Tag Archives: News

New podcast – Games at Work

I’ve  been podcasting fairly regularly for the past few years, primarily with my good friends Michael Martine and Michael Rowe over in Durham, NC on a weekly show called Dogear Nation.

As I’ve travelled more, and as we’ve all got more busy, it became harder to keep that momentum up. I know I, for one, was tired and looking for some fresh inspiration. When we reached episode 200 last year, we announced a hiatus.

This year, we’re starting to ramp up something new. Same presenters, different format – going back to basics, if you will. Probably not weekly, more likely every two weeks… but continuing to explore some of the themes we’d been looking at around how gaming technology and concepts can influence business, work and productivity.

We’re still working on branding etc but you can grab the first episode of Games at Work right now via the existing site. We’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Advertisements

Dogear Nation 200, and 250 hours of podcasting

We’re just about to record episode 200 of Dogear Nation, a regular (weekly, barring a few more recent gaps) podcast summing up opinions of what’s new online and in tech.

I actually only joined Michael Rowe and Michael Martine (the co-hosts) as a regular element of the show around January 2009, and by then they had already clocked up 80+ episodes. Either way, I reckon on around 250 hours of recording time, and a little more than that when I include the few episodes I also edited; 2 and a half years of regular podcasting.

So what have I learned from this exercise?

  • Michael Rowe and Michael Martine are extraordinarily generous, friendly, and wonderful guys – I’ve enjoyed working with them and sharing ideas and opinions. I have two amazing friends for life, built through a digital foundation.
  • It’s difficult to keep a weekly podcast going, even with the regular input from listeners. It’s also difficult to drive and expand an audience. We’ve had some great contributors and regular listeners and I’m grateful to them.
  • Preparation is (nearly) everything. Over the course of the past couple of years we’ve evolved the way that we put the show together, finally arriving at a shared Google document where we co-edit the show notes to build the structure of the show. That’s really helped us to build momentum. It’s still good to have some ad-libbing and free discussion of course.
  • Technology keeps evolving. We knew this of course – one of the premises of the show has always been about the bleeding edge of technology and where things have been moving. Well, I think it’s fair to say that over the course of the past few years on the show, we’ve seen various products go from science fiction to the beginnings of science fact.
  • Go with what you know. I’ve had a lot of fun talking about the things that fascinate me and that I’m passionate about. I know that Michael, Michael, and before me, Matt Simpson, have also made their best contributions based on the areas that they’ve known about or have been most curious about. For example, amongst other things, Michael Rowe is a space / NASA buff and a hardcore gamer; Michael Martine is very business-focused, and hates anything that threatens to go near his eyeballs 🙂

It’s been a fun couple of years.

Inside the Sphere

One of the things I’ve taken on this year is a regular writing assignment for the Global WebSphere Community. If you’re a member of the community (and if you use or are interested in WebSphere products, you probably should join – it’s free to sign up – here’s a link to my profile), depending on your profile preferences you may have just received the first edition of The Sphere Journal, a new online newsletter from GWC.

As the editor, Bruce Lynch, writes:

Welcome to the premier issue of The Sphere Journal Online. We will use this space to bring you opinion, news, and technical information on how to use your current WebSphere products more effectively and help you make more informed decisions about WebSphere products you should be deploying in your organization.

My monthly column is the WebSphere Deep Diving Instructor where I’ll be sharing news from inside the labs about the “hot” areas practitioners might want to explore more deeply, and the areas where I’m hearing the most interest or difficult technical questions from customers and the community. My first column does focus on my key area of messaging, but we’ll certainly broaden out from that over the course of the year.

[somewhat confusingly, there’s also a section called The Message Queue, but that’s a news section rather than being specific to WebSphere MQ!]

Links to places you can find and follow the GWC:

A Kind(l)er way of consuming tweets

Kindle CoverI picked up an Amazon Kindle 3 over the Christmas period, primarily because I wanted to be able to support a family member who also acquired one. I’d been impressed by the hardware when I’d had a chance to play with a Kindle 3 recently (I’d always thought that the screen refresh and form factor would put me off, but they don’t), and I may also want to dabble in the possibility of developing kindlet applications for the platform. To my mind, despite some limitations, it could be a fantastic slate for displaying relatively-static business content like facts and figures, and of course it is light and has fantastic battery life. I’ve gone for the wifi-only model, not because I wasn’t tempted by the possibility of global free 3G access, but purely because I didn’t consider that I’d need to use it to connect to the wireless much when out-and-about and away from a wifi network.

So far I’ve been very impressed with the device. It is simple, has reasonable usability – although a web interface via Amazon’s website for creating and organising Collections would be exceedingly welcome – and it is definitely encouraging me to read a lot more. It’s a tiny point, but I’m enjoy the progress bars at the bottom of the page that show me how far I’ve got through each book.

Almost by accident the other day I noticed one of my colleagues retweet a comment from David Singleton:

Now to be fair, this hit me squarely between the eyes – I have the former, and do indeed like the latter. So I just had to ping him and find out more!

Moments later, I had been invited to blootwee.

After a short signup process on the website (hint: it didn’t work brilliantly on the Kindle browser, but it can be done very quickly on a desktop machine), my Kindle refreshed itself with a new document “blootwee for andypiper”.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So what is this doing? Well, essentially, it is scooping my tweets up, grabbing the associated / linked content, creating an ebook, and emailing it to my Kindle – for free. As you will see from the gallery above, the book has tweets at the start, one per page. By following any links, you can jump forward to the point where that web page content is embedded. You can then hit the Back button to return to where you were in the Twitter timeline.

David is currently offering the ability to do this for free on an ad-hoc basis, but he also has some very low-cost paid options to enable this to happen on a daily basis… so you end up essentially with a “newspaper” based on tweets and interesting web pages from your network. The transcoding of web content is not ideal – obviously Flash is not present and image-based content is missing – but it provides a nice way of summarising the content.

I like it. I’m not sure it will become my default way of reading tweets by any means, but what it does give me is a very convenient way of gathering up interesting web content on a daily basis, and reviewing it as I travel. With a 25-hour trip to Australia coming up in the near future, I can see this could be quite useful!

Ping me via Twitter or comment below if you want an invite, and I’ll update this when they are gone.

Notes, because people might ask:

  1. To take a screenshot on the Kindle 3, hit Shift-Alt-G… then hook up via USB and grab the .gif files from the Documents folder.
  2. The linen slip case for my Kindle came from an etsy seller called kindlecovers.
  3. I have a few more images of my Kindle on Flickr.

Never mention politics or religion

Disclaimer: as it says over in the right-hand sidebar of this personal blog which belongs to me, and no-one else, the opinions stated here are my own and not those of any organisation that employs me or has done so in the past. Just in case you weren’t sure.

All a bit exciting over here in wee old Britain lately. We had this General Election, you see, and nobody exactly, well, won. That hasn’t happened for ages.

So what happened next? Well the party with the most seats (Conservative) and those with enough to give them enough to govern (Liberal Democrats) have entered into a coalition. And we haven’t had one of those for, ooooh, ages, since the War, you know. And people are jumping up and down about a) the fact that the other lot didn’t win, b) the fact that a right-wing and centre/left-wing party can’t possibly get on and c) well it’s all so surprising, you know, what happens now? and d) well none of them have any experience, it can’t work and e) the last time that lot were in power the world nearly ended and just you watch, it will all happen again, they hate people and eat babies, you know.

One of the “rules” that I often read about blogging and social spaces like microblogs and social streams is that, as in life, it’s a good idea to avoid contentious topics like politics and religion, unless you have a point to make either way and that is the core purpose of your blog. Basically that’s for fear of showing what you actually believe in and having people point and laugh, or argue and dislike you. That’s an adage that I’ve generally stuck to and will go back to so doing shortly. On this occasion, just for once though, I’m going to comment, and admit that I’m struggling to understand the level of upset that I’m reading on “the Twitter” and “the Facebook”.

First of all, we had an election. Those that had a vote and chose to use it, voted. Those that didn’t do so can be quiet – I’m sorry, but they can, they had a chance to express a view[1], shocking and hardline though that may make me sound. Now, let’s put to one side some of the vagaries of the UK system whereby a party with a reasonable national percentage of the vote ended up with a relatively tiny proportion of the elected MPs, and just accept that the people voted, and we didn’t end up with a clear cut result.

No matter how things had gone, you’re generally going to end up with the supporters of one or more particular colour of politicians being put out that they “didn’t win”. That’s the way that elections work. If one party gets in and spends four or five years doing things which a majority of people then feel are “bad”, then you have the opportunity to remove them at the next election. That’s the system. So I think that whichever way I may lean politically, I have to just accept what “we all decided”[2], and not expect us to go on having weekly vote-a-thons until we end up with a result that I’m happy with.

Now let’s think about the possibilities of what we actually have here. This is where I get a lot more animated, in a positive way.

Whilst Labour and the LibDems may have seemed like more natural political bedfellows, being parties of the Left, or “progressive parties” as the outgoing Prime Minister would want to paint things, putting the two of them together would have been tricky. Labour didn’t “win” in terms of numbers of seats, and I’m inclined to think that the incumbent Government had run out of steam and needed some kind of a shakeup. There would have been a whole debate about “mandate to govern” had that combination worked out, too.

So we’ve got the Tories and the LibDems. But wait! They can’t possibly work together! One is historically a party of liberal freedoms and the other is a party of… small state and liberal freedoms[3]. Actually the thing that really struck me yesterday was when I heard the BBC political correspondent Nick Robinson remark on the PM programme on Radio 4 that Cameron was a student of Vernon Bogdanor at my alma mater, and that he admired Benjamin Disraeli. Disraeli was probably the archetypal radical liberal Conservative who made sweeping concessions and improvements to the conditions of the working classes in the late nineteenth century, extending the vote and conducting a remarkable kind of realpolitik that had been unknown until then. This is potentially a very interesting role model for Cameron. Another point is that those people who are concerned that the Conservatives are “the nasty party” run by right wingers who hate ordinary people and want to tax them to look after the rich whilst (preferably) bombing Europe and ethnic minorities [yes yes, I exaggerate for the sake of effect] should be positively welcoming the fact that under Cameron they have now entered into what appears to be a fairly wide-ranging deal, concessions on both sides, with a party that should help to draw them close to the political Centre and moderate those supposed nasty urges. Oh, and if Cameron is prepared to offer electoral reform now, which may in the future go beyond Alternative Vote to something more… well that would be a big change, but the history of the past 300 years of British politics has been all about change. It just may not seem like it when you find it difficult to look beyond an immediate generational horizon.

I’m excited. We’ve not seen such a coalition before in the UK. We’ve got two young party leaders of the same age and generation, both of whom were impressive on the campaign trail. Thanks to the large number of discredited MPs who left Parliament after the expenses scandal, we’ve got a large number of new, younger MPs who are untainted by the past. We’ve got an apparent spirit of cooperation. We’ve got a substantial number of apparently-talented new Cabinet ministers who impressed during the last Parliament. Oh, and there hasn’t been a bloodbath with lots of backbiting in the past few days – it seems as though our elected representatives have actually had mature conversations with one another, and the outgoing leadership has left with dignity[4]. And ultimately, a majority of folks potentially on both Left and Right get a little of something they’d hoped for.

It actually doesn’t matter what I think or what I believe one way or the other here – let’s all do something we don’t do very often in this country – let’s get behind the leaders and show some support. Let’s be positive and believe that this can work, at least for now. One way or another, we as a country voted for change this time around. We didn’t necessarily get the X or Y or Z party that we thought we might get, we got something different, but it’s definitely a change. Let’s go with it.

[1] … assuming that they weren’t unable to get into the polling booth on the day according to some press reports :-/ or that they weren’t Jamelia, who proudly and rather stupidly showed off that she’d never voted during Young Person’s Question Time before the election.

[2] … assuming that we accept that our system is “broadly” democratic… bear with me on that one

[3] … this is where I dust off my History degree! 🙂

[4] … although I’ll still look forward to reading the history of this period and all the inside stories in 10 years’ time!

Update 13/05: thanks for all the interest, comments, and tweets about this entry. Glad that the post seems to be resonating with folks – which just goes to show that “rules” about what to blog about can be bent to advantage every now and then 🙂 Really enjoying all of the feedback, thank you.