So a while back, I decided to get back into a many months contract commitment with a mobile phone provider. Since completing my 18 month contract with T-Mobile I was loathe to get another phone with a long term contract, partly because I wasn’t sure back then if I would be in the UK long enough to fulfill the contract.
As time progressed, and I got further and further into my work here in London, I came to realise that I’m gonna be here for a while. I won’t be shooting off anywhere anytime soon, and I’m going to be in London for the long haul. That said, I decided that I couldn’t stick with the Sidekick Slide as my primary phone for much longer. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the Sidekick was a great phone, and it served me well for tweeting, and reading a few emails – but I was ready for something a little more ‘serious’, that would let me live stream with Qik, manage multiple email accounts, allow me to choose from a healthy eco-system of apps, and most importantly, still have a decent sized full keyboard.
Settling on a Blackberry, and having received my handset, I had a day before my number would get ported across, to my new network provider, Vodafone, and decided, since I had the handset that I would get it all configured, and set up, ready for when the Sim Card in my new phone went active. That’s when I discovered that my current phone at the time, the Sidekick slide, didn’t sync with a Mac. Worst still, it didn’t even sync with a PC. In fact it just plain didn’t sync with a computer. Terrible I know. And after having had the phone for two years, I realised that most of the numbers on the Sidekick Slide weren’t stored anywhere else online. They were on business cards and online profiles of the people I’d met, but they weren’t in any one addressbook that I could access, and I was loathe to start aggregating them all again, on yet another new device. After spending countless hours hunting, and searching, I finally discovered that I had access to everything that was on my phone, online. After more than 18 months with a Sidekick Slide, I only just discovered that T-Mobile had set up a portal for Sidekick users in the UK, and that I could see many of the items on my phone online. All my contacts were available online, as well as all the emails I had coming into my phone, the notes I’d made, my To Do lists – everything was on this online portal, that I had never once seen, or heard about. I suppose that’ll teach me to not properly read the manuals in the future!
Well, anyways, after spending a half hour with the portal, I came to realise that there wasn’t anyway of ‘exporting’ your data, even from the portal. It seemed just downright dumb, and silly, but it seemed like they expected you to be a customer of theirs for life, and to use the one handset that they had manufactured. Clearly mobile phone manufacturers still hadn’t learnt to think about or deal with people moving their contacts onto and off of a handset. Perhaps they all presume people will just copy it onto and off of the Sim? Well I wasn’t about to do that, given that my past experiences with using Sim cards to copy phone numbers resulted in names being shortened, and multiple numbers for a single person being turned into many entries.
Well, anyways, I ended up finding a ‘printable view’ of all my contacts – thank god they had the decency to think a person might want to at least ‘print’ off all their contacts. Then, with the print view, I at least had all the contact details in a table type view, that I could save and keep hold of 😉
I then had to get that data out of the HTML encoding, and into a CSV format. That was no easy task, I can tell you. First I took the raw HTML, removed all the images, and empty columns, (with much experimenting, and using NVU constantly jumping between the source code, and the WYSIWYG view, to make sure I didn’t lose any data as I did it..
Eventually I managed to get the table down to a basic table that I could then copy into a spreadsheet (notice I didn’t say Excel? It’s cos I’m using Open Office!) Unfortunately, the ‘Name’ field was collapsed into one, and so I had to then edit that by taking that column into a text document, converting the table to text, and then re-converting the text back into a table, at the commas. Finally, with all my data in a spreadsheet, all the columns properly labelled, I was able to consider generating a CSV with all the phone numbers from my current handset. Then I realised, that I also hadn’t properly dealt with all the phone numbers on all of my previous handsets, having just started using a new phone, and then slowly just adding numbers as I was using them. Fortunately, most of the other phones I had were able to Sync with the AddressBook in OSX, using the Bluetooth on my Macbook. With the Motorola RAZR V3 it was no problem.. I’d sync’d that in the past with previous laptops, so knew that wouldn’t give me any trouble, and so merrily got all of the contacts off of that handset. Then came the Sony Ericsson Z310i – an old handset, in so much as I had stopped using it as a phone, but nonetheless, one that in it’s prime had been home to many many phone numbers. That one didn’t sync out of the box, but googling I found the iSync plugin for the Z310i. I did first land on the feisar.com website, and mistakenly thought I would have to buy a plugin, but believing that there had to be a free plugin for Sony Ericsson somewhere, I decided to just keep looking, and boy am I glad I did.. At that late in the night, I might have even bought that plugin, if I didn’t soon find the proper Sony Ericsson iSync plugin shortly afterwards.
So I got all of these contact details of mine into my AddressBook from my previous handsets and realised that I still hadn’t imported my Sidekick Slide phone numbers in. When going to import in AddressBook, I noticed that there were a number of AddressBook formats, and for the life of me I couldn’t see CSV. (Had I not been so exhausted, I might have noticed the ‘import text file’ option – but either that’s only just appeared, now as I look at it again, or I was worried about it importing the data into the wrong columns.. I can’t remember which it was, but I remember thinking I’ll just use Google to sync with, and then there was a Google Blackberry Contacts sync plugin that I’d read about somewhere, when looking for info on sync’ing so figured if I can just get all my contacts into Google, then I can just sync it over the air, with my BlackBerry, which I’ll be able to do from anywhere, so I won’t need to worry about being at my laptop anymore.
I already had my AddressBook on my Mac Sync’d with Plaxo, which had a whole bunch of information that was upto date ( I also had a heap of duplicates, as I wasn’t impressed by the idea of paying Plaxo to have duplicates removed from my addressbook). I knew of a hack that would allow me to make visible the sync with ‘Google Contacts’ option even though I wasn’t an iPhone user, and I didn’t use an iPhone.
Eventually I managed to get my MacBook, my Google Contacts, and my new BlackBerry all sync’d up, but boy did it take some time.
Now I’m keen to selectively filter out some of the contacts in my addressbook out of my mobile, but that’ll be for another day..
So what’s all the hype about? Why was and is Derren Brown trending Twitter? Who the heck is Derren Brown?
So for all you folks out there curious and interested, let me provide a bit of background here.
Derren Brown is one of those people who ‘predicts’ what you’re going to do, before you do it. He uses various subliminal messages, and subtly provides you with cues, and understands human behavioural responses well enough to know how to condition people and how to get people to take certain actions over others. It’s a form of conscious hypnosis, in that he’s learnt to be so in rapport with someone else that he can accurately predict even what they’re thinking, and feeling. He believes he takes his cues primarily in a very physical way, but I’m not entirely convinced that he hasn’t also mastered some form of mind control/manipulation techniques, which whilst he may say to believe them to be only rooted in the physical world, for reputations sake, I’m pretty sure there’s some element of ‘effect’ in the non-physical realm too – inducing some form of projected telepathy or influencing a person’s thoughts. Indeed, I’ve noticed myself how a firm mind unwavering in it’s cause, or purpose, and strengthened with a solid belief system will almost inevitably overpower the mind of someone who doesn’t possess a firmer conviction or belief, or doesn’t have a system in place that they hold too strongly too.
But I’m sure even if Derren Brown secretly did believe or understand any ‘non-physical’ or extra sensory elements to his processes, if he’s convinced himself that it’s all just based on planting messages subliminally then he will believe that to be true. Alternatively, if he wants to maintain his credibility he will always play that double edged sword of making it appear as if that’s what he believes, but secretly inwardly knowing otherwise.
So anyways, Derren Brown, a master manipulator of people, went about on Wednesday of this week, on the 9th of September 2009 (coincidence that he chose such a date perhaps? 9/9/09? – the UK number for ’emergency services’) to predict live on national television the National Lottery results. He had monopolised the entire Channel 4 network, and was broadcasting live for 10 minutes, across all of their different channels (not the +1 versions of course which would rebroadcast it an hour later). He switched on a TV where the lottery results were being drawn out live, and then noted down the numbers, in numeric order, switched off the tv, and then showed us a series of 6 balls, that had all accurately predicted the lottery perfectly. Had he played those numbers on the Lottery, he would have won the jackpot himself. But given the nature of the experiment, it would have been ‘unethical’ for him to play those winning numbers, since having a stake in winning would have jeopardised the outcome, ironically (as he later revealed.)
Leaving everyone in wonderment, Friday night (last night – 12th September) he then proceeded to break down some of the background to his process, and explained how a ‘fearful’ person could very predictably be controlled and manipulated, demonstrating two examples of experiments where he took a person, placed them in a fear state, and then had them select in a seemingly random fashion items, which he was able to accurately predict. The first example was a women afraid of mice, placing her hand in covered cages, choosing 3 out of 4 and he had accurately predict which one she wouldn’t place her hand in.
The second example was with a man who was shown a knife under a polystyrene cup, and then given 20 cups, and told to stamp down firmly with his foot each cup that he would guess didn’t posess the knife. Again Derren was able to accurately predict which cups would not be crushed, and then of those, he was able to predict all the way down to the exact cup which would be left till last. In that last cup, he actually placed a mouse, rather than a knife, so that in actual fact the man wouldn’t have really hurt himself, but hurt a mouse instead. Fortunately that didn’t happen. Interestingly Derren was able to accurately predict which 6 numbered cups would be left untouched, as well as the final one.
Derren then went on to talk about how humans in fear can apparently be controlled, or influenced to produce a certain result, but to be able to generate a predictable result from a seemingly random mechanical event was an altogether different matter.
He then goes to show how sequences of coins being tossed could end up being influenced based upon a group of people supporting and cheering on a given person. With two people, tossing coins, Derren had one person choose a random order of three tosses (they chose H H H) (where H is Head and T is Tail), and then predicted that he would be able to influence the outcome by predicting that HTH would come out more often. He then had a group of people all cheering and supporting the person tossing the coin who was aiming for HTH and the person who was aiming to get all heads was on their own, with no supporters. The difference in results was astounding, with the single person getting 1 combination, whilst the other team got 10 in the same amount of time. I don’t know how readily the people supporting and cheering the person who ended up winning made a difference, but I’ve definitely noticed myself that when I do something and I feel supported, or want to influence the outcome of a die, say in a game of backgammon, there are times where it feels like I’m actually having an effect. I really do wonder about the whole random causal reality of things sometimes..
Anyway’s Derren Brown proves that he can create a predictable outcome, by having a group of people cheering and supporting the efforts of an individual. He then tries to claim it has no impact whatsoever, by suggesting that all you have to do is swap the middle prediction over, and place it to the front of the combination, and you’ll always succeed. I’m not an expert in probability and statistics, and believe there might be some mathematical basis for his predictions, but I’m not sure that I would necessarily discount a group effect. Especially in the light of Rupert Sheldrakes work on Morphogenetic fields, and how you can have ‘group’ effects.
Well, he then goes on to suggest the Wisdom of Crowds approach, after recalling the research that was done in early England, I think around 1906 perhaps.. It was a Sir Francis, of some sort, who basically collected the predictions from a contest where people had to guess the weight of a calf, the prize being that the one with the closes guess would win the cow. After the contest, he aggregated all the results, and then took the average, and found that the average of all the guesses, was closer to the real weight of the cow than any of the individual guesses. There’s a book called The Wisdom of Crowds, written by an excellent American, who’s name escapes me at present.. But I’ve read the book, and have been suitably impressed..
So much so, that I had a long time ago, thought about possibly trying to crowdsource people’s lottery predictions, to see if there might be some real substance to the idea.
Well, in any case, what Derren did was that he got a room of 24 people, who then each predicted what they thought would be the winning lottery numbers. Each one wrote them down, and then they were aggregated, and between them they got I think 1 number perhaps. Not much likelihood or probability there. Derren then attempted to create some synergy between the people, getting them to bond, and get along with each other, having them perform group activities, and work together, on tasks, as a group, to help them all get a little more familiar and comfortable with each other. Part of that was also to help them relax, and loosen, and get more comfy, and then collectively they would each be a little more receptive, and responsive. It’s common in acts of ‘telepathy’ or ‘clarivoyance’ that in order to get better results you need to be looser, relaxed, more chilled, calm, laid back, and not be tense. Or maybe he was just loosening them up to be more receptive to his subliminal suggestions. Who knows…
Anyways, after having them do a bunch of team building stuff, he got the group of people to then practice ‘automatic writing’ a process which helps to bypass the conscious mind and supposedly connects you directly to your subconscious.. It’s been suggested that people use automatic writing as a way of communicating with dead spirits and entities on the other side. I’d go so far as to say, that it allows you to connect with whatever it is that you’re connected to, be it yourself, or your higher self, or some other spirit entity or what have you.
Well, after getting everyone looser, getting people to use automatic writing to make their predictions, and getting the room of 24 people working as a team, he then had 6 people collect the results, and aggregate the predictions. As a room, they managed to predict 3 our of 6 numbers. It wasn’t a lottery win, but it was evidence of the potential in that room, and what could be accomplished. He then went, and the following week changed the process a little. He had one person aggregate the results, whilst the other 23 generated them. He then held off calculating the results, until after the lotter had occurred. It seems that might have helped, since they were upto 4 correct balls. Interestingly the last 4 at that. He then went and staked his reputation on the process, I think, if I’m not mistaken he did the aggregation, and averaging of the results himself, for the last time round, and then maintained complete secrecy around the results, until the moment of the draw. And then, he only revealed the numbers on public television, with a national audience of people watching him.
Personally I think the combination of people’s expectations, nationally watching him live, the synergy between the control group, and his skillful manipulation of people’s expectations, and anticipation for him to be right might have all contributed towards the final result.
But curious to know if we could just crowdsource accurate lotterey results, I’ve set up a blog post, and a form to capture people’s interest/attention with regard to entering a similar experiment, but perhaps on a larger scale? I don’t know.. To be honest, I’m just following my gut instincts for the moment. But I know that I’ve often wondered if you had a large enough group of people contribute to a genuine prediction for the lottery if it might be possible to crowdsource actual answers..
Depending on how the experiment goes, it may just.. I’ll keep you all posted, on my progress.. Especially if it does work. For now, if you’re interested in joining in, place you’re predictions here – http://bit.ly/8QYME
So following Derren Brown’s wonderful show where he talked about how he created and got a group of people to predict the lottery results, I think we should give it a try.
I’m willing to co-ordinate the experiment, bearing in mind everyone that joins in will have to commit to being involved the whole way.. We’ll need a few weeks to calibrate as a group, and get used to the process, and then hopefully, in two or three weeks time, we might be getting some sort of a result – or it could be a total failure.. But we’ll see.
I’ll update this post with more details, and explaining what happened, and everything, but for now – put in the comments your name, email, and details about you, and how to contact you and tell me a little bit about yourself and why you want to take part in this experiment. I’m going to be very selective in the people that we do this experiment with, since I don’t want any negativity or pessimists ruining the potential success that might come out of any experiments we do.
And just to be very clear, any money’s or predictions that are made, that lead to sucesses, or wins, will be shared equally between all participants, after an initial 10% has been taken out to give to charity. Those are my terms, and I think it’s only fair.. So leave your details below, and don’t worry about anything personal being seen by everyone, any personal contact information, or any details you don’t want displayed publicly in the comments will be edited out, before your comment becomes publicly visible. But if you don’t provide at least your proper email address, then I won’t be able to contact you with details of what we’re going to do, and how we’re going to do it..
So for now – if you want to join the game, or try the experiment, leave your details in the comments below, and be sure to re-tweet the post, so other people you think might be suitable can also join in 😉
Look forward to starting a very interesting experiment indeed.. Now I’ll write a more detailed post giving you more info about what it’s all about..
You can now place your lottery predictions here – http://bit.ly/8QYME
I’ve installed WordPress MU a few times since it was publicly available. In part, because I was keen to see if out the box, it would be able to meet my needs, and partly because there’s some projects that I was thinking of that would require something similar to WordPress MU. For those of you reading this wondering what the heck is WordPress MU – I presume you’ve heard of WordPress, right? That blogging platform that’s really easy to use, and freely available?
Well WordPress MU is it’s ‘big brother’. The idea behind WordPress MU is that if you want to set up a site where people can come and create their own blogs, then you can use WordPress MU to run your entire site. It’s a fully functional version of the main back end used at WordPress.com to host all the blogs on that site. It means that you can have users register, and create blogs, and start their own personal blog, on your site. Each user gets a blog, that is like having their own copy of WordPress installed for them, only it’s on your website.
Well the advantage of using WordPress MU becomes even more apparent, once you install BuddyPress, a plugin/set of modules that work with WordPress MU. BuddyPress effectively acts like a social network, allowing you to have ‘friends’, groups, and provides ‘activity streams’ kinda like status updates, but that can be the aggregate of all of your RSS activity across the web.
Now I’d recently set up a public installation of WordPress MU, and not having time to explore the multi-user side very much, I decided to just set up some basic content as a placeholder, and a few pages, so that if anyone came to the site they would be able to get some info, and leave it at that for now. (The site in question is http://londontechstartups.com)
Unfortunately, I hadn’t been paying too much attention to all of the spam blogs that were being created, until very recently. I presume they use some form of automation scripting to auto generate a bunch of email addresses, and then bulk signup to the site, which they then proceeded to post to every few minutes with more and more content, on all the spam blogs they had created. By the time I decided to do something about it, there was already over 3000 spam blog accounts on my site, and many many pages of content on each of those sites. Reading a few of the pieces of content, it soon became clear that not one of those blogs represented a real person taking the time to write real content. It was all ‘spam’ type text that meant that with a bunch of bogus text, there would be ‘links’ with different keywords pointing back to a site selling something or another related to the keyword.
It was most definitely a challenge to clear all of those spam blogs, off, as well as taking quite a few hours, and having to mindlessly click a check box for each of the blogs and spammers, before being able to finally rid my site of them.
Just in case anyone else gets caught out like I did, or is contemplating setting up a WordPress MU site, make sure you install some form of Anti Spam measures in advance, and save yourself countless hours performing maintenance and having to fix the problems like I did.
My initial thoughts were to jump into the backend and just delete the data directly from the MySQL database, which had I been able to access I would have. But unfortunately, I think the volume of Splogs (Spam Blogs) meant that my Web Based access to the MySQL Database using the PHP GUI ended up timing out.
Eventually, I had no choice but to manually delete the spam from the site admins control panel myself.
IF it weren’t for the WPMU Power Tools, I don’t think I would have ever finished! http://plugins.paidtoblog.com/wpmu-power-tools/
I also am indebted to the advice that was shared in the forums about manually editing the WPMU admin listings pages – http://mu.wordpress.org/forums/topic/10811 to show more users, I then went and did the same thing for number of blogs.
I also found a bit of useful advice at http://www.gabrielserafini.com/archives/category/spam/ – though to be fair I think there was way too many individual IP addresses being used for me to be able to address them purely by IP address.
If I had been able to access the PHP MYSQL GUI – I’d have gone and used the advice shared here – http://blog.vipul.net/2009/02/01/how-i-cleaned-up-8k-spam-comments-from-my-wordpress-blog-in-less-than-30-minutes/
And used the code here – http://www.darcynorman.net/2009/05/20/stopping-spamblog-registration-in-wordpress-multiuser/ – to hopefully stop spammers gaining access to ther server
I’ve also since followed the advice here – http://mu.wordpress.org/forums/topic/13982
and now have installed – http://ocaoimh.ie/cookies-for-comments/ and
I’ve also installed MontySpam based on reading about it here http://mu.wordpress.org/forums/topic/10811
and ended up selecting about 100 users as spammers, at a time, through each page, then deleting the spam marked blogs and users using the power tools – that was after I tried to do a few hundred at a time, and the site wouldn’t refresh properly.
I also got some great advice from the form thread here – http://mu.wordpress.org/forums/topic/11187 about a few tools that let you moderate a blog before it can be used – manual I know, but cool nonethelss.
This also looks like a great plugin for spam reporting – http://mu.wordpress.org/forums/topic/13206
Welcome to my blog. I’ve been long been struggling with how to express myself adequately on the Internet, and came to realise that I have some broad, overarching diverse interests that I can pull together into one place and start to share with a particular voice. I write on many different topics, and subjects, and as such, in an effort to avoid alienating friends and readers, who might all be drawn to similar things such as myself, I’ve decided to shake out my one blog, http://life.magitam.org.uk and put it into a couple of different blogs, in order to capture the full spectrum of my interests which are diverse and varied, in more than one place. For the longest time, I imagined the solution was to consolidate all my blogs into one, but over time I’ve come to realise that that doesn’t really serve me well, nor help me establish a clear purpose or readership across my many different interests. With that in mind, I’ve decided to treat http://farhanrehman.co.uk as my blog for all things tech, and geeky, and related to gadgets and book reviews,and generally anything else that I think might be fitting, and doesn’t really belong anywhere else.
This blog is where I’m going to just be me. Write up my reviews of things that I’ve liked or disliked, phones I’ve tried, gadgets I’ve used, books I’ve read, and just generally share some of the more mundane or geeky stuff that I’ve found personally useful or interesting in the past, or along my own journey.
Look forward to sharing it all with you, warts and all 😉
Thanks for taking the time to read this 😉