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Google Ngram "railway station" all English: click to embiggenI cringe when people talk about the “train station”. “It’s ‘railway station’, you morons,” screams my brain. Well as it turns out, they’re actually not stupid — at least not for that reason. It’s just another relatively modern shift in language.

The chart at the top of the post is a Google Ngram search of their entire English corpus since 1820 — the first public steam railway in the world was the Stockton and Darlington Railway, which opened in 1825 — comparing the usage of “railway station” (blue) versus “railroad station” (red) and “train station” (orange).

You can click through to the full-size chart, or run the search yourself.

As you can see, the most common usage has almost always been “railway station”, with “railroad station” distinctly second-place. A “train station” wasn’t even a thing until the 1950s, but it rose in popularity quite quickly. “Train station” has been the most common usage since the mid-1990s, although it has been declining again since around 2000. I wonder why.

My understanding is that many railway terms derived from the military, because until the railways came along nothing else had been organised on that sort of trans-national and even trans-continental scale except armies. Hence trains have “guards” for their safe operation, and “stations” along the line where staff are stationed to maintain the entire railway system — including fuel, water, trackwork and signalling.

Railway stations are therefore part of a railway’s entire operation, not merely “train stations” for trains to stop at. For me, someone talking about “train stations” is showing their ignorance of how railways work: it’s more than just the trains.

Since I had the Google open in front of me, I thought I’d look at the variations in US versus UK English. It seems that “railroad station” isn’t the dominant American usage that I’d imagined.

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I am so many different kinds of expert these days. On Friday I was on SBS TV’s World News talking about the UK’s High Court decision to order the country’s largest internet service provider BT to block access to a website that provides links to pirated movies.

The video of the news story is embedded in the website article.

SBS has also posted the complete 7-minute video of the interview they recorded.

Yes, I’m wearing a hoodie on national television. At least it was a clean hoodie. I’d taken a cab to SBS straight from the airport. It’s actually a small miracle I had any clean clothes with me at all. Besides, the cameraman chose the hoodie over my black shirt because he wanted to “break things up a bit”. The TV news has too many men in suits and business shirts for his liking, it seems.

Earlier this evening I recorded this interview with Iain Dale, who’s keynoting the Microsoft Politics & Technology Forum in Canberra on 1 June. He’s one of the UK’s leading political bloggers, a former Conservative Party politician, publisher of Total Politics magazine and host of the evening show on London’s LBC Radio — amongst other things.

I’d originally intended to use a slab of this in the Patch Monday podcast I do for ZDNet Australia, but it’s not really about technology. Our conversation did touch upon the way political parties use social media such as blogs and Twitter — or, really, why they don’t. But we also covered the attraction of broadcast radio as medium and why it’ll survive, authenticity and much more. So I decided to post the entire recording here as a podcast.

I began by asking Dale about a piece he wrote for The Guardian earlier this month, Is this really the death of political blogging? It turns out the headline is misleading.

Play

For more on Iain Dale, read his Wikipedia entry or follow him on Twitter.

I’ve been thinking of doing a more podcasts of interviews along the lines of this one — not necessarily about politics or technology but whatever strikes my fancy. Indeed, I created the blog post category Conversations for this purpose, although so far I’ve only used it to post random audio I’ve been involved with. What do you think?

The movie and music industries have been lobbying governments globally to introduce so-called “three strikes” laws. Three accusations of online copyright infringement — “accusations”, mind you, not proof — and you lose your internet connection.

Copyright-holders reckon this will help prevent copyright infringement. But the concerns are that we’re entering the realm of guilt by allegation, and potentially punishing innocent people by denying internet access to everyone in a household, not just the guilty party.

The internet is now central to everything from health and education to banking and politics, so that’s one heck of a big stick.

As this 10-minute video by comedian and activist Mark Thomas explains, the UK version of this proposed law, the Digital Economy Bill, has a nasty surprise. Section 17 would give the Secretary of State the power to amend the copyright laws without having to run them past Parliament first.

Um hello? “Parliamentary democracy”, anyone?

If the embedded player doesn’t work, you can watch the video on YouTube.

At this stage, the Australian Government is not yet considering laws like this. But that could change.

Earlier this month iiNet, our third-largest ISP, won a case in the Federal Court where Justice Dennis Cowdroy ruled that ISPs are not responsible for the copyright-infringing acts of their customers. I covered that for Crikey and in the Patch Monday podcast.

Since then, communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy has said he wants the copyright-holders and the ISPs to work out a code of practice on their own. However I reckon that’s just a delaying tactic to avoid discussing such a controversial issue in an election year.

The movie and music industries are fighting hard on this one. France and Japan already have three-strikes laws, to name just two. And the industries are devoting plenty of resources.

Mark Thomas points out they were late in using the internet to make money from their assets, and now they’re looking for someone to blame. Yes, the big players may well be making less profit that before. However the bulk of their profit was from distribution. Now the costs of distribution are almost nil — yet somehow they’ve managed to end up making less money. Fools.

They also reckon that if no-one can make money from their creative acts, it’ll be the death of creativity. But in the video, prehistoric musician Billy Bragg points out that while a few artists at the top end may be suffering, the internet has proved a boon for lower-ranked artists, allowing them to reach new markets at much lower cost.

This is a big issue. It’s a complicated issue. It won’t go away. We should all stay informed.

Stilgherrian’s links for 22 October 2009 through 27 October 2009, published after far too long a break. I really, really do need to work out a better way of doing this…

Stilgherrian’s links for 15 October 2009 through 19 October 2009, gathered with bile and soaked in vinegar:

  • 50 Years of Space Exploration | Flickr: A brilliant infographic summarising interplanetary exploration. In an excellent demonstration of Chaos, the landing on asteroid 443 Eros is accidentally tagged as “443 Eris”. All hail Discordia!
  • They Shoot Porn Stars Don’t They: Susannah Breslin’s fascinating and somewhat challenging feature article on the recession-hit US porn industry.
  • ISP in file-sharing wi-fi theft | BBC News: UK ISP TalkTalk staged a wireless stunt, illustrating why it thinks Lord Mandelson’s plans to disconnect illegal file sharers is “naive”. It’s easy to blame others just by hacking WiFi connections.
  • Prince Philip tussles with technology | ABC News: This story is a few days old, however I found it curious that a perfectly good story about the design of technology was tagged as “offbeat” and the teaser written to make Prince Phillip look like a silly old man.
  • NPR News Staff Social Media Policy: Another example of a good corporate social media policy. There’s plenty of these policies around now, so there’s no excuse for any big organisation not to have caught up.
  • Federal Court of Australia Judgements: Some judgements have been recorded on video. “The Court is keen to continue to improve public access with the use of live streaming video/audio. Further live and archived broadcasts of judgement summaries are posted on this page as they become available.”
  • Televised Patel trial an Australian first | ABC News: The trial of Dr Jayent Patel for manslaughter to be held in a Brisbane court will be shown in Bundaberg, where the deaths happened, via closed-circuit TV. Given this “local interest”, one wonders why it couldn’t also be available anywhere there were interested parties.
  • Vivian Maier – Her Discovered Work: Maier was a Chicago street photographer from the 1950s to 1970s who died earlier this year. Some 40,000 negatives have been found, and they’e now being blogged.
  • 100 years of Big Content fearing technology — in its own words | Ars Technica: Copyright-holders have objected to pretty much every advance in media technology, it seems.
  • Mac Sales Spike When A New Version Of Windows Comes Out | Business Insider: A curious interpretation of the figures, but they reckon that when Microsoft releases a new version of Windows it drives people to buy Macs instead.
  • The Federal Trade Commission’s Coming War on Bloggers | Valleywag: While I normally don’t read Valleyway, I caught someone mentioning this article and was caught by one useful new term: conceptual gerrymandering. If the US FTC wants to give tax breaks to “news organisations” they’ll have to define what they are. Could it be old journalists versus bloggers battle writ large?

Stilgherrian’s links for 30 September 2009 through 13 October 2009, gathered automatically but then left to languish for two weeks before publication.

There’s so many of these links this time that I’ll publish them over the fold. I think I need to get over my fear of the link being published automatically without my checking them first, and my concern that my website won’t look nice if the first post is just a list of links.

Maybe I should just stick these Delicious-generated links in a sidebar? Or do you like having them in the main stream and RSS feed?

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Stilgherrian’s links for 16 August 2009 through 26 August 2009:

  • Academic Earth: “Video lectures from the world’s top scholars”, it says. Provided they’re American. The universities included so far are Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, UCLA and Yale.
  • [Air-L] Trivial tweeting: Another viewpoint on the “Twitter is pointless babble” rubbish, this time from Cornelius Puschmann, PhD, in the Department of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Düsseldorf.
  • Power of Information | UK Cabinet Office: The February 2009 report from the UK government’s taskforce on Government 2.0.
  • My #blogpostfriday post | Scripting News: Dave Winer is worried about the cloud. “We pour so much passion into dynamic web apps hosted by companies we know very little about. We do it without retaining a copy of our data. We have no idea how much it costs them to keep hosting what we create, so even if they’re public companies, it’s very hard to form an opinion of how likely they are to continue hosting our work.”
  • 8129.0 – Business Use of Information Technology, 2007-08 | Australian Bureau of Statistics: Detailed indicators on the incidence of use of information technology in Australian business, as collected by the 2007-08 Business Characteristics Survey (BCS).
  • The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction | Wikipedia: Someone — I forget who — told me to read this 1935 essay by German cultural critic Walter Benjamin. It’s been influential in the fields of cultural studies and media theory. It was produced, Benjamin wrote, in the effort to describe a theory of art that would be “useful for the formulation of revolutionary demands in the politics of art&”. “In the absence of any traditional, ritualistic value, art in the age of mechanical reproduction would inherently be based on the practice of politics. It is the most frequently cited of Benjamin’s essays”, says Wikipedia. Sounds like I should indeed read it.
  • How Tim O’Reilly Aims to Change Government | ReadWriteWeb: Tim O’Reilly posits “government as platform”, where the government would supply raw digital data and other forms of support for private sector innovators to build on top of. That’s the writer’s version. Does this fit with the Rudd government’s idea of the government as an enabler, as outlined in their Digital Economy Future Directions paper?
  • CHART OF THE DAY: Smartphone Sales To Beat PC Sales By 2011 | Silican Valley Insider: This is based on worldwide sales figures, and it makes sense. The Third World could really use a low-power, rugged smartphone at a sensible price, rather than a laptop or even a netbook to lug around.
  • News Corp pushing to create an online news consortium | latimes.com: By “consortium” they mean “cartel”, right? “Chief Digital Officer Jonathan Miller has positioned News Corp as a logical leader in the effort to start collecting fees from online readers because of its success with the Wall Street Journal Online, which boasts more than 1 million paying subscribers. He is believed to have met with major news publishers including New York Times Co, Washington Post Co, Hearst Corp and Tribune Co, publisher of the Los Angeles Times.”
  • Us Now : watch the film: “In a world in which information is like air, what happens to power?” This entire film can be watched online.
  • Morons with mobiles sour the tweet life | theage.com.au: Jacqui Bunting writes some of the dumbest words about Twitter which have ever been written. Note to editors: Anyone who starts from the premise that Twitter is meant to be a “commentary on life” needs to be taken out the back and slapped around a bit. It’s 2009. Please catch up.
  • The Conversation | Now That I Have Your Attention: The creator of Father Ted and The IT Crowd, Graham Linehan, also has a few words on Pear Analytics’ cod research on Twitter. He makes the point that for the first time we’re truly having a global conversation.
  • Pointless babble | The New Adventures of Stephen Fry: The redoubtable Stephen Fry rips into that Pear Analytics research on Twitter, with more brevity and wit than I did the other day. Well said, Sir!
  • Top 100 Aussie Web Startups – August 09 | TechNation Australia: The latest league table of Australian web businesses, for those who like to have winners and losers in clearly-defined categories.
  • Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule | Flickr: Proof that you don’t need the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology to be boringly anal-retentive about your scheduling.
  • Bruce Schneier: Facebook should compete on privacy, not hide it away | The Guardian: Another thought-provoking essay by Bruce Schneier.
  • Hype Cycle Book | Gartner: Mastering the Hype Cycle is the book explaining Gartner’s regular Hype Cycle reports.
  • How It All Ends | YouTube: A follow-up to the video The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See, which presented a risk analysis showing that we cannot afford to ignore the potential risk of climate change, even if it all turns out to be wrong. This version skips over the main argument and addresses the potential objections.
  • Climate change cage match | Crikey: A delightful comment from a Crikey reader, Stephen Morris, who likens the tactics of climate change denialist Tamas Calderwood to the mating habits of the Satin Bowerbird, which is totally obsessed by the colour blue. “It will actively search through a wide variety of brightly coloured objects that might suitably decorate its bower, but the only colour that interests it and it wants to collect are those coloured blue. Tamas in his scientific objectivity (and unfortunately often his logic) is very Satin bowerbird like. It doesn’t matter what large amounts of available data says about global warming, the only titbits of data of interest to Tamas, are those that can be seen to indicate cooling. Once a data set loses its blueness (or coolness), it seems interest in it is lost and other blue data sets are sought.”
  • Senator Lundy describes her Public Sphere initiative | Net Traveller: A ten minute video in which Senator Kate Lundy describes her Public Sphere initiative, made for students at ANU studying Information Technology in Electronic Commerce COMP3410.
  • AP contradiction: Move forward but restore | Pursuing the Complete Community Connection: Steve Buttry points out the problem with Associated Press’ content protection plan: How can you “move forward” and “restore the past” at the same time?

Here are the web links I’ve found for 10 August 2009 and some days beforehand, posted automatically, kinda.

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