13 Aug 2012

London 2012 ain't over yet

Author: will | Filed under: London, social change, stereotype, video, YouTube

Makes you wonder why the games are not combined, or at least interleaved…
For example, have the Mens Olympic 100 meter final followed by the Men's Paralympic 100 meter (part and whole) events.
Why not?

And goalball whizz kids David and Adam Knott is not just why I'm following it.

Today is Ada Lovelace Day. Miss Lovelace,was the world’s first computer programmer, and the day is to promote women in technology.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace.
Image via Wikipedia

Oddly for me, women have had a lot to do with my personal computing history.

I grew up with the low level grown and high pitched squeal of arcade machines. Computer games. So when the chance came to learn how to program a game on the old Commodore 64 I leapt at the chance.

The teacher in the classroom teaching Commodore basic, was a woman (whose name I simply cannot remember. Kineally or Keneally. Back then every teacher was either “Miss” or “Sir”). At this point I’m not going to name names unless she blogs, or at least tweets.

Later on, I watched the “video” games review TV show (or rather several, but all) hosted by Aleks Krotoski who still has a hand in the games world and quite possibly will never leave technology in particular how it impacts on people.

Later on came college (if the class wasn’t an odd number 50% of the class would have been women) and work in general.

Indirectly I worked under Padmasree Warrior, and female programmers were no different to the male programmers in the eyes of the code in Motorola.

Later the world of social media introduced me to Ellybabes, the first person I met at the first Irish Barcamp in Cork. To the coding evangelist (which might actually be part of her job title) that is Martha Rotter. To first Irish podcaster of either sex I met, and business guru Krishna De. To the promotional expert that is Maryrose Lyons. And to the best, and probably most fun, web designer; Sabrina Dent. To women who actually get thing done, like Laura Czajkowski and Alexia Golez.

So why isn’t there equality among the sexes for a job that normally requires communication, concentration and heavy thinking? It could be fictional role models and expectations as Naomi Alderton suggests.


But if you have a daughter, let her know that computers aren’t just for the boys. And if you are involved in technology yourself, take a look at the Geek Girl Dinners.

take care,

Will Knott

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While listening to Enda’s podcast of his interview with Clare FM, I realised something.

I’m old.

No, that’s not right.

I’m not young. I’m not a teenager.

This reaction wasn’t due to Teencamp Ireland, taking place in Film Base, Curved Street, Temple Bar, Dublin on Saturday (January 17 2009). No, I had planned to go and at least stick my head in. My reaction was from the presenter talking about teenagers and public opinion of them.

His reaction to how teenagers are “supposed to” act made me realise two thing. I haven’t done that stuff for years. Yes, I meet up with friends and hang around doing nothing, but now I require a roof, and maybe tea. And two, teenagers aren’t the problem. The generation gap is between those who think as adults and all the rules they think have to apply, and smart teenagers who take on the JFDI (Just Freaking Do It) attitude of getting stuff done.

Its not a generation gap, its an attitude gap. My shoes may be too tight, but I still dance. Badly and I need a rest afterwards, but I still dance. And I’m one of the more cautious ones. I haven’t had a brilliant idea to turn in to a new technology, or a new business to run. I was never a young technologist, despite my interest and love of all things techie. I’m only getting my head around the messy innards of running a business. I feel destined to be in the back room.

Getting things done. Done for others, but done.

Teencamp is an unconference for teenagers and technology. The notion of a BarCamp is easily understood. The focus here is on the teenagers getting together face to face about technology (I have no doubt that there will be a swapping of contact details so the conversation continue long afterwards). Its about people teaching their peers about how they do things. It’s about hanging out with others with the same interests. A normal BarCamp and a gaggle of teenagers hanging out share quite a few things.

So, can I call in? Be that embarrassing uncle. Find out if I can help… and then leave (I do want to ask the manga speaker a few questions about tracking down DVDs first).

An bhfuil cead agam dul isteach?

Will Knott

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Dear Ms. Marianne Mikko Member of the European Parliment,

I’ve been reading reports that you have called for a registration of bloggers.

Given the importance of the Internet in Estonia, I suspect that you would get a lot of, er, assistance in answering an explanation of what you mean.
Or at least a high level of details on what you are actually requesting.

Most blog posts are highly personal by nature, be it personal observation, on the ground reporting of a war in their local neighbourhood, on the antics of their cat (depressing there are a lot of these) or the rote by which a blogger investigated the dealings of a disgraced public official.
They are closer to opinion pieces than investigative reporting.

There are also blogs which by their very nature need to be anonymous. Those detailing illegal activities by officials for instance. A registration of such a blogger is likely to lead to intimidation or death.

Do you wish to clarify your wording.
Say in a blog of your own for instance?

Yours sincerely,
Will Knott


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The way we interact with technology changes from year to year (and on occasion, something comes along and changes an interface overnight, like TwitterFone). Given that one of the creators of Twitterfone, namely Pat Phelan, posed the question “Have we over innovated?“, its surprising.

The wheel was invented circa 4000 BC, and has become one of the world's most famous, and most useful technologies.  This wheel is on display in The National Museum of Iran, in Tehran.Image via Wikipedia

The answer is no. I think that Robin Blandford, Damien Mulley and Alexia Golez all agree that we have more innovating to do. Part of the perceived problem is that the innovators produce something for the general person; but the general person doesn’t want it. The bleeding edge early adopters might love it, but not their less technology loving friends and relatives. The early innovations tend to be the “engineering model” with a few unfinished features, bugs and complicated instructions. A remote control which has an individual button for every function the device can do is not the most user friendly of interfaces. The early adopters will flock to it and understand it. But if it isn’t obvious and fast and easy to use, I know my Mum will hate it, and the chances are that the device won’t survive to a second model. Its an innovators dilemma.

The true irony of this dilemma is that its caused by a mixtre of a lack of communication, and too much. After all, some innovations were things that the users didn’t know that they wanted. An “unknown unknowns” sort of thing. This is a want, which is so convenient that it rapidly becomes a need. Sometimes this is generational (e.g. mobile phone uptake), sometimes this just swoops in out of the blue and everyone joins in (grandparents and grandchildren on the Wii). But sometimes they are consigned to the “ideas before their time” bin. Being able to “vote out” unnecessary parts of the solution, means that the idea has less of a problem.

The other type of solutions is the “What if?” caused by the “Why not?”. The “Why doesn’t this exist yet?” type problems. Which is usually what is thought about when people talk about a lack of innovation. The slow incremental kind where the steps seems obvious only after the product comes to market. And these steps are being sped up due to communication.

Now an idea or observation can become a idle tweet, which sparks another’s blog post, which sparks a small blog storm, which sparks a business plan, which sparks a gathering of minds and ideas, which sparks improved ideas and a flurry of research work, which (might) spark a business plan but is more likely to spark a business start-up first. And each step in an itteration of the idea, refining the initial notion with practicalities and possibilities. Due to the wonder of social networking at it’s finest, this allows people who know brightsparks to become involved in an interesting idea and produce something. Because ideas are easy, but the skills to do something specialised are, well, specialised, and few people have them. But knowing someone who knows someone who might be able to help you is a practical possibility due to the sped up communication of social networks. Then your idea moves from notion to production.

But you have to produce something which enables others to know some of your ideas. You have to give in order to get. You have to spend time or talent to get attention. To get communication. And you have to join the conversations, otherwise you are considered the unwelcome gatecrasher that will be ignored. But if that gatecrasher helps out, then he or she is no longer an unwelcome gatecrasher, but a welcomed guest. And this new guest may point out that part of the solution yo are trying to make already exists, so there is no need to reinvent that wheel (or how to avoid being sued by that wheel’s inventor).

Open source projects and wikipedia works this way. Individuals who may never physically meet work on a project in their spare time. And it works for businesses, where one entrepreneur meets another on line, or a third party brings them together virtually and then physically. Perinatal ideas get defined through this virtual iteration and idea refinement so that not only is a full bodied idea born, but the creation process creates a bit of interest in the idea itself. Enough interest, and there might be interested funders.

Can we over-innovate? Only if we are willing to accept it as (science) fiction, but science fiction frequently sparks the research to become science fact. Is innovation over? Not as long as others can spark ideas and collaboration. As for a visual representation of this collaboration, see the video below.

take care,
Will Knott

A long time ago, at MashpCamp I thougth about combining a Google Map with the geodata of pubs and a ratings system to generate a “Rate-my-pint” type application, which I’m sure a brewery could use for customer support and ensure that their product is being served properly. This is probably more useful.

Original mixed-media painting by Manfred Url (www.manfredurl.Image via Wikipedia

I have no idea who made the Dublin Pub Crawl map, but I’m impressed. Essentially it’s a Google map with route calculations which allow you to create your own own pub crawl through Dublin City. However I’m not too sure how to get the data off the computer and in a format which would survive a “12 pubs of Christmas” tradition.

Choose an area, like Temple Bar or Dublin 15, pick some pubs you’d like to include, if you like. And you can edit the maps and add other pubs.

Like those outside of Dublin?

I suppose it’s all about how intelligent the routing code is, but would adding a bunch of Cork, Limerick and Galway pubs just mess things up, or make the map more useful for those who don’t want a pint of plain in the pale? And it it works, then we could have “centres of excellence”, in drinking.

take care,


3 Aug 2007

Looking at your Johnson

Author: will | Filed under: stereotype, story, Web 2.0

Recently I posted about the short comings of stereotypes (and when they are necessary).

Well Lee Hopkins points out the shortcomings much better than I did, and gives a similar reason… attention span.

While I pointed out that a stereotype in necessary for a 30 second advert (even if you intend to show that the stereotype is incorrect) Lee does one better… he tells a story.

—quoting Lee Hopkins…
“Johnson!” barked the bulldog-like senior manager, “Get in here NOW!”

But Johnson failed to appear.

“JOHNSON!” screamed the bulldog.

Still no appearance of the missing subordinate.

Who immediately feels some sort of pity for Johnson? Who feels some form of anger towards the bulldog-like manager?

Why? You don’t know the context.

For all you know Johnson could have been away photocopying confidential information to pass to a competitor; the bulldog’s shouts might have been a cry for help because they’re having a heart attack — the screams no louder than a whisper to an outsider’s ears.

But this is the Age of the Instant Judgement, when we make snap decisions that can affect lives without taking the time to understand the context.

He goes on to point out that a lot of the blogging world and the entire Web 2.0 world means that there is a lot of first reactions. With the high output of posts and blogs, we skim posts. We skim information, a long post tends to be something put aside for later digestion (and might be removed from your reader, or memory when the next nugget of information arrives.

Slightly depressing, eh?


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30 Jul 2007

Choosing your voice

Author: will | Filed under: advertising, Cork, Cork City, play, podcast, stereotype, venture capitalist

Nicole Simon recently commented on stereotypes and the kerfulle they generated. I have a slightly different take and its all due to Jack.
First off, Jack is a friend of mine from Cork City. He’s a builder. Now what picture does that generate in your mind? I’ve just told you what he does and where he lives, so some sort of stereotype is probably forming in your mind… and he is one of the reasons why I don’t believe in that a stereotype can ever be true.
When I tell you that I first met him when we were performing in an opera together and that we bumped in to each other at “Thailand : What’s Love got to do with it” and that thanks to him I ended up chatting with the play’s writer and cast afterwards, I ask you; has your image of him changed? And the conversation about the play the group had is sort of the foundation of this post.

It’s easier to approach any stereotype from fiction, after all, as Kermit said, “It’s not easy being green”. And when it comes to a play, I’ve been on all three sides, audience, performer and director. All visual and audio media rely to some part on established stereotypes, be it using them or forcing a re-evaluation of them. To put is simply, sometimes they are necessary as a replacement to character set-up.
For example in all television adverts, Dads are useless in a kitchen, women know nothing about cars, no one knows what a tracker mortgage is and all absorbent products work wonderfully with blue liquids. Why? Well apart from the fact that there are only 12 types of advertising, there is only 30 seconds to make a memorable pitch. As anyone seeking a venture capitalist will tell you that 30 seconds is a very short time to get attention and make your point.
In fact, given the amount of time you have to make your point, you may have to rely, in part, on an established stereotype.
In short attention span order…
1) picture including print advertising,
2) audio / radio advertising,
3) televisual media advertising,
4) newspaper article,
5) one act play,
6) magazine article or profile,
7) full length play,
7) non-serial television programme,
8) movie
9) serialised television programme with recurring casts
10) books and series of books.

Yes, its not exhaustive and there is overlap. The issue which triggered Nicole Simon’s post was that of a site name and logo. In theory that counts as part of the advertising end of the scale. However a company logo and persona lasts much longer than 30 seconds. If Mister Wong was a background character in an advert, he might not have been noticed let alone triggered a response. But combine a non-complementary stereotype and make it the logo… then its worse. No English man would object to the Jeeves image projected by AskJeeves.com (that was). Imagine the Irish stereotype which would be generated? (Probably something like a drunken Podge?) Is Tony Soprano a genuine reflection of an Italian American stereotype or is he objectionable? At first sight … maybe. However time allows depth that a company logo does not have.

But time in a one act play is not a luxury.
Mairtín de Cógáin in “Thailand…” plays Declan, an Irish tourist, well, visiting the sex tourism of Thailand. (The play was a fund-raiser for an anti sex trafficking charity and took place in the Unitarian Church… an odd juxtaposition). I’m not going to give you a review of the play (wonderful) or the acting ability (brilliant) but of the character created.
Declan wears a Hawaiian style shirt and shorts… telling the story dressed as a tourist in still over there. Declan had a Cork inner city (maybe slightly North side) accent.
The director in me agrees with the costume choice, but ask Jack asked… what would your reaction be if Declan was wearing a business suit? Or a tracksuit and cap? That simple costume change will change that audiences assumptions of Declan and his background. And switching the accent to Montenotte or Mayfield would cause a change in the character in the audience’s eye.

And the question is… Why?

Declan is played as an innocent. He even argues that by using these prostitutes, he is actually helping the economy destroyed by the tsunami in 2004. And Declan’s more or less believed. Using the clothing as example, would you believe him as an innocent in this case wearing a tracksuit? And what about a business suit?
Now ask yourself… why?

An advantage Jack has over me is that on short term jobs he ends up everywhere and meets everyone. He has met the most ignorant, clueless but educated people, and he has met the most informed, politically aware but unschooled people. The stereotypes are inaccurate, but the assumptions remain to keep the stereotype alive.

In the case of the play, talking to Brian Desmond, the founder of “Be Your Own Banana” Theatre Company he pointed out that there is about 40 minutes of unused script from early drafts of the play. And that they tried out different voices, from high to low and everything in-between. Some “voices” just stopped it; killed the humour dead.
Well you just couldn’t imagine the owner of that voice saying that.

So in podcasts and other media, ask yourself… did they choose that voice? And Why?

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