It’s not the tools

This is a broad concept, and I think we have all heard it at some point. A bad workman blames his tools.

A great workman won’t even talk about the tools; they will discuss technique and the goals for the “project”.

While scanning my feeds tonight, I slowed down on some nice fonts (I always slow for fonts) from the Web Design Ledger. Upon closer inspection I agreed with the author, those are some kick-ass fonts.

This one caught my eye:


It was only after looking at the original font here when I realized the craft is in what you do with a font. The font itself looks plain enough, but the real skill is matching it to the right theme and applying that difficult layer of polish.

Skills can be taught and learned. Real art takes focus, practice, attention to detail and thinking outside the (tool) box.

I’m talking about me here BTW. I have a lot of skills, I can learn new skills quickly, and can get pretty good at most new things I try, but my craft is not deep. I’ve become a ‘jack of all trades’ as a User experience developer (the job title even screams that in itself) and should at least have some deep knowledge and expertise in a certain vertical. I’m focusing my energy on User experience at the moment, but even that might be too vague as there are a lot of skills under that one title.

Pick a skill, get great at it. Real great. Proper great.

A mostly mossy movember

A year has passed and I am back on the Movember wagon this year. I want to raise a little money and awareness for Mens health, and I am willing to make my face look somewhat silly in the process.

Rule: If you laugh at my Mo, you must donate! Visit my Mospace.

Movember 20132 years ago I raised over €300 for the Movember cause, last year was not so fruitful, but I intend on beating my previous record this year, so every little helps.

Access your voicemail from a different phone

I left my phone at home today and struggled to find a way to check my voicemail from a different phone, but I did find the answer, so I thought I would share it here for future reference.

This worked with my vodafone phone, but should be similar across most providers. A handy tip for getting staight to your voicemail, or anyones for that matter is to insert a 5 between the area code (086 for example) and your phone number.

  1. Dial your voicemail: 086 5 12345678
  2. Once the outgoing message starts, hit # (the ‘pound’ or ‘hash’ symbol)
  3. You will be prompted for your password. This is usually a 4 digit pin. If you don’t know it or don’t remember setting it, the default is 0000. I would recommend you change it if that is the case. Enter the password and hit # again.

Hope this helps you  (or even future me).

Launch: LetCheck – Rental property reviews for Ireland

I’ve launched my first proper web application this week. I’ve talked about launching a decent web application for a long (loooooooooong) time. I really wanted to see this through to launch and get version 1.0 live. It’s been 6 months of coding. There was a lot of thinking before this, and a lot of thinking during the 6 months too. This was all evening weekend coding and there were a lot of extended breaks in the process, but I’ve learned so much a developer in my Day job, that when I sit down to code in the evening, an hour is very valuable. With the right framework and tools, you can work very efficiently with little time. is a property review site. It’s targeted at the rental market. I’ve felt over the past few years, that there was a missed opportunity for renters to be able to have a voice about where the live/lived. I’ve had this app in mind for almost 3 years, but finally got some momentum this year to get it live.


Please take a look, review where you have lived, and give me feedback. Launching is just the first step, and I have a lot of work to do to get a solid user base. Without solid content, the site is of no use to general web users (consumers), so it is important to attract and retain content creators.

The Mayonnaise Jar

Source unknown by me. Grabbed from Facebook.

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and fills it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “YES”.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, family,
children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.” he said.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are
important to you…” he told them.

“So… pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

Please share this with other “Golf Balls”

Why others’ mistakes are your own

Here’s a scenario which would be common in my day to day tasks in work. Trying to make an interface “work”, and getting a colleague to give it their first impression. A 1 minute conversion/demo can make something you thought was obvious seem the polar opposite.

From Watching them struggle:

You’ve probably watched somebody who is not technically savvy trying to operate an interface new to them, likely with little success. Maybe that interface was yours. You’ve spent countless hours cutting that thing down to the basics, refining the copy and making everything crystal clear, and yet, you watch with bewilderment as the user before you struggles and stumbles across the screen, doing everything possible to go in circles around the interface element they actually need, which to you seems blindingly obvious.

When writing, designing, creating, producing … something, it is important that someone else can understand it, interact with it and benefit from it. Feedback counts, and early feedback counts double. If you can’t get that early feedback, at least try step back and see what you’ve done from another angle.

The Liffey Swim 2011

Earlier this year, one of my goals was to complete the liffey swim. Well with all the triathlon training and the whole “getting married” thing, it completely slipped my mind. Until the end of july, when I had finished my first Olympic Distance Triathlon in kilkenny.

After Kilkenny tri I decided I had enough of triathlon for a few weeks and wanted to chill for a bit.

But not completely chill. I decided I would see what was involved in getting into the liffey swim this year and added a post on my clubs forum. So with only 4 weeks to go, I had my checklist on hand:

  