At Barcamp Liverpool last Friday I gave a talk entitled "What is the Point of Liverpool?". It was an attempt to look at Liverpool's place in the world and the ways that it might evolve over the coming years. Luckily the guys from PodFactory.org were roaming around with some video cameras and happened to capture the talk. Given that they weren't formally covering the event, I wasn't miked up and so the sound levels aren't as good as they would be normally. Still, if you want to hear what I said, you can watch the video after the jump.
I've included the slides here so you can see them better, and included my notes, which will give you an idea of what I was planning to say - I think it bears some resemblance to what I actually said...
More and more big chains taking over from the local shops and pulling the profits out of the area sooner.
The comment from a recent Seven Streets article really depressed me. This is the only option we can envisage?
The only real growth is going to come when we stop waiting for The Powers That Be to save us, and get on with saving ourselves.
It’s a warm summers morning, in 2015. I’m sat at a little aluminium cafe table, on the pavement just over here, checking my email. As I finish off, one of the waiters from The Rat Coffee Shop comes to clear my espresso cup and take it back across the street to the cafe. I walk round the corner and into the bottom floor of the DoES Liverpool building.
As I swipe my card to gain access the door reminds me that I need to go and talk to the web designers who are refreshing the MCQN Ltd website. They’re on the first floor, so I don’t venture into the ground floor workshop – which is packed with all sorts of interesting bits of machinery – laser cutters, CNC mills, 3D printers, lathes... But instead head up stairs.
The first floor has fewer of the machines, and it’s split into an assortment of open plan areas with desks and a couple of meeting rooms. There are more people working from laptops here, though there’s some soldering going on over in one corner and one of the meeting rooms is awash with bits of blue prototyping foam.
After checking over the latest designs from the web agency, I head further upstairs to my desk. The top floor-and-a-bit is taken up with MCQN Ltd, and it’s from here that we design, prototype and code the devices that are making peoples lives easier and a bit more fun. Bubblino is still sat doing his thing, but has been joined on the “shelves of things” by a wealth of other items.
As I sit down at my desk, one of the project leads gets a call on her mobile. It’s the factory, to let her know that the run of prototype PCBs she sent them yesterday is ready to be picked up. She grabs her keys, and a minute later is heading out onto Duke Street on the office cargo bike.
There are still staff here, and there’s nothing to stop the talented and more ambitious ones from working their way up from supervising the machines to designing products.
We’ve also given over a bit of the building to DoES Toxteth, because DoES Liverpool is pretty busy these days, and not everyone wants to head into town to do their hacking...
The Internet of Things is becoming one of the “next big things” – and Liverpool has a good chance of riding that wave, but only because there are people here who are passionate about it and working at it. And if we’re successful, we’ll be hiring people from both inside and outside the city, and will attract others who want to work in the field to move here because that’s where the interesting stuff is happening.
But it might not be the Internet of Things that brings the city its big wins – I’ll be disappointed if it’s not – but it could just as easily be something around open data – with ScraperWiki based here, and the new open healthcare group that Ross Jones has co-founded; or maybe something around podcasting, given the success that Dan and Don McAllister are already enjoying.
Or it could be something completely different, that you’re passionate about. But that’s the key point – it’s not going to be something that the council has stuck in a strategy document somewhere. Not because we can make better bets than they can about the future, but because there’s someone already in the city who wants to drive it forward. It’s all about the people.
And interesting things can come out of Barcamps. The first Bubblino was built for the last one, and he became MCQN Ltd’s first Internet of Things product.
It was also at the last Barcamp that I met Andy Goodwin, and without that connection, Ignite Liverpool wouldn’t have happened. It was where ScraperWiki was announced, and it’s where Thom and I hatched plans for Howduino and to start a regular meetup for Arduino tinkerers. That grew into Maker Night, which then grew into DoES.
It had been quite a while since the last one - a couple of weeks shy of three years! - so was long overdue. Despite it being held at DoES, I was only helping out a bit, which meant I could enjoy the sessions and chat with all sorts of people. John, Paul and Andy and Allison from OpenLabs did all the hard work of organising it, and pulled off a great event.
I gave a talk on each of the two days - on Friday I set out my thoughts on the future of Liverpool in the cheekily titled "What is the Point of Liverpool?"; and on Saturday I chatted a bit about RFID and NFC and showed some of the stuff I've been playing around with in RFID, including the RFIDrum (an Arduino-based noise generator that reads Oystercards, Walrus cards, Android NFC phones, etc. and plays a unique rhythm on some solenoids for each card).
I didn't prepare any slides for the RFID talk, but I did for the other, and that was videoed too. I'll stick the slides and video up in another blog post shortly.
It was great to see so many hardware-related talks happening over the two days. Ken Boak gave an update on where things are with his Nanode devices, and it was great to hear from Trystan Lea on how things have been developing with the OpenEnergyMonitor project. Mycroft talked about his Arduino journey, from encountering Bubblino at How? Why? DIY! through coming along to Maker Night to being commissioned to build a piece by local gallery Metal. He also gave a talk (which sadly I missed as it clashed with another) about the tech behind his Tickets Please game. Finally, John talked about how he's moving from prototype to production with his WhereDial, but I missed that one too as I was busy showing off our Makerbot 3D printer.
I've only scratched the surface of the discussions, talks, connections made and fun had over the two days, but there's plenty more information over on the Lanyrd page for Barcamp Liverpool.
Way back in the distant past of this blog (and probably before most people knew what a blog was), I embarked on a project to write about a song each day for the entire month of December. It was inspired by Nick Hornby's book 31 Songs, and you can still read through the posts over in the 31 Songs section of the archive.
I really enjoyed it, though in hindsight picking the month that also contained the busy-ness that is Christmas was a rather stupid idea. Another problem with it was how to share the music itself. I skirted over into illegality by including mp3s of each song so that people could have a listen, but then took them down a month or so after the project finished because that wasn't really what it was about.
These days, I'd have included a Spotify playlist, or embedded YouTube videos, and this morning I've been playing around with something that makes it even easier to share how songs litter your memory. You don't even need a blog.
Lifetuned is a lovely website, that makes it easy to look through YouTube and explain what memories are triggered by the songs you choose. If you head to lifetuned.com/amcewen you can see my musical memory box, and as it doesn't (yet?) have a way to easily embed my songs into the blog, I'm going to do this kludgy iframe option (so it not looking perfect will be my fault, not Lifetuned's :-)