Dec 30

Holiday relaxing

My brother-in-law has been hassling me about what I’ve been doing this past week (apart from hiding when the family all descends en masse to create havoc). Not too much at all, to be honest, just chilling out in the main.

I’ve updated my geneology pages, been digging up records of a few more dead relatives (and am planning to completely change the layout on that section), updated the domain home pages and finally put back the tracking bugs.

I’ve fixed my Dad’s PC, installed printer drivers on 2 laptops, resurrected a virus-ridden machine running windows 98 and installed Linux and got that working as the main machine for my aunt; I’m setting up the PVR for the grandmother and setting up a home network for the parents – so I can run the Tivo and Slingbox for me.

So the brother-in-law is right – not done too much really ;-). But this of course is coming from someone with 2 kids below the age of 5, so sitting in front of computers must be regarded as nothing!

Dec 22

Five Things You Don’t Know Meme

Round and round the meme goes. Five Things you don’t know about me. SoloSEO has done a good job of tracking the initial spread of this. And now Tom has tagged me. So let’s see.

1. I’ve been knocked out twice in life. The first time was playing rugby at school and I hit the ground a little too hard. The second time was a little more serious, I came off a horse. Not too sure what happened but if the bruises were anything to go by I got well trodden on; the worst was fractured neck vertebrae which still give me trouble today.

2. My first computer was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. My sister and I played games and learnt how to code in Basic. Which was the last time I touched code for 15 years until I learnt Smalltalk as part of an OU course.

3. I was quite sporty at school. My poor parents did a lot of ferrying around – I recall playing 5 different hockey games one weekend. I represented the county at hockey and also played basketball and tennis for the school.

4. I’m a qualified rowing coach. I started off as a cox and then decided it was far better to be in a launch with motor engine.

5. I collect teddy bears. Little cute ones. Here’s my latest.


Time to pass it along. I tag: Rachel, Lloyd, Lee, Ewan and Rick. From looking at the blogs, they’ve not answered this yet – but they could just be ignoring it.

Dec 21

Twitter Degrees of Separation

Twitter is still small enough to be fun – although that may change. Suw today asked if there was an optimum Twitter friend pool size. There probably is, which will vary by person and how much data you can browse. We’ll get the power users, with plenty of friends and far more followers. Others will keep it private and contained. It’s the Long Tail curve all over again.

The service is also small enough to be able to easily search through some names to see what the general usage is. Pick a name and then work your way through the search results to get a cross section of life.

Starting off with rachel, you find 17 people on the service using that name, including me. Of those, 8 of them are not using the service (either non updates or a couple of updates over a month ago), 2 are new (joined in the last few days) and 4 are private. Of the 3 who are seriously using it, I’ve met one of them, one has connections that I ‘know’ (by this it means that at least reading their blog even if I have never met them and they don’t know me) and the final person has no-one in common.

Let’s look at some more names – Tom, Dick or Harry. I find 20 Toms, but the search, for some reason, does not include the two Toms I am following already. 18 of them are not using it, 1 is using and I know some of their connections. And one is using it regularly but has no connections. Five Dicks*, 4 not using and one joined in the last day or so. Harry is slightly better – out of 7, 5 are not using and I’ve have no connection with the last 2. Of the 20 Bens, 15 aren’t using, 2 joined in the last few days, and 3 are using (1 private). Again the search did not pull up the Ben I know. And with 20 Ians, 14 are not using, 1 is new and I know one of the remaining 5 who are using it.

So can we draw some conclusions?

  • search seems to be limited to 20 people. And does not seem to change the results, so finding people as it grows will be difficult without changes.
  • The majority of people are not using it after they have signed up. That’s between 70 and 90% of the people I checked. Now this could be a consequence of the limited search – I thought that the search could be pulling up the first signers who have not got a critical mass of people to share with, but there were new signees in the search as well so not sure about this.
  • Most people are public in their usage. Privacy is definitely dead
  • Of those that are using it regularly, most have a fair number of connections which means they are in a community of sharers. Seeing updates prompts you to update yourself. As with any network there needs to be a critical mass before you find value. And without this, usage stops as there is no point.
  • The network requirement explains why I see familiar names in the mix – I joined because people whose blog I read have joined. The interconnectedness (or is that the incestuous nature) means that the meme spreads across the community and ensures you’ll know someone. There was at least one other connected community which seemed to have been driven by a livejournal commonality.

So what next for the Twitter club. How do they tidy up and remove dead users? How do they keep the meme going and into a wider group of people? How do you start usage in new groups before they reach the tipping point of enough people in the group to keep it going? Do the ads they are serving cover the costs? Lots of questions. Let’s wait and see.

*If this was NBC, then I would have had to bleep out the Dick. As they did when they showed this brilliant song on Saturday Night Live – Justin Timberlake and Dick in a Box.

Dec 19

Cable connection and the BBC

I’ve just had two technicians round to connect up the cable system for TV and phone. Whilst here, we got to discussing the BBC. The whole concept of TV/radio without advertisements seemed to astound them and there were a lot of questions about how it worked, how you paid the licence fee, how did they know you had a TV. Using HBO as a reference point, we got over the astonishment and then discussed whether it would work here – would you pay a higher subscription not to have ads, could you have a choice of ad-supported or ad-free. As we move to a digital, on-demand system, that must one possible way.

Posted in TV
Dec 19

Online Tab Saver

With Firefox now allowing you to open the browser with the same tabs it closed down with by default, I’ve been looking for a way to synchronise open tabs across 2 or more PCs. So that where ever I am, i can have the same set of open tabs. There’s a number of ways to share bookmarks across instances of the browser but not your current tab set, as opposed to the tabs you set as home. I want to be able to set it up once and that is it. No having to remember to click things, it just does the saving for me when I close.

Dec 19

Charitable Activity

This has been sitting in my tabs for a while, from Freakonomics. A group of Dallas call girls have got together and are running a charity raffle; for $50 a ticket the winner gets two hours with all 12 girls at the same time. In a form of micro-charity, the money is going direct to a named family. So if you’re stuck for a present for a man in your life, here’s one idea 😉

Posted in fun
Dec 18

Joined Twitter

I’ve gone and joined Twitter; it’s called peer pressure, all my friends are doing it so why shan’t I. And it’s strangely fascinating in an old school reality show way. That’s the old school like Castaway or the Edwardian house, not Survivor or Big Brother. Where it was more a challenge documentary rather than a weird way to fame.

So Twitter gives you a way to stalk your friends, to find out what they are doing in a different way to blogging; with only 145 characters per message it gives a more stream of thought insight into other peoples lives. Join and share the fascination.

Dec 18

The Prague Files game results

I’ve spent the last 2 weeks playing The Prague Files, an ARGish like game being run by the Live Games Network. Over the last 2 weeks, we were presented with 7 tasks to complete, all going towards some pretty good prizes, the grand prize being a trip to Prague.

This was a professionally run game, in that you paid your money to compete. This contrasts with the many ‘amateur’ games which are on the go at any one time. Amateur in the form of the creators are not being paid not in the format as many are complex and fiendish. The latest ‘big’ game to surface is from the lonelygirl15 team, which started as a fan game and has moved to be official, but there are many smaller games running at any one time.

But I found differences in the Prague Files that were both good and bad.

  • First of all, the timing and pace of the challenges. Everyone got the same challenge at the same time and had to complete them to stay in the running for the prizes. Everyone got the same opportunities to play and solve them. There were time limits, but that did not mean you could not play again – the game was fixed. With many other ARGs, relying on AIM and blogs and other pages, things can change faster than you can play and the game inputs can change rapidly.
  • Second, the pacing of the game, with information and hints given in advance so you could prepare meant that everyone had a chance to gather the necessary information, such as coe techniques. In other ARGS, often you do not have chance to work through what you need to do before the game moves on.
  • What was less obvious in the Prague Files was a sense of community. Look at the boards associated with any ARG and they show a vibrant community discussing the game and trying to solve the puzzles. The forum was not very active in this more formal game and I found that a lack; it would be interesting to see how you could encourage more of that whilst maintaining the competitive elements. The most activity occurred when there was a problem with one of the flash games that meant that many people could not finish it.
  • There’s a place for both types of game; now the first run is over, LGN are promising more to come over the next year. I’d like to see how they build on this and make it bigger and better the next time.

Dec 17

Loïc’s answer

Loïc has finally worked his way through the multitude of feedback around ‘his’ conference last week (I know it’s not just his but he is the face of it) and responded with a comprehensive and well thought out answer. Reading through his thought process for why he altered things and where he wants to go, breaking outside the box of a ‘blogging’ conference, I can understand what he was trying to do. Still don’t agree with his methods and he admits he made mistakes. But what he says he wanted to do and where he wanted to move towards is clear. Now. It was just not clear to many participants (nor speakers?) when they signed up; my guess is that the audience next year will be far different and may be more sympathetic towards the goals. But this year I’ve got friends who feel hard done by, who feel they have wasted precious money, so I can understand their reaction as well.

Update: Ewan’s response (He was a speaker).

Dec 17

Time Person of the Year

Is me. And you. And everyone who uses this wonderful piece of technology called the internet to share their opinions, life, creativity and just everyday stuff with the rest of the world. Even if you are just famous for 15 people and they are just family and friends you would see everyday, the medium and the tools that are being created allow you to do just so much more.

I liked the way they have put Mylar on the cover the print version, to reflect your image back at you. The ordered 6,965,000 pieces and it must have taken some doing to get that on the cover. They look atthe usual suspects, second life, the rise of always there media through digital cameras and cellphones, the change to democracy, Web2.0 and much more besides in a manner that does get to the human centre, whether that is good or bad. Take a look – well worth a read.

Posted in UGC
Dec 17

Flickr Presents

Flickr have a wonderful easter egg this Christmas – adding notes to the photo gives you Xmas hats and Santa beards. See here for an example. Furthermore they have extended the upload limits for everyone.

And it’s even better to give the gift of Flickr since now your recipients will get unlimited uploads — the two gigabyte monthly limit is no more (yep, pro users have no limits on how many photos they can upload)! At the same time, we’ve upped the limit for free account members as well, from 20MB per month up to 100MB (yep, five times more)!

Dec 17

Connectors and adapters

I’m trying to find some way to plug the various entertainment bits and pieces I have together without spending a fortune on replacing everything. But so far no luck. I have a PC with a VGA output but a TV with a choice of HDMI, SVideo, combination or composite inputs. And I have a UK PS2 which has a power upstepper but still needs to do PAL to NTSC conversion. And if I can’t get neither of those to work I’m going to have to get a multi-regional DVD player. Which does not seem to exist in the US as far as I’ve seen to date. I’m sure I could get them all working together somehow but at the moment, I just feel the need for a nice black box that just appears and does everything for me, or a gadget geek to go out and get everything and then plug it all in.

Dec 17

Post 1000

After just over 2 years on this blog, I’ve reached post 1000, (a number with significance only if you count in base 10.) I’ve moved from the tentative steps of working out why I was blogging to a changed mindset where things I read and hear about are put through a mental filter of ‘can I write about this’. Sometimes it’s to explore the idea further, othertimes just to keep a record of it. The last two weeks have been interesting, no blog to write on but lots of things piling up to be written about. But it’s also given me a chance to assess what i write about, whether it’s reaction in the echo chamber or new stuff.

I’ve not made any money THROUGH the blog – there’s no ads. The driver was not money but expression. But I’ve done well BECAUSE of the blog. In fact, blogging has completely changed my life. By reading and then writing I’ve had glimpses into the lives of many others, entered a continuous learning environment where there is new information every day. Went to some conferences. Met a lot of new people and made new friends. And all of this triggered self-reflection about what I was doing and whether I was getting what I wanted from it.

So I quit my job, after spending 14 years with the same company. And tried a couple of things but have now ended up in New York, working in a new job and a new industry which (on paper at least) have little in common with my previous role but a lot to do with the knowledge I have built up through blogging. New York is a place I tried to get my previous employee to send me for a while (I was in a global company, in a global role and almost everyone I worked with on projects was in the US). It didn’t happen then but it has now – and now to make the most of it.

So I carry on through the 1000 posts and few years and see where I am then. One thing that will change about this blog is that some of the marketing posts will appear over on a new blog, Behind the Buzz, which I’m going to be writing for b5media. It’s not styled up yet, still work to be done on that, but I am posting away. So I’m finally getting some money for blogging ;-). I’ll be pointing over there for some of the stuff, whilst this one will continue with the rest. So, back to the blogging.

Dec 15

LeWeb3 – conference feedback

If you have read any kind of technology blog, or peruse the top search terms on Technorati, you will have come across the blogstorm that was leWeb3. It’s still top of the search terms on that site. Last year, the same conference garnered some controversy after a key speaker reacted to comments on the IRC channel being projected on the main screen. I got a lot out of last years show, met some really great people and enjoyed my time in Paris. Due to the move to new York, I decided that finances and lack of holiday meant I could not go. And I think I’m glad I missed it. The controversy this year, was all about the conference being disrupted and moved around due to 3 political discussions that took place, 2 of them by French presidential candidates.

Now with the dust dying down from that, you have some more positive posts coming out about lessons that could be learned, as well as what was good about the sessions.

Tom, who did a great job of pulling together the various reactions across the web has a post about how he would do it differently. let me know when you organise this then Tom, I try and make it! he Gay Expat picks up Adam‘s challenge and gives us 7 points to think about. And finally, Nicole has an indepth look at wireless and the issues surrounding it. Almost always a problem at these kind of conferences, the wifi can make the difference between a good and a great time. And finally, Ewan is going to be posting his notes of the sessions over the next few days with the wisdom of hindsight and without the clutter of what was actually happening. I’m looking forward to that.

Dec 15

Let’s see if this stays up

After a few weeks down (difficulties co-ordinating me, a phone, a PC and a network connection all at the same time), the site is back up. At least for now. We’ll see how long it stays up or if it is pulled again by the ISP.