Mar 29

Globalising the BBC

With the BBC being funded by licence payers in the UK, it has restrictions on what it can and cannot do – which makes it frustrating if you are outside the country trying to watch things. But now, unsurprisingly, they are looking to offer a commercial website outside of the UK, funded by ads. This looks like it will offer the interactive programmes/downloads similar to what is provided in the UK now and the new planned features, such as the downloads. BBC Worldwide and America are already partly funded commercially, so it is in line with that area.

In other BBC news, eBay has finally caught up with Blue Peter badgeholders, Winners of such badges get free entry into many attractions around the country, but the auction of some badges has meant that the benefit has been suspended until additional security can be added. Here’s an idea – evryone gets a small clip of them being awared the badge they can play on their mobile phones 😉 Of course, the real solution will likely be far more boring.

Mar 27

Break Over

Over the last few days I’ve not been blogging…other things to do or not do. But today is the last full day in the US before I travel back tomorrow so it’s time to round things up a little.

I’ve been staying with Tara Hunt over the last few days and it’s been an intersting time, watching the reaction to the comments made on her recent series of posts about Pinko Marketing. There is a visceral reaction to the name and some of the political quotes that surprise me – but I’m not American and don’t have the same cultural background. A fine series of ideas, so go and read them all on the wiki, make up your own mind and contribute to the ideas.

It was one of the subjects bought up at today’s brunch, along with Barcamp, WineCamp and the odd Microssoft issue;, triggered by Ernie (the Attorney) and his partner Adriana being into town. Chris Messina, Robert Scoble and Patrick were all there as well.

Mar 20

MusicIP..behind the idea

SXSW Music has a completely different vibe to the Interactive Conference. Many people don’t come out till dark, some streets are closed off, and music assaults your ears from all directions. My chance to stay for the extra time came through Rick Segal and MusicIP, who covered the cost of the music ticket for me.

I’ve being using the client software in its previous incarnation on and off for a while, and have being playing with the new version this week – I’ll post about that experience later. This week, they’ve had a large stall in the Trade Show and have launched a tie up with MusicBrainz and the release of

I caught up with Mathew Dunn, the President and CEO, and Stephanie Phillips, VP of Marketing, of MusicIP and had a chance to ask them a few questions about the other parts of the business.

The MusicIP team is 14 strong, located in various places across North America. As a virtual team, they rely heavily on Skype and iChat for communication; this will come more into play as they expand over the next year. Customers have already signed up from Latin America, UK, India and Singapore. Furthermore, they are working closely with a number of manufacturers, in China and other Far East countries, to implement their firmware on music players. As they expand, they will have to grow staff to handle the growth in other areas – so starting as a virtual team will have its advantages.

If you take a look at their website, MusicIP focuses on three markets – the listeners, the musicians and the industry. For the first 2, it is kind of like a dating service; a search engine tool to bring new music to listeners based on their preferences and a chance for musicians to get their music out to new ears. As with blogs, there can be an audience for everything but the challenge is discovering the new stuff – without having to rely on the confinement of words and metatags.

Anyone can load up a track; they need to register, pick a licence and up it goes. The track is analysed and fingerprinted and then goes into a the database, which is currently at 16 million tracks and growing at around 1 million/month. The fingerprinting is based on the digital file and sound analysis – not metadata. SO the service has the advannage of being language independent. I no longer need to search based on tags in the one language I know; using the service could find me music from multiple countries if they are sonically similar. This is the strength of the discovery part – it moves away from textual search engines.

The client software analyses the music on your hard-dirve. When I first looked at this, it took a loonnnggg time to chugg through the tracks. As the database has grown, there is less need to do that; the track can be looked up on the central database and the properties stored. It only needs to look deeply at tracks it has not seen before; there’s no record of who has what so privacy is maintained. the discovery happens when I decide to create a playlist from my tracks; it offers a selection of others from the larger database that fit the mood and tone.

The musicians they have spoken to this week have loved the idea, but they will be working on making the submission process more streamlined – it needs to be simple for even the complete technophobe. At the other end of the scale they’ll also be improving the the industrial scale registration; whilst maintaining the quality and attribution checks that they have. With the fingerprinting process, it is realtively easy to spot if a small artist has loaded up the latest Madonna record as their own!

I liked the licencsing approach, using Creative Commons. This means some music can be offered as downloads for discovery. For the website and literature, many of the images they have used were also CC licenced – they found the stock photography too rigid, not showing the passion that could be found in fan photos. This philosophy also reaches into the technology area – inthe week that the patent was granted on the fingerprinting sofware, they released it as open-source for people to use and build on.

For businesses they are offering a tool that will allow the labels, the shops, the bands to sell more music. Allowing the discovery and mining of the long tail. Currently, a lot of the personalised recommendations are driven from what you have purchased before (or explore) and are base don metadata, not sound. So you are restricted to a subset, where the tags have been set by someone else. By using this tool, the search can be broader, based on sound preferences, not just other peoples descriptions.

Both the client and hte web based tool that is out in a few weeks, will link to sources of music that is being discovered, giving opportunity for you to buy stuff that you may not have normally found. The toolset acts as an aggregator of sources, so whether a track is found on Amazon, CDBaby Waterloo records or the bands own site, it can direct you to the right place to obtain the track.

The web-based search engine looks fun…from a starting point you can continually explore and dive into genres and songs, play with the stuff to find things you like.

THe company was originally established in 2000, although R&D had started before then. During the 6 year journey, the technical offering has expanded at leat 4 fold, the application has become more accessible with registration now open and they’ve spent a lot of time understanding and explaining the offering – getting the branding right. SXSW is seen as a turning point and a kick start to a the next phase.

They believe that they are only service that offers the connection point between listeners, musicians and the industry; by providing the internet with ears and becoming a standard and a marketplace for expression. The complement services such, offering a different way to find music. So how will they know they have been successful? This time next year they want to be explaining less; have musicians know that MusicIP has bought them new listeners and have success stories; and be on the cover of Wired Magazine. We’ll just have to watch and wait.

Mar 15

The Church of Content

There’s a new religion, or at least a revamped version of an old one. Content and creative and art and music and all that stuff used to belong only to the individual or to the group. Then we got patronage and wealthy individuals could commission stuff, could pay to make things and see things and own things. Business models were invented and the content was owned and monetised and distributed through official channels. The church of content was centralised, controlled, there was only one way and the big business owned it.

Well, not just the one way, there was still individualism going on, but it was quiet, local. Without the big business model, the support, it had few ways of getting out there, of reaching a larger audience. The missionaries were drowned out by the larger church and few people know there was anything else but the one way.

But the internet came along. The world wide web. The multitude of ways to distribute content in its purest form, as data, as a stream of 1’s and 0’s. And there was a schism in the church. Content could not be controlled by the big boys, but was out there, could be taken, could be changed and remixed. The new religion was born – the content is ours, all of ours. We want it when and how we want it – don’t dictate the ways, let it find its way. give us different models, not just the one way, the one scripture.

Like any religious split, the two sides cannot be reconciled. They share a single tenet of faith – content is king. But who controls, how it is controlled is the question. And both sides absolutely, immovably believe they will win the war and that the world will shift, or rebound back, to their point of view. And until a resolution is reached, or a compromise, and the paradigm shifts again, conferences and blogs and tradepapers and all that other sources of conversation will continue to host argument after argument.

Mar 13

Womens; Visibility, Value Add and Tagging

A few random things learnt today…that you have to blag your way into every bar when they ask for ID. I have a reluctance to carry around my passport, but so far the line “I’m English, I don’t have picture ID” seems to work as managed to get into the bars OK so far.

Another observation is the decline of the wristwatch. Only a minority of people seem to wear them. So far reasons dicussed are the every present mobile phone, the use of the laptop to tell the time or the fact that typing whilst wearing one is a problem, But with this reduction, it means that my usual method of looking at everyone else’s watch to confirm the time does not work here very well.

Yesterday was a quiet day for me and panels. I ended up only going to one formal one, about women and visibility. This is a conversation that is not new ont he web or anywhere else, and it is not going to be sorted by any single panel, although their did seem to be a few questions in the mix aksing a strightforward ‘what is the secret’. The general consensus from the panel was that you need to work at being visible – there is no secret, you have to get out and make yourself visible, you have to put in time and effort and commit do following whatever strategy you desire.

At one point the audience was asked how many of them considered themselves visible? Very few hands were raised at this – but what does that question mean. A number of people in the room had not heard of any of the panel, who were, presumably, picked because they had visibility. I’ve got between 30-40 subscribers (one day I may switch to feedburner to get actual numbers…) – how visible does that make me? So what is the question? Are people looking for visibility within the general internet population, within their own specialist area, within their peer group whether that be split by expertise, gender or specialist subject. There’s no one question, just as their is no one answer. One solution proposed by Liz Henry was a more formalised method of identification, of classification , so it makes it easier to find people. Some apprehension was expressed at giving out such information, with some preferring the anomynity that the web gives. Should we more offline perceptions onto the web? It’s too late for that, they’re already there. If they weren’t, these questions would not be there. T

The web is the most equal of spaces – use follows population in general – 50% of users are women, 50% of bloggers are women. I don;t know if the question is just being asked in the tech/conference area, where there is a real offworld bias that reflects online – do other blogging communities as the same question?

At lunchtime, I went along to a geek lunch. Apparently a new departure for SXSW, there were focused lunch discussions, with this one being on ‘Who owns the creative’ The owners of the conversation (as much as it could be owned) were Jane Wells and Chris Messina. Eight of us had an interesting discussion about creative, IP and moving into open source discussion. There were some nightmare tales of companies who want to own you and everything you do 24*7. My previous company used to do this, but stopped about 10 years ago – i think it was partly tied into the job for life environment. But this does not happen any more, so the contractual clause was dropped. But it appears to be live and well in the IT companies.

This conversation finally chrystallised a thought that I’d been dwelling on following an interview I evesdropped on with Piers last week. He was asked how he could make money if all his thinking and trnedspotting is put on the blog for anyone to see. It is the same for open-source software – Simon Phillips definitely had a point about propietry software slowy dying except for specialised situations. ANd it is becoming the same for some content/creative in a way. My thoughts are that is not the information, the open source software of the raw creative elements that will necessary make people money going forward, but the value they can add to it. So for trend spotting and strategising – everyone has access to the same information, the expertise you pay for is what they do with it and what they turn it in to, not for some mysterious source of private info that you;re not sure before the fact whether it can be turned into something useful as all previous work is hidden and sioloed. For open-source, it’s not the software itself but the value that can be added from packaging up, supporting it, making it do something special for the client. For creative it can be making things that people drive poeple to want them and use them. There are examples of bands and artists that make their living solely from web based creative. But that won’t work for all, this is not a model that can be ubiquitous.

The final conversation of the day was all arounnd tagging. This late night natter ended up being podcast and videod by the side of the road (it was the quietest place that could be found) by Eric Skiff and Christopher St John..

We were talking about 3 kinds of tags – personal, group and fixed and how they can be applied both internal and external webs. .

The latter is the typical taxonomy, topdown fixed categories. FOund in document management systems, where documents or information have a metadata assigned to them based on the design principles. Little room for movement, they are fixed. Information canb only be sorted in certain ways, that are either agreed witht he community, or, more likely, imposed by the system owners. I see this only being useful when the information collected can be predicted and has a level of permanance. When you know waht you are going to get, there are unlikely to be excpetions and the data needs to be kept for a while – the community here needs to be closed with little dissent allowed. ANy changes would come through a process.

At the other end of the spectrum are the personal tags. the ones that are only applicable to one person, that mean something that would not easily be recognised by others. These can be extremely ephemeral, or permanent, but they are not really designed for more than one persons use. Blog and photo tags fall into this category, but it can also be how a person organises and names files (either physical or data).

In the middle are the emergent group tags. These often start off as individual tags, but through a process of being shared and examined, a group consensus can emerge (or can be suggested). An example is here at SXSW where there are a number of different tags being used on Flickr to record events. SXSW, SXSWi, SXSWi2006, SXSWi06 etc etc. My behaviour, and the behaviour of others I’ve spoken to, is to adjsut their tags to meet the group norm. Taking a look at the most popular tags on flickr allows you to adjust your own. But you don’t have to – what this is demonstrating is group behaviour where you want your stuff to be noticed. If you were only interested in tagging your own stuff for your own study, then you would stick to the ones that you would wnat. By looking at the group norm and adjusting to that, you are asking to be part of a group and, more inportantly, asking for attention as part of that group.

Into this middle category I see group mandated tags falling – things like barcampaustin, or interactiveplaypen which the group behind the lego pits here are asking people to use for pictures of the lego. These requests ask you to join the group, to share your work, to allow a multiple perspective of the event to evolve.

One otehr aspect I see from these level of tags is related to level of permanance of information. Exploring options for internal intranets, I can see blogs, wikis and document management systems falling a spectrum. Data and information becomes more fixed and loglived as you proceed through the spectrum of tools. A blog may be for the moment, to look at current events and discussions that are happening in the environmen – a personal perspective even though it invites conversationst. The information would always be there, but may onoy be relevant for a moment. Wikis are more of a resource for group knowledge; can be built on and flexed, change with time, but still a record of the group knowledge of the time. And DMS is for fixed stuff, that changes slowly, that is legal or policy driven, or needs to be mandated top down to be used by all the community at any one time (eg annual planning documents etc).

Both the information and the tags associated with the info can move up and down this ladder. On the web, much of this is emergent behaviour – it is self -policed (and then we hit standards bodies). In a business environment the same model can be applied – the lower levels are self policied and you only need officialdom as you het the fixed stuff. But having gardeners to direc the process, to help emergent tags and make sure the taxonomy can reflect such stuff is a critical role.

Enough of yesterday – need to go now and think of today.

Mar 09

CC Salon

Last night I went along to a CC Salon event held at Shine. For someone more used to London events, the turnout was pretty impressive. There were brief presentations about Fireant, about Geek Entertainment TV and about Second Life before the chat and networking started. It was the first time I’d seen Second Life in action, so will be taking a closer look at it.

The location, Shine, has a great photobooth, done up fabulously in fake fur, where you go and get your photos done and 30 seconds later they appear on Flickr.

Mar 09

Blooker Prize

The short list for the Blooker Prize has been announced. I’ve been reading over the last few months which I’ve really enjoyed; I used to read Belle de Jour a few years ago, not sure if the book is baased on the old stuff. So now I need to go take a look at the rest.

Mar 01

Offers in comments for millions

I’m now getting comment spams offering me millions if only I transfer somebody’s money out of Ghana – does this mean that it has been got out of Nigeria and is now stuck there?

The email address is from a Mr Morgan, who thinks he is “Barrister:EVANS AHMED.A solicitor at law”
personal attorney to Mr.B.J.Jordan who was unfortunately killed in a car accident. So apparently I’m related…now where does he fit in the family tree, must have been some long lost branch that emigrated. 😉

Feb 23

Google Page Creator

This did not get off to a good start…having default purple layout is enough to make me quit the screen very quickly.


And when I went to change the colour scheme, it decided to throw a wobbly.


Second time round, it behaves…and so I produce this. Very bad, no thougth what so ever, but in 5 minutes I have a website that I could, if I had the time, put some real content on..although it appears only if the content were words and pictures. But for that, it could not be easier. I can add text and images and drag them around. I can switch styles and layouts with a click of a button. This is a simple way of getting someone their first website up and running. What it won’t do of course is let people learn how a website is put together…but I can see my family loving this.

