Micro.blog – My initial thoughts

First and foremost, I’d like to thank Manton for creating Micro.blog, and more important thank him for all the hard work he’s put in. Even more this past week during the lunch. It can not be easily launching something like this and not have some teething problems, and he’s always been around to answer people’s question and very quickly too. It’s not small feat to do this, even with the small fires that have arisen.

Having followed Manton for a few years and trying to get myself into the “IndieWeb“, of owning your own content more in the past year or so. I found there are many gaps missing in all the different steps, of fully controlling your own content but not feeling like you are missing out from the “other” service. It’s not overly difficult it you are quite tech savvy and don’t mind diving into some code. But for the non tech savvy people the “IndieWeb” still has a little way to go. I’ve found myself a little confused on certain aspects and still need to read up on some of different aspects. When Manton mentioned he was working on something to allow for the indieweb of short posts, which he has called Micro.blog I dropped my name into the hat (added my email to the list), and then when he made it into a kickstarted, I jumped straight on board and signed up.

A few months on after the kickstarter got funded Manton has invited the backers first into the system. Being an early backer inside the first 100 I got into the system within the first couple of days. Which was great, but to be honest maybe a little intimidating as I wasn’t sure what to expect. How would I use this, what would it replace? You can follow me on micro.blog if you are a backer, at micro.blog/matthew.

Currently I don’t do the whole POSSE (Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere), I do more PESOS, Post Elsewhere, Syndicate (on your) own site. Mainly due to the tools and amount of tinkering that’s required. There are many people are doing POSEE very well. But I like that I can use the app’s of other social networks, publish via them and then have my site pick it up. This is what I do with Instagram. I have a couple of plugins install to fetch the posts over, and it even pulls the image across and puts them in my S3 bucket. (Instagram plugin by DsgnWorks, Amazon Web Services, and WP Offload S3 Lite)

I plan to initial use Micro.blog in the following way, based on the current feature set. Over time I am sure I’ll adjust it as it grows. I believe as more people start to use the platform the more it will evolve, and I’ll adjust as I see fit.

  1. As a IndieWeb RSS Reader
  2. Post from the Micro.blog iOS – once I can get the titles of the posts in my WordPress install to save how I want

IndieWeb RSS Reader

This is the biggest thing missing in the IndieWeb at the moment, a way to truly follow other peoples “micro” blogs in a nice timeline manner. I started on a path with my own RSS Reader to try to emulate a timeline based view but never delved into the IndieWeb consumption. Now Micro.blog is around I may have a bit more of a play with my own reader, but I am hoping Micro.blog’s platform will mean I don’t have to. (RSS is only a text medium, but it’s a pretty crazy world to go into an start consuming and parsing).

The only downside I see at the moment to the Micro.blog approach is if I reply to someone’s post I would love for that to create an entry on my site. It creates a web mention on the users site but I would love for it to create an entry on my own with a reply format. This way it keeps a history of conversations I’ve had.

Posting from the Micro.blog iOS

Another thing that keeps me going back to twitter or Instagram to first post there is the ability to do it quickly. This is where the Micro.blog iOS will win me over (one I fix the blank titles). Having the ability to easily and quickly post “Micro” posts to my site will mean I’ll more likely do that than reach for Twitter. My content will still reach Twitter via cross-posting but I’ll truly be doing POSSE.

Waterstones – The Online and the High Street

My wife loves to read, and she loves to read real paper books even after all my efforts to switch her 100% to the e-book world. (She has got better over the past 12 months or so) But every now and again she will buy a real book, mainly ones she wants to keep forever and add to her bookshelves (which have be reduced dramatically over the past few years, and I can see them growing again).

While out in town a few days after Christmas we popped into the big well know high street bookshop Waterstones where my wife spots a book she noticed on their website. But, on their website it was showing as half price £8.50, in the store there was not sign of any reduction on the book itself. We asked the nice shop assistant if the book is half price as per their website. Their reply was no sorry, the online shop is different to the stores, we have different deals and they don’t apply between each other. Very odd, but the shop assistant went to check with another shop employee and came back and said they would give us the book at the online price this time, and suggest next time we just do a click and collect from their website to the store to ensure we get the online price.

Couple things which are very odd and broken here:

  1. The online and high street stores act as separate entities it seems, I can make sense of that for accounting/business reasons, but I can’t work out why they are selling items at different prices
  2. I can use the click and collect feature from the online store to a high street store to get the cheaper price. But the book I actually get is from the high street store? Confused
  3. Next time I see a book in store I like, I could check their website and if it’s cheaper I could do click and collect there and then and pick the book up in store within minutes at the reduced price – This then skewing the online / high street business figures as I was technically a high street customer first.

And they wonder why the high street is struggling and in decline. Online almost always wins I find, but this seems like a broken system from Waterstones.

What password would you like to use?

As the move towards using the internet has increased over the last few years, people are creating more and more accounts. Accounts for this credit card, accounts for this store card, you’re mobile phone account, you’re bank account, and all the rest. The accounts I just mentioned there are one’s a lot of people will have, and more than likely you will have an account that you are able to sign into on the internet. The reason I mentioned those types of accounts is because a majority of the time these accounts are opened in person in a shop or bank.

In the past six months I’ve have witnessed someone or created, opened one myself, and on each occasion when it came to the part of creating the online part of the account it goes something like this:

Shop: First Name?

Customer: Matthew

Shop: Last Name?

Customer: Roach

Shop: Email address?

Customer: matthew@mydomain.com

Shop: What password would you like to use for this account?

Customer: Umm…..

Shop: Can be something simple, I’ll type it in

 

Each time this has occurred I’ve requested that I enter the password myself, on one occasion the shop assistant in this case reply’s:

“I’ve never had anyone ask to enter it themselves”.

That is astounding that no-one else requested to enter their own password, even more astounding that the shop assistant found it ok for them to be asking the customer a password to enter for their account. Wether this be a temporary password you intend on changing when you get home it does not matter, you should never be giving a password to a random person!

A non recruiter, recruitment agency

 

RESPECTFULLY, NO RECRUITMENT AGENCIES PLEASE

No recruitment agencies.

How many job ads do you see with this words at the bottom? or at the top? I don’t have actually figures but it’s a LOT!

Yes, recruiters get a bad name. I can imagine a lot of you if not all of you have had some experience with a recruiter, be it good or bad. Some will have gotten jobs from them and others may have just got annoyed at them.

After Matt published the article Jobs boards wish list, it reminded me of something I had been think of for a while. Matt makes some great points about job boards, and while there are a lot of job boards around that are aimed for developers, like Authentic JobsStack Overflow, and more niche ones aimed at remote working for working for example We Work Remotely  then there are the ones I refer to as your more standard ones line Indeed, Monster, and the rest.

Matt makes a great point about trawling the various boards each weeks, and he is not even on the hunt for a new job. Just imagine if you were looking for a great new role, similar to the ones that Matt is highlighting each week. The effort and time it would take would soon tire the best.

Back to the recruiter part, yes, yes they have a bad reputation. But what if a new type of recruiter was to be born. One that’s not from the recruiter background but more a developer background, one who can vet the job’s and the applicant’s applying. Just like current recruiters try to do now, but the biggest issue I’ve seen in the past is recruiters seem to be after filling the roles and collecting their money.

Is it possible that a developer or someone working in the trenches could turn into a recruiter?

The new MacBook Pro’s

It appears the dust has started to settle after Apple’s latest event where they released new MacBook Pro’s. After posting some initial reactions from their announcement to Twitter I’ve sat back and had a little think of the announcement from a new techie point of view.

I bought a brand new 13 inch MacBook Pro for work purposes at the start of August, it was not a stock model I added extra RAM, bumping it up to a nice 16gb. After three months of using it, it’s been perfect everything I need and more. Everything I do on a daily basis it handles with no problem and then some. The MacBook Pro being my daily and only machine, but I don’t use it that often as a laptop, it’s generally docked in a Vertical Henge Dock with a nice 4k Dell Monitor connected and a wireless mouse and keyboard. Being sat at a desk all day I prefer ergonomic’s over anything else. Having the laptop gives me the ability to travel around and be free when needed, and it’s provided that ability on enough occasions already. From a user’s perspective who is after a computer that offers the portability of a laptop and the ability to work with my external peripherals and meet all my daily needs the laptop does that and some. It also has the added benefits of being made from aluminum which I hope makes it more stronger than plastic laptop cases, it’s light (enough), keyboard and trackpad are better than non Apple laptops I’ve used, and they do all I need when I use it as a laptop. To that note the laptop serves it purpose.

Back to the new MacBook Pro’s…

Would I buy one today if I was due and upgrade or looking for a new computer? Yes.

Would I buy one today to just upgrade due them being new? No.

But, what about X, Y and Z (replace these with anything you have seen other’s discuss, like Graphic card, ports, touch bar, etc) – I trust Apple have our best interests at heart when they are choosing what to put inside their products. Do I know about what graphics card is better than the next, No and neither do I want to. It might sound a little bad – But I have a use case for my machine that is more than likely different to yours. I would expect that the new laptop is better than my current one and my current one meets my needs so why wouldn’t the new one?

What about all the peripherals you have and use on a daily basis, you will have to buy all new ones or have a ton of different adapters? No, I won’t need to buy new devices, but yes I would have to buy some adapters to adjust my current setup, but as already mentioned I have it docked, so would be a case of adjusting my dock setup, not too bad, and from what I’ve seen in the past third-party solutions don’t take long to appear and are generally very nice and fit with the Apple aesthetics. I would hope over time the adapters that would be needed would reduce as newer peripherals are bought and use the new technology.

What about other operating systems or computer manufactures? What about them? I have used Windows and Ubuntu as primary machines over the past five years each as primary OS’s for long periods of time, and I enjoyed them in different ways, I’ve not used Windows 10, I switched to Ubuntu about six months before they released it. If I had to I could easy any of the three OS’s as my primary each have their pro’s and con’s based on what I need, but I prefer Mac OS over the others, it does all I need with little issue, has all the Applications I need and some, sure the others have Applications I can use but I find that the Mac eco system is much nicer.
As for computer manufactures if you are after a Linux or Ubuntu based machine there are a couple of option these days for getting your hands on hardware that has it already installed out of the box and I really like the look of Purism machines. When I used Ubuntu as my main machine I was using a Lenovo T440s, the build quality of the machine was not great, but the size and weight of the machine was the main factor for picking that one, and pretty much all Windows based laptops of 15inch monitor come with a keypad on the laptop keyboard which I did not want. For Windows based hardware you have a huge range to pick from, from super cheap up to “business” grade, with so much choice it can be hard to work out which is the best, and now Microsoft now getting into the hardware more with the surface range it’s growing even more. Over the past 12 months or so the style of the hardware for Windows based machines has got much better too.

So you’ve ditched your Mac in favor of something else, 18 months down the line you want to upgrade as Microsoft or some other manufacture has released some new shiny laptop you want to get. Do you think you will get a good return on your initial investment? I believe not. This is another great thing with Mac’s the ability to sell them second hand is very easy and they hold their value very well. I’ve had a few in the past that have made me good money long after I’ve had them. I have yet to see this sort of second hand eco system with non Mac computers. I may be wrong or I am not looking in the right places, but I will be keeping an eye on this in the coming months.

After reading this article a couple weeks back about IBM workforce switching to be more Apple based, I’ll be interested to see in 12 to 24 months if this is still true.

What’s your favourite colour?

“Dad, what’s your favourite Color? My favourite colour is red. Is yours red too?”

I don’t have a favourite colour, I like all different colours depending on what the item is.

A random question from my son, which led to a lengthy discussion about colours. To be honest most conversation with my son after he asks random questions can be of some length. The “why” question gets asked a lot.

Having spent a good time discussing colours and how different people like different colours, and you don’t have to have a favourite colour, it’s ok to like a range of colours he was still quite confused on the subject. This got me thinking on how children interpret different things, and how as a parent I can better help my son understand things.

Voting

I have never been one for politics, and on more than one occasion I have had my fair moan about the way things are, so this election I am voting.

