Thursday, May 31, 2007

Stupid Google Tricks Part 1

What should I be angry about today?

How Moderate Muslims Should Not Get Angry With Their Extremist Brothers
"Radical Islam has become an off-the-peg label that young Muslims can wear to rebel against their dads and wider British society. Like punks before them, they’ll grow up and grow out of it."

Why black folks should especially be angry regarding recent terrorist activity
"The series of Live 8 concerts have confirmed what many Africans and people of African decent have known for years: Our motherland is in dire need of help."

Why I'm angry today
"...most of these nutjobs are conservative or ultraconservative or suprafuckinginsaneconservative ... and I want as little "me" time with them as possible."

Whats made you angry/upset today...
"...that half my course is maths and i didn't even do it past gcse ... that i woke up at 3 and wasted the whole day ... that the only food i have left is an onion and some pasta"

MySpace Sued By Angry Parents
"If the parents wish to sue myspace then the local police should arrest the parents for reckless endangerment."

- - - -

I'm not alone!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The real inconvenient truth is that global warming deniers are lazy

Here's one for those with too much time on their hands. You can use up ten minutes of it watching this video. As I point out in this video, I recently did a piece going to town on Sheryl Crow for her stupid line about limiting people to using a single square of toilet paper. It was definitely a stupid thing to say and saying it was a joke doesn't make it any less stupid.

But there's being stupid in the name of getting attention and there's being an evil, malicious liar in the name of... well, who knows what. I have seen and heard so many things recently from global warming deniers that have made me so angry, I decided to cut loose on them.

I make a disclaimer in the video but I'll make it here as well for people who don't watch the video: having doubts regarding some of the claims made regarding climate change doesn't make you a liar. Healthy scepticism is an attitude I recommend people carry with them at all times. But the campaign against the reality of climate change is not driven by scepticism. The people behind these orchestrated campaigns are nothing less than self-interested liars.

Coincidentally, Scott Adams has just posted an interesting series of links on his Dilbert blog that cover both the pro and con arguments about climate change. Follow this link for the first part and check through his follow up posts for more. Feed your scepticism with a range of conflicting views. Then you'll at least have some food for rational thought.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Where's mine?

I had an interesting chat with my friend Adrian Calear last week. He's a director (he directed the shows for the comedians I featured during the recent Melbourne Comedy Festival - you can see the videos under the link at the top of this page) and he knows what he talking about. He's been in the performing/directing caper for longer than I've been in IT and he's seen the sorts of things that frustrate performers.

Remember last week when I was having a self-indulgent rant about not being as famous as I deserved to be (particularly on YouTube)? Adrian has seen this dozens of times and gone through it himself. essentially, it seems that it's quite common for a performer to think "hey, I'm better than that loser! Why is that bastard getting all the attention that is rightfully mine?"

It doesn't really matter if you're right - obsessing over other people like that does you no good. Not only will it eat you up, you'll probably miss when you actually have achieved something worth celebrating. Gotta look for the good times not obsess over the bad times.

So, in short, no more emo behaviour from me. For now. For anyone who was actually worried, I knew it was self indulgent crap at the time. I just felt like having a spray. I get like that sometimes.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The angry view of Wallstrip

Ever since the news of Wallstrip being bought by CBS came out I've been seeing a range of reactions. The more I saw negative and, frankly, jealous responses the more pissed off I became. And when I get pissed off I make videos.

Eye poppin' stuff!

In this uncertain world, there's on thing we can all agree on: it's always fun to stare in morbid fascination at someone with physical differences.

MR ANGRY HEALTH WARNING: You may not want to watch this video if you're eating. Especially if you're eating boiled eggs. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Laughter Therapy II - The Revenge

This video serves to purposes: finally getting me out of the crap mood I've been in all week and letting my daughter get some revenge she was after. If Hollywood won't stop churning out sequels, why shouldn't I follow suit?

The voice-over for the trailer would go like this:

She was subjected to laughter therapy against her will, now she's back for revenge. Laughter Therapy II - this time it's personal.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Cooking with Mr Angry

I'm thinking of making some cooking videos. Seriously. I like to do different things occasionally and it would be good to do something that might surprise people. I'm actually a pretty good cook and I reckon I could teach people a few simple recipes. With a Mr Angry twist, of course.

To give you an example of a Mr Angry twist I provide you this illustration of some stupid crap I have to put up with at work. I'm a big fan of the toasted sandwich (I think I may have mentioned that before.) I think the simple act of toasting a sandwich makes it taste much better. I'm one of those type who thinks it isn't a good toasted sandwich unless there's butter on the outside.

I say butter for ease of reference but I also mean that to include margarine and any other weird vegetable oil based spread (what the fuck is a stearate anyway?)

Putting the butter on the outside makes it taste better and it smells good while cooking as well. I'm always looking for ways to add a little extra taste and one thing I really like to add to the butter on the outside is powdered/grated parmesan cheese. This smells and tastes great and makes the outside go really crispy. Awesome.

Now, of course, the "smells and tastes great" is only my opinion and it's an opinion not shared by everybody. Using parmesan in the workplace may well generate complaints of a "horrible stink". Like I give a shit. Even stranger than people who don't like the smell are people who do like the smell but complain anyway because "it's making me hungry". Whatever, freako. When did I become your mother? Go eat something if you're so fucking hungry and leave me the fuck alone.

That's the sort of attitude I'd bring to a cooking show. When I'm cooking a meal you'd best be speaking up early if you're not fond of garlic, mushrooms and/or cheese because I tend to put shitloads of each of these into whatever I'm cooking. Even if it doesn't seem appropriate.

On many occasions I've brought food that I've made at home in to work and people have asked me for the recipe. So I tell them something like it has mushrooms and garlic... then they ask me what quantities are involved. How much garlic should I put in? I dunno, how much do you like? If I made some videos I could point the questioners in that direction when they ask, so they'd end up getting advice like this:

"OK, so put plenty of garlic in here. There's really no such thing as too much garlic. Some people will disagree and say they can't handle a lot of garlic. You know what? Fuck those people."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I am so fucking lazy

It may sound strange that a man who's maintained pretty much daily blog posting for over a year and made nigh on 350 videos in even less time proclaims himself to be lazy, but in many important ways that's what I am: lazy. Not least in ways that society finds useful, namely my job.

Sometimes I feel like they barely get 2 productive hours out of me in a day at work. I'm so easily distracted. I'm always reading things that are nothing to do with work, aimlessly web surfing or writing in this blog (although I usually limit blogging to my lunch hour). The bizarre thing is, nobody at my current job seems to share my low opinion of my productivity.

Most days I expect sometime to finally go "Hey, he's been fooling us! He doesn't do anything here, let's fire his lazy arse!" And yet each day I get treated with respect and congratulated on the quality of the work I actually manage to produce. The thing is, to my great surprise, I seem to have landed in almost the perfect role for me.

Not only do all my strengths work here, but they are strengths and experience that nobody else here has so even when I think I'm a lazy shit I'm actually making contributions that nobody else can. Far more often I've experienced workplaces where I was subjected to enourmous amounts of unwarranted negative behaviour from management so I frequently find it hard to believe I'm not always on the verge of receiving more of the same.

Today, my manager dragged me into a closed door meeting without warning to discuss some "important matters". I thought, this is it, I'm fucked. Somebody's been tracking my net usage and I'm about to get boned. Instead, I was asked to help with some important high-level management decisions. All that fun strategy stuff.


I'm lazy in my life outside work too. I feel like there's some sort of hump I can't get over with both this blog and my video making. I've made more headway in terms of readership/ viewership than I ever thought I would but there are plenty of people getting way more attention. That wouldn't bother me so much apart from the fact that so many of them are shit. I mean I am really, really sick of people whose output is utterly fucked getting more attention than me.

Blogs that are pointless, badly written, unintelligent, not funny. Videos that are uninspired, poorly executed, show no talent or originality whatsoever. You know, 99.999% of the internet. It's all fucked and it's pissing me off.

I think my biggest problem is I'm no good at self promotion. I've done some basic self promotion which has gotten me this far but there's no doubt that the highest profile online personas (even the genuinely talented ones) got where they are because they're way better at marketing than I am.

My other problem is that I absolutely suck at time management. I essentially know they things I should be doing to self-promote but most of the time I can't be bothered doing them. I think I reached a low point with motivation on about Sunday when I noticed that I was rapidly approaching my one year anniversary on YouTube.

I've always been invigorated by reaching milestones with this blog but this particular milestone depressed me. The main difference between promoting this blog and promoting videos on YouTube is that promoting the blog is all down to me while the single biggest promotion tool on YouTube, being "featured", is totally beyond my control.

And when I considered that one year milestone all I could think was what other sucker has put in so much effort for so long without being featured even once? I like to think while my videos may not be timeless classics of art, they're pretty fucking good for one person working pretty much alone with zero budget. If every video featured by YouTube was better than mine I wouldn't feel bad, I'd simply work at getting better.

But when about 90% of the featured videos are utterly fucked I get a bit down. Some very, very good work is featured. Stuff that I don't reckon I have a hope of competing with comes up every now and then. But cute fucking animal videos? Worse still, badly shot, shitty sound, not even vaguely fucking interesting fucking animal videos? And it isn't even the swearing (which is what I kept telling myself for a while to make myself feel better). They featured videos with heaps of swearing - not often, but they've done it.

It's hard at this point to not feel like someone at YouTube has made a conscious decision to exclude me from being featured. I have no evidence whatsoever for this of course, just my bad mood. As my angry attitude is what guides me through most of my life decisions, it seems only right to apply it here as well.

Anyway, fuck YouTube. Or to be fair, YouTube already does more for me than I have any right to expect (free hosting, a platform with a potential reach that I couldn't hope to match without them) so I won't obsess about it too much. But seriously, fuck them anyway.

I don't expect anyone to pity me, I vent as self-therapy, not as a cry for help. Besides which, I've been clawing my way out of my bad mood since Sunday. The first positive came when I received my latest pay notification from The Fizz Newzz. Oh yeah, I thought, there have been some worthwhile developments in the last year. During the week I was finding it difficult to make videos because of my general mood, made worse when I noticed the average number of views for my videos had been going down.

I needed some external motivation so I set about doing something. I am meeting up with my friend who's a director tonight to talk about things in general and he's always a good source of motivation. Then I have to start working with other people more. I have a few ideas that require involvement from other people (sorry I haven't advanced our plans Gruntski but the collaboration we were discussing is definitely one I want to do) and I think simply being involved with other people will improve my mood.

And although I might sound rather negative in this post, I didn't start writing it until I actually started feeling better. One thing that considerably improved my mood was reading this article. I'm not sure what it is about the article in general, but it's certainly funny and well written. Quite a bit of thought behind it too. The only downside is what seems like an excessive amount of ads to me but, hey, they guy's gotta make a living. It might brighten your day up too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Somebody's watching you

Here's a couple of pieces I originally did for The Fizz Newzz. They're thematically linked in that they both deal with surveillance - one at the personal level and one at the governmental/societal level.

This first one is my reaction to a news story on the "Hollywood Spy Shop". The range of surveillance equipment you can buy here astonishes me. I'm going to have to stop picking my nose - you never know when someone's videoing you.

This second one highlights just how creepy things have gotten in the UK. Apparently there are now over four million CCTV cameras in the UK and the rate of growth is increasing. Now the cops are even using radio controlled flying drones to spy on people. I know that people often respond by saying "if you're not doing anything wrong you don't have anything to fear," but how about if I haven't done anything wrong I deserve some privacy? Whatever happened to that idea?

A good news story: You CAN make money blogging!

Someone who's given me quite a bit of support since not long after I started this blog has just made a huge score. Howard Lindzon and his team have just sold their video blog Wallstrip to CBS.

To me, this is the story of people who believed in the power of the video blogging medium, saw a niche and went for it. Of course, it helps to have the experience, contacts and wherewithal to get a project like this launched but none of that counts if you don't have the vision and the will to follow it through.

I've honestly been getting a little disheartened lately by things like the amount of attention paid to talentless fucks on YouTube. This is the sort of news that gives me heart. And the fact that some big name dickheads seem pissed off by Wallstrip's success makes it even better (read the comments in the post I linked to above on Howard's blog if you want to see what I mean.)

Oh and I got my latest payment from The Fizz Newzz too, so that cheered me up. Wallstrip got their millions but I got my $250. The gap is closing!

Just to round things out, here's the Wallstrip video where they celebrate the deal.

I have to admit, I found the setup where nobody at CBS knew who or what Wallstrip was really funny (and yes, presenter Lindsay really is on The Sopranos).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Whose bright idea was scheduling?

I'm in the middle of a two year project to roll out a project management software package in a large construction company. The first year was taken up with requirements gathering, writing specs, putting together a tender, sending the tender out to prospective software vendors, evaluating the responses, signing contracts with the successful vendor and setting the scope for the deployment. The second year is scheduled to be designing and configuring the software for the environment (5 months), prototyping and testing (3 months) followed by a pilot deployment with a controlled group of projects (3 months).

If that all goes well, the software get rolled out to the whole company over the following year. So this is a long, involved project with a list of unknowns so long that quite frankly it's terrifying and BEFORE THE WHOLE THING STARTED the person who signs the cheques wanted a detailed schedule showing how long it would take to complete the project.

Depending on which side fence you live, the request for an upfront schedule is either common sense or insanity. If you're on the business side and have to authorise the expenditure (in this case, millions of dollars which was an unprecedented IT expenditure for this company) you want to know what you will be getting and how long it will take to get.

If you're the sucker who has to deliver the project, setting a schedule seems crazy because there are far too many variables. There are the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns (which is not as crazy as Donald Rumsfeld made it sound - he just articulated it badly.) The known unknowns are the things you don't know the answer to but at least you know you have to figure out an answer. The unknown unknowns are the landmines that every IT worker knows are waiting for them on pretty much every project. You don't even know they're there but one day you step on one and you blow everything to hell.

The one saving grace of this project is that the software is not being developed in-house. An off the shelf piece of software is being configured to work according to the company's requirements. And it has to integrate with the existing core business applications. Oh, and we have to find a way to standardise the processes followed in a variety of inconsistent ways by the hundreds of employees in order to design the software configuration and deploy it successfully.

So a schedule for a project with so many variables is essentially a wild guess followed in blind faith, all the while wishing on a star, hoping that none of the thousand possible unforseen problems derail everything. Why does anyone thing this is a good idea?

Well, there's this little thing the business world like to call reality. You can call it political reality (you fall out of favour if you can't deliver to schedule), fiscal reality (businesses want to be able to quantify the return on their expenditure - ahead of time preferably) or comparative reality (a process line worker makes x widgets per day so why can't I measure how much development gets completed in a day?) Very few companies can liberate themselves from this view of reality (Google seems to be an exception if you believe what you read.)

So very few businesses will let you start a project without a schedule. As wrong as it may be, it's pretty important to accept it as our lot in life as IT workers. Here's a little tip: if you don't feel like accepting it as your lot in life, argue your case from the point of view of how the business will benefit from changing their views, not why it would be better for you. Don't waste time saying "that isn't how IT development works" - unless you argue the case from a cost/benefit perspective (again, benefits for the business, not you) you'll most likely come across as spoiled and/or totally disconnected from business "realities". There's a disturbing tendency for IT workers to be seen as spoiled and overpaid already so try not to make it worse.

A business can use a project schedule in one of two main ways: as a weapon with which to beat the project team if they fail to deliver to schedule or as a general roadmap. To those who treat divergence from a schedule as a failure which must be punished: you're going to get the team, the morale and the results you deserve (hint - they'll all be crap). But if you acknowledge that your schedule is a best guess at where the key signposts are, that you'll have to stop and ask for directions regularly and that you'll find the journey taking you in strange and unexpected directions before you reach your destination, then you stand a chance of success.

In my current role I'm lucky enough to be working in a business that treats the schedule as a rough guide rather than holy scripture. Twice, the management committee has actually responded to a progress report by saying "you're trying to do too much in this time period, give yourself the extra time you need to make sure you're doing it properly." When we report project delays they listen to our reasons and support the judgement calls we make. They will kick our butts if the budget blows out much more but with each change we give two alternatives: more time or reduced scope.

I get the feeling our work is actually valued by management. If I sound a little surprised by this it's because I've worked in a number of jobs over the years where the attitude of management to IT was more like "barely tolerated". Assuming my work is actually valued (and assuming management are wise to place said value in me) this is actually a very smart business decision. It all goes back to the type of cost/benefit analysis I was mentioning earlier in this post.

I get frequent calls from employment agencies hoping I'm looking for work. There is more contract work available than there are experience contractors to fill the roles at the moment. They have quoted me figures more than 1/3 higher than my current rate. So I could easily earn more but I would be taking a risk - the work might not be as interesting and the environment might not be as good. That's my cost/benefit analysis.

For management, the cost/benefit analysis goes like this: allowing the project to run beyond initial schedule estimates is an increased cost. But if I left (not just me of course), there would be a number of unpleasant costs. First, the project knowledge I have gained would walk out the door with me - there would be a significant time lag before any replacement gained a similar level of knowledge. Second, in the current tight job market it would take quite a while to find a replacement. Third, any replacement would either cost a lot more than me or have considerably less experience (maybe both).

So we're forced to have a schedule. But there's a reasonable attitude to changes in that schedule. Everyone seems sufficiently comfortable with the level of doublethink required to balance the contradictory notions of (a) we are following a schedule, and (b) that schedule could be rendered meaningless at any moment. It isn't perfect but it feels like the lesser of two evils.

Monday, May 21, 2007

YouTube trying to suck so hard that it's impossible to ignore

This is a rarity for me, writing on the same topic two days in a row. Rarer still, I feel the need to vent even more anger about YouTube. I'm compelled to preface it all by saying yet again that the free, easy hosting and distribution provided by YouTube means I owe them far more than they owe me and I'll probably keep using the service no matter how much they piss me off. But that doesn't mean that I'm not justified in being pissed off.

Like so many services that offer so much (it often works this way with people too) it's the little failings that make me really angry. The fact that the comment system is completely screwed and the ranking metrics are fatally flawed continues to piss me off. Based on the available evidence, these things don't matter at all to the people running YouTube and they have no interest in listening to whining little shits like me.

After all, it isn't as if all their shortcoming have reduced their user numbers significantly, I was mildly surprised to notice last night that I'm rapidly closing in on my one year anniversary on YouTube (first video posted June 9th 2006) and I've posted my 331st video. It's a bit spooky how close I am to averaging a video a day over that time period.

The latest thing they've done to piss me off is their heavy handed, inconsistent, unfair and totally opaque method of applying censorship. The latest victim is a user I've recently become friendly with, his user name is JustA11en. Side note - he's from the Southern US, he's conservative, we disagree on a range of topics but he's intelligent and I can respect him. Thank you god! I was getting so sick of right wing discourse online being dominated by hypocritical morons.

JustA11en decided to do a joke that I've done before, putting a suggestive image in the middle of a video so that's the thumbnail YouTube uses to represent your video. Lots of pornhounds get sucked in, you get lots of views and if you're as shallow as me you get lots of laughs. It worked amazingly well for Allen (the actual content of his video was some VERY funny stories about his mum) and I promised to do a response.

The only trouble is, his video was deleted without warning with "violation of terms of service" being cited. Now, there is absolutely nothing in his video that I can see that comes close to violating the YouTube ToS. All I can imagine is that a succession of frustrated pornhounds sent in bogus complaints saying it was obscene and some fuckwit at YouTube with an utter lack of brainpower took it down. He's yet to get a response to his many WTF?!!?! queries.

