Sunday, July 31, 2005

Slumber fallout and The Necks

Well, that's that.

I think that the most appropriate collective noun for nine-year old boys is probably a 'Holler', or maybe a 'Shriek'. (Actually, a Shriek is probably a group of nine year old girls)

After lots of Nintendo, pillow fights, far too many lollies, and a movie, Pat and his friends finally made it to bed at 12:30 AM. Sufice to say that everyone had a great time, and everybody was really well behaved, even if Mum and Dad are feeling a little haggard.

The way I managed to get them to sleep was by playing them a piece of music by The Necks. (and no, I can't stop linking to wikipedia. It's just too cool.) If you've never heard The Necks before, you should go and check them out. I once heard their music described as "The sound of the plumbing of the universe, shuddering into action". That's probably better than any description I could give. What's really impressive, is the versatility of their music. So far, I've discovered that it is best suited to:
  • lulling a 'Holler' of kids to sleep.
  • Playing Video Games
  • Weddings
  • Making Babies
  • Writing Code
  • Getting rid of headaches
  • Driving
  • Delivering Babies (All our kids were born to their music)
Alison mentioned that last point once to Lloyd, at a concert, and he told her that he has a friend who's a leading heart surgeon, who listens to them while he does surgery. If I ever have heart trouble, I want that guy.

The other thing they made me do is want to go out and buy a Hurdy Gurdy.

Come on, you know you want one.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Kids Today

It's my son Patrick's slumber party tonight, so we're preparing to be inundated with a bunch of nine year olds. I'm not sure what the collective noun for nine year olds is, so I'll go with 'bunch' for the time being...We just returned from Pat's Saturday Soccer game - (for the record, the BelSouth Cougars beat the Gunghalin Knights 3-2.)

The Cougars don't win very many games, but they always have lots of fun. When I asked Pat this morning if I thought the Cougars would triumph, he said:

"Nope. But that's okay, becuase I'm going to bet on the other team."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

TCT Good, you buy.

During a meeting today where we were discussing product futures, the subject of the TRIM Connectivity Toolkit came up.

(The TRIM Connectivity Toolkit is a feature of TRIM Context 5.2.3. It's a SOAP/WSDL interface which allows developers to write code from any platform to integrate with TRIM Context.)

All members of senior management were unanimous in the assertion that the TCT was an excellent product, and that it was right up there with the most successful development projects run at TOWER.

So, a big congratulations to Stilly and Simon for a job well done. If you're writing TRIM code, you should really check it out, (it's available now) because it's a great way to get the job done when you can't use COM, or you need your smart HTTP client to work through a firewall - the possibilities are endless. Okay, not really endless, but there are a lot.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

CDs in my Collection

Despite the fact that Ian claims to own the internet, (Air Supply! bwa ha ha!) I'm going to jump on this CD tagging thing.
It's possibly worth adding that I don't actually ever play these on any device that spins optical discs.

Five Recent CD Purchases
  • Oysterhead - The Grand Pecking Order
  • The Flaming Lips - Clouds Taste Metallic
  • John Frusciante - Shadows Collide with People
  • Jack Johnson - In Between Dreams
  • John Coltrane - Greatest Hits
Five CDs You Have Had For a While, and Still Play Regularly
  • Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
  • Primus - Pork Soda
  • Jack Johnson - Brushfire Fairytales
  • The Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik
  • The Necks - Hanging Gardens
Five CDs You Might not admit to owning, or having owned, unless your conscience makes you fess up on a blog:
  • The presidents of the united states of america (thanks simon for reminding me)
  • The Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hot
  • Cordurouy - The New You!
I'll admit to owning everything else. (That doesn't mean I won't get laughed at.)

First Music You Remember Purchasing on Each Format:
  • Vinyl: 1983 'The Hot Ones' - a terrible, terrible, eighties music compilation record that included such hits as 'Shoop Shoop Diddy Wop Cumma Cumma Wang Dang' by Monte Video and the Cassettes. Sheesh.

