Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

Festive tidings, everyone. Things have been quiet round here as we've been slayed by the various winter viruses doing the rounds. But here he is, in a cheerful santa suit, the likes of which wont be available when the credit is really crunched. Enjoy those pointless dress-up-the-baby-novelty-purchases-and-the-like while you can, and I hope you have a good festive break.

If you're feeling really cheery, I've been involved in doing some fundraising for the baby unit at the Lister Hospital, Stevenage, and if you're looking for a xmas charidee to give a donation to, then here you go.

Mines is a brandy and babycham, come the drinks order. Merry Xmas!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Game On

Sometimes, its fun to do something a little out of your safe bubble in academia. To that end, one of my most recent papers went up today in the International Journal of Digital Curation. Called ‘Grand Theft Archive’: A Quantitative Analysis of the State of Computer Game Preservation, its co-authored with Paul Gooding, who is now the BBC Sports Librarian.

Paul did most of the research, I just helped him polish and polish and buff and polish it into good shape. A fun project for me to be involved in - and an interesting read about the issues regarding preserving our gaming heritage.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Call for Papers: Digitizing Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture

Well, I know a good few of you read this blog, so here is another project of mine for further down the line. If any readers are working on relevant research, do get in touch.

Call for Papers: Digitizing Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture

Editors Brent Nelson (University of Saskatchewan) and Melissa Terras
(University College London) invite submissions for a collection of
essays on “Digitizing Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture” to
be published in the New Technologies in Medieval and Renaissance
Studies Series edited by Ray Siemens and William Bowen.

This collection of essays will build on the accomplishments of recent
scholarship on materiality by bringing together innovative research
on the theory and praxis of digitizing material cultures from roughly
500 A.D. to 1700 A.D. Scholars of the medieval and early modern
periods have begun to pay more attention to the material world not
only as a means of cultural experience, but also as a shaping
influence upon culture and society, looking at the world of material
objects as both an area of study and a rich source of evidence for
interpreting the past. Digital media enable new ways of evoking,
representing, recovering, and simulating these materials in
non-traditional, non-textual (or para-textual) ways and present new
possibilities for recuperating and accumulating material from across
vast distances and time, enabling both preservation and comparative
analysis that is otherwise impossible or impractical. Digital
mediation also poses practical and theoretical challenges, both
logistical (such as gaining access to materials) and intellectual
(for example, the relationship between text and object). This volume
of essays will promote the deployment of digital technologies to the
study of material culture by bringing together expertise garnered
from complete and current digital projects, while looking forward to
new possibilities for digital applications; it will both take stock
of the current state of theory and practice and advance new
developments in digitization of material culture. The editors welcome
submissions from all disciplines on any research that addresses the
use of digital means for representing and investigating material
culture as expressed in such diverse areas as:

• travelers’ accounts, navigational charts and cartography
• collections and inventories
• numismatics, antiquarianism and early archaeology
• theatre and staging (props, costumes, stages, theatres)
• the visual arts of drawing, painting, sculpture, print making, and
• model making
• paper making and book printing, production, and binding
• manuscripts, emblems, and illustrations
• palimpsests and three-dimensional writing
• instruments (magic, alchemical, and scientific)
• arts and crafts
• the anatomical and cultural body

We welcome approaches that are practical and/or theoretical, general
in application or particular and project-based. Submissions should
present fresh advances in methodologies and applications of digital
technologies, including but not limited to:

• XML and databases and computational interpretation
• three-dimensional computer modeling, Second Life and virtual worlds
• virtual research environments
• mapping technology
• image capture, processing, and interpretation
• 3-D laser scanning, synchrotron, or X-ray imaging and analysis
• artificial intelligence, process modeling, and knowledge representation

Papers might address such topics and issues as:

• the value of inter-disciplinarity (as between technical and
humanist experts)
• relationships between image and object; object and text; text and image
• the metadata of material culture
• curatorial and archival practice
• mediating the material object and its textual representations
• imaging and data gathering (databases and textbases)
• the relationship between the abstract and the material text
• haptic, visual, and auditory simulation
• tools and techniques for paleographic analysis

Enquiries and proposals should be sent to brent.nelson[at]usask.ca by
10 January 2009. Complete essays of 5,000-6,000 words in length will
be due on 1 May 2009.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Mona Lisa Fail

The Europeana website was launched on the 20th November, a large european-wide digital library and archive, featuring digitised items from many major institutions.

And it promptly fell over under the weight of 10 million hits per hour.

The wierd thing about this is that the majority of people were searching for "mona lisa". (Andy Warhol famously commented, when the Mona Lisa visited New York in the 1960s, that they should have just sent a facsimile. And it seems that nowadays, that's what the Internet is delivering, and what people want to see).

It seems to reveal something about how people use digital libraries and archives. Woohoo, lots of stuff has been digitised! great! What shall we look up first? Erm..... dunno.... think of something famous that we already probably know....

As part of the LAIRAH research project, we demonstrated that some subjects were the most popular - or most requested - in digitised resources and collections. The Census, witchcraft, suffragettes, shakespeare, chaucer, WWI, WWII... I guess we can now add "Mona Lisa" to that list.

Questions. How many people wont ever come back to this website once it relaunches, given the 404? and really, how exciting is the entry on the Mona Lisa?

Thursday, 20 November 2008


There seems to be a raft of new ways to customise bags/wallpaper/think-of-a-flat-surface-you-can-stick-a-digital-image-on with your own pictures at the moment. But the one that really made me go.... "wow" is Spoonflower: print custom designed fabric on demand. Now, let me just get that sewing machine out....

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Away with the fairies

One of the great things about being in academia is the aspect of working from home, as often as you like/can. However, recently my office has just been taken over with all manner of small person's stuff, cot, etc. Where's a person to keep her books? ...Well, I'm excited to report I've just ordered a "home office" to be built at the bottom of the garden, aka "my shed". In a few weeks I'll be able to disappear off, and me and the gnomes can hang out in peace... Next up, figuring out how to make our wifi reach all the way down there.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Might As Well Face It

Just back from two weeks away, doing the grand tour of the uk relations with the Wee Man. Back home, and now glued to the internet to catch up.

Apparently, China have just formally defined Internet Addiction as a disease...
Chinese doctors released the country's first diagnostic definition of Internet addiction over the weekend, amid efforts to address an increasing number of psychological problems that reportedly result from Internet overuse.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

whats in a cover

I'm loving bookninja's competition to "rebrand" and "dumb down" book covers of classic novels.

They're Here!

Here it is! two years in the making. First thoughts - jings, thems a lot of words to be writing about images.

Have already found my first typo (the whole copy-editor-changing-the-word-losing-to-loosing thing, grrrrr)... but in general: its all smiles here. Hurrah!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Ancient Digital Classicists

There's a new book out soon about the Antikythera mechanism, called "Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World's First Computer" by Jo Marchant which looks like its worth a peek. Interesting discussion about it on the Guardian's science podcast, too.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Behind the Scenes

Over the last year or so, I've been working with Greg Crane, of the Perseus Project, on a special issue of DHQ in honour of Ross Scaife. Its going to be an impressive and hefty volume - 10 very good papers, plus detailed intro and conclusion - about "where classics will be in 2018". A potentially important roundup of the issues currently being raised about the use of information technology in classics.

We're working like daemons to get try and get the issue up by the TEI meeting in London at the start of November. If not completely finished by then, it wont be long behind. I'm really looking forward to seeing this issue up - its a very fine testament to Ross Scaife's legacy.

its almost there

Have just been told that the book has arrived in the warehouse! will see it in the next few days. eek!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Fame at last

Its all true. Especially the bit about the Dundee Cake.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Amateur Digital Edition Du Jour

The Secret Museum of Mankind
Published in 1935, the Secret Museum is a mystery book. It has no author or credits, no copyright, no date, no page numbers, no index. Published by "Manhattan House" and sold by "Metro Publications", both of New York, its "Five Volumes in One" was pure hype: it had never been released in any other form.

Advertised as "World's Greatest Collection of Strange & Secret Photographs" and marketed mainly to overheated adolescents (see the 1942 Keen ad, left), it consists of nothing but photos and captions with no further exposition.

Good example of the type of quirky digital edition only a keen amateur would put together. And what a strange imperialistic text....

Monday, 13 October 2008

Reading Online

.... and this passed me by when it came out. Excellent overview by Charles Arthur of the Guardian on why reading stuff on screen is difficult.

Underwhelmed by "e-lit"?

Interesting discussion going on over at the Guardian blog, regarding whether
the brave new world of digital literature has been largely anti-climatic.

Worth checking out the comments.

Internet Checks

We all have our set of "essential" websites we have to check first thing in the morning. Depending what mood I'm in, I'll have a sneaky peek at fffound, or http://www.booooooom.com/, (or etsy, if I'm in the mood for shopping), to see what the "creatives" are up to these days. I was particularly taken by this work by Nicolas Burrows. Sums up how I've started the day for the past 15? years...

quote of the day

... from the film "You, Me, and Everyone We Know"

Housewares Saleswoman: I think everything's gonna be computerized in twenty years.
Sylvie: Soup won't be computerized.
Housewares Saleswoman: Why not?
Sylvie (exasperated): It's a liquid!

Friday, 3 October 2008

Fun with advertising

The new advert for the Nintendo Wii on youtube is genius. Keep watching...

Monday, 29 September 2008

Say cheese, Little Birdie

In the Spring, we invested in a decent Digital SLR. Ironically, I was too busy to get to grips with it, given I was working all hours (on top of the day job) to finish the book on Digital Images before the arrival of The Wee Man. Now, I'm enjoying having the time - and a captive subject to play with - to experiment with it a little.

Photography and children go hand in hand. Susan Sontag said
Cameras go with family life. Not to take pictures of one’s children, particularly when they are small, is a sign of parental indifference… Those ghostly traces, photography, supply the presence of dispersed relatives. A family’s photograph album is generally about the extended family (Sontag 1979, On Photography, p. 8-9).

A child born today will probably have more photographs taken of them in the first year than a child born 50 years ago would have had in their lifetime, given the affordances of point-and-click digital cameras. The silent problem, though, is that folks are so lackadaisical in their approach to long term maintenance of personal digital image collections, that most of these digital images will not be around in 50 years time. Discuss.

"Official" photography of babies is still big business, even in the digital era. In the UK, a few hours after giving birth, you are accosted by the "Bounty Lady", sponsored by the government and industry, to provide you with all the forms you need to register the birth, sign up for child support benefit, and get your hands on child trust fund money. In return for all your details, you also get a bag full of samples of pampers and fairy liquid and the enviromentally-unsound like (and research shows that folk tend to stick with the brands they are presented with when their baby is first born. Kerching!). Then the Bounty Lady sticks a Digital camera in your baby's face (oooh, fancy), and for the bargain price of only £30 or so you can have a Digital print of your wee lamb. At least, I think that was the cost of the smallest package - I was still out of it, having been awake for 3 days by that point.

We smiled smugly and pointed out our range of digital cameras and camcorders which we had with us, and neglected to pay the inflated fee for the snapshot. (You'll have to be my friend on facebook to see such video classics as "Thumper throws shapes" and "Rhythm is a Dancing Baby".) Every single other new mother on the ward stumped up for the costly point and click snap.

In a few weeks, the Bounty Lady (or other commercial equivalent) is turning up to mother and baby group, again, to take a snapshot of all the babies, and charge inflated prices for photo-printed tat just in time for xmas. I'm tempted to take along the DSLR and practice my photography skills with other folk's kids for free. Then they can trot down to the interweb and get whatever they want printed up themselves at normal prices. But maybe that's not the way to win any new friends (or get a free pack of environmentally-unsound pampers). Just say cheese like everyone else...

Thought for the day

"Away with him, away with him! he speaks Latin!"

-Shakespeare, Henry V Part II.

Do You Follow?

... I've added the newfangled Blogger tool, "Following", so folk can say whether they read this blog... not sure I'll keep it up there yet. If no-one signs up, I guess I'll take it down. If too many people sign up that it gives me the fear, maybe I'll take it down.... :-)
I really should just enable google analytics on this blog and have done (although I dont know why, given that google owns blogger, that they cant let you switch on analytics automatically without grubbing around in the source code yourself).

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

the shock of the mimetic

I just watched a fascinating documentary called "The Mona Lisa Curse", by the art critic Robert Hughes. A very personal polemic about how the financial markets now own - and ruin - what we call "art", by treating it as a commodity and ignoring the underlying artistic statements, comments, and visions inherent in the work. Art is stripped down to a series of icons which now change hands again and again for exorbitant sums of money. (You can still watch this online for a few days, if you have a spare hour its worth taking a look, if just to see all the footage of the NYC art world in the 60s, and Hughes' telling off of the modern collectors who have no idea about what art is, beyond its financial value).

What has this got to do with digital humanities? Hughes traces the phenomenon of art as commodity to a world tour made by the Mona Lisa in the 1960s. I quote from the documentary

over a million americans filed past it... I had this premonition.... it managed to turn the mona lisa into a kind of 15th century television set....
in 1963, in new york, the mona lisa was now treated like a photo in a magazine, to be quickly scanned and then discarded. When Andy Warhol heard that the painting was coming to new york, he quipped "why dont they just have someone copy it and send the copy? no-one would know the difference". The work I had once so admired conjured up a nightmarish vision of the future of art. With swarms of passive art imbibers lining up to be processed by therapeutic culture shots. This glimpse into the future saw something quite real: the orgy of consumption that would tear open the art scene...

The documentary is about finances, and how money has ruined the art world. It didnt touch on modern media, really. But I wonder about this idea of reproduction and facsimile, about image and reproduction. How is digitisation any different? Is it a good thing to divorce the fetishisation of the material object from the "icon" it represents? We are now merrily creating and disseminating Warhol's copies of masterpieces (and apprenticeship-pieces) via imaging and network technologies. How are these used? what evidence is there that this furthers research and study? Are we just feeding Hughes' "passive art imbibers" via new media?

Friday, 19 September 2008

Companion to Digital Literary Studies

... is now online, here. Which should save you the £90.25 it currently is going for on Amazon for a physical copy! Well worth a read through to get an overview of how computers have been used to aid in the study and analysis of literature over the past 40? odd years.

Thursday, 18 September 2008


I popped up to Cambridge, just for the afternoon, on Tuesday, to partake in a couple of sessions at Digital Resources in the Humanities and Arts 2008.

(Those of you who know me will know its the first time I've really been out and about for about 5 months - given I've been learning to walk again - and I was pleased to be able to hobble about without even crutches for a few hours, inbetween being dropped off and picked up at the door. (Thanks, Os.) It was great to chew the fat/ shoot the breeze / smoke the peace pipe with some friends and colleagues over a coffee or two, and to see a few papers. (Thanks to Claire Warwick who gave the VERA paper, given my head is still a little addled). A nice intro back into academia. I'm not actually back from maternity leave until April, but I dont think you can really switch your brain off entirely for that long - and I have no plans to!).

But while it was grand for me on a personal level, I noticed the conference was a little.... quiet. Tumbleweedy. Some of the usual suspects weren't there, and there didnt seem to be too many non-usual suspects filling up the numbers - the attendance at the couple of sessions I went to was relatively poor. I wonder whether I hit the conference at a lull, or is this says something about the tides of our subject? Is it usual wax and wane, or are people moving onto other conferences, other topic matters, other more subject-based meetings?

I've argued before that digital humanities will be a true success when the technologies are just integrated into usual working practices within the various domains in the humanities, and there will be no need for conferences about "using computers" as people will just be using computers in the humanities, without a big hoopla. There should come a time where conferences on, say, English Lit or History will welcome those using computational methods as bona fide scholars. Is that where we are already? I suspect not yet. But DRHA felt a long way from the heady days of, say, Sheffield 2000 or Glasgow 98, which both had a large attendance, and a real buzz about the subject.

extra extra

.... the book just went to press. Calloo! Callay!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


Here is a copy of the book cover! well, the proof of the book cover. Seems like its getting more and more real! Expected publication date - end of October. Must go and check the blurb for typos now.

I am childishly excited!

Friday, 5 September 2008

Shameless Plug

... for Darkroom's new album, Some Of These Numbers Mean Something. "9 tracks of guitary synthy goodness". Nothing like some guitary electronica on a friday afternoon. (Not that I am married to one half of darkroom, or anything.....)

Friday, 29 August 2008

Ebay Art

A new exhibition opened yesterday at the Hayward:
Art Bought Online

A range of images and objects have been selected by Hayward Curatorial Associate Tom Morton and purchased from the auction site eBay.co.uk over a two-week period in August 2008. The chosen pieces reflect Britain's 'hidden' art - works that have occupied people's homes rather than the public space of a gallery, offered for sale through the democratic marketplace of the internet. View Basket comprises everything from Victorian paintings to original comic art, from customised action figures to ephemera by leading art world figures. An ever-expanding selection of works fill the gallery as new items arrive during the run of the exhibition, reflecting the project's open-ended nature. It also includes a display of the improvised and sometimes highly idiosyncratic packaging in which these items have been sent to The Hayward. When the exhibition ends the works will become part of The Hayward's archive.
Genius. Hope to get to go and see it. We have quite a collection of artworks adorning our walls from ebay - its a great place to get unusual prints for cheap. (I'd tell you the name of my favourite dealer, but you may bid the prices up....)

book corrections mark ii

... as per below, mistakes in copyediting.

Every single use of the word "pixelated" has been changed to "pixel".

cos that makes sense..... sigh....

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Busy Busy Bee

... I'm dealing with my book proofs at the moment. I have a couple of weeks to turn them around.

Which would be entirely not-a-stress, if some helpful copy-editor hadnt gone through and changed the grammar at least once on every page, to "fix" sentences until they dont make sense. And I'm having to keep an eye out for those, as well as my own typos.

They've put "the" in front of everything, for some the wierd the reason.

For example:

Original text: 40,000 books from Harvard will be digitized.

"Corrected" version: The 40,000 books from the Harvard will be digitized.


Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Photosynth redux

... is now available to try out online, and you can upload and create your own multi-photo walk-through panoramas (providing you are signed up to Windows Live). See http://photosynth.net/ . It really is the future of pulling together tagged-image content into a usable whole...

A Rubbish Poem for Scrabulous

Farewell Scrabulous
you were much used
and taught me words like Xu and Ai
and how to use double word scores effectively.
You will be missed
but maybe
now I will get more work done.

