In 2005 a group of us working at IBM’s Hursley lab decided to start a blog about technology and what it was like to work here.

In the 11 years we’ve seen people join and leave, we’ve had weddings and babies, bought houses, had 120 breakfasts together and drunk many cups of tea. We’ve also seen the technology we work with span social media, virtual worlds, cloud, and AI. Some of it has been recorded here. We’ve had a few attempts to restart Eightbar but interest in reading and writing it has faded, so we decided to call it a day.

The content has all been archived and is accessible at: https://eightbar.eu-gb.mybluemix.net or you can download the whole thing at: https://github.com/shawdm/eightbar-static. In a few days we’ll redirect eightbar.co.uk and in a few weeks we’ll let the domain expire.

Most of the contributors are still writing their own blogs. All of them are on Twitter.

Alice Bartlett

Andy Piper

Andy Stanford-Clark

Ben Hardill

Dale Lane

Darren Shaw

Dave Braines

Gareth Jones

Graham White

Ian Hughes

James Taylor

Jon Levell

Josie Messa

Laura Cowen

Nick O’Leary

Rob Smart

Roo Reynolds

Thank you.

IBM Demos at the TEDGlobal Conference

Posted on behalf of Bharat Bedi…

The TEDGlobal Conference was an amazing week of learning, taking inspiration from and connecting with 700 of the world’s thinkers and doers. The speakers at TED gave excellent talks on subjects ranging from how humans might have evolved from aquatic apes to jumping from the edge of space.

Bharat Interview

IBM’s smart planet vision fits in well with TED’s approach of ideas worth spreading and IBM sponsored the Innovation Lounge and the 25 TED fellows at the conference.
The fellows are an amazing group of world changing innovators from around the world.

IBM created two demonstrations for the TED and I had the opportunity to lead the effort around putting these demos together. The demos incorporate a number of technologies including Zigbee, messaging, ambient devices, mobile phone based remote control and monitoring, SMS, RFID, web & AJAX, current cost and home automation!

The first one of these was around using RFID technology to help facility interaction and conversations between the TED fellows and the other attendees at the TED Innovation Lounge . Each fellow was given an RFID tag that detected their presence in the lounge and displayed their profiles on 3 large screens. At the same time wireless ambient devices changed colour to highlight the presence of the fellows.

TED Lounge

The second demo was about being smarter about our energy consumption and home automation. This was a good example of the smarter planet principles of an instrumented, interconnected and intelligent in action. We set up a home lounge environment with appliance such as lamps and fans whose electricity consumption was being monitored. These appliances could be remote controlled via SMS and a mobile phone application. The amount of energy being consumed by the appliance was conveyed in subtle ways again using an ambient device which changed colour.

Huge thanks to Dave Conway-Jones, Andy Stanford-Clark and Andrew Nowell for all their help with creating the demos.

Jessica, Kelly and Frank Invented Twitter

I’m not really in to Twitter and have been asked several times in the last couple of weeks to explain this dark ages behaviour. Sorting through some old patent disclosures, I found that I’d been part of a group that had tried to patent something that essentially was Twitter, in 2003, so it seemed appropriate that I should explain my inconsistencies.

In IBM we used a predecessor to Sametime 7.5, called ICT, for instant messaging. Like Sametime, it allowed you to set a status message with a limited number of characters. Most people left this as the default, “I am online”, “I am away”, but some of us would use it to describe what we were actually working on (this was before Blogs really took off).

We soon got a little bored with this (“I’m writing Java code” soon gets dull, no it was always dull), so we began to be a little more creative, setting our statuses to be little hidden messages that only a small group of people, or even just an individual would understand. It was completely unreliable. The chances of that person hovering over your name, on their buddy list, when you had a message for them was pretty small. That was part of the attraction, because if they did, it was a really nice feeling. It was the equivalent of catching someone’s eye in a meeting and knowing what each other are thinking.

The trouble was, the status messages weren’t persistent, once it had changed there was no way of going back in time. It seemed like a bit of a flaw, so we tried to patent a, “system for the persistence of sequential status messages” (hello Twitter!). It even had a nice little visual mockup included:

This is impressive, not for it’s similarity to Twitter, but for the fact that in the 5 years since, I’ve lost my hair and gained wrinkles, but Kelly looks exactly the same as she does now, i.e. 13. Anyway, the patent rightly got nowhere as there wasn’t anything technologically novel in it.

Over time we stopped setting these status messages, it was fun while it lasted, but I think we just got bored of it. I think this has started to happen for blogging and I think it will for Twitter too. They’re both here to stay, but not in the form they currently take. I think auto status generation will grow and inferences drawn from those will answer the question, “What am I doing now?”. I really don’t see people carrying on writing, “I’m playing cards with @youknowwho” for too much longer.

In the meantime, the thing that will really take off, will be email. 2009 will be the year when people start sending each other emails again, it’ll be like 1998 all over again and I can’t wait. Email is still my favourite form of electronic communication.

* I should also point out that I am wrong about everything like this, always and there is also the possibility that I just don’t get it.

LastFM + IBM = IBM Rocks

Psssst! Ian’s away on holiday and I can’t see Roo, so I’m going to hijack eightbar and write about something none virtual worlds related.

There’s a competition running inside IBM at the moment, it’s to develop a situational application (mashup) using some of the data feeds available on our Intranet. Lots of people here listen to music while they work and being a nerdy population, they also tend to use LastFM. So why not show the music that’s being listened to at different IBM sites across the world? That’s what IBM Rocks does.

IBM Rocks

It takes feeds from our internal directory system (bluepages) and our site location database (RESO) , merges them with LastFM feeds and displays them on a Poly9 3D earth. Pretty simple really, not much business value (so we wont win the competition), but it looks pretty.

Component Templates

From January to May this year I was working as part of an incubator group to develop a technology called, Component Templates.

Component Templates are a way for a subject matter expert to develop a template that will let a less-knowledgeable user customise and configure an asset. The neat thing is that no changes to your existing software are required. So, for example, if I was an Apache web server expert, I could develop templates (via an Eclipse wizard) for an Apache server. These templates then give a non-expert user a gui interface to customising their Apache configuration, but in a limited way, to ensure they couldn’t break it.

Component Templates has just become available for download on alphaworks.


It’s all getting a little Hollywood around here.

As Ian wrote, he appeared on The Register yesterday. On the same day, Andy Stanford-Clark (who is no stranger to the small screen) also made a full page spread in The Telegraph, talking about IBM’s Innovation Jam. I also happen to know there are more media apperances on the way for other Hursley people… Anyone know a good agent? 🙂

Analyst Briefing

Having just got back from New York I came in to Hursley this morning wondering why everyone was looking a little smarter than usual. It turned out we were meant to wear “business casual” (whatever that may be) for an analyst briefing. Analyst briefing? Hmmm, that rings a bell…

Rod Smith did the keynote and then we were in groups of four to talk about customer projects. All of us in my group (Dave B, Graham B, Rob and myself) were suffering a little from jetlag so I hope we made sense. Still, it was good to see James there (I’m pretty sure visitors can get a guest ID for wireless in the house, so not sure why they didn’t sort one of those out for you, some live blogging would have been cool).

Sometimes with these things, I think it’d just be easier to talk about stuff we’re thinking about, rather than having a day long structure, but then maybe it’d be complete chaos. It’s also a shame Ian and Roo weren’t about to show some of the cool Second Life stuff they’ve done. Anyways, I think it was pretty useful for us to get some different perspectives on some of the projects we’re working on and hopefully the analysts got something out of it too.

Eightbar On Top Of The Rock

Some of us from Hursley are in New York at the moment for an ITA workshop. It’s a chance to catch up with the work thats going on in other projects and the research that the rest of the teams are carrying out. Tha main areas that us Emerging Tech people are involved with are social networks, planning, collaboration and sensor networks.

NYC Rockerfeller