2008 in review

January started with getting a new boss in $BIG_CORP who turned out to be one of the worst I’ve had – it’s one thing being a tough boss, it’s another thing treating second line support like first line support, depriving them of comforts they’d enjoyed for six months and altogether being ‘weak’. I was glad to be rid of it, to be honest, though it gave me a few friends. January also had the Spice Girls gig over in the O2 – @dressjunkie and I took the train over from Belfast, down through Scotland and England and finally arrived in London, staying at the Britannia International – mere metres away from $BIG_CORP headquarters. That wasn’t entirely welcome. And in January we moved to our new house in Bangor.

February brought some welcome changes. $BIG_CORP decided to address some of the issues in their previous employee satisfaction survey and grouped people who cared about it into rooms for meetings in order to find out what was needed. In the end, they decided to do nothing about it so it was kinda wasted.

In March was Mike’s stag do. And the first meeting with my new boss’ boss. It went well enough – but it was evident that the company was in trouble. Bleeding people and sticking it’s head in the sand about it. I started planning an escape – it wasn’t enough to just leave, there were three team members who needed to be considered – so they were volunteered for development jobs elsewhere.

April brought me the news that $BIG_CORP didn’t care about the results of the study we were doing – they’d decided that the best way to deal with bad news in a survey was not to run a survey. This didn’t ruin my faith in the company – that had already gone. But it resolved me to make sure that I didn’t stick around.

Mid-May and I’d received notice of this Digital Circle role – it seemed like a good fit – it needed someone who had a background in digital media but who wasn’t necessarily a creator. As I’d had five years working in Mac support for most of the designers, TV companies, animators and media folks in the province – it seemed like a good fit.

In June, @dressjunkie decided that she’d had enough of her iPhone and really wanted to switch to a HTC Touch Diamond. We did so and it took three hours for her to confess that the Windows Mobile based device was but a poor shadow of the iPhone. And this was before the App Store opened. The Diamond was returned and the lesson learned. June also brought us BarCampBelfast which was fun.

July brought us the App Store and the iPhone 2.0 software upgrade. We were, of course, waiting for the Push stuff – which we’re still waiting for. I took five others down to Terryglass for OpenCoffee BBQ and paid out a small fortune to make it a fun trip. I also handed in my resignation to $BIG_CORP and the boss said I could take Garden Leave – woohoo – a month off. I also picked up my suit…

…because on the 1st August I got married to @dressjunkie. And on the 3rd August we left for our honeymoon. We drove down to London, did a little shopping in the big smoke, caught Wicked in the West End and drove through the darkness to Harwich, stayed the night in a motel and then, next morning, caught the boat. The next two weeks were spent being shipped around Northern Europe – six countries in twelve days. It was the best holiday I have ever had. I got back to discover that PJ and Phil, who met at my wedding, had written the Infurious Comic Reader while I was off gallivanting around the world. And then I started the new job…

September I attended IBC in Amsterdam and spent an afternoon sailing. I also attended the 25K Awards. The month itself was filled with meeting people working in the Digital Media space. I met some of the most interesting get-up-and-go-ers in the country. Infurious released EyeCandy #1 and we got some phone calls from some big companies who wanted to talk licensing. Naturally we said yes.

October brought more meetings, more events, training in Facilitation and techniques to inspire creativity and escaping the possibility of going to a networking event in Capetown.

In November, I visited Google, Microsoft, the National Digital Research Centre, the Media Cube at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology and the Digital Hub. There were a heap more meetings with some fabulous companies and startups in the province.

In December, all things kicked off. It’s been a tough month with deaths in the family, missed opportunities and failures. Christmas was good – but it was in spite of everything and not because of it. It was my first Christmas as
@dressjunkie‘s husband, my first in this new house, our home.

Content Silos

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This is something that annoys me as much as it does Zachary. Content Silos.

I’m wary of putting my data into other people’s servers. I’ve seen them fail, I’ve seen them disappear with other people’s data and I’ve seen the fallout it can cause.

Why is Momentile going to be any different to Friendfeed or Brightkite or any of these other services which are vying to be our biographers? We see the use of having an automated chronicler, but is it worth it when we’re just creating pipelines to automatically populate these various services from one source. I update Twitter and my blogs. They in turn update Facebook, FriendFeed, laconi.ca and any of the other daft services I’ve signed up to. The repetition is pointless and you end up dissolving your message into a dozen different streams.

What would make me use one over another? Quite simply- heartshare.

Twitiquette

What is the etiquette around Twitter?

pcnerd37 writes on the Global Geek Blog:

“With the explosion in popularity that Twitter has received, especially with the massive usage at SXSW, it has become very clear that some facets of twitter are beginning to annoy people. For the benefit of all twitter users, I have made a list of rules for Twitter usage.”

A lot of these rules are pretty much the same as the netiquette so no big surprise there.

I’m wondering though about the etiquette specific to Twitter – like – if you get followed, is it necessary to rabbit out a “thanks” to each and every person? It really just ups reduces the signal:noise ratio even further. Bollocks to it I say. I don’t think it has any place in the conversation.

I’ve only unfollowed three people so far. These would be @guykawasaki, @jasoncalacanis and @scobleizer. Reason? Too much irrelevant signal. It’s not strictly noise when you’re talking about when it’s luminaries like these guys but at the same time, they’re hearing so much from their thousands of followers that there’s no conversation. And they update sufficiently frequently that Twitter just turns into their monologue. They put out signal, they only hear noise.

If you do get unfollowed and you’re informed about it by a tool like Qwitter, then please don’t waffle and beg and ask why. It’s just sad. Fix your signal.

Sony Ericsson Xperia X1: not an iphone killer

Techwire does a short review of the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 – another one of the “iPhone killers” that’s been trotted out over the last year or so. They give it a 3/5 score and will follow with a more detailed review on Sunday.

Cons
— Its Microsoft Windows doesn’t sit easily with the Sony Ericsson software: it’s awkward to navigate, except when you’re in panels format
— The text, icons and external buttons are all tiny. You can re-set the on-screen items but they switch back sometimes. Too small to use without a stylus
— The three inch screen is too narrow to properly display videos and photos — they end up being the same size as on a bog-standard pre-pay mobile

To be honest, this list plus a few other things, was the primary reason why the HTC Touch Diamond (the iPhone-killer of last summer) lasted only a couple of hours in our house. Similar issues abound with the nice interface that sometimes breaks down and dumps you into WindowsMobile. And the finicky nature of the chicklet keys and tiny stylus-led interface means it’s a nightmare to navigate.

The iPhone will be 2 years old this January. And still no-one is doing it better?

Green Cloud

Tom Raftery (of Greenmonk) writes:

…these servers will be almost entirely idle for eleven months of the year. The alternative is that the owners put the site on a cloud platform and dial up the resources associated with it, as and when needed. This is obviously a vastly more efficient option for the site owners. However, that doesn’t mean that cloud computing itself is Green or efficient.

For cloud computing to be efficient, the individual servers need to be doing more work than they would be doing if not in a cloud infrastructure. The main cloud providers include Amazon, Google, IBM and more recently, Microsoft. As far as I know, none of these companies are providing utilisation data per unit, so it is not possible to know just how efficient cloud computing actually is.

I think you have to at least trust the business model of cloud computing. The whole point is that each core is utilised constantly – or as close to constantly as possible. The power sources for these datacentres can be sourced from renewable sources. The cores involved are going to be used for a wide variety of tasks therefore there is, in a global cloud, less cores created and powered overall (assuming not everyone has their demand surges at the same time.) The actual energy and materials required to create these cores are massive (compared to the size of the finished product)

The only caveat for large datacentres is that they require large amounts of air conditioning which as far as I can see, is not particularly green (though if it acted as a heat exchanger for apartments built around a datacentre then it would at least be greener and have a social consciousness element.

Where I consider Cloud Computing to be less than efficient and less than ‘green’ is in the spare capacity, in essence, how many cores are sitting waiting for the next surge of demand?

Dropship showing what good UI is…

This is a video of ngmoco’s DropShip game for iPhone.

I’m fascinated by the controls – described as ‘touch-anywhere, dual-analog’. The interface for the controls pops up where you place your fingers and the control (direction) of the thrust or weapons fire is directed by a short drag of your finger. It’s simple, it’s effective and it looks fucking amazing.

Well done, ngmoco.

Research and Development? What it is.

I wrote a post on digitalcircle.org today about the new Grant for R&D from InvestNI. Much like the stuff I’ve written about R&D Tax Relief and R&D Tax Credits (both of which are available), there’s some clearing up around the term “R&D” that needs to be done.

During a conversation last week with Marty from NoMoreArt in the Black Box Café, I said “Every line of code is…” and we both finished the sentence in entirely contradictory ways.

He said “Derived”. I said “Novel”.

Thing is, we’re both right.

Research and Development in these terms is difficult to define for software development and it galls me that R&D in these terms does not include the creation of digital content in any way despite the amount of time, technology and expertise that might be required to create that content.

In these terms, it means either “industrial research” or “experimental development”.

Industrial Research is defined as “Planned research to acquire new knowledge and skills to develop new (or significantly improved existing) products, processes or services (including prototypes).

Experimental Development is defined as “Existing knowledge/ skills used to plan/design new or improved products, processes or services.”

When writing a new application, you’re likely to be using “existing knowledge / skills” until you hit the wall where you have to do something new.

i.e. writing an image viewer is no big deal. Writing an image viewer that also handles audio, video, layers, multiple languages and internet content is “hard”. Especially when no-one else has done it.

To a degree I think software development gets a raw deal here. The work is as technical, as challenging as material science (for example) but the definitions don’t assist in the availability of grant aid. The province is looking forwards towards becoming a knowledge economy as we witness the manufacturing bastions of our past fall away.

We have to show our value here and while I think it’s a little harder to demonstrate real innovation in software in Northern Ireland (due as much to the lack of innate, home-grown talent capable of judging it for it’s real value), I think the possibilities for product-based, forward-thinking companies is immense.