Last week I was pointed at this blog post about the work of Tayler and Green. Tayler and Green were two architects who upped sticks from London to move to Norfolk in the late 1940s and ended up developing their own slant on modernism, much more grounded in traditional housing through an ongoing relationship and work for one of the district councils there.
There's lots of interest about architecture and place-making in there, but the bit that prompted this blog post was this section...
"For unassuming types there's a lot of branding on T&G's work. Their name pops up a lot, not just on formal plaques but carved into special bricks or inserted subtly into a decorative wall, as if they were making it easy for architectural pilgrims to seek out. Despite the seeming modesty of their designs, the architects were very aware of its quality."
It reminded me of one of my favourite parts of shipping products - the fact that there are then things out in the world that you were part of. I first encountered it in visits to Halfords in the the mid-90s, where their point-of-sale tills were running code from my time at RTC; then even more so with Psion Series 5s, or any of the Sony mobile phones from the late 90s, which contained chunks of code that I, and the team around me, had spent months and years developing. There was always some little indication to those in the know that we were involved and these days, where possible, it's literally etched into the back of anything to leave the MCQN Ltd studio...
It's not a new idea - the case of the original Apple Macintosh famously includes the signatures of the team who designed it, and I'm sure the engines of Bentleys used to have a plaque with the name of the person who built it - though I can't find a reference for that right now.
That's beside the point, I just wonder if the world would be a better place if more people were more willing to sign their work. Wouldn't we end up with better quality work, and less "ooh, that's terrible, I had no idea other parts of the company were [insert dubious or illegal practice here]..."?
As part of their Open City project working with European Capital of Culture Guimaraes, Watershed have published an excellent piece about openness and creativity in the context of cities from Charles Leadbeater.
"Creative cities are too large, open and unruly to be regulated in detail, top down by an all-seeing state or experts. They have to encourage collective, voluntary, self-control. A city that could be planned from the centre would also be dead."
Of course, Liverpool is four years ahead of Guimaraes in looking at how the Capital of Culture helped the city. The cultural legacy has been pretty successful, but we need to expand the creativity from the narrow confines of cultural offering to find ways to make the city more resilient and more diverse - both in embracing different elements of society and in the variety of ways to engage with the challenges and advantages of the city.
This process is called syndication and Jon wisely notes that organisations particularly should choose a location on the open web to publish the definitive version. Obviously this is something that services such as Facebook would prefer that you didn't do, and if you aren't paying attention it isn't immediately obvious that you aren't publishing on the open web - as it's only if you don't have a Facebook account that you'll notice that you need one to view events on there.
Jon also imagines a future where he'll choose where all of the data pertaining to him is stored - which he could choose to be either something he hosts himself, or a commercial service - and then syndicated out to the places he wants it to live, such as Flickr or Facebook or Wordpress or wherever...
It's something that I'd also like to see us move towards, and something I wish(/hope) the Freedom Box project could help build. However, from my limited understanding it seems to be more focused on building a replacement web that has free (as in freedom) versions of the same services instead. I hope I'm wrong on that.
Another way that I could see us moving more towards such a future would be using an embryonic new web technology called Web Intents. This is something that a friend of mine, Paul Kinlan has been pushing forward with his work at Google.
Web Intents provides some of the loose coupling that you need to let different web services talk to each other, and to let the user choose the particular service that they use to perform actions like "pick one of my photos" or "share this page on my blog" without needing the proliferation of icons that we see at the moment to make it easy to tweet, like, or share on this, that and the other...
I can imagine a proxy Personal Cloud (to use Jon's term) service that offers all the usual integration with Web Intents and passes the action onward to my choice of service - Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, etc. - but saves a copy of the data en route. That would allow Jon, or anyone, to bootstrap a personal cloud service for archival purposes, and as such services gained popularity then maybe we'd see syndication becoming the norm.