Archive for January 2007


January 30, 2007

My weekly column in Lá Nua is published today.  I’ve recently considered translating some of these that feature topics I want to discuss with a wider audience.  However I’ve noticed that, whenever I try to do that, I tend not to repeat myself, but rather end up writing a new article, often with new ideas.  It’s probably for the best: another take, a second draft.

Cinïchas agus Fuath

Today’s article deals with a topic which has concerned me for some time: the almost casual and, to me, astonishingly shameless expressions of racism and bigotry which occur daily on Irish blogs.

Much has been written (and especially blogged) in praise of the “freedom” of blogging.  The lack of editorial control and censorship are viewed as liberating and considered, quite rightly, to be a “good thing”.

I think it is good.  Even if I don’t like what people write, it doesn’t change what they think.  And if what they think is hateful, racist, bigoted or ignorant, than it ought to be out in the open where it can be challenged.

Of course they see it differently.  If your response to social issues is to single out a class or group of people to hate, then it won’t take you long to find like-minded people online who will give you all the validation you desire.

The thing is though, it’s not the racists and bigots that concern me so much.  Extremism tends to be self-limiting.  But there is a larger group of (young?) people who do not consider themselves intolerant, but who have fallen for the line that “political correctness” is some kind of tyranny which seeks to limit debate and place disadvantaged groups beyond criticism.

It may be that blogs and discussion boards are giving a voice to people who have until now not had the opportunity to participate in debate.  They have never stood before 300 members of a college society to defend an argument on its merits.   They do not have the experience of hearing viewpoints and opinions radically different to their own.  They have never heard their own side of the argument expressed in anything other than sectarian and bigoted terms.

“I’m not a racist, but …”

It’s worth repeating for the benefit of bloggers, the reasons why responsible media organisations have editorial codes in relation to the use of “unparliamentary language” and why we have legislation in relation to incitement to hatred.

It doesn’t mean that we cannot criticise the actions, values or lifestyles of a particular group.  But we must be careful that such criticism is valid, avoids generalisations, and does not cross the line into race or ethnic or class based hatred for hatred’s sake.

The reason why older generations have been careful to hold this line ought to be obvious to anyone who knows the slightest thing about 20th century European history.  If we allow ourselves to use pejorative labels to denigrate any group of people on grounds of race, religion, gender, orientation, etc., then we have taken the first step towards de-humanising them.  History ought to have shown us that, once that step has been taken, we can rationalise anything.

As Damien commented, “political correctness” ought to be considered no more than “respect for others”.  This basic respect is the birthright of every human being, regardless of their color, creed or criminal record.  Failure to accord the minimum respect due to another human being diminishes both parties.

Two things continue to shock me.  The inability of some Irish people to contain their rage when they see black people driving cars (“What next!”).  And the inability of some to contain their glee at the verdict in the Pádraig Nally case.  For what it’s worth, I believe that justice was done by acquitting Pádraig Nally.  But just because Nally is not guilty of murder does not mean that Ward “deserved to die”.  The tragic fact remains that a man was killed.  If you think that is something to celebrate or to joke about, then I wonder what else you find funny?


Apalling Vista?

January 30, 2007

From The Inquirer

If this is all the billions, man-hours and years brought, what was the point? We get a bloated, DRM infected rights removal tool that advances the state of the art to where Apple was the better part of a decade ago, and we are supposed to call this progress? Puh-leeze.

MS is in a rut. The firm has cowered, co-opted or bought all the critics, and any message coming out of the press will be well scripted. Possibly the last big OS ever made is going to be a chrome plated turd, no one has the guts to say it, everyone will pretend it is great because everyone pretends it is great.

Edgecast Media sponsor The Irish Blog Awards

January 25, 2007

Last year’s inaugural Irish Blog Awards was a warm and wonderful occasion.  Not only were past achievements acknowledged and recognised, but I firmly believe the occasion provided an important impetus and contributed to the growth and development of Irish blogs in the 12 months that have followed.

My wife Margaret and I had a very enjoyable time, and it was great to be among the winners on the day.  An tImeall won the award for the Best Use of The Irish Language in a Blog.

This year I’m delighted to announce that Edgecast Media is sponsoring that same category.  I’m happy to support the award which recognised my efforts in 2006.  In fact it was one of the things which encouraged me and set me on the path to the success which followed later in the year.

Blogging is a social activity which has the power to draw hundreds of people together on a Saturday in Dublin.  But each and every blog starts with a personal passion.  In my case it was the Irish language, and the desire for more opportunities to use it on a daily basis.

The Irish language is gaining in strength and status in recent years and, in the online world, a growing gaelic community is gaining in the confidence to contribute to the production of their own media.

Nominations close tomorrow.  Later, public balloting will decide shortlists for each category.

In my acceptance speech last year, I expressed the hope that Irish language blogs would feature in the other categories as well.  So, do keep that in mind as you nominate this year.  For example, HilaryNY could be nominated for Best Personal Blog or An Spailpín Fánach for Best Sports Blog.  And while, as sponsor, I am ineligible for the Irish category this year, I’d be delighted to be nominated as Best Podcaster – although I expect stiff competition for this category!

If you need help finding Irish language blogs, visit  I plan to get an OPML list up shortly as well.

Nascanna breise:

  • Annette‘s another former winner who’s giving it back this year!

From An tImeall:

Podcamp Waterford

January 22, 2007

Podcamp Waterford was a subsession of Barcamp Ireland SouthEast which was held in Waterford Institute of Technology on Saturday.  Thanks to Keith and Tom and everyone else who helped to organise it – and to all the campers for their contributions to a very enjoyable event.

I’ll have more to post about it in the next day or so, but Bernie‘s already posted audio from Podcamp.  Hear Bernie in Inside View 49 and me in Inside View 50.

Here are the slides to go with my part of the presentation.

Come to Barcamp in Waterford on Saturday – Learn to Podcast

January 17, 2007

Barcamp Ireland SouthEast

Barcamp Ireland SouthEast is on this Saturday at Waterford IT. It’s a sort of self-organised gathering of technologically minded people – well, to be honest, I don’t really know for sure: I’ve never been to one before! 😀

But I know I want to go! Lot’s of people who’s blogs I read will be there. And lots of us read a lot of the same blogs of people who won’t be there. That’ll be good for a chat anyway!

Then, you see, there’s no real agenda – well, there is – but not until the attendees sign up first! Then people say what they’d like to talk and hear about at the Barcamp.

It’s called an unconference, and it’s an idea with a worldwide following. There’s already been one in Cork last year which I missed, but after talking to Tom Raftery back in November I resolved to do better in 2007. (Sadly Tom won’t make it after all this time due to family circumstances.)

One thing about the unconference idea is that everyone is encouraged to be contributor rather than just a spectator. So while I’m hoping to learn something about Ruby on Rails and VC investment, it’s possible that I may also have something to contribute which might interest others.

Bernie suggested we hold a little “Podcamp” as part of the days events – and I’m really looking forward to that. I want to hear from other podcasters about their experiences. I want to hear from podcast listeners about what they want. I especially want to hear from people who feel podcasting is not for them. I want to evangelise this medium, and I don’t need to preach to the converted.

After 230 podcasts, I’ve got some practical advice I want to share. If you’ve considered podcasting but are put off by the technicalities, I want to show you how easy it can be. I am an advocate for quality production. Podcast listeners deserve respect and consideration as much as radio listeners. But I want to show that it need not be either burdensome or expensive to achieve that quality.

What’s more, not only is good sound quality desirable in a podcast, it’s also, in one way, even more crucial. Think about it. A radio broadcaster only has to compete for the listener with whatever programming selection is currently available 1) on the frequencies in that area and 2) at that particular time.

The podcast listener, on the other hand, has a much wider selection – infinitely wider in a sense. I subscribe to and download more podcasts than I succeed in listening to, and there are many more quality podcasts on subjects of interest me that I have yet to encounter. The podcast listener is spoiled for choice.

So what happens when I encounter a podcast on my MP3 player which is poorly recorded, noisy or unintelligble? I simply skip to the next one on my playlist. In many cases the content of the material on these podcasts is interesting and valuable, but what use is that if it is inaccessible?

Blogging has flourished because the only skill required is basic literacy. However the principles of making and processing recorded sound are not on the curriculum in most primary schools. The thing is, though: they could be. It’s really not that complicated at all.

In fact, the whole thing about audio quality boils down to just two points. On Saturday, I’m going to use just two slides, and talk about each one for just 5 minutes. After that – it’s up to you. I can go on for hours about this stuff but no one really wants that. So I’ll answer any questions, and discuss practical situations until we’ve had enough. If there is interest we can do practical examples but again, I’m mindful of the unconference ethos: I’m only going to cover stuff if people are interested.

So what are the two points? I call one The Underlying Principle and the other The Golden Rule, which sounds very fancy except they’re really just common sense really! Just your basic primary school stuff! 😉

See you on Saturday!


January 15, 2007

This is a post to break the ice. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say on a blog, and sometimes the longer you leave it the harder it gets.

I want to thank most sincerely everyone who expressed their sympathy after our recent loss. There’s been a lot to deal with and, while we are consoled by a new baby, that too brings challenges with a new family dynamic of 3 kids under 3.

So, while I’m still a little unsure of my blog voice, and snatching a few minutes where I can, there is a programme of activity for the first few months of this year to which I’ve been committed for a while. Allowing for recent circumstances, I have stripped it down as much as I can, but it’s still enough to be going on with: a place to start.

To start with there’s a new podcast at An tImeall, and I’ve resumed my weekly column for . More about that in a later post. (More about Lá in a few days as well!)

I’ll be posting about the Irish Blog Awards as well. Damien‘s just announced the nominations are now open. Some people might recall I won the Irish Language Award last year – well, I won’t be eligible to compete for it this year, because I’ve decided to sponsor it! More about that soon.

But first, an gad is gaire don scórnach. My next post will be about Barcamp Ireland Southeast (wiki, blog). It’s on next Saturday 20th January. I committed to this well before Christmas, and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to meet a lot of people who’s work and blogging have interested me. I’ll also be giving a short talk with practical tips for podcasting.

Last but not least An tImeall has been shortlisted for an award in the Independent Podcast category at the Digital Media Awards to be held on the 1st of February. Again, I’ll have more to say on this shortly.

Once again – I want to say thanks for the support, not just in recent weeks – but in general. Good luck in 2007.