Feb 22

Edgeio listings

Edgeio is an interesting idea. A start up from Mike Arrington from TechCrunch it utilises the increasing spread of tags to drive a listing service. Posting information on your own blog and tagging the post with listing will cause it to be picked up by the service and added to the lists.


Having the web2.0 essentials of rounded corners and graded fills it’s a nice looking site. Still in it’s early days, it only has around 600 listings and still has a lot of test posts…brain for sale anyone? On that post you can also see the ‘acknowledgement; process, with the trackback showing the post has been listed.

Search is by text or by categories, with a geographical filter thrown in as well. Once within a category, you can drill down further by increasing the number of tags that are being looked for, to narrow down the search.

On the face of it, a very simple idea. However, digging down into the FAQs (which I think need to be a lot more prominent) shows that to get the most of it you need to manage your tags very carefully, to prevent listings or to close listings. This may be a barrier to entry, being more complicated than a listing service ‘admin form’. Edgeio has its own ping server but also works with and pubsub, so any tag or category labled listing is picked up, this menas that stuff can be listed unintentionally without ever being cleared off the system. They say they work actively to prevent spam and have a moderating team to add the human touch; the service is also self-policing, with users beign able to flag suspicious posts.

Overall, I like it. Now, all I need is something to sell…so see the next post.

Feb 21

Children’s Tales

At work, a few of the team have children and recently they’ve hit the web generation gap. The team all remember LBW, Life Before Web, and have embraced the new world to various degrees. Not so the kids – they know nothing else. Two dads in the team have recently come in with tales of their 11 year-olds, who are both in the middle of setting up websites – and asking Dad for help. One of them is obviously a budding entrepeneur and has set up an agony aunt website, and is receiving plees for adolescent advice. Now she’s off setting up her own domain and expanding the empire; leaving poor Dad a little flabberghasted and wondering what next!

Feb 15

Measuremap bought by Google

Measuremap, my favourite blog measurement tool, has been sold to Google. No longer does the screen proclaim it’s being bought to you by Adapative Path, it’s Google all the way.

The email from Jeff Veen talking about the aquisition promises good things to come:

: I’m writing you to announce that Measure Map has been acquired by Google, effective today. For the near term, you will see no difference in its operations. In the not so distant future, you can expect great things from this acquisition. We couldn’t be happier to find such an ideal home for Measure Map, and are thrilled at the possibilities

For me, it’s a nice simple tool that gives me the information I need – it’s my little daily addiction to see where the traffic comes from. ; I use Google Analytics as well, but never need all the information. AP have been improving the data retention and trending available, so it’s was going the right way. The most immediate need for me would to put a few more hamsters under the hood to spin the wheels faster – it is a little slow sometimes.

Good luck to all the team – looking forward to see where it goes. There’s more information here

Feb 08

Future of Web Apps – Delicious Things we’ve learnt

I’m sitting here with about 800 other people at the Carson Workshops summit on the Future of Web Apps. This will be a bad attempt to take notes – unedited or spellchcked

Joshua Schachter = things we’ve learnt.

Browsers – browser compatibility issues drives you nuts.
Header issues cause pain.

Scaling: don’t do it! Whatever you predict is not going to be the real problem. Design databases – really understand the ins and outs..set up a monitoring service. Use caching as much as possible – minimise hitting the database.

Abuse: wait to see what breaks before you fix it. Use a proxy – manage the resources. Figure out some kind of throttling Make them easy to get into and out of – more people will use them

Identifiers: don’t expose internal identifier, expecially if sequential or conputatable – people will scrape the database. Lots of hits – have to build in defence mechansims.

Features: what you leave out is as important as waht you leave in. Don;t try and be all things within a app. Try and build features that people use, rather than what they ask for. Understand the why…what’s the real problem.

