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Explore. Dream. Discover. Be Interesting.

Interesting 2008

Bunting and all ...

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain

Over the weekend, my wife and I attended Interesting 2008. The concept of the event - to gather a number of speakers to talk about something they are interested in - was intriguing and all reports suggested it would be a Saturday well spent. Comparisons with the TED talks certainly helped to pique my interest and we were most definitely not disappointed.

Russell Davies, the coordinator of the day, has this to say about being 'interesting':
The way to be interesting is to be interested. You’ve got to find what’s interesting in everything, you’ve got to be good at noticing things, you’ve got to be good at listening. If you find people (and things) interesting, they’ll find you interesting.

Attended by designers, developers, social media consultants, teachers and more, the speakers came from a similar varied background of skills and interests. The day was extremely entertaining and enjoyable. I believe video casts of most of the talks will be available on the Guardian website soon.

For me, some of the highlights of the day included:

Daniel Raven-Ellison, a teacher (with such energy and passion, he is the kind of teacher you wish you had had back in school!) spoke about Geography. Daniel looked at how we accept scrutiny under CCTV due to its inconspicuous nature, the diminishing level of designated play areas for children and the energy footprint of Salisbury. Seemingly, we need another 2.5 planets to keep going at the average rate of energy consumption of your typical Salisburian.

Michael Johnson gave a lively talk on the pattern of convergence of good music and design over the last century, interspersed with guitar examples performed by Michael himself. Maybe you can tell a good album by the cover?

Steve Hardy looked at what, specifically, generalists do. Steve spoke about the phenomenon of how niche interest has taken over. While being a good thing overall, Steve noted that we also needed to embrace broad thinking ideas; giving ideas space to run around and occasionally bump into strangers, connecting people in different areas of specialism. This is a talk I would like to revisit.

Jenny Owen presented a 7:42 minute synopsis (a personal public speaking record!) on Winston Churchill and his qualities.

Andrew Dick sought to enlighten the audience on how to combat chronic insomia. The answer, according to Andrew, lies in listening to badly written, and equally badly narrated, audio books. The plot excitement level should lie somewhere between extreme boredom (forcing you to think about all the world ills as reported on the BBC World Service) and high octane addiction (and thereby keeping you awake to hear what happens next). Andrew has found iTunes to be a great source of prime material - 50's BBC produced story lines.

Matt Dent introduced us to his winning design for the new UK coinage and some fascinating (he assured us!) facts on the minting process and their coin use.

Phil Gyford spoke about the art of mask making and its use in theatre, harking back to La Commedia dell'Arte. Phil showed the power of the medium with the application of a simple red nose and some quirky acting.

Unfortunately, I have forgotten the name of the speaker (mixed up in the line of Matts and Andrews!) who presented a tale of Patagonian physics, conquistadors and ancient libraries. This is another talk I would like to review.

Max Gadney discussed his passion behind World War II history and the need for accurate representations of this information. He presented some superb examples of how he has applied his form of data visualisation on the topic. A striking example took shape of graphically representing a soldier in a platoon, in a battalion and a division - finally displaying the number of dead per country involved. Stark data to behold but illuminating facts in an understandable manner.

Younghee Jung ventured into the world of the toilet with images taken from around the world looking at the different cultural and social mores around this everyday activity (seemingly 6 times a day is the healthy recommended number of visits).

James Wallis led the audience on a geophysical survey of the World of Warcraft and the planet Azeroth. Using novel methods of throwing characters off buildings and traversing straight line sections of the planet, James has determined such data as the force of gravity and the diameter of planet. Based on this data, it appears that Azeroth would be roughly the same size as another well know spherical object.

Be Interested. Be Interesting.

This list is certainly not exhaustive and the speakers all presented very thought-provoking talks. I would urge you to review some of the talks once they come online (or indeed head over to TED for some further enlightenment). As Russell noted, it is wonderful to think that so many would turn out to hear 'interesting' talks.

The day struck a chord with me in that we should all be motivated to look at things anew and find what is interesting about it - no matter what that object, subject or experience be. The sense of enthusiasm generated by someone finding something interesting can, quite often, be contagious.

Explore. Dream. Discover. Be Interesting.


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