Confessions Of A Public Speaker

At FOSDEM, I was given a copy of “Confessions of a Public Speaker” by Scott Berkun (thanks, Josette!).

It’s an story-filled ramble through the life of someone who talks for a living. It was an entertaining read, although it could perhaps have done with more summarizing of the material, as when I reached the end I realised that I would have to re-read it if I wanted to make a list of things to change about my own speaking style and habits. But I was very pleased to see him call the Logitech Cordless Presenter, which I own[0], “the Cadillac of remote controls”. The man has good taste.

Oh, and there’s a story from me in the “You can’t do worse than this” section :-)

[0] OK, OK. On gandalf’s recommendation.

“Content? What’s That?” Awards

I visited a site linked from Slashdot today, which was an article (press release) about a new “open” mobile phone. The thing that amazed me was the small percentage of the initially-visible browser window devoted to actual useful content. 9.08%, by my calculations. And I have a 1280×1024 screen.

Earth Times website with lots of ads

So I hereby inaugurate the 2010 “Content? What’s That?” Awards. Find a website page with as small a percentage of the page devoted to content as possible, post a screenshot on your blog with the content highlighted in red, as above, and the percentage calculated, and link to it here. Lowest percentage wins.


  • Sites must be family-friendly.
  • Page must actually have some content – those typo-squatted all-ads domains don’t count.
  • Analysis is made on the first visible page section only. Yes, people have different display sizes. In case of dispute, I’ll make a final judgement on my display.
  • Please post screenshots stripped of browser chrome. You may also want to shrink them 50%.
  • Headlines count as content. Metadata, intra-site links and ads do not.
  • Whitespace does not count as content. Exception: whitespace within content, e.g. paragraph breaks and space were a headline would go if it were longer, do count.
  • Yes, almost no website would ever score 100%.That’s OK.

Let’s see if this works :-)

My Pledge Sends Mapper to Antigua

When Google launched their Map Maker community mapping tool last year, they included loads of Caribbean islands. This led Ed Parsons (chief Google Maps guy) to make a comment at State of the Map (the OSM conference) in Limerick that he was sad there wasn’t any fieldwork involved.

This off-the-cuff suggestion, and a spirit of friendly competition, caused me to set up a pledge on the PledgeBank website. People pledged to improve OpenStreetMap’s coverage in the Caribbean themselves by tracing over available aerial imagery, and to donate £10 each towards sending one lucky mapper on just such a field trip.

74 people, including Ed Parsons himself, signed the pledge, raising £740 to fund the expedition. One name from the pledgelist was chosen by a verifiable random process – Steve Chilton from Middlesex University, UK, who happens to be a professional cartographer. So he gets to go to Antigua and add road names and points of interest to the map :-)

As a great man once said, “I love it when a plan comes together” :-)

Information, Free To Good Home

Via an old post on BoingBoing, I just came across the AirPower wiki, which lists the locations of power outlets in airports. Very handy. However, the wiki software used doesn’t require logins, so it has been vandalised hundreds of times over the past few years.

I’ve restored one of the last known good versions, but I don’t expect it to last. Does anyone know anywhere appropriate that this information could live where it would be protected, loved, cherished and maintained?

I Speak English

facebook.pngNo, Facebook, I do not speak “English (UK)”. I speak English, the language of England (the clue is in the name). Please add the awkward qualifying verbal appendages to the description of your own, derivative dialect. :-P

Twitter Problems

I may be the last to notice this, but: Twitter – the web command line?

However, I can’t try these things out because I’ve forgotten my twitter password. I ask for a password reset email but one never arrives. I’ve been trying for the past six weeks, so it’s not just Twitter flakiness. My help ticket has gone unanswered.

I know I definitely have an account and I know I’m using the right email address.

Anyone any ideas? What do I do?

Male Interests

Imagine for a moment what a Martian student would think if he took a trip to earth to research an essay on ‘Men – what are they and what makes them tick?‘ What do we look like from the outside? What conclusions might be reach about us as a whole?

He might drop in to a local newsagent before doing some observational field research to look at some of the things men are interested in reading about. A quick trawl through the shelves for men reveals a complex variety of subjects. Men, it would seem, are interested in sex, cars, sex, computers, sex, body building, more sex and clothes… and did I mention sex?

But dig a little deeper, and the magazines would tell him that the only reason that men are interested in cars, body building and clothes is so that they can have more… you guessed it… sex!

I’m not quite sure where computers fit in.

— Tim Thornborough, in chapter 2 of Man to Man… about God.

Amazon Marketplace Margins

I recently bought an item from Amazon Marketplace. The seller sent me a hand-written confirmation dispatch email, which happened also to forward me the email Amazon sent them. From it, it was clear that Amazon’s cut for Marketplace sales, at least of books, is 15% of the total price, or 20% of the price before shipping. (With only one data point, I can’t tell which.)

Just thinking about the sort of volumes they must do, and the tiny amount of actual computing resources it takes to make such a sale once the system is set up, I suspect they are making what is technically known as a boatload of money.

What Is It With…

[Number 1 in an occasional series]

…people who create pledges on Pledgebank for things that they are clearly going to do anyway even if no-one else signs up?

“I will only buy food Produced in the uk to help our Economy and jobs but only if 100 other people will do the same.”

“I will buy a Dignity. Period! wristband to support the campaign for access to sanitary products for women in Zimbabwe but only if 50 other people will do the same.”

“I will donate $100 [to Dennis Kucinich’s campaign for President] but only if 100 other people will do the same.”

Facebook Image-to-Email

Does it annoy anyone else that on Facebook profiles, the email address is an image? This can’t be an anti-spam measure; only your friends can see it. It has to be to put a barrier up to stop you from using real email rather than Facebook’s poor excuse for it.

However, I think it would be a Simple Matter of Programming to write a Firefox extension which fixed the problem. The font they use is standard, and the images are PNG. The extension would:

  • Find each email address image
  • Use canvas.drawImage() to draw it to a <canvas>
  • Use canvas.getImageData() to read vertical strips of pixels
  • Compare the pixel values to an internal table of the possible characters
  • Remove the image from the DOM and replace it with a clickable mailto: link

It’s a proportional font, so you’d need a loop to keep reading single pixel strips until it was clear what letter it was, and then advancing the correct remaining number of strips to move to the next letter. But that’s a trivial detail.

Anyone up for writing this?