post

Absolutely essential viewing: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

I finally got around to watching the documentary, “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz’. It’s simply essential for anyone who cares about technology, the internet, access to information and the society of the future to watch. And it’s available to view for free on Youtube and other sites (embed below).

All the more tragic and inspiring to think of what he might have continued to achieve. And how the things he fought for are still so important to fight for now and in the future.

post

Why I love cars and motorcycles…

Just replied to a question on Facebook, and wanted to share the reasons I gave for loving cars and motorcycles here. Partly because I increasingly want to make sure I’m storing more content on my own properties rather than a social network owned, controlled and generating revenue for someone else. And partly as a spur to remind me to expand on it sometime in the future.

BellinghamHotRodShopMustang

Q: People who are interested in cars. Why?

  • Because they embody the potential freedom of being able to travel anywhere as long as you have some money for petrol, rather than being stuck where you are.
  • Because as a teenager they offer a place which can be entirely your own, with your own space, music, and a back seat to entertain members of the opposite sex.
  • Because they also have the potential to offer speed and excitement when most of our lives can be humdrum.
  • Because there is a sense of wonder in how everything fits together to harness the power of small explosions to drive wheels and provide motion.
  • Because the best cars have a design which embodies beauty or emotion, whether it’s the curves of an E-Type or the brute power of a muscle car.
  • Because motorsports, although a team effort in the pits, are a solo effort when the racers are on the track.
  • Because being on a track and getting everything right can lead to experiencing ‘flow’, as with any skill which is repeated to the point an expert has an almost ‘out of body’ experience.

And because of sociological influences which mean that I love cars and motorcycles in the same way as other people might love golf, knitting or whatever their passion might be.

The more I grow up, the less I care about people having an identical passion, and the more I’m interested in their passion itself for whatever they might love…

post

Last call for Movember donations…

It’s been almost a month, and my Movember efforts have been coming along nicely. But donations have been slightly less forthcoming than the increasing amount of grey hair sprouting over my top lip.

So if you haven’t donated to anyone yet, why not support someone who is generally extremely reluctant to be photographed at all, let alone in regular voluntary selfies.

My Movember page is here.

MovemberDay26

Movember, Day 26.

By the way, if you happen to like the jacket, it’s a new Stein Heritage jacket, available at BargainBikerBrands.com (Client disclosure).

Only 4 days left of Movember to go, and then I’ll have to decide whether to revert to being clean shaven, or grow some facial hair more permanently for winter warmth. It’s tempting, but then again, my son keeps telling me I look like a grandad – something which I didn’t expect to happen for another 10-15 years…

post

Connecting with family at Chatham Historic Dockyard

I made my first visit to Chatham Historic Dockyard on Sunday. Having grown up in the area, the dockyard originally closed when I was a child, and it’s taken my son reaching the same age to provide the catalyst for not only me to visit, but also to get my dad along, as a former employee there.

DestinationChathamDockyard

Partly it was fascinating to not only see the displays, the two ships in dry dock, and particularly to go on board HM Submarine Ocelot, but also to talk to my dad about what it was like when he was working there – including the work he actually did on HMS Cavalier, which is on display.

HMS Cavalier - Chatham Historic Dockyard

It was great to come away with a new appreciation for my dad’s work, as well as experiencing how small and cramped it really is on a submarine – pictures and videos really don’t do it justice.

HM Submarine Ocelot at Chatham Historic Dockyard

It made me realise how lucky I am, and how lucky my son is, to be able to experience these things with his grandparents. I wish, for example, I’d made more effort to spend time with my own grandparents as I got older, and visit places which were relevant to them (For instance Imperial War Museum Duxford has displays relevant to my grandparents on both sides of the family).

Having also started scanning in some old photos I’ve found, it’s also made me appreciate how much easier it is to collect, compile, organise and share digital media – the photos from that day aren’t in a box under a bed, but automatically uploaded to Google+, manually uploaded to Flickr, downloaded to my removable hard drive as a backup and on my PC.

And my thoughts are going here publicly, rather than in a diary or staying in my head.

Cannon and flag - Chatham Historic Dockyard

post

Unexpected consquences of exceeding Dunbar’s number?

