0

A tribute to Mark Bell

Back in 1991 when I was a chubby teenager my brother bought home this LP with mysterious yet flashy artwork. This LP was placed on the record player in our dining room and a low toned vocoded voice spoke:

HOUSE.

What is House?

Technotronic, KLF, or something you just live in?

To me house is Phuture, Pierre, Fingers, Adonis etc

The pioneers of the hypnotic groove,

Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode and the Yellow Magic Orchestra.

This album is dedicated to you.

Listening to this and the looking at the sleeve I thought this must be from Germany or Detroit as this is where all the good stuff came from. I was absolutely bowled over when I realised that this music came from Yorkshire and was made by two blokes in their bedrooms. The album was Frequencies by LFO and was produced by Mark Bell and Gez Varley.

The third track Simon from Sydney is one of my favourite tracks of all time. There is a dull tom-tom in there which sticks out like a sore thumb as the rest of the sounds are so synthetic and futuristic but it’s probably the highlight of the track. When I turned thirty I wrote a post summarising my life as a playlist and had to include this tune.

The Frequencies album is a masterpiece, the best and most important album ever produced on Warp Records. It was albums like this which launched that label from a chin scratching niche imprint to the all conquering indie music/film label it is today. Without Frequencies would Aphex Twin or Boards of Canada be so well known now?

I had to wait an incredible 5 years for a second LFO album. Advance was good in a different way having come after the Artificial Intelligence series but still very much in the same vein.

Around the same time Mark Bell released the Speed Jack album on R&S.

Mark Bell’s talent for production was getting noticed. He worked with Björk on her Homogenic and Volta albums as well as the Dancer in the Dark film soundtrack. It was the perfect marriage as Bell didn’t dumb down or attempt to smooth the edges off what he did and Björk is not the type to ask him to. Seeing someone as brilliant as Mark Bell in a mainstream context like Later with Jools Holland was magnificent.

He also produced the Depeche Mode album Exciter. He must have loved this as they were one of his biggest influences.

I’ve never heard Mark Bell speak and know almost nothing about him but I know that I have found his music some of the most inspiring and inventive I have ever heard. I consider myself lucky to have been around during his music career. I’m very sad to hear of his death.

Mark Bell RIP

“If I were to say who has influenced me most it would be Stockhausen, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and Mark Bell.”
- Björk

0

Web Literacy Ninja Badge

Me dressed as a ninja

Did I think this would look cool?

Here is a picture of me dressed up a Ninja on my way to a Halloween party back in 2004. Note the Hollyoaks calendar in the background – not mine I promise!

I was under the misconception at the time that the Ninja mix of fighting skills and mystery (the hood bit) was going to make me the life and soul of this party. Needless to say it didn’t. I spent most of the party with the hood on not being recognised by anyone and the other half with the hood off being asked why I hadn’t worn a costume.

Fast forward to now and who would have thought I would be trying to become a Web Literacy Ninja almost exactly 10 years later?

To gain this Meta level badge I have to demonstrate I meet all 15 competencies of the Mozilla web literacy map.

The 15  competencies on the map are divided in to three strands and so I have written three blog posts, one for each strand:

Web Literacy Map

Update 13/10/14

I’ve now been awarded the badge. You can see my project page on P2PU and my badge on my Mozilla Backpack.

0

Mozilla web literacy map: connecting

In this post I discuss the Connecting: participating on the web thread of the web literacy map from Mozilla. I’ve written further posts to cover the other threads Building and Exploring.

This is all to earn the Web Literacy Ninja badge. I’ve broken it down in to the different section to ease the ‘marking’.

Sharing

I regularly use wiki pages on KnowHow NonProfit to share new information amongst the community on that website. Here is an example wiki a colleague and I have used to share a case study. There is a separate tab for the audit trail of changes and one also where comments can be left.

Collaborating

Here is an example of a wiki based how to guide that I started on KnowHow NonProfit which has been (so far) edited by two other people. The 40,000 strong user community on this site can update this guide over time when new best practice information becomes available. I use lots of tools like Google Drive, Basecamp and Yammer to collaborate with other people in different locations.

I push various RSS feeds around websites I manage in my day job through Twitterfeed to autopost to my twitter account keeping both myself and my followers up to date with new information from those websites.

Community participation

As part of my day job I took part in synchronous (as part of a live discussion) and asynchronous discussions on the Big Assist website. The aim of these forums is to encourage charities to share knowledge and expertise with each other. I am the main admin for this site and regularly take part in these forums, tailoring my language accordingly.

Privacy

DoNotTrackMe screenshot

Social media sites in particular can have fairly sketchy user agreements which may on the surface give power of content ownership to the users but often there are caveats meaning the platforms can use the user content any way they see fit.

I use DoNotTrackMe to block attempts to track my movement on the web. This includes an email mask which I can set to mask my email address when I use it online. I use virus checkers like Synmantec (amongst others) on my PC to scan emails and documents before I download, install or open them.

During my day job I have led the implementation of a centralised web user database with Mozilla Persona on the front end of four websites – users can access their information on all four websites with only one log-in. The websites are NCVO, KnowHow NonProfit, European Funding Network and Big Assist. Persona is a great option for this because of the anonymity it offers the user. Other popular ‘sign in with’ services (Facebook, Google etc) shove personal data back to the host services making things not very private at all. On a side note I think it’s such a shame Persona hasn’t been adopted more widely.

Open practices

I’ve already got the open practices badge and I think the blog post I wrote to earn it shows I meet this criteria.

Where next?

I will cover the other strands of the web literacy map in these two other posts:

0

Mozilla web literacy map: building

This post forms part of my evidence for earning the Web Literacy Ninja badge. For this badge I have show I meet all the competencies of the Web literacy map. This post covers the Building: connecting for the web strand of the map.

Composing for the web

This post is an example of using hyperlinks and also structuring a page as heading levels and unordered lists are used to organise the content.

My post on resizing images for the web shows and example of embedded media, creating web resources appropriate to the medium and structuring a web page.

I’ve been writing HTML for over ten years. Here is one of the first websites I ever made back in 2003. It’s not the greatest by today’s standards but we all have to start somewhere! One of the best things that came from it was making lots of mistakes and learning not what to do.

Remixing

I’ve written a post already for my Open Practices badge which shows I have started wiki pages and edited other pages started by others on KnowHow NonProfit. My profile page on that site shows that I have also created more ‘standard’ content.

Design and accessibility

As well as the WAI guidelines I also try to work as closely as possible with the RNIB surf right standards. I have taught friends and colleagues to use heading levels in web content rather than bold text for titles and subtitles. This sounds like a small thing but happens regularly. I have also fought a life long struggle against using click here.

In a previous job I was lucky enough to be able to test websites I worked on with the Council for Disabled Children which meant I could test web sites with children with different disabilities.

Coding / scripting

A few years go I was asked by a friend to help him make a website for his film company he had just started. I wrote a post about it on this blog at the time. I created all the HTML and CSS myself with a horizontal animated jquery menu using easing. Around that time there were lots of people telling me to use flash but I wasn’t having any of it. At the start of this project I knew nothing about jquery and by the end my buddy had the website he wanted.

Infrastructure

I have uploaded and modified this WordPress instance as well on the Halloween London website in the days before one click installers came to most hosting accounts. I’ve also managed the DNS for both of these as well as this website as part of my day job. I project managed building this new site which included moving to new hosting account and this included a change of domain name and managing the ensuing 301 nightmare that comes with this.

Where next?

I will cover the other strands of the map in the other posts:

0

Mozilla web literacy map: exploring

This post forms part of my evidence for earning the Web Literacy Ninja badge. For this badge I have show I meet all the competencies of the Web literacy map. This post covers the Exploring: navigating the web strand and I’ve broken the post down into each competency in the strand.

Navigation

Ste your default browserI use a number of browsers to test websites so on any given day I will use Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari and even IE when have to. Browsers will allow you to choose a default search engine and change this within the settings.

If unsure of why a link no longer works I can always try my hand on the fantastic Wayback Machine which takes snapshot archives of websites. Here is an archive of a website from my day job which goes back to 1999. As I moved this website to a new domain recently it’s very useful to look back at older versions.

In my day job I set up shorter URLs for some pages for marketing purposes. Here is an example http://www.ncvo.org.uk/evolve2014. I often use the bit.ly add-on for Firefox to make my links shorter for social media use.

You can change the language of the Webmaker website by changing this part (https://webmaker.org/en-US/explore) of the URL. Changing it to https://webmaker.org/it/explore changes the language to Italian.

Web Mechanics

The URL of the Mozilla Webmaker website is https://webmaker.org/ and the IP address is 50.19.237.14. If I did a Google search for ‘Mozilla Webmaker’ it should be the top result.

I record important links I find depending on where I find them. On Twitter I tend to favourite things for later reading. Links I want to keep for reference are also added to my Delicious and Pinterest accounts – there can be seen on the left widget panel of this blog. I keep an eye on other users and tags to build up links around similar subjects on all three of these social media sites.

Search

When searching I will use ‘ ‘ around my search term to help narrow things down. If your first search attempts ends up with a 404 error you can always try searching by just the domain or and try the site search once you arrive. Next to results on Google you have the handy cached link – particularly useful if the search link has now died. Direct links to files like PDFs sometimes fall in to this category. This website is also handy as is the similar link (which can be replicated by writing related:http://yoursite.com/ in the search bar).

As well as search engines for finding out information quickly social media tools like Twitter can be very efficient. On twitter you can search for keywords. Tweeters can also use a ‘#’ in front of a common term to group the tweet with other similar tweets on the same subject. This can quickly build a conversation.

Credibility

I see examples of websites which I don’t trust the credibility of quite often but it would drop me in hot water if I mentioned them here. However the following things would make me ask questions of a websites validity:

  • The contact us page contains only a contact form with no details of address, email, phone number of other methods of contacting the owners or worse still there is no way of contacting anyone associated with the site.
  • The website does not mention the names of any individuals involved. The owner(s) of the websites seem in every way to be ‘faceless’. There could be 1 or 2000 people involved in the site.
  • Websites which claim to be run by organisation don’t display a UK company or UK charity number.
  • The website contains content which does not seem to fit within its overall theme. The site might have a name which would indicate it was focused on a particular subject but then show pages which discuss something unrelated especially if this unrelated content was seemingly designed to gain revenue.
  • The page layout, graphic design, navigation and written content do not fit the stated aims of the site. This often shows as a very cheaply produced site with poor content claiming to represent a very high end product or service.
  • The who is record shows a company name that doesn’t seem to match up with the site and its stated objectives. This could be a company name that trades in domain names and has parked some guff site on that domain hoping some interested party comes along and asks to buy it.

There are lots of sites which use scraping to copy content from other websites. There are lots of ways to prevent this including Google alerts of key terms which might get scraped.

Security

Personal information about me exists in the digital sphere but I try to be careful about giving too much away especially information about my location (past present or future), date of birth and family details. One of the reason I have this blog is to have some level over control about what is in the public domain. Is any of the stuff on this blog real? I couldn’t comment on that!

I’m careful with passwords and I’m not going to discuss my methods for creating them here but you can rest assured they are long, complex and changed a lot. Dictionary words are not used. Here is some reasonable advice that I could get behind.

I use browser plugins like DoNotTrackMe. This stops dodgy marketing companies from tracking my activity on the web and also masks my email address. Thanks to advice on the Webmaker website I also now use AdBlockPlus.

Where next?

I will cover the other strands of the web literacy map in these two other posts:

0

Mozilla Webmaker Open Practices badge

This is a post to (hopefully) show I’ve met the requirements for the Open Practices badge issued by Mozilla Webmaker.

KnowHow NonProfit logo

Image: knowhownonprofit.org

For this I’ve used the website KnowHow NonProfit. This website provides all the information UK non-profit organisations need to set up and run their organisations. The approach is quite different to many sites in this sector as that much of the content is wiki based and users of the site are encouraged to share their knowledge and work together to build up useful information. Most other advice websites tend to provide information to non-profit organisations without the option for them to add to that knowledge. As well as wiki how-to guides there are also case studies and also more ‘regular’ content pages which are wikis.

As I work for a UK charity I use this site to share things I’ve done and add to things written by others.

Two examples of wiki how-to guides I have started myself:

Two examples of how-to guides written by other people which I have added to:

The wiki how-to guides are published under Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported and are designed to be constantly enhanced over time. This website has an active community of over 40,000 users who are working together to build an effective knowledge base.

Update 16/09/2014: Mozilla have given me this badge - check it out on my Webmaker profile.

0

Leeds Castle Triathlon 2014

Having grown up just down the road I was embarrassed to admit this was the first time I had ever been to Leeds Castle for its first ever triathlon. As it was the first year of the race I wasn’t able to do much research on what the course was like other than a bit of a chat with some blokes from the local triathlon club.

Leeds castle triathlon finish line

Photo Mr. E Henty

The water was very shallow and once the 100 or so people in the wave climbed in it kicked up a lot of mud making visibility zero. It was quite a tight swim course round the moat and comfortably the best swim I’ve ever done. There was a lot of traffic throughout which I prefer as it stops me drifting off which tends to happen if I’m swimming on my own for a long time.

The rolling, windy bike was tougher than I thought and I was very disappointed by my time but looking at the results it seems to have been quite slow for everyone. It wasn’t the pancake flat drag strip I was hoping for.

Cheesy promo video below – I’m the one in the yellow hat.

The run was also slow by my standards but was a very tough cross country 5km double loop. Some of the hills were so steep they left some seasoned racers walking up them.

I can’t claim I’m happy going over three hours for an Olympic distance race but races like the London Triathlon are far easier than this one. I’m glad it was challenging as I’m more likely to have another go next year.

Total03:03:05
Swim 1.5 km00:34:55
T100:02:31
Bike 40 km01:31:42
T200:01:31
Run 10 km00:52:24

Posts from other people about this

0

Windrush Aquathlon 2014

I took part in this event as a last minute entry as another aquathlon I was entered in over in east London was cancelled at the last minute. Windrush Aquathlon had been sold out but I thought I would try my luck and see if there were any places on the day.

This was a 500m swim in Brockwell Lido and a 5km run around Brockwell Park – not the parkrun course I’m told.

It was a very hot morning, almost too hot for wetsuits. I really wanted to use mine as preparation for Leeds Castle triathlon next weekend. I think it was borderline and I would have felt a bit like a Boil in the Bag cod if the swim was a bit longer.

Some blokes from the triathlon club

Photo Jonas Lustosa / Eileen Jacus

CPT mopped some of the podium places and a lot of points for the London League.

It wasn’t my fastest effort and I was a bit puzzled as I seemed very slow over the run especially. Hopefully everything will be fine next week on ‘home turf’ at Leeds Castle.

Total00:38:48
500 m swim + T100:13:02
5k m run00:25:46
0

Ocean Lake Triathlon Sprint Race 1 2014

I’ve never taken part in an open water triathlon this early in the year before and I was pretty worried about how cold the water might be. It was actually a ‘balmy’ 13 Celsius. This doesn’t sound that warm but it was actually warmer than the air temperature.

The weather was poor. It was chilly but also the rain was tipping down the whole time. Sometimes triathletes can be wimps. Before the start all these guys in wetsuits went in to a shed next to the lake and stood about shivering and hugging themselves. We were going in to the lake a few minutes later so not sure why anyone was so bothered about staying dry!

Leybourne Lake

I really found the bike hard going in the heavy rain. The bike leg was down a dual carriageway and there were huge puddles which I wasn’t sure if they were just normal puddles or covering pot holes. Falling in those conditions with cars coming past at high speed could have been messy. I played it safe and probably lost a lot of time as a result. I was a good bit slower than in 2011 and 2013. The bike leg has been different every year and in previous years it was later in the year and the weather was a lot better so it’s not a straight comparison.

Total01:37:30
750 m swim00:20:05
T100:03:58
20km bike00:47:12
T200:02:19
5 km run 00:23:54
0

Kingfisher Aquathlon 2014

I took part in the Kingfisher Aquathlon back in 2011 but this was the first time I was wearing CPT colours trying to earn some points for the London League and not too much of burke in the process. There is a 400m pool swim with a 9km run around a park in Morden. With such an early start it’s possible to finish and cycle home before anyone has noticed you’re gone.

Man with a lego hand

I remember getting mixed up with the distances back in 2011 when I thought I was only running 5 instead of 9 km. I didn’t make that same mistake this time although it’s hard to know where you are as a lot of the run is through the woods.

Kingfisher Triathletes do a great job in organising the race which has a really friendly atmosphere and affordable.

Total00:57:39
400 m swim00:09:42
9 km run00:47:57