About six weeks ago, I asked a bunch of you to record little voicemail messages for me using the little Odeo Voicemail-a-like feature. You can still send me these things if you want to: Send me an Odeo. Specifically I asked, If you could ask me one question what would it be? I was sort of expecting all manner of crappy insults from some of the people who read this site purely to shout at me about one thing or other, but in fact, the whole thing was extremely good natured, and I very much enjoyed it. The only problem was, I had absolutely no idea what to do next. I recorded replies to a few of them, but felt so self-conscious about the possibility of putting my voice out in public that I pretty much immediately deleted them all again. Turns out I’m much more shy than I expected – almost unfairly shy given how many of you were prepared to expose yourself in public.
What I think I’m going to do is post some of the questions that you’ve sent in with some nice text answers that I can just about deal with. And I’ll have a think in the background about other ways that I could use these widgets around plasticbag.org in neat new ways – and I swear to God some of them will include me speaking. Just not yet. Not now.
Thanks to everyone who sent in some audio – if you’d like to be named or have a link through to your site put next to your question feel free to e-mail me at tom at the name of this website. Thanks a lot everyone for playing. It’s been fun!
Our first comment comes from Gord Fynes and you can hear it below:
I could repeat the question but I think that would pretty much defeat the point of having the audio on the page, now wouldn’t it. So I’ll just jump right in. I think they do it upside down. I’m pretty sure they have molds that they coat lightly with chocolate to form the top half of the bar, which they then fill with goo. And only having done that would they put the base on. That’s my theory, anyway. Mmm. Cadbury’s chocolate.
Next up – a nice cheery one from an anonymous caller – my death row meal would probably be something really dull like a good roast beef, yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, green beans, carrots and gravy. Probably with Horseradish and followed by my mum’s treacle sponge, or my gran’s treacle tart.
So what this questioner is referring to is a piece I wrote a while back called Social Software for Set-Top Boxes about how you might be able to layer social engagement over TV, work that was inspired by some stuff that Matt Webb and I did at the BBC around Group Listening. The answer to the question ‘whatever happened to this kind of thing’ is that a whole bunch of people have been working around it for a while now – there was some work going on a few years ago which didn’t seem to get anywhere, some guys from PARC turned out to be thinking in similar areas, I’ve seen some people building communications stuff across TV in Israel and I believe that Microsoft put in for a patent about IM + TV earlier in the year. As ever, it’s a rare occurrence to come up with an idea that’s so radical and new that no one’s thought around the territory before. All you can really hope is that you can condense something and make it sharper or contribute in some way. Hopefully the thinking I did might help around that a bit. Who knows?
I recognise this voice! This is O’Reilly’s own Nat Torkington with the incredibly insightful question, “Is there anyone in the TV show Nathan Barley who doesn’t map directly to someone on your blogroll?”
Okay, so I don’t have a blogroll, but the answer is probably er…. maybe. That show was so completely weird for me. I worked very briefly on the edges of a team at emap a few years back that was responsible for B3ta among other things. Cal was a rather more substantial member of the team, along with Denise Wilton and Rob Manuel. A regular mischief maker in the office was Joel Veitch of Rathergood.com who was absolutely lovely and charming. Things I remember a lot from that period in time include Buffy’s Swearing Keyboard, spending a day colouring in this crab mask, the phrase shit is good and an image of a wanking monkey which I swear to god was directly referenced in the first few minutes of Nathan Barley. Let’s just say I was kind of peripheral to that scene, but Nathan Barley was more of a documentary than a comedy show and that Cal is of the opinion that the main reason that the show didn’t get a second series was because only about ten people in the world got half the jokes.
Now this is a bloody good and slightly depressing question which I will spell out: Do you get frustrated that you don’t have the time to just make, create produce like you did in the past?. The answer to this question is incredibly simple – yes. Fundamentally, I worked out my life goals a few years ago and they are to get to a position where I have the freedom to get the things I want to be in the world made. Pretty much everything up until that point is a compromise, although it’s an interesting balancing act – you don’t necessarily have the time or the freedom to make the dream products like proper self-managing community software built around political self-reflexive rulesets, but you do get to explore unexpected areas and solve problems you might not have come into contact with in other ways. There’s a hell of a lot to be said for having to push yourself to find the soul or heart of a problem or a product in a territory that you might not have stumbled upon alone. It’s genuinely exploration. But sure, at some basic level there are things that I want to make and build and write and show and play with, and – like pretty much everyone else – I don’t have the time to explore those things or do these things as much as I’d like.
Finally a nice simple question! I would say that the answer to this is probably the Phoenix or the Halcyon – two birds with very different lifecycles, one that dies in fire to be reborn and one that represents peace and tranquility across the waters.
Here’s an odd one. Someone decided that they should challenge me to name that tune:
I’m afraid that I cannot name this tune. I feel like a failed human being and I apologise humbly from the depths of my soul. No more questions that humiliate me, please!
Anyway, we’re nearly done now. Here’s more of a comment from the lovely Yoz. It’s not really a question as such as it is a little discussion about the Odeo comment facility:
Yoz’s point is an interesting one – that having the facility to record podcasts doesn’t necessarily result in good quality podcasts, and that actually being able to write text is often less intimidating for people than recording their voice. For a start, you can edit what you say much more easily in text than in audio. And then there’s the horror of hearing your own voice and thinking you sound like an idiot. I’m well aware of these constraints, which is why, this time at least you’re not getting anything out of me…
That’s it. You’re done. And I’ll leave you with a comment from a certain Kerry Bailey who asked the question that you were all thinking but didn’t come out and say…