Bristol crowned European City of the Year?

I'm in the European city of the year for the weekend. No thats not a invite to break into my Manchester Pad but a interesting fact I picked up from the local paper (the evening post) today. I can't work out if this is the same award as the European Green City award which Bristol is also in the line-up for. Either way, congrats Bristol, you even beat out my current Home Manchester which does need some work doing on it in some areas. Bristol is a great city, don't get me wrong. Its got everything but I just wish it was bigger and had more tech/internet jobs. Between HP research Labs, University of West England (UWE) and the watershed, you could imagine some very cool things happening but generally it seems quite slow. But hey thats a outsiders point of view looking inwards, I maybe be very wrong.

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Amplified or are some people tone deaf?

So I attended Amplified 2008 at Nesta yesterday. It was a interesting event for many reasons, but I had one burning question.

As expected it was like a mini BarCamp but over 4 hours. Yes only 4 hours. This was certainly not your democratic barcamp structure where everyone was expected to talk or our at least given the opportunity to talk. Instead the Nesta offices were split up into 9 areas and there was enough room for 3x 45min talks with tons of time for breaks between. So yes in total there were 27 slots for a room of about 80 (I think). I thought this is so weird that I might not give a talk at all because I'm sure there will be fighting for places. Most people were happy to just check out stuff with there two ears. But after the first session I went to (the future of the book) I got frustrated by one of the organisers who cut the session dead because time was out. The conversation was going toward something interest and for it to die flat like that, we deserved another session. So walked to the board and thought of something which would attract peoples imagination.

I'm a pirate and what are you going to do about it? It was a late entry on the board but we still gathered a crowd of about 12. Before long we were admitting to each about our darknet collections and ways of getting more stuff. We went in that angle and came out thinking about ways the licensing should change for the good of the commons and industry. It was a good idea, had wished I had put it on there earlier and I didn't have to miss all the other sessions which were on at the same time.

The last session was me working with Nicole in her session about a match making agency for entrepreneurs and developers. Nicole with a bit of prompting did write a ton of notes down on her moblog, so I won't go into a ton of detail. Anyway I think its a good idea and most people agree, but as we already know its about the way its done.

After a final wrap session where everyone had to say one word which they we thinking and that was pretty much it. Thanks now bugger off to the pub around the corner. My one word was BarCamp. Why? Because I don't understand lots of these people would come to Amplified but never a BarCamp. Everyone seemed to enjoy the format, although you could tell people were not happy about the general room noise during slots, specially whoevers idea it was to put four talks in the same room with no barriers! sometimes people were shouting over each other to be heard and that's worst that BarCampBerlin3.

There were lots people who I've never seen at a BarCamp before and I wonder why? Is it because there community driven, BarCamp is associated with different circles, the event was arranged by Nesta, they never heard of BarCamp? It weird at a time when BarCamps are blowing up all over the place were not attracting some of these people along too. I'm sure they would totally dig it. I'm not taking anything away from the Nesta Team, they did a great job. I guess I like the idea of us not having to wait for the big names to run such events for us. We the people can self organise and setup things ourselves. Nesta and others can help but don't need to own it.

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Drm, simply say no

apple display

Another reason not to buy a apple laptop me thinks.

High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP)—you can't live with it, but you practically can't buy an HD-capable device anymore without it. While HDCP is typically used in devices like Blu-ray players, HDTVs, HDMI-enabled notebooks, and even the Apple TV in order to keep DRMed content encrypted between points A and B, it appears that Apple's new aluminum MacBook (and presumably the MacBook Pro) are using it to protect iTunes Store media as well.

And in other news Blu-Ray has been cracked again…. so the endless war looms onwards.

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Rich Kid Poor Kid

Channel4's Cutting Edge documentary Rich Kid Poor Kid was quite something. I only heard about it from a comment someone made. Generally the idea of the show was to question two kids who live on the same street in South London, about there lives. One lives in a nice leafy area with 6 bedroom houses and goes to private school, the other lives in a council house and left school at 15. Then bring them together and see what happens.

It is a winning formula but there was something quite humbling about the fact these girls could get on, share experiences and find a certain amount of respect for each other. Its something I really believe in, once people come in contact with each other its really hard for them to hold there sometimes extreme views. So in this example the rich girls views on kids that don't go to private school starts to soften after meeting the poor girl. In the face of all the BNP stuff earlier in the week, its refreshing to think we can and will get along the more time we all spend together.

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Things have gone a bit wrong

Ok need to keep this short because I'm typing on the small keyboard of the acer aspire. Its ok for my fat fingers but certainly not like my lovely dell keyboard or even better my ibm keyboard at home.

So I tried to do a few things over the last few days, and maybe wrongly rushed them.

  1. I did change the partition on my old dell using the live ubuntu 8.10 cd. Everything worked but i over wrote the master boot record and had to install grub again. My idea of booting into xbmc from the media direct button is put on hold for now.
  2. I also somehow while playing with resolutions and multiple screens during a video conference call yesterday, killed my xorg.configue settings and can't seem to get them back to a state where I can actual login to ubuntu. So i'm currently backing everything up (something i should have done when doing the partitions really) ready for a clean install of ubuntu 8.10 tomorrow. This means little email, twittering, etc for the next few days sorry.
  3. I decided to upgrade the ram on both the dell and acer. The dell now has 4gig and the acer 1.5gig. It took me 5mins to do the dell and a best part of a hour to do the Acer. I filmed it which I'll put on online later

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So I bought one… Acer Aspire A110L

150 pounds from Comet in White City, Manchester. The box was opened so I got a discount. Otherwise the machine is brand new. Its the basic model with Linux, 8gig Solid state drive and only 512meg of Ram. I'm expecting once I do the 4gig upgrade on my Dell to pass on the memory to this machine, then maybe stick in a small bluetooth dongle. I'm also checking out how to get ubuntu or xubuntu on it. But generally I'm planning to use this device for im, rss reading, ebooks and general web use.

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Emma’s guide to great BarCamping

Emma's Guide to Great BarCamping

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: guide barcamp)

I picked this up via a twitter from Nicole Simon and had a quick read while getting ready to go out for a lunch meeting. Emma's at tons of BarCamp including the tiny ones. I'm actually surprised she's not put one on yet.

A couple of comments however. I love step one and that step four cancels it out if needed. Its very frustrating to hear people say, I've got nothing to talk about when your suggesting they fill the board with talks. Sometimes I feel like saying, what the bloody hell are you doing here if your not going to participate. The small group thing is a good idea, or try and go to sessions not run by your friends just because there your friend. Don't get me wrong its nice to support friends but sometimes, they need to get jump in the deepend.

Getting up early (step 3) is painful specially after a conference party the previous day. But Emmas right, from the orgainser's point of view there's nothing worst than people new turning up late who don't know what to do. Us rehular barcampers should also make a effort, to remind orgainsers of certain things they forget.

Step 5 about hijacking or leaving a session is so important and most organisers don't mention it which is a problem. In BarCampBerlin3 I turned up to a session about CSS frameworks and it turned out to be a big plug for a framework the guys was working on. Nothing wrong with that if it was advertised that way but it wasn't and although me and Nicole were the only english speakers and had asked for the session to be in english at the start. We still left because it was putting us (or rather me) to sleep.

Keeping in touch and having no plans is essential. But having fun is so forgotten. Sometimes I look around and think to myself, wow BarCamp is like geek paradise – where else would you want to be? I guess this is why the idea of Geekcamp or Geekholidays is coming back into focus within my mind.

And finally, yes please spend sometime and think about running your own BarCamp. Some people still ask me why I stopped running them in London. Well its because its something I believe other people should experience for themselves. When Ben Metcalfe asked me to be his partner in crime for BarCampLondon1 I wasn't sure what to expect (hell I don't think any of us were) but it worked out really well (some still say it was the best barcamp). But there's new areas and places to try BarCamps in. I'm already getting involved in a possible BarCampManchester2 which might be Backstage funded and a possible BarCampHuddersfield which came about through a discussion with Lisa from Futuresonic. There's also more concerete plans for BarCampNorthEast2 which to date has been the only overnight BarCamp in the north of england! Shame on the north of england… Someone should do something about that. Well if I get either Manchester2 or Huddersfield going, fear not – they will be overnighters….

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Print and the internet

I love what David Sifry and team have done in Offbeat guides.

Offbeat Guides create personalized, up-to-date travel guides that cover over 30,000 travel destinations, using a combination of search technology and curation by both amateur and professional travel experts. Our guides scour the web to find the best, most up-to-date information about your destination. You can personalize the information you want based on your travel dates, preferences, and destination. The guides come with local maps, festivals and events going on while you're there, exchange rates, key phrases in the city's language, weather forecasts and more.

It kind of reminds me of Idiomag but the business model is a little more straight forward and I like the fact you only really pay if you want the PDF or book. Unlike Idiomag however there's no APML being built in the background and you can't point to other services you may use. I mean it would be super handy if offbeat guides would look at my dopplr account and see when I'm next going somewhere new and might need a guide. It could also take hints and tips from friends and add those to the list. Can I also say once again, outside the iphone bubble there are many other types of phones which they could also support using textual/tagged PDF.

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There’s still life in the old laptop

So I've been thinking about getting a Netbook (or cloud terminal as I like to call them). Mainly because of weight and portability. The Acer Inspire really grabs me with its cheap price and solid state memory drive. But I started thinking I should invest in something a little more solid like the Dell Mini 9. But after some time I've come around to the fact my Dell XPS M1210, although one of the most heavy 12 inch laptops you can get, still has a lot of life inside of it.

Currently the 9 Cell battery is 2 years old and lasts 2.25 hours on usual operation. If I turn off Bluetooth and Wifi it can go up to 3 hours. But looking on ebay, replacement 9 cell batteries are about 50 pounds. Which means I can go back to enjoying 6-7 hour battery times again.

I choose the 120gig SATA harddrive and to be honest, only fill it up when I'm going somewhere and I pile on podcasts and films. Generally I gave 20gigs left at anytime. I also use to use my laptop for transfering stuff, but now I got the pacemaker with also 120gig of space and I'm only using 15% of that. So I usually have mass storage on me and don't need to use the laptop. But whats also weird is the way Dell partitioned the drive. The first partition is a FAT drive of less that a gig with Dell utils on it. Second partition use to be my data drive for Windows which I recently converted from NTFS to EXT3 and is about 100gigs big. Third partition is EXT3 and is where the root ubuntu install exists, its also about 10gig big. The last partition is 4.5gig and is currently where my swap file sits. Yes thats crazy, I hear your saying. I've only got 2gig of memory and to be fair the swap never gets used even with all the applications I have open at once. The problem with the last partition is it was where Dell MediaDirect use to be. Media direct is a media player which will start if you press the correct button on startup. Its useful if you want to just play a dvd or listen to music without booting up the operating system. Well as you can imagine I've used this option all of twice over 2 years. So what I need really is somehting like partition magic to shift everything around a little. Gpart and a couple other open source utils don't seem to be able to shift around stuff so easily. If anyone knows of something different which will please shout.

I've also been thinking it would be a good idea to replace the dell utils with xbmc, so I could boot into something actually useful even if my ubuntu was broken. I'm not totally sure how to do this yet but I'll have a try.

The last thing I think I need to do to my machine is give it 4gig of memory. Its fine with 2gig but I do sometimes wonder if ubuntu is living within that tight limit. 4gig means things like RSSOwl & Snackr which currently loads 400+ RSS feeds each can be stored in memory rather that cache surely? Eitherway, 4gig is now as low as 40 pounds for the 667mhz type, I opted for the 533mhz version when i was in the states last. Hopefully the extra bandwidth will also help with speed, although I got to say the dual core 2 processors are fast enough for most things I do on it. Even High-def encoding isn't out of the question. I was thinking also if I did get a acer ainspire one I could stick the old memory from the dell into the ainspire to boost its standard 512meg of memory.

Someone was saying to me, I should also clean install Ubuntu on the machine because I've upgrade it since Ubuntu 7.04 and although ubuntu and linux generally is good at cleaning up after its self. I could make all the changes I want and get rid of legacy config files, etc.

So in total the upgrades will be less that 100 pounds and quite a bit of my time. Seems worth it to me.

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Twitterank, a social engineering phishing nightmare

Its been highly talked about. Is Twitterank out to steal your password or not? There is a disclaimer saying there not out to steal your twitterz. But I got to say Brianoberkirch has this right.

Twitterrank is a vast conspiracy I created
to steal all of your passwords and shame Twitter into OAuthing. And to
make you look vain

We laugh but who knows one day it will happen. Then how foolish will you feel as you put your vanity before privacy

I keed. But you really shouldn't hand out your password to some fly-by-night site.

And he's very right. We're far to ready to plunge our details into a site which has no history, feels dodgy and doesn't use any certificates of any kind. I know the author of the site has gone out of his/her way to alert people to the validity of the site but mistakes can be made too. Such things as poorly configured databases and applications leak user data. Also note, this ticks all the boxes for a scam. Type in your username and password and you will get to see what your ranking is. Social enginnering at its best. Hell send your friend your rating and ask them to join too.

Update Mashable is covering the story and Rainycat pretty much says the same. OAuth makes all this go away, this is why I'm a big believer in the open social stack.

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USBCell sort out your PR campaign

I've been clearing out my junk box recently and found a number of things. One of them was a email from Diana from Moixaenergy aka

Good afternoon,

Please find our press release today outlining Moixa Energy’s new Alkaline Awareness Campaign and ‘CO2 Saver’ USB rechargeable battery solutions.



Then there's a few photos and there press release titled Award-winning British company seeks to educate consumers on the dangers of the disposable battery attached.

I'm sorry this is so lame and lazy on so many levels. Its basically spam and its frustrating because usbcell is actually a good product. Hell I actually own 8 of the AA type. If they spent 1min and typed in a query like this. They would see I'm actually a fan of USBcell, and they could have sent me some batteries. I most likely would have been more likely to check out the campaign and in the end blog about it. I'm going to write back to Diana and suggest she reads the Cluetrain and this blog entry. If Sarah was still blogging, I would suggest Diana look at her blog too.

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I may just have the next werewolf

I have playing with playing cards most of the night. Seems while I was sleeping that I came up with a card game which seems to be like werewolf/mafia but very different. I was reading up about game theory to see if it fit in one of the categories and it seems to fit into reciprocal altruism which is nicely exemplified with file sharing.

Another potential example would be the Internet file sharing communities. The ability to download (receive) a given file (an economic good) directly depends on other people who already possess the same file and share it through allowing uploading it to those who want it (a process which is also called seeding). Those who receive the file and later refuse to share it with others (through seeding) are known as leeches. However, there are methods to ban leechers, ie to deny them further participation in the file sharing network.

I don't want to come across like its totally tied down but the game seems pretty fun and could work with groups as big as 40 or as small as 12. Some other people have spoke to in the past have talked about the notion of a 3rd entity like the vampires. Well although we've not tried it out, I do worry it will just be chaos and there not enough to go on to make it worth doing. Plus vampires would be like a 2nd team of werewolves.

So forgetting vampires, my game is like werewolf as in there is a night and day phase but its more like a change of location with certain characters not being able to see or hear. The moderator/god/voice of the game is required to do a lot more in this game in regards to whos who. It may even require two or a piece of paper. The social notion of cheating and saying whatever you like is still there and is a major part of the game but now there's more emphases on altruism. You also don't need special cards for this game, a standard pack of 52 will scale up to 44 players I worked out. The suits, numbers and royality cards are very important for the game. And I did consider upping the numbers using the joker cards but it got very constrictive. Of course the game works well with drink too. The closes game I can find to the core idea of the game is this invented game called anandis.

I tried to do some probability calculations on who would win depending on how many of each character but it was beyond me. No what I really need is a Card game simulator. Maybe once I get a feel for the maths behind the game, I will write up a complete set of rules and release it to the world under a creative commons attribution licence or something.

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Community Management

According to Marshall Kirkpatrick over at the Read Write Web, community management jobs are hot.

What kinds of jobs are companies hiring for right now? In the move towards a social media world, we've seen a series of hires in the past week for variations on the theme “community manager.” Companies are hiring, candidates are hunting and competition for the best people and positions is heating up.

What's even more interesting is the debate we got into at the Web 2.0 Expo about jobs for woman. Some people were suggesting community management is something woman are dawn too. Although I have to say my job boils down to community management too, which is a term I really hate.

So if you combine the two, what do you get? Maybe a more balanced workforce in the future?

Who knows… But I do agree with the first comment – Seems like a risky job to be in when it comes to a rough economy

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Web of Flow

I think Stowe Boyd is a very clever man he's thoughts behind social tools run very deep. And rightly so, while the rest of us were trying to grapple with social anything, he coined the term social tools and understood the power of these tools and the conversation. I kind of liken him to people like Doc Searls and Howard Rheningold but instantly more accessible.

A lot of people don't like his presentation style which is more a jumble of mini-thoughts and pointers. So when someone pointed me at Phil Windley's piece about Stowe's latest thought, I knew what the bulk of the post would be about.

Although Phil may not have enjoyed the talk much, I certainly did. It also got me thinking.

He shows his desktop: Snackr,
Friendfeed flow UI, Flickr, Twitterfox, and so on. These are all
flow apps. There are dozens of streams now and there will be lots
more in the future. These differ on the basis of the social
interactions they enable. There will be 5 or 6 themes, but lots of

This leads to a model called “lifestreaming.” People are continually
broadcasting their life to groups of friends and even strangers.
People know where you are and ask you questions about things in your
life because of life streaming.

If you take a look at one of my desktops from yesterday when I was watching the us elections (go obama). You can clearly see some common elements between Stowe's and mine.

In Stowe's talk and screenshot he's got the friends activity stream as a page up on the right but using rss there's no need to have that at all. Actually I noticed my microblogging client Gwibber supports not only microblogging services but also Facebook and Flickr. I think with some hacking around in the Python code I can get it to have a generic RSS input too. Another interesting element is snackr, which is the scrolling rss driven marqaue at the bottom. If we could get Gwibber to spit out rss too, that would be cool for snackr. But I can't help but feel the guys are Faradaymedia have already venutured into this area before with Touchstone/Particls. Unfortuelly having the attention engine on your machine wasn't the best of ideas. Which is where a combination of something new I also heard about at Web 2.0 expo could come in useful in relevency area.

Not one to hide my ideas but this time, I want to try hacking around with some software to see what I build either into Gwibber or Snackr.

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