A new era of bad neighbour disputes

The rise of modern, cheap technology has brought new issues for politicians, lawyers and those disrupting the future. But it also bleeds into everyday life as these tools and toys become commonplace.

We’ve already become used to seeing news about drones flying where they shouldn’t, or invading the privacy of those around us, or being used to replicate cool Star Wars speeder racing. Let alone the uproar over selfie sticks, Google Glass, wearables and constantly checking your phone in company. I had a rather pleasant experience of the future of motorcycling when KTM invited me to check out some of their new electric off-road bikes.


Photo by Joseph Barrientos (CC Licence)

It means that we’re going to have all sorts of new disputes on a non-technical, urban neighbour level. And many aren’t obvious.

For instance – the fact that robot lawnmowers annoy astronomers won’t be a huge problem – but what happens when we have everyone using as much radio frequency as possible to control every autonomous home gadget? How do you settle the problem of interference with 20 neighbours? When I raced radio control cars, we’d carry a bag of RC Crystals which meant we could change frequency in the event of conflicts, but it still took a bit of juggling at times, and the occasionally car launching itself into the distance until the problems were resolved.

Or off-road motorcycles. The normal problem is noise, but the electric bikes are so quiet you can barely hear them – removing a big problem for locating purpose built tracks. At the same time, it might mean you end up with enduro riders ‘sneaking’ up on your while you’re walking – and wildlife might take time to get used to the quieter risks as well.


Me riding a KTM Freeride E-XC

It’s going to be fun seeing how all these problems manifest and hopefully get solved for non-technical people trying to live their lives. Most people are still trying to avoid having to figure out how routers, wifi and smart phones work in favour of just having a working television, computer and Xbox whilst fixing their meals and doing the laundry.


Learning for leisure…

I’ve planned to brush up on various skills and things I’ve wanted to learn for ages, and one of the joys of the joys of the internet is that there’s almost always a guide somewhere…



Photos of a walk from Upnor to Hoo along the River Medway

Various photos taken on a walk along the side of the River Medway, from Lower Upnor along to Hoo.

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Cockham Wood Fort, Nr Hoo and Upnor on the River Medway

Cockham Wood Fort, Nr Hoo and Upnor on the River Medway

Cockham Wood Fort, Nr Hoo and Upnor on the River Medway

Cockham Wood Fort, Nr Hoo and Upnor on the River Medway

Cockham Wood Fort, Nr Hoo and Upnor on the River Medway

Cockham Wood Fort, Nr Hoo and Upnor on the River Medway

Cockham Wood Fort, Nr Hoo and Upnor on the River Medway

Cockham Wood Fort, Nr Hoo and Upnor on the River Medway

Cockham Wood Fort, Nr Hoo and Upnor on the River Medway

Cockham Wood Fort, Nr Hoo and Upnor on the River Medway

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Made some changes…

I recently realised how I’d let myself drift along without being particularly happy for a while. My business life wasn’t progressing as quickly as I’d like, and despite making various plans when I resettled in Medway for a while, I hadn’t made much progress with them either.

Instead, I’d settled into some of the same old ways and routines, and somehow expected things to magically change.



Trying to get fitter and healthier does have some perks…

A combination of recent illness and spending time with my son provided some wake up calls that nothing is going to change unless I actually make it happen…

And at the same time, I need to record the small improvements to keep myself motivated to keep going. That’s easier with logging work in the business apps we use, but my phone is too old to handle a bunch of additional fitness apps on it…

