Crowdfunding again: a personal request

Readers will remember I’ve blogged in the past about crowdfunding with the headline “Not just for geeks”. I’ve contributed myself to a couple of things: a board game based on the history of Oxford, and an early music opera (La Liberazione de Ruggiero …) which was triumphantly presented recently at this year’s Brighton Early Music Festival to stunning reviews.

Now a new one, and this time I’m asking for your help. Since I did my own university research, decades ago now, the funding system has changed out of recognition and it can be near impossible to find a scholarship or a fellowship or simply money to fund the laboratory costs of worthwhile research. Not least because the utilitarian view of science prevails in the public purse and there’s a strong bias away from primary research. If there isn’t a directly marketable product at the end of the process ( what was called near-market work when I was involved in European Community IT projects), forget it!

In medical research, there is arguably no more important issue than the increasing prevalence of obesity and its frequent consequence, diabetes. It isn’t just a lifestyle issue, though in some cases it can be. Prevention and control currently rest on expensive drug treatments or highly invasive surgical intervention. But the body may have its own mechanism built in, if we can figure out how to activate it.

This is where I run off the end of my understanding as a non-medic (albeit one who worked in pharmaceuticals for many years). We have two kinds of fat: white fat stores energy, but brown fat consumes it. If the brown fat mechanisms can be successfully activated, a new and effective treatment is on the cards. But this is primary research, not near-market work.

My son James Law, who is a senior Registrar in the Nottingham NHS and a member of staff at Nottingham University, working in the Queen’s Medical Centre, is undertaking research in this area. He needs your involvement through crowdfunding. Please visit the link to his own pages, and help if you can.

• Crowdfunding: not just for geeks. Help Free Ruggiero. ITasITis, 21 Nov 2014
• Ruggiero reviews: see Brighton Early Music on Facebook
• Click here to participate: Activating brown fat to improve diabetes and obesity, James Law & Michael Symonds, on

Persistent data; non-existent object

We’ve just returned from a short trip overseas. Mostly holiday, and re-making some old acquaintanceships, but at the event which was the trigger for the visit one of those acquaintances mentioned the persistence of an International Standard Book Number (ISBN).

It seems that, some years ago, our friend was writing a textbook (his field is astrophysics) with a publisher’s contract, deadlines and so on when he was pre-empted by a couple of other authors. Realising there would be no benefit in continuing (no personal pride there!) he agreed with his publisher to abort the project and the volume was never completed, let alone published.

However, an ISBN had been obtained for the putative title. And it proved impossible to get the issue of this ISBN rescinded. So out there, it appears, there is an ISBN for a book which does not exist, has never existed, and never will exist.

I should note that the obvious easy searches have not turned up the rogue volume; but what price the persistence of data?

Post election blues

I learned one IT thing during the campaign by participating in a “Thunderclap” – a coordinated social media shot on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr, sent by party members at 7 pm on the night before the election. At that time, we’d just finally got our broadband up and running following a move.

Thunderclap invite you to think of a Thunderclap as an “online flash mob”. It’s a coordinating app which requests permission to access your social account (choose just one of the three) and then sends the message on behalf of all the subscribers at the specified time. It’s not necessarily a standard message; you’re offered a starter, but can customise.

This particular Thunderclap exceeded its subscription target many-fold. Sadly it didn’t swing the day …

Thunderclap is at

The Imitation Game

Finally yesterday we got to see the Alan Turing film The Imitation Game.

Asusuming the details are reasonably true to reality, there’s so much more than even IT people are aware of: opposition, misunderstanding, frustration … Is it significant that Turing went over his director’s head directly to Churchill to secure funding for his project? Churchill knew, between the wars, what it was to be the maverick no-one believed in.

Unlike the Stephen Hawking film, there is a realistic focus on the science and maths of what Turing achieved at Bletchley. And with subtlety; there were things that were there, but not dwelt on. Like so much in systems development, it was the realisation of a limiting condition on the computation that made it computable in real time. And so on.

Early in the film, both cyanide and apples make their appearance, but the obvious tie-up at the end was left unsaid. A great film.

Perhaps the best phrase from it is the one exchanged between Turing and Joan Wood, tying the film together. “It’s the people no-one imagines anything of, that achieve things no-one can imagine”.

With the election approaching, and so many of the politicians promoting a spurious idea of a unified identity for “the British”, this celebration of difference is timely. Vive la différence!

• The Imitation Game
• The Theory of Everything

An odd stat …

Some time ago, I crafted a presentation called “Disrupt or disappear”, looking at responses to the disruptions of new technology paradigms. I put it on Slideshare, and I more or less forgot it.

Stats mailed by Slideshare just now tell me it got nearly 350 views last year. That’s gratifying. But what’s odd is that around three quarters of those apparently came from Ukraine …

I have no idea why !

• Disrupt or Disappear, Slideshare by InformationSpan, 27 July 2010

We have changed …

You may have noticed the blog looks different.

I’ve just set up a second WordPress blog. In trying to select a theme for the new one, I inadvertently changed ITasITis. And I couldn’t get back, so I made a new choice.

Hope you like it!