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Archive for the ‘conference’ tag

Ten things learned at Thinking Digital

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1. The rest of the world is working less hours and eating more regular meals than I do.
The claim by Holly Goodier of the BBC that only 10% of the UK are at work at 6pm and that the majority of people eat their tea at 5pm was treated with much scepticism across twitter.


2. That some of the most important innovations happen via unsexy old technologies.
A timely reminder from both Ken Banks that the old and trusted technologies such as SMS and solar panels continue to have vital, even life-saving applications. But that new technologies, such as drones are proving valuable. In a separate session, Patrick Mier demonstrated their application in humanitarian work.

3. Getting the multi million investment deal is the start if a whole lot more Hassle…..
Being involved in start-ups (this and now this) means spending a lot time, thought and energy attempting to attract THE ONE, that investor which means hires can happen and those growth charts boom. But UK entrepreneur of the year Alexandra Depledge brought some no-nonsense experience to the matter revealing that, after raising $6m (and crying), she knew it would lead to yet another round and even more challenges to face.

4. Everyone seems to want to be ‘the Uber of something’

5. Artificial intelligence probably won’t mean a humanoid army coming to destroy us. (Unless the speakers were actually sent by robot overlords to mislead us, of course). Instead they may save our lives by entering our bodies to treat our ills with robotic surgeons and implated devices as Dr. Catherine Mohr explained.

6. Sounds unlikely, but Live coding on stage is actually a good performance. Or at least it was when Sam Aaron And Seb Lee-Delisle did it. Seb used his demo to show a tiny part of what was involved in creating this incredible digital firework display.

PixelPyros official video from Seb Lee-Delisle on Vimeo.

7. The dropping of letters from words still has an irresistible particle pull on start-ups seeking names for their companies. Looking at you start-up competition finalists Bristlr and Skignz.

8. We are all data slaves Jennifer Morone.
One woman’s answer – to incorporate herself and exploit those resources. Everything she is biologically and intellectually, everything she does, learns or creates has the potential to be turned into profits.

Jennifer Lyn Morone, Inc from jennifer morone on Vimeo.

9. Journalism needs to take a long hard look at how useful, valuable and beautiful the data visualisations it produces are.
Stefanie Posavec made our reliance on big numbers and charts look prehistoric with her visualisations.

(Pr) Stefanie Posavec from Protein® on Vimeo.

10. Finally I have an answer to why my electricity bill is so much higher than I think it should be.
Andy Stanford-clark has the house that tweets – he has wired up just about everything that can be measured and collects huge amounts of data from that. On analysing it, he discovered (among many more things) that leaving three laptops on standby costs a whopping £120 a year.

Written by sarahhartley

May 22nd, 2015 at 10:29 am

Mediafabric, afternoon sessions: Whistleblowing and Gaddafi plus content factories with the Superdesk

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Notes taken during the afternoon sessions of the Mediafabric journalism conference in Prague. Follow it via the hashtag #mediafab

Ex M15 intelligence office Annie Machon said mistakes were made and people were able to lie in respect of N Ireland. The group backed in Libya in 1996 is the same one which overthrew Gaddafi. David Shayler was briefed about an operation by MI6. In 1996, heard reports of explosions in Libya – turned out that was no legal clearance for the activity which resulted in the deaths of citizens but not the target – Gadaffi. They resigned and decided to blow the whistle.

Flew back with a lawyer for Liberty. Was put on police bail for six months. She packed up and went to live with Shayler in France. Eventual court case – judge accepted that Shayler didn’t put lives at risk but press coverage made it sound the opposite.

MI5 employs ‘agents of influence’ in media organisations – spin stories, kills them divert attention. What should whistleblowers do? Apart from legal situation, difficult to know who to trust. Dangerous as well because the journalist could see the story as career-making. If Annie was at M15 now she would be tempted to go to wikileaks or an org of that ilk. No source has ever been outed by a failure of the technology.

Final speaker today is David Brewer – omnipresent news the content factory approach. Working on projects about freedom of expression in countries where that is difficult. In a lot of areas the mainstream got lazy and the bloggers became the real journalists. The reason for that is the ‘publish at’ model. That model is dead. The ‘engage with on our terms’ model is in its death throes. Social media has come along and pricked our bubble. Now in the ‘participate in’ model the “let loose to hold tight model”.

Building a content system to help a ‘superdesk’ a central desk where decisions are made. In Vietnam its done by screens.

It’s an intake and output process – a simple workflow model which takes from the Superdesk to the production desk and back.

Converged newsroom model with desk heads facing out from the decision desk into their teams.

Building a Superdesk is not costly, not disruptive. Stories will be more rewarding, there maybe less of them but they will be fine-tuned and more likely to resonate with audiences.

* These notes were compiled using the beta version of – if you’d like an invite to use the social local mobile community noticeboard too – sign up for an invite.

Written by sarahhartley

October 21st, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Mediafabric conference, Prague on Friday, October 21

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I’m talking about the challenges for the future of UK hyperlocal media over in Prague tomorrow at an event which looks like a fascinating mix of journalism from around the world.

Alongside my tales of dog poo, democracy and the hunt for digital revenues (in which readers of this blog are well-versed) there are nine other ‘visual essays’ looking at diverse aspects of journalism.

I intend to blog here from the other talks as much as possible so check back if these topics interest you:

  •  Exposing the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan. Speaker: Chris Woods
  •  New forms of journalism in Asia. Speaker: Kunda Dixit
  •  New business models for digital entrepeneurs. Speaker: James Breiner
  •  Hypermedia for a hyperconnected world. Speaker: Leo Prieto
  •  Screen-scraping Latin American media. Speaker: Mariano Blejman
  •  Citizens vs. Governments in Latin America: the impact of social networks in the political landscape. Speaker: Luis Manuel Botello
  •  The future of intelligence, whistleblowing and journalism. Speaker: Annie Machon
  •  Omnipresent news, the content factory approach. Speaker: David Brewer

Link to the conference site here.

* I’ll round-up from the day on this blog but will also post updates during the day at,(the social/local/mobile noticeboard project I’m working on) so if you’re one of the beta users, search for Prague. If you’d like to be one of the beta users – sign up for an invite!

Written by sarahhartley

October 20th, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Future Everything 2010: Open data, linked data and semantics


These are my notes, with some links for further reference from the first day of the conference strand of the Future Everything festival which consumes Manchester’s creative and digital sector for a few days in May every year.

There were so many different events going on across the city, it would be impossible to distil things into one blog post, so this is intended very much as a personal snapshot of two aspects – the challenges around opening data and the new future possibilities of the semantic web………..

I was involved in facilitating two panels during the morning, both on the topic of open data and both with panels of leading thinkers in this area.

From the first, Moving the Immovable, a gauntlet was laid down for those of us looking at these issues from a Manchester perspective as William Perrin from Talk About Local included some examples of success in this area from Birmingham and challenged the home audience to act now.

The examples included the remarkable BCC DIY – a very quickly created website to deliver council services started to shame the council’s expensive and lengthy delays in providing a useable ‘unofficial’ version and a survey of parking ticket hotspots carried out in conjunction with HelpMeInvestigate. Challenging the audience to start right away by issuing hundreds of FOI requests it was an invigorating introduction to some of the approaches individuals or groups can make.

His full presentation is here;

The audience was treated to a different approach in a case study from London – the DataStore – with a presentation from Emer Coleman which also highlighted some of the pitfalls as well as talks from lawyer Jordan Hatcher and Rewired State’s James Darling.

The second panel discussion, The Rewards and Challenges of a Transparent Culture, ended up being so over-subscribed we actually had to turn people away!

Easy to see why when looking at the diverse backgrounds of those involved – Tim Dobson, recent PCC in Manchester for The Pirate Party, lawyer Jordan Hatcher, GP Amir Hannan, entrepreneur Chris Taggart.

The presentation which prompted the most questions from the audience in the auditorium, and debate everywhere else I went afterwards, was the passionate Dr Hannan. A local GP (Tameside and Glossop NHS Trust) he detailed the work he’s carried out to open up medical records to patients, allowing them to see their notes, become informed about the medications prescribed and treatments available so that they become fully involved in the process. His views that “a doctor, a patient and a computer in a room provides three experts” was certainly refreshing and inspiring. (InsidetheM60 blog reports further on this here.)

Speaking from the point of view of someone who has worked (tirelessly) to open up council data to local audiences, Chris Taggart of OpenlyLocal gave a talk about the culture of failure and the need for organisational mindset change.

His full presentation is here.


Onto semantics. I should stress here (although I’m sure that will be quickly blatantly obvious to many!) that I’m certainly no authority on this subject so I took it as a rare opportunity to hear from some people who are.

I admit much of it was brain-jangling for a simple hack, but there’s no getting away from the fact that those of us who make our livings from publishing stuff online, need to wise-up as the world wide web moves from a ‘network of documents’ to a ‘network of data’.

And listening to some of those coming at this from a science point of view, it seems that day might not be far off at all……

I found Manchester University’s Prof Carole Goble particularly inspiring and accessible as she spoke of the challenges facing scientists in orchestrating and interlinking datasets and it was fascinating to hear how exactly the same issues face this community – how best to collaborate and share information.

And just as is happening in many other sectors, she made the point that the new generation of scientists were for the first time digital natives – something that will inevitably make a change in how business is done in the future.

She provided the following links for further exploration of this topic during her presentation; – describes scientists, semantic web

Alzheimers forum – a scientific discourse ,semantic way

Danah Boyd www.2010

Finally, the mini keynote from Nigel Shadbolt provided a clear and accessible look at the work he and Tim Berners-Lee have been carrying out with the UK government.

He lit up that idea of the shift from a web of documents to a web of linked data.

“It is still a set of simple protocols, really disarmingly simple – you should give objects of interest their own URLs.”

And he provided this address to explore more;

One of his ideas caught my attention too – just as with the original web, once we have the semantic web there will be unintended use, and misuse.

After the conference sessions I was doing some searches and reading around this subject and found this TED talk from Berners-Lee from last year.


Written by sarahhartley

May 15th, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Roadtesting Tweetdoc to create an archive from #foj09


I decided to put tweetdoc through its paces today.  A service created by a Manchester developer that promises to answer a need – archiving tweets.

I wanted to keep a record of all the discussions around last week’s Future of Journalism Conference which I attended and blogged about.(Links to that coverage here).

The hashtag was #foj09 but those tweets will soon be lost forever along with some valuable points and contacts I might want to retrieve at a later date.

 The interface is simple to use with a quick registration process. There’s limited personalisation – a choice of headers (mine is “Twitter”) – but input is simple to follow with a basic title, description, date range.

The document created has a maximum of 100 tweets and shows them with the most recent first on a pdf document. See the results for yourself here: Journalism-Conference

It’s worth noting that the process does take a long time – I left my computer dealing with it after 25 mins, checked back at the hour point and then left it running while I went out.

(As an aside, I remain baffled by the icon at the top right of the user interface which looks like a women wrapped in spa towels?? but…)

Keeping and publishing tweets from an event on such a document will be a useful reference tool for journalists but maybe it could also become part of how such an event is reported, providing additional, unfiltered information for readers to dig deeper.

Written by sarahhartley

September 12th, 2009 at 5:46 pm

#TedXlp Liverpool’s ‘social journalism’ demonstrated at tech conference


Herbert Kim gets TedX North started

Herbert Kim gets TedX North started

“With social journalism, the more noise the better,” said the final speaker wrapping up at the first TED X North event in Liverpool yesterday.

Completing a talk, ‘Networked news; the rise of social newsgathering’, the Liverpool Post and Echo’s executive editor of digital, Alison Gow demonstrated how local newspaper reporters were facing up to the challenges, and opportunities, that social media platforms presented.

Using a case study involving a local news story about a crane collapse which had, in part, been covered by the newspaper’s reporters finding and sharing updates on Twitter and Flickr, she said journalists now had to “give back and engage with online communities” before predicting a future which would entail “fewer papers with fewer people doing more in depth investigative journalism”.

(See more commentary from this talk on my FriendFeed here.)

It seemed a fitting end to an event conceived around an offline-online-offline conference – an independently organised series of events across the north of England which involves screenings of online videos filmed originally at the TED conferences.

A heady mix of journalists, tech entrepreneurs, artists, engineers and educators packed into a darkened auditorium in the city’s ICDC To see the films and also to hear the live speakers.

As one of those involved in bringing the TED material to the new venues, Herbert Kim admitted the idea of inviting a group of people to get together to view a film they could just as easily watch at home had been a step into the unknown – see the video for more on this.


Attendees also heard from;

* Microsoft’s Steve Clayton, who showed the audience some of the projects his company is working on including which, among other zoomable features, enables the creation of panoramic photos generated from a bundle of individual snaps and the Surface interactive table top which was available to try out at the venue.

* Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino from! who is inspired to move away what she identified as a ‘black box’ culture of expertise to innovations where users can see under the bonnet and feel enabled to get their hands dirty as in this example.

The film clips viewed included this criticism of the education system from Sir Ken Robinson and this delightful film experiment with marshmallows which the audience were also asked to participate in – predictably unsuccessfully!

The Ted X North events now move to TEDxLeeds – 10th September, TEDxSheffield – 16th September TEDxNewcastle – 30th September  and finally TEDxManchester – 2nd October.

What did you think of the event? Will you be attending the next one? Let me know below.

* The Liverpool Post’s report on the event can be seen here.

Written by sarahhartley

August 8th, 2009 at 9:42 am

links for 2009-05-31

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Written by sarahhartley

May 31st, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Ten picks from this week

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This week I attended an interesting digital conference through work. Here’s some of the bits and pieces I took away.

