A general grab-bag of tips for using LaTeX, from the days when I still used it a lot: To add nice headers and footers to each page use the fancyhdr package. Use glosstex for most acronym and glossary needs. Use the hyphenat package if you need monospace text (such as that set by the \texttt command) to wrap correctly, with hyphenation marks. The varioref package provides easy-to-use cross referencing with automatic phrases such as ‘on the following page…’ etc.
As I mentioned recently, I’ve been using Dopplr and TripIt a lot recently as I’ve been travelling more. Although TripIt is far more featureful, I know more people on Dopplr and so keeping it up-to-date is useful as it increases the chance of serendipitous coincidences. They are competitors, but I like them both. So far it’s been a pain to enter information into Dopplr manually, but they announced today that it can now watch iCal calendars and create trips accordingly.
As I’ve starting travelling a lot recently, I’ve been making reasonably heavy use of both Dopplr and the less well-known TripIt. The idea behind Dopplr is simple: tell it which cities you’re travelling to and it will share that information with your other Dopplr contacts, notifying you when you’re in the same place. You can also syndicate your travel plans - I have mine published on Facebook and available as a feed via Google Calendar.
A long discussion with plv the other day about open source and what it really meant got me thinking about that model when applied to other domains, such as mapping. Google have clearly made a success of Google Maps (I’ve discussed Google Maps before as compared to Multimap - not entirely favourably - but whatever I think, the market loves the former). Plenty of competitors have also sprung up, notably from Microsoft.
I’ve recently taken to reading a lot more on-line - particularly as services such as del.icio.us have helped me to find high-quality content and more high-quality blogs come on the scene. This, of course, is the long tail of written content. One of the things I’ve noticed, though, is that as I read more and different things, I get more impatient with long articles. I hardly read non-fiction books any more, and fiction books almost never (preferring film).
I wrote recently about my indecision surrounding the domain of information design; should detail or simplicity win out? (as always, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle - but hey, that’s boring). Google Maps and Multimap provide an interesting example of what I’m talking about. Google’s maps are simple; straightforward; and link together yellow pages data with mapping data - together with some cool APIs that enable rip-offs (an ancient term for a mashup).
I’m undecided on information design. For a long time, I’ve been a big fan of Edward Tufte: his wordy-but-worthy book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, is a classic of non-fiction (“Best 100 books of the 20th century.” - Amazon), and is self-exemplifying to a fault: the typography is beautiful, the illustrations rich and detailed. It’s also a classic treatise on how to visually abuse statistics. His other publications, whilst they cover some of the same topics, aren’t quite so easy to follow, although the short essay The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint is worth a read if you’re a Powerpoint hater like me (also see Peter Norvig’s Gettysburg Address in Powerpoint).
Google have created a powerful brand based on creating simplicity from complexity (what all good IT is about). Their tools aren’t perfect, but they’ve made life easier for billions, and so I think they still deserve some free feedback from time-to-time. So, a few thoughts: Mr. Google, please develop a podcast search engine. So much interesting content is now being released as podcasts (quick plug for my favourite: EconTalk), that it would be useful to be able to search them.
I’ve upgraded my interweb connection to Web 2.0 in the last few months. Although no-one can really point to what Web 2.0 is (even though there’s a validator for it), many people feel that they know it when they see it. I now defend the term against cynics because I think it’s genuinely useful. To me, it’s a combination of little things: blogging and feedreading, a good quality web browser, in-place dynamic web sites (mostly driven by AJAX), to name but a few.
After euroGel 2006, which was truly a ‘good’ experience for me, Mark Hurst has announced that euroGel is coming back to Copenhagen in 2007. I’ve just booked my ticket, and as a previous attendee, I’ve got a 20% discount, so the price was only USD $480. I’m allowed to share this discount (which is only valid until this Friday, 22nd September) with friends and colleagues, so if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll send you the link.