Showing posts from October, 2011

Why are there so many English ghost stories?

Ghost stories are a quintessentially English form. It has been calculated that 98 per cent are written in English and that 70 per cent are composed by English writers. A nation half in love with its history may embrace the evidence of spirits. A country so preoccupied with its past, and with the traditions of the past, cannot help but be haunted by time. Ghosts can be seen as a bridge of light between the past and the present. Peter Ackroyd 'This Spectred Isle' You can find text and audio from adaptations of classic English ghost stories here :

Where does the word robot come from?

A rare example of a Czech word ('robota') entering English. The original meaning was compulsory or slave labour. It was only in the 1920s that the idea of a 'humanoid' machine became established. Kathleen Richardson points out in this BBC broadcast Listen! that our notions about robots are fanciful - they are generally clumsy, ineffective machines. So robots are not going to rule the world any time soon. But are they going to challenging for the Marathon Gold Medal at the next Olympics? On this evidence, perhaps not: Japanese Androids Train for First Ever Robot Marathon

What is ifttt?

'If this, then that' is an underpinning principle of writing computer code. The idea is that a) you anticipate consequences flowing from an action  b) you reduce streamline repetitive tasks by automating them. For Internet users this may become an increasingly pressing issue, particularly when it comes to social media. Sites like Posterous already allow posts to multiple locations  and Iftt is creating a bank of 'recipes'

Has the Internet only produced ugly words?

A fascinating discussion about new online vocabulary has been taking place on the Macmillan Dictionary Blog . It has got me thinking that the Internet has brought us many wonderful things but a beautiful vocabulary is not one of them.  Whose heart sings at the word ‘blog’? Or worse still, blogosphere? And while Shakespeare would have marvelled at the instant access information supplied by Google, could he have made the verb rhyme with anything? (Dougal? Boogle?) Are there words that stand out from the dull online crowd?  I suggested one for the Macmillan discussion - you can find it at the bottom of the comments  here .

What is crowd sourcing? Why did Steve Jobs not believe in it?

We figured that consumers would be the best judges for us ... designers  submit ideas and then asks customers to vote on them.   Only the top vote getters are offered for sale . Crowdsourcing is the marketing equivalent of 'asking the audience' in a radio show.  The first use of the term  crowdsourcing  is usually attributed to a 2006  Wired  magazine article "The Rise of Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe. Howe argued that the rise of cheap consumer electronics means that 'the gap between professionals and amateurs has been diminished'. Now companies can tap the knowledge of an informed public: "It’s not outsourcing; it’s crowdsourcing." Interestingly the late Steve Jobs took the opposite approach. He often quoted the apocryphal Henry Ford's line, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." As the joke went: Q. 'What's the Apple version of a focus group? A. The left side of Steve Jobs' brai

Who said that free verse was 'tennis without the net'?

America's greatest 20th Century poet, Robert Frost. For one of Frost's best-known poems is Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - you can read & hear it here .