Twitter Fears Confirmed

So, inspired by the comment by Mulluane I finally devoted some time to looking for Twitter tools. I think Mulluane is using TwitKit, but my friend Mr. Google took me to this article, on the basis of which I think I am going to try twhirl.

Why? Because twhirl happens to include a search function. So I did a quick search for @CherylMorgan and, lo and behold, I found people Twittering away at me and wondering why I hadn’t acknowledged them. With twhirl it looks like I can find them and respond without having to follow their entire tweet stream. This would be very good.

Next I need to set up a Google Alert for @CherylMorgan. And no, that is not ego-scanning. It is looking for people trying to get my attention.

Cool Software

Basically we all need this stuff available on the heads-up displays of our wearable computers:

An image-recognition system developed by European researchers can hyperlink reality. It’s true. The MOBVIS system can recognise individual buildings in a photo you take with your camera-phone. Then it can apply icons that hyperlink to information about the building. Simply by looking at a picture, the system knows where you are and can tell what you are looking at.

If nothing else, I want this stuff in museums.

Options for LJ Refugees

I see from LiveJournal that a mass panic is going on following a substantial numbers of layoffs at the LJ offices in San Francisco. Personally I can’t see LJ going away. They still have their Russian operation, which is the head office, but I guess they may be less responsive to English-language customers in future.

Anyway, if you are looking for a new place to blog, one of the easiest options is to sign up at WordPress.com. You’ll get a free blog with vastly more functionality than LJ, and better free themes as well. The free blogs do have some ads, and a wordpress.com address, but if those things irk you then there are premium account features available. Alternatively, if you are web-savvy and already have a site of your own, you can download the software for free and manage your own blog.

I’ve been using WordPress for several years, and I’m very happy with it. If you have any questions about it, please ask.

WordPress 2.7

So far so mixed. This site is now upgraded and appears to be working fine, though I haven’t done anything to enable the new threaded comment system. Emboldened by that, I tried another site that I manage, and it was a complete train wreck. Fortunately I take backups, but I’m not going to have to test every site offline before knowing if it is safe to upgrade. Also as the admin interface is very different I need to give Kevin a chance to check it out before upgrading any of the SFSFC stuff.

Oh, and I’ve uninstalled Zemanta because it keeps putting itself back at the top of the right hand side bar after I have moved it down. Very naughty of it.

We Have The Technology

So, because I am an incurable geek, I now have my latest tweets showing up in the sidebar on this blog, and I can generate a tweet every time I make a blog entry. I haven’t yet turned on the tweet digest in the blog feature because it is still apparently experimental, but I might do if the twittery stuff turns out to be fun. All this good stuff is courtesy of Alex King who is something of a WordPress guru.

Now I get to find out what the notification tweets look like…

Just Like Us

Not many of my readers work in derivatives, I suspect, but a lot of you work in computer programming, and I think that this blog post from The Economist may resonate with you. The blogger is talking about how “quants” (people with top skills in esoteric math such as theoretical physicists) devised various complex financial instruments, but were back office staff and were not responsible for how they were used. That job fell to the sales suits in the front office, who didn’t have much idea how these things actually worked. Sound familiar? So now you have a good idea why we are in this mess.

As some of the commenters point out, many of the instruments were not that complex in and of themselves. It was what people did with them that was the problem. In software we have learned by painful experience that new releases need to be tested, often in extreme conditions. Too many banks appear to have had the equivalent of poor testing procedures that were more geared to getting the product out of the door than finding out whether it was bug free.

WordCamp

So, that was a bust. By the time I got to the convention center it was 12:30. Signage was pretty much non-existent, but I found Registration because a) it looked exactly like a Registration table and b) the girls behind it were wearing WordCamp t-shirts. Somehow they hadn’t managed to print a badge for me, even though I’d been registered since Tuesday, but at least they had my name on the printed list. They also had a program. And as it turned out two of the four sessions I wanted to see had already happened, and the other two were not scheduled until after I had to leave to get to SF in SF.

