Category Archives: technology

I hate Spotify

I have an irrational (or maybe not) hatred of Spotify. I find it useful for researching single tracks, but I don’t ever use it for listening to music on. My heart sinks every time I click on a link to find it’s a Spotify link (maybe people should flag them up, with “Spot” or something!).

These are the reasons I hate it:

  • I can’t use it at work, which is where I listen to music most.
  • I mainly listen to new music that isn’t on there yet.
  • I’m not convinced of its usefulness to me enough to buy it yet, so I’m stuck with the ads. Some say they are not that intrusive, but I’ve never listened to music interrupted by ads in my life, I’m not going to start now.
  • I don’t like having to open yet another app, I’d rather be able to listen to stuff in my browser/iTunes.
  • I like to “own” music, I don’t trust my music library/playlists etc. in the hands of a third party. Also I don’t trust myself to ‘remember’ all the music I like. At least I know that I like all the music I own (I’m not a completist: if I own it, I like it).
  • The UI is fugly

In its defense, several friends have raved about its sharing capabilities, but I can’t see me making use of this unless I used it a lot.

Convince me. If you want.

Update: this post was a result of a comment I made over here. For sharing purposes, what I need is some kind of browser-based thing that I can add my online streaming finds to (e.g. Soundcloud, Hype Machine), that could play the streaming audio through a common interface. Failing that, I could just use a tumblr to share stuff.

Update 2: After a lengthy Twitter convo with @craigfots, I want to add some more thoughts:

  • I want to listen to brand new tracks as soon as they are available (if not sooner!). I don’t want to have to wait for them to go through the aggregation procedure to get onto Spotify. And not all the tracks I’m interested in will appear on Spotify. That’s because Spotify are in control, not me.
  • Spotify feels too much like a walled garden. I want to be able to add any track I find online: one-off tracks/experiments/mashups/white labels/DIY cool stuff that finds its way onto YouTube or SoundCloud etc. Spotify kind of goes against one of the things I love most about the web, that anyone can create content. I basically want the same control as I have with my iTunes. It’s just a player, I can put any track in it. Need that for streaming. Even better, I’m looking for a generic tool that can combine these (mp3 player + stream from anywhere + my control) and am happy to pay for that tool when I find it!
  • I want one place/tool to go to for all my audio. I don’t want to use Spotify for established artists and something else for an experimental DIY track I just found online. Want it all in the same place, see above.

Ada Lovelace Day

As an intelligent human being, I am, quite frankly, horrified by the idea of Ada Lovelace Day. I also wonder whether Ada Lovelace herself would be too.

Why do we need a special day “to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science”. To me, that’s a caveat that screams “women are not good enough”. The only way to equality is to stop treating women differently. That means we don’t need separate days, groups, awards, events and so on, just for women. We need to make sure women are part of the existing days, groups, awards and events in the name of technology and science, not in the name of gender.

I read with similar horror recently of Geek Girl Dinners, as there is talk of setting them up in Birmingham. This is what they are about:

The Girl Geek Dinners were founded on the 16th August 2005 as a result of one girl geek who got annoyed and frustrated about being one of the only females attending technical events. She was tired of being assumed to be marketing, tired of constantly having to prove herself and decided that she just wanted a change and to be treated just the same as any other geek out there, gender and age aside.

Couldn’t her experience of technology events simply be the one that the vast majority of people feel when attending events, regardless of gender or subject? It’s quite nerve-wracking for everyone going to an event on their own, perhaps she just needs someone to go with (male or female).  I have plenty of male friends who are equally terrified turning up to technology events.

We all judge people on their appearance whether we like it or not. I’m sure my brain subconsciously tries to distinguish the males that were are in marketing or whatever at such an event. Your brain naturally tries to categorise things to cope with the volume of information it receives. It’s only by talking to people that you can find out who they really are.

And all humans feel the need to ‘prove themselves’ among their peers, don’t they?

If I’m at a technology event and I feel that someone is not taking me seriously, I just dismiss their opinion as not valid and go and talk to someone else.

What does it say about us if we feel we always have to be surrounded by our own kind?!

The answer to discrimination (or perceived discrimination) is not segregation. Organising events by any criteria other than interest is a bit old fashioned isn’t it?

As for there not being many women at technology events, could this just be that women are naturally less inclined to be interested (I’m sure someone has done some research into this). If it is the case that women do want to get involved in science and technology, but are afraid to, then this probably needs to be tackled at school age.

Let’s stop obsessing about what gender people are and, like Ada, just get on with it. I really hope there is no need for an Ada Lovelace day next year, and if there is, that it is a celebration of her life and work as a scientist, not a female scientist.

Moseley and Kings Heath pothole hunt

I have noticed the huge number of potholes appearing near where I live due to the recent bad weather. Birmingham council apparently want us to tweet them (although they didn’t say who to) with our pothole reports, but as @bounder pointed out, it would be much more efficient to use the Fix My Street website (or even better the iPhone app as you can photograph and geotag on the scene) because reports are properly logged.

I didn’t much fancy stopping at every pothole on my drive to work as I would never get there, but then I had the idea of a dedicated pothole spotting (and reporting) walk. I need to get out regularly in daylight anyway because I have SAD, but I find walking on my own a bit boring. It’s nice to have a purpose and some company.

So if you fancy joining me on my pothole hunt, meet me at 12.30pm this Sunday at the King’s Heath Superloo (where Vicarage Rd meets the High Street). Armed with my Fix My Street iPhone app, we’ll then wend our way to Moseley around the houses reporting as many potholes as we can, ending up in a pub natch (prob the Fighting Cocks) for some slurps and noms.

I’ve drafted a map of the main spine of my proposed walk (am open to alternative suggestions). I know for sure that there are loads on Oxford Rd, but it might be just as bad down the roads I haven’t been down recently? If there are enough of us and we fancy it, we can split off and do some of the side roads off the main spine route.
View Pothole hunt in a larger map

The fact that the route looks like cat ears is entirely coincidental I promise!

Update: Dan Davies informs me that HashBrum has a map showing all the potholes in Brum reported on Fix My Street so far.

Update: We had an enjoyable walk and reported over 50 potholes

I have a place on the Fourth Plinth!

I’m chuffed that my name has been drawn for a place on The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square on 4th August from 6-7am. More info at oneandother.co.uk.

But what the blinking heck should I do with my hour? I’m not sure I really have one burning issue I want to support/promote, but there are many great things happening in Brum that I wouldn’t mind giving a helping hand to, including Rhubarb Radio, Birmingham Bloggers, BARG, Birmingham Hackspace, West by West Midlands, Social Media Surgeries, We Share Stuff

So I’m thinking vaguely along the lines of promoting Brum and digital inclusion. I’m pretty sure I first heard about the event via Twitter (@brendadada if I remember correctly) and in fact I’ve not really noticed it covered by any other media, so I probably wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t for Twitter.

I’m thinking about live tweeting using a hashtag, say #catnipplinth or even a separate Twitter account. It’s a great way to share my experience with my Twitter friends. I could possibly rig up a laptop to display tweets at the bottom of the plinth (Jon would have to be on guard!), hopefully there would be enough battery to last an hour.

So, what do you clever people think? Is my idea too vague? Can you think a better way of doing it or any other ideas?

I need to let them know what I’m planning on doing when I accept the invitation, which I only have 2 more days left to do, so if you have any ideas, let me know asap.

Thanks :)

Update: I have now confirmed my place, but keep the ideas coming as nothing is set in stone!

Google Reader help please

Good grief, a ‘proper’ blog post, my first in about 6 months! What on earth could have driven me to this? Well, I need your help.

I have a simple question, which I’m sure has a simple answer, but I can’t for the life of my work it out. After a couple of pleas on Twitter to no avail, I thought I’d blog about it. My question is this:

How do I search for a starred item with a certain tag in Google Reader?

It seems I can search for one or the other using the All Items dropdown next to the search box, but how do I search for both? For example, starred items tagged ‘music’. There’s prob some simple syntax I’m not aware of, so if anyone can help me out here, I’ll be chuffed to bits.

Cheers m’dears :)

Should I retire from the Twitter police?

A number of times on Twitter I have corrected someone’s grammar or warned them that announcing defriendings makes them *sound* self-important. In fact, my Twitter profile currently states “I am the Twitter show-off police, if you use it to show off, you’re likely to get a sarky comment from me :)”

I see this as a service, but how would I feel, perhaps it feels more like a personal attack? Would people rather I just muttered to myself instead? Should I retire from the “Twitter Police”? I’d love to hear what others think of this!

a day out around (and around) Birmingham

My main worry about taking part in 11-11-11 was that I was going to get really bored. So I had packed two magazines, Jon‘s DS with my fave game Zookeeper and a pack of cards. I needn’t have worried though as the day flew by and none of the aforementioned distractions left my bag.

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We set off just after 11am from the stop at the end of Vicarage Road, Kings Heath

I had taken my battered old fold-out A to Z map with me so that I could get my bearings. It was my intention to trace the route with a marker pen and make notes on it as I went along, but it was a bit unwieldy for the space I had available and the ride was a bit bumpy for drawing!

An 11A going anticlockwise
An 11A going the other way round (anticlockwise)

So I resorted to tweeting my observations on my iPhone. In hindsight, this may have been a mistake. It took me quite a while to compose each tweet (possibly because I am still getting used to the touchscreen keyboard) and I kept missing things that were going on outside while I was looking at my phone! Also, it wasn’t until the second circuit that I realised that I should quickly take some photos before it started to get dark.

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Parts of the route are quite picturesque, like this stop next to the River Tame.

I think the ideal way of recording my thoughts would have been little snippets of audio/video, then I could have kept my eyes on what was going on at the same time.

Winson Green Prison wall
The 11 route goes right past the walls of Winson Green prison.

I originally planned to observe the people (both inside and outside the bus). One idea was to do a survey of what music people were listening to, another was fashion commentary. I had thought that that was one way to keep me entertained, but actually I found that there was so much going on outside the bus that I didn’t have time to do that.

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Bearwood High Street has quite a few independent shops.

One of the reasons that the time passed quickly for me was that Jon and I had various people join us for parts of the day. To start with, we were accompanied by the BBC Midlands Today crew, Peter Plisner and his camerawoman. Then TWM Driver joined us with his family for a circuit; Jon’s mum and dad joined us for a bit and Michael Grimes aka Citizen Sheep caught up with us during our first circuit celebratory cake break at the Kitchen Garden Cafe in King’s Heath. Artist Alicja Rogalska, who has an interest in art and public transport (go do her survey) joined us for our second circuit. CyBrum boarded our bus totally by chance as he had previously been travelling alone. Then later on we caught up with Simon Gray aka star_one and his lovely wife Bettina. Having lots of companion passengers made for a really enjoyable day.

New QE Hospital
The new QE hospital looked amazing in the sunshine.

I’m not originally from Birmingham (and neither were half of my fellow travelling companions) so was fascinated by the trivia snippets that Jon and TWM driver were able to offer us as we went along. I’m sure that the experience for me was completely different to that of someone who had grown up here and had lots of childhood memories. I was able to look at the city with relatively objective eyes, although there were parts of the route that I was more familiar with than others. I have lived in Acock’s Green and used to drive down a good part of the route (King’s Heath/Stirchley/Bournville/Harbourne) when I worked in Halesowen and another section (Acock’s Green/Yardley/Stechford) when I worked in Sutton Coldfield. For me the day really helped to join up the gaps in my knowledge of the geography of the city.

I thought these one storey shops looked really odd
I thought these one-storey shops looked really odd.

There was so much to look at, that you could almost pick a different ‘theme’ to document on each circuit, such as architecture, shops, housing, parks/green spaces, roads (signs/markings/road furniture), grafitti/tagging etc etc. I suppose I ended up tweeting a bit of everything. When taking photos, it was impossible to take them while the bus was moving, so I was limited to when the bus was stopped at bus stops/juncions/traffic. I’m actually quite tempted to drive a circuit of the route, so that I could stop and take a photo or make a note of everything that I find interesting, in my own time.

I heart identicons

9 block identicon

I’ve noticed these cool aztec looking icons around the web over the past few weeks. They represent someone’s Globally Recognized Avatar when they haven’t yet uploaded one of their own via gravitar.com.

So anyway, I figured there were say a couple of dozen of these things that were assigned randomly to users. And I thought they’d look pretty cool on a tshirt. So I went to look for them and found out that they’re waaaaaay cooler than I thought. They are generated from your IP address and so there are thousands um millions um a shedload of them!

Anyway, as I have a floating IP address, I just picked a random one that I liked and made a tshirt online, can’t wait for it to arrive.