December 28, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: December 28th 2015

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December 22, 2015

Guilty. Trying to do better.

Via Nat Torkington's Four Short Links column, today I read Contempt Culture.

I'm ashamed to say that too much of it rang true. Less so on the language side - there's some PHP-bashing in the Liverpool tech community, but personally at least, I'm language-agnostic enough that my general take is to use whichever language best suits your needs. I think people should generally be heading away from PHP for new developments, but beyond that any of Ruby/Python/Node JS work for most applications. Each have their niches to which they're better suited, but availability of developers and your existing knowledge of the language are equally important factors in that choice.

I think my unthinking contempt comes across in my lament of there not being enough "proper tech firms" in the area. The problem isn't with the agencies or firms using software/the 'Net to enable them to build better businesses, it's just tricky to pin down exactly what I mean and a disdain for agencies, etc. is a lazy shorthand because I can't express things properly.

I want there to be more people in the community doing interesting work in tech, pushing the boundaries of what's possible, or at least keeping up with where the boundaries are. I want more people in strategy meetings with the council and the LEP to be proposing projects that show they understand the real possibilities of digital.

What I want is to raise the level of ambition in Liverpool's tech and digital community. That will make it harder for some of the companies to put out a perfectly-passable app and laud it as ground-breaking innovation. It's not about making their lives harder, it's about recognising that the really exciting work is harder than that and building a community that rewards technical talent rather than marketing talent. Successful businesses do need marketing and sales, but to compete in a global marketplace that needs to be built on a foundation of solid tech.

We aren't going to attract the best technologists to the city if we're showcasing run-of-the-mill companies. We need to find ways to help the existing companies get better, help us good technologists (he says snobbishly assuming he's one of them) find each other, and educate the support organisations (including the council, LEP, etc.) to recognise good tech over good bullshit (to pick extremes).

And I'm going to try to be less down on agencies and to continue to strive for better ways to explain what I really mean.

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December 21, 2015


Fourteen years and still this time of year feels a bit dislocated. Moments like the one on Thursday night when mid-Christmas-party the club we were in played The Smiths' There is a light that never goes out... Which always makes me think of Karen and Stewart, it just jars more set against the festivities. Not that there's anything wrong with the feelings.

This year it would have been great to share my discovery of Outfit. They've had a reasonable amount of radio airplay, although not as much as they deserve. I first properly became aware of them when I went to their second album launch gig at the Kazimier in the summer - I recognised some of their first album when I heard it, but couldn't name it beforehand.

I've since bought both albums although I think the second one is the stronger of the two. My favourite track is Smart Thing, although the whole album sums up the summer for me.

And in another quirk of fate, a couple of hours before I was in a club listening to The Smiths on Thursday, I shared a karaoke booth with Outfit's lead singer...

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Interesting Things on the Internet: December 21st 2015

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December 14, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: December 14th 2015

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December 06, 2015

The First Code for Liverpool Hackday

Yesterday was the first Code for Liverpool hackday. I'm still revelling in the happy feeling of having been part of it.

I think most people would have missed it, but for me it was a telling sign, a weak signal, of Liverpool's maturing tech scene.

Over the course of the day over a dozen interested citizens, with a wide range of skills, came together and collaborated on a range of projects with the loose aim of making life in the city better.

And it was a joy to behold. Watching a group of people use their skills and knowledge of how to mix digital tools with the more traditional let me experience first-hand the true power of loose collaboration. Something I've just marvelled at from afar with things like the IndieWeb hackdays in the past.

I've been to, and organised, lots of hackdays, etc. in the past, but I think it was the level of familiarity among a majority (but far from all) attendees that let us get on with doing things.

It's hard to explain why it was so edifying - it was in a mass of tiny interactions.

Ross Jones just getting on with things and setting up a Pirate Pad to take notes. Me getting up and writing down the URL for that on the whiteboard so latecomers could easily get up to speed. Brett Lempereur picking up one of the project ideas and just starting to hunt down code libraries to implement it. Kate North - while digging into spending data - keeping an eye on who hadn't found something to do, as were a few of us, but then finding ways to draw them in. Zarino Zappia coming back after a few hours away giving out Awesome Fivers and just diving back in whilst giving impromptu Github lessons. Ross Dalziel slipping in and quietly getting on with something, before dropping an amazing text adventure as documentation on us as he had to head off.

And lots, lots more. I loved being part of it.

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