My favourite things from 2009


Moon — Duncan Jones’s debut is just stunning. I’ve watched it again on DVD now and there are so many clever bits you don’t notice first time around. Also best original soundtrack for quite some time by Stourbridge’s finest Clint Mansell. It’s been adopted as favourite coding music at Everything HQ.

Anvil — this one surprised me and I basically went along just on the basis of the blurb in the Curzon Soho guide. It’s Spinal Tap but real, there are scenes that had me crying my eyes out and the ending is fantastic.

In the Loop — There was pretty much only one person scary enough to pit Malcolm Tucker against: Tony Soprano. So many perfect comic moments and lots of real insight. I still contend that Thick of It is better for politics than the West Wing.


I’m not very good at describing why I like particular bits of music but these are my favourite albums of the year.

xx by The XX

The Eternal by Sonic Youth

Two Dancers by Wild Beasts

Lungs by Florence + Machine

Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons


I think it’s been a good year for British TV, it feels like the ecosystem is settling into a new pattern which is pretty creative. I hope that programmes like Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care get more of a run at it next year.

The Inbetweeners — really very simple formula this one but still fantastic. Bit of a cross between Peep Show and Skins.

The Thick of It — As with In the Loop, I don’t know where the spies are but so much of it is true. And just so painfully funny.

Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care? — I just happened to be watching when this was on but what a fantastic programme. Really taught me a lot and actually might change things. What public service TV should be like.


In Business — Peter Day is a complete legend and when you run a business you realise quite how amazing his analysis and selection of what’s important is compared to most of the guff that comes out of business schools. One program this year in particular might just have shaped the future of School of Everything.

X-posure on X Fm John Kennedy is turning into a bit of a John Peel. I’ve come across quite a few things this year via his show and it shows no sign of getting stale:

Adam and Joe — Still having fun, still causing havoc and still a great way to wake up on Saturday mornings.

Web stuff

Spotify — I had my doubts about the business model but it does seem to be starting to work and the standard of the service is brilliant. I’m now a premium member and the iPhone app is also pretty amazing.

Meetup — this was the year for me when Meetup went mainstream. I heard more and more people saying they were finding it useful and it has been a really great tool for both Long Now London and Social Innovation Camp. Scott and the team have also made it profitable which is no mean feat.

Kickstarter — new this year but a sign of much more to come in changing the ways we finance creativity and invention. Really hope they keep on growing.


Momofuku Ssam Bar, New York — I’m usually at the whim of Rob or other friends when I’m in New York so don’t tend to read reviews or anything but apparently this is quite trendy. Fantastic though.

Champor Champor, London — This place has been around for ages but I hadn’t been for a long time, probably since I was working at Demos five years ago. The Spicy squid salad with ginger flower and mint and papaya salsa was probably my dish of the year.

Glenelg Inn, Glenelg — I’d been to the Applecross Inn a few months previously and this was the other inn with great reviews and within range of amazing walking on the West Coast of Scotland. The basics of Scottish gastropubs are very fresh ingredients cooked as lightly as possible. They managed that brilliantly.

Newspapers and magazines

Although I’ve hardly read a newspaper in 2009, I have read quite a lot of magazines.

Still the best for me is actually one produced by a newspaper — the FT Magazine. It does what I want from a print publication which is to tell me about interesting things that I don’t already know about and uses the format to do that in a compelling way — ie use really top notch photography. I’m a big fan of Charlie Bibby’s stuff.

Wired UK deserves an honorable mention but seeing as I know pretty much everybody who is featured in it or writes for it (that’s a slight exaggeration), that does seem like a bit of a cop out based on my criteria above. The design is great though and they do a very good job of covering the scene I suppose I’m part of.

And then Private Eye has had a storming year. To be fair though they have had a lot of material to go on with the expenses fiasco.


TED in Long Beach. TED is the standard as far as events to inspire and entertain with ideas are concerned. It felt like a massive privilege to get a ticket and I made the most of it.

Social Innovation Camp in Glasgow. OK I’m biased because I played a small part in setting this one up but it was still a brilliant event and I’m just a little bit proud of what’s come out of it.

Interesting in London. One of my favourite days of the year. Loved it.

Opening up an idea —

I put this idea into the 4iP call for ideas but they turned it down (maybe because I’m supposed to be running one of their portfolio investments 😉 ) so I thought I’d just put it out there to see if anybody was interested in taking it on or helping out…

Starting a political party should be as easy as setting up a company. Innovation in politics is more likely to come from a new entrant than from the main established parties.

Needs and Benefits

Membership of the main UK political parties has steadily declined since the 1970s. Disaffection with parties and politicians is at an all time high. Yet despite this, the big parties have hardly changed their structure since being formed in the 19th and 20th centuries (see for background on the slow demise of political parties in the UK and internationally).

Rather than focusing on getting more people to join the existing parties, PartyStarter will encourage and help people to set up their own political parties. It is based on the belief that innovation in the way that parties organise and operate is more likely to come from new ‘start-up’ parties than from existing parties.

While it’s unlikely that any of the parties it creates will win at the next general election, there are an increasing number of elections that are winnable by smaller parties in local, regional and European elections. And there is a small chance that PartyStarter might create a party that grows quickly and can seriously compete with the main parties at the general election after next.

PartyStarter satisfies the need of people who want to make a difference to the political system but don’t have faith in the main political parties. It will show that political apathy is because Westminster village politics is out-of-date and not because people don’t care about political issues.


It actually only costs £150 to register a political party with the Electoral Commission but the process is difficult to understand and the reporting burden grows in complexity as a party raises more money and has more candidates.

Inspired by sites that make company formation easy and understandable such as, will take you through the process step-by-step with help at each stage and automatically generate the official forms and paperwork needed for the Electoral Commission.

Once a party is registered, PartyStarter will then help you find digital tools to administer and organise your party. Whether that’s blogging or twitter, or, PartyStarter will introduce people who may not be familiar with the web to powerful but low-cost tools so that they can innovate in the way they campaign and organise.

We’re looking for £20,000 from 4iP to create a not-for-profit company, build the technology and hire a project co-ordinator/researcher/troublemaker for six months in the run up to the general election in 2010. This period will be a perfect time to launch as media interest in politics and public ‘apathy’ will be high.


Once the site is built, the costs of will be low. The code for the site will be open-sourced allowing volunteers to help improve it and people in other countries to adapt it for their own systems.

There is the opportunity to grow some affiliate relationships with the necessary services for a political party — legal, accounting and banking — with PartyStarter taking a share of the revenue (this is how company formation sites often make money). This could be part of a a paid package to cover all the administration of a political party.

Overall though, the strategy for sustainability will be to keep costs as low as possible.

Competition is currently the only site that offers help registering a political party in the UK. PartyStarter will offer a much simpler service cutting through the jargon of political administration.

Just the beginning

My favourite business journalist, Peter Day, writing on the occasion of 21 years working on In Business:

Some 10 years ago the great management thinker the late Peter Drucker told me that he did not think that the computer had yet begun to effect the way organisations were managed. At the time, it seemed to be a crazy remark, but thinking about it afterwards it made more and more sense.

Henry Ford transformed industry after industry with his adoption of the production line in Detroit 100 years ago. Theoretically, the interactive information generated by the computer network should be having just as much disruptive impact on business now as Ford had then.

But few pre-existing companies seem to have changed their shape, size or business model to reflect what they now know about the clients and customers.

The mass production corporation tells itself it is making things its customers want to buy, and giving them a choice. But big companies seem to erect walls around themselves to keep the customer at bay. They commission market research rather than themselves go out and ask questions, and they mainly want customers who want to buy the things they make, not the other way round.

I think he’s right. Even those companies seen as cutting edge — Google, Innocent, Zappos and so on — are really not that different from what has been before in terms of the way they are organised. There’s going to be a lot of change in how we organise in the near future. Something we wrote about in Disorganisation — although I’d go even further if I were to write it again now, having run a company for a couple of years.

A towering idea

My friend Peter Macleod has a great idea in a comment piece in the Toronto Star today. He suggests that the new LED lighting system on the CN Tower should be used to show the city the impacts of citizens’ collective behaviour:

A nighttime glance at the tower could tell us whether we were gradually rolling back car usage or whether it was continuing to spike. It could tell us whether power consumption was in hand or we were headed for a brownout. Most importantly, it could illuminate our public imagination – to remind us of our goals and the progress we want to make.

Here’s the full piece.

More on open source tenders

Nick Booth (of the mighty Podnosh) has written more on David Wilcox’s open source bid to the Office of the Third Sector. He’s also nominated them for an award, which I think would be thoroughly well deserved.

Whether or not David and the collective win the bid or not, they’ve done something genuinely new. It’s one of the neatest institutional hacks I’ve seen in a long time.