London Bloggers Meet-up

I suppose I really have to blog about going along to the London Bloggers Meet-up last night. It would be rude not to.

It was held at the Dogetts Coat & Badge, which is a favourite of mine actually (We’ve taken Francine’s brazillian visitors to this pub for traditional english grub, and views over the Thames) . Last night the beer in the upstairs function room was flowing free (thanks stella) .

I think there’s quite a few competing meet-up events for “bloggers” in London. This is the first time I’ve been to one, partly because I wasn’t sure if I could really call myself a blogger. I’ve been properly blogging on harrywood.co.uk for eight months now though, so yes, I suppose I am now officially a blogger.  ….but still more of a “wikier” perhaps. 

So who are these London bloggers? This is something I had been wondering. Obviously anyone and everyone can be a blogger. It’s easy, and very mainstream these days. People from all walks of life. Female and male. Old and young. There was some evidence of this in the room, but of course there was still a heavy bias towards the usual IT demographic. 25-35 year old males. I’m sure blogging itself still has this bias, despite being increasingly mainstream. But also this was a meet-up of those bloggers who are keen enough about blogging itself (rather than just being keen on non-tech topics they blog about) to come along to a blogging meet-up, which I guess makes it more of a tech meet-up. Even so, it wasn’t a purely geeky gathering, which is good.

At the other extreme perhaps,  are the people who actually do jobs relating to blogging. Social media agencies, Web2.0 consultants, whatever you want to label them. Some people talked about PR type roles. I was surprised by the number of these people there seemed to be. Of course it isn’t surprising that such people would choose to come along to a London bloggers event, but I guess it’s surprising to come face-to-face with a fledgling industry which is emerging out of something as fun and chaotic as blogs

Anyway…. enough of this blogging about blogging

Future of the internet and how to stop it

Future of the Internet book coverI finished reading The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it a couple of days ago, but previously (having read most of it) I went along to the Innovation Reading Circle where seven or eight people sat around discussing the book.

Cyber law expert, Jonathan Zittrain, argues in this book, that that the internet’s future could be bleak, as we see it become more locked-down, less free and open and less inviting of innovation. He uses the term “generativity” to describe technologies which provide open platforms for tinkering and unexpected invention. The internet itself is generative at various layers, and our “end-point” PCs are also built to be generative, but new devices are less so. Tethered to their supplier and restricted in their programmability, these otherwise highly capable web-enabled devices represent a shift towards an undesirable future for the internet. Problems like spam and viruses, the downside of open generativity, may drive change through market forces, or ill-conceived legal interventions which fail to take account of the value of generativity.

The book’s title is obviously deliberately provocative, and in our discussions we were largely trying to decide whether he was overstating the doom and gloom. On the whole I felt that he constructed a detailed end-to-end argument and unlike the title, he didn’t really push an overly alarmist message that disaster is inevitable. Nonetheless I did find myself convinced that there is a problem with the way the internet is going, and whilst we can surely rely on market forces to keep us from some kind of total internet lock-down, the pendulum could still swing quite heavily in that direction if the consuming public and the law-makers do not grasp the issues.

And perhaps the most disturbing thing about the book, was that it did need a whole book (or at least the first two thirds of the book) to explain the issues from top-to-bottom. The merits and abuses of generativity ripple up and down the full technology stack, presenting recurring legal and technical cat and mouse games at every level. Take a narrow viewpoint, and the solutions seem simple.

Stag, Conferences and other chaos

There’s been lots of things keeping me busy these past few weeks.

I just got back from a stag weekend in Edinburgh at which I discovered that I am surprisingly good at clay pigeon shooting, but losing my touch when it comes to taking alcohol ….or leading the way with the excessive stag party boozing, depending on how you look at it. Today was baking hot weather. Yes! in Scotland! I was surprised. I should’ve known that would happen though. I was hungover, and hadn’t packed my sunglasses.

