Archive | March, 2007

Stepping up to the web 2.0 challenge

28 Mar

Whilst I regard myself as quite technical and internet focused, I have allowed myself to “slip behind” the curve a little recently. I think GMail was the last thing I was up to speed with, after that it all went a little soft. Certainly in recent times I forced myself into using RSS, which I now cannot live without – imagine having to revisit news pages and rescan them looking for any new articles ?!! And then moved onto “semantic tagging” over bookmarking – principally as I had too many (700+) bookmarks to not put them in folders, and I couldn’t come up with a hirarchy of folders that consistantly worked for me.

So with my webmail(via Gmail), RSS (via Bloglines) and tagged bookmarks (via del.icio.us) setup, as well as a host of other new “web 2.0” services such as a todo list (via Remember the Milk) and a more general simple list service (via tada lists) I was truely setup to get more of what I wanted out the internet.

But the final piece of the puzzle that clicked into place recently was a site called netvibes. This is now my homepage, and is a customizable page with various panels sorted into columns (bit like portlets, for those who know what they are). Each panel contains one of my web 2.0 services so the overall effect is that of a dashboard or command console, where I can in one look see what unread mail I have, which RSS feeds have updated, what my upcoming week’s todo list is and a host of other stuff.

If you are scratching your head here, then I might put up a laymans description of all this techno-babble soon ! If you are thinking – hold on, Outlook does all of this, what is so great about your setup – then you havn’t been bitten by the web 2.0 bug. Everything is much more easily accessable, updateable and useable as rigid Outlook components, and I can mix these services together in different ways as I need, as well as change services should a better one come along. The mark of a great web2.0 application is one that will help you migrate to a competing one, but you simply don’t want to 🙂

These are a few of my favorite things… well, just one of them in fact

21 Mar

Recently I have been trying to scratch a recurring itch of mine, board gaming. I flippin‘ love boardgaming. And we’re not talking Cluedo, Trivial Pursuits or, dear god help me, Monopoly (gawd, Monopoly sucks). We are talking real tactical thinking boardgames, each seasoned with enough luck to suit the occasion.

They are a happy compromise between mindless dice-roller family games and chess to me. Backgammon would be a good example of this, although more modern classics like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride would be a better example of what great board gaming is these days. I think the German’s are more into this, indeed the hobby seems kept alive over here mainly by European publishing houses.

But my newest game, sitting next to my desk, is Fury of Dracula – a storming 2-5 player action / detective work game where 1-4 players as characters from Bram Stoker’s classic hunt down Count Dracula, who moves around the board in secret laying down traps to hinder the hunters whilst trying to create a network of vampires around Europe.

However, as with many of my geek like hobbies, it’s kind of hard to get something like this going. It needs semi-regular interest from people, like sporting hobbies, but is more of a leisure pursuit, so rarely something you plan too far in advance. But this is where the London effect comes in – so many events and socials DO require advance booking to secure facilities, tickets or numbers in this big city, so most of us book ourselves up regularly and in advance. It feels quite contrived to book a gaming session 2-3 weeks in advance, but that’s the option here.

So if anyone is a keen board gamer in London, feel free to drop me a mail ! Otherwise I’ll keep on trying to find enough vampire hunters / island settlers / city builders and railway travellers to keep my hobby going in the big smoke. Living in a big, bustling city, sometimes I can do with as much escapism as I can get 🙂

Slipping behind the curve slowly

12 Mar

My new ventures into modern communications has reached another stumbling block… seems Twitter is another of the modern web sites blocked by our companies Internet policy ! I think opinion of Twitter is somewhat divided, but to me it seemed the halfway house between blogging and having regular face to face contact with people – a way of keeping up with people’s everyday smaller thoughts and feelings. My profile is here, if any other twitterers wanna buddy up incidentally

Few people blog about the daily little things, and if you don’t see people regularly, these things tend to be left out of conversation in lieu of the bigger (bloggable) past events, so perhaps Twitter can help occupy this middle ground ? The little things are often as interesting, and much more individual and personable. Well, guess whilst I’m behind works Internet umbrella, I won’t really know if it all works or not – short of doing it all via mobile phone…

Anyway, I can understand the reasoning for the restrictive blanket policy, but this “security over creativity” thing will restrict development towards being a well-rounded technologist. We talk internally about promoting AJAX and Web 2.0 within our tools at work, but then get blocked from trying out practical, successful examples of these ideas in action ! That’s one of the main difference between my last small company employers vs the big corporate in general I guess.

And keeping abreast of new technology and learning about the new capabilities of modern software design is what enhances the software I produce and the reward that keeps me interested in a career within technology.

30

7 Mar

Life emergency !

Actually nothing to worry too much about – if you gaze down previous posts you may notice I have these as regularly as other people have pizza, but this one is given extra life-crisis validity by being close to my 30th birthday !

Therefore I am following it through more than other panics – hey, I’ve even updated and cleaned up my blog this time ! Now if I only I can get round to moving my old travel photos into my newer (and much sexier) online photo album, I’ll be in good shape for blogging again 🙂 One of the thing the spurred me on to include the increasingly inaccurately named “Exit Turner” in my cleanup was a lot of memories of people fired up from the guest book Mimi got me for my birthday.

Now, if you are reading this, there is a 95% chance you were included on her mails about this, but in case you are one of the few people I don’t have an e-mail address for, Mimi brought a great big leather-bound black-paged book, and got people to either e-mail over photos and comments which she printed and stuck in the book, or on the night of my birthday people were left with metallic pens, stickers and other miscellany to fill the book with kind (or not so kind !) comments. The result is a very heartwarming collection of memories, embarrassments and kind words. It also makes me realise how lucky I am to have a gal like Mimi 🙂

Did I also mention I got a Godzilla vrs Monkeys birthday cake ? Awesome !!!

Anyhow, back to the life emergency. Essentially I am having “full circle” crisis – e.g. I am where I was 4-5 years ago, with nothing in motion to change this. But this time I am avoiding drastic measures and working on the little things instead. Making some plans, and thinking about what I want to be actually doing in 5 years etc… Of course the options and questions are greater now that many of my friends are buying houses, living with partners and even having kids (e.g. growing up).

All of this will have to wait though – I have a far more immediate work crisis I need to attend to !!!

Back soon ? Hope so