Friday, 14 November 2008

Media mEdia meDia medIa mediA

I recently attended the mediatech 100 event at the Russel hotel.

From what I gather the economic down turn is going to actually benefit the media businesses as evidence from the previous recessions indicate that reduced spending money, causes consumers to stay at home …. and spend more money on media consumption!

The VC’s and business angels are especially backing games, virtual worlds and mobile applications that have micro-transaction engines.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Can government cut costs with social networking?

I have just read this,3800010403,39325058,00.htm?r=2

This point of view is fundamentally flawed and forgets that “government” is the action of authority, and that it imposes jurisdiction without unanimous, majority or even minority consensus. Where as the social network is the interaction of individuals with other individuals using technology.

The responsibility of government is to improve the lives of individuals via the application of abstraction i.e. legislation against cigarette advertising. Its judgements are guided by the research that it commissions, or secret information that it gathers.

Today the contents of the social network is massively influenced by the intelligentsia, who are the early adaptors of the technology, but tomorrow it will have mass market adoption.

Information and recommendations that can be derived from the contents of a social network will tomorrow reflect the reactionary majority view. It would be dangerous and irresponsible to allow research and policy to be solely guided by such networks.

The eminent thinkers of my great nation have a long and checked history of engineering large scale social change, and engineering large scale … errr … engineering.

We are behind many of the “isums” and machines that have shaped the world. Our age sees the direct conjunction of the two. I can not predict the outcome of this union, but it is a safe bet that the UK will first see the changes.

Friday, 31 October 2008


Ive recently been asked to give my thoughts on a web site for a famous chicks shoes store. My thoughts were ..

  1. Have a good favicon
  2. News as an RSS feed (will help make the site stick for enthusiasts)
  3. Add a picture of the designer to the wikipedia article
  4. Add a delicious/dig tag to the bottom of all new articles
  5. Get the designer to expose her delicious feed
  6. Get the people who
    make the shoes,
    sell them,
    sales team etc ... to start blogs and link back to her site
  7. Set up a you tube page and channel
  8. Do a head to head interview with the designer
  9. Add picture of the products onto google map
  10. Add some comments and video responses to the existing you tube posts,
    it better to have customers posting than a sales pitch from store manager

the important thing about chick buying shoes,
is that they buy them so that other chick scan see them wearing them,
the shop, and the shoe buying experience is an important context
but not as important as the bar or outside context,
the site needs more shoes in their natural habitat, on feet, causing envy.

the web site is about the dream of what the product does for you.
the store is about actually living that dream through physical product experience.

dont make a website about a store

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

What happened while you were on the golf course

Ive just read this article and .... this point of view is totally out of date,39024673,39289155,00.htm

Man it Makes me mad !

The author of this article says that there are only three successful collaboration technologies that penetrate the boardroom Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange and the BlackBerry.

He has omitted the Internet, the penetration of which is so complete that it is easy to overlook it. If you include it, you will see that it shows the results of many millions of different collaborations using tools like wordpress, joomla, svn and good old notepad.

The generation of people who make the 99% of this content not only reject playing golf as a way to communicate, but they also reject the notion of a boardroom.

The exclusive and location static nature of the “boardroom and golf” means of communication is in comparison to the “basecamp and msn” form of communication, far slower, which all things being equal places the boardroom style of business at a commercial disadvantage.

If the author of this article is looking to the future of business, then he (Im guessing he is a he) should be looking to the technologies that are going to replace the boardroom not those that are going to get past its security coded doors for the short time that it still exists.

I do enjoy golf

Friday, 5 September 2008

long tail, pareto principle, mashup

In no other sector is Sturgeon's revelation more relevant than media

Friday, 8 August 2008

Friday, 11 July 2008

New Blog from a coooool dude


Here is a great new blog from the cooolest of dudes

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Passive group experience

I have been thinking about the Clay Shirky lecture on the cognitive surplus, and how its the end of TV as we know it. Funnily enough, my 4 year old son did the same thing with looking for the mouse.

The thing that I cannot reconcile with Clay's line of thought is that people like a passive experience, if you look at behavioural data, my guess is that they people to be fed and that the TV helps them remove the need to think, sure the kids like to play the interactive games (they also constantly change channels) but as they get older they chill out and slow down.

In terms of technology clearly the internet will replace TV, but I guess there is a hole in the market for a passive group experience.

Any Ideas?

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The 6 stages to getting your web site audience to commit

The online community contributors journey

Why do individuals join online communities? How do we attract more people to our community? Just because you have a great blog engine it does not mean that anyone will use it. The answer to these questions is simple, its the same reason that some one commits to i.e. buys any product. It s because the product has been marketed to you. Unlike a physical product the online product is different, and the marketing has a close relationship to the technology. This is important for the architect, as they have to consider the marketing in the design. The potential community member takes a 6 stage journey from knowing nothing about the community to becoming a fully fledged contributor.
  • Unawareness: If you havnt launched your product .. this is everyone in the world
  • Awareness: These are the people who have seen an ad or look at page that has a x-link.
  • Belief: These people could tell you what you product is, but are ambivalent.
  • Attitude: these are the people who are about to find out about your product, they say things like "have you seen ..." or "what do you think of ..."
  • Intention: These people say "Im going to join ... just as soon as I get a moment" they have probably been up to the site a few times, and may have been to many of your referees.
  • Committed: these people have logged in, signed up and done your Chutpta, and importantly they have also commented on something, joined in or added some content.
Finally ...
  • You need to keep the committed there so that they commit again and again.
In your design think about how you will measure each stage. The unaware is easy, its the number of people in who are "online" note that this number grows. The commiters is easy its the number of people who have made comments. The stages in the middle are tricky, and they are also specific to your product. As an architect think about which tools you will build into the design to record a metric against each stage.

If you want an introduction to Web2 do these 5 things ...

A description of are the basics of what makes online community tick

It does not matter which definition you use to describe Web2.0, they all agree with one thing, which is that it is being driven by the online community or social network. If you have never worked as a member of a virtual team then the collaborative and egalitarian nature of the Web2 tool set will seem like madness you. If you want to understand the lunacy then here is a list of things that will get you up to speed.

  • Organise an event [party/gig/exhibition] using facebook
  • Play an online game with someone you have never met
  • Organise your next personal project using project path
  • Add to the definition of something that you are expert at, in the wikipedia.
  • Read a blog, and comment on it

Im now assuming that you have done all of the above.

As architects we may be asked to deliver solutions for these online comunities, and there is a vast amount of technology out there for you to enjoy and sometimes suffer.

Successful online communities grow and grow with little or no traditional marketing. When you first start an online community it seems to take you ages to get the technology and design how you want it to be whole lives can be lost making the perfect CSS to scale the as yet unmade content, we have all worked on projects where the tek has taken literally man years to get to the first release candidate.

When the big opening day finally comes and you launch your web servers out into the internet, it falls flat. No one registers apart from the people who made it (and their mums). If you have done some marketing then you get a few views but after a few months that drops off and your community is a failure.

The content of your web site can be made up of manny manny, things, such as games, forums pages, papers, documents, movies, comments, ... the list is endless. It is best to think of everything as just content. A piece of text is content in the same way that a "mapping favourites" feature is. The amount of and quality of this is called a websites weight.

With respect to your community portal there are 4 types of people in the world.

  • The Unaware - people who have never been to your website
  • The Audience - people who have diped in to your website once or twice
  • The Members - people who have registered
  • The Commiters - these are people who make a contribution

The atoms of content that contribute to the weight of a website is created by it contributors, some of which you normally pay; people such as the developers and producers, some of which you dont normally pay; people such as the blogers and commentators.

A good piece of technology allows the community that uses your site to create good content, which attracts more contributors, which in-turn add to the content.

Sooner or later the community start needing more features or scale, which empowers the community to make good content which is passed on to others who then join the community ... who need more features ...
who make better content ... and so on
This diagram shows how a successful community works. It is a relationship between content, technology and the community. If any part of this loop is weak then it lets down the others, which leads to a stagnant community. As architects we must decide on, design and describe the technology, but you must remember that we are only a third of the story. It is important to understand this relationship before you start designing

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Randomising an array using Java script

This function can be used to randomise an existing javascript Array object. It first creates a new array object and then iterates through each element of the old array, randomly placing the old array elements into the new array.

function randomiseArray(arr){
var ptr = 0;
var newArr = new Array();

while (ptr < arr.length){
var idx =0;
idx = parseInt(arr.length * Math.random());
while(typeof newArr[idx] != 'undefined')

var element = arr[ptr++];
newArr[idx] = element;
return newArr;
This function can be very usefully randomising small arrays, performance drops off when arrays get really large as it attempts to place each new element randomly, apart from the it works well. You are free to use and distribute this code.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

This is excellent.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Good products mean Good design which means good practice

Good products have a simplicity of design that can be clearly seen. Often there is a single design innovation that carries the whole product.

When starting a project, the risk adverse, less skilled members of the team always add to the design, rather than to aim for design elegance. In fact "design elegance" are dirty words in some circles yet customers are expected many millions for products.

Up front design, huge lists of requirements and endless project management documents cover the design with a veil of techno babble and bullshit. The products that this style of project make are normally low quality and require constant tinkering and adjustment to function. Very often the huge armies of people who thought up the lists of requirements have moved on to the next disaster by the time that the problems in the overly complex design become evident.

The solution is to put the responsibility for design into the hands of those that can execute it.
Code is the least ambiguous way to express design.

Instead of expressing the desired outcome as a list of ambiguous written requirements or documents express it as a list of coded tests.If the tests execute successfully then the requirements are met. This way only those members of the team capable of understanding the code are responsible for the design.

Test driven development allows practices such as refactoring, story card driven user interface design and continuous integration to be used. These practices create an environment where you are able to try stuff out and therefore have a better chance of making a good design.

The difference between a professional and an amateur is that a professional should be able to consistently deliver design elegance. I would hope that the professional would understand the relationship between good products and good design technique and tools.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Wii Fit ????

wiki recommendation

What do I recommend?

A deployment of JIRA confluence

What will it cost?

Arround £10k for unlimited users, both JIRA Confluence running on a 3 moderatly beefy boxs

Why this?

  • It is very easy to use.
  • It is very easy to create a new area for a project or initiative (called a wiki space).
  • It is easy to control permissions at a space or page level
  • The team collaboration features such as commenting, bloging and workflow are excellent.
  • It integrates with enterprise systems such as mail and active directory very well.
  • It provides an ability ladder for users
  • simple wysiwyg for you newbies
  • rich wiki mark-up language for experienced users
  • macro language for experts
  • Java plug in API for the hard core nutters who want to change their own features
  • It has a vast library of mainly free pluggins created the community that prove some really great features
  • You can export to word, pdf, excel, sharepoint and nearly any format, using the plugins library
  • It does calendars well
  • You can create galleries easily
  • You can have different themed spaces
  • A real strength is the JIRA integration which allows workflow, task tracking and automation
  • This has personal spaces and JIRA projects which are a great way to introduce a wiki
  • This is nearly Open Source, once you purchase you the licence you get source, which you can modify.

How do you get it going?

  • The boxes that this runs on can be either windows, solaris or unix, make this decision so that its easier for your support team.
  • You need three boxes in the confluence clustered architecture
  • This can be installed in this way in a morning.
  • Once installed it will need to be skinned, this will not take more than an afternoon
  • Get a member of the design department to give it a once over

How do we configure it?

  • Install it to these domains and
  • It must be linked to email, this is very easy if you have access to the email administrator
  • Logging in is a pain, it is easy to add this or the active directory or LDAP
  • Don't nail it down, try to hold back on securing it so that users can do as much as possible (obviously don't make everyone a member of admins).
  • Create a Wiki for the wiki, Create a JIRA project for the wiki, users can see and change the guidelines, they can also submit admin requests (using JIRA)
  • Make the members of the admin group multi-dicipline, have representatives of managers, creatives, network admins, support teams, developers etc ...

Other Recommendations?

  • When you deploy this you will be adding to the number of different information systems that are available to your collogues,
    this can be confusing, you can either
  • Enforce one system on all your colleges (good luck with this)
  • or try and bring all the systems together, good search tool will do this, what about one of these
  • Read this
  • and this

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The environments and architecture needed to run and develop a consumer focusing web site

The main goal of a consumer facing website is to create a fun, engaging online experience that helps your consumers interact with your product. This is a challenge for people who have come from the business world. The three questions that you need to ask yourself when considering how you make good consumer focused web site are

  • What is the structure of the production environment?

  • What environments do I need to enable change?

  • Who will be using each environment?

This diagram shows what I feel is a good set of environments for a basic site.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Why do I enjoy this so much?

I came across this the other day and cannot put my finger on why i enjoy it so much.
may be its because it pauses on JIRA

Friday, 2 May 2008

Versioning the Web

for (web=1; ; ) web++;

Those of us who have ever fixed a bug or released a patch will know the pain that is caused if you don't version your code.
It seems that the strange creatures who didn't spend all night playing Attic attack on their speccy have caught on to versions. But somehow they have made it more glamorous. Whilst trying showcase the achievements that Atos has made with web 2 products we are already talking about web 3. Whats it all about? Which version web means what?
In my nerdy engineers way I think about it like this
  • Web version 1.x is a read only web
  • Web version 2.x is a read write web
  • Web version 3.x I can read, I can write, I change the folders!
Putting my metaphor aside what is web 3? The best place to look is the wikipedia which has a great definition. The person most responsible for giving us web 2 is Eric Schmidt of google, he says that both web2 and web3 are marketing terms. This fits in with my engineers view on the world you should only increment the architecture number if you have a brand new solution( [product name].[architecture #].[feature #].[build #]). My guess is that we are around web.1.10.x. I think web 3 definitely sounds more fun!

Monday, 28 April 2008

Identity issues and modern exam techniques

The most important facet of a service that is offered by a examination body is to the general public, not the students themselves but those of us who will in time use the qualified professionals. For example If you use an accountant you don't just trust them with your finical data you also trust them with your livelihood. We need to know that when we extend our trust to an accountant, that they are adequately skilled and have been examined by a professional body to an adequate standard.

The modern examination process has come a long way from rows of desks with an invigilator sitting at the front. Examinations and the examination process itself have been upgraded.

The learner can use an on-line system to schedule when and where they would like to take an exam, the student then arrives at a comfortable examination center and sits down in front of a computer, the exam starts when they click and is controlled by a remote computer system that provides the student with a monitored and balanced set of questions. The adjudicator’s role is to provide drinks and to make sure that the students are not using their mobile to call friends who are googling the answers. Results are often provided immediately at the end of the test along with a breakdown of the student’s performance.

However this examination process has introduced a number of new problems, the most significant of which are associated with identity, and can be summed up by these three questions
  • "who is going to take the exam?"
  • "who took the exam?"
  • "who does this exam result belong to?"
Imagine Geoff decides to become an accountant this is a possible journey that Geoff could take to achieve his qualification.

We start to answer the question "who is going to take this exam" when Geoff shows his interest on the web site, and we also encounter our first identity problem. How do you know that people who have signed up with us and are real, unique people? Has this problem been solved before? Back in the early 1990's it was technology companies such as Microsoft who developed the tools to make examinations a more enjoyable experience. They also introduced the new way of examinations for their accreditation programmes and so naturally it was they who first started to tackle these identity problems. Their solution was simply to create a database of people, all having user names and passwords; an identity silo. Independent from any governmental or quasi-governmental organisation, this solution is called by some Identity 1.0. To prove that Geoff is really a unique person, and that he really exists the web site needs to link the identity it has with an identity that is offered by trusted identity authority such as the passport or driving licence office. This is called Identity 2.0.

The next identity question "Who took the exam" comes when he is at the examination centre and needs to relate his exam result and his physical identity to the identity that he previously registered on the website when he booked the exam. A modern solution is to use a biometric measure to relate Geoff person to information that has been previously stored against him. Lets say we use his retina scan.

This basic biometric process is used no matter which biometric measure you choose to use. Biometric measure come in one of two categories physiological or behavioural.

The physiological measures are
  • Face - Everyone has a face, but they are not as unique as you would think.
  • Finger print - These are very unique but are very, easy to get round (search for fingerprint on youtube)
  • Hand Geometry - Good all round measure to use
  • Hand Veins - Are easy to circumvent
  • Iris - Difficult to collect works very well
  • Retinal scan - Very very difficult to collect but works really well.
  • Face Thermiograph - Very unique, but change as people get older
  • Odour - Difficult to collect but a good measure to use
The behavioural measures are
  • Key strokes - Very very easy to collect
  • Signature - Not a good measure at all, forgers have been working on this for centuries
  • Voice - Not very unique
  • Gait - Easy to collect, but also easy to imitate
If a biometric is used then it must also be noted that the patterns stored against a person need to be in a database, against a user name and password. Most off the shelf biometrioc solutions actually reinforce the Identity silo problems that existed before the biometric solution was put in, and often incur massive costs in the process.

Our third question "who does this exam result belong to?" is a tricky question, we may be able to relate the result to a set of finger prints or to a user name and password, but who really owns the exam result? Are they Alive? Have they been incarcerated for fraud? Have they been awarded the Nobel prize for science? Again an Identity silo exasperates the problem. organisations such as OpenID and OASIS are trying to solve this issue from a technical perspective.

Things have moved on since the Microsoft Certified Engineer days and nearly everyone is a member of hundreds of identity silos. Identity silos do work well for storing your shopping list or a set of favourites, but as a solution for things that are really important - they really don't work. The century has already seen the rise of identity theft, organised large scale credit fraud and global terrorism. You also have to ask another question,
"Is owning, managing and maintaining an Identity Silo core to my function?"
The answer can only be no. If you want to remove barriers to membership then every thing that detracts from this is just a cost, that will included in the exam fee.

There are many ways to authenticate a student, either via a shared secret such as a user name and password, via a token such as a smart card or a biometric device, but if these authentication solutions are used to populate Identity Silos then you will be left with dealing with all the associated problems.

The Identity 2.0 solution to this technical issue is to delegate the task of authorising users and consequently the owning and managing of a particular identity silo to a specialised provider. Specialist services such as on-line exam papers or multiple choice questions could be held on servers that sit behind the identity asserting authority. The exchange and interchange of identity information can be facilitated using the SAML (Security Assertion Mark-up Language) standard.

This architecture is about trust. The user trusts the asserting authority with their personal information, who will be a vendor selected for their trustworthy characteristics such as Veritas or Microsoft. This trust is again repeated by service provider who will have a number of services on the right hand side of the diagram. The biometric vendor has a common standard to deliver to and importantly this can be changed if their solution is compromised without a redesign of any of the services. In-fact examination body will be able to extend trust to its students in different manners according to the student’s status, role or geographical region. In countries that prohibit the storage of finger prints, smart cards can be used. Students who have graduated can login using their user name and password, but students who have not finished all their exams would need to use a finger print identification. As new features come into the public domain such as OpenId and cardSpace the solution can be extended in a single place the Credential Authority (CA).

In conclusion an Independent Asserting authority allows you to change your services and how your services are accessed without effecting your customer base, which will allow you to deliver faster as you don't have to maintain your identity silo and deal with the technical complexity associated with running one.

Most important of all is that your students only have to trust you enough to provide the services that you want to offer, i.e. they don’t also have to trust you with their identity, finger prints, retina scan, voice patterns ....

If an independent assertion authority is used, then the core service that you wish to offer can be developed against it with a well known and simple user name password or token style solution. If fraud, identity theft or impersonation then turn out to be a quantifiable problem then a biometric solution can be used without change to the previously deployed solution.

The one question not yet answered is probably the most important question and that is
"Is this person who says that they are certified really certified".
I.e. Can I trust Geoff with my finical data and my livelihood because the certificate on the wall in his office says so? and Is that certificate a forgery?What I need is the ability to check with the examination body that Geoff really is who he says he is and to do that the examination body must explore exchanging Geoff's profile information that it has stored against his member identity with an unidentified member of the public. A simple suggestion that may work without either Identity 2.0 or a biometric device can be achieved by the exam invigilator taking the student’s photograph during the exam and publishing the photographs on the website against the name that the student gave at the exam and the name on the qualification document.


Identity 2.0 Dick Hardt
CCCB How to hack a finger print reader
Biometrics wikipedia
OASIS technical council on SAML

Friday, 18 April 2008

why a high-tech innovation lead company cannot ignore SecondLife

1, the people
SecondLife is the most popular virtual world environment, the generation Y creative minds that it attracts are coding new streaming platforms, experimenting with new code patterns and making whole new languages, they are doing this because they enjoy it, this is the new high-tech resource pool, your competitors will draw from this pool, ignore these people and you will loose your commercial advantage.

2, the technology
The SecondLife grid is a contender for the worlds largest collaboration project, it is solving issues associated around fast data transfer, massive parallel processing and the distributed service that nearly all modern systems will face, their open source repository allows 100,000 developers to alter a single line of code to meet these demands, their automated build release and QA procedures are collaborative an easy, this is how future software projects will be run, this type of collaboration is the new school your competitors are learning how to deliver commercial projects using these tools and methodologies.

3, the business
SecondLife is only came to media attention in 2006 and yet it has already become the worlds 2nd largest online 3d brand it has a higher GDP than Israel, in the future training and education simulations will use virtual worlds, this will happen, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Samsung, Nokia, google, BBC, Accenture, Reutiers, Garnter, CNN, Disney, AOL, Warner are all announcing 3d worlds products. Virtual worlds and serious games are going to become a part of everyday life, in fact if you look around you will realise that they already are,

In 1977 Ken Olsen said “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home” 5 years after this I was exchanging games on C15’s with my friends, and Bill G’s MSDOS was finding its way into every office in the world.

Today’s 11 year olds are making avatar behaviours, functioning 3d machines and architectures, with the accelerated rate at which software and hardware products can be brought to market it can be expected that that consumer facing solutions will interface with a virtual world in some way. I would expect this to happen within 5 years. The high-tech company that looks to the horizion will surf this wave and have really good fun doing it, those that don’t will just have to do what they can to jump on the wave as it crashes around them.

note::i know that its a misquote !

Elliott - a little more

London, United Kingdom
I am an architect with shed loads of familiarity in providing high profile consumer media, products and services. I conceive ideas, design and lead projects to create new consumer products. I love brainstorming ideas with marketing counterparts and creating future facing and innovative solutions. I have been responsible for high volume mass consumer market features where scale, reliability and the ability to quickly respond are of crucial importance.