Stag Party Author’s Seat
UPDATE: My photos on Flickr, Fudo’s photos on Flickr
On the train I finished reading The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it. Very interesting book. I’ll have to dedicate a full blog post to it.The openstreetmap conference was great. It was good to talk face-to-face with people behind the some of names I’ve been interacting with online. Lots of presentations and conversations which were thought provoking and educational. I also learned that if you drink too much guiness your poo goes very dark. Since the conference I’ve been meaning to get around to following up on various ideas I’d discussed with people. I don’t seem to be very good at finding the time for sitting down and coding, but I have found the time to be out and about doing more mapping, including bagging the Emirates Stadium. It’s always quite satisfying when you find a pocket of unmapped stuff, and you feel like you’re bringing the area up to a good level completion, but finding a missing sixty-thousand seater stadium was a bit of surprise! It’s because it is quite new, so people hadn’t spotted on Yahoo aerial imagery (because it isn’t on there)

What else? At work I’ve had a couple stressful days. I had to give a demonstration of new portal changes to some council big-wigs, and then at the end of last week I was deploying these changes on the live server. This didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. I had to stay late fixing things.

My little sister’s just been moving her stuff out, and my Belle moved out already. Soon the redecorating chaos will commence.

Going to the OpenStreetMap conference

State Of The Map 2008 PosterToday I’m flying to Ireland to go to The State of the Map, a conference all about OpenStreetMap. I’ll be spending this weekend meeting other OSM people and seeing a whole variety of talks on different aspects/ideas around project. I’m excited. Does this represent a disturbing escalation in my irrational obsession with this thing? …Let me explain.

I find the project compelling in many different ways. Like wikipedia, we’re building something great and free for the benefit of everyone. Unlike wikipedia, it’s only the beginning. The fun stage. We’re still very much building the map to achieve basic coverage. It’s exciting to be involved at this early stage. We are pioneers. It hasn’t (yet) reached that turning point where the whole exercise becomes anal and pedantic (as wikipedia feels sometimes). Even the mapping software is still under development. Maybe it always will be, because there’s limitless potential for new gorgeously visual graphical map editors and renderers.

And what’s so great about maps? Maps are fascinating to look at, but they’re also deeply anchored to the real world. They represent the world I travel to work in, and the world I go on holiday to. But the thing about OpenStreetMap which is simultaneously frustrating, bizarre, and amazingly fun: map copyrights, when you follow through the reasoning, will point to one ridiculous/marvellous conclusion: We have to go out and explore! Now I’m in a world where every street is waiting to become a tagged data element. Every journey is a mapping opportunity.

….Nope. I’m still coming across as disturbingly irrationally obsessed aren’t I?

The bad thing is, I’m taking Francine along with me to the conference. She wanted to come along for a fun weekend of flights and hotels and visiting Ireland. I’m a bit worried she might be bored senseless.

The Lost Shoe Project

We went to see In Search of a Midnight Kiss about a month ago, maybe more. It’s a quirky artistic movie, with a quirky artistic character who at one point mentions that she likes to take photos of shoes, and publishes them on her quirky artistic website called “thelostshoeproject.com”. Seeing this, I was sitting in the cinema burning with curiosity. I had to know if the website really exists, and really does have photos of lost shoes. …but then I forgot all about it ….until now.

thelostshoeproject.com

So looking at it now, I was expecting to either find:

  • A website created by the official makers of the movie (possibly pretending to be someone’s quirky artistic lost shoe project)
  • A fan website dedicated to the movie
  • A holding page grabbed by some domain name parking search engine optimising asswipe.
  • But I’m not sure what to make of this site. It does really exist, and has photos of lost shoes. No mention of the movie, but a very personal little account of what the site is about, complete with a very personal looking email address. “Have you found a lost shoe? Send me a picture and tell me your story…”, and an unpolished “coming soon” section, all of which makes me think it is not an official site by the makers of the movie.

    Maybe this is some clever double-bluffing. It could all be designed to harvest email addresses or generate confused blog posts like this, which help promote the movie.

    Or am I being too cynical. It really is someone’s little quirky artistic pet project, which the script writer randomly came across and decided to write into the movie. 

    ….Nah! Surely not. There’s only one way to find out. Anyone lost a shoe?