Interview with Iain Tait

After the whole preparation bits we started the second module at Hyper Island. It's about today's Information Society and The Future Digital Industry. We're working in groups of seven people, researching different sources around the web in order to find out what's happening at the moment. We also conducted a series of interviews with industry leaders. One of them was a short one with Iain Tait from Poke:

Hyper Island: Before we can attempt to change the digital industry, we'd like to understand what it's about so maybe we can start off with the stuff you like about it right now. What are your favourite bits? You've been in the business quite long and must have seen it all, what kind of stuff gets you excited nowadays?

Iain: The things that excite me about digital are the same as they've always been. Empowerment, democratisation, decentralisation, and so on.

We tend to quickly forget how much the world has changed in the last 10 years. I remember in my first job having to go to a library to look something up. Imagine that!

The book that started it all for me was a book called Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte. It still amazes me how few people actually 'get' the fundamental premise of digitisation. And how once things can be digitised and connected the game totally changes.

HI: What do you think about all the new trends and technologies that are popping up daily? How do you keep yourself in the look and how are you able to keep up with everything? Do you have any tips on how to filter the important stuff out?

Iain: That's a great question. And it's actually at least 2 questions.
Keeping up with everything is impossible. You need to give up now or your brain will explode. It's always been impossible to keep up. The problem is that we've now been sold a lie. We've been told that thanks to wonderful software and gadgets it's possible to stay in the loop with everything. It's not.

Here's my tip for everyone. *Fish in different ponds from everyone else*. Of course you should make sure you know about the big important stuff. But don't just read the same blogs as everyone else. Find some niche stuff. Find some crazy MIT department that specialises in quantum storage theory and subscribe to their RSS feed. Join a Russian techno forum. See how oddballs are using technology. Then start making connections. Interesting stuff happens when you make connections.

Knowing how to filter the good stuff from the bad is tough. It's just a case of watching things over and over again, then you start to spot what works and what doesn't. You'll never get it right all the time, but you'll start to spot patterns and develop instincts. It's the same as anything really, the more you do it, the quicker and better you become.

HI: We guess you guys know some things about Hyper Island. We heard that you even recruit from here. How do you think Hyper Island prepares us for the roles we want to fill in the future? What are your expectations on HI graduates? And maybe you'd like to share what those expectations, tell about Poke and your goals?

Iain:
Stay curious. That's really vital.
The thing that really excited us about HI students is the fact that they've been given a broader education than most. They've been exposed to a broader set of things that most students. And they've not just been taught a bunch of tools. Most importantly of all they seem equipped to learn!

HI: For the final question we'd like you to take out your crystal ball in order to make a prediction on what the next years of digital media have in store for us? It's always better to be a few steps ahead!

Iain: I think we've been through a couple of distinct phases of the web. Firstly it was about websites and software and technology. Secondly it's been about people and connections and creativity. I reckon the next big shift is going to be about connecting 'stuff' to the network.

Nike+ and Fiat Ecodrive get people really excited because they're examples of networked stuff.

But they're both really manual, early examples. You have to take out a thing and connect it to a computer and manually click on things before you get anywhere. What if all that stuff was connected to everything else all the time? In smart ways that made our lives better?

Millions of tiny dumb computers connected to the net that together make something so much bigger than they could ever be on their own. Of course there's loads of things to figure out. Things like privacy and network capacity.

Things like Twitter are also interesting pre-cursors to networks of small bits of information. In the last 3 months I've always heard about celeb-deaths first on twitter, and often I hear about incoming weather first on twitter too. Silly examples, but both show how a kind of real-time network of tiny pieces can start to be incredibly useful.