December 29, 2009

"A Gate by Any Other Name ..."

There's nothing new under the sun, apparently.
As a result of a news item today about the explosive-packed underwear of the would-be terrorist on the Christmas Day flight, I wondered how long it will be before someone comes up with a Silly Season name for the inevitable investigation into how he managed to avoid detection at two major airports.

Of course a front-runner would be "Undiegate", but I was disappointed to find that it's already been taken, back in 1997, when a New Zealand MP was publicly humiliated for spending $89 of taxpayer's money on a pair of boxer shorts for himself.

My next brainwave was "Budgiegate", in deference to the grand Australian tradition of referring to tight men's underpants as "budgiesmugglers".

But that's already been used as well, darn it, when a pet bird was smuggled into a high security prison in Ireland in 2007.

Looking at the picture of the terrorist underpants, it is easy to imagine the very localised effects of even a tiny explosion, so this opens up a new line of thought, such as "Knackergate" or "Castragate".

Perhaps we should simply return to the "Gate" which started this whole rather derivative naming trend. So this scandal could be "Watergate II", because of the obvious connection between the two, er, "Dicks".

December 06, 2009

Viva Volunteers!

Have you noticed that people who don't volunteer for things are very quick to criticise those who do?
I suppose it's driven (at least partly) by guilt, but it seems incredibly shallow to complain about someone who is doing something you are not willing to do yourself!

Not only are many people depressingly quick to criticise the efforts of volunteers, but it seems that some of them can't even grasp the concept. These people refuse to accept that someone might choose to give their time, effort, expertise or whatever, without expecting anything in return.
According to these cynics, nobody in their right minds would do something for nothing, and even if they can't find any evidence of payment, they simply refuse to believe there is none, and frequently accuse the volunteer of accepting "secret" payment for their services.

Regular readers might guess that I talking about the deluded individuals who stridently accuse volunteer DMOZ editors of accepting bribes, without ever providing any evidence, and certainly that is a classic example of this misguided behaviour.
However, I recently came up against a similar attitude in my local community, where an offer to create a website for a local arts and crafts group was met with suspicion and distrust. Having done the same thing for several years (absolutely free of charge) for our community learning centre, I was astonished to be suspected of ulterior motives, but apparently the whole idea of volunteering is simply foreign to them.

To all such people I recommend this wonderful photo.

Hint: think "gift horse".

November 29, 2009

Burpless sheep??

An uncharacteristically short and focussed post today, prompted by an item in today's news about research into reducing the amount of greenhouse gas produced by sheep.

Enquiring minds want to know ...
  1. Who thought up this project, and did they manage to submit the funding proposal with a straight face?
  2. Did anyone do any sums?
    "Agriculture produces about 16 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions and two-thirds of that is methane produced by farm animals ... Cattle produce about 70 kilograms of methane a year and sheep produce about one-tenth of that."
  3. Let's see ... 2/3 of 16 is 10.6666. So sheep produce much less than 1% of the greenhouse gasses in the country. Anyone want to guess the percentage produced by, oh I don't know, cars and factories, to choose two non-sheep things at random?
  4. Do they seriously expect to devise a genetic strategy based on a mere 200 samples?
  5. What sort of a surname is Goopy anyway?
  6. Would a real scientist say something like "I don't know if you have ever been inside a sheep's tummy, but it's the most fascinating part of the ecology," ("tummy"?, "ecology"?)
  7. What scientist refers to pathogens as if they are people: "we're trying to get a handle on who the organisms are"?
No, I think it's pretty obvious that this "research" is merely a sham, and that these are not scientists at all, but an alien life force whose first step in world domination is to occupy the largely empty heads of sheep.
Don't say you weren't warned.

November 19, 2009

People Don't Read

Why don't people read (or listen to) things properly?
Is this a modern phenomenon? A consequence of the digital age? A reflection of our increasingly complicated lives?
Maybe it indicates a disturbing increase in self-absorption, with corresponding disinterest in the thoughts, views and opinions of others?

Case 1
I spent yesterday as a clinical examiner for 3rd year graduate medical students. These are people in their mid-late 20's or early 30's, all of them with previous University degrees, and with only one more year of study until they graduate as doctors. You might reasonably expect them to be intelligent, perceptive, and capable of paying attention.

The station for which I was an examiner gave the very simple instruction to "Select a case you have seen this year which illustrates ... ". There were three such questions, each relating to a different issue, and most students were able to describe suitable cases. However, to my great surprise, not just one but several of them ignored the question entirely and proceeded to talk in general terms about issues arising from their clinical experiences.

All of them knew this would be part of the exam, and they were allowed to bring their case reports with them, so it wasn't as if they couldn't remember any specific cases. It seems they simply didn't read the actual question, and instead gave the answer they wanted to.

Case 2
I have written many times, and at great length about the process of becoming a volunteer editor in the Open Directory Project, as have many other editors (such as my friend and colleague shadow575), and the application form itself contains very clear instructions. These are not at all complicated or hard to follow, and we have had successful applications from people of all ages and levels of education.
To prove my point, here are some of the instructions:
"A poorly written application ... that only serves to hype and promote websites is unlikely to be approved."
And yet we receive many applications every day which are full of careless mistakes, and/or read like advertisements for sites belonging to the applicant.
"You'll be asked to supply 3 sample URLs on your application. The sites you suggest should be specific to the subject matter of the category for which you are applying to edit."
So why do thousands of people apply with only one or two sample URLs, often completely unrelated to the category for which they apply? The form even goes on to explain in more detail:
"By providing a sample of 3 URLs (websites) in your application, you are showing us
  • your understanding of the kinds of sites listed in the category
  • your ability to pick quality websites, and
  • your ability to provide good and useful descriptions."
I simply don't see what is so difficult.
But then I didn't understand why a highly educated person could fail to understand the instruction to "select a case ..."
I think the situation in both cases is the same: the instructions are ignored in favour of what they want to do - a reflection of the "Me" society I guess.
In other words, these people are saying
"I don't really care what you think. I am more interested in what I think, and I will demonstrate this by ignoring your request."
A very selfish attitude in most situations, but downright short-sighted and self-defeating when it comes to exams and applications.

November 07, 2009


I recently read yet another long-winded complaint from an ill-informed webmaster about the "lazy" editors in the Open Directory Project, so I decided it must be time to revive the issue of volunteering. If these persistent critics were willing to give to the Project even a tiny fraction of the time they spend complaining, we would see the directory grow by thousands more sites every week!
After all, it's really very easy to become an ODP editor.

We've had volunteers ranging in age from 12 to 80, from all over the world, of all educational levels, and even some with disabilities like blindness.
There are no time requirements other than at least one edit every 4 months (although many editors do a lot more than that), so even if you can spare only a couple of minutes every month, that is still a worthwhile contribution, and certainly way more productive than all those people who keep on and on and on about what somebody else should be doing on their behalf.

All it takes to apply is half an hour or so of your time to read the application instructions, find sites for the category where you want to edit, and complete the form carefully and honestly. Then wait for a volunteer meta-editor to review your application (usually in less than a week), and Ta Dah! you are a DMOZ editor.
How easy is that?

Unfortunately, the vast majority of new editor applications are completely unacceptable, and having personally reviewed over 12,000 of them, I still don't understand why. It's not as if the form is at all complicated (see my comment above about the range of people who have had no trouble with it), but in any case there are numerous guides and hints for those who do need assistance with applying - including the comprehensive FAQ that I provided here last year.

As with many aspects of DMOZ, there are a lot of misconceptions about the application and approval process, despite all the many explanations that have been provided by my colleagues and myself over the years. So once again, here are the most common reasons for rejection (based on the many thousands in my own personal experience):
  1. Not bothering to read the instructions (which therefore contributes to the following).
  2. Not completing the form honestly.
  3. Not understanding the category.
  4. Suggesting sites on the form which are already listed in the category.
  5. Suggesting only their own site(s).
Note that this list does not even mention the titles and descriptions provided by the applicant, despite the fact that these are often cited by misinformed people as the "main" reasons for unsuccessful applications.
Certainly it is sensible for an applicant to show that they have at least read the editing guidelines, because if they are accepted they will be expected to follow them. But it takes weeks to months of editing before these guidelines become second nature, so it is obviously unrealistic to expect an applicant to demonstrate familiarity.

There are frequent calls for more people to be accepted as DMOZ editors, so why are all these careless or dishonest applications a problem?
Firstly, the integrity of the ODP depends entirely on the honesty of its editors, so applicants must show they are willing to abide by the Conflict of Interest policies. A dishonest application is a very poor start.
Secondly, a person is unlikely to be able to contribute much to the directory if they cannot manage to find even 2-3 worthwhile sites that belong in the category they want to edit, but which are not yet listed there, and which don't all belong to them.
Thirdly, careless applications are a waste of everyone's time. Many hundreds of applications are received each week, and every single one is reviewed by one or more volunteer meta-editors or catmods, taking up to 30 minutes each, and every applicant then receives feedback, so the time involved is considerable, even when it does not lead to another editor joining the Project.

Let me finish with a reminder to all those whose applications were unsuccessful: the feedback you received was intended to help you complete a more careful and/or honest application, and many current editors were accepted only after doing just that.

Please consider re-applying - it's a fascinating hobby, and DMOZ (and the internet community) needs YOU!

October 26, 2009

Pssst! Want a free listing in ODP/DMOZ?

Hurry Hurry Hurry!
Special Offer!!
Step right this way!!!

Actually, it's not really a "special" offer, and you don't have to hurry at all, because the Open Directory Project has always been completely free, since its inception more than 10 years ago.
Yeah, I was just tricking. My bad.

I attribute such silliness to idiot-fatigue, brought on by listening to endlessly repetitive and strident rants from webmasters who complain that ODP/DMOZ doesn't offer the personalised listing service for which other directories charge hundreds and thousands of dollars. Why on earth would those other directories even exist if the Open Directory offered the same listing services for nothing?
It doesn't make any sense at all.

But wait, there's more!
Many of these people are so incensed about DMOZ being free that they try to pay!!
Yes, incredible but true!!!

This has always struck me as quite breathtakingly dumb, for the irrefutable reason that over 4.5 million sites have already been listed in the Open Directory at absolutely no cost to their owners.

But this blindingly obvious fact doesn't stop idiots offering to pay someone to list their site(s), and various webmaster forums and freelance tendering sites have several entries every week from people who seem completely oblivious to the consequences.
It is all rather depressingly foolish, because there are warnings all over the internet (even a recent post in this blog) about what happens when someone tries to buy a DMOZ listing.
Some people obviously prefer not to listen.

Astonishingly, it seems that even the risk of a permanent ban is no deterrent, when you'd think any reasonable person would try their hardest to avoid that. Fortunately, the volunteer editors at DMOZ are absolutely brilliant at finding and organising worthwhile sites, as I highlighted in my Blog Action Day post, so the banned sites of foolish people who break the rules are very unlikely to be missed by anyone.

October 19, 2009

Ugliness is not even skin deep

I inadvertently conducted a sociological experiment the other night, with interesting (although uncomfortable) results.
Having been invited to a 40th birthday party with the theme "Dress as a favourite movie star or character", and knowing that the hosts would have planned a glittering function, I had to give some thought to my choice. In a fit of whimsy, I decided to avoid the obvious and instead dress as the most unglamorous film character I could think of: Agatha Trunchbull from Roald Dahl's "Matilda" (gloriously played in the movie by Pam Ferris).

So I assembled my costume: deeply unflattering long shorts and a T-shirt, accessorised with a very sturdy belt, weight- lifter gloves, hiking boots, long socks and a riding crop. I carefully gelled my hair straight back, tripled the size of my eyebrows with eyeliner, and added a huge mole on my cheek for good measure. While our builds are not identical, I felt I made a reasonable facsimile of the character from the movie. (And no, there is absolutely NO chance of publishing my own photograph here. Pam Ferris got paid to look like that!)

So off I went to the party, chuckling at the consternation my costume would cause.

Sure enough, it was a very glamourous affair, with all the glitz of Hollywood. There were even 2 actors hired to greet arrivals on the red carpet in the manner of US television entertainment reporters, and it was certainly gratifying to see them lost for words when I clomped up the steps. They were obviously just on the point of suggesting I was seriously lost, or perhaps calling the police, but luckily I had remembered to bring my invitation, which I brandished triumphantly, and they were obliged to let me through, too stunned to offer me a drink or take my photo as they had done with others. (The latter was a Good Thing though.)

The other guests were a glittering crowd, to be sure, almost all of them in spectacular hired outfits. There were several Batwomen and Batmen, a Marie Antoinette, Zorro, FrankenFurter, Brad'n'Angelina, various Bonds and Bond Girls, the Blues Brothers, Braveheart, a couple of Audrey Hepburns and Marilyn Monroes, and an assortment of other attractive stars. I can confidently say that not even the Austen Powers costume was as unappealing as mine, and he had a proper wig and false teeth!

Well, I'm sorry to say that I seriously misjudged the reaction I would cause. Far from being amused or at least surprised at my appearance, those who did not know me (the majority) were either embarrassed or, worse, full of pity, apparently failing to make any connection between "fancy-dress" and "make-believe". One woman (a complete stranger) even went so far as to wonder why I obviously hadn't gone to any trouble creating a costume!! This was despite my helpful badge saying "Agatha Trunchbull (Miss), Principal." - she probably thought it was my own name, and a badge left over from some ghastly educational conference. LOL

I'm delighted to say that at least my host and hostess got the joke, commending me on my bravery at going against the obvious trend, and admiring my lavish eyebrows and home-made riding crop (a snorkel tube bound with black tape and a shoelace at the end, for those who want to try this at home). But apart from them and a couple of other people I already knew, it was very difficult to start a conversation with anybody, because people would edge away, smiling thinly, or even turn their backs with a poorly-concealed grimace at my approach.

I was reminded of those TV documentaries where a reporter dresses as a homeless or obese person, revealing the prejudices that still exist in society towards those who don't "fit in". The guests at this party were well-educated, mature, socially adept people, many of them well-travelled, and all of them no doubt considering themselves fair-minded and lacking prejudice. And yet their social skills promptly deserted them in the presence of someone so out of place and physically repellent. More than that, they seemed to wish nothing more than that I would simply go away and leave them to "their" partying.

Of course with hindsight, I could have taken a more "acceptable" costume and changed into it after an hour or so, to confirm that I had only been play-acting. That would have been very interesting indeed, but I expect the dramatic conversion would have made the more sensitive among them feel rather ashamed of their earlier behaviour, so although the thought is very tempting, such point-scoring is morally no better than their condescension and revulsion.

October 15, 2009

ODP/DMOZ: Climate Change

On Blog Action Day, bloggers all over the world are invited to participate in an annual event to raise awareness of a particular issue, and this year the topic is Climate Change.

I freely admit to being wilfully ignorant on the subject, largely due to all the empty promises and endless rhetoric from politicians, who can effortlessly reduce a meaningful discussion to a monotonous argument. As soon as I hear the words "carbon emissions" I tend to switch off, both literally and metaphorically, but I am certainly aware that this does matter, and it does affect us all.

I am therefore very proud of my fellow volunteer editors at ODP/DMOZ (the Open Directory Project), who have assembled an impressive collection of hundreds of worthwhile sites on the topic: .

As you can see, these volunteers have found sites covering all aspects of climate change, including
An outstanding effort, and a comprehensive resource for anyone wishing to find useful and current information on climate change. Please take a look!

October 09, 2009

ODP/DMOZ: Plus ça change

It's been quite a while since I last posted about the Open Directory Project where I volunteer my time as a meta editor. This may lead the optimistic (or naive) to suppose that all has been going swimmingly, but in fact the reason is simply that nothing seems to change or improve, and even I can get tired of describing the same problems over and over again.

Hence the title: Plus ça change can be roughly translated as same old same old.

Every now and then there'll be a brief drum roll and some AOL person will announce that a Shiny! New! Improved! DMOZ 2.0 is "just around the corner", and that all the paid (ie invisible) staff are working terribly hard on it. These announcements have been happening every few months for about 3 years now, so they don't have quite the morale-boosting effect on the unpaid volunteers that management obviously expects.

In fact, not surprisingly, the opposite happens, which is that more and more people lose interest. This situation starts at the top, with the ongoing decline of the ironically named Administrators, whose numbers and activity levels seem to have dropped even further than when I last recorded their attrition rate:
"So out of 16 people specially chosen by the Emperor to manage DMOZ, we are left with
4 invisible and inactive Admins,
2 invisible but apparently active ones, leaving
just 3 who are effectively fulfilling their roles."
That was back in April. The numbers are now even sadder, with the 4 invisible and inactive ones still resolutely declining to meet even the bare minimum requirements of their position, and the number who seem to do anything at all being reduced to 2. Full credit to them for carrying on, of course, but it does beg the question "why". Is the Admin role so pointless/untenable/onerous or just plain unpleasant that more than 3/4 of them are unwilling to do it?
If so, then why remain in the position year after year, when all other editors are required to contribute something to the directory in order to maintain their accounts?

The other thing that never, ever changes in regard to DMOZ/ODP is the frequently wilful misunderstanding of the role of an editor.

To increase the endless repetition by one more, here are the reasons editors do not "process submissions" in any time frame desired by the webmaster:
  1. All editors are volunteers who are free to spend as much or as little time on the ODP as they choose.
  2. DMOZ/ODP is not a listing service, and site suggestions made by non-editors are nothing more than that - suggestions of sites that an editor may wish to look at.
  3. There is absolutely no requirement for any editor to look at these suggestions, although someone probably will, eventually.
  4. Editors have many, far more useful places to look for worthwhile sites to add.
  5. It's a hobby, that's all.
No matter how many times these simple facts are repeated, obstinate webmasters and SEO "experts" keep on and on and on with their complaints, while steadfastly refusing to listen.

This technique might work for some small furry mammals, but it's pretty silly and very seldom effective in the world of grown-ups.

October 05, 2009

Canberra 3: Corrections (and some quick counselling)

I can now tell my friends I've been to prison.
Fortunately it was only for a morning, and although the admission process was rigorous, it did not involve anything more intimate than an iris scan.

As a sort of "field trip" for the Custodial Medicine unit of my post-grad Forensic Medicine course, we were taken to the brand new, architect-designed Alexander Maconochie Centre just outside the city. After 2 days of tedium, I was quite excited at the prospect of seeing inside a maximum security prison, especially when my prompt release was guaranteed!
It was definitely memorable, but a lot less intimidating than I had feared, with plenty of natural light and an air of quiet efficiency. Certainly the heavy doors (half glass, half steel) shut with a loud conclusive clang, and there were occasional announcements over the speakers, but in general it was remarkably like an office block , albeit one with a very minimalist approach to interior design.
We met several of the custodial officers, and they were affable and quietly spoken, but with the calm authority of experience, and a surprising (to me) understanding of the varied personalities in their charge. Overall, the manner and opinions of these prison staff were far more positive than I had expected, although the ever-present cynic in me wonders if we met only the best ones.
Nevertheless, the experience did not depress me in the way I feared, although it was certainly a relief to pass back through all the security checks and into the free world.

