Taking risks and Blogging

Robert Scoble talks about the risks and intent of blogging
It links to a very good video of the man himself, and one that all bloggers and people doing things that are considered “risky” outside of their normal role should watch.
As a blogger, and having created a bit of a Second Life movement, as you can see in the rest of this blog, I can really relate to what Scoble is saying. The knowledge that there are risks in talking publicly, whether in blogs, at conferences, in presentations and that you have to be mindful that social networks work both for the positive and the negative is very true and something I have pointed out to people. The fact that many people do not want to talk to groups of people and share their ideas is an interesting and correct observation, whether as a blogger or as a face to face presenter. People do get to practice they public speaking persona in a less risky environment of a blog, gain a voice and a position on a subject, then present and talk to people.
The motivations for blogging, of having something to say, and having some sort of reason to take a risk in putting that agenda forward certainly resonates with me too.
The rise of user created content, the blog,wiki and metaverse effect applied to any form of media which now allows anyone to get their ideas out to the world at the click of a button is a key theme that we should all ponder how that might change what we do, just as e-business has.

Roo and Darren On Innovation

Yesterday, Roo and I went to New Place to talk to a group of IBMers about innovation. It was quite odd for us to be back at New Place, both of us had spent two days there in the olden days (1997 and 1998) for our IBM assessment center, to see if we were good enough to work here.

We found the easiest way to talk about innovation is just to give examples of how we work and projects that we’d worked on that we thought were cool. Picking User Generated Content as our theme we showed the trend going from user generated content to user generated applications (mashups) through to user generated universes (Second Life) and how projects we’ve worked on fitted in to these areas. We also talked about how we all have stuff that we’re interested in that we end up spending a lot of our personal time on and occasionally one of these ideas will take off and we can convert it into a proper funded IBM project. Also how we’re very much into trying things out and not worrying too much about if they’ll come off or not.

Of course, Roo’s Second Life demo stole the show. To people who haven’t seen it before, it’s something that always grabs their attention and Roo has become a real expert in explaining the idea and how it relates to IBM.

Everyware and nowhere baby thats where its at..

Apologies for the title but I just needed some way to work in the name of the book i’m reading, “Everyware” by Adam Greenfield. Adam manages to get through an impressive list of technology areas in the book, neatly knitting together a story of ubiquitous computing that encompasses the more obvious topics of RFID, Motes, Mesh Networks and Mobile Devices with Web Mashups, IPV6 and a plethora of everyday gadgets.

Adams vision of Everyware is one of almost effortless and unknowinging interactions with our surroundings, surrounding that are actually networked devices receiving and broadcasting information, which is collated, distributed and presented to users (I prefer participants) in intuitive, helpful and appropriate ways. It’s a nice vision although occasionally a little scary. He doesn’t present it as any kind of Utopian future but more one that we are almost unknowingly creating often in isolation through small advances here and there in different fields of technology. The book also covers a lot of ground on the social, moral and privacy aspects of such a future.

The theme struck a chord with me simply for the fact that we use a lot of these technologies here in the Emerging Tech group in Hursley (well we are emerging tech after all) . Motes, Zigbee enabled devices, RFID and other funky Gizmos can usually be found spilling out from under Dave Conway-Jones office door. (shhh don’t tell the inspectors! )

Dave and other folks like Andy Stanford-Clark (No you don’t have to have a double barrelled name to work here) are experts in hooking up this kit up to messaging technologies like MQTT so that we can take real world sensor inputs and make them available to any other devices or computers that have expressed an interest in these events. The beauty of MQTT is that the client is so small you can run it on just about any device making it both a publisher and a subscriber of information.

Any of this starting to sound like Everyware yet ? In fact in his book Adam talks about the concept of an Event Heap which is used to communicate events to other interested devices. This is almost exactly the same principle as the Publish Subscribe (pubsub) mechanism MQTT uses which makes it such and effective tool for communicating realtime events around any local or remotely distributed system.

If you make it into Hursley at any point then maybe you’ll get time to come and visit Dave’s Pervasive lab where you can see all manner of Everyware enabling technology in use.

Innovation in Practice

On Monday I went up to Leicester with some other folks from the Lab to run an event called ‘Innovation in Practice’ for some new hires into our services teams within IBM. This was an event run by members of the iSIG (Innovation Special Interest Group); on this occasion the iSIG members were all Hursley Lab employees preparing a session for IBMers working outside of the Lab. We designed the event with a hands-on approach with the aim of equipping attendees with the skills and confidence to make innovative contributions in their work and even other aspects of life.

Even in the sweltering heat on a lovely sunny day, the event seemed to be a huge success and everyone was extremely enthusiastic. On the day, attendees were required to elect which sessions to attend and we were a popular choice, having fun running round trying to find enough chairs! The techniques we taught were applied by the groups against a simple problem with some fantastic innovative results. After this we encouraged them try and apply it to problems of their own and the teams had formed such a great bond in a short period of time, they all chose to work together (without us asking!) on trying to solve each other’s problems.

All in all it was a great fun day, hopefully resulting in the attendees leaving with some useful skills.

Ambient Orbs, Rabbits, Penguins and the Availabot

Ambient (or ‘calm’) technologies, as demonstrated by the lovely creations of Ambient Devices and the whacky French Nabaztag rabbit, unobtrusively display ever-changing data. Something which can be left on the desk and ignored, but catches your attention as it softly changes throughout the day, is a valuable tool in this information-overloaded age.

Roo\'s desk, complete with ambient orb

Eightbar has previously reported on a friend and colleague who is responsible for a wireless ambient penguin (see the a description and video). Using bi-colour LEDs, this ‘Wallace And Gromit’ inspired creation keeps track of our manager’s instant messaging status (off for online, green for active and red for away).

Ambient penguin

When I read about the Availabot recently, I was very impressed. It brings together not just ambient online status awareness, but also rapid-prototyping ‘3D printing’, for a truly personal touch. Having a desktop avatar which not only represents a friend’s online status but also looks like them is a great idea. The fact that it physically falls over in such an amusing way helps too. (Don’t miss the video of the Availabot in action.)

When 3D printing becomes a bit more affordable, this sort of hack is going to be wonderfully easy and popular. I’m looking forward to a world overrun by hobbyist gadgets.

Wimbledon, Shuttles and July 4th

I am currently onsite at the Wimbledon Championships. This involves sitting in the basement of the media centre with my collegues from Hursley, Atlanta and Raleigh. Being couped up delivering wimbledon.org always brings an interesting group dynamic. We have a strange 14 hour day, with a mixture of customer visits (a.k.a. tech tours), checkpoints, testing out new things and the day job.
With my Wimbledon second life demo as part of the tech tour it was natural that a few of the guys in the room would get into it too. Yesterday was a prime example and trigger. It was July 4th. There was a shuttle launch. We have lots of bandwidth. So streaming media of the launch both for the Uk and the US guys in the room was a must.
The difference this year was that some of us had Second Life running, and were at the excellent spaceport alpha. It turned out that of the 70 or so people at the event in the prime location 5 of us were IBMers from eightbar in Second Life, including a husband and wife team. The event was the first one I have seen that had overflow areas as more areas of land were turned over to streaming the video.
The nature of the event and the buzz we had in RL and SL in an enclosed space made it all very exciting and enabled a few more people to ‘get’ why metaverse technologies really do work.

spaceport alpha

More pictures are on snapzilla and the SLURL to spaceport alpha

The Warner Music man who ‘gets it’

Having written a , for me, quite deep expression of my experience with the Regina Specktor album pre-release by Warner it has been great to see all the coverage and postive bloggage about Ethan Kaplan ‘blackrim glasses’ at gnomedex. He is a person who ‘gets it’. The people writing about him ‘get it’ such as Eric Rice and the people I meet in Second Life and related places all seem to have the same approach and same ideas. Not identical, but birds of a feather. It is important, as Eric writes, that we still work with the rest of the world. No technology or social change just happens overnight. I think that they guys and I here in Hursley have both a creative and future looking point of view, but mix that with practical uses. So it feels like the Metaverse is the place to express this and make a serious and innovative contribution.

A good indication that IBM understands Second Life

Over at 3D point, is a great article about IBM’s Linda Sanford at the Supernova conference. The principle being that there is an acknowledgement that leaders grow their skills and emerge from the ‘gaming’ platforms. Second Life of course not being a game, but it is a gaming engine.
It has been interesting for me to meet many other IBMers in virtual space. Who have the same outlook and views as I do, but all with different angles. We often communicate across the corporation, so lots of us know one another. However, using the internal blogs some wikis and Second Life with some of our social networking tools real communities form around good ideas.
I am proud that much of this is coming from Hursley, as well as IBM. Though I know it is an uphill struggle to convince everyone as it all looks like way too much fun to be real work.

Meanwhile today I am onsite at Wimbledon.org but Rob (who was at home) joined in with our excitement and then crushing defeat in the World Cup.

world cup

The nicest place in Second Life

I toured around last night, whilst trying to remove the constant images in my head of tennis courts. I arrived at spaceport alpha. I have to say it is one of the best builds I have seen. It is a representation and history of space travel. I have visited kenneddy space centre in RL. This place has way more tings to look at :-). Accurate to scale builds of many types of rockets, shuttles etc. It also has some great museum articles and they also have a website. The whole place looked planned and thought about, had a key theme and a great ambience.
I had a good chat with Kat Lemiuex one of the museum staff/group that build and runs the place.
It was nice ot have that interaction too. Thanks Kat.
Well worth a visit by anyone interested in the educational aspects of SL and/or in anyway interested in space.

spaceport alpha

My snapzilla set of pictures from my visit are here that includes the SLURL

Now back to the tennis and Wimbledon.org