All entries for March 2009

March 16, 2009

Framing shots – Gary Johnson and post match interviews

Writing about web page

Let’s put to one side Bristol’s capitulation in the last minutes yesterday to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory.

Instead, let us marvel at the interview footage of Gary Johnson in the video on the BBC website:

He either looks like he’s a naughty school boy being told off by the headmaster or that two blokes are about to take him outside and do him one for non-payment of gambling debts.

Not a leading Championship manager at all!

Perhaps in this age of ubiquitous video capture and distribution the Bristol City PR people might like to think about how they physically arrange these press briefings so that GJ (still believe in you btw!) doesn’t look like a numpty.

March 12, 2009

Barriers between business and HE

Writing about web page

Interesting article in Education Guardian today. References a report from the Advanced Institute of Management

Barriers rising between business and universities

Key policy of businesses working with universities at risk from red tape and overvaluing IP, says report

Don’t know much about the quality of the research, but taken on face value there are some interesting things in this – not least that Warwick is not in the top 10 for businesses favorite universities. Eep.

No.1 – the institutionalisation of relationships creates barriers and bureaucracy that make life difficult.

Now, the report argues that the sector has spent the millions provided by government on setting up management layers. My thought is that govt money tends to come with so many caveats, controls and reports that you have to waste time, money and effort on management layers to satisfy the paymaster – much to the annoyance of the end beneficiary. It’s a classic case of public/private philosophy clash. You see the same sort of stuff with AWM funds – you spend so long administering it you wonder if it is worth it.

So maybe not the HE sectors fault then – though we do love our admin!

No.2 – Universities over value their IP.

This is very interesting – especially in the light of the current financial crisis. No idea about whether this is the case or how you value this sort of thing properly, but there seems to be a disconnect between our expectations and the impressions of business.

No3. – Return on spin out investment.

This bit was really interesting:

Universities made £58m from selling spin-off companies created from university IP in 2006-07, compared with £783m from contract research, £288m from consultancy and £93m providing equipment, such as computer networks, and other services.

Now, I don’t know how Warwick rates on that scale but as a sector that is a fascinating set of numbers.

Think about it – the HE sector makes twice as much money by letting people borrow its stuff for a bit as it does from innovating companies – that’s amazing!

Plus – the govt spends 150m a year on supporting the commercialisation of academic ideas – for a return of 58m – ummm, can anyone see something odd there.

Spin outs are a long term game of course – Warwick Ventures reckon on up to 10 years to realise a return on investment, and out of every 10 ideas 9 will fail I guess. However, one wonders about priorities and models and whether the report writers have a point in their conclusion:

Salter said: “Focusing on university patenting and licensing income may distract us from other more economically-important forms of interaction.”

All of this is especially interesting at a time when business is not going to be falling over themselves to support the funding of HE.

I don’t know enough to say whether a particular model is right or wrong but certainly an interesting point for debate.

HTPC – mac disappoints, can Asus fill a gap?

Since I got my flat screen telly I’ve been looking for a small form PC/Mac to plug into to it for iPlayer and other media duties.

I was waiting a long time for an update to the Mac Mini and when it came, well, it’s a good little machine but waaaaay too expensive. In these troubled times the expense is just too much to justify, especially if you add a Media server on top.

However, as a Mac devotee stepping away from the platform felt like the wrong idea.

Until this little combination cropped up.

Asus Eee Box 206 + HP Mediasmart = multiplatform media sharing and fun.

So, Mac latops, Asus into the telly, HP mediasmart sharing files between the two. Seems sensible.

Yes, there are probably easier ways to do this and the HP bit is not cheap, but there you go. I don’t have Linux badges.

Only problem is the Asus is reported as being available now, but I can’t find one for love nor money. The HP is supposed to be here in March but no confirmed release date.

A little more waiting I feel.

Is the Mirror returning to it's quality past?

It may come as a surprise to many people but the Mirror (and the Sun) used to be a paper of significant quality with excellent standards of journalism and an investigative ethos that championed many serious issues instead of the crock of useless crapitude that we see today.

So, imagine my surprise when pulling into the garage this morning to see a banner ad emblazoned across the top of the tabloid declaring ‘Free Tibet’. Wow, I thought, is this a return to the serious glories of times past?

Well, obviously not. As I went to pay for the petrol and walked past the paper stand the banner revealed its truth – ‘Free £1Bet’

And normality is restored…

March 11, 2009

Happiness and problem solving

While we’re at it

It’s easier to solve problems when we’re happy than when we’re agitated. Plus we like bright colours more than dull ones.

This chimes with thoughts I’ve had on creative working environments – how far does this sort of space:


encourage positive creativity? Compare to:

Also – if this quote is correct:

“80% of a decision is based on emotion, the other 20% is our intellect convincing us that the emotion was correct!” Friedrich Nietzsche

then what is the impact of environments that generate negative emotional responses to our decision making process.

Interesting interfaces and I/O

At the last few conferences I’ve spoken at I’ve started with some little demo’s to demonstrate that the web as we know it is no longer a text based environment that you interact with using keyboard and mouse. Devices like the iPhone, Wii and others are shifting the way we interact with information and data – touch and gestures can be used to manipulate our digital environments.

As a demo I use the following Zefrank toy to show a simple example of using your laptop’s microphone to control a web app – – which is pretty cool. Certainly it get’s home the idea that thinking about the web as something driven by text and keyboard is an idea we need to move away from.

Two further thoughts though.

I recently downloaded Wikime to the iPhone which is a great little app that uses geo location to bring up wikipedia entries about places or things within up to 25km of your current location. A really great tool for interacting with the physical space around us and learning an awful lot about obscure places on the Moreton in Marsh to Paddingto rail line.

I thought that this was a great app for bringing together the physical and digital environments. It’s a similar shift to that which you see with apps like snap tell or QR codes that using the camera in your phone allow you to create interactions between the physical and digital.

This TED video then takes that to the extreme.

Cool and rather scary at the same time!

How does this change what we do? Not sure, but certainly a point of discussion.

March 02, 2009

Business and HE

Writing about web page

Interesting piece in a new magazine focusing on Business/HE interface – something that has been on my mind of late.

Whilst there is interesting stuff in there I find myself wondering if the first half matches up with the second half.

Part one seems fair enough and the use of MIT as a case study is fairly safe, as are the examples of other innovative spin outs from US institutions.

The think that doesn’t sit right is then the UK response to this challenge as outlined by the interview Prof. Arthur Francis. I am not convinced that the model outlined = Sergey Brin.

Surely the success of MIT is based on creating an environment of innovation and creativity rather than institutionalised support. I also question whether the MBA is the mechanism whereby UK institutions will find their business mojo. The strength of MIT and others is that they foster the spread of ideas from across a whole range of disciplines – they are intellectually rich and it is this interchange of ideas within institutions and without that makes them work and attractive to business.

Whilst the second part of the article may be entirely valid and effective, I am not sure it supports the argument that by following that path we can build something similar to the American model. That seems to require something different in my mind – something less concerned about applied/pure and more interested in ideas and academic creativity, and that is not exclusively a business school thing.

March 2009

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