Posts Tagged ‘tips’



[Graphic of social site logos]AS A SNAPSHOT of time, I thought I would ramble on about blogs and those parts of the internet I find useful or interesting. Why not, it could be fun looking back someday!

Social sites were probably kicked-off by Friends Reunited. Soon, came Bebo aiming at younger users. Music and kids combined on MySpace (which has undergone a revamp recently). It is probably fair to say that social sites now are dominated by Facebook, and the professional version of this would be Linkedin.

I have to say that I have not really been interested in any of these social sites; they just seem crass to me — they suck effort and time and give little back. They also have a worrying lack of privacy, and with tie-ins to various personal devices seem to invite identity theft or even “cyberbullying”.

[Graphic - twitter]I do not mind Twitter because you can follow interesting people you will never meet, and you can participate in many ways, to whatever level you are comfortable with — and do so anonymously. If you use Twitter, you might find Twimemachine good for searching historical tweets, and Splitweet for managing different accounts.

There are other sites that can sort-of be considered “social sites”, but are less about sharing your life’s minutiae and more about sharing the good stuff.

Unique to the medium is the hyperlink — and the site for sharing links and sites  you like would be  Stumbleupon, I used to use this a lot via the browser toolbar, but it quickly tried to become Facebook, and workplaces put it on the banned list, so it was back to sending links by e-mail and IM!

Tip: to shorten long URL links, I use (or the browser add-on button version).

Because the internet is an image-biased medium, I guess social sites really kicked off with digital photographs. I’m thinking here of Flikr, Pinterest, and Tumblr. and recently I’ve seen the rise of Instagram and Backspace for sharing pictures taken with smartphones. Again, though, they’re not really for me.

[Graphic - WordPress]Having said that, I have used blogging providers, like Blogger and WordPress, and my wife has tied in Flikr to share our  photographs, but it’s easier to just use the blog as it keeps things private yet easy to see/download by the folk that matter.

[Graphic Reddit Alien]Over the years, when I have fancied a chuckle, I have headed over to Fark or Reddit. Reddit has an image site that is a lot of fun too — Imgr. If you like Reddit, a really handy tool for searching is Searchreddit. Couldn’t live without it.

With broadband’s growth, videos have taken off, particularly with Youtube and Vimeo. These are the big guys because of the bad press they attract, pop artists launch music promos there, and because people upload illegal things, like TV shows or clips from films.

Other sites cater more specifically for personal videoclips these days, Flikr, Videobam, Dropshots and the like. These are handy for linking to from blogs (but because WordPress allows you to upload directly so these types of site may be mainly for non-bloggers).

If you have big files to share (too big and unwieldy for e-mail), you might need Big File Swapper, Box, or File Factory. But they tend to cost. I therefore prefer blogs as a good free way to upload files that you want people to download. The posts can be secured with a password, or you can give permission levels to the blog.

Very popular a few years ago was eBay. Everyone seemed to be on it, buying and selling.

Tip: we use Fat Fingers to search eBay for bargains that people put on with mistakes or mis-spellings.

Other sites are not really anywhere as near popular as eBay (eBid, Craigslist etc). We sometimes use gumtree for services, buying, selling or giving stuff away. A lot of folk use Amazon to read reviews, download music, or get inspiration.

If  Cowboy Trades worry you, forget Rated People – it was good for a while, but it seems to be getting less trustworthy these days. My Builder is better. I haven’t used Top Tradesmen so far, but it looks pretty good.

Tip: the Government Trustmark scheme is always the best first step though, pop in your postcode and what trade you need and it comes up with pukka certified tradesmen.

For streaming live BBC telly you can’t beat the simulcast.  I’d first check the TV listings for the UK.

[Graphic: iplayer symbol]On demand telly is good too – BBC iPlayer is a favourite, there’s an ITV player too (STV too), Channel Four’s 4oD, and Channel Five have one as well. Of course you can get channels on Youtube as well.

LIVE Radio is also available on-line to the smartphone or laptop easily enough – BBC Radio One, BBC Radio Two, BBC Radio Three and BBC Radio Four. Classic FM, Clyde 1 FM, Smooth radio, and loads more are available. A good resource is Shoutcast’s directory, or Window’s Guide to Internet Radio.

[Graphic: crotchet]Streaming music share sites are popular. This is My Jam is a share site for what you are listening to. It connects with Spotify as well. Rivals to Spotify would be Playlist, GroovesharkRadio, Soundcloud, Last FM, Jango, Rhapsody, and sites like Blip FM. My wife loves mash-ups, so the Music Mash-Up Charts is a great site. CD Baby is cool too.

Searching music facts is easy with Everyhit, and The song tapper finds songs simply from what you tap in.

I have liked Live Plasma for years, especially good for finding links on music and musicians. A nice graphic searchy thing… lovely.

Some of my old favourite blog search sites have died, but Global Voices is still going, and is really good if you need world news that is not media generated. Wired is always worth a lunchtime check to catch up, as is the famous SlashDot. Or even The Register; I’m a bit techy-geeky at times.

My wife loves The Daily Mail site,  and while I check that too, I also scan HuffingtonUK and Drudge. WorldNews and BBCNews are good, but if the news matters to you, the best thing to do would be to check out PressDisplay – nothing else compares, although The PaperBoy tries, and What the Papers Say does a little bit. Every UK newspaper and magazine is listed at Media UK, the Glasgow results are this. You can then contact them directly or visit the paper’s site.

I adore The Art Loss Register — a website that tracks stolen works of art, so you can find out what’s been stolen and what’s been recovered. To me, this is fascinating. I also use Reference sites — such as The Internet Book List, is cool too. Oxford Dictionary is always worth a check. I use the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible site, Sacred Texts site and The Bible Gateway has been handy over the years.

  • A good site to track down three letter abbreviations is the Acronym Finder.

Google has great stuff – Translate, Maps, Shopping, Image Search, and the Android app store (Play). People still use Google to search for celebrities when there is a dedicated search engine out there called Valebrity. Then again, there is the International Movie Database (if you must).

Tip: a cool search engine is FactBites – you type in a search, like you do at Google, and the results are facts about the subject — not links to websites.

When I get an e-mail at work that tells a tall tale, I check it against Snopes.  Usually it turn out to be yet another urban legend. I tend not to trust Wikipedia, preferring to use it as a quick guide rather than as a proper authority source.

When I have to telephone a company with an expensive premium rate number, I use GetHuman’s website to track down their normal rate landline number, and call them on that instead.

It is easy to check what broadband speeds, services and providers are available to your postcode – check Sam Knows before doing anything. Checking the ping time, the upload and download speed and keeping a record for reference is freely provided by

Checking what drugs have been prescribed is easy enough with RxList or Local Health/ Better Medicine.

Tip: as a responsible parent, I have to check the age rating/ classification of DVDs, games and cinema movies, so I just pop the title into the search box at the BBFC site.

That’s enough for one crazy post. I have managed to avoid holiday, flights, ferries, travel, cooking and lots more… maybe another post another time.




A great many years ago I was taught a set of tools to use in learning and working.  I have and hold these tricks dear; they have served me well. The following is a tool for bringing reason and rationality to making decisions.

It can be built up into a complex thing, but to give you the idea, let’s start off with a small grid.

You get two options (the action and not-the-action) and so does your opponent. They get the rows and you get the columns. It’s a bit like this:





All you have to do is think about the outcome in each of the four boxes where the rows meet the columns.

Now, it must be said that the initial idea one might get from the above grid is that action is always better than inaction — the chances of winning (or not losing) are better.  Inaction provides two outcomes — nothing or a loss, but action yields a win and a war that might be won. However, it would be a huge mistake to use this grid as qualification for attack, for doing something, or to always strike first. It would, in fact, be a huge mistake to use the grid at all; it’s just the basic outline!

The grid is supposed to be realistic — a tool for the real world every day, so let’s get straight to making a proper one — but we’ll still keep it a simple two column, two row grid.  Having seen the outline grid, and once you have seen a real one thought up and thought-through, I hope you will be confident about giving it a go — making it perfectly suit your own special circumstances.

First of all, simply change the column headed “inaction” for “avoidance”. It is a subtle change, but it makes all the difference in the world. The original grid is too unrealistic and simplistic because “inaction” implies turning the other cheek and letting people do things without defending yourself.  “Avoidance” dramatically improves the decision-making — so here’s our first “real” decision grid.

Let’s say there’s been an argument between two people which has caused a rift such that people have sided with the other party. This is very common — you fall out with someone at work,  a family member, someone at a club or even a group of neighbours, and it seems like everyone has taken their side over you.

The question is what to do next. Who should make the first move to break the stalemate? The grid will help.

THEY ARE GOING TO GET YOU This is a fight! Both sides will want to make points and get things off their chests.
Because the group has sided with them, you cannot win.
You have to choose to stay or go.
If you are to be accepted back, you are looking for damage limitation, saving face, capitulating with some dignity.
If you are going, you want to clear the air, give as good as you get, all as you depart forever. It’s about losing, but not giving in.
They cannot get a response, they are frustrated; they want a fight, but you’re not playing to their rules; you’re unavailable until they cool off — it’s on your terms…

them — disadvantage

THEY ARE NOT ACTIVELY OUT TO GET YOU If it turns out that they are not actually actively out to get you, you are likely to make things worse by stirring everything up. It is more likely that doing something in this case would make them actively out to get you — see row above

them — win

If it turns out that they are not actually actively out to get you, and you are unavailable and saying nothing, then you cannot make it worse, and neither can they, so it’s a win-win.

them — win

Well, look at the result now — it is pretty clear that avoidance is the winner for a person in such a situation.

  • Avoidance/ going your own way or going about your own business is always the best practice when bullied by or ganged up on by a group.

As soon as you can, you must move house, get another job, change school or whatever — as long as you can get away and put it all behind you.

  • When people side with one person over you, it is impossible to fix without you capitulating, surrendering, apologising and debasing yourself.  Forever thereafter, the relationship will be such that you will always be the lesser, and all the rest will be greater than you.

If you cannot move house, if you cannot get another job, if you are stuck in that school, or if the rift is in a family or business where links exist that are difficult to sever, then, if you refuse to capitulate, an intermediary would then be required (because you are avoiding them).

Intermediaries can be an emissary from their camp, but they can be independent third parties — lawyers, councillors, trained negotiators.

The intermediary might decide to offer their peace deal, or some way forward (changing from top row to bottom row), or they may remain filled with animosity on the top row, and employ a lawyer or hitman or some other agent to get at you!  It is up to them as you have decided to avoid. Avoidance puts the ball firmly in their court.

I am sure you will agree that the decision-making grid (in general) is a great tool, and the example I have used here is particularly useful in understanding diplomacy and the social mechanics of quarrels and rifts.

You will see the truth in this — you only need to look around you to see it in practice.  I have seen levels of intermediary used to communicate and outline negotiate — things like magazine articles, press leaks, radio “gaffes”, whisper campaigns, e-mail virals, blogs, forums, and old-fashioned letters.

At the end of the day, you have to realise that when people gang up on you, they want you gone or they want you “put in your lowly place”. They do not expect to lose, and in fact the majority always wins in the end.  If you do not want to accept your lowly place, you must go quietly.  Don’t be bitter about it; that’s life!  You picked the wrong person to quarrel with or stand up to.

Every day bluffs are called. Maybe you thought they needed you more than they do.  Maybe you thought that in time, one-by-one you could win them round. Maybe you thought that because you were in the moral right that people would side with you, or maybe you naively thought that people would side with you to be rid of a hated bully.  It was a misjudgement, a miscalculation, that’s all.

You may even be waiting for the intermediary, the emissary — but none will come, for they just wanted you gone; you were a risk, a pest, trouble.  They don’t want you back to rock their boat. Another bluff called.

So, to conclude, I hope you find the descision making grid a useful every day tool, and I hope that you found the specific example enlightening and enriching!