Archives for September 2005
Friday, September 30, 2005

So, is everything figured out already?

A little late to the party but I'm now a member of the Identity Gang. So, am I too late? Is everything figured out already?

30/09/2005 10:36 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Genesis2.0

My blogging CEO Graham Sadd has written a great post about where our company, PAOGA, came from and why it's important to us. PAOGA has a big vision which can sometimes seem overwhelming when you are still taking the baby steps that are necessary to make it happen. But it's a vision about people and what's of value to people and, true to Graham's form, it starts with a glass wine in the garden!

29/09/2005 15:57 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

MacOSX on Rails

Any MacOSX users that want to give RubyOnRails a try might want to check out Ryan Raaum's Locomotive package. It's kind of a 1-click deal for Rails that includes Ruby, Rails, useful libs, and the SQLLite database (it also includes MySQL and Postgresql bindings if you have those already). I'm setup already but it looks kinda cool.

29/09/2005 15:04 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Griping about Interface Builder

At the risk of becoming a proper gripe monkey how the hell do MacOS X developers get any work done!?!

Interface Builder seems like a buggy piece of crap to me. Latest example: Whenever I use the

Test Interface
option, after I exit the scaffolding application, I end up with it's application menu embedded in the Interface Builder menu (only without a label) and, shortly thereafter, Interface Builder crashes. It's at Version 2.5 for goodness sake, you don't expect this kind of bug in a piece of software that's, what?, 3 years old!

25/09/2005 11:05 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Display resolution gripe

Since I seem to be grousing about MacOSX glitches at the moment let me add another: Why is it that MacOSX keeps intermittently choosing the wrong resolution for my 2nd display, no matter how many times I correct it?

I have a ViewSonic VE702m 17" LCD monitor connected to my PowerBook and the PowerBook knows this (the Displays System Preference correctly identify the monitor model). It shows me all the right resolutions and yet, about every 5th or 6th time I hook it up it chooses 1024x768 instead of the native 1280x1024 resolution.

It's the work of a few moments to correct it but it bugs me a little more each time it happens.

24/09/2005 12:05 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Serve the public good

I was doing a silly political test I came across via Dave Winers blog, I come out Libertarian but if you've read this blog any length of time you'd probably expect that by now. That's not why I'm writing this.

At the end of the questions they ask you for a law you would enact, no matter how stupid or Draconian. I thought about this for a minute and came up with the following:

Every year 2% of the governing class, selected publically and at random, would be either: thrown in jail for a year on trumped up charges, made to teach high-school (in an inner city) for a year, forced to be a janitor in a public hospital for a year, made to serve in the front-line infantry for a year, or made redundant and blacklisted for a year.
Serving one of these would not preclude you from being choosen again in the future although perhaps not in successive years.

If you want to be a public servant then you must be willing to prove it by going there first.

24/09/2005 11:45 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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4452 reasons to feel sad

l.m. has commented on my recent statement that I am unable to keep up with the rubyonrails mailling list (I'm up to 4452 unread threads):

The common thread I’ve seen between both of these–and other bloggers expressing similar sentiments–is a vague sort of guilt over “missing something”
But it's actually not quite that.

I don't feel guilty that I can't keep up. What I actually feel is a sadness that I not only can't keep up with the leading edge of the Rails community, but that I can't keep up with the mainstream either. That means I am less and less likely to be able to make a lasting contribution to that community and that makes me sad.

24/09/2005 11:19 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Well, it was mostly awful

I have to share this little gem from the IRC quotes database:

xyzzy314: i got some rare footage of houdini getting locked out of his car
Most of these quotes are purile rubbish but this one makes me chuckle every time I see it and, thus, I persevere.

24/09/2005 10:50 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Friday, September 23, 2005

How sick is my Dock?

I've just noticed in my console log an awful lot of messages along the lines of:

Sep 23 12:31:20 Irulan crashdump[14331]: Dock crashed
Dock[14333]: Welcome to the WSX:Carbon
Sep 23 12:31:22 Irulan crashdump[14331]: crash report written to: /Users/matt/Library/Logs/CrashReporter/Dock.crash.log
Hrmm... when I go check it out my Dock.crash.log is over 2MB (since July when I got the PB). That seems pretty big for a file just containing Dock crash info. The error always seems to be the same:
Exception: EXC_BAD_ACCESS (0x0001)
Codes: KERN_PROTECTION_FAILURE (0x0002) at 0x00000000
and there are a lot of them, sometimes only a few seconds apart. Is the Dock really that buggy?

If it weren't for the fact that the crashes seemed to start from day#1 I'd wonder if it's because I was musing about completely replacing it with Quicksilver?

23/09/2005 18:48 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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You gotta have a dream

I've always been a bit of a dreamer... well, check that, a lot of a dreamer. It was a frequent comment of teachers when I was a young 'un. Anybody's whose spent more than half a bottle of wine with me has probably heard about The Pyramid. That's an

if I was fabulously wealthy I would...
dream I've had for at least five or six years but I won't go into that here. Today I add a new dream: I want to start a commercial Airship company.

If you've been listening to Radio 4 in the mornings you've probably heard about new reports which reflect a growing concern about the environmental effects of mass jet travel. The news isn't good. In my ignorance bringing air travel into Carbon trading programmes sounds like an excellent idea because, although it willl push up the cost (since I don't think all other industries are going to go Carbon neutral just so EasyJet can pollute at will), it will also put more pressure on airlines, and hence manufacturers, to innovate and come up with less polluting solutions.

I'm not sure it's true but my guess is that an airship needs less powerful engines since it is already buoyant. I think also that if you aren't in such a rush you can use less powerful, but more efficient engines. I'm guessing but I think airships could be a more environmentally friendly way to travel.

But what really drives this dream is a vision of looking down on Manhattan from my stateroom as we glide in to dock (think wood panelling, velvet upholstery, and a cuban cigar).

And no Paolo, my flagship won't be called the Led Zeppelin!

23/09/2005 13:58 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

What's the matter Safari?

Well now this is annoying. For some reason Safari has stopped opening pages in a new tab when I Cmd-click links... what could be the matter with it?

23/09/2005 11:28 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Another reason to love Ruby

RubyCon is a toolkit for building concept processing and other intelligent reasoning systems. A brief glance suggests similarities with Cyc which I have looked at before.

An interesting comparison is that RubyCon claims 170,000 concepts whilst OpenCyc (Cyc's open source cousin) claims 36,000. I wonder whether I'm comparing apples with apples and what the significance is?

Well, whatever, RubyCon looks very interesting and the Ruby interface is a compelling feature.

23/09/2005 11:16 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Onetel, no doorstep

In the last 24hrs I've had two individuals from Onetel come to my door. The one who turned up last night (some time past 6.30) was downright rude and I had to shut the door on him. The other, just now, well i'm not sure what it was but I found his manner off-putting. I also didn't like the way he seemed to be trying to gather information (although I admit that I am probably over-sensitive to this kind of thing). Based upon their doorstep technique there is no way I'd do business with this company.

22/09/2005 17:01 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Go West, Young Man!

Does anyone know where I can buy a compass (and not spend the earth)? I'm completely clueless in and around London, even with an A-Z sometimes. I know you can look at street signs but sometimes they're hard to find and, well, I'd rather feel like I knew where I was. My lecturer last week, Giovanni Moneta, was describing how he had the same experience in Paris and his solution was to use a compass to help him learn to navigate the city. It seems like an excellent idea to me.

Bonus marks if you can suggest somewhere around Tooting, Wimbledon, or Kingston.

22/09/2005 14:43 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's really desktop publishing innit..?

After going to Our Social World a couple of weeks ago my CEO, Graham, asked me to set-up a blog for him (he'd already asked me to go ahead and setup a company blog). He's an old hand in publishing and now adopting the new media pretty fast (today we talked Purple Cows). I predict Graham will podcast before I do ;-)

21/09/2005 15:36 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
Monday, September 19, 2005

It was a hard fight, and I lost

I've now reached 4,300 unread threads in the rubyonrails mailing list. I think I have to finally accept I'm never going to catch up...

19/09/2005 19:15 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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There has to be a last nail

After 3+ years of near-regular service Radio has now started issuing me warnings about damaged free lists in it's database. So far as I can see I've not lost anything but this kind of thing is just one more reason to get my act together and find a new blogging tool.

The main things which make me not want to think about this are:

  1. Migrating nearly 2000 posts
  2. No it's not that simple because I need to edit several hundred of them to fix my crappy HTML
  3. Breaking a shit load of permalinks
  4. Or duplicating Radio's all posts in a day with anchors funky permalinks
  5. Choosing what tool to use anyway damnit!

I need a de-inertia ray...

19/09/2005 16:57 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
Thursday, September 15, 2005

Going critical

This week has been a whole week of studying Research Methods in psychology. Much of it is basic statistics and I have vague memories from my degree. But the stats modules I did were over ten years ago, not well taught, and certainly of no interest to me then.

These days I am really interested in stats (god help me) and probability. It seems, more and more, that everything I am interested in is underpinned by fundamental uncertainties and only statistics and probability theory can rescue you and give you some hope of making headway.

15/09/2005 21:24 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Note to MySQL: please start at boot time

Something that is puzzling me is why MySQL doesn't start when my PowerBook starts. I have the MySQL prefs pane and it claims that MySQL should auto-start. Certainly I can start it manually from there. I'm guessing this is because the start up script is either missing or broken but I'm not sure where to go from this. Can anyone help me?

15/09/2005 21:21 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Act Without Doing

As time has gone by I guess I have become less and less enamoured of the Dock as a way of starting applications. I have quite a few and my Dock got cluttered. So I cut it down to my most regular apps which works great but then leaves me hunting about in Finder for the rest.

I've decided to give quicksilver a try. It does the launcher thing but, more than that, it's actions extension mechanism looks like it could be very powerful and the whole Wei Wu Wei philosophy appeals to me.

I'll have to see how I take to it.

15/09/2005 21:16 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Outlines and smart guides and Beziers, oh my!

Omnigroup software have finally released OmniGraffle 4 and Woo hoo! I get a free upgrade from v3.

I love Graffle for being the first diagram drawing tool that I've been able to just sit down and use and, critically, the results look good. If, like me, you've found yourself wrestling with the likes of Visio you'll know how refreshing it is to come across a diagramming app for the rest of us.

14/09/2005 20:25 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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l.m. hacks RSS and Atom while you wait

l.m.orchard has written a book about hacking RSS and Atom. I'm doing a lot of stuff with RSS parsing at the moment (right now I'm experimenting with Lucas Carlson's excellent SimpleRSS parser) so I might go pick up a copy, even if he does use Python ;-)

14/09/2005 08:19 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Monday, September 12, 2005

Dial-a-lunatic

So Skype have been acquired for $2.6bn? I heard that their recent revenue was $7m. That gives them a P/E of about 371. What kind of crack are the ebay boys smoking? I've seen a couple of people talking about synergy between Skype and ebay. Sounds like a lot of post-fact justification and nonsense to me. The only rational analysis I've heard is ebay defending their patch by preventing other large communities offering auction services. If that's true this is the most expensive anti-pissing campaign on record. So if you're planning to join (or start) a VOIP company I'd do it soon. Equity is like a pyramid scheme, the big weasels cash out early and leave everying else in the shit. That time will be soon.

12/09/2005 23:15 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
Saturday, September 10, 2005

Everything is going according to plan

It was a stroke of genius in 2000 to rig the election and put George Bush in the Cheerleader in Chief role. Bush is mean-spirited, vindictive, greedy, incapable of feeling empathy, easily manipulated, desperate for attention – even adulation – and has no qualms with playing the God card for political gain. Americans are a forgiving people, and most accepted without question this worthless, former booze-and-drug sodden ne'er-do-well's claim that he was born again – a man of God. They loved him. All Cheney had to do was select himself as Number Two, slip behind the curtain, and the cabal – as they like to call themselves – was open for business, and waiting for a new Pearl Harbor.

...

It looks to me like everything is going according to plan. Chaos, like everything else, is just a matter of perspective. Few people really know anything about the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), except it's a name that's thrown around a lot during times of national disaster. Do not think for one minute that Bush "gutted" FEMA by placing it under the control of Homeland Security czar Michael Chertoff. By any other name, FEMA remains this nation's "secret government," with powers to suspend laws, move entire populations, arrest and detain citizens without a warrant, hold citizens without a trial, seize control of all transportation and communication systems and – suspend the US Constitution. [The Unconstitutional FEMA]]

Odd, this FEMA thing sounds very powerful, and yet look what it has achieved...

10/09/2005 21:45 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Muddy waters, eh, Holmes?

It's been a long day. Thursday night the gearbox in my car developed a problem so, today, my Dad and I took it to a garage. I await a conversation with them on Monday with no little trepidation. It took me 3 hours to get back home including 2 trains (one of which got diverted because of a fire), one tube, one bus, and a walk. Now i'm just glad to be at home with my cats, a large pizza, Sherlock Holmes and the House of Fear, and the sounds of thunder in the air.

10/09/2005 19:36 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Friday, September 09, 2005

Enabling conversations with your customers?

I'm here at the Our Social World conference in Cambridge. It was a bit tough having to be up at 5.30 to get here in time but the coffee and the wi-fi are hot which is nice.

They have an interesting set-up where everyone has been assigned to a table. Each table has a speaker, a blogger, a corporate, a media person, a web developer, etc... the idea being that each table becomes a mini-society. Not sure how great an idea this is but we'll see.

We're here because what PAOGA is doing is directly relevant to the idea of online society. Ownership of your identity and control of your personal information and how it is being used.

Ben Hammersley is rapping about the history of blogging as a development of the enlightenment, with the coffee shop revolution and the development of manners.

09/09/2005 10:01 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
Thursday, September 08, 2005

If I may presume

I was asked to contribute to a Publish.Com article, Five Reasons Technorati Is Broken (And How To Fix It), by Jason Boog that went live today.

Inevitably in such situations you write a lot of stuff which gets edited down to a few paragraphs that, when you're lucky, represent some aspect or other of your thinking. In this case the brokenness of Technorati isn't that interesting to me because it's not a service I use. What is interesting is the opportunities that may be before Technorati to deliver an altogether different kind of service. Whether those are real opportunities or not is hard to say right now, but I feel it's worth exploring the topic.

In the article Jason quotes me as being against popularity contests (which I am) and, instead, interested in finding the blogs nobody knows about (which, strictly speaking, I am not). As Terry Frazier and I have discussed on several occasions: it's not being unknown that counts, it's being relevant. What I want to know about and track are blogs I don't about which are, nevertheless, relevant to me. I just don't think Technorati are doing that. Could they?

Taking it to the next level Martin and I are looking at what lies underneath relevance. We think it's values. So we're working on bringing value to the process too.

Anyway, I spent some little time thinking about what I wanted to say and, with Jasons permission, am posting here both his questions to me, and my answers:

1- Could you define "Leaderboardism" and how it relates to Technorati? It's my favorite term to come out of this whole Technorati debate...

Leaderboardism is, in my opinion, a misguided obsession with blog popularity rankings. Knowing about links into my posts is useful, it helps me understand what is going on around things I talk about, but it doesn't scale from there to the blogosphere. We all know by now that 'boing boing' is the most linked weblog in the world, so what?

I don't read most of the "top 100" because they're not interesting to me. I want a heads up on new blogs which are interesting to me, i.e. the other end of the spectrum from the 'boing boing's of this world. Why do I only come across them by chance? And how can we change that? Tagging is a part of the answer but naive solutions like Technorati Tags just end up creating an even bigger mess.

My view, since about May 2002 when I wrote a post "Village shops in BlogSpace" (http://matt.blogs.it/2002/05/31.html#a63), is that we need to get at the meanings, for individuals, of what's going on in the world. Make the Blogosphere revolve around the individual not the other way around.

My original intention had been to create a service which would "understand" the meanings underlying what people wrote and to use this as a way of match-making bloggers who didn't know each other yet but who *should* know each other. Through this process I hoped to form (and reform) fluid communities of bloggers with common interests.

However the technology wasn't up to the challenge. So instead I started to look at ways in which bloggers themselves could tell us about what they were interested in. I wrote a tool, liveTopics, and started adding topics to my blog posts around June or July of 2002. Unfortunately I hadn't even begun to realise how much I had underestimated the challenges involved.

2- If Technorati hired you tomorrow to "make their database relevant to each individual," what would you do?

I'd start with a recipe along the lines of:

  1. We want relevance to the individual => we need to understand what is relevant to the indivudal, so
  2. Allow individuals with an account to register their interests (either directly or indirectly through their writing)
  3. Develop relevance metrics for blogs with respect to tags
  4. Cluster both sets
  5. Experiment with relating clusters from each set together

This is kind of mixing my vision of a service with what I know about Technorati today and may not work really well. In my original vision strong clusters could be named you could then begin to offer services to the people attracted to them.

3- Terry Fraizer's blog mentioned that you helped develop some tagging and blogging tools. Could you give me a brief rundown of that work experience, and tell me how many years you've been working on the problem of organizing text sensibly on the Internet?

It started as I was deploying Livelink, a big knowledge management package. It was powerful software but, at the same time, something was missing. Then I spent some time working in software development and came across the eXtreme Programming ethodology. When I startedblogging and saw what was possible when anyone can write for themselves it just felt right. It occurred to me that traditional KM had become detached from the needs of individuals and I evolved a kind of "eXtreme Knowledge Management" philosophy to combat that. From that point, mid-2002, onwards I've been building tools to try and address this.

I wrote liveTopics for the Radio Userland blogging platform. This was used by quite a few people (e.g. Lilia Effimova http://blog.mathemagenic.com/) but was ahead of it's time and, frankly, on the wrong blogging platform. Radio was dying (though I didn't realise it at the time). I went on from there to co-author K-Collector at Evectors (http://www.evectors.com/). K-Collector was much close to my vision. It was a combined blogging platform and aggregator we released in 2003 which allowed a group (e.g. a team) to collaborate using blog posts, topics, and relationships. We did quite a bit of work on developing a simple topic model which gave more ability to express meaningful relationships.

I left Evectors in July'04 and now work for a company in the privacy and identity managament space. However I also study part-time for a postgraduate diploma in psychology and am very interested in Social Psychology and the Psychology of Personality. As part of my study I am working with Dr. Martin Hall (http://www.drmartinhall.com/) on a project to understand more about how people express their value systems through blogging.

This is where I think the next break through will occur. People need information but, underneath it, they want meaning. The joy of weblogs is making that connection with other people. When you first shake hands with someone whose blog you've been reading you aren't meeting for the first time. You've already had a meeting of minds and know a lot about what makes each other tick. You share interests but you also share values. We gravitate towards the things we think are "good". Martin and I are working on bringing more of that to the blogosphere.

4-Is there anything else you want to add about problems with Technorati?

I think I've already said publically what I think is 'wrong' with Technorati from my perspective so I would just like to add one caveat. I don't know David Sifry but he seems like a smart guy and he has smart people like Kevin Marks, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger around him. I don't see what I believe to be important reflected in the Technorati business model but, for all that, David is the guy actually out there running a service.

08/09/2005 17:03 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

So it's a social world after all

At the last minute it looks like I will be attending Our Social World tomorrow in Cambridge. Some old faces, some new. The best part is that it was my CEO who has suggested I go along with him!

08/09/2005 13:12 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Fine but none of that whole-grain goat food!

The goat in the gray fedora is a neat little (Fash based?) game noir that I discovered through Wonderland. It's got some good humour and I encourage you to play at least as far as escaping the warehouse.

06/09/2005 14:28 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Getting your logging fix JS style

Javascript logging looks handy.

06/09/2005 10:40 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Monday, September 05, 2005

Say no to funding tax parasites

I was reflecting today on how London Metropolitan University is run. Anyone who has spent much time there knows that it is run by and for the benefit of University management. Staff come a poor second and students (if at all) a distant third.

As an example of the level of incompetence you will find at London Metropolitan consider that today I still don't have confirmed results for either of the modules I sat exams for in May of this year! And we're already a week past the date of resits!

I was told, when I asked, that I should take a day off work to make myself available for a resit if I thought I might have to take one. Pardon me? Besides my fury at getting such a glib response I thought one of the few things you could reasonably expect your University to do was grade you and tell you if you passed or failed. Clearly my mistake.

You don't have to hang around long to get a feel for the shocking disregard in which students are held. Reading the following just brought it sharply into focus for me:

The public sector succeeds at what its real aim is, which is to live off the bounty produced by those outside the public sector. The growth of the public sector in the U.S. and other countries shows just how successful tax parasites can be. Having worked for a public university that is somewhere between 25 and 50 percent funded by the State of New York, I can vouch for the parallel between working for the U.S. post office and working for a university. Those of you who have attended universities will have encountered the unresponsiveness of the professors to the students. Unfortunately, nearly all private universities also dip liberally into the public treasury via subsidies for research distributed by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health. [ Privatize the Levees and the Public Sector -- Michael S. Rozeff ]

I think public funding of Universities should end because it breeds institutions with no regard for their raison d'etre. As a first step I think we should give the money to students and let them pay the University, or not, as they see fit. If they don't spend it on a degree then maybe they'll use it to start a business or do something else worthwhile.

I for one will enjoy watching as a lot of bad universities go to the wall. Good riddance to them and those who mismanage them for their own ends.

05/09/2005 15:08 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
Sunday, September 04, 2005

Designs for Thinking

Has anyone come across David Hyerle and his Thinking Maps research?

04/09/2005 21:30 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Friday, September 02, 2005

Calling Katrina

Phil has a practical suggestion at Skype Journal for how to help Katrina victims. Communications is a problem and people being able to use SkypeOut to call home (via volunteers) can really help, but they need SkypeOut minutes.

I went to my Skype account to try and see how to donate minutes but I can't see an option for it.

Phil: How do we donate Skype minutes? And who do we donate them to?

02/09/2005 11:16 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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