Leon de Bruxelles, Britain’s Got Talent Twitter Hashtags, Zeebox

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Leon de Bruxelles

Looking for somewhere to eat near Covent Garden I found myself in the new Leon de Bruxelles this week. It promised amazing mussels and, as the first London restaurant from an established European chain, great quality. It did not deliver.

On sitting down we were told they had run out of mussels (and, given no one else had them, they must have run out much earlier). Since mussels are really all they do I cannot understand how that happened. But we stayed and chose from the small list of other dishes. Shortly after ordering, a basket of four small pieces of cold baguette was plonked down. At first I couldn’t work out why it looked wrong, then I realised there was no butter, bread knives or plates.

I ordered the Flemish Carbonnade Beef which sounded lovely and at £14 I was expecting it to be a substantial tasty stew. It was neither. After eating over half I found a hair in it.

It left me wondering if I should post a bad review somewhere, so potential customers would know what it was like (I don’t count this blog as reaching such people). But, as someone who uses TripAdvisor but takes the negative reviews with a large pinch of salt, I realised if I posted the above it would seem like I was making it up.

There were two saving points. The staff were nice and, thanks to tastecard, two mains, two sides and two drinks came to £22.

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Britain’s Got Talent Twitter hashtags

It is becoming the norm for TV programmes to put hashtags on screen at the start. The new series of Britain’s Got Talent is doing something different. It is putting a few well-placed hagtags during auditions that play on what you are watching. #nowwithwings when a performer extended his costume wings, #hottie when a swoonful young male singer took to the stage.

I have to admit I was initially sceptical. I instantly spotted a ploy to get these tags trending but dismissed them, thinking few people would use them. I was wrong on the second point. They were so popular that TweetDeck froze and terminally crashed when I tried to add them as a column.

Yes, they did trend worldwide. Given that Twitter’s trending algorithm makes it hard for a term to trend more than once it will mean that BGT trends every week. The clever bit will come if ITV monetise these hashtags.

There is a danger here though. These tags need to be used sparingly and only when there’s something worth tweeting about. If too many programmes use them and, especially, if they use them badly, the audience will be turned off by them.

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If you haven’t have heard of the Zeebox app, then it describes itself as “your TV sidekick” which you should use “while you watch TV” as it is “social, clever and fun”. It has multi-channel programme listings, a programme twitter stream, news, things called ‘Zeetags’ and it can change the channel of a few TVs.

It attracted a lot of TV industry buzz and BSkyB bought a 10% stake in January with a promise to integrate it into it’s mobile applications.

In the last week I’ve heard from two separate sources, who have accessed a (possibly hidden) part of its developer API, that it has hundreds of users at a time when it should have thousands (and thousands).

It doesn’t take a genius to see why it isn’t connecting with an audience. The only thing that is “social” is the twitter stream and for most programmes a twitter stream is a pretty boring list of mundane updates. I watched both The Voice and BGT with Zeebox on and saw little of interest. Meanwhile my own Twitter feed and the official accounts were “fun”.

It could be that Zeebox have something revolutionary planned. But right now I cannot see anything doing “social” and “fun” which isn’t Facebook and Twitter. That’s where your friends are and they are much more “fun” and “social” than strangers. If second screen is going to be about anything it will be participation (see Million Pound Drop) and there are not many programme formats that call for audience participation.

(Please note, I’m currently contracting at ITV. This blog contains my personal views and do not represent or reflect the opinions of ITV, or any of my previous employers or clients.)

Memolane emails, Dropbox Automator, Philadelphia with Cadbury

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Memolane emails

MemolaneA while back I noted Memolane which is a website that pulls in all your social content from the web and presents it in a beautiful timeline to explore. You can look back over photos from Flickr and Instagram, tweets, last.fm music and more. It is great to wander back and remind yourself of your life. Depending on your privacy settings others can wander back too.