  • Cassette:Samantha Fox's Touch Me. Hey! - I was twelve. There were all sorts of strange feelings going on inside my gangly prepubescent body. All I knew was that afer I saw her video, I sort of wanted to buy her album, despite the fact that she was terrible.

  • CD: The first CD I bought was John Lee Hooker's 'Boogie Chillun', in 1989. (accompanying any sharp intakes of breath at my innate coolness and taste should be the fact that I only bought it because it came free with one of those dodgey binder offers at the Moruya News Agent for $6.95)

Check out the Vista

Okay, so picking on Microsoft is always a bit sad and easy, but the anouncement that LongHorn has a new name is too hard to resist.

Check out the new name for Longhorn: Windows Vista

Most people I've spoken to seem to think it's a relatively stupid name, but I kind of like it.

Regardless, this picture just begs for a caption contest.

My effort:

"Hey look, from up here, you can't even see last year's ship date"

Monday, July 25, 2005

Quotable Quotes

I do love a good generalization. Even better when they come in bite size chunks:

"A half -formed plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorow"

Turns out it 's attributed to General Patton, but I always mistakenly attributed it to the man who my Mom insists is my ancestor, and many others regard as the worst president of the United States ever, General Ulysses S Grant.

"Many a good man has failed because he had his wishbone where his backbone should have been."

- unknown (he has lots of good quotes...)

"Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you'll be a mile from them, and you'll have their shoes."

Jack Handy. I have know idea who Jack is, but he also penned this gem:

"The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face"

Think about it....

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Great Googley Woogley

While I'm blogging silly google-related stuff that is entertaining, you should go and check out Woogle. Woogle uses the Google APIs to display words in pictures. It's pretty fun.

Some awfully lame prize to the person who can discover what this common phrase is...

Google Moon

In honour of the moon landing anniversary, Google have released Google Moon.

Powered by google maps, it also reveals the surface of earth's moon in high resolution detail like never before.

Follow the link, and make sure you take full advantage of the zoom slider on the left.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Save the Bunny

This comic is hanging on the wall of the Context ICE team at work.
Ironically, Stilly seems to be a member of this camp. I say ironically, because it was his brother who put me onto the campaign in the first place...
Go on Faye, Give him one for me!
bwa ha ha...

Why Blog? - Risk

People end up taking risks for lots of different reasons. Some people actively chase them, like the BASE jumping lunatics who jump off buildings to see if they don't die. Others stumble upon risks accidentally, through naivete or poor judgment. Whatever the reasons are, people seem to have sort of a love-hate relationship with risk. Most people hate being in risky situations, but then, they love watching other people being in them.

Almost all TV and Movie plots revolve around some degree of risk. Wherever there's a crazed stuntman jumping off a building, or some half brained thug trying to root two chicks at once on Big Brother, there's always a much huger number of people gawking, open-mouthed, desperate for some really risky situation to eventuate. It's like the gene for taking risks is happily traveling along the digital river of our DNA with us, propagated by the brave and crazy, and whole heartedly endorsed by the rest of us wimps.

Mark Jen took a risk blogging some of Googles financial details. That risk ended up with him being one of the most high profile, low profile bloggers in the history of the blogoverse, when Google fired him as a result of his (relatively few) posts. And on some level, the risk element innate in blogging is one of the reasons people are interested. As Robert Scoble says, he risks his job every day. While I think that's probably a bit melodramatic, (I can't imagine anyone at Microsoft deciding it would be a good idea to fire Robert) there's an element of truth that rings out of that post.

Blogging can be a risky business. I know more than one person who's been cautioned by their employer about their postings, and my own posts haven't been immune from real world fallout.

But back on a voyeuristic level - It's fun to read extreme blog posts. Those guys who don't seem to give a toss about whether they get fired or not - even better if they think that nobody is reading them. The private and (presumably) honest nature of these people ranting and bitching is a a key part of the magic power that bloggers have. This is where the "conversation "comes from. Bloggers are real people. That's the power that they are supposed to have. Regular people who do dumb things and smart things and occasionally - highly entertaining risky things.

Let's face it, For every Washingtienne (A blogger who openly posted her torrid affairs with various members of the US White house staff, and got dooced for it.), there's a thousand turkeys trying to make a buck out of blogging magic. Maybe the magic of blogging will end up dwarfed by the opportunists keen to make a buck. We'll see.

Regardless, right now risk is a shady, dark, and appealing reason behind people deciding to blog. Not brave enough to speak your mind? Well, blog it, and there's a tiny chance that you'll elicit a greatly amplified version of the reaction you might otherwise have received.

Now that's life on the edge.

(This is the third in a series of posts about why people blog. The original post can be found here)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Blocks. Must Bring Order to Blocks.

Straight from the I-close-my-eyes-and-yet-I-see-only-the-blocks department, here's a great fun puzzle game from korea, complete with squeaky noises.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Why Blog - Writing it makes it true,

(This is the second in a series of posts about why people blog. The original post can be found here)

2. Writing it makes it true.

One of the sad facts about people is that they are very easily manipulated. Companies spend heaps of money on advertising, because it changes the way people think, and ultimately changes the way people behave. In the companies case, they want to modify your behaviour - from a state of not spending your money on their product or service, to a state of spending your money. Not a particularly harmful goal, but then not a particularly worthwhile one either (unless you happen to be them.) but that's another post.

Appeal for Credibility

Not all of these marketing tricks are successful. Some products are just stoopid, and no amount of promotional gumpf can convince anyone to buy them. (CueCat anyone?) But a cornerstone of all these pitches, both successful and unsuccessful, is the appeal for credibility.

The aim is to get over your personal barrier for not buying whatever it is, by convincing you that the company in question is worth spending money on. That's why companies spend so much money on logos, design, letterhead, fancy flash websites with annoying intros, uniforms, sponsorship of unrelated sporting stuff - all of which is really only designed to convince you that the company is credible and worthy of your money.

One of the oldest tools PR guys seem to use to build credibility is the press release. A press release is a nicely typed, well laid out, company branded advertisement. It gets mailed out to everyone on the PR guys media list, with the aim of hoping that some newsroom somewhere will be having a slow news day and report the advertisement as though it is news. A reputable source, that people trust, informing it's readers/listeners/viewers based on company propaganda. Such an event can make a huge contribution to building credibility.

Of course, appealing for credibility, while important, is really not that difficult. People want to believe the illusion that the world is highly organised. They want to believe that all the companies in the world behave with clearly defined, reliable and established process. Convincing people of something they already want to believe is always much easier.

You are what you blog.

Back in Blogger-land, us people are used to having the media present them with a mechanism for determining their opinions. Face it- most of your opinions on the state of the world today came to you through some pre sanitised media source - probably a newspaper, the net or TV.

Bloggers are adding their own opinions and thoughts to that collection of media. And writing my ideas down, and publishing them in a clean, credible format like this one means that I can feedback my own ideas to determine my opinions. Imagine! Google and Microsoft are making everyone into their own credible information sources.

And so, there's a bit of authority in my posts, that might not be readily identifiable in my personal opinion. By writing something down on my blog, I'm clarifying what it is that I believe. I'm presenting it in an authoritative, clearly defined credible way. And I think that people are aware of this on some level, and that they manipulate their posts in order to determine who they become. That people's blog personas are more the people they'd like to be than the people they are.

This is closely related to promotion, but more on a personal level. For example, while all of Joel Spolsky's posts are fundamentally promotional, It seems to me that earlier on, he was using his blog to determine the kind of person he would become. Stuff like 'I'm planning on writing an article about this' and so on. Sort of like the blogging was a bootstrapping process for what became Fog Creek. I've always thought that Joel's blog was the foundation of his business plan, but only as a marketing mouthpiece. Now I'm starting to wonder if it served more as a motivator than manipulator.

So, writing it can make it true. Blogging about things you believe or plan to do can be a powerful motivational tool.

It's on the internet, it must be true...

Monday, July 04, 2005

Why Blog - Ego Magic

Why blog?

This is something that's been plaguing me lately. I mean, people have been keeping diaries for years, but they've really only been publishing them to the world for the last five or so. There's a lot of hooplah all over the place about how blogging will change the world. Surely the same could have happened in the seventeenth century if everybody had just read everybody else's diaries?
(Seventeenth century RSS might have consisted of a bunch of poncey aristocrats standing around in knickerbockers passing diaries around in a circle..)

Knickerbockers aside, after giving it much thought, I've come up with a list of reasons why it is that people blog.
Mainly because I'm honestly curious, (but partially for want of something to post), I'm going to explore these in a bit more depth over a few posts.

1. Ego Magic

Here's the secret

Psst! I'm not a journalist or an academic. I'm not going to present a measured argument on this one. I'm not going to do much research. Okay, maybe I'll poke around on google a bit. Basically, it'll just be the standard bunch of made up, unfounded stuff that I reckon...

In itself, that's one of the real drawcards for blogging. It makes you an authority. In a world where opinions are prevalent and social hierarchies sometimes mean that it's not 'acceptable' to get your point across, your blog becomes a kind of ego representation of yourself. You might not be able to actually tell your boss that you think his ideas are stupid, but you could come back to your blog and post:

'You know, sometimes, the best ideas come from people who aren't always listened to. More people would be able to learn more if they listened, and the world would be a better place.'

And in a weird way, your ego is fed by this - because you posted it out to the world, and nothing came back. Yeah? Well I'm going to tell the whole world. Everybody wants to be loved and respected. Your blog is like your own channel for you to talk at the world. And that makes you feel better about being you.

Ego-surfing at the gates of hell
Add to that the search engine syndrome of finding out just how important you are in the blogosphere, and you're in for some good ego-massaging (or some crushing ego realities.) There's always a bit of trepidation in doing this, but let's run the technorati search for my site...
Wow. Technorati is always really, really slow. But you can see here that there are about 12 people linking to my site. Almost without exception, I know all of those people. But then there's the odd link that tells me that people I don't know are reading my blog. More ego food. (Hi Patricea! Thanks for making me feel better!)

Just the other day, A very cool comment from a guy I don't know in response to a half thought out, squiggly post, totally made my day. And mean or nasty comments can make you really miserable. (But then, you can just delete them.)

Google lists my post on dishwasher trout as the number four hit for the search. (The number one hit is Stilly linking to my post.) That google should care about something you wrote all contributes to an individuals sense of self worth. Okay, so it can't be much, but why else would I be searching google for something I wrote myself?

Just as keeping a diary can be good therapy, Blogging is good for the ego. That's probably why there are so many self indulgent posts out there.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Poverty sucks

Here's my letter to the G8 fellahs next week. I filled it in at the global call to action against poverty site. You should go fill one in too, unless you're in favour of exploiting poor people.

Dear G8 World Leaders,

We all know that 'a child dies every three seconds from extreme poverty'.
Statistics are so often quoted and mis-quoted that they lose their impact. Which is sad, because that's an atrocious fact. Even if it's not correct (I have no idea where it comes from, it was just written on this form letter) and it's out by a factor of 100, that's still atrocious.

Words and numbers aren't going to provide any benefit to alleviate the problems plaguing the worlds poor. What's needed is action. Collectively,as a species, we have the resources and the skill to solve this problem. What we lack is the resolve.

I ask that you listen to the voices of other people around the world and ensure that at the summit, you will make decisions that lead to action to help bring people out of poverty.

I urge you at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland on July 6 to:
- Commit to and set a date for the 0.7% aid target
- Cancel 100% of the debts owed by the poorest countries. It's crazy for us to ask these people to re-build their own nations while we're taking more money from them than anybody else.

On the other hand, if you feel pressured into comment from all these rock stars and regular folk urging you towards an outcome that you're not really committed to, I'd like to ask that you not promise anything at all. False hope is ultimately worse than none. Oh, and if you choose this option, let me also take the opportunity to point out that you suck donkey balls.


Gordon Taylor,