London Girl Geekdinner number 9

Good night last night at the Girl Geekdinner. I got talking to a woman from Amnesity International and shared some stories about working at the BBC World Service and how it makes you much more aware of the freedoms and restrictions we live with everyday online. Anyway she was very interesting and Sheila had a good chat too. The speakers for the night were varied, Mary Sharpe started badly putting most of the girls to sleep or getting peoples backs up but then she started to get it together again. She was a interesting speaker which I filmed and stuck on I wish I'd got a chance to ask her some more questions one on one but left soon after the speeches. Nicolas was the 2nd speaker and was very nervous, and it ended up being like a product pitch for 10mins. So I ended up deleting that video. The 3rd and last was Maryam Scoble (yes Robert Scoble's partner) who kept it nice and sweet. Good speaker and her speech was well recieved by the crowd as you can see by the video. Most of the questions were also aimed at Maryam afterwards but Mary also got a few. So all in all, good night and happy birthday Sarah Blow.

One thing is bugging me, is Mary Sharpe also the same person here and here? I don't think so, but you can never tell. I get very skeptical when people run these self improvement and mentoring type services.

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The Corporation available for free, but is it remixable?

The Corporation poster

From Torrent freak, which I've been meaning to blog for a while…

The award winning Canadian documentary The Corporation has been released on BitTorrent for free. Filmmaker Mark Achbar just released an updated official torrent of it. Everyone is free to download, watch, discuss, and share it. Although the torrent download is free, the filmmakers encourage people to donate a small fee if they like what they see. We asked Mark Achbar how the first round of donations went. He said, since my initial torrent launch of The Corporation at the end of August, there have been $635.00 in contributions. They ranged from $2 to three very generous gifts of $100 each. All are very much appreciated. He added, my only regret is that I didnt put up my own torrent sooner.

Although this is great stuff, I couldn't find the licence anywhere. So I'm assuming its downloadable, sharable but not remixable? Shame because its a great documentary but I would like to see a slightly shorter version which I could lend to some friends without them falling a sleep. You could easily do a 1hour version which gets the core message across and then the 3hour version full of examples and more depth.

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Pipelines and the flow of automation

Water Pipes

I've been sitting on this blog post for bloody ages. But Tom's post has tipped me over.

Want to see something cool that's coming soon? Take a gander at XProc – the XML Pipeline Language. It's a way of defining a series of processes that operate on an XML file – for instance, running it through XInclude, schema validation, XSLT and making choices etc. It is great in as much as it's abstracting yet another layer out of the processing systems (SAX, DOM etc.) and their implementations (Java, PHP etc.) – obviously there are problems with that. Norman Walsh says that it's quite likely to be finished early next year. Kurt Cagle of thinks this is a good thing, and should fit in to the XML+REST ecosystem nicely.

So I've been thinking about some presentations and talks I'm planning on giving next year. I can't quite put my finger on the exact term but I know through blogging it and being very open about my thoughts I might reach a set of conclusions or at least points worthy of talking about with others..In my usual style a lot of the stuff is scattered around all over the place, so I'm going to try and use a wiki or something else to tie things togther.

My abstract for Etech 2007, which didn't get accepted.

API's are a great way of developers being able to access data and content from one provider. But with the trend of the mash-up has come the ability to join two or more providers together to the benefit of the user. This level of interoperability means people can start offering automation and new business opportunities by chaining services together. As many of us look towards the social benefits of a somewhat centralised Web 2.0, I can see how our single provider habits will be broken by the user generated pipelines.

Like Unix Pipelines, a user generated pipeline can be used to send content through a series of pipes. But unlike UNIX pipelines these pipes can be a series of remote or local webservices, services, applications, transformers, etc. A simple example could be, uploading a photo from your mobile phone to Flickr, then that same photo magically appears on your friends doorstep processed, nicely cropped with a related personal message with no more time or effort required from yourself. Thats the magic of pipelines.

This is not a new concept but how we manage this has existed in the domain of Apple-scripters, Perl and Python hackers. Automator by Apple is an example of this, but fails due to its proprietary nature.

