September 18, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: September 18th 2017

  • Facebook, You Needy Sonofabitch. The end-game of advertising-as-business-model. I see it more from Instagram than Facebook, although that's also owned by Facebook. Twitter does this too, but at least you can turn (most of) it off.
  • Unemployment in the UK is now so low it's in danger of exposing the lie used to create the numbers. The graph of job rates by gender is particularly illuminating. The trend of both men/women to converge on the combined-genders line bodes well for equality, although the fact that it's at the cost of rising unemployment levels for men maybe explains some of the problems we're seeing in society. Either way, actually reducing the overall unemployment level is what we should be aiming for (universal basic services notwithstanding)
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September 11, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: September 11th 2017

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September 04, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: September 4th 2017

  • Large Companies Considered Harmful. Lots to like here, and probably not just companies, I wonder if you can argue that part of the reason the unions were emasculated in the 80s was because they'd become too big and powerful. Still, today I think it's easy to see that it's companies who are the bigger threat.
  • Grenfell Tower - How did it happen?. "Just before filing this article, I visited Grenfell Tower. [...] There, huge and devastated, is the physical presence, the physical consequence, of a thousand decisions made to get things done a bit more cheaply, to make a bit more money, to clinch that deal." I remember feeling as though this might bring down the Government when it happened, such was the level of shock and anger and dismay. Yet now, barely a few months on, it already feels as though it's slipping into history rather than galvanising us into making the country a better, safer place for us all. As if the only thing that matters is that everyone can pass the buck onto someone else and say "we did what we were supposed to" and omit pointing out how, if they'd bothered to look at the situation a bit more broadly and if other people's lives were allowed to—every now and then—come before money, they played a part in the death's of eighty people.
  • Social.coop: A Cooperative Decentralized Social Network. Good interview with the founders of social.coop about that co-operative version of Twitter. The Mastodon (which is what social.coop runs) instance that I use - mastodon.me.uk is set up in similar fashion. (I'm @amcewen@mastodon.me.uk if you're a Mastodon user...)
  • RFCs not IPOs (i.e. open standards not venture-capital funding). Amen to that.
  • What should you think about when using Facebook?. Detailed yet readable dive into the lots of the information Facebook gathers about you.
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August 28, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: August 28th 2017

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August 21, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: August 21st 2017

  • Eliminating the Human. Perfectly capturing something that's bothered me for a while now. Although I totally understand the desire to design human interactions out of everything (given that I'm not great in social/unfamiliar situations myself), I also think that we shouldn't do it. Some of the friction and discomfort is useful for us.
  • Study of the Week: Of Course Virtual K-12 Schools Don’t Work. See last point...
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July 31, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 31st 2017

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July 24, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 24th 2017

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June 26, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: June 26th 2017

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June 05, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: June 5th 2017

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May 22, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 22nd 2017

  • The Engineer/Manager Pendulum. Great post on the differences between management and being an engineer. Also describes pretty well how my career has gone - especially earlier on. At STNC, I went from engineer to project manager to software manager (probably the equivalent of VP of Engineering now), then dropped back to engineer with sole responsibility for a key product around the time we were acquired by Microsoft, then became team lead as we built up the networking team around that, and was in line to step up the management chain again but the higher management decided to close down the entire product group instead. Hopping between the two has definitely given me better development practices as well as helping my management skills.
  • Notes from an emergency, the latest talk from Maciej Ceglowski and it's as on the money about tech, its influence on the world, and what we should be doing, as ever.
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May 15, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 15th 2017

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May 01, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 1st 2017

I tend not to be quite so overtly political with my postings here, or maybe it's not so partisan, but the recent Tories in particular are responsible for making such a mess of the country that it's important to get rid of them at the looming general election.

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April 17, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: April 17th 2017

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April 03, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: April 3rd 2017

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March 27, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: March 27th 2017

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March 20, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: March 20th 2017

  • Putting strings into databases and then taking them back out again. Lovely post about why we need to make tech and coding less scary. In my experience, people using big words and jargon are generally those with less ability to deliver on what they're talking about. My equivalent of "putting strings..." is that I connect strange things to the Internet. I've found that a much more productive answer to "what do you do?" than talking about the Internet of Things.
  • Wealth, risk, and power. There is hope.
  • The Economic Policy Delusion. Country economies aren't like household economies, and the Tories aren't fiscally responsible.
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March 06, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: March 6th 2017

  • Tech and the Fake Market tactic. Anil Dash doing a good job of laying out how the big, fawned-over tech companies tend towards monopolistic behaviour. Obviously we'll break them up, as we have with all the monopolies in the past, the question is how long do we wait before doing so?
  • Lovren: My Life as a Refugee. Although as a Red I might be a bit biased, I think it's good to see a football club putting out a video like this which gives a good perspective on the life and background of a refugee (who then went on to be a top footballer...)
  • Exponential growth devours and corrupts. Compound expectations are as corrosive as compound interest is beneficial.
  • Failing to See, Fueling Hatred. A sensible call to empathy from Danah Boyd. We need more making common cause and less division and infighting, the latter only benefits those already in charge (who are making no progress on making the world better).

And an excellent video from Danish TV...


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January 30, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: January 30th 2017

  • Money Talk. Open and honest blog post talking about the costs involved in manufacturing, and the challenges and issues when you try to do things better.
  • Exiting the Vampire Castle. Fantastic writing from the sadly late Mark Fisher.
  • Software Is Politics. Excellent article version of Richard Pope's excellent OSCON 2016 talk.
  • How to Culture Jam a Populist in Four Easy Steps. "it took our leaders ten years to figure out they needed to actually go to the slums and to the countryside. And not for a speech, or a rally, but for game of dominoes or to dance salsa – to show they were Venezuelans too, that they had tumbao and could hit a baseball, could tell a joke that landed. That they could break the tribal divide, come down off the billboards and show they were real."
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January 16, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: January 16th 2017

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December 19, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: December 19th 2016

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November 28, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: November 28th 2016

  • The Politics of Optimism. It's hard to remain open and optimistic when things aren't going well, but it's an important thing to work at.
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November 21, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: November 21st 2016

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November 14, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: November 14th 2016

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October 31, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: October 31st 2016

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October 24, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: October 24th 2016

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October 17, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: October 17th 2016

  • The hazards of a world where mediocrity rules. Maybe not quite to the degree outlined in that article, but you can see a lot of those tendencies in the "innovation" and "regeneration" industries in this country. Sadly.
  • Technology is a wooden leg. Leila on great form pointing out that all this technology stuff is just a set of tools to use to do something more interesting.
  • Augmenting journalism. Jon Udell, arguing for an alternate approach to Basic Income to use tech to enhance—not replace—our abilities. I think we can, and should, do both.
  • GB1900.org. The OS maps for the whole UK from around 1900. Really interesting to see how the country has evolved in the past century, plus you get to help researchers create a gazetteer of all the text on the map.
  • Draw your city. Another mapping research project, this time looking at how far people think different cities extend. Some interesting contrasts between the different parts of the UK.
  • Betting on snowballs. I like this idea from Doc Searls, roll snowballs rather than push rocks uphill!
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August 29, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: August 29th 2016

  • The Continuing Journey Of A Media Lab: I Went To A Media/Art Lab And All I Got Was This Lousy Tote Bag. "This is the dark matter of a successful lab; its not making it look like a lab, it’s having a diverse mix of people, supporters, technicians, mentors and cooks; it’s having a sensibility of people doing interesting work who can get on with others or disrupt things." Great analysis from Ross. I'm now thinking "the background radiation of the culture" could be my new favourite term. What Ross talks about is something I got from the recent exhibition I did with him in Oslo, and also some of what Laptops and Looms provides.
  • Recovery From Privilege. Useful ways to think about privilege.
  • The War on Cash. Paying by cards is easy, but I don't think we should abandon the anonymity and utility of cash.
  • hackertyper.net. Now you can feel as awesome at coding as I am ;-)
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August 22, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: August 22nd 2016

  • Django Ditto and archiving your stuff. Interesting work (as ever!) from Phil Gyford. I think my bus is travelling in the same direction as his.
  • I Have A Little List. Russell's list of how big, integrated, seamless systems are generally just good ways to waste money and provide a big seamless way to achieve very little. Do less of this, governments, councils and big corps, and more of the sort of approach Phil Gyford is taking in the first case.
  • Why Teach Business to Artists? Not just useful for artists, I really like Whitaker's hierarchy of business concept in there. It feels like DoES Liverpool is running roughly at level 2.0, and looking at ways to poke into level 3. I can see me referring to this in future :-)
  • Hot Wheels road trip. Another superb example of how technology isn't just about efficiency and return-on-investment. Definitely worth watching all of it.
  • The Rozz-Tox Manifesto. "Item 12: Waiting for art talent scouts? There are no art talent scouts. Face it, no one will seek you out. No one gives a shit."
  • Yes, There Is Such a Thing as an ‘Introvert’ Hangover. I don't get the physical symptoms listed here, but can definitely recognise the phenomenon.
  • The sound of Blairite silence. I've not been paying much attention of late to Labour's thrashing, but Paul Mason's analysis is interesting to read.
  • Indy Johar - Democratizing cities. Really good talk from Indy about systems thinking and the challenges facing society.
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August 08, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: August 8th 2016

