Bird Friendly Coffee

Bird & Wild coffee

I had no idea this was a thing. Apparently, even our daily cup or two (or several) a day of coffee is helping to screw up the planet. Mass-produced coffee is produced in nice, highly productive rows of coffee plants, which sadly gives a habitat for a quarter of the number of species of birds as when coffee is grown in the shade of mature trees. So we need a bird-friendly coffee.

According to the RSPB:

Shade-grown means that the coffee grows more slowly, requires less water and the need to use any invasive fertilizers or pesticides. This in turn supports greater biodiversity and ensures that the forest in which it’s grown sustains a healthy ecosystem.

And according to Cornell University:

“Over recent decades, most of the shade coffee in Latin America has been converted to intensively managed row monocultures devoid of trees or other vegetation,” Amanda Rodewald, a co-author of the study who is the Garvin Professor and senior director of the Center for Avian Population Studies at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said in a statement. “As a result, many birds cannot find suitable habitats and are left with poor prospects of surviving migration and successfully breeding.”

Today, most coffee sold is sun-grown under little or no shade because sun makes coffee bushes grow faster and produce more coffee. This loss of tropical forest biodiversity to a row monoculture harms resident rainforest birds along with their migratory cousins so they all are disappearing along with their rainforest homes. This simple connection between habitat loss, pesticides and fertilizer pollution to intensive coffee farming methods was the impetus for Smithsonian conservation scientists to create the strictest agricultural certification criteria for coffee: their Bird-Friendly certification requires that coffee is organic and that it meets strict requirements for both mature canopy cover and the type of forest in which the coffee is grown. Bird-Friendly coffees are guaranteed to support bird habitat, in addition to fair and stable prices for coffee producers, healthy environments for local communities, and equal access to markets for Bird-Friendly coffee producers.

So there you have it. By having that supermarket, mass produced coffee, you’re helping destroy the planet. Good work! I’ve just bought 1.2kg of their coffee. Sorry, Tesco.

RSPB: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/rspb-news/news/stories/bird-friendly-coffee-wins-ethical-award-top-spot/

Bird and wild coffee: https://birdandwild.co.uk/collections/all-products

Sun-grown vs. shade-grown coffee.

Podcast Marketing

Someone asked me to investigate what goes on behind a podcast and especially podcast marketing. I went down a rabbit hole. This is a summary of the various tips I came across.

Soft Stuff of Podcast marketing

There are a million podcasts, what sets you apart? Is your podcast sticky – what keeps people coming back?

Is your podcast valuable – what do people gain? Is it worth someone’s while listening to it? Can you get them to do podcast marketing for you?

Will your content change their lives in any way? I listen to Brian Cox. He won’t change my life but he’s interesting. I listen to Jim al Khalili. He’s a good communicator

Is your podcast unique? Do the broadcasters have distinctive voices? Do they have experience in the field and can elucidate their points?

Be patient. It can take 6 months to build an audience.

Have awesome guests. Then leverage your guest’s audience. That’s good podcast marketing.

Go on other podcasts (you have expertise, right?).

Collaborate with similar brands.

Solicit feedback. Most broadcast media let you have real-time comments. Later broadcasts still let you leave comments.

Have calls to action. Don’t let your podcast just be passive. Involve your audience. It doesn’t have to be The Great British Bird Watch. Something smaller, local and relevant.

Create a regular release schedule (and therefore a planned calendar of guests). Spam all the academics and figureheads in your area and get them to participate with their specialties. Build a calendar.

The show shouldn’t be explicit marketing for your products or services.

Whine about getting more subscribers in your podcast.

Make sure your podcast has a good strapline.

Hard stuff

Have you got a good recording quality? Drape lots of blankets around or mattresses. A lot of the sciencey podcasts I watch or listen to have people in their attic rooms and the sound is really echoey. Don’t do that. Equally, have a decent microphone. The one on my PC laptop is pretty bad, the one on my Apple headphones is pretty good.

Put your unedited podcasts on Patreon (@robinince does this). You might want 30 minutes out into the public domain, but you might get 60 minutes of content from your guest. Let people pay for access.a

Got a decent editor for audio? I’ve seen Audacity recommended. Apparently it records too.

Do you want your podcast to be audio or video? If it’s video, convert video to YouTube. Do live broadcasts then upload to YouTube in perpetuity. Pro zoom is up to £480/year. There’s always Microsoft Teams.

Start with three episodes. (People hate finding only one). This popped up in a couple of listicles I read. Apparently, people hate finding a good podcast with only one episode.

Get an optimised web site. https://www.buzzsprout.com/ seems cool. $12 for 3hrs per month. I’m sure there are more out there. The site should be SEO optimised.

Promote on social media (@robinince is big on twitter). While we’re talking money, look at HootSuite for posting to many channels. The professional version for posting to up to 10 social accounts is £39 per month.

Edit: https://anchor.fm/ appears to be a decent place to host, is free and owned now by Spotify.

Obviously you should have an RSS feed but I’ve found that less than useful. For me, most useful is an email with a link to the podcast with a calendar gizmo so it goes in my diary, URL and all. Also, I hate secret podcasts that send me the URL shortly before they go live. Why are they trying to hide their podcast?

Put the podcast page URL in your email .sig. That way, any time you send an email, your podcast gets out there.

Create an email newsletter. (I think this is important). A lot of the museum podcasts I view/listen to prompt me from their mailing lists. Mailchimp is the gold standard but there are others. The classic original is mailman. Many of the podcasts I listen to, I listen to because I’m prompted by an email.

Sell merchandise maybe if you have a strong visual brand. Cafépress has worked well for us.

Look at analytics. These guys seem switched on: https://castos.com/understanding-podcast-analytics/ $190-$490 their service comes in at per year.

Got a photographer on the team? (Instagram can be a good channel).

It looks like that for me, the Apple podcasts app is the nexus for me, but there are lots of other PodCasts out there that don’t fit that format. Expecially scheduled ones.

Submit to podcast aggregators and directories:

  • iTunes (allegedly drives 70% of podcast traffic)
  • Spotify
  • Google Play
  • TuneIn
  • iHeartRadio
  • SoundCloud
  • Podbay
  • Podtail
  • Overcast
  • Stitcher
  • Podcast Addict
  • PodcastLand (your podcast is automatically listed here if it’s in iTunes)
  • Castro
  • Podcast Republic
  • Downcast
  • Podcasters’ Support Group
  • Bello Collective
  • Podcasting Technology Resource Group
  • TuneIn
  • Podcast Hackers (this is our group – join us!)
  • /r/podcasts on Reddit
  • The New York Times Podcast Club
  • Podcasting (Meetup)
  • Producing Podcasts (Apple)
  • Podcasters’ Hangout

Cardiff Wetlands

I’d found out about the Newport wetlands and after a kerfuffle on Reddit, found there was a Cardiff Wetlands down in the bay. We went and had a mosey. That was disappointing. It’s a patch of land inside the barrage, probably left over from a dock back in the day. Despite the enthusiasm of the signposts, the wildlife was disappointingly vanilla: ducks, swans, tits, crows, magpies and so on. The air was reassuringly noisy, but if there were exotic birds, they were shy. It’s worth a little walk. Once. Enjoy some pictures.

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Brexit

The day after the vote when the result was revealed, my reaction was incandescent and aghast. How could 52% of the people who voted be so daft? Turns out it’s a common delusion. My acceptance speech as leader of an independent political party:

“My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are now in the privileged position of having got rid of the Tories and their austerity agenda and are now in a position to move this country forward again. BTW, The word Tory derives from the Middle Irish word tóraidhe; modern Irish tóraí; modern Scottish Gaelic Tòraidh: outlaw, robber or brigand, from the Irish word tóir, meaning “pursuit”, since outlaws were “pursued men”.

David Cameron’s ill-advised referendum to save the Tory party disenfranchised 48% of the population, and in the subsequent years and we have since been fed a steady stream of lies by leaver politicians and press.

Unlike the squirrels in leavers heads, I treasure the pillars of being in the EU. I like having free trade with 27 other countries. I like that the Good Friday agreement, which ended what was, in other words, a civil war, is enshrined in an open border. Northern Ireland has come on in leaps and bounds. My neighbour will probably go back to Switzerland or Germany if the university research funding dries up.

The bullshit about the “unelected beaureaucrats” is exactly that. We elect MPs to the European parliament and we get a veto over any legislation. We have rejected remarkably little.

