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March 31, 2004

The Sells Principle

While we're at it, I thought I should document this interesting rule-of-thumb from one of the project managers I deal with. He is sometimes heard to say

"It's only telly"

when things get too heated.

Whereas the internet is described as

"It's not even only telly"

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

aelP lareneG A

A call to the wider network of people that read this and people that they know.

I've just started looking after MTV's global AIDS awareness site - staying-alive.org.

This is a problem in the world of the internet because, as we all know, normally if it all gets too much it doesn't really matter because - hey - we're not trying to save lives here.

Except I kind of am.

(Perhaps this is utterly pompous, but my ambition is to make that potentially-marketing-speak true)

Anyway, one of the things I have to do is get the site working in Mandarin.

So, if you know anyone who's taken a left-to-right site and got it working in right-to-left, can you get them to drop me a line? I want to know about tech, editorial and design issues.

It's a good cause - and I say that having asked cynical questions internally - so consultancies need not apply. However, I may be able to offer drinks in very favourable surroundings on Shaftesbury Avenue for the right individuals with the right war-stories.

[Me acting on my own - not on behalf of my current employers]

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Return to Form

Okay, I've fallen completely head-over-heels in love again.

The new Divine Comedy album 'Absent Friends' is just marvellous. It's the musical embodiment of the catharsis you feel after a really good cry at, say a romantic comedy or Finding Nemo. The feeling that after all that sorrow there is joy after all - the first shiver-inducing sunshine after seemingly-inexorable rain.

Gone is the need to be overly political.

Gone is the desire to be taken seriously.

Gone is the wish to sound like Radiohead.

Instead there is a joyous, slightly silly album with a faintly dark side. It's like his first albums 'Liberation' or 'Promenade', only with a production budget. Perhaps with some 'Casanova' and 'Short Album About Love' thrown in.

It's a homely record, at ease with itself. Confident in its own slightly skewed world-view. At times it feels like Bonzo Dog when they were being musical rather than 'wacky'.

And it also contains two of the best sets of deliberately bad rhymes I've come across in ages.

Imaginary Friend
Daddy drives the mobile lib-ra-ry. [beep beep]
He works pe-ri-pa-tetically

and of course the future winner of the award for best use of a Star Wars reference:

Happy Goth
Well, her clothes are blacker than the blackest cloth
And her face is whiter than the snows of Hoth
She wears Doctor Martens and a heavy cross
But on the inside - she's a happy goth

A grower worth giving the time to germinate.

Good work Neil.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 01:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 30, 2004

Simple Pleasures: No5

The suprise, mixed with a slight guilt at your unnoticably incrementally-diminished horizons, when you find a DVD special feature that is actually in some way special.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Back, and sideways

Hurrah! Fry and Laurie are working together again. Even if it's not on another series of 'A Bit Of...'

Ah. And Jane Root - the internally legendary BBC2 controller - is off to Discovery US, taking her unique style with her.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Comments working again.

Way. And Yoo.

(For the few people that ever actually post comments here...)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 06:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 28, 2004

The Joy Slightly More Fettered After All...

As Piers has pointed out, the reason why I've now stopped getting comment spam is because MT-Blacklist has broken my comments system.


Normal service will be resumed...at some stage.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 09:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 25, 2004

Simple Pleasures: No4

The echo of childhood caused by shaking a blown lightbulb to hear the faint high-pitched rattle from inside, with its naughty hint of adult danger from the knowledge that all lightbulbs are so fragile they will Break At Any Moment!

Posted by Tom Dolan at 09:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 23, 2004

Simple Pleasures: No3

A fully charged electric toothbrush with a brand new brush-head, giving that feeling of dental purpose and power as they start getting your teeth properly clean.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 07:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 19, 2004

How the other side see it

I was very impressed by Tom Coates' recent post on Ninjas v Pirates and Elves v Dwarves.

As I'm also a pirate elf, though possibly more pirate and less elf than Tom, I resented the implication that I could be so easily categorised, and feel that the graph should actually represent people as polygons rather than points. So you would be the cartesian product of your range of elf-dwarf skills and your range of pirate-ninja skills. Or more likely you would be at a different place on the ninja-pirate axis when at your most dwarfish to when you are at your most elvish.

There's also an argument to say that there should be two translucent shapes on there - how you see yourself, and how you actually are.

But of course all of this would a) make the graph impossible to read, b) give it far more seriousness than the thought-experiment warrants.

So to cure this, I here present the paranoid version of Tom's mighty chart - showing how various sides see eachother.


Posted by Tom Dolan at 03:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 18, 2004

Simple Pleasures: No2

The acrid, almost sick-like, smell that uniquely identifies the binding of each book the first time it is opened, accompanied by the first rough run of your fingers down the just-cut pages - the teases of a world of knowledge or imagination waiting to happen.

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

The lethargy-based tipping point

Yesterday, the amount of time spent deleting comment spam and rebuilding this blog was finally more than it would take to get round to reading the installation documentation on MT-Blacklist.

This blog is now going to feel more like a pleasure, rather than an online representation of a teenage bedroom - forever needing tidying up to get rid of the faintly-fascinating filth.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 17, 2004

Simple Pleasures: No1

The cool, freshly springy hug that comes from putting on a brand-new pair of good socks.

