Memories of AudioBoo

So AudioBoo is no more. Well, that’s not true: it’s been rebranded to AudioBoom, a brand they declare is “cooler” and with what seems to be a focus on listening, rather than creating.

I always liked the name AudioBoo – it had charm and was certainly British, if a bit twee – but perhaps for those reasons, the AudioBoom teams in New York, San Francisco and Sydney decided it had to go.

Nonetheless, the change in brand has brought me back to the platform, at least briefly. I stopped regularly using AudioBoo some time ago. I’m not sure why, as browsing back through my Boos my posts on AudioBoom reveals a plethora of charming sounds and associated images I enjoyed sharing.

Here are a few that I just picked out:

You can also listen to some of my cringe-worthy interviews, but I’m not going to share them here – you can easily find them through my profile.

Positively, AudioBoom now offers 10 minutes of free recording time. That’s up from five minutes, which often resulted in my making multiple posts for longer sounds. There’s also a handy new playlisting function that I’m using above,

So what next for AudioBoom? SoundCloud clearly has the user base when it comes to mixes and even podcasts. And if AudioBoom is moving more towards consumption rather than creation, then where will the content come from?

AudioBoo for me was always about voice and sounds, shared simply and instantly. Sounds evoke emotion and imagination in a way that short web video doesn’t, particularly when nudged along with a simple still image.

Whether there’s a niche for that simplicity in today’s social media environment of YouTubers, infographics and quick shareables is yet to be determined.

What does a ‘network attack’ look like?

Today, the popular content delivery network Akamai is reporting that ‘network attacks’ are 95%+ above ‘normal’.

Screengrab from Akamai’s ‘real-time web monitor’

It’s hard to get a feel for what data Akamai are using here or what the baseline is, but it caught my attention because of some attacks against our own network that we saw over the weekend.

It also got me thinking: ‘what does a network attack actually look like?’ for a hosting company.

To answer that, I suppose I need to explain what I mean by a ‘network attack’.

A network attack can come in many forms, but the most common type that we experience is a DDoS – a distributed denial-of-service attack. This type of attack is intended to disable access to a server or network by overloading it with network requests. Almost any network or server is vulnerable to such attacks because its job is to respond to network requests, e.g. to display a web page or access other content be it public or private. Depending how powerful they are, servers (and multiple groups of servers in clusters) can handle hundreds, thousands or even millions of simultaneous requests. A DDoS attack harnesses hundreds or even thousands of compromised computers or servers connected to the Internet to overwhelm the target servers by sending thousands or millions of requests (hence the term ‘distributed’). The sheer weight of requests will often rapidly overwhelm a server’s ability to respond as it runs out of resources. Hence, servers and websites ‘go down’. (The Wikipedia article on DDoS attacks has more background).

It’s important to note that however properly a server is configured, it can still be vulnerable to DDoS attacks. A DDoS attack exploits the very basic function of a server – to answer network requests and serve up content. An attack also often happens with little warning. And because it passes through network hardware that is at the edge of our network (thus usually shared by some other customers), it can have a wider impact.

Bytemark NOC – not really

But let’s make one thing very clear. A network attack happens in real time. Unlike the popular media image of an ISP, we don’t have a NORAD style mission control centre to monitor attacks through the paradigm of global warfare. There are no progress bars, or red lines curving over a map to warn us of what’s about to happen.

What does happen is that the target server is no longer able to serve the content that it would normally be expected to serve. If the network attack is large enough, it can also begin to affect other sites on our network. This is clearly an unacceptable situation.

So what we need is a system that monitors client servers, detects when they’re not serving content normally and then alerts the right people in the most effective way to take action. That action being to “null route” all the traffic directed at the target server, i.e. configure our network infrastructure to redirect it to nowhere, meaning it’s dropped and ignored. We also need to contact the client and explain what’s happening, as well as let everyone else know through our forum.

Summing up, responding to network attacks (like a DDoS) is an important part of what we do as a responsible hosting provider. What they ‘look like’ isn’t particularly sexy (though I do now wish we had a WarGames style command centre). However, our visibility of network attacks is optimised for rapid and efficient response be it night or day.

In the light of recent attacks across the Internet, I hope this has shed some light on how we handle these challenging events.

The Jubilee Time Capsule: 80,000 memories

Originally published over at

Memories are precious. You can’t replace them. “Memories are what warm you up from the inside”, wrote Haruki Murakami.

And throughout the 60 years of her reign, the Queen will undoubtedly have inspired countless memories in her capacity as Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth.

I think that’s why I’ve been so personally excited by the Jubilee Time Capsule project, that we are an important part of. It’s more than just a bunch of servers humming away in a datacentre: it’s a unique collection of memories. Over 80,000 of them, in fact, submitted by people from across the world, creating a crowdsourced archive of the Queen’s 60 years on the throne. Photos, videos, text: all part of a digital timeline unlike any other in history. And we’re proud and honoured to be chosen to host this unique time capsule for the 21st century.

In September, the Jubilee Time Capsule was closed for entries and “sealed”. So today, my colleague Steven and I have headed to that London for a very special event. Following the sealing of the capsule, the best 60 entries have been collated by an impressive panel of judges. This Diamond (re)Collection will then be presented to Her Majesty the Queen on a Samsung tablet.

It’s hard to believe that something we’ve been working on over the last year will now be presented to the Queen. It’s a huge honour, of course, but for us it also represents something that’s one of our core values: trust. Trust is something that’s earned, and we’re humbled really, that, as a team of young-ish, northern(-ish) geeks we’ve been trusted with delivering the hosting for a project on behalf of one the oldest institutions in the world.

Thanks must go to the guys at who developed the technology and to our friends at Attido Mobile who designed the iPhone and iPad apps to help people upload memories to the capsule. And, of course, a huge thanks to our support team at Melbourne, who helped design and provision the servers that host the Jubilee Time Capsule. While it was treated with the same love and care as all our customers get, it’s great to demonstrate that the platform has experienced 100% uptime – which is exactly what we aim to offer to all customers.

So as I write, we’re about to set off to the Commonwealth Club now. We’ll be uploading our own snaps and videos from the day on Twitter so keep an eye out over @MelbourneHost.

Live your life in the cloud with 4G

I’m barely coherent without a coffee in the mornings. So it was fortunate that I nipped over to Teacup on Thomas Street before work for a cup of coffee and a spot of BBC Breakfast with Rory Cellan Jones to talk about today’s 4G launch.

For the uninitiated, 4G (or LTE as it’s sometimes called) is the latest generation of mobile phone technology, allowing significantly faster mobile Internet connectivity. In fact, Rory’s tests this morning showed 19 Mbps and 15 MBps up, which is even better than the UK average broadband speed of 9 Mbps!

Given that more and more of our personal data is being hosted and processed in the cloud, and our increasing reliance on mobile data apps, the advent of 4G cannot come quickly enough. Fast, reliable mobile data will only increase the use of cloud technologies to store and share content. More and more of us will live our lives in the cloud.

However, as with any brand new technology, there is a cost. Users have to invest in a whole new infrastructure, with only a limited number of handsets currently supporting 4G in the UK and the small, current data tariffs don’t reflect the potential of storing your life in the cloud.

Nonetheless, this is just the start. Like 3G, ten years ago, the technology will mature and consumer choice will expand. For cloud providers like us, it’s an exciting time to step-up to the plate and continue to deliver reliable, secure infrastructure for future 4G-based uses.


Ending over the air TV broadcasts will congest UK broadband even further

Originally published over at

The House of Lords has recommended ending the use of airwaves to broadcast TV and re-allocating this spectrum to mobile data usage.

TV “should be delivered exclusively over the Internet”, reports the Reg. The House of Lords report, titled Broadband for All – an Alternative Vision, presents a series of recommendations that are part of a wider set of suggestions to improving broadband quality in the UK.

The fact is, that if the recommendation contained within the report were to be adopted by the Government, it would put never before imagined pressure on the UK’s Internet infrastructure. This is why the committee’s consideration of a universal service obligation for minimum broadband quality is a good starting point.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the UK’s domestic and business broadband relies on adapting old copper-wire technology to handle it (i.e. DSL). This means it’s inherently going to be of a lower quality and speed than the fibre-optic broadband Internet access available in some of the biggest growing digital economies in the world, like South Korea and that’s being experimented with by Google in Kansas City, USA.

In Manchester – a major broadband not-spot – tenants of the Manchester Science Park are lucky to get 100 MBps Internet connections provided by our network. If we’re going to stop using the airwaves to receive broadcast content, then this type of connection will become the bare minimum businesses need and consumers will expect to consume content online.

In my opinion, the Government needs to step-in and realise that without significant fresh investment in the UK’s Internet infrastructure, we will continue to languish in the global broadband league tables.

Viral marketing is a marketing exercise

Originally posted over at

We love sharing funny, moving and clever videos around the office at Melbourne. Recent ones that have done the rounds include a 999 call by a women reporting the theft of a snowman and the Cassette Boy remix of Dragons Den (possibly NSFW).

But my favourite one is an old classic from the early days of YouTube.

What makes all these videos shareable? Why do I forward them round to my colleagues over email, Twitter or instant messaging?

As Geth from Young said at last night’s Feed, the key to a making someone share a good piece of content is for it to elicit an emotional response. Whether it makes you laugh, cry or – in the case of the Picard video – simply feel bemused at the ultimate cultish geekyness, it has to do that to make someone even think about sharing it with their friends.

And that really is it. “Viral marketing” is not a panacea, nor is it something for which there’s a secret formula. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that they term “viral marketing” is an opportunistic branding of a natural phenomenon. Dan Carrol expands on this in his guest post for The Feed last week.

Content is key, always has been and always will. None of the videos I’ve linked above intrinsically sell a product – but they’re bloody funny. Anyone producing content that they want people to share is going to have to compete with these and more. Take a look at James Webb’s blog post (and inevitable associated infographic!) about the most watched and searched for terms on YouTube. With so much high-quality – and low-humour content – there’s no way that anyone can guarantee that something can “go viral”. However, latching onto the (trends of the day can definitely help users discover and subsequently share your content if it’s any good.

In short, the best way to harness the viral effect is to make something special that gets you thinking and make sure it gets found by users. Anyone that tries to sell you a “viral marketing campaign” is selling you snake oil.

iMessage @MelbourneHost with #iOS5

An unedited original of this was posted over at

Now that iOS 5 has finally come out of beta, I’ve been having fun setting it up on a number of Apple devices at home and work. By waiting until Thursday morning to install it, I seem to have avoided the issues reported by some users at launch. Everything downloaded smoothly and was verified by Apple’s servers without delay.

One of the features I’ve been most interested in seeing deployed on a wide scale is iMessage, which is Apple’s answer to BBM (BlackBerry Messenger). iMessage allows users of all iOS 5 devices like iPhones, iPads and iPods to exchange short messages, pictures and audio or video. It should be automatically set up for iPhone users, acting as a transparent SMS replacement to friends with iOS 5. On iPad and iPod Touch devices, iMessage needs an email address registered with Apple so that other users can get hold of you.

I had a go at setting up iMessage for Melbourne – so if you want to get hold of us, send us an iMessage:

iMessage is just another way we’re trying out for people to get in touch. It’s probably best to stick to the usual support channels for directed responses, but if you just want to say hi or ask a quick question, then go ahead and drop us an iMessage.

Five ideas for using the new Foursquare brand pages for your business or organisation

Foursquare logoToday, Foursquare launched the ability for anyone to create their own ‘brand’ page on Foursquare. This means that brands or organisations can now quickly set up a presence on the rapidly growing location based network, and share their tips and advice about what to do and where to go.

Let’s take a quick step back – remember, Foursquare is more than just a game or a tool to announce your location. It’s a social recommendation engine: it lets people find out where their trusted friends and contacts hang out and allows them to share tips and advice about places, from where’s good to eat, to special offers. I wrote a blog post primer on this titled How to win Foursquare friends and influence people.

Why is this new? Until recently, Foursquare had a lengthy and manual process for approving your brand on Foursquare and many organisations nominated an individual to be followed instead who could be their ambassador.

Now, to create a Foursquare brand page, all you need is your brand’s Twitter account, some logos, at least five tips and in about half an hour, you could be up and running and being featured in Foursquare’s page gallery. I had a go this afternoon setting up a page for #smc_mcr in Manchester and came up with some ideas for you to harness the power of Foursquare pages.

Creating a page is a bit like using making a Facebook page. You log in with your own personal Foursquare account and then create the Foursquare brand page. You can then ‘act as’ that Foursquare brand page while setting up the page and leaving tips.

Just one word of warning: if your brand or organisation already has a Twitter account linked to a personal Foursquare account, you won’t be able to create a Foursquare page for it using that Twitter account. If this happens, just un-associate (dissociate!) the brand Twitter account from the existing Foursquare account before you try and create a page.

So, once you’ve got your page set up, what can you use it for? Pages let you do two things: leave tips at locations and ‘check-in’ to a location as a brand. Here’s some ideas for how you can use both:

1. Invite users to your stores or physical location

Foursquare’s all about recommending places, so why not recommend your own? Leave a tip inviting someone to pop in for a cuppa, browse your shop or have a chat. Digital technology often works best when it enables unexpected positive real-world interaction, so make it happen. Even if they don’t take you up on that offer, at least people will remember that there’s a physical location nearby.

It’s even better if you’ve registered any relevant locations and have added “Special Offers”. Also, some cities like Manchester, have a scheme which means that venues can opt-in to allow people to use their toilets for free. This is another idea for a tip and invaluable to know if you need to spend a penny in town!

A note about tips: your tips pop-up on someone’s screen when they check-in nearby, if they’re following you. They also pop-up if they’re not following you, but only if there are no other unread tips from their friends nearby.

Make sure you check-in whenever you visit one of your venues or offices too.

2. Leave tips about things you already like doing

Being on Foursquare is means you’re part of a community of people sharing advice, so get involved. As a brand or organisation, are there fun places that your staff or employees like to hang out? Where do you go for lunch, or a drink after work? Tell Foursquare and tell us why – is it a cheap place to get your daily bread or does it have a great vibe to wind down after a long day in the office?

You could also leave tips relevant to the type of location. For example, is there a really useful information resource that someone should check out?

This is a great way to engage in the general conversation – after all, it’s what most people on Foursquare tend to do. If you have staff parties or outings, then you can check-in to those venues using the Foursquare app. It’s a good way of showing that you represent real people who do ordinary things. And, it’s a great way to spread the love in your local neighbourhood.

3. Holding an event? Let everyone know how to get involved

This is a no-brainer: if you’re having an event that people might be interested in, let them know by dropping a tip at the location. It’s a simple way to promote your event and spread the word to those who might not even know you’re doing something in the area. When the event starts, you can also check-in to the location as a page and tweet that you’re there and it’s going ahead.

This is especially good for community-based events or non-profits, but equally for one-off visits to town by brands like pop-up fashion sales or book-signings. Make sure you add a web link and a Twitter hashtag to your tips and check-ins, so someone can tweet it straightaway.

4. Avoid disparaging tips about competitors (leave that to the punters!)

“My burritos are better than their burritos”. While this may be true, it’s not really the place of a brand or organisation to leave negative comments about the competition. Yes, there are negative tips on Foursquare, but what individual users do is up to them (and will carry far more weight than seeing effectively a self-serving tip.

5. Go global

With Foursquare, your brand or organisation can have a presence way beyond the locality you’re based. Say you’re a non-profit sponsoring projects overseas: leave a tip near there letting local users know how you’ve helped and how they can get involved. If you’re a manufacturing brand or cottage industry, why not leave tips near where you source your raw materials? Or, if you’re a sports team with a global following, let people know where you can meet other fans.

It could be interesting for those local users to know just how far something travels and where it’s used, and it helps raise awareness of your online brand. And of course, if you go travelling or exploring new places, check-in as your brand wherever you go and say what you’ve seen and how it influences your business.

In conclusion, try to make your use of Foursquare relevant, quirky and interesting: plain, irrelevant ad-spam is an instant turn-off and can lead to a negative response on Twitter.

Also, set up your page quickly! Don’t worry if it’s not perfect: I’ve no doubt that we’ll see these pages mushroom, just like they do on Facebook, and it’s best to put something up quicker than it is to wait around to see what happens.

Go ahead and try setting up your brand page now. Do you have any other good ideas for how to use Foursquare pages? Leave a comment below.

Your shout: get involved with the Manchester Digital PR working group

Manchester Digital logoWhen I stood as a candidate for the Manchester Digital council, I said I’d “work to massively improve Manchester Digital’s external communications”.

I felt Manchester Digital could do a lot more to improve how it communicated with members and needed to reach out to work more collaboratively with the local digital community.

Therefore, as part of my role on the council, I’ve taken up the mantle to lead the PR, marketing and communications working group. This group will meet to discuss and improve the way that Manchester Digital communicates externally, identifying problems, challenges and coming up with solutions.

I strongly feel that we – Manchester Digital – can do more to engage digitally with our membership and improve our relevance as the trade body for the north-west digital sector. I hope this group will play a key part in making that happen.

Any member of Manchester Digital is welcome to attend. This will be part of a series of meetings, that I will try and move around so as to accommodate varying availability. Also, I hope to open up some of the discussions online, so people who can’t attend can also engage with the process.

Event details:

Tuesday 21 September, 6-7 pm
MDDA, Portland Street (map).

Add to 

Email me technicalfault-at-gmail-dot-com if you plan to attend or have any questions (and please drop a comment below too).