August 2006 Archives
August 31, 2006
A potentially useful MT plug-in
As spam headlines go "Never Clean Your Toilet Bowl Again" is probably the worst I've yet encountered.
While I know what they're trying to say, the immediate image conjured up is, well, horrible.
August 30, 2006
Yahoo's purchase of Flickr, the excellent photo hosting/community site, is starting to generate some interesting things. Finally. Flickr's been integrated with Yahoo Maps to allow you to "geotag" your photos - add information about where the pic was taken to the photo itself, and then display the results on a map. You can see mine here.
A colleague and I have been playing around with it today (you can see his thoughts on Flickr Maps on the Travolution Blog), and have come to the same conclusion: the quality of the maps outside the US sucks really, really badly. Happily, though, Flickr is aware of the issue:
There's been a lot of grumbling about the maps detail and coverage of Yahoo! maps outside the U.S. We definitely hear it, and the Yahoo! Local/Maps team, which happens to sit across from the Flickr team hears it (and feels it!) ... loud and clear. The maps in much of the world are not good enough yet. We agree.
But, fear not: maps are continually being upgraded and street-level detail for more countries has been in the works for a while already. Satellite imagery upgrades already happen a couple of times each month (the Earth is big, y'know) and in the months since the new Maps beta launched, they've already made significant improvements. More are coming.
So, with a bit of luck, we'll see some big improvements in a couple of months. I've long felt that map-based information was going to be a big thing going forwards. This might just prove my point for me.
A useful round-up of commercial podcast and videocast hosting options
A hugely useful plugin for Mac users who have to deal with those horrible winmail.dat files Outlook generates seemingly without rhyme or reason
August 29, 2006
The more I look at this, the more I think we're only a couple of steps away from something that will be perfect for the roving reporter. All they need to do is add Writely, the online word processor, and you've got something much more efficient that VPNing into the company network and accessing your files and data that way, using applications on your laptop. You can work anywhere there's an internet connection and a web browser, and access your key files.
It'll be a while in coming, and it might not be Google that does it, but I think I just saw the future of journalism flash before my eyes.
While I was away in France, the annual fracas over improved A level results broke out. Now, I know where I stand on this; I know people who work and teach in Higher Education and they're seeing a decline in the educational quality of freshers, not an improvement.
Here's an article by Boris Johnson on the subject that I heartily agree with called Physics at A Level:
We must stop this flight from the crunchy subjects, not just because it is slowly denuding the country of scientists - it is hardly surprising that 30 per cent of university Physics departments have closed in the past eight years, when the number of Physics candidates at A-level has slumped from 46,606 in 1985 to 28,119 in 2005.
We must stop this disaster because we are cutting the roots of our civilisation: when I think what has happened to Latin and Greek and modern languages in the maintained sector, I alternate between rage and black depression.
His description of the difficulty of understanding a Physics class reminds me all too clearly of my time studying Physics at Imperial College. However. the principal point is that Cambridge is saying that potential students must have at least two A levels in "crunchy" (ie rigorous) subjects to be considered for entry. It's the first. Others will follow, and then employers will start to take the same approach. We'll soon see a two tier systems of A levels, with some considered serious and others, less so. It's much the same as already exists with degrees. People know that a 2:1 from Oxbridge or the bigger London colleges is superior to the same degree from a lesser university, even if there's nothing in the degree certificate to prove that. In fact, I've known editors who would point blank refuse to employ anyone with a media studies degree because they come in with a head full of irrelevant theory, a lack of intellectual rigour and a lack of any practical experience.
The reality is that you can pack as many people as possible into the grade A category, but both academia and business need a way to differentiate the very good from the good or average, and they'll find it if the A level fails to offer it.
Know your pop culture? Want to make money from blogging?
[Update: Post and job long gone, obviously]
If all went well, this site should be running on the latest version of Movable Type.
If you run into any problems, let me know in the comments.
Excitement! Thrills! Drama!
On my drive into work this morning, I saw a teenager being arrested for car-related nefarious activity. The coppers had him bang to rights, guv, and had handcuffed the blighter.
I was, however, deeply disappointed to note that he was wearing a tracksuit, not a hoodie. Doesn't he read the Daily Mail? Doesn't he know how these things are done? Still, I suppose it saves you from a David Cameron hug.
August 28, 2006
Ah, I love the fact that the almost daily press releases from the residential property firms still drop into my work inbox. Othewise I'd miss gems like this:
84% of Brits would buy a home next door to naturists
The great heatwave of 2006 may already seem like a distant memory, but as the summer draws to a close, a new survey by property website propertyfinder.com reveals that millions of Britons have been stripping off completely on terraces, balconies and in gardens all over the UK.
A startling 19.7% of respondents say they have got their kit off outside while at home on at least one occasion, equivalent to around 11 million people. The figures also suggest people are not going to great lengths to ensure nobody sees them, with 21% saying that they have caught their neighbours in the altogether at some point.
Thanks to Primelocation for that little insight into the great British public...
August 24, 2006
The headline on a BBC news alert that just dropped into my in-box is:
Pluto stripped of planet status
Did it fail a drugs test?
August 23, 2006
Well, I couldn't get the style I wanted to work, so I settled on this one instead. Truth be told, I'm rather pleased, because it makes it very easy for me to switch header graphics whenever I feel like it.
