10 April 2011

LIKE 23: Information in the palm of your hand

I was on holiday on the day of LIKE 23 but rather than that being an excuse to miss the event it was an excuse to arrive early instead.

I had planned to use my early start to better discharge my regular duties as beer and juice monitor but I forgot my LIKE badge and, besides, everybody knows what to do anyway. LIKE is a pleasantly oiled machine.

This session was rather different from all previous ones in that we considered the physical devises that we all use to retrieve and manage information.

Mark Needham started us off with a brief history of mobile devises, such as the Psion Organiser, and some speculation about the future.

The brave statement was made that the mobile devises of 100 years time will not be that very different from those we use today, in much the same way that a 100 year old car looks and behaves rather like a modern car.

Credit for the idea of mobile devices was given to Larry Niven for the story The Mote in God's Eye from as recently as 1974. Remember that at that time computers filled large rooms so to speculate that they would become mobile was a monumental leap.

The main constraint with modern devices is power consumption and battery technology is improving less fast than demand for mobile power. Most of us smartphone users carry charging cables so that we can top-up during the day.

Modern devices are also much better at presenting content (text, image and video) than they are at capturing it. Single thumb typing on a small keyboard does not hack it! Voice recognition is the great white hope here. But then Microsoft have been predicting the imminent arrival of voice for more than ten years.

An often under appreciated issue is data security, especially as we do not usually know where the data we are using actually is.

In the group sessions we looked at the information needs of specific industries (each table considered a different one) and at the issues around this. Our table looked at the charity sector and our discussions ranged from getting accurate geographical data to the availability of basic telecoms.

The food and drink then interrupted the conversations briefly before the informal part of the evening started and, refreshed and stimulated, we mixed and talked and drank a little more until somebody sensible suggested going home.

Another excellent LIKE event that's hard to fault in any way; so I won't.

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