Category Archives: My Web Life

Dreams of the Downsized

I went to see a client this morning: nothing too unusual in that fact. It was a client I have worked with over several years – the internet arm of a well-known organisation. Again, nothing too exceptional. Nice chat, coffee and new product overview (from my part). As I had not seen them for a while, I thought it would be nice to go back. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was great to see people there. What was sad were the changes that have happened to the online group over the last year. Gone are the product managers, most developers and many of the other staff. They are now much, much smaller than they were.

Again, nothing to unusual in this but today it struck me as sad. The ideas and the passion, the desire to make something happen and be part of it that all those people had – gone. How many people in so-called new media industries have been through it (some, several times)? I have been through the cut-back mill as people around me are “downsized” in order to allow companies to survive. Yet, today – I think – was the first day the scale of it struck me. I can’t really explain it and I am not sure that I want to try but today I think I understood how the internet was built up and how it failed to deliver on those dreams for many people.

The “why” of it all is a different story for a different day. Today is about the good people who have moved on. Hopefully, they’re doing better.

On this day…

2003: Watch Your Email

Give Us Our Daily Blog

As I started redeveloping this site, it became apparent that I wanted to link to my collection of daily blog reads and this became the place to keep them.

The first, almost daily, read is Jase Wells. I guess I have been something of an invisible online stalker to this site for years. I have watched it move, change and develop since sometime in 1994 when I first came across it. It still remains one of the best personal homepages on the web – and I am very pleased to see that he has turned it into a blog.

Next on the list is Tom Coates’ plasticbag.org – which must be one of the best around and, if I am honest, I miss it if he doesn’t post. You will find notsosoft linked from there which, I think, contains some of the best writing on the web.

trabaca, posterboy, eric and contrasts.net provide additional regular reading from the US, while Adam’s photoblog provides stunning pictures on a regular basis. overyourhead is a UK take, while prolific is based in Amsterdam. Haddock blogs is a collection of well-known UK internet names.

Of course, blogsphere is represented well by Metafilter which I try and check out most days.

Other’s of note include Nick Denton and Brendan O’neill for opinions; Scott Andrew, Ben Hammersley and Jason Kottke for web-related stuff and Stuart Towns for his travelogue.

Finally, if you’re not interested in reading the ramblings of people you may never have heard of, then click along to Wil Wheaton’s blog which is a fascinating take on the world of celebrity.

On this day…

2004: Reading The TV News Headlines
2003: In Mark Owen's Time
2003: In Mark Owen’s Time

Key

Security on the Internet is a big concern for many people. Keeping information that identifies you personally from falling into the wrong hands is important. Check for secure sites when submitting credit card information, be careful about who you give your email to and read privacy policies. This is all worthy advice.

If you are concerned about sending information (or you want to verify information came from where it says it came from) I would recommend you investigate Pretty Good Privacy. A useful piece of freeware to digitally sign and/or encrypt files (including emails).

PGP uses a system known as public key encryption. As a PGP user you would generate a “key pair” which is made up of both a public and private key. The private key should only be accessible by its owner but in order to share files etc. you need to share your public key (and you would need a copy of another user’s to send files). For mote information see PGP or PGP International.

Occasionally, I use PGP to sign emails or encrypt files. If you wish to email me using PGP my public key is given here.

other resources

Visit PGP and read this message (at PGPI) from Phil Zimmermann who invented PGP.

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Version: PGPfreeware 7.0.3 for non-commercial use 

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On this day…

2005: Three At A Time?

My Web

Since I have been online I have been involved in the development of a number of web sites. Nowadays, I do not work for a web development company so many of the sites listed here are not the versions that I was involved in. Some of them have developed well and some seems somewhat stuck and, dare I say, even basic.

In 1994 I was working for Satellite Media Services. During the next two or three years we developed various versions of their web presence, including the online versions of IRN’s news service at The Radio Magazine. Now they have a new web address and much better design but don’t seem to devlop sites for others anymore.

The Radio Magazine has a new web site that has absolutely nothing to do with me but it still makes good reading about the UK radio industry.

Independent Radio News has also gone through several revamps. I can still see some of the code we developed behind this version of the site, and I suspect, the original audio scripts are still in place. IRN was one of the first sites in the UK to broadcast up-to-date news in a streaming format.

