Journal

The Commonwealth Institute

The Commonwealth Institute

Thanks to London Open House, last month Simon and I visited the Commonwealth Institute, regarded by English Heritage as the second most important modern building in London (after Royal Festival Hall). Neglected for ten years, work will soon begin on preparing the site for the New Design Museum, scheduled to open in 2014.

Richard Madeley

David Sim:

When I fell asleep in front of BBC1, dinosaurs were on. When I awoke, Richard Madeley had traced his ancestors. Seems a waste of evolution.

Sage

Sage

Today I was told the sudden and unexpected news that one of my family’s pets, Sage, had been put to sleep. Unbeknown to us, his body was being ravaged by a cancerous tumour so aggressive, that it only made itself visible last weekend. He had days to live.

To Fly. To Serve.

Whatever you may think of British Airways, it’s hard not to be impressed by this latest campaign. Part of a brand repositioning exercise that sees the return of the company’s coat of arms, this advert meticulously recounts the history of BA through its planes, people, ancestor companies and branding. It also features a nostalgic nod to Concorde, which still looks like an aircraft of the future rather than one of the past.

In many ways, I’m reminded of a similarly retro themed advert that BA’s arch rival Virgin Atlantic produced to celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2009.

Gowalla 4 and Loss Of Personal Milestone Data

Garrett Murray perfectly sums up my thoughts on the changes to Gowalla:

This version steps away from the straight-forward check-in functionality and replaces it with a more social version called “stories” The basic idea is that you create a story at a location, tag your friends, upload photos and comment. I think this is a terrific idea, and I think it’s something relatively unique in the check-in app space.

But it’s not what I want.

I’m willing to keep the app on my iPhone for a little while, if only in the hope that the new city guides will prove useful during my forthcoming trip to the US and Canada. Still, it’s hard to see myself using this application much more than I used to, if at all.

Speaker Deck

I quickly tired of posting my presentations to SlideShare as the service became increasingly laden with features and countless advertising.

Thankfully there’s now an alternative in the form of Speaker Deck, which publicly launched this week. Designed by Ordered List, this new service gives presentations the distraction free environment they deserve, and is an exemplar of detail-driven design. Don’t let the simplicity of the product fool you. Attention has been fostered on even the tiniest details; skim over thumbnail images to see what I mean.

If you have presentations you wish to showcase, I encourage you to try Speaker Deck. You won’t be disappointed.

The End of the Web as We Know It

Adrian Short:

You can turn your back on the social networks that matter in your field and be free and independent running your own site on your own domain. But increasingly that freedom is just the freedom to be ignored, the freedom to starve. We need to use social networks to get heard and this forces us into digital serfdom. We give more power to Big Web companies with every tweet and page we post to their networks while hoping to get a bit of traffic and attention back for ourselves. The open web of free and independent websites has never looked so weak.

A timely post. When read in tandem with Nik Cubrilovic’s post ‘Logging out of Facebook is not enough’, the features announced at Facebook’s most recent f8 event aren’t just creepy, but downright sinister.

Osborne’s Version of Sustainable Development

George Monbiot writes about another boneheaded reform from a Conservative-led government nobody voted for. He concludes:

Plutocracy passes through a perpetual cycle. It lobbies against the restraints that curb its destructive greed. It succeeds. As a result it collapses. It gets rescued, at enormous cost, by the forces it fought: regulators, planners, tax collectors, an interventionist state. It recovers, dusts itself down, then resumes its attack on the people who rescued it. This assault on planning belongs to the cycle. But the damage the plutocrats mean to inflict will not be reversible.

These are the times in which we now live.

Don Norman: Google doesn’t get people, it sells them

Bobbie Johnson at GigaOm:

“What is Google? What do they sell?” asks Don Norman, the author of The Design of Everyday Things and a demigod of the design world.

It’s a question that gets asked a lot, especially as the company’s power and products continue to expand. In a talk on Friday at the dConstruct conference in Brighton, England, he pointed out that – despite the complexity of the organisation – the answer usually looks pretty simple.

“They have lots of people, lots of servers, they have Android, they have Google Docs, they just bought Motorola. Most people would say ‘we’re the users, and the product is advertising’,” he said. “But in fact the advertisers are the users and you are the product.”

Then he went further. “They say their goal is to gather all the knowledge in the world in one place, but really their goal is to gather all of the people in the world and sell them.”

Whilst some bemoaned the fact that his opening keynote shared little new, I think it’s important to be reminded how the industry works, and how it’s changing – sometimes for the worse. The world needs more people like Don Norman.

My Weekend at the Fringe

Having enjoyed the Edinburgh Fringe when I attended for the first time last August, I was determined to do it all over again. A long bank holiday weekend and a number of shows by comedians I’ve been longing to see, left few excuses not to return. Here are my thoughts on each performance I saw this time round.

Steve Jobs’ Best Quotes

August has been a crazy month in the technology press, but no story has had the same impact than Steve Job’s resignation as CEO of Apple. Whilst I’ve been enjoying commentary and many stories regarding his 14-year tenure, it’s the man’s own words that have been most insightful. From this collection of Steve Job’s quotes, an answer given during an interview with Wired caught my eye:

I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t.

I’m sorry, it’s true. Having children really changes your view on these things. We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much – if at all.

These technologies can make life easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. You may have a child with a birth defect and be able to get in touch with other parents and support groups, get medical information, the latest experimental drugs. These things can profoundly influence life. I’m not downplaying that.

But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in this radical new light – that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important.

Only a few weeks ago I was bemoaning the overuse of the phrase ‘change the world’. I heard this said far too often when I worked in the Valley, so it was heartening to read Jobs’ thoughts on the matter.

I do so hope Steve will have plenty more opportunities to part with such wisdom as he enjoys his retirement.

Zerply

Zerply is a professional network that helps you find like minded people by tags, skills, location and more. Essentially it’s a simpler, classier replacement for LinkedIn. It gained a degree of traction this week after being featured by Tina Roth Eisenberg, who perfectly summed up my problems with LinkedIn:

I had fallen out of love with LinkedIn a long time ago, but last week’s sneaky move (read about it here) pushed me over the edge. What a lost opportunity. LinkedIn was built on such a fantastic core idea. And then they tried to be twitter-and-facebook-and-everything-else at once. Bummer.

I’ve deleted my LinkedIn account. You can now find my professional profile on Zerply.

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