Ignite took place at Old Broadcasting House in Leeds and was very well attended with
OBH staffers commenting that they’d never seen the place so busy.
If you’ve never been to an Ignite event before (and I hadn’t) the format is a little
unusual, but very effective. Each speaker gets five minutes to present twenty slides
with each slide automatically advancing after fifteen seconds. This keeps presenters
on their toes, the audience interested and topics fresh.
It also means lots of speakers and not much time to take notes so I’ll only be blogging
a couple of key take-aways from each presentation.
Craig Smith from O’Reilly Media’s GMT blog gave the introduction and was giving out some
O’Reilly books throughout the evening. I didn’t get one.
First to present was Katie Lipps talking about the CoffeeBuzz iPhone application and
what her team had learned during its development and subsequent marketing.
You can find reports of their findings at theAmazingiPhone.com with two reports tailored
for business people and developers released under a Creative Commons license.
- Paper prototyping paid off
- Design important for Mac users
- Field test, localise, be nice to bloggers
- Pricing is not easy yet
A fascinating talk from Doctors Without Borders volunteer Jeff, covering the ways that
technology is being used in Africa and the unique challenges faced by techies operating
in deprived conditions there.
- Skills exist in Africa
- Wifi good for village-village relay
- Offline wikipedia
- Kiosk to download content to USB
- HIV treatment has difficulty with registration. Use a dedicated registrar using a locally made
system, powered by windmill & battery.
- Fix problems as they occur. Not pre-specced, expensive or centralised
Tim wants us Web 2.0 developers to consider integrating voice into our applications.
Thankfully, he didn’t mean to add speech synthesis to websites but to use the telephone
as part of the customer funnel.
- Public thinks phone & web are closely linked
- First time mobile callers get an SMS back with link to phone-friendly content
- Use the
tel: URI protocol & associate web session with phone call, eg. know what the customer
was looking at
- Open-source PBXs or hosted services
Michael came from the BBC’s R&D department to give a talk about embracing concurrency - a tricky
(and techie) subject to fit into five minutes.
He argued that because of poor tools, insufficient teaching and language traction,
frameworks and design patterns are necessary to effectively apply concurrency to modern
architectures. As an ex-real-time developer, I agree but I think a few people’s eyes glazed
Dean covered perfection in design.
In a fun talk, he pointed out that design classics still have problems (often with usability
for the disabled) but he had found his own design nirvana:
Boots own brand paracetomol packaging.
I hadn’t heard about the Arduino before this
talk on hardware hacking, and I suspect that the talk was a thinly disguised plug for Alexandra’s
product. But the device looks like it might be fun for someone with a greater interest
in hardware than I do.
Ian wanted us all to think about what happens to our digital assets after we die - a fairly
morbid subject that was presented in an interesting and, at times, light-hearted manner.
- Digital wills
- Physical assets are useful for historians etc but digital assets are treated as disposable
- Personal assets, social assets, public assets
- Legal issues - Ts & Cs, data protection
- Digital next of kin? 3rd party key holders?
- Are people still around? Dead man’s handle
SEO Dominic talked about the future of search, a topic I covered in my predicition for 2009.
- SEO = Google
- Personalisation & localisation important
- Video search inside podcasts
- 10 blue links work
- Natural language search
Edward gave us the skinny on funding for tech startups as his company
specialises in early stage ventures. Despite powerpoint problems, he delivered an
interactive talk asking lots of questions of the audience.
- Might take a year to finalise the deal
After a short interval, Tom gave us a funny warm up for part two: My life in 20 graphs.
Stuart Chils & Richard Garside
Describing their project, the FriiSpray which provides a cheap interface
to create virtual graffiti. They used Wiimote whiteboard with some Macromedia Flash code
they have made a cheap electronic whiteboard.
They ended with an appeal for help from programmers and artists who want to get involved.
Kate described how Leeds’ mental health professionals are using technology and especially
social media to bring information and services where they are needed.
Check out her Tumblr for more.
Arturo’s talk covered a topic that I am very interested in - Practical AI & Machine Learning.
He gave a good introduction to AI & presented some useful resources, covering a complex
discipline well in a five minute talk.
Using saddle making to illustrate the concept of mass customisation, Glenn showed how
automation can free up resources for product improvement.
- Customisation = expensive
- Leave the math to the machines
- User chooses features, clever tech specs it, machines make item
A surprisingly interesting talk from Guy on his vision for the future of reading. After
the hype of Amazon’s Kindle and e-book readers from Sony, he had really considered his
- Mobile phones not e-book readers
- People read in toilet, bed & bath - technology impact
- Writing will be shorter and easier to consume in short bursts: pamphlets
- Books can be customised - great for students & Harry Potter fanfic
- Social media to share annotations & reviews
Start-up founder Philip talked about psychology as it applies to team building.
- Six facial expressions common to all races/cultures
- Co-operative instincts benefit mankind
- Psychometrics measure personality traits so you can predict how your team will perform
- Bulding teams is essential skill for entrepreneurs
Ian gave us a preview of his sex & twitter startup TweetFoxxy.com, to much sniggering.
It promises to be very like Mr Tweet but finds people for you to hook up with. Twitter
users send DMs stating the attributes of a partner that they’re looking for
and eventually TweetFoxxy sends you a DM with a recommendation. Users then chat via
an intermediary (so there is no face-to-face rejection) then introduce themselves
and chat directly when they feel able.
It will be a free service but advert supported.
James talked about the politics of patterns as they apply to his work on folksy.com - a UK etsy.
- Shops have a place in seller’s heart. Their page is “theirs” - owners don’t want links to other sellers
- Needed ways to promote new sellers - not just old favourites
- Taste affects sellers - don’t sell plates next to a woolly penis
- Users of the site imitate each (and other sites) which affects the tech & community
- Design challenges of managing different stakeholders
As you can see, it was an interested and varied evening and I consider myself a fan of the
Ignite format. Hopefully, there will be some Ignite events in Adelaide when I get there, in
which case I’ll definitely be attending.
Thanks to the organisers, sponsors, speakers and attendees for an enjoyable evening.