Jun 19

Shared duties

There’s an article in the Times about a study into the amount of housework men and women do. In comparison with 1961, the time a man has spent has increased from 83 minutes to 146 minutes, whereas women have reduced there time from 303 minutes to 277 minutes.

The article focuses on how men are becoming domestic gods. But look a thte figures in another way. In 1961, couples did 386 minutes ‘unpaid’; house work and in 2005 they do 423 minutes. In 44 years, domestic work has INCREASED by 37 minutes per couple, despite all the labour-saving devices that have been invented. How can that be? What are we doing more of? Now I could be reading it completely worng and there is something far more subtle here that is not reported in this story, probably something like an increase of singles in the study so you can’t just add the numbers.

An intersting aside in the story for me, however, is this:

A Spanish inventor has also devised a washing machine with a fingerprint sensor to ensure that the same person does not operate it twice to force couples to share laundy chores.

There you go, technology applied to ensure that someone can’t pressa button more than once in a row. Wonder if you could apply this to the TV remote?

Jun 19

U2 Concert

U2 at Twickenham. Great concert, very tight in timing, songs from all the albums. Fun, fun night.

u2.jpg

The evening started off quite early. I had hospitality tickets from one of the corporate partners, so we started off the day with a three-course meal and plenty of wine. Given the temperature yesterday, I was quite happy sitting in air-conditioning. So I missed the support band, except for their last song. I have no idea who they were, but they sounded good.

U2 arrived on stage on time, with a minimum of fuss. In previous tours they’ve arrived with various fanfares, but this time they walked straight onto stage without any music, before launching stright into the first song (I think it was Vertigo – my memory blurs the order). Songs from almost every album followed. My favourites were Running to Stand Still, I Still haven’t Found… and Vertigo, which also closed the concert.

We had seats up in the stands, pretty close to the front of the arena. Although close enough to see a lot of the band on the stage, the angle meant that we only had a partial view of the backdrop, which really got a work out as the light dimmed. so we missed some of the messages. During the first half, there were little lights used – it was pointless as it was still bright. However, darkness came and the lights were used to wonderful effect.

I think I worked out how to get tickets in the ‘enclosure’ in front of the stage. You obviously have to pass a fitness test. The peope here spent most of the concert jumping up and down waving their arms, for the full 2 hours.

The concert finished right on time (Twickenham curfew); unlike previous concerts I’ve been to, it contained very little of Bono going off on one. The one appeal was kept short, relating to Africa, the G8 summit and the Make Poverty History Campaign. Interestingly, they encouraged people to make their voice known by texting a message. I wonder in how many countries they are using this device, where it will work. Almost everyone there had mobiles, so guess the texts peak every concert night at about that time.

After the concert it was back to the suite for a few more drinks before braving the roads to get home. Shuttle buses were running back to the nrearest station (Richmond). No taxis there, so I ended up walking the last few miles.

There are pictures here. I also took a couple of short videos – which will go up soon.

Jun 18

Me, myself and I

Doing some ego-surfing, I see that I’m now number 2 in google rankings for my name. But there are a lot of people out there with the same name. I first came across one of the name-a-alikes when I was about 11 and visiting the hospital; my mother discovered that the wrong notes had been given and that there was another Rachel who had been born on the same day in the same hospital. So, what do all these other Rachels do.

1. An Associate Professor of Electronic Art at California State University.

2. A reporter for BBC News in Washington

3. An Administrator at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

4. An actor with the Archway Theatre

5. A street in Corringham, Thurrock (not sure who that is named for)

6. A musician with an English Dance group.

7. A case study for Giving up Smoking

8. A teacher of nursing in New Zealand.

9. The editor of Premiere Magazine

10. Miss Anaheim, 2005. Looking for a career in media and advertising.

In that google driven selection, people with my name appear to have a preference for art and mdeia related roles.

Jun 18

Work and Travel

The waiting finally appears to have come to an end, as the consultation period for the re-organisation at work has finally been completed, a month after the original due date. This means we can now start getting some clarity about whether we have jobs, what sort of job it will be and any other changes. Meanwhile, our teams internal customers have already been through the process, sorted themselves out and are busy gearing up for the next financial year. Which means we’ve been very, very busy – it may be interesting if we end up not doing these jobs.

So next week I’m off to the US for a bit of work; I’ll be staying an extra day in New York to get a bit of shopping and sightseeing done.

Jun 17

A very English response

Via numerous newspapers comes this tale of revenge, in a very English, understated way. A city lawyer demanded £4 in payment after one of the office secretarys dropped ketchup on his trousers; he left notes on her desk as well as emailing her. The secretary responded to his email – copying the office as she went, many of whom then forwarded the mail on, in appreciation of her irony-laiden putdowns;

“I must apologise for not getting back to you straight away but due to my mother’s sudden illness, death and funeral I have had more pressing issues than your £4.” She went on: “I apologise for accidentally getting a few splashes of ketchup on your trousers. Obviously your financial need as a senior associate is greater than mine as a mere secretary.”

Meanwhile, English Heritage workers are threatening to hold a walk-out on 21 June, apparently deliberatly targeting the summer solstice, or so the new stories read. So will that make it harder or easier to get into Stonehenge?

Jun 16

Where have you been?

There’s a letter on the BBC Ceefax service today from Jim complaining (the contibutors often complain – nostalgia always makes things look better) about how Doctor Who is being spoiled because we know what’s going to happen, that we’re being told things about the next series. So where has Jim been? Has he failed to notice the media trend of revealing everything they are given or cam find in order to drive ratings (their own or the TV programmes). He states that this never used to happen. That’s because the last DW series was BW – Before Web. Although the information could have been obtained before there were few opportunities to spread it. And without the information being easily available, the appetite for it can not be widely generated. The Web feeds the media feeds the desire, all in an endless feedback loop which means that you now have to work hard not to see spoilers. So Jim, you’re right. It was not like this before, but do the other benefits of information availability outweigh the occasaional spoiling of a TV programme?

Jun 15

Phones and daleks

They’re not connected, I just didn’t want to do 2 posts 😉

The first is about BT’s new phone offer, Fusion, which works as a landline via broadband and a mobile via Vodaphone (why not O2, i thought that used to be BT?). I can see the attraction of this, given that I tend not to use the landline at home at all and I could not even tell you my home phone number (I could tell you my SkypeIn number though, but I put some thought into choosing that). The BBC have a fairly objective report, whilst the Register is slightly more tongue in cheek, calling it the BT Confusion service.

In other news, thieves have returned a stolen Dalek, after declaring it too hot to handle. So they left it on the top of Galstonbury Tor. That’s right, they left it on top of a big hill in the middle of the countryside. And then it had to be stretchered off. Apparently ‘kids’ are being being blamed. Of course these would be kids who lug a great big Dalek up a very steep hill and would have absolutely nothing to do with the Doctor Who conference that is being organised.

Jun 14

Best laid plans…

This evening I had plans. I was going to go home earlyish, write up some notes, do some washing..basically not be out, especially after last night when I went to the Marketing Society awards and had a late, good, fun evening. But no, it was not to be. Instead I met up with a couple of people and we discussed marketing, small being the new big and the challenge of doing anything small in a corporate world – they (beig the marketing teams) all want somethng big and the big agencies do nothing but encourage it whilst the small, nimble ones try and get in. Over dinner, the talk carried on in the same vein, but most importantly covering the absolute need to be able to manage all of this space whilst being able to sit in the corner, cackling manically whilst stroking a white cat.

Jun 14

I’ve got nothing to wear

I know I sometimes look at the piles of clothes I have and think i have nothing to wear, but this escapade is an interesting decision. The interviewer at a job interview left the room and came back naked – with nothing but his clipboard to cover his modesty. His excuse – he wanted to add some excitement to the proceedings. Of course, with this being cold Scotland there was probably little to see. Via the BBC

Jun 11

Cory Doctorow – reboot7

Most of this is direct notes.

Cory is talking about the European Broadcast Flag. A comnparison of CD with DVDs. CD have driven value creation, with the music being taken and being used in multiple ways; DVDs – all you can do is watch them, there is no new things that can be done with the content. It’s all locked in by the small number of industries that control the rights.

Next a comparison of EU and UK database companies. European databases are subject to copyright so the first person to put together a database owns it. This does not happen in the US. SO all work and innovation has taken place in the US, where the data and ideas are available.

The entertainment industry always want to get involved and control the technology that plays and copies their content. They do not want things that can share the content, they do not want to change. But everytime a change has happened, this has opened the market for more opportunities. But for a long time there has been opposition to the entertainment companies controlling the tech.

But this is changing. The phone companies are huge, far bigger than the entertainment industry. But the phone companies are getting into bed with the entertainers – they want to control what can be done, providing content that can only be used on single platforms, that can’t be shared.

The functionality of the devices and the software is being restricted. The tech companies want the content to drive sales, to provide services but once one step is taken, the risk is you’ll never be able to get step back.

The Braodcast flag movement tries to ensure that all technology is licensed by the entertainment inductry; it also puts things in place to stop users changing the content, altering and playing with it. It’s been killed in the US; but in EU, the project is still ongoing. Even though it’s dead in US, the studios are still pushing in EU (so they can go back to the US and say ‘they have it, we need it’???). The EU tag is planning to restrict content to one household only – but whats a household? How can technology restriction set social standards? It plans to lock down all tech, to prevent mods. And allow permissions to be revoked, to remove functionality that worked before.

So keep asking for products that cost less and do more, instead of cost more and do less.

Jun 10

Jason Fried – reboot7

Notes on “How to do great things with small teams”

So you appear to need people passionate and happy, well rounded, quick learner, trustworthy and a good writer, so he’ll take someone who is average and happy instead of brilliant and disgruntled.

Small has big advantages: customner is closer, so less formal, less mass, less fear, more flexibility, more change and more freedom. So what does this do – allows people (if they are passionate and happy) can do more things, cna speak up, can all contribute to all things and are not constrained by the ‘roles’ a big company puts on then. But a big company has money, hardware, software etc (is he sure??? In a big company we still have issues getting things), so a small company has to be creative in getting things done.

“when spending a dollar no longer hurts, then you have too much money”

An interesting take of ‘customer suggestions”. they respond, they listen, but only act id the suggestion comes up again and again.

Remember – “decisions are temporary” – so you can change things.

“Build less software, build half a product, not a half-assed product”

Less software means less features, lower cost of change, less work to maintain things – all of which can make people happy. Support is tiresome, timeconsuming and a pain. So ensure you build stuff that won’t need much work…and drives people to get their own solutions. Give aids to someone coming up with their own solutuons, don’t try and fix everything.

So I can see the above working with small products that can go onto be big. This is about emergent stuff, stuff that can evolve.

Now he’s putting down fucntional specs – I agree, they constrain evolving design “there’s nothing functional about functional specs” But in the area I work in, they’re compulsary as the designers and the builders are different parties. It’s the agreement – and it does definitely lead to argument.

Design, prototype, experience and change. Repeat until something works and you can live with it. Yes please, I’d love to do this. Iterative design is good.

“things aren’t problems till it’s a problem,” When Basecamp was launched the company did not have any billing software – because it was launched with 30 days free….so they did not have to build it til 30 days were up. Just in Time – only do things when you need to.

He’s talking about something like the SCRUM method, breaking things down into smaller projects, each of which has a cycle.

SO when you have a small product (or half a product) how do you get the word out? Have features that can be shared and gossiped about – find something people want to talk about; promote through education – blogging, conferences; upgrade often, so people see you’re still working on it, still passionate. And finally, be transparent, be honest, keep people informed, don’t hide things. (and that is definitely one of the days’s recurring topics)

Jun 10

Science Commons – reboot7

Paula Le Dieu is talking about Science Commons, a new area from the people behind the Creative Commmons licences. This is starting to look at getting scientific data out in the open.

Using the example of p53, a gene theat is associated with cancer and other diseases. But cancer research and cures is lucrative to the drugs companies, so much of their research is patented. So research into other diseases associated with the gene that is not as lucative can be compromised. Of the 33000 articles in PubMed search, only about 6000 are open with full text. Others are hidden, you can’t access the full text, the knowledge is owned and will not be shared. So scientific knowledge is constrained by copyright and patents. DRM is being applied to the environments which hold the information. Users can only rent, not buy, and access stops if you stop paying.

One way forward is based on CCMixter, which tracks where stuff came form and where it is used going forward, so history and impact is tracked. From the scientists’ view, it’s easier to see how a piece of work is used.

Jun 10

questions – reboot7

Here at my first conference, I can see why having a lineup at microphones so annoys people. The enrgy in the speakinbg sessions is down and interaction is constrained – how many people want to get up and line up at a mike. In the open sessions, conversations and questions flow a lot more.

Jun 10

Designing for Play – reboot7

Ben Cerverny is now up talking about designing for play. Here’s my interpretation of what he is saying.

In many species, play is being used to drive the ‘grammar’ of interactions, to set boundaries for interactions, put some order around the chaos that is out there. We use play to make sense of the world when growing up.

But humans carry on playing after the time other species would stop and get on with surviving. We take games develop them for their own sake. We continue to use games as metaphors for life, continue to explore the world – back to Doc Searls reference to language and despcription is all about something else – we rarely create a brand new language, but look for metaphors and usages from things we’ve used or experienced before.

So games can potentially allow us to explore a new way of thinking by driving out different metaphors.

“There are multiple states of play” – there can be many modes and many stages in the game. there are challenges in learning the game, learning the metaphors, so designers can put in a learning space, where you can set the parameters, set up characters, and think before you enter the game. you move between composition and performance.

Interactive games reflect the need for ‘state machines’, where humans run through a series of rules, usually subconcious, that are developed to allow sense to be made of the world. In games, the state machines are designed, controlling the rules of the game. And players get immersed in the rules, internalise them, and then recognise the rules of the world they are playing in. Increasing metadata, increasing sources of date mean that more rules need to be recognised. Playing with the inputs increases the speed of creating the rules, creating new world views, allows the player and the viewers to quicker grasp the complexity.

Simlutions, like the Sims, are different from many games; they don’t have a winner at the end. The game is in the playing, not the winning. The state machine here can be the result of thousands of interactions and we can;t predict the result. Humans need occasional chaos to drive the thought (back to Open Sauce marketing, the previous talk). Chaos can surprise you and produce something new.

Jun 09

Copenhagen

Thought about putting wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen as a title but as it’s so much of a cliche that it’s even the theme of the official welcome notice at the airport, I decided not to. I finally got here after a slightly delayed flight to find a city that really reminds me of Amsterdam, enough so that I want to answer with questions with the small amount of Dutch that I know.

First port of call (after the hotel) was thePre-conference Meetup for drinks (following a wee bite to eat). I caught up with some people from Tuesday nights Geek Dinner and met some more, inckuding Nicole Simon, who I recognised from her voice, having listened to her podcasts. There was free wireless at the venue which was used by many, including this lot in the picture below. Nicole, Maryam and I decided on the appropriate caption “Bloggers finally discover European late night TV broadcasts over the web”

Focusing.jpg

Take a look at this use of dynamic mapping in Switzerland, which was actually the item being blogged at the time

Meanwhile, I’ve found me another use for Flickr. I’ve not yet loaded any graphical/imaging software on the new laptop, so had no way to reduce the size of the image above. So, upload to Flickr and then download a smaller size gives me an image that won’t kill the load times. Not that amazing discovery, but it’s the small things that help.

Jun 08

Archive Footage

IS the BBC getting lazy? Yesterday a TV report in to bullying by mobile by children was accompanied by footage of children texting on phones that are so out of date that the children have probably left school by now. Today we get a story about an extradition of a man for alledgedly hacking into US military and NASA computers partnered by footage of NASA people working on computers that probably sent Neil Armstrong to the moon.

Jun 08

Note to self

Note 1: next time you leave the office in a hurry, check you have your house keys.
Note 2: Notice this fact before you’ve reached the house and have to take the cab back into town