Author: piers

Requirements gathering for the nation

I’m a software developer by trade. It’s a job i really enjoy doing. However, there are always bits of jobs that you like the least and for me it’s requirements gathering. But it has to be done.

Maybe someone should have told the British Government this before they spent all that money (something like £10 million) on the funeral for the late Baroness Thatcher.

When I along Whitehall this morning, I thought I’d at least have to push past some people to get to work. This is what it looked like at 8:40am:

There were actually more police officers than mourners. There were more commuters than usual, but that was only because they couldn’t get buses through central London and therefore had to walk instead.

So, my question is: should the government have done a bit of requirements gathering among the UK population to find out if a procession through London is actually required? Couldn’t they just have done it all at St Pauls? Much cheaper, and far more practical for those that quite frankly believe this to be a waste of money.

Is the policing of social media fair?

Firstly some context:

Last night I went to a meeting of Westminster Skeptics (is meeting the right word? Should it be event, or session?) that concentrated on social media and abuse thereof. The panel was made up of various people who had either blogged anonymously and had been outed, people who had outed anonymous bloggers who had nefarious agendas or had some other links to social media and the law (twitter links at the bottom).

One of the things that was mentioned quite a lot was how people (in one form or another) had received appalling threats of rape, death and so on. In response to this, Richard Horton (aka Nightjack) quite calmly stated that there just wasn’t the capacity in the police force to deal with all these complaints.

So that’s the back story, albeit a bit long winded. Anyway, this got me thinking and I was going to ask this question but unfortunately there wasn’t time (I was beaten to the last question by the awesome Juliet Jacques, so no hardship there):

How come your “average” blogger can get death threats and abuse and the police can’t or won’t do anything about it, but when Tom Daley gets abuse the perpetrator gets a visit from the police the next morning?

Is it even fair that he almost gets special priority? Some might say that because he is representing his country and because he is a celebrity blah blah, but I would consider each of the people on the panel last night to be more of a celebrity than Mr Daley.

I don’t think there is an answer to this, and whilst the companies that run the platforms that allow this abuse to take place continue to take little or no interest in moderating their communities then why should the police? And don’t even get me started on jurisdiction (although I may write on this at some point in the future).



Paul Chambers (@pauljchambers)
Richard Horton (@iofiv)
Tim Ireland (@bloggerheads)
Peter Ede (@PME200)
Helen Lewis (@helenlewis)
Zoe Margolis (@girlonetrack)

How can you justify buying a new iPhone?

Blah blah blah, new iPhone, completely unexpected, blah blah blah.

Ok so the new iPhone was announced today. Yes it looks pretty. Yes I want one. No I’m not going to spend £529 on one.

Fair enough if you’re lucky enough to have reached the end of your contract and can get one a bit cheaper with some kind of upgrade package with your phone network. But there are some people out there who will go out and buy a brand new phone, shelling out £529 for this new piece of kit. How can you justify it?

Ok, yes I’m currently writing this post on a 3rd generation iPad, but T-Mobile were doing a deal and it only cost me £199 up front, which I can charge to my account and then pay it off over two months (because I ordered it just after payday, which basically means it costs me £100 a month). That is (kind of) justifiable. Ish.

£529 will get you a fairly decent week’s holiday for two people. It’s just about a month’s rent in a fairly decent room in a London shared house (don’t even get me started in those!). It can even get you an ok second hand car (ok, it won’t be the newest second hand car and it might have some scratches, but it will last you probably longer than that iPhone).

Is Doctor Who still considered a children’s show?

This thought stream was started by a tweet from NHS blogger extraordinaire, Brian “Reynolds” Kellett:

Which got me thinking: is Doctor Who still considered a child’s television program?

I’ve been watching it as long as I can remember (although the was a period during the Eccleston and Tennant era that I was a bit lax) but I’ve really got back into it.

According to the Wikipedia article on the subject, it was created as a family show, and it’s generally on at about 6 or 7 on a Saturday evening which historically was when the BBC put its family shows on.

However there have always been remarks, or discussions about whether it’s a bit scary for children. I personally never found it that scary, even the Daleks (who I think are my favourite characters) but I know people who say the when they watched it as children used to have to hide behind a cushion or their parents whenever the Daleks came on.

As well as this, I always remember the show pre-Eccleston being a bit sexless, whereas nowadays you have actors playing the roles of the Doctor and his companions who are pretty, well, hot. Maybe it was because I was young and naive at the time, but I don’t remember any of Tom Baker’s companions as attractive as, say, Amy Pond. As I say, maybe it was because I was quite young at the time.

What do you think?

My first Digital Sizzle

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of Digital Sizzle. The concept seems to be very simple. Get a load of like-minded (read: techy or somehow linked to the tech industry) people in one room, offer booze and BBQ and sit back and enjoy.

And that’s pretty much how I spent my Saturday afternoon. I have to admit that I was a little bit nervous beforehand as I didn’t really know anyone there. However, the people there were incredibly friendly and I soon got to some very varied people. Some from established startups, some just starting and even a geologist (who admitted that he was there with a friend and didn’t really have any other links or aspirations to do anything particularly techy, but then went on to come up with some pretty good ways of using technology in his chosen field).

I ended up talking to a couple of really interesting people for most of the afternoon. It did kind of prove what I thought about the whole startup community in London being a bit of a clique (in that pretty much everyone knows everyone else) but I don’t think it was in a bad way, considering everyone was very friendly and interesting and not as snobby as I thought it might have been.

So my advise to anyone who hasn’t been to one, then do try to go, and although I thought that 6 hours of sitting around talking to strangers would go really slowly, it flew past unfortunately.

Reasons to despair for humanity

I must be one of the few people in London who doesn’t really mind taking the tube. Yes sometimes it’s a bit cramped, in the summer it gets hot and the upgrade along with the regular signalling problems can be a pain in the arise, but overall it’s not too bad.

However this post is not about the tube, it’s about common decency in my fellow human beings.

This story begins and ends at Vauxhall. I was standing on the tube by the doors, waiting for them to close and allow me to continue my commute home. I heard on the platform, as probably a few of my fellow passengers did, someone haugh a loogy. “I hope he doesn’t spit that onto the platform”, I thought (one of my pet peeves).

He didn’t.

Just as the buzzer went, announcing that the doors were closing, I felt something wet hit the back of my head.

Without turning round, as if nothing had happened (we Brits are good at that, aren’t we) as I didn’t want to give whoever it was the satisfaction of knowing that they had riled me I waited for the train to move off before getting out my gloves and wiping it off.

So, I ask you: why would anyone do this? I wouldn’t say I’m a particular target for any kind of attack, let alone a mucus-based one. I wasn’t dressed up in a suit. I wasn’t even facing the doors (thankfully).

What kind of human being, would cough up phlegm and spit it at someone?

I’m not angry. I’m not even upset (although it has spurred me to write this). I’m just a bit disgusted and shocked that someone would do this to a complete stranger and find it funny (they laughed, hence why I knew it was a he not a she).

Presenting TinySharp

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to write more code. And so I have. I present to you: TinySharp.

It’s my own C# implementation of code that was originally written in Ruby by Kyle Bragger (he of Forrst fame). I then wrote a version in PHP (tidied up by Kyle) but I’ve wanted to write a version in C# (since most of my work is .NET related). So I did it tonight. And I’m quite proud of my work.

So clone, fork, do whatever. If you make any nice changes, please send a pull request my way.

No I Don’t Have A Facebook Account

I don’t have a Facebook account. I’ve not had one for over a year now. OK, I have one that I use for work (no really!) but it’s completely hidden and I don’t have any friends on it.

It’s really starting to nark me off how websites don’t allow you to use them to their full extent because I don’t have a Facebook account. Take Spotify for example. I’d be more than happy to pay the £9.99 a month for Spotify Premium. But I can’t use it because you need a Facebook account to even register nowadays.

It was really brought to ahead tonight with an email from the website formally known as 4SquareAnd7YearsAgo. It’s an awesome website that sends you emails to tell you were you checked in on Foursquare a year ago. Sounds silly, but it’s sometimes fun to see what you were up to. A bit like Photojojo, which sends you twice monthly emails with photos that you posted on Flickr a year ago (I’m not posting on Flickr so much anymore as I just take a photo and upload it to Twitter). But I digress. Anyway, so I got an email saying that they’ve changed their name to Timehop and are now including stuff like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. So, I clicked on the site to move my data over and they suggest that now I have to wait they can support me.

It’s not like they don’t already have details on me from Foursquare, and I’d be more than happy to signup with Twitter instead, but it kinda makes me feel like a second class web citizen (is that the right phrase?).

Anyway, it just made me think about how many sites don’t let you sign up without Facebook. I understand why. There’s a huge wealth of data available from people who link these web apps to Facebook, and it means that you the user doesn’t need to fill out more stuff again, but come on guys! Not everyone wants to sign their data and privacy away to Facebook.

And it’s not like I’m a person who isn’t all over the web. Just google my name. And it’s not difficult to get in touch with me. Hell I have my phone number on my CV which is online and easy to search. I just don’t like the idea of having everything in one place. I like the share my online love.

So, to those people who are creating new web apps that you need a Facebook account to use, think of the 6,040,507,000 people in the world who don’t have Facebook accounts and give us a way to use your site, give you our money and do it without having to use Facebook.