Monday, November 24, 2008

Crazy Days

Things have been happening in the Hewitt household in the last few weeks that have made me, frankly, reluctant to blog.

As many of my mates and casual readers will know, I work for a large newspaper company (DMGT) and have recently moved to another division within the company (Northcliffe Media Ltd.). I have a new manager, with new priories, and (seemingly over night) Northcliffe Media has now decided to make a number of people redundant, of which I'm one. I'm currently going through the motions of justifying my place in the company and justifying what I do (i.e. New Media Specialist in an ever expanding online market).

Yes, I know, this sounds crazy considering a big chunk of the future for the newspapers is gonna be online/video journalism (just ask the BBC). Add to this the redesigns, plans, scoping, wire-framing, and full-blown ongoing projects that we're thick in the throws of, but it's a crazy time which clearly calls for crazy measures. I'll reserve my opinions here, pending final decisions, as to why I was one of those chosen...

I've stopped counting (at 3480) the number of British jobs lost in the past week, with big companies in print media announcing wave after wave of fresh redundancies just prior to Christmas. I work just a couple of desks from Hold the Front Page, the local journalism news site, so get to hear all the numbers first hand (and they at least seem busy). It's not pretty. The Daily Mail and General Trust says it's gotta cut 300+ positions (6%). Jobs are going all round at Northcliffe, especially in the regionals, and they are closing the Grimsby print works and splitting the load between Derby and elsewhere. It's not a good time to be job hunting either, no matter what ya industry.

I like my job. I like it a lot. It's interesting (for a 'futurist type' like myself) and I get time for research and experimentation. It's a rare thing (outside education) to have a remit that allows you to constantly look at new ways to gather and deliver the news, plus I've worked with an awesome team for nearly 6 years making some top draw Webby and BAFTA winning sites.
The 'original 3 of us' still sit together on one desk. Frankly I'd rather not go back to just SEO or video, but might just have to. I've got a lot of strings to my bow and I know this industry (and new media) pretty damn well. If things go badly I'll miss this place, and my mates here, one hell of a lot. I'll also probably miss having a roof over my head and solid food.

So, please excuse the lack of posts (see the constant barrage of Twitters for updates). I'm taking my mind off it by hitting the gym, smiling through, but speculatively cruising the agency sites in the evening and picking up more lecturing. Not much time for virtual worlds, alas, but trying to tidy stuff up there professionally just in case (please don't worry about our ongoing projects, I'll personally make sure everything is properly covered in SL etc. if the shit hits the fan).

@SparklyJem is being a star (as ever), and has a new round of costume and jewelery workshops up if you're interested. Everyone has been very kind around work.

I'll know more next Monday (in a week) when I have my next meeting to discuss all this and 'present my case'. There's a long process to go through here, and I have no intention of "going quietly into the light".

My CV is here, if you're curious. I will work for bandwidth.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dead Lively

It was only a matter of time.

Google has announced today that Lively is no more.

Hardly a shocker, they were having a sod of a job policing it and it was pretty much empty, but a shame prior to the integration of some of the other Google fringe services.

It had rapidly fallen into the same camp as
IMVU (which essentially looks the same, but they don't mind you bonking the furniture) and they were spending much of their time trying to sort out how it'd appear in search rather than improving usability or granting rating access to keep the cybersex lot out of the public eye (which is hardly Google policy, lets face it).

This whole policing issue is one Sony are going to have to face too, if there's any 'PlayStation Eye' integration in Home (good luck to 'em). After chatting with Ninian at Virtual Worlds London I was looking forward to getting GMail voice and video chat, maybe Sketch-up/Google Earth, Google docs (for collaborative working) etc., but alas integration denied.

Back to core search projects for you guys, sorry.
You users better start taking some screen shots, make some of those Facebook groups about how unfair it is and have a good moan on your blogs (but tough titty, that's just how it goes).

It was hard for us, here. We set stuff up, then the 2 project managers we set it up for just simply couldn't access it with there Google accounts, even from home, so initial positive ideas just went by the wayside. It was exciting, for a week.

What's the bet the popular press, this being Google, sees this as some sort of negative indictment of Virtual Worlds. Like we don't have enough problems...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Spontanious Virtual Silence

A few minutes before 11am today, avatars began to arrive at Tribute Island [SLURL].

This year, there was no official presence on Remembrance Day for the fallen soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom, only on Tribute Island and Debs Regents London sims, and so people gathered at our own cenotaph amongst the tribute markers to the fallen of the Gulf and Afghanistan conflicts. This wasn't something we'd planned to do, it was totally spontaneous by the avatars who showed up. Because of that, it meant so much more.

Some 24 people, English, Scottish, Dutch etc., gathered in silent contemplation and left their own virtual messages to family and friend from past and recent conflicts. I was thanked by one lady, disabled in real life, who couldn't make it to a 'real' cenotaph this year. Many commented on the value of having a space like this to share the memory, and to use Second Life for a real world purpose to raise awareness like this, lamenting the passing of the official sim. I was rather chuffed we were of help :-)

Last year the big Remembrance Day presence had been built by The Royal British Legion (in association with Rivers Run Red) who's spectacular rebuilding of the cenotaph, and a walk through poppy fields to reach it, I didn't actually get to see except on video.

At the going down of the sun, the last post played, and we stood in silent contemplation sharing the moment of respect together.

If you get the chance, come over to Tribute Island [SLURL], pick up a poppy to wear, spend a quiet moment, or rez an tribute. Today is a day for us to remember, even in a virtual world.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Time-lapse Coop

Full details over at the Big Green Switch chicken blog. Please comment over there, or on the YouTube.

Ta :-)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Cockpit Arrives

Okay, I know, I know, my job is officially strange. To add to the ongoing surreality of working in virtual worlds, with a gazillion social networks and a bunch of people who put the backstage crew of The Muppet Show to shame, I'm now proud keeper of the Big Green Switch chickens. /sighs.

A bloke arrived with a delivery from Cumfy Pets this morning, bearing 2 flat packed boxes. There was a brief issue of getting it up the ginnel at the back of the houses, it being blustery and me being in a bathrobe, but the guy dutifully did all the hard work and we are now 'avec coop'.

Kershaw is coming over on Sunday to give me a hand putting it together (hopefully with stop-motion webcam video, over a few beers, and in return for a spot of Sunday lunch). When it's finally strapped together it should look like the one up there on the left, fingers crossed, but with my notorious DIY skills we'll just have to see. It looks massive, I've lived in smaller flats. All this needs to be blogged, filmed, photographed and reviewed over the coming weeks in exchange for cheap chicken ownership. You can go there now to vote on the chickens names.

As it happens, my "
Keeping Pet Chickens" also turned up from eBay this morning so I'll give it a good shufty tonight and see if I need anything else. Maybe cross reference a few websites.

Better start looking for some chickens.

All further Big Green Switch chicken stuff will be on the purpose written blog that @SparklyJem and I will be updating from time to time (stealing the RSS feed off it to import into the main site, etc.). Please check there for details and follow it if you can :-)

In the spirit of the US elections, and for a bit of fun, we're gonna let the users of Big Green Switch pick the names of the new pets. Just nip over to the Big Green Switch site and cast ya vote before 21st of November.