Tuesday, 18 December 2007

A positive, life-affirming post

At the end of my prior post, I promised a counter-balance of sorts. And here it is.

Hasn't 2007 been brilliant for new music? I still get a great buzz out of discovering new bands and artists, and any fears that I might develop the musical tastes of my parents (think: Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, anything by Rogers and Hammerstein) have now been firmly put to bed in, this, my 35th year. Hurrah!

So this post is written with all due respect and reverence to the people who have helped me find the music that made me smile in 2007. And, occasionally, jump around. I'm looking at you, eMusic, Pitchfork, @stephenbarber and @brackers, to name the main ones. I doff my cap to you, goodsirs. For me, these were the top albums of 2007:

The Go! Team, "Proof of Youth"
LCD Soundsystem, "Sound of Silver"
Blitzen Trapper, "Wild Mountain Nation"
Caribou, "Andorra"
Of Montreal, "Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?"
Okkervil River, "The Stage Names"
Gui Buratto, "Chromophobia"
The Field, "From Here We Go To Sublime"
Beirut, "The Gulag Orkestar"
Andrew Bird, "Armchair Apocrypha"
Dolorean, "You Can't Win"
Sean Hayes, "Flowering Spade"

Honestly, this was a hard list to whittle down to just 12 albums. Honorable mentions must also go to this year's efforts from Bloc Party, Maximo Park, The Klaxons, Deerhunter, Spoon, The National, Digitalism, Belleruche, PJ Harvey, Radiohead and the Shout Out Louds.

What were your favorites?

Monday, 17 December 2007

The slow and painful death of Facebook

Can't twitter today, so I'll write a slightly controversial blog posting instead...

Contention: Rather like the Titanic after hitting the iceberg, even though it is still buoyant, I believe that the factors are now in place for the slow, steady and painful demise of Facebook.

Evidence submission #1: I'm hardly ever using it. The emails I receive drawing me in there are getting fewer and further between. On the rare occasions I visit, it's just to 'ignore' all the invitations I've received. OK, perhaps I get the odd message in my inbox too. Nothing useful that can't be done through email, twitter or flickr. And because of #3, I actually find myself looking at as few pages as possible, to give them the least possible page impressions. This is a first for me - I'm not normally such a bitter person! And if I feel like this, I'm sure others will too.

Evidence submission #2: My friends are using it less and less. You may find it hard to believe that not all my friends are geeks. Many of them are "normal" people, and therefore IMHO indicative of the average Facebook user. If they're using it less, then I believe that's a trend that taking place elsewhere too. And as many "normal" people look to geeks for guidance on what should be trusted online, perhaps this isn't such a surprising trend.

Evidence submission #3: I haven't read a positive thing about Facebook in the past three months. Just Beacon, Beacon, Beacon. The odd news-piece about how traffic is in decline. And then an apology-by-the-numbers by Zuckerberg. I mean, for heaven's sake. Doesn't he know that grand gestures like this count for nothing? I honestly don't believe he's sorry. He cannot be trusted, people. They don't give a damn about their users.

Conclusion: Of course, unlike the Titanic, this thing will never sink. I guess traffic will just level out and those who see Facebook as just-another-website will continue to use it. And that's the sad thing; those of us who recognised the potential this thing could've had will lament it's demise. If only Zuckerberg hadn't been so damned greedy, he could've had it all. We all could.

Post-script: I wish I could cancel my Facebook account, but I can't for two reasons. First, my area of work demands that I know how Facebook and other similar services work. Second, there is the remote possibility that someone will send me a message through Facebook. Where possible, my replies will come by email.

Positive, life-affirming post to counter balance this one to follow.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

The Big Apple

The missus and I spent five day in New York earlier this month - our first excursion by ourselves since the kids were born. We'd both been there a few times before (mostly in the 90s), but I hadn't visited since October 2001. Too long.

It was just as good as it's ever been. We roughly split our time equally between old haunts, tourist spots and new places we hadn't been before and, as you'd expect, it was the new areas which were the most rewarding. We spent the best part of a day wandering round the Lower East Side, including the newly fashionable BelDel area (Below Delancey Street), as well as Sunday morning in Harlem. Very cool.

I've uploaded a set of photos to my Flickr account.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Le Web - The Morning After

We've returned tired and (reasonably) happy from Le Web, where we were manning a joint BT and Osmosoft stall for the two days. Given that we were manning a stall and presenting a product, rather than just attending sessions, it was quite a different experience to previous conferences we've attended - and lots of fun in very different ways. So here's a round up of what went down.

The product we were presenting - RippleRap - was being worked on right up until 2am on the morning of the conference! So you can imagine how pleased and relieved we were that the product worked as advertised throughout the event. People were sharing their conference notes throughout the whole two days without any problems - mostly BT people, but we can see from the server logs that plenty of other people were registering with the service and receiving everyone else's notes.

Part of the reason we developed RippleRap was to help us tell the BT open source story. It's all about behaving appropriately in the open source arena, recognising the value of the community and respecting the etiquette and social nuances that exist there. And about giving back more than we take. And I think we got this message across pretty well. Certainly people we talked to at the stall (maybe 150 people over the two days) gave us an enthusiastic reaction. Robert Scoble, arguably the most famous blogger of all, interviewed me (picture) and hopefully he'll publish this video soon. And we're watching the blogosphere now for word about Osmosoft and RippleRap.

There was a lot of interest around "Enterprise 2.0" at Le Web, particularly after a heated debate on the web last week. I'm confident that open source is the way to go. Most enterprises are facing similar problems (when it comes to e.g. collaboration, knowledge sharing, and so on). Why can't they club together to solve these problems using code based on open standards? We all stand to benefit from our collective knowledge and expertise, which vastly exceeds that of any start-up. Being able to keep control of the implementation is critical. TiddlyWiki is a great example of how it could work - a base product with solid out-of-the-box functionality, but also, critically, it's highly configurable with over 400 plugins. And it's easy to build your own plugins, and share these with the community who can help improve them for the benefit of everyone - which is exactly what we intend to do with RippleRap.

One of the most interesting aspects of the conference for me was the breadth of interest in what we were talking about. Some people were interested in RippleRap / TiddlyWiki, or our open source story, or the SDK, or the social changes at BT - but rarely more than one of these. I'm pleased to say that several people expressed an interest in using RippleRap code, some in academic circles, others for business, and others for conferences.

The highlights? Apart from the nerve-racking-but-exciting Robert Scoble experience, JP's talk on stage (picture) about how enterprises need to adapt was invigorating, and he was abley supported by Phil Hawksworth, one of our own Osmosoftonians. You can of course download RippleRap for the session notes! :-)

You can see several photos on my Flickr set.

I'd like to give props to the SDK guys who attended the session, Nigel Pepper and Robbie Clutton. There were a few technical problems during the conference, and they helped keep the wheels turning. Also a high five for Johan Euphrosine, a member of the French TiddlyWiki community, who was on hand to help explain RippleRap and TiddlyWiki to French visitors to the stall.

So, what now? As I've mentioned on the group forums, we're now going to try and package up RippleRap so other developers can more easily implement it, and the open source community can help to improve it. We're open to all and any ideas. And we're already planning to use it at the Blogtalk conference in Cork on 3-4 March 2008. No rest for the wicked!