Category Archives: Web 2.0

I can't get no (Facebook) satisfaction

I normally ignore all sponsored polls in the Facebook newsfeed and never see any adverts thanks to my browser add blocker, but this one was too interesting to ignore.  The question:

“How satisfied are you with the new Facebook redesign?”

The results:

 Fits in with the number of people who have signed up to Facebook groups demanding the return of the old version.

While I don’t particularly dislike the redesign, there are a few options I’d like to see changed:

  1. Status updates: they are automatically posted at a significantly larger font size.  You can alter the size of the font but you can’t change the default setting, unlike every other item that appears in the newsfeed,
  2. Wall: it’s no longer possible to only view messages from people via the wall, something that really needs to return
  3. Inability to minimise “applications” (they should be called widgets): I couldn’t care less about the majority of widgets people add to their profiles and the old design allowed me to minimise the majority so I could only see what I wanted to: that is no longer possible
  4. Tabs: it’s more time consuming to get access to the info I want as loading profile pages defaults to te “wall” tab…. why can’t everyone have the option to choose a different default page to load?  The info tab is far more useful.

I’ve already raised these points with Facebook though chances are they’ll be ignored: a generic reply doesn’t really give me much confidence, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t enough people to reply.  And it hasn’t cost me anything to use Facebook.

It’s certainly quieter than I’d expect it to be: possibly as most of my friends have now graduated and have better uses of their time.  However I don’t see myself abandoning Facebook soon: it’s too useful to communicate to the wider student radio community to ignore.

UPDATE: in the hour since I saw the poll results, it’s changed to 30%, 23%, 23%, 11%, 10% (from extremely dissatisfied to very satisfied).  Clearly relatively few people have taken the poll so I’ll update again once the numbers have settled down.

A quick update

Just realised it’s been nearly 5 months since I last wrote something…

I’ve got no plans to abandon this blog just yet!  But it’s been a busy few months, first having my finals for my degree and then going full flow into the Student Radio Association. Essentially that’s been taking up most of my time since June.

So what’s happened? I’ve been to Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Maidstone, though I’m not sure that getting no sleep the night before leaving Birmingham at 4:30 in the morning for a 3 hour drive was the best idea… regardless was an awesome weekend, especially having a pint backstage while the Kooks were on… and seeing Madonna.

I’ve also been to Stockholm: an awesome city and I’m sure I’ll return to Sweden in the near future.

As for the rest of my time… it’s essentially been busy with work for the Student Radio Association. Which is part of the reason I haven’t posted here for a while: I’ve been posting on my new blog, Developing Student Radio, about what I’ve been up to recently.

I’ve also moved out of my flat in Birmingham: having finished my degree and graduated, I’ve now moved home and will be staying here until I’m employed. I’m still amazed by how much stuff I’ve acquired in the last 2 years in my flat: and sorting it out has taken a while…

So it’s been a busy five months… hopefully I’ll be able to resume posting about the weird and random stuff that happens.

"Blocking" Facebook Chat

Have to give kudos to WordPress for this one.

I’ve been getting far more page views than usual on this blog and it all seems to be about my last post, where I discussed Facebook Chat.  WordPress allows me to see what people are searching for and about 40% of people who have visited my blog today searched for “blocking Facebook Chat” or a variation of those words.

So…

Facebook Chat

Since I don’t (yet) have the ability to upload images, I’ve taken this one from CNet News. The image above shows Facebook Chat, as it appears in the bottom right corner of the browser window, just above the browser status bar (if you have it switched on). All you need to do is click on the “Go Offline” button to close down Chat.

This doesn’t remove it completely and will replace the chat bar with a small icon in the bottom right.  So it won’t block it completely, but it will prevent people from contacting you using Facebook Chat and is effective.

As for blocking individual people, I haven’t found a way of doing that yet… which may give you a reason to stick with Windows Live Messenger!

Facebook Chat…. the end for Windows Live Messenger?

Perhaps a bit early to make such a big claim but it could be all change in the instant messaging market.

I know plenty of people who use instant messaging: Windows Live Messenger (formerly MSN Messenger) being the app of choice.  But I do know one person who has never been convinced: me.

I used MSN Messenger a fair bit when I started university but I only used it to speak to 7 people tops.  I’ve since switched to making phone calls.

But there have been two recent announcements that could change that.

  1. Microsoft announcing the launch of Invite2Messenger, a simple website that allows people to add Facebook contacts (more contact lists will be added in the future) and invite them to use Windows Live Messenger.  Based on 2006 figures (the most recent I could find), Windows Live/MSN Messenger (WLM) has a 61% market share.  I would expect this to increase slightly but more importantly it will connect people who aren’t aware that their Facebook friends are available on IM, sending more web traffic to Microsoft.
  2. Just 11 days after I read about Microsoft’s announcement, Facebook countered with Facebook Chat.  This will integrate an IM client into the web browser and allow people to start conversations without launching a separate app: a big speed advantage.  But although officially announced on the Facebook Blog, it’s not yet available.

It’s difficult to decide who has the upper hand.

The Facebook app has clear advantages: it’s one less application that people need, assuming of course that they don’t already use WLM, AIM, Yahoo Messenger or another IM app: and Yahoo Messenger and WLM users can already add friends who use the other app.  Google Talk requires a Google account, something people probably won’t have unless they use Gmail: and how many people want to send instant messages when they are trying to send emails?  I remain unconvinced.

But Microsoft already has more than half of the IM market and will certainly gain new users: perhaps not many but enough to make a difference and while I doubt many people will switch from one IM client to another, if people are invited to use WLM it’s unlikely they will shop around to look at the alternatives.  And, in the short term at least, WLM is available to use in minutes, whereas Facebook Chat is still to launch.

So what’s the likely outcome?  It’s difficult to predict: Facebook isn’t used by everyone, far from it.  I’d expect it to make a difference but I think most people will stick with what they know.

As for me: well I have just 11 contacts on WLM and all of them have Facebook accounts.  I also dislike the huge amount of advertising on WLM, which I can’t completely block and isn’t even for things I’d spend money on: I can easily block all adverts when web browsing.  

I think the choice, for me at least, is pretty obvious…

Developing Student Radio: it's my new job!

Once again, another long break from the blogosphere but it’s been a busy couple of months.

On top of having my dissertation to complete (now safely submitted), I’ve also been looking to the future: especially as the end of uni is looming.

I decided on standing for a position on the Student Radio Association Executive team at last year’s conference but had to decide which position…. well that was rather obvious for me.

So I went to Bath, having no choice but to miss all of the conference talks on both days thanks to an early Easter and uni being different and having the final week of term when most unis decided to have Easter.  Nevertheless, I was duly elected as the Development Officer.

To say I’m pleased is a masterpiece of understatement.  My role will be to support new stations to start and existing stations to maintain their quality of output.  At a basic level I have to keep an eye on the licenses for radio broadcasting: specifically OFCOM, PPL and the MCPS-PRS alliance, making sure I understand the latest versions of the licenses and which licenses student stations need to have.  Helping new stations start is also one of my main jobs.

It’s a voluntary position and is unpaid, so I will need to find paid work of some kind, hopefully in the radio industry if I get my way.

However the position has far more to it than the above.  The as yet unpublished Student Radio Survival Guide is nearly complete and I’ll be having a look at it before it’s sent out to student stations. 

I’ve also got a few ideas to play with, one of which I suggested over a year ago but discussion has really taken off in recent weeks… I’ll talk about it in more detail if the exec decides to trial the service.

I believe that student radio has more going for it than it has ever had: try finding a commercial station that has made better use of Web 2.0 than any in the student community.  Facebook is a good place to start, but even older Web 2.0 websites like Flickr have been more widely used than the commercial industry.

So if you do anything tomorrow, I suggest you try finding your local student station and give them a listen: chances are you might find something rather special.

The iPod; why I'm not buying another (except perhaps the nano)

I’m one of the many people who has an iPod: in my case a 40GB iPod Photo.

While it’s done me well since I bought it March 2005, there’s been one major problem; unreliability. The original one lasted 6 months before the Hard Disk Drive (HDD) failed and it had to be replaced.

I’m now on my 5th iPod. As it was covered by Apple’s warranty until March it so far none of the replacements have cost me anything. But I don’t think this one will last much longer for the same reason (in fact, all 5 have suffered HDD failures of some kind). And it would cost me at least £140 to have it replaced (repaired in Apple lingo).

I won’t go into the specifics of those problems as they’re far too boring but I’m now in the position of not having a working mp3 player.

So what to do? I could replace it, but I’m not happy with the reliability; my problems aren’t unique and failure rates of iPods (specifically the full-sized ones) are as high as 20% according to some sources.

And what are the options? PMP’s (Portable Media Players) are overkill unless you have a huge amount of video; which I don’t. And Flash mp3 players are more reliable but don’t provide the capacity I really need as I record lots of radio shows and listen afterwards, which require a huge amount of storage space.

It seems that my options are:

1) Replace it with another iPod; I haven’t ruled it out as the current versions (both video & nano) have gapless playback, which is fantastic for my live and radio recordings. But there’s no built-in FM radio, something which is a necessity for me; and the radio remote costs £40 which is far too much money.

2) Buy a different brand mp3 player; my preferred option but there are disadvantages. iTunes is a fantastic piece of software and it works very well with the iPod. There is also no other mp3 player on the market that has gapless playback. However, as a Windows user I’m happy to consider alternatives, especially the Creative Zen Vision: M which I consider to be the best available alternative to the iPod.

3) Revert to my faithful Minidisc Player. I’ve had one for 2 1/2 years and it still works. I have only really used it for event or interview recordings, as the 1GB storage per disc is not enough for me, along with very slow transfer speeds. However the downside is the software, Sonicstage. It’s better than it was but it’s no iTunes and is unless you are technically minded it’s one to avoid. Even so the latest model is very tempting, especially as it would allow me to convert my really old Minidiscs to mp3s without technical wizardry (something I’m pretty good at but it still wouldn’t be as good), the only problem being the cost which is around £200 depending on the supplier.

The question is whether I can really trust ANY HDD mp3 player. I have my doubts… but the alternatives won’t provide enough storage for my needs. When I’ve decided, I’ll let you know.

SRA conference 2007 in York

It’s taken 48 hours to recover but it’s time to talk about the Student Radio Association conference in York hosted by University Radio York.

It had a lot to live up to as I went to the 2006 conference in Southampton hosted by Surge Radio. The ridiculous amount of alcohol that was consumed there meant that York had a tough act to follow.

All in all it was a really fun 3 days, though perhaps not as fun as Southampton. This is partly because the drinking didn’t start until 7pm (compared to midday at Southampton) but there are other reasons:

1) the accommodation wasn’t exactly inspiring. Having been to York university before (nearly 5 years ago with school) I had a good idea of what to expect. The rooms were huge in some instances but the severe lack of showers was ridiculous (we had one to share between 10 on the section of the corridor we were on). The kettle was also a bit random, having a cable far shorter than the length of my arm and my room not having any normal wall sockets to plug it into. Admittedly the Southampton hall wasn’t much better, but at least there were enough showers.
2) the closing time of the bar on Monday was earlier than I would have liked (being midnight).
3) the club we went to was a bit too cheesy for my liking (though this is coming from someone who insists on Indie or hard dance clubs).
4) The AGM running for four hours rather than the scheduled two. I don’t think this was due to a lack of planning (though having the AGM on Tuesday would have meant that the conference would have finished on time) but probably because of one issue that was raised in one of the SRA exec reports that very few people seemed to have read before the AGM.

however it’s not all negative:
1) the lake… and the geese! They made for some fantastic photos!
2) The sessions had content that was more relevant than in Southampton and only two had obvious moments of “we’ll plug our company to the maximum while we are here.” There were also no irrelevant sessions: the one about community radio in Southampton was completely useless for us and we were told as much less than five minutes into a one hour session.
3) I spoke to far more people than last year (admittedly I spent loads of time as last year talking to the Junction 11 contingent).
4) Last years conference with a quick exchange of a few phone numbers and one email address… so far I’ve gained no fewer than 9 friends on Facebook (I’m certain I didn’t meet them all) but it’s by far the easiest way to stay in touch with people.
5) We’ve finally got someone interested in building the BurnFM.com website! And the person in question has absolutely nothing to do with Birmingham!
6) We’ve now got a significant number of ideas for station imaging which I’m hoping to roll out by our next broadcast in October.

Southampton still has the edge in terms of the fun we had (the Aaron/Terry incident is still legendary). However it’s fair to say that the sessions were far more relevant this year: one spending twenty minutes on how to use Facebook and what to look out for!  Which is exactly what student radio is about: taking radio to the level that allows students to interact with us at our level and give us the biggest audience possible.

How web 2.0 can damage your life

Typically I’ve read several articles on the web about technology and its implications.  However I’ve come across two items that disturb me:

1) This article by PCPRO magazine
2) Kathy Sierra’s blog

This post is about why they are bad and their implications.

1) This article states that employers are rejecting applicants based on Myspace/Facebook profiles and online CVs.

It seems that in the current age of Web 2.0 you have to be careful about what you post online: hence the recent changes to my Facebook profile. It concerns me that employers are using Facebook to determine whether you are suitable or otherwise – private life should be just that. It has little relevance to the workplace (unless you are doing something blatently illegal, but I don’t know anyone who has used Facebook in such a way).

Online CV websites are also a problem as employers are using them to compare an onine CV with the copy they have to check for differences. To be honest I can undertand why they use them, as it will be obvious if you have lied on a CV if you are not consistent. And I can’t take issue with this (though I don’t have my CV online nor do I intend on uploading it).

However I disagree with employers using Facebook and Myspace to help their decisions on employing people. Myspace is a bigger problem as anyone can look at a profile and there is no way to block it from anyone. Facebook, on the other hand, is more secure as you can restrict who is able to look at your profile. I therefore recommend that you restrict profile viewing to friends only as then you would have to make your prospective employer a friend for them to be able to view your profile – something that should be easy to avoid doing.

With Myspace the issue is more difficult as you cannot block anyone from viewing your profile and a random person only needs a myspace account to be able to view your photos – the biggest problem if the majority are of you on nights out. So the simple solution is not to upload any pictures that you don’t want seen by any person on the net.

Talking of Myspace I’ve still not closed my account (I’m still getting people adding me who don’t have Facebook profiles) though I will close it soon as I’m tired of people messaging me with spam or pretending to want sex – its obvious what it is they are after (and it isn’t sex) – it’s all about the money.

In fairness though that is what Facebook and Myspace are about – making their creators the maximum profit possible (hence the gifts on Facebook and Myspace suspending a music account because the person linked their own store to their profile and not the Myspace music store). In the case of Myspace it’s owned by News Corporation (who own the Sun and Times newspapers) and for that reason alone I intend on cancelling my account – at least Facebook is independent (for the time being at least).

In case that wasn’t enough I’ve recently become aware that the above also seems to apply to our own university. I’m aware that some people are using Facebook to look for activities that violate policies (I won’t name names or what) set out by certain University services. Again, I disagree with this: especially considering that the majority of my friends are people I’ve met via a certain non-course related activity. It is not on that people are looking for events that I may do with them because they are my friends, regardless of how I met them: I should not have to do extra form-filling because I’m doing things with my friends.

2) This concerns me on several levels. Unlike Kathy and Robert Scoble I won’t stop blogging as a form of protest. In my opinion not blogging is a victory for the people who created the images that Kathy has described.

I cannot condone what was posted on Kathy’s blog: there is no excuse for death threats and the images (which are more disturbing in my opinion). It certainly raises questions about sexual equality on the web – as Kathy correctly points out if she was a man the threats would not have been posted. But it is still wrong that people can anonymously do this to someone…

So the web isn’t as safe as you might think. I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on what is happening.