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  1. Rupert Allman

    Get Ahead, Get a Map - TFL Interview

    • Rupert Allman
    • 9 Nov 07, 12:19 PM

    Rupert: Last week, we asked what makes good design? Has Harry Beck's design classic from 1933 been lost in a tangle of new lines and detailed information? We can now bring you a response from Transport for London's Group Design Manager.

    TfL will publish its new tube map this Sunday - November 11th. But thanks to Diamond Geezer and others, we've got wind of it early and it's attracting plenty of comment. It's a journey that's taken us from this:

    Harry Beck's1933 Tube Map - click for larger version

    To this:


    See it better here.

    But does this latest map do an injustice to Harry Beck's original? Here are a couple of alternatives that have been brough to our attention. First this from Max Roberts:

    Max Robert's curvy map - click for larger version

    Here's another Max made earlier:


    And this from Alex Gollner:

    A New Tube Map from Alex - click for clearer image

    Any of the above appeal? There's much on going debate about all this on the Going Underground blog. Here, as promised, is TfL's Group Design Manager Innes Ferguson. Eddie first asked if any other designs had been considered?

    If you click on the Channel Guide, you can also hear from Oliver Green from the London Transport Museum. The LT Museum re-opens on November 22nd.

  1. Chris Vallance

    YouTube and the "fake" obituary

    • Chris Vallance
    • 7 Nov 07, 08:44 PM

    What's it like to find yourself the subject of a threatening video on YouTube? Newham Councillor Alan Craig complained to police over a video on YouTube titled, "In Memory of Councillor Alan Craig". Councillor Craig interprets the video, made in the style of an obituary, as a "death threat" directed at him because of his opposition to the proposed construction of a large mosque in the area. Councillor Craig, who stands as a councillor for The Christian People's Alliance, describes the video and his reaction to it in the audio below:

    Tablighi Jamaat, the group behind the Abbeymills mosque have condemned the video. It is also worth noting that prior to this incident the plans for the mosque had attracted the attention of the British National Party. Hafiz Mumtaz is a spokesperson for the mosque's supporters:

    In both these interviews Craig and Mumtaz express a desire to talk and negotiate in a peaceful and open manner. Although the web does provide a ready platform for extreme views, in the past I've found that the web can also be a powerful tool for bringing people together, even those on opposite sides of a violent conflict (I remember once facilitating the first phone conversation between an Iraqi mother and the mother of a US soldier who had become friends onlline). The question, which is a pertinent one for politicians, religious groups and even the lone blogger in their bedroom, is how to encourage civil dialogue online and keep internet trolls and extremists at bay. Answers on a postcard please.

  1. Rupert Allman

    What's the population of the UK?

    • Rupert Allman
    • 7 Nov 07, 10:07 AM

    I read this week that journalists are not very good with figures. "The great majority come from an arts or social studies background" Guilty, I failed my maths O-Level. The writer went on "most of my colleagues will not have grappled with a differential equation since their early teens. Basic statistical concepts - confidence intervals, standard deviation, probability and so on - are alien to them." Fair enough, but should that stop us asking one of the big questions of day- how many people live here?

    The number of people living in the UK seems to vary depending on the paper you read. So who does know? Or who is best placed to know? And who would you trust? All advice welcome and to be clear this not about whether the number is too high or too low or just right - it's about whether it is possible to find a number that we can all broadly agree on.

    Some are convinced the UK population is already well over 70 million. iPM has been speaking to one of them, author and business journalist, Martin Baker

    Convincing? Or cobblers? Here's something relevant to the above from our friends at Newsnight and BBC Radio Five Live.

  1. George South

    Liberal Conspiracy

    • George South
    • 5 Nov 07, 06:18 PM

    Why are right-wingers so dominant in the UK blogosphere? Right-of-centre sites like Iain Dale's Diary, ConservativeHome and Guido Fawkes consistently leave their left-wing counterparts trailing in both pageviews and political influence. Contrast that with the US, where sites like Daily Kos, MyDD, Talking Points Memo and the Huffington Post set the political agenda and dominate the conversation.

    For some time, frustrated left-wing bloggers have kicked around the idea of forming a (modestly termed) 'super-blog' to rival the success of the conservative blogosphere. Sunny Hundal of Pickled Politics has been among the more vocal, and today he launched along with dozens of other liberal bloggers

    He hopes it will become 'the hub' of a revitalised left-wing blogosphere. So what are its chances and why does the liberal-left blogosphere need a 'kick in the pants' in the first place? Here's Eddie talking to Sunny, as broadcast on the PM programme today.

    Guido Fawkes is one of the most well-known bloggers on the right, and his
    blog is a Westminster must-read. So what does he make of the launch?

  1. Rupert Allman

    Walk Buddies

    • Rupert Allman
    • 2 Nov 07, 03:39 PM

    Peeved at petrol costing £1 a litre? Thinking about using the car less? Looking forward to a visit next year from your own personal travel adviser? Then how about this? It's from the same people who came up with liftshare a website that helps people share car journeys. Only they've taken the idea one step further ( geddit? ) This new scheme matches individuals with others walking the same way so they can walk together. iPM has been speaking to its founder - Ali Clabburn.

    Full screen view

    But is letting anyone know where you walk - and when you walk - such a good idea? How do you share safely such personal information without running the risk that you give away too much about yourself and your whereabouts? Here's Ali Clabburn again,

    Full screen view

    So let's meet two women who have recently become Walkbudi's

    Full screen view

    My guess is that it's going to take something radical to lure us away from the comfort and convenience of the car - but would you be tempted to give this a go?

  1. Chris Vallance

    Boo to Trick or Treat

    • Chris Vallance
    • 31 Oct 07, 05:06 PM

    _44207552_pumpkin66.jpg Is the prospect of handing out sweets under threat of being tricked this Halloween sending a shiver down your spine? Edmund Wright, a philosopher with an interest in play and narrative, emailed us to share his concern that trick-or-treat is, in effect, a school for tiny extortionists. Here's what he wrote:

    It provides a splendid run-in for anyone wanting to set up a protection racket when he grows up, or even to begin life as a blackmailer. It has been imported from America, no doubt as a result of Spielberg's 'E.T.', and the eagerness of firms to work in their advertisements parasitically on any children's fad.

    And in a little monologue we recorded this afternoon, he enlarges upon his concerns:

    Well, is Wright right? Or is he a later-day Scrooge crying humbug to the spirit Halloween fun? There are certainly a few sympathetic people.

    And if you are reading this after Halloween, how was trick-or-treat for you? Did you feel extorted or were you happy to pass around the toffee? Are you a parent shuddering at the thought of law-suits and dental bills? Your thoughts welcome.

    UPDATE: Hmmm my own experiences last night included pavements covered with smashed eggs and fireworks lobbed like mortars in the general direction of the bus-stop. So I'm in exactly the right frame of mind to read this modest proposal: an economist at the American Enterprise institute argues, having surveyed a basket of sweetie bags and found most of the content inedible, that the economic cost of Trick-or-Treat is 1.5 billion dollars (that's roughly the amount the author estimates is wasted in disgusting candy usually given away at Halloween). The solution the author identifies is to give money not sweets. Now I may be no economist, but I think there may be significant counterparty risk associated with that scheme - more eggs and fireworks anyone?

    UPDATE II: The Police Inspector Blog takes a different view in an entertaining post:

    As a Constable, I used to enjoy responding to these calls by broadcasting the descriptions given over the radio channel. “The informant says the offenders are about 5 ft tall, dressed in a white sheet with chains, one has a bolt through his neck and huge stitches on his forehead and the other has fangs and blood dripping from his chin, over”.

    In his view the desire to ban trick-or-treating is another example of society making childhood a crime.

  1. Marc

    Can wearing a poppy show bias?

    • Marc
    • 31 Oct 07, 11:23 AM

    The annual Poppy Appeal by the Royal British Legion ahead of Remembrance Sunday is well underway. Politicians and presenters on TV are already sporting a poppy, as are many members of the public.


    The question has been raised though by "Bystander", who is Britain's most popular blogging magistrate whether or not JPs ought to wear the symbol while they're sitting on the bench, dispensing justice. Could it lead to accusations of bias? You can read in full the comments received here, but "Bystander", whose blog has now had more than 1m page views, told iPM more about the conversation on his blog:

    We're hoping to hear from the Magistrates Association later.

    If you have any thoughts about whether sitting magistrates should wear a poppy while on the bench, let us know by posting in the comments section below.

    Update on Wednesday from Marc:

    I've spoken to the Magistrates Association, who sadly aren't willing to provide someone for interview. They told me that there is no official policy regarding poppies for JPs, merely that "it's a matter for individual magistrates to decide". The MA "might" form a policy if it's raised as an issue through the official channels by a JP, but "it's not been raised recently, so we're not considering it actively"

  1. Rupert Allman

    The Human Circadian Clock

    • Rupert Allman
    • 30 Oct 07, 04:18 PM

    Rupert: We picked up this earlier post from Peter Lewis:

    "How long does it take you to recover from the "daylight saving" time shift? I keep waking up an hour early for over a week. It is a form of jet-lag without the carbon footprint. I plan to keep a log this year to see when I surface from sleep. Under stable conditions I will wake up at most half an hour before the alarm goes off. Most often the time is less than 15 minutes before. Sunday does not count, start on Monday."

    Peter is not alone. This week saw the publication of new research into how humans cope with the clock change. iPM has been speaking to one of its authors Professor Till Roenneberg

    More here too. A chance to find out more about your chronotype, are you a morning person or a night owl?

  1. Marc

    How far can you get in 2 seconds from a camera?

    • Marc
    • 25 Oct 07, 05:05 PM

    Among the ideas raised in our Monday meeting was this blog, where a man sets the timer on his camera to two seconds - and then runs away.

    Tracking him down proved easy - after all, his blog has a handy "contact me" link on it. Getting him to talk to iPM proved harder. My best efforts only resulted in a succession of polite refusals - although eventually the man behind the photos agreed to answer some questions by email.

    So here are some of his photos, as well as his story in his own words...


    My name is Gert R - I'd rather you didn't use my full name. I'm a 47 year old Dutchman, living in Rotterdam but working in Amsterdam. To pay the bills I work as a web developer, but I'm also an artist, making installations and sculptures.


    I've been taking these photos for around 18 months now. I don't go out of my way to take a picture, so the vast majority of them are taken near my house or near my job. That is one of the things I like about them, I am photographing places I normally would not think about photographing. I do it mainly for my own amusement, and for some faraway friends.


    I've now got around 70 pictures, taken at irregular intervals, when I feel like it and see an opportunity. Apart from falling once and hurting myself, they've all worked. Usually it is over before anyone notices, plus I tend to use quiet spots, because usually I am on my own and I have to leave my camera more or less unattended!


    Normally I don't have a tripod handy, so I have to leave my camera balanced on something. This is the biggest factor in how far I get; the more unstable the camera is, the more carefully I have to press the button, and that tends to make for a slow start.

  1. Marc

    Shared tastes in literature, music and more?

    • Marc
    • 25 Oct 07, 02:42 PM

    mark_55.jpg No, this isn't a very bad "lonely hearts" advert, but the fruits of an interesting website I was alerted to and raised in our ideas meeting earlier this week.

    The Literature Map builds a visual representation of authors, showing how close one is to the next, based on submissions from thousands of people.

    Here's one, based around George Orwell:

    You can have a go yourself here. Do you think it works? Share your thoughts about the Literature Map in the comments section below.

    I've been speaking to the man behind the Literature Map, Marek Gibney, who works in Hamburg. He told me how the Literature Map is just one of his projects that uses Artificial Intelligence to build up a picture of people's tastes...

  1. Chris Vallance

    Back to Reality...

    • Chris Vallance
    • 25 Oct 07, 02:28 PM

    George and I think we're back in the real world, having returned from the Virtual Worlds Forum (VWF) yesterday, though admittedly the office can seem one step removed.

    Apparently, 60 million people participate in some kind of computer generated alternative reality; by population alone that's another country. Mindbogglingly, that also means there's 60 million people with another identity, possibly another life, in a computer environment. So what are people like in their virtual lives - do they have purple hair, do they change their gender or become a new species? This is what VWF participants were prepared to admit to:

    OK, so you might dip your toe in a virtual world now and again, for a spot of R&R with some vaguely polygonal looking mates, but what about going to work there? Peter Dunkley's a consultant who gave up bricks and mortar to work in a virtual office:

    Wagner James Au's been reporting on the virtual world, Second Life, longer than just about anyone. You can read his reports on his blog New World Notes. Lord Puttnam, the conference keynote speaker, argued that the companies running virtual worlds need to learn lessons from government. In James Au's view the development of Second Life has already recapitulated the history of at least one real-world government:

    One of the most ambitious efforts to blend virtual reality and actual reality comes from China. The Beijing Cyber Recreation District is a virtual counterpart to an real part of the city. As the project's chief scientist Robert Lai explains, the virtual world influences the real one and vice versa:

    Business is a strong motive for the Cyber Recreation District. Justin Bovington of Rivers Run Red has been helping businesses get into virtual worlds for years. But is it all hype? Not according to Justin:

    The last part of Justin's interview touched a nerve for me. Broadcasters have been keen to race into Second Life and in many ways it's a "safe" environment. But we haven't really strayed into the other worlds out there. If you're a regular visitor to a virtual world outside Second Life (or you participate in a part of it that you think deserves media coverage) drop us a note. Perhaps our next Outside Broadcast will come from World of Warcraft, (the BBC risk assessment form should be a joy for that one!)

  1. Jennifer Tracey

    Are we all chasing the same happiness?

    • Jennifer Tracey
    • 25 Oct 07, 11:18 AM

    French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand is asking 6,000 people across six countries to 'create a portrait of the planet's inhabitants'.

    6 Billion Others is filming ordinary people talking about their hopes, dreams and aspirations in a really simple and moving way.

    6 Billion Others home page

    The first part of the project finishes in 2008 and then you can add your own testimony - it feels like the web was made for a project like this.

  1. Marc

    Chris and George at the Virtual Worlds Forum

    • Marc
    • 24 Oct 07, 11:33 PM

    chris_55.jpggeorge_55.jpg We're spending the day at the first ever Virtual Worlds Forum in London. It brings together some of the big hitters in new media, IT, games companies and the like.

    We'll put the best material we get from here on to the blog over the coming days.

    For starters, Chris Vallance spoke at the conference to Lord Triesman, the minister responsible for intellectual property, and began by asking him what he thought the goverment's role in virtual worlds actually was...

    UPDATE: There's more on this over at News Online

    In the interview Lord Triesman calls for a more active role for Internet Service Providers in identifying breaches of intellectual property rights, and says that "where people have registered music as an intellectual property ... we will be able to match data banks of that music to music going out and being exchanged on the net." Blogger and digital rights activist Cory Doctorow was at the conference and told us that Lord Triesman's comments were 'misbegotten'.

  1. Marc

    Box not-so-clever

    • Marc
    • 19 Oct 07, 03:46 PM

    Ah, the joys of having an idea...

    I'll be honest with you, the way I conceived how this piece would sound on air hasn't matched the reality. There seemed a lot of interest both on the internet and in the very first iPM meeting in the story - how using shipping containers could solve housing shortages.

    The story had a number of intriguing angles: the trade imbalance with China means thousands of containers end up at docks on this side of the globe, but don't go back there because we don't export enough in return; aid agencies are examining using containers as emergency housing in areas hit by earthquakes; and the demand for low-cost housing, for students and key workers, could see containers coming into their own.

    Trawling the internet turned up one of the UK's pre-eminent firms involved in transforming containers; I envisaged hearing a representative talk lyrically from inside what-was-once a container, all the audio having something of a metallic "twang" as our words bounced off the cargo shell. Sadly, for reasons I can't go into, that didn't happen.

    Neither did I get to speak to the company involved in the stacking of shipping containers.
    Neither could the council, which has several containers as offices, provide someone for me to interview.

    Finally, I spoke to Adam Kalkin an architect based in New Jersey, who converts shipping containers into homes in America....

  1. Chris Vallance

    PTSD and crime

    • Chris Vallance
    • 18 Oct 07, 05:22 PM

    bystander.jpgI'm a fan of The Magistrate's blog. Bystander, the blogger, works in a busy court, and his observations on the system are always worth reading. In this post he asks a question which I think some of our audience may be able to help answer.

    In yet another case, (and one of a type that I expect to see more of) a serviceman of long service and good character had driven while way over the drink limit; medical and other reports suggested that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder might be present following a strenuous tour in Iraq during which he was in a constant state of fear, and saw some horrible events.
    We treated each case on its merits - not always an easy decision though. [..] As I said, I fear that we have not seen the last of these.

    Cleary Bystander's concern is that more servicemen and former servicemen with PTSD are ending up in the legal system. If you've experience relevant to this we'd love to hear from you. Drop us an email, or leave a note in comments.

  1. George South

    Add DNA, then stir

    • George South
    • 17 Oct 07, 07:00 PM

    We're hoping to pull together a story on the collision of DNA testing and genealogical research. The internet has kickstarted lots of interest in amateur family tree sleuthing, using public records and online archives to track down relatives. And for several years now people have been analysing their DNA samples to find out just how many degrees of separation they are from King Arthur, Napoleon or Kevin Bacon.

    The US-based genealogy site has taken it a step further, launching a social network where users can share information about their DNA and make connections with others who share their genes. I've been speaking to them, and to some other people worried about the privacy and social implications of this. We often hear of the dangers of Facebook and MySpace for the unaware, but there's obvious potential for some nasty surprises when genetic records are thrown in the mix.

    But we need your help. We're interested in what happens when genealogical research goes pear-shaped. In other words, we're hoping to speak to someone who has set out to find out about their history, but found some unwanted skeletons in the closet. According to, 2% of British people find a bigamist in their family tree -- and a whopping 47% of those in Wales find a secret adoption in their lineage. So we want to hear your stories. Let us know in the comments, or send us an email at


    This finally aired on the PM programme on Monday. It morphed into a rather different piece, since launched their DNA service in the UK over the weekend, allowing users to send in a swab of saliva to be analysed for a number of genetic markers. A few organisations we spoke to originally while looking into the launch said they were keen to see how the social networking features would be implemented, in the light of all the privacy issues surrounding networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. When Privacy International made a formal complaint about the service to the Information Commissioner, the independent authority set up to protect personal information, we decided to tackle the issue head-on.

  1. Marc

    Living in a box

    • Marc
    • 17 Oct 07, 05:33 PM

    My unhealthy interest in shipping containers (thanks, Rupert) has led me here and iPM should be hearing from one man who's making a living from turning the containers into housing and more.

    You can find out where else in the world it's happening here and here as well

    Here's how Tower Hamlet council is using shipping containers:


    They've been turned into offices at a leisure centre in Mile End in east London.

    We'd also like to know if you've seen any containers turned into something else - a shop, a home, a school? You can send your photos to

  1. Chris Vallance

    Jane Stillwater in Iraq

    • Chris Vallance
    • 17 Oct 07, 11:36 AM

    I'd mentioned in our rough notes section that Jane Stillwater a 65-year old Californian grandmother and blogger was back on another self-funded embed in Iraq. Well last night she called in, and below is the raw of that interview. Now when it comes to iPM's broadcast, obviously we'd get Eddie to do the interview (I'll run this one on Pods and Blogs), but here's more or less the full raw audio and some questions for you: Is this the kind of interview you'd like to hear? Is there a follow-up interview that we should do or would this stand on its own? And how much does the poor phone-quality bother you?

    For more information about Jane you can visit her blog here. Or you might want to read one of the many news articles that have been written about her. I particularly liked this account of Jane at a press conference during her first trip to the country (From the San Jose Mercury News):

    The violence didn't keep her from wanting to return, but she wasn't sure she'd be allowed because of questions she asked Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lt. Gen. William Caldwell at a news conference. Stillwater asked McCain: "Since the invasion of Iraq was such a disaster, are you going to go ahead and invade Iran?" He declined to comment.

    Reading that you might think you can guess what Jane thinks of the military she's embedded with - but you'd be wrong. Take a listen.

  1. George South

    Et tu Bloggers?

    • George South
    • 16 Oct 07, 06:38 PM

    So who really "wielded the knife" that speared Ming Campbell last night? The search is underway to identify a backstabber lurking in the wings, but some Liberal Democrats are putting the blame for the leader's resignation on the party's rising group of bloggers. Critical posts in the past week by key bloggers like Jo Hayes and Nich Starling were picked up in the media and were, some think, the final straw for Ming.

    But just how powerful are blogs, and can they really change the political weather, or just report it? Dr Blog AKA Chris Vallance spoke this afternoon with Nich Starling AKA Norfolk Blogger.

    This is the first piece of iPM web audio. Although the first programme doesn’t air until November 10, we'll be regularly putting up interviews and voice pieces on the website before then, to help us find our feet. Any comments / angry denunciations welcome, and if you've got an idea for something you'd like us to look at, head over to the Rough Notes section of the blog and let us know.

    UPDATE: Re Nich's comment below. The audio player is a limited experiment and we're still getting used to it. I think there was a glitch in the upload which caused the premature end to the audio. It's fixed, thanks to Nich for alerting us.

  1. Chris Vallance

    Stories we're working on

    • Chris Vallance
    • 12 Oct 07, 03:58 PM

    We’ll post up our notes in this section about the stories we’re working on for the programme.

    So, for example, we might start work on an item on the new Post Secret Blog book

    We'll write down some of the steps and ideas we're having on the way to producing the finished item, including some of our pre-interviews. But what we really want here is your assistance. Put your thoughts and observations on how we might develop stories in the comments or email the programme. You might want to suggest different guests we can speak to, angles we haven't covered, or different ways of approaching the story. You can do that here.

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