Guesto

Aspiring Digital Raconteur

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Google Street View: Coming soon to a street near…Me!

Posted by guesto on July 29, 2008

Guess what I saw driving down the road as I exited Kentish Town Tube after work on Monday night? A black Vauxhall Astra with a six foot pole protruding from it’s roof, above which was a collection of cameras pointing in all directions. “That must be a Google Street View camera” I thought, and the small logo on the door confirmed my suspicions.

I tried to take a quick photo with my phone, but unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the street and another car got in the way, so it is not very good I’m afriad. Here it is anyway though, with Google-Cam highlighted.

Google street view car driving in Kentish Town

Google street view car driving in Kentish Town

There have been rumours for a while that is due to be rolled-out across Europe starting with London, but many have speculated that European privacy laws being tougher than US laws will prevent it. It looks like Google are very much going for it anyway, so get ready for much-publicised news stories about adulterers and skyvers being caught red-handed by Google Cam. Plus a photo of me waving with one hand and taking a photo with the other.

Posted in Digital | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

What to blog about?

Posted by guesto on July 29, 2008

I wonder just how many bloggers have asked themselves that question at some point?

You see when explaining blogging to a client yesterday, I realised that although I contribute to the impressive-sounding statistic about number of blogs in the world*, I do not contribute to the positive number of active blogs, but instead to the woeful number of blogs that die after launch due to lack of content. (apparently only about 20% of the total number are active, where people still contribute)

One reason that I am not currently blogging as much as I would like to is that I am not really sure what I should blog about. Seems ironic seeing as there are so many blogs dedicated to what one should write about to get to the front page of Digg, including some written by my favourite bloggers. But as one of them argues, it is better to write about what you feel sincere about, rather than write for the sake of getting on Digg or similar. After all, I have never chosen music by what the charts say, so why should I dictate my writing by what others may like?

Plus I have to ask why I would blog at all. To be totally honest, my last spurt of blogging a year ago was partially because I was interested in PRing myself for a new job, which I can honestly say that I’m not at the moment.

I do like finding new stuff (Ideas, technologies, trends etc) and writing what I think about them, but I prefer to prioritise sharing them with my team and clients before sending them into the general ether.

I am fascinated by my job (Senior Account Director at AKQA) – the things I learn and the business challenges I need to overcome. I think an enormous amount of it would make great blog fodder, but everything I consider blogging would probably break confidentiality or compromise competitive advantage. So I wouldn’t be much of a professional if I did that.

I’m also fascinated by the subject of digital and enjoy sharing new trend and technology findings, together with my opinions on them. However I must prioritise sharing these with my own team first, and of course with my client, for whom I oversee a private knowledge sharing blog.

Another thing of course that makes good blog fodder is contentious or contraversial opinion on a subject. I don’t feel the need to upset or provoke people for the sake of it, so I can’t see myself doing that without good cause or conviction.

So… in full recognition of the fact that I have effectively caveated this to be THE MOST BORING BLOG EVER, what do I intend to write here, and what is the point of doing it at all?

The single most important reason is that I enjoy it. I seem to have an increasing number of personal insights, moments of epiphany and open-ended opinions for debate. The natural home for such debate is, of course, the boozer. But my one attempt to transfer a pub-rant to the blogosphere – my last.fm vs MySpace post – seemed quite popular, so perhaps I should continue.

So frequency unknown, quality unknown, but lets see what happens.

*128 Million, according to technorati

Posted in Insights & Opinions | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

“First” Class

Posted by guesto on December 17, 2007

The warm and welcoming tone we come to expect from First Capital Connect.

Welcome/fuck off sign on First Captial Connect train

Welcome indeed

Posted in Rantings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Last.fm set to overtake MySpace

Posted by guesto on June 26, 2007

No, that’s nothing statistical I’m afraid, its just that I feel strangely compelled to stick my neck out and state my opinion that by the end of 2007 Last.fm will be bigger than MySpace – at least within the UK, if not the rest of the music-loving world.

So if I am to pit Last.fm in a head-to-head battle with MySpace, I first need to explain what I think is wrong with MySpace.

The MySpace backlash

If it hasn’t started already, the backlash against MySpace is on its way. MySpace deserves a lot of credit for what it has achieved, but it is a victim of its own success. Spamming is rife, you can’t find a decent band amongst all the billions of YAMSBs and users are fed up with the crime against web design that almost every page on MySpace has become. In essence the very things that made it successful – the freedom of presentation, the P2P functionality – are now the worst things about it.

A typical dog's dinner of a MySpace page

MySpace is function-poor

Have you ever noticed that MySpace blogs aren’t actually blogs? Not in a technical sense anyway – they are just bulletins to which you subscribe by email update, not RSS. Indeed you can’t RSS subscribe to anything on MySpace – in fact MySpace offers virtually no inbound or outbound syndication at all. The many facets of pages, groups and events seem wholly disconnected, with the best examples of contextual linking being the Google AdSense ads on every single page.

So while “Tom” is sending a bulletin to all 186 kazillion MySpace members apologising that “all our efforts are concentrated on eliminating the spammers“, Last.fm are marching on by “Putting all our efforts into building the best functionality possible“. And I think they may have achieved it.

Last.fm is completely End-to-end

The thing that makes iPod and iTunes so successful in my opinion is that they have considered the entire user experience, from where you buy your music, to how you store it and how you listen to it. But Last.fm may have taken it another step further by addressing how you discover what music you like. And while Pandora and others may be able to suggest music based on what you do and don’t like on their website, Last.fm allows you to scrobble what you listen to on your PC or even on your iPod on the move. The resulting profile it builds of your music taste permeates not only into your recommended artists, but also into which other users like the same music as you (neighbours), which are your favourite bands and even which gigs you should go to.

Last.fm Profile Page

A push, a pull and even a destination

Most of the social sites of the Web2.0 boom either give you a networkable page onto which you can place widgets and content, or they are the tools that create the widgets. Last.fm is possibly the only site that performs both these roles, providing function-rich profile pages for networking between friends and neighbours’, as well as cutting edge widgets that can be easily placed on pages at MySpace or Facebook.

In fact, Last.fm has practically every feature and function you can imagine a Web2.0 site might have – all perfectly networked together. The profile pages, the players, the forum and the (proper) blog all integrate together into a single “dashboard” from where a user can keep tabs with their musical world.

The purest form of social networking

Of course, they have chosen the best possible subject matter around which to build their network, as music is undoubtedly the most emotive of all passion-centres that drive online interaction. But while MySpace enables a clumsy connection between fans and bands, or Facebook provides a cursory opportunity for members to say “I Like” to a few equally rated bands, Last.fm provides the ultimate proof of your tastes, based on what music you actually listen to. This throws up some interesting results, in both the proud validation of how much you listen to your rare Bloc Party b-sides, and also the shame of how much you indulge your guilty Avril Lavigne pleasures.

In fact Last.fm probably does indulge every whim of the proper muso – from the curiosity of discovering your new favourite band, to the pride of referring it to your friends, to the excitement of discovering that they are gigging at your local venue, to the vanity of saying you were there and sharing your photos to prove it.

Last.fm Events page

What’s more is that with its new events functionality Last.fm has the opportunity to be the first site to really put the “social” in to “social networking”. Real social interaction doesn’t happen in front of an ad-ridden computer screen, it happens on the beer-swamped floors of venues across the nation where real people actually meet, drink, chat and snog. And with last.fm’s “I’m going” addition to the events calendar it has the ability to bring real people together.

The ultimate in Web2.0

Finally, and for the sake of longevity perhaps most importantly, Last.fm seems to have been architected on every key Web2.0 principle and has established RSS feeds for every cluster of information possible, seeding out into the programmable web hand-in-hand with syndication giants such as Flickr and Upcoming.org

A prophecy for profit

At the end of the day though, Last.fm is a business, so it must survive as a business. CBS’s recent multi-million pound acquisition of Last.fm certainly suggests that some believe they can do so, but what are the opportunities for it to do so?

The very first user-visible monetisation of Last.fm was the affiliate modelled offering of links from which users can buy the tracks they have been listening to. I’m not sure how much volume this generates (I’ve only done it once) but one must assume with such an uncommonly highly qualified lead, the conversation ratio at the end commerce site must be higher than normal, which creates compelling opportunities for CPA based commercial partnerships.

With the addition of the events functionality we can see this model extended to affiliate referral of ticket sales, which again must be very well qualified traffic. From here Last.fm have the opportunity to move into peer-to-peer ticket exchanging, or even 2nd-level p2p sales operating on a Betfair-like model of supply and demand.

Then of course comes the opportunity for selling of advertising space to 3rd party advertising space – the first examples of which are just starting to be seen on-site now. With such a function-rich service being provided for free users are unlikely to rebel against the intrusion of advertising, while advertisers can enjoy the ability to accurately target ads to extensively profiled users that generally fit the spec of most big brands’ strategic audience.

With increased penetration of advertising comes increased disillusionment on the part of the user. But while increased advertising on most social networks will lead to increased user attrition, Last.fm is one of a very few sites that could feasibly convert its’ most engaged users into a subscription payment in return for an ad-free experience. Because after scrobbling several thousand tracks since joining, Last.fm now seems to know my music taste better than I know it myself – and that is worth something to me. It’s difficult to say how much exactly, but would I pay a few pounds a month to keep evolving that profile and be pushed artists and gigs that may become my next favourite? Yeah I think I would.

Bigger?

Last.fm is possibly the ultimate implementation of the fundamental Web2.0 principles of platform, the value of data, the wisdom of crowds and the device independent service. And from here the opportunities to diversify seem huge. With such a highly developed infrastructure Last.fm could quite easily replace its “.fm” with “.tv”, the music with videos and offer a video service to blow YouTube out of the water. Or why not use the revenue generated to branch into DAB radio and explore a way to deliver a number of stations where user groups, not DJs choose the music that is played to them on their drive home.

But what do I mean by “bigger”? Well if Last.fm manages to keep the spammers at bay they won’t have the member counts to rival MySpace, and if they stay true to RSS instead of email they won’t rival Facebook on outbound communications. Where they can win is on length and depth of interaction of users with the site. And as advertisers increasingly become aware of the value of quality over quantity of interaction, coupled with the various other revenue streams available – Last.fm could become the biggest money spinner of them all!

       

Posted in Digital, Music | 4 Comments »

Converting RSS feed content into HTML pages

Posted by guesto on May 30, 2007

My big plan for Guesto.com has been to find a way to keep it fresh and frequently updated, but as low-maintenance as possible. So for posting new content I figured the easiest way would be to use a blog – much like this one – for entering new content and then find a way to get the posts syndicated into my HTML pages.

Initial research on the Web suggested that I would need to install some PHP or CGI scripts onto my webspace, but as it is hosted on a free Pipex package I didn’t want to do that. Initial coffee machine chats with the techies at work suggested that I should build my pages in XSLT and use that to import and format how the feed content is displayed. That probably is indeed the most professional solution, but being as I am of limited time and technical knowledge, I was hoping it would be easier.

Luckily, I then stumbled upon this free javascript generator from an educational site that uses just a couple of form fields to generate feed content from the feed address and few parameters that you give it. Then you just need to play with the CSS on the destination HTML page to make it look as you want. Could hardly be easier.

Feed 2 JS converts RSS feeds into HTML

But how do you ensure that it only displays the posts relevant to the destination, rather than everything? This is exactly what I wanted to do on my Net page on Guesto.com – to only display the posts that I tagged as “Net” when I blogged them.

Well there are a few options I have found so far.

There is the simple to use FeedRinse, to which you give an RSS address and a list of what parameters you do or don’t want to allow posts for. FeedRinse then spits aout a “cleaned” version of the feed as one new RSS file, which you can then subscribe to or syndicate into somewhere else.

FeedRinse - Click to open in a new window

There is also the much more feature rich, but also much more complicated Yahoo! Pipes. This gives anyone the ability to completely remix feeds by combining multiple feeds into 1, de-duplicating, searching or just filtering like FeedRinse does. As it happens, this is exactly how the feed into the Net page on my Guesto.com site is working.

More news on cool stuff from Yahoo! Pipes later….

Posted in Digital | Leave a Comment »

New Guesto.com

Posted by guesto on May 20, 2007

Since finding that the wordpress.com platform doesn’t allow me to play with widgets and embeds etc as much as I’d like to, I thought I’d go back to good old HTML and recreate guesto.com

So after a few hours playing, the new guesto.com is live and full of (theoretically) frequently updated features on music, social stuff, internet stuff and more.

Screenshot of Chris Guest's homepage at http://www.guesto.com

From now on, this blog will just be used for updating content that will hopefully syndicate into the main guesto.com.

So if you know me (Chris Guest) and you were checking up on what music I’m into at the moment, where I’ve been, where I’m going and how much of an Net geek I’ve become, visit www.guesto.com and check it out.

 
       homepage

Posted in Digital, Music, Social | Leave a Comment »

Currently Loving: The Rifles

Posted by guesto on April 13, 2007

I’ve always said that illegal downloading of music doesn’t stop me buying music, it just stops me buying CRAP music. It saves me from that remorse you get when you take a punt on an album only find it is complete gash. Yes “Hot Hot Heat”, I mean you!

But if I like what I hear I go out and buy it anyway. One such example? The Rifles. Loving their album at the mo. So much so I just bought 4 tickets to go and see them at the Shepards Bush Empire in October. The album “No Love Lost” will be bought tomorrow.

Rifles - No Love Lost

Moral of the story? If you make good music, file sharing will work in your favour. Make crap music and it will end you!

Anyway, ranting aside, here is a vid. Not the best on the album, but still pretty good.

Local Boy

   

Posted in Music, Rantings | Leave a Comment »

Embedded Google Video

Posted by guesto on February 22, 2007

Phoenix Reach Presentation

A test for embedding a google video. Needs to work in the same way as YouTube videos in that WordPress provides its own markup instead of allowing embed or javascript tags.

Although here is an interesting learning – it only works if google URL is at google.com. Mine was video.google.co.uk and nothing displayed at all. I just changed the tld in the embed url and it worked. Still found its way to the right video too. Net

This video is a presentation video for Ant’s horse “Phoenix Reach” – the triple group 1 winning stallion that has now retired to stud. I built him a little website at www.phoenixreach.com if horses are your thing….

   

Posted in Digital | 1 Comment »

Embedded YouTube Video

Posted by guesto on February 21, 2007

How to say “Freddie Ljungberg in Swedish”

Here is a video taken at about 5am in Gothenburg city centre. Interesting how such a simple clip of, well, nothing really can be my most viewed video – beating The Kooks, The Arctic Monkeys and Get Cape! That must be either because it has a “how to..” title – or more likely because it is tagged with the words “Swedish” and “Girls”…

This done as a test for embedding YouTube videos straight into the page.

It seems that it is not possible to embed in the usual fashion because the system disables Javascript when running on WordPress.com like this is. (I simply can’t be arsed to setup hosting it myself.) However it is possible to embed YouTube videos using WordPress’s custom mark-up. See http://faq.wordpress.com/2006/07/29/how-do-i-post-a-youtube-video/ for more info.

   

Posted in Digital | Leave a Comment »

Play-list

Posted by guesto on February 21, 2007

List of things I plan to do to this blog as a way of trying out various mashups, widgets, technologies etc. A sort of “statement of intent” I guess.

Stuff to integrate or embed

  • Trippermap – Doh! Needs Javascript, won’t work on here
  • FlickrMap – Is this embeddable? More research needed
  • YouTube – Done
  • Google Video – Done
  • Delicious
  • Furl
  • Google Calendar
  • Last.fm playlist

Enhancements to basic WordPress

  • Tag Cloud
  • Search

Stuff to have a go at and understand more about

  • Tagging and seeding for Technorati
  • Links and track-backs, comments on otherblogs etc
  • Importing other RSS feeds

Stuff to write about

  • Syzygy projects, successes etc
  • Home projects done
  • Rant about Apple screen

Posted in Digital | 2 Comments »