West Midlands IT Solutions Showcase

clicking mad nurses

There was an interesting clash of events today. Over at the Orange Studio was the Screen West Midlands/Creative Republic Crunch Time Event. Screen WM’s Sarah Arnesen has a useful report on it – sounds very positive and it certainly had an good choice of keynote in James Medway (update: Ruth Ward has put up the notes from her session).

I took a punt on the West Midlands IT Solutions Showcase event over at Millennium Point (having spotted the ad for it on the train of all places – the cross-city line is covered in Business Link ads). I enjoyed it. There was a decent amount of stands from both the big boys (Microsoft were there), universities and plenty of SMEs. The team of doctors and nurses above were from Clicking Mad. Gimmicky maybe but they were there to sell services and in a room full of suits they stood out a treat. I chatted a little to Alexis (to the right of the doctor in the pic) who was keen to tell me all about the company and it was pleasing to here that business seems to be holding up well despite the tough times.

Of course they were there to sell because surprisingly, the room was full of customers. I say surprisingly because I often go to events where the only people there are people like me with nothing to buy. This on the other hand had plenty of SMEs from all areas of the economy eager to lap up ‘IT solutions’. I went to a couple of seminars, one on web marketing on a shoestring (by IT-Futures) and another on social media (by iCentrum). Plenty of crossover of course and both pitched at an introductory level but both full of SMEs with basic questions that needed answering. If I was tweeting at the moment I’d be tempted to say ‘IT is in your space – chatting up your customers’

So the event was refreshingly can-do. It’s linked to the launch of a new advisory service on IT from Business Link (more to come on that I think) and the place was SWARMING with Business Link people. Easily 30, maybe more. Uptake of IT by businesses in the region is apparently amongst the lowest in the UK (so we learnt from a presidential-style TV address by Business Link West Midlands’ chief exec), presumably that’s the case for investment and for the scale of the event.

I’d be eager to hear more about the Crunch time event but it’s safe to say that over in the IT Solutions world we had a small army of business advisors, some nurses, and crucially, punters-a-plenty. I have a feeling that whether you think of yourself as IT, Creative, Digital or whatever, today maybe you needed to be in two places at once.

Google Street View plus Fixmystreet – a winning combination

For too long now the houses in the street next to where my Mom lives (in Alum Rock, East Birmingham) have been boarded up ready for demolition. Some have gone but others remain. In fact they’ve remained that way for several years now. I don’t actually know what the plans for them are but I seem to recall that subsidence issues meant most of the street had to go.

I’ve been cross about this situation for a long time. These are the streets I grew up in after all – a proud working class neighbourhood, once predominantly Irish, now largely Asian. The gradually neglect of these streets is a disgrace and I wrote a letter to my Mom’s councillors about it a few months ago to little effect (a response from one of them promising to look into it). I pointed out that if this was a more middle-class area the situation simply wouldn’t be tolerated.

I had been meaning to bring my camera along to take some pics but with the beauty of Street View I don’t have to. There’s the whole street in its neglected glory set out for anyone to see. Have a look around. Go to Farndon road as well, that’s the same. Admire the boarded up house that confronts my Mom every time she goes to the shops.

So having grabbed a few stills from Street View I’ve now used them to make a submission to Fix My Street (or rather, Fix My Mom’s Street, that’s a website waiting to happen isn’t it?)

To give my Mom some credit she doesn’t seem too bothered about it. I’m not sure she knows how to cause a fuss but even if she knew I doubt she would. Clearly I’ve developed some kind of middle-class angst about it but if this was your Mom’s street wouldn’t you try to do something? She’s lived in this house since 1967 and she’ll probably stay in it for many years to come so the bottom line is it isn’t something she should have to tolerate. I’ll report back on progress; should there be any…..

Links for March 25th through March 27th

Some links for you:

  • Vision Lozells – Welcome to the Vision Lozells website – 3d virtual Lozells! Not tried it yet (PC laptop wouldn’t run it). From the site: “a bespoke 3D virtual environment which allows you to view the proposals interactively in 3D. This software has a number of special innovation created for the Vision Lozells project” Will report on it when I get the chance to try it. Update: Jon Bounds tried the mac version but it didn’t work.
  • 4iP looks at faster commissions – Some interesting quotes in this piece: “4iP partners said they wanted C4 to strengthen the initiative’s branding and its promotion of their projects [….] Loosemore [4iP head] said he was being pitched too many local aggregation services that do not interest him.”
  • How networks of trust can unlock innovation – Collaboration – Articles – News, views and events – NESTA – Dr Karen Stephenson, a corporate anthropologist and an expert on social networks in business, explains: “Your informal networks might include the colleagues that you come into contact with on a daily basis, the ‘experts’ you turn to when you need advice on a subject and the people you engage with for learning purposes. The links between people in a network can be made up of knowledge, products and services – although knowledge is always involved to some extent. Trust is the glue that holds the network together.”

Digital Strategy for the West Midlands

I gave a presentation at the LUCID dissemination event today in which I proposed that the region needs to think afresh about setting a strategy for identifying opportunities in the digital economy. I know, sounds grand doesn’t it. The bottom line is that I have to write a short paper for Advantage West Midlands to influence their agenda in this area.

I’ll be writing that paper on a blog platform over at digitalstrategywm.co.uk.

The theme I’m using (the same one they are using for the Digital Britain consultation) allows for comments on each paragraph which I’m hoping will get populated sufficiently so that I can work them into the paper I send back. I’d welcome co-authors as well as commentators although I’ll appreciate it if the thought of writing strategy fills you with dread. The site is looking a bit bare at the moment but I’ll be setting out the sections of the paper very soon so do subscribe to the RSS feed. In the meantime I’ve posted up the presentation that kicks it off both here and on the consultation site.

Hanging about on the wrong side of the curve

Just thought I’d get this down as it’s an issue raised in the meeting I’m sitting in as I type this now:

“Are the city’s creative industries too far on the other side of the social media curve that they’ve forgotten how to engage with everybody else?”

The meeting is generally made up of representatives from businesses (big and small), support agencies, funding agencies and the like. I gave a brief presentation on social media and how the wider business sector might make more use of it (much like the one I gave at Aston Science Park in January).

One of the points made after my bit was that although the Creative sector is well ahead of the game, and ahead of the curve, in taking up social media technologies they’re in danger of cutting themselves off. Specifically, cut off to those seeking to enter the sector. The argument being that creatives have become harder to find and communicate with, particularly to those who lack developed digital literacy skills or indeed access to the internet. It was clear behind the query there was concern about the diversity of the creative sector.

Does this ring true? Or is it actually easier now in that once you’ve found the way in you get opened up to a very wide range of contacts much quicker than previously? Thoughts welcome.

Links for March 22nd through March 24th

Some links for you:

Back from an awesome run….

….as I used to say on Twitter.

Actually I’m back from a storming run at the Ironbridge Half Marathon in Telford. Personal Best of 1:23:21, third in my age category, 17th overall, and a male veteran 40 record for Bournville Harriers. I don’t think I’ve felt as good in a race for a very long time.

I’ve ran this a couple of times before so I know by now that the first half is very quick, being largely downhill, and the second half can be tough, being largely uphill. The times tell their own story with my early 6′ 15″ miles becoming 6′ 40″ miles by the end of the race. I reached 10k in about 38 minutes and my legs only really felt heavy in the last couple of miles.

The scenery as always was lovely and this time around the lack of rain recently meant a virtually mud-free course. This remains one of my favourite half-marathons, not just because I seem to go quick here but because it is always well organised, friendly and a decent challenge.

For the record I was wearing my recently purchased special running pants. From now on to be universally referred to as my lucky pants.

(Pic from Telford Harriers)

Links for March 20th through March 21st

Some links for you:

  • The future of gaming – The IET – 6th April 6pm Austin Court B1 2NP – "While once relegated to children's bedrooms, videogames now seem to be reaching everyone. Even at a time of great economic instability, games are growing faster than any other media industry, at the same time learning from all of them. David Hayward of games industry consultancy Pixel-Lab will talk about the history of games" (via D'Log)
  • Screen West Midlands announce first joint partnership with Channel 4 through 4iP – First of many I presume: "Screen West Midlands today announced an investment in partnership with Channel 4 in Yoosk (blog), a project based in Warwickshire. This is the first project to kick-start a wave of new investment in public service digital media through Channel 4’s 4iP initiative and Screen WM. Screen WM is pleased to announce that support for this project is the first to come through the agency’s new digital media project development process."