A couple of weeks back I was asked to speak at TechWorld, a conference and expo organised by UK Trade & Investment. This year's event included the addition of the first TechCity Entrepreneur's Festival.
The week-long festival incorporated a bootcamp, access to investors, a giant get-together with Silicon Valley Comes to the UK, pitch training and a pitch competition. In the light of so many overseas companies heading in to London, I thought a whistlestop tour of the UK's digital sector, location of clusters and London, in particular might be handy.
Here's the presentation with all the research referenced. The work around the growth of micro-global firms from London Met university highlights a growing trend of international firms using London as their commercial base, using the relatively easy legal frameworks, access to capital/staff and timezone-friendly location to their advantage.
Like I say, just a whistlestop tour, given the chance it'd be good to pull together further information from outside of London. It's clear that the South East dominates the digital scene in pure numbers, but I'd love to get a sense of the health of the specialist clusters outside the M25.
Whilst I have to admit to some initial scepticism about TechCity, the focus on the area is definitely having an impact with the number of firms growing, between 250 and 600, depending on whose figures and methodology used. Either way, it's all in the right direction.
Having said that, the Tech in TechCity, might be slightly mis-leading with a large number of agencies and digital-focused agencies including UX, creative, strategy and marketing making up the numbers. One to watch, and let's hope it continues to grow, the UK's economy certainly needs the inward investment and youth employment shot-in-the-arm this initiative offers.
RIP Steve Jobs.
I saw the news in the early hours of yesterday morning (UK time), whilst I was sitting cross-legged on the bedroom floor trying to force conference badges through my (non-Apple) printer without much luck.
It was a rather surreal moment. We all knew he was ill, really ill, and judging by his last appearance, Steve Jobs, was fighting his illness, but it was proving to be a tough battle. Even so, the news was still unexpected and sheds light on the new Apple CEO's sombre performance at the iPhone launch the previous day.
It's very sad, for his family, and for the tech industry in general, but trying to get some perspective is difficult when every news outlet splashing the story across their front page, ticker and broadcasts. Predictably, social media went nuts.
In this maelstrom of media, trying to get some perspective is tricky, but maybe the impact is similar to the feeling when John Lennon was shot in 1980. I was too young to have realised the impact of that event, but it turns out, I'm not the only one to draw this comparison.
People connected with John Lennon as an artist, with a visceral connection to his work. Can Steve Jobs really be held compared? My answer: yes. If anything, for this generation maybe more so.
His innovation at the cross-roads of technology and design has re-defined an industry. A phone without buttons, probably inconceivable pre-iPhone, is now the de-facto standard. I won't bang on the products as I don't consider myself an Apple fanboy, although others may disagree, especially if I ever did an audit of the products I own.
Consider the revolutions (good or bad, you decide) - computing, telephony, music, tablets. An impressive legacy that has had massive impacts on both the creation and consumption of media.
There'll be lots written about Jobs...but in everything I really liked the post from Brian Lam, ex-editor of Gizmodo who was both friendly and locked horns with Jobs, when his blog covered a pre-release iPhone, lost by an Apple employee.
And for the inspiring side of Steve Jobs, his Stanford commencement speech:
The Vickers report on the future of the UK's banks has been published to the predictable wailing from the banks, and gnashing of teeth from politicians.
Whether the rapacious tendencies of testosterone-fuelled traders (men and women included, I suspect) can be tempered by ring-fencing our carefully-hoarded savings remains to be seen. In my head it's a white-picket fence, 6" high, with a 3 tonne bull charging towards it, but maybe I need a) more sleep b) less caffeine.
Listening to one of my favourite podcasts, The Bugle, the usual bullshit-fuelled antics were interrupted by a series of quotes from Andy Zaltzman, one of the hosts. They seemed timely and prescient, ironic, then that they're several hundred, or in one case, thousands of years old:
"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies."
Thomas Jefferson, 3rd president of US (1743 - 1826)
"Banks have done more injury to the religion, morality, tranquility, prosperity, and even wealth of the nation than they can have done or ever will do good."
John Adams (1735-1826)
"The budget should be balanced,
the Treasury should be refilled,
public debt should be reduced,
the arrogance of officialdom
should be tempered and controlled,
and the assistance to foreign lands
should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt.
People must again learn to work,
instead of living on public assistance."
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.)
I guess we'll live and learn. Or judging by those quotes, not so much.
Photo (cc) S. MiRK.
Each morning I try and blot out the involuntary sauna of the Central Line by feeding my addiction to TED lectures. I love the brilliant speakers and the massive variation in topics. Keeps the old noggin' ticking over.
Amongst the recent videos I watched is a talk from the TED Salon in London by economist Martin Jacques. He covers one of my pet topics: China. Ever since I've been involved in running the Digital Missions at Chinwag, we've been looking at the best way for UK firms to build relationships and business in China.
Examples are very thin on the ground - seriously, I'm still looking for any IP-based business that's actually propsering in China - but there's no doubt that China will become the new economic super-power. To prosper, any country's exporters is going to have to wrap their head around doing business with China.
This video gives some insight into why a complete shift of mindsight is needed, and more importantly, why Westerners need to stop interpreting developments in China with Western analogies.
From the synopsis:
Speaking at a TED Salon in London, economist Martin Jacques asks: How do we in the West make sense of China and its phenomenal rise? The author of "When China Rules the World," he examines why the West often puzzles over the growing power of the Chinese economy, and offers three building blocks for understanding what China is and will become.
Photo (cc) Sam Michel.
In the midst of the frenetic activity of Social Media Week London #smwldn, I popped along to the BBC's Sport & Social Media panel and caught up with Adam Mountford, producer of every cricket fan's audio bible, Test Match Special (TMS) - and @tmsproducer on Twitter.
If you're a fan of leather on willow - I'm talking about cricket people, stop being smutty - then this video will both inspire and annoy. Annoy - because the daily grind of travelling the world, watching cricket, eating cake and hanging out with cricket legends must take an awfully long time to wear thin. Inspire, because he's, well, just such a nice chap. See for yourself...
Now I've spoken to Adam, I keep hearing his radio reports from the 2011 Cricket World Cup that's just started in India and Bangladesh. With the hefty time different the radio reports and podcast coverage are coming in very handy.
Talking of which, if you're a fan of both cricket and The Bugle podcast, the ginger satire monger and cricket fan, Andy Zaltzman is covering the tournament, blogging and podcasting his experiences round the subcontinent. It should be entertaining, if only for the diplomatic incidents that are almost certain to transpire.
I like a 'to do' list as much as the next person.
Last night, by some quirk of fate I found myself hob-nobbing with the world's leading chefs (as you do) at The World's 50 Best Restaurant 2010 event.
A pathetic four of the 50 restaurants listed. I really must buck up my ideas. Still, this is one task list that I'll be delighted to tackle whenever possible. Sadly, my bank manager might feel differently.
And so to the list...
Offers of fine dining are seldom refused! Hint, hint.
Picture courtesy of asmythie. Some rights reserved.
Cross-posted from my Chinwag blog.
I was working late when the news started to come in about the earthquake in Haiti. The sense of something major unfolding on an unimaginable scale reminded me of listening to the radio as I heard reports of the tsunami.
What can you do? Put your hand in your pocket. Done.
Next up, spread the word using the channels at your disposal. For me, one of these is using the advertising space on Chinwag.com for worthy causes. We've helped Do The Green Thing in the past and using the space to help promote donations is a no-brainer.
I did a lot of searching for banners to use, as I'm conscious of copyright and keeping everything legit when there's money involved. I tried Twitter to no effect and then through LinkedIn, was pointed in the direction of Oxfam Ireland who have a page full of banners (congratulations to their comms team for turning this round so quickly).
Unfortunately, none of them fit the size used on Chinwag (MPU - 300x250), so I've mustered my meagre design skills (and that's probably overstating the case) to create a banner that'll have to do in the meantime:
So, apologies on the copyright front. And apologies to designers everywhere, please feel free to use the Photoshop PSD or do create something better and share it here in the comments, or anywhere in fact. I'll catalogue them on Chinwag if it's helps spread the word.
Oh, and as President Clinton put it, "give money".
Believe everything you read? Ever since reading Ben Goldacre's book, Bad Science, I'm much less trusting of stories using numbers to illustrate a point, especially when prefixed with "scientists say". But just how difficult is finding the real facts behind a story?
The challenge, aside from finding time, is to make sense of whatever facts and figures are being used to illustrate the point, especially if that proof is in an academic paper or a bank's financial results. Brain pain.