Shortly after Memolane came out of beta, Facebook announced its Timeline profile view, which — along with imports from Flickr, Instagram and Spotify, lets you wander back and remind yourself of your life. Depending on your privacy settings…

For me Memolane has been a site I occasionally like to visit but no more. But a few weeks ago it started sending me emails with highlights from my timeline a few years ago. The emails took me back to Iceland and Vietnam, and my tweets on Skins (first generation). It’s lovely seeing photos. Seeing tweets makes me cringe. Either way I look forward to seeing the emails.

The only flaw is it needs decent content from the current day in a previous year. I presume that is why I’m mainly getting emails from 4 years ago.

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Dropbox Automator

Towards the end of last year I noted that Box was giving new users 50Gb of cloud storage for free. At the time I thought it would be great for off-site storage for my photos, music and things like tax paperwork. Sadly the limited tools Box gives free users meant I didn’t really use it (plus iTunes Match came along to look after my music).

I started to use Dropbox for tax stuff and photos but I was aware the limited free storage would cause me problems one day. Also I didn’t want to keep these files on my laptop.

I think the answer to my problems is Dropbox Automator. It follows the ifttt model (which I’ve also previously noted) and lets you set up rules for actions. By connecting it to my Dropbox and Box accounts, Automator copies files I place in defined Dropbox directories to Box ones. So, when I save a bank statement into a Dropbox folder on my laptop, Automator copies it to Box. As Automator works in the cloudiverse I don’t need to do anything. I’m then free to delete the file from Dropbox safe in the knowledge Box has it. (It is a lot simpler in practice.)

Dropbox Automator can do other things. It can convert files, send them to a Kindle, upload to Facebook/Flickr, manipulate images, email files, zip them and more.

It is still early days from the project and the company behind it, Wappwolf, are improving it all the time. Worth keeping an eye on.

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Philadelphia with Cadbury

Philadelphia with CadburyWhen Kraft bought Cadbury there were all sorts of predictions of what the food giant would do with the beloved British brand. Would they move production out of the UK? Would they run it into the ground and replace it with their cheaper Milka brand?

What nobody predicted is they’d produce a Cadbury version of their Philadelphia soft cheese. Chocolate cheese — it is a taste I could not imagine. So when I saw a BOGOF offer I had to purchase.

I can confirm it is basically a chilled chocolate spread with a hint of soft cheese and it works. I had it on a muffin by itself and with banana. I’ve never gone in for spreads so probably will not be purchasing again but I will happily finish the pots I bought.

Pies, Pizza at the Gowlett, Instagram photos of food

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My pieI love pies. But until last week I’d never made one. While pies seem simple — pastry and some filling — the thought of making pastry and cooking up some filling seemed like too much work. I guess I also knew deep down that pies were unhealthy. The pie I made certainly was.

It came from the Pieminister book a friend kindly gave me. Like many cookery spin-off books it is beautifully produced, everything looks wonderful but takes a pile of ingredients the likes of me doesn’t keep around the house. However hidden at the back was the Hunter Chicken Pie which didn’t call for something I wouldn’t buy on a normal shop.

Admittedly I did cheat and use ready-rolled puff pastry. But the chopping of onions, cooking with rosemary then adding tomato, Worcester sauce and balsamic vinegar was me. Then cooking up the chicken, bacon and 150ml of double cream was me. I did get a bit of help laying out the pastry.

The result was gorgeous. I’m pleased I’d had my blood cholesterol test earlier in the week before eating it.

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Pizza at The Gowlett

Gowlett's pizzaI should love pizza but I have an on-off relationship with it, mainly because pizzas disappoint me too much. I’d given up hope on shop bought pizzas. Pizza Express’ efforts do nothing for me. The occasional delivery pizza is OK but only it if has BBQ sauce on it.

I’m down to two places that do pizza really well. One is Yard in Shoreditch which sells pizza by the yard with different toppings to share. I’ve only been there three times and it hasn’t failed me. But the best place I’ve ever found for pizza is The Gowlett in Peckham.

It often tops charts of best pizza in (South) London and deservedly so. What I cannot work out is why. It is a backstreet boozer that’s purposely been kept plain. Although it tries to make a virtue out of its beer selection it is average. But their pizzas stand out. The base is perfect and the toppings tasty and inventive.

Not skimping on the quality of the toppings is certainly a factor. Last night’s chef’s special featured a runny egg that tasted better than most I’ve made.

Their pizzas come from a hidden kitchen out back so you cannot even see how they are prepared. The only clue was a sign I once saw that said they are made by Polish chefs.

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Instagram photos of food

The face of cruditésInstagram photos seem to fall into three types. Cool photos made even cooler with the filters, pets and home cooked food. Lacking a pet my photos fall into the first and third categories (although I’d accept the criticism they aren’t that cool).

This is nothing new. In the early days of Flickr people would take photos of what they were about to eat but the fashion fell away. Now it is back on Instragram and I think I know why.

For a lot of people Instragram is about showcasing artistic creativity. The filters make this easy to do. Most people I know don’t have the time to create nice things but they do cook. I was very proud of the pie I made and my breadmaker produced its best ever loaf. I wanted to share those ‘achievements’ and Instagram made that quick and easy.

I find myself taking fewer Instagram photos as I feel like they have to be good. In the winter there are less opportunities to find interesting things to photograph. But I’m cooking more. The food pictures will continue.

Unconference/BarCamp, Fish Pie in a Pot, CloudScrob

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After a summer of going to conferences that cost £50-£500 (I volunteered at the expensive one) and coming away questioning their value, I’ve been wondering if there’s a better way of doing things. I’d heard about user-generated events (unconferences) that followed BarCamp rules and last weekend I got to experience my first.

The format is straightforward. There’s no advance agenda and no booked speakers. There’s just a number of spaces/rooms and a schedule of time slots. People attending are encouraged to host a session by either giving a presentation or facilitating a discussion. At the start of the event they post cards on a schedule board with their subjects. The event’s participants then use the cards to decide which sessions to attend.

All this makes BarCamps cheap and easy to organise. You just need a location and a network of people to attend. If a sponsor can help provide coffee/lunch/beer even better.

The one I went to was ProductCamp London which brought together 150 product managers. Everybody seemed to get involved and the 32 session slots filled up. Most sessions I went to were interesting. A few didn’t live up to their titles and I found myself suffering from ‘fear of missing out’ when I could see a better-looking session through the windows.

I feel like I need to be much more picky with my paid-for conferences in future but I’d happily take a punt on the next BarCamp that looks interesting.

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Fish Pie in a Pot

Fish Pie in a PotWhen Innocent introduced its Veg Pots it must have got ready-meal makers thinking because a few months after other meals started to appear in the same pots. But these competing products offered something new: meat and fish.

I’ve tried a few and have usually being underwelmed. As their portion size is more suited to a lunchtime rather than a big tea-time (or dinner as they say down south) I don’t usually buy them. Except that is for M&S’s Fish Pie in a Pot. I get cravings for them.

The fish is haddock and salmon. It’s bulked out with potato and some peas. There’s also an unhealthy amount of creme fraiche, butter, cheddar and cream (which is probably why I like it). Add a side of peas in some mint sauce and it’s supper bliss.

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OK, this one is only relevant to last.fm users who have an iPhone or iPod Touch. If that isn’t you, stop reading as it will be dull.

Since upgrading to iOS5 I’ve stopped syncing my iPhone to my Mac. The iCloud and easy application updates means I don’t have to. And when I do it takes hours (but that’s another story). This means I haven’t been scrobbling my music plays to last.fm.

I figured I couldn’t be the only person with this problem so a quick web search lead me to CloudScrob. It’s a simple 89p app that looks for tracks you’ve played since you last launched it and sends them to last.fm. There’s no buttons to press and it takes seconds.