Friday, 28 September 2012

Tools and Tips: getting to grips with writing

A slightly more academic aspect of the sorting out your working life theme is my efforts to make a dent in the academic writing task.
I have always found writing an abstract a great way to kickstart the writing effort, but over the past few weeks I have been working on a rather more systematic approach.
The effort was triggered by good intentions; but the arrival of an email from the Tomorrow's Professor list titled Want to Publish More? Then Train Like an Athlete". really caught my eye, and, I have to say, my imagination….

Perfectionism is a deadly enemy of good performance. It’s like being judged every time you write a sentence or paragraph. It’s far better to go ahead, make mistakes and learn from them. Rather than expecting great output from a burst of frenzied inspiration, the idea behind Boice’s brief regular sessions is to work with moderate daily expectations, knowing this will lead in time to better results.
to be continued...

More workplace tools: expenses and business cards

These are the sort of apps which are really useful when you are travelling….






This week I am continuing my new (academic) year's resolution, and getting systematic over using tools.

Latest hot app to join the ranks of workplace organisation is ExpenseMagic which does what is says. You take photos of your receipts (or upload them or mail them in) and once a month you get a spreadsheet with a summary of all your expenditure. You have to supply a small amount of metadata, but its a great way of systematising the records of what you spend, whether you are going to claim it back, or want to look at it for analysis.  You can pay for the service on a PAYG, monthly of quarterly fee, and for me, the peace of mind and delegated work is much appreciated!


As well as spending money and collecting receipts, travelling to conferences and workshops tends to lead to an accumulation of business cards. 

I already try to use evernote and take pics of people and places where possible; and I have a LinkedIn app to turn my business contacts into my online network. Now I also have a business card reader app (called BCReader!)which very nicely scans the card and lets me save the collected info into a contact in my address book.


Friday, 21 September 2012

Tools and Tricks for a life online - the slow death of Twitter

I'm working hard at the moment juggling a whole load of different (but inter-related) papers which I am writing along with revising this semester's teaching and working on a radically different incarnation of some teaching which I have done in the past. When I have that many things on the go, I find Evernote invaluable, and Twitter is just part of the fabric.
When I wrote about workplace tools in a previous post, I neglected to mention twitter - probably because its use is just an intrinsic part of how I work. I use twitter to find stuff, to keep in touch with my (various and not necessarily inter-related communities of practice (web science; technology enhanced learning;  personal and educational development; workplace and remote friends and colleagues; running and cycling (think serious juggling plus work life balance here). I have Twitter tools on my various devices, and have been  using Twitter with IFTTT to help me build up an archive of useful stuff which I have spotted by saving it in Evernote.
Imagine my disappointment therefore to discover that twitter has decided to self harm to a disastrous extent - of which I learnt courtesy of the IFTTT twitter feed, and the ensuing storm of twitter discussion.

Upcoming changes to Twitter Triggers

We recently sent an email to everyone with a Recipe that uses a Twitter Trigger outlining some upcoming changes to the Twitter Channel. Here’s the full email:
In recent weeks, Twitter has announced policy changes* that will affect how applications and users like yourself can interact with Twitter’s data. As a result of these changes, on September 27th we will be removing all Twitter Triggers, disabling your ability to push tweets to places like email,Evernote and Facebook. All Personal and Shared Recipes using a Twitter Trigger will also be removed. Recipes using Twitter Actions and your ability to post new tweets via IFTTT will continue to work just fine. 

At IFTTT, first and foremost, we want to empower anyone to create connections between literally anything. We’ve still got a long way to go, and to get there we need to make sure that the types of connections that IFTTT enables are aligned with how the original creators want their tools and services to be used. 
We at IFTTT are big Twitter fans and, like yourself, we’ve gotten a lot of value out of the Recipes that use Twitter Triggers. We’re sad to see them go, but remain excited to build features that work within Twitter’s new policy. Thank you for your support and for understanding these upcoming changes. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at
Linden Tibbets 
*These Twitter policy changes specifically disallow uploading Twitter Content to a “cloud based service” (Section 4A and include stricter enforcement of the Developer Display Requirements (
This enlightened action of self mutilation comes hot on the heels of twitter announcing that it was ending its tweet syndication partnership with LinkedIn! However a few folk have pointed out that the writing has been on the wall for some time when API guidelines were revised in the spring (see AllThingsD and TechCrunch )
What it means for me, is back to the drawing board and work out another way of hanging on and archiving useful information.  

Monday, 17 September 2012

Women in Technology


Over the summer two female interns who are also undergrads studying in Electronics and Computer Science have been working on reviving ECS.Women as an action and support group for all female undergraduates and post graduates in our area.  

The basic idea is to establish a full programme of activities ready to roll at the beginning of the academic year and to use the internships as a means of creating some momentum to sustain the group's activities and  thus secure its future.

A fundamentatal problem when women are in a minority, is that relying on voluntary activities is inherently risky, because you are seeking a big contribution from a relatively small pool of individuals - a call which can be particularly challenging when those individuals are trying very hard at the same time to work on getting a good phd or a high quality degree.  

I will be pointing at outputs from the internship in future posts, but meantime I wanted to use this post as a pointer to a couple of links

Interesting Blog Post from Tim Chevallier a member of the Haskell community titled "How to exclude women from your technical community: a tutorial". 

The blog includes links to Geek Feminism's WIKI  - resources for Allies and Good sexism comebacks - many of the links in Geek Feminism are understandably US centric, but none the less many others are relevant and helpful to those coming from a European perspective.