Thinking Digital - Team takeouts #2

 Emma Pybus was the other member of the Sarah Hall Consulting PR team to attend Thinking Digital. 

Here's what she learned from her day out listening to some of the world's most innovative people.  

New adventures in coding

Last week, Herb Kim held the 8th Thinking Digital conference right here in the North East at Sage Gateshead. I was lucky enough to go along to one of the days and amongst the facts that I learned during the day are the following:

• The clock on your microwave which flashes 00:00 at you costs about £4 a year to power

• The first ever online shopping transaction took place in Gateshead

• The most common time to eat your dinner in the UK is 5pm

As well as these intriguing facts I also did genuinely learn a lot about digital developments and ways to make best use of all types of digital technology.

Two of the speakers on day one of the conference, Sam Aaron and Seb Lee-Delisle, talked specifically about coding and how they use it to teach programming in schools (Sam Aaron) and create dramatic, large-scale interactive art installations (Seb de Lisle).

One thing that Sam said stuck in my head: he asked the audience to raise their hands if they knew how to read and write. He then asked them to raise their hands if they were a professional writer. His point was that we all see reading and writing as pretty much essential skills for everyday life, regardless of whether we make our living from them.

Why shouldn’t we think it’s just as important to have an understanding of coding and programming too? 

After all, it’s used as the basis of all the websites we spend hours on and it powers so many of our everyday transactions. Also, the fact that Sam runs workshops with hundreds of school kids every year who clearly have a better grasp of coding than I do shamed me into wanting to learn more.


If we don’t make an effort to at least understand coding are we running the risk of being left behind? 

Surely it’s better to have a grasp on how it all works, especially if your job, like mine, involves working with websites, apps, social media and e-comms and things like Twitter cards and so on already require an element of HTML knowledge.

Straight after getting home from Thinking Digital I signed up to Codecademy and (on the advice of Seb Lee-Delisle via Twitter – thanks Seb!) also Khan Academy. These are both free online tutorial systems where you can learn the basics of HTML, CSS and other programming languages which I haven’t even heard of yet.

So far I’ve created an animation of my name which moves around when you run your mouse over it. I’ve made a virtual galaxy in which the planets refuse to orbit around the sun. And now I’m half way through coding a replica of the AirBnb website. These are all entry level exercises on the Codecademy website. So far it’s easy to follow and you get to use words like ‘jumbotron’ which is fun.

For some inspiration and to see what can be achieved with coding plus artistic flair and imagination, visit Seb Lee-Delisle’s website, particularly PixelPyros, the audience controlled virtual fireworks display.

Also definitely worth checking out is Sam Aaron’s Sonic Pi, a free live coding synth which he uses to teach programming in schools.

CAPTIONS: Seb Lee-Delisle presenting at Thinking Digital.

Emma Pybus, PR Consultant, Sarah Hall Consulting Ltd. 

Thinking Digital - team take outs

  We had the privilege of providing PR support to Thinking Digital this year.

Two of the team attended. Here's PR Consultant David Brookbank's take on day two of the conference. 

One of the best things about attending conferences is the ability to switch your brain off from your day-to-day routine and just learn. 

I, like many other people, am guilty of not giving myself enough thinking time but for one day I put my brain in the capable hands of Herb Kim and his team of speakers at the final day of the Thinking Digital 2015 conference.

As a PR and marketer I went expecting lots of inspirational thoughts and ideas about how I can use digital technologies to better serve my clients. 

That was one aspect of the conference but there was an altogether more important message, and that was how digital can better serve humanity.

From robotic surgery to disaster relief, developments in the digital sector are transforming lives.  

Dr. Catherine Mohr, Vice President of Medical Research at Intuitive Surgical in the US, talked in detail about how products like the da Vinci surgical robot – which she played in key role in creating – has transformed the surgical experience for millions of patients across the world. Its delicate instruments are able to do the job of a surgeon’s hand causing only small entry points on the body.

Patrick Meier, a Humanitarian Technologist, used digital technologies and crowdsourcing to revolutionise crisis early warning and humanitarian response. When his wife was in Haiti during the devastating 2010 earthquake and Patrick was unable to reach her, he took to social media and established media sources to develop an interactive map that provided a real-time picture of the devastation on the ground.

Tara Shears, a particle physicist at Liverpool University and Liverpool’s representative at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland, explained how advancements in digital technology is telling us more about our world than ever before. I think I’d be doing her a disservice by trying to explain it here so you’ll have to take my word for it – it was fascinating.

It was refreshing to stop thinking about digital technologies as just another marketing tool and really appreciate the bigger picture.

Ian Wharton, Group Creative Director at AKQA, gave one of the most marketing-orientated presentations at today’s conference. He put a lot of emphasis on supporting creative ambition and putting a stop to the barriers that prevent us from achieving great things. His message was that ridiculous beats rational, which is a fantastic thought to finish on.

The things I will take away from my Thinking Digital experience are that all ideas are valid and we should pursue them with passion and intensity. 

Never stop asking questions; our education is never over, and champion the team around you - it’s not all about you.