I believe in extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people

Mike Cane tweeted:

Democracy is based on the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.
~ Harry Emerson Fosdick

I firmly believe in the extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.

Code4Pizza is a light-hearted meeting of minds, open to coders, designers, people with ideas and people who want to just talk to other people about the possibilities for public service value (or public good) especially in the area of open data. Our mission is to turn those possibilities into realities by creating opportunities for reflection, collaboration and innovation.

We expect our attendees to become active participants in society by contributing to the creation of goals and the evaluation of actions and work towards these goals. It is not enough to be passengers on the train of democracy – we must take our turns as conductors, engineers, navigators, and drivers.

On November 3rd, We’re having a Code4Pizza meeting and on December 4-5th we’ll be hosting a local RHoK (Random Hacks of Kindness – original site at http://rhok.org/). We will be applying our brains to the various Problem Definitions, modified only for local bias, and working to create teams who can deliver prototype solutions.

And, we hope, innovation.

Vote for StartVI

So, the first news is that StartVI has been shortlisted for The Europas, in the Best Ongoing Startup Programme 2010 category.

The shortlisting is the important part – the other nominees for the category are organisations like BizSpark (the innovative and amazing value startup assistance from Microsoft) and the Digital Mission (who organise trade missions to other countries on behalf of UKTI and other bodies). Being included here is reward enough on two counts.

  • We’re getting some recognition and eyeballs. This is always valuable.
  • We’re able to see the other organisations in this space. They’re potential collaborators.

It’ll be my interest to make links with these other organisations and see how we can help each other. Whether that’s with the formation of a “Startup VISA” where we can provide support for each others startups in our local market or whether it’s finding potential SME partners for Pan-European projects – it doesn’t matter – as long as there is some sort of interaction.

Now, run along and give StartVI your vote.

FaceTime for Mac and the Mac App Store

Apple released new iLife, new FaceTime Beta for Mac, new MacBook Air models in 13″ and 11.6″ and they gave tantalising glimpses of Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion”. The latter contained a lot of new features regarding app management and should please switchers to the Mac because it makes the ‘green’ pastille work ‘properly’.

But the things I want to talk about most are the FaceTime client and the Mac App Store.

FaceTime Beta for Mac
Simply put, it adds FaceTime to the Mac so you can easily video-conference with iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4 users (and presumably iPad 2 users in 2011). I use iChat AV on Mac a lot more than FaceTime on iPhone 4 but that’s likely because I know a lot more people with iChat. The FaceTime interface on Mac is startlingly minimal and consists of a very simple Mac client and a background daemon (which receives incoming calls so the application itself doesn’t need to be launched). It works. And that’s all there is to it. It means I can videoconference with my wife using FaceTime from my iPhone 4 to her Mac and that suits me very well.

FaceTime. Picture rifled from Apple without permission.

The Mac App Store
The first thing that developers did was scour through the terms and conditions to find everything unacceptable – though Steve said that the App Store would be the best way to find new apps, he added it would not be the only place. Some developers reckon it will only be a matter of time before the Mac App Store became the only place. And I think they’re wrong.

Macs are not iOS devices. The main and most important difference is that Macs are the multifunction, powerful devices used to create apps for iOS devices. As no proper programming languages are permitted on iOS devices, you have to use a Mac to create the apps which power the App Store. Therefore Macs will always be able to do more stuff.

Some developers are dismayed because their apps (which install kexts or input managers) will not be permitted on the Mac App Store. And yes, that’s going to be tough but then your applications are not ‘simple’ apps. But the Mac App Store is about applications. It’s about games, utilities, tools, productivity applications and it wants them to be able to install simply and easily “OTA”. Applications which require kexts and whatnot are not the same class of application at all.

I see this as an advantage. In my experience, Mac users spend more than Windows users on software. But a lot of Mac users never buy any software. Adding the Mac App store will mean there is a net increase in the amount of software purchased. This link will actually become useful.

As Mac users get more comfortable with buying software, they’ll be more interested in buying complex software. We all know that our needs for technology increase as time goes on.


Last week I attended a presentation on the Small Business Research Initiative or, as it is known locally, Pre-Commercial Procurement. Much of this content is cribbed from Eoin McFaddens (of the Innovation Policy Unit in DETI) excellent presentation and description and enthusiasm for the project.

