Sunday, 13 October 2013

Open House London 2013 - 74 St. James's Street

This is one of a short series of blog posts describing visits during Open House weekend in London, September 2013. You can find out more about Open House on their web site.

Whilst other, higher profile, locations attracted long queues, the situation here was far more relaxed, with a good opportunity to explore and investigate a site which has a stunning mix of old and new styles.

74 St. James's Street was the site of the old Conservative Club. Construction started in 1843, and although the club moved out a century later, the building went on to be home to McKinsey and Co. in the early 1970s, and now houses the London office of HSBC Private Bank.

There are a few more photos here.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

How to Recycle a BT Home Hub as a Wireless Access Point

My original intention for this box, having acquired it from a relative, was to use it to replace my Netgear DG834 router, which I use for my (wired) Internet connection with Demon Internet. However, having reset the box I found that it wouldn't connect given the correct authentication details, so some Google research was required.

I discovered that the original Home Hubs were configured only to work with BT Broadband, so all seemed lost for this box in terms of it being a replacement. However, I did find that it seemed possible to use it simply as a wireless access point.

To do this, there are two network configuration settings which need to be changed. The Hub assumes that as it will be the central network device, it should be responsible for handing out IP addresses to clients on the network via DHCP, on an IP subnet which can be configured on the box.

Firstly, DHCP needs to be disabled, as this will still be handled by the DG834. Secondly, the Hub needs to be on the same IP subnet as the DG834. In this case, it was different, so a change was required. By default, the IP address used by the Hub will be, for example, and it's also worth checking that this won't clash with anything else on your network.

My DG834 is configured to use the 192.168.3.x address range (for historical reasons), so I needed to make this change to the Hub, in other cases, this might not be necessary.

To make these changes, access the Home Hub via the browser interface by connecting directly to it using a LAN cable (a laptop will come in handy for this).

Select "advanced" and then continue from the warning screen. You'll need to login at this point with the Hub admin username and password. Then select "IP Addresses":
Ensure that "Use DHCP Server" is unticked. If the IP address range doesn't match what you're currently using, add a new entry which does. In my case, I then deleted the currently active one, however as soon as you do this, you'll lose access via the laptop until you restart both the Hub and the laptop.

Once reconfigured, you can connect the Hub to your existing broadband router using an Ethernet connection. I did this using Powerline Adapters, which allowed me to locate the access point at the back of the house, to give a stronger signal in the garden.

Here's a summary network diagram:
Now, when devices connect to the wireless access point, their IP addresses are assigned by the DG834, and everything "just works".

Monday, 15 July 2013

Nominet - Second Level .uk Domain Registration

Nominet are currently looking for feedback on a proposal to introduce second level domain registrations in the .uk domain space. This would mean that you would be able to register, for example, as well as for your business. This kind of domain structure has been available for some time in other markets, but not the UK.

I attended a Nominet round table session on behalf of the BCS Internet Specialist Group on July 10th, where a number of interesting points were made by attendees. The reason for writing up these brief notes is to give an overview of the topics discussed, rather than provide any opinion.

The Issues

Will this move create yet another domain name for businesses to "protectively" register even if they have no intention of using it themselves?

Which would you choose if you had the choice?

Who gets the second level domain name where there are competing third level domains already in existence, e.g. and

Who will get the priority when there are contentious claims to a second level domain - those who have owned the third level domain the longest?

Will Nominet use a model similar to New Zealand, where owners of domains were offered free upgrades to .nz?

Will too much choice of domain names actually drive people back to what they know best, i.e., to the detriment of the new second level domains?

Have Your Say

These are just some of the questions raised during the session, some may affect your business, or there may be other issues which you can think of which are directly relevant to the way your business operates. You can comment on the proposals until the consultation period ends on September 23rd this year. For full details of the consultation, and how to take part, please see this page on the Nominet web site, or this blog post.

There is another round table session scheduled for Monday 22nd July, again in London - the articles linked to above contain further information on how to attend.

Photo credit: Widjaya Ivan on Flickr

Friday, 28 June 2013

What would the city be like if George Dance's design for London Bridge been built?

This design for a twin London Bridge was submitted by architect George Dance, and the plans for it were published in Hansard in July 1800. William Daniell painted this impression of it in 1802. The twin bridges would allow road traffic to cross the Thames at all times, as one path would always be open.

It would have created a sweeping open expanse around The Monument on the north bank, and a similar crescent on the south bank. These areas are now heavily developed, and it's interesting to stop and consider what the city would look like now had this design become reality (and then survived the war intact).

The painting is on display at the Guildhall Art Gallery in London, the picture above is from the BBC web site. You can view the plan itself on the British Museum web site.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Six Silly Things to (not) do on LinkedIn

There's plenty of ways your Social Media presence can work against you, and your LinkedIn profile is no exception. Remember that LinkedIn is the social network for professionals, and you're probably there either to sell your services and abilities, or those of your company. Here's some things to avoid.

1. Send Default Connection Request Messages

Chances are, whenever you send a connect request on LinkedIn, it's either to someone you've known for a long time, or someone you met a few days ago. In which case, not having the time to replace the default message with one which says "hi", or which has a reminder of where you met, can make it look like you can't be bothered.

2. Send Generic "Hello and Thanks for Connecting" Messages

These can look needy and clingy, and are also particularly silly if you've accepted the request rather than sending it out. Got something specific to say - then say it, but if you haven't, save your efforts for another day when you can have more impact.

3. Use the Wrong Photo

As I've mentioned in previous articles, using the wrong photo, or no photo at all, can count against you. People are more likely to look at your profile if you have a photo, and if it's a decent one, they'll take you seriously, which is what you want of course. So, skip the drunk ones, the wedding ones, the sideways ones and the artistically cropped ones.

4. Confuse your Social Networks

Your exact whereabouts, mental state and the food you're eating are all things for Facebook and Twitter, but they're not things for LinkedIn. A continuous stream of irrelevant toot will have your connections clicking the "hide" link for your updates faster than you can know.

5. Break LinkedIn Terms and Conditions

Remember that although LinkedIn is a free service, by signing up, you agree to abide by their terms and conditions. And if these say that you can't put your phone number in the title field on your profile (and they do), then don't do that.

6. Don't keep your Headline and Current Positions in Step

At some point in the past, you may have put your current job into your headline, or LinkedIn may  have put it there for you as a default, and you accepted it. If you subsequently change jobs, make sure you change your headline as well, people may only look once, and you want them to get the facts as they currently stand without any confusion.

Read more for further ideas for your LinkedIn profile.

photo credit: cellar_door_films via photopin (cc).

Thursday, 30 May 2013

For Google Apps users: Cross-Domain Email Address References

Image credit: Beau Giles
Recently I reconfigured my primary email address setup to get over some specific issues I was having with inbound email from one particular client. I run one domain in Google Apps, which includes this address. The work consisted of deleting the current address, which was actually a group set up on the domain (which redirected to multiple email addresses) and creating a new Google Apps user with the same email address to replace it. After the change, I retrieved all my email from that Google Apps user.

To summarise with an example:

BEFORE: was a Google Apps group on domain, containing the external email addresses and allowing incoming email to be forwarded to those two other email addresses

AFTER: was a Google Apps user on domain

From an outside viewpoint, remained a valid email address, apart from perhaps a very brief period when I was doing the actual work. I expected that after the work, all email would continue to be delivered. This proved to be incorrect.

Following the changes, I noticed that I was no longer receiving emails from a couple of distribution groups, which fortunately I run, using another, entirely separate, domain which is also managed on Google Apps. In other words: contains a number of external addresses to distribute incoming mail to, including

Realising that I was no longer receiving email via this route, I logged in to the Google Apps control panel for and checked members of the group "mygroup", only to find that was no longer present.

So where had it gone? I am the only administrator for on Google Apps, and I hadn't removed it. It seems that Google Apps very cleverly checks email addresses to see if their domains are administered by Google Apps, and creates some kind of a link if they are. That way, if an email address is removed from a domain, that removal is propagated across Google Apps to other domains even if they are entirely separate.

I can see why this is a good thing to do, as it will reduce bounces. However, if you don't know about it, it can be difficult to track down if you're performing any operations which involve the temporary deletion of an email address, such as in this case.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Did you Mean to Mention me on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn recently added the new Mentions feature with the usual blaze of publicity, but like a lot of recent changes it's taken a while to propagate to all users, and in this case, to all browsers.

This is a great way to increase social interaction with those within and outside your immediate network. However, there have been some interesting side effects, and it's worth spending a moment looking at how Mentions work in LinkedIn.

You can try it for yourself by starting to type a status update. If at any point  you enter an "@" symbol, Mentions will kick in:

It also triggers if you enter the name of a person or company, but only if you've started it with a capital letter:

You can autocomplete the typing of a name at any time by pressing the Enter key. A Mention will be shown with the text against a grey background.

So what's the catch? Well, I've seen a few LinkedIn status updates inadvertently Mentioning companies because their names are based on words used in everyday language which could start a sentence, and hence be capitalised when typed. I took a screenshot of this great example which I saw soon after Mentions was rolled out:

This was a comment on a piece of good news announced by a company, and my connection simply wanted to say "Congratulations" - but inadvertently interacted with a French company of the same name.

As always, you should check anything you say on LinkedIn, and other social networks, as carefully as you can, whether it's a status update or your profile text.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

How to Banish those Reply-All Email Explosions

Photo by Gregg O'Connell on flickr
In a previous blog post Keeping Control of your Inbox I mentioned that using the Reply-All button can actually add to your own inbox jam. It's the easy option to select, and indeed the laziest - why think about who the email needs to go to, when you can reach everyone with one click? Besides, who cares if the others aren't interested?

Of course this backfires when others then use the Reply-All button after you do, and it's not long before you get the "explosion".

So here's a great way to limit the Reply-All Email Explosions, but like all things you do have to do a bit of work yourself. The trick is to use a targeted recipient list and then subsequently forward a separate copy of your message to a secondary list of people who "also need to know". If a member of either list uses Reply-All, they'll only hit other members of their own list, and not the other one.

As an example, suppose your report has to go to Alice, Bob and Claire for review and update, but you also need to copy in Dave, Ella and Frank so that they know that the report has been submitted. You could email all 6, but in the event of a Reply-All button hit by any of them, others will be spammed. Also, it might be better for Dave, Ella and Frank to not see the report until after the update phase, and comments at this time might be unhelpful.

Instead, you email Alice, Bob and Claire, attaching the report. Next, you go to your Sent Items folder, and forward a copy of the email you've just sent, to Dave, Ella and Frank, optionally removing the report if appropriate. Both groups now have the information they need, and any use of the Reply-All button will be limited to the groups themselves.

Of course, there's nothing to stop, for example, Ella emailing Alice, Bob and Claire and copying you in, but that's a process which requires a deliberate thought process rather than an automatic response to click a button.

Try it for yourself and see how well it works for you.

Monday, 8 April 2013

LinkedIn Rolls Out Roll Over Changes

LinkedIn has changed the appearance of the pop-up windows which appear when you hover your mouse pointer over the profile of another user of the professional networking platform.

This is another change to bring elements into line with LinkedIn's new styling, and like other changes it sees the component taking up more space on your screen, but unfortunately showing less information at the same time.

By chance, this change started appearing just after I'd run a training session for a client, so we can do a quick comparison here. Previously, the pop-up looked like this:

It showed your entire professional headline, which is the first thing that people see about you when they look at the popup. Now, it looks like this:

Although the headline is still there, it is truncated, so you should bear this in mind when wording it, to make sure that the truncation doesn't create anything unfortunate (a topic I've covered before). All is not lost, however, as hovering your mouse over the headline will result in a further bubble (or "tool tip") appearing, which contains the complete text. I've shown this in the example above.

My verdict on the change? Overall this shows less information that the previous version, so I'd say it's a bad move - the extra roll over option helps, but you do have to know it exists.

Monday, 18 March 2013

A Powerpoint Gaffe: Changing font mid-word

Photo by Paul Hudson on Flickr
Last year I attended a professional presentation that was reasonably engaging but, if I'm honest, not the most interesting I've been to. There was, however, something truly exceptional in the Power Point slides, which I hadn't seen before.

I'm sure we've all been to presentations where the skills of the presenter have been undermined (or reinforced) by poorly produced visual materials. Having spent some time as a technical person working for a design company, a few things did rub off on me. I know about keeping text styles and number of words used consistent, using the right colours, and keeping in line with corporate branding.

These things may all seem over the top, but there's one important thing to remember on every slide that you produce. You want your audience, as soon as they see the slide, to take in the words in the middle, the message you're trying to get across, the key benefits of buying your product. If they have to hunt around the slide to find that, because the text isn't in the same position or font or colour as on the previous slide, you'll lose their engagement. Don't make them work to find the message.

This presentation had all these things: bright and changing colours, multiple fonts, and text blocks which moved around the screen from slide to slide, and which contained a lot of words. It's not the first time, and it won't be the last, that I see something like this. However, there was a first in this presentation.

It had slides with more than one font on them. I've seen this before. I've seen font changes mid-paragraph. I've seen font changes mid-line. Until this day though, I'd never seen a font change mid-word. Don't believe me? Take a look at this screen grab from the PDF:

Whilst I don't want to get into the use of Comic Sans and when, if ever, you should use it, there is one place where you shouldn't, and that's halfway through a word.

Friday, 22 February 2013

3 Things to Never Spell Wrong on LinkedIn

Photo credit: Cubosh on Flickr
I've seen several comments over the past few weeks about spelling, grammar and general accuracy in LinkedIn profiles, CVs, and other important professional documents. Some of these comments have contained errors themselves. The irony of it all.

Spell check can help you with this of course, but there's a limit to the number of scrapes it can get you out of. There's no substitute for checking. Having said that, certain parts of your profile will always get more attention than others, so you should give them (even) more attention yourself.

Here are 3 Things to Never get Wrong

Your Job Title

You might think I'm making this up, but a quick trawl through LinkedIn for those working in "apllication" development will show otherwise. Even as I type, the bad spelling has been flagged up, so there's really no excuse here. Another favourite is confusion of "principal" with "principle". Spell check won't help you here, but if this word is in your job title, you're probably quite high up the food chain, and it'll be on your business card, so check it there.

Your Employer

Contain your incredulity, and search LinkedIn for "AXA Insuranec". You're unlikely to get head hunted by a large corporation if you can't spell the name of the one you're currently working for correctly.

Your Mega Client

Last year I saw a LinkedIn status update from someone in my network proudly announcing a major report he had been commissioned to write for his client, "Erst & Young". One has to hope the client was correctly referred to as Ernst & Young in the final version of the report.

Why this Matters

In an increasingly complex world, accuracy is everything. Mistakes such as these will demonstrate that you: either don't know about, or don't use, tools which are there to assist you; don't check your work; don't care about your current job, employer, or client. As employers and potential clients make increased use of LinkedIn, presentation skills (or a lack of them) will be one of the factors used when deciding who should be on the short list.

Friday, 15 February 2013

IT Recruitment Industry Resorts to Sexist Crap?

A colleague received the following email yesterday (February 14th):

Hi Sarah-Jane,

Hope your well.

I hope Valentines Day is not to cringe for you and although you may have that special someone special in your life, my PHP Developer is more special to you and your business.

He is available immediately.

If you are looking or are interested in finding out more please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Wow. Given the poor sentence construction and grammar, this might be unintentional, but it's still crap.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

How to Spot Fake Social Media Profiles

Fake profiles on Twitter are nothing new, and in the world of online dating they're quite common as well. You might think LinkedIn has escaped all this, but it hasn't. Help is at hand, however, because some of the tools used for other social networks work just as well on LinkedIn.

Stock Photos

Recently I was intrigued by a profile thrown up by LinkedIn's "people you may know" feature. Something looked a bit off about the photo, which had me looking at the rest:
I've hidden the company names, as they are all apparently legitimate. We'll come back to the photo, but notice the lack of details supplied for the three roles listed under experience, the 500+ connections, and the fact that she's a 2nd level connection - i.e. people I know apparently know her. Or not, based on my checks.

Back to that photo. It looks a bit like a stock photo, and that's because it is. You can click here to see it listed on a stock photo web site. So, if we come across a photo, suspicious or otherwise, and we want to check it out, how can we do this? Google Image Search is a good option, but there's another useful search tool called TinEye which comes in really handy for this. It's a reverse image search, so you give it an image, and it finds instances of it on the web.

Give it a try now, the URL of the stock photo is
- just copy this and paste it into the box on the TinEye home page, and you'll get over 600 results.

Magazine Photos

This second LinkedIn profile is a public one, so you don't need to be logged in to LinkedIn to view it, here's the link:

Let's put TinEye to work straight away. The URL for the image is
and TinEye will find 7 hits for this, and from looking at them you'll discover that this is, in fact, Indian film actress and model Trisha Krishnan. You can view the original cover of Maxim which featured this photo by clicking here.


I've mentioned before that it's important to use a photo, and to use the right photo, on your LinkedIn profile, so I should add that the "right photo" should NOT be of someone else, as it makes you look suspicious. Equally if you're approached by someone with a dubious looking photo, tools like TinEye are a quick and easy way to check. Incidentally, there are browser plugins available which you can use to cut out the copy and paste effort, and they are well worth adding to your browser.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

LinkedIn's Big Data Endorsement Game - Why You Might Want to Play

LinkedIn has received mixed reviews of its Endorsements functionality since it was introduced last year. Many don't like the influx of emails (though these can be turned off); or the fact that they can be endorsed for skills by those in their network who have no direct knowledge of their ability in that area (though these inappropriate endorsements can be hidden albeit with some effort); or that it's too easy to endorse someone which increases the problem. How many endorsements are legitimate? How can LinkedIn judge which ones are "weak" and which are "strong"?

Note that I have no connection with LinkedIn, and no knowledge of how LinkedIn actually processes our data. These are some speculative ideas about what LinkedIn might do, and why.

Weak and Strong

MarginHound's paper last year about the way in which LinkedIn might use the data acquired from members endorsements [1] got me thinking about the ways in which LinkedIn might start to treat endorsement data like Google treats page rank data in searches.

Consider what might happen when you search LinkedIn for a person with a particular skill set. Your search will return a number of people, and LinkedIn can now order these by the number of endorsements, which means that the ones at the top stand a good chance of being the most relevant, and most highly skilled.

The Problem

The "weak endorsements" problem, which has been widely reported [2][3], seems to be in danger of breaking this process.

However, help may be at hand, from endorsements themselves. First of all, you need to be familiar with LinkedIn endorsements and how they work [4]. You also need to know that you can hide endorsements [5] from your profile if you feel they are inappropriate, perhaps you've only met that person once at a networking event so they can't possibly endorse you for widget repairs.

Endorsement hiding allows LinkedIn to do two things:

1. Detect "endorsement managers" who take time to hide inappropriate endorsements.
2. Detect "compulsive endorsers" who endorse others, only for those endorsements to be hidden.

Using in Search

How can this be used during a LinkedIn search to improve the quality of search results? Well, having ranked search results in order of endorsements received, we could look at the endorsers and see how many of them are "compulsive endorsers" - and if they are, remove their endorsements from the ranking calculation.

In addition, we could also look at the endorsers and see which are "endorsement managers". We could make their endorsements "count double" (or use some other weighting) as we know they understand endorsements because they actively take time to manage the ones they receive.

Suppose Alice and Bob are "compulsive endorsers", whilst Andrew and Beverley are "endorsement managers". Claire and Charles both have "Social Media" in their skills on LinkedIn, and have received two endorsements for it as follows:

Claire from Alice and Bob
Charles from Andrew and Beverley

Since LinkedIn knows about the endorsers and their approach to endorsements, Claire's endorsements may be viewed less favourably by LinkedIn because it knows that Alice and Bob endorse pretty much anyone they can. Charles, however, may have his endorsements weighted more heavily because LinkedIn knows Andrew and Beverley manage their own endorsements, and additionally have very few of the endorsements they give out hidden by the recipients.

So, in this example, Charles will rank higher for endorsements for the "Social Media" skill than Claire.

Let's now suppose that Charles receives an endorsement from Diana. Diana herself has 150 endorsements for "Social Media" and LinkedIn analyses those and determines that 90% of them are "strong" endorsements. This allows LinkedIn to add extra weight to the new endorsement from Diana, because she has so many "strong" endorsements herself, indicating she is likely to be an expert in the field.

Remember, LinkedIn "Knows"

LinkedIn knows a lot about your network. All the time you've been on LinkedIn, it's been accumulating information about you. You have access to a lot of it, of course, but there's more that LinkedIn knows. A good example is how long you've been connected to someone on LinkedIn. You can find this out for yourself if you've kept the invitation and connection emails, but it would take a while to piece it together for your entire network.

LinkedIn on the other hand, just knows. It knows when the connection records were created. So one thing LinkedIn can do for assessing "strong" endorsements is look how long you've been connected to your endorser. Length of time isn't enough on it's own of course, you might get a "weak" endorsement from someone you've known for a long time, and a "strong" one from someone you've done some work for last week. It's just one parameter that can be used.

LinkedIn also knows who in your network is a former or current colleague, and what employers you had in common. This can also be used as a guide in determining whether an endorsement is "weak" or "strong".


As stated, I have no relationship with LinkedIn, and so don't know whether this is what is already going on, or if it's in the pipeline, however this is what I do know:
  • Criticism of Endorsements has been widespread and LinkedIn will have seen it
  • There are some very clever people working at LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn won't reveal the secrets of Endorsements in the same way Google don't reveal the secrets of search
  • Such a "socially determined" level of expertise could be used in areas other than search

 Further Reading