The Rotters’ Club

The first episode of The Rotters’ Club was on BBC2 last night and it was, as I suspected, a disappointment.

ono No Komachi and amner discuss it on Palimpsest here – I’ll add my thoughts from here to there when I get home – still problems with posting to Palimpsest at work, worse luck.

I agreee with amner’s point – how can they do this in three one-hour episodes? It is too fragmented, the storyline jumping about all over the place. The book does this, but of course in reading it you take a lot longer than 3 hours. TRC is a story to be savoured, with details and plots drawn out slowly. The TV show blattered the viewer with detail after detail, the comedic elements coming too fast after the moments of pathos. The jump from Ben Trotter successfully praying for a air of swiming trunks is funny, but suddenly he is attending church without a proper explaination.

I think the series will have a few funny set-pieces, largely those which have been lifted straight from the book, but that the rest of it will be a rather confusing experience for anyone who hasn’t read the book.

My Thoughts on Flickr

Flickr is brilliant. A really great service, easy to use and full of features.

It’s basically a place to store digital photos online. You upload the ones you want and Flickr automatically makes them available in a few different web friendly sizes, so you don’t need to bother resizing them yourself.

You can then make them available to people to see through Flickr itself, or produce HTML code to display them on another site – this could be a really way handy for Palimpsesters to display images in their posts on the forums. I might look into it and get a little guide written.

The other cool thing, as I demonstrated below, is that it can post photos direct to a blog. If you are using one of the big services, like LiveJournal, Blogger or TypePad, this works with ease. With a system like WordPress, like I use, it is a little trickier. For some reason, when I post photos through Flickr, it comes up with an error saying that it hasn’t worked…even though it has! Never mind, I can live with that. Also, it puts the posts in the ‘Life’ category, rather than in ‘Photos’ and it doesn’t add a title to a post. These things I have to do manually, but it is easy enought to pick up on the next time I am blogging.

Flickr is a cool site, and no mistake.

Scrutiny Best Practice Guide outline

Have been putting some more thought into my idea for a Scrutiny Best Practice booklet.

Here’s a draft outline plan:

Introduction

  • Preparation, Participation, Partnership
  • A Note on Structures

Part One: Preparation

  • Objectives and Outcomes
  • Research
  • Agendas and Reports
  • The Meeting
  • Post Meeting

Part Two: Participation

  • Scrutiny and Overview Members
  • Backbench Members
  • The Executive
  • The Public
  • Officers
  • Expert Witnesses
  • Methods of Participation

Part Three: Partnership

  • Scrutiny and the Executive
  • Scrutiny and ‘Backbenh’ Councillors
  • Scrutiny and the Public
  • Scrutiny and the Media

Conclusion

  • Using Preparation, Participation and Partnership to create sucessful outcomes

The aim would be to put together case studies each chapter showing how things can be done – and how they might have been done better.

MS updates: real Windows users only need apply

The Register reports that Microsoft are planning to

stop providing updates to non-genuine versions of its Windows XP operating system as part of its anti-piracy campaign.

I’m flagging this up not because I disagree – it seems quite reasonable, really – but because I wanted to download an update, using my (I should point out) legitimate copy of Windows XP, a week or so ago, and it wouldn’t accept my verification code. I was irritated, and I must have another look into it and contact the MS support bods.

John Sutherland

As John Self rightly pointed out in an earlier comment, John Sutherland writes well for The Guardian on books, despite being an apparently controversial choice for Chair of the Booker panel this year. Here’s his article in today’s paper.

There was a sad news item last week about 130,00 penguins doomed to die because of the havoc wrought on their environment by climate-warming. Damn George Bush and his SUVs.

It’s been a disastrous year for the other Penguin as well. Last spring the imprint’s super-agglomerated parent group, Pearson, brought on-stream its new, airport-sized warehouse at Rugby. The computer operating system, predictably, crashed. They always do. From April to June the system stayed obstinately down. Penguin books were scarcer than Penguin’s teeth. Delivery, almost a year later, is still constipated and hiccupy.

Academics give lessons on blogs

From the BBC News Site – I picked this up from the MSDN Student Flash blog (unfortunatley not as exciting as it sounds…)

Blogs are increasingly being used by academics and students.

Until a few months ago, the attention paid to web logs, or blogs, focused mainly on politics and the media business.

However, many in academia followed the web-diary of Salam Pax, the famous Baghdad blogger during the build-up to the war in Iraq.

Now, the technology that has been an alternative source of news to many academics is being incorporated more fully into university life.

Blogs are giving departments, staff and students the freedom and informality of tone impossible in scholarly journals or even the student newspaper.

Blogging lecturers say the technology provides them with easy online web access to students and improves communication outside of the classroom.

Storing ideas

Esther Maccallum-Stewart, a Sussex University historian is one of the pioneering British academic bloggers who are using the technology to teach and carry out research.

She is researching popular culture during World War I and had already started a personal blog when she found she was increasingly adding ideas and thoughts that were more academic.

Her students were also looking for a place which would give them access to resources, information and courses on demand.

The web log on the war set up on the university web-server meant she could look up queries raised in her class and pass information on to the whole group rather than one person at a time.

“My research meant that I was working at more than one terminal, or was occasionally in places where I couldn’t take disks or apparatus with me,” she says.

“The weblog meant a place to store ideas, links and references.”

“I feel very strongly that information should be disseminated into the internet world, but I also feel that academics can become too insular, constructing their own language and cliques which do nothing to promote the getting of knowledge.”

That need for knowledge provision is the reason why Warwick University is giving its students and staff free space on its server to start their own blogs.

The blogging project at the university, which started last September, is arguably the largest of its kind in the academic world with some 2,600 users.

Warwick not only wants those within its four walls to be able to self-publish to the web.

John Dale, its head of IT services, says the university aims to provide new personal development opportunities for students and believes that blogs might be one means of helping to accomplish this.

“We believe that blogging may open new opportunities for students and staff,” says Mr Dale. “It gives students an opportunity to work together on projects.”

There are three such blogs in the Business School at Warwick alone and the university hopes that staff will also use blogs for collaborative projects.

There is not a clear-cut difference in the way students and tutors at the university blog. Some students use their blog for study-related purposes and some tutors post course materials on theirs.

Roya Hekmatpanah, an economics, politics and international studies’ student updates his blog every other week, using it to send messages to friends and to share photos with friends and relatives.

Abuse

But Robert O’Toole, a PhD student in philosophy, uses his blog for both academic and personal purposes. His entries include subjects such as creativity in technology, philosophy definitions and details of a recent trip to Botswana. He says he has received responses from far and nears.

“Blog turned my thesis proposal into a written one,” he says.

“I’ve been able to speak to academic communities across the UK and have gained knowledge from strangers. Blog has allowed me to write in a single place almost daily and develop things in fairly cohesive fashion.”

While Warwick has been able to celebrate some success in a project still at its infancy, experts advise that it is difficult to balance the opportunities the technology offers and the need for academic expression with guarding against abuses.

David Supple, web strategy manager at Birmingham University, says while blogs offer significant benefits for academia as a strong tool for rapid knowledge development, their unstructured nature also creates further problem.

“Universities have to be cautious,” he warns.

“This type of technology is very open and easy to instigate and that often means in the rush to use it, the bigger questions on the most effective ways to use the technology without creating legal and reputational issues for the institution are forgotten or end up being asked too late.”

Google Video Search

The Google Blog reveals that Google are now offering a video search:

Soon there will be. Google Video is a new product that enables you to search an index of transcripts from recent TV programs. It’s just an early-stage beta product at this point; you’ll only see stills and text snippets from shows that match your search terms, and you can only search shows from a few channels, dating back to December, 2004, when we started compiling the index. But we’ll be steadily improving Google Video in the months to come, so as they say in the TV biz, stay tuned.