Every now and again, I think about the vast amount of data which is at our fingertips in today’s world. This morning, I was looking for a plumber. Typing ‘plumber’ into Google gives 86 million results in less than a second. In a moment of nostalgia, I also opened the Yellow Pages – at only 128 pages of A5, I fear an older generation wouldn’t recognise what used to be a volume large enough to hold open a door. Indeed, my grandparents’ generation obtained its knowledge from books – every home had an encyclopedia. Now, every home has multiple digital devices which can access Wikipedia in the blink of an eye. You look up the largest cities in the EU, click on Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh out of curiosity, then on Burgh, Borough and before you know it, you’re also looking at a list of the London Boroughs, learning the difference between those with and without royal patronage… and the search goes on, an hour has easily disappeared.

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Lost at Sea

Unless you have an awesome grip on technology or a complete aversion to all things modern, the chances are that, like me, you have accounts for: Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, WordPress (among others) and are consequentially lost in a sea of social media platforms.

Perhaps you are a little confused how to use each one to the best effect? This is the challenge I am trying to overcome tonight. I’ve spent the evening browsing a variety of sites, reading a few blogs and articles. Luckily, some of the content I found was interesting – so much so that I wanted to share some of it with friends, while other items I wished to save for later, as a reference. But which tool is most fit for each purpose? I don’t like to share everything via facebook (partly because it just doesn’t feel like the right place; partly because I don’t think it’ll be the most convenient platform for the recipient). Neither do I like to save everything into Evernote (I recently exceeded 100 notes and realised it will soon become difficult to find things unless I categorise them properly).

I’ve identified 8 platforms which I have accounts for and which could potentially be used to share or store my findings:

  • Facebook – sharing with friends (individuals or all),
  • Google+ – sharing with the few people who use it,
  • LinkedIn – sharing with colleagues or friends in a professional capacity,
  • Tumblr (4 blogs) – supposedly for sharing, but more for my personal record,
  • WordPress (2 blogs) – this blog and another one which was an attempt at an alternative to Tumblr,
  • Evernote – my private store of notes (categorising these will be a task in itself),
  • Instapaper (4 categories) – mostly used to send articles to my Kindle to read later,
  • Google Docs – a few more things which I like to have access to via the cloud.

What next? Get rid of the duplication – why do I have 4 tumblr blogs? Is my WordPress Tumblr-alternative easier to use? I guess I’m okay with the FB/G+/LI distinction for the different recipients. But I definitely need to give my ‘multiple blogs’ idea some more thought – I currently have no idea what each is even supposed to be for! I will now get a piece of paper (in fact, it’s already been patiently waiting while I wrote this post) and plan out for which purpose I will use each tool. Once that’s done, I’ll be able to once more set sail across the sea of information that is the world wide web!

Have you come across a similar problem? How do you manage your social media platforms?


A few weeks ago, I came across the Guardian’s Bike Blog which contains entries on a variety of cycling-related issues. The blog has all manner of content: some entertaining, some serious, some informative, some just to rant, some to make you think. The bottom line is that it presents views on issues relevant to cycling but it is also a platform for discussion and the generation of issues.

Guardian have even published a book which compiles some of the most interesting posts: the aptly-named “Cyclebabble“. I believe that this should be compulsory reading for anyone working in a position where they can do something about the topics raised.

Can the weather tell you about people?

Unwittingly, I find myself writing about the weather again. It has been pointed out to me that this is simply an example of Britishness. The thing is, I’m not British (yet), but it appears that living in a country for more than half of my life and adapting to its customs has rubbed off on me somewhat.

Today has been quite remarkable. We’re only into the afternoon and already, I’ve almost lost track of the number of times the weather has changed. And I don’t just mean it was a little cloudy and then the sun came out. No. The changes have been pretty dramatic. When I got up, I was happy to register a blue sky, knowing I’d soon have to leave the house on foot. By the time I was finishing breakfast, it was grey and the first few drops started hitting the windows. I didn’t have any other choice but to put on a long coat and brave the weather. On the way into town, I could see patches of blue sky ahead of me, but the umbrella was definitely a necessity. Half an hour later, just as I reached my destination, the sun was out shining brightly in an almost perfectly clear sky. During the couple of hours I was indoors, another shower had passed over the city, but it was clear again as I left. In fact, walking south was particularly unpleasant as the already low autumn sun was being reflected off the wet pavement and directly blinding me. Before I’d finished preparing my lunch, another heavy downpour had begun, the sun coming out once more for dessert. Then another shower; and more blue sky. You get the picture.Singing in the rain

Let’s be honest though – talking about the weather itself can get a little boring. Its primary use is, after all, simply as a conversation starter when two Brits meet and attempt to establish some common ground. Or alternatively as a filler when a conversation dies down. The interesting stuff happens from observing the interactions between the weather (mostly unchangeable, but definitely not unchanging) and people (who have the possibility of adapting to it, but do they?). Take a day like today, for example. Unless you don’t know Edinburgh at all, it’s obviously fairly foolish to venture outside on an autumn’s day without something to protect you from the elements (wind or rain, depends what affects you more). Yet the number of people who do just that is quite incredible. I will pick on students now (without any guilt, as I was one myself not so long ago), a stream of whom walks down my street to the science and engineering campus of the university every day. During one of those downpours, while I was safely sheltered behind my window, I could see very few of them walking under an umbrella. The sight of a completely sodden hoodie was much more common. In such a situation, it’s quite easy to start drawing conclusions about the people one is observing: the sodden students were freshers, away from home for the first time and unable to look after themselves without their mothers telling them to put on a coat. Those with coats were either older, more sensible, more experienced or had actually rung mummy up before leaving the house.

For others, of course, the weather is an opportunity to display all kinds of fashion sense (or nonsense, in some cases). A pair of bright red wellies could perhaps not be considered particularly attractive, but they certainly draw the eye. Soaked jeans and trainers – less so. Thus whether a person takes the weather into consideration can also tell us something about their personality. Simply put, whether they can be bothered to adapt the way they dress. And if they do, whether it’s to look good, or just to stay dry. In Scotland, however, I have observed an additional dimension to ‘dressing for the weather’: more precisely, it’s actually that of not dressing. Imagine this: a cold January morning – no rain, just a chilly wind on a crisp day. I’m trying to decide whether to put on that fourth layer. In the end I do. Not long after leaving the house, I pass a guy who is wearing absolutely nothing on top of his T-shirt. I shiver. How can he possibly not be cold? Perhaps one day I’ll be let in on the true secret, but for now I’ll explain it to myself like this: a warm of bowl of Scots porridge is somehow keeping him warm. So that accounts for the need to look macho. But at least there aren’t any fashion pressures for guys. Or perhaps there are, but I am, and will remain, blissfully ignorant of them.

A foggy day…

Here it is, finally… the rain I’ve been waiting for all day. Don’t get me wrong, I would prefer it to be sunny, but I am trying to be realistic. This is October in Edinburgh and the last couple of days of September were glorious, so I was not surprised to find that the forecast was predicting change. What did frustrate me though was that the morning was overwhelmingly hazy and hence unpredictable.

It then became decidedly foggy, so that even the other side of the street lost its normally sharp outline. The hill usually visible from the windows hid behind a solid veil of light grey, reminding me of the intensely foggy experience I had in the ARoS museum in Århus a few days ago and which I will hopefully be writing about soon.

Now I’m not sure if it’s an effect of the fog, or simply the acclimatisation from one location to the next, but my senses seem to be suffering from a similar dumbing down, as though my mind was a little foggy too – lacking colour and out of focus, just like the view outside. And now the first few drops of rain have left their ellipsis streaks on the window… what next?