Monthly Archives: May 2010

Programming Jargon Gems


Stackoverflow has a great list of terms programmers have come up with where the standard jargon just didn’t cut it.  A few gems in here, see if you can guess what the following might be:

  • Yoda conditions – arrg, right up there with with leaving off the ?> in PHP, “training wheels best practices” …
  • shrug report – I get this on a daily basis
  • Egyptian brackets
  • Refuctoring – one word speaks volumes
  • Stringly typed – one of my favs – check out Yii framework if you’re unfamiliar with the concept
  • Heisenbug – an old and painful classic, I get them all the time
  • Fear Driven Development – I think we’ve all been there
  • Baklava code – this one is just begging to enter your vocabulary

Bookmarks for May 19th through May 25th

Recommended reading

  • The Technium: 1,000 True Fans – A very inspiring piece that suggests that artists and small businesses creating their own products actually only need about 1000 true fans to generate a decent revenue
  • Mac & the iPad – Another really interesting and inspiring article about Steve Jobs, it gives an insight into his design process

Bookmarks for May 18th

Recommended reading

  • Khan Academy – An amazing collection of 1200+ videos on anything from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, chemistry, biology and finance
  • JWB’s blog: Joel on Software – a summary: 2000 – Joel's blog is required reading for anyone in the tech sector – here's a nice slice to pique your interest

Is Ryanair a Mom & Pop Shop?

I was surprised today when attempting to confirm a flight with Ryanair that I was being told my flight details were invalid.  As usual I had copy/pasted in the details so I didn’t think there was much margin for error.

Using a web developer’s insight I guessed the validation of my reservation code contained some invisible whitespace and that this was causing the error.  Unbelievable this turned out to be the case!

Stripping whitespace from form input fields is basic, website 101 best practice stuff.  Typical users who don’t have a background in development are extremely unlikely to notice that 1 or 2 mm of space on the screen is in fact an invisible character that could cause input problems on submitted forms.  To think that all these unwitting souls will be send to paid support phone calls waiting in automatic queues for 40 minutes or more because they typed in their CORRECT reservation number is unbelievable.  But apparently Mom & Pop over at Ryanair think this is ok.

Moments later in the Ryanair checkin process I got an obscure warning in big red letters across the screen.  Maybe they use Dreamweaver to build their site?  Hold on, the warning fails to use basic English grammar correctly!

When you check-in online if you are issued a sequence number of 190 or above (located at the top right of the boarding pass). Please go to the airport check-in desk on arrival at the airport.

I actually remember in grade 4 when we were learning how to write and the teacher would often correct students for fragment sentences like these.  Have Mom & Pop even graduated from secondary school?

Bookmarks for May 14th through May 16th

Recommended reading

Mass Exodus from Facebook

It seems a lot of folks are unhappy about Facebook’s lack of scruples around privacy, and with good reason.  This Wired article nicely summarises the current concerns, I’d say it’s mandatory reading.  It’s always interesting to hypothesize if corporate culture really is set by a few individuals on the top.

Every few weeks I go in and try to discover if some of my private stuff has now been made public, not an easy task, it’s a fulltime job keeping up the the continuous redesigns of the site 😉

Bookmarks for May 12th

Recommended reading

How To Setup a Facebook Page for Business

UPDATE: some of the info in this article may not be accurate with regards to the new privacy settings Facebook introduced in late May 2010, but much of it still is.

facebook pages

The subtitle for this post should be, “… and avoid wasting 2 hours!”. That’s how long it took me to discover and workaround the various Facebook UI quirks and setup the minimum privacy needed to make my business page viable.

Setting up a Facebook page for business breaks down into the following areas.

1. Where to click to create a Facebook Page

That’s the first challenge. The link you need is nowhere within the hundreds of links on your homepage. Nor is it anywhere within the hundreds of links of your profile page. In order to setup a new page you need to Google ‘facebook pages‘. Using Facebook’s search feature will not return any relevant results. The page you need is

2. Should I use Facebook for business?

Quite an obvious question, but do you really want your business colleagues and clients to have access to the same material (photos/comments/games/etc.) as you share with your friends?  Probably not! Luckily you can restrict what each friend sees and it’s possible, if you know how, to expose quite a benign level of information about yourself and still take advantage of the fantastic networking features Facebook offers.

