BBC iPlayer coverage prediction

July 21st, 2007

This prediction of media coverage in the first 14 days after the BBC launch the iPlayer is depressingly plausible:

Day #2: The press reports that the BBC website 'crashed' due to demand for the iPlayer, because someone emailed someone at The Telegraph saying they couldn't download it over their dial-up connection. A BBC 'source' is quoted as saying that 'managers' are to blame for spending the money on more Jonathan Ross instead of on more computers.


Day #12: A group of support charities issue a report saying that the iPlayer software has high standards of accessibility, and is one of the most usable pieces of video download software on the internet for people with visual impairments. Nobody cares. At the same time, BIPA issue a press statement claiming that page views to non-BBC media websites have fallen by 5% due to the monopolistic ambitions of the iPlayer, and that as a result it will cost the British internet industry millions of pounds and damage long-term job prospects. Every newspaper covers this.

[Via Qwghlm]

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Future Past

July 12th, 2007

In 1994 DEC made this video to tell their customers about the potential of this new-fangled World Wide Web.

I'd almost forgotten just how basic sites looked in the early years of the web; it's no wonder that I used to think back then that there was still a chance that gopher might be a viable alternative to the web.

I wonder if someone will be looking back in 2020 at one of today's promotional videos – say, for the iPhone or Leopard – and thinking about how primitive they looked. I certainly hope so.


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iPhone versus YouTube

June 25th, 2007

The Onion's Apple iPhone infographic reveals a key feature Steve Jobs apparently forgot to mention:

Exclusive link to Google Street View so you can watch yourself using your iPhone at all times.

The first service pack will bring an upgrade to this feature that will automatically post a screencap of yourself using your iPhone to the internet.

Seriously, I wonder many videos of iPhones and their proud owners will be posted to YouTube over the month of July 2007. 100? 1,000? More? I hope Google have plugged in plenty of extra servers, ready for the stampede.

[Via bump]

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June 21st, 2007

Ars Technica has some fascinating statistics about current internet traffic patterns:

Ellacoya Networks, makers of deep packet inspection gear for carriers, has pulled together some statistics on one million broadband users in North America, and its findings show that HTTP traffic accounts for 46 percent of all broadband traffic. P2P applications now account for only 37 percent.

Chalk it up to YouTube and other Internet video sharing sites. The surge in HTTP traffic is largely a surge in the use of streaming media, mostly video.

Breaking down the HTTP traffic, Ellacoya says that only 45 percent is used to pull down traditional web pages with text and images. The rest is mostly made up of streaming video (36 percent) and streaming audio (five percent). YouTube alone has grown so big that it now accounts for 20 percent of all HTTP traffic, or more than half of all HTTP streaming video.

Looking over all the numbers, one of the most surprising result is the continued success of NNTP (newsgroups) traffic, which still accounts for nine percent of the total. Clearly, newsgroup discussions (and, ahem, binaries) are still big business.

Given that the average text- and image-based web page is tiny compared with any halfway decent piece of video or audio data, I'm impressed that collectively such 'traditional' web pages still account for a whole 45% of traffic.

I wonder how much of that 45% is actually RSS and Atom feeds being polled at regular intervals. This probably doesn't account for much of the volume, since a well-behaved feed client will look to see whether it gets a 304 response code before trying to grab the whole feed, but it'd be nice to see some numbers to show how far RSS and Atom have taken over some of the load of keeping us up to date with what's happening on the web.

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May 29th, 2007

The non-geeks among visitors to this site might want to move along to the next entry.

For the geeks, I give you the programming language of the future: LOLCODE

TBL 0 IZ 1
TBL 1 IZ 2
TBL 2 IZ "^_^"
TBL 3 0 IZ TBL 0

All we need now is for the next April Fools' Day RFC to be written in lolcat and the takeover will be complete.

[Via helmintholog]

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Film music

May 9th, 2007

The new version of Moby's web site has a new feature. In the man's own words:

there's a new part of called 'film music'. it's essentially a function that allows independent and non-profit filmmakers to download and use my music for free. we're starting with about 60 pieces of eclectic, unreleased, film music, but over-time i'll continue to update it and add more music.

these 60 pieces of music can be downloaded and used for free by student filmmakers and indie filmmakers and, basically, anyone making a non-commercial* film, be it 2 minutes long or 400 minutes long.

if you're a filmmaker (or are in need of free music for a non-commercial film or video) you can sign up and download and use this music for free.

i have a lot of friends in the independent film world, and their biggest complaint is that it's either expensive or onerous to license music for their films.

so that's why i'm making a lot of my music available for free use for non-profit, independent films.

i hope you find it useful.