The plan is for a simple site, that'll be easy to read and show off photos well. What do you think?
All being well, the site should have, much like Chris Ecclestone turned into David Tennant, regenerated with a new look.
August 13, 2006
I should be in France right now. I really should. I should have taken off from London Stanstead yesterday afternoon and landed in Poitiers an hour or so later. Thanks to terrorism, a somewhat extreme reaction from the security forces and bottled drinks, I'm writing this in London.
Yes, a serious reaction to a serious threat is warranted. But at what point does the reaction actually do the terrorists' work for them. As I tried to cram my camera equipment into my hold baggage and decide what not take, these questions were pretty high in my mind. Not books to distract me from the tedium of the flight. No iPod to ease me through takeoff with great music (I'm a nervous flyer). No basic set of clothes with me in case the bags have lost.
I understand the risk. But if, as we seem to be doing, we make travel so miserable for everyone that all we get to carry on board is a handful of belonging is a clear plastic bag, then we're doing the terrorists' work every time someone gets on a plane. We're allowing them to adversely affect every flight people take. We're letting them win.
Still, I've been spared the flight experience. My passport is out of its plastic bag. Our flights were cancelled. We're not going anywhere. The holiday is delayed, possibly cancelled.
Somehow, we've got this one wrong.
August 12, 2006
So, yes, I've been busy. I've been running Mum to the hospital for tests, clearing my desk in preparation for a short break, which I should be on by now and trying to do basic things like, say, get a haircut. And the car serviced. And my teeth checked.
Wow. What an amazing life I live. Still, I was very happy with the temporary workspace I was able to set up in my Mum's spare bedroom.
An orderly workspace is so important, don't you think?
August 10, 2006
Research into the social aspects of online games.
August 9, 2006
Some interesting initial research here.
August 3, 2006
A couple of things caught my eye in the papers over lunch (I know, I know. Dead tree papers. How very 20th century of me.)
The first up was this piece about the declining standard of UK graduates, found in the business section of the Telegraph:
The dismal standard of literacy and education in the UK is one of the key reasons that the economy's efficiency has plunged in recent years, according to the chief economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
That's absolutely no surprise to me. The media tends to get all worked up over education standards when the A-level results come out, and the teachers protest that improved results are all down to improved teaching. Then everything goes quiet again. Talk to most people working on the frontline of higher education, though, and they'll tell you of their despair at the quality of school-leavers coming into Universities. Eventually, the need to teach literacy and numeracy to undergraduates is going to impact on the quality at the end of the process and employers are going to see it.
Following that was a piece in The Guardian about inadequate nursery nurses harming the development of children:
Nursery nurses with few qualifications and poor social skills risk creating a generation of Vicky Pollards, teachers' leaders warned yesterday.
Too many illiterate students were starting childcare courses as an easy way to get government grants paid to encourage students to stay in education, the Professional Association of Teachers warned.
So, poor quality graduates are starting to return to the education system, and are undermining the next generation of kids to come through.
It's beginning to look a little like a death spiral isn't it? And when both the right wing and left wing newspapers are reporting on it, we should be getting really worried. Yet, it just doesn't seem to be on the political agenda. And that scares me.
No big surprises here. Newspaper blogs might engage their existing readers more, but aren't really structured in such a way as to reach out to new readers. And, of course, young people find news booooooring.
The New Yorker finds blogs and misses the point. It's really strange watching some publications reinventing the discursive wheel two years after other publications went through it.
Future Publishing is planning to re-launch its Fast Car website making user-generated content the core element.
The new site, which will launch next month following a re-launch of the magazine, will charge users 20 pence to view some of the uploaded video clips.
In turn those submitting clips will get two pence every time a paid-for clip is viewed. Other videos submitted by readers will be free to view.
Well, now, it was inevitable that somebody would try this model. It'll be interesting to see if people will pay for the clips, though.
Good grief. Jeffrey Archer has a blog.
Words fail me. Sadly, they don't seem to be failing him
August 2, 2006
Guido hears a rumour that since Comment is Free has flopped (some geeky critical acclaim, but financial failure due to trivial advertising revenue) it is going to be "revamped". Ben Hammersly is, Guido understands, spearheading the new not-so-secret project.
Interesting if true. It's by far the most prominent blog launch from a UK newspaper, and if it's struggling we'd do well to understand why.
UPDATE: Officially denied by Ben Hammersley. That's good news.
The Washington Post, among other publications, has hired Inform.com to scan thousands of sites to post relevant links, including audio and video content, beside their stories, regardless of the source.
One of the biggest mindset changes for journalists as we move into the online world is that the magazine is no longer the beginning and end of our readers' needs. Every story, feature or blog post we put online should be pointing people to other things, too. News sources outside our sites. Other wenpages. Blogs. Maybe even our competitors. And it seems that some of the big US papers are beginning to get the point.
(See? Actual content!)
I really did intend to get more posts up yesterday, but Stuff Came Up.
Stuff does that, you know. It's an inherent quality of stuff.
I will try to be better today.
August 1, 2006
Ah, finally somebody acknowledges the truth - whatever people say, the sexiest part of a woman's body is her shoulders.
Ian Betteridge tears into Dave Winer for his posts about the Blogher conference for women. (What was Winer doing there anyway?)