Summer… America… music festival… life with no name



* There was no money, no Bitcoin or shit, or time, or whatever currency

* There were no schedules or pension payments

* You had a to-be-hired motorbike on call… a really cool motorbike

* You never looked at the time, just noted the sundial at appropriate times

* You didn’t worry about mortgages and school fees

* You didn’t care about your work projects

* You woke up when you wanted to, not when your wife, or son, did

* And your constant insomnia had nothing to do with you not cycling or not doing tai chi, it just crept in because your head was a screen, the machines were abrading you, via spreadsheets or software, but they were now definitely the masters…

… and you woke up one morning in the Uk, or whatever, and saw this:

* Around the same time that your boxset-binge jumped its inevitable shark

* And you thought to yourself

* As much as I love my my home, my girl and our boy

* I might just fuck off and see this

* It might take £5K out of the family budget, money that might be ‘better spent’ on a new sofa or garden addition, maybe something designed out of chrome

* A place to go where you’re unlikely to meet anybody, however random, who might do you a business deal that might cover the £5K for the trip and cover the dosh for your happiness

* And, let’s be honest, it’s not SXSW… or Austin

* But look, there’s Neutral Milk Hotel

* There’s the Strokes

* There’s even that English wannabe Neil Young that used to be in Oasis

* Lo, not LOL, lo, there’s the Old Crow Medicine Show, last seen live in North London

* Hang on, Wilco, seen early at the Hammersmith Apollo in 1999 before they were famous, and way before they dissed Tom Waits’ pro-Semitic song Road to Peace on BBC Radio 6

* Fuck, the Pixies as well

* Jesus, Tame Impala, those Perth dudes that are like Floyd when they were touring Mother around the Marquee in the 1960s

* Even James Blake, he’s interesting… and English

* And the rest of the bands that you’ve never heard of, but might just discover on the rubbish stage on the first afternoon of the festival, not pissed enough, no way of finding vitamins for at least 12 hours, and knackered from riding the bike to the show

Would you think that this might just be the best festival you’ve ever seen and a red-hot poker up your sagging, middle-aged, middle class, middle-waisted arse, even if Atlanta reminded you of Ted Turner, CNN, Coca-Cola, the Masters and Tiger Woods…

… would you contemplate saying, fuck it, I’m going?

And would you, shock-horror, post it on your blog, WITHOUT SEO, WITHOUT tags, WITHOUT categories or that really annoying ‘Meta description’ bit that should be the intro…

… and you didn’t post it to those six/seven ‘sharey’ sites that you constantly do with your other stuff.

Would you?

Yeah, baby, fuck I would.

Palringo doubles revenues to $14 million through games

palringoRapidly growing chat-based games company Palringo said it has 2014 annual revenues of $14 million, up 100% from 2013 revenues of $7 million.

Based in London’s Shoreditch, Palringo has more than 35 million global customers, a figure that is rising one million per month as the business model of playing games within messaging platforms takes hold. Out of that $14 million revenue, 85% was from games, of which the profit margin was 50%.

Palringo offers a range of games along with more than 350,000 groups, some of which have up to 2,000 members. The business model is based around selling virtual products such as rich media sticker packs, Bots and functional utilities within the messaging platform.

The company’s move into games came in Q2 2013 when it acquired Swedish social and mobile games developer Free Lunch Games when internal data revealed that the most popular groups across Palringo’s communities were based around game titles such as Clash of Clans. It was also a neat strategy to differentiate itself from the better-known messaging platforms of SnapChat and WhatsApp.

“Gaming has always been a dominant theme within Palringo communities. Over the past couple of years, we have developed that trend by creating games that work within the community directly and more recently by building an innovative gaming capability that allows us to further develop our model of bringing together community and gaming on mobile,” said Tim Rea, Palringo CEO.

A typical example of a game inside Palringo would be the traditional game of Hangman. Customers buy the Hangman bot, and launch it in a chatroom of their choice. The company sells packs of ‘coins’, (for example, 300 for $3) and this currency is used to play the game with their chatroom friends.

Meet the modern open-source toys – The Offbits

offbitsThese four fine creations that have been superimposed on the Abbey Road zebra crossing are The Offbits, an open-source toy that the customer makes for measure. The Offbits come in a small and cool cardboard box and are a medley of springs and cast metal that are assembled by hand.

For somebody who finds it difficult to change a lightbulb, let alone a fuse, it took me some time to get to grips with the Offbits, but succeed I finally did. Then I swapped a few colours and pieces around and had a lot of fun… as did my 11-year-old son.

While I couldn’t stop thinking about the Smash Martians, the extraterrestrial heroes of a 1970s TV potato ad, the Offbits are modern and alluring. The company behind them is raising funds on Kickstarter next month – might be worth a small investment.

From analogue Madchester to digital Manchester

haciendaIt is almost 30 years since something started coming out of Manchester. I remember the point it went mainstream about 1988 when I was up there with friends. ITV showed a fantastic video of the drugged-up Happy Mondays around 1.30am. Nothing scheduled, they just decided to broadcast it.

A personal Summer of Love followed. A despatch-rider all week in London, park the bike at Euston station and up to Manchester on the 6pm train. A few beers, picked up by mates, down the Red Lion in Wythenshawe, then Afflecks Palace for some shopping on Saturday morning, a City game at Maine Road, the Hacienda until God-Knows-What-Time the next morning, back at the Red Lion for lunch followed by football in the park, some jazz at the Newcastle Steam Brewery, then back to London on the midnight milk train, ready to call in for work at 7am. Happy, happy days, even happy Mondays if you get my drift.

Much has changed in these three decades. While London is now almost free of despatch-riders because of technology rendering most expensive deliveries obsolete, Manchester has struggled to keep up with London’s ascension as one of the major technology hubs in the world.

But that may finally be set to change with the launch of a new digital festival in the city, highlighted by the Innov8 Startup Award sponsored by Google and UKFast. The festival launches on May 7th and positions itself as ‘the coolest tech festival in Europe’ covering digital, tech, ecommerce, startups, mobile, video, advertising and gaming.

Moreover, in the spirit of the old Madchester days, the typical conference schedule will be broken up by live acoustic performances and DJ sets. Probably no sign of the Happy Mondays or other sundries, but you never know.

I’m going to speak there as well as Martin Bryant, Editor-in-Chief at The Next Web and many others and the Innov8 Startup Award should be an interesting competition to see how evolved the Manchester tech scene has become… the prize package includes £100k of Google cloud credit and an exclusive support package with ongoing mentoring from industry experts.

“The event is the perfect stage to showcase the launch of the Google Developers Startup programme. I’m sure it will be a great event and I hope the first instalment of an impressive future going forward”, said Rupert Whitehead, Developer Relations Programs Lead, UK, Ireland and Nordics at Google.

“We are still an unfunded startup, reaching this point through hard work and passion, without a penny in the bank. To gain the backing of the world’s biggest brand proves that if you have the right team in place and never stop following your dreams you can achieve anything. This is going to rock Manchester and change the face of the digital landscape in the city forever,” said Jonathon Cadden – Founder, Business Rocks and organiser of the festival.

In its heyday, Madchester made the front cover of Time magazine and for a few heady months was the coolest place on the planet. Perhaps those times will come again now that the city is hugging the digital revolution as strongly as ‘refreshed’ clubbers used to do to each other at The Hacienda.

Ah, memories… in the corner of my mind.