Monday, 27 April 2009

The wonders of Technorati

Hands up if you've ever heard of Technorati?

If you read blogs, and by reading this entry your answer is 'yes', then Technorati is a site you should look at. If you blog, then you should definitely head there.

Technorati is a website which gives order to the (often) chaotic, messy and noisy world of blogging. It, essentially, acts as a big catalogue for the 'blogosphere' - a collective term for all the blogs on the internet. 

The site publishes content from blogs, arranging posts based on subject matter - meaning visitors can search the blogosphere to see what's being talked in any particular subject - e.g. mobile phones, Thailand, Britain's Got Talent, or whatever.

As the blogosphere is a pretty crowded place, blogs are ranked in order to give prioritise content from more influential and established bloggers. Thus allowing Technorati to gauge what issues are hot on the web.

So, for those who like to read blogs, Technorati will 'sort the wheat from the chaff' and make sense of the noise of the blogosphere to tell you what topics are trending/popular.

As Technorati is THE place to hear what's going on in the blogosphere, all bloggers should register their blogs on the site. Your blog won't appear unless you do.

It's a very easy process and one of the benefits, which I love, is that you can see who/what is linking to your content - i.e. how influential your blog is. 

For example, I had the honour of featuring in this Globalvoices article on the recent Red Shirt protests, the content was then syndicated on the New York Times website here.

[Globalvoices is another website worth looking at. It contains articles written using news and content from blogs across the globe, often translating from native languages.]

Once your blog is registered, its content will be available on Technorati making the site a forum for broadcasting your posts to a new audience of potential readers.

Technorati does do many other things, including linking to social bookmarking sites (social networks which rate content to show what is popular/hot on the web).

It isn't perfect, I think it could allow more user interaction, for example promoting content you like, to give it a more viral flavour. But as blog resources go, it's one of the best going and a must for bloggers, as I keep saying.

Check it out at

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Liverpool to play in Bangkok

Thailand is Liverpool crazy, so locals and expats will be excited to hear that Liverpool will play the Thai national team in Bangkok on 22 July. The game is a follow-up to the club's last trip to Thailand in 2003.

The Premiership title chasers will also take on Singapore four days later as part of a pre-season, friendly tour. 

Pre-season friendlies and tours used to be take place against local teams, maybe involving a crossing to Ireland or, for the lucky ones, an exotic destination in mainland Europe, somewhere like Belgium.

These days however, money talks loudly and the pre-season tour to Asia, Africa, America or other Premiership hungry hotspot is a manditory merchandising and promotions effort for any leading club. Football is a global business and the tour helps build a recognisable brand, vital for reaping the cash.

It was quite an eye-opener to realise, on moving to Thailand, I can watch any top-flight football game on TV, even at 3pm on a Saturday (not legally possible in UK), from the comfort of my chair, glass of Leo in hand, any day of the week. 

Given the sheer consumer market in Asia it is inevitable, then, to see football taking on a global flavour and spreading its appeal. And it isn't just the clubs.

The number of the non-UK pitchside adverts (such as the Emirates offers in Vietnamese) from my beloved Emirates Stadium is a striking testiment to the overseas following and business appeal of Brand EPL - "English Premier League", an acronymn I despise, for me it is THE Premier League.

But this isn't a rant, I really enjoy the hype and prediction of pre-season, I also watching tournaments played abroad but sadly the 'merchandising tour' is the likeable face of the dark side of football, the influx of money. A subject I could write a thesis on...another day.

On the plus side, the FIL can watch Liverpool live, assuming I should be so lucky and manage to get the much sought-after tickets! 

Hmmm, I have a feeling they'll be back soon.

If you're interested in more on the globalization of football, an interesting and far more indepth piece is waiting for you here. And you should also read twofootedtackle, an excellent footie blog.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Avoid TT&T MaxNet in Thailand

If you're looking for an internet service provider in Thailand I have some anecdotal advice for you. Do not sign up to TT&T's MaxNet service.
The internet is generally inconsistent in Thailand at the best of times but for the last week or so I've had a mixture of intermitten usage and no access at all to sites hosted by blogger or wordpress - so most of the web's blogs. I've also had patchy and limited access to Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter and a host of other mainstream websites.

Incredibly frustrating and it has meant my postings to JF have been limited too.

From talking with Thai expats on Twitter (if you’re not on already, you really should be!) it's clear that MaxNet is to blame as other customers are experiencing these access problems.

One guy suggested that it might be linked to the current government crackdown on controversial websites, particularly in relation to the UDD (Red Shirt) protests - see here for details. I don’t believe this to be the case as, to the best of my knowledge, other ISPs are operating a regular service in spite of restrictions.

Bottom line, avoid MaxNet, which definitely doesn’t live up to its name, and spend your hard earned baht elsewhere.

[UPDATE: If you're interested in the internet, technology and social media check out my new blog over here.]

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Happy half birthday to my little monster

My little man's half birthday (six months) fell yesterday, Saturday, but I was unable to post due to ongoing internet access issues from my ISP, TT&T - not flavour of the month with me.

It was a good excuse for some delicious Thai cake, although Little Monster didn't partake - hardly the same fresh out of a blender is it?

So here is a little photo of my li'l hero to mark the occasion.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

My tea war-chest

Jonny Foreigner has to be a bit cliched sometimes, so here it is. There's something about the English and tea, even in a place as hot as Thailand, we simply love it and I'm not different.

Check out my tea arsenal.

I went dry a few months ago but learnt from the experience and now I've accumulated quite a collection, if I dare say so myself.

The imported lot includes M&S from the parents and the delectable Boh Cameronian from my brother courtesy of his 'Escape From Blighty World Tour Extravaganza' (TM).

Closer to home Tesco Lotus has provided a little gem with its organic tea (recycled box to boot), geat quality and a bargain at 70 baht, around £1.50 - highly recommended. As for the cheapo Tesco box, the contents is pretty hideous by English standards but better than nothing out here.

Anyone else got a tea collection worth shouting about?

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Why all Thai expats should be on Twitter

As an expat in Thailand it can be difficult keeping up with the latest news. There are few English language TV stations available and the English daily newspapers are, feankly, low on quality and high on bias.

Yesterday Thailand witnessed the ASEAN conference in Pattaya, a state of emergency in Bangkok, the continuation of Red Shirt protests in Bangkok, tanks mobilising in Bangkok, two Red Shirts shot dead for attempting to enter the Prime Minister's car, the closure of a major shopping mall, the arrest (without a warrant) of Arisaman, a leading member of UDD (Red Shirts) and, as-yet-unsubstanciated, reports of Thaksin Shinawatra arriving in Thailand via helicopter. 

Today the situation has got progressively worse with allegations of Red Shirt firing at the army and TV pictures of Thai soliders opening fire at protestors and continuous TV footage of the Thai soldiers on the streets of Bangkok.

As events continue to evolve Twitter stands on its as the web's most effective real-time news gathering resource.  I've long resisting writing about Twitter but I genuinely believe it will be useful to all expats, and even those in the UK and the rest of the world.

Updates are often personal and not official but websites like Twitter Search and Breaking Tweets analyse popular topics and trends on the service to give a bigger picture of what is hot. For newsgathering purposes, these two websites offer invaluable insights into breaking developments.

So it was using Twitter,  images on TV and select updates from The Missus, which allowed me to build a detailed picture of events unfolding in Bangkok.

Twitter is not just a news service, it is a dexterous messaging service which I would recommend all expats - particularly those who blog - to sign up to.

On its homepage Twitter asks 'what are you doing' and this is the basic premise of the service - to let people know what you are doing within 140 characters - also the length of an SMS. In reality, Twitter usage is more sophisticated than just ME-ME-ME-ME-ME.

If you're still not convinced, here are 10 benefits I get from Twitter:
  1. Communicate with friends accross the world
  2. Stay in touch with breaking events - such as the developments in Bangkok
  3. 'Meet' new people in Thailand 
  4. Find news - most news outlets circulate article links
  5. Share interesting information
  6. (Sometimes) circulate JF blog posts 
  7. Network - much of my freelance work can be traced to Twitter in one way or another
  8. Talk about what I'm doing- only when it is interesting, of course
  9. Stay in touch with the media/PR industry in the UK
  10. Ask questions or seek opinion
As I have mentioned, Twitter is extraordinarily useful for expats but the key to getting value from the service is your network, which in Twitter terms is the people whose updates you follow and those who follow your updates. 

Here is a selection of Thailand-based Twitter users I recommend following. Without a network of followers/following the service is useless but a lot of connections makes Twitter an incredible useful resource.

@jonrussell (yours truly - my feed is visible on the right-hand side of the blog)

I also recommend listing yourself at WeFollow,  a Twitter directory to help like-minded individuals connect, there is an entry for Thailand which can be used to find more Thai-based Twitter users.

The Lost Boy recently urged expats to join Twitter - so take his advice and mine and sign up to the service at

Friday, 10 April 2009

The public holiday gamble

Abhisit's latest move was to make today a public holiday across Thailand. The surprise announcement was made late last night as part of the Thai PM's televised address to the nation. Contrary to regular public holidays, banks and some businesses are working today.

There's no such thing as a free lunch but what about a free bank holiday? You must be joking, everything comes at a cost or for a reason.

Songkran, Thai New Year, is next week meaning most have a week off work returning back Monday 20 April - so this extra day of holiday strings the New Year break a little longer.

As most of the hardcore Red Shirt protesters are from outside of Bangkok it appears the Prime Minister is aiming to tempt the out-of-towners back home for an extended new year holiday period.

Abhisit is undoubtedly a skilled politician but this manoeuvre is a risk.

There is danger that the extra day will encourage more protesters to journey into Bangkok to join the Truth Today demonstrations. I expect most protesters to spend the whole of next week's holiday period in Bangkok, meaning continuing chaos for the city over New Year. It will be particularly disastrous if key transport hub Victory Monument remains closed from the Red Shirt blockade.

