November 30, 2003

NoiseMonkey - The Real Music News

NoiseMonkey - Manufactured Music News

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November 27, 2003

Introduction To Business Finance

Eric Sink has written Finance for Geeks (The Business of Software), a good introduction to accounting, profit margins and funding. I don't think it's just for geeks...

I'll be checking out his Marketing for Geeks too.

(Via Archipelago)

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November 25, 2003

The Rhythm Method of Time Management

This article on prioritising tasks splits them along two axes - importance and urgency.

More interesting, however, is the discussion of the rhythm of tasks. Once you've split your tasks into the four categories (urgent and important, non-urgent but still important, urgent but not important, and non-urgent and not important), then many people find that they're still drawn to the "urgent but not important" tasks over the "non-urgent but important" ones. The article suggests that the reason for this is that you get used to the rhythm of the urgent tasks, and so feel guilty for not working as hard when in fact you've just switched rhythm to the lesser pace of the non-urgent but important tasks.

That's something I'm very good at doing, even to the level of trying to find more urgent but unimportant tasks to do when I've run out of them :-)

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November 24, 2003

All Sorts of Business Information

Microsoft's bCentral website has all sorts of information about business-related matters.

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Jon Udell Investigates Bayesian Categorizers

Jon does his usual thorough job of describing his experiments with categorizing his blog posts, including pointers to the tools he used.

He finds that it doesn't do a perfect job of finding the right category for some of the posts, but there's often a quite plausible reason for the incorrect choice. I think this "fuzzy" categorization is a benefit, but I'm looking to solve a slightly different problem.

All the posts I make to this blog are categorized. I manually choose a category when I write the entry, and it's not too onerous a task (i.e. it's something that I don't mind doing, so it's easily captured metadata). Sometimes things don't fit simply into one category, and although I can assign things to more than one category, that's harder and I've never done it.

Another problem is the number of posts in any one category. Already the "Computers" category has sixty-six entries; too many to browse through for an item. Subdividing a category when it becomes too big would be the best solution, but presents the problem of re-categorizing all the existing posts.

What I'd like is for Movable Type to notice when I cross some entry-count threshold (say, when there are more than twenty posts) in a category, and suggest that I subdivide that category. Then, I just use the new more specific categories for new posts and leave the old posts as is. The categories would then build up over time into a hierarchy of categories, and the top-level ones would be listed where my category list is now - selecting one of the categories would give you a Yahoo! style hierarchy to navigate for the postings.

This is where, I think, Bayesian filtering comes in. The "category browser" uses filtering to show the posts for any particular category, and ignores the category that I choose. My choice of category is used to train the filter on what I think should go into a category, but the filter chooses which posts are valid for the category when someone is browsing through them, and if a post scores well for more than one category, then that's fine, it can live in both categories. The only exception to the multi-categorization is that posts should only live in the most specific category in the hierarchy (e.g. something scores well for "Computers" and "Computers/MobileUI" will only appear in "Computers/MobileUI"). This means that all the old posts get recategorized automatically, and cross-category posts just appear more than once.

Yet more things to play with in my non-existent free time...

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November 20, 2003

Old Habits Die Hard

Roland Piquepaille reviews two "new bizarre keyboards" which would be of use for mobile applications. One is a flexible, waterproof, qwerty design, and the other a 15-or-so key new layout.

The flexible keyboard is a useful evolution of the standard qwerty keyboard, big enough to type on, but more easily carried due to its flexibility. However, it's still quite big, because it has to fit in 64 keys, and it looks like you'd need a hard surface to lay it on to type properly.

The Frogpad keyboard, in contrast, has more to interest someone like me, who is keen on better and smaller input methods, so I can have a tiny smartphone. Unfortunately, I think it's likely to fail, as are most of the truly revolutionary ideas for text entry.

The bigger problem with new and different keyboard solutions isn't the technical challenge of finding a better method, it's persuading people to adopt it. The qwerty layout is still used for PCs, despite being first designed to slow down typists, but it's familiar, and has good enough usability - for most usage, you press one key, and get what's printed on the keyface. Despite the number of keys used, qwerty is still finding favour with mobile devices skewed towards text entry, small keyboards seem to be winning out in favour of methods such as the grafitti hand-writing recognition. The only real competitor is the 0-9,*,# layout provided by mobile phones, and that's only gained traction because it's a well established way to enter numbers - so it's perfect when you expect to enter lots of phone numbers, and only after you'd bought your mobile phone did you find yourself entering more text than numbers (text messages, looking up names in the phonebook, etc.).

There is some experimentation going on with mobile phones, the Nokia 3650 and the Siemens SX1, although Nokia have reverted to the traditional layout with the 3650's successor, the 3660. Still, I don't think the 3650 was a disaster sales-wise, so there's still hope...

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November 19, 2003

Rebranding Networking

This post has been in draft for far too long, partly because I think I wanted to add something to the discussion rather than just quote Chris' newsletter, and I also wanted to decide how I was going to apply her advice.

However, I don't really think there's much I can add to what Chris Carling said in her October newsletter, which she's generously allowed me to quote here. The newsletter regularly has such thought-provoking nuggets, subscribing is recommended.


Taking a leaf out of my own book, I'll mention one of my own achievements, which is to have run a number of successful workshops on networking based on a tool originally developed by Thomas Leonard called the Team 100 (anyone wanting further information, do drop me a line). As a result I tune in to media mentions of networking such as the recent piece in a Saturday Guardian from Sandra Deeble who suggests that, for some at least, there's something slightly dodgy about the word 'networking'. 'It suggests,' she says, 'a world of back scratching and trouser hitching.'

At the same time, however, she stresses that networking is a necessity for business development and career progression, and gives a set of useful tips for the networking novice. One of the most useful that I picked out was: 'Find a new language.'

Actually it was a tip Sandra picked up from John Lees's 'How to Get the Perfect Promotion and How to Get a Job you'll Love'. 'If you say to people 'networking', they think it's a form of selling,' says Lees. In other words, people can be put off by the term 'networking, assuming it's a dark art that has to be practised in a very specific way.

But suppose you don't call it networking. Suppose you call it 'fact finding', or 'broadening my horizons by meeting new people', or 'sounding people out.' After all, that's the kind of activity that networking involves. Or choose a term you're comfortable with, a term that sums up for you that 'taking the initiative, asking for whatever information you need, chatting to people, opening up a bit so they can see who you are' kind of activity that some people call networking.

Suppose you say to yourself: 'I'm going out to get some new ideas, new knowledge, new contacts, new information about my field and what's the latest developments.' What could be wrong with that? And if you think of it that way, you're more likely to feel focused enough to ask the kinds of questions that will generate new ideas, information, contacts, that will plant seeds that may lead, now or later, to a new opportunity. And that, after all, is what networking is all about."

And echoing some of the sentiments of that, plus adding some more practical tips are these networking tips from The Chilli. Not quite sure yet how I'm going to put this all into practice, but I'm getting more of an idea of the sort of things I should be doing.

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November 17, 2003

When Will You Break Even?

This month's Inc magazine has a useful formula for working out break-even point, see the "Sidebar: Are You on Track to Break Even?" at the bottom of the article.

Now I just have to work out my overheads, costs, pricing, and sales figures...

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Friday's Frivolities

It's obviously been a quiet week or so on the Internet, or maybe I've been busy? Anyway, there are a few pictures of the Friday-before-last's frivolities at the Suffolk Hunt Ball now up on my website. Last Friday's frivolities were largely salsa-related (at least, that's what I was trying to do...). So far I've resisted the temptation to video myself doing the steps and posting it up in an attempt to demonstrate the basic footwork. So far...

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November 13, 2003

Pop Junkie And Proud

Although I'm sure I could've got a few more if I'd thought about it. 81.5% isn't too bad...

(Via D.I.I.E.D.)

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November 06, 2003

Mario Andretti

"If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough" - Mario Andretti.

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November 03, 2003

The Ladybird Book Of Weblogging

Diego Doval has put together two great introductory articles about weblogging. They're kinda the wrong way round, becuase I think people generally start reading weblogs before they start their own, and the article about syndication discusses the best way to consume blogs, but I suppose setting the scene of what weblogs are is quite important, and that's covered in part one, an introduction to weblogs.

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Nothing Too Scary

At least, the photos of me aren't too scary. Kirsty's photos of Caroline & Al's halloween party are now available. I went as Bill Gates, he seems suitably scary to lots of people... ;-)

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November 02, 2003

A Little Less Photo-taking, A Little More Singing

Well, the photos from last week's party are now up, although there aren't very many, and most of them are of people's backs.

I think that was mainly due to the interest in the latest addition to the party - karaoke from Loads of people decided to give it a whirl... I don't think anyone was too dreadful, and maximum use was made of the extra hour to run the party 'til 6am BST.

It looks like karaoke might just become a regular feature...

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