Review: Watchy - an eInk watch full of interesting compromises

Watch with a big USB cable plugged in.

The last smartwatch that I tried was some awful early Sony device with a locked-down ROM. The battery died after a day and I couldn't find the proprietary charger. It slurped up all my data. It was garish to look at. And it was expensive. The Watchy is the opposite in every single conceivable way. […]

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What obvious thing are we missing? And can AI help?

A robot with a backlit human face.

I'm obsessed with the idea that human progress could be accelerated - if only we realised how to properly combine existing technology. I don't want to go "Ancient Aliens" here - but even a cursory reading of scientific history will show you were humanity's progress could have been dramatically fast if only knowledge was more […]

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How easy should we make it to do things we don't want people to do?

Clip from the movie "The Producers". Leopold Bloom says "Under the right circumstances, a producer could make more money with a flop than he could with a hit."

There was an interesting discussion at UKGovCamp a few months ago. UKGC is an unofficial yearly gathering of public sector people, who chat informally about thorny issues at work. Suppose a digital design team has to support a policy which charges people money every time they do a thing. Let's say driving a car across […]

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Family trespassed from Domino’s pizza chain after claim of metal screw in pizza slice turns nasty.

Perhaps you are aware of the Mandela Effect - a psychological phenomenon where you are convinced you remember something which never actually happened. This, combined with the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon - where you suddenly start noticing something unusual - can cause extreme cognitive dissonance. What does the verb "to trespass" mean to you? I always thought […]

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Addressing the Overlooked Non-Micropsychiatric Uses for Thiotimoline

A chair specifically designed to but awkward - it has a bowed seat and leans forward at an uncomfortable angle.

One of the (many) problems with AI is that training data usually needs to come from "natural" sources. If you want to emulate human-written text, you need to train something on human-written text. But with the proliferation of cheap and fast AI tools, it is likely that training data will unwillingly become contaminated with AI-written […]

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Book Review: Engraved on the Eye - Saladin Ahmed

Book cover featuring a typical Arabic style mosaic pattern.

This is a modern Arabian Nights. Eight Middle Eastern tales of adventure and magic, infused with a startling modernity. I loved the world-building in this. The creeping horror in some of the tales was offset by the delicious exploration of what it means to inhabit a world with Djinn. Interestingly, it seemed very scripture-heavy to […]

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Style your WordPress Atom feed

A nicely formatted RSS feed.

I recently read Darek Kay's excellent post about styling RSS feeds and wanted to do something similar. So, here's my simple guide to styling your WordPress blog's RSS / Atom theme. The end result is that if someone clicks on a link to your feed, they see something nicely formatted, like this: Prerequisites This involves […]

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LinkedIn supports Schema‎.org metadata

The LinkedIn logo.

I'm a big fan of machine-readable metadata. It's useful for programs which need to extract information from messy and complicated websites. It's always surprising where it turns up. For example, take this post of mine on LinkedIn. If you view the source, you'll see this scrap of linked data: <script type="application/ld+json"> {   "@context": "", […]

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Who wrote "The call was short the shock severe"?

Paper clippings from Scottish newspapers.

A few weeks ago, someone uploaded this memorial bench to our site: It is a perfectly pleasant little memorial poem. I wondered about its origins. A quick search shows that the opening couplet was used on war graves from 1916. But are its origins any earlier than that? One of the problems of trying to […]

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Screenshot from the WordPress dashboard showing 12,000 comments have been approved.

I know they say you should never read the bottom half of the web. This blog has existed in one form or other since 2004. Since then, I've approved TWELVE-THOUSAND comments. Most comments - but by no means all - are delightful. People wanting to share their own stories, add something to the discussion, or […]

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