"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.

"Puck.js + Television… What could go wrong?"

It was a few weeks ago when I first discovered and visited DoES, and I quickly realised that I’ve got to learn a whole lot more about telemetry for the IoT project I’m working on. I’ve been dabbling with LoRaWAN, WiFi and, most recently, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy).

In particular, I’m really interested in Beacons – what many refer to as “The Physical Web“. Beacons advertise small packets of information to their local vicinity, and anyone with a mobile (or other suitable device) wandering by will get a notification so they can interact with the beacon in some way…

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"Welcome Jelly!"

On Thursday February 9th, DoES Liverpool will welcome Jelly Liverpool to the Gostins Building for the very first time.

We are delighted to have the opportunity to introduce ourselves to those of Jelly’s co-workers that may not know about us, and to say hello again to those that already do. Who knows what kind of beautiful relationships could be spun out of the meeting of minds that will take place?

As Jelly is a free co-working event, the day of Jelly’s visit will also be free for DoES’ regular office hotdeskers, so there’s no excuse whatsoever for you not to come along, have a coffee and meet some awesome people. We’ll see you there!

"Christmas Opening Hours"

As I’m sure you’re all aware, Christmas is coming up. If you weren’t aware, consider this fair warning that your mother/significant other/dog is probably expecting some kind of gift.

Even Makers like to relax, so we’ll be having some downtime over the festive period, and figured it made sense to let you know, and hopefully keep the wailing and gnashing of teeth down to a minimum.

We’ll be closing at 5:30pm on Friday 23rd as usual, but will then be closed until 9:30am on Tuesday January 3rd.

However, if you have out of hours access set up, you will be able to get in whenever the building is open, which will be from 9am to 4pm from Wednesday 28th to Friday 30th. 

It might be possible for you to get in during those times even if you don’t have out of hours access – just email hello@doesliverpool.com with the times you’d like to come in, and we’ll try to help you. No guarantees though – we may all be sleeping off a surfeit of mince pies and brandy.

So there you have it, clear as day. We’re closed, but only if you don’t want to come in, in which case, we’re probably open, but it depends if we can be bothered to be. I genuinely don’t know how I can make this much easier for anyone.

"Opening Hours over Christmas 2015"

We just wanted to drop you all a little note to wish you a very Merry Christmas, and to let you know what our plans are for the festive period.

As usual, anyone with Out of Hours access can come and use DoES Liverpool whenever the Gostins building is open. This is normal hours until Christmas Eve, when the building will be open from 7:30am – 4pm, and is then closed until Tuesday December 29th. During that time we’re open our usual hours too, for anyone booked on the laser-cutters or wanting to hot-desk.

In the week between Christmas and New Year, the 29th, 30th and 31st of December, the building is open from 9am – 4pm, so those of you with Out of Hours access will be able to get in then. However, DoES will be closed to hot-deskers during this time, unless arranged previously. This means that if you want to book a laser cutter, or time in the workshop, or even just come in and hotdesk, then that is absolutely fine, but make sure you let us know first! If you just wander in on a whim, the likelihood is that you will find some very locked doors.

If you email us at hello@doesliverpool.com, then we’ll make sure those doors are unlocked.

We’ll be back to normal opening hours from Monday January 4th, so don’t worry, we’re not away for long.

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  • Comments Off on Congratulations Assemble – Turner Prize Winners 2015!
"Congratulations Assemble – Turner Prize Winners 2015!"

Over the years, we’ve had lots of incredibly talented people through the doors here at DoES – designers, artists, developers, philanthropists and much more beside. However, like almost every co-working or maker space in the UK, we’ve never had a Turner Prize winner.

Well, now we have.

On December 7th in Glasgow, London based collective Assemble won the coveted prize for their work in Toxteth, the Granby Four Streets Project, becoming the first architecture project to ever lift the award.

Quite aside from breaking new ground in the art world, they have done the same – both literally and figuratively – in the architecture world, by pioneering a more holistic, community driven vision of local regeneration, working with local residents to ensure that the spirit of the area was not lost during the work, which has often been a criticism levelled at more traditional regeneration projects.

During their work in the city, Assemble members have worked in DoES Liverpool, making use of the workshop facilities to create various items that have gone into the project, and becoming part of the community – as does everyone who comes here.

We’re delighted to have been able to provide even the tiniest help towards such a great team making history, and, more importantly, making a difference in Liverpool.

"Until September, Liverpool has a new art gallery – and it’s rather good!"

Gallery on the 6th Floor, Gostins Building

Liverpool is famed for its art scene, second only to London in the UK for its wealth of artistic culture on offer to residents and visitors alike, can we ever have too much? No!

Drawn by a poster pinned to the noticeboard in the DoES office advertising a showing by three artists based on the sixth floor, Mark from Reddbridge Media took the lift up last week to take a look, and says it’s worth your while visiting too.

Click here to read his review here over at Articles.


"A DoES Liverpool Re-org"

tl; dr – we’re shifting how DoES is organised a bit, jump to “Three Overlapping Groups” to skip the history of how we got here…

Since it started back in 2011, DoES Liverpool has (deliberately) had a fairly loose organisational structure. Because it’s run by the members, for the members, and because everyone is a volunteer there’s a tendency for it to be a do-ocracy – what gets done is mostly what people are motivated enough to do. We are Do Epic Shit Liverpool after all, not Talk About Epic Shit…

We haven’t found the people who enjoy emptying bins, restocking the tuck shop, or answering emails to book the laser-cutter yet (though if that’s you, we should talk… 😉 but luckily there’s a core group of organisers who realise that taking care of the boring stuff is the only way things work. Plus there’s a wider community of people happy to help out for more occasional tasks, like decorating New Dinky or helping move laser-cutters…

It’s never been perfect – with more marketing we probably could have grown more quickly, and at times I think the organisers have focused on doing and neglected some of the explaining what was going on. This blog post is part of us trying to do better on that latter point as things get rejigged a little.

Despite all that, we’ve grown steadily over the two-and-a-half years we’ve been running – taking on two extra rooms, and continually improving the facilities: whether that’s the second (and huge) laser-cutter or vinyl cutter we’ve recently added to the workshop; or kitting out New Dinky to make it work as both hot-desk space and event room. More importantly, the number of people calling DoES home continues to grow – we’re going to have to squeeze in some extra desks if we get many more residents and we’re running out of free evenings for all the meetups and events taking place: out of 26 days that the building is open in January, there’s an event or meetup taking place on 16 of those days.

For a while now, we’ve been wondering how we can best adapt to cope with the admin overhead (for want of a better term) that generates. You might remember talk about taking on a part-time administrator, and while we haven’t done that yet, it’s still a possibility.

We’ve also begun to understand that we need to have a longer-term view of how DoES Liverpool could, or should, look to evolve. How does DoES fit into the wider tech, maker and startup community in Liverpool, in the UK, in the world?

Thinking about this isn’t a particularly new thing, these have all been recurring themes discussed among the organisers and the wider community on many occasions (only some of which involving the pub…) since long before DoES came into existence.

However, towards the end of last year we (organisers plus a few others) decided it was time to more formally acknowledge how things have been evolving…

Three Overlapping Groups

The organisational activities within DoES seem to be split largely into three groups – events; day-to-day; and longer-term/wider picture. They are all equally important to the functioning of the community, and there’ll be plenty of overlap in membership between the different groups. However, focusing on one aspect at a time lets the right people get together without bogging them down in discussions they don’t (passionately) care about.

There’ll still be ad-hoc groups formed for specific tasks or projects, but these are the core continual groups. Until something better emerges… 😉

Event Organisers Group

Paul Freeman has been the unofficial “ents manager” for a while now, and with the number of events being held at DoES Liverpool these days, there are quite a few people who run them who aren’t part of the organisers group.

An event organisers group will let them share tips on what works and what doesn’t, cross-promote new events/groups, and discuss things like Paul’s proposed improvements to New Dinky. For now, discussions for this group will remain on the general DoES mailing list, but Paul will be reaching out to the events organisers to see what they think (and check that they know about the mailing list!)

