The Platform4 blog – Welcome to Platform 4 – "Welcome to Platform 4, Channel 4’s group-blog about all things new media and digital. This blog’s here to do two essential things: to give out information about digital developments here at C4, and to hear what people think about them."
Digital TV changeover: The disaster everyone's ignoring – MarketWatch – This is US TV, not UK but given that they're ahead of us on the switchover some of the coverage makes for interesting reading. This fits into the scaremongering category: "the end result of all this will be an onslaught of customer-service problems like nothing we've seen in decades."
One of the fiercest critics of this blog (you know who you are) reckons I don’t talk enough about the issues that concern real people. So in order to address this I’ve taken up their suggestion to discuss the worrying issue of recent changes made to Cadbury’s Heroes.
It started when, having opened the Heroes well before the designated Christmas start date (no more than 7 days before the 25th) we were struck by the absence of Crunchies and the introduction of dark chocolate (minature Bournvilles) and chocolate eclairs. The Guardian have already blogged about this and it is indeed a scandal. We’ve even had to top up the Heroes with some Celebrations (that’s right, a collection of chocolates has its own page on wikipedia – exactly what we thought the internet would be usefully used for).
But in my eyes it’s not half as big a scandal as The Granuiad contributing in said post to the contiual misspelling of Bourn(e)ville. Why do they think an extra ‘e’ belongs in the middle of that word?
Let’s get this straight. Bourneville is a place in Ohio, USA, not Birmingham.
I’ll avoid cross-posting in future but my first posting at the Digital Birmingham blog is about a useful example of how social media can be used by small businesses:
I’m always looking for examples of how social media can support small businesses. I’ve raised the question before using the local builder as an example. Why on earth would the bloke who knocked a hole in my wall have a reason to use any kind of social media tool?
Well I found a partial answer to that in a video from Herefordshire firm, Wiggly Wigglers (amongst other things they sell worms for composting). Founder Heather Gorringe explains how a shift to social media over tradititional media helped cut her advertising costs without cutting her customer base.
What’s clear is that Heather knows her customer extremely well: “we sell stuff that gardeners may not know they want”. Of course Heather’s firm have had an e-commerce presence for quite a while but they’ve embraced social media in a big way.
She has a blog, a facebook group, uses podcasts and is all over Youtube. I can’t help wonder why Wiggly Wigglers aren’t on twitter (there’s certainly plently of chat about them). Social Media is ideal for building a community around your products, for ensuring customers value the advice you give them and the knowledge-sharing that comes from connecting to each other. Increasing value-added rather than cutting prices sounds like a good strategy in an economic downturn. Previously Wiggly Wigglers had bought in customer lists, now in effect they create their own customer lists for free through word-of-mouth on social media.
For her efforts Heather has won a global award for Small Business Excellence – that’s right, a worm seller from Hereford beat off international competition. Well done to her. We need more local and regional social media champions from the wider business community. Here in Birmingham I think we’re certainly adept at knowing how to make a buck by playing the local card – but maybe we could take tip or two from a rural worm-grower about how to build a global community who care enough to come back again and again.
The Interactive Cultures Blog : interactivecultures – Research team at the School of Media at Birmingham City University start to blog: "The spine of these blog posts will be reports from our largest project: the AHRC Knowledge Transfer Fellowship in New Strategies for Radio and Music Organisations. We’ll be sharing details of our progress supporting some of the 29 organisations we are working with. You may well find that the new initiatives they are developing will be directly useful to work you are carrying out."
Ethnicity and social class: most influential factors in West Midlands’ cultural participation « Observations – From a while back but was reminded of it in a meeting ealier this week: "Overall, ethnicity proved to be the best predictor of non-participation in cultural activities amongst residents. When compared with their white co-respondents, both Asian and Black respondents were found to be over 1.5 times more likely to be non-participants in activities including trips to arts or cultural venues, country parks and leisure and sport centres."
It is confusing I know but the Big City Plan Consultation does indeed allow you to answer a question about digital connectivity. There seemed to be someconcern that it didn’t but there it is, tucked away at the end of section 4 of the ‘Big City Plan Work in Progress’. If you click under 4.11 Street Design you’ll find it (yes I know that don’t make sense) The question is number CON 13:
How can Birmingham provide a digital infrastructure to enable new and existing businesses to have a competitive advantage, globally and locally? Can a ‘Virtual Birmingham’ improve people’s understanding and appreciation of the city centre, increase opportunities for the visitor economy and attract global business interests to trade with or invest in the city centre and enable the city to achieve its ‘Connected City’ aspirations both locally and internationally?
How should Birmingham ensure that the development of new households within the city centre have a digital infrastructure that supports family living across all generations and supports the flexible lifestyle requirements of 21st century living?
Birmingham’s Big City Plan has gone live with its consultation process. After initially getting frustrated with the site this morning (had other stuff I was meant to be doing anyway, you know, work stuff) I’ve given it another go and immediately found a question on walking/cycling links between the centre and Digbeth that is a bit of a pet topic of mine.
So I put in my response (not overly considered, bit of a brain dump) and pressed submit. Turns out I’d answered question 42 when I wanted to answer question 41. The mistake was thinking the ‘add comments’ below the question was the right one – it isn’t, it’s above the question. Was a touch confusing or maybe I’m a touch thick. I can’t work out if the comments are viewable by others but here’s what I wrote in answer to question 41, ‘How can we ensure good walking and cycling connections between Digbeth and the city core?’:
There are some real practical problems in getting from Selfridges to the Custard Factory along Digbeth High Street. Leaving the Bull Ring area from the gap between St Martin’s and Selfridges presents a number of difficulties. The key one is the positioning of the bus stop outside the ‘Digbeth Cold Storage’ building. A crowd gathers here and on the narrow pavement it becomes very difficult to get past(especially with pushchair in tow, worse still in a wheelchair). There are five junctions to cross to get to the Custard Factory and the area has a slight feel of being in decline (fast food shops, a sex shop, empty former car garage, derelict land). Addressing this should be a priority in order to increase footfall in this area – to prevent it feeling like the place where the city centre stops. This could include traffic calming or major realignment of the road (which could include bike lanes).
An alternative connection to Digbeth, and one that is under-used is Fazeley st. this is an impressive, straight road with much industrial heritage on it. Perhaps this could be considered as a new gateway to the area? I see a tree-lined boulevard perhaps? Or perhaps this is the road that traffic could be routed down to relieve traffic on the high street. Whichever way, clearer signage and some consideration to how the area betweenthe city and custard factory ‘feels’ should be considered.
The canals could be better utilised perhaps – I doubt many people realise that they offer a direct(ish) route to the NIA/Brindley place from Digbeth. It’s a fascinating route as well – couple of lovely narrow tunnels and a glimpse of all the new flats around the post office tower. Making Fazeley st. a focus would revitalise Typhoo wharf as the gateway to the canal system.
Once you have responded it produces a PDF for you to file away – quite handy actually. Now that I’ve got the hang of it I’ll respond further (and will copy them on here until you get bored of them). As a process for formal consultation it’s not too bad actually – but love to have everyone’s comments come through in an RSS feed as they put them in though, that’d be great.
Turned down by 4IP – Who Needs The Sea? – An idea by Dubber and Paul Long: "To our knowledge, there are no online communities that provide the opportunity for peer feedback and evaluation of rejected grant proposals – and nor is there any genuine open accountability for the discussion of how these funds are allocated – and on what basis. To our mind, the only competitor we may have in this respect is 4IP itself.
I thought I’d write up the process by which I connected up my Current Cost meter to my computer so that I can see my electricity usage data on a timeline and share the data with others. It’s a bit of dummies guide pulled together from the many websites that discuss Current Cost but have a tendency to use words like Linux; you know, words that I and 99% of other computer users simply don’t understand.
I’m going on the basis that you have got your Current Cost device working okay. These are instructions for connecting to a PC. I tried plugging the meter into a mac but hadn’t a clue what to do next when the mac didn’t recognise the device (advice welcome thanks).
Step One: The Current Cost meter needs a special lead to connect it to the computer’s USB port. You can buy that lead from ebay. It connects to the port on the bottom of the meter.
Step Two: You plug in the USB into your computer and your computer gets confused. Mine thinks it’s loading a mouse or sometimes just gives up. But it doesn’t matter. If you look under control panel (click classic view) choose device manager and then Ports (COM & LPT). You’ll now know which serial port your device is connected to (it’ll say Serial to USB COM7 or whichever number it gets assigned to). Make a note of the number it is on. You may need to do this step each time connect the device although mine is always on either COM7 or COM8 so I just guess rather than repeat the above steps.
Step Three: Get some software to read the data from your meter.Dale Lane has created two useful bits of software. One reads the data, creates graphs, summarises trends and can share your data with other users (the instructions tell you how). The other (link is to executable file) just creates a series of graphs on one page, this one’s probably simpler to use to be honest if you want an at-a-glance look at how you’re doing. However, sharing data is what excites me about Current Cost – I’ll talk about thoughts on that in another post.
Step Four: Take a look at that data. To get the data through, both sets of software ask you to input the COM port number. Once you do that the data comes through. The meter itself saves a day’s worth of two-hourly figures, single day data for the last 31 days, monthly data for 12 months and yearly data for four years (info from Dale). The software saves the data as well so as long as you connect the meter and ask for data (it doesn’t happen automatically) at least once a day you will have complete two-hourly figures for each day from the point you started recording.
Overall the software is really useful. We now know that we use most energy between 3pm and 5pm. Why, I haven’t a clue. That’s the time just after child no. 1 comes back from school; is she going round switching on every single appliance? The likely culprit is actually weekend clothes washing/drying. That’s backed up by the double peak we see on Saturdays and Sundays.
Next step I want to tackle is getting the meter to speak to the outside world on its own. I intend to get it to tweet – given my technical naivety that may take some time.