Elapsed time, allowing for exclusions

I was set a challenge recently, in which the business requirements kept getting more complex. I rose to the challenge, but the final solution was made more complex by the fact that the requirements were iterative as opposed to being defined upfront.

The requirements evolved such:

Here’s the solution. It works, but because of the way it evolved, I no longer know how it works. So if you have any problems with it, don’t come running to me!

Stop emptying my basket!

I’m not a huge online shopper. I dabble here and there: the odd router from dabs.com, flights from Expedia, quite a bit of stuff from Amazon and odds and sods in and amongst from various other companies.

I was surprised recently on finding out that most shopping baskets empty when you either leave the site in question or leave your decision-making process that bit too long.

This strikes me as stupid on the part of the retailer.

I think the principle behind the decision is that if you don’t get around to checking out, then you mustn’t actually want the products. I disagree.

Often, I’ll put something in my shopping basket either fully intending to buy that item or prompting me to buy something similar—an iron, for example, but not necessarily that iron.

The retailer’s decision to remove the iron from my basket may result in my forgetting completely that I need a new iron, causing either irritation on my part when I next need to iron my shirts, or an impulsive buy from an offline retailer (Robert Dyas?) when I next see an iron in the flesh/metal/plastic/Teflon™.

Surely much better for the retailer to have a conveniently placed Empty Basket button to allow those shoppers annoyed by the persistent basket to let its artificial bottom fall out ready for their next shop, which may also never see the light of the check-out. Windows shopping, if you will. ([Dan bows] I thank you.)

That way, I get to save stuff indefinitely in my basket, the online equivalent of leaving my Sainsbury’s trolley on aisle three while popping for a haircut, returning to find it where I left it, contents still intact. Not that I do that, of course. That’d be madness!

Penny arcade

It seems that the title used in digg articles is of paramount importance in attracting hits, and associated diggs. Which is the likely reason this article received so many diggs (653):

How to make a homemade gun that can send a penny ripping through a can

I struggle to imagine a post better geared to attract the geek’s mouse-click.

Overheard in Whitehall: the elusive Thursdays

Yesterday, I heard a guy in Whitehall start a sentence to the guy with him, “On what was a rare Thursday…”. I find them as rare, and indeed plentiful, as any other day, each occupying a little over 14 percent of my time. (If anything, Thursdays have the edge for me, as I was born on a Thursday.)

As an aside, there should be a word to describe an acquaintance of unknown closeness, as was needed above. Possibly there is and I just don’t know it.

Much anticipated lines in Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson

There are three lines in Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson for which my ears can hardly wait. They’re crying out for the lines to arrive, each of which brings unbridled, somewhat inexplicable joy. They are, in playing order:

I hope the lines are similarly enjoyable for others.

Heads of State: let’s quit with the formalities

This evening, the BBC’s ticker informed its readers that President George was giving a warning to Iran.

President George

I think it’s quite nice that we’re done with the formalities of politics. He almost sounds like a hurricane, which some would argue is accurate: unfathomable power leaving nothing but destruction in its wake.

From now on, we should refer to all our leaders in this way: President George, Prime Minister Gordon, France’s duo of President Nicolas and Prime Minister François), Germany’s Chancellor Angela, Prime Minister Stephen of Canada and China’s General Tso. (This last one was a red herring: China’s leader is actually President Hu.)

BBC News’ history

I wonder if anyone, the BBC included, captures on a regular basis the surfacing trends of the BBC News website. Not the content within the articles, but how they are presented to users over time.

It would be interesting to catpure, say every five minutes, the article that was surfaced in each location on each of the main navigation pages (Main, UK, World, Technology, Entertainment, Sport etc.), complete with link title, link summary and the picture of choice.

It wouldn’t be difficult either (although obviously it’s beyond my limited capabilities), and wouldn’t need much disk space. My calculation gives about 150kB including images per captured page. If 20 navigation pages are captured, then that’s 3MB every five minutes, 864MB per day, or 315GB per year.

And it would provide a great insight into the ever changing priorities of what is perhaps the most authoritative news website out there.

Just a thought.

How can you miss it?

Astronomers have found a void in space measuring one billion light-years across. That’s 9,460,528,000,000,000,000,000 kilometres. Let’s put that into context.

Count the number of square millimetres on the earth’s surface, including the oceans. (Before you start counting, there are 6 billion billion of them, a billion for each person in the world.) Now, tick them off one at a time, taking a flight each time you do. For the first one, fly from London to Naples, Italy. For the second, fly back to London. For the third, fly back to Naples, and so on, flying from London to Naples on the odd numbers and back to London on the evens. By the time you’ve ticked off all of the square millimetres on the earth’s surface, you’ll have covered the same distance as the void is wide.

For completeness, assuming you don’t have to waste any time checking in, waiting for your bags etc., your journeys would take you 125,000 times longer than the universe has existed to date.

It’s quite a big void.

ESPN’s biased list of greatest sporting routs

This was put together following the Texas Rangers’ 30–3 thrashing of the Baltimore Orioles, the highest single team run total in 110 years.

Here it is. Funny how they don’t mention America’s 18½–9½ battering at the hands of Europe in the 2005 Ryder Cup. Although they did include the Boston Tea Party at number 96.

Commentary inspiration

I got a comment from Hannah this evening, who was searching the web in an attempt to answer her homework assignment: what is the difference between latitude and longitude?

I’m happy on two counts: one, that she stumbled upon my post on this very subject; and two, that she felt the urge to comment.

I also enjoyed re-reading my own post. Not sure if that’s wrong. I also have no idea whether any of the content therein was used by Hannah in her response to the question.

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