Blog : Posts from October 2005 : Page 2

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Being Nosy

In which FP gets suspicious


Big Dave is up to something.

Big Dave is my main co-worker. He’s a big chap, and he’s called Dave. And he’s pretty open about stuff. Just lately, though, he’s definitely been up to something.

He asked if I could cover for him and stay late yesterday, so he could leave early. “If I leave when you normally do,” he said, “I can get to the gym an hour earlier. It would be nice to have a change.” Not having any plans myself, I agreed.

Back in this morning. “How was the gym last night, then?”

“Didn’t actually go to the gym,” he says. “Had something else to do.”

“Oh yes?”

“Mmm. I was busy.”

So, something’s definitely going on. It sounds like Big Dave’s got a date.

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Vote for … um … noone!

In which we think about the Tories, although not for very long


All politicians are evil, but Tories tend to be more evil than the others. I’m mostly interested in the current leadership contest purely out of a grim kind of schadenfreude: they are an aging party which is slowly pulling itself apart. I can’t help thinking that the main reason for their lengthy, baroque leadership election process is purely to help the party stay in the public eye* for longer.

* above the Government in the headlines, I mean.

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And, talking of: things you might not want a potential employer to read

In which FP is fed up of lots of things


I’m fed up of having to work with empire builders and departmental dictators.
I’m fed up of things being blown out of proportion because someone wants to get their own back.
I’m fed up of being a pawn between managers.
I’m fed up of misread intentions.
I’m fed up of tiptoing.
I’m fed up of people getting the wrong idea.
I’m fed up of work affecting friendships.
I’m fed up of seeing colleagues, not friends.
I’m fed up of all of it.

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Mistakes

In which we consider how well this site scores against Nielsen’s standard


Website design and usability expert Dr Jakob Nielsen has published his list of the top ten blog design mistakes. So, I thought I’d go through the list and see how many of them I’m making.

No author biography, no author photo. Well, there’s a kind of biography, but certainly no photo. I don’t want you to know who I am. It wouldn’t mean anything unless you already know me in real life. Telling you more about myself wouldn’t gain me anything in credibility, which seems to be the most important point here.

Nondescript posting titles – I do this all the time. Mostly because, as he says, writing good headlines is hard work. Partly, though, because this isn’t a news site. If you look at a newspaper, the concise descriptive headlines Nielsen favours are all over the news pages; but the comment sections’ headlines are deliberately vaguer and enticing.

Links don’t say where they go – I try not to do this, because I know it’s bad for search engines.

Classic hits are buried. If I ever write some, I might think about doing something about this.

The calendar is the only navigation – in other words, you should try to categorise everything properly. I’d say I score half-marks on this one.

Irregular publishing frequency is about the only thing on the list you can’t accuse me of, unless you want to complain about me not always posting at the same time every day.

Mixing topics. Hah. I don’t even have a topic.

Forgetting that you write for your future boss – this is why I don’t tell you much about who I am, in the hope of avoiding this problem. Nielsen thinks that trying to avoid this is hopeless given the march of technology, though.

Finally, Having a domain name owned by a weblog service – lots of well-known, well-respected sites do do this. I see the point, though: you need to control your domain to control your reputation. Not something I need to worry about, though.

Totting up, I seem to have hit six (and a half) of the top mistakes in weblog design. All of them, though, are all very good points when made about a different sort of site to mine. I just don’t feel that those six mistakes I’ve made are a problem for me at the moment – and some of them might be mistakes, but they’re decisions that I deliberately took. I’m fairly happy with the nature of this site at the moment, whatever an expert might say.

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Books I *have* managed to read

In which FP finishes something for once


This week’s Book I Haven’t Managed To Read was going to be about a Neal Stephenson novel, The System Of The World. However, that’s been postponed, just because I wanted to brag about finishing another Book I Haven’t Managed To Read.

The book was one many, many people have read with no trouble at all. Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire. However, the first time I read it, in a hurry, I’d just tried to read two other Harry Potter books very quickly too. I got as far as Chapter Three of Goblet Of Fire, stopped, and didn’t pick any J K Rowling books up for a few years.

