Author: amcewen

"Civil Society and the Fourth Industrial Revolution"

Last week I spent a day at FACT, attending the #LabOfLabs symposium that they’d convened with Leeds University’s Cultural Institute. We explored what cultural labs are, what they could be, and how we might better connect them (and those of us involved with things-a-bit-like-a-lab).

As part of the proceedings some of us gave Ignite-style presentations (20 slides, 15 seconds per slide) responding to the brief of “my lab is special because…”

I tried to capture the essence of DoES Liverpool’s cross-section-of-society where we have professionals and hobbyists, learners and experts, techies and makers and neither-techies-nor-makers; our enthusiasm-tempered-with-critical-thinking for new technologies; and our space run by and for the community, and paid for by the community.

However, I’m not sure I did the best job at it, although it did result in this ace animated gif!

A pair of DoES Liverpool mugs cycling through a series of completions of the phrase 'Do epic...' ...design, ...writing, ...3D printing, ...research, ...code, etc.

One of the points raised during the day was that we should focus less on numbers and outputs, and tell more stories about what the people in our “labs” get up to (and go on to do).

I’m all for that. At the end of the day, in the Twitter stream for the #LabOfLabs hashtag, Steve Dobson shared this tweet:

It occurred to me that my instinctive response to that—the thought that Nesta need to hang out at DoES Liverpool more—provides a perfect example of how “my lab” is special.

The “fourth industrial revolution” is predominantly robotics, the Internet of Things, AI and VR. Julian Todd and Martin Dunschen have been writing CNC software (that’s how your “robots” are controlled) for well over a decade and sold their company to Autodesk a few years back. I’ve been working in the Internet of Things since 2007, wrote a book on it in 2013 and am one of the leaders in that globally. Alex Lennon is a similarly experienced IoT veteran, and is also responsible for the fancy VR rig that anyone in the space can try out and use. Our AI game isn’t quite as strong, but we did bring it together with the CNC work when Chris Thompson and Jackie Pease wrote software to algorithmically generate poetry, trained on Wordsworth’s corpus, for a performance by our drawing robots.

Where civil society already meets technology the DoES community includes the people who made The Public Whip—Julian (again) and Francis Irving (although he’s recently been tempted down to London)—one of the first big civic tech projects alongside mySociety. Speaking of mySociety, two former members of the community are also former mySociety employees, and we still have Zarino Zappia, who still works for them. There’s also a wider interest in the community for civic tech, with initiatives like #CodeForLiverpool.

Moving beyond the tech, there have been discussions about the place of unions in these developments, sparked when Jackie and I attended the conference on 40 years since the Lucas Plan; a conversation that Ross Dalziel and I are continuing to pick at.

Just as importantly, we have members coming at it from the other side. Patrick Hurley provides business support to social enterprises, as well as being the local councillor who chairs the Council’s Employment Committee. Helen Campbell is a researcher helping charities assess their impact, and Steve Matthews works with social economy, sustainability and regeneration.

There aren’t formal connections or projects between all of these people, but they all share a space and a community, so the influences are small, frequent and unplanned.

The Nesta article talks about the need for new institutions to draw these strands together. In my more bullish moments I think that DoES Liverpool is one of those new institutions, which is mostly overlooked by people like Nesta because it doesn’t have the form of a traditional institution; that its network of interests and actors is the form that 21st Century institutions will take. We tend not to make such bold claims, however: judge us on what we do, not on what we say.

All that said, I do think that the DoES Liverpool community is a solution saturated with an increasingly wide range of ideas and expertise around technology, making, and society. It just needs the “right” people to join (or maybe it just needs time…) for that to crystallize into more projects and activity.

Nesta (or any other researchers/funders/civil-society-organisations…) could do far worse than coming to talk to some of us; or renting some desks to embed some more people into the space for them to tap into the expertise; or commissioning some projects to make some of those connections of influence explicit (and documented).

Not that we have to wait for anyone else. If you think you’d be a good add to the mix then you should definitely come join me and the rest of the community – Adrian.

  • amcewen
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  • Comments Off on Festival of Maintenance slides: Culture and Tools
"Festival of Maintenance slides: Culture and Tools"

Recently I gave a talk at the inaugural Festival of Maintenance. It was a day-long celebration of all things fixing and maintaining, organised in part by DoES Liverpool community members Jackie Pease and Ross Dalziel. It took place down in London, but thanks to help from Matt Croughan and Alex Lennon, it was also live streamed at DoES Liverpool.

