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Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A new home for blogs

By Jimmy Leach

It’s an exciting day at The Independent with the launch of Independent Minds, our new comment and opinion platform for Independent journalists  – and users.

Regular readers will have noticed that our blogs by the likes of Andrew Buncombe, John Rentoul and more of the finest journalists around are now found on a shiny new blog, with new designs that are, hopefully, a little easier on the eye than the old ones (thanks to our new partners LiveJournal). 

There’s a new emphasis on the blogs on the cult of the individual, so while there are  a few hangovers from the navigational branding from the old blogs – the likes of Today in Politics was too good to be killed – you’ll find more single-authored blogs than communities. The idea is to centre more on the writer than on the topic.

Hence, Rhodri Marsden may blog about techy stuff mostly, but the way the blogs are now constructed means he may feel a little more able to talk about football, or Catherine Townsend may talk about property prices. You get the idea –no-one who writes on the blogs need feel restricted about the subject and the navigation across the Independent Minds site is based on tagging as on any pre-set thoughts about a writer’s subject.

But this is mere tinkering to the major new aspect of the Independent Minds – and that’s that you too can become bloggers on this site. Just register (with LiveJournal who are providing the back-end to all this) and you can add your voice to the others on this site and share your thoughts with the huge and growing audience the site has. You do have to register, I'm afraid - some may find it a pain, but its mean't to be a community, not a free-for-all. We won't be using your data to spam you with offers from the Independent, you can be sure of that.

Letting all and sundry blog under our flag and letting them speak about what they want might be something we regret on occasion– but we trust you. You’re Independent readers after all, you’ll want to debate, not start a fight, and, as the whole thing beds in, we’ll be bringing the user content closer and closer to the centre of the site.

Secretly, you see, we don’t think journalists always know more than the readers. We’re looking to you to prove it. And besides – if it gets unpalatable in there, we reserve the right to delete it, as ever.

This is just the start of the project – we’ll be looking for more and more ways to improve it, to link it better to the ‘main site’ and for ways to encourage users to make the best of it. Over the next weeks and months we’ll roll out improvements and changes, and we hope you’ll contribute to that process. Add your comments to this blog post, and others in the future, and make your suggestions as to how we and the guys at Live Journal can improve Independent Minds. It’s a forum for your voices, after all.

So get writing!


Monday, 24 November 2008

The Life Browser: Democratic choices

By John Matthew Hall

Do not despair if after 14-years your faith in Guns‘n’Roses is waning. Those of us cautiously eyeing today’s release of the perennially forthcoming ‘Chinese Democracy’ album, can try before we (probably won’t) buy on the band’s MySpace page.

The full Monty
And now for something completely different. In a specially recorded video, the Monty Python team have unveiled their spanking new YouTube channel. Messrs Cleese, Palin, Gilliam, Idle and Jones explain how they launched the site to counter low-quality bootlegs.

Continue reading "The Life Browser: Democratic choices" »

Today in Politics: Why Brown risked income tax rise

By Andrew Grice

"I am not the Chancellor, the man with the power," Gordon Brown quipped at the CBI's annual conference in London this morning. Well, you could have fooled me. Or most people in the Westminster village. Brown's most hardened Labour critics, such as the senior backbencher Frank Field, argue that he is doing well in the economic crisis precisely because he is Chancellor again.

To be fair to the official Chancellor Alistair Darling, he has not rolled over in the face of Brown's demands as he finalised today's landmark Pre-Budget Report. Insiders say Darling has fought his corner, so the package is a  joint effort,  a compromise between the Chancellor and his predecessor.

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Keen on New Media: The brainy brand

By Andrew Keen

And so the Obama post-election brand is now becoming clearer. As the impressed David Brooks notes, it's the brainy brand - the senior Obama administration being made up, for the most part, of Harvard and Yale Law School graduates and Ivy League PhDs:

This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy - rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed.

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Sunday, 23 November 2008

Spending Power: 7,500 pubs at risk

By Martin Hickman

Almost every sector of the economy is in jeopardy right now. Retailers are on the brink of meltdown. Housebuilders are laying off labourers, bricklayers, and electricians. Estate agents twiddle their thumbs waiting for buyers that never walk through the door. Thousands of jobs are going in the media and banking; motor manufacturers are shutting plants for months.

So how seriously should we take CAMRA's warning that 7,500 pubs will shut by 2012?

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Eat: Another pop-up pops up in Melbourne

Joost-popupMelb By Terry Durack

Having done London’s new pop-up restaurant Flash ( see review in today’s Independent on Sunday), it was interesting to pop over to Melbourne this week, and pop into the new pop-up bar and cafe in Federation Square.

The Greenhouse is the creation of flower artist and waste wizard Dutch-born Joost Bakker, in collaboration with events organiser Corina Baldwin and Melbourne chef, Shannon Bennett.

Quite frankly, it shows what a pop-up café can, and should be; created from nothing to be something that makes you smile and makes you think.

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Friday, 21 November 2008

Today in Politics: Brown wary of 'recession election'

By Andrew Grice

There was a time when Gordon Brown was toying with a double election next June - a general election on the same day as the European Parliament poll. However, it was before the great non-election fiasco of a year ago.

Today the PM has been hosing down speculation that he might call a "recession election" next June in the hope that the voters would give him a "doctor's mandate" rather than take a chance on a novice who might not know how to cure the patient. He told Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 his "undivided attention" is on the economy and that he isn't thinking about "internal politics."

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Asian (con)Fusion: Beauty treatment at the barber

Barber By Andrew Buncombe

I just want a quick trim really, nothing special, nothing fancy. And I need to get in and out quickly. But the two young barbers are not going to let me off so easily. "Sir, will you have a shave?" asks one of the young men, pointing to my untidy stubble. "No. Just a hair-cut thank-you."

The young man looks disappointed.

"Sir, how about hair dyeing. You have much white hair. We will dye your hair. You will look very handsome."

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Thursday, 20 November 2008

Today in Politics: More trouble with the banks

By Andrew Grice

As if Alistair Darling does not have enough on his plate a he finalises his Pre-Budget Report on Monday, another problem is the talk of Westminster. There are growing concerns among ministers and MPs that Gordon Brown's much-praised rescue of the banks has done nothing to unblock the system and persuade them to start lending to businesses and home-buyers.

This is serious - for the economy, not just Brown's reputation as the man who saved the (financial) world. As Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats' impressive Treasury spokesman, pointed out today, the money at the banks' disposal dwarfs even the most ambitious "fiscal stimulus" (tax cuts and higher government spending on building projects) that could be announced on Monday. If the banks don't start to lend it, then the recession could be long and deep, not short and sharp as the Government hopes.

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Cyberclinic: Computer says "Sorry, didn't catch that"

By Rhodri Marsden

In the past few days, British iPhone users have been bellowing into their phones in a range of timbres and accents that make them sound like they're auditioning for a place at Jon Culshaw's Elementary School of Impressionism. That's because Google have just launched a Voice Search facility for their Google Mobile App; it senses when you lift the iPhone to your head, it beeps, awaits for search data to emerge from your mouth - like, I dunno, maybe "BNP postcode search" and then presents the results on the screen for you. That theoretically saves you approximately 10 seconds that you would have spent keying stuff in on-screen, although in practice it only works if you adopt the kind of ludicrous transatlantic accent deployed by TV chef Robert Irvine (oblique reference there, I know, but if you don't indulge in TV cooking shows as much as I do, just replace "Robert Irvine" with "Dick van Dyke".)

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