This move could be crucial to the future of Abhisit's tenure as Prime Minister.

Will he be forced to act by the protesters or will the previously obedient Red Shirt protests see the Bangkok public turn on them for the chaos they are causing?

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The right to protest

So Thailand is back making global political headlines again - can you say it ever stopped though? This time the spotlight in on the Thaksin Shinawatra supporting Red Shirts, rivals in chief to the PAD mob.

It was the PAD who, back in December, opened my eyes to the right to protest, Thai style, when they rolled into Suvarnbhumi airport en mass to protest against then acting Prime Minsiter Somchai Wongsawat - believing him to be a puppet of Thaksin. Eventually Chaovarat gave in to the pressure, a new Prime Minsiter was chosen, all was happy ever after and we come to the present day...

The protesters are the Reds with their Truth Today campaign. The object of their protestations is Prime Minsiter Abhisit Vejjajiva and their objective is his resignation and an election.

The Red Shirts are pushing for change in Thailand.

Those are the basic facts distilled down for simplicity's sake. In what seems to a quickly establishing hallmark of Thai democracy, the anti-Abhisit Reds have taken to the streets of Bangkok to apply their pressure.

Around 2/3 weeks ago Red Shirts began their occupation of land near Government House. Their presence escalated today when a group of taxis drivers - an industry known for its unwavering support for exiled, former PM Thaksin - parked cabs to abstruct all entrances to Victory Monument, one of central Bangkok's busiest transport hubs.

It's inevitable, when you look at it. The Yellow Shirts (PAD) got what they wanted by causing chaos and closing the national airport so the Reds (significantly made up of a strong presence outside of Bangkok) took this marker and went for the heart of the capital - closing roads and massively inconveniencing the city.

This evening Abhisit addressed Thailand with a national TV broadcast in which he stood his ground by refusing to resign. He warned that the government would proceed with legal action against anyone deemed to be acting against national security.
PM Abhisit owes his very position to a protest

He is deadly serious but there is an irony about Abhisit and his statement of legal action which will be lost on few. 

To this date, no arrests have been made in connection with the PAD's occupation of the airport which led to his appointment as PM. Surely closing the national airport is detrimental to national security?!

Yet no arrests and no come uppance for the PAD protestors.

To me this is clearly the crux of the problem, and one of the justifications for the Red Shirts..."the Yellows got what they wanted and suffered no consequences, why should we?"

The right protest is an essential part of democracy but it is has grown out of control in Thailand.

For the sake of the nation a compromise must be found and actions must be taken to strongly discourage such protests in the future. If this sets the standard the retaliatory protests may never stop.

At this stage it is difficult to see who will win out - The Reds or Abhisit? The one hope is that things don't get ugly.

Monday, 6 April 2009

The example of a "Dickhead" on Wikipedia

**DISCLAIMERI know a lot of people don't share my passionate for football, I'm told that some even loathe the game (?!), but I'm going to use an example from my beloved sport for a non-sporting reference...bear with me!

A young, virtually unknown footballer by the name Federico Macheda (photo below) made a name for himself by scoring a vitally important goal for Manchester United which will keep them in the race to win (and retain) the English Premier League.

Macheda: Suffering abuse online...not that he'll care

As a self-confession football nerd, I was a little taken aback when he was brought on as a second half substitute as I have never heard of the 17 year old Italian who is more commonly found turning out for Man Utd's reserve team.

After the game I decided to find a little more information about him. A Google search then led me to this page below on Wikipedia - one of the web's most useful resources.

enlarged version

On the page I found his date of birth, information on his background, how he came to be at Manchester United and little detail on his progress at the club to date - all new to me.

The page had recently been updated with his heroics from barely 10 minutes previous...

"With United 2–1 down and needing a goal to keep their title campaign alive, manager Alex Ferguson threw Macheda on in place of Nani just after the hour mark. After Ronaldo equalised for United in the 80th minute, Macheda won the match with a curling effort from just inside the area in the third minute of injury time."

The entry was even referenced by BBC Sport Online's match report.

It is this dedication to ensuring information is current which Wikipedia an established internet institution that is. 

But here's the negative side, someone (perhaps an Aston Villa fan or supporter of title-rival Liverpool) decided to change Macheda's nickname from "Kiko" to "DICKHEAD" as the eagle eyed will spot in the screenshot above.

I'm having problems accessing the site today (ISP or Thailand's blocking policy) but presume the page has been corrected. 

The example highlights the potential abuse of Wikipedia's open editing policy. There is keen talk of editing rights being withdrawn from the public to only allow access to allow to Wikipedia moderators, and checking updates before they are published. 

This move would mess with the recipe which has made it Encyclopedia 2.0 - that is the sheer speed it updates and publishes facts. This puts it streets ahead of rivals, any change would take the competitive edge away from Wikipedia, not to mention the charm of the funny stuff which surface once in a while.

Wikipedia, please don't change.