At the time, Satellite Media Services was partially owned by Capital Radio plc and were responsible for the original prototype of Capital Online. Capital’s web services have moved on dramatically yet remain some of the best entertainment web sites around.

My original personal sites were based on the SMS servers and there remains no trace of them anymore. They were moved to various free space until I placed them here. The original UK Radio Information Pages were also based at SMS. They then moved to Onair before I removed them. James Cridland and the Media UK team do I much better job than I was doing.

SMS, back then, was a satellite audio distribution company. Back in 1994 I used to produce a site featuring a range of photographs of SMS’ satellite dishes which became a something of a cult site for a while (I know, the whole thing was very strange). Media UK also became the host of those pictures but, somewhat wisely, they seem to have removed them.

The next few web sites I was involved in are no longer in existence. Events Online, one of the UK’s first events listings services has long since vanished. It was an idea ahead of its time. For something similar, try Whatsonwhen

A number of other sites were developed around that time. Fruit Machine is still an idea and I did some of the scripting work behind the original Alternative Holidays site (working with Kevin from Incline Media – one of the best web productions houses around).

The last commercial web development I was involved in was at IPC Magazines (now IPC Media). Yachting and Boating World still has massive amounts of content behind it and, if you have an interest in sailing, why not pay it a visit?

More recently I’ve been working in the online advertising space. I spent severtal years with Engage. They were exciting times as, at one time, they seemed to be buying a new company every week. Following the end of the so-called dot-com bubble, Engage shrank and I decided to move on. Initially I went to Dynamic Logic, the online survey people, before being lured back into the world of online advertising.

I had great fun working on the development of all these sites above. One day, I think I would like to work with content again (rather than software) but for now I am happy to be away from the struggles of generating commercial content.

On this day…

2004: Boyband Back (But Not For Good)
2004: Porche Gadget

Is Email Bad?

The internet is the most wonderful tool of recent history. It’s fun, factual, interesting and full of fascinating creatures. It’s strange and freakish: at the same time useful and useless. I am thankful that it filled my night shifts and unhappy it takes over my time. Thank goodness for the internet.

Of all the components that make up the ‘net (Archie, anyone?), email is – probably – the greatest invention. Fast and functional, it has revolutionised my working life. Back in ’93 when I got my first real-world-connected email address, apart from those people in the same office, I knew one other person. Friends of mine couldn’t see the point. However, once I was able to communicate with my Dad in Thailand at a reasonable hour without staying awake to call him – other people saw there may be uses. Then, they connected and suddenly they sent me emails telling me how great it was to be part of this connected-universe.

Now, after six years, I think I may be turning into one of the none-believers. That’s not wholly true but – nevertheless – I’ve decided email is not as great as it could be. Sure the power to communicate is still fantastic and the informal nature is wonderful. The ability to time-shift conversations is useful but it gets in the way of my working day and I haven’t the strength to do anything about it.

If you can’t put a finger on why email doesn’t always work, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How much unrelated junk do you sift through daily?
  2. How many times have you stopped working to answer the “ping” of the email to read some nonsense.
  3. How many times has your concentration been broken by the “You Have Mail” screen?
  4. When did you last get copied in on an email that was only of peripheral interest to your work because somebody felt the need to “share” or “justify”?
  5. How many times have you felt the need to copy people on an email who, if you’d conducted the communication by ‘phone, wouldn’t have been included?
  6. How many times have you been mis-understood because you typed in a hurried, informal manner to somebody who doesn’t see email as less formal?
  7. When you last answered the ‘phone did the caller say, “have you got my mail” and they’d only just sent it?
  8. When you last met a colleague in the corridor did they ask you what you’d thought of their email. When you said you hadn’t got round to reading it, did they look like they’d been snubbed? Did you feel bad for not having read it?

I could go on but my day is like this. I have to get discipline and stop interrupting myself. But I can’t. Ping, here comes another one.

Note: This article is dated 1 November – although the exact date of writing can’t be determined. It was retrieved from the archive and posted in March 2003. See the entry from March 2003 that links.

On this day…

2004: The Whispering Years
2004: links for 2004-11-01
2002: The Ultimate Boy Band CD (2) Aka The I Am Shallow Project