Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’
I’ve put off writing this post in the aftermath of the rioting, partly because I’m keenly aware that ranting about politics is not what this blog was originally set up to do, partly because I suspected in my cynical and road weary fashion that we’d get a bunch of soundbytes from Prime Minister Cameron asserting qualities such as ‘leadership’, blaming riots on the previous administration, followed by well, no coherent action. I wanted to see, if I was right.
Well frankly, in my wildest and most paranoid dreams I could not have predicted what a complete hash Cameron would make of it.
Firstly we got the soundbytes, exactly as expected. There was a lot of confrontational language on display. Words such as “fightback”, phrases like “zero tolerance” – not the words I would have chosen when dealing with a situation as potentially combustible as this, but exactly the sort of old fashioned Tory tripe I had expected to hear from Cameron.
And it got worse. Cameron enthusiastically blamed the Labour Party, the Police, the absent fathers – everyone and everything except the cuts, the joblessness and the despair his policies have visited upon the poorer sections of society. He proposed that not just the criminals, but their entire families be evicted from social housing. A suggestion immediately acted upon by Westminster council. A suggestion that flies in the face of fairness, human rights and common sense. And possibly the law.
Next, after a consultative process that must have lasted oh, at least five minutes, Cameron proposed to shut down Twitter, Blackberry messaging and damn it, if necessary the entire internet to stop these rioters communicating. I expect the telephone service and the royal mail to swiftly follow. Apart from the implausibility of the coalition actually doing this, isn’t this exactly what he so vociferously condemned the Egyptian government for attempting six months ago?
And then it got hilariously, stupidly, downright incompetently even worse. Without consultation with the police forces, Cameron appointed one Bill Bratton, ex chief of police for LA, a district so ridden with gang violence that it makes Tottenham look like Camberwick Green, to advise the government on how to deal with the societal issues that caused the riots. As offensive as this idea must have seemed to our own police forces, it was about to get even worse.
Bill Bratton is chairman of the private detective agency Kroll. (You can see where this is heading, right?) In June this year, Kroll were accused very publicly and in formal court papers by Dr Martin Coward, a city investment manager, of illegally planting covert surveillance equipment in his house and car. Evidence submitted to the court included the surveillance equipment and hilariously, a video of the goon squad going about their business. But of course as we well know, Cameron is a man who believes in second chances, so obviously he got his people to carry out background checks? Well, with crushing inevitability, it seems no background checks were carried out. So for the sake of a soundbyte, Cameron has done exactly the same thing he did with Andy Coulson. Arrogant? Ignorant? Incompetent? all of these?
There is just one good thing about this government. It is impossible to countenance the electorate ever again falling for a politician who combines poor leadership, empty promises and an empty headed view of people based solely on class, connections and money? Well, isn’t it?
Keith’s mum says if she wants Tweets she’ll feed the budgie, but that’s another story. It was clunky, slow and in the end HTC couldn’t be bothered to maintain it when Twitter remodelled their authentication module. Quite why this was allowed to happen when HTC are positioning themselves and the Android platform as a serious rival to the Apple iPhone as a social software platform is a question I’d love to know the answer to – it’s not as if Twitter didn’t warn people.
In any case, the new authentication mechanism is more secure and in the end more user friendly – password changes can be maintained from the provider, Twitter, rather than held in the app, so that is goodness. I’ve moved to using the official Twitter client for Android, cunningly named Twitter for Android and so far it’s a massive improvement; faster and with more functionality than Peep, though in fairness that may be due to the coincidence of upgrading to Android 2.1.
Early adopters of technology must sometimes feel like hamsters, interminably stuck in the exercise wheel. Yesterday evening, having nothing much better to do, I decided to upgrade my HTC Hero to a newer version of the Android OS, my transparently ridiculous excuse being that location awareness in Twitter posts is obviously something I can’t live without.
A cursory inspection of the HTC site showed that upgrades were available for the Orange branded handset and I downloaded the build and read the instructions. Unsurprisingly, the phone needs to be connected by USB to the computer where the binaries are held, and so the HTC Connect software also needs to be installed.
Now, my experience of running the HTC Connect software in Windows Vista was so flaky that I hastily uninstalled it, but my general experience of Windows 7 has been so much better that I decided to reinstall, noting that there would be the possibility that my HTC supplied version of the software might not support Windows 7. I was correct to be suspicious, the software installed but resolutely failed to connect to the phone. No problem I said, I’ll just go and download a more recent version….how naive, I really should have known better!
