October 31, 2003
It's Time...For A Change
Why don't you turn off your monitor and go off and do something less boring instead?
Like, for example, going on a nice long walk in the fresh air and coming up with a scalable, low-cost way of improving the world using online media that business can't see money in, and is too small or politically sensitive for government to do.
Then come back into your darkened, airless room and send it to the fab folks at mySociety who are looking to fund just that sort of thing.
Get yer thinking caps on, people!
October 30, 2003
Conclusive proof here, that over the last four decades, one man's perception of the ideal womanhas got blonder.
(And possibly slightly thinner. Or perhaps just less imaginative in her posture.)
What a way to go...
You can now buy friends who have everything a Future Forests tree for Christmas.
(Though from the blurb, I'm not sure if the tree planted is merely enough to soak up the CO2 produced by the gift's production, or if the planet makes on the deal long-term. I'd assume the latter, otherwise what's the point...?)
I submitted one that was true, and another that was just utterly utterly false. But he's still got 50-odd to go!
October 29, 2003
Have Data, Will Get Nostalgic
Well, it's with great joy that I've now managed to get MySQL working on the TiBook. (It worked, but I couldn't get any users to connect to it. And if PaulH can get stuck on that, then I don't see why I should feel guilty admitting it.)
It's all rather exciting actually. Way back in the days before I became a luminary (ha) of interactive media, I was a suit-wearing corporate systems analyst, designing foxy reporting systems for the ex-consultant brigade on one hand, and order input systems for truck drivers on the other. (Not *that's* a usability test! :-)
And I gave it all up. I got into the media. New Media.
I built lots of websites in HTML. I got really good at it. Moved up the ladder. Became a 'Head of...'
So there I was. King of all things web. King of all things database. And at no point had the two worlds collided.
But it's time to put an end to all that. I'm fed up with relying on developers to build things who don't read my spec documents, don't look at the wireframes, and don't play with the flatfile HTML mockup. And I'm pretty sure I can do it myself in the time it takes to nag them.
All I have to do now is deal with the horrifying realisation that I'm so old and grey that SQL wasn't actually standardised when I learnt it...
Interesting to see how the stories from different reporters in different places around westminster and his constituency collide to give a real sense of news happening and its context.
Online drama folks, please take note.
explodingdog was a suprise, if joyous discovery.
The pictures are wonderfully naive, but convey a huge wave of emotion. Or perhaps I'm just a sentimental old sod.
October 28, 2003
Big red scary face of fun.
Sponsor Richard Herring running the London Marathon. He's trying to persuade Stewart Lee to join in too.
Talking of 'Do Not Dispose'
Having read Paranoid Fish, Plastic Bag, Interconnected and many others, I'm not sure I'll be forking out for Mac OS X Panther just yet. Everyone seems a little, well, underwhelmed.
Once the bugs have been ironed out perhaps...
Do not collect income. Do not dispose.
It may just be the impending financial ruin (postponed one or two weeks at a time) that increases my sympathy here, but I can sort of see why Colskee is going back to basics.
I will not buy a 40 gig mp3 player. I do not need my entire CD collection with me at any point in the day. (I don't even really need it at home).
October 27, 2003
As I'm just having to reinstall millions of apps on a rebuilt machine, this episode of Hackles rather appealed to the spod in me.
October 22, 2003
Simon MM and I went on a road trip last night to get his hands on a vintage Emulator 1 sampler owned by Tears For Fears.
Simon's posted some rather fab pictures of the beast in question, but none of them quite capture the excitement of opening up the machine and reseating the Z80 processor chips as we (well, he, really) tried to get it working again.
Whereas I think this blurry photo does the job rather well.
Recurring blog entry.
For the sake of a rant on the uk-netmarketing mailing list about someone who wanted to send 100MB email attachments - possibly as spam, I can no longer remember - I had to dig out David Weinberger's World of Ends essay.
And every time I go back to it, I'm reminded just how damn *right* it is, and how damn simple and *obvious*.
Douglas Rushkoff's statement that 'most of the innovation in the internet happened in a gift economy among academics' keeps coming back to me. I'm not sure he was right to say that innovation stopped when 'industry' got involved, but I do feel that 'industry' was a bit too damn lazy to go through the proper hoops.
But going back to the email attachment - I remember zipping email attachments before sending them, as the time it took to do the zip took less time than sending the extra data down my 14.4K modem.
I doubt if anyone does that any more. But simple economies like that *haven't* been automated. And they should have been.
