Thursday, December 12, 2013

7 years and counting

In a moment of reflection, I have decided to look back on the last 7 years of being self-employed and take a look into the future.

Why take on running your own business?

The reasons why any of is take on the task of running our own business (or as people like to say 'being your own boss') is pretty wide.
I guess because my father ran his own business(s) up until a few years ago is probably the biggest factor. I remember there were times that we just didn't see much of him as he was either down at his workshop (he was a panel beater/car restorer) or in the garage at home working on cars, he did this to keep our family fed, clothed and all that stuff.
But after speaking to him I think there was an ulterior motive, and sub consciously its the same reason why I do what I do..... we love what we do.
For my dad it was cars, bikes, anything with a motor in it, he was always tinkering with something, tweaking suspension setups, fuel mixes, there was always something that could be done better.

For me its not;
  • the freedom of working for myself
  • the millions of pounds I haven't made yet (although .....)
  • the easy hours I dreamt about
  • the long holidays between projects
However there is one part that falls into every aspect of what I do, that is I like to solve problems and make things work better.

I left the 9-5 after watching a fairly successful business self implode because of one mans greed(albeit out of the ashes I helped shape the IT for a company that is one hundred times better in every way Visalogic).
I should have seen it coming, at the Christmas party the year before the 'evil' director said of the 'good' director, "well it's been 10 years, if I did it all again, I might do it with ???".
Having a front row seat to this debacle (I am amazed no one went to jail over some of the underhanded crap that happened), gave me an insight and something to aim for and it definitely wasn't to be involved in this sort of thing again.

How to do it?

I was amazingly lucky that my wife understood my dream of starting my own business (we did set some ground rules about how long I had to do it, no use flogging a dead horse and all that).
The day I handed my notice in was possibly the most amazing day of my IT career, I had already lined up a few very small projects (all of them were under priced and not worth my time, but I had something, my idea worked) and a regular retainer at a new visa services company I was set.
With a couple of successful projects out of the way and nearly no money in the bank I started to get more work in through word of mouth and nearly all of these clients I still have today, so I must have done something right.

Fast forward

7 years on and I am ticking along, I haven't found the winning million pound project yet, but it is early days and projects like mylearningworx, wemoot, yomeformo still out there gathering no moss and a some great core clients I am really happy with how it has gone so far, but there is no time to take my foot of the pedal.

Economic crisis?

So far I have been lucky as I have not been directly affected by the economic down turn, I have always tried to not rely on any one client/industry for projects, this I think has been the saving grace for my little company and I feel very fortunate to have been able to keep going.
Saying that I know a lot of other developers in the .Net world who have not been affected either, maybe the surge of technology has saved us the hassle of having to deal with it.
Indirectly the downturn has affected everyone who run s a business, the cost of doing stuff is a lot higher, travel, utilities, etc really has an affect on the bottom line and it does make it difficult to try to negotiate rates etc as every company is affected the same way.

Where to next? 

2013 has been  a big year for me, start-ups like mylearningworx lauching at Learning Technologies in January and then going into the b2b market a month ago (with some pretty amazing possibilities on the horizon I might add) and cool projects like my CTO role at TheGivingLab it has been a year of learning how to mix technology, business and innovation properly.

There are some great ideas flying around for 2014, if any one of them come to fruition it will be a busy year...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

support for windows XP stopping in 2014 -aarrgghhh what will we do

Q & A - Windows XP support stopping in 2014

In the infamous words of Corporal Jones "Don't Panic"

Q: Our MD has arrived this morning quite worried about the prospect of MS ceasing support for Windows XP next year, so I was surprised to find no previous threads on the subject on UKBL.
Forgive my ignorance, but is it something we should be worried about if we're still on XP, or is it just a ploy to get users buying new kit?

 A: Windows XP support is destined to run out in 2014 (April 14th), but it has lasted a while as it got released back in 2001. That's 12 years ago. (Windows XP - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
By the time they stop supporting it it will be 13 years old!

While its expensive for businesses and can be a pain for the users of those machines it is important for businesses to keep up with technology.
Developers of applications and web applications are getting more aggressive with their hunt to not support older browsers and architecture.

Putting the whole support side of things to one side, I would be more concerned about is the hardware you are running XP on, if (like a number of my customers) you buy your PC and OS together then its possible that the XP computers you are running are sitting on hardware that could be more than 10 years old.
Now I am not saying that you need to replace everything, but do bear in mind that the older a hard drive gets (because really this is the only bit of your PC that you cant replace without grief) the more chance it will one day start making that lovely click-click-clicketty-click noise and fail to boot.
If these PCs die you can't just transfer the XP licence (as its sold with the PC) onto a new box, so a new PC and OS will need to be purchased.

My advice to my customers is to not freak out and replace everything, but do budget for PC death at 1 a month, have a PC in the office that has windows 8 (or whatever you are going to use) on it and install all of your Business critical software, printer drivers etc on it so you know everything works (if you are running an old MS access XP application for example you may find that it access dlls that simply dont exist anymore).
This spare PC can be used for testing and training, so before John in accounts gets his new PC he can have a whizz around and get a feel for where things are.
Do bear in mind that a lot of consumers will be getting forced upgrades on Dec 25th that will probably already have an idea of how windows 8 works.
If you dont want windows 8 there are still copies of Windows 7 available (and windows 8 that will auto downgrade on install).

The bigger problem for SMEs who have server infrastructure, not just from a hardware point of view either, especially if they are running "Small Business Server 2003" as this does not play nice with every aspect of windows 8 (depending on how you use it).

In short
Please if you are running a small business;
  • Don't go and buy a ton of new kit in panic mode
  • Do speak to people/businesses about what they are doing?
  • Do investigate cloud storage/server infrastructure (it may be cheaper than you think)
  • Don't discount Windows 8 because it looks different, it will save you money in the long run
  • Do look into what sorts of devices your staff could use as an alternative to a desktop (table PC, iPad, android tablet, mobile phone, tough book, laptop), giving them the right tools will save you money and make them more efficient
  • Do remember XP is solid and it will keep working for a long time
  • Do run a test PC with your new OS on it with all of your business applications, accounting software etc, get heads of the business to use it as their base PC for a couple of weeks, you need to know it does everything you need it to before you buy new kit
  • Don't expect your 10 year old hard drive to last 10 years more
  • Do research sold sate drives as an option to replace not so old equipment as part of your tech upgrade/refresh

Feel free to contact me via via twitter @chillfire or email etc if you need a hand with any of this, it's better to get fail a load of times (during testing) before you do it right once

Monday, November 04, 2013

Going to the cloud for storage

 Q & A - cloud storage

Q: We are looking very hard at the cloud as it would be very useful to our business particularly with free lance journalists and having more than the one office, but the MD does have reserves about the security aspect.

Many thanks

A: Make sure you look into the data protection requirements for the data you are storing and where it has to be stored.
Sometimes depending on the legal requirements of what you do means you have to store you data within the geographic area it is from (or the people it talks about are from).
I only mention this because if you go 'cloud' with some providers you can specifiy where the data is stored (EU, US, UK, London, etc), but you also have to understand that your data MIGHT be backed in other places as well.

Most decent cloud storage services will have at least 3 copies of your data on hand at any one time, one that you are using which is your closest and fastest datastore, the others will be on different servers probably in different server farms across the globe so if one dies they simply redirect you to the next nearest one until the broken one is replaced.
So if you have regulatory requirements for data storage make sure you check where you data is going to 'be'.
Also make sure that your cloud storage does keep active mirrored copies of your data and has an undo/previous versions option....

Just because it is in the cloud does not mean someone wont delete it

On the security front there are different kinds of security to investigate;
  • Access, who can view/edit/change/delete your data (you should have 100% control over this)
  • Hardware Encryption, how the physical data is stored on the 'disk' (you wont control this but make sure it is in place), this means people cant open the raw data blobs direct from the server even if they have 100% access to the disks
  • Software encryption/locking, users can add passwords to files for an added level of security, but remember that these passwords have to be managed (and not via post-it notes or in a group email for example)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mobile data encryption has been broken, who has our data now?

Reading this article from the BBC - it appears everything we do on our mobiles can be 'seen' by the powers that be.
But to be fair I think this tiny amount of data is the least of our worries.

No one needs to decrypt anything to 'know' you, lets take Google for instance or 'Big Cousin G'.

If you viewing this site from your desktop/laptop, you are 'known' to Google and every click/page view is logged, rough location etc, bring on the cookies!

If you are using chrome to view this page, they know when you last went to the toilet or made a coffee or at least left your desk based on usage stats and your most searched terms.

If you have a Gmail account they probably if you are cheating on your partner because you have a meeting booked on your calendar in London, but have just booked a swish hotel (paid for using Google cart) in Leeds for the same day.

If you are using an Android mobile device to view this page, they also know where you are on the planet to within 20m (even with your GPS/location services turned off) so you cant hide.
Any pictures you take/upload are probably geo-location tagged and scanned using facial recognition software to see who you are really hanging out with. - Google+ Introduces Automatic Face Recognition To Photo Tagging (But It’s Completely Opt-In) | TechCrunch

They can also scan photos to work out where you are based on the background scenery... IARPA's "Finder" Is Like Facial Recognition For Backgrounds | Popular Photography

Using a Chromebook, well you have basically given them the keys to the front door.

Remember Google tell you they are going to do this in the T&C's you all read right to the bottom when you sign up for a new google service. In short it all means "We (Google) will look after every byte of digital data you create every time you login to a Google service or use a website that uses any of our services and we reserve the right to search this data for stuff we think will help us deliver our services back to you and make some cash"
Everything we all do is tracked, have you ever tried to use the internet with cookies turned off?

Based on the above data streams,  Google can work out who you are, your age, sex, marital status, your favourite food/drink/music/hobbies and even what ads to fire your way!
They will be able to profile you based on the data you give them, this is the sort of data that not so many years ago would have been impossible for any one company to have access to.

I honestly think that the data that is encrypted for us across mobile networks is nothing compared to the data we give away freely to the likes of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, IBM, Antivirus providers, Facebook, Credit card companies, our Banks, Supermarkets and anyone else we have a digital relationship with.
All the while naively thinking that no one will ever see/use it.

If you want to be a little more scared about what they have on you - The Evil Side of Google? Exploring Google's User Data Collection - Moz

Don't get me started on Facebook, if Google and Facebook ever start a clandestine relationship or got hacked we might as well run around the streets naked wearing a sign 'The end is nigh' as everyone would have dirt on everyone... on a happier note there is only 2 days until the weekend... but Google knew that already.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Still no internet in 17% of UK homes - my solution

Almost a fifth of UK homes are still not online, new figures show, but mobile browsing continues to grow quickly.

Most UK mobile networks run a faster 3g (let alone 4G) connection that the majority of copper based broadband customers...

I can get 14Mb/s over my 3G handset in some part of the UK, my Demon 20Mb business broadband used to get 2.5Mb/s on a good day.... on fibre now though ;-)

With unlimited mobile data, it wont take long for people to realise they are actually paying twice for the same service.
While we sit at home surfing the net on our speedy home dsl, we are paying our mobile network for the priviledge of not using their network?

A better idea would be a docking station in the house that you simply place your mobile phone into, so when you are home the network routes all the house internet traffic through the handset... Dragons Den where are you...

Friday, July 05, 2013

the end of hack days as we know it?

I have been running volunteer hack events under the dev4good banner for a few years, something I feel was needed in the developer community.
As far as I remember when we ran the first dev4good event it was the only dev/charity hack weekend, there was another one lined for later in the year (givecamp) but our 25 strong team may have been the first ever in London.

Fast forward 6 events, a couple of hundred volunteers and even a few launched products the hack day world has changed, just head over to and see for yourselves.
There are hacks all the time, for every subject you can think of, in every location around the UK.
Companies are running them to engage with their customers, developers, prospective clients, local newspapers are running them, everyone is doing it now.

