Sean's Technology and Writing Blog

Wild Mood Swings relaunched

30 July 2006

Wild Mood SwingsWay back in 1998, I created the first version of 'Wild Mood Swings', a toy that lets you pick your mood and then whisks you off to an appropriate website for that mood. I relaunched the site in February 2003, with its own website at

It's been described as like a mini-Stumbleupon by users of that popular social bookmarking site and has surprisingly been bookmarked with the tag 'Web 2.0' at It's also been submitted to digg a couple of times without me noticing.

Those proper Web 2.0 sites are great ways to discover new online experiences. The difference with WMS is that it has one editorial voice, and the moods used to reach the websites don't always describe them. If you're feeling sad, for example, you're more likely to be taken to a site to cheer you up than a site full of misery. There's also a high standard of quality control, so that all the clicks should be worthwhile in some way.

I've just refreshed the site, introducing over 65 new moods and online experiences. I've also changed the mood attributed to some of the older experiences that are still in there, so if you're a regular visitor you might spot what appears to be duplication for a short time. There's a new Google search box on the page too, so it's more suitable for setting as a browser start page.

Wild Mood Swings: How do you want to feel today?


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Photos: Google Map update

15 July 2006

I've added five new photos of Sydney to my travel photography Google Map.

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A tribute to Syd Barrett

11 July 2006

It was announced today that Syd Barrett died on Friday. Barrett was the founder and original creative force behind Pink Floyd. The first Floyd LP 'Piper at the Gates of Dawn' is as fine an album as you could hope for: Barrett wrote songs with child-like wonder and the Floyd dressed them up in the best psychedelia the sixties could muster. By the time the second album came around, Barrett wasn't in the band any more and only contributed one track, Jugband Blues.

Under the command of Roger Waters first and then David Gilmour much later, Pink Floyd went on to be massively successful, while Barrett more or less disappeared. Three patchy Barrett solo albums were released, but they failed to consistently capture the magic of his earlier work. Barrett effectively retired to paint and hasn't had any involvement with the music industry or the rest of Pink Floyd for decades.

So why is Barrett still remembered today, about forty years on from his creative peak? Why are there misplaced rumours about him playing concerts in America? Why did journalists who should know better keep stalking him at home, year after year? Why are even his poorly sung out-takes deemed worthy of commercial release? Why was there such emotion in the Albert Hall when the remaining friendly Floyds burst into Barrett's song Arnold Layne at David Gilmour's recent gig?

Perhaps it's because Barrett became a legend: the genius crushed by the music industry and driven by drugs into an early mental breakdown. Perhaps it's because of the way he's haunted Pink Floyd's later work, including most obviously 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond'. In the obits I've read, the legend casts a long shadow over the work.

I'd like to think, though, that there are enough other people out there tonight playing songs like Chapter 24, Matilda Mother, Lucifer Sam, Interstellar Overdrive and Astronomy Domine and revelling in their timeless beauty. We've been missing Syd for a long time, but we'll always have his songs to remember him by.

Syd Barrett: a painter, piper and prisoner. Goodbye.


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Photos: Exclusive Radiohead photos

08 July 2006

I've uploaded photos of Radiohead in concert, taken in Birmingham on the day The Bends was released. This is the first time - over ten years after they were taken - that these photos have been published.

That was also the first gig I photographed. I was using a Canon T70 with black and white film and no flash. The photos are grainy and blurred, which contributes to their atmosphere.

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Book review: Past Mortem by Ben Elton

02 July 2006

Book cover - Ben Elton: Past MortemThe idea of Ben Elton writing a book about Friends Reunited sounds like cash-in bandwagon-jumping of the worst kind. I thought it would be better if he wrote a book about one of the parody sites that people kept launching a few years back, such as Bullies Reunited.

So imagine my surprise to find out that's exactly what he's done. In his murder mystery 'Past Mortem', Elton explores the theme of bullying and the impact it has on everybody's lives: the bullies, the victims and the witnesses.

Detective Edward Newsom is tracking a serial killer while battling loneliness by delving into his own past through Friends Reunited. He's surprised to find his status has changed since he was at school, and then shocked as his past and present collide.

There are a couple of weaknesses. The main characters are well-written, but some of the characters on the periphery are see-through. Even if former class mates of the eighties did meet up, it's highly unlikely they would still be saying 'Rock on, Tommy!' to each other. Even in jest. The love story sub-plot is layered on pretty thick and only delivers a modest pay-off. While there are surprises throughout, the ending seemed obvious from about two-thirds of the way through.

But that's just picking on a good book. 'Past Mortem' elaborates on its theme creatively and brings everything to a tidy conclusion in a way that's so elegant it's like watching synchronised swimming. At times, it's gruesome. But it's satisfying to read and unlike Dead Famous, avoids easy answers and nearly all cliches. This is a great whodunnit, with a nice line in whydunnit thrown in for free. Recommended.

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