Saturday, May 31, 2008

Balancing act

Balancing act
Originally uploaded by weblivz

Xavier and Francisca practicing for a future life in the circus !

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fingers in many API's

Firstly, I love API's. When you don't have an API on the web you lock much of the data users may wish to move around and share.

I have previously documented my concerns with the API/Data issues when all this data is stored (ala Google maps, facebook etc) in write-only API's and getting it back has a whole bunch of legal (often non-commercial) issues associated with it.... even tho it's YOUR data.

However, let's move away from the legal stuff for a few minutes. There is some concern at the Yahoo Maps API may have changed somewhat and more than a few users are suddenly experiencing issues with it and don't really know where to go next.

THIS is where i really DO see issues with API's on the web. You write a nice map annotation system, store all the data but suddenly the mapping API you are basing this content on breaks... and with it your business is screwed. This is of course not only an issue in mapping - it extends to any business using a 3rd party API as a core part of its application.

I had commented on a post by Dave Winer on data portability that ...
You DO need API's but they need to be balanced in a distributed sense so
you can get to your data through a common API no matter where it is. Sure,
Amazon is a solution, but in a pure web sense it would be nice if your data were
encrypted and stored in a quasi distributed fashion with storage servers YOU
decide to trust. Complex, but i don't want one person owning all my data.

In other words, i don't mind the API's as they let me get to the data... my issue is that i believe the data itself should be separate from the API's and the data should be distributed. Sure, it's a nirvana, but i'd like services to be the cool stuff that makes you use a product and not the data it holds. So if two mapping services agree on a baseline common annotation API, then i can easily switch between them if required - both of them sharing data but perhaps doing slightly different things with it.

Amazon has great web service storage services, but the first thing i did was wrote my own API that translates my requests to Amazon requests. It means in a second i can change the storage server i am using. Data replication is trickier but achievable.

We are trying out some ideas at - in the lab at the moment but we'll see how things progress, but i will be exploring how to provide an API that allows users to move the data they have anywhere they wish, even FOAF files are a nice start!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Customer Support - they have it wrong

I've recently signed up for Pipex Broadband, a service i have been using for some years (but had to changed because i moved house). It requires BT to do some work on their end and the waiting is now at 7 days (it was typically two before).

So i email customer support from the email account i used in the first place and get the reply:

In accordance with data protection laws, so that we can access your Pipex
account and advise you on your query, please forward the following information:

- Your Full name
- Your Pipex account number
- Your date of birth
- Two digits from your customer care password (If applicable)
- Your Pipex phone number
- Your address and postcode
- Your bank name
So i replied saying that with this information i a plain text email it could easily be intercepted and if so, all of the above information would be enough for someone to perform fraudlent activities as me! In short, this is insane - and BT had asked me for the same information - and others too. All this despite the fact i'm not asking THEM to send me any sensitive information (other than the status of my order).

They replied, again asking me for this data to "access" the account (which we all know is bullshit).

This is seriously wrong. There are two ways to fix this.

1. If you send from the email you originally signed up with, providing the correct reference number then you should get a response (assuming you aren't asking for anything too sensitive).

2. A private, encrypted area where you can review and send messages to the support team. Surely this is an obvoius solution to the place text email issues we have.

In short, you can't say that for data protection issues please send (in plain text) all the data you are trying to protect!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tommy Burns - Rest in Peace

Today myself and the family went early to Celtic Park to pay our respects and say goodbye to Tommy Burns - one of the most commited Celtic players of my lifetime.

I used to watch him with my Grandad on the terracing of Parkhead - Paddie Bonner, Tommy Burns, Roy Aitken, Danny McGrain (who we met at Celtic Park on Sunday) and more - Tommy Burns being particularly memorable for me as he presented me with my first football medals as a 10 year old boy. Even then the thing that stood out (other than his head of hair!) was how pleasant and unrushed he was, despite the demand of his time.

I was particularly proud of my son Xavier who, as when we did the same with Jimmy Johnstone, asked loads of questions and even held his scarf aloft for You'll Never Walk Alone. I was the same when i watched Tommy as a player.

It was also poignant for me as from where i stood i could see Tommy on the big screens in the stadium. I don't mind saying I shed a tear for the great man. It's sad but i know he is up there watching and still nervous about Thursday.

When all is said and done, i can be very proud that i have the chance to meet and chat with a true Celtic legend. It's amazing how big you realize the club is when something like this happens - people are part of the club not only when alive, but for a hell of a long time after they have gone ... you realize this when on the tour.

Tommy will now be another of those. If you know your history.

Twists and Turns, Tommy Burns - gone but never forgotten.

Friday, May 16, 2008


So i now have 15000+ people registered at

We are having some issues with a few sites but most are working great.

I put the source to the portal over at

This is based on the excellent OpenID library at

I'll be updating the provider in the coming weeks, so please download, contribute and if you speak another lanugage, you can help out there too!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Oh, What a night

Last night myself and my wife Loreto went to see Oh What a Night, a musical production starring Kid Creole.

Fantastic night, some excellent music and afterwards we went for a drink and the crew happened to be at the other table across from us too.

It's a different way of life (my cousin in Ireland works for an Irish band and tours constantly so i know what it is like), but it must be amazing to see 400 people going crazy!

Comback Trail

Not posted for quite a while for fairly good reasons. Took a bizarre reaction to some antibiotics - long story i won't go in to. It's being looked into anyway - i may post more... very frustrating period.

Still, been working for NHS developing and architecting their FAST search environment. Very powerful technology. More on that soon too.

Good to be back!