Five podcasts I like at the moment

I’ve really upped the amount of time I spend listening to podcasts over the last twelve months. I think it’s partly that the quality and variety of what’s available has increased but it’s also displaced reading articles on the web as a lot of the sites and publications I used to read have become more aggressively advertising heavy and/or are surrounded by a toxic culture of debate that puts me off.

These are my five favourite podcasts at the moment:

  • BBC’s The Documentary — some of the best and most diverse stories from across the BBC World Service and their partners in other countries. Regularly updated and each episode is usually 30 mins.
  • Conde Nast Traveler’s Travelogue — I love to travel and the podcast is much more down to earth than the rather glitzy magazine. There are some genuinely useful tips and great recommendations for places to go.
  • Stephen Dubner’s Freakonomics Radio — each episode is so well researched and scripted. It always leaves me with lots to think about.
  • The Reboot Podcast with Jerry Colonna — long interviews bordering on therapy sessions between Jerry and tech founders or investors. The quality varies based a bit on who the guest is but there are some gems in there.
  • How I Built This — interviews with founders of some (now) well known companies. Reminds me very much of the ‘founder confidential’ talks we run for BGV.

What else should I be listening to?

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.

Mojo Mickybo — go and see it!

My friend Lilli is producing the play Mojo Mickybo by Owen McCafferty which is about to open in the West End. It’s on at the Trafalgar Studio between 27 June — 21 July and you can book tickets here. If you quote “Strawberry Vale offer” you can get tickets for £15 for the shows before July 6th. I heartily recommend going along — it’s a wonderful show. I saw it when it was on at the Arcola theatre a couple of months ago.

And even theatre-land has clocked the power of YouTube — here’s the trailer.

Among the swans

If you want a good insight into what being a first time entrepreneur is like, Nassim Taleb gets it spot on in this short passage from his book The Black Swan

(the first book I’ve read in months by the way — when I was at Demos I read about one non-fiction book cover-to-cover per week):

“Many people labor in life under the impression that they are doing something right, yet they may not show solid results for a long time. They need a capacity for continually adjourned gratification to survive a steady diet of peer cruelty without becoming demoralized. They look like idiots to their cousins, they look like idiots to their peers, they need courage to continue. No confirmation comes to them, no validation, no fawning students, No Nobel, no Scnobel. “How was your year?” brings them a small but containable spasm of pain deep inside, since almost all of their years will seem wasted to someone looking at their life from the outside. Then bang, the lumpy event comes that brings the great vindication. Or it may never come.”

It’s been the strangest roller-coaster of a year for me. The emotional ups and downs have been more extreme than anything I’ve ever experienced before. I’ve bounced out of investor meetings, laughed myself silly with the team, surprised myself at how angry I can get and, on one occasion, found myself crying uncontrollably in a pub. I’ve been lucky and had an amazing amount of support from my co-founders, family and friends. I don’t know how people who don’t have that support manage it.

And I still can’t say whether it’s going to work or not. On paper — like any other start-up — the chances of us succeeding are tiny. We’re also trying to do something ridiculously ambitious that nobody has ever tried before. But somehow, I know deep down that we’re going to succeed. Don’t ask me how — I just know.

The funny thing is that now I’ve started, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Best of 2006

Everybody else seems to be doing it so I thought I’d jot down my favourites from 2006. I’ve chosen three things under each of the categories of ‘media’ I consume most that have stuck in my mind and that I’d definitely recommend. Within each category, I’ve just put them in the order that I came across them during the year.


  • The Wealth of Networks by Yochai Benkler — I think this book marks the beginning of a new academic discipline — the study of social production. Vital reading for anybody interested in the future of the internet.
  • From Counterculture to Cyberculture by Fred Turner — a great (and thorough) exploration of the journey from the 1960s to the current day through the lens of the life of Stewart Brand. It makes a neat companion to last year’s What the Dormouse Said by John Markoff.
  • The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson — the story of the Broad Street pump told simultaneously as gripping yarn and consilient analysis. Steven’s best book so far.
  • Troublemakers by Malcolm Gladwell — Gladwell at his best, taking academic work and opening it up to a wider audience.
  • Google’s China Problem (and China’s Google Problem) by Clive Thompson — Thompson is one of the best feature writers around but in this one he manages to get across all the nuances of China’s complicated path to a more open society.
  • Gizmondo’s Spectacular Crack-up by Randall Sullivan — Wired at its best. A story I didn’t know about told in such a way as to grip you with every sentence. Everybody I show this to loves it.


  • Enron — one of the best documentary movies I’ve ever seen.
  • Casino Royale — for exceeding expectations. Restored my faith in the franchise.
  • Borat — for pushing comedy to the limits and getting away with it.


  • Jarvis by Jarvis Cocker — he’s back and sounds entirely comfortable with himself. Wonderful stuff.
  • Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not by the Arctic Monkeys — the sound of the year and there’s such depth in there that I think they’ll be around for a long time to come.
  • Eraser by Thom Yorke — the Radiohead front man’s first solo album got mixed reviews, but I like it.
  • Worldchanging — they’re riding the zeitgeist of new interest in sustainability and doing it with integrity and style.
  • The Long Tail — I’ve read the article and the book and seen the talk a couple of times, and love them all, but I think it’s the blog where Chris Anderson really shines. It’s been fascinating to see the idea morph over time as readers have provided new information and feedback.
  • danah boyd — I don’t know what it is, but I find myself clicking through from my RSS reader to danah’s posts almost every time. Her work on technology and kids is superb and she communicates it with so much passion that the blog has become a must read for me.

Radio programmes


  • Uffe Elbaek at the RSA — I know Uffe and have heard his talks about education many times before but this one was special. You got the feeling that his ideas were really changing minds in the audience which was mainly made up of the great and the good.
  • Larry Lessig at the Hay Festival — doing a Keyote presentation wearing a suit in a tent was a bit odd but Lessig’s ideas and slick presentation style were superb.
  • Ben Saunders at IDEO’s Big Wednesday — Ben’s talk about walking to the North Pole on his own was inspiring and hilarious.