Archive for the 'Jaunts' Category

The Digital Barn

February 12th, 2012 by Ian

When I heard a couple of guys from my local WordPress user group were arranging a conference in their native land of Barnsley, I didn’t imagine that they’d rustle up such a great group of speakers. It’s great that people are willing to turn out and support these small, grassroots events either by speaking, arranging or simply attending. Matt and Kimb created a website for The Digital Barn and it’s such a pretty, clean and tidy responsive design that I hope they get to use it again for another event. Despite looking like a couple of rather pissed-off bouncers, Matt and Kimb are actually really friendly guys and the success of The Digital Barn is a tribute to them. Nice one fellas. So what did I actually learn yesterday?

Barnsley DMC

Barnsley Digital Media Centre

Doing something is better than doing nothing

Jonny Allbut gave us a load of advice on successful freelancing and most of it quite practical. I felt, that those of us who don’t work alone would do well to remember some of this though: The importance of unclear responsibilities in a project, keeping expectations at manageable levels and the need for constant communication between all involved.

Troll IE

Problem?

The Microsoft Corporation supplied one of their minions to apologize to us about the abomination that is IE6. I’ve seen MS people talk before, often under the Ubelly flag, and typically Martin Beeby gave a very smooth presentation. He, like his colleagues, is under no dillusions about IE and compared working to promote IE like “running PR for Garry Glitter”. He made it clear that things have changed, in some ways. The complacency MS displayed between IE6 and IE7 (although I think in fairness, between IE6 and IE9 might be more accurate) is a thing of the past and IE10 (and 9) is chocka with standards-friendly features like the Appcache, SVG filters and the pointer API. Martin said the browser market is at its most exciting right now not just because of the the competition between the main 5 browsers but because of the collaboration companies have shown. Obviously, things aren’t perfect but they are better than they were.

One point that I think MS people sometimes miss is that it’s one thing having comparable features in browsers, but it’s another thing all-together ensuring that these features can be implemented consistently. I think a great example of this is implementing a linear gradient with opacity using CSS3. It’s great that you can now do this in CSS but if you look at the difference between doing this in Firefox and Webkit (with a nice tidy rgba value) and IE9 (with a confusing 8-digit hex code… thing) then it shows there is still one way for IE and one way for everyone else.

Craig Burgess had a simple message: build something. Nothing is pointless if you’re enjoying yourself and even if you’re creating a website full of pictures of cats in sinks, then there is the potential to learn something which you can take away and use commercially. He stressed the need for ‘devsigners‘ and ‘designopers‘, true cross-aisle skillsets. Titles are not important, nor is using the latest tech just because it’s the new hotness. What’s important is building stuff. Here, here. Incidentally, I think his website is pretty awesome so this experimenting, building silly toys and breaking stuff approach obviously works.

Some strong, relevant advice about building for the web

The command line isn’t a natural platform for a presentation, but Tom Hudson’s talk on writing Testable PHP seemed very comfortable there. His ascii sheep made a refreshing change from Powerpoint slides. In all honesty, he lost me after a few minutes. The world of unit tests and what have you is a little bit beyond my knowledge, so I won’t make myself sound more stupid that I already am.

Bruce Lawson gave the sort of presentation that could only be given by, well, Bruce Lawson. Bruce spoke at a Speak The Web event a couple of years ago, so he’s obviously a firm friend of the grassroots conference. Back then his talk on HTML5 video really grabbed me and I’ve used those techniques many times. His work on HTML5 Doctor, in my view, has helped make it one of the best developer resources on the web so if Bruce wants to make the talk all about him, then he’s earned that right. He expressed his initial doubts about the HTML5 spec because of Hickson, the “benevolent dictator” of the spec, and his personal attitude towards humanitarian eugenics. This was unknown to me and makes for some uncomfortable reading.

