The thoughts of a web 2.0 research fellow on all things in the technological sphere that capture his interest.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Importance of 'About Me'

For weeks I have been meaning to make some changes to the 'About Me' section of my blog. Unfortunately I kept putting it off, and then I got an email sent to my university email address:
I was wondering if you were free this evening to talk to Sky News about the Birmingham City University MA Course on Social Media - I saw you had blogged about it today.

We were hoping to talk to you at 7:15pm this evening - we have a studio in Birmingham we could use.
I missed it. Whilst my hotmail is guaranteed to be picked up within an hour, my university account languishes unread for days on end as people fill it with notices about filing cabinets and lectures I'm not interested in.

This isn't the first time I've thought I need to update my 'About Me'. My referring to 'so-called' web 2.0 technologies has led to the term being carried over into a THE article; whilst not explicitly emphasising that I'm a 'Doctor' means that my opinion probably carries less authority than the 'Doctor' from a history department.

Therefore I have finally made a few changes. Gone is the 'so-called', 'research fellow' has been replaced with 'post-doctoral researcher', and most importantly my preferred email address is clearly visible!

I'm not sure whether I would have said yes or no to Sky News, but it would have been nice to have the choice.

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Monday, 30 March 2009

Social Media MA: Only idiots/Daily-Mail-readers object

In a world of rapid change the Daily Mail and it's reactionary readers provide a consistent rock of stupidity; today it's their response to an MA in Social Media. I would have thought it was impossible to refute the importance of understanding the role of social media in today's society, but both the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph manage to refute its importance with the comments of an idiotic student with obviously no understanding of academia:
Virtually all of the content of this course is so basic it can be self taught...In fact most people know all this stuff already. I think it's a complete waste of university resources.

Being able to use blogs, social networks, twitter, wikis, podcasts etc, is obviously not the same as understanding the role they play in society, but acknowledging that would have got in the way of a 'good' story. Obviously it is only a good story for the 'gone to hell in a handcart' brigade, but those are idiots who read the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.

What always amazes me about the Daily Mail is that the readers are actually worse than the journalists! Why do they think they are profound and witty when the comments merely express their own ignorance? Sometimes I join them in believing the world has gone to hell in a handcart, but that is due to my despairing at the ignorance of so many at a time of so much opportunity.

Personally my favourite comment is the one by Rick from Newcastle:
This is for humans with an IQ of less than 20 ??
I choose to believe he is referring to placing comments on the Daily Mail site rather than the MA course.

If you want to make your own mind up about the course there is a makeshift video introduction:

Obviously the Daily Mail didn't link to the video, that would have been proper journalism.

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Saturday, 28 March 2009

Twitter Denier or Twitter Realist?

There is an article over at the Times Higher Education site that discusses, albeit briefly, the potential of Twitter in academia. However, as the article didn't claim that Twitter should be interpreted as the second coming of Christ, certain elements were displeased:
Oh dear, yet another very poor article situated firmly at the 'denial' end of the Twitter press coverage spectrum.
As my contribution to the article helped it gain the 'denial' label, I thought I would elaborate on my stance:
For most academics, Twitter will provide a poor return for time invested. There are generally other tools more appropriate for specific tasks.
I don't argue that Twitter is of no use to any academic, merely that for most academics the Twitter-noise would far outweigh the benefits of Twitter.

One comment points out: "One of our PhD students is, at this moment, meeting an interview subject in London thanks to a relationship built through Twitter." PhD students have a lot more time than the average academic, and if they are on Twitter I am sure they will come across useful people and information (as I have myself), but such an example in no way provides the start of an argument for a use of Twitter in academia.

One of the problems of using Twitter in academia is that 140 characters gives very little room for establishing any form of argument, but it's great for detailing what you've had lunch. Whilst one comment responds: "Rather than eschewing quality Twitter, does in fact encourage brevity". Noticeably this is part of a far longer comment, totalling 805 characters.

Whilst Twitter is many things to many people, we should not get carried away into believing that it is a substitute the tools that are currently available.
-News source: If you need to be sure you don't miss an important story then you should be using an RSS reader instead.
-News distributor: If you have to make sure a group gets a message, email is more appropriate. After all, people don't read all the updates of all the people they are following.
-Discussion forum: If you want to engage with complex arguements you need more than 140 characters; get a blog.

If such a position makes me a 'Twitter denier', then I wear the badge with pride. Personally I think that it just makes me a Twitter-realist.

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Thursday, 19 March 2009

Google Street View: Norwich

Whilst Google Street View has been around for a while, today it launched for 25 cities in the UK. I haven't previously been much concerned with Google Street View; clever, interesting, but not really applicable to my life. However, one of the 25 uk cities included today is Norwich, the city I grew up in but left many years ago.

'Memory lane' doesn't really do justice to the scope of nostaligia that can be evoked by Google Street View...before today the world would have missed out on a history of places I worked in my youth!

My first job was as a paperboy:


There used to be a newspaper kiosk that I worked in here:


I had a job in a butchers...but it's now a construction firm:


I worked in the Red Lion kitchen:


...but Google Street View has its limitations; it doesn't go down an alleyway to show me what used to be the Lamb:


Obviously the world wasn't missing much. Increasing amounts of information is not necessarily a good thing, it depends how you use it.

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Saturday, 14 March 2009

Should all academics be required to have a blog?

Whilst I don't think there would be much gained from all academics Twittering their days away, I think there is a need for a change in the academic attitude to the blog. Despite the blog being one of the earliest examples of social media, great swathes of academia have failed to adopt the technology (or have adopted it in an extremely safe manner, i.e, 'the research project blog'). Is it because it is a technology without purpose, or is it because it opens an academic's opinions up to the sort of scrutiny that would otherwise be lacking?

As this is my 398th Webometric Thoughts' blog post, readers will not be surprised that I am a fan of the blog. I am a natural blogger in that I am always happy to proclaim my opinion, no matter how outrageous it may appear to others (...you don't want to get me started on vegetarianism). But shouldn't all academics be natural bloggers? Up and down the country academics are constantly proclaiming their opinions in lecture theatres, journals, books, and conferences, but relatively rarely in blogs. As blogs provide an opportunity for the sharing of opinions far beyond the academic community, and engaging in debate today rather than in six months time, surely blogging should be a part of every academics output.

Whilst debate is an essential part of scientific progress, I am always surprised by the lack of scientific debate. Whilst I have heard of great debates conducted through the letters pages of eminent scientific journals, and have occassionally seen the rigerous questioning of a paper presented at a conference, in general most scientific publications pass with very little debate. Academics are generally a pleasant bunch, and if you don't make many waves, noone will bother you. After all, hardly anyone will read your paper anyway.

The blogosphere, on the other hand, is a very different beast. It thrives on debate, to the point that some people surf around merely looking for someone to argue with! Wouldn't it be good for both the arts and sciences if academics were forced to defend their ideas in the blogosphere more often? Especially those which are seemingly indefensible.

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Friday, 13 March 2009

What is the best Twitter Recipe?

One of Boris Johnson's (@MayorOfLondon) twitterings got me wondering, what is the best recipe that can be created in 140 characters or less?

Creating a tasty meal in 140 characters seems far more difficult a task than poems, jokes, or even stories (not that chutney is a tasty meal). However most people go for the easy option and those twitterings labelled #recipe are actually links to other web pages...where's the fun in that?

nb. Just to be 100% clear, highlighting one Twittering of Boris in no way an endorsement of the man or the party. Real men vote Labour.

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Sounds, Images and Consciousness: Using Detectable Brain Responses in Audiovisual Composition

Free Public Lecture, Tuesday 31 March, 6pm, University of Wolverhampton (Room MC 001).


[Click Image to Enlarge]

Dr. Mick Grierson is an experimental artist specialising in real‐time interactive audiovisual research, with a specific focus on cognition and perception. He works in film, music, and software development, both inside and outside industry, designing, developing and producing new approaches to creating audiovisual experience.

In addition to working in traditional roles in film and television, he has designed commercial audiovisual software for the entertainment industries, which has led to several high profile commissions, including title design and digital audiovisual installations for the hit T.V. show Derren Brown: Tricks of the Mind.

In 2008 he collaborated with the Sonic Arts Network and the South Bank Centre to create a freely available interactive audiovisual interface for use by the deaf and hard of hearing, and received considerable international press attention after
demonstrating his Brain Computer Interface for Music to the BBC.

In addition, he is lead developer on the Mabuse Real‐time Audiovisual Composition Software Environment. He is currently Co‐Director of the Goldsmiths College Creative Computing Programme, and an AHRC fellow in audiovisual cognition at Goldsmiths College Electronic Music Studios.

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Thursday, 12 March 2009

Reflections on the Black Country Social Media Cafe

No longer do those interested in social media in the Black Country have to travel through to Birmingham; the Black Country now has its own Social Media Cafe! First (open) meeting: Tuesday 7th April, 2.30pm, Alchemy, Wolverhampton(see map below).

Today a select gathering came together in a Wolverhampton coffee shop to discuss how they could adapt the Social Media Cafe model of the Tuttle Club to the needs of the Black Country. Unsurprisingly a dozen people (more than I had originally expected) have a dozen different ideas. What we all agreed upon was that a Black Country Social Media Cafe could only be a good thing for the area, and that the best way to start was a monthly, daytime meeting. There was also a lot of enthusiasm for special interest splitter groups, as well as less formal meetings out of work hours. So it is, without a doubt, only the start.

The Social Media Cafe is all about making connections and sharing information; two fundamentals for innovation. So if you are in the region, and are interested in social media, or just want to find out more about social media, feel free to come along for a coffee and a chat.

The official Black Country Social Media Cafe blog and wiki will soon be open for updates and user-contributions.

Thanks to everyone who came along today.

[Update 13/03/09]
Black Country Social Media Cafe is now fully social:
Twitter - http://twitter.com/bcsmc
Google Group - http://groups.google.co.uk/group/bcsmc
Wiki - http://bcsmc.pbwiki.com/
Blog - http://bcsmc.wordpress.com/
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=70070480515


View this map on Multimap.com
Bird's Eye view on Multimap.com
Get directions on Multimap.com

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Saturday, 7 March 2009

Argos Complaints: What is the Social Web Solution?

My girlfriend has just finished writing a letter to Argos complaining about a chest of drawers that arrived with a missing part. After two months of being informed that the part was on it's way, she has now been informed that the part is not available and that she will have to dismantle the chest of drawers if she wants it collected so she can get a refund. The offered recompense for building and dismantling a chest of drawers and two months of inconvenience, a £10 Argos voucher!






Whilst the social web can be a useful tool for getting results when numerous people have been inconvenienced, how can it help a single customer find a solution when large corporations are being unreasonable? And is Argos being unreasonable asking for the chest of drawers to be dismantled?

[UPDATE 09/03/09] Then unexpectedly we wake up this morning to find the drawer-base sitting on the doorstep! We won't be ordering furniture from Argos again.

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Friday, 6 March 2009

Cloudberry Twitter IE Plug-In: A short review

Two reviews in as many posts. This one in response to a request in a previous blog post about PockeTwit. Anyway, the nice and simple Cloudberry Twitter IE Plug-In:
-you're surfing the web
-you see something you want to Tweet
-you highlight it
-you click 'Tweet' in the toolbar

-you have the opportunity to add other text
-you click 'Tweet' in pop-up window
-it's sent to Twitter along with a link to the page
Simple.

Whilst it is currently only for Internet Explorer, a Firefox version should be on its way. My one real criticism of this simple and useful application is the lack of quotation marks. It's an app all about quotations yet fails to highlight the fact the tweets are quotations. Quotation marks should be the default.

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Mendeley: An academic work in progress

Last week I was sent an email by some chap at Mendeley: "you'd be doing us a huge favour by blogging about us and helping us to spread the word". If it's in my sphere of interest I'm generally happy to review web sites, although I must say that it's a shame that review requests are never for the latest books in the field (publishers please take note)...anyway, back to Mendeley: "helps you manage, share and discover both content and contacts in research."

The first thing, and the worst thing about Mendeley, is the name. Unfortunately its similarity to the Manderley of Rebecca fame means I keep losing the web site, inserting extra letters and incorrect vowels. Nonetheless first impressions are positive, although it has a long way to go.

Mendeley comes in two main parts. A web site:


and a desktop application:


The web site allows you to publish your own papers, store copies of other people's papers (and share them in small groups), store bibliographic information, as well as providing the opportunity to find other researchers and research papers. The desktop application provides a quick method of searching and accessing the papers even if you're not online. There is also a Mendeley Word plug-in for inserting the data in your Word documents.

There are obvious similarities between Mendeley and Academica.edu, a social networking site for academics, but whereas Academia.edu focuses on the networking, Mendeley focuses on the academic's primary work with research papers and has the social networking as a secondary factor. Mendeley wins hands down (even without taking into consideration the over-the-top interface of Academia.edu).

Whilst I love Mendeley's approach, it is still very much in the alpha/beta stages, and you are likely to come across errors and things that could be done better, or just refuse to work. Nonetheless, unlike Academia.edu, this is worth spending some time on and providing them with feedback. Once all the bugs are fixed it will be a useful addition to any academic's work life.

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Mainstream-Twitter-GPS: Tapping into local thoughts

Whiling away the Friday afternoon, spending far too much time looking at Twitter updates, I can't help but wonder how Twitter use will change when it becomes mainstream, and people update with an increasing number of GPS enabled devices. Whilst sites such as BrightKite are more explicitly focused on being location based, Twitter is little more than an update away. Already many of the Twitter applications are making more use of the location feature.

My thoughts about the effect of mainstream-Twitter-GPS were sparked by a couple of this afternoon's comments emphasising how Twitter is used for off-the-cuff comments about those around us:

Whilst these comments have always been shared amongst friends, they have never been made so publicly and permanently available.

As you are lamenting the 'chav' spitting and swearing, he may be taking the opportunity to see if the attractive girl on the platform opposite is Twittering her friends about his obvious masculinity. However, instead of finding the glowing complements he finds that he is being mocked by the geek at the end of the platform....oops.

Whilst the potential of talking with those around you is exciting, I'm sure there will be a few teething troubles on the way as we learn the new rules.

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Tuesday, 3 March 2009

PockeTwit: If you love Twitter Buy a Windows Mobile!

Over the past few weeks I've downloaded numerous different Xda Serra (HTC Touch Pro/MDA Vario IV) applications, but today I found the first one that really surprised me: PockeTwit.

The name is fairly self-explanatory: A Twitter application for a Pocket PC.

Whilst I generally find mobile applications to be poor imitations of desktop application, PocketTwit actually surpasses the Twitter.com web site! Unfortunately, to really get a feel for the application you need to see it in action, and I couldn't find a free screencaster for my phone. Nonetheless here are a couple of stills.

The Updates:

Select a comment and drag to the left and you can reply, quote, etc.:

Drag to the right and you can send messages (including pictures and your GPS position), find other Twitterers on a map, search geographically as well as on keywords:

It's hard to express how impressed I am by this Twitter app, but when I have calmed down I will head over to PockeTwit and make a donation...a first in all my time online (nb.I would donate too much in my current frame of mind).

If you have a Windows Mobile phone, give it a try. If you are a Twitter-addict and thinking about getting a new phone, get a Windows Mobile phone.

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Sunday, 1 March 2009

Art on the Underground: Spotted in the wild

Way back in November I bought a poster celebrating the 100th anniversary of the London Underground's Roundel. Rather than a one-off, it was a two-off plus extras: one for the underground's archive of art, one auctioned on ebay, and the potential for the image to appear on posters and tube maps around the capital.

A friend of mine spotted the one I bought at White City tube:

Surely that'll add a tenner to the value of the poster.

As for a technological angle to the post: my friend has an iPhone so had to email me the picture rather sending a MMS.

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