Friday, 30 April 2010

The Weekly Links Post: No. 8

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

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 inevitable question: will Foursquare be the new Twitter?

UK recorded music sales rise for first time in six years; BPI still championing the CD.

Cloud computing: bad for the environment?

Ad-funded music streaming works: We7 is now making money and paying musicians proper royalties.

Social Media

Advertising on Facebook isn't pointless after all - so long as you make the most of the medium.

How private are your Facebook settings? Find out with this online privacy checker. (Don't worry, it doesn't ask for your account password.)

Beware the Twitter grammar vigilantes!

Books, Writing & Storytelling

What's new at the intersection between technology and literature: The Literary Platform.

Useful Apps, Utilities & Downloads

FutureMessage: lets you send emails, tweets and text messages at any specified time. (Via


Spotify has made some major changes this week; read the full announcement on the Spotify blog.

How will the election affect music? BBC 6Music hosts a debate between the three main parties, plus the Head of UK Music, Feargal Sharkey, and contributions from musicians and promoters.

Games & Other Distractions

Poto & Cabenga: odd split-screen thingy in which you control two characters at once, with only one button. Possibly just maddening, possibly just a matter of practice.


'Kitchen designs inspired by our would-be PMs': the 2010 General Election contest, as reimagined by IKEA. (Via @patroclus)

Find out how your baby sees the world, across various ages. No wonder they're always crying. (Via

Microsoft offers some advice on "humor" Coming soon: the Calista Flockhart Guide to Competitive Eating. Probably.
(Via @wonderlandblog and @james_blue_cat)

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Not a chain of station bookshops: The Literary Platform

(Image by Salvatore Vuono)

You don't have to turn it off, turn it on, keep it charged or plug it in.
It doesn't matter if you drop it.
It can be read in most lights.
It never tells you that you have unread tweets or emails.
It never crashes.
It never makes alarming noises.
Most are very portable.
No-one's likely to mug you for it.

I'm talking about the book, of course, and at the same time listing some of the many reasons why most of my reading for pleasure is still done offline and away from a screen of any kind.

Don't get me wrong, I can see some of the benefits of an e-reader: instant access to a dictionary (and foreign language dictionaries?) while reading; fewer and lighter boxes when moving house; keeping within your holiday luggage allowance; not procrastinating away an afternoon by rearranging your bookcases. And of reading on a mobile phone: it's already in your pocket; you can read it in the dark. But as yet, for me, it's still to a book I turn when I want to relax.

And that's the key phrase: 'when I want to relax'. Because reading isn't relaxing when you read on the same screen you use for work, emailing and some of your social life: to really concentrate and lose yourself, you want to be somehow cut off from everything else, to be somehow somewhere else. Or I do. Even an e-reader would feel a little too inorganic and distancing to me; too much separation between me and the words.

And yet, I know there must be some way of fruitfully combining technology and what's usually found between the covers of a book - some hybrid that uses the best of both, to some artistic and/or entertaining end. And as a writer, facing an increasingly difficult publishing market (should I eventually get around to it), I'm eager to see them.

One such experiment which has caught my eye is Locus Novus, which combines short stories with visuals, soundtracks and sound effects, as well as controlling the speed at which you read, so as to (often very successfully) alter and enhance your experience and expectations of what you're reading. (But it doesn't seem to have really caught on.)

Then there's the enhanced version of Nick Cave's novel The Death of Bunny Munro, read and soundtracked by the author himself, with 3-D sound and effects, all synchronised to the text, to make a sort of audio movie - potentially a new and distinct experience from either traditional books or audiobooks, and very much suited to that particular novel (especially the more hallucinogenic passages).

Happily, it's just these kinds of experiment, these kinds of meeting between technology and books, that a new website called The Literary Platform is now seeking to highlight:

The Literary Platform is dedicated to showcasing projects experimenting with literature and technology. It brings together comment from industry figures and key thinkers, and encourages debate.

The showcase will demonstrate how traditional publishers and developers are experimenting with multimedia formats, how established authors are going it alone, how first-time novelists are bypassing publishers and how niche literary magazines are finding wider audiences.

If you're interested in the future of books and the future of writing - as a reader seeking new experiences, a publisher trying not to go bust, or a writer seeking inspiration and new outlets - The Literary Platform sounds exactly the place to be.

(And as yet no mention whatsoever of a replacement bus service; which can only be a good thing.)

Friday, 23 April 2010

The Weekly Links Post: No. 7

Following a couple of minor dramas at inopportune moments last week (#nickcleggsfault), normal service is now resumed...

So, here we go, with yet another entirely subjective selection of 15 links, roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

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

Playing brain training games improves only your ability to play brain training games, according to recent research.

What if we applied a spam filter to life as well as our emails?

Has Google killed the satnav? Google Maps Navigation launches in the UK.

Games will never be art, says Roger Ebert. Again.

We've heard from (and Twittered on) Clegg, Cameron and Brown, but what about the people who wrote their policies? Here's the manifesto writers' debate (with questions decided on by Guardian readers, Twitterers and members of online campaign group 38Degrees).

Social Media

Election 2.0? Maybe not, says report by Apex Communications.

How to protect yourself against Facebook's latest privacy compromising changes. Or try to.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

Historian admits to anonymously trashing rivals on Amazon, and praising his own publications.

Poet attempting to encode self-perpetuating and mutating poetry into DNA.

Prize for New Media Writing established by Poole Literary Festival and Bournemouth University.

Useful Apps & Downloads

Calibre: a free and open source e-book library manager and converter.


Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon gets an 8-bit chiptunes makeover.

Games & Other Distractions

Viricide: another engagingly melancholy creation from Eli Piilonen, maker of the excellent indie game The Company Of Myself (described in this previous post).


Why the US Library of Congress is archiving Twitter. (Not an attempt to create the world's largest repository of sarcasm, as it turns out.)

"Will Nick Clegg give house prices cancer?" The online random Daily Mail headline generator has had an update.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

The Weekly Links Post: No. 6

And here we go again...

Another entirely subjective weekly selection of 15 links, roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

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

TalkTalk vows to defy "draconian" anti-file-sharing measures introduced by the Digital Economy Bill. See also: the TalkTalk company blog.

More reaction and fall-out from Wednesday's washing-up of the Digital Economy Bill; plus, who voted which way.

Murdoch defends paywalls, again; commenter raises possibility of samizdat versions of The Sun.

WikiLeaks' influence is growing, but who will watch WikiLeaks?

Social Media

"The biggest [election] gaffes will likely be made... on Twitter - what are the odds it'll be me?" predicted Labour candidate Stuart MacLennan. Then proved himself right.

Chat Roulette's social media, right? It even has spam now.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

Authors who blog need your votes for the Author Blog Awards. You might even win a book for your trouble.

Mojo, Q and Kerrang! publisher tries to impose new "copyright-grabbing" freelance contracts, upsets its freelance writers (via @laurasnapes, @alex_hoban).

Useful Apps & Downloads

A Twitter client for those of us with Nokias. Pretty useable even in the free version.

Firefox blog editor ScribeFire is now available for Chrome; but just in an alpha version at present (via DownloadSquad).


The latest much talked about mash-up album: Notorious BIG vs the xx... Oh. It's already gone. Sigh.

Games & Other Distractions

The Guardian's regularly updated list of the greatest internet sports games of all time.


"The iPad is retrograde. It tries to turn us back into an audience again," says Jeff Jarvis.

Search, find and watch the politics that affects you at the BBC's Democracy Live site.

Then find out how powerful your vote might be at the Voter Power Index.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Digital Economy Bill and Cornwall's Tourist Industry

Here is the text of an email I posted earlier on Network Cornwall, a county-wide mailing list for businesswomen in Cornwall.

It's about how tourism businesses such as B&Bs, guesthouses and caf├ęs are affected by the 'unintended consequences' of the the new Digital Economy Bill, a hastily rushed-through piece of legislation that will pass into UK law today.

Free Wi-Fi in Cornwall's hotels: could become a thing of the past due to the Digital Economy Act

Hi all,

Do you run a B&B, guesthouse, hotel, cafe or bar in Cornwall that offers Wi-Fi or other internet access to guests as part of your service? If so, please read on about new UK legislation that will affect you.

(If you don't offer internet access to guests, or have no plans to do so, there's no need to read this email.)

Last night Parliament rushed through a new law, the Digital Economy Bill, ahead of the general election. The aim of the law is to clamp down on digital piracy in the UK - which means people who download or share copyrighted material like music, films and TV programmes without paying for them.

Although it has good intentions, the Bill looks set to cause massive problems for people who share their internet connection with others - such as B&Bs and cafes who offer free Wi-Fi to guests.

It obliges your internet service provider to monitor activity on your internet connection and send you warning letters if it looks like copyrighted material has been downloaded or shared on your network.

If you receive three such letters from your ISP, your connection may be slowed down ('throttled') or even suspended temporarily. There is no definition in the law of how long 'temporarily' might be.

This has clear implications for people in the tourist industry who share an internet connection with guests as part of the 'package' offered.

If you allow your guests to use an internet connection that you pay for, and your guests use that connection to download or share copyrighted material (which thousands of people do nowadays, often without even realising it), it is YOU who will be assumed to be the guilty party, YOU who will receive warning letters from your internet service provider, and YOU who may eventually have your internet connection 'temporarily' cut off.

If you want to appeal against the letters, or against the threat of having your connection suspended, as the law stands currently you will have to pay your own court costs to do so.

This is a very ill thought-out piece of legislation that has been rushed through Parliament ahead of the election without proper debate or consideration of the wider implications. You can read more about it, and about how it affects people who share an internet connection with others, here in the Daily Telegraph.

If you have any thoughts about this I would love to hear from you, as I am thinking of writing an article to raise awareness of this issue for Cornwall's tourism industry.

Kind regards,


Saturday, 3 April 2010

The Weekly Links Post: No. 5

An entirely subjective weekly selection of 15 links, roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

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

With tax breaks for the videogames industry announced, is gaming becoming culturally acceptable?

In the US, algorithms are already reporting the news. Scary... but not as scary as Glenn Beck.

Ever read spam? What if they paid you?

Aren't those who buy music frequently the same ones who pirate it? Another reason why the Digital Economy bill might need more thought.

Murdoch's paywall: pathetic, or maybe not such a bad idea after all?

Books, Writing & Storytelling

Jeff Howe at Wired has an idea: What if everyone on Twitter read the same book?

For all your cultural avant-garde needs: UbuWeb.

A site for designers seeking inspiration, book geeks, or just those who like to judge a book by its cover: Cover Browser. (via DownloadSquad)

Social Media

Making drama out of tweets, IMs and other social media postings: Inst Msgs.

Yet another Facebook privacy change...

Useful Apps & Downloads

Download 82 of the most essential free / open source apps from one dashboard: ZeuApp. See also: Ninite. (via Lifehacker)

Superb open source cross-platform video and internet TV player Miro has upgraded to version 3 - and added a video converter.

Games & Other Distractions

Could this be the UK Hulu? SeeSaw streams live and archive UK TV.

Music + payment mechanism = mflow?


What's inside the iPad (as if you hadn't guessed already). (via @MattMason)