January 2005 Archives
January 26, 2005
Just a quick note to apologise for the lack of words lately. Things have been hectic both at work and at home. Hopefully I'll be able to pull something together tomorrow.
In other news, does anyone know any cures for incipient Desperate Housewives addiction?
January 25, 2005
January 22, 2005
January 21, 2005
January 19, 2005
Is the General Election only a few months away? The Honourable Fiend thinks so, based on a civil service-related tip as to the election date.
Well, at least it claims to be a blog. It seems to be missing all of the features that lift a blog from a plain webpage.
Comments? Nope. Trackbacks? No. An RSS or Atom feed? Uh-uh.
Update: See the comments for a clarification of this.
While working my way through the newspaper, I found a small reference to new figures on recycling. A quick search on Auntie Beeb's website threw up something more useful, but not really what I was looking for. Finally, a hunt through DEFRA's website turned up a PDF with the complete figures for the country.
It doesn't make happy reading for Lewisham Council. The first hint of a problem is when a search for "Lewisham" leaps you to page eight of nine. Uh-oh. The borough's target for recycling and composting fo waste for 2003/2004 was 10%. It hit 8%. It's a significant percentage short of a fairly low target. Disappointing for all concerned, I suspect.
However, the original article (in the Daily Torygraph) had the government busy issuing threats to "take over" the worst 34 under-performing councils. Lewisham is the 23rd worst, by my reading, and in some danger of having Government official coming over, checking dust on the mantlepiece and generally making themselves unwelcome guests.
That, to me, reads like a severe over-estimation of the power of government. Sure, councils have the ability to clean the streets better (and I have positive things to say about Lewisham Council in thar regard in a post to come), but they don't have the power to reach into people's brains and switch on the light that says "oooh, I should recycle". Lewisham has a significant number of people who can't even be bothered too keep their own property looking clean, or walk 10 yards to the nearest litter bin to drop their chewing gum. (Have you see the plaza in front of the new police station? It looks like a negative image of a dalmation.) Educating people on environmental issues will be a long, slow process, one I doubt "Government officials" parachuted into a local authority will be able to significantly change.
Further to my last post, this blog now implements the “nofollow” attribute. That means that any links in comments don't count toward Google page rank or any other ranking system for search engines. However, the links themselves will still work just fine.
It looks like there may be a solution for comment spam on the horizon. The search engines are adding support for an attribute that, in effect, tells the search engine spiders to ignore certain links. The hope is that this will destroy the utility of comment spam, but only is as many people as possible implement it
Six Log: Support for nofollow:
The search team at Google approached us with the idea of flagging hyperlinks with a rel=“nofollow” link attribute in order to alert their search spider that a particular link shouldn’t be factored into their PageRank calculations. The Yahoo and MSN search teams have also indicated they’d support this new spec, and we’ll be implementing and deploying this specification as quickly as possible across all of our platforms around the world.
It sounds like a good idea to me. You can download a plugin for Movable Type, Typepad and LiveJournal will have support shortly. I imagine the other blogging tools will be following shortly.
January 18, 2005
Apparently, a coat of paint and a ant-social behaviour hotline is all it needs to lift a sink estate out of deriliction and crime.
BBC NEWS | Magazine | A deprived area fights back: From a distance, Strathmore Crescent in Newcastle resembles a well-ordered community. But look a little closer and you'll spot the fake front doors, painted by artists disguising derelict houses as respectable homes. This is north Benwell in Newcastle: An area blighted by crime where terrace houses were once sold for �1. Today, some of those houses which were boarded up are being renovated as part of the drive to rebuild communities and combat anti-social behaviour.
Does that article feel a little too glib to anyone else?
January 15, 2005
This is a great story:
Wired News: Monster Fueled by Caffeine:
SAN FRANCISCO -- Delicious Monster is the Mac software company behind the hit Delicious Library, a program for cataloging collections of books, movies and games. The software is selling like hot cakes and has garnered rave reviews and awards, yet the company's headquarters is a Seattle coffee house.
I ran a piece in the magazine about a year back looking at coffee houses coming full circle back to their 18th century roots as business places. It's satisfying to see the prediction becoming so true.
its four main employees meet every day at the popular Zoka coffee shop in Seattle's university district.
"It's cheap rent and a fun environment," said Matas. "We go down there every day with our laptops and work. It's an incredible place. They have two or three of the top baristas in the country (the awards are on the wall). We pay our rent by buying coffee.... They love us. We're some of their best customers."
