28 September 2008

Twestival Twestival Twestival

@bmje got there first by describing Twestival as a "real tweet" and Mike Butcher has written an excellent post highlighting the raw energy of the event and compared it to the staid proceedings the night before for VC of the year awards, but having taken my trusty flip along to this cracking event, I thought a bit of video blogging was in order and this is the first chance I've had following a busy week and weekend (Wednesday night was Bootlaw, Friday was Minibar - parents' 40th wedding anniversary - and sunshine - this weekend). Even so, I only managed this VERY rough cut with nothing fancy going on such as subtitles...

People to look out for include Benjamin Ellis (@bmje - he has been warned), Jake Stroud (aka Stride aka @jstride), Amanda Rose (@amandita), mad bloke from Geneva (@nuts!) who has sent 36000 tweets, Nick Halstead (@nickhalstead) and Sophie Cox (@sophiecox) discussing the meaning of Twestival, @mbites bidding for a book - and the best bit of all, the live performance by @Ihatemornings - brilliant musician Ben Walker - of the Twitter Song, who kindly gave me permission to upload this footage. Also, bits of Hermione (@hermioneway) dancing a bit madly.

and bits of yours truly - @danversbaillieu

26 September 2008

David Milliband - Separated at birth?

I have just started watching Prison Break on iTunes (having loaded up my iPod for the trip to NYC - but never had time to watch the stuff I put on it). Is it just me, or does the lead actor, Wentworth Miller, really look like David Milliband?


You tell me.

22 September 2008

The Cognitive Surplus

Last week Clay Shirky was at Web 2.0 in NYC but I missed his keynote. Looking for it on Blip.tv, I ended up watching his keynote to the same conference in SF in the Spring. It strikes a chord with me - particularly as it explains that, amongst other things, this blog is a result of the "cognitive surplus" being put to better use than watching TV - although I do have the Ryder Cup highlights on in the background as I type this, so I am not sure where that leaves us. However, if you have got a spare 15 minutes (and according to Clay, you certainly do), I would recommend you watch it also:

20 September 2008

Digital Mission - The Movie

At the suggestion of Hermione Way, who recently declared me to be a "cool lawyer" I purchased a Flip camera last week when I was in New York. I managed to grab a few seconds with some of the Digital Mission companies - and here is the result. Many thanks especially to Sam Michel and his team at Chinwag for organising such a great week.

16 September 2008

Digital Mission and when good government is above party politics

This week I am lucky enough to be in New York with 21 British companies who are taking part in Digitial Mission 08. We are hitting the Web 2.0 Expo tomorrow and have already been furiously networking with New York's techno-, digi- and glitterati - and sacrificing our livers for the cause of British exports. You can find out more on the Chinwag Blog, or follow @digitalmission on Twitter for more stories from the front line.

Digital Mission has been promoted by UKTI and has direct support from Tom Watson MP, junior Cabinet Office Minister and notable political blogger and twitterer.

I was pleased to have a chance to meet Tom before the Mission got properly underway, having got to NYC a few hours before the main group, a few of us headed to the rooftop bar at the Hudson Hotel and downed one or two beers whilst admiring the sparkling city above and beneath us. Anyone interested in the power of Web 2.0 - not just social networking, but better web applications - to improve government and society should be reassured that someone like Tom is in government and trying to do something with this revolutionary technology. His enthusiasm in describing the project which resulted in the excellent web service for car tax discs online - or his excitement at having met Clay Shirky earlier that day- is truly refreshing- even for a "raging Tory" such as me.


Tom Watson MP address the Digital Mission crew - DB listening intently
Photo from Flikr (Benjamin Ellis) Some rights reserved

The fact that he engenders such loathing amongst the Tory blogosphere (take this example from Iain Dale - particularly the comments) is no doubt because he is capable of being an old school political bruiser - and could certainly pass for a nightclub bouncer. These skills are probably highly valued by Gordon Brown who apparently calls him at all sorts of anti-social hours, and have resulted in his "enforcer" role in government. But, he is clearly very bright and passionate about good government in a way that transcends party politics - there is nothing right or left wing about Web 2.0 in government - and for that I am glad he is in a position of influence. Not to say of course, that I will not hesitate to help the Tories depose him and the rest of the sorry lot currently in power... funny thing politics.

UPDATE - Tom thank you for the comment, however, my name is Danvers, not David....

01 September 2008

Reforming the congestion charge

Followers of this blog will know that I have a minor obsession with the workings of London's congestion charge regime. Recently, I have had the relatively pain free experience of moving my resident's discount over to a new car (although there seemed to be no practical way of not getting charged for at least one of the cars on the change over day itself, which seemed a bit unfair), so am feeling relatively well disposed to the process side of the charge, even though I remain opposed to it in principle.

You can therefore imagine my excitement when I saw today that our great mayor, Boris, has started the consultation exercise about the reform of the western zone (press release here). Not that I mind that the leaflet is written in turgid civil service prose, rather than in a more elegant style befitting Boris, but I am sorry to see that the options for reform are so unimaginative.

They are:

1. Introducing payment accounts (applying to the whole zone).
2. Introduce a free period for the Western zone between 11am and 2pm.
3. Increase the resident's discount to 100%.

Item 1 (payment accounts) is a no brainer, was floated during the mayoral elections, and not really anything to do with the Western zone (although no doubt Boris agrees, but is slipping this idea in so he can make the reform and have it covered by this consultation).

Item 2 (free period) is no doubt a sop to businesses and residents who are annoyed by the cost of the zone being passed onto them by their own business visitors. However, it would make the system fiendishly complicated and raises the spectre of cars queuing up outside the zone just before 11am, then racing around to get out by 2pm. In any case, lunchtime is just a busy as any other time (certainly in the centre of town) and the 3 hour window proposed would not be enough time for the delivery drivers, plumbers, builders and others who need to travel by car or van to complete their business.

Item 3 (100% discount), would be nice - especially for those residents who are at work all day and rarely drive their car during the charging hours, but at most represents a £200 tax cut. It does not really address the issues caused by the zone covering such a large residential area.

My main gripe with the zone is that if you live in the zone (as I do, by a matter of metres), it is very annoying that visitors (whether friends, family or tradesmen) have to pay £8 to drive to your house in the day, regardless of how long they wish to stay in the zone. In the case of tradesmen, invariably they seek to pass this cost onto you (along with parking). Given I am trying to move out of the zone, and will lose the discount, I am equally conscious of the unfairness of having to pay £8 per day simply for wanting to visit some shops or other businesses just within the zone, when it is free to drive to those just outside. I also think it is mad that by living in the western zone, your resident's discount applies to the whole zone.

So here are a few of my ideas:

1. Cut the rate in the west: down to £2 or £3 per day. This would be an incentive for some drivers to avoid it (if they can), but not a huge penalty on those who really need to go in.

2. Resident's vouchers: Allow residents to pay the charge (at a nominal rate, say £1 per day) for one "guest" vehicle per day. Limits could be imposed (i.e. max number of days in total or per guest) or intelligent monitoring to prevent abuse and "congestion arbitrage".

3. A bigger, more flexible buffer: As well as cutting the discount to residents in the western zone for the original, central zone, I would introduce a series of "neighbour zones" so that residents within a mile or so of the western zone would get a hefty (e.g. 75%) discount, radiating outwards for several miles in stages until you got to a much lower discount. This would soften the blow on businesses as their local trade would not be so penalised.

4. A measured approach: if users can have payment accounts, why not allow them to pay by the amount of time spent in the zone, say £1 per hour up to a maximum of £8? This can easily be measured by using the current equipment as entry and departure from the zone is carefully monitored. Surely it is far fairer that a driver who nips into the zone for a few minutes is charged less than someone who spends the day (and make it so a 10 minute trip in the zone is free, so that "accidental" visitors are not penalised). This would also allow for the abolition of the free routes through the zone.

If I think of any more, I will put them up here, but in the meantime, I will try submitting them through the online consultation engine.