Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tom Coates get Pwned

I'm demonstrating You Tube again. This one was a particularly good find...

Buzz and Predictions

Buzz Game: Home

Reading a post on the O'Reilly website about games, AI and captchas, I noticed there was a rated list of RSS readers in the left hand navigation, attached to 'stock market' data. It turns out to be an embed from the Yahoo! Buzz game; essentially, Celebdaq for search terms. It's not new, of course, you'll have been aware of it for a while.

I noticed, however, that it was part of Yahoo! Research; it makes sense, as a stock market game about technology trends is a good area to attract an audience to the game. But then I though... what data could Yahoo! be deriving from the players?

Watching buying trends of technology related search terms would be an invaluable guide to investing in key products and technologies, and could give quick before-the-fact tipoffs to emerging players.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Building A Guitar in Nowhere

As I've been on holiday this week, I decided to take a virtual holiday too; I moved multiverses from Warcraft to Second Life.

Man, does that interface blow...

I think there will be a longer post about SL sometime soon, but for now I'd just like to point at this extraordinary video of a chap using the in-game modelling tools to build a guitar for Suzanne Vega. It's breathtakingly accomplished, considering the tools used.

I know it isn't anywhere close to what the highend CGI tools can do, but at the same time, the last time I did any serious 3D modelling was on the Acorn Archimedes, and you had to use a scripting language to place all of the objects, then leave it for hours to render your animation. I genuinely can't concieve of what virtual space manipulation tools might be in another 20 years...

Second Life | Showcase

Best Thing Ever

If George Formby did the Ace of Spades

Uniforms! George Formby! Ukeleles! Rock! Yes! My life, as they say, is complete.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

The BBC License Fee Reclassified as a Tax?

One of the speakers has just raised the fact that the 'BBc License Fee has been reclassified as a tax, so why can't we access everything it does in an open way, seeing as we've already paid for it?'

Hmn. Here's what the House of Lords had to say about it:

The licence fee as a tax

22. Since our last report there has been a significant change in the position of the licence fee. In January 2006 the Office of National Statistics re-classified the licence fee as a tax. Previously, this payment had been classified in the National Accounts as a service charge. Explaining the change the Office of National Statistics (ONS) says "in line with the definition of a tax, the licence fee is a compulsory payment which is not paid solely for access to BBC services? A licence is required to receive ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, satellite, cable". [6]

23. We are not convinced by this argument not least because it has been the case that a licence has been required to view any television channel in the UK for many decades. Nevertheless the decision means that from now on the licence fee will be recognised as a form of hypothecated taxation.

24. Reclassification of the licence fee as a tax also has the consequence that the BBC is reclassified from the public non-financial corporations sub-sector to the central government sector.[7] The status of the BBC is thus also affected by this decision and it becomes a central government body. This change also affects the Welsh broadcaster S4C.

25. When announcing its decision the ONS tried to offer some reassurance that "These classifications are solely for the purpose of producing National Accounts and the statistical products based on them. This has no implication for the independence of these broadcasters".

26. In spite of this we are concerned about the consequences of the ONS' decision. The reclassification of the BBC as a central government body could have serious implications for its independence. There are various subgroups of public body that come under the title central government body. The only existing one that the BBC could conceivable fall into is the category of a non-departmental public body.

27. The Cabinet Office guidance on non-departmental public bodies shows that the sponsoring department of such a body has significant powers over it. For example the sponsoring department has a role in designating who the body's accounting officer will be, in approving the form of the annual report and accounts, in determining audit arrangements, in reviews on the grading and loading of posts and in setting pay remits.[8] The reclassification of the licence fee as a tax, and of the BBC as a central government body, could therefore have significant implications for the BBC's independence. We urge the Department of Culture, Media and Sport first to spell out the implications of these changes and second to explain how the BBC's independence will be safeguarded in light of them.

28. The licence fee is now classified as a tax and we note that for the first time the Government have started to use it as such. They are using it to cover costs that should be covered by general taxation, in particular the costs of providing targeted help with digital switchover. As we will discuss in the next chapter, over 75s are currently given a free television licence funded from general taxation as part of the Government's social policy. By proposing to fund targeted help with digital switchover through the licence fee, the Government have introduced a type of "top-slicing" for the first time. This is a profound change to the constitutional position of the BBC. By doing this the Government can raise taxation without being seen to do so.

29. As long as the licence fee is being recognised as, and treated as, a tax then our argument that Parliament should have a chance to properly scrutinise it becomes even stronger.

So - firstly, a Government department has pointed out that the license fee doesn't just pay for a BBC service - it is a payment for access to all broadcasters. No change there.

It also means that 'The BBC ... becomes a central government body.'

Which has implications for the BBC's independence.

Mind you, the chap who pointed that out as a rallying call to getting access to BBC data, rather than a blow to journalistic independence, has just shown a C64 emulator running in flash. Which redeems him.

If you're interested, here is a report comissioned by ITV about the license fee, and here is the ONS document about the reclassification.

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Oh, look, a homepage made almost entirely out of jpegs. Good oh.

Quite a lot of double letters to remember in that URL too...

d.construct 2006

So, I'm down in Brighton for d.construct 2006 - alas, I'd already bought my own ticket by the time that the backstage.bbc.co.uk freebies went round. There's something rather deliciously ironic about being given a schwag bag with a tshirt from your own employer in it - not least a sudden pang of guild about LFP's money... although we'll draw a discrete veil over that one, as I don't think I've yet to comply with big aunties employee blog guidelines. Cough.

We've been through three sessions so far, and I've met a few of the usual suspects, and a couple of folk I know online but not in the flesh. It's a very male audience, but that's not unpleasant as it means queues for the loos are small during breaks. Ah, Dave Winer, eat your heart out.

First up was Jeff Barr from Amazon Web Services. To be honest, it felt like a very shiny hour long sales pitch; there was little information there that I hadn't picked up from generally reading stuff on the internet (appart from some of the technical gubbins, which made a lovely X-wingy noise as it flew over my head). Best Slide: the ten thousand mechanical turk sheep were extremely fine, and it's always useful to get usage figures for big sites:

59 million active customers (logged in and purchased something in the last year)
25TB of business and historical data in warehouse
1,080,000 active seller accounts
180,000 software developers registered over 4 years on AWS.
Alexa web services have 3 100Tb web crawler indices, containing 10 billion pages, that roll over every 2 months

(Oh god, two men are sitting next to me talking about 'how widgets for your blog are the bumper stickers of the internet, and how all they need is to get a VC interested... also, there are people with a stall and matching tshirts and some kind of soft toy cows advertising some sort of JavaScript Application platform.. truly truly it is bubble2.0)

The cheerful travelling pantechnicon of Messrs. Hammond and Willison, purveyors of fine APIs to the masses were up next. They were funny, and mentioned the Yahoo Monkey. they didn't sing the song, though, which was a loss. Their facts and figures

1/2billioon users/month for Yahoo worldwide
200,000,000 have yahooid - active users
Yahoo itself is a coallition of 40 smaller product groups

Best Slide: they have one of the biggest problems with hackers in the world - they are the worlds' most hacked website. They illustrated this with a picture of a radical haxxor with his laptop, sitting on a streetcorner. The face was pixellated, yet he looked strangely familiar...

They talked about the internal benefits of a web services framework within a big company; not just the fact that the developer community love you and build stuff, but that actually it frees up innovation within a company - you can prototype stuff fast, without having to ask permission and build on something produced by another business unit. It gives you agility in your innovation and development, and makes testing ideas a quick, easy and creative process. You encourage an internal mashup culture; it allows large organisations to build new products faster, and with lower 'communication overheads'. This is an appealing thing, particularly within the BBC where we're just begining to crack open our systems internally. Nicest thing they showed was the potential to use a flash API (gasp!) for a mapping service, demonstrated by Justin Everett-Church's Pirate and Radar maps. Their key message was 'Find a way to contribute back to the ecosystem' - and that the improvements on international mapping for Yahoo maps were coming soon - in the order of months, rather than years. The most compelling argument for external APIs from a business case was that unless you unlock your data, you offer a market opportunity - and potentially market share - to your competitors. Ordinance Survey take note...

(ooh, apparently the Widget men know someone who 'did fucking insane things when the BBC were going fucking mental setting up their ISP which was madness and there was this Monkey called Babbage as the Icons... all you do is go round your mates in big corporations and bamboozle them with new tech...'. Gosh, I do hope they get the money they want from MySpace.)

An interesting point was raised in their questions; How does one ensure that web APIs remain available in the future? By comitting to build on someone else's platform, and create a business relying on that data, where do you have a long term guarantee that that source will remain there. There isn't an answer to that, but it raises interesting issues about the mayfly existence of web sites (and web2.0 ideas, perhaps). I found myself wondering if Brewster Kahle and the internet archive should start capturing back end server architecture so creative sites could be accessed in twenty, fifty, a hundred years time. Something like flickr could become the Doomesday laserdisc project of the next twenty years unless someone starts capturing script and code and server 'snapshots' going forward. I often wonder what happened to flickr's real time picture IM service...

Next up was Jeremy Keith, on the Joy of API. His talk - from the point of view of the lone developer learning to make products around others' APIs - was excellent. he made an interesting point that his joy reactions to sites over the years have been emotional reactions to the story possibilities therein - when design follows the story, and story flows from design. best slide - a ZX81. His comments on MicroFormats and classes such as hCard and hCalendar turning the whole web into an API were... inspiring. I need to do more research here, though.

So, now it's lunchtime. I'm guarding Yoz's laptop whilst we steal hot 'lectric juice to power our lightup thinking books. More later on this afternoon's sessions if the RSI holds out. And I can get the wifi to work properly on the laptop.

There is, incidentally, a horrible rising queasiness about sitting in a room full of alpha geeks, and realising that you shouldn't have brought the boyfriend's MacBookPro instead of the tablet PC - you might be getting an additional 2 hours battery life, but you'll feel like a complete twat when the rows behind you watch you struggle to work out how to make it connect to the free wifi. Thank god Yoz was there to inform me it was DHCP playing silly buggers, and not just onrushing senility...

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Queen of Puddings - History - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Queen of Puddings - History - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I wonder if that's *the* Dave Gorman who edited my contribution to the Wikipedia?

If it is... he plays Warcraft, and edits his own entry.