12 Things I Think I Learned at SXSE London

SXSE London logoOn Tuesday 3rd July 2012, as grey sheets of summer drizzle swept gently over the Thames, a group of web enthusiasts assembled nearby at London’s first robot pub to examine how the ‘information revolution’ is already shaping our future.

The event was called South By South East London, rumored to have been organised in just a month, with all proceeds going to the charity Crisis.

The enthusiasm of the speakers was infectious, and it was great. Even if I did get a numb bum.

And now, without further ado, here’s what I think I learned (my handwriting is appalling so it’s hard to be sure).

  1. BANKING: Manual data-mining (e.g. cyber-snooping) goes on at a high level in the banking industry: one technique is to browse the LinkedIn accounts of employees at a company which is pitching for investment. If a lot of people (or key people) look like they’re about to leave, things might not be going quite as well as the pitch is making out… [Andrew Walker]
  2. POLITICS: For politicians, knowing whether to react to an undesirable trending topic on Twitter is difficult to judge. Will it be over in 30 minutes? Would responding to it only stoke publicity – or would a quick response nip it in the bud? [Alberto Nardelli]
  3. ACTIVISM: ‘Arm-chair’ activists are all very well, but the real power in social media is converting those Facebook Likes into real-world activity, which is what happened when a Lib Dem activist flash-mob happened in Trafalgar Square thanks to an independent Facebook Group. [Cat Turner and Ben Stockman]
  4. DEMOCRACY: There’s a fantastic initiative called Bite the Ballot which aims to get young people engaged in the UK political system – simply getting them registered to vote is an incredibly powerful first step. You could say it’s ‘disruptive’ but the main political parties are supporting it. [Michael Sani]
  5. PR: Alastair Campbell’s ‘command and control’ media strategy would not be possible in today’s social media driven landscape. [Stephen Waddington]
  6. FITTING IN: Social media is generally about interaction within (and between) two groups. Group A is a circle of friends (a social network). Group B is formed around shared passions or interests (online communities). If a brand is lucky, it can find a niche in Group B but use Group A to recruit members. For example, the dog-owner’s community Park Bench that began on Facebook but is now a community in its own right. [Oli Watts]
  7. GETTING RATM TO CHRISTMAS #1: Pull every trick you can find and learn from the ones that don’t pay off. Use your knack for sensing what makes the media tick to gain maximum exposure at any given opportunity. Create an army who will work for your cause. Make sure you fully understand what needs to be done to achieve your goal. Namecheck anachronistic celebrities on Sky News to generate buzz. [Jon Morter]
  8. FREELANCING: For a freelance journalist, followers on Twitter can be an important asset when pitching for work – those followers are a potential readers for your potential employer. However this can result in freelancers being needy tweeters. [Stu Hertiage]
  9. FUTURE CINEMA: Future Cinema looks incredible and I need to attend an event. [Sophie Kendrick]
  10. SOCIAL MEDIA FOR NEWS ORGS: No employee of a news organisation should be bigger in social media than the brand they work for. Social media rules for staff shouldn’t be stringently enforced doctrine but instead should be naturally reflect the values of the parent organisation. [Ruth Barnett]
  11. THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION: Thanks to the joint initiative edX, it will soon be possible to participate in MIT and Harvard courses online! [Ed Weatherall]
  12. THE VISUAL WEB IS NIGH: Cameras are becoming ubiquitous and images are becoming ever more prevalent in web design (though not, ahem, on this blog post) and as social currency. Some are calling this revolution the ‘imagesphere’. [Dirk Singer]

I believe the next #SXSELondon is in November, and I hope to be there.

Further reading

Inaugural SXSE London helps Tech City find its voice on The Wall
SXSE Storify with stats and pretty pictures on Social Placement

Fugazi to reform, release best-of, and tour with new line-up

Money-grabbing Ian MacKaye

With At The Drive-In and even Refused recently announcing reunion performances, it was enough to ignite hope of a reunion in the hearts of long-suffering Fugazi fans. But now the band is finally coming off ‘indefinite hiatus’, I’m not sure it’s what I wanted:

At a small gathering held earlier today at Dischord House in Washington DC, Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto confirmed that, more than a decade since the release of The Argument, the band are reforming to play at a string of major international festivals in 2012, including Download Festival in the UK and the Vans Warped Tour.

“A lot of kids out there listening to ‘punk’ have never heard of Fugazi even though our influence is clear in the music they listen to. So this is the perfect time for us to return” said Picciotto.


Not only that, but they’re coming back with a brand new album! Initially a Starbucks exclusive, but later to be released more widely, Waiting Room + 12 is a 13-track best-of that will encapsulate the band’s recording career for a fresh audience, and, for the old fans, include an incredible second disc of Waiting Room remixes by some of today’s most exciting contemporary artists including Maximo Park, Editors, The Futureheads and, of course – the Wu-Tang Clan.


In a radical commercial decision that may come as surprise to some fans, the album will not be released on Dischord. Instead Interscope Records will be the new home of the entire Fugazi catalogue. Carefully setting down his third or fourth glass of celebratory champagne, Ian MacKaye said, “For us, this was a massive change to make. But we want our music to be heard by as many people as possible. We’ve done the independent thing for seven albums, and it was fine. We got by. But now it’s time to get real, and get heard. The folks at Interscope have been really into what we want to do, and we’ve had complete control through the whole process. It wouldn’t have worked any other way.”


Fugazi's new logo

This change includes the band’s new logo. The new logo was presented in a theatrical flourish by Piccotto, lifting his cape to reveal the new tattoo across his back. It will also feature on the cover of Waiting Room + 12 and be retrospectively applied to their back-catalogue, new website, and ethically sourced merchandise. MacKaye emphasised how the band recognised that in the digital market, a clear and consistent brand identity is becoming ever more important. “The music can no longer speak for itself. We’ve learned this the hard way and now we’re taking our brand to the next level.”


The members of Fugazi are in different places to when the band started back in 1987 – sometimes literally. So the reunion tour will see a refreshed lineup for the first time since the band formed. With drummer Brendan Canty fully committed to family life and his soundtrack recording and film production work, Erik ‘Smelly’ Sandin will be taking to the throne for live commitments – and possible future recording. Picciotto said, “When the label suggested it, I’ll admit we weren’t sure. But Erik’s been drumming with NOFX since before Fugazi got together – he knows his punk rock and he’s no stranger to touring. Plus he doesn’t drink – so you could say Sandin is the perfect stand-in!!!”. Canty will still be an important part of band management decisions.

And with bass player Joe Lally now settled in Italy, Ian and Guy have turned to friend of Interscope, Rick Burch of Jimmy Eat World, to fill in for the time being. “We’re all big fans of Jimmy Eat World, so it makes perfect sense” said MacKaye, his golden tracksuit glinting in the morning sun.


Fugazi’s change of heart is going to open a lot of doors for the band in 2012, so expect to see more of them than ever before. With deals in place for their music to be featured in three different extreme sports videogames this year alone, and a rumoured licensing negotiation for ‘Birthday Pony’ with the advertisers for a major greetings card manufacturer, this could be the beginning of an incredibly lucrative new era for one of the world’s most commercially underestimated bands.


Actual Dischord News

Download entire live shows from Fugazi’s heyday at Fugazi Live Series

Buy Fugazi’s Instrument DVD at Dischord

Image of Ian MacKaye by Tim Roache, used with permission.

David Cronenberg’s Pikmin (and other collectables from Japan)

Photo from Kobito Dukan online shop

One of the classic Series Ikiru charactersIn January this year I visited Japan – something I’ve always wanted to do. It was great. And it wasn’t quite as culturally ‘wacky’ as I think is often portrayed in the media and on the web. There’s definitely a lot of quirky stuff to enjoy, but I think it’s easy to get a distorted view of Japanese culture here in the West – especially if you’re a nerd.

I want to begin with that caveat because, inevitably, I am now going to focus on precisely the kind of wacky stuff that gave me the wrong impression in the first place.

Ahem. You’re no doubt familiar with Hello Kitty, a Japanese collectable brand that’s gone global. Hello Kitty still seems to be as big as ever in her homeland, but there are plenty of other, stranger characters that haven’t made it elsewhere just yet. So here are three of the most interesting collectable series I spotted in Tokyo shops, like Tokyu Hands and Kiddyland, which might not catch on over here…

Introducing: a personal trainer who happens to be an egg, a courtesy turned into a collectable, and what I can only describe as what would have happened if David Cronenberg had invented Pikmin.

Tamami Eggman

The display below caught my attention in the corner of Kiddyland (click the image for the full picture), mainly thanks to the cheesy music emanating from it.

Tamami Eggman in Kiddyland

The music turned out to be coming from the video below. I was immediately intrigued. Without a proper translation it’s difficult to truly understand the purpose of Tamami Eggman, but what I have ascertained is that he’s a camp personal trainer, and he’s an egg. And with the help of his besideburned friends Bella and Maggie, he’s encouraging everyone to “eggcise”. See what you make of it:

My favourite part is where his crotch-shell cracks from all the strain. Surely being an egg is not suited to any kind of demanding physical activity.

But never mind the impracticalities – just look at all of the wonderful Tamami Eggman nicknacks you can buy! Like this tissue holder (not something we go in for much in the UK):

Tamami tissue box

Or these notebooks for keeping track of your eggcise routines:

Tamami Eggcise notebooks

I got one of those for my friend. You can see all the other items on the manufacturer’s website. I wonder how many lives Tamami has changed?

Categorized as culture

The website that wasn’t

Once upon a time I had a website. This blog that you’re reading right now was on it. My amalgamated web presence was on it. I fed my tumblog through it. And all was well.

Then, on approximately Friday, 10th June, this happened:

What you shouldn't see

And it wasn’t because I had decided to capitalise on my site’s massive traffic by turning it into a highly profitable music-based search portal (because it doesn’t get any).

What had actually happened is that I lost my domain name. This is because my domain provider, Web Mania, went out of business without telling me. But they did notify me that my domain was due for renewal – back in April. They sent a reminder email saying,

To prevent any disruption in service, it is important that you renew your account before it expires.

Yes Web Mania, it is important – which is why I did it immediately. I paid my renewal fee, and received email confirmation that said,

Thank you for renewing your account. Payment has been received.

So I naively assumed everything was fine. I mean, Web Mania took my money and sent me email confirmation that they had renewed my domain.

Unfortunately, one vital step was somehow missed from this process: the bit where they actually renewed my domain. That bit didn’t happen. I was no longer master of my domain, and I only found out that Web Mania had gone into liquidation by googling it when they didn’t reply to my emails or phone calls. There was absolutely no indication on their site, I received no notification by email, and there wasn’t even an apologetic message on their helpline.

And it looks like I’m not the only one. I can’t say I ever thought to contact my local paper about my website going missing, but this man did having been in exactly my situation.

The mystery of London’s pyramid hat man

Here’s a riddle for you:

Q. What do you call a man with a metal pyramid on his head?
A. Dominic, apparently.

That answer probably isn’t the clever pun you were expecting. But it is the truth. Now you’re wondering which man is wearing a pyramid on his head. Let me show you. It’s this man:

Pyramid Hat Man wearing his hat

I spotted him yesterday in the Leicester Square Pret A Manger, sketching in a notebook.

And how do I know he’s called Dominic? I’ll get to that…