As long time readers of this blog might know, I run the official Bryan Talbot fanpage over at www.bryan-talbot.com. In many ways it is one of the proudest things I have done online.. When I was learning how the first web design packages (anyone else out there remember Adobe PageMill?!) I realised that I would need a real world, live project of my own to learn the software sufficiently that I could teach it. There is really no way that you ever learn something until you do it for real.
And so I thought long and hard about what I could do a website on, and I decided that one of the very few topics I cared enough about would be the work of Bryan Talbot. (also relevant was the fact that there were no other sites about his stuff yet in existence; if I was going to enter the field I wanted to be number 1 in it!)
And so – 12 years ago now – I started the website. And then when Bryan had finished Heart of Empire he came up to me with his now famous “I am getting really tired of people asking where I get my ideas from; is there a way we can tell them? – and maybe make a couple of quid into the bargain?” – and so the Heart of Empire CD-Rom was born.
Now; I have always found it hard to summarise what the CD-Rom is about in a short space of tme – the so called “elevator pitch”. If I have got 10 minutes or so I can easily get peoples heads around it, but if I have a couple of minutes it’s hard – mainly because there is just so much on there!
And so I thought why not release the first chapter online for free and allow people to read it and see what it is like without trying to explain it! – and so here it is! – allow me to present to you the entire first chapter of the Heart of Empire CD-Rom!
Did anyone else catch the Gadget Show last night? It provided an absolute masterclass in online marketing. The presenters were given a challenge of “achieve online fame in three weeks flat”.
The first presenter – Suzi – went to an established online marketing agency here in Birmingham – Tamba Internet that thought they knew what they were doing…. They created a “viral game” that would publicise her. (and what’s more, the link to the game from their site opens in a new window for crying out loud!) Now the first they got wrong was allowing the presenter to make the “pay off” an “accidental” video clip of her getting changed with “accidental” movements of the other presenters hands covering up her naughty bits. Erm – sorry.. – this is interesting to me how?! In an era of celebrities hardcore sextapes leaking onto the net, how the hell is this gonna engage? This is pitched at the level of maximum crapness and patheticness; for anyone not used to these sex tapes it is just enough to shock; for anyone well used to the sex tapes it is utterly incapable of titilating in anyway… – and the agency should have told the presenter this! They failed in their duty to their client of stopping them from making a horrendous decision that would actually damage them!
Then the agency compounded this error by an order of magnitude, by making a game of such undescribable boring-ness that I wanted to poke myself in the eye with a pen to make it go away. It consists of the presenter reading out the name of shiny-shines – “Ipod!” – “DVD player!” – and then the player has to click on them on some shelves behind her. (and after playing it, it is actually quicker to get to the “naughty” video by losing! – if you just let the timer run down then the game ends – and you get the same pay-off for losing that you do for winning – but a hell of a lot quicker!) These idiots utterly fail to understand playability and usability; they do not understand gameplay or how to make something interesting and compelling and I failt to see how they stay in business.
They fall for the classic, basic beginners error; just because you can do something on the net doesn’t mean that you should… – of that if you go ahead and do it anyway just because you have the technology does not mean to say that a fetid dingoes kidney in the real world is any less of a fetid dingoes kidney just because it is an online Flash game that is an emailable viral marketing campaign.
Content, content, CONTENT!!
Postscript; this is how much these jokers fail to get the point; in their news article to plug their inclusion in the show they do not even link to the online game!
I have finally faced my deep cynicism with mainstream, existing political parties and joined the Green Party.
The existing political parties are too in debt to established big business interests and will not – and can not – take the moral leadership needed on these critical issues. Pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace are doing great work… – but they are on the outside trying to exert pressure… – the only thing that will make a different is real world political power – and that’s local city councillors, MP’s and MEPS.
So – if you are also disgusted at the slow rate of change and also despairing about the worlds we will leave to our children then do something! – join the Green Party now!
In Birmingham they are trying an excellent tactic; focus all available campaigning resources onto a single council seat and go all out to win it. In other cities where they have tried this it has worked well, and I cannot believe that Birmingham does not have a single Green City Councillor! The only way to save the planet is to get serious political power; and the only people currently with any credibility whatsoever are the Green Party.
Birmingham Freecycle now has over eleven thousand people in it! That’s just incredible!!
I heard about Freecycle back in October ’04 and thought it was such a great idea; when I came to check if there was a Birmingham UK one I couldn’t beleive that no one had already launched a group! – so I immediately did so and it’s just gone from there.
It started slowly, but for the past year has been gaining a huge amount of momentum. I still moderate the group every Friday – so watch out if you try and join on that day, or if you come and try and scam us… my patience for idiots gets less every year….
What I am trying to do now is to get the City Council to help us out; publicise us on their website and newspaper that is sent to every house in the City. The reason is that we are saving them cold hard cash from purely green motives and without making money ourselves; because they get taxed for every ton they put into landfill and there is nothing better for stopping stuff going into landfill than Freecycle.
Anyone out there know how to get the Council to actually do something?!
I wrote to my MP and she has started to badger their head of recycling – but so far – nothing!
I attended the Birmingham Strategic Partnership consultation event last night at Think Tank on the Birmingham Climate Change Action Plan.
Whilst I was there I hooked up with Birmingham Friends of the Earth and volunteered and also shamelessly plugged Birmingham Freecycle to anyone who would stand still for long enough – and a few of those that wouldn’t….
The event itself was OK; the council thought seem to be still working under the assumption that they can reduce emissions by less than 90% and still carry on much the same…. this is a bit shocking for anyone else who has read any of the excellent George Monbiot’s work. Go there and read it now and prepare to be seriously scared; he shows how we need to URGENTLY cut emmissions by 90% or we will face a tipping point at which climate change enters a cycle of positive feedback and becomes self-reinforcing and runaway.
But what I have to rail against is crimes against usability again. The external moderator was from a company called BMG; she seemed to be seeing the presentation for the first time as she had no idea where each section finished and the next started and EVERY SINGLE TIME she overshot and had to fiddle with the PC on the podium to sort it out. Also it was glaringly obvious that she had never done the presentation in front of a real audience; it was “interactive” to the point where we could vote using a traffic lights metaphor – and each question was put on screen with the text and JUST the text in the appropriate colour on a strong blue background.
No thought was given to colour blind people; this probably violated the Disability Discrimination Act, and even people like me without colour blindness and with my glasses on found it almost impossible to read. No one had thought “you know – if we used huge blobs of colour on this we could make it easy to read”. It had clearly been slapped together by one of this power-suited busy executives minions without any thought to the final audience or any oversight by the person doing the presentation.
And it’s not as if it was a trivial message – you know the kind of stuff these market researchers usually do – “do you prefer cat food tin label A or B?” – no, this was about how we in Birmingham cope with and reduce the effects of climate change, probably the most important issue for the entire next century, and far too important to be left to losers like those last night. If anyone from the City Council ever reads this – you really should sack these people and emply someone who knows what they are doing; this issue is too important to be mishandled so badly.
So as usual, when it snows in England everyone predicts doom and apocalypse.. but you just know that they would also be the first to complain about the cost if we paid enough to get blanket coverage from snow ploughs and gritters. As it is we get such little snow that there’s no way we can afford enough of them… but hey, try telling that to the People Of Restricted Cognition….
Anyway; I now cycle to work as it is probably the only exercise I can get nowadays and also because if you don’t live your beliefs then you’re just a pathetic wimp in my opinion. And I have to say that cycling in when it was snowing was just IMMENSE fun! – the old saying is so right: “there’s no such thing as bad weather: there’s only the wrong clothes.”
Also, I am lucky enough that my route runs along a disused railway line, and this morning it was Christmas card perfect!
I have always been ambivalent about vegetarianism; on one hand if it is a moral, ethical decision by someone who just cannot face the thought of eating another living beings body I have been supportive.
On the other hand, I have always been profoundly suspicious of it’s supposed inherent health benefits: I mean – we are omnivores! – our bodies and teeth and lifestyle predicasted us to eat everything; roots, berries, cereal, nuts, eggs, meat, fish, fruit, veg – the lot.
And yet – and yet… I have been increasingly worried about the impact that eating meat has on the environment – and that we do not eat meat in the fashion that we evolved to. If you look at our evolutionary lifespan we have spent something like 99.98% of our time as modern humans eating meat only when we could track down the damn animal and club the beggar to death – so about once or twice a week. That’s what we have evolved to do and our bodies are not good at handling meat 10 or 12 times a week; we get heart disease and obesity; we are simply not designed to handle that much rich protein.
Then you look at the environmental costs of eating meat:
– it takes 10 times as much energy to grow meat as it does to grow vegetables; in other words, 10 people could live off the protein that it takes to grow one cow or pig to feed one person. On a small and increasingly over-crowded planet that is just getting unsustainable.
– the carbon costs of eating meat are rising all the time; we have to spend carbon to grow the food to feed the cow or pig, to transport the animal to slaughter, to refrigerate its dead body until we can eat it and then to dispose of it’s bones afterwards.
– the waste products are increasingly overwhelming; cows and pigs produce methane and nitrous oxide which are 23 and 296 times worse for the environment than carbon dioxide is; and then there is the 5 million tons of manure produced every day by American farms.
In short it is just time to quit eating meat; or at the very least to revert to the pattern of meat consumption we were designed for; once or twice a week at most. It’s not just better for you – it’s what we need to do to save the planet.
See the excellent article on Alternet for more.
Check out this blog on why not to wear a suit; one point I really love is where he says that certain people probably need a suit to get confidence and stature in their company – and he states: “Well let me be the first to tell you that if you feel like you need a suit to gain that confidence, you got problems.” Genius!!
Then there is the flip side; if you stopped requiring everyone in your business to wear a suit then it is the equivalent of giving them a tax free pay raise. Let’s all do this!! – it is now the Official Policy of the Peoples Democratic Republic of Birmingham to ban all suits in business! Wear what the hell you want! – and judge people on their competence, not what they wear….
If like me you have found the blatant racism on Celebrity Big Brother to be nauseating and revolting to watch then the solution is simple; stop watching it!
I gave up on this show some years ago when I came to the conclusion that to watch it was to consume it – and also therefore to endorse it. Even worse; watching it meant that they got ratings which meant that they made more money from their advertisers and that the show would continue.
Just stop watching it! They deliberately create controversy in order to boost ratings – and unlike other artificially created controversies real people get hurt in this one!
Then after the show, demonstrate your disapproval for racist twats like Jade Goody and Danielle Lloyd by refusing to consume anything they produce and wreaking their fucking careers; these people depend on us the viewing public for their livelihood! Show them that we stand against racism in ALL forms by not watching them and not listening to them. Make them do real work out of the public eye; they do not deserve our attention if they do not subscribe to the basic decencies that the rest of us insist on.
The single good thing to come out of this has been (as far as I can tell without wathcing it) – the quiet dignity of Shilpa Shetty – and the fact that she might now be a household name in Britain! – Yay! Go Bollywood!!
This is just unbeleiveable; some religious, creationist bigot in the US is refusing to allow his kids to watch “An Inconvenient Trust” at school because – get this – he insists that an opposing view be presented as well.
THE CLUE IS IN THE FREAKING TITLE OF THE MOVIE!!! – It is called “An Inconvenient TRUTH” – these are facts! – they are evidence that has been taken from measuring reality; they are not open to debate or argument! Scientists have gone out, looked at a thermometer and written down these numbers! – photos taken ten years apart of the same glacier retreating 500 meters are not made up!
I can see why oil company executives insist on trying to deny climate change; their careers, companies and self esteem are bound up in doing so… but what possible reason does a religious idiot have for doing so?