Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Year End Links Post

Ah, Christmas: the season of lists, predictions, and lists of predictions! By which definition, I suppose, a Links Post might not be wholly unfestive - especially one slightly more bloated than usual, and full of lists and predictions:

From Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

Guardian Technology's 20 most-read articles and 10 most-viewed photo galleries of 2010.

Forecast for 2011: The Guardian asks tech and web experts to make their predictions for the coming year.

"Media is a form of design... everything is a form of design": Justin McGuirk examines the argument behind Designing Media, a new book of interviews with major players behind the ongoing media revolution.

Merriam-Webster dictionary's Top 10 definition searches for 2010 speak volumes.

The best short films on the web: how the web is enabling a revolution in short film making and distribution.

Social Media

Facebook overtakes Yahoo as the third largest website in the world.

And it's now the most-visited too, according to Hitwise.

2010 in Twitter trending topics.

The 10 most-shared links of the year.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

"The publishing industry is in trouble - but not just because of the digital revolution": an illuminating interview with John Thompson, author of Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century.

The 10 most popular publishing stories of 2010 on GalleyCat, month by month - and some predictions for 2011.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

300+ resources to help you master WordPress, collated by Webdesigner Depot.

2010's top new and updated apps for Windows, according to Downloadsquad.

Disconnect: "a privacy patch for the web", available as an extension for Chrome and RockMelt (Firefox and Safari to follow).

Music

Gorillaz record an album on an iPad - then give it away to fanclub members. (Or you can stream it here, in exchange for your name and email address.)

And here are the 20 iPad music apps the band used - $120 for the lot.

Rundowns of the year's top albums, from: Drowned In Sound, Pitchfork, The Silent Ballet, Fluid Radio, eMusic.

Games & Other Distractions

20 free indie games you may have missed in 2010, selected by IndieGames.com.

Miscellaneous

11 'risky' tech predictions for 2011 from TECHi.com.

2010: the year in ideas, from The New York Times.


And finally...

"Seasons Greetings and a very Happy New Year!" from all at Radix.


Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 32

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

Gawker's Nick Denton on the future of blogging.

CEO of Creative Commons Joi Ito on fair and innovation-friendly copyright tools for the web.

Google moves to stop bad customer service turning into good search rankings for online retailers.

Chromaroma game tries to achieve the impossible: making travel on the London Tube fun.

Social Media

Facebook wants to trademark the word 'Face'. (The cheek of it... etc.).

The persistence (or otherwise) of digital memories: preserving the digital self after death.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

A lengthy interview with William Gibson, cyberpunk writer and inventor of the word 'cyberspace'.

A veritable treasure trove of Samuel Beckett plays on film.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

The Top 50 free apps Lifehacker is 'most thankful for'.

AX: a free, time-saving utility for anyone who regularly has to type accents and special characters.

Music

Google Translate now speaks beatboxer... well, sort of.

Games & Other Distractions

The Infinite Ocean: an atmospheric, deeply-layered philosophical point-and-click mystery (more of an interactive narrative, than a traditional game).

Miscellaneous

Ads they'd never allow today, probably not even on Mad Men.

Virgin launches iPad-only magazine (to mixed reviews so far).

Man sells virtual asteroid for $635,000 - a $500,000 profit on his original purchase.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 31

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

The internet's cyber radicals: Aleks Krotoski begins a new fortnightly column on how the internet is changing our world (reader contributions to each column are invited at the link).

Facebook 'one of several threats' to the principles of the web, says Tim Berners-Lee.

'Cloud gaming' services enabling users to play games beyond the spec of their own machines.

Earth as Art: an online gallery of US Geological Survey satellite images.

Has the Times increased profits with its paywall? The latest figures tell us nothing, says Cory Doctorow.

Social Media

Serendipity and human connections: the new sites following in the wake of Chatroulette.

The Viral Spiral: 'the most shared video ads from each of the years 2006-2010.'

Books, Writing & Storytelling

Three book industry experiments with online crowdsourced funding.

Lulu Titlescorer: find out whether your novel has the title to become a bestseller.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

Feather: Aviary's superb suite of online design tools now includes an embeddable photo editor, thanks to HTML5.

Music

Spotify still planning US expansion - with or without major labels - despite £16.6m losses in 2009.

Games & Other Distractions

Entries to the latest jayisgames.com Casual Gameplay Design Competition are now available to play online.

Miscellaneous

Lessons learned by The New York Times's David Pogue in his 10 years of writing about technology.

The US embassy cables: what Washington thinks of the rest of the world, as divulged in 'the biggest intelligence leak in history'.

Bad publicity can get you top ranked in a Google search, but is it a long-term business model?

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 30

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

Author Steven Johnson on: innovation and where good ideas come from.

The latest hype, facts and general speculation about Facebook's omni-connected uber-messaging thing.

Google Maps error leads to border dispute in Central America. (Possible consequences of Google's move into fashion as yet unknown).

Alan Rusbridger on: why media organisations shouldn't ignore Twitter (extracted from his lecture 'The splintering of the fourth estate').

Apple and Murdoch to publish new daily newspaper exclusively on tablet computers.

Social Media

Twitter begins inviting selected users to its official Analytics offering, and apologising to third-party developers.