Fairly random it may be – but (hopefully) providing some interesting links;

1. Blogger Russell Davies showed us this bit of geekery using web cam technology. Hours of optical illusionary fun, go on, give it a go!
2. Plenty of interest for Cloud computing from an expert panel, particularly for the possibilities it offers for personal libraries – think music or films.
3. 3D imagery emerging as a viable platform for work based conferencing – think meetings in an Second Life with avatars attending to help lead to flattened hierarchies for cross-departmental input without baggage.
4. Swedish directory publisher Eniro not only provides address, phone number, map etc. but also offer searching by service e.g. haircut, plus time and date allowing for user click-though to booking.
5. Also some excitement around the old-stuff, paper – e-paper , readers such as Kindle but also the real thing with Paper Camp and sites such as Lulu.
6. Guardian News & Media director of digital content Emily Bell gave delegates a presentation about the new integrated newsroom. Pictures available here.
7. Fun and silliness using RFID tags to add music to teddy bears or “feed me” demands to plants for example. Check out Tikitag to get started.
8. The Guardian’s Message to Obama Flickr group resulted in a hardback book which was put on sale.
9. The US intelligence services have set up their own wiki called Intellipedia .
10. Finally, favourite quote of the week from Russell Davies again: “Digital natives don’t think of themselves as digital people any more than we all think of ourselves as oxygen breathers.”

Written by sarahhartley

January 17th, 2009 at 7:43 pm

(Not) Building online communities


At the risk of this sounding like the start of one of those jokes that includes mother-in-laws or bottoms – it’s been a funny old week and that’s the only way to sum it up.

Having just signed a contract to act as a consultant for something called SHAPE, my every evening and weekend hour is being spent carrying out research in readiness for a couple of days activity at the NATO Public Affairs Conference in October.

I shall be joining Charlie Beckett,  author of the amazing sounding  SuperMedia – Saving Journalism So It Can Save The World, who is giving a presentation on “Adapting Communications to Changes in Journalism brought about by the rise of New Media” as well as Randy Covington, Director of IFRA Newsplex Training Centre USA, who is speaking on “World Wide Trends in News and Strategic Communications”.

As well as leading a discussion on “Official Blogging in a Conservative Organization” (their z!) I’ve also started work on a presentation which was initially called “Creating and sustaining online communities” but will now probably be ”Online communities: A social world”.

The reason for the change has come about as I prepare materials – having been involved in online communities for many years now I’m just not convinced they can be “created”.

It makes it sound as if they’re built or constructed by some official providor of such things – perhaps in the manner of a town planning exercise, a sort of “build it and they will come approach!”.

Idea seems to be that you can build the online equivalent of shiny new structures and people will pick up their belongings and move in wholesale.

(Perhaps the legacy of empty apartment blocks across our northern cities reavels the flaws in this type of thinking without any further explanation.)

But I do know what people are getting at when they use these terms, after all news organisations, companies, institutions all want to engage better with their potential audiences, customers, clients or citizens.

But how will creating a special structure to which they are expected to invest their time, money or interest achieve that?

 So my curent thinking in terms of this preperation is to look at the successful online communities and consider how they achieved their success in order to learn more.

Using case studies with the youtubes and Facebooks of the world and then drilling down further to understand how people communicate and interact as well as the sort of tools they employ to do this activity.

I’m sure they will have many common elements – ease of use has to be the number one but what other elements make for an engaging online community? If you consider that you belong to such a thing I would love to hear why you “joined”, or is it more the case that the platform you engage with actually provides you with a service, something which enables you?

According to this long posting on the Encyclopedia of Informal Education, three linked qualities appear with some regularity in discussions of communal life:

Tolerance – an openness to others; curiosity; perhaps even respect, a willingness to listen and learn (Walzer 1997: 11). 

Reciprocity – Putnam (2000) describes generalized reciprocity thus: ‘I’ll do this for you now, without expecting anything immediately in return, and perhaps without even knowing you, confident that down the road you or someone else will return the favour’. In the short run there is altruism, in the long run self-interest.

Trust – the confident expectation that people, institutions and things will act in a consistent, honest and appropriate way (or more accurately, ‘trustworthiness’ – reliability) is essential if communities are to flourish. Closely linked to norms of reciprocity and networks of civic engagement (Putnam 1993; Coleman 1990), social trust – trust in other people – allows people to cooperate and to develop. Trusting others does not entail us suspending our critical judgment – some people will be worthy of trust, some will not. 

Realise this post has turned into a bit of a braindump! I find it a truly is a fascinating topic, and as it all becomes more concrete, I will update.

Written by sarahhartley

September 20th, 2008 at 2:26 pm