Anyway, last week, Colleague M said: “what? You’ve only read three Harry Potter books?” So, I picked up Goblet of Fire again, and read it. I didn’t get stuck. I didn’t forget where I was. I read it and I finished it. Hurrah!

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Everything is out there

In which FP’s mother learns something


My mother is still beavering away at the family tree, on various genealogy websites. She still hasn’t really got the hang of the internet yet, though…

“FP, what’s a GEDCOM file?”

“Have you looked it up?” Google, google. “It’s a file format developed by the Mormons to store genealogical data.”

“That was quick! I didn’t know you could use it as an encyclopedia! Can you look anything up on it? I mean, if I didn’t know what an elephant was, could I look it up on the internet?”

The thing I try not to think about is: this is probably the level that most internet users work at.

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Organisation

In which FP tries a new system of organisation


My life is a disorganised mess, and so I’m always on the lookout for ways to sort that out. Most of them seem overly-complex, self-evidently simple, or just too much work. However, I did rather like the look of a link posted on Boing Boing recently: an article from a few years ago about the Noguchi filing system.

The basic principle of the Noguchi system is: labelled files are kept on a shelf with no dividers. Files aren’t sorted, indexed, ordered or categorised at all. Instead, when a file is returned to the shelf after use, it’s always returned to one end. Therefore, the only ordering is by date of last use,* making it very easy to spot which files you can safely dispose of, or remove into storage.

That’s all well and good for paper file storage – it sounds like a rather good idea, to me. I was wondering, though, if it’s any use for computer file storage.

At first, it seems like an obvious candidate for computer file management. All you need to do is switch all your windows to sort files by date of access. So, I tried it; and quickly found that it’s more complicated than that. Here’s a picture of my home folder, which usually stores files I haven’t been able to categorise:

FP's home folder

The first problem jumped out at me straight away. I haven’t looked at those top files recently at all – certainly not as recently as September. The computer may well have done – probably to update its icon cache, as they’re images – but I didn’t, and the computer can’t tell that. This would be even worse for folders of files on the office network, used by multiple people at once. Secondly – and it took me a minute or two to notice this – my computer has a bug! The files aren’t even in the correct order, according to the printed dates.

So, clearly, I can’t use the Noguchi system for organising my computer files, at least not with the tools I have available. Creating new tools is possible, but beyond my own skills. Maybe I should just make a big “metadata” file, to track where all my important working files are and how often I’m using them.

* Or by date of last desk-tidy-session, as it probably would be in my case.

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Reasoning

In which FP is easily (and correctly) stereotyped


There was a reason behind yesterday’s post: a conversation I had at work yesterday.* Taking a shortcut through the warehouse behind the office, I got talking to Colleague M. Colleague M is fairly new, so tends to get all the rubbish jobs, such as sitting out in the cold of the warehouse sorting through boxes of stuff before it goes upstairs. We ended up talking for a while, and for some reason I ended up having to mention that I have a website.**

“Yes,” said M, “you look like the sort of person who would have a website.”

Frankly, I was a bit baffled. M may be right, but I have no idea why. What do people who have websites look like?

* which was, itself, only a small part of what added up to be a rather odd day.

** but not the address of it.

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Hi – here’s my URL

In which we think about discretion


How well do you have to know someone before you give them the address of your blog? Friends? Acquaintances you only ever see in the pub? First date? Sleeping partners? The night before the wedding?

Moreover, does it work better the other way? How remote does an acquaintance have to be before you’ll let them read it?

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More on tagging

In which we re-cover the mechanics of tagging and folksonomies


Technorati have written back following up Sunday’s post on tagging. They agree that making your tags invisible – though it would work – is indeed a dirty and underhand way of doing things. So, it looks as if that option is best avoided. The email-writer included a link to a blog post written by their Chief Technologist, Tantek Celik, back in March (or possibly June), in which he discovered he was accidentally putting hidden tags on his posts too. The point being: visible data is better than invisible, and people will treat it as more reliable.

Plus, I’ve also been finding that the tag paragraph can be an easy way to add extra information or a new angle to a post, one that a regular reader isn’t going to find until they get to the end. It’s a way to confirm: yes, this was what I was thinking, even though I didn’t spell it out explicitly. Monday’s post is an example of that, not a very good one, but the best example so far.

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