Valentine’s Day: True Love

The hopeful lonely, fire overpriced soft-toys at their unsuspecting targets.

The self-centred married, overspend on guilt-fuelled-tat;
as if to repair the damage done during a year of falling short of the mark.

Lap it up consumers, and remember: nobody will believe it’s true love if it’s not expensive.

Open Science Coding

Portsmouth ICG alumnus David Parkinson recently wrote:

One of these days I’m going to show my python code to someone who actually programs in python for a living. They’re going to laugh. Laugh and laugh and laugh… and laugh. And then cry.

David’s not the first scientist I know who’s said this, for example, I heard almost the same thing from Cameron Neylon last year when he was presenting to my final-year Web Research group.  Cameron (who’s an advocate of Open Science) was demonstrating how he’d hacked up a bit of python to show the growth of Open Access publishing, but at the same time apologising that he’s originally a Bio-Chemist so the code does a job, but doesn’t necessarily do it as well or as ‘beautifully’ or efficiently as it perhaps might.

These are both examples of sharing code after its development.  There are big advantages to publishing experimental code such as this during its development:

  1. It encourages peer review of the experimental process earlier in the project which may reduce the potential for errors due code not doing what is intended.
  2. It provides third party developers with the opportunity to be involved in research by actively contributing to the code by improving it, even if they are not specialists in the subject being studied, their specialism in software development adds orthogonal value.
  3. It provides subject specialists with opportunity to see how their code has been improved so they can learn from this and write improved code themselves next time, possibly seeing new solutions and experiment-options as a result.

Historically (however) it’s common that experimental code is published either:

  1. after papers are written and results are published, or
  2. never (even if there are good intentions to do so, time and funding dry up and the code dies alone).  There may also be historic reasons why it’s not possible to publish code: often research organisations have little experience with Free Software so IPR fears can inhibit the potential openness of any project, but, the more open projects there are, the more opportunity there is for understanding to grow, fear to wane, and open science to blossom.

So, in the near term, developing non-critical code openly may be the best way forward.  If researchers can get in the habit of developing tools, utilities and other small projects openly then that may be the first step to encouraging all scientists to think and solve problems as part of a global ad-hoc developer collective.

Where is the best place to put a fire extinguisher?

Everything is everyone’s collective responsibility.  If you see something that seems a bit wonky, it makes sense to ask questions.  Peace of mind should be the result, but what if you’re not sure, or what if you ask questions and the answers are unconvincing?  So, dear lazyweb, I ask you, where is the best place to put a fire extinguisher?   In the following notes, bold emphasis is mine…

This article from Fire Protection UK suggests that:

The positioning of your fire extinguishers is extremely important as every second counts in an emergency situation and you have to remember that the person trying to find them may be a first time visitor to your premises.

This makes good sense to me.  Additionally Essential Fire Safety add that:

if you can see the whole extinguisher from top to bottom, you probably have good access to it.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service offer that extinguishers should be:

in conspicuous positions where persons following an escape route can easily see them

The Fire Safety Advice Centre observe that extinguishers:

should be fixed where they can be easily seen, fixing them inside cupboards or behind doors will only waste valuable time if a fire breaks out.

Much of this advice appears to be based on BS 5306-8:2012, but that costs £68, so I’m not buying that on the basis of being a mildly concerned citizen.

So, given that this appears to be all common sense stuff, why do so many places hide their fire extinguishers?  For example, here’s my local supermarket.  Can you see the whole of the extinguisher from top to bottom?  Is it easily seen and in a conspicuous position so it will be noticed by a first time visitor to the premesis?


Hint: There’s two, nestled behind the blue drag-baskets, next to the stacked charcoal.


Fun times with the ever awesome SREs on reddit answering your questions:

Andy Walker originally shared this post:

Fun times with the ever awesome SREs on reddit answering your questions:

We are the Google Site Reliability team. We make Google’s websites work. Ask us Anything! : IAmA

Hello, reddit! We are the Google Site Reliability (SRE) team. We’re responsible for the 24×7 operation of, as well as the technical infras…

Comment on Google+

Technology is gloriously disruptive.

Technology is gloriously disruptive.
Processes change slowly.
In the middle, geeks watch, amused.

For example, today I got an MS Word document (and I don't have word on any of my 3 machines).  The document was emailed to 20 researchers, saying "here is your new website" please send any modifications by return.

I suppose it's progress… they could have sent it hard copy.

Comment on Google+

A place for words and data that I publish (for the benefit of persons unknown).


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