Secret Diaries…..

whats behind the wrapper?

Browsing Posts published by josiahb

  • Anyone else noticed that people being outraged at something tends to draw far more attention to said thing than would otherwise get? #

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You know how everyone’s a computer expert now?  They all know all the answers, ‘’s the software’, ‘you need more memory’, ‘Macs/Windows/Dell/HP/whatever are crap, you should get a Mac/Windows PC/Dell/HP/whatever’.  As an professional stuff like this is annoying enough when its other techs saying , when everyone else chimes in based on something they heard from some bloke in the pub the general result is said tech goes and finds a quiet corner to sit and cry in. Why exactly?  Because aside from the fact that these judgements are often just plain wrong, they regularly suffer from the usual problems of a collection of opinions of blokes in the pub.

They probably know less about than you do.

Or, if they do know about they are talking about a specific case and not in general terms.  More RAM will not solve every PC problem, one fault does not necessarily make a particular software package useless and (this is a big one) Mac/Windows/HP/Dell/whatever are not the without flaws, and they are not completely useless.  Companies don’t tend to survive very long if they are.

As a general rule, expressing your opinion of what the problem could be with your PC while the office tech is working on should (if we were allowed) be met with a response somewhere along the lines of  ’If your such an expert why did you call me?  Fix yourself then.’ unfortunately things like that are not considered good customer service so we smile sweetly and carry on regardless.  Please try to remember that we’re here to help and we are very unlikely to try and tell you how to do your job, so you telling us how to do ours is less than helpful.

Users at my current job have started using a new ploy to annoy the hell out of me, despite keeping them informed of progress and working hard to resolve their problem some have decided that faster results can be gained by emailing upper management with there problems.  This is more annoying than being told how to do my job, this is actually offensive to me.  Particularly as the normal tone of these emails seems to suggest that the department have access to a vast store of hidden funds which could be used to replace every PC and server twice over without having any effect on the companies bottom line.

Attitudes like this are what make me consider careers a long way away from , truth is though that none of those careers actually has much potential to earn me big straight away so I’d have to make sure I got my hands on a fairly solid cardboard box to live in till they did….

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This is the first I’ve done this week, not an intentional failure but a failure none the less.  I’ll be well off target I’m afraid.  Unfortunately a lot of things have chosen this week to compete for attention in my brain and they’ve got in the way of my creative muscles somewhat.

My intention is that I’ll make up for the failing next week, hopefully producing one piece a day and massively expanding my output compared to its current levels.  I’m also hoping to get some serious work on The Book done, perhaps even seeing if I can produce something approaching a decent first chapter to get things moving on that front.

Matters have not been helped by the fact that my energy levels seem to be at an all time low, I’m spending more time feeling tired than feeling useful.  Still, four weeks to go and then I can recharge my batteries in a cottage on Exmoor.  Four weeks that can’t really go fast enough….

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  • woops… hadn't noticed the twitter plugin went mental there. All I did was update some categories! Still, makes me look busy I suppose #
  • How exactly does iain m banks get away with being cryptic as all bastardy when I can't? Oh right… he makes clear in the end, bugger. #
  • #haveyouevernoticed that a surprising amount of text speak doesn't actually make words shorter, just badly spelt #

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’s a fairly obvious question for a company whose oft quoted motto is ‘do no evil’, particularly when the company in question has become so intrinsic to many peoples daily lives.  With stories of accidental Wi-Fi data collection and data centers filled with peoples personal information its easy to become suspicious of one of the world’s fastest growing technology companies.  All this does not automatically become a reason to doubt Google’s sincerity however, no one actually knows what they are collecting or even how long they hold onto for so is entirely possible that nothing particularly personally identifying is held for an extended period.  The flip side is also true of course, they could be holding everything forever.

This vast data store could be being used for the simplest of purposes, providing more targetted advertising, its a clear capitalist goal to aim for and makes Google a lot of .  What if thats not what they are holding for though?  What could Google do with all this information while still staying true to the ‘do no evil’ catchphrase.  If we look at the world of artificial intelligence we may find a clue, swarm intelligence relies on individual agents interacting with each other and there environment with no centralized control structure, what larger group of individual agents exist than the human population of the internet?  Perhaps Google’s data gathering is all part of some larger plan to create a real and working artificial intelligence by understanding the interactions which take place amongst the ‘swarm’ that is the internet.  Or taking the social interaction principle further perhaps at the heart of the Googleplex sociologists are seeking to understand the deeper causes of human behaviour by analysing the interaction of internet denizens.

To take a more science fiction route another possibility surely exists, Psychohistory in the world of Asimov relies on the analysis of statistical information of large groups.  Again the internet represents the largest grouping of individuals in the history of the world, where better to gather the data necessary to predict the flow of human events?

These possibilities are obviously vague and certainly in one case fairly outlandish but the possibility exists that Goolge are gathering data for some great and noble purpose, rather than just to shove a more targetted advertising campaign down our necks.  Even if they are ridiculous, the potential material for fiction authors created by Google’s mere existence is huge and shouldn’t be ignored.

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I’m going to take a break from the usual subjects that I’ve been about of late (namely …) and wonder off into the world of professional football.  Following the England teams less than stellar performance yesterday against Germany I’ve been trying to work out what the England manager can do to try and improve matters for our next tournament fun time.

A lot of the discussion which has taken place recently has made mention of the small pool of talent available to the England manager with so many foreign players in the Premier League at present.  This has confused me slightly, Algeria held us to a 0-0 draw with a team largely made up of amateurs, they qualified for the World Cup with the same team.  Why exactly is the England manager under the impression he has a small pool of talented players from which to make his selection?  If Algeria can qualify with amateurs surely England can select from more than just the premier league?

If you open your selection to the lower leagues you’ll find yourself with a lot of good, hungry young players looking for their big break this gives you a serious chance of finding people who can play together as a team and who want to wear the shirt and represent their country.  The chances are you’ll also find that you can be more creative with the team, leaving 4-4-2 behind you and really improving the quality of football the team play.

Now, all of the above comes from someone who is willing to admit that his football skills are severly lacking but I cherish the belief that I would actually make a good manager (whether football or anything else) because I’m willing to listen and I like to do what I can to see people do well.  What seems to be lacking in English football is the desire to do well for any other reason than the big fat paycheck at the end of , its no longer about football, its about job satisfaction.

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As you all know a major cause of deforestation is the unpublished novel, whole rainforests have been destroyed by people desperately seeking that big break from any and every publisher.  A lot of this is caused by some peoples complete inability to be self critical, a problem I thankfully do not suffer from, unfortunately I have the opposite malady.  I am firmly convinced that 99% of my output is total crap.

Take a flick through previous articles and you’ll see what I mean.

Having produced a lot of bad I thought I was capable of spotting a mile off, I now realise that my talents in this area pale in insignificance compared to the might of Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman the minds behind “How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published“.  I added this little gem to my bookshelf a while ago and have over the last couple of months (I’ve not had a lot of time to read recently) finally got round to reading .

If you are a writer, if your thinking of becoming a writer, if you’ve ever picked up a pen or sat in front of a keyboards with the idea for a sure fire bestseller in your head then you need to read this book.  I’m sorry to say its very likely to destroy some of your more extreme illusions about your talent.  This is a good thing however, if no one points out your mistakes then you’ll just keep making them (trust me I know what I’m talking about here).

I found very interesting flicking through the Amazon reviews of this book, trying to guess at the personalities behind the keyboard, some see as mocking or smug, everyone sees as sarcastic.  What interested me most though is those who claimed was useless, having read their opinions I’m firmly of the belief that the book cut a little too close to the bone for there liking.  I’d guess their own manuscript is currently being rejecting for one or more of the mistakes listed in this book!

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A lot of my energy at the moment is going into simply generating ideas for things to write about, in the past I’ve relied on random inspiration to give me a topic but recently I’ve started to examine where those random ideas actually come from.  My reliance on randomness regularly leaves me bereft of ideas which seriously damages my output so finding the source will help to stabilise things somewhat.  The search has revealed a few things to me about my and about my approach to some things outside of as well.

The major discovery is the obvious one, ideas come from everywhere and anywhere.  A comment in the middle of a conversation, an image glanced as you go about your daily life, all these things get stored away and eventually if your very lucky your unconscious mind makes some kind of connection and you’ve got a potential best seller idea waiting to be unleashed.  This makes a vitally important part of any writers life to make sure that they always have their eyes and ears open or else the ideas may pass you by.

Dreams are another useful source of ideas, both your own and other peoples, as a for instance this morning my girlfriend told me she had a in which two of my friends from the world of amateur dramatics were researching their next role by pretending to want to be part of the Mafia.  All on its own you’ve got the begins of a fantastic story without your conscious mind actually having to do anything.  Dreams however are fickle and where one day you get a prize winning short story idea the next you may get a complete damp squib.

Which brings me to an incredibly important point:  Good ideas do not always produce good .  Once you have that germ of inspiration takes a lot of work to turn from idea into finished project and if you don’t approach the process the ‘right’ way you’ll waste a lot of time polishing a turd.  Evidence of that (I’m ashamed to say) can be seen in various corners of this site where over excitement at the mere thought of turning idea into substance has resulted in badly formed and incomplete product.

This is what my quest to understand the source of my ideas has taught me, I need a Plan, up until now (to paraphrase Phoebe Buffay) I haven’t had a pl.  Hence the creation of The Plan, the overriding rules by which I now abide when doing anything for this site.  The details of The Plan will continue to be fleshed out as time goes on.  Much of The Plan is actually still unpublished as I’ve come to realise I need something which extends beyond this site and into my daily life.

Its a freeing experience knowing that a part of your life now has structure and some kind of future, has become easier and more fluid and the rest of my life seems to be following suit. So, if your a budding writer whose struggling to find focus or if your just feeling a bit lost in any area of your life, make yourself a plan, even if its only a list of what your going to cook each night for dinner ’ll help.

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I would like nothing better in life than to sit and do this every day, the sheer joy of is incredible and fills me with a sense of well being and purpose.  The challenge is turning part time into making enterprise, something which isn’t easy.  The truth of the matter is though that there are now more people ‘living the ’ and making from , drawing and otherwise creating content than at any other time in history.  The internet has opened up a whole new avenue and that avenue is spreading back to impact more traditional media, the days of self-publication have very definitely arrived.

This freedom to create which has been handed to so many people does of course give rise to the creation of a whole wealth of total crap, but some gems are really starting to shine through, the world of webcomics seems to be the most advanced of the new breed with many turning their comic into a full-time job.  Quite apart from the prolific (and the rest of the Blind Ferret team) over at many others are making their mark and making their living in this new world.  Where the webcomics guys seem to have got right is by not limiting themselves, they are not only producing collections of the work they’ve presented on the web they’ve also expanded  into prints, T-shirts, figurines and even shot glasses.

So how do those of us with little in the way of artistic talent make use of these potential new making avenues?  The phrase ‘you have to spend to make ’ may come into play here, once you’ve established your as worth peoples attention you can spend a bit of cash getting a talented artist to create a few T-shirt designs for you.  If your fiction a few posters of your main characters may sell well.

The important thing is that there is no better time than now to try and make your artistic dreams come true, I’m certainly going to be trying over the next few months to make happen for me, whether that involves a whole load of or just some damn good only time will tell.

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I’d like to introduce you all to Lightning Bug, an incredibly useful little site full of stuff to just get your moving.  Theres a whole raft of warm up excercises and different things to help you develop characters and setting.

Its well worth a look if you need help turning vague concept into fully formed idea.

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