Archive for the 'Digital' Category

Oct 21 2008

Size does matter

Published by under Digital,Russia,Tech

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Russia’s big. We knew that. But sometimes it takes a new perspective to realise the extent of something you already new.

Enter ZebraMap. I love this sort of thing. I always wanted a Geochron – for now I make do with the likes of EarthDesk and OSXPlanet.

It’s just gone 8am in Moscow. 7am in Kaliningrad. For my colleagues in Ekaterinburg, it’s already after 10. It’s lunchtime in Vladivostok. And over on the Kamchatka peninsula the working day’s already ending.

Just the other side of the Bering Strait it’s still yesterday evening, but it’s too early in the morning to go there right now.

How does this translate in practice? How do you plan a conference call between Sakhalin, Moscow and Houston? Or time your announcement (or even sporting fixture) to hit prime-time in all the major cities? Or simply plan your travel across this vast country?

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Oct 15 2008

Blog Action Day: Loans that change lives

Published by under Digital,Misc,Politics

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I’ve already written something for Blog Action Day over at my FCO blog. But I feel should give it a go here too.

I hadn’t given much thought to what I was going to write. In fact, I’ve just written and deleted a thoroughly depressing draft looking at progress – or not – at feeding the world in the very nearly 24 years since Band Aid first asked us to do exactly that.

I found myself sitting on my comfy sofa in my warm flat, with my laptop that costs more than however-many-percent of the world make in a year, asking myself what the point of Blog Action Day really was. Am I really going to tell my kids in years to come (or tomorrow) that yes, Daddy helped end poverty and injustice – by blogging about it?

Then I decided to check out some of the other posts, from 11,509 sites and counting, who’ve contributed.

If you read one of them, please check out this from David Griner.

David has created a team at Kiva called ‘Social Media for Change’. Kiva, if you haven’t heard of it (I had, vaguely, but never done anything about it), lets you lend – interest free – to entrepreneurs in the developing world.

I like the idea – if you’re becoming disillusioned with top-down development, give bottom-up microfinance a go.

I especially like the mission statement David has written for the Lending Team:

We are bloggers, Twitterers, lifestreamers, networkers, podcasters and more. Some of us do it for money, others for fun. What connects us is our interest in being connected — and maybe helping change the world for the better in the process.

I’m in. And I will badger relentlessly my social media friends to come on board too. Maybe Blog Action Day can change something after all.

Here‘s the link.

Here it is again, in case you missed it.

It’s here, people.

PS it’s Global Handwashing Day, too.

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Oct 10 2008

Save Studio 60!

Published by under Digital,Media,Misc

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images.jpegWe’ve just finished watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It’s typical Sorkin. West Wing-style plots, half the West Wing cast even. Not to mention the dozens of West Wing references thrown into the script. Except it’s not set in the White House, it’s set around an SNL-style sketch show in LA.

I loved it. But apparently the audiences didn’t. Or rather, not enough of them did. The Observer claims that some of them hailed Studio 60 as an ‘instant classic’, although apart from one review on IMDB I can’t find the reference.

Regardless, Studio 60 was cancelled after one series, and I’m sad.

Enter Richard Millington.

Over at his ‘FeverBee’ blog, Richard instructs us in some detail on ‘How to save a TV show‘, by mobilising online communities and generating not just necessarily just interest and pressure, but cash.

There’s 2,000-odd fans on Facebook already. I’m sure they’d all chip in a few quid. So how about it, Aaron? I’ll raise the money, you make the show? You know you want to.

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Oct 07 2008


Published by under Comms,Digital,Media,Misc,Russia

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Yesterday saw the first post on my ‘official’ FCO blog. Those of you who follow will know that the FCO has been slowly expanding its online presence, including encouraging more of us to blog on the platform. So, after much agonising, I’ve decided to give it a go.

Why agonising? @simond summed it up well in a tweet yesterday evening:

@jamesbarbour One blog not enough for you? :) Intrigued to see if/how you can manage them, especially when one is explicitly

I’m not entirely sure myself, Simon, but I’m going to try.

I’ve been following the emerging debate on civil servants blogging for some time, contributing on occasion. But there’s still a fairly hefty unresolved grey area surrounding those of us who blog in a ‘private capacity’. So, as I’ve said a couple of times, I don’t talk about work on this blog. I talk about comms, tech, politics (carefully) on occasion – whatever floats my boat outside of the office, but I steer clear of goings-on at the Embassy.

Thing is, though, I want to blog about work. I have a great job which raises all sorts of issues I’d love to share. And is the logical place to share them.

Second thing is, I’m genuinely excited by the FCO’s moves to engage online. First steps, yes, but all the more important for that. And I want to be part of it.

That’s two pretty good reasons, I think. And, provided I can find the time, I hope there’s still room for – I don’t want to clutter the FCO blog with random thoughts unconnected to my work. I reckon I can still be a civil service blogger and a civil servant who blogs.

We’ll see how it evolves.

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Sep 27 2008

Now you really can see Russia from your house!

Published by under Digital,Politics,Russia,Tech

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… if you live on an uninhabited island in the middle of the Bering Strait, anyway.

Found this on FP Passport: a webcam on the (US) island of Little Diomede, which points at the (Russian) island of Big Diomede, or Ratmanov Island.

On a clear day the view’s rather good, too.


Slate helpfully points out that, thanks to the International Date Line, this webcam really does show you the future. Cool.

Off to France for a week – light blogging ahead.

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Sep 20 2008

Links of the Week

Published by under Digital,Media,Misc,Politics,Russia

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Lloyds is pants – but at least they rescued HBOS.

Man calls 911 over improperly prepared sandwich – Life imitates Python’s ‘good job I didn’t tell him about the dirty knife …’

10 reasons to stop calling yourself a blogger – David Armano talks more sense. Me? I’m not a blogger, I’m a person who happens to blog. I’d add a number 11, though. Mainstream media – and particularly the 24-hour news channels – talk about “bloggers” as if they’re this weird new kind of semi-journalist from Mars. It’s started to irk me.

Lord Norton on the concerning (or not) lack of public interest in our political processes – well it worries me, anyway.

Secret vodka pipeline into Estonia – you couldn’t make this up.

Dad-o-Matic – Dads blogging. Definitely one for my Google reader.

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Sep 08 2008

In with the LinkedIn crowd

Published by under Digital,Tech

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Simon Dickson wondered, earlier today:

simond isn’t putting any effort into LinkedIn. Should I be?

Good question, and one I’ve asked myself on occasion recently. Not that I’ve been losing sleep over it, but all the cool kids seem to be using it. So a few weeks ago I signed up. Bit of a palaver, but I got there in the end. And until today, I don’t think I’d looked at it since.

Simon’s tweet prompted me to take another look. I still can’t really see that it’s worth the effort.

My issue, I guess is that I’m not (a) looking for a job, (b) looking to hire, or (c) looking to sell my services. I like my job, I don’t plan on looking for another one for at least a year or two, and (thankfully) I don’t have any gaps in my team. And as far as my ‘clients’ are concerned, I’m a very happy monopolist.

So what am I missing?

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Sep 02 2008

Yes, but why?

Published by under Digital,Misc,Tech

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Incoming link the other day from – apparently my post highlighting some of the problems with has been tagged under ‘hacking’. Well OK, thanks for the link, even if ‘hacking’ doesn’t really apply to the post in question – perhaps ‘MacBook Nano’, a couple of weeks later, is more relevant.

The point is, though, aren’t there enough social bookmarking sites out there already? Digg, reddit, stumbleupon … I mean, the button at the bottom of each of my posts gives you a choice of thirty-four (yes, 34) social bookmarking / link sharing options. Do we really need another one?

Remmrit’s strapline is ‘Social Bookmarking made easier’. Sure, but it wasn’t that difficult to start with. I’m not convinced that adding another option to the already crowded array of options is necessarily an improvement.

To the guys at, I hope it works out for you. I hope you manage to get sufficient advertising revenue to sustain your business model. In the meantime, though, you might want to sort your SEO – a google blogsearch for ‘remmrit’ throws up six results, and three of those are for porn ‘splogs’ …

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Jul 22 2008

WordPress for iPhone

Published by under Digital,Tech

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Writing this on the newly-released WordPress for iPhone app. Seems to work ok, although it’s more than a little basic.

Can’t quite figure out how to enter links, although I’m assuming that will show up as a hyperlink on screen.

Preview mode is very good, although doesn’t show your photos.

Attaching photos seems to work ok, given the limitations of the iPhone’s rubbish camera. Below, if it works, is the view from my window just now – the G-Wagen, fading perhaps but still King of Moscow’s urban jungle. Incidentally, four went past in as many minutes.

No copy and paste, of course, which – along with the lack of links – has to be the major limitation.

All in all, a pretty good effort. If I were liveblogging an event, for example, this would be pretty handy.

And it’s free. I’d pay for more features, though. Comment management, perhaps, or decent implementation of MarsEdit.

Thanks, WordPress. I look forward to the next version.


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Jul 20 2008

Pwning all over the world

Published by under Digital,Russia,Tech

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iPwn.jpgI’m not the only one to have been on tenterhooks for the last week or so following the release of Apple’s iPhone 2.0 update. Today, in what I reckon is a pretty impressive timescale, the iPhone Dev Team released their ‘Pwnage 2.0′ tool – enabling those of us outside Apple’s tightly-controlled set of official carriers to once again unlock our ‘phones and start playing with the new software. Thanks, guys.

It’s good, too. Some of the new applications are very impressive, and the whole thing feels that bit more polished.

But that’s not what this entry’s about.

This morning I headed over to Gorbushka in search of an 802.11n card for my Mac Mini.What I did find, all over the place, was Pwnage 2.0. Barely a few hours after its release, Moscow’s iPhone industry is happily upgrading, unlocking and jailbreaking like it’s September 2007, and making a healthy profit in the process.

Globalisation and free enterprise. You gotta love it.

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