Macclesfield – on the leading edge of digital

Until recently, my only knowledge of Macclesfield was of an unfortunately named supplies shop. And, of course, I’d heard the rumours about a Bond-villain style mansion owned by a certain global mega-agency.

But in fact, I’ve learned that Macclesfield is a burgeoning digital and creative hub.

Set amongst the leafy lanes of Cheshire, the town of Macclesfield has attracted some high-profile names such as Matmi and become an attractive choice for growing businesses like Abstraktion. It’s less than half an hour from Manchester and on the fast line to London too.

So last Wednesday, the cosy surrounds of Inca Cafe Bar played host to some of the leading digital and creative businesses in the area. My occasional cycling buddy Martin invited me and Chris Marsh down to his event Digital Edge, to meet some of the leading digital businesses and give our perspective on the future of the cloud.

Digital Edge is a fun event. About 30 of us packed out the venue, where Claire the owner was serving up local beer, cider, tasty toasties and stew. Good honest grub. And that, for me, really set the tone. Martin had asked us to serve on a ‘panel’, but essentially it was a two-way conversation throughout; an inquisitive, intelligent audience really testing our knowledge about cloud computing and debating our opinions about the future.

We were pretty conscious of turning up to an event like this and not knowing anyone, but there were friendly faces and, of course, Martin kept everything running smoothly – including plying me with some 6% cider from Somerset. And with a crowd that size, it’s actually a chance to talk to everyone that turns up, rather than whipping round quickly collecting business cards.

So is Macclesfield the new Silicon Roundabout? Well apart from the sheer fatuousness of that statement, there is something going on in the cobbled streets of this market town that’s making an impact around the world. We’ll be going back whenever we can to learn more.

Sign-up to Digital Edge on and follow them on Twitter: @digitaledgemacc.

North West (by North) Digital Communities

The Manchester Mark I - first stored program digital computer (c. 1949). From the University of Manchester, Computer Science Dept

The Manchester Mark I - first stored program digital computer (c. 1949).

It seems I’m spending increasingly more of my free time at that brilliant space known as the Manchester Digital Laboratory. Last Wednesday night, the, erm, Madlab played host to a meeting of North West Digital Communities (NWDC), and I went along to fly the flag for the Social Media Café.

NWDC is a forum that brings together the leaders of digital communities in the north west, with the aim of improve the local digital community by sharing resources and pooling ideas.

These communities are incredibly diverse, representing a wide-range of tech interests; technology users groups; communications and small business. It’s also true to say that there is huge overlap and many people involved in one of the communities will be involved in at least one other. Colleagues from Geekup, Madlab, Manchester Free Software, Manchester BSD group and others were all in attendance. Continue reading

90 seconds with Bloombla (or why you shouldn’t overly restrict what your users can do with your service if you want to beat Facebook/Twitter/Big Social)

Bloombla boredom

The red boxes insisting I use a verb/format that Bloombla accepts meant I turned off within moments.

Sort of a nice idea, but any ‘alternative’ to Facebook/Twitter* is going to require an exceptionally easy approach which a more compelling USP. It’s going to require something that provides an open foundation on which other stuff can be built. And it’s going to be as easy to pick up and run with as… well, walking I guess, with shortened user attention spans and constant demands for sign-ups, logins, approvals…

I know ‘we’ talk about Twitter being mainstream, but the good point was made by George Hopkin that Twitter has 6 million users – Facebook has 150 million users, and growing.

To be fair, the elevator pitch lured me in and I did the minimum to reserve my username (90 seconds including first ‘bloom’). But for now, find – and talk to me on Twitter.


* Laconica’s open-source approach is quite cool. Makes you wonder – if email protocols had been commercial, would we have so much email or would it have died a death through lack of revenue? See Laconica in action at