June 30, 2003

The third law of project management

The wrong decision is better than no decision.

Posted by Adrian at 01:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 28, 2003

The one-stop party posting

I think I've found the solution to my lack of a CD+G player. I can't remember if I updated my posting about which karaoke CDs I should buy, but I bought one, and then found out that none of the multitude of devices I own which accept little silver discs would play it!

My Mum just emailed me about Argos are selling off an assortment of karaoke CDs at half-price, and in trying to find out more about the discs, I found Sing To The World.com. As well as producing CDs, and selling equipment, they offer an online, streaming karaoke service! :-D Only 5.99/month and you can sign up for individual months as and when you fancy. So I think I might be using that for future parties - it's a lot of 5.99s before you get to the cost of some CDs and a CD+G player... and they've got a much bigger selection. Cool.

And then in a discussion about mirror-balls, etc. on cam.misc, I've found CPC's spotlights for mirror balls, and Cambridge Disco Hire And Sales. I suspect I'll have a mirror-ball motor and proper spotlight for the next party too.

Now I just need to plan the next party...

Posted by Adrian at 12:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 26, 2003

The Second Law of Project Management

Quality isn't a variable.

I know that this is really a corollary to the first law, but I think it's important enough to put out on its own. It looks like it should be a variable, and that you can add features whilst maintaining the end date by reducing quality. But you can't (well, okay, you could, but this is so much of a "shouldn't" that it's easier to view it as a "can't" :-)

Quality is a constant. And it's value is "good enough" - any less and you're shipping bad software, any more and you're wasting time that would be better spent working on the next "good enough" product.

Posted by Adrian at 02:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The First Law of Project Management

Features + Quality = End date

Once you work this out, everything else becomes clearer. If you vary one, it affects the others. So if you want to add a new feature, you should expect the end date to slip, and if you don't want the end date to slip, then you need to reduce the features.

[There is probably a more complicated one which involves headcount, but that makes things much more complicated and doesn't work how you'd expect it to - i.e. it isn't (Features + Quality) / Headcount = End date]

Posted by Adrian at 02:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 24, 2003

Phew, only 28.00789% geek

Although that makes me a Total Geek apparently. I think if I read Lord of the Rings and got into Star Trek I could do much better...

The Geek Test

Posted by Adrian at 10:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 23, 2003

Glossary of structured content and metadata

Ease: The structure of content and metadata gives a brief description of an array of different ways to describe the structure of data.

(via dive into mark)

Posted by Adrian at 03:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Impending rebranding

It's spelt McQN... it's pronounced McEwen!

Yep, despite thinking about it when I was at Uni, mcewen.com had been taken when I finally got a round tuit (warning: very bad joke that I haven't seen since seeing them on sale in seaside tat shops when I was little) a few years later, and then I thought about registering mcewen.co.uk, but really wanted a .com, and just couldn't think of anything I liked that hadn't already gone (there's still lots of to-ing and fro-ing to be done about the company name for the same reason :-). I did think about adrianmcewen.com, but an email of adrian@adrianmcewen.com just sounds a bit weird (might register it just in case I find a need for it I guess)

Then, over the weekend, I thought of McQN.com, and to my surprise, it hadn't been registered - I think the fact that it's not my exact name is countered by it being a four-letter .com :-)

So over the next month or so, I think McFilter and the rest of chortle.org.uk will be migrating to mcqn.com.

Posted by Adrian at 03:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 22, 2003

How non-programmers use documentation

Discussion from the Mozilla developer community on How non-programmers use documentation.

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The future of the Intenet

Just discovered Tim O'Reilly's weblog, and from that his O'Reilly Network: Tim O'Reilly's WWDC Keynote Manuscript which has an interesting discussion of disruptive technologies and coming cool tech (plus why WiFi should really be called NoCat :-) and at the end theorizes about "the Internet OS", and how it should be built. A promising vision for the optimist, small-time entrepreneurs amongst us. I was going to quote some of it, but the entire section "Lessons from the Past" is too big methinks.

Posted by Adrian at 03:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

For those who don't trust British Rail

It's now possible to get "live" departure times for trains from Cambridge.

And for those getting a train to meet someone arriving from the airport, there's also Arrival times for Stansted.

Posted by Adrian at 01:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tim Bray on text search

Tim Bray has started a series of articles about text search, and how it works. Cool. Always been curious about the algorithms behind searching.

And now he's created a Table of Contents himself, which means I don't really have to maintain the list myself...

On Search:

  1. ongoing On Search: Backgrounder

  2. ongoing On Search: The Users

  3. ongoing On Search: Basic Basics

  4. ongoing On Search: Precision and Recall

  5. ongoing On Search: Intelligence

  6. ongoing On Search: Squirmy Words

  7. ongoing On Search: UI Archeology

  8. ongoing On Search: Stopwords

  9. ongoing On Search: Metadata

  10. ongoing On Search: I18n

  11. ongoing On Search: Result Ranking

  12. ongoing On Search: Interfaces

  13. ongoing On Search: XML

  14. ongoing On Search: Robots

  15. ongoing Turn On Search

And related to this, the BBC report surfers impatient with search engines, and give some stats from some recent research which backup Tim's "people only look at one page of results" observations.

Plus, Tim also points us to John Battelle's searchblog.

Posted by Adrian at 01:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 20, 2003


Well, the first part of my URL cleanup has been done. And I've got category archives too (see the left column of the main page for links). Now the permalinks include the category and posting title in the URL, so no more puzzling 000002.html or whatever.

I still need to provide (well, need is a bit strong, I don't know if anyone cares enough to just want to subscribe to a single category but I thought I'd add it anyhow) RSS feeds for each category, and go through and get the old 00000x.html files to redirect to the nice new named versions, but it's a start.

Posted by Adrian at 01:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 19, 2003

The mobile UI for mobile phones

MyOrigo Ltd. are the latest people to try to redefine the mobile phone user-interface. They've got a motion-sensitive UI, so if you rotate the phone 90 degrees it switches from landscape to portrait, and you scroll round by tilting the phone.

None of these seem to be new ideas (for example, the scrolling seems very similar to the "Rock'n'Scroll" UI investigated by the Itsy project), and I'm intrigued to see how the rotating copes with people trying to view the screen whilst lying down, etc. Still, they claim interest from Telefonica, and their touch&feel screen sounds as if it overcomes one of the main problems with touchscreens (lack of feedback when pressed), so I hope they get a real device out (even if it's just so I can play with one and see if it works :-)

Posted by Adrian at 04:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cameras and strobe lights

It would appear from this slightly bizarre (but cool :-) picture that strobe lights can do strange things to photos.

More (normal) photos taken by Jo at my party can be found scattered amongst ones of Malcolm's party and the beer festival (I think).

Posted by Adrian at 10:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 18, 2003

More networking opportunities

The latest newsletter from the Cambridge Network has details of Connectwork, a new networking org in Cambridge.

Looks quite interesting, mainly because of their work.place.space scheme to help small/new businesses find shared office space, and also as it's focused on small and new businesses.

However, it costs to join (100/year), and I'm still not sure what the benefit of networking is - it sounds like something I should be doing, but I guess I'm just suffering from my usual "I don't see what there'd be to immediately discuss/benefit from", so I don't attend and don't get any benefit. Hmmm.

Posted by Adrian at 05:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Are your URLs whiter-than-white?

I still haven't picked the URL-related low-hanging fruit, but Cleaning Your URLs from this week's Byte (subscription required) presents even more ideas about what to do with your URLs. I particularly like the suggestion to extend your 404 errors using mod_speling to cope with users typos in URLs. Neat.

Posted by Adrian at 01:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 14, 2003

The morning after (the project)

Anatomy of a Retrospective discusses a project retrospective, basically a more extensive post-mortem. It explains the exercises taken, and how that led the project team through the process, to learn how to do things better next time.

Posted by Adrian at 08:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

70s cars aplenty (and ice-cream eating squirrels)

Yes, it's the Public Information Films - don't be an ambler gambler, always obey the two second rule, and many, many more...

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Remember, these products aren't available in shops...

Mainly because all these adverts are from the 80s! All American unfortunately, but still good fun.

(Via the Good Experience newsletter)

Posted by Adrian at 01:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 09, 2003

Educational blogs

And I don't mean blogs that teach you something :-)

Just been on the phone to my mate Paul, catching up with how things are, and how he's going with his business venture. He started out on his own about the same time as I did, doing training for primary schools (Note to self: find out what it's properly described as...), but it's interesting to compare notes on building a business, and all the general business stuff we now have to worry about.

