Monthly Archives: September 2006

Akismet Spam Filtering, The Bringer Of Light

Akismet Spam Filter, Caught & Nailed 21,324 Spam MessagesWhether you read email or have your own web site, everyone hates spam. Toward the middle of the year, I was being overwhelmed by comment spam on my site. Initially it was just one or two, then five or ten – soon they were comng in thick and fast and I couldn’t keep up with them manually. When that happened, it was time to find an automated solution; enter Akismet.

For those that aren’t aware, Akismet is a centralised hosted spam filtering service which has been developed by the same people that brought you WordPress. The whole system is very simple:

  • You signup for an account at
  • Install or integrate an Akismet plugin or wrapper into your preferred utility, blogging or other
  • Revel in the glory of spam freedom

Akismet spam filtering utilises an undocumented system (probably Bayesian based), along with a whole bunch of secret squirrel stuff to knock spam on the head. When you combine a solid foundation, plenty of innovation and an enormous online community to power it; you end up with a very sound spam filtering platform.

Since implementing Akismet spam filtering at the start of August 2006, it has filtered and saved me dealing with a whopping 21,324 dirty dirty spam messages. It hasn’t returned a false positive for me in so long now that I lay pretty much 100% confidence in it; only giving the spam a cursory scan to make sure there isn’t anything legitimate in it.

Die filthy spammers, die.

Profiteering Convenience Stores

Everyone complains about the recent price of fuel. In the last 6 months, I don’t personally recall ever paying over AUD$1.50/L for it. I just went down to a convenience store in the heart of Surfers Paradise and paid AUD$3.20 for a 600ml Coke. Break that down and it works out to be a whopping AUD$5.33 per litre.

Explain to me how a 600ml Coke can possibly cost more than three times that of processing crude oil.

The Sheep Market

Today I stumbled upon a strange site named The Sheep Market. What is it all about you ask; I have no idea. What is interesting though, is to see how people mentally picture sheep and then represent that mental image digitally.

Essentially, the owners of The Sheep Market have paid a bunch of people online to draw a sheep facing left. They didn’t say what it had to look like, if it could or couldn’t be three dimensional – it just had to be a sheep. During the drawing phase, the ‘brushstrokes’ of the artist are captured and are replayed as you select the sheep.

One of the things I thought interesting is that an overwhelming majority of the sheep are a simple line drawing; while the minority have filled the background with black and used blocks of colour to represent their sheep. The second thing which was interesting was the speed of the brushstrokes or mouse pointer. Some of the users are very cautious and precise, while others bash out their sheep in a handful of swift movements.

The Sheep Market is a strange little site but I think it’s kind of neat.

Time Management: Key Result Areas

Time management is about achieving the greatest volume of useful work in a fixed amount of time. There is a particularly important word in the previous sentence which you might have glanced over, can you pick it out? If you chose greatest, you would be incorrect in my opinion – it was useful.

Time management could be considered subjective; what I think is time spent wisely, you could consider a waste of time and visa versa. The obvious question should then be:

How do I accurately select items to spend my time on?

The answer to this simple question rests with a phrase you may or may not have heard: Key Result Areas. A key result area (also known as Key Performance Indicators) describe the main areas of responsibility or accountability of a job. A key result area is not a particular task and they are not really goals; they do however group together tasks which help to achieve a result. An example for a retail manager might be customer relations or leadership while for a software developer it might include software quality or business efficiency.

If you were to relate a key result area to your daily job, they would form your primary roles or responsibilities. From a productivity stand point, if everyone could manage to have a high ratio of key result area tasks to non-key result area tasks; everyone would be incredibly productive. Unfortunately in the real world, this is often not the case which is where the management of your work priorities comes into play. You must find the appropriate balance between key result areas and non-key result areas.

Getting back to the two important points, greatest and useful. Without realising it, your time can be consumed very easily by doing a lot of little tasks. Doing a lot of little tasks isn’t in itself a problem, however if those smaller tasks aren’t contibuting to your key result areas or performance indicators then you’re time isn’t being utilised as efficiently as possible. Fortunately, there are a few simple questions to ask yourself to try and swing it back into the favour of the key result area. Does your current or next task:

  • increase revenue or decrease costs?
  • increase the quality of the product or service?
  • increase the quantity of product produced?
  • increase business efficiency or decrease the time?
  • increase security or reduce risk?
  • increase safety?

If you are answering yes to one or more of the above points, then there is a good chance the task will contribute to your key result areas in some way. If you are not answering yes to any of them, you should probably be asking yourself why you’re completing this task and not a more important one. Of course, there will always be situations where you need to complete non-key performance indicator tasks. This is the exact scenario where your time management skills must come into play and find the appropriate balance of these tasks to achieve the highest performance from your company, staff or yourself.

As a self development exercise, take notice of the type of tasks you are performing and how many of them are being attended to. Make sure you are counting all the tasks, even the ones that you don’t complete – as an incomplete task still competed for your attention and work time. Once you have your list, run each set of tasks through the itemised list above. Out of your list of tasks, how many of them satisfied one or more of the above points? If you completed tasks which didn’t satisfy at least one of the above points – ask yourself why it got your attention.

Time management is about working effectively; achieving the most good in a fixed amount of time. If you’re not primarily working on your key result area tasks, then you aren’t effectively managing your time. What you might find is that you are being efficient, in that you are completing a lot of tasks but they aren’t the tasks that you should be completing. Be mindful of what items are actually getting your attention and work time, you might find that the wheels are turning and you’re not getting anywhere.

Steve Irwin Dies & Kills The Internet

Steve Irwin, known around the world as “The Crocodile Hunter” has died today at the age of 44 in a freak diving accident in Tropical North Queensland. Steve was shooting an underwater video off the coast of Port Douglas, when he was speared through the chest by a stingray. Emergency services were dispatched, however they were unable to revive him.

As the news of Steve Irwin’s death swept across the country, users were eagerly clicking into their favourite news sites. The huge surge of traffic into and caused both of the popular news sites to go offline for quite some time.

The death of Steve Irwin is a huge loss to Australia and the world. He was an incredibly energetic and nature fanatic, who would have done anything to animal and nature conservation. I think everyone would hope that his legacy and enthusiasm towards wildlife will continue well into the future, through either his surviving family or some other manner.