Archives for June 2007

No aunt could nag you as much

I setup Parallels with Windows XP last night. All those peevish things I've said about MacOSX lately... all forgiven. How did I ever use this crap? After five minutes of insessant pop ups from the status bar about devices, or unused icons, or heaven knows what I was ready to kill. I also got my first look at Vista yesterday. Roll on Leopard.

25/06/2007 08:24 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
More about:

Expectations of readership

Both Chris and Phil have argued for having comments. From Chris (in a comment):

People's own blogs are their own spaces, and sometimes we comment in other people's blogs because we don't want to talk about it in our own space.

From Phil (also in a comment):

I'm very interested in fly fishing, and I've been doing it for years, and you'd probably be interested in my comments about your problem with calf-tail wings rolling around the hook, assuming that you feel that your readers are interested in tying problems with Wulff-style wings and so you post about them, but I have absolutely no reason to think that I have readers who are interested in it, so I'm not going to post my tips to my weblog.

Both of these arguments seem to rest on what I would call "the expectations of my readership." I think it's interesting that neither Chris, nor Phil, have posted about this on their own weblog so their readership is to all intents and purposes oblivious to this meta-argument about their tastes and cannot react themselves. This seems to me yet another example of why I don't like comments.

An aspect of this argument appears to be to do with separating that with which we have expertise and that with which we have interest. To take Phil's example one would assume that if he were interested in tying flies he might have written about it already. The example presumes that he is an expert with little interest in communicating his expertise except in narrow bursts. He wants to "shield" his readership.

Chris' argument seems to me to hinge on a view he has of his weblog as "being about something" as if it were a text book and his publisher might turn him down if he litters it with too many off-topic references. Chris is the published author among us so I'll leave it to him to respond whether the pain of that process might have coloured his thinking.

I think this conversation would be illuminated with some real world examples of this argument. Can you highlight some real instances in which you wanted to leave a comment you thought was valuable but couldn't and then didn't write a post about it on your own weblog?

23/06/2007 10:47 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

What do you do with a problem like conversation?

I've pondered several times giving up comments. Most recently in the last couple of days over the "breakthroughs are social" conversation which started on Terry Frazier's blog and has carried on through some posts of mine, a post from Flemming, and some comments by Flemming, and Chris and possibly other comments and posts I am not aware of.

Flemming sums up some of the difficulties inherent in blogversation:

There's a bit of a lack of a mechanism that ties these things together. A way of making blog postings and comments part of a conversation, even though it happens in several places. Could be simply a tag, I suppose, although you might easily get a lot of other things mixed into it, unless you make a very specific tag. And you'd have to count on that there's some service that picks up everything with that tag, which doesn't quite happen. Technorati will pick up posts on your front page and their tags, but is not going to pick up comments, and is not going to notice if you add new tags to older postings.

Comments are useful in that they are immediate. Certain things can only really be done in a comment, for example Phil Ringnalda responded to my prior anti-comment screed as follows:

I've got house guests this week, whose only reference for Charger is what puts electricity into their cellphones and laptops. If we're going to talk about how to get your Charger running without a three hour intro to what it is, why we're interested in it, and why you don't just replace it with a Lexus, we're going to have to do it in your backyard, not mine.

It seems that the issue here is that a post is often the context for a short response situated in a (potentially) complex situation. But I wonder is this really a problem?

I write a post about my Charger being bust and you respond on your blog with a link to my post and a comment about manifolds and sprockets and why Lexus is no better then isn't the required context available in the link. The link says "For more info, go here". If you're not interested you move on.

Phil was your problem that you don't want your backyard cluttered with your response about Chargers at all?

Then there are the technical problems: Comment spam, broken trackback, Technorati is unreliable, some people have no blog. Are these insurmountable? Flemming suggests a special type of link. I remember Steve Yost doing some work around this with QuickTopic. Then there is coComment which I tried briefly when it launched. It didn't make a big impression on me at the time. Does anyone use it?

One of the values of blogging for me is being able to have the kinds of conversations that I can't have at home (my cats always bring the conversation back to food) with people I don't meet day-to-day. I don't want to shut conversation down, that's not why I dislike comments, but to help it expand.

What are we to do?

22/06/2007 09:52 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Where the future meets the past with style

Paolo wonders what other people think of Italy. My experience of Italy is pretty much my experience of being friends with Paolo so I guess I'd have to say I think Italy is great. It is perhaps no surprise that Italians find it hardest to see their best points. That which is commonly good becauses simply commonplace while that which is commonly felt negative becomes a thorn in the side and a source of self-consciousness.

What struck me most about Italy was not the great food (and it is great, olives notwithstanding), the great coffee (my Bialetti is still going strong on it's 2nd o-ring), nor the good company but the way that the old and new blended so seamlessly and with style. Here was Paolo living in a sleepy little town in northern Italy, yet running a high-tech business. When we launched K-Collector (which now has a new incarnation) we were not looking over our shoulders but toward the future.

We might spend the morning working on the application code before going to a nice restaurant for lunch then taking a leisurely stroll into town through a wall built (if memory serves) by the great Leonardo, to have a relaxing coffee in the town square. This was not special, this was daily life. So that's what I think of Italy, it is a country where work is a part of living the good life, not an alternative to it.

21/06/2007 13:37 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
More about:

Are we ever truly alone?

Just musing about isolation which I referred to earlier and wondering "Are we ever really alone?" What I mean is that neuroscience suggests that we have two brains, operating independently but in close communication with each other. We think we know this because of experiments performed on subjects with brain disorders (for example those who have had the corpus callosum surgically severed).

When I first read about this it raised interesting questions for me about what it means to be "me". For example you read about such experiments where, when asked to pick up an object, one brain will try and countermand what it sees as a mistake on the part of the other. Who is picking this thing up exactly?

So are "we" truly alone? Or really two individuals living in one vessel?

Perhaps if our left and right brains were able to communicate more effectively we might never truly feel alone or isolated.

Well I did say I was just musing.

21/06/2007 11:56 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
More about:

That's good, I needed a REST

My copy of RESTful Web Services has turned up. Nothing terribly exciting or mind blowing in chapter 1 or my skim of chapters 2 and 3 but I wasn't joined at the hip with SOAP so I didn't need much persuading of the merits of REST vs RPC.

I've skipped to Chapter 4 where we start talking about Resource Oriented Architecture. I've played with REST and resource based routing in a couple of recent Rails applications and, when I had quite a simple structure to model ( e.g. weblog -> articles ) and simple interactions ( e.g. create, update ) it all seemed to make sense. In my last project the relationships seemed more complex and had more activities which made it hard for me to intuitively map them to the REST approach. In the end it felt rather jumbled and I fell back on the familiar hybrid approach to get the job done. It was a little disappointing.

I'm hoping Richardson and Ruby's Resource Oriented Architecture can clear up my conceptually misunderstandings and provide me with clear & practical guidelines for designing complex applications in the future.

21/06/2007 09:40 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Why do I think breakthrough's are social?

I've written a couple of posts on the idea that making breakthroughs in your understanding is a social activity. Flemming has posted a response which I want to address:

But is that inherently social? I agree that more evolved social networking could be more likely to generate breakthroughs for individuals, breakthroughs in thinking or living. The availability of more social flows might give you an opportunity for being more in the flow. They might, but they won't necessarily. And it is not like it couldn't happen without. [Ed: my emphasis]

Well that's an interesting point. As I hinted in my second post my definition of social is quite broad encompassing the company of a good book. This is because, quite often, it is after reflecting upon some point in a book that I feel breakthrough thinking occurs. Then I tried to think about it the other way around. When have I had a breakthrough in complete isolation from others?

I can't think of a single example.

Now it is certainly true that I have a legendarily suspect memory so maybe I forget occasions where my breakthrough has come alone. But even if I think it has, how can I be sure? How can I tell when a breakthrough is my own pure and unique thought and not a growth from seeds planted by another? I think it would be very hard to be sure either way.

In psychological terms isolation, even for relatively short periods of time, seems to be bad for humans. Why should this be? What is innate about us that requires socialization even for basic functioning? From this is it unreasonable to think that higher thought, breakthrough thought, might be dependent upon socialization?

I think it would be interesting if we could identify situations in which breakthroughs occurred more and less frequently in terms of the individuals involved, the type of problem, and the quality of breakthrough.

For now though I am still leaning towards considering social interaction as being essential to my chances of breakthrough thought.

21/06/2007 09:00 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

It includes the stone age

Dear Verisign.

I was just reviewing the application to join the TLD Zone Access Program and I notice that you require that people download and print out PDF forms, fill them out in pen, and then FAX them back to you so that you can FAX a username and password back.

Can I just ask, are you the same Verisign that says about themselves:

Today, the world expects to gain access to voice and data services any time, anywhere, and on any device, and organizations are working hard to meet the rising demands of this "Any Era." VeriSign offers solutions that help organizations to deliver in the Any Era, and realize the maximum profit. It is towards that goal that we focus our company, our technology, our services, and our people.

?

If, in 2007, you are seriously trying to do business by FAX one can only assume that you really do mean "Any Era" including the electronic equivalent of the stone age!

Can I ask if you have a more modern way of registering available? Some people call it "The web", perhaps you've heard of it?

Sincerely.

Matt.

19/06/2007 13:38 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
More about:

A question before bed

Here's a question:

Do you own your own body. Yes, or no? And why?

18/06/2007 00:09 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
More about:

What does it mean when breakthrough's are social?

Just noticed that Paul Walk has picked up on my link to Terry Frazier's post about breakthrough's being social. Paul asks a good question:

So anyway, are we seeing and experiencing more frequent 'breakthroughs' in our thinking, as a result of our hand social contexts? In my case, I think... maybe.

For me breakthroughs often seem to be about context and perspective. What am I breaking through? It's often my own hide-bound notions and set-in-stone ways of thinking. The social dimension lends a wider context that allows me to jump the tracks and see my own ideas anew. I had a good example this evening where sharing an idea I have been thinking about with my good friend Max Blumberg, over a few beers. Max was enthusiastic and, in his reflections and contributions, cast the idea a new, considerably more ambitious, light.

Indeed pretty much my whole working experience leads me to believe that the social element is essential to realise my breakthroughs. But I guess that this does not have to be supplied by real, live, individuals. Quite often the trigger for a breakthrough will come to me from a book. Smails "Illusion & Reality" being a recent case in point.

17/06/2007 21:33 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

You don't vote for kings

Perhaps someone a little better versed in constitutional affairs can help me with this one:

  1. By what right is the Queen the UK Monarch?
  2. By what mechanism was I made a subject of the crown?
  3. Is there a document somewhere that makes this so?
  4. Where did I agree to this?
  5. If I did not agree, how can it be a legal contract? Can I challenge it in court?
  6. If it's not a contract what is it? How does it bind me? Can I challenge it in court?

I would be very keen for some help in finding the answer to these questions.

16/06/2007 22:40 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Kiva 2nd round

I just put another $100 into Kiva loans. So far, of the four original loans of $25, only 1 loan has paid back, the other three are still in progress. My original plan those many moons ago was to invest $100/Q. That didn't happen which is something of a shame since that's about what I spend on DVDs and books some months. But I figure you do what you can, when you can. I'm not going to beat myself up about it.

It's interesting to me how quickly things move on Kiva. Two of the businesses I funded this morning which were at less than 50% have got the full amount by this afternoon. A third was at $0/$1,000 (which is a pretty large loan by Kiva standards) when I read her profile. I put in $25 to get her started and there is already $325 raised from 11 investors.

One of the difficulties I find is in deciding between people to invest in. The stats say that I favour women in Africa working in the agricultural sector. Certainly when I look at some of the profiles of people in Central America their standard of life generally seems to much higher, it's hard not to prioritize people who seem to be right on the edge of survival. Central America then seems to me to be the "white middle class" of the micro-loans world, so I threw in one there just to balance it out.

I still love the idea of Kiva very much and intend to continue investing and see what happens.

16/06/2007 17:06 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
More about:

The further misery of domains

Some while ago I wrote a ngrams package for Ruby which i've used from time to time when I wanted to create english sounding nonwords (e.g. for making password). I use the ngram database in qnames to test for relative Englishness. Back when I wrote it I was messing with the idea of evolving names from ngram generated populations. That idea turned out not to work very well in practice although there may be other, better, approaches to solving it than the one I took.

Anyway I thought I would start firing 5-letter parsnips in batches of 30 at 000domains.com domain checker tool and see how many were free. To give you some idea of the pedigree of the parsnips in question here is a sample batch:

surav  accoi  boxil  actor
sholl  chlat  overo  spish
preco  patem  polte  grain
mongl  dider  anulc  unmal
alcad  breod  unsta  ethra
thrin  ategy  phica  uncoi
belat  prove akhoj  scall

Of these mongl.com, anulc.com, uncoi.com, and akhoj.com were still available but such gems as chlat.com, spish.com, unmai.com, breod.com, unsta.com, and polte.com were all snapped up already. I would, wouldn't you?

I decided to do a little study and tested 600 candidates. 91 were available meaning that approximately 85% of the samples tested were already registered (it's possibly I may have generated some samples more than once but I don't think it would happen often enough to skew things much). I've read somewhere that all the four letter domains are registered. Since I am generating only words that sound like English words (so not including things like xjqkw.com then) the underlying population of 5 letter names is probably less than 85% used by unless we want completely unpronouncable names this doesn't help us much. Effectively five letter domains are about to disappear.

For the sake of bad science I decided to run the same test with 6 letter names. Here the results are definitely better so long as we mean "less occupied" rather than "sounds good". Here is a sampler of the names I tested:

uncele  tetasm  tricri  sotion
juviti  spomoc  gairod  indedn
interi  grehom  flisen  pavish
baspin  meteri  oradae  steres
subica  gurgia  psedly  unklys
bessen  ascaln  repico  sterng
peable  rotica  coassi  torneo

Of this group there were 374 available of 600 candidates so the pool is only about 38% occupied.

For reference, of the domains that were available, I made a note of 2 of the 5-letter and 7 of the 6-letter choices however I'm not rushing to register any of them. Looks like we need a different strategy for this game.

16/06/2007 16:01 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
More about:

The misery of DNS

I've been trying to come up with a name for a new site and a DNS domain to go with it. Coming up with names is no problem, i've come up with scads of them. Finding a domain, on the other hand, is proving to be as much fun as persuading your cat that 5.30am is not the best time to eat breakfast. This is a problem that seems to get worse with each passing year and I begin to wonder what the hell will it be like in 5 years? In 10?

I see the .com registry as being somewhat akin to Google. There are other search engines but for most people what's important is to be in Google. There are other top-level domains, but you want the .com first and foremost, other domains are a luxury. I did dally with registering a corny .it domain but the Italian domain registration defeated me by insisting on knowing my fiscal code. I don't even tell the Inland Revenue that kind of secret.

Almost giving up on the idea of a name that has any relationship at all to the site I wrote a script last night to try and randomly generate names based on letter patterns. So, for example, to find a name like "Google", I can use a pattern:

CV21CV

Which means "Pick a random consonant followed by a random vowel. The next two characters are a repeat of character 2 followed by character 1 ( to form 'goog'). Then pick another consonant and vowel." Selection is randomized with biases from English letter frequencies and the resulting phrase is checked for Englishness by testing the last 3 trigrams to see if they occur in regular English speech (well, more or less) to weed out things like 'xju'. Here is some sample output for that pattern:

soosse      geegya      raarse      saaspe      noonmo      tootti      teetdo      tootri  
tiitli      soosti      reerdu      naanha      saasle      diidme      reerje      siisli  
raarra      tootro      boobbe      doodti      siisge      doodhu      raarto      reerye
tiitlo      moomhe      raarno      saasta      reerno      naanti      siista      deedbe
boobla      seesci      diidde      heehyo      seesya      reerne      saasle      neento
laalda      reerre      diidle      neenlo      teetke      noonni      keekla      niinhe
seesto      tootnu      feefti      naanto      noonpa      neenzi      seesye      teetta
booble      tootle      raarwe      teetne      tiithi      reerbe      tiitla      muumga
moomri      neenne      heehlo      neenna      seesya      siisno      cooche      tootle
leelwo      reerdu      peepni      raarto      heehre      foofle      pooppa      deedfe

What remains is to scan the list looking for anything resembling a good name.

Hey 'foofle.com' sounds fun, no that ones registered already (by Google apparently, makes sense I guess). What about 'booble.com' man even 'boobleheadgonewild.com' is taken. Then you try it with other patterns and, well, the scary thing that you find is that even really stupid names that you think couldn't possibly be registered turn out to have 35 even more stupid variations registered already.

At this rate I'll be lucky to end with exploding-egg-plant.com. Hold on, it's still available... Woo Hoo!

In case any of you at home fancy playing along here is my ruby script qnames.rb.

16/06/2007 10:31 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

One thing leads to another

On this day when we celebrate our victory in recapturing the Falkland Islands 25 years ago I was minded to wonder: If we had not fought, or had fought and lost, would we have been so quick to take part in invading Afghanistan or Iraq?

The real secret of the victory in the Falklands - as has been retold recently - was the vast quantity of aid we received from the US in terms of both equipment and intelligence. Then secretary of defence Caspar Weinberger (allegedly without President Reagan's formal authority) swung the Pentagon entirely behind supporting UK forces. I don't know if it would actually have been impossible for us to win alone but look how tough it was with their help.

Listening to the recording of a typically jingoistic Margaret Thatcher talking to the crowd outside Downing St. on the morning of the Falklands victory you might as well have gone back to V.E. day.

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country," when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
But Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!
[From 'Tommy' by Rudyard Kipling]

The middle east looks like a powder keg right now and we in Britain, by our staunch allegiance to our long time war partner the US, have played our part in making it so. But I have to wonder if, without that fanning of nationalistic flames 25 years ago and the allied debt to America, would we have been so quick to get involved in the first gulf war campaign? And again in Afghanistan? Iraq?

14/06/2007 09:14 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
More about:

Nobody gets the bananas

I'm reading Illusion & Reality (The meaning of anxiety) by David Smail and it's fascinating.

Even though I'm barely a third of the way through the book I keep hitting ideas or stories that speak to me and my experiences. These few paragraphs I am quoting on shyness are a case in point. I wouldn't consider myself an exceptionally shy person, e.g. to the extent of a loss of self or a feeling of having no personality, but I have felt many of the things that Smail describes in varying intensity. I do find large-scale social situations difficult. I am also learning that I am far from alone in how I feel.

The affliction of intuitive sensitivity is experienced most often in the form of shyness - the form, that is, of self-consciousness negatively valued in our culture. Not all kinds of shyness stem from this origin, but it does seem to be the case that many of those who experience shyness to an excruciating degree are at the same time people who are acutely aware of the emotional currents passing between themselves and others.

Very shy people people often have a kind of raw, flinching sensitivity to others, so that they approach them like cats testing the boundaries of their territory. The shy person's consciousness of self is nothing like that of the confident impression manager: the shy person is aware only of a painful inadequate, useless, negatively valued self, or even a complete lack of self ('I've got no personality'). In this respect, perhaps, shy people are close to the recognition of a truth which their more confident fellows have more successfully repressed, i.e. that in fact selves of the kind of which they so painfully feel the lack are mythical inventions of an objectifying culture.

But they are not on the whole able to articulate this truth nor to gain any comfort from it; instead, they are to be found standing in corners, aching with a sense of their own futility and uninterestingness to others, searching despairingly and vainly for the words that will introduce themselves to others as worthy of attention and acknowledgement, enviously wondering at the apparent smoothness and ease with which others seem to fill out their existence as forces to be reckoned with and confidently conduct their relations with each other.

At the same time, the shy person may secretly harbour a kind of arrogant contempt for the shallowness and boringness of the easy socializer he or she so bitterly envies, finding solace in the view that when social contacts do materialize in his or her world, they have at least got real depth and significance. But the all too familiar experience is for two shy people, at a party for example, to end up together in a corner, each embarrassed at the obviousness to the others around them of their pathetically settling for safety in mutual support, each secretly disgusted that they could not appeal to someone less like themselves.

It is hard to escape the objective culture, and thus not to experience shyness as a crippling affliction. Wherever he or she goes, the shy person feels positively magnified under the gaze of the Other, the inadequacies of self exposed even to the most fleeting glance and most casual encounter, and yet quite unable to abandon his or her intuitive sensitivity to social relations in order to join in the game of impression management.

This idea of "the objective culture" and our loss of subjectivity is a strong thread running through the book. What is interesting is that in my search for meaning I started out looking for "an objective perspective" on my life and the problems I faced. But I am learning that nobody else knows what it is like to be me, no more than anyone but Paris Hilton knows what it is like to be Paris Hilton. Our curse is that we think we do know; However I think that what we think of is an object we have co-created and to which we have attached many labels which are likely to be more significant to us than to them.

One of the interesting things about blogging is the ability to, in a relatively controlled setting, reveal something of ourselves. To share what it means to be us. I tend, with some few exceptions, not to talk very personally on my blog but I think my views on our society and how we relate to each other are, over time, quite discernible and form some kind of a reflection of my inner self, my ideas, and what is important to me.

But (and I do not intend to kiss & tell all here) there are murkier layers beneath and problems swimming in these deep pools. Given the way our culture works it is very easy for us to label ourselves and to be labeled. Given enough time we grow to own these labels and, in my turn, I guess I've just grown up believe that "this is essentially me." It's difficult but exciting to be challenged with the existential perspective that there are no essences, no spooks and that much of what troubles us comes, not from within, but from our interactions with the world around us.

This morning on Radio 4 I heard someone who, from what I could tell, was a lecturer in happiness describe the key to happiness as being "creating productive relationships". I can certainly attest to the notion that many of my happiest experiences have happened in the context of a relationship. A case in point would be the time that Paolo and I were designing K-Collector and I'm delighted to see that project is still going and morphing into new an exciting forms working with a financial newspaper.

However I also reflected that we are born into a world of systems that appear to us to be very inflexible, almost fixed, with no reason why. And we experience everything from subtle pressure to outright bullying and indoctrination to guide us towards what is normal. At lunch on Monday Euan told me how one of his daughters had asked him why she had to do homework. Euan being a fairly laid back chap and a student of Tom Hodgkinson was hard pressed to go with the party line.

This all starts well before we learn how to think, even assuming that we do learn. We end up perpetuating these systems without even knowing why they are as they are and people who question them may face hostility and abuse. It reminds me of a story I heard while studying psychology. If anyone knows the attribution (or that it's definitely apocryphal) I'd be grateful. It goes like this:

An experimenter put some gorillas in a cage and a bunch of bananas was hung from the top of the cage with a block underneath by which a gorilla might climb up to reach the bananas. Any time a gorilla would attempt to climb the block to reach the bananas the experimenter would turn a hose on the cage and soak them all. At some point the gorillas learned that if any of them attempted to reach the bananas they would get hosed down and so, any time one of them was overcome with the urge the others would beat the offender.

Once the principle was properly learned the experimenter switched one of the gorillas in the cage for a new gorilla that had not been witness to anything that had happened so far. This gorilla had no fear of the hose but, when it tried to reach the bananas, was restrained by the others. Eventually it too learned that the bananas were not for it. With this pattern established the experimenter continued slowly replacing the gorillas until none of the original gorillas in the experiment were left in the cage.

At this point the cage contains a group of gorillas who would beat up any of their number who attempted to reach the bananas yet none of them knew why they are doing it. None of these gorilla's have ever been hosed. They had merely learned that nobody gets the bananas!

I had another title in mind for this post but "nobody gets the bananas" was, on reflection, too good to pass up although it's sad to think that so much of our lives are spent trying to fit in with these bizarre systems in which we find ourselves and to give the impression that everything is fine and normal and, in doing so, oppress everyone else around us who, in their own private shame, may well be suffering similar distress.

I keep wondering: If one day we were unable to hide our inner selves, our inner feelings, and no longer able to create masks, not able to "manage impressions" what would happen? Would we all suddenly become sane?

