Back in the Valley for a few days…

I’m back in the Bay Area / Valley for a few days (flying off again on Thursday afternoon), so if anyone’s around and wants to do neat things, there is a small possibility that I might be available. I think there has been mooted a trip to the Tonga room for a drink or something one evening during the week. Possibly Tuesday, should that interest you all.


A Casual Report from Overwhelmington…

Another funny few weeks, another quiet weblog. Various things are going on – friends’ weddings and stag parties, projects at Yahoo reaching an end, trying to work out when to take holiday, planning multiple trips to the US, getting in several thousand dollars worth of expenses that have crippled my finances, having fights with my laptop, re-discovering High Priority and ‘leveraging’ the fucking balls off it, taking up a Saturday morning rolling game of Gnomecentric Barbelite World of Warcraft as if it were – quite literally – a game of golf, and Doctor Who of course. Always Doctor Who. It’s what the week is for. I’ve got a ton of things that I’d like to write up and talk about, and a bajillion things to prepare for and think about – but at the moment it’s all about being disciplined and focused and trying not to get too overwhelmed. Hopefully I’ll have one thing up for you guys to play with later in the evening. But no promises!


Talking at the Apple Store about weblogs…

I have a kind of superstition when it comes to public speaking, and the superstition is that I don’t write about the fact that I’m going to be doing the speaking on my site until I’m pretty sure I know what I’m going to be talking about. My concern – that I don’t get a bunch of people coming from out there in the world who will watch me make a fool of myself. I am currently breaking that rule. Tomorrow evening I will be talking at the Regent Street Apple Store of all places with a bunch of other weblogging reprobates to help people get their head around weblog culture in a little event that the Londonist crew have organised called Blogging Demystified. Here is the advert:

The big problem is that I have absolutely no idea what to talk about. All my colleagues have had a bit more of a run-up to this thing (having not landed back in the country after a month away a little over a week ago) and they’ve gone and claimed all the major fruitful subject areas. Damn you Annie! Damn you Inky Circus Girls! Damn you, Reynolds. Oh, what’s that? You’re all screwed too?

Update: I’m afraid it looks like my body has decided to take this particular decision off the table, by subjecting me to a succession of clenchings, squirtings, belchings and throwings that have made me extremely unpleasant company most of the morning. As a consequence I’m having to bow out of the event tonight, and I’m going to be heading home shortly to get reacquainted with my bathroom. Really sorry to everyone, and should any other event be organised subsequently I’ll entirely be there.

Conference Notes Life

Back to London and Changing Media…

Phew! And I’m back in London and this is basically the first opportunity I’ve had to put my head above water since. I’m ploughing through a backlog of e-mail from stuff I’ve not had much of a chance to deal with over the last month or so, finishing off scraps of work so I can close their respective GTD loops (I never finished the book, too busy) and looking at the wastelands of my nearly finished weblog posts and ever expanding to do list and thinking about how much of it I can hope to get done over the weekend. So much of my life at the moment is about getting back to zero. Other people seem to get much more done across a much wider range of territories without getting so swamped. Or they hide it better. Or they lie.

So what’s happened since I’ve last been online? Er. Good question. My one hour of sleep was followed by several hours in Newark, a seven hour flight getting back to my flat around 10pm on Sunday evening. And then a few scant hours later I was on stage at the Guardian Changing Media Summit in London’s fashionable Victoria. As Ben Hammersley’s utterly charmless portrait of me indicates, I had the jetlag sweats and grumps and could only concentrate due to the significant amount of adrenalin in my system. Here’s a more flattering Mirror Project-alike photo that I took later in the day in the excitingly lit lifts:

I’m generally having a bit of trouble getting my head around what happened at the Guardian Sumit, but I get the impression that it was a strange event – it felt a lot like the people who had prophesized the dot-com crash last time around (and were secretly delighted that their more traditional media had won through against this weird interloper) had been brought to the event a little against their will – having finally realised that a boom and a bust doesn’t conceal the more general, solid and underlying push in the same direction. The day seem strangely retro and a little bit grudging – or maybe that was just the audience. As I say, I have a pretty bad sense of what actually happened, so I could have got the whole thing completely wrong.

One thing I said during the Social Media panel that seems to have confused a few people was that I mostly have no idea what on earth people are talking about when they use the term social media. This may seem like a terrible confession (and I think some have decided to take it in that way), but I think they’ve slightly missed the point a bit. I’ll write more about that later, but my main issue was simply that the term seems to be being used as a badge for pretty much anything that someone wants to talk about and make sound contemporary. Online community as a term has disappeared, social software seems out of vogue (is media the natural progression) and social networks are quite 2004, but social media as a term is everywhere. And depending on who is using it, it seems to mean everything from mainstream media owners adding new ways of engaging with their consumers, through to standards like community and social networks, all the way through to You Tube, Flickr and weblogs. It felt like there was a pretty weird diversity of opinion on the panel as well. Very confusing.

I don’t think I’ve seen a term so indiscriminately used – I think it’s even more bastardised than social software was at its worst. But I’ll write more about that another time – I have the basic transcript of what I was planning to say at the conference written down somewhere, and I’m sure I can drag the whole thing into some kind of order over the next couple of days.

Otherwise the conference was most notable for me as an excuse to catch up with some of my favoruite people – Hammersley, Neil, Suw, Paula Le Dieu, Sasha, Hugh and a whole slew of old BBC R&Mi types like Sarah Prag, Dan Taylor and Chris Kimber. And I got to see Simon Waldman (unusually grumpy, I thought) and Adam Curry‘s hair – which was totally Smashy (and Nicey). And I had Vietnamese food. And then couldn’t sleep until nearly 3am.

Cut. Cut. That’s enough for now. Too much to do. Roaming off for a bit. I’ll leave you with the most terrifying part of the last few days – working out why my phone had stopped working while I was in New York. Apparently roaming data is even more expensive than I thought it was. That’s five hundred pounds I’m not going to get back in a hurry (mostly spent on a month of trans-Atlantic Flickring). Not good. Very scary. Not doing that again.


I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink…

Well that’s not strictly true – I got an hour of sleep between coming back from the party and having to leave for the airport. Twenty hours awake and one hour of sleep, and currently in Newark airport an hour and a half away from the final six hour flight that takes me back to London (where British Summer Time is just about to really rub in the jet-lag). If I was fried before, now I’m deep-fried – possibly breadcrumbed and potentially smothered in some form of thick hallucinogenic sauce.

My visit to New York was pretty much infinitesimally short. I got to my hotel on Friday afternoon around 4.15pm, showered and changed to be out by 5pm, crashed back at the hotel before midnight, had about three hours roaming around Soho on Saturday early afternoon before the next series of events began. Which brings us back to the end of the party and getting to the airport and thick hallucinogenic sauce.

Gaming Life

The end is in sight…

I’m coming to the end of my month in the US and to be honest I’m absolutely bloody exhausted. I only have one major US leg to go and then Dear God I’ll be done and I can sleep in my own bed and spend a weekend alone and play a lot of World of Warcraft and speak to absolutely no one. This has been a pretty astonishing trip in many ways – I feel like I’ve learned a lot and experienced more and have reconnected with my larger community – but it’ll be nice to have a break from working out travel logistics and hotels every twenty-four hours. Speaking of which, I still haven’t actually booked the bloody flight from San Franciso to New York, and I have nowhere to stay there yet. Very bad! Too much to do! Concentrate Tom, concentrate!

On this illustration, knocked up on the train back from work this evening (by way of an attempt to get my brain to unclench), I would be currently just trying to work out flight number six for Friday, and worrying about getting to the airport in time for flight seven (Sunday morning). Fried!


Arrival in Austin for SXSW 2006…

Right, I’m in Austin now for SXSW and struggling a bit to catch up with all the various things I need to sort out across work and personal projects and life. I’ve spent most of the afternoon in Halcyon with Biddulph and the Rev Dan Catt dealing with a whole range of things. Worst news of the day – I got a threatening letter from some lawyers about some stuff I’m having to deal with over on Barbelith. So I’ve been talking to people in the UK about that and trying to work out how to proceed. It’s probably going to mean taking some stuff down, which is a shame, but I’m 5000 miles away and two and a half weeks away from my own bed, so I can’t see any way I can really interrogate it properly at the moment.

Our arrival at the Halcyon was the start of a string of coincidences. We were looking for the location for the Break Bread with Brad event, walked from the hotel, found the place and decided to sit in a local caf√© and get some stuff done. As we walked in, we bumped into Andy Budd, Drew and a whole variety of other assorted front end design enthusiasts – several thousand miles from Brighton. And while talking to them, from behind us, we got pounced on by Flickr‘s ownRev Dan Catt, who Mr Biddulph and I have now been sitting with for… er… around six hours.

Next up – we’re going to go and register, and meet up with Thomas Vander Wal before ploughing through another truck load of stuff.


On my significant expeditions…

Right then. Where to start? Um. Right. I left the UK on Saturday for San Francisco and I’m going to be travelling around mostly on work business for the next three to four weeks. So there are lots of new opportunities for some of you to bump into me in person, and I’d very much like it if you’d take up the opportunity. At the moment I’m spending a week with my Tech Dev homies at Yahoo! Mission College, and staying with Cal in the city in the evenings. I’m suffering a bit from jet lag, so I’m regularly up around 5am and have taken the opportunity a few times to watch the sunrise over the Bay Bridge.

I’m also conking out around 9.45pm on Cal’s sofa, so don’t count on me being the most enthusiastic companion if you’re proposing anything in the evenings. If any of you take the Caltrain down to Silicon Valley in the mornings, then I’m normally lurking around the second carriage from the back with Cal and Heather and Simon.

Anyway, I’m only around in San Francisco until Saturday, at which point I head off to San Diego for ETech. There’s a bunch of cool stuff happening down there this year, including a Yahoo Developers party, which I can recommend people should go to if they’re around. At relatively short notice I’m also going to be doing another pass at the Native to a Web of Data talk that I did at the Carson Workshops thing earlier in the month. I’m hoping to have had an opportunity to expand around some stuff and take another pass at some of the meatier concepts, and I’m really looking forward to getting the reactions of a very different audience. And if that doesn’t float your boat then Simon’s doing a re-introduction to Javascript, Webb and Cerveny are going to be doing something crack-fueled about MUDs and Web 2.0 without the browser and there are about a thousand other nuts things going on as well. Even Biddulph’s coming out of hiding for this one.

From San Diego, I’m heading off to Austin and SXSW on the Friday after ETech. It’ll be the first time I’ve ever been to the event, although I’ve written about how much I’ve wanted to go pretty much every year since 2000. I’m really looking forward to this one, mainly because I won’t be talking for a change. Nice to have a chance to kick back and really absorb what’s going on. Plus there’s the Flickr, Upcoming and party which I’m going to be expecting you’re all going to be attending. Simon’s also going to be on some panel or other. I forget.

From the 15th of March I’m going to be in Los Angeles for some as yet undetermined period of time visiting friends and hanging out with neat tech people. So if you’re around there at all, it woudl be good to hang out. And then – finally – I’m going to be in and around New York for a few days during the week of the 20th of March catching up with people and attending the social event of the season. I’ve even brought my suit across the Atlantic for this one. I haven’t quite figured out any of the logistical details of this last incursion yet – so if anyone has any ideas about places I could stay for a few days that don’t cost the earth, and/or any neat nerds I can hang out with, that would be pretty damn useful and nice.

Finally, the day after I return I’m going to be on a panel at the Guardian Changing Media Summit about social media. I haven’t quite got my head around this one yet, but there are a hell of a lot of pretty smart people planned to be talking over the day, so I’m guessing it’s going to be a pretty solid event.

Anyway, that’s me done. If you’d like to hook up while I’m around the place, then contact me on the usual address – tom {at} the name of this weblog. I’m not promising to respond quickly but I will do my very very best to respond. This is likely to be my last major trip for a good few months, so I’m planning to make the very most of it.

Life Talks

My first reactions to The Future of Web Apps…

Wow. Yesterday’s Future of Web Apps summit was completely intense. I’d been worrying about talking for about a month, and puzzling away at what I wanted to say for even longer, which is pretty much why my site has been so quiet lately. But in the end it all came off – I got a lot of nice comments from people, and I’m pretty happy with its substance. I was so full of adrenalin by the end of the day that I was on a high for hours, and today I’ve experienced a weird kind of exhausted come-down. But it was worth it. I had a really good day.

The idea for the talk I gave (“Native to a Web of Data”) originated in conversations with Rael Dornfest after our work on the BBC PIPs project. He wanted me to write some kind of ‘User Interface Guidelines for Web 2.0″ talk for the Web 2.0 conference to focus on identifiers, addressability, ajax and the like – all the stuff that had come up in conversations and work that Matt Biddulph, Margaret Hanley, Gavin Bell and I had done together. But then I’d got stuck thinking around the area and couldn’t find an angle to attack it from, and I’d left it on the backburner. It was months later that Ryan asked if I’d like to talk at the summit, and I decided to take another stab at it, and I think it came out pretty well. I got a lot of positive comments from people at the event saying that it had crystallised a lot of the stuff that they’d already known but had trouble articulating. In retrospect, I think maybe all I did was write something that should give clued-up developers the argumentative support to convince people to let them do their jobs properly. But I’m pretty much happy with that.

The rest of the day was pretty awesome – the venue was extraordinary, and I really enjoyed seeing Cal and Joshua, and hearing what they were up to. I was also really really impressed by Ryan Carson’s piece on the financial sides of doing a small start-up. That pretty much rocked, and had really lovely typography. David Heinemeier Hanson’s piece on Ruby on Rails seemed pretty impressive too, and many people I rate are really keen on it as a framework (again Matt Biddulph). So that was good.

Even better for me was bumping into all kinds of neat people from around the industry who I don’t get to see enough of – people like Jamie Tetlow, Duncan Ponting, Matt Patterson, Paul Hammond, Becky Ford and all the BBC crew from R&Mi, Rod McLaren, Meg Pickard, some of the London Yahoos who I’ve got to know a bit and – a particular surprise – Ms. Jen who I haven’t seen since she generously offered to give me a lift from Los Angeles to San Francisco a few years ago. She’s in town at the moment, so everyone say hi. There were about a billion other cool people around, and all I can say is, don’t be a strange, chuck me an e-mail!

Anyay, I’m probably going to be putting up the slides on my site in the next day or so, but at the moment they’re all Keynote only and they look a bit rubbish in Powerpoint and stuff, so I should probably neaten them up a bit. In the meantime, I should probably again thank Simon Willison, Biddulph and Andy for their help along the way. I hope everyone’s well – and thanks again everyone for the kind words.


Hey dude!

Just a quick hello to the guy at the Square Apple shop on New Oxford Street, and a quick apology to everyone else for being completely off the radar – work’s kind of eaten my soul a little bit right about now. Hopefully I’ll get some time over the weekend to slack off a bit.