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James Rutherford

Web, design, Newcastle, games and fun!


Tag: Newcastle

As a counterpoint for the rant about startups and politics yesterday, here is a selection of fine new web tech businesses that are gathering their wings in Newcastle:


Happiest helps positive attitude flow, encouraging happy habits for self improvement and facilitating a happy peer support network.

The project is fuelled by a very respectable and eclectic team of local talent, is currently in private beta, but should be going for full public launch very soon.

Take a look at Happiest.


ScribeSub has a different take to traditional article publishing models, allowing individual authors to release their content on a pay-as-you-go $1/read basis. It permits a more direct, rewarding bond between reader and author.

It’s in early public launch phase and hopes to gather a decent critical mass of users/content in order to get traction.

Take a look at ScribeSub.

65 Hours

Time banking turns time into currency. 65 Hours works as the centralised bank for individuals wishing to share their skills with each other, but not wishing to involve the complication of cash.

65 Hours is launched to the public and ready to try.

Take a look at 65 Hours.

Love Your Larder

Love Your Larder is an online marketplace for artisan foods. Local-scale producers can benefit from the site’s ready-to-go structure and social reach, selling with little time investment and for a minimal percentage cost.

The site launched before Christmas and is continually adding new producers. Any intermediate-expert PHP developers interested in helping to build the project further should get in touch with them.

Take a look at Love Your Larder.

Wedding Tales

My own business… writer’s privilege. ;)

Our first release from MemoryMerge is an online service to make it as easy as possible to collect in photos from guests’ cameras at a wedding, keeping them privately shared just for those who were at the event to enjoy.

We’ve currently launched to private beta (i.e. it’s working live, but we’re limiting the release). Please get in touch if you’re interested in the service for your event.

Take a look at Wedding Tales.

Other hot tips include…

Poster-child of the first Difference Engine, ScreenReach, currently rolling through funding rounds and picking up critical acclaim.

The enterprising folk behind 1DayLater, the King Brothers. Currently keeping other projects warm, but always full of ideas.

The Usable HQ team. Their first project is still under wraps, but expect some noise from them in the latter half of this year.

CustomerSure – a SAAS solution for customer service, shortly to launch.

Say ‘Hello’

It’s been exciting to feel some of the buzz from these projects. Interested parties should check out SuperMondays and the Geekest Drink meetings to rub shoulders with these folk!

A few forthcoming events were announced at SuperSEO (SuperMondays)…

10th June – Thursday Fizz

Business speaker and former ‘Dragon’ Rachel Elnaugh gives a morning talk, then an afternoon workshop.

The Hub’s 1st Birthday Bash runs throughout the evening at the Baltic.

References: Thursday Fizz

24th June – GDS Bitesize Workshops

Business workshops for the North-East Digital sector.

References: Gateshead Digital Summer

24th June – Summer Net-Together

Codeworks Connect / Think and a Drink annual barbecue and social event.

References: Summer Net-Together 2010

15-16th July – Webdurance

David King introduced the Webdurance ‘charity hack’ event, bringing together 36 web developers to build/expand websites for 6 charities over the course of 24 hours.

It should be a lot of fun and very wholesome. Volunteers are still encouraged to apply.

References: Webdurance websiteWebdurance Twitter

Last night’s SuperMondays SEO event (which – breaking format – really ought to have been entitled ‘SEOperMondays’) convened at the Beehive, Newcastle University and was, yet again, well attended.

The format mirrored previous events; registration/refreshments, followed by general announcements for us North-East geeks, a number of talks and then away to the pub… which we packed out (that’s what you call a good conversion rate!)

To keep my notes digestable and focussed, I’ll be splitting them over five (!) posts- I’m cleaving off some ‘Diary Dates’ and a further three for the talks themselves.

The general notices included:

NorthernNet – Northern Knowledge

High-speed communications network connecting the North, launching a business directory (Northern Knowledge).

References: NorthernNet

Inkspot Science

Collaborative data sharing and analysis/workshop tools provided as a cloud service. An earlier SuperMondays talk by Paul Watson outlined some of the technology.

References: Inkspot Science

…and Way Back When

Long-time SuperMondays attendees may remember Craig Rothwell’s talk on the OpenPandora handheld back in January 2009. It’s taken a long time, but the good news is that the first consumer units have just started shipping- and it looks like an excellent little machine, particularly for the games player on the move! Better still, it’s a user focussed project, and units are being assembled here in Newcastle.

References: OpenPandora

This month’s SuperMondays event pulled the magnifying glass over the first intake of tech start-up accelerator, The Difference Engine.

Jon Bradford opened with an introduction to the scheme- a model which runs most successfully in the US (they have ten placements to every one in Europe).

The Difference Engine provides seed fund and mentoring for promising tech projects, in exchange for an 8% business stake. £20k funding is provided (from a mixture of public and private investment) and the mentoring runs over a 13 week period at Middlesbrough’s Boho One.

Introductions, contacts and experience are brought to the fledgling teams, and after the incubation period, they are given the opportunity to demo to venture capitalists in the North and London.

This first round had 70 applicants across Europe, of which 10 were selected (and one was lost before the 2nd March start).

He was followed by representatives from five of the nine groups:

(Interested parties should be able to glean information about their projects from Twitter feeds)

The remaining four start-ups are headed by:

Further info:

This month’s meeting of SuperMondays started with a talk from PayPalX ‘Chief Wizard’, John Lunn (@johnxcom) about PayPal’s fledgeling services for mobile app integration. These are likely to be available across the mobile platforms, but will initially be available for iPhone developers.

Apple’s terms require that 3rd party payment services must be used for ‘real world’ rather than ‘digital’ goods, so they’re restricted in scope, but, in the right place, should offer a smooth payment flow without the security minefield associated with accepting credit cards through mobile devices.

John was joined by colleague Anthony Hicks (@anthonyxcom), Jon Nairn (@jonstep, working for @neverodd), Alex Reid (@alexjreid) and Peter Bull (@RoguePlanetoid) for a panel Q&A session.

General points of note from the session and pub discussions:

  • Perhaps surprising to some, the iPhone market accounts for a small proportion of mobile devices, and Android mobiles are apparently selling at twice the rate of iPhone.
  • iPhone users are generally more comfortable with app purchasing, and represent a more general consumer demographic.
  • Submissions and updates are developer-driven for Android, so app deployment can be rapid- especially when compared to Apple’s approval process.
  • Development for the less popular platforms may attract incubation or start-up funding.
  • Some high-qualify third-party technology exists for integration, e.g. Bump, OpenFeint.
  • Commercially, producing good middleware may be a better gamble than a good app.
  • Windows Phone 7 Series sounds promising.

Events like SuperMondays are great for setting bits of your brain in motion- even if the talks don’t directly relate to your field of expertise, and your thoughts don’t directly relate to the talks!

See: SuperMobile event listing, @SuperMondays.

North-East mobile app developers, and those requiring app development should check out Paul Smith’s AppNorth group for contacts.


Tyne Twestival took place at The Tyne Bar last night.

Tickets were available for £4 (or £20 for generous donors), and included two free £3 drink vouchers. Even my rusty mental arithmetic can tell you that’s a good value night- especially when the ticket cost is a charity donation… thanks, sponsors!

So, a night of drink, chat, cupcakes, raffle prizes and live music- and a good opportunity to put faces to Twitter names, and meet some new people to boot.

There was a good mix of people I knew, knew of, and didn’t know at all- and it was certainly well attended. The outside area was a bustling mass, especially for the raffle call (which was compèred by the rather smooth Paul Smith).

Personally, I shied from the music- I prefer something a bit less attention-grabbing when there’s good chat to be had – though I appreciate it adds to the atmosphere of a space like the Tyne Bar pen.

Altogether, Tyne Twestival 2010 looks to have raised more than £1450 from ticket sales, and another £590 on the night for charity Concern, neatly smashing the £1500 target. [Update: £2,803.05!]

See: Thomas Jackson Photography, Shepy’s photos, Specular’s photo set, , Audio clip (warning, it’s a bit ‘Eurovision’!), blog entry, Brittany Coxon (photo set, video1, video2, video3).

YourFilm video:

(more photos linked as and when I find ‘em!)

Follow: @TyneTwestival for future events.

Newcastle / Tyne Twestival will take place tonight from 7pm at The Tyne Bar.

It’s a social meet-up event for folk who use Twitter, featuring local bands and competitions, organised to fundraise for a charity – Concern.

I know a slice of the attendee list, follow a larger chunk, and know of most of the rest, so it should be a nice mix of familiar and partly familiar for me.

We seem to be well on the way to making the fundraising target, but I believe there are still tickets available. Grab one and come join in the fun!

Twitter: follow @TyneTwestival / search for #TyneTwestival

Tickets and more information: Newcastle Twestival Website

BarCamp North East 3 took place over the weekend, with around 45 attendees and pleasing geographical pull (a fair few ‘campers’ caught early trains from around the country).

It had a different feel to BCNE2. The environment was a bit more formal and there didn’t seem to be as much in the sessions that I connected with- though a good tip of the hat should go to Tim Nash’s talks (“PayPal Hacks” / “Get off Your Arse”), Richard Hyett’s “Dashboards” and Harry Palmer’s introduction to his eccentric work.

Sadly I couldn’t stay for the breakout sessions (since I’d booked in for 3D Disco)- and, as such, missed some of the livelier action and a bunch of night-owl attendees.

Nevertheless, It was an entertaining weekend, with engaging people – and left me energised and buzzing with thoughts.


I hosted a couple of sessions, and was pleased that both were well attended:

“Finding Creativity”

An attempt to pull ideas to find out how people best foster their creativity / problem-solving. Particularly interesting to me were people’s attempts to catalyse the subconscious- thinking very hard about a problem before going to bed; listening to a single looped tune; and distracting the conscious mind deliberately. I’d like to have explored much deeper, and in a few different directions, but time ran away.

“80s Videogamers Anonymous”

A fun session – a little early for the ‘late-session’ style, but I pressed on regardless. We started with a bit of nostalgic confessional, before moving on to an ‘A-Z’ of 80′s videogames knock-out and a “What am I?” game styled on daytime TV favourite, ‘Going for Gold’. Bubble Bobble stickers were won, mostly by Ian Pouncey and Chris Neale. Ian took the grand prize too – a Space Invader keyring (yes, yes, that’s 1978, I know!!)


Huge thanks to Alistair for his masterful organisation of the event; Newcastle’s Centre of Life for hosting; Yahoo and Microsoft for sponsorship.

Looking forward to BarCampNE4… :)

(Partial) Attendance List

[Contact me if I've missed you off!]

  • Alex Kavanagh (@ajkavanagh)
  • Alistair MacDonald (@alistair, Alistair’s blog)
  • Brian Degger (@sctv)
  • Caroline Mockett (@cazm)
  • Chris Neale (@onion2k)
  • Christiano Betta (@cbetta)
  • Danni Matzk (@Dannilion)
  • David Batty (@DavidBatty)
  • Dom Hodgson (@TheHodge, The Hodge)
  • Eric Nelson (@ericnel)
  • Harry Palmer (Harry Palmer)
  • Ian Pouncey (@IanPouncey)
  • James Rutherford (me!, @jtruk, @designnewcastle)
  • Lee Cann (@leeky)
  • Martin Cunningham (@martin88)
  • Melinda Seckington (@mseckington, Miss Geeky)
  • Mr Duck (@duck365)
  • Neil Crosby (@NeilCrosby)
  • Peter Bull (@RoguePlanetoid)
  • Rebecca Parker (@Rebecca_Parker)
  • Rich Quick (@richquick)
  • Richard Hyett
  • Tim Nash (@tnash, Tim Nash)

Back in the swirling comedy mists of time there was a sketch group called Soup. We proudly presented a new show monthly- usually flying on only a couple of weeks-worth of script time.

I’d like to think we were quite experimental- it was a little bit ‘cabaret’, but also included filmed video sections- all presented with raw amateur flair. The show settled on a circus theme initially (a world apart from tragic BBC sitcom, Big Top), later moving direction to a rather odd school. I think it ran for around three years in total.

Soup dissolved for a couple of reasons: Machinations of the Newcastle comedy circuit – the main comedy club, The Hyena, changed ownership and focus, leaving us without a regular venue. I think the main players in the group also decided there were better places to grow their comedy talents and moved en-masse to Manchester – where Jason Cook, Lee Fenwick (a.k.a Mick Sergeant), John Cooper, Dan Nightingale and Seymour Mace are all going strong.

Lee headlined last night at The Laughing Penguin comedy night. He’s always been a fan of challenging character comedy- and I have to say, he’s really nailed it now. While Mick has always been enjoyable, there’s been something about him that’s seemed inconsistent; pulling him back from being stellar. Not last night. After a very mixed line-up (amongst whom Adnan Ahmed‘s relaxed delivery shone), Mick came out and stormed our hearts and minds.

It was great to see a couple of old Soupers there: John Bullock, Ben Traynor and Suj Pannu (whose brother, Raj, presided over Soup’s music) were all in attendance and in good form.

I certainly miss that time of life. Soup gave me a quirky outlet for my energies, and I met some very talented people there. In some ways I regret that I didn’t take a more active part in pushing the show further, because it certainly had potential to travel. I was too wrapped up in an (over-)full-time job to give it more attention, I suppose.

Special mentions also to Mick Laffey (our long-suffering ring-master) and Tim Hodgson (the funniest man to ever grace a stage with carpet taped to his head).

Heinz, Pugsley, the Ringmaster, and yes- even you, the twisted Sweetie Man; this is in loving memory of the fun times!

The Novak Collective are rolling out 3D Disco for a rare showing in their home town of Newcastle- a night of audio/visual/dance fun wearing those retro red and blue 3D specs!

I learnt of their events at the SuperTelly tech-meet (a SuperMondays / joint event), and finally get to experience it; their promo video blew me away- the 3D effect was brilliantly strong and they certainly know what they’re doing with the tunes.

Here’s what it’s all about:

See also: Novak Collective’s YouTube channel and their MySpace page. Check out the past event photos too!… how much fun?!

The night marks the closing of Newcastle Science Fest. Tickets are £10. More details here.

I’ll also give me great op to wear my 3D T-Shirt!