As part of the work I've been doing to prepare for the launch of PeerBackup I've collected a list of some of the marketing articles I've been reading. I figured it might be useful to other people if I published them here. So, in no particular order...
Then there's always the Cluetrain Manifesto. I haven't finished reading it yet, so most of my knowledge is second-hand, but it's the definitive "markets are conversations" tome for marketing on the web in the age of blogs.
On his last day working for the Beeb, Tom has posted details of the final project he's been involved with.
He goes into much more detail than he did in his talk at Our Social World last month, and it looks very interesting. It's a way of marking segments of audio to which you can add tags and any other wiki-style content (descriptions, transcripts, whatever...) and the UI for editing the annotations or just navigating around them looks very smooth and easy to follow.
If the BBC roll this out to all of their listen again output, then it'd make my Real Clip Generator obsolete :-)
Apologies if you've had problems getting at any of McFilter today, I've been upgrading to Movable Type v3.2. The upgrade is now complete, and everything seems to be working okay. Please let me know if you spot any glitches, or it doesn't work as you'd expect.
Hopefully, this will stop the annoying permalink problem I've been having. We'll see...
Mark Vidler, the man behind the GHP, was the guest on the Phill Jupitus breakfast show on BBC 6 Music yesterday morning, so until it gets overwritten with next Friday's show you can listen to the segment here from the clip I created with the McQN.net Real Audio Clip Generator.
It's almost as if tonight's (well, last night's strictly...) Front Row show on BBC Radio 4 was aimed at McFilter.
Part of the show discusses how blogging is helping bands get noticed. The blogger on the show was Sean Michaels from Said the Gramophone, who I met about a year ago when he visited Cambridge, and the Arctic Monkeys are the band whose straight-to-number-one first single is being attributed to their use of the Internet, mp3s and blogs to promote themselves. Which is true, I downloaded over a dozen tracks of theirs months back when I first heard of them, and when I saw them play The Soul Tree the gig was packed and everyone knew all the words. It does help that they're really good, of course.
And finally, the fact that the BBC make the programme available for a week on their Listen Again service means I can use my Real Clip Generator to produce a link straight to the interesting bit.
So, until next Monday's programme overwrites this week's on the BBC website, click here to listen to just the segment about blogging and music.
Apologies to anyone reading McFilter via the RSS feed, as you might have been seeing lots of duplicate or not-really-new new posts whenever a comment is added to the blog.
It seems to be a problem with the permalinks - initially they don't have the category in them, and whenever something causes the main page to be rebuilt the category gets added, which makes it look like a new entry even though it isn't.
It's been annoying me for a while, and I've been slowly chipping away at solving it. The next step is to upgrade Movable Type, as there was a suspicious looking bug fixed in v3.2, but that might take another week or so before I get chance. So in the interim, I'm sorry. At least you know I'm suffering from the problem too...
Despite all the doom-and-gloom in the media, there are signs that the world isn't too bad a place after all: the number of armed conflicts has declined by more than 40% since 1992. The deadliest conflicts (those with 1000 or more battle-deaths) dropped by 80%.
TEDBlog: Huge story... largely ignored puts it well:
"The global media also, of course, largely ignored the report. Chances are this is the first you've heard of it. I'm getting more and more angry about this... the strange, unspoken, self-reinforcing alliance between media and public, which results in such a distorted world image being created. Drama, celebrity and parochialism inevitably trump insight, reason, and the global view."
Maybe if we could acknowledge the progress that's we're making, we could be more optimistic about what can be achieved; which would free us to attack the really big problems facing us.
In case you haven't yet been convinved that an RSS aggregator is the best way to keep up-to-date with whenever I get round to posting something new, I've now added a way to get an email whenever there's something new to read.
Sign up using the form below (or the identical form in the sidebar of the main page) and you should get an email each day that something new gets posted. Well, I assume the email will arrive the day after something new gets posted, unless they've got some clever software which can predict whenever I'll post something... but if that's the case, they really aren't making the most of their technology!
The answer is a bit puerile, but this silly music quiz amused me much more than it should have.
If you want any more songs to help work out then answer, you could also have:
And far too many more. I'll stop now.
The beta programme rolls on. This release improves the information available to users if things go wrong - if any of the files fail to backup or restore, clicking on the error message will bring you through to a special page on the MCQN.com website where you'll get the latest information about what caused the error. And hopefully also how you can fix it.
There's also been a pretty big improvement to the feedback during a backup. The problems with the old version were pretty obvious really, but I'd got used to them and so hadn't really noticed. Nothing like giving your software to some real people to get a wake up call about such things!
It's still not too late to get involved!
Ideas for Startups is an interesting article from Paul Graham (he of Painters and Hackers fame) debunking the common myth that you need a killer idea to build a startup.
He claims that a question is a much better starting point - it's harder for a critic or detractor to attack, and lots of startups end up producing something quite different from their initial idea after it evolves through their trying to solve the initial problem. (Flickr is a prime example of this - it started life as an online game, and morphed into the photo-sharing site as they watched what the users were doing with it)
And then he goes on to explain why it's useful to have more than one person in the startup (which I agree with, despite being in a single-person startup), and rounds things off with a discussion of getting acquired.
Usability guru Jakob Nielsen has a regular column on usability, and the most recent covers weblog usability.
I don't think I score too badly, especially after my recent addition of the about me page. I do fall down by not having a photo of myself though, which is something I've been considering adding - I'd just have to find a photo I'm happy with...
His fifth point is one that oft pondered about weblog design, without coming to any particularly suitable conclusion:
"5. Classic Hits are Buried
Hopefully, you'll write some pieces with lasting value for readers outside your fan base. Don't relegate such classics to the archives, where people can only find something if they know you posted it, say, in May 2003."
Just how do you open up access to your archives? The most common solution for this seems to be a hand-crafted "best of" list, but this needs to be maintained, and it's hard to know which entries are worth further exposure. Part of this is just my laziness, so perhaps I'll instigate some regime of trawling through the archives and posting summary items into a "look through the archives" category.
What I really want (and might at some point in future get round to writing) is something which takes an assortment of metrics - number of comments, number of views, number of views which weren't due to random search engine access, etc. - and uses them to show which items in the archives are most interesting. The metrics could even be orthogonal - more comments would make an item brighter in colour, whereas more viewings would make the text bigger. Or something like that.
I think this is going to increasingly become a problem, and it would be nice if there were some (semi-)automated mechanisms to give bloggers at least an improved way of getting the content hidden in their archives into more public view.
Last night's geek dinner was the first I'd attended, and was good fun - despite having to get the bus replacement service from Stevenage to Cambridge on the way home :-)
The journey down was much more straight-forward, although Geoff set a fair old pace as we walked there from Kings Cross. En route we stopped off at a little Italian place, Italian Graffiti, chosen completely at random, but who do excellent pizza!
Ian Forrester, the organizer, seemed to be worrying about the event far too much - all seemed to be going well: the food was nice and the bar staff were excellent, the only problem really was that the room we were in wasn't closed off from the rather noisy bar upstairs, which made it a bit difficult to hear the conversations.
I didn't get chance to speak to Tim O'Reilly in person, but his half-hour Q&A session was very interesting - he seems really switched on and to have a good understanding of what's happening with "Web 2.0" (Colin Donald has some notes from the session)
Late notice I know, but I wasn't sure if I'd get enough work done to justify bunking off a bit early...
Anyway, I'm off to the Tim O'Reilly geek dinner which is in London tonight.
If anyone else is heading down from Cambridge, Geoff and I are planning on catching the 4:45pm train to Kings Cross.
In the past week I have become a company director, now that MCQN Ltd. has come into existence. It was a fairly painless procedure, Mike Lewis sorting out most of the details for a very reasonable £95.
It isn't going to change things too much - there's a bit more paperwork I'll have to send to the government, and I can retire the stop-gap current company name of "Adrian McEwen trading as McEwen Technology" (a bit of a mouthful I'm sure you'll agree!)
Still, it feels like an important step, that it somehow makes it more of a "proper" business venture.
It was a good weekend for going to performances.
On Friday night we headed over to the University Centre for the Jesterlarf comedy night. It's ages since we'd been, and they've moved rooms and done away with the cans-sold-from-a-table and now rely on the main bar (which managed not to suffer any real delay during the interval rush).
The only problem with the room change is that they're still trying to pack in as many people as they used to in the other room, which is bigger, so things were a bit cramped. You get pre-allocated an area of table, which is good, but it would work much better if they lost some of the seats.
Anyway, the comedy was good. Chambers and Nettleton (who seemed more the "next Mel and Sue" than the as billed "next French and Saunders") did a good job of compering the event, and didn't pick on us too much even though we were sat next to the stage.
Stuart Hudson was the first act, and my favourite. He delivered a stream of puns, just at the right tempo where you didn't miss anything, but weren't left waiting for any of them either.
The guest act, whose name I can't remember, and isn't listed on the flyer wasn't much good. He didn't get off to a great start but had pretty much recovered it, only to continually go on about how badly it was going, which became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Mike Gunn, the headline, restored the level of laughter, and ensured that we ended an enjoyable evening on a high.
Then last night we went to one of the Naked Stage nights in the basement of CB2 (which I'm surprised doesn't seem to have a website...). Naked Stage is a series of stage readings of new material written and performed by the members of WriteON! - The Forum for New Dramatic Writing in Cambridge.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect, it all felt a bit bohemian and just isn't the sort of thing I've ever been to. The first piece was really good and quite funny - a ten minute or so extended sketch of a couple getting ready to go out, with her deliberating over what to wear and him getting his "you look lovely in either outfit" predictably wrong. Each character was played by two actors - one for the physical person, and another acting out the character's thoughts - which was a clever idea, although it took a minute or so to realise that that what was happening.
The second piece wasn't as engaging, although it was still enjoyable. It seemed a bit long for the amount of content - a tale set around the death of a cat. It also didn't help that there isn't much of a stage in the CB2 basement (hence the series name) which meant that some of the actors were still visible on stage when they weren't in the current scene.
Afterwards there was a (non-compulsory) audience feedback session to provide the actors and writers with comments and thoughts. It looks like a good group for any budding actors and writers, and the Naked Stage series runs every Sunday evening till the start of December.
So if you're blogging in or around Cambridge, head over and make sure you're on the list. And maybe put your name down for the embryonic Cambridge blogmeet...
"Six to ten purpose-built mobile computer stations publicly located in and around Cambridge collect anonymously submitted regrets from the public to comprise a sociological database of contemporary remorse"
I wonder how easy they'll be to spot?
It seems that Cillit Bang have created a fake blog to help market their "super duper cleaning gunk".
Yay! More proof that blogs are starting to go mainstream?
On Friday, Tom Coates posted a very personal entry on his blog about hit first contact with his father in 28 years. Barry Scott, the fictional Cillit Bang blogger, left a comment claiming he'd been through the same experience. I'm incredulous as to how the person who invented that comment could not realise that it was inappropriate.
Still, Cillit Bang are getting a lesson in why blogs aren't just another way of marketing stuff - Tom wrote up the sorry matter on Friday and news has swept round the "blogosphere" since. It surely won't be long before Tom's post is above the Cillit Bang website when you google for Cillit Bang (it's the next entry at the minute).
This weekend I took a break from bug-fixing PeerBackup to play with writing a little web app.
The result of this playing is now available for anyone to play with, the McQN.net: Real Audio Clip Generator.
It lets you take a Real audio stream and create a link which will play just the portion of the audio that you choose. So if, for example, you have a link to an hour long radio show and you're only interested in ten minutes in the middle of the show, then you can use this to create a link that starts 25 minutes in and ends at the 35 minute mark.
It's still a little rough round the edges, and there's a list of things I'd still like to do (see below), but I think it's useful enough to release into the world. Please email me or leave a comment if you have any problems with it, or any ideas on ways it could be improved.
This is partly a to-do list for me, partly a list of "known problems" and partly a roadmap for future developments, although as it's an "in my spare time" kind of thing, I can't guarantee how quickly things will get done (unless anyone wants to pay me to develop it further ;-)