Campfires, tents and the future

So this my final post in this week of blogging about the challenges and issues I have faced/been talking about with colleagues – with the express aim of trying to draw out who is thinking about what and what happens next.

It has been an amazingly useful exercise, taking time to write down these thoughts and discussions; I have found myself researching more, asking questions, learning and meeting new people. I shall certainly continue to write posts more often and in this style of writing less about what I think and asking more about what you think.

It strikes me that there is still a great need to seek out the futurologists of today, to reignite the discussions about what the landscape might look like in the digital world as well as in the political and social realms.

So I would like to suggest that we have a weekend away towards the end of the Summer, where we all get together in an informal setting to talk about this. I do not think we need to have people formally speaking, nor any organised activites – but what we do is have people of different interests and specialities having conversations. What comes out of these should be tweeted and blogged over the course of the weekend – to engage those unable to attend and to widen the conversation.

We should hold it somewhere with a big field for camping as well as being close to accomodation for those who just hate camping with a passion – we have fun, we relax, we talk and most importantly – we amplify the conversations. Nothing is disallowed (families are welcome) but I don’t imagine this working if it is in any shape a conference or unconference. However, I am going to give it the hashtag of #campcon because that is all I can think of.

So who’s in? I am happy to throw my hat in and help organise some of the logistics, also spread the word with the developer communities (including Young Rewired State) and people with whom I have the most interesting discussions. But it will need far more than me to get this off the ground.

Just to reiterate, this is a weekend about the future, not issues and problems of the present – there are many, many people successfully holding local and national events to try to address these issues. It is about painting a picture of the world into which we are going to be delivering digital products and solutions:

  • borders: are they open or shut? what happens in either case?
  • data – is it open or increasingly regulated?
  • space travel
  • virtual reality
  • climate
  • natural disasters
  • population
  • migration
  • shopping
  • music
  • travel
  • television
  • time machines
  • science
  • politics
  • royalty
  • gypsy weddings

Anything, anything at all – but it must be about the future. Probably need a wiki for this…

Stephen Fry’s Big Digital Day and our hack room

So I started this week calling out for those digital futurologists to raise their hands and heads again and then started writing in a bid to draw out those brilliant but busy people who may have an opinion on subjects that were becoming critical to the world of Open. (One reality is that there are so many “Open” things: data, standards, pub standards, sub-pub standards, platforms etc etc etc)!

I can only write daily if I am amplifying what has taken up my time or headspace during the day, and today it has been working out how to best serve Stephen Fry’s Big Digital Day.

The idea is that we (Rewired State) are going to run a hack room backstage with 20 of the country’s most exciting developers working on data provided by a selection of SMEs in the audience. The aim is to see how many ‘businesses’ (applications, websites, widgets etc) we can make in a day, to show how rapid the digital business world is. How essential it is not to get too hung up on your one big idea; that in fact if you collaborate and take a few risky steps by sharing your data with other businesses, the outcomes could be spun into gold.

The digital day is being run with the following intention:

We recognise that over the last two years in particular, an incredible amount of passion and determination has been put into new products, online businesses and brands. The Big Digital Day is a clarion call to bring the industry together for a single day of inspiring exchange.

My instinct is to do as I have laid out above, show the potential through practical and fast programming by the best geeks I know. However, should any of you who have been gazing into the future of relationships between developers and businesses – whether with devs as the business owners or brought into a business – have any bigger and better ideas for how we might use the hack room, 20 devs and lots of business data, please could you share?

This event will also be interesting to see who Stephen and Andrew can draw out of the woodwork in terms of speakers and those with their finger on the digital pulse of the UK. The speaker list has not been published yet – I look forward to hopefully discovering/rediscovering some big thinkers.

I shall keep you posted and welcome your input.

We do have a few tickets to the event, and if you want to share your expertise here then we may be able to squeeze you in on the Rewired State guest list 🙂

Who herded the cats?

In the early hours of this morning the lovely Jonty Wareing (@jonty) tweeted this:

The Present is colliding with The Future slightly faster than I’m comfortable with.

I am not entirely sure what context he had in mind but I know that for me it is something that has been tickling the back of my mind for the last week or so.

A few years ago there began a seismic change in all things digital, with special focus on communication and technical delivery. Many things occurred to make this happen, and each of these have been charted by many a blog, news article and twitter stream – so thankfully I don’t need to rehash that little piece of history.

The utterly excellent Steph Gray mentioned often that working in the public sector at that time was like herding cats: a busy, sometimes apparently impossible and sometimes seemingly pointless task. However it does feel as if said felines have been ringfenced, for now.

Yes it is chaotic, there is much unrest and feeling of loss of control because there are very few who seem utterly, uncompromisingly confident in the immediate future. For this reason, I believe, all the people who a few years ago were considered the futurologists of note, those whom people would pay to hear talk, would read their blog posts avidly and follow their twitter stream with reverence – with almost daily revelations affecting and reinforcing the behaviour of those in the field (whichever field that may have been) – have been gripped on to, employed, drafted onto boards.

To some extent, the very beauty of twitter’s snappy communication has synergised with this increasing lack of time and could be held accountable for the death of the big, mind-changing blog posts. Those thought leaders, now so busy nurturing change, choosing to tweet their glances forward rather than writing blog posts (this is a generalisation – but notable).

I look about and there is a dearth of people mucking about at the edges of reality. Everyone to whom I looked for guidance and inspiration, those who fashioned my thoughts for sure and focused my attention when the future seemed such a vast and exciting morass of possibility – are really flipping busy. They are busy back with those cats, encouraging, teaching, guiding, assuaging fears and – when they have time – glancing quickly to the future to make sure they were still going the right way. This is natural – I am sure someone has a formula for this behaviour after a big change has occurred.

The problem is that the future is catching up with us, and we need to free the thinkers again. A collective deep breath needs to be taken and we all need to be a little bit more brave and trust in our own abilities, despite the occasional hissing and spitting, and free up some time for those we respect. Of course there is a mammoth amount of work to do and people who still need help working through everything that has changed, but this needs to become part of the day job for everyone now.

And so what Jonty said this morning is so right: The Future is rapidly catching up with The Present, it is uncomfortable because we are all gripping the hands of those who we need to set free. My own teensy little offering to supporting this, is to blog more myself as – hopefully – the thought leaders I value who sometimes do comment here, will still have time to comment: commenting is not as time-consuming as blogging and perhaps will spin-off into other much bigger discussions, hopefully mapping together lots of little discussions (as so often happens).

I have often used my blog to scribble down things that have occurred to me, long before I have thought about them too hard, as I learn so much more by conversation and community debate than navel-gazing. So for a week I am going to:

  • write a little every day about those things that have been tickling my brain, it may work, it may be pointless, but I am going to give it a try (I would really appreciate comments and discussions)
  • try to let go of the hands I cling to, set them free and strap on a pair
  • look for groups of people saying interesting things. Matt McAlister says the cryptologists are having good discussions and we all know that I am partial to a coder – but who else is fascinating you?

I don’t usually ask for things here, but I would love to know who you are getting your inspiration from – point me to their blogs and tell me when they are speaking. And if you are mindful that you too may be gripping the hand of someone who needs to have some time to gather their thoughts – please let them go a bit. We need those future-casters out there.

The cats are OK.