20
Mar 12

## Clicktivism or Slacktivism?

I know, I know; the Kony 2012 subject has been done to death. I don’t plan to weigh-in too heavily on the debate, except to make a small comment on what the media has termed “clicktivism”. Or indeed what sceptics have termed “slacktivism”.

Before I go on: my viewpoint on the campaign. Naturally it goes without saying that a Brit such as myself sees the “Stop Kony” campaign – or rather the more bizarrely named “Kony 2012” (more akin to a Presidential election campaign title, right?) – with a healthy dose of scepticism. I wouldn’t go as far as Charlie Brooker did in likening it to a cult, after all Kony is not a myth and his well-known LRA has been in operation for almost 2 decades, throughout which time numerous atrocities have been reported by the international media.

No, Charlie Brooker’s attack on the campaign was in itself egotistical, and attempting to make comedic capital out of the systematic rape and murder of kidnapped children by a man whose arrest warrant was issued by the ICC a decade ago is unfathomably stupid and shallow.

Satire should be relevant; as such Brooker might have focussed on the core debate which includes the organisation’s transparency, immediate fame, and efficacy. A little side-poke at the ‘cultish’ nature of the campaign might have been more palatable in this case.

Back to the matter in hand: “clicktivism” or “slacktivism”.

Although, in themselves, these terms are cringeworthy, they point towards a social phenomenon unique to the new Twitter/Facebook generation. That is, the belief that fame in itself can solve problems.

Over the last few days on social media, I’ve seen examples of this;

• a young black English rap artist (early on in his career) tweeted about wanting to make friends with the rich in Chiswick, because he believes that by association this will bring more fame to his music career
• a young New Yorker friend of mine posted a video on Tumblr of herself saying “our job is to stop Kony, we have the power to do something. As internet users, teenagers have the power to control how famous Kony becomes”.

Whilst the first is obviously a clear case of today’s obsession with celebrity over that of talent, the second is worthy of a little more debate.

I’m in two minds about the effect of fame on politics and international law. On the one hand I lament the fact that charities like Oxfam and Amnesty have been chipping away at this campaign for decades, and one single-issue movement gathers pace, produces a glitzy video, and blows their attempts on the given issue out of the water by engaging young people.

On the other hand, is this not just the new form of political campaign? Throughout the history of representative democracy, politics has been about issues and people gathering fame, whether this involved those on the campaign trail knocking on doors and delivering leaflets, or more recently making glamorous videos. Was not the Obama ’08 campaign the blueprint for the latter?

Head of Research at Oxfam UK, Duncan Green, blogs with scepticism about the issues of fame and charity. Whilst he makes some valid points about the absorption rate of human rights issues into the minds of young people, I can’t help feeling that his response focusses mainly on the style of the campaign rather than the effect it might have. He is “appalled” by the tone, the depiction of Africa, and the “feelgood schmaltz”. Whilst I don’t personally like these aspects of the Kony 2012 campaign, these are the very things that made it successful, and brought 60 million viewers to the cause. They are mere stylistic objections.

In summary, whilst I want to dislike the whole focus on glamour, the Invisible Children published a thorough response to current criticism of their campaign, detailing their breakdown of expenditure.

If the pie chart tells a truthful story, then I’m all in favour of how they are spending their money and running their ads.

Those who want charities to remain chipping away quietly at issues of human injustice rather than making grand statements that engage young people may have to start rethinking their position, because global, single-issue movements will play an increasing part in the future of charitable giving.

01
Feb 12

## Top Ten Grammar Peeves

I recently read one of those annoying graphics that are being shared on Facebook.

What makes them annoying is not that they are faddy, inert, and positively dull, but that they are low resolution JPGs of plain text which have been resized to look like arse.

Anyway, the latest – which I simply couldn’t let lie – was this.

Top Ten Grammar Peeves

1. It’s “I couldn’t care less.” “I could care less” means that you actually do care.
2. An apostrophe is never used to form a plural.
3. “Literally” means it actually happened, not that it figuratively happened.
4. “Loose” and “lose” are two different words.
5. “Your” and “you’re” are also two different words.
6. “Their,” “there” and “they’re” are actually three different words.
7. “nonplus” does not mean what you think it means.
8. “Affect” is a verb. “Effect” is a noun.
9. “It’s” is short for “it is” and “its” means “belonging to it.”
10. “Irregardless” is not a word.

So I read this and thought “nothing gets up my hackles like a pedant who is wrong”.

Firstly the phrase “I could care less”, whilst a little American in tone, is perfectly acceptable. In fact it is rather subtle. It means “it may be possible for me to care less, in which case I might; however I do not”. Such linguistic subtlety has clearly passed-by the writer of this little ditty.

Secondly why has the writer consistently included punctuation marks not relevant to the sense within the quotation marks? Fowler’s A Dictionary Of Modern English Usage states that “all signs of punctuation used with words in quotation marks must be placed according to the sense”.

As for “literally” meaning “actually”, what rubbish. It means, “in a literal sense” or “pertaining to a literal”. In fact my dictionary says it is often used as an acknowledgement that something is NOT to be taken literally. Such is the flexibility and subtlety of the English language, and any true lover of language will appreciate this, rather than getting annoyed by it.

The word “affect” can be a noun as well as a verb, and in this form is synonymous with the word “emotion”.

Finally the word “irregardless” has an entry in my Concise Oxford English Dictionary, an edition from about 12 years ago. If that doesn’t make it a word in some official sense, I don’t know what does.

30
Jan 12

## LrReview Test

This is looking VERY nice. I like the way I can set ordering at the point of creating the collection.

21
Dec 11

Deep down inside of me, there is a swing voter waiting to get out.

A true British I-don’t-really-know-what-I-think voter, someone who could go both ways. Hell, I could go three or four ways.

I know, dear imaginary reader, you are thinking, “but how can someone so … so – political – how can you not be true and loyal to a single party?”

Don’t get me wrong. The swinger inside of me is not the typical British non-thinker. Not the common man on the street who waits until there is a critical mass of others to think on their behalf so they can chime in at the last minute and back the winning party. Not the fickle man on the street who just loves to complain about whichever party is in power and backs the opposition because, “there’s no possible way we could have four more years of the same old [insert current governing party here]”.

No, my swinging tendencies come from much, much deeper within me. My struggle is thus:

On the one hand, surely our socio-economic outlook looks far prettiest when people are allowed to do what they want whilst not harming others; a liberal, pluralist society? What is wrong for you might not be wrong for me, and therefore we should agree not to legislate for what you consider to be wrong, because it would be unfair for me. Instead we should just hang out / do business with people who have similar views to our own.

Of course we should have high taxes and good quality public services. This isn’t a matter of politics, it’s a matter of economies of scale: pooling resources allows us to reduce overheads. (I’m talking theoretically, of course.)

But on the other hand – and please excuse my Newtonian worldview (blame my Christian parents) – given that humanity, if left unchecked, tends towards selfish and greedy behaviour, perhaps after all it doesn’t look that fabulous when people are allowed to do what they want.

Here I cite the global financial crisis as being caused by unfettered or poorly-regulated capitalism.

Or what about society and the family? It is horribly non-liberal to interfere with matters of the family: married couple tax breaks between man and woman, making it legally difficult and expensive to get a divorce, reducing benefits to single mothers and punishing walk-away fathers who don’t take responsibility.

Whilst the above may offend our sense of social liberalism, let us hypothesise what their long-term effect on society might be, and therefore the effect on our economy and, eventually, our wealth as a nation of individuals. In economic terms, those societies defined by people pulling together (be this around the traditional unit of the family, or otherwise) are the ones that generate wealth for their futures. Those societies that are fragmented and socially disorganised are the ones that get poorer.

Given humanity tends towards greed and ultimately destruction (we agree on this, do we not?), and given in my example of the family above this would mean men will love women then walk away from them unless there is a compelling financial reason not to, perhaps a liberal society with fewer rules is a less successful, inferior one?

I used the construct of family to make my point, but this could equally apply to other constructs.

And this is the crux of my indecision. Conservative rule is too socially prescriptive. Labour rule causes too much fragmentation of society to allow for growth or progress. Liberal Democrat rule… well, our party just gets laughed-out or shouted-at most of the time.

What is my problem with political loyalty? Why do I mistrust staunch Labour party members, staunch Conservative party members, or staunch Any party members?

Is it that my world view espoused above is essentially flawed? Is it that I’m merely a liberal mind trying to get out of a conservative body? Or is it because my politics derive too directly from the existential questions in my head? Or is this a common Paradox of Pluralism?