But I am pretty sure every hack event attendee (and organiser) thinks the same thing, wow that was great but what have we actually achieved?
At a base level the events always follow the same structure;
  1. welcome
  2. Speakers intro/outline projects
  3. Coffee
  4. Start work on projects in teams
  5. Lunch
  6. More working
  7. End of day demo of progress
  8. Pizza
If the event is over multiple days the secondary days are +/- minus the same, except the last day where everyone has to pitch their 'finished' idea to the group.
Sometimes we will get a project out the door, live on net in some shape or other, mostly the projects are seeds for bigger ideas or are there to prove that the project is viable.
Do we actually make a difference?

As soon as the event is over, everyone goes away with a feeling they have done something good, learned something and met some cool like minded people.
The euphoria normally lasts until the alarm clock goes off and you have to return to the reality that your actual job beckons.

And this is the big problem with any hack/community based project where people are volunteering their time, what happens after the event when the only time you have to work on it is going to take you away from that elusive thing called 'spare time', especially when you are not going to get paid for it and there may never be an end to it.

I personally think that the hack days as I know them are coming to an end, dont worry we are still going to be running dev4good events, but maybe with a different goal.
In the beginning they were targetted at getting developers out of their comfort zone and into a social environment where they can meet and code with other developers.
I realised after a couple of events, that as nice as that sounds, the sponsors need to see that we are getting something done, so the focus was changed to building a minimal viable product on day one and then add functionality to it in a seriously iterative/agile process so you can 'deploy often'.

The best event we ever ran was the last one which was the Windows Phone 8 hack, Nokia gave us 10 devleoper devices so teams could deploy to a real device to test as they went, although we only got one product to the marketplace, it was a brilliant weekend from a working code point of view and a good way to set the standard of what we need to achieve this each time.

  • Developers
  • Designers
  • Access to the technology they are planning to use
  • Extreme and focused MVP thinking
Now I don't think hack days like this will disappear, but I think they are going to have to change into something either more social, or more focused on getting a product out the door. Any event that sits between this may end up becoming a 'little last season' with people looking to take something home that they can use in their real lives.

So what does that mean for dev4good?
Well that is a good questions, with only one event so far this year and only a handful of months left.... maybe we need something different, feel free to email any ideas you have for us to run, the wackier the better!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Kids vs Clients - who wins you decide

I spent the day with my 2 kids yesterday (4yrs and 2yrs) and had an awesome if not tiring day with them.
What I realised after looking back on the day was that I think anyone ho wants to run their own business should start by managing young kids for a day, they make the best on the job training money can buy.

My oldest is quite happy to sit and play on her own with her princess castle and entertain herself in short 15-30 minute bursts before deciding it is time to do something different.
She will then come and find me asking for a different toy or if she can watch TV etc, once setup with this new mini project we get 30 minutes of clear time before the next project needs to be found and started. Projects rarely get finished, movies are always half watched etc.
If she does something embarrassing and it is noticed (a trip up over the corner of a rug for example), all hell breaks loose and all projects are put on hold, or dropped from the master

My son is the complete opposite, he likes to follow you around checking up on you, closing cupboard doors you have left open to make putting the dishes away possible, luckily he announces the closure by pointing, yelling 'door' and slamming it closed while you aren't looking.
He like to change the rules constantly, after picking his sandwich ingredients and watching it be made, he decides one or two or all of the ingredients are not up to spec and removes them to be eaten or dropped on the floor.

And I guess anyone who freelances will see some similarities in this behavior in some of their clients, well I can in some of mine and this is not a bad thing.
As someone who tries to build software/web to model business processes for a living, I need to understand how the people who are going to use the software think and deal with all aspects of what is built.
Yes I know it can be a pain to have a client looking over your should while you work and there can be a lot of 'hold your tongue' moments, but in the long run I think they have to be (hopefully) happier with the end result as they have been there every step of the way.
Obviously this is not always the case....

Customers who give you a brief spec and say good luck, then disappear until they come up with the next idea are great for developers as we can get on with the project and just build it. At lest until the customer comes back with the next best idea they have ever had and ask for it to be added...

Both have good and bad points, there is no such thing as a perfect customer and at least most of the time time they door drop to their stomachs and starting kicking and thumping the floor while wailing.... well .....

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Happy Hosting gone wild

Rule 1 of the IT world, never say in public 'it is all working'....

The site mentioned in the previous post is offline now and guess what I am on the phone to the Happy Host team...

I am guessing thier system sattus notice does not cover this server:

Last modified: June 18, 2013 @ 9:08 am
All systems and services are operating as normal.

Oddly enough the site was online at 908am... Dave, Dave, Dave put down the screwdriver...
I wonder if they have caller ID, I would have thought that being no.2 in the queue would have been a good thing...

Support member on phone, he has gone off to check...

He is back (5 minutes later), "oh yeah that box is definitely off, we will turn it back on and see whay it happened, probably be back up in an hour or so"


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Between a rock and a hosting company

I have been in this IT racket for a number of years now and the story that unfolded last week for one of my clients is the exact reason why I started my own IT company....

I have decided to not shame the company that created this mess, but the names of the staff are all real, so lets call the hosting company 'happy hosting' (just hint of irony there) or HH for short.
Only because I have clients still on them and don't need a repeat disaster.....

So My client calls to say they have noticed a load of traffic across the site in their HH stats package, this traffic is not being picked up on Google analytics.

After some hunting and scratching of heads we find all of the traffic was on 2 pages;
  • /rayban.asp
  • mulberry.asp
Both had  spam HTML content, images all relating to their own brand and links to where you can buy said products.
Both pages were being indexed by google from pages like this one

Now being a up market publishing company these sorts of products wouldn't normally get mentioned anywhere on their site...

So the firefighting started, anyone who found a bad page was told to delete it via the CMS, because the CMS had root access.
No one at the client was creating these pages, so as the alarm bells started their ominous ringing in my head, we raised a support ticket at ...

24 hours later with no response to HH (my client spends around £1000 a year with HH) I did some invetigation online and found that it appeared we had been hacked by something similar to china chopper 
Notes added to the ticket...

Finally we get a response, "it's not us it's your site", "or it could be someone else on your server as you are on a shared server", " we patch  our servers etc etc"

The server we were being hosted on was a Server 2003 box, running .Net 2.0 (thanks to for some help with this)
I asked them to check the security settings on the site as if it was china chopper then it would need to get in somehow,

- "it's not us it's you"
"right thanks, can you send over any IIS logs for us to work out where the access is coming from"
- "we don't do logs for shared hosting"
"thanks again Dave, can you check IIS for me to see if there are any noticeable alteration to security settings on our site then?"

This is when it all went wrong, 3 hours later I get a call from the client, "the site is yellow and white and says "error" - bugger

So it is 530 on a Thursday evening and the support lines are open 24x7.... ring ring ring.... ring ring ring....
New support ticket added as this is not the same as the first problem, obviously something has happened at a server level as its completely dead returning a 500 error mentioning security privileges.
Wake up the the same error and no support updates, you have to love the HH support team dedication to the meaning of "24x7"

We start on the phone, support are in but the guy we need 'Jim' or 'James' to his friends is not in until 930, he will call you.
11'o'clock and all is quiet, site has blipped a few different errors so we assume Jim is rebooting the server (if all else fails!).
We call Jim, he is unavailable but the best guy to fix the problem , he will call you back
1pm, the site error now says .Net 4.0, so they have failed to fix the problem and are hoping that patching the server and upgrading the .Net framework will fix the problem.

Another call, this time I offer some advice "Can we move the site to a new server while we wait for you to fix the current one?"
- "no, well maybe, or what if we do restore a backup of the site from last week?"
"Dave that sounds like a good idea, you should get a medal, no really, mate you are a genius, wonder why no one thought of that earlier, I am going to recomend you for a promotion" (I did not say any of that to Dave, if I had been close enough I would have driven over there and...

So they restore the site at 430pm on a friday night, my client has been without their site (or what I like to call their only form of income) for going on 40 hours, the nooses are removed from the rafters and everyone goes home, leaving me to pick up the pieces because the CMS they have is not compatible with .net 4.0 and although HH have restored the site they have not restored IIS to its former glory.
There are still weird errors all over the place, the home page doesn't work, the stats package doesn't work, the backend bespoke admin system doesn't work.

A week later and it is all held together with sticky tape and number 8 wire, no one wants to tell HH about any of their services that don't work in case they try and fix them.

The support team were crap (or are under resourced and cant be bothered), HH are crap, they were one of the best in the UK until they were bought out by iomart and are now part of easyspace

 This is what I think happened when Dave went off to look at the IIS settings;
  • Dave restarted IIS - fail
  • Dave tried a reboot -fail
  • Dave tried to patch the server - fail
  • Dave upgraded the 2003/IIS6 server . net 4.0 - fail
  • Dave then did more updates and left to go home at 5 - fail
  • Something broke on the upgrade, or a window on the console 'click to continue' was left?
  • Dave came in the next day and made sure no-one else noticed the ticket and hoped it would all go away - fail
  • The shit hit the fan
  • My client lost thousands - fail
  • I have to fix it - fail
  • HH are still in business - fail
  • I am moving all of my client sites hosted on HH to a new host, proabbaly only cost HH a few grand, but hey a - success

There is a lot to be said for good customer service, if my client who have zero technical staff had had to deal with HH directly the problem would not have been solved (or may be it would have).
My client lost valuable sales and business because someone decided to fiddle with IIS6 (not for the faint hearted) without telling us that it might break and not hanging around to check it.

Most importantly there has never been any mention of compensation (I know 2 days is under the 99.9 SLA but come on) or anything to say how it happened or that they will make sure it soesn't again.

All in all I would never use HH again, make sure when you select a web host you do some research on them, the most expensive are not always the best.

And we never did get to the bottom of china chopper

Thursday, May 02, 2013

coffee - it is over rated

Now anyone who has worked with me or met me at a hack will have probably noticed I LOVE coffee and the caffeine it has in it.
I am normally not too far from a can of energy drink or stameing cup of coffee, however last week I was struck down with a horrendous stomach bug which kept me out of action for 4 days.

During this time I was unable to eat and was left to drink water and/or flat ginger beer (the non-alcoholic version).

When I came to the end of the week and was finally able to eat food again and had the option of a hot coffee, I said no.
I have no idea why, but I didn't have that craving that is normally in the back of my head, the one that sits hunched over in the darkest recess of my brain saying 'one more hit'.

It will be nearly 2 weeks tomorrow since I had any caffeine and I feel pretty good, I am sleeping better than I have in years (I have 2 kids under 5 and I know about sleep deprivation).
I wouldn't say I feel like I could run a marathon or play the violin or anything, but I feel pretty good.

How long this will last I don't know, but if you work long hours and rely on caffeine to get through a day, my advice is to go through the coffee tremors/headaches and all that horrible stuff for a day or so and then give a coffee free life a go for a few days.

It is amazing to try and go about your normal day while trying to stay out of your normal routine, I really think 70% of my coffee addiction was down to some bizarre repetitive syndrome that made me want a coffee because I had one yesterday at the same time...

Anyway if you give it a go, good luck breaking the habit of a lifetime, I am about to shave my beard buy a suit and leave the world of software development to become a insurance salesman.... not

Thursday, April 18, 2013

speed reading for business - great course from mylearningworx

As part of the quality testing team at I get to test some of the courses that are created by the community, the goods ones go live the not so good ones get help and advice form our worxsmith team to make them good.

And every once and awhile a course comes along that I think is awesome, quite tough as we are getting some pretty slick courses being created at the moment.

The one that I just finished testing is "Speed reading for business" by Alex Garcez (@alexgarcez) the speed reading coach, I liked it so much I made it course of the week!

I must admit I was a little skeptical about this as I have always thought I could read pretty fast, take in and then retain information as I read. But after finishing the 2 hour course I realised I had been missing a key part of it all, the techniques that Alex teaches are simple and for me they worked nearly instantly, like a light bulb being turned on.

And no I wont give away any of the techniques here, all I can say is it will be £27 well spent.

I now read in excess of double the speed I used to and I guess this will only get faster as I hone my skills.
It does mean I may be getting through a few more books on holiday though, so much for packing lite.

If you need to read and retain information on a day to day basis, I cannot recommend this course enough

crowd sourcing, where do we start

Whenever any mentions crowd sourcing, don't ask me why, I think of the immortal Monty Python scene outside Brian's mothers apartment and the scene in the sewers under the castle where the 2 groups of 'terrorists' meet and end up fighting over who came up with the plan first.

DEADLY DIRK: Campaign for Free Galilee.
FRANCIS: Oh. Uh, People's Front of Judea. Officials.
FRANCIS: What's your group doing here?
DEADLY DIRK: We're going to kidnap Pilate's wife, take her back, issue demands.
FRANCIS: So are we.
FRANCIS: That's our plan!
DEADLY DIRK: We were here first!
FRANCIS: What do you mean?!
DEADLY DIRK: We thought of it first!
WARRIS: Oh, yeah?
DEADLY DIRK: Yes, a couple of years ago!
P.F.J.: Ha. Heh. Ha ha.
FRANCIS: Okay, c-- co-- come on. You got all your demands worked out, then?
DEADLY DIRK: 'Course we have.
FRANCIS: What are they?
DEADLY DIRK: Well, I'm not telling you.
P.F.J.: Aghhh...
FRANCIS: Oh, come on. Pull the other one.
P.F.J.: Shh!
DEADLY DIRK: That's not the point! We thought of it before you!
WARRIS: Did not.
FRANCIS: You didn't.
C.F.G.: We bloody did!
BRIAN: Shhhh!
P.F.J.: Shhhhh! Shh.
DEADLY DIRK: You bastards! We've been planning this for months.
FRANCIS: Well, tough titty for you, Fish Face. Oh! Oh.
RANDOM: All right.
WARRIS: Clever. You sly...
BRIAN: Brothers! Brothers! We should be struggling together!
FRANCIS: We are! Ohh.
BRIAN: We mustn't fight each other! Surely we should be united against the common enemy!
EVERYONE: The Judean People's Front?!
BRIAN: No, no! The Romans!
EVERYONE: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yes.

Both scenes are a great fun poking exercise into how we think and act when in a crowd, the power of the people and all those other cliches come to mind as well.
The sewer scene is a good reminder that sometimes we need to make sure we are all working on the same problem in the same direction, fighting the common enemy.

Crowds can go bad
This is where crowd sourcing could fall apart, I mean if everyone who joins the 'crowd' is in it for different reasons, or the same end goal but have different motives for getting there, it would be easy for the crowd to get steered away from the original goal.

Personally I love the idea of crowd sourcing, the dev4good events and every other hack event around the planet are in essence crowd sourcing events. People who are interested in an idea, come together to work on it with other people with different skills.
So maybe 'skill pooling' is more apt name but not one that would ever take off I guess?
The difference to these hack events to the sewer scene (other than it being in a sewer and under a palace) is it is an open forum for discussion, debate. No one person has control over any part of the group, if people in the group don't like the 'plan' they are encouraged to start their own group (and yes we do call these people 'splitters') and see what happens.
Sometimes this works, other times it doesn't, that is part of the game.

The online training system I am co-founding ( is at its heart a place for people interested in learning and/or teaching to meet and share their knowledge (and in the process make some money if they want to).

The way I see it everybody is an expert in their own world, shed, castle, boat, whatever. Most of us never part with this knowledge and will take it with us when we leave. When we look around skills, languages, cultures are being lost because people simply don't share like they used. Before the advent of TV and the internet, people spent more time together talking, passing on information. Nowadays, this happens less as people 'interact' more in a virtual way and the conversations have gone from 'Dad how do you change a washer?' to 'Nom eating dinna'.

What we have tried to do with the My learning worx platform is to make it as easy as possible for anyone with some information to share it (and make money if they want).
This knowledge transfer can take place anywhere, anytime and just about on any device, meaning there is no reason why we cannot do it.

Feel free to take a look around the new platform and let me know what you think!