I hate hate
Okay, so it's just non-stop abuse, and I'm not sure I completely agree with the americans-in-airport page, but Tim's page of hate was rather pleasurable. Do check out the clubbing pages. They reminded me of the self-knowing bits of Mixmag back when it was good. (Or perhaps I mean when I was younger and understood it so thought it was good)
October 21, 2003
And on the subject of getting a life...
Simon Mutual Misunderstanding has just found evidence of the matrix
Sorry, everyone else look away, this post has an audience of about 3 people. (So that's half of you.)
I've been wondering who might take over as head of iTV commissioning at the beeb, and the name 'David Docherty' just keeps coming back into my head again and again and again. Wierd gut-feeling, that's all.
So I bet the first person who puts their name into my comments the princely sum of ONE WHOLE POUND that it will be him.
(Speculation on other contenders deleted as that's just *toooooo* boring.)
I've just realised - is this my blog moving into fully-fledged commerce-driven interactivity?
October 20, 2003
Banff Strikes Again
It's really good to see another project from last year's 'Interactive Screen' event at Banff get moving.
(I went not knowing I was supposed to be taking a project, and instead had to discover one while I was there. Instead I found two connected truths:
1. I got into all this media stuff because of music. And music is how I most naturally articulate my personal creativity. This got lost along the way, but Banff led to my going for formal piano lessons, leading to much improved mental health.
2. Producers in hostile commissioning environments for long enough will shrink their own personal taste to only encompass what they can get commissioned. It's their manager's job to ensure that they keep looking outside that world for new inspiration or they will go slightly mad.)
Anyway, Scott Paterson's PDPal started off as a bunch of paper prototypes, and has a really interesting information journey between devices. (Though in Europe I'm not sure that it wouldn't all be done through mobile now)
Check it out.
October 17, 2003
Is Bush Scared?
There's a very interesting thing about the picture of When Bush met Arnie (popup, just for a change) that everyone is using.
It's not obvious at first, but I think it's relevant.
Whenever George Bush meets *anyone* in public for a shot like this, he's on the right of the photograph. This is so that when the two people shake hands, his full body is in shot and open, whereas the other person is side-on and has their arm across them.
This is, I suspect, to make him look more open and inviting. Basically being the dominant person in the photograph.
He's so keen on it that there have even been some very awkward scenes on the white house lawn where he's found himself on the wrong side of his guest. Putin and Schroeder have both had their hands refused while he walks round to the other side of them and offers his.
So when *Arnie* gets to stand on the right of Bush, whereas others with nuclear weapons don't, something's up.
- Is it a deliberate concession to look inclusive?
- Was there just no way round Arnie in the space available?
- Did they have a box for Bush to stand on which it would be more embarrassing to move?
- Or could Dubya just not bring himself to stand up to all that aryan muscle?
I guess we'll see...
(And while I'm at it, I can't find George Bush's height online. Curious.)
"I don’t want … to be misconstrued. I don’t want to come across as a right-wing radical."
Well, is he [bin Laden] the enemy? Next slide. Or is this man [Saddam] the enemy? The enemy is none of these people I have showed you here. The enemy is a spiritual enemy. He's called the principality of darkness. The enemy is a guy called Satan.
Via Oblomovka linklog
October 16, 2003
Camp, or careless?
From today's Snowmail newsletter...
Fudge expected as Anglicans debate gay clergy:
We are expecting something to happen as the Church of England's highest gather to agonise over the issue of the gay clergy. With talk of schism rending the air, dramatic moves could happen. But then again this is the Anglican Church, so a little light fudge over the Earl Grey seems more likely.
Sky sports are aggressively expanding their portfolio, and have just acquired the rights to the world origami championships.
Fans without premium channels are, however, up in arms.
Sadly it's pay-per-view.
with thanks(?) to Dub
You Know Who You Are
To the fabulous fabulous person, who managed to procure me a copy of the thing that first made me want to get into music, and without which (despite having gone astray) I wouldn't be where I am today...
It was one of those rare occasions where you revisit your past and find it as good as you remembered. And can see why it had, and agree with, the effect it did.
Making the management pyramid evolve towards you
Mr Colfelt has a rather beautiful take on restructuring companies
Today we were mostly being restructured... again. I think it's about the 8th or 9th in the four years I've been here... two a year. That's a pretty good average.
Well worth reading on as he beautifully expresses what I now think is a pretty universal symptom.
(Hmmmm, some strange linkage between crystallography, recruiting in your own image and organisational behaviour bubble round my head. But it'll pass.)
