Sirens, Wifi and incompetent landlords

It’s 3am and I’m sitting outside cash converters on cuba street, shoeless, with laptop in lap. The fire alarm in the apartment building has been going solidly for the last 2 hours. The fire department couldn’t turn it off, so they ‘rang it in’ and left as quickly as they came. Half the apartment complex is out on the street with me. Some drunk couple walked past me and mentioned to some of the flatties up the street that “that guy back down there has no shoes but a laptop – he must be homeless but earnt a lot of money busking” ROFLMAO…

But seriously, 3am and I want to go to sleep already, dammit. There are security guards here trying their best to get the sirens turned off. Whats New, our landlords, haven’t exactly been helpful in any of this. Oh, and would they fix our elevator for once and for all? -_-; Incompetent.

I’m listening to the Katamari Damacy soundtrack I nabbed off of Macweeny yesterday. It’s quite relaxing, even though the drone of the beeping is still quite loud, even street-side. But it is quieter down here than in my room. And at least I’ve got Cafenet coverage here ๐Ÿ™‚

If a guy holding a white iBook is found lying down on the street this morning, it’s me. Please don’t steal my laptop.

Oh, and happy birthday, SmileyChris ๐Ÿ™‚ Hopefully I’ll see you later today, if I’m not freezing my toes off.

Fear the CSS Brace!

Today at WE05 was awesome: More visionary presentations, more hilarious photos!

After more legendary presentations from Molly, Eric and Derek, I attended the Ajax session by Tim Lucas. I found myself wanting a bit more, but it was still VERY good.

Lunch came around, so I caught a cab to Found Agency. I got to meet Zak, the guy I talked to on the phone just over a week ago. He showed me around his office in Bondi Junction, and gave me a very in-depth insight into the world of SEO and Pay-Per-Click marketing. Basically, there is OMG HUGE money to be made — seeing some of the Google Adsense windows brought it to life. He also described something called A-B Testing: serving up two identical ads going to slightly different convert pages, observing the difference that the slight difference made, and deciding to keep that change. Zak said that click through conversion can be increased phenomenally just by iterating through this every 1000 clickthroughs.

I also learnt that there are three types of “SEO” people: Super Affiliates (those who partner with a company who wants to sell something and enter into a huge referral rate in the hundreds of dollars per customer), Pay-Per-Click marketeers (those who manage their adwords and search terms they appear on) and Hybrid marketeers (those who do both).

I also learnt that Google doesn’t really like what some Super Affiliates are doing sometimes, and that the Super Affiliates are listening to what Google has to say, including the rel="nofollow" microformat. It becomes obvious to me that the ones comment-spamming blogs don’t really know what they are doing; shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to Google.

I spent so long talking to Zak that I was late for the 2:15pm sessions. I really wanted to see Cameron Adams’ Javascript and the DOM session too. Oh well, there’s always the podcasts.

Thank goodness I made it back in time to catch Tantek’s Microformats session — fascinating stuff. I guess I already knew about XFN and rel=”nofollow” but I didn’t know that these were called microformats. Yay for learning! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Then Jeffrey Veen got up and did yet another PHENOMENAL session giving us all the boost we needed to go back to our jobs and do this stuff we’ve been learning about. I’m totally pumped. I’m gonna go out back and kick that tree.

For some reason, because I was that-guy-who-did-the-blog-donation-box-to-get-to-WE05, I was given a collectable WE05 belt pouch for a digital camera or iPod or the like. Sweet! Thanks people!

The WE05 afterparty was at The Pumphouse in Darling Harbour. Putting my Flickrazzi hat on, I caught some hilarious moments of the presenters on NVRAM and have put them up on Flickr for all to enjoy, namely Doug Bowman dancing, Eric, John Allsopp and Mark Harris doing the WWW, Derek Featherstone getting drawn into a pint, Tantek searching for Wifi at a dance club, and Eric giving Doug in his patented “CSS Brace”

Tantek tells me that I can probably go find many of the places where scenes from The Matrix were filmed here in Sydney; something I was hoping to do, but didn’t realise actually how easy it will be — 10 minutes of Google Searching apparently… hmm…

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here in Sydney. Will I be back for WE06? Heck yes!

Oh, and don’t forget to keep the middle of May 2006 free in your calendars — a web conference in New Zealand is being planned, and you will highly desire coming along… but more on that later… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Dumpster Diving for Legal Software

Last week we ordered a copy of Macromedia Contribute 3 for a staff member. When it arrived, I put the box on his desk — in his overladen inbox actually. I walked away, and distinctly heard it slide out of the inbox and onto his desk true. He wasn’t in till Monday.

Today I asked him if he saw the software box on his desk — he hadn’t seen it. I told him it was a big white box. I got concerned that it might have fallen into his rubbish bin when it fell from the inbox — his desk wasn’t exactly tidy.

So we got concerned, and went and checked the rubbish bags downstairs. Luckily, we don’t actually have a dumpster, and there were only 5 rubbish bags, and 4 of them were translucent. Without committing to gutting each of the bags, sorting through the garbage, and repackaging it all, we assessed each of the bags unobtrusively, and lo, the box was located! Luckily, the bag was tied loosely, so we could retrieve said software from the bag quickly and efficiently.

The box had a few surface stains on it, and smelled a little like garbage.

“It’s just a little slimy. It’s still good, it’s still good!”

And the moral of the story is: Don’t have your waste paper basket “downhill” from your inbox…

Now excuse me… I have to go wash my hands… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Private Karaoke

Believe it or not, but Karaoke is cool. Unfortunately, us kiwis have preconceptions of it: we think it’s getting up on stage in front of strangers and singing along with words on a screen to complete strangers. Preconceptions become misconceptions.

Tonight, after a nice steak at the birthday party of my friend Matthew, he and his friends were gonna go and do some Karaoke. I was sceptical, as you can understand — I am the first to say “hell no” when it comes to karaoke. However, they mentioned that they were going to this place in Manners Mall — upstairs. There is only two bars on Manners, Hoops, a hip-hop bar on the ground floor, and the Pool Bar, which is a pool hall. Apparently, we weren’t going to either of those places. I was intrigued; I tagged along keeping an open mind.

Up the escalators in the Rock Shop Plaza and we reach the top floor just outside the Pool Bar. We don’t go in, but a couple of people from the group go up to “negotiate” our entry into “Oops! Karaoke”, a small complex of over 8 of what I could best describe as ‘karaoke booths’.

The seven of us are admitted and shown to a booth. The booth has 2 comfy couches, a table littered with vinyl covered books, a Korean remote control outclassing most label makers, two microphones connected by cables to a machine in the wall, which is also connected to 4 TVs in the wall.

Before I realise what is happening, a wig, a cowboy hat, and some tamborines are procured from the depths of the couches, and the lights dim and music begins. Two of the people have picked a song and are getting right into it, no waiting. I’m handed one of the vinyl books and told that the blue pages in this book are songs in English and advised to find a song I know and enter the code on the remote. I start flicking through the book, simultaneously listening to my new found Asian friends sing songs. (incidently, I’m the only non-asian in attendance) I’m sitting next to the birthday celebrant, who I know pretty well, and he’s singing a song I know REALLY well. He finishes a verse and hands me the mic. Everyone present encourages me to sing, so I do. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the songs we sang, but they were English pop songs that you’d probably know.

I get right into it, singing my best. When I’m done, a score comes up on the screen — 94. I guess it’s out of 100, because the birthday boy says that I did awesomely well. Well I’m not sure, but compared to one of the guys sitting across from me, I’m definitely doing okay ๐Ÿ™‚

I proceed to find songs I know in the book, and sing along with the songs that others have picked that I know the tune to, singing into the microphone if it’s passed to me. I’m having a ball! But I hate karaoke!? This isn’t the same as in karaoke bars; This isn’t embarrassing; this is having fun with your friends! W00t! I pick a song, and when it comes up, my friends join in with me!

In the wall, the little karaoke machine is responding to the remote. You look up a song in the book and punch the number of the song into the remote, and press the big yellow “reserve” button. The number you punch appears on the TVs, with the title of the song in English and Korean next to it. The number and title of the next song up are along the screen. When one song ends, the next song begins.

Quickly I realise that the machine is quite simple: it is basically a library of MIDI files, with a loop of irrelevant video behind the lyrics. I spot a laminated sheet on the table that translates the Korean remote: not only does the remote program which songs we want to sing next, but the remote can change the speed of the music, change the key that the song is in, change the volume of the music, the volume of the microphones, the amount of echo in the microphones, and even a button to unleash canned applause, the latter of which I managed to activate after a rather good rendition of “My Heart will go On – Celine Dion”; a song easily hammed, but in this case, well deserved of an automated applause ๐Ÿ™‚

The unit in the wall has a LED readout, one for the number of the song you’d punch in, but another for how many minutes we had left to sing. It started at ~70 minutes. At the end, we were having a really good time, and it let us sing our last song, then we left.

Would I do this kind of Karaoke again? You betcha. Making a fool of yourself in front of people you know, who are also making fools of themselves, is the best thing on earth. The fact that you’re doing your best to sing along to songs everyone already knows becomes hilarious and fun. Ask me 4 hours earlier if I’d have this much fun singing Karaoke and I’d have told you to get out of my face.

My name is Brett Taylor, and I like to sing karaoke with my friends.