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An Unexpected Gift…

Just a quick post to say a public thank you to Tia at WhoAteMyCrayons. Not just for an unexpected present that arrived in the post yesterday, but also for being an awesome designer who I’m pleased to be able to work with on occasional projects and wholeheartedly recommend for others.

And also for her amazing efforts with Digital People in Peterborough.

But anyway, ignoring my terrible photography, here’s what I received…

WhoAteMyCrayonsWallplanner

Anything that helps me plan more effectively and become more organised is always appreciated. Especially when it’s personalised, as an extra incentive to use it.

Considering the common ‘January Blues’, and the fact that I’ve returned to work after Christmas both fired up to make lots of progress, and battling a cold, and it’s a very welcome boost to remind me to keep moving forwards. And to finally find a nice office space to be able to put it up in (and take better pictures…)

It’s lovely quality, looks great and makes me smile when I’m trying to sort my life out. And it turns out you can buy your own with free personalisation), from Tia’s store for just £12.95.

 

Giving More Thanks in 2017:

One thing I definitely plan to do in 2017 is give more thanks to the many, many people who have had an impact on my life and work. It’s something that’s easy to let slip, but it’s definitely going to be a big part of changing my habits in 2017. And I’m reminded that although a quick email or instant message is nice, doing something which involves a little more effort is even better.

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What Do We Want From Newspapers and Journalists?

There’s an interesting interview at the New York Times between Public Editor Liz Spayd and Executive Editor Dean Baquet.

Most of it is pretty tame and logical, but a couple of answers stood out. For example, when questions about new changes coming to the NYT, Baquet said:

Trying to edit The Times the way we edited it in a purely print era is unreasonable. The layers of editing, the number of people who touch a story. The fact is that we now write so much more. Right now, as we talk, there’s a hearing on Russian hacking. I’ve been in meetings all day, but we’ve probably written 10 posts. All of those posts, and the large print stories done at the end of the day, cannot be edited in the same way. The challenge is how to still be fast and give people a story in a form that is accurate.

But do we want and need 10 posts on the Russian hacking hearing? Is that why people visit a newspaper, or would they actually be better served by longer, more thorough articles which go through an editing process closer to print?

In an era when anyone can be tweeting fiction and presenting it as news within seconds, or live streaming on Facebook, how often do we have time to visit a newspaper website and actually ingest all the coverage of a particular event if it’s spread across so many places?

New York Times Building by Torrenegra on Flickr

It’s a paradox which every publication struggles with. And that challenge comes up just a few questions later, when asked about a way in which The New York Times has failed its readers, and Baquet picks out the use of social media.

I think sometimes reporters and editors go over the line. Or are a little ham-handed in their language in a way they wouldn’t be in the pages of The Times. And I think people think that’s easy to police. It’s not. I want people to interact with readers. I want reporters and editors interacting with the wider world. But I think we sometimes cross the line, and we need to figure out a way to not do that.

It’s almost as if the goal will be to have news coverage which is incredibly fast, efficient and streamlines editing and fact checking as much as possible. But the fastest, most efficient ways for staff to communicate needs to be edited and fact checked to prevent them from doing something wrong.

I’d propose a simpler solution.

Use social media and let staff get everything out as quickly as possible (within legal and grammatical rules, certainly), and use the website as the publication of record when I want 1 or 2 articles that give me a complete, thorough, and accurate report of what has happened in the world.

I’m not going to visit the NYT website 10 times in a day. But when I visit it once or twice (often as a result of seeing something recommended on social media), I want it to be worth the effort.

 

Image by Torrenegra on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

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The Joy of Exploding Kittens

The chance to praise an enjoyable family card game also gives me an excuse to test the Medium and Amazon Associates plugins I’ve just set up. And what could be a better test than the joy of Exploding Kittens?

For those of you not familiar with famed  web comic The Oatmeal, and creator Matthew Inman, I should probably explain what I’m talking about before you suspect me of animal cruelty. As my son did when I first queued to buy the game at Christmas.

I should point out that after a substantial pre-teen level sulk, he not only enjoyed playing the game but proclaimed it one of the best ever.

Exploding Kittens

As you can tell, Exploding Kittens is a card game for people into kittens, explosions and a certain sense of humour. In that they possess one, in my personal opinion.

I’d say it took a little longer than two minutes to learn how to play. Mainly because I was the only one of three generations in my family to actually read the instructions and attempt to understand them. But no matter how much older relatives try to ignore the actual rules, preferring whatever they’ve made up in their head, you’ll have it pretty much nailed by the time you’ve played a game.

Like all the best games, Exploding Kittens is simple. You have a hand of cards. You play whatever cards you want. And then you take a card at the end of your turn, which may result in an exploding kitten taking you out of the game.

There’s also the chance to irritate other players by using cards to stop them doing what they intend, or by simply using the game to target them again and again.

Obviously I enjoyed both the irritation and being able to constantly target my father in every game we played.

The joy of Exploding Kittens was that it was incredibly simple to get started, the humour worked across a 60-year age gap, and it proved that children will enjoy ‘traditional’ entertainment as much as ‘digital’ fun as long as it’s good.

Compared the price, complexity and frustration of Star Wars Risk, which we also tried playing,  I don’t think I’m overselling it as a joy to play.

Before you rush to buy a copy, I should make clear there’s a child-friendly standard version, and an adult sweary NSFW version, so make sure you get the right one. There’s also an expansion pack out now (Imploding Kittens), which I’m eager to try as it includes a wearable ‘cone of shame’ which is part of the game.

If all goes to plan, there should be a handy Amazon link below for the standard version.

It’s an affiliate link, which means you don’t pay more, but I potentially earn a small commission if you buy something. Which I can then put towards buying the expansion pack.

And it also means that the official Amazon Associates WordPress plugin is working properly, which is good news as it makes linking and managing that content much easier. I definitely recommend it so far, alongside Skimlinks.

It’ll also be interesting to see whether it works when the post is auto-cross posted to Medium.

Here goes, and let’s hope no kittens explode in the process…

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Support the Campaign to Repeal Section 40

How do you feel about having your world shaped entirely by the wealthy in a fake news, post truth world? Because Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act makes that very possible – even beyond what we’ve seen in 2016.

Put simply, any small newspaper or multi-author website/blog can write something true, and prove it in court, but in the process be completely bankrupted by having to pay the costs run up by the person who has sued them.

That also includes campaigning groups.

So basically, it won’t matter if you know about wrongdoing or corruption by any wealthy individual. It won’t matter whether or not you have proof which can be shown in court that what you know is true.

All that will matter is that the majority of people and organisations won’t ever be able to publish it without going bankrupt in the process.

 

You can support the campaign to Repeal The Gagging Clause by signing the Open Rights Group petition. There’s also probably never been a better or more important time to support somethine like ORG by joining or donating.

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Changing My Habits and Finding Which Methods Worked

Looking for a list of quick and simple ways to adopt good habits in life which is guaranteed to work?

Sorry, me too.

But there are some methods for improving your habits and lifestyle which have been well researched. For instance, the famous Marshmallow test which is one example of how being able to delay gratification for a bigger reward tends to pay off.

Or how about tackling the biggest, hardest tasks at the start of the day, when you’ve got the biggest reserves of willpower. And doing what you can to avoid using your brain power on things which don’t matter? Examples include wearing similar outfits everyday to avoid expending though on choosing an outfit (e.g. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama etc).

I’ve certainly found some success in adopting a simple rule for cutting down on junk food and snacks. I don’t buy them.

If it’s in the house, then it takes conscious effort to not eat it when I’m tempted. If it involves a trip to the shop, then the times I either allow myself to inhale a tub of Ben and Jerrys in one sitting, or I’m tired and fed up enough to drive to a KFC are a lot less often. And it also means that for most things, I can force myself to walk to the shop and at least get some exercise on the way.

But I wanted to introduce some more good habits, and had the opportunity to test three methods to see which were personally more effective. Obviously your results may differ depending on your personality, lifestyle and experiences.

 

Changing My Habits: Willpower Alone:

When I was younger, I’d read books voraciously. It’s a good habit I inherited from my parents and my maternal grandmother, and led to my love of language, writing, and career.

But it’s slipped a lot over the years. Spending all day reading on a variety of screens for work and pleasure, and having limited spare time would mean I’d find it hard to be enthusiastic about opening a printed book at the end of the day.

I don’t agree that the internet and social media have destroyed the ability to concentrate. I’m as likely to be distracted from work by a good 60 minute video or a lengthy article as a short one. But the odds are that it’s followed by sharing the article and jumping right back into another work task. Not taking any time to digest what I’ve watched or ridden.

So I wanted to reintroduce nightly reading, ordered some books, and tried to introduce 30 minutes or more of time spent enjoying the printed word.

Play Money by Julian Dibbell

So I recently ordered a few books from Amazon that I’d always meant to read. The advantage of older books is that most are pretty cheap now. I also rediscovered my copy of Cryptonomicon, and a cheap copy of The Dogs of Riga in a charity shop.

Results?
Mixed, to be honest. I’ve finished 2 of the books from the unread pile in around a month. And restarted Cryptonomicon this week.

But I haven’t seen any noticeable improvement in my ability to concentrate or my sleeping habits. Partly because my commitment has been patchy at best. Some nights I’m skipping reading because I finish work late, or I have other things to do. And when I do read, I occasionally get engrossed and go way over time, which then means I’m tired the next day.

But overall, I’m reasonably happy with progress. I’ve got almost 50% through my target list in a month, and I’m becoming more committed as time goes by. Plus I might not necessarily be able to concentrate harder (difficult to prove without testing), but I do feel like I’m starting to come up with more ideas and links between topics than I have for a while.

The caveat is that I’m someone who has always loved reading, so it’s not necessarily going to be as successful with something tougher. I think my willpower only attempts would struggle a lot more with cutting down on caffeine, or grouting the tiles in the bathroom. As the next example proves…

So I’d give this a 5 or 6 out of 10.

 

Changing My Habits: Public Validation:

I rarely join in viral Facebook memes. But when #22pushups was going around earlier this year and someone nominated me, I decided to give it a go. Partly because raising awareness of the struggles people face with PTSD and mental illness was a good cause. And also to see what happened when I not only made a public pledge to exercise every day, but had to also video myself and share it.

22PushupsFacebookGrab

The video element was a big part. It’s too easy to fake data logging or a few photos. And it also meant I had to involve a 3rd party cameraman most of the time. And my son provided a particularly enthusiastic bit of encouragement, as well as turning every video into some kind of dating advert.

Results?

Well, I’m still single.

The actual challenge went well. I think I missed  1 or 2 days, which I made up for straight away the next day. And even kept the run going when I was traveling for work conferences. Including when slightly hung over the next day.

And I could feel the difference from barely managing 22 pushups, to being able to do more than double that. At the local park, I even started doing chin ups on the play equipment for probably the first time in my life. For fun.

But…

I thought 22 days would be long enough to establish a good habit I could build on. But since the impetus to video my exercise ended and I don’t have family and friends prompting me, it pretty much went out the window. It’s too easy to blame work, or having other things to do.

The simple fact is that I wasn’t motivated enough to keep going without some kind of external impetus, and I reverted to being lazy.

So the end result is probably a 2/10 if I’m honest.

(But I do have a plan to counter this, as I’m registering a private Instagram account to start posting daily live videos of my fitness efforts. It’s private because I’m not intending to be a fitness guru, and my only having friends and family watch, I should be comfortable enough to look like an idiot on a regular basis without too much shame).

 

Changing My Habits: App Notifications:

The last habit I wanted to introduce was learning a language. Having some history of Alzheimer’s in my family and also seeing various research on the benefits of foreign languages, I had a quick look around for quick, free apps to try out.

Having downloaded Duolingo, I had to pick a language. Rather than refreshing my schoolboy French or German, I went with Swedish. Seeing as I spent 13 years in a relationship with a Swede, it seemed silly that I’d picked up random phrases and words over the years but never buckled down and acquired enough Svenska to have a proper conversation.

Duolingo Mobile App Swedish Screen

Jag måste lära mer svenska, I thought. So the mobile app takes you through some word matching with images and translations. You also have to transcribe audio clips or translate them yourself, or use a drag-and-drop approach with a selection of words.

There’s a desktop version as well, but the advantage of the mobile app is that my phone is always on and with me. So I can’t escape by powering down my laptop before I remember my daily lesson.

And I also get an email and notification reminder as a preset time. I’d originally set it for the end of the day, but now having it mid-evening so I still have some motivation reserves left.

Best of all, hitting my standard level target takes 5-10 minutes. So it’s something I can do quickly and easily without fearing a massive commitment.

Results?

I’ve missed a couple of days, but made it up in the next 24 hours. The rest of the time I’ve managed daily progress for about a month.

It’s a fairly low commitment, so I haven’t exactly mastered Swedish yet. But I’ve accumulated more than 220 words, passed the first checkpoint, and gone back and kept up my previous lesson strength (Each lesson prompts you with a reminder after a set amount of time to go back and refresh your weakest words/phrases).

But I’m definitely picking up and remembering more words and phrases (I still get Hon and Han confused occasionally), and I’ll be interested the next time I watch a subtitled Swedish film or crime drama to see whether it’s helped.

So I think the combo of easy use and notifications (plus a very tiny amount of gamification with scores etc), has definitely proved successful. So I’ll give it an 8/10 so far.

Changing Habits: My Conclusion:

So if you’re a person with strong willpower or have enough motivation, it’s easy to change a habit. Just do it.

In the case of reading, I do log my progress on Goodreads, but it involves an effort to visit the site etc, so I don’t really count it as motivation at the moment.

When it comes to public validation, it definitely works. Until you stop sharing.

The problem is that some of my friends were certainly uninterested in seeing me do pushups. But I think a private distribution list may work OK – will see how it goes.

And something which includes a bit of gamification with regular prompts and notifications definitely works for me.

Exercise takes more physical effort than the other two habits, but I tend to be mentally tired rather than physically due to my work and lifestyle. And having an encouraging/nagging email and prompt has stopped me skipping days I might have dodged.

The next step will be finding if there’s a solution for reading and fitness which will combine the things which worked best so far, and then seeing what else I can…

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Have Read, Am Reading, Will Read

I’ve been working on making some changes and either introducing, or re-introducing some more positive habits into my life. And one of the main things I wanted to make time for is reading printed books.

There were two main reasons for this. One was to spend at least some time between waking and sleeping when I’m not reading from a screen to give my eyes a rest and to get into a better routine to promote a good night of sleep.

The other was to see if my attention span has suffered from the constant distractions of social media, notifications, and emails. There’s still plenty of debate over the potential benefits and harm of task switching (as opposed to pretending you can actually multi-task). And it’s never something I really experience when actively writing and creating something – only when passively consuming entertainment of some description

Plus I miss my childhood, spent devouring books for at least an hour every day…

So I bought some books. One I’ve already finished, one I’ve just started, and one is awaiting me impatiently… And the benefit of having been slack in my reading habits for a while is that many of the things I want to read are relatively cheap right now.

Jon Pierson: Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes: Guided Tour Through A Decade of American Independent Cinema

Spike, Mike Slackers and Dykes by Jon Pierson

Written in 1997, I can remember it being recommended by Clerks director Kevin Smith a long time ago. And it was one of those things I never seemed to get around to reading – until now.

And it was alright. The author, Jon Pierson, was responsible for investing in, and making deals for, indie films including Spike Lee’s first film, She’s Gotta Have It, the aforementioned Clerks by Kevin Smith, documentary The Thin Blue Line, and Richard Linklater’s Slackers among others. So a pretty good list of influential films from that period.

As a result, the book covers elements of film making, film distribution and dealing with studios, but not really in much depth. In fact, what was most interesting when reading it now is wondering whether there’s still a need for that type of role and how making films has changed. This was an era when extremely low budget meant $7,000 (El Mariachi) or $27,000 (Clerks) on 16mm film. Not an iPhone.

It was also an era before internet distribution – no Youtube or Vimeo. No Amazon or Netflix streaming. And none of the smaller online indie film sites like Indieflix.com, for example. And the book was published two years before the internet sensation of the Blair Witch Project…

Having said all that, it’s still a very interesting book. If you’ve got an outsider’s interest in film, then you’ll pick up some inspiration, and it’s a great example of someone risking their money and livelihood on things that they like and consider worth championing. Which doesn’t always pay off, but still resulted in a pretty incredible batting average. So if you’re interested, the wonderful vagaries of Amazon’s pricing algorithm mean you can get a secondhand copy anywhere from 1p to £23.47 depending on which apparently identical listing you click on.

 

Julian Dibbell: Play Money

Play Money by Julian Dibbell

I’m doing better with Play Money. It’s taken me less than a decade to finally get a copy of a book I’ve meant to read since I first heard about it. When it was written, the world of MMO gaming was relatively new and unknown. So the idea of a journalist taking a year out of work to try and earn a living purely within an online game seemed fairly odd to a lot of people. For me, it just seemed a fascinating glimpse into what might happen in the future..

And given the rise of MMOs and eSports, I’d like to tell my former self not to listen to the naysayers and invest more time and effort into the ideas he had back then…. darn it…

Anyway, it’s been interesting so far. I’m pretty early in, but it’s fascinating firstly to be transports back to the era of Ultima Online. For context, World of Warcraft was new and still growing in 2006. Second Life had appeared in 2003. And I was still in my twenties…

So while it’s not exactly a handbook for how to make a living from gaming in the modern age, it’s been an interesting look back so far. And it’ll be fun to see how many characters from the book are still active in gaming in some way…

Interestingly, author Julian Dibbell has recently switched from 20 years of writing about tech to becoming a tech attorney. Anyway, so far so good. and there are some shiny paperback copies of Play Money on Amazon, although the hardcover copy I chose appears to have vanished…

 

Mark Earls: Herd

Herd by Mark Earls

I’ve been waiting to dive into Herd to make sure I’m back to maximum focus. Mainly because I could have sworn I’d not only read it close to the original release, but also owned a copy.

Either it was a very rare time I lent a book to someone (I can only remember lending out a handful of books in my life, and the loss of the 2 I remember loaning out in the last 15 years still pains me), or I’d read some much insight from Mr Earls via articles, blogs, and Twitter etc that my memory started playing tricks on me.

But it seemed like a very pertinent time to re-read a book whose subtitle is ‘How to change mass behaviour by harnessing our true nature’, and it’ll be interesting to pick out which bits are relevant with the recent examples of Trump, Brexit and other mass behaviours…

I was also given a copy of Five on Brexit Island by some relatives recently. And looking at my profile on Goodreads, it appears than what I thought was a break of a few weeks after starting Cryptonomicon has turned into several months. In my defence, I did get distracted by motoring through the fantastic Ecko trilogy by Danie Ware, which I recommend to anyone who enjoys sci-fi, fantasy, and a healthy dose of vernacular English cursing.

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Who Needs A Mobile Telephone Anyway?

Last week, I needed to buy a new mobile phone. For a while, I’ve persisted with a slightly futile attempt to separate work and family communications by using two phones. And the aging HTC I relied on for personal calls finally gave up the ghost after several years of good service.

The fact that most apps were no longer working didn’t really bother me. Aside from Twitter and Facebook, I occasionally remembered to check in to places with Swarm, used Google Maps, and occasionally got frustrated with the fact Instagram had stopped working ages ago.

But I still liked the idea of having one phone for my personal uploads, and one I could use either for my own media projects or client work – as well as having a separate number for work which could be turned off at a certain point each evening.

The Weird World of Modern Mobiles:

So although I was under a bit of pressure to have a replacement up and running, I did my research. I looked at a range of reviews, and checked what was available in a reasonable price range. I couldn’t justify a new iPhone or an exploding Samsung, even if I wanted one. Ditto the cost and wait for a new Google Pixel phone.

The camera was hugely important to me. I’m no great photographer, but I want to make sure that if I snap something on my phone it’s good enough to keep or share. The Huawei P9 was intriguing, but I couldn’t quite stretch to the outlay – particularly as I already had a SIM only GiffGaff plan I intended to keep.

A decent amount of memory, a recent edition of Android, space for an expandable memory card – all of these were good things to have.

So then having assembled a shortlist of handsets with no contracts in the sub £200-£250 range, I went and tried some out, eventually settling on the Motorola Moto G4.

(I know Amazon have the exclusive on the Motorola Moto G4 Plus with dual sims, but I felt having two sims on one phone wouldn’t prevent the type of cross-posting disaster having different devices might avoid.)

Motorola Moto G4 Box

So far it’s been great. It works well, takes decent pictures despite my artistic limitations, and the battery life has been really good.

But it was only after a few days, I realised something strange.

At no point had I ever questioned what it was like to make phone calls on it.

When I tried it out in the shop, I happily checked surfing the web and texting – but never thought to put it to my ear.

And the week since buying it, I haven’t made or received a single phonecall on it.

That’s not to say it hasn’t been used regularly. I’ve sent messages, used Whatsapp, tweeted from it, uploaded to Facebook, started actually sharing on Instagram again, enjoyed the fact that Swarm works again, and finally got around to signing up for Untappd to log my beer choices so I can finally remember which ones I like.

But it wasn’t until the second day of ownership that I realised how large the handset actually is, and that I might have to try and use it without resting it on a desk or sitting down with two hands free. Or what it might look like when I actually have it pressed to my ear.

It’s hard to believe it’s 13 years since the original Taco Phone (The Nokia N-Gage). And I’ve probably held out longer than a lot of people. But aside from the type of emergency calls I hope I never have to receive, the telephone part of my mobile device is the least used, and least important part of the whole thing…

 

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Big Success for Peterborough STEM Fest 2016

It’s almost a week since the first Peterborough STEM Festival. And to be honest, I’m still getting over how good it was.

I didn’t have any doubt that my chums from Digital People in Peterborough would put on a great event. But I didn’t realise quite how big and exciting it would be.

First, the venue was great. The Allia Business Centre is relatively new, and is built into the Peterborough United Football Ground with offices, co-working spaces and a feel that wouldn’t be out of place in a London innovation hub.

Secondly, the events, talks and demonstrators were all really interesting. It was all pretty impressive (like the child-size robot from Peterborough Regional College), but also really accessible. Everyone was keen to chat to all the children, including mine, and spend as long as was needed to answer the questions which shot forth from kids and parents. It’s not too often my son gets to discuss space with a Senior Spacecraft Thermal Engineer working on the Solar Orbiter. And that was just a chance encounter before the actual speaking sessions began!

And thirdly, there was a great turnout. Hundreds of children and parents came through the doors, and from witnessing some of the feedback, I think everyone was impressed at the fact such a great event was put on for free. I’m not sure it we hit the capacity limit for the event, but we must have been pretty close…

That was partly down to the kind sponsors who rightly saw a great opportunity to get involved in an inspiring community event. And also down to the great bunch of organisers and volunteers.

