New blog

All new content on my restarted blog is here

Friday, July 24

How to get married

This is a joyous, wonderful video of Kevin Hines and Jill Peterson's fantastic 'dancing' wedding.

Most of the 'dudes' don't get the beat though. And we know what that means ...

NOTE: Ari Herzog reminds me to note:

FYI, Paul, something you failed to mention in your post is the possibility that the video may be yanked in the coming days due to a licensing issue Seth Simonds mentions.
Foolish music corps strike again. A viral like this is BOUND to increase sales of that track. Doh!

Coulson: I didn't do it. Nobody saw me do it, you can't prove anything

Andy Coulson tells MPs 'things went badly wrong' at News of the World

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson speaks of deep regret but says he had 'no recollection' of phone hacking

Embedding recommended for Parliament video

The British Houses of Parliament, LondonImage via Wikipedia

The House of Lords shows itself - again - to be the most thoughtful and progressive chamber in a new report 'Are the Lords listening? Creating connections between people and Parliament' from its Information Committee.

Parliament has some really daft rules against use of video of proceedings, which it has been extremely slow in changing. Leading the charge against this has been LibDem MP Jo Swinson.

The Lords new report backs Swinson's campaign to free up reuse of video and - hurrah! - backs embedding and republication.

42. 'Embedding' is the process whereby a document or file of one type is inserted into a document or file of another type on the internet. Embedding is central to much use of multimedia in web pages, which tend to embed video, animation, and audio files. In our Annual Report 2007-08,[11] we reported the growing number of people asking to embed parliamentary material (such as video footage of proceedings) into their own web sites. Such embedding would, for instance, allow other web sites to include windows within their web pages so that clips of parliamentary proceedings could play within their own pages instead of having to open a separate window and application to view the clips. Under the terms of the current licences, the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Limited (PARBUL) cannot allow any of its licensees to offer embedding. Peter Lowe of Sky News found it "extraordinary" that Parliament did not allow embedding (Q 311).

43. The BBC asked Parliament to change this policy so that it could include footage from Westminster in its 'Democracy Live' website, which would also include footage from the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the European Parliament (QQ 308-09, 314; p84). Last year, we called for further research to be carried out on allowing embedding of footage of parliamentary proceedings. During our inquiry, it was made clear to us that embedding would allow wider access to parliamentary proceedings through websites and other channels (pp 16, 143). Peter Riddell, Political Commentator and Assistant Editor of The Times, said that it would be "a tremendous help" to journalists preparing articles online (Q 191). Channel 4 said that enabling users "to embed clips on their own sites, and then use social bookmarking tools to promote these clips to others, is an effective and low-cost way of expanding the reach of Parliament—as the easier it is to spread information the more people will see it" (p 104). Jo Swinson MP told the Committee: "we need to wake up and get into the twenty-first century on this. If we can actually get clips of Parliament out there, particularly in two or three-minute pieces which are easy to watch, easy to forward to friends, that is a much better way and a much easier way for people to understand what is going on in Parliament than having to watch the BBC Parliament channel for hours on end until something they might be interested in comes up."

44. People should be allowed to embed the House's proceedings on their websites, so that our proceedings can have as wide a distribution as possible on the internet. We recommend that a trial start as soon as possible. We have invited the BBC and the House of Lords administration to bring forward proposals for how the House can maximise potential synergies with the BBC's forthcoming 'Democracy Live' website.

Yay! The irony here though is how slow the BBC has been with the option to embed on its video. There does seem to be a lot of internal resistance and only some news video is embeddable. What's bizarre is that you can find loads of BBC news video on YouTube, which they don't police.

As well, people are getting iplayer content and reusing it, here's how to get the iplayer embed code. That's not being policed either.

Here's what the Lords says about Parliament and YouTube

38. In May 2008 Parliament launched a YouTube channel, which it uses primarily to show short films promoting and explaining the work of Parliament. The Hansard Society praised the videos about the work of the House of Lords (p 13). We used YouTube throughout our inquiry, to update people outside Westminster on what had happened during our meetings and to provide an insight into the views of witnesses and members of the Committee. In June 2009, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee and the European Union Committee released videos on YouTube to mark the publication of their reports.

39. We also used Parliament's YouTube channel in our inquiry to allow people to contribute by submitting their views on video. Dr Jackson said that this development was "very exciting": the fact that members of the public can upload videos gives the channel the potential to be "a powerful interactive instrument" (p 139). Parliament would benefit from the interactive nature of such websites, by treating them not simply as publishers and distributors but as places where user-generated content can be created and displayed.

40. Members of either House are allowed to post footage featuring the member on the member's own website. However, at present, the two Houses do not allow parliamentary proceedings to be posted on YouTube or any other third-party hosting website. This ban has attracted negative publicity; and Parliament has been criticised for not embracing new technology. Last November, we agreed that Lords be allowed to place on YouTube (and similar searchable video hosting websites) clips of their contributions to the House's proceedings. The final administrative and legal steps around copyright are being taken, and the Committee will inform members when they can start to upload their contributions to YouTube. Technical training will be provided for members who wish to take advantage of this new possibility.

HT: Emma

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, July 23

Swineflu: NHS #fail

Not only do we have a crashing website. Not only do we have a phone line four months late. We also have an #fail for how most people will seek information about swineflu online - search.

Mate Jack reports that he is #1 in Google result for 'have I got cold or swine flu'. Although the NHS is advertising on this search this isn't good enough because click through on text ads is very low.

NHS is #5 'natural' result - below my 'fold' on this search. They must also be optimising their site to appear at #1 in such results. But they have not.

Not. Good. Enough.

Either NHS online fixes this - quick, Google indexes pretty damn quickly - or they hire someone who can. Thousands, if not millions, of Brits will be looking for swine flu advice online via search NOW. If this is what they will see the NHS is #fail-ing them.

Wednesday, July 22

Gmail now rocks even more

I had the unfortunate experience recently of having to access a Yahoo account. Could I work out how to do some simple tasks? No, not easily.

Yahoo seem to be on a self-destruct bender with a badly received homepage redesign and increasingly dodgy search results containing paid-for entries.

And don't get me started on the horrors of Hotmail.

Gmail - in sharp contrast - just gets better and better.

I just added a bunch of useful stuff to my set-up from Gmail Labs. To find them go to settings > labs.

Such as? Auto non-English message translation, signature tweaks (this places your signature before the quoted text in a reply and removes the "--" line that appears before signatures), 'Canned Responses' (save and then send your common messages using a button next to the compose form), quote selected text (just text you have highlighted when you reply to a message), a tweak which lets you specify starting and ending dates for the out of office autoreply, adding a Mark as Read button, Undo Send functionality, and a tweak which allows insertion of images into a message body.

As well, Gmail now lets you automatically unsubscribe from mailing lists when you hit 'spam' for a message.

Like with Firefox, I just love this type of functionality personalisation. Why use anything else?

HT: Craig Elder/

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, July 20

NSFW: The Moon Landing as it REALLY sounded

From: The Onion

Paul + Tania go to the Strawberry Fair

Strawberry Fair is a festival of music, entertainments, arts and crafts, held in Cambridge for the last 30 years on Midsummer Common.

It used to be a lot more 'hippy' than it is now but it still has a Wiccan corner and lots of other interesting stalls like the 'Interknit' one, the Freecycle clothes line, lots of non-profits and things like anarchist book stalls. The best for me though is the amazing herb stall, every variety under the sun.

My video of it was recorded with a Flip camera and - hopefully - I'm getting better at editing :p

What is the real Tory policy on social media + government IT?

Mixed MessagesImage by brothergrimm via Flickr

The Tories are very reluctant to spell out much about the policies this far in advance of a likely general election. As a result they keep sending out mixed signals on what they will actually do if elected, which are usually not picked up in the press.

An example would be David Cameron's high profile anti-homophobia stance vs a new report from Ian Duncan Smith's Centre for Social Justice which says that some rights of same-sex partners who are not biological parents should be downgraded, all in the name of maintaining 'normality'.
"We believe the desired objectives could be better achieved by giving a same-sex partner special guardianship status rather than by having two females registered as parents, since this is fundamentally incompatible with the heterosexual reality of parentage," they say.
Another bunch of mixed messages are on government use of social networks and IT.

Civil Pages is a new internal government social network which is based on highly successful ones used in many big businesses like IBM. The idea is to help departments work collaboratively, share knowledge and best practice, and avoid duplication of work.

The Daily Mail lept on it, dubbing it the government's 'Facebook' and ran to a Tory MP for a negative comment. They got Eric Pickles, the Conservative Party chairman no less.
"We have 2.26million unemployed people crying out for Government help and Labour are squandering taxpayers' money on Facebook. What people want is for the Civil Service to get on with their jobs and give the taxpayer value for money. What they don't want is people idly wasting their time indulging in meaningless gossip."
I can just imagine those other Tories who are using social media to promote the party and who are promoting government use of it, those who 'get it', quietly throwing up their hands at this rent-a-quote ignorant nonsense.

Now we have Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, going at public sector organisations sharing of IT systems and processes in the name of privacy.

Again sounding like a Daily Mail hit piece Green says:
"It has its roots in a false analogy with the private sector, which has indeed used ICT to provide services more efficiently and cheaply. The difference, of course, is that in almost all industries any private sector operator cannot compel us to use its services."

"Government can not only compel us to use them, but can change the rules, and the terms and conditions, whenever it suits."
Green also criticised the other two main elements of the Transformational Government strategy, describing the aim of designing IT enabled services around the citizen and business as "largely cosmetic", and the campaign to build IT professionalism in government as "largely comic".

So does that mean he supports the opposite? Going backwards?

There is much to criticise about the delivery of 'transformational government' but Green sounds like he wants to return to paper shuffling - and inefficiency - in his drive to knock the government.
"The cost of running Britain's state run databases over the next 10 years has soared to £34bn. This is presented as being for the convenience of the citizen, when the overwhelming driver is the convenience of the state."
Note the use of the scare word 'databases' and I would seriously question what that figure actually means. Nowhere does this Tory talk about efficiency and better service delivery.

Green proposes five principles 'to determine the relationship of the citizen and the state', the fifth one of which is 'the delivery of public services should not be determined by technology alone'. What the hell does that mean?

It sounds luddite, it sounds like he equates 'technology' with the advance of the robots, it sounds like a play to the Daily Mail-led gallery.

On government use of technology and social media the Tories speak with a forked tongue. Should those of us working to advance both be concerned enough to extend that metaphor?
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, July 19

People in Zimbabwe eating buried dogs and cats

This has got to rank as the most shocking story to emerge from Zimbabwe In the second city of Bulawayo desperate, poor people have turned to a neglected pet cemetery as a source of ‘food’.

A poster to the civil organisation blog Sokwanele reveals what the site is like:

Horrifyingly, this pet-graveyard also revealed to me a very despairing side of the on-going desperate poverty in our country. A worker at the site tells of people who wait until dusk and then uplift the animals. If its a big dog, they take the meat and sell it. If the pet is in a plastic sack or bag, the carcass is dumped out and the bag retained to be sold or re-used. The health consequences of these desperate actions are huge.

There are little skulls and big skulls, little teeth and big teeth, little bones and big bones, scattered around as far as the eye can see. Crows circle overhead, the stench is horrendous, and it seems that we have all turned yet another blind-eye to yet another travesty in our community.