Monthly Archives: March 2009

Veronica Belmont on Dogear Nation

Image courtesy of Veronica Belmont under a CC license

Rounding off a very cool week which started with Blue Fusion and would otherwise have ended with TVSMC, on Friday’s edition of Dogear Nation we were very lucky to have Veronica Belmont as our special guest.

For those not familiar with Veronica, I first became aware of her when she was hosting the Maholo Daily podcast. She has since gone on to present Tekzilla on Revision 3 and Qore on the PlayStation Network. Bottom line? She knows her tech (just check out some of the stuff she’s done!) and was a great guest. She was also patient enough to bear with us and get over a, um, technical hitch, which meant that the show runs a little shorter than usual – ask Michael what I’m talking about! 🙂

So it was a great show, well worth checking out. If you’re not doing it already, why not tag some of the sites you come across this week with ‘dogear-nation’ on del.icio.us? I’m having a couple of weeks off, so the Michaels will need something to talk about!

Thoughts on Thames Valley Social Media Cafe

I’ve long been interested by the Twitterings and blog posts about the Social Media Cafe / Tuttle in London, but since I’m so rarely in London these days I haven’t yet had the opportunity to get along to one of these gatherings. When I read that Neville Hobson, Drew Benvie and Benjamin Ellis were proposing to have a similar gathering for the Thames Valley region in Reading, I was was one of the first to put my name on the wiki.

The event was held at Workhouse Coffee in Reading, which as it turns out it pleasantly close to Reading West station, so I caught a train up on Friday morning and wandered along. Despite the fact that I took both a camera and a camcorder, I entirely failed to take any footage, so I’ll have to refer readers to Drew and Neville’s photos from the event. Workhouse Coffee is a wonderful place – the owner has a great deal of knowledge and the beans are freshly ground in perfect measure to create just the cup you’ve asked for. I noticed on the blackboard that they have a MySpace page… and apparently they are also now on Twitterread Drew’s blog entry for the details! If you want something strong, I recommend the Java, incidentally.

What about the content? Well I wanted to go to meet people, and I had no preconceptions as to what the event entailed. As it turned out, Steve Lamb (@ActionLamb) and Drew (@drewb) are folks that I’d met briefly in the past, and I’ve been following Neville (@jangles) for longer than I care to remember, or so it seems in the modern world where the Internet randomly compresses or extends time in my mind. Everyone else counted as a new acquaintance – it seemed as though we gathered an interesting mix of tech and business perspectives, PR and journalists.

I’m not going to recount every discussion, but just to give a flavour of the variety, there were about 15 of us and in a 90 minute period I had conversations with most people, taking in topics such as: Government 2.0; Agile development, large corporation software development practices, and componentisation; coffee (!); podcasting; Blue Fusion; using social media with a marketing focus; how best to combine social media tools for a seamless customer experience; why it’s still important not to have a Flash-only website; Online DNA; Grown Up Digital; Home Camp; how to use social bookmarking; the slow death of print media and how bloggers might save local journalism; rebranding; flexibility at work; and Twitter (phew!).

A whole bunch of new contacts and, I hope, some interesting new side projects have been generated as a result of the discussions. Based on the meetup I’m delighted to have met (as well as those I’ve already mentioned) @warrilowpr @adrianmoss @nickydavis @ravinar @mattbrady @johnmcg and @saqibs.

I hope to be a regular(-ish) attendee at these, but it’s going to be dependent on schedules. I highly recommend the mixture of people and opportunity to share new ideas – do come along in future if it sounds interesting. Thanks again to Neville, Drew, Benjamin, and our unsuspecting hosts at the coffee shop!

Other write-ups from Adrian, Catherine, Drew, John, Matt and Neville.

Gnome Cottage




Gnome Cottage

Originally uploaded by andyp uk

We took a walk at the Devil’s Punch Bowl in Surrey yesterday afternoon – the first time I’d been out with the DSLR for quite a while. This is my pick of the shots from the walk – a beautiful little cottage tucked away in the woods towards the centre of the bowl.

Blue Fusion, the 2009 edition

One of the first Hursley-related things I wrote about here and on the eightbar blog back in 2006 was how much I enjoy helping with our annual schools event for National Science and Engineering Week in the UK – Blue Fusion (the event website has gone AWOL at the moment but here’s a link to the press release).

This year was no exception, and referring back to my old blog entries it turns out that this is now the fifth year that I’ve been a volunteer. Unfortunately I only had room in my schedule to spend one day helping this time around, so I chose to host a school for the day rather than spending all day on a single activity (that way, I got to see all of the different things we had on offer).

So, yesterday I had the pleasure of hosting six intelligent and polite students from Malvern St James School and their teachers – they had travelled a fair distance to come to the event, but despite the early start I think they did really well.

I won’t go into too much detail and spoil the fun for people who might read this but have not yet taken part in this week’s event, but I think we had some great activities on offer. I twittered our way through a few of them. My own personal favourite was a remote surgery activity. You can’t see much in this image (it was a dark room) but the students basically had a “body” inside a box with some remote cameras to guide their hands around and had to identify organs and foreign objects.

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There was also some interesting application of visual technology / tangible interfaces – a genetics exercise using LEGO bricks and a camera which identified gene strands, and an energy planning exercise which used Reactivision-style markers to identify where power stations had been placed on a map (sort of similar to what we built in SLorpedo at Hackday a couple of years ago). We also had some logic puzzles to solve, built a, err… “typhoon-proof” (ahem) tower, simulated a computer processor, and commanded a colony of ants in a battle for survival against the other school teams.

Things I learned

  1. Facebook (not Bebo) is now where it’s at.
  2. If a tornado is coming, get out of the way or into a safe room.
  3. Girls are much better than boys at listening to multiple streams of conversation (actually I think I worked this out a long time ago!).

A now, some notes just for my team…

Here are links to a few of the other things we talked about during the day:

And most importantly, here’s the evidence that we started off in first place 🙂 and I think you were an awesome team throughout. Well done, it was brilliant spending the day with you.

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