The end.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008


A great presentation from TED about Photosynth, a new system to look at digital images, which merges photos and builds VR models on the fly from underlying image data - such as all the pics on Flickr labelled with one tag. Really worth scrolling through to about 4mins in, seeing the demo with Notre Dam.

The best of times, the worst of times

The Urban Dictionary is a fascinating example of the whole web 2.0 caboodle - a dictionary of american slang written by "you". Its handy when decoding some comments left on blogs (such as gr7, rotflmao, lulz) or figuring out what the titles of British romcoms are actually referring to (I wont link to examples here, as they are invariably dubious activities of a sexual nature).

But then you see the definition of real words, like, I dunno, "feminism". And we see the trolls emerge. Are all commonly used web 2.0 sites so sexist? Misogynistic? Abusive? In this brave new t'interweb world, my heart sinks (and blood boils) that the mirror is held up to society, and the same old same old often emerges.


I've really been enjoying the Olympics, especially the cycling (go team GB. I'm not remotely patriotic in any other sporting event, apart from the Olympics. The real McHoy, indeed). And the gymnastics (I always wonder why you would bother spending the time to make a clip to put up on youtube, and not bothering to spell check?)

But surely, montages like this are what youtube was created for.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Friday, 1 August 2008

ladybird ladybird

books have just digitised lots of their children's books and put the illustrations online (following renewed interest in the illustrations over the last few years - they've become collectors items.) Naturally, you can buy prints, etc - but a fascinating collection of digitised material. Check out how the computer works...

Monday, 28 July 2008

New Search Engine on the Block

http://www.cuil.com/ is a new search engine - set up by former google employees... one to watch. Claims to be the biggest on the web - lets see if Cuil (Irish word for knowledge, prounounced "cool") gives Google a run for its money.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Seems Alive

... I'm loving this set of digitised pictures, courtesy of Cursive Buildings, which has taken stereograph pictures from New York Public Library and created simple animated gifs from them. This one shows a buffalo creating a stir in Chicago, circa 1890. More here. Original stereograph here.

Monday, 21 July 2008

You Dig

Due to other house-bound duties (involving a small friend and nursery rhymes) I'm not able to go to the dig at sunny Silchester this year, to see how the VERA (Virtual Environments for Research in Archaeology) project is coming along, but the Blog seems to suggest things are doing really well, with good uptake of digital pens and the like on site.

There's an open day on site on Wednesday 23rd July in case anyone fancies checking out what the project is trying to achieve:
To showcase the VERA project actually working on site! The excavation itself is probably the best place to show how the technology in the VERA project is actually being used. There will be the opportunity to see real life contexts being recorded and the data uploaded into the Integrated Archaeological Database.
More details here, if you feel like heading down to the dig. Weather forecast is sun! (have I just jinxed it?)

Friday, 18 July 2008

60 Meg Sensor....

The Luminous Landscape has a really good overview of the recently announced Phase One P65+, with its massive 60 Meg Sensor, including how and why it may be useful...

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Search Flickr by Colour

Multicolr Search Lab have produced a nifty little app that lets you search through 3 million "interesting" Flickr images by colour. Fun to play with - and could be useful for those colour-themed lecture slides...

Child in Mailbag

Got to love this picture from the Smithsonian's Flickr Pool. Apparently:
After parcel post service was introduced in 1913, at least two children were sent by the service. With stamps attached to their clothing, the children rode with railway and city carriers to their destination. The Postmaster General quickly issued a regulation forbidding the sending of children in the mail after hearing of those examples. [link]

Which one of them is thinking "Do Not Want" the loudest?

Friday, 11 July 2008

And more news...

It's official. I'm no longer the Lecturer in Electronic Communication at UCL SLAIS.

I'm the Senior Lecturer in Electronic Communication at UCL SLAIS.

Been a hectic couple of weeks here!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Hello World!

Anthony Robert Terras Ostler, born on Friday 27th June. That'll be me on maternity leave then - will start posting again when I catch up on the zzzzzzzzzzs......

Monday, 9 June 2008

Making like a Tree

... and leaving.

Am going to be a little quiet over the next few weeks, as I'm on leave from UCL.  Posts may be few and far between, but I'll be back....

(Image, Piet Mondrian, Gray Tree, 1911, Oil on Canvas, Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague.) 

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

UCL on iTunes

UCL has just launched a platform on iTunes, containing guest lectures, links to news, etc.

Is it ok to say I live in fear of hearing one of my lectures played back to me? I shall have to learn to watch my tongue in future, methinks...

Doing the Digital Archive

Ten years ago, I remember chatting to some of my historian chums who were undertaking doctoral research involving archival material. They would refer to it as "doing an archive": college would give them a small pot of cash, they would go somewhere for a couple of weeks and rout about an archive all hours of the day that they could, photocopying a huge stash of material, and getting boxes and boxes of facsimiles shipped back to read, analyse, and generally deal with later.

Five years or so ago, I remember researchers cackling with glee at the National Archives enlightened Digital Photography Policy: It became apparent that it was fine to take your own digital camera into TNA and create images of the documents that you needed. No scanners are allowed, for noise reasons. The reading rooms began to fill up with researchers undertaking their own mini-digitisation projects, effectively creating digital versions of material that TNA couldnt possibly digitise themself, due to issues of cost and time.

In the last couple of years, there have been some interesting developments in allowing individuals to share these resulting images, and knowledge, of archival material. Your Archives from TNA has been in beta for a while, providing a wiki based environment to allow users to submit their own material, or browse material posted by others, creating an expanding online resource. Footnote.com (a commercial, fee based website) combines original historical documents in a social networking environment, currently hosting 36.5 million images of historical documents online, submitted by the general public. Individual subscribers are encouraged to discuss, challenge, and share archival evidence.

A description of this shift towards large scale amateur digitisation, combined with social networking, was captured nicely in an article in last week's Boston Globe: Everyone's a Historian Now.

UNTIL RECENTLY, IF you were a historian and you wanted to write a fresh account of, say, the Battle of Leyte Gulf in World War II, research was a pretty straightforward business. You would pack your bags and head to the National Archives, and spend months looking for something new in the official combat reports.

