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Event: Technology in a Cold Climate

The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) are holding a symposium tomorrow (26 October 2009) entitled Technology in a Cold Climate. It’s the culmination of a few months work of commissioned research examining the social applications of a selection of technologies and aims to answer the question:

“How can technology help meet some of the challenges that the UK is facing?”

The results are four papers which will be delivered at the event on the 26 October 2009:

  • technology’s application to delivering better and more cost-effective public services
  • the benefits of greater digital connectivity
  • the potential of technology to transform society towards a more sustainable form
  • the innovative behaviour that is essential to developing the kind of entrepreneurial action needed

8:30-9:00, registration and breakfast
9:00-9:30, keynote speech from Stephen Timms MP, Minister for Digital Britain
9:30-11:00, seminars on “Sustainable Technology” and “Interconnected Society”
11:00-12:30, seminars on “Public Services” and “Supporting Innovation”
12:30-1:00, lunch
1:00-2:00, panel discussion with Ben Hammersley, William Heath, Luke Johnson, and Kevin Smith, chaired by Matthew Taylor

[picapp src=”b/0/7/a/spider_web_6dde.jpg?adImageId=6608452&imageId=5119736″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]
The Interconnected Society
I’ve been asked by Jamie Young to chair the seminar that focuses on the Interconnected Society which will be based on a paper written by Professor John Farrington, with responses from Graham Walker, Director of Strategy at the Office of the Champion for Digital Inclusion and Julian David of IBM UK. The conversation will then be opened up to everyone in the room (and those online if possible), where we will aim together to try to come to a set of priorities/recommendations.

Following the conversation online
The day is going to be live blogged and the overall details for the day can be found here. Also see:
Liveblog for Interconnected Society session
Twitter hashtag – #techcold
The RSA on Twitter

Beta testing:

This afternoon I’ve been playing with and testing, which was pointed out to me by designer Simon Ianson.

The service is currently in private beta but once launched aims to help you create “an elegant website using personal content from around the internet”, ie. help you bring a selection of your social media presences under one roof and for it to look nice. The latter I think is the point as much as the former. The company are citing possible uses as:

  • personal home pages
  • life streaming
  • splash and microsites
  • celebrity fan pages
  • commercial promotion
  • brand marketing

From what I understand the service is being built by Jack Zerby, designer director at Vimeo and his partner in crime Jonathan Marcus, but I should emphasise that the project is not affiliated with Vimeo.

Pages on the site aren’t yet public and unfortunately the demo video (also see it here) isn’t shareable, not sure if that’s purposeful, but I can share this video made by someone else who has tested things out:

And here’s a pic of my test, which took me about 30 minutes to put together – but only because I decided to play with the font colours and background design, and was enjoying things a bit too much. In reality you could get something functional up in about 2 minutes and something more to your tastes up in about 5-10 minutes.

My page

During my experimentation I came across a few minor bugs and the team were impressively quick to respond. From Simon’s experience as well, they seem very keen to get the service right, which is fantastic.

What I like is that it’s simple, brings things together, and does what-it-says-on-the-tin as the results generally look good (although some of the pre-selected colour schemes don’t work for all content). I can see how it could be popular as a personal webpage or the starting point for a celebrity fan site, gathering all the pieces of social media presence together.

However, at the moment there are only six social media services that can be added to your site – Twitter, Flickr, Vimeo, Tumblr, Facebook and Whilst these do cover a wide variety of possible intents and users, it will be interesting to see how the team balance the design of with the desire of users to have more services included.

Simon also pointed out, and I agree, that being able to add your own domain to the service would add great value to the proposition (although, noted, this does add technical complexity). So instead of the URL it could resolve to (or whatever).

I’m not also not sure that as the service currently stands would be something that could withstand the rigours of brand management and marketing: the fonts – whilst funky – are still fairly limited, and only one image can be uploaded, which for a brand would introduce interesting questions regarding logos (it still always comes down to logos, unfortunately).

But I’m sure there is much to come, given that the service I tried is in beta and de-bug mode put together with the obvious keenness by the team to get things right.

UPDATE 19/10/2009: Jack from has been in touch and responded to some of my queries above. Watch this space.

A simple lesson in why to turn things off at the plug

Here, Tom Rafferty of analyst firm Red Monk, compares the energy consumption of an XBox 360 with a Nintendo Wii in ‘off’, ‘stand-by’ and ‘on’ modes. What it clearly shows is that even when you think you’ve turned your electronic equipment off, it’s still consuming energy.

In the video Tom uses an energy meter by Fujitsu Siemens, but he tells me that there are lots of them around and similar devices can be bought from CurrentCost and Wattson.

On Amazon currently, a plug monitor seems to cost around £13-17.

UPDATE via Tom (see comments):
Another example:

A very rough history of tech driven social networks

Working on a two day course on Social Networks and Business today and thought the following bit of collated research might be of interest.

Thanks must go to @barstep for the reminder of Amateur Radio, but please do add further suggestions in the comments as this isn’t very complete and is of a length to fit on a Power Point slide. Dates are via Wikipedia, and so thoroughly contestable, but the point I’m trying to show in the course is that technology driven social networks are older than you may think.

A very rough history of technology driven social networks

1900s: Amateur (Ham) Radio
1940s: Citizen Broadcast (CB) Radio
1960s: Origins of the internet (a system of computer networks)
1979: Usenet (a message board system)
1980s: Message boards, Compuserve
1989: Beginnings of the WWW
1993: CERN makes the web free, launch of the Mosaic browser
1994: First blogs appear, launch of Geocities
1996: Classmates– one of the first recognisable social networks
1998: Yahoo! Groups launches
1999: The blogging platforms Live Journal and Blogger launch
2000: Friends Reunited and DeviantArt launch
2003: WAYN, LinkedIn and MySpace launch
2004: Flickr, Orkut, Tagged and Facebook launch
2005: Bebo and Ning launch
2006: Twitter

UPDATE 27/09/2009: Via Alessandro Piana Bianco
– (1997)
– (1999)
– (2004)

UPDATE 28/09/2009: I of course forgot to mention…
2003: Second Life
2005: YouTube