Join Michael White on Jazz Town 87.7FM

jazzlogoThe UK’s biggest and most popular Jazz Festival, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, official begins tomorrow evening and will run until the 3rd May. Jazz Town 87.7FM is the event’s official radio station and will cover exclusive interviews with acts, up-to-date news from the festival and reviews.

For Cheltenham Jazz Festival I will be running my own show on Jazz Town 87.7FM on Sunday 2nd May and Monday 3rd May. The show will start at 10am and conclude at 1pm on both days. I am thankful to the Tone Radio team and the University of Gloucestershire for this opportunity.

Be sure to tune in! For the time being I must get on with revising for my exam on Friday whilst also planning 6 hours worth of radio material.

Decisions

Trying to compose an article on the composition of life’s decisions was always going to be difficult to write. Much like my act of turning this blank word document into a preponderance of words, decisions are difficult to make. I find that whenever I consider life to be a blank choice between the white and black my mood drops. This is because life is far more complex than a simple stage process. People aren’t born, then taught, have to work and then die.

Strangely, sometimes, it may feel this way but we are all required to make big decisions. Incidentally we are all built of the same framework; humanity requires three needs in order to survive: love, relationships with others and the ability to ponder one’s self. Undeniably true and I haven’t met a human who has shown me any different and common social immodesty is usually caused by the childhood robbing of one of these 3 main requirements.

Yet I find myself at a point when it is necessary for me to question the ‘who, when and why’. Part of our nature is also a weakness. That no matter how ambitious one is, how far we look forward, eventually the outcome can form a deep criticism of who we are. Not entirely sure why, sometimes it is the easiest solution to relieve strain on our natural sense of curiosity.

Not that this post is due to a suppressed disapproval of myself. Lately it has become clear that although what we end up doing career wise is important, it is not the most important aspect of life. Occasionally I have met people who are so imbedded with climbing the career ladder that they seem to lose focus of the more important aspects in life. What I consider the 3 basic functions that keep us all going.

This will be the next Big Thing

listbooklogoTake my word for it, this website will be big. The news of its conception and creation should be covered on TechCrunch, Mashable and possibly even BoingBoing. theListBook will be the internet’s best source of useful lists and let’s face it, everybody likes a good list.

In the words of the website’s founder, theListBook is “all about collaborative lists and social networking. Lists on every and any subject – that can be aggregated, filtered, ranked, rated, copied, commented and edited”. This simple platform opens the doorway for many other networking opportunities and methods to perhaps later generate revenue.makelistale

The website has been set up by a local company in Cheltenham who I first got in contact with when they approached me at the #AddMe Social Media Conference. From then I have been one of the lucky few to have received an Alpha testing pass and use the website in its current state. Despite being an Alpha version the website, so far, has been very stable for me and even at this basic stage has proven to be very useful.

To break into my ‘theListBook’ virginity I decided to create my first list detailing all my favourite ales. To actually create the list was a very simple process, not nearly as drawn out as I thought it might be. Text for individual items are inserted into a text field, followed by an option to upload a picture (the process of uploading a picture took a cale listouple of seconds) and then another item can be inserted by clicking a single button.

Once a list has been created people are able to comment on it, rate it and add a similar list of their own.

The homepage of the website lists all of the latest lists, along with options to find the highest rated and the largest. Just by quickly scanning the homepage it is clear to see how varied lists become. Some of the most useful listed the best free software on the internet and delicious recipe guides.

Where the name of the website ‘theListBook’ really becomes relevant is on the user’s profile end. Each user as a sort of newsfeed but individually detailing all their activities. This homepageincludes any lists they have created, rated, groups they have joined and comments people have left.

Currently the website is still in Alpha testing stages but the creators of the site are more than keen to have more people testing their system before they are brave enough to venture into the realms of beta. Currently you can only register to theListBook via invites. If you would like an invite then please contact me.

If you use Twitter then feel free to follow @theListBook.

Politics: Fix the Broken, Break the Fix… give me a break from the fix

For the last few months my mind has been eagerly hammering away trying to work out why people have lost their faith in politics. Could it have been the huge issue of the expenses scandal last year? The Labour Party immigration scandal? Perhaps the recent cash for influence scandal? No. Whilst these issues scratched the surface I believe there is a foundational problem.

People just don’t care because all politics end in disappointment. Dissatisfaction that the party they voted in, no matter how many terms they survive for, will leave with their heads bowed. It is inevitable that one is usually praised into politics and will leave a failed wreck of disappointment.

On the 6th May this country has a very difficult decision to make. We have the choice to either vote back in for a 3rd term the Labour Party. This is the party who have promised us again to fix the country. If they haven’t managed to do this in 18 years then why should we believe them this time? The Conservatives have invited us to David Cameron’s big shiny billboard face. Their manifesto welcomes us to the Government of Britain (I bet the Scottish are angry) but we haven’t even elected them yet! The Liberal Democrats, well, they seem quite relaxed but have apparently made a huge cock up with their calculations.

It just isn’t fair. The Americans got the choice of a electing a dangerously old man (with his crazy creationist side-kick), a black man or the wife of a previous president. It was interesting. For entertainment value it didn’t really matter who was voted in, whatever happened the outcome would be historic. In 2008 the American elections created a buzz in the UK which our politics cannot recreate.

We have the choice of three fairly boring white middle aged men who can only chirp on about ‘change’ all the time. The issue lies with the title of this blog post. No matter which party gets in, us, as cynical pessimistic British, just cannot see past the broken. Each party wants to fix something called a broken Britain. I’ll concur that some parts of the country are better than others but it is almost like a political party gets into office, ruins everything and then leaves.

I am just so fed up with the endless moaning about how the country has been ruined in this or that way. In a way it doesn’t matter. Thatcher ruined things, Blair started a war and Brown has borrowed almost the full about of our GDP. Everybody has their own views, mine aren’t necessarily the above but just what is the point about promising fixes?

I have this sinking feel that in some ways no political parties want to enter into office. The country has lost so much money that failing, once voted in, would be a political suicide that would cost a party future elections for the next decade.

Anyway, I have discoursed far too long on this subject. Perhaps the political debates this evening will change my perspective. The only interesting outcome for this election would be to see the Liberal Democrats get into office.

Microsoft Kin

After I purchased the iPhone last year I was convinced that no other mobile would ever catch my lustful gaze. I was wrong.

The Microsoft Pink Project was first mentioned early last year and at first nobody really knew what it was. The secrecy that has surrounded the Microsoft Pink Project has been immense. Although Microsoft still has 95% of the Operating System market, the company has still not taken hold of the mobile market in the way Apple or Blackberry have.

A couple of days ago the veil of the Microsoft Pink Project was lifted to reveal a new identity, Kin. A family of mobile phones that are to be released by Microsoft this year on the Vodafone network.

043775-microsoft-kin

Essentially the Microsoft Kin takes social media to a new level. In my opinion it would be unwise to compare the Kin with any other smart phones on the market. The home screen of the mobile presents the user with something called the ‘loop’. A selection of social media accounts which present recent updates. From this screen it is possible to contact your friends.

One of my real problems with websites such as Facebook is the inability for the interface to understand that we have different friendship groups. There is no system of categorization. The updates that my school friends see are the same updates my work colleagues or family can see. Where this problem may become more of a threat is the problem of picture tagging. I’m sure we have all heard horror stories of people not getting employed because of their enlightening online photo collection.

The Microsoft Kin understands these different social groups and allows you to communicate with people accordingly. You can share information with select groups of individuals. Essentially the mobile phone is built focused on how we live our lives rather than what technological eye-candy which can be offered.

Having said that the menu system the Kin uses is completely original. Without actually having used the device yet I cannot comment on the usability but it is different. An array of images and blocks which can be shifted across using the swipe of your finger.

I am so excited to see this device in the flesh and despite its failings (eg. no support for 3rd party apps) this will continue to bring more competition to the mobile market.

The Digital Economy Act is Stupid

It was known as the Digital Economy Bill in the real world, #debill (now known as #deact!) on Twitter but from the 8th April 2010 bill became Act.

If there were ever an example of parliament not listening then watching the progress of the Digital Economy Bill pass through the House of Lords, House of Commons, to then be granted Royal Assent has to be the pinnacle. The Bill has received much attention from industry experts but was never granted a debate despite the pleas of lobbyists and opposing MPs (ie. The intelligent Ones).

For the hardcore readers among you the full details of the Act can be found here. The Digital Economy Act is aimed to continue upgrading Britain so that we may remain a country focused on digital industry.

The only problem with this, at first, brilliant tribute to securing Britain’s digital age is that the Bill was constructed by out-of-date sage’s and probably money pilfering entertainment bosses. It might be that because the Bill is so up-to-date that it was eagerly nodded through parliament by the people who can only smirk at the digital age before confessing, “I am too old to learn about that”. Don’t think that our political system is full of bright, reasonably, charming people – in many cases we are discussing the very idiots who used to sit next to us in school.

The Bill has two key areas of concern; the ability for OFCOM to get involved online and piracy strategies. Of course the Bill covers many areas such as the future of radio, broadband penetration and the role of Channel 4. As reported by the BBC, “The government says it wants to protect the UK’s creative industries, which it says is under threat from piracy.” It strikes me that the Act will proceed as a double edged sword, both protecting and harming the creative industry.

It is perilously simple to write clauses, a certain strategy of rules which the Act seems to be, but far more complicated to actually carry out procedure. Under the Digital Economy Act copyright holders will be able to complain to ISPs to report illegal file sharing of a user. Such allegations require evidence and such evidence can only mean following the footsteps of a user’s IP. IP stands for Internet Protocol, not Intellectual Property! IP addresses change (although changes are easily tracked) but cannot act as solid evidence. If somebody were to access my wireless router to download copyrighted material illegally then my IP address would show up. Thus insinuating that I should be to blame for the illegal downloading. However, I wasn’t torrenting but the ISP would still label me as a pirate, a hater of the creative industry and I would be charged accordingly.

Such piracy measures are unnecessarily heavy handed and will not protect the industry but instead harm it. It is wrong to label those who ‘illegally’ download as criminals. Stealing a handbag is not the same as downloading copyrighted material. There is ethically a vast difference which supporters of the Digital Economy Act must be blind to understand. In many ways downloading copyrighted material is done by those who love film and music. Perhaps students who don’t yet have enough money to purchase but as they get older, earn money, will built up a huge music or film collection completely paid for. Furthermore, if ‘illegally’ downloading content widens a customer base then technically should cause more sales in the long run. In many ways torrenting could be a great (but uncertain) marketing activity. Extremely counter intuitive in the short term but certainly something that deserves a little bit of research.

We are fortunate that although this Act could potentially leave its mark on the way the United Kingdom use the internet, it will take at least 2 years for anything to happen. Within the Digital Economy Act it has been said that although ISPs will need to mediate between OFCOM and the internet user, that OFCOM will need to write its own industry code for consumers.

In the mean time the internet’s landscape will continue to change. The websites that are popular today will not be the same in 2 years time and new websites shall emerge. This, without a doubt, will leave a written Act looking dated.

The best thing about the Digital Economy Bill is a website that informs you of the vote of your local MPs. Turns out that my local MP (although technically during the dissolution of parliament there are no MPs) in Cheltenham, Martin Horwood, didn’t bother voting for the Bill whilst my local MP in Surrey, Paul Burstow, opposed it. Martin, having not bothered voting, has given me even more of a reason to vote for Mark Coote on the 6th May.

The Digital Economy Act could be a real threat to the development of the internet. Pushed through parliament by wealthy creative industries without debate. I do not believe the measures within the Act can be fortified in reality. The Act deserves a debate and it is certainly worthwhile for everybody to call for a #deact.

The Online Election Battle Begins

Speculations have been on Twitter for the last few days but finally Mr Brown has visited the palace and called for dissolution of parliament. The election race begins which has given us the opportunity to choose change. Conservatives claim they will be change (not that ‘change’ means much. The change in my pocket is cheap for instance…), Labour say that we are on the road to recovery (I don’t think so…) and the Lib Dems say this isn’t a “two-horse race” (he is wrong).

Last month I did a video interview for WinkBall.com when not only did I share my views on the lack of understanding concerning the NUS Vote for Students Pledge but also how social media will play a part in this year’s General Election. Due to the brevity of the interview I wasn’t able to express  in full detail.

Since Labour first came into power in 1997 the country has changed a lot. Industry has changed immensely with many factories closing down and our trading increase as the world becomes a physical global village. Britain is moving towards becoming a leading digital economy. A controversial document at the centre of Britain’s change is the Digital Economy Bill. A document that is suspiciously kind hearted towards the multimedia industry with its piracy clauses and deserves a debate to uncover the consumers’ opinions. Despite this the bill does contain a heap of wondrous ‘developmental clauses’ that will continue to push Britain forward.

Britain has been moving along digitally and technologically for a long time. Too much has happened in the last 13 years to list but I will focus on Facebook and Twitter, both of which were set up in 2006. Both of which could be considered harmless websites for simple, fun, communication. In reality political parties and hardcore supporters will be lathering themselves with all of our posted information to gage the progress of the election battle.

The main battle this general election will take place online. As always, parties will need to tread carefully during this month but this election even more so. We have all seen what happens when many disapproving enthusiastic people meet up on Facebook. In many ways this will be the first digital general election, at least the most influential.

Two of the highest treading hashtags on Twitter will probably be #GeneralElection and #Labourfail. The three main political parties will be tweeting, along with their personable members, local members, supporters, journalists, columnists, celebrity figures and most importantly… us. No doubt about it. Twitter will be a battle ground of opinions and perhaps the occasional fact. I guess the general election on Twitter will be the UKs get-back for all the tedious iPad coverage.

Of course, people like me will be writing silly little blog posts, filled with ill-informed opinion. The most popular blog posts will work their way up Google, the comments on said posts will lead onto other (perhaps lesser known) bloggers and you will find yourself lost in a forest of political opinion. Heck, bloggers have already been given access into Westminster Parliament.

The government is worried about people not voting. In many ways social media will either put people for life off voting or force them into a trolling session to actually brave the great outdoors, away from the computer and tick their piece of paper. That will be a thumb down for that annoying YouTube member.

YouTube is already being used to make fun out of the conservatives, Gordon Brown manages to make fun out of himself and just who is Nick Clegg? Local PPCs are already using YouTube to upload their election videos, along with the website WinkBall.com (which I mentioned earlier) which is one of the main political video hubs to visit.

Due to the realities of modern politics and the social side of social media, there is no doubt in my mind that this election is going to be more of a question of ‘vote for this person’ rather than ‘vote for the party’. The most interesting aspect of social media this election will not just be the tactics implemented but the outcome. Will social media make a positive difference? Does social media portray accurate public opinion?

UPDATE: Turns out that although the broadband tax in the Digital Economy Bill will be a wash-out, Piracy measures will get through. Guess that is what happens when wealthy digital industries get involved in Governmental affairs.

Tips for Managing your Twitter Account

To get the most from Twitter it is important to manage your Twitter account. This may not only help increase your amount of followers but will also connect you with a variety of likeminded people. Below I have written a few tips which should help improve your tweeting experience.

Choose a place to follow people from

Since the introduction of lists attempting to follow likeminded people has become much easier. Look for those twitter opinion leaders/power users.

Remember to Remove those slacking Tweeple

After a few months you will find that certain people you follow may have stopped tweeting. Following such people is pointless, needlessly keeps your following statistic high and may be keeping your Twitter follow ratio limited. Remove such people using a tool such as untweeps.

Don’t use auto-follower websites!

There are a range of auto-follower websites. These websites lure users in, ask for access to their account and then enter their usernames into a pyramid following scheme. Not only are such websites against the Twitter rules (and could have you suspended) but commonly these accounts send out spam tweets to try and gain the attention of your followers. Avoid such websites. They are for useless people who are concerned more about their amount of users rather than quality. Remember, QUALITY not QUANITIY.

Get rid of those who don’t follow you back

This is a tip for those who have hit their follow limit. When I hit the Twitter follow ratio is was necessary for me to find some new followers in a bid to get my Twitter account growing again. Using tools such as Buzzom it is possible to flush away those users who are not following you back.

Join in with the Community

Twitter is essentially a large community of people and the clue is in the name ‘Twitter’. Have conversations with other users. One of the widely known facts of Twitter is that you can still @reply somebody even if they don’t follow you. Getting into conversations may help those numbers grow and stops your account from looking stale.

If you have any other tips of your own then feel free to leave a comment! Oh, and if you like this post then please Re-Tweet 😉