My talk was about how we (ab)use Github issue lists to help with communication and management of all the maintenance tasks that need to be done in order to keep the space running. You can read through my slides and the notes of what I planned to say here…

Or if you’d rather watch me (and see what I actually said…) then watch this video.

The talk immediately before mine was from the Guerilla Groundsman, a civic-minded individual who has been fixing up things around Cambridge. As a result, at the end of my talk I briefly mentioned the experiment I’ve been running to take the Somebody Should issue list idea and apply it to all of Liverpool.

Afterword

After the talk there was an interesting discussion on Twitter about whether Github is too geeky a tool and so a barrier to entry for non-software-developers. I didn’t get chance to join the conversation at the time, but figured I’d add some of my thoughts on it here.

I can totally understand that Github isn’t very user-friendly. I’m not especially wedded to Github itself, but I do think the issue list has some big advantages over tools focused more as to-do lists (and I say that as someone who spent a couple of years failing to build a business around a web-based to-do list tool, but thinking lots about it as a result).

We chose Github because a sizeable chunk of the community already had accounts, which reduced one of the barriers to entry during bootstrapping, and we already had some code hosted there. However I think most issue trackers would work – the Labels feature is an important one in the way we organise things (unsurprisingly that—although called “tags”—was a big feature of my to-do list app). Ditto an API for building custom scripts on top of it.

Github is far from perfect, but I think there’s a risk of the perfect being the enemy of the good enough. I also think that we should be applying the same attitude to our software tools that we do to our other tools and enhancing, reworking or replacing them where they don’t suit our particular needs. We’re taking a first step in that to improve the granularity of email notifications.

I also think there’s a balance to strike between making the system easy for non-geeks and helping the non-geeks get to grips with the system. Again, we have a culture of helping people learn how to use tools they’re not familiar with, be that a 3D printer or a hand plane. Software tools shouldn’t be any different. It’s 2018, needing some help and guidance to familiarise yourself with digital tools is fine, refusing to “do digital” is not.

"MakerNoise Talk: We Don’t Need Another Hero"

At the start of the month I was over at Edge Hill University along with a bunch of others from the DoES Liverpool community (including some of the conference organisers!) and a host of others interested in making and education, for the MakerNoise conference.

I gave a talk about maker culture and how it’s important to pay attention to that, as well as the shiny tools, when setting up a makerspace.  You can read my slides and notes below…

"Maker Brunch on Sunday 1st July"

The main room at DoES Liverpool

A couple of months back, when he was visiting to help us fit out the new DoES Liverpool space with a stint of floor-scrubbing, Jo Hinchliffe and I were discussing the wider maker community and reckoned it would be good if there were more opportunities for us makers to just meet up and hang out.

With Liverpool MakeFest coming up that gave us a perfect chance to host a get together.

So, on the Sunday after MakeFest (let’s hope heads aren’t too sore after the Saturday evening after-party here at DoES too) we’re going to have a Maker Brunch.

It’s nothing grand, just a chance for anyone who fancies getting together with some fellow makers.  No presentations, no obligations, all deliberately  low-key.

I’m not sure exactly what we’ll do for food.  There are a few cafes round the corner from DoES Liverpool which do bacon butties and the like; the bakery in the nearby Lidl does a good range of pastries; there’s also been the suggestion of scones.  I’m sure we’ll work it out on the day.  As ever, there’ll be good coffee and tea.

We’ll open the doors at 10:30am (I’m assuming that’s early enough – if you need to check out of your hotel before that, let me know and we can work something out) and be there until at least 3pm (and probably a fair bit later).

If you’re worried that you won’t know  anyone, you should come anyway, find one of these four people and say “Hi, I’ve just arrived.  Can you show me round?”  They’re all friendly people who’ve agreed to welcome any newcomers

Chris Huffee Jo Hinchliffe
Adrian McEwen Steve Upton

See you on the 1st!

"Is DoES Liverpool Moving?"

More important news here! – 22nd November 2017

You might have seen in the news, or heard on the rumour mill, stories about Gostins Building (DoES Liverpool’s current home) being sold. It’s been on the cards for ages and is part of the reason why we’ve been looking to move and expand, but a planning application to turn the building into a hotel doesn’t sound like a new owner who wants to keep the building as a hive of alternative and interesting entrepreneurial activity 🙂

So, what does this mean for DoES Liverpool?

In truth, not a massive change.  On a practical note, the new owners have changed the opening times for reception, so the front doors will be locked after 5pm (from Monday 3rd July 2017).  We’ll have to sort out keys and a doorbell for evening meetups – more on this once we’ve worked out the details.

As to the bigger picture, it’s not ideal, but we’re weighing up two options for a move at the moment and either of those will work as a new home for us. One is the same size we are now and well within our budget. The other is twice our current size, which would let us fit more businesses in and expand the workshop (separate wood and metalwork workshops anyone?) and who knows what else? But we’d need to find something like an extra £1000/month to fund it. That’d be easy as it fills up, but we need a plan to get there.

How can you help?

Obviously we’re really excited about the bigger space and aiming for that. I’m sure we’ll be back with more concrete tasks as the plans develop but in the mean time there are two ways you can help out.

Firstly, become a Friend of DoES Liverpool. This is our bottom level membership, for people who want to support what we’re doing financially but don’t need any of our paid services. Either set up a standing order for £9/month (bank info is here) and ping an email to hello@doesliverpool.com to let us know, or click the button below to set up a recurring payment with PayPal:




Secondly, come and take a desk in the current space. That’ll help our cashflow and forecasting plus you’ll get to hang out with an amazing community of people and (most importantly 😉 ) get first dibs on desks when we move. If you don’t need a desk yourself, tell whoever you know who might.

And if you want to keep abreast of developments, join the community discussion group or our (lower traffic, a handful of emails each year) announcements mailing list:

Subscribe to our announcements mailing list

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  • amcewen
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  • Comments Off on To all members of the DoES community – Liverpool Makefest 24 June 2017
"To all members of the DoES community – Liverpool Makefest 24 June 2017"

Preparations are underway for this year’s Liverpool Makefest on 24 June 2017 at Liverpool Library. For anyone who hasn’t been before, this is the north-west’s biggest Maker event and features “over 200 makers showcasing science, technology, crafts, creations, inventions and gadgets … with hands-on activities, ranging from coding to crafts” https://lpoolmakefest.org.

DoES Liverpool will be playing an important role in the event and it’s an ideal opportunity to show off all aspects of the organisation.

We’ll have 4 tables, a screen showing videos and still photos, and a display stand for 2D work, as well as posters explaining what happens at DoES.

If you have anything that you’ve made at DoES and would like to display on the day, then get in touch (see organisers on Maker night / Maker day, or email the Google group). We already have lots of stuff to display, including a selection of wearables, a laser-cut and 3D-printed dolls’ house, pinhole cameras, neon signs, moulded clay tiles, Nixie tube clock, Acker’s bell and Museum in a Box, LoRaWAN, helmet cameras, miniature art, 2D stencils …, but the more the better in terms of showing the wide range of stuff that goes on in DoES.

If your stuff is less physical e.g. software, translation, and you’d like to write something about it then that would be great too.

We’ll also need volunteers on the day, and to set up on Friday night. You can volunteer here: https://lpoolmakefest.org/volunteer/ . Make sure to say that you’re volunteering for DoES. People who’ve already volunteered: you’ll also need to sign up here, as it lets you state your food preferences for Saturday lunchtime sandwiches, and you’ll get invited to a pre-event volunteer’s meeting on the Thursday evening).

There’s also a Git repo here https://github.com/DoESLiverpool/Liverpool-Makefest-2017/ with a number of issues looking for additional helpers.

Any queries, please get in touch via the Google group https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/does-liverpool/pYSP-AKB8Io or ask me or one of the other organisers on Maker night / Maker day.

Jackie

"Week 259 – Table + Motor = Speaker"

Each week we’ll endeavour to publish some details of the interesting things that members of DoES Liverpool have been up to over the past seven days. You can find out a bit more about them in our introductory post.

And remember, if you’re involved with DoES Liverpool at all, let us know what you get up to so we can include it here!

Things of Note

Coming Up in the Next Week

Monday 23 May, 7:00pm-9:00pm Wearables Group
Thursday 26 May, 6:30pm-9:30pm Maker Night

Somebody Should

The DoES Liverpool to-do list is stored in the issues of our Somebody Should repository on github. Head over there if there’s something you’d like to report, or if you want to help out fixing things.

Issue counts: 127 open, 159 closed

3 new issues:

2 issues closed:

Thanks amcewen!

Community Content

DoES exists to support the community that uses DoES. If you use DoES, then you are part of that community. If you would like to publicise something related to DoES, you can email hello@doesliverpool.com with the formatted content for us to use as a new blog post. Tell us what you’re up to, and we’ll show the world what epic stuff happens at DoES!

"Week 258 – Lasers, Leeks and Light Night"

Each week we’ll endeavour to publish some details of the interesting things that members of DoES Liverpool have been up to over the past seven days. You can find out a bit more about them in our introductory post.

And remember, if you’re involved with DoES Liverpool at all, let us know what you get up to so we can include it here!

Things of Note

Coming Up in the Next Week

Monday 16 May, 6:00pm-9:00pm Sewing Club
Wednesday 18 May, 5:30pm-7:00pm Friends of the Earth
Thursday 19 May, 6:30pm-9:30pm Maker Night
Saturday 21 May, 10:00am-3:00pm Introduction to Laser Cutting

Somebody Should

The DoES Liverpool to-do list is stored in the issues of our Somebody Should repository on github. Head over there if there’s something you’d like to report, or if you want to help out fixing things.

Issue counts: 126 open, 157 closed

5 new issues:

1 issue closed:

Thanks DefProc!

Community Content

DoES exists to support the community that uses DoES. If you use DoES, then you are part of that community. If you would like to publicise something related to DoES, you can email hello@doesliverpool.com with the formatted content for us to use as a new blog post. Tell us what you’re up to, and we’ll show the world what epic stuff happens at DoES!

 

"Week 257 – Bank Holiday But Busy"

Each week we’ll endeavour to publish some details of the interesting things that members of DoES Liverpool have been up to over the past seven days. You can find out a bit more about them in our introductory post.

And remember, if you’re involved with DoES Liverpool at all, let us know what you get up to so we can include it here!

Things of Note

Coming Up in the Next Week

Monday 09 May, 7:00pm-9:00pm Wearables Group
Tuesday 10 May, 7:00pm-9:00pm JavaScript User Group
Wednesday 11 May, 6:00pm-7:00pm Games Dev Meetup
Thursday 12 May, 6:30pm-9:30pm Maker Night
Saturday 14 May, 10:00am-5:00pm Maker Day

Somebody Should

The DoES Liverpool to-do list is stored in the issues of our Somebody Should repository on github. Head over there if there’s something you’d like to report, or if you want to help out fixing things.

Issue counts: 122 open, 156 closed

1 new issue:

No issues closed

Community Content

DoES exists to support the community that uses DoES. If you use DoES, then you are part of that community. If you would like to publicise something related to DoES, you can email hello@doesliverpool.com with the formatted content for us to use as a new blog post. Tell us what you’re up to, and we’ll show the world what epic stuff happens at DoES!

 

"Week 256 – Makerfaire UK Aftermath"

Each week we’ll endeavour to publish some details of the interesting things that members of DoES Liverpool have been up to over the past seven days. You can find out a bit more about them in our introductory post.

And remember, if you’re involved with DoES Liverpool at all, let us know what you get up to so we can include it here!

Things of Note

Coming Up in the Next Week

Monday 02 May, 6:00pm-9:00pm Sewing Club
Wednesday 04 May, 7:00pm-9:00pm Liverpool Linux User Group
Thursday 05 May, 6:30pm-9:30pm Maker Night

Somebody Should

The DoES Liverpool to-do list is stored in the issues of our Somebody Should repository on github. Head over there if there’s something you’d like to report, or if you want to help out fixing things.

Issue counts: 122 open, 155 closed

1 new issue:

1 issue closed:

Thanks JimNixon!

Community Content

DoES exists to support the community that uses DoES. If you use DoES, then you are part of that community. If you would like to publicise something related to DoES, you can email hello@doesliverpool.com with the formatted content for us to use as a new blog post. Tell us what you’re up to, and we’ll show the world what epic stuff happens at DoES!

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