Things I like: three music videos

Three things I’ve been enjoying on YouTube recently(ish). All quite different.

Sour – Hibi no Neiro (‘Tone of everyday’)

OK Go – White Knuckles

Lorna Rose – Flightless Bird, American Mouth

[be sure to read the back story too]

BAFTA Film Awards 2010

I was fortunate enough to be invited to help out the BAFTA online team during the Film Awards on Sunday. I spent the afternoon and evening tweeting as @baftaonline and helping their team keep their Facebook page updated.

Initially, I was mainly sharing photos from the red carpet, which meant wandering around with an ‘access all areas’ pass and trying grab pictures of the buildup while staying (unsuccessfully) out of the way of various live news cameras. Here are a handful of the photos I uploaded to Twitpic during the afternoon.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

I was only slightly hampered by not having much of an idea of who everyone was, and during the busiest time on the red carpet it was a struggle to get a photo and tweet everything. Fortunately, the Bafta/BBC TV crew I was embedded with were very helpful in confirming names of people I was unsure of, etc. Conscious of a fast-depleting iPhone battery, I was alternating between an iPhone and my Canon camera, grabbing snaps and video of whatever looked interesting.

Red Carpet Kimberley Walsh Guy Pearce on the Red Carpet James Cameron on the Red Carpet Andy Serkis on the Red Carpet Edith gets her make up touched up

Once the ceremony began, I went upstairs to the media room where I sat with the BAFTA online team watching the ceremony and backstage interviews live. I was updating their Twitter and Facebook presences with the award winners as they were announced and the response to these live updates was overwhelmingly positive. Rob (BAFTA’s online editor) had proposed a very clean, cut down style for the announcements which worked really well for giving it an official, definitive tone. Keeping it short meant it was more likely to be retweeted too.


During the ceremony, I had a list of who was announcing what, and had to fill in the blanks with the winner as they were announced, tweeting and updating Facebook as quickly as possible. This was pretty stressful, though obviously also an awful lot of fun. I soon found a rhythm and was pleased to be using a laptop where I could quickly copy and paste blocks of text between various windows. The iPhone is nice, but it would suck for this sort of work.

Backstage Carey Mulligan Backstage Kristen Stewart Backstage Backstage

There was some frustration, among people watching on TV, that the twitter stream was acting as a ‘spoiler’ for the event (though I should point out this was massively outweighed by vast numbers of people expressing supportive, grateful thanks for the instant updates). I think the call (which was, of course, BAFTA’s to make) to announce live, rather than in sync with the TV coverage, was the right move. People were looking to @baftaonline for the definitive results when rumours were circulating on Twitter, and it wouldn’t have made sense to wait. We should probably have been clearer as the ceremony began that the tweets were going to be out of sync, to reduce the risk of people being surprised by spoilers.

Once the ceremony was over, and I’d reluctantly handed back the iPhone, I found myself on the stage itself. This was, frankly, even more surreal than the rest of the day. Watch this video below to get a sense of what it was like.

Later in the evening, my wife and I attended the Film Awards party, which was great fun.


On returning home, I discovered I’d been seen by the BBC News cameras 3 times. As Ian H pointed out, it’s a bit like playing ‘Where’s Wally’.

In the news (1 of 3) In the news  (2 of 3) In the news  (3 of 3)

This makes five times, to my knowledge, I’ve been spotted on TV. (The first and second both being on the set of Watchdog in 2008.)

So, all in all a fantastic day and what little stress I did feel was entirely exciting. Thanks to everyone at BAFTA for a brilliant time.

Online drama

I’ve been thinking about online drama recently.

There are traditional online video productions, which are essentially video made for the web. Good examples are Dr Horrible and The Remnants. Both high quality videos made to be distributed online, both created during the writers strike last year. (No coincidence there I think).

Then you’ve got your Alternate Reality Games. I’m going to assume you already know (or will quickly learn) about The Beast, Majestic, Starlight Travel, World Without Oil, Why So Serious, The Lost Ring etc. Three specifically interesting examples…

I Love Bees‘ (2004) was ostensibly a radio drama, but one distributed using payphones around the world which the ‘audience’ became players of a game in order to follow the story. Implausibly difficult for anyone to follow alone, it worked as a community experience with players working together to find, record and share the fragments of story being played through payphone around the world. It was commissioned as a viral campaign for the Halo 2 game.
Hear the story from start to finish here, and read more about the background from 42 Entertainment or the predictably detailed Wikipedia entry.

Perplex City‘ (2004 – 2007) was
“A city obsessed with puzzles and ciphers. A game that blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality.” An ambitious treasure-hunt ARG project, supported by the sale of collectable puzzle cards. Though not necessary to play the bigger game, the cards did provide some of the clues and integrated with the imaginary universe of Perlex City. Particularly of note is the fan-run wiki which the developers ended up relying on as the canonical record of what had happened in the story.

We Tell Stories‘ (March 2008) was ‘Digital fiction from Penguin’ built by Six To Start.
“Penguin UK is launching its most ambitious digital writing project to date. In collaboration with fêted alternate reality game designers Six to Start, Penguin has challenged some of its top authors to create new forms of story – designed specially for the internet. … But somewhere on the internet is a secret seventh story, a mysterious tale involving a vaguely familiar girl who has a habit of getting herself lost. Readers who follow this story will discover clues that will shape her journey and help her on her way. These clues will appear online and in the real world and will direct readers to the other six stories. The secret seventh story will also offer the chance to win some wonderful prizes…”. This was most interesting

Incidentally, there’s a long history of Alternate Reality Games being used to extend and enhance TV experiences too.

Online drama using social networks are an ever growing field. Here are a few that have caught my eye:

lonelygirl15‘ (June 2006 – August 2008) was “the first of many shows within the fictional LG15 Universe, tells the ongoing story of a group of young adults fighting against a mysterious secret society called, The Order. … On the LG15 website, community members can interact with the characters and each other in the forums, chat rooms and comment boards, and can create their own community generated videos and storylines that add to the ever expanding LG15 universe.” (If you’ve always wondered what it was about, there’s a 300 word plot summary you might enjoy. Also worth knowing that in its early stages it was a perfectly believable story of a normal girl, and there was a fair bit of controversy and discussion when it was discovered that she was an actress. Easy to miss, when looking at the story now, but it was controversial at the time). LG15 also involved a small amount of product placement (sorry, product integration), though this was taken a lot further in later spin-offs…

Kate Modern‘ (July 2007 – June 2008) was “an interactive online drama which ran from July 2007 – June 2008 and was produced by the creators of lonelygirl15 – EQAL. During it’s highly successful year long run it was nominated for two TV Craft BAFTA awards, a Webby Award and won the Broadcast Press Guild Award for Innovation 2008”. A spin-off from lonelygirl15, Kate Modern ran for two seasons. (Review). Product integration apparently allowed Kate Modern to turn a healthy profit. (Season 1, 2007, was supported by MSN, Tampax, Pantene, Gillette, Orange, Paramount Pictures UK and Buena Vista International UK. Season 2, 2008, by Toyota Aygo Platinum, Cadbury Creme Egg, Warner Bros & Skittles.)

Sofia’s Diary‘ (March 2008 – June 2009) has run for three seasons on Bebo, was broadcast for about a year on ‘Fiver’ but recently dropped Sponsors have included Sure Girl and Transport for London. (More info)

The Gap Year‘ (May 2008 – August 2009) “The brand new daily reality show, from the makers of Big Brother”
(another Bebo production, this one in conjunction with Endemol. Sponsors include Sony PSP, Trident and Doritos).
Freak A Freemantle co-production with MySpace. ‘The first UK online drama from MySpace’. Launch date: 20th July. Brand partners include Tampax and Red Bull.

Hollyoaks: The Morning After the Night Before‘ (July 2009)
Is an online video drama made by Channel 4 in partnership with the Home Office to promote the Know Your Limits sensible drinking campaign. Character profiles on Bebo and episodes online at “Hollyoaks: The Morning After the Night Before is a brand new Hollyoaks drama … It’s all happening here on All of the episodes will be online, and you can find out behind the scenes gossip right here too – with exclusive interviews, spoilers, photo galleries, behind the scenes videos and more. Make sure you check out Josh , Sasha and Dave ‘s Bebo profiles, keeping you up-to-date with what the gang are getting up to in between episodes… “ (The 12 episodes will be released online every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through July)

What has the BBC been up to? A couple of recent examples:

Proper Messy‘ (January 2009) A teen drama from Switch.
“Proper Messy was an exciting new interactive drama where YOU could influence the story … As well as weekly episodes on BBC Two there was loads of stuff on bebo and extra exclusive vids online each week. If you were aged 13-17 you could have also signed up to get texts EVERY DAY from the two main characters Imogen or Jake. … This is where things really got exciting – if their texts stirred you into action you could reply and your comments could have influenced the decisions they made. And, what was even better is that it was all free!” (Review)

‘The Well’ was announced just yesterday. “BBC Switch has commissioned digital production company Conker Media, part of Lime Pictures (whose credits include Hollyoaks), to create and produce an interactive, digital drama thriller for its teen audience. The Well will air in the autumn in the Switch zone on BBC Two (Saturdays 12noon-2.00pm) and extends online at where the audience can immerse themselves further in the story, exploring a spookily atmospheric recreation of the main drama location in a multi-level game.”

‘Psychoville’, exploring the possibilities of comedy on the web, have strategically dropped a few website addresses into their episodes and site, and encourage viewers to explore the web looking for answers to a weekly question.
“The mysterious stranger knows what you did: stop your secret going public by answering the messages below. Keep an eye out on TV and scour the internet for character websites you will need to visit. Answer the questions correctly to continue and come back after each episode for a new question.”
So, not quite an ARG (and actually, I notice that I’ve drifted away from Drama too. Maybe I’ll make another post about Comedy soon), but it is a great way of exploring the world of Psychoville and discovering things like Mr Jelly’s homepage. The results are every bit as darkly funny as you might expect.

Going back a bit further, CDX (2006) is an ‘interactive film experience’. (Read an article about it from DigitalArts or a review in Joystiq) hough some thinking about games from the BBC is a post I’ll save for another time.

What else? More BBC online dramas: Signs of Life from 2007 (“Buffy meets Horoscopes“), Wannabes from 2006 (” an interactive web-based soap opera“).  Torchwood did an ARG and Dr Who didn’t (even though a prominently placed phone number made many of us think they might have).

So what about the future? Only time will tell of course. I’m interested to hear of other examples though, and what you think works.

Inside the brain of Adam Curtis

I don’t often talk about work projects, but I cant hold my tongue about this one. I’ve been rather excited about it for a while, and it went live today.

Adam Curtis blog

Adam Curtis is the documentary filmmaker behind ‘The Power of Nightmares‘, ‘The Century of the Self‘ and more. Recently, he’s done some pieces for Screenwipe about the rise and fall of the television journalist and another about ‘oh dearism’ in the news for Newswipe.

Well, he’s going to start blogging about his work and ideas on the BBC. In fact, the Adam Curtis blog launched today at Hurrah.

Adam writes: “This is a website expressing my personal views – through a selection of opinionated observations and arguments. I’ll be including stories I like, ideas I find fascinating, work in progress and a selection of material from the BBC archives.”

All rather exciting. Of course, the rights issues with some of the clips, and especially the music, make it hard to publish them all for an internet-wide audience and sadly some of the content has to be restricted to the UK for right reasons, but the plan is for as much as possible to be globally available as the blog goes forward.

Some related links:

While I’m pimping BBC blogs, other recent-ish blog launches you might have missed:

Browsing my browsing

I mentioned last week that I’d installed MeeTimer and was using it to track my browsing history. Now I’ve built up a weeks worth of data, it’s time to do something fun with it.

If I want to eliminate, or at least manage, distractions, it will be useful to know not just which sites I spend the most accumulated time visiting (MeeTimer already does a pretty good of showing me this), but also which sites I visit most frequently. Because MeeTimer stores all of its lovely date in an SQLite database it’s easy to get to it and create pretty graphs like this one…

Top 30 visited sites for week of 30th March

Even better, lots of scripting languages have support for SQLite (I’m using Xampp as a convenient stack containing Apache PHP 5 and SQLite 3). After hacking around for a couple of hours, my nasty little PHP script was serving up this sort of thing:

Experiment: Browser DNA

(Larger version)

MeeTimer lets you group URLs into different groups, so here those groups are displayed using different coloured rows. Yellow represents site’s I’ve grouped as ‘work’ (mainly work’s webmail address), so it’s easy to see that when I was working on my laptop at home on Friday, i.e. 2 days ago, I was accessing work webmail pretty constantly. I have a desktop at work, so on most days I don’t need to use webmail to check my email except for on the train on the way in and out, but for some reason I had it open for ages on Monday morning (i.e 6 days ago). Perhaps I was away from desk?