The Windows 7 compatible version of HTC Connect installs fine and recognises the phone. However the support statement says that Android 1.5 is the minimum level of OS. I discovered why, as soon as I kicked off the firmware upgrade – the drivers are incompatible with Android 1.0. this manifested as an I/O error, so no damage was done, though I am curious as to why HTC Connect recognises the phone yet the upgrade software doesn’t.
Plan B was implemented – installing the HTC Connect software on a Windows XP powered laptop enabled the right drivers to be in place. I copied the binary for the upgrade across to the laptop and kicked off the install. It took approximately ten minutes to complete. Afterwards, with the newly upgraded Android 1.5, I was able to sync the handset against my Windows 7 machine.
A word of warning for the unwary – the firmware update wipes the ROM completely – that means your address book and custom applications, your Google, Facebook and Flickr connectivity, all gone. What would be useful for HTC Connect to feature might be a way of restoring these values during the sync?
Another grumble – in syncing my address book from Outlook, it would be really useful to flag certain addresses as being unwanted. Outlook has a habit of hoovering up addresses from the copy lists of every E-mail you recieve and respond to, hence I found 271 new aquaintances cluttering up my phonebook with e-mail addresses. Surely HTC Sync could provide an interface to the phone that allows you to delete batches of addresses instead of going through the list manually and deleting one at a time?
The good news is the phone appears to run faster than it did, it gave me an opportunity to install newer versions of a couple of apps and discard the ones that I don’t use. New wallpapers are available too, so the handset looks and feels like a new phone. Location awareness in Twitter? Haven’t a clue, just need to find something worth Tweeting about…
I was interested to read Cory Doctorow’s musings on the Digital Economy Bill in yesterday’s Guardian, ‘Why does Mandelson favour the analogue economy over the digital’. The Digital Economy bill is indeed as pernicious a piece of legislation as we’ve seen from the present government, but to reduce it to a simple analogue vs. digital argument is overly simplistic in my opinion. It also begs a comparison.
Disco of Doom
It is well known that business controls government in none too subtle a fashion. When push comes to shove, fear of lost tax revenue delayed the banning of smoking in public places, costing hundreds of thousands of lives as governments on both sides of the Atlantic dithered in the face of industry pressure and published falsified data designed to obscure the link between smoking and cancer. We see similar pressure being exerted on our government by the music and film industries now, as instead of embracing new delivery channels, they seek to preserve their crumbling analogue monopolies by legislation. The irony here is that the one person in the music industry who has displayed a flair for innovative thinking has chosen to use it not to promote music, but to generate vast quantities of personal power and cash. Simon Cowell, whatever else he may be is not a force for the good of music.
X-Factor is effectively a monopoly. It determines the number one single in a way that is unprecedented. Simon Cowell promotes the show, profits from the show, signs the acts, profits from their recordings and spits them out when he’s finished. Unpleasant as that may be, it’s not in itself any different from music business as usual. What is different is that he has found a way to use TV as both a marketing vehicle and a ‘talent’ pool. It’s not the dismal quality of the acts that bothers me – it’s the power of the monopoly. It worries me because I’m seeing it elsewhere and in Cory Doctorow’s simplistic reduction of Mandelson’s bill to digital vs. analogue I’m seeing something that worries me a lot. A blinkered assumption that Digital = Good, Analogue = Bad.
Two years ago, I said that social software was opening up new opportunities, enabling new ways for human beings to connect, fostering the exchange of ideas across continents and cultures. I think it does deliver on all of these points, but Cory Doctorow’s throwaway remark about homeless people scavenging discarded netbooks actually stopped me in my tracks. Because the divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ is getting wider, not narrower.
We have an underclass out there who are unable or unwilling to embrace the digital world and are finding themselves progressively more alienated and more unable to cope with the simple transactions in life than ever before. Booking holidays, Banking, Borrowing, everyday activities that digitally enabled, deliver freedom of choice on an unprecedented scale to the digerati.
So, where is the problem? Well, the problem is right there in front of us. We are creating freedom of choice in a digital world, but in exploiting our right to choose, paradoxically we are closing our options down. The digital economy is ruthless and it has resulted in prices being driven ever lower. We have seen in recent weeks, Borders the bookseller bankrupted because most people now prefer to buy their books from the supermarket at knock down prices, or from Amazon.
We have seen, as recently as this week, MySpace announce a radical change in their delivery model to enable it to retain an audience that has been stampeding towards Facebook. Bebo…do they still exist? We have a single messaging solution, Twitter, enthusiastically embraced by celebrities, politicians, sportsmen…the world. And it’s good. No doubt about it. We have new opportunities for consultancy as business strives to compete for the attention of their target demographic. While we focus on ‘leveraging our mecosystems’ © , the monoliths that make up the digital universe are getting bigger and more powerful in a way that will ultimately prove to be limiting – we are not creating bests of breed, we are instead complicit in the all conquering power of the organisations with the best business model. Facebook, Twitter….This is not always a good thing. X Factor? Big Brother? The producer of Big Brother was recently heard to say that ‘British Television has never been more innovative’. I wonder what Dennis Potter might have to say on that subject.
