Links for July 22nd through July 24th

Some links for you:

  • Creative Beacons National Good Practice Guide – The only copy I can find of this is on Scribd, uploaded by the consultants who wrote it on behalf of Business Link. It mentions supplementary regional reports which I'd be intrigued to read. This makes some reference to BL West Mids activity.
  • Creative Launchpad – Creative Launchpad leave the Custard Factory – "After two years as creative industries specialist providers in the West Midlands, Creative Launchpad has decided not to continue with delivery of the Business Link start up service. "
  • Talk About Local grows… « Talk About Local (alpha) – In which some social media jobs get created. Well done to the individuals named, some exciting times to come I think.
  • Do It Yourself: Cultural and Creative Employment in Hard Times – "Research and analysis to inform Arts Council England’s thinking about the recession and its impact on employment in the arts and culture. In particular, the report’s authors were asked to look at opportunities for young self-employed creatives and the potential implications of the government’s Future Jobs Fund."
  • Creative industries: a guide to investing – Guide for Councils about how to invest in their Creative industries. Makes for very useful reading – answers the question how do you build a business case to invest in specific sectors?

A short, sober weekend in Newquay

You’d have thought that Newquay was nothing more than a playground for well-off 14 year old drunken teens causing havoc in what otherwise is a peaceful seaside town. That isn’t quite the reality of course; for a start this isn’t a peaceful seaside town.

It’s a noisy vibrant place with a few too many stag parties and lots of parents shouting at their children as they drift from arcade to chip shop to gift shop. In fact it’s much like any seaside town, just not a Devon/Cornwall twee seaside town. And in that sense, for us as a family on a short break down there, it was ideal. We love chips by the sea, loud arcades, sheltering from the rain in caves along big beaches, getting sunburnt under cloud cover, having a pint in a bar with too-loud music. We love all that stuff. If you want typical Cornwall/Devon then go to St Ives. Newquay is Rhyll for the south coast.

Our brief weekend there was a freebie, courtesy of BMI Baby with input from Newquay tourist board. They sent Nicky Getgood and Karen Strunks to Belfast as well. They didn’t tell Nicky and Karen what to write and they haven’t told me what to write either. However, not having to pay for your flight or accommodation and getting free entry to the aquarium and Zoo does colour your judgement a tad. It certainly gave us family stuff to do (zoo was very nice,  aquarium was, well, an aquarium, I can never get excited about them but the kids loved it). The accommodation was in a quieter bit of town near the lovely, long Fistral beach.

Pure Shores Lodge, the ‘accommodation partner’ as the PR company referred to them, has the very friendly Lisa from Great Barr at the helm. It’s clean, relaxed, does a really fantastic breakfast (big on locally sourced produce) and has free wifi. Has decent Trip Advisor reviews if you don’t believe me.

The centre of Newquay does seem a bit overrun with bars designed solely to appeal to the stag and hen parties that descend on the place (lots of Brummie ones I was quietly pleased to see). They contribute to a rather drab central strip that’s a mix of cheap surf tat shops and fast food outlets. Plenty of places to get pasties though – mmmm pasties. But once you step off the high street: those beaches! Wow! Big, wide, impressive and with waves. Those in the know say other beaches further up or down are better but the further you go from the centre of Newquay the more self-consciously cool the beaches become and the less comfortable a family of brummies with simple needs feels.

In some ways Newquay seems to not know what it is trying to be. Teen-central (I saw no marauding teens by the way but then we were in bed by 10.30pm), stag/hen hotspot (great place for one – no question) or family resort. The taxi drivers who drove us to the airport and back were worried about some aspects of the way Newquay has changed but blamed poor policing and lax licensees rather than the visitors themselves.

Overall I suppose the issue is that Devon/Cornwall seems to be full of ‘nice’ places and Newquay doesn’t quite fit the mould. But Newquay isn’t Port Isaac, it isn’t Boscastle and is the better for not being so. It’s Skegness, it’s Weston-Super-Mare and is full of Brummie, northern, Cockney accents just as those places are. All I can say is we had a blast – even, in fact especially, on the rainy Sunday. We ticked off a long list of typical family seaside holiday stuff in a short amount of time. The pics and this short video tell the story I think:

Links for July 16th through July 21st

Some links for you:

  • Template Twitter strategy for Government Departments – "You might think a 20-page strategy a bit over the top for a tool like Twitter. After all, microblogging is a low-barrier to entry, low-risk and low-resource channel relative to other corporate communications overheads like a blog or printed newsletter. And the pioneers in corporate use of Twitter by central government (see No 10, CLG and FCO) all started as low-profile experiments and grew organically into what they are today. But, having held back my JFDI inclinations long enough to sit down and write a proper plan for BIS's corporate Twitter account, I was surprised by just how much there is to say – and quite how worth saying it is, especially now the platform is more mature and less forgiving of mistakes."
  • West Midlands Graduate Internships – "The West Midlands Graduate Internships have been created to help tackle the effect of the economic downturn on the region’s employers and graduates. By creating valuable work experience placements we are ensuring that we both retain talent in the region and support business into the upturn."
  • Technology for community empowerment: Digital Birmingham: A quick tour by a Capetonian – In which Birmingham gets a visit from a really great South African chap whose approach was refreshing and innovative and certainly got me thinking.

Tweeting my running

I’ve got a new GPS watch thing. It rocks. It records distance/elevation/pace etc. and then by the magic of technology uploads my route to a website where the runs are mapped onto google maps and I can set goals (this week’s goal is to run more than 40 miles by next Sunday – I probably won’t manage it).

Naturally enough I want to share my wonderful running exploits with the world – who wouldn’t. I want to tweet my athleticism. In fact I want to tweet it automatically so that you get to hear about every single run I do.

So I’ve created a twitter account for doing just that. daveharteruns sends a tweet every time a new route is completed on my watch and is uploaded to the Garmin website. The RSS feed from this is then fed to Twitter Feed which spits out the tweet when it detects new content.

It works seamlessly. In fact all I have to do is put my watch next to the laptop and while I’m in the shower it transfers the data and does the rest of the business. I can tweak the title of the run but other than that there’s no intervention needed.

So if you want to see where I’m running the go follow daveharteruns on twitter.

Links for July 10th through July 12th

Some links for you:

  • the LDV blog | LDV Management Team final statement – There's a bigger story to be written about the role of this blog in telling the story of what happened with LDV but this post alone (from June 2009) is quite heartbreaking. Working people using the comments section to say goodbye to colleagues and often pleading to information and clarification.
  • A great summer « John Mostyn’s Blog – Lovely post by John Mostyn. I must add him to the list of people whose life I wouldn't mind having for a bit: "Digbeth – Could be the jewel in the City’s crown said Professor Michael Parkinson. Could be an Urban Glastonbury all year round say I"

Making my job more difficult

In case you don’t know what I do for a living I’m a kind of champion for use of digital stuff by businesses in Birmingham. And the easiest, no-cost, digital stuff to get your head round is Social Media. I’m always hunting down examples. I love the fact that Herefordshire-based Wiggly Wigglers have bloggedpodcasted and Youtubed their way out of tough economic times. I love that they dumped their expensive bought-in customer lists and built a customer base around their facebook group and twitter followers. Those are loyal, repeating customers, helping each other get the best from this company’s products. No expensive helpline needed – they help each other.

I work in partnership in my job. Trying to slip my thinking into other people’s strategies. That £17m support package for businesses announced yesterday? In amongst those big fat projects to be delivered through Business Link and the Universities is some of my thinking – there’s a sprinkling of digital stuff. I sit on the sub-group of the Birmingham Economic Development Partnership that helped draft them. I can play an influencing role there, those people in the group know me as that guy who thinks social media is useful. None of them are great users of social media themselves but they aren’t dismissive, they understand there’s a change happening, a change that might be useful for all businesses to understand and take note of.

So it’s kind of crushing to see a representative of the partner who most connects to businesses castigate social media out of hand. John Lamb’s piece in the Post is atrocious. At the end of the piece it says: “John Lamb’s views are not necessarily those of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.” As I say on my own About page, I use the same head for work as I do everywhere else. My personal views are wrapped up in my work views. If I’m expressing a disappointment here on my personal blog then that’s how I’ll be feeling next time I go to a meeting with Birmingham Chamber.

Actually, I know the Chamber is taking an active interest in new digital tools, which is great but having a key representative take such umbrage to their use just makes my job that much more difficult and that much more disheartening.


Links for July 2nd through July 9th

Some links for you:

  • data set of parking tickets – WhatDoTheyKnow – FOI request results in three sets of spreadsheets for every ticket issued in Birmingham. There's flipping thousands of them! Fascinating and awaiting mashing up I think.
  • Discover Digital – "Birmingham City University is one of the most comprehensive suppliers of training and talent to the creative industry within the UK. Working with major industry players, small freelancers and an ever growing dynamic industry, our academic community provide support, innovation and stimulation through our array of highly talented students, latest equipment and research to review, tease out and develop digital opportunities."
  • Creative beacon – Wolverhampton Light House – Nice profile from Wolves Uni of Light House Media centre and Frank Challenger. Worth a read.
  • Living with rats: I'm sorry, Clay Shirky, nobody knows you around here – Summary of an event I presented at in Bradford. What a useful day it was – some useful insights from Julian Dobson on the increasing distance between the 'twitterati' and the rest of the professional middle class.
  • NESTA Connect: A Twitter Manifesto to Reboot Britain – "I was tweeting pretty hard all day so instead I've decided just to capture my favorite comments below as a mini manifesto that emerged from the day"
  • Making Life Playable through Data – "A presentation Toby Barnes gave at Ogilvy Games Lab on Mudlark's approach to making life playable." Stuff on role of data in supporting new game development.
  • ASH-10 » Coworking and Internet Culture – Great intro to concept of co-working.
  • Build your stuff with our stuff! – Lichfield District Council – "We're always looking for new ways of making it as easy as possible for developers and website owners to access data held by Lichfield District Council in ways that they want – allowing you to remix, mashup and share data easily. Here's a list of what we provide so far, this list is not exhaustive, and we'll be adding more and more datasets as time progresses"
  • Open source community for liberating gov data | DIYcity – "The City of SF has undertaken an experiment to develop an open source platform with the community that will help improve public access to raw government data in machine readable formats. We see a great opportunity to work with other cities and developers in creating technology that is re-usable, free and open source to solve a common challenge. As members of DIYcity, this might be of interest."

Birmingham Post column – sporting data

Sometimes the column I write for the Birmingham Post materialises online – other times it doesn’t. When it doesn’t (not sure why it doesn’t) I’ll reproduce here (although newspaper columns are such a different tone to posts on blogs).

This one was a version of the presentation I gave at wxwm2 the other week:

‘Mileage data to Inspire’
Published Monday 6th July (hey, that was my birthday!).

“Years that end in odd numbers usually make for dull sporting summers as the Olympics and the major footballing tournaments only occupy the even numbered years. However, as well as annual tournaments such as Wimbledon we do have a World Athletics Championship and The Ashes to look forward to this summer.

But given how concerned the government are with obesity levels it’ll take more than the sight of a group of blokes throwing balls at each other to persuade a nation of sport-loving couch potatoes to do something about their own health and wellbeing

All the data tells us we’re fat and we’re getting fatter. In fact not only are we fat but our kids are fat and even our pets are fat. Given the state of the economy the only thing that isn’t fat is our wallets. So what’s the approach taken to deal with this? It’s simple – an advertising campaign to remind us how fat we are that goes out of its way to blame computer games and television as the main culprits.

I’m not denying that the Change for Life campaign hasn’t persuaded some people to get off their backside but there’s so much already happening that we could celebrate rather than just play a familiar blame game. Take running for example. On any random weekend there are about 50 organised amateur races happening around the UK with about 50,000 – 100,000 runners taking part. In total that’s up to a million kilometres covered. And that doesn’t even include all the people just running by themselves for training or those running around Sunday league football pitches.

Many runners use GPS watches or other devices to track routes and record mileage. Now imagine all that mileage data gathered on a single map – a map that instead of sending a dour message about our laziness would celebrate ordinary citizens’ everyday sporting activity. What a powerful message that would be that might inspire others to join in.

We’ve got an Olympics coming up in 2012 and so far the only mass participation angle seems to be focused around the Cultural Olympiad. Nothing wrong with that but amateur sport is something that gets overlooked too often. It’s a shame as it’s got the mass participation thing down to a tee in a way the arts can only dream about.

So why not badge up Sunday morning football games as ‘inspired by 2012’. Have every jogger blog, tweet or map their runs as part of a national celebration of sporting engagement leading up to 2012. A digital campaign that visualises mass participation could inspire us all to get off our backsides.”

Old School Flying

I’ll keep this brief but last year for my 40th birthday present I got a voucher to fly in an old aircraft from the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. For one reason or another it took a year to redeem the voucher so on my 41st birthday I managed to do the flight.

The plane was a 1930s Dragon Rapide. It was tiny for a passenger aircraft, only seating eight people and the pilot. The sound it made comes straight from a 1930s film. It was a good ride and given the age of the aircraft felt very secure and safe.

Here’s an in-flight video I took. We flew over Cambridge, Ely and Newmarket race course:

Links for June 28th through July 1st

Some links for you: