Back from the dead

So I've finally got round to rescuing this blog from the dead. My last post was nearly 2 years ago. Hopefully I'll be able to keep it up for a while this time!

Originally hosted on Posterous, I started back in April 2009. In the process of bringing it back I've been looking over some old posts, and to be honest it was pretty shitty writing... But I guess that's how everyone sees their O.G. writing.

Unfortunately however, Posterous shut down in April 2013 and deleted all of their user's (my) data. Which I wasn't particularly pleased about, for obvious reasons. Luckily they did offer a backup service to download their data. Since then the blog (and the domain) kind of languished. Partly because I'm fantastically lazy, but also partly because I didn't feel like I had the technical skills to run a server. This is important to me as I'm interested in the indie web movement. I want to own my content in a place that I control.

Anyway, I used their backup to restore my data (by way of Wordpress) into a instance running on DigitalOcean. Hopefully, now that its under my control it won't be going down. I may even experiment with Ghost and other personal projects here too.

Why Ghost? I like they're "it's just a blog" attitude, and the Node, Express & Ember.js underpinnings. I'm patiently waiting on the plugin ("apps") architecture to have a hack around with it's guts.

UPDATE: I just remembered that its possible that there's some dead links on the blog. I've tried to restore as much as I can, but no guarantees :)

NaBloPoMo: The Review

I participated in National Blog Posting Month last month, a movement to get people to post to their blogs once a day for a month. I managed to do 28 posts in the last month, only missing two which I think is quite good.

Did it change anything in my life? I'm not sure... I certainly think about blogging more often, especially as I'm aware that a lot of my online life is on Twitter - a medium that I do not "own". I'm definitely going to keep up with posting a weekly list of the most interesting links I've found on Twitter, and I'll probably continue to expand thoughts or arguments that I made on Twitter onto the blog.

I think it was a really good to challenge myself to do something every day - even something as small as writing a quick post. I will continue to try and do month-long projects - I'll probably write about them a bit more on my other blog 30 Days rather than clutter up this main blog too much...

Drop me a comment below or tweet me (I'm @40_thieves) if you liked my blogs for this month :-)

Short but sweet

OK two short posts today: Google Voice begging and Freecycle

Google Voice is an amazing service that's only available in the US (and maybe Canada) at the moment. Basically it bundles up all your phone and SMS into one nice interface. They've helpfully made a nice video to explain it:

And I'm begging Google to bring it out over here! Please! I'd love to use it and I'd sign up instantly...

The other quick post is about Freecycle a cool service I've signed up to back at home, and here at uni - it allows people in your area to offer stuff that they want to get rid of for free. I have it set to bundle up the posts into, usually several, emails per day. I've seen loads of old TVs given away for free, bikes and lots of other stuff. The sign up process is a bit of a pain, but it's fairly well explained when you join the email group.

Short but sweet (I hope) today :-)

The Week's Links for 8 - 14th November

Here's the links that I found interesting enough to post on Twitter in the last week. I think this is going to turn into a more regular feature, probably every Sunday - I'm thinking a quick recap on the week. By the way, this is enabled by the awesome technology of which automatically captures all the links I post on Twitter and saves them in delicious. Techcrunch starts off the tidal wave of rumours about Facebook launching a web-based email client, supposedly on Monday. The interesting question for me is whether it'll allow people to sign up without an email address - something that (I think) will really attract young users, who are currently signing up with Hotmail, because of MSN chat. There's 3 hacked Kinect stories this week, because I'm really excited and impressed about it. The potential for really accurate motion sensing is fascinating. Depressing that I was taken in by the Lib Dems, before the election. It seems Clegg was planning to raise student fees before the election.

Quite a funny video of Alonso and Massa on a rollercoaster in Abu Dhabi (I'm assuming in the Ferrari World theme park). Not sure Alonso is really enjoying himself... I'd like to know more about this, but the web page is very bare with no real explanation of what it does, but I think it turns HTML5 into native phone apps. Which would be awesomely cool if true. An excellent piece on loneliness by Robert Ebert, capturing some of my thoughts and feelings perfectly Would want one of these :-) Badges for inbox zero! Report that David Cameron's "favourite" think tank "insisted that Thatcher's policy had not gone far enough" :-( Pretty cool webapp from the HTML5 genius Jeremy Keith, hacked together at Science Hack Day SF. More Kinect stuff - this guy has overlaid the live video feed on the depth sensor, thereby creating a pseudo-3D. It's pretty cool :-) Finally Matt Cutts, the web spam guy at Google, sets a open Kinect challenge offering $1000 to the "coolest" Kinect hack, and another $1000 to whoever makes it easiest to write programs on Linux.

PS. Sorry this post is a little late - lost track of time...

10 pence per tweet

I was an intern at the British Red Cross, earlier this year, working in the Digital Fundraising team to help develop their website. I was thinking about raising money for charity quite a lot, and especially new interesting ways of fundraising digitally

So when I saw this article in RWW I was definitely interested: basically a new service called Help Attack allows you to donate a certain (small) amounts of money each time you tweet (with support for "Facebook and more" coming soon) to charity. Now this is a great idea, but it relies on you to go to Help Attack's website, link it up with your Twitter account, set a donation amount, etc. This is (I think) a bit of pain for the average user - and it means Help Attack has to get the message out about the service.

My solution: charities do a "licensing deal" with Help Attack, so that the charity can put a simple "Sign in with Twitter to donate" button on their website (obviously with an explanation of what it'll do). This will then automatically set it up to donate say 10 pence for every tweet - or however much the charity wants to set. At some point bank details would have to be entered, but maybe you could set up an autotweeter with a link to the relevant site.

I think this'll even be pretty easy to set up for the charity - Help Attack could even build an API to make it more frictionless. I've seen some charities do similar sort of things before - for example using Just Giving as portal for donations.

Programme or be programmed

I'm stealing that headline from Douglas Rushkoff's latest book, which I heard about on BBC Outriders. And I just wanted to post quickly about how I agree with the concept (I haven't actually read the book, so....)

Basically he says that kids should be taught programming in school, probably at secondary school level. This would mean that people would be much more aware about basic computing issues, something that affects us everyday. If you understand a little about how Facebook works, then you can learn a little about how to protect yourself. Computing has become so ubiquitous that not learning how to actually make programs is like learning how to read but not write.

This was brought home to me by Mozilla Drumbeat presentation on the state of IT education in the UK. Basically some parts of the curriculum are plain wrong, and some parts are 10 years out of date. According to the curriculum kids should be making web pages on Microsoft Word and Powerpoint, a completely laughable idea. Also it has somehow missed the web's move towards a semantic web, by about 10 years!

It's no wonder that I can walk into a Computing degree with no previous experience - so I've benefited quite a lot from this! The problem is that we're going to fall behind, if all we're doing is teaching kids how to be obedient, unimaginative office drones

So I propose that we start teaching kids how to make stuff on computers, not just spending masses of money on buying computers.