gothwalk: (Default)
( Jan. 28th, 2008 01:54 pm)

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

There’s a fascinating article by Walter Kirn in November’s Atlantic Monthly, called The Autumn of the Multitaskers. It basically argues that trying to do multiple things at once is a fad of the current era, possibly caused and definitely accentuated by conceptualising the brain as a computer. And further, it seems it’s not good for you. There’s a level at which this appeals to me, because I’m very bad at multitasking. Unless I carefully prepare myself for it, I have difficulty switching from one task to another without a few seconds of blank staring in between. And if I do the preparation, then neither task is really done to the best of my ability.

There’s an argument that this is a problem most men have; women seem to multitask better. I can barely walk and engage in a sensible conversation at the same time; many women seem to be able to do both as well as, for instance, send a text message. I don’t know many men who can multitask well.

This is somewhat belied by the fact that as I write this, I have earphones on and am listening to my current favourite genre of epic metal music, and am holding two IM conversations at the same time. The music, however, isn’t really a distraction; it’s partly in use to block out surrounding conversation and noise from the workplace, and partly to make me comfortable - I’m not actively listening to it. The two IM conversations are about prosaic, day-to-day items in the workplace. Neither of them is requiring much from me other than quick bursts of information I have no trouble recalling.

Part of the Getting Things Done method that I’ve been trying, with some success, to stick with, is a principle that having other stuff in your head, background tasks, prevents you from getting on with the ones in hand. The solution there is to dump everything you can think of out to a set of lists, where you can come back to them later. In other words, you can concentrate better if you’re not multitasking.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the narrator is a bit horrified by a motorbike repair shop where it’s clear that the employees are doing more listening to the radio than concentrating on their work, with poor work being the result - and moreover, it’s poor work that they’re not aware of; they think they know what they’re doing, and doing a good job.

I don’t know if I believe that multitasking is bad for you, but it’s an interesting line of thinking.

gothwalk: (Default)
( Jan. 7th, 2008 07:46 am)
Here are some links I said I'd post for people over the holidays. This is while I wait for 4565 work emails to download... actually, no, that's 12676.

BLDGBLOG: For the special attention of [livejournal.com profile] bluedevi, this is the speculative architecture site I mentioned.

io9.com is the good new science fiction blog I was talking to someone about.

... and I'm sure there were more. If I said I'd post something for you, and I haven't yet, this is your chance to remind me.
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Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

I’ve just finished a redesign of The Wizard of Duke Street. There might be some tweaks to go, but the core of it’s done. Your comments and criticisms will be welcomed.

gothwalk: (Default)
( Oct. 19th, 2007 02:24 pm)

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

We’ve some server down time in work, so I’m clearing off tabs I’ve had open for a while, meaning to record them someplace.

I have Design Melt Down on my sidebar, but I’d like to draw your attention to it now as well - it’s a site that looks for trends in web design. There’s some fascinating stuff there; I’m particularly enamoured of the Ornate Backgrounds.

Serious Eats is a well-designed, well-written food blog, focussed on New York. Quite apart from its content, I really like the design and layout - the multi-column, content-filled footer fascinates me, and makes me want to rip apart several of my sites and redesign them. In fact, I might just do that…

gothwalk: (Default)
( Oct. 8th, 2007 03:30 pm)

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

I borrowed a book from the library a few weeks ago, called Getting Things Done. I’ve been poking at a few of these marketing / business / management / organisation books lately, because I’m pretty certain my use of time hasn’t been what it could be.

This book has blown me away. It’s got some very simple principles, no corporate gibberish, no affirmations, and completely dodges the “prioritising” bullet in favour of context.

The basic idea is that people have difficulty getting things done because they have too much in their heads. You sit down to answer an email, and find you need to research something, which means you have to ask someone, which means you have to send them an email, and then you see another email reminding you of a meeting, and all the while you’re aware of another project that you’ve done nothing on, and the need to buy milk on the way home.

The simple solution is to get everything out of your head and onto a very simple system of tracking things that need attention. This centres around making a great whacking list of projects, working out what the next action is on any given project, doing it if it’s short and easy, or putting it on a contextual list otherwise. The contextual lists could include things like “Near phone”, “Near computer”, “Things to buy”, and so on.

The idea is that once you have everything you need to attend to in some sort of trusted system, where you’ll be reminded of it at the right time, you can get down to what you’re doing in the moment without wasting RAM, as it were, on irrelevant things. If something does come to mind, you put it in the appropriate place in the system and go back to your current task.

