Helipad.me: Turn your Facebook fan page into a proper website

Every small business that uses Facebook as their main presence online should take a look at Helipad.me.

An example of s site created by Helipad.me This service builds you an attractive and useful web page for your business that pulls your news items, photo albums, status updates, videos and customer information directly from your existing Facebook fan page. At present they only have one template design (in four colours), but I imagine they’ll be quick to expand this and add some customisation features, like the ability to upload company logos and re-arrange the content.

This is a great idea for small businesses who won’t have to worry about managing another website, but will give them a presence on the open web for non-Facebook users like myself. If the day ever comes when they want leave Facebook behind, they’ll already have an established, ranking domain to build up from.


Women defy biology to avoid giving birth on Halloween

Graph showing that births take a dip on Halloween

“But wait, what does Halloween Day have to do with giving birth? Or any day, for that matter? Don’t women just have babies when the time comes?” Well, apparently not, because, according to researchers at Yale, women can and do choose to avoid bringing their babies into the world concurrently with the “Festival of the Dead.”

I’m not just talking C-sections — the phenomenon inexplicably holds true for C-sections and spontaneous births. And Halloween isn’t the only holiday that has women strongly influencing their birth timing, either. This research ultimately leaves me with more questions than answers, but sometimes that’s the best kind of science.

(via Women defy biology to avoid giving birth on Halloween – trynerdy.com)

Why Klout thinks you are ‘special’

Klout style matrix One of the most fascinating metrics Klout produces is your ‘style’. What could be an interesting insight into the character of a user is instead written in much the same way as a horoscope. I imagine most web users would get a nice ego stroke reading whichever short description happens to apply to them.

I’ve reproduced the list for convenience. Skip to the bottom for my other thoughts on Klout. (Spolier: I think it’s really bad news.)

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Parallax is an interdimensional platforming and puzzle-solving game. The goal in each level is to reach the exit by travelling between two overlapping dimensions through rifts. Parallax challenges the player to think beyond the spatial boundaries of traditional platformers.

Pure black and white is a difficult style. These guys seem to have nailed it.

(via Ars)

The future is boring

I’m going to start collecting corporate promotional videos that imagine a sterile touchscreen future of attractive and successful people using unlikely (but attractive) user interfaces. Starting with this new one from Microsoft:

Productivity Future Vision (2011) – Microsoft Office

In 2019, two years after desk clutter was outlawed in the US, office workers are all prescribed strong drugs to improve their focus and help them block out the distractions visible through their glass workstations. Witness the confusion of the asian worker who, while waiting for his train, briefly runs out of tasks to perform on his phone and quickly seeks out an interactive advertisement to occupy him for the next 30 seconds.

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Container Bob

This curious aside is from a fascinating (if overlong) Wired article about a radioactive container that turned up in a Genoan port:

It was hardly the first fishy shipment to pass through Gioia Tauro. Famously, just six weeks after 9/11, workers there heard noises coming from inside a container being transshipped to Nova Scotia via Rotterdam. Inside, police found an Egyptian-born Canadian carrying a Canadian passport, a satellite phone, a cell phone, a laptop, cameras, maps, and security passes to airports in Canada, Thailand, and Egypt. The container’s interior was outfitted with a bed, a water supply, a heater, and a toilet. Nicknamed Container Bob, the man posted bail in Italian court and was never seen again.

(via Why Is This Cargo Container Emitting So Much Radiation? – wired.com)

Apparently he also had ‘an airline mechanic’s certificate valid for Chicago’s O’Hare and New York’s Kennedy airports.’1 He was ‘a well-dressed man’ only caught because he was drilling ventilation holes.2

Despite the ‘Container Bob’ nickname, ABC News reported at the time that he was Rizk Amid Farid, then 43.

Italian investigators say everything about Farid — his documents and claims about himself — appear to be either false or obscured. They have checked his stories with police in other countries — including Egypt, Canada and the United States — and believe none has panned out. Canadian investigators are further investigating the suspect’s background.

Though police have not said they have any direct evidence tying Farid to terrorism, he is the first person to be arrested in Italy on the basis of a new counterterrorism law passed last week in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Under the new law, he can be held for at least six months as investigators try to determine whether he is a terrorist.

A prosecutor said the stowaway had studied in Egypt and in North America to qualify as a commercial jet engine mechanic. Before leaving Egypt, however, he was believed to be working at a magazine distribution company. Investigators say he claimed to be “running away” from a powerful brother-in-law in Egypt and had traveled in the container for five days.

(via Italian Police Probe Man Found in Box – 25 October 2001 – abcnews.go.com)

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Like NaNoWriMo, but for technical book authors: PragProWriMo – the Pragmatic Programmers Writing Month.