No more viagra or penis enlargement
As a way of combatting the rise of comment-spam (posting links to your own sites in popular blogs to up their ranking in Google) the cunning Yoz has posted seven quick tips for a spam-free blog.
I'm a long way down the power-law, so it's rarely a problem for me (though certain posts get it a *lot*) but even so I'll be implementing his 'tip 6' so that I can delete spam comments directly from the 'you have comments' notification email.
October 15, 2003
Looking Ridiculous for Fun and Profit
Tim Wright has spectacularly cracked how to get going on a new project, particularly one that's been in gestation for ages.
From today's 'New Media Age':
A shake-up of the way the BBC produces intereactive TV programmes will see the Corporation's director of television, Jana Bennett, taking up joint responsibility for commissioning and strategy with BBC director of new media, Ashley Highfield.
Scott Gronmark, the current BBC head of interactive TV programmes, will leave the corporation. Several members of the team behind iTV production at Bush House in Central London will move over to Television Centre at White City in the next few months.
Just thought it was worth noting, that's all.
What were they thinking?
I don't care *how* deep and moving a voice you say it in, Seabiscuit is a fucking stupid name for a film.
Riding Seabiscuit, Seabiscuit passes the post, Seabiscuit the superhorse, Taming Seabiscuit, Seabiscuit escapes being catfood, gosh anything would have been better. Particularly something that indicates that, say, Seabiscuit is the name of a *tossing racehorse*.
But no, in the UK the trailer comes on, and all anyone in the cinema can do is giggle. You should have thought of that, marketing people.
Will Linklogs Improve Signal-to-Noise?
It may be that I'm just busier. It may be that I'm just going through a lot of changes at the moment and the purpose of this blog isn't clear. (Vaughan, what number Standard Blogging Crisis is that?) But one thing is for certain, I'm posting a *hell* of a lot less to the main area of this blog these days.
The main reason is the grey box to the left of the homepage.
Quite often I've found interesting things online, and thought "ooooh, I'd better put that in the blog" as much for myself as for public consumption. But because it's in public view I've felt obliged to justify it in some way. And one thought leads to another, and I'm off in an essay.
The linklog frees me from that responsibility, and as a side-effect divorces me from the opportunity offered by those random connections.
So now, if I post something in this blog, I Have To Mean It.
I have to know what I'm going to say in advance.
This, for someone who thinks (in home-mode) by exploring these random links as I go, and is often as suprised as anyone that something of consequence comes out of it, may just be too much like hard work.
Or perhaps it's an opportunity?
Anyway, I have to wonder how this is going to affect the wider blogging community once they realise that all they have to do is #include another instance of MT.
Will the inane chatter so derided by blogging critics start to dry up? Will we finally be freed from the curse of the "Steve likes cheese. I like cheese too" post? Or will we go too far, leaving the world of blogging to become a drier, more boring, less intimate and personal space? Will it, and I'm not sure this is a sentence I'm comfortable with, become more like traditional media?
October 12, 2003
Belated Brain Dump
Had a great, great night with Euan and the missus hearing Douglas Rushkoff in a Demos-sponsored talk at the ICA about 'Open Source Democracy'. There's also a PDF of a book of the same name you can download.
My memory of reading Rushkoff's 'Cyberia' all those years ago is of being frustrated, as I felt that he'd started really well and then, in the final chapters, got swept along with a whole bunch of, admittedly charismatic, SF-style gurus talking utter bollocks.
This night reminded me that I should have remembered how good the first 90% of the book was, and stopped being such a smug cynical old whinger.
Rushkoff was a witty and charming speaker, who was courteous to some rather confrontational tangential questioning, yet still thinking on his feet to produce something of use from any situation. In fact, he seemed to think that the being of use was far more important that looking impressive, a welcome trait at these sorts of gatherings.
Pat Kane (of Hue and Cry all those years ago) was also fascinating - a strange combination of high-art and earthy leftiness. Was very wise in a lot of areas. He and Rushkoff bounced off eachother really well.
Sadly Martin Jacques, an incredibly intelligent bloke who was one of the founders of Demos, had the same infuriating interviewing style as Ned Sherrin. My memory is that he rarely asked a question without answering it himself, at length, leaving the interviewers with nowhere to go. And on the one occasion he did, talked over their answer to introduce a new question. Grrrr.
Here are my scribblings. Make of them what you will.
- R: Challenge of today is to push through own cynicism into a new naivete
Have to find optimism against all the odds.
Is Arnie a deliberate rebellion?