The effect is rather stunning. I don’t have a huge amount of stuff to manage with this in work; we have an excellent project manager who makes sure we don’t have to bother with anything other than the task in hand, but I have a good-sized pile of projects at home. 78, actually, at the moment. The difference it has made to have these out of my head is absolutely huge, and I’m getting things done at a rate of about three times as many per day as I was before, with more time to kick back at the end of it.
So yeah. Huge recommendation for Getting Things Done.

(WikipediaAuthor’s Site)

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gothwalk: (Default)
( Oct. 4th, 2007 12:55 pm)

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

So I posted stats for The Wizard of Duke Street and In Ranelagh for August at the beginning of September, and people seemed to like it. So here’re stats for September, and a note to myself to post more, because otherwise I’ll vanish into an auto-analytical black hole.

The Wizard of Duke Street: In the month of September, there were 15,859 visitors (up around 850 from last month), who looked at 19,945 pages. 95.88% of that was from search engines.

The top ten search terms were “torchwood season 2″ (2,883 visits), “torchwood series 2″ (1,075), “doctor who series 4″ (772), “doctor who season 4″ (496), “freema agyeman” (371), “world of starcraft” (273), “lotro music″ (261), “japanese monsters” (221), “dr who series 4″ (205) and “time and chips” (180). That’s almost the same as last month, save for the order, and a slight increase on the Doctor Who-related terms. There was a peak in the traffic around the 22nd for such terms, with most of it originating in North America, which trailed off over the next week. I’m guessing Series 3 finished showing on some US channel around then.

The referring sites are a touch over 2% of overall traffic this month. Notable ones come from imdb.com, where a discussion about Torchwood linked to my very short article on the Torchwood Magazine, and The Ancient Gaming Noob.

Inranelagh.com: In Ranelagh got 1,337 visitors in September, viewing 2,530 pages. Just over 75% of that was from search engines, 11.33% from referrals, and 13.65% from direct traffic.

The search terms are an odd assortment again, divided between the main site and the blog. “ranelagh” comes in first again (132 visits), followed by: “ranelagh dublin” (56), “superquinn ranelagh” (28), “mcsorleys ranelagh” (18), “css z-index ie” (15), “nevada plane wrecks” (15), “ranelagh ireland” (15), “dublin ranelagh” (12), “css ie z-index” (10), and “css z-index internet explorer” (9). I guess IE’s z-index stuff is bugging a lot of people.

Notable referred traffic (32 visitors) came in from virtualireland.ru, where something was presumably asked about Ranelagh.

Overall, there’s little enough change in traffic or interest, which is nice and steady, but probably indicates I should look to expand into a few other areas - steady is good, growth would be better. I’m noting a definite difference between the interest shown in articles by searchers, and the interest shown in articles by people who provide links. One article on Now Is A Long Time too, about disabling nofollow in Moveable Type, has more links to it than any other page on the site, and yet it gets very little actual traffic. Some of the difference there, I suppose, is between reference material and a quick solution.

gothwalk: (Default)
( Sep. 15th, 2007 10:33 pm)

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

I’ve had a few conversations lately about my various websites, and how much traffic they get, and so on. So I figured I’d do up a post discussing that.

The two sites that get the majority of traffic are dukestreet.org, and inranelagh.com. Most of the traffic for both comes from search engines.

Dukestreet first, then. In the month of August, there were 15,052 visitors, who looked at 18,873 pages. 96.3% of that was from search engines, the remaining being between site referrals and direct URL entry. I suspect that links from within email, IM, or the like may look to Google Analytics like direct entry.

The top ten search terms were “torchwood season 2″ (2,287 visits), “torchwood series 2″ (937), “doctor who series 4″ (919), “world of starcraft” (435), “lotro music” (335), “freema agyeman” (312), “doctor who season 4″ (291), “time and chips” (275), “dr who series 4″ (256) and “japanese monsters” (161). As you can see, there’s a definite slant in the interests there.

The referring sites are less than 2% of overall traffic, and most of them consist of search engines that analytics wasn’t able to identify properly, or links from discussion boards. Essentially, referral traffic could go away tomorrow, and I wouldn’t miss it at all.

Inranelagh.com doesn’t have the same weight of traffic, by any manner of means. 1,226 visitors in August, viewing 2,273 pages. Just under 78% of that was from search engines, 9.79% from referrals, and 12.23% from direct traffic.

