Symmetric Follow and Second Twitter Accounts

Getting a load of blog posts out before I go out on the town tonight it would seem.

So my thoughts on Symmetric Follow and Second Twitter Accounts. Well I don't own a second Twitter account unless you maybe count the Geekdinner one I setup ages ago and the BBC backstage one, I'm still considering setting up. But I also don't believe in this idea of symmetric following, aka following the people who follow you. I actually think it breaks the usefulness of Twitter if you follow everyone back and Twitter already has another ways to see people who you are not following.

I remember at FOWA 2007, someone came up to me and said they followed me. I was very flattered as such but then they started to rip into me about not following them back. Well I was gobsmacked. I mean I'm only human, why would I follow everyone and anyone who followed me? Strange stuff…

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Why you should use Twitter…

Its New years eve, and I'm already getting messages via text saying “Happy New Year, thought I'd send this out before the networks jam up or fall over.” Oh how different things would be if most of my friends used Twitter or to be fair some other microblogging service. The notion of sending out a Happy new year to the world would be so easy and not require 200+ text messages to each of your friends phone. Yes microblogging solves this problem totally. So maybe save us all the heart ache and sign up to Twitter tonight, hey even if you get to stage 2, the mobile phone company will love you tonight.

Twitter stages of acceptance

Picture taken from Steve Clayton's blog.)

I'm not doing a good enough job on my friends on why they should dump Facebook and use Twitter instead, so I thought I'd post up this excellent guide to Twitter from weaverluke, found via [The Obvious]

What shocked me when flicking through the pages was the fact I was quoted. It all leads back to this tweet ages ago.

See I was on a train to Manchester at the time and had just bought the Pacemaker. I was using it on the train up and it crashed and I had no idea how to restart it. The instructions didn't say and the website was so full of Flash that I couldn't navigate it well enough to find how to restart it. I twittered it asking for help, but everyones taken it as if my heart pacemaker. Well sorry to say its not that, just a Dj Tool.

Maybe this will go down in Twitter fiction/folktales as a tale for ever more. Eitherway, its another reason to dump facebook and switch to Twitter.

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My New Year Resolutions 2008 reviewed

So its the very eve of 2009 and I've been thinking what should I be doing for 2009. But before that a review of how well I've done in 2008 seems like a good idea. You can find the full post from Jan 2008 here.

  1. Finally go to Tokyo

    Well this never happened, but only partly due to the divorce and moving to Manchester
  2. Not to do another BarCampLondon unless the BBC is the venue

    Ah I remember this, I had just finished the amazing barcamp at Google and vowed not to do one again. To be fair, I've helped with 4 others but not actually done or organised them. Even better other people have stepped up and done barcamp in there own way. Which was one of my aims for 2008. Will there be a BBC BarCamp? Well there's been a internal mini BeebCamp but full BarCamp? We shall see, maybe it might make the 2009 list.
  3. Work on something very different but cutting edge this year
    So this did happen, I worked on a ARG with a variety of people but the project fell through when core parts of the team had a professional disagreement. We tried to carry on regardless but it was not possible to move forward as planned. We still have a excellent idea and story, plus I've been talking to new people about joining some of the original team. So I think this might get picked up in 2009.
  4. Dataportability
    Well I've almost cut myself off from the data portability group all together. Not out of choice or anything like that, I just didn't have the time and as things started to change and shift over the year, it became apparent that people were thinking about data portability more that ever before due to the efforts earlier on. I'm not saying its over, theres tons more to be done but also theres a bunch of other issues which need addressing. I'm hoping i'll get the time to pull some of this stuff into work, where I can have the most impact.
  5. Small Routines
    So actually this did happen, but not in a ideal way. Currently I'm sleeping very late and getting up late. During the night is when I do most of my blogging and reading. I don't know what it is but I seem to be more open to learning and taking it all in at 1am. I do still listen to podcasts while around the flat including in the shower. But what I need to do now is shift the time back by 3-4 hours. So I go to bed by 1am but get all my blogging and reading done between 9pm – 1am. Then I'd get up about 9am and not feel so tired. In regards to the RSS reading for example, the ipod is helping a lot (i should write a blog about it).
  6. Play a team sport
    Yep I started playing Handball in Manchester, but it was a ton of running about and seriously my body couldn't handle the dynamic pace of the students I was playing with. So I gave it up when I learned about a Volleyball team in Manchester. Its still very energetic and I'm playing with students and people in there prime years but my previous experience helps a lot and i'm not a bad setter at all. Theres a few tournaments coming up including a few beach ones in summer, so who knows what might happen.
  7. Geekdinners and Geekvenues
    Well I got to the bottom of It was hosted on Photo Matt's server somewhere and he wiped it or something and now its all gone! Yes I know crazy but don't worry we have flickr pictures, blog posts and our memories to remind us of the good times. I also handed over the job of organising geekdinners to Cristiano Betta who I believed would take it forward while I move to Manchester. And I wasn't wrong, he's done a great job, scoping out a new venue and new speakers for the events. He's also tied the geekdinners closer to the girl geekdinners which is great. Geekvenues is still floating on somewhere, should think about that some more.
  8. Start learning Python
    Yep started, setup my environment and done Hello world and a couple other tiny projects. Micheal Sparks has leant me a couple books which are really useful including the Joel Spolsky book who I listen to on the Stack overflow podcast anyway. I also started playing with PovRay again and dropped learning AIR for now.
  9. Use the technologies around me better
    Yep this is happening, I'm also becoming more choosy and selling stuff which doesn't fit. So for example this year the Wii and Netbook went, not because I don't like them, but because they didn't quite fit into my life. I'm also switching some of my services. So I still use plaxo and now I have two Windows mobile phones, its become even more essential that I can sync between them over the air not just when I get to a Windows PC. I'm going to stop using delicious and switch to evernote. The lack of Linux support is frustrating but on the other hand its supported on my ipod touch and windows mobiles.
  10. Go to more comedy clubs
    This has happened, I'm 5mins walk from the Comedy Store in Manchester and I have been a few times on off nights. I plan to go more often and actually if I had been a bit quicker recently. Would have been off to Jesters in Bristol tonight for a night of comedy over new years instead clubbing it. So yes comedy is happening more often. Maybe I should spend less time in the cinema and more time in the comedy clubs?

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Gwibber the dashboard for streams and flow?

I partly talked about this before but theres been a series of updates which I couldn't help but blog about.

So I was talking to Miles about a client which could support much more that Microblogging and we were suprised that no ones actually built a clever client app which supports Microblogging + RSS + XMPP? Well the closes we can find to that idea is a OSX application called Eventbox. Actually this blog entry does a much better job explaining what it can do, and what a difference it means for advanced users.

If you imagine the dashboard of Facebook (credit to Stowe Boyd) but under your control using the services you prefer. Fan of Flickr, just add them and the RSS feed. Prefer photobucket use that instead. Its a bit like the life streaming services such as Plaxo, Mybloglog and Friendfeed. The application/client should be clever enough to look at the service and work out through maybe some discovery service/xml whats possible with the service. So for example adding Twitter will allow you to post and read, while a flickr feed won't. It would be cool to also finally start adding some of those comment services into the mix, so for example allow backtype comments if you start adding stuff to a RSS feed from a blog. Hell why not add a proper metaweblog/atom Blog editor too maybe?

Anyway, Eventbox is close and seems to be on the right track and I was starting to get worried that once again the linux platform would be left behind in this area. But I was wrong actually deadly wrong because under my own nose was Gwibber.

I've been using it for a while now and its actually fended off competition from Air apps like Twitterdeck (far too twitterfied) and Twirl (crashes a lot) for my ubuntu desktop. But what shocked me today when talking to Miles was the new supported protocals it has. I had done updates and never knew about the new features.

Gwibber 0.72 Screenshot by you.

So now theres support for,

  • RSS/Atom
  • Digg
  • La.conica
  • Twitter
  • Pidgin
  • Facebook
  • Jaiku
  • Pownce
  • Flickr

So most of the Microblogging services including the recently defunked Pownce and open source La.conica. RSS including automatic discovery for Digg and Flickr. Then some of the interesting ones, Facebook with the ability to also send messages into the Facebook paywall. Ping.FM support, means you can send from Gwibber to all those other services such as Brightkite, Rejaw, etc, etc. But the one which is strange and most exciting is Pidgin support. The problem is, there is no documentation for the Pidgin part and the account says you can send only. So after some playing around, I worked out that when you send a message on Gwibber, it will also set the status of Pidgin. This is cool, but I also want the ability to recieve XMPP messages straight into Gwibber.

Gwibber 0.72 Screenshot by you.

Actually Gwibber has the structure to really move forward. I've already seen multiple types of authentication from username/password to a Oauth like facebook auth. Each protocal gets its own colour which you can set and you can enable recieve, send and search on each one (protocal supporting). Search works well, but I'll like to see some kind of watch or a pounce system like you get in Pidgin or Specto. Finally it would be useful to support the Newsgator API (yep I switched from bloglines to newsgator) for RSS, so you can properly manage the RSS and not end up reading the same news over and over again.

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Security for People and Computers by Neal Puff

creepy guy looking over a application form

I've been reading this fantastic ebook on my ipod called Security for People and Computers by Neal Puff. I had assumed because the cocoa application (what do you call ipod/iphone apps?) was free it would be available somewhere else as a PDF or another free format. However it seems like you can only get it free on iTunes, which really sucks. Because I really want to send all my computer literal friends this book. Its the kind of book I could give to my parents and they might actually make sense of. Its written as a refresher for people like myself and a overview for people who care less about computer security. I have a list ranging from my sister to friends who are still using Windows in a bad way, who NEED to read this very short book.

I noticed you can buy it too but its not cheap at 19 pounds plus shipping. But it might be worth buying a few copies for friends and family next time its there birthday. Its a shame because turning ebooks into ipod/iphone applications is almost like a DRM of its own. I totally get what Tom Peck is doing turning books into apps but I would much prefer he write a app which reads PDFs/RTF/Text files well instead. Anyhow, here's the description of the book…

This book is meant as general knowledge for people who want to live a safer and more secure existence in today's environment, covering both basic Internet safety and general advice for non-technical parts of our life. While this book was previously sold commercially, it is offered here at no charge in the hope that it will be of some benefit to help people in their daily lives.

Actually just going back to the ebook application as a DRM a second. I also saw, Project Gutenberg will be releasing Mobile eBooks. Great I thought till I found out there going to create *.jar files (java apps) which play the book rather that mobile versions of the books in pdf, text, etc. So once again, this sucks because I'm constrained to one player and the player is attached to the book. This means my ipod can't read it and my older ebook reader on my phone can't be used either. Can someone please just create a Ebook reader for most platforms including Windows Mobile, Symbian, Java, Blackberry and Apple which is open source and reads all types of free/open textual format

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Have you been thinking green all year?

My carbon footprint in 2008

Well I like to think I have. As you can see I've done a lot of trips every month this year but its Manchester to London and back again, which I'm doing frequently. The most costly on Carbon was my trip to Berlin, even more so that my crazy trip to Paris via Amsterdam. I wonder how this stacks up against other community managers/evangelistsTechnorati Tags: , , , , from companys like Yahoo and Microsoft? Think of the BBC Backstage as your green friendly developer network.

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And the social stacks fit together like that…

One of the things I really missed out on but have been following is the developments around the open stack. I kind of prefer social stack but I can see a lot of benefit to open over social. Anyway, this work has been pioneered by some really good guys including David Recordon, Chris Messina, Sebastian Küpers, etc, etc (sorry to many names to list). Today I was struck by Jyri's blog post about Chris Messina's talk at some event recently.

In his presentation at Friday's event, Chris Messina demonstrated the use case of subscribing to someone who lives on a foreign Web service.

In what follows I'll expand on Chris' story by discussing another use case, where you add the
foreign friend to your address book without needing to go to their site.

Imagine I want to add a friend, David Recordon to my contacts. I
know his email address, so I click 'add contact' in my client and enter
his email.

My client translates David's email address into his OpenID URL, probably using a method called Email to URL Translation.

Now that my client knows where to find David on the Web, it goes out to David's URL and fetches a little file that contains machine-readable pointers
to David's public profile and the photos, status messages, bookmarks,
blogs, and other feeds he publishes. The enabling standards at work
here are likely to be XRDS-Simple and Portable Contacts.

This loop is simply referred to as 'discovery'.

Once my client is done, it is ready to display its findings to me.
Here's a mock-up to illustrate what I might see (the same mock is in
Chris' slides):


After selecting David's contact information and some of his feeds, I
click 'Save', and a subscription request is sent to these services. They
return a few of David's most recent public updates to me.

The next time David logs into these services, he sees a standard new
subscriber notification. His service can perform discovery on me to
display my name and profile summary to him, and allow him to

David may also choose to allow me to see some of his private information, such as his contact details. The enabling standard here is of course OAuth.

I have never needed to join any of the services David uses; in fact,
I don't even need to know their names. It is irrelevant to me if he
uses Twitter, Plurk, or Friendfeed to publish his status updates or
prefers Flickr, Photobucket, or Picasa for sharing his photos. All I care about is seeing his updates and being able to respond to them using my own client.

Information wants to be free, and social objects want to travel.

The thing this reminds me of, is when Tim Burners-Lee wrote about the Semantic web and how agents talk to services, etc. You can follow how it works without even knowing the different technologies too well. So while these guys figure out the webside of things, these other guys earn a mention for there work on the services stuff and Controlyourself for there work on openmicroblogging.

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Video 3.0 is the future, no really…

Those dabbling with Video 2.5

Doc Searls is such a great thinker, it would be great to see him on stage at a Thinking Digital, Pop!tech or TED.

Video 3.0 is two way. Or many-way. It’s with, not just to. And its “def” is truly high, and not compromised by current channel-defined bandwidth constraints. This is what will disrupt both telecom and cablecom in a huge way, unless they get on the side of all producers — including the people they now call consumers. The opportunities here are enormous. I think telcos are especially advantaged in this sense: telephony is naturally two-way, and has been ever since the 1880s. Now is the time to think about how we return to that in a big way. Telcos may be getting hammered flat right now, but there’s a groundswell underneath there. Just watch.

I've been asked again and again, so whats the future then Ian? and I always say video online. This usually causes a puzzled look. Maybe I should be saying Video 3.0 or maybe a better word would be Participtory Video or even Networked Video? Don't make the mistake of thinking Podcasting video is Video 3.0. Some of it is simply Video 2.0 (dump video online), some of it is Video 2.5. I've not seen anything which says to me Video 3.0 yet. Even Seesmic, Ustream, etc.

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TV killed the Movie

Romeo + Juliet poster

So i'm watching live TV because I'm ill and am really waiting for the IT Crowd to start. Anyway Film 4 have Baz Lurhmann's Romeo + Juliet starting and I thought I've not seen that for ages and boy I love the sound track and start of the movie. I mean who doesn't remember the petrol station scene at the very start of the movie? It's a classic and one of the best starts to a film ever.

But Channel4 or Film4 killed it for me. They resize the beautiful 2.35:1 panavision aspect ratio down to 16:9 and cut off he edges! There should be a law against such things. It looked stupid on my large widescreen LCD, and it wouldn't have hurt them to add a small border on the top and bottom to keep the ratio correct and not slice off the left and right of the picture. But they wouldn't let it lie, no. They also soften the dynamic sound track using some kind of dampener or compressor. Its the equivalent of listening to a Dolby Digital track through a pair of ipod headphones (yes I now have a pair and I can tell you my Vodafone 12 pounds headphones are so much better that those white bud things, avoid at all cost). On most AV systems with digital sound, theres this thing called Midnight mode. From the Dolby site, it works like this.

Midnight mode allows low-volume listening with high-volume benefits, reducing the volume on just the loud effects of a program, increasing the volume on quiet sounds, and maintaining dialogue at a consistent level. A Dolby Digital feature applies dynamic range compression that preserves low-level sounds, prevents dramatic passages from getting too loud, and keeps dialogue intelligible during lower-level listening.

The amount of compression is not arbitrary, but is decided in advance by the soundtrack's producers and coded right onto the soundtrack.

Some Dolby Digital decoders let you select various amounts of the available compression (for example, 50, 75, 100 percent), while others provide only 100 percent when the compression mode is selected.

Well they applied this technique to the whole movie but at like 100 percent. It was dull, lifeless and flat (that is me being nice). In the end I turned the bloody thing off and watched something else till a excellent IT Crowd. I was that pissed off…

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Apple’s Netbook?