So, it was with some trepidation that I decided to try and verify that The Guardian had dropped a clanger in an article in this Saturday's business section. With the background of RBS' first profit since the tax-payer shelled out £20bn to keep the organisation afloat, the article asks how management can justify paying bonuses when the government is still owed. And owed big.
However, the graph (see below) used to illustrate the article didn't quite ring true. Of the two divisions showing a loss, US Retail & Commercial shows a loss of £51bn. Even in a world where we've graduated from bandying around 'billions' instead of 'millions', this seems like a hefty chunk of cash.
If this were correct not only would the red bar in the graph have to extend off the edge of the page, RBS would have posted a £44.7bn loss, which, I'm pretty sure, would be a bigger headline than anything about bonuses.
So, with @bengoldacre in the back of my mind, I decided to see if I could find the original material and double-check the figures. A rummage through the RBS corporate website reveals two documents, the interim results slides and the full version.
The data for the graph (not including the typo) is on page 29 of the 204 page report, not including appendices, if you're interested. It confirms the typo and a mere £51m loss. RBS shareholders can rest a little easier.
What this does confirm is a deep respect for the thankless job facing journalists wanting to do a thorough job. Put this into context against hastily written blog posts and the debate about how to pay for investigative journalism becomes ever more important.
To finish, a choice piece of language from the report on how one type of credit derivative is valued:
Gap risk products are leveraged trades, with the counterparty’s potential loss capped at the amount of the initial principal invested. Gap risk is the probability that the market will move discontinuously too quickly to exit a portfolio and return the principal to the counterparty without incurring losses, should an unwind event be triggered. This optionality is embedded within these portfolio structures and is very rarely traded outright in the market. Gap risk is not observable in the markets and, as such, these structures are deemed to be level 3 instruments.
Ever wondered how we got into this financial crisis in the first place? Dunno about you, but I'm not sure I like the idea of an unwind event, unless it involves a cute cat and a bundle of wool.
[Warning: For those not of a technical bent, what follows will be as dull as the dullest, tepid dishwater you can imagine, so probably better to venture to something more interesting.]
Every so often, I'll decide to tinker with a bit of code to extend my knowledge and see if I can still knock up anything that'll work on ye olde Interwebby. Inevitably, this involves spending far more time setting up an environment than actually producing anything.
As I tend not to make notes (v. bad habit, I know) and then forget how it worked, I've resolved to write up little blog posts as an aide memoire for the next time. If they help someone else in the same predicament, marvellous. The steps below worked for me, but it's always a bit of a gamble that the process is actually what you're supposed to do.
So, after much time spent with Mr Google, a number of dead ends and some very useful posts, this is how I managed to get my setup (Mac OSX, Eclipse, DbEdit, SQLite) working. If you've spotted errors, or have any suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.
Step One - Download JDBC Drivers
Firstly, you'll need to find and install a JDBC driver for SQLite. The one on the Zentus website did the trick:
Save the sqlitejdbc-v053.jar to a memorable directory, I created a jdbc drivers folder in the Eclipse application folder. Just remember where it's saved.
Step Two - Install JDBC Driver in DbEdit
Fire up Eclipse and open the DbEdit perspective using the menu:
Windows > Open Perspective > Other... > DbEdit
DbEdit provides the option to install new JDBC database drivers when you create a new database connection, which is step three:
Step Three - Install Create SQLite Java Database Driver
Step Four - Create Database Connection
This is where things got painful for me. The format for the JDBC Server was a right little sod. Thanks to the clues on this page, I finally figured it out.
Possible format for JDBC SQLite Server URL:
As an example, on the Mac that I'm using the format of the URL was:
which is the full path to the SQLite file. I haven't tested it, but on a Windows machine, it would most likely be:
which in a real-world example, might look like this (N.B. I haven't tested this):
jdbc:sqlite:/C:/Documents and Settings/Sam/Sites/Test/test.db
I hope this is useful for anyone else who is sitting at their computer barely the resisting the temptation to throw it out the window.
The latest batch hot off the street come from New Orleans taken by jonnodotcom. Compare the pic on the left I snapped at Holland Park roundabout in West London, compared to his latest offerings from the Big Easy.
Just me or does the tragedy that happened there make those images that much more poignant. My favourite is "No Loitering", what's yours?