[This is an occasional series on reasons to get up in the morning...hopefully daily until I run out, but I'm not promising anything]

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 16, 2004

Montana New Zealand Unoaked Chardonnay

[We had this on a night of many fine wines, including a claret that I had to resist hard as I was driving. Thanks to Phillip and Lyn]

This rather generic new world bottle came as a complete suprise. We picked it up as 'the least unpromising or obvious thing on the shelf in Somerfield' and I think it cost around £6.50 a bottle. We were tempted because we've not had much NZ Chardonnay, though we drink NZ Sauv in huge quantities when we can afford it. To also have it unoaked sounded like an extra ingredient of interestingness.

And it was bloody marvellous.

It had all the crisp fruity freshness of a sauv from NZ, but without the biting acidity or cat-wee scent. A touch of grassiness too. And when you actually drank it - woooo.

Vicky said it tasted of candyfloss, but there was also a sharpness that reminded me of the mouth-lacerating 'Rhubarb and Custard' penny chews from when I was little. It was beautifully balanced, and by the end of the glass I worked out that the flavour lurking at the very end I'd not been able to pin down was - of all things - pomegranete.

Fascinating, suprising, and well worth checking out.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 01:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 08, 2004

Ah, you have to laugh.

Thanks to Simon at Mutual Misunderstanding for having gone through the BSL dictionary from my linklog and picking up on just how great the BSL for 'London' is

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 07, 2004

I think I need my borders

For the last little while, I've been waiting for The Real Story to start over on VanessaWithoutBorders.

Vanessa was at Banff back in '02 and was a self-proclaimed 'New York Hipster' who was trying to work out what it was all about - what she was going to do with herself as the novelty of noomeeja and countless burningman festivals wore thin.

And she's just arrived in Sierra Leone to try and make a difference and it sounds like she's had to hit the ground running...

There is no one here in Koidu, or in the country at large, who has been unaffected by the war. Almost everyone I meet has lost a parent, child, or spouse. Or they have walked for hundreds of miles in flight, often losing family along the way. One security guard told me in casual conversation, “my wife was slaughtered by the rebels. I don’t have new wife because I don’t want her to be bad to my small children.” In our own house in Freetown our houseman, Abu, walked all the way from to Koidu to Freetown, a total of over 200 miles, after the rebels came and burned his boutiques and house. He has gone from owning businesses to ironing our clothes and washing our dishes. But in today’s Sierra Leone, he’s just thankful to find work. His story is here is a common one.

Vanessa - best of luck. I'm watching, as they say, this space.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 06, 2004

How to make the internet a safer place

Instead of displaying what track you're listening to, or what meeting you're currently at/excuse you have for not doing real work, why not get iChat/AIM/MSM to display the URL someone is currently looking at?

Anti-anti-social software stuck on the back of social software...

(Lets hope the 'misuse of internet at work' crowd don't cotton on though.)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 05, 2004

The One-Minute Script Editor

I heard a bit of news today on the grapevine which reminded me that in some ways people are just like characters in a drama. Someone very talented is leaving my former department because all she was doing was mopping up other people's shite when there was no creative work left to do. (PS If you read this and that's a wrong assessment, do please let me know!)

One of Robert McKee's principles of screenwriting is that characters are defined by their choices. Without choices there is no story. (Aside for outsiders: It helps if the choices illuminate the difference between inner and outer selves) (Aside for insiders: This is why interactive drama based on stuff that doesn't further explore the characters - i.e. voting on stuff that doesn't matter, deus ex machina things, won't actually be a fulfilling editorial experience)

Similarly, in the workplace people are defined by the things they are allowed to decide. Give them an appropriate amount of that, by increasing jurisdiction in the areas you want them to move into, and things fall into place.

And as for fulfilment, again Bob's got it sussed. The challenge of finding out you can make correct decisions, and deliver, in areas you didn't think you could, make you feel like you're growing and doing a good job.

[Or, as someone once said in a comissioning meeting that was spiralling far too much into the nitty-gritty: We have to give producers something they can produce.]

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 02, 2004

Different context, same memories

Jason Kottke's pictures of walking along a disused railway in New York transported me straight back to childhood country walks along the disused railways just outside Ware in Hertfordshire.

His is urban, mine was green and foresty, his had tracks, mine no longer did, his is up high, mine in a trench, but the resonance is very very strong.

Perhaps it's because they both ended up at a pub?

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 01, 2004

Another entry on the to-do list

Really must get round to (a) finishing the PHP nightmare that is the 'Badlanguage' project and then (b) putting together a very quick survey that consists of the following questions:

  1. Have used the 'red button' interactive TV functions on your set-top box
  2. Do you now own a TiVo, Sky+ or other PVR
  3. Since you got it, have you *ever* pressed the red button?
  4. Have you ever used the EPG on your set-top box since?
  5. Please rank the following as sources of new programmes to watch (we've put them in a user-centred order for you to begin with):
    1. trailers for programmes around what you have already chosen to watch
    2. listings magazines
    3. posters and other off-air
    4. recommendations from friends
    5. all those other cunning digital promotional means I've never bothered to look at

Some might suspect I believe I know the answers to these questions from the way I've phrased them...

Posted by Tom Dolan at 05:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Another point of view...

Chris Lightfoot posts an alternate take on the ConConUK gathering.

I like what he says about some of the talks, even if it is a bit harsh. To be honest, I think some of ETCon was complete guff, and ConConUK had to reflect that.

But this quote, reflecting on Tom Steinberg's talk on the Dean campaign caught my eye.

The internet, as a political tool, is a kind of LASER for idiocy: idiocy bounces back and forth between a bunch of web logs, reinforcing itself into a coherent beam of insanity, which can then be focussed on a political problem... on which it has no effect at all.

Have no memory of the 'berating the official from Downing Street' though. That sounded fascinating.

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