Yorkshire & the Humber achieved another first on Thursday 22nd January when O’Reilly Media brought its Ignite concept to the UK. Ignite events have been popular for some time in the USA. They comprise a series of quick-fire “lightning talks”, mainly, but not exclusively, on technology-related subjects. An enthusiastic audience of more than 100, drawn from across the north of England, gathered at Old Broadcasting House in Leeds, in an atmosphere at times resonant of a revivalist meeting, to hear 18 different speakers deliver their message in five minutes, using 20 PowerPoint slides which advanced automatically.
Prior to the event, this sounded like a major challenge for the speakers, but all not only managed to keep to their allotted time, and synchronise with their automated slide show, they also succeeded in getting some powerful messages across. All the presentations were rapturously received by an audience clearly excited to be present at this UK first. After a welcome to Old Broadcasting House from Linda Broughton, Head of the NTI; and an introduction to the event from O’Reilly’s Craig Smith; Katie Lips of Kisky Netmedia got the presentations off to a strong start by outlining the development of the CoffeeBuzz application as an example of the process of developing iPhone applications.
Jeff Allen enthralled the audience with tales of the inspiring ICT initiatives which had been supported or witnessed by Medecins San Frontieres in Africa, providing proof that such technologies have a vital role to play in community and economic development. Tim Panton of PhoneFromHere.com wanted to highlight the importance of voice communication in new technologies. He took time out to remind us that the iPhone can make telephone calls too, and talked about how to use smartphones to direct voice callers to online content. Michael Sparks of BBC Research urged the techies to use code to make the web fun. Dean Vipond used his five minutes to take us on a quest for Perfection in Design, and he was followed by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino who gave an interesting tour of some hardware hacking techniques designed to encourage creativity in tool development. Ian Pringle made everybody think by raising the issue of digital inheritance. What are we doing to safeguard digital assets for the future, and do we need to appoint a digital next-of-kin? Dominic Hodgson played to the crowd while expounding his views on the Future of Search, and its use to develop location-aware, personalised services.
Winding up the first half of the evening, Ed French gave a very useful overview of the role of the Venture Capitalist in new technology start up businesses. The message is “get in early” the deal always takes longer than you think it will.
A half-way break was very necessary to allow everyone to draw breath, and the excited chatter suggested that most were taking full advantage of the opportunities for networking.
The second half of the event got off to a storming start, with Tom Scott giving an entertaining, and very funny, romp through his life as described in twenty graphs. Stuart Childs and Richard Garside then demonstrated their Friispray digital graffiti system developed by hacking the Wii remote. Katie Brown of Information for Mental Health gave an interesting insight into the role of social media in helping people to recover from mental health problems. Arturo Servin showed us how machines make decisions using artificial intelligence. There were some puzzled looks as Glenn Smith started his presentation with a number of slides showing bottoms of various shapes and sizes. This led him to an explanation of the process of automating design, which he argued, had driven designers to become more creative to keep their jobs. And, with the basic principles of design automated, a number of innovations in design have resulted from designers being able to give their attention to other aspects of the process.
Guy Dickinson spared us the prospect of lots of maps of a large Berkshire town as he began his talk on the Future of Reading. He considered eBooks to be a short-lived phenomenon, and thought that “pulp fiction” was here to stay in printed form as it can be read in the bathroom. He told us that most non-fiction reading in the future would take place on mobile phone screens. Philip Hemsted gave a thought-provoking talk on Psycho teams and the theory of mind. His point that high performing teams gel and understand each other’s mindsets, was illustrated by reference to the Clangers who demonstrated teamwork at its best. James Boardwell then gave us a tour around the Politics of Patterns. Rounding off the presentations was Ian Forrester who told us that Twitter was about to get very sexy! He outlined a new dating service he wanted to develop using the increasingly fashionable short message networking service.
The audience response suggested that the evening had been a resounding success, and, as everyone decamped to the upstairs room of the Fenton pub across the road from Old Broadcasting House, most people were agreed that this had to be the first of many such events.
The videos of all the speakers have now been posted by Imran Ali here: http://tinyurl.com/atqc5a