Monthly Archives: June 2008

Posterous

Posterous

Posterous is the easiest blogging platform in the world to use. No, really.

All you have to do to get started is to send an email to post@posterous.com – no signup needed to begin with. I have given it a go here, and am pretty impressed with the way it handled Gmail’s rich text emails. Attachments like photos are added to your posts, and audio can be played with a flash player that’s automatically embedded when you send an mp3 to Posterous.

Also, if you include a link to, say, a YouTube video, Posterous automatically embeds the video in your blog, rather than just linking to it. Find out more about what Posterous can do.

If you take the time to register with the site, you can add a profile and an avatar, which is quite nice. Posterous is a good alternative to quick blogging tools like Tumblr, for example, and given the ease of use, maybe even Twitter.

The only concern will be around security. The site reckons it can spot spoof email addresses, but there have ben examples already of people posting to other people’s blogs. Hopefully this can be ironed out in the future, because Posterous has real potential, I feel, not least because of it’s reliance on email, which for most people is work, while the web is playing.

Flipping ‘eck

I gave in on Saturday, and bought myself one of these beauties:

Flip Ultra

The quality of the recorded video is pretty high, better than your average mobile phone, I’d say – and certainly better than my iPhone which doesn’t do video at all. The flip-out USB connector works excellently, and saves on the considerable hassle of messing about with cables. Haven’t tried uploading to YouTube or anything yet, but the software (which runs from the Flip itself, and doesn’t require installation) seems easy enough to use.

Am looking forward to taking it around 2gether08 later this week.

Thing are coming 2gether

I am looking forward to the 2gether festival this Wednesday and Thursday, lots of cool people coming, and lots of exciting sessions to attend. You can find out more at the event’s blog, or by looking around the associated social network, built on Crowdvine.

I was flattered to be asked to run a session on social media and web 2.0 tools, which is happening at around 11am on Wednesday. I probably would have preferred it to be later so that people buzzing with ideas could turn up and work out how to put them into action. This way, though, people will know what’s possible and be forearmed with the knowledge of the tools as they hear about other initiatives, which is cool.

I’m going to be running a social media game, along the lines of that developed by David Wilcox and Beth Kanter. I’m designing and making the cards as we speak, and will be printing out various guides and cheat sheets like those developed by Tim Davies, Colin McKay and Paul Caplan. I’m also going to be helped out by David, Tim, Paul Henderson, Matt Waring, Mitch Sava and Jeremy Gould, who (if required!) will be helping out the groups playing the game by explaining and demoing stuff.

That’s not all, though – I have also been drafted in by Tracey Todhunter to help develop her ideas for a ‘communiversity’ for low carbon communities. She writes about it here. We’re going to start off in my session, so Tracey and her colleagues can develop a strategy using the game; and then take the results into her session to drum up support and refine things.

Here Tracey talks to David Wilcox about the project:

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It’s going to be an exciting couple of days.

Go Home, Bill

Robert X Cringely on Bill Gates’ retirement:

If we were to place the importance of Bill Gates in the history of both Microsoft and the personal computer industry he’d be up there with most anyone. I’m not here to claim that Bill’s contributions weren’t significant, because they were. At half a dozen points during the history of Microsoft Bill pushed or pulled in such a way to change the course of his company and the industry as a whole, there is no doubt of that. The question is whether he REMAINS as important, which he clearly doesn’t or they wouldn’t let him leave. If it would help Microsoft they’d prop up Bill like the body of Lenin in Red Square to motivate the troops and intimidate the competition. And he’d let them do that, too.

Civil servants, blogs and anonymity

Back onto one of my favourite subjects: bloggers’ anonymity. There’s plenty of background here.

Paul Johnston wrote in the comments:

Great to see this upswing in civil servant blogging, but quite understandably they seem to be anonymous. Very understandable in my opinion and in my view quite acceptable if that is what suits the individuals best. I assume these civil servants want to remain anonymous a) to reduce the likelihood of the media doing anything silly with what they write b) to emphasize that what they say has nothing to do with the views of their employer. Are you still uncomfortable with that, Dave?

I replied that it doesn’t make me uncomfortable, just that I think transparency is always preferable. Besides, Mark O’Neill of DCMS has revealed his identity, it’s just Chris the Digital Pioneer who is staying in the shadows for now. I guess it depends on what you are doing, and one of the victims of the brevity of the guidance is that it’s hard to apply it all to every way a civil servant can participate online.

Take the recent example of Dylan Jeffrey from DCLG posting a comment on this blog, giving his department’s position on a topic under discussion. Had he done this anonymously, it would have been pretty useless.

Jeremy Gould blogs openly as himself, and as a result has become influential in the world of eGov, and has done a significant amount to push the agenda forward. This wouldn’t have been posible if no-one knew who he was.

As for the liklihood of media twisting words or messages – well, Civil Serf pretty much answers that one. Point one is that the media will report it even if it is anonymous; and number two is that discovering the identity of the blogger becomes part of the game. In the meantime, the anonymous blogger, perhaps lulled into a false sense of security, has blogged things that perhaps they really shouldn’t and ends up in even more trouble once they are outed, which is inevitable.

I don’t really have that much of a problem with anonymous bloggers, really, I just think that nobody really stays anonymous for long and that whatever they are trying to achieve with their blog in the vast majority of cases would be more successful if their identity is known. There are exceptions: people in oppressive regimes, etc, but for civil servants, as the guidance says, “be a civil servant”!

WordCamp UK

WordCamps are fairly unorganised events for lovers of the best blogging platform, like, eva: WordPress. The first one in the UK is taking place in Birmingham next month, and it’s going to be great. Get a ticket here.

Even better news is that Simon Dickson‘s going to be there, and running a session on non-blogging with WordPress. Simon’s also sponsoring the event, in his words:

It’s maybe unusual for a one-man company to sponsor a fairly large conference like this. But virtually everything Puffbox does at the moment is WordPress-based. It’s the content management platform I always dreamed of… and it’s free of charge. It’s time I gave something back.

Besides, it’s in Puffbox’s interests for this gathering to take place. It’ll be an enjoyable weekend of unashamed geekery. I’m hoping to meet some interesting people, learn some interesting things, and help create a support infrastructure for WordPress in the UK. A T-shirt with a big W on the front would be a bonus.

Well done him, a brilliant gesture, not least because Simon has already done more than anyone to progress the use of lightweight, low cost solutions like WordPress in UK government. I last saw Simon at the UK Gov barcamp aaaaaages ago, so will look forward to catching up with him – and a whole host of other top WordPress folk – at the WordCamp.

A New Civil Servant Blogger

In what is, as far as I am aware, the first instance of  civil servant starting a blog because the new guidelines freed him up to do so, Mark O’Neill of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has begun a blog called Lost ConsCIOusness.

Good on him.

Do we need to start a list somewhere?

Edit: Justin points out in the comments that Digital Pioneer was also very quick out of the blocks. Welcome, Chris! You might just grab the gold medal if only for linking to me on just the second post…

Who’s left blogging?

Charlie Beckett writes entertainingly about the state of the presence of the political left in the UK blogosphere:

The Online Socialists have various problems.

No-one reads them. Guido Fawkes and his wicked Right-wing pals are far more entertaining and they know how to write for an online audience: scurriously, succinctly, directly. They are much more committed and actually contribute facts, stories and vitriol to the debate…

The Left bloggers want to change the world but they don’t want any responsibility. In this they are a mirror image of the right-wing blogosphere in the States.

This is a topic that Simon Dickson has picked up on several occasions, once pointing the finger at The Guardian‘s Comment is Free platform as overly-dominating online debate amongst liberals and left-wingers:

My theory, still in development, is that Comment Is Free is too big. If you want to read left-leaning blog content, you could start and finish on that one website, and wouldn’t miss much. And if you’re a leftie blogger, getting an item on Comment Is Free would put your rant in front of many times more readers than any solo blog.

It’s an interesting discussion. Can conservatives really be better at online than lefties in this country? And does it fit with other media – newspapers, magazines etc? I think there is probably an argument that The Spectator is a better read than The New Statesman, but then Prospect is better than Standpoint, so that’s kind of cancels itself out.

Online is important though, especially at time of political change, and of course we have one of those coming up in the next couple of years when we have a general election. Not only will comment-based blogs come to the fore, but parties and candidates will need to leverage the online during their campaigns just as Obama and others did in the States. I would hope they are planning what they are going to do now, otherwise it can end up being a bit of a mess.

Postscript: Charlie Beckett is going to be talking at 2gether08. Am signed up to go along for what should be a really interesting session.