I like the fact my human rights are enshrined by law. The Tories in their Brexit panic threatened to do away with it.

I waited in vain for the £350 million a week for the NHS. The Tory promises of more police or more money for the NHS doesn’t even make a dent in the damage done by ten years of austerity. Turkey was never going to join the EU, more’s the pity.

If you Google “leaver lies” you’ll find plenty of collated lists. If an unworkable Brexit had gone through, I’d have been off to Asia.

So anyhow, here’s to a future of being part of one of the largest free trade areas in the world, Schengen and the Euro.”

Homoeopathy

From Wikipedia: Homeopathy or homœopathy is a system of alternative medicine created in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann, based on his doctrine of like cures like (similia similibus curentur)

Homeoepathy[1] is one of the banes of my life on Quora. There’s a fair chunk of people, mostly in India but not limited to, who think that sugar pills or water cure diseases or cancer. So much wrong. Let’s examine the evidence. I’ve also blogge about it before.

From Wikipedia: Homeopathy or homœopathy is a system of alternative medicine created in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann, based on his doctrine of like cures like (similia similibus curentur), a claim that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people. Once you’ve diluted it so there’s nothing of the original left and bashed it against a leather-bound book on each dilution of course.

Remember, this was from an era when a placebo was better than seeing a doctor. You stood more chance of surviving by having a drink of water. The ludicrousness of Homoeopathy was illustrated by the group of people who all took an overdose, obviously with no ill effects. In the UK, the NHS is trying hard to phase out its use. Sadly, the future king of the UK is still a sucker.

That’s not to say Homoeopathy can’t be dangerous. A chap ended up damaging his liver when his “remedy” turned out to contain alcohol. Quackwatch is always worth a read on the subject. I’ve previously pointed out the Smithsonian article that 1800 studies that say it doesn’t work.

The final entertainment is the occasional attempted rebuttal by a homoeopath. Apparently, I’m in the pay of Big Pharma (I wish) or I believe everything I read on the internet.

[1] And now I can spell it right! Thanks Grammarly!

Getting started with Amazon AWS

So this is all about getting started with AWS. I’ve been using AWS tangentially for about five years, almost always EC2 instances, so not really pushing the envelope. I’d really like to get my head round serverless and lambdas but I’m having a bit of a conceptual problem trying to work out a use case to do at home.

I have done the Udemy “AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Practice Exam” which was quite frankly brutal, demanding 90% for three papers. First time through each I got 70-80% which I thought wasn’t too shabby but obviously not good enough for their arbitrary cutoff. The second time through I got >90% which was nice.

The biggest takeaway I have is once you’ve created a root account, create a user account and only give it only the privileges it needs. Security you know!

This is the list of white papers I’ve ingested to far. I hope it proves useful.

AWS Overview

https://d1.awsstatic.com/whitepapers/aws-overview.pdf

This is the motherlode. If you want an overview of all available services on AWS, this is the place to start. For us in the perl world, that’ll be git, CI/CD pipelines and EC2/Fargate. If you’re jiggy, docker too. At this point for most of that, I like Gitlab, especially since M$ took over github.

AWS Well Architected Framework

This takes the overview one step further. Apparently as you partition your app vertically, VPSs are the trick. Security again.

https://d1.awsstatic.com/whitepapers/architecture/AWS_Well-Architected_Framework.pdf

Jenkins on AWS

In a good chunk of the contracts I’ve done, the developers have been good boys and written tests, but there was no way of automatically running them. Jenkins fixes this. Better still using the Perl TAP output formatter we can get a nice graph of the number of tests increasing. If you like, you can run Bamboo or GoCD but I’ve not had happy experiences with either of these.

https://docs.aws.amazon.com/aws-technical-content/latest/jenkins-on-aws/jenkins-on-aws.pdf

Practising Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery on AWS

Taking Jenkins one step further. In an ideal world code gets committed to master and then gets made live. Your process may vary. Oh, and database versioning is Hard. I’m reliably informed squitch is the one for this.

https://d1.awsstatic.com/whitepapers/DevOps/practicing-continuous-integration-continuous-delivery-on-AWS.pdf

Development and Test on Amazon Web Services

More on the subject.

