Linkblog – February 15th to March 6th

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Links between February 15th and March 6th:

Just so you know, this is an automated recent overview of the Linkblog, a collection of interesting links I find on my travels. The archives are here:

Linkblog – October 24th to November 2nd

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Links between October 24th and November 2nd:

Just so you know, this is an automated recent overview of the Linkblog, a collection of interesting links I find on my travels. The archives are here:

Boriswatch, the BBC, a large camera and some thongs

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I’m pleased to report that one of my sites, Boriswatch, is doing spankingly well at the moment, and just last week I hauled myself up to London to appear on the BBC News for a piece on “Boris watchers”. It was the 3rd time I’ve been interviewed, and happily I’m getting better at it. The first time, for an End Of The Year show in 2004, saw me taken down into the basement of a plush hotel in London, and without any training whatsoever I managed to spill a few uninteresting comments out. The key, I found, was to forget you’re on camera, which is a little tricky when there’s a large light umbrella, a huge camera and several television executives staring at you. My cardboardy performance was something I didn’t publicise, and is hopefully long gone. The second one, for ITV, was a far more successful affair, with Boris Johnson commenting on the site and ITV receptionists pictured wearing Boriswatch t-shirts. I managed – in my shy, retiring way – to play a DVD of the performance on the Training Room projector at work.

Which brings us to the latest interview, with BBC London the weekend before last. It pitched me (a pro-Boris, in case you hadn’t realised) against a couple of anti-Boris fellow geeks, who seemed to be full of conspiracy theories and smarting at Ken Livingstone’s loss. At least, that was what I was told by the BBC interviewer, although I’m sure they came across far better that that on camera.

The BBC Marylebone lobby

The BBC Marylebone lobby

I arrived at the plush office in Marylebone a little early, and sat in the cafe next door, fevourishly researching the notes I’d made on the train journey. Over a muffin and pineapple Snapple, I noticed the place was full of media types, all with loud opinions on politics and celebrities. At 1pm, I sauntered into the BBC office, passing the security guard with remarkable ease. As I sat in reception, the internal BBC channel played in front of me, spooling out how wonderful the Beeb was. I continued watching as I got out a packet of extra strong mints, enthusiastically ripping open the packet and immediately dropping them all over my jacket and the floor. Mints rolled in all directions around me, and of course it was at immediately this moment that the videographer rocked up in front of me, asking my name and directing me down the corridor. I attempted to explain, but it was clear nothing would retrieve my dignity and I followed him up to the filming room.

The room, when we got there, was dark, save for an extremely bright light focused on the chair I would be sat in and a large projected image of Boriswatch on a screen. The interviewer arrived a couple of minutes later, and within a further couple of minutes the interview began. They don’t hang around, these reporters.

Feverish note revision

Feverish note revision

I tried to remember everything I had scribbled down earlier on the train, and prepared myself with the three pieces of advice I’d been given during my other two appearances. One, speak unnecessarily slowly (people watching won’t be used to any particular drawl); two, repeat the interviewer’s question (so that the whole Q and A can be shown without revealing the interviewer); and three – push your head forward further than normal (to reduce any additional chins).

And so it was that I talked about “the other site”, explained why I run Boriswatch, conducted a staunch defence of Mayor Boris, said what I had to say to Boris critics, and promoted some Boriswatch merchandise. The merchandise, if you watch the video below, is virtually the only part that made it to the final piece. The moment I mentioned the word “thongs”,  the interviewer and cameraman dissolved a little, and it was a wonder I got to the end of the sentence before following them into fits of giggles…

It was all over in 15 minutes. Everyone was very friendly, and as I was guided down the stairs by the interviewer I got a small tour and potted history of the relatively small place. It is one of the oldest BBC offices in London, hosuing abour 100 people. It was under siege during the Ross/Brand affair a few weeks before – “we got a taste of our own medicine”, the interviewer wryly noted – as it was the location for the important Sack Brand meeting by the governors. bbclondonDownstairs is the location of the entire BBC London operation, including all the researchers and the BBC London studio, which is barely bigger than Londoners see on screen every day. If you ever listen to the traffic news of London 97.3 radio, the reason there is always lots of background noise is because the traffic guy’s desk is right in the middle of the packed office floor. It really is very small indeed, which is the main reason they are moving to gleaming new premises very soon.

Three times on the following Tuesday it was broadcast, prompting 12 text messages and 7 emails within 10 minutes of the first broadcast, which coincided nicely with a particularly crucial presentation I was giving. The general consensus is good, but I seem to have an even posher accent on screen. I didn’t know that was possible.

So, here it is:

Linkblog – December 14th to January 24th

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Links between December 14th and January 24th:

Just so you know, this is an automated recent overview of the Linkblog, a collection of interesting links I find on my travels. The archives are here:

Baldy inspires to the end

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Awesome – this is officially the low point in post frequency on! And it’s ironic that it’s another blog’s epic posts that have prompted me into action.
A month or so ago, I watched BBC Breakfast through half-closed eyes, attempting to find the will to get up. A guy of roughly my age was grinning and talking through my haze, and then he mentioned the word “blog”. It is like a technological red rag to a bull for me – this must be about geeky stuff! I sat up and listened.
In fact, it was something much more inspiring than that. Adrian Sudbury, the guy talking, has leukemia. In fact, it’s worse than that – he has two forms of it, running at the same time, making him both unique in the world and one of the unluckiest men I’ve heard of. He had been maintaining a blog all about his experiences, in order to document hope and inspiration for other sufferers when he got better. Unfortunately – very unfortunately – this eloquent, well-meaning guy had just learnt that the fight was over. He was going to die.
He still blogs – in fact, he blogs more than me (not hard), despite the increasing suffering he describes. It’s more inspiring than distressing. The blog is called Baldy’s Blog and it is in turns funny, uplifting, informative and distressing. I urge you to read and subscribe to it – before its too late.

Cabbies know about everything. Fact.

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Imagine you’re a cabbie waiting to drive a technology editor back from an interview at the BBC television centre. Imagine your surprise when, after you turn up early, you’re grabbed by the floor manager, mistaken for the editor and plonked in front of cameras – and interviewed, live on air, about the latest Apple Computer vs Beatles debacle. Imagine bluffing your way through quite spectacularly…
Don’t worry – there’s no need to imagine – here’s the evidence. The expression on the poor cabbie’s face is priceless…! Here’s a Guardian article on it, here’s loads of news articles on it, and here’s the video. Awesome.

Ruff Acting

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There’s no doubt that if there’s anything depressing, distressing or deeply disturbing, you can bet it’s happened in Eastenders. Compare that with the fluffy, happy-go-lucky antics of well-trained dogs at Crufts this year, also filmed by the BBC. A BBC website visitor, Ross (27), sums up my sentiments exactly on the BBC Website:

“Crufts was great as it is every year. I think we should have more dogs on TV, I for one would like to see dogs getting better TV roles. I ask you would it not brighten up the deeply depressing show Eastenders, if we were to see a dog on the show with a gripping story line e.g. Rover & The Missing Sausages. Surely it would break up the dullness we are usually treated to every day of the week.”

That’s yer lot…

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2005 is winding down, and with it come the annual reviews of the year. For quirky current affairs, try BBC News Magazine‘s selection of lists – from “100 things we didn’t know last year” to “The Best ‘and finallys’ Of The Year“. For photo collections, take a look at TIME’s Best Photos of 2005,or the REUTERS 2005 Photo Showcase – or maybe you’d prefer the BBC’s more UK-based “The UK in 2005“. If you’re feeling slightly more geeky, try PCWorld’s Best Products of 2005 or Kottke’s Best Links of 2005.
Whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, have a good time!

Done Up Like A Musical Kipper

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I’d like to think of myself as internet-savvy. I do almost everything on it nowadays – from the monthly food shopping to paying bills, buying DVDs and CDs, it’s all done on my computer screen. In the six or so years since I started playing with the internet, I’d like to think I’m aware of every internet scam out there.
I mention this because last night I happened upon The website sounds utterly preposterous – getting an MP3 player worth £250 for nothing sounds like fool’s gold. Apparently they get commission from the number of people who sign up for their sponsors. Sounds odd, but it’s been on Newsnight and the BBC News, and I know of one person who has actually received one, so I thought I’d sign up, What can I lose, I thought?
So, the sign up was straightforward. I chose a username and password and burst into the members page, eager to find riches. I was faced with several options for sponsors I needed to sign up with – DVD clubs, casinos and the like. However, one caught my attention – an MP3 site offering cheap access to thousands of high-quality MP3s for a low one-off charge. Compared to Tesco or Napster downloads, it was a bargain – $19 for lifetime membership. $19 for an Ipod, I thought, and away I went to sign up.
Not, obviously, without checking its authenticity first, of course. A quick search on Google didn’t throw up too many warning signs, and the little padlock on my browser indicated that it was a secure site for my payment. I was all set to go. Plugged in my payment details, got confirmation…. And then nothing. No web page with MP3s, just a page telling me how to use other programs to get them. Click, nothing. Click, nothing. A warm, gooey, unpleasant feeling seeped through my body. I’d laughed at countless internet newbies signing up for scams, putting them down as unbelievably naive. I’d had been taken for a mug, and now some nefarious criminally-minded bastard had my debit card details. I was INCENSED I tell you, more at my complete failure to notice the scam than anything else. If it can still be a scam when it has a secure trading site, what’s the point in having the secure padlock icon?
And that is why, at ten to eleven last night, I was on the phone to a wary woman from Alliance and Leicester, explaining that I’d signed up for a dodgy website and there was a distinct possibility that they may use my card details for a new Boeing 737 they’d had their eye on. After I explained that it was a music website and not some sordid den of carnal knowledge, she was much more helpful and stopped my card immediately. So, for the next seven days, I am debitcardless, which frankly is a relief for my bank manager.
And I don’t think I’ll hang around for that iPod, either.

London Underground Explosions. Again.

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Twice looks like carelessness. BBC News link.
Update 2:44pm – Robin has ongoing updates running again.
Update 2:54pm – Police say this is “very serious incident”. Armed police seen going into University College Hospital.
Update 3:11pm – BBC News carries a timeline. Tony Blair to give statement.
Update 3:40pm – Four buses stop in Whitehall, and police are clearing the area. Reporters asked to turn off cameras.
Update 3:47pm – The following swiped from
Sky News : BBC report, eyewitness accounts, reporters log : Guardian report, newsblog : Wikinews : Nosemonkey liveblogging