06
Dec 11

## Qype: Chipotle in London

Tucked away on a corner of Baker Street usually inhabited by (infested with?) large packs of spotty teenage tourists with matching yellow rucksacks of a Saturday morning, or suited office types of a weekday lunchtime, lies London’s newest addition to the fast-growing world of _quality fast food_.

As one who has always believed the phrase _”quality” fast food_ to be completely incongruous in itself, and therefore who usually shuns fast food (fast), Chipotle is, admittedly, a place that on any other day I might pass-by without giving it a thought. It’s unique to this country; sadly the idea of quality fast food has passed us poor Brits by, yet every time I visit the US – a deli in NYC or a burger joint in Portland, I am bowled-over by how decent the food is. On the other hand, your average UK sandwich shop or independent burger shop (Chicken Cottage, anyone? Subway? EW!) fill me with The Fear.

Enter: Chipotle.

By _”quality” fast food_, I mean that the ingredients are sourced by the restaurant directly, all food is created from scratch onsite and on the same day – even the tortilla chips – and more importantly, a great deal of care and love is pumped into all aspects of food creation.

Chipotle is an American-Mexican restaurant which I dearly hope will play a small part in changing the game with UK fast food. Even *I* can bring myself to use the R word (rather than calling it a “joint” or mere “outlet”), especially when I know my quick-grab lunch is the product of about 6 hours of preparation by real cooks.

It has a rather beautiful and quirky history; a chain with a soul, if you will. Despite its brief foray into some form of partnership with the proprietors of the Big Golden Arches (eeeevil), Chipotle has stayed true to its roots and sources its ingredients locally, where possible. Essentially that means: meats and vegetables from the UK. Of course there are exceptions: avocados are seasonal and they are mostly imported from far-off warm lands.

To give you a quick idea of the level of care and knowledge that goes into the food here, our guide Jacob talked about the difference in flavour of avocados from various different countries and at different times of the year. We were moving into the time of the year where the Hass avocados are sourced from Chilli, which meant they wouldn’t be perfect for another few weeks. Or what about the difference in flavour profile of guacamole depending on what kind of salt is used? Enough said, right? They know their stuff!

The proof was in the pudding, though. The pork burrito with black bean and mild chilli and guac was absolutely superb.

I’m all about a good burrito, it used to be difficult picking one up anywhere in London – especially to go – but it’s getting easier these days.

Don’t be fooled: although Chipotle serves your lunch in 3 minutes flat, this is some seriously brilliant food.

Check out my review of Chipotle – I am hazymat – on Qype

29
Sep 11

## eBay – the final straw

This will be a short post, in point form. Because the subject of eBay is a damned boring one.

The history of eBay as per Mat:

• 2003 – eBay seems cool, amazing way of getting a bargain
• “Buy it now?” – surely that defeats the object of an auction?
• Hmm, teaming up with evil Paypal. Paypal evil because they pretend to be bank. Paypal not real bank. Paypal not registered with FSA. Paypal naughty people with bad reputation for freezing people’s accounts and denying them access to their own funds.
• Wait, I am required to offer Paypal? Two sets of fees. Kidding?!
• Wait, I am now required only to use Paypal? But – *voice wells up with tears* – they still aren’t even registered with the FSA …

… three years later …

• Hrmm, at least I can still use this thing as a buyer to consume disgustingly cheap electronic accessories from Korea or Japan
• What’s that you say? A replacement battery for my camera that lasted 4 times as long as my original Canon one, costing less than a tenth in price including delivery from Taiwan?! A USB cable car charger thingy for £0.26 plus £0.85 postage? All hail the global free market! (Gah, I hope nobody was … like … tortured or abused during its production. Right?)
• I find the security features of this site increasingly … draconian? Verify by SMS text message every time I log in? Automatically logged out after 10 seconds of inactivity? Purlease!

… final straw …

• Ok I really need to sell something. Start writing auction. Craft the wording. Wait, I haven’t checked the fees in 7 years. Let me check the fees.
• TEN PERCENT of final value? As in, TEN? 10%?
• PLUS AN INSERTION FEE?
• Plus other fees for screwing with my listing, allowing big photos, and making it purple and bold and shit?

It appears there are alternatives to the monolithic beast that is eBay. I shall be investigating those.

Maybe even one that allows me to interact in such a way with my customer so as to allow them to actually pay me with real money?

22
Sep 11

## How Sociable is Facebook towards Developers?

If Facebook wants to be the social ‘platform’ on which the web resides – a grand vision, but an attainable one – it had better start being nicer to web developers.

For years, Facebook has been a taker, not a giver. What other platform begs you to feed information into it in the form of personal user data, communications, shared web content (and its corresponding metadata), provides proprietary mechanisms for you to identify your own independently-hosted web content to Facebook, and then refuses to let you feed anything out again except by using a tiny suite of ‘widget’ style, iframe-based pieces of javascript: unstylable, uncool, and uncooperative. God forbid you should try to scrape anything to create your own feeds from these stubborn widgets – or from anywhere else – lest you put your own Facebook account in jeopardy for violating their terms.

And should you ever try to interpret the meaning of anything that isn’t ‘being a friend’ – for example you need to engage users with your company – you really must let Facebook call the shots on these interactions, too. It was only a year ago Facebook decided you would rather “Like” an entity than “Become a fan” of it. And now – subscribe? Is that the same as like? Is it similar to what you do with an RSS feed? I don’t have a problem with the evolution of change, but it’s frustrating seeing businesses having to tweak their social media paradigm just because Facebook didn’t get it right first time.

Facebook has taken a lot of unfair flack in the last decade, mainly because of their refusal to be pigeonholed into either a platform for private data (e.g. email) or one for public data (e.g. blogs). Despite a number of iterations in its privacy interface (ranging from the bizarre/arcane to the really-quite-sensible), Facebook still struggles to convince its users that controlling the privacy of their data is not exactly rocket science. It was solely because of its popularity, and the fact it became lowest-common-denominator for personal communications online (read: “it attracted stupid people”) that Facebook suffered an exponential amount of bad press regarding its ‘security issues’. I shudder even writing those words, for one thing Facebook has not had major PR problems within its lifetime, at least as compared with any other social network you care to mention, is security – in the technical sense. It’s merely the media’s interpretation of the word I’m using here.

Of course, Facebook was absolutely right to keep strong tabs on its data and interface early-on. I’m sure it wasn’t as much a branding reason as the fact Zuckerberg didn’t want to get sucked in to the same issues MySpace did, where users were encouraged to ‘personalise’ their pages, ultimately resulting in a social network that was unusable for all.

But surely the time to open-out (I’m not talking about styling one’s profile page) came and went about three years ago? Instead, at this time, Facebook was buttoning-down its strategy so as to retain as much data as possible whilst making it slightly more interactive with the rest of the web. And so was launched the adoption of the “Social Graph” model.

I’m hoping that any changes taking place over the coming months may involve Facebook adopting an open standard. Not the kind of “open” mentioned in Zuckerberg’s blog post from a year ago, but a real kind of “open”.

30
Aug 11

## Amazing Robocopy

There was a time when my home server was a large computer with RAID drives and loud fans that stayed on 24/7. Gladly that time is no longer, and I’ve moved to a more power-friendly netbook-based thing which generates hardly any heat and can therefore be left in a small cupboard without airflow concerns. The disk performance is, naturally, horrific, but it serves files up fast enough for me to stream music around the house.

I now do pretty much all my photo editing work on my laptop, which I take around with me.

As I still have the requirement for archiving large volumes of data to the desktop PC with hardware mirrored drives, unfortunately this machine has to stay. But I can keep it turned-off for 95% of the time, and only turn it on to copy / archive my data to it when needed. As well as saving energy, this should increase the lifespan of my disks by a long way too.

My netbook also acts as a web server from which I am hosting a simple ASP.net application to send WOL (wake on LAN) magic packets to my desktop PC. This is secured using Basic Authentication over SSL. It is therefore now possible for me to securely start my computer up when I’m away from home, then log on remotely using RDP (or establish a VPN connection). However – this is unrelated to my post.

I tend to do the large file transfers when at home, and given the regularity of these transfers, I’ve set up a directory on my main laptop into which I can dump everything ready for transferring, then run a robocopy batch file to move this data across.

Cue: “Amazing Robocopy“. (This is a super batch file which runs the robocopy routine and does a load more. I may have wasted an entire evening writing this batch file.) Hopefully the above gives you the context you need to fully appreciate why I need such a thing.

“Amazing Robocopy” does the following:

• Checks if the remote machine is on. If not, send a WOL Magic Packet
• Keeps pinging the remote machine until it responds, then attempts to check the fileshare (CIFS) visibility
• Verifies some level of stability to the network connection before continuing
• Run the robocopy and log to a file.
• Provide the prompt at the very beginning as to whether user wants to shutdown machine when done
• Provide feedback throughout the process
• All timeouts and response limits set using variables
The screencap says it all:

Amazing Robocopy goes something like this.

It may be best to paste this into notepad before attempting to read.

Notes: download Depicus Wake On LAN for command line, and put it somewhere in your PATH. You’ll need to set the WOL arguments manually, as they can’t be configured with variables.

Also you’ll need to set the robocopy parameters to suit you.

: This script does a basic robocopy, but also it does the following:
: - test connectivity to the machine (ping). Send WOL Magic Packet if it doesn't respond.
: - after WOL, wait until the machine appears on the network
: - regardless of whether or not we got the machine up using WOL, we still verify a level of ping response consistency before continuing
: - verify the network path is visible before continuing
: - prompt at the start whether you want to shutdown the machine when finished
: - no further prompts during the process

@ECHO OFF

: SET THE FOLLOWING VARIABLES

: Set robocopy destination into two variables. They are used individually to test CIFS and PING connectivity then combined to insert into robocopy command
: We'll strip quotes from the outsides of these, so feel free to use quotes around each varilable - or not.
Set remotemachine=mat-pc
Set copytoshare="f\$\transfer\in"

: Time to wait after sending wol packet, before bothering to try to do anything else (approx startup time of remote machine)
Set timetowol=30

: If, after sending wol and waiting, there's still no response, we'll wait 1 second and try again.
: This is the total number of tries. TBH, may as well set this really high and Ctrl-C if you get bored.
Set pingfaillimit=25

: What do you consider is a good number of ping receipts to get back before deeming your connection to remote machine is stable? 1 = impatient. 10000 = paranoid. 10 = normal.
Set stabilitysatisfaction=10

: Once stability, by the definition of how many pings specified, is attained, we check the copy-to network path is available
: Frankly, if it isn't, it probably won't become available. And you'll have to figure out the problem separately.
: But this gives us the option to keep trying x number of times before continuing.
: Note: this number doesn't correspond to an amount of time. Windows is unpredictable when trying to check fileshares.
Set filesharefaillimit=15

: NO MORE VARIABLES TO SET NOW

CHOICE /M "Shutdown when done?
IF ERRORLEVEL 1 SET copyshutdown=1
IF ERRORLEVEL 2 SET copyshutdown=0

Set consecutivepingcheckcount=1
Set consecutivepingfailcount=1
Set filesharetestcount=1

:pingandcheck

ping /n 2 %remotemachine% | find "TTL=" >nul
if %errorlevel% == 0 goto reply

@echo No Reply on that IP! Tried %consecutivepingfailcount% of %pingfaillimit% times

IF %consecutivepingfailcount% == 1 (
@echo Let's try to WOL...

wolcmd.exe 001320164898 192.168.0.5 255.255.255.0 9
@echo OK ... WOL Magic Packet was sent. Let's wait for %timetowol% odd seconds then try to ping again...
ping 127.0.0.1 -n %timetowol% >null
@echo Fine - let's try to connect now.
Set consecutivepingfailcount=1
)

Set consecutivepingcheckcount=1
Set /A consecutivepingfailcount+=1

IF %consecutivepingfailcount% == %pingfaillimit% (
@echo We didn't get very far did we?
@echo I sent a WOL, waited, but nothing!
@echo Increase the pingfaillimit variable?
GOTO fin
)
goto pingandcheck

@echo IP Replied! Checking connection stability... %consecutivepingcheckcount% of %stabilitysatisfaction%
Set /A consecutivepingcheckcount+=1
IF %consecutivepingcheckcount% == %stabilitysatisfaction% (
@echo Connection appears stable!
GOTO checkfileshare
)
GOTO pingandcheck

:checkfileshare
@echo Now checking fileshare
IF EXIST \\%remotemachine%\%copytoshare% (
@echo Fileshare is visible. Good to go. Starting copying.
GOTO docopy
)
@echo Couldn't find fileshare - tried %filesharetestcount% of %filesharefaillimit% times.
Set /A filesharetestcount+=1
ping 127.0.0.1 -n 2 >null
IF %filesharetestcount% == %filesharefaillimit% (
@echo Failed to find the fileshare. Oh no!
@echo Maybe verify the fileshare is accessible yourself?
GOTO fin
)
goto checkfileshare

:docopy
:first three lines strip quotes if found then combine the machine name and share to give path
for /f "useback tokens=*" %%a in ('%remotemachine%') do set remotemachine=%%~a
for /f "useback tokens=*" %%a in ('%copytoshare%') do set copytoshare=%%~a
Set destination=\\%remotemachine%\%copytoshare%
ECHO on
robocopy f:\transfer\out\ "%destination%" /E /R:20 /W:10 /MOVE /NP /LOG+:logfile.log /TEE /XF *.bat *.log

IF %copyshutdown%==1 (
ECHO off
shutdown /m \\mat-pc /s /f /t 0
)

:fin

19
Aug 11

## Who makes the decisions in your organisation?

I just had a phone call that went something like this:

Man: “Hello, can I speak to the person who makes the decisions in your organisation?”

Me: [attempting to conceal sarcastic tone] “Well if you tell me what decisions you are talking about maybe I can help?”

Man: “The decisions regarding IT purchasing”

Me: “I’m sure I can put you through. One quick question. Do you make decisions regarding IT purchasing in your organisation?”

Man: [pause] “er… no, but … that’s not really relevant …”

Me: [impatient] “Well I am assuming you want to discuss the subject of making IT purchasing decisions in organisations, in which case I’m pretty sure the person who makes IT purchasing decisions in my organisation will only want to speak with someone who has similar experience in that area …”

Man: [pause. hangs up.]

Yes, I know. Utterly imbecilic of me. I was picked-on as a child …

p.s. this blog is now hosted on my new virtual server.

08
Apr 11

## Qype: Franco Manca in London

Franco Manca gets my seal of pizzapproval!

I’m upping sticks and leaving my home of 7 years in Shepherd’s Bush for the far more chic, distinctly less scary, and most definitely more beautiful Chiswick. And I simply can’t want to get stuck-in to the many delights Chiswick has to offer for the foodie; the supper clubs, the posh local food markets, and not least the great looking restaurants.

Franco Manca was recommended to me by the owner of a lovely little coffee house place in Cambridge called Massaro’s (completely unrelated); they are really serious about the quality of the meats and breads they serve, and they said I would love Franco Manca. In fact they were visiting London a week previously, and detoured all the way to Chiswick just to eat here.

They also told me the story of how it got its name. The original restaurant in Brixton was opened on the site of a little Italian place called Franco’s. One day Franco went missing and nobody knew where he had gone.

After a while, the new owners took over the place, but weren’t sure what to call their restaurant. So after a bit of thought they simply called it Franco Manca, Italian for “Franco’s Missing”.

Franco Manca is a pizza restaurant which serves really well-priced tasty Naples-style pizza, with an emphasis on good quality ingredients.

We visited for the first time of many on Saturday night, and found the pizza to be brilliant. The restaurant was very busy with queues out of the door at around 7.30pm Saturday night, and I can see why. Although there was a queue, the front-of-house chap knew exactly what he was doing and didn’t leave anyone hanging, instead coming coming back to check numbers and tables every few minutes.

The crowd is quite young and unfortunately a little noisy at this time; maybe I’m getting old but the group next to us was so unbearably loud we had to move. One Glaswegian woman had the most unbelievably shrill voice. What is it with the unruly Brits?!

Anyway. Are you a fellow Chiswickian? Or are you seeking out London’s best pizza joints?

The restaurant was extremely busy when we went, and they did mess up our order a little. Luckily we were quite excited about the pizza and overlooked the mistake, especially as an apology was forthcoming immediately.

Aside from this I found the service to be swift and no-messing.

Superb pizza, thin with toasty flavoursome crusts. If you are looking for a quiet Saturday evening then perhaps give it a miss, otherwise if you are no stranger to a youngish loudish crowd and you love good pizza, Franco Manca is a must-visit.

Check out my review of Franco Manca – I am hazymat – on Qype