Objectified: the movie

I saw this film documentary at mix09 one night. After the showing the director Gary Hustwit opened questions and answers from a developer focused crowd. I did express my opitions to the crowd and Gary. The film left me a little feeling uneasy at the notion of hero worshipping the designers behind some of the products and services. In essence the film feel like two halves. First half is about the process and aesthetics of design, so obvious examples like Apple come up. But much more interestingly is part 2 which is more about the affect of design on culture and society. I think Miles once described designers as the whore of capitalism, and after watching a good part of the first half you can see how that kind of fits in place. Ben Darlow (kapowaz) thinks I'm full of crap and I need to check my baggage at the door. Yes I did cringe when Jonathan Ive was talking about the process of making the new mac book but to be fair its been talked about to death and its like me jabbering on about the beauty of XSLT. Sometimes you just don't really want to hear it. Actually its that kind of inward looking, which I struggle to get and be part of when I was studying design at university.

Anyway, its not all bad, actually later in the film it gets really good. Some of the oldskool designers admit they didn't have the environmental impact as a thought in there mind when designing, now thats simply not possible and although that makes things very difficult its a creative constraint. There was also a small part about customisation and personalisation. Its one of those things which I think is the most interesting part of design. Designing to enable others to hack and customise. I wasn't the only one who picked up this point. During further questioning, the point was made that the person buying the product should have ownership of the product, and that means if they choose to paint it a different colour or customise it, they should be able to, or at least not feel like they ruined someone's design. The site which was mentioned was ikeahacker, which although Ikea suggest you use something a certain way in a certain context in the showrooms and catalogue. Gets completely turned on its head.

So generally the film is a good one, its easy to get wrapped up in design and think about the pure aesthetics but design is so much more that just pretty shapes and paint jobs. And later in the film, this is explored in more detail. Garry says this is a 2nd of trilogy, so I'm looking forward to hearing what subject he will cover for the third and final one.

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AdaLovelaceDay09: Marie-Louise von Franz

I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same…

That's how it started a, Suw Charman-Anderson's vision to do something special for Ada Lovelace day has become huge with a sign up rate and more being added still a few days before.

Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers (mother and daughter) created the psychological test better known as the MBTI (Myers Briggs type indicator). Although not exactly in the technology field, this has a profound effect on the technology field and this was also a field run by super intelligent males such as Sigman Freud and Carl Jung. However the lesser known story is Carl Jung had a lab partner called Marie-Louise von Franz. It was Carl Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz's work which Katharine Briggs read and studied then passed on to her daughter Isabel Briggs. Marie-Louise later worked with Carl Jungs friend Barbara Hannah, who Carl Jung actual set up together. She later went on to publish first the mathematical structure of DNA and a series of essays, books and videos. I found out about Marie-Louise by accident while reading Into the Dream by William Sleator which sounded like a film I watched sometime later called The way of the Dream. Marie-Louise's intelligence pushed her forward and although not the only woman drawn to Jung, she was the only one not to have a affair or get mixed up in all that. Instead she worked hard and paved her own way, linking psychology and physics. Before she died she lectured all around the western world and became known for her own thoughts and theories instead of Jung's. Shes not as well as known as than Myers-Briggs but her influence in psychology has been huge, and its great to see hard work pay off.

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Driving thru the night mix

Another one of those Pacemaker mixes which I love doing. I did this mix about a week ago before going to Las Vegas but couldn't really think of a name for it. Anyhow, this should be the last mix on the old pacemaker firmware. When I get back to the UK, I'll be upgrading it to the new one which everyone seems to be raving about on the forums.

  1. Oblivion (head in the clouds) – Manix
  2. Shnorkel (Original Mix) – Miki Litvak & Ido Ophir
  3. Julian Jeweil – Air Conditionne
  4. Dark sides (thomas penton mix) – Nugen
  5. The 7th day (M.I.K.E remix) – The Gift
  6. Grasshopper (dance mix) – Sandler Van Doorm
  7. Lyra (leon bolier mix) – Leon Bolier
  8. Jelly tracks (Rippin & Drippin Mix ) – Oliver Klein
  9. Verdi – Mauro Piccotto
  10. Panic attack – Simon Patterson
  11. Smack – Simon Patterson
  12. In the dark – Tiesto

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Back from Mix09

Mix09 is one of those conferences you hear a lot about but rarely go to because its driven around a single company. Mix is Microsoft's conference for developers like PDC but from my view a lot more web driven. I was pretty excited although I had a very full plate of work and still not taken any of my 13 days off yet.

