Blogathon 2009 — Manny gets a wrong number

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

So yeah, this happened to me the other day:

Set phasers on 'stalk'!

Set phasers on ‘stalk’!

Google is handy, no? In retrospect, responding with his name and address a minute later is pretty much the worst possible response next to, “we have your wife.”

I was really wondering, though — how do you even text someone at random? Don’t you generally select the person you’d like to talk to from a list in your contacts? My guess was that it was either typed in wrong or that someone borrowed the guy’s phone as a prank.

Of course, maybe he was just trying to get the word out.

Blogathon 2009: To WordTwit or not to WordTwit?

Posted by & filed under Blogathon 2009, Events, Omega Point, WordPress.


So I hadn’t tweeted announcements of my Blogathon blog posts for fear of totally spamming the hell out of my Twitter, but everyone else seems to be doing it — and in fact, are surprised that I’m not. So what the heck, let’s do this.


Duane Storey's back, hard at work.I’m told WordTwit is the “dear Twitter: I posted on my blog” WordPress plugin of choice, and it’s certainly highly rated enough! I hadn’t realized it was codeveloped by fellow Blogathon Vancouver-er Duane Storey, but that just means I can huck something across the room at him if I need help, right?

I definitely like that installing plugins on WordPress is a lot quicker and easier than installing modules on Drupal. The two are apples and oranges, really, but it sure is a pleasant change.

So it’s installed, activated, and now I just have to turn it on. Aaaaand, done. Neat.

One handy feature is that it can optionally use your own server as a URL shorterner service rather than something like or TinyURL. Sadly, “” is not exactly short.

While I was writing this post, Karen Fung brought up a good point: how to include the #blogathon hashtag at the end of the tweet?

Simple: in the Settings panel, you can just set the string, with escape codes for [title] and [link]. (Guess which one does what?)

Just add your hashtags wherever you like.

Just add your hashtags wherever you like.

So the whole thing is pretty pain-free, frankly. Now let’s see if this tweets anyone when I publish it.

Edit: Yes, yes it does.

Blogathon 2009: Infographics Part 2: The New York Times gets it right

Posted by & filed under Blogathon 2009, Infographics, Media, Memes, Typography.

While I found the CBC’s efforts lacking, the New York Times uses “interactive features” very effectively.

These little boxes? They fly around <em>and</em> convey information effectively.
These little boxes? They fly around and convey information effectively.

For instance, this infographic from last year uses area and two states to visualize the loss of over $88 billion in value during the collapse of the US banking system. It’s very effective, conveys the massive drop in value well, and frankly, it works better with an animated transition than a static image would have.

This is an important point: just because you can make something “interactive”, it doesn’t mean you’re not better off with a nice, standards-compliant JPEG. (Hey, how’s it going, Canadian Press?)

On the other hand, there really isn’t a better way to represent the data available than how the NY Times has here. Colour me impressed.

Blogathon 2009: Infographics, Part 1: Why the CBC sucks

Posted by & filed under Blogathon 2009, Canada, Complaint Department, Infographics, News, Usability, Vancouver.

Okay, this is something that has bugged me for a while. People who say “interactive” when they mean “hard to use” and “Flash scrollbars”.

While otherwise a competent, irritatingly underfunded news organization, the CBC sucks at infographics. Most of their “interactive features” are just text that requires a lot of clicking and scrolling to read. That’s not “interactive”, guys. That’s “broken”. (In fairness, a lot of these come from the Canadian Press, which presumably also supplies these horrible clicky things to the two other[1] Canadian news organizations.)

But I digress. A tad.

infographic-how nortel sucks

Yeah, that’s a shame.

This graph of the depressing failure that is Northern Telecom is pretty good because it ties news and events to stock price over time. There’s still ridiculous amounts of clicking on tiny little dots though. Mouseover, anyone?

(In fairness, there are at least forward/back buttons.)

I find it really bizarre that the two most effective “interactive” features on CBC’s website are both incredibly morbid: a “where did people find feet washed up on beaches?” map, and a map of gang hits in Metro Vancouver. (Wow, that map certainly makes the Downtown East Side look quiet. “DTES: Too poor for gang-bangers.”)

