Friday, 24 February 2012

Newsletter Issue 213, February 2012

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 213, February 2012

Hi guys,

How addicted to connectivity are you? Check out I'll Just Check My Email below.

Speaking of connectivity; what about searchability? Do any of you remember Google Wonder Wheel

Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

I'll Just Check My Email

When the phone used to ring at home, my siblings and I would all rush off to answer it. My mother would take a much more leisurely approach, saying "The phone is my servant; I am not its". This was an attitude which, especially when teenagers, we regarded with horror, bordering on awe.

These days, most of us have a smartphone, but not all of us allow it to take over our lives. I now completely understand where my mother was coming from; after business hours, a phone is a tool for my convenience; not for others'. I live in the country, have only a cellphone and my reception isn't great, so calls often go to my answer service. I also have it on silent so I can see it flashing when ringing, but it doesn't disturb my concentration, and turn my phone off regularly on the weekends. It's my servant, remember?

Worldwide, the trend of answering work emails and calls at any hour of the day or night on your smartphone is being challenged in some interesting places. Brazil is implementing a new law where employees qualify for overtime when they answer work emails via smartphones after hours. The legislation states that company emails to employees are now seen as direct orders. In 2011, policeman Jeffrey Allen sued Chicago for overtime compensation for his 24/7 connectivity. A French IT company will phase out sending company emails after hours to its staff by next year. German carmaker Volkswagen also is planning to stop after hours emails, with Deutsche Telekom and Henkel considering the same response.

So where does all this get us?

Well, we can get a bit obsessed about technology, and obsession about anything isn't healthy. Some of us should think about reducing the amount to which technology can take over our lives; the desire to be so continuously connected that we can't be solely real-world people any more.

As Peter Griffin said in an NZ Herald article "Let's hit the virtual pause button for a minute and consider what our digital lives have become. Many of us now spend our days with our head in the high-tech "clouds"." Quite true. I was off the web yesterday and wandered around feeling quite lost. Bizarrely, nearly every work task I needed to do required the internet.

Peter goes on to say "...there's that nagging voice telling us that despite our unprecedented connectedness, we sometimes feel more overwhelmed and, ironically, disconnected, than ever before. While it's easy to blame technology for taking us away from the people and things we love, in truth we're often our own worst enemy." Then he asks five questions "Do you sometimes feel the urge to pull out your phone while someone else is talking to you? Have you ever realised that you were texting or reading email while your child was telling you about her day and later couldn't remember her story? Have you ever felt that something hasn't really happened until you post it online? Do you feel anxious if you're offline for any length of time? Does a ringing phone trump everything else?"

Well, Peter went cold turkey from the web, and then wrote a four-step "digital diet" book with the time he created. Hmmm. I would imagine he wrote it on his computer. And he wouldn't have been able to write it without using the internet...

But what Peter suggests it is a good reality check for each and every one of us. Use tools in moderation. Relationships with real people are more important that virtual people. Nothing is ever so important that we can't have time for recreation, being human and "face-time".

Ooo - is that my phone I hear ringing?!


TVNZ (13 January 2012). Answering work emails after hours begins to pay. Retrieved 15 January 2012 from

Griffin, Peter (15 January 2012). Obsessively absorbed in a digital world. NZ: NZ Herald. Retrieved 15 January 2012 from


Bring back Google Wonder Wheel!

In mid-2009, Google introduced a very clever tool, called Google Wonder Wheel.

You would enter a short search item, click search in the normal way, then click on the "show more options" link at the top of the search results page. Then on the left-hand options pane, click "Google Wonder Wheel".

The results show more or less as a one tiered mind-map springing from your central search item. If you hover your mouse over any of the sub-items, that item will expand out into its own series of sub-items.

The user gets a mind-mapped representation of how the ideas link together. See the example below where the user has started with "Green energy lamp" then has moved focus to "solar energy lamps" and now has a new range of concepts to view (, n.d.a):


(, n.d.a)

From a research point of view, the Wonder Wheel was a fast way of concept mapping a topic, and it was hoped that over time, the complexity and depth of search-related ideas would increase, shortcutting research times and increasing accuracy.

This was a fantastic tool, but surprisingly in June 2011, users noticed that the Wonder Wheel option was no longer available on the Google site.

Wonder Wheel's disappearance was a total surprise to users; from one day to the next, with no explanation or notification, it vanished. Sites who followed Google Wonder Wheel were finally told after many enquiries that the tool was removed in the ”initial stage” of Google website redesign happening at the time, but did not say if or when it might be reinstalled. Gary Price () mentioned on his site that a Google employee had posted just a few days after the disappearance that the Wonder Wheel was a maintenance ”headache”.

One of the Google group blog posts following the loss of the Wonder Wheel posted "The AdWords Contextual Targeting Tool can stand in as a temporary replacement" (Eisemann, 22 July 2011). I have since heard that Google's Wonder Wheel meant that users needed not pay for Google AdWords, as they could self-determine their key terms with a simple Google Wonder Wheel search.

There are a couple of alternatives, but not in Wonder Wheel's relational graphical format (eg in lists, and sort of timeline - which almost deserves a moan about the loss of Google Timeline, but I will save that!).

Wonder Wheel users world-wide have bewailed the loss of this wonderful little tool, but the Googleplex has remained uncharacteristically silent in the nine months since this natty little tool was taken down.

If AdWord protectionism was the reason for Wonder Wheel's demise, it seems like a very filthy-lucre style of business for Google, and quite out of place with their "Focus on the user and all else will follow" values.

I still miss it. Please, Google, bring back Wonder Wheel!



Eisemann, Henry (22 July 2011). Where did Google Wonder Wheel Disappear too? Retrieved 27 February 2012 at!topic/websearch/EdKEdEy9iq0 (n.d.a). Google Wonder Wheel – Step by Step. Retrieved 24 February 2012 from (n.d.b). Google wonder wheel video. Retrieved 24 February 2012 from

Price, Gary (). The Real Reason Google Wonder Wheel Died: It Was A Pain To Maintain. Retrieved 24 February 2012 from


Excel's Convert Function Codes 4

Remember in newsletter 210, when I said you can convert measurements from one metric to imperial, or from the format to decimal in Excel 2007, by using the CONVERT function? In 211, I showed you the codes for weight and mass, in 212 temperature and time (and remember "Inbuilt" means Excel will autocomplete, "Multiplier" won't).

In the last of this series, I am showing you the codes for liquids and energy:

  • Liquid Measure Cup "cup" Inbuilt
  • Gallon "gal" Inbuilt
  • Litre "l" (or "lt") Inbuilt
  • Millilitre "ml" Multiplier
  • Fluid ounce "oz" Inbuilt
  • U.S. pint "pt" (or "us_pt") Inbuilt (U.K. pint "uk_pt")
  • Quart "qt" Inbuilt
  • Tablespoon "tbs" Inbuilt
  • Teaspoon "tsp" Inbuilt
  • Energy BTU "BTU" (or "btu") Inbuilt
  • Foot-pound "flb" Inbuilt
  • Magnetism Gauss "ga" Inbuilt
  • Tesla "T" Inbuilt
  • Power Horsepower "HP" (or "h") Inbuilt
  • Watt "W" (or "w") Inbuilt



Prefix these to some abbreviations to make other measurement units. For example 'k' for kilo plus 'g' for gram = 'kg' for kilogram:

  • exa 1.00E+18 "E"
  • peta 1.00E+15 "P"
  • tera 1.00E+12 "T"
  • giga 1.00E+09 "G"
  • mega 1.00E+06 "M"
  • kilo 1.00E+03 "k"
  • hecto 1.00E+02 "h"
  • dekao 1.00E+01 "e"
  • deci 1.00E-01 "d"
  • centi 1.00E-02 "c"
  • milli 1.00E-03 "m"
  • micro 1.00E-06 "u"
  • nano 1.00E-09 "n"
  • pico 1.00E-12 "p"
  • femto 1.00E-15 "f"
  • atto 1.00E-18 "a"

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) for you:

  • SPOF, single point of failure. This is a potential risk posed by a design flaw, fault or malfunction causes an entire system to fail. Usually in IT, and relating to circuit or system implementation or configuration.

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys

Did you know that you can call 0800 numbers free on Skype? Not just New Zealand numbers, but international ones. Fantastic! You need to buy some Skype credit, but once you have - say - €10 worth on your account, you can call any 0800 numbers you want to :-)

Hot Linx

Learn how to show bcc fields in your own, or replied to, Outlook appointments, by reading the "How to" at

Danish bank Danske Bank has developed some new technology where you can use your smartphone to photograph a bill, and then click to pay. Read about it from Springwise at

TechRepublic have some great shortcuts for formatting in Word, using double-clicks. Read all about them at

Finnish education policy is focused on equity and equality, not excellence. As a result, they have one of the highest achievement rates in the world. Read on at

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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