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the Architxt's Journal

The Popcorn Manifesto

14 Aug '11 | Miscellaneous

There are a few sacred things in my life. Eating popcorn at the movies is one of them and the following manifesto is based on how I do it.

  1. Make your own and take a stance about the ridiculous prices set at the movie theatres. We’re talking popped corn here, not some priceless Japanese delicacy.
  2. Don’t have anything other than salted popcorn. Anything else is vile and wrong.
  3. Offer to make some for the people who you will see the movie with but make an extra 50% for yourself as contingency. Some will end up on the floor and there will always be a hand finding its way into your ‘reserve’.
  4. Never ever start eating your popcorn before the movie starts. This is sacred. If you can’t handle the pressure have something else or refrain from going to the movies altogether.
  5. Eat one popcorn at a time. Mouthfuls are for pigs. You’re a connoisseur.

That’s it. Just 5 simple rules to respect and make your popcorn consumption close to a spiritual experience.

Yahoo! & the Taiwanese Hack Girls: If girls & Gods can mix so can girls & geeks

20 Oct '09 | Miscellaneous

Chris Yeh, Head of Yahoo! Developer Network for the female dancers hired to make the Taiwan Open Hack Day a little bit more spicy. He shouldn’t have.

Read the apology on the Yahoo! Developer Network Blog.

You can see the incriminating images on Simon Willison’s Weblog as well as read comments such as:

I’ve heard arguments that this kind of thing is culturally acceptable in Taiwan—in fact it may even be expected for technology events, though I’d love to hear further confirmation

Well, here’s confirmation. I took shot this video in Taichung last year during the Lantern Festival. It was a party organised by the authorities together with the people from the local Temple. If girls and Gods can mix so can girls and geeks.

EBRD Blog: transitioning towards... web 2.0

20 Jul '09 | Miscellaneous

Good to see my former colleagues in the EBRD Comms department trying to make the most of new media. But I don’t think they haven’t got it quite right yet.

Change was the name of the game when I left the EBRD’s Comms department last year. Apart from a number of key staff that moved on to bigger and better things a new Director was appointed – Reijo Kemppinen – that no doubt is more web-friendly than his predecessor.

“an opportunity for you to communicate and connect directly with experts, partners and clients”

This is how Mr. Kemppinen introduces the EBRD Blog when it launched in April.

It’s a bit early to say whether the blog will ever establish a meaningful dialogue or whether it will just allow the EBRD to check the ‘Do Web 2.0’ box on their management reports. Ironically comments are closed on a post that is about dialogue, sharing knowledge and exchanging lessons learnt.

Apart from this, there are a couple of things that I would have done differently:

Talk about 3 things: projects, projects and projects

The core business of the EBRD is to finance projects to help build economies. This is what most people are interested in.

What people want to know is how the money is been invested, what is being achieved and whether lives are changing for the better. Instead we get articles worthy of the Harvard Business Review:

BIS data-what? Non-performing… boomerangs?

If you don’t have a Ph.D in Economics you’re going to find it difficult to understand any of this. Or, like me, you don’t bother reading at all.

But it’s not all technical stuff. Larry Sherwin’s reflections on the events of 1989 is an entertaining read. I can’t quite picture someone in Russia who’s quality of life depends on the success or failure of an EBRD project to be interested in the flash-back of an EBRD Comms Deputy Director.

Blogs need proper information architectures too may look like 2001 but at least content has been organised rigorously. One of the key meta-data is the Project ID (you can see these on Project Summary Documents). Project IDs can be used to pull together content across the whole of the site about a specific project. Similarly, content is categorised by country and business sector.

But the EBRD Blog does not plug into the IA scheme. For example, the blog post Riding Russian rail: the 12.56 to Sergiev Posad is about the transport sector in Russia. There are no links from the blog post to relevant content on the main site.

Oddly, it has been cloned on the main site as a story titled Riding Russian Rail: then and now in the News and events section. I can’t quite understand what the point of this duplication is – any ideas?

I suspect that the reason for the lack of a more sophisticated information architecture is that they are using a blogging platform provided by an external company that would have taken a developer half a day to set up. A cost effective option, no doubt, but opportunities are being missed to give blog posts proper context.

A better strategy for the EBRD Blog

Here’s my idea: the EBRD should not publish a blog at all.

All they are doing are presenting us articles that already have natural home in the News and Events section of

Instead, they should create, maintain and promote a platform for people involved in their projects to publish their own thoughts about the challenges, successes and failures they experience. Lets hear it from the foot soldiers and the civilians and not the generals back at HQ.

Need to remember many passwords? Don't. Just remember one formula instead

23 May '09 | Miscellaneous

Rather than using the same password for all my accounts, which isn’t partucularly secure, I’ve come up with a single formula that returns different passwords for each.

This way I only have to remember a single formula rather than a whole bunch of different passwords.

Never use short, simple passwords

If you’re still using passwords such as ‘iloveyou’ or ‘hello’ then expect to be hacked. Never choose a password that is that simple. There are kids out there using simple hacking scripts that rely on long lists of combinations of commonly used words to guess passwords.

Even if you choose a complex password don’t use the same one every time you register. A hacker may get your login details from an obscure forum you may have registered at and then accessed your Hotmail account using those details.

Think of a formula to determine and remember all your passwords

First thing is to figure out what values will make up your formula. These should include anything you can easily remember and also values you can determine from the site you are registering at.

  1. Your username
  2. Your email address
  3. Personal info such as your birthday, place of birth or any important dates or names of people you know
  4. The URL of the site you are registering at
  5. The name of the site you are registering at

I’ll explain what to do next by example.

Lets say I want to register a Yahoo! email account at, using lawrence71aus as my username. I will use the information from 1, 3 and 4 above.

A formula to determine the password could be made up of the following values:

  • The number of characters of the URL ( 13
  • The first 2 letters of the domain name ( ya
  • The first letter of the place where I was born (Rome): R
  • The last 2 characters of my username (lawrence71aus): us
  • The last 2 numbers of the year I got married: 07
  • My wife’s first name: Zoe

And put together like this… ya + Zoe + 07 + us + R + 13 … to produce the following password: yaZoe07usR13

I can then apply the same formula if I register for a Live mail account using my new Yahoo! email address as the username.

  • The number of characters of the URL ( 11
  • The first 2 letters of the domain name ( li
  • The first letter of the place where I was born: R
  • The last 2 characters of my username, not counting what comes after the ‘@’ symbol ( us
  • The last 2 numbers of the year I got married: 07
  • My wife’s first name: Zoe

Applying the same formula results in: liZoe07usR11

The formula can be as complex was you want, but some websites impose limits on the number of characters you can use. More often than not they require a minimum number of characters.

I hope this is helpful. And I glad that the stuff I learnt in my high school maths classes have finally put to practice.