Saturday, March 24, 2007

Web 2.0 makes good (finally)

It's a pointless concept, of use only to marketing people and journalists on PC magazines, but Web 2.0 remains a buzz-word in net terms - and I've finally found something which tags itself as Web 2.0 which isn't populated entirely by fourteen year old girls and sweaty 40 year old truck drivers calling themselves Ahsley Kate and wanting to be best girlfriends.

last.fm is a streaming radio station along the same lines as the US-only Pandora. You register and download a plug-in for Winamp or WMP and from then on every song you play on your PC is remembered by last.fm. Play enough tracks and you provide the last.fm with an increasingly good idea of your music taste.

So far, so reasonable, but hardly groundbreaking - streaming radio is getting better in quality all the time and some degree of personalisation is always good, but it's not exactly a mad leap into the unknown.

What is cool though is the Group facility - get some of your mates to also use the plug-in and you can create a gestalt of your combined tastes, and then listen to a radio station based on that mix of tastes.

Even if you all have vaguely similar tastes, it's surprising how much good stuff you never came across before pops quasi-randomly up. In the last couple of days I've heard great songs by bands like El Pedro del Mar* that I'd never otherwise have heard**.

Recommended in a way that a Ryze account really isn't (hence the playlist box to the left hand side of this page - don't I have great taste!)

* So obscure it seems they have no non-MySpace web hits on Google at all.
**Also a Garbage song - when I find out who threw that in the mix, there'll be trouble, mark my words.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mile widziany wobec Szkocja!

This runs the risk of sounding incredibly patronising, but for reasons I can't fully explain, I find the presence of lots of new Polish immigrants in Edinburgh enormously uplifting. Part of it is just that they all seem so pleasant and another part is the fact that I find the emerging Polish barbers and food shops terribly cosmopolitan, as though Leith had been transposed to the set of Friends.

Most of all though I get the strangest feeling of living through history from seeing young Polish men and women working around town. Like the influx of afro-caribbean and asian immigrants in the post-war years, the vast majority of new Polish arrivals have come here to make a better life for themselves and provide a more hopeful future for their children. Perhaps this strikes me even more forcefully because - and how odd is this? - I'm older than pretty much all of these people, but it definitely does give me a degree of hope for the future because I know for a fact that the children of these adopted Scots will be actual Scots, only with a Polish twist, and I prefer to see the world becoming more homogenous than less.

Finally, it fills me with what is probably an out-dated sense of pride that they've chosen the United Kingdom to come to and that, so far as I've been able to see, the British have welcomed them wholeheartedly.

Scotland is an insular and grey little place much of the time, but it's great to see our horizons open just a tiny bit, with the promise of brighter days to come.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

When Wikis Go Bad!

conservapedia.com (I'm not linking to it and thereby improving the page ranking of a shower of neanderthal bigots) is the latest Wiki to the hit the 'net, trailing in the wake of the mighty Wikipedia.

Acting as a self-proclaimed alternative to Wikipedia's dangerous liberalism (for which read, more often than not intelligent analysis), the front page of redneckpedia proclaims itself to be
"a much-needed alternative to Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American"
and provides as evidence such terrible matters as the fact that
Wikipedia often uses foreign spelling of words, even though most English speaking users are American. Look up "Most Favored Nation" on Wikipedia and it automatically converts the spelling to the British spelling "Most Favoured Nation", even there there are far more American than British users. Look up "Division of labor" on Wikipedia and it automatically converts to the British spelling "Division of labour," then insists on the British spelling for "specialization" also.

Interesting that.

Apparently, even in the face of the special relationship and Blair's willingness to be 'Yo'ed by Bush at the drop of a Stetson, the most obvious sign of dangerous atheism and rampant anti-Americanism is spelling English words in the way they are spelled by...the English.

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