Archive for October, 2010

HTML5 and the future

October 21, 2010

This is a guest post by Peter Chmielewski who is attending my virtual organisation class – I should point out that any views expressed are Peter’s, though I can assure you that the Wilderness Downtown looks great with the postcode in Wimbledon where I grew up as an addrss!  I’d also encourage any of my other students past or presents who might consider contributing a guest post to do so…

There has recently been a lot of buzz surrounding the topic of HTML5. This next major revision of HTML includes great new elements that will certainly benefit developers and Internet users – it incorporates features such as video, canvas, geolocation and offline web applications. But really, the one I am most excited about is video. Nothing new, you might say. Well have a look at The Wilderness Downtown (, a new collaborative project between The Arcade Fire, Chris Milk and Google. The film follows a character running the streets of the neighbourhood where YOU grew up (provided you can give an address with Street View coverage). The pictures of very familiar streets and buildings take centre stage, and you essentially get to watch a completely personalised (and deeply personal) video set to The Arcade Fire’s fantastic new single, “We Used To Wait”. I am not going to lie, I was simply blown away, but what excites me even more is the possibilities that the film represents. I will forever worship a person who can create a portal where users get personalised music videos to every song – give it 5, 10, 15 years? HTML5 will be great competition for Adobe Flash, after all it’s much cheaper and doesn’t require stupid plug-ins, making it far more universal.

One major drawback to The Wilderness Downtown – the folks at Google decided not to make it work well in any browser other than Chrome. Call it selfish, but after all, this and all other projects are Chrome Experiments ( that would require more effort to implement for other browsers. You can forget about HTML5 in Internet Explorer – I can only hope that as the new language becomes more popular, people will finally abandon this archaic browser – or Microsoft will finally get to work. (


Have a look at the film – I can’t recommend it enough. Open Chrome, close everything else, sit back and enjoy looking at the future of Internet.


From Venezuela with music

October 21, 2010

Most of my Wednesday mornings this autumn are devoted to teaching, but I’ve managed to arrange two mornings off where I can do things in connection with my family.  One of them was last week, which coincided with the visit of the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra to London.  This is one of the Venezuelan orchestras coming out of the scheme – el sistema – which offers opportunities to young people from deprived backgrounds to learn to play classical music.  As mentioned for example in this Telegraph piece, the Simón Bolívar Orchestra is the most internationally famous group resulting from the scheme, but its members are now in their late 20s and early 30s.  And in the spirit of bringing young people into music, they invited a large group of children from London, including my daughter, to spend a little time playing along them.  It’s worth stressing that this was an event for London schoolchildren who happened to be learning to play musical instruments, not particularly for those who aspired to be musical prodigies.   After playing alongside the chidren from London, the Venezuelans then did an informal performance, in the foyer of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, alongside the young violinist Nicola Benedetti.

It was a wonderfully uplifting experience, and I guess there are some universal lessons about pedagogy in it.  One is the power of music to unite people from very different backgrounds.  Another is the extent to which in music, or sport, or even management, learning is partly about taking the time and effort to practise.  And of course enthusiasm and commitment are infectious, and there was certainly a sense of the schoolchildren from London picking up some of the Venezuelans’ magic.

Incidentally I’m taking this opportunity to add a new category (music) since there is at least one other music-related post to this blog in the pipeline, and quite a few others in the past.

Observations from M & S

October 21, 2010

For various reasons. I’ve been in the clothing sections of two different branches of Marks and Spencer this week.  M & S is fascinating to strategists, because of its reliance over many years on a wealth of tacit knowledge of the British middle classes’ buying habits, and because of its almost seamless transition from the company that was so well known that it never advertised, to the business behind ads such as this Christmas special from 2008.  So, in the spirit of observation, a few thoughts:

It’s October, and I picked up my first Christmas carrier bag of 2010 in the Moorgate store on Tuesday

M & S have a neat deal with Oxfam, that if you take any used M & S clothing into an Oxfam shop, you get a £5 M & S voucher.  The voucher can’t be used for clothing, can’t be used online, and is only valid for a limited time so it’s an effective ruse to get people into both M & S and Oxfam shops.

One of M & S’s enduring policies is that they do take things back, and if possible of course put them back on sale.  That’s fine, but in one branch I was looking at children’s clothes and there were boys’ coats on sale which already had names written on their labels in permanent marker.  If I want M & S coats with visible evidence of being used before then I’d go to Oxfam (see previous paragraph).  In fairness to the store, the staff were very helpful and willing to order a new coat similar to one of the used ones that we saw.

Delicious and dissertations

October 21, 2010

I’ve added a ‘dissertation’ tag to my delicious bookmarks: so far, just generates two links, one of them to a post on this blog, but I hope to add more as time goes on

Virtual Organisation bookmarks

October 19, 2010

This post is specifically aimed at participants in my virtual organisation class: you can see a page of relevant bookmarks at

Delicious links

October 18, 2010

I’m starting to experiement with Delicious as a way of organising links around the web.  As with many web 2 technologies, I started from a position of being unconvinced of its value: surely anybody with the crudest of web design skills should be able to put a set of links online.  But web links are a useful tool in teaching – it’s always valuable to be able to send students a list of bookmarks – so my first serious use of Delicious will be to publish a set of links of interest to the students taking my virtual organisation class this autumn.

The links will, of course, be available to anybody and I would welcome any comments.

Nonliners with iPads

October 15, 2010

My interest in generational issues and technologies extends to the older, as well as the younger, generations and I was interested in the observation at that touch screens are popular with the older generation.  Perhaps there’s a pattern that the generation X-ers and baby boomers are most attracted to their keyboards, and those who are younger or older are happiest with touch screens.  In any case I do like the observation that the iPad, trendy as it sets out to be, could appeal to older ‘nonliners’ who are deterred from using the Internet because they are reluctant to use a computer,