1. A lot of Tom Hanks and a soupçon of Scary Spice

    Tom Hanks

    I have now rated 411 films on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). From ‘Star Trek: Nemesis’ in January 2003 to ‘High Society’ last weekend.

    IMDb allow you to rate films out of 10. If I think a film’s good, I give it 7, very good films get an 8, remarkable films get a 9, and the best films ever get 10. In the other direction, an OK film gets 6, a not very good film gets a 5, an appalling film gets 4 and the world’s worst films get a 3. I’ve not given any scores lower than a 3.

    The Bad

    There are two films I’ve given 3/10 to. One is ‘The Final Destination’, which I watched at a friend’s house. It’s gruesome and horrible and I spent most of the film playing with my phone. I know it’s only cartoon violence, but it was abysmal. The other film I’ve given 3/10 to is ‘The Da Vinci Code’. I love Tom Hanks. I love Audrey Tautou. But. I think the reason I hated it so much was I’d only just read the book. So every scene that was different in the film to the book rankled with me. In the book, they go to the British Library. In the film, Mme Tatou is on the top deck of a London bus and borrows some chap’s mobile phone to look the up information they need online. Gah!

    Some of the other films I’ve given a 4 or a 5 to include ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’ (my best friend’s favourite film) and ‘You’ve Got Mail’ (I do like Tom Hanks, honestly!). Not even Halle Berry in swimwear could save ‘Die Another Day’, and someone should have saved Kirsten Dunst from making ‘Marie Antoinette’.

    The Good

    On the positives, the two films I’ve given 10/10 to are ‘Big’ - see, I told you I liked Tom Hanks - and ‘Walk the Line’, which I went to see at the cinema and came out open-mouthed at how great Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon were. I’ve not seen it since as I’m afraid that I may not find it as great second-time round.

    Some of the films I’ve given 9/10 are the original 1955 version of The Ladykillers and the very unknown Christian Slater and Mary Stuart Masterson romantic comedy ‘Bed of Roses’. And I seem to love films set in Paris - well, I love Paris - including Billy Crystal and Debra Winger in ‘Forget Paris’, 2011’s glorious ‘Hugo’, ‘Angel-A’ starring Rie Rasmussen and Jamel Debbouze, and the brilliantly dark ‘Max mon amour’ where Charlotte Rampling plays the wife of a British diplomat who takes a chimpanzee as a lover. Honest.

    The Ugly?

    Downloading all my ratings, I’ve looked at the difference between my rating and the average rating of all IMDb users. So I can see the films I loved and hated more/less than the average person.

    Apart from ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (see above), the films I hated the most compared to other people were ‘The Double Life of Veronique’ (I rated it 2.9 points lower than the average score - me 5, IMDb users 7.9 - and I can’t remember anything about it now). I was also 2.9 points lower than the average IMDb user (me 6, IMDb users 8.9) about ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’. I really didn’t think a huge amount of the LotR films.

    The film I liked the most compared to others will be controversial. The average IMDb user gave it 3.2/10. I gave it 7/10. And that film is ‘Spice World’. Yes, it’s no ‘Citizen Kane’, but as films about pop bands with a good script and some great cameos go, it’s good.

    And I don’t care what you think.

    Picture credit: ‘Tom Hanks' by flickr user Thomas Hawk, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license

  2. My #uktrain stats for 2013

    As a big fan of travelling by train, I kept a spreadsheet of all my rail journeys. In 2013, I travelled 17,843.95 miles in 391 journeys.

    Longest single journey: 306 miles and 29 chains, Leeds to Arbroath

    Shortest single journey: 59 chains (0.74 miles) Saltaire-Shipley

    Most miles in a day: 14 September 2013: 638 miles and 43 chains: Guiseley-Leeds-Montrose-York-Leeds

    Earliest train caught: 0425 Leeds-Manchester Airport (going to the airport to go to Slovenia)

    Latest train caught: 2316 Leeds-Guiseley

    Journeys by train operating company:

    • Northern 203
    • East Coast 72
    • Southeastern 59
    • Transpennine Express 17
    • East Midlands Trains 10
    • CrossCountry 7
    • Grand Central 7
    • First Capital Connect 4
    • London Overground 3
    • Arriva Trains Wales 2
    • Merseyrail 2
    • Southern 2
    • First Capital Connect/Southeastern 1
    • South West Trains 1
    • Virgin Trains 1

    Stations used the most (number of arrivals and departures):

    • Leeds 212
    • Guiseley 121
    • London Kings Cross 51
    • London St Pancras International 45
    • Canterbury West 33
    • Bradford Interchange 28
    • Shipley 26
    • Faversham 23
    • Bradford Forster Square 19
    • Doncaster 19
    • Halifax 19
    • Sowerby Bridge 19

    Stations used the least (one journey, either a departure or an arrival):

    • Baildon
    • City Thameslink
    • Elephant and Castle
    • Farringdon
    • Highbury and Islington
    • Hoxton
    • Liverpool James Street
    • London Euston
    • London Waterloo
    • Manchester Oxford Road
    • Mytholmroyd
    • New Barnet

  3. Have @Nominet quietly screwed over a number of charities?

    Nominet, the organisation which controls .uk domain names, is launching .uk domain name registrations at the second level. This means that there’ll be domains such as example.uk, bbc.uk, brentfordnylons.uk etc.

    After a consultation, Nominet have changed how they will offer the .uk domains to those who own existing .co.uk, .org.uk, .net.uk etc domains. This could impact on charities.

    In their press release on 1 July 2013, Nominet said:

    "A ‘right of first refusal’ would give registrants of existing .uk domain names at the third level (e.g. .co.uk, .me.uk, .org.uk etc) the opportunity to secure the corresponding registration at the second level. In the event of two competing claims, the oldest current, continuous registration would be given priority. The proposal is to run the right of first refusal for a 6 month period from launch."

    When I read it at the time, it seemed to be a fair way of doing it. Many charities bought their .org.uk domain in the 1990s before cybersquatting was a big thing. They may not have thought that buying the .co.uk domain equivalent was important. Or couldn’t afford it. Or they weren’t going to waste money in 1995 if they were unsure how this ‘internet’ thing was going to turn out.

    Now, in their press release on 20 November 2013, Nominet have changed the proposal:

    "In the small proportion of instances where there could be competition – e.g. where one person holds example.co.uk and another holds example.org.uk – the shorter domain will be offered to the .co.uk registrant."

    The Nominet board made this change at their meetings on 29 October and 12 November 2013 [PDF]. They said:

    "Granting Right of Refusal to existing .co.uk registrants has the advantage that it is a clear message to communicate to end-users and registrants and is operationally much simpler for registrars who, on our previous proposal, would have had to verify time stamp data to assess which was the oldest registration in cases of contention. The actual impact of this change is proportionately fairly small, as the majority of .co.uk holders in contention sets are also the holder of the oldest continuously registered domain. Changing the Right Of Refusal to .co.uk, combined with the extension of the reservation period to five years, in our view substantially mitigates the costs and risks around confusion. It recognises that many perceive the ‘natural’ linkage of domains as being example.co.uk and example.uk."

    Examples of how this change will affect some charities:

    British Heart Foundation has owned bhf.org.uk since before 1996. Barclays Bank have owned bhf.co.uk since 1998 and it’s completely offline. Barclays will now be automatically given first refusal on bhf.uk. Before Nominet changed their proposal, the British Heart Foundation were to be given first refusal.

    The Citizens Advice Bureau has owned adviceguide.org.uk since 1999. A private individual has owned advice guide.co.uk since 2003 and uses it to sell ads. The ad site will now be automatically given first refusal on adviceguide.uk, whereas before the CAB were to be given first refusal.

    The Stroke Association has owned stroke.org.uk since 1997. A private individual had owned stroke.co.uk since 2001 and it redirects to a different domain name which is a sex toys and lingerie retailer. The erotica store will now automatically be given first refusal on stroke.uk, whereas before the Stroke Association were to be given first refusal.

    The MS Society has owned mssociety.org.uk since before 1996. A private individual has owned mssociety.co.uk since 2004 and it’s completely offline. This private individual will now be automatically given first refusal on mssociety.uk, whereas before the MS Society were to be given first refusal.

    The reason I’m writing about this is that my own charity will be affected. Epilepsy Action has owned epilepsy.org.uk since before 1996. A company who sell ads have owned epilepsy.co.uk since 1997. The ad site will now automatically be given first refusal on epilepsy.uk, whereas before Epilepsy Action were to be given first refusal.

    If you’re a charity, check to see who owns the .co.uk version of your domain. If it’s not you, and you bought yours first, you’ll no longer be getting first refusal on the .uk domain. I hope the decision is reversible. The original proposal was the fairest.  I hope Nominet will consider returning the way the new .uk domains are developed back to the original proposal.

  4. A mini-rant about people trying to tell you when the best time to post on social media is

    I’m starting to get really bored of all ‘The best time to post on Facebook/Twitter’ blog posts that analytics companies push out.

    They collate a lot of data and say stuff like ‘You should post at 4pm on Wednesdays, but 4.30pm if it’s raining’.

    Every social network and every social network profile is different. It’s like writing a ‘The best time to open your shop’ post. If your shop sells newspapers, then 7am may be the best time. If your shop sells sandwiches, then 12 noon may be the best time. If your shop sells beer, 8pm may be the best time.

    The important thing is what’s right for you and your organisation.

    Facebook gives you Insights and on Twitter you can use things like Tweriod. Use them, see what’s right for your organisation and your set of followers or fans.

    “You’ve got to think for your selves! You’re ALL individuals.” - Brian of Nazareh

  5. Give me all the tweets between two dates

    I wrote a blog post last year about advanced Twitter searches and how you could use them to listen in to conversations between Lord Sugar and Piers Morgan and to find out when your local lifeboat was launched.

    Well, thanks to a question at work today, I remembered how you can use another advanced Twitter search to find all your tweets between two particular dates.

    Type the following into the Twitter search box:

    from:username since:YYYY-MM-DD until:ZZZZ-NN-EE

    • Replace username with the Twitter username you’re looking for (without the @ at the front).
    • Replace YYYY-MM-DD with the earliest date you want results to come up for.  So 15 December 2011 is 2011-12-15
    • And replace ZZZZ-NN-EE with the latest date you want results to come up for.  So 5 January 2012 is 2012-01-05.

    So from:pontoondock since:2011-12-23 until:2011-12-28 will show you all the tweets I sent around the Christmas before last.  When you get the search results, if there are a lot, it may just show you the ‘top’ tweets, so you could need to click on ‘all’ tweets to see, erm, all tweets.

    Of course, you don’t have to just search for your own.  And you can replace from:username with a search term.  So searching for

    "vauxhall nova" since:2012-01-01 until:2012-01-04

    will show you all tweets that mentioned Vauxhall Nova in the first four days of last year.  Should you ever wish to see them.  And searching for 

    from:outonashout strathclyde since:2013-06-01 until:2013-06-02

    wil show you all the tweets sent by @outonashout that mentioned Strathclyde in the first two days of this month.

    One note: it can’t cope with the ‘since’ and ‘until’ dates being the same.  There were three tweets from @outonashout that mentioned Strathclyde on 1 June. But if I’d put 2013-06-01 as the since and until dates, I would have got nil results, for some reason.

  6. A very unscientific test about using ‘Please RT’

    We sent the same tweet at the same time on two consecutive Tuesdays. One asked “Please RT” and one didn’t.

    So the one that said ‘Please RT!’ got 16 per cent fewer retweets that the one that did. Which was weird.

    Note: When I set the tweets up, I forgot that the second Tuesday was Purple Day (I added the hashtag just before the second tweet went out). You might have though that the hashtag might have got us a few more tweets. But I wonder if anyone actually follows hashtags, unless you’re the person actively involved in the hashtag. Anyway. We’d also tweeted a lot that day, so they may have been some Twitter-fatigue.

    So I ran the test again:

    So there we have a 68 per cent increase in the number of retweets. Woohoo!

    So we should stick ‘Please RT!’ at the front of all of our tweets?

    Nooooo. For starters, I think people will get bored of seeing it. The more you do it, the less impact it has. You should always be aiming for engaging content that people will want to retweet anyway, without being poked into doing it. Plus it takes up 11 characters  (if you include a space afterwards).

    I think it might work for a message, such as the one above, where it’s relevant to more than your core audience.  For example, the majority of people who follow @epilepsyaction have an interest in epilepsy (I presume).  But the message about epilepsy first aid is actually important to get across to everyone.  So a ‘Please RT’ may be appropriate there. 

    Would it work for a fundraising message?  I’m not sure.  Are people who aren’t engaged with your organisation but see it because of a retweet going to do anything about it?  They’re far less likely to put their hand in their pocket and give you money.  Perhaps I might try it on the run up to Christmas with our ‘give as you shop' partners (like the Amazon affiliate).  People who see it as a retweet via someone else might, if the message is clear that there is no extra cost to them, to at least click on it and do a little bit for charity by shopping.

    What do you think?  Leave me a comment below.

    UPDATE: To reply to Wedge's note about timing (below), I made sure with both tests that I sent the tweets at the exactly the same time on the same day of the week.  That meant there was no need, for the needs of this test at least, to worry what time of day I was sending the tweets.

  7. A 580 per cent price increase in Facebook Page promoted posts?

    At Epilepsy Action, in January, we paid to promote some of our Facebook postings so they’d reach a wider audience. We have about 20,000 followers and in January we were being charged about £50 for the message to get out to about 19,000 people. It worked well for us.


    Now, two months later, to get that amount of coverage, they want to charge us £340!

    That doesn’t seem very nice ;)

    I’m presuming Facebook want to move you to their regular pay-per-click model. Perhaps it’s part of their campaign to make content as engaging as possible. It looked like promoted posts were helping to push up the engagement levels of your page, so if you had enough money, you could pay for the engagement levels to go up, so your content was seen by even more people. But surely the end result of that was more money for Facebook?

    Or is it simply that Facebook make more money from pay-per-click than impressions?

  8. My #uktrain stats for 2012

    Sunshine on Mallerstang Edge, south of Kirkby Stephen railway stationAs a big fan of travelling by train, I kept a spreadsheet of all my rail journeys.  In 2012, I travelled 21,160.64 miles in 444 journeys.

    Longest single journey: 320 miles and 1 chain, Leeds to Montrose (with York-Montrose in first class)

    Shortest single journey: 57 chains (0.71 miles) Bingley-Crossflatts

    Most miles in a day: 3 November 2012: 650.26 miles: Guiseley-Leeds-Montrose-York-Leeds

    Earliest train caught: 0407 Leeds-London Kings Cross (twice, going to the Olympics and Paralympics)

    Latest train caught: 0003 Ashford International-Canterbury West

    Journeys by train operating company:

    • CrossCountry 12
    • East Coast 72
    • East Midlands Trains 5
    • First Great Western 5
    • Grand Central 1
    • Hull Trains 1
    • London Overground 1
    • Northern 242
    • Southeastern 70
    • Transpennine Express 34
    • Virgin Trains 1

    Stations used the most (number of arrivals and departures):

    1. Leeds 245
    2. Guiseley 140
    3. London Kings Cross 60
    4. London St Pancras 52
    5. Canterbury West 35
    6. Bradford Interchange 31
    7. Shipley 28
    8. Halifax 26
    9. Bradford Forster Square 25
    10. Sowerby Bridge 19

    Stations used the least (one journey, either a departure or an arrival):

    • Birchington
    • Canada Water
    • Clifton Down
    • Grimsby Town
    • Headingley
    • Horsforth
    • London Bridge
    • London Victoria
    • Margate
    • Mexborough
    • Shoreditch

  9. How we did social networking in 1980 

    You young ‘uns, thinking social networking is new.

    A special language to learn, everyone with a funny name, with public conversations with both strangers and friends.  In 2012 it’s Twitter. In 1980, it was CB (citizen’s band) radio.

    CB radio was made popular in the 1970s by films like ‘Convoy' and 'Smokey the Bandit’, as a way of truckers (and other road users) avoiding the police.  The radios both received and transmitted, like high-strength walkie talkies.  Truckers would alert each other to speed traps and other policing activities

    The craze then spread to homes, car and even, I remember seeing someone with a CB radio on a bicycle (powered by a battery in the basket on the front).  How far your signal broadcast depended on the quality of your radio and how big your transmitting aerial was.  I think the CB in my dad’s car had about a 10-15 mile radius, depending on the weather and the terrain.  The CB we set up at home might have gone about 30-40 miles.

    Citizens Band CB Cobra 18 WX ST II with microphone.jpeg

    Photo: Citizens Band CB Cobra 18 WX ST II with microphone by Zuzu, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

    All users had a ‘handle’ (a username). Mine was Mr Babbage (the name of the computer display in the TV quiz show ‘Family Fortunes’, of course itself named after the mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage

    In the UK, the radio had 40 channels (or different frequencies) you could broadcast on.  If you wanted to chat to someone, you’d go to channel 19 and either call for your friend to see if they were listening out. You say something like “Hey <their handle>, have your got your ears on?”. If they were listening (and a lot of people kept their radios on in the background to listen out for people to talk to), they’d come back and you’d agree which of the other 39 channels you’d switch to and then go off and have a conversation.

    Anyone could listen in if they had a CB radio too and lived close enough to everyone talking.  And then, like in a Twitter conversation, they could join in.

    And then there was the lingo.  There were a whole range of different terms, including Ten codes.  ”10-4” (pronounced ten four) meant “Yes”, “10-10” meant “Bye” and going for a “10-100” was used when you were off to the toilet.  If you told someone your “10-20 was Steel City” then that, at least in the part of the world I grew up in, meant your location was Sheffield.  Most towns were given a CB name. Scunthorpe, somewhere else, in the early 80s, known for its steel production was “Steel Town”.

    Where I lived, there was a sense of community amongst many CB radio enthusiasts.  Friendships were made, and because most people could only talk to those in about a 30-40 mile range, many of these friendships moved into real-life. A friend of our family got engaged to someone she met on CB radio - she lived near the coast and he worked on a freight ship crossing the North Sea, and they’d talk whenever he was in range.  I remember some local CB radio users organising charity events, my mum sprained her ankle taking part in one of them.

    A lovely couple of married Tweeters I know use Twitter to talk to each other when one’s commuting and the other’s at home.  My parents used CB radio for that. In the days before mobile phones, he was able to call my mum up on the CB when he was about 20 minutes from home, so she could perhaps start getting dinner ready.

    In the beginning, it was all illegal.  You were broadcasting against the law.  Then the government realised they could make money out of it by charging for licences.  It became legal, it became mainstream and then started to fade away.

    "10-10 til we do it again."

  10. The power of new starters and fresh eyes on your intranet

    Fresh blood in an organisation is good. A fresh pair of eyes on your intranet, instead of the same eyes that have been staring at it for months and years. People coming in from other organisations which may have had intranets are good to learn from.

    This idea I got from an intranet expert on Twitter (I can’t remember which one though, sorry). I get to do a new member of staff’s intranet induction on their second day with us. I take their photo for their staff profile (we use a widget on our homepage so everyone else knows someone new is in the building). I give them the guided tour - how to book leave, how to book meeting rooms, which bit to post on if you want to complain about people not changing the loo rolls when they’re empty…  

    And then I give them a one-side of A4 with five questions on. I ask them to keep the sheet next to their computer, fill it in if something springs to mind, and give it back to me about 30 days later.

    Our aim is to get valuable information, from people who do not know Wiggipedia (our intranet) yet and come with new perspectives, experiences and fresh eyes!

    1. What can’t you find on Wiggipedia?  
    2. What features/areas of Wiggipedia do you use daily?  
    3. If you’ve used an intranet in a previous job, what did you use that you would love to find on Wiggipedia?  
    4. What task(s) would you like to be able to accomplish online?  
    5. What is your overall happiness level with our Wiggipedia?  

    So far, nearly all the responses have been excellent. People like Wiggipedia and a number of new staff coming in from bigger organisations have commented how our intranet is better than their previous employers. Which is always good to know :)