Category Archives: general

PhD Proposal

I seem to have spent the last 6 months writing proposals. In reality I have spent 6 months attempting to write them and procrastinating and putting it off until the critical moment when I have to get it finished. Some of the more productive procrastination I’ve done is a lot of literature searches and reading. Which whilst very constructive, I now have too many ideas I want to pursue and absolutely no idea how or what to focus on.

Also in the 6 months I had attempted to write a research paper of my VideoTag project, it’s still not finished (this is a worrying trend for the next 3 years!). Point being, that I realised while writing it that I never had a clear aim at the start of my MSc project, I simply had loads of ideas for investigations that could loosely be classed as objectives. I also struggled working out what my method was, I know what I did, but why did I choose to do things one way and not another?

So now as I find myself again writing a proposal (I thought this was over for a few months now I have a place!) I’m aware that I need to have a specific aim and explicit objectives, and set out a clear method of experiments that will hopefully achieve my aim. And all I have is what I had throughout my MSc, a page long list of research questions and ideas for lots of little experiments and potential tag analysis strategies, within the umbrella of a tagging system development. So I need to establish what I will achieve by answering these research questions. What purpose my tagging system will have that contributes something to what already exists. How do I turn a page of questions into a two sentence statement of a clear and focussed aim?

As always it seems recently I have about 2 weeks to make these decisions, before my self imposed deadline because I (maybe foolishly) want to get started as soon as I can.

Embracing Procrastination

I’m trying a new form of procrastination, something i don’t do all that often, blog posting.  Instead of randomly wasting time looking at websites mildly related to what i’m working on, checking my rss feeds for the tenth time, seeing if anyones done anything interesting on facebook, checking my email, making my fifth cup of tea, looked at solutions to being distracted and avoiding procrastination – once i ventured on to myspace i knew i was getting desperate.

I am really pushed for time, my PhD presentation has to be written by tonight i need all the time i can to plan what i’m going to say and talk through it, but instead of being focussed and breaking down what’s left to do, i’m writing a blog.

This is the reason i refuse to use twitter, i’d spend more of my day updating it with mundane facts about myself and my day that nobody cares about than doing any work.  Web 2.0, what is it good for except giving people excuses not to work.  Brilliant if you, like me are researching it, then any web 2.0 esq procrastination is actually work related -fantastic.

But i won’t be doing it for much longer if i don’t get back to presentation writing – arrghhhh!!!

<6 weeks to go

I’ve got 6 weeks till i have to hand in my project.  In real terms as i don’t get all the time in the world to work that gives me 12 days.  12 days to write up 2 chapters detailing what i’ve done, describing the experiment, explaining the results, analysing the results and critical evaluation of the whole thing.  On top of this i remain completly baffled by SPSS and it really is the best way to produce my longtail graphs.  Although i am tempted to knock some out in excel if time runs out.  To top it all off i have writers block.  The chapters are running round in my head all jumbled up but i can’t get them out onto paper for some reason.

I’m also regretting ever finding facebook as it is a perfect distraction to stop me starting writing.  And it turns out so is this blog as i’m writing this instead of just mind dumping on paper to get myself started!

Almost Web2.0

I thought i’d check if VideoTag was web2.0 or not

It checks your site against a list of rules that are created through people bookmarking the site in VideoTag scored 8 out of 66, so i guess i’m not web2.0, however according to the results, i don’t use tags, mention a long tail or use Ajax, which i do, so i guess that makes me 11 out of 66 which is still pretty rubbish.

It did say i was web3.0 though, maybe VideoTag’s too ahead of the game to be web2.0!!

Maybe i’ll set up a rule – “Mentions VideoTag” score an extra point!

The results:

  • Uses python? No
  • Denies the existance of Rocky V ? No
  • Is in public beta? No
  • Rocks out to the dance noise sound of Chinese Forehead ? No
  • Uses inline AJAX ? No
  • Uses the prefix “meta” or “micro”? No
  • Mentions Tag Clouds? No
  • Is Shadows-aware ? No
  • Mentions ? No
  • Apperars to use moo.fx ? No
  • Appears to be non-empty ? No
  • Has a Blogline blogroll ? No
  • Uses tags ? No
  • Appears to be web 3.0 ? Yes!
  • Attempts to be XHTML Strict ? No
  • Uses Google Maps API? No
  • Has favicon ? Yes!
  • Refers to mash-ups ? No
  • Uses Cascading Style Sheets? Yes!
  • Mentions startup ? No
  • Mentions Less is More ? No
  • Received a cease-and-desist from CMP Media or Tim O’Reilly ? No
  • Uses the word meme? No
  • Appears to use AJAX ? No
  • Refers to the Web 2.0 Validator’s ruleset ? No
  • Mentions an “architecture of participation”? No
  • Appears to have a Google Sitemap ? No
  • Appears to use RSS ? No
  • Makes reference to Technorati ? No
  • Refers to Flickr ? No
  • JavaScript by Dreamweaver ? No
  • Faviconized ? Yes!
  • Refers to VCs ? No
  • Mentions The Long Tail ? No
  • Appears to be built using Django ? No
  • Links Slashdot and Digg ? No
  • Mentions Ruby? No
  • Appears to use moo.fx ? No
  • Mentions Cool Words ? No
  • Mentions Nitro ? No
  • Mentions Ruby ? No
  • Has prototype.js ? No
  • Refers to podcasting ? No
  • Mentions Wisdom Of Crowds ? No
  • Creative Commons license ? No
  • Appears to use visual effects? No
  • Appears to use MonoRail ? No
  • Refers to Rocketboom ? No
  • Uses Semantic Markup? Yes!
  • Links to validator? No
  • Refers to ? No
  • Mentions RDF and the Semantic Web? No
  • Actually mentions Web 2.0 ? Yes!
  • Use Catalyst ? No
  • Mentions Neurogami and Web 2.0 ? No
  • Refers to web2.0validator ? No
  • Uses microformats ? No
  • Mentions a blog ? Yes!
  • Does it use DWR Ajax Library? No
  • References Firefox? No
  • Appears to over-punctuate ? No
  • Validates as XHTML 1.1 ? No
  • References No
  • Appears to have Adsense ? No
  • Uses the “blink” tag? Yes!
  • Mentions Stickbob? No

oooh another review

VideoTag’s also been reviewed on–Game-to-Experiment-with-Tagging/ 

Not only is  it great for getting more users, it is really useful to read their comments on ways to improve the game.  It seems a big bone of contention is having to register first.  maybe i should add a play as guest facility?  i don’t need to know their username after all.

VideoTag on

I am so chuffed, i sent an email to Mashable in my attempts to advertise VideoTag and they’ve posted a little review of it which is great.

There’s another review in spanish too, i translated it and it’s positive so that’s good. the reviewer pointed out the problem of my return key being disabled, i knew that would annoy people oh well maybe i’ll discover how to fix it one day.

So what’s great is that i now have lots of data from people all over the world, which is more than i ever imagined. i also have some spanish tags, whihc i hadn’t accounted for. They could actually score very highly as the pitfalls are in english!!

VideoTag – live and ready to play

The VideoTag game is all finished, working and ready to play. I am pleased with it, i think it works well and should, providing people play it, be a useful vehicle at generating the data i want.

The all important link:

There was only one thing that i couldn’t fix and that was the onkeypress problem mentioned in the Ajax post. I couldn’t stop it refreshing the page each time a tag was submitted, so the return/enter key has been left disabled. Not the best usability, but a more desirable fix than having a new video after every tag entered.

I have definatly reached the top of the MSC hill, the downward slope being filled with evaluating results and critically evaluating the whole project. Oh an writing up what i did and how i did it and creating some extra design document that i left to the end if i had time. So not too much work then! Roll on Sept 30th, then i won’t have a clue what to do with my time and my brain will have nothing to think about! I’ll be lost.

Ajax GET and POST

I’m posting my GET and POST ajax code it will hopefully be useful to some people.

I searched a lot to find some simple code as i didn’t need to validate the forms. So many scripts didn’t work properly or seemed unnecesserily complicated for my requirements.

The code has been adapted from

the GET from:

Hope you find this helpful!

//Set up the XMLHttpRequest

var http = createRequestObject();
function createRequestObject() {
var objAjax;
var browser = navigator.appName;
if(browser == “Microsoft Internet Explorer”){
objAjax = new ActiveXObject(“Microsoft.XMLHTTP”);
objAjax = new XMLHttpRequest();
return objAjax;


function getNewContent(){‘get’,’newcontent.php’);
http.onreadystatechange = updateNewContent;
return false;

function updateNewContent(){
if(http.readyState == 4){
document.getElementById(‘Content’).innerHTML = http.responseText;


function postForm() {
var url = “formentry.php”;
var formtag = document.getElementById(‘fmfield’).value;
var params = “newfield=” + formfield;“POST”, url, true);

//Send the proper header information along with the request
http.setRequestHeader(“Content-type”, “application/x-www-form-urlencoded”);
http.setRequestHeader(“Content-length”, params.length);
http.setRequestHeader(“Connection”, “close”);

http.onreadystatechange = function() {//Call a function when the state changes.
if(http.readyState == 4 && http.status == 200) {
document.getElementById(‘fomentered’).innerHTML = http.responseText;
document.getElementById(‘fmfield’).value = “”;

the functions are called through an onclick event
GET <a href=”#” onclick=”getNewContent()”>New Content</a>
POST <a href=”#” onclick=”postForm()”><img src=”Submit.gif”></a>

I couldn’t get it to work properly with a button with type image and i wanted an image so i did it with an <a> tag – i think it works with a normal <input type=”button” onclick=”postForm()”> But it won’t work if you have an <input type=”submit”> button.

I am still trying to figure out how to get it to work when the user presses return or enter – it calls the postForm() but refreshes the page.

If any one can help me on this please comment!!

Firebug, Pitfalls and Videos

Decided this is a good place to put notes for my final report – mostly critical evaluation, rather than a word document where i’ll never rememeber the title and end up opening a different one each time, at least here they’re in one place and i can browse through and pick bits out that might be useful.

So firstly testing – i have discovered how useful the firebug extension for firefox is. I’ve had it for ages and never used it but it’s fantastic. I found it particularly useful when developing the Ajax sections of the site as i could tell whether or not the script was making the ajax call and whether the problem was with an other area of the code. It was sometimes one or the other, but then i could fix the relevent bit instead of spending hours just messing around wondering what wasn’t working.

Secondly pitfalls – how did i create them? Basically, in most cases i entered the first tags that came to mind when i thought of the video. I figured that as this would make them the tags that took least cognitive effort to create, this would make it likely that players of the game would also think of the same tags. Some are very basic, some not so. I did watch a couple of videos and come up with tags that were based on objects or words that stood out. This was especially the case for videos in tougher levels where more pitfalls needed to be found.

What criteria did i use to select the videos? A painful process of watching clips, seeing if they made me laugh or at least smile, sometimes then having to rule them out because although the begining was funny it got a bit silly toward the end. I was also careful to avoid videos with strong language, sexual references or violence – so that ruled out half of what i had looked at. I have let the odd mild violence video through – comparable with Tom and Jerry or The Simpsons levels of violence and there is the odd isolated case of strong language. As my demographic age range is over 18’s then i reasoned that the content was suitable for the percieved audience. Some videos aren’t histerically funny, but were ‘nice’ videos, or scary or simply high rated and i was running out of time and patience so they’ve made it in there. 3 of the videos are what 3 very kind people uploaded to my youtube group. If i get more and they are suitable, i will consider adding some extra videos to the game over the next couple of months as it will keep it fresh.

I have one problem left to fix with the game points and the tags not updating from a set timeout function which is frustrating – again it’s because i’m trying to be clever and use ajax! i need to build my admin section and create a questionnairre. i think that’s it i’m so close, i reckon 3 or 4 hurdles to go to the finish line.

nervous tick

My stress levels for this project are already reaching the levels they get to toward the end of a module, when there’s a couple of weeks left until a deadline and i still have practically the whole assignment left to do.  I always got it done and did it well too.  I’m seeing my literature review as a deadline and i need to get that done before moving on to anything else.  I have developed the nervous tick in my right eye that comes the week before a deadline normally.  I have 5 months before my project has to be submitted i hope i don’t have a nervous tick for that whole time i’ll have a full head tick by the end then i think.  I’ll feel loads better when i get the lit review done, i can’t believe how much grief it’s causing me.  Maybe i need to stop writing stupid blog entries and actually start doing some work, that may help.