RSS: put them everywhere they can be – its a default way of getting info. Really need to understand the headers/caches etc to reduce hits to the database. RSS traffic is the largest on delicious

UR:S: make sure they follow the use of the site. They’ll be spread around, make them easily sharable.

Surprises: look for interesting behaviour – users can surprise you, do you amplify, ignore or damp user behaviour

Passion: solve a problem that you really have. Delicious was built to solve the problem of finding things in his link file

Release: get things out there – everyday you don;t have something in the world, yoou’re not picking up users and followers, you;re not picking the users brains. Get it out soon

Attention: give it, populise things. Works out well if population is small and biased in the saem way. Increase the population the bias drifts – and the overlal ‘popular’ is less popular to more people.

Spam: the opposite of attention. Undersntad what you are buildingo reduce attracting the spammers. Reduce the feedback to spammers – keeop them guessing about what is happening.

Tags: useful for recall, OK for discovery, awful at distribution. Not all metadata is tags. Don’t make it difficult. Beware librarians – ‘official’ tags – set heirachies. Impossible in a social network.

Motivation: why should people go there – what does it do for me. Expect the user to be selfish and build it for them. There’s no user 2 if user 1 does not have their needs met. (this has to be key for all technologies – why does it help me). If people are motivated to use it, that woill build evagelism.

Effort: make sure it’s in the right place. Targetthe effort.

Measurement: watch your system carefully. Intuition is guesswork backed by numbers. Look at everything. Measure behaviour rather than claims.

Testing – user testing is ‘pretty important’ make sure what happens with a user is what you expect. Ensure all the eam can watch the testing – get everyone to believe what is being said. Let people ‘play’ don’t set it up too formally.
Language: you have to speak the users languages. Bookmarks – if you used NEtscape or FF. IE it’s favourites. See what your audience use

Registration: don;t make users register before they can see your site. give them as much access as possible to see what the site does. registration is a big barrier..entice first. Show rather than tell.

Design Grammar: work out the best UI – understand how people use sites now and keep something similar. Don;t surprise people and do something diffiernet – understnad what wnet before

Morals – develop a sense of morals. It’s the users data…don’t abuse it. Dat is really purged from system and not kept in a log.

Infection: enable evangelism. Invade every communication stream you can find. Look for viral vectors.

Communities: understand community dynamics – but you can’t necessarily set up to drive a community. The community can be emergent. Many community dynamics suck…

FONT: the IRC channel seemed to be enthalled by the font in this presentation..this feels like a running theme today

Feb 02

Wiki Wednesday

Last night I wandered along to Wiki Wednesday, where Ross dropped in on his way back from Helsinki. This was a focused gathering, so I think most people had a chance to to talk to everyone there. There’s definitely a group of people I keep bumping into at these type of sessions, like Sarah and Ian. Some new people to me were Tom and Julian . One of the topics was the stabilisation and productionisation of wiki software – making the installation a lot easier and making the use of them far more WYSIWYG. I’ve shown wikis to people at work who just ‘use’ computers, use Word etc and there is always a reluctance to edit, to attempt to use the required syntax to do formatting. If that can be made a lot simpler, then some of the behavioural change will be easier. Another set of conversations were about geting people to use systems like wikis internally, what sort of information could you seed the idea with. A favourite was definitely the lunchtime menus – one story was about the use of a webcam so that people could see the queue to get food. Another favourite would be information about benefit policies. These strategies are targeted at company wide initiatives, where the whole intranet would change, not at providing information solutions for smaller teams. However, whatever the trigger, the technology is often the easy part – finding ways to provide a solution that people will believe will make their lives better enough to get them to use it is always the hard part.

Feb 01


I was going to download the IE7 Beta and take a look at that – I’m pretty sure it’s going to impact a number of the websites I support and wanted to get an early look at any issues. But as it only runs on XP, can’t test it on this machine. Time to go find another.

Dec 22

The Bar

Recently, my company launched a new website, focused on the US market, called It’s got a few firsts for us such as a portfolio site and a heavy flash interactive site, plus some heavy marketing coming in the new year.