WordPress groupie: blogging, fiddling, loving it

My mate Wayne is the kind of programmer who loves to program. I am not. I think of programming as a means to an end. Something I have to do if I can’t find what I need – which, thanks to the old internet, is rare these days. Wayne writes his own version because he can, because – like Everest – the challenge is there.

I am convinced that the day he takes up blogging he will, of course, write his own blogging software before sharing his thoughts with the world. I am very excited by this prospect and will be on standby to dish out usability advice. Until this fateful day (and probably even after), I will be sticking with WordPress. I am a WordPress groupie.

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Using patterns to shape our world

Escher picture

In the 1990s, Erich Gamma changed the way I thought about software engineering forever! Gamma visited the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne where I was a PhD student, in order to give a seminar on design patterns.

The idea of extracting a solution template from a piece of software to turn it into a pattern which can be reused, was to me, an exciting step forward in software engineering. Instead of reusing software from a library that needs to be maintained and ported as necessary, abstracting the solution and creating a pattern repository gives software engineers a toolbox of meta-level solutions.

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Are computers making us stupid?

artificial intelligence copyright atariarchives.org

In 1996, I listened to Lofty Zadeh, the daddy of fuzzy logic, give his keynote speech at the ‘Artificial Intelligence in Design’ conference, Stanford University. He described the excitment of artificial intelligence in the 1950s and how Marvin Minsky, father of frames, told a press conference that 50 years on, computers would read and understand Shakespeare. When Zadeh asked Minsky what possessed him make such a claim, Minsky said that he didn’t know, he had just gotten carried away.

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Stalkers in space and Facebook in your face

Facebook screenshot

I created my first webpage in 1995, which has since disappeared forever as even www.archive.org thinks it’s too old to store. Fingers poised over my keyboard, I felt shy about what to write. Eventually, I restricted myself to my research interests as I didn’t think that anyone would care to know about my favourite beer. How times have changed. The web nowadays is full of people talking about their favourite beers (mine, by the way, are Theakston’s Old Peculiar and Franziskaner). Everyone likes to chat. Continue reading “Stalkers in space and Facebook in your face”

Designing with the future in mind: The Transporter Bridge, Middlesbrough

Transporter, Middlesbrough

Car use in the UK has risen an astonishing 70% in the last two decades and will apparently continue to rise, causing no end of headaches for structural engineers. When they design bridges, engineers need to anticipate factors such as current and future traffic on the bridge at any given time. Continue reading “Designing with the future in mind: The Transporter Bridge, Middlesbrough”