Friday, 30 July 2010

How to Avoid Twitter Embarrassment

Twitter is a social phenomenon. Millions of people use it daily, many constantly use it through the day - tweeting lots of times in an hour, in a minute and so on. Regardless of whether it has already reached its peak and users are jumping ship to micro-blogging with a bit more meat (Tumblr, Posterious, Soup etc.) or if it will continue to be a leading tool for social communication, it is not without its controversy and troubles.

A recent spat between nutritionist Gillian McKeith and good science advocate Ben Goldacre has made a few headlines in the UK. This reminded me of many other occasions where celebrities have got into some both because of throwaway tweets. It's important to remember that twitter is public. Unless you make your account private, anyone can see it. Not just your followers, not just other Twitter users but everyone with access to the Internet will be able to read it. Likewise, deleting your tweet might not also mean it's permenantly deleted. The web has a canny nack for caching and archiving itself.

There are a few things to keep in mind though when tweeting. Remember that unlike web forums or message boards, twitter can be linked back to you as a person. It is not so easy to be anonymous on Twitter. Thus, don't say something that you wouldn't be comfortable saying in public and if it's about someone/something in particular, don't say it if you would not say it to them in person. Even though you might not think they'll read it, they just might and then what will you do? There are many examples of people getting fired from jobs for posting things online that they shouldn't or professional relationships fall apart over things one party has said on Twitter.

Twitter, above all else, is a communication tool. Thus, someone is bound to read your tweet at one point or another so you must always be careful about what you say or post. Not just disparaging things, but don't post things that are too private. This cannot be stressed enough! I know for a lot of people, the Internet has become so ubiquitous that it is a part of everyday life and it is hard to see where online communication differs from offline communication. And in some respects I agree. In some respects online communication has many positives over offline communication but there are some negatives. Online communication is often with people you don't know well. Things you confide in them might not remain confidential.

Similarly, you have to be sure that the person you are talking to is actually the person you want to talk to. Many celebrities and famous people have opened Twitter accounts, many others have not. The person who you are following and think is your favorite singer or actor, might just actually be Average Joe from up the road. They don't even have to be famous, people may choose to fabricate an online persona or embellish the truth a little. Always be sure you trust the person 100% before revealing anything that you may regret telling in the future.

As much as Twitter is, it's always important to remember it is not a private IM conversation, it is very public and people just might bring you up on your tweets!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Average Global Internet Speeds

A new report by Akamai has revealed global Internet speeds. Surprisingly, the average global speed is only 1.7 Mbps, I think a lot of tech people would be beside themselves if they only had this speed. I remember when we first got the Internet at our home. Dialup at 256Kbps I think. The wonderful crackling sound of connecting - young people these days will have never heard that sound, they don't know what they're missing! I also remember visiting a relative who didn't have broadband yet a few years ago. It took about an hour to download MSN.

What is not surprising about the report is that South Korea, often regarded to have the most cutting-edge broadband technology, has the highest average Internet speed at 12Mbps but the fastest average speed for south Korea is 33Mbps! South Korea also has access to speeds of up to 100Mbps but they are too expensive.

The UK's average speed is a mere 3.8Mbps with the highest average speed by 12Mbps. The UK comes in at 27th out of 201 countries which is a pretty poor show if you ask me! I think generally, broadband speeds have plataued slightly in the UK and prices have not come down that drastically. However, there are cheaper broadband options but they are slower and better suit people's needs (I'm all for users paying for what they need, not paying too much for something they don't need).

Japan seems to be leading the way with coverage and supply though as more than half of the fastest 100 cities in the world being in Japan. Furthering the trend of Asian countries leading the broadband market, the top 3 average Internet speeds go to South Korea (12Mbps), Hong Kong (9Mbps) and Japan (7.8Mbps).

I would like to see the average Internet speed of the UK increased. Recently the UK government wanted to have a minimum broadband speed of 2Mbps for everyone (even in the remote areas of the country) but sadly this has been put on hold for the time being.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Top 5 Olympic Mascots

So, today marks exactly 2 years until the next Olympic Games which will be held by London, home of myhomepage! London 2012 is everywhere today - in all the newspapers and on the television. Lots of people are talking about and television channels are having special broadcasts from the new Olympic venue which is currently being built. I've driven past the site a few times and seen the stadium getting built. It does look very impressive! It's very round and seems quite small but I'm sure it will look amazing!

This got me thinking to the Olympic mascots - quickly becoming an integral part of the Olympic games. Have a good mascot and people will definitely notice it and pay it attention. I think a lot of companies, organizations, corporations and individuals often over look the humble mascot. Perhaps it is an old fashioned marketing idea and we are much more focused now on ubiquitus logo design, but I definitely appreciate a mascot. I think the West has moved on from the mascot but in the East, mascots are still plentiful - especially in Japan where cute characters are an integral part of a company's identity.

Mascot design is an artform in itself. As with all marketing, you have to think of the audience and the message. Mascots for different age groups or cultures should be designed different. Mascots are not just a cute way to appeal to children, they can sometimes say more about your company than website and/or logo design. They can have a voice and distinct personality that can present your company personality more accurately than through other marketing avenues. Designing the Olympic mascots must be a hard challenge as they are supposed to appeal to all men and women both young and old from all the countries around the world!

Without further adieu, here are my top 5 Olympic Mascots!

5. Sam (Los Angeles 1984)

Sam is a very fun mascot! Full of the anthropomorphologicalism that we would expect from a Disney designed character, Sam represents the US on so many levels. He invokes patriotism and kitch Americana without being too comical.

4. Hodori (Seoul 1988)

Hodori is a very cute tiger mascot from Korea. I really like this mascot because he has lots of charm and really embodies what the Olympics are about. He's competitive and eager to win but respectful! I don't think he's the best mascot though because there is very little of Korean culture in the design. He could be a tiger from anywhere - does Korea even have wild tigers? I like to think the mascots often represent some kind of the host city's/nation's culture that you can teach to the world.

3. Cobi (Barcelona 1992)

Cobi is the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He's different from the other mascots in that he sometimes wears a suit! Genius! He's based on a Catalan sheepdog and his design is inspired by Picasso's cubist paintings. There's so much culture and history in this design that makes it really interesting.

2. Wenlock and Mandeville (London 2012)

Wenlock and Mandeville are curious characters - they are apparently drops of steel incorporating subtle hints to the Olympics and Paraolympics and London. They are named after Much Wenlock - a town in the UK that hosted a games said to have inspired the modern Olympic movement - and Stock Mandeville - a hospital which was the birthplace of the Paraolympics. Their design incorporates London black taxis, the Olympic rings and cameras. Why cameras? I have no idea! But overall, I like the designs and I really like the small history lesson we get!

1. Fuwa (Beijing 2008)

There were 5 mascots the Beijing Olympics - I can't think of Games that had as many mascots! They are called Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying and Nini. Their names from the phrase: 'Beijing Huanying Ni' which translates as 'Beijing Welcomes You' (repeating a word for a name is considered diminutive). Each mascot is a different color of one of the five rings and each are infused with a lot of Chinese symbolism. Granted, a lot of people will not know what the designs symbolise but I think overally these are my favourite mascots. They are cute and each one has a distinct personality which means they appeal to lots of different people whilst also reflecting the ideas behind the Olympic games.

I hope you enjoyed this short look at the Olympic mascots and mascot design in general. I could never design a mascot but I do think a well designed mascot really makes a difference!

Monday, 26 July 2010

5 Inspirational Blog Designs

Digital design is something that I really enjoy. I've been ssaving gifs and jpegs for well over ten years now. I first started in PaintShop Pro before moving onto Photoshop which has been my program of choice ever since. As with anything, digital design has seen various trends come and go. The specific online communities I was a part of had their own design trends as well. Prolific use of boxes and squares, juxtapositions of medieval typefaces with brushes of swirls and stars and vectors were all strong fashionable phases for a while. Of course, different online communities had different trends and it was always interesting for me to visit websites of different interests and see how tastes and identities differed.

Check out these inspirational blog designs which I think are practical and beautiful (ultimately the two key goals for designing a blog).

1. N.Design Studio

I think this blog design is exquisite. Toronto based Nick La's careful choice of peach with the vibrant purples and blues make for beautiful design that takes inspiration from Asian art whilst carefully giving it a modern design twist. The koi fish is brilliantly juxtaposed with the title. When I first saw this design, it really changed my idea of what a blog design should be like. I especially like how organic the design is, yet it is coupled with a serif font which gives it a more controlled, authorative contrast.

2. Blog.SpoonGraphics

Chris Spooner hails from the UK and has a really nice design for his blog. It's less organic than the previous one and has more vector shapes but again, it features textured patterns and has hand-drawn elements. I particularly like designs that have this natural feel to them, that haven't necessarily been created in two seconds in Photoshop or can easily be replicated by someone else. The choice of browns and natural colors is a brave one but I think it works well. Ultimately it's different from a lot of other blogs by having a muted palette. However, this blog really shines for all the fun, free tutorials Chris offers!

3. Douglas Menezes' Blog

This design (from Brazilian graphic designer Douglas Menezes), is all about color and shape. But mostly color. I have a love/relationship with color. To be honest, I feel my color knowledge in digital design is probably my weakest skill. I don't think I always pick the best colors or palettes for digital work which often makes my designs falter. Douglas' design picks up color and goes running with it full steam ahead! The vibrant hues of fuschia and turquoise go extremely well together. The bold graphic at the top is then highlighted with color accents in the content. Similarly, the design is held together with personal illustrations and some more clever use of texture that compliments, not subtracts, the overall design.

4. ilovecolors

ilovecolors is a brilliant blog from Elio based in Argentina. Unlike the other blogs in this list, his design is quite dark yet is highlighted well with strong, high-contrast colors. It has similar design elements to others in this list, textured backgrounds with organic forms. I think this blog shows how you can take a design theme with similar elements but subtle changes can really make it stand out.

5. BestBlogBox

BestBlogBox is owned by Linda (also from Brazil) and it shows a softer side to design. The misty pinks, purples and golds make for a very pretty layout but it is complimented well with a myriad of other elements (pencils, pens, flowers, html code etc.). This design has great depth and there are elements that you don't see the first time you visit the blog. A very clever piece of art that reveals more as you look at it for longer.

In conclusion I think there is a definite trend in the design world for contrasts and juxtapositions. The nude, natural colors contrasted with bright, vidid shades. Similarly, texture is playing a huge part in design. It wasn't that long ago that a lot of things were designed with simplicity and cleaness (although these are still very popular trends). At the end of the day, the blogs I have listed here are very small example of the world of blog designs and you will find countless well design blogs which will very different

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Facebook Hits 500 Million Users

Facebook recently announced that they have passed the 500 millionth registration. To put that into some context, that's 7% of the global population and 25% of Internet users. That's crazy! The BBC has a lot of interesting data too.

Facebook continues to see the largest growth of all social network sites, however it's also good news for Twitter, Orkut and LinkedIn. Sadly MySpace, Flickr, Bebo and Friends Reunited are not adapting quickly enough to Facebook's dominance. Do you remember Friends Reunited? A few years ago, when I was just a wee young whipper snapper it was all the rage! I was still at school at the time and a bit young to use it so the Friends Reunited fad went right over my head but I can remember my mum and her friends always going on about it. Friends Reunited can obviously be seen a pre-cursor to Facebook. Facebook was original only for university students. I think when it first opened you could only speak to someone in the same university as you. Imagine if it went down a more academic road? We'd all be swapping class notes on Facebook - maybe even having study sessions and revision workshops on there!

What else is really interesting is the comparison between Facebook and other social networks in specific countries. The BBC only gives data for US, UK, Brazil, Australia, Germany, Spain and Italy and it would be interesting to see Facebook fairs in Russia, China, India etc. (i.e. less Western-centric). Amazingly, Facebook has 127 million users in the United States, that's 41% of the population, 54% of the internet population. That means, for every 2 users of the internet in the US, 1 has a Facebook account. Isn't that crazy? In the UK, 24.2 million people have a Facebook account. That translates to 51.8% of UK internet users. That similarly equates to 40% of the population (based on recent population estimates).

Furthermore, the amount of time spent on Facebook per month has also gone up. In the US it has gone up by approximately 1 hour 20 minutes to 6 hours~. Whilst in the UK it has only gone up 20 minutes to 6 hours 10 minutes~. Interestingly Australia has seen Facebook usage nearly double to 7 hours 10 minutes~. This suggests we are increasingly becoming dependent on Facebook as a source of communication and/or entertainment. With the games industry on Facebook going from micro-transaction strength to strength and Facebook's rollout of being able to just about "Like" anything you see on the web, I wonder when the tail-off point will be reached?

What I find most interesting about the data is Brazil (arguably the least Western country examined) does not have Facebook as the number 1 social network. That honor goes to Orkut, Google's answer to Facebook. Orkut is somewhat popular but it has very niche markets - South America, Asia etc. Has Google made a smart move going after these new markets? I think quite possibly yes. The populations of many South American and Asian countries dwarf North American and European countries.

If a social network site can get a similar 40% of China's population registered, that would equate to 535,445,187 users. Leap frogging over Facebook as the world's most popular social network and with just 1 country! That's not to say that such an achievement would be easy to attain, I'm sure there are many cultural and technical difficulties to overcome when entering very different markets.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

How The World Spends Its Time Online

Visual Economics recently released an infographic detailing how the world spends its time on the Internet. I really love infographics, not only because they make statistics interesting but also because I think some can look really beautiful.

I found this data very interesting. Apparently the general population does not use the Internet that much and a very small percentage use the Internet for tasks considered stalwarts of the web. For example, in America, only 5% will play online videogames or buy something online every day. Even more interesting I find that only 10% read blogs daily and only 15% will use social networking sites daily. That's pretty crazy if you ask me! I thought everyone used social networks a lot? The dawn of the web 2.0 era has seen the web go social network mad. Now everything is a social network! Of course, email is very popular (45% of users email daily) but with the Internet often regarded as a human right, the modern world's greatest invention and so on, it's surprising that not everyone uses it daily.

Of course, as a tech feek I probably use the Internet more than the non-tech inclined. I use the Internet more than any other means of entertainment. I watch television throughthe Internet, play videogames, write blogs, read blogs, read up information, engage in online social networking etc. Of course, it's always important to lead a balanced life so I make sure I have a lot of offline interests too. What's really interesting though is many industries are saying the Internet has resulted in a huge loss of revenue and they are struggling to meet the market demands of the web. However, only 30% read the news from the Internet. This is very interesting as perhaps it shows people still prefer traditional methods of receiving the news (television, newspapers, radio and so on).

Nonetheless, this information really does surprise me. What's not surprising is that 40% of people search on the Internet daily. Shockingly, the top 10 search terms are often made up of the most common and simple domains. For example, people searchfor 'Facebook' rather than typing it in their address bar or having a bookmark. It might seem only a couple more seconds of time wasted by multiple that by however many websites people visit, over however many days/months/years and you're looking at a stretch of time that could be used elsewhere! Why not try It's a free online password manager, bookmarking tool and personalized homepage.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Google Releases App Inventor for Android

In an innovative new move, Google have released an online app inventor application that allows non-programmers to create apps for Google's Android platform. Here's what Google have to say about it:

"You can build just about any app you can imagine with App Inventor. Often people begin by building games like WhackAMole or games that let you draw funny pictures on your friend's faces. You can even make use of the phone's sensors to move a ball through a maze based on tilting the phone.

But app building is not limited to simple games. You can also build apps that inform and educate. You can create a quiz app to help you and your classmates study for a test. With Android's text-to-speech capabilities, you can even have the phone ask the questions aloud.

To use App Inventor, you do not need to be a developer. App Inventor requires NO programming knowledge. This is because instead of writing code, you visually design the way the app looks and use blocks to specify the app's behavior."

Here's a video of it in action:

This is an amazing step forward in the apps market. Up until now, whilst the apps market has been open to carying degrees (with different platforms allowing more creative/programming freedom than others), this is a hgue step forward and is definitely a smart move by Google.

I guess a lot of people might be scepticle and maybe even some programmers are annoyed at this new development, however I think it's a great idea and will no doubt inspire a whole new generation to take up programming. A lot of children, teenagers and young people really enjoy making things; I remember my first steps into HTML via Homestead and Geocities. From there I went on to learnt HTML, CSS and Photoshop. Whilst I doubt people will learn actual coding through this, it just might be the first initial step for kids to get interested and then go on to learn programing languages and I'm all for education within the tech industry.

They also have a lot of tutorials but as yet you can't just register and start making apps. It seems like Google are vetting registrations or maybe there's a waiting list?

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Solar Revolution

In 1447, Leonardo Da Vinci predicted the world would one day experience a solar industrialization. While we still rely heavily on gas, fossil fuels, and coal for energy today, solar energy is becoming more prevalent. I just read an interesting article in Discovery Magazine about a solar-powered plane that flew for twenty-six consecutive hours. The plane, covered by 12,000 solar cells, touched down in Switzerland this morning after flying through the night on battery reserves. Betrand Piccard, the aircraft’s owner, now has his sights on flying the solar plane around the Globe. Should the venture prove successful, the plane may revolutionize air travel in coming decades.

The article sparked my interest to learn more about solar energy. Contrary to popular belief, solar energy consists of more than capturing heat from the sun’s rays. Wind, biomass, and hydropower are all forms of solar energy, as the heat from the sun drives global wind, rain, and weather patterns.

Solar energy has tremendous potential. Not only will solar energy decrease civilization’s dependence on unsustainable energy forms, it can overwhelmingly exceed energy demands throughout the globe. Currently, the earth receives more energy from the sun in just one hour than the world uses in a whole year. According to, if the Australians captured just 15% of the solar energy on their continent, their energy supply would surpass demand by 2000%.

Though solar energy currently requires substantial financial investments, expect to see more solar panels in the coming years. Shell Oil predicts solar energy will provide 50% of the Earth’s energy by 2040. I’m excited to see how solar energy will transform every-day life in years to come. Who knows, maybe I’ll even fly on a sun-powered airplane one day!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Longtail

Royal Pingdom has a very interesting article released today about the longtail of the Internet and the relative unique visits traffic. They only collected data from the top 1,000 websites (Google and its propoerties are omitted because the data collected is based on Google's data and they do not release information regarding their own websites) but it is fascinating to see. Mostly because the dichotomy of the top ten and the rest of the Internet.

Here is some data from the article:

* To become a top 1,000 website you need at least 4.1 million visitors per month.

* To become a top 500 website you need at least 7.4 million visitors per month.

* To become a top 100 website you need at least 22 million visitors per month.

* To become a top 50 website you need at least 41 million visitors per month.

* To become a top 10 website you need at least 230 million visitors per month.

* To become the number 1 website in the world? Then you need more than 540 million visitors per month.

This is unique visitors as well. This is truly amazing. A website in the top 1,000 will have less than 1% of the traffic of the most popular website. Obviously, it should be noted that traffic reporting on the Internet is notoriously difficult and I don't quite believe any service offers a 100% accurate count, but the numbers speak for themselves.

How does this relate to myhomepage? Well, one of the goals for myhomepage is to directly address the longtail. There are millions of websites on the web - more than you would ever be able to visit in a life time (a lot you might rightly not want to visit). We have also visited websites that we will never visit again but there are a lot of websites that we seldom visit but often try to find again some time later. With myhomepage, you have the option of bookmarking these very websites! Similarly, a lot of time is spent re-registering for a website you have already registered for, simply because you cannot remember your login details. With myhomepage, you can easily save your username and password for the site. So, if you do want to visit that website again, you can easily find it in your myhomepage account and also log into it with minimal hassle and annoyance!