Links for February 26th through February 27th

Some links for you:

  • Digital Challenge – Birmingham Big City Plan – “Are you at home in front of, or behind, the camera? Could you take a photograph, or make a film, showing us how you think Birmingham should develop over the next twenty years? Perhaps you feel Birmingham would benefit from greener areas or maybe you have an idea about how public transport could improve. Your vision could be for the whole city, or your local area. With two fantastic Flip cameras up for grabs, the Big City Plan Digital Challenge is your chance to show us how you want to reshape and revitalise the city centre. The judges will be looking for imaginative ideas as well as great images, so it doesn’t matter if you use your mobile phone or the latest camera technology.”!?
  • Digital events in the West Midlands Feb/March 09 – A very useful list indeed of digital and business events in Birmingham and beyond in March 2009

Links for February 19th through February 24th

Some links for you:

Outsourcing Lent


Okay, so as well as giving up twitter for Lent I’ve been thinking I could usefully give up other stuff for Lent on behalf of people who just haven’t got the time or inclination to do it for themselves. That’s right, I’m offering you the chance to outsource your Lent obligations – want to give up crisps for Lent but can’t actually bring yourself to do it? I’ll do it for you.

Here’s how it works:

  • Decide what you’d like me to give up for Lent on your behalf. Put it in a comment here or drop me an email (dave [at] I’m on twitter only until the end of today (24th Feb)
  • It has to be something you want to give up. So if you say: “Dave I want you to give up being a tit for Lent,” then that’s fine but it’s more a reflection on you than me. 
  • I’ll do most things that don’t adversely affect my ability to stay alive and earn a living. I won’t be giving up running.
  • It’ll cost you. Minimum price is a £1 a day. Lent is 40 days approx so that’s £40. Too much? Well if I get 10 of you who want to give up the same thing, chocolate as an example, for £4 each then that’s fine. Clubbing together is a good way to do this – you do the maths.
  • If you commit, I’ll commit. I’ll begin your fast straight away but if the dosh doesn’t appear by the weekend I’ll presume you don’t want me to continue. Donations via my charity page.
  • Monies to go to St Basils, a youth homelessness charity in Digbeth, Birmingham.
  • I’ll post up progress on your fasting on this blog.
Let me know if you’re interested.

Giving up Twitter for Lent

I’m giving up twitter for Lent. Now don’t go thinking this is part of some complex social experiment to remind myself of how life used to be before twitter – it’s nothing of the sort. It’s Lent, I’m just crazy about Lent and would love to have you help me out with my twitter-fast.

Like a lot of Catholics, I’m lapsed, lapsed since circa 1984 in fact, having given up the altar boy stuff a few years before that. I’ve not given up anything for Lent since then but I always enjoyed the banter amongst family and friends about who was going to give up what. It was usually something like swearing (impossible), chocolate (near impossible) or cabbage (erm, easy). So after a 24 year break Lent is back in my life and this year I’m giving up twitter.

For every day I manage to stay away from twitter I’ll give a pound to the Digbeth-based youth homelessness charity, St. Basils. Given that Lent refers to the 40 days and nights Jesus spent messing about in the desert that’s £40 for a start. For those that would like to show their support for what I’m doing you too can donate to the #keepdaveofftwitter campaign. Obviously multiples of 40 work and I don’t care if you give 40 x 1p, 40 x 10p or whatever you choose. All welcome. I run a marathon later this year but I’ll probably forego raising funds for that and see how I get on with this instead. There’s a second part to this Lent-based fundraising – info to follow. Am outsourcing Lent – see here.

So here’s the rules for the twitter-fast:

  • Lent varies in length according to different beliefs but in my book it’s from the start of 25th February (Ash Wednesday) to the end of 11th April (Holy Saturday).
  • I can’t look at or use twhirl or any other app. My phone can’t access the net anyway so I won’t get updates there.
  • I can’t use an RSS feed of any sort to look at tweets.
  • I will be honest with you. If I lapse I’ll put £2 in for that day but I really don’t anticipate lapsing.
  • I reckon #keepdaveofftwitter is a useful hashtag for this. Not that I’ll be reading your tweets anyway.
  • Although not on twitter I do still exist (on email, dave[at] and on the phone and in person)
  • I may glance at Facebook as I have a couple of friends on there who never use any other medium but I’ve long since stopped posting updates directly on there, pushing them through twitter instead.
I’m not alone with this idea but the least I can do is turn my time in the social media wilderness into a positive for a local charity. Love to have your support.