I’m also experimenting with alternative ways of displaying the history, including showing the favicons for certain sites.

Experiment: a brief history of favicons

(Larger version)

Here I’m just showing the visits to about a dozen sites I seem to visit (very) regularly, e.g. Twitter, Gmail, Flickr, Google, Technorati, Feedburner, Google Reader, Delicious, etc. You can see that I habitually check Gmail about once per hour, and visit Twitter even more regularly than that.

The code for the DNA one is a bit specific to my groups, so I want to generalise that to work for all groups before I share it, but I’ve put the code on GitHub for the favicon one. It’ll probably only work in Firefox 2 or better. Canvas should work in Safari, but I’ve probably used Mozilla specific stuff for the text. This was a very quick hack, and there’s plenty of scope for enhancements, so let me know if you make any improvements.

MeeTimer and myware and SQLite

I’m interested in the idea of self-interested self-surveillance. Long before we had PMOG (the Passively Multiplayer Online Game, now called The Nethernet) to make a game of it, Seth Goldstein was calling the idea ‘myware’ and building the (short-lived) AttentionTrust site. As Fred Wilson said at the time, “If someone is going to spy on you, it’s probably best if its you.”

With that in mind, I installed MeeTimer over the weekend. It’s a Firefox plugin which…

records where you spend your time online. It does it in a rather useful way, by allowing you to group websites into activities … so you can make sense of where your time is going. Finally, it accumulates time spent on a site over the course of a day…

I’ve been using it for 3 days and it’s giving some interesting food for thought.


You can even optionally set up ‘tab warnings’ on specific groups (sites you’ve labeled ‘Procrastination’, say) which will pop up with a nice overlay telling you exactly how much time you’ve wasted in this site, and others in the same category (though allows you to click through and ignore the warning just this once or for the current browsing session if you still want to). I’m already finding this feature useful on the handful sites whose feed I’m subscribed to but for some reason still find myself visiting out of habit. (For me, it’s Waxy links and Boing Boing. I love them, but I’d rather be reminded to enjoy them as part of my feed reading routine rather than browsing out of habit. I bet you have your own which make you ask is this really what you want to be doing right now?). A little reminder is really useful for habit-breaking here.

Mostly MeeTimer is just quietly keeping track of a bunch of per-site accumulators, cleverly based on whether Firefox has focus and which is the currently active tab. The results are already interesting. I realised that I was spending a bit less time on Twitter and Flickr, and a bit more time on work webmail, than I thought.

This is all very well, but I want more. Specifically, I wanted to get at the data. Not just the accumulated weekly/daily/monthly (etc) totals and averages, but the number of visits to each site per day. The raw visits. In as much detail as possible. I want CSV exports, or an API, or something. If I’m spending a daily average of 21 minutes on Twitter, how many visits comprise that time? MeeTimer simply doesn’t tell me.

Or does it?

Digging around my Firefox profile, I find a very interesting file at /Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/{profile-id}/meetimer.sqlite. Ooh, I bet I know what that is. So I open up SQLite and start poking.

Sorry. It’s about to get a bit dull from here on in. Unless you get excited about the idea of being able to manipulate this data you’ll probably want to scroll down to the end. Honestly, I won’t mind.

They’ve gone? Right. Let’s get hacking.

$ sqlite
SQLite version 3.6.12
Enter ".help" for instructions
Enter SQL statements terminated with a ";"
sqlite> .restore meetimer.sqlite
sqlite> .tables
deterrent_stats  groups           log            
deterrentlinks   groups_urls      url_maps       
deterrents       ignored_urls     urls

Excellent. We’ve got tables with sensible names and everything. Let’s see what log looks like.

sqlite> .headers on
sqlite> select * from log limit 3;
sqlite> select * from urls limit 3;

Lovely. Easy enough then. The groups and groups_urls tables do what you’d expect too. For now, let’s make url_id more meaningful by doing a join with the url table.

sqlite> select
  url_id, duration, day, week, url
from log
left join urls on
limit 5;

What if we wanted to show the number of visits, the total duration, and the maximum length of duration for visits to Twitter…

sqlite> select
  count(url_id), sum(duration), max(duration), url
from log
left join urls on
where url = '';

Excellent. I wonder what the top seven URLs when ordered by the number of visits?

sqlite> select
  url_id, count(url_id), sum(duration), max(duration), day, week, url
from log
left join urls on
group by url
order by count(url_id) desc
limit 7;

Twitter, with 34 visits. Sheesh. And for comparison, the top 7 sites by total duration of visit?

sqlite> select
  url_id, count(url_id), sum(duration), max(duration), day, week, url
from log
left join urls on
group by url
order by sum(duration) desc
limit 5;

13152 seconds (3.6 hours) on my work webmail between Sunday morning and Wednesday aftenoon. And all done in 8 visits. Yuck.

Ok. Let’s start thinking about daily summaries. Grouping by day, and then by URL (since I’m not very good at SQL, and don’t know how to limit it to 5 per day, I’ll just manually snip out all but the top 5 for each day for now)…

sqlite> select
  url_id, count(url_id), sum(duration), max(duration), day, url from log
left join urls on
group by day, url
order by day, sum(duration) desc;

And returning to the original question of just how many visits do I make to Twitter

sqlite> select
  count(url_id) as visits,
  round(sum(duration) / 60.0, 2) as total,
  round(max(duration) / 60.0, 2) as longest
from log
left join urls on
where url = ''
group by day
order by day;

So it seems that on Sunday I made 6 visits for a total of about 5 minutes and a single longest session of 3 and a half minutes. On Monday it was 18 visits for a total of 25 minutes including one session of nearly 4 minutes, while today, 10 visits so far (including one of over 7 minutes) have already added up to over 15 minutes.

.mode csv

in SQLite is handy too, because it changes that list format to look like


so it’s trivial to open it in a spreadsheet.

Making graphs from MeeTimer

Even better will be something cunning and programmatic. Maybe in PHP or Ruby or something. Even this exploratory manual approach is fun though. It will obviously be better once I’ve built up a bit more history but now I know that MeeTimer is storing my data in a way that I can access it, I’m even more excited about it. Thanks, MeeTimer. You rock.

Guardian Open Platform

The Guardian today announced the Open Platform, comprising two products: a Content API built on top of their existing search engine allowing other people to build applications on top of the Guardian’s content, and the Data Store which is a collection of public and Guardian-owned data sets made freely available for reuse.

Open Platform sticker

I was invited along to the announcement, and took some hurried notes during the introductory talks. They’re by no means comprehensive but I did manage to capture a few quotes from some of the speakers and most of the Q&A session too. Here are the highlights…

Tim Brooks, Managing Director

Before the web, we reached around 6 million people per week. We now reach 33 million in a good week.

Emily Bell, Director of Digital Content

We take risks. … Handing this over to you guys is a risk. But one that I’m sure will pay back in multiple dividends in terms of the creativity it unlocks. It’s a significant step towards the idea of ‘Guardian Everywhere’.

Mike Bracken – Director of Technology Development

showing Chalkboards

We can’t do everything ourselves … We want you to show us how to improve

Stephen Dunn, Head of technology strategy

shared a timeline of some of the Guardian’s online activity, pointing out that today’s announcement is a step in a journey.

  • 1995 – Guardian first on the web
  • 1996 – Guardian New Media Lab
  • 1998 – Unmoderated Talkboards launched
  • 1999 – Guardian Unlimited launched with registration sustem, but was removed in the same year.
  • 1999 – RSS feeds and headlines distribution service
  • 2001 – first Guardian blog
  • 2006 – Free Our Data
  • 2006 – Comment Is Free
  • 2007 – RSS Everywhere
  • 2008 – Full feeds (with ads)
  • 2008 – First guardian hack day

and their web principles:

  1. Permanent – (a cool URI is one that does not change)
  2. Addressable – (resources are about something, ready fort the social web. We live in ‘the age of Point-at-Things‘)
  3. Discoverable – (multiple routes to content. Tagging drives discovery)
  4. Open – (hackable URLs, using and contributing to open source tech)

Matt McAlister, Heard of Guardian Developer Network

Today the Guardian announces the open platform. It’s the suite of services allowing partners to build services with the Guardian

Some more detail from Matt on the terms of use. You get rich, tagged article content. Full content, not just the headline and abstract. And you can publish it in your apps

We decided that the best price point for fueling growth is free. We want you to be able to make money on your site too.

