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November 28, 2003

More awards

I'm considering starting the Blatant Optimism "Best British Phone Call" awards. If you have made a phone call recently and would like to be considered, please let me know.

I'll need a tape of the call, details of who it was between, and the time it occured. It'll help if lots of other people talked about the phone call, or you quoted lots of other people *in* your phone call.

Obviously, to have just one award would be stupid, covering such a huge category. We'll be breaking it up into the following categories:

Best Under-18 Call
Best Technical Support or Advocacy Call
Best phone call about phone calls
Best short call
MPs that have used a telephone (Special award)
Nicest voice or ringtone

Sorry to spring this on everyone at such short notice. It'll derail the conversation at the bloggers Xmas party even further!

(Ta to Tom, Mo, Meg.)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pointless Error Message Of The Day

"Warning. Erasing this disk may destroy data"

Thank you, Apple's "Disk Copy"

Posted by Tom Dolan at 04:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 27, 2003

Aesoppy sod

Vaughan's telling fables.

Once upon a time, there lived an unremarkable moth.

"Do you know something?" said the moth, asking himself a rhetorical question as he mused on the complexities of life. "I've been captivated by the light of that candle for what seems like forever. Like a moth to a flame, indeed. But now I look at it again, I really don't know what I found so fascinating. It's just a flickering light, and not a very impressive one at that."

I won't spoil the ending.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 02:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 26, 2003

The Mighty Fall

As far as I can tell, last night, from about 6pm onwards, NTL's DNS system went down. For the whole of the UK.

Neither my Dad in Yorkshire, nor I in London could get to anything on the net.

It was like the early days of Demon... :-)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 06:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 23, 2003


Best of luck to my coz in the Young Drummer of the Year competition - she's down to the final 40!

Posted by Tom Dolan at 03:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 21, 2003

Spaghetti Junction in Text-Only Mode

Jackie Cairns' ELECTRIC STEW has some interesting insights into the technology gaps still to be bridged in order for GPS and mobile computing to be useful for blind and partially sighted people.

e.g. There's a good and accessible speaking GPS gizmo on the iPaq, but the iPaq interface is terrible for accessibility, and for most of the programs it's nonexistent.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Interesting article about fake blogs that are actually porn sites - so people won't delete the comment spam and their rank will go up in google.

(Sorry, that may have been in greek to some of you... :-)

Via paranoidfish

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:11 AM | Comments (0)

November 20, 2003


Lie in a bit.
Fabulous piano lesson.
A tube journey where we both got to sit down from the start.
Accidentally bump into a friend.
Window shop for two hours.
Meet a long-lost good-guy from your previous place of work.
Game terrine, pan-fried calves liver, herb encrusted cod, lemon tart with handmade chocolate icecream - overlooking shaftesbury avenue.
Spend close on a thousand pounds on someone you love. (Even if you haven't *actually* met them yet)
Beans on toast.
Linda Smith on Room 101.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

On holiday

So let me get this right, you have a day that's not the weekend, when you *don't* go to work?

Sounds familiar, like some distant memory, you know.

Well, I guess I'll just have to get used to it...

(still waiting to hear back btw)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:32 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 19, 2003

Interesting Commercial Usability Insight

Let's briefly sidestep the traditional popup debate, but imagine you're working on a commercial content site.

You should never put *content* in a popup. Of any form.


Because your audience are so used to closing popups - even on your own site - that they may have already shut the content window by the time they realise it's content.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:11 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 18, 2003

For those that are into that sort of thing

The 2003 Weblogger's Xmas Party has been announced.

It was originally slated for 27th Nov, a Thursday, but now it's been moved to Saturday 29th.

For old folk like me this is a bit of a problem. Saturday nights out in town now fill me with horror. But I may try and struggle in anyway.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 14, 2003

And, relax

Well, it's got to be said that while judging the Interactive BAFTAs was fabulously fulfilling experience, I'm not half glad it's over.

That was a lot of sites to look at, sports fans!

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Second interview monday after work.

There are bits of me now remembering the famous words of Danny O'Brien:

Now I'm going to have to fake this efficiency thing, very, very seriously

(Actually, I know I'm nowhere near as bad as my paranoid vague online persona would indicate, but it's a nice excuse to link)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 13, 2003

Hurrah for Denise, Cal, Tom and the new person whose name I've forgotten

It's Secret Santa time!

Posted by Tom Dolan at 04:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 11, 2003

Visio v Omnigraffle Pro

Okay, I need a really objective comparative study on this. Are there any power users of both Visio and Omnigraffle out there who could give me an opinion?

I tend to work in PC-based offices a lot. And I use Visio a *hell* of a lot. I particularly like having multiple sheets in one file so I can contain all of a project in one place. Normally I could persuade my employers to cough up for this, but I'm increasingly hopping between companies where that's not an option. (Um, did I mention that the machine I'm typing this on only has 64MB of RAM?) So I find myself ever-reliant on my powerbook for this, which presents me with a problem.

Vanilla comes-with-your-powerbook Omnigraffle alone isn't enough to do the things I want, and while OG3 Pro has multiple sheets, they're nowhere near as usable as the "excel-style" ones of Visio. And I miss being able to just click on an object and start typing when I want to label it. Mind you, it's only $120 or so.

Or should I just buy Virtual PC and Visio Pro? Bloody expensive (200 and 500 quid respectively, but then I'd probably buy VPC sooner or later anyway for all that client-facing compatibility)

Has anyone used both extensively who could offer an opinion?

