Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.

This is a great interview.

Francis Ford Coppola: On Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration:

Over the course of 45 years in the film business, Francis Ford Coppola has refined a singular code of ethics that govern his filmmaking. There are three rules: 1) Write and direct original screenplays, 2) make them with the most modern technology available, and 3) self-finance them.
“Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.”

This is why universities, colleges, the Arts Council and NIScreen are important to me.

They enable art.

Selling some older kit

I’m currently using a MacBook Pro and so I’ve decided to clear out some older equipment in the house. I’m starting by selling a few items of electronics 🙂

A (Late 2008) MacBook Air with 120 GB SATA drive. AppleCare to February 2013. Perfect for the road warrior.
A DELL Mini 9 running Linux. Perfect for second computer or a Hackintosh.
A Nokia N800 running Maemo. Touchscreen internet tablet.

Arlene is absolutely overjoyed that I’m letting some equipment go. She’s not one for sentimentality – and I’m not really becoming someone who needs six computers these days – I leave that duty now to Arlene and the kids.

I can offer best effort tech support for the N800 and DELL mini 9 and much better support for the MacBook Air courtesy not only of myself but also via Mac-Sys Ltd. It’s got AppleCare until Feb 2013 so it’s covered for manufacturing defects and software issues until then.

Drop me an email if interested. Only really intending to sell locally though so I can personally deliver.

[UPDATE: Received and accepted offers on the MacBook Air and Mini 9]

to drink a lot of bourbon and stay up late

The title quote was made by Lauren Bacall. It comes from the founding of the Rat Pack – when asked by columnist Earl Wilson what the purpose of the group was, Bacall responded “to drink a lot of bourbon and stay up late.” ref: wikipedia

Today I spent several hours with the University of Ulster Interactive Media Arts Second Year students who were finishing up a two week ‘in-house” placement within the university and working on projects related to Digital Circle: some code4pizza projects and also the formation of an initial showreel for the upcoming SxSW Interactive trade mission.

Over the 10 days, the students were joined variously by Paul Malone (PaperJam Design), Stuart Mackey (PaperBag Ltd), Stuart Mallett (Mac-Sys Ltd) and Bertrand Lassallette-Desnault (Supernova Productions). Each of these folk works in a different part of the digital content industry and had some views (sometimes conflicting) for the students.

When I first met these students I wasted all of my good joke material early as I was keen to get some sort of response from them – and there wasn’t much of a response. Today though, I saw a group of entirely different minds. I had waxed lyrical about how they needed to develop their portfolio, about how their attitude was the deciding factor between working in a great job or a McJob, about how they didn’t need anyones permission to be inspired.

I’m really happy with everything I saw today. I saw redesigns and rebranding for Code4Pizza, web site designs, app user interfaces, heads buried in XCode, hand drawn art, short (but amazing) paper-based pinball animations, stop motion, vector art and, best of all, some real enthusiasm for the subject.

We finished today with a talk that started in the classroom and ended in the car and ranged from Secret Cinema to Cut-up Technique, Building Projections to the Graffiti Research Lab. That, the conversation that comes from collective enthusiasm, is the best place to be.

Fucking walk the walk rather than just talking the talk

Digital Circle was a project funded under the Collaborative Network Programme, run by InvestNI under the European Regional Development Fund. The project started in April 2008 and I got the job in August of that year. The project officially ends at the end of March 2011, giving me two months and a bit to tie up loose ends and reports.

While I think the last two-and-a-half years have been good, it’s been a series of ups and downs; mainly due to a schizophrenic set of reporting lines and objectives. It is difficult to reconcile the needs and wants of three distinct masters. I do believe the impact of the Digital Circle project (and more specifically, my work) has been very positive for a few companies but I am aware that a lot of companies didn’t get a lot of out of it. In the end we had limited resources and also, to be honest, I could only work with companies who worked with me, companies who wanted my help.

Digital Circle has served as a single contact point for the industry, it gave some companies something to rally around. There were (and probably are) a lot of people who didn’t know what Digital Circle was for, just as there are a lot of people who don’t know what Momentum is for, or what UNISON or trade unions are for. We want to keep work here so it’s important to use local talent where you can, it’s important for the development of skills to communicate your needs and it’s important we capture and dole out any incoming work in a fair manner. This all happened.

Digital Circle served as the initial funder for local events in many cases. While BarCampBelfast I was funded by Mac-Sys Ltd, Digital Circle provided the first funding for BarCampBelfast II and III. It funded CreativeCamp I and II. It provided a hefty amount of money to get BUILD started. It was a sponsor of the Cinemagic Festival, of Planzai’s SXSW preparation blueprint and is a sponsor of the SXSW 2011 trip itself. As the project ends, so does that avenue of funding for ‘making things happen’.

Digital Circle served to lobby for the industry. Not entirely successfully, I admit, but we have a burden of proof when dealing with government agencies and politicians and the fragmented nature of industry actively prevents identification and labelling. We needed to find everyone before we can ask them questions and I don’t believe we’ve found everyone. Getting everyone to fill in a questionnaire is a task I have ahead of me. We were successful, I believe, in changing some opinions as we barged our way onto consortia, met with the right people in colleges and universities and fought on behalf of our members for funding.

