BBC Backstage NW Communities Networking Bash

 Manchester gets together for a speech

Huge thanks to everyone who came to BBC Backstage first's North West Networking Bash. We partied right through from 7pm to 3am, and loved every moment of it. I spent most of the night socialising and making sure everything was swinging in the right direction. We did start a little later that expected due to a BBC Taxi which took longer that it should have to get everything moved across. Thankfully I had help from Leanne, so before long the wii was in place (thanks the hodge, which I learned was also Dominic) and there was a crowd of people watching Mario Kart 4 player. While downstairs was filling up quickly, I setup the Skype link on the mezzannie level. As usual I had problems with Ubuntu's multiple display support but it was solved with a restart. Actually the biggest problem of the night was the plasma screens. They were old and only supported Svideo and VGA in, which meant we played Mario Kart in black and white too.

The food paid for by BBC Backstage was top notch and there was plenty to go around, The drink which was sponsored by Adaptivitist and although a small amount, it lasted right through to after midnight. Everyone was being very sensible only drinking singles and bottles, no crazy necking of drinks, just everyone having a good time. Talking about having a good time, the live link up with London via Skype was perfectly placed next to the bar, meaning people could play while waiting for drinks at our own private bar. I seen everything from messages back and forth to Hangman. All good fun, unfortually the London end seemed to cut off about 12:30am and so the fun only lasted so long. According to some people I had some stalker in London who kept asking for me, oh well.

All in all, we had just over 200 people attend the bash which is fantastic, it was a real cross section of the communities across the North too. Thanks to Adrian for stepping in for Kevin at the last minute to speak to everyone about the BBC's role in the north now and in future. Thanks to Dan from adaptivist for drinks again, thanks to Leanne and Micheal sparks for helping and thanks to everyone who came along and enjoyed the night.

There's pictures of not only the Manchester event but also the London one on Flickr. I expect to put the videos up a bit later and it will be linked to from backstage directly. So look out for those.

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Embrace your inner geek?

girlgeekdinner italy

I love working for the BBC but there is certainly a divides which do come up and lets say make the work more challenging. Rain my partner in crime on Backstage brought to attention a letter/email in Ariel.

The keyword ‘respect’ is noted as a BBC value on the back of your BBC pass. ‘We respect each other and celebrate our diversity so that everyone can give their best. “Software enginneers and computing professionals in the BBC are frequently labelled with demeaning and insulting terms, like ‘techies’ and ‘geeks’, by members of staff in other professional discaplines’. “I find it upsetting to hear these disparaging terms in the office and feel it sad that there is a growing acceptance of the use of these labels among staff – even among the profession itself in an attempt to ameliorate the terms. They are even used in BBC output, such as the Click programme. “The terms are typically used by staff in non-technical roles who, I feel, are getting away with blantent office bullying and professional one-upmanship which is damagine to the moral and self-esteem of staff in crucial technical roles

Andrew Ellis, software engineer FM&T

Unlike Rain who almost takes offence to Andrew's email, I get what he means. Yes I am a geek but I'm selective with the word. Yes alot of us have reclaimed the word but not everyone has and as we know people will use words to gently put people down.

Gay is one of those words which has been turned around by the community but, you know what I'm not going to start throwing it around willy nilly. Some people still find it offensive a type slur which is painful. So before calling people Geek, I tend to wait and see if there comfitable with the word when I call myself a geek.

Back to Andrew Ellis's email, there is something about the way the mainstream portrays geeks which does bug me. The problem is geek is wide and differental. Some of my regular readers will remember the geek stereotypes piece wired magazine did a while ago.

Geek stereotypes, 6 types lined up

Rain says,

My current favourite TV programme is ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and follows a bunch of guys who could be described as ‘geeks’ and pokes fun at their everyday social, um dilemmas as high functioning chaps who might be on the edges of the social spectrum and have issues with everyday stuff such as socialising, girls or sarcasm. It’s light hearted and pokes fun at things we all see in ourselves sometimes, especially geeks.

For me I find it sometimes too close to offensive to be watchable. What bugs me about it is the stereotypes again. Geeks can't talk in public, geeks can't talk to woman, geeks are men, geeks are techie, geeks wear odd non-matching clothes. Well sorry this doesn't fly and to be fair no wonder people like Andrew get teased about being a geek. The IT Crowd is another show which maintains the geek stereotype, and to be fair I do watch it but sometimes cringe. One of the best episode recently was actually today when the geeks convince there manager (Jen) who knows nothing about what they do, that the internet exists in a black box complete with flashing red light. So the Joke is less about how geeky the two IT works are but more about how little knowledge the rest of the workforce has about technology. This strikes me as a more positive light of geek that the usual studdering bumbling idiot which pass for a geek.

This is much more fitting with my experience of people who are geeks too. Actually this is another reason why I think the Girl Geekdinners are so important. Its breaking down the stereotypes that geeks are men, geeks dress a certain way and geek woman are somewhat strange. All this in the end should in the future mean people will be more open about the fact there a geek and be actually proud to be a geek. One day…eh?

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iPlayer has changed little for me

BBC iplayer conee

Its BBC iPlayer's first birthday today and the BBC has a range of things planned around the event. Good stuff, its been something to be proud of and the alterations keep coming thick and fast. But although there is all this lovely innovation going on with iplayer and all those iphone, nokia nseries users and console owners are feeling the benefits, I got to be frank and say its done little for myself.

This will seem quite negative and maybe not best timed some would say, but I've been thinking about it and where I would like to see iplayer this time next year. Actually last year about this time, I remember watching Ashley Highfield take the stage of a central London venue and show BBC FM&T (future media and technology) the iplayer adverts which would go out on TV during Christmas. Yes remember making the missable unmissable or something tag line like that? Anyway, even then, I knew it was going to change very little of my media consumption.

I can't put my finger on it, I like watching stuff on my 40inch LCD screen and I like the idea of accessing files when I choose to watch them. iplayer's 7 day window means I still can't watch whole series in one go or catch up with old episodes of a series I may have missed the start of. So for example, I caught the 3rd episode of the BBC high budget post super-flu drama Survivors. Within a few days, I was able to find parts one and two in high def to watch back to back. This type of behavour is common when leaving the broadcast stream but iplayer doesn't quite support that. iPlayer doesn't support playlists, this might sound kind crazy but think about it, when I watch media at home I add them to a mixed playlist of not only TV content but also films and Podcasts. To me its all just media. Formats are reduced to nothing because XBMC plays everything and anything. This is also why I've not bought a CD since 1997. Any CDs I've borrowed have been converted to Mpeg3s and most of my film collection exists on HD now. Streaming content can fit into the routine, for example I do sometimes watch youtube, vimeo, bliptv cone but with iplayer the 7 day window makes links harder to engage with. Every once in a while I will cut or edit media for the blog or something else, so the ability to do so in iplayer is not possible. Even the ability to include a start and end position like Hulu and even Youtube now, would be useful.

So what would I like to see in the next year? 31 day window would be great and finally allow for more long tail use and the effort of getting the streaming links would be worth it. I would like to see all of the BBC's content on iPlayer including HD content. Yep some HD like Vimeo/Blip streaming flash would be lovely, those extra lines are useful on such a large screen. It would be good to see other types of streaming like Pure Mpeg4 (non h.264), Theora, Windows Media streaming would cover older windows mobile phones and slightly older smartphones. Download and Bit torrent distrubution would be great but I understand thats still sometime away due to the copyright owners and not the BBC.

Happy Birthday iPlayer, time to grow up and revisit some of those more touchy issues. If you don't the community will do it for you.

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Are you impressed, I can read


Hemmysphere wrote in a twitter Single male friends, take heed and lie. Oh, and good luck /images/emoticons/wink.gif So I checked out the link and its a guardian article about how woman are impressed with a man who reads. Wow, really? I would never have guessed…. So yes the secret is out, woman find men who read impressive. yes todays ground breaking news fresh from the Guardian. Sometimes the obvious is interesting, sometimes not so much… However I do like the idea of brains over looks.

A survey commissioned by the National Year of Reading has found the top 10 reads to impress a woman. Top of the list is Nelson Mandela's autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. If you also drop in that you adore Shakespeare, poetry, and cookery books; are never off current affairs websites; and – sorry readers – that you take the Financial Times, then there may be queues. The poll also delves into dating deceit. Lying about something you've read to impress someone you're taken with comes second after telling untruths about sexual conquests, but ahead of lying about your age or job.

The National Year of Reading is spending 2008 trying to get more people reading, in any form, whether it is books, magazines or websites. It said the poll was an attempt to explore the importance of reading in all aspects of people's lives. The campaign's director, Honor Wilson-Fletcher, said: “I love the fact that every generation seems to know that reading can help us all increase our potential appeal in the search for love and romance. For all the talk of our superficial obsession with beauty, it looks like underneath it all we know that brains contribute to sex appeal too.

So just remember this all you lovely woman when you see me reading my ebook off my new ipod touch. Hummmm, I wonder if that has the same appeal?

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Data Portability done correctly by Pownce

Goodbye Pownce

A few days after setting the wheels in motion, I got my email today saying things are ready to take away. My only complaint is its close to the deadline.

Your export files are complete.

You may download your files at:

Please stop by as soon as possible to pick up your files. Once Pownce is closed, on December 15, these files will no longer be available.

The Pownce Crew

If only all startups would be think this way about there customers data.

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Is This the Cloud OS You Wanted?

Google Chrome

ReadwriteWeb has a article which pretty much sums up where we are with cloud computing on the consumer side. One of the conclusions is simple, Internet is not everywhere yet. Everyone knows the frustration of being on a train and trying to get anything more that a GPRS connection only to be disconnected by a series of tunnels. Or going to another country to find your mobile operator at home rubbing there hands with glee because of the huge premiums there throwing on top of the usual data charge. My Data bill for being in Berlin one week was a extra 40 pounds and I wasn't using it beyond the usual plaxo mobile sync and twitters. Even if there is ubiquitous data, the apps are not made for interuption. Readwriteweb point at Google gears problem with going offline.

Google delivered Google Gears, a simple yet somewhat clunky implementation that takes web apps offline. Why clunky? Gears doesn't automatically detect a lost connection, you see. (Switch off your Wi-Fi and see what Google Reader does. Oops, an error occurred, it will say.) Instead, using Gears means you must first click the provided button or link which saves the data to your computer for offline viewing. If it wasn't for the syncing it offered, this wouldn't be much more of an improvement over the good ol' “make this web page available offline” trick.

I also found some other apps including Adobe AIR apps will freeze-up when the connection drops for a short time. It might just be the way there written because for example snackr which is a Adobe Air app keeps running without a connection, so sometimes I'm not sure if I'm online or off. My Data portability senses also screwy when thinking about the cloud OS, I think this isn't the cloud OS I wanted. I'm actually leaning towards some lower level syncing mechanism like Livemesh now.

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The best media centre experience

Xbmc media centre running

Lifehacker are running a poll for the Five best media centre applications. On the hot list is XBMC, Boxee, Windows Media Centre, SageTV and finally MythTV. This means no AppleTV, Frontrow, Media Portal or Plex. Although I got to say Plex is pretty much XBMC anyway, so no real surprise there. Mediaportal is based off the Xbox Media player which you could call a distant cousin of XBMC, so I see why that wouldn't make the list either. Boxee is a odd one to have the list, like Plex its based off XBMC but I would say there is enough to make a difference. Should it be on the list? Yeah why not, I mean its the first media centre to actually take advantage of your social network, so fair dues.

Obviously I voted for XBMC.

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BarCamp meets the Merseyside, BarCampLiverpool


So on the way back from Liverpool on the train. BarCampLiverpool was a blast, I believe a good time was had by all. The turn out wasn't quite the BarCamp busting 200, but it didn't matter, the 100 people that did turn up on Saturday really enjoyed themselves and made the whole event go without a problem. Thanks to Katie Lips and the rest of the crew for finding a nice venue and setting up the first Liverpool BarCamp. It was also covered in the local media, which makes a really nice change, although it would have been good if they had come down and did interviews with the BarCampers themselves.

The sessions were interesting and varied, just like the people. I think there was about 35/65 split for new barcamp virgins vs seasoned barcampers. Everything from how to put OpenID in your WordPress to Sex (yes more about that later). Its certainly a trend which many of spotted recently, talks are suprisingly engaging and are gaining bigger audiences that presentations.

BarCampLiverpool was a two day event but with no sleepover element. Its a shame because I think the huge drop of numbers (100 down to about 40) on Sunday might not have been so deep if people didn't have to go home. Katie and team did offer barcampers a party at a great little private bar only 2mins walk around the corner instead which did go on till 2am. The drinks all night were sponsored by Microsoft and we actually didn't end up drinking it all because it was meant to be 200 people not 100+. Thanks Microsoft and Steve Clayton for supporting the grassroots. Of course BBC Backstage was also a sponsor of the events food and the food was well recieved through-out the whole event. Actually the balance of sponsorship through out the event was about right, in the past I've seen BarCamps where they have been too sponsorship driven and not enough. A couple of signs here and there and it would have been perfect. This is certainly something other BarCamp's should pay attention of.

I spent time at many sessions but the ones which stick out in my mind are Phil's how to present better which got a lot of people talking about presentation fu. The Hodge's SEO talk, where we finally got down to the core of the seo which is just plain old good customer service. There were plenty more, but I can't remember them at this present moment due to the lack of sleep.

BarCamp is famous for the small talks you have in between other sessions and a short talk I had with Jon the health care professional about the effects of Vodka, Redbull and Tabsco hot sauce on the body and mind, was insightful. It came after the night of drinking when I turned up at BarCamp on Sunday a complete hour early because I thought we kick off again at 10am. I was cursing the extra hour I could have had, but after a quick blast on the pacemaker with the loud speakers and the chat with Jon Spriggs and the other Jon, I think it was worth the rush to get there for 10am.

At 11am on Sunday I chaired a talk about Sex. The session was attended by about 20+ people and as someone else called it the best session they have ever been to at any BarCamp. It started off with me talking about the fact we never talk about the sleezey side of the internet and life. Not only that but two films YPF and my complete history of sexual failures had got me thinking more about that Wired article about Geeks making better lovers. The parts of interest include.

Geeks don't shock easily

Geeks have seen all the porn you can imagine and then some, priming them to be open to your sexual peccadilloes. They are not only less likely to be shocked by your exotic requests — they might not even realize that other people think your turn-ons are exotic.

Conversely, your geek lover might be relieved that your wildest fantasy involves only two other people, five utensils and a trapeze.

Geeks know kinky people

Geeks haven't just seen a variety of positions, kinks and fetishes in blue movies. They know (or are) people who enjoy those things, so they don't dismiss entire categories of sexual interests as the sole province of a bunch of weirdos in San Francisco.

It's hard to sustain prejudice and bias against an abstract group when you develop relationships with individuals and discover they're just like you. It doesn't matter if they dress up like ponies, or refuse to conform to a societal idea of gender norms, or eat pancakes for dinner. Geek lovers know better than to try to impose their sexual preferences or standards on others — including your friends — and are more likely to love and let love.

Geeks aren't threatened by new tech or “the future of sex”

Geeks have read the science fiction. They know the dire predictions of a world in which the sticky press of flesh is replaced by neural nets and sex robots that also do housework (or is that house robots that also do sex work?).

Geeks have imagined more sexual dystopias than the average person and are the first to see the technological developments that could lead us down dark paths. Which only makes sense, considering who develops those technologies in the first place.

At the same time, geeks know better than anyone that something always goes wrong when you lean on machines for your social fulfillment. A geek doesn't mind if you bring home the iiErotoTrix 5000 v3 — as long as you share it.

Literacy and the printing press did not replace sex; neither did photography, automobiles, video, online porn or 3-D escort services. Geek lovers spend enough time with technology to appreciate the unique wondrousness of human touch.

The adult discussion on the subject turned out totally differently that I'd expected. There was lots of jokes and nervious humour from people around the circle but they helped loosen peoples toungue. Obviously I'm not going to share exact details of what was said but it started at Bedposted and Facebook statuses and ended up somewhere much deeper and darker that I can really talk about on a public blog. It was something else

The only negative thing I have to say, is druing the party after the pitching event. I was pitched at with some  force and to be honest this really got my back up and bugged me. BarCamp works becuase of the spirit of openness of the whole thing but we must remind people to take that on-board when joining or taking part. This isn't simple a place to pitch your wares, yourself or some new product your working on. If you do, people will leave your session and you won't get anything positive out of BarCamp.

Great BarCamp, glad I went. Whens the next one Katie?

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Facebook connect, are you for real?

Someone (I expect Miles) once talked about the idea of hidden in plain view to me. I can't find much about it except its a album title too, but that its about hiding things in plain view. The viewer almost doesn't believe its there so they skip over it or ignore it. I think Facebook connect is exactly this.

Rejon's ident/tweet says it all.

Everybody knows # # is trying to lock you in # style. Lets make # # # #! # #

Not even the video chat on the social web tv and interviews insills me with any real joy. Welcome to the new lock in…

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I bought a ipod touch

ipod touch

Yes I bought one, I was thinking about selling my acer netbook which is a nice machine but as I thought it would be, was eclipsed by 12inch Dell. I twittered and yammered about it and some people got back to me. I also had a look on ebay and noticed I could get up to 290 pounds for the current machine because its got the extra memory and in some places it still sells for about 250 pounds. To tell the truth though, I wouldn't want to go back through the memory upgrade process again.

Basiclly I really want a smallish device which I can use for ebook and rss reading. I originally looked at getting a small HP handheld PC running windows mobile pro but I couldn't find one even on ebay for less that 240 pounds. So then I got thinking, maybe it was time to consider the ipod touch again. So I did and with the staff discount I dropped into the Apple store regents street London and picked the cheapest one up for 150 pounds.

So far I've undone the packaging (not going to do a unboxing as I think it doesn't deserve one) and plugged it in via USB into my Dell. Ubuntu sees its a ipod and asks me if I want to use something like Amarok or Gspot photomanager to manage it. Ignore those and try and look at the file system. Of course I can't. Worst still the iphone screen shows a picture of a arrow pointing at a icon for itunes. I'm going to be pretty ignoyed if I have find a pc running itunes just to get the thing started. I'm already feeling like I should have known better that to buy a Apple product.

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OpenID in the mobile browser please

David Recordon wrote up the concept of OpenID in the browser. Yes in the browser not on the browser.

Imagine if your web browser really knew who you were on the web. Just as you login to your computer, what if when you fired up your browser, it said “Hello Dave” and asked you to “unlock it” as well (Chris Messina was quite influential in my thinking about it this way). In doing so you become securely logged into your OpenID provider (or maybe more than one of them) and as you move around the web your browser takes care of automatically logging you into the sites that you want to be, asking you about others, and helping you register with new ones using your OpenID.

Its not a new concept, as David actually points out.

OpenID for Flock is an add-on that polishes previous attempts of putting OpenID into a browser. While the user experience and graphics are quite a bit better than what I helped build at VeriSign, it's lacking the features that help prevent phishing (making sure you're actually logging into your OpenID provider versus a phishing site that looks like it) which is a bit surprising given Vidoop's involvement. That said, OpenID for Flock is Open Source as part of a project dubbed IDentity in the Browser (IDIB) which the same cannot be said for either Sxipper or VeriSign's OpenID Seatbelt. Given that IDIB is Open Source and already written as a Flock add-on, I'd certainly expect to see it ported to FireFox and there be far more community support of it compared to the other add-ons.

I've been a user of VeriSign's OpenID Seatbeat from day one. Its been super useful but isn't very user friendly. It also does weird things when you open another window. But generally the concept is sound. What I really want is OpenID in the mobile browser, that's even more critical that the desktop browser in my mind.

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First major casuality in the microblogging sphere, goodbye pownce

Woke up today to this.

We are sad to announce that Pownce is shutting down on December 15,
2008. As of today, Pownce will no longer be accepting new users or new
pro accounts.

To help with your transition, we have built an export tool so you can
save your content. You can find the export tool at Settings > Export.
Please export your content by December 15, 2008, as the site will not
be accessible after this date.

Please visit our new home to find out more:

Our thanks go out to everyone who contributed to the Pownce community,

The Pownce Crew

I didn't use Pownce that much, it was just one of the end points on my ping.FM sends and never really logged in but I did monitor the emails. I didn't know I had 82 friends requests! Data portability wise, i'm glad to see the ability to take your data with you, in XML/RSS too which is good. I never uploaded any media, so have no idea how it deals with those things. Goodbye Pownce, its been fun but Twitter is growing in strength and with open source solutions like poping up all over the place now. I won't be surprised if plurk and a couple others follow suite soon.

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Social Mediaflows with Tarpipe

A friend of mine Mike Lott sent me a link to lifehacker where they talk about Tarpipe.

Tarpipe streamlines your updates to various social web sites, creating simple or complex workflows to update several buckets in one fell swoop. Let's say you want to do something simple like upload a new picture to Flickr and then tweet about it on Twitter. Normally you'd need to upload the photo to Flickr, find the URL of the pic, run it through some sort of URL shrinker, and then update your Twitter account with the shrunken link to the Flickr page. It may not seem like all that much work, but Tarpipe can tackle this entire process in one step—all you have to do is send one email.

Tarpipe creates custom email addresses that, when emailed, run through a pre-defined set of actions to update any service you define. Creating a custom workflow will look very familiar if you've ever used Yahoo Pipes, but rather than creating custom RSS feeds like Pipes, Tarpipes creates custom social media workflows. The site supports integration with Pownce, Flickr, PhotoBucket, Tumblr, Plurk, Evernote, Delicious, TinyURL, FriendFeed, Twitter, and tons more, so if you use more than one of these sites, Tarpipe could come in really handy.

And seriously…

I've not been so excited since Ping.FM (no Pixelpipe didn't excite me).

These guys have done everything correct like Every chance they have to use Oauth for authentication – there using it, OpenID is the default way to join up and get a account and they support everything from Twitter to The use of email to control everything is a little odd, but there is support for a API. I'm sure Instant messenger and other methods are not far behind. Most of you already know I favor pipeline interfaces for complex operations and until now I've been pining my hopes on Conduit which supports much more services but is really a syncing application rather that a Pipelining application. Anyway, I've only played with tarpipe for a few minutes, so I'll hopefully have more to say and show once I get going tomorrow.

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Twittergrader, at long last…

So after all the fuss about twitter rank, someone else has build a popularity contest which is starting to make the rounds on Twitter. Twittergrader is like twitter rank but (and this is the important part) doesn't require your twitter password. Twitter elite is the popularity part and interestingly enough it also does it per city. So although someone like myself will never be able to rank among the Scoble's, Lapour's, etc. In London I was in the top 10 believe it or not (not bad for a man who's not a big fan of twitter). In Manchester i'm number one, but like I said before I don't really care about popularity contests. Search is well search based around people and rankings. The twittergrader badge shows your own rank and points you to people you might also find interesting to follow. Generally the whole service is actually not bad, specially since no private information has to be given. Other services take note, this is a meme which you can't shake.

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