OpenTech 2013

18th May 2013

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Past: '11, '10, '09, '08, '05


OpenTech 2013 Draft Schedule

Please note that the order of speakers within any session will be decided on the day, and no implication of ordering should be implied here.

In the bar: visionOntv's revolutionary pop-up TV studio.

Hashtags: #opentech #A1 - for Session 1 in Main Room. Drop #opentech for space if needed.

Stream A — Main Room (1st Floor) Stream B — Malet Suite (2nd Floor) Stream C — Seminar Room (3C/D, 3rd Floor)
10:00am Doors Open
10:45am Session 1

#opentech #A1

  • Electromagnetic Field: Tales From the UK's First Large-Scale Hacker Camp
  • Prescribing Analytics

#opentech #B1

  • ORG 2013: Naked Citizens

#opentech #C1

  • Farmification - the joystick factory
  • House on Github
  • The Constitutional Excerpts Project
click on a talk to see its abstract here
11:40am Session 2

#opentech #A2

Government Digital Service
  • GOV.UK
  • How We Didn't Break the Web.

#opentech #B2

Code or Codex...
  • Writers Centre Norwich
  • School of Data
  • The Children's Republic of Shoreditch

#opentech #C2

Answering questions...
  • ...about corporate structures
  • ...about government spending
  • ...about legislation
click on a talk to see its abstract here
12:30 Lunch
1:30 Session 3

#opentech #A3

Bill and Gavin
  • The 'State of the Intersection' address
  • Beyond Open Data

#opentech #B3

Using hardware
  • Unix FPGA - Beyond just Finance
  • Raspberry Pi - debian interfaces
  • Raspberry Pi - how you can help

#opentech #C3

  • Tricks we learnt designing a community interest company for personal data
  • Sense and non-sense of a personal information security standard
click on a talk to see its abstract here
2:30 Session 4

#opentech #A4

Design for the Common Case
  • Tiny Data
  • Bribing MPs with Crowdsourcing *Satire* (probably)
  • The Domain Logic of Direct Action

#opentech #B4

Thinking Differently...
  • Silence and Thunderclaps
  • Thinking Pictures (video)
  • 1080s - the 300seconds project

#opentech #C4

Travel and Trains
  • Open Rail Data - Two Years On
  • Five types of rail data we still need to level the playing field for #opendata applications
  • Better Infrastructure Through Open Data
click on a talk to see its abstract here
3:30 Break
4:00 Session 5

#opentech #A5

... and make things
  • /dev/fort: you can build it in a week (even if you get caught in a blizzard)
  • NHS Hackday
  • Bethnal Green Ventures

#opentech #B5

  • Big Data for Real People
  • Doing Good With (open) Data
  • What do Open Sensor Networks mean for citizen science?

#opentech #C5

  • Politics, Programming, Data and the Drogulus
  • Scaling the ZeroMQ Community
  • The Cleanweb Movement
click on a talk to see its abstract here
5:00 Session 6

#opentech #A6

  • The STEMettes
  • FOSSbox
  • Practical Diversity

#opentech #B6

Privacy 2013
  • medConfidential
  • Digital Arms Trade
  • the remnants of the Communications Data Bill

#opentech #C6

  • CheapSynth
  • Repair, don't despair! Towards a better relationship with electronics
click on a talk to see its abstract here
6:00 Close

Session 1

Main Room

Electromagnetic Field: Tales From the UK's First Large-Scale Hacker Camp — Russ Garrett

Last August, 500 people gathered in a field near Milton Keynes to enjoy three days of talks, good beer, wireless internet, and power to the tent. This non-profit festival was organised by a small volunteer team. Here's what went well, what didn't go well, and how you can help make the next event even better.

Prescribing Analytics — Bruce Durling

Malet Room (2nd Floor)

ORG 2013: Naked Citizens — The Open Rights Group

Naked Citizens is a new campaign which fights to make sure corporations don't strip you of your data rights through their attacks on new Data Protection laws. The Data Protection Regulation is currently being discussed by MEPs. It <b>could</b> give us more control over what happens to our personal information. But a number of the changes being discussed could instead make it almost impossible for us to control how our personal information is used. Many of these stem from lobbying by big US tech companies, US Government and the advertising industry. The Naked Citizens campaign and joint-report, was put together by a coalition of privacy groups from across the EU.

Room 3C/3D (3rd floor)

Farmification - the joystick factory — Lisa Ma

Farmification came about when Lisa Ma lived for a period of time she inside a joystick factory in Shenzhen. After observing the vertiginous waves of production renewal, she asked, “How do Eastern factories react to the fast pace of innovation cycles in the West?” After immersing in the life of factory workers as ex-farmers, she proposed part-time farming along with production to help small-medium manufacturers survive through times of innovation change. Through Farmification, a global dialogue about how our technological demands make a real impact on the world food economy has opened. Farmification is currently undertaken by large-scale factories endangered by the Chinese property bubble and Asian food import crisis, initiating a challenging debate against the prejudices towards agriculture. my research blog is:

House on Github — Francis Irving

What Geeks do one decade, everyone does the next. Everyone thought I was mad when I put my CV up in public on the web in 1997. Now it is impossible to do business without being on Linked In. To me, it it normal and obvious to track bugs in my house using Github, and yet people are astonished enough to write it up in Wired. Why? What's it like to be an innovator, what's it like to be late mainstream? And which markets are we each which within? What does this tell us about how society changes?


The Constitutional Excerpts Project — James Melton

The project aims to XML tag constitutional texts and make them available for free, to increase transparency in countries throughout the world by ensuring universal access to the texts of those countries’ constitutions. Although constitutions are highly public documents, this is information that is rarely accessible by the general public. We expect that its provision will improve constitution-making processes the world over as well as empower the general public to play a more active role in their country’s governance.

Session 2

Main Room

GOV.UK — Tom Loosemore

How We Didn't Break the Web. — Jordan Hatch

How we collated, tested and deployed more than 80,000 URL redirects for Directgov and Business Link.<a href="">Paul</a> and <a href="">Anna</a> have previously written about this on our blog and this will go into more detail.


Malet Room (2nd Floor)

Writers Centre Norwich — Chris Gribble

Chris Gribble is the Chief Executive of Writers’ Centre Norwich. After completing a PhD in German Poetry and Philosophy at the University of Manchester, Chris worked in publishing then the cultural sector and was the Director of Manchester Poetry Festival and then Manchester Literature Festival. He is on the Board of Directors of ICORN (the International Cities of Refuge Network), is Co-Chair of the National Association for Literature Development, sits of the Advisory Group for Manchester University’s Centre for New Writing and the Editorial Board of Jon McGregor’s new journal The Letters Page.

School of Data — Tony Hirst


The Children's Republic of Shoreditch — Lucy Macnab

Last summer, working with the Ministry of Stories, 150 local children formed their own country and declared independence. The Children's Republic of Shoreditch was entirely conceived of by children, who worked together with designers, educators, architects, web developers and volunteer mentors to found their own embassy building, in an empty shop on Hoxton Street. They invented a manifesto, a spy network, a passport and citizenship test, a census and a national anthem. All of these were enjoyed by hundreds of local children and their families over the summer holidays. This talk hopes to explore how we might take the idea of a Children's Republic and create it online, so that many more children could join in creative activities and contribute to a digital republic. The Ministry of Stories is looking for people to help develop the idea and make it a reality through all kinds of support - find out how at this talk.

Room 3C/3D (3rd floor)

...about corporate structures — Chris Taggart

Two years ago, OpenCorporates launched with the goal of creating a global open database of companies, and is now by far the largest of its kind in the world, with well over 50 million companies in over 70 jurisdictions, all open data. Now, it's tackling an even more difficult task – mapping corporate networks and ownerships structures to give a true picture of global and local corporations, and this presentation will explain how it's doing this, why it matters, what the obstacles are

...about government spending — Lisa Evans


...about legislation — John Sheridan

The rule of law now hinges on the adoption and use of open technology. Why? This session will explore the implications of legislation as data and legislation as code - laws drafted to be directly processed by computer. Where is this happening and why should we care? From immigration rules to universal credit regulations, largely unbeknown, we are running headlong into the world of machine-processable laws. What technologies are being used? Does it matter that computerised legislation is written using proprietary or patented technology? This session will be given by John Sheridan, Head of Legislation Services at The National Archives, responsible for Find out what happens when jurisprudence (the theory of law) meets the open technology. Sounds dry, but your rights in future may just depend on how this pans out.

Session 3

Main Room

The 'State of the Intersection' address — Bill Thompson

Surveying online engagement and asking whether 'open' just means 'open to expropriation'

Beyond Open Data — Gavin Starks

Malet Room (2nd Floor)

Unix FPGA - Beyond just Finance — Graeme Burnett

Field Programmable Gate Array technology has brought sub-second electronic trading to a sub-microsecond reality. Electronic market data is being delivered at 40Gbe using FPGA at message rates which cannot be handled in software alone. The calculation of risk uses GPU/CUDA today but will migrate to FPGA/multicore using software techniques that abstract implementation from underlying hardware. This talk describes the architecture of trading platforms of the future the techniques used in high frequency trading and near-real time risk analytics. It also will highlight the significant power savings to be made by using these technologies.

Raspberry Pi - debian interfaces — Rob Bishop

How Raspberry Pi wants to help deliver better computing education to the classroom through creation of cheap, open computing devices.

Raspberry Pi - how you can help — Rob Bishop

Room 3C/3D (3rd floor)

Tricks we learnt designing a community interest company for personal data — William Heath

You're creating a business that runs a platform for storing personal data securely. So you have a few critical design decisions you have to make, for this to be possible. And by the way, you have to design this platform to let people control how they share this data with organisations ranging from startups to the NHS, to various branches of the government , so you can use it to access the universal credit system, replace your driving licence, as well as sign into websites. Oh, and while you're at it, you need a way to make it work in a legal environment where data protection law is designed around organisations storing data about people, rather than people storing it about themselves. Oh, finally, you'll have to design the company structure so that it can never be sold, to always keep people's data safe.

Sense and non-sense of a personal information security standard — Ulrich Atz

How do you handle your own data? Can we codify how you deal with your personal data? We leave a digital footprint with countless services, so having a guideline in place can help us being more aware of what and where we share and store personal information. Whose services are we trusting? How are our personal decisions shaped by a standard?


Session 4

Main Room

Tiny Data — Richard Pope

Some hacks & experiments in whittling tiny bits of information from large datasets.

Bribing MPs with Crowdsourcing *Satire* (probably) — Terence Eden

It is completely illegal to bribe an MP. It is completely legal to lobby an MP and channel money and gifts to them and their party. Wouldn't it be nice if there were a way ordinary people could club together to buy their MP something nice. And if that MP happens to vote one particular way... Well! Isn't that nice? How could this work? Would people use it? Are MPs that easy to influence? Is this even legal? WARNING! This talk contains mild levels of satire.


The Domain Logic of Direct Action — Stephen Reid

Stephen Reid is one of the co-founders of the anti-austerity direct action movement UK Uncut, a network organiser at the New Economics Foundation, a board member of Greenpeace UK, and a Ruby developer. In this talk, he will explore how capturing the domain logic of high-street occupations assisted the growth of UK Uncut, from data-handling, campaigns and media perspectives. He will go on to suggest that opportunities remain to 'codify'/'gamify' other forms of direct action, and highlight the important role technologists can play in maximising the efficacy of protest.

Malet Room (2nd Floor)

Silence and Thunderclaps — Emma Mulqueeny

With so much going on in the digital world: events, hacks, mods and so on it is often hard to allow yourself some peace. The Silent Club is a non-member personal permission ruse to give yourself some dedicated space. Alone. In a busy environment. I will introduce this idea to you alongside the Business Card Thunderclap, an idea I am trying out to enable us all to activate the unseen networks around us based on business card activism. I will explore this on stage with you.

Thinking Pictures — Paul Clarke

9 pictures. 9 thoughts. 18 minutes.

1080s - the 300seconds project — 300seconds

300 Seconds, a series of lightning talks delivered by me, by you, by anyone - introducing new speakers to the community, people who may not have yet spoken at many events, with talks that are interesting... but short.. Diversity in tech - and at tech conferences like this one - has been a thorny topic in recent months. Some argue for gender quotas, while others say speaker panels just reflect the gender balance of the industry. Our aim is to hear more about the personal and professional passions of our peers in the digital community. Be inspired. Learn something new. Meet. Chat. Engage

Room 3C/3D (3rd floor)

Open Rail Data - Two Years On — Peter Hicks

Two years ago, I gave a presentation on Open Rail Data. Since then, things have changed, data has been made open, but there's still some work left to do.

Five types of rail data we still need to level the playing field for #opendata applications — Jonathan Raper

National Rail Enquiries is still the dominant player in rail data in Britain, offering data services on a paid, proprietary closed model with terms and conditions that prohibit developers 'bringing the industry into disrepute'. Now that the government's open data policy has led to Network Rail releasing train movement and schedule information Placr have created open rail data services on However, the industry is still holding onto much of its data despite the public subsidies, including cancellation data, rolling stock information, live platform assignments, signal reference data and station photos. This talk will explain the items on the rail data shopping list, and why they are important to transparency and new services.

Better Infrastructure Through Open Data — Richard Stirling

Exploring the open data ecosystem that we should start to see around infrastructure assets, with sustainable business models.

Session 5

Main Room

/dev/fort: you can build it in a week (even if you get caught in a blizzard) — James Aylett

Imagine a place with no distractions - no IM, no Twitter, in fact no internet access at all. Within, a dozen or more developers, designers, thinkers and doers. And a lot of a food. Now imagine that place is a fort. /dev/fort is an opportunity for web folk to come together to learn from each other and build something from scratch in a week. We've previously launched sites such as and, but the value is as much in tackling different problems, trying out new tools and techniques, and just having fun in a ridiculously nerdy way as it is in shipping a final product. That said, we do like to get things out onto the internet, while not cutting corners and aiming wherever possible to do things the right way rather than just the most expedient. We aim for 80% test coverage. I'll be talking about what's good about stranding yourself a hundred miles from civilisation, rapid evolution of in-jokes under pressure, and some tips you can use even when you don't have a fort handy.


NHS Hackday — David Miller

An overview of the NHS Hack Days, origins, bigger picture stuff, and what next....

Bethnal Green Ventures — Glen Mehn

Startups have been reinventing the world, from intelligent supply chains and ecommerce to publishing and music. Are we getting to the point of working on things that really matter - like health, education, and the environment?

Session chaired and convened by Michelle Brook.

Malet Room (2nd Floor)

Big Data for Real People — Chris Osborne

The Internet of Things is happening, and your home is getting connected and smarter. With all these sensors communicating in realtime, how do we turn this data into something normal people can use? Working with data is something that comes naturally to people who work in tech, but data is abstract and real people don’t like graphs. This talk is a condensed trip through years of productising Big Data, and applying the lessons learned visualising data for tv and press to the challenege of turning smart meter and energy data into an app for millions of households to manage their home energy use.

Doing Good With (open) Data — Duncan Ross

Data philanthropy is hot. Find out what it is, how it relates to the open community, why it's essential, and how you can play a part.


What do Open Sensor Networks mean for citizen science? — Dan McQuillan

The overlap of cheap, reliable, open sensor networks, and social networks for crowd mapping, is vastly expanding the scope of citizen science. What are the social benefits in a crisis (Safecast or balloon mapping) or in a community with a cause (e.g. Mapping for Change in Deptford). WHat's the potential for a truly radical citizen science that splices DIY sensors with community self-organisation... ? Let's find out

Room 3C/3D (3rd floor)

Politics, Programming, Data and the Drogulus — Nicholas Tollervey

How do we remain in control of our data in a network that relies on third parties? This non-technical talk introduces the Drogulus, a software experiment addressing concerns about openness, ownership, autonomy and governance on the internet. The Drogulus is a global, decentralised data store and computation platform. I'll explain what the Drogulus is, how my concerns led to why it works the way that it does and explore how this contrasts with current incumbent technology such as the world-wide-web.

Scaling the ZeroMQ Community — Pieter Hintjens

The top five challenges facing the ZeroMQ community: how to scale the project, how to survive conflict, how to ensure new growth, how to define the roadmap and how to remain stable. Pieter will explain how the ZeroMQ community faced and overcame each of these challenges, culminating in a reusable protocol for free software projects (C4.1).

The Cleanweb Movement — James Smith

As a civilisation, we have some big global problems. So big, that they can seem impossible to do anything about. Fortunately, we have a revolutionary tool at our disposal. The web is the most powerful behaviour change, communication and coordination tool humanity has ever had, and it's arguably the only thing that can move fast enough to enable serious change in the next few years. The Cleanweb movement is here to challenge developers, innovators, and makers to attack the big problems and make a real difference. We'll show you how organisations are using the web to make a real impact on sustainability, how we can reduce the impact of the web itself, and how you can get involved in a growing movement trying to build a better future. Innovators love challenges, and this is the biggest we have. Why settle for less when you could change the world?


Session 6

Main Room

The STEMettes — Stemettes

How we inspire girls to get into data early, so they can make sense of the increasingly vast amount of data being produced everyday that relates to their world.

FOSSbox — Paula Graham

Fossbox is a women/LGBT-led social innovation CIC. We formed Flossie as an independent collective to create spaces where women who're interested in any kind of open production (from software to digital arts and social innovation) can get together and inspire each other. Diversity can become a catalyst for change rather than a 'problem' to be 'solved'.

Practical Diversity — Meri Williams

We talk about diversity a lot. Hell, we as a community WORRY about it a lot. There are lots of big problems to solve, but what about the little incremental changes that are smaller, easier, faster. After spending a few years moving my company's recruitment from 90-10 to 50-50 M-F, I have some practical examples of what to do (& not to do!) to share.


Session chaired and convened by Michelle Brook.

Malet Room (2nd Floor)

medConfidential — Phil Booth

Health Data, and what you can usefully do about it.

Digital Arms Trade — Eric King

The International trade in surveillance spyware, what Privacy International are doing about it, and how you can help.

the remnants of the Communications Data Bill — Nick Pickles

The Communications Data Bill, where it is, and what you can usefully do about it and other Government ideas.

Room 3C/3D (3rd floor)

CheapSynth — Dave Green

A full-size fully programmable open-hardware synth platform for less than &pound;40.

Repair, don't despair! Towards a better relationship with electronics — Janet Gunter and David Mery

The Restart Project is a new London-based social enterprise and charity aiming at changing our relationship with information technologies by empowering people to repair and reuse their electronic devices. The organisation facilitates 'Restart Parties', community self-repair events, where all kinds of electronics are taken apart and repaired by owners together with volunteer repairers (Restarters), with the aim of promoting increased lifespan, sharing repair skills and promoting sustainable and informed consumption of information technologies. The Restart Project's vision is one based on collaboration and creativity - combining online knowledge sharing and cooperation with tangible activities in real life. For more info, see


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