That’s My Kind of Thinking – January 09

January 30, 2009 in links, Uncategorized
Stephen Pinkers Genome

Stephen Pinker's Genome

I’ve given up on the weekly “Pete’s Picks” post of links. There’s many other people that do it faster and better than me (Alexia, Damien, Joe, Stephen and others), so I’m only be creating a latent echo! What I’ve decided to share instead are examples of thoughts I really like. Innovative and novel ways of looking at something, or new ways of addressing old problems. “Thinking outside the box” for want of a better term. Because these will be long posts in general, I will try not be too frequent.

Where Sweatshops are a dream – What if our outrage over sweatshops is misguided?

Love doesn’t scale – On how communism fails to recreate the community effect on a large scale

What Robert Ingersoll wanted for Christmas – I’m a month late, and it’s 111 years old, but it’s timeless.

My Genome, My Self – Stephen Pinker disscusses the mapping of his genome, and the practical, psychological and philisophical implications of knowing your own blueprint.

Video: Queerer Than We Can Suppose: The Strangeness of Science. A TED Talk by Richard Dawkins

Thunderbirds Are Go!

January 20, 2009 in The Journey of a Facebook Application

A friend of mine will often text me on a lazy weekend evening to say “In front of the TV? Go the Channel 4!”. I would change the channel to find he’s directed me to a classic episode of “Police Cops 19” or “When fat celebrities fall down – Exposed!”. And about 5 minutes later a second text will arrive “Ha ha ha ha, did you see that fat celebrity fall down!?”

At long last I can finally reply to him and say “We’re all watching it and talking about it on Facebook, join us!”

That’s right, the real-time-social-micro-forum-live-blog-application is now live!

It’s called Small Talk. It’s still in alpha/beta/omega or whatever term you use that means “don’t give out to me too much if it’s still a bit rough ’round the edges”.

If you’re on Facebook please try it out, I’d love to hear your feedback. I’ll be on it today discussing Barack’s Inauguration (especially when Twitter falls down!) so join in if you’d like to watch it with me, or even if you can’t get to watch it and want some live updates!

A Package from Pakistan

January 20, 2009 in The Journey of a Facebook Application

An hour or two after posting the job (for developing my Facebook application) on Elance the bids started coming in. I got 7 proposals, all from the “India/Southern Asia” region. It was easy enough to spot the serious proposals, with good feedback, strong ratings and a good earnings history. It also quickly became apparent that my asking price of under $500 was probably too low if I wanted to get someone who knew what they were doing.

After a day or two of careful review and discussion via email I went with a group of developers called Pure, who are based in Pakistan. We agreed on $800 (€560 when I paid) for two weeks work to build the application. It was a slightly higher price than the average bid, but I was impressed with some of the other applications in their portfolio and felt that it was worth the extra few bob (€100).

The two weeks flew by. Doing it over Christmas worked out really well, they started on the 23rd December so I was off work and had spare time to dedicate to the project.

The time & language difference was no problem, but the cultural differences did have some hilarious results. Here’s some screenshots of the sample discussions they made to test the application: (click to enlarge)

I dont think they like Indians

I don't think they like Indians

Ahhh Love

Ahhh Love

Such harmfulness

Such harmfulness

And when I made the mistake of asking a friend to try it out he just took the piss, but I don’t think they got the sarcasm:

I was in constant communication with them, testing and giving feedback to them every day. They finished the project and sent me over the source code late last week and I have been busy putting it up on my own server (hosted with Blacknight thanks to their twitter giveaway!)

I’ve been fine tuning it over the weekend and it should be ready to go later this evening. I’ll post the link and would love if you could try it out and give me some feedback.

Finger on the Pulse

January 19, 2009 in Marketing, Technology & Science

I just watched another one of Niall’s great videos in which he shares a great tip on how to increase sales on Twitter. I want to expand on his tip with a few handy pointers on how I use Twitter search to do business and find and interact with customers.

In his video, Niall uses the example of Pat Phelan searching for potential Max Roam customers talking about cheap roaming. This is simple enough to manage as there tends to be about one tweet per day. But what if Pat wants to have a look at all people complaining about their phones? That search has a new tweet every second (and has 5 new results in the time it took me to write that sentence!).

Here’s what I do to keep my ear to the twitter ground more effectively:

Location, Location, Location

A very handy thing you can do with twitter searches is append a location to the end of them. So for me, because all my customers are in Ireland I add “&geocode=53.344104,-6.2674937,100mi” to the end of a search it will show me only the results within 100 miles of that location (which is Dublin, but maybe I should change it to Athlone). Using the same example as above, that search for phones becomes much more managable with about 10 tweets per day.

For an easy way to do this for the coordinates and distance (e.g. within 2km of your shop/business) use the search bar at the top of


Feed Me

Now that you’ve narrowed down your location you can easily manage more keywords that are relevant to your business. This leads to the problem of remembering all these key words and constantly checking them all, which is where RSS steps in. On the right side of the results you should see a link to the feed.


If you have a feed reader (I use Google reader) you can add this feed and the search results will pop straight into your reader. I have all mine organised in a Twitter folder and check on it a few times per day. There is a slight delay of an hour or two between when a tweet is posted and when it appears in my reader. I use it for work and personal – e.g. I have a “leaving cert” alert set up for




One evening a new entry appeared in the feed for the term Leaving Cert:


(bonus: I’m now even more “hip” with the youth of today after learning that WDF stands for What Da Fuck?)

From the Zulunotes twitter account I offered some help


And I had one happy user in less than 5 mins effort.


Other uses

Of course this isn’t only useful for businesses finding and engaging with customers or prospects; It can be used to find people tweeting about things you’re interested in, or for journalists keeping an ear out for discussion on certain topics or breaking stories.

Cheat Sheet

For a search for a word being mentioned in Ireland:,-6.2674937,100mi

Or for a two word term (e.g. “Social Media” = social+media),-6.2674937,100mi

Or the link directly to the feed:,-6.2674937,100mi

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

January 15, 2009 in The Journey of a Facebook Application

This is part of a series of posts on the Journey of a Facebook Application

When last we left our intrepid entrepreneur (me!) he had in his inventory:

So as we resume our tale he is about to embark on the outsourcing leg of his journey, to find someone who is skilled in the very many ways that he is not….

Elance is an online workplace where businesses connect with qualified professionals to get work done

I’ve never used elance before (or any outsourcing service for that matter), but I found the whole process very simple and straight forward.

I signed up for a free account. I did a few searches for facebook applications, read some of the jobs that people had posted, saw what kind of information they provided up front and tried to get a feel for the going rate etc.

In hindsight, I should have paused there, taken a good long think and spent a day or two working through and writing down my requirements in detail. But I had the excitement levels and attention span of a young puppy, so I decided to post a job  straight away. This was probably my biggest mistake so far. In work I’m used to brainstorming with the tech guys, bouncing some ideas off them and getting feedback and suggestions from them. With the outsourcing proccess this doesn’t happen, especially when your developer doesn’t speak English as their first language.

The Job

For those of you interested (and because I want to make this process as open as possible so that it’s useful for people who might venture down this path in the future) here is what I posted on elance:


What I need

I need a Facebook application that lets users discuss events/topics in a twitter like feed. These “discussions” will be a page listing a thread of the 15 most recent posts. Each post can only contain 160 characters. The posts will be listed with the most recent post first. They will paginate after 15 posts. Each discussion can have up to 3 category tags which a user can add. Each discussion thread will also have a n event time – e.g. The discussion about “The Candidates Debate” could have an event time of 22/12/2008 at 8pm.


The hierarchy will be Main Page -> Category Tags -> Discussion Threads -> Posts


The style will be very simple. It should look very similar to the facebook look and feel. There should be a CSS file that controls the style of the applications. I have attached a rough outline of what the discussion thread page could look like, but would be interested to hear your feedback if you have design experience

Facebook integration

The application should use the Facebook users’ name as the default name (to appear with each post). Their avatar will by default be their profile picture. Users will have the ability to invite a friend to a discussion thread. When a user creates a new discussion this should create a feed entry. “{*actor*} has created a new discussion entitled….” I can create the feed templates if necessary.

User Experience

From the main page the user will see the following:

* My Discussions – with a history of their recent discussions (10 per page)

* Create a new discussion – The fields will be “Discussion Name” “Discussion time” “Category Tags” (up to 3 possible, but 1 necessary) and “Event Time”

* Upcoming events. This will have the next 5 discussions with the soonest event time

* Recent posts – The 5 discussion with the most recent posts

* Search – search for discussions by their category tags

* Browse by category – a link to all discussion threads ordered by category tags

* Browse by date – a link to all discussion threads ordered by “event date” – with the soonest showing at the top.

The discussion page will be something similar to the screenshot. There will also need to be a space in the sidebar for an advertisement.


