Thinking Digital 2010 was a blast… It was an excellent two days of insightful, informative, eclectic and mind-bending talks around digital or technology related subjects. It’s one of the few conferences that I attend knowing I will do my best to attend most of the talks - as the quality of speakers is fantastic! Apart from the talks there was an expo of business stands, plus cupcakes and treats, masseurs for weary delegates, speaker lunches, bands, parties and dinners – we were very well looked after! See my previous post for a write up on the pre-conference Power Arduino workshopI won’t fit in all the talks otherwise you’ll be left reading something very long from my 16 pages of notes, so here’s ten things I learned!
1. Documentally – Christian Payne – Photojournalist Gave a fab talk on the life of a backpack journalist who has used social media as a platform for sharing his photos, audioboos, videos and stories from Iraq and Pakistan - "Social technology is like sex. It's fun to talk & read about but you can't truly comprehend it until you do it". He took us on an entertaining trip via stories of his exploits and how his kit has changed over the years, but admits that all you really need these days is a smart phone, plus he mentioned the importance of backing up data "My data is backed up in 3 places, data just vanishes, especially when crossing borders!” He left us with a URL to some great links http://delicious.com/documentally/bundle:presentationlinks
2. Jon Drori – Changing MediaGave two brilliant talks. Firstly, a run down on 23 of the classic pitfalls of business relationships, including nuggets: “avoid understanding your audience or what they want and how they work” and “never confuse a neat idea with a strategy”.He also informed us about Florence nightingale was a pioneer of data visualization, as she made the link between people dying and lack of hygiene and distributed this information in diagrams – making it accessible.
3. Andy Hobsbawm - DoTheGreenThingTalked about the challenges his company faced in reframing sustainability and driving behavior to make recycling desirable - via the DoTheGreenThing campaign. Also, initiatives such as Mixmag’sWalkcast to aid the enjoyment of walking and Glove Love – a lost glove = a double throw away!
4. Rory Sutherland - AdvertarianKicked off his humorous talk by mentioning ‘engineering envy’ – people who wish they were as efficient as machinery, though most human behaviour doesn’t follow scientific law! He mentioned how paying people to do creative tasks, just turns creativity into work. Also that humans tend to disproportionate the value of something because it is rare – such as rhino horn. Same goes for cheap goods and services: coach travel and frozen food - two things that a cheap and ecologically good, but seen as cheap and inferior. The question for marketeers is, how do you make these things cool? "You can create huge amounts of consumer delight from marketing some fantastically trivial ideas" for example the Virgin cruet set had ‘pinched from virgin upper class’ engraved on them – “you’ll remember this far longer than whether you went on a 747 or not”. He urged us to looks at old things in a new way and add appreciation to what already exists and introduced the ‘Diamond Shreddie’ to the TDC audience, (a marketing campaign in Canada, increasing sales), which became a bit of a meme for the rest of the conference.
5. Tom Wujec – Marshmallow ChallengeAsked ‘what fosters technology?’ He told us about the ‘marshmallow challenge’ - a team building exercise where the aim is to build a structure with items such as spaghetti and string, then balance a marshmallow on the top. He described various personalities and their approaches to this, including that recent business school graduates do worst as they cheat and fight. But, the people who do best are kindergarten kids as they achieve the exercise via play and enjoy it – “they don’t seek power to achieve the goal”. Tom finished with the warning that “every project has it’s own marshmallow – the assumption is that a marshmallow is light and fluffy, but it’s not – don’t overlook it!”
6. Luis Von Ahn – Professor at Carnegie Mellon UniversityAfter introducing himself by asking “You know Captcha? Do you hate it? Well, I invented that…” Luis took us through the story of Captcha - the system that uses randomly distorted words and is used by many sites to test that you’re really a human entering data. His story wound around online polls, humourous and unfortunate combinations of words that have appeared randomly together, plus an insight into the spam sweatshops that try to beat Captcha. Roughly 200 million Captchas that take roughly 10 seconds are typed every day, so Luis wanted to find a way to use all this human effort for good. He came up with Re-Capture, a way of using the system to get people to read words from old books that computers can’t recognize from OCR. Roughly 80 million words solved a day, equals about 4 million books translated per year!
7. Robert Lang - From flapping birds to space telescopesWe were taken on a charming journey centered on origami, via history, maths and computer aided origami design. We heard about how paper-folding patterns can be transferred to helping with problem solving for scientists and engineers looking for clever ways to get around size and logistical problems. For example, in space equipment the umbrella pattern has been used for a 5 metre collapsible space telescope, plus solar sails, in other uses: airbags for cars and medical stents that fold up small enough to go through an artery and then unfold.
8. David Siegel - PullI attended both his talk and lunch where he discussed the importance of the semantic web and searching for data such as the difference in results you’ll get between Google and Wolfram Alpha. He touched on rethinking your relationship to information and how we will soon be at 5 billion connected devices which will be capable of pumping out our information automatically, growing exponentially. He predicts that in the future we will move from “push to pull” and have ‘data lockers’ to store our information in various levels depending on relationship, e.g. family, purchasing, work, etc - it was hotly debated who might be the trusted keepers of these! He closed his talk with the message "Tweet this: what we do online, and how we do it, *matters*".
9. Richard Titus – Friction: Good, evil, necessity or fuel?Gave a talk about ‘friction’ – “Friction is the evil of all motion” a quote from Fear of Physics and went on to give us various examples and gave probably the most re-tweeted quote of the day “Data is the new Oil” which has already appeared on a badge!
10. Ken Banks – FrontlineSMSTold us his story of his software business and FrontlineSMS projects - for example, enabling communication in third world Africa in areas that don’t have internet connectivity. An example is software for laptops and mobiles, which allows simple text and image communication for non-profit organizations, doctors and human rights campaigners in dangerous situations. Another system used a mobile phone for blood smear diagnosis.
insightful, informative, eclectic and mind-bending…http://www.thinkingdigital.co.uk<br />
"Social technology is like sex. It's fun to talk & read about but you can't truly comprehend it until you do it" - @Documentally<br />1<br />http://ourmaninside.com/<br />
“avoid understanding your audience or what they want and how they work” - Jon Drori<br />2<br /> http://www.thinkingdigital.co.uk/speakers/speaker_profile.php?id=62<br />
“Glove Love – a lost glove = a double throw away!” - Andy Hobsbawm<br />3<br />http://www.dothegreenthing.com/shop/get_gloves<br />
“‘engineering envy’ – people who wish they were as efficient as machinery, though most human behaviour doesn’t follow scientific law!” – Rory Sutherland<br />4<br />http://rorysutherland.blogspot.com/ http://www.diamondshreddies.ca/<br />
“every project has it’s own marshmallow – the assumption is that a marshmallow is light and fluffy, but it’s not – don’t overlook it!” – Tom Wujec<br />5<br /> http://www.tomwujec.com/<br />
“You know Captcha? Do you hate it? Well, I invented that…” – Luis Von Ahn<br />6<br /> http://recaptcha.net/<br />
From flapping birds to space telescopes – Robert Lang<br />7<br />(image: Space Free-flyer Unit (SFU) JAXA) http://www.langorigami.com<br />
“what we do online, and how we do it, *matters*” – David Siegel<br />8<br /> http://www.dsiegel.com/<br />
“Data is the new Oil ” – Richard Titus<br />9<br /> http://www.rxdxt.com/2010/05/data-is-the-new-oil.html<br />
“enabling communication in third world Africa in areas that don’t have internet connectivity ” – Ken Banks<br />10<br /> http://www.kiwanja.net/index.htm<br />
..finally a ‘dancing’ Arduino kitty I made at the pre-conference workshop! Thanks!<br /> @rainycat | http://rainycatz.wordpress.com<br />