Peterborough STEM Festival Volunteers

Spot the Dan. And then wonder how I managed to look in the wrong direction at precisely the wrong moment….

Everyone was kind enough to donate their time, patient enough to deal with anything that came up, and well led and organised by the core trio behind the whole thing.

Even my son and I managed to run the reception desk for a couple of hours without major mishap. Mainly due to the help of other volunteers, and bribing him with a hot dog, Babbage bear in a Raspberry Pi shirt, and some Minecraft pixel sunglasses.

Just awesome…

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Supporting the First Peterborough STEM Festival

Peterborough holds a few special memories for me. As a cathedral city, it’s not known as a particularly exciting or glamorous location, but it’s a site of rich historical value. It’s also where I moved to become a full time journalist for a publication I’d always dreamed about working for.

Having gone on to start a family in East Anglia, it’s also the place where I first began working for myself. And after a short period of solitude, it’s where I suggested one or two freelancers I knew came down the pub to chat about work and technology. And that became DPiP, a monthly meetup which has become hugely successful despite my early involvement.

Peterborough STEM Festival

So I’m hugely excited to be traveling up to Peterborough at the end of the month to be a volunteer at the first Peterborough STEM Festival, which is a day of family-friendly events to celebrate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, inspired by Ada Lovelace Day.

When it came to DPiP, my biggest success was getting out of the way once I’d persuaded talented designer and organiser Tia to get involved. Besides securing the best cupcakes in the county to encourage people to come along, she also transformed something a bit ramshackle into a well-oiled machine.

So I confess to chuckling when I got an email explaining that she’d had an idea for a STEM Festival and was worried that it might not all come together. Because I knew it would – and lo and behold, it looks like it’ll be an amazing day.

There are a full day of workshops, doing stuff with Raspberry Pis, MakeyMakey boards, Cambridge Science Centre and Microsoft.

And a similarly impressive range of speakers – including spacecraft engineers, scientists, mathematicians and programmers covering space, robotics, and game theory.

Plus a load of exhibitors running Minecraft competitions, explaining genetics and demonstrating humanoid robotic companions.

Basically the DPiP team of Tia, Jonathan and Andy have recruited a great team, sorted out a load of fantastic speakers and events, and put it all together in an area which has been increasingly embracing technology over the last few years.

And did I mention it’s all free?

I’ve been to a lot of events over the years, and it’s probably safe to say that all this entertainment could have come with a price tag. But instead, it’s all available for free to encourage more children, and particularly girls, to consider STEM subjects.

Some of the workshops etc will require booking online in advance, so check out the website and see what might take your fancy (or be the best to inspire your kids).

And hopefully I’ll see you there!

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Inspiration to Keep Pushing

Tony Hawk is a skateboarding legend. He started skating professionally at the age of 14, and has since become probably the most famous skater of all-time, particularly after featuring in a series of video games.

In 1999, he made history by landing the first ever ‘900’ at the X Games in San Francisco, which involves spinning around two-and-a-half times before landing successfully.

And having repeated it in 2011 at the age of 43, he’s now released a video of what may be the final time he ever completes the trick at the age of 48.

And this weekend, I’m going to show my son the video to share the most important lesson from it.

The video has obviously been edited down, but even so, I counted 7 falls before Tony Hawk successfully completes the trick.

That’s a 48-year-old, wealthy, legend throwing himself down a vert ramp. And doing it again, and again.

He’s not doing it as part of a promotion, or for a competition. And the seven failed attempts aren’t hidden from public view.

He’s overcoming the challenge despite failing several times because he wants to achieve something. And that’s the lesson. Sometimes we all need inspiration to keep pushing. Despite previous failures. Because we need to achieve something for ourselves.