From Pixels to Plastic

I’ve just been reading a presentation by Matt Webb called From Pixels to Plastic. Really inspirational ideas about how we could get the products we want doing the things we want them to, drawing from various ideas such as desktop widgets, and applying them to more physical items such as washing machines. Along with some other stuff. He praises the idea of very small development teams as being more flexible, so definitely channelling Agile/XP etc in some of his thinking. Well worth a read.

The Future of the Media online

The lawsuit between Viacom and Google over content placed on Youtube isn’t just about money. Okay, it is mainly about money, but it is also the latest line in the sand in the battle between Old Media and New Media. Old Media, television, film and print, doesn’t really get the internet, blogging, podcast, New Media. They can see there is plenty of money to be made. They can see interest in their products starting to wane in favour of what is online. So they want a piece of it, or ideally large chunks. They’ve made plenty of their own podcasts, set up lots of blogs. Yet people want to watch, listen and read the real thing, written by their own. I suspect that you’ll find more Brits now read Perez Hilton than actively read Bizarre in The Sun. He can get away with more scandal, he is far more up-to-date, and most importantly of all, he is free. He will be getting a reasonable sum from the advertising on his site, but where he is really going to get his income is from being Perez Hilton, selling himself.

Part of this came about from a discussion at the dinner table tonight with Mrsfb. She mentioned that Jodie Marsh is considering charging people to read her blog. I believe she does at present have quite a large readership, easily many thousands of readers. This is because it is free. I’ll be surprised if she has more than a thousand after she starts charging. There will be some diehard fans who will pay, but it is sheer idiocy to think that any more than that will be interested. She suddenly loses a massive proportion of her readership, and as the blog’s purpose is to promote her, it stops doing its job. Old Media thinking.

What we are also seeing is a move away from production values. The message is more important than the medium. We don’t need things to be well-filmed, produced or designed, we just want the content, the idea. Look at aintitcool.com. Personally, I think it is one of the ugliest big sites there is. It used to be a lot uglier as well. This doesn’t put people off though, they’re just concerned about what they can learn there about movies, they get great information, reviews and gossip, and keep going back in their droves.

These things lead me to wonder if we could actually see the death of Old Media at some stage. Will there come a time when all the content we want to see is going to be produced cheaply, as software improves and helps to overcome some of the shortcomings of media made by none-experts even more, will their production values start to become less valuable. If I could go out tomorrow with a script and some friends, film a comedy show of 30 minutes in a couple of days, edit it, publish it and promote it all on my own, I’m spending a hell of a lot less than a proper production company would do to achieve the same thing, that looked and sounded better, but wouldn’t necessarily be any funnier. I could therefore be a lot more competitive. In this situation, I would probably look for a lot less money for my product to be exploited and published than that production company would. Could we see freelance journalists supplying the mainstream media with news reports made and produced at home? If you watch the news, we’ve seen in the past few years a massive lowering in the standard of what is acceptable film and sound quality for news reports, not in a bad way, as it means they can get images of events captured as they happened (sometimes on mobile phones for instance, as we got with the London tube bombings). Will a lower quality be acceptable as long as the story is right?

You could easily put together a newspaper’s volume of content from an assortment of good bloggers. You could even let them publish the story in their own blog as well at the same time, but capture and present a series of blogs within one layout, overlay your branding onto their content, all sorts of things. Making Old Media is an expensive business, and we could be seeing it start to fade out as we speak.

EDIT: Just saw a story today that backs up my point of view somewhat: UK Online Ad spend now larger that UK Newspaper Ad spend.

Issues in K2 theme with Sidebar Modules

The K2 theme is one of the more popular WordPress themes, and I’ve used it in various guises on several different blogs. However recently it has been causing issues with its own Sidebar modules, giving quite random behaviour, some will work, some don’t work at all, and some when placed in the middle of the sidebar will wipe out working ones under it. So it is about time I got it sorted out. Some investigation on the K2 Forums suggested that the latest builds has fixed this, so I decided to try it out.

This was the process I used to fix it:

  • I downloaded the latest nightly build of K2. The one that worked for me was revision 323. Once they release their next full version, I would suggest using that instead (I was on 0.95rc1, which I had installed after 0.91 to try and fix the sidebars issue).
  • I changed the theme on my blog to the default one for now. I’ve had issues in the past with making changes with K2 live, so better to be safe than sorry.
  • I unzipped the K2 files, then logged onto my server. I renamed the directory with the existing version of K2 to K2old. There are a couple of reasons for this, one of which is that if things go wrong, or I just don’t like the new version, I can change back to the old version in a click. Both version will be selectable in the themes section of WordPress once I’m done now. I copied the new version over, and went into k2/images/ to chmod to 777 the headers directory. This allows you to upload new header images for K2 within the admin interface. If you have any old images in the previous version of the theme, now is the time to copy them over as well. This was the other reason for not deleting the old version.
  • I could now go to K2 Sidebar Modules, add new modules, and they show up fine on the site.

Job done!

Oddments

  • Now have a very fast connection at home, whose speed is supposed to be doubled soon as well. I can’t wait.
  • I actually hope England lose tonight, as Steve Maclaren must be England’s Football Coach, for a minute longer.
  • This coffee isn’t strong enough.
  • Or big enough.
  • Trying to build Twitter into here, more of that soon.

Longish Weekend

Was at home yesterday, as I had to work from home whilst waiting for NTL/Virgin to come and visit. We had a good weekend, Saturday we had a cheap little meal out, then went to the Oxford Playhouse to see a Harold Pinter play, which was excellent, although some of the people performing were a bit hammy. Then onto an old Oxford pub, The Eagle and Child. Where Tolkein drank, amongst others. Mrsfb had boycotted the pub for about 16 years after being sacked as a barmaid there. She only lasted three weeks, and I don’t think she’ll be too upset if I pointed out that being a barmaid just wasn’t her thing. Anyway, it was close to the Playhouse, so we gave it a go, and we really liked it, quite chilled out for a Saturday night.

Picture 045

Then Sunday we managed our first proper bike ride of the year, and had a little trip down Jackdaw Lane, then rode up to Iffley Village afterwards. Above is a view of the boathouses along the Isis (Thames for non-locals/sane people), as seen from off the end of Jackdaw Lane. Was a really nice warm day, so a good way into it all. I may try for another one this week, then hopefully something this weekend.

My last brush with religion before I gave it up for Lent

I’ve never been particularly religious, something never quite clicked with me. Each to their own and all that, but personally I’ve never felt it. Before I was allowed to be sure of this, I had one last test when I was 17.

A good friend of mine from back then, Andrew, had been to Greenbelt a week before (the Christian Glastonbury Festival, imagine), and had come back raving about a band he had seen there, as they were “Funk-Metal, very much like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers”. He told us excitedly they were playing in St.Albans that very week, and begged us all to come. “Don’t worry, they’re not very religious really”.

My first clue should have been that the venue was a Catholic church hall. This should have been a hint that they weren’t to reach the raccous heights that Flea and his fellow bandmates normally managed. That I let pass me by though. They were, well, alright. They had guitars, and amps. Funk-Metal was something of an exaggeration. Then after 20 minutes, they stopped playing. And started talking. About how drugs and women had been their downfall. For a long time. We all sat down on the floor, listening to their tales of woe. And then they explained how luckily, Jesus had sorted it all out for them. I was starting to feel I had been somewhat missold on the purpose of the gig. Andrew, whilst Christian, certainly wasn’t the sort to try and convert us on the sly, I don’t think he expected it either. However I decided that I would listen, give it all a try. Maybe they did have a point after all.

Then they asked us if we could see Jesus. Sitting cross-legged, we all closed our eyes, and looked for him. If we could see him, we were to go to the front with the band, if we couldn’t, we stayed sat down. I looked. And looked. And looked some more. Nothing there. All of this did start to strike me as classic tricks of persuasion. Finally, after about an hour of this, all the heathens were encourage to leave. Now, I’ve never been the fittest and lightest of people, so an hour sitting cross-legged had sent my legs completely to sleep. Unaware of this, I tried to stand up, and shot across the hall at a 45 degrees angle and smacked into a wall. A helpful Christian picked me up, and reassured me “Don’t worry, sometimes it’s quite powerful when you see him”. That was me done with religion.

Feeling a little let down by Ubuntu

So today is probably my first really negative day of using Ubuntu. I was trying to add in a second hard drive, and it just isn’t an easy process. I’ve found some links along the way that have helped me get some of the way along, and I’ve learnt more about disk systems and using fdisk, but I can’t escape the feeling that I should have had a nice graphical interface to do it all for me.

What annoys me also is that if I had been installing from scratch, the install routine would have sorted most of my problems, I’ve always found that Linux installers are often pretty good at figuring out what you need, dealing with alternate boots and the like, and then sorting them out for you. I was hoping for the same hand-holding, and didn’t get it. In Windows, for a change, it is something that is relatively plug-and-play these days, 2000/XP will generally pick up a new drive, and help you out. If Ubuntu is going to compete, I think disk management and wireless are areas it is going to have to improve in.

EDIT: Okay, I’ve sorted it now. I was following the instructions at Two Ells, which was by far the best guide to the whole process. It didn’t all quite work for me, what I had to do was create an extended partion in fdisk first, then add logical partions within that which could be formatted (rather than formatting the extended partition, formatted those, and added them seperately to fstab. Happier, but still a little frustrated.

More photography practice

blossom_enhance

So same again, this time with a bit more light, and a bit more work in photoshop (well okay, not photoshop, being Linux-based now it was The Gimp) afterwards.

Spent a fair bit of the evening trying out godaddy.com’s hosting services. They have a nice system for setting web applications up for you, that is pretty impressive. Nothing to show off yet, but the fact their servers seem a lot faster than what I use at the moment, and how cheap they are means I may well consider using them in future for this and some other blogs. Will see how I get on.

Still learning my craft

Blossom

I’m learning how to use my macro lens properly on my new camera. A macro lens will allow you to focus in very tightly on an object. To really get your photographs looking perfect takes quite a bit of knowledge of how to set them up properly. I’m getting there. It was quite late in the day, so I might try again slightly earlier tomorrow, and take advantage of a bit more light, which will help with the pictures. Many of my others were less than successful, so it is a matter of looking at the settings, learning, and trying again.

Somewhat more awake

Slept a world-record amount last night. Headed to bed not long after 8pm, and snoozed on and off until 11pm, until crashing out for the rest of the night. Feel like an utterly different person today, although somewhat in need of a coffee to kick my head awake a little.

Have found some nifty twitter things today. A Firefox Search Extension, which isn’t, but instead allows you to post directly to your Twitter account. And the Twittervision mashup, which shows you the latest postings worldwide on a Google map. Really nicely done.