Local tweets for local people

The future is local it seems. Twitter has now enabled local search for trending topics including countries and cities. Although if we’re to believe Alexa.com they’re missing out India, Germany and Japan.

Not sure if it’s working out cities using IP addresses, geotagging or the user’s self declared location (in which instance we’d all be tweeting from Tehran).

screenshot of local trends search on twitter
Now including Brixton

I for one, welcome our overlord hamster

nef (the new economics foundation, not the oven manufacturers) always seem to have a knack for coming up with slightly off-the-wall campaigns to describe their ‘hippies in suits’ think tankery.

In the past they’ve come up with creative projects to rank how happy the planet is, get us to talk about our economic feelings in a Fight Club style (without the fist-fighting) and scare the shit out of us with a big doomsday countdown clock.

Their latest project is to have a dig at the idea that perpetual growth is a good thing for the planet by using the illustration of a gigantic godzilla sized hamster:

There’s an accompanying report to go with the video ‘growth isn’t possible’ which can be downloaded as a pdf (sensibly they charge for it in dead tree format).

(Belated) new year resolutions

Well it’s a bit late but here are my new year resolutions for 2010:

  1. Go running. Been meaning to do this one for a while. My Nike+ avatar is looking decidedly bored.
  2. Lose some weight. See point 1. No I’m not going on a diet.
  3. Write interesting blog posts more often. I’ll freely admit that I need to hone my blogging skills.
  4. Do more art. I’ve haven’t updated flickr in ages. And I have a lovely 40mm pancake lens to take pictures with.
  5. Finish more books. And blog about them. See post 3.

I think i’ll stick with four five for the time being – and will get my robot butler to revisit these (after parking my flying car) in 2011.

Genius christmas twitter campaign

Came across this on twitter this morning:

http://charity.further.co.uk/

By tweeting:

Tweeting this message gets 10p donated to The Children’s Society charity http://bit.ly/4PcaKP #furthercharity

your profile picture then appears on the page and the Christmas tree totalizer counts up the donations. There’s the option to top up your donation as well – although I’d be interested to find out how many tweeps actually do this. It’s always good to see twitter being used for things other than talking about Tiger Woods.

Give a tweet this Christmas
Give a tweet this Christmas

A few videos…

1) Don’t Undermine Bangladesh

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWCvB7_hl6s

Last year a campaigner based in Bangladesh contacted me on facebook in regard to a proposed open cast mine in Phulbari, Bangladesh. A UK based company GCM were attempting to get permission to build a mine that would displace 30,000 people and destroy the water supply of a further million.

I was able to very rapidly put together a video, based on footage of GCM’s offices, stock footage of an open cast coal mine and a video that had been made by the campaigners in Bangladesh. The original Bangladesh video titled ‘the blood soaked banner of Phulbari’ and was too long for the standard youtube format of less than 10 minutes, so by re-cutting highlights from this film with WDM’s material made the video more suitable for our audience.

We ran a series of online actions using the video and were successful in getting Barclays Bank to sell their shares in the project, and Gareth Thomas (minister at BERR and DFID) withdraw UK government support for the project. This was the most popular online action WDM has ever carried out.

I think the video would have been improved with footage of the campaigner doing a piece to camera – by experimenting with different video formats I’ve found that an appeal made directly to the viewer makes for the most effective response rate to an appeal or campaign ask.

2) Question to Gordon Brown

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXl_ydgTKrc

This is a very simple video shot on a tiny video camera with a question to Gordon Brown asking what he was doing to fight poverty at an upcoming G20 conference. At the time Downing Street were using YouTube for people to submit questions, with a vote to decide on the videos for Gordon Brown to answer. By emailing our supporters the voting link for our video we were able to ‘game’ the vote in our favour, and you can see in the responses to this video a direct video message from Gordon Brown.

Emailing our supporters with an alternate action to the normal petitions or email actions helped improve the response rate, and being able to reply to our supporters with a direct response from the Prime Minister proved a popular way of promoting WDM as an organisation having an impact on politics in the UK.

If I was to do something like this again I think the video would have sounded better comming from a supporter or local WDM group member as opposed to staff, I think also the sound would have been greatly impoved with a better camera / microphone setup.

The power of a tweet…(but annoyingly I’m the only one that will ever know)

An interesting thing happened to me a few evenings ago. I was at one of the iTunes festival gigs in the roundhouse, which featured the eclectic line-up of Mumford and Sons (yawn), the Temper Trap (not bad) and Stephen Fry (yes, that Stephen Fry).

Stephen Fry was there in a warm-up capacity presumably because of his oft-voiced love of the iPhone which he uses to disseminate musings that range from being trapped in lifts, to jogging in New York. However, perhaps rather embarrasingly for Apple, Mr Fry decided to use his spot at the iTunes festival to have a go at the practices of the big music companies in aggressively pursuing illegal downloaders and filesharers.

my business – the film business, the television business, the music business – is doing the wrong thing

He spoke out against the ludicrous advert that compares downloading to pinching a handbag or stealing a car. He even fessed up to having bit-torrented a TV show – although covered himself by stating that he had already bought it on iTunes, and for some slightly unusual bandwidth reasons was unable to download it in the normal way.

Now this was all very interesting – and wildly popular with the crowd, however it seemed a little at odds to me. At the bottom of the pdf ticket I’d printed off to turn up at the gig was stated:

*You are not permitted to make audio or audiovisual recordings of the event

So when asked for a bit of feedback I tweeted the following:

listening to @stephenfry slagging off drm at itunes – where i’d get thrown out if caught filming him !

Which got slightly paraphrased when he read it on stage. Stephen Fry’s response was that everyone there was filming and photographing and tweeting – and that his speech would probably turn up on YouTube before the evening was out.

Sadly my fifteen minutes of twitter fame (quoted by the great Mr Fry – crikey!) went unnoticed to everyone but me. It even managed to get a blog on the bbc.

Maybe one day my shameless-self-publicity engine won’t let me down!

For more twitter excitement you can follow me at @kimondo

And yes, Stephen Fry did turn up on YouTube:

Stephen Fry talking at iTunes Live

How to turn the eeePC into a media centre (and get iplayer to work in fullscreen)

I must admit to being a bit of a fan for the Asus eeePC. I have a black 701 model which I impulse bought after the price hit £150, and i’ve found it to be a really superb machine.

Although the default Xandros boots up very quickly and is handy for checking emails on the fly, I eventually installed Ubuntu eee onto a removable SD card. It took me a while to work out how to get it to work, so I’ve added some instructions to the Ubuntu eee wiki to make the process easier.

I remember when I first got my eee one of my friends commented on using it to watch BBC’s iplayer – now one of the most popular ways to watch telly in the UK. However when I tried the video was very choppy – and only worked when not running in the full screen mode.

Initially I put this down to the eee’s fairly paltry celeron processor – at 600 mhz it’s fine for a simple bit of web surfing and word processing, but for anything more taxing it’s a bit underpowered, so I assumed that full screen video was beyond the reach of the eee. However after a bit of digging I found a discussion of Linux v Windows on the eee Forum here, which indicates that it a problem with the firefox / linux flash plugin. Rather than install Windows XP – which once i’d spent additional money on buying anti virus would be almost as much as I spent on the machine itself, I wanted to find an open source way of getting round the problem.

I’ve been running XBMC (X Box Media Centre) on my old modded xbox for some time now – hooked up to a telly it makes a handy way of watching DVDs, online media and networked media off a NAS drive. Given that XBMC works flawlessly off a machine with 64megs of ram and eeePC should be no problem.

So a visit to http://xbmc.org/ later and an install I got xbmc working – and it works really well.

Note that there are a few steps to go through rather than rely on Ubuntu’s built in add new software tool – you have to add the sources to the software sources control panel:

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/team-xbmc-gutsy/ubuntu gutsy main

deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/team-xbmc-gutsy/ubuntu gutsy main

then type the following into the terminal application:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xbmc

but once I’d got that over with XBMC appeared in the applications folder like normal.

Next step is to install the iplayer plugin:

See http://code.google.com/p/xbmc-iplayer/

The iplayer plugin works by using the BBC stream intended for ipod / iphone users .

(See comment below) The iplayer plugin uses the same streams as the Flash interface on the iPlayer website, in all it’s VP6 quality (higher-res than the iPhone stream), and with future improvements to the XBMC RTMP client, may also be able to stream the high-quality H264 streams also offered via the Flash interface instead.

Which explains why it looks better on the eeepc than on my iphone.

And I can report that it works in full screen no problem with the eee. Which makes the possibility of the eee becomming a handy ultra portable media centre. There are a few issues – very occasionally it freezes after watching a programme, and it doesn’t work smoothly with compiz, but these are really minor – the more I play with XBMC the more it impresses me.