Valentin and The Widow

I’m not burying this in a linkpost. It’s too good for that.

A few years ago, for NaNoWriMo, my friend Andrew Wheeler began a pulp serial called Valentin and the Widow. I recall reading the opening chapters of it with great fondness, and I have been waiting with some eagerness ever since for him finish polishing it to the standard he wanted before he let it out into the world.

Well, he’s done it now. The first instalment of his podcast is live now – seventy minutes of pulp fun that will appear to anyone who likes a good story. I’ll shut up now, and let Andrew describe it to you.

It’s a globe-trotting 1920s adventure about plucky English aristocrat Eleanora Rosewood, brawny Russian sailor Sacha Valentin, and their fight against a secret organisation that seeks to oppress the weak and destroy the different.

Courageous women!
Sexy men!
Wicked villains!
Exotic locations!
Diabolical schemes!
Cups of tea!
And great big fights!

I cannot recommend this to you highly enough. Click the picture below to find out more, and about how to listen to it.

Valentin and the Widow by Andrew Wheeler

The Death Knell of Twitter

Let me first be clear: I am not railing against Twitter, in the manner I might against Facebook. I find Facebook’s business model creepy and intrusive. I find Twitter’s, er, saddening. I don’t (yet) believe that Twitter is doomed, but if it turns out to be so, then I think this is clearest sign of what will kill it.

So, here’s what’s happened – Twitter are making changes to their API that will affect how third party apps work. I honestly have no idea how this will play out over the long term, but here’s the nub of the problem:

This chart here is one Twitter have produced to explain what they want their API to be used for. The would like it to be used for things in the left and bottom quadrants. They expressly want to limit “certain uses” of things in that top-right quadrant. Which is, of course, the stuff that allows their users to interact with Twitter, every day. They are very clearly and unambiguously saying that encouraging consumer engagement with their service is not their priority.

And I’m not surprised. It’s not where the money is, as Twitter is currently structured. But it’s hard not to see this as a bait-and-switch on their users, and on the developer community that have helped those users engage with Twitter.

Like I say, I don’t know what will happen, but this sounds to me like Twitter saying “We wish to serve out customers better, and out customers are Brands. We are in the business of delivering people to Brands, not in providing services for people.”

For all I know, this will work just fine, people will adapt, and life will go on. But if my fears are true, I personally hope it won’t, in just the same way I hope Facebook will one day die.

Meanwhile, app.net are trying to launch a service that really isn’t making any pretence of being anything other than a paid-for Twitter clone.

The problem I can see with them is they’ve set a very, very high barrier to entry. I’m hoping it’ll turn out that the $50-a-year price tag is basically an early adopters thing, and somewhere down the line, they’re going to roll out a $5-a-month price tag, or even some kind of free/paid service options, because yeah, as it stands right now, that entry bar basically guarantees that it’ll be rich (in relative terms) nerds using the service, which will kill it before it gets very far out of the gate.

I’ve ponied up the cash, because I am (in relative terms) a rich nerd, and I’m really hoping that this cash will be seed capital that will produce a new Twitter-like service with a business model that profits from the engagement of their users, rather than the engagement of brands.

Social Network MVP

So, as we all know, there’s no money in running a social networking site, unless you act like a dick about it.

And at the back of my brain, there’s a little itch, that says that there has to be money in it, provided you don’t treat it as way to get hugely wealthy. Provided your concept of what it means to run a social networking site is simple to make a living, without acting like a dick.

So: straightforward questions:

What features would a social networking site have to have, in order to entice people to make it their primary social network?

Status updates, photo uploads/galleries, and events/invitations are basically my list. Have I missed anything?

The follow up, then becomes: how do we make that self sustaining?

Obvious: ad-supported through google ads, with an option to pay a (sub-10 dollar, ideally sub-5 dollar) yearly fee to remove ads.

Idle thought: would “free, and ad free in year 1, then ad supported or low yearly fee” work?

Obviously, the actual MVP component of a social site is people. So what is it that would get enough people to be using it to turn it into a (stable) revenue generating proposition?

Road Test

Attention conservation notice: total wittering follows.

I am such a muppet. I bought a shiny new keyboard for my iPad, and then bought not one, but two back-cover cases for it. The first wouldn’t allow me to unclip the keyboard. The second wouldn’t allow me to clip it in. And then I realised that I’ve actually owned the perfect slipcover case for my iPad+keyboard all along, something I bought for my original iPad with room enough for the new device plus keyboard inside. I am, in the parlance, a numpty.

In other personal technology news, after having had it installed but unused on my iPad since the day it launched, I finally got around to configuring Flipboard for the iPad. It is an extraordinarily gratifying way to catch up on the world, and I am only ashamed that it’s taken me literally years to get around to it. If you own an iPad, and aren’t using it, you’re missing out.

Busy (and nerdy) weekend coming up. Dinner+drinks with friends tonight, Gamecamp tomorrow. Another one where I haven’t got a talk ready. I vaguely wonder about busking it, but honestly, my ideas are sort of half baked – they’d suit a conversation, but I’m not sure about a talk. Particularly since the sort of LARP I run is different in scope and scale to many others, and it’s really theories of LARP that I want to talk about.

Sunday I’ve to a LARP to run. It should be awesome. I am actually really excited about the next few sessions of this particular game – I feel like it’s really hitting it’s stride, and is providing exactly the sort of game I hoped it would (this is not blowing my own trumpet, BTW – that it is successful is largely down to the players, who have stepped up to what was have been quite a challenge with absolutely superb style). I actually expect the challenge with this game to be knowing when to stop – previous LARPs I’ve run have been concieved with pre-determined lengths, and this one is no exception, but honestly, the way I feel about it right now, I could keep running to forever.

As you’ve probably guessed, the major reason for this post is just to test this new keyboard out, and I’ve got to say that while it’s not as good as a full-size one, it is in fact, pretty bastard good. Most of the reviews I’ve see moaned about the size of the backspace key, but that’s not what’s bugging me. It’s the tiny tiny size of the apostrophe key (and the other punctuation marks). But it’ll do for out and about quite nicely.

Free Comics!

Or: The Great Comics Clearout, volume 1

So I’m on a quest to get rid of comics. And I’m starting with a bunch of comics that I haven’t read in a couple of years. Some of them, I own other versions of, and I just getting rid of the spare are it were. Some of them I’ve read, enjoyed, and then felt no burning urge to re-read, so it’s time they moved on to somewhere they’;ll be properly appreciated. Some of them just weren’t my cup of tea. And some of them, I have no idea where they even came from, which is a little worrying. But I can vouch for 90% of them (the ones I know where they came from and what they are, that is) being remarkably good. They would be a boon to any library that does not already contain them, I promise you.

Anyway: if you would like to own any of these comics, can now do so, free of charge, gratis, and for nothing. All you have to do is let me know you want them, and then come and collect them from Tooting, South London. What you do with them after that is entirely up to you. I regret that I will not be posting them anyway, as that take us into the realms of tedious faffing about with getting money to me, and then me remembering to go down the post office, which is all far too much like work.

The Extraordinary works of Alan Moore

The Waiting Place volume 1

The Waiting Place volume 2 parts 1+2

Quicken Forbidden vol 1

Charm School

The Bogie Man

Sanctuary vols 1-3

Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships

Age of Bronze: Sacrifice


Gunwitch

Bone vols 2+3 (B&W)

Kane – Greetings from New York

Batman No Man’s Land vol 2

Books of Magic: The Burning Girl

Batman: Gotham Adventures

The Making of Astronauts in Trouble

A1 Book 2

Hellboy: Odder Jobs

Two Fisted Science

Finder: Talisman

Finder: Dream Sequence

Scarlett Traces

Artesia

The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings

Uzumaki vols 1-3

Tommysaurus Rex

Creatures of the Night

Overtime

Rosemary’s Backpack

Please feel free to a) ask questions, and b) circulate this link to anyone who might be interested. Any books not claimed by the end of May will go to the charity shop. Judges decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into. Void where prohibited.

Fragments

  1. Got tagged in a twitter discussion between friends while I was asleep last night – always a weird thing to wake up to, as I sort of feel like the discussion as passed me by, and it’s not appropriate to response. The vague context for the tagging was something about how I believe all corporations are evil. The comment wasn’t meant seriously, but it did start me thinking. Must try and find the time to write up something coherent on the subject at some point.
  2. Saw a book review on-line today, for a YA book called Fair Coin. Thought “that sounds interesting, I should read that” and went to try and buy it there and then. There doesn’t appear to be a digital edition available. There’s a lost sale, right there. And while two years ago, confronted with the same thing, I’d have shrugged and moved on (and OK, that’s actually what I’m doing now, I’m hardly weeping blood about this), today this feels like publisher incompetence. There is no excuse for not having day-and-date ebook editions available any more. Two years ago, sure, the contracts for the books being published then may not have included digital rights, or the publisher may simply not have gotten it’s digital distribution deals in place. But what’s the excuse today?
  3. I really like this “distraction free” mode that’s baked into wordpress now. How long has that been there?
  4. Contemplating a very severe book purge. Anyone out there interested in acquiring complete TPB runs of Preacher, Transmet, Invisibles, etc? I haven’t decided for sure one way or the other, I’m just wondering how easy they’d be to give away? (Other than to the charity shop, of course.) I sort of suspect that most folk I know who’d be interested already own them.

Never Let It Be Said

That I can’t admit when I’m wrong.

Someone (and I suspect it was the estimable Ms Bidgood, but if anyone else would like to claim responsibility, I may be wrong – I know several of you disagreed with me) has sent me a photo/postcard. The front shows two men and a donkey. The back reads:

Thank you so much for saving my donkey, my livelihood and my friend. When I felt that Moti was not walking properly, I got worried as he is the only source of income for my family. I rushed to Brooke hospital, where the Brooke staff helped me immediately and treated my donkey. Now I am again able to fulfill the needs of my family through my lovely animal. Thank you for supporting the Brooke Hospital and helping me and donkey.

A post-it note attached simply reads: “A good reason to give to animal charities?”

Yes. Yes, I would absolutely agree that it is, and have just made a donation to Brooke myself. You can find them at http://www.thebrooke.org/ if you would like to make one yourself.

(Also, just for the record: I’m completely pro charities like the WWF. Biodiversity has huge benefits to humanity.)

Notes on Setting Up A mailserver

Incomprehensible tech gibberish to most of you, laughably simple nonsense to others, I just need to dump this lot someplace, so I remember it if/when I need to do this again and/or when I come to make tweaks over the next few weeks.

  • Postfix/Dovecot related confusion over having same domain in localdomain and in MySQL. Remember to set up so that localdomain is a domain you don’t need.
  • Remember: /etc/pam.d/smtp
  • When adding new domains, remember to add them to /etc/amavis/conf.d/05-domain_id, or SpamAssassin won’t run on them.
  • Most of the useful SpamAssassin settings have been redefined at User level. This was on purpose. Don’t forget.
  • You have self-signed the certs. When budget permits, replace them with something proper.
  • TODO: Test PHP-IMAP, and look at Postfix for post-delivery filtering.
  • Remember to check regularly for security updates.

ACTA

Anyone here not know what it is, and why you should be writing to your elected representatives to make sure it doesn’t wind up being enshrined in law wherever you are?

Short version: it’s like SOPA, but affecting everywhere, not just the US, and with less oversight, and more draconian.

If you contacted anyone about SOPA, or just wanted to and couldn’t, you should also be contacting them about ACTA, because it’s much, much scarier.

Read more about it here, and then contact your representative here, if you’re in the UK.

A Serpent Uncoiled

A Serpent Uncoiled was the best crime novel I read last year.

It has just come out in paperback, and the writer, the very lovely Mr Simon Spurrier would like your attention while he tells you all about it.

Now that you have watched his amusing movie, you must buy it at once.

(Also available in hardback, Kindle, and iBooks editions. Seriously folks, pony up the cash, you won’t regret it.)