The search terms are an odd assortment, divided between the main part of the site and this blog. “ranelagh” comes in first (91 visits), followed by: “ranelagh dublin” (64), “dvi vs vga” (30), “superquinn ranelagh” (21), “ranelagh ireland” (15), “better than myspace” (14), “steampunk parts” (14), “ranelagh, dublin” (13), “kelli ranelagh” (11), and “facebook better than myspace” (9).

The referring sites are obviously much more important here than for dukestreet. Again, some of these are search engines, but wikipedia tops the list, sending me 31 visitors from the entry on Ranelagh.

gothwalk: (Default)
( Sep. 14th, 2007 08:43 am)

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

There’s a story on SEOmoz at the moment, detailing how an “upper member of regional management” in a radio company told employees that:

if you want your page to show up in Google, you need to pay, say, $30 to be listed on maybe the 200th page, but you can increase your bid and show up on the 7th or 8th page, and you can pay even more to show up on the first page of results.

Good gods. And this guy’s company have a “partnership with Google”. Now, chances are, given this guy’s comprehension of how search engines work, that the partnership consists of carrying Adsense ads on the company website, but even so… the level of sheer misunderstanding that’s in there is unbelievable.

I know, at some level, that this is one more manifestation of the news-reporters-know-nothing-about-my-area phenomenon. This is the one where, when there’s a news report on your area of expertise, you cringe and shout at the TV, “that’s not how it is, you idiots!”, but then in the next report, they’re talking about someone else’s area, and you’re going, “well, it’s on the news, it must be true”.

The thing that bugs me is that if this guy - and the newsreader - can get things so utterly wrong about areas they’re not familiar enough with, it follows that I must be, on a near daily basis, producing statements that are so far from being accurate that they’re out of sight. And I don’t know. I try hard to be accurate in everything I say. So, uh, if I’m spouting bullshit on something (aside from the times I’m winding someone up, mind, in which case you’ll just spoil the joke), could you do me a favour and call me on it?

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gothwalk: (Default)
( Sep. 12th, 2007 08:04 pm)

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

I’ve been threatening to build this new site for a while: How To Survive Winter.

With thanks to bluedevi for the initial idea, and kamaitachi for provoking me to finish it!

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

There’s a BBC report about the Amazon Mechanical Turk effort to find Steve Fosset’s missing plane from satellite imagery. One of the bits of information in it is a bit mind-boggling:

The search in Nevada by the Civil Air Patrol and many private pilots has discovered six previously unknown wrecks - some of which were decades old.

This is a part of one of the most completely mapped, intensively satellite-covered countries in the world. Further, a lot of it’s desert - rock and mountain, not much in the way of trees to conceal a crash, or water to crash into and sink. One plane taking days to locate is bizarre enough, but to find six others that nobody knew about in the process? Were they ones that were searched for before and not found, or are there planes falling from interdimensional rifts over Nevada?

EDIT: A bit more information on the other wrecks.

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Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

There’s a truly magnificent map of the internet made and posted by Information Architects in Japan. The people who like the modified Tube maps should go look at this.

It fascinates me, though, that they’re actually using the thing:

In house, we use it as a consulting tool. It has helped us exploring, defining and explaining the Internet strategy and positioning of all of our clients since we first introduced it in January. Each website on the map stands as a (more or less) successful paradigm for an interactive brand, design or business model. In order to position yourself, you need to know your place on this map.

That’s a very cool way to approach the idea of positioning.

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

There’s a lot of talk across the ‘net in the last couple of weeks concerning Facebook. An article from Read/WriteWeb, Is Facebook worth the hype? queries, well, just that.

I’ve been using Facebook for about a week now. I’ve made contact with people I hadn’t heard from in over ten years. Some of my less technically-minded older friends are using it with as much enthusiasm as the kids who can’t remember not having email.

The Read/WriteWeb article essentially questions two things; the stickiness of Facebook and the monetisation.  It notes that (according to the people who run MySpace) MySpace handily beats all comers in nearly every metric: visitors, page views, stickiness, etc.

What’s stickiness? AdServer Solutions says it’s “A performance metric based on the ability of a web site to hold a visitor’s attention. A web site’s stickiness is average duration per user session or per unique visitor.”

MySpace is “sticky” in those terms precisely because it’s badly designed, badly put together, and hard to navigate. Most MySpace profiles look like they were ripped directly from GeoCities around 1997. You have to spend a long time on MySpace because getting to the information you want takes time. On Facebook, by contrast, the information you want is there on the homepage, and a few clicks gets you pretty much everything else necessary. Facebook’s design is better, cleaner, and more usable, and over time, that is going to make a difference.

As for monetisation, well… Facebook’s ad placement is, putting it kindly, sub-optimal. They’re currently using untargetted ads, placed low on the left-hand side of pages. Once they start to target ads based on what’s in user’s profiles (and why they’re not doing this already is a mystery to me), and place the things a bit better, their advertising benefits are going to rocket.

In my opinion, MySpace’s days are numbered, and Facebook will win out - at least until the next big thing.

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

Jill Whalen’s High Rankings Advisor newsletter carries some breaking news about an “unavailable_after” tag, for use by Google to determine when information is past a nominal “sell-by date” - the special offer is over, the event is past, or that article is gone into the subscription-only archives.

It’s not clear yet, however, if that’s going to be a meta tag, for use on a per-page basis, a tag in the proper HTML sense that you could use for a section of a page, or something else entirely like a class or a command in a robots.txt file. If anyone knows, let me know - in the businesses I’m working in, that functionality would be gold.

UPDATE: It’s been confirmed by Google as a meta tag.

gothwalk: (Default)
( Jun. 19th, 2007 02:03 pm)

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

I’ve been meaning to post this for some time, and am only now getting around to it. I’d like to draw your attention to a blog about beekeeping, titled “Beemused”. Amanda and Justin (who’ll be familiar to those of you on LJ as cissa and cosmicirony) are documenting their adventures in beekeeping, and doing a sterling job. My father has kept bees for years, and while I’m allergic to and phobic of bees, the whole thing still fascinates me.

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Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

I’m pleased to point you all at Nina’s site, Rocking Grass, now returned to action with a new design. I may be posting a bit there as well in the future, when food-related topics strike me.

gothwalk: (Default)
( May. 24th, 2007 04:51 pm)

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

I dunno, nothing for weeks and then two posts in a single day. Here’s a set of German postcards from the early 20th Century, depicting Life in the Year 2000. It’s bizarre to see how much it’s like the 70s and 80s ideas I grew up with - it’s essentially the technology and dress codes of the time, with ideals like “people will be able to fly”, “the weather will not affect us as much”, and “different technologies will be combined”.

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gothwalk: (Default)
( May. 24th, 2007 09:14 am)

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

I’m having an extremely grouchy day. The cats were PvP-enabled from about five this morning, I have a persistent headache, the Irish news is going to be full of the mechanics of voting for the next few days, and a million small details are annoying me.

However, I’ve found a few interesting bits of web development stuff knocking around that I’m finding interesting, so it’s not all bad.

Roger Johansson has developed a way to make shrink-to-fit graphic buttons in CSS, which look like they actually work properly. His code ends up using four nested spans, which is far from semantically ideal, but I’ll be keeping it in mind for getting out of tight design corners.

And Eric Meyer has developed an ultimate CSS reset,  which I suspect I’ll be putting to use sooner rather than later.

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

I Took The Survey

This is ALA’s annual survey. It’s good and useful. If you work in web design or development, go ahead and fill it in.

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

The Pig, head writer at Wandering Goblin, has published an open letter to Uwe Boll on foot of Boll’s offensive 9/11-related opening to Postal, recently leaked on Youtube. His proposal is to fight Boll, in a boxing match, face to face, and if he wins, Boll is to agree to cut the opening sequence from his film. It’s an interesting proposal, and seeing as Boll’s methods of promotion appear to consist of being ever more offensive, I do hope it’s taken up - and that the Pig wins.

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gothwalk: (Default)
( Apr. 17th, 2007 01:38 pm)

Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.

I’ve recently begun running a new campaign. Instead of the d20 rules I’ve been using for the last while, I’ve moved on to using Fate 2.0. While the pros and cons of the system are still being ironed out, and we’re still learning it, the campaign itself is off to an excellent start. It’s set in a previously unplayed-in area of my campaign world, in the midst of a war between two island nations.
Nina has written up the first session as proper narrative, and it’s well worth reading: Chapter the First. She attaches a disclaimer that this is a narrative writeup, not an attempt to produce anything polished, but it’s still better than anything I could produce. Go read it!

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