I'm not a huge fan of Pocket Internet Explorer on on my T-Mobile MDA Pro, running Windows Mobile 5. On occasions its rendering of HTML can be, er, curious. But more annoyingly, there's no easy way to change the homepage. I've been stuck with T-Mobile's own T-Zones. But one quick freeware download later, I've managed to change it to my preferred 'about:blank'.
How to do it? Start by downloading the free Mobile Registry Editor. It doesn't claim compatibility with WM5, but I had no problems. You'll need Microsoft's .NET 1.1 framework, but if you're engaging in the blogosphere, you're probably OK with that sort of thing. It's a carbon copy of Windows' own Regedit, so you should be on familiar territory. Once it's installed on your PC, navigate to \HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\HTC\PIEPlug. And lo, there's the offending T-Zones entry. Just double-click on it, and change it to whatever you want. Hooray!
Mind you, all this could be academic. I've got a copy of the new Opera v8.5 for PocketPC downloaded, ready for testing over the next few days. I'm fully expecting to shell out the necessary $29 when the free trial period runs out.
Lloyd Shepherd from the Guardian Unlimited team wrote an interesting piece the other day about editing by audience consensus, in the context of Digg. For those who don't know it, Digg is 'a technology news website' where 'rather than allow an editor to decide which stories go on the homepage, the users do'. All very zeitgeist-y. But could a mass-appeal site like the Guardian really hand over control of its homepage to its users?
One site out there is testing the idea, so we'll find out soon enough. I was the lucky recipient this morning of a beta invite to something called Newsvine, 'where anyone can read, write and influence the news'. And at first glance, it's a fascinating idea.
The core of the site, for now anyway, is the usual supply of AP newswire copy. But you can vote to make a story more prominent on the homepage, like Digg. You can add comments to the bottom of stories, like on a blog. You can get a personal 'column' (ie. blog) which forms part of the newspaper. There's a del.icio.us-style concept of 'seeding', where you can contribute links to external news sources. Plus, it goes without saying, all the (increasingly) usual RSS and tagging options. And probably a few other things I haven't spotted yet.
Like its evolutionary predecessor Slashdot, I don't really see Digg having the mass appeal to take it beyond what Geoffrey Moore's book Crossing The Chasm calls the 'technology enthusiasts' crowd. But Newsvine shows how the same idea could be applied to more generalist-friendly contexts. Like the Guardian?
I'd love to take credit for the news that the Telegraph is bringing RSS to its new portfolio of blogs - but I'm sure they were planning it anyway. Marcus on the foreign desk replied to my post of the other day, with a 'promise' they are being added soon. Good.
It does pose an interesting question, though. If you're a big media organisation, and you're thinking of blogging - do you build (or extend) your own platform? Personally, I'd say 'don't'.
Use one of the established blogging apps or hosted services. Not only do you get everything 'out of the box', but you're seen to be 'playing the game properly'. Something like Typepad costs nothing in corporate terms, and even allows you to mask the host's URL behind your own domain.
I think we'll learn a lot about the country's view of technology from Channel 4's forthcoming sitcom, 'The IT Crowd'. It's written by Graham Linehan (from Father Ted), and produced by Ash Atalla (from The Office). It features 'special appearances' by comedy legend Chris Morris. There shouldn't be anything to worry about. Should there?
I still have a b-a-d feeling about it. There's one promotional page on the C4 website, featuring this side-splitter: 'Have you tried switching it off and on again?' - hardly the pinnacle of observational comedy. C4 are being s-o-o forward-thinking by showing each episode online before it appears on TV... but they haven't thought to register the obvious URLs for the company in which the show is set. (If anyone registers renhamindustries.com as a result of this posting - you are now morally obliged to split the proceeds with me.)
Don't get me wrong. There's plenty of comedy to be found in the IT world. But please, please - can we rise above the (long outdated) stereotype? 62% of UK households have a 'home computer' - near enough double the number who have a dishwasher, for goodness sake. Undergraduates these days probably don't remember life before the internet. IT is simply not a geek-driven subculture any more.
I love RSS. Love it to bits. I'm sure people are bored silly with me telling them how great it is, and how it's going to be huge this time next year. (Oh, and by the way - this year. Definitely.) But I want more. A lot more.
I'm waiting for a delivery from an outdoor goods supplier. They're taking their time getting my item to me. I want an RSS feed that tells me when the item gets sent; and ideally, with package-tracking from the moment it gets sent, to the moment it lands on my doorstep. I'm getting tired of checking my email, and my bank account, to see if there's any news. I want a disposable RSS feed for each order ID, until the item arrives.
In my work, I'm currently managing an outsourced programming job. The company in question has an online 'service desk' application. Each call has its own page, and updates are posted in a big 'call history' field. Apparently I'm meant to log into the site every so often, to see if things have progressed. I want an RSS feed for each call reference.
RSS is such an efficient channel, it's crying out to be used in so many situations - and I'm sure it will be. We're already seeing signs of this, in various 'Web 2.0' applications which offer RSS feeds at individual page level, instead of site-wide. Things like Writely, or Writeboard, or even tracking comments on a particular WordPress blog posting. (A lot of Ws there!) But my current RSS reader of choice, Bloglines, isn't exactly suited to this easy-come-easy-go disposability, and I don't imagine a heavy-duty solution like the forthcoming 'Office 12' Outlook working well either.
I need an RSS 'scribble pad', separate from my heavy-duty aggregator. Ideally a drag-and-drop desktop app, maybe something in the 'widget' world, which isn't going to take up much screenspace or memory. When I place my order, or log my call, the confirmation screen or email receipt has a unique, probably password-protected RSS link on it. I drag the link into my mini-RSS reader, and it hollers when an update comes in. When the job gets done, I need a one-click delete option to drop the feed.
But hey, enough of my yakking. What do you say, developers? Let's boogie!
I've been getting email alerts from forum-based website HotUKDeals for a while now; but there's a fairly high rubbish-to-useful ratio. I've just discovered you can get details of all new bargains via RSS - and it's gone straight into my Bloglines collection. I can't recommend the site highly enough; without it, I wouldn't have got a 28" widescreen LCD screen for £360.
All of which is really just an excuse to test the new beta of podcast client Doppler Mobile, with built-in blogging client. The last version's bugs seem to have cleared up, and I desperately want to blog while on the train home.
BBC Newsnight correspondent Paul Mason has an interesting piece in today's Media Guardian. As someone who pushed precisely this agenda from inside the online team of Britain's (then) leading rolling news outlet, I've been trying to pin down my reaction to it. Paul writes:
The internet is faster, delivers instant depth and unrivalled interactivity. Rolling news - and here I mean the concept of a separate channel and its traditional front-end studio format - is the genre of television least suited to survive the transition to the digital age.
Whilst I agree with (most of) what Paul says, there's one key point I think he misses. Rolling news is actually part of the transition process; and arguably, the defining part. CNN, and Sky News in its turn, provided a basic 'news on demand' product - albeit within the confines of non-interactive, linear broadcasting. But let's be fair: we're talking 1980 and 1989 respectively. Years before the web. Years before Gopherspace, even.
Paul backs up his position with generic BARB viewing data. But in fairness, 'rolling news' TV isn't designed to be watched, as such. Ask anyone who has sat in a newsroom or press office with it blaring out all day: I don't think it's actually possible to 'watch' it. You'd go slowly insane as you saw the same basic packages re-appearing over a three- or four-hour cycle. To apply the same metrics as you would for other channels seems inappropriate.
Nor is it fair to see 'rolling news' in precisely the same context as 'landmark' bulletins on the main channels, like the BBC's Ten O'Clock News. 'Rolling news' is a finely targeted product for people in the news business. It's the background noise of virtually any newsroom or press office in the nation. You find yourself subconsciously absorbing the basics of the regular headline roundups; and your eye is caught by the garish - and yes, occasionally overused - BREAKING NEWS graphics. This is precisely what it's there for.
I don't believe we'll see the demise of 'rolling news' any time soon. There's no denying the buzz of a live event suddenly interrupting normal proceedings. But to offer that, you need something to interrupt. And you need a team ready to respond at the drop of a hat. I don't like Paul's point:
'In every crisis worth its name network channels like BBC1 and ITV1 switch to rolling news in any case.'
Yes - they switched to the coverage being generated by the 'rolling news' teams who were there, ready; because they always are there, ready. Let's see how ITV copes when the next national 'crisis' happens. With no rolling news channel to fall back on, no matter how low its viewing figures, they'll need to crank things up very, very quickly from a standing start.
Anyway - this discussion is a bit pointless. News doesn't roll; it lurches. But that's for another time.
My daily del.icio.us feed was playing up last week, so this didn't get posted automatically. The Beeb has a new minisite promoting its RSS wares - but more interestingly, trying to explain what RSS actually is. A couple of oopsies, though. The site lists the many BBC feeds under 'a wide range of categories' - but loads of the categories are currently empty. ('Under construction' messages are so 1990s, guys.) And it doesn't use the universally recognised orange icon. Well, recognised by Microsoft and Mozilla anyway.
Interesting to see the Telegraph.co.uk web team launching a blog promising to 'look at the perils and advantages of reporting online and how new technology is changing the media.' Apparently it's a month since the Telegraph embraced blogging - but I must confess, I'd completely missed it.
Sorry guys - due to one glaring oversight, I doubt I'll be looking at this much. Yes it's got comments, yes it's got permalinks, but unless I'm missing it... there's no RSS feed. Er, if there's no feed, can it actually call itself a blog?