Pre-commercial procurement for especially for SMEs

  • For innovative products, processes or services
  • Contracts (procurement), no subsidy and no grant
  • In competition

Goal is threefold:

  • Solving public questions/concerns , e.g. waste management
  • Stimulating innovation among SMEs
  • Exploitation of public knowledge and technology

Exempted are:

  • Products/processes/services which are not new compared to the state of the art world wide
  • Projects which were already procured

This diagram captures much of the process. The identification of the Unmet Need, the provision of first stage pre-commercial procurement, the establishment of filters to help define exactly the right process and prototype. The entire process is geared towards deliverables, not hourly rates.

The concept hinges around “Unmet Needs” – areas of development which may not be fully developed locally and where domain knowledge is not present within the public sector.

This process will build domain knowledge within local industry as well as in the public sector, it is 100% funded R&D as it is a procurement and not a grant (and therefore is not subject to EU state aid rules) and in most cases the IP will remain with the company while allowing the public sector certain usage rights. The increase in domain knowledge should bring better products to market for the public sector company and increase competition for the best product.

The most important part here is the green box – full open procurement permitted by every company, even those that were admitted earlier in the pre-commercial procurement but which didn’t make it to later stages.

Examples where this has been used in the past:

Retrofit for the Future – Department for Communities and Local Government
This competition aims to retrofit UK social housing stock in order to meet future targets in reduction of CO2 emissions and energy use.

Keeping Children Active – East of England SHA
Looking for technologies which can help and motivate children to take more exercise, to understand and monitor the amount of exercise they are taking and to incentivise them to exercise more.

Synthetic Environments – Department for Transport
This competition explores the use of synthetic environments applied to transport, in this case, modelling and managing complex traffic situations on motorways

And to finish off, some links to related reports and web pages:

Northern Ireland GIS Data

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of being invited to Colby House to meet with various departments within the public sector. Present were individuals from DRD, DETI, NITB, CPD, FSNI and Momentum. The focus of the meeting was the vast services and datasets available from Land & Property Services (the organisation formed from the merger of Ordnance Survey, Valuations, Rates, Land Register and other departments).

Most government departments have signed up to NIMA (Northern Ireland Mapping Agreement) which is a cross-department funding mechanism where departments get access to mapping data in return for part funding L&PS activities. The biggest users of the data are the emergency services followed by the Department of the Environment. Data accessed right in the cabs of fire engines can guide a vehicle to a car crash located in a field with no other data than just geographical features. It’s also interesting that educational institutions also qualify for NIMA.

The agreement permits access to terabytes of data which is continuously updated both in terms of vector and database information and orthophotography to a maximum resolution of 13 cm. The amount of accompanying data, which can be overlayed, is absolutely incredible – everything from vector locations of every house, details of townlands, address, postal delivery codes and years of historical information as well.

To purchase the data would cost in excess of £500,000 but non-commercial developer licenses are available for £340 per year. L&PS also offer distributor licenses, Value Added Reseller licenses and licenses to third parties (clients of other departments which have signed up to NIMA). The VAR license, in particular, costs a nominal fee, just £1, plus an administration cost to obtain the data and then a royalty license depending on how much value has been added.

Of further interest is upcoming INSPIRE directive from Europe. It describes the depth and format of metadata which must be published to permit standardisation of protocols and data across EU countries. This would permit the meaningful comparison of data such as biodiversity, teenage pregnancy rates, health data between EU states. This would mean that solutions built today would translate forward and be potentially exportable to other EU nations.

Land & Property Services are very interested in talking to industry – individuals and companies who can see compelling uses for GIS data.

The remainder of the meeting was a discussion around the concept of Pre-Commercial Procurement, which is an entire blog post by itself.

Special thanks to Eoin McFadden of the Innovation Policy Unit of DETI for making sure that we got to see that presentation.

A New Language


Formulary for a New Urbanism

We are bored in the city, there is no longer any Temple of the Sun. Between the legs of the women walking by, the dadaists imagined a monkey wrench and the surrealists a crystal cup. That’s lost. We know how to read every promise in faces — the latest stage of morphology. The poetry of the billboards lasted twenty years. We are bored in the city, we really have to strain to still discover mysteries on the sidewalk billboards, the latest state of humor and poetry

And you, forgotten, your memories ravaged by all the consternations of two hemispheres, stranded in the Red Cellars of Pali-Kao, without music and without geography, no longer setting out for the hacienda where the roots think of the child and where the wine is finished off with fables from an old almanac. That’s all over. You’ll never see the hacienda. It doesn’t exist.

The hacienda must be built.

and then I read

The Futurist Manifesto

We have been up all night, my friends and I, beneath mosque lamps whose brass cupolas are bright as our souls, because like them they were illuminated by the internal glow of electric hearts. And trampling underfoot our native sloth on opulent Persian carpets, we have been discussing right up to the limits of logic and scrawling the paper with demented writing.

