Techcrunch UK has written again this week about the need for a technology centre (a la Silicon Valley) in the UK and how it might be happening in London. As usual, there's been a ripple of debate in these parts about the article, and whether there is, or should be, more of a scene here in the North West.
It hasn't stirred up as much debate as such items in the past, and I wasn't going to bother commenting on it until I read an article about it by Rob Knight.
He argues that there's a good case for having such a tech hub in the NW and cites the great developer community as one of his top reasons. He also says that "[if] there’s anything that the North does badly, it’s probably self-promotion."
I hope he's right, because I can't list any big or up-and-coming companies from the area who are doing interesting things. And I've been keeping an eye out for them.
It's strange, because there is such a coherent and active developer community, and there are many more networking opportunities and discussions going on in Liverpool, Manchester, and the surrounding area than I encountered in Cambridge, and yet...
There seem to be a lot more people working to build things for other companies rather than chasing ambitious projects to change the world. If we do want the NW to become a tech centre then we need to get on and build it, which is why I've moved here. At GeekUp Liverpool the other night, John mentioned that it would be great to get some big tech companies into Liverpool, and I'll extend what I said to him to the rest of the North-West - that's a great idea, what's your big company going to do?
It was announced a month or so back, but the tickets for the upcoming BarCamp Liverpool are now available.
It's a two-day un-conference taking place on the 6th and 7th December 2008. I've just booked my ticket, so I'll see you there...
Whilst reading this entry on Socialreporter I began to wonder if computers and the whole social media shebang are part of the problem rather than a solution. I found this paragraph particularly apt:
"There are lessons here to be drawn from the greatest social innovations of the past. While Facebook may be a jolly efficient way of setting up a campaign against HSBC’s overdraft policy, the Paris Commune of 1871 managed to raise mass resistance to Thiers and autocratic government without as much as single laptop, and while blogs may help us to feel we are cooperating in some ethereal way I don’t think the cooperative and international development of quantum physics before the 1950s used a single byte of stored computerised information or a single email. The point is that, if computer-mediated networks are all that stand between Britain and an effective community of social innovators, how do you account for the Salvation Army, extension education, or much else of our civic heritage?"
The Internet makes it much easier to find a group of like-minded individuals, which gives you that initial buzz of something happening, but does that insulate you from the reality of convincing the masses? In earlier times you'd have to convince a fair number of non-(or not quite-) believers in order to gain enough bodies to do anything. So you were better placed to move onto the next phase of convincing even more people. Nowadays, whatever niche you represent, you can easily find everyone else who has the same viewpoint and set about doing things based on that belief system without ever having to hone the skills necessary to propagate the message outside of your clan.
Don't worry, I'm not about to stop blogging and stop answering emails (despite how it looks to those of you who've sent me one recently...). I'm just taking this as a reminder that the real world still isn't the same as the one online; I should try to find sources that challenge my thinking and ideas; and that actions trump talking.
I thought I'd linked to this back when Euan first posted it, but it seems that I haven't. It's very interesting and maybe explains some of the reasons we've gotten into such a financial mess.
At Be2Camp 2008 on Friday, I gave a Pecha Kucha presentation about "The Internet of Things". The slides are below, but they mightn't make a great deal of sense without my words alongside. If/when the video of it is available, I'll update this entry to point to it. For now I'll steal Jodie's notes from the day's Cover It Live stream.
The Cover It Live notes:
At the end of the talk I said I'd throw some links to further information up on my blog - I'm going to break the links into two sections: the first gives you some places to read more about ubicomp, and the second contains some pointers to practical places to help you get started building things.
Update: The video of the Pecha Kucha is now online, so if you'd like to watch my talk then you can. It starts at about 41 minutes in.
This sign is on Leece Street, and I pass it almost every time I head home from the centre of Liverpool. There are more dotted around the city, part of the Biennial I think, but this one seems particularly appropriate given the current world events.
It seemed to make sense to head down tomorrow rather than try to cram be2camp plus all the travelling into one day, and that meant I could fit in a trip to Energy Expo too. I don't know how interesting it'll be, but hopefully it will provide some useful fodder for the Mazzini project.
Just one day left then to finish some work on Mazzini, and finalise my slides for the be2camp Pecha Kucha event...
This week has seen me out almost every night at some sort of networking/social gathering. I even had to miss watching the Champions League game on Wednesday and so missed seeing Gerrard get his century.
On Tuesday evening I was at 3345 Parr Street for this month's Liverpool GeekUp. Dave Verwer gave an interesting talk where he built a little iPhone app in less than 20 minutes. iPhone development doesn't look too tricky, and there seem to be a collection of "pattern" apps to help get you started. Dave's main recommendation is to get to grips with Cocoa development in general, and then the jump to iPhone dev is fairly easy.
There was a larger turnout than last month, but once again everyone was welcoming and I got to chat to lots of interesting people. I also seem to have agreed to give a talk about something, probably Arduinos. It might be a month or two before I've worked out exactly what though...
Thursday night was another geeky get together, but this time the Liverpool Linux Users Group. The OpenStreetMap talk had to be cancelled as they couldn't get their usual room and so it was just a drink-and-chat session in the bar at FACT.
The membership seems a little geekier, and less business-y, than the GeekUp crowd, but isn't full of rabid free-software advocates arguing over which Linux distro is best. I even survived admitting that I used to work for the Evil Empire (aka Microsoft).
Last but by no means least, yesterday evening I headed to Doctor Duncan's for the Liverpool Green Drinks evening.
Doctor Duncan's is one of Cains Brewery's pubs with a great range of their ales on tap. I was on the IPA last night, and I'll have to work through the rest at future Green Drinks nights. It's also a lovely old building with the walls in the room we were in decorated with ornate tiles.
It made a refreshing change to be the only geek there and I had an enjoyable evening chatting with a variety of people from environmental consultants to architects.
I think I'll be attending all of the gatherings in future, although hopefully they won't all fall back-to-back every month.