We got to Las Vegas a day early so we would be fully settled and not rushing in and out, this worked out really well because Rain hooked up with the Community Manager of Microsoft's Techweb and blogs network, who nicely took us out for dinner to pick our brains about many different things to do with publishing, the web and media generally. I would have liked to have had more time with her but we were all thinking about a early start the next day.

I didn't see the whole of Bill Buxtom (director of r&d at Microsoft) keynote talk due to a late breakfast but I was pretty impressed to see lots of talk about design and lightweight prototyping to the developer driven crowd. I hadn't taken on the fact that Mix09 was so nicely design driven. There was a huge push to make developers take on user experience techniques, but without going the whole hog. This was fastinating because being from a design background myself, I could appreach a lot of the techniques. By the time Deborah Alder covered her experience of redesigning medication, I think everyone totally got the message that design is critical. But of course there was lots more going on at the conference.

The outside view is that the .net framework is really going strength to strength. Everything is there now including even a automatic update platform installer, which allow you to install all the microsoft type things but also applications like wordpress, drupal, etc by clicking to install in the application gallery. Yes its a Appstore for webservers. It will even download PHP if you don't have it installed. Something very unlike the old Microsoft. Even more interesting anyone can submit there application to the App gallery/app store. There was a couple of sessions about writing .net applications on open source editors and even writing PHP with .net but unfortueally there was no Mono or Moonlight sessions, so the most useful .net thing I went to was development for .net using Eclipse.

On the first evening the Stackoverflow guys had there time on a small stage which was interesting because it seemed to be one of the biggest successes of .net framework v3. There only running it on 2 servers (web/database) and as they said its written like you'd expect a Ruby on Rail app to be written, even down to the URL rewiting which has always been a problem in the past.

Silverlight was as expected talked about quite a bit during the whole the conference, a new version was launched and at the keynote a guy from Netflix talks about the cross platform playability of Silverlight which sold it to them, they wanted a consistent ui over all the platforms. He bigs up the content protection side of it all. At long last GPU hardware accelleration is added plus Mpeg4 and H.264 codecs, which is good news for the industry I think because you can deliver h.264 content in Flash, silverlight or just mpeg4 wrappers without encoding the whole thing again. Perkins Miller from NBC talks about the 2008 olympics coverage using Sliverlight, which I gather was a large success. 3.4 petabytes delivered and the long tail really works, he drives home to the ecstatic crowd of 3000 developers. Interestingly Perkins talks about long tail effect more then the fact more people watched online video, the more they wanted to watch even more content. This was great but let down by his big annoucement that the winter olympics (the next olympics, as far as he was concerned) in 2010 would be in HD 720p. Wow, obviously NBC and there customers must be easily entertained. Thank goodness I work for a company which aims much higher.

There was the launch of the Silverlight RIA (rich internet application), so with the GPU support comes, deepzoom, perspective 3d, bitmap and pixel shader support. Deeplinking, navigator, multi touch support and improve text rendering. Roll on media owner Bondi who talk about there Rolling stone service. They get a huge clap when mentioning playboy.com will be going silverlight starting today, so you can go into any of the previous issues and zoom in like the rolling stone magazines. I thought the wireless would go down with people trying to hit the silverlight archive but no luck for those surfers, just a holding page saying coming really soon.

Revisiting the developer/designer topic again it was really interesting to see pipes and flow used in a application Microsoft calls expression studio sketchflow?, looks like Microsoft has stolen a march on Adobe's inferno which had also promised to bridge the gap between design and development. There was some nice features like the ability to work with the client directly ala a poor-mans Adobe Acrobat (in silverlight of course) using a prototype mode and what really got people clapping was the ability to create documentation based on the flow diagram. Nicely done it has to be said.