*-yup, the asterisk. the music in the film-music part of is available for free use for student films and independent films and non-profit films and shorts and etc. the music is available so long as these films are not used for commercial (i.e-making money) purposes.

if you use the music in your film and your film goes on to make money: great, and congratulations.

before your film makes money, though, you'll have to apply for a commercial license for the music. i promise that the commercial licenses won't be expensive or difficult to obtain.

and any money that this music generates from commercial licenses will be given to a charity.

this year that charity will be the humane society.

ok, i hope that's clear. thanks.

Seems to me to be a very reasonable deal.

[Via No Rock And Roll Fun]



May 9th, 2007

A Harvard professor thinks computers nowadays are a bit too good at remembering things Nate Anderson at Ars Technica explains:

The rise of fast processors and cheap storage means that remembering, once incredibly difficult for humans, has become simple. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, a professor in Harvard's JFK School of Government, argues that this shift has been bad for society, and he calls instead for a new era of "forgetfulness."


"If whatever we do can be held against us years later, if all our impulsive comments are preserved, they can easily be combined into a composite picture of ourselves," he writes in the paper. "Afraid how our words and actions may be perceived years later and taken out of context, the lack of forgetting may prompt us to speak less freely and openly."

In other words, it threatens to make us all politicians. […]

The reason, as you might expect, is that if computers remember everything then government and businesses can, in principle, piece all those items together to form a picture of what we say and do. Professor Mayer-Schönberger thinks the solution is to make timed deletions of data the norm, so that we have to go out of our way to tell our computer to retain a file beyond some default period. Think of it as an extension of the common practice of deleting log files once they reach a certain age.

As someone who has copies of emails going back to 1992, this idea doesn't appeal overmuch. But that might just be me…

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May 2nd, 2007


This is a site that details the ongoing legal battle of the Motion Pictures Association of America and the makers of the HD-DVD system against the right of the public to state a simple number.

See also Professor Felten on the futility of the AACS's efforts:

It's hard to see the logic in AACS LA's strategy here. Their end goal is (or should be) to stop unauthorized online distribution of high-def video files ripped from HD-DVD or Blu-ray discs. The files in question are enormous and cumbersome to store and distribute, containing more than a gigabyte of content. If you can't stop distribution of these huge files, surely there's no hope of stopping distribution of a little sixteen-byte key, or even of decryption software containing the key. Whatever tactics can stop distribution of the key should be even more effective against distribution of movies.

[Via Found]

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April 26th, 2007

FlickrBlockrs: for people who really, really don't want to be photographed.

[Via Fimoculous]

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April 22nd, 2007

A new word for us all to learn: Decursivication is…

[di-kur-siv-fi-key-shuhn] noun. The process of losing one's penmanship, thanks to automatic billing and an increasingly electronic world. Bob attributed his chicken scratch-like note writing to the process of decursivication.

1 Comment »

The ultimate urban legend

April 18th, 2007

The awful truth about Snopes.

[Via GromBlog]

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April 13th, 2007

So a PC, Mac, and Linux walk into a bar…

[Via GromBlog]

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First Life

March 10th, 2007

Get a First Life:

Got First Life Questions?
We've Got Answers

Are five senses enough?

What's this body thing, and what do I do with the dangly bits?

Why can't I build a dirigible with my mind?

Penguins, spoons and you — what's life like among the flightless?

Much more fun than Second Life, and absolutely no problems with server lag.


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On Linking

January 23rd, 2007

Tim Bray ponders the pros and cons of linking to Wikipedia:

In a recent ongoing piece, I mentioned the "Canada Line", a huge construction project currently disrupting Vancouver. Motivated in part by the 2010 Winter Olympics, it's a subway/elevated train connecting the city core, the airport, and everything on the path between them, including a big strip of central Vancouver and Richmond, the suburb with the airport. (It's called the "Canada Line" because the biggest chunk of funding is from the Federal, as opposed to provincial or city government). Since I'm writing for the Net, I wanted to link to it. I did a quick search for its Web site, which also turned up a pretty good Wikipedia entry on the subject. The question is, which to link to? The answer isn't obvious.

[Excellent discussion of the notion that even Wikipedia links are 'fragile' – i.e. vulnerable to decay in the long-term – snipped.]

If we really care about links being useful in the long term (and we should), maybe we need to abandon the notion that a single pointer is the right way to make one that matters. If I want to link to Accenture or Bob Dylan or Chartres Cathedral, I can think of three plausible ways: via the "official" sites, the Wikipedia entries, and Google searches for the names. [More generally, I should say: direct links, online reference-resource links, and search-based links. I'll come back to that. […]

I've thought about this issue a fair bit lately, though not so much with reference to Wikipedia links as with regards to links to the Internet Movie Database.

I almost never link to a film's official site, unless it's because I'm pointing to a trailer that's only viewable at that site.1 With TV shows, even though many of those I'm interested in are serviced by active fan communities, I tend to link to the IMDB entry rather than a fan site, and again I rarely link to an official site for a TV show. I do this on the assumption that the IMDB (which I've been using since it was called the 'Cardiff Internet Movie Database'2) is the richest, most stable source of information and links about any particular film or show. If the IMDB went away, or committed suicide by turning into a subscriber-only site, I'd have a serious problem remaking all the TV and film-related links on this site, but I don't see a good alternative right now. I've toyed with the idea of making that sort of link a Google search, so that you'd be pointed to whatever the collective wisdom of web users thought was the most useful site about a particular film or show, but somehow it doesn't feel right to point you to a bunch of search results. I suppose I could always follow the example of finance-related web sites, and follow each link with something like [Official site] [Google] [IMDB] with appropriate links for the title in question, but that seems awfully inelegant. The sooner the likes of Tim Bray and some of the clever people commenting on his post engineer some sort of robust, browser-independent standard for offering multiple destinations from a single link the better.

In the meantime, does anyone reading this have any strong feelings on the subject of my habit of linking to the IMDB (or to Wikipedia)? Would you rather I link to the most directly relevant site and risk the link breaking when a studio doesn't maintain a domain, or are you happy with my sending you to a site that may be one step removed from the best source of information on the subject I'm talking about and may force you to click a second time to get to where you really want to go? How would you feel about my linking to a Google search query so you can pick the site you want to go to for yourself, guided by the blessed PageRank?

1 Another factor is that the domain name purist in me has always disliked the idea of studios buying up domains incorporating a film's title when they have perfectly good domains of their own to hang a site off. I think they'd do much better to have sites for films in the form rather than hogging or

2 Yes, that was a Wikipedia link. Did you see what I did there?

3 The last option is the most palatable if studios simply must have a free-standing domain name for their film, but it's very much still a bad option. I know the marketers would argue that they're marketing a film not a studio so they don't want to force potential viewers to remember which studio is making their film, but I can't imagine that many casual filmgoers memorise URLs on posters or ads anyway: surely much of the time they use Google or the IMDB to find an official site anyway?



January 8th, 2007

Real Empires Ship:

[…] The Romans would have loved Steve Jobs. I can easily see him in a turtleneck in the middle of an ampitheater, explaining the digital lifestyle to the assembled nobles at some ancient equivalent of the TED Conference:

Big dinner tonight, you've dropped a quarter-talent on fish sauce and Falernian wine mixed with Attic honey, and someone comes out of the slave's quarters and says, "Master, the panpipers are drunk." It happens. You're going to have them flayed, absolutely. But right now people are going to eat all your dormice and go home and tell their friends that Marcus has forgotten how to throw a party.

So let's just, watch here, there's a little something called 'Party Shuffle'… and, BOOM, I'll just switch it into 'Aeolian mode'…

After the first wave of applause I imagine he would pepper the pitch with wee hints that he, Steve Jobs, might, you know, cough, deserve a triumph.


Caesar, sure, okay, right, yeah, sure, but did he create the iPod? To the point, should Steve Jobs not be drawn, in an anodized aluminum chariot pulled by iLephants, through roaring throngs of stockholders and Apple fanboys (pomum puer fanaticus) while a slave stands behind him, whispering "remember that you have a market share of only 6.1 percent"? […]

Bravo, sir!

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Digital identities

January 3rd, 2007

I wondered the other day how users of social networking sites felt about the potential for their networks of friends and the information they've put up on their sites to be locked in, preventing them from migrating to the next hot social network. It so happens that today I saw two articles giving very different opinions on this very topic.

A ZDNet interview with various software developers working in the social networking area revealed that they think open access to locked-in data is very important. By contrast, Danah Boyd reckons that the generation of teenaged users who have driven the growth of the major social networks simply don't care about preserving their digital identity over time, being quite happy to open up another account at the drop of a hat.

If Danah Boyd is right and teenagers are in the habit of dropping online identities without a backward glance, the next question is what will happen as that generation of users get older. Will they find that they come to value the portability of their data as they have less free time to spend time building up new profiles and networks, or will their carefree attitude persist and we'll see throwaway online identities as the norm a decade from now? Or, to put it another way: how many MySpace users will one day celebrate their sixth blog-birthday?

(Me, I hate the idea that if I were to move to a different address I might lose my weblog entries. Come to that, it bugs me that the entries from the first couple of years or so of my weblog entries, which I hand-coded before I started using Movable Type and WordPress to run this site, can't easily be imported into this site so that they can be searched alongside the more recent entries. One day I'll write a macro to strip out the content from those old pages and convert it into a format that I can import into my WordPress setup. But then, I've been telling myself that for about three years now, so don't hold your breath…)

[ZDNet article via Slashdot, Danah Boyd post via]

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The Residents

December 26th, 2006

Clay Shirky despairs at the way the business press cover the growth of Second Life:

"Here at, we call our website our Kingdom, and any time our webservers serve up a copy of the home page, we record that as a Loyal Subject. We're very pleased to announce that in the last two months, we have added over 1 million Loyal Subjects to our Kingdom."

Put that baldly, you wouldn't fall for this bit of re-direction, and yet that is exactly what Linden Labs has pulled off with its Residents™ label. By adopting a term that seems like a simple re-branding of "users", but which is actually unconnected to head count or adoption, they've managed to report what the press wants to hear, while providing no actual information. […]

In fairness, all sorts of online services do their best to obfuscate the distinction between the number of regular users and the number of registered users and the number of visitors per day. While they're undoubtedly going the extra mile to muddy the waters by throwing around a meaningless term like "Residents", Linden Labs are really just the latest beneficiaries of a lack of rigour in reporting on the use of online services. Where there's no practical way to confirm how many users/visitors a service has beyond taking the company's figures on trust, shouldn't the press mention this when reporting on said company's growth?

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Sharecropping 2.0?

December 24th, 2006

Edward Felten's post on whether social networking sites are a high-tech version of sharecropping prompted a thought-provoking comment thread.

Part of Felten's argument is that users of MySpace and Facebook aren't all that worried about the possibility that their individual contribution to the site might be worth a few dozen cents out of the millions of dollars that the founders of the service get when they sell their baby on to a big corporation. He reckons – correctly, I think – that the average user is happy to trade that distinctly notional cash value of their content for the ease with which they can create a small corner of the internet that's all theirs and the allure of being part of a larger social network.

That being the case, the really interesting question (IMHO) is how those users who so value ease of use and being part of a larger social network will feel when some future social networking site takes off and they find that it's not so straightforward to transfer their content and their network of friends to a different networking site. Will users tend to stick with the site where they first put down roots, or will they abandon their MySpace site in favour of the next big thing, leaving a trail of abandoned personal sites across the internet as they go?



December 4th, 2006

One for the geeks: Content Management Systems I Would Or Wouldn't Fuck.


Vox – The Japanese schoolgirl of content management systems, practically begging for you to stalk it on Myspace or rub up on it in the subway.




WordPress – High maintenance; you have to read a lot of documentation in order to do it right. Always leaves you wondering if you should have used different plug-ins.


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Linky Love

December 4th, 2006

There's plenty of fine reading to be found in The List of The Best Blogs of 2006 That You (Maybe) Aren't Reading. Nobody will get something out of every single site on the list, but I'd be amazed if anyone who reads my site regularly wouldn't find at least a couple of sites worth following on that list.

I've added Pruned, History of the Button, Corpus Obscura and 3quarksdaily to my feed list; regular readers will have the pleasure of watching me pilfer links from every one of those sites for weeks to come.

[While I'm on the subject of linking to worthwhile sites, I'm acutely conscious that this site has been lacking a blogroll ever since I switched to WordPress. The primary reason – other than my laziness – is that I have yet to find a completely satisfactory way to automate the process of transferring my feed reader's subscription list to my sidebar. There are a couple of solutions that will render an OPML file and turn it into a sidebar list, but they can't cope with those sites without an RSS or Atom feed that I pick up using a Ruby script that integrates them with NetNewsWire. Seeing a list like this makes me think I really ought to redouble my efforts, because there are all sorts of sites I read every day/week but don't often post links from and I should give them the credit they deserve.]

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