One of the many benefits of working at a firm with as wide and diverse a base of products and services as BT, is the ability to easily branch out and get involved with other areas that interest and facinate me.  One recent example was an off-hours work project, that involved an ad-hoc team taking a closer look at how our ‘webby’ teams could help improve BT’s IPTV product, called BT Vision.  While working on this initiative, I got to thinking just how I, as a formerly major consumer of TV, movies, and other video content, have changed my viewing habits in the past 5 years and what I turn to now when I’m on my own free time.

Like many others, I used to come home from work on a weekday, and plop my bum on my sofa and begin to surf the huge numbers of cable channels for programs to will away the hours.  This was 5 years ago, and I would guess I was spending on average 3-4 hours/day in front of the TV on work-days, and around 5-6 on a weekend day (sad, yes, I know).  How times have changed, I now watch exactly 0 hours of cable/aerial (the regular channels if you only had an antenna) TV.  But instead my time now is spent on the web with similar hours quoted above except now in front of my laptop rather than my TV.

Below, I’ve broken down my viewing habits (20-30 hours/week):

My Web Experience:

The biggest reflection from me is I’ve changed from not only a consumer of content, but also a contributer (this blog and others, Facebook, and car forums), which I suppose is the basis of the ‘Web 2.0’ buzz for the past two years.  Makes me wonder how I’ll be using my free time in another 5 years time.  I’ll leave that speculation for the futurologists out there and go back to enjoying my RSS feeds and BBC programs :).


I’m slowly progressing with my own TiddlyWiki application, Track&Choose, which I introduced in a blog post last week. With healthy doses of help from JayFresh, FND, and Phil, the interface is now much improved, especially on the summary views. The main view, of movies yet to be watched, now includes vital fields that I can glance at quickly when choosing a movie (title, year released, running time, and genre) as compared to a fairly bare previous version.


Thanks to Phil’s progression towards the next version of TeamTasks, much of the interface improvements are straight out of the box, with only some minor hacking to output movie specific details. As I am using this first TiddlyWiki application to get more comfortable with Osmosoft’s bread and butter product, the code at this point is extremely messy, has very little to no documentation, and just looks like it was cobbled together by a newb (which it has been :). With that disclaimer, I’m providing the source here.

Through slowly improving Track&Choose, I’ve been brainstorming a number of features that could be forthcoming to greatly improve the usability, reduce manual steps, and generally reduce the amount of time it takes to manage the movie and movie information in the application.

  • Automatically search for movies from IMDB and auto-populate vital fields
  • Automatically search YouTube and other video sites for trailers and embed on the fly without forcing users to copy and paste

PSD also shared with me some of his movie interests, so I’ll see if I can’t borrow a couple of his brain cycles in the coming weeks to collaborate on some of the dreamy automated features mentioned above and crank out an even more improved next version…

1st tiddlywiki app image
OK, I admit it. I am only a basic TiddlyWiki user. Although, I’ve been engrossed in Osmosoft and the Open Source world since joining the team last year, I still only have the most basic understanding of how TiddlyWiki works. My only excuse (cop out) is that running the operations of the team has taken a lot more of my time than I had originally expected. With that being said, I want to introduce my very first TiddlyWiki app to meet one of my personal needs, and also allowing me to explore and learn more about TiddlyWiki at the same time.

Scenario: You and your significant other/family member/roommate/friend are big movie fans and watch a healthy number of movies every month (to the huge delight of Hollywood studios :). With the price of DVD’s falling to often $5 specials, and large numbers of download services (Amazon Unbox, iTunes Movies, etc.) available, a person can easily accumulate a large library of movies at low cost and effort. (Ignore the fact that on-demand movies over the net from the entire history of movies and not just selected catalogs is only a few short years away.) Now comes the hard part. How do you agree on what movies to watch from your library with those that you enjoy watching movies with? One person may be feeling for a comedy on a specific day, you on the other hand are looking for a sci-fi with the latest hot movie star. And you both only want to see a movie that you have in your current library, so you don’t have to go all the way over to you local DVD rental store that may or may not have your titles in stock.

One potential solution to this scenario is a simple tool that keeps track of your library of movies, a quick way to isolate those movies that have yet to be watched, what genre/actor/length each movie is, and maybe even a trailer for quick previews. That simple tool that I have started working on is unimaginatively called Track&Choose v0.1. Track&Choose in its current infancy is largely based on Phil Hawksworth’s TeamTasks, which itself relies on a number of plugins from the TiddlyWiki community.
Screen Capture
The current basic initial functionality stands at:

  • add a new movie to the library
  • set the status to one of three choices: request for movie to be acquired, acquired movie to be watched, and movie already watched
  • filter based on the above three statuses
  • embed videos from YouTube (or any other video sites that allow external embedding)
  • adding a rating to movies that have been watched

The below screen capture is of Mr Bean’s Holiday with a status set to be watched, and a YouTube trailer embedded.
Screen Capture 2
This screen capture is of The All Together, a status set to be watched, and a IMDB link.
Screen Capture 3
High Priority Functionality

  • Quick view/sort by genre, length, year released

Low Priority Functionality

  • Automatically suggest YouTube trailer videos to be embedded with a video.

If you’re really curious and have some time on your hands, feel free to download the entire HTML file (currently hosted on a crappy advertisement supported file share site) that is Track & Choose and explore what’s been done to date. Apologies on the ugliness of the code, but at this stage, it is just my personal hacking area of exploring and learning how to customize TiddlyWiki to meet my current requirements. Feel free to leave any feedback or hate comments on how basic and trivial this initiative is so far :-p.

Ben moving on


Well, it was bound to happen. The announcement of Ben Verwaayan leaving BT was made this morning, along with the appointment of Ian Livingston as his successor and Gavin Patterson as the new CEO of BT Retail and a board member. The rumors and speculation that Ben would be moving on has been in the press for at least the past 18 to 24 months, so it’s good to get it out of the way and have the media and city concentrate their efforts elsewhere.

Ben’s been huge for BT. You can read about the changes he’s brought to BT since joining in 2002 here, here, and here. I’ve had the privilage of hearing Ben speak in person a number of times, as well as being on the receiving end of Ben’s criticisms of a poorly collaborated project we were demoing to him directly (details possibly for a future post). I must say Ben’s been an excellent CEO in my three and a half years at BT so far, providing the motivation, answering hard questions brought up by employees and leading the firm through the rough telco and technology waters.  I do wish him the best of luck in his next endeavour.

With all of that being said, I’m looking forward to Ian taking over as CEO and continuing the momentum he’s built leading BT Retail for the past three years.  Ian has some big shoes to fill and the rest of the firm (including me) will need to rally around him to help fill those shoes.

Web21C SDK TC logo

I do enjoy randomly stumbling upon articles that mention some of the cool stuff produced by BT teams. One example is a recent TechCrunch review of a VoIP service that overlaps in functionality with our very own Web21C SDK. Specifically mentioned was the new CallFlow feature that has only recently been released into beta and lightly covered here with quotes from our leader (and part-time blogger), JP Rangaswami.

The TechCrunch article only briefly mentions the CallFlow feature, but does provide a link to the article mentioned above, which goes into a bit more details. In layman’s terms, CallFlow allows the creation of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) customer experiences without having to procure some expensive heavyweight platform just to do so. Rather than even attempt to do a poor job of explaining CallFlow further, just go to their website for not only a description and summary, but detailed development instructions and code examples.

The SDK team, while running into a few speedbumps like all projects do, is picking up steam fast and with a couple more wins in the functionality and user adoption areas is on the path to do some really great stuff. I am definitely writhing in anticipation ;-). Good job boys (and girls :)!

As I was going through my morning news stories, I stumbled upon a CNN video shot yesterday from Davos, featuring none other than my company’s CEO, Ben Verwaayan.

Ben was interviewed by CNN’s ostentious reporter, Richard Quest. Although the interview was a bit all over the place, the major points Ben talked about:

  • It’s BT Group, not British Telecom. Get it right.
  • Three layers of importance for what’s happening in the economy
    1. Collaboration is the theme at Davos, not just the economy, the financial sector, or the current uncertainty of the market
    2. Debating and separating out the emotions that are currently clouding the market
    3. Real performance.
  • Customers are focused on the robustness of their own performance, and areas to improve, which helps the overall economy
  • The financial world is finally reconnecting with the real world as indicated by recent events
  • The market is all about expectations. Accounting for risk is resetting certain expectation and the market reflects that.
  • Ben, as usual, did not answer the question of if he’s leaving his CEO post at BT (Stay Ben!)
  • The economy is closer to going into recession than slowdown

Updated: Also, check out Ben’s personal thoughts of the WEF on his blog at the Telegraph and the below more in-depth video of Ben and BT’s core business and competencies in serving our customers.

The Osmosoft team recently made a pilgrimage to Paris in order to support BT and JP Rangaswami’s presence at Le Web 3. Both Phil Whitehouse and Phil Hawksworth from our Osmosoft team have done a great job of covering the event on their respective blogs, so no need for another recap. Rather, I wanted to touch on a topic that came up a number of times as I was manning the BT and Osmosoft booth with the rest of the team; the reason behind BT’s open source initiative.

About two-thirds of the conference attendees who came by our booth had previously heard about BT as the traditional telecom provider in the UK, and some even knew we had a global arm that provided communication services all over the world. But what intrigued most everyone that stopped by was the reasoning behind BT’s support of open source and Osmosoft. What was the business case? Why invest into an area that had a questionable ROI? How does open source fit into BT? While the team had prepared a bit for answering questions from Le Web 3 attendees, most of the preparation centered around RippleRap, our social note-taking product that was launched at the conference, and less on our corporate strategy.

So what is our strategy then? Well, here’s my take. BT recognizes and anticipates open source solutions playing a much bigger role in the enterprise space in the very near future, thus the investment in Osmosoft. Our size and breadth (100,000+ employees around the world) allows us to implement today’s solutions that take advantage of software from Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, and tons of other major players but also at the same time to put an investment in ensuring we learn and experience when/where open source is the optimal solution for our us, our customers, and our partners. And rather than just being another research team, we’re taking a hand’s on approach with producing a product (RippleRap) through the engagement of an open source project (TiddlyWiki).

While TiddlyWiki is just one project, our small team is serving not only as a successful example, but also to show other BT teams how to add expertise in certain open source solutions (potentially enterprise email, collaboration platforms, etc.) to their list of proprietary offerings. We’re already working closely with our Global Services colleagues to expand revenue opportunities with a couple existing customers. I haven’t mentioned other traditional reasons for adopting open source such as reduced vendor lock-in, software as a service (SaaS), and so on, but as I gain hands-on experience in those areas, I will update as appropriate. The ROI is less straightforward than I was hoping, but calculating ROI’s have always been a bit of a black art anyways, so I won’t fret too much ;-).

For the large majority of attendees, my explanation made sense and they usually left with a new appreciation for what BT and the Osmosoft team are trying to accomplish in the open source space. There were still a few people unconvinced, but as I and the rest of the team gain more experience with open source software, projects and communities, I hope to strengthen our business case to a point where it’s bit more robust than my babbling above. I’m really looking forward to diving deeper into this world.

(image above from Hugh MacLeod’s genius)