Writing on Misc

It’s a future, kinda.

So if I write something just after midnight, do I give it the date of "today", like I would with my diary, or of "tomorrow", like I would if this were a real publishing deal, meeting deadlines?

Like it matters. When busy, repurpose! I was working on some scenarios for the past few days, and made an attempt to present the results in a different manner. This is a possible scenario for the recording industry in 2010... I don't know where to start picking holes in its worth as a scenario, even assuming it makes any sense. It's turned out as more of a sketch, but it was much more fun to write than it could have been.


In Misc on 28 March 2000. Permalink


While wealthy Silicon Valley tech stars spend their money and leisure time on fast cars and extreme sports, British Internet workers are spending their downtime in a more leisurely fashion.


In Misc on 20 June 2000. Permalink


Sitting upstairs in a quiet pub in central London, letting the sausage and mash and spotted dick settle, swapping unlikely theories on how to make the world a better place. The waitress comes over to clear the table of empty glasses and plates.

Her: Are you web programmers?

Us: Oh, erm, [embarrassed laugh], yeah, does it show?

Her: Sorry, I just overheard y... I was a web programmer.

Us: Oh, right, really?

Her: Yeah. It's a difficult time isn't it. I lost my job earlier this year.

Us: Ah. Yeah, er, we know lots of people who lost their jobs. It's tricky. Er, where were you?

Her: Zinc, an agency that was just over there. We did stuff for Microsoft, banks, that kind of thing. And now here I am clearing up your ketchup.

Us: [pause] Ah, ha ha. Yeah, sorry. Anyway. Er, good luck.

In Misc on 24 September 2001. Permalink

Phil’s Unofficial Whit Stillman Home Page

Where's the net's grand tradition of obsessive fans when you need it? I looked all over for a page about the film director Whit Stillman, but there's nothing there. So here's my own one. Smell the HTML 2.0 and pretend it's 1995 all over again.

In Misc on 23 November 2001. 2 comments. Permalink

Way Back Machine Bookmarklet

If you're viewing a webpage you want to find an old version of, or the page you're trying to look at is now broken, use this handy tool to instantly find old archived versions of it!

In Misc on 30 November 2001. Permalink

What to do when morale is low

Certain people might find this article useful. A stream of advice that you might think is common sense, but apparently not.

"Look at the level of energy. Is your staff engaged and participating in projects and meetings, or are they withdrawn and lethargic?" ... "You have to treat your staff as though they're volunteers, not paid workers. You have to do something every day that will make them want to come to work."

(via Iluminent)

In Misc on 29 October 2002. 2 comments. Permalink

The mouse’s debut

In 1968, at the Stanford Research Institute, Douglas Englebart gave a public demonstration of the computer system he and his team had been working on which included the first outing for the mouse -- "I don't know why we call it a mouse. It started that way and we never changed it." He also showed off hyperlinking, collaboration over a network and a method of inputting text by chording, among other features. You can watch a video of the presentation at Stanford's MouseSite. Even if you're not particularly techy, it's fascinating to see this 34 year old video of what was then the cutting edge.

In Misc on 19 November 2002. 1 comment. Permalink

Hal Hartley on BBC2

On Friday night BBC2 are showing Book of Life by my favourite director, Hal Hartley. I don't think this was shown at the cinema at all in the UK and it hasn't come out on VHS or DVD here either. Not only does it star the wonderful Hartley regular Martin Donovan as Jesus, but also PJ Harvey as Magdalen. Set your video/Tivo for 1.15am.

In Misc on 3 December 2002. 4 comments. Permalink

Skin this site

You can now skin this site, although there's currently only one alternative that is, in practical terms, useless. It's partly so I can work on things without breaking the site but maybe I'll come up with more exciting uses in the future.

In Misc on 11 December 2002. Permalink

Uses for friends-of-friends

In my previous post I talked about FOAF files and longed for some exciting things to do with them. And here they are...


In Misc on 17 December 2002. Permalink

Where your FOAFs are

After my last post Jim Ley told me about his other fun thing, his global FOAF people map (again, you may require the Adobe SVG viewer). I don't usually like attempts to map where webloggers (or whoever) are in the real world -- I either don't care or I can remember that kind of information. But, if you just happen to have put data about your nearest airport into your FOAF file, and added (or updated) your info in the FOAFnaut database using this form, then you'll magically appear on the map. Yeah, it's a stretch, but it's still a good demo of another use of FOAF data. Here's a brief guide to creating the airport data at Perceive.net.

In Misc on 17 December 2002. Permalink

New Yorker Gawker

I hate linking to things that I've seen mentioned on a handful of other sites, but Gawker.com, a "weblog magazine" in and about New York gets me excited for two reasons. First, because I want there to be something like that in London. Is there anything like that in London? Aren't we simply reduced to the tabloidness of This is London/The Evening Standard or the eternally slap-me-round-the-head-why-did-they-never-get-it dumb Time Out London? Where's the smart and net-savvy London weblog magazine?

The second thing that gets me excited about Gawker is the right-hand column contains two columns of links. This makes the secondary column seem more beefy and wide, which I like. The LA Times used to do this well. It makes me think computer screens are growing, that we're inching into the future, that we can absorb more than a single column of information at a time, that third and fourth columns crammed with supportive and related information will gradually appear near our scrollbars until our heads explode in blipvert-like resistance.

In Misc on 19 December 2002. 3 comments. Permalink

Friendster and FOAF

It's interesting to compare Friendster, a Six Degrees-style site for building social groups, and FOAF, an open way of defining your own social network. Both do pretty similar things but with some crucial differences. Differences that resulted in an explosion of Friendster links and invites across the net in the space of a few days while FOAF languishes in the world of Perl Mongers and the technically curious. So how could FOAF learn from this...


In Misc on 23 December 2002. 7 comments. Permalink

"They both hated DLT"

I recently started reading The Nation's Favourite: True Adventures of Radio 1 by Simon Garfield which chronicles the changes at Radio 1 that began around 1993 with the appointment of Matthew Bannister as Controller of the station. Long-serving DJs such as DLT and Simon Bates disappeared, and more re-organisation happened backstage. To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to it that much, as it could have been a very dry piece of non-fiction. But this is the most gripping book I've read since Kitchen Confidential as it almost entirely consists of statements direct from the DJs and management of Radio 1. It's a fascinating exercise to navigate between these colossal egos to divine the truth of what happened, and to whet your appetite I present a few of the best snippets so far...


In Misc on 3 January 2003. 3 comments. Permalink

An introduction to weblog terms for weblog readers

[This article is now also available in French. 5 March 2003]

The audience for Pepys' Diary can be split into two groups: Those who write and/or read weblogs and those who have come to the site purely because of an interest in Pepys. The former group are familiar with the language of the weblog world (Weblog, Blog, RSS, Trackback, Permalink, etc) while the latter aren't. And why should they be? This kind of language is a hangover from when weblogs were written largely by and for web geeks. And that's fine -- this is a new and fast-changing environment where the technical underpinnings of website construction always lies just beneath the surface. But at the same time sites like Pepys' Diary, that cover non-technical matters, must be aware that such words often mean nothing to new readers and should explain such concepts in terms normal people can understand. Otherwise it is impossible for a reader to tell whether to ignore an "RSS feed" or learn how to use it. So, here's my brief guide to weblog terms for readers, not webloggers...


In Misc on 5 January 2003. 15 comments. Permalink

They all start blogging in the end

My friend Ted has just started a weblog. He lives in Santa Barbara, makes films, writes film reviews, knows far too much about the Pizzicato Five, has several gazillions of obscure CDs (many from points far east), and introduced me to Brian Eno's music about 15 years ago in a large cottage in the Lake District. So it's got to be at least worth a look.

In Misc on 13 January 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

Mexican food and restaurants in London

My original post is old but this page is one of the top pages to discuss Mexican food and restaurants in London. So I'll now keep this part of the page up to date with a summary of the many comments people have posted below, but you should also check out MexiLondon for more information.


In Misc on 14 January 2003. 217 comments. Permalink

Laser Squad by email

One of my favourite games on my Spectrum, most of my life ago, was Rebelstar. There were two small teams of intergalactic soldiers, with the computer optionally controlling one, who took turns to move, shoot and perform other actions. It doesn't look or sound that great, but the elements of the game were balanced just right to make it amazingly compulsive. Later I graduated to Laser Squad on the Atari ST, which was very similar but added more missions and other goodies and was even better.

Now, the brothers who were behind these games and more have come up with Laser Squad Nemesis, a version of the game you play via email. It sounds fantastic and is thankfully only available for the PC or else I'd have had to spend even longer staring at this screen than I currently do. (Via Boing Boing.)

In Misc on 18 January 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

Gadget bag

At some point in the future I'll need to buy a new little bag for carrying expensive and fragile items and I'll immediately think "where did I see that immensely practical bag? If only I'd 'blogged' it then and there!" At that point I will travel back in time to January 2003 and I'll write this entry, which is, in fact, what I'm doing now. (Take a tip from me: don't eat a large meal before time travel.) So now I can find the bag here or, for those in the UK, here. (I'm not going to tell you which continent I will be on when I need to refer back to this entry because you might use this knowledge of the future to alter the course of time to your own wicked ends.) I'm not so keen on RoadWired's general laptop bags however; they all look a bit too suitcasey (apart from this pricey number), unlike my many-years-old laptop backpack from the other Wired, which feels like a relic of bygone days even back in 2003.

In Misc on 23 January 2003. 2 comments. Permalink

Yay for Rosie!

Sometimes it's nice when you have to take something off the web. The Rosie Butler Ideal Man Application Form has been active for around three years now and many men have tested themselves against her stringent requirements, often repeatedly until they achieved the magical 100%. But now Rosie has found her Ideal Man and so the applications must cease. Hurrah! However, it now appears the form was calibrated wrongly; the undoubted Ideal Man manages this achievement even though he'd have scored less than 50%.

In Misc on 27 January 2003. Permalink

How many Americans own passports?

One of the reasons America is sometimes described as being an insular country is the low ownership or passports, and thus the low rate of international travel. Which in some ways is fair enough; in comparison to Europeans, for example, popping over to another country is often a bigger deal than jumping on a train. But Ted read that only 7 per cent of Americans own passports and wondered where the figure comes from. It seems the statistic varies, for example:


In Misc on 31 January 2003. 446 comments. Permalink

Protesting the war in Estonia

My sister sent me this photo from a friend of a friend in Estonia and says:

In Tartu the defence league (pretend soldiers) decided they didn't want people peace protesting, so the residents had to get snowmen to protest instead! Someone gathered up loads and loads of snow in front of the town hall and they all made snowmen and gave them banners. Seems there's no way to stop people building snowmen...

In Misc on 14 February 2003. Permalink

Decent UK TV guide

Some things are so simple that almost no site has managed to produce them. One is a decent cinema guide. Every UK cinema guide seems teeth-gnashingly clumsy. A guide to UK TV is another. I just want the equivalent of a newspaper's TV page, nothing fancy. Having given up on this quest months ago I recently discovered the Guardian's TV guide. It doesn't show you what's on lots of channels at the same time. It doesn't let you save your personal channel configuration. It doesn't highlight different genres with different pastel shades. It just describes what's on every channel. It's quite a relief.

In Misc on 14 February 2003. 2 comments. Permalink

HotWired archives

A conversation on The Well about HotWired of old prompted me to Google for the remnants of the mid-90s that I knew were still tucked away on the server somewhere. After finding a few I came across the official HotWired Archives index page which links to all kinds of nostalgic goodness (all unfortunately spoiled by the naff and modern Lycos banner).

In Misc on 17 February 2003. Permalink

I’ll give them a word burst or two…

Accpording to the New Scientist it might be possible to track societal change by monitoring the frequency of phrases over time.

Kleinberg suggests that the method could be applied to weblogs to track new social trends. For example, identifying word bursts in the hundreds of thousands of personal diaries now on the web could help advertisers quickly spot an emerging craze.

Well, gee whiz, who'd a thunk it?

In Misc on 20 February 2003. 6 comments. Permalink

Creating a 1980s virtual world

I'm currently reading True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier (US, UK) which is based around the story by Vernor Vinge with a lot of mostly cryptography-related essays padding the volume out. One of the best essays however is by Chip Morningstar and recounts the building and running of Habitat, an online multi-player world using Commodore 64 computers whose construction began in 1985. I'd never seen it before, and while the hardware on which the software ran is old the essay is still, I'm sure, remarkably relevant. Not to mention entertaining.

In Misc on 4 March 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

Road geeks

You know how great it is when you stumble across a site that's insanely obsessed by a subject you'd previously thought immune from geekery? And how they're usually poorly designed with awkward fonts and distracting background images? The UK Roads Portal gets a tick in all boxes. But some of the sites it links to escape the awful design, particularly Chris's British Road Directory. "CBRD" contains more than you'd ever need to know about the country's roads, including a Windows-based motorway simulator. The level of glorious geekery can be summed up in the results of a poll titled "Which road is least deserving of its 'M'?"

Surprise surprise - the A6144(M) is winner of the least deserving motorway award! The M67 and M271 are tied, while the A627(M) gets a reprieve, despite its halfway roundabout!


In Misc on 7 March 2003. 3 comments. Permalink

Big bag of words

When someone posted the quote below to The Well I feared Greg Costikyan's 'Talk Like a Gamer' article would make me feel terribly high-court-judge-like.


In Misc on 13 March 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

Happy birthday Wired

Wired is ten years old. Gary Wolf writes about what things were like ten years ago. But nothing in the article resonates with me. Is it because I was in the UK? (Although 1993 was, coincidentally, the year I first visited the US and San Francisco.) Or because I didn't really get into Wired-type stuff for at least another six months? Or because I didn't discover the magazine for another 11 months? I don't know, but Wolf doesn't make me think "wow, was that only ten years ago!?" or "wow, I'd forgotten things were like that!"

But whatever, despite that, despite everything, happy birthday Wired. Because in a number of ways you changed my life.

In Misc on 14 March 2003. 2 comments. Permalink

Ethical ISAs

Approaching the end of the financial year there are always adverts and articles advising anyone who hasn't yet done so to stash some money in an ISA (everyone in the UK is allowed to save a few thousand pounds per year tax free in one of these bank accounts). If you're planning to do so by 5 April, or plan to do so after, it's worth looking at ethical options. These may not offer quite as much interest as conventional accounts, but at least you're unlikely to be contributing to the kinds of activities that have got us all in this current mess. It's well worth a few quid to be sure your money isn't buying and selling weapons behind your back.


In Misc on 19 March 2003. Permalink

Tax-efficient giving

I thought there must be some schemes that made donating to charities more tax efficient than simply saying goodbye to chunks of money. And there is, as The Giving Campaign describes. The simplest method for individuals to donate is Gift Aid: When you give money to a charity you tell them you want it to count as Gift Aid, or fill out a form to that effect. The charity can then claim 28 per cent of the donation from the Inland Revenue, boosting their income. And if you are a higher rate tax payer, you can also claim 18 per cent of your Gift Aid donations back when you fill out your tax return. If you're a member of any charities you can also pay your membership fees through Gift Aid (depending on what you get in return from the charities), as this Inland Revenue leaflet on individual giving describes.

In Misc on 7 April 2003. 2 comments. Permalink

London tours

My dad just mentioned that it's possible to look round the amazing St Pancras building, and they also do organised tours (you may recognise the interior from the Spice Girls' first video!). I've also been meaning to go on a tour of the Freemasons' Grand Lodge in Covent Garden for ages. This page says "Tours are generally available during the week between 11am, 12pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. Saturday tours must be pre-booked and there might be a fee."

In Misc on 8 April 2003. Permalink

Haddock Blogs problem

Live Journal appears to have changed its URLs, meaning Haddock Blogs has filled up with all LJ users' recent entries. Grrr. Anyway, I'm just posting this so that people who read Haddock Blogs via RSS get a message explaining what's gone wrong.

In Misc on 10 April 2003. Permalink

Walton from the air

Right now I'm in San Jose, but I spent the first two days of the Easter weekend in a very windy Walton-on-the-Naze, a seaside town on the Essex coast I've visited pretty much every year of my life. My sister found some great aerial shots of the area at this site of Walton photos. This one is particularly fine, showing the "backwater" inlets in the centre of the image. The backwater is bleakly beautiful, and reminiscent of the landscapes in Lawless Heart, one of my favourite films of last year, shot in the Essex town of Maldon. The backwater was also the setting for the getting-stuck-up-a-pole-when-the-tide-comes-in antics in Arthur Ransome's book Secret Water (US UK).

In Misc on 21 April 2003. Permalink

The all@ rite of passage

One of the things that fascinates me about dotcom-esque companies is the balance between being a fun little gang and a serious grown-up company. At some point during the journey from being three people in a cupboard to an Aeron-chaired corporation with a swanky board room a certain amount of "growing up" takes place. The UpMyStreet senior management, for example, were hell bent on wrenching the company into what passes for adulthood while many employees were content with a state of easy-going adolescence. In my limited experience there is always one rite of passage that marks this painful growth: the sanitisation of the company-wide email list.


In Misc on 26 May 2003. 15 comments. Permalink

Especially lovely Richard Herring thing

Richard Herring's weblog/diary thing is one of my favourite daily reads. He writes so much each day and it's all funny, interesting, lovely, or a mixture of the lot. Yesterday's entry, in which he thinks about the man ahead of him in a queue for fried chicken, was especially wonderful:


In Misc on 28 May 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

Buy comics NOW!

Fantagraphics, who publish the best comics, have just announced they had some bad luck, made a mistake, and now need to sell a lot of comics to survive intact. I'm not a comics afficionado, but throughout the nineties I'd always be looking forward to the next issue of Hate or Eightball (from which came the wonderful Ghost World movie). They also publish the impossibly gorgeous and sad Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware, the long-running Love and Rockets, and stuff by Jim Woodring, Robert Crumb, Joe Sacco and many more. So go and buy a load of great comics and make someone's day better! (via Haddock)

In Misc on 29 May 2003. Permalink

Social sausages

Last night saw a little gathering at The Wonk Foundation for the launch of their report cunningly linking social capital and social software (see what they've done there?). It was mostly fun because afterwards I could chat with friends on a sunny terrace overlooking The Mall while a woman fed us cocktail sausages. There were, of course, the expected "oh please" moments ("Virtual community is an idea whose time has passed"), a lot of blindingly obvious things that people have been saying for years and a few precious moments of sense.


In Misc on 30 May 2003. 14 comments. Permalink

Smoke: A London Peculiar

After seeing 2lmc mention it earlier in the week I went and bought issue one of Smoke yesterday. It's as pleasing as I hoped, free of Hoxtonian style-mag nonsense, and with OK writing too (aside from a predilection for overly-long and unfunny similies). The contributors are excited about living in London, about its history and its fictions, and have a refreshing lack of sarcasm and cynicism. And it has a photo of the Temple of Mithras bus stop.


In Misc on 30 May 2003. 2 comments. Permalink

We’re all reporters now

Last week I mentioned (penultimate paragraph) that companies probably don't connect how they deal with journalists to how they deal with employees who have weblogs. ie, many companies now contain well-read writers (webloggers) and don't necessarily think of making explicit what company news is and isn't public. Whereas they'd be very careful when talking to professional reporters. Anyway, Ben Hammersley today talks about how webloggers should respect "off the record" events as much as mainstream reporters do, following "a little fuss" kicked off by a weblogger reporting a briefing when journalists in the same room were obliged not to.

In Misc on 1 June 2003. 8 comments. Permalink

Life as a 19th century fire-eater

Last year I read Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor (Amazon US, UK, or the full text online) which was written around 1850 and is his journalistic attempt to chronicle the lives of poor working (and non-working) inhabitants of the city. There were a couple of passages that were even more eye-opening than the rest, which I meant to publish here. Here's the first one, from Mayhew's interview with a man who usually earned his living as a fire-eater on the streets:


In Misc on 8 June 2003. 2 comments. Permalink

The Believer

Last week my friend Ted kindly sent me issue 2 of The Believer, McSweeney's monthly magazine: "There are book reviews which are not necessarily timely, and which are very often very long. There are interviews which are also very long."


In Misc on 10 June 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

The Mapmakers

I just finished reading The Mapmakers (Amazon US, UK) by John Noble Wilford which was wonderful. The two aspects that fascinated me most: The simple acts of triangulating and measuring the world in order to capture it on paper, from objects to geometry to images. And the increasing knowledge cartographers gathered over the centuries, making the process of mapping more accurate and far more complicated. It's a great read, only suffering from a severe lack of relevant illustrations. I'd love to read more about cartography, but most of the books on Amazon seem to be either more historical works or complicated sounding academic tomes. I think I'm looking for something in between; more technical than The Mapmakers but not so technical I can't understand it.


In Misc on 28 June 2003. 4 comments. Permalink

Domestic geeks

One of the great things about geeks is the way they (or, I admit, "we") submit apparently mundane events and actions to exhaustive levels of analysis. There seems to be a mini-tradition of trying to make domestic tasks as regular and efficient as possible:


In Misc on 30 June 2003. 1 comment. Permalink


You'd think that someone writing an article about how Birkenstocks are accidentally fashionable would have done some, any, research and then pointed out that in the US the company is going out of its way to appear trendy with an entirely new range of footwear.


In Misc on 2 July 2003. 5 comments. Permalink

Freelance charging

I've been doing a spot of freelance webmonkeying at Syzygy where everyone seems to work, rather than have fun. No wonder they're still in business five and a half years after I was last there. It's no way to run a dotcom I tell ya!


In Misc on 3 July 2003. 12 comments. Permalink

Doonesbury via RSS

I love 'Doonesbury' but I rarely buy a paper or visit the website. So I've whipped up an RSS file that will link to the past week's strips. Feel free to use it.


In Misc on 12 July 2003. 8 comments. Permalink

T610 dimness

Like everyone else who bought a mobile phone in the past month, I've replaced my clunky old freebie Motorola with a Sony Ericsson T610. While it satisfies all my criteria -- small, cute, tri-band, bluetooth-syncable with Mac OS X, non-Motorola interface, polyphonic ringtones -- and has a camera, he was right about the dim display. While it lights up a darkened room like a pocket-size sun, outside on a bright (but still cloudy) day, the screen was only just readable. So, it'll be perfect for you if you never go out. Although the camera only works in decent light. But apart from that it's as lovely as I hoped.

In Misc on 27 July 2003. Permalink

Essex signposts and milestones

My mum pointed me at Milestones Online, a site cataloguing signposts and milestones, mostly in my home county of Essex. Not the modern green reflective signposts of course, but those old cast iron posts that you see on country roads between villages with names like Stapleford Tawney and Tolleshunt D'Arcy. Among the good old fashioned homepage styling (centered text, background images, confusing navigation, etc.) there are photos of dozens of signposts (actually, "guideposts") and photos of milestones on different routes such as the road between London and Harwich. I love it when the web makes you take more notice of things in the real world.

In Misc on 27 July 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

Open mapping

In Osnabrück, Germany, a group of people have "developed a free dataset of geographic vector information" for the city using free software. (As their site states, such map information isn't freely available in Europe, unlike the US.) Apparently the city donated the satellite photos used to create the data. Great stuff, I assume, not that I'm able to read the rest of the site.


In Misc on 29 July 2003. Permalink

Pre-client spam filtering

The last few days I've been collecting my email via Knowspam.net, one of those challenge and response systems where unapproved people have to click a link and verify their existence before their email reaches you. It seemed a good solution to the spam problem -- the problem being receiving any spam at all -- but I've decided the whole idea is not for me.


In Misc on 5 August 2003. Permalink

Updated Haddock Blogs

For those that care... I've updated the Haddock Blogs script so that if a source RSS feed includes the full text of an entry, this is also included in Haddock Blogs' own RSS feed. This post will test whether the script's working or not...


In Misc on 7 August 2003. 2 comments. Permalink

Telegraph poles

My mum has, in her capacity as a local historian, become interested in Witham's telegraph poles (I only now realise I should probably call them telephone poles). Each one has certain markings and, so you can amaze your friends, here's how to decipher them. There are three marks, one above the other, in this order:


In Misc on 8 August 2003. 3 comments. Permalink

David Lynch on sheds

In The Guardian's Guide on Saturday, Jacques Peretti wrote about sheds, apparently flavour of the season in the worlds of fashion and style (it's entirely possible this article is on the site somewhere, but I couldn't find it). This reminded me of something from Lynch on Lynch (US, UK) that I'd read only the day before. A hidden, dark and terrifying side to David Lynch...


In Misc on 18 August 2003. 4 comments. Permalink

Post boxes

At the risk of turning this into the UK's premier street furniture weblog... Look, postboxes! So I like it when people pay more than the usual level of attention to everyday objects. And there's more (beautifully, in a subdirectory titled "hobbies"; I should get one of those). Apparently there's a Letter Box Study Group although I can't access the site right now. I'll have to amuse myself with browsing Unicorn Kiosk's range of original street furniture... up to three grand (plus VAT) for a Victorian post box or nearly five for a K6 red phone box complete with Jubilee interior.

In Misc on 20 August 2003. Permalink


I've been using Bloglines as an RSS feed reader for the past week and I'm loving it, so another vote for that. I'd been using NetNewsWire Lite but when you're stuck on another computer and want something to pass the time, having all your feeds online is wonderful. It works so well I prefer using it to NNW when I'm at home too. So there.

In Misc on 4 September 2003. Permalink

Wired UK employees

Wired: A Romance, Gary Wolf's book about Wired magazine, came out in the US a while back (like a couple of other books, it's been stuck in the "things people have bought for you" part of my Wish List for ages, but has never arrived). Despite sending Gary a list of all the Wired UK employees twice, hardly any seem to have made it into his roll call of Wired staffers. So, for perpetuity's sake, here they are:


In Misc on 9 September 2003. 6 comments. Permalink


After someone asked for a hand with getting their TypePad site up and running, I've been having my first real play with the system. The result is Gigantomachia, a categorised resource detailing the "primordial battle between different races of gods". I can't pretend to follow much of the content, as it reminds me of the single semester's worth of philosophy classes I took which I, unfortunately, barely understood.


In Misc on 9 September 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

Bill Nighy

Best line of the day comes from an interview with Bill Nighy:


In Misc on 13 September 2003. 6 comments. Permalink

Farmers’ Market

If you live anywhere near, I can recommend a visit to Stoke Newington Farmers' Market run by Growing Communities. Every Saturday from 10 to 2.30, just here off the High Street. It's smaller than I imagined a "market" to be, but there's lots of veg (the sweetest ever cherry tomatoes), some meat, eggs (fantastic scotch eggs), goats cheese and sausages, a bewildering array of bread (try the vegetarian pasties), and some kind of bottled drink I didn't investigate. All sold by smiling people who can tell you exactly how best to cook onion squashes or whatever they're selling. N16 has an article.


In Misc on 13 September 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

Douglas Coupland interviews

I've been meaning to read, and mention, this Morning News interview with Coupland since Rod mentioned it. And now 2lmc point to another interview, at Submit Response.


In Misc on 15 September 2003. Permalink

Greater London Industrial Archeology Society

Another link from my mum, Greater London Industrial Archeology Society. Every couple of months they publish a newsletter full of background information on current events. A quick browse turns up a huge range of stuff: the distilling industry, postboxes, Royal Mail railways, Clapham Common band stand, power stations, tunnels, old shop fronts, and bricks. Shows that you don't need a flashy site, just wonderful content.

In Misc on 20 September 2003. Permalink

Underground Britain

Following a link from the Greater London Industrial Archeology Society site, I discovered Subterranea Britannica, which appears to be split into information about cold war bunkers, and then everything else. There's a list of bunkers that each have a page of photos, floor plans and description, like Hackney WW2 ARP Control Centre & Post War Borough Control near me at Hackney Town Hall. Or this more rural 1950s bunker which is now a museum.


In Misc on 20 September 2003. 2 comments. Permalink

Imperial Rome’s high density living

Dan Hill was intrigued by a sentence in Hammersley's Florentine adventures: "There are eight storey apartment blocks built in 1250!!!!!" That reminded me of a chapter in Peter Hall's mammoth Cities in Civilization (Amazon US, UK) about Rome between 50BC and AD 150.


In Misc on 26 September 2003. Permalink

Link-only weblogs aggregated on Haddock Blogs

If you only read Haddock Blogs via RSS you may not have noticed I recently created a sidebar that aggregates a few weblogs that only contain links -- no discussion, just pointers to interesting things. As I mentioned in a lengthy (yawn) post the other day, this was harder than expected, so there may be glitches. But it seems mostly OK. The RSS feed is here. It'll all appear on the Haddock front page too when I get a moment.


In Misc on 30 September 2003. Permalink

Online autobiography tools?

The other night, while making a late dinner, I heard Chuck Palahniuk on Radio 3's Night Waves talking about his new book, Diary. He thought that as the baby-boomers retire they're going to want to archive things, to document their lives.


In Misc on 1 October 2003. 6 comments. Permalink

Hiragana and Katakana practice page

I've been learning Japanese for a while now, and needed a better way to learn the characters that I don't yet know. Repeatedly going through a list means you learn the sequences, rather than the individual letters. So I've made a page that displays characters randomly. It lets you choose to practice Hiragana, Katakana or both at once and gives you a score. Maybe one day I'll move onto Kanji...


In Misc on 2 October 2003. 25 comments. Permalink

Bloglines’ blogrolls and the real world creating friends

Bloglines, which I still enjoy, has introduced a feature that lets you include your list of subscribed-to feeds on your own site. So here's mine. Yes, "blogroll" is a hideous term, but it probably makes sense to the few people that might have the slightest interest in seeing what someone else reads. And I can't think of anything else short and meaningful.


In Misc on 3 October 2003. Permalink

"I wish he would pull my hair again"

A friend of mine in the US has started posting excerpts of her old junior high diary to her new weblog, adding comments from her present-day self. (For those of us who don't know what junior high is, she was about 12 at the time.) It's great stuff, like Adrian Mole in America. If he was a girl. Who talked about nothing but boys.

[UPDATE: The weblog has since moved to here because of this. 8 Nov 2003]


In Misc on 6 October 2003. Permalink

Linklogs are taking off. Again.



In Misc on 6 October 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

Sunsets and shared experience

You know how some people still insist that spending a lot of time online is sad? How living much of your time online means you must be a pathetic stay-at-home with no life? (If you don't hear people say this, you obviously hang out with geeks and rarely meet "normal" people these days.) Obviously, they're not aware of how online links can enhance this oh-so-important "real" life.


In Misc on 10 October 2003. 7 comments. Permalink

Changing jobs

Last week the Guardian had a special report on changing jobs. Handy if you need inspiration. Do it!


In Misc on 16 October 2003. 4 comments. Permalink

Geolocational link dump

I've been tidying up my mailing list subscriptions, unsubscribing from those I never get round to reading, and catching up on those I want to read. One of the latter is Geowanking, and rather than litter the linklog with stuff, here's a few of the most interesting things in my whizz through two months' worth of emails:


In Misc on 20 October 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

A question

Here's a question. Let's say someone breaks into your home and steals all your CDs. Let's say you've wisely insured all your possessions, so you can claim for the CDs' surprisingly high collective value. Let's also say your CDs were stolen from your cupboard, where you put them after ripping every single one to your capacious hard drive.


In Misc on 23 October 2003. 4 comments. Permalink

Semi-public events

A while back, while my mind wandered as I watched the first couple of parts of the Cremaster Cycle, I was thinking about how to announce events semi-publically. Continuing to think about it sicne then hasn't got me much further, so here's my half-idea.


In Misc on 1 November 2003. Permalink


I've spent much of the past couple of months "project managing" or "producing" Extendaword, a web- and email-based word game for the Financial Times, which launches today. There are two versions, one for the UK, one for everywhere else (the difference being the prizes, or lack of them). Create a team with your friends (navigating through the complex marketing opt-in/out checkboxes) and come up with the highest scoring sequence of words during each week's game.


In Misc on 3 November 2003. Permalink

Statement of a Photographic Man

I recently did some web work at a company based around photo libraries, which reminded me that I never got round to posting the second of two great excerpts from Henry Mayhew's chronicle of mid-19th century life, London Labour and the London Poor (Amazon UK, US, or the full text online).


In Misc on 23 November 2003. 3 comments. Permalink

Vito, Michael and Henry

I'm currently catching up on reading the September 2003 issue of The Believer which contains a fun article by Jim Shepard, 'No Regrets: Goodfellas and American Hardball'. He compares the "honourable" morality of the gangsters in Coppola's Godfather films with the destructive selfishness of those in Scorcese's GoodFellas, and, all too briefly, likens the latter to the world of Enron and Bush's government:


In Misc on 26 November 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

Its true

Greil Marcus quoting John Humphrys in the Sunday Times quoting Lynn Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation:


In Misc on 4 December 2003. 3 comments. Permalink

Jame Oliver’s new site

Last week I helped Poke set up Jamie Oliver's new website. It's an interim effort, with more thrilling stuff on the way apparently, and is quite nice as these things go (and that doesn't feel too much like blowing my own trumpet, given very little of its visible niceness is down to me).


In Misc on 8 December 2003. Permalink

Richard Herring on his new watch

The [Timex Ironman digital watch] comes with a box about the size of a pack of playing cards that you strap round your upper arm, which communicates with 12 satellites to pinpoint your exact position and calculate all the other statistics I've mentioned. I am not sure that the bloke who invented satellites realised that his invention would be used to check the progress of a plodding, fat man traversing the back streets of West London. He probably thought it would be used for international espionage, but he was mistaken.


In Misc on 18 December 2003. Permalink

The Poetics of Space

I spent much of the New Year reading The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, which had been on my reading list for a while: two friends highly recommended it and a third kindly bought it for me (for which I'm hugely grateful, however the rest of this sounds). Unfortunately I was disappointed and so I'd love to know why the book is so highly rated by people I admire.


In Misc on 14 January 2004. 20 comments. Permalink

Weblogs, unexplained

Once upon a time the word "Internet" had to be explained whenever it was used. At first the word would only appear in articles about Internet itself (it often occurred without its definite article), then it would crop up in gradually more mainstream stories, but still requiring explanation: "a world-wide network of computers". I'm now enjoying watching "weblog" or "blog" going through the same process.


In Misc on 19 January 2004. 2 comments. Permalink

Their first movies

I'm halfway through My First Movie (Amazon US, UK), interviews with directors about making their first features, and it's great stuff. Their single-minded determination makes me realise I'll never make a movie myself. From the introduction:


In Misc on 27 January 2004. Permalink


Tim O'Reilly posted a question to the Geowanking list, and after a lot of responses I posted the following. I'm frustrated with endless social networking schemes, endless people going "ooh, we could annotate space!", lots of waffle about how difficult it is to do collaborative mapping and just wish all everyone would get together and do something useful. If such a thing is possible. Rambling follows...

Tim O'Reily wrote:
> If we were to envision a next generation, collaboratively-enhanced
> version of MapQuest, or Maps.yahoo.com, or mapinfo, how might we
> do it? What features would lead people to naturally annotate maps?


In Misc on 27 January 2004. Permalink

Whither Ikeaphobia?

I've seen a couple of places applauding 'Ikeaphobia and its discontents' by Adam Greenfield in which he describes anti-Ikea and anti-Starbucks rants as "nonsensensical prejudices". While I agree with a few of his points, and dislike the ranters' attitudes that such companies are simply evil, I feel like standing up a little for the ranters, or at least providing an alternate slant on their rants.


In Misc on 30 January 2004. 5 comments. Permalink

I’ve had it up to here

In the past twelve days I've received over 5,000 MyDoom virus emails (or their associated bounces). Add this to the background noise of spam and I'm giving up. Despite my reservations last summer, I'm signing up for Knowspam to claim my sanity back. Hopefully I've imported the email addresses of everyone I've received mail from over the past couple of years, so few people will have their human-ness challenged by the system. And I'll only receive the email I want to read. How novel!

In Misc on 7 February 2004. Permalink

I forgot to pack my cynicism

(Sunday afternoon.) Right now it's hard to believe California's original boosters were in any way exagerrating. Trundling south from Santa Barbara on the Pacific Surfliner, listening to the sunny sounds of Camera Obscura, marvelling at the ocean's dazzle, kids waving from the sand, palm trees and sea birds, surfers gliding the waves. It's the middle of winter and the world is like the start of a David Lynch movie, when the world is way too good to be true.


In Misc on 9 February 2004. Permalink

Why not to buy a Roomba

I'm not planning on writing about every moment of EtCon; there are plenty of people doing that already, and it's hard enough for me to concentrate on what speakers are saying without the burden of massaging that into something publishable. I probably won't even expand on the atmosphere to any great extent. Suffice it to say that hanging out with a gaggle of London friends in a place full of clever folks discussing ideas and projects is a lovely holiday.


In Misc on 11 February 2004. 11 comments. Permalink

Houston’s transport

2lmc link to a USA Today story about the large number of cars colliding with Houston's new light rail system. I'd forgotten the city went ahead with this, as when I was living there around 2000, I couldn't imagine it happening. It was supposed to be the start of a 40 mile scheme, and searching the Houston Press archives I found some articles giving background from last year:


In Misc on 8 March 2004. 1 comment. Permalink

Powergen’s negative energy

How can one company do so many simple things wrong:


In Misc on 28 March 2004. Permalink

Bye bye HyperCard

Awww, HyperCard is no more. I haven't touched HyperCard for ten years or so1 but I've always had a soft spot for it. As far as I know my college didn't have the internet in the early 90s, although I'd heard tales of a computer in the library that was on JANET, but I could never substantiate such foolish rumour-mongering.


In Misc on 29 March 2004. 1 comment. Permalink

Donald Barthelme’s reading list

I've been catching up on back issues of The Believer and October 2003 contained an article by Kevin Moffett, in which he described tackling a reading list of 81 books passed down through a couple of hands from Donald Barthelme. To be honest, I couldn't tell you the first thing about Barthelme, but I love reading lists in exactly the kind of way I don't love lists of essential CDs.


In Misc on 13 April 2004. 6 comments. Permalink

Goof of the day

I was looking for some information about the history of the House of Commons. Eventually, after resorting to the Site Map, I found a promising sounding PDF, Chronology of the House of Commons.


In Misc on 22 April 2004. 1 comment. Permalink

Homeostatic envelope

The November 2003 issue of The Believer had an interview with David Foster Wallace, and one part, by the interviewer, Dave Eggers, caught my attention. After talking about how after stories like A Beautiful Mind mathematicians "might even be supplanting artists as the presumed sufferers of a sort of 'mad genius' syndrome" he goes on to say:


In Misc on 25 April 2004. 1 comment. Permalink

London’s Elections - The Designers

A couple of days after my voting forms for the imminent London and European elections arrived, I received a booklet containing mini-manifestos for each mayoral candidate. The great thing about it is that each party has obviously been given a double page spread to do what they like; each spread is entirely different in design, language, colour scheme, everything. It's like some peculiar political zine patched together from numerous contributions, and you can download the PDF, which is much more fun than the sanitised HTML version.


In Misc on 3 June 2004. 1 comment. Permalink


Contrary to popular opinion some interesting things happen in Parliament. Unfortunately these are hidden by many more dull things. Finding the interesting things is made more difficult by the nature of the official record of Parliament, Hansard, which doesn't make life easy.


In Misc on 6 June 2004. 4 comments. Permalink

Bishopsgate Goods Yard demolition

Aerial viewBishopsgate Goods Yard is currently being demolished to make way for the East London Line extension, although I can't recall now whether the project is stalled or not. Either way, demolition looks pretty complete, and although you can't see much from the street, an aerial view gives you a better perspective of the sea of bricks now filling the space between the walls. (I took the photos a month ago, although it's pretty much the same now.)


In Misc on 20 June 2004. 3 comments. Permalink

Beach hut photos

Beach hutA couple of weeks ago we went to Walton-on-the-Naze, on the Essex coast, for the weekend. The walk along the promenade to the more genteel Frinton-on-Sea is lined with beach huts, and the weather was good for taking photos. There are also a couple of photos of Walton's muddy Backwaters (more on those here)

In Misc on 20 June 2004. 3 comments. Permalink

New and improved Jamie Oliver

This year, when I haven't been coding TheyWorkForYou.com, I've been employed at the lovely Poke working on the new Jamie Oliver website, which launched yesterday. I feel rather too close to it now to describe it in any detail, but a few bullet-pointed highlights for you:


In Misc on 22 June 2004. 2 comments. Permalink

RCA and CSM degree shows

Friday afternoon I went to the degree show at the Royal College of Art, in London, (open until 2nd July). Here are the few things that caught my limited span of attention:


In Misc on 26 June 2004. 2 comments. Permalink


Bloglines, the web-based RSS reader of choice has had a first birthday revamp. It's a bit cleaner and more professional-looking, although I'm not a fan of that deep sky blue, or the cartoony tabs. Also, something about the design hinders quick scanning -- I think the "Posted on..." lines are rather intrusive to the flow. And I'm not entirely sure why a lot of links are brown. But otherwise, it's nicely refreshing.


In Misc on 7 July 2004. 2 comments. Permalink

What webloggers are reading this summer

Lists of who's reading what are all very well but, although I love book recommendations, do I really care what books Kate Adie or Neil Mullarkey are reading? I realised I'd be far more interested in the reading habits of people whose thoughts I read every day. So I asked a bunch of friendly webloggers what they're dipping into when they're not hypnotised by a monitor, and here are their replies.


In Misc on 9 July 2004. 8 comments. Permalink

Inaccessible Odeon

The Odeon cinema chain has sent nasty letters to Matthew Somerville, forcing him to remove his accessible version of their site. It's bad enough that a company which had previously welcomed Matthew's efforts about-faced and got nasty on a site that made it easy for people to give them money. But it looks even worse if you try to use Odeon's own site to book tickets.


In Misc on 11 July 2004. 37 comments. Permalink

Anyone for a greasy?

Finding a decent, simple cafe in central London is surprisingly tricky (that's cafe pronounced 'caff'). If you're after food that doesn't come with a rocket salad, and isn't a hybrid of cuisines from warmer parts of the world, it can take some hunting. There are still classic cafes where egg, bacon chips and beans form the bulk of the menu but they seem to be disappearing.


In Misc on 22 July 2004. 7 comments. Permalink

St Pancras Chambers

Window and stairsYesterday I went on a tour of St Pancras Chambers (erratic Flash site), the official title for the vast, grand brick building that forms the front of St Pancras railway station in London. In the 19th century the building was originally the swanky Midland Grand Hotel, which closed due to poor profits in 1935. It then became railway offices and had many of its large, elegant rooms split by temporary walls, some elaborate and colourful patterned walls painted over, and holes punched in ceilings to provide access for power and phone cabling.


In Misc on 25 July 2004. Permalink

Let’s live today, anyway. Change me, change me, change me once again

A decade ago I couldn't wait to see Before Sunrise. I loved Richard Linklater's Slacker and Dazed and Confused, Ethan Hawke was the cocky yet sensitive Gen X posterboy, Julie Delpy was cute and French and the idea -- boy meets girl on a train in Vienna and they spend the night walking and talking -- was the perfect romance. Somehow it didn't quite live up to expectations: perhaps Jesse (Hawke) was too annoying; perhaps Céline (Delpy) was too wet; perhaps there was something not quite engaging about the dialogue. Despite this, the film floated about me ever since, pushing into my thoughts, weedling its way toward being one of my favourite films, in theory if not in fact.


In Misc on 28 July 2004. 1 comment. Permalink

Seeing the light flicker

When Ludicorp launched Flickr at EtCon earlier this year it looked quite fun. It looked like it might be a Friendster with a point -- share photos with your friends.


In Misc on 25 August 2004. 3 comments. Permalink

Andrew O’Hagan on the Republican convention

The current London Review of Books carries a calmly horrifying report from the US Republican party convention by Andrew O'Hagan. Two passages worth quoting, beginning with the opening paragraph, a relentless account of the state of America:


In Misc on 21 September 2004. 9 comments. Permalink

Walking on the right

A few years back, a couple of weeks after I began my stay in Houston, Texas, I met someone who joked that he thought I must be British because he'd driven past me and noticed I was walking on the left of the sidewalk. I was a bit taken aback as I hadn't been aware that there was a convention of walking on the right in America (or Texas? or Houston?) as if everyone was a car. And it must have been coincidence that I happened to be walking on the left when he'd passed.


In Misc on 26 September 2004. 25 comments. Permalink

New Jamie Oliver website

When I haven't been moving house, or writing HTML for the new Which? site, I've spent some time of late at Poke, working on the site for Jamie Oliver's new book, Jamie's Dinners. Concept, design and Flash by the Pokers, PHP, HTML and CSS by yours truly.


In Misc on 7 October 2004. 15 comments. Permalink

If sometimes you’re catching a fleeting glimpse, of a twelfth man at silly mid-on

I doubt there's much I can say that hasn't already been said by all the people posting on websites and emailing and texting BBC radio about John Peel. But hell, I cried for half the afternoon so...


In Misc on 27 October 2004. 1 comment. Permalink

Haddock Blogs a bit broken

If you follow the aggregated weblog feeds at Haddock Blogs you should be aware that it's currently a little broken. It could just be that Matt's and Alice's new posts aren't showing up. Or it could be more widespread. My dodgy perl and the slightly peculiar server don't make things easier, but I'll try and fix things when I get a chance. I'll post again if there's progress. Or things get worse.

In Misc on 16 November 2004. Permalink

Haddock Blogs working better

[Darn, wrote this last night and saved it as Draft by mistake.]

Haddock Blogs appears to be including everything again, now I've removed something I added to fix a problem a while ago. Consequently there's a flush of posts from Matt, Alice, Ian and Azeem.


In Misc on 17 November 2004. Permalink

Direct diet marketing

On Saturday the Guardian had a supplement about nutrition, including this article on how much fruit and veg you should eat. That attempts to link to a site called "Daily Diet Tracker" but gives a URL that doesn't work. I'm guessing this is what it meant, and it looks handy: keep track of what you eat when, how much exercise you do, and what it's all doing to you. But...


In Misc on 10 January 2005. 1 comment. Permalink

May the Government be damned for it

I must admit that over the past few months I've neglected keeping up with the news. I'm rarely conscious of the few minutes of Today that whispers at me in the morning, and only ever read a paper at the weekend.

But last night I caught a bit of Brian Sedgemore's speech in the House of Commons debate on the new Prevention of Terrorism Bill and, wheeee, is it worth a read:


In Misc on 24 February 2005. 7 comments. Permalink

American passports and Mexican food

It's impossible to tell from my site when comments are posted to old entries, so I thought I'd point out a couple of posts that have attracted a large amount of traffic via Google.


In Misc on 5 March 2005. 2 comments. Permalink

I don’t understand

From yesterday's Guardian business section come two stories that demonstrate I either have no understanding of how business and government works, or there's something very wrong in the world:


In Misc on 3 April 2005. 4 comments. Permalink

With great audiences…

Like everyone else I know (or everyone else I know who doesn't get out enough) I enjoy reading Boing Boing, the group weblog that's become phenomenally popular over the last few years. It hits the spot for thousands of novelty-hungry geeks and is popular enough that it often doesn't seem worth linking to something if it's already appeared on Boing Boing. However, I think this vastly increased popularity changes the nature of Boing Boing, and the responsibility of those who write for it.


In Misc on 3 April 2005. 60 comments. Permalink

The Hitchhiker’s Guide movie

Like one or two other people, I've been looking forward to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie. I was expecting to know the plot, give or take a few tweaks here or there but it hadn't occurred to me that I'd also know much of the dialogue. Some of it I could have recited with the characters, other bits came rushing back from whenever it was I last read or heard them, and other remembered phrases were glaring in their absence. "But you forgot the next line!" I kept thinking. Where in my mind has this useless stuff been living all these years?


In Misc on 28 April 2005. 5 comments. Permalink

Royal Mail spam

The Royal Mail is constantly battling against all those modern private companies who want a slice of its action. In theory I'm all in favour of some kind of monopoly on the universal delivery of post in the UK. Just as it makes sense to me that one company should run a rail network, it seems simplest to have the Royal Mail run the mail. But every time the post(wo)man pops a bunch of junk through our letterbox I want to see the company die a little.


In Misc on 13 May 2005. 12 comments. Permalink

Classic travel

I'm hopeless at going on holiday -- I can put it off forever unless there's a reason to go for a specific event. But I liked Paul Theroux's description of why he travels in his article in the Guardian on Saturday, about a trip to the Colombian jungle:


In Misc on 17 May 2005. Permalink

Slimming for August

After empathising with this post about information overload the other day, it occurred to me that maybe I should unsubscribe from from one RSS feed a day in an effort to simplify my life a tiny bit. It's not quite getting rid of 200 objects in 40 days, but it's a start.


In Misc on 1 August 2005. 1 comment. Permalink

The Guardian’s re-purposing of online content

Generally I only buy a Guardian on Saturdays and last week's was the first of the new design. It was nice enough, although it'll take a while to get used to the new layout -- it felt like lots of familiar faces had been spread throughout an overly-sprawling Sunday Times-like paper. But one thing I definitely liked was the appearance of quotes from weblogs and the Guardian's own forums.


In Misc on 24 September 2005. 2 comments. Permalink

Buggy New Year

I've just returned from Christmas and New Year in the Falkland Islands, visiting my sister (photos and writing will appear sometime soon). If you read Haddock.org you'll have noticed it stopped updating on 21st December. The Directory is a manual operation requiring editorial, librarianship and swearing skills that even the computers of 2006 can't manage. Given that I selfishly trust no one else to press the correct buttons, this usually goes quiet when I'm offline -- expect it to catch up gradually this week.


In Misc on 10 January 2006. 3 comments. Permalink

A trip to the Falkland Islands

It's only been two weeks of catching up on email, feeds, updating websites, fixing bugs, tidying up, plodding through to-do lists, having meetings and generally avoiding writing, and already the fortnight we spent in the Falkland Islands seems like months ago. Before more memories leak from my head here's What I Did On My Christmas Holidays.


In Misc on 22 January 2006. 21 comments. Permalink

Wanted: A walking map of London for Palm OS

A little while back, after months of dithering, I replaced my barely-working SonyEricsson T610 phone and my aging but dependable Palm Vx with a shiny Treo 650 off eBay. After the inevitable initial fiddling and cursing (and praising The Missing Sync) it’s proved to be a lovely, if chunky, slice of technology. But there’s one thing I really, really miss from my Palm Vx: a walking map of London.


In Misc on 24 July 2006. 8 comments. Permalink

HotWired demo site from 1995

Jeff Veen recently posted a look back at HotWired, discussing how the design of the site changed over the years since 1994. This reminded me that I have a demo copy of HotWired which he and you might like so here it is, HotWired from 1995.


In Misc on 27 July 2006. 5 comments. Permalink

Captionless exhibitions

Dan Hill has a rave review of The Barbican’s Future City exhibition that reminded me I’d meant to write something about it. Unfortunately I was going to moan rather than rave. The exhibition suffered from a severe lack of contextual information that left me bewildered by much of it, something I’ve found at a few exhibitions recently.


In Misc on 2 August 2006. 2 comments. Permalink

Moving servers

Rather than spend this sunny day without work sitting outside, I’m in the process of moving my websites and email to a new host. So my sites may disappear or not work, and my ability to receive email might be erratic for the next couple of days. (It might be worth CCing gyford [at] gmail [dot] com if it’s an important email, just in case.)

In Misc on 9 August 2006. Permalink

This is on the new server

If you can read this, you’re looking at the site on the new server. Hopefully it’s no different, other than perhaps a smidgen faster. More details to come in a day or two, but now I’m off to bed.

In Misc on 9 August 2006. Permalink

What percentage of restaurants fail after one year?

I love statistics that are quoted by almost everyone as fact, even though none of us know the basis behind them. Often they’re entirely wrong, like the percentage of US citizens who have passports. Another favourite is that “90% of restaurants go out of business in the first year”. A conversation where this came up prompted me to poke around.


In Misc on 13 November 2006. 2 comments. Permalink

Some of Leslie’s ambitions

Yesterday I was searching my email archive for something from a while back when I stumbled across an email Leslie sent to Haddock last year in response to the open query “What do you really want to do which is completely removed from your job?” I thought it was a great example of her imagination, humour and ambition — she always wanted to have a healthy creating:consuming ratio — and was worth sharing with more people:


In Misc on 19 December 2006. Permalink

My year in email

More from the end of year file. Eudora generates statistics of my email usage and I thought I’d take a look at what’s happened in 2006. I have two email addresses: phil@ for my personal email and lists@ for all my mailing list email and messages generated by various scripts on websites. These statistics are for both of these together.


In Misc on 29 December 2006. 4 comments. Permalink

The Haddock Directory is now closed

If you’re one of Haddock.org’s few regular visitors you’ve probably noticed that the Haddock Directory part of the site had its last daily update in October. After updating the Directory every day (well, kind of) since its launch in 1997 I’d finally had enough of the dull and thankless task earlier last year. A glamorous and anonymous assistant valiantly took hold of the reigns and kept it going for a further few months but eventually the regular tedium overcame them too. So we think it’s finally time to call it a day and shutter this tiny window onto the mailing list’s activity.


In Misc on 4 February 2007. 6 comments. Permalink

Optimism and creativity

All that thinking about my own cynicism and how it affects me at college was happening over a little stream of thought that’s been babbling away for a few months about the position of optimism in creativity. When I went to see the V&A’s Modernism exhibition last year I was struck by how utopian so much of their efforts had been. It wasn’t just square buildings and metal chairs, but an effort to make the world a better place and, I assume, they believed they could. Although it seems more than a little over optimistic in retrospect, given that whole Holocaust/global war thing that happened afterwards, it still felt exciting and I still wanted to believe it could work.


In Misc on 6 March 2007. 2 comments. Permalink

Personal University

Over on Cool Tools Kevin Kelly has just pointed his favourable finger at The Personal MBA. The idea is that one doesn’t need to spend a fortune on a (US) MBA: just read the right books, talk with interested and interesting people, and get some real world experience. Josh Kaufman has put together a list of 69 books, created forums for people to discuss their reading, and offers coaching (even the most motivated self-educators sometimes benefit from a little structure and guidance).

This is an amazing thing.


In Misc on 3 January 2008. Permalink

Beware of the Leopard

My mum uses BT as her broadbrand provider. I’m not sure if it’s called ‘BT Openworld’, ‘BT Yahoo!’, ‘BT Internet’ or ‘BT Total Broadbrand’. Nice one, branding folks. Anyway, if you don’t want to use the email address they provide for you then sending email can be a little fiddly, because they seem to block access to all SMTP servers other than their own. So you’re forced to send email from your non-BT address through BT mail servers, which can require a little gentle gymnastics depending on your email program. But it’s not impossible. Until today when it started beeping with a “553” error.


In Misc on 22 March 2008. 43 comments. Permalink

Bottom of a locked filing cabinet

Due to an ironic but entirely unrelated email problem of my own I hadn’t been getting notifications of comments posted on this site. So I’ve only just noticed the 26 comments on my post about BT Yahoo!’s dumb email security and the Register’s coverage which quotes it. But it gets better…


In Misc on 25 March 2008. 3 comments. Permalink

I’m not bugging your phone

First off, an apology. Sorry if you were reading my Twitters and I’ve now banned you from doing so by making my Tweets private. Like, I expect, most of you, I’ve started getting several emails a day from people wanting to follow me. Often these are wankers who are wasting all our time by using Twitter to spam, and who we can only hope will one day be found in the deepest circle of Hell. Other times these are complete strangers who apparently follow hundreds or thousands of people solely because, presumably, they have nothing better to do with their lives than click their mouse in an attempt to make the pretty number on their screen increase by one with each click, like some laboratory animal with half its brain replaced by citrus fruit.


In Misc on 21 April 2008. 3 comments. Permalink

Haddock Blogs changes

This is a post for those of you reading this feed via Haddock Blogs. You may have noticed a few changes there. Here’s what’s changed.


In Misc on 25 April 2008. 4 comments. Permalink

More Twitter angst

A month ago I posted about making my Twitters private, along with the social angst involved. I’ve now changed my mind and gone public again.


In Misc on 19 May 2008. Permalink

Stop and go "Huh?"

At the start of this Terry Eagleton article on anonymity from which I previously quoted he asserts that “All literary works are anonymous, but some are more anonymous than others.” I don’t want to discuss the nature of authorship (because I’ll be out of my depth in seconds) but this anonymity can be, in a way, a bigger problem online than in the real world. Someone writing online can certainly attempt to provide plenty of context to inform a reader — links to their personal website or further articles for example — and more is only a Google away. But this context is rarely explored by most readers and, the crucial difference between online and off-, the reader can, in turn, instantly respond in public: post a comment at the end of the writer’s piece, create their own weblog post, etc.


In Misc on 22 May 2008. 2 comments. Permalink

Rush hour on the Barley Highway

I’ve been meaning to write about my new bike, a fixed-gear, for months. Now I’m in Paris and I’m enjoying the Parisians’ more relaxed attitude to cycling, and wondering why London cycling is so frantic.


In Misc on 9 August 2008. 13 comments. Permalink

View past days on Haddock Blogs

Apologies if you read Haddock Blogs, as the site was down for some of last week. A server broke and I was away so couldn’t make sure the site was resurrected.


In Misc on 1 September 2008. Permalink

Way too jaded

Last Friday I went to a stormy Brighton for dConstruct, a conference on “Designing the social web”. I had a great day, one that reminded me how little I’ve socialised over the past couple of years. The conference was well organised and very simple — a single track of talks and plenty of time for mingling and chatting. But I did feel underwhelmed by the talks, a feeling I remember from previous times I’ve been to web conferences.


In Misc on 9 September 2008. 4 comments. Permalink

Head of the tiny pack

Late last night, after returning home a little hazy following a fun night out at an east London pub with karaoke and an odd mixture of ageing locals, including some fine singers, and younger, cooler non-locals trying to decide whether they were enjoying things ironically or authentically or whether it mattered so long as they were enjoying things, I heard that the author David Foster Wallace had committed suicide.


In Misc on 14 September 2008. 3 comments. Permalink

Graphs that lie

Here’s one thing that’s making me angry at the moment. In fact there are several things making me angry at the moment: McCain’s supporters; the greed that lead us into these financial end-times… and by comparison this particular matter is trivial. But at least it’s easier to solve than the others.


In Misc on 11 October 2008. 28 comments. Permalink

Showing them one tiny corner

There was some interesting discussion on my previous post about stock market graphs and there were perhaps three themes we can address.


In Misc on 16 October 2008. Permalink

Ghostly fingers of APIs

When writing my previous post about aggregation I started thinking about all the small pieces of me that are loosely joined around the web. Today I decided to see what all those connections looked like:


In Misc on 29 October 2008. 4 comments. Permalink

Haddock Blogs feeds are back

Apologies to the hundred or so of you who use the Haddock Blogs RSS feeds. They stopped working on 22nd October (one thing was fixed, breaking another) and my attention has been so all over the place that I didn’t notice until yesterday.


In Misc on 3 November 2008. Permalink

The locals slag you off

After writing about aggregating all my online activity everywhere I’ve been checking my enthusiasm over the past week. While I’m still keen on aggregating everything in one place in a format that makes sense I’m less keen on shooting things out to all other sites possible.


In Misc on 10 November 2008. 3 comments. Permalink

Wholly deserved demise

It’s bad enough that so many people watch this crap. It’s worse that so many people spend so much time talking about it. It’s a disgrace that this is apparently the most important thing in the world today.


In Misc on 20 November 2008. 4 comments. Permalink

Would you let your daughter work in an open plan?

A few months ago I was helping my parents tidy up their loft and I grabbed a bunch of articles they’d cut out of newspapers and magazines years ago. When a friend recently moved to new open plan offices I was reminded of one of these and so have scanned it in.


In Misc on 16 December 2008. 7 comments. Permalink

Google Reader vs Bloglines Beta

I’ve been using Bloglines to read RSS feeds for what feels like forever. Certainly, I think, for as long as I’ve been reading RSS feeds. When Google Reader first came out I gave it a quick whirl but didn’t get on with it. Bloglines’ next incarnation, the eternal Beta version, improved on the original but recently Google updated Reader so I’ve given that another go. Here are the differences that matter to me.


In Misc on 17 December 2008. 4 comments. Permalink

Pelinore from ‘Imagine’ magazine

Imagine was a magazine published in the UK by TSR in the early 1980s. While sorting out some of my role-playing past recently I found a folder of pages cut out of the magazines that describe a campaign world called Pelinore for Dungeons & Dragons. I googled and found a few forum threads in which people ask about it but not much else. So I’ve scanned everything I have and put them into this PDF document:


In Misc on 22 December 2008. 4 comments. Permalink

What on Earth is going on at ‘Today’?

It’s 7.49pm. I’ve bought the Christmas food, made two dozen mince pies, cleaned the flat, been to the library and bought more food, but I’m still angry. Furious even. It must be a middle class, middle age rite of passage that one spends way too much time being annoyed at Radio 4 and this morning’s Today programme wound me up even more than usual.


In Misc on 23 December 2008. 9 comments. Permalink

Physicalising ebooks

Like Russell Davies I’ve begun reading books on my iPhone using Stanza and I’m enjoying it more than I expected. I never read much on PDAs I’ve owned in the past but the iPhone’s screen is good enough, and Stanza is configurable enough, that it’s surprisingly easy on the eyes. It’s also even easier than a real book: easy to hold with one hand, easy to turn pages with one finger, and I always have it with me.


In Misc on 30 December 2008. 7 comments. Permalink

Flickr, Getty and the greater good

Flickr and Getty Images, the stock photography giant, are launching a new scheme which enables people to market some of their Flickr photos as stock photography through Getty. I’ve no idea how new it is — the selection of some of my photos as candidates is the first I’ve heard of it — but it’s not launched properly yet (the help says “early next year” which I’m guessing means 2009).


In Misc on 15 January 2009. Permalink


A while back I had an idea that began nagging at me: A reading list of all the very best books on a wide variety of subjects. A structured list that you could read through, discussing them with others, to get a comprehensive overview of everything there is to know.


In Misc on 18 February 2009. 1 comment. Permalink

Old Think for Old Publishers

One of the most interesting panels I went to at SXSW this week was ‘New Think for Old Publishers’, organised by the US arm of Penguin. Unfortunately it wasn’t interesting for any of the correct reasons. Here’s the description of the panel:


In Misc on 20 March 2009. Permalink

SXSW 2009

Over the past couple of weeks I was in San Jose for ETech and Austin for SXSW Interactive. I took a notes about most ETech talks I went to over at Overmorgen but that burned me out and I didn’t take any at SXSW. As a way of catch-up here are a few thoughts on SXSW:


In Misc on 21 March 2009. Permalink

Liking something the wrong way

I enjoyed reading Dave Gorman’s account of some peoples’ expected social behaviour on Twitter. It reminds me of a while back when someone on Flickr blocked me from viewing their photos because I liked them.


In Misc on 30 March 2009. Permalink

Google Street View

Live everyone else in the UK (all of them, without exception) I’ve been enjoying the new Google Street View imagery of our little country. Aside from echoing the general “wow, it’s amazing” feeling, two other thoughts have occurred to me.


In Misc on 7 April 2009. 13 comments. Permalink

Ugly and neglected fragments

The joke going round about Yahoo! closing GeoCities is that the headlines should have been “GeoCities still exists!” It’s so much a part of the pre-Web 2.0 world — a world before weblogs and MySpace and Facebook — that before the announcement of its closure I couldn’t have been sure whether it was still online. Given the thousands or millions of sites hosted at GeoCities it’s remarkable how rarely one stumbles across any of them. Only with their impending disappearance do we realise what we’ll be missing.


In Misc on 28 April 2009. Permalink

A tiny, tiny fraction

With Yahoo! about to close GeoCities I decided to grab copies of the few sites linked to from Pepys’ Diary. Broken links are an inevitable part of a ten year web project but advance knowledge that several linked-to sites would disappear at once doesn’t often happen. So now, thanks to the wonders of wget and some manual effort, I have a small collection of a few GeoCities sites.


In Misc on 29 April 2009. Permalink

Pretend Office

Apparently it’s National Office Week and I can think of no more depressing an occasion than this to tell you about Pretend Office. For a couple of months myself and some friends and strangers have been communicating via a mailing list as if it’s the “everyone@” company-wide list in an office where we all work. You can read the archives (here’s the first post) and follow the RSS feed. I’m told it’s quite funny.


In Misc on 11 May 2009. 9 comments. Permalink

Email improvisation

Yesterday I described how Pretend Office, the company-wide mailing list for an imaginary company, came about. I also want to write about the parallels between taking part in this fiction and improvising on stage. It’s striking how similar both activities are.


In Acting, Misc on 12 May 2009. Permalink

When theft isn’t theft

Yesterday I wrote a letter to the Guardian. Originally I put quote marks around the word “Theft” in the phrase “Federation Against Software Theft”. In the context of the letter this was unexplained and was as as immature as replacing the “s” in “Microsoft” with a dollar sign (a sure sign of an impending knee-jerk response). It did me no favours and I removed the quote marks (and, for what it’s worth, shamefacedly re-sent the email) but I thought I would explain my aversion to the word theft in this context.


In Misc on 8 June 2009. 4 comments. Permalink

The highwalks are an island

I originally wrote this as a comment in response to Will Wiles’ post In Praise of Beech Street, but unfortunately comments aren’t working there at the moment. So, with a bit of tweaking, I’ll do the bloggy thing and continue the conversation here instead.


In Misc on 7 July 2009. 2 comments. Permalink

No one will be pointing at them

There’s lots of agonising about whether news websites should start charging readers at the moment. My initial reaction is that it could (and does) work for those with time-sensitive and exclusive content but for most general news sources it’s a road to tiny audiences. But, then, I don’t currently read any news websites when they’re free, so I’m hardly the target market for a pay-for version. Are there any websites I would pay for though?


In Misc on 21 July 2009. 1 comment. Permalink

Anyone can write this crap

All the talk about online newspapers starting to charge for access became louder recently when David Simon, creator of The Wire wrote an essay about how the New York Times and Washington Post should both value their content and start charging simultaneously. (See, for example, John Gruber’s and Dave Winer’s responses.) I sympathise with Simon and would love to share his vision of a press worth saving but, as a reader, his vision is of a fantasy world.


In Misc on 28 July 2009. 17 comments. Permalink

Why do you like running?

It was unfair of me to say yesterday that much newspapers’ content is space-filling, sensationalist, inaccurate and irrelevant nonsense. It’s unfair not because I was wrong, but because I neglected to mention that TV and radio news also suffer from the same problem.


In Misc on 29 July 2009. 4 comments. Permalink

All that guff

One of the comments on my rant about the failings of newspapers last week made it obvious to me how I’d confused two separate issues, which I thought I’d take a moment to clarify.


In Misc on 3 August 2009. 1 comment. Permalink

Stand on the right

The other day, chatting with Russell and Ben and Paul and Tom, the idea emerged of creating a little guide for visitors to London. It would be very brief, a series of bullet points, a single sheet of paper, and would probably begin with “On escalators, stand on the right and walk on the left”.


In Misc on 13 September 2009. 9 comments. Permalink

I want to care

A few friends were at, and Twittering from, the Oxford Social Media Convention today. Among others, a couple of quotes about online political engagement caught my eye. Here’s the first, this version from Kathryn Corrick (who I don’t know, but whose twitters are public):


In Misc on 18 September 2009. 2 comments. Permalink

A still more glorious dawn awaits

I’ve always felt a bit awkward that I’m not more interested in outer space. I feel like I should be fascinated by it. When I was doing that Future Studies course, plenty of people there were fascinated by space exploration and where it would lead our distant collective future. The campus was just round the corner from Johnson Space Center — I even lived by Moon Rock Drive — but in 15 months I never visited the place. Similarly, these days many friends seem excited by space and our collective attempts at exploration, while I’ve never been hugely bothered.


In Misc on 11 October 2009. 3 comments. Permalink

Games have rules

When I first tried Foursquare I was unusually optimistic. For years people have been talking about software that will show where all your friends are but it never seems to have happened — either the technology’s not right or it doesn’t reach the critical mass needed — and I thought maybe Foursquare’s point-scoring would be just enough incentive to get people checking in.


In Misc on 27 October 2009. 1 comment. Permalink

Haddock Blogs down for a bit

On the off-chance you’re someone who reads the Haddock Blogs aggregator (usually found at haddock.org), the site is down at the moment after a server move. I’ve got the RSS feeds back up and running and, thanks to the wonders of FeedBurner, they’re still at the same URLs (Blogs, Links). The site itself will return at some point soonish.

In Misc on 4 November 2009. Permalink

Flickr machine tags for film photos

For the past few months I’ve been taking photos using black and white film in my old 35mm SLR camera, more of which another time. When one uses a digital camera, the details of the camera and shot are embedded in the image as EXIF data, and can be viewed when uploaded to Flickr. I wanted to record some of this information for my film photos taken on film, but wasn’t sure how.


In Misc on 4 November 2009. 5 comments. Permalink

Not too many buttons

I didn’t intend to spend a while writing about the internet’s joke du jour, the OpenOfficeMouse, but I started writing a comment on Chris Messina’s thoughtful post and it expanded into something post-worthy.


In Misc on 8 November 2009. Permalink

Making news easier to read online

Next week I was planning on making the first steps with a side-project that maybe I needn’t bother with now. The New York Times Skimmer is pretty close to what I’ve been thinking of building for a while. Congrats to them — I only thought vaguely about it; they actually made something.


In Misc on 3 December 2009. Permalink


As I wrote recently I’ve been thinking for a while about why I don’t like to read news online as much as I do on paper. So I was extra interested in seeing the latest video from the good folks at BERG in which Jack Schulze talks about their ideas for the future of digital magazines:


In Misc on 18 December 2009. Permalink

Pretend Office RSS feed improvements

For those who might be interested, the RSS feed of emails sent to the Pretend Office company-wide email list now contains the full text of the emails, rather than a snippet. Ask IT to install it for you now!


In Misc on 15 January 2010. Permalink

Looking for news

I mentioned in yesterday’s weeknote that I’m currently working on personal project about news. I’ll describe the project itself later in the week, but first a bit of background. There are two main thoughts that have lead me to this project, and here’s the first.


In Misc on 26 January 2010. 2 comments. Permalink

Small publishers of news

Yesterday I wrote about my frustrations with current sources of news. There’s another main reason for my current news-related project though, and that’s more optimistic.


In Misc on 27 January 2010. 1 comment. Permalink

Next week’s news

After those bits of background, mulling over what I’ve been thinking, here’s what I’m going to do next week. I’m going to spend the week writing an online news website. Part of me is still wondering why, so here are some reasons.


In Misc on 28 January 2010. 2 comments. Permalink

News week, day 1

I was anticipating a period in this news project when I would feel lost and like nothing was working. Most projects have them. I just didn’t expect the feeling to start before I’d begun: last night was full of dreams in which I was endlessly reading and summarising news websites but getting nowhere and making no sense.


In Misc on 1 February 2010. 1 comment. Permalink

News week, day 2

Today started a little better than yesterday on the news project. With two days’ worth of news I was already starting to see themes that would extend across the week, stories that would be worth condensing and summarising in a weekly round-up. But I’ve also started wondering if I’m trying to tackle the wrong problem.


In Misc on 2 February 2010. 4 comments. Permalink

Replace comments with letters pages

I like this, a CSS file that hides comments on many popular websites. It feels a bit like we’re very slowly turning a corner when it comes to how we think of commenting (unless it’s merely my wishful thinking).


In Misc on 4 February 2010. 1 comment. Permalink


Just a quick one as in a few minutes I’m off on the Heathrow Express of the slow now (the Piccadilly Line) and then on to SXSW. I’ll then be in New York from 17th to 21st. Do come and say hi or something if we should/could talk. I’m rubbish at that but do enjoy it once I get going.


In Misc on 11 March 2010. Permalink

SXSW 2010

I wrote a long piece about why SXSW Interactive was a bit disappointing but when I read it back I got bored, so I see no reason why you should be subjected to it. Let’s compress it all to a single paragraph:


In Misc on 25 March 2010. 2 comments. Permalink

This is an outrage

This week, like many of my friends and colleagues, I’ve been very angry about the rushed passing of the flawed Digital Economy Bill. I’ve also been increasingly angry about the nightmarish Twitter echo chamber of people being angry about the bill.


In Misc on 8 April 2010. 21 comments. Permalink

Foods I craved

A list of the foods I craved when I’d been in Morocco for a week and was tired of eating tagines and other local food and then had stomach trouble and ate almost nothing but occasional bananas, yoghurt and vegetable soup for five days:


In Misc on 10 May 2010. Permalink

What have we today?

When I was sorting out some drawers a little while ago I came across some clippings from the early nineties. They’re nearly all from the New Statesman & Society’s (as it then was) ‘This England’ column. Readers send in clippings from newspapers which typify the extremes of the kind of Briton that would never read the New Statesman. So I can throw these clipping away, I thought I would type them up for both posterity and your amusement or despair.


In Misc on 23 May 2010. 1 comment. Permalink

Nothing else to do

I was talking to a friend the other day about Sundays and how they’re not like Sundays any more. It’s partly that we’ve changed — we’re not easily bored kids who need entertaining any more. Or, in our cases, we’re not parents with easily bored kids who need entertaining. But, also, the world has changed and now Sundays are more like every other day.


In Misc on 26 May 2010. Permalink

Today’s Guardian

I’ve made a new thing, Today’s Guardian, a website that features today’s edition of the Guardian (or the Observer on Sundays). Hopefully it’s as easy to browse through today’s newspaper as it would be with the print edition. It’s made using the Guardian’s Content API. Read on for the thoughts behind it…


In Misc on 9 June 2010. 61 comments. Permalink

Today’s Guardian feature requests

A week after launching Today’s Guardian and writing about the thoughts behind it I’m going to discuss the three most common feature requests I’ve received.


In Misc on 16 June 2010. 15 comments. Permalink

Sieve filters

My email is all hosted at Tuffmail, which a friend recommended a few years ago, and which I now recommend to other friends in turn. Yes, you have to pay, but the spam filtering is wonderful, you can buy loads of storage, and it’s never down. One of the best things is being able to filter mail directly on the server — I never use my mail client’s rules, as all my email is in the correct folders already.


In Misc on 2 July 2010. 1 comment. Permalink


An idle thought… Websites are experimenting with ways of getting people to pay for their content. Pay $ to read this article! Pay $$ to read all our stuff for a year! But I’m not sure this works in the Age of Point-At Things.


In Misc on 17 July 2010. 3 comments. Permalink

Wired Index

Wired UK magazine has started an advertising thing called The Wired Index, showing “fascinating new facts” on billboards around the country throughout August. Here’s one of the new Wired Index video ads:


In Misc on 13 August 2010. 1 comment. Permalink

It’s not me, it’s you

Anyone who follows me on Twitter may have noticed my occasional outbursts of frustration about BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. You may have asked, “Why don’t you switch it off, or listen to something else?” I didn’t, because I wanted to believe Today could be good, that it could live up to its reputation as the premier agenda-setting news programme. But from today, I’ve given up, it’s over, we’re finished, no more. Today, it’s not me, it’s you.


In Misc on 25 August 2010. 9 comments. Permalink

A map for every day

Eighteen months ago I wrote about redesigning my site’s front page and mentioned in passing that I’d also created a page for every day which aggregated many things:


In Misc on 2 September 2010. 8 comments. Permalink

Should you build your own home?

Writing my own weblog CMS from scratch is, of course, lunacy. Consequently, I have been coming up with an elaborate justification for why the project is, at least, lunacy with a more respected real-world precedent. If you’re allergic to Internet metaphors look away… now.


In Misc on 20 September 2010. 7 comments. Permalink

Willy nilly

On Friday I spoke for two minutes at Playful 2010 about how one should conduct oneself on Foursquare. At least a single person has asked for the text of my brief talk, so here it is:


In Misc on 28 September 2010. 3 comments. Permalink

It no longer makes sense

There’s a long, good article about Nick Denton, publisher of Gizmodo, Gawker, et al, over at the New Yorker and Ian Betteridge draws our attention to one paragraph in particular:


In Misc on 12 October 2010. Permalink

Nearly future

James Bridle has an interesting post about “Network Realism” and William Gibson’s Zero History. Comments are closed there so I’ll do the right webby thing and post my hasty thoughts here.


In Misc on 25 October 2010. 1 comment. Permalink

Muji PP Storage comparison spreadsheet

I’ve been doing some tidying up and sorting out, a process which inevitably leads to browsing Muji’s storage options. It’s hard to compare the various boxes and drawers and work out what will fit the items you need to blandly store, so I knocked up a spreadsheet in Google Docs, which I’m sharing with you:


In Misc on 31 October 2010. Permalink

The American Civil War, one day at a time

The New York Times has just launched a new blog, Disunion, which is re-telling the American Civil War in real time. I’ve been wanting, even expecting, more real-time historical accounts of events since starting The Diary of Samuel Pepys and it’s great to see such a high-profile example.


In Misc on 2 November 2010. 2 comments. Permalink

Why the iPad newspaper might not be doomed

I’ve been meaning to write something all week about Rupert Murdoch’s forthcoming Daily newspaper for the iPad. I thought I probably wouldn’t get round to it — too busy coding to write — but then Valleywag provided an excellent template in their dumb, shouty post ‘Why the iPad Newspaper is Doomed’ for me to write my own, disagreeing with them.


In Misc on 25 November 2010. 1 comment. Permalink

Falling out of love

Another year approaches, and it’s time to buy another volume of Pepys’ Diary. As usual I bought from Amazon, real bookshops never stocking the individual diary volumes. To my surprise, having bought nine previous volumes from the same publisher, in the same edition, this tenth instalment felt very different. Different as in “worse”.


In Misc on 3 December 2010. 10 comments. Permalink

A metaphor

That whole Gabrielle Giffords shooting and Sarah Palin’s map with gunsights on it thing is pretty amazing, in an obviously horrific way. But then you see something like this attempt at a defence from an aide of Palin’s and it gets even worse:


In Misc on 9 January 2011. Permalink

Today’s Guardian source

Better late than never… I’ve finally got round to making the code for my Today’s Guardian site, powered by the Guardian Open Platform, accessible on Bitbucket on Github. Feel free to grab it, run your own copy of the site, tinker with it, etc.


In Misc on 17 January 2011. 1 comment. Permalink

Papanek on clogs

There’s the tiniest of barneys going on at BERG’s blog post about Nike’s Mayfly running shoes. I won’t reiterate my comments in detail here — I’m kind of ambivalent about the products, but find knee-jerk “they’re terrible!” reactions too simplistic — but they reminded me of a (not entirely related) bit from Victor Papanek’s 1984 book Design for the Real World.


In Misc on 6 February 2011. 1 comment. Permalink

1950 suits

The other day Russell linked to this 1950 film called Cricket. It’s all worth a watch but, because I’ve been thinking about suits recently, I was struck by the variety of suits on display.


In Misc on 21 February 2011. 1 comment. Permalink

Flexible with strong faces

Tidying up, I came across a text file I was updating while signed up for a couple of services that sent out casting calls for adverts and short films. This was a couple of years ago. Some of the descriptions of the actors required were bizarre or, occasionally, delightful. So here are some of the most interesting.


In Misc on 26 February 2011. Permalink

That dreadful phrase

Last week James Wheare tweeted a link to his Google Map of East London Tech City. That image has stuck with me because it seems to sum up some of the potential problems of the whole idea. Here’s a screenshot for your convenience:


In Misc on 22 March 2011. 10 comments. Permalink

More blogging

“More blogging, less tweeting,” I told myself during the recent non-time, holidays donated by Jesus, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the oncoming springtime fertility. Too many ideas have been squeezed into 140 characters when their justifications deserve, and usually end up requiring, more.


In Misc on 3 May 2011. Permalink

Funding niche news services

Talking of links, and more blogging (as I just was if you’re reading this out of sequence), I wanted to expand a bit on something I linked to earlier. Matt Edgar is trying to fund a quality, local, online news service for Leeds by getting at least 36 people to pledge �23.32 per month.


In Misc on 3 May 2011. 2 comments. Permalink

Updated: A Beginner’s Guide to Freelancing

In October 2006 I wrote a lengthy guide to freelancing, summarising things I’d learned. It was getting a bit out of date in places, and I’ve learned more things since then. So I’ve now revised and expanded it.


In Misc on 6 May 2011. Permalink

One of today’s futures

My colleague James Bridle has been continuing to post amazing images over at his Tumblr blog, The New Aesthetic, following his introductory blog post at RIG three weeks ago. It’s all amazing stuff.


In Misc on 26 May 2011. Permalink

Today’s Guardian v1.1

I’ve recently spent a while tweaking Today’s Guardian, my site that makes it as easy as possible to read the current issue of the Guardian newspaper (read more about the project). The changes are mostly improvements for those using iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches. Here are the details:


In Misc on 16 June 2011. 3 comments. Permalink

That’s no city

Rosemary Hill at the LRB Blog on the Shard, as it rises over London:


In Misc on 17 June 2011. Permalink

A form of augmented reality

Kevin Slavin gave this talk about Augmented Reality recently and several people I know linked to it, or discussed it, usually casting it as some kind of smackdown of the AR industry. Oh, whatever. I don’t care enough about the AR industry to care about it being smacked down, so I didn’t watch it.


In Misc on 20 June 2011. Permalink


Do you remember hobbies? Before the Internet hobbies were what we did with our free time. When we weren’t watching telly. These days, although we might do some of the same things, we don’t seem to call them “hobbies”. These days, with the Internet, we have an audience, and seem reluctant to call our activities hobbies.


In Misc on 16 August 2011. 2 comments. Permalink

Being wrong about now

Wearing my increasingly tattered futurist’s hat, I was struck by this otherwise not hugely exciting article at the Guardian about the IMF’s forecast for the UK’s economy. The IMF has changed its forecast for 2011:


In Misc on 21 September 2011. 11 comments. Permalink


I went to see Drive last week and loved it. Violence aside — I’m increasingly intolerant of movie violence — the film looked and sounded gorgeous, and one scene in particular stuck with me.


In Misc on 2 October 2011. Permalink


There was a fascinating article by Ian Leslie in the Guardian last weekend, about how we tend to judge others very quickly, based on superficial signals, while considering ourselves to be more complex. This asymmetry brought together several strands of thought in my brain over the week.


In Misc on 16 October 2011. Permalink

One dimensional news

I’ve been meaning to write a follow-up about my Today’s Guardian and its accompanying blog post, looking at why it’s still not an ideal solution for reading an online newspaper. Before I managed to write that the Guardian’s iPad edition came out, which is well worth a discussion of its own. But first, a look at the problems my Today’s Guardian doesn’t solve.


In Misc on 24 October 2011. 4 comments. Permalink

Work/life balance

I came across this blog post (via) on adjusting one’s life circumstances, priorities or balance, and it’s an interesting way to think about things. I don’t know if it’s correct or useful, but I’m always open to thinking about the same old things in a different way. But this bit jumped out at me as feeling wrong:


In Misc on 27 November 2011. 2 comments. Permalink

Protecting the City

I love a bit of historical context in my news, something that doesn’t appear often. Here’s a bit from Larry Elliott in the Guardian from a couple of days ago:


In Misc on 9 December 2011. Permalink

The Guardian’s iPad edition

When the Guardian’s iPad edition came out in October 2011 I wanted to use it for a while before writing about it. I didn’t plan on waiting this long, but here we are, in the future, and I still like it, very much.


In Misc on 3 January 2012. Permalink

Comments switched off

I’ve switched off the ability to post comments on this site. Not because they’re a bad thing — I’m at the good low-level of popularity that means I get occasional comments and they’re generally not from idiots — but because of the amount of spam.


In Misc on 21 January 2012. Permalink


A couple of good quotes about our glorious leaders from recent articles.


In Misc on 24 January 2012. Permalink

1960s videos of London

I was going to just link to a couple of these videos of London in the 1960s from the Look at Life series, but there’s too much to say.


In Misc on 11 February 2012. Permalink

The value of our historical Instagram products

Matt Webb has an interesting post looking at the sale of Instagram to Facebook through the eyes of an aspect of Marx, particularly this quote from this very good article about Marx by John Lanchester in the London Review of Books:


In Misc on 11 April 2012. Permalink

A Bauhaus for today

I thought I’d post this before the Barbican’s Bauhaus exhibition opens, so it doesn’t seem too fuelled by the excitement of the moment. Because for years I’ve fantasised about what a Bauhaus for the 21st century would be like.


In Misc on 29 April 2012. Permalink

"Blog" vs "blogpost"

This isn’t a new problem, I’m not unique in being annoyed by it, and others have explained it more extensively, but still. I WILL NOT GIVE UP. An email to the Guardian’s Readers’ Editor (slightly re-formatted for the web):


In Misc on 9 May 2012. Permalink

Placards for everyday life

Last night we went to London Bridge to watch the light show that celebrated the opening of The Shard. The display can only be described as anti-climactic, but there was still a special sight worth watching: my friend and RIG colleague James Bridle carrying a home-made placard reading “ALL HAIL SAURON”:


In Misc on 6 July 2012. Permalink

Face.com closes its API after Facebook purchase

Last month Facebook bought Face.com who, besides having a desirable domain name, do face recognition and detection. They also have an API which feels like some kind of magic: send it an image, or an image’s URL, and it pretty accurately tells you lots of stuff about the faces in it. You can try it out here. When the site was bought, Face.com’s blog said this on 18th June:


In Misc on 10 July 2012. Permalink

Manufactured normalcy

I had a brilliant couple of days in Brighton this week, attending Improving Reality, Brighton SF and then dConstruct. Several speakers talked, in passing or in depth, about whether now seems like the future we expected or wanted.


In Misc on 9 September 2012. Permalink

Buy this!

I’ve often wondered why Amazon don’t have a single page for every item.


In Misc on 10 September 2012. Permalink

It’s always been true

Shoreditch, or East London Tech City, or Silicon Roundabout, has always been changing, like every other part of London, like every other part of every city.


In Misc on 10 December 2012. Permalink

Our Incredible Journey

Last week I started a new Tumblr site, Our Incredible Journey, devoted to chronicling what often happens when an internet start-up is purchased by a larger company, often Google or Facebook.


In Misc on 27 February 2013. Permalink

Digital pianos

When I’ve decided to buy a new thing, I love doing the research. I can, and usually do, spend months slowly getting to grips with the state of a market before I spend a money on something. It’s the kind of slow investigation that one can short circuit by relying on a site like Which? or The Wirecutter’s, but recently I’ve been looking into digital pianos, a niche that gets little mainstream coverage.


In Misc on 28 July 2013. Permalink

Ask About Going Home

Recently the UK Border Agency were in the news again because of posters at immigration offices suggesting immigrants “Ask about going home”. This followed the Home Office trialling mobile advertising hoardings which suggested passers-by should “Go home or face arrest” if they were in the country illegally.


In Misc on 7 September 2013. Permalink


I have just launched Twelescreen.com and this post explains what it is and why.


In Misc on 14 November 2013. Permalink

Some 2013 conference talks to watch

I never used to go to loads of conferences but I go to even fewer these days. This year I kept noticing mentions of lots of good talks, at many events around the world, and realised that they were often available to watch online.


In Misc on 30 November 2013. Permalink


I’m not sure what people think of Quora these days. The only time I hear it mentioned is when friends annoyed they can’t read much on it without logging in.


In Misc on 30 November 2013. Permalink


I’m very much enjoying the wonderfully written posts on Medium by Jenn Schiffer, which lead me to a bunch of related little thoughts.


In Misc on 18 January 2014. Permalink

Emails to RSS feed

If you want to receive emails as items in an RSS feed, you can do this with Zapier (which is like a more powerful If This Then That). Here’s how.


In Misc on 12 February 2014. Permalink

The thing I unexpectedly like best about Snapchat

I’ve been using Snapchat for a few months now, to see what it’s like, how it feels. The thing I like best about it isn’t something I expected.


In Misc on 17 February 2014. Permalink

Moving servers

In case you notice anything askew, I’m currently in the process of moving everything to a new server. Which is taking longer than I feared. Some things don’t work yet, but hopefully will soon.

In Misc on 9 March 2014. Permalink

20th century email newsletters

I kept meaning to look back at some of the email newsletters I used to subscribe to in the 1990s and, with Dan Hon and Laura E. Hall’s Internet of Newsletters appearing today, I thought I should get it done.


In Misc on 8 April 2014. Permalink

Collective specular sodomy

I was reading an article about creative writing workshops recently and I was struck by how similar their group seminars are to critical sessions in other “creative” courses, such as design and theatre, and how this is different to other types of education. And, also, how people with or without these experiences might differ in how they interact in the workplace.


In Misc on 25 April 2014. Permalink

What is an incredible journey?

While I hugely appreciate people sending links to newly-ending incredible journeys, it’s obvious that many people aren’t clear about what an incredible journey is. So, let’s clarify.


In Misc on 18 June 2014. Permalink

A good morning on Twitter

Over breakfast I usually catch up on the overnight Twitter and read the (online) paper. This often isn’t a cheery way to start the day but it was a good Twitter morning today, so I thought I’d share.


In Misc on 23 June 2014. Permalink

Visit your nearest branch

Last week I spent a frustrating morning trying to open a business bank account. I assumed banks would make it as easy as possible and so I was surprised how frustrating it was. I’m easily put off by small but easily-avoidable annoyances and I found plenty of those.


In Misc on 30 July 2014. Permalink

Booking reference

After the previous post’s long sequence of service design failures, here’s one little thing that should be easy to get right, and which causes incredible frustration at exactly the wrong moment.


In Misc on 12 August 2014. Permalink

Tech’s tunnel vision

A couple of days ago I linked to this post by Tim Maly which is full of interesting thoughts sparked by attending the XOXO conference. I wrote then: “Makes me want an at least partly explicit socialist / social democratic tech conference.”


In Misc on 23 September 2014. Permalink

Temporary archiving

Perma.cc is (another) way of archiving web pages. This time in an “authoritative”-sounding manner. From the front page:


In Misc on 1 February 2015. Permalink

Classic menswear blogs

A good proportion of the time I spend reading things online is devoted to reading about men’s tailoring. This might seem odd, given I’m not exactly a dandy, but I find it fascinating. It’s another world, an escape from reading about technology or current affairs or whatever else.


In Misc on 5 April 2015. Permalink

Fixed YouTube favourites

For those of you reading this via my biggest aggregated RSS feed you’ll now start seeing things I’ve favourited on YouTube again.


In Misc on 4 September 2015. Permalink

Missing things

From Jason Kottke’s post about the Suck.com origin story a few days ago:


In Misc on 5 November 2015. Permalink

Oh, this is so middle class

It seems a waste to write a long answer on Quora and not post it here too. So, here’s my answer to “What do British people mean when they say, in a derogatory(?) manner, ‘oh, this is so middle class!’?”


In Misc on 6 November 2015. Permalink

A thought on job ads

If I ever post a handful of Tweets on one topic I feel they should have been a blog post. You remember blog posts. So, a thought on job ads.


In Misc on 7 March 2016. Permalink

Folklore universe

In 2001 a friend shared a link to this paper, ‘Folk Computing: Revisiting Oral Tradition as a Scaffold for Co-Present Communities’. There’s one part of it that really struck me then and I’ve thought about many times since (and it’s more interesting than the academic title sounds).


In Misc on 23 April 2016. Permalink

The Shaolin Film Club

Back in the mid-90s, when I used to go out, I went to an evening called The Shaolin Film Club two or three times. Twenty years on and it barely exists online, even as a phrase. So I thought I’d aggregate what I have so that this ephemeral thing lives a little longer.


In Misc on 11 July 2016. Permalink

What isn’t an Incredible Journey?

A couple of years back I wrote What is an incredible journey? clarifying what qualifies for inclusion on this site. The short version was, and is:


In Misc on 28 October 2016. Permalink

Some kettle suggestions

The other day I asked on Twitter whether anyone could recommend a good kettle. I didn’t expect much but ended up with lots of suggestions, many for kettles I hadn’t seen before. So I thought I’d share them here.


In Misc on 28 November 2016. Permalink

US maps from 1963

In 1963 my mum, Janet Gyford, travelled across America, and dipped into Mexico, and collected a load of stuff along the way. I’ve scanned in the covers of the 66 road maps she collected.


In Misc on 15 February 2017. Permalink

My old HyperCard stack

When I was at university we were set a project to use HyperCard on the few small-screened black-and-white Macs. I spent some time making a “stack”, as its interactive apps (to use today’s terminology) were called. Over 25 years later I can now run that stack in my web browser from the place it’s archived online.


In Misc on 16 August 2017. Permalink

Board games for two players

Four months ago I asked on Twitter for suggestions of board games that work well with two players. Here are the suggestions.


In Misc on 26 October 2017. Permalink