Wednesday 28 December 2011

52 Weeks 52 Photos

With the end of the year fast approaching, I've been sorting through the albums on Picasa to try to find the best of the best from my various travels around London and the UK in 2011.

I did find some web projects running where the aim was to take a photograph every week in order to build up the collection. Whilst this is interesting, most years have some weeks which, frankly, shouldn't be recorded for posterity, and I'm sure this year is no exception. So this does cover 12 months, but not very evenly.

Click here to view the Picasaweb album

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Improving your LinkedIn Profile - Photos

Looking at my connections recently I noticed that whilst over half of them do include photos on their profiles, 40% don't have a photo, and a small number, around 2% have photos but the photos aren't of the person - they are, for example, company logos.

This got me thinking what the "conventional wisdom" might be regarding this, and so as always I went off to Google to find some articles.

I read a blog post which stated that your profile is seven times more likely to be viewed if it has a photograph, however there was, unfortunately, no obvious reference to back this up.

In a recent blog post Does My LinkedIn Profile Really Need a Photo?, Meg Guiseppi reminds us that we are creating a brand with our LinkedIn profiles, and that "branding is also about creating emotional connections", and goes on to list some excellent reasons why you should have a photo on your profile.

As to what type of photo you should have, there are several approaches, the most obvious being the "professional" option, as outlined in these blog posts by Jean Cummings and Nick Gilham. However, I'm not sure it's so clear cut, here are my own thoughts:
  • Do have a photo. Remember why you're building up your profile on LinkedIn.
  • Do make sure you're in the photo, don't use a company logo or some other artwork, and make sure that it is obviously you.
  • Don't use your passport photograph. The only time you look like that is when you go through immigration checks at an airport.
  • Don't take the photograph yourself with your phone. It shows. Really.
  • Don't have other people in the photo. This really is all about you.
  • Don't appear unprofessional, for example, being drunk at a party or stuffing your face with food.
Consider using the photo to communicate something about yourself which is not covered by the main part of your profile. My profile photo tells you something about the sort of person I am, which isn't covered in the main part of the profile.

Use a professional photographer if you feel that will convey the message you are aiming for. However, I have two observations on this:
  • Jaunty angles are typically the preserve of celebrities, so avoid them. Unless you are of course a celebrity.
  • There is a chance of looking like everyone else in an environment where you are aiming to stand out from the rest.

Friday 9 December 2011

Get More from LinkedIn Updates - Part 2

In part 1 I looked at some of the ways you can improve your use of LinkedIn updates, particularly feeding in updates from Twitter. You can also post updates directly in LinkedIn, using the "Share an update" dialogue at the top of the screen.

This useful dialogue allows you to attach a link to an external article, such as a blog post, either by clicking on "Attach a link" and pasting the link into the box which appears, or directly - paste the link into the share dialogue, and watch everything update. You can also provide additional text in the share dialogue.

If you are feeding updates from Twitter into LinkedIn, there is a pitfall to avoid however, which is posting the same update twice, once via Twitter and then separately via the direct LinkedIn update. Your connections on LinkedIn will see two updates, identical, often next to each other, like this (admittedly rather contrived) example:

This can becoming annoying very quickly, and could lead to your updates being hidden by others, something which you obviously want to avoid.

Friday 25 November 2011

BCS MP Web Awards 2011

The Winners

Previously I have commented on the first round of judging for these awards. The winners were announced during a reception at the House of Commons on 23 November, and were as follows:
As I remembered to take my camera, there are some unofficial photos here

The Contenders from my Review Group

I can only comment on those sites allocated to me, and highlight the leading contenders from that group. The best were:
  • Chuka Umunna
  • Stephen Twigg
  • Jo Swinson
  • Elizabeth Truss
All four of these MPs, despite having vastly different web site layouts and styles, scored very highly and stood out from the others in my group due to:
  • Clear, simple layouts, making the sites easy to navigate
  • Obvious use of social media, with clear links on the home page, and/or embedded content from social media
  • Regularly updated local constituency news items
What was particularly interesting about Jo Swinson's site is that it uses what appears to be a standard Lib Dem template, yet other MPs on my list using the same template didn't seem to use it anywhere near as well.

My Conclusion

I'm surprised that the political parties themselves don't operate a review mechanism to ensure that all their MPs are presenting themselves consistently, and are making use of social media, and using all channels to regularly communicate and update on their activities.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Improving Your LinkedIn Profile - Part 2

Following on from part 1 of this series, here's some more ideas for tweaks you can make to improve your LinkedIn profile.

Add Skills. The ability to select and add skills to your profile was added to LinkedIn early in 2011 along with other new sections. They allow you to choose your skills from standard sets, which in turn allows LinkedIn to track them and report on which skills are trending. It also allows you to search LinkedIn for People, Companies, Jobs and Groups utilizing that skill. See the LinkedIn Skills page for more information.

Here's your step-by-step guide to adding skills to your profile. Look for the "Add sections" dialogue on the Edit Profile screen:

and click to add. In the pop-up window, find and select "Skills"

 and the pop-up will change to show you a preview of the skills dialogue:

Click "Add to Profile" and the entire screen will update to show you the "Add Skills" dialogue:

As indicated on the screen, enter a skill in the box provided - note this will attempt to autocomplete, so if your skill already exists, you won't need to type it all in. Clicking "Add" will add that skill to the list, which builds up in the lower box. Repeat until you have entered all the skills you want to. Note that you can drag and drop individual skills after you've added them, to get them in the order you want. When you're done, click "Add Skills":

The skills section will now appear in your profile, you may need to search a way down the screen to find it:

Next, consider moving the skills section nearer the top of your profile. Do this by clicking on the Skills section title, and then use your mouse to drag and drop the section to another part of your profile - the mouse pointer will change and the background will change to blue like this:

It's worth noting at this point that you can move other sections around in the same way.

Organise your Profile with other Sections. There are many other sections you can make use of to restructure your profile, in particular I've found moving the various organisations I volunteer for from "Current Positions" to "Organizations" declutters the former, although the latter is harder to manage - in particular it doesn't appear possible to re-order organisations once they've been entered.

Equally, if you have certifications and publications, there are sections for these as well.

Monday 7 November 2011

Syd Rowley's Zeroth Law

Geoffrey Boycott should open the batting for England. There was very little else to be said, and I suspect no arguments would have been heard against it.

Syd Rowley taught physics at the Fitzwimarc School in Rayleigh in the 70s and 80s.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

North Downs Walk: Westhumble, Mickleham and Box Hill

Box Hill Viewpoint

This walk starts and ends at Box Hill and Westhumble railway station (at TQ 167 519), just north of Dorking in Surrey.

The first half of the walk follows the start of Saturday Walkers Club walk 64 (Box Hill Circular) from the station, through to the optional detour to the Running Horses pub in Mickleham.

Full details are available on the SWC web site.

From there, continue south on Old London Road, towards Box Hill. Make use of a footpath alongside the road where the pavement runs out.

When you reach the junction with Zig Zag Road (at TQ 171 523), cross over and start up the hill. Stop off at the Visitor Centre at the top (at TQ 178 513), if you miss this, you'll come to the North Downs Way first, in which case turn left to the viewpoint (at TQ 180 512) and then head up to the Visitor Centre.

From Box Hill, follow the North Downs Way from the viewpoint westwards, down a long series of steps towards the Mole Valley below. At the bottom, the path arrives at the Stepping Stones, a crossing point on the river. Either cross the river here, or follow the alternative path to a bridge a short distance to the north.

Once on the other side, follow the path along the river (at TQ 174 516) which is not marked on the OS map, but is signposted at the footbridge. When this reaches the A24, turn left up on to the main path, and then immediately drop to the underpass, and use this to reach the other side of the main road. Turn left, up the slope from the underpass, and then almost immediately, turn right up Westhumble Street. Pass the Stepping Stones pub and James Jeans house, before arriving back at the railway station.

The route passes two pubs, the Running Horses was serving (admittedly expensive) food well into the afternoon on a Saturday visit, the Stepping Stones opened at 5pm and food was served from 7pm. Neither pub was visited for food, the Running Horses was visited for a rest and a swift half. There are several benches at Mickleham Church opposite which are ideal for a stop for a packed lunch.

Getting there and Back

Trains run from Victoria to Box Hill and Westhumble station hourly on Saturdays. The station is a few stops outside Travelcard Zone 6, a return ticket from Boundary Zone 6 to Dorking costs around £4, but as always, check your journey on the National Rail Online Journey Planner

Monday 31 October 2011

Get More from LinkedIn Updates

As mentioned in a previous post, I spend more time on LinkedIn these days. Here are some more hints I've picked up from other people recently which are worth sharing.

Connect your Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile. I prefer to post updates from Twitter, but it will work both ways if you want. However, watch what you Tweet once you've done this. The best approach is to use the #in and #li tags to control propagation to LinkedIn. As ever a Google will lead you to useful resources, here's a random one from a search I did.

Hide updates from connections who update too frequently or whose updates are irrelevant. You can do this by clicking on the "Hide" button, but be aware this only appears when you hover your mouse over an update:
If you decide to review your hidden updates, if you have any, you can do this by selecting "More - Hidden >>":

 and then choosing "Hidden" - update the list which appears:

Watch the frequency and relevance of your updates, whether via Twitter or directly on LinkedIn. See above, don't let your updates be the ones that get hidden by others in your network, given the number of steps needed to reverse the decision, it's likely that once a connection has decided your updates should be hidden, they'll remain hidden.

Sunday 23 October 2011

Syd Rowley's Page Counting Ritual

There was always a time in every class where you'd finally got to the last page of your exercise book, and needed a new one. Whilst with some teachers there would always be some kind of inspection - to make sure you really had got to the last page - in his class the testing was, inevitably, far more rigorous.

He would, in front of the class, count the pages to make sure you hadn't torn any out. And woe betide if you had.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Improving Your LinkedIn Profile

I've been spending a bit more time on LinkedIn recently. This means that I've inevitably spent more time logged in, seen more status updates and looked at more profiles than perhaps I have in the past.

Over the past year or so I've been changing my own profile using hints picked up from various social media events, blog posts and Tweets. It's surprising how many LinkedIn profiles I've seen that aren't tweaked in the same way, and it seems only fair to share some tips that have been given to me by others. And if you are one of those others, let me take this opportunity to say "thanks".
  • Change your public profile URL to help search engines, in particular remove the seemingly random bits on the end.
  • Make sure you have relevant headline text as this is the first thing    about you that will be presented on search results. A good exercise is to search for yourself on Google, and see what you think of the LinkedIn result. Could it say more?
  • Add text descriptions (or "anchor text") to your web site links, don't just say "Company Website" - especially if you have more than one. If you have a blog, remember to add that as well.
There are numerous articles and blog posts that show you how to do these things, so rather than repeat them here, let me remind you that as ever a search on Google will take you to some interesting articles.

One I found is Lauren Fisher's SEO & Social Media Part 4 : Optimising LinkedIn Profiles. These changes don't take long to do, and make your profile look a lot better.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Syd Rowley's Trick Questions

A favourite ploy was to ask trick questions to encourage the class to think around problems. Some of them could be quite strange though and often left the class looking somewhat bemused. One classic was:

"I was out in Southend at the weekend. It was a lovely day so I took a stroll along the pier. Whilst there, I witnessed a young mum push her pram off the end of the pier, with her baby in it. What did I do?"

There were the inevitable looks of shock and disbelief and obvious suggestions such as ringing the police and even jumping into the Thames to effect a rescue. However:

"I did nothing. Why?"

This challenge was accompanied by the trademark hard stare, which was returned with a class of blank looks.

"Well, I haven't told you which end of the pier it was, have I?"

Wednesday 5 October 2011

When Social Media gets Antisocial

I don't have that many connections on LinkedIn - I'm way behind some people that I know, who are on the 500+ level. In fact I'm on 163. So not that bad.

