We Canna do it Captain, we don’t have the Power.

Last night, we experienced an area wide power cut.   Despite being in modern 21st century,  this is nothing unusual – they seem to occur 3-4 times per year, with an average length of about 20mins.

Many people in the area are fully prepared,  with battery powered lanterns, torches and the traditional candles and matches to hand.  But after you’ve provided yourself a bit of light (when it happens at night), you find yourself sitting there, wondering what to do now the TV, Radio, Computers have all gone off.   And of course, whilst your broadband has almost certainly gone off, your smartphone falls back to the mobile network for its internet which more often than not keeps working.  Anyone using social networks via their phone can tweet for facebook that the power has gone out,  and start comparing notes as to how far it stretches.  Most people wouldn’t bother to phone their power supplier to let them know about the outage, as I think the assumption is that they can detect it and start resolving it ASAP.

But do they?

The previous supplier of electricity, Central Networks used to have a map that you could click on and see where they knew there were faults.  Western Power Distribution , the new incumbent do not.  Now,  the information used to be available to the suppliers, so where has it gone now?  Do they no longer have the systems to collect this data from the grid,  or was it collated from their CRM systems?  Maybe they feel that it is some kind of sensitive data so best not to share it,  or simply that the bosses do not think this information is valuable to its client base.
I’m singling out Western Power, but a quick search of the power companies listed by the National Grid ( seem to highlight only 
Northern Power Grid (
Electricity Northwest (
seem to be willing and/or able to provide this information.   And good on them too.  Not only do ENWL show current unplanned outages, but also future planned work.   

So my point is,  if they can do it,  why can’t other utility providers provide outage information.  Or,  maybe its something that the National Grid can do – after all, they provide a live view of the demand (,  but can they see deep enough into the local grids to see the outages. 

Power cuts happen – its a fact of life.  But how long will it take suppliers to embrace the communication power of the Internet to get information out to its customers.  For now,  I guess we’ll just have stick with searching twitter for #PowerCut


Or so some newspapers would have you believe.   A story crept into the media on Friday basically saying that people  who use social networking sites were at a higher risk of cancer.

A UK Boffin has conducted a study and published it in the Biologist (the journal for the British institute of Biology) which has found a link between social-isolation and an increased risk from cancer, dementia, heart disease, diabetes, influenza, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and the common cold.

This has been attributed to people using Facespacewitterbo to interact, rather than gathering together to ‘network’.  Research has shown that isolation can impaire the the development of leukocytes which help fight disease by circulating around your body.   Really though,  other than panicking,  perhaps we should all just calm down.  It should be no surprise if you spend your entire time sat on your butt, eating high-fat, high-sugar diets that you may die earlier.  But hey,  in other research,  living life will induce death.   Non of us know when our ticket is called, so we may as well just get on with enjoying whatever we enjoy doing, as you don’t know when its going to end.

In related news, common sense issued a statement  – "Don’t Panic".

Data Viz…

Over the past couple of working days, I’ve been doing some research into some data visualisation techniques to help improve our understanding of some telecom’s expense information for a review we’re conducting.  I’m looking at radial graphs and whilst search, came upon Nexus Friend Grapher which is a pretty funky looking friend mapper for Facebook.

Fullscreen capture 16022009 160639

Basically, you feed in your Facebook profile and it spits out a graph similar to the above showing your friends and how they link with each other.  The above graph is using ‘random’ data, rather than my actual profile, and shows that my friend groups are split into 3 or 4 distinct groups, rather than mostly being merged as above.   Now all I need is for them to port it to Twitter!

I’d urge anyone on Facebook to give it a go when they’re at home,  it might reveal some interesting graphics!


Over the last few weeks of Twitter usage, I’ve noticed one thing – those that get it, and those that don’t. I’ve also noticed their usage profile.

Those that get it,  which I will call ‘Twitter Swimmers’ tend to be those who take a regular active part in the Twittersphere.  We tend to access it throughout the day, tweeting and responding to tweets.  TS’s tend to follow lots of people, and hence gain a core of followers from that.   We use different access methods – web, desktop and mobile,  and happily promote it to their friends, colleagues and contacts.

The ‘Twitter Dippers’ however, tend to sign up,  perhaps post a few tweets, follow a couple of people, then give up wondering what all the fuss is about.   I don’t think Twitter has the instant gratification that maybe Facebook instils.  I was a ‘TD’, dipping my toe in the water, not seeing the point of it.  But then I revisited a month or so later, and now I’m addicted!!!    So anyone in the TD category,  try some of the TS activities,  stick with it for a few weeks,  and you may just get hooked.

Twitter in Plain English

So I’ve found a few nice Youtube Videos explaining Twitter for newbies, and I thought I’d post the links here.

First off,  ‘Twitter in Plain English’ explains what Twitter is.

Next, how to use the Twitter Website

And finally for today, Tweetdeck.

Just a headsup to say non of these video’s are my own, but they’re really nice how-tos.

Twitter 101, Day 1.

So I seem to be coming across the questions Virgin Twitterers are asking – how does this work, what do I do, what’s it all about e.t.c.

So this is day 1 of Twitter School.

1) What the funk is twitter?
Twitter is a social messaging and status system.  It allows you to post short updates about what you’re upto, what you’ve seen that’s cool, and what you think about various subjects.

2) What’s the point?  I’ve got Facebospace?
Twitter is a little different MyFaceBo, in that its entirely focused on short updates.  No adding tonnes of crap to your page, you just post text, pictures and links upto 140 characters in length.  Think of it like organising a night out with a Group of Friends.  Everyone can input their thoughts into the ‘cloud’ and you might get a solution, idea or way forward drop out.  Try it – its addictive.

3) OK, so where do I start?
Well, first off, get yourself a twitter account.  Goto and sign up.

4) I’ve done that, what next?
First off, post a few tweets about what you’re upto.  

5) I don’t know what to tweet about?
Well, first off,  follow a few people to see what they do.  The best approach is to lurk around for a few days and see what gets written, you’ll get the idea. 

6) So, who do I follow?
If you’ve got friends on Twitter, why not add them?  Billy No Mates?  Well, add a few celebrities instead.   Some examples: @wossy (Jonathon Ross, @stephenfry, @scofe (Phil Schofield).  

7) So how do I add a friend?
Two easy ways – either find them on the twitter website by doing a search or entering their twitter address ( – e.g.

OR, in the Text box, type follow user

8) Cool, I can talk to all my favourite celebrities.
Well, maybe.   Bear in mind that some celebs have tens of thousands of followers.  Every comment and thought is massively commented and replied to. Chances are, your tweet will get ignored and get consigned to the bowels of history.  You might get lucky, but don’t join twitter just for this.  Join it to give the world an insight into your thoughts, rather than an MSN Messenger type service.  Nothing is more tedious than a page full of @ tweets.  If however you wish to proceed with this foolhardy quest for glory, a ‘public’ message to someone is posted ‘@username I love you and want to stalk you’.    You can also private message them with a D username, however this should be discouraged as far as possible, as this negates the point of a social messaging site.

9) How will I know if my favourite celebrity has replied to me? 
Well, you’ll see a message back from them saying something like “@yourusername: wow, you really rock and we should meet at the Ivy to discuss this further”.  Well, you can party like its 2099.

10) This seems OK, but its a bit annoying having to sit at my computer.
Well, Good News Everyone!  You don’t!    You can tweet from your Mobile/iPhone/CrackBerry/WinMo e.t.c e.t.c. e.t.c.  You can also get applications for your PC which can improve your experience.   Just google ‘twitter platform’ and see what comes up.  You can also see what other users use in their tweets, using the ‘from field’.

My favorite is tweetdeck.  It’s an Adobe Air application (you don’t need to worry), but its a Desktop Application.  You get the tweet window at the top with the commands.  Your tweets in one column,  your direct messages and other replies.  You can also see the most popular topics on Twitter right now with twitscoop and have ‘saved searches’ to see if anyone is twittering about your favourite subject.


And here endeth todays lesson.  Join me for more lessons soon.