The Invisible Tweet
And so here is the question that irks me about the social software monoliths….what happens to somebody if they are excluded from one or other of these monoliths? That only happens to other people right? Well no, it can happen to you, or me. In fact in a small way it has happened to me. I run a music blog, Chimera Musica and have set it up to send one line reviews to Twitter. A harmless enough activity and who knows, perhaps the recommendation of a song might brighten somebody’s day. It’s unlikely to make it worse! At any rate, one day last week I was logged in to my personal account and decided, out of curiosity, to look at my music blog’s Twitter profile. So I typed the name into the search – no results. Hmmm, odd… I thought. I typed a couple of other searches – name of song and act that I had recommended – no results. It’s worth noting at this stage that these tweets do not contain a link to the blog. To cut a long story short, Twitter reserve the right to block from their search listings, any user that they suspect of anti-social activities such as spamming, from their search engines. So apparently, recommending music is deemed to be anti social….well ok, I have questionable taste, but anti-social?
The point of this is not to rectify the issue with Twitter, actually I couldn’t care less about the invisible tweets, the real point is that I don’t have a choice – there is no equivalent social network with the same reach that I could use for the simple recommendation of a song.
Monopolies come at a price. That price is nowhere more evident than it is online. As Murdoch readies himself to take on Google, one thing only is for sure. We, the consumers will end up poorer. I am now, at least as far as Twitter is concerned, a digital derelict. Look out for your netbooks…
My experiments with Twitter, documented in previous postings here have stubbornly refused to yield any conclusive proof that the tool is useful for anything other than spreading gnomic utterances about life, my blogs, the universe and er…. computers. I struggle to write interesting one liners -and deprived of the context that Facebook provides it’s status line, the one liners really don’t do it for me. I’m full of beans but do I really need to tell the world?
The problem, I think, is that when I consider it, I don’t have a lot of practice in meaningful many to many communications – in fact the relentless march of technology has herded us all away from the family dinner table, into either 1:1 communications (txt, telephone) or 1:Many (n) communications (radio, TV). We’re just not that good at n: n. I challenge you to remember the last conference call where you didn’t have to IM a colleague to enquire “Who is this talking?”.. Actually, the dinner table doesn’t generally yield fantastic results – except possibly in volume, but at least I usually know who’s talking. Probably me.
Which brings me to Pownce ! Just what I need, I thought, another microblogging / social software solution – only Pownce actually has some rather interesting features. Starting on the basis that it is a microblog, it has the concept of friends (not followers, thank god! I was never comfortable with that conceit). Messages can be broadcast or private – ie the app can be used to IM with a friend. OK Twitter can as well if you use the direct message facility, but Pownce is a lot more intuitive.
The killer functionality though is file attachments – you can send in the free client, 50mb attachments as part of a chat session. A file – music, picture, or a link or an event. Signing up to the Pro version raises the bar to 250mb. To me this makes the application immediately useful, in a way that Twitter just isn’t.
Additionally, Pownce has a downloadable client, running on the Adobe Air platform which utilises both the WebKit (in common with Chrome) and Flash engines, has published API’s and a rapidly expanding list of supported / integrated tooling. Including inevitably iPhone support, Facebook synchronisation and a host of other interesting looking widgets.
I’m in. Once the user base has grown and the tooling supports automated Powncing in the same way that Twitter does, I see Pownce as a real contender – in fact, in these times of market turmoil I’d be tempted to put money on it!
The concept is derived from techniques used by Brian Eno in the recording studio – when ‘stuck’ he would select a card and follow the instructions, no matter how bizarre. In his own words:
“These cards evolved from separate observations of the principles underlying what we were doing. Sometimes they were recognised in retrospect (intellect catching up with intuition), sometimes they were identified as they were happening, sometimes they were formulated. They can be used as a pack, or by drawing a single card from the shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation. In this case the card is trusted even if its appropriateness is quite unclear…”
This led him to the conclusion that the strategy could be applied to other creative situations and he worked with Schmidt to produce the first set, released as a limited edition. The set has been edited and re-released and is now available at The Oblique Strategies Web Site.
So somebody has diverted the idea to Twitter -
“Take away as much mystery as possible. What is left?”
“Instead of changing the thing, change the world around it.”
“Question the heroic approach.”