It’s not often I go to events were well known people are speaking. It’s even less frequently where the tech events I go to have well known broadcaster speaking.
However, Oggcamp – the world’s friendliest unconference – is a special sort of event and persuading Stephen Fry to give a video address, answering questions and his relationship with technology went down very well indeed!
Some memorable quotes:
Do I use Linux on any of my devices? Yes – I use Ubuntu these days – it seems the friendliest.
Sometimes I do worry that they [Apple] are a bit tyrannical and a bit silly.
Facebook is really just AOL but brushed up for the modern user generated content world.
It’s really quite watchable:
I occurred tome that this time next week, I wouldn’t be here in Manchester, but I’d travelling far far away. Well, not *that* far, but still quite a long way away.
I’m going to Kosovo.
I have a few plans for my time there, but I’m eager not commit myself too deeply, but the thing that spurred me to go was FLOSS Kosovo – an annual free software conference that’s been held for a number of years running. This year Bruce Perens, the original author of the Free Software Definition (amongst others) will be presenting by video, which should be cool.
In October, I’m going to do something I’ve been wanting to do for sometime. My plan is travel to northern Sweden to a place called Abisko in the Artic Circle and the walk southwards, on the long distance hiking trail called the Kungsleden (The Kings Trail), through one of Europe largest remaining wilderness areas.
I’ve no idea how far I’ll get, what detours I’ll take or any specific details, but the time is booked, the travel sorted. All I need to do now, is make sure I’m fit enough!
Bring it on!
Some time ago, I was looking for new places to explore on Wikitravel and so I flew to Tallin, in Estonia, hired a bike from CityBike and spent two days visiting old soviet military bases, the Baltic sea, waterfalls and taking in the Estonian countryside.
As I travelled, I made video. This is that video. Have a watch.
Shot on a Sanyo CA100, edited in Kdenlive on Ubuntu
Licenced under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 licence.
Lullaby by Ghost (feat skoria and brad sucks) – CC-BY-NS 2.5
Sea of Something by i am this – CC-Sampling Plus 1.0
Computer by State Shirt (stateshirt.com) – CC-BY-NC-SA 2.5,
Kopeika by et_ – CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0
- Drop 1 stone in weight and keep below that weight for at least a month. If I slip above it, the month restarts.
Status: Ongoing, but very much on track.
I’ve been largely doing what I said I’d do, and have adopted a 4 hour body style low carb diet. I’m vegetarian, so that was mildly interesting, but it turns out that avocados, feta, halloumi, omelettes, olives, lettuce, salad dressing are even more awesome than previously imagined and I’ve made progress I’m very happy with.
I did learn that it’s important to take differences in physical activity into your diet. As I largely do limited exercise, my diet works quite well but when suddenly doing serious hiking, I’ve learnt that I need to take that into account and adapt it so that I have sufficient energy to bounce up up and down the hill.
I think I’ll make it to my target weight by the end of August, and I don’t think holding it for 30 days will be that difficult, but we’ll see!
- Climb something high.
- Run 70km over 7 consecutive days.
Status: Incomplete, but to be attempted soon. Hopefully. Hmmm. Lack of serious commitment to training may prove and issue.
- Swim over 100m across open, cold water without assistance
Status: Incomplete and unlikely to be attempted until September or October, until other swimming challenge is complete, or at least attempted. I don’t actually think it will be difficult, once I’m confident with the distance… Hopefully before November!
- Swim 30 consecutive lengths in a 50 metre pool
Status: Incomplete, and it doesn’t look like I’ll manage this before the end of August.
I’m hopeful that once I start seriously training though, it should be a piece of cake, but currently 30x50m or 1500m, in one go, is out of my reach (I can probably manage about 100m before my arms get tired). It’s simply about practice, with probably a few bits of technique tuning.
- Do a 30 mile hill walk (try and include a good amount of up an down too)
It sucks a bit because I’ve been wanting to do the Yorkshire Three Peaks (with a ~4-7 mile extension), but lacked the opportunity to do it. I’ve also considered, several times, epic routes through the Lake District, but come to the conclusion that going for distance, in the Lake District, is a poor use of ones time there.
I suspect I’ll attempt Yorkshire Three Peaks in September, on a weekday, when everyone else is off the hills again and I can just focus on doing it.
- Get driving lessons and pass my driving theory test.
Status: er fail. Despite getting so close, I still am faffing round getting my provisional licence sorted.
So yes, some really great stuff, but also some stuff still to do! Let’s do this!
Consider this email I sent a few weeks ago:
I’m well aware of everything you’ve said on the website, and I’m not expecting variety or anything at all, but I think it’d be worth letting you know that I’m vegetarian – I don’t eat meat or fish. If you could pass that on to the group leader it’d be awesomely appreciated!
Look at the words and sentence construction I used:
“Hi there” – an informal greeting
“awesomely appreciated” – clearly informal and unusual sentence construction in place of a simple “please”.
“cheers” – an informal way to sign off
The context of the email, is a holiday abroad, the whole nature of the email is informal, casual, but still important and to be dealt with.
Here’s the response I got:
Dear Mr Dobson,
Many thanks for your email. I have notified our agent that you are vegetarian so that they can make adequate preparations for your trip.