If your business’ products and services are in any way aligned with web2.0 features like user-generated content, viral sharing and media enthusiasm, you definitely will see benefit from spreading the word about yourself with Facebook pages.

3. Can I create a separate Facebook Account for my pages(s)?

Well this would seem an obvious choice.  I tried it myself, after asking around it seemed like a good idea.  Turns out it’s wrong, not permitted and Facebook threatens to close down your legit account if they discover you’re doing this.  And the only way to discover you’re not allowed multiple accounts is to spend the significant amount of time required creating your new page, then trying to create your new user account and only at this point do you get the detailed error message and warning from Facebook that you’re treading in dangerous territories.

Then once you’ve created the page you want, and you’ve been told it must link to your legit account, you will discover it is not possible to do.  Facebook doesn’t allow you to!  Neither can you associate the orphan page with your existing account, nor can you login to your legit account, fetch the orphan page, and link to it.  No, you must delete the page, login to your legit account, and start from scratch following step #1 above.

4. How Do I Split my Facebook account for Personal and Private Use?

This is the fun part.  If you’ve clicked around anywhere in your account in the last 6 months you’ll have noticed the concept of lists, and the fact that you can add some of your friends to custom lists that you create.  Lists are an ambiguous metaphor for grouping, effectively that’s the purpose they serve.  And there is one default, built-in group/list you need to know about called limited profile.

When you select your Friends from the top navigation, then scan down the left hand menu and select Friends again (this brings up the list), you’ll notice there is a list option to the right of each friend.  The first item you can choose from the list is limited profile, which is starting to sound promising.  Limited profile corresponds to a privacy feature that you can setup, but that is not done for you by default.  Just adding a friend to limited profile will have no effect.  Surprise 🙂

To configure your limited profile settings you need to go to Settings in the top navigation, then choose Privacy Settings.  From the list that appears on the subsequent page you need to select Profile Settings.


Here you’ll find a typically huge list of options you may find daunting.  The concept is important.  Do you care if you business contacts have access to some of the personal data about you, ie, contact info, family relations, favourite films, etc?  No, probably not.  But what you really don’t want is for your professional colleagues to browse all those eyebrow-raising photos you’ve uploaded over the years, right?  So you scan down and locate the choices that look relevant: Photos and videos of me, and Photo Albums.  Photo Albums leads to another page with a huge list of every single photo album you’ve ever created, and apparently suggests you should apply privacy settings on a per-album basis.  Acck!  Photos and videos of me seems more straightforward: you can open the menu, select customise, and then in the Hide this from field you can type in limited profile (why do you have to type it in?  Isn’t it a default option?).

But attempting to do the same for each of your 23 photo albums has a more interesting effect, in programmer terms it’s what we call a silent failure.  Do the same operation, select Customise, then type in limited profile, and hit ok, and you’ll see the option is saved and appears to be enforcing the restriction on your album.  Login to another Facebook profile, if you have access, one of a friend you’ve set to limited profile, and you’ll be amazed to see the setting has no effect whatsoever.  Even more amazing, go back to your own profile, refresh the page, and the limited profile indicated on the album you just configured has disappeared!  That’s silent failure 🙂

Trial and error revealed that the workaround for this mysterious and frustrating usability error is that privacy settings cannot be effected on this particular privacy screen.  You need to go to another which does respond to user configuration.

Go to Settings again in the top menu, and then Application Settings.  Here, with any luck, you’ll see your Photos app in the list.  If not, try a different setting on filter combobox at the top of the screen, set to Recent apps by default.  Once your Photos app appears, select Edit Settings, then Edit Custom Settings.  Here is where you can apply the custom block against limited profile users, and if you set it here it will stick!

photo privacy

5. Using Facebook pages for business

With these settings in place you can rest assured your business contacts will only see the relevant information about you on Facebook, ie your limited profile and not your photos, and you’ll be free to continue sharing the usual personal stuff with your friends.

With the page in place there are many ways to spread the news about your business and/or products:

  • use the Facebook badge and add it to your website, encouraging users to become fans
  • use Facebook’s paid advertising program to show your profile as an ad to users who are most likely to respond to it
  • add a link to your Facebook page in your email footer

The great feature about Facebook business pages is there is a real opportunity where your friends and their friends are likely to be interested in your products, and can spread the word on your behalf.

Here’s some tips on how to make your Facebook page successful.

Thanks for reading and feel free to check out my page for Seagull Systems.