Facebook platform introduces Twitter app

Further to my recent entry on Federated Status, Facebook have launched their Facebook Platform which allows applet style gadgets to be embedded into one’s Facebook page. One such widget integrates Twitter and Facebook, but sadly not to the extend I’d hoped for in my previous post. Rather, it allows you to put an extra gadget onto your page to display your Twitters (but not those of your Twitter friends) which is then visible to anybody who can see your FB profile. It only displays your last tweet, and clicking edit on the gadget brings up an error page saying they are still ironing out a few issues, so hopefully more functionality may appear.

Additionally to the gadget, the profile owner can also twitter directly from FB, and also see their Twitter friends’ tweets.

What it doesn’t appear to do is put any integration between the status I can set at the top of my FB profile and Twitter. It would be nice to have the option to set one from the other. Most probably FB -> Twitter rather than the other way around.

Finally the ripping is finished

As previously blogged, I’ve been (re)ripping my entire CD collection to FLAC files for future posterity, and then re-encoding those into MP3 for use in iTunes, my iPod and for streaming around the flat.

Well I’ve finally finished, with exactly a week to go before we head off to Dublin. The timing is fortunate as my folks are coming down on Sunday to visit, and five boxes full of my CDs will be going back with them to be stored in their loft. Some final stats on the exercise:

CDs ripped: 618
Number of tracks: 7138
Total size of FLAC files: 183.43 GB
Total size of MP3 files: 26.2 GB

There were only a couple of CDs which were too badly damaged for Max to handle. There were also a few empty cases along the way, which have been swiftly replaced with versions from iTunes. Additionally I’ve been celebrating by purchasing a few albums from Irish artists, including Paddy Casey, The Frames, David Kitt and delorentos. I picked up on delorentos from the blog of our prospective wedding photographers James and Shawna who are also do a lot of work with bands and venues in Dublin.

I also belatedly picked up on the news from March that Lisa Hannigan and Damien Rice have parted ways professionally. Anybody who has listened to most of the songs from Damien’s two albums will be familiar with Lisa’s amazing voice, so it will be very interesting to she what she comes up with on her own now. Looking at her Wikipedia entry, it appears she was also in the year below Lana at school!

Dublin logistics

Behind the basics of getting a job sorted out, there have been a whole load of logistical considerations to get sorted out before we move over in just ten days time. Hence, I hopped on a flight over to Dublin on Wednesday (Lana has been out there for a few days more) to get some of them arranged.

The primary goal was to get a PPS number. This is the equivalent of the UK National Insurance number and is required before I can register to receive the tax credits I’ll be entitled to, as well as acting as the key for all sorts of other services. In order to try and avoid paying too much in emergency tax I was keen to get the PPS number sorted out before I start work. This leads to a kind of catch-22 situation in which I was not yet living over there, but yet still needed proof of residence. The usual form of prrof is a bank statement/utility bill. After checking contradictory statements on the web, I phoned them up and was advised that a letter from Lana’s parents stating that we will be staying with them initially would suffice, if accompanied by one of their utility bills. This was easy to arrange, so along with my passport I had all that I needed. The actual process involved going to the Social Welfare office in Tallaght (you can’t go to just any one in Dublin, but the one for the area you are either living in or working in.) and filling in a form. The number should be sent to me (in Ireland of course) in 3-5 days.

Once I have the number I can fill in a form 12a to claim my tax credits. The income tax system does not work on an allowance basis as in the UK, but simply on a variety of tax credits. For instance I’ll be eligible for a single person, and PAYE credit to begin with. Seen as we will be renting as well I may get a rent tax credit available to people renting private accommodation. Of course, come the end of August when we get married this will all change as well.

So, with the PPS number and tax credits on the way to being sorted, I’d need a bank account into which IBM will be able to pay me. From reading up on the web, this looked like it would be the most difficult thing to get sorted in advance of the move. AIB and Bank of Ireland both require two proof of address bills/statements which of course I don’t have. This is mainly to comply with anti-money laundering legislation. Ringing up branches of both gave inconsistent answers so I went prepared with as much paperwork as I could muster, including the stuff I’d given to the PPS people, and even a final UK water bill which we’d had sent to Lana’s parents’ address.

My favoured bank was AIB due to the fact that they have better facilities for transferring money internationally (i.e. back to the UK) however, they would only get around the proof of address issue if I produced a letter from IBM stating my employment, and then only if IBM itself was an AIB customer. Seen as the welcome pack from IBM contained a Bank of Ireland account application form I decided however to go with them. This was influenced by the fact that the money laundering section of the form was stamped over with “Exception MLRO” which gave me hope that maybe the form would relax some of the constraints on the process. We chose to try the nearest branch to the IBM location and it all started out well. I showed them my contract of employment, the letter and bills from Lana’s parents and the completed application form. The lady went away and then came back stating that they would need to see a confirmation letter from IBM HR before they would open the account. Helpfully she suggested that we pop up the road to pick one up. I smiled back and mentioned that the letter would most likely have to be produced by the centralised HR department in Hungary so given the branch was 15 minutes from closing that was unlikely to happen. This appeared to put us in an impasse in which it looked like I’d have to get such a letter sorted out and bring it in once I started work. Not good.

However, just as we were about to leave disappointed, she pointed out that I’d have to get a PPS number as well. Er, well we just did, the letter will be on it’s way to Lana’s parents in a few days. On receipt of this news she smiled and said that if Lana’s mum bought the letter in that would be fine. So, we ended up in the slightly ridiculous situation in which the bank would be perfectly satisfied by a letter from a government department to whom I’d produced exactly the same proof of identity and residence asa I presented to the bank. Still, it means that I’ll have the account set up sometime next week, at least hopefully.

On top of all this, there are a whole load of other things on the to-do list. I’m taking my car over so I’ll have to get it registered, taxed, tested and insured, though I’ll have about a month after we arrive to get this sorted. There’s health insurance and pension decisions to make, as well as the small matter of finding us both somewhere a bit more permanent to live. No doubt I’ll cover much of this in other posts.

From the UK side all our stuff gets picked up for shipment on Tuesday, and next Friday is the last day of work for both of us before we head off over there for good on the 3rd June.

Boats on fire and citizen journalism

This photo of a boat fire was taken by me and published in print and online by the Southern Daily Echo on 14th February 2007:

Southern Daily Echo boat fire photo by Adrian Spender

This photo was taken by Elfar Ingvarsson and appeared on the BBC News website on 21st May 2007.

Cutty Sark on fire from BBC news, submitted by Elfar Ingvarsson

My one shows a fire onboard a small yacht in a provincial marina. Elfar’s shows the destruction of a national landmark. I got paid £30 for my photo, and I am betting that Elfar didn’t.

Some statistics for you:

The Southern Daily Echo has a total circulation of 40461 for the print edition (Source: The Newspaper Society) and the web site has an Alexa traffic rank of 146,3173 (Source: Alexa 3 month average traffic rank)

BBC News is the largest and most visited web site in the UK, serving 3 million users and 24 million page impressions per day. It’s Alexa traffic rank is 33 (Source).

Naturally then, you would hope and assume that Elfar would receive reasonable compensation for his dramatic photo. However, the BBC is perhaps one of the worst exploiters of citizen journalists in this respect. If you read the lead Cutty Sark story early this morning, you’d have seen the form at the bottom of the page allowing you to send in your photos and video. You could even send it in directly from your mobile via MMS or 3G. The BBC expects you to be happy with your name on a credit (if you are lucky) for the privilege of giving them your work. Even if you missed the form (it has now been taken off) you can go to the Have Your Say page to find out how you can altruistically donate your photos and video. If you then go and read the T&Cs, the shortened version of which reads:

f you submit an image, you do so in accordance with the BBC’s Terms and Conditions.

In contributing to BBC News you agree to grant us a royalty-free, non-exclusive licence to publish and otherwise use the material in any way that we want, and in any media worldwide. This may include the transmission of the material by our overseas partners; these are all reputable foreign news broadcasters who are prohibited from altering the material in any way or making it available to other UK broadcasters or to the print media. (See the Terms and Conditions for the full terms of our rights.)

It’s important to note, however, that you still own the copyright to everything you contribute to BBC News and that if your image and/or video is accepted, we will endeavour to publish your name alongside it on the BBC News website. Please note that due to operational reasons this accreditation will probably not be possible with video. The BBC cannot guarantee that all pictures and/or video will be used and we reserve the right to edit your comments.

At no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.

So, the BBC can, for no money at all to you, use your photo or video in perpetuity across any media they wish (that means you can get international TV airtime as well, lucky you) Oh, and they can syndicate it as well. At least they let you retain copyright.

So, for being in the right place at the right time, Elfar is lucky enough to get a byline which he can screencap and show his family. Meanwhile, imagine if there happened to be a professional photojournalist hanging around Greenwich early this morning. How much has the value of his shots, which he sent up to various agencies, been devalued by the work of a few people with camera phones, and how many sales has he lost? Where would the BBC have been forced to buy a photo from is Elfar (and others) hadn’t been so generous.

I’m not going to go through the arguments for and against citizen journalism in more detail, suffice to say that it is only fair that news organizations start to treat members of the public fairly and equitably for the material we provide them. It should be their responsibility to inform contributors of the fact that by donating their photo/video they are potentially losing the ability to make money from it. I’ve added the following button to my site which links to the Editorial Photographers UK campaign for Fair Play for Citizen Journalists, and I suggest that you head over there to read about the issue in more detail.

I support the EPUK FP4CJ Campaign

P.S. Elfar – if you read this, maybe next time you might want to look at submitting your photo to somewhere like Scoopt, who will help you realise it’s value. The fact that have been bought up by Getty Images, about the largest picture agency/archive out there should give you confidence.

Federated status

Unusually, I am awake very early this morning, probably because Lana isn’t here at the moment. As such I logged on and sent a message to Twitter. Then I logged onto Facebook to see what’s happening, and updated my status there as well. Finally, I took a look at the new Plazes interface (thanks Andy, Roo. Andy has more on it here) and lo and behold you can now augment your current plaze with what you are doing.

So that’s three places where I independently had to type “Wondering why I am up at 5:20am” There is an obvious opportunity to develop a federated status system whereby you can update in one place and it propagates out to various social sites, as well as allowing your IM clients to pick that state up as well. Obviously in the case of Twitter there is value in doing more than just automatically sending status type messages, but it would still be useful.

Looking around google, I’m not surprised that others have thought the same, but so far there only seem to be partial solutions to the problem (e.g. Twitterbook which updates Twitter with your Facebook status, and a PHP script to allow Adium to retrieve from Facebook as well.

It would be nice not to have to use piecemeal solutions but to have a single web service in which I could publish my status and have it federated out to my designated subscribers. Unfortunately, this would rely on suitable APIs being available, and looking at Facebook as one example, it doesn’t allow status updating via API. Whilst you could nominate one site as your “master” site in this case, this would fall down as soon as you added another site with no update API. Thinking about it, what’s really needed is a standard and simple ability for all these sites to grab a status Atom feed and to automatically update from the latest entry in that, then it is just a case of deciding which site is the master (feed creator) and which are the slaves (feed consumers)

ETA:

Twitterfeed is interesting.
And somebody has found a way to push status updates to Facebook via their mobile service.

A1 DYS

Whilst having a bite to eat with my cousin the other Sunday we got talking about the fact that she works in sales for the UK’s largest dealer in private car registrations. For those who might not be familiar with the concept, you get a bog-standard registration number whenever you buy a new car, but you can also buy a private one from a dealer to transfer onto the car. These are normally relevant to one’s name, pet, football team etc. etc. However, you can’t specify exactly what you want, it has to be a plate issued in the first place by the DVLA (and which therefore meets their criteria making the use of numbers as substitutes for letters common) hence the fact that dealers spring up to buy and sell them.

I mentioned to her that I had always fancied getting A1 DYS. To my surprise, she said that it had been on their books not long ago. When I asked her why she hadn’t thought of me she said she had, but didn’t reckon I’d have the £50k to meet the purchase price. Fair enough then, she got that one right 😉

Move gathering pace

I received the call from IBM HR today to say confirm the contract offer from Dublin, and to say that it was being Fedex’d to me and should be here on Friday. This has finally enabled me to confirm the end date in Hursley and start date in Dublin. My last day in Hursley will be on Friday 1st June, though I’ll be using a couple of days of holiday to take me up to an official end date of Tuesday 5th. The UK IBMers amongst my readers will know why that date is especially significant, as we get paid on the 6th of the month.

Talking of pay, my friend Rich reminded me that one of Gordon Brown’s last acts as chancellor will be to offer me a lovely tax rebate seen as I’ll have received just two months salary in the current tax year whilst paying tax on my expected yearly earnings.

Lana has been very busy packing up all non-essential stuff, to the point where the flat is now full of Staples boxes. Our original plan was to hire a van and book a ferry over to Dublin for the weekend before we go for good. This was all booked up and although it would be a long, long slog over a 48 hour period, it was the cheapest and least hassle way of doing it.

All that may have changed however as I was also told that I can claim up to €3000 in relocation expenses, including personal effects transport. The appointed relocation agents have already been in contact with me, and I’ve asked them for a quote to get our stuff over and store it until needed. This will make things easier all round and will also save us from taking up too much space at Lana’s parents place. Fortunately the ferry and van are fully refundable, bar £30.

As for housing over there, we will be staying with Lana’s folks for a few weeks whilst we find a place to rent. I’ve been busy looking at places on the ‘net at http://www.daft.ie but you really need to be there to see places.

It’s getting closer and closer, and I can’t wait.

Show me the shoes and I’ll tell you about the man

New shoes
We made the most of the bank holiday today to go down to Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to have lunch with our friends Pete and Michelle and their two young ones Grace and Freddie. The other purpose from my point of view was to find a pair or brogues to wear to the wedding. I normally go for loafers which obviously wouldn’t be any good with a morning suit. Gunwharf is full of outlet style shops, and a visit to Austin Reed quickly produced the results. The colours I’m going for in the morning suit will lend themselves to either black or tan shoes, and given that I’ll instruct the groomsmen to wear black, I fancied wearing tan myself. However being unusually indecisive I couldn’t be 100% sure, so opted for the black as a safe bet. Both pairs were pretty much the same and were bench made by Cheaney, a well respected British shoe maker. Being an outlet shop, they weren’t perfect, but the only real noticeable issue was scuffing on the leather soles, which let’s face it is hardly an issue one will care about after the first wear.

The black ones were reduced from somewhere around £250 down to £140 which is still a lot of money, but worth it for the purpose in hand. However when getting to the till to purchase they rang up at only £75! Confirmed by the lady behind the counter, I quickly dispatched her to get the tan pair as well. They came in at a similar price, so I am now the proud owner of a fantastic couple of pairs of shoes, and I’ll be able to try both out when I go for my morning suit fitting.

As for the title of this post, well I read it somewhere once and it stuck in my head. I’ve no idea if it is an actual quote, but it certainly is true. Google came up a blank.

Why Dublin?

I’ve alluded to some of the reasons why we are moving to Dublin, but I guess it is worth going into a bit more detail.

The first and probably most obvious reason is that Lana was brought up there. I’ve always said to her that we would give it a go at some point, and now seems like the right time. I’ve been down in Southampton for over eight years, and save for a single year so has Lana. We’ve been together for four years, and living together in the same place for the past three. We have reached the point where we either settle down for good in Southampton, or we move on somewhere else. Now there are many good things about Southampton and the surrounding area, but it has never truly felt like home to either of us. Friends aside, we’ve simply become a bit bored of it.

The first thought when considering where we might relocate to was to accommodate my job. Lana’s nursing makes her a lot more flexible than me, so we thought about where we might like to buy a house. We knew we probably didn’t want to to this in Southampton, and therefore we looked further afield. There was little point in looking to somewhere like Basingstoke, Reading or the likes as we’d be too far away from friends and would have to start afresh. The only other option would be to move up back towards Watford/Luton where I grew up and where we both know a fair amount of people. The problem there was that it would make commuting to Hursley impossible, meaning I’d have to look at moving into a different job role within IBM. Leaving the world of development for a services type role wasn’t something I was keen on doing.

So if we were going to relocate somewhere then it might as well be to Dublin where Lana has her family and friends, I have relatives, and what’s more, I could find a job which kept me in a development role without having to consider looking outside of IBM.

I guess the second reason is that I’m intrigued to experience living in somewhere other than England. Whilst I’ll admit that Ireland isn’t exactly a huge way away, I am looking forward to what will hopefully be a distinctly different way of life. I’ll freely admit that it has been increasingly depressing to watch the slow but systematic erosion of values which has happened over the past few years in England. I’m pretty fed up of seeing governmental cock-up after cock-up with regards to how the country is run, and have looked on in envy as I’ve either seen friends leave or read about people who have not looked back after doing so. Don’t get me wrong, I am truly proud of my place of birth, but I’m just not that keen on the way it is going. Whether Ireland is any better I don’t know, but it will be refreshing to experience. Of course, one can read all sorts of similar arguments about the Irish political and social situation, especially with the forthcoming election, but there is something about the Irish nature which seems to be more relaxed and dare I say liberal about such matters. Of course, it helps that the papers are not full of news about a phoney war on a daily basis either. Another thing I am genuinely looking forward to is sampling the famous history of begrudgery in the Irish nature, primarily as a nice antidote to the horrific cult of celebrity which is now pervasive through life on these shores.

To sum it up, I’ll refer to a passage from Joe Laredo’s Living and Working in Ireland, which I picked up in Borders yesterday. It pretty much says it all about why I am looking forward to moving there:

When it is all said and done, Ireland is one of the most open, liberal, stable and tolerant societies in the world. It has a strong economy, political stability, a good education system, a skilled workforce, a high standard of living, excellent health care services and a wealth of natural beauty. But perhaps above all, the Irish are renowned for their relaxed way of life. “When God made time, he made plenty of it” is a popular saying – and the Irish certainly seem to know how to make the most of it. Put simply, Ireland is a great place in which to live, work and raise a family.

You can’t hope for much more than that!

Explaining my work

I’ve just had a realisation. I’m listening to IBM VP Jeff Schick talk about Lotus Connections in a podcast. He starts off by talking about how Connections as social software for the enterprise is building on what sites like MySpace and Facebook have done for the general web consumer. I think that my new role might be the first I’ve had which I can easily explain to my family without a glazed expression coming across their faces 😉