Monday, May 29, 2006

Web2.0 Hype or Reality?

I was sent this excellent white paper called "Web2.0:Hype or Reality... and how it will play out?" by Arma Partners, an investment banking firm that specialises in technology.

The paper's description of the Web2.0 phenomenon is the best I've seen with a very incisive 'investment market' analysis. Although the attempt to catalogue Web2.0 companies seems a little futile given the pace of breaking news (and certainly is a little hit and miss), there are still some nuggets about how some of these businesses are delivering their visions.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

My Art Space Launching...

A colleague has brought to my attention the countdown to the launch of MyArtSpace. This will be a place for artists and photographers to upload unlimited images of their work into a personalised gallery. In that great spirit of Web2.0 this will form the basis of a community with reviews, critiques, announcements, awards etc. The designers have used Flash to great effect. The front end has possibly been cooked to the limit with an age old splash screen, however, the useability around the galleries is fab.

To entice people in there's a competition where you can win a stay at an amazing villa in the South of France. At the moment this dominates the site to the point of being a distraction from the core purpose, but it IS onehelluva prize so why not.

I wonder how much of a contribution to the name was made by the possibility of a trade sale to Mr Murdoch?

Anyway, grab your scribblin' sticks and let's make art.

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Nokia N70 Long Term Road Test

There are many glowing reviews about the Nokia N70 either straight out of the box or just from the feature lists. I feel that a long term test is appropriate because in my history of mobile phones it is the small irritating things which stack up to make a "I'll never buy a XXX phone again" case. And believe me, I've bought several phones that held high promises, but have disappointed in the extreme. As long as the buying experience is comparing feature lists, looking at a mock up nailed to the wall and chats at the pub (where there is a tendency to gloss over poor purchases) the only way to avoid the trap again is to veto the maker.

Ok, back to the N70. This is a great phone. If you're not rushing to the shop now then you are surely holding out for the N80, N90 or beyond. Right? Sure. Well I hope this posting will see you make that decision with realistic expectations.

The N70 was great out of the box. It worked and there were enough toys bundled in to consume hours. There were no glaring user experience niggles- you know, the ones that really grate.

Now our relationship has cruised through the 100 hours of calls marker and there have been some wobbles creeping in. First of all, a Vivaldi track downloaded from my operator caused upset. This was not one of my first downloads by any stretch of the imagination, but every time I play it, after several minutes the phone has convulsions. The music stops, the screen goes blank and you are forced into a reboot. Odd.

The next irritation came last week when a bunch of preinstalled office apps (Adobe reader and the apps used to edit Word, Powerpoint and Excel files) just disappeared. I wondered if they had been on a limited time trial but low and behold they reappeared this morning. Very odd.

My 3rd quibble is that I started having network connection trouble- SIM rejection messages, no signal and no network messages. Really very odd.

My final moan is that the reception isn't great and seems to drop out during calls more regularly than my last phone. Whether this is symptomatic of 'overheating' or early 3G technology is unclear. Extremely odd.

Anyway, I'll conclude by saying that despite all this, you'd have to prise this phone out of my hand if you want to take it back. It's still a marvel, despite it's flaws.

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Taxi Drivers say the Funniest Things

Sounds like it could be the makings of a Saturday afternoon light entertainment TV show? Taxidrivers are great. They absorb so much info from their passengers and the media they are exposed to more than most. I'd suggest this does make them rather prone to accepting pseudoscience and becoming pedallers of urban myth.

I heard a great one this morning. Talking about his choice of the TomTom navigation system I was informed that they are the only vendor to actually have their own dedicated network of satellites. I didn't know this. Furthermore, with no sense of irony he explained how if we went to war with the US and they were to turn off our access to GPS, his TomTom would still work fine. I felt it was reassuring I could still get a cab as the Cruise missiles rained in.

I chose not to dispel his illusion. So far as I know, the European Galileo Programme (which I presume he got his wires crossed over) isn't going to be live until 2010 with its constellation of positioning satellites.

Someone tell them I've found the man to do their marketing.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Marylebone or bust

If or when I need to move back to London, I've always had an eye to the places where there is a sense of community and local identity. The last place I lived in London was Richmond Hill so I guess that set the tone.

Walking through Marylebone today made me wonder if this could be on the list... property prices permitting! It has a great High Street and at the moment they're building up to a Summer Fayre on Sunday 18th June. It seems that the Howard De Walden Estate takes a very active role in managing the concept of Marylebone Village. It's interesting to see private enterprise taking on this traditional council/tourism office role of 'planning and managing'. Presumably they see a payback in terms of the enhanced desirability leading to increased rents etc. Which is exactly why Marylebone might have to leave my short list as quickly as it arrived.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Baristo vs Coffee Nations- let the coffee war begin!