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July 25, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 25th 2016

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July 18, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 18th 2016

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July 11, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 11th 2016

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July 04, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 4th 2016

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June 06, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: June 6th 2016

  • On Failure. "failure is not good. But failure is okay. And to that point, we need to make failure okay."
  • The CIO Problem, Part 1 (and then Part 2). Lots of wisdom on bringing local council, etc. services into the modern age. One highlight: "[you need to understand that] That’s not innovation. That’s just how tech works today."
  • About the GDS Women’s group. "The Women’s group is for everyone, irrespective of gender, who cares about having an equal and diverse workplace – but that’s not a snappy and concise name for a group. So we're calling it the Women's group." Good to see initiatives like this share what they've tried, and how that's helped.
  • On the Left. Like Tim Bray, I'm not a political expert, but I agree with pretty much all he lays out in that blog post. "I think the “conventional wisdom” which sustains the current finance-centric rentier economy is thought wise by fewer and fewer. I think the path from here to something saner will have messy and ugly parts. But I’m increasingly sure that our current path, as a society and species, is unsustainable."
  • "Lighthouses... just stand there shining." Astounding, touching, harrowing to read letter from a rape victim that she read to her rapist. I long for a culture where this didn't need to exist.
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May 23, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 23rd 2016

  • Recipe for disaster. Some background to the creation of the BBC's online recipe database and thoughts about how/why the BBC is failing to help society debate/frame such non-commercial endeavours.
  • Redefining capitalism. Some interesting thoughts on how better to define growth and new directions for something better than capitalism.
  • ANA. Lovely, if rather dystopic, short film about the robot future.
  • Jane Jacobs: City Limits. (Link to) An interesting film of urbanist Jane Jacobs and accompanying thoughts on how it translates to modern day. (Jane Jacobs previously on this blog)
  • Jane Jacobs: Godmother of the American City. And another, great interview with Jane Jacobs. "There is a sameness—this is one of the things that is boring people, this sameness. This sameness has economic implications. You don’t get new products and services out of sameness. Now, the Americans haven’t gotten dumbed down all of the sudden so that only a few people who can decide on new products for change are the only ones with brains. But it means that somehow there isn’t opportunity for these thousands flowers to bloom anymore."
  • How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist. Beware the dark patterns of design.
  • Guide to Computing. Computers used to be so colourful! Did the designers stop offering us anything adventurous or did we all start only buying what-are-perceive-as-inoffensive options and bring this upon ourselves?
  • Thoughts about decoupling PGP and email clients. Good to see someone fixing existing systems rather than deciding the only way is to build yet-another-competing-silo because it's easier. Looking forward to being a user of the system Paul builds.
  • Eye Spy, a Year of Tracking. Great to see the BBC work on privacy, etc. "No-one in the UK should be speculatively accumulating raw data, particularly without notifying people they are doing it."
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May 02, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 2nd 2016

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April 18, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: April 18th 2016

  • Paying Your Own Way (Or Not). Tom Steinberg talks about whether money is the only useful measuring stick. For tech, in this case, but see also all of the assorted "ROI" justifications for the arts, city investment, etc. When do we start demanding that the bankers and accountants justify their existence in terms that the rest of us feel are important (hint: those terms won't be ones that can be reduced to a single number either...)
  • The divide. Looks interesting... and is playing at FACT at the end of May...
  • Modern anti-spam and E2E crypto. In-depth look at the issues surrounding spam email and how to counter it. And how to balance that with the scope for privacy invasion that be-able-to-read-email-to-check-for-spam introduces...
  • Why Are America's Most Innovative Companies Still Stuck in 1950s Suburbia? Good exploration of what's wrong with big out-of-town company campuses.
  • Story of cities #21: Olivetti tries to build the ideal 'human city' for its workers. In contrast with the previous link, a look at the work Olivetti did to situate their company in Ivrea mid-C20th. It was arguably moulding the city to suit the company, but I remember a really interesting exhibition I visited when I lived in Turin (but never got round to blogging, sadly) that explained lots of the social/improving-society thinking tied up with those experiments and work. Arguably the main problem was that Olivetti dominated Ivrea (from a percentage of people working there perspective) and so the fortunes of the town and the company ended up too closely intertwined (which is fine as long as the company is doing well...).
  • Hacking Rambert. Leila Johnston doing an excellent job of documenting what she got up to as a technologist-in-residence, and more importantly asking questions about technology and its relationship with/to the arts.
  • When U.S. air force discovered the flaw of averages. Or a warning from history about blind belief in "big data"
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April 11, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: April 11th 2016

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March 28, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: March 28th 2016

  • Hardening my Development Machine. A secure system is like the horizon - always further away when you think you've got there. But there's lots of value in chasing after it, so it's good to see Paul sharing how he's moved on with it.
  • what Thomas Hardy taught me. An excellent piece on education reform or efforts to "fix" education, and how they miss the point.
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March 21, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: March 21st 2016

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March 14, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: March 14th 2016

  • Corbynism and Its Futures. Long interesting explanation and exploration of the state of the political left in the UK. If it's right in its assertion that "elections are almost entirely decided by the votes of a few hundred thousand swing voters in marginal constituencies", then is that an opportunity to focus attention for civic tech and/or new Internet-age institutions to help improve democracy?
  • In solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub. Charging so much for access to academic publishing in the modern age is ridiculous.
  • Design as Participation. Excellent proposal for how design should evolve, from Kevin Slavin.
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February 29, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: February 29th 2016

  • Framing. An interest post (with interesting comments too!) on company values and culture.
  • South Florida and Sea Level: The Case of Miami Beach. "Who’s going to be the Robert Moses of sea level rise?" Thought-provoking stuff from Eric Rodenbeck.
  • Sex & Startups. Lots of good ideas here - I expect “the tyranny of the quantifiable” and "mundane businesses" to be entering my lexicon.
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February 22, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: February 22nd 2016

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February 15, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: February 15th 2016

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February 08, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: February 8th 2016

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February 01, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: February 1st 2016

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January 11, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: January 11th 2016

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January 04, 2016

Interesting Things on the Internet: January 4th 2016

  • The Resistance. Voices dissenting the techno-utopians.
  • Tell me who you are. Excellent (but long) essay about identity. How do you change your password when your password is your fingerprint?
  • The Website Obesity Crisis. Another Maciej talk, another must read/watch.
  • “If creativity is the field, copyright is the fence.” Copyright extension is just rent extraction.
  • 5 things the media does to manufacture outrage. Must feed the news cycle... (n.b. I haven't checked the sources in this article, so it's possible it's just a massive troll...)
  • Hacking the City. A new model for urban renewal. A good overview of the work Renew Newcastle (that's the Australian one, not one of the UK Newcastles) is doing.
  • Machining of brass again. A write up from Julian, a friend of mine who's been working on a new CNC mill here at DoES Liverpool. Mostly included here for this paragraph: "Recall that, after 20 years writing the software that generates CNC toolpaths, I’d not ever operated a machine or worked with someone operating a machine in that time period. I’m not unusual among my programming peers. This is an outrageous state of affairs, and tells you everything you need to know about the effectiveness of all those layers of businessmen, managerial staff, supervisors, and resellers who have inserted themselves like slabs of toffee between those who write the software and those who use the software. Even if I wasn’t interested in operating a machine, someone should have forced me to spend some time making at least one thing to a standard of quality at some point in my career as it would have paid off enormously. "
  • Shields Down. On digging into the real reason people quit jobs.
  • Paul Graham is Still Asking to be Eaten. Maybe the reason startups get paid so well by VCs is that it's the only way to persuade them not to work on something more valuable to society...
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December 28, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: December 28th 2015

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December 21, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: December 21st 2015

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December 14, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: December 14th 2015

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November 30, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: November 30th 2015

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November 23, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: November 23rd 2015

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November 16, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: November 16th 2015

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November 09, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: November 9th 2015

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October 26, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: October 26th 2015

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October 19, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: October 19th 2015

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October 12, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: October 12th 2015

  • Haunted by Data. All of Maciej's talks are worth watching/reading and this is no exception. "[Data.] Don't collect it! [...] If you have to collect it, don't store it! [...] If you have to store it, don't keep it!"
  • as though everyone had value. "This competitive ideology seeps into and ruins everything. It makes every good contingent on that good being enjoyed by a small and shrinking few. As a guy, this competitive urge is a contagion, it gets in everywhere. I love guitars but hate guitar stores; I like lifting weights but I hate the weight room. Those places are poisoned by male competition and the male insecurity that attends it, almost inevitably.". Amen to that.
  • Turn off your f**king phone and talk to me! Sherry Turkle on why “I’m not the Darth Vader of social media”.
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October 05, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: October 5th 2015

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September 28, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: September 28th 2015

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September 21, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: September 21st 2015

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September 14, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: September 14th 2015

  • Do Artifacts Have Ethics? Had this lurking in a tab for too long. A good set of questions to ask ourselves when we create any technology.
  • Close at Hand. An interesting history of which objects we've kept about our person, and how.
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September 07, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: September 7th 2015

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August 31, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: August 31st 2015

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August 17, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: August 17th 2015

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August 10, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: August 10th 2015

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August 03, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: August 3rd 2015

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July 27, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 27th 2015

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July 20, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 20th 2015

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July 06, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 6th 2015

  • Some notes on funding 65 just received. Fantastic skewering of the economic-development-business-speak that pervades our lives. "But even if ‘economic growth’ is the primary mandate for the future responsibilities of music, then this isn’t the way to do it. Stop closing community centres. Stop destroying the welfare state. Stop making it impossible for poorer people to have any opportunity to do anything other than constantly struggle for survival, leaving holes in culture that will inevitably be filled by rich kids with nothing to write about."
  • Innovation out of context. Leila Johnston on fine form talking about innovation.
  • The curious frontier of red. Experimental research through graffiti, or a graffiti artists 18-month playful battle with the council.
  • Sit down, shut up and pass it on. If you do just one thing for equality in tech...
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June 22, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: June 22nd 2015

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June 15, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: June 15th 2015

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June 01, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: June 1st 2015

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May 25, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 25th 2015

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May 18, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 18th 2015

  • The only way is down: 18 notes on the UK election. I'm glad I got to spend last weekend holed up in Hebden Bridge busy with load of interesting people at a fun-yet-full-on hack weekend. With a few days perspective, this is the best of the analysis I've read on the election result.
  • New Clues, from Doc Searls and David Weinberger. Commandments, rules... a manifesto for the Internet. And if you haven't read their original Cluetrain Manifesto, go read that too.
  • ‘Community Led’ – Moving beyond victims and heroes. A good reminder - borne of the lovely news about Granby being nominated for the Turner Prize - that the truth is more complicated than the narratives we hear from the media (and each other).
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May 11, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 11th 2015

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May 04, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 4th 2015

  • The Internet Mapmakers Helping Nepal. Good write-up of the great work the HOTOSM team are doing.
  • Why are you still here?. As in Grimsby, so the rest of the country. Tales of decline, regeneration, politics and globalisation.
  • Jamie Oliver: how to chop an onion. Fantastic re-working of Jamie Oliver footage.
  • Our better selves are bold and inclusive. It feels to me like this is the crux of choice for our politics. I definitely feel myself get protective, cautious and zero-sum game in my outlook when I'm stressed and fearful for how things might map out, and as a result miss out on opportunities and the possibilities of an optimistic outlook. It's something that I've lost in the past decade, and sorely hope I can get back - that something-will-come-up unassailability that was a core of my character when I was younger (and I don't think it's an age thing, it's something I caught from an ex-girlfriend). An optimistic UK is far better than a fearful, pessimistic one. It's such a shame that our politicians think the latter makes us easier to manipulate for their gain.
  • The Limits of Utopia. A simultaneously depressing and galvanising read. "The Earth is not being blistered because the despoilers are stupid or irrational or making a mistake or have insufficient data."
  • #lowerthanvermin. An interesting look through the career of Nye Bevan. I particularly liked that "he was apparently disappointed by the fact that the miners’ leader Will Lawther considered the NUM’s role to be the defence of workers against management, not pursuit of the possibility of its being the management." That feels like the problem the unions have always suffered from in my lifetime.
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April 27, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: April 27th 2015

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April 20, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: April 20th 2015

  • Internet.org is a failed exercise in misdirection. Just because you call something "Internet.org" doesn't mean that it's access to the Internet. Doc Searls provides a perfect critique of Facebook's free-mobile-data-for-Facebook-access programme.
  • Don't know who to vote for? Then learn who to vote against. "The suffragettes understood that. They understood that democracy does not end at the ballot box. If we are lucky, it starts there. It starts with choosing your enemy. [...] Vote today and change the world tomorrow. We are not as powerless as they would have us believe. Choose your enemy and choose wisely. Good luck."
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April 13, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: April 13th 2015

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April 06, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: April 6th 2015

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March 30, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: March 30th 2015

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March 23, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: March 23rd 2015

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March 16, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: March 16th 2015

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March 09, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: March 9th 2015

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March 02, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: March 2nd 2015

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February 23, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: February 23rd 2015

  • The Sharing Economy-Poverty of Ambition. The problem with the "sharing economy" is that it's all about adding the economy to sharing, rather than adding sharing to the economy.
  • Startup advice, briefly. Good, honest advice about how and why to start a startup.
  • Product Land (Part 2). Interesting post about how to explore "a hypervolume of potential products". Much more actionable than that phrase makes it sound.
  • Becoming Homebaked. A suitably human write-up of the history of Homebaked Anfield, a lovely success story of people, art and placemaking.
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February 16, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: February 16th 2015

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February 09, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: February 9th 2015

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February 02, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: February 2nd 2015

  • Computer, remember this… An anecdote for whoever is claiming we're all going to start talking to our computers/phones/IoT devices to *hand wave* solve all our user interaction problems.
  • Maybe wallets can’t be apps. Doc Searls points out an important feature of physical wallets that doesn't seem to be replicated by supposed digital replacements.
  • Whitewood under Siege. Interesting look behind the scenes of some of the global supply chain.
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January 26, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: January 26th 2015

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January 19, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: January 19th 2015

  • The Toxoplasma Of Rage. Divisiveness and trolling on the Internet is nobody's fault, it's just an emergent effect of the systems we've built. An illuminating angle on why social (and traditional) media can become so polarized. I wonder how we break the cycle?
  • Towards the sociocratic museum. What should our modern museums and cultural institutions look like? How should they work? What should we be preserving? Some interesting food for thought.
  • The Cathedral of Computation. Here’s an exercise: The next time you see someone talking about algorithms, replace the term with “God” and ask yourself if the sense changes any.
  • The Data Sublime. Maybe the risk of our increasingly computer-directed future isn't that some big corporation will be in control, but rather that they will just look like they are.
  • Among the Disrupted "Here is a humanist proposition for the age of Google: The processing of information is not the highest aim to which the human spirit can aspire, and neither is competitiveness in a global economy."
  • A Basic Income Guarantee. I think this is a good idea. It would definitely let lots more people pursue their business ideas.
  • To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This "It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time."
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January 12, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: January 12th 2015

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January 05, 2015

Interesting Things on the Internet: January 5th 2015

  • Governing through unhappiness. Audit, targets and managerialism as tools to control and emasculate. We need to start setting different parameters for success, ones that can't easily be quantified.
  • On Nerd Entitlement. Such a shame that the alternate response to the geeks inheriting the earth hasn't won out, that we remember what it's like and help those less powerful.
  • Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty and then Eric's follow-up post Well, That Escalated Quickly. A sobering warning that algorithms can easily go wrong. More diversity in our teams will help mitigate, although not eliminate, this sort of thing. "Move fast and break things" is just a fun quote until you realise the things being broken are people. (Like Eric, I don't think this is just a problem with Facebook, it's just unfortunate for them that their famous quote explains the problem so aptly).
  • City link, co-determination, and destiny. Interesting thoughts from Matt Webb about the new forms of firm that it turns out aren't quite so new (I don't know how long City Link have been going, but they pre-date Uber by quite some time...). It often feels like unions and the traditional left/right politics are fighting an old, long-gone battle, and this sort of thing shows that to be true. It's not about workers vs. bosses any more, but still about asymmetry of power, and finding ways to challenge that.
  • In 2015, we’ll need different words to talk about the future. Words are important.
  • How To Pay Attention: 20 Ways To Win The War Against Seeing. Some good exercises to do in that. It reminds me a bit of Noticings.
  • Really Bad Powerpoint. Good presentation tips from Seth Godin.
  • How My Mom Got Hacked. Welcome to the new normal. We need more geeks working out how to combat this.

And this week, an excellent video of Eric Rodenbeck talking about running his data-viz agency Stamen:

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December 29, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: December 29th 2014

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December 22, 2014

December 15, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: December 15th 2014

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December 01, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: December 1st 2014

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November 24, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: November 24th 2014

  • 44 engineering management lessons. Lot of good advice, some of which I manage to follow...
  • It’s hard to build a good web. It's good to see some of the people building decent web "properties" exploring ways to thrive. Go support them.
  • Metafoundry 15: Scribbled Leatherjackets. A good critique of Making. I'm not sure I agree with all of it, although I agree with some of it. It is always about the people, not the things. Maybe if more people answered "a difference", or "a community", or "I make do (and mend)" to the question "What do you make?" then we'd be moving in the right direction. But she's right, the celebration of Making is really just railing against the busywork and churn of making things of no (real) value in order to further line the pockets of the rich. Making isn't really the right term to latch onto, as many people make the world a worse place. It's tricky to find a better alternative though.
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November 17, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: November 17th 2014

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November 10, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: November 10th 2014

  • Getting the digital autonomy we pay for. "I just want people to understand what’s possible in a world of connected, standards-based software components, to recognize when those possibilities aren’t being realized, to expect and demand that they will be, and to pay something for that outcome."
  • Are cities ready for open and creative citizenship? A call for more interesting community centres, with more diverse and active facilities - not just meeting rooms and event space.
  • Peak Google. An interesting take on succession in the position of King/Queen of Tech
  • Paul Downey is in the middle of an excellent series of blog posts exploring (and showing his workings, so you can play along) an open dataset on house prices and sales in the UK. This one looking at postcode data produces a lovely, detailed map of England and Wales from just properties which have been sold over the years.
  • Against Productivity. Meaty thinking from Quinn Norton. And alongside "productivity" I'd add "efficiency" in the grab-bag of sounds-worthy-and-innocuous-but-isn't memes of the modern age. Of course, the irony of the fact that I'm reading that and writing this while sat on a train that a few years ago would have given me just time to think and idly stare out of the window isn't lost on me.
  • Intellectual Property, Jewish Ethics, and Aaron Swartz. "Intellectual Property" is in dire need of reform.
  • Identity as a weapon. And not the aggressors identity.
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November 03, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: November 3rd 2014

  • Ten hours of walking in NYC as a woman. The Internet, real life, both just the same. Linking to this doesn't feel like helping much, but I guess pointing out that it's wrong to more people is a start.
  • Security Problems. Similarly highlighting the problem more than a solution, but we [geeks] need to get better at fixing security and privacy on the Internet for everyone, rather than just knowing the little back roads and tricks that we only use ourselves.
  • Shut Up and Eat. If these tiny acts of consumer choice are the most meaningful actions in our lives, perhaps we aren’t thinking and acting on a sufficiently big scale. Imagine that you die and go to Heaven and stand in front of a jury made up of Thomas Jefferson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Your task would be to compose yourself, look them in the eye, and say, “I was all about fresh, local, and seasonal."
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October 27, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: October 27th 2014

  • The quarryman's symphony. It doesn't sound like much, but this video of a quarryman orchestrating the moving of hugs blocks of marble like a conductor does an orchestra is captivating.
  • Yes We Can. But Should We? We need more critical thinking around the maker movement, IoT, and probably life in general :-)
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October 20, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: October 20th 2014

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October 13, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: October 13th 2014

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September 29, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: September 29th 2014

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September 22, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: September 22nd 2014

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September 15, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: September 15th 2014

  • Labour Pains, Labour of Love. For selfish reasons, mostly because the North (of England) can't easily join Scotland, I'd rather the Scots vote no to Independence. However, this article shows how, were I living in the home of my surname (I think it's great- or great-great-grandfather you need to return to for this branch of McEwen to be in Scotland) I'd be seriously considering voting yes. Whichever way, let's hope it shakes some of the torpor from the political debate here in England.
  • The Death of Adulthood in American Culture. Maybe we all need to grow up a bit.
  • With genetic testing, I gave my parents the gift of divorce. Humans are messy, lives are complicated, people keep secrets. While there's quite possibly a similar story with a marvellously happy ending, we should design our systems to acknowledge the possible downsides.
  • Here today, gone tomorrow. Being productive is difficult. If there was one insight I gleaned from spending a year or two failing to build a successful to-do list startup, it's that it isn't about making lists, it's about crossing things off.
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September 08, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: September 8th 2014

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September 01, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: September 1st 2014

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August 25, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: August 25th 2014

  • The broken Promise of the Mobile Web. It is depressing at times how long some of this stuff takes to make it into the mainstream. We were working on tight integration between the phone and the browser for Microsoft Mobile Explorer back in 2000, but the handset manufacturers were (understandably but disappointingly) afraid of ceding their UI to the browser. The WAP specs made a nod towards it in the WTAI stuff, but it was pretty clear when we tried to implement the spec that no-one else would succeed with it in its WAP1.0 form. Then in 2007 I co-founded a startup that was going to provide an alternative to iPhone UI, all browser-based, but rumours of Android nixed us finding any funding. Hopefully the FireFox phone or Indie Phone will finally realise the promise...
  • What does “Agile” mean? Nick Pelling gives a good buzzword-free explanation of Agile - "Really, to make a good practical contribution to the majority of the projects I see happening these days, you need to have the skills both of traditional software engineering and of contemporary Agile practices. (It’s not an either-or choice, you almost always need the two simultaneously.)"
  • What’s Neutral about the Net. The sage Doc Searl's takes a good stab at explaining why "net neutrality" is an important concept, and one we should fight for.
  • Social media is humanising – it’s how we use it that can dehumanise and this excerpt (pdf) about trolls from Jamie Bartlett's new book (also via Alison) work well as a pair of articles on the dark side of ourselves, and how we need strive to contain it.
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August 18, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: August 18th 2014

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August 11, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: August 11th 2014

  • The Public Service Internet. This predates Adrian Hon's TEDxLiverpool talk, but it's not far off a write-up of what he was advocating.
  • PSI Force. And once you've read that first link, then read this and think about how you can help. I know it's hard if you've only ever known the commercial Internet, but those of us who experienced it before commerce came to dominate know that it could be all the wonderful things it is now and so much more!
  • Snow on the Water. Hmm, seems to be a web-we-lost theme emerging to this week's links, although maybe a better term is the web-we-haven't-built-yet...
  • Seeing Like a Network. Turns out you already learned how to safely use the Internet, by passing notes in high school.
  • A good state would give each of us the chance to thrive. "the state should engage independent civil society not for profit but in the experimental and competitive provision of public serves without ever endangering the universal minimum."
  • What It's Like Raising Money As A Woman In Silicon Valley. We've a long way to go, but I guess at least we're starting to acknowledge the problem.
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August 04, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: August 4th 2014

And a video, Numbers, by Robert Hloz imagining a world where some people see numbers above everyone else's heads:

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July 28, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 28th 2014 Edition

  • What is public? Anil Dash doing a great job of setting out how public/private isn't a black and white issue. "Ultimately, we rely on a set of unspoken social agreements to make it possible to live in public and semi-public spaces."
  • ‘Hello there’: eight lessons from Microsoft’s awful job loss memo "An experience is something that leaves an impression on you; everyday activities ought to do no such thing, or we would all be exhausted within minutes of waking up. Using your phone, except perhaps when it’s brand new, should not be an experience."

And a video of Bruce Sterling's talk at FAB10:

"I'm a smart city but my brain is run in California"

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July 21, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 21st 2014 Edition

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July 13, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 13th 2014 Edition

This week's "Interesting Things" brought to you a day earlier than normal, as there's still a small window of opportunity for UK citizens to contact their MP about tomorrow's vote on the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill. It's easy to send them an email, just head to www.writetothem.com. My letter looked like this.

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July 07, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 7th 2014 Edition

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June 30, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: June 30th Edition

And a video to watch this week. Vinay Gupta setting out some plausible utopias:

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June 23, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: June 23rd Edition

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June 16, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: June 16th Edition

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June 09, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: June 9th Edition

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June 02, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: June 2nd Edition

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May 26, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 26th Edition

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May 19, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 19th Edition

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May 12, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 12th Edition

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May 05, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 5th 2014 Edition

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April 28, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: Apr 28th 2014 Edition

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April 22, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: Apr 22nd 2014 Edition

  • Years of Living Dangerously. I must admit, I'd watched the Years of Living Dangerously documentary the other day, but was rather underwhelmed by it. Maybe that's because I've joined Francis and gone all Dark Mountain on it. I'm not sure. However, Robert Llewellyn does a good job of reminding me that there's another option.
  • Shell Shorts. A lovely look at the manufacturing process behind the Eames Shell chair
  • Michael Bloomberg: You can’t teach a coal miner to code. This is a point that's often lost in the arguments about progress. The important thing isn't to prop up old, failing industries, but we do need to acknowledge that the transition has a human impact. We should look for ways to alleviate any downsides to that.
  • Reflections on Glass An excellent piece about Google Glass from Jan Chipchase. "The challenge for Glass is that the costs of ownership falls on people in proximity of the wearer, and that its benefits have yet to be proven out."
  • Why we need first person technologies on the Net. A nice idea, not sure if it's quite the right term for it, but good to see people trying to name it.
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April 14, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: Apr 14th 2014 Edition

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April 10, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: Apr 10th 2014 Edition

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March 24, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: Mar 24th 2014 Edition

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March 16, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: Mar 16th 2014 Edition

  • A great, if depressing, look at how Silicon Roundabout is slowly being killed by the council and property developers. I should get this printed and circulated to the Liverpool council as a warning, although we've already got the student housing bubble...
  • More good startup-activity blogging - Rowan Simpson explains how government funding, accelerators, incubators, etc. are all startup derivatives
  • What Your Activity Tracker Sees and Doesn't See - a wonderfully illuminating way to look at how accelerometers, the actual sensor in things like Fitbit or Nike Fuelband, interpret the world.
  • The Future of Jobs: The onrushing wave. Long, interesting article from the Economist, looking at whether computers/robots/etc. will replace all our jobs, and whether or not we'll find different jobs to do instead.
  • How to Think - grit, curiosity, self-control, optimism and being challenged to step up to the plate; sounds like a good recipe to me.
  • Stupid Smart Stuff "Whenever you see something labeled "smart" or "intelligent," be assured that it is actually rather stupid."
  • The Good Master. Interesting thoughts on a new old model for apprentices and careers from John Willshire
  • I learn from this Tim O'Reilly post that we've been inadvertently practising "Lean Urbanism" for the past couple of years at DoES Liverpool. It just seemed common sense and part of an age-old tradition of reusing old, interesting, perfectly serviceable buildings for new uses that focused on people and activity over polish and superficial appearance. Still, given the continually repeated attempts at regeneration-through-glossy, maybe it does need a new term. If you look beyond the neologism, there are some good points and links in the article. I just need to find the landlords in Liverpool with imagination and willingness to try something different.
  • HS2: more people back northern rail improvements than north-south project. Nice to have some (slightly more scientific) research to back up what I was chatting about with a furniture designer in Sheffield the other night - shaving more time off our trips to London will reduce how much work I can get done on the train, better transport links across the UK Maker Belt would be more useful than HS2.
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March 10, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: Mar 10th 2014 Edition

Another dose of interesting things I've encountered of late...

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March 02, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: Mar 2nd 2014 Edition

Some really good things in this edition (not that they aren't all good, but, you know...):

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February 24, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: Feb 24th 2014 Edition

  • Can we avoid a surveillance state dystopia? A good counterpoint to the gloom about Snowden, etc. Not that things don't need to change - it outlines plenty of reasons that they should, and also suggests ways that they could - but outlines plenty of reasons for optimism.
  • Open data, a vision from Leeds. Nice to see Leeds looking to experiment with how open data might improve their city. More importantly, there's an open data community, which is what led to this initiative. Will be watching it with interest.
  • The Government has just postponed the care.data scheme, which was looking to make all our medical records available to buy for medical research. Ben Goldacre has written a measured look at the issue, laying out the many problems and concerns, along with how it could benefit humanity (although Ross Anderson's comment is also worth reading). It's a good example of how the default motive of profit, and the Government's lack of credibility ruin something that could be of great benefit. There's an opportunity, if the NHS could manage to approach the issue from the perspective of its patients, to define new and better ways for us to share data about ourselves without sharing what we don't want. To build something that would act as a best practice for corporations to adopt to protect more of our privacy rather than erode it. It would be harder to achieve (although probably at a similar cost), but would properly move the UK up a notch in open data rankings.
  • This blog is 12 years old. The reason it's still here will surprise you. A good summary of many of the reasons I still write things here. My blog isn't quite as old, but will turn eleven in April, which means it's been around for longer than both Twitter and Facebook.
  • care.data and the community. Before I've even hit publish on this set of links, there's been further developments in the Government's care.data scheme. Outside of that scheme, strictly speaking, but they've sold all our hospital records to insurance companies. And they wonder why people are worried. Paul Bernal does a good job of laying out the concerns. I am heartened though by the effect he outlines in the section "Underestimating the community" - he's right that the response is a great example of the now-networked citizenship being able to out-perform those in charge in assessing the risks and amassing a collection of experts in the many different disciplines that it cuts across. And also in how it shows that people aren't just motivated by the market and profit. I'm looking forward to more of this as (the members of) society works out how to organise things in this way.
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February 17, 2014

Links: A Little Bit of Politics

The recent interesting links have a bit of a politics theme to them it seems...

  • An excellent piece from Matter about Occupy, surveillance, politics and mass movements - Is the Internet good or bad? Yes.
  • A good, if a little gloomy in outlook, interview with Adam Curtis. Hopefully his perceived lack of anything new to challenge the status quo is because he's looking for the wrong signals. Fighting the last war, as it were. I hope so, if only because the alternative is a bit depressing.
  • A piece from the Guardian yesterday about David Cameron's response to the floods. Living in the NW, where we've luckily avoided the worst of the terrible weather battering the rest of the country, and not tracking the mainstream media much, I only have a peripheral awareness of how bad things are. My knowledge is coming from tweets about rail cancellations, pictures shared on Twitter of the mainline railway hanging in mid-air, and mostly from Lucy Bricheno's talk about flooding at Ignite Liverpool on Thursday. It's rather nice to have that route of information, where an event I help run has speakers who monitor sea levels, flood risk, etc. for a living. Anyway, this link included more to capture this quote from David Cameron - "Money is no object in this relief effort. Whatever money is needed for it will be spent.". I don't disagree with us spending money on the relief effort, but it's interesting to see that while the Government has spent its entire term claiming that there is no money, they've now discovered a bottomless supply of it...
  • Work Makes Works, an interesting collection of artists mapping things they've done (sometimes for free) and how that's led to other opportunities or artworks.
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February 15, 2014

The Secret Life of Infrastructure

I came across this lovely short film when one of its creators started following DoES Liverpool on Twitter.

push button and wait from Alastair Cassell on Vimeo.

I like how it makes the everyday urban infrastructure that most people don't notice the subject of the film. It reminds me of somewhat of the Walkshops that Adam Greenfield runs.

One of my projects-I'd-like-to-organise-this-year is some sort of Walkshop around the centre of Liverpool. Maybe this would help introduce what we'd be seeking out...

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February 12, 2014

Links: Tech and a Talk

Two interesting links that have crossed my path recently...

And while I'm here, I might as well let you know about Internet Icons, an event linking up the British Library with a number of other libraries around the country, including Central Library here in Liverpool. Before the London talks are streamed, there's a local speaker at each location and they've asked me to talk at the Liverpool one.

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January 21, 2014

January Link Roundup

Another round of dumping collected tabs here... random things but all interesting and worth a read...

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December 30, 2013

Interesting Things on the Internet in Q4 of 2013

This year the run up to Christmas seemed especially manic, so I seem to have accumulated an impressive list of open-tabs-to-blog-about-later, even by my standards. As usual, the original this-should-be-a-carefully-thought-out-blog-post moment has gone, but if they made it as far as a left-open tab they're definitely worth sharing...

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September 25, 2013

Links... to Me... to You...

Jon Udell once said that a blog post can just be an email that you share with many people. This wouldn't quite be an email, it would've been a draft email (that's my default way of taking notes, as my email client is usually open, and it's shared to everywhere I might need it) to me so I could copy them from one operating system to another. So, a collection of random things that piqued my interest while I've been editing Designing the Internet of Things (and so hanging out in Windows rather than Ubuntu...)

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July 22, 2013

Recent Reading

An assortment of links that I've read recently, which seemed good enough that there's a lingering tab open containing them, but not good enough that I've gotten round to turning that into a full blog post. So in lieu of that, I thought I'd just share them in a good old linkdump...

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March 24, 2013

An Assortment of (relatively) Old But Interesting Links

These tabs have been cluttering up my browser for months now... nagging reminders that I'm not blogging as much as I'd like (one of many things I'm not finding as much time to do as I like, but what's new...)

Anyway, rather than just close them, I'll share them here. Feel free to read them and then imagine what the blog post they would've inspired would look like, or write one of your own instead :-)

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January 23, 2013

Links: Design, the Internet of Things, legalities and work

Things are rather busy at the minute, and I'd amassed a few open tabs in Firefox of assorted things I thought "ooh, I should share that" when I encountered them in my RSS reading. Normally they'd just go out as a tweet, with a brief bit of background but as (a) I'm not on twitter as much at the minute (see earlier point about being busy...) and (b) when I am, I'm already sharing plenty of links (partly because we're in promo mode for the Good Night Lamp kickstarter campaign and partly because I've been blogging quite a lot - for me of late - recently) I figured I'd continue the blogging-kick and post an old school link post.

  • Hack Design An online course trying to teach developers how to be better designers. I've signed up, and so far it's been quite interesting. We'll see how long I last...
  • A few thoughts on design and the internet of things. A fairly long piece from Tim Burrell-Saward, which suggests some design principles for connected devices. It's nice to see other people starting to talk about these sorts of things. I liked "make it Poppins"
  • Tom Coates - An Animating Spark: Mundane Computing and the Web of Data. More principles for the Internet of Things, this time from Tom Coates. Principle #3 is excellent, although I'm not sure I agree with principle #7, I can see why he's included it but I'm much more a fan of keeping intelligence at the edge of the network where possible.
  • A Moment of Silence for Aaron Swartz. Bunnie Huang sharing his experiences of challenging tech behemoths and how the legal system can be used against someone doing things on the edges of the ordinary. A great post, such a shame it was written in the tragic circumstances of Aaron Schwartz's suicide.
  • Hiut Denim - Do the work. Now you're (hopefully) fired up about doing important work and changing the world, a great reminder from Hiut Denim that all we need to do now is the hard work it takes.

Which is a good note for me to end on - part of the reason I've been blogging (a bit) more of late is that it works as a good way to get my writing muscle-memory going, so I can get on with finishing the next chapter of my book (another thing I'm long overdue explaining here, but that will have to wait for another day...)

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January 05, 2013

Blog All Documentary Quotes: I Love This Dirty Town

"We could actually live in cities, if we still believed in cities".

Another of the BBC Four Collections videos, I Love This Dirty Town is part of the "London" collection. However, it's not really about London specifically, and shows a bit of Cambridge and Coventry among other places as it provides what is effectively a good primer on Jane Jacobs' now classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities. There'll be a "blog all dog-eared pages" post for that here too when I finish reading it - lots of good stuff in it.

"If you don't look closely you think it works"

As ever, nothing is new - along with the mis-guided large-scale regeneration that I've often covered it's nice to see a guy from a design studio back then reusing the slightly-tired-but-full-of-character properties in the same way that we do today...

"They're packed with handy characters that you can find. Somebody to cut things for you, or make jigs or bolts or blow a little bit of plastic. There's always something, some little firm, some little chap around the corner who has exactly the particular craft you happen to want. You can grow almost any kind of photographic, light-engineering, design industry in these old buildings. And I would've thought that's a social gain."

On businesses in the city...

"There's nothing wrong with the big getting bigger, as long as the small get more numerous"

I do wonder if this is the nub of the problem - an eternal struggle between people who want to bring order to our cities, when the inhabitants are busy optimising for many more smaller and conflicting plans of their own...

"Planners are so paternalistic, don't they know that a lot of people have plans of their own? [...] Streets go up and they go down in the world, it has something to do with people who actually live there"

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December 30, 2012

Engines Must Not Enter the Potato Siding

What's the video equivalent of dog-earing? Whilst finding details about the recent Golden Age of Steam documentaries, I stumbled across the BBC Four Collection on Steam.

The BBC Four Collections are a fantastic way to start opening up the archives, and it's lovely to be able to watch old documentaries again. I have a feeling I'll be leafing through some more of them in future, this Panorama documentary from 1966, for instance, looks interesting - predicting what the tech industry in California will look like in the year 2000... There's also The Great Railway Cavalcade: Rocket 150 at Rainhill, looking at the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Rainhill Trials, which I remember attending as a boy.

Anyway. I've just watched the Tuesday Documentary: Engines Must Not Enter the Potato Siding. First broadcast in November 1969, it's a look at the railway network and men who worked on it, particularly the area around Sheffield and Manchester but also touching on London.

It's from a time when steam was on the wane and the electric and diesel engines were taking over. Commenting after a section showing old railwaymen sharing stories and banter in the railwayman's club, the narrator says:

"when they argue the superiority of steam, they don't mean at all that it was more efficient - because they know it wasn't - but steam to them is better because it was a more demanding thing. It was a difficult thing to do well, and they take pleasure in remembering how they did it."

Lovely.

It also shows some of the forward-looking thinking of the day - shots coming up the escalator from the tube into a gleaming new Euston station; mentions of containerisation and how it simplifies the freight interchanges; and shots of a new "electronic marshalling yard", where trackside sensors allow the movement of the wagons to be controlled by "computer tape". Apart from the punched tapes, it doesn't sound all that far from some of the Internet of Things projects being proposed now.

I'll finish with a quote from one of the drivers, who describes a cafe that I'll bet hasn't featured in eggbaconchipsandbeans, probably because it will have died with the passing of the steam engines...

"you can't get a better feed than bacon and eggs fried in a shovel"

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September 17, 2011

links for 2011-09-17

  • "HOW could it possibly cost more for a government agency to hire a private consulting company with its own headquarters, executives, support staff, shareholders and so forth to prepare a bid for a project, compete for the contract, execute the project, compile reams of data proving what a great job it did on the project, and then spend the next six months lobbying the government to do a follow-on project and hire it again, than it would for the government agency to just do the dang job itself?"
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September 13, 2011

links for 2011-09-13

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September 08, 2011

links for 2011-09-08

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August 31, 2011

links for 2011-08-31

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August 27, 2011

links for 2011-08-27

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August 23, 2011

links for 2011-08-23

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August 22, 2011

links for 2011-08-22

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August 07, 2011

July 29, 2011

links for 2011-07-29

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July 28, 2011

links for 2011-07-28

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July 27, 2011

links for 2011-07-27

  • Interesting-looking open-source Pachube competitor, although it seems a little abandoned (and I've not looked into how robust the database, etc. is - which is the big problem when you start throwing lots of data around)
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July 24, 2011

links for 2011-07-24

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June 30, 2011

links for 2011-06-30

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June 22, 2011

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June 16, 2011

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June 14, 2011

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June 05, 2011

links for 2011-06-05

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May 15, 2011

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May 11, 2011

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May 09, 2011

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May 08, 2011

links for 2011-05-08

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April 26, 2011

links for 2011-04-26

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April 20, 2011

links for 2011-04-20

  • Will come in handy if/when I get round to expanding on the AudienceBot to allow it to better gauge what people thought of a particular song/performance
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April 14, 2011

links for 2011-04-14

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April 05, 2011

links for 2011-04-05

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March 24, 2011

links for 2011-03-24

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March 22, 2011

links for 2011-03-22

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March 19, 2011

links for 2011-03-19

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March 11, 2011

links for 2011-03-11

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February 24, 2011

links for 2011-02-24

  • Good to read an explanation of how someone uses git and branches to manage releases. This is the sort of workflow I'd run with, particularly if I was working in a bigger team. It's basically what we ran at STNC/Microsoft, but it's good to see how it relates to git (I'm still getting my head around the distributed version control thing)
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February 18, 2011

links for 2011-02-18

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December 27, 2010

links for 2010-12-27

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December 24, 2010

links for 2010-12-24

  • A lovely idea - an informal liability waiver form for people to use if they're doing something (e.g. clearing snow/ice, clearing waste ground) where the person who owns the ground is concerned that the volunteer might sue them if things go wrong. Basically saying that the volunteer is happy to engage in the work, and takes responsibility for their own actions.
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December 19, 2010

links for 2010-12-19

  • Excellent project to boost engagement in local issues. Wonder if we could run something like this in Liverpool and even provide some low-tech feedback (in addition to the high-tech website side of things) with regularly printed and updated posters - pick places to advertise the questions, but then have a network of volunteers to print out updates and paste them over the adverts on a daily or every-few-days basis
  • A good overview of the Open Space method of conference/meeting organisation. I like the "chairs are all set out in a circle" format - dressing the venue will be an important part of working out how the long-conference proceeds.
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December 17, 2010

links for 2010-12-17

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December 11, 2010

links for 2010-12-11

  • Circuit showing how to use a capacitor to store energy from a solar panel until there's enough to power something.
  • Boulderdash, built with just an AVR microcontroller chip, crystal and a few capacitors and resistors. It's not one of the AVRs that the Arduino uses, but that might make it a good "playing with other AVRs" project for a hackspace evening...
    (tags: avr game)
  • "We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place. What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of exper­tise. What we don’t have are leaders."
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December 07, 2010

links for 2010-12-07

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November 10, 2010

links for 2010-11-10

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November 09, 2010

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November 06, 2010

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November 04, 2010

links for 2010-11-04

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October 20, 2010

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October 19, 2010

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October 03, 2010

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September 24, 2010

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September 02, 2010

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August 16, 2010

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August 09, 2010

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August 04, 2010

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August 03, 2010

links for 2010-08-03

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July 31, 2010

links for 2010-07-31

  • I think this article makes a good case that Detroit should be the city that Liverpool is looking to as a kindred spirit, rather than chasing Shanghai tower blocks.

    "Detroit will re-invent itself and prosper through the help of makers, thinkers, and entrepreneurs who thrive while operating on a lean budget, without the bloat that has caused the demise of many of our once-venerated large corporations. True, lasting change cannot happen overnight, but with a little patience, room to operate, and a lot of sweat, we can entice both our young people to stay in the area and help in this reinvention while enticing other artists and makers — who may be claustrophobic operating in other cities — to stretch out and make Detroit their home."



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July 29, 2010

links for 2010-07-29

  • "The first step in those efforts is to stop seeing the systems we depend on as out of our control. They aren't, and that we're so convinced they are is a testament to the dedication of the powers that be to shoo us away from interfering in their profits.

    Cynicism, boredom and fear are their tools. They reinforce, at every opportunity, the idea that government is broken, that civic engagement is for dupes, that real rebellion involves shutting up, making money and spending it."

    Ostensibly a look at the Transition Town movement and postulating that it's targetting the wrong problems, but in addition to the green agenda this could almost be a manifesto for civic renewal.





  • Another cheatsheet for git. One of these days I'll use it enough to get my head round it and not need to look through these things whenever I'm doing anything with it.




  • Handy wiki to track what sort of SIM to get when you're visiting a different country


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July 10, 2010

links for 2010-07-10

  • Interesting software to provide a mobile-phone cell hooked up to broadband. Not clear what hardware you'd need to pair it with to get it working.
  • An interesting (as they so often are) essay from Adam Greenfield wondering what the future of the city might look from a technological and ubicomp perspective. I wonder what Liverpool would be like if there was such a bug-tracking-system for the city... Some good comments too, which pull at the fact not visible in the main text - that Adam is thinking about this not just from a techno-utopian viewpoint, but from a realist someone-will-build-this-sooner-or-later perspective where it's better to be engaged and involved in it and helping shape it in better (egalitarian, secure, civic-rather-than-purely-commercial) ways.
  • "A paving slab that says “20 Tonne Crane” is not the same as a 20 tonne crane."

    A lovely piece looking at the difference in approach to regeneration of two dock areas of Leeds.

    "When a building is first made it belongs to the builder, the architect and their paymasters. They alone can tell stories about why and how it came into being in its pristine form. But over time, the balance tips in favour of the place’s users, its neighbours and even to passers-by. Their stories become the building’s stories and the building’s stories become inspirations, symbolic of the city’s authentic character."



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July 07, 2010

links for 2010-07-07

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July 05, 2010

links for 2010-07-05

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July 04, 2010

links for 2010-07-04

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June 25, 2010

links for 2010-06-25

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June 19, 2010

links for 2010-06-19

  • American presidents have been promising to wean America off oil for thirty-six years. Jon Stewart's explanation is hilarious and sobering in equal measure.
  • "Right, the creative class. Maybe Richard Florida has promoted the wrong creative class. In his model, artists beget coffee bars that make formerly dreary neighborhoods attractive to real estate developers, who lure lawyers and accountants into luxury loft buildings with names like “the Shoe Factory.” Maybe there’s another model, one that sucks a little of the class bias out of the formula and privileges artisans over artists, blue-collar jobs over white-collar ones. Give enough people who are passionate about making things the stability to invest in equipment and hire workers, and you might slow, or even reverse, the death spiral."
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May 16, 2010

links for 2010-05-16

  • A really interesting interview with Adam Greenfield. I particularly like his take on the sorts of offices we should be working in, and how the Google-style "free food, sports facilities, etc. all on campus" offices are more of a ploy to keep you at work for as long as possible. I much prefer my current work experience which is nearer to this:

    "My idea of a good workspace is a little different: a small office, with windows that open and lots of natural light, in a dense and well-served neighborhood in the central city."



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April 26, 2010

links for 2010-04-26

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April 17, 2010

links for 2010-04-17

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April 09, 2010

links for 2010-04-09

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March 20, 2010

links for 2010-03-20

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March 13, 2010

links for 2010-03-13

  • Found via Mel Starrs' delicious links, this isn't really a "mistakes I've made and how to avoid them" but more of a confession of continued failings. I'm bookmarking it not because I've learnt any new tips to help my work, but because I share a lot of these problems and it's good to know that others suffer from the same problems.
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March 01, 2010

links for 2010-03-01

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February 26, 2010

links for 2010-02-26

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February 24, 2010

links for 2010-02-24

  • A lovely approach to life.
  • A good way of thinking about the increasing enroachment onto our privacy of firms like Facebook and Google... "What's happening is that our privacy has become a kind of currency. It's what we use to pay for online services. Google charges nothing for Gmail; instead, it reads your e-mail and sends you advertisements based on keywords in your private messages. [...] The genius of Google, Facebook, and others is that they've created services that are so useful or entertaining that people will give up some privacy in order to use them. Now the trick is to get people to give up more—in effect, to keep raising the price of the service."
    (tags: privacy ethics)
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February 15, 2010

links for 2010-02-15

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February 10, 2010

links for 2010-02-10

  • Lots of interesting little projects a guy is making for his and his kids' enjoyment.
  • "Britain has plenty of things to worry about; it would be absurd to suggest the contrary. But the big ones are not sex, drugs and rock ’n roll. There is a statistically small class of people, including a number of underskilled young whites and Caribbeans, who are being left behind in a general march toward the light. Many of those who were already at the bottom of the pile are finding it impossible to get out from under and join in. And this is serious." The Economist takes a detailed and thorough look at whether we do live in a "broken society" and finds that on the whole, we don't.
    (tags: crime society uk)
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February 06, 2010

"New Southampton looks much the same as New Everywhere Else"

I was just going to add this link to my delicious stream, but I wanted to pull just that bit too much in the way of quotes out of it, and so figured a blog post was more suitable.

In From the Mill to the Mall, Owen Hatherley provides a lovely essay on lots of the problems with the retail park and shopping mall architecture and planning of the modern city. It's nominally about Southampton, but I was pointed to it by someone spotting the similarities with Birmingham, and obviously I can draw the comparisons with Liverpool (even down to the hugely busy but invisible container port and the civic architectural legacy from the White Star and Cunard lines)

"Jobs For Local People are no doubt the eventual result, and the alibi for the extremely profitable land deals. The result is a city devoid of any real civic pride, with a series of chain pubs where shops used to be, competing for cheap pints."

"(Southampton is lucky enough to have only one 'Quarter', though a Cultural Quarter has been promised for some time)" Indeed. Liverpool isn't so lucky, we have the Knowledge Quarter, which seems to overlap quite a lot with the Georgian Quarter, and in the centre of town is the Met Quarter (although maybe the council isn't responsible for that, as it's basically a shopping mall... At least the redevelopment around the Baltic Fleet pub is the Baltic Triangle.

At least our big city-centre shopping temple, Liverpool One, does a reasonable job of interfacing to the surrounding city - its walkways are covered rather than enclosed, so there's plenty of natural light and some exposure to the elements; there's some variety in the architectural styles; and the preservation (or recreation) of the original street pattern gives it some ebb and flow with the existing city. It's still a big shopping mall, full of chains that could be anywhere else and has privatised a huge chunk of the city centre, but it's in the centre and about as well done as you could hope for.

Anyway, my ranting aside, it's a good read.

Tags:

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January 25, 2010

links for 2010-01-25

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January 20, 2010

Gordon is Right

Gordon McLean has written an excellent post on his blog, entitled Why blogging is good, pointing to some of the conversation around the recent blog post from Clay Shirky claiming arrogance and lying can be useful traits. There are links to the discussion over on Gordon's post, so you should go and read them first because (1) they're good, and (2) I'm going to assume that you have for the rest of this post :-)

I was just going to comment on Gordon's post, but decided I should celebrate the fact that I've got a blog (even if I don't post to it as often as I'd like) and write my comment here.

Gordon says: "As for the issue being discussed in these posts I have to agree with Tom, particularly when he talks about how arrogance and confidence have a place in your “personality toolbox?, but the person who only has those tools is all the poorer for it. Unfortunately society, and certainly the workplace, still seem to favour people with confidence when what we should be doing is cutting through the noise to see what substance lies underneath."

I agree, but I also think that we should all strive to reach into our "personality toolboxes" for our arrogance and confidence in order to call "Bullshit" to dampen the "noise" when we can.

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January 14, 2010

links for 2010-01-14

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January 06, 2010

links for 2010-01-06

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December 25, 2009

links for 2009-12-25

  • Really interesting and thought-provoking discussion about the possible ethical and moral problems that services like Mechanical Turk might create. Not all doom-and-gloom, and with good examples of problems beyond the obvious "it's really poorly paid, so is like a sweatshop" concern.

    We (the tech community in particular, along with wider society) need to have more of these sorts of discussions, and at least with this it's happening fairly early on in the adoption of the new technologies.



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December 16, 2009

links for 2009-12-16

  • As well as being a detailed look at how a Porsche car was built back in the 60s, I love the insight you get into the production techniques - the specialised tools and jigs produced to make things easier (I have some similar but lower-tech versions for Bubblini) and the attention to measuring and documenting the car as it's built - the exact CC of each cylinder being marked on it for example.
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November 26, 2009

links for 2009-11-26

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November 20, 2009

links for 2009-11-20

  • A good summary of the different types of RFID technology about and what they can and can't do. Very good at helping you to understand the difference between the vague ideas about what could be possible, and what the limitations of the different solutions are.
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November 13, 2009

links for 2009-11-13

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October 15, 2009

links for 2009-10-15

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October 09, 2009

links for 2009-10-09

  • I didn't make it over for TEDx Leeds as sadly it was on the same day as the Art of Digital Learning Lab in Ulverston. This is a good write-up of the event, complete with links to each of the talks on YouTube. Think I'll be watching them when I get a spare twenty minutes.
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October 08, 2009

links for 2009-10-08

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October 05, 2009

links for 2009-10-05

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September 29, 2009

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September 20, 2009

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September 18, 2009

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August 13, 2009

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August 08, 2009

links for 2009-08-08

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July 25, 2009

links for 2009-07-25

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July 14, 2009

links for 2009-07-14

  • A bit late, but always good to brush up on il mio Italiano.
  • Cross-platform software to rip DVDs to AVI (or similar). Recommended on GeekUp, so keeping a note of it in case I want to use something like this in future (maybe if I get round to moving all my DVDs onto the media server)
    (tags: dvd avi software)
  • Interesting-looking website gathering information about local councils (in this case Liverpool). The committee meetings calendar seems particularly useful stuff to surface. Of course, it could be that all this is already on the Liverpool City Council's own website somewhere...
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July 13, 2009

links for 2009-07-13

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July 07, 2009

links for 2009-07-07

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June 30, 2009

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June 23, 2009

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June 20, 2009

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June 17, 2009

links for 2009-06-17

  • Nice project by Landon Rohatensky, who's modified my Alertuino perl script to trigger his Arduino controlled teasmaid. It picks up the type of tea from a tweet, and that sets the time that the tea steeps before it is dispensed into the cup, ready to drink.
    (tags: arduino tea robot)
  • It turns out that a bike left unlocked in the centre of Liverpool lasted longer (nearly four hours) before being stolen than any of the other locations they tried, including London and Norwich
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May 11, 2009

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  • A brief explanation of how Scott Bader Co Ltd became the Scott Bader Commonwealth.

    "What that did was change a traditional firm, accountable to its shareholders, into one that could balance doing well with doing good."

    Interesting approach with a laudable set of rules to govern how the business is run.



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May 09, 2009

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April 20, 2009

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  • Interesting firmware for the popular Linksys WRT54G WiFi router. Would be useful if I get round to getting one to use to make Bubblino easier to hook up to a WiFi network (i.e. I could use this rather than a laptop as the Ethernet <-> WiFi bridge)
    (tags: wifi firmware)
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April 18, 2009

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April 04, 2009

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  • Great use of the Open Street Map data to overlay all sorts of useful info about Sutton (part of London). Click on the "+" on the right and you can bring up things like recent planning applications, "fix my street" issues, local gyms...
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March 20, 2009

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January 24, 2009

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  • A bit of a rant, but a great summary of the potential problems of "cloud computing".

    "this idea that ... a vital, distinct part of what you do and what you’re about or what you consider important to you is on other machines that you don’t run, don’t control, don’t buy, don’t administrate, and don’t really understand."



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January 19, 2009

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January 14, 2009

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  • Delightful - an instructable detailing all the steps taken in boxing up an Arduino robot kit, from laser cutting components to weighing the bags of bolts to ensure there are enough in there. It also shows the fun you can have building custom machines with a laser cutter - all those clear plastic constructions remind me of Fraggle Rock!
  • A great collection of photos taken in Liverpool in the 80s. A real trip down memory lane for me - there's even one of the Albert Dock before it was done up, complete with the missing corner from where a bomb hit it in WW2
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January 13, 2009

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January 07, 2009

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  • Suw has just launched "Ada Lovlace Day" - a movement to celebrate and promote women in technology. I've signed up to the pledge, and you should too.
  • One of the dilemmas of modern technology: the cost of storage makes it easier for more and more data to be collected and kept, and remembering things for us is a useful feature of computers - but should they remember everything for ever?

    I think more people should be worrying about the answer to that. This paper proposes a good solution, where all data is given an expiry date and is deleted at that point.

    I think there's scope for a more nuanced solution though, where data gets fuzzier over time. For a while it could be useful to know that I made a phonecall at 10:34am this morning, but in 10 years if I need to know at all then surely something like "early Jan 2009" would be close enough?

    Tricky to implement, because remembering is such a hard task that deliberately forgetting feels very wrong, but I think we should be exploring what we do and don't want to keep for ever.



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January 06, 2009

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December 22, 2008

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  • Useful-looking charting library for web apps. Has a couple of features (like saving charts as images) that my current choice doesn't.
    (tags: charts webdev)
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December 20, 2008

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December 04, 2008

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  • "a subscription to a magazine about taekwondo will only be as useful as your decision to drag your fat ass into a dojo and start actually kicking people. Over and over. Otherwise, you’re just buying shiny paper every month."

    Great to see Merlin back on form. I'm glad I didn't unsubscribe during his dip. Go read it.


    (tags: advice)

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November 22, 2008

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October 19, 2008

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  • "An essay is something you write to try to figure something out.". It often surprises me that I ended up blogging, given that I spent my A-levels and degree trying to get away from writing essays.
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October 18, 2008

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September 22, 2008

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Last month the BBC website had a series of articles about the problems with the sorts of numbers and statistics oft bandied about by people and the media. They're well worth a read, even if it just means you'll never trust a number in a news report again...

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August 08, 2008

The Geldart Public House, Reborn

I last went for a drink in the Geldart when it was a slightly seedy local, good if you wanted a game of pool, or to watch the not-quite-legal-Norweigan-satellite-feed Premiership football, but other than that nothing special. It's main claim to fame in those days was the pretty-much-daily lock-ins which meant it was about the only place to get a drink after hours in pre-liberal-licensing Cambridge.

The lock-ins were clamped down upon and stopped well before the late licences were brought in, and the Geldart went back to oft-overlooked and neglected residential pub.

Tomorrow, however, all that is set to change. My mate Elvis (no, really, that is his name) has left his role as manager of the excellent Kingston Arms in order to branch out on his own and will be relaunching The Geldart under a new guise.

The pub has been completely refitted and refurbished and will be serving good beer and good food in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. There'll be the usual Guiness and a couple of lagers on tap, but the main focus will be a good range of ales.

I had a sneak peek round the place a couple of weeks ago, and it's looking very good. Sadly the beers hadn't arrived (mainly because they'd have gone off otherwise), so I didn't get to sample the drinks. Nor did I get to try the food, which I'm intrigued to try because in addition to the usual pub fare there'll be "hot rocks" where you get to cook the food yourself at the table on, guess what, a heated rock.

The grand opening is tomorrow, Saturday 9th August from 6pm 'til late.

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July 22, 2008

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May 15, 2008

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  • On the strength of watching this I'll be buying "In Defence of Food". To be healthy, shop round the edges of the supermarket (or better still, not in a supermarket at all)
    (tags: food video)
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May 07, 2008

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October 12, 2007

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  • Help! The city is being overrun by plasticene bunnies! The latest Sony Bravia advert is out, and it's even better than the bouncing balls.
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October 10, 2007

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September 20, 2007

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  • I find it rather ironic that social networking sites, of all things, call part of their protocol for interacting (and presumably proliferating) OFF.
  • Learning a foreign language gets the Web2.0 treatment. I've been trying the Italian course, and it seems pretty good so far - you get to hear and see the phrases, with nice touches like being able to repeat part of a phrase by clicking on it. Good for a
  • Stephen Fry has a blog! Who's going to tell him that the entries aren't supposed to be quite so long? If he carries on like that he'll give the rest of us a bad name...
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September 13, 2007

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September 10, 2007

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