Archive for May, 2008

Embed RTE Clips on your site

Thanks to JazBiscuit you can now embed RTE’s realplayer vids directly into a website, you know, something every other damned TV crowd are doing for years at this stage.

Web 2.0 Toolset presentation

I gave a talk yesterday for the members of it@cork titled “The Web 2.0 Toolset - a business focussed overview

There were around 70 people in attendance and feedback afterwards was very positive.

Here is a copy of the presentation I gave. I hope to have a video of the presentation live by tomorrow.

Happy birthday Enrique

Enrique Raftery Carnicero

It was Enrique’s 2nd birthday yesterday.

We are going out for lunch today with my Dad to celebrate.

Time flies, eh?

I’m joining RedMonk!

I have been working as a Social Media consultant in Ireland for around four years now and director of the Cork Internet eXchange data center for the last two years.

However with my imminent move to Spain in July, I will lose 90% of the revenue from these streams. I can’t reproduce those streams in the Spanish market because my spoken Spanish is nowhere the level which would be required.

With that in mind I have been actively looking for a job for the last 6-8 months now. I have had some fantastic job offers from some extremely interesting companies.

Recently I have been more and more interested in the Green IT space, writing on my blog and the GreenMonk blog for industry analyst company RedMonk. And giving talks about Green IT at various international conferences.

The other night I watched Al Gore’s latest talk at the TED conference. It is a real call to action and clarified to me that I need to do something.

I have long admired the RedMonk model of open sourcing their (our) analysis and so, when James Governor of RedMonk offered me the opportunity to work professionally for RedMonk doing Green tech and sustainability research I nearly bit his hand off!

So effective immediately I am an Industry Analyst specialising in the Green tech area. Rock on!

If the news is that important, it will find me

Welcome to the Bebo generation. If you’re in the news business and the blog post title doesn’t scare you half to death then you’re either fucked or you already knew this and are ready for it. If you are in the news business and you think that statement is moronic then you’re beyond fucked. You’re already dead. The line “If the news is that important, it will find me” comes from a New York times article that created a buzz very recently.

According to interviews and recent surveys, younger voters tend to be not just consumers of news and current events but conduits as well — sending out e-mailed links and videos to friends and their social networks. And in turn, they rely on friends and online connections for news to come to them.

Ms. Buckingham recalled conducting a focus group where one of her subjects, a college student, said, “If the news is that important, it will find me.

I’ve seen a few newspaper people talk over the past few years and listened to some of their private views and they seem to think that people are going to come to them because everyone knows that they’re the people that cover news well. People no longer care who the paper of record is, they’ll listen to a friend or read an email from them about news. They’re the papers of records. As we connect more and more to our friends, they’ll have more and more of that power. Fergal’s blog post about the guffawing of journalists because the Lisbon Refendum Commission decided to advertise on social networks says an awful lot about the disconnect Irish media has with the younger generations:

Feargal Keane reported on RTE Radio 1’s Drivetime that the Lisbon Refendum Commission were spending large amounts of money on advertising on Facebook and Bebo. Keane described the journalistic reaction to this at the press conference as one of guffawing and barely controlled mirth

Photo owned by Sputnik world (cc)

News orgs and everyone else that wants attention will have to be where the crowd is and unfortunately for them it’s not in a newsagents and street corner or on the TV or radio or even on a newspaper’s website. The crowd are always going to be moving now and media orgs and businesses are going to have to be there too.

Here the Indo get it ever so slightly allowing you to use social bookmarks to bookmark stories with Digg, Delicious, Reedit, Google Notebook and Stumble Upon. This is great because people will read what people they’re connected to are reading and these services offer that. (You can subscribe to what people bookmark) Still the numbers that use the above social bookmarking services are tiny compared to the Bebo and Facebook population in Ireland alone. Where’s the integration with those sites? Big fail there from the Indo.

I don’t see integration with Facebook and Bebo either in the upcoming website remake of the Irish Times either. It’ll be social bookmarks and the paywall will come down so it’ll give them an SEO boost, which is great in one way and crap in another as it’s about four years too late for the basics of what the web is doing today. Yes, in case you didn’t know the paywall is coming down.

I think both the Indo and the Irish Times now need to start talking APIs like Reuters are doing and let other people redistribute their content to not just 1000s of people but 1000s of spaces where 1000s people are now congregating. If they were thinking about what to do with the present congregations they’d be doing deals to get into Facebook and Bebo, if they were future gazing they’d be considering at least APIs.

The Paper Boy
Photo owned by from a second story. (cc)

Still they also need to consider Web 1.0 basics too. How many people subscribe by email and get news alerts by email from the Indo or the Times? Getting your presence into the mailbox of someone have having them read you is both powerful and valuable. Where’s the ability on any of the newspaper sites to subscribe by author? Where’s the ability to subscribe by keyword? There’s another step here to be taken though. These news organisations need to become the premier dealer for all news, not just their own. They should be including news from other publications and blogs as well. The Indo again are kind of getting it with keyword underlining in articles that brings you to articles with the same keywords but they need to improve on this. Then of course there’s crowd sourcing of news with the Business Week blog where they ask the public to send in story ideas.

But with the ground staff guffawing at where the people hang around these days and probably the decision makers too, maybe the last man standing will be the group that gets what the future is about and feed their breed of news to that future.

Google Health: Now we know that rash wasn?t from poison ivy

Google Health is live. It’s US only but I was able to get in. Terms and Conditions. I’ve written before about Microsoft’s HealthVault and I stand by it. These services are good and if the data they collect can get us better medical advice, better and cheaper consultants and screw over Irish medical consultants. WOO. But I also want a cut on the money that Google makes from this data. As I said before about Microsoft but it equally applies here:

If we can move our money from a money bank, why not move our health data to a health bank? I’m sure HealthVault and the clones will add more features over time to negotiate discounts on tablets and meds for you and everything else that uses the service, naturally with Microsoft getting a cut too. And just like a bank, we should be able to make money from what we store in it. Microsoft will make money from the data from charging access (by charging for the applications that access it) and also from those discounts for what you get, as well as ads when you do medical searches via the site. Why should Microsoft or whoever make all the money? It’s our data they are profiting from, share the wealth guys.

Looking at the service itself:
You can already import your medical records from a host of places, mostly clinics right now but still. Impressive.

Here are some screenshots.

Google Health

Google Health

But do you trust Google? Now think about all that data and the fact that they WILL in the future integrate with the 23AndMe DNA analysis company they’re investors in, you comfortable with all your email, chat conversations, word documents, medical records and DNA all controlled by one group? There are many secret laws in the U.S. since before and after 9/11, how do you know Google isn’t complying with one?

There’s also the dervied data that Google has you on you. I wrote about this before too.

More from Google Blogoscoped:

Google continues to ask for your agreement for Google to pass on information about you to entities and individuals you define. As examples, Google lists sensitive information related to e.g. sexually transmitted diseases, mental illness, alcohol abuse, genetic diseases and more.

Google in the Q&A later on explains that they may share aggregate, anonymous information from their Google Health records (a statistic like “10% of users with diabetes got a flu shot”).

Hmmm. I’ll wait another while just yet thanks.

So you?d let your kids play in an unsupervised playground?

There’s been a good bit of talk again of late about Bebo and Facebook and YouTube and the good and evil that happens in and around them.

I’m a proponent of social networks and think like most technologies that they’re a very positive thing but anything that enhances one aspect of humanity can enhance the good or the bad.

Social networks in the Irish context sprung up overnight and became the defacto place to hang online for teenagers and those in their early twenties. This still holds true. It was a new place and a new way of interacting. Our current daily social norms have taken 100s if not 1000s of years to form, Bebo is a new world where these norms are being worked out as we speak by those inside it and those outside must be baffled and scared when maybe they should be bringing their wisdom and experiences into it to share and guide people.

Zoned out on code
Photo owned by ToastyKen (cc)

The good:

Relationships are accentuated with social networks. They’re good people management tools. We can store details of dozens and hundreds of friends and acquaintances. The mobile phone allowed us to store hundreds of numbers on our phone that we’d never remember without a physical address book. The social network expands on that. Our friends can update us by just changing their status on Facebook or upload pics of their holidays to Bebo and everyone they’re connected to get informed of this and can look at the pictures. The daysof sending 15 postcards to people is over. A facebook update takes care of it all. Social networks also reconnect us with old friends, friends who we’d never remain in contact with because of Geography. Families scattered around the world can stay connected and informed via social networks. I often chat to old college friends in America and New Zealand. Because of the ability to stay connected over a lifetime and over continents, our friends lists are much larger than before. The Dunbar number with the idea we can only maintain a certain amount of quality relationships with people has been inflated hugely now. I firmly believe humanity is becoming far more friendly because of these technologies.

Photo owned by Annie Mole (cc)

The bad:

With this new Big Brother and American Idol nasty culture, everyone seems to want to be nastier than Simon Cowell and on social networks, blogs and YouTube you see some people trying to outdo each other on how can be most vitriolic. In a normal social situation people like this would be rebuked but online that doesn’t seem to happen. Given the positive reinforcement from mainstream TV shows, it’s only encouarging people to explore their hyper-critical sides. I’m reminded of a free class in school that gets rowdier and rowdier as time goes on and gets calmed down with the teacher next door coming in or the free class ending when the next class starts. Imagine this rowdy class going on forever. Not good.

There does not appear to be much supervision on these sites of the kids. Playgrounds do not necessarily have supervisors but they are within reach of homes and people doing about their business in estates. Sites like Bebo, Facebook and YouTube have report abuse functions and they seem to be working hard at making them better but it’s not that you need adults going “stop that” but you do need people going “Do you not think that? How about?”.

Choose your poison
Photo owned by szlea (cc)

The utterly horrible:

Things can go out of control quite quickly. Like real life there’s bullying and harassment though it can be controlled slightly as you can lock down a profile and deny the bullies access to leaving comments. Like Lord of the flies though, kids without adult guidance could take things down a wrong path and keep going and going and going. Bullies in real life are recording their attacks (what is it with bullies and dictators being some of the earliest adopters of tech?) which rang from tauting, to violence and beatings and uploading them to YouTube and Bebo and distributing these videos amongst their peers. The videos get taken down eventually or sometimes rapidly after complaints but pop up again in new videos that get around the blocking software. The bullies build shrines to their attacks like the way some serial killers takes momentos of their murders. You have terrorist groups doling out punishment beatings to people or covering people in paint as a visual method of ascerting their authority and this tar and feathering is now happening online too. But it’s accentuated. A network of 1000 kids can see a video within hours wheras word of mouth is a lot lot slower than that.

So what can be done?

Don’t ban Bebo or social networks. Parents should learn how to use social networks and take part in them and see where their kids are playing these days. They should be able to dive in and out now and then but without excessively spying on their kids but parents should have the ability to make sure everything is ok. Same goes for teachers. Demanding access to their profile though, I’m not so sure. I do wonder whether the report abuse functions should be better too. Were I Bebo I’d consider the Community model where the community looks after each other with voluntary moderators ensuring smooth sailing. Perhaps if you are under 16 for example you’re profile is always connected to an identified counsellor or team of counsellors who can give advice.

The services do have age restrictions but it’s not like they ask you to prove your age so 8 year olds can just like and say they’re 15 and they’re on Bebo. YouTube is 16 and over, Facebook and Bebo are 13 and over, in line with US data protection laws and MySpace is 14 and over.

The worst thing a parent can possibly do is believe the hype that only bad things happen on these sites and they need to slam them without ever understanding them and I fear that’s what is happening again and again.

A big thank you to Josie Fraser for her advice and thoughts on this area. Here’s a great overview to Cyberbullying and how to deal with it. RTE 1’s Prime Time programme is doing a piece on Cyber Bullying tonight at 2130. It might be worth watching.

Social networks and suicide

Today the Sunday Independent had a bit about Facebook Memorials and a suicide expert decrying them, though I think they meant Bebo Memorials.

To me Dan Neville’s comments seemed quite balanced, he gives out about the memorials but he also says the bad old days where suicide was not talked about should be left in the past. The Indo put their twist to it. Yeah, I too was surprised at that.

“The Bebo and Facebook tributes that are going on at the moment are not appropriate at all because they are allowing people in crisis to involve themselves in events after the suicide and that can be extremely dangerous.”

“I would be extremely concerned about guards of honour by school friends and sports clubs at the funerals of suicide victims — not because the person involved should not be recognised for what they did, but because it also gives a signal of attention and recognition.

“Someone in crisis looking at these guards of honour and Bebo and Face Book tributes might say to themselves ‘look my crisis will be over and I will get this type of attention or send off, or recognition of my life from my peers,’” Mr Neville said.

Banning teenagers from doing something, though? That’s going to do what? If Bebo pages in memory of someone that killed themselves are taken down in order to prevent more suicides it’s not going to work. That kids create them means that there’s a need for them to remember their friends. Why not instead have links to suicide prevention campaigns and links to people on Bebo that people can message if they have a problem. Suicidal people will find out these memorials be they on Bebo or elsewhere, they’ll come there and maybe you can intervene there. There’s a greater chance of interevention there than out in some dark corner of the web.

The scary thing about suicide though is that it’s contagious in a way and I remember hearing someone on Morning Ireland (maybe it was Neville himself) talking about news reports on suicides can actually trigger people into considering it. This is why there are suicide clusters in areas.

Neville talks about banning these memorials but these memorials are where people are going to remember their friends. It would surely be like trying to ban talk of their friends in the classroom or pub or when they mope around in groups in shopping centres. Instead of banning them, why not establish guidelines with the community that create them?

Irish Company turns your mobile into an online News Station

Not quite death of the Newsroom but Wexford Software company Ubcam have developed software for a whole load of Nokias, Sony Ericsson’s and some other brands (but not the iPhone) that will turn your phone into a live video streaming device. It’s like the well-recognised service from QIK except more phones can run the Ubcam software than can run QIK.

I chatted to a TV crew from RTE recently about QIK and they were amazed that a simple mobile phone could empower the average punter into becoming a live news broadcaster. Wouldn’t they have been impressive during the Dublin riots?

Camera crew
Photo owned by MShades (cc)

Worldwide Telescope launches half-baked!

Microsoft launched their much-hyped WorldWide Telescope this morning.

The application has a lot of promise as an educational tool, in that it can make astronomy fun and engaging.

First off, there is no Mac version. Boo! For this reason alone, I should have just walked away. But I didn’t because it promised so much and I quite enjoy astronomy.

I checked out the system requirements (bearing in mind how optimistic Microsoft are on these typically - did you ever try to run XP on 64mb RAM? Ha!).

On the System Requirements page it told me I needed a 2.2GHz Mac to run WorldWide Telescope if I wanted to do so on XP or Vista (recommended) via Bootcamp (no mention of Parallels or VMWare. Given that my Mac is 2.16 GHz, and hasn’t BootCamp setup (I use Parallels), I gave up on that option.

Worldwide Telescope system requirements

I then went about installing it on my Vaio. The installation went ok (although I wasn’t made aware until half-way through that I’d have to install Direct X).

When I launched it on the Viao though, the first obvious problem was that you can’t choose Ireland as an option to set as your location. What a crock! Seriously. The country options go Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy. WTF? People in countries like Yemen, Uzbekistan, Lomé, Togo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, North Korea and Myanmar, for instance have no problem setting their location. But no Ireland option. What did we do to annoy Microsoft Research?

The second issue was even more annoying though. The application wouldn’t run on the Vaio. It crashed the display driver.
WorldWide Telescope Error

This is, unfortunately, typical Microsoft software behaviour. Launch bloated, Windows only, error-prone software with the minimum of QA or testing. Let the unsuspecting public be your free testing department and hopefully get the software right by the third revision.

It is no wonder so many people are afraid of computers when the software released by the world’s largest manufacturer is so prone to crash.

Facebook Search - Again

I wrote before about how Facebook could beef up their internal search engine and get users used to good internal search and then they could go off and switch on external search too and how it would be more powerful than Google’s search as it would have so much profile data about their users that they could really refine search results. Time is ticking for Facebook on this, Google is battling back now with their profiling work.

I think Facebook, when they attempt to do Internet search will feel the full force of Google’s wealth and impressive collective brain to disrupt and wreck their plans. I’m sure Google has a whole team devoted to wondering what Facebook could do to them. If OpenSocial, their flailing attempt at hitting at Facebook’s growth by offering open alternatives to competitors; is all they can come up with then Facebook shouldn’t worry but I think this ill-thought out programme was a badly implemented 11th hour attempt at slowing Facebook. It’s not worked kids. They’re surely smarting enough now to get the next swipe to be more effective?

Plastic Bags with...Plastic Bags part1
Photo owned by scottwyden (cc)

So why not roll out a basic external search now anyway? Know of any companies hurting over a failed attempt at taking on Google? Oh yeah, Microsoft. They seem to have a lot of money to spend now that Yahoo! has rejected them. Rumours are saying they want to buy Facebook. Not gonna happen. If Microsoft became the external search partner for Facebook though it would be a huge boost. 70M extra and very active customers for Yes please. And all the ads around those searches! If some profile data was shared too for the ad servers - better ads, more money. Maybe this is what they’re negotiating?

Or there’s Yahoo! themselves. In my previous post I said that Facebook could one day buy Yahoo! but in the meantime they could allow Yahoo! to be their external search partner. Years back Yahoo! gave Google a break and used their search tech. Yahoo! had the chance of buying Facebook but now Facebook could give Yahoo! a break and do external search. God knows both companies could do with some real revenue.

Amily Gelbman exhibit-5
Photo owned by zeevveez (cc)

Saying that though, Yahoo! seems to have become too aligned with Google of late and Microsoft are really good pals with Facebook at the same time. Search is a core thing needed for any “utility”. Facebook is connecting people and allowing them to share data and content but search is still essential and it’s never going to die.

Facebook Connect - Is this Beacon 2.0?

Some are saying this is something like a version of openID and the current implementations for Facebook Connect are for interacting with your Facebook Friends outside of Facebook. An example is being able to see what your Facebook Friends are doing on DIGG for example.

Abandon aircraft beacon
Photo owned by saschapohflepp (cc)

What they’re saying though is that the apps that you could once run on Facebook only and which could access certain data about you and your friends can now be run on other websites. So external sites/webservices can now access your Facebook data or some of it. Now this is good, it’s almost data portability. But.

Isn’t this going to allow sites to know more about you and so sell more to you? Beacon allows external sites see that you’re a Facebooker and send “stories” (ads) back down your connection and into your news feed for your friends to see. Almost like that Candiru fish in the Amazon that swims up your urethra and feeds off you once inside. With a site using Connect and Beacon, won’t they know even more about you and your friends? Will Connect allow external sites to better display ads to you?

Should Google sign up to Connect?

Salim Ismail in Dublin on May 12th

Salim is coming over.

Says Joe:

Salim Ismail is in town next Monday (12th May) and suggested a meetup somewhere in Dublin. The Market Bar is traditionally where we hold these events, so if you’d like to shoot the breeze with Salim and lower a few beers at the same time come on down to Market Bar at 7.30pm on Monday.

Salim and Tom
Photo owned by Phillie Casablanca (cc)

Salim made everyone that went on the Paddy’s Valley trip hugely welcome. He went above and beyond. It’d be nice for us here now to buy him a few thank you pints.

OpenOffice 3.0 Beta launched

OpenOffice 3 Beta

OpenOffice, the free opensource office suite, released OpenOffice 3.0 Beta yesterday. This latest release now runs on Mac OS X without requiring X11 to be running as well. And there are versions for Windows and Linux obviously.

There are a host of new features like ODF Support, Office 2007/8 import/export and support for up to 1024 columns on the spreadsheet app to name but a few.

With the killer combination of Google Docs (Google’s great hosted office app), OpenOffice and OOo2GD (an app to synch between OpenOffice and Google Docs), the justification for spending any amount of money on Office software has just disappeared!

There is also a large number of extensions available for OpenOffice. Everything from template packs, through to report builders and Wiki writers!

Download it, try it out. If you are worried that it will be a big change in UI from Microsoft Office - wait until you see the Office 2007 UI!!! And did I mention OpenOffice is free?

Twitterfone launches


Twitterfone launched last night to a spectacular response. Mike Arrington gave it a glowing report on TechCrunch and the feedback has been very positive.

What does Twitterfone do? Not much! It does one thing and it does it well. It allows you to dial a local number, leave a short message, the message is then transcribed and posted to your Twitter account along with a link to the audio file in case the transcription doesn’t quite come out.

The best use case for this is in your car when you shouldn’t can’t browse!

I have no idea how well it works if you are outside your own country but Pat being the king of roaming, I imagine he is all over that.

Just how good is it? Well I just left a message saying “@patphelan looks like everyone is looking for a twitterfone invite” and got the following Tweet posted:

ask Pat Phelan looks like everyone is lookig for a twitterfone invoice

It obviously had issues with my enunciation (although listening back, the quality of the line left a lot to be desired).

A couple of things Pat will need to add to improve it (and I assume Pat has already thought of these):

  • Support for Twitter commands - @, and d particularly and
  • OpenID support - it still amazes me that people build their own proprietary login systems when they can leverage OpenID and facilitate single sign-on for their users

Well done to Pat and the rest of the team for getting this up. I look forward to watching its evolution.

The real Facebook!

If you are getting tired of Facebook, you will appreciate this (and even if you are not getting tired of Facebook, watch this and you might start to see why it has become really annoying!).