Decisions, decisions

September 7, 2010

Okay, day one of ALTc conference in Nottingham. First task is to work out what I want to see/do. Shortly followed by – what do I use to schedule my time? Paper program, online? iPhone vs iPad vs laptop. Paper is easy to share / scribble on but the online program on cloudvine has “a schedule tool to create a personalized, exportable schedule. Guess I better check that out first, in the privacy of my room, with everything to hand before I decide.

Any advice?


Delicious tagging bookmarklet

September 6, 2010

Current version of a bookmarklet I am using in Firefox (sourced from is …


This code is same for Safari and Firefox – need to work out why the timeout is set for Firefox, but in the meantime it works for me.

Note: there is a marginal difference between the firefox (above) and safari (below) versions – can you spot it and does it matter?


And this doesn’t work on iPhone safari. Need to go back to my simpler version.

Getting hired as a designer

September 6, 2010

Top three tests (from Mike Davidson via Andy Clarke at MMU web teaching day) for hiring designers:

  • does the design look and feel of what you have done or can show fit in with what the we/our clients want
  • are you a cool person to work with, e.g. interests, values, personality etc
  • can anyone vouch for you

Original (fresh!) post at

Digital Industries – employer needs + graduate skills

September 6, 2010

Presentation at Web Teaching Day, 6 September 2010

Nicola Critchlow, MMU Careers

Reports on work funded by HECSU.  Key points:

  • Creative digital industries definition confused but cross sector (impacts 10-13 traditional sectors depending on your defintion)
  • Comms skills is valued highly by both employers and academics, but while academics thought students were prepared, employers did not
  • Tech skills valued highly by both academics and (even more highly) by employers, again with employers thinking grads were less prepared
  • work experience valued by both academics and (again, even more highly) by employers, but two thirds of employers thought grads not prepared.

Summary of employer views:

  • grads bring fresh talen and ideas, and assessed by their (untaught!) enthusiam and experience
  • pace of change much higher in industry compared with academics

Tech skills wanted include XHMLT, motion graphics, soft skills etc

Follow-up research focussed on different competencies and identified:

  • cognitive (understanding), behavioural (skills) & affective (attitudes and values)
  • employers are looking for all three, while academics tend (unsurprisingly) to focus more on cognitive competencies.
  • employability initiatives (e.g. e-portfolios) do not necessarily meet employer requirements (if they are looking for enthusiam and innovation outside of prescriptive university led approaches)

Improving searchability of Flash content

May 21, 2010

A pointer to what Google will index in Flash content…

Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Flash indexing with external resource loading

So if you are developing Flash content for the web, all is not lost (at least in theory).

Duck typing

April 26, 2010

Bumped into a reference to “duck typing” today.  Its an old idea (predating its coining in 2000), but nice name – if something walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then shoot it and eat it for dinner!

While the issues refers to the use of type systems, it also goes to the heart of how much effort to put into organising information, and the benefits that come from it. Defining your structures in advance and forcing people to use them means that you can avoid errors. But this reduces flexibility and creativity and can make people focus on the structure and not the key goals of what you are trying to achieve.

Technology Buzzwords and marketing

April 14, 2010

What’s in a name? Obviously lots and sometimes the name is all people latch on to – as a hook to hang ideas on, or a buzz word to surf the latest trend.

While checking out some videos at the Google developer site I noticed very different views of what was important about RESTful web services:

  • in REST version 1 = its simple XML over HTTP (not SOAP)
  • in REST version 2 = its HTTP over a network (with benefits of a layered approach, caching etc)

While in my version of REST, its all in the URLs and the logical, modular design of services.  You could say it doesn’t matter (too much!) who’s right as in the absence of locked down definitions they are all valid points of view.  However, we do need people who can dig behind the marketing hype.

Finding a University

April 14, 2010

Why does finding a University have to be so hard?  With less than 200 to choose from in the UK and all that good data out there, surely it should be easy.

1) choose a subject area and course type

2) filter by the grades you are likely to get or other entry criteria

3) rank by what’s important to you (campus vs city, nightlife, culture, cost of living/studying, student satisfaction, employability, research …)

4) overlay with geography … and you’re done!

But it this what you get at sites like the Times online map or even a “value add” site like WhatUni, or heaven forbid UCAS!

Another golden mash-up opportunity!

Searching the Apple appStore

March 26, 2010

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to search the app store, and rank results by ratings or downloads or price? Apple controls all this for you and gives you one ranking, but it would be great for us to have control.

How about a quick app to:

  1. enter search criteria (key words + optional category)
  2. download current app Data from appStore XML feed
  3. select apps that match on basis of search criteria
  4. present list of apps to user
  5. go back to app store to pick up data for selected apps (asynchronously in background?)
  6. allow users to re-sort results by selected criteria

Wrinkles to this include:

  • how much data is available. Max rss feed is 300 items, but there are 20 categories + free/paid => 12000 items
  • how to manage data. Wouldn’t want to download rankings all the time => cache data
  • how to manage search. If users don’t select category, then could search across all cats (slow if real time) and use this to then drill down. But better to cache data
  • Apple probably wouldn’t like this! Bet they have something in T&C about not storing data, or even republishing it.

But would make a great web services project!

Apple RSS feed for top 300 social apps

p.s. someone has already had the same idea at Nice selection on the side, although their basic ranking is a bit flakey. Don’t know where they get their app data from.

Could also do the same using a Google search as source for initial search data: Q – Google Search returns approx 143,000 results, although you are stuck parsing HTML and Google does not like simple programmatic access and would need to check/spoof headers/parameter values

Yahoo may be be better, e.g as this will return XML and is geared up as proper service. Or could use YQL if only could work out how to restrict search to a specific site…

Basic app page in the store has URL like

Too much information overload

March 26, 2010

Welcome to my world of too much information, too many channels and not enough ways to make sense and manage it.

You could view this as a dumping ground for thoughts and ideas about work.  Alternatively, you could view it as another tool in the armoury of:

  • delicious – repository of references (micro-wiki)
  • twitter – interesting titbits in “real time
  • … and this – for bigger, slightly more formed ideas, helpful stuff and so on

Maybe this is all too much, and I should just be using one platform for everything.  But thoughts to date suggest otherwise.