Life for most people in the modern world is undoubtedly safer than it was 100 years ago. And yet the demand of 24-hour global news channels means that our perception is that it’s become more dangerous as we’re fed a constant diet of crime and reasons to worry.

By the same token, 100 years ago we’d generally have known a smaller circle of people, but the internet and social media has allowed us to exceed Dunbar’s number of 150 contacts we can maintain a social relationship with to include far more at a lower level of ‘ambient intimacy’. Whether or not you can argue we can have close social ties with a larger group, we’re certainly more aware of what happens to them than ever before.

A crowd gathered around a man speaking from the back of a horse-drawn wagon

And I wonder what effect that may have on our outlook. Statistically, we’re more likely to encounter the loss of someone if our number of relationships increase, and we’re more likely to see connections that are the victims of crime etc. By the same token, we’re as potentially likely to also encounter more positive experiences, and certainly various studies and research show that positivity generally tends to be shared more on social networks than negativity.

I’ve had a look back through various articles I’ve saved, and there are certainly studies which show usage of social media can trigger depression, particularly if you’re prone to comparing your reality with the edited highlights which your contacts are constantly sharing.

I’m not suggesting everyone is actively lying about their lives, but that we’re all more likely to share a fabulous meal than the fact we’re scraping together something between two slices of stale bread. And therefore most updates you see will either be the better side of life, or the other extreme of frustration and tragedy.

In some ways that may actually justify the mundane updates for which Twitter has always been criticised. Maybe it’s a positive thing for us psychologically to know that other people in the world also forgot to go shopping and are scrabbling through their cupboards, or are stuck in traffic or waiting for a bus, etc.

post

Brilliant inspirational speech by Tim Minchin…

Really good advice here…

post

Two big reasons to celebrate this week…

It’s a big week for me, as along with various family celebrations, it’s also the anniversary of my freelance career, and a milestone for my business.

Three years ago I decided to try working for myself for a while, to give myself some time to decide where I wanted my career to go. And despite some amazing job offers since, I’ve stuck with it to keep building something from the ground up. It’s been tough, particularly as I was keen to bootstrap and self fund any growth, rather than taking on debts and risk (And we’re not quite at the stage where we have investors lining up quite yet!).

But it’s also been amazing – working with clients ranging from local business and other people just starting out, to working with global corporate brands that sadly we can’t name due to client confidentiality, but that I can guarantee you’d recognise.

And it’s also 6 months since the day Sean Ible officially joined the company as my fellow Director, as TheWayoftheWeb Ltd officially became a company.

 

Some regrets:

There’s not much point in dwelling on mistakes – it’s best to learn from them and move on. But we have had some tough times – particularly during the end of the first year/start of the second. I’d originally been inspired to be location independent and work from home because it meant I could spend much more time with my family.

That might have been possible, had I planned my freelance career a little better in advance, but my commitment to building a business played a part in moving into my own place. Despite the fact everyone involved have done their best to ensure it’s an amicable split, and our son comes first, it’s been tough.

And for quite a while, that did have an impact on my client work. I tried to deliver the best possible results, but certainly my motivation wasn’t as high as it could have been, and in 1 or 2 cases, I wasn’t on top of my game, which still haunts me – at the same time, the fact I was able to survive and grow my business during this period gives me some comfort, as I managed to keep a roof above my head and food in the cupboard!

Fortunately, despite the fact I’m still single, the fact we’ve all remained friends and put our child first means I can focus on the motivation to build things that might make my son proud of me in the future, and the arrival of Sean with the company means I’m more focused than ever on delivering the best possible work in the future…

post

Why it’s important to do what you love…

Just wanted to quickly share this video of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Neil Gaiman summing up the massive benefits of being able to do the things you love, found via brainpickings.org.

 

post

Bitten by the bugs – mostly mosquitos

Over the weekend I appear to have been particularly attractive to mosquitos. Somehow I’ve ended up with three bites in the most irritating places – on my neck right at my hairline, on my chest just where the seat belt in my car rests, and on the ball of my foot! Apparently one or more mosquitos was belatedly celebrating World Mosquito Day.

Mosquito

Still, after applying some Anthisan, the irritation has largely stopped. Which means I’m more fortunate than a lot of people, particularly in places like Africa. So rather than feeling sorry for myself while I hobble around the house, I checked out a bit of what the Gates Foundation are doing to tackle malaria. And also took a look at Nothing But Nets, where $10 will buy a treated mosquito net. Considering malaria claims a life every 60 seconds, I’m thinking making a donation will take the sting out my bites even more effectively than Anthisan!

post

Is Amazon killing Lovefilm?

I’ve been a Lovefilm subscriber for years now. Originally I shared an account with my ex-girlfriend, but when I moved into my own place, I went for one of the top packages.

The main reason for my choice was videogame rental. There are several options for streaming films online, but Lovefilm was the only option which also allowed me to rent Xbox 360 games, and given the relatively high purchase price for new titles, it seemed a more than reasonable investment. Especially as it would allow me to cover more games for my various websites.

I hadn’t seen the news that Lovefilm announced new customers would be unable to sign up for videogame rental last week, but I certainly noticed the email I received to tell me that as an existing customer, Game Rentals will end on August 8th, and I’ll be moved onto a different package.

 

No logic for Lovefilm?

I don’t work at Lovefilm or have any involvement in their business decisions, but I can venture some guesses why the decision has been made.

Until very recently, Microsoft was very determined to lock down access and sharing of games on the forthcoming Xbox One platform – that stance has softened since the big E3 videogame show due to the wide backlash, but it’s a sign of changes in the videogame industry. Publishers have long been concerned about sharing and secondhand sales which do not generate any direct revenue, so the combination of publishers and a major console manufacturer may have convinced Lovefilm that the future is purely in digital releases, and the hassle of purchasing and sending out disc copies wasn’t worthwhile.

By the same token, Amazon has recently merged Lovefilm and Amazon accounts. Taking a more active role with Lovefilm may have included the fact that videogame rentals detract from the sale of new and secondhand games via Amazon. Given the relative price difference and purchase habits of gamers versus film fans, it’s probable that rental takes a larger chunk of prospective purchases and revenue – as someone is ‘borrowing’ a £40 game vs a £10 film. In the case of the new consoles, Amazon is currently listing games at £54.

Presumably that difference is greater than the loss from ex-game rental customers who are being moved onto slightly cheaper packages – in my case the automatic saving is around £36 per year.

 

No Love for Lovefilm:

There’s been a fair amount of outcry regarding the decision on various gaming sites. Personally, I had intended to stay with Lovefilm indefinitely, particularly with new consoles arriving this autumn. While I may be able to justify a console and a game or two at launch, I certainly hoped to rent a significant amount of the new games.

But looking at my new Lovefilm package, I’d automatically be paying £9.99 per month for 2 discs per month + unlimited streaming. Given than more than 50% of the titles on my rental list are games, and will therefore no longer exist, I could save £5 more a month for streaming only.

So Lovefilm has just gone from:

  • 12 x 12.99: £155.88 annual revenue
  • 12 x 4.99: £59.88 annual revenue

That’s a loss of £96 per year Lovefilm will have lost from me personally, whatever happens. But now I’ve looked at the subscription costs, and weighed up the value I get from the current streaming selection.

Netflix is around the same price for streaming, and with a 1 month free trial it’s probably worth me trying them to see how their digital selection compares, which I wouldn’t have previously considered.

NowTV seems pretty expensive at £15 per month for films.

But actually, there may be a third option. I’m a big fan of accessing digital entertainment via subscription services, and all my music and film purchases have pretty much been replaced for the last few years. But the changes and restrictions have made me more motivated to finally invest in a decent amount of digital storage and get around to backing up copies of all the entertainment I own to be able to stream throughout my house.

That potentially gives me £155.88 to spend on DVDs, and around £120 a year to spend on CDs (Cancelling Spotify). And there are plenty of games, films and CDs to be found in secondhand and charity shops which will keep me entertained for the significant future…

Things to consider, along with the widely-reported faff of cancelling, which involves having to phone Lovefilm Customer Support….