A game of two halves

I understand from commentary in the blogosphere that the England team played some sort of game of Football last night, and lost, removing them from entry to the "Euro 2008" competition.

Now I take precious little interest in Association Football (or American or Aussie rules football either, for that matter) but is it not the case that few of the leading clubs in the UK actually have many native-born players of calibre? I can see Arsenal's ground from my window, yet I believe nearly all of the cast of players are from foreign climes.

How can one expect a national group to perform well when they get little chance to play in the top echelons of their sport in the first place? Was this loss not just a sympton of the downgrading of the home-grown player?

The real questions to be asked of HMRC

So we hear that HMRC have lost the detailed records of twenty-five thousand million individuals. So far so bad.

But isn't the first real question Why was this information being sent on two CDs in the first place? At most that means data of some 1.4GB; hardly enough to break sweat on a secure internet connection, and the government has such a network in place. Why wasn't this safer - and much faster - method of data transfer utilised?

The second real question is if these CDs were sent by *internal post* what were they then doing in the normal public postal service?. Companies that I've worked for have sometimes had 'internal post' and it was transported around by company employees. That is, after all, what 'internal' means.

And finally, ID cards. Once upon a time it was stated that there would be a whole new database created especially for the purpose. More recently it was announced that instead of having 'clean and secure' data that instead the Government would re-purpose the existing data they hold. Now that detailed information has fallen out of their control on over one-third of the UK population how can we ever trust the information likely to be stored on an ID database? and the safety / security / privacy of that data?

And the answer to that is, of course, that we cannot.

Just say no!

I regularly have the question "How can we trust wikipedia when anyone can edit it? Shouldn't we bam it from our school / college / office / newsroom?" asked of me.

And my answer, every time, is a question: why do you trust *any* source of information? If you read a book, a newspaper article, a story on a website, hear something said to you by a friend or on a radio report, what makes it 'valid' to you, how do you choose to judge whether what you are reading or hearing is true, likely to be true, probably false, or even a definite lie.

We all make judgements about 'knowledge' every day. Sometimes we'll decide that "It is a nationally-known broadsheet newspaper" means we should implicitly just what is written there (though maybe not on April 1st; I still recall the island of Sans Seriffe!) or we'll recognise the particular author as someone who we've trusted in the past to get it right and we'll presume that they've got it right this time. Your friend may have 'been there and saw it themself' but you don't need me to remind you that from a different viewpoint the situation may have eben completely at odds with what your friend believed.

In every case - and that includes the content of Wikipedia - it is a matter of judgement and deciding for ourselves whether the sources quoted are resonable. Wikipedia, like every other encyclopedia or reference work, is a secondary source; it takes information from a multitude of authors to present to you a summary, an overview of a topic for the interested person. It isn't the primary source of that data, indeed polict prevents original research being added to Wikipedia articles.

But the reverse is also true; Wikipedia is the ultimate in the 'Peer review' that we all seek in official journals; scientific, medical, social, geographical. The 'peers' of Wikipedia may be you and me, but will almost certainly include researchers, lecturers, students, and many others closely interested or connected with the subject.

And isn't that really more important? Each of us have our individual interests that have grown with us, whether it be transport or technology, socrates or sociology, we should take comfort in being 'amateurs'. People who have an interest in the subject for its own sake, something that we research because we want to know more. Then we add some of these newly-learnt facts to Wikipedia so that others may benefit.

And benefit is what it is all about.

So yes, 'anyone' may edit Wikipedia. But that 'anyone' is more likely to be someone who knows and cares for the quality of that information rather than someone seeking to mislead you. With over two million articles in the English language, and over eight million over more than 250 languages, there are remarkably few serious errors or examples of long-lasting vandalism.

Wikipedia; you learn, you edit, you extend the gift of knowledge.

Choosing your Web 2.0 domain name

Here we go then ...

1. Get the .COM - if you can't because someone has it and you can't afford to buy it from them then be certain that they won't be a likely competitor down the line. Durex condoms aren't a competitor to Durex Bricks so customers won't get confused.

2. So if you've found a .COM you like you now *must* get the .NET, and ideally the .ORG too - for if you don't some phishfarm might. Domains are cheap, your reputation isn't.

3. Then think about where you are operating. You're "Web 2.0" right? So that means one domain is fine world-wide! Nope. You need to act globally, think locally (as the saying goes) so you'd better check you can get the .CO.UK, .DE, .FR, .ES. CZ, .CA and whatever other countries you want to expand to in the future. Again, they are cheap to buy now but what do you do if someone else buys the domain before you get there? You lose out, that's what.

4. So you've now got "One name to guide them and One name to be found by them and One name to rule them all". Maybe. Maybe not. How do you spell your wonderful new domain name? Is it, for instance, spelt the same in British English and American English? (that doubled your number of domains, didn't it!) How about localising it in languages? Might that be sensible too? Worth a euro, shekel or dinar or two?

5. Then there are your detractors. Safety first again and buy "domainsucks" in a few TLDs, just to protect yourself from your own success.

Now you're cooking ... ;-P

Shame about the Domain name

I've been busy doing that real "Web 2.0" thing of following links and reading a lot of stuff. Funny how once upon a time people were saying that the internet would be the death of reading - in fact I probably read more now than I ever did (and I read a lot to start with!)

Anyway, I just came across this link - - which links to a load of women in technology and geekness sites.

Good info there, courtesy of Women 2.0 in the Bay area ;-P

Pressing the flesh

So the start of next month brings what might be the biggest networking party to hit London in a long time, organised by Chinwag at my old college, indeed it looks like I'll be able to see my old room in the distance!
Chinwag's Big Summer '07 Networking party - 5th July 2007 @ Imperial College, London

Seems quite a few people i know are going to be there and, thanks to the sponsors, I'd better support public transport and not drive there ;-P

Come by and say hello to me if you are going - I always enjoy meeting new people!

and while I am at the link thing ...
Support the Open Rights Group

If you support open standards then please go and vote to ask ISO to vote "NO" in the ballot of ISO DIS 29500 (Open OfficeXML or OOXML format). Given that there is already a standard ISO26300 - Open Document Format (ODF) - a dual 'standard' would add to costs, leading to uncertainty and confusion to industry and government, plus the proposed standard doesn't fully work anyway! Add to that it will conflict with existing standards such as ISO 8601 (Representation of dates and times), ISO 639 (Codes for the Representation of Names and Languages) and ISO/IEC 10118-3 (cryptographic hash) then adding OOXML (which doesn't fully validate as XMl!) would be a seriously bad idea. Go and vote now!

Who am I, who are you?

So earlier this week I spoke at the "Web 2.0" event at the Dana Centre / Science Museum, and although it was imho far to rushed with each group so that one couldn't really get 'into' the subject much, it has sparked a number of thoughts and is making me review what I could or couldn't do.

Add to that, this morning's email brought a request via one of these network things (LinkedIn in this case) from someone who was at that event, which starts "{name} has indicated you are a Friend". Now I've no idea which of the hundred-plus people this actually was, and they certainly aren't what I'd normally term "a friend". This particular service offers far more options in the 'naming' of a connection:

How do you know {name}?
O Colleague
O Classmate
O Business Partner (We’ve done business together)
O Friend
O Other
O I don’t know {name}

so clearly "other" would have been fine. But instead I have to consider whether I accept what is currently offered and what "friend" means in this online space we now inhabit. As it happens they are already in my 'network' as a contact of a contact but ...

The question is, what 'value' does one place on a connection made and displayed on a "social networking" website?

In the case of livejournal my answer is very clear; I "friend" someone whom I have either met in person or enjoy reading *and* whom I trust sufficiently to not abuse their ability to read my postings. Some people that would meet both these criteria don't actually get 'friended' for other reasons, and similarly a few do for other complex personal reasons. But it has become a "controlled" process so far in the five years since I started an LJ and I now use that site to pretty much organise my social life and keep in touch with far-flung friends.

But the other sites? Clearly some of them - the MySpaces of this online world - aim for quantity over quality; maxing out your number of 'friends' seems to be the raison d'être of these services. Should I therefore accept every request to 'link' that comes my way? Indeed, is there a "right" and a "wrong" way to approach membership of a networking site?

Then there is the question about names. In a post a few days ago I was outlining this issue. Whilst I have no major issues with anyone knowing my sexuality, my 'outside interests', where I live, how I live, who I know, what books I read, or what events I'm planning to go to, is it right or, indeed, sensible that I make that information explicitly public? Companies already check possible employees on FriendsReunited and other services but do I want a new employer to know everything about me before they interview me, or should I filter it first in some way?

One of the comments I made at the event on Wednesday night was that the government could save billions of pounds on developing its ID card system by just linking into the social networking sites. People declare everything about themselves seemingly without a care or second thought; they tells things to the world via the computer screen that they wouldn't tell their grandparent, parent or child face to face. When was the last time anyone here told their 'real life' next door neighbour what they had for dinner? or how they were feeling? or who they copped off with last night? but the online world appears to some to be, somehow, a 'safer' one even though everything we do here is recorded and retrievable. What is "real life" anyway?

So those sites ... where do I stand on them? Do I use my 'real name' - and what does that mean anyway when so many people refer to me as "alison urbangeekgirl" anyway? Are online handles the new surnames? or do I use one of my many pseudonyms. Do I restrict the connections made online in some way or not? Do I have different reactions to the different networks? Is there, indeed, one network to rule them all?

Here goes then. If you are someone who 'adds' people feel free to add me on any of these services and I'll probably do the vice-versa thing (though no guarantees!) so long as you let me know why you are 'adding' me.

SecondLife: Alison Wheels

I don't promise to keep them all updated, some almost definitely not, but you never know ;-P

Talking about geeky things

Tomorrow night I shall be talking with a sell-out crowd at an event in central London about the Web. Hopefully it should be great fun, however I wondered about the others on the panel and went in search of more information about each of them.

So I'm tracking down more information and fall into that bane of social networking sites - you can't remember what name/s you created on which sites, and forget about remembering the damn passwords!

Upcoming, though, I know I've created ages ago, but now that it is taken over by Yahoo? (sorry "Yahoo!") well, the usual attempts failed and eventually I had to turn on an old machine to look in the password cache of Firefox there to find the username and password. Success!

Thing was, after signing in on that machine and confirming the details I suddenly found that the *other* machine I was already on (ie the one I was using when I couldn't recall the user name) was suddenly logged in too!

Dangerous assumptions there!

Tools 01

So in addition to playing with a new CMS system for a new domain (instead of my usual habit of the last twelve years of 'rolling my own') I've also been looking at development IDEs.

So far I've installed eclipse and komodo edit to see what they each offer. In the past I haven't used an IDE, preferring instead to use a straight-forward text editor (UltraEdit having been my editor of choice for ever so many years!) for my html and php development, but with the increasing use of AJAX and other "Web 2.0" technologies it might just be the time to reconsider that approach.

Talking of the "Web 2.0" (which, imho, well deserves the scare quotes!) I'll be part of a panel discussing the subject later this week at the Dana Centre in London - part of the Science Museum - and given that much of that "2.0" is hype it will be interesting to discuss the issues with the other panellists!

Domains Disease

There is an internet-only disease which I find I get an attack of each year around this time. "Domains Disease" is when a few of your domains approach their registration expiry date and in sorting out their renewals you start thinking of possible 'new' domain names.

So you start attacking WHOIS with a vengeance, and find some new names you think you like. But you realise you don't use half the ones you already own (even though you have just renewed them for another year 'because') but still you start searching for that 'great' name.

And instead of just renewing the few you started with you add more than a few more.

My name is UrbanGeekGirl and I am a compulsive domain buyer. Help!