https://d1.awsstatic.com/whitepapers/aws-development-test-environments.pdf

Overview of AWS Cloud Adoption Framework

Similar overview.

https://d1.awsstatic.com/whitepapers/aws_cloud_adoption_framework.pdf

AWS DevOps

Taking a more DevOps approach to AWS.

https://d1.awsstatic.com/whitepapers/AWS_DevOps.pdf

DevOps for startups

More on the subject of DevOps.

https://blog.thesparktree.com/devops-for-startups

Docker

Now we start getting to the docker meat. I’m not sure how applicable this is to a clunky monolithic Perl framework. I dockerised a simple Catalyst app and it was HUGE. Back to CGI.pm?

https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AmazonECR/latest/userguide/docker-basics.html#docker-basics-create-image

Deploy Docker containers

Now we get to the meat.

https://aws.amazon.com/getting-started/tutorials/deploy-docker-containers/?trk=gs_card

Cost optimisation

A common whinge I’ve heard is that unless you’re careful and out of the free first year tier, is that suddenly your AWS usage blooms into thousand of pounds a month. Having been charged £15 a month for static IP I can well believe it.

https://d0.awsstatic.com/whitepapers/Cost_Optimization_with_AWS.pdf

Considerations for the Beginner Serverless Developer

Epsagon have a good trove of blogs too.

https://epsagon.com/blog/considerations-for-the-beginner-serverless-developer/

The Most Popular Deployment Tools For Serverless

https://epsagon.com/blog/the-most-popular-deployment-tools-for-serverless/

5 Ways To Gain Serverless Observability

https://epsagon.com/blog/5-ways-to-gain-serverless-observability/

Yubl’s road to Serverless architecture — Testing and CI/CD

https://theburningmonk.com/2017/02/yubls-road-to-serverless-architecture-part-2/

Serverless observability, what can you use out of the box?

https://theburningmonk.com/2018/04/serverless-observability-what-can-you-use-out-of-the-box/

Our Journey from Heroku to Kubernetes

Kubernetes land is still a mystery to me. Every way I’ve tried to approach it, from linux to Mac I’ve been thwarted. Oh well, one day it’ll be mature enough and actually work for me.

https://www.salsify.com/blog/engineering/our-journey-from-heroku-to-kubernetes

AWS custom runtime for lambda really works: How I developed a lambda in Perl

Now we get to some interesting stuff. It seems hideously convoluted to be but still. It’s a Perl lambda!

https://medium.com/@avijitsarkar123/aws-lambda-custom-runtime-really-works-how-i-developed-a-lambda-in-perl-9a481a7ab465

An alternative Perl lambda

A different approach.

https://github.com/moznion/aws-lambda-perl5-layer

Using the AWS Serverless Application Model (AWS SAM)

https://docs.aws.amazon.com/lambda/latest/dg/serverless_app.html

What Is the AWS Serverless Application Model (AWS SAM)?

https://docs.aws.amazon.com/serverless-application-model/latest/developerguide/what-is-sam.html

Considerations for the Beginner Serverless Developer

https://epsagon.com/blog/considerations-for-the-beginner-serverless-developer/

Serverless and startups, the beginning of a beautiful friendship

https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/serverless-and-startups/

So that’s what I have so far. I think most of the time, we’ll go EC2 and then RDS. I’d put Cloudflare on the front unless I particularly needed a Route53 feature. Serverless is still in the land of dragons and Perl isn’t spectacularly well supported. I’d like to see a world where the code pipeline is under Amazon as well as horizontal scaling with the load balancers.

Upwards of 50,000 people hacked

hack

This would be hilarious if it weren’t so serious. About 50,000 people got their printers hacked and had promotional printouts for YouTube Vlogger “PewDiePie” printed out. This raises the question: HOW? In the real world we should all be behind firewalls, all our computers should have anti-malware software on. This should not be an issue. Printers should not be connected to the internet!

More seriously, it’s possible to destroy computers from afar by repeatedly writing to their firmware. This is not a desirable outcome.

Please folks, if you want to talk about security, there are people like me out there who are more than capable of doing a quick audit and vulnerability scan.

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-46552339

WordPress plugins cost?

wordpress logoIntroduction

You’ve installed WordPress. It’s free. That’s amazing, and you get to stand on the shoulders of giants with all those great plugins. BUT! Developers need to get paid and a lot of the plugins have paid versions with the full range of features. So what can a fully fedged WordPress installation cost? This is the unspoken secret of WordPress.

The Plugins

These are the plugins I’m using:

  1. Hosting. Not really a plugin. It’s easy to get free/cheap hosting but with a WordPress site taking multiple seconds to load, especially if you have plugins enabled. As a benchmark, the personal purchase on wordpress.com is $39 (£30) per year, but doesn’t really give you that much.
  2. Akismet anti-spam adds better statistics and support for £44 per year.
  3. Cloudflare. You are running this, right? For free it gives you SSL, translation of http to https, DDoS protection, CDN caching (for the speed!), for $20 (£15) you get more as well as firewalling.
  4. With Jetpack you get a load more content stuff and lazy image loading for $9 (£7) per month.
  5. WP-Smush, one of my favrourites which crushes images, for really useful enhancements will set you back $49 (£38) per month.
  6. Updraft plus, the dedicated backup solution, for many, many more features and support will cost you £54 in total.
  7. WP Total Cache with more, possibly useless, caching features will be $99 (£77) per year.
  8. Wordfence security, which bugs me nearly daily to upgrade plugins and also does much more, is $99 (£77) per license.
  9. Yoast SEO which has certainly enhanced my writing for the web, is £79 per license.
  10. And finally something not WP related but which I think is REALLY useful is Grammarly which has also knocked some corners of my writing style.  This is £108 per year, and if I were a professional writer, it would be totally worth it.
  11. The AliExpress plugin is worth it if you want a drop shipping store, and who doesn’t? This is $14 (£11) per month.

Therefore in total, we’re looking at £1156 for the first year! Not insignificant, but developers have to eat!

How to win at phone interviews

Phone Interview
Steve Carell, (AP Photo/NBC, Justin Lubin)

As a contractor, phone interviews are a fact of life. We have to do them to let people know how awesome we are, plus it saves a trip into their office until we’re sure they want us and we want them. After consulting with my posse on LinkedIn and looking at lists on the internet, this is the list of phone interview tips I came up with:

The tips

  1. Be prepared! Put the date and time into your computer/phone calendar and set the alert.
  2. Try to avoid speakerphones. I had one last week and I reckon I got 75% of the conversation. I mentioned it to him and he said that was the only phone in a quiet place he had access to. So do your best. I am going to the next stage so it couldn’t have been that bad.
  3. Stand up. This might not seem obvious but in terms of posture and sounding good, it makes sense. On the same note, smile. It makes you sound better.
  4. Dress up. A proportion of interviews will take place over Skype but even if they don’t, a shirt and a pair of trousers make a difference.
  5. Have your resume to hand. This is good advice. I have done so many gigs, they start blurring into one and it help tell the story.
  6. Have a notepad to hand. It’s good to keep notes, what questions to ask and what to go back to.
  7. Be yourself. I’d rather be Chris Hemsworth, but beggars can’t be choosers. Equally, if your personality is a bit rubbish, best gloss over it. Sound enthusiastic and avoid a monotone.
  8. Block out time and a place to have the interview. Make sure the place is quiet and you’ll be undisturbed.
  9. A bit underhand, but suggest you’re already a long way down the line with someone else. I’m not sure this one is entirely ethical.
  10. Prefer landline over mobile. My mobile tethers over wifi and isn’t 100% reliable. Be in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Turn off your mobile.
  11. This is a general interview tip, but do your research on the company. I always try to find out what their real problem is, not the bland list of requirements in the job ad. Try to form relevant questions. Prepare some questions and answers.
  12. Try to get an email address so you can follow up afterwards, with the notes you made. You made notes, right?
  13. Salary expectations. This one is hard. On my hippy side of the fence, they should pay you what you’re worth. Some of my most productive contracts have been when the interviewer has winced slightly at my price. Equally, I think talking money at this stage is a bit presumptuous.
  14. This one is for Americans: don’t chew gum. And don’t smoke. You can smell it down the phone line.
  15. Have a glass of water handy. A dry throat is no help.
  16. Don’t interrupt and take your time. Pauses are shorter than you think.

And there you have it. The wisdom of crowds!