Today, however, you might first do something very different: Get online and pull up any of the unofficial websites of the ships that participated in the battle - the USS Pennsylvania, for example, or the USS Washington. Lovingly maintained by former crew members and their descendants, these sites are sprawling, loosely organized repositories of photographs, personal recollections, transcribed log books, and miniature biographies of virtually every person who served on board the ship. Some of these sites even include contact information for surviving crew members and their relatives - perfect for tracking down new diaries, photographs, and letters.

Online gathering spots like these represent a potentially radical change to historical research, a craft that has changed little for decades, if not centuries. By aggregating the grass-roots knowledge and recollections of hundreds, even thousands of people, "crowdsourcing," as it's increasingly called, may transform a discipline that has long been defined and limited by the labors of a single historian toiling in the dusty archives.

The interesting question will be: how and when will academic historians start to routinely utilise these resources? The lone scholar in the ivory tower now needs good broadband.

Busted Tees

I'm loving this t-shirt from BustedTees.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Microsoft changes tack

I have to say I'm making more use of Google Books and Google Scholar than I ever thought I would - usually as an adjunct search to the methodical, traditional, chase up references in articles and books and established, bonafide indexes. Sometimes just typing in a string of related words about what you are searching for brings up new and hitherto unreferenced articles on the subject (although you have to be careful about quality and provenance, obviously).

I've never used the Microsoft Book Search service, for no real reason other than I tend not to go near MSN search.

An article in last weeks NY Times claims that Microsoft is pulling out of its digitisation program, which was meant to rival Google Books and Google Scholar (MS has so far digitised 750,000 books and indexed 80 million journal articles). It also leaves a lot of libraries in the lurch who, rather than go with the Google model of restricting search results, had chosen to be in league with Microsoft, and the Internet Archive:
Microsoft’s decision also leaves the Internet Archive, the nonprofit digital archive that was paid by Microsoft to scan books, looking for new sources of support. Several major libraries said that they had chosen to work with the Internet Archive rather than with Google, because of restrictions Google placed on the use of the new digital files.
Interesting times. Google marches forth, again. Back to the drawing board (begging tin) for some institutions.

Friday, 30 May 2008

More Fun with the Flickr API

Flickrvision plots, on a map of the world, where images have been loaded up to Flickr from. One picture appears every couple of seconds. Available as a flat map of the world (classic view), or a spinning 3D globe.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Just in time

Fun collection of pictures taken Just At The Right Time from Bling it Blog. Some are clearly staged/advertorial - but some just joyfully random.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Taking Pictures in Public Places

This week, we're working on the book cover (Digital Images for the Information Professional) and I needed some copyright free images to use. I had mocked up a cover for the publisher, which Ashgate liked, using images from Flickr available under a Creative Commons license, but its all round easier to use images you own yourself. So, since Husband was in London he kindly agreed to capture the last piece needed for a montage: a busy street scene (Oxford Street) filled with people. It will be tweaked and transformed, and most people wont be recognisable, but we needed the raw image.

Which led to an interesting discussion about photographing in public places, and photographing crowds of people (not least because of the people objecting to having a photographer standing in Oxford Street taking pictures of them. I do this myself when am featured in images, so cant complain).

On Boing Boing today, there was an interesting post about this. In the UK, there have been various concerns about the rights people have in taking pictures in public places (whereas we are the society under most surveillance from CCTV, etc). There was even a very popular petition on started on the Number 10 website about this, even though there are no real laws to stop people taking pictures at the moment. Current have produced a very interesting short documentary called "You cant picture this", by Opencircuit, about the current state of the law in taking pictures in public places: and the attitude of the police in the film demonstrates how misunderstood this area is. Well worth 6 minutes of your time.

Who knew?

... Dr Seuss coined the word "Nerd"? [link]

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Tag Galaxy

Another way to explore online images. Tag Galaxy, built using the Flickr API, allows you to explore flickr tags in a solar-system type visualisation of different planets. An interesting student thesis project.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Classic Boris

From A Don's Life:
10 things Londoners need to know about having a Classicist in County Hall [link]

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

No News is No News

For various reasons (mostly involving crutches) I'm watching far too much news in the evenings at the moment. Which is why I found this video, from Pixelsurgeon, oddly compelling. Proof that sometimes, there is just no news...

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

How to find Images

Excellent overview of how to find images on the internet, with lots of juicy links, from Random Knowledge.


Interesting rumblings in the digital humanities community about the University of Chicago's Project Bamboo: a Mellon funded, new project, described on their website:

a multi-institutional, interdisciplinary, and inter-organizational effort that brings together researchers in arts and humanities, computer scientists, information scientists, librarians, and campus information technologists to tackle the question:
How can we advance arts and humanities research through the development of shared technology services?

Looks interesting. Read the proposal which sets out their aims and objectives. A lot of money for an 18 month project to discover, you know, how we can help those arts and humanities scholarly types actually use these darn computery digitally things, and provide some infrastructure to help them. (I'm particularly loving the line:
"is the state of arts and humanities technology akin to driving in the 1890s? For many in the humanities, computers are like horseless carriages of the late 19th century..."

This may be true for some, and its an interesting proposal to sort out What Needs To Be Done to aid scholars in using computational power and tools in their research. But there is very little evidence that they've done their homework to what efforts have gone into this before, and no mention of the digital humanities community/communities (such as ADHO, ALLC, ACH, SDH/SEMI, TEI) and the hundreds of scholars already treading this path or trying to deal with the concerns raised in the proposal. No mention of things like the Methods Network, or AHDS, or any other initiatives in this area (including evidence for success, and reasons for failure). Those listed on the proposal are not the scholars you would expect, who have been working on this for years. There is no real mention on users, use, and usefulness - you can ask a bunch of academics what they *need* or *want* till they are blue in the face, but actually what they will use is generally different.

Which is not to say that this project wont come up with some interesting, and useful findings. It may very well jolt us out of our cosy digital humanities burrow, so its a case of watch this space. But its the first many of us have heard about it, and for many reasons, the words "wheel" and "reinvent" come to mind. But I'm willing to be proved wrong on that one.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Acropolis Museum

Interesting preview video of the New Acropolis museum, introduced by chairman Professor Dimitrios Pandermalis, from the BBC. [link]

Humanities Scholars and the Electronic Monograph

There's an interesting to and fro going on at the Centre for the Study of Architecture newsletter, about whether electronic monographs are a useful, feasible, achievable, or appropriate means for humanities scholars to publish their research. Discussion between Judith Winters (editor, Internet Archaeology) and Harrison Eiteljorg II (Editor, CSA) in response to an article Harrison Eiteljorg published in CSA called "The Electronic Monograph: A Scholarly Necessity or the Never-Reached
Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow?
". [link]

Ending the Empire?

Interesting overview column on who will break Google's monopoly in today's Times. [link]

Friday, 2 May 2008

Misplacing the Domesday Book

A nice animation to round off the week... what would happen if data protection policies were ignored, and the domesday book was lost....

Wills Online

Another addition to the growing amount of genealogical material appearing online - the Origins Network have recently published an index of 28,000 wills from Surrey, England, from the 15th to the 19th Centuries.

An interesting if rather hyperbolic overview appeared in the Guardian, yesterday:
A vivid snapshot of social history, the wills show the importance of small items in less plentiful times: hay, kettles, blankets, butter, bacon, grain and livestock are commonly treasured things passed on to relatives and friends. Everything from a "pair of old stockings" to "gold bodkins" is given away, although wealthier folk list luxuries such as sweetwood boxes and "my best beaver hat". [link]

(The article failed to stress that you had to subscribe (ie pay) to access them. Genealogy is big business, remember). Still, a very interesting collection - and worth a look at the overview to see the range of material available, and free access to some sample highlights which manage to capture some snapshots of thoughts and worries of the time.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Digital Classicist Summer Seminars

Interesting line up just announced for the summer lecture list of work in process papers in the Digital Classicist series. Worth trotting along to Senate House (London) for, of a friday afternoon.
Very friendly crowd, and good discussions tend to follow.

Vintage Patterns

S7659 Gallery
Originally uploaded by sandritocat
Today's random digitised ephemera is from the "Vintage Patterns" pool on Flickr (which has 885 members, 4266 images, so is a pretty impressive archive based on community input).

One of the reasons I love Flickr is the way it encourages groups of interested individuals to pool images of their collections together - creating hundreds of micro online museums/archives, many of which provide detailed and sometimes exhaustive metadata about the type of items which normally go under the institutional radar.

I love not only the history of fashion element to the vintage patterns pool, but the history of graphic art and design.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Happy Birthday Interweb

The WWW may be 15 today. Or it may not be.

Anyone for cake, anyway?

Photoshop Disasters

I'm really enjoying http://photoshopdisasters.blogspot.com/
Have you seen a truly awful piece of Photoshop work? Clumsy manipulation, senseless comping, lazy cloning and thoughtless retouching are our bread and butter. And yes, deep down, we love Photoshop.

If it is commercial and awful then please let us know!

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Right Hand on Green

Twistori is a nice little social experiment site that pulls the feed coming from twitter, highlighting posts that have the words love, hate, think, believe, feel, and wish in them. Oddly compelling.

Ted Nelson, and the WWW moving on

Interesting blog post about a recent Ted Nelson (he who coined the term "hypertext", amongst other things) lecture at Oxford Uni:
Xanadu and Nelson are perfect and unworldly. The web is imperfect and worldly... [link]

(If you are unfamiliar with the whole Xanadu saga, its worth checking out this Wired piece from a few years ago).

New fangled

1930s advice on how to use the dial telephone. Lovely.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Normal Service Shall Resume Shortly

...the book is submitted, and already in production. We're already designing the front cover, which is always fun. Before I go onto (or back to) other things, here's some interesting factoids about digital images:
  • There are more than 14 million digital images uploaded to Facebook every day [source]
  • The most common tag used on Flickr is "me" [source]
  • The phrase "picture element" has been used to describe the individual points in a bitmap since 1927, and this wasnt shortened to pixel until 1965, using the popular abbreviation "pix" used by hollywood gossip columnists [source]
  • Images could be sent over telegraph in 1843 - only three or four years after the discovery of "photography" itself. There is a hidden history of electronic, and digital images, which stretches back as far as the invention of the film camera. But you'll have to buy the book to read up on that one.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008


I've been treating myself to lots of goodies to help with finishing up the book (which means buying things online when I meet targets, and waiting for the postman each morning with a look of glee on my face). Interesting background story (including video) to the opening of the new Amazon distribution center in Wales - and the beeb has provided some good behind the scenes pics of the distribution centre, which just shows the scale of such operations.

Other online retailers are available, natch. [link]

ps - I think the Ark of the Covenant may be hidden in a crate in there, somewhere....

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Did I Mention

... I finished a draft of the book! all 103,616 words of it. Then promptly went up to Scotland for a few days r+r. Good to see some snow and some real scenery.

Now I'm knee deep in formatting, before I send it to the publishers at the end of the month. It seems that for the bibliography, when citing online references, they want the date of original publication online, the date last updated, and the date I accessed it. *sigh*. The formatting guidelines are a few years old, from back when the web was spangly and new-ish and proper academics didnt really quote from online resources.

I have over 500 online references to check.... back down the salt (silicon?) mines, one last time....

Wednesday, 26 March 2008


From "Overheard in New York":
I've decided I'm going to write a pop-up history of the ancient world, based on Herodotus. Should be great for babies. [link]

Favorite Chicken

Originally uploaded by DanMud
This article in today's guardian - about the proliferation of fried chicken establishments in the UK's high streets, reminded me of this Flickr pool, where people submit their favorite fried chicken shop fronts. A good example of digital imaging documentation of ephemera. Also, some finger-lickin rules about how to name your esteemed establishment over at bad gas, with a comprehensive gallery documenting the names of different establishments throughout the UK (with images, too).

Historians of the future, look upon these works, ye mighty, and despair.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

If I'm quiet....

... it's because I'm in the final stages of writing a book, Digital Images for the Information Professional, which will be going into press with Ashgate next month.

The last 5,000 words always seem to be the hardest. I hope to have a completed, proof read, ready to format, first draft by the end of next week. Its taken me a year to do, on top of the day job, and so far I'm very happy with how it has turned out. Just that one half-chapter to finish....

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

In Memoriam - Ross Scaife: 1960-2008

Ross Scaife, Professor of Classics at the University of Kentucky, passed away at the weekend, too young.

There's a thorough overview of his contribution to classics, and in particular, digital classics, over at Stoa.

I didnt know Ross terribly well, but whenever I did meet with him, he was always kind, generous, and overall: interested. I first corresponded with him as a Masters student, doing my MA thesis in Greek Art, and here was this professor on email willing to spend some time engaging with a foreign, unknown student they had never met. As a young scholar, whenever I bumped into him from then on at various conferences and symposiums, he was always pleased to see me, always curious, always supportive. His contribution to classics has been great - but I cannot stress enough how much I respected this approachable, kind, scholar, and how much such support meant to a young scholar figuring out how the digital could fit in with the classical.

A great loss.

The State That We Are In

An informative and amusing overview about the current flame wars happening regarding websites that dont function in IE8. Should browsers be backwards-compatible? Should web standards be adhered to? What is a web standard, anyway?
98% of the world will install IE8 and say, “It has bugs and I can’t see my sites.” They don’t give a flicking flick about your stupid religious enthusiasm for making web browsers which conform to some mythical, platonic “standard” that is not actually implemented anywhere. They don’t want to hear your stories about messy hacks. They want web browsers that work with actual web sites.

From Joel On Software (thanks Os).

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Fear and Self Loathing at the silicon face

Interesting research paper - via the Register - regarding the usage of blogs on MySpace. Apparantely,
MySpace users who blog are more prone to distress, self-loathing and ranting than MySpace users who don't blog, [link]
according to a paper published in Cyber Psychology and Behaviour entitled "Distress, Coping, and Blogging: Comparing New MySpace Users by Their Intention to Blog".

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Moon Museum

So, apparently, some wacky funsters incorporated a miniature museum into the Apollo 12 Moonlanding unit, so there is a museum of modern art on the moon. Who to believe? The joys of the interweb, keeping speculation alive.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Friday, 22 February 2008

Annotating Ancient Inscriptions

A really interesting demo by Tom Elliot (NYU) and Sean Gillies, allowing users to trace letter forms over image inscriptions using SVG. See an overview, and try it out for yourself.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

New Tech Review

Interesting review of some new, commonly available colour production technology, forwarded to me by one of my students (thanks Kim!).

Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Academy Ruins the World

... Interesting sounding piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education: "Academic Travel Causes Global Warming".

How many times have you asked yourself, 'Did I really need to fly to New York to hear that?

Of course, I sent this blog post from a long distance train.... (god bless wifi).

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Research Talk

Inbetween eBaying, I actually do some research. Yesterday headed over to Oxford for a meeting at the e-Science Research Centre about our "e-Science, Text and Technology" project, which just officially kicked off in January, so the new members of staff are hitting their stride now. Its a good team, and things are starting to move along now - hope to have something interesting to share at some point soon. The project runs for the next 3 years. No website yet - its on the to do list over the next few months.

The aim of the project is to provide computational tools to aid those in reading ancient texts, which are often damaged, abraded, and very difficult to read. We're developing image processing tools to aid in cleaning up "dirty" images, and to detect candidate handwriting strokes on difficult text, etc. We're also looking at decision maintenance systems, and how we can build a computational environment which will facilitate the reading of a document, and the documentation of that reading, so that those who come up with a reading can do so integrating the different linguistic and palaeographic datasets available, and keep a note of how and why they reached a certain interpretation. This is something which is crucially missing from the documentation of most readings of difficult texts.

Exciting stuff, huh? I'm now going to start looking at different palaeographic annotation tools which are available, so we can design our own with the best bits incorporated. (If anyone has any ideas regarding image markup tools for letter forms, or can point me to existing systems I dont know about already, do give me a shout).

Monday, 11 February 2008

Re: Negative Feedback

...as an addendum to the post, below, about the change in feedback on ebay. I've just "sold" 50 things on ebay. It looks like 48 transactions are going fine. One person has already emailed to say "sorry, I just wanted to see how high the bidding went, and I dont have any money to pay for the item". The other is quibbling about how much it costs to send a (rare, collectable) vinyl record to Finland. Both wasting my time (charges were clearly stated). And guess which ones are getting negative feedback from me?

Now imagine a world where people are able to bid up your items just for fun - and you cant say anything when they dont pay up...

On another note, I took 20 albums to the post office today. Had an interesting conversation with Joan Behind the Counter about how eBay really was the saviour of the Post Office in the UK.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Negative Feedback

I'm seriously hoping that this BBC tech story is not something that will actually happen:
Online auction site eBay has said it plans to overhaul its feedback system and will ban sellers from leaving negative comments about buyers.

EBay said problems were occurring, and slowing down trade, when buyers left negative comments about sellers who then retaliated with their own views.

Yuhuh. Thats the whole point. Its not just sellers who can be difficult - buyers can renege, refuse to pay, claim items are damaged when they are not, and generally behave like rude, thoughtless people. When you come across a buyer like this, you want to warn the rest of those trading on ebay.

I'm mostly a buyer rather than a seller, and can count on one hand the amount of difficult purchases I have made over the past 5 years, but the feedback mechanism has ensured, until now, that both sides have a fair point. At present, I'm selling almost 50 items on ebay (what a fun weekend of sitting in front of a computer): as a seller I have the right to not sell to someone with poor, low, or negative feedback. I'm selling some rare and valuable things. From now on, should I just trust the market forces to protect me (I'm not a "trader" in the market sense)? Sometimes trade needs to be slowed, and for good reason.

End Of Rant.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Pointless Interweb Fun

Having trouble communicating with the youth of today? Any webpage translated into LOLspeak at the touch of a button. For example:
digitisation= process uv creatin digital filez by scannin or otherwise convertin analogue materialz. resultin digital copy... or digital surrogate... would then b classed as digital material n then subject 2 same broad challengez involved in preservin access 2 it... as "born digital" materialz.

See this blog lolinated here. As I said, pointless, but cheery.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Where go the blogs

One of my students (thanks, Carly) just sent me an interesting link to an article/interactive illustration in Wired which plots what happens to blog posts, and how they find people:
"The Life Cycle of a Blog Post, From Servers to Spiders to Suits — to You".

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Is it just me?

Has anyone else noticed the trend for people to talk about "Digitalisation" rather than "Digitisation"? Over the past year, student essays, newspaper reports, and various websites have started using "Digitalisation" to mean the process of creating digital representation of analogue objects and media. Now, I know language shifts and changes, and to some extent, "Digitalisation" makes kinda sense - you are making something digital, right? And there is the whole digitisation/digitization argument, but lets not get into that. Instead, lets have a look at some definitions:

Digitisation: The process of creating digital files by scanning or otherwise converting analogue materials.The resulting digital copy, or digital surrogate, would then be classed as digital material and then subject to the same broad challenges involved in preserving access to it, as "born digital" materials. (From the Digital Preservation Coalition website).

Digitalisation: The administration of digitalis or one of its active constituents to a patient or an animal so that the required physiological changes occur in the body; also, the state of the body resulting from this. (From the Oxford English Dictionary).

So now you know. Spell carefully, my friends....

ps. Yes I know in the early 1960s digitalisation was also used to mean digitisation. But it settled down pretty quickly into digitisation.

pps. Yes, I know policing the interweb for spelling mistakes is a pointless task. I was only pointing out an observation...

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Your Pics and the Beeb

Something that's been intriguing me for a while is the encouragement from traditional news outlets, such as the BBC, CNN, ITV, etc for the general public to submit pictures of newsworthy items to them, via mobile phone or email.

News agencies actively solicit user generated content. You can find out how to submit your prize winning photo journalism, or just-happened-to-be-there shots, to the BBC, here. The short version is, email them to yourpics@bbc.co.uk, although beware, by submitting them you grant the BBC:
a royalty-free, non-exclusive licence to publish and otherwise use the material in any way that we want.
There are other ways to make money of Britney Spears shaving her head, should that be your want, if you find the stalking of innocent celebrities acceptable. But lets suppose that you just want to submit them to the BBC for all to see for free.

How popular is this service?

I wondered. So I asked the BBC (well, filed a Freedom of Information enquiry to their FOI office), and it goes something like this.

They dont keep stats on individual submitters, in case of data protection issues. But in general, on routine days, between 100 and 150 users will email or message in 150 to 250 images from around the globe. On days when something UK-wide happens, such as the snow flurries which covered the country on the 8th February 2007, thousands of users can contribute: in this case, the BBC received 7316 images in 24 hours.

Other peaks in contributions came with the summer floods, the Glasgow Airport terrorist attack, etc. They keep a decent archive of the yourpics contributions that are used.

(The BBC had previously reported submission of over 1000 images and 20 videos from the July 7th 2005 bombs in London, and 6500 images of the fire at the Buncefield Oil Depot, in December 2005, which was one of the largest fires in Europe since the Second World War.)

There, dont say I dont tell you anything.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

The Library of the Future Will Be

Originally uploaded by National Library of New Zealand
Sometimes, when marking essays, you come across things noted by students that have completely passed you by (but shhhh, dont tell them that). An essay on the paperless office points me to a campaign run by the National Library of New Zealand at LIANZA Conference 2007: TRANZFORM - Te Tīnihanga (9-12 September) where they placed catalogue cardswhich said "In 2017 libraries will be...." in conference packs, and asked for responses from attendees. An interesting flickr set to explore. [link]

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Flickr's commons

Flickr have just announced a project called The Commons, which they describe as

Your opportunity to contribute to describing the world's public photo collections

A pilot project with the Library of Congress,

The key goals of this pilot project are to firstly give you a taste of the hidden treasures in the huge Library of Congress collection, and secondly to how your input of a tag or two can make the collection even richer.

You're invited to help describe photographs in the Library of Congress' collection on Flickr, by adding tags or leaving comments

There are already some interesting collections up there, like News in the 1910s and 1930s-40s in Color.

It will be interesting to see the range of tags and comments people take the time to put forward (but I'm not sure that comments like "neat train picture :)" are doing much for our understanding of LOC image collections!)

A few years on but...

I'm writing a book chapter just now about personal digital image collections, and the rapidly changing (changed?) imaging environment we now utilise. I was reminded of this article by Tom Ang (a photographer and presenter who writes some very accessible introductory books to digital imaging) which featured in the guardian a couple of years ago, but still packs a punch.
In 1998, 67bn images were made worldwide. We know that because 3bn rolls of film were sold. It is impossible to be accurate, but with a world population of digital cameras exceeding a third of a billion on top of millions of film-using cameras still in use, it is likely that more pictures are taken every year than in the previous 160 years of photography put together. In addition to the other pollutions we have unleashed on ourselves, we may well have to thank digital photography for giving us image pollution.

Archaeological Anomalies

You have to love Worth1000.com (which is a daily image manipulation contest site)'s galleries. This one, "archaeological anomalies" sets out to provide the missing links between man and beast.... and the moon..... and disney... and apple...

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Random Digital Ephemera Fun

... today, is courtesy of a flickr group which collects 1960s polaroid pictures of signs in Washington. Beautiful.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

On the Radio

So, today I am off to the BBC to be interviewed (live! gulp) about my work with the Vindolanda Texts, along with Prof. Alan Bowman from the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents, University of Oxford. We'll be on "The Material World" on BBC Radio 4 at 4.30-5pm.

Of course, it had to be on a day when I am sneezing like a banshee, but I hope I can see through the lempsip fog to speak intelligently for 15 mins or so!

If you miss the program, fear not: you can listen again for a week or so, online.

update: it went well, I think, although I fear that live radio is not for me on a regular basis!

Friday, 4 January 2008

Happy New Year - out with the old, etc.

2007 saw technology march on apace. At this time of year, there are various retrospectives flying about, giving overviews of what has happened. Try the Indepedent's "The Year in Review: Technology", Technology Review's "The Year in software", Computing.co.uk's review of the most important issues in e-commerce, News.com's "year in review, picturing tech", Computerandvideo games.com's "PC Games of 2007" (other platforms are available) , ReadWriteWeb.com's "Internet TV, the year in Review", and randomly, the "Five Coolest Hacks in 2007" (courtesy of Dark Reading, via John Naughton).

Which is always tempered with crystal gazing ahoy. How will technology change our future over the next decade? Try the BBC's "Technologies on the rise in 2008" , the BBC's commentator Bill Thompson on "Cloudy visions of the future" , the Sydney Morning Herald's "Ten things that will change your future", and the Guardian's "Facebook is so last year - welcome to the hit websites of 2008".

There, that should keep you from doing some real work for a while.