Links for February 13th through February 19th

Some links for you:

Links for February 8th through February 11th

Some links for you:

Creative Industries Book Club – Clay Shirky

Book club meeting number three and we take on Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody. I think there’s another more thoughtful summary of today’s lunchtime get-together to come from the Interactive Cultures team at Birmingham City University (our hosts). But in the meantime I wanted to just get down the bullet points in my head:

  • The group split three ways. Those liking Shirky’s clear approach to the subject and useful examples, those thinking it was okay but where’s the depth? and those thinking he misses the point too many times for it to be useful.
  • For the record I’m just past the second and heading towards the latter of those positions. I didn’t find it that engaging a read but sometimes a case study would leap out and chime well with what I’m doing.
  • The group heard from Jon Bounds about how the Big City Talk site came about. I doubt if I was alone in thinking that was a much richer case study than any of Shirky’s in the book.
  • Many felt that issues of class, sex and politics seem curiously absent from Shirky (even though his case studies are sometimes about political events) so the book felt curiously light-weight in many places.
  • There was much discussion about Birmingham’s social media scene and its relationship with the politics of the city. There was a consensus that there’s a richness to what’s happening in Brum but equally a concern about some being left out of the discussion because they don’t have access to the tools.
  • There was some debate over who should read this book. City officials, our mums, students or those heading up any large organisation were amongst the suggestions. I pitched in that in the City (that is, amongst council officers) no-one should read it. Better to have them understand how the civic-mindedness of a few bloggers helped almost doubled the number of responses to the Big City Plan.
  • Having read Leadbetter’s ‘We-Think‘ for our first book club meet (and hating it) I think the group feels we’ve now had enough of anything that falls into the ‘the internet is amazing’ or the ‘here’s how the world is changing’ categories. 
  • Not that it isn’t useful to feel inspired by the potential of change or excited by the tools that will accelerate it but dealing with fine grain of the debate and therefore questioning the utopian-quality of much of that kind of writing is what we should be doing next. Birmingham is ahead of the game of the game with our actions and if Shirky is somehow top of the tree for this kind of writing then I reckon we’re ahead of the game in our thinking as well. 

Next up is some obscure academic journal article that none of us will probably understand – title to be confirmed.

(pic of Shirky by Jol)

Sharing my carbon footprint

You may have noticed there are some new graphs on the right sidebar of this blog. You can now get live updates on my home electricity use and my carbon footprint (well my electricity-related carbon footprint anyway). Things have clearly moved on since I first got my Current Cost device in November and became part of the Act on CO2 campaign. I’ve been steadily reporting back my energy use to the PR company employed to manage the campaign but realise that for the data to have any impact on my behaviour I should be forced to look at the data everyday.

Actually I think I’m losing the plot on the whole saving energy thing and have become way more interested in the data-mashing/amateur electronics end of things. In particular I’ve become interested in getting objects (in my case an energy meter) to blog/tweet on their own. My house needs to tweet to remind me to be a more careful user of energy – that’s where I want to end up.

We’re not quite at the stage of seeing @daveshouse on Twitter yet but we do have nice graphs. These come courtesy of Pachube: “a service that enables you to connect, tag and share real time sensor data from objects, devices, buildings and environments around the world”. Pachube are beta-testing at the moment so you’ll need an invite code to use their service (sign-up details here). On their applications page they have an app to connect the Current Cost meter to your computer. This allows your meter to output information to a feed. I’ve created another feed for my carbon footprint using another Pachube app and finally, the wonderfully titled Pachublogject (which is also still in beta – many thanks for allowing me to test) spat out some code for a widget.

And that’s the widegets you see in the sidebar. I could add another for temperature in my living room but will resist for now. It’s live energy use you are seeing and it changes, according to use, every 15 seconds or so. The carbon footprint bit recalculates based on the previous 24 hours energy use. Where the graph shows a flat line that isn’t always because there’s noone in the house – more likely it’s because the laptop the meter is plugged into is switched off. And that’s where the flaw is in this for me – I don’t have an always-on machine at home that the meter can feed into. So the next thing I need to do probably involves me connecting the meter to an Arduino and then direct to a port on my router. That will involve some programming or something like that – beyond my technical expertise currently although I’m learning stuff pretty rapidly on this project. From there we’re only a short step away from twitter. Bring it on!

Social Media ‘Seminar for Success’

I did a presentation at one of Aston Science Park’s ‘Seminars for Success’ this week – I don’t do many 7.30am starts so that’s almost worth a post in itself. All I want to do here is say thanks to those that sent me positive feedback afterwards and a general hello to some new followers on Twitter and LinkedIn. All the speakers’ presentations are posted up on the Science Park website and for reference mine is below also. It looks a bit brief without the arm-waving and additional anecdotes but you get the general point. Any questions please get in touch (in the comments or dave [at]