I was left wondering what the difference was between Microsofts Silverlight RIA and Adobe Air but I got a feeling I'd be better off asking outside of the conference, although Phil did promise to show me in a follow up to my tweet.

The last big keynote for Mix09 was the launch of IE8 which I blogged about on Backstage, but also came with a quite well done video about the history of the internet.

The rest of mix was good but a lot of it was aimed at those working directly with Microsoft products and services. I found out a lot more about those services including a session about Azure which promises to scale well though-out .net applications to almost unlimited scale. There was also sessions on smaller projects like Oomph, which is a Microformats toolkit.

The Windows Mobile talks were pretty good, lots of hands up saying 6.5 is just the start but look out for 7. I did ask a very tricky question in one of there sessions regarding the mobile app store. It was regarding the ability for people to be able to share applications after they have downloaded them. Because we already know most teenagers bluetooth, infrared, exchange apps, songs, etc via peer to peer models aready. So wouldn't it be cool if the app store had the ability to build on that activity. Either in the way of some applications your inherently encouraged/allowed to share. But after talking to the Windows mobile team at Tao (very nice club in the Vetetian) one night it seems there worried about having two types of apps in some protected storage area on your phone. I would like to explorer this more, but feel the need to draw something out. But I feel there really missing one nice features of Windows Mobile in the battle to out do the Apple iPhone. The compromise they settled on will work, but isn't ideal.

2ndfactory a Chinese company did a demo where they showed how they moved from image files via Expression Blend 3 to a working prototype for there Deepzoompix.com product. They also showed off there new open dll called Jellyfish which will create deepzoom images for you via a server-side

I managed to capture most of th
e session about activity streams on camera. It was good to see all the major's on the panel including Myspace, Facebook, Plaxo, Google, etc. But as Marc Canter pointed out where's Microsoft? later in the session I raised the question about whos educating users about these sites and there options? Marc Canter agreed and although Kevinmarks from Google somewhat thought it was too early, he wasn't against the idea. In the session Luke from Facebook made it clear that a lot of the things Facebook has done up till now has been in lui of a standard or clear way to do something. Things are rapidly getting better, so there will be less of Facebook running off and doing something on there own. I think someone asked if Googlefriend connect and Facebook connect, would merge?

The last session of the conference was about Natrual user interfaces and
Direct interaction, multi touch, multi user and object recognition. From CLI (command line interface) to GUI (graphic user interface) to NUI (natrual user interface). Nice comment in one of the slides said we're breaking the laws of nature, its the super real. Its about overcoming homeostasis, this is were the inspiration for surface came from.

Mix09 was a good conference, I really enjoyed the sessions I attended and there was little which went over my head being a non-programmer and not being that familiar with the .net framework. The best part of Mix09 is the ability to say, I have a problem with this and to find out the person you are talking to is the actual developer of that product or service. The mix of things going on is mind boggling but I found the social side of the conference a little under-par. There was a conference party at the amazing Tao but most people had there social circles so it was hard to just get talking sometimes. Most of the talks are online now, if you want to catch any of the sessions online.

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Thinking Digital: the next generation

Thinking digital have recently decided to branch out and provide some of the big thinking of the full conference to teenagers in the north west in a unique collaboration with Gateshead council. When Herb filled me on on the idea, there was no way I was going to say no.

My talk was a bit about who I am, what I do and what the BBC is doing up in the north. Then the bulk of it was about Tweetfoxxy which I've been very quiet about recently. It was good to talk to people aged 16-21, but boy are they a hard audience too. Anyway, it was a good experience and I had quite a few people coming up afterwards asking questions about me and the BBC, so although I was talking maybe a tad quickly, most of it got across. If I was to do it again I would do a talk about why some of us think broadcasting is dead. Obviously this wouldn't be a official BBC presentation but maybe more a thoughtful presentation which I have done elsewhere before.

The whole conference was pretty uplifting in nature and it seems to had the crowd buzzing afterwards which was good. It was a shame one of the colleges yanked all there students out halfway through the day and that the last 3 talks about games were more about what you can go and build now in your bedroom rather that how to join a traditional games studio. There was lots of talk about fitting into the studio and was dying to ask a question about not fitting in. But today was for the teenagers not for old farts like me to ask the difficult questions.

The presentation and almost performance of the day almost went to Paul Callaghan who ended his talk with a sing along, Tom Scott did another excellent job of showing how fun graphs can be if your slightly geeky. but the best has to be the FT guy (Mike Southon) who demostrated how collaboration, team work, being positive and being smart all lead to the successful Beatles strategy. Put it this way, I didn't even know most of the things he was talking about and I was totally convinced after hearing the whole presentation. Man I really need to learn how to do presentations like that.

Most things in the conference clicked including the inclusion of a young band (The Ruskins) to play us out before lunch and before going home. They played 4 songs in total and kept everyone entertained along with the talks. The venue of the sage 2 is simply amazing in all aspects except the lack of power to anywhere in the room. If I could choose anywhere to put on a conference, this would be high in my recommendation. Talking about venues, I've been in talks with the Baltic again about using it for a BarCamp in the North West, so hopefully that will go somewhere before the next thinking digital conference because I know there were plans to have another one straight after the conference.

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Samsung SSD awesomeness

The Cluetrain Manifesto has a great rule about advertising.

74. We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.

But afterwards theres the rule which follows.

75. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.

Well be this a Samsung advert or not, its certainly taken number 75 and run with it. If only all products were this good and the advertising was this clever.

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Blip.TV vs Flickr vs YouTube vs Vimeo, a Flash HD video quality test


in fusion rollercoaster from the ground from Ian Forrester on Vimeo.

I resized the Blip.TV version down from 1280 x 720 to 640 x 360 to match the Flickr version, but otherwise I've done nothing to the quality or videos. Vimeo also won't let you embed the HD version, so your looking at the lower quality version stretched

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The next month preview

So the last month I've been working my butt off on a load of things, but its all coming together (crosses his fingers) but enough about that for now. I'm also off to a few places in the near future.

First up I'm talking at Thinking Digital: The next generation which is this Friday in the Sage, Gateshead. Its aimed at university students, graduates and young professionals in the North East. Its already sold out I'm sorry to say, but its going to be a good day for everyone involved.

Directly afterwards is the Oreilly Maker Faire which is the first one in the UK and looks like a weekend of hacker joy. I'm working in a small team from the BBC so hopefully we're create something pretty impressive together. I'm hoping to just learn a bit of processing or solider my old bluetooth headset into something interesting.

I have never been to South by South West (SXSW) as I can never really justify it. Instead I'm going to Microsoft's Mix 2009 which is in Las Vegas. Thanks to Eileen Brown me and Rainycat to talk and discuss BBC Backstage at this great event. I'm hoping some of the other work we've been working on involving video will also be ready to announce in Las Vegas too. Good things tend to come out of Mix 09 including the RSS stuff from Microsoft so who knows whats in the pipeline for this year. I won't lie but I can't wait to get back on Speed the ride. Last time I did 8 in a row and could easily do more this time.

Coming back from Mix 09, the weekend after is BarCampLondon6 and BarCampBournemouth the weekend after that. Depending on how things go I might have to drop out of one of them. We'll see how much work I got on and whats also going in the North around those times.

Its then not long till my 30th birthday. I'm still working out the plans but it looks like the Friday night I'll go out in either Manchester/London/Bristol, then on the Saturday another city then Sunday its Alton Towers for a day of riding as many Rollercoasters as possible.

As Rain pointed out, I might be getting a little too excited as I uploaded HD versions of my last rollercoster trip to Blackpool pleasure beach to Flickr (who now support HD videos under 90s). But I can honestly say I was just testing the HD support and had nothing under 90secs except this clips. I'm actually wondering about the quality of Flickr vs BlipTV vs Vimeo. I hear Vimeo have the best compressions of all but I'm sure Flickr have worked hard on this problem too.

Its going be a hectic month but for good reasons…time to quickly update my dopplr which looks crazy.

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I know there not healthy but I do like them

versions of Redbull drinks

I love the taste of Pepsi Raw and Redbull Cola. Now to be fair neither Redbull or PepsiCo have claimed there drinks are (air quotes) Healthy so you can't really blame them if people who can not read the labels start chunking it down there throats like there going out of fashion. I actually like the taste of these drinks, they taste very watered down but in a good way. There's still caffeine included so you always get that slight pick me up too. What I don't like about these drinks however is the prices. I was traveling back from Bristol the other day and stopped in at WHSmiths in Bristol Temple meads for a drink for the journey. I kid you not the Pepsi Raw in a 250ml can was selling for 1.79. That is almost 3x the amount of a standard Pepsi 330ml can or in the same store 2.5x. Pepsi may claim Raw is a premium product but at that price its a total luxury. Redbull Cola isn't far off that price either I have to day. If your lucky you might find it in a supermarket for just over a pound but some places are add as much as 50 pence on top of the supermarket prices.

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Watchmen in Odeon Digital

Odeon Digital Ticket

So I finally saw and was seriously impressed. This is a adult film thru and through, so don't expect your usual good vs evil comic book crap. Its certainly up there with 300, Sin City and The Spirit. i won't spoiler it for anyone, so will keep the review for another day.

I didn't watch it on the imax, I choose to watch it on Odeon's Digital projector. Don't get me wrong I like imax but I'm always disappointed when its used for feature films. The setup of imax is different and I think its like using a stereo amp for home cinema, you can do it but you don't really want to. Anyway from the moment the trailers finished and they switched to the digital projector, you could clearly see the difference. All that noise you get with film is almost totally gone. Some of you may say they like that film grain or texture but I don't like it and worst still is that spot when the film is running out and you get that jump where film has been spliced together. Watchmen was flawless through-out. The sound was clear and loud enough for a film of its genre. Actually the only thing which spoiled the film was of course people talking and nipping out for the loo.

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The pacemaker is just simply wrong in some peoples hands

When I watched this review of the Pacemaker, I almost had to shut down my laptop because I was so pissed off at the stupid review of the pacemaker by Techcrunch's Crunchgear. The guy, John Biggs spend at least 10secs of looking at the box rather than playing with the device. Even when playing with it, he simply uses the crossfader to go back and forth. Now to be fair John does say in the short paragraph.

I apologize in advance for this video but I’m trying my hardest to make great mixes on my Pacemaker. Sadly, the fact that I’m old and live in my attic is causing a severe reaction to cool.

But this is certainly not the way to show off a pacemaker.

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How low will the housing market go?

I'm in the lucky position of buying in this housing market. I say lucky as in more lucky that others who have seen there expensive houses quickly de-value over the last year. But there is little I can do about that, I'm very sorry to say. So flats in Manchester are coming down in price pretty quickly, Some of the flats which were on the market for 180-200k are now down to 125k and sometimes less. Currently if your looking at a two bedroom and two bathroom place in central Manchester it will set you back anywhere between 95k – 145k depending on location and size. These are also guide prices so you can easily put in offers well below these prices.

I have seen a few places I like and a couple I love but only recently have considered putting in offers on one. But if you were in my position what would you do so? I do have a time limit of a year for reasons best not discussed here. A lot of people have said, wait it out it will go down even more. Some have even been brave enough to attempt to put a date when things will get so low. I've recently been doing some research into this and found Home.co.uk quite useful if a little behind on its real time stats.

Flat Sale Prices in Manchester in December 2008: 150 flats, with a average price of £124,021 and a median price of £106,500. Current asking prices is also quite interesting. But going by this information Manchester will keep a reasonable price for its property no matter what happens?

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The true face of Britain?

Thousand Portraits from Carlo Nicora on Vimeo.

Our project is a true portrait of Britain created by photographing 1,000 people.
We stopped everyone who crossed our path on the streets of London, excluding nobody, asking the same question more than fifteen hundred times.
In a moment where recession is the main subject of every discussion, it was striking to come across such positive attitude.

I love the idea but one thing pain's me about this project. All the shots were taken in London but this is meant to be the portrait of Britain? Thats simply not right and a real let down for such a nice project.

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