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More travel today, back to London. And feeling under the weather. I wrote part of a post on the train, but won’t complete it cos we’re about to go out to see La La Land.

Proper posting will resume tomorrow.

Daily Posting Harder When You’re Away

I may not get to do a proper post today, as I’m in Edinburgh visiting friends. As well, my phone’s battery has become increasingly erratic, so it could go down at any moment.

So this is my post for today, unless I get round to writing more.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

No snow after Peterborough. In fact we’ve had some sun since then.

Ticket Captcha Fail

Just tried and failed to book Dylan tickets. Three nights at the London Palladium in April. I got an email from Songkick telling me about it yesterday, and jumped straight on it.

To learn that tickets didn’t go on sale till 10:00 today. At which time I was going to be traveling to King’s Cross to get a train to Edinburgh, which is a wee bit inconvenient.

As it happened by just after ten I was at KX, and buying my lunch for the journey. But of course at that time I had forgotten about the tickets. By the time I remembered it was 12:44. The Palladium only holds just over 2000, so there wasn’t much hope.

But I wasn’t helped by Ticketmaster’s ludicrous captcha overkill. Seemed like every time I moved from one page to another I had to click an “I am not a robot” checkbox and then select all the pictures containing street signs, or pickup trucks, or storefronts, from an array of tiny shitty pictures. Pickup trucks and storefronts? We barely have the former in this country, and we don’t use the latter term. And sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s in the pictures. I was doing this on a phone, after all.

I wonder how serious their problem with automated ticket-buying bots is. I guess it must be an issue, given that the whole business of an inflated resale markets and touts at venues still exists.

Anyway, all gone in London, but you may have a chance elsewhere.

“Thread” Dread

I don’t mind people posting a tweetstorm, wherein they have a lot to say and do so via a series of linked tweets. I think there are better ways to do it; better places to host medium-length pieces of writing,1 but whatever works for you.

And of course I don’t mind other people tweeting a link to the top of the thread and urging others to read it.

But I really don’t care for the habit of doing so while saying nothing other than, “Thread.”

I mean, come on, people: if it’s worth linking to, it’s worth writing few words to tell us why you think we should read it.

This post could fit in five or six tweets. I suppose I should have posted it that way. Except #OwnYourContent.


  1. Actually the typical tweetstorm is probably still quite short. []

Optics

The word “optics” used to mean the science of light. It still does, of course, but it now also refers to “how things look,” in terms of public image and so on.

And it from what I can tell it has only come into this use in the last year or so. I first heard it on tech podcasts, but it was recently in a front-page headline (though the second story) in The Guardian. And I heard it on the telly. I think it was in Agents of SHIELD, wherein they included an explanation of what it means.

I can see how it can be used in its new meaning, but how did it come to be used that way?

And it seems that I’m right that it’s relatively new: Wikipedia, googling: both only turn up definitions like “the branch of physics to do with light.”

Now Urban Dictionary’s top definition is exactly what I’m talking about:

What something will look like to the outside world; the perception a public relations person would have on something. First seen (at least by me) in article by Equity Private on finance blog dealbreaker

Economists repurposing words from real science to dismal? Sounds entirely plausible.

International Clash Day

I saw a hashtag on Twitter this evening: #InternationalClashDay. Well, it doesn’t take a lot, and now my actual favourite Clash song is blasting out of the Sonos: “Death or Glory,” from London Calling.

I say “actual” because if asked I would usually say that “(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais” is my favourite Clash song (if not overall favourite song, and very probably that too). And then I listen to London Calling again, and am reminded of the glory of “Death or Glory.”

If anyone ever asks who my favourite band is I’ll unhesitatingly say, “The Clash.” Almost unthinkingly, which may not be good; but some things become part of us.

I can almost remember when I first heard them properly. It was at Bob McGarry’s house. He played a single and then tried to impersonate John Peel, saying, “Those were The Clash,” which is how Peelie often used to back-announce things in those days. I don’t recall what track it was: “White Riot,” probably. I wasn’t overwhelmed, to be honest. It certainly didn’t have a life-changing feeling; not like when I heard Stiff little Fingers’s “Wasted Life,” possibly in the same house, or maybe it was in Brendan Conroy’s. I must write about that one someday.

But other songs and albums were waiting. I can’t honestly say what it was that finally did it for me. Maybe “Tommy Gun” or “English Civil War.” Maybe “White Man” itself. I do know that shortly after London Calling was released, my friend Steven Watt said to me, “I envy you: you haven’t heard London Calling yet.”

Somewhere in there, though — after I bought my first copy of London Calling for £3.991, and before I bought Sandinista for the same price — I was fully onboard, and searching for all the old singles in Glasgow record shops.

Writing that makes me think that the point of transition might actually have been when I saw my friends’ band The Varicose Veins2 doing “Clash City Rockers.” In which case a cover version was key. Which is fine. One of The Clash’s most famous songs, “I Fought the Law,” was a cover, after all.

I should probably be able to explain why they mean so much to me, but I’m not sure I can. It’s probably a combination of affinity for their viewpoint, the sheer raw energy of their early songs, and their lyrics.

But maybe not. Maybe it’s just that the golden age of music is around 14-15, and lessons learned then — lessons burned on the soul — stay with us.

“The only band that matters.” It’s been quoted so often it’s become a cliché. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true.


  1. It later got stolen during a party in Edinburgh. I replaced it with a second-hand copy for the same price. []
  2. Said Brendan was the bass player. []

Criticality Escalation

Part of any kind of bug or problem reporting system is triage: the act of deciding how severe each report is and placing it into the appropriate category.

Common categories in software development are things like “Critical,” “High,” “Medium” and “Low,” for example. They would usually be given associated numeric values: probably 1-4, in this case.

I realise that I mentioned “triage,” which of course means dividing things into three; and then I’ve introduced four levels. That would be quadage, maybe? Tesserage? Anyway, three levels wasn’t enough for people: at some point “High,” “Medium” and “Low” just couldn’t cut it.

But even the terminology is breaking down now. This snippet below is based on values from an actual document written by an actual company, for reporting problems during user acceptance testing (UAT).

Severity Description
1 - Extremely critical Critical problem that completely stops testing…
2 - Very critical Critical prbelm that prevents some testing…
3 - Critical Non-critical problem…
4 - Less critical Minor bug…

Imagine if they used that in hospitals: “The patient’s critical.” “Oh, not too bad, then.”

And I love how the definition of “Critical” is “Non-critical problem…”

Should a Blog Have a Theme?

Yes, yes, it’s all very meta: all I ever write about is blogging.1 But that is exactly what I want to talk about today: is a blog better if it is only on one subject?2

I suspect that the most successful blogs in terms of size of readership are fairly closely focused on a single subject. I read several technology blogs, such as Daring Fireball, Six Colours and MacStories, which all write mainly about technology with an Apple slant. They have all achieved success by keeping that focus.3

On the other hand, there are some highly enjoyable ones that take a broader scope: Tim Bray’s Ongoing, John Scalzi’s Whatever, or Wil Wheaton’s blog; those authors write about whatever4 takes their fancy.

I, as you’ll have noticed, take the latter tack. But the question is, should I be more focused? Should I concentrate on writing about politics, say?5

It’s worth considering, certainly, but here’s the thing: I’m not actually sure what I would focus on. I don’t think I have the single-mindedness to keep to the same subject. I value the flexibility of the old-school, personal blog.

Which is just as well, since that’s what I seem to be writing. So there you go.


  1. Or politics. []
  2. However broad that may be. []
  3. Though it’s worth noting that recent world events have caused some of them to get a bit more political than previously. []
  4. The clue is even in one of the names. []
  5. Some would say that wouldn’t be so very different from now. []