I'm proposing that a series of pipelines will be ultimately definable, non-proprietary and shareable by anyone who can install and run a browser. A whole eco-system will grow out of this decentralised user driven behaviour, which I call Web 2.5.

flickr authentication list

The Flickr example I gave works on an application being authorised to access a certain picture on Flickr. Flickr already has this feature in its API and many other services use this to provide services to there users. So in this example are instructed to receive the picture and do the default image enhancement which there famous for. After the preloadr is finished the picture is passed on to which can create postcards and send them to a person on request.

This is all possible now with simple AppleScript or some other scripting language like Perl but requires a intimate knowledge of the scripting language. A user generated pipeline would be the higher level language to describe the Flickr example

blogwave sources

Addy Santo of Santomania once wrote this quite fantastic application called Blogwave which he has not been updated for at least 3 years now. Its a multi purpose .net application which can consume RSS feeds (generator), transform them with some parameters like sort. It would then send them somewhere else, for example FTP, Email, SMB, etc in a RSS or Text form. What I found interesting about it was actually, it would create timed batch tasks in the standard Windows scheduler (something not many people use on there desktop). So in actual fact, it was a GUI for the command line in Windows. The application was a head of its time and unfortually not open source, so its kind of died but can still be used if you find the right link. But the concept is key, a GUI creates scripts or manages the complex pipeline process. The different pipes are already defined so you don't need some low level code to manage it. It seems Touchstone will take over from where Blogwave went, but I'm not on the alpha programme so I can't actually play with it.


I have tons of other examples but I'm now saving them up for the wiki and for my talk at Xtech 2007 which I'm currently rewriting my failed Etech proposal for right now.

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Digital Wellbeing, into the woods…

Into the woods range

Digital Well being have changed there range to match the change of the season. They had a instore bash recently to celebrate the change. It was a good night and I managed to grab a chat with the guy behind USB cell and a guy whos created a maginify table. All good stuff and a great evening had by all. I've added a load of pictures here on flickr.

I went back to the Digital well being shop on Sunday. I have got even more pictures and caught a few more videos. This time Sheila playing with the maginfy table, Alex trying out the wood sound remixer and Alex also explains how the Nabaztag works and why its more that just a toy.

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Skype offers free calls to the UK for next 6 months

Skype offer free uk calls


To qualify for the offer, Skype Credit must be paid for via PayPal or with a UK-issued credit card with a UK billing address. You'll also need to be signed into the Skype software while buying credit. Broadband internet connection required.

I was using JaJah for a while but using skype on my mobile phone to call landline numbers for free is going to be great. Now if only Orange would offer a decent all you can eat plan like 3 just did. Rumours are that it will be more like 30 pounds a month rather than Orange's 75 pounds a month. My last bill on GPRS was 59 pounds because I forgot to turn off automatic hourly downloading of my 391 rss subscriptions!

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Allergy Cards are a good idea…

Ian Forrester's Allergy Card

Via Kid666's blogI found a link to Allergy Which is a site where you can create little cards to give to new resturants. Yes its sounds a little over the top, but you know what it would have saved me quite a few nights of terriable projectale vomiting. Like the time when I was in Amsterdam and decided to eat in a Thai Resturant with Kevin Hinde and Joel Chippendale the day before my talk at Xtech 2005. Trust me, if you think its all in mind then you really needed to see the state of the wetroom that night. It was so bad, I dare not call anyone for help till Sarah on the phone in England convinced me otherwise. And that was just Coconut sauce in the meat and prawns in the rice (which I got replaced). No trust me the ride to the hotel was hellish and I thought I wasn't going to make it.

I would have liked to have used the HTML which creates, but it was so messy I couldn't do it without breaking a load of XHTML rules.

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Playing with Twitter, but I’m not all that happy yet

Twitter screenshot

After hearing Ryan Freitas talk about Twitter among other things, I've been trying out it out. If you don't know what Twitter is, check out Derek Powazek's description.

Twitter lets me SMS to a group all at once and creates a handy 'what I'm up to right now' insert for my site. A kind of in-situ, realtime, status message blogging. Fun!

So yeah its a good way to send short timely messages to a pool/group of friends. Those messages can be text messages (sms) or even im using jabber. It sounds really good but it has problems. Tantek posted up shots of ways to improve the pretty poor signup process. But I've been having problems registering my work mobile phone which is on O2 with Twitter. What also bugs me is the fact you can only register one mobile number. Yes I know its rare people have more that one mobile, but those who would use Twitter are much more likely to have 2 phones or 2 lines. My other issue is around adding your friends. Please please, allow me to add either my flickr network, upcoming network (why flickr and upcoming don't interop, is still beyond me), Plaxo contacts or even a Foaf file. I just can't be bothered to setup another network of friends in Twitter.

I do see the use of Twitter, specially for setting up adhoc geekdinners and getting people organised. But I would prefer to see Twitter used as an output point for messages. So I could send messages to it from almost any application or service and it would amplfy it to a certain group. Maybe it can do this already, it has an API so its certainly possible.

My username on Twitter is cubicgarden under the name of ian forrester, as you'd expect.

David Czarnecki has wrote a Twitter Plugin for Blojsom 3.0. Its currently in CVS but it will update twitter when there is an update or new entry to a blojsom blog. Damm I need upgrade to blojsom 3.0.

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Petition to Ban within government-funded schools, the promotion of any faith or religion

Ship of fools

I'm not keen on Bans but, this certainly sounds like a worthy cause.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to ban within government-funded schools the promotion or practice of any particular faith or religion.
Submitted by Quentin Brodie Cooper of UK Brights

Faith-based or sect schools encourage and propagate divisions within our society.

Schools should be places where our children are taught to think about the world around them and come to their own conclusions. In short, they should be taught, not only about the profusion of religions and faiths but also about how moral and socially responsible lives can be led without them; rather than, at a time before they have sufficiently developed critical faculties, being indoctrinated.

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Yes I did go to an Arsenal Football Match this weekend

Arsenal vs Newcastle Utd

My good friend and Best man Ross won some tickets to Arsenal vs Newcastle United recently, so the plan was for him and his wife to go to the match. And we would Babysit our god daughter. But it didn't quite work out that way and so I ended up going with him.

After we found a nice parking space just 5mins walk from one of the entrances we on the march along one of the stadium bridges, found our gate in the Orange Quadrant and before long we were in our seats. The Emirates Stadium is new and Arsenal are unbeaten at home this year. The stadium is very comfitable and actually very clean and tidy. Not what I was expecting for a football ground. The match wasn't so great, Newcastle Utd scored against the run of play and after half time Arsenal scored with a great freekick by Thierry Henry to make it a draw at 1-1. 60,058 people attended the match and actually I'll admit it was a good day but I would only ever do it for a big World Cup game. I've got tons of pictures of the stadium and game on my flickr stream.

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Phones on a plane and Free Wifi on GNER Train

ishida's seat from London to Edinburgh

Our good friend Rachel Clarke who now lives in New York (the movie piracy capital says the MPAA) asks Phones on Planes?

No. Please no. At least put them in a booth or something so the rest of us don’t have to hear them say ‘guess where i am, on a plane’.

I have to say, I don't quite think this is such a bad thing. Ideally there would be a restriction on high volume talking not mobile phones. Yes they seem to induce high volume chatter but if your using your mobile for Data then thats a whole different story right? I just look forward to the day when I can finally text my friends to say I'll be arriving at Chicago O'hare in 30mins rather than waiting till I'm through customs. Although, like most people I also turn on my phone the moment I get off the plane. Another reason for mobiles on a plane is the fact that airplane phones already exist. They hardly used because once you swip your card, you can feel the timer eating through your money. The cost aspect as applies to in the air wireless which has stupid prices attached. I think having the ability to use your own dataplan/phone will finally break those stupid in the air monoploies.

Talking about Wireless. I thought I'd give a big thumbs up to GNER's Free Wireless onboard the train between Leeds and London Kings Cross. This is how I'm currently replying to all my emails and blogging. Its also pretty damm fast, the upload speed is bad (ping times of 1000 to my network) but general browsing and IM are good. From what I'm reading the Wifi shouldn't be free but trust me it is and there's no blocked ports or anything. I was able to VPN into my network using Hamachi and VPN into the BBC. Oh I also forget to mention there is power on some of the carriages in GNER and it also seems First Trains in the North of England. So from now, when traveling up to Northern England, I'll be traveling by train! This is great because I've been meaning to cut down on my air travel and I end up feeling terriable after flying. It may take longer on the train but its comfitable and you can actually relax with a reasonable amount of leg room.

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OS X Atmosphere Concept done with Flickr and clever scripting

OSX Atmosphere Concept

I wish I had a XML desktop. Why? Well I really want to do some of things which can be easily done online, with my desktop machine too. Kind of application development using web technologies. Yes it would be slower that writing in C++ or something like that, but it would mean more people could write stuff for there machines. So whats prompted this observation? Well I'm already thinking about this for my Xtech Proposal (which I should be working on instead of blogging) plus I saw the OSX atmosphere concept on electro plankton just recently.

So what I'm thinking is this is kind of possible using a weather feed or api and Flickr pictures. Obviously I've not seen the application running but the general idea of what the wather is like outside on your desktop is very achiveable. RSS Screensavers currently are pretty lame, for example my current favorate displays the headlines and a random picture from the local machine. But it will also display markup as actual non escaped markup, yeah sucks when you get a feed with pictures. You would have thought it would be clever enough to display that picture or something. I mean imagine subscribing to a feed like engadget or gizmodo which are heavy with high quality images. The experience would be a lot different.

But back to the XML desktop idea, yes Vista with XAML looks/sounds like what I'm after but knowing Microsoft its not going to live up to the promises. Geez this is certainly geting close to my proposal but wouldn't it be great to have read only (at the moment) XML feeds for commonly used APIs on your own machine? Its kind of like a widget engine and how they make common desktop api's available for use. Well extend that out so you don't have to build just widgets. I know for a fact this has security and privicy implications but say we could find a way through those very serious concerns? Wouldn't that be fantastic?

Update: It looks Adobe'e Apollo could be the solution to this? Thanks Gareth for the heads up on this. I started think about Apollo a lot more while reading the PDF and thought of the parallels between it, Xulrunner and a widget engine. And came up with this matrix.

Internet Application matrix

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RSS as the vaseline that’s greasing the wheels of Web 2.0

Jeremy Keith writes about how everything he uses outputs RSS of some kind which can easily be mashed up. Yes this is pretty straight forward and I hope commonly known now but what prompted me to blog was this bit.

At the recent Take Back The Web event here in Brighton, Rob Purdie talked about RSS being the vaseline that’s greasing the wheels of Web 2.0. He makes a good point.

Over the course of any particular day, I could be updating five or six RSS feeds, depending on how much I’m blogging, how many links I’m posting, or how much music I’m listening to. I’d like to take those individual feeds and mush ‘em all up together.

I think were finally at the stage where its accepted that RSS and ATOM can be like RESTful API's. I remember having a email exchange with Jeff Barr about this and he disagreed. Well I'm sorry but it looks I was right.

What Jeremy also talks about is why I love XSL so much. As long as its valid XML and web accessable I can do something with it. I've been asked to be involved in a special project for Christmas to do with XSL, so look out for that soon.

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Web 2.0 Summit coverage

Quick heads up on where to get really iindepth information on the O'reilly Web 2.0 Summit which just finished recently. Richard MacManus from the Read/Write Web has tons of posts which seem to cover pretty much everything. His wrap up post links to everything he's written in notes.

I also have to point to Ben Metcalfe's post about his ignoyance about the people attending the web 2.0 summit. Richard also picks up on this.

Some folks, like Ben Metcalfe, think the conference has lost its edge. Maybe it has, but the Web 2.0 Summit is a different beast now than it was last year – and that's a sign of the times.

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