I hope it is my last prison visit.

I'll finish this series of posts with something I saw on my first day, and which will remain one of my lasting memories of the city. Canberra was purpose-built, of course, and despite the best efforts of town planners since then, it still feels rather officious and sterile. Almost everyone seems to work for the government or its satellite industries, and everyone I saw on the city streets had an ID card on a lanyard. They all seemed to be very important people in a great hurry to get to their next meeting, so it is not surprising that they don't have much time to spare for introspection.

Not far from my hotel, this sandwich board was placed on the footpath each morning at 7.30 am, presumably to enable workers to pop in for speedy analysis on the way to work.
I have cropped this photo to avoid inadvertent advertising, but the therapist had included a photo of himself, and you won't be surprised to learn that he sported one of those very irritating tiny square beards in the middle of his chin.

Anyone who entrusts their angst to such a fellow, or who expects a quality service in the time it takes to write out an invoice, deserves our compassion.

Canberra 2: Colour and Calliope

After sitting through several hours of mind-numbing PowerPointing (it's a really bad sign when the first slide announces it is 1/143), I staggered out into the watery Canberra sunlight and decided to restore my spirits with a visit to Floriade, the renowned annual flower show.
The organisers had sprinkled helpful signs around the city, showing the direction to go, but it wasn't until I'd walked for half an hour and ended up with no way of crossing a 4 lane highway that I realised the signs were for motorists and not pedestrians. Grumbling mightily, I clambered over a crash barrier into the car park and finally found my way over the pedestrian bridge, arriving about 10 minutes before the show closed for the evening.
Not that it really mattered, because I was surprised to find nothing more than a few large beds of tulips and assorted flowers, arranged in admittedly pleasing patterns, but hardly the floral extravaganza I'd expected.

It was certainly very pretty in the late afternoon light, but I found it rather disappointing. I guess I am spoiled, because not far from my home in Western Australia is the extraordinary Araluen Botanical Park, where volunteers plant millions of tulips each year, creating immense drifts that extend for hundreds of metres in every direction, between the native eucalypts. Click here to see photographs taken by Flickr users.

In fact, the best thing I saw at Floriade was a beautifully restored calliope:

October 04, 2009

Canberra 1: Cant

Last week I was in our national capital for a 2-day "symposium". I've been to many thousands of seminars, lectures, tutorials, meetings and presentations; and even a couple of conferences, but I've never knowingly attended a symposium, so I was a little curious about what it would be.

Well now I know.

It's a euphemism for "sitting around a long table in a small room listening to other people talk and use PowerPoint until you lose the will to live".
There's a lot of that sort of cant in Canberra: using fancy words to describe something completely mundane. Politicians do it as easily as breathing, and it seems to have infected everyone in the city.

One day I walked for 3 blocks behind a man with a very snazzy tracksuit, plenty of hair "product" (another stupid word), and a mobile phone clamped to his ear. Without breaking stride, he maintained a steady stream of the most impressive twaddle, reminiscent of "Yes Prime Minister" and every political satire since then. But this guy had no script nor team of writers, so it is very disappointing that the only phrase I was able to memorise was
"We'll have to consolidate the neo-liberal economic platform before we rationalise our own objectivity parameters."
Of course it could have been the other way around.

An equally adept exponent of cant was our "speaker" for one afternoon session, although "droner" would fit just as well. In order to avoid one of those ghastly head jerks or involuntary snuffly grunts which are such an embarrassing giveaway of the secret snoozer, I kept track of the nonsensical jargon and euphemisms in the presentation. Fotunately these came along pretty often, so it was enough to keep me awake. Here are my favourites:
"adverse outcome assessment analysis"
"suboptimal problem resolution strategies"
"diagnostic overshadowing"
"mapping the behaviour curve to generate intervention plans"
and the truly inspired
"the success of positive behaviour support is judged by the durability, social validity and generalisability of the outcome."

September 20, 2009

Wet Walks and Wildflowers

It's been a long while since I posted about my walks in the bush, but I usually spend several hours each week enjoying all the natural bushland around here.

This weekend I've spent about 5 hours doing just that, walking 10km yesterday in Gooseberry Hill National Park, and another 9km today, on an annual community walk called "Trek the Trail".

Each year, the route follows a different section of the Railway Heritage Reserve, and this colourful map shows the route we followed this year, but is grossly inaccurate in at least one important respect: it was not bright and sunny!

Despite the rain, however, there was an excellent turnout of all ages, which meant that the artists and entertainers along the track had a steadily passing audience of wet but appreciative walkers.

This is my favourite time of the year for walking in the bush, because the wildflower season is just beginning, and I enjoy learning to identify a few more each year, and improving my photography of them.

September 05, 2009

Gen Y - Not As Bad As You Might Think

I realise that the title is a fine example of "damning with faint praise", but a lot of negative things are written about this demographic, some of them no doubt true. However, I spend quite a lot of my time in their company, so I thought I'd make a few more positive observations.

There is a typically dubious Wikipedia article on this cohort, which is nevertheless completely appropriate, as they are overwhelmingly an online generation, turning to Wikipedia the way their forebears might have used bound versions of the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica or the more folksy World Book.

I spend a lot of my own time online, as previously described in this blog, and many of the friends I have made are in this age group. That's the first thing I want to say about the representative Gen Yers I have met:
1. They are friendly and confident
I have had long and entertaining conversations with many of these online friends, despite the age difference, and have found them to be completely comfortable discussing all sorts of issues and topics.
They are often accused of being self-centred, but in fact they seem to be more willing to contribute to volunteer projects than the time/money conscious Generation X, so I am happy to accord them another quality:
2. They are enthusiastic volunteers.
Another criticism levelled at Gen Y is that they are too "peer limited", using all their electronic communication platforms to remain constantly connected to each other, excluding the rest of the world. I find this particularly ridiculous, because what generation has not done this, by whatever means they had?
For children and teens of the 60's and 70's (Baby Boomers), it was language and music that ensured their cohesion and kept their parents' generation on the outside. Subsequently, it was the idealisms and ambitions of Gen X. In earlier times it was clothes, or dance, or any number of other tactics to delineate Us and Them. Plus ça change. :-)
In my own experience, Gen Y are refreshingly willing to include others into their group. I see this every week at the University where I teach graduate medical students. Most of them are in their 20's, but those in their 30's and 40's are accepted just as easily, without the suspicion and awkwardness with which many Gen Xers used to regard their older colleagues. So ...
3. They are inclusive and non-judgemental.
To be sure, these young people often lack respect, behave irresponsibly, and sometimes fail to consider the needs and opinions of other people. But haven't we all behaved like that at some stage? At least the relentless connectivity of Generation Y ensures that they are exposed to an infinite number of opinions, beliefs, prejudices and passions, rather than hearing only those of their friends and families.
4. They have a very wide frame of reference.
Finally, their internet-based life ensures they remain constantly updated on all current issues (major and minor), which is more than can be said for those who rely only on the evening news or a chat with their neighbour to keep them informed of international and local events. Whether or not they choose to act on the information is another matter, of course, but at least
5. they are well-informed on a wide range of issues.
So yes, I like them, and not just because they actually talk to me. ;-)

August 28, 2009

There Are None So Blind

... as those with their heads stuck up their ...
No, sorry, that's a bit coarse, isn't it. Better stick to the original, whatever it is:
"Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" ... agrees that this saying has its roots in the Bible, specifically Jer. 5:21 (King James version): "Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not"
... The proverb has been traced back in English to 1546 (John Heywood), and resembles the Biblical verse quoted (above)."
Of course we are spoiled for choice, when it comes to people who are determined to ignore the obvious for their own benefit:
alt-med charlatans
talentless "celebrities"
... the list is depressingly long.

Today, however, I wish to comment on a very specific example of blinkered vision - that of people who seek to justify their
own positions by assuming that everyone must want to be like them, and therefore deserves their pity or scorn, for "failing" to achieve that goal.
Such blind arrogance is counter-intuitive, of course. Those who do inspire genuine admiration and respect are never the sort of people to demand it, or to treat others as failures or, worse, as rather pathetic wannabes.

An Illustrative Case
(Details are vague for the usual reasons, but if you think that the subject
is not unrelated to a recent post of mine, I can't help that.)
Let's say someone with a rather mundane job and limited qualifications happens to be in the right place at the right time, and knows the right people. He might suddenly find himself in a powerful position for which he knows he is manifestly under-qualified, so he sensibly finds some talented assistants, maintaining his position due to the simple fact that he is the only one getting paid, which entitles him to exercise his authority in a way that would have been unworkable in a "real" job.
After a few years, however, he starts to lose interest in the project, so he creates a new management level below his own, so that his trusted assistants can take over most of his former role. However, in order to keep his salary and his position at the top, he ensures that this new level is not autonomous, and can be overruled at any time by himself.
Consequently, these new "managers" quickly discover that their initial pride at being promoted above their peers turns to dissatisfaction and frustration, so they now feel obliged to justify their own positions, until eventually they lose interest as well, and yet more have to be chosen to fill the gaps left behind. (An eerily similar situation is described in my Fairy Tale post, but please don't jump to any conclusions, will you.)

And so the cascade of condescension continues, because there is nothing that makes some people feel more important than identifying someone less important than themselves, and preferably reminding them of it as often as possible.
However, if they stubbornly refuse to believe in their inferiority, or fail to show you the respect you know you deserve, there are number of options available:
  • Start by idiculing them in public, highlighting their pathetic inability to achieve what must surely be their heart's desire - ie to be like you.
  • Threaten to reduce their admittedly trivial responsibilities even further. Because you can.
  • Persuade their colleagues that they suffer from delusions of grandeur. (Pot? Kettle?)
  • Randomly exert authority in unexpected ways, such as reversing their decisions and publicly criticising their actions.
  • Private harassment works well too, if the public campaign doesn't put them in their place.
Fortunately, most people can easily see this self-aggrandizement for what it is - a short-sighted effort to increase a sense of importance which was completely unjustified in the first place.

August 22, 2009

The Point of No Return

The title refers to the recent failure of the "Return/Enter" key on my brand new MacBook Air, and although I would love to claim the credit for such an inspired but excruciating pun, in fact it was suggested by an online friend who may wish to remain nameless. ;-)

However, that was the only bright spot in a tedious exercise involving
  1. Finding the Invoice to prove it is still in Warranty (no mean feat in itself).
  2. Wondering why this is necessary when the machine was registered with Apple - what is the purpose of that if you still need to produce the paper copy?
  3. Driving 40 minutes to the nearest "Authorised Apple Agent".
  4. Getting a phone call the next day to say there is no indication that it is still under warranty.
  5. Reminding them that they took a photocopy of the Invoice I provided.
  6. Grinding teeth while they looked for it, and grimly accepting their apology when they found it.
  7. Getting another phone call to say the key worked fine (subtext "Perhaps you are just a really stupid user?")
  8. Explaining that I had provided detailed notes on the service form about the fact the key only started to fail after repeated use.
  9. Grinding teeth again while they looked for the service form, and even more grimly accepting their apology when they found it.
  10. Hoping they can actually find the problem.
  11. Waiting, and waiting ... and still waiting. ("Estimated service time 3-10 working days.")
Meanwhile, of course, I am without my laptop. My shiny, undeniably gorgeous laptop. Above all, my expensive and new laptop. It does not seem right that through a succession of faults or errors on their part, I should be the one so inconvenienced and out of pocket.

But wait, there's more ...

Even more recently than my MacBook Air purchase, I paid Apple Store Australia a large sum of money for a new iPhone 3GS, which I bought outright to avoid the confusion of different plans. After a week or two it duly arrived, only to crush my expectations and delight by failing to pick up the wireless signal in my home, even when I stood directly in front of the modem, pointing furiously.
Another predictable sequence of events:
  1. Ring Apple Australia service department.
  2. Speak to friendly person in India who is terribly polite but completely unable to understand the problem.
  3. Get transferred to a succession of equally polite but unhelpful people in India.
  4. Finally reach someone who can actually help. Take a very deep breath and explain yet again, trying very hard indeed to be as polite as they are.
  5. Told to send the iPhone back to Apple, wait several weeks until more are in stock, and then receive a replacement.
  6. Explain that I need to have a mobile phone, so that is unacceptable.
  7. Ask why I can't keep this iPhone to use as a mobile phone until new stock arrives.
  8. Told that they will not even order a replacement until they get the broken one back, so the "only" way I can keep the phone in the meantime is to buy a second one, and when that arrives, return the first one for a refund.
  9. Momentarily speechless.
  10. Check that they actually mean for me to pay TWICE for a working phone, trusting them to refund one payment at some unspecified time in the future.
  11. Yes.
  12. Decide to accept this incredible "solution" rather than be without a phone for another month or more.

Forgive my rant, but I simply cannot see the "customer service" in all of this.
In both cases I have paid in advance for expensive items that I have to wait for, and then subsequently have to return at my own expense and inconvenience, due to problems entirely at Apple's end.

I've been a devoted Mac fan since the days of the old Apple II computer, and I still think they are wonderful machines, but their service seriously sux.

August 07, 2009

Homeopathy Rules? KO!

Essential viewing for anyone feeling "a bit poorly".

August 05, 2009

DMOZ Editor Corruption Shock (2)

When I first ridiculed the tiresome campaign against ODP/DMOZ volunteers by disaffected webmasters (and thwarted abusers), I highlighted the complete absence of any proof for their vacuous accusations, and naively hoped that it might embarrass them into admitting their fabrications and delusions.
No chance.
"There are none so blind as those who will not see"*

Sadly, the steady stream of vitriol continues, directed at volunteer editors whose only fault is not spending some of their hobby time listing the (apparently) fantastic site(s) owned by the person yelling at them. And of course these critics never have the evidence to report the "abuse" they keep alleging.

It's certainly hard to see any hidden agenda here ...
because their self-interest is so obvious.

How can anyone believe the histrionic complaints of people who have themselves tried and failed to subvert the free and open source nature of the Open Directory?
And how ridiculous do these hypocrites appear when they cannot even produce ONE piece of evidence to support their strident claims?

During a very trying year frequenting one of the forums where these people air their conspiracy theories, I was repeatedly told that the "proof" of editorial corruption (including, apparently, my own) could be found in the numerous freelancer auction sites where misguided webmasters offer to pay for a listing in ODP/DMOZ (which, remember, is free).

Of course such offers result in the permanent ban from DMOZ of all that webmaster's sites, but to determinedly unthinking types, the fact that someone tries to bribe an editor is "proof" that an editor has been bribed. Er, right.

Let's all hope none of these idiots or their followers ever does jury duty.

*There are many references. One is Jeremiah 5:21- "Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not". Yep. That fits perfectly.

ADDED in March 2011: Before you click the Comment button, please read this post. Thank you.

July 29, 2009

Onya Ron!

A brief post in tribute to someone who shall remain anonymous, but of whom I am in awe.
As I have previously mentioned, I spend an hour each week as a volunteer tutor in a free adult literacy programme, and for the last 6 months I've been delighted to work with Ron. After developing an unfortunate medical condition several years ago, he has to rely mainly on written communication, which was next to impossible due to his lack of confidence with spelling, grammar and punctuation.

But through a combination of courage, dedication, and a keen interest in reading books by good authors, he has gained enough knowledge and confidence to start writing his own stories. This week I tentatively suggested he might like to start a blog to present his creativity to a wider world, and I cannot describe my delight when he instantly agreed.
So now he is out there in the internet, and I am sure he will derive immense pleasure from seeing his words on the screen, when only a few months ago he found it hard to write even a sentence or two.

He has given me permission to link to his blog, called "Ronsworld". It is very early days for him, but what a long way he has come in a short time. I am honoured to know him.

[For those unfamiliar with Aussie slang, the title is a contraction of "Good on you, Ron". A heartfelt salute.]

July 25, 2009

Help! Help! I'm being repressed (in ODP/DMOZ)!

Why do some people have so much difficulty separating their identity from their position? Surely their own opinions and feelings remain independent from any paid or unpaid job they undertake? Or do they lose themselves in that role, and therefore come to see themselves as its embodiment?

This question has caused me considerable distress in the past year, because I have been villified for expressing concerns and criticisms about a position, as if I had personally attacked the incumbents themselves. The stridently defensive reactions of those who feel "attacked" have completely drowned out my protestations that my comments are neither personal nor derogatory, but simply an expression of dissatisfaction with the "system".

To indulge in some armchair analysis for a moment:
Perhaps those who hold such positions are well aware of the deficiencies inherent in their role, and this makes them particularly sensitive to criticism of it?
... Or perhaps they feel that having attained a certain status they are entitled to unqualified respect?
........Or maybe they are under such pressure from unseen directions that they have lost their sense of perspective?
............ Or maybe they just don't like me and my record?

As some very wise men once said:
King Arthur: I am your king.
Woman: Well I didn't vote for you.
King Arthur: You don't vote for kings.
Woman: Well how'd you become king then?
[Angelic music plays... ]
King Arthur:
The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king.
Dennis: [interrupting] Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some
farcical aquatic ceremony.
Dennis: Come and see the violence inherent in the system. Help! Help! I'm being repressed!
King Arthur: Bloody peasant!
Dennis: Oh, what a giveaway! Did you hear that? Did you hear that, eh? That's what I'm on about! Did you see him repressing me? You saw him, Didn't you?
Yep. Just like that.

July 22, 2009


A quick explanation is probably needed, in view of the disturbed people who might arrive here in some confusion after injudicious Googling.
In fact the word in the title is not a neologism, and can be found on other sites, but I am the first person I know to use it, so I take the blame for shamelessly combining a Greek suffix with an Old English root word to describe people strongly attracted to dogs. (In the most innocent way of course, and if any fetishists have read this far, please move along. There is absolutely nothing for you here.)

In my mind, dogophiliacs are slightly different from doglovers, in that many people claim to love dogs, but they often mean only their own, or ones similar to their own. Dogophiliacs, on the other hand, are irresistably drawn to dogs of all shapes, sizes and temperaments, although "Elwood", the World's Ugliest Dog 2007 (right), would admittedly be a challenge.

I am a lifelong dogophiliac, and although I can (thank goodness) effortlessly resist all the "doggy stuff" that canny marketeers tempt us with, I cannot pass up any opportunity to greet a dog, especially if it is looking at me in an interested way. I have to admit that both dogs and children frequently cast me funny looks, but I have never been inclined to go and greet children. ;-)

During a recent trip to the UK, where dogophilia is more widespread than anywhere else, I found that it works greatly to the advantage of the solo traveller. Many conversations with complete strangers started with "Do you mind if I say hello to your dog?", and because both the dog and the owner can tell a true dogophiliac from someone just being polite, this greeting is always received very well by both parties. It crosses all social boundaries too, and even the most patrician owner cannot help unbending a little when their pride and joy is suitably fussed over.

But a word of warning to those who might see such behaviour as an easy way to gain someone's trust for dishonest reasons - insincerity is very easily spotted by even the most gormless dog, and you'll be very lucky if your only reprimand is a look of cold disdain.

July 14, 2009

ODP/DMOZ Editors are real! (3)

The 4th (and last) editor I met in person during my recent holiday in the UK was also the most "famous", in that his name is far more widely known outside DMOZ/ODP than any other volunteer's - an unexpected downside of using one's real name.
I already knew that what is written about him outside the directory is complete and utter rubbish, but now that I have spent most of a day in his company, I can unhesitatingly say to his detractors that their puerile pronouncements and asinine accusations are not only slanderous but completely laughable. You should be ashamed of yourselves, and you are lucky he's not an American with a libel lawyer on permanent stand-by.

In the course of several years' acquaintance with him in ODP/DMOZ, Resource-Zone and other forums (I'm sure by now many readers will have guessed who it is), I formed the impression of a sincere and honest person who not only enjoys spending some of his leisure time on the Open Directory Project, but cares enough to try to answer other people's questions about it, however repetitive they may be. And I was right. He is and he does, with far more grace and patience than I can ever aspire to.
Not only that, but he correctly guessed the way I might like to spend a day with him, thoughtfully providing me with an assortment of dogs to fuss over, a wonderful pub lunch, a quirky English folk site to visit, and a marvellous walk along an empty ridge with views for miles.
As we used to say around here: I "dips me lid" to you.

... And yes, I am repeating to myself every day "It's only a hobby. It's only a hobby."
I'll let you know if it works. ;-)

July 09, 2009

A British Railway Rant

Privatised railways. Oh what fun.
In the last 4 weeks I have travelled on so many different trains I have lost count, but I have been keeping track (hah!) of the different companies, compiling a sort of league table. So for anyone contemplating a train-based holiday in the UK, it might be worth finding out a little more about the actual carrier, and not just the timetable.
Speaking of which, there are two excellent features of British train travel (think of this section as the Good news).
The "Train Tracker" Service provides detailed alternative itineraries for any journey you care to dream up, and works both online and by phone, where a very friendly and competent automaton listens attentively as you ask questions. He is very polite too, apologetically asking you to speak more slowly or more clearly if he fails to understand. You get the impression he really feels bad about having to ask.
The other good thing is the system whereby passengers can claim compensation for costs incurred by late trains. This extends to such things as missed flights, forfeited events tickets etc. Of course the umpteen page application form is designed to thwart frivolous requests, but at least it does make the companies take punctuality seriously.

Now the Bad news. The "system" is a mess. The standards of service vary so dramatically between different companies that they might as well be in different countries. You can step from a clean train with food service, helpful staff, and essential information about forthcoming stops, and then board an overcrowded filthy one with blocked toilets, no service (even on journeys of several hours), and a complete absence of information. How on earth is a tourist supposed to know where they are, or if the next station is the one they need?
There are no maps, no timetables, no announcements, and no visible staff. It's a matter of turning to fellow passengers with the irritating childhood question "Are we there yet?".
Complaints from the many people perched on their cases in the entry ways and corridors that they have paid £50 ($120) or more for a seat are met with the tired response that they have only paid to be transported from A to B. The cost does not include actually sitting down!
So, which are the best and worst?
Out of 10 different companies I used, some of them several times, there were 2 consistently better than the rest, and two who were undeniably the worst.

The irony is that the clear winner (in terms of comfort, on-board service, cleanliness and punctuality) is losing its franchise because of ongoing debts.
  1. National Express has the London-Edinburgh route, plus some others on the east coast, but they are behind with their (huge) payments to the government, so it seems I was very lucky to experience their wonderful service.
  2. In second place, and hopefully a bit better managed, is Virgin Trains. Clean, fast, comfortable and reliable, they came second only because they didn't have quite the level of onboard service offered by First National. But that probably means their figures balance better.
  3. ...
  4. ...
  5. ...
  6. (I won't bore you with these, ...
  7. ... and to be honest, I wasn't ever bored enough to complete the whole table.)
  8. ...
  9. The second last place goes to Scot Rail, on which I travelled for many hours without any means of getting so much as a drink of water. There were staff on board, but they sat reading and chatting among themselves, and requests for refreshments were answered with the unarguable "We don't do that". The route was spectacular, and the train relatively clean (with no refreshments available, rubbish was hardly a problem!), which placed them well above the dismal Arriva, but their complete lack of regard for their customers is hard to justify when all rail services are struggling to attract customers.
  10. Right at the bottom of this league table is Arriva Trains Wales, which seriously disappointed or inconvenienced me on every single one of the 6 trips I did. The blocked toilets and irresponsible overcrowding mentioned above were on Arriva trains, as were the absence of refreshments, information, and basic cleanliness such as emptying overflowing rubbish bins. They fell even further behind with a fatuous and patently insincere announcement "regretting" the late arrival of a train which was one minute late, and "apologising" for any inconvenience to passengers. This might have sounded a lot more sincere if the previous day they hadn't unexpectedly announced that the train would not be continuing on the scheduled route. We were told to collect our belongings and hurry (lugging our bags up and down two flights of steps) to a different train ... which then sat there for a further 30 minutes before finally leaving. There was absolutely no apology or explanation for this far more irritating delay and the considerable inconvenience it involved.

I love train travel, and I will use it on future UK trips, but the service will definitely need to improve before people consider this as an attractive alternative to using their car.

July 07, 2009

There's Nowt So Queer As Folk (3)

Last week I was ambling alongside a canal in Gloucestershire when I stopped to watch a swing bridge being hand-cranked open to allow two barges through. Having watched the operator exchange familiar pleasantries with the boatmen, I wandered over to chat to him. Sounding rather like HM the Q, I asked if he enjoyed his job and the people he met. Unfortunately he didn't like his job of 13 years, but "it's all I can do now, of course" (I didn't pry), and agreed that the boat people were generally friendly and easy-going. Correctly identifying me as an Australian (and not from Middlesborough as others have supposed ;-) ), he then asked about my holiday. On hearing that I had been in Scotland for 2 weeks and was now in England for 2 weeks, he nodded politely, but then advised me in no uncertain terms that if I'd come for an extra week I could have gone to Austria, because it was really nice there.
Feeling there was nothing I could offer in defence of this frightful lapse in my travel plans, I agreed sadly that I had probably not given it enough thought, thanked him kindly for his advice, patted his scruffy dogs ("One's a Whippet/Bedlington terrier cross, y'know.") and went on my way.
Fortunately, he waved cheerily at me the following day when I passed again, and the dogs stopped shouting at the boat-bound dogs long enough to give me a quick wag, so I think my poor travel planning had been forgiven.

In the same village I met Peter, walking his two tired and blissfully muddy border collies. Like many elderly men, he had more than enough time to stop for a chat, so we talked about the hot-air balloon race we'd seen passing over the village that morning, and agreed that neither of us would ever be seen in "one of them things".
Talk turned, as usual, to my holiday, and when I explained that I'd been on a walking holiday in Scotland he smiled knowingly and said "I expect it rained all the time, didn't it?". I agreed that we seldom had a bright sunny day in the 2 weeks I was there, at which he nodded triumphantly, explaining that he'd been to Scotland once and it rained the whole day he was there!
"It might just as well have been Cheltenham", he said dismissively.

ODP/DMOZ editors are real! (2)

In a recent post I mentioned the thrill of finally meeting a fellow DMOZ/ODP editor for the first time in my many years as a volunteer editor.
Well, I have now met two more, with another meeting planned for the day after tomorrow. I'm delighted to be linking faces and lives to mere nicknames. :-)
Last week I was somewhat embarrassed to accept the generous hospitality of an editor with whom I have had a long, respectful, but often rocky relationship within the directory. And over the weekend I was honoured to meet the whole family of an editor who shares many of my own values and concerns regarding the project on which we spend so much of our time.

Passions often run high among those of us who care a lot about the directory, so perhaps it is not surprising that one of my requests for meeting in person was turned down. Disappointing but understandable. However, I still think many perceived online difficulties can be easily resolved by "real life" meetings.

There's Nowt So Queer As Folk (2)

As explained in the first of this series, this anecdote is one of several collected during a recent UK holiday.

Even when things don't go to plan, there is often an unexpected gem on a holiday.
On one otherwise infuriating day it was the glorious presence of a stereotype on one of the many trains I took. He had a tweedy flat cap, hunched shoulders, a large watch, and a well-thumbed notebook in which he made copious notes every time we passed another train or a shunting yard. On the pretext of losing my balance en route to the toilet, I managed to peer over his shoulder, and sure enough, the pages were covered in squiggly numbers and times. Yes, he was a bonafide "Train Spotter".

But that was almost incidental to his sudden loud assertion that "Actually I prefer to sit on my own, thank you". This was directed at a boarding passenger who attempted to take one of the 3 spare seats around our hero. A spirited discussion then ensued, but Mr Train Spotter was implacable, and the other chap shuffled off down the carriage, muttering loudly about bloody people who think they own the bloody train just because they know the bloody engine number.

I was exchanging fascinated and appreciative grins with a lady across the aisle when the petulant voice rose again, explaining (apropos of nothing)
"I'm retired. And I'm not married, either."
Marvellous stuff.

There's Nowt So Queer As Folk (1)

Travelling alone by foot and public transport has several drawbacks, to be sure - it requires vast amounts of "waiting" time, and always involves interminable steps to negotiate with increasingly weighty baggage. But overall, it is a stimulating way to see another country, and opens up so many opportunities for meeting "the locals".
I am always much more extroverted on holiday, because I am confident that I will never see these people again, so I shed all self-consciousness and launch into many univited conversations. The result is always rewarding, sometimes surprising, and frequently memorable.
I will describe some of the best ones here - one at a time, so they can be savoured. :-)

The train trip from London to Edinburgh is a favourite of mine, but this time it was a little unusual because there was some unexplained problem near York which meant we had a long delay and were then joined by the passengers from two other trains. For the next leg of the journey it was very noisy and crowded, because one group was a bunch of primary school students from some small North Yorkshire town who had been on a field trip to the Viking Museum in York. They were very friendly, excited and chatty. You can imagine!
My "foony accent" amused them enormously, and we all enjoyed the guessing game about where I came from.

"Middlesborough", said one confidently. No, further away, I said.

"Ooooo Scotland!" said another. No, further than that, I said.

Brief silence, then in awed tones one ventured "London????".

I don't think they believed me for a second when I told them the truth, so from now on when anyone asks where I'm from, instead of "Australia" I intend to say "Middlesborough. Can't you tell?" :-D

June 21, 2009

ODP/DMOZ editors are real!

In my five or so years as a volunteer editor at DMOZ/ODP, I have made many interesting acquaintances from all over the world, and some wonderful and trusted friends. I have spent many happy hours chatting with them on IM and IRC, exchanged Christmas cards with several of them, and even spoken to a few on Skype (it's a rather unnerving experience to hear the voice of someone you know only through words on a screen!).
But in all that time I have never actually met anybody in real life.
Until yesterday.

Normally, I live about 2000 miles from my nearest editor friend, but as I am currently on a rather exciting holiday in the UK (of which more in my next post), I could not miss the opportunity of meeting some of the people I had "known" for so long. I was a little bit nervous, to be honest, because I am well aware of the potential differences between the internet persona and the true personality, but I am delighted to say that my concerns were unfounded.
Not only did this person drive 50 miles into the centre of the city on a busy Saturday just to meet me, but we greeted each other with all the easy familiarity of work colleagues or (as I put it at the time) fellow resistance fighters in an ongoing war. ;-)

The next three hours flew by with a lot of laughs, reminiscences, and an entertaining diversion in the form of three young American students doing a survey on attitudes towards their fellow countrymen. As we had just been discussing this very topic ourselves, the interruption could not have been more timely LOL.
It was strangely reassuring to have confirmation that this editor (just like all of us) had a family, a past and present life, opinions, beliefs, hopes and concerns completely unrelated to his volunteer work at ODP/DMOZ. Of course most of our very enjoyable conversation concerned the directory and all the personalities, minor and major difficulties, triumphs and failures associated with it, but I am pleased to say that we did manage to discuss other things as well, proving that although some of us may be regarded as obsessive, we are not exclusively so. :-)


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