Who I vote for is personal, I have voted based on pure reading, not followed any of the discussions or news reports. I read through all the parties key points and looked deeper into specific areas I wish to know more about, mainly items that may have a direct or partial impact on my life and family. Now I have a young family it’s my right to take part and make my vote count, some folk may say no point in voting as it’s not going make a difference, but imagine if a majority of people did that then what’s the point of an election. Yes, your vote might not help with the seat in your area, but by adding your vote you can be assured you did you part and you had your vote!

50 shades of grey

On Wednesday I took my wife to the cinema for her birthday to watch 50 shades of grey, she has read the trilogy series and really wanted to see the film. For me who’s not read the books and only heard and seen what’s been advertised in the media regarding the movie, from having now watched the movie for me it was not as bad as the media has made it out to be.

What I took it from the movie was yes it is a movie about BDSM, while that might not be everyone’s taste of sexual activity, just remember these are two adults consenting to these activities with each other. While you may have your own tastes, just because this is a movie don’t judge! Either can walk away at any point (which does happen) if they are not comfortable, and within the movie there was never a point at which either of them where forced into something that either of them could of stopped.

While people get hung up on the erotic parts of the story, there is also a sub story going on, the woman is slowly turning the man into a romantic.

Valentines Day

Me and my wife have been together for just over 7 years, and we have never given each other a valentines day card or gifts, and we don’t plan on changing that!

The reason we don’t do valentines day is because we don’t need a specific day in a year to remind us to show our other half what we mean to each other, by wasting money on silly merchandise.

Instead we show our love to each other at all time throughout the year!

My Daily Journal

Daily Journal - Start of Month View

For my birthday this year I asked for a Notebook, among other things. But I was really looking forward to getting a new notebook as I was itching to get started on using a paper based markup system for keeping up with things, and adding more order to my already order systems. I already had a notebook I used near daily at work for keep notes, tasks, etc. But after seeing the Paper Based Markup System post over at The Cramped, I realised I was not alone on have various items to keep notes, tasks, etc.

The next month start after my birthday I had decided that I would open up my new notebook and stick to a routine of my own version of some of the system’s show in the different system on the post Paper Based Markup System seen on The Cramped.

This was three months ago, and I have been using it on a near daily basis, for tracking tasks needed done this month, week, day. Taking meeting notes, and general notes. So here is how I am using a paper based markup

  • I have a contents page that lists the Months and the page numbers of start and end pages for the month.

Months

  • At the start of each month I have two pages with are two facing pages (notebook opens flat – blank left and right page) where I put the month day list on the left, and my months task list on the right
  • On the left page I use the list of days to block out important items, trips, travel, big deadlines, holidays, etc
  • On the right page is a list of things I wish to achieve this month. Each month I check last months items and bring them forward if not complete.

Days

  • During the month the pages can vary depending on the day, and what’s happening during the day(s).
  • Most days I use a new page to write down my todo list for the day. I start each day with the full date of the day (Tuesday 23rd September 2014). Then I write out my list of items in order I wish to tackle them.
    • Rather than use bullet points I use squares this allows me to tick them off,
    • highlight meetings with a clock icon and put the time in square brackets.
    • You exclamation marks to show important items, that are urgent, or need done ASAP.

Meetings

For meetings I start with a blank page and have:

  • Full date (Monday 29th September 2014) in the top left
  • On the right I have the time of the meeting (including the timezone) and a clock icon (so when browsing through my notebook I can easily distinguish the meeting notes apart from a normal page)
  • Below those two items, I have the the meeting title/agenda
  • Then a list of attendees, for any attendees that don’t show I put a line through their name

After the above is on the page I will start to take notes using the same ideas as my day pages, using square next to items that I know need done, clock icon next to items that have time related parts, and then at the bottom any follow up items, or additional planned meeting related to the current one.

Over the past few months, I have managed to keep a consistent output, and have tweaked my style as I go along, I am sure I’ll tweak it a little more over time as I think of different ways to document items.

The onDemand generation

When I was growing up we only have 5 TV channels, and that fifth channel was quite new too, for my early years we had four channels at our home. Back then that seemed great, even better when we got the new channel 5. Getting home from school and having a cup of tea and numerous biscuits we would sit in front of the television watching the children’s programs, and every 15 or so minutes the advert breaks would appear, for a few minutes.

As I grew up I learnt that a black and white square box would appear in the top right to highlight an ad break was coming very soon. Back then we thought nothing of ad breaks, all part and parcel of watching television, even better as you could nip for a toilet or make another cup of tea.

Spring forward 20’ish years and now I have a son, who does a few similar things to what I used to growing up.

He watch’s TV after coming home from school once his homework is done, or the weather is bad, in the mornings, quite a lot, but not too much. But… He never gets an advert break!

Why is this? Because he never actually watch’s normal TV, he is either consuming Netflix, BTVision, NowTV, or stuff we have downloaded. One might not find this bad, but the interesting thing is that the other week there was a children’s movie on Sunday afternoon television, one he really likes, so I decided we would watch that.We started watching just as it had began, 15 to 20 minutes in the first advert break came, the surprise of my son who did not know what was happening, as he had watched this movie many times before and knew that something else was to appear not some random TV.

When the advert break appear he was not best pleased. Trying to explain advert breaks to a five year old who has never experienced them before is very difficult. Since then we have tried to introduce more normal TV where possible, and still he struggles with the advert breaks.

One other thing I have noticed with my son is, he is very aware of the ability to Pause, Stop, rewind or forward parts of a TV program, and the more normal TV we have introduced to him he thinks he has the same control, while we have BTVision he is able to do it, but when visiting family it can get a bit tricky.

Code Conventions

Recently I put together a set of markdown files for the few different web languages I write a lot of code in, these being HTML, CSS (Sass), JavaScript/jQuery, and CFML. I have these located on my GitHub page under a repository named Conventions

I put together the set of conventions for a few different reason. I thought someone might be able to get something from it, or for when I release open source code/ library’s I can point people to them, the final reason being I can show people the method to my madness if they every cross my code paths.

While the conventions documents are not 100% full proof I will be continuing to add and tweak little items as I can continue to write more code and find my rhythm.
A lot of what is already documented is straight from how I write my code at the moment, if I see a pattern in the way I write certain parts of code I document it as a convention, simple as that. I don’t go out of my way to write a convention to change the way I code, I write the conventions on the way I am coding.

I feel conventions should not be something you force, obviously this can break down within a team environment, but that’s a whole different story. While the conventions I have documented do contain some ways of writing faster/better code, a lot of what I have documented is personal preference and more style based.

A simple example of one of my conventions, spacing around if statements:

if ( x ) {

Instead of

if(x)

o2 Price Increase, read the small print

So I got an email today from o2 saying about the increase in my phone bill. the increase will be 3.2% and will be on the next bill after the 28th February 2013, increasing my months bill by £0.83.

While at first I was a little pissed of, thinking how can they just increase my phone bill, when I signed up at X amount a month for 2 years. Then I sat back and thought about it, hang in, I signed a contract when I signed up for my phone, like any contract there must be something in there about this and low and behold there was.

o2’s Terms and Conditions, state:

5.2 We may increase or decrease our Charges from time to time. If we increase our Charges (apart from for Additional Services), we’ll let you know at least 30 days before the Charges are due to go up and you’ll have the rights explained in paragraphs 5.3 and 5.4. We won’t increase your Monthly Subscription Charges more than once in any 12 month period.

Fair enough, in clear black and white, they say they are able to increase or decrease charges from time to time. Simple you signed the agreement when you took your contract out. Just like any contract it’s up to you to read it and make your mind up if you are happy with their terms.

While I can see how some people are not happy with this, and I can see that some people can say that you do not have much choice as you can not really negotiate with a huge company like o2 on their terms and conditions, but you also do not have to sign the contract. Read the contract!

Does everyone hear things the same?

I often ask myself do people hear the sounds I hear the same as I hear them?

I know some people can be deaf or partially deaf, but I think that’s something different to what I am trying to understand.

What I am getting at is, when you speak you can hear your voice, when you speak to someone they hear your voice. Is the sound of your voice you hear identical to the sound the other person hears?

One of the reasons I have this thought is, I recently heard myself in a recording and it sounded very different to how I hear my voice, now this could be down to the recording device, but I have tried this across a few devices and all sounds are the same.