- Pat: howard dean – low charisma, dry policy maker. (T:Like many adopters of new media for power? V Carolyn Marvin)
- O’Hagan LRB essay : watchers culture. Pat says ‘crap nostalgia’
- Democracy and tech relationship, replaced by agency and tech relationship.
- What will Bono do with politics when he becomes a US citizen?
- Rushkoff hardly looks at the audience. (T: In hindsight this wasn't true. He was just thinking hard at the start)
- Dotcom failure thing:
When there was only TV, we tended to just believe it.
Govt cast itself as enemy to cyberspace.
So public killed govt influence on the net, thereby stopping govt keeping check on commercial use of online.
- Net has shaken off the virus of commerce. Having shrunk off defence before. (T: Is it rejecting the web? Are we slowly reverting to Usenet?)
- BBC creative archive empowering memory?
- Internet innovation of any note driven by essentially a gift economy.- progress frozen since commerce involved.
- Has the web frozen community. (Can't remember if this was said or me thinking to myself)
- What is going on is not the net, but the net’s impact on other media. (T hindsight: this is a really interesting strand to mix into my rule-of-thumb toolkit. Look at net things and work out if I'm stading in Trafalgar Sq trying to find London. Ugh a pratchett quote. Tho it could be gaiman.)
- Most of our society is software, not hardware.
- The net alerts us to the fact that decisions are being made. When you see the frame round the picture, you realise the picture was drawn, rather than always in existence.
- Addicted to aristotelean arguments. Like it with Beginning Middle and End. Philosophically urged to postpone this moment in the hope of a better later. How to extend the now.( THE WIDE NOW?)
- Is society fo fabric crumbling because of increased individualism? Rushk – not based on expression. Commerce drives: The more we despise eachother, the less we will trust and borrow, so the more stuff we will need?
- People aren’t afraid of the net and what it’s going to do, they’re afraid of being in the drivers seat.
- A lonely sad person buys more stuff. TV helped that.
- Net is remedial help for ability to socialise.
- Lego mindostorms: Only 8% of kids want to reprogram their own toys.
- No such thing as society, only culture, networds and agency.
- Never hbave so many people felt freedom on this planet – (BUT HAS INTEGRAL UNDER CURVE CHANGED?)
- Creation of christian fundamentalist cities, where people recoil from power and return to an externally prescriptive society. Compare to that post on Euan’s blog the other night.
- ‘Revolution is obsolete’ – he doesn’t believe it. (this was re change not being obsolete, but the social structure of a revolutionary movement perhaps no longer being the most efficient and effective way of bringing about change)
- T: Captialst narrative as consensual game theory example. (WTF am I talking about here?)
- Religion is great and fabulously useful, but why on earth do you go to the follish move of believing it?
- Truths don’t stand still. “This week I am Buddha. That was fun, what truth will I try on *this* week”
- Flash-mobs: replaced by smartmobs and dumbmobs.. (IT’S A NEW MEDIUM?) Ravers didn’t understand what was underneath what they were doing. Similarly flash mob.
- By becoming a labelled movement you become a nice easy target.
- Does a movement absolve you of responsibility and identity. (Was this said or me getting ready for my later question about blame?)
- “People thinking of joining things that look like movments”
- The 'will you go with your mates for a Mcdonalds after the demo?' story: Small instances of Being courageous in the moment will effect cumulatively huge change.
- The shift from hieroglyphs to alphabets was a mass-consumerisation fo literacy. Suddenly you didn’t have to be a priest. Only 26 symbols as opposed to thousands.
- Emergence of public-access interenet in UK, as opposed to US where it was a status symbol.
- When you put things online people devalue things. Reritualise voting. Have a totemic bone in a secret room.
October 10, 2003
With IDS in such a terrible state, we've all known it was only a matter of time before the BBC became the formal opposition to Her Majesty's government
The Guardian has learned the level of Mr Dyke's animosity towards the current administration is such that he has even joked darkly to friends of setting up a "splinter party" to Labour.
October 09, 2003
Friday nights all right for being no-wing...
Anyone else off to the ICA to see Douglas Rushkoff in conversation tomorrow night?
October 08, 2003
I think there's something in this...
U.S. News: Why has a widespread, popular micropayments system been long in coming?
McCloud: When the idea was first seriously tried in the mid to late '90s, people were unprepared to pay for content while they still felt like they were paying with their time
Via Tim Wright
October 04, 2003
Proud as can be
Today my mum's latest book 'The Spectre of Hairy Hector' made it into the Guardian's children's book supplement 'Amazing Stories'
Penny Dolan's Ghostly Tales series has as much appeal to boys as well as girls
Go buy for the small(ish) person in your life!