So to remind myself that I’m heading in the right direction…

  • Getting up earlier (7am or earlier is the target), and as a result, getting to sleep between 11am-midnight.
  • Making sure I have a list of important tasks written out before sleeping, and getting in a little bit of stress-free non-work reading (There’s some research somewhere about reading before bed helping to reduce overall stress).
  • So far I’ve cut cigarettes down from 10-15 a day recently to not smoking most days (Even with a couple of weekend slip ups, I’ve gone from 140+ in the last 2 weeks down to 20, saving around £60, and meaning that I sleep better without my snoring waking up everyone in a one-mile radius even when not coughing).
  • Focusing on 1-2 big tasks each day which make a difference
  • Eating a decent, healthy breakfast, rather than skipping it for a cigarette, and then trying to eat fairly healthy throughout the day. More protein and vegetables – less snacks.
  • Exercise – either a 20-30 minute walk minimum late morning/early lunchtime, or a bigger bike ride. The plan is to start adding some gym visits shortly.
  • Less time chatting about stuff on social media during the day, especially if it’s non-work related, and more time on actually getting work done. The using social media in the evenings to actually sort meeting up with people away from screens again…
  • Actually throwing out old things I don’t use, need, or have emotional attachment to. And any clothes which don’t pass the ‘it’s OK to be seen in public’ test.

None of it has been massive. The biggest initial challenge has been ignoring the cigarette cravings in favour of a tasty nicotine lozenge, and forcing myself to get out of the house rather than kidding myself I’m being productive aimlessly clicking around Facebook and Twitter.

Hopefully I’ll have the impetus to update more improvements by the end of April, but if nothing else, the fact that my son was impressed with my non-smoking is enough to keep going when he’s not here…


Planning to escape…


Used to be on a card above my desk as a reminder which was too often ignored, until I finally sat down and started to replace old, bad habits with good new ones.

The trick is to know that the good new habits aren’t an end in themselves, and to be OK with the continual journey.


Pioneering sites closed on day of Apple event

I saw a tweet suggesting that Monday would probably be a good day to bury bad news in the tech world, as most of the world’s press and coverage would be devoted to Apple, the Apple Watch and the new MacBook.

Turns out that two pioneering internet services did indeed share some bad news. The first is that Friendfeed is closing, a little over five years after it was acquired by Facebook. The small and declining size of the community is given as the reason, which makes sense as since joining Facebook in 2009, Friendfeed has been maintained, but no more.

It’s a shame to lose an alternative social network which certainly had some traction back when it launched in October 2007 – the fact that it quickly and easily aggregated content published on a huge variety of other sites made it an interesting microblogging alternative to Twitter. And whenever the latter service went down, a flood of users would jump on it as a backup.


There’s no word about any data export, and given that it’s shutting on April 9th, and the relatively small user community that’s left… The official blog announcement is here, and Google’s Louis Gray has a nice post on the closure.

In the comment on his blog, Claudio Cicali has linked to code on Github to export from Friendfeed – I haven’t used it so can’t vouch for it, but other commenters seem to be having success. It’s at

Then at the same time:

GigaOm Logo

One of the first Tech blogs I read, subscribed to via RSS and followed regularly has closed the doors for the time being. It was announced with a brief update on GigaOm, a brief statement by founder and now VC Om Malik, and coverage on a variety of competing tech blogs, such as The Verge.

While Friendfeed launched in 2007, it was back in the summer of 2006 that Om Malik left his job to work on GigaOm full time and grew rapidly. In 2012 it also acquired paidContent and merged it into the site – reporting an audience of around 5.5 million users per month at the time. It launched events, and notably a paid research arm. And maintained a number of great writers, including the widely read Mathew Ingram.

Now GigaOm might not be gone for good. The assets are now controlled by the company’s lenders, and had raised $8 million in new funding just one year ago, with a figure of around 70 employees at the time. Whatever happens, it’s a sad day for tech media, as one of the biggest hasn’t been able to continue to make it work.

‘All operations have ceased. We do not know at this time what the lenders intend to do with the assets or if there will be any future operations using those assets. The company does not currently intend to file bankruptcy’





Support your local independent blog?

The result of eCommerce on the High Street has been that you either find cool little independent shops which offer something you can’t easily replicate online, or massive chains which provide goods you need right now. The main effect of disruption has been for people stuck in the middle like Woolworths and HMV.