(And I do mean *extensively* - I depend on this for putting together sitemaps, wireframes, IA, flowcharts etc etc etc)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 03:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 10, 2003

Coming Along Nicely

Vaughan WhereverYouAre's list of 100 Things about himself generated by his readers has now hit 80 and he's gone public. Only 20 more to go...

(There's a certain amount of fun to be had in trying to work out which facts went with which blogger too...er, if you actually read them too much. If you have a decent blog/life balance then you probably wouldn't bother.)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 09, 2003

On getting things in proportion...

A possibly apocryphal quote from someone dealing with 'lack of perspective' from people working on the BBC hospital-based drama Holby City:

"By the way, can I just point out, we're not *actually* doctors"

Posted by Tom Dolan at 01:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 07, 2003

It makes me feel almost organised...

...when I see someone with an enormous outlook directory tree *and* over


emails in their inbox.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 02:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Good lord. I think I'm being headhunted.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 06, 2003

Very Dear Friend In Need

Marv has got a one-bedroom flat in London N8 to let out in about two weeks while he's away on holiday for three months. Can any of you out there help him out?

(He's also broken his permalinks, so you'll need to scroll down to the entry on Nov 4th)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

That Nice Mr Howard

Tom Watson on key facts about Michael Howard that you may have forgotten

As Environment Secretary, Howard allowed power generators to keep their pollution levels secret (Nov 1992)

n 1995 he was accused by Private Eye and the New Statesman of misleading Parliament over the privatisation of the Home Office computer network (link)

Howard was the Minister in Charge of bringing in the Poll Tax in 1988. Even after Thatcher had gone, and after the poll tax riots, he insisted he still believed in the policy (July 1991)

Howard was the Minister who brought in Clause 28 of the Local Government Act banning the "promotion" of homosexuality (March 1988)

Howard voted in favour of anti-abortion campaigner David Alton's Bill to reduce access to abortion (January 1988)

As Employment Secretary, Howard tried to stop attempts at EU level to introduce a 48 hour working week and to give working women statutory maternity rights (June 1991)

It's also worth reading on to the comments at the bottom. Some interestingly irrelevant carping there.

Via Plasticbag

Posted by Tom Dolan at 07:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 05, 2003

The View From Here...

At the risk of turning into Tom Coates, I must say there is something rather wonderful about looking out of my new office (for the next week-and-a-bit anyway) in the big LWT tower on the South Bank*, down onto the beautiful kinetic sculpture on the top of the Hayward Gallery.

And it's rather lovely here. The offices are nice, the people are nice, they know what they're doing and why, and I actually want to get on with doing stuff rather than distracting myself with a weblog. The immediate environment is just *fab*, so it's a shame that I'm likely to be moving on shortly. But it's nice to know there's another place I could feel as comfortable as I did when I was at the BBC. Even if it's in a different way and for different reasons.

* Of the Thames, in London. It's a local south bank for local people.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

That'll be why the view's so strange...

It used to be that what a writer did was type a bit and then stare out of the window a bit, type a bit, stare out of the window a bit.

Networked computers make these two activities converge, because now the thing you type on and the window you stare out of are the same thing.

Douglas Adams, quoted in Unask's Electric Text

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 02, 2003

Not quite Gevrey-Chambertin

I don't think it's been discussed in this world often enough, but at times of need, there is indescribeable comfort to be had from the simple pleasure of wearing a brand new pair of socks. Snug, springy, cool and fresh - confidence and comfort for less than the price of a pint in the West End of London.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 07:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bloody Typical

While I was at MTV, I was under constant pressure to come up with light, fluffy, non-UK-centric entertainment ideas. And yet the things I seemed to find most inspiring were to do with British politics.

Cut to three months later.

Here I am, trying to think of a compelling project to submit for MySociety (the last having been slightly 'adopted' by some ex-UMSers grumble grumble) and instead I've managed to come up with a brilliant format for an utterly silly international collaborative nostalgia site.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 06:05 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Soon, all this will be over...

I'm changing jobs again. Off to Granada to do interesting iTV, Web and Mobile things for a bit. It's a short term contract, very short term, but it should be interesting. It's a company going through a lot of changes at the moment, but they're also VERY good on the business side of things. Lots to be learnt. Which is the upside.

On the downside, however, I'm facing an increasingly uncertain financial position, at a time when my about-to-grow family needs me to be Very Secure Indeed.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are quite a few interesting jobs out there. And the market is in *sooooooo* much better shape than it was six months ago when I first left the beeb. But, as the saying has been in our house recently, we're looking forward to things 'getting back to normal'.

While at MTV I got chatting to a lovely director called Nat. He'd had his first kid around three years ago, and we were comparing notes. "The thing is," he said to me, "after the first one I knew there would be a bit of upset for about six to nine months, and then things would settle down again."

"Of course", I said, reaching for another glass of wine.

"But then my wife got pregnant again, so we had all the build-up to that, and we were straight into the next nine-months of upset to our lives."

"Ah", said I. There had been a lot of glasses of wine. I wasn't capable of great wit at this point. In fact, I'm suprised I've remembered this much. Anyway, he went on:

"And then, about two-and-a-half years later, I realised that this was it. It wasn't going to go back to how it was before. This was the new normal."

And that's kind of how I feel now. This is the new normal. And to be honest it's probably a really good thing. I mean, lets take an extremely pessimistic and critical view of the events of recent years:

So you look at all that, covering the last - oooh - five years, and say, "So which normal exactly was it that you wanted to go back to?"

Posted by Tom Dolan at 01:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack