Friday, June 27, 2008

I love to waste time

Today's time waste is brought you by:

Flock, a Firefox modification that tries to integrate social networking on your browser. It's an interesting concept, but things don't seem to work as well as they should. For example, I set my Twitter account, but it didn't seem to be able to show anything yet. It also doesn't have FriendFeed, which is probably my favorite "life feed manager" right now.

Shelfari. I think I talked about this one in the past. And I mentioned that I was trying to move away from it because it was too slow... Well, I didn't and realized that it's probably the best one out there. I thought of moving onto Library Thing because of the integration with FriendFeed, but after I've entered "The Amber Spyglass" and it said that there were no other members that had read it, I got a little frustrated. Now that I look at it again, there are members that had read it. A lot of them! So I guess I'm back to my indecision, and more time wasted. Thanks!

Wigix. This is way less than the others. I'm still a little puzzled about this website. I can't seem to grasp how to really make it work on the sales/exchanges side. Yes, it has product information and some sellers trying to sell things, but the dynamics of buying and saying that you would sell yours for a specific price are still a little odd to me.

Well, and now I can add this blog post to the mix. Let me get out of here and start my day.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Health science?

I was watching a show today on Discovery Science about how to improve your diet. I didn't catch it from the beginning, but I'll explain the absurdity that I've seen. Three stories (not in the right order that they appeared on the show):

1) How much gas do people produce and do men produce more gas than women? To try to prove something, they've strapped some gas collector on a cowboy and a cowgirl and after 24 hours they saw that the man had about 10% more gas volume-wise than the woman. What kind of scientific method was that? The amount of gas varies by the amount and quality of food you eat and the biology and chemistry of your intestines. They didn't compare that. It was only two people in one day.

Sure, I do believe that men usually eat more than women so they produce more gas. The result is not surprising. The surprising part is that they advertise it as proof of something.

2) Does eating 4 cloves of garlic a day solve erectile dysfunction problems? They started the program saying that they found 7 people with problems, but only two wanted to appear on the TV. So they went through the whole "experience" that those people had eating that much of raw garlic (it had to be raw to work) a day and how much they smelled. After 3 months, one had improvements and the other didn't. They blamed the lack of change to his pressure pills.

What they didn't discuss is that out of the two people, one had just started having problems a few months before and he is the one that got better. The other had problems for years and didn't get better. Another thing they didn't show is what happened with the other 5 people that just didn't want to appear on TV. Can't they tell the results at least? It would be a little bit more believable if more than one person had improvements.

3) Does eating the caveman diet for 12 days improve your health? They got 10 people or so and put them in the middle of a Zoo and gave them only fruits, nuts and raw vegetables to eat for 12 days. Surprise: their cholesterol numbers dropped, sodium dropped (well, they had to sodium sources and it is water soluble), blood pressure dropped. And all "because of the food".

What they forgot to mention is that all these people lived in London and for 12 days they were not working, sleeping more (after it gets dark pretty much they didn't have anything else to do), not going through traffic, having to worry about what to eat, what to do, where to go. their stress levels were orders of magnitude (and, yes, that's not a scientific number, just an expression) lower than their normal lives. Doesn't this have any impact on their health? It's ridiculous to say it doesn't and that just by changing your diet you can get healthier.

Conclusion: I never thought of Discovery Health as a great source of information, but I thought it wouldn't be a great source of disinformation. People should just avoid TV altogether.

And why was I watching TV? Because I had a Tetanus shot yesterday and I'm not feeling so great today. Didn't sleep very much last night, and the day was just hard. Hopefully tomorrow I'll feel better.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The eye into the people

I don't have much time to discuss this right now, but I found this article interesting:

What’s Obscene? Google Could Have an Answer

It shows that if you put aggregate information about people out there, it can tell you things you don't want to know. The tricky thing is how do you prove that what you are seeing is close enough to a random sample of your population to prove anything.

In any way, in the world of information, it's amazing to see how we can gather data about people. The trick is how this information is going to be used. Can it be the end of illegal porn? Or drugs? I should start searching for "jumping off the bridge" ;-)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Twitter is a funny world

It's kind of odd to see how people use Twitter, or FriendFeed (more on FriendFeed some other day, I think). But before I get to other people, I should try to answer this about myself: how do I use Twitter?

I have three "types of entities" on my Twitter "followed" list (that contains 14 people as of now - not that many, which shows I'm really not a big twitterer):

1) Friends: not too many of those (4). Most my friends, as far as I know, don't use Twitter. Not a lot of traffic here at all.
2) People that seem to have interesting ideas and I was suggested to follow: That's the bulk of it (8), and 95% of all the traffic of messages. They vary between famous "technologists" like Jason Calacanis, founder of, and Amazon's CTO Werner Vogels (all Wikipedia pages, how lazy of me). I look here for interesting links and ideas floating around.
3) "Automated" or "semi-automated" users: Only 2, that include a weather helper and a TWiTlive tracker. Very little traffic here, and not too useful at all.

I used to have a little more, but I've migrated some of them to FriendFeed. As I said, I'll talk about FriendFeed some other day. I'm not sure I'm ready for a final conclusion about the system.

So, my use of it is quite straight-forward. I don't twitter everything that happens to me. Actually sometimes I feel like I should twitter more and it still won't feel like I'm trying to broadcast to everybody every small step I make, which is very likely to be a huge waste of my time and all my followers time (13 as for now).

Which brings me to my followers, the odd piece of this equation: who is following me? Like me following people, there are some friends, there are some that automatically follow you if you follow them, but there is a bulk of completely random people. I'm not sure if they do this to try and see if you'll follow them in return and boost their following crowd (most of those have 3K+ people they follow and usually the same order of magnitude of people that follow them), or if it's just a mistake or temporary curiosity and as my twitter traffic is so low, they don't care to remove myself from their list. Who knows?

Anyway, twitter gives a lot of people to be strange, because it touches directly their ego. Your twitter is all about you. You choose who to follow, and you lure people to follow you. It's like a social network site, but where the connection is less "powerful" than friendship, so it's much easier to get very large numbers and keep growing. Also, it doesn't seem to have constraints on the maximum number of "friends" like most social networks systems.

It certainly doesn't bother me, because it's expected and maybe even healthy for these people. Better than getting attention by doing other crazy things like killing people in the middle of the streets somewhere. Who knows how many lives twitter hasn't saved? And no, productivity is not alive.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Explosive information intake

Sometimes what you read or watch can be very powerful to shape your state of mind. And sometimes this final shape is very detrimental to your well-being.

Last night, it was a combination of receiving 1 email every 15 minutes with an alarm that I couldn't check what was happening, reading "The Future of Management" and then watching "Mr. Brooks". Why? It was one of the things I spent some time thinking last night while I couldn't sleep (which is a VERY rare state for me). Here is my current theory:

NOTE: This might contain some spoilers about the movie, so if you haven't watched the movie and want to fully enjoy it when you do, you might not want to read any further.

Reading TFOM puts you in a state where you stop trusting management in general, in which you believe that the most important thing for any company is to post what needs to be accomplished and let people do it if they want to. It's all a matter of how to correctly give incentives to the non-management workers so they they are happy and don't backstab you when you are not looking. And that's the connection to the movie: the main protagonist helps his daughter but at the end of the movie he has nightmares that any day his daughter might stab him in the back to take over his business (or, well, maybe because she just can't help it).

That all comes back to the alarms I've been receiving. I was out of the office yesterday afternoon enjoying an afternoon with a friend from High School that decided to come to visit for a couple of days. I've even left my computer at the office, so that I couldn't check what was happening, just receive emails through my BlackBerry. And apparently while I was out something stopped working correctly and because it still isn't working, I was given the impression that the person that was supposed to care about it doesn't care at all and, thus, things are still broken.

Anyway, that's the theory. You don't have to accept it. But I have to leave to catch a bus and go to work.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Back from Hawaii

So I'm back from Hawaii. It was a very nice trip. O'ahu is a nice island, with nice beaches and steep green hills. It's also quite small, allowing you to go and visit most of things without having to spend too much time just driving from one place to another. A huge plus!

Got way too sunburnt, learning that those spray sunscreens are evil. Using them about two days for two people we almost finished with the whole bottle but still got sunburnt on some places. The tricky thing is that you can't really tell how well you have sprayed your skin. Maybe with some experience it's better, but for now I'll go back to my normal manual process.

And, no, I wasn't lying at the beach somewhere. We went kayaking to the sunken island on Monday. So the part that suffered the most were my knees. I was barely able to walk in the evening and next day. Today it's much better.

Now I'm back and very annoyed and disappointed with what happened while I was out. I kind of feel the same way I felt when I went to Brazil and when I got back everything didn't make much sense at work any more. At least this time it was only 3 business days, so I shouldn't be too worried.

Time to go to sleep. I had plans of starting to organize my pictures tonight, but they didn't quite work out. I don't have that many pictures, but it still takes way too long to organize them. My computer keeps reminding me that I need an upgrade. And I feel like I could live with only a memory upgrade, but I'm falling for the "Mac Owner Syndrome" and am tempted to just buy a whole new laptop. I'm even still running an old PowerBook G4... No Intel chip for me yet.

What a disconnected post...