eComm 2009: Emerging Communications Conference

eComm 2009
Next week sees the opening of the second edition of eComm, taking place in Burlingame, just outside San Francisco.

Like the 2008 edition – and its two predecessor conferences of the O'Reilly ETel franchise – I've been part of the advisory board, roping in interesting speakers and contributors working at the intersection of telecoms and social media – in design, human factors, hardware hacking and mobile.

This year, I'm very pleased to have brought in Smule's Ge Wang on Creating New Expressive Social Mediums on the iPhone and Distance Lab's Stefan Agamanolis on Slow Communication. Unfortunately, some speakers I'd really like to have provide a platform for, simply weren't available – Georgia Popplewell, MD of Global Voices, Cisco's Clive Grinyer, Cliff Kushler, co-creator of T9 and the guys behind Ushahidi, and 12seconds

Sadly, this year I won't be attending (I'll be on vacation in New York), but I've gifted my own pass to PhoneFromHere's Tim Panton and gave away complimentary pass to local geek Jonathan Powell, to raise money at the recent Leeds Twestival.

There'll certainly be a 2010 edition – and I'm hoping next year I'll be able to add to the platform again 🙂

Röyksopp: Happy Up Here

I've been (guilty) hooked on Röyksopp's Happy Up Here for a few weeks and, last night, stumbled across the awesome video at the band's Vimeo account

It's a very clever mixed reality interpretation of Space Invaders – I wonder if director Reuben Sutherland was inspired by Futurama's Anthology of Interest II episode? But seriously, Röyksopp shoulda made a mixed-reality game for iPhone 😉

Y, El Último Hombre

UltimohombreThis week's episode of Lost – '316' – features a gratuitously self-referential shot of Hurley reading Y, El Último Hombre, the Spanish language edition of Y: The Last Man, written in 2004 by one of Lost's current principal writers, Brian K. Vaughn

Nothing's ever a coincidence in the Lostiverse. Hurley is reading the fourth volume, One Small Step, a story with a very Planet of the Apes ending…what does that mean?!

Y: The Last Man is currently being adapted into a movie trilogy, but I've always thought it'd make for a great Abrams-esque TV quest 🙂

Leeds’ Perfect Digital Day

Yesterday was a perfect day for Leeds' emerging digital industries…


  • We opened registration for the Leeds' third Girl Geek Dinner, on 12th March (we also managed to secure a great speaker for the fourth dinner in the Summer)

FOWA's Leeds stopover will be one of the tentpoles for LS2, the second Leeds web festival. Next week, we're hoping to tell you a little more about the other great events we have planned for May and June 🙂

Islanded In A Stream of Stars

From Night on the Great Beach, in Henry Beston's The Outermost House

"For a moment
of night we have a glimpse of ourselves and of our world islanded in its stream of stars— pilgrims of mortality, voyaging between horizons across eternal seas of space and time."

O’Reilly Ignite North

I've had a great, warm relationship with O'Reilly Media over the last half decade or so, hanging out at various ETech and Foo Camp events, striking up friendships with their people, helping plan both ETel conferences and contributing to Web2Expo Europe. Tim O'Reilly and I recently spoke about his background and it turns out his mother is from my hometown of Bradford, a place of which he has a lotta fond childhood memories. Indeed, Tim recorded a special message for us back in November…

With that in mind, it's a total pleasure to bring my favourite tech/media luminaries to my adopted hometown of Leeds for their first Ignite evening in the UK, a rapid-fire succession of lightning talks, pioneered by Brady Forrest in Seattle. Ignite organiser Craig Smith, of O'Reilly UK, was keen to hold the first O'Reilly-sponsored Ignite in the North of England, bringing together people from around the M62 corridor and the North East. Craig's originally from Huddersfield and along with Tim's heritage, has helped to locate the event in the heritage of O'Reilly's own people as well as celebrating the region's emerging grassroots tech scene.

We're expecting around a hundred attendees – from London, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Newcastle – and have scheduled eighteen talks in two blocks throughout the evening. We're really proud of the quality of speakers and their submissions – it really wouldn't be possible without their efforts. We have speakers from local startups, international charities, venture capital firms, national broadcasters, academia and healthcare. Wow…and wow!

