30 March 2006

copper tears

copper tears
Originally uploaded by Maltpress.
Just back from Budapest. Lovely, lovely place. Now utterly shattered and my feet hurt. I'm going to have tea and go to bed and put all my photos up tomorrow.

Stand by for boredom... :)

23 March 2006

Video on the web as a source of revenue

Once again Thursday - technology Guardian day - brings us things of interest.

Today it's online video as a source of revenue. Now, for the most part I agree with the article, and it's an exciting concept - online video has been dogged by bandwidth issues, storage, streaming, and all sorts and is only now becoming practical (there's been noise about it for ages with nothing really happening). Short-form low-res (and undeniably lo-fi) video is becoming an art-form in itself; the potential in my own field, comedy, is huge.

But one bit of the article doesn't sit right:

If a group attracts a huge following to a site that gives it 50% or more of the advertising takings then it has no need to cash in on its fame by issuing CDs, downloads or even doing gigs, because it could earn a far bigger share through a revenue-sharing web site than it ever could through one of the giant music companies.

Er... well, it's already been stated that:
Each video has an advert tagged to the end of it. If the viewer clicks on it, it generates revenue that is shared.

The killer here is "if" - how many ads have you clicked on lately? Revenue from online advertising comes from the fact that it's cheap and easy to put an ad together, users don't choose whether do view them on not (as you do when you make the time/bandwidth investment to download a video clip) - they're just there - and so you have millions of people seeing them. If only a small percentage click it - and they're probably people who already know they need something then you make a profit.

The video thing doesn't work like that. The time and money investment needed to make a video is much more than a banner ad; the number of people viewing it is going to be minor; and the number of people clicking through at the end of it will be even less.

It's probably closer to be a self-funding promotional vehicle for bands - like the low res video? Then buy the single! - but not a revenue generator in itself. If I watch a video I like then there's no obligation on me to click an advert and, unless I understand the model used and know and like the producer of it, I probably won't.

Now, the 3 model is more likely to work - you're charged to upload and users are charged to download (bandwidth on their phones, so it goes on their phone bill). You get 10% of the revenue from downloads. That's the only way you can be sure to make money from a popular video - and it's not really any different from adding a song to something like iTunes. You may as well cut out the middle man and sell MP3s online yourself.

There are lots of ways for amateurs to make money from the internet - CafePress's home made t-shirts, that kind of thing - and revenue sharing from video can only ever be a tiny part of this.

Anyway, that's my two pence worth.

22 March 2006

More missing e goodies

Or should that be "goodis"?

Anyway, tonight I shall be exploring Labelr.com with which it is possible to tag Blogger posts. The feature which I most like about WordPress blogs and which was tempting me away.


Huh? - the archetypal consultancy. I'm not sure what's more worrying - the fact that I recognised myself in the site, or that I found myself thinking "what a cool idea" when I read this:

Our designers ride Razor scooters around the office, while wearing mail-bag style backpacks to hold their iPods.

The site was sent to me by Sue Wright, of WrightPlace Consulting, who's been a mentor to me and good friend since we worked together a couple of years back. It really struck a chord with me.

Other stuff: well, not much to report, really. Very much a plodding day - little bitty bits of work to do and nothing substantial. The budget was interesting - big tax on big cars, 4p on a bottle of wine (boo!) but stamp duty threshold up (hurrah!).

And I'm off to Budapest on Monday for a few days' holiday. First time on holiday on my own and I'm a bit nervous. Still, everyone says it's lovely out there and that language - which is the big worry for me - isn't an issue. Point and shout!

21 March 2006

Ministerial blogging

Blogging seems to go through peaks and troughs in terms of publicity and popularity. First it was Microsoft employee blogging (Scobleizer), then Google's developer blogs, then the power of consumer blogs (in particular railing against Wal-Mart) - and now, as it inevitably would, it's gone political, with David Miliband launching his own.