I hope that you have a great time. If there is anything else you need before you go please do not hesitate to contact me.
In my mind, this grates a little.
“Dear Mr Dobson” – formal writing
“our agent” – more formal and not the language that was initially used
“notified“, “adequate preparations” – complicated and/or formal way of saying “OK”.
“Kind regards” – largely-formal, way to sign off.
I didn’t want to speak to a business, I wanted a person. I wanted a person to give me a “yes, this is no problem” answer. I’d hoped that by phrasing my initial email in the way it did, this is what I’d get.
If I received my email, I’d have responded:
Yep, no problem at all, I’ve let the tour leader know for you.
Have a fun trip! Do feel free to give me a shout if there’s anything else I can help with,
Now I imagine, some people will be reading this thinking “I’d hate it if someone responded to me in a casual/informal manner – it wouldn’t instill confience at all – I’d much prefer the more formal response – that’s just what I prefer.”
When dealing with customers, it helps when one can adapt to suit the customer.
Being able to switch from cheery casual to serious formal, for the right people, will help the customer feel more comfortable and happy which is generally “a good thing“.
Obviously, the context is important, if you work in an industry where people generally prefer communicating in a more formal manner, and they’re wishing to complain to you about something, then now is [probably] not the time to see whether they’re more comfortable with fewer formalities.
My real problem in this specific instance, was that the context was clearly not “serious business”, I clearly just wanted someone to say “yes, fine”, but they didn’t really adapt and respond to me, in the way that would have been most reassuring.
It’s a tough balance, but in my experience, finding that balance, can make a big difference when working with people.
So if you read my blog frequently and can remember long arching themes, you may be wondering, given all the options that are available, how I would travel from my house to a campsite in Glen Coe, Scotland?
Well, the answer is:
- Get the train (because it’s comfortable, fast, generally has power and is relatively affordable)
- then hitchike from the station
So I got to Fort William, walked out of the town onto the road towards Glen Coe and stuck my thumb out. It was a busy road, with lots of traffic going past, but I was just before a layby and there was plenty of room to stop.
Some time went by.
In my experience, the number of cars going past has pretty much no correlation with the speed one will get a lift. A law of diminishing responsibility applies and the more cars on the road, the less inclined people are – conversely on small country lanes – the first car in half an hour may pick you up.
Anyway, back to Fort William, and I’d still not got a lift, and was considering whether I should move to a different place or something. Then, I turn around and see a small car reversing back along the busy road towards the layby. It was quite confusing – I wasn’t sure whether the car had realised it was looking for the layby and had driven past, and now was on a suicide mission to get back to it, or they had decided to pick me up.
In any case I wandered over as the other cards skirted round this car reversing back towards them into the layby. As the car drew along side, the first thing I saw through the windows was that there was a druid in the back of the car. An old man, with flowing white hair – druids were just the first thing that came to mind. As the passenger side came level with me, the window wound down, the driver leaned over the passenger and said
Hey Tim, it’s Nadia!
Nadia is a friend from Manchester who I’ve hiked with, danced with, but only a few times. I was still only just, on first name term with her – and seeing someone who I know so fleetingly, completely out of context, was a massive surprise.
It was not a druid in the backseat.
Nadia’s parents were staying with her from New Zealand where she’s originally from and she’d been giving them a whistle stop tour of the highlands. There wasn’t much room in the car due to all their luggage so me and
the druid her very friendly dad, rapidly got friendly with each other and squeezed up into one of the back seats.
It turned out, they were not only going in my direction, but would happily go half a mile out of their way to drop me exactly where I wanted to be… but the irony of meeting a friend from Manchester, on a road out of Fort William, in such circumstances, still hits home to me today.
I recently read the article on BoingBoing about the Hachette publisher being upset that some of it’s authors who were also using the Tor publisher in different territories, would be releasing their works DRM-free.
I also saw some defence that stated that “the Hachette sales strategy with DRM works really well”.
Let me explain why I don’t think that DRM is a long term solution.
If you model this media market against the first days of the ipod/itunes store:
When people buy into the “device and store” idea, they’re ambivalent about DRM because it doesn’t really affect them.”
As commodity devices emerge and people are able to buy ~£30 no name devices that more or less, just work, then the consumers start to find DRM a significant barrier to painlessly consumpting media and may acquire media from “other” sources. (The commodity devices without DRM will be cheaper than commodity devices with DRM).
Once a sizeable market is regularly circumventing the DRM, either with software or acquiring the content from other sources
At the point when a significant audience exists with commodity devices which don’t support DRM who are unable to legitimating consume the media they want, publishers can make a decision about whether the benefits they see in DRM, are worth not monetising the market on commodity devices…
At that point, many publishers will point out that DRM costs them money and inconveniences their consumers.
Unfortunately, from a PR point of view, this means that early adopters of commodity devices are always going to feel the publishers are being obstructive, whilst the publishers go after the largest slice of the market at that point in the emerging market.
In my opinion, the key to DRM-free media, is a large number of people using commodity devices, that don’t support it.
What you’re seeing on Boing Boing is that Tor’s readers are generally early adopters of commodity technology, whilst Hachette’s are still more tied into the “one device, one brand, one store” ideology. I’d guess that, as that changes, so will their stances on DRM.