Organisers Group

This is likely to be the biggest group, or at least the most active. Responsible for day-to-day running of the space – answering emails about hot-desking or laser-cutting; emptying bins; making sure there’s someone to cover opening up each day or any evenings there’s an event on; ordering consumables; restocking the kitchen stores; etc.

Not that everyone in the group has to do all of those tasks, but it’s the group making sure that the space works and people can get on with their real projects when they’re at the space. As such, it’s helpful if the organisers are people who are around regularly, but there are probably tasks where that’s not essential.

Radar Group

This group takes a longer-range perspective on DoES. Both in terms of time – what could DoES look like in a year? How do we work that out? What do we need to do to head in that direction? – and also in the wider community – how does DoES present itself to the rest of the city? Are there other groups we could work with to everyone’s benefit?

We think it makes sense for this group to also have a couple of people on it from outside of the normal DoES community – people who’ll bring different expertise and perspectives to help us develop and grow, and reach more diverse communities. To that end, one of the first tasks of the radar group will be to identify who those people would be, so if you’ve any suggestions of individuals or of ways that DoES lacks diversity or skills, then let us know. You can post to the thread about this on the DoES mailing list (details on joining the mailing list are here) or email radar@doesliverpool.com.

What Next?

There’s a thread to discuss this on the DoES mailing list, or if you’d like to make less public comments then email hello@doesliverpool.com or speak/email one of the organisers (Adrian McEwen, John McKerrell, Paul Freeman, Steve Sparrow, Hakim Cassimally, Patrick Fenner, Andy Goodwin).

There’s also the next organisational meeting this coming Friday, 10th January, at 5:30pm in New Dinky at DoES Liverpool (with the option to convene to a pub afterwards…). Strictly speaking this will be the first meeting of the Organisers Group, but is likely to be a bit of a transitional one from Events/Organisers/Radar to separate meetings.

"Merry Christmas from DoES Liverpool (plus an Oscilloscope and an Arduino Due…)"

‘Twas the night before Christmas… okay, it was the night before the night before Christmas when this happened, but that doesn’t sound so poetic, and I’m writing this blog post on Christmas Eve…

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through DoES Liverpool not a creature was stirring, except for a couple of hackers tinkering around.

Mathew Carr had called into the space in search of an oscilloscope and an Arduino, so he could try out some code he’d been slaving over at home. His initial plan was to run it all on an Arduino Duemilanove using two of the PWM outputs, smoothed with capacitors, but we couldn’t find any of quite the right value to generate a good output.

So, plan B, which was to switch to using an Arduino Due, which has two digital-to-analogue converter channels to produce proper analogue outputs. That worked much better, as you can see in the video below…

Merry Christmas from DoES Liverpool!

"DoES wants to Do Even More Epic *cough*"

Over the last year, DoES has hosted events like Barcamp, Google Developer Breakfasts, and groups like Makernight, Lean Startups, the SpecFic Writing Group and Liverpool Sewing Club. We’ve also welcomed many guests, from occasional hotdeskers to permanent residents – techies, entrepreneurs, and artists.

We’re in great shape to carry on doing all this and more… but sometimes it feels like there is Too Much Awesome to hold within our 4 walls. We’ve got a great opportunity to expand next door into what we call the “Dinky” room.

Here’s what we could do with the room:

  • It has plumbing for a kitchen!
  • Move the current workshop tables into a dedicated space in Dinky
  • This would free up desks and clutter in the main space to have more capacity for desk workers
  • We’d also be able to move the laser-cutter into Dinky, freeing up the central room to be entirely a shared meeting space.

But of course, we need money for this: it would normally cost around £650/month, but we could currently take it on for £325. It looks like at the moment we could almost afford it. As DoES has always been very careful with managing our money well, we don’t want to take on something without being sure it will work out.


  • If you were thinking of taking a permanent desk, or a workshop membership at DoES, this would be the perfect time!
  • If you know someone who is looking for a desk or workshop, why not point them in our direction?
  • And if you’re like to support DoES, but don’t need a desk, why not think about becoming a Friend who DoES?
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