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June 30, 2002

Things to remember about altitude No 1

Three beers and a glass of wine suddenly becomes a *lot* to drink. No matter how much you're in practice at ground level.


Posted by Tom Dolan at 07:55 PM | Comments (0)

Lawyers v Hackers?

Jamie's just made an interesting point - is code evolving faster than the law? Are cases the MPAA is trying to bring going to be irrelevant and unenforcable by the time they're on the statute books?

It reminds me of a virtual version of the toner wars in Neal Stephenson's "Diamond Age"

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:12 AM | Comments (0)

June 29, 2002

Peer to Peer Publishing

Just had a fabulous talk from Meg, peppered with wonderful interjections from Jamie King of metamute.

Jamie's really interesting - I want to talk to him more. He's the sort of person who is nearly always spoiling for a fight, but reminds you of your responsibilities. 'Oh shit, yes, I have a conscience'.

He's taken issue with me on a few points, and once mistook me for a union-basher, but I've always managed to explain why I've said what I've said. Or point out that he'd completely misunderstood me on the union thing. But it did make me think about whether that's always the case... he should definitely keep badgering away!!!!

Oh, one other thing. Despite deliberate attempts at appearing to the contrary, the couple who make Movable Type are doing it as a full-time job and not getting paid. I'm now impelled to make a donation because it's a great, great product.

I wonder whether we need to start a campaign for 'subsistence payment for blogging tool authors'? Tom officially declares the start of the SAVE BEN AND MENA CAMPAIGN.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 07:00 PM | Comments (0)

Meetup Day

Don't forget that meetup day is on the 18th.

I must admit that I was slightly shocked at some of the choices of venues for the London meetup. A *Starbucks* for christs sake?

Anyway, hie yourselves over to to get involved in your local one.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 06:57 PM | Comments (0)

Some Piccies

Looking down on Banff
Rainy, and looking down on Banff from the top of (possibly) Tunnel Mountain.

A high pointy thing
I was very glad we weren't climbing this too!

Posted by Tom Dolan at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

Aboriginal Television

This is probably one of the greatest cultural shocks to me. In europe we're pretty much so mongrelised that we don't have an indigenous population. (Gypsies possibly?)

In Canada, the Aboriginals aren't interested in television made by people in the south - they want to talk about their own issues, and we had a fabulous and really inspiring talk from Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew - a Cree/French Canadian who's been a key player in Aboriginal People's Television Network. He works with native producers and is trying to find ways to bring their programmes into the interactive world. This is despite huge pressures from the likes of CBC and the old-skool linear tv folk at APTN.

He's using a lot of cool-looking tools from Zope to help him do this.

It was also interesting to hear that it's not possible to study native arts at university here - you study European classical art, and the only place native arts are discussed are in anthropology.

Similarly, there's no discussion of Aboriginal creation stories, and how they should be preserved. He's looking at ways to do that.

A very inspiring figure.

Incidentally, he's also made me reappraise The Mullet. His is essentially an unplaited version of what the other Aboriginals are wearing - as seen in every western ever.

Realised I was jumping to very false conclusions.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 03:30 PM | Comments (0)

Code Zebra

This is just plain fabulous. Mindblowingly amazing.

A graphical user interface to a chat client/messageboard that shows the evolution and linkages of the community in real time.

Meg Houlihan and I were considering its appropriateness for blogging communities - it seems a really good complementary tool to the new version of Movable Type, which will provide a popup of "what people are saying about my posts". Coolness incorporated!

Posted by Tom Dolan at 03:20 PM | Comments (0)

Tunnel Mountain

We went for a walk up this (well I believe it was - it might have been a pathetic little hillock that's near it) yesterday as a way of digesting some of the information we'd had at the keynote speeches, and to chat to other members of the group without having to hang around awkwardly in a 'generic room'. About an hour and a half all in all.

Tunnel Mountain doesn't actually *have* a tunnel. It was planned, but then they decided to divert the railroad round it instead. There was some implication this was a turn-of-the-century scam. :-) Anyway, the name stuck. The local name for it is 'Sleeping Buffalo', because that's what they think it looks like.

Spent a long time talking to a lovely lady called Meg. Having now read her biog I've discovered that she's *this* Meg who's part of the team that created blogger. Nuff respeck!

Posted by Tom Dolan at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)

Banff excitement, part one of a thousand

Bloody hell this place is beautiful.

I'm sitting here typing away in what would normally be a terminal room. But instead I'm looking through enormous pine-edged windows, over the walls mace of what I presume is local granite, to see groundhogs and deer wandering the grounds.

Oh, and a pair of magpies.

Behind them is beautiful pine forest, leading up to the mountains beyond. It's been a cold and bitter winter here that lasted a long time, and so they've still got a tiny bit of snow on top of them. Gosh I wish I had a digital camera - it would make things so much easier...

Posted by Tom Dolan at 02:05 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2002

I'm wearing out my...joie de vivre

There's been a silence on here recently.


This is caused by a) getting some sleep, b) stocking up on couply-ness before I go away.

