My talk at the Bright ideas gathering

I have been pretty busy recently and had not as much time to do much blogging. To be fair my mastodon microblogging has increased quite a bit, can’t think why…

During the busy last few months, I gave a talk at Durham’s Bright ideas gathering. It was a really good event which felt like a TEDx with a number of different topics and speakers.

Originally I was going to give a talk about the recently launched Adaptive podcasting but gave it more context with why its a important project. Along the way we stop at the big changes coming to the BBC looking at my own personal view of moving to Manchester.

Thank to Herb and the team which delivered another excellent conference even in the middle of train strikes.

I shared the slides on slideshare (which is still a thing it seems)

 

Microblogging on the fediverse, leaving twitter to rot?

I was away during the weekend when the news that Elon finally bought Twitter. Since then, there has been a steady flow of people finally checking out Mastodon.

This is good news but its interesting how people are talking about it, literally a replacement for twitter. This is a mistake and will burn people.

Mastodon is part of the Fediverse, the fediverse is a number of different interlinking services using the W3C’s ActivityPub as the interlinking protocol. There has been a bunch of news stories which have highlighted this which is good, but too few are and think of Mastodon as a straight replacement without all the things which make it different.

Fediverse branches.png
Link

I have seen a bunch of complaints including too much choice in which instance to join. There is a bunch of reasons why this makes sense including more robustness to take over, but I’m more interested in the fact there is friction.

Friction to encourage people to slow down, think and act with some agency. Yes its painful when you are use to frictionless centralised services which happily lead you down a path which suits their business model. Having to actually read the rules of the instances/servers, what’s not/allowed, whats the manners, etc. Is important and makes for a better solution than everyone must abide by one rules. We already know scale is the enemy of humanity (well thats my thoughts) and the fediverse allows for things I personally find vaguer and distasteful if you look for it. But also delightful things which can be joyful if you look for it.

The Fediverse

Some advice for those new to the fediverse. Plus my own quick thoughts from things I have tooted over the last week.

  1. Don’t be a dick (this a rule for life to be fair)
  2. Read the instance rules
  3. If you don’t agree with the instance rules, move to another one. Its made easy for you.
  4. Consider the other fediverse services. For example you can follow someone on Pixelfed with a mastodon client.
  5. Support the development of the lesser known fediverse services like Pixelfed, funkwhale, Bookwrym, etc.
  6. Verification is free but you need to do some work, each instance and service will have different ways to support this. For example some of the scholar ones require you to link to different papers you have written. Others might need much more. Generally its done via the Microformats & W3C’s rel=”me”.
  7. Get use to the email like username, its super clear who you mean. Get out of the twitter mindset.
  8. Talk, link and expose others to the fediverse.
  9. Setup 2fa right from the start, what you waiting for?
  10. Don’t just look for Mastodon and install the first Mastodon app, there is a rich ecosystem of desktop and mobile apps. Its what makes the fediverse so powerful.
  11. Finally! – I recommend you should follow my toots using @cubicgarden@mas.to, @cubicgarden@blacktwitter.io, @cubicgarden@twit.social (of course this is just a suggestion)

I saw it coming, changes to Mixcloud

Mixing live in the EMFCamp null sector

Today there was a email from Mixcloud.com

Nico here, CEO and co-founder of Mixcloud. Today we’re announcing upcoming changes to Mixcloud:
From December 1st we’re introducing a maximum allowance of 10 published shows for creators on the basic tier.

Why is this happening?

We believe DJs and producers should be rewarded for the skill and creativity that goes into their work. That’s why for over 10 years we’ve subsidized hosting costs and built tools that enable creators to grow and earn money.

We also believe artists should be paid when their music is played. That’s why every show uploaded to Mixcloud is scanned by our content ID system. This enables us to identify the tunes being played and pay royalties to the artists who made them.

Unlike other platforms, we’ve spent years securing comprehensive licensing deals with the major and independent labels to ensure this money is paid to the right artists. We have shouldered these costs in order to create a fair music ecosystem.

Until now we’ve kept our basic tier uncapped. However, as we’ve grown our royalty and hosting costs have risen and we are not profitable. To continue running and improving Mixcloud we need to become more sustainable as a business, and Pro memberships help us cover our costs.

How will you be affected?

