When The Olympics Came To Teddington

Yes, it was difficult if not impossible to get tickets. Yes, it's overly political. Yes, LOCOG has been overly aggressive in protecting its idea of what the Olympic brand is and in supposedly protecting the interests of the sponsors. Yes, it absolutely sucks that you can only use a Visa card to pay for anything Olympic related.

But also yes, the opening ceremony was amazing. And yes, my home town in the suburbs of London is slap bang in the middle of the cycling road race events.

Generic Photo Shot

And yes, when the Olympics came to Teddington, right to the end of the road where I live, it was utterly and truly amazing. For once, the overused cliche of "once in a lifetime experience" seems utterly apt.

Tracking Down Use Of Deprecated WordPress Functions Or Arguments

If you've been running your blog or site on WordPress for any period of time, you may well have come across a message about a deprecated function or argument in your PHP log file or across the top of a page on your site. The message might look something like this ...

Notice:  get_bloginfo was called with an argument that is **deprecated** since version 2.2! The siteurl option is deprecated for the family of bloginfo() functions. Use the url option instead. in /var/web/htdocs/site/wp-includes/functions.php on line 2712

... this often appears after you've installed or upgraded a new theme or plugin. This message is helpful but really only 50% useful. The PHP file and line number that's being reported isn't where the deprecated function or argument is being used; it's where it's being reported from. Often, even after you've searched through the source code of the new plugin or theme you're still none the wiser about where the troublesome piece of PHP that WordPress is telling you about actually lives. WordPress is a complicated mix of PHP, JavaScript and CSS; there's a lot more going on under the hood than most of us are remotely aware of.

Where You Are Isn't That Interesting But Where You Will Be Is

Every once in a while the thorny topic of location privacy rears its ugly head, often in tandem with a new location based service or the discovery of what an existing one is really doing. There's often cries of "Big Brother" and "company X is tracking me" as well. But lost in the rhetoric and hyperbole around this subject is a well hidden fact ... your current location isn't actually that interesting to anyone apart from yourself.

For most of the day we tend to be on the move so even if a service does know your location that fact becomes irrelevant almost immediately. Intrusive location based advertising is normally held up for inspection here but without context a location is just a set of longitude and latitude coordinates, coordinates that are out of date and no longer relevant almost as soon as they've been detected.

Maybe a location based service I use does want to target me with location based ads, but for example, if I'm on my irregular commute from the suburbs to the centre of London on a train, I challenge anyone to find an ad, intrusive or not, that would be contextually relevant to me in sufficient detail that would warrant an advertiser paying out the not insignificant sums that such ad campaigns cost. Unless maybe, just maybe, it's an ad that offers me a viable alternative to SouthWestTrain's execrable and expensive train service, but that's just in the realms of fantasy.

Of CSS, Pointers, Archive Pages and Meta Boxes; WP Biographia Reaches v3.2

WP Biographia v3.2 got pushed to the WordPress plugin repository this afternoon. In the grand scheme of things it's not a massive release but it goes a long way to solving some of the most frequently asked questions that arrive in my Inbox and via the plugin's support forums.

As I've mentioned a few times in the past, it's nigh on impossible to test a WordPress plugin against the myriad combinations of themes and plugins that exist in the WordPress ecosystem. Especially where CSS is concerned, plugins and themes frequently don't play well together and bleed over from another theme or plugin's CSS often makes WP Biographia's formatting look ... interesting. This tends to happen in two places. Firstly in the formatting of the contact links in the Biography Box and secondly in the positioning of the user's avatar image.

Wp Biographia v3.2 provides two workarounds for this. The plugin's CSS now uses the !important CSS specifier to ensure the CSS is applied as it should be in as many cases as is possible.

But sometimes this isn't enough to fix formatting issues, especially if the plugin's the_content filter priority has been dropped below the default value of 10, to get the Biography Box to appear in the right order with the output of other plugins. In this case, the WordPress wpautop filter, which automagically adds paragraph tags, runs after the Biography Box is produced. In this situation you can now tell the plugin to synchronise the wpautop filter to run after the Biography Box is produced.

Don't Go There, Go Here; A WordPress Redirection Plugin

Despite having written 5 plugins for WordPress I've only just scratched the surface of what it's possible to make WordPress do. So when I want to make WordPress do something that I'm not sure a) how to do and b) whether it's even possible or not, I turn to a search engine. More often than not I get an answer. Often that answer seems to start along the lines of

put the following code in your theme's functions.php file

Big (Location) Data vs. My (Location) Data

For a pleasant change, the guts of this talk didn't metamorphose oddly during the writing. Instead, it geolocated. This was originally planned to be my keynote talk at Social-Loco in San Francisco last month. But I wasn't able to make it to the Bay Area as planned for reasons too complex to go into here. Suffice to say, the slide deck languished unloved on my laptops hard drive, taking up 30 odd MB of storage and not really going anywhere.

Then I got an email from Stuart Mitchell at Geodigital asking me if I'd like to talk at the AGI's Northern Conference and thus, after a brief bit of editing to remove the conspicuous Silicon Valley references, this talk relocated from San Francisco to Manchester. As per usual, the slide deck plus notes are below.

Converting Markdown To HTML; In Any Mac Text Editor (With A Little Help From Automator)

There must be a truism somewhere out on the interwebs that goes something like this ...

if a computer geek finds himself or herself doing a task repeatedly, he or she will invariably find a way to automate this task

... and if there isn't a truism to this effect, then I've just written it for the first time.

In this particular case, the repetitive task was converting text written using John Gruber's Markdown syntax into HTML. Those of you who know Markdown will be asking the question "but Markdown is already a text-to-HTML conversion tool, why would you want to do this?". They'd be right too, so an explanation is due.

You Are Here; Map Wallpaper For Your Laptop

I've recently been guilty of using the term map wallpaper as a mild form of pejorative; meaning maps that are great for showing geographical context but which don't really show anything else. I'm also guilty of overusing the phrase eye candy; something which is eye catching but ultimately superficial.

Then along comes an eye candy map wallpaper app for my MacBook Pro and all pejoratives are instantly replaced with superlatives. Yes, this is eye candy. Yes, this is map wallpaper. But in this case the geographical context is spot on and it's definitely eye catching without being superficial in any way.

If You Live In The UK, You Need To Know About The Communications Data Bill

On Thursday June 14th. 2012, Theresa May, the UK Secretary Of State published the draft Communications Data Bill. If you've been reading or watching the UK media you might well be aware of this. The bill is hugely controversial, not least because it requires all UK internet service providers to track and store for 12 months the details of every email sent within the UK, every website visited from within the UK and every use of a mobile phone within the UK. This is a huge undertaking and will gather an equally huge amount of data. It's also a costly undertaking, one that is ill conceived and impractical, one that is a massive invasion of our personal privacy and right to communicate with each other and one that is fundamentally undemocratic.

It's costly because the estimated price tag is £1.8bn over 10 years, a price tag that the country cannot afford given the current economic climate and the austerity measures which are being applied across all aspects of the United Kingdom. The estimated price tag is also just that, an estimate and the UK Home Office has already stated that the final figure is likely to be much higher.

SoLoMo, Or Just Social, Local And Mobile?

One of the many things I like about writing talks for a conference is that the talk often morphs during the writing process as I research the theme and try to make the narrative at least vaguely coherent. Of course, it also helps that when you're asked to be a speaker at a conference, the organisers often want the title and abstract up to 3 months ahead of proceedings. 3 months is a long time in the tech industry and a lot can change.

Which brings me to the talk I gave a month ago at the Location Business Summit in Amsterdam and again today at the Click 6.0 Digital Marketing conference in Dubai.

I'd originally wanted to talk about the importance of digital maps in SoLoMo, the much touted convergence of social, local and mobile. The more I researched this, the more a feeling of déjà vu crept into my thinking. I was sure I'd seen a much talked about and much feted tech phenomenon turn out to be more hype than substance. Much as hyperlocal, which I approached from the point of view of a hopeful sceptic, turned out to be more hype than local, SoLoMo gave me the same feeling of unease.