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wind-up or wind-down?

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giving up blogging - © hugh macleod 2006 A while ago I stated my intention to stop blogging, as soon as I started university. That eventuality is now one week away, and I still intend to go through with it. I’m viewing this move as one step in a larger set of life changes, nearly all of which have been under my control.

It’s well over 5 years since I started blogging, and I’ve seen it develop from a niche activity to a web standard. A process of commercialization is already under way, even if it is not obvious from a superficial standpoint. This is understandable in purely economic terms: anything with mass popularity will be ripe for commercial exploitation.

This blog is hosted by wordpress.com, which was set up as a host for the WordPress “content management” software developed by the same multinational team. It does not charge users for a basic account. They do charge for extras, such as extra storage space or (in my case) the use of my own top-level domain, but these are genuine extras, and I don’t know if they are big cash cows for the developers. I get the impression they are still doing this because they can, not purely for commercial gain, even though the costs of running wordpress.com must be somewhere between “stupendous” and “horrendous”.

Will we see “professional bloggers”? In some senses, we already have them. Blogs, and comments on them, are major weapons in the arsenal of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) executives. We also have technology journalists and podcasters such as Robert Scoble and Adam Curry using these media to further their careers, even if stardom is not quite what they want. Me? I just enjoy writing, and found this blog a useful platform for stories about myself, my activities, and anything else that interested me.

Where I am going – for the next three years, at least – I will have plenty to write about, with little or none of it about me. In the remaining week, I may post a little more about the changes ahead of me, or I may not: they are not that exciting or unusual, and not all are guaranteed to take place. For now, I’ll resist the temptation to quote from Turn, Turn, Turn (by The Byrds), and enjoy the Debussy on the BBC Proms broadcast. This must be what old men get up to on Saturday nights.

Written by brian t

August 25, 2007 at 8:43 pm

Posted in blogging, internet, web 2.0

belated independence

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We’re almost at the end of the day after Independence Day, and I’m finally getting the opportunity to sit down and write a little about my own Independence Day, 2007. I’m not American, but I had one, nevertheless.

July 4, 2007, was the day I started quitting my job, at a major IT company. I say “started” because I haven’t actually resigned yet: it’s too soon for that. I need to give four weeks’ notice; I gave eight weeks of actual working time, or ten weeks if you factor in holidays that I won’t be taking. What I did was inform my manager that I was leaving, with the rest of the team here being told soon afterwards.

Where am I going? Not another job, at least not yet: in early September I will start full-time study at University College Dublin (UCD). The course is Structural Engineering with Architecture, straddling two disciplines. A lot of mathematics, a lot of looking at the “designed environment”, some graphic design, even some materials and construction.

I thought it was a good all-rounder course: while I enjoy architecture and design, I have no illusions of becoming an Architect with a capital A; it would take a certain level of Arrogance that I don’t have or want (I hope). More details to follow as I get them.

That is not the only change around here: not long after the meeting where I made the announcement, a former colleague of ours came calling. He still works for the same company, but in a different area, and he needed a place to stay for a few days, possibly longer. He’s not Irish, but married an Irish lady, whom (he says) is no longer a Lady. As a result, my place is now his “halfway house” on his way to the divorce courts and out of the country. Good thing I have that spare bedroom.

The last change will take the next eight weeks to engineer: the end of this blog. The reasons are complex, and will be the subject of further entries, but the most straightforward is that this blog is out of step with the way things are done today. Blogging is no longer an end in itself, but a means to an end: an end that I have little interest in achieving.

Written by brian t

July 5, 2007 at 11:51 pm

Posted in blogging, life, study, web 2.0, work

web 1.0 reborn

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I’ve just deleted my account at Twitter, and intend to cut my participation on forums down, even further than I already have. I left The National Midday Sun (TNMS) last year, and the MythBusters fan forum a few months go – two forums that sucked up epic spans of time, but provided little real reward, only an illusory aura of “participation”.

Reboot 9.0 is kicking off, in Copenhagen, tonight: a year ago I was at Reboot 8.0, wondering if I could get a handle on all this Web 2.0 stuff. I came away with an overriding impression, backed up by explicit statements from other bloggers, that Web 2.0 is all about creating more intrusive links between a person and the Internet. This is a double-edged sword, in my opinion.

The first edge is the drive for “personalization”; they will help you get what you want, in the way that you want, so you can make better use of your time and attention. The same information, about your interests and plans, can be used to customise advertising directed at you – something that, it is hoped, advertisers will happily pay more for. It’s an illustration of a universal truth behind any new non-scientific endeavour: follow the money.

The second edge is the drive to put oneself out there, to create the “brand of me”. If you search the Internet for “brand of me”, you can find many examples of how to do this well, but you’ll also note that the practitioners of this are those with something to sell. The most vocal proponent of this approach, that I know of, is Sally Hogshead, blogger and author of Radical Careering, a book which appears to be about careers in general, but seems to me to be focused on “public-facing sales” careers, such as marketing and advertising.

To hear these “brand of me” proponents speak, you would think that everyone needs to be a marketeer, because everyone has something to sell: yourself. This reminds me of something I heard an employer say: “everyone is a salesperson”. (That one got a good laugh at the time.)

I understand there are occasions when such measures are necessary – when looking for a job, for example – but once you are done with that, why keep selling yourself? The stock answer that I’ve heard goes something like “you never stop looking for new work and new challenges, and you need to push your brand message at every possible opportunity”.

This, allegedly, is the way of the future. To reach out to anyone in this attention-starved, noise-saturated world, to survive in a hyper-economy, you need to be faster, louder, and more aggressive, in your drive to make your name known and sell your services. To effectively reap the benefits of personalization, or effectively market yourself, you sacrifice privacy and anonymity, because everyone can see you.

If I look at the steps I have already taken without close examination, and those I plan to take in the next few months, I realise that I have already decided how much personalization I want, and how important the “brand of me” is.

I’m not “dropping off” the Internet. but I am giving up any illusions I may have had about active participation in the “web 2.0 revolution”. My plans are moving from the virtual world back in to the real world. More details will follow in the next few months; not that anyone will notice, since I have not effectively marketed myself or this site. Never mind Second Life; I have a First Life to live. 8)

Written by brian t

May 30, 2007 at 6:40 pm

mind the gaps

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If, like me, you have an interest in demographics and the state of the world, Google has just the tool for you: The Gapminder. Basically, it plots demographic data on a chart that is animated to let you plot changes over time.

For a sample of what makes this an engrossing tool, try the following:

  • select Population on the x-axis, and Life Expectancy on the y-axis;
  • hit Play to animate the chart over the period 1960-2004;
  • watch what happens during the early 1990s; a little dot plummets to the bottom of the chart, then pops back up again;
  • what country is that? Scroll the chart till the dot reaches bottom, and select it;
  • the country is Rwanda, the stats for the point you select are shown on the axes.
  • Play the chart again: Rwanda’s basic demographics are plotted as a line that bucks the expected upward trend.
  • Not only does the Life Expectancy plummet to just 24 in 1992, between 1990 and 1995 the population drops from around 7 million to under 5½ million.

The dip in Rwanda’s population is, of course, the Rwandan Genocide; that is now part of history, but Zimbabwe’s Life Expectancy has been in the news. Mugabe’s repressive regime puts the Leader and his Ideology over all other concerns, including the basic health of Zimbabwe’s people. Sure enough, selecting Zimbabwe on the map lets you follow the country down, to a Life Expectancy of just 34 in 2004.

There are more stats in there now, and surely more to follow. I ought to find up some positive stats too, just to stop me getting too fatalistic, but positive stats are going to be hard to find in there. OK, Ireland now has the highest per capita earnings of any country in the world – but do I see any of that bounty?

Written by brian t

January 30, 2007 at 9:38 pm

9rulesrules

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Well, this is a turnip for the books. I’ve just got word that this blog has been accepted for membership in the 9rules network. I have more reading to do about it, to figure out just what’s involved and what I can contribute.

To the folks hopping over and taking a look, after the announcement on the 9rules blog – Hi There. There’s not much more to be said at this time: it’s 2am and I’m wilting slightly, having had about three hours of poor sleep in the last 36. I’m in Dubai at a friend’s place, stopping off for a couple of days on the way to Bangalore. I have a poor track record at sleeping on overnight flights, and this Aer Lingus jaunt from Dublin, landing at 5am local time, was no exception.

I don’t yet have a post about my spanking new Digital SLR camera, since I haven’t bought it yet, and only intend to do so if I can find a decent price in the Duty Free section of Dubai International Airport on Sunday. I’m a confirmed Pentax user, and have the lenses to show for it, so I have my eye on a K10D.

I’d better post this and hit the sack: the resident kitten is giving me strange looks and threatening to jump on the keyboard. Night all.

Written by brian t

December 8, 2006 at 10:24 pm

Posted in blogging, web 2.0

schmap flap

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Schmap have an interesting business model: they take publicly-available material and fashion it in to travel guides, and use this in the marketing process. I only heard of them because they borrowed a photo of mine from Flickr, one that I had marked as available for commercial use under the Creative Commons license, and used it in their Dublin guide. This is something like what I had in mind, so no complaints on that score, as long as they provide proper attribution (which they have). So, grab a copy of the Dublin guide, and see some more of my work.That’s all – enjoy!

Written by brian t

July 1, 2006 at 11:45 am

rebooted

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Ugh! I got photographed! That’s me in the middle, somewhere between two and three cans of Tuborg Green, on a boat in the middle of Copenhagen Harbour, about a week ago. The booze cruise was the precursor to the reboot 8 conference I attended, to bone up on my Web 2.0 2.1 concepts and knowledge.

The term Web 2.0 is slightly deprecated these days, ever since O’Reilly Publications started trying to stop anyone else using it in the context of a conference. I have my own concerns about the term, too, and while the conference gave me much food for thought, it hasn’t done much to quell my misgivings.

The short version is: it’s looking more and more like a cultural or even artistic phenomenom, rather than a business. A few (not many) of the speakers touched on “monetizing” Web 2.0 – making money out of it – but they generally appeared to be doing it out for fun and interest first, with business sense way down the list. I don’t have a problem with that at all: try too hard to make money from any form of culture, and you risk alienating an audience who generally does not need any of this – which ties in nicely with Brian Eno’s concept of culture as “everything we don’t have to do”.

I enjoyed a breakout session on “Sociology ABC”, which tried to condense a year’s worth of Sociology lectures in to 40 minutes, and was pretty successful at it too. My notes are quite long but contain gaps I’ll have to fill from memory or imagination.

Extreme Closeup!I didn’t stay the full length of the conference: getting out to the farm to see friends and chill out was more important. I made several new friends there too: one Irish Cob horse, two Shetland ponies, three dogs, about seven sheep, and a Common Buzzard. Here’s one of the sheep, getting up close and personal before trying to eat my trousers.

Written by brian t

June 7, 2006 at 11:36 am

Posted in culture, reboot, travel, web 2.0