When I was telling him about the articles on building a business and personal productivity I found yesterday, I ended up trying to explain what a blog was. I don't think I did the best job, but maybe some examples are the way forwards.

So, a quick search on Google for "primary teacher uk blog" and I find Jonathan's Blog - from a recently qualified teacher, ME V2.0 - an American slant on teacher training, Kindred Spirit - UK primary teacher trainee's blog, and Brian's Education Blog.

So hopefully that'll give you a feeling for what blogs are Paul. And if anyone else knows of any interesting school-related blogs, or wants some training done at their school ;-) then let me know.

Posted by Adrian at 10:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 08, 2003

Alternative problem solving

I don't know why, but Internet Explorer seems to choose whether or not to display the status bar depending on the weather. I finally decided I should do something about it, as it bugs me when it isn't there, and I got as far as Google's homepage (about to search for info on making it stay visible), when I suddenly realised there was a different way of solving the problem.

So I've just downloaded and installed Mozilla Firebird 0.6 seeing as it's been getting a lot of press recently about how quick and cool it is. Guess it shows how dominant IE has become when a former Netscape devotee doesn't use any excuse to switch browsers :-)

If there aren't any more posts about this in the next few weeks it must mean Firebird is good, and I haven't had to revert. We'll see.

Posted by Adrian at 05:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Having a direction is only a tool to get where you want to go

When I graduated from Uni, the grand plan was to get a few years experience, then go contracting - earn enough that I wouldn't have to worry about money, whilst doing something I enjoyed. (I was very techie focused, one of my favoured sentences being "If I'd wanted to be a manager, I'd have studied management"...).

Actually, the grand plan had started before I graduated, my choice of final year project was made so I could learn C++ and Motif, and I was trying to run it as I thought a commercial project would be run (maybe that's why it failed to ship ;-).

Fast forward a few years, and I was doing technical management for a small but promising startup. Not exactly what was laid out in the grand plan, but I firmly believe that it was because of the plan. The important part of the plan was the financial independence whilst enjoying work, which has been much furthered by my work at STNC. The contracting was just the direction that looked most promising given my limited work experience at the time, largely influenced by the contractors working for the ITSA where I worked during the summers of my degree. They looked pretty financially secure whilst discussing the 100k they were spending on a trackday Porsche 911 (see, it's all linked, cars had to come into it somewhere :-)

But basically, having a plan meant I could see the opportunities when they presented themselves, and take advantage of them. Something Steve Pavlina discusses in The Power of Clarity, although he puts a good case for going even further and writing down specific, measurable goals.

Posted by Adrian at 03:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The road is long...

But at least I've set off. Steve Pavlina gives this interesting analysis of Shareware Amateurs vs. Shareware Professionals. Whilst in theory it's about shareware authors, I think it's pretty applicable to the small-startup-guys too. Guess I should continue to work on my self-discipline, and stop reading the web and do some work :-)

Posted by Adrian at 01:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 07, 2003

It's not what you know, nor who you know, but how many you know

A very interesting, if a little long, look at the theory of "six degrees of separation", with references to lots of interesting research.

It seems that, when finding a job at least, it's quantity of links, rather than quality, that's the important thing, so Gladwell suggests that the real difference between poor and middle-class kids isn't the money they have access to, but the social networks.

"I hadn't seen him since I was seven. We had zero in common. It was wonderful." I like that, celebration of how people evolve when they lose touch, and not worrying about trying to be friends with everyone you've ever been friends with.

I wonder whether the study on why people become friends would find different results if re-ran today - does our increased ease in communication, and travel alter how our friendships are formed and maintained?

Posted by Adrian at 08:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's blog-date...

My first weekend to myself for a month, so I'm getting some work done... of a sort. I've finished my web server log analysis script to see who's been looking at my blog, and who referred them to me (473 different computers accessed my blog during May).

Poking through the stats led me to BlogMatcher, which lets you find blogs that are "like yours". From the FAQ, "The basic premise of BlogMatcher is that two blogs that link to the same sites share some sort of topical commonality. If you link to an article in your blog, then the chances are, you'll be interested in reading other people's opinions about the same article."

Now, I'm not sure I totally agree with that, maybe because I'd like to think that I don't surround myself with "blog yes-men", or maybe I don't think my blog is extensive enough to give useful results, or I don't link enough. Still, it's quite a useful tool for finding new blogs to poke around looking for stuff.

Posted by Adrian at 08:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

If you thought the new Electric 6 video was good...

Then this version of what it should have looked like will blow you away :-)

(via Huh?)

Update: Seeing as I still get lots of google hits for this, and because I still think it's cool, and finally, because the link above doesn't work anymore, try here instead, or just have a Kazaa for "blair bush gaybar" or something.

Posted by Adrian at 12:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 04, 2003

Semantic web low-hanging fruit

Finally got round to reading Jon Udell's recent posting of his slides from OSCOM.

Really good discussion of why document titles and URLs should be thought about, and how they're used in search engines, and suchlike.

I particularly like this suggestion of how threading of discussions could be done.

Then he goes back to an old, old concept, the universal canvas - something I remember reading when Jon first wrote about it, and hoping we were getting to the point where the web was read/write rather than read-only. Weblogs are making it easier to write to the web, but I'm still having to add a lot of angled brackets whilst writing this :-( Not exactly as easy as using a word processor, but maybe that's because we've got "View -> Source". All the purist techies look at the HTML generated by things such as Microsoft Word, and go *yuk*, but it's difficult to produce perfect output by machine (I think, I haven't done any exhaustive investigation into this :-) The annoying thing is that it shouldn't really matter if the output isn't perfect, if it's good enough(tm). I know plenty of people who've bitched that the MS Word document format is bloated, but because it's gobbledigook they never spend time working out where it could be better, and just use it (and so millions of other, non-techies who couldn't care less about the hows and whys and wherefores, can also use it do achieve their ends).

Maybe I should add "the read/write web browser" to my growing list of "projects I'd like to build"... although I will check that my document titles and URLs are useful (finally we reach the low-hanging fruit of the title :-)

Posted by Adrian at 03:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jon Udell

The quotes category runneth over today (I'm sure it's an initial rush :-)

"normal humans don't use emacs" - Jon Udell.

Posted by Adrian at 03:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tom Wilson

"Are you really finding fault with not motivating employees to work more than 40 hours a week? Unless you're motivating them with time-and-a-half, you can forget it. You sign a contract with an employee for 40 hours, and you don't complain when a contractee fails to deliver more than was agreed. Nor do you expect it, nor hinge your profit margin upon it. That's just bad business." - Tom Wilson in a comment on The Rise and Fall of ArsDigita.

Posted by Adrian at 12:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Theodore Roosevelt

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face in marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt

(via Heidi Wright's comment on The Rise and Fall of ArsDigita)

Posted by Adrian at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New category

Just added a new category to hold quotes - things I find funny/interesting/insightful/whatever....

Posted by Adrian at 12:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The rise and fall of ArsDigita

Joel Spolsky links to this interesting article - Diary of a Start-Up: the rise and fall of ArsDigita. Another tale of the fun, exciting, different start-up killed in the .com boom by VCs.

However, the comments at the end are good, and provide some balance to the anti-VC content. I like this quote:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face in marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt

Just shows that we didn't do so badly at STNC, with limiting our VC funding, and selling out to Microsoft, although how much of that was luck and how much judgement is a matter for individual speculation ;-)

Posted by Adrian at 12:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The growth of software companies

Joel Spolsky's latest essay about Fixing Venture Capital is an interesting read, and he describes his theories about the growth of a tech start-up.

More grist to the distrust of VC (in early stages of start-up) mill...

Posted by Adrian at 10:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 03, 2003

The descent into blog-geekdom continues

It's the start of a new month, which means it's time to gather my usage stats for McFilter...

I still haven't got it ignoring me in the stats gathering, but it's better than it was, and I need to work on my readership survey script, as that's one of the more interesting stats.

But... new this month... search strings :-) It seems I've been found as a result of seven searches (on google, msn, etc.). The search terms were:

  • carl homer cambridge

  • clutch uno turbo

  • incredible bongo band apache mp3

  • postcode map uk svg

  • tunnel of love fun boy three mp3

  • tunnel of love white teeth

  • white teeth soundtrack

I doubt any of them were hoping to find my blog as a result, especially the "clutch uno turbo" one. Sorry guys, hope you weren't too disappointed *grin*

Posted by Adrian at 05:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack