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Archive for September, 2006

Updating One’s Resume

LAST month I discussed the need to generalise and open one’s own resume, as means of being fit for more jobs, as well as never be bound to one commercial product or vendor. This led me to have a quick look at my personal pages which I wrote several years ago. As the footers indicate, the introduction and CV page are well out-of-date. I have not bothered to get them updated for years, but I still maintain my real (full length) CV, which is not public anymore. It’s usually out-of-date as well, for the reasons I describe below.

I write down ‘patches’ on my PDA whenever an suitable addition is pending, for the CV or other documents that I maintain for some purpose (all written in LATEX). The extended CV, adjoined with a personal lift journal that I retain, is already approaching 100 pages in length. As my mind has a limited capacity for remembering past events and achievements (sometimes reusable, e.g. for other formal and much-required documents), over the years I decided to write them down whenever they cropped up in my mind. So that’s how the idea of accumulating ‘patches’ to documents (notably the CV) was born. Writing text can be assimilated to the model of writing code.

Certifications Make All the Difference in the World

MIAS IRC presentation

ONLY a year ago, before ODF became the ISO standard, I had to engage in lengthy and complex arguments over formats. I was doing fine by my own, but the issue of exchange arises in wider public arenas. Not anymore though. The crowning of ODF gives all the protection that I require. Here is an anonymised E-mail that I have just sent.

>Dear Roy
>> Please can you email a sample of your presentation file so
>> that the IT guys here can find the relevant software and
>> load it onto the equipment in the lecture room.
>> Please send it by return

Hi [anonimised],

This file is in OpenDocument Presentation format, which
is the international standard for presentations (ODF). One
common applications that handles it is OpenOffice 2. I
understand that Microsoft intends to catch up with the standards
in Office 2007, essentially by supporting ODF through a plugin.

Many thanks in advance,


I will be presetning at Oxford University later this week.

Rough Life in Some Small Dive

Music shopThe title of this post is a bend of the lyrics “I’ll live a lush life in some small dive” from the song Lush Life, which is among my personal favourites. Why did I choose it? Because it radically contrasts what I’ll discuss here.

When I go out clubbing, I like to experience change. Going out is about breaking a routine. Sometimes I go to rougher places where I can get my mouth dirty rather than a posh bar or a so-called gentelemen’s club (or anything akin to it). The type of people whom I meet is fascinating and at times even inspiring. It gives a nice break from the ordinary and otherwise banal life.

When it comes to literature, on the other hand, I don’t fancy quite the same contrast. Frankly, I no longer follow sports and ‘celebrity’ news. I don’t read tabloid either. Some days ago I received another request for my address, for a free preview (prerelease) of a book. The last time I turned down the offer, but friends argued it was silly. In hindsight, I should have probably accepted the offer that was there. It was a book packed with sophistication. This time for a c change, the book appears to be tabloid-style, with sheer disdain for George Bush.

Identifying Personal E-mails and ‘Botmails’


STUDIES which analyse large volumes of communication have always been interesting. For instance, most of the E-mail traffic nowadays is identified as SPAM; and over 80% of it is said to come from compromised Windows PC‘s. However, for a change, this is not what I wish to discuss today. I don’t want to have yet another bite at the effects Windows has on the WWW. It leaves me bitter.

Earlier today I read that only 37% of all E-mail at the ‘average’ office are personal E-mails. The rest are not. Some E-mails these days are invoked from a system rather than a human. Typically these are less interesting, less urgent, or can be altogether ignored. Some of that is mass mail, automated and despatched using address databases.

It is sometimes hard to discern between a personal message–one to which a response would be polite–and one which is targetted at a wide audience and whose content is carefully doctored to appear personal. I would like to recommend and promote a personal tip of mine. It is a little method I thought about for detecting and telling apart computer-generated from human-generated mail. When entering your name (e.g. at registration stage), for example, always append extra spaces that serve no purpose but preserve the integrity of the name. Having done so, you challenged the wisdom of the bot. Before punctuation, for example, you can see if a human inserted the name properly. A naive algorithm will not bother to crunch spaces, so the automation deems self-evident.

In other circumstances, having the recipient’s addresses within sight may help. Full headers can be very informative and various Thunderbird extensions even simplify text with representative figures (e.g. routing information as a series of flags, mail client name as an icon, signature as an icon, etc.). It makes the information easier to digest and it adds a wealth of knowledge that is often missed. Lastly, never discount the BCC tricks. A seemingly personal message can reach anyone ‘on the same wagon’.

Time for Recovery

Palm grows left

THE Labour Party is having its annual one-week conference at the hotel where I regularly work out (been there since 2001). As a consequence, and as was the case 2 years ago, the place will be closed to all guests and all members. In the interim, I am forced to go to a different health club (YMCA), which is located further away. Although the equipment there is better, I don’t fancy the idea of going there on a daily basis. But this uncalled-for event intersects with another factor that makes this somewhat of a timely opportunity.

Due to an injury in my right arm or chest (ongoing for 3 weeks and counting), I might just rest for a week. It’s my first major workout-related injury ever (been over 10 years), apart from temporary back issues. I finally realise for myself the pain and nuisance that is prolonged injuries. On the brighter side of things, this will give me more time to be on the Internet. I typically have 15 hours per week consumed due to this long-standing exercise regimen. But I could use the energy…

This may actually be my first break since April. And having finished the competition, I can afford this break, I think.

It’s a Sock Puppet Show at Social Bookmarking Sites

WITH success in any Web site comes some spam, which needs to be combatted effectively. Herein I will deal with social bookmarking Web sites in particular. Spam is not always automated. There is brute-force spam that is scripted; but there’s also self-promotion that strikes in the form of mass submission. And people have begun trying to game Netscape, whose front page bears an admirable PageRank 9. This keeps the Anchors and Chief Editor on their toes.

The problem has become somewhat universal across this new wave of sites comprising contributer-driven content. Digg has had submission parasites, yet human moderation, as well as spam report widgets (community-driven), have it eradicated early on. I usually report any suspicious submission as spam, at least as soon I spot a distinct and objectionable pattern. When the same person always posts to the same domain, for instance, that’s a red flag. Sometimes you can align the username with the domain’s affiliation, but sometimes consistency in the URL is enough. And ‘sock puppets’ (same person with multiple identities that boost a bogus sense of consent) are another-yet-closely-related matter altogether.

When enough stories get intercepted, links the to the domain are banned by principle (for a month if not permanently), or particular Web addresses blocked for good. This sends the appropriate message: abuse, then get your domain blacklisted. This may be better than banning the users who could otherwise change their ways and contribute differently; in a positive way, that is. In fact, some people just haven’t grasped the concepts of social bookmarking, so they fail to see the wrongdoing.

When banning users, there is a need for caution. A pissed off innocent user is far worse than spam that successfully percolates because people talk. They have blogs, so a good rant with proof can get heavy exposure very quickly. And it affects reputation. Look at what has happened in Digg more recently.

An afterthought: One possible workaround to ‘sock puppets’ would be to demand that each newly-subscribed user supplies a unique E-mail address, as well as logs in with an IP address that wasn’t yet used in registration on that same day. This can’t stop instantiation of puppets or protect against proxies and dynamic IP’s. However, it definitely slows down the abuse and reduces incentive to game the system.

Mini Triathlon Done, Competition Over

Mr. Fitness Trophy

I was not able to reproduce an achievement I had attained 2 years ago, as well as 3 years ago. Although I did my best in this years’s Mr. Fitness competition, another participant, who is also a tough competitor, did brilliantly. Fortunately he is a friend, which by all means makes me happy for him.

Although I was expecting to have won the mini triathlon — that which was completed this morning — overall, I am expecting to finish in a repsectable second place. Well done, Mike Coogan. You deserve the big trophy this year. I will still have my memories of some older and more successful endeavours…

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