The Gentleman’s Book Club Reads

gbooksThe Gentleman’s Book Club was inaugurated in April 2011 following late night deliberations during the count for the General Election of that year. After some discussion we settled on meeting in Smyth’s pub to share our thoughts on our first read. The location has remained our favoured haunt although we have on occasion strayed. Our numbers have remained constant and remain a very convivial 7 to today. December has become the month when we choose a ‘lighter’ read and gather to reflect on our reads of the year as part of a ‘Eurovision’ style ranking of the 12 reads of the year.

We remain vibrantly engaged with our reads (some of which have our brief reviews linked) which over the years include: Continue reading

Playing with Hexagons in Northern Ireland

[Cross Posted from QUBDH]

NI-Hex-2016-2011-ResultsSo what about those hexagons? They were all the rage during the UK General Election last year – the BBC actually constructed a physical jigsaw in their atrium out of them. At the time I mused on there usefulness for providing a pseudo-spatial representation of return data. At the time I was largely positive and have subsequently experimented with their usage in place of heat maps – as in the example below looking at healthcare coverage. On a popular basis they appear to have been a passing fancy with the major media organisations abandoning them just a year later during the UK local and regional elections. I haven’t abandoned them yet myself and found that for the NI election this week they offered a useful sense on the allocation of seats by constituency.

Continue reading

I Like My Leap!

leapWe all know that Shawn loves his mobile phones. It’s constant quest to find the optimal UX to suit my needs, sense of aesthetics and visual challenges. Last week, through the generosity of conference organisers I picked up a BlackBerry Leap running BB10.3. It’s oddly (perhaps) the second BB I have personally used (I was tempted by the Passport – hey, I do really like different – but it was too pricey for a discretionary purchase).
Back in 1998 we (my business partners and I) acquired little inter@ctive 950‘s – in front of the market and the cherished gadget of choice amongst techie geeks. It wedded me to being connected at the hip to my co-workers and being able to share an immediate experience across distances via a ‘smart’ communication device. I was asked to return my 900 when I parted company with Ardesic in 2001 and strangely despite being quite enamoured of my BB experience fought the urge to be so connected. I hear snickers at that line from those that know me. Continue reading

Life with a Chromebook

chromebookImageI am always looking for ways of accomplishing day-to-day tasks more efficiently or effectively and the latest foray has been living with a Google ChromeBook. I am now 30 days with a shiny HP Chromebook 11. At £189 via Curry’s it doesn’t break the bank and, in fact, certainly promised more potential return. My ChromeBook is a svelte white one with the blue pinstriping. I poke and prodded a selection of potential ‘Books before making the choice and deliberated over specs. In the endgame, it was really down to this one versus Dell’s new Chromebook available through educational channels. Why the HP? Great reviews complimenting it for both the superb IPS display and for the excellent fit, finish and build quality. In experience both factors having lived up to the billing. This particular HP model is  in the process of being discontinued in favour of an 11 or 12 inch version of their 14 inch Chromebook. Removing the IPS display and also offering less glowing comments on fit and finish. So, I bit the bullet and ponied up for the experiment. Continue reading

Visualising the Vote Count

Screenshot 2014-05-30 at 07.58.47 - Edited (1)Well, it’s another election passed for me in Ireland. Ireland went to the polls last Friday and turnout was a respectable well above 50% of eligible voters stating their preferences. A few tight runs and a few surprises. The process of the count here is fascinating for me as a Canadian. Staying up a few hours after the polls close in Canada and you pretty much know the shape of the government to be, where in Ireland the full process in guaranteed to take days to complete. Continue reading


I am not quite certain where from my curiosity with the MOOC concept springs, but I seem to find myself spending much time lately considering their strengths and weaknesses. A recent article in Boston’s Globe exploring the serious resources that Harvard is committing to refine the concept caught my attention. It builds exquisitely on last week’s discussion around Dr Dominic Bryan’s FutureLearn course.

The Boston Globe’s ‘Harvard goes all in for online courses‘ gives a privileged view of some of the depth of attention and of nuance that is going into what is a rapidly evolving space. Despite widespread scepticism and outright dismissal from the overly simplistic ‘we are giving away for free something we have been charging for’ to the microscopic completion rates, more thoughtful studies are identifying where the concept is addressing serious flaws in our current academic delivery mechanisms. Continue reading

The Analogue Save Button

draftingI posted a very quick twit pic on Sunday of geometric shapes inscribed onto vellum with 4H/2H lead. I was basking in some healthy non-digital therapy. I haven’t done any technical drawing in decades. Re-engaging with the putting of lead to paper was just as I hoped: it removed an intermediary from the process and simply made me happy in losing myself into creating an imagined real. What I didn’t mention was a rather fleeting realisation as I walked away from the work to go for Easter dinner and for a fleeting moment looked for the save button. In all seriousness. I realised that my mind has become so wired to constantly tell my digital tools to save where I am at (even when there is automated backups or drafts being done on my behalf). Working in my analogue bliss I was able to just walk away and know I could come right back to where I was at, the tools sitting waiting, the work in situ and all set to re-engage — with no further effort on my behalf. Totally liberating! Highly recommended!


In praise of less than ordinary things

corkpostboxI write of the post box. I was considering my travel options during an emergency situation at Kent Station Cork this week and as I was pondering logistical issues, my attention was suddenly drawn to the study, green cylindrical post box squirrelled away in a niche in the waiting hall. It’s very easily overlooked. Recent construction has placed partitions around it and there’s a profusion of posters, notices and other distractions muting its presence. And yet here I was drawn to it – there was a rather tangential reference to it stored in my memory. In point of fact, this particular post box is one of the oldest remaining post box still in use in Ireland. Continue reading

Quick Survey of Time and Space in the DH Sphere

I am participating in a workshop at University College Cork as part of the Digital Arts and Humanities PhD programme on Friday and Saturday this week. The agenda, covering aspects of data management, data encoding, space and time, data modeling, and network analysis, looks very exciting. It is all predicated on giving a quick overview in support of a hands-on hackfest working with the Frank O’Connor collections from the UCC special collections on Saturday.

As I was surveying the latest materials to update, extend and refine information I have presented in the past, I have collected a few tangential pieces that seemed worth noting.

Information Visualisation by Dr Katie Börner

kTransferIndianaI have been casually following (i.e. I never find the time to spend participating actively) in a MOOC on Information Visualisation being delivered through the Indiana University at Bloomington. It is very broadly based with a scientific eye towards exploring, where, when, why and the associated tools and methodologies that can be employed to gain a great understanding of the data. In trawling, I found a very thoughtful paper published by Dr Börner ‘The Cartographies of Science‘ which uses social network analysis to explore information transfer and illustrate the results by exposing the methodology and the visualisation techniques used to deduce how scientists are working together and what they are working on. I like this paper as it offers some wonderful examples of how these same methods and techniques might be applied to historical or other humanities data to ask similar questions.

The Science of Fun

Review a book on Lego? Seriously? Not that I would make a secret of my continuing fascination with those funky little pieces of plastic and all that you can do with them, but I am constantly amazed by the vast ecosystem that surrounds this Danish wonder. I use the term wonder quite deliberately…it is wonderment, it is wonderful and it is this innate sense of curiosity, of inventiveness, of creativity, yet in a structured, and deeply thoughtful, systematic engagement that Lego has uniquely tapped into.

What amazes, and continues to amaze, is where Lego pops up, both as the fun, physical doodle playlet, but in information systems as we explore open innovation, or when visiting a school of design and seeing the great collection of themed Lego sets of great architecture that have recently been marketed by the geniuses from Billund. Lego is everywhere and it should come us no surprise, but does, when I find O”Reilly offering a couple books on Lego techniques along the same shelf as Beginning Java or Enabling Mongo Db. The amazement arises from realising the vast armada of books and other support materials that are out there to stimulate the Lego practice.

Mind boggling, but testament to both the enduring fascination with the Lego system and with this tapping of something deep inside that compels one to start connecting bricks, and plates and all the other ever evolving bits into weird, wild and wonderful personal creations. Ahhh. Continue reading