As you may have read on Ed Byrne’s blog post, the first in the Geek Dinners Ireland series of meetups will be held this weekend. We’ll be meeting for drinks and finger food this Saturday at 8 PM in Massimo, William Street West. Ed mentioned there may be a dinner beforehand somewhere as well… All bloggers, geeks, and even non-geeks welcome!
I followed up my previous media appearances this past week with a more serious interview about the advantages and disadvantages of social networks (and Bebo in particular) for “Lunchtime with Brendan O’Brien” on NewsTalk 106.
You can also download an MP3 of this interview here.
This topic has received such coverage this week there must be an increase in the pocket jingling noises in Bebo’s San Francisco HQ… Mark Tighe was interviewed on Dave Fanning’s Monday show, and our director of Computer Services Kieran Loftus was on Today FM’s The Last Word with Matt Cooper the same day. I also got a call from 2FM on Monday asking some questions about social networking – crazy!
Following on from the Sunday Times article about Bebo and various colleges blocking the site, I was interviewed for about 5 minutes by Jack and Ali on Dublin’s Spin 1038 at 1:10 PM today.
You can hear the clip from the show here.
Related to this is the fact that the Sunday Times article appeared in Monday’s Daily Mail Ireland, re-written by someone called Enda Feeney. From what I could see (apart from one extra bit tagged on near the end), it was almost entirely lifted from Mark Tighe’s Sunday Times article the previous day. Perhaps this plagiarism (or is there a special industry term for this I don’t know about?) explains why the tabloid is only 30 cents…
Edit: Mark talks about this and other stuff on his new blog RoboHack.
[Posting this from my Xbox.]
Mark Tighe wrote an article for today’s Sunday Times in Ireland (26th March 2006) about the Bebo.com craze and its banning in colleges around the country, including NUI Galway. I was interviewed for it on Thursday.
Colleges put stop to Bebo.com craze
RECRUITING 6,000 new Irish users a day, the latest internet craze to engulf Irish schools and campuses has become a victim of its own success. IT managers in colleges are blocking access to Bebo.com, the social networking website that claims more than 500,000 Irish users, because of the site’s unprecedented popularity.
NUI Galway, Carlow IT, Waterford IT, Dublin Business School and Queen’s University, Belfast, have all blocked access to the site after receiving complaints from students who were unable to access college computers for course-work due to hundreds of other students jamming PC suites to log on to their Bebo profiles.
“We had a significant number of students come in to our user support centre complaining that they couldn’t access a computer when they went into PC suites,” explained Kieran Loftus, director of computer services at NUI Galway.
“I’ve never seen anything that was as popular as this craze. And that’s what it is — a craze. It’s like Hula Hoops back ages ago, it’s a cultural phenomenon of our time. There were cases where 35 out of 40 students in a suite were logged into Bebo, which obviously is not defensible as an educational activity. We have to police the resources here and had to take action.”
Loftus said he recognised that Bebo was a popular site for students but blocking access was the only solution. “We aren’t China,” he said. “College is about being curious and we accept that. There are issues here but our job is to ensure facilities are available for educational purposes.”
Bebo is aimed at the “hard to reach” 13- to 24-year-old demographic beloved of advertisers. Its success — more than 22m users worldwide have signed up since it was founded in San Francisco last July — is due to the provision of free, fully customisable websites for users. Members can upload pictures and movie clips, draw pictures on friend’s pages (whiteboard) and create personal quizzes for their friends to take.
Bebo is one of a number of sites that aim to bring communities of like-minded individuals together and mirrors the success of MySpace, Friendster, Facebook and other virtual meeting places.
“All these social networks have this attractor of ‘how many friends do I have?’ ” said John Breslin, a postdoctoral researcher at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at NUI Galway. “When you go to these sites you see a little number beside someone’s picture that says they have 20 friends, (then) you want to have 20 friends as well. It’s almost like a viral thing.”
I was interviewed last week by Liam Reid from the Irish Times about blogging and its effect on Irish politics. The article appeared in Tuesday’s Irish Times (21st March 2006) and is linked below. The “boggersphere” translated to “bogosphere” over the phone 😀
Prepare for the power of the blog
Are Irish politicians ready for bloggers? They look set to become a force in the next election, writes Liam Reid, political reporter
It sounds unkind, but it is probably fair to say that the average TD or senator is not the most technically literate of people. Spending any time in Leinster House, a journalist learns that most TDs prefer the fax or the telephone to e-mail; better still a chat over a cuppa or a pint. Irish politics is still very much a world where presence at a funeral rather than on the web is seen as important.
Mention the word “blog” and some TDs are likely to ask if it is the new brand name for Bord na Móna briquettes. The main political parties might have impressive websites and use e-mail as a primary means of communication, but that is about as far as it goes. While they put huge resources into monitoring newspapers and radio phone-in shows around the country, the same cannot be said of the internet.
Politicians, party officials and indeed commentators and journalists are mostly oblivious to the growing army of Irish political bloggers, who are determined to emerge as a force in next year’s general election.
Short for web logs, blogs are normally personal websites, often in a diary format, updated regularly with whatever takes the blogger’s fancy. They exist in the “blogosphere” – the wider online community of web-logs and bulletin boards, where users post comments, photos and video, and share information generally.
In Ireland, this community is keen to replicate the situation that emerged in the US during the 2004 presidential election where the blogosphere became a significant player. Bloggers and an online campaign are credited with transforming Howard Dean from an outsider to a front-runner in the Democratic nomination race. In September of that year, bloggers on a conservative site, “Free Republic”, collated evidence which suggested a report by CBS 60 minutes, which had questioned the military record of President George W Bush, was based on forged documents. Not only did they kill the story, they turned the debate on its head and onto the conduct of the media. The bloggers were taken seriously by politicians, and enjoyed accreditation and access usually reserved for media.
In Ireland the blogosphere remains on the fringes of political life. Dr John Breslin, the computer scientist who created Boards.ie, the largest Irish internet bulletin board, is convinced that blogging and the internet will become a factor in Irish politics in the future. “They’re psyching themselves up for next year, that’s when they hope they are going to get noticed.” He cites the explosion of blogging among the Irish internet community, often known as the “bogosphere”. When he began monitoring the number of Irish blogs last year, there were about 100. Now there are more than 1,000, he believes, with more than 140 of them devoted to politics and current affairs.
I’ve created a podcasts section on my Ambient Zone site.
I hope to add many podcasts there from the electronica show on Galway’s Flirt FM. As I don’t know yet how to make the site “podsafe”, I’ve decided to try and only use freely-available music (i.e. royalty free) on shows that will be made public in this podcasts section.
To start off with, I’m doing a special featuring music from the online record label (or “netlabel”) Monotonik. Enjoy!
For the same reason that Damien Mulley outlined on his blog entry about the IIA Net Visionary awards (namely boards.ie’s Tom Murphy won last year), and mainly because there are more deserving nominees, I don’t expect to win an award for “Social Contribution” in November…
However, if by some chance I am selected and there’s an opportunity for a short speech, I will make it a point to ask the awards attendees to support a much more worthy cause in some manner – i.e. fellow nominee Concern – even if it is only by donating a few euros a month. I’ll see if I can bully Damien into doing the same… 🙂
(BTW my affiliation on the Net Visionary page isn’t strictly correct since I actually work for DERI, NUI Galway, but I guess I should have corrected this before now…)
Anyway, here’s a press release from DERI telling you all (once more) how great I am! If it can help drum up some interest in Wiki Ireland, that would be a big plus…
John Breslin, a researcher at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at NUI Galway, has just been nominated by the Irish Internet Association (IIA) for a prestigious national “Net Visionary Award” in the area of “Social Contribution”. The award recognises outstanding achievements in applying Internet technology for the betterment of all segments of Irish society.
John is a native of Co Clare but has been working at NUI Galway for 5 years. John works at the high tech Digital Enterprise Research Institute which is developing the next generation of smart internet technology – the Semantic Web.
He recently set up “Wiki Ireland” (www.wiki.ie) which is an open community website intended to help preserve Irish culture and heritage. At Wiki Ireland anyone can log on and add content about Irish Folklore, history and culture. According to John;
“There is so much cultural knowledge, history, and stories out there, but most of it actually resides in people’s heads. There is a real danger that with the passing of older generations, this knowledge will be lost forever. Wiki Ireland will allow anyone at all to log on to the site and write up their particular story. It’s a simple easy and very democratic way of publishing and preserving our unique cultural heritage.”
John is the founder of Boards.ie one of the most popular internet discussion forums in Ireland. His particular area of research concerns how this next generation of internet technology can be applied for socially inclusive and community related activities. The IIA Awards will take place on 17th November in Clontarf Castle, Dublin.