(TL;DR: I built a thing! Go here to play with it, or read on to find out the story behind this.)
Last week I was in Los Angeles -my first time in the city- to speak at WebCongress about how to create affordable content.
Update: Someone from Amazon got in touch and said they were working to solve the problem for me.
I often see and hear news reports that pad out their stories in a familiar way:
"A women from Missouri hit the lottery jackpot this weekend - she's the lucky winner of two hundred and eighty six million, five hundred and sixty seven thousand, two hundred and eight dollars and twenty eight cents."
"Puget Sound Energy apologized for the power cuts today, which were caused by extreme weather conditions. The company says that thirty one thousand, three hundred and thirty seven customers were affected, and power will be restored to all all of them this evening."
Try reading these paragraphs to someone; I guarantee that they won't remember the numbers
Early on in my professional life, I was given some fairly terrible career advice: make yourself indispensable.
For decades, this has been the Standard Operating Procedure for people in a variety of roles and industries, from the developer aiming to be the only one capable of maintaining his own code, to the Project Manager who insists that certain processes couldn't run without his oversight. Half a century ago, this kind of behaviour might have guaranteed one's lifelong employment. Today, it will harm their career. Worse still, the knock-on effect can undermine the company and even the industry.
I didn't take this advice, but it wasn't until a few years later that I realised why: all along, I'd been working with a different set of assumptions, and towards a different goal: to make myself redundant.
Edit: based on comments from the fine folk in the comments thread at Hacker News, I want to add this TL;DR: "Maybe what I'm advocating is that people should think about their role in the way that a consultant might". OK; enjoy the post.
I'm a big fan of the 'omnibox' in Google Chrome (the combination search / address bar) - in particular I love the 'custom search engine' feature which essentially lets you define keyword shortcuts. (I've blogged before about using the feature to remove personalized results from Google.)
I'm a very heavy user of Open Site Explorer - the link analysis tool built by SEOmoz - and have set up my own omnibox shortcuts to give me quicker access to it.
It's sometimes fun to fire up Bing Maps, and engage in a bit of virtual tourism by visiting the Eiffel Tower, Galway Bay or any other sites you can't afford the air-fare for right now. I wondered if it was possible to share pictures of the places that are important to me; it turns out that almost everywhere was available in Bing's 'Bird's Eye' view - just proving what a townie I've been.
We moved to the leafy suburbs of South Manchester in a time before I can remember. It's a friendly, if anonymous town, with a great butcher's and a local pub that did the best pub quiz I've ever been to.
My girlfriend made me a Reddit Alien for Christmas. Having shared it with Reddit, I was asked a couple of questions, including "how big is it?" and "how did she make it?"
The first question has an easy answer: about 50cm from top to bottom. But just posting that answer would be no fun, so here's a photo of the two most important people in my life for comparison: