Highs & lows street

Today I had to do a lot of business with various companies on “the high street” and was struck by just how far we’ve come with remediating the Internet back into physical shops.

Beyond all the obvious stuff about unexpected items in bagging areas, and outside of the economic discussion about cost cutting that leads to all of this, high street shopping feels to me more and more like clicks than bricks. All those automated systems, all that lack of human agency, reduces much of the process to the same user experience as online shopping (but with the hassle of leaving the house). Continue reading Highs & lows street

How to read an eBook – they’re the future you know

First, get logged in through the paywall – I used an Athens password, so find a student to help you.

This is what you get. It looks like the book should load in the big empty space, but it doesn’t.


Click on some of the links down the side… oh they download PDFs. Not one per chapter. One per heading. Some of the sections are merely a page long… so that’s 1 PDF per page people.

They all have handy file names so that you can check what you’re reading, look:


If you can work out which page is which, and you have Acrobat Pro, you can combine these into one readable document. Ok, so it’s taken me 10 minutes now to stitch together the acknowledgements. Let’s try Chapter 1…

Here are the headings – click on any heading and the reader fires you over a PDF document.


Here’s the stitch:

Download this file

Ah, as we can see here, clicking on a heading just loads page 1 of that heading. Not useful. This isn’t really happening for me; let’s try the handy “download multiple pages” option instead:


Oh, we’re only allowed 10 pages at a time. Well no worries, I’ll grab a section at a time using this feature. Only the interface doesn’t tell me the page numbers for all of the sections. Right. This is getting tricky now, but I know what to do: just download 1-10, 11-20, etc. and stitch them.

Or not:


Ah, it seems that accessing my book is inappropriate. I might just give up and order another one from Amazon.

A Birmingham amendment to Godwin’s Law


Godwin’s Law is an Internet adage that states:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.

I’d like to table a local amendment, which we’ll call Brummie’s Law (because I’m not naming it after myself):

As an online discussion about Birmingham grows longer, the probability of a boundary dispute approaches 1.

Over the past two days I’ve taken part in two online games, both played out on Twitter, that have revolved around Brummie culture and geogrpahy. #brumsouvenirs revolved around wordplay on Birmingham place names; the aim to come up with a souvenir idea that reflected the place name (the game was originated by Pete Ashton, who collected the greatest hits on his blog). The second game was #doesntmeanyourbrummie (sic), started as a response to the #doesntmeanyourblack meme (see, the grammar is fine, it’s part of the joke); this tag was about uniquely Brummie experiences.

Each game threw up border disputes pretty quickly, such as: 

  • “faggots come from the Black Country” (if you’re not a midlander this is OK to say)
  • “chips and gravy is a Black Country thing”
  • “Great Barr is in Walsall”
  • “can we do Wolverhampton?”
  • “why is everyone OK with Bearwood, when that’s mostly in Sandwell?”

I’ve had similar issues with pinning down Brum’s fuzzy edges in other areas of life: working with Jez on the Birmingham Music Archive; my current main project at BCU, working solely with “Birmingham” based businesses; and hanging out with a load of Brummies in Guernsey one summer who turned out to be from Kidderminster but found it easier to say they were Brummies. I’ve also had the pleasure of trying to work out a local news patch, bringing these boundary disputes down to a true “hyperlocal” level.

The way in which we conceptualise Birmingham as a place and Brumminess as a cultural identity are fascinating. We have a strange relationships with our borders and boundaries – there are all sorts of reasons why (local historians, please do add these to the comments), but one thing is certain: in the spirit of Godwin’s law, if you mention “Greater Birmingham” or drag up the second city debate, then you lose any Internet argument by default.