Category Archives: Dan’s dispatches

Twitter: Whether to make a #hash of it

Like many Twitter users, I have a broad range of followers who I’ve picked up for a variety of reason over time, while the people I follow are similarly varied. I’m often aware that some of tweets I put out may be of interest to a few but may be intensely dull or irrelevent to others. I’m wondering whether greater user of hashtags might aid the tracking of themes for all involved.

For instance, the @imule account talks a lot about what’s going on locally; something that could be grouped under the occasionally used #WD3 hashtag. Then, if someone wanted to see what local things have been talked about recently, they need only search or filter for the hashtag.

Now of course you could search for other key words to find local content, however my feeling is there are too many of these to effectively keep track of what’s being taken about. Would you search for Rickmansworth, Ricky, SW Herts, South West Hertfordshire, Chorleywood, Croxley, WD3? Plus, there are likely a number of tweets that imply local content from their sender but where there’s nothing explicit in the content to indicate localness.

I also often find I miss interesting tweets by others due simply to the time of day that they tweet. For instance, I generally can’t check Twitter during the day. I’ve recently found myself wondering if several of the favourite people I follow have stopped tweeting. They haven’t; they’ve just tweeted when I’ve not been checking and either I’ve not had time to go through all the tweets of the day, or my Twitter app doesn’t download enough apps to go far enough back through the day to pick them up. I miss out on the tweets, only occasionally picking up on some of them later, and feel all the poorer for it.

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Looking ahead to 2010

It’s been a while since I posted to the blog, although it’s due to workload rather having something to write. In a blink of an eye we’ve gone from putting up the Christmas tree to having reached the end of the year. Time then, I reckon, for a look ahead at what 2010 may lay in store…

Our personal highlight will be our wedding, which will feature heavily in the first half of 2010. There’s still much to plan, people to invite, but we reckon it’ll be a fantastic day and, if we admit it, chance to see many friends and family we don’t see at all often enough.

Part of the wedding process of course is arranging the honeymoon. We’re still looking at the options as the typical sun-drenched Caribbean beach isn’t really our thing. Residing in the lap of luxury will certainly go down nicely, but we’d like some points of interest in the area and some local cuisine to sample. Suggestions are welcome.

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Defining a decade

We’ve been watching a programme on BBC3 called ‘The noughties – was that it?” I do enjoy these retrospectives of an era; the ‘I love the 80s’ series was, to my mind,  something of a nostalgia epic. Comparisons are naturally drawn as to which was the most momentous, influential, stylish, and cultural decade that really left its stamp on the years.

At present it seems difficult to put a finger on the noughties, although perhaps it’s not possible to do so while we’re still living through it. It’s almost certainly too soon for any sense of nostalgia to have developed and it’ll likely also take us a while yet to be able to define what has marked the times in which we’ve been living.

Typically for a BBC3 effort the series is rather celeb based (although perhaps also an indicator of the time in itself?) of which I can claim to hold only limited interest. Nevertheless in areas of lifestyle we can probably say we’ve seen the early stages of some technological revolutions during the noughties. At the start of the decade the internet was picking up a head of steam, yet most users still languished on dial-up and it had yet to reach across the whole age demographic.

Nowadays shopping or bidding in auctions on the internet is very much mainstream. We might still go to a bookshop, or we might just as likely go on Amazon. Looking for something hard to find? No end of people will suggest to look on Ebay. The online has not replaced the offline, which I suspect most would agree is a good thing, as both offer pros and cons, but the internet does offer potential and possibilities never before dreamt of.

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Stephen Fry on an Inconvenient Mule

Some months ago I recall Stephen Fry sharing his shock that he’d be travelling on mules for the ‘Last Chance to See’. His reaction was along the lines of ‘a thousand boiling arses.’

Today, finally, we got to witness this great event. Using the TVcatchup website on iPhone I was also able to easily screengrab the event, although the quality is typically that of a web stream.

Stephen Fry on an inconvenient mule
Stephen Fry on an inconvenient mule
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Boost the economy: give us weather forecasts we can use

At a time when we are being encouraged to spend to help the economy, I find myself incensed how weather forecasting is putting people off making the most of the summer and getting out and about.

Picture the scene: the weekend is here so we all take a look at the weather forecasts to see what to expect. If the forecast is generally okay we’ll likely head out somewhere but if not we’ll remain at home. Now, the main deciding factor in our decision-making is the weather forecast and it has for too long now let us down with excessively pessimistic prognoses of the weekend’s weather.

This weekend the forecast was fairly clear with a chance of showers on Saturday and a huge rain band passing over us on Sunday delivering heavy rain throughout the day. At least, that’s how you’d understand if watching the main weather forecasts. The BBC news forecast showed the whole region around us blanketed in blue (i.e. rain) for the whole of the day while the website confirmed rain and showers throughout the day too.

Clearly Sunday wasn’t a day to be setting off out anywhere. Only, it was. There was some rain overnight and a crash of thunder in the early hours but the whole day thus far, and it’s now getting on for 4pm, has been fine and sunny; really quite warm in fact; a fine summer’s day. Now there’s a clear contrast between what was forecast and what happened. How many people wrote off any plans for the day only to find – probably when it was too late in the day to change – that in fact a great deal could have been made of it. Trips could have happened, attractions visited, lunch out enjoyed, souvenirs purchased, the car topped up with petrol, perhaps dinner out; we’d have enjoyed ourselves and a great many businesses would have benefited as a result.

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National Rail UK iPhone app review

One of the most useful app functions on my iPhone has been the ability to check train departure and running times. Until the end of March this was offered free of charge by MyRail Lite and it did a fine job. However National Rail refused to renew their license to distribute real-time train information and do this app was discontinued. Replacing it now is an app from National Rail itself. The cost is £4.99 which has led to no shortage of anger with users of MyRail Lite, feeling that National Rail is crushing competition and charging top dollar for a previously free. The National Rail app does offer more features than its predecessor, however, so let’s have a look at these now:

Live Departures & Arrival

The main feature of the app is to check upcoming departures from a chosen station. You can choose your station from a searchable A-Z list; nearest, which using the GPS function of the iPhone lists the nearest 50 stations and handily also displays the distance from you to the station; recently viewed stations and; favourite stations.

Live arrivals screenshot
Live arrivals screenshot

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Welcome to Metroland

The mule comes to you from the heart of Metroland, that area to the North West of London along the Metropolitan line of the Underground, publicised as the enticing Metroland by the Metropolitan Railway (as was) during the inter-war years of the 20th century. Thanks go to local blogger Brady Rafuse for bringing Diamond Geezer’s excellent guide to Metroland to my attention. In it he revisited the stations and places, past and present along the Met line.

Back in the summer we also explored a few other pleasant corners of Metroland, including charming Old Amersham and the canal at Rickmansworth:

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Photography is no concern of terror legislation

I was already composing a blog post of the clamping down on photographers by the authorities when I noticed a piece on this morning’s BBC breakfast news about a local, long-standing photographer arrested for photographing buildings in Elephant and Castle. Now I can understand the privately employed jobsworth security officer asserting his power over his little domain, be it a supermarket or so on but being arrested in a public place by the police seems to be venturing further into disturbing territory.

Having been unable to track the story down on the BBC News website, I eventually located it on the Independent website, where it highlights further examples of photographers being prevented from going about entirely law-abiding and proper activities, such as reporting a protest and snapping a passing steam train. These invariably result in apologies and inquiries from the authorities concerned, yet an increasingly prevalent precedent seems to becoming the norm.

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