Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Last post

I'm, shutting this blog down and moving to this one. It will contain the usual stuff you're used to on this blog but hopefully a little more frequently. It would be great if you updated your feeds/likes accordingly. Hope to see you there.



Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Better Living Through Keywords

In my ever growing quest to improve myself (not to mention my job prospects) I am studying  SEO or SEM or PPC or whatever it's called.

I'm also set to train myself in all things Wordpress so I can hold a conversation with a tech for a few seconds longer than the sixteen that I can manage now.

To that end I've set up a little blog about the forthcoming Vuelta a Espana (or Tour Of Spain if you like). The URL is below (webmasters: If you honour me by linking to the blog do let me know and I'll link back).



Tuesday, 21 July 2009

uPoll: Crowd-sourcing via Twitter

Online poll services are two a penny right? They're a popular method of generating sticky content for a website and good for fostering or generating online communities.

At present, there aren't that many online poll generators which are designed to take advantage of Social Media's natural strengths when it come to crowd sourcing. Which is why uPoll has an excellent chance of leading the way in this field .

Upoll.tv is a new polling service with Twitter integration. Simply create a poll and it generates a tweet from your Twitter account directing the user back to that poll. The user then votes and is, themselves, given the option of tweeting the poll. Once the poll closes the results are tweeted.

You can also set up a poll from Twitter by tweeting @upoll, your question, and options plus the duration in minutes. This means that you can effectively crowd-source via SMS.

The application was built by Colt Seavers (no not that Colt Seavers). His background is in Community Forums but spends a lot more time on Twitter. He developed a service more suited to social networking in general and Twitter in particular:

"When I wanted to create a Poll, I looked and found there's lots of complicated voting sites, but they tend to be bulky
and monetized, rather than simple tools, for social decision making. uPoll can be used to quickly canvas opinion from your twitter friends - crowd sourcing opinion, or simply voting on where to go out at the weekend."

The polls are customisable and widgets are also available for embedding into your own website. Unusually, there is no need to register in order to use the full range of its features. "Currently we're not plugging any membership features for the site" says Colt "we decided we wanted everyone to have the same functionality ."

Also, there should be no concerns about the use and storage of the data collected from the polls: "We have no plans to store the data for closed polls. The idea is that this is disposable data. A snapshot that remains interesting only as long as it remains current."

Additional features are forthcoming which will allow you to audio, video and pictures into your poll, (fun for those goal of the week competitions on Some People On The Pitch). As a crowd sourcing tool, it looks like a lot of fun. As someone who is always looking for ways Social Media can extend democratic enfranchisement, I look forward to seeing if activists pick it up in the near future. I could easily see uPoll working well establishing frameworks for online interactive debates.

You can try out uPoll here and follow uPoll on Twitter.

tag: uPoll, Twitter, Polling, Crowd sourcing, social media

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Saturday, 18 July 2009

Spotify Playlist: Bond Without Barry

This Spotify playlist features a selection of tracks from soundtracks to James Bond films that were not composed by the great John Barry.

Barry is the musical maestro behind the Bond movies. His arrangement of Monty Norman's James Bond is definitive and his contribution to the sub-gnre genre is unquestioned. He composed the music for no less than 11 Bond movies.  His final score was for The Living Daylights. This list comprises of those composers who plugged the odd gap where he, for whatever reason, was not available.

I've not included the David Arnold soundtracks for two reasons. Firstly because he is the successor to Barry and not a replacement. Secondly because none of his Bond soundtracks (Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace) are not available on Spotify.

It is for the second reason that I have only been able to include one track from Bill Conti's For Your Eyes Only. Anyone familiar with that particular film's soundtrack may regard this as a blessing in disguise.

I hope you'll agree that the playlist contains some cracking tunes from some fantastic musicians. George Martin's work on Live And Let Die has some truly memorable themes, as does Marvin Hamlisch's on The Spy Who Loved Me. Alas I can't say the same with Michael Kamen's Lethal Weapon clone Licence To Kill (although Ivory's "Wedding Party" is OK).

Eric Serra's Goldeneye remains distinctive, bold and beautiful, if not entirely popular with the all the punters. It is for this reason that I have broken the chronology and place George Martin's awesome version of the James Bond theme at the very end so as to round things off with some stonking authenticity. I hope you enjoy it.

To listen to this playlist you must download Spotify (assuming you do not have it). Once you have done that, click here to listen to the playlist.

If you feel I've made any serious omissions. Please let me know. At some point I will attempt to put together a definitive (at least in my ears) John Barry James Bond playlist.

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Thursday, 16 July 2009

Augmented Reality can change the way we see the World

This latest app for the iPhone 3GS uses GPS and the built in camera to help you navigate around the New York Subway system. You hold up the phone and it points you in the right direction with on-screen graphics. It's developed by Acrossair who are also working on a London Underground equivalent plus the Twitter app TwittaRound which uses that same technology to help you locate Twitter users in you area.

Pretty soon the sight of tourists roaming London with their iPhones held in front of them looking for the nearest bus or tube to Piccadilly Circus will be commonplace. As a non-tourist visitor to the capital I'm not sure I'm entirely happy with the prospect of already slow moving holiday makers gormlessly whirling around, peering through a tiny screen looking for the right entrance to Bank Station, knocking over flower stalls and the hats of disgruntled commuters. However, I suppose it stops them from just asking them and risking personal injury. That's a could thing right?

The broader point is the onset of Augmented Reality and how it will teach us more about our immediate environment. Imagine the applications for history alone.To use another tourist example, say an app was developed for the London Transport Museum where the data in their audio visual terminal was adapted for an iPhone application. Everywhere you pointed your iPhone you would learn about the exhibits around you.

Think of a places of interest in London like Whitechapel and it's gruesome history. An AR app could take you through a guided tour of the area pointing out places of interest with links to archived material, images and such. If you plugged your earphones in you could listen to an audio commentary. Of course wandering round that part of London holding an expensive phone up for all to see may not be recommended for security reasons but you get the idea.

Like all innovations there are evil applications. The technology could be used by the State to recall data about a place or conceivably a person. The usual privacy issues will need to be addressed. However, Augmented Reality has the potential to be an exciting educational, entertainment and marketing tool. It could literally change the way we look at things.

Now if someone could to develop it for the the N97 I'd be laughing.

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Friday, 10 July 2009

#rebootbritain Digital Enfranchisement and the Initiative Gap

The highly anticipated Reboot Britain took place last Monday. The conference, organised by NESTA, was created to set the agenda for how governments use social media to engage, provide services and engage with people. From what I could see the conference was populated by consultants, civil servants, local governments officers, the odd politician (including the ubiquitous Tom Watson) and social media activists who were doing their best to amplify the event in the face of a decidedly flaky wi-fi service.

While the aim of the conference is ambitious and to be encouraged (especially for those who wouldn't mind making a bob or two) there does seem to a discernible gap between what public servants want to do and what they can do. Last week I made some remarks  on the gov2gov (#g2g) meeting organised by Futuregov at Canada House. I suggested that part of the reason why Social Media may struggle to find a foothold in Government was a lack of access to the tools needed to make Social Media happen. My concerns about this were increased after attending the session Towards An Interactive Charter. At the beginning we were each handed an A4 peice of paper with "50 Barriers To Open Government". I won't list them all however, the first four from the sub category 'Access' should give you an idea:
Access to Web 2.0 sites is blocked or filtered.
Requesting that a website is unblocked requires a form to be filled in and the request may not be actioned for 24 hours or more.
A site that has previously been unblocked is suddenly blocked again.
A site is only unblocked for the computer a staff member usually sits at - and they are unable to access Web 2.0 Sites from another part of the office or another desk.
It doesn't end there of course. Other sub headings are Staff and Skill, Structure, Policy and I suspect most importantly Strategy. The feeling during the session seemed to be that the people at the top either don't trust Social Media, demand unnecessary and expensive levels of control or they simply don't get them. As Helen Milner (CEO of UK Online Centres) said, many of her colleagues on her grade believe that her enthusiasm for Social Media is a phase or some sort of fad.
After a while we left the room to catch Alan Moore's address called 'Straight Line Thinking Stops Here - The True Promise Of The Networked Society'. Once I'd got over the disappointment of discovering that it was the philosopher rather than the guy who wrote The Watchmen I settled down to a blue sky, unremittingly optimistic and positively utopian vision of a networked of society where lateral thinking was key and the future was social. All good stuff but unfortunately it sounded a million miles away from the civil servants upstairs who could not convince their IT departments to upgrade their browser to IE7. 

For me the two sessions acted as marker posts for a large gap. On one side there is the desire and ambition to go forward to digital future where Government and people engage in a networked society. On the other are the people who want to make it happen but can't because they don't have the tools and their bosses don't have the inclination to push their network admins to supply them with the tools. Essentially what we are looking at is an Initiative Gap.
On a positive note, Interactive Charter are working toward bridging that gap. Their work and the work of similar agencies is as essential as Martha Lane Fox's commitment to providing broadband access for everyone in the UK. Providing universal Digital Enfranchisement is hard enough especially when Government is not fully enfranchised themselves.

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Monday, 6 July 2009

Craig Newmark at #rebootbritain

Download now or listen on posterous
Craig Newmark.mp4 (6448 KB)

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