Archive for the 'Ideas' Category

Buried by paperwork….

…and almost killed by a cold.

OK, I exaggerate a little, but I seem to spend my life sifting through paperwork which should have been organised better in the first place. Why don’t I learn? I’ve had my own business for 8 years now - you’d think I’d have the hang of it by now.

To make matters worse I’ve been suffering from a stinking cold this last week. I finally gave up on Friday and spent most of the day in bed - and finally got some descent sleep to boot. I was zonked!

Anyway, I’ve been mulling over an idea in my head for a few days now (not seriously mulling it over, but its popped into my line of thinking once or twice), so I thought I’d pop it up here and see if anyone else has any opinions. I don’t expect anyone will have any opinions, but you’ve gotta keep on trying for a response…

So the idea is roughly this: the Open SMR. SMR stands for “Sites and Monuments Record”, and Open means it is based on open standards, is Free (in some sense), and is transparent (as in a community lead effort). Back when I did my archaeology degree every council planning department had to keep and SMR. An SMR is basically a list (usually kept in a database or GIS) of all the archaeological and historical points of interest in the administrative area covered by the SMR. This could be anything from a spot where a Roman coin was found by a man out walking his dog to the site of a large prehistoric monument.

My dissertation was about possible methods of getting a publicly accessible SMR online, because I believe our archaeological heritage belongs to all of us (well, tax payers at least…), and information relating to it should be easy to find, search and peruse. Since writing that though, the Internet has changed vastly, and I’m sure that using current popular technologies such as blogs, wikis, microformats, mashups with Google or Yahoo! maps, and a minimal amount of jiggery-pokery, it would be possible to create a pretty nifty application.

Perhaps someone has already done this? I don’t know - it’s years since I’ve looked into such things - but I would be interested in seeing it if they have…

Anyway, my tea should be brewed now, and I have bank statements to order so must press on.

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Blogs and Social Media Forum, and other ideas.

It’s been an interesting day for several reasons:

  1. I reminded myself why I never want to work in London, after I had to suffer the discomfort of a morning train and tube ride at the peak of rush hour,
  2. I went to the second Blogs and Social Media Forum at the Marriott London Grosvenor Square Hotel (more about this in a mo’),
  3. I think I may have found a solution to something BritBlog related…., and
  4. I’ve made some career decisions….ish.

So the main event of the day was the Blogs and Social Media forum, subtitled “The impact of social media and enterprise 2.0“. This was useful for two reasons: (1) it has given me some interesting ideas to play with at work, which could have a significant impact on both our business and my job, and (2) it helped me crystallise some thinking around BritBlog and what the right next step is.

I’m afraid I can’t really go into point 1 much at the moment - I really need to think about more about the pros and cons of what I’d like to do at work, but point 2 is quite interesting.

Those of you that have been following the BritBlog saga over the last, umm, ‘many’ months, will know that I’ve been working on lots of new ideas for the site. Alas I’ve not managed the work very well (the day job kinda interferes…), and it’s been getting quite messy and very depressing.

Anyway, today has given me some time to stand back and think about the project, and I’ve pretty much decided to scrap all of my work from the last few months. A chap called Lee Bryant from a company called Headshift was talking about a project they’ve recently done for BP/Castrol, and he made some very interesting remarks. I suppose the two that may the biggest impression with me were these:

  1. Firstly, they didn’t mind so much about releasing a site to the public before it was finished. There is a theory that an unfinished project encourages members to get more involved than they would otherwise, because they feel like they are able to participate. The example given was MySpace — you know how messy it tends to look? — but it made me think of flickr also, as it was in public beta for years.

    Anyway, this made me worry less about getting things right with BritBlog straight away, and it leads me into point 2:

  2. They would make frequent small changes/releases to the website, and gather feedback from users about them. This stuck a chord too: rather than getting all the new ideas out there in one mammoth go, we could release them it stages, making fairly small changes at a time. This will allow us to get the changes right each time, and will give us the room to fix problems that may arise before they get too complex. There are loads of incremental changes I can see us making to BritBlog, and tackling it in this manner makes it all feel much more achievable.

So perhaps nothing ground-breakingly new there, but I clearly needed someone to spell it out to me…

The final thing that happened today was I was able to give my career a bit of thought. This is something I’ve been putting off for a long time because it’s something I don’t really like thinking about! Anyway, although I’ve not made any concrete decisions today, I have at least had some interesting ideas. Again, I want to discuss these with other people before saying anything here about them, but perhaps the future is bright…..*.

*And no, that is not by any means a clue. I have absolutely no desire to work for Orange. Or at least not yet!

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Tackling Splogs

I’ve been troubled by spam blogs (splogs) for a long time, and in recent months have been looking for methods to deal with them. If you have a blog, then no doubt you will have been bombarded with comment spam since about day 1. If you run a blog service (like BritBlog or Technoranki), then you will also come across spam blogs trying to abuse your service for their own evil gains.

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GeoBlogging: Geo-tagging your blog posts

Over the weekend I picked up a little GPS device (a Garmin Geko 301). There has been a lot of talk about geo-tagging your photographs so that you can overlay them on maps (e.g. Google Earth) and so that you can find other photos taken at the same location as your (e.g. flickr). This GPS can be accurate down to 10 feet or so (it is WAAS enabled), and it’s very small and waterproof so seems like the perfect companion for this sort of thing.

Anyway, geotagging my photos is something I want to have a play with, and while I was thinking about this the idea of GeoBlogging popped into my head. It’s often said that you’ll never hav an original idea, and this is one of those occasions. Still, I thought it would be a great idea to geo-tag your blog posts so that people can find posts from people near them, or blogs from events or holiday destinations etc.

This is something we’ve been trying to do with BritBlog, and are in the process of dropping postcodes in favour of GeoURL-style metadata in a blog template:

< meta name=“ICBM” content=“51.2327,-0.3309″ />
< meta name=“DC.title” content=“Mark Sweeting’s Blog” />
< meta name=“geo.position” content=”51.2327;-0.3309″ />

If you could do this on a per-blog-post basis rather than just on a blog basis then you’re half way there. I was thinking microformats would be the correct approach for this, but you’d need better blogging software support for wide adoption. You’d also need to think about how you mark up RSS feeds.

As I mentioned above, it turns out this isn’t a new idea. If you’re interested in this sort of stuff then you probably want to do a google on the topic, and take a look at GeoRSS. I’m in a bit of a rush at the moment, but if anyone has any useful tips/links or thoughts on this, I’d be interested to hear them.

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Recipes by email (for blokes)

Why hasn’t someone invented a recipe service where they email you a (new) recipe each day? Maybe they have. I get so fed up making the same meal every day, and I’m sure I can’t be the only one.

It’s not that I don’t like cooking — I quite enjoy it actually — but I don’t like cooking for one. And making loads of dishes for one little meal seems stupid to me too.

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