CXO magazine this month has an interview with John Linwood, CTO at the BBC, about the amazing success of the iPlayer, the BBC’s on-demand video service. You can only read the interview in their print magazine at present, however they do give us a great infographic showing iPlayer usage patterns.
The iPlayer has demonstrated the desire of people across the UK to access on demand content, and has simultaneously raised the ire of broadband providers who’ve seen download levels rocket. The iPlayer infrastructure vends 12.5Gb/second of pre-processed video to the many different players it supports – from mobile phones, through computers to the mainstream satellite providers who then help distribute the data themselves. Arguably the BBC is in a unique position around the world, being funded by public money which means that the content is effectively ‘owned’ by the British public already. Whatever the reason though, you can’t demand the success of the venture from a technology perspective.
The Wattson shows you either a gentle blue glow to indicate that your household electricity usage is reasonable, or a choice of kilowatts or pounds spent over a year based on your current electricity consumption. The yearly figure is a great way to inject fear into your wallet and encourage reduced electricity consumption, so much so that DIY Kyoto are seeing 20% reductions in electricity usage amongst users of their Holmes software who sign up to their website. That’s a great achievement, and all the better for being achieved by the carrot of positive feedback rather than the stick of fines and taxes.
The Wattson we bought at the show is a lovely piece of engineering, from a team of product engineers part funded by NESTA (a non-government body that funds creative innovation – in full disclosure I did use to work for them). The unit works by attaching round the main electric wire that comes into your house or flat, and then transmitting a signal to the main Wattson box that sits, visibly, in your living room. The transmitter is powered by four AA batteries (supplied) and the display unit has a charger, or can be powered by the USB connector through which you can also connect to the free software to review your consumption (figures are stored in the Wattson for the last 4 weeks).
This is all very exciting and I’m looking forward to getting ours working.. the only problem right now is that the standard transmitter connector only goes round standard electrical wires and our flat has a shielding, thick cable going straight into a junction box! The Wattson website rightly advises that you employ a professional electrician in these situations. So you’ll have to wait a bit longer for some proper feedback on how it works in practice. In the meantime we’ll just keep turning off lights and un-plugging our TV without knowing which activity is really having the most impact.
The New York Times has a short piece on a few prolific bloggers who recently dropped dead. The concern is that the highly competitive (and lucrative) market for fast breaking blog stories is driving up stress levels amongst top tier bloggers. Habits such as no life/work separation and the business need to have the first post on a new tech break-through in order to drive better views and advertising revenues is endemic. People now expect information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and many home grown bloggers take this to heart, not realising that larger organisations have teams on shifts to produce the same results.
Personally I’m not sure that these first recorded ‘blogging’ deaths a summer of dead bloggers make – to badly paraphrase an old saying. Modern life and health habits all conspire to preventing long life. All of us working on computers day in, day out would do well to take a moment away, de-stress and enjoy a physical life away from the screens that surround us. It’s a hard truth, but one we all need to follow, however fun our internet lives are.
Bill Drummond, musical genius, artist and one part of the trancendent KLF, is hosting his third yearly ‘No Music Day‘ on Radio Scotland today. There can be chat, discussion and many other things, but not music. His rationale is simple; there’s just too much of it these days, and it’s hard to appreciate what there is without taking a break. Too true.
Unfortunately I’d already started the day listening to music, so maybe next year I’ll join in. Although maybe by then I’ll have my own, personal day of abstinence in place – No Internet Day – which will be the day I get most work done I’m sure.