Greg Gannicott’s Blog


Stop-Gap: The Decemberists – The Rake’s Song

Posted in Music by Greg Gannicott on September 27, 2009
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It’s been sometime since I’ve posted to this blog. I think it’s actually pure coincidence that the last post was about my new born son, Stan. He’s not taken up as much time as the lack of fresh content on this blog may lead you to believe.

To fill in the gap between that post, and something actually worth while I thought I’d stick up some of the finest lyrics I’ve heard/read in a long time.

The song is “The Rake’s Song” by the band The Decemberists. The music itself is every bit as good as the lyrics, with great tribal style drumming.

When I first heard this song I got to the line “Until her womb start spilling out babies” and thought “Christ, this song was meant for me at this moment in my life!”, especially as not only did we have Stan on the way, but we got married last year too (see the start of the song). Then the song took a turn (literally with the next line) and I started hoping that the similarities end there.

I love sick lyrics like this. I love the lyric “Mercifully taking her mother along”. That’s taking idea of silver linings too far.

of Montreal’s Skeletal Lamping is another album that’s full of lyrics you wouldn’t want to live out.

Anyway, here’s The Rake Song. I strongly recommend you use Spotify or something to listen to it.

I had entered into a marriage
In the summer of my twenty-first year
And the bells rang for our wedding
Only now do I remember it clear
Alright, alright, alright

No more a rake and no more a bachelor
I was wedded and it whetted my thirst
Until her womb start spilling out babies
Only then did I reckon my curse
Alright, alright, alright
Alright, alright, alright

First came Isaiah with his crinkled little fingers
Then came Charlotte and that wretched girl Dawn
Ugly Myfanwy died on delivery
Mercifully taking her mother along
Alright, alright, alright

What can one do when one is widower
Shamefully saddled with three little pests
All that I wanted was the freedom of a new life
So my burden I began to divest
Alright, alright, alright
Alright, alright, alright

Charlotte I buried after feeding her foxglove
Dawn was easy, she was drowned in the bath
Isaiah fought but was easily bested
Burned his body for incurring my wrath
Alright, alright, alright

And that’s how I came your humble narrator
To be living so easy and free
Expect you think that I should be haunted
But it never really bothers me
Alright, alright, alright
Alright, alright, alright

Stan: Hello World!

Posted in Personal by Greg Gannicott on July 20, 2009

If my new born son Stan follows in his Dad’s footsteps, and assuming Object Orientated Programming will still be of use in 18 years time, he might appreciate this bit of geekery. I’m sure I’m not the first to do it, but as I thought it up without seeing it before, I’m pleased with it :-)

class Stan extends Greg, Becky {
   // Constructor
   function Stan () {
      print "Hello World!";
      print "I was born at... 1247991540";
   }
}

It’s already been a huge pleasure getting to know you Stan, can’t wait to do more of it :-)

Evernote: Clever use of Advertising

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on July 7, 2009
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At the moment I’m using the tool Evernote a fair bit, and I’m finding myself strangely intrigued by the adverts they publish to end users of their product.

Evernote offer two tiers of service: Free and Premium. Among other features, the premium allows you to turn off adverts from within its desktop application.

These adverts seem to serve a purpose greater than just raking in the cents per click.

First of all, the majority of adverts are in-house adverts (ie. they relate to Evernote itself). Evernote is the kind of tool that is so versatile, one of the fun things about using it is discovering a new way to use it. Evernote the company help you with this by linking to blogs that offer inspiration, writing case studies on their own blog and also through their monthly podcast. All this encourages the user to use Evernote more and more and also encourages loyalty, which can only be good thing for them.

These in-house ads appear to be an extension of that process. The ads highlight features of Evernote and also services and products which are good companions to Evernote.

Apart from two exceptions (gmail and google search), I think they’re the only ads I don’t mind seeing.

The fact that the ads could be classed as enjoyable has a side-effect though. This is something I believe Google takes advantage of too in Gmail (where they too offer additional information in the same spot that ads appear).

As a result of the ads being relatively enjoyable, when I have time to think and I have Evernote on screen, I find my eyes wondering to that area of the screen. This means that when they do chuck in a traditional ad (ie. from an unrelated company who are attempting to sell their wares), I’m far more likely to see it. This is the complete opposite of when I browse the net and my eyes instinctively avoid adverts.

To improve things further, Evernote have mentioned that the ads are hand picked to avoid any trashy ads (eg. whack the money), which must further increase the chances of them getting a click through.

All round very clever I thought.

Shazam & Hollyoaks (& Last.fm)

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on June 10, 2009
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Yesterday I finally got my iPhone – its fantastic! But that’s a post for another time.

One of the apps I’ve downloaded for it is Shazam.

I remember hearing about Shazam (or at least a service like it) a few years back. The idea was, you hear a song but you don’t know what its called. You ring a number, put the phone’s voice piece to the speaker and Shazam would tell you what it was. Neat, but at the time I considered it a novelty. To inconvenient to be useful.

Jump forward a few years and Apple have changed the smart phone market with their iPhone. Suddenly Shazam is more convenient to use, and thanks to the open web has more information to back the service up (beyond the name of the song).

I’ve been trying to think of when I’d use Shazam. First thought was when listening to the radio. The thing is, if the DAB Digital radio display doesn’t tell you what the song is, the DJ likely will.

Hollyoaks

Earlier today though I remembered that every time I watch Hollyoaks, there tends to be a song in the soundtrack (it sounds wrong calling it a soundtrack as its just a tv show!) that I really like. It happened the other day with a song that sounded like Coldplay doing a decent impression of Radiohead (and sounding better than usual as a result). I tried to find out the artist/song but the unusually the www was unable to help. So it occured to me, why not put Shazam to use on Hollyoaks.

So at the start of tonight’s episode I got Shazam going and touched ‘Tag Now’ (strange terminology). I had the phone with me on the sofa (ie. I didn’t put it up to the speaker) and shockingly it got it right! (Turin Brakes). Amazing!

So hopefully now I’ve thought of a use that works for me, I’ll actually use it and it will go beyond novelty status.

last.fm

I think a better use could be found for Shazam though. I try to scrobble as much music on last.fm as possible. I like stats. This works fine when I’m either listening to my iPod, or iTunes on my PC. However, if I’m listening to a CD or record (as I often do), my listens go unscrobbled. Wouldn’t it be neat if last.fm used Shazam to scrobble the music I listen to beyond my PC?

Why People Don’t Like Microsoft

Posted in Technical by Greg Gannicott on May 31, 2009
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I read this great blog post over the weekened by Zoho basicially explaining why people don’t trust (or like for that matter) Microsoft, but do trust Google. Funnily enough they say it all boils down to karma.

As someone who’s believing more and more in “doing good things and good things will happen to you” (and its not just ‘Earl’ that makes me believe this – its several things that I might write a blog post about one day), it was quite pleasing to read. Here it is:

http://blogs.zoho.com/general/microsoft-silverlight-vs-google-wave-a-study-in-contrasts

Itunes playlist for songs you like but don’t listen to enough

Posted in Personal by Greg Gannicott on May 31, 2009
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I’ve created a really enjoyable itunes ‘smart playlist’, which I’m listening to now whilst sorting the garden out.

I’m not a big fan of hammering a tune so this ones ideal. Basically its a playlist of songs I like but don’t listen to much for one reason or another.

Its all songs with 3 stars or more with less than 4 plays.

Its bringing up some great old songs I’d forgotten about (ie. I rated them without listening because I know they’re great) and songs I loved on first listen but forgot about.

Backwards Thinking on Saving Newspapers

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on May 18, 2009
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Usually when I read an article that interests me I’ll simply share it via my Google Reader shared items, but some are worth highlighting on this blog too.

Over in America – during the past two or three months it seems – things seem to be heating up with regards to the discussion of saving the newspaper.

I’ve been fascinated by this for some time now. Although its not completely cut and dry, more often than not it seems bloggers have a better understanding of the situation than the newspapers.

This has been no more apparent than this blogger’s (Techdirt) reply to this newspaper’s (The Washington Post) article by two lawyers who propose changes to the law to help save the newspaper.

The choice quote on the part of the lawyers is:

Bring copyright laws into the age of the search engine. Taking a portion of a copyrighted work can be protected under the “fair use” doctrine. But the kind of fair use in news reports, academics and the arts — republishing a quote to comment on it, for example — is not what search engines practice when they crawl the Web and ingest everything in their path.

Publishers should not have to choose between protecting their copyrights and shunning the search-engine databases that map the Internet. Journalism therefore needs a bright line imposed by statute: that the taking of entire Web pages by search engines, which is what powers their search functions, is not fair use but infringement.

What the lawyers suggest would result in search engines becoming useless and if enforced would pratically bring the web to a halt.

The choice quote from the Techdirt article is when they highlight this user’s (Dale Harrison) comment which was submitted on the Washington Post’s article. It makes an excellent point:

A lesson worth remembering is at the turn of the 20th century people had a transportation problem… and the solution turned out not to be a “faster horse”… but a Ford.

And one should note that the Ford didn’t arise out of the “Horse Industry Revitalization Act”.

I think the future of the media business will look as different as Ford and Toyota’s operations look from horse traders and blacksmiths.

Imagine what the passage of such ill-conceived legislation would have done to the car industry a century ago.

It would have strangled the nascent auto industry at birth, postponing its inevitable rise while sheltering a dying industry, only postponing its inevitable demise… doing great damage to both. Newspapers need to be encouraged to adapt to the future, not retreat behind legislative walls hoping the future will go away.

The newspaper industry’s troubles go to the very core of their historical business model.

What’s historically given value to editorial content is the relative scarcity of distribution versus readers. Newspapers have enjoyed natural localized economic monopolies that allowed each of them to exercise monopoly control over the amount of content (and advertising) they allowed into their local marketplaces.

Monopoly constraint of distribution and supply will always lead to prices (and profits) significantly above open market rates. Newspapers then built costly organizational structures commensurate with that stream of monopoly profits (think AT&T in the 1970’s).

The dynamics of content replication and distribution on the Internet destroys this artificial constraint of distribution and re-aligns advertising (and subscription) prices back down to competitive open market rates. The often heard complaint of Internet ad rates being “too low” is inverted… the real issue is that traditional ad rates have been artificially boosted for enough decades for participants to assume this represents the long-term norm.

An individual reader now has access to essentially an infinite amount of content on any given topic or story. All those silos of isolated editorial content have been dumped into the giant Internet bucket. Once there, any given piece of content can be infinitely replicated and re-distributed to thousands of sites at zero marginal costs. This breaks the back of old media’s monopoly control of distribution and supply.

The core problem for the newspapers is that in a world of infinite supply, the ability to monetize the value in any piece of editorial content will be driven to zero… infinite supply pushes price levels to zero!

What this implies is that no one can marshal enough market power to monetize the value of content in the face of such an infinite supply and such massively fragmented distribution. Pay-walls, lawsuits and ill conceived legislation won’t allow the monopoly conditions to be re-constructed.

There are certainly ways to make online news profitable… and many of us are working to develop such approaches… but I can assure you they don’t involve inventing a “faster horse”…

The artcles can be found here – the Techdirt one in particular is worth a read. It does a great job of debunking the suggestions made by the writers of The Washington Post article:

Idea: A Phone that Warns you of Scam Calls

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on May 15, 2009
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If I ever get a call from a number I don’t recognise, using the browser on my mobile I’ll often perform a search on Google and nine times out of ten there is a post which states its a scam (also nine times out of ten its the first result in Google that tells me this).

This happened earlier today with the number ‘02920 359001′, and sure enough it appears to be a scam.

This made me think: wouldn’t it be neat if my phone did this for me whenever a number not in my address book calls me? If it comes up as a scam, then it would note it on screen. Given the speed in which it can get this information (at current mobile connection speeds), it might be that the information may only be available when you check your missed calls, but that’s better than nothing.

Whenever I do one of these Google searches it usually points to a user generated site, so a wiki of sorts would be an ideal host of this information. Obviously, in order for the phone to be able to access this information, an API should be written so phone developers can easily access the information.

The next obvious step then is for a tool such as Google Voice (which sadly isn’t available in the UK) to offer the option to outright block such calls coming through (much like gmail blocks a massive amount of spam mail). If such a block takes place, an SMS/Email/Tweet/etc would be sent to you to say that a call has been blocked. You are then free to act on it as you please.

The possible downside to this idea is the fact the public control the data which blocks calls. That obviously leaves the door open to abuse. The ideallist inside me though believes this wouldn’t be a large issue.

I’d be curious to know whether an app could be written for one of the more modern smart phones out there (eg. iPhone, an android based device or the new Palm Pre) to perform this. Do developers have such access to those phones?

How Not to Sale a Car to Me

Posted in Personal by Greg Gannicott on May 14, 2009
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A few weeks back we bought a new (well, second hand) car. It was one of the more painful shopping experiences I’ve had, and its not because I have no interest in cars.

We went to a local dealer called Somerset Cars Sales. It was a painful, frustrating, demoralising experience for one reason: the cars were not priced up.

Instead we were given a printed price list which you can use to match up the make/number plate.

At a guess there were between 100-300 cars and it wasn’t easy finding the price.

As we were on a budget (as most people are), it was quite a demotivating process. We’d see a car we’d like, eventually find the price and then realise its too much. This happened again, and again, and again. Eventually we found three cars in our price range that we didn’t mind – but none of which we wanted to buy. There may have been many more in our price range – one of which we might have bought – but it was simply too much hassle. It wasn’t a pleasant shopping experience at all.

We then went to some other dealers who had prices shown. This was soooo much easier and enjoyable. Right from the start we could see what we could get and there was no disapointment.

Why would you want to encourage disapointment? I hope at the very least its a logistical reason (ie. To many prices to maintain) rather some kind of sales trick (ie. Before the customer realises it costs just a little too much, let them fall in love with it).

We eventually purchased are car from a dealer called Brian Plowright. He didn’t have a huge selection, but if he does have what you need then I highly recommend him.

He’s a great salesmen in that he’s very friendly, goes above and beyond what’s required to make a sale and doesn’t push the sale.

Certain people in mobile phone shops could learn a lot from him. None of this ‘as I’m you’re new best mate, and cause I like you (,and cause my boss says I have this much scope for discount to make a sale) I’m going to throw in this discount’ bullshit. No in your face, jump on you when you enter the store.

For example, the car we bought had a small dent in it. We asked whether we could either get a discount or have it fixed by him. He told us we’re getting a good deal anyway, so no. Fair enough really – he knew he’d made the sale. However, when we went to collect the car a week later he’d had it fixed at no extra cost.

That’s how to generate good word of mouth. Unlike Somerset Car Sales which I can’t put down enough.

Blogging when the Urge Takes Me

Posted in Technical by Greg Gannicott on May 13, 2009
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This blog rarely gets updated.

Quite often I’ll be walking to catch the train and come up with a blog post. Or perhaps be sitting on the sofa and come up with one. However, by the time I’m sat back in front of a PC (more to the point, a PC not in work) the urge to write a blog entry has gone.

In fact sometimes during my lunch hour I’ll write a post, email it home and still not bother to post it once home as again, the urge has gone. The moment has passed.

That’s why I’m really pleased to find out that blogging on my Blackberry really isn’t that painful now (see my previous post). Something I didn’t mention in that post was WordPress’ simple, yet functional m.wordpress.com interface.

Now when I get the urge I can type and post it there an then. The first such post is this one.

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