13/06/2007 22:11 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Breakthroughs are social

I've been meaning to get around to this item from Terry Frazier about a talk he attended given by Lisa Haneberg:

Lisa's premise is that little things matter. She relates in terms of chaos theory and the Butterfly Effect, which is a little new-agey, but the analogies are for inspiration more than analysis. The main idea is that continual forward progress, even in tiny increments, builds velocity, and forward velocity leads to breakthroughs.

That gels with my experience. I think Joel Spolsky captured the idea very well in his fire and motion piece from a while back:

When I was an Israeli paratrooper a general stopped by to give us a little speech about strategy. In infantry battles, he told us, there is only one strategy: Fire and Motion. You move towards the enemy while firing your weapon. The firing forces him to keep his head down so he can't fire at you. (That's what the soldiers mean when they shout "cover me." It means, "fire at our enemy so he has to duck and can't fire at me while I run across this street, here." It works.) The motion allows you to conquer territory and get closer to your enemy, where your shots are much more likely to hit their target. If you're not moving, the enemy gets to decide what happens, which is not a good thing. If you're not firing, the enemy will fire at you, pinning you down.

Terry picked out two choice items from Lisa's talk:

  • Breakthroughs happen in a social context, If you aren't out actively promoting your goal or idea, discussing it regularly with friends, colleagues, and strangers and sharing your challenges, achievements, and objectives, you aren't going to make any breakthroughs.
  • Introverts, no matter how smart, rarely make breakthroughs, Breakthroughs do not happen in front of your face. They happen in the connections and gaps and networks that emerge from constant forward action and focus.

I think it was yesterdays conversations that reminded me about having this post on ice and how important the message is that you need to talk about what you're passionate about. I lost sight of that (again).

12/06/2007 16:38 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
More about:

To speak of many things

Two great conversations yesterday to brighten up my day.

First off I had lunch with Euan Semple and, over some very nice Thai food, caught up with what he's been doing. It appears the life of the super-star consultant agrees with him! I've been getting into existential psychology lately and we had an interesting discussion about that, psychology and the web, and how it changes us, and about tools that we might imagine to help us cope and make sense of it all. In many ways this harks back - with perhaps more clarity of purpose - to the sort of ideas that were driving me back when Paolo and I started to collaborate.

Then I got to have dinner at Carluccio's with John Hornbaker who, despite his mild mannered appearance, works out with the army, sails, and climbs mountains! We had a good chat about the world of startups and entrepreneurship, technology, karate (my favourite topic to bore conversation partners to death with), sailing, and your state of mind when you fall 25' down a mountainside and break your ankle.

12/06/2007 16:21 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

A slice of the action

Seems like SliceHost are the people to be with these days, at least for personal hosting, and at $20/mth for a 256mb VPS it's hard to argue with. I just bumped my pre-pay from 3 to 6 months and saw my wait time go from 5 weeks to 5 minutes. Looking forward to getting things running on my shiny new slice.

07/06/2007 17:20 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
More about:

Links for 07/06/2007

07/06/2007 10:03 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Today I have been mostly becoming... Orange

Today was the day of my first karate grading.

We had another pretty tough session under a senior instructor from half past eleven until one o'clock. That worked up quite a lather and everyone I saw was soaked in sweat. Then we had a break until one thirty when we had to go back to the hall for the grading itself. That's just long enough for all the sweat to go stone cold and make you feel like you're wearing a lead suit :-)

Fortunately the grading itself was over in a heartbeat, or so it seemed to us. One minute they were asking white belts to line-up and then we were up. I was in the first cohort and it was all pretty matter of fact... chudan punch five times, kick, and so on. Then on to the kata which I think was pretty fair on the day and my partner and I seemed quite natural on the kumite. A quick bow and shake hands with Sensei Cole and it was done. Easy ;-)

I'm really grateful to Sensei Richard Hughes. 9th Kyu (Orange belt) may be a pretty small step up the Shotokan ladder yet I feel I have come quite a far in the last three months and I feel much is owed to the atmosphere Richard creates in his class. I may feel awkward, but never out of place.

03/06/2007 20:19 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
More about: