Categories
Web

Is there a PHB at Reddit?

When I read about what what happened to the remote workers at Reddit my blood runs cold. Did management take a lesson from the Pointy Haired Boss in Dilbert’s office?

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I can’t imagine how poisoned the workplace at Reddit must be now that everyone has had an ultimatum to move to San Francisco or be fired. I’m a big fan of the site but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. There’s a boss there somewhere who wants to make life as difficult as possible for the people who helped make that site what it is today.

Categories
Donncha's Links

Wacky Waiters

Wacky Waiters was one of the first games I played on the Commodore Vic-20. Hands up if you ever played it? No. I’m not surprised. I’m sure there are people reading this post that were born after it was released in 1982 ..

  • John Breslin lists some of the Web 2.0 Corkonians! I wouldn’t go so far as to say I cofounded Automattic, I was the first employee though!
  • The old and new testaments compared.
  • Treasa’s amazing photo of a kite surfer flying over her head.
  • Walter announced Self Notes, an online note taker. Here’s my obligatory Hello World message.
  • Haydn wonders who has time to explore social software like Facebook.
  • I went down to the gallery in Kinsale recently and signed a few more prints there. It’s wonderful what time away from the prints does. I get a whole new perspective and appreciation for them all over again. They look wonderful! (even if I do say so myself!)
  • Asok died but they brought him back. Good thing he studied shape shifting ..
  • How to create your own planet with the GIMP or Photoshop. (via DSLR Blog)
  • The days are getting shorter as Winter sets in. Here’s some interesting ways to use shadows. That inspired me yesterday to take a couple of unusual shots.
  • Acquia is a new startup focusing on Drupal development. Another GPL project gets corporate support. Great! Good luck with the venture.
Categories
Donncha's Links

The end of Homeopathy

The end of homeopathy? – a very lengthy and critical article looking at the alternative medicine of homeopathy. 456 comments and counting. (via Mink Toast.)
After the birth of our son Adam, my wife was told to take Arnica C30 by nurses and doctors. After reading the post above, I searched for Arnica C30. The first result is a double blind test of homoeopathic arnica C30. The summary results aren’t encouraging,

73 patients completed the study, of whom 35 received placebo and 38 received arnica C30. The placebo group had a greater median age and the arnica group had slightly longer operations; nevertheless, no significant difference between the two groups could be demonstrated. We conclude that arnica in homoeopathic potency had no effect on postoperative recovery in the context of our study.

On to the links …

  • Christmas Spirit – lovely photo and story.
  • In the middle of November, Google changed the clickable area on Adsense adverts. Jonathan noticed a large drop in revenue, but I haven’t. Click through rate is much the same as before, although I did compensate by making the advert URLs more prominent.
  • Sometimes bosses misunderstand tech jargon, in amusing ways. Oh, don’t ask an engineer to talk to your class. He might be a bit blunt!
  • Google Analyticator is a small WordPress plugin that adds the necessary Google Analytics Javascript to your blog. It also has a neat JS function to track outbound links in Analytics. Just make sure you create two conversion goals, “/outgoing” and “/download” to do the tracking.
  • How many famous people?
  • Will the real Googlebot please stand? 208.113.160.20, you sit down. You’re a fake.
  • Jeff’s The Two Types of Programmers essay sparked such a response, he wrote a follow up. I definitely know a few 80% programmers. Many of the people I went to college with fall into that category unfortunately. No, none of them read this blog! 🙂
Categories
Donncha's Links

Donncha's Tuesday Links

There’s nothing like the laughter of your baby to perk up one’s morning after a bank holiday weekend!

Categories
Books

Would you download the new Harry Potter book?

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Drmike says he found a site where you can download “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”.

Would you download a possibly incomplete copy of a new book? What if it’s not as polished as the finished item? Would the glaring grammatical mistakes, and unedited paragraphs ruin the experience for you?

What about the experience of lying in bed with a good book, engrossed in it and falling asleep with the light on? Is it the same with a set of printed sheets from your computer? I think not. That scene in The Devil Wears Prada does spring to mind where the kids are reading the manuscript on the train..

Meanwhile, Scott Adams has an excellent post on copyright violation which he later explained was an experiment in “cognitive dissonance”.

If you’ve read anything about experiments to produce cognitive dissonance, you know this was the perfect setup. You can produce dissonance by putting a person in a position of doing something that is clearly opposed to his self image. Then wait for his explanation. The explanation will seem absurd to anyone who doesn’t share the dissonance. In this case the model that produced it was…

1. Good people are not criminals.
2. Criminals break laws.
3. I break copyright laws.
4. But since I know I am a good person, my reason why it’s okay to violate copyright laws is (insert something absurd).

I don’t think it worked on me because I happen to agree with him that copyright violation is theft. Previous mind experiments have however worked on me so I’m as susceptable as anyone. His underpants story was particularly absurd however, even if in keeping with his sense of humour and not at all out of place on the Dilbert blog!

Reading Harry Potter at WordCamp

21st July – the book is out and I’ve seen it. I took a picture of the last page but I don’t think anyone really wants to see it, do you? There’s Michael reading his copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows!

Categories
blogging

Bite size entertainment

It’s rather sad that I prefer to click on the Dilbert cartoon feed rather than the one for the author’s site in my news aggregator.

After being offline for most of last week due to a dodgy internet connection I’m still playing catch up and trying to fill in the rest of my life too. I think we need cranial networking now so we can scan and read blogs in a timely manner. Or a world wide moritorium on blogging for a few days perhaps.

Blogging by Twitter anyone? If all the posts in my Bloglines account were a max of 140 characters I’d have them read in no time at all! Oops, I’ve gone over my allo

Categories
blogging Web

How I know who's talking about me

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while but Scott Adam’s post about using Google Alerts to find people talking about Dilbert prompted me to put fingers to keys this afternoon.

When someone anywhere in the world mentions my name in a blog post or even a comment, on Flickr, on Zooomr or anywhere with an RSS feed I know about it within a few hours. Occasionally it might take longer, maybe a day or so, or even a few months sometimes, but that would be unusual.

How? I use a “news aggregator” called Bloglines to track my favourite websites. Bloglines also has a search engine to search through their database. Nothing extraordinary there, but the magic happens when you subscribe to that search. “Subscribing” is just like subscribing to a magazine. You’re sent updated news and information as it happens at the source. When you subscribe to a blog, every time that blog is updated their new post appears in your aggregator. No need to fret about missing the latest news any more.

Instead of having to reload a search page every few hours Bloglines does that job for me automatically. The Bloglines feed list reloads periodically. A quick glance at it’s page in my browser window shows me if someone mentions me. It’s less stressful than checking my email all the time and news is delivered into my browser where I want it.

To be sure I search as much of the Internet as possible I do the same search on Technorati too.

I wonder will Scott find this post or comment on it? Probably not but hopefully someone else will find this useful.

Too Frickin’ Cool

Categories
Health Humour

Self diagnose with Google

Everybody and anybody who has an illness, a pain in the leg, a hurt somewhere, will use Google to find out what ails them. There is an inherent danger in that, but if you use a search engine that way, and believe the first result, then good luck to you, The Darwin Awards may need another category.

The rest of us go to the doctor, the dentist, or whatever health professional is appropriate. What if your company health plan depended on using Google to diagnose? That’s what Catbert, the evil director of Human Resources did today in this Dilbert cartoon. Arc Welder anyone?

If by chance you do suffer a tooth ache, then a Google Search could pay dividends, at least for short term relief. My toothache post has been insanely popular for a couple of years now and a few people have learned something about dealing with the pain. I found that swishing Vodka around in my mouth helped a lot. It says it on the Internet, it must be true!

I wonder what Britney Spears Googled that told her to shave her hair off? Poor girl.

Categories
Health

Brighten your day

I didn’t know it but Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert lost his voice 18 months ago. He suffers from a rare condition called Spasmodic Dysphonia. Even though there is no cure for it he has written a great article about his experiences and how he never gave up trying to get his voice back. If you’re having a bad day this will cheer you up. Amazing and inspirational story.

To state the obvious, much of life’s pleasure is diminished when you can’t speak. It has been tough.

But have I mentioned I’m an optimist?

Edit! The post has been removed from Scott Adam’s website because it appears in his new book but thanks to Google Reader I found it again:

As regular readers of my blog know, I lost my voice about 18 months ago. Permanently. It’s something exotic called Spasmodic Dysphonia. Essentially a part of the brain that controls speech just shuts down in some people, usually after you strain your voice during a bout with allergies (in my case) or some other sort of normal laryngitis. It happens to people in my age bracket.

I asked my doctor – a specialist for this condition – how many people have ever gotten better. Answer: zero. While there’s no cure, painful Botox injections through the front of the neck and into the vocal cords can stop the spasms for a few months. That weakens the muscles that otherwise spasm, but your voice is breathy and weak.

The weirdest part of this phenomenon is that speech is processed in different parts of the brain depending on the context. So people with this problem can often sing but they can’t talk. In my case I could do my normal professional speaking to large crowds but I could barely whisper and grunt off stage. And most people with this condition report they have the most trouble talking on the telephone or when there is background noise. I can speak normally alone, but not around others. That makes it sound like a social anxiety problem, but it’s really just a different context, because I could easily sing to those same people.

I stopped getting the Botox shots because although they allowed me to talk for a few weeks, my voice was too weak for public speaking. So at least until the fall speaking season ended, I chose to maximize my onstage voice at the expense of being able to speak in person.

My family and friends have been great. They read my lips as best they can. They lean in to hear the whispers. They guess. They put up with my six tries to say one word. And my personality is completely altered. My normal wittiness becomes slow and deliberate. And often, when it takes effort to speak a word intelligibly, the wrong word comes out because too much of my focus is on the effort of talking instead of the thinking of what to say. So a lot of the things that came out of my mouth frankly made no sense.

To state the obvious, much of life’s pleasure is diminished when you can’t speak. It has been tough.

But have I mentioned I’m an optimist?

Just because no one has ever gotten better from Spasmodic Dysphonia before doesn’t mean I can’t be the first. So every day for months and months I tried new tricks to regain my voice. I visualized speaking correctly and repeatedly told myself I could (affirmations). I used self hypnosis. I used voice therapy exercises. I spoke in higher pitches, or changing pitches. I observed when my voice worked best and when it was worst and looked for patterns. I tried speaking in foreign accents. I tried “singing” some words that were especially hard.

My theory was that the part of my brain responsible for normal speech was still intact, but for some reason had become disconnected from the neural pathways to my vocal cords. (That’s consistent with any expert’s best guess of what’s happening with Spasmodic Dysphonia. It’s somewhat mysterious.) And so I reasoned that there was some way to remap that connection. All I needed to do was find the type of speaking or context most similar – but still different enough – from normal speech that still worked. Once I could speak in that slightly different context, I would continue to close the gap between the different-context speech and normal speech until my neural pathways remapped. Well, that was my theory. But I’m no brain surgeon.

The day before yesterday, while helping on a homework assignment, I noticed I could speak perfectly in rhyme. Rhyme was a context I hadn’t considered. A poem isn’t singing and it isn’t regular talking. But for some reason the context is just different enough from normal speech that my brain handled it fine.

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.
Jack jumped over the candlestick.

I repeated it dozens of times, partly because I could. It was effortless, even though it was similar to regular speech. I enjoyed repeating it, hearing the sound of my own voice working almost flawlessly. I longed for that sound, and the memory of normal speech. Perhaps the rhyme took me back to my own childhood too. Or maybe it’s just plain catchy. I enjoyed repeating it more than I should have. Then something happened.

My brain remapped.

My speech returned.

Not 100%, but close, like a car starting up on a cold winter night. And so I talked that night. A lot. And all the next day. A few times I felt my voice slipping away, so I repeated the nursery rhyme and tuned it back in. By the following night my voice was almost completely normal.

When I say my brain remapped, that’s the best description I have. During the worst of my voice problems, I would know in advance that I couldn’t get a word out. It was if I could feel the lack of connection between my brain and my vocal cords. But suddenly, yesterday, I felt the connection again. It wasn’t just being able to speak, it was KNOWING how. The knowing returned.

I still don’t know if this is permanent. But I do know that for one day I got to speak normally. And this is one of the happiest days of my life.

But enough about me. Leave me a comment telling me the happiest moment of YOUR life. Keep it brief. Only good news today. I don’t want to hear anything else.

Categories
Web

The Crazy Stories

Scott Adams invited people to tell their most amazing personal story. Here’s what he got..
Update! Scott responds with some stories of his own. Is San Francisco that dangerous or was it just the ’80s?