Had I been able to see a schedule in advance it might have changed things, but as I would have had to settle for 4 hours sleep last night in order to be able to see anything I was interested in I suspect I might have blown off the conference anyway.

I guess I could have stuck around to see if there was free WiFi and blogged about it immediately, but it was a lovely day in San Francisco and I wanted to get back to Market Street while my MUNI ticket was still valid.

Ah, Software!

I have just spent an hour or so trying to puzzle out why I can’t add podcasts to the blog any more. I have finally tracked it down, I think. WordPress 2.6 does not work with PodPress. If you upgrade to 2.6.1 then you’ll be OK. I think.

(And if you are wondering why I didn’t upgrade to 2.6.1 the day it came out, it is because it is a non-essential upgrade and I’ve been very busy. Also, security upgrades aside, I tend to wait a day or two just in case there’s some awful bug discovered in the new version.)

WordCamp & SF in SF

Tomorrow I will be spending the day in San Francisco. The day starts with my first ever attendance at WordCamp – a convention for WordPress users. It doesn’t seem especially organized. It is the day before the event and they still don’t have a full schedule upon the web site. If it was an science fiction convention the blogosphere would be aflame with indignation, but so it goes. The main problem is that I don’t know if I need to get there early. The one data point that they do have is that registration will begin at 8:00am, but it isn’t clear when the sessions actually start, or who will be on first. Besides, 8:00am might be OK for gung-ho blogging entrepreneurs, but us lit crit types (Farah excepted) are barely awake at that time of day, and I have to shower, breakfast and take bus, BART and MUNI in order to get there. I’ll be there when I can.

Anyway, the web site does mention that the WiFi is being sponsored so I’m hoping it is free. I’m taking the Asus (and my audio and video recorders) and I’ll see what I can find. I’m hoping to catch Kathy Sierra, and the session on secure programming. I know most of you folks will be much more interested in the LOLCats guy, so hopefully I’ll get to see him too.

But I may have to duck out early because in the evening I have to be at the SF in SF reading with Michael Shea and Michael Blumlein. No rest for the wicked, as my mother tends to say.

Nice Blog, Gordon

It seems that having a WordPress blog is becoming quite popular. Some chap from London called Gordon Brown has just launched one. He has named it after his house. Apparently he’s quite big in UK politics, which is odd because the site is full of stuff from YouTube, Flickr and Twitter. Anyone would think that Tony Blair was still in charge (although he’d probably be using Facebook instread).

Another One Goes Live

I’m feeling slightly more awake today, so I’ve been able to get yet another web project live. This one is for the SF in SF Readings series. Many thanks to the excellent Mike Dashow for the fabulous artwork, and of course to Jacob and Rina for asking me to do it in the first place.

(Sharp eyed people will notice that the site is currently on a re-direct to the SFSFC site, where the new site is being hosted. I’ll be moving the domain when I get back from Worldcon.)

What I Did on My Weekend

Well, lot of things actually, most of them to do with paid work, which I’m not at liberty to discuss. I did, however, spend a few hours getting a web site up and running. Kevin and some other folks at SFSFC have drawn the short straw and have bravely offered to bid to run a Westercon in 2011 – a year in which there is expected to be a west coast Worldcon sucking up much of the available talent. So, in my role as technical consultant to the SFSFC Board, I helped them put together a bid web site. I see that Kevin has credited me with doing the “heavy lifting”, but this sort of thing isn’t really that hard once you know what you are doing. Still, it was useful to be able to use Skype and LogMeIn to work together. It was almost like being in the same room, but without the cuddles…

I note from elsewhere that people are paying between €550 to €1500 to have WordPress sites built for them. That’s not bad money for a few hours work. However, I suspect that what they are actually paying for is the sort of thing that Tony does. People are always prepared to pay more for something that looks spectacular. The sort of thing that I do with WordPress is mainly behind the scenes code. Even when that’s quite complex – for SF Awards Watch, for example – it isn’t immediately visible so it doesn’t seem impressive. Still, that’s the way the world is – there’s no point moaning about it.