Rebooting Britain (well London anyway)

So I spent Monday at the very swanky Savoy Place for the Reboot Britain conference put on by Nesta and the team that ran the 2gether conference last year. There was a mix of traditional talks in the lecture theatre and more eclectic sessions throughout the building which was ambitious but seemed to work quite well from the chatter I picked up on. I stayed in the main lecture theatre throughout the day, mainly because thats where a number of people I was interested in hearing were speaking but also because I was carrying a pretty heavy bag after a weekend in London and couldn’t find the cloakroom 🙂

The day was a bit mixed for me if I’m honest but for the most part I enjoyed it and got a lot out of the day.

Some high points;

The two young guys from Battlefront doing their micro presentations, Alex Rose and James Mummery. They both gave compelling talks and were amazingly confident for guys just out of their teens. Impressive.

Tony Ageh gave a talk on Mining the (BBC) Archives where he talked about the ‘rich seam of coal’ waiting to be exploited as the BBC alone has 400,000 full programmes in their archive as well as 100,000 hours of sports coverage – some of which has never been shown (there were other impressive stats as well!). He talked about the need to make this content remixable and taggable and about the new skills needed to make this happen as well as the new opportunities for new incomes this would create. My background with JISC and libraries etc means I am a sucker for this sort of stuff I guess but this was a great presentation as far as I was concerned. Tony also had the second best shirt of the day!

The session from Jon Gisby, Director of Future Media and Technology was also interesting. The idea of a Content/Games/Platforms/Tools plus hybrids axis of digital media was cool as was the run through of the projects 4iP and C4 Education are running. The fact that Skins has a larger audience online than on tv was also an eye opener.

Charlie Leadbeater was good fun (and had great trainers). His line about the government thinking peer-to-peer meant the House of Lords was quality as was his little dig at the mornings Chair and his assistant (calling them the 6th form debating society!). He highlighted a problem that I think goes beyond just talking to government types – the fact that the language we (geeks) use often alienates and confuses people even when we think we are ‘dumbing down’. His ‘Mutual Media Manifesto’ looks like it might be on to something so I’ll watch that with interest. He gave mentions to a couple of sites that I have a particular interest in as well; LibraryThing and The Student Room.

Alan Moores (no not that one!) talk seemed like a rapid run through the buzz words of today while name dropping as much as possible but he did have one gem of a slide about the idea of “The Morality of Enough” which I think I need to think about a bit more but seems to be a great idea.

Paul Miller of School of Everything (rather than Semantic Web stuff) did a talk split between the ideas of School of Everything which is interesting but that I have heard before and the really quite cool idea of turning Social Innovation Camp into a YCombinator/TechStars style incubator for ‘public service start-ups’ (that was the first time I’d heard that term used as well which I like). It sounds like an ambitious plan but a worthwhile one so I’ll watch that with interest.

Lee Bryant from Headshift gave an interesting talk about ‘How people power can reboot Britain’. My notes on this are a bit slim as I was tired and it was a very good talk. It was certainly the most on topic talk I heard all day and despite the lack of connectivity for his laptop meaning he couldn’t show his slides he did a remarkable job. He also gave the most British, self-depreciating intro I’ve ever heard.

Unfortunately I missed the majority of Howard Rhiengolds talk but from what I did see and hear he was on top form as always (and had the best shirt/jacket combo maybe in the history of conferences!)

A couple of quick low points;

It was a pity there was no Q and A in the morning for the speakers.

The afternoon Chair rather dominated proceedings.

The amount of brown-nosing around the ‘Traveling Geeks’ was embarrassing in my opinion.

The way the Nesta CEO kissed up to (the very good as it happens) Jeremy Hunt in the morning demonstrated a little bit more politicking than I was comfortable with.

Martha Lane-Fox is obviously a bright and successful woman but the idea of someone that posh being in charge of inclusion of any kind just seems laughable (in fact this entire event was on the upper end of middle class at times).

The talks from Jeff Saperstein and Julie Meyer were just not my cup of tea at all. Jeff Saperstein in particular was peddling a set of ideas several years out of date some of which seemed to have long since been disproved.

There was also an arrogance (for want of a better word) amongst some of the attendees that I wasn’t comfortable with. This idea that the people speaking should be the people listening is all very well but at least the people speaking have (in the majority of cases) done something more than just talk about what they would do.

I also think the event could have been called Reboot London as it was pretty London-centric as ever.

All said and done though I’m glad I attended and think Steve Moore and his team did a fantastic job running the event and I noticed the Switch New Media guys working their magic again which means I can revisit a few sessions.

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