Friday, 27 March 2009

Multiple, simultaneous... status updates!

You might have noticed, among some of the posts below and in the archives, some uncharacteristically short posts that look like status updates - specifically here and here, for example.

These have come from a site called which you can use as a way of updating your status on all of your accounts at once. I say all as it seems to cover most sites.

I use my account to update my status on Facebook and Twitter (about which more soon) and of course to micro-blog here. A handy tool if you're signed up to multiple social networking sites and like me don't want to have to login to every one individually.

I suppose it would be interesting to think about this in terms of digital identity - whether it "flattens" your online presence (for want of a better word) by making it less rich or simply makes managing your identity much easier. But it's Friday afternoon and that's about all I can manage at the moment!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Technology vs. horse!

I'm back! Actually I've been back a little while now but didn't feel like blogging until today.

My week in the New Forest was largely spent walking around, taking photos of deer and horses and trying to write. I didn't have t'Internet and I didn't miss it one bit... And if you believe that, then I'm a better liar than I thought.

The first things I did after unpacking were open up my laptop and flick the wireless switch on and off to see if it would work. It didn't. I was marooned without access to e-mail or Wikipedia or Facebook for a seven days. Which was partly the point because if I was going to get some writing done and relax, something had to give.

By the end of the week though, I'd almost forgotten about the Internet and felt sad to be leaving my new of world of streams and bogs and wandering ponies for one of choked roads, dazed shoppers and screen-induced headaches. Having Internet access again hardly seemed compensation enough.

I have to come clean about my usage here though: I use Wikipedia and Google and I do a lot of reading online. I get my news online, I do a lot of research online and, because I don't watch television that much and only have three of the terrestrial channels, I use things like BBC iPlayer to watch programmes I couldn't otherwise see.

However, I don't use MSN, I try not to login to Facebook too much and never send an e-mail if a phone call is possible. So I'd say my use isn't typical perhaps for someone my age and while I missed being able to immediately look something up, that passed quickly and I found myself simply getting more involved in the non-fiction books I'd taken along.

I'm also someone who owns a very old phone (Nokia 3410), doesn't have a portable music player and prefers to read and look out of the window when on a train, both of which are dying pastimes according to this BBC article.

Coming back to "all this" has left me feeling a little as though the Web and perhaps technology-in-general erodes the possibility of narrative or an awareness of narrative time. I feel that putting some headphones in and creating my own bubble not only cuts me off from my surroundings but time as well. If I commuted everyday it might be a different matter. This is also the reason I'm an analogue snob when it comes to fiction - even hardbacks are too hi-tech for me.

And here I leave you with a not entirely unrelated clip from Adaptation - a great film and worth seeing in its entirety if you can. Don't let Meryl Streep climbing atop Nicholas Cage put you off...

Saturday, 14 March 2009

is off to the New Forest for a week.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Teaching Matters article

I'm off to the New Forest to take a break for the next seven days - after I play a gig at Ascot tonight that is. Before I go, I wanted to post an article that I wrote for Teaching Matters (which was distributed today). That way, if anyone should drop by looking for direct links to the sites I talk about they can find them here.

The article is posted in full below (or click here for quick access).

Word clouds versus tag clouds

The word ‘cloud’ is increasingly used in the context of Web 2.0, perhaps because so much of it seems ‘blue sky’ to a lot of people. However, a cloud in the context of tagging has nothing to do with cloud computing. It refers to a visual representation of terms weighted by frequency – in most cases this weighting is indicated by size, as in the images provided.

Take for a timely example; the site of a U.S. Presidential rhetoric project. When the page loads, you are presented with a cloud displaying the words most frequently used in the 2007 State of the Union speech. Obama’s inaugural speech has not yet been loaded there, but you can pull the slider back through time from the pyrocumulus of Bush’s address, hell-bent on the themes of ‘Iraq’ and ‘terrorists’, to the noctilucent beginnings of the United States with John Adams’ ‘Foundation of Government’ speech, in which only the hopeful words ‘assembly’ and ‘constitution’ loom large.

The site calls itself a ‘tag cloud’ but it’s more accurately a bunch of ‘word clouds’ and a timeline. Tags are a form of metadata and as such used to describe the content of text, not necessarily act as a representative sample of that content. For example, you might upload the Bush speech to a blog, tag it with all the words featured in the word cloud we have seen and thereby have your tag cloud and the word cloud coincide. But you could also, if you wanted, add the tags ‘warmongering’, ‘incompetent’ or even the multi-word ‘worst president in history’, which to my knowledge don’t appear in the speech at all.

Word clouds also tend to be static – you input the text and get your cloud – whereas tag clouds tend to be dynamic, checking how many items (be they blog posts or bookmarks) have a particular tag and then sizing them accordingly. The more you use a tag across several blog postings for example, the larger that term will grow in your tag cloud, giving visitors an easy overview of what the blog is about.

You can create your own word clouds (for free) perhaps as a resource for your students or for use in slideshow presentations by going to To see a tag cloud in action, go to my blog ( where you can also find links to the resources listed here and more.
will be playing with Galapagos in Ascot tonight. The venue opposite the train station for those that enjoy uncomplicated adventures. On @ 9.

Friday, 6 March 2009

E-mail prevents potential blogging...

I often feel like I have lots that I could blog about here but part of the reason I never get round to it is because I'm trying to deal with the onslaught of e-mails that come my way every day.

So it was nice to receive this article from Gerry Leonidas, a Typography lecturer here at Reading, on dealing with your inbox. I intend to start implementing this next week - if not today... With 483 follow-ups I'm going to have to soon!

Perhaps then I can start blogging more frequently.
is looking into places to stay in Barcelona - any advice appreciated!