As well as creamy lattes, the coffee shop offers wireless internet access and big, bench-like tables that several people can gather around. Often, Delicious Monster's entire seven-person staff will work there.
We'll see more and more of this for small, agile and young companies.
For the all the false hype about the blog world vs the mainstream media world, the truth is that many bloggers are former journalists.
And an increasing number of them are current journalists who have built up large following for their personal blogs.
Ok, better. That's 50% true. Anyone know where I can find a large following?
If you have a blog that attracts several hundred-thousand readers a month, you will be able to make a lot more on your blog than you are making as an employee of the average publication. Stay tuned. It will happen.
Ah, so if I boost my traffic from a few thousand readers a month to a hundred times that, I'll be rolling in it? On the whole, I think I'll be sat at desk heads at the magazine on Monday morning... Still, it's a lovely dream.
BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Urban underground 'faces risks':
Natural disasters can be a threat to the growing expansion of big cities underground, the United Nations says.
It says developers often burrow beneath the surface without knowing enough of the risks and with inadequate plans to lessen the effects of any disaster.
I imagine this will be taken more seriously than it would have been a month ago.
January 13, 2005
I like the green roof concept. Now, this probably isn't a proper green roof. It's probably just a building with some trees on pots on the roof. But I still like it.
It adds an organic note to the otherwise artificial environment of Red Lion Street and somehow hints that the inside is also partially on the outside. You get the feeling there's a space up there for humans to enjoy.
Anyway, it's just cool.
Click on the pic for a bigger version if you fancy it.
January 12, 2005
January 11, 2005
So, another Stevenote has come and gone. Steve Jobs has unleased another wave of products on the world. Some people are breathless about the cheap and tiny iPod Shuffle. Some are running around in excited circles about the Mac Mini. They're both cool products.
However, I'm most excited about the new version of iPhoto, which will make a palpable difference to my life. RAW import from my Canon EOS300D? Check. More editing operations, so I don't need to open Photoshop so much? Check? More book options? Check? Nested filing systems? Check.
The Unofficial Apple Weblog has a good round-up of the new features.
Given the current obsession with affordable housing in the UK, these thoughts by David Sucher make for interesting reading:
For those eagerly awaiting this afternoon's Stevenote:
January 10, 2005
January 9, 2005
This is depressing:
BBC NEWS | UK | Public warned of fake aid appeals:
People donating to the UK's tsunami relief fund have been warned by police to remain vigilant to bogus collectors trying to cash in on the disaster.
This, on the other hand, is heart-warming, pointing out, as it does, a mixture of compassion and intelligence:
Where did all this Tsunami money come from? | Samizdata.net:
Millions of people throughout the world, I suggest, are having similar thoughts to the ones I have been having. Thus, in this disaster, they have given generously, while in previous disasters they fixed blankly implacable looks on their faces and walked right past those plastic tins with slots in them as if they didn't exist. Too complicated. Too difficult. My coins will buy too little good and maybe do serious harm. Sorry, but no. (As Kim du Toit, extreme Aid To Africa sceptic commenter here would put it: fuck it.) But, this time it is, maybe, different.
Both the scale of the generosity, and the extreme amazement felt by the Usual Aid Collectors, make sense to me.
This, if true, is really rather disturbing:
PhotographyBLOG -:- Comments:
Dave Bushnell has sent me a disturbing email this morning, to let everyone know that the New York City Transit Authority Board may today impose a ban on all photography on its system (bus and subway). This has been threatened before early in 2004, but now it looks as though the ban will go ahead after all.
Read the linked article and comments for more information.
January 6, 2005
Image via CrunchBase
Well, what do you know? Blogging is proving to be like any other business. Consolidation is bringing us down to three major providers of blog tools and a number of smaller, niche providers. The proof of this was announced last night after 48 hours of rumours.
The rumours were true. Om Malik got his exclusive. Six Apart is buying Livejournal. Livejournal founder Brad Fitzpatrick posted this. I think this is good news. I've been dealing with Six Apart for 18 months as a user of both Movable Type for my blog and Typepad for a password protected church site. In that time, they've grown from a group of three or four people to a small company, without losing their friendliness, enthusiasm and accessibility. Moreover, I think that the two sets of offerings are quite compatible. As Brad puts it:
We have experience with making "inward-facing" community sites, whereas their sites/products tend to be "outward-facing". They want some of that inward-facing action.
