Category Archives: Train wrecks

Spotify’s recommendation engine could use some work

Hi Sauropoda, we've found 7 music suggestions for you on Spotify. Enjoy!  Since you follow Yes, you might like Yes. Yes - 53k followers  Since you follow Dar Williams, you might like Dar Williams. Dar Williams - 5,700 followers  Have you heard this song by One Direction? Give it a try. Little Things

Right. Because someone who likes 1970s prog rock and 1990s-to-contemporary singer-songwriter neo-folk is probably the sort of person who will also like One Direction.

Login to My Account to view your bill

Come on, TalkTalk. You can do better than this.


What the heck is my bill doing in your account?

You could have gone with “Login to your account to view your bill”, or “Login to My Account to see My Bill”. But splitting the difference is horrible (though you do get half a point for the asymmetric capitalisation, which I assume is trying vainly to make the point that My Account is the name of a page rather than a description of what’s there).


Oppose SOPA, PIPA and the RWA

Today is a big day for the Internet.  Nearly everyone reading this site will be aware of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), two appallingly ill-conceived pieces of legislation under consideration in the US but with profound ramifications for the whole world.  Written at the behest of big copyright holders by people with no understanding of how the Internet works either mechanically or culturally, they would be absolutely disastrous if passed.

In response to this, many high-profile web-sites are demonstrating the results such laws would have by going dark for the day.  They include Reddit and, most importantly, Wikipedia.  (Also, the entire Cheezburger network and many, many others.)  We can only hope that this distributed demonstration results not just in SOPA and PIPA being rejected, but in an emphatic smackdown that makes it impossible for similarly dumb legislation to get mind-space in the future.

But there is another threat also making its way through the US Congress — less publicised but also hugely important.

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Face it, Google: Everyone hates the new Google Reader

There are 118 blogs that I’m at least somewhat interested in.  Rather than keep track of them all by visiting each one every day(!), I use an RSS reader to let me know when something interesting has been posted.

Until today, I have been using Google Reader, which had a pretty high It Just Works quotient.  But when I logged on this morning I found the user interface grotesquely degraded:

Google's crappy new Reader

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Children of Earth: the final verdict, part 1: why Torchwood sucks

I finished watching Children of Earth, and I want to write about how good it is.  But before I can do that properly, I need to write about how gut-wrenchingly horrible the first two series of Torchwood were.

On one hand, a juvenile program about a bunch of overgrown children who run around chasing ghosts and obsessing about trivia; on the other hand, Scooby Doo. Thank you, thank you, we're here all week, don't forget to tip your waitress!

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How much I hate Torchwood

I am slogging through Series 2 of the dreadful Torchwood, mostly just so I can say that I did it, and so that I can be as harshly critical of it as I want without people saying “Oh, but did you actually watch it?  It actually got quite good in Series 2, actually.”

He just watched "End of Days"

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Bibliographic data, part 1: MARC and its vile progeny

[This is part one of a three-part series.  When you're done here, read on to part 2 and part 3.]

My job is the subfield of programming that relates to searching, retrieval and metadata, especially as it relates to libraries. That means that what I deal with is mostly bibliographic metadata — sets of fields that describe book or journal articles. For example, the federated search system that we provide, while not in any way limited to searching for and presenting results of this kind, has tended to be used primary in the library domain, so I spend a lot of my time dealing with bibliographic data.

It’s a jungle out there. The dominant electronic format for bibliographic information is, still, by far, the ancient and faintly comical MARC (MAchine Readable Catalog) format, or rather, the MARC family of similar but subtly incompatible formats. MARC originated in the 1960s at the Library of Congress, literally as a way to encode the information on physical catalogue cards.

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Another really, really stupid thing

I came here to post the third and last in my “stupidest things in the world” series only to find that WordPress has unilaterally, and without warning, changed the theme of my blog, the utter morons.


In the stupid new theme, all the stuff in the sidebar has gone.  Vanished.  All of it.  Want to see the links to most recent posts?  Well, you can’t.  Want to see the most recent comments?  Tough luck.  Want to see that useful list of links to the most popular articles?  WordPress says NO.  Interested in the category cloud?  Sorry to hear that, it’s not there any more.

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Buffy: The movie, last hour, 29 minutes and four seconds

Last time, I reviewed the first four minutes and 12 seconds of the 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because that was as far through as I could get before I felt overwhelmed by the weirdness of it all.  The movie predates by five full years the much more recognised 1997-2003 TV series, and has a completely different cast: the one character appearing both the movie and the TV show is Buffy herself, and in the movie that title role was played by Kirsty Swanson rather than Sarah Michelle Gellar.

And by the way, the first 3:35 of that 4:12 are credits and title sequence music.

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Today is Document Freedom Day!

Just a quick post let you all know that today is Document Freedom Day.  I know that in this day and age it’s easy for anyone to pronounce that any day is Anything Day, but this one is important.  It’s about encouraging people to use, and maybe more importantly, accept, open document formats.

I can’t tell you how much it pains me that MS-Word format is still the overwhelming majority in most arenas.  People find themselves in the absurd situation where they want to apply for a job in open-source software, and have to send their CV in a proprietary format in order to get it looked at.  Or they want to write to their MP about a freedom-of-information issue and have to send the letter in a proprietary format.

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