How to win the TechTent Xmas Quiz without cheating

 

TechTentQuiz

The odds were most certainly not in my favour.

I was asked to take part in the Tech Tent annual quiz all about the tech news of 2014, pitted against none other than the people who actually make the news – the BBC Technology website team. Sounded to me like a guaranteed failure – these people know everything about the stories of the year – not only would they have written the articles, they would also have researched the stories thoroughly and (worse!) know background and periphery information.

How could I game the system without cheating? My plan below actually worked…

 

 
 
 
1. UNDERSTANDING THE FORMAT – where the scoring happens
The email came through with the rules: there will be “12 questions each relating to a big tech news story during 2014 – there’s one question for each month BUT they will not come in order. The order was selected by random draw. Most questions are in two parts offering two points, with an extra bonus point available for guessing which in which month the story happened. FWIW, I doubt we’ll get through all 12 questions in the limited time we have. If one team fails to answer a question or part of a question correctly, that q or part of question will be offered to the other team.”It made sense to memorise the news stories and their months as according to the format knowing these represented 12 points straight away.

2. CREATE DATA SET A
I gleaned the main events in technology from Wikipedia by month with a definite nod towards business and consumer electronics. I based the emphasis on quizmaster Rory’s preferences and my knowledge of the stories producer Jat tends to choose for the Tech Tent podcast.

3. CREATE DATA SET B AND SEE WHAT STORIES APPEAR IN BOTH A AND B
The click news scripts from the whole of 2014 were cut and pasted  – all the click newsbelts together by month made it really easy to work out the most likely questions in each segment. I amalgamated this with the Wikipedia and The Verge year in review and other sources, then applied weighting depending on information available to ask deeper questions around a topic.

4. FURTHER ANALYSIS TO PINPOINT MOST LIKELY STORIES
Based on my analysis, some stories were more likely than others to work as questions for a quiz –for example Twitch and Apple buying beats were big stories in otherwise quiet months so it made sense to drill down into those. Flappy Bird was also pretty much guaranteed to be a question based on the analysis – and it helped that Rory did rather a few spots on flappy bird in 2014, so again, a likely candidate.

5. EDITORIAL CONSIDERATION
I could also discount any stories that weren’t appropriate for a Christmas quiz tone, which reduced the viable stories further.

6. EXPERT AREAS
It made sense to look at key stories like the Apple launch, top tech mergers and acquisitions and crypto-currency as big stories of 2014. So I memorised as many numbers and month/story combos as possible to maximise those easy points. Knowing about the business of tech meant that I could at least make informed guesses when I wasn’t sure of an answer – which sometimes paid off and sometimes didn’t (Google nearly bought Twitch = correct, The tablet-sized device launch was the Nokia tablet not Microsoft’s Surface pro tablet – nearly)

7. A BIT OF LUCK
As soon as I realised the last question (Number of World Cup Tweets) was directed at the Tech Website team first, it was easy to make an N+1 or N-1 call which would automatically cover more ground than the first guess, which led to eventual (if messy) victory!(It made up for correctly stating the flappy bird developer was making £32,000 per week ($50,000) which was not picked up!)

 

Yes! Emerged Victorious! Dave and Zoe from the BBC Tech Website team were worthy adversaries – because of the calibre of opponents, I had to up my game in order to even stand a chance against them. Thus I learned that when the odds aren’t great, it’s still worth doing the best you can, a great lesson to bring in 2015. Hurrah! and Happy New Year!

 

Look at me on my lego piano!!

Presenting Ideas Persuasively

I gave a presentation for the London Girl Geek Dinners 6th Anniversary event. For  a brilliant blog post all about the event – along with an unfortunate picture of me and an angry bird, click here.

Meanwhile, my aim for the presentation was to use some of what I’ve learned from my experiences as a TV presenter and producer to help other people get their voices heard, whatever their walks of life.

During my talk, I repurposed some of the techniques in telling a story for television for use in real-world situations.

I used an example of one of my most recent features for BBC News as a way to illustrate the core elements of presenting ideas in an easily accessible manner.

Presenting Ideas Persuasively – LJ Rich

I was incredibly flattered that the original Girl Geek asked for my last slide to remain up so she could communicate her ideas to our audience using this technique!

After the speaking was done, something amazing happened – quite a few people came up to me after the speech to tell me that they were inspired!  Inspired to pitch something at work that they knew they could do, or to try again to present an idea they had faith in but didn’t quite manage to convey it the first time.

Before I gave the speech, I remember thinking that if I could encourage just one person to have more confidence in their abilities, and act positively, I would feel like the presentation was a success – so this result was even more gratifying.

I had a few requests to stick the slides up online, so here they are – and GirlGeekDinners, thanks very much for having me!

Look at me on my lego piano!!

The video I used for talking about presenting

 

 

Eurovision 2010: Musical Analysis

Eurovision Hits and Misses

This year, I analysed the Eurovision 2010 song contest musically for The 63336… it was great fun (apart from having to listen to all the singing) and the bum notes survey picked up a few lines of coverage in the press. Below is a breakdown of how the analysis was done, along with a few extra facts about this year’s contest.

We worked from a google document, and I set up the spreadsheet as follows:

Insanely Complex Cloud Spreadsheeting

We actually filled it in in entry order , though the snapshot shows the worst pitched performers and points in descending order -after the event.

I counted the bum notes while someone else timed the performance in seconds, that’s how we arrived at the “bum notes per minute” stat. I based my assessment of what counted as a “bum note” on whether the singer was in tune with the backing tracks.  Ad-lib note sliding (a la Mariah Carey) was not counted as out of tune unless it was truly out of tune.

The most entertaining thing to do was the “additional observations” tab, where I entered song similarities in. I’m not surprised about how many songs sound like other songs – in real life if I hear something, I can generally think of a tune or two that fits quite snugly. I was surprised that in Eurovision this year, Queen, Sting and Roxette were all quoted from rather heavily.

Listen Here to samples of the Eurovision finalists for 2010, and you’ll find that

Cyprus = Torn by Natalie Imbruglia

Russia = Verse: Slightly Mad by Queen, Chorus: the Piano song from Big

Denmark = Verse: Every breath you take by The Police, Chorus: Simply the Best by Tina Turner

Serbia = Chorus: Whenever, Wherever by Shakira

Albania= Verse: Womanizer by Britney Spears

Greece = Sexy Back by Justin Timberlake

Belgium= Baby I love your Way by Peter Frampton,  Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn, Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan

Azerbaijan, Moldova, France = Listen to your Heart by Roxette

Georgia = Every Little Thing She Does by The Police

Israel = The Show Must Go On by Queen

Iceland = Bridge: The Show Must Go On by Queen

Romania = Middle 8: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John

UK = Verse: Kids In America by Kim Wilde, Chorus: last line “sounds good to me”  = same chords and melody as kids show theme tune “Postman Pat”  ( lyric “that sounds good to me” = “(pat feels) he’s a really happy man”  – 37 seconds in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9KnR_9wpl4 )

Critical Analysis of musical commonalities

OVERALL COMPETITION STATS

14 out of 25 songs were in Minor Keys

Key Distribution:

The most popular key was C with 4 songs out of 25. That’s the scale made from all the white notes on the piano – thought of as the easiest key to play in if you’re a piano player. The least popular keys were C# and Bb – with no songs in those keys.

Key Distribution for Eurovision 2010

Most C=4, D=3, Eb=3,  G=3, Ab=3,E=2, F=2, F#=2,B= 2 A=1, C#= 0 Bb=0 Least

Key Change count for Eurovision 2010:

Only 9 countries went for the traditional dramatic key changes.

Spain and Portugal had 2 key changes, contributing to a total of 11 shocking key changes for the evening – 13 including Spain’s Retake.

Scoring Commonalities

Top 3 songs were in Minor Keys
Bottom 3 songs were in Major Keys

Top 3 songs were all contemporary
Bottom 3 songs were conventional

Top 3 songs had simple chord structures
-Top German Entry had only 4 chord sequences in the chorus
-Bottom UK Entry had an 11 chord sequence in the chorus

Would anyone have won if they chose a folky contemporary pop song with simple chords in a minor key?

Not necessarily, although Norway’s 2009 entry last year had all these attributes, and they hit the top spot in 2009.

This year the winning songs were already popular and well known across the voting audience – so repetition and heavy airplay can also give a song the Eurovision Edge.

Roll on next year!

Why do we Blog?

A two-fold post for you this time:

Part 1: More about the Blogging feature on BBC Click

Part 2: Why do we Blog?

Part 1.

This week was busy – the latest episode of Click Bits -the little 3 minute tech newscast – is now online… Click on the pic if you want to watch it.

(RSS Readers/can’t click on the pic to view? link here: Http://bit.ly/clickbits006 )

    …and my blogging piece on BBC Click is on this week’s show.

    Ah, the "Hello World" post - do you remember yours?

    Thank you very much Judith Lewis Mike Robinson , Marko Saric, Clare English and Andy Bargery for their cameos.   They each gave me about 20 seconds’ worth of blog tips on video, which I integrated into the piece.

    I took a few 3 second shots of some blogs at the beginning of the package

    They are listed here:

    Below are a few more blogs I’ve enjoyed reading in recent times:

    You’ll be able to read the whole transcript of the blogging feature here.

    • _

    part 2.

    Making the segment got me to thinking about when I first started blogging, so I went back and read my “Hello World” post i.e. the first post I ever wrote, which was about 90 posts ago.

    (If you absolutely have to, you can read it here. <cringe>)

    Then I wondered: What makes us blog? What drives us to leave a mark of our mundane existence on the internet? Who do we imagine writing to when we’re typing?

    So, of course, I came up with a thoroughly empirical theory.

    As a human, I normally spend a lot of time thinking, but my mouth blurts any given thought out after little (if any) moderation from my addled, overworked, overclocked brain.  I’m assuming that other humans experience this too.*

    If that is the case (and if we have the desire to do so) then writing could give us the freedom and time to craft a sentence, play with the words, and get a sense of perspective we can rarely access “in the moment”. We can proof-read our thoughts in type, then adjust that thought until it “makes sense” – to us, the authors, as much as any reader. This crafting of ideas into concrete might even result in learning something about ourselves we didn’t know until we saw it on the page.  Or of course, it could be nothing of the sort. We could just want to post pictures of cats because we love cat pictures.

    Incidentally, the above paragraph took 35 minutes to write, and included moving the sentences around, working out what I wanted to say – then making it sound nice to read in my head. I’m now doubting whether or not it’s a self-indulgent paragraph of pointlessness, and now I’m thinking it’s dinner time soon, and I should probably turn the computer off and deal with this later.

    Indeed, none of the above musings touch on the obvious love of story that permeates our very existence – mythology, fairy tales and even documentaries – but that is most definitely another post all on its own.

    So,  please leave your comments: Bloggers, Why do you blog? Readers, what do you read?  I’d be honoured if you left your thoughts below.

    *to paraphrase the great Douglas Adams, and probably a few others, the worst assumptions are the ones you don’t know you’re making.

    How to Move to the Cloud

    Well, it happened.
    My life reached critical mass, I had lots of things to do in many places, all of which require a variety of internet access, and an infinite amount of patience.
    If only I could defrag my brain this easily

    If only I could defrag my brain this easily- Time to get organised

    Time to move to the cloud …but how to do it without going bonkers?  The subject of my latest post,  I regret to admit, is the reason for a lot of non-blogging.

    _

    The mission was to move everything away from a specific platform (i.e. one laptop) and move it somewhere I can access EVERYWHERE, that would be on the mobile, both laptops, both desktops and at internet locations all over the known universe. Bleh.
    Does that sound like a nightmare? It was.  I’m nearly there, though.
    So here goes.
    __
    1. I have 37,000 emails I need to have access to on my outlook email – how can I access them somewhere else?
    Google Email Uploader for Apps
    First of all, I needed to find a way to see my old emails on the internet. As I own a domain, I opened a free google apps account – then took advantage of the free google email uploader.

    _

    I faffed about with pointing CNAMEs in the right direction etc and used the help pages quite a bit. Now your domain hosting service should be able to help out  if you’re thinking of doing this too, and they will be the people to talk to if you’re having a spot of bother.  It all worked fine after I’d sorted out the settings, but took AGES to run as there was so much email to upload.  Happily, after leaving it to do its business, I now have a fully searchable online email database.

    _

    2. Can I get GMail on the move?
    I use a Nokia N95  (although its days are numbered, poor thing takes a lifetime to go to “image gallery” now bless it) – and visited the Gmail mobile apps page to download gmail for my phone.  The mobile application for Nokia is now playing nicely with google apps users (if you’re on the mobile reading this, then go here m.google.com) So now I access my Gmail from my phone and any computer with an internet connection.

    _

    Only problem is that it’s still pull, but I’m not too bothered about that at the moment.

    3. I add appointments on my mobile phone and while I’m at the computer.  How can I see everything without it all going wrong?
    Goosync

    Goosync

    Now, it so happens that there is a little programme called GooSync which will happily sync your calendar with your google calendar for free. If you want to do other things as well, you’ll have to pay.
    (UPDATE – Goosync has now started charging as at 19-10-09 – £5.99 per year for this service. Oh well, there goes the “free”…)

    _

    Once set up  (and GooSync will send you a text message to sort all your settings out) you just go to the Sync menu of your phone, and synchronize your calendar.  Like Gmail on the phone, you have to remember to do it reasonably often – (do let me know if there’s a way to schedule it to sync regularly)  – but it means I can sync my phone calendar without needing a computer USB cable.

    _

    4. What about stuff  like Documents, spreadsheets – that kind of thing…?
    Dropbox File Holder

    Dropbox File Holder

    Enter dropbox, a brilliantly simple and automatic way of keeping your stuff in one virtual place.
    The way this works is you have a “dropbox” folder in, say, “my documents” and anything you store there gets Sync’ed up to your dropbox folder in the cloud, and back down to any other dropbox folders on, say, your other computers when they next connect to the internet.  The whole thing is done quickly and without any drama.

    _

    I have a dropbox app on my (mobile) laptop, and one on my (stationary) monster Mac Pro.  I access my docs on other computers by logging into the service online and accessing my files from there – downloading and uploading as I wish.

    _

    How clever – and great if you are on a work or shared computer and you don’t want to download your dropbox there.

    Yes, of course I use Google docs but find that sometimes docs uploaded from Excel/Word don’t really like it up there, and go a bit squiffy.  I love Google docs for the sharing,  but not for the sort of anorak-style colour-coding obsessed spreadsheet madness that I’m afflicted with.
    Dropbox is completely free for the 2GB version, however if you’re storing video or music, you might feel the need to upgrade to one of their paid-for options with more storage.

    _

    5. My infinite things to do list… er, a little help?
    nozbe project manager

    nozbe project manager

    I’ve been using Nozbe for a while, which has a “free 5 project plan” that you have to hunt for on the home page.
    Nozbe Project Managment

    Nozbe Project Managment

    If you’re a fan of “getting things done” by David Allen (and I am) , you’ll be familiar with the ideas behind this project management site – Although there’s a “nearly there”  ipod touch/ iphone app which accompanies this website where you  sync your “to-do’s” online with your nozbe account, I use Nozbe exclusively on a browser at whichever computer I’m plonked in front of.

    _

    This online project management tool will give you your “next actions” across projects.  This means that once you’ve entered your various (and copious) things to do in different areas – say “music composing”, “home admin” and “holiday planning” – you can see what needs to be done on each project THAT DAY. Really good if you are working on a few different things at once 🙂

    6. What about my contacts?
    Everything needs to be sync-able with everything else, so any changes made on one platform have to be reflected in the other.
    Zyb contact sync

    Zyb contact sync

    I’m so close to getting my contacts sorted.  Using zyb to synchronise my contacts from my phone to their internet site is pretty cool, but I’m still working out how to merge the ridiculous contact list on my phone with the laughably giant contact list on google apps.  I also have a gmail account that could do with a bit of a tidy.

    _

    This is the only area where I’m not quite sorted yet – and yes, I bet there are lots of paid-for ways to get my contacts in order and in sync, but I want to do it for free. And not with an iPhone 🙂
    _
    So there we have it – a move to the cloud which I’ve nearly managed… please comment if you’ve found something awesome that I’ve missed.

    Now for some chocolate.

    Surviving Twitter

    With the recent mass adaptation of Twitter in my immediate surroundings, it has been suggested by people who aren’t yet on it that it would be rather nice to have some kind of guide to Twitter etiquette for those who are new to it.

    I’ve been tweeting for around a year and although I’ve learned a lot about how to make the most of this continually evolving social network tool, I still remember how bewildering it all was when I first took the plunge.

    So here’s a guide for those who want to join in.

    I’m assuming you’ve already logged in or you’ve joined twitter (go to www.twitter.com and join from there), then you’ll see similar screens to the ones below, albeit with different background colours.

    OK, so what is it?

    Twitter is, essentially, a micro-blog, or a mini online diary. You can type the answer to “What Are You Doing?” in 140 characters or less as frequently as you like, a bit like your facebook status. 

    whatareyoudoing

     

    If you keep updating (but not too often!) you’ll end up with a profile that looks a bit like the page below –  a list of your updates.

    This is what other people will see when they go to your twitter page.

    Profile

    You can see what other people are writing by “following” them.  Their updates (or “tweets”) will come up on your Home area in chronological order.

    mainpage

     

    Other people can follow your updates – they are called (predictably) your “followers”. You can see how many followers you have underneath your profile picture.

    followers

    To follow someone, find them on twitter while you’re logged in, then click “follow”. Their updates will now appear in your stream.

    follow

     

    Once you’ve joined up, it’s good to find people to follow – good places to start are http://www.twitter.com/bbcnews , http://www.twitter.com/towerbridge and of course http://www.twitter.com/ljrich (if you want to see what I get up to!)

     

    Tweet Notes

    1. There aren’t really many rules about frequency or content when you tweet, but be aware if you are doing 20 updates a day, people might be less inclined to follow you as it will bung up their timeline and stop them seeing their other updates.  I try and tweet between 0 and 5 times a day – with a ratio of (I hope) 80% interesting to 20% pointless, ranging from random thoughts through to music tech and hyperlinks.

    2. Engage with your followers! if someone asks you a question, reply to them with an @ symbol in front of their name, (like this: @ljrich ) – this tweet will come up in their “replies” section and not get lost in the stream. 

    Using the @ in front is the way to make someone’s twitter name clickable. 

    You can also “Retweet”, which is effectively to forward someone else’s tweet, normally with a view to helping them get answers, or to disseminate information.  The usage is to add “RT” at the beginning of your retweet – for example:

    What are you doing?

    RT @ljrich how do you use twitter? I’d love to hear from you.

    3. Twitter Hashtags: You can tag your own tweets so they can appear in “filters” – for example, #ces09 will show all tweets that have been tagged with this consumer electronics show marker.  Rather like football chants, these tags appear to proliferate organically until everyone is using the same one.  Let’s take a newer hashtag to show you the usage:  #lunchtweet .

    What are you doing?

    #lunchtweet salmon sushi set, sesame spinach and soba noodles. Mmm Tokyo Diner.

    It doesn’t matter where you put your hashtag in your tweet.

    4. Be aware that everything you write is EVIDENCE, and will be on the internet FOREVER! 

    5.  It’s the interactivity aspect that trips so many people up – to make the most out of Twitter, remember that it’s not just about broadcasting your thoughts, it’s also about having conversations, answering queries and adding your voice to a debate.  Tweeting should be human and reasonably informal. 

    *

    Meet ‘n’ Tweet

    In summary, there’s a lot of fun to be had on Twitter, as long as you’re not expecting to monetize.  In my experience, it’s first and foremost a site for socialising and sharing the minutae of life as we live it, although it’s becoming a valuable networking tool for linking people together in a relaxed manner. 

    I tweeted a while back (and got retweeted – the ultimate accolade!) that ” if LinkedIn is the office, Twitter is the pub” – the corollary of which appears to be: it doesn’t matter what you drink, as long as you’re reasonably sociable.

    See you at the bar.

     

    Oooh comments please…

    Tell me, what do you use Twitter for? When did you join? What do you like about it? How has Twitter changed in the last few months? Feel free to leave comments here or on my twitter account.

     

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