Corporate blogs always run the risk of being ghost-written, especially when they're supposedly from someone high up in an organisation. Now, I have no doubt much of this is written by Miliband himself, but it's probably gone through countless filters, comms teams, writers and researchers before it goes live. Sensible, yes, but in some ways defying the point of blogging in the first place.

Where's the humanity? Where's Miliband complaining about another night of living off canapes? Where's the opinion? I'm not saying the blog should be "The Secret Diary of David Miliband, aged 15 and three quarters", just that there's a massive opportunity to humanise the political process and open a few doors - especially to one of the more disaffected segments of the voter population, the young and young professionals who play with the internet.

I don't think anyone really needs to know that he's been to this or that meeting, or that he's been interviewed, except maybe in passing. What we want to know is the nitty-gritty of the meetings and the silly details. Miliband himself quotes the following from Arianna Huffington - "Blogs are by nature very personal - an intimate, often ferocious expression of the blogger's passions" - and then completely fails to excite any passion at all.

It's all about pull and push. Pull people in with the revelations about who's the messiest eater in the cabinet, who's getting excited about what, the bits we never see and that - in a celebrity and gossip obsessed culture - we all want to know. Then subtly - almost subliminally - push us information about schemes or publications.

If this doesn't happen, then the blog's simply going to become a dull diary of meetings no-one cares about - and a place for the disaffected to post vitriol.

Maybe I'll have a rant about comments and feedback later in the week.

Now, to make my blog more interesting, here's the gossip: V for Vendetta is very good, although Natalie Portman appears to play an English South African who's spent a lot of time in New Zealand and Australia. That accent's all over the place. Hugo Weaving puts in a great performance although you never see his face so, as far as we know, it could be David Prowse under there; and threatening prison guards from the West Country really don't work. "You'll die in here, my lover".

Oh, and even with no hair Natalie Portman is stunning.

18 March 2006

Scan scan scan

I've got 50-odd (very odd, some of them) photos I'm going to scan. It's been... interesting going through them all. Scary how many of those pictured are now married; strange how I have no photos of the people I really wanted pictures of; odd some of the things I did take photos of (although I'm strangely glad I have a photo of my room in the house I lived in when at uni). The many haircuts are interesting, too. And not just mine.

It's making me want to track all these people down and get back in touch with them. Easy enough to do thanks to the internet.

Anyway, my job for the weekend is scanning, cropping, trying to remember names, and generally cataloging a load of old crap I keep in the loft. Misty eyes ahoy!

16 March 2006

I like Thursdays

Thursdays are Technology Guardian day. Thursdays are also fencing day, and nearly the weekend day. And I'm pretty sure my socks match today as well.

So - what's new? Well, I got very excited by Flagr last night after I discovered Swansea, where I was at uni, is in high-res on Google Maps (although Cardiff isn't, which is very odd). I've added loads of flags for places I used to hang out at uni, including the site of my very first gig, my two student houses, the student's union, and more. I'm hoping to scan some old photos this weekend (or tomorrow - I have the day off) and add them.

I'm not entirely sure of the purpose yet - I'm not using the system for anything more, at the moment, than misty-eyed reminiscence; although from a social history point of view maybe that's good. Why anyone would want to know how great I found watching Singleton Hospital from random girls' bedrooms is beyond me at the moment though. I did mark a pub where Dylan Thomas used to drink, though.

The Flagr bods have said on their wishlist pages that grouping of flags will become a possibility, and that's a more interesting development - if I can add flags to a group of, for example, great lost venues (The Monkey Cafe, Swansea... the Boat Race, Cambridge...) then that's more interesting than one man's random "I got drunk here" stories. In the mean time I'll keep adding flags and hope coherence or a theme appears when I reach some undefined critical mass.

Other news... well, the Guardian has an article on UK mapping data which is very interesting. I'll be popping along to FreeOurData.org.uk and seeing what's happening there.

Origami gets a mention too - Microsoft's project for "ultra mobile PCs" (basically something between a PDA and a laptop) which - as Rik was saying to me the other day - has interesting implications for real-time Google mashup things, especially when Cambridge's Wi-Fi cloud is up and running. It's also got interesting web usability/user interface implications. Are touch screens going to become big? Will we stop using mice? Will web designers get used to 800x480 resolutions? Will touch screens mean scrolling becomes a pain again, and we'll have to make sure we work above the fold? It's as much down to what becomes standard on devices as anything - an Apple-style click-wheel could make all the difference. A touch-screen virtual click wheel or gesture-based browsing experience might also help. Let's hope Origami doesn't go the way of tablet PCs.

Exciting - but probably expensive - times ahead.

15 March 2006


I've got odd socks on today. It's a combination of a low wattage energy saving light bulb, colour blindness, and oversleeping when I was supposed to drive someone to work. The end result is that I have one very dark blue sock (one of the ones which was once black and fades through blue) and one very dark grey sock (which was once black and fades through grey). You can only notice if I pull my trousers too high and stand in natural sunlight - which probably won't happen that often today - but it's still a little embarrasing. Not as bad as when I cycle in and forget a change of socks and have to wear white ones all day...

Perhaps I should sign up to BlackSocks.com and have fresh pairs delivered on a regular basis. Or start wearing brightly coloured ones which are easy to pair up. Or stop flashing my damn ankles all the time.

Anyway, the reason I'm blogging today is Flickr, which I love, and which has some coverage in the Guardian today. It's basically Dave Gorman demonstrating what happens with a decent digital camera and far too much time on your hands (although he's one of the hardest working - and most genuine, nice, funny and friendly - comedians I've had the fortune to meet in my amateur comedy ramblings). The article also sums up exactly how I find Flickr - and how I use it - far better than I ever could.

Dave's pictures are great (you can find them here) and they have that wonderful sense of humour and slight oddness about them which you only get with Flickr. Well, perhaps you only get it with digital - it's so easy to point and shoot and discard bad photos that people seem to take snaps of anything on the offchance something magical will happen.

I'll leave you to get lost on Flickr as I always seem to do. No web 2.0 critique from me today; just some nice links to some cool stuff.

14 March 2006

Another day, another dollar

Yoz asked below what I thought of Ning.com, having had a play with it.

First impressions - for some reason I'm thinking Sharepoint 2003. I think it's the idea of user empowerment which a lot of web 2.0 stuff is trying to do - personal home pages, all that kind of stuff. It's also incredibly simple to set up nice, personal, and indeed granular web apps. Who hasn't seen something like Hot or Not and thought "wow - but what if it was only for people dressed as robots? We could call it bot or not"? Well, maybe that's just me. But the idea's there. Flickr's brilliant, Flagr's fab, etc etc, but it's nice to limit these things to certain groups of people. Teams, clubs, even families - especially with social groups becoming less and less constrained by geography.

I also think - and this is how it's going to be most useful to me - the ability to twiddle with the code is a fantastic idea. It's a learning environment.

Criticisms? All the apps look the same and do pretty much the same - at the moment. It's early days and I can see it's not going to be long before people start to learn more and really open up on the site.

Suggestions? A bulletin board a little more powerful than the current forums thing - along the lines of phpBB or similar. Groups who'd be using these apps will want to talk. Lots.

Actually, the ability to embed an app - especially a google mashup in the first post of a BB, or as a permanent part of the page (think two frames - top one is mashup, bottom one is bulletin board) would be really good. So you can discuss an app (or the data on it) without having to flick between pages/tabs/browsers all the time.

Now that would be something AJAX could do really, really well.

13 March 2006

Monday morning

I really don't want to be at work today. Tired. Didn't get a huge amount done this weekend except fixing a really stupid CSS mistake (well, more act of laziness than mistake) on my CV page. Which looks - at the moment - awful. My design skills really need some work.

I say I didn't do much, but in fact looking at the things I got done, it's an impressive list. I signed up for del.icio.us, had a play with ning.com, started planning a SQL/PHP/Google maps project to display my dad's family history stuff, did some washing, met Rik Abel, who seems a jolly nice bloke, slept a bit, watched Serenity and thoroughly enjoyed it, went book shopping (bought, alphabetically by author, the first and last books in the fiction section - first one is pretty good so far), bought a Death Cab for Cutie album (very good) and that's about it.

Oh how interesting someone else's weekend must seem to you all.

Now I'm at work wishing I was somewhere else, wondering what on earth I can do to my career to be happy again, and thinking about putting Transport Direct's clever little doobery on work's site. Oh, and wondering when V for Vendetta is out because I keep looking at my Star Wars desk calendar (stop laughing!) and it's got Natalie Portman on it today.

*edit - note to self* - don't start a link on the 300th character of blog posts, because it confuses the parser I'm using...

09 March 2006

The web 2.0 love affair continues...

It's only a matter of time before Web 2.0 becomes sick of my fawning and tells me to leave it alone, resulting in me hiding in its garden at night and stealing underwear from its washing line. But until then I will continue the puppy-dog eyes thing.

Today's great looking bit of kit has the potential to kill MySpace, hurrah! Well, maybe not, but it's an interesting rival to it. This New Scientist story tells of an automated tool for web-page creation which uses key words parsed from user-suggested feeds, likes etc to generated a page containing other relevant news.

It's along the lines of things like Last.fm, doing something which the internet is becoming really good at - opening people's eyes to something new. The concept of going to sites and following lots of links to vaguely relevant things and eventually ending up somewhere cool is hardly new, but doing it automatically is great. Last.fm's power lies not in advertising to other people what you like (which in itself has interesting applications) but in seeing what else you might like. As an example, I keep getting reccomended Death Cab for Cutie and will sooner or later have to buy one of their CDs.

Amazon have been doing something similar for ages, and a "you might also like" link on e-commerce sites is now pretty standard. But they're easily fooled; if I buy one book as a present for my brother suddenly my results are skewed into things I have no interest in. If (as I do) you use e-commerce for presents, having a firm idea of what someone wants, and buy things for yourself in real shops, then it's next to useless.

The Last.fm concept, and this new idea, are bound to give far more relevant results because there's just enough user interaction and choice involved for it not to be 100% automatic. Automatic is good but it's easily fooled. And having that feeling of having direct control over results - and that results aren't skewed - lends it more credibility and makes a sale more likely. I'll trust Last.fm's reccommendations because I know it's based around what I'm listening to now. I won't trust Amazon's.

I'm looking forward to seeing this go live - I wonder how I can get an invitation?

08 March 2006

Maltpress.co.uk changes

Changes continue apace on www.maltpress.co.uk (which this blog now also appears on). If you visit the site you'll see some links appearing, most of which lead to a lovely Apache 404 page not found - sorry, but I've set up my test server wrong, and overwritten the old site. Anyway, the new version is starting to take shape now, although I'm still very aware of the limitations of my design skills.

Not much else to report really - life is in flux at the moment. No stand-up gigs (which is a shame as I have a new web toy to test when I do), not much on but work, and the recent Flickr update looks like being the last for a while. Still, nice pictures from the camera phone of planes at the American Air Museum in Duxford.

05 March 2006

Long time no see...

Right, the day job just took over entirely. Done some nice projects; made some very good contacts; got to know the lovely people at Pixelwork and learnt a lot from them. Learnt a new content management system, RedDot. Found out how long it takes to sort hosting out. Fell in love with Web 2.0 even though it's an odd concept (although that doesn't mean I like My Space yet).

JuicyFly's been in hibernation, but it's time to dust off the wings, re-write that business plan, and see what happens.