The reason I have both an LJ and a blog is just that: my blog is outward-facing, talking to anyone who comes along, while my LJ is inward-facing, talking to my circle of friends, in both senses of the word. Indeed, the LJ friends mechanism is what makes it so unique, I think. Six Apart co-founder Mena Trott has written a long post on the subject here. She highlights the friends aspect as something that makes LJ unique:
We started Six Apart because of Movable Type and Movable Type started because I wanted a blogging tool that would make it easy for me to have a creative outlet to publish to the world. But, it turns out, I didn't want to publish to the world -- I wanted to publish to the people who I had been reading for years and respected, who, in turn became my friends in the offline world. I made friends through my weblog and realized that I was more comfortable writing to this subset. That isn't to say I didn't still like writing to the world at large. Mena's Corner is meant to reach as many people as possible. And, I'm comfortable with that. What I'm not comfortable with is posting pictures of my best friend's baby on my public weblog.
So, now Six Apart has a whole range of product: Livejournal for small, focused publishing to a targeted group, Typepad for personal blogging and Movable Type for more corporate and large-scale blogging. What's more, this is good for both companies in the long term. The two other major blogging players right now are Microsoft with MSN Spaces and Google with Blogger. MSN Spaces has, in particular, friends-like features based around your MSN Messenger contacts list. The big boys are in the field and looking to pick a fight. The small guys (financially speaking) need to band together to survive. At the moment, the precious few paid users of Livejournal are subsidising the mass of the free users, and SIx Apart doesn't look set to change that. What they will do, if they have any sense, is give more and more compelling reasons for the free users to switch, without undermining the existing free service. And just to put a few of the most commonly-expressed worries to rest, read this quote from the Six Apart FAQ on the acquisition.
Q. What is going to happen to LiveJournal and its current users? A. We acquired LiveJournal because we like LiveJournal just the way it is -- it's an awesome product. We will invest in the further development of LiveJournal and help it expand its reach around the globe but our plans do not include removing the free level, plastering the sites with ads, owning user content, etc...
Based on my recent Livejournal post, with added context.
January 5, 2005
Inspector Sands finds an unexpected side effect of the Tsunami:
Now I have 30 coathangers more than I thought I had this morning, and a load of stuff which could be shifted at Oxfam. Seeing as I know somebody who does a bit of work there, and I'd be passing it later on. I rang up their Blackheath Village branch. You do take clothes, don't you?
"We can't take anything, we've had so many donations over the past week. The Traid branch here can't do it as well. Could you hold onto them for a couple of weeks?"
Best leave my New Year clear out a few weeks then....
January 4, 2005
One last little post before bed:
I'm rather late in discovering this site, but it looks like an interesting take on ideas around modern journalism.
January 3, 2005
According to a report on Macminute, some online music providers are claiming that subscriptions are the way forwards:
Napster, Yahoo say iTunes is doomed | MacMinute News: Apple rivals say the iTunes Music Store's 99-cent pricing is the wrong formula for digital music, and that subscription-based models are the future. With the top-of-the-line iPod, "You can fit 10,000 songs on it," Napster CEO Chris Gorog says. But "to do that would cost you $10,000 if you bought the songs from Apple. With our plan, customers can get 10,000 songs on their device for $180 a year. It's an enormous value."
I see two problems with this idea.
Firstly, I want to be able to keep my music, not see it all disappear if I have to drop the subscription for any reason. If you spend $180 on albums, you've got around one a month. That's a good number and you've got them for life. You spend $180 on a subscription, then you may have many more songs, but if you pay nothing the following year, you've nothing to show for it.
Secondly, people aspire to own, not rent. People move from renting to buying property. When I was a kid people rented their TVs. Now, I don't know anyone with rental goods. The technology business has a terrible blind spot to models that have been tried and failed in other industries. Music rental will be another example of it.
January 2, 2005
I suspect we'll see more sites like Flickrzen, which are devoted to tracing the best images on Flickr. While the site's tag system is great for tracking individual ideas or places, it's not possible, just yet at least, to rate photographs. The poster behind Flickrzen seems to have good taste in pics, so it's worth keeping an eye on.
One of the entertaining things about having that big, new police station in Lewisham is the new range of patrols we get in the area. For example, a couple of days ago there was a nasty crash not far from the flat. At least one of the cars was in serious trouble - it looked like the axle was broken - but fortunately no-one was hurt. But the entertaining part was that the police turned up to a car crash on horses. I like the irony of that.
January 1, 2005
Welcome to 2005 and sorry for the extended quiet patch here. The holiday period has been far busier than I expected. Normal service should resume tomorrow.