As well as a great mix of cultural, creative and technological sessions, there'll be opportunities to hang out, socialise and also appreciate the work of some local artists (just before we open up)…here's the schedule for the evening:

17:00    Outofoffice: Art Installation
18:00    Doors Open: Drinks, Snacks & Networking

19:00    Katie Lips: Bringing Social to Coffee on iPhone
19:05    Jeff Allen : IT in Africa
19:10    Tim Panton: Don't forget voice! Telephony hacks for web 2.0 hackers
19:15    Michael Sparks: Embracing concurrency for fun, utility & simpler code
19:20    Dean Vipond: Perfection in design
19:25    Alexandra Dechamps-Sonsino: Could hardware hacking save us?
19:30    Ian Pringle: No News Is Good News
19:35    Dominic Hodgson: The Future of search
19:40    Ed French: Funding for technology startups

19:45    Break & refreshments

20:05    Tom Scott: My Life In Twenty Graphs
20:10    Stuart Childs, Richard Garside, Dave Lynch:
             FriiSpray Digital Grafitti with IR tracking
20:15    Katie Brown: Recovery 2.0 – Digital Inclusion & developing social models of recovery in practice
20:20    Arturo Servin: Practical Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
20:25    Glen Smith: Mass customisation and the one-to-one future
20:30    Guy Dickinson: The Future Of Reading
20:35    Philip Hemsted: Psycho teams and theory of mind
20:40    James Boardwell: James Boardwell: From patterns to patterns!
20:45    Ian Forrester: Tweethookup

20:50    Wrap Up
21:00    Close


Ignite will also be a great example of where Leeds' coworking community is flourishing, particularly the residents of our venue at Old Broadcasting House. Kensei Media will be providing a live HD webcast of the event with True Media filming each presentation for later publication online. So if you can't make it on Thursday, we'll have everything available online within a few days 🙂

We'd also like to thank local brand an interaction designer Dean Vipond for help with print design, Sun Microsystems's Startup Essentials programme for kindly sponsoring the evening's drinks and nti Leeds for the use of Old Broadcasting House.

See you all next Thursday evening – in the meantime, Leeds will also be playing host to another GeekUp event as well as Katie Lips' workshops on The Amazing iPhone and Going Social.

Sheffield: Made from Steel

The festivities of last month’s sophomore BarCamp in Sheffield, prompted sponsor Yorkshire Forward to offer a £500 prize to attendees who could best promote the city. We’ve already seen entries ranging from terror karaoke to hypnotic brain loops.

So here’s my entry, paying homage to the city’s steelworking heritage, it’s celebrated celluloid child – The Full Monty – and it’s bright future, currently very visibly ‘under construction’.

Thanks to J.J. Abrams for shooting a bunch of steelworkers and promptimg me to learn to use iMovie 🙂


Our City, Our Music

Something interesting's afoot in Leeds, as a group of the city's digital artists prepare to record its first geo-located album, Our City, Our Music.

We're all accustomed to certain 'geo-retarded' music only being available digitally in the US, but what Ben Dalton, Megan Smith and Ben Halsall are proposing is to shoot a couple dozen videos around the streets of the city – using HP's Mscape – capturing the contributions of local performers, artists, residents and filmmakers in a collective production.

Mscape's an interesting choice, retrofitting GPS-enabled devices to encode audio and video with locative data at the point of recording. Indeed, Our City, Our Music is the winning project a contest organised by Just-b, HP Labs and the Arts Council.

Throughout the coming year, the group will be shooting twelve live videos (one a month?) with the hope that local filmmakers and bands will volunteer to contribute to each segment of the project, providing a kinda locative, musical narrative to the city…and I think other cities if the project is a success.

Volunteers have until 4th January to apply…head on over to for more…


A pair of recent articles – Scott Brown's Facebook Friendonomics and Mashable's 12 Great Tales of De-Friending – have raised some interesting questions on the longevity and sustainability of relationships established within social networks.

Brown speculates around the problematic notion of never losing touch with anyone in environments such as Facebook. Most notably losing the 'right to lose touch' and maintaining the convenience of a clever address book albeit the inanity of one that constantly talks back at you…

Over a half decade into the life of the social web, services still represent 'friending' autistically, preventing us from ascribing the subtlety and meaning of real relationships to their digital counterparts. The dynamic and changing semantics of a relationship are intrinsic to our existence and yet most services are content to flatten them all into a simple 'friend soup', diminishing them all and stripping each of its unique values.

Services should understand that certain people are more important to me that others, based on the history of a relationship – whether that's proximity, temporal distance, frequency of contact, family connections or shared work histories. Right now, users have to do that heavy-lifting themselves, but Brown's notion of a Fade Utility for digital relationships isn't so far fetched…

Stevenn Blyth's Social Fabric project began to explore how to represent the decay of a relationship over time and distance by visualising the relative 'healthiness' of your relationships. The emotional representation of a friend's avatar would subtley signal whether that relationship needed your care and attention.

Perhaps in the age of iPhones and the emergence of federated social networks its now possible to concieve of a user experience that not as rich as Social Fabric, but one that can understand your actual activity – email, phone calls, messages, events, travel plans – and make some guesses about whom in your social networks you're neglecting,  which relationships need some attention and let others face into the background with less prominence.


MIND08 Drew Endy: Synthetic Biology MIND08

What does turning bacteria into banana milkshakes have to do with
the promise of designing life? The bioengineer explains how synthetic
biology's impact on future technologies could rival the transformative
effects of the computer age, and why you might be involved.

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