How do I sum up an event that promised so much and delivered so little?
Channel 4 were set to pre-launch their £50 million pound 4iP (Innovation for the Public) fund yesterday (June 27th) at Corbet Place Bar, in London, billed as ‘MiniBar’.
On paper, this was definitely an event that seemed like it wasn’t to be missed, with all 300 allotted spaces being allocated very quickly.
The speakers for the event were:
- Matt Locke – Commissioning Editor, C4 Education
- Rupert Reddington – EC1
- Paul Miller – School of Everything
- Gi Fernando – techlightenment
I arrived at the event over half an hour early, to give myself time to get acquainted with the venue, check for WiFi, have a coffee, and maybe get the chance to chat with Christian, the organiser of these regular monthly ‘MiniBar’ events. Unfortunately he was busy making last minute arrangements to the venue, so this wasn’t possible.
The venue didn’t have any wireless connections, and the only few available were too weak to pick up inside. Of the four people who had bothered to bring laptops, only two had a 3G card – a smart move.
By 6pm, the venue started filling out, slowly but surely. Naturally, I took advantage of the free beer, and waited for the presentations to begin, an hour later. During my free hour I decided to set about networking, and meeting some of the people who were there.
The event listing stated that there would be some big names in the industry. As far as I had noticed, there were none of those people to be seen.
Before the event, I had an eye-opening conversation with Deji, who owns LondonFreeEvents.com. The premise of the site is simple; it is a directory that lists free events in London. The site has been live for three weeks, and has had 5,000 hits each week – not bad going. I naturally asked him if he advertised, and he said no. Fair enough, I thought, as it has only recently launched.
I asked him if he used, or planned to take advantage of social networking, and Twitter. He wasn’t interested in social networking and didn’t know what twitter was – neither did quite a lot of the people I managed to speak to. He didn’t seem to know what the event was about, but he did have strong views about technology and the web:
“I was around at the time of the first dotcom collapse and it’s only a matter of time before all of these social networks and popular websites (like Twitter, and Facebook) die out – Fuck Web 2.0, it’s just a phase.”
I disagreed with his views, and was explaining why they might not be true, when I was saved by the announcement that the presentations were going to begin.
Matt Locke was the first speaker, and because all of the attendees were still networking, all anybody could make from his brief speech was that Channel 4 are about to launch a new £50 million pound fund for public/digital media development. Really?
The second ‘presentation’ can only be described as bizarre. The School of Eveything came to the stage, and it went a little something like this:
SoE: “Who can speak another language?”
Man: “I can, Gujarati.”
SoE: “Right. Who wants to learn how to speak Gujarati?”
At this point, after a weird silence, in which myself and the other attendees there wondering what relevance that had to anything 2.0, Matt Locke, of Channel 4 duly obliged. The following five minutes was more like a stand up act than any presentation of any relevance to the digital media industry (the premise of the site is around teaching others things). Matt Locke learned how to say (in Gujarati) how simple it is to access their website.
The funniest point was when the Gujarati speaking man attempted to translate the word ‘Folksonomy’ – after not realising what it meant, he decided to say it with a very strong Asian accent – something that wouldn’t look too out of place in Goodness Gracious Me.
The third presentation was of a project being funded by Channel 4, which is still in development. It’s called ‘Phantasmagoria’ – a social network for younger children, of around 13-16 in my opinion. This website is going to be everything it promises it isn’t.
It is aimed at the ‘scene kids’ – or ’emo/greebo’ as we know them. The presenter brought up a slide of the target audience for the website, and stressed to the members of the audience who bothered to listen that the target market for this website was not emo/greebo/rocker kids, even though it had a very depressing, and dark edge to it.
The subsequent slide then showed pictures of young children, dressed in black, covered in black make up, attempting to make sad look cool – if that isn’t the perfect description of an ’emo kid’, then I really don’t know what is.
The final presentation was from Gi Fernando, of Techlightenment – and, as I tweeted, they are one of the companies you have to thank for the ridiculous Facebook application requests, as they create Facebook applications.
Gi demonstrated ‘The Bob Dylan Application’, which was simply an advertising application of what I assume to be a flash version of Bob Dylan holding cards with words on and dropping them – very similar to that scene in ‘Love Actually’ where one of the characters reveals his love for Keira Knightley by showing her a series of messages on cards.
This application has a huge amount of potential, albeit unrealised. There are ten lines of text which are editable, so you are able to make Bob pretty much advertise everything.
Once Gi got to the technical side of his brief presentation, he was very clever with his words. He demonstrated how the words every user types are saved as tags, and then displayed a tag cloud of what people had been using to advertise. It wasn’t glamorous. In fact, his own name made up the two largest words in the cloud, so all 103 users of the application must be advertising Techlightenment in some way.
When asked about the number of users the application had, Gi mentioned that it was popular, and ‘98% of users had used the code on their own sites’ – he didn’t mention how many users exactly. Gi also managed to slip up and admit that a large number of the audience for the application only noticed it because they were searching for a Mark Ronson remix of a Bob Dylan song.
My most interesting conversation of the day was with Olu, of Vigster – A social networking website for computer gamers. He was clearly a man who knew his business, and his market inside out, and explained that he had a solid 5-10 year plan for his website. We exchanged information and tips about advertising on the web, and I made him see sense about using AdWords – my good deed for the day. I also explained to him how strong a tool for advertising Facebook can be.
In my opinion, the event was poorly organised. It had promised so much and delivered so little. The presentations were drowned out by the sound of 300 people networking, and were often interrupted with shouts of ‘be quiet!’, which people ignored.
I only noticed three laptops (not counting my own), but a lot of mobiles. I suspect people weren’t twittering (because hardly anybody I spoke to had heard about it), rather texting friends and telling them how poor the event was. I managed to take a few pictures, but they were nothing special. Expect to see them on my Flickr later.
Overall, it wasn’t a worthwhile event, and I doubt I’ll be attending a MiniBar again. If I do attend a London media gathering, it will most likely be one of the weekly Open Coffee meetings.
Photographs taken at the event can be seen here.