This needs to be easily extended to other social networks in future. Although I don’t need specific things built to enable that, I would like this project to be built with that in mind – i.e. the database should not contain any Facebook only parts.


I also attached the following mock-screenshot. It reveals a lot about where I got my inspiration from (and also the fact that I have awesome MS Paint skillz)

A hideous mashup
A hideous mashup

Peter’s Picks – 12/1/9

January 12, 2009 in Picks

If you post links on Twitter, use Twitturly to see who posts the same links.

Show your blog’s commenters some Luv. Feel free to leave a comment below to test it out.

Congrats to Niall Harbison and the guys on their recent funding. Looking forward to more great things from iFoods 🙂

Robin Blandford runs through some of the great technology projects at this year’s young scientist show.

Yahoo TV Widgets – A forgotten inspiration

January 9, 2009 in Technology & Science

Back in August I wrote a post on the announcement of Yahoo’s TV Widgets. I read today that Samsung and Yahoo have announced a partnership at CES 2009 to launch these internet widgets on the new Samsung HD TVs.

Source: ReadWriteWeb.comSource:

It was only when I spotted this story that I realised that these widgets were the one first inspirations for the Micro-forums application.

Back in August I said

One interesting comment I read under the ReadWriteWeb article was a from somebody delighted at the thought of the twitter widget being at the bottom of his tv screen, so they could watch tv at the same time as their friends and have a kind of a group chat experience. E.g. “Peter says: ‘what a goal, that was amazing!” coming up at the bottom of your screen when you’re at home watching a football match! I think it’s really clever and could definitely create a new level of interactivity with what has always been a distinctly one-way medium.

I think that was the first seed planted in my mind which eventually lead to the idea of the live micro-forum. I signed up to the developer program back in August, Yahoo said they’d send out a mail when it was open to developers. No word yet, but if the Facebook application goes well that’s a definite potential avenue to grow it.

Pete’s Picks – 4th Jan 2009

January 4, 2009 in Picks

A new weekly feature for this blog, obviously drawing inspiration from Damien, Joe and others. I hope you enjoy

You can subscribe to an RSS feed of the most popular presentations on Slideshare. Do it.
Usain Bolt’s not just a record breaker, he’s a curve breaker too.
ReadWriteWeb‘s introduction to Greasemonkey, and their 7 favourite browser tweaks.
Gigonomics – the new economics of the music industry

Recruit When There’s Blood in the Streets

January 4, 2009 in Essays, Fuck The Recession, Investing

Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.

That’s one of my favourite Warren Buffett quotes. I’ve learned a lot from him (indirectly, of course), not just about investing but about business and life in general. For those of you who don’t know him, he’s the richest man in the world, and has made his money from finding and investing in great companies.
I subscribe to the Motley Fool and read many of their great articles. They’re champions of the Buffett style of investing. It’s not all “buy buy buy, sell sell sell!” Charlie Sheen style trading. It’s about owning great companies, with great business models, that care about their customers. It’s about being in it for the long run and the big win, not the quick buck. As Mr. Buffet himself remarked about his company Berkshire Hathaway “Our favourite holding period is forever. “
One recent Motley Fool article that I liked was called Learn From Buffet’s Patience – in reference to his billion dollar investments in Goldman Sachs and General Electric and his Op-ed piece in the NY Times saying that he was personally buying American stocks & shares last October (read: as the world Economy headed into a depression). An excerpt from the Fool article:
On the other hand, this is Warren Buffett, and he’s made these sorts of predictions before. The years 1973 and 1974 were two very bad ones for the market. Over those two years, the S&P 500 plunged by 42%. It was then, on Nov. 1, 1974, at the height of the pessimism, that Buffett made his first well-publicized bullish market call : “Now is the time to invest and get rich.” 
Buffett himself was buying shares of The Washington Post. He paid just $11 million for an investment worth nearly $1.4 billion at the end of 2007 — a 127-bagger! Of all the stocks listed, Washington Post is the biggest gainer — by a factor of 12. While relatively small in dollar terms, it’ll certainly go down as one of Buffett’s greatest investments. 
But do you know what happened to the stock right after Buffett began buying shares in 1973? Shares plunged 20% and stayed there, not for a few months, but for three years. It was 1976 before Buffett was in the black, and it was 1981 before WaPo traded at Buffett’s estimate of its 1973 intrinsic value.

