Friday, January 30, 2009

Tweeting is for birds?

From JP on January 17th: Twitter is fast becoming my personal submarine and periscope to the ocean of the World Wide Web

From Ann on January 23rd: I think this year is Twitter’s year. I think their tipping point has been reached and passed.

From Stephen Fry just yesterday: Welcome to my twitterworld

But I'm still not sure about it. Two possible reactions:

From the stereotypical new woman, enthusiastic about this new way to communicate:

I am a twitter. Sexy, fun, dietin' manhunter.

Or from the stereotypical dinosaur, a guy who doesn't believe in all this new technology:

I am a twit. Terse, XY, fundie, tin man, hunter.

The same letters in the same order, just slightly different spacing.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Just Giving Public Signals

From the generic to the specific. Invented figures. You are prompted to contribute to a good cause by a solicited group email that links to a public page showing individual amounts. You go to the site, and see just one donation there, showing £50, and the date suggests it was placed there a while ago. You know from history of similar appeals that most individual contributions tend to be smaller. So you wonder whether that first entry is discouraging subsequent ones. You genuinely want to contribute, but how much? Five options:

1. Give £50 like the first person. This further reinforces the possibly unfair suggestion that £50 is the expected going rate.

2. Give more than £50. Appeases your own conscience; but if the signals theory is correct, this may be even more likely to dissuade later small contributions.

3. Give a sum that is the usual typical contribution, say £10. This could now bring in the others who were prepared to commit that smaller figure but who didn't want to publicly set the precedent.

4. Give an intermediate sum, say £25. This might still perform the signalling function of "it's ok to contribute less" but at the same time it keeps the ballpark figure higher.

5. Do nothing, or contribute offline. May seem the easy option, but it doesn't provide any helpful signal. The charity still appears in the same position as at the start, with a single lonely contribution apparently discouraging followers.

This is not a web issue, the same question often arises where a short list of donations is passed around with any office collection.

So what did you do?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Carnival of the Godless 109

As in the skeptic games, this is a case of my own post not following my own rules. But it's probably justified occasionally - the big beasts of the blogworld like Pharyngula and Bad Astronomy rightly get plenty of traffic and plenty of publicity, but these odd carnivals are a chance for some less prominent posters to get a little more exposure. So all 19 submitted, in order of receipt:

01. If you swear upon a book of fiction
Does that excuse some faulty diction?

02. If sexuality's a choice, as you say,
When d'you decide you're not gay?

03. It still makes me wonder and chuckle
That religion makes grown adults suckle

04. You have no right to tell me what to do
Who to love and who to screw

05. Lots of loud and mad debates
Between those who take and make their fates

06. A founding father he may be
But Paine was hardly G.O.P.

07. Remember just who is the boss
The one who orders up this toss

08. Murderous dictators, he honestly said,
Are not as bad as old P-Zed

09. Pious man dies, that's a shame
Pious man saved, god's to blame

10. "Blindly follow these rules"
Orders for zealots and fools

11. We carry more hope than we should
But that's not necessarily good

12. If our bodies are so well "designed"
Then the designer who did it was blind

13. We're really not all the same
Except that we don't play that game

14. Like a snowball that's rolling downhill
The Ickefest is gathering swill

15. God may be sexy and hot
But merciful? No, he is not.

16. Oxymoron for christian nation
Simply: science education

17. Bible Magic's what he saw
He'd like to call it vjack's law

18. And to lead this godless fold
Newly ordained Rev'rend Gold

19. To end this back where we began
Obama. Wait to judge the man.

Or in more traditional exposition:

01. Mark P presents
Swearing In...the Oath posted at Proud Atheists.

02. The Whited Sepulchre presents
The Whited Sepulchre: Light To See By posted at The Whited Sepulchre.

03. PhillyChief presents
Religion is a Tit posted at You Made Me Say It....

04. Diana Hsieh presents
Duty of Sexual Restraint? posted at Politics without God.

05. Luke Muehlhauser presents
300+ Atheism vs. Theism Debates posted at Common Sense Atheism.

06. Ron Britton presents
The Separation of Logic and Fundie posted at Bay of Fundie.

07. Andrew Bernardin presents
God Commands: Stay in Line posted at the evolving mind.

08.. larryniven presents
Catholicism: false posted at Rust Belt Philosophy.

09. Seth Manapio presents
Whiskey Before Breakfast... the Blog: a little dose of god stuff posted at Whiskey Before Breakfast... the Blog.

10. Romeo Vitelli presents
Brother XII posted at Providentia.

11. Greta Christina presents
Is Hope Always a Good Thing? posted at Greta Christina's Blog.

12. Greta Christina presents
Stupid Design: Rube Goldberg Brains and the Argument for Evolution posted at Greta Christina's Blog.

13. Hank presents
Why I am not an atheist posted at Dangerous Intersection.

14. Enshoku presents
David Icke vs the reptoid army: Can the cats kill the jews? posted at Enshoku's Weblog.

15. Obadiah Shoher presents
God is merciful? posted at Samson Blinded.

16. vjack presents
How to Defend Science Education in Your State posted at Mississippi Atheists.

17. vjack presents
The Christian Bible is Magic: Introducing Vjack's Law posted at Atheist Revolution.

18. Ron Gold presents The Invisible Pink Unicorn: It's Official: I'm An Atheist Minister! posted at The Invisible Pink Unicorn.

19. Melanie Pinkert presents Religion and Politics: Making Peace with Obama's Peacemaking posted at BroadSnark.

And for the next COTG, welcome Ridger FCD.

Er. that's it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Paine and the President

On the night in November when Barack Obama's victory was confirmed, he quoted Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, and most would see a clear line of descent from those great orators. But there was little of the soaring exultation of "Yes We Can" in Obama's first presidential speech on Tuesday. Instead, delightfully, he went back to the true founding fathers of his great nation.

In fact CNN reports that: if the speech could be said to have an animating spirit, it was that of Thomas Paine.

Ben McIntyre in the Times conveys the same message, albeit with a more informal tone: The words of a drunken, dishevelled Norfolk pamphleteer lay at the heart of the new President's message

That pamphleteer provided the title and inspiration for everything I write here.

He also provided the title and inspiration for the United States of America.

Common Sense is the way out of Crisis.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Air Bust

I said it would get personal, and it will get there gradually. First, I've mentioned regularly that I have a degree of competence in marketing technology, and once that I have a degree of competence in jet engine technology.

Consequently, topically, I was reassured to hear comparatively little bleating about the supposed "miracle" on Hudson river, and instead more emphasis on the skill and experience of the pilot and the strength of modern aircraft design, though perhaps we should also wonder who decided to develop a major airport in the middle of a densely populated urban area. But that was New York. I'm not even qualified to be a bus driver in London, though we shouldn't extrapolate from one moron to the rest of the public transport operation.

And on that note, proving that I really have left the world of serious work behind me for a while, the Carnival of the Godless is coming to these shores next week. Submit entries here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A blog not a website

OK, the personal stuff can wait. First to clarify something from the last post. I am not going to continue to "advertise" my company website on this blog, but I am going to continue to make arguably important points here about the nature of web 2.0 and technology and social networking.

From Tamar Weinberg's best internet marketing posts of 2008, I picked up a top five (outdated) reasons why a blog is not a traditional website:
  1. Blogs are dynamic, websites are not
  2. Blogs encourage conversation, websites do not
  3. Blogs offer RSS, websites do not
  4. Blogs publish current news, websites do not
  5. Blogs create the blogosphere while websites are in a way standalone islands
However, as Tad's post admits, those are no longer always true. Many authored sites, even the BBC, now encourage interactive updates to current news. But Tad provides the more subtle insight that the real difference is that the info at a blog is expected to be valid at a certain point in time while the content on a website is expected to be timeless.

That is, on a website, you expect every page to be still relevant, outdated pages to be dropped. On a blog, you expect the information on each page to be current only at the point in time that the page was published. But I have some pages on my blog that are timeless. Tad suggests removing the date from these pages. Instead, what I'll do is copy them to my website.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Recall the Top Ten rules to which we should aspire, including speed, simplicity, etc. Rule number 8 was simply No Advertising. So, despite potential revenue, no google ads here. But I said explicitly that this blog could only ever reach 9/10 for that measure, "I lost a mark for the intrinsic self-promotion".

I still maintain that every word and every picture that we ever leave anywhere on the web becomes part of our online CV, whether we like it or not. So within this blog I still try to demonstrate creativity, experience, focus, opinion, passion, reason and a sense of humour together with some hints that I know a bit more about marketing, technology, architecture, language, statistics, semiotics, and every other subject that interests me. So obviously I agree that recruiters should be looking for people like me.

But I have reconsidered slightly in the last days. Ultimately I am a director of a small limited company that supplies consultancy services - it has its own website, but it has so far been just a placeholder rather than a sales tool. From now I think some of the more work-focused themes might start to go there (it's clearly still in development).

Which means this blog can get personal ...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Me and Warren Buffett

Five things in common?

1. I never attempt to make money on the stock market. I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for five years.

2. It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.

3. Our favorite holding period is forever.

4. We believe that according the name 'investors' to institutions that trade actively is like calling someone who repeatedly engages in one-night stands a 'romantic.'

5. Wide diversification is only required when investors do not understand what they are doing.

Those are genuine quotes from the investing legend. I should have diversified more widely.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Interest in the Economy

Despite the significant losses documented yesterday and in earlier notes, I don't claim poverty. Particularly compared to most in my home town, I'm doing ok.

However worse times are coming. News today: The Bank of England has cut interest rates to 1.5%, the lowest level in its 315-year history, as it continues efforts to aid an economic recovery. The Bank of England is shafting us.

Manufacturers' association EEF said the move was "too timid", and that the Bank should have cut rates further. Self-serving poppycock . The reduction of interest rates is not the only weapon in the arsenal of weapons available to tackle stagnation of demand. Whatever happened to the direct fiscal stimulus? Investing in the infrastructure of the country?

There are seven times as many net savers as net borrowers in this country, though overall saving rates are overall about zero as average borrowing is about seven times average saving. But all these ridiculous cuts will do is encourage more borrowing. Madness. That is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Stock Tips

I'm a big investor. No real job, no real pension, so my future income is dependent upon my investments.

Admittedly this has been done without any major research. But in principle, without even thinking about it, my basic investment strategies have broadly followed the legendary Motley Fool guidelines and the even more legendary Warren Buffett guidelines:

Even my biggest financial mistake was made in accordance with those principles, though it was also based on a stupid anecdote.

So, after Telewest, apart from a series of technology stocks, my next two big investments were solid well known retail brands with prime high street locations, I thought they were undervalued shares with excellent potential being ripe for turnaround.

One of those stocks was Woolworths.

Anybody else out there who wants to follow my financial advice?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


It's traditional to write a new year blog post. I'm not very traditional.

The big news at the moment is the Israeli assault on Gaza in apparent retaliation for the rockets that Hamas has been firing into Israel. No opinion on that here, but I think that I'm more knowledgeable on the subject than the average Brit. Even at school, I did a whole semester researching the background of the conflicts. The course was called "West Asian Studies". Clearly that's a better name than "Middle Eastern Studies".

Also from much earlier school history classes, I recall early ignorance about why Upper Egypt was shown below Lower Egypt on maps in history class. Of course it's obvious now. But because we are so used to arbitrarily seeing North at the top of maps, it confused this poor schoolboy. I know there are some novelty maps (typically Australian) that reverse the world, but actually I don't think these maps should be "novelty" at all, there should be more varieties and perspectives, then it's harder for little kids to grow up with flat earth or other biblical misconceptions.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy New Year (eventually)

Top five reasons to have a New Year's Day blog post:

1. These are the best places that I visited this year

2. These are the best books and films of the past year

3. These are my resolutions and predictions for the new year

4. These were my most commented posts of last year

5. I should post every day.

Actually that wasn't meant to be critical, those are all perfectly good reasons. I'd have done one too, but I've been away. Normal service to resume shortly.