'Facebook Messages? Erm, good luck with that', says experienced email developer.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

A year in digital publishing: The Literary Platform asks publishers for their digital highlights from 2010 and predictions for 2011.

Lifehacker rounds up some handy online tools for language geeks.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

Quick tip: if your hard disk seems to be unexpectedly full, it might be worth checking that BBC iPlayer Desktop has been correctly deleting downloaded programmes from its repository. Another fix for the problem can be found here.

Music

All Day - Girl Talk: the latest release from mash-up specialist Gregg Gillis, free to download.

Games & Other Distractions

The Guardian's Tech Weekly podcast hosts a round-table discussion on storytelling in game design.

Miscellaneous

You Thought We Wouldn't Notice
: a blog helping to expose art and design plagiarism.

'20 Things I Learned About Browsers And The Web': Google's new showcase of what we can expect from the web (and Google Chrome) post-HTML5.

What does Google know about you?

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 29

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

BT and TalkTalk force judicial review of the Digital Economy Act.

Google blocks Facebook from GMail contacts import data, admonishes Facebook for restrictive attitude to user data.

Major online travel firms unite against potential Google travel search monopoly.

Newsweek magazine to merge with The Daily Beast website. (See also: the Daily Beast's official announcement).

The trouble with tweets: the arrested Tory councillor; the cricketer suing for libel; a verdict in the Twitter bomb joke trial appeal; and "I am Spartacus", the protest.

Social Media

From Zadie Smith's excellent New York Review of Books essay analysing The Social Network, Facebook and Jaron Lanier's You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto:

"Perhaps Generation Facebook have built their virtual mansions in good faith, in order to house the People 2.0 they genuinely are, and if I feel uncomfortable within them it is because I am stuck at Person 1.0. Then again, the more time I spend with the tail end of Generation Facebook (in the shape of my students) the more convinced I become that some of the software currently shaping their generation is unworthy of them. They are more interesting than it is. They deserve better."

Facebook to launch a competitor for GMail (but it'll have to be a vast improvement on Facebook's current mail system, if it's going to get anywhere).

Books, Writing & Storytelling

Spike Magazine: The Book - a free PDF download of the online books-and-culture magazine's "finest interviews, features and reviews."

More detail on what they're up to at Electric Literature. (See also: Weekend Links No. 28).

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

RockMelt: the Facebook-friendly social browser (that isn't Flock); currently in beta.

Music

Silver Lines - Anna Rose Carter: a beautiful, mesmerising EP of solo piano compositions (free to stream at the link; or a more than reasonable £4 to download). More details and tracks at her Myspace page.

Games & Other Distractions

Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge: Alan Partridge returns to our (monitor) screens, in a new series of made-for-the-web videos.

Miscellaneous

The New York Times begins a new column rounding up the best new made-for-the-web "TV" series and movies.

Your brain on ads: the not-yet-quite-as-troubling-or-futuristic-as-it-sounds science of neuromarketing.

"[T]he online newsletter of the Tories": Clay Shirky takes a look at The Times behind its paywall. (See also: a round-up of the online responses).

Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 28

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

UK's £100bn internet economy now "more valuable to the country than transport, construction or the utilities industries."

LimeWire shut down by US federal court; not that it probably makes much difference.

UK MPs have got it in for Google, over privacy and Street View.

MySpace becomes Myspace, and has a redesign (all of which the UK will have to wait 'til mid-November to ignore).

Social Media

What Facebook's "Top News" feed decides to show you and why.

Social games developer Zynga's estimated worth now surpasses Electronic Arts.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

The real demand for pirated e-books - a re-examination of recent figures.

Struggling with writer's block? One Page Per Day presents you with a simple blank page to fill - with something, anything - every day. (And here are some glimpses of what users have written already.)

Electric Literature: a literary journal with expansive, innovative ambitions for digital literature.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

Spoon: run popular desktop applications within a browser and without installation (very handy if you're away from your usual machine).

Scrivener: the formerly Mac-only award-winning program for writers is now available in a free public beta version for Windows (full release due in early 2011).

Music

Ten Tracks: download a new curated mixtape of ten tracks every month, with all artists fairly remunerated.

Games & Other Distractions

Scrabb.ly: a massively multiplayer online Scrabble game, that Hasbro hasn't had closed down yet. (Here its creator describes how the idea came about, and its development).

Miscellaneous

One for Halloween: some of the strangest tombstones in the world.

Rewritable pillows - probably best not to fall asleep on one though, if you don't want a rewritable face.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Retargeting ads aren't always retargeting the right people

Personalised retargeting or remarketing. Ads that seem to follow you around the internet, tailored to the online retail sites you've already visited and even the specific products you've browsed there. However you want to describe them, such ads seem to be on the rise.

Some find the phenomenon sinister: like being constantly watched or stalked; an intrusion of privacy. Others click on the link purporting to explain "Why are you being shown this banner?" then, apparently reassured (or resigned), don't bother to opt out. As for retailers; more and more seem to be signing up to services like Criteo, while the likes of Google and Microsoft are now running their own behaviour tracking ads too.

So ran the gist of this New York Times article, from a couple of months ago.

Not long after reading it, I booked a short break in London, using a couple of online booking sites, and began to notice the recurring ads for myself. The question that came to mind, after just a few days, was: can this kind of advertising become counter-productive? Might it sometimes harm the brand?

Criteo's website claims its retargeting services offer "phenomenal campaign ROI", and I'm sure they do attract back plenty of visitors who originally left without purchasing, but what impression do the ads create on those of us who did actually purchase before leaving?

Having already booked my hotel with [COMPANY X], every time I visited certain popular sites I was greeted with ads for [COMPANY X], listing hotels in the area of London I'd already booked in - top of each list being the exact hotel I'd booked, and for the exact same nights. On other occasions the train ticket booking service I used was being advertised to me, over and over. Both of these companies I've used consistently over the last few years. And at present, I find a particular florist advertising at me everywhere I go (this time by Google). Again, on the few occasions I need a florist, it's the one I already use.

In short: all three companies had my trade already; when I made the visits to their sites that prompted the tracking ads I purchased the product or service I was there for; the resultant barrage of ads was utterly pointless. If anything, being frequently nagged to buy what I've already bought has made me marginally less inclined to visit the sites again - especially as the ads in question often untidily break the page layouts of the sites that carry them.

Clearly, the kind of technology that would track the fact that a visitor had actually purchased before leaving the sites, and/or had a long purchasing history with each of them, would be even more worrying to privacy campaigners than the present retargeting services (in fact, advertisers themselves are now looking to make it easier to opt out of behaviour tracking ad systems), so I have no idea what a genuine solution might be.

Maybe, though, the retrieval of lost custom more than makes up for whatever irritation is caused, so none is needed? Maybe more and more of us will opt out? And maybe we'll just grow increasingly accustomed to such ads anyway?

Whatever the case, it'll be interesting to see how this sector of the industry progresses; it has at least one small flaw that might eventually need addressing.

Monday, 18 October 2010

The Weekend(ish) Links Post: No. 27

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

The Guardian's editor on the future of the fourth estate, and the launch of a new series of Comment is Free long-form blogs.

The internet is not ruining your attention span. You are.

Personal productivity apps: a help? Or another source of procrastination?

Greater Manchester police tweet their workload, to prove a funding point and show the reality behind the statistics. (The three police Twitter accounts.)

Social Media

Finally, social networks may be catching on to how we live in the real world.

Evan Williams on decentralised social networks.

Not on Facebook? Facebook still knows you
.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

Douglas Rushkoff on publishing, the internet and his new book Program or Be Programmed: "If you don't know anything about the software, then you are the software."

"The majority of Great Britain has yet to download an e-book and say they are unlikely to do so in the next six months," says a new survey by Book Marketing Limited.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

The Archivist: free, browser-based or stand-alone (Windows-only) utility to search, archive and analyse tweets.

Music

Soundart Radio 102.5 FM: award-winning experimental arts radio station, available online.

Games & Other Distractions

Infinite Blank: a multi-player online world, drawn by its players.

Miscellaneous

Atlas Obscura: "A compendium of this age's wonders, curiosities and esoterica"; a collaborative online cataloguing of the strange and wonderful sights and places that traditional guidebooks ignore.

Grain Edit: a design blog focused on classic design work from the 1950s-1970s and the contemporary designers it continues to inspire.

Brian Dettmer performs autopsies on old books, carving them open to artfully reveal their insides: gallery 1; gallery 2.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 26

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

Patent laws need reforming, says Microsoft's Chief Executive Steve Ballmer.

Facebook introduces Groups, to better reflect users' actual relationships and help increase privacy (or perhaps not).

An interview with Don Tapscott, author of Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business & The World.

Social Media

The Facebook that never was: why did Columbia's Campus Network lose out to Harvard's Facebook?

Malcolm Gladwell expresses his doubts about digital activism... and here's just some of the inevitable backlash.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

The Paris Review's exemplary archive of interviews with writers is now available online - in full, and without charge.

Slate.com has been testing the conventional wisdom that long-form journalism just doesn't do well on the web - with heartening results.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

WP-Snippets: for WordPress users, a directory of handy, free code snippets to enhance your WordPress theme.

Music

Why brands are set to be the new record companies.

Fluid Radio: online radio station for fans of experimental, ambient, modern classical, post-rock etc. And an excellent source of associated news, reviews and downloads (such as this live solo performance by pianist Nils Frahm).

Games & Other Distractions

4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness: John Cage inspired video game; plus, an interview with its creator Petri Purho (also responsible for Crayon Physics Deluxe).

2010 Interactive Fiction Competition: all but a few of this year's entries are available to play online.

Miscellaneous

Hilarious Tweets to Famous People: a troubling insight into the minds of those who tweet the famous...

Boring Conference 2010: a day of interesting people talking about boring things - on 11th December 2010.

Why philosophers are fascinated by procrastination.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Super-fast broadband for Cornwall

Cornwall’s digital geeks were celebrating last Thursday as Cornwall Council and BT officially announced the imminent rollout of ultra-fast fibre broadband across great swathes of the county and the Isles of Scilly.


The EU-funded project will make Cornwall one of the best-connected places in the world, outstripping London and other urban centres for broadband speed and availability. Maximum download speeds of between 40Mbps and 100Mbps will be available to 80-90% of premises in the county by 2014, with only the most remote locations missing out on the superfast broadband bonanza.

Half of all premises will have the option to have a fibre-optic cable installed directly into the building, making download speeds approaching 100Mbps a scarcely dreamed-of reality for some lucky Cornish homes and businesses by as early as next Spring, BT chief executive Ian Livingston told a room packed with journalists at Newquay’s Headland Hotel.

That's faster than anything currently available anywhere in the UK, putting Cornwall on a par with South Korea, the world’s most hyper-connected country.

Magnet for high-tech businesses

The rollout, which BT says is already underway, should turn the UK’s rural south-western tip into "a magnet for high-tech businesses," according to Cornwall Council Leader Alec Robertson. Not only will it provide the necessary infrastructure for media firms, digital content providers and other bandwidth-hungry companies to relocate to Cornwall, it will also provide a fertile environment for graduates of the Combined Universities in Cornwall’s digital media and animation courses to set up in business here.


Cornwall Council Leader Alec Robertson opens the press conference

And that economic transformation is the whole idea. The EU’s contribution of £80m – matched by a £54m investment by BT – is the biggest single allocation from its European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), a pot of money reserved for economic development projects in the poorest areas of Europe.

Cornwall, with an underperforming rural economy that trails the UK average by a wide margin, is the only county in England to qualify for these funds. This project is Cornwall’s biggest and most important attempt to claw its way out of the mire of low-value jobs in agriculture, retail and tourism and to create what Elizabeth Holt, head of communication and partnerships for the European Commission, described last week as a "fully innovative, knowledge-based, low-carbon economy."

An opportunity to "invent the future"

All the speakers at last week's event touted super-fast broadband as a critical investment for Cornwall, without which it could never overcome its problems of rurality and geographical peripherality. Nigel Ashcroft, director of NGA networks for Cornwall Council, said that with connection speeds that are almost unprecedented across the globe, Cornwall-based businesses will have a chance to "invent the future" by creating brand new applications and services that make full use of the bandwidth available.

An antidote to public sector job losses?

The rollout should give Cornwall a huge opportunity to create new, high-value jobs in high-tech, 21st century industries at a time when other areas of the UK are experiencing severe cutbacks in public investment in infrastructure and employment.

Cornwall Council and BT have estimated that 4,000 new jobs will be created and a further 2,000 existing jobs protected, perhaps offsetting the 2,000 public sector jobs that are due to be lost in the county as a result of the Coalition government’s spending cuts.

The world’s first rural digital cluster?

As an experiment in rural connectivity, super-fast broadband for Cornwall should provide a pioneering case study that other rural regions of the UK – and the world – are sure to study closely. It was telling that the audience at last week’s press conference included journalists from China, South Korea, Latin America and Germany alongside national news reporters from London and the local south-west media.

So could this mark the end of ‘digital clusters’ being the preserve of the world’s big cities? Could Cornwall soon boast the world’s first rural digital cluster? It’s tempting to think so, but for all its virtual connectivity, Cornwall will still remain physically remote from the world’s great urban intellectual nexuses.

That remoteness may remain a handicap when it comes to attracting big-hitters to visit the region in person. Will we see internet-era thinkers such as Steven Johnson, Clay Shirky or Cory Doctorow making the five-hour train journey from London to engage and inspire the local digerati? Will Truro join New York, San Francisco and London on the A-list lecture circuit? Can we look forward to hosting a TED conference in Penryn? It would be great to think so, but I won’t hold my breath just yet.

Remote communities to miss out

And what of those parts of the county that the fibre won’t reach? BT has promised to upgrade the county’s patchwork of ‘notspots’ using a mixture of satellite connections and copper-wire technologies such as ADSL+, but the speeds delivered will remain around 2Mbps; nothing like the service experienced in the rest of the county.

For Cornwall’s remotest farms and communities, it looks like the only super-fast option will remain the one heroically undertaken by Lancashire farmer and rural broadband campaigner Christine Conder – installing the fibre yourself.



Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 25

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

Paul Chambers' appeal against 'Twitter joke trial' verdict comes to court - the judge and magistrates have retired to consider their ruling.

Bindi Karia: the 'Queen of Startups'.

The Do Lectures 2010 - a sort of mini TED conference for those who don't mind camping.

Lengthy Facebook outage solved by... that's right, turning the whole thing off and on again.

Twitter internet worm affects thousands of users - but damage is limited thanks to its Web 2.0 foundations.

Social Media

Mashable's 29 Essential Social Media Resources You May Have Missed.

Facebook appears to be chipping away at user privacy again with a "de facto 'Follow' feature".

Twitter to become even more useful to business with free real-time analytics dashboard, to be launched before the end of the year.

Why the editor of Wired UK is not on Facebook.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

Is interactive fiction the future of books? Design agency IDEO thinks so.

The e-reads.com blog begins a weekly series of posts on e-book piracy (a short post to begin with, but plenty going on in the comments).

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

Print Edit: a Firefox add-on that lets you format web pages to print only what you want to print.

Music

Love H.E.R. Madly: free mash-up album, by Figment, blending UK hip-hop tracks with samples from The Doors.

Games & Other Distractions

Find and play old DOS games
: MakeUseOf.com lists its seven favourite sites.

Miscellaneous

Internet Week Europe, "celebrating Europe's thriving Internet industry and community", coming to London 8-12 November 2010.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 24

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

A lesson in how not to handle social media - this time, courtesy of the Royal Opera House .

FTSE Techmark index at highest point since 2001.

Internet Explorer 9 (beta) launches - but how does it measure up?

Google to add more 'social layers' to its services, but not creating a Facebook killer.

The importance of net neutrality, according to Tim Berners-Lee.

Social Media

Twitter is now much easier to use, with a new two-pane layout.

Facebook's location publishing app 'Places' now available in the UK.

The increasing importance of 'social' to 'search'.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

FLOW: The Free Word Festival is currently in progress at the Free Word Centre, London - running 14th September to 5th October 2010.

26 Treasues at the V&A Museum showcases a collection of 62-word reflections on 26 objects within the museum - running 18-26 September 2010.

Watch as 36 authors create a novel, live and online, in six days - from 11-16 October 2010.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

Q10: an excellent distraction-free and customisable full-screen text editor.

Music

MusicLink.fm: a faster, simpler way to play full albums on Grooveshark.

Games & Other Distractions

Haiku Hero: write haikus against the clock, with bonus points for meeting various rules and constraints.

Miscellaneous

Carrier pigeon better than broadband for data transfer in some parts of UK.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 23

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

How will Google Instant affect SEO and Google's own AdWords system?

Steven Poole reviews Born Digital: Understanding The First Generation of Digital Natives - and rebuts Nicholas Carr's pessimism in The Shallows.

The new mapping revolution: the pros and possible cons of today's dynamic, interactive maps.

Whatever happened to Dopplr?

Social Media

How a link spreads through the Twittersphere: depicted in visualisations oddly reminiscent of the creatures in flOw.

Experiments in selling virtual goods to build real world brand awareness.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

The first interactive audio novel on Spotify: just open the application and search for "A5M4". Don't Let Go is written by Joe Stretch, and read by Anna Friel with music by Hurts.

Mortal Kiss: the first interactive novel Random House has published on a social network.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

Reading Glasses: a Chrome extension that dims everything but the text, for distraction-free online reading.

Can't get a tune out of your head? Replace it with another one at unhearit.

Music

On Friday, the panel of BBC2's The Review Show discussed the future of music - well worth a watch, for those interested.

Games & Other Distractions

Solipskier: draw slopes beneath a stick-man to keep him skiing, speed him up and execute tricks.

The New York Times Magazine investigates the ethics of depicting contemporary conflicts in video games.

Miscellaneous

How to choose the right CMS - including a Top 5, three to watch and one to avoid.

Why 'content farming' sites will prosper only in the short-term.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 22

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

Ping: does Apple have designs on social networking?

Can the technologies killing long-form journalism, instead, help to promote it?

Web ads have only a quarter of the worth of print ads, according to Enders Analysis (N.B. a proper company, not the research wing of Inside Soap).

Google lays out its new display advertising strategies.

Digg's redesign prompts user protests.

Social Media

MySpace announces Facebook sync, prior to an Autumn redesign.

The success rate of Facebook spam.

YouTube is finally beginning to make money, thanks to ads and profitable partnerships with content creators.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

The future of book reviewing? 60-second reviews on YouTube, according to Washington Post's fiction editor.

Mashable profiles Fictionaut, an online writing community / crowd-sourced literary magazine.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

MIT OpenCourseWare: "a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content," free and available to all.

Google Reader has been updated: now, simply hit 'f' for a full-screen view; plus, various other new features and shortcuts.

Music

The Wilderness Downtown by Arcade Fire: not your average music video. An impressive mash-up of HTML5 trickery, interactive drawing and personalised footage from Google Maps and Street View. (If Chrome starts doing odd things, don't worry, that's supposed to happen.)

Games & Other Distractions

Enjoyed the Arcade Fire video? More Chrome experiments, games and toys to play with here.

Miscellaneous

Snoop Dogg and Norton join together to fight cybercrime. (Zock! Pow! Take that, incongruity!)

Sigh.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 21

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

Why the internet isn't as important as we think it is, according to economist Ha-Joon Chang.

The interactive datamap that investigates and charts the growth of Twitter.

Social Innovation Camp: hacking to make the world a better place.

Guardian Tech is a newspaper supplement, again - online.

Social Media

We are all bloggers now, blogging has taken over the world, according to The Independent.

Diaspora - an open-source, privacy-aware alternative to Facebook - to launch on 15th September.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

JotSpeak: audio networking for writers. (More info at The Compulsive Reader.)

3-Day Novel Contest: for those who think a month is just too long, presumably?

Wylie Agency and Random House reach ebook truce; Wylie now in negotiations with Penguin.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

Jolicloud: the free, cloud-based netbook operating system is now in version 1.0 and available to all.

The Polyglot Project: improve your language skills, read foreign literature online with a built-in translation tool. (Has a few flaws, at this early stage, but worth keeping an eye on).

Music

Pitchfork's Top 50 Music Videos of the 1990s - and, over the coming week, a countdown of the Top 200 Tracks.

Games & Other Distractions

YouTube UK now has free full-length movies - er, quite a mixed bag at present, though, I think it's fair to say...

Miscellaneous

TIME Magazine's '50 Best Websites 2010'.

The Future of the Internet, as predicted by Smashing Magazine.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 20

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below (well, when I'm not moving house anyway):

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

The future for virtual worlds - and their not-so-virtual economies.

The internet: is it changing the way we think? (Oddly, no mention of edge.org asking much the same question not that long ago).

Social Media

Social marketing, or socially-reactive marketing? Wired's Eliot Van Buskirk takes a look at the potential of reputation-tracking tools like Revinate and ScanBuzz.

Facebook adds location awareness feature Places - but so far just in the US.

And why Facebook Places might not be entirely 'a good thing'.

Rounds: a video-chat social network - think Chatroulette with elements of Facebook.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

The Bat Segundo Show: excellent literature/culture podcast, hosted by litblogger Ed Champion and named after the radio show at the end of David Mitchell's Ghostwritten. (Link to show archive here.)

'I've decided not publish any more books in the traditional way,' says Seth Godin. 'I can reach 10 or 50 times as many people electronically.'

Looking For Truth With A Pin
: a 2005 BBC4 documentary on deadpan melancomic poet/musician/writer Ivor Cutler; which someone's helpfully uploaded to YouTube (link goes to Part 1 of 6).

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

Matrix: the flight price-comparison engine behind services like Kayak - but ad-free.

Music

Shuffler: a new streaming radio service powered by music blogs (imagine Pandora fed by Hype Machine, but with stations organised by genre and each new track accompanied by the blog post where it was posted).

Sad Steve: simple, ad-free MP3 search engine.

Games & Other Distractions

Violet: defeat procrastination, or lose your girlfriend; an award-winning interactive fiction rom-com.

Miscellaneous

Is the World Wide Web dead?: Wired asks whether apps and mobile devices are fundamentally changing our internet use; also featuring a three-way e-mail debate between Chris Anderson, Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle.

Unsuck It: cynical and irreverent online translations of common (and hopefullly not-so-common) business jargon.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 19

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

Crowdsourcing doesn't work, says UK government (or actions to that effect).

Carphone Warehouse launches 'infinite MP3 player' cloud music service.

On being young and lonely in the age of social networking.

The tablets are working, says Murdoch, tablets are our future. (Meaning the iPad, etc. Obviously.)

Social Media

Ian Bogost explains the mechanics of social games (e.g. Farmville) and why he created Cow Clicker: "a Facebook game about Facebook games".

Google buys social games site Slide for $182m, adding yet more fuel to rumours of a future Google answer to Facebook.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

The Marketplace of Ideas
: "a radio show and podcast about books, culture, commerce and fascinating concepts." (The show archive on iTunes is well worth a look.)

The author who paid actresses to read her book - prominently, in public places around New York.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

Marklets.com: "the internet's largest" library of bookmarklets - all of which can be easily accessed from your browser with the site's ├╝ber-bookmarklet.

Music

Film footage from the Alan Lomax archive of American traditional music is gradually accumulating at the Alan Lomax Archive YouTube channel.

Spotify now has a Google Chrome extension - use it to search for and preview music from within the browser.

Games & Other Distractions

BattleCell: a free massively multiplayer online role-playing game based on Google Maps.

Miscellaneous

Google Wave is dead. Long live Novell Pulse?

Remember Mouse Trap (the Heath-Robinson-esque board game)? Now it's lifesize.

Errotica: the joys (or otherwise) of being wrong.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 18

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 16 links (I miscounted this week), humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

"Old media and new each has its place in the media ecosystem": why WikiLeaks turned to the press.

Datajournalism in action: making sense of WikiLeaks' Afghanistan war logs.

Cory Doctorow: is the iPad/Kindle/similar "curated" computing or "monopoly" computing?

More rumours about a forthcoming Google social network: Google is talking to games firms.

Social Media

Why Ron Bowes uploaded personal details of 100 million Facebook users to Pirate Bay.

Facebook now testing out permanent account deletion.

Will photos and videos soon be part of your Twitter stream?

Books, Writing & Storytelling

Anatomy of a marketing campaign: a fascinating series of blog posts - which has itself become part of the marketing campaign - detailing Melville House's efforts to "get Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone on the bestseller lists".

The five best book recommendation services, according to Lifehacker readers.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

Start!: a customisable alternative home page for Chrome users.

Lesser-known features of the Google search box.

Music

8bitcollective: extensive online catalogue of chiptunes music (i.e. music made using the sound processing chips from old 8-bit games consoles).

URLs will replace MP3s, says Spotify's Daniel Ek.

Games & Other Distractions

How Channel 4 is re-inventing interactive education - with video games about sex, death and government oppression.

Miscellaneous

US judge rules that bypassing DRM is legal - if it's for fair use, rather than piracy. (Meanwhile, in the UK: much the opposite story.)

For those who think Nicholas Carr might have a point: how to rebuild your attention span.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Publishers are living in interesting times...

Yesterday, Amazon announced its new Kindle e-reader models - available in the UK from August 27th - and the launch of a UK Kindle Store. "Our vision," says Jeff Bezos (sounding not unlike Google), "is to have every book ever written, in any language, all available in under 60 seconds."

Which sounds great (to a customer), until you start thinking about DRM, proprietary formats, monopolies and the like. Just as uber-literary-agent Andrew Wylie's threat to get all his clients' e-books published directly via Amazon (if publishers don't start paying better e-book royalties) sounds great until you start thinking about... etc.

Because when you first read that story, that is what you tend to think (or I did): "Actually, why don't authors just publish their e-books direct to Amazon?"

And then of course you remember (or I did) Cory Doctorow blogging about the true practicalities and logistics of self-publishing. And that those album release experiments by Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, etc. succeeded in large part because they already had their audiences. And indeed that Andrew Wylie can so easily sell Odyssey Editions to Amazon because the e-editions in question are by the likes of Vladimir Nabokov and John Updike.

As Wylie has more or less admitted, the deal with Amazon is basically a clever short-term money-spinner designed to make a wider point and perhaps force publishers' hands a little - or at the very least force them to think a bit more urgently about the future. Which is precisely what both these stories should do: because they raise very interesting questions about the shape of the book market in the years to come, and about publishers' roles therein.

If the e-book market does in fact come to outstrip the physical book market, as Kindle vice president Steve Kessel is predicting (Amazon's e-books are already outstripping its hardback sales); if Andrew Wylie's experiment with Amazon proves as profitable as might be expected; where exactly will that leave traditional publishing houses?

Perhaps big literary agencies will be tomorrow's big publishers? Perhaps Amazon will? And Apple? (At least for established authors.)

But perhaps traditional publishing houses will then become primarily breeding grounds for new talent - and begin to rise again? And, perhaps just as likely, according to some, the more nimble and adaptable of today's small presses will be the publishers to adapt themselves most sucessfully to the new environment?

In any case, for publishers these are definitely interesting times: whether that proves a blessing or a curse is up to them.


Incidentally, for one of the most even-handed and comprehensive analyses of the Wylie/Amazon deal: head over to Open Letter Books' ever-excellent Three Percent blog.

And for the funniest coverage of the Wylie/Random House fallout: see Twitter (via the two preceding links).

Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 17

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

Prominent authors to publish e-books directly via Amazon - and what this might mean for the conventional publishers they've bypassed.

Another week, another tabloid failure to fact check stuff on the net. (Well, let's assume it was something The Daily Star found online, rather than completely made-up. More here and here.)

India develops world's cheapest laptop - just £23.

Samsung tries to capitalise on iPhone 4 reception problems - by handing out free phones. (Check out the cheeky ad at the bottom of the page.)

Social Media

Facebook reaches half-billion users mark, celebrates by asking users to tell it how special it is.

And Tumblr's growing at a pretty startling rate too...

Books, Writing & Storytelling

How publishers are responding to Twitter's #dearpublisher hashtag.

What's this Google Editions thing? Er, no-one's exactly sure yet... but here are some educated guesses.

Readernaut: a new social network for books (currently in beta).

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

Rebtel releases Android app enabling free calls to other Android users - even in other countries.

SpareRoom.co.uk: "the UK's #1 flat and houseshare website". And very handy it is too - whether you need a room or a tenant.

Music

Tastemaking music venture RCRD LBL hosts hundreds of free MP3s - and sends out an MP3 Of The Day newsletter (featuring two MP3s).

Kristin Hersh 'did a Radiohead' long before Radiohead, now she's released an album as a book.

Games & Other Distractions

Make It Good: superb (but fiendishly difficult) interactive fiction detective mystery that isn't at all what it at first appears. (Walkthroughs to be found here and here/here.)

Miscellaneous

An art project to send everyone in the world a handwritten letter - bafflement has thus far been (benignly) visited upon a small Irish village and a Pittsburgh neighbourhood.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 16

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

What happens when a story breaks behind a paywall?

How much did social media influence the UK election?

Blogging is dead, long live blogging.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange talks to Stephen Moss: "Journalism should be more like science."

First there was the slow food movement, now there's slow reading.

Social Media

Posterous wants your WordPress blog; easy blog-import option launched.

Friends for sale: how (some) marketers and self-promoters are manipulating social media.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

Writers' Houses: an online database of houses where writers used to live.

Which author do you write like?

Writer and filmmaker Ryu Murakami will release his next novel on iPad, before the print version.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

AppInventor: create apps for Android with drag-and-drop options, no coding required.

Music

Free downloads from San Francisco/Berkeley's world-famous record store Amoeba Records.

Games & Other Distractions

Cut It: more physics puzzling from the creator of Crayon Physics Deluxe.

Miscellaneous

GodBlock: a web filter for God-free browsing - but does it exist? (Try downloading and you'll see why I ask.)

Tessa Jowell is a London landmark, according to Google.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Weekend Links Post: No. 15

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

How seven British iPhone app developers found success.

Surely you've already heard of TED? Anyway, now TED's coming to Oxford.

Why Clay Shirky should give TV a break. (Interesting comments thread too).

Finns now have a legal right to broadband internet access. We have the Digital Economy Act. Sigh.

Daily Mail fails to notice parody Steve Jobs Twitter account is a parody. (Fool me once... etc.)

Social Media

Is Google working on a rival to Facebook?

700,000 Facebook declare themselves fans of an Israeli speechwriter's memoir - most of them inadvertently.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

Marcus du Sautoy looks at the interactive future of books - iPhone apps offering additional material, for instance.

Your book as a relational database: a new perspective on e-publishing.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

How to increase your virtual RAM with a spare USB flash drive.

Onbile: an online utility for making your website mobile-friendly.

Music

A free mixtape of the songs that influenced the soundtrack for Alan Moore's new audiobook project Unearthing.

The Hood Internet's mash-up mixtapes are probably old news by now... but The Hood Internet vs. Lykke Li, in particular, is well worth a download.

Games & Other Distractions

ImmorTall: the tiny alien only wanted to help...

Miscellaneous

Edge.org's annual question 2010: "How is the internet changing the way you think?"

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Canaries in the coal mine?

A question: are the internet naysayers* right?

A more useful question: what can be learned from their criticisms?

Last month, I wondered about the internet's strengths also being its weaknesses, and what could be achieved by addressing these weaknesses, rather than always playing to its strengths. I didn't realise at the time that the post, in places, was also touching on issues highlighted in Nicholas Carr's The Shallows, namely: how much we actually absorb of what we read online; and the feeling that the internet doesn't encourage a reader to stop and reflect (there's always another link, widget, text, etc. beckoning us on).

Regarding The Shallows, I'm more in the Clay Shirky / Steven Johnson camp - i.e. on balance, the benefits of the internet significantly outweigh the drawbacks - but there does seem to be a lot of this going about at the moment; Carr is far from the only one waxing gloomy about what the internet might be doing to us. To name just the first two that spring to mind:

Andrew Keen has decried "the cult of the amateur" - the internet's user-generated assault on professionalism and factual authority. And Jaron Lanier's You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto seeks to re-emphasise individual creativity, expertise, and the human above machines and the crowd.

I come from a philosophy background. What many philosophers will tell you is that philosophy isn't so much about answering life's big questions as framing those questions in a useful and productive way. What interests me in all the current internet naysaying, then, is precisely the questions: these are the crucial parts of the arguments. Whether we want to call the conclusions of Carr, Keen et al overly-pessimistic, or indeed wrong, or question certain of their interpretations of scientific evidence, still their original questions tend to persist - so if not their answers, then which?

Take a recent article in Prospect Magazine. Evgeny Morozov, in his critique of The Shallows, largely upholds the questions Carr raises - indeed he adds a number of his own that he believes even more pressing, regarding the wider societal effects being exerted by social networking - but instead argues that the internet will self-correct many of its shallowing tendencies. Companies, he says, will increasingly offer products and services to help those who want to counterbalance the shallowing effect, individuals will seek to positively alter their habits. Already, for example, there's Instapaper to make online reading distraction-free.

Rather than dismiss Carr's questions, Morozov simply takes a different approach, brings a different perspective to bear on them, leading to - for the most part - more encouraging results.

Our challenge, then, if we disagree with Carr's gloomier conclusions - or for that matter Morozov's re. social networking - is to create the conditions and constructs that will prevent those conclusions from becoming correct. To take his questions and answer them positively, rather than simply dismiss them. To evaluate how well he has asked his questions, and address them another way.

In short, however optimistic we are about the internet, we shouldn't dismiss the naysayers - even those with whom we disagree. We need them. Whatever else they might have to say, it may not be the questions they ask that are wrong.


*Or in some cases 'hmm'-sayers.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

The Weekly Links Post: No. 14

Welcome, again, to another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, humanely culled from my week's online reading and roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below (I was having a bit of an internet detox last week):

Selected Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now it's no longer in the print edition).

The iPhone 4: great, as long as you hold it correctly.

Twitter's latest teething troubles.

Five of the best alternatives to Spotify.

The Top 10 comedy podcasts.

Is Newspass Google's answer to paywalls?

Social Media

Losing our minds to the web? The issues raised by Nicholas Carr's The Shallows will likely be solved by the web itself, says Evgeny Morozov. The real danger lies in how "the transparent culture of social networking is slowly reshaping human behaviour."

Clay Shirky's response to The Shallows.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

GalleyCat is compiling a directory of the best online fiction writers.

Library users - in London, Ontario - can now borrow e-books.

SlushPile Hell: a "grumpy literary agent" selects choice excerpts from authors' query letters - for example:

"My 318,000 word novel may seem like it starts a little slow, but after the first 100 pages or so it really picks up steam."

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

Lifehacker explains how to silence the vuvuzelas (Clarice...).

Music

EMI is no longer a record label, now it's a "comprehensive rights management company". Which is nice.

Playdio: listen to and broadcast radio shows on Spotify.

Games & Other Distractions

Crush The Castle 2: destroy castles, with a trebuchet. Again. This time with added electric eels.

Miscellaneous

"Sanatogen Tonic Wine: because kids are murder!" - just one of many old magazine adverts posted and commented on by the Gypsy Creams blog.