Scott Kelby’s 3rd Annual Worldwide Photo Walk

Just like I went on the walk last year, I went on the Scott Kelby worldwide photo walk in Athens this year yesterday. One local called us the paparazzi. Another asked if there was a photographer convention.

A couple of my takes:

Sunset Crane Founders Garden

Flickr Groups featuring photos from Athens and other walks:

I Write Like Me

Check which famous writer you write like with this statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers.

Not trusting a single sample, I tested fifteen writing samples including stories and blog posts (excluding those with block quotes). The Cory Doctorow result was the most common at six.

I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I also received David Foster Wallace (3), Arthur Conan Doyle (3), J.K. Rowling (2), Isaac Asimov (1).

There was a clear pattern to the results.

  1. Cory Doctorow: Topic was work. Analyzer probably keyed on the dispassionately objective word choice.
  2. David Foster Wallace: Topic was my personal life. Analyzer probably keyed on me portraying the  absurdities.
  3. Arthur Conan Doyle: Topic was adventure story originated in high school. I probably thought too much like Sherlock Holmes then.
  4. J.K. Rowling: Topic was also adventure story composed in early college. I probably thought too much like Harry Potter then.
  5. Isaac Asimov: Topic was science. Its hard not to use scientific jargon when writing about science.

That there would be a difference between my high school and college story writing was interesting. The difference depending on whether I was writing about work, personal, or science was also interesting. I would have liked to see almost every sample I chose of my writing to reflect a single author. Otherwise, it seems results skewed towards word choice not style.

From the developer, Dmitry Chestnykh on how this works.

Actually, the algorithm is not a rocket science, and you can find it on every computer today. It’s a Bayesian classifier, which is widely used to fight spam on the Internet. Take for example the “Mark as spam” button in Gmail or Outlook. When you receive a message that you think is spam, you click this button, and the internal database gets trained to recognize future messages similar to this one as spam. This is basically how “I Write Like” works on my side: I feed it with “Frankenstein” and tell it, “This is Mary Shelley. Recognize works similar to this as Mary Shelley.” Of course, the algorithm is slightly different from the one used to detect spam, because it takes into account more stylistic features of the text, such as the number of words in sentences, the number of commas, semicolons, and whether the sentence is a direct speech or a quotation.

Bayesian filters I’ve seen given an item a score to how likely an item is something. I would like to see the strength of the scores, including distributions, and comparison of a given result to other close results. Guess I am just someone who wants to know why?

Plus Size Soccer Jerseys

Some things are easy to buy online. A few times in the past month I’ve gone looking for a soccer jersey for any of the many football (soccer to my fellow Americans) team I follow. Three futile hours later, I am considering changing which football I follow since stores can carry appropriately sized apparel for it. I’m someone who wears a fairly rare to find size of 3XLT. (Or 4XL when tall is not an option. Or sometimes 3XL for teeshirts, but that usually means exposed back when I sit.)

It annoys me to find a design I like for a reasonable price only to discover there is no size available to me. In bricks and mortar stores, it means never returning until I hear they have a “Big and Tall” section hidden somewhere not obvious.

Here is a place where the Long Tail falls down. According to it, online stores, with their enormous warehouses can better afford to carry a more broad selection of less frequently selling items. They give us more choice. Therefore, it means I ought to find more choice online. For things not in my size, this is true. There is tons of choice. The same stores in a mall who carry clothing in the right sizes seem perfectly capable of offering a wider selection. Yet, an online store like Amazon can’t make it easy for me to find clothing that fits?

My main beef with is the lack of product in a size I can wear. (The one jersey would make me a Chelsea supporter.) They do get a couple things right.

  1. Quality search: I can put 4xl in the search and get back items with a size of 4xl. All these sites have a search. However, for many sites, size doesn’t appear to be a relevant word. The term “4XL” lands items with “XL” in the name. Useless!
  2. Narrow results by size: Brand, price, and seller are options Amazon offers for narrowing the search to more useful options. How is size not important enough to include? Useless!

Ultimately, I guess not enough people my size have enough interest in soccer jerseys. They end up American football or basketball or baseball fans which have clothes large enough for me. Maybe I should switch sports allegiances? It would help my political allegiances.

Bureaucratic Processes Stifle Idea Sex

Yesterday was the TED talk on what happens when ideas have sex. Go read that watch the video. I can wait.

I also read about an issue regarding employees who are frustrated with mediocre performance by their organizations and low expectations which appeared in Federal Computer Week. (I’ve heard about people talking about this happening mostly everywhere.) Plus, I have an aunt who recently retired from federal service with interesting stories.

