Balloon Festival (Fiesta) 2009

Posted by jerry on March 15th, 2009 — Posted in Journal, Travel

The Canberra Balloon Fiesta has been in full swing from 7 March to 15 MArch (today). For the past week we have had several balloons of all shapes and sizes pass overhead in the morning on their way to a landing in the wildlife corridor at the end of our street.

Balloon Festival

So this morning we decided to check out the launch site on the lawns of Old Parliament House next to the lake.

Old Parliament House, Canberra

It was still dark as we parked and found several hundred people getting an early morning coffee and preparing to go into the marquee labeled “Pilots Briefing” This is so that pilots can get an up to date brief on the weather and wind patterns, and likely landing spots enroute. Everywhere there was an air of expectation.

Balloon Festival

There would have been at least a dozen balloons neatly stashed on trailers ready to be filled from small petrol driven fans and, people were struggling under the weight of large propane cylinders. The thunderstorm last night had cleared the air and as the sky began to lighten it was perfectly cloudless.

I took a couple of photos of the waiting balloons and of Old Parliament House.

A band set up to play, and then came the announcement that the winds were running in the wrong direction and – perhaps worse – the ground was too wet. This would not necessarily have been an issue for take-off, but for landing, as the balloon envelope needs to be laid out flat along the ground and then rolled and folded to fit back into the trailer. As this was the end of the festival – that would mean putting away a wet envelope, perhaps for a month or two before the next flight, which would mean that mildew could cause damage to the stitching or the sail-cloth fabric and render the balloon unsafe for next time. So flying operations were cancelled.

Balloon Festival

The crowd was understanding and they continued to soak up the festival atmosphere and the cameraderie of fellow enthusiasts as we departed. Next year’s Balloon Fiesta will be from March 6-14 in Canberra, Australia.

5 social media blunders – and 3 responses to them

Posted by jerry on March 9th, 2009 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology

Ben Parr of Mashable wrote this post on “5 social media blunders and what to learn from them“. The five seem to be divided between where the social media themselves have blundered and where users have blundered in using social media with examples from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – but they are applicable across the board.

It seems to me that they come down to a couple of basic principles to avoid making these blunders:

Firstly it’s about communication – with the audience – and this further breaks down into two strategies

  • If you make a blunder, be up front, apologise and set about communicating with your audience to fix the problem. Both Facebook and a campaign on YouTube could have learned from that. Sony didn’t, to their cost, and Facebook did, to their gain. Basically, people do make mistakes, and most people will forgive if you’re up front about it. Don’t try to stonewall or cover it up, because that will just dig (not Digg) you in deeper.
  • The second aspect of communication here is that you can avoid a lot of social blunders by knowing your audience – and you do that by communicating with them, being part of the community and testing the market or at least preparing the way with good announcements up front, then a test version which people can visit and comment on, before you launch that new feature or product.

Secondly, (which is really third, since I broke the communication bit down into two) it’s about people – the example about the Twitter user who became emotionally charged and did a public meltdown showed poor nettiquette and a poor appreciation for the fact that they were actually talking to people. The trouble with rapid response social software, like Twitter, is that there is little time for reflection before hitting the button – and the response can be over-the-top before you’ve had a chance to reconsider some ill-chosen words or actions.

So clearly, the appropriate way to respond is to write drafts, then do something else for a couple of minutes, and then return to the draft – if you still want to send it, go ahead, but that pause can take the heat out of an immediate response.

Thanks to Alja for passing on the link via Facebook


10 Reasons I wouldn’t buy an iPhone (yet)

Posted by jerry on March 8th, 2009 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology

The iPhone has about the sexiest interface I’ve seen on a mobile device, but for my money it’s not there yet. Here are the reasons I will wait before shelling out cold hard cash on an iPhone. Bearing in mind that I’ve been a mac user since 1989 that’s saying something.

1. Bluetooth – Why did Apple cripple the bluetooth functionality to prevent data transfer other than to a bluetooth earpiece for the phone? Some of us want to sync with a PDA or computer. I’ve been using a bluetooth keyboard with an iPaq PDA since 2005 – at the risk of sounding like a Grumpy Old Man (GOM) I’m sorry but I just don’t get the thumb thing – gimme a keyboard!

2. Landscape keyboard – At the moment the only way to get the iPhone keyboard in landscape (eg for google docs email or sms messages) is to get a jailbroken iPhone, install a third-party app – and that’s just so the keyboard will flip around to something that might just be usable. Frankly my Psion 5mx has a better keyboard – and they stopped making those in 2000. With my cludgey fingers the portrait mode is simply not going to do the biz.

3. Mobile Office suite – on my 5 year old PDA I can create, edit and write fully formatted MS Word docs or excel expense sheets (great when traveling) – is it too much to ask that iPhone might just include – at least via third party apps a means to create, edit and save word and excel docs on the move? Not everywhere has wifi (yet) so a means to work off-line would be useful.

4. Removable storage – at some point you might just want to save space and store lesser used apps or bigger files on a micro SD card – it would also mean that with a microSD-SD adapter you could take photos with the digital SLR and then transfer them on the road without having to resort to pulling out the macbook or going back to a desktop machine.

5. Photo editing – on my 5 year old PDA running ppc2003 I have a great little third party app for basic photo editing – resizing, cropping, brightness, contrast, colour balance, file conversion – I have yet to see such an app for the iPhone.

6. Onboard digital video – most other high end phones these days can handle basic video as well as still images from their on-board camera – why not make the coolest phone a genuine video phone – with skype?

7. Skype – Yeah I know Apple has signed deals with 3G networks around the world – but many high end phones these days can also do skype calls when connected to a wifi link. This would save the traveler a LOT of money in international phone calls where that function is available.

8. Sketch application – one for the third party developers – sometimes a diagram can do wonders, but I don’t see any means of doing that with an iPhone. Again my 5 year old PDA can do it.

9. A means of communicating with printers – ok, what about that bluetooth again? Or irda? Or the removable SD card – all of which would mean I could use print on the go without having to go back to a desktop or laptop – why not get rid of the middleware and go direct? That would make life much easier for the traveler who wants to do some quick adjustments to presentation notes, or print out some directions.

10. ABC music reader – that way I can carry my sheet music database and use it as a resource when traveling to folk festivals – and compose on the go. Barfly is great – how about a version for iPhone?

Ok maybe that last is a bit specialised. But you get the idea – Apple could make traveling a WHOLE LOT easier if I could take some basic (nothing an old PDA couldn’t handle) functions on the road and leave the laptop behind – or safely stored at the hotel – so over to you Apple, the competition is incorporating most of these functions already. For now, I’ll stick with a simple phone (sagem) and the old PDA with a bluetooth keyboard and wifi and irda plus removable CF and SD cards.