I think we did some really good things. We created some networks for people to hang their hats and brought people into the community. We attracted the attention of some really amazing guys (Thanks, Tim, David) and we used them to advise our local startups. We can always do with more help, obviously, and I’ve put a lot of people in touch with our locals – all about creating opportunity.

Digital Circle is about to launch a new web site, funded by DCAL under the Creative Industries Innovation Fund, it’ll replace the current NING site with something that permits membership, the appropriate representation of professionals within the field, the opportunity for businesses to showcase their work and a more centralised forum system. It’s being developed by ‘Rumble Labs & Dave Rice’, folk I have immense respect for.

But how to move forward with Digital Circle is something I can’t necessarily do alone. I’ve been very lucky to have some great helpers and directors including the original steering group (Adrian, Davy, Russell, Gerard), the second group (Adrian, Davy, Aidan, Andy, Kev, Marty) and the latest group (Mary, Martin, Ian, Alan, Ryan and the co-optees Rory, Aidan, Mark). I’ve also been very lucky to have great support from within InvestNI as well (Thanks to Glenn, Stephen, Linda, Pat, Martin, Terry, Alastair, Cheryl, Noyona, Lisa, Bob, Michael, Paul, David and a host of others). There’s a lot of love for the Digital sector within InvestNI – they know that this sort of knowledge economy is the future but it still falls to us, those who work in the sector, to stand up and identify themselves so we can gather the proof we need.

I look ahead with a sense of trepidation but also of hope and wonder. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do next. I received a stern talking-to this afternoon regarding my long-mentioned new startup plans. My reluctance comes from my previous role in Infurious, a company I originally founded with my best friend, Aidan. Circumstances were not ideal and eventually Infurious turned from being a product company into a software contracting company. That wasn’t what I wanted and my position in the company conflicted directly with my Digital Circle work – I knew which was more important to me (at the time) but in hindsight I wish I had taken more of a stand back at the start and done more to assist Aidan especially in the area of raising money. It’s something I’ve never done and, to be honest, it scares the bejasus out of me. As someone said to me, “Raising money is easy. Delivering to your investors what you promised is hard”.

Being involved in Infurious was a lot harder than running Mac-Sys Ltd. With Infurious, I wasn’t really involved in the creation of the product except very peripherally. With Mac-Sys Ltd, I was the product. With that level of control comes a lot of confidence. That’s something I find hard to find with a software business. I know there are cool things I want to help build, but finding the right people to build them and finding money to pay them is hard.

I’ve worked with mentors now for nearly two years and I still don’t feel like I have the confidence to walk alongside some of the folk I mention above. I wish I’d listened more and worried less. It pains me that I don’t really understand what preferential shares are or really how to negotiate a convertible loan – that the idea of arguing for good terms on the term sheet is something that fills me with dread. I want to start something but being pre-product (never mind pre-revenue), it may require an amount of chutzpah* and moxie* that I simply don’t have. Yet.

I think that 2011 may have to be the year that I, as Marty delicately put it, “Fucking walk the walk rather than just talking the talk”. I never claimed to have done it but I loved helping others go through the process. I was never a mentor, but loved finding them.

The title of this blog post is therefore 100% aimed at myself and not the brave souls who are already Just Fucking Doing It.

*I love these words.

A Quick Game Idea

After watching the usual morning torrent of abuse directed at Translink, our local public transport provider, I thought of a game idea.

You have to drive a bus containing 50 litigious windbags through the winding streets of a European city during rush hour trying to arrive at bus stops on time so you can unload and load passengers who hate each other. You can take advantage of bus lanes part of the way but these can be also occupied by lawbreaking drivers and homicidal taxi drivers. Weather conditions will vary from brief periods of sunshine to lengthy periods of rain and short periods of heavy snow, where the roads will not be treated. In this city, there are political dissidents who think nothing of placing explosives on the roads which delays you further. If you’re a minute late, you lose points. If you’re a minute early, you lose points. If the bus actually gets above 75% full, you lose points. If the bus fills and you cannot take on any more passengers, you lose points. Every bus you send out costs you more points. As your points get lower, the traffic gets worse as more people take cars. And the best bit, your points start at zero. Have fun.

Yes, that does kinda suck. And pretty much describes the poison pill that is public transport provision in Northern Ireland.

On a more serious note, I do have a transport-related game idea. One a bit more fun than that above. I guess it will wait until I find some collaborators and money.

Trademarks & Doodles

There’s a bit of buzz on the net today about how the guy who made a big success with Doodle Jump is trying to stop others from using Doodle xxxx for their game names. A lot people say you can’t use dictionary words as trademarks. Fine. Thats not the issue.

Does anyone think, for a single second, that the others producing Doodle apps are not trading on the success of Doodle Jump? Does it cause customer confusion?