I did my response so it's probably only a matter until it gets taken down too (this has happened to me before as well but I suspect that was largely because I suggested it was conservative blowhard Michelle Malkin in the nude image). But I'm fairer to the pornhounds in this video - there's lots of fucking toward the end. Enjoy (for as long as it's possible).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

YouTube provides variation in same old way of sucking to suck in a new way

I know if I really, really hated YouTube I should just stop using it but I've invested too much in it to give up now. I keep getting invitations from other video sharing sites to join them but I really can't be bothered at this point. I'll stick with YouTube for now but I wish they'd listen to their users more. I've seen hundred of videos saying please fix the commenting system and please stop people from gaming the system but I'm yet to see a public response from YouTube.

But they piss me off most of all when they keep making cosmetic changes to the site without fixing actual core problems. Worse still, it can be like their most recent cosmetic change that fucked something that was more or less working previously.

I logged in the other day to see this message saying all my videos had been blocked from rating and commenting. While I was trying to sort this out I saw the problem was intermittent which meant it was going to be impossible to fix. You can only fix a problem if it manifests in a consistent way.

Then I decided to send them a message to tell them about it seeing as how they seem completely unaware of when there are problems with their system. Only to discover that the fuckers had changed the reporting system to make it as hard as possible to report a fault. You have to sift through screen after screen of FAQs and "helpful tips" before you finally get a fucking link to send them a fucking message.

So along with the fault report I included a polite note saying how much this sucked. Seriously, I was quite polite about it. Although I did mention it sucked. And I even got a reply saying how they appreciated my input. Probably in exactly the same way I appreciated the problem in the first place.

I'm sure this is why the bastards never feature my videos. It can't be because my videos suck.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dating and relationship success tips from Mr Angry

Long time readers of this blog will recognise the content of these videos. I actually wrote this material quite a while ago but had some fun this week making videos of it. This first video eases people into the idea of online dating by giving a few keys tips:

As the first one was popular I went into more detail with this video:

And to round things off, my all round tips for relationships success:

Mr Angry: solving the age-old conflict between the sexes.

Friday, May 18, 2007

You know what opinions are like?

My mind has been wandering a bit today as I consider what to write here. I was toying with the idea of why we actually do anything. From the mundane activity of going to jobs we don't really like to truly inexplicable things like why did millions of soldiers, sometimes tens of thousands in a single day, continue to march into slaughter during World War One? Sometimes I really can't understand why more people don't say "hey, this is bullshit, I'm not doing this any more."

The rather depressing answer I came up with is there is no shortage of evil bastards who are willing to seriously fuck you over if you dare to buck the system. So that was a short and depressing chain of thought.

Then I started thinking about how widely divergent people's opinions can be on topics that initially seem straightforward, like what is right and wrong. I'm a big believer in open mindedness and considering the other person's point of view but a simple fact about opinions that people often gloss over is that either you're insane or your opinion is right and everyone else's is wrong.

After all, what sane person would hold an opinion that they considered to be wrong? This is not the same as the evil practice that seems to underlie so much politics and public discourse, namely, people spouting views they don't actually believe in a cynical grab for power and influence. It's simply human nature; you hold your opinions for a reason and it's only natural to assume that a contrary opinion is wrong.

It can sometimes be hard to balance this perceived reality with behaving decently to other people (assuming behaving decently to other people is actually important to you). The best solution I've heard for this was in something I read recently written by Robert Sutton as an offshoot of his book "The No Asshole Rule". He suggest you argue as if you are right but listen as if you are wrong. In other words, support your view passionately but actually listen to the opposing view in case you discover something you didn't know.

That's as good a guide to life as I've seen in a while. Oh, and in case the title of this post doesn't make sense to you, it comes from a saying I've heard many times in my life. I particularly like the way my grandfather used to say it as he had his own twist at the end that I've never heard other people use:

"Opinions are like arseholes, everybody has one. And yours stinks."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What's your point?

Ever since I put up my post (and made a video) suggesting Sheryl Crow should shut the fuck up, I've been formulating what I want to say about climate change "skeptics". Skepticism is a good thing generally, being naturally skeptical will protect you more often than it will hurt you. Blind faith is far more likely to do you damage than healthy skepticism.

But I use the term "skeptic" loosely when describing climate change deniers because I strongly suspect that a significant majority of them aren't true skeptics - they simply don't care to know the truth about climate change. I'd also divide this "don't care" brigade into two groups - those who believe the prevailing scientific consensus about climate change is probably true but still don't care and those who don't believe but don't care to discover what the truth might be (as if there is a simple and all-encompassing truth on the topic).

Here's the cynical part of me talking (yes, I know, the cynical part of me is clearly at least 90% of me. Shut up. Do you like how I have conversations with you, dear reader, as I type? I'm clearly insane. Unless that's what you were thinking. That would make me psychic. Are you freaked out yet? Oh god, I'm getting off track.) The cynical part of me says the loudest voices speaking out against the scientific consensus of climate change are nothing more than paid shills for vested interests in governments and energy companies.

This scares me because the people running these companies aren't stupid. I think the majority of them realise serious problems are coming, it's incredibly unlikely that such a large body of scientific consensus would be utterly wrong (although it may well prove to be wrong in some important aspects.) It's just that... well, they don't give a fuck.

Either their thinking is literally "I'll be dead before the worst hits, so I don't give a fuck," or they assume we'll find some way to cope or some magical technological breakthrough will save the day (which may well happen) so they care more about their short term profits than they care about the prospect of long term damage.

To defend themselves, they use their positions of power to sow seeds of doubt. Sometimes they make points that are true in isolation. These points don't refute the concept of climate change but they pretend that they do. Sometimes they distort sort-of true statements to an absurd degree. Sometimes they tell outright lies. The thing I've noticed that all these approaches have in common is a tendency to focus on isolated aspects of the arguments supporting the notion of climate change without addressing the overall issue.

They pretend that by picking on these isolated issues they have refuted climate change in its entirety when they've done no such thing. They're not even close, in fact they're deliberately avoiding dealing with the larger issues. In my opinion, they do this because it isn't possible to successfully discredit the full body of scientific knowledge on climate change so they spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) in the minds of the public.

The concept of FUD will be familiar to people who work in the IT field. Microsoft are past masters at spreading FUD to undermining competitors although they're far from alone in the practice. When you can can't take an opponent head-on, chip away at the edges and hope people start to lose faith.

For me, one of the best ways to counter FUD is to ask the person spreading it: "What's your point?" And keep asking. If someone can't clearly explain to you why they're pushing a particular view it's usually a good sign they aren't being honest.

When someone says "there is dissent among scientists," ask: "What's your point? Are you saying because you can show there isn't 100% consensus that you have conclusive evidence that climate change is not a serious problem?" The argument here seems to be, as Stephen Colbert said, "Why can't the 5% of dissenters have 50% of the time?"

When someone says "there are other important problems that are killing people now, like malaria," say: "What's your point? Are you saying we must ignore climate change to deal with malaria? Because I'm not saying we have to ignore all other problems and focus solely on climate change. Why does it have to be an either/or proposition? Why can't we do both?"

When someone says "Al Gore wants us to give up our lifestyle because of global warming but he lives in a big house that uses lots of electricity," say: "What's your point? Are you saying if you discredit Al Gore (despite the fact that the story was mostly a beat-up that omitted important facts and was laced with outright lies) you have proven that climate change is not an issue? The worst you can do there is paint Al Gore as a hypocrite which does nothing to undermine the scientific consensus about climate change"

When someone says "if global warming is real, why is it so cold today?" say: "Shut the fuck up!" OK, you could say "What's your point? Are you saying that the sum total of scientific thought on the issue of climate change is that it will always be warmer everywhere? If so, you're a fucking moron. Shut the fuck up." But that would waste time. With some people it's much more efficient to go straight to shut the fuck up.

There's a lot more I plan to go into on this topic, particularly an exploration of some of the worst, most evil lies propagated by climate change deniers. The most dangerous position to take on either side of the argument is an absolute one that allows for no further discussion, hence my strategy of asking "What's your point?" The subject is not closed because someone makes some grand pronouncement that they think resolves the situation conclusively - the issue is far more complex than that.

There's no single cause of climate change and there's no one solution. There isn't even really a single thing called "global warming". You can't point at a specific thing and say "that's global warming" (an attitude spoofed hilariously on South Park). There isn't a convenient end point to discussions of climate change and I deeply distrust anyone who makes sweeping statements that suggests they are the holder of ultimate knowledge. It's important to at least listen to people when you disagree with their position.

But it's even more important to realise when they're talking shit. That's my point, what's yours?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Welcome to stressville - population: me!

It may not be immediately obvious to readers of this blog but I have a slight tendency towards obsessiveness (/sarcasm). It usually helps in my work because my job is essentially to solve problems so an obsessive nature helps when you have to pursue a particularly elusive solution. The trouble is, when I can't see what the solution is, or a clear path to a solution I have to fight down a rising urge to freak out.

My brain essentially divides itself into two halves: the freaking out part (oh my god! I don't know what the solution is this very second! I'm a fraud, they'll fire me for sure!) and the part that's trying to get me to calm the fuck down and be realistic (you'll get there in the end, nobody's saying you have to have a conclusive answer right now, just keep working on it.)

And it's all made a bit harder by the fact that I'm not particularly driven to do the work. It's engaging enough so far as work goes and I'm paid quite well so I'm not complaining but it isn't in my soul if you know what I mean. I don't bound out of bed every morning bursting with the excitement of another full day of business analysis.

The blogging and video making are far closer to what I actually want to do as opposed to what I need to do to earn money. It provides a good balance (work to earn money, other stuff to have fun and feel fulfilled) but I have been noticing of late that as work gets more stressful, blogging seems waaaaay more appealing. So I get distracted from work which ultimately leads to more stress which makes work less appealing which makes the internet more appealing and all that distraction is but a mouse click away.

Damn you internet!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pretty much everyone on YouTube can shut the fuck up now

I made myself a promise a while ago that I wouldn't indulge in the pathetic, whiny negativity exhibited by so many on YouTube by making any videos attacking specific people. Sure, I take a stand against what I see as negative behaviour (racism, general hater-ism) but I don't single out individual people and say "you suck". Which is a hard discipline to maintain because a lot of people on YouTube really, really suck and desperately need to be told to shut the fuck up.

One of the easiest ways to raise your profile on YouTube is to make a video responding to someone who is already popular. You can choose to take a positive angle - either giving them a "shout out" or make a video that in some way responds to a video they've already made (I've done the latter quite a few times). Alternatively, you could make a video attacking someone who's more popular than you.

The attack response is a guaranteed attention getter no matter who you go for. If you go after someone that has already had a significant number of people turn on them then you get all of these angry people joining in with you. If you go after someone who's more universally admired then you get attention because all of their dedicated fans will take the bait lash out at you.

Have you ever heard the idea that people who grow up getting no attention at all indulge in negative, destructive behaviour simply to draw attention to themselves? Negative attention becomes more desirable than no attention at all. Well, YouTube has rapidly become the world's largest test lab for examining the worst excesses of human behaviour.

There are a disturbing number of people who display what I can only describe as psychotic behaviour. They indulge in extremely venomous attacks on people they essentially know nothing about, attacks that frequently escalate into threats of violence. These people display a complete inability to consider repercussions and think of the future. What seems fun in your 20s can seriously limit your options in the future. This is the internet people, once you put something out there, it's out there forever. You've lost control of it and you can't erase it when you want to.

It would kinda suck to blow a big job interview because your potential employer did a background check and found out how often you'd acted like an utter fuckwit on YouTube. Not to mention how it could affect legal proceedings if someone was trying to prove you were unbalanced and untrustworthy. Think of your worst case scenario and it will almost inevitably happen.

The general negativity pisses me off but I've seen a permutation developing recently that makes me really want to smack the perpetrators in the face with a fucking shovel. People are now making videos where they criticise other people for making attacks on people they like. Which sounds fine except every other video these people make is an attack on someone else that they don't like. So they want the best of both worlds: they should be free to vilify whoever they want but nobody should dare criticise them or any of their "friends".

To put it in biblical terms: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

To put it in Mr Angry terms: "Shut the fuck up you hypocritical sack of shit! Either retract every negative thing you've said about everyone else and promise not to do it again or just shut the fuck up!"

There are huge number of people on YouTube doing and saying things that I think are stupid and fucked up. I could make hundreds of videos pointing out what is wrong with what they are doing. But what's the fucking point? People are fucked - big surprise. People need to get over themselves and get on to doing something that's productive.

There will always be people doing things you don't agree with. There will always be people who attack you. There will always be people you simply fucking hate, often with very good reason. But this downward spiral of negativity drags everyone down until they're all covered in shit. Somebody has to take the step of saying "I'm not going to be part of this, no matter what other people do." I'm no Mahatma Gandhi but even I can see a dead end when it's staring me in the face.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The winds of change

It's amazing how quickly plans for where you're going with your work can change. It seems like every other day there's a news story about thousands of layoff in some industry or other. That's at the really harsh end of change and fortunately I'm not being subjected to that right now. No, right now I have the luxury of change happening at a pace of my own choosing. Still, I've been surprised how a few things have come together in the last week that are creating a sort of "perfect storm" of change for me.

My current contract was initially for 3 months but I've stayed on for 18 months so far and we (the project team) were all sort of lazily assuming I'd be around until at least the end of this year. I've know for a while I could make considerably more money by taking up a new contract somewhere else but I've also learned from experience that money is only part of what makes working worthwhile.

The work I am doing is more interesting than most of the work available and the environment and people in my current workplace are definitely among the best I've experienced (when I'm complaining about bad work situations I'm usually talking about previous workplaces.) So being happy in my work has led to me not being worried about missing out on potential extra money. Some changes in my personal situation have had me thinking more money would be good but it hasn't been a driving factor.

Then came the news of a restructure at work. My project manager is getting a (well-deserved) promotion which means someone else needs to take over the day-to-day project management role. I like my current PM, she's one of the best I've worked with. The most likely replacement falls into the "not so much" category. She's smart and extremely experienced in IT but she has a tendency to typify the attitudes that non-IT people really don't like.

Namely, she tends to see everything in terms of systems rather than people, she tends to tell people what systems she's going to give them rather than ask them what they require from a system and she doesn't seem to be much for respecting other people's boundaries. Which is to say, she's loud, pushy and frequently tells people she knows exactly what their requirements are, despite the fact that the very loud words flying out of her mouth contradict what is being asked for. Not what I look for in a manager.

The same day that I received the news about a new project manager, I received one of my semi-regular calls from an agency desperately looking for someone to fill a position. I said that I wouldn't be available but I asked what rates they were talking about offering. The figure was what I expected but it wasn't until a little while later that I did some maths and thought "holy crap, that's another thousand bucks a week!"

In my twenties I couldn't even conceive of earning 50 grand a year and here I am being able to increase my income by 50 grand. Couple that with being stuck with a manager I don't like if I stay where I am and I can see some changes in my future. Changing workplaces is always a risk but I can put up with a dickhead for six months for an extra thousand bucks a week.

Besides, in a worst case scenario, there would be plenty of blog fodder in complaining about the fuckwits I have to work with. I'm running out of old material for horror stories - I could do with some new ones.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Internet Dating Tips

I actually posted the content for this video on this blog a long time ago but I thought it was time to share my internet dating tips with the YouTube masses. Plus, the more recent arrivals to this blog won't have read my relationships posts so this will be new material to them. And maybe those who did read the original post have forgotten. Or maybe people like to watch videos.

Or maybe it's all about me being too lazy to write a long post on the weekend.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Spam Vertigo

The endless onslaught of comment spam continues unabated and the tireless efforts of Akismet continues to keep the hordes of scum at bay with a 99+% success rate. I did find one false positive when I was checking through the hundreds of spam that had been quarantined so that does raise the possibility that I've been deleting genuine comments when I've wiped out previous piles of spam that numbered in the thousands.


This is particularly possible since I picked up a bunch of new visitors and commenters with yesterday's "1984" post (hello to all the new folks). Oh, and thanks to Massif for submitting that post to Reddit - that gave me quite a surprise when I woke up this morning. Apparently not even hitting the front page can score you about 3,000 hits.

I decided to scour Akismet's spam net to see if it had caught any innocent comments but it takes for-bloody-ever to look through the hundreds that get caught in a single day. The problem isn't limited to the sheer volume of spam, it's also the length of the individual spam comments. Some spam are only a few lines long but more than half of them are fucking massive! Screen after screen of blue links to viagra, insurance and porn.

My solution was to run through the list at a fast scroll and only slow down if something seemed to break the visual pattern (i.e. it had a chance of being a legitimate comment.) Even scrolling so fast the words were a blur it seems to take a minute or two to get through each screen (Akismet groups 50 spam to a page.)

Besides being a boring waste of time, this exercise has another unpleasant side effect. I decided to switch to another window while I waited for the next page of spam to load (I was working from a relatively slow connection) but suddenly going from a fast moving screen to a static screen totally fucked with my visual perception.

I was suffering from what I can only describe as spam vertigo. The static text on the screen seemed to be swaying and wobbling. It was a very disconcerting and made me feel mildly sick. So now I have one more reason to hate spammers.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

In the IT world, it's 1984

Being stuck in day-long workshops for an entire week does bad things to my head. It makes me want to do bad things to the workshop organiser's head with a length of 2x4. It makes me wonder what sins I committed in a previous life to be subjected to such torture in this one. And it makes me see disturbing parallels between the IT world and the totalitarian nightmare of George Orwell's novel 1984. Come to think of it, these parallels work for the broader business world but I'll stick to what I know, namely, IT.

IT managers and business people in general rarely seem happy if IT staff are feeling relaxed. The pervading mood I've felt throughout my IT career is that happy staff aren't working hard enough. IT staff are saddled with a widespread perception that they're overpaid (which from a certain perspective is true but this aint charity, it's supply and demand, mofo) and so if they dare to be happy as well harsh measures are called for.

Time and time again I've seen deliberate management decisions taken with the intent of creating destructive conflict between individuals, between teams and between the IT and non-IT sections of a company. Competition in and of itself is a good thing because without it we'd have stagnation but being competitive doesn't have to mean "for me to win, you must lose." I'm appalled to see how often it's still accepted "wisdom" that crushing your opponents (within the same company!) is the way to success.

The macho, male-dominated world of big business and IT sees perpetual conflict as the desirable state and it's absence says that something is wrong. War is peace.

There's a couple of ways to read this one but for me, in the IT world particularly this little bit of doublethink is epitomised by the concept that wireless, always-on, constant connectivity is some wonderful new freedom. Bullshit. That's slavery. There has to be a separation between work and home life. Nobody ever uttered the dying words "I wish I spent more time at the office," yet having the office take over every aspect of your life continues to be seen as a desirable goal.

IT workers are particularly susceptible to this because of the prevalence of gadget fetishism but it's a horrible trap. Nobody at work knows my mobile phone number, private email address or IM contact (or my blog for that matter). I don't have a pager or Blackberry and I never will. I never dial into the work network from home. Sometimes people simply have to deal with the fact they can't contact me until the next business day.

I'll quit a job before I'll be shackled to it day and night. Time is the one thing you can never get more of and I value my personal time far more than I value being offered the freedom to access my workspace anywhere, anytime through the latest fabulous gadget. That sort of freedom is slavery.

This one is everywhere. Modern communication tools give us the potential to have almost unlimited access to information. At the same time the desire to clamp down on the flow of information seems to grow every day. Whether it's from a government or a company, we're continually hearing that "You can't have that... You can't know that... That's a secret... That's proprietary."

This goes far beyond the idea of keeping secrets from real or perceived enemies, these days it seems that basic information is withheld from people on the same side on a routine basis. Whether it's a government withholding information from its citizens that the laws of the land say they have the right to know or management withholding information from employees "for their own good" it seems we're constantly being told our ignorance will make us stronger.

And it goes beyond people in power wanting to enforce ignorance on their subordinates. It's hard to escape the feeling that a large number of people feel that their own ignorance makes them stronger. I know I'm not the only one who sees the pattern of behaviour in Bush administration refusing to accept "intelligence" that contradicted either broad political goals or specific decisions that had already been made.

And whether it's a religious fundamentalist refusing to consider the possibility of evolution, an evolutionist refusing to consider the value of spirituality, a global warming denier refusing to accept the weight of scientific opinion or an environmentalist refusing to consider that they might not have all the answers, it's easy to find people who prefer to maintain their current ignorance rather than weaken what they perceive the strength of their position. More than a few people seem willing to have that as their epitaph: ignorance is strength.

One of the most quoted lines from Orwell's 1984 is "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever." It's this line that was resonating in my head as I sat through what felt like the hundredth hour of workshops. Working in IT, we tend to be more comfortable with the idea of a rapidly changing future and to a greater or lesser extent, we are a part of actively creating that future.

It seems that every technological innovation that can improve people's lives can simultaneously be corrupted so that it lessens the quality of life. Every step taken to make information freer can be adapted or twisted to lock information down further. Every advance can be used to push someone a step back.

The goals of The Party in 1984 are simple: "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power." Today we have companies who say "Don't be evil" while collaborating with a regime that represses, imprisons and tortures dissenting voices. A company that famously said to choose them "So 1984 won't be like 1984" embraces the concept of Ignorance is Strength so fully that they criminalise their most ardent fans for simply disseminating information (speculative information at that.)

Without wanting to be a starry-eyed techno-utopian, it's fair to say that working in IT gives us many more opportunities to promote positive change than the average worker has. Do we limit ourselves to a life where the object of work is work, the object of technological change is technological change? (and dare I add the object of blogging is blogging?) It's worth asking ourselves what contributions our decisions are really making.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Phone company from hell

One of the things that has caused me immense pain in my recent move is being jerked around by utility companies. Getting my phone, internet, gas and electricity connected has been a drawn out, expensive and agonising affair. The connections have taken ages to get finalised and the extra charges they levy are nothing short of mafia-level extortion.

I noticed something on my phone bill that sums their attitude up. The contact number for the phone company includes the digits "666". This is the company that actually sets phone numbers. They can have any phone number they want. And they've chosen to go with a number often associated with the bearded chap weilding a pitchfork.

To me, this is the most collosal "fuck you" they could send customers. They're essentially saying "Yeah, we're evil. What are you gonna do about it? We're going further than not denying it, we're positively revelling in our demonic behaviour."

You may think you have a bad phone company but I really have the phone company from hell.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Let Stalk Strine

The Australian vernacular was christened "strine" back in the 1960s by the famed Australian academic and linguist, Affabeck Lauder. I give this tidbit as some background for the topic of this post and the video below.

I was asked by a YouTuber to explain some Aussie slang which they apparently find impenetrable. Bloody Seppos. Strictly speaking, strine is about the accent, not the slang ("strine" is how far too many Australians pronounce "Australian") but I never let the facts get in my way. So if you need a quick primer in what the hell Australians are talking about, watch this:

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Angry Fizz News - a commentary too far

When I do pieces for the Fizz Newzz they tend to give me funny pieces of news or at least something they think I can do a funny response to. For me, this works best if the reportage is done straight - like the Darwin Award nominee who was eaten by the cheetah (Bizarro and I are going to hell for laughing about that).

The trouble is, sometimes these "journalists" seem to think they should try to be funny because they're reporting on something supposedly funny. Listen bozos, you aren't even good journalists (why do you think they give you the "quirky" stories?) but you're REALLY shit comedians. Leave it to the professionals. Or at least to the enthusiastic amateurs.

And puns are the lowest form of bad humour. When they get really bad, it's all I can do to restrain myself from totally losing it...

Rolling onwards into stupidity

Today's leading indicator that work stress is getting to me is the way I went off at a driver on the way to work today. His sin? Rolling forward while waiting at a red light. I've always taken this practice to be a sign of extreme stupidity but it really bugged the shit out of me this morning.

This behaviour makes me angry for two reasons: one, it isn't as if the light goes a different shade of red to tell you "start rolling forward now". When it's red you fucking stop. You wait until it's green to go. This is driving's version of premature ejaculation and it can be just as messy. Rolling out even a little into an intersection when opposing traffic still has a green (or orange) light is an invitation to disaster. Just say no.

The second reason this behaviour pisses me off is that in my experience, 9 out of 10 drivers who do this actually miss the green light when it comes. They wrongly anticipate the change and roll forward. The light doesn't change and they still roll slowly forward. Then they think "why the fuck hasn't the light changed?" and hit the brakes. Then the light goes green but it takes them a few seconds to adjust and actually go. I'm sure there's an appropriate sexual metaphor for this as well but it escapes me just now. So I also hate the behaviour because most of the time it's counter-productive, perpetrators get through the lights late rather than early.

My personal favourites (read: people I'd really like to bash some sense into with a length of lead pipe) are the ones for whom there is truly no point in rolling forward. It was one of these this morning who triggered my angry response. This tool in a 4WD (SUV to my American readers) was going to turn right at an intersection which meant they had to give way to the oncoming traffic (we drive on the left side of the road here). So there's no way possible he could get through the intersection quickly when the lights changed but the fucking moron was still rolling forward while the lights were red.

The second one that really pisses me off is trucks. I've often found myself in the situation of being next to a truck at an intersection and after the intersection the road goes down from two lanes to one lane. Then the jerk in the truck starts rolling forward before the lights change. As if the slow moving fucker is actually going to streak across the intersection and cut me off. It's utterly pointless for the truck driver to roll forward like this so the only conclusion I can draw is he's too fucking stupid to know how idiotic his behaviour is.

So yeah, this little bit of shitty driving normally pisses me off but I think the way it got to me today is a pretty good indicator that my stress levels are a tad higher than is good for me. I think I'll have a vodka and valium cocktail when I get home tonight.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Stupid people, Darwin and a hot kissing orgy in the Philippines

I've been doing videos for "The Fizz Newzz" for most of this year. I assume they're going to air (on the 101 on DirecTV or some such) because I get payments on a semi-regular basis. On that topic: what the fuck is up with your economy America? The value of the greenback seems to be dropping through the fucking floor!

When I got my first $US 500 payment last year it translated into about $AU 650. Then at the start of this year it had dropped to about $620. The last one I got was only worth about $580. At this rate we'll be on an even value soon. If I was going on a holiday to the US I'd like that but unfortunately that isn't the case. I want to be rich so fix your economy goddammit!

Anyway, for each episode of The Fizz Newzz they give me a few suggestions on what to do. I think they expect me to submit two or three videos but I want to be absolutely sure of getting on the show so I tend to do six or more videos in the hope that they'll like at least one of them. This results in me doing a lot of work that never see the light of day. I decided it was time to liberate some of these trapped lost classics.

This first video is about one of my favourite topics: stupid people who get killed while being stupid. I hate it when stupid people get away with their idiotic behaviour - it encourages other morons.

This next piece is the link bait I referred to in the topic of this post (I thought all the porn searchers who ended up here needed something different to look at). As a regular YouTube viewer pointed out to me, there's a bit of social stigma around public displays of affection in the Philippines, so how the hell does a guy convince a girl to take part in a public kiss-a-thon? I explore the possibilities in the following video:

I'm going to be putting a few more of these together in the future. It beats having to come up with anything new.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

6 Essential communication tips for IT workers

Anyone who has been in the IT job market in the last few years will have noticed an increasing amount of references to "people skills" in job advertisements. Sometimes recruiters talk up "soft" skills when describing the requirements to applicants. What they mean is beyond technical skills, IT workers are increasingly being expected to have strong communications skills.

In my experience, employers are giving this topic lip service far more than placing real value on this set of skills. Partly, this is because it can be quite difficult to quantify someone's ability to communicate - hence the name "soft" skills. Standard parts of a job description are usually easier to quantify - they are "hard" skills.

If you have a degree, this suggests at least a basic level of competency (whether this is accurate or not is another matter); you can be set standard programming tasks to test your coding skills; your ability to put together a specification can be evaluated if you're an analyst; your ability to put together a project plan can be tested if you're a project manager; your ability to lie to little old ladies and hurt babies can be tested if you're in marketing.

So why are communications skills being focused on in IT roles where this has not traditionally been a prime requisite. In short, this is one of the biggest problems in the IT industry worldwide. The breakdown in communication between the business/management side and the IT side derails far more projects than it should. Competent or even perfect technical execution is no guarantee of success in the corporate world. If the people side of the equation is not managed then life for IT workers is far harder than it needs to be.

Here's the good news: communications skills are easier to learn than IT skills. I think the reason the burden of communication is being increasingly placed on IT workers is that the non-IT people have hit a dead-end. IT has become so complex and changes so quickly that business people think they don't have a chance of understanding what's going on. They don't even know how to ask the right questions.

Taking on this role shouldn't be seen as an additional burden by IT workers. This is a golden opportunity. A chance to drive IT decisions in a direction you think is appropriate. Not to mention an opportunity to further your career (if that's the way you want to go). So here are my fundamental keys to communications success for IT workers:

Get used to talking to people. You can't communicate if you're scared of talking to people. The old stereotype of introverted IT people is not without basis. My observation over the years is that IT is filled with people who suffer a massive deficit between their intelligence and their ability to communicate (i.e. they're really smart but have trouble communicating the value of their intelligence).

So presenting to meetings at work scares you. Deal with it. Do something scarier in front of people. The IT group where I work currently runs a "Toastmasters" speaking group. If you want something really terrifying, try stand-up comedy (trust me on this one). Start a band. Sing karaoke. Do SOMETHING that involves being in front of people. Don't underestimate how important this is to a successful career.

Don't mumble! It's appalling how many IT people are "low talkers". Fair or not, if people have trouble understanding you they'll stop listening. Mumbling is usually a sign of lack of confidence - in a business setting it will often be taken as a lack of confidence in what you are saying, not a lack of confidence in speaking itself. You don't have to be the loudest voice in the room but make sure you don't mumble.

Move your lips when you talk. Words don't come out properly if you don't articulate correctly. This is a close relative of mumbling but it isn't all about volume. It's an order of magnitude harder to understand what you're saying if you don't use your lips and tongue to form words. God forbid you might be the type who talks without parting your teeth. I had to deal with this the other day - I barely took in a word he said, all I could think was "Open your damn mouth when you talk!"

Vary your pitch and rhythm. Another way to make sure nobody pays attention to what you say is to talk in a monotone. It's so boring listening to someone who talks in a constant, droning level - it ends up taking on the quality of an annoying background noise like a hard drive that whirrs too loudly. Vary your pitch and inflection to make points and just to stay interesting. And don't be afraid of silence - the occasional pause after making a point is an extremely powerful way of giving additional weight to your point.

Adjust your communication for your audience. Jargon is almost always a bad idea. Too often, jargon and technical language is used by people to cover the fact they don't really know what they're talking about. Prove you know what you're doing by explaining it in clear, unambiguous language.

Get your written communication right too. The exact tone of your emails and other written communication will be dictated by the standards of your particular workplace but here are some standards that will improve how you are perceived wherever you work. Spell check everything before you send it. If it's important review it manually to find the things your spell-checker missed (it's even better if you can get another person to proof read for you). No matter how relaxed you think your workplace is, NEVER EVER use "leet-speak" or text abbreviations. It looks terrible and is almost always guaranteed to get you written off as someone who's not making a serious contribution. Do not underestimate the importance of this point. Seriously. Just don't do it.

A lot of IT workers, particularly those immersed in the programming part of the cycle, will be wondering why this is important to them. Isn't the only requirement that they produce and ship quality code? Well, if you never want to advance, that's a fine attitude.

And I'm not talking simply about people who want to move into management. If you want to have a say in the technical direction of your company, if you want to improve the quality of your work life, if you want people to understand the simple fact that you are actually doing quality work, you need to learn to communicate. Particularly with non-technical people.

It may not be in the safety of your comfort zone but simply getting out of your cubicle and talking to people is one of the best ways to improve your prospects. You're not going to turn into an award-winning public speaker overnight but honestly, it's almost certainly going to be easier than you fear. You have nothing to lose but the poor reputation IT people have for communicating and you have everything to gain.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Don't mess with Dubbo

It isn't often that my home town makes the news in a major metropolitan newspaper. So what major event can propel this relatively insignificant provincial centre into the limelight you ask? Is it something that will make the sons and daughters of Dubbo proud?

Well... it seems the town is being shat on. A lot. The town is overrun by starlings. These filthy fucking starlings (I've always hated the bastards) are shitting on anything that doesn't move. So drastic action is called for. And in Dubbo, they don't fuck around when drastic action is called for.

Now, the actions might seem a bit weird, but you can't say they're not trying. They tried scaring them away with laser lights and blasting them away with water cannons. I shit you not, they even tried dosing the bird up with hallucinogens. Apparently they idea was to paint trees with hallucinogenic drugs and the starling would absorb the acid throw their claws. The resulting bad trip would supposedly make them leave. Or drop dead.

I think the only result of this plan would be for desperate young locals to wander around town licking trees in the hope of getting lucky. Here's a link to the newspaper article that inspired me and here's the video I made after being so inspired: