A lovely geekend: Interesting2007/Hackday EU

Last weekend was crazy.

Webb & Gyford - Bunting Technicians

Nearly everything interesting on the planet seemed to be scheduled for those two days – including – Interesting2007.

Interesting was put together by Russell Davies, who is an interesting chap himself, but moreover is incredibly interested – in nearly everything. He figured that instead of spending money on going to an expensive conference he could put one on himself and not have to go anywhere – and still see as many interesting things. I think he may be on to something.

I turned up early and helped with the bunting in the Conway Hall. A fantastic setting, steeped in decades of interestingness. Alan Moore gave a performance here of what would become his wonderful magical/philosophical tract “Snakes & Ladders”, illustrated by Eddie Campbell.

Interesting2007

On the same day, both the H.G. Wells Society and the “Community of Interbeing” were meeting there.

I’m not sure they had bunting.

The terrifyingly-high standard of talks for the day in terms of content, entertainment-value, thoughtfulness and enthusiasm was set early by log-choppers, fake-knot-historians and librarians of human happiness.

The highlight, possibly of the day, possibly of this young millennium – was Rhodri Marsden playing Wichita Lineman on a Saw…

Rhodri Marsden plays Wichita Lineman on a Saw at Interesting2007

By lunch-time I was terrified – I’d been put on to speak last. BP: Before Pub. Ben NoisyDecent who’s Design Conspiracy had made some wonderful souvernirs of the day compounded this by saying how much better he thought the 3 minute talks were than the 20 minute ones. I told him I was doing 20, and drank the half of dutch courage kindly bought for me by Jonathan Imagination.

Matthew D’Ancona
‘s 3 minute screed on brevity linking Orson Welles with YouTube via an uncanny Al Pacino impersonation didn’t help matters, and then the guy before me Dave FunkyPancake had the hall in stitches with a torrent of visual non-sequiters from his flickrstream.

For my part – I thought I would present things that interest me that I think are some how linked, without proscribing those links for the audience, that they might make their own.

A Rorscarch test in powerpoint format.

It was “just another future song” – only significant in that it was all the stuff that in my R&D years at Nokia I thought about a lot and talked a little bit about in various venues and now as I’m moving on from that, I thought I’d put it all together and tie a bow round it.

I went over my time. Twice over, almost – but it seemed to go down well – my slides and notes are here. I was pleased to get it out there and out of my head so it can (hopefully) fill up with the new stuff.

The best bit about the day is the old cliche that it was the people and the conversations.

It really was the people and the conversations. It felt like my “tribe” whatever that may be was in the minority – but Russell, the arch-connector mixed and mashed us with advertising and branding people, traditional design people, theorists, academics, journalists, craftspeople and it worked wondefully.

I left feeling knackered but dosed with blatant optimism.

Thanks Russell.

Then – it was Sunday and on to day 2 of HackDay.

Turned up late in the afternoon, having missed most of the action – but caught the presentations of the hacks. There is a long list on Frankie Roberto’s site, but the one’s that caught my eye were mainly geo-related

Both of Matthew Somerville’s hacks were excellent – first there was the whimsical ‘along the same lines’ which allowed you to navigate geotagged photos along lines of latitude and longitude.

Then, there was an extension of the fabulous fixmystreet.com to allow mobile posting of geotagged photos to be submitted as things to be fixed. A simple, but great example of the powerful pattern of ‘mobile-as-in-context-stubmaker’

I liked team Moo’s “net twitchr” – a playful piece of practical psychogeography allowing an inquiring mind to see who happy, upset or ‘meh’ a neighbourhood is – although was disappointed it didn’t feature tiny birds anywhere.

Jeremy Keith et al’s HackFight was very nicely put together – almost a slightly-more active extension-pack to PMOG, that pitted ‘players’ against each other based on stats accrued from their net-use.

James Wheare’s bus-stop hack was fun, but seemed like it had a lot more to offer, as did Peel’d – a cross-breed of listings from John Peel’s sessions with Last.fm.

The stand-out for me was probably the simplest – Paul and Candace’s AboveLondon: taking data about observable satellites and letting you know via twitter, but first (and this is the simple-but-genius bit) cross referencing it against the weather (to see if it’s worth letting you know)

There were lots of ‘physical/digital’ hacks in evidence – some more successful than others, and plenty of what seemed to be very user-centred, genuinely *useful* hacks on display.

It really does seem that the hacker crowd in London/Europe at least is crossing over more and more with the interaction design crowd, and a new school of developers is coming through who are starting to become excellent interaction designers – who really know their medium and have empathy with users.

This is an awesome thing.

I didn’t stay for the band, and left feeling I’d missed out on a lot (lightning strikes! Dr. Who!) by not being there the entire weekend.

It was great to see so much creative fun had, and ‘mad props’ as the kids say to the team who put hackday together.

The dearth of such wonderful, inspiring – AMBITIOUS events in the UK and Europe used to be lamented by those of us stuck on east of the pond. But on the evidence of this weekend – plus the excellent ReBoot just gone; and with DConstruct and Picnic07 to come – I really think that Europe is proving a better forum/stage/platform/intellectual toybox for the new community of creators that is emerging over here.

My aging body and brain can’t take too many weekends/geekends like this last one, but what a way to go…

4 comments
  1. Pingback: AdPulp

  2. YOU can’t take it!? I didn’t calm down for about four days afterwards. I’ve still got a bit of a background high from it.

  3. David said:

    Matthew’s hacks were awesome. Geotag navigation and “net twitchr are wonderful piece of works. Its been great event and i would love to have same type of events and fun coming year.

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