And small, local shops have probably never been more celebrated. There are days to officially support them, awards for the best of them, campaigns to promote them, and ways for them to come together.

Doughnuts - CC Licence, Leon Ephraim

Doughnuts – CC License, Leon Ephraim

I’ve never owned a shop, so it’s been a reasonably good thing for me. I like small businesses that do something interesting, I like the fact I can find almost anything online, and when I need to go to a large shopping centre or supermarket, there’s one somewhere nearby.

But I wonder what will happen if the internet goes the same way. Will there be any outcry of support for small websites and blogs?

In almost every niche there’s an example of ‘big chain’ publishing. The large publishers of the past have managed to somehow survive and adapt somewhat successfully to the digital world, even if it’s been with reluctance.

And there are the big content shopping centres of the internet; Facebook, which is so ubiquitous people around the world don’t even associate it with being part of the internet. Yahoo!, still. And Medium.

In many ways I like Medium.

It looks nice. It launched with a focus on writing, and particularly long-form writing. There’s the secret paid support for some writers and public offers for some others. You don’t have endless advertising, or fifty thousand recommended articles from Outbrain, Taboola, or Zerg etc. And there are countless fantastic articles on subjects I’ve never even considered reading about, alongside the things which I know would interest me.

But in some ways I hate it.

It’s no longer about just long-form. You now have a stream which mixes longer and much shorter pieces. And the idea is that it provides the best one-stop place for all content, just as Facebook began with connections, Youtube for video, and Google for search.

It feels more and more like the Bluewater Shopping Centre of online publishing. Nice design, good amenities, and an easy place to spend more time and money than you intended. But also slightly soulless and constricting.

And every day we read about another death of blogging, as someone with a fairly well-known name decides to give it a rest for a while.

In print publishing there has always been the odd breakout hit in an industry dominated by those who could afford the staff, the presses and the distribution. And the same will be true of digital publishing in the future. But sadly I doubt we’ll see the same types of support for the small-to-medium websites and blogs which let you feel like you were entering a local cafe, pub or someone’s living room to listen to what they had to share and discuss it with them.


Technology underpins and connects everything

Judging by the amount of social media shares, plenty of people were wondered ‘How Floyd Mayweather and Justin Bieber bonded over an app‘. TL:DR – they’re both investors in an app called Shots.

Celebrities from Ashton Kutcher to has invested in tech companies or developed tech products. It seems like years since Alica Keyes was signed up by BlackBerry as their Global Creative Director, which ended in January 2014 after just 12 months.

It’s no longer worth remarking on journalists leaving esteemed publications to become bloggers. Or the massive prices paid for startups which may not have produced significant profits.

Whatever the questions being asked, it seems like the answer is simple – technology.

Bridge Cables Photo by Vita Vilcina (CC Licence)

Photo by Vita Vilcina (CC Licence)

The population of the UK is mostly connected via PCs, tablets and smartphones, and the majority of people are connected via social networks, apps and casual games. It’s increasingly rare to find anyone not on Facebook or Clash of Clans – or to find a child who isn’t familiar with Minecraft or Youtube.

The mainstream media now carries news about the latest technology and can see big enough audiences to schedule full programmes on topics like 3D printing and artificial intelligence.

  • In some ways that’s amazingly great – I’ve loved technology as long as I can remember.
  • But in some ways it’s worrying – when all you have is technology, every problem looks like an application.

For all the transformational power of the internet, we’re still governed by politicians who we can’t trust, and a small group of mega-corporations who can’t effectively be controlled.

We’ve yet to see print publications finally become marginalised. Most big media companies have now had time to adapt and evolve rather than become extinct. And the biggest contributors to open source projects like Linux now come from developers employed by large corporations.

Meanwhile we still have war, famine and greater financial inequality than ever. Statistically we’re safer in the developed Western world than ever in human history, but we’re bombarded with reports of potential threats to us in greater volumes than could have been imagined.

The myth that ‘anyone can be a success’ has spread from America to envelope the whole internet, despite the fact that only a percentage of businesses will ever be successful until enough virtual currencies and bots are developed to create infinite consumption.

Meanwhile we seem to have many of the same problems which have faced society for hundreds of years, and as Gamergate has shown so well, we’ve made little progress. Because rather than asking questions about politics, society and business which mean challenging assumptions and investing huge amounts of time and resource into making a significant change, it’s easier to announce a new software platform or app. And most of us (me included) are too busy trying to scrape a living in between liking updates and checking into games to do more than sign the occasional e-petition.



Why I envy designers and developers

It’s relatively common to find people who will happily admit they’re not technical, or can’t code.

It’s reasonably common to find people who will admit they can’t draw or design, even if they still have a habit of making ‘helpful’ suggestions.

It’s not very common to find people who are aware that they can’t string a decent sentence together. It’s somewhat understandable when all our days are increasingly filled with texts, emails, and social media updates. And that’s even if you don’t have a job which requires written work.

Workbench by

Workbench by (CC Licence)

All of the work I do for my business is around content and communication. Whether it’s client explanations and updates, consumer-facing writing and media, or improving the meta data and information structure for SEO and increasing conversions.

I’ve been employed full-time as a writer, formally studied literature and journalism, and taught writing, journalism and marketing (including on behalf of organisations including the Press Association). Out of the top handful of magazine publishers in the country, I’ve worked for, freelanced or trained at almost all of them.

And I then spend my spare time attempting to bootstrap a digital publishing company, which started literally with nothing. For a long time, I was the sole writer, editor, sales and admin person for any website I worked on.

So hopefully by now, I can string a reasonable sentence together. Although I still get nervous every time I start to write, and a compliment for work I’ve produced can put me on a high for days.

Which begs the question why it can be so difficult to explain the situation to someone who needs great writing and content to promote themselves, or their business. And why they often find it hard to accept that they might not be doing the best possible job – especially when they want to dump it all on the cheapest intern or member of staff they can find.

Those are the times when I really wish I was a proficient coder. Or welder. Possibly an electrician like my father.


Couldn’t use Flickr, even if I wanted to…

Despite my sadness at the stagnation of Flickr, I still use it regularly to upload, share and store images. Or at least I used to.

I can still upload everything perfectly from my mobile, but whenever I try and sign in to my account on my laptop, I’m asked for a confirmation code, which is emailed to my Gmail account.


Only the code never arrives. I’ve checked my Inbox, Spam Folder, All Mail and Trash. I’ve run out of retries, and I can’t sign into Yahoo Mail either, so I’ve completely stuck.

I know it’s the right address because I still have emails informing me that my subscription to Flickr Pro has expired, for example. And the email asking me to confirm my new email address back in 2009.

I’ve checked Settings and Filters, and there’s nothing there to hid or block the email.

So there are two options:

1. Gmail is mysteriously blocking some emails – I’ve had this happen to another Gmail address earlier this week when repeated invites to a Slack team didn’t show up. But this was an account with a domain alias, so I’m not ruling out user error. Whereas Yahoo have an email address for me with no aliases etc to confuse things.

2. Yahoo is not sending emails – I don’t know how likely this is, but why is there no possible way to access my account/verification code besides the one email address, and no easy way to contact support? If they knew they were going to be increasing Yahoo ID security, why not prompt existing users to add their mobile number beforehand, for example?

It’s just generally crap, and has made me keener than ever to invest in a new external hard drive for photos, and to sign up to 500px as a paying user for a service which might actually work.

It definitely doesn’t give me any faith in future Yahoo products.

(Disclosure: I know 1 or 2 people who work at Yahoo on the Editorial side of things. I haven’t asked if they’ve hidden my security code behind the sofa)



*edit* It was only as I pressed publish my brain finally made the connection that both Flickr and Slack were co-founded by the same person – Stewart Butterfield. Strange coincidence….