Category Archives: General rubbish

Internet, I love you but you’re bringing me down

I’ve got a piece in tomorrow’s G2 on what happened when I did everything the internet told me for a day. In writing it, I came across lots of interesting/troubling articles on how the web is, well, turning. Here’s a handful of snippets…


“Left to their own devices, [the web’s] personalisation filters serve up a kind of invisible autopropaganda, indoctrinating us with our own ideas, amplifying our desire for things that are familiar, and leaving us oblivious to the dangers lurking in the dark territory of the unknown.”

Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble, CNN


“Our attention is well directed these days…  thanks to good algorithms and great curators… but it’s like a flashlight whipping around the room. Never resting, Never returning…we catch and release…”

Robin Sloan, Fish


 “Everything that makes cyberflânerie possible — solitude and individuality, anonymity and opacity, mystery and ambivalence, curiosity and risk-taking — is under assault by Facebook. And it’s not just any company: with 845 million active users worldwide, where it goes, arguably, so goes the Internet.”

Evegeny Morozov, The Death of the Cyberflâneur, NYT


“Google has become so good at meeting our desires that we spend less time discovering new ones … you can always get what you want. But you may not get what you need.”

Ian Leslie, In Search of Serendipity, The Economist


“As we start to understand how people actually use the Internet, the cyberutopian hopes of a borderless, postnational planet can look as naive as most past predictions that new technologies would transform societies… A central paradox of this connected age is that while it’s easier than ever to share information and perspectives from different parts of the world, we may be encountering a narrower picture of the world than we did in less connected days.”

Ethan Zuckerman, A Small World Afer All, Wilson Quarterly


“The internet promises the idea of actualising ourselves in an essential way, but in fact we fall victim to a much cruder kind of sorting.”

Will Self, The Internet is a false friend


“Unlike more Luddite critics, Lanier complains not that technology has taken over our lives but that it has not given us enough back in return. In place of a banquet, we’ve been given a vending machine.”

What Jason Lanier thinks of Technology, The New Yorker


“The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.”

James Whittaker, Why I left Google, MSDN



*Benji retreats to shed in garden to draw lines between torn out newspaper articles.*

Into the unknown…looking for squidgy bits

After a very enjoyable period in-house at the Guardian, I’ve decided to re-enter the freelance realm.

I’ve loved the writing… and have been a very lucky boy. My meanderings took me to nudist protest beaches in Bulgaria, candlelit shanty towns in Uruguay, ancient workshops in Istanbul and lots of other places, via dozens of TwiTrips, when the public guided me in realtime around cities across Britain and beyond. It’s also been fascinating being inside the Guardian during one of the most eventful periods in its existence, through WikiLeaks, the phone-hacking scandal, and the admirable moves towards a ‘Digital First’ strategy.

Over the last year or so, I’ve especially loved the chance to work in the squidgy bit in between editorial and technology –  experimenting with immersive video and Vimeo galleries in Tokyo, interactive city guides (which helped win Travel Website of the Year), zoomable panoramic images in the Lake District, and for one glorious afternoon, had thousands of readers playing Street Fighter II on the Guardian website (no link, don’t ask).

These editorial-developer collisions also inspired me to work on a few extra-curricular projects – Twitter mapping tool Kerouapp (as used by the Guardian here, here, and here) and news aggregator top5news (as written about here, here, here). It’s even made me want to learn a new language – I’m starting an intensive front end development course in a few weeks’ time.

I’ve become convinced that wonderful things happen when journalists and developers experiment and create things together, so that’s the direction I’m aiming in. Journalism’s current predicament – in a curious limbo between the old and the new – fascinates the crap out of me, and I want to make things in the middle of it.

If you do too, get in touch: benjilanyado[at]

I’m also available for feature writing, consultancy, weddings and barmitzvas.

Jobs: Don’t Be A Slave To Focus Groups

A fantastic read: Walter Isaacson on The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs

The bit on focus groups really caught me. Many industries and product makers obsess over the opinions of their audience and customers, and build around their desires. Give people what they want. This makes a lot of sense.

Or does it? In Jobs’ mind, this was lazy. He wanted to give people what they didn’t yet know they wanted.

“When Jobs took his original Macintosh team on its first retreat, one member asked whether they should do some market research to see what customers wanted. “No,” Jobs replied, “because customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them.” He invoked Henry Ford’s line “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’”

Caring deeply about what customers want is much different from continually asking them what they want; it requires intuition and instinct about desires that have not yet formed. “Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page,” Jobs explained.” link

Street View art: 9 Eyes

A truly wonderful selection of Street Views from Google Maps.

Amazing Polish posters

Hollywood: “Hey Poland, we’ve got a load of spare posters for this new film we’re promoting over there, you want them?”

Poland: “Nah, it’s alright thanks, we’ll make our own.”

The Empire Strikes Back

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Short Circuit 2


Breakfast at Tiffany’sWeekend at Bernie’s

Harry and the Hendersons. Yup.

The Fly

Return of the Pink Panther

The Graduate

The Blues Brothers

Raging Bull

Lots more here

And here

Drone Journalism

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This video drone footage of recent riots in Poland has been causing quite a stir. I did a bit of research into it. Turns out, doing what this enterprising Polish man did is illegal in the UK, sadly. A company based up in Yorkshire licenses them in the UK for mostly building surveyancy purposes – getting footage of hard-to-reach industrial plants, big chimneys and suchlike. This will set you back up to £2,000 a day. You also need a license to fly them, despite the fact that they are under one metre in diameter, smaller than some model aircraft. Crucially, you also can’t fly them over crowds, like our Polish friend did. Oh well, never mind.

There is, however, another way. Earlier this year a CNN journalist strapped an inexpensive camera onto an AR Parrot Drone – an iPad/iPhone controlled helicopter-type thingy invented to help users have a AR-fuelled pretend plane battle, if you’re in to that kind of thing. Anyway, the CNN journo got some wobbly, but intriguing footage of storm damage after the Tuscaloosa storm, with kit of a combined value of $550.
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Oddly, I’m not the only person who has become a little obsessed by the potential of drone journalism. The College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln established a Drone Journalism Lab in November:

In the lab, students and faculty will build drone platforms, use them in the field and research the ethical, legal and regulatory issues involved in using pilotless aircraft to do journalism. [About page]

And finally, a tutor at St Martins Scool of Art in London has been getting in on the act too:
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This stuff really seems to be taking off.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Microsoft Future Video: Wanky or Cool? I can’t decide.

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From here.