Should you use social software at work?

Basecamp icon

Where’s the line start and end with social software?

Currently I'm using these and more social software services.

Flickr
Audioscrobbler
Eventful
Bloglines
Del.icio.us
Reader2
Myprogs
Ideabank
Listal

But just recently I've been testing out basecamp. Now basecamp is a product by 37signals camp and I was impressed by the talk which was given. But theres something different between the other social apps I'm using and basecamp. See the rest I use in my personal life and projects not at work. But Basecamp is a project management tool, fitting somewhere between a adhoc wiki and full on microsoft project ummm project? Where do I have to manage the most projects? Work of course.

So is it correct of me to use a online tool to project manage internal BBC projects which I maybe working on? Its a tricky question and I'm not certain of the answer. Some would actually suggest that I shouldn’t be discussing this in public on my own blog. But I'm not revelaling anything which is secret or private to the BBC, so I'm sure I'm on good grounds with this entry.

So back to the question. The only time I've come across this type of dielmma is when using del.icio.us. There are a lot of urls which I would like to store in my bookmarks and del.icio.us means I can access and store them anywhere but should I store internal urls in the public del.icio.us? Yes I know del.icio.us like flickr and a few other services have a private tag which means it will not appear in the public. But is that a good idea? Anyhow the question of bookmarking was solved for me when someone setup del.irio.us inside the BBC firewall. So all my internal urls are now stored there and external one's on del.icio.us.

But back to basecamp, this certainly quite a step up from storing bookmarks. Storing project metadata externally is a risk too far. The logical solution would be to download a opensource version of basecamp and run it inside the firewall but then you lose some of the flexibility of social software. I don’t believe basecamp is even available to download and the other project management tools in this area tend to be too structured (alas Microsoft Project) or too unstructured (alas a fancy wiki). If someone can suggest somthing they have seen which is dead in the middle please do add a comment.

The next step for me is look at the public and private aspects of Basecamp and of course the End user licence. I already noticed you can export all the data as one large xml file but it didn’t quite work for me. I got a lot of structure and no data except the actual project title. I'm sure its a bug or something. Theres also RSS and iCal data which can be subscribed and used as a restful api if the export is not up to the task.

I'm sure many other businesses use basecamp small and maybe large. But they may use the paid version which has more features and maybe a slightly different end user agreement? no its the same one. I'll check this out later but I'm actually writing this from my hospital bed and believe it or not there is no wireless and i'm not allowed to use my mobile to dial up on 3g (hint of cheekyness of course).

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Pop! Tech 2005 streamed live via IT Conversations

Pop!Tech 2005 Grand Challenges

This is so unheard of, a super conference streaming live to the world. Only Doug Kaye at IT Conversations could have pulled this off. If your not already listening, I highly recomend you do. Currently its 19:45 in the London and there on the Mind and Body sessions so its about 14:45 in Maine. Pop!Tech is a real mix bag of inspirational speakers and real world challenges. Can I also just say the QuickCast option which bundles up all the Pop!Tech presentations in one large zip file well before they get podcasted again on IT Conversations is a pretty neat deal at 100 dollars for the whole lot.

If your like me listening on there xbox you simply need to create a *.strm file and stick http://www.itconversations.com/livestream.asx
in the first line. Then point the xbox to the *.strm (poptech 2005.strm is mine) file and your away. I've told my xbox to cache about 8megs worth at a time so I dont get any breaks at all. I thought about recording it with xbox media centre but it seems to be greyed out for some reason.

Its kinda of weird listening to Pop!Tech live, you cant just pause and go back if you missed something. So use to time shifting now, its hard going back I guess.

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Syncing podcasts and videos between machines

synctoy folder pairs

Slowly I've been adopting the use of FireANT for my podcasts and vlogs (video blogs?) downloads. I'm still mainly using Azereus with the RSS plugin for its TV RSS method which has saved me a lot of time and effort downloading TV shows and the like. It was very good today, finding Lost ep5 seeding without any human interaction on my behalf.

Anyhow, I have FireANT running on both my laptop and main workstation. They both use the same OPML file from Bloglines which means they both download the same media! This is not ideal and bandwidth killing as you can imagine, specially when you get some of the larger Channel9 videos downloading. So I was looking around and found Microsoft's synctoy.

Now although this Sync toy isnt as powerful as Rsync on the unix platforms its actually quite neat and has all the modes needed for full syncing.

  • Synchronize: New and updated files are copied both ways. Renames and deletes on either side are repeated on the other.
  • Echo: New and updated files are copied left to right. Renames and deletes on the left are repeated on the right.
  • Subscribe: Updated files on the right are copied to the left if the file name already exists on the left.
  • Contribute: New and updated files are copied left to right. Renames on the left are repeated on the right. No deletions.
  • Combine: New and updated files are copied both ways. Nothing happens to renamed and deleted files

You can also Schedule it using the standards Windows Scheduler, Preview a sync, use UNC paths, sync deep folders (perfect for backup) and tell it to move files to the recycle bin instead of deleting them.

So with all this in mind, I've setup Fireant to download and for Synctoy to sync across to my laptop before it downloads on my laptop. This seems to work, because the stupid file names are at least unique across all Fireants. I've been trying to convince the people behind Fireant that the human readable podcast download names are unique enough to do the same thing, but its still a on going debate. If the human readable filenames were in place, I could then sync files to my storage card, pocketpc, mobile phone and laptop without human interaction. Using filetype filtering in synctoy, its possible to sync audio files to the phone while videos files go to the pocketpc. Hey and if Fireant used human readable filenames and Synctoy regular expressions the limits would be endless.

fireant and synctoy working together

So in summary,

Microsoft's Synctoy should be renamed Synctool and should add regular expressions to the filetype filering. I'm also hoping syncing to the PocketPC's storage card will be a option soon and there certainly should be a option to divert sync if the removeable storage card is not in place.

Fireant can keep its sync option but should give people the option to automaticly save as human readable filenames.

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Loosing the talented to others

When I looked around for somewhere to work while still working for Ravensbourne college, one of the things which really attracted me to the BBC was one cutting edge projects they were working on and two the creative people it employed. Tom Coates was one of the those people whos name would popup at many events I attended and I became a reader of his blog well before I joined the BBC. So with all this in mind its a real shame to say he's now leaving for a job at Yahoo! Tom was monumental in pushing the BBC creatively, technically and with his stance on blogging, politically. He will be missed by the BBC, just like Matt Biddulph who only left a month ago too. You have to wonder what Yahoo! has or offered which the BBC doesnt. I could guess, but then I would need to kill you.

For those who dont know Tom, I wanted to quote a comment which was left for him in his next entry about the daily show on more 4.

I'm sorry. Was this supposed to be even remotely interesting? I don't mean to be rude but like what the **** are you writing about? Don't you have anything more interesting to say? Jesus Christ Almighty, aren't blogs supposed to be of even remote interest? Obviously not.

FA

- Posted by: Faustino Asprilla at October 18, 2005 12:07 AM

And Tom's reply

Wow. Well, you may not have wanted to be rude, but I think you kind of were anyway.

Let me make something clear. I write my site because I enjoy writing it, and because it gives me a platform to engage in conversation with my peers. I do not set out to entertain people, and I have no obligation to you whatsoever to make my site appealing to you. I'm not writing for a mass audience. I don't want my weblog to make me famous. I'm not making any money out of it – there's no advertising anywhere. I write for the same reasons I speak, to express my opinions, engage in discussion and respond to things going on in the world.

If you don't like what I write, or you find it boring, then that's fine. There are an enormous amount of other sites out there on the internet that you could explore – on every subject imaginable. I'm sure there's something there that you'll find exciting. In the meantime, you may find what I wrote dull, but at least I didn't set out to be rude to anyone, I didn't try and piss anyone off or ridicule anyone else's creative work. I have only one example of your writing to examine, and it looks like the same could not be said of you.

- Posted by: Tom Coates at October 18, 2005 01:00 AM

How could we have let Tom go?

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Messy haxoring with metasploit caught on iptv

Its not quite as cool as it may sound from the title. I just watched epioside 13 of my lame-ass iptv soap, The scene. yes everyones got there weakness but if you put this against other soaps like Hollyoaks then it comes out quite well. Anyhow, I got a real kick out of main character trying to get root on windows box hosting a FTP server. They used the well established metasploit to find a flaw and exploit it. To be fair its one step up from the hack in the matrix reloaded and they did do a little homework to use the nice opensource framework metasploit. Its certainly a fine line between security tester and exploiter but the best tools always are.

Talking of which if you didnt catch the Security now podcast number 9 about rootkits, please do as it will give you a good old wake up call. I've been personally aware of rootkits for quite a long time but I didnt know spyware, adware applications were starting to use them just so they cant be removed from a computer. Its crazy, but its true. Honestly I wouldnt wish a rootkit on my worst enemy, I just cant imagine anything worst. Anyhow, Steve and Leo do a great job explaining how rootkits work. It is however really good to know Microsoft and Sysinternals are working on the problem. I did try out SysInternal's Rootkit Revealer on all my machines and I'm clean as expected but its good to be sure. I suggest everyone should give it a try, at least till Microsoft add rootkit scanning to there malicious software removal tool. No one likes to be rooted…

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