David Jennings

David Jennings

I'm interested in creating online environments that help people learn and discover things that interest, excite and challenge them. In particular, I'm curious about how we discover things; how we forage our way around a world of cultural surplus, where everything is available on-demand, and we have to decide for ourselves what to attend to next. My recent book, Net, Blogs and Rock 'n' Roll, explores the mix of social networking, automated recommendations (such as Amazon's) and trusted gatekeepers that aids discovery.

I began my career as an occupational psychologist, working on the human factors of corporate IT systems in the 1980s. As the application of technology broadened into more and more domains, and beyond corporate functions, I sought out the areas where IT affects team communications, learning and creative production — the places where sensitivity to human and social characteristics is most critical.

What I do and who I do it for

I help:

  • providers of learning to establish new systems, infrastructure, courses and support, or review existing ones;
  • owners/commissioners of online resources, tools and community platforms to articulate the experience they want their users to have, and to improve usability to realise this vision;
  • agencies in the public and third sectors to understand how and where they can best focus their learning and technology efforts, often through a combination of research and strategy review.

And I back this up with strong skills in writing and project management.

As examples of the first kind of intervention,

  • I developed an approach to overhauling the National College for School Leadership's online leadership forums, exploiting social media tools to support better peer learning;
  • for Ufi (learndirect), I led the usability work in developing the initial national infrastructure, and later reviewed how to get most value from their tutor support;
  • for the Trades Union Congress, I managed a project to convert two courses for online delivery, as well as building the technical and organisational support for them, and a manual for developing further courses;
  • for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, I have developed and delivered courses in online coaching and mentoring, and advised on a major online teaching qualification.

In the second category, I led a top-to-bottom usability review of the web portal for the National Centre for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics and the user testing of prototypes of CenturyShare, a Joint Information Systems Committee/BBC project to develop a timeline-based aggregator of multimedia resources for learning. My input when working with creative enterprises like the National Centre for Popular Music and Forced Entertainment is more conceptual, but still focused on the user experience of interactive media.

I've helped Government education departments (OK, one department with an ever-changing name), regional development agencies and quango-style organisations like the Learning and Skills Improvement Service to target their initiatives by enabling them to understand the changing ecologies of the online and skills environments, and their roles in those environments. I worked with NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) assessing the progress of SwarmTribes, an innovative cross-platform messaging service for fans and bands in the music sector.

I am a skilled and experienced writer, able to switch between breezy opinion pieces (such as a short chapter recently commissioned by Music Information Centre Austria) and the more formal precision, clarity and conciseness required by British Standards Institute, for whom I have written or edited drafts for three British Standards. I have written many specifications for online systems and services, and am expert in defining usability targets for these.

Through these assignments, I have developed considerable project management expertise, leading teams of up to six partners — including senior managers and academics — while remaining accountable to multiple stakeholders.

Where I come from

You can download full details of positions held, qualifications and so on in my CV/Resumé (PDF file, 98 KB).

As well as being the sole director of DJ Alchemi Ltd, I have held non-executive director positions for:

I come from a long line of patent attorneys: my grandfather, father and uncle were all partners in Gill, Jennings and Every, who worked for Frank Whittle in connection with his invention of the jet engine, and John Logie Baird, co-inventor of television.

I get a mention in one of the biographies of Neil Young. Look me up in the index, via Amazon's "look inside", where I nestle between Jefferson Airplane and Jennings, Waylon.

Contact DJ Alchemi Ltd/David Jennings

DJ Alchemi Ltd

DJ Alchemi Ltd was incorporated in 1999, and absorbed the business I created and grew between 1992 and 1999, trading under the name of DJ Associates. I own the company outright.

More often than not, DJ Alchemi delivers projects in collaboration with others. Seb Schmoller is the most frequent partner. Others include Sero Consulting, Knowledge Integration, Gooii, Luke Razzell, Nancy Baym and Eleanor Ford. Sometimes DJ Alchemi sub-contracts, sometimes it is sub-contracted: in practice this makes little difference beyond the flow of money and "sign-off", as collaborative team roles evolve independently of contractual formalities.

DJ Alchemi is a Limited Company registered in England and Wales (Number 3824672). The Registered Office is 8 Matham Grove, London SE22 8PN. The VAT Registration Number is 737 5823 06.

Contact DJ Alchemi Ltd/David Jennings

About this site

This site contains a series of bulletins and essays that deliberately mix up my business activities — as DJ Alchemi Ltd — and the stuff that excites me as a consumer, punter or amateur. It's deliberate because these feed off each other, and interesting stuff happens in the interstices between culture and business. Whisk them up in an unholy brew and create opportunities for alchemy to happen.

The DJ comes from the initials of my name rather than anything to do with playing records. Some people ask how the 'alchemi' name came about. It was a snap decision, made one afternoon in 1999 under the constraint of time and the requirement that it had to begin with an 'a' — and had to be available as a domain.

I have profiles on most of the major social networking sites — usually under the name davidjennings or DJAlchemi — including shadow blogs on typepad and posterous, though the attention I give them is sporadic and fickle. Other hobby sites I run include: