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The outsourcing of a blog post - reading list attached.

My girlfriend has a couple of degrees under her belt and occasionally says she hadn't realised how much time lecturers put into planning, preparing and administering their courses - which is very kind of her, sweet really!  Particularly so at times such as this when we're mid-term and the classes come thick and fast.

As such I have been neglecting the blog, yet I knew this would be the case at certain times - hence the prolific periods of posting through some weeks of the summer.  I'm really glad to have gotten those ideas down on paper/pixel, but that doesn't mean the rest of the world is equally happy to sit back and wait until I've more time on my hands.  So, to clear the backlog of topics I've been meaning to write about in depth, here's a few shallow comments to be getting on with.

Item 1: Bill Thompson's official tweeting role at a Royal Society Web Science event #RSWebSci

Bill makes the point towards the beginning of his post that as this is Royal Society event there are objectives, perhaps expectations, of being able to shed some light and understanding on the topics up for discussion.  His role is to attempt to 'manage the conversation about the conference taking place on the Twitter social network', the parallel track being followed by audiences to this event whether they were present at the time or not.

Two things strike me:
- This isn't about creating an archive of the event.  These tweets will not be written up into the minutes of the meeting, they are not intended to be an objective account of the day's progress.  No, this is a real time aide to those who would seek to know more, contribute to the conversation and build up their own social network links in the progress.
- Objectives are key.  This is all about attempting to meet the objectives of the organisers, hosts and sponsors in a more effective and efficient manner, utilising the tools and the expertise available to them.  If the Royal Society wishes to put technology to good use in this way so be it, they can reach a wider cohort.  Maybe over time the tweeting will be seen as a cuckoo in the nest and the event itself will attract fewer 'live' attendees - either in absolute or relative terms.

These aspects to the conference's social presence could be symptomatic of the changing nature of some events.  It seems easy to be innovative at the moment if you have a successful event on which to build, let's hope plenty of folk try it.

Item 2: thestar.com (from Canada) comments on the growing audience for live opera, via the cinema screen

It's a simple concept: spend several million dollars putting on a lavish opera for a suitably well-heeled crowd, then broadcast it live to cinemas around the country and open air locations for a wider audience to enjoy.  This article looks at the work of the Metropolitan Opera in this area, and although it makes a salient point about the income this can generate for the company, it's also a major draw when attracting talent.

As above, the objectives are key and they don't stray from the guiding work of the company - towards the end we read that 'Technology is not an end, but a means'.

Item 3: the Melbourne Fringe delivers an iPhone app and festivalisation continues apace

During August 2010 I snuck into an event which had brought together representatives from half a dozen fringe style festivals to pass on information and ideas to the assembled crowd.  It was a well-attended event, held at 'Fringe Central' (part of the University of Edinburgh during the winter months).  This suggested to me that many Edinburgh Fringe artists have the bug and are keen to carry on with their festival career.  I also came away as convinced as ever that central administrative bodies have a crucial role to play in bringing together people, resources and ideas, and giving them exposure.  The article linked to above is from The Australian and leads with some quick paragraphs on the benefits of festivals as a means to finding an audience and a chance to perform, particularly fringe festivals which legitimise small and idiosyncratic venues (and small, idiosyncratic audiences).

The article continues: the opening discussion, about the 'Anywhere Theatre Festival' in Queensland, is working through social media to market and promote itself.  To quote...

'The growth of social networking sites, which were set up originally to create communities of supposedly like-minded people who would then provide a ready market for products and services, is now, [Paul] Osuch says, impossible to ignore for those interested in marketing the arts.

'Once you decide to take a new production to, say, a park in Ipswich, it's like dropping a stone in a pond: there is a ripple effect around the event that encompasses not only locals as audiences but also local businesses that can support the event.'

Osuch is promoting a model that takes his festival out into the suburbs, making it local to people and requiring little expenditure of either funds or time or effort.  Around the event then grows a conversation, a ripple of exchange that involves those who've seen the show and those who haven't, yet share an interest in the topics or the location.  They've attempted to make a virtue, or at least a feature, of the major obstacle blocking their path: a lack of regular venue spaces.

The article moves on to Melbourne.  (There's a line where the Fringe Festival development manager talks about 'programming the open-access festival', which strike me as a bit of a contradiction, but no matter.)  The festival is based around North Melbourne Town Hall, in which I have drunk in my time.  The technology highlighted ranges from Twitter and Facebook to Foursquare and their iPhone app, while recognising the importance of the printed programme to many patrons.  This is a fair reflection of the discussion at this year's Edinburgh Fringe AGM along similar lines - there's no point making life hard for your customers after all.

The Melbourne section draws to a close by saying that all their staff have iPhones, so they're regular users and therefore feel happy taking on the challenge of developing useful new applications for the device.  Could there be peer pressure at work here?!  Staff and customers who feel they have to join Foursquare out of professional courtesy, festivals who see the need to jump onto the bandwagon and try to keep up?

Surely the returns can only be limited if that's the case - what's key is keeping those objectives and priorities in mind: does this help us get to where we, and our stakeholders, want to be?

Item 4: I was directed towards the 'Scottish Centre for Enabling Technologies'

Directed I was, so go there I did.  The exist to 'help Scotland's creative companies explore and exploit the latest technologies in the development of new/existing products, services, systems and knowledge'.  More power to them for it - and public funding from various sources, which they utilise through free events, grants and consultations.

So, do they sit alongside Amb:IT:ion, the Festivals Innovation Lab and other such organisations, agencies and associations?  Or, maybe they sit on each others' laps.  Is there a duplication of effort...?  Am I asking questions because I haven't much creativity just now to come up with answers?

Well, you wouldn't close a public park because there was another two miles away.  (You would?  That's not very constructive.)  No, you wouldn't, because there's a place for all these organisations to continue their good work.  Those in search of support will weigh up their alternatives and hopefully be able to find sufficient providers of that much needed help.

That's quite apart from the different ways these organisations go about their business - after all, they have differing objectives to work towards.

Shallow comments and a few supplemental observations: check.

Nuit Blanche: older, not any wiser

Kicking off the research process: undergrad dissertations.