Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Bat Phone

Bat Phone, originally uploaded by Phillie Casablanca.

Development of RippleRap continues a-pace; we've decided to drop the blogging and microblogging functionality (probably) in the interests of driving up the quality of the rest of the core product. Meanwhile, our bat-phone has arrived (yay!). This will appear on our stall at Le Web, people will be able to call it using the BT SDK "click to call" functionality embedded in RippleRap.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Is the customer king yet?

I'm currently attending a Customer Advocacy Conference today in London. Those who read my blog regularly know that my own views (and indeed my recent assignments) are heavily influenced by the Cluetrain Manifesto, so I'm always interested to hear different perspectives on this subject, especially where practical application of these ideals are concerned. Today was predominantly a PR affair; most presenters came from companies which have recognised that mass marketing is losing it's effect, and word of mouth is becoming more and more important.

So I was pleased and surprised to hear that Sky gets it. Who knew? They have an 'outreach team' which actively seeks out people talking about their products so they can engage with them on their own terms. They're not pushy about it; they just provide the facts and let people make up their own minds (which they are wont to do in any event). They arrange for top bloggers in their fields to come along to relevant events, where they are given the freedom to say what they like. They talked about "Web 2.0 vs Organisation 0.5"; an admission that large organisations have to make big changes in the face of greater customer power.

Honda also gets it, although being a car company (rather than, say, a media or technology company) means they're behind Sky. But their intentions are good.

One interesting point which was made was that, as a large company, trying to interact with everything that appears on the web isn't scalable. To which I say: encourage people in your company to participate, then! They don't have to be in your marketing or branding team. Just lead by example and make sure your people know that they have permission.

Matthew Bishop of Microsoft let the side down a little, drawing attention to the Blue Monster and claiming that "I could delete this brand if I wanted to". He quickly went on to make the point that this wouldn't be a good idea, but it was still an ill advised comment, to put it mildly.

But the general theme so far is that the best way forward was being open, honest and transparent with your customers. Now isn't that better?

Wednesday, 21 November 2007


Do you want to know what's more surprising than the fact there's a website out there called Conservapedia (lack of hyperlink intentional), which touts itself as "The Trustworthy Encyclopaedia"? This.

Must be the most popular website that I've never heard of. And the most bitter.


2/3rds of Osmosoft
Originally uploaded by Phillie Casablanca.

I recently bought a Polaroid Camera from a car boot sale (£5) and was thrilled to discover it works perfectly! Film costs about £1 a photo, mind.

We'll use this to take photos of esteemed guests at Osmosoft Towers, plus perhaps the odd celeb at Le Web in December.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Using Final Cut Express for Screencasts

If you're not interested in creating screencasts, you should ignore this post. It's only here in case someone searches for a solution to this specific problem.

OK, so I thought I'd cracked the nut of how to use Final Cut Express for creating screencasts. Turns out there was a bit more to it than that if you want good results.

It isn't good enough to simply match codec, frame rate and pixel count all through your project (although that's a good start). The manual says (on Page 203) that "You can import any QuickTime-compatible media files into Final Cut Express HD, but to avoid rendering, your media files need to match your sequence settings". Unfortunately I've found that this isn't always the case. I applied these settings to my FCE project: HDV 720p30, 1280 x 720, 29.97 fps, Apple Intermediate Codec; and also applied these settings to the incoming file, and it still insisted on rendering them. There's some fancy stuff you can do with Final Cut Pro, but alas I have the poor man's version.

So the first part as already discussed is to create something as close to this as possible. I've played with Snapz Pro X ($69) and iShowU ($20) for capturing the screencast, and there isn't much to choose between them in terms of output quality. Snapz Pro X won't capture video at 29.97fps (which is needed to match the above settings), and iShowU does, but FCE still tells me that both outputs still need rendering. I'm sticking with Snapz Pro X because it's easier to use and I've already paid for it. Make sure the quality is "Best" when you're exporting, H.264 is fine.

But here's the new trick. When you've imported your footage into Final Cut Express, and checked it in the viewer to make sure it's retained it's integrity, drag it into your timeline and then click it once to select it. Then select Sequence > Settings > Render Control, and uncheck the boxes for Filters, Frame Blending and Motion Blur before you render your selection. If you've been through what I went through, this will be the first time that rendered content looks nearly pixel perfect. Almost perfect, not quite, but good enough for me! If you find a way to make it pixel perfect using the above tools, please let me know...

The rest of the process is straightforward. Export from FCE using Quicktime Conversion, make sure it's set to the same settings as the project, and make sure Quality is set as "Best".

Hope someone out there finds this helpful!

And again I'd just like to say that Final Cut Express should do this seamlessly out of the box. Screencasting mixed with other footage shouldn't be this hard.


UPDATE 01/04/08: I've just found an easy way to convert files to a specific frame rate, pixel count and aspect ratio - have blogged about it here.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Introducing RippleRap!

Osmosoft is thrilled to be attending Le Web conference in Paris on 11/12 December, and to celebrate we're developing an application which we think attendees will find helpful. It's called RippleRap - the social conferencing tool, and it's primary purpose is for taking conference notes. It'll be pre-populated with the agenda and speaker names, so you can see the session you're at and click to start taking notes. It's all based on TiddlyWiki, so the ability to save the file to your local drive works out of the box.

But that's the only the start of it. We're integrating a number of features which we hope delegates will find helpful.

Share notes: Check a box, and your notes will be shared with others, and theirs with you. This will be useful for seeing other people's perspectives, as well as picking up on points which you may have missed, but most useful (we think) when you miss a session and want to know what you've missed. If the conference wi-fi is unavailable, then notes will be shared in both directions the next time you connect to the web. This will be based on Jon's TiddlyChatter module.

Blogging / microblogging: Given that most blogging platforms (blogger, wordpress) and microblogging platforms (twitter, pownce, jaiku) have open APIs, we intend to offer the ability to compose a blog posting offline and post it to your blog the next time the conference wi-fi allows this. Likewise with the microblogs. This will be a modified version of Craig's blog plugin.

Get yr mojo on: Mojo is the fabulous new REST exposure of BT's SDK, and can be used for all sorts of cool communications stuff. We'll use it for a basic click to call function (so people can contact the Osmosoft stall for free if they want to chat), but also provide heaps of other information that can help developers get under the hood. Paul will be writing this functionality.

Of course all this is subject to change. We have limited time and resources, and some features will change or might not make the cut. We're exposing the plan at this early stage in the spirit of transparency and also to see whether anyone has any interesting perspectives on this initiative. Let us know!

PS The above screenshot is a very early prototype, just to give you a flavour of what to expect.

PPS Members of the TiddlyWiki community may already have heard about this under a different name.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Facebook and Privacy

Excellent post from David Weinberger (of Cluetrain Manifesto and Everything is Miscellaneous fame) about the privacy settings in Facebook. Money quote:
Privacy is not just about information. It's all about the defaults.

If a couple is walking down the street, engaged in deep and quiet conversation, it certainly would violate their privacy to focus listening devices on them, record their conversation, and post it on the Internet. The couple wold feel violated not only because their "information" — their conversation — was published but because they had the expectation that even though their sound waves were physically available to anyone walking on the street who cared to listen, norms prevent us from doing so. These norms are social defaults, and they are carefully calibrated to our social circumstances.....when we violate these norms, various forms of social opprobrium ensue.
Good point, well made. Read the whole post here.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Tipping TiddlyWiki - Part 1

I've finally got round to reading The Tipping Point, the compelling and popular book by Malcolm Gladwell, which looks as the trends and fashions which 'tip' and go mainstream, and the various forces at play when this happens. It's particularly relevant for me right now, because TiddlyWiki has several properties which are ripe for mainstream (it may already be there, depending on your definition of the term).