Assistant technology hates ambiguity

However, his opinion that HTML5 is bad news for accessibility (a11y) has since changed. HTML5 not only ‘paves the cowpaths’ but also provides so many features for the developer to work with. The example Bruce gave of autoplay in the video tag is a good one: Of course having a video play automatically is a bad for a11y (it will shout over any screenreader), but the fact that developers can all use one technique to autoplay a video is actually good news for a11y. This is because developers of screen readers now know how to consistently disable autoplay, rather than guess one of several thousand combinations of javascript-based autoplay mechanisms a web developer may have used previously. Also, nudity.

Matt Brailsford didn’t talk about Umbraco (the CMS which he is a great proponent for) but instead Knockout.js – a javascript library to help with building applications. This was a very practical presentation and it’s probably best represented on his blog, where he gives a step-by-step guide through a number of simple examples.

Everything you know is wrong

A conference without some controversy can sometimes just be a big old congratulatory backslapping exercise, so it was left to a couple of the speakers to bring us all crashing down to earth.

What these two said struck a particular chord with me so I think I’ll write about them later in the week as what they said probably requires a bit more thought in order to do them justice. Thanks again to the Digital Barn lads (and Barnsley DMC) for giving us all such an opportunity.

Sheffield BarCamp 2011: The tourist’s perspective

April 23rd, 2011 by Ian
The mighty grid

The mighty grid

For those of you who are similarly clueless as I was, a BarCamp is somewhat of an unconference, “an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment“.  Attendees are encouraged not only to come and listen, but also to talk as well. There were 4 rooms at this event and those who wished to speak simply affixed a post-it note with the title of their talk onto a grid on the wall. I played the role of a ‘tourist’ because I brought nothing to the party: I had never been to one of these events before and being the shrinking violet that I am, simply sat back and took in as much as possible. These events are held all over the world, but at this Sheffield event there were no sponsors nor was there an entry fee. It was arranged with help from the GIST Foundation massive. and hosted at Sheffield Workstation over the weekend of the 16th of April. A great location because a) free Wi-Fi and b) it’s opposite real-ale haunt the Rutland Arms. Unfortunately, due in part to a (reasonably epic) duel-headline tour in the evening by …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead and Rival Schools I had to leave for Manchester earlier than I would have liked. I did however promise the man of a thousand Twitter accounts, Jag that I would publish online some of what I experienced. For the pathetically short time I was in attendance I found the BarCamp enlightening, so here is some of what I learnt, and how I could apply it to what I do.

Documentation and Storytelling

The first session I attended was on documentation by Dee Vincent-Day (@deevincentday). Her job is to work with developers and document their work. I do not envy her job. However, it sounds like she has it down and I got the impression that she was a master of social engineering, with a different approach to different developers! I found it surprising (from the discussion amongst other BarCampers) that documentation is often fed into MS Word and propriatery management systems like the infamous Sharepoint. She talked about how although documentation may add to the cost of a project initially, there are savings later down the line, especially if developers move on from projects/jobs. Having been burned by this first hand, I appreciated this. I think it’s great that there is someone who is there to purely help developers document.

Gem (@ruby_gem) presented a more fluffy topic: Stories. Here, I use the word ‘fluffy’ not negatively at all, but the concept of story telling is a higher level concept than my practical-focused little mind is used to. I liked the idea of creating a story for everything (and Gem was adamant that a story can be created for everything). The form of these stories should follow:

  1. As a
  2. I want
  3. So that

Often when I have my UX hat on, the question running through my mind is simply “what do we need”. But these more involved (yet still simple) stories seem like they’d serve me better in communicating with clients, managers and pulling together a spec. The rearrangement of this into “In order to > As a > I want” would better serve some situations. She was also keen on drawing pictures to illustrate needs, but when dealing with more technically minded folk, then a simple table of figures would serve best. (Edit: ‘Writing Stories’ has all been much better explained on ruby_gem’s blog)

Attention grabbing and Mobile Development

For ‘Getting attention on FlickrMartin Cunningham (@martin88) told us the importance of interacting with the community. On Flickr can involve joining groups, providing constructive criticism and favourite-ing others photographs. My personal efforts on Flickr are a complete joke, however the lessons that Martin has learnt can be applied elsewhere. I deal with a lot of organisations who realise the potential and power of social networks and online communities, but they often forget that simply being there isn’t enough. One needs to engage, and Facebook, YouTube or wherever else you think it’s important to promote yourself have equivalents to the Flickr techniques that Martin mentioned. Of course, his flickr account is worth a look!

Trevor Ward (@thewarpedcoder) spoke specifically about the Titanium development platform. As a front-end guy, this has attracted my attention before as it utilises existing HTML/JavaScript skills to produce native applications. However, it was great to see it in action as Trevor walked us through some of the processes. It looked pretty simple, certainly when compared to learning Objective-C! I also didn’t realise the extent to which Titanium can interface with a device’s sensors (cameras, gyroscopes, GPS etc) which is obviously the biggest advantage over mobile-orientated native-web development. It seems like a pretty mature, ordered way of producing mobile apps for both Android and iOS. He was upfront about the limitations (i.e. this isn’t for building 3d multiplayer fps frag-fests!) but I’m left with the feeling that I should spend some time poking around in Titanium. Speaking of gaming….

Collecting stars, flying spaceships

Video Game Bucket List

Video Game Bucket List

Many talks at this BarCamp provided me with things I can take back to my daily work life. Two, however, were simply fun. The first of these was Katie Fenn’s (@katie_fenn) talk on the Space Shuttle. As an aviation nerd myself this was pretty interesting, and it was nice to hear someone who obviously loves the Shuttle take such a critical look at it. Katie detailed the massive cost overruns and tragic accidents but still felt the whole adventure was worth-while. I agree. Katie: I believe your talk is online somewhere but I can’t find it. Send us the link, because it’s worth another look. Liam (@losvaive) took us even further away from earth and into the realms of fantasy with his ‘Video Game Bucket List‘. I hadn’t heard the term ‘bucket list’ before, but apparently it’s a sort of ‘things to do before you die’ checklist. His talk was focused on games that provide things sometimes beyond their design so his recommendations were not the unimaginative stuff like “Killing Talibs in COD 7 PWNZ!11″, but more subtle ideas like “Complete HL2 by only firing one shot” (which is possible, apparently: you only need one bullet to shoot a lock off a door) and “build a giant 1000ft golden phallic tower (complete with balls, natch) in Minecraft“. Incidentally, I’d love to see the screenshot of the latter again. It was simultaneously awe-provoking and terrifying.

My first BarCamp

My first BarCamp experience was excellent. A good crowd, as per most GIST events. I’d re-attend in a heartbeat, maybe as less of a tourist. God knows what I’d talk about but I’d be open to suggestions. I am a little sad that there were a number of talks I missed on such things as QR codes, Fractal Geometry, APIs and more, but I guess that’s the nature of a BarCamp. Thanks to all who arranged and took part in this event and if I’ve misunderstood or misrepresented what you were trying to say, then please let me know!

Duxford Flying Legends 2010

July 11th, 2010 by Ian
The Joker - Bearcat

The Joker - Bearcat

Duxford, Cambridgeshire has for a long time been ‘plane nerd mecca to me. It’s been ages since I went to a proper airshow, so it was great to once again attend the Flying Legends show. Many of the airframes are now over 70 years old and it’s amazing how many they get into the air at once. They don’t exactly fling them round (well, with the exception of the superbly demonstrated Grumman Bearcat), but they put them through some pretty tight turns and rolls. It’s great to see how gracefully the Spitfires are handled and for me, I think that was the highlight: A formation of various marks of Spitfire playfully soaring over the length of the runway. I’ve uploaded a bunch of shots to Flickr. I only own a compact, so a lot of the shots are from the museums.

The business end of the A10

The business end of the A10

The whole set from Saturday is available in my Flickr stream.

Speak the Web: Leeds

February 16th, 2010 by Ian

Okay, this is a bit late (There has already been a Speak the Web: Liverpool event), but here are some brief thoughts from last Thursdays Speak the Web conference in Leeds.

Corn on the cob?

Corn on the cob?

Stuart Smith started with a brief (and quite amusing) history of the mobile web. He made the point that it’s not just iPhone users that we should build mobile websites for and that the typical mobile user was probably using a much less capable Nokia S40-based phone. He’s right of course, but he ignored the fact that iPhone users typically use the web on their mobiles much more than anyone else, but maybe that’s because the web often sucks so badly on the standard Nokia S40/60 browser? Still, he noted that countries like Uganda had quite advanced 4G networks so we, as developers, should be mindful of opportunities in places we otherwise are not mindful of. He also showed a slide of a corn-on-the-cob vibrator. Despite the other guys’ immaculately presented slides, this won the title of classiest slide of the night.

Opera was represented by Chris Mills. His talk had largely the same content as Bruce Lawson’s in Sheffield (so I won’t go into detail again). The HTML5 slides from Sheffield have been uploaded, by the way. He presented it in a similarly energetic way though, so I wasn’t bored hearing it again! I also learned that lots of people in Russia use Opera, but not many people who speak about Opera!

I’ve read a great deal by Andy Clark, on his blog, on Twitter and elsewhere on the web. He often goes under the name Malarkey so I shall refer to him as such. His talk can be summed up, I think, thus: Design for the clients you want and build for the web browser you want. I think this was what he meant by Hard Boiled web design. The concept of progressive enrichment (as opposed to enhancement), I think has its benefits. After all, even the appearance of the pages he showed us on tired old IE looked pretty nice.

I laughed when he showed us the IE6 stylesheet he’s been using for years. So sparse. I understand the need to bully IE users onto a more advanced browser, for the good of the web. I also feel no love for Microsoft. However, this approach just seems vindictive. The bulk of IE6 users are those poor souls working in government agencies and councils, the NHS and others who have no control over what browser they use. To give them such a poor online experience seems unnecessarily cruel. If they chose to use IE6 themselves, I’d say stuff ‘em, but no one chooses to use IE6 these days. Of course Malarkey’s talk was a stark contrast to the boys from Cahoona who spoke in Sheffield: “Just give the client what he wants, regardless of whether it’s the best solution” (I’m paraphrasing). I wish them both well, but I think I’d rather work as Malarkey does. If I was in a position to do so of course!

All in all, another awesome conference. I think the audience was a bit more chatty and asked more questions than in Sheffield. Was this because Leeds has a more excitable bunch of design-types? Maybe, but I think it had more to do with how well the speakers got on. They ripped the piss out of each other in such a good-hearted way that I think it relaxed everyone. Malarkey even dropped a Hicks-approved oooOOOOh! bomb. First time I’ve seen it used ‘in anger’. I’d like to note that at both events there were some pretty friendly folk. It was a weird novelty for me that the first two people I said hello to in Leeds both noted that they had read my blog post about Speak the Web: Sheffield! Thanks once again to the guys who arranged all this.

TEDx Manchester

October 11th, 2009 by Ian

Okay, so I’m a bit cheeky. I went to two TEDx Norths. I went to the one in Sheffield, where I live. Then when I saw they had some interesting speakers, I got some tickets for TEDx Manchester as well. The two were both interesting events and have been summed up better elsewhere on other blogs, so here I will make just a couple of brief points.

I preferred the Sheffield TEDx. Why? Because although the speakers sounded like they’d be less interesting on paper, they were actually more interesting. Manchester gave us talks from people with big credentials. People from all across the BBC: Radio, Childrens, the head of research & development at BBC Future Media & Technology. There were people from the Guardian and from Nokia. These guys all gave interesting talks, but they were so wide in scope. In Sheffield the deal from the speakers was thus: “I’ve made something / am involved in something. Maybe not a lot of people find it that interesting, but I’m really into it and I want to share my passion with you”. In Manchester it was more, “Facebook! Twitter! Web 2.0! Social media! Cliche!” and I got a little lost in all the buzz words. Twitter and Facebook were mentioned so frequently, I think we could have engineered a drinking game out of it. I didn’t learn anything new about either of them, unfortunately. It didn’t help that each speaker had 20mins each, which blatantly wasn’t enough for most of them. Like in Sheffield, we were played old TED talks on video. If I wanted to watch them, I would do in my own time (as I often do) on Miro, or their YouTube channel. This should have been scrapped to give the speakers more time! (Disclaimer; I think Lost is the most self-congratulatory peace of crap JJ Abrahams, nay, anyone has ever done, so his talk was especially lost on me)

Phil Griffin at TEDx Manchester

For me, the one guy who stood out was Phil Griffin. He talked about Manchester and its architecture. He told us about the tower blocks that are being torn down and the old pubs he knows that are lying dormant. This is obviously something that he cared about deeply (he even showed us pictures of the area where he once got married). This, more focused talk, was simply superb. I have an interest in architecture sure, but I’m a web developer with a much keener interest in the web. But the one man who didn’t mention the web (let alone any web2.0 cliche’s) once during his talk was easily the most fascinating speaker. He also used the large screen to display photography, rather than a dry list of bullet points (“*facebook *twitter *web2.0″).

Maybe in the future TEDx North could, and I don’t believe I’m saying this, be a little less web-orientated next time? Some pictures are available on my flickr stream.

TEDx Sheffield

September 22nd, 2009 by Ian

You’ve probably heard of the TED talks. They’ve spread in part due to their excellent internet strategy: a powerful website, a strong presence on YouTube, software like Miro and the like. TEDx is a series of talks operating in the UK under license, I believe. They don’t quite pull in the Bill Gates and Seth Godins’ of the main TED talks but, as I found out last week, they present some pretty interesting folks.

TEDx came to Sheffield so my colleague and I spent the whole day at Electric Works and yes, we had a go on the slide. The range of talks kept things interesting. It started off quite business-orientated and the highlight in the morning was definitely Mike Southon of the Financial Times. He gave an obviously very finely tuned presentation that likened business success to the path the Beatles took. It was pretty ‘fluffy’ stuff, but I’m no business-head so that was probably fortunate. As the day progressed, the talks got a bit more creative-y. Highlights for me were Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino from Tinker it! bigging up the Arduino open-source hardware project and Andy Huntington with his little magic noise boxes (my name for them, not his). I wanted my own.

Andy Huntington at TEDx Sheffield

Andy Huntington at TEDx Sheffield

By the afternoon, the suits had all disappeared and the crowd was a little more geeky (I mean that in a loving way, obviously). That’s understandable, considering the breadth of topics. TEDx Sheffield was a day that did inspire, the only bad thing I thought was that they played us videos of previous international TED talks. I could have stayed at home to watch those, guys. I took some (not especially great) pictures that you can view on my flickr stream.

Catch21 conference: Westminster

July 22nd, 2007 by Ian

Me, the rest of Catch21 Productions and the Rt Hon Charles Kennedy MP I had what could be the ideal politics-geek day-trip last Wednesday. I awoke at ridiculous O’clock to travel from Sheffield to Westminster for the first Catch21 Productions conference since I joined them as ‘New Media’ bod. This was held in the Houses of Parliament itself. I was excited to get bumped to the front of the security queue and through St Stephen’s entrance. Inside we held the conference which involved a number of college/6th form kids asking questions to us and our guests. Guests included delegates from Operation Black Vote, The Electoral Commission’s and the UK Youth Parliament and also we were able to have a question and answer session with Charles Kennedy MP, Ann Widdecombe MP, current Education Minister Alan Johnson MP and Daisy McAndrew – Chief Political Correspondent of ITN. The audience asked some good questions which yielded some interesting answers.

Catch21 will be displaying highlights from this event on our YouTube channel. Personally, I enjoyed opportunity to meet some very significant MPs from the three main partys and we all got some ideas of where Catch21 can go as an organisation from a seemingly pretty keen audience. Besides, I get down to London so infrequently the Tube is still a novelty. I wonder how long that will last?

(picture courtesy of the lovely people at OBV)

A Pleasant Day in the Country

June 18th, 2007 by

Haigh Hall, because I didn't take any photos at the festivalOn Sunday, it was brought to my attention by a friend that once a year, the kindly folk of Haigh Hall throw a free music festival for those in the area, presumably by way of compensation for them being in Wigan. I rolled up half smashed to find out what was going down with my homies.
Haigh Hall is a genuinely beautiful place, and I’ve come to the opinion that all music festivals should be held in the grounds of stately homes if simply for the reason that, surrounded by two or three square miles of semi-landscaped woodland, there was no problems with the toilet arrangements.

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Slacker

June 1st, 2007 by Ian

It’s been low-blog count limbo round here for a while. I’ve been over-rung with websites to maul at work so I’ve been somewhat terrified to even look at a TinyMCE text entry box. What else have I done? Well, I’ve been all the way to Westminster in London Village to try and help raise some more funds for soon to be internet-sensation Catch21 Productions. Well, we hope. We’re certainly going to try. I reckon we could do some pretty exciting stuff with it anyway. More on that, hopefully much more, later in the year.

I’ve also been to a wedding, a stag do, paintballing (ouch), go-karting (crunch) and to see some downright awesome bands like 65daysofstatic (for the 4th time!) and A Silver Mt. Zion (for the second time, but this time wasn’t half as good – slackers). I went to watch ‘28 Weeks Later‘ which was disappointing, but not surprisingly so. I just loved the prequel far too much and naturally the usual disappointment in a sequel followed. I also watched the start of Big Brother UK Series 384, but I’m too ashamed to talk about that…

BBQ this weekend down ‘sarf. Maybe next week I’ll reveal some shiny new website designs I’ve been working on. Oh larks oh lawdy! Hurrah!

I Like Pie: An evening with Mr. Scruff

April 22nd, 2007 by Ian

Mr. ScruffI’d sworn to myself that I’d get round to seeing Mr. Scruff; DJ, artist and all round leg-end. Fortunately, last week a friend invited me back once again to Hull to see him at the uni. What a brilliant night. Such a fun DJ! Plenty of people dancing, very early in the night and such great visuals from the VJ as well. Lots of fluffy animals. Lots of pie. He drew everyone into it with some of his classic tunes, a drop of tweeness, a bit of a Rooty-toot Manuva, some more bass and then British geek-anthem, Ug. Go to a party where Mr. Scruff is playing. It will make you very, very happy.

(p.s. big thanks to Jon for basically driving me and my kit round all weekend)

Four Tet & Steve Reid

March 25th, 2007 by Ian

Hebden-Reid colaboration albumSheffield’s Plug is a club I’m only just becoming familiar with. It definitely thinks its trendy, what with its minimalistic urban branding and all. Whatever, they bagged Four Tet and a Luke Vibert DJ set all in one night. That got my attention and I dragged along my poor friend Mark, who’d been visiting from out of town. The Four Tet guy (Kieran Hebden) brought along Steve Reid who (I now know after internets research) is some sort of jazz drumming-god. I know sod all about jazz (or drumming) but boy could this dude play. He had an advantageous position at the front of the stage and I’ve never seen anyone so into their instrument (yeah, even more than James Murphy last week). Certainly not a 60 year old anyway. I mean that in a nice way, y’know? He seemed to take point while Hebden worked his way through an array of electronic gizmos (that’s an industry-standard description of what he was doing, okay?) I love Four Tet and Hebdens other project of note; Fridge but I found this gig really hard going. I mean, the guys on the stage were masterful at what they were doing but I definitely think at the end of my week I wasn’t mentally ready for the bombarding that my ears and mind took. I’m pretty familiar with most of Four Tet/Fridge stuff, but on Friday it was all about improvisation and so nothing sounded familiar. Nothing wrong with that of course, just I personally felt like I wanted to hear something safe and recotlgnisable! I’m still glad I saw ‘em though, but the whole event felt like I was trapped in a Hawkwind intro. When would Lemmys vocals kick in? “I just took a ride in a silver machine

North American Scum

March 12th, 2007 by Ian

Sound of Silver albumThat’s the name of the current LCD Soundsystem single by the way, this isn’t the beginning of a xenophobic rant. I popped across the pennies yet again (this time on a bus; thanks to some genius envisaging that a rail link between two of Britain’s biggest cities isn’t particularly important at the weekends) to meet up with a fine young bunch of Mancunians who accompanied me to a very busy gig at the Manchester Academy. Quite an interesting crowd were present; the most annoying of which were people on pills and the (so stereotypically true to form, it hurt) MySpace hipster-types. Both seemed to spend most of the gig facing away from the musicians. This was either through confusion or through obsessive chimping, respectively (the likes of which I’ve not seen since I saw Death Cab for Cutie a couple of months back *shudders*) [thoughts on the gig itself after the jump...]

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Still 518 years from that Zager & Evans song

January 4th, 2007 by Ian

I could of done a ‘my favourite albums/films/gigs/rude things you can do with grapes’ list, but I didn’t. It’s the cowards way out of a year. Lets move on, okay? My Christmas was spent at home with family and friends. Nothing amazing, just nice to see ‘em all. Well, mostly. A nice break from my job although barely two months in, I’m still loving it. I’ll mention what gifts I got for Christmas as I watch/read my way through them. I made some new years resolutions. Nothing heavy; read more, write more (here and elsewhere), got some other stuff I wanna sort. Sorry I can’t be more exciting. Going to keep a journal (diary) again too. I did this in my final year at uni and it really helped me to pull through some of the bullshit that decided to drop on me during that time. Still makes for pretty funny reading at times now though.

Slick on my lapBack in Sheffield: James, Ellie and I are being joined by new house-mate; Zoe. When we first met her she mentioned that she fancied having a cat about the place. So did we. As a result, we now have Slick and Intel, two 1 y.o males we took off a fella called Mike who couldn’t look after all of their brothers and sisters any more. They’re a bit sheepish around the house at the moment (yeah, I’m aware they’re not sheep), but their confidence is increasing. I’ve already got a favourite, but it wouldn’t be fair to say who, would it? Predictably, I’ll probably be uploading pictures of them to my flickr account. Anyway friends, lurkers, countrymen, happy new year.

DJ Shadow; the “I’m sorry for the Outsider” tour

December 17th, 2006 by Ian

The Outsider…is what it should of been called. I’ve been a big fan of DJ Shadow for a while. It’s through his collaborations with people like Mos Def that I got  listening to a whole range of hip-hop and other electronic music. To me, Endtroducing is one of the most important albums ever. Shadow has released a hell of a lotta stuff (a great deal of which I’ve listened to) and he always kept it fresh and exciting; working with different MCs and experimenting with different styles. A musician can’t dwell on his first album but to much of his fanbase (who managed to close down his forum due to excessive angst) his new album, The Outsider, is disappointing. Sure; he did something different, but imho it was mediocre at best. Embracing the ‘Hyphy’ bay-area hip-hop sound meant that the complex, lush, alt-hip-hop soundscapes that fans loved Shadow for were replaced by… god knows, basically. It just sounded like any other bling-heavy hip-hop trash and I nearly didn’t bother getting tickets when I found he’d be performing near my new home in Sheffield.

I’m glad I did. Very glad. As were my two mates; Ed (who bullied me into buying tickets) and Ste. We got into the venue; the Sheffield Octagon, in time to catch the last couple of songs by the 1st support. Not worth mentioning here. The 2nd support however went by the name of Akala and from the start seemed determined to put us in a good mood…

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