To help you along, we’re setting up a forum and a Twitter account. Follow us on Twitter at @pragprowrimo to stay up to date. Join the forum at forums.pragprog.com/forums/190 for more detailed writing advice, answers to your writing questions, and progress reports from participants. And when you finish your 60 pages, you might even get some special recognition from us.

(via pragprog.com)

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Using A/B testing to find story ideas

I’ve been reading In The Plex, recently, so naturally I’ve been thinking a lot about how to use data in interesting ways. This post appealed:

Earlier I read this post via Hacker News on testing startup ideas. It got me thinking about whether or not you could do something similar in your newsroom. I’ll call it A/B Testing for News Coverage.

via Using A/B testing to find story ideas – andymboyle.com

In a nutshell: Write some spec articles, run AdWord campaigns for them, see which ones are most popular. You could get the value of this without running any ad campaigns though. All webmasters – especially those with newsy content – should pay attention to their analytics to learn what content has proved popular, what searches brought readers in, and be on the look out for spikes of interest in particular topics.

When I clicked through to read this blog post, I was expecting it to be a post about A/B testing fiction story ideas. Imagine a kind of choose your own adventure story where the author writes the opening of the story, then two or three different continuations. The most popular branch becomes canonical, and the author continues the story from there.

I doubt that’s an idea that’d appeal to many authors, but some variation of this could be a fun experiment.

Wales Blog Award finalists, by blogging platform

I was curious to break down which blogging platforms this years Wales Blog Awards finalists used.

A pie chart showing which platforms the 2011 Wales Blog Award nominees use.

Google’s Blogger is the clear winner, powering exactly 50% of the blogs up for awards. The rest are evenly split between the hosted WordPress.com service, and the self-hosted WordPress.org version. Only two blogs used some other platform.

Only 13 of the 28 blogs in the list use a custom domain name.* Others are content to use the free subdomain provided by their host.

Of the blogs that ended up winning, 60% used Blogger, with the remaining 40% split evenly between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

All the nominees are listed below. Category winners in bold.

Blog Platform

Best Community Blog

Rhuthun / Ruthin – rhuthun.blogspot.com Blogger
The Photon Blog – photonicanglesey.blogspot.com Blogger
We Are Cardiff – wearecardiff.co.uk WordPress.com

Best Entertainments & Music Blog

Movie Waffle – moviewaffle.com WordPress.com
Cat on the Wall – catonthewall.net WordPress.org
Motown Junkies – motownjunkies.wordpress.com WordPress.com

Best Food & Drink Blog

Cardiff Bites – cardiffbites.blogspot.com Blogger
What Kate Baked… Blogger
Pint of 45 – pintof45.blogspot.com Blogger

Best Lifestyle Blog

Where Are My Knees? – wherearemyknees.blogspot.com Blogger
Dyfed Wyn Roberts – dyfedwynroberts.org.uk Misc.
Chic & Cheerful – chicandcheerful.net Blogger

Best Photo Blog

Cardiff Arcades Project – cardiffarcades.wordpress.com WordPress.com
Circus Clouds – circusclouds.blogspot.com Blogger

Best Political Blog

Carmarthenshire Planning Problems and more – carmarthenplanning.blogspot.com Blogger
Caredig I Natur (CIN) – caredig.blogspot.com Blogger
Radical Wales – radicalwales.org Blogger

Best Sports Blog

Ffwtbol – ffwtbol.com WordPress.org
The Foot Down – thefootdown.co.uk WordPress.org
Cardiff Skateboard Club – http://cardiffskateboardclub.com/ WordPress.com

Best Technology Blog

This Is My Joystick – thisismyjoystick.com WordPress.org
Apptacious – apptacious.com WordPress.org
TechBeast.net – techbeast.net WordPress.org

Best Welsh Language Blog

Hen Rech Flin – henrechflin.blogspot.com Blogger
Sion Dafydd – siondafydd.wordpress.com WordPress.com

Best Writing on a Blog

I Saw Elvis In The Woods – isawelvisinthewoods.blogspot.com Blogger
Modern Haiku – mordenhaikupoetry.blogspot.com Blogger
Mike Jenkins – Welsh Poet & Author – mikejenkins.net Misc.

People’s Choice Award & Best Blog (overall winner)

Ffwtbol – ffwtbol.com  

I think Blogger is a great choice, but I’m a little stumped why so many are serious enough about their blogs to seek awards, but are unwilling to spend the £5 to £20 to get a proper domain name.

* UPDATE 2011.10.28 Amy Davies pointed out to me that she does use a custom domain, cardiffarcadesproject.com, as a redirect.

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Open Paper


I’m gradually migrating over the content from my Open Paper Tumblr blog. It was originally started because I had an idea to crowdsource content and design for a Newspaper Club project. While I was trying to decide what the paper should be about, I collected interesting, inspirational and useful links on the blog. These will be preserved here under the tag Open Paper, alongside regular halfblog.net posts.

I’d still like to produce a paper, but I probably won’t crowdsource the content.

Private spaces are stifling protest

Most of London’s “public” spaces are privately owned, as the Occupy protesters are learning.

At Canary Wharf recently a group of activists wishing to mount a protest were contacted by advertising company JDDecaux, which told them that the space was an “experimental advertising space” for which the daily rate was £4,750. This is a model that looks at space purely as a place for investment rather than as an open democratic forum where people can meet freely and come and go.

[…] As for the area around St Paul’s, it is owned by the church, which traditionally welcomes all members of the public. Today it seems even that is in question.

Private spaces are stifling protest – guardian.co.uk

The situation is much the same on the Internet today, where the ‘digital land’ is owned by big companies like Google and Facebook. You can stage your protests there, only if these corporate giants allow it.

Google Chrome 15 adds gesture animations for OS X Lion

I just uploaded this short video comparing the new gesture animations in Google Chrome with those in Safari.

In this video, I navigate through three pages, then use gestures (finger swipes on my Magic Mouse) to show how the animations look. Safari makes the navigation direction (forwards or backwards) clear, while Chrome adds confusion to what should be a really intuitive gesture.

Chrome has also added the little page-bounce animations you see in other native Mac apps when using a touch device, and even used the same linen texture for the empty space.

A guide to brand colours

This graphic from Usability Post draws data from Cymbolism, a web site attempting to classify the meanings behind colours:

One of the key elements of building a strong brand is color selection. Every color has a different feel and various associations. By choosing a color or a combination of colors for your brand identity, you will take on those associations. Colors will evoke certain emotions and feelings towards your brand so it is vital to choose a color that will represent your identity effectively.

A Guide to Choosing Colors for Your Brand – usabilitypost.com

I also appreciated the insight in this post on the function of rounded corners.

Knowledge is power

Comment by Lard_Baron on reddit.com

When I was young my father said to me:

“Knowledge is Power….Francis Bacon”

I understood it as “Knowledge is power, France is Bacon”.

For more than a decade I wondered over the meaning of the second part and what was the surreal linkage between the two? If I said the quote to someone, “Knowledge is power, France is Bacon” they nodded knowingly. Or someone might say, “Knowledge is power” and I’d finish the quote “France is Bacon” and they wouldn’t look at me like I’d said something very odd but thoughtfully agree. I did ask a teacher what did “Knowledge is power, France is bacon” meant and got a full 10 minute explanation of the Knowledge is power bit but nothing on “France is bacon”. When I prompted further explanation by saying “France is Bacon?” in a questioning tone I just got a “yes”. at 12 I didn’t have the confidence to press it further. I just accepted it as something I’d never understand.

It wasn’t until years later I saw it written down that the penny dropped.

No, you do not have ‘a Tumblr’

The 2012 Obama campaign is now on Tumblr, and I have a big problem with them:


It’s nice to meet you.

There are lots of reasons we’re excited to be launching the Obama 2012 campaign’s new Tumblr today. But mostly it’s because we’re looking at this as an opportunity to create something that’s not just ours, but yours, too.

We’d like this Tumblr to be a huge collaborative storytelling effort—a place for people across the country to share what’s going on in our respective corners of it and how we’re getting involved in this campaign to keep making it better.

My problem is not political, it’s a grammar niggle.

The Obama campaign does not have ‘a Tumblr’. Tumblr is the company and the blogging platform they run. Tumblr is the sum total of all the Tumblr blogs. They have a tumblelog, or a Tumblr blog, or just a blog.

Likewise one doesn’t have ‘a Twitter’. You use Twitter, you are on Twitter, you have a Twitter page or a Twitter feed or a Twitter profile, but Twitter is the company and the service.

See also: The correct use of ‘blog’ and ‘blog post’, wherein I correct Mr. Stephen Fry.

Daylight Saving Time explained

There’s a lot more to changing clocks than I realised – and even more good reasons we shouldn’t bother:

Every year some countries move their clocks forward in the spring only to move them back in the autumn.

To the vast majority of the world who dosen’t participate in this odd clock fiddling – it seems a baffling thing to do. So what’s the reason behind it?

(via blog.cgpgrey.com)