Archive for December, 2009

Another use of open-source ideas

December 23, 2009

Zoopla is a property buying and selling site which includes property value estimates with a web 2 twist.  It suggests estimated current values for many homes (though I think the formula used where I live in London, which assumes an 8% increase over the last year, is rather optimistic) and invites browsers to provide more information about their own homes, by including ‘ClaimMyHome’ as one of the options for each property.  So you can refine the details of your own home – and of course Zoopla’s model of the market in your street – by telling Zoopla how many rooms you have, whether you’ve had an extension built, and so on.  All of which is very consistent with the idea of open-source construction of knowledge.  I also notice that Zoopla has sold prices going back a bit further than the land registry data accessible through sites such as – my suspicion is that this is gathered from estate agents’ records.


Getting to know the iPod

December 23, 2009

One of my birthday presents this year was an iPod nano, and I’ve just been having some fun setting it up.  Mine is an attractive metallic green, and when you plug it into my home PC, the iTunes software starts up with a picture of a green iPod.  It’s a small thing, but the attention to detail is typical of Apple.  It also has a few neat new features, such as a pedometer which should work out how many steps I take, and how many calories I use up walking, during a day.

It’s already tempted me to the iTunes store – I’ve started to load an eclectic set of CDs,  including some which had been lying around my office for a while.  One of them is a recording of Haydn’s seven last words – my CD has been scratched so that I can neither transfer it to an iTunes library nor play it as an audio CD: a quick search of iTunes and I’ve downloaded a classic recording of the piece – recently reissued – by the Amadeus Quartet (I know – this is really a piece of Easter music, but I’m planning ahead).

Open source snow

December 17, 2009

I’m not sure if this quite counts as crowdsourcing, but the Met Office is inviting web users to contribute their observations of snow at .  A cynic might suggest that it’s the Met Office’s job to tell us where snow is falling, not to ask us, but actually the combination of their consierable computing resources, and a cohort of amateur observers on the ground, could be very powerful.

Borders and customer club

December 10, 2009

Sadly Borders in the UK now seems to be in full closing-down sale mode – their big shop in Islington is advertising discounts up to 50% on unsold stock.  And I was curious to get an email out of the blue from an outfit called ‘customer club’ who have been circulating borders customers.  It turns out to be the same email mentioned in and it’s a pity that when a business is in administration even their email contact list seems to be up for sale, to defray costs.

Another Ocado observation

December 10, 2009

I also note that Ocado’s i-phone app is prominently featured on the pre-Christmas press advertisements for the i-phone – I do wonder how advertising costs are split between Apple, the networks, and providers of apps which are featured in cases like this

Ocado, texts, and apples

December 8, 2009

Ocado is an interesting E-commerce case study because of their emphasis on logistics.  So two, unrelated comments, about Ocado. One is that they send rather gushing text messages to their customers, along the lines of ‘this is a little reminder of you 11am delivery, which will be brought by Stuart in a stupendous spinach van’ – thereby using a variety of channels to contact their customers, and making their staff seem a little more human than might otherwise be the case.  The other is that this week they have Egremont Russett apples in stock – a variety that can usually be found at this time of year, but seems to have been in short supply in London at least this year


December 4, 2009

Cloudmade was mentioned in last week’s virtual organisation class as an example of a business that uses virtual concepts – it’s dedicated to building maps based on an open streetmap project.

Significantly, it’s also an organisation that crosses space and time: it was started by people in London, and a lot of the technical work is done in Kiev, Ukraine.  So it’s unsurprising that the founders are enthusastic users of dopplr, which invites people to log their travel and contribute knowledge about places they visit – you can follow Cloudmade founders Nick Black and Steve Coast on dopplr.

Crowdsourcing Tony Blair

December 4, 2009

The Guardian website is running a piece about the finances of Tony Blair, who some of you might just remember used to be the prime minister.    The page at invites readers to search through a set of documents that are provided – you might recognise that by doing this the Guardian is in effect ‘crowdsourcing’ its research to its readers.