Cardiff International Comic Expo

Cardiff International Comic ExpoThis February 26th at the Mercure Hotel there’s going to be a big Cardiff Comic Expo (follow them on Twitter). Tickets are currently £5 each, but they imply that the price may go up in the new year.

There are some very interesting guests, but no megastars (yet). I’ll be interested mostly to see the exhibitors myself, and hopefully discover some interesting indies.

I had no idea this was happening, so I figured others may appreciate the heads up!


8mm Vintage Camera

I had my first visit to a Yo! Sushi today, and took the opportunity to try out 8mm Vintage Camera, a newish iPhone app. Unlike Cinema FX for Video (from the same company), 8mm applies the retro effects to the footage as you shoot it. It’s a bit like Hipstamatic in that respect. Video you shoot is stored in the app, and you can export it to the camera reel or YouTube later.

Footage was edited together with ReelDirector (another Nexvio app).


These animations by the RSA are wonderful. I haven’t seen them all yet, but these two were also very interesting:

  • Smile or Die: Acclaimed journalist, author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich explores the darker side of positive thinking.
  • Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us.


I had already written multiple Twitter bots by this time so I decided to just use some of my existing code to poll Twitter’s search API. Essentially, the “documents” I mentioned above were actually tweets containing the terms “book” or “books.” Two and a half days later I had a working prototype that could generate a book recommendation from a given tweet. It was at this time that I added steps 5 and 6:

Tag URLs returned from Amazon’s ItemSearch with an affiliate ID; and Reply to the tweeting user with their new book suggestion

Four months later and I had generated over $7,000 in sales for Amazon with over $400 commission for myself.

(via How I Made Money Spamming Twitter with Contextual Book Suggestions –

Read this is you are determined to build a Twitter keyword spambot. The author throttled the amount of tweets, recorded usernames so he wouldn’t annoy the same person twice and generally did his best to build a relevant spambot with good etiquette.

What your apps know about you

This diagram is one of many interactive infographics from the Wall Street Journal, illustrating how many apps are accessing more of your personal data than you may realise.

An examination of 101 popular smartphone “apps”—games and other software applications for iPhone and Android phones—showed that 56 transmitted the phone’s unique device ID to other companies without users’ awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone’s location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders.

The findings reveal the intrusive effort by online-tracking companies to gather personal data about people in order to flesh out detailed dossiers on them.

via Your Apps Are Watching You –
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Snow under a microscope

These are all images of snowflakes, under varying degrees of magnification. I have been collecting them for a few years now, and they never fail to amaze and inspire me.

via / @akirathedon

What does it feel like to be stupid?

Tonight I joined Quora (It’s like Yahoo! Answers for smart people) and spotted the question What does it feel like to be stupid?

The best answer is from an anonymous user who suffered from an arterial problem which reduced the blood supply to his heart and brain, making him forgetful, slow, and easily overwhelmed…

However, once I got used to it and resigned myself, it was great. Even though I knew I had a worrying illness, I was happy as a pig in mud. I no longer had the arrogance of being frustrated with slow people, I abandoned many projects which reduced a lot of stress, I could enjoy films without knowing what would happen (my nickname before this used to be ‘comic book guy’ if you get the reference), and I became amazingly laid back and happy go lucky. I got on with people much better. I developed much more respect for one of my friends in particular who I always considered slow – it turned out he is much deeper than I thought, I just never had the patience to notice before. You could say I had more time to look around. The world just made more sense. The only negative, apart from struggling to perform at work, and having to write everything down, was that I no longer found sci-fi interesting – it just didn’t seem important. (I’m not joking, although it sounds like a cliché.)

(via What does it feel like to be stupid? –

He did recover, and you will be pleased to learn that he regained his love of science fiction.

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The Royal Pingdom blog has been measuring the downtime of five different blogging services. They are very sympathetic towards Tumblr’s position on this list, and the result will be of no surprise to anyone who uses the service. I hope they sort their problems out too.

The other standout on the list was Blogger, with no downtime over the two month testing period recorded at all!

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Fun with the Google Ngram Viewer

A few days ago Google launched the Google Books Ngram Viewer, a labs project that lets you compare the frequency of word use in published works, and compare these terms over time. For example, the following is a variety of common first names appearing in the English database over the last two hundred years.

Common English first names

You can see that around 1960, the name David suddenly started to gain in popularity. You can narrow the English corpus to American English, British English and English fiction, and also search works in other languages.

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A Twitter web client for Luddites

Old Twitter

Image: Twitter c.2007

Here’s a free idea that someone might get some milage out of. Every time a website like Facebook, Flickr or Twitter overhauls its design, a vocal percentage of users complain. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ they will cry. ‘Why is the thing that used to be up there now over here?’ they will moan. ‘Change it back or I’m leaving’ they will insist.

Why not cater for these users that are uncomfortable with change? Build a Twitter web client that looks exactly like an older version of Twitter. Hell, build them all and let people choose for themselves how many features they want to take away?

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Goodbye Delicious, hello

While the future of Flickr is in doubt, it seems like Bartz’s axe is ready to fall on Delicious, and a few other Yahoo! services.

Today I looked for a few Delicious alternatives. I really like the look of PressMark, a fork of WordPress, but decided that it may be a bit much effort to maintain and I wasn’t confident it was being actively developed.

A couple of people suggested, and after a bit of investigation I signed up (paying $7.41). 

Pinboard is a bookmarking website for introverted people in a hurry.

The focus of the site is less on socializing, and more on speed and utility. The goals of the site, in order of priority, are:

  1. Never lose data
  2. Be ridiculously fast
  3. Offer useful features


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European news agenda

More than one million news articles in 22 languages have been analysed using the latest technology to pinpoint the factors that influence and shape the news agenda in 27 European countries. 

Every day hundreds of news outlets across Europe choose which story to cover from a wide and diverse selection. While each outlet may make news choices based on individual criteria, clear patterns emerge when these choices are studied across many outlets and over a long period of time.

They discovered that chosen news content reflects national biases, as well as cultural, economic and geographic links between countries. For example outlets from countries that trade a lot with each other and are in the Eurozone are more likely to cover the same stories, as are countries that vote for each other in the Eurovision song contest. Deviation from ‘normal content’ is more pronounced in outlets of countries that do not share the Euro, or have joined the European Union later.

Professor Lewis said: “This approach has the potential to revolutionise the way we understand our media and information systems. It opens up the possibility of analysing the mediasphere on a global scale, using huge samples that traditional analytical techniques simply couldn’t countenance. It also allows us to use automated means to identify clusters and patterns of content, allowing us to reach a new level of objectivity in our analysis.”

Professor Cristianini, University of Bristol added: “Automating the analysis of news content could have significant applications, due to the central role played by the news media in providing the information that people use to make sense of the world.”

(via European news agenda –

Sadly though, there is no elaboration on exactly which shared interests countries have, and exactly what kind of issues outlying countries are more interested in. (Most likely, news about non-EU countries’ that share their other borders.)

The big potential use I can see for all of this is the automated discovery of potential stories of interest – a feed of ‘stories my local media are not reporting’. It would be interesting to see if the same techniques could work for the entire news output of a single country, so we could get an analysis of stories across the UK.

It seems the researchers really went above and beyond what should be possible for their study…

[…] the team was able to analyse 1,370,874 articles – a sample size well beyond existing research techniques.

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Top 10 overused buzzwords in LinkedIn Profiles in the USA – 2010

  1. Extensive experience
  2. Innovative
  3. Motivated
  4. Results-oriented
  5. Dynamic
  6. Proven track record
  7. Team player
  8. Fast-paced
  9. Problem solver
  10. Entrepreneurial


I am a highly motivated team player with extensive experience producing innovative, dynamic, fast paced and results-oriented work. As an innovative problem solver with a proven track record and a dynamic entrepreneurial streak, you will soon discover that I am basically the all singing, all dancing crap of the world.

Job please!

Humble Indie Bundle 2

It’s Humble Indie Bundle time again. This time the bundle has five indie games on offer: Braid, Cortex Command, Machinarium, Osmos and Revenge of the Titans. You really can’t beat the deal:

Pay what you want. If you bought these five games separately, it would cost around $85 but we’re letting you set the price!

All of the games work great on Mac, Windows, and Linux.

We don’t use DRM. When you buy these games, they are yours. Feel free to play them without an internet connection, back them up, and install them on all of your Macs and PCs freely. There is no time-limit on your downloads.

You can support charity. Choose exactly how your purchase money is divided: Between the game developers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or the Child’s Play Charity. Also, if you like this deal, a tip to the Humble Bundle itself would be much appreciated!

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