Of course it does. So while I think legal action is extreme, trading on the name of someone else is a weasel action. Make your own successes.

#TIC, #KTN, #Science, #Technology, #Innovation

I wrote my first business plan for a co-working space in about 2006 – in response to some encouragement from an ex-colleague who was in Investment Belfast. It helped crystallise some ideas I had with regards to not only co-working, but skills, inclusion, business incubation and innovation.

Over the last two-and-a-bit years I’ve been included on snippets of longer conversations regarding the ‘need’ for a Digital Hub in Belfast. It’s something that inspired us to create StartVI, among other things. I’ve been part of these attempts and also witnessed them being opposed by people who should be helping.

But while CoWorking spaces are generally places to “work” and by that I mean write, create spreadsheets, lay out books, edit images, create software and network online. They provide desks, light, heat, WiFi, coffee, armchairs, water coolers and toasters.

is there a way to have a coworking (or co-researching) facility for freelance scientists?

and this article continues:

A coworking space has three important components: the physical space, the technological infrastructure, and the people. A Science Hostel that accommodates people who need more than armchairs and wifi, would need to be topical – rooms designed as labs of a particular kind, common equipment that will be used by most people there, all the people being in roughly the same field who use roughly the same tools.

But in the modern world, there can be more of those. There will be vast differences in size, type and economics. Some will be built and funded by large, rich institutions. Others will be cooperative projects. Some will be free, but by invitation only. Others will be open, but charging for space and use of the facilities.

We don’t have the resources in Northern Ireland to create a vast Fraunhofer-style network of collaborative research institutes so we have to be clever. £200m will be spent on this network of elite technology centres and despite our low population, the strength of our two local universities will mean we can expect to get >£10m of this, which would build 2-3 such centres. I would be disappointed if they were just carbon copies of what had gone before or worse, they just extended the duration of stuff that wasn’t working particularly well in the first place.

One of these in Belfast, using the Technology and Innovation Centre model, could provide access to shared facilities and useful knowledge which would help make up for the small population we have in Northern Ireland. The initial candidate areas of energy & resource efficiency, transport systems, healthcare, ICT and electronics, and photonics & electrical systems all require a significant ICT resource, resource which could be shared and which could take advantage of ‘traditional’ co-working models – bringing in our local experts in software engineering, user interface design and content. Just as a co-working centre contained writers, designers, software engineers, journalists, teachers and life-coaches, so a co-research centre could contain biologists, chemists, physicists and other disciplines – harnessing relationships with the universities for particularly specialised equipment but only containing individuals dedicated to the future of scientific progress.

It’s only thorough these collaborations that create “some of the luck and coincidences that gave us huge leaps in science and technology.

Who’s interested?

Language Learning for Kids?

I’m looking for resources for teaching young kids Spanish and French. In my ideal world these would be iPhone or iPad apps, with goal-based outcomes built-in. Seems like a missed opportunity.

Of course, this is one of the things I’d like my new startup to build. Assisted Learning Experiences. Teaching by Asking. Learning through Play. Assessing by Doing.

That’s one of the reasons I’m pumped to be going to Learning Without Frontiers next week. I’d love to put together a group of folk interested in technology based learning and teaching. I even registered a domain for the grouping!

Fair winds…

Yesterday I made a resolution to take some positive steps towards my eventual yacht ownership.

I don’t want to just buy a boat and start trying to sail. That way would inevitably lead to some sort of personal disaster in a sad boating accident. I want to learn how to fix the inboard engine, wire the lights, set up something to charge the batteries and maybe wire in some solar or wind generators. As electrics have always scared me (a holdover from being a biologist I reckon), I figured I needed to find some local courses for ridding myself of the fear and getting some knowledge. Of course, due to some nanny state regulations, none of our local colleges seem to do any sort of instruction.

So, today I ordered two books, text is from reviews of the books.

“There is no denying the scope of this book is, to say the least, comprehensive. It covers almost every topic imaginable in DIY from dry lining your basement to capping the chimney and covers it at every range whether you just want to change a fuse or rewire the entire building.”
“this is one of the best books I have EVER seen on any aspect of sailing. It is also probably the best illustrated sailing book I have ever seen – there are so many photos it makes every task extremely straightforward. I like the way it breaks the tasks down into ease of use, and tells you step by step how to solve the problem (even where to find the area you need to work on!”

I’ve also tracked down a RYA Basic Navigation Course at the Bangor Campus of SERC which I’ve enquired about. 5 weeks and starts in February. I reckon I’ll have time for that. The RYA describe it as:

This course is for anyone interested in sailing, motor boating, sea angling or diving. It’s also the perfect stepping stone to the more in-depth Day Skipper shorebased course or our on-the-water courses such as the Intermediate Powerboat, Start Yachting, Helmsman or Day Skipper courses.

They also note: it will be possible to take it online too through our RYA Interactive e-learning site.

My hope is to also get myself onto a Competent Crew course in 2011. My preference would be one of the courses operating from foreign shores, preferably the Med.

I’m intending to do some Skipper courses in 2012 – there’s no rush here.