Simon Willison’s Weblog

Items in Aug, 2012

Filters: Year: 2012 × Month: Aug ×

What are good ways to make a conference for which people are willing to pay?

First, find the right topic, location and date. There’s not much point in running a three day Big Data conference in San Francisco on the same days as O’Reilly’s Strata conference down in San Jose!

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Is it possible to embed Skype into a webpage to use as live chat support for free?

Olark offer a very neat JavaScript widget that does exactly this (it’s text-based messaging, not video or voice):—you can try their demo at the bottom of their page.

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How can you use SlideShare effectively to grow your professional reputation in a specific niche?

“How to integrate SlideShare activities with other social networks”

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How do I keep service providers and consultants out of my meetup or conference?

If it’s that important to you, make the conference apply-to-attend and get people to submit linkedin / github profiles or whatever to demonstrate that they are a founder/builder. Then only send invitations to the people you are sure aren’t service providers or consultants.

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What are good ways to get meeting with VC’s without introductions?

To get an introduction, you need to impress someone who can make that introduction for you. Knowing someone who knows a VC isn’t enough. Take a look at the section titled “Asking for introductions to people is tricky” on this page to understand why:

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Which digital events should I attend in the UK in 2012 and 2013?

If you’re building something for parents it might be worth heading to a few conferences in the US—there is a HUGE mommy/daddy/parent-blogger conference scene there which doesn’t have an equivalent in Europe as far as I’ve seen.

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What are the biggest sites/web applications that are using the Node.js framework?

I imagine LinkedIn are one of the largest now—they use Node.js for the back-end of their mobile and tablet apps.

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What is the technology stack behind Lanyrd?

Lanyrd is principally a Django application—we use Django and Python for almost every aspect of the web application itself, as well as the backend for our iPhone application.

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I was wondering if anyone can recommend any organizations/conferences or seminars that provide sessions on Writing for the Web?

The term “Content Strategy” has emerged over the past few years to encompass quality web writing as well as a host of other related topics. It sounds to me like you would benefit from one of the increasing number of content strategy conferences. We have a list of upcoming content strategy events on our site, Lanyrd:

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Is xkcd overrated?


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Can you use dropbox to host a wordpress site?

No. Running WordPress requires a web host that supports PHP. Dropbox only supports static content.

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Why weren’t the features of Sass originally built into CSS?

This is not a straight-forward issue: CSS has a very long, complicated history. A good starting point for understanding the reluctance of the CSS working group to add variables/constants etc to CSS is this essay by Bert Bos of the W3C (entitled Why “variables” in CSS are harmful)

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How can a web developer keep up with new technology?

Keep an eye on Hacker News:

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What is the Freedcamp business model?

I imagine they’re planning a freemium model with paid upgrades, but for the moment they’re focusing on getting the product right and building up a decent sized userbase.

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What are the few must-do things in London before one leaves this place for good?

In terms of museums, it really is worth checking out the big four: the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the V&A. They’re all exceptional (and free to enter). Here are some highlights...

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What are the best tech networking events / meetups / conferences in London?

Our startup Lanyrd helps people discover professional events, and we have a very healthy userbase in London. If you sign in to with your Twitter account we’ll show you events the people you follow are tracking or plan to attend—knowing that someone you respect plans to spend the time to go to an event is a very strong form of recommendation. You can also browse our full list of events in London here:

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Which tools exist for learning about the people attending a particular meetup / conference, in advance?

This is one of the most popular aspects of our service, Lanyrd—we offer an attendee directory for each event showing everyone we know who is speaking or has told us that they plan to attend the event. Here are a few examples:

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I’m a young contract/indie iOS Dev being pitched full time positions, what should I watch out for?

A great rule of thumb for deciding where to work is that you should aim to maximise the amount you are learning. If you’re the smartest person in the room, find another room. It sounds like you’re making decent money, but it might be that you’re hitting the limits of what you can teach yourself working on client projects. If that’s the case, find a company with people so smart it makes you feel like in idiot and try to get a job there.

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Why do tech companies provide MacBooks for software development?

Smart tech companies give their engineers the laptops that they ask for. Engineers are EXPENSIVE, and anything you can do to increase their productivity is worth the money. If they prefer to work on a Mac, buy them a Mac.

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How does Twitter select trending topics?

They use stream processing algorithms—they mention trending topics calculation in their technical blog entry about Storm, their open source stream processing software:

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What is the best way for a startup to attract talented back-end and front-end team members?

First, pay them properly. It’s a lot easier for a talented developer to chose a startup over an established company if they aren’t going to have to take a massive pay cut in exchange for equity (most developers are smart enough to know that most startups fail... especially developers who have been in the industry for a while). If you raise money from investors, this is what you should be raising it for.

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Do country/city IP addresses always stay the same?

Yes, they can change—and there isn’t much central control. IANA dish out IP blocks to regional authorities, who hand them on to ISPs,who distribute them to end users... But the ISPs might cover multiple cities or even countries. You can read a bit about this process here:

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How can I install apache solr?

Solr is a powerful full-text search engine wrapped up in a REST-ish web API. It needs to run as part of a web server—but the default download package includes Jetty which is definitely good enough for starting to try out the software (and I’d argue easily good enough to run in production).

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What are some unique and creative gift ideas for a startup team of 20 (ages 25-35, 80% male, mostly developers, under $100)?

Lego. You can get some awesome Lego sets for under $100, and all of the developers I know love getting given Lego (since they’re “too old” to buy it for themselves, even though they actually really want it).

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Events (leisure): I want to find out if there are any Hildegard von Bingen recitations coming up in San Francisco. Which website should I go to?

It sounds like you need Songkick—it lets you “track” your favourite musical artists and will then email you when they’re playing in your town. I believe it has the most comprehensive gigs listing database anywhere. Here’s their page for Hildegard von Bingen (sadly no upcoming gigs listed at the moment):

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Is GitHub looking to be acquired?

Raising $100 million at a rumoured valuation of $750 million is not the action of a company that wants to be acquired.

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Why should I care about the Olympics?

The sponsors, money and so on make it easy to forget the key thing: many of the athletes competing are still teenagers who have spent most of their lives preparing for this one event. That’s pretty amazing.

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