Tags: connections



Connections #2

There’ll be another Connections event this month, following on from the excellent inaugural humdinger. Save the date: Wednesday, April 23rd at 7pm in the delightful surroundings of 68 Middle Street.

There’s one obvious connection between the two speakers this time ‘round: their first names are homophones.

We’ve got Leigh Taylor of Medium and Gravita fame. He’ll be talking about this holacracy stuff that people have been banging on about lately, and what it takes to actually make a creative company work in a decentralised way.

We’ve also got Lee Bryant, an ol’ pal of mine from way back who recently launched POST*SHIFT. He too will be talking about flexible organisational structures.

Should be good brain-tickling fun. You can secure your place at the event now. It’s free. But the usual warning applies: if you can’t make it, be sure to cancel your ticket—if you book a place and then don’t show up, you will be persona non grata for any future Connections.

See you in two weeks time.

Connections: Weak Signals

Tuesday evening saw the inaugural Connections event at 68 Middle Street, home to Clearleft. It was a rousing success—much fun was had by all.

There was a great turn-out. Normally I’d expect a fairly significant no-show rate for a free event (they’re often oversubscribed to account for this very reason), but I was amazed how many people braved the dreadful weather to come along. We greeted them all with free beer, courtesy of Clearleft.

The talks had a nice yin and yang quality to them. Honor talked about darkness. Justin talked about light. More specifically, Honor talked about dark matter and Justin talked about Solarpunk.

Honor made plentiful use of sound during her presentation. Or rather, plentiful use of electromagnetic signals converted into sound: asteroseismology from the sun; transient luminous events in the Earth’s upper atmosphere; the hailstorm as Cassini pirouettes through Saturn’s rings; subatomic particle collisions sonified. They all combined to eerie effect.

Justin’s talk was more down to Earth, despite sounding like a near-future science-fiction scenario: individuals and communities harnessing the power of the photovoltaic solar panel to achieve energy-independence.

There was a beer break between the talks and we had a joint discussion afterwards, with questions from the audience. I was leading the discussion, and to a certain extent, I played devil’s advocate to Justin’s ideas, countering his solar energy enthusiasm with nuclear energy enthusiasm—I’m on Team Thorium. (Actually, I wasn’t really playing devil’s advocate. I genuinely believe that nuclear energy is the cleanest, safest source of energy available to us and that an anti-nuclear environmentalist is a contradiction in terms—but that’s a discussion for another day.)

There was a bittersweet tinge to the evening. The first Connections event was also Honor’s last public speaking engagement in Brighton for a while. She is bidding farewell to Lighthouse Arts and winging her way to a new life in Singapore. We wish her well. We will miss her.

The evening finished with a facetious rhetorical question from the audience for Honor. It was related to the sonification of particle collisions like the ones that produced evidence for “the God particle”, the Higgs boson. “Given that the music produced is so unmusical”, went the question, “does that mean it’s proof that God doesn’t exist?”

We all had a laugh and then we all went to the pub. But I’ve been thinking about that question, and while I don’t have an answer, I do have a connection to make between both of the talks and algorithmically-generated music. Here goes…

Justin talked about the photovoltaic work done at Bell Labs. An uncle of Ray Kurzweil worked at Bell Labs and taught the young Kurzweil the basics of computer science. Soon after, Ray Kurzweil wrote his first computer program, one that analysed works of classical music and then generated its own music. Here it is.


There’s a new event in town (“town” being Brighton). It’s called Connections and the first event takes place on February 4th.

Actually, it’s not really that new. Connections has been carved from the belly of Skillswap.

When Skillswap first started, it really was about swapping skills. A group of 9-12 people would get together for about three hours to learn how to use Photoshop, or write code with JavaScript. Over time, Skillswap changed. The audience grew, and the format changed: two back-to-back talks followed by a discussion. The subject matter changed too. It became less about practical skills and more thinky-thinky.

After a while, it got somewhat tedious to have to explain to potential speakers and attendees that they should “just ignore the name—it’s not really about swapping skills.”

Hence, Connections; a much more appropriate name. And yes, it is a nod to Saint James of Burke.

Jeremy & James Burke

Connections Number One is called Weak Signals. The speakers will be Honor Harger and Justin Pickard. Honor will talk about dark matter. Justin will talk about solarpunk. See the connection?

Connections will take place in the comfy, cosy surrounding of the auditorium in 68 Middle Street. That happens to be downstairs from the Clearleft office, which makes it very convenient for me.

Tickets are available now. They’re free. But if you grab a ticket, you’d better show up. If you can’t make it, please let us know—either me or James—so that we can pass the place along to someone else. If you have a ticket, and you don’t tell us you can’t make, and then you don’t show up, you won’t be able to attend any future editions of Connections …and that would be a real shame, because this is going to be a jolly good series of events.