In the book, Gladwell talks about the three types of people involved when something explodes in popularity;
  • Mavens (people who have an almost obsessive interest in collecting detailed, expert knowledge and take pleasure in sharing this with their friends)
  • Connectors (people who have many more friends and acquaintances than the average Joe, and who are in a great position to pass on a message)
  • Salesmen (ignore the image which pops into your head; these are simply people who have a knack of taking a potentially complicated message, and tailoring it into a compelling 'sell' for the person they're talking to)
He also talks about the difference between something being contagious (where the message is compelling) and something being sticky (where the product is compelling). An interesting and critical distinction.

And most importantly, he talks about the power of context. It's human nature to label people with certain characteristics, such as "good", "unhelpful" or "generous", and these terms may apply in a general sense, but the same person might behave differently in different contexts.

TiddlyWiki has a diverse set of properties that appeal to different people in different ways. To my mind, the area where we can best improve the profile of TiddlyWiki - and potentially make it tip - is making it easier for the last group of people, the Salesmen, to describe or demonstrate the benefits of TiddlyWiki to people who might be interested. And perhaps this could happen in a context which makes TiddlyWiki particularly appealing.

More to follow....

Monday, 12 November 2007

Model for a Hotel 2007

I love the fact that the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square is used for exhibiting work by contemporary artists. It sends such a great message to tourists, don't you think? It would be so easy to put another statue on there, but I think it sends a much more powerful message; that Britain focuses on the present and the future as well as our illustrious past.

The latest occupant of the fourth plinth is called "Model for a Hotel 2007". I took some snaps as I went past the other night, you can get to these through the below thumbnail.

It's worth pausing for a moment to consider the esteemed company it finds itself in; the other three plinths hold statues of George IV, Henry Havelock and Sir Charles James Napier, not to mention the main man himself. All fascinating characters, and with the obvious exception of Nelson, I doubt whether most people could name the people on the other plinths. I'm ashamed to say I had to look them up, and I walk past them every day. And so if the unusual artwork draws attention to the other guys, and the notable part they played in our history, that's got to be a good thing.

Yay, London!

Model for a Hotel 2007

Friday, 9 November 2007

Facebook backlash

I've been too busy to collect my thoughts on Facebook Social Ads, but these guys have all done a better job than I could ever have done anyway.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Open source in BT

Yesterday we had an open source event in BT's auditorium called "Open source - open for business". If you'll excuse the rather corporate-sounding title, it was actually a really cool day. There were elements of preaching to the converted - a large proportion of the audience were already open source advocates - but I'm sure those who were new to the subject would've left the event inspired by how compelling the argument in favour of open source has become.

Want cost benefits? Well, the savings in terms of licensing are dwarfed by the cost of vendor lock-in. This can tip the balance in a business case.

Want support? The communities established around popular open source projects provide richer, quicker support than most vendors.

Want flexibility? How can you get more flexible than being able to adapt the code to your specific needs yourself? And choose the open standards that make complex technology stacks fit together?

Want reassurance that open source is ready for the enterprise? It's already there. Linux, Apache, Firefox, MediaWiki - they're all widespread and best of breed. That's the start of a long list.

So it was great to see the focus being on the best ways to implement open source in BT, rather than on whether it should happen in the first place. And all with the support of the top brass. Brilliant!

There was a pretty good buzz around the stalls (including the Osmosoft stall, which included OLPCs, TiddlyWiki on the iPhone, TiddlyWiki running on the Wii, and TeamTasks), but one of the unexpected highlights was an awesome poster created by our very own Paul Downey. Uploaded to Flickr on Tuesday night, it's already had 33,577 views! Check it out here.

To top it all off, we went for a curry afterwards with the great and the good of the open source world. Followed by a drunken stumble along the South Bank, complete with surprisingly in-focus nighttime photography. All the shots from the day can be seen via the below thumbnail.

BT Open Source Event