Both of these, predictably, use Google Maps, and colour-code the different categories of event at that location. (“Raccoon paw hoax” or “stabbing”, for example.) This conveys a decent amount of information without having to select the icon to view additional details. However, you still do have to click the thing to find out anything more.

I will say, though, that the effectiveness of both of these horrible death maps could be improved by taking time and date into account: personally, I want to see how long ago those people down the street got murdered in their attic. I mean, really, now. (I remember seeing a Google Maps mashup that did this, with a slider at the bottom. Can anyone help me out with a URL?)

The New York Times, on the other hand, takes online infographics to a whole new level, rivaling the quality of their print features. I’ll explain more about this in 30 minutes.

[1] Yes, seriously. (Stupid Conrad Black. Stupid CRTC.)

Blogathon 2009: The Typography of Idiocracy

Posted by & filed under Blogathon 2009, Brands, Events, Memes, Pop Culture, Typography.

So I’m a giant typography nerd, as any of my friends can attest:

Me: “Hey, a friend of a friend designed the font they’re using in that logo!“
Every single other person I know: “Yeah, that’s super, Catherine.”

As such, I enjoyed this analysis of the fonts and branding featured in Mike Judge’s 2007 eugenicist cult favourite Idiocracy.

"Haulin' Ass, Getting Paid": finally, the religious right and "separation of church and state" people can agree on a slogan to print on currency.

“Haulin’ Ass, Getting Paid”: finally, the religious right and “separation of church and state” people can agree on a slogan to print on currency.

A quick synopsis of Idiocracy: stupid people outbreed the yuppies and nerds. Consequently, the average IQ drops steadily. 500 years later… FOX News employs sexualized models as anchors, all entertainment is lowest-common denominator, and clothing is covered with corporate logos. Er, wait a minute…

So the joke runs out pretty quickly, but it’s still an entertaining movie, if only for the sets and one-liners: “You went to law school at Costco!?”

Ahh, Starbucks, home of Exotic Coffee for Men.

Ahh, Starbucks, home of Exotic Coffee for Men.

Anyway, I referenced Vancouver’s own typographer Ray Larabie above because many of the design choices in Idiocracy look like his 1990s free fonts. Which is kinda cool, actually.

You should read the review, Idiocratic Design at UnderConsideration now!

Blogathon 2009: Brewery Creek & Tea Swamp

Posted by & filed under Blogathon 2009, Catherine, Cycling, History, Vancouver.

So when I’m not trying to rattle off 50 blog posts a day from Gastown, I live at the bottom of two hills on an avenue I will describe for hipster-credibility purposes as “just off Main Street.” I’m cool now, right guys?

My house is situated directly on top of Tea Swamp, an offshoot of Brewery Creek. Consequently, the ground is not what engineers generally consider to be “solid”, as they say.

16th Avenue. That's... different.

16th Avenue. That’s… different.

As previously mentioned, my neighbourhood is composed almost completely of two-storey, basementless, concrete-slab-foundationed Vancouver Specials sinking into the muck. There’s also one impressively-designed house that’s not going anywhere. On the other hand, the roads and sidewalks around it are shifting most entertainingly. (This doesn’t make cycling nearly as awesome as it sounds, believe me.)


From False Creek: Then and Now

Today, aside from a good thousand houses listing to one side, the only other sign of the underground rivers that once dotted East Vancouver are the now stagnant Trout Lake, where tonight I hope someone will be Blogathonning the Illuminares lantern festival, the myriad orange manhole covers, identifying their contents as a culverted stream rather than storm sewer or wastewater, and the Tea Swamp Park community garden located at Main and 16th.

So really, that’s a lot.

There are ongoing plans to rehabilitate many of the culverted streams beneath Vancouver, the most prominent example of which is located next to Superstore on Grandview Highway. Impressively, it’s actually home to beavers… who promptly cut down all the trees in the parking lot. But you know, that’s what happens.

“49 posts? How short can they be?”

Posted by & filed under Blogathon 2009, Blogosphere, Events, Vancouver.

The question I’ve been asked more than “why?” or, “are you drunk?” is, “how short can your posts be”? This is a good question! I suppose brevity IS fastest, but there’s something dissatisfying about “only” taking 30 minutes for a blog post. Surely there must be a clever way to make it look as though I’m busy, right? And one that doesn’t involve writing “how to procrastinate” meta-posts?

Googling “how to cheat at blogathon” revealed nothing. It will now!
how to cheat at blogathon

When talking to my friend G from Manila, I suggested I could write all my posts in haiku form. This was met with some skepticism. Fortunately, my friend Sanja cleared the use of photos. It’s cool, everyone! Plus, they’re more eye-grabbing than text, to boot!

My research did indicate that apparently, the first rule of Blogathon is don’t talk about Blogathon. Damn. MentalHealthCamp organizers Raul and Isabella have been posting about things they’re passionate about over at Raul’s site,

Fortunately, while I may not have a cohesive theme, I am preparing a bunch of actual posts with content rather than complaining about having to prepare a bunch of actual posts, etc, etc.

Anyway, enough with these meta-blogathon posts. Next: Complaining about things!

Blogathon 2009: In Which Catherine Arrives At Workspace.

Posted by & filed under Blogathon 2009, Catherine, Cycling.

So I just swept in the door here at Workspace, Blogathon supplies and giant bike in hand, my blog post already late… I wasn’t sure what to expect, but 10 people sitting intently, more silent than a library? Yeah, that wasn’t it.

Early morning at Workspace

Naturally, I would have had to have opted for the extra loud-and-obnoxious zippers with which to feel totally self-conscious.

I’m also panting for breath and for some reason, carrying more stuff than everyone who drove. (“It’s cool, that just means you’re OCD, Catherine.”) Perhaps it’s time to invest in some panniers for my bike. Anyone got a pair in good condition they’d like to sell? One on its own?

Being that this is my first Blogathon, and that there’s never been one hosted at Workspace before, I suppose we’re all going to be feeling things out, but come on, people. Party. Party down. Also, I suppose I ought to consider the fact that it’s 7 AM and, judging by the cups here, only one of us has had coffee yet — including me!

There’s at least one or two “actual” Workspace people here getting things done that aren’t alarming 24-hour blogging binges, so I suppose it is best that we not all be topless and hooting and hollering, but I expect we’ll get there as the day drags on.

I’m wondering how likely it would be that I could get away with quoting excerpts from other bloggers’ posts, concluding that no, that’s probably not quite in the spirit of things.

Edit: Raul is finding something exceedingly amusing. And now he’s gone into the other room. What’s up, Raul?

Blogathon 2009 Agenda

Posted by & filed under Blogathon 2009, Catherine.

So yeah, judging from my Twitter feed, it seems like a lot of Blogathonners have already come up with some good outlines for posts. Mmm, interesting choice. I, on the other hand, am pretty much winging this. Bad. Ass.

So what’s on the docket for today?

I’m planning on sharing some recent WordPress discoveries, complaining about everything from Digg to graffiti, and finally, answering the question of why I chose the Canadian Cancer Society as my charitable organization during Blogathon 2009.

Also, spurred on by recent “what should I have on my iPhone, guys?” conversations, I’ll be posting some quick reviews of a couple iPhone games that are really a pitiful, transparent attempt to boast about my high scores.

See you shortly!

Blogathon 2009: The Get-Out-Of-Beddening.

Posted by & filed under Blogathon 2009, Catherine, Events.

Fans, I’m up bright and early and set for a full 24 hours of blogging.

The temperature is supposed to get up to 27 today, and I’m hoping for some wind to keep things cool. Thankfully, I’m not blogging from home, but rather, I’ll be heading down to the blogging sweatshop that is Workspace shortly to meet up with the majority of Vancouver’s blogathoning contingent, some of whom are already there. That’s devotion to a cause, people.[1]

I have a bunch of rough ideas for posts and I’m sure things will get just meta as all-get-out at Workspace as “wow, I’m at Blogathon and there’s other bloggers here” posts turn to “so… so very tired.”

Wait, why the hell am I doing this again? Oh right. To raise money and awareness for the Canadian Cancer Society. I GUESS that’s okay. Speaking of, you should donate! Remember, if you’ve got something you think I should be talking about on here today,[2] I can be bought.

So, one update down, 48 to go.

[1] Okay, fine. Causes.

[2] Also, 25% of tomorrow.