#PorterMeets Alice Ryan

#PorterMeets Alice Ryan

When everyone sits down to the midnight feast this weekend at FutureBook Hack in the University College London’s Roberts Building, they can toast, among others, one Alice Ryan. The conference and community manager for The Bookseller is certainly managing some major community now, a collective of more than 100 developers, designers, entrepreneurs, engineers, coders, programmers, marketers, and (my favorite) “people who like to think differently.”

They’re the creative corps registered to spend 36 hours together on Saturday and Sunday, working in teams or individually to do what Hack judge and producer Rick Joyce of Perseus Books Group calls “socialising what you’re looking for.”

Once you’ve offered publishing’s needs to a group of hackers who are “fueled by curiosity,” as Ryan puts it, the hope is that you’ll see new thinking, fresh turns on old ideas, imaginative responses to dilemmas.

In our #PorterMeets interview, Ryan puts it this way:


I love her phrase “rising to the next forms of disruption.”  In a single line, of course, this is what any industry faced with the effects of the digital dynamic must do. But rather than think of rising to meet the disruption, it’s easier at times for any of us to cling to old responses, run and hide, duck and cover. Ryan and her associate Blake Brooks, The Bookseller’s marketing and events coordinator, have had the benefit in putting the weekend’s events together of some expert guidance from Matthew Cashmore, digital director for Blackwell’s and a seasoned hackathon producer:

And that compliment reveals a #PorterMeets guest:

One of Ryan and Brooks’ main interests and intents has been push for as much gender balance as possible in the weekend’s events. It’s no secret that the tech industry trends decidedly male and has struggled to find balance in many types of events of its own. Ryan points out:


One of those groups she’s mentioning is Women Who Code, which – not unlike what Brooks and Ryan are doing with the Hack – seeks to create “a local haven for women” in technology, a welcoming atmosphere for specialists of both genders. Another organization FutureBook Hack has reached out to is Rails Girls, another organisation working to “give tools and a community for women to understand technology and to build their ideas.”

During our #PorterMeets exchange, Ryan gives us a quick rundown of the five challenges that will be handed to the participants:

1. Best, most innovative use of publishing data

2. Best use of audio in publishing

3. Automated content curation

4. Discoverability, and how to enable it

5. Best digital reimagination of print assets for children's content

And lest that excellent list make it sound like a weekend of all work and no play, think again. Ryan tells me the Hack has a lot of fun built into the plans, too:

As hackathon fans can tell you, the bottom line is loosening up the usual parameters, not only thinking out of the box but getting away from the box completely, with minds not always focused on publishing and skills not always found among the bookish. Ryan nails it:

A quick reminder to those interested in following: Watch hashtag #FutureBookHack all weekend. And for participants looking to team up, see #FBHTeam – you’ll find your weekend colleagues there.