Monthly Archives: July 2003

Bloggers in the house

Maybe it was the over-stuffed surroundings – the Grand Comittee Room of the House of Commons – but last night’s ‘blogging and politics’ event, organised by The Work Foundation and Vox Politics felt sort of important. The long-hairs and the suits, the iBook trendies and the wonks (even a few Trots) – and all three of the currently blogging MPs – all in one room (and a room with wi-fi) for the first time?

Tom Watson, MP and heavyweight blogger, explained the simple, day-to-day benefits he and his constituents get from his weblog. A US ‘e-democracy expert’, Steven Clift, said that weblogs might never have any big democratic effects but will certainly alter politics. Political columnist (and alleged neo-con) Stephen Pollard gave four or five good reasons for journos to blog – not least it seems to be a good way of using up uncommissioned story ideas. Contributors were practical, un-euphoric. Weblogs as tools for connection with constituents, accelerated idea gathering, better accountability.

Chairman James Crabtree from the Work Foundation worked the crowd well – Tom Coates sputtered at the stupidity of ‘reputation management’ for bloggers. The usual ragged RCP plant from Spiked! limply debunked blogging – clash of ideas, real politics, blah blah…

Sasha told the story about the blogger, the local councillor and the person from Transport for London getting together to actually do something useful in her community. There was some useful to-and-fro about centralising, control-freak pols vs. out-of-control, hyper-accountable bloggers ? deserves a proper work-out, that one. Wikis came up ? I’ll bet that was a first for the house ? and Tom Watson (our blogging MP) was encouraged to put up a PolicyWiki. Very good idea, I think.

More from Sasha, Tom, Linkmachinego and The BBC. And Orlowski is good value, of course.
(Click the pic for a handy key)

Don’t prejudge the Comms Bill

Richard Tait in the FT (subscription required) says we shouldn’t be too quick to predict the long term outcomes of the Comms Bill. After all, ten years ago:

“…you could have got eye-watering odds betting that six years after channel Five?s launch it would be a major broadcaster of arts and history programmes; that its first chairman Greg Dyke would be running the BBC; that its first director of programmes Dawn Airey would be in charge of programming at BSkyB; and that her successor Kevin Lygo would be everyone?s favourite to take over as director of television at Channel 4.”

Tait, who used to be Editor in Chief at ITN and is now an academic, is a pretty good reason to buy the FT on a Tuesday when his column appears in the Creative Business section.

Cars, green and not so green…

A genuinely green car is, of course, impossible. Moving a tonne of steel and plastic around could never use no energy at all and even the zero emissions hydrogen fuel cell cars will require prodigious amounts of energy to produce the hydrogen in the first place.

The switch to hydrogen is going to happen sooner than you think, though – the auto and petroleum businesses have seen the writing on the wall for hydrocarbons – but we mustn’t be naive enough to mistake the switch for a green initiative. The market is in motion, the economics of hydrogen will become very persuasive very quickly. Your next car may be one of these (from a useful survey of all the real-world green cars in The Guardian)

Buy this thing

It looks like a home enema kit but you are definitely going to need this baby for your upcoming fortnight in Suffolk or the Dordogne or wherever you take your 4×4 these days. It’s a supremely clever and slightly weird car accessory: an ingenious 12 volt cigarette lighter-powered shower attachment. Go on, wash your feet.

(watch me shoot to the top of the Google rankings for ‘home enema kit’).

25% of Anglican vicars are metrosexual

It’s not a new term but ‘metrosexual’ is ready for primetime and is now a fully-fledged market segment. The New York Times profiled an actual specimen a couple of weeks ago:

“Mr. Martinson likes wine bars and enjoys shopping with his gal pals, who have come to trust his eye for color, his knack for seeing when a bag clashes with an outfit, and his understanding of why some women have 47 pairs of black shoes. (“Because they can!” he said.) He said his guy friends have long thought his consumer and grooming habits a little… different. But Mr. Martinson, who lives in Manhattan and works in finance, said he’s not that different” (New York Times)

These articles from The Economist and The New York Times are pretty good but you might need a subscription to see one or both. Try Rob Walker’s freebie from Slate @ MSNBC:

“marketers have repositioned the term to denote guys who are secure in their need for, say, skin moisturizer or body spray-straight urban men willing, even eager, to embrace their feminine sides”

Platform frenzy

Nigel Walley is a partner at clever iTV consultancy Decipher and the motor behind an intriguing research and viewing facility called iBurbia. Nigel reckons iBurbia is the only set-up in the country where you can put groups of punters in front of all the current TV technology – from Sky Plus to Freeview, networked Playstations, Tivos and all the red button applications currently out there – in authentic-looking living room settings.

His clients bring real customers down to test new apps in something resembling a real home and also send their own staff to get familiar with the dozens of emerging platforms they’re going to need to understand as the TV landscape gets weirder and more fragmented. Viewing facilities used to need nothing more complicated than a VCR. Nigel’s behind-the-scenes server room looks sufficiently like Mission Control to convince me that the business has changed completely.

OS X wisdom

I’ve been using Macs since 1985 (I make that 18 years) so I’ve felt at home there for a long time but OS X is a fascinating and foreign place for me, even a couple of years into the experience. So now I’ve got a copy of O’Reilly‘s excellent Mac OS X Hints next to the bed. So far I’ve learnt how to speed up iPhoto on our very old kitchen Cube (turn off the drop shadow), how to cd by dragging a file into Terminal (is that cool or what?) and how to speed up iMovie rendering (hide the app). This is a useful book.

Mailer, Bush and the war

Whatever you think of it, this is one of those articles you’re going to want to have read. You’ll thank me for linking to it ? no, really, you will. Norman Mailer writing beautifully on the unstated hormonal motives for the war in Iraq, from the NYRB.

“Moreover, we had knockout tank echelons, Super-Marines, and – one magical ace in the hole – the best air force that ever existed. If we could not find our machismo anywhere else, we could certainly count on the interface between combat and technology. Let me then advance the offensive suggestion that this may have been one of the covert but real reasons we went looking for war. We knew we were likely to be good at it.”


As father of two girls and a boy I really enjoyed Jenni ‘Woman’s Hour’ Murray’s Ten myths about boys. Our Olly is nearly five and he’s sometimes hard work but I think of him as a pioneer, striding out into difficult, masculine territory without a map. Thinking about the very poor popular image of young males these days, I reckon being a boy can only get harder and I hope he has the resources and the love to turn all the ridicule and opprobrium to positive use and to be a successful, happy human being despite it all.