Four Step Countdown to a Book Launch

Book Launch EventRegular readers will know that we wrote our first book last year, ‘Practical Handbook of Remote Sensing’, and on Thursday, 11th February, Pixalytics is holding its first book launch event! We’ve organised it ourselves, and so we thought it might be helpful to give you our four tips for running your own event.

Four: Location, Location, Location
Where to hold the launch? We have a small office and it was not feasible to have it here, so we needed a venue. We thought about hiring rooms in hotels, bookshops or conference centres, but they didn’t feel right. It was then we thought of Plymouth Athenaeum, a local organisation interested in the promotion of the Arts, Literature, Science and Technology – as we’ve got a book on science and technology this seemed ideal!!

The Athenaeum building is in the centre of Plymouth, it was opened in 1961 after the original 1819 building was destroyed in the 1941 Plymouth Blitz. The venue has a lecture theatre, library and lounge which were perfect for what we wanted; it’s also got an actual theatre, but we decided that was a bit beyond us!

We met Owen Ryles, the Acting Honorary General Secretary, who was fantastic in sorting out the arrangements. We had a venue!

Three: Marketing & Publicity
Now we needed awareness. We needed marketing and publicity! We started tweeting about our event, and were delighted to get a lot of likes and retweets. We are really grateful to all our Twitter friends who got involved. The local newspaper, Plymouth Herald, ran an article. Our flyer was also circulated/promoted by other organisations, and we need to thank people at Hydrographic Society UK, Marine Learning Alliance, Plymouth Athenaeum, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth Science Park and Plymouth University who were all great.

Our event has been promoted around the Plymouth area, but also as far away as Australia and USA. We’ve definitely raised awareness!

Two: Freebies
Getting bums on seats. With lots of people knowing about the event, we need to get them out of the house on what looks like being a chilly and damp February evening. So we decided to give away some freebies! The event will have:

  • Free entry
  • Free raffle to win a copy of the book will be drawn on the night.
  • Free postcards, leaflets and pens on remote sensing and Pixalytics.
  • Free refreshments – tea, coffee, biscuits and cakes.

One: Know Your Audience
Who is coming? As our event is free to attend, we don’t know who is coming or even how many! We’ve promoted it to the scientific/student community who know Sam, the local writing community who know me, the business community who know Pixalytics and those linked to the Athenaeum. It is potentially a varied cross section of an audience.

We decided to start the event with a bit about what remote sensing is, and how you can do it yourself. Sam will then use a lot of images to show the different things you can find out with remote sensing and we’ll end the first part of the evening with a discussion on what it was like to write a book together – the positive, the challenges and how close we came to divorce!

After that we’ll move to the lounge where there will be a small exhibition of remote sensing images, the book, refreshments and we’ll draw the raffle. Hopefully there will be something for everyone here.

This is the journey to our first book launch. However, there are still things we don’t know:

  • Will we remember to take everything?
  • Will the weather be horrible?
  • Are people interested in remote sensing?
  • Will anyone turn up?

We’ll tell you the answers next week!

Update After The Book Launch

To answer the questions we posed:

  • We remembered everything apart from the pineapple! (It was part of an audience participation event demonstrating the principles of remote sensing, too complicated to go into!)
  • The weather was not too bad.
  • Yes they are – given the amount of people who came up to us after the demonstration to ask questions and tell us how much they enjoyed the evening.
  • Yes! About 45 people were are the event which was great for us!

We had a great night and even managed to sell copies of the book! We found some interesting information about Plymouth Athenaeum and its links to the Royal Society, got some interest from local students and even had the local paper in attendance taking pictures!

All in all, it was very enjoyable, and tiring, evening!


Citizen Science, Secchi Disks & Ocean Optics

Tomorrow I’m off to the Ocean Optics conference, which has taken place every two years since 1965 and brings together specialists united by light in the ocean; this year the conference has topics as varied as environmental management, fluorescence, remote sensing, phytoplankton, sediments and underwater imaging.

Secchi disk measurements, as of mid October 2014

Secchi disk measurements, as of mid October 2014

I first came to Ocean Optics in 2006, when it was held in Montreal, Canada. I enjoyed it so much I’ve attend every one since, which have been in Castelvecchio (Italy), Anchorage (USA) and Glasgow (Scotland), and this time we are in Portland, in Maine USA. One of the things I really like it is, unlike large conferences, there are no parallel sessions, and so I don’t have to make any difficult decisions on which speakers I can, and those I can’t, see. Conferences can reinforce the silo approach, with the Ocean Colour group meeting in one room and the land remote sensors meeting in another. I think the Ocean Optics format promotes a more collaborative atmosphere, where you see a more diverse range of presentations and people. The collaborative approach to research and innovation is at the centre of my philosophy of working, and so Pixalytics is also one of the conference sponsors.

Next Tuesday, I’m giving a keynote presentation on Crowdsourcing Ocean Optics. My presentation will bring together the topics of Citizen Science, collaborative research that includes members of the public in any one of a variety of way, and Earth observation (EO) data acquired via ocean colour satellites; one example of this is the Secchi Disk project.

A Secchi disk, originally created in 1865 by Father Pietro Angelo Secchi – who was the
Pope’s astronomer, is a flat white disk 30cm in diameter, attached to a tape measure or a rope and also weighted from below. The Secchi Disk is lowered vertically into the water from the side of a boat, and the point at which the disk just disappears from sight is recorded. This depth measures the turbidity of the water, which is influenced by the amount of phytoplankton in the water column.

The Secchi Disk project developed smartphone Apps to allow participants to use a homemade Secchi disk and their smartphone / tablet to record and upload depth data alongside positional information. Through everyone uploading their measurements we are building up a global map of Secchi depths.

The project is a collaboration between Dr Richard Kirby who leads the project and publicity, with Dr Nicholas Outram and Dr Nigel Barlow (Plymouth University) as the App developers, and myself for the online database and EO linkages. The Apps were released at the end of February 2013, and since then 481 Secchi disk measurements have been collected globally; see the figure at the top that shows the global distribution of the uploaded data with the coloured Secchi disks indicating the values recorded.

The Secchi Disk project data is being compared to ocean colour satellite measurements as a cross-validation exercise and, in the longer term, to contribute to our understanding of phytoplankton dynamics. Why don’t you become part of the growing citizen science movement, go on take a measurement and upload it!

Student Placements at a Micro Business

With the end of the academic year in sight, many students and organisations will be thinking about work placements or summer internships. Hosting work placement students for microbusinesses and SME’s is hugely rewarding, and challenging, for both parties. At Pixalytics we’ve just finished hosting our first 8 week work placement student, Bryony Hanlon, from Plymouth University and so between us we’ve put together this blog to give both prospective placement students and host organisations some ideas of the things you need to think about before you get started:

For students we’ve listed four questions an organisation might ask before deciding whether to offer a placement. Remember while getting a placement seems the most difficult part, spending time making sure the placement is well planned and structured will give you and the employer the best outcome.

  1. Why do you want to do a placement with us? This may sound obvious, but before you ask for a placement, make sure you know why you want to do it with that company specifically and what you want to gain from it!
  2. Why did you apply to us in particular? During your research you should have identified the most relevant organisations; they may be completing a project that is of particular interest to you, offer practical experience to develop a particular skill, or may offer experience of a particular type or organisation, such as consultancy. It’s really important to know this with a micro-business as they may only operate in a niche area, or they may only have one or two projects they are working on. If you want to gain particular experience or skills, make sure the business can support that.
  3. How would the placement help to support your future career development? Make sure your CV sells your skills and demonstrates a clear career path or area of interest. Highlight any practical experience, paid work and volunteering. Tell the employer what you want to gain from the placement by specifying the kind of projects you would like to work on or activities that you would like to be involved with.
  4. What time commitment can you offer us? Outline your availability but be realistic, especially if you also have a part time job or volunteering responsibilities. Again vital for a micro-business as they may have to bend or alter their work patterns to support the placement; which generally can be done with planning.

The focus for employers is a little different; while students may be keen, you still need to lead the placement. This can be challenging for a micro business, with everything else you have to keep on top of. Things to consider:

  1. Can you physically host a placement student? It’s obvious, but do they have somewhere to sit? Do they need access to IT facilities, door access swipe cards, security clearance, parking permits or any specific training or equipment?
  2. How will you supervise the student and who will undertake this? You need to be clear who is supervising the student and they need to have the time, skills and willingness to do it – this is key to the success of the placement. For micros and SME’s this dedicated time can be difficult with workloads, but remember students can work independently, you don’t have to be with them all the time and some support and supervision can be done by email or skype; but not everything. You need to meet the student regularly to discuss progress and support them through the work.
  3. How will the student benefit your organisation? This is vital for the micro and SME employer; you need to make the most of opportunity you have. Can the student work on a project that you don’t have time to do, are they assisting in you with a specific piece of work or do they have skills you don’t have that you can utilise? Also remember, a great student could make a future great employee – you have to impress them too!
  4. How will you manage performance during the placement? Be clear at the start what outcome you’re expecting – is it a written report, project completed, research done or sales generated. Agree realistic goals and communicate throughout the placement, weekly monitoring and feedback meetings are great.

A successful placement should benefit employers and the students, as well as helping to boost your organisation’s reputation. We’ve benefited greatly from what Bryony has done over the last couple of months, and the outcome of her work will influence the way our company develops over the coming months and years. So if you’re a micro or SME thinking about taking on a student this year, we’d say go for it!

Blog produced by Bryony Hanlon, Work Placement student at Pixalytics, and Andy Lavender, Director at Pixalytics.