26 September 2010

 

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24 April 2010

 

Fed up with rip off hotels

A rant at the hotel industry and their standards.

I am fed up being ripped off with crap food, especially crap food that is overpriced and you take all evening to serve me.

Where do I start? Cereal loaded with sugar. Muesli is supposed to be healthy. So why only serve varieties with sugar in? This makes as much sense as automatically putting sugar in everyone's tea or coffee and makes no sense for anyone trying to eat healthily or on a low sugar diet. In 1997 I suggested this to Benedict's of Belfast and they got in muesli with no sugar. I stayed in that hotel in a contract for 7 months and when I returned for a random visit last year they were still serving it. Must have made sense I guess and maybe more people than me liked the sugar free muesli, you can even leave a bowl of sugar beside it for the sugarholics (add to taste).

Bacon. It's supposed to be reasonably crispy. A pile of bacon drowning in its own fat that looks like it has been steamed and has more fat on it than bacon just doesn't do it for me. This isn't just me, the other guests were complaining about it too. Why do you think it's acceptable to put out such inedible crap? Shall I call Gordon Ramsey up to tell it to you straight?

Coffee. It's supposed to be fresh and tasty to wake up guests in the morning. Usually however you have instant chemical coffeesoup in your room with a barely adequate amount of milk unless you are sad enough to be staying by yourself. Alternatively you could venture to the breakfast area where I'm sure it's been stewing since 6am. Why don't you do a deal with one of the semi-reasonable high street coffee chains who I am sure would welcome the expansion opportunity or at least have a cafetière available in the room so I can make it myself.

I also know that £5 bowl of soup probably cost you less than £1 for ingredients and 2 mins to heat up so unless your waiter earns £4 for 2 mins work (£120 an hour) I don't buy the rip off. I also don't get the £10 min for a main course either, nor the £3 for a pint, all of which I frequently decline in preference to an entire meal with food and drink, no hidden service charges AND a proper VAT receipt correctly itemised from a Wetherspoons pub with change from £8 (usually less). They can deliver decent food on a budget, why can't you? They also take 10 mins to serve me usually rather than the best part of an hour unlike hotel restaurants while I get bored waiting and wondering how much the hotel will charge me for the 'service'.

I had completely had it tonight when I thought I would try the restaurant. I had to ask especially for the menu. Clearly a tactic that you use so that when people sit down and ask for a menu, you've already 'got them'. Most normal (not hotel) restaurants have the decency to put a menu on public display so you can make your mind up first. Having thought it overpriced, I was just going to have a starter (the famous £5 soup) but then ventured to the bar to see what they had there only to be told they didn't serve food. Except the nuts I spotted and then had to ask if there were any other edible items they sold also not classified as food, such as crisps etc. I then popped out to the car for 5 mins then returned to the restaurant only to find it closed. No warning when I was there 5 mins earlier, no clearly indicated signs indicating their hours, nothing. However, I could get exactly the same food on the menu delivered as room service to my room. I was going to ask if having then had it delivered to my room I could bring it back to the bar, be sociable and annoy all the other hungry guests being told by barstaff that they didn't serve food.

So tonight as I was hungry and actually needed more to eat than nuts (even if the bar didn't classify them as food) I went to Tesco, bought long life milk, sugar free cereal, plates, cutlery, juice, bread, fresh fruit (not available in your restaurant, why?), coffee, cafetière (so I don't need to drink instant chemical soup) and a bottle opener for less than the price of two meals in your restaurant, thus saving me eating breakfast with you indefinitely and at least the next two evening meals. Saved a fortune and of course I can also eat whenever I like. Result. Healthy eating for a 1/3 the price of overpriced unhealthy food. I have also considered buying a microwave for £30 and putting it in my room so that I can enjoy a Tesco curry and rice for an amazing £1.50 rather than the £15 and long delay with it would take you to serve up pretty much the same thing. After 3 days, I'm already in profit (and I can eat my food in less than 10 minutes).

Look this isn't just a stereotypical stingy Scotsman story. There's a number of points here - one is that when I'm in a hotel I actually want to eat healthily and 'normal' food, not joints covered in unpronouncable incomprehensible French names trying to be pretentious. Nor do I need huge portions, starch, carbohydrates and overcooked vegetables. I actually want food that's reasonably close to what I would eat at home, portion size and with tasty fruit and vegetables. I also don't want to wonder why you charge 3x the price of Wetherspoons, your food is nothing special and by the way your beer is probably crap too. Serving 6 types of lager and no ale isn't much of a choice really. As someone in a hotel on business I also resent my week being whittled away waiting for a table, waiting for my order to be taken and waiting for my food to arrive. Once in a while is OK for a special occasion, but when it becomes a regular nightly event because I travel a lot, it eats in not only my time when I could be catching up on work or getting an early night but also when I might like to go for a walk and enjoy the local sights. Wetherspoons can take my order and serve me in 10 mins, why does a restaurant like to block a table out for over an hour with slow service the main cause?

Anyone else think the hotel industry needs a good kicking? As a starting point, if you want the lowest prices for a bed, try this remarkable Hotel search engine which I use very regularly and which makes finding hotels a lot easier.

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06 April 2010

 

UK General Election

Today Gordon Brown is predicted to call the general election.

Here's a few more predictions

In 2006 I said an uninspired Labour would feed into the hands of the SNP in Scotland and the Tories in England. Within a year, the SNP was in government in Scotland and in 2010 the Tories are leading in the polls UK wide.

In 2007 I predicted the resignation of Tony Blair, the SNP winning the Scottish elections and the Tories winning the UK elections in 2010.

In 2008, I predicted on the BBC website that 2010 would see Labour lose and Gordon Brown off to a well paid job in the City and the SNP a good 10 points in front.

In 2010, we see the SNP a good 10 points in front, and of course the Tories in the lead UK wide.

The polls have been wrong before - hopefully the number crunchers will have taken 1992 into account - but the predictions are looking good so far. I'm not much of a fan of the Tories, including the lack of help in sorting out the red tape I got from my then MP Alistair Darling, but anything has to be better than another 5 years of Labour.

Craig

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09 March 2010

 

BBC fail - my correct name is not permitted

BBC Fail
BBC displays another example of the Scunthorpe problem. I am no longer allowed to use my name on the BBC site. See the screendump (click to enlarge) and also my previous experience with Microsoft on this issue in 2004.

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11 February 2010

 

Gaelic events in London Feb 2010

A CHÀIRDEAN CÒIRE! / DEAR FRIENDS!

Seo agaibh (mar fhàidheil .pdf) an àireamh a’s ùire de’n chuairt-litir LUNNAINN NAN GÀIDHEAL – 02/2010.





Attached (as a .pdf file) is the latest edition of the newsletter GAELIC LONDON – 02/2010.

Le beannachd mar a’s àbhaist

EÒGHANN P.

Gaelic022010.pdf

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08 November 2009

 

End My Credit Crunch explained

People have been writing to me about End My Credit Crunch (http://www.endmycreditcrunch.com) and how it works, so here's a quick explanation.

There a twitter account @uncrunch, with a supporting website at the URL above hosting banner adverts and more info.

The adverts are sold at 5c per follower per month. With 220 followers, this means that an advert for a month in the twitter account and on the website would cost $11, i.e. $11 to reach 220 followers plus be seen on the site. Compare this to www.tweetvalue.com which values twitter accounts and at the time of posting, it values the uncrunch account at $125 per tweet. We're less than a 10th of the cost, and you get two tweets and a substantial standard size banner advert too, surely excellent value - and you're helping others too.

We're assuming worst case scenario that overheads including corporation tax, VAT, hosting etc will be 50%, so that leaves 50% profit. Out of the profit I'm hoping to take 1/3 to help my family through the credit crunch (debts due to loss of job; 2 family members with terminal cancer; two children at sick kids as well, one due an operation next month; having to sell house) and give away 2/3 to help others. The others will be in 3 forms - 1: a proportion as a winnings pot for anyone following the twitter account - win for free and an incentive to follow. 2: A proportion for people who refer advertisers and 3:a proportion for charities.

If we get 1000 followers and sell 150 adverts then this would mean we'd be giving away around about 1000 * 0.05 * 150 * 50% * 2/3 or about $2,500 per month - as the number of followers goes up so does the amount we can give away. The cost for advertisers to reach people stays the same at 5c per follower.

This could easily scale up to much bigger numbers once the momentum builds, there's twitter accounts with millions of followers out there. Feedback from the press has been really positive we just need more people to get the word out and to reach more people via blogs, newspapers etc. Even Max Clifford's PR company thought it was a good story but unfortunately couldn't take it on just now. The account is being followed by lots of media companies, including The Irish Times, The Times (London) and the Los Angeles Times amongst others.

I'd like to give away $250,000 which would represent 10 months work if we get 10,000 followers and sell the advertising space. It would be disappointing all round if it was a lot less than this and a dream come true if it was more.

thanks

Craig

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05 November 2009

 

Lunnainn nan Gàidheal - Gaelic London, November 2009

Once more another excellent edition of the guide to Gaelic events in London.

A rithist, seo agaibh leth bhreac air leth math mu dheidhinn ruidegin Gaidhlig ann an Lunnainn

A CHÀIRDEAN CÒIRE! / DEAR FRIENDS!

Seo agaibh (mar fhàidheil .pdf) an àireamh a’s ùire de’n chuairt-litir LUNNAINN NAN GÀIDHEAL – 11/2009.



Attached (as a .pdf file) is the latest edition of the newsletter GAELIC LONDON – 11/2009.

Le beannachd mar a’s àbhaist

EÒGHANN P.

Gaelic-London-Nov2009.pdf

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04 November 2009

 

End my credit crunch launches

We are now live at http://www.endmycreditcrunch.com
Visit. Follow. Win.
Help me. Help charities. Help yourself.


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02 November 2009

 

Password and PIN problems

An article on the relative security and insecurity of websites and banks

Why is it that websites deem a 6 character all lower case password to be "very weak" when there's 306million+ possibilities. Yet a 4 digit PIN (9999 possibilities) is secure enough for banks?

The website one is almost 31,000 times more secure yet is deemed "weak". Surely a rule for websites that if the incorrect password is used a certain number of times the account is locked would be sufficient to make the weak password 31,000 times stronger than the bank's security.

We have to be practical about this. In reality, any rules around requiring a password to have upper and lower case letter and special characters such as $,% etc simply make it much more likely people will write the passwords down. Just because this makes it the person's problem rather than the website's is no excuse - the overall security of the account is the issue, including the likelyhood that the account will be broken into because the password was so complicated it, together with the dozons of other passwords from other sites, all had to be written down somewhere because it was too much to remember.

Can we please have simpler password rules for websites and some way of having one strong security mechanism which ties them all together?

Craig

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27 October 2009

 

Government adopts common sense approach to credit crunch and interest rates

It was announced today that the government would revise credit card terms including importantly stopping the unfair practice of forcing people to pay off the lowest interest rate first, leaving them on a potentially crippling high rate until the entire balance is cleared. Long recognised as unfair, I proposed this to the Department for Business last year and they rejected the idea. Here is the response received.

I'm glad to see that a year later, common sense has finally prevailed.

Craig

Dear Mr Cockburn

Thank you for your enquiry regarding the regulation of financial
services interest rates.

The Government has no plans to make regulations regarding the repayment
of loans having differing rates of interest. However, the Government
has introduced strengthened information requirements under the Consumer
Credit Act 2006. Lenders will be obliged from October 2008 to give
their customers clearer and more regular information on the state of
their credit accounts in order to help them identify potential problems
before it is too late. From October 2008, statements must also include
information about the consequences of failing to make payments or of
only making minimum repayments. In addition, lenders are already
required to provide a summary box, as part of the pre-contractual
information, giving consumers a consistent and succinct summary of the
key features of the credit card they are considering and enabling them
to compare different products more easily. The summary box includes APR
and other rates; the interest free period; interest charging
information; allocation of payments; minimum repayment; the amount of
credit; fees; charges; and default charges. Furthermore, lenders have
agreed voluntary post-contractual information guidelines for summary
boxes to be sent with monthly credit card statements. This means that
consumers will be better informed about their financial commitments and
able to check the features of their credit card on a monthly basis.

The OFT recently conducted a study which rejected the idea of forcing
lenders to move to a standard system for interest rate charging.
Instead, it recommended the establishment of a comparison website to
enable consumers to compare the costs of different credit cards based on
their likely patterns of usage and the way different providers calculate
and charge interest. FSA have agreed to host this site on their
'MoneyMadeClear' website, http://www.moneymadeclear.fsa.gov, alongside
existing price comparison functions for insurance and other products.
Furthermore, APACS, the UK trade association for payments and for
institutions that deliver payment services to customers, has set up a
website at http://www.choosingandusing.com/ to help consumers understand
how credit cards work, the factors that they should consider when making
their choice and the best ways to use their card.
I trust this response is helpful.

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22 October 2009

 

Nokia N97 problems

I thought I would write this to document the ongoing problems I have with my Nokia N97. It seems from the conversation in the phone shop today that my problems are far from unique. Hopefully you can add your problems into the comments field of this blog and if enough people link to the article, tweet it etc it will feature as prominently in Google as some of the other pages on this blog and it might inspire Nokia to respond in some way, perhaps by way of a few overdue bugfixes for their so called flagship product. Anyway, here goes:

1. I have an old Nokia E61 and last year got a N95 on contract. The two worked flawlessly together for 18 months, I could synchronise calendar entries, notes, contacts flawlessly. With the N95 and the N97, despite them both being on the same timezone, I get random calendar entries moving forward by an hour on synchronisation, meaning that I have to go in and manually check them all. This is a totally unacceptable bug, fix it. I also notice that if I have a contact entry with no phone number (e.g. its just a name and address) then this entry gets randomly duplicated as well. Another bug that needs to be fixed.

2. There is no facility in the browser to sort bookmarks alphabetically. This is again basic functionality you would expect in a flagship product especially if you have a lot of bookmarks to manage

3. The sound on the N95 was great for a mobile phone. The sound on the N97 is pants by comparison. This is a retrograde step, not something you would expect for a flagship product.

4. The N95 was responsive and fast. The N97 is not. Particularly after it crashes and you have to pull out the battery to restart it because it won't power up. Then the phone decides to do something in the background (I think it is rebuilding the music database) and this takes about 10 minutes, during which time the phone is unusable. I demonstrated this without difficulty in the shop today.

5. When I flip open the screen I expect a hardware switch to be able to tell the software the screen is open without any issues, not have to wait 20 seconds for the software to switch the screen to horizontal mode.

6. Having Adobe reader installed as a trial version that expires sucks especially if you get a PDF you need to read. If you do want to waste the time and money paying to get a full version of this product (the same product that was completely free on the N95) then don't bother unless you have a free evening to waste as you are directed to the quickoffice.com site to make the purchase. This is about the suckiest site I have ever used in terms of usability. Every payment method failed with either a timeout or an incomplete screen when attempting to purchase using IE on a broadband connection with a laptop. They have no help email address or phone number, instead you have to register for a support account, wait for the account to be validated, then log your request via a long form that asks all sorts of irrelevant and pointless questions about your phone even though its the website that is at fault.

7. The N95 allowed you to browse home media via Wi-Fi and to download media across Wi-Fi easily, the flagship N97 removed this extremely good functionality and replaced it with nothing. Well maybe Ovi store, but the least said about that the better. Gone are the days when I could download a whole album to my phone from another room, now I have to find the connection wire and sit next to my PC to do it.

8. After connecting my phone to my PC to download music, I then disconnect the data connection cable. Since the same connection is used to charge the phone from the mains, the phone gives me the stupid message "unplug charger from power supply to save energy". Except I wasn't bothered about charging the phone, I was transferring music, and the "charger" is my PC which I am still using. Stupid message.

9. Rather unhelpfully the useful facility to search email messages on the N95 is no longer present on the N97. The search messages function only searches text messages, not email messages. Fail.

10. I am using 40% of the 32Gb internal memory to store MP3s. Since I went from using 1% the phone goes slow, especially after a crash. If you give people 32Gb of memory, expect them to use it and write apps that can handle this rather than apps that run at a snails pace.

11. The compass sucks. Waving my phone around in the air for 10 minutes to get a pseudo lock for the compass makes me look stupid and should not be necessary.

12. The maps suck as well. The location finder is nothing like as fast and as accurate as it was on the N95 and on several occasions has been a few hundred metres out. Combined with the sucky compass, this wastes my time - I emerge from a London underground station and want to know which street I am on and which way I am facing not 10 minutes later after waving the phone around like a magic wand only to get an approximate position. When I'm using the phone for GPS I don't want it automatically turning off when the maps are updating thanks, I might be using it to navigate with and shouldn't need to keep waking the phone up.

13. Under "My Videos" there is a video clip promoting the E90. I don't care about the E90, I want to delete the video clip. There is no obvious delete in an obvious place.

14. The captured image count only seems to update after the phone is powered off. It doesn't update in real time. This is laughable.

15. My downloads area says it has 21 items but when I open it, I get 21 randomly twinkling broken image icons. There's no way to delete these. You get a general system error if your try. Here's a tip for your programming team:
if have_just_shown_randomly_twinkling_broken_image_icon then
note_image_isnt_there_and_patch_database()
remove icon()
How hard was that? You spent how many millions on R&D for this device?

16. Since the collective brains of the universe still haven't figured out how to link music files (ie you get the same piece of music as part of a greatest hits but also as part of the original album and it is on your phone twice rather than as one linked item) we have the problem of duplicate tracks. To conserve memory and also as part of a general tidy up and inconsistent naming I moved the tracks into consistently named folders. However, on doing this the "All" bookmark to the previous track still hangs around, so you if you rename "Beatles" to "The Beatles", there is still an artist reference to "Beatles" and it it there is still a reference to "All" which now points to nothing. You can't delete the empty references, if you do there is an error "File is corrupted: Operation cancelled". Here's some more code for your programmers.
if artist->all.bookmark()==null then delete(artist->all.bookmark)
how many millions did you spend developing this product?

17. You still haven't fixed the stupid email bug.

18. The usability of the email client is pants. Here is an example. I have my email open in list mode and I want to read a message, so I double click on it.
1. Double click on message, expecting message to be shown (one action). What actually happens is:

Phone wonders why I might have pressed double click. Who knows maybe I just wanted to wake the phone up. Maybe I pressed double click for some other reason than opening the mail. So it asks me "E-mail not retrieved yet. Retrieve now?" There is no retrieve later option. Of course I want it retrieved now, I'm trying to read the message you stupid phone. So you click yes, then it connects to your mailbox. Then it considers that the most important thing on connection is to refresh your mailbox which may take a while. Perhaps in a future release the refresh might take place as a background task? Then note that message is empty, due to bug noted in point 17. So you have to delicately click on the HTML attachment icon, not easy on a moving train. Then rather than getting the attachment you get another screen saying "Attachment.HTML" which you then have to click on to open it. If this is an HTML mail with images, it prompts you if you want to connect to the server even though you are already online. You get this request multiple times, even if you say no. However sometimes saying no closes the message down so you see nothing, not even the text content the phone has already downloaded. All in all a usability fail. Do you think Apple would design it this way? Do you even have to think about the answer?

19. Application on the homepage which require a connection, e.g. the weather, randomly don't work. Even if you go to the application itself and download the content, the homepage view just sits there saying "content loading" indefinitely.

20. I would like to delete all the delivery reports for messages that have been delivered. No such option exists, it's an all or nothing affair. If you can individually delete a text message, you should be able to individually delete its delivery report. Seems like basic usability to me?

21. Remember how search messages only searched text messages? Well the emails are in fact stored in an area called messaging, just so that when you fire up the search messages thing you think it might search the emails because they are in the messaging area. Anyway, I digress. I set up my "messaging" area to be on the internal memory, there's more room there. Randomly however it resets to the phone memory meaning that I lose all sight of my email and text messages. Once when I set it back again to the internal memory, I found they had all been wiped. Whilst the emails were just a copy of what was on the Internet, there was no copy of all the text messages. I'm not backing up the phone twice a day and I don't expect this to happen. Stop it.

22. I'd like to turn off the stupid nanny messages such as "Exiting will disconnect the active mailbox connection. Exit anyway?" Yes, you fool, that's why I just pressed the exit button.

23. When I press the off button, I expect the phone to turn off. If an application has hung then too bad. Off means off. Consider the functionality for a second of the off button, it means the user is wanting to turn off the phone. It doesn't mean that they want the phone to remain on because an application has hung. This basic introduction to the functionality of the off button should be enough for a company of Nokia's size to code it up properly that the off button does in fact turn off the phone when the off button is pressed. Otherwise I will resort to removing the battery, that powers off the phone at the same speed the off button on the phone should work at and does in fact work even if an application has hung (unlike the off button). Take a tip from the old "reset" button on an Apple II. It reset the computer no matter what state it was in. That's what I want in an off button.

24. You can't independently put the browser in silent mode to stop those incredibly annoying websites that auto-play music when you land on them, yet still have the audio on so you can hear calls and text messages arriving. There is no audio control for the browser. A mute function would be expected in a flagship product. Try reusing the code from the media player.

25. When you open the contacts address book it's called "contacts" but when you go to search it, it's now called "people" rather than "contacts".

26. There is a grid view and list view for most things, but only a list view for settings. Why?

27. The delay on the camera is completely unacceptable. See earlier points about the phone being slow. There is a couple of seconds delay between pressing the button and the picture being taken which makes action shots almost impossible. Are the electrons for operating on the camera going on a detour via the moon when this happens? Seemingly a light beam could bounce off the moon quicker than it takes the message to travel the 6cm or so from the shutter button to the camera. Totally unacceptable. If you can get the phone to respond instantly there's an incoming call, you can make the other applications work the same way. Deal with it.

28. If you are going to write a phone with such sluggish performance try giving better feedback to the user, such as greying off a button they have pressed to give some feedback rather than just vibrating the phone and making it look like its hung.

29. You can configure your alarm on a N97 to go off on days you specify. I have mine on a Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri as I get up at 4am on a Monday but not on the other days. However, the same flexibility is not available to calendar reminders. So I can have an alarm for 6:30 on a Tuesday, but I can't have a calendar entry for a Tue-Fri that says "leave to get train". I can't even have it on workdays only. This is pants. Yet another example of useful functionality in one part of the phone that isn't reused everywhere it could be useful.

30. The previous and next buttons on the calendar and emails are pretty useless and work randomly. The sensitive area for these isn't under the icons as you might expect but somewhat near them.

31. When I open up the music player and select "All songs" in music library it says "7 days 11 hours" of music. When I go into playlists and select All songs it says there's only 1 day. Even if I open up the bookmark and add "all songs" to it, it still says 1 day. Huh?

32. In the music player, the term "song" and "music" is used randomly interchangeably. Guys, just call it music will ya? you don't know if it's a song or not because you have no idea how many tracks are instrumentals.

33. I would like the facility to show my contacts in order of most recently used, rather than having to favourite and unfavourite them. Besides the favouriting function is also buggy as they favourites get randomly lost when synchronising with another phone.

34. I still can't understand why there is such a conceptual difficulty between text messaging and emails and translating between the two. If I get an email I might like to forward it by text. If I get a text, I might like to forward it as an email. Why is this apparently impossible? How about a useful "select all text" option on the options menu rather than the hopelessly erratic slide and copy and context sensitive copy function that appears of its own free will?

36. The space bar belongs in the MIDDLE of the keyboard. See your PC/Laptop for a clue.

37. Why does the help for the calendar describe a function to view lunar data, but this function does not exist?

38. Why is there no facility to colour code entries in the calendar? How about a facility to have daily reminders auto delete themselves once the day has passed (user configurable)

39. Why does my phone light go out after 10 seconds when the display light out feature is set to a minute? I'd like a setting for the display to be permanently on, where is it?

40. Why is it that when I open the clock application it has nice rounded figures, but when the same digital clock appears on the homepage it looks like a bad digital LED display from the 1970's?

Any others anyone?

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10 October 2009

 

Web2.0, a definition

People ask me what Web2.0 is. This is my explanation, hope you find it useful. It's hopefully a bit more readable than the definition on wikipedia. I also follow this with some information about Web3.0.

You may have heard the term Web2.0, a term first used in 2004. If you ask an expert what it means you'll probably get differing answers depending on who you ask because there is no real clear definition of it. So this is my one.

There are two main feature of Web2.0 which distinguish it from sites that aren't Web2.0.

  1. Web2.0 is about people creating their own content for publishing online

  2. it is also about the supporting technology for this content


It is easier to explain Web2.0 if you set it in context of what there was previously.

In the early days of the web, despite it originally being conceived as a document sharing and editing environment, the editing part rarely happened. Early sites were generally about a company, organisation or individual producing content, publishing it on their website and then people reading that content or transacting with it, e.g. reading the news on-line or buying a book.

However, following the emergence of blogs it became easier for larger number of people to author their own content and have others comment on it, just as you can do here. Similarly, Amazon allowed others to post their own reviews. This activity, together with the very long standing Internet tradition of news groups, forums, bulletin boards and so on going back to the 1970's - all these came together to form the early implementation what we now call Web2.0.

When you consider that most people think of Web2.0 as twitter, facebook and other similar sites they think of it as a social platform which allows them to publish their own content easily and share it with their friends. However, this facility has been around on-line for almost 30 years. In 1979 with the invention of usenet groups it was possible to easily share content online and from my own personal experience I used to run a mailing list called Gaelic-L that was founded in 1989 and allowed people with similar interests to share content with their online connections even way back then. In 1990 I also proposed an early browser with user generated content and personalised news, based on the fact that many people were by that time doing much of that anyway.

Web2.0 is therefore more than just being able to publish content and share it with your friends, this has been possible for decades, it's about the types of technology that make it happen as well and how these combine together. In the early days if I wrote an article in a newsgroup, people might reply to it. With Web2.0 you can not only reply to it but you might be able to vote on it and even edit the original, this is how wikipedia works - people collaborate together using a wiki as a tool for sharing information. The articles in a wiki are often authored by several people rather than just one. Similarly it wasn't just that blogs made it easy for people to write their own content, the platforms they used to write their blogs held and published the content in a structured way and this allowed the content to be easily reused in other contexts using a technology called RSS (Really Simple Syndication). What this means is that you didn't have to go to the blog to read the post, you could pick up the notifications of new posts via an RSS reader or another website entirely. Sites can also publish a programming interface called an API which can support the same functionality as RSS and more besides. RSS feeds are particularly useful at following new content - e.g. new news article, new blog posts or more specialised searches such as new jobs matching your requirements on a job board. API calls are better for more generalised searches e.g. "how many twitter users are based in Edinburgh" or "Who posted the first tweet about Michael Jackson's death" or "give me the data to plot a graph of the number of times President Obama's Nobel prize was mentioned in the hours after the announcement was made", etc.

As an example of RSS in action, my posts here automatically feed out to twitter and friendfeed. My friendfeed is then published on my facebook pages. This sharing of data across many sites and applications and interpreting the content in different ways is one of the key distinguishing features of web2.0 over web1.0. This is quite a long post, too long for the 140 character limit for twitter, but the connection between my blog and twitter takes care of that. Similarly when I post something new to the photo sharing platform Flickr, it also appears via a link on Twitter even though twitter doesn't directly support photos - the sites all interact with the same content but in different ways.

Taking this example of data sharing further you can combine (mash) information from different sites to produce something new, this is called a mashup. An example might be pulling in data from Google maps, geotagged photos from Flickr, public rights of way information from the government or council and accommodation information and reviews from a hotel booking site. Combining this information together using the publicly available data would allow you to show walks overlaid on a map together with examples of the views you could expect to see along the way and recommended places to stay en-route.

So Web2.0 is about people creating content (blogs, photos, statuses) together with the supporting technology (facebook, wikis, twitter) allowing this content to be shared, connected and reused in many different ways. It isn't really about endless "beta", rounded graphics, pastel shades and large fonts although these are incidental elements of the Web2.0 scene.

Just as there's no single definition of Web2.0, there is even less clarity about what might come next for Web3.0. The leading consensus is this will be about the semantic web. This represents a bigger challenge than web2.0 because it is about taking the largely unstructured and often ambiguous content on the web and tagging it in ways that allow it to be more clearly defined and reused. For instance if I type London Bridge into Google, there is no way at present to distinguish if I meant the actual bridge itself, the railway station with the same name, the underground station with the same name, the hospital with the same name or the bridge that got shipped to Arizona. Another example is differentiating text with a particular meaning from the same text that occurs by coincidence - e.g. a Digital Will is a type of Will (a legal document for when someone dies) that covers digital assets such as your emails, photos, MP3s, on-line contacts, etc. However, if you search for this term in Google you get some references to both the legal document but also the same phrase occurring in entirely different contexts such as "Digital will overtake print" and "Western Digital will move to Irvine". The semantic web will not only help to classify how words are used from a linguistic point of view but it will also allow content to be queried as data - for instance on a restaurant website you could mark-up your opening hours and this would allow people to search using a semantic search engine for restaurants open at a particular time of day. The biggest challenges faced by Web3.0 are in agreeing the common vocabularies and then deploying them effectively across the billions of web pages that already exist.

As you can see, although Google is quite good at being able to find pages containing certain terms it is currently very poor at making sense of the data in a structured way. This is because without the data being marked up in a semantic way (either through the use of markup directly or by attempting to deduce the context), it is an exceptionally difficult task for a search engine to provide this functionality. Web3.0 will make this job a lot easier but the means by which Web3.0 will emerge is still unclear. What we do know though it that it should make searching for information a lot more powerful and specific. Google is also exceptionally poor at searching sites that already have structure - for instance if I wanted to find a hotel room for tonight I would use an accommodation search engine and Google would find me the site which listed the accommodation rather than the accommodation itself. Google can't tell me what rooms are available tonight but it can point me towards sites that are likely to have this information. This will all change with Web3.0 and the use of intermediary sites will significantly decline as the information they hold begins to open up to more generalised search engines.

I hope this has been helpful. If anyone is looking for a Web2.0 or Web3.0 specialist, please get in touch via craig@siliconglen.com, twitter, facebook or linkedin.

Craig
I do Internet things, manage large websites, play around with language, campaign for good causes, try to explain things and have fun singing along the way (not all at the same time!).

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03 October 2009

 

Gaelic events in Edinburgh in October

Please prefix numbers with 0131 (+44131 from outside the UK)

Saturday 03.10.09 – 7.30pm Comunn Tir nam Beann Ceilidh, St. John’s Church Hall, Princes St. with Lothian Gaelic Choir & solo singers & instrumentalists. (Cont: 334 7005)

Sunday 04.10.09 – 12.30pm Weekly Gaelic service, Greyfriars Kirk, Greyfriars Place. Rev Angus Smith. (Cont: 225 1900).

Monday 05.10.09 – 6.30pm Advanced Gaelic for Learners Telford College course, Boroughmuir High School. (Cont: 559 4428).

Tuesday 06.10.09 – 7.00pm Ulpan course (7pm-8.30pm) at Old Fire Station, East Norton Place. (Cont: ulpan@iletec.co.uk)

Tuesday 06.10.09 – 7.30pm Gaelic Conversation Circle – SNP Rooms, North St. Andrew St. with Calum Cameron. (Cont: 334 7005)

Wednesday 07.10.09 – 6.45pm Edinburgh Place-names – origins & history, 4-wk Telford College course with Neil Macgregor. (Cont: 0131 559 4428)

Wednesday 07.10.09 – 7.15pm Edinburgh Saltire Gaelic Choir weekly rehearsal – SNP Rooms, 16 North St Andrew Street; an opportunity to learn Gaelic songs in a supportive and friendly environment; prior knowledge of Gaelic not essential as tuition is provided. (Cont. 669 6418 or see website)

Wednesday 07.10.09 – 7.15pm Ulpan course, Tollcross Comm. Centre, Fountainbridge. (Cont: 0131 664 228)

Thursday 08.10.09 – 7.15pm Lothian Gaelic Choir weekly rehearsal – Tollcross Primary School, Fountainbridge. (Cont: 07906 318561)

Thursday 08.10.09 – 7.15pm Ulpan course, Tollcross Comm. Centre, Fountainbridge. (Cont: 0131 664 228)

Friday 09.10.09 – 7.00pm Ceilidh nan Amhrain Gàidhlig – Gaelic & Irish songs to learn, Tollcross Community Centre. With Deirdre MacMahon.

