Monday, August 23, 2010

Some Useful Keyword Quick Searches

Chrome's default location bar behavior is the closest I've gotten to the mythical 'do what I want' in a browser.  While there are extensions for Firefox that can mimic this, I instead have it set up to do something even more useful.  When I know exactly what I want to find, I can specify what domain I want to search to get better results than letting the browser, or Google, figure it out.

For the uninitiated, the magic of keyword quick searches involves typing out a keyword - a few letters or a word - before your search query in the location bar.  The keyword tells your browser which site's search you want to use.  I'll run through how to set them up in Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, then offer some keywords that I use.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Power of Ten

I consider myself pretty good at getting a sense of scale from facts and figures, even when the reality is that it tends to get really hard over around 10,000 and break down over a million or so.

This infographic at visualeconomics really drives home how thoroughly it breaks down.  I know $100 billion is really a lot of money.  I know in my head that just 0.1% of that is $100 million, which is still a ridiculous amount of money.  But I don't think I really knew it at a gut level until scrolling through that image.  And it reminds me that there are probably a lot of other things where that's true.

On the flip side of things, this slide remains the worst infographic I have ever seen.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Project Kickoff Tips, part 1

I've helped kick off a few software consulting projects lately, and thought it might be helpful to share what I've learned so far. For the first article in this series, I'll focus on what we've found useful to bring in on the first day.

First, make sure to have the essential information ready. It seems obvious, but I'm going to go over a lot of things that sound obvious in this series. They can be so obvious that it's easy to overlook them, or they may not be obvious to everyone. You should have the initial story list, location, and contact information prepared. One thing I've sometimes found helpful is to meet up at an external location before the first day, talk strategy a bit, and walk in as a group.

Then there's the meeting box. It's a convenient way to keep track of all of the things you want to bring along at first. You can also easily carry it to any meeting rooms, so you're never without your tools. Its typical contents, in rough order of importance, are:

Monday, August 2, 2010

As We May Realize

Vannevar Bush's post-war article that introduced the concept of hypertext, As We May Think, was published in Atlantic magazine in 1945, sixty-five years ago.  I'd heard of it, but never sat down and read it until today.

Like many good futurist predictions, it can be eerie how much it gets right, and all too easy to gloss over how much it gets wrong.  For example, he's convinced that microfilm, rather than CRTs and their descendants, will be the medium of choice.  Speech recognition and generation being 'easy' problems to solve is another common mistake.  It took nearly fifty-five years to make generation start sounding natural, and speech recognition is so hard that its first practical application is the nascent Google Voice.

In fact, that's the thing that strikes me the most about this article.  A significant amount of his predictions didn't come true until this decade.  Hyperlinks may have gotten their start in the nineties, but camera phones, e-readers, Wikipedia, online shopping, and social networks only took off recently.  It amazes me how much of a different experience it would be reading this for the first time in, say, 1997, when hyperlinks and pocket calculators were the main predictions it got right.