paul bennett

Twitter in the microblogging world now has the pull of Google in the search world – if you’re not ‘on Twitter’ you’re nowhere inn terms of being able to connect, share and promote via microblogging (surmising that Twitter now gets 80 – 90% of microblogging traffic / use.)
This effectively locks the market into one monopoly platform – Twitter.

Imagine this applied to blogging or web publishing. Say there were many publishing services, you could only use one publishing service at a time and publishing service A had 90% of the total traffic and users.

If you weren’t using publishing service A, regardless of the quality of your content, you’d miss out on 90% of the traffic, connection or exposure just by being on a less popular service. Not a nice thought.

Would an open messaging platform – essentially a server application which allows you to create a master account and associate ‘child’ accounts to it for other microblogging services (Twitter, Jaiku et al) make any difference in leveling the microblogging playing field?

The idea is that the platform would broadcast your posts or ‘tweets’ to all your subscribed services, but would also aggregate posts from the users you’re following and stream them back to your ‘open messaging’ client.

Rather than ‘a twitter client’, you could have a general micro blogging client offering not only the power to broadcast your posts to multiple services, but to also aggregate the incoming messages regardless of what service they came from.

It wouldn’t matter what service someone you follow was using (surmising that you also had an account on that service), because in your microblogging client, you’d see one unified stream of updates regardless of the API they were built on.

Microblogging would become a standardised platform in its own right.  Rather than having disparate API’s, an open messaging platform could seek and serve to unify microblogging API’s and REST-based services, or at least provide a simple bridging framework between them.



The Present

Netbooks have been a game changer in the connected world. The arrival and staggering popularity of Netbooks has turned the PC manufacturing world on it’s collective head.

This is not an article about Netbooks – this is an article about the age that they herald – the age of cloud computing.

Netbooks have filled a latent demand – the demand for practical, truly portable computing. They offer ‘enough’ processing power mixed with a small form factor, light weight and long battery life for maximum portability – but that’s not all. Netbooks have been the market force which has seen the adoption of cloud computing as the clear contender for the future of computing worldwide.

The Netbook revolution has highlighted one thing very clearly:

the majority of our time and activities while on a computer are spent online.

Email, socialising, image manipulation, video, image sharing and even software development are all examples of activities once tied to the desktop which are now easily and freely available via online websites and applications.

Netbook popularity centres around one key thing – the near ubiquitous avaiability of internet connectivity. Internet connectivity shifts the processing and storage burden away from the client machine and into the cloud, hence the machine can cut weight and costs and increase battery life by running cheaper, slower and more efficient hardware.

The Near Future

The pent-up demand for a decent, truly mobile internet experience (phone, pda, laptop / desktop) has been unleashed with the growth of devices such as the iPhone and other 3G devices. Netbooks have filled the void between tiny phone screen and large home / work machine by providing a comfortable in-between.
Companies such as Adobe and Amazon are banking on the demand for services in the cloud by building infrastructure and applications native to cloud computing. Microsoft even has a development cloud-OS in the works. As online activity increases and lower powered computing becomes the new norm, demand for software will decrease and demand for online services and application will increase proportionately.

A recent Wired article hinted at the next stage of this (r)evolution by stating that a gaming company is building hardware and software to run MMPORG games on their servers and streaming only the needed vectors to the client machine.

The ultimate thin-client world approaches.

The Not-So-Distant future

Let me paint a picture of where I think this is all heading.

In the cloud-future, hardware specs will become largely irrelevant for anything other than servers, as all client machines (phones, PDA’s, tablets, laptops, desktops (if they still exist)) are based around four things:

  • a screen
  • a basic processor
  • ubiquitous internet connectivity (wireless, 3G)
  • an RDP client (or similar)

I didn’t include an operating system – one will still be required, but it’s function will be just to switch on and run the RDP client – your data, your apps and even your OS will live in the cloud. Your cloud space will adjust visually according to the device your using to access it.

Your ‘machine’ will be an allocated chunk of secure, virtualised server space running whatever OS you like (or more than one if you like). You run your machine/s the same way a network admin does who needs to connect to remote servers. Connectivity is everywhere and speeds are high, so lag is mostly a non-issue.

Due to its simplicity, your client hardware becomes easily replacable – and everywhere. People own multiple variants of devices which can access your cloud computing ‘home’ and use whatever is most convenient at the time.

Client power consumption plummets as devices are far less power hungry. Server farms increase exponentially to meet the huge demand for cloud storage.

Privacy issues are potentailly huge as ‘offline’ no longer really exists and cloud-hosted personal spaces are far easier for hackers and government to browse. Forget ISP’s relaesing your browsing data to the authorities, server based spaces may offer Big Brother the ability to take a long gaze at not only your documents, files and past activity, but whatever you’re doing right now.

Encryption will become a bigger issue (an issue that’s largely been forgotten in the web 2.0  world outside of the banking sector) as people move to the ubiquity and convenience of the cloud but still want the perception of security that haviong all their data at home gives them. Most apps (even those in eternal beta) will move to https or relevant encryption. Transparent storage-based encryption and private keys will become commonplace.

Hardware is commoditised – the data plan will be the real money spinner. This is already happening now, with some countries offering a free Netbook with a fixed data plan.

Online archiving ‘warehouses’ will spring up – offering ongoing archiving and storage of your old data to free up your working space.

You live in the cloud.


There’s a great run-down on on how to troubleshoot the dreaded Drupal ‘White Screen of Death’ (WSOD).

This seems to happen every time I add a site to our test server – I find increasing the PHP memory limit to be the fastest way to solve it.

To increase the memory limit assigned to your Drupla install, add this to your /sites/default/settings.php file:

ini_set('memory_limit', '32M');

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As we become inundated with more and more data, there is more to do, less time (seemingly) to do it in and more pressure to organise, categorise and find the relevance in all that information.

Case in point – I have a full time job, 3 kids (soon to be 4), do some freelance work to help pay the bills, am completing a degree via correspondence study and on top of this I do a fair amount of volunteer work for my church.

For me time-management isn’t an optional nicety – it’s critical for managing all the busy, and often conflicting facets of my life and ensuring nothing slips through the cracks.

Amongst all this madness I’ve found one sure-fire low-tech way to manage conflicting priorities and deadlines.

  1. Grab a piece of paper – not Notepad, not some online note-jotting thingy. On that piece of paper write down the things which need doing today. Resist the temptation to do this online – I guarantee technology will distract you in some way.
  2. Do the quickest and easiest ones first.
  3. Switch off any distractions (email clients, twitter, extra apps you don’t need), prioritize the remaining tasks and work through them one at a time.

It really is that simple.

Note: no computer involved, no web 2.0 application required, just the ability to write, prioritize and focus.

There’s already a lot of discussion around this rather unhelpful error message given by Internet Explore under certain circumstances.

I’ll add my voice ot the mix by adding this little gem:

Internet Explorer will also throw this error if you’re trying to alter the innerHTML of an element which doesn’t exist.

Hopefully this helps someone else out

One of my most used bookmarks is this wee gem:

In Firefox, it set up this bookmark with the keyword ‘php’*.

This lets me type ‘php function name‘ into the address bar and takes me straight to the manual page for that function.
For example, for the date() function, I can just type

php date

and go straight to the date() manual page (

Simple and so, so handy

*You need to use the bookmark manager to do this


Looking for good PHP books? I recommend the following:

The ee-yui plugin in the Expression Engine editing interface

The ee-yui plugin in the Expression Engine editing interface

As a follow up to the previous release, I’ve put together another plugin for the Expression Engine content management system.

This one adds the full YUI rich text editor to the ‘body’ area of the Expression Engine publish / edit interface.

The YUI simpleEditor is nice and everything, but sometimes it’s a bit too … simple.

Get the full plugin from the nice folks at Google Code:

ee-YUI full editor > plugin information and downloads