Sunday 11.10.09 – 12.30pm Weekly Gaelic service, Greyfriars Kirk, Greyfriars Place. Mr John A. MacMillan. (Cont: 225 1900).

Monday 12.10.09 – 6.30pm Advanced Gaelic for Learners Telford College course, Boroughmuir High School. (Cont: 559 4428).

Tuesday 13.10.09 – 7.00pm Ulpan course (7pm-8.30pm) at Old Fire Station, East Norton Place. (Cont: ulpan@iletec.co.uk)

Tuesday 13.10.09 – 7.30pm Gaelic Conversation Circle – SNP Rooms, North St. Andrew St. with Calum Cameron. (Cont: 334 7005)

Wednesday 14.10.09 – 6.45pm Edinburgh Place-names – origins & history, 4-wk Telford College course with Neil Macgregor. (Cont: 0131 559 4428)

Wednesday 14.10.09 – 7.15pm Edinburgh Saltire Gaelic Choir weekly rehearsal – SNP Rooms, 16 North St Andrew Street; an opportunity to learn Gaelic songs in a supportive and friendly environment; prior knowledge of Gaelic not essential as tuition is provided. (Cont. 669 6418 or see website)

Wednesday 14.10.09 – 7.15pm Ulpan course, Tollcross Comm. Centre, Fountainbridge. (Cont: 0131 664 228)

Thursday 15.10.09 – 7.15pm Ulpan course, Tollcross Comm. Centre, Fountainbridge. (Cont: 0131 664 228)

Friday 16.10.09 – 7.00pm Ceilidh nan Amhrain Gàidhlig – Gaelic & Irish songs to learn, Tollcross Community Centre. With Deirdre MacMahon.

Sunday 18.10.09 – 12.30pm Weekly Gaelic service (Communion), Greyfriars Kirk, Greyfriars Place. Rev. Angus Smith (Cont: 225 1900).

Monday 19.10.09 – 6.30pm Advanced Gaelic for Learners Telford College course, Boroughmuir High School. (Cont: 559 4428).

Tuesday 20.10.09 – 1.00pm Gaelic Lunch Club, Mount Royal Hotel, Princes St. Guest speaker: Prof. Matthew Maciver. (Cont: 07906 318561).

Tuesday 20.10.09 – 7.00pm Ulpan course (7pm-8.30pm) at Old Fire Station, East Norton Place. (Cont: ulpan@iletec.co.uk)

Tuesday 20.10.09 – 7.30pm Gaelic Conversation Circle – SNP Rooms, North St. Andrew St. with Calum Cameron. (Cont: 334 7005)

Wednesday 21.10.09 – 6.45pm Edinburgh Place-names – origins & history, 4-wk Telford College course with Neil Macgregor. (Cont: 0131 559 4428)

Wednesday 21.10.09 – 7.15pm Edinburgh Saltire Gaelic Choir weekly rehearsal – SNP Rooms, 16 North St Andrew Street; an opportunity to learn Gaelic songs in a supportive and friendly environment; prior knowledge of Gaelic not essential as tuition is provided. (Cont. 669 6418 or see website)

Thursday 22.10.09 – 7.15pm Lothian Gaelic Choir weekly rehearsal – Tollcross Primary School, Fountainbridge. (Cont: 07906 318561)

Saturday 24.10.09 – 7.30pm Edinburgh Argyll Association Ceilidh with the Greenock Waulking Group, Linda Campbell (accordion) & Mike Turpie (small pipes), St John’s Church Hall, Lothian Road. (Cont: 453 5766)

Sunday 25.10.09 – 12.30pm Weekly Gaelic service, Greyfriars Kirk, Greyfriars Place. Rev. Murdo Macleod. (Cont: 225 1900).

Monday 26.10.09 – 6.30pm Advanced Gaelic for Learners Telford College course, Boroughmuir High School. (Cont: 559 4428).

Monday 26.10.09 – 7.30pm Annual Highland Lecture – “The Challenge of the Gaelic Language Act” given by Dr Wilson Macleod, University of Edinburgh, Greyfriars Kirk, Greyfriars Place. Free admission. All welcome.

Tuesday 27.10.09 – 7.00pm Ulpan course (7pm-8.30pm) at Old Fire Station, East Norton Place. (Cont: ulpan@iletec.co.uk)

Tuesday 27.10.09 – 7.30pm Gaelic Conversation Circle – SNP Rooms, North St. Andrew St. with Calum Cameron. (Cont: 334 7005)

Wednesday 28.10.09 – 7.15pm Edinburgh Saltire Gaelic Choir weekly rehearsal – SNP Rooms, 16 North St Andrew Street; an opportunity to learn Gaelic songs in a supportive and friendly environment; prior knowledge of Gaelic not essential as tuition is provided. (Cont. 669 6418 or see website)

Wednesday 28.10.09 – 7.15pm Ulpan course, Tollcross Comm. Centre, Fountainbridge. (Cont: 0131 664 228)

Thursday 29.10.09 – 7.15pm Lothian Gaelic Choir weekly rehearsal – Tollcross Primary School, Fountainbridge. (Cont: 07906 318561)

Thursday 29.10.09 – 7.15pm Ulpan course, Tollcross Comm. Centre, Fountainbridge. (Cont: 0131 664 228)

Friday 30.10.09 – 7.30pm Saltire Society Edinburgh Branch Ceilidh – St George’s West Church, Shandwick Place. With Lothian Gaelic Choir, Spaegi (fiddlers) Calum Macleod (clarsach & voice), Amy Moar (piano & voice), Stenhouse Primary Choir. (Cont: 556 5900).

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Gaelic events in London in October

Please see the attached PDF

London Gaelic what's on Guide - October 09

many thanks to Eoghann for putting together this excellent newsletter.

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21 September 2009

 

Gaelic events in Edinburgh Sept/Oct 2009

Gaelic events coming up in Edinburgh during Sept/Oct
Please prefix the phone numbers with +44 131

Monday 21.09.09 – 6.30pm Advanced Gaelic for Learners Telford College course, Boroughmuir High School.

Tuesday 22.09.09 – 1.00pm Gaelic Lunch Club, Mount Royal Hotel, Princes St. Guest speaker: Roy Maciver. (Cont: 07906 318561).

Tuesday 22.09.09 – 7.30pm Gaelic Conversation Circle – SNP Rooms, North St. Andrew St. with Calum Cameron. (Cont: 334 7005)

Wednesday 23.09.09 – 7.15pm Edinburgh Saltire Gaelic Choir weekly rehearsal – SNP Rooms, 16 North St Andrew Street; an opportunity to learn Gaelic songs in a supportive and friendly environment; prior knowledge of Gaelic not essential as tuition is provided. (Cont. 669 6418 or see website)

Wednesday 23.09.09 – 6.45pm Edinburgh Place-names – origins & history, 4-wk Telford College course with Neil Macgregor. (Cont: 0131 559 4428)

Thursday 24.09.09 – 7.15pm Lothian Gaelic Choir weekly rehearsal – Tollcross Primary School, Fountainbridge. (Cont: 07906 318561)

Friday 25.09.09 – 7.00pm Ceilidh nan Amhrain Gàidhlig – Gaelic & Irish songs to learn, Tollcross Community Centre. With Deirdre MacMahon.

Saturday 26.09.09 – 10.00am “Deasachadh airson an àrd-ùrlair” (Preparing for Performance) – Workshops for young people – various instruments – TX Community Centre, Fountainbridge. (Cont: Fiona Mackintosh, 476 6611)

Sunday 27.09.09 – 12.30pm Weekly Gaelic service, Greyfriars Kirk, Greyfriars Place. Mr Alasdair Macleod. (Cont: 225 1900).

Monday 28.09.09 – 6.30pm Advanced Gaelic for Learners Telford College course, Boroughmuir High School.

Tuesday 29.09.09 – 7.30pm Gaelic Conversation Circle – SNP Rooms, North St. Andrew St. with Calum Cameron. (Cont: 334 7005)

Wednesday 30.09.09 – 6.45pm Edinburgh Place-names – origins & history, 4-wk Telford College course with Neil Macgregor. (Cont: 0131 559 4428)

Wednesday 30.09.09 – 7.15pm Edinburgh Saltire Gaelic Choir weekly rehearsal – SNP Rooms, 16 North St Andrew Street; an opportunity to learn Gaelic songs in a supportive and friendly environment; prior knowledge of Gaelic not essential as tuition is provided. (Cont. 669 6418 or see website)

Thursday 01.10.09 – 7.15pm Lothian Gaelic Choir weekly rehearsal – Tollcross Primary School, Fountainbridge. (Cont: 07906 318561)

Friday 02.10.09 – 7.00pm Ceilidh nan Amhrain Gàidhlig – Gaelic & Irish songs to learn, Tollcross Community Centre. With Deirdre MacMahon.

Saturday 03.10.09 – 7.30pm Comunn Tir nam Beann Ceilidh, St. John’s Church Hall, Princes St. with Lothian Gaelic Choir & solo singers & instrumentalists. (Cont: 334 7005)

Sunday 04.10.09 – 12.30pm Weekly Gaelic service, Greyfriars Kirk, Greyfriars Place. (Cont: 225 1900).

Monday 05.10.09 – 6.30pm Advanced Gaelic for Learners Telford College course, Boroughmuir High School.

Wednesday 07.10.09 – 6.45pm Edinburgh Place-names – origins & history, 4-wk Telford College course with Neil Macgregor. (Cont: 0131 559 4428)

Friday 09.10.09 – 7.00pm Ceilidh nan Amhrain Gàidhlig – Gaelic & Irish songs to learn, Tollcross Community Centre. With Deirdre MacMahon.

Sunday 11.10.09 – 12.30pm Weekly Gaelic service, Greyfriars Kirk, Greyfriars Place. (Cont: 225 1900).

Monday 12.10.09 – 6.30pm Advanced Gaelic for Learners Telford College course, Boroughmuir High School.

Wednesday 14.10.09 – 6.45pm Edinburgh Place-names – origins & history, 4-wk Telford College course with Neil Macgregor. (Cont: 0131 559 4428)

Friday 16.10.09 – 7.00pm Ceilidh nan Amhrain Gàidhlig – Gaelic & Irish songs to learn, Tollcross Community Centre. With Deirdre MacMahon.

Sunday 18.10.09 – 12.30pm Weekly Gaelic service, Greyfriars Kirk, Greyfriars Place. (Cont: 225 1900).

Monday 19.10.09 – 6.30pm Advanced Gaelic for Learners Telford College course, Boroughmuir High School.

Saturday 24.10.09 – 7.30pm Edinburgh Argyll Association Ceilidh with the Greenock Waulking Group & instrumentalists, St John’s Church Hall, Lothian Road. (Cont: 453 5766)

Sunday 25.10.09 – 12.30pm Weekly Gaelic service, Greyfriars Kirk, Greyfriars Place. (Cont: 225 1900).

Monday 26.10.09 – 6.30pm Advanced Gaelic for Learners Telford College course, Boroughmuir High School.

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