The thing is, I know for a fact that some of my connections (only some, not all of them by any stretch) have people in their network that they've never spoken to, let alone had any professional or personal dealings with them. I know this because I've received connect requests from people in their network, and done the obvious thing - "Hi John, what's this Liz like? I ask, because she's in your network". And that's when I find out that John has no idea about Liz, she just wanted to join his network, and he wanted a bigger network.

So I'm with the "official" LinkedIn guidelines on this one.

The upshot is that I do actually know everyone in my network. I might not have spoken to some of them in a while, but at some point I've spent a fair amount of time with them - so if you ask me about any of them, I can tell you about them. It also means that a lot of my friends are in my LinkedIn network, I know them, I trust them, and I'd recommend them to you without hesitation.

So it's a great way of keeping up with what my friends are all up to. Good to know that John is now not only connected to Liz, but also Alice, Brian, Clare and David, and is planning a trip to South Africa having won a major client there. As we haven't seen each other for a while, I did email John last week because some of us are going out for a beer, and it would be great if he could join us. In fact I texted him as well, when I didn't get a reply to the email, but I've not had a text back either. I know that he is very busy, from all these LinkedIn status updates I keep reading.

So if you are reading this, we really would love to see you at the pub next week, surely you have a couple of minutes spare to let me know one way or the other, in between expanding your LinkedIn network? In fact you must have a couple of minutes spare, as you've just been reading this.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Syd Rowley's "It's not Volts that Kill"

"It's not Volts what kills. It's Amps!" was possibly one of the most loudly uttered phrases in his classes. He was often frustrated by signs which highlighted risks such as "Danger: 400V" or "Extreme hazard: 500kV - risk of electric shock"

Of course the voltage would not kill you, the rather large electrical current which would flow through you due to your very low resistance, should you decide to foolishly make a connection to earth with your body, would be the thing which would do for you.

Saturday 30 July 2011

Syd Rowley's Dirty Big Diagram

Exam preparation was a key element of most lessons, as exams were after all the final "end game" for your O levels. One of the most important approaches was always to define the problem and your solution to it as clearly as possible, so that the marker would understand what your thinking was. Not only should you draw a diagram, but it should be big enough to be understood easily.

By exam time, any member of the class could be singled out and expected to answer the question "what do you do first" with the standard response "Draw a Dirty Big Diagram".

Wednesday 13 July 2011

BCS MP Web Awards - First Round Overview

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, has launched its fourth annual BCS MP Web Awards. All MPs’ sites are automatically entered where judges look for MPs who are using their websites and web technology to communicate with their constituents effectively.

For the first round, each assessor (this year including myself and two other committee members from the BCS Internet Specialist Group) is allocated a group of MPs and assesses their web site for three basic features: Usability, Engagement and Social Media. The first round is used to create a shortlist which will then be scored by guest judges.

Some of the sites I looked at scored very highly, some did not, and many MPs lost points for not using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook at all. I'll deal with these in a later post.

There were a number of general points, which apply to all web sites, but they are especially important to any web site relating to "day to day" activities. Some sites can get away with monthly or even annual updates, but for an MP, there should always be things happening, and their web site should reflect this.

  • Don't be Under Construction. This applies to any web site, it's rather 1994, and for an MP, there's no excuse.
  • Don't own a domain name and not use it. A couple of the MPs on my list had web sites which are listed on the web, but now return "host not found" when you click on the link, and a Google search for them by name did not lead me to their web site.
  • Don't rely on content plugins. Whilst your web site might look very swish with your Tweets widget showing your latest activity on Twitter, it looks less swish if all your Tweets are from 2010 whilst you've been using Twitter every day in 2011. So, if you use a widget like this, make sure the content is what it should be.
  • Do get the links right. Whilst assessing my allocated group of MPs, I saw a "Follow me on Twitter" link which went to Facebook, and a Facebook link which went to the wrong person - unless the MP concerned really is a teenage girl.
  • Do keep your content up to date. One of the criteria was that the content on each site should be obviously up to date, and updated often. A couple of the sites had no dates on news items, and a couple of others had dates which indicated that the content was not updated particularly frequently. Those sites which did have obviously regular news items scored higher, and maintained a higher level of interest during the review. Whilst viewing the web site, I felt like I was participating in the MP's daily activities, rather than looking back at last year's highlights.
  • Do check your fonts and layouts. Visit your own web site after you've updated the content, or if you have someone doing this for you, after they've updated the content. Are the fonts correct? Has that new photograph of you opening a village fete completely broken your home page and flung the content off the right hand side of the page?
  • Be sensible with your photo gallery and video library, if you have them. Whilst you can implement your own with various Flash and Javascript options, it's unlikely that anyone will click through 30 pages of 6 photos each. So, make use of resources like Flickr, Picasaweb and YouTube to manage these things for you, link to them from your web site, and only embed specific items as you need them.

Monday 11 July 2011

Thames Path Walk: Whitchurch to Goring and Streatley

The walk starts at the railway station in Pangbourne (at SU 632 766), and from there goes through Pangbourne, over the toll bridge (at SU 636 768), and through Whitchurch-on-Thames, in order to join the Thames Path (at SU 633 775).

The path is a narrow tarmac road initially, before switching to a path which drops down and then rises sharply. The Thames appears on your left after a while.

Follow the Thames Path alongside the river, under the railway, and into Goring, arriving at the road bridge (at SU 596 808). From there you can continue on to look at Goring Lock, or turn right and head into Goring to explore.

For the optional leg up (the very steep) Streatley Hill, leave Goring by crossing the bridge across the river, and head into Streatley. Continue to the junction (at SU 591 807) and turn left, walking along the main road for a short distance. On the right hand side there is a steep path with steps heading up to one side of a house (at SU 592 806).

Follow this to the top, and enjoy the view of the Thames Valley (at SU 590 801). From there, there are some optional circular walks via footpaths, or head over to the far side of the hill to check out the view (at SU 587 800), before retracing your steps back down into Streatley.

There are a number of pubs and restaurants in the area, ideal for a rest and a pint, and dinner afterwards. On this trip, the Catherine Wheel in Goring was visited for a pint in preparation for the walk up Streatley Hill (although the food did look very good), and on the way back, the nearby John Barleycorn was the evening meal stop - where the food was very good.

Both these pubs (along Station Road, close to SU 599 806) are about 10 minutes walk from Goring & Streatley railway station (at SU 602 805).

Getting there and Back

Buy a return ticket from Paddington to Goring and Streatley, but do not board the stopping service at Paddington, instead use a fast train which is first stop Reading and then change to pick up the stopping service, which you'll have overtaken on the way. Leave the train at Pangbourne. On the way back, board at Goring and Streatley, and head back towards London, again changing at Reading to make use of the faster express services.

As always, check your journey on the National Rail Online Journey Planner

Friday 8 July 2011

Syd Rowley's "It's not Enough to Know"

One technique he often deployed in round the classroom "point and test" scenarios was to ask you a question and when you answered it correctly stare at you as if you had somehow not quite got it completely right. At which point you invariably uttered "um" and became vulnerable to further quizzing.

The point here, as he would explain, was that your belief in your own knowledge should be strong enough to stand up to further scrutiny, and hence his summary:

"It's not enough to know. You have to know that you know".

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Syd Rowley's Elephants

One of the most common class questions in his physics lessons was the numerical calculation of a physical quantity. A favourite was a current or resistance calculation using Ohm's Law. You could, as ever, be singled out for an answer, but giving the numerical answer was not enough, and quite rightly.

The correct units had to be specified as well, for without them the answer was meaningless. An answer of "20" would be met with a hard stare, and the answer repeated back at you. "20. 20 what? 20 elephants?" and the longer the class took to catch on to this and answer properly, the more emphasis (volume) he placed on the word "elephants".

Hence "elephants" became synonymous with missing units in pretty much every question.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Syd Rowley's Seven

I recently stumbled on this post by Colin Howey which started a couple of us thinking about some of Syd's other little sayings. I'll be mentioning some of these in future posts, but for now enjoy Colin's memory of something I'm sure I heard Syd talk about in one of my classes.

Syd Rowley taught physics at the Fitzwimarc School in Rayleigh in the 70s and 80s.