Looking at the site, there are Commercial partner programs to enable commercial use. The FAQ says that “The Content API is free to use. There are some terms that you must adhere to for the free access level. For example, our default limit on queries per day is 5,000 calls, and we will in the future ask partners to display advertising from our ad network on pages with our full content.”

Explaining that it’s a beta trial, and they’ll be approving API keys on a limited basis (which has pissed off Dave Winer), Matt said

We’ll be doing that slowly so that we can understand what the dynamics are, and what you want to build … But we do plan to open more widely soon.

Simon Willison

Simon demonstrated the API explorer (the first app written using the API) and how each set of results also specifies a set of usable filters which are available in source, and shown in explorer.

New concepts can be prototyped in less time than the meeting you’d have needed to discuss it in the first place

and demonstrated this point using several demos including (from Chris Thorpe) and APIMaps from Stamen Design. Pleasingly, AMEE are another launch partner for the Data Store too. Exciting stuff.

Q&A session

Q – (Jon Slattery from Press Gazette) – Are you happy for news organisations to use your material?
A – (Emily Bell) – They do already! Frequently. The free model is built with developer community in mind. If other news orgs want to use the data because it’s better then theirs, that’s fine within the terms.

Q – (James Cronin) – Can we store data in your data store?
A – (Matt McAlister) – we’re publishing data into the store at the moment, but tell us what you’ve got, we’d love to look after it.

Q – (Stefan Magdalinski from Moo) [re 5000 hit daily API limit]
A (Simon Willison) – 5k hits is what you can ask from us in 24 hours. You’re allowed to cache that data though, so could serve as many pages as you like. We’re also serving smart caching headers with 50 min expiry.

Q – Are you exposing photos & media?
A – (Matt McAlister) – Not yet. But we return headline and description and URL for our photo pages.

Q – (Andy Pipes) – Any plans to share personal data, like the New York Times?
A – (Matt McAlister) – No. None at all.

Tasty Tag Pages

I’ve been improving Watchification and Speechification tonight.

Part of the enjoyment of both sites is the idea that we’re not just curating our favourite stuff, we’re weaving links between it, with those links becoming increasingly fun to explore. Tonight’s hack was a small improvement in order to pull in a few things that the web knows about every tag, but also every presenter, director, editor, and in fact any search term. Here’s what happens when you search Speechification for shows in which Stephen Fry is the presenter.

Speechification - Presenter: Stephen Fry

It works for normal tags too, and they’re handled in the same way. Ever wondered what Speechification has on Malcolm X? or Chris Watson?

I took exactly the same approach at Watchification, though had a bit more room to play with in the layout.

Watchification - Tag: Phil Spector

Other examples: ‘politics’, ‘music’, and shows in which Simon Amstell is the presenter.

As well as the obvious embed of (Creative Commons licensed) photos from Flickr, I used Monitter for the realtime Twitter monitoring, and a feed of relevant bookmarks.

I have lots more ideas for other things to usefully enhance the page too. Watch this spaces. Um. These spaces.

Update: at the suggestion of Dan Hil, I’ve moved the widgety stuff to the bottom of the page.

This is why we can’t have nice things: TechCrunch

I stopped reading TechCrunch a while ago, so it wasn’t until I saw it mentioned on Loic’s blog recently that Michael Arrington annoyed me all over again, this time by crowing about a holiday video. At the risk of feeding the troll, I want to make it clear how stupid and utterly irritating Michael Arrington’s post about it is.

I watched and enjoyed the video yesterday afternoon. I’ll embed the YouTube version which TechCrunch links to, but I’ll warn you now that it’s already been taken down.

It depicts a group of young people on holiday together, in a large poolside villa. They’re lip-syncing to ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey, in a surprisingly well-orchestrated performance. The original description of the video apparently said

“Twenty world Internet citizens met in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in October of 2008 for a week of reflections on life, love, and the Internet.”

Harmless and fun, right? Here’s what Michael Arrington, writing on TechCrunch, had to say about it on Friday:

…this went down at an unfortunate time for a score of Silicon Valley posterboys and girls as they partied 1999 style “the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in October of 2008 for a week of reflections on life, love, and the Internet.” They leave behind an absurd video that would have gone unnoticed a month ago. But this week, with the walls tumbling down, they look like a bunch of jackasses who have no idea what’s going on back at home.

I’ve personally got a lot of sympathy for the partyers. I’ve not heard of any of them, but it sounds like a bunch of people who are tech sector friends, taking a (probably much needed) week off and having a good time on their own money. At worst, it’s bad timing, but it’s not exactly the recent half-million dollar AIG retreat is it? I’m pleased they were able to take a holiday together, and I’m pleased they took time out of their vacation to entertain us with this amusing and well-executed video. Let’s not be puritanical or sanctimonious about it, eh?

We’ll look back in later years and think of this most recent boom as the Web 2.0 period, when we were wowed by the magic of user generated content, copyright violations on a massive scale, and neat little widgety things that used Javascript and Flash to turn web pages into pretty close equivalents to the old desktop apps.

Really? I like to think we’ll look back at the early years of the 21st century as a time when the web evolved into something participatory. Isn’t that, rather than technology or investment, what ‘Web 2.0’ is all about? Here’s Tim O’Reilly, explaining the term, in a video which lasts less than a minute.

Worst of all though, and a sentence which gets repeated in an even more unnecessary follow-up post pointing out that the video has now been made private but has sprung up on YouTube:

this video will always be associated with the end of Web 2.0.

Honestly, if Michael had thought to include a couple of extra words in that sentence, I might almost have agreed with him. This week is not “the end of Web 2.0”. If anything did just burst it’s the financial bubble which the Economist discusses as ‘Bubble 2.0‘. You can’t confuse that with Web 2.0 though. They’re different things. Is this really all Web 2.0 means to you, Michael? Were you not listening when you asked all those people what Web 2.0 means in that 24 minute long documentary you made on Web 2.0 in 2006? Some highlights from what they told you:

  • Web 2.0 is a marketing term, and a bubble is a financial event.
  • it’s people
  • empowering the little guy
  • users manipulating, interacting with, and sharing information
  • leveraging collective wisdom
  • openness
  • conversation, not a lecture
  • participants, not consumers

In short, Web 2.0 is an attitude, not a technology.

But back to the video. I watched it two, maybe three times yesterday. I enjoyed it. The original video on Vimeo had already been made private, so I was watching the ‘mirror’ on YouTube. Today, that the YouTube version has been taken down as a copyright infringement (“This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by a third party.” initiated, I’m guessing, by the creators?). I’m disappointed that, unless you’ve already watched it or some other public backup of it exists somewhere, you can’t watch it to decide for yourself.

* is what a(n) * calls a(n) *

A cynic is what an idealist calls a realist.

– Sir Humphrey Appleby, ‘Yes, Minister’

Searching the web for variations on the “* is what a * calls a *” snowclone turns up things like

  • A cynic is what a romantic calls a realist
  • A pessimist is what an optimist calls a realist
  • a cult is what a big religion calls a small religion
  • A stable is what a pimp calls a group of women that prostitute for him
  • a Squid is what a dumb Jarhead calls a sailor
  • A Hottie is what a racing drivers calls a fast lap
  • a hypothesis is what a scientist calls a theory
  • a “deli water bottle” is what a New Yorker calls a bottle of water purchased in a deli
  • a player is what a woman calls a guy who doesn’t want to go out with her
  • a “flea” is what a surgeon calls a pediatrician-in-training
  • a calorie is what a physicist calls a kilocalorie
  • a pressure ulcer is what a doctor calls a pressure sore
  • A bulkhead is what a sailor calls a wall on a ship
  • a jarpie is what an Aussie calls a saffie

I love the way these open up more questions. A Jarhead is a marine, but what’s a saffie?

Of course the web also turns up some staggeringly stupid examples, including A pessimist is what a realist calls an optimist, if I recall the quote correctly. Wuh?

Given my investigation into * is the new * last year, I naturally wondered how I’d go about graphing these. A quick experiment with Graphviz gives me a couple of alternative approaches.

A cynic is what an idealist calls a realist

Even just wondering how to map these three-way relationships (in which all three parts might be re-used) gives some interesting choices. So far, I think B works better than A. You learn more from it. To tell me which two people call the realist a cynic using A, you’d have to read all the labeled edges. B is much easier. I’m sure I’m missing some obvious alternative approaches here though.

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