Mon 31 Oct – Sun 6 Nov 2016
The future is digital
Pitch at Palace
Two fabulous future-focused major tech things last week. First on Wed night I attended Pitch at Palace 6.0. This is an exercise led by the Duke of York to identify and nurture innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs. The majority are not social entrepreneurs but many ideas were both money-making and with social benefit. Such as the winner Drenched – voted for by a public vote. Drenched is a tool in a tap to provide only the amount of water necessary to wash one’s hands so avoiding a tremendous amount of wasted water. There was a reception before and after in the splendour of St James Palace. A beautiful venue though not designed for a modern networking event. The shortlisted and winning ideas don’t get any money but rather exposure and connection to people who may be able to help them grow and develop in the future.
Second thing last week was all about the first stage in selecting this year’s Nominet Trust 100. This is an exercise done each year to identify 100 best examples of social tech / tech for good across the world. Details of the 100 for previous years can be found here. I feel very privileged to be one of the shortlisters this year which means I was put into a group to look at a bunch of applications and make a call on whether I think they should be in the top 100. The shortlisting groups work online using loomio software and judging applicants based on innovation, inspiration and impact. The ideas are all pretty good just to get to the shortlisting stage and it’s a difficult call to trim them down. There are some absolutely brilliant, stand-out ideas though. The final 100 to be announced in Dec.
Digital work days
Work days last week were all day Tues and Wed with Fri afternoon. Tues was the deadline day for our Tech for Good programme. As expected, the rate of submissions went on a sharp upward trajectory from Mon morning onwards. What is it in human nature that we always leave things till near the deadline no matter how much time we have? Several other good external events were happening as well last Tues including a Nesta one, Microsoft’s Future Decoded, and EHI Live (all about ehealth). But me and Nissa decided we needed to be in the office to deal with last minute crunch-points and they came.
Anglo-Irish co-operation and Sub-Saharan Africa research
Also last Tues I met with a chap who deals with encouraging social tech innovation in the Republic of Ireland. Lots of stuff in common as there always is. How the hell did the UK and Ireland end up being so much in conflict with each other? We even bounced around the idea of a future partnership funding programme for Tech for Good targeting Northern Ireland but with the understanding that such projects would also generate benefits across the border in the Republic.
Tues afternoon there was a second interview with our favoured agency to do the research on social tech eco-systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Hopefully I will be able to give more details on this in the near future.
Taking the chair
Wed morning I had a bit of a not too unpleasant bombshell. The chair of the directorate management team meetings was away and the person to cover had been called to deal with something else. So would I mind chairing the meeting? All fine, key thing being that I needed to speed read the papers in detail and get my head around everything to be discussed / agreed. All went well with my particular attention to making sure we covered everything and finished on time even if that meant curtailing discussion. I hate when timings for events go to pot and conversation takes priority over decision-making.
Tech vs abuse
Wed lunchtime we had a presentation on domestic violence and tech: techvsabuse. Nissa has been leading on this. With the ubiquity of social media, it’s inevitable that it is involved in DV. Victims often try to find help, advice and support on social media whilst perpetrators use it as another means to monitor and control. Professionals in the field know tech plays a role but don’t generally understand how it is used or how they could take greater advantage of it. The research also uncovered everyday and common things like people not knowing how to set their privacy settings and the normalisation of online abuse. Final report soon and then a decision on what to do next.
Fri was pissing with rain when I left the gym and went to meet a couple of fellow Tech for Good people. Ana used to be at a funder where she developed an app to convert Salesforce into a user-friendly version for grant-makers. She now works at Yoti. This is a company developing digital identity software. Chris was also there who works with Yoti and Zing. This is a funding organisation supporting social agencies working with young people. A great example of a modern tech enterprise with a view as to how its products and services could be used to help society.
After the meeting it was working from home to start looking through the pool of video applications to our Tech for Good programme that I have to shortlist from.
Mum and Dave
I did mum’s laundry on Mon morning which I quite enjoy. Time to myself to chill, have a coffee and read my book. Then the evening in with mum on Mon night. Turned out to be the only night of the week I would see her due to other stuff going on making it easier to stay with Dave. Even though Dave was often tied up in work stuff. For instance getting home around midnight on Thurs.
Mum’s knee is getting better such that she came over on Sat to meet us for a fish and chip lunch (after I had done my jog-run and had a haircut). Dave has a great fish and chip shop near him although their success means they have limited opening hours. They are so popular they don’t need to be open late nor on Sundays. A busy meal but mum enjoyed it. She still walks with a crutch and slowly made her way from the tube station with me. She didn’t want to go to Dave’s for a coffee afterwards largely because it was cold and she just wanted to get home.
Health and efficiency
My best ever! Managed to do 10K again and reduced my time / pace. It felt like hard work which I think was in large part due to the weather being so cold. Took a fair amount of time just to get warmed up. I did make things slightly easier, I think, by doing less slopes. This came from more circuits of St James Park than the previous week and less of more ‘hilly’ Green Park. I have still got a future ambition to get to under an hour by the end of the year – slow and steady.
Best ever Jog-run. Hard work not least because of cold weather. 10K done again and improved time / pace compared to last week. pic.twitter.com/e9KYqt0Glg
— Billy Dann (@BillyDann1) November 5, 2016
Gym and swim
Gym only twice on Fri and Sun but good both times focused on gently exercising my legs and heavily working my upper-body; no rowing machine. Went for a swim again on Thurs morning. I am trying to establish a pattern of once each week going for a swim as well as doing my jog-run. £6.20 a time but the pool was very quiet and I managed 32 lengths in 45 mins. I am including these details on my Exercise and Weight page alongside my jog-run results and weigh-ins. Four length blocks including three lengths of back strokes then alternating one length of front crawl or breast stroke. I really don’t like front crawl because it absolutely exhausts me but it is great exercise. It is important to feel the fear in things and face them out.
Books and reading
Up to the Comic and Book Exchange in Notting Hill on Mon afternoon. Love this crazy place though you really need to have lots of time to fully explore. Exchanged DVDs, books and audio-books for vouchers. Used some of the vouchers but also saved some so I can pop up in the future for a leisurely trawl..
‘Giovanni’s Room’ by James Baldwin
Classic gay literature which I read for the Velvet Page Book Club on Thurs night. I didn’t start reading it till Sun and was not sure I would finish it in time. But it is actually quite a short book, perhaps it could even be called a novella. And what a wonderful book it is. All about an American in Paris in the 1950s (the book was written 1957). He falls in love with a man but can’t deal with this and instead goes back to his girlfriend with disastrous results.
Dr Who audio-books
Dr Who and the Pirates (Sixth Doctor Colin Baker + companion Evelyn Smythe)
This is a difficult and expensive CD to get hold of but I managed to get it as a reduced price download from the Big Finish website. And wow this is different. It keeps slicing between the Doctor and Evelyn trying to console one of her depressed students and the actual events of when they met pirates. A lot of comedy and singing – it’s a comedic opera in places. But also some severe violence from the pirate chief played by Bill Oddie of all people. The singing does go on a bit and it is an acquired taste but I did really enjoyed myself.
Loups Garoux (Fifth Doctor Peter Davidson + companion Turlough)
Another strange one. The Doctor and companion Turlough (who doesn’t really sound like him) are in Rio in the second half of the twenty-first century. After an ecological disaster that has turned the Amazon into a dust bowl. The Doctor comes across a family of werewolves trying to escape the king of the werewolves. There’s a big werewolf battle but I lost sense of the plot near the end. Starts off well but drifts, ultimately not a classic.