Monday, November 15, 2010

Interesting Norf, part 1.

Apparently you can't throw a brick in Sheffield without hitting a tipped-over Reliant Robin...

Saturday morning I was up early, cajoling S out of bed and packing stuff up to go to Interesting North. We were on the 8:10 train, which at Chez Nous means out of bed at 6:30. So we got on the train with Matt & Caroline and arrived at Sheff on time, and were able to walk through the city to Cutlers' Hall, which is a lovely building filled with the remnants of a city's heritage. Checked in, got our t-shirts and badges, and a bookcrossing tome (mine was some airport-thriller type that I'll be passing on!) and some other gubbins including a PDF of Eyjafjallajökull that you can cut out and turn into your very own 3D volcano model. And two newspapers; Matt's Great Engines and the Int North newspaper itself, in which I have a photo (admittedly it's a self-portrait), and it's a magazine, so I may count it as task 24.

The hall filled up, and so did twitter with the #intNorth hashtag, and a little late we started with a very smooth rolling introduction that made us all laugh. Then we had talks. Lots of talks - 20 of them, in fact - about all sorts of things. My personal highlights were:
  • Baseball Scorekeeping; basically how you can condense an entire 3-hour game into a 6x6 box, and still be a perfect recreation of the game on a stroke-by-stroke basis. When I think of cricket scoring, which requires a 3ft piece of paper, this is genuinely innovative. And invented by a Brit. It is a great way of presenting data and the speaker has done work for Information is Beautiful because of this.
  • Fiction that references Nazis in the title; very, very funny talk that did what it said on the tin. Startling ending, but the number of really quite poor works that randomly contain the word "Hitler" in the title is quite surprising.
  • Lessons from Lego; "This is my lego collection. (audience gasps) It's sorted by size but not by colour; that would be really OCD." Hilarious, and fascinating; the debates in Lego society over the colour of minifig faces, for example. Or the bluey-grey replacement for grey that was introduced a couple of years ago. Lego for girls (astonishingly poor; Lego for girls is the same as Lego for boys, it's just Lego).
  • Eyjafjallajokull; just how the volcano went pop. Brilliant, obsessive, and fascinating.
  • Five Things Rules Do was interesting - although I'm not mad on watching other people play video games - if just for the point about rules being what they are; this was neatly illustrated by referencing Train. Chilling. But there was more to the talk than this; bending the rules seemed to be a common theme, but the double die in Backgammon was referenced to great effect.
  • James Bond: architecture Critic was a brilliantly posited argument about why Fleming hated modernism. "Would Chancellor Palpatine make an iPhone app?" was an inspired line, but the really, thoroughly thought-provoking bit was referencing There's a Horse in the Apple Store. Go away and read it.

Honorable mentions to all the other speakers; none were anything less than entertaining. Some were grim, some were exciting, some were joyous, some were filled with rigorous methodology and photos of people who were asleep on public transport, all were worth listening to and engaging with. I've not really talked about my own talk here but there was so much I wanted to say but didn't - partially because we were running so, so behind time - that I want to write it up as a seperate post.

Lunch was held at the Cathedral Crypt, the Archer Project provided soup and Howies (yes, the clothing manufacturer) provided (bloody tasty) bread from their Dohboy project. Again, well worth it.

Afterwards we all went to the pub where I, and it seemed like practically everybody else who had tipped-over Robin badges, had a couple of pints of Airtight (brewed by Thornbridge, just down the road) in exceptionally pleasant company, and then we headed home, voice broken, tired, and with a head full of lovely, buzzy thoughts.

Most of the collated data from the day is on Lanyrd or the IntNorth website itself. The twitter hashtag #intNorth picked up some interesting thoughts, and Flickr is slowly filling up with photos. I'm also quite interested in the "official score card", although it sadly didn't allow for just how late everything got.

A seriously good day, and I'll be very much up for doing this again. Wonder if we could have it in Leeds...?

(part two, containing the script of what I was talking about is here)

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