Monthly Archives: January 2007

A trip to the British Museum

Exhibition bannerFollowing the visit to the Thames Whale exhibition, we decided to make the most of our day in London with some other visits. I knew that there was a photography exhibition on at the British Museum called The Past from Above, so we hopped on the tube to Russell Square and walked to the museum.

I don’t think I’ve been there for about 15 years – the last (and only) time I’d been was to see the Elgin Marbles when I was studying Classics at A-level. That meant I’d never had the opportunity to see the renovated Great Hall, with its amazing roof… I was absolutely amazed by it. I realise that in the past few years it has probably become one of the most photographed landmarks in London, but I couldn’t help but reel off a lot of shots. I’d also taken the Pentax ME with me, and managed to finish the film – so I’m now looking forward to getting that developed. The space really is beautiful and the architecture is stunning.

Ola didn’t come into the exhibition with me as she wasn’t feeling well, so she and her sister sat in the cafe while I explored. It consists of some fantastic aerial photographs of ancient sites around the world, laid out as a geographical tour starting in Africa, passing through Asia and the Americas and ending in Western Europe (there’s a swathe of Europe that isn’t actually represented, which was a shame). It reminded me of The Earth from Above, but with the environmental slant replaced by a historical one – so there were shots of neolithic structures, ancient temples, Roman ruins, and so on. Highly recommended.

As I was coming out of the exhibition, I heard a voice say “Andy?” and found myself talking to a friend who I hadn’t seen for near on 10 years – a surprising, and brief meeting (Becky, hope you find my blog!).

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The Thames Whale exhibition

SkeletonThis time last year, a northern bottlenose whale found its way up into the Thames. We were briefly able to marvel at the very unusual sight of a whale in the river outside the Houses of Parliament – but truth was that the creature was a long way from where it should have been. Despite efforts to save it, it didn’t survive.

This week, the Guardian put the remains of the whale on display at their Newsroom in Farringdon in London. Today, we went along to take a look. It was a very nicely done, small exhibition that included photographs, natural history display, and a film. You can see more in my photoset on Flickr.

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Second Life IS work

Had a couple of days of Second Life-related activity.

I spent yesterday in the company of the exceptionally cool Roo Reynolds, one of IBM’s Metaverse Evangelists. It was great to learn more about our thinking in terms of virtual worlds… and I even introduced him to Mugshot and Windows Live Writer, so I like to think I had an impact on his life, too.

Today, I helped a colleague present on virtual worlds and Eightbar to an internal audience in London; and this afternoon I gave my own presentation to another internal group in Canada. Both experiences were very enjoyable – there’s a wow factor when you move from presenting a set of slides, to zooming around a three dimensional space, to showing off some of the stuff that we’ve been building on the IBM Island Complex.

Back to more usual activities next week.

Not feeling the Google love

For some reason, it seems like my blog has largely disappeared from Google. I was previously getting significant daily traffic from searches on all kinds of topics (Message Broker, TomTom, and car tax being the favourites). As of yesterday, that fell to a trickle. I took a quick look this morning, and it is nearly impossible to get my site to come up on a search.

I know that the Google Dance happened recently, and it looks like I’m still listed on their datacenters – but for some reason my posts are no longer hits for specific search terms.

Here’s the irony – yesterday the blog appeared in a presentation at Lotusphere based on the stats growth, and also broke the 40k ranking mark on Technorati for the first time.

Back down to earth with a bump – from ~1000 hits/day to just over 300 yesterday. After all the excitement, it looks like I’m in for a lean period 😦

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The quicksand of Web 2.0

It’s amazing how quickly this stuff we label “Web 2.0”- social networking, social bookmarking, social music, social computing, photography sites, blogs, feeds, etc. – can suck you in.

Wait! I’m not saying that this is bad. I’m just making an observation.

Here is the startling (sparkling?) array of networks that I’m now signed up with (gotta catch ’em all!), roughly in chronological order:

We’ll leave aside the equally ludicrous number of IM networks I seem to have an account on…

Yesterday, I was reading that Stephen O’Grady has given in to what he describes as “peer pressure” and signed up to Twitter. I’d vaguely heard of Twitter – mainly because it was one of the options on my Mugshot profile – but I hadn’t looked into it yet. The idea is that you simply, and regularly, post the answer to the question “what are you doing?”. People can just say “Researching the meaning of life”, rather than writing some long blog post on the subject; or something more mundane like “getting out of bed”, “having a cup of tea”, or whatever.

What a great way to share your day with your friends, right?


When I did some research into Twitter, I found a very interesting post by the ever-fascinating Kathy Sierra, who discusses how the interruptions that social networks provide, make it difficult to get flow. My interpretation of Kathy’s basic premise is that the social tools have now become more intrusive and constant, the information more fragmentary: from email to IM, to RSS, to the snippets of activity that Twitter provides. So, we lose our ability to focus, concentrate, and get in flow:

We’ve all been at the brain bandwidth breaking point for the last five years. Email is out of control. IM’ing sucks up half the day. And how can we not read our RSS feeds, post to our blogs, and check our stats?

Park that thought for a moment, I’m coming back to it.

If I look at the networks I’ve signed up for, they can be divided into categories. OK, so these categories are not particularly well-defined or delineated, but they represent how I look at the social networking world.

  1. Stuff I use all the time, and can suck more of my time than is healthy unless I mentally hold myself back from letting do so. WordPress, Flickr, Mugshot (for the music quipping feature). I’ve weaned myself off Flickr, a bit, but the experience has diminished as a result of my not visiting so many contacts and participating in groups.
  2. Background information., Plazes, Upcoming. They don’t really intrude on my life at all. They just sit there and advertise useful information. I sometimes add a new Plaze; I sometimes browse my music network. I have to make an effort to click the button to do so.
  3. Business networks. LinkedIn and Xing. Of the two, I’ve come to be more of a LinkedIn user. Interesting for keeping in touch with colleagues, but not a significant drain on my time.
  4. Stuff I never use, or signed up for just for kicks. Spaces, Zooomr, Vox, MySpace.

The last one is, which I signed up for only today, and I’m determined to make part of my workflow – my bookmarking strategy sucks, and as a user of IBM’s internal dogear bookmarking system (now part of Lotus Connections), I know how useful this could be. I know, I know, I’m late to the party. I don’t intend to let this one rule my life. It’s a tool.

Kathy Sierra is right though: brain bandwidth can be soaked up. Do I get in flow anymore? I’m not sure. Sometimes…

I reckon I’m pretty good at multitasking (although one colleague jokingly told me recently that I have “the attention span of a gnat”, an allegation that I deny!). I’ve been doing this stuff for a while – BBSes and talkers to email and IRC and newsgroups, the web, IM and social networks. I think it has been an evolutionary path for my mind, although from end-to-end the process has been revolutionary in its impact on the way I work.

As an advocate of social computing technologies, I’m not writing this to “warn people off ” – but let’s face it – some of this stuff is, most definitely, crack. I found it quite easy to become absorbed by Flickr, but I’ve got over that now. I find that I have to have a mental “off switch” that stops me from getting too dragged in.

The fact is that some of these tools are enormously useful. As I said in my post about Lotus Connections, they can transform the way we work – in a positive way. The trick is knowing which ones are useful, and how to make the best use of them.

I haven’t signed up for Twitter, although I’ve been invited. Actually, someone IM’d me to say they’d invited me, I compulsively checked my email, no invite… hey wait… maybe this thing is addictive, after all… 😉

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