The top 3 reasons to write a "best of" article

“Best of” lists have become very popular in lots of blogs: “the best 10 iPhone applications”, “the 7 most common excuses for tardiness”, “15 things everyone should know about rubber manufacture”. In this post, I analyse the top 3 reasons why those have become so popular.

1. A lot of people still take them at face value.

Many blog writers make a living off advertising revenue, so it's extremely important to attract traffic to boost page views and clicks. Many people don't know that this type of story is very common nowadays, so when they see one they will post a link to it in other sites: usually in their blogs and Twitter, and if you are lucky, it will get to high-traffic sites like Digg or Slashdot. Jackpot!

2. You don't need to actually research them.

The easiest blog posts to write are the ones where you don't actually need to research or document anything. With a “best of”, you don't need to do that. If someone says that you omitted some crucial element, you can just say that it wasn't so important or good to belong in your “best of” list.

3. You can stop at any moment.

For example, if you set out to make a “top 5” but then cannot come up with 5 elements, you can just go and change the title of the story to “top 3”, and nobody will be able to say that it's incomplete!

I hope you enjoyed this article with the top 3 reasons to write a “best of” article.

Mental arithmetics: the square of a two-digit number

Every once in a while I strain to the maximum my capacity to botch a simple explanation. This time around, I apply it to a method to calculate mentally the square of a two-digit number. Actually, I know two of these: one of them, I have known for years; the other one I learnt on the Internet some months ago following a link to a Wikipedia article on Vedic Mathematics (whose name, I've heard, is purely for marketing :)).

The first method I knew is based on the fact that (a+b)2=a2+b2+2ab. If I call the tens part “a” and the units part “b”, it's just a matter of squaring two single-significative-digit numbers (easy), adding up the results (easy) and then multiplying each number by the other and doubling the result and adding it up to the previous result (less easy, but still feasible).

For example, 37 is 30+7, so 302=900, 72=49, 2·30·7=420, I add it all together and it gives 1369.

You can quickly see that the problem with this system is having to remember two or three intermediate results while you multiply three numbers mentally. We just can't fit that many numbers in our short-term memory :)

The system I learnt recently is harder to explain, but it's quicker to calculate because we don't have to hold as many intermediate results in our mind.

This method is based on (a+b)(a-b)=a2-b2. What we do is call the number we want to square “a”, and choose a number “b” which will make the product (a+b)(a-b) easy to calculate (most commonly, we'll choose the smallest number that will make a+b or a-b a multiple of 10). When we've chosen that number, we can calculate the product, add b2 to the result and what we get is a2.

Let's see this with the previous example where we wanted to calculate 37 squared. Using 3 as the value of “b”, we can calculate (37+3)(37-3)=40·34=1360. To this we add 32, which is 9, and we get 1369.

Another example: 722. If I choose 2, I've got (72+2)(72-2)=74·70=5180. I add 22=4, and I get 5184.

As you can see, with this system it's only necessary, usually, to multiply a two-digit number with a single-digit one (zeroes don't count), square a single-digit number and add it to the previous result. I don't think there's any faster method to calculate the square of a two-digit number (if you don't count memorising them all, of course).

Invitacións de Google Wave

Esquecera comentar que aínda teño 5 invitacións de Google Wave. En principio, son para xente que eu coñeza persoalmente, así que se eu te coñezo e queres unha, mándame un email co teu enderezo de GMail, e eu doulle ao botón. (A invitación pode tardar varios días en chegar).

Non valen comentarios nesta páxina; ten que ser un email. Vamos, se me coñeces, sabes como me mandar un :)


Recados para españoles

Tengo un recado para ese grupo de chavales españoles que se ha venido a Dublín de excursión.

Vane, tu amiga te está llamando, a gritos, desde hace cinco minutos. Por favor, hazle caso para que se calle y, de paso, dile que no sea tan ordinaria. Que la oigo desde la otra orilla del Liffey. Gracias.

Inconsistences and fallacies

I read this post today, and I was so amazed by the big faults in the author's presentation of his argument, and in how badly reasoned it is, I couldn't leave it without writing a response.

First, the argument introduced in the post is not consistent. For example, in the second paragraph, the author asserts one thing, and then, in the following paragraph, he writes that everything he had written in the previous paragraph is irrelevant. In this way, the author insinuates something, but, if someone calls him up on it, he can say “hey, no, that's not my argumentation, notice that I said that it was not relevant”. It is a quite insidious trick that puts the validity of the whole argument in question.

A big part of the argument consists, furthermore, on rejecting a logical fallacy in the post it's responding to. In the author's opinion, the existence of a single fallacy in the whole argument is enough reason to reject it entirely. However, that's not so. The validity of the argument should not be compromised by a single fallacy if, when that fallacy is removed, the rest of the argument still holds. In my opinion, that's what happens in the original post, so the author of the post I'm replying to is wrong.

Update: someone has written a response to my post.

Jacobo Tarrío announces the availability of a press release

DUBLIN, Ireland — November 5th 2009 — Jacobo Tarrío, a leading Galician software engineer residing in Dublin, today announced in his website the general availability of a press release.

“This press release is a milestone in my quest to write content other people will read,” said Jacobo Tarrío. “Thanks to it, tens and even dozens of persons will know that I published a press release.”

The idea for the press release was born when Jacobo Tarrío read a press release from Apple and noticed that all press releases followed the same scheme. After many seconds spent in research and development, and investments in IT totalling almost one cent, a new press release was born.

“I am glad that this press release went out,” said Jacobo. “Now I can sleep happy knowing that it is out there, possibly being read by someone other than me.”

About Jacobo Tarrío:

Jacobo Tarrío is the leading member of the community of Galician software engineers who live in Dublin near a rail track. He revolutionized the world of press releases when he published in his website a press release about his publishing a press release. Jacobo also makes revolutionary humorous videos when he is not writing revolutionary press releases.

The Twitter client for Windows^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Android

I just wanted to post a note saying that I abandoned the Windows Twitter client a month ago, when I discovered that embedding IE in an application using the raw Win32 API is hard, but not as hard as making it do something more than just browsing web pages (it is very easy with .NET and other frameworks, but, then again, the point was not using them).

But fear not; for the past two weekends I wrote a Twitter client for Android; and, in this case, I will actually use it every day, because I was really fed up with the one I had been using before. I even recycled the name "CheepCheep" for the new client.

Ah, and I programmed it entirely from Windows, of course :)

I will post some more about it one of those days.

Bicis de Dublín

Poco antes de que comenzara a operar en Dublín el nuevo sistema de alquiler de bicicletas, la prensa pidió su opinión a un representante de la menos numerosa que antaño, pero todavía influyente, comunidad yonki de Dublín.

— Bah, esas bicis no sirven para nada —fue su veredicto—. Son demasiado distintivas.

Civic pride

As you know, I've been living in Ireland for a bit over two years. That's why, even though I'm not an Irish citizen, I was really proud when I heard the news that an Garda Síochána, the Police force of the Republic of Ireland, has won a prize.

Yes, an Garda has won the 2009 Ig Nobel Prize on Literature. Their work: issuing dozens of tickets all over the territory of the Republic to the most persistent infringer, a Polish citizen called Prawo Jazdy. Whose name, coincidentally, means “Driving Licence”.

Congratulations, and good work!

State of the art (of the Twitter client)

This is what my Twitter client looks like today.

Current look of CheepCheep

It is displaying my "home timeline"; that is, the list of tweets I see when I log in to Twitter. The timeline is rendered in an embedded Internet Explorer control (and I need to apply some more CSS styles). I have also implemented the preferences dialog, and it works, but I cannot save the preferences yet (I have to enter the credentials every time I restart the application).

Not implemented yet: automatic updates, entering new tweets, deleting your tweets, viewing single tweets/conversations, viewing a single user.

Yes, I'm learning quite a bit writing this program. One of the things I have learnt is that Windows programming is not as horrible as I remember it — but then, it was about 15 years ago :)