Then with my face covered in good factory mud, covered with metal scratches, useless sweat and celestial grime, amidst the complaint of staid fishermen and angry naturalists, we dictated our first will and testament to all the living men on earth.

They will crowd around us, panting with anguish and disappointment, and exasperated by our proud indefatigable courage, will hurl themselves forward to kill us, with all the more hatred as their hearts will be drunk with love and admiration for us. And strong healthy Injustice will shine radiantly from their eyes. For art can only be violence, cruelty, injustice.

Standing on the world’s summit we launch once again our insolent challenge to the stars!

…and I wonder whether we need a new language.

My own terse ramblings seldom compare to the florid verse which spews from these celebrated visionaries. Whatever fuels the very ink to flow from their desultory penmanship must, in some small part, be part inspiration, part perspiration and part medication.

In other words, they were off their faces when they wrote it.

Get Rid of the Crappy Stuff

I picked this up from Tadhg Kelly:

Steve Jobs’s Strategy? “Get Rid of the Crappy Stuff” http://ow.ly/2S8cO (It takes courage)

And the important quote, from Steve Jobs to Nike president, Mark Parker, from this Fastcompany article:

“Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. Absolutely beautiful, stunning products. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”

Design for Business Conference 2010

This morning I attended InvestNIs Design for Business conference. The keynote by Richard Seymour of SeymourPowell was, as you’d expect, both inspirational and obvious.

My tweets from the conference with Twitpics:

#DFB Design For Business conference starting soon. @timtendo on the podium soon http://twitpic.com/2wxo2o http://twitpic.com/2wxo2n

#DFB Michael Thomson, DesignConnect – MC for the event. http://twitpic.com/2wxoi1

#DFB Standing room only! #tweetni http://twitpic.com/2wxoxh

#DFB Promoting Design to the Wider Community @timtendo – one show only http://twitpic.com/2wxpxc

#DFB The UK had one of the best consumer electronics industries in the 1980s. Trounced on quality, technology, design.

#DFB Design differentiates Innovative companies

#DFB InvestNI have a whole new programme of design supports for client companies.

#DFB Design being highlighted as a strategic business tool at the European Commission level.

#DFB Richard Seymour of Seymourpowell about to take the stage.

#DFB Richard Seymour – “Design is a verb, a process, not a noun” Technical functionality + Emotional functionality http://twitpic.com/2wxsd8

Video of the Virgin Galactic lifter & spacecraft. Quite inspiring. #DFB

#DFB Folding TShirt video used to demonstrate the creation of ‘minor magic’ from the banal, the boring, the mundane.

#DFB Typewriter – a laptop that prints as you type and doesn’t need plugged in.

Emergent behaviour the key #DFB

Shinjinhui? What was that word? #DFB

#DFB Good design is very cheap (per unit cost). Bad design is very expensive.

#DFB Apple is brilliant in their anthropology, not their technology.

Short, Medium, Long term all come at the same speed. Focus on the long term now.

#DFB Industrial Judo

Lasagna as a laminate. #DFB

#DFB Plan for Discontinuity. Richard Seymour reckons genetics is coming. I knew that degree would come in handy someday.

#DFB Understand the Young. Emergent behaviour starts here.

#DFB Sustainability. Embrace it or be regulated out of existence.

#DFB GET OUT MORE Broaden your perspective. AR. ASR. IoT. All coming. Flashmobs. Groups. Social. Learn, understand or perish.

#DFB Talk to someone who works there… (in the future)

#DFB Hindenberg is a legacy.

#DFB The future of packaging might be no packaging. See soap, cheese, sausages

#DFB Refill and Concentration will rise, as will counterfeit and contamination.

#DFB Start at the end, pull from the future or repeat yourself ad nauseum.

#DFB In the C21, your competitor is Jurassic. Don’t expect the old rules.

#DFB Optimism, Truth, Honour Two words propel Apple (and are not ‘Steve Jobs’) OPTIMISTIC FUTURES

Apple did MP3 better. Apple did phones better among competitors. With tablets, most other manufacturers waited to see what Apple did first.

Knights Templar Oath : BE WITHOUT FEAR…

#DFB that oath seems to be sourced from “Kingdom of Heaven” (2005)

Digital Design #DFB with Paul McKeever of FRONT http://twitpic.com/2wy6zw

So far, every speaker has mentioned the iPad. #DFB

#DFB Customers are harder to reach, don’t trust mass media, web influential FRONT throwing out the hard facts.

Value, an intangible quality, is experienced by people. #DFB

The web is text. #DFB

#DFB Very impressed with @paulmckeever ability to tease out the definition of a problem.