Puntcon 2018

Conferences are fun, but don’t have ducklings. Or champagne. Many years ago the legendary Geek Punt Picnic morphed into PuntCon, the Cambridge leg of the alternative conference circuit. And after the undoubted success of our earlier ventures, we’re going to head off up river again on Sunday 1st July 2018.


In keeping with tradition there will be no talks, no presentations, no agenda, and nothing to disturb the quiet delights of the river on a Sunday afternoon. But apart from that, it’s a conference and therefore probably tax-deductible.


The Official Invitation:


You are invited to Puntcon, the fourteenth great geek punt picnic, taking place on or about the River Cam on the afternoon of Sunday 1st July 2018.


Full details are here on Eventbrite. There’s a Facebook event, too, for those who want it.


Although it says there are 250 tickets that is ‘nominal’ as it’s a big river… but Eventbrite needed a number 🙂


How it Works:


As before, turn up outside the Mill public house on Mill Lane between 1200 and 1230.



Four or five of will be deputised as PUNTERS and will come with Sam and Bill to collect the boats, the others will walk up beyond the rollers where we board



We will head off  between 1230 and 1300 – if you are late you can walk up river and catch us as we don’t punt very fast!  We will be heading upriver rather than along the Backs – more picnic places, fewer tourists. We normally stop half-way along Grantchester Meadows and hum Pink Floyd tunes.



Bring something to drink and something to eat. Actually, bring a lot to eat and a lot to drink – it’s thirsty work!


Note that there aren’t any toilets (but there are hedges) – the nearest pub/tea room is approx 20 min walk)


Punts will be booked/organised/commandeered for you so you do not need to hire one. We will take as many punts as we need [one for every six/twelve people] and head up river to a convenient picnic place on Grantchester Meadows where we will eat/drink/carouse. Those arriving late can join us there.


Anyone can punt. Anyone can be shown how to punt. But you are not expected to punt.


We normally get back to Scudamores around 1800. Those heading back to the railway station can be dropped at a bridge within walking distance.


Post punting we have the option of retiring to the pub or a restaurant and letting Sunday evening happen around us.


How Much


There is no registration fee or indeed any other cost. Bring food and drink and entertainment. Punt fare will be split between all comers –  it works out at twenty pounds per person. Infants are not expected to contribute.


The Invitees


Please feel free to invite other people – it’s a big river and there are lots of punts. This page is here to give us a rough idea of numbers in advance so I know how much bread to get, but there’s a Sainsburys five minutes walk away anyway…


Some idea of who’s coming is available via the facebook (unfortunately, other platforms aren’t really available). Book your spot in a punt via eventbrite.


So come along — it’ll be fun.



@billt and @smithsam


posted: 25 Apr 2018

Falsified Medicines and beyond

One of the side conversations at the Mattereum Identity summit on Monday was the idea of tracking individual copies of objects (‘this bottle of Coke’), not just classes of objects, (‘a bottle of Coke’). It is a solution searching for a meaningful problem (in London at least).

The Falsified Medicines Directive is the EU-wide response to fake medicines affecting Africa and China. The Directive places obligations on all parts of the medicine supply chain to keep, publish, and share records on flows of medicines in and out. Relevant parts come into effect in 2019 (pre-Brexit).

The end goal is to allow anyone looking at a pack of pills from a pharmacy in the EU to be able to trace those back through the supply chain to the manufacturer that made them, through every intermediary. Any one customer can keep the entire chain honest.

This will not stop falsified medicines being created, but it will show when and audit where they appear in the supply chain, and give clear reassurances to a patient holding a pack of pills.

It may be a while before a central system can cope with a lot of people seeing a news report of a problem and putting their packet’s barcode into a website, in a manner that is usable and reliable. There are scalability and coordination issues that a single closed system may struggle to overcome.

When the public see something that works (however the NHS system ends up working), there will be increasing demand for a similar audit for other important purchases when the supply chain contains risk or food chain are involved. Options include one real pill being equal to one digital token to represent the pill, with faucets available for anyone who either creates pills or who receives them from an intermediary who doesn’t comply.

For the “but blockchain is just a database” crowd, a form of distributed data structure where everyone can write, where better standards are de facto than de jure, and where no one is really in charge, is a perfect environment for how to do things well in the NHS. Plus, the NHS is a culture that has not had entirely positive experiences instituting databases. But as always, our health and blockchain questions apply.


posted: 13 Apr 2018