Land Wiki enters the Hub Westminster Launchpad Accelerator Scheme

My new venture is now fully embedded in the Hub Launchpad Accelerator Program!

This means we have taken a round of seed funding, have a super cool new office on Haymarket, just off Piccadilly Circus, and have undertaken our first week of an intensive 14 week program. land wiki logo

The name of the project is: Land Wiki ( subject to change). Land Wiki is trying to achieve two goals with one website:

  1. Make it easier for residents to discuss and change land in their local area that has the potential for better use.
  2. Provide a comprehensive database of available land for individuals, community groups and property developers that are searching for land.

Its been a fun but gruelling first week where we’ve been stretched and tested, repeatedly challenged our assumptions, we’ve pitched, been mentored, we’ve ‘got out the building’, we’ve designed products for people with disabilities, and we’ve met a lot of cool people.

Watch this space for an update and our first publicly available demo!


What is a hero?

Here is a Skype chat my father and I had this morning. My dad is a historian and long in the tooth. Our day and age is full of icons and screen stars and celebritites, but really what are they worth? Are they just lucky? I am not saying my opinion is the same as his, but is may be an interesting perspective to you:

Jonny : dad – do you have a hero from history? i heard that quite a lot of people in powerful positions have a kind of muse from history, and when they don’t know what they would do, they ask themselves what so and so would do.. ?

Peter : hmmm, not really

Peter : my trouble is, I know that all hero’s have feet of clay

Peter : they’re just human beings, like the rest of us, who happen to have been in the right place at the right time, where their particular strengths have been shown to good effect. But in other situations they make the same mistakes as the rest of us

Peter : Mum’s over my shoulder, and said, “I thought Nelson was your hero”. Well, actually, if I do have a hero, it’s him. But I know all too well that he definitely had his weaknesses and faults

Jonny : people are not just in the right place at the right time, they make the place the right time and they have their eyes wide open to opportunities. Yes, maybe a lot of it is luck, but there is also ambition and drive and passion.

Peter : Yes, ambition, drive and passion – but you can have all those and fail. Examine any hero in detail and what you get is a frail human being like anyone else – but one with particular qualities that,in certain times, really come to the fore.

Peter. : Take Winston Churchill – he’s the great national hero, and quite right too – but, where it not for the Second World War, he would have been a failure of a politician – and, oddly, that would have been quite right too; because he really was a failure until very particular circumstances arose

Peter : Do you have a hero?

Jonny : only Alan Shearer but he doesnt do much good for my business and general life strategy

a hero or a sports star

Jonny : Bobby Robson.. ?

Jonny : no, I have been looking for one

Peter : why Alan Shearer? Is he more than a very talented sportsman?

Jonny : he came to his home town club to try and win something and single handedly scored all the goals for years. and he didn’t give up when it was obvious it wasn’t going to happen. But it was just a bit of a joke comment

Jonny : the only other people I see are the Dirk Struan types from the Tai Pan and Shogun books who work everything out and play their cards in a subtle and totally accurate way – but that’s fiction

Peter : yes, sadly, that’s fiction. In reality, people only have a very limited capacity to truly shape events

Jonny : i think that is a defeatist attitude

Peter: defeatist and cynical, but nearer the truth, I feel, than the idea that individuals can make a huge difference. BUT – actually, not so defeatist and cynical. Firstly, I am overstating my case – I think individuals CAN make a difference, sometimes a very great one. And also, the corollary of what I’m saying is, we can ALL make a difference, little by little; and indeed we do – for good or bad

Technology will bring happiness and luck

I was part of a group conversation the other day where a couple of quite well known but still thought provoking stories were told.

The first was an experiment in which people were asked to rate themselves as “lucky” or “unlucky”. I instantly engaged with the story because I am known to my friends as being the luckiest lad about. Well there is one guy who trumps me but he wins raffles and lucky dips (he’s Irish), whereas I am always in the right place at the right time. What about yourself, are you lucky?

Anyways, in the experiment they asked each participant to enter a waiting room in a train station or somewhere like that and then they would pick them up in a car. When they had arrived at their destination they were asked if they had found any money. It turns out that a much higher proportion of people who considered themselves as “lucky” had found a £20 note the experimenters had placed in the waiting room.

I find this interesting because it seems to demonstrate some kind of difference in environmental awareness. I have many good friends who consider themselves as unlucky and I’ve always thought they were pessimistic. Now maybe it is because they lack awareness of environmental factors. Conversely, have lucky people got a better sense of opportunity or openness to environmental factors?

The other conversation was about the classic youtube clip which asks you to count the number of passes a basket ball team makes and while they are at it a person in a gorilla suit walks into the middle of the shot and moonwalks off. Your distracted mind does not see this gorilla.

Distraction is very powerful and I think it affects almost every long conversation we have. does it stand to reason that maybe unlucky people are distracted by something so that they don’t notice the money? How easy is it to be distracted away from seeing what is infront of your eyes!?

Try it. I did this. You know a coat stand that is a pole that has a number of hooks at the top.. They’re not big or wide and even with a few coats on they don’t cover you at all. Yet if you are standing behind one and someone walks past they won’t see you. Seriously, try it.

Ever been looking for something and because it is half covered it takes much longer to find it? Ever gone to put the bread in the fridge or the butter in the cupboard? The same thing. It seems to me that we are such simple, distracted creatures that I am able to make the claim that only with technology will we have buck the trend of destroying ourselves over and over again as history shows us. If a computer screen can enhance environmental analysis so that the £20 is always found, the gorilla is always seen, the creep behind the coat stand is always seen and the butter goes in the fridge, then maybe pessimistic people might become a bit more positive about gods rolling of the dice.

This picture of a horse gimp suit is probably not what the future will look like.

Is gamification so effective because it a parody human parenting?

baby crawling out of a computer

the tech is like a baby

I have touched on this subject briefly before, now I want to talk about it again. I do realise it sounds a bit weird, but I am becoming more convinced that the gamification of technology works well because it is like a parody of a human behaviour.

I was visiting my friends tonight who have just had a little baby girl. She is 3 weeks old and very cute. She would cry when she was hungry to make her parents feed her. If she was agitated they would play with her or rock her. The more she is nurtured and looked after the more likely she will grow healthily.

OK, this is where it might go weird as I struggle to explain myself.

The gamification of computing is everywhere. Even on this WordPress site I get a little badge after I have completed a certain amount of posts or gained new followers. WordPress is rewarding me for nurturing and growing my blog.

Does this reflect the human interaction with their baby? I have a very new, empty blog and the more I look after it, the healthier it will become. Unfortunately I am not the best parent to this blog. But if I had a new baby, the more I fed it (wrote content), and security I give it (build credibility), and encouraged it to learn and play (have people comment), the more healthy it will become.

So, my question seems to be: is the gamification of, well, everything, so popular because it acts like a nurturing parent?

Stop Eating!

I came home from my extended holiday in France and found out I was a massive fatty. Well, this isn’t strictly true but the holiday food – the extra ice creams, solid evening meals, lots of French pastries etc – had taken their tole. But also, I haven’t been exercising for about 2 months now as I sprained my neck in a judo accident, so I am not feeling healthy and fit.

I came to stay at my parents house for a while and they told me about an interesting diet they are doing. 2 days a week: a Monday and a Wednesday, they don’t eat for 24 hours. Well, they have an evening meal on Sunday’s and then go to bed, and don’t eat until Monday evening, when they have a light meal. You can drink as much as you like.

So I thought: why not. As you will see from many of my other blogs I am all about questioning what we think we know as fact. The common thought here is that if you stop eating as a way of loosing weight, you actually put on weight. At least a couple of my mates have already told me this is what would happen.

But it hasn’t happened. Not yet, at least.

When I did my judo black belt in March 2011 I was in the best shape I’ve been in for years, and I as 12.5 stone. I was lean and in top fitness. Since then it has been a slow increase in weight and decrease in fitness. After my holiday I was up to 13.4 stone – I had previously topped out at 13.8 stone just before Christmas last year. In the first week of fasting for 2 days I lost 2 lbs. I have since lost another 1lb and haven’t weighed myself today. So it definitely works!

And the effects? Zero! I have noticed absolutely nothing in terms of energy or hunger levels. I will say here that on these days I have not been very active.. still recovering from my injury, but I have done the odd walk or whatever. And in terms of hunger levels, nothing!

I’ve truly only noticed one thing: it’s really boring! I love eating. I like the taste of just about every food and the satisfactory feeling of being full. But once you get on with it, you don’t notice a thing.

I am going to keep this up for a long time yet and see if I can reduce my body size and continue on my journey towards a responsible attitude towards food that makes sense to me. Soon though I think I will start testing out adding little tasty snacks to the routine.

Give robots a soul

Should we work on giving machines a consciousness now?

Look at history: when Pizzaro found the Incas, Peary and the Japanese, Europe and Africa. What happened in each case? The dominant culture subjugated the other.

If we upskill robots too much before they have a consciousness, when they do develop it and discover humans- wasteful, cruel, inefficient, humans- maybe they will subjugate us!

Humans of the future

I was just watching this Ted talk

Juan Enriquez gives real life examples of scientists taking a single cell from a mouse and recreating another living mouse.

He states an experiment where some kind of bacteria is put in the brain and followed as it flows around the brain. This can be hooked up to a special electronic device that reads it (not accurate scientific language here) and because it can be dyed in two different colours it can be measured as binary. This, he suggests, could print out the experiences of people, eg learning, love or terror, and recreate human memories.

He then finishes by saying that humans are possibly evolving as we speak- we’ve already evolved 27 times and counting in the millions of years as homo Erectus. Olympic athletes are often found to have a certain gene and cases of autism are becoming more common. He thinks that science will track down the reasons for these cases and begin to able to effect them.

Combine the cloning, printing of memory and being able to harness evolution and what do you get? The potential that we can play a greater role in the future of human kind. This scares me a lot.

Hopefully we’ll end up with a human species that would look after the planet and take care of one another. But if its left to us to do it there is a big chance it wont turn out like that.