Baristo In an earlier posting I was extolling the virtues of
Coffee Nation's automatic self service coffee machines. Well, that prime mover advantage is over. They have an immitator spotted at Tamworth Services called Baristo. I don't know whether it is an 'own brand' of Moto who don't want be beholden to Coffee Nations or a direct competitor. I also don't know if the coffee tastes any good because I didn't have time to join the queue of Leeds Utd fans en route to the First Division play offs (obviously a sophisticated, coffee tasting bunch).

However, the machines look the business and have an adjacent pastry display. Soemthing to look forward to on those long motorway days.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Enemy of Religion

Amongst the hype around the launch of The Da Vinci Code film, some Christian groups have been highly critical of what they see as a blasphemous work. Defending his book, Dan Brown, has been quite sanguine, saying that the only true enemy of religion is apathy and that debate is a healthy thing.

Absolutely, and I think that's why the silent majority of churchgoers are embracing the attention.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Amusing Company Slogan

I visited a company today who are based in a managed office. At reception I didn't have chance to read the slogan under the logo of the facilities management company, Arena, emblazoned across the wall.

In fact, it was only when I went to the gents later on that I chuckled at myself when I saw the slogan you can see on the right hand side of their website- ON A TOILET CUBICLE.

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The Future of Technology on FIRE

The definitive conference on the future of technology is on NOW. Why aren't you there? Everyone from Paul Allen to Michael Dell is attending Future In REview (FIRE) in San Diego this week to discuss the global mega trends and issues around technology.

Bloggers from the Seattle Times, ZDNet, CNET and Scripting News are keeping us informed as events unfold.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Best Long Term Storage Format?

Ok, so let's take everything we read in the papers at face value and, between the celeb worshipping and reality TV, assume that we take some time out to plan for the demise of humanity.

Think of a disastrous event which wipes out, say, 99% of the human population on earth. Now think about you being one of those 'lucky' enough to come out blinking into the light. Let's say you reinstate the basic needs of warmth, food, shelter etc. Now, what would be the best way to access the thousands of years of civilisation's knowledge in order to start to develop society and technology as fast as possible?

Ok, so we would need some basic instructions in a readable form, but what format would you follow after that? How do we avoid the fate of the burning of the great Library of Alexandria and it's 500,000 books? Which format has the best long term stability?

This isn't an excuse for a PC vs MAC debate!

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The Weather with You is Glorious is it? We'll see...

For a while now I've had the GeoURL link on the left border of my blog. Well, today I thought I'd catch up on who my web neighbours are and found a very useful site to tell me what the weather is like. It saves me looking outside of the window and everything :)

Well, it will help in my weekly gloat with my parents when we compare the weather on the Sunny south coast with that in the Yorkshire Dales. WorldBuddy provides current and recent weather conditions around the country's airports and therefore, although it doesn't provide a forecast (stick with the Met Office for that), it does provide a very detailed and accurate picture- temp, wind direction/speed, humidity, dew points etc etc. Claims from the other end of the phone of it being hot and sunny could be dispelled in an instant- although the weather is better than the proverbial "grim up north" in the lea of the Pennines, I'm not sure that it compares to the tropics of Dorset as often as is claimed by my folks.

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8 Blue Flag Beaches within Walking Distance

Encams, the environmental charity who are responsible for the Keep Britain Tidy campaign and admininistrating the Blue Flag Beach Seaside Awards in England, have announced this year's Blue Flag winners. For the second year running Bournemouth and Poole have netted four awards each, giving us 8 of England and Wales' 120 Blue Flag beaches within walking distance of ClickTowers.

To be honest, it would have been an embarrassment to either Poole or Bournemouth to have received anything less, and the loss of an award would probably have seen heads rolling. Both these authorities rely on the awards to fuel their valuable tourism industry.

One question I have though- why has Studland Beach (managed by the National Trust) not been awarded a blue flag? It looks every bit as clean as its blue flag neighbours in Poole and perhaps even more idyllic. Perhaps it is related to access (something which I'm happy for Studland to have relatively little of- keeps it quiet). Another possibility is that the National Trust don't have the resources to submit their application.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Is it Crazy that a Coin Costs More to Make Than its Value?

An interesting fact about coins costing more to make than their representative value is discussed on One Digital Life.

I'm not sure that it's all that crazy. I'm not an economist but as I understand it, that coin can represent its value on hundreds of ocassions as it passes through the whole value chain many times in its lifetime. The question is more about how many times a coin can be reissued into the economy by the Government's bank in its lifetime?

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Google Trends- the latest Great Time Waster?

Google TrendsWell, it could be unless I can think of something to do with it. Hot on the heels of great products like Google Earth, the idea of Google Trends is to see how the popularity of a search term has changed over the years. It draws you in and is fun for a while, but I'm not sure when it might constitute a useful tool. I'll let you know, but for now it's an amusing curiosity.

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Scobleizer Pours his Heart Out

Robert Scoble (in my view the greatest blogger out there) is going through the heartache of seeing his mother, in all probability, on her death bed. He is reknown, as a self confessed Microsoft geek, for his technology blog, but since he received the news of his mother's stroke and subsequent diagnoses of other problems, the blog has become the channel for his out pourings.

It makes for tear jerking reading and you can see the best of the blogging phenomena as people gather round in support. His decision to tell the world about it may appear to some to be self indulgent, but I like it when blogs are streams of conciousness rather than focussed on what their audience want. That is not a criticism of the specialist subject blogs that have become essential to my work, but I know which I prefer to read on the weekends.

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Snooker Ace Raises Money for Cancer Charity

Courtesy of the Ilkley GazetteIt's great how the Internet connects information. Before I go on and describe even more bleedingly obvious phenomena, let me explain.

I came across this story about how the snooker star, Paul Hunter, is raising money for a charity who help sufferers of a very rare form of hormonal cancer which he has himself.

Now, a bit of background. I've been helping my mother out with some genealogy and there is a hypothesis that we are related to Paul Hunter. There's a family resemblance, we're from the same area, my grandmother was born a Hunter and there are some crack snooker players in our midst (ok, maybe the latter is a red herring). Unfortunately, the one person who could shed some light on this (and apparently used to mention the connection) is no longer with us. Anyway, I've therefore long taken an interest in Paul's career, was shocked when I heard that he has cancer and have admired his tenacity in continuing to play at the highest ranks of world snooker, despite the chemotherapy numbing his hands.

Anyway, back to the interconnectedness of life... I was reading the blog Ilkley Rocks where Bertram Wooster wrote about the local rag, the Ilkley Gazette, receiving a website makeover. It was visiting this polished up website that led me to the story about Paul Hunter and how he is supporting a fundraising dinner in my home town, Ilkley (hence the promo picture in front of the Cow and Calf rocks).

Et voila, the web I weave is complete.

If you're interested, the dinner is about £110 a place and for a very worthy cause- NET Patient Foundation incorporating Living With Carcinoid.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

CollectiveX Launches Today

CollectiveXIs CollectiveX about to trump LinkedIn, Yahoo360 (nee Clubs), Ecademy and all those other social networking sites? I've seen so many of these huge visions fall by the way side- remember ePeople? No, nor does DNS. It's so hard to work out what the secret of success might be and the space is full of so many niche players- seen Where are You Now (WAYN)? My fear for them is that the web 2.0 phenomenon puts the emphasis on loosely coupled features rather than centralising them on a single site.

CollectiveX looks great, looks workable and indeed, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch has espoused it as what LinkedIn should have always been- quite an accolade.

Is it all enough? Time will tell.

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Flattery will get you Everywhere

A moment of self indulgence. I need someone to burst my bubble.

I was described as "one of the architects of modern society" today by someone I have a huge amount of respect for. He's one of the UK's best known designers and was talking with one of my colleagues when the discussion moved to one of my past projects (mentioned in this blog somewhere).

If I can get that in writing it will take pride of place next to my Cub Scouts' Home Help badge and Paley's Peppermint Polo Prize for my work on "My Family Holiday" (circa 1986).

Don't worry, by the time I've fought my way through this afternoon's deadlines, I'll be ready to sit with the great unwashed again on the tube. Life is so fickle :)

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Home Town Gives up Secrets

I lived in Ilkley for the first 18 years of my life and I never knew, until I saw some photo's of a memorial stone on maverickapollo's Flickr page, that during WWII a bomber crashed on Ilkley Moor.

I know little at the moment, but it's something to look into. Maverickapollo reports that all but one crew member died and I can see from the RAF insignia that it was 'one of ours'.

That must have been big news back then and in a town like that these stories live on for a long time. The moor was my playground as a kid and I never stumbled across this memorial.

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Share your feeds

Using the Share Your OPML service for the first time today has given me the opportunity to reflect on how RSS has impacted on my computer usage.

More thorough reviews are available elsewhere, but basically the OPML file contains all your personal feed settings and this service enables you to manage multiple files and perhaps learn from other peoples' reading habits.

Just the summary of my own OPML was interesting. On a daily basis I'm reading content tailored for me, by me, from more than 90 sources. Imagine doing that before RSS. I'd have been surfing for 8 hours a day. Now I just spend 30 minutes a day and get all those goodies.

Still, it boggles me how some people are aggregating from 3000 sources... not all of them can just be poorly managed.

One particularly interesting feature of Share Your OPML is the ability to find like minded folk by comparing files. I look forward to reporting on my kindred spirits in due course.

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How does your site look in IE7?

It's interesting times in the world of browsers as Microsoft launches the latest version of its Internet Explorer 7.0. Why is that interesting? Well, aside from the spat with Google over bundling the search box into the browser, after years of criticism, Microsoft seems to be waking up to the value of web standards. Previous versions of IE have interpretted code in subtly different ways resulting in web developers having to work hard to ensure their work could be presented in different browsers. This wasn't just Microsoft being awkward. Some of their approaches had technical merit over the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) approach. With IE7, support for cascading style sheets (CSS), in particular, has been more closely aligned with the W3C standard.

But such a change, however welcome, is causing turmoil amongst webmasters who have woken up to their pages being presented differently overnight. But help is at hand. Tools are available to help with the transition which also spans new IE features in the areas of Security and support for XML standards. The best advice is to get your hands on a copy of IE7 and have a look at the sites that you are responsible for... pronto.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

New Top Gear Series

It is with a song in my heart that I write about Top Gear returning to BBC 2 on Sunday night. What a great programme. You worry when one series finishes that they won't be able to top that in the next... then they do. Nowhere else will you see a near half million pound Koenigsegg pushed beyond it's limit and plough into the safety tyres. Who else would cut the top off a Renault Espace, mount a home made tarp, and then ride it through the lions' den of a wildlife park?

I'm glad to see that they didn't tinker with the formula too much and welcome their new novelty- a lovely labradoodle called "Top Gear Dog" (who did nothing but laze around with disinterest).

Lots of good looking stuff coming up, including whacky races against a sky diver and some street runners.

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The Ridgeway 40

Well, according to the blisters on my feet it wasn't easy but I completed the Ridgeway 40 (as mentioned in previous posts). I needed a good (and fit) friend to keep the tempo high to take my mind of the blisters but we made it inside of our target 12 hours.

I could have included rather gory pictures of my feet, but decided it was more tasteful to show this vista north of Marlborough (one of the few photos taken whilst I was still enjoying the landscape and before serious focus was required).

The Ridgeway 40 follows an ancient route from Overton Down in Wiltshire to Streatley in Berkshire and this annual event is a celebration of that history.

Here's to next year.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

How Broad is your Broadband?

Just as ClickTowers is settling into life with a 2Mbps broadband connection, Peter Cochrane comes along and says that what you really need at home is 1,000Mbps.

Actually, he has a good point. In his Silicon Blog he explains that whilst 2Mbps might be good for web surfing from a PC or two, as more interconnected domestic appliances come on stream we will really need 1,000Mbps.

How long do we have? Well, the problem is that we've had a decade or more of high speed copper investment (DSL etc) and this sort of bandwidth leap requires a move to optical. This hasn't been factored in to the telcos finances so they are faced with some massive decisions. Just to keep things interesting, the Japanese and Koreans are already on that infrastructure roadmap with the acceptance that a dedicated 100Mbps is a minimal spec and building towards 1,000Mbps. So it becomes a competitive advantage for the 'haves' and a competitive disadvantage to us 'have-nots'. If we don't make the switch it will, at some point, hit our GDP.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Float or Sink with Blogshares

After the initial hype of the IPO and a resulting peak valuation of $2,400, my Blog's stock has fallen back to be worth just $1,000 on Blogshares. In fact it is the only stock in my portfolio of 6 which is on the slide.

However, I'm holding on tight to my shareholding because I think the underlying trends are good and this is just market foibles. Traffic to the blog is up, subscribers to the feed are up and more people are commenting.

Maybe the fact that I own all the shares is causing liquidity problems. Any Independent Blogshare Advisors out there?

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Choose an Integration Model

That's right folks, we're back to the technology. I'm working with a team reviewing the integration models available to an ambitious start up. It seems that some sectors are 5 years or more ahead of others, with retail, manufacturing and aviation generally at the front of the pack and healthcare struggling to catch up.

There are huge cultural implications around these decisions, but we are observing a recurrent pattern of maturity emerging.

Back in the days when computing became accessible, businesses applied the technology where they faced the greatest number crunching challenges- usually in their accounting and finance functions. At some point these isolated technologies needed to talk to each other and pairs of integrated systems emerged followed by clusters and groups.

What you had though was a series of point to point system communications where the integration ethos gradually became to marry the systems together as closely as possible. This was how to derisk projects. The concept of system X being marketed as compatible with system Y began. Whole families of technologies became aligned with each other and feuded with the family next door. With this approach there could ultimately only be one winning chain of systems. The essence of Microsoft's dominance in Office IT was born out of this era.

However, businesses began to realise they were locked into technology roadmaps and vendors. The opportunities to differentiate reduced. Huge monolithic systems were integrated beyond the ability to be flexible and post implementation changes became prohibitively expensive. Projects became so large and cumbersome that delivery failure was common and the blame would be between the two vendors who's systems were being integrated. The interfaces were often on the periphery of the systems and the projects so the risk wasn't managed appropriately and responsibility was ambiguous. Business had a choice of being hamstrung by outmoded and uncompetitive processes or picking over the bones of their legacy systems.

Recently though, a new model emerged where the starting point was to presume change. Success would come through collaboration rather than the traditional ideas of integration. Best of breed solutions from many vendors would be orchestrated to work together, but through standards-based, loose couples facilitating message transfer rather than tight marriages.

Some specialists pioneered in the area and made quite a reputation for themselves. Then the might of Microsoft came to the party and after struggling to find it's feet with early versions, managed to gain some traction and the race was on.

Two vendors are able to teach us about this modern approach to messaging integration-MS and Intersystems. This video shows how one of the primary movers in this space, Intersystems, use their Ensemble platform to build a Virtual Electronic Health Record. In another healthcare situation, we see how MS products (with BizTalk at the core) have been applied with dramatic effect in Indiana.

One of the first headlines of the IT Programme in Heathrow's T5 was about their selection of an XML hub. 5 years ago it would have been about the hardware choice.

Where will we go next? Where is your business?

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Cheap Pint in London

courtesy of www.fancyapint.comI realise that cheap pint etiquette is usually the preserve of students, but I'm sure everyone has moments like me when they don't want their beer to be 50% more expensive to pay for the service or decor. Last night I wanted to pay for the beer, and the beer alone. Sam Smith's pubs usually fit the bill on these ocassions
and yesterday evening I found a star. Well, an angel really. The "Angel in the Fields" in Marylebone has a 'no messing' feel about it that could be interpretted as a fairly dour establishment. However, I found it quaint and, with a superb pint of Samuel Smith's Old Brewery for only £1.72, what is there to argue about?

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Lost in music

Ok, one more post before we get back to the tech. Those of us who regularly use public transport will be well aware of the uptake in use of personal music devices. Today I saw something new though. A young lady dancing away in the midst of a crowded London Underground commuter carriage. It was like something from an iPod advert. She wasn't just jigging in her own space. This was a full on, expressive, lost-in-music experience and, I have to say, contrary to irritating those around her, most were sad to see her alight before the end of their own journey.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Best motorway service station in the country?

Moto PlauditsWhen I started writing my blog, I never thought I'd one day be writing about such mundane things as motorway service stations. Well, dropping in at Moto's Woolley Edge facility yesterday I figure they deserve at least an honourable mention.

I spend alot of time on the road and this service station on the M1 had all those great little ideas that you see around the country rolled into one location. A special toilet cubicle for little guys; wipes for toilet seats (in the gents is surely a novelty); a baby food station; free canine feeding station near the door; etc etc. The service was with a smile too, so you read their "no quibble" guarantees without fear of cynicism (because let's face it, in the UK who demands a refund when their espresso is weak?).

Ok, my point is made. Let's get back to some tech...

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Milestone Spotting

Ilkley MilestoneAt some point I'll need to do a cross check with
The Milestone Society (no, I didn't make them up) to see if they have record of this milestone which ClickDad and I stumbled across on Beamsley Beacon near Ilkley, Wharfedale. Located at approx 53 deg 57'23" N, 1 deg 50'09" W this milestone shows the way to Skipton, Knaresborough and Ottley. I've shown a photo of the side with the peculiar spelling of where is now called Otley.

I'm also surprised that Knaresborough is only 11 miles. Will check that too.

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