Granby being nominated for the Turner Prize - that the truth is more complicated than the narratives we hear from the media (and each other).
May 11, 2015
Interesting Things on the Internet: May 11th 2015
- I miss not being scared.
- To Invent the Future, You Must Understand the Past. Great piece on the history of Silicon Valley.
- The programming talent myth. Fantastic piece about the hero-culture of software. I love the metaphor of making it more like running.
- Riskstarter. If we don't have failed kickstarter projects, we aren't exploring the edges enough.
May 04, 2015
Interesting Things on the Internet: May 4th 2015
- The Internet Mapmakers Helping Nepal. Good write-up of the great work the HOTOSM team are doing.
- Why are you still here?. As in Grimsby, so the rest of the country. Tales of decline, regeneration, politics and globalisation.
- Jamie Oliver: how to chop an onion. Fantastic re-working of Jamie Oliver footage.
- Our better selves are bold and inclusive. It feels to me like this is the crux of choice for our politics. I definitely feel myself get protective, cautious and zero-sum game in my outlook when I'm stressed and fearful for how things might map out, and as a result miss out on opportunities and the possibilities of an optimistic outlook. It's something that I've lost in the past decade, and sorely hope I can get back - that something-will-come-up unassailability that was a core of my character when I was younger (and I don't think it's an age thing, it's something I caught from an ex-girlfriend). An optimistic UK is far better than a fearful, pessimistic one. It's such a shame that our politicians think the latter makes us easier to manipulate for their gain.
- The Limits of Utopia. A simultaneously depressing and galvanising read. "The Earth is not being blistered because the despoilers are stupid or irrational or making a mistake or have insufficient data."
- #lowerthanvermin. An interesting look through the career of Nye Bevan. I particularly liked that "he was apparently disappointed by the fact that the miners’ leader Will Lawther considered the NUM’s role to be the defence of workers against management, not pursuit of the possibility of its being the management." That feels like the problem the unions have always suffered from in my lifetime.
Doing Business Support Right
There are a lot of business support organisations in Liverpool. I'm not sure if there are really more than I encountered in Cambridge - whether it's a result of the area needing to "be regenerated" or if it's just because it's a bigger city or if I'm just noticing it more now. If it wasn't for the fact that pastries and coffee don't make a balanced diet, you could probably close the food banks by giving people a business suit to wear and signing them up to the right mailing lists.
The projects are all well meaning, and there is definitely room for more people doing interesting things in the city, including running more businesses.
However, lots of the "business support" falls short of making any real difference to things. I'm sure they'll have the survey results to prove different, but no-one gathers any figures for the amount of time lost by businesses trying to work out if this latest networking event is worth attending...
For the past five years or so the best - by a good margin, although that's partly to do with the quality of the competition - support for the tech community in Liverpool has been from LJMU's Open Labs.
Sadly, it looks like their funding is coming to an end and with it the support. I'm writing the blog post partly to thank them for what they've done for the city, and partly to try to capture why they were so helpful, in the hope that those following in their wake can raise their game.
So, a non-exhaustive list of ways to do business support properly...
- Be part of the community. Get out of the building. Go and find the businesses you're supporting. Get to know them. Get to a point where they know you, and what you can help with. Then they'll start to refer people to you. Seek people out, as the most interesting ones will probably be too busy to come looking for you. This is the most important point in the entire list, as it makes the rest of your job much easier. It also means that at times you'll have to give up evenings or weekends, as some of the community's activities take place then.
- Experiment. Try new things out and be creative in thinking of ways to support people. Jelly Liverpool started as a fairly low-key experiment to bring the Work at Jelly concept to Liverpool, yet it brought together all manner of freelancers and more into a community, and spawned groups on the Wirral and in Crosby.
- Look for win-win solutions. Open Labs were keen to find ways that their support would bring benefit beyond what was immediately being funded. For example, as part of the support for OggCamp the Open Hardware Jam included building a 3d printer from scratch during the event. That meant that once the weekend was over, there was a 3d printer which could live at DoES Liverpool and enhance its workshop.
- Make connections. Part of getting out and meeting the community means that you get to know lots of people and what they do. Use that knowledge to put people in touch with each other where there could be synergies or similar interests.
- Get out of the way. If you can't help people, don't waste their time even if it would tick off one of your "outputs". Take Open Lab's Andy Goodwin's phrase "I get paid to have meetings, you don't." to heart and remember that the time you take up from businesses comes out of their pocket. Make sure it's worth it.
- Work with everybody. Open Labs were always happy, and keen, to work with anyone in the city, if they were doing something good. Looking beyond petty rivalries to the bigger picture is something that I struggle with at times, and Open Labs were always a reminder to me that I should do better.
- Do the hard work to work out what support is needed. The real support that businesses need isn't the generic support you wrote about in your funding application. And while everybody likes free money, there are often better options than doling that out. Combine the first two points on this list and you'll have much greater impact. The most valuable support that DoES Liverpool has had was when Open Labs bought a laser-cutter and installed it in our workshop. We've bought another one ourselves since, but Sophia the smaller laser-cutter has helped no end of businesses, artists, architects and more over the past three years. Other initiatives - such as the "how to film a product video" course or lean startup workshops were only useful for a few dozen companies, but provided far more value to them than a hundred networking events.
- Amplify what's already going on. Use your time and funding to boost what the community is already doing. I've lost count of the number of times that discussions about an event or project have resulted in a quiet "we can help with that if you want" from Open Labs. Sometimes it's the tiny bit of cash that means the event can happen at all - such as them paying for the building to be open on a Sunday so Liverpool Girl Geeks could hold their International Women's Day event at DoES Liverpool; and other times it's a combination of sponsorship and the more important organising skills to arrange catering, navigate the university hierarchies to book a venue, etc. that take events like OggCamp or NHS Hackday to the next level.
April 27, 2015
Interesting Things on the Internet: April 27th 2015
- Lessons Learned in Software Development. All important, hard-won gems of lessons.
- How to Survive the Looming Tech Bubble: Ignore the Gurus. Always good to be reminded, and this is a good reminder, no to believe everything you read.
- In praise of friction. A pitch-perfect post about why you should install (this) ad-(and tracking)-blocker.
- A Quick Note on Airbnb’s San Francisco Report. This is a fantastic take-down of the statistics quoted by Air B'n'B. You could apply almost all of those complaints to any of the reports that get generated to "prove" how much value tourism/arts/council-or-gov-topic-du-jour bring to the city.
- The Slow Death of the University. "What if the value of the humanities [and the arts] lies not in the way they conform to such dominant notions [of society's prevailing ideologies], but in the fact that they don’t?"
April 20, 2015
Interesting Things on the Internet: April 20th 2015
- Internet.org is a failed exercise in misdirection. Just because you call something "Internet.org" doesn't mean that it's access to the Internet. Doc Searls provides a perfect critique of Facebook's free-mobile-data-for-Facebook-access programme.
- Don't know who to vote for? Then learn who to vote against. "The suffragettes understood that. They understood that democracy does not end at the ballot box. If we are lucky, it starts there. It starts with choosing your enemy. [...] Vote today and change the world tomorrow. We are not as powerless as they would have us believe. Choose your enemy and choose wisely. Good luck."
April 13, 2015
Interesting Things on the Internet: April 13th 2015
- Mikey Dickerson to SXSW: Why We Need You in Government "Some of you, not all of you, are working right now on another app for people to share pictures of food or a social network for dogs. I am here to tell you that your country has a better use for your talents." and "this country belongs to you and me and it is exactly as good as we make it. Grownups are not going to fix it for us and billionaires are not going to fix it for us. We either do it ourselves, or nobody does."
- The internet won't forget Cameron's lies, and neither will the British people.
- Code and Law between Truth and Power. Great lecture from law professor Julie E Cohen about privacy, data, networks and power. Great to see someone pointing out that - like code - law is not a neutral actor in good or bad. There's a write-up of the lecture at We are citizens, not mere physical masses of data for harvesting if you want a shorter read.
- Why Are Glasses Perceived Differently Than Hearing Aids?. All technology is assistive, so why is some stigmatised over others?
April 06, 2015
Interesting Things on the Internet: April 6th 2015
- Post-Mortems at HubSpot: What I Learned From 250 Whys. Detailing a good approach to technical project post-mortems.
- MPs - please post your CVs here. Francis' Democracy Club CVs gets a write-up in the Guardian.
- A Year of Reflection. Fantastic set of thoughts on learning curves, relevance and running an agency. That description doesn't do the article justice.
- NO DICKHEADS! A Guide To Building Happy, Healthy, and Creative Teams. Lots of insight into how to build a team and set the culture of the company. Especially for "No dickheads allowed. Really! My definition of a dickhead is a person whose ambition for themselves or their own career is greater than their ambition for the project or team."
- Welfare Makes America More Entrepreneurial. Giving would-be business founders a better security net is a better way to increasing how many companies we have than increasing the spoils for those which are lucky enough to be successful (by lowering taxes).
March 30, 2015
Interesting Things on the Internet: March 30th 2015
- Everything is Made up and the Points Don’t Matter "But I've come to see that the most successful of our students have a worldview shift during our program, an entire change in their demeanor towards the built world around them. They come to see rules as malleable, power structures as changeable, and culture as embodied."
- The graph George Osborne doesn’t want you to see
- Roger Martin's Unconventional Wisdom. Good thoughts on strategy and innovation (with a dash of #bigdata).
- Hidden stress. A good article on harder-to-spot depressive tendencies from Roo Reynolds.
- Liverpool's Open Data portal. Early days, but Ross Jones has fired up a CKAN instance for Liverpool. Basically, somewhere to store links to open data sets about the city. Add any you know of.
- On the politics of lying: Hillsborough and the British institutional malaise. It's good that the truth is finally being officially acknowledged. It's a disgrace that it's taken such effort to get to it.
- Slow boat to China. Lovely travelogue of a trip aboard an ACL container ship from the US to China.