Think about that: What ultimately became one of Buffett’s greatest investments began with three years of double-digit losses and mind-numbing stagnation. Patience pays, Fools.

It encapsulates the two of my favourite meme’s I’ve learned from him: Bucking the trend, and ‘being in it for the long run’ are two vital ingredients for success.
And this doesn’t just hold true for investing. When I look, I see it in all the great advice I get about business, about how marketing is about building relationships with customers, how successful business appreciate the life time value of a customer, how the best executives think past the next bonus check or year-end KPI.
Where I see this as very applicable right now is in recruitment. In an environment when every day there’s a new headline about head-count reductions and redundancies left, right and centre, who has the courage to zig when everyone else zags? If you’re in HR, or in the position to hire staff, are you brave enough?

Uncertainty is the friend of the buyer of long-term values.
I’m 24. I was out for drinks with friends over christmas and we got to talking about job hunting. 1 has a PHD, 2 have masters in marketing, 2 have degrees, none can get jobs. Think about it, there is a pool of young, enthusiastic, well educated people yearning for a job in your company. The labour market is saturated with talent. Uncertainty has crippled the jobs market, and “long-term values” (people) abound, are you a buyer?
The company that seizes on this opportunity will be the one that emerges from this recession stronger (in leaps and bounds) than when it entered. People are the core of your business, that’s true of every business. So are you bucking the trend, are you willing to take advantage of opportunity to lay the foundations for you success over the next 10, 20 years? Are you ready to forsake the quick win of saving small costs and go for the big win? 
Are you ready to be greedy when others are fearful?
If not, why not?

A Real-Time-Micro-Social-Forum Application

January 2, 2009 in The Journey of a Facebook Application

This is part of a series of posts on the Journey of a Facebook Application.

I think that title bears repeating, I’m almost proud of it – A Real-Time-Micro-Social-Forum Application. That – expressed in the most buzzword filled description I could think of – is the application I’m going to build!

My Inspiration
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not overly creative. If this does slightly lack in originality (although I don’t think it does!) then I hope I’ll make up for it in hard work, tenacity…. yadda yadda so on and so forth. I’m not sure where the idea came from, but I know there have been a few services that have inspired my thinking on how I should go about implementing it:

1. Twitter – I like twitter. It’s the inspiration for the micro element. It’s great for connections, for sharing good links for discovering new things. One thing I’ve found it doesn’t do well is group chats. For every time I see an event being live tweeted, I see countless people complain about reams of commentary in their feed about an event that they’re not at, or a match that they’re not watching, or a TV show they’re not interested in etc.

2. Live Blogging – The answer to that twitter problem seems to be live blogging. But for the life of me, I just don’t get it! Admittedly, that’s probably just me. What I gather so far is that it’s one person posting updates of an event, with time stamps etc. If that’s the case, then I can definitely see it’s uses, e.g. I love reading the engadget or wired live updates from each Macworld event. But they’re a one way flow of information, usually from a journalist/blogger in an event. I can’t see how they work in a social/group discussion way. Again, maybe it’s just me missing a trick here.

3. Discussion Forums – Speaking of discussing Macworld, I found the best place to do this (live) last year was on That was my inspiration for the forum element of the application.

Put your hands together…
So with all this in mind I thought it would be really handy to have a place to chat about an event as it was happening, with twitter-esque sized comments. Twitter is great for what it does, but it’s centred around people and connections. This application will be centred around events.

If I’m being ambitious, which I guess I am, I would hope this application could be to discussion forums what twitter is to blogging. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still use forums for debates, discussions, analysis etc., but I think this application could be great for quick discussion and live commentary on events as they happen. A thread on a forum takes too long to trawl through when you want the conversation to be quick and free flowing (and half the conversation is taken up by witty and image filled signatures!)

The Use Case
I’m building this as a Facebook application (at first), for many reasons which I’ll explain in a late blog post, so the initial user experience will be something like this:

  1. I log into Facebook and go to this application
  2. I’m going to watch Barack Obama’s inauguration that night, but no one’s free to come over and watch it with me.
  3. So I set up a new event (micro-thread?), and call it “Barry’s Inauguration” and set the date – “19th Jan 2009”.
  4. I invite a few friends. Some more people browse to it (e.g. under the category “politics”) and maybe invite some of their friends.
  5. The event starts
  6. I say “So what do you think of this Rick Warren guy, a bit too bigoted for my liking”.
  7. People agree
  8. And the real-time-micro-social-forum is born!

So….. What do you think? Would you use it!?