Happy 24th birthday BrainStorm

A long time ago, I invented some software called BrainStorm. It was my secret weapon at the tail end of my tenure as editor of Personal Computer World and the start of my stint as a director of Caxton Software. It help me stay on top of things by acting as a thought grabber, organiser, finder and general rememberer of things for me.

Well, it’s been a kind of secret hobby for many years. Marck Pearlstone has been the programming brains since 1994 and, by some miracle, we find ourselves with a new release today – exactly 24 years since it was first published.

I just couldn’t let the moment pass without mentioning it. Sorry.

Throwing my life away: hard

We’ve lived in our present house for over 24 years. Now it’s time to move and it’s a total nightmare. What to do with all the stuff that’s accumulated?

Some is impersonal but cost an arm and a leg at the time: Computer kit, cables, switch boxes, phone connectors for goodness knows how many countries. etc etc. None of it is of any use, except as a source of copper wire probably. (Unless you’re still using an IBM ThinkPad 570 – I have some useful add-ons for that. You’d better call quick though.)

Some is evidence that I existed – Caxton and BrainStorm press cuttings, my own writings and magazines edited. I mean, who cares about the physical evidence? Who cares, full stop? Apart from me. All that matters really is what’s happening today and tomorrow, not in the past.

Some is plain nostalgia – stuff from when my parents died that meant a lot to them, but not so much to me. I’ve shipped a lot of my dad’s scouting stuff to the local archives. But mum’s embroidery? Her crochet work? Sure, keep a few bits back. Give some away, then it’s off to the charity shop.

Each time I go to the recycling centre (okay, and the refuse centre next door) I feel that I am jettisoning my life, carload by carload. On the other hand, having done it, I come back lighter in spirit.

Inevitably, I’ve delayed the more precious stuff until the end. I mean, here’s an example:


It’s the instruction display panel from the first computer I ever programmed. It’s showing a divide command.

The panel was sent to me around 1980 by the boss of Mainopt, a maintenance optimisation firm which used to save companies millions by getting stuff maintained before it went expensively wrong.

I think the panel might end up glued to my coffin. It symbolises a life-changing door through which I walked on January 3rd 1966. It led to everything that’s happened, and is still happening, since.

(Before getting 100% in a programming aptitude test, I had been an ice-cream man, a bread roundsman, a trainee quantity surveyor, a packaging designer, a newspaper seller, a hospital receptionist and a menswear salesman in a department store.)

Thanks NCR and your 500 Series. Now back to the clear out. What the heck to keep?

Anyone else been there? And maybe had regrets later?

Minimising my digital pollution

After my recent agonising about whether to continue with Teblog (this blog), I’ve decided to hang in there. Focus will be around what interests me. And, since I’m essentially a communicator (training, writing, etc) and productivity tool publisher (BrainStorm), I doubt the content will change hugely. Except I’m going to allow a bit more of me to show through.

But… I do not intend to pollute the digital atmosphere with a posting frequency or content designed to attract attention or popularity. Not that I ever did.

I confess to blogging elsewhere – three other places, in fact, shortly to be four (fingers crossed), but I will try to stick to what I think is usefully informative or amusing. The exception in Teblog is that I might indulge in the occasional bit of trumpet-blowing. (A new release of my software or a link to something I’ve written elsewhere, for example.) If the daily visits reaches zero or close to it, I’ll stop.

What sparked this post was a) the afore-mentioned agonising (thanks
for you feedback folks) and b) I woke up today to 115 overnight emails,
114 of which were spam. The one that wasn’t was a Facebook connection from that nice Mr Al Tepper, ex green blogger and now head of marketing at ethical retailer, Natural Collection.
I’m only in there because friends are raving about it, but I’m buggered
if I want to hand over all my email addresses to FaceBook.

Making screencasts

Do you ever want to record how you do something on the computer with a voice-over? Here’s a cross-post from thinkerlog:

If you're interested in making screencasts, this extract from an email from me to a customer might be of use to you:

You've done a very nice job presenting and displaying BrainStorm while speaking  to the presentation.

You're very kind.

Can you share the name of the tools you used?


might also want to look at Camtasia. I'm happy with what I've got but I
hear others talk about Camtasia and the results certainly look good.


I use BB FlashBack from Blueberry Software, by the way.

RSS feeds in Grazr via OPML

I have trouble keeping track of myself, let alone all the other things that interest me. We’re talking here about web-based stuff: news feeds and blogs in particular, but it extends to forums, wikis and traditional websites too.

Amyloo is using OPML and Grazr to document the blogs that surround the BlogHer conference which is currently running in San José at the moment. (That’s the Silicon Valley San José by the way.)

I have demonstrated Grazr in my left sidebar for a while to show a simple outline. Inspired by Amyloo, I decided to try and add some feeds. Using OPML Editor, I inserted some feeds into an ‘outline’ (joke, it’s only four entries) and then dropped the file onto my web server. Then I used the Grazr Configuration utility to create this:

Just click on an entry and it will take you to the most recent posts in, respectively, this blog, a blog I co-write with my editors at Information World Review, a blog spun around thinking tools and a forum I manage for Brainstorm Software. Click on an entry with a newspaper icon to the left and you can read the original post. Marvellous! (Update: but only if the originator feeds the full post. IWR appears not to. You can click on the headline to go to the original post.)

See Amyloo’s example for something much more profound.

12 months on, Tebbutt and Hobson catch up on social media

Had lunch with Neville Hobson a couple of weeks ago. We see each other from time to time, but rarely get the chance for a good chinwag. Oddly, the previous session had been in the same restaurant about a year earlier. Since we both spend most of our time in the social computing space, we thought we’d examine how our thinking has changed/refined over this time.

Neville had just read my blog post about how Robert Angel uses BrainStorm to prepare for podcasts, so he thought it would be a good idea to interview me on the subject.

Since I’d already planned to interview him about his podcasting and new media life, we decided to make a single recording of  (some of our) post-lunch conversation.

Neville has blogged about it and provides professional links to the podcast. Please go there, especially if you want to listen to the podcast online.

If you download the MP3, this playlist will help you jump to the bits of interest. Assuming, of course, there are any.

00:00 Scene setting
00:37 A lot’s changed in a year
01:04 Death of fanaticism
01:40 Ethics/Journalism
02:24 Guardian blogger – for free
02:58 Podcasting – noise cancelling headphones
04.29 BrainStorm for podcasting
09:36 Perspective on what’s valuable in social computing
12:18 Screencasts starts (interrupted)
12:48 Low cost video, daughter records Alan Shearer, recording industry issues
15:33 Screencasts continued – Camtasia & BB FlashBack
16:17 Neville’s life changes – how to exploit new tools for organisational benefit
17:23 Life/Work threaded – attention to family etc needed
18:43 New life: opportunities from FIR & conf
19:27 Level of engagement high, met people couldn’t have before
21:31 Closing remarks and plug for the Sipson Tandoori