— aleatory

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Belfast

10 years in the city I decided it was time to have a look around me. The Belfast Festival at Queen’s is quite high profile in the media but outside of the fanfair I knew little of the content. Turns out they put on a pretty electic show. I went for the Bateman play National Anthem, a Floodlit Belfast photo opportunity, a discussion about Carson, retro gaming exhibition and book talks from both Keith Jeffery on MI6 & Lord Ashdown.

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A few thoughts on the creations unveiled at last week’s showcase show and tell conference in the Maiden City.

First up, the keynote from NYSE (who bought up NI startup Wombat Financial Software in Belfast). To be honest the corporate speak gave me flashbacks of what it’s like to work in that dreary environment. But 500 jobs isn’t to be sniffed at, and neither is their plans to create an API for 3rd party development to offer services based on their stock ticker platform. While it likely doesn’t go far enough – I’d like to see it made public so that independent programmer/traders like myself could start playing with it – it’s a step in that direction and is to be widely welcomed.

Not so welcome was the sole question for the guy, which wasn’t really a question at all – more a plea to help all the unemployed people around Derry (not to mention “6,000 on the dole in Inishowen”…) get jobs. That was the gist of it and it sounded desperately out of sync with a new outward-looking Northern Ireland unafraid to compete with the rest of the world on merit. Host for the day Mark Nagurski moulded it diplomatically into a question about why NYSE likes NI. Hooray.

Now the startups…

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Image courtesy Ardfern

The Derry~Londonderry bid has won the right to host the UK’s first City of Culture in 2013. Apparently one of the organisers trumpeted on the night of the announcment that she wanted to see ‘every child with a musical instrument’ by the time they get round to hosting it.

And that’s what irks me most about this notion of ‘Culture’ being bestowed on a city for a certain period:

Culture is surely one of the most incorrectly used words in the English language today.

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Local rag the Belfast Telegraph is Google gaming.

evil mediaThey’ve set up a ‘guide’ that contains regurgitated articles from across the web with the added SEO magic dust of adding ‘Belfast’ to the end of each article title. Other regions are doing the same thing with the exact same articles. Compare Kent Online with Belfast er, online. Or Londonderry for that matter.

This particular form of content spamming, or spamdexing is known as article spinning and although Google permit it, they normally require linking back to the original source. But…

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So I attended my first two tech events over the past few days. One good one bad – here’s why:

First the good one. I didn’t really know what to expect from Barcamp Derry and from the spiel delivered online was hoping that was the correct way to approach it. Half hour sessions organised in 3 concurrent ‘streams’ meant the first 5 minutes of each was largely spent loitering in the doorway of each until one grabbed enough attention take a pew.

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revolutionBack in 2005, I used to work for what was then DrKW in their Digital Markets division. DM was their investment banking answer to the web buzz of the early 2000s. Sean Park, the head of the division, had made a personal killing on several tech floatation deals and had drank the digital koolaid. Ably assisted by an IT chief with a penchant for grand visions, he set about giving Dresdner’s corporate clients an investment banking answer to the consumer behemoths Betfair, Ebay, etc who were seemingly granting supernatural powers to anyone with an internet connection.

You can still view the Googlezon-inspired vision here. I left the bank a year later, but kept an eye on the Revolution platform. It failed miserably. The trouble was they were providing a great integrated digital service that no one in the city knew they wanted yet. Banking is a notoriously fickle industry, and change only happens when trusted relationships introduce it. Revolution’s newly recruited marketing team was manned with former developers, admin staff & inexperienced hires from other banks.

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