Imran sent me a link to this readwriteweb entry about the iphone being Apple's netbook. Although I'm totally buying the reason of wifi usage here's what they say…

Steve Jobs once said that the iPhone is Apple's netbook, and this usage data does lend some credence to this. Most of these WiFi requests probably come from people using the iPhone on their couch at home or in a coffee shop, and often, these users might be quickly checking their email or the weather from their phone instead of booting up their netbooks or laptops.

I got to say I'm also selling my Acer Netbook because I now have a ipod touch. The Netbook was too much for what I needed. I just wanted a device to read rss and ebooks. It was cool having the netbook because I could run RSS Owl on it but it was over kill in size and most of the time it sat in my bedroom because there wasn't enough room to carry both my laptop and netbook. Miles expressed a simular thought about his Nokia N800 internet tablet now he owns a iphone.

In other related news Windows Mobile falls behind iPhone in latest mobile-market numbers

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Measuring success of evangelism


At the recent speeddating event I went on, people always ask what you do. I always have problems explaining what I do without using up at least 30secs of the 180secs. So I've recently found it easier to say I'm a BBC internet evangelist. Its not ideal but most people I speak to have a better idea of what I do because of the wording.

Christian wrote a excellent blog post about justifying the work we do. Theres some really good parts I would like to quote.

As an evangelist/advocate the hardest job is to tell people exactly what your impact was. A lot of what you do is planting mental seeds and inspiring people to work differently – that can’t be measured in hard figures. Other companies measure the success of an event for example by how many business cards were collected and have a department that follows these up by contacting people. I don’t like this much, first of all because a lot of the people I meet don’t have business cards but follow me on twitter instead and secondly because they gave me the card and not the company.

If you enjoy free information, swag, being able to directly reach internal experts and being able to network with a select group of like-minded people:

  • please leave comments on the blogs/announcement pages of the events (in our case the YDN blog and upcoming – a lot of people only look there and don’t have time to scrounge the web for all the info.
  • Use tags we provide at events to tag your photos, blog posts, tweets, videos…
  • Tell us about cool implementations and changes in your company based on what we talked about – we are happy to feature those and send you link love and there is nothing cooler than telling the world how someone else but us have done something cool with our stuff
  • If you sign up for an event – show up (or send a colleague). I am getting terribly sick of spending a lot of money to hire locations and have 150 sign up to the event in the first 10 minutes – effectively blocking out people that should be there – and then 20 show up! This is wasted time and money – and in the current climate that is not a clever thing to do.

I love my job and I am doing quite extensive work to make the IT industry understand that tech evangelism is not a waste of money but that there is a massive need for it. Marketing and PR departments just cannot reach geeks and internal geeks have neither the drive or the opportunities to talk to the world about the great things they do. I am very sure that innovation and change in IT is not coming from top down but from people who dare to talk to the right people to initiate change. As I put it in my talk at accessibility 2.0 geeks that care are the drivers of innovation and I don’t want to lose the opportunities we have right now.

Yes exactly this why I have had such a hard time with the PR and Marketing departments of the BBC. Luckily most of the time they have ignored Backstage but with the events we attracted a lot of attention. As most people know, I tried to educate our lovely PR lady Sarah by forcing her to read the Cluetrain Manifesto. That only works so far though, Christian is right the evangelist create opportunities at a grass roots level. I like to think PR and marketing is all about control while being an tech evangelist isn't, actually the opposite. We tend to tell it as it is and answer the tricky questions. But this is all about measuring success and yes its all about the stories. The stories when things grow from a small seed to something large and interesting. I guess being humans, we like stories. Stories put things in perspective for ourselves. Maybe this translates into a slide on a managers powerpoint between the hard figures of other projects. Or even a example for how successful a project or division is doing but at a much lower level, the links are tighter, stronger and true that ever before. Theres no way to measure these more human like attributes such as trust yet, but the day there is, I bet ever company will come around to the fact that evangelist are good long-term business sense.

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Interested in buying a Netbook?

My Acer Aspire Netbook

Well I'm selling mine on ebay over the next few days. Starting price of 150 pounds for my upgraded Netbook. I did record me doing the memory upgrade but it was 45mins long and the netbook wouldn't start properly afterwards because I hadn't pluged in the Solid state drive, But trust me its all working fine now, I just don't need it now I got a ipod touch.

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