It seems like some organizations focus on the bad performance and ways of bringing everyone up to certain level. So they set new policies, hire many managers who focus is compliance, and focus on past screw ups not happening again. It’s like they have yet to learn focusing on those past screw ups make them vulnerable to new screw ups. For example, if everyone focuses on their blow out preventer to not have another BP oil spill, then they miss other components so the next accident will be in something like the riser cap containment system.

Okay, sure there was a problem. Our focus ought to be on identifying what people do well and having them do that thing. Then we offload the responsibilities they don’t do well on to people who will.

TED Talk: When ideas have sex

I don’t think I of myself as very intelligent. I think I’ve managed to have great conversations chock full of fantastic ideas with very intelligent people and discussed those ideas with others who refined them.

It hadn’t occurred to me it was the exchange of objects leads to specialization which leads to improvement of both objects and ideas as individuals attain expertise. It also means we as a society are all working for each other. We all depend on each other as we have reached the point where no one knows how to make everything in every day items we use.

The fewer people in the social network, the less exchange, the less specialization so isolation leads to regressions. So as we get better at communicating world wide and having global conversations, technology will increase at an even faster pace.

How well we communicate is more important than our individual intelligence.

Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist.

Most Recent Data

One of the common complaints instructors have about CE/Vista is the Tracking reports don’t have recent enough data. They are shown this for selecting the date range.

Select a Date Range for the Report
Select a Date Range for the Report

Including here the most recent time the tracking was processed (which the application already displays to the server administrator in background jobs) would help the instructor know whether the data is as recent as 4:00 am or 1:00pm.

Maybe when Tracking will run again ought to be displayed to the instructor so he or she knows it will run within the hour or the next morning. That might cut down on instructors running it again and again expecting it to magically show data which won’t be available until many hours later.

Administrators some times have to pick the best operational time to run Tracking. We have direct login checks running several times per hour. When Tracking is run every hour and these checks run at the same time, the time these direct login checks took spiked. Users also complained about poor performance. So we have these run in the wee hours of the morning when users are not generally on the system.

On Buyouts

My friend Dan posted on Twitter about the rumored buyout of Brizzly by Foursquare. Thankfully an update says this rumor isn’t true.

What are examples of a bought software company where the bought product flourished better than before the buyout? I forget the name of the company who built a Twitter search only to be bought by Twitter. However, it Summize stands alone as the good example of a buyer well integrating something into the existing product. Of course, I’m not an authority on buyouts, so maybe there some other good examples.

From what I recall, typically the buyout means the software either dies or languishes for up to years before getting re-released as either a new brand or features in the buyer’s product. Blackboard bought WebCT back in 2005. The next 3 years were release after release of fixes to problems which often made things worse to the point customers looked to each other to be the fool who would install the release first. The grand merging of the two was pretty much just the grade center into the Classic product line. Another example, Grand Central was bought by Google in 2007 and re-launched in 2009 as Google Voice. When Microsoft bought Hotmail, the horrible performance in the years after practically built Yahoo Mail.

Because of this, I guess I ought to start researching alternatives to Brizzly…. Boo.


Soccer clubs are tied to a neighborhood or city. Doing well inspires local pride. National teams expand the base of supporters.

German Flag
German Flag

Beirut-born Ibrahim (or Youssef) Bassal displayed a 70′ x 20′ German flag to show his family’s solidarity during the World Cup where millions of smaller flags are everywhere. Only people keep vandalizing the flags because they brings up painful memories. It speaks volumes about the tension over national pride when people resort to vigilantism over something like a flag. Also, there is something ironic about people stealing a flag because to them it represents the Fourth Reich from someone who would be a victim if true.

“This time we’re not going to let them attack it. We’re going to guard our flag. We are sleeping here in the shop and waiting for Saturday. We’re not going to let the left-wingers destroy us — or the right-wingers. We live here. Our kids are born here. We want them to keep living here,” Bassal says.

Personally, I think the anti-nationalists forget their history. Of the many, many opportunities for Adolf Hitler to watch soccer, he only attended one and left early from it because Germany was losing to Norway. Since Hitler disliked football, this national pride in something he disliked should be a good thing.

One more thing… Long before Jackie Robinson integrated baseball, South American countries found black players could be very skilled and promoted integration. Hitler would oppose the team because of the racial diversity of the German team like Aogo, Cacau, Boeteng. Therefore, a win by the German national soccer team is a win against Hitler.