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An evening with Tom Watson, Peter Mandleson and the Digital Pioneers

Yes we rub shoulders with all the great Statesmen here at Mobile Industry Review. Tom Watson? Tom man. Peter ‘The Business’ Mandleson? Right on. All in a night’s work for us.

Well, not really.

I was, as I wrote last night, rather curious as to what merited the invitation to this Digital Pioneers event, hosted by Tom Watson (MP for West Bromwich East). Tom is also Government Minister responsible for Digital Engagement (and, I think — if memory serves, a newer brief with the Civil Service). My dilemma: Am I a blogger? Or am I a publisher of news and opinion for the mobile industry? Blogger, I reckon.

Tom is a regular blogger himself — and on issues that thoroughly interest me. I particularly liked his recent post on the possibility of having a Google Email List for every street in the UK, or a Twitterfeed for every street in the UK. That would be genius. Can you imagine the possibilities that would offer?

The event was held in Admiralty House, number 26 Whitehall. This is where your average First Lord of the Sea used to base himself when the British Navy was busy discovering the likes of Australia. Very smart indeed. No sitting on sofas, either. I arrived uber early on account of having an unusually pleasant and speedy experience on the underground from Liverpool Street and immediately bumped into Sam and his colleagues from Chinwag. As well as being the MIR media sales chaps, they’re also very nice people too.

I bumped into Paul Clarke, the chap who runs Direct.gov — the British Government’s online presence. I thought I’d try and be new-media and instead of swapping business cards, look him up on Facebook there-and-then. I whipped out the Blackberry Bold and … bish bash bosh, 2 minutes later, couldn’t find him.

I logged into m.facebook.com and did a search. That took a good 2 minutes of foot-tapping whilst the patient Paul watched on.

“Right, Paul Clarke, Civil Service!” I said, pointing at a profile at the top of my Bold screen, “That’s gotta be you?”

“No, I’m jumping on to a bean bag at Google’s HQ in my profile photo, that’s not me,” he tells me.

Arse. I flick to the next page.

“It’s ok Paul, I’ve got three more pages of results here,” I tell him.

My experiment at avoiding old-world physical business cards isn’t going well.

Eventually I give up. Can’t find him.

“I’m on LinkedIn though?” he says and I momentarily contemplate doing an m.linkedin.com search… before thinking better of it. Paul found me on Facebook this morning and added me. Thanks Paul. And, er, thanks for your patience.

Paul, incidentally, has one of the best email addresses I’ve ever seen. p then the @ sign, then the rest of his full name. Genius.

Radiating across the room was The Daily Networker — Mr Oli Barrett. If you haven’t met Oli, you will. It’s only a matter of time for he knows a LOT of people and, as well as dressing extremely sharply, has a phenomenal memory and recollection. I said hi to Oli – he’s now sporting a Blackberry. Speaking of which, there were a LOT of Blackberries around.

Indeed Robert Driver, Director of the High Technology Sectors for UK Trade & Investment showed me his secure Vodafone Blackberry.

“Ah, can you run Google Talk on that?” I asked.

“No. Only email. No other data at all,” he said, with a hint of disappointment. It’s all very well being secure. I get that. But it’s a bit of a shame he can’t do ‘data’ things like use the browser and chat away on Google Talk.

Sarbjit Sing Bakhshi, Head of the ICT Sector Group for UK Trade & Investment was having none of my covering excuses for bearing big business cards. Or, er, postcards.

“I made a mistake when I ordered them,” I said. I had the bright idea of ordering postcards as business cards. You can stick a lot more information on them and they’re big. Nice and big. But when people are pulling out Moo cards and handing them over, you feel a bit of a plonker bringing out a flippin’ great postcard and swapping it.

“Lies!” Sarbjit exclaimed, “The font [he says, gesturing to the back of the card] would be too small on a business card.”

As he said this, I caught sight of the ‘MA, Barrister’ title bit by his name on his card. Uh oh. My embarrasment compounded as I imagined being crucified across a courtroom.

“I put it to YOU Mr MacLeod…”

Anyway I asked Sarbjit to keep me updated on any mobile companies he finds that we should shine a light on.

I spent a good five or ten minutes berating Andrew Scott of Rummble for even being there in the room. Get THEE to San Francisco. That was my message. Raising money in the UK is like repeatedly putting your Johnson

To semi mis-quote Blackadder, “I’d no sooner place my daughter in the hands of a man who didn’t love her raise money in the UK as I’d place my john thomas in the hands of a lunatic with a pair of scissors.”

Rummble is doing extremely well – if you haven’t caught their iPhone application, get it from the App Store and have a play. I did spot Jemima Kiss of the Guardian quite a few times but never managed to actually say hi. So hello Jemima. Sorry!

Simon Grice, the founder of PersonalMail (Europe’s first web-based email service — I was a user!) was there and I am delighted to hear he has a new company coming soon. It’s all about local – which is the way ahead. No more details yet alas.

Ryan Carson of Carsonified was back to his old self (having been ill for his Future of Mobile conference) recently. I spotted him and his rather swish looking hat across the room and went over to say hi. Robert Loch, another chap I know from many moons ago was also there — his new service, Njoyed, does not appear to be live as yet. I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s cooked up though.

Kudos to Tom from brilliant gadget retailer, Firebox, who complimented my hair. That has never happened to me ever before.

I was surprised and mildly gratified that the Secretary of State for Business — is that his title? — Peter Mandleson, popped by for a few minutes. Robert Loch was telling me that Rory Cellan-Jones of the BBC asked him about Twitter. Perhaps predictably, Mr Mandleson was reportedly unaware of the service. At which point Rory took a picture and Twittered it. Here it is. Smart.

An excellent evening.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

3 replies on “An evening with Tom Watson, Peter Mandleson and the Digital Pioneers”

It was certainly an interesting crowd – and good to meet you face to face.

I was an interesting intersection of people. I'd say that the government figures there were a nod to how important our industry segment is becoming to UK Plc. With the finance sector no longer what it was (cough), other forms of innovation have shuffled up the queue to the top.

From a different angle, you have me wondering if mobile might be an answer to the digital exclusion issue (mentioned in the comments on Tom Watson's blog)… That's if the usability issue gets cracked of course…

It was certainly an interesting crowd – and good to meet you face to face.

I was an interesting intersection of people. I'd say that the government figures there were a nod to how important our industry segment is becoming to UK Plc. With the finance sector no longer what it was (cough), other forms of innovation have shuffled up the queue to the top.

From a different angle, you have me wondering if mobile might be an answer to the digital exclusion issue (mentioned in the comments on Tom Watson's blog)… That's if the usability issue gets cracked of course…

It was certainly an interesting crowd – and good to meet you face to face.

I was an interesting intersection of people. I'd say that the government figures there were a nod to how important our industry segment is becoming to UK Plc. With the finance sector no longer what it was (cough), other forms of innovation have shuffled up the queue to the top.

From a different angle, you have me wondering if mobile might be an answer to the digital exclusion issue (mentioned in the comments on Tom Watson's blog)… That's if the usability issue gets cracked of course…

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