(Champage tonight I think)
October 03, 2003
While I'm Not One To Condemn
Any move to improve the forestation of the world feels like it ought to be a good thing, but it was fascinating to look at the diversity of the 'spin' behind the individual band pages on the Future Forests 'celeb forest' page.
Some are just a band press release with a 'oh and there's this forest thing' stuck on the end - purely about the album.
Others are more sincere and less self-serving. Coldplay are obviously rather earnest about it, but Mel C is trying to have enough trees planted to cancel out the CO2 involved production of her own albums. (Though there are some rather obvious jokes about canceling out methane, and after her latest album about it being more of a coppice than a forest) Simply Red are also doing the same, but manage to make it feel a lot more cynical and grubby.
Oh, and then there's the rather hilarious Atomic Kitten forest, which ends up feeling like something off the back of a cereal packet:
Your package includes:
- number of trees of your choice dedicate to your recipient in Atomic Kitten's forest
- certificate with a personal dedication if you wish
- colour map and information about the forest
- presented in cream folder, tied with ribbon
If only they knew the price in pounds...
A VH1 poll says that 89% of music buyers think CDs aren't priced fairly.
8% think $14-$17 is okay, but 46% think $10-$13 is fairer. And 43% think $6-$9 is fairer.
Or to put it in pounds, £12, £8 and £6. Makes you think doesn't it?
I also wonder about just how much I've managed to adapt to the UK's pricing levels that one of my immediate concerns is whether it would be possible for musicians to survive on that. (Mind you they make footling amounts on each CD sale anyway...)
But what would the effect of this be, figuratively integrating the curve... If CDs were cheaper would I buy more, less or the same. I have to say the answer is 'marginally more'. But I'd quickly get used to the new pricing level and start thinking 'oooh £7 for an artist I've never actually *heard*, perhaps not'.
And would I physically spend more cash? Would more money flow through this particular sub-economy? You know, I don't think I would.
Bigger and Better (gratuitous plug)
The new records have just appeared in herself's BBCi TV Comedy Guide, bringing it pretty much bang up to date.
October 01, 2003
Greed <> Global
In a move that may knock the wind from the sentimental side of anti-globalisation, Sir Martin Sorrell (CE of WPP) has said that assumptions about global marketing have gone too far.
"A client I won't name, a packaged-goods company, has moved strongly to global brands, and a local manager said: '30% of my profits come from a brand that may be jettisoned.' What's happened is that companies are trying to run things in black-and-white ways, where one size fits all. And there's a very simple message: One size doesn't fit all," Sir Martin told [WSJ]. [sub may be required, sorry]
I worry whether some of the anti-globalisation support stems from a nostalgic feeling that Snickers should still be Marathon and suchlike.
I can only assume that they've found a way to carry on globalising without these issues mattering - probably because technology has reduced the cost of reversioning.
He also made several references to Islam, which both inspire and puzzle in equal measure...
Sir Martin argues that ... no one in the West has spent enough time thinking about what makes Muslims unique.
Because, well, obviously, they are aren't they. Unique. Like any group of hundreds of millions of people.
Advice for the young at heart
Tom Coates has posted some rather marvellous, yet fabulously simple, advice for members of online communities
Ironically he's not turned on comments, so I have to post about it here. :-)
He says this:
The second piece of advice is about the content of your posts: Argue the issue, not the person. And the third and final piece of advice is about how you argue your point: The art of winning arguments is all about seeming to be the more reasonable party.
In fact this can be combined, and then applied to a wider negotiating tactic for life in general.
An issue is normally just part of a wider interest, so if you can start arguing on the basis of interests rather than positions taken you'll often find consensus just sort of happens of its own accord. You can then look at millions of imaginative ways of satisfying those mutual interests.
So you can restate Tom's advice as a isomorphism. (Unless that's a type of plankton).
Strip an issue back to an interest and you will achieve resolution by having a wider perspective to judge what is sensible
Bring in a wider perspective and you will see the reasons for a given issue, and can then find sensible ways to satisfy the real needs and wants
Now this isn't as snappy as Tom's advice, but it's one less thing to remember. So here's an even shorter summary:
Act like a mum
There's lots of other good stuff about this in the book 'Getting To Yes' - but like most of these books it's done most of its teaching in the first chapter so have a look in the library. (One day I'll write about "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway")