June 2011 Archives
June 30, 2011
At lunchtime today's anti-cuts protest passed Estates Gazette's offices in Holborn. I couldn't resist nipping out to grab a little footage and see how quickly I could turn it around. Just two pieces of kit involved - my iPhone 4 and my MacBook Pro. This is the result:
- Shot on an iPhone 4, handheld, at 720p
- Imported into MacBook Pro
- Edited in iMovie, using image stabilisation. Analysed for stabilisation on import.
- Uploaded to Vimeo using tethered iPhone (on the 3 network)
Total time from import to online was under 30 mins. The major delay way the analysing for stabilisation on import, which accounted for nearly half of that time. I suspect I could have brought the time down significantly by only analysing the clips I actually used (the bus sequence at the beginning was much longer, and I suspect accounted for most of the 16 minutes analysis time).
June 28, 2011
Google's long expected second shot at taking on Facebook in the social networking space has arrived in the form of the Google+ Project. It has some interesting twists on the social networking model but is far from a Facebook-killer.
June 22, 2011
Just next to where I'm sitting today, we've got podcasting training going on for the Estates Gazette, New Scientist and ICIS Heren teams, in our central London offices. It's all in the capable hands of Ewan Spence (who has made the odd appearance on this blog before), and going rather swimmingly, from the sounds coming from the room.
Podcasting is one of those things that feels like it has sneaked its way onto the plateau of productivity on the Garner Hype Cycle, and thus everyone has stopped talking about it as something special and exciting. It's a core part of my working day, as I listen to podcasts on my commute to and from work, using the time to catch up on the latest news and thinking in the areas that affect my work.
There was an interesting article published on GigaOm yesterday looking at the development of TWiT, one of the most successful podcast networks out there. Much to learn there, I think. Interesting video, too…
An interesting debate has popped up about the permanence (or lack of it) of the conversations happening in blogs. Gina Trapani kicked it off with a post about why she's not following the neophile herd onto Tumblr as their main platform:
In the end I decided not to, for an important practical reason: the data you enter on Tumblr is locked in. While there are some hacky third-party tools that purport to do it, Tumblr itself does not offer an official export feature which lets its users move their data to another platform should they choose to do so. (Update: In late 2009, Tumblr mentioned a beta tool which can export your data in a limited way, on one platform. Doesn't count.) That, along with some doubts about site reliability and losing my existing posts and their permalinks, made me decide the posts I really care about are just too important for Tumblr.
I'm squarely behind her on this one. Personally, I'm a natural archiver. I want blog posts I wrote nearly a decade ago to be still accessible. It annoys me that things I linked to in 2003 are no longer there. Indeed, when Steve Reubel made his big switch, he broke some links on my blog. But this love of archiving is a character trait, and not one everyone shares. My wife regards my scanning and archiving of my parents' photos with a little disbelief. And some have disagreed strongly with Gina's argument:
I don’t really care that much about archiving my content. I don’t see 99.9% of my blog posts as having a shelf life beyond a few days. I write ‘em, hopefully they get read and discussed, then I write something else.
In 13 years of on-again-off-again personal blogging, I can only think of one post — just one — that’s lost but I wish I’d saved; it was the post I wrote when I returned from my mother’s funeral in April 2000. Everything else is ephemeral, like tears in rain.
That's Mitch Wagner in a post directly responding to Gina's. His phrase "tears in rain" reminds me of a recent post by a friend of mine, Tom Morris, about the lack of access to your Twitter archives provided by the company right now, and his irritation with people who say that it doesn't matter:
The poncy hipster types may see no value in their old tweets, but some of us do. And we shouldn’t be disadvantaged because some guy who reads a bit too much Malcolm Gladwell thinks he can judge the preferred archiving strategy they should take to the material they have written better than they do.
Now, for a vast majority of Tumblr blogs, this just isn't an issue. There's little or no original content in there - it's just reblogging of material published elsewhere on the net. And event the comment conversation isn't locked into Tumblr, because most of the time it's housed in Disqus, which has plenty of export options.
So, if that's all you're using Tumblr for, then go ahead. No risks there. But those of us who make our living from comment creation in any way should think very carefully about how much of our content we commit to sites that aren't passionate about the fact that we own our own content. Many hosted blogs and social networks are bad at this; Typepad (which I use for some blogs) is notoriously hard to get photos out of, for example. If there's value, be it intellectual, entertainment, emotional or commercial in your old content, then you need to think about how you'd move it if (or when) your current service expires or no longer meets your needs.
Indeed, I think the "tears in rain" crowd miss a fundamental point - the web is built on linkage. And every time you move a post from its permalink, every time a piece of content vanishes from the web, there's a chance that a hole opens up in that network. The web heals. But the conversations between sites can be lost. And that's you devaluing the work of others through removing your own. The web is a collaborative entity and unilateral destructive action can undermine that.
As for Tumblr itself, well, the question could soon be academic. A Tumblr engineer jumped into the comments on Gina's post:
I’m an engineer at Tumblr (and fairly new, so hopefully I’m not speaking out of turn). We’re working on an ‘export my blog’ feature that will completely export all your content (images, posts, etc) and allow you to download that export.
So, hopefully, soon Tumblr will be a real option for those of us who want more permanence from our blogging that "tears in rain".
Tom Jones tells the story of a farmer who blogged his way away from the precipice of madness:
It was my sister, ensconced within her warm east London office, who suggested I turn a roughly cobbled together email into a blog. Blogs, she informed me, were far more accessible, as followers can go at any time to a page constantly blossoming with stories.The result has been supremely satisfying. "Swallow the key" is one of my favourite blog entries and there isn't a talking animal to be seen. It was written in May last year after a hard winter when sheep were deciding that heaven was a better option. To be able to speak out about the pressures of farming and how close it can bring some farmers to oblivion was wholly rewarding.
I often say when giving speeches that people don't realise that the word "social" is the most important half of social media. I think this story underpins that point.
June 21, 2011
June 19, 2011
The decisions that newspapers make around "serving" their readers just astound me sometimes. Dave Winer on accessing the New York Post via his iPad:
Today I was told by the Post that I couldn't read the article on the web at all. If I wanted to read the Post on my iPad I would have to download the app.
Okay this is bad. This is breaking the web. If no one used the iPad it wouldn't matter. But lots of people use it.
I wonder how Apple feels about this? I can't imagine they like it. I can see the ads now. "Get an Android tablet to read the web."
This shows, to me, an utter lack of respect for the reader. It's a dictatorial move, forcing people to access their content only in the NYP-approved manner. And that seems like a very quick way to destroy any remaining relationship with the reader. Block me from seeing content solely based on the device I'm using? That's none of your damn business. And that's what you'll be getting from me: none of my damn business.
Oh, and Winer highlights a related issue that's bugged me, too:
Another thing I find really annoying is that wordpress.com shows me something vastly different when I look at one of their sites when I come on an iPad. It's the stupid trend du jour. Everyone thinks that everyone reading on the iPad wants Flipboard. If I wanted it, I would read the web using Flipboard.
The iPad's web browser is ideal for viewing standard, regular web pages. You DO NOT need a special mobile version of a web page for an iPad.
June 16, 2011
If Tuesday's Mobile Strategies Conference was unchallenging at times, Monday night's Hacks/Hackers London event was the exact opposite - brain-bending and stretching even for those of us on the Hack side who are considered pretty techie. The topic was rNews, a semantic markup language for news articles, that's machine readable. It's metadata for stories (in the journalistic sense), that allows both algorithmic use of them (as machines can 'understand' the stories better) as well as providing more information for human editors or readers accessing the information in the future. Speakers including Andreas Gebhard from Getty Images (above) and Stuart Myles from the Associated Press.
I'm not going to try and explain it any further, but there are a couple of links worth reading:
- Mary Hamilton has collected together the most pertinent tweets from the event itself
- Martin Belam has a far more accurate and detailed explanation than mine of what this whole rNews business is about, anyway.
The observant will have noticed that I've been using Disqus as the comment service on this blog for the last few months, and I've been very happy with it. The ability to manage via e-mail is a boon, and the spam blocking is superb. I also like the way that it aggregates social web mentions and reactions to the post. And, this morning, I noted that they've revamped the way that displays. Before, it was a long list of tweets, etc. And now it looks like this:
And this is how the detail looks:
Rather pleased with that. It's a great visual improvement.
June 14, 2011
There's a pretty clear problem with this conference - lessons learnt from companies with one major brand (like, say, the big broadcasters and newspapers) don't have much transferable wisdom for those of us with multiple smaller brands. The economies of app production (and, indeed, of brand reputation) are just completely different. But that's not to say that nuggets of useful information haven't emerged during the day.
One interesting emergent fact - those businesses with Android support of some kind (the BBC and Sky) are both reporting that they just aren't seeing the same use from Android devices as they are iOS . That seems to be a combination of both apps and web visits. It seems clear that this is more complex than a pure numbers game - Android may come to dominate in terms of numbers of units our there, but there seems to be a clear difference in the way the two groups of users operate. This feels like a significantly more complex situation than the old Apple / Microsoft battle on the desktop.
I will confess to a degree of skepticism about Dominic Jacquesson's predictions about the shape of the mobile market in two years. It's possible Windows Phone 7 will displace iOS as the second platform behind Android - but I'm far from convinced that it's as likely as he painted it. I also think he misunderstand's Apple's fundamental philosophy - it makes the vast majority of its revenue from hardware sales, not content sales which exist largely to support the hardware business - and yet, he shapes things in terms of "threat" from web apps. Those with memories that stretch back to 2007 will know that Apple was actively pushing web apps before it even had an app store.
That said, I do think that some things were spot on - the general failure of "print replication" apps, the promise of in-app purchasing (and recurring subscriptions) and the need to delight the user I think are all valid and under-considered as people approach this market. Never has so much money been wasted by so many publishers on such a clunky product with so much misplaced hope... I also think that his observation that HTML 5 capabilities are likely to lag those of native apps on whatever platforms emerge as the long-term victors is insightful and worth bearing in mind.
I'm having a bit of a ho-hum day at the Mobile Media Strategies event - my gut feeling is that I'm the wrong audience for the conference. It feels more like a conference for very senior level executives who kinda know that mobile is important, but want to be brought up to speed, rather than the mid-level do-ers, who are living and breathing mobile already. The fact there's far more paper notetaking, and a general paucity of mobile devices in use (see pic, right) suggests that my assessment is correct.
There have been some fair points - Ilicco Elia's point that not having a mobile optimised site right now is a huge fail is spot-on, as was Justin Moodie from Dorling Kindersley's exhortation to experiment and learn, as there's no established wisdom in this space to call on.
The Economist's Tom Standage made some interesting points - they have a strict limits on how many pages that the magazine carries, simply because of the readers' time limitation. They are (essentially) doing curation and aggregation for things you don't yet know that you wnat to know. They are selling the feeling of being "informed" - which a website never gives - you never get the catharsis of finishing the weeks' news. And that's a good reason for encapsulation on a mobile device.
I wasn't so keen on his focus on the integrated subscription - it's a very publisher-centric model, that actually disrespects the desires of the customer. Still, he was arguing for a strategy that was selling access to the content as a package, and allows you to access in in any way, rather than buying access to a particular channel. I'm not sure that mindset is prevalent amongst consumers, but they've had over 2m downloads, and 650,000 uniques devices using their content
weekly monthly, 50% of which are paying subscribers. 20% of their circulation are using the apps - and the same number again are trying them out on mobile devices.