Once I get to Banff, I'm sure the torrents of shite will resume.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2002

Global Domination - Help Is At Hand

Now I know where I'm going to get my robotic tigers.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 01:18 PM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2002

Canadian Adventure

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to Banff we go...

10 days of being surrounded by people just like me, and trying to work out whether I'm good enough to be 'a person just like me'.

Key issues:
1) No project to take along at the moment
2) 12-minute presentation about 'new media projects - funding and production' - what am I going to say given my slightly priveleged position in the current media market. (Though the tendency to point out that I was earning half what they were a year ago is very keen)
3) The half-hour - yes, half-hour - presentation on interactive fiction.

It's odd though - it's making me reevaluate and realise that I have actually done some cool stuff in my time. Something I tend to forget.

Waiting for terms of contract - I hope to blog the whole thing if wireless is available...

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2002

License to hate your parents

The poor sod. Remember to think carefully when naming your children, sports fans!

(Note: this will only be funny if you are from the UK. And possibly only if you went to primary school in the 70s)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:37 PM | Comments (55)

Not alone?

Mutual Misunderstanding is down, and Crazy Beautiful is either undergoing a massive redesign or pretty much the same thing...

Posted by Tom Dolan at 06:44 AM | Comments (3)


The blog equivalent of several days of staring numbly into space, knowing that nothing's going on in your head, yet at the same time *everything's* going on inside your head - but just out of reach.

I'm getting sleep, drinking less, more productive at work, less stressed, but still feel I need to sstare into space and dribble for about five weeks.

Prod me with a pointy stick if you need me...

Posted by Tom Dolan at 06:42 AM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2002


I now own a new house. How did that happen? And what am I going to do with all the spare time now I don't have to be stressed about trying to buy a house?

Posted by Tom Dolan at 02:40 PM | Comments (1)

June 16, 2002

Apologies - A serious (RIPA) moment

Post Office To Steam Open Your History File [from]

One of the more extreme powers the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) handed out two years ago let government agencies obtain "traffic data" without a judicial warrant.

Traffic data is best described as the writing on the envelope of a message, instead of its contents. It can be the list of phone numbers you have called in the last six months. Or a full list of Websites you have visited. Or the times you log on, and from where. Or who you e-mail, or what programs you've downloaded, or what newsgroups you read. Or the position of your cellphone last Tuesday at five.

Because the risk of abuse of this power (there's no judicial oversight - all that's needed is the permission of a suitably high-powered boss), those who could wield it were strictly limited. Only the police, Customs and Excise and the secret services were allowed access to traffic data in the original act.

Not any more.

On Friday, the Home Office petitioned parliament to add a vast array of organisations to that list. If their passes, everyone from the DTI, any local authority, the Food Standards Agency, the Home Office themselves (of course), and staggeringly enough, Consignia. The final entry in the list says that "A Universal Service Provider within the meaning of the Postal Services Act 2000" has the same power as the secret services to read your traffic data. There's only one USP in Britain right now, and that's the provider previously known as the Royal Mail.

If the idea that the fricking Post Office has access to your web logs (access which would cost a competitive company millions, and would probably get them investigated by the Data Protection people), let alone every minor apparatchik on the block, you might want to kick up a fuss about this. It's due to appear before MPs on June 18th, and the Lords a little after.

How do I find out more?

Read the Order before Parliament. It's very short (although the list of allowed organisations is very long - two minutes should do it).

Flick through our quick notes on the original RIPA law. (The notes are based on an earlier draft, so the section numbers are a bit off. But you get the idea.)

What can I do?

Fax your MP now. The Order is to be debated next Tuesday, and these things are usually rubber-stamped. Tell your MP which groups you don't want to be spied on by (list them all), and tell him why. Explain what traffic data means (your MP might not now how wide-ranging it is). Explain it in terms he or she can understand - if they're a Conservative, explain how it's government prying into people's lives. If they're Labour, talk about civil rights. If they're Liberal, say what you like - the LibDems are usually down with this sort of nonsense. Ask for a reply.

It'll take twenty minutes of your time. It'll make a difference. Members of Parliament hate having this sort of wide-ranging power sneaked past them as much as you do. If you're feeling a bit lazy today, you could forward this message to one of your more overactive friends. And then write your letter tomorrow.


If you're a journalist, or want to write a detailed piece for others, you can contact Ian Brown (+44 7970 164526) at The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR). As ever, they were the ones to spot this piece of nastiness first. And if you're feeling flush, for 25 you can join the Friends of FIPR which will get you advance alerts and a warm feeling about these issues.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:01 PM | Comments (1)

June 12, 2002

Forget e-bay - Amazon is the new home of sarcasm

Read the reviews of the new Hasselhof album. After the first five or so it starts getting a bit silly...

Posted by Tom Dolan at 04:28 PM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2002

Oasis members beware

The Monobrow matching game was just so good I had to blog it immediately.

(Via milkandcookies and KookyMojo

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:47 PM | Comments (0)

South Park Character Maker

Possibly old hat, but just in case - create your own South Park character shockwave jobbie.

tom vix

(Thanks to Tom Plasticbag for this.)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:06 PM | Comments (28)

More Xcom

Cory Doctorow and Tom Coates (European weblog of the year, as he was so embarrasingly reminded every three minutes :-) both have good things to say about XCom2002.

Which I don't necessarily agree with all of, but then perhaps it's the right moment to spend some time reading *more* things I don't agree with.

Denise Wilton from b3ta (pronounced "beeta", not "bayta" or "bee-three-tee-ay") was a real anomaly - her lurker-to-poster ratio is less than 1%, and her moderation systems seem to really reinforce good stuff.

I still think that we should be hunting for a method of measuring authenticity. Google is as near as we've got at the moment, but TomC rightly pointed out that you could link to a reactionary bigot saying "what a reactionary bigot" and they'd go up in the search engines. There needs to be a wrapper that carries some information about the context of those links with it..."it's heavily linked - and here's *why*".

Also, there was a lot of talking about whether blogging was the new journalism. As I'm sure you lot have guessed, I simply can't be arsed to write x-thousand words per week on demand about something new. I want others to do that for me. I'll pay for a physical thing, or "pay" by linking from my own blog if it's published online. But I expect a blog to be fundamentally personal, transient and faintly sloppy. A blog that's just how-many-links-can-I-cram-into-one-post-to-prove-how-erudite-I-am doesn't interest me at all. I have search engines for that!

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)


Today, I am one year older.

Some lovely DVDs, CDs, Kitchen Gadgets and a day to sit at home and read. What more could I ask for?

(Oh, yes, having my other half at home here too. Curse this grown-up responsibility malarkey)

33, if you must know.

Also, if you've got this far, you'll have realised I also managed to get the templates working properly - another nice birthday suprise.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 07:24 AM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2002


Good lord. That was a busy day. And suprisingly alcoholic too...

Posted by Tom Dolan at 09:53 PM | Comments (0)

Online Comedy Panel

This is fabulous. They're the most chain-smoking, self-deprecating bunch of scowling gits you could imagine. And they're giving damn good entertainment.

Fundamentally they all agree that doing cutting-edge satire will alienate any potential advertisers.

And Charlie Brooker has claimed the reason he missed out on any potential revune from selling his book was because he was just too damn inept to realise that Amazon Partners exist. He's far more charming in real life than you'd imagine from the creator of Nathan Barley.

Rockall Times, TVGoHome and TheFridayThing are all on the panel, btw. And there's a guy from The Register hosting. Go figure.

The missus has just sagely pointed out that the person who's most vehemently opposed to ads on their site is the only one who's already made money. She is clever.

They all believe though, that there is a market for a really kick-arse online comedy site. Which is good.

CB still sticks to his claim that the ultimate comedy is 'funny cum-shots'. :-)))))))

Posted by Tom Dolan at 03:39 PM | Comments (0)

Festival Of Inappropriate Technology

Thanks to NTK and Metamute for organising this fabulous, if - it must be sadly said - slightly aromatic event.

So here we are in a lovely noisy conference hall. I've already real-life triggered an entry on someone else's blog. Hurrah.

Ben Moor started the day with a wonderful set of archive clips of wierdness. William Shatner's interpretation of 'Rocket Man' was fab, as was the great film about the wonders of Calcium. Was also good to see the Chris Morris meets John Stapleton footage again after all this time.

Within the bounds of fair use, that is.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)

Cooking Disaster

Colskee and cooking don't get on apparently...

I had to smile.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:54 AM | Comments (0)

Best Link Of The Week

Thanks to The Obvious for this classic

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:47 AM | Comments (0)

Cultural Differences

Touching Italians is fine, but you must never, ever tell them how to use a product. You merely suggest what they might consider doing with it, according to Carmella Esposito, a former United Nations translator who now works as a freelance technical support consultant.

Read The F***ing Story, Then RTFM - via haddock

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)

Holiday Time

Can't help noticing that a lot of blogs have gone a bit quiet recently. Embarrassment and guilt finally pushed me over the edge to the point where I've overcome my fear of tempting fate.

What's everyone else's excuse? You can't still be at a Jubilee street party!

(Mind you, good to see that Meg is back from her hols.)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:29 AM | Comments (1)

Stress Update

I guess I should mention that we've sold the house. Argh.

We also girded our loins for the depressing tour of estate agents in our chosen location. Estate Agent: [n] One who fails to return calls, looks at you incredulously when you say you want to buy a house, sends you inappropriate details, and phones everyone else to tell them about the house you wanted.

And they were lovely. I guess it's the power of actually having the money to spend now.

We saw a place we fell in love with - 2 RJ45 points in every room, patching in the cellar, enormous garden, fab kitchen - and were then told by the bank that we couldn't afford it.


But they have agreed to lend us over the standard amount, and now we have a decent footing for making real offers on real houses. Up to a slightly-smaller-than-we-hoped number. But at least we know.

The effect of this: I'm knackered because I don't have to be sensible, grown up and mature any more. Just really shattered. So I'm even more confused about why I woke up at 5am...

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:28 AM | Comments (0)

Memo To Self

A general to-do list, created for the purpose of naming and