On 1st December all of your shows will remain published and available to listeners. But, if you want to make space for a new show, you will need to manually move shows into drafts until you are within the allowance or upgrade to Pro for unlimited published shows.

Fair point but I’m not totally convinced, as it wasn’t that long ago when rewind and track listing became not possible. It was clear to me that I needed to do something ahead of this all, hence why I setup my own webmix garden. I agree it would be great to pay the creators of the music, and using webmotization considered a way to do this.

Maybe this is where I part ways with Mixcloud? Its a shame but like all the people leaving Twitter due to Elon Musk. its just not suitable for me anymore.

I would still like to try that distributed payment pointer system and also explore the notion of distributed charts using DHTs, removing the need for huge amounts of centralised storage.

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Nov 2022)

Example of Solid with person and data surrounding them

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing the Palantir’s Secret Plan to Crack the NHS. Deliberate radio spoofing to distort live video, a distressing insight into Silicon Vallay’s tech elite and of course Twitter finally bought.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this with the open wallet foundation bringing standards to the chaos, Competition wins and American smart devices adopting security/privacy labelling.


Solid adoption faces the cultural problem?

Ian thinks: Personal data stores make a lot of sense, especially for developers as this post makes clear. However its consistent with the discussions I have had with startups with “The tech culture in the U.S. is a lot less suspicious of companies that are looking to centralise their data, because they can see a way to make money off of that”

See the future of the public service here

Ian thinks: Following the personal data store dev discussion above, its a lot clearer for public interest companies who want to innovate and provide a different proposition from profit driven companies.

Mozilla’s unknown influence is very chilling

Ian thinks: This short documentary is pretty powerful and highlights how much worst the dumpster fire is outside North America and Europe. Well worth the 12 minutes of your time. Also worth mentioning Mozilla’s little mini-series is fun, educational and instantly shareable. I personally have shared a few with some less technical friends and its been well received.

Hacking google mini series

Ian thinks: Although a big advert for Google, there are parts which are worth while watching from a cyber-security point of view.

OFCOM is looking into cloud services, iot and messaging

Ian thinks: This is good news as the national regulator does have a lot of power to work in favour of the public, but has spent too much time focused on traditional media.

All the Unfinished videos are online now

Ian thinks: The Unfinished live conference has caused quite a splash since its inception. A lot of the talks are worth re-watching and if not seen before, you are in for a treat.

Shannon needs to look away from the mainstream

Ian thinks: Shannon is no longer excited by Technology, but through the post its clear she is focused on the big mainstream tech. Looking away form the mainstream into the indie & niches could be what she’s missing?

Enable our cookies, pay or get lost

Ian thinks: We all knew it was coming, but to see it happen in the EU first was unexpected by myself. Expect many more to follow suit, a high profile court case and hopefully a renewed look at micro-payments.

Bluesky discussed and dissected

Ian thinks: There was a small announcement about Bluesky coming soon, but I found at least the first part of this video with Kevin Marks and Jeff Jarvis looking through the AT protocol quite revealing of whats coming.


Find the archive here

I tried todo.txt and gave up

Check box

I was so fed up of Google’s lack of real support for its tasks system, that I packed it up and went for the todo.txt system. Its simple, works well and found it works for most of my systems (Android, Linux, etc)

However in recent times I found the syncing between systems painful. At one point it was so out of sync I got so fed up and recently moved to todolist. Seems I’m not the only one… The clients sleek, todo.txt android, markor and even a plugin for Joplin; were doing strange things on top of Google Drive (I did try Dropbox too, but sync on Android needs a kick up to make it sync). Even considered using Syncthing but using Android when less things eating batteries as better, decided against it.

After looking at my options it was todolist, which at least has a reasonable free option. I also consider installing a CalDav server on the NAS or Yunohost behind my VPN. But decided I really don’t need the headache.

Of course I left myself outs, with some of the clients including Planner, which supports CalDav. Todo.txt has potential. Something to look into again in a few months maybe.

 

Beeper is now my main messaging client

Beeper on the desktop

I have been using Beeper for a long while now. Its truly how instant/messaging should be.

Recently scheduled messaging was enabled on the desktop app, which is wonderful for someone who schedules a lot. However I did an upgrade on my Pixel 6 phone recently and found Beeper had the option to finally send messages to all contacts (previously you couldn’t start new conversations). Only a few days later there was the option to make beeper the default SMS app. Before this, there was a bridge option which worked but this is so much better.

With Beeper as my default client for almost everything, something strange started happening.

Beeper on Android

I have found myself forgetting which network is transporting the message. Which means I’m forgetting the limitations of each network but also which one a certain person contacted me on. Luckily Beeper has got a fantastic search meaning I don’t need to worry. Of course most instant messaging apps have this but when you add the likes of FB, Slack, Twitter, Linkedin, Discord direct/msgs. Then you got something useful, but also on the desktop too making it all very useful.

I never really used Linkedin for messages but its actually quite useful, just like Twitter direct messages. It would be great to have Mastodon messaging too. Maybe this is why I need to run it myself.

Do you chew your chocolate?

Attention do not eat

The guardian recently had a piece about Chocolate (anything to take our minds off the political climate right now and Chocolate is a good one)

I won’t go through the whole list but I originally laughed out loud when I read this…

Anyway, it appears that we haven’t yet covered chocolate. And a good thing too, because it turns out we’ve been eating it wrong the whole time.

Have we? We have, if you believe the food scientist Natalie Alibrandi, who has been analysing the results of a new 2,000-person study of the nation’s chocolate habits, commissioned by Galaxy.

Commissioned by Galaxy, because they are well known for their high quality/sustainable chocolate? Anyway its all the usual stuff but I found one part quite telling.

When do you usually eat it – at night?

No, usually about 11am. Right, OK, again that’s supposedly the correct time to eat it. Chocolate contains sugar and caffeine, which, according to Alibrandi, helps to give you the perfect pre-lunch boost. Also, your palate is fresher earlier in the day, so you’ll get the full hit of chocolate as it was intended to be eaten.

I’m not so convinced about this one, but I guess if you are eating milky/sugar filled Galaxy then it makes sense?

Nothing better than some 85% with some black smokey tea at night.

The future of public service broadcasting is closer than you think

The other day a family member said to me.

I remember ages ago you talking about something you were researching around personal data stores. Then I saw on the most recent click, something similar.

I looked it up, knowing colleagues in the team have recently done a interview with BBC click and found the above video. Its great to see it being used in unique ways and always reminds me of the great BBC news story “Why the BBC does not want your data

To me its clear a personal data store is a key part of the public service internet ecosystem. There is much more to it but people controlled data is a key corner stone. Its also why the Perceptive Radio sits next to MyPDS/Datapod in the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI).

MyPDS and Perceptive Raido

My role in personal data store project ended a while ago but I’m still involved in tangential research around this all. Part of it being the living room of the future and other new research.

The public service internet is one step closer… everyday!

Join us! Its going to be great!

Sorry Pebble Rebble

Pebble time and Ticwatch pro

Over the last few months, I kept using my Pebble watches for many things but over time every single Pebble 2 (I have 2 which still kinda work) died, even with no buttons.The last survivor is the Pebble time but it got to a point where I need to charge it everyday and partly in the day. I looked into moving the battery from some of the dead Pebble 2’s to the pebble time but its so simple.

The pebble is a great smartwatch but I had to look at my options, so decided to look at the hybrid smartwatches again and wasn’t impressed. After looking at smartwatches which have longer battery lives, I found a number changes and low power modes increasing the battery lives from 1 day to a 3-5 days.

In the end I bought the Ticwatch Pro 3 Ultra with Wear OS (automatically updated to wear 0s 3), although I did originally buy the Samsung Galaxy watch 4 and considered one of the Huawei smartwatches, but I decided I should stick with Wear OS (even with the battery drain). I had hoped the Google Pixel watch would be the answer to my needs but was let down.

Idle mode on the pebble time and ticwatch pro 3

The idle mode seems to be the key to battery usage, and the viewable screen on the ticwatch 3, although not as clear as the epaper screen of the pebble time. Is still good even at extreme angles.

Its a shame having to say goodbye to the rebble (post pebble community, they were amazing and the rebble software engineering is incredible. But it had to happen, as little things like not knowing who is calling and not being able to reply to non-sms messages (signal for example) was grinding on me. The health side is useful but mainly covered by the Oura ring.

Would you travel to Hong Kong?

Hong Kong

I just seen a post on Time Out.

The Hong Kong tourist board plans to give away half a million free plane tickets to encourage tourism in 2023.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board has already bought the tickets – it purchased them in 2020 from carriers including Hong Kong Airlines, Hong Kong Express and Cathay Pacific as part of the government support package for the aviation sector.

I have always wanted to go to Hong Kong but since the whole Hong Kong/ China mainline conflict. I thought its likely a bad idea to go.

However this is very tempting…

Would you go?

How was summer in my flat?

Tempature of 30.8c in my flat

Most of you know I’m a quantified self person, and been meaning to measure the awful heat in my flat. Especially with glass changes to Islington wharf..

A few years ago I bought switch-bot temperature monitors, but it was only recently I decided to setup the sync feature. Till then I kind of thought it would save all the data but it turns out, it only saves a month at a time.

Living room

Heat over summer in my living room
The temperature over summer in my living room (16/08/202221/09/2022)

In the living room the peak was 33.7c, while the lowest was 21.7c which is better. I suspect with the 20 inch gym fan running and the one window off its restrictions, that might have brought the temperature down. I do have timings for the temperatures but I’m not going to work that out now.

Bedroom

Heat in my bedroom over summer
The temperature over summer in my bedroom (21/09/2022 – 21/09/2022)

In my bedroom the temperature started at 28.2c (yes the lowest!) and 29.7c was the highest. Imagine trying to sleep all the time between those ranges. Now you can see why I have to sleep with no sheets. The temperature will be higher, because I can’t sleep with the window wide open without the blinds down. This traps the heat inside even with the doors open.

 

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Oct 2022)

Bus stop in bladerunner style using AI
Created with Midjourney

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing the ongoing fight around ransomware. 2fa social engineered and youtube dislike meaning very little.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this with the EU ramping up its open source code access, South Korea’s win for privacy violations and solutions like Watomatic providing out of office replies for WhatsApp to aid with stopping using it.


Recommendations for a Digital Future to the EU

Ian thinks: Exit Platforms over the past year have brought together a group of experts, To chart out what a public service internet could looks like from a policy point of view. The last meeting being a hackathon in the European parliament. This is the report is a detailed from the last year of meetings.

Jack Dorsey realising the mistakes of twitter

Ian thinks: Jack’s thought about the mistakes are further clarified when Kevin Marks making it super clear how Twitter killed twitter as a API in favour of control and profit.

The future of Solar panels? Everywhere!

Ian thinks: Its fantastic to see solar panels in places I thought were simply a no go. Although the cost of panel is dropping there is still a need for a bigger drop.

Bus shelters turned into garden

Ian thinks: Although Manchester has had a bus shelter like described since 2016 and people point out its advertising driven. I do think its generally a good idea and better than looking at a metal frame in the pouring rain.

Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires (nsfw)

Ian thinks: Aspects of team human, this interview with Rushkoff is entertaining but its hard to see fault in the logic behind the new book.

EU puts its foot down around mobile waste and upgrades

Ian thinks: Although in draft form, its a move which may have serious consequences in many different industries.

Bluetracking around the city for better transport but at what cost?

Ian thinks: Contactless travel sounds fantastic but I’m not sure the trail will consider privacy and abuse cases. Something they really should.

Chris’s challenging talk about crypto gave me a bad taste

Ian thinks: Mydata is a good conference but this talk gave me a taste but I can’t exactly point at one thing. A lot of what Chris says is correct, but I can’t get his position over the keynote. Or maybe its just the bored ape t-shirt?

AI art has changed the game quietly

Ian thinks: I have personally been using mid-journey and dall-e2 for some personal works. It feels like something has changed, and we haven’t really acknowledged the effect yet.

What can be learned from Google’s smart city project?

Ian thinks: Sobering talk from Josh O’Kane about Google’s sidewalk labs project with plenty of insights for future smart city projects.


Find the archive here

Dealing with all that spammy requests

One of the tricky parts of blogging is one having time to blog and the amount of hammy messages you get when doing it for a long while.

In a conversation on mastodon with a few people about web3 (don’t get me started). I saw Rysiek’s blog which talked about the second problem. He calls it SEO link spam email.

Ah, SEO link spam e-mails. If you have a blog that’s been online longer than, say, three years, you know what I’m talking about:

Hey,

I read your article at <link-to-a-blogpost-of-mine> talking about <actually-not-the-topic-of-the-blogpost>. I think your readers would benefit from a link to <link-to-an-irrelevant-or-trivial-piece>.

Would you consider linking to our article?

For a long time I just ignored these, flagging as spam and moving on. Obviously I am not going to link to some marketing crap that’s there only to drive up SEO of some random site.

But then that one spammer showed up in my mailbox, and he was persistent. Several e-mails and follow-ups within a month. I decided I needed a better strategy.

To be fair Rysiek does lead with a large disclaimer but I do like the crowd sourced proposed strategy.

In short, offer a counter offer which makes up for the time of posting a post with their link using rel="sponsored nofollow" surrounded in a blog post pretty much tearing down the linked content.

I’m tempted to do this by creating a page on this blog and listing them as requested but with a clear sign saying they paid a lot of money for the crappy placement. Not exactly what they wanted but I’ll be upfront about it all. An alternative was to back date a blog post, so it would be on the blog but never appear on the aggregated page/rss unless you were searching for it.

As Rysiek says, its more about getting rid of the endless requests for placement on this blog. Its kinda clear get lost and beats marking all those emails as spam.

Adaptive podcasting is public and you can get it now

Adaptive podcasting header
Last week BBC R&D launched the Adaptive podcasting ecosystem upon the world. There is a blog post to get you started if you want to dive straight in.
The Adaptive podcasting ecosystem is a combination of parts.

Screen shot of the Adaptive app/player

With the Android app/player you can listen to adaptive podcasts. With the app/player installed, you can load and listen to your own made podcasts. There is of course RSS support, providing the ability to load in a series of adaptive podcasts (replacing the default feed from BBC R&D).

With access to the web editor on BBC Makerbox, you can visually create adaptive podcasts in a few minutes. Its node like interface is running completely client side, meaning there is no server side processing. Just like the app/player, which does zero server callbacks to the BBC. Pure Javascript/HTML/CSS.

Example of the web  editor

If you find the web editor not advanced/in-depth enough for you, there is the XML specification which is based on SMIL. As the code can be written or even generated. We even considered other editors like audacity.
With all 3, you have pretty much everything you need to get going, plus there is documentation gdoc and more information about the ecosystem here on github.
One of the most important parts is the community of practice around adaptive podcasting. Both on BBC Makerbox and Storytellers United. Also through research, I can see the podcast industry are very active and I was right with podnews, the podcast namespace, etc all throwing ideas around. Even the podfather added a comment.
I have written about Adaptive/Perceptive podcasting previously across my blog and talked about it at Mozfest 2021, for the Bristol Watershed and of course for the EBU. There is also an interview I did a couple weeks ago before the launch for podland, which is worth listening to with much more detail.
But I wanted to thank all the people who helped in making this go from the Perceptive Radio to Adaptive Podcasting. So far I started a github page but will write the history of how this happened when I got more time. Partly because its a interesting story but also because it demonstrates the power of collaboration, relationships, communities and the messy timeline of innovation.

Heart in the clouds of Amsterdam mix

Looking out across clouds mid flight to Amsterdam

I have been doing mixes in the car for my partner while she drives. Its one of the big advantages of the pacemaker device. Plugin the audio jack and you can DJ almost anywhere. My partner prefers vocal tunes to my usual style of tech trance, so I now have a case of vocal trance tunes. On top of this was a visit to the world’s first dance music museum with my good DJ friend Dirty Si.

So with all this in mind, here is my new mix recorded while going to Amsterdam recently for my lovely partner. The mix shifts along at a nice 135 bpm, is short (due to the flight to Amsterdam) but is full of hands in the air moments. Enjoy!

  1. Tears from the moon (Tiesto’s in search of sunrise remix) – Conjure one Feat. Sarah O’connor
  2. Drifting away (Large sunset dub) – Large Feat. Skye
  3. Talk to me (Orjan Nelison Trance mix) – John O’Callaghan and Timmy & Tommy
  4. Catch (Martin Roth remix) – Blank & Jones
  5. Daylight (Frainbreeze remix) – Saad Ayub & Cristina Soto
  6. Without You (Dogzilla dub) – Dogzilla
  7. Halcyon (Alex M.O.R.P.H. remix) – Andy Moor
  8. Not Over Yet ’99 (Matt Darey) – Planet Perfecto feat. Grace
  9. The Power Of Love 99 (System F mix) – Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Available in full on my webmix garden and mixcloud if you prefer…