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About Chelsea Brown

Author Archive | Chelsea Brown

Wikihouse

Every time you switch on the tv or radio, you are blasted with soundbites from MPs about the problem with housing, or the lack of housing, to be more precise. WikiHouse could be the award-winning solution for the housing crisis – offering an affordable alternative to designing and building houses.

So what is WikiHouse? Winners of the TED PRIZE 2012, WikiHouse calls itself an open source construction set. A non-profit project of development hardware and software that is free for all under the creative commons license. WikiHouse aim to allow anyone to design, download and 3D print CNC-milled houses and components, which can be assembled with minimal skills or formal training.

Richard Heath and Steve Fisher from Momentum Engineering spoke at Bath Digital Festival as part of the Digital for Good: Inspiration talks. Momentum Engineering have been a core part of this project, helping to make something as revolutionary as democratic construction a reality. Working alongside Architecture 00, who had been inspired by a TED talk on ‘Architecture for the people by the people’, the teams worked together to democratise design so that it benefits the people it will affect. Conventional housing design is monopolised by architects and only benefits a small percentage of the world’s population. The WikiHouse community allows for people all over the world to give opinions and suggestions on new structure plans.

This method of design has also allowed WikiHouse to collaborate all over the world. There are WikiHouse projects which are based in Rio and New Zealand, the latter became involved due to their huge commitment to the recovery of the Canterbury region after the 2010 earthquake caused devastating damage to the area. A whole community of WikiHouses has been created in the Netherlands, proving that printing your own home could be a viable option for the UK.

Although WikiHouse could offer sustainable, energy efficient homes across the UK, there are still problems facing the project. The sheer lack of availability and high costs of land to build houses is the biggest issue. Another key issue is the use of plywood in the structures. Despite being lightweight and easily accessible, it would be unsuitable to create a building more than two floors high. This could affect the attractiveness of this project in a high density area like London, where the most effective housing solutions need to make use of the heavily populated city’s airspace rather than the limited ground space. 

There are high demands in the UK housing industry to create ‘zero carbon homes’ by 2016, which could work in WikiHouse’s favour. The fact that the WikiHouse software is free to everyone means that self-builders and key figures in the industry can begin designing homes that have the potential to stop the housing crisis in a hugely innovative way.

By creating the first step in innovative and sustainable design, the WikiHouse project is set to have an exciting path ahead of it. Who knows what the future might build?

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Digital Skills Day

Bath Digital Festival hosted an incredible Digital Skills Day to help promote the variety of digital career choices on offer in Bath. Although not known for its techy achievements, Bath has a wide range of opportunities for students interested in a career in digital and those in work seeking to move forward in such a fast-paced and ever-expanding sector.

Without a doubt, the future will be a digital one – with the digital sector rapidly growing and digital communication skills becoming an essential tool in all industries. With youth unemployment figures showing scarily high numbers, it makes sense that digital is the way forward. The youth of today have grown up with technology – from tweaking their Myspace layouts, to engaging with developers for new game mods – and so many have digital skills without realising.

Of course, saying you have ‘digital communication skills’ might sound interesting on your CV, but what is it? Digital communication skills can range from front-end development to data analysing, search engine optimisation to marketing – the list is seemingly endless. You don’t need to be a coder to work with digital, you just need to know what your skills are, and how you can apply them in a work environment.

Bath is thriving with digital opportunities. It’s home to leading digital business The Agency, and has its own creative Co-working Hub in The Guild as well as tech recruiters Ad-Lib. If you’re worried about dipping your toes in the water, you can find a whole host of digital apprenticeships across the south west, as well as plenty of internships and work placements available. These can be really rewarding experiences, as you gain skills on the job and more often than not, you get paid! Internships and apprenticeships are a good way to have your foot in the door, and successful applicants often leave with a full-time job by the end of duration.

Naturally, the lunch break couldn’t be without its own digital flair, and a speed-dating style event was offered instead. Designers and developers from blubolt, The Agency and Storm were on hand to talk about the realities of their jobs. Roles included project managers, account executives, creative directors and a whole range of developers, all of which covered a wide range of the jobs available in the digital sector.

As well as informing on the scope of jobs available, the Digital Skills day also helped attendees perfect their portfolios and gave advice on how to stand out at interviews for all the right reasons. The tech team from ADLIB came and explained why working in a digital agency is great, and what the future might hold for various career paths. Industry leaders gave inspirational talks on how they ‘made it’ and how they ended up working and achieving in digital. Offering advice on how to enter the industry and areas they expect to explode with opportunity, the Career Path Panel were considered invaluable to many attending and made a fantastic addition to an already remarkable Digital Skills Day.

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Digital for Bad day

The 2014 Bath Digital Festival carried the theme of Good vs Evil. With ‘good’ days highlighting how to improve your digital skills, and celebrating the best in tech in the west with the SPARKies Awards, Halloween became host to the festival’s ‘bad’ day – a day informing and educating on how to keep your websites safe from brute-force attacks, as well as industry experts coming in to talk about cyber security. 

Oli Ward, from The Agency, started off the session by discussing security measures for WordPress – one of the most popular website platforms used today. With over eight years of experience working on website development, Ward was knowledgeable and had plenty of fun facts to lighten the somewhat serious talk. For example, he told the crowd how over 95% of websites who had complained of brute-force attacks – all had ‘admin’ as their WordPress login. If you want to keep hackers out of your website, having a less obvious login is a good place to start. Ward’s biggest tip for security is ensuring your have some WordPress-approved security plugins. These can monitor and block brute-force attacks, as well as scan any additional scripts for malware or broken files. His last tip for maximum security is to audit and review code as often as possible. If your plugin has a new security announcement, check it out and make sure you’re not at risk. Keeping up to date with security enhancements are always going to benefit your site and keep you safe from the latest attacker.

After a hugely successful talk at last year’s festival, Professor James Davenport from University of Bath returned to talk about cryptography and it’s role in everyday life. Arguably, the most well known cryptography system is the Enigma machine – which was cracked during World War II by cryptanalyst Alan Turing. These days, cryptography systems are virtually impossible to break. This is good news for anyone using the internet as electronic security is becoming increasingly important. Cryptography is used to protect credit card information, email messages and even corporate data. Confidentiality is created by encrypting messages to be transmitted or data files to be stored using an encryption algorithm such the Triple Data Encryption Algorithm, which applies the Data Encryption Standard (also known as DES) cipher algorithm three times to each data bloc.

When sending such personal information online, as well as security, you need privacy. Dr Steven Murdoch from University College London come to explain the need for anonymous communications. Dr Murdoch explained that he was a part of a user privacy project – Tor project – which is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. Tor is used by a whole range of people, from military personnel to bloggers, whistleblowers and activists to ordinary people. It can be used to source military intelligence, to maintain civil liberties for activist groups, and for socially sensitive communications – such as forums for rape victims, or people with illnesses. However, like most anonymous platforms, Dr Murdoch explained how Tor was also subject to user abuse. People take the anonymity and use it as an excuse to send threats and abuse to strangers on the internet. The most recent cases being the twitter trolls who abused MP Stella Creasy and sent rape threats, which resulted in their arrest.

The Digital for Bad day gave a great insight to the ever-changing internet, and how digital can affect so much more than meets the eye. Technology is a powerful tool, but as the day showed – it all depends on who’s hands it falls into.

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If content is King, is CMS his Queen?

For all news outlets, content is a key component. Whether it’s for print, digital or word of mouth – if your content is of a low standard, no one will want to listen to you. For many websites, great content is determined by Google Analytics algorithms – with content being ranked by it’s quality, relevancy and social links. In fact, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team said that “by doing things that help build your own reputation, you are focusing on the right types of activity. Those are the signals we want to find and value the most anyway”, which is great news if you’re a niche website that publishes hundreds of articles on the same subject, which a great depth of knowledge. But what about the wider spectrum? What if you’re a news-based website, and therefore publish articles on politics, sports, film, music and whatever else is considered important that day?

In a time where a newspaper’s core business is no longer printing papers, but producing and delivering content, Content Management Systems is the key to ensuring content is delivered quickly and accurately in real time. More importantly, it ensures that content is high value to readers in terms of quality, reliability and relevancy.

Content Management Systems, or CMS to you and me, is an application that allows for publishing, editing and modifying content in a well-structured and collaborative environment. News outlets, such as The New York Times and the Guardian, have had to adapt to the changes in how readers consume content – gone are the days when most people buy a daily newspaper – as they can easily search a website for the latest news and headlines.

So why is CMS important? Reputable websites like the aforementioned Guardian and The New York Times need their content to be fast – to break these news stories first. The value of a news story rapidly decreases over time. If it isn’t on your website when the news breaks, readers will go elsewhere and not come back. This lowers the website’s value as a news source, and will have negative affect on business revenues – ranging from ad revenues and digital subscriptions. CMS allows content to be updated hundreds of times a day online, which means you can plump up a story once more information is available. This fast paced, steadily growing style can be vital in ensuring readers come back to the website when the next big story breaks.

Of course, a big news story doesn’t happen every day, so CMS needs to support the natural newsroom workflow. By mimicking sophisticated article editing and photo preparation, the CMS allows content to be adapted for web and print, which is an important factor when looking at how valuable the content is.

Another great thing about CMS is that it solves many front-end problems for web designers. By creating a responsive web design with progressive enhancements and semantic markups, CMS makes content more valuable to the team behind the website, as well as the reader. A website with rich semantics helps to keep the reader on your page – by linking topics with tags or author bylines. Some CMSs also allow for native embedding, which can increase valuable metadata by inserting relevant links to youtube, twitter and even creating automatic stats.

So are Content Management Systems the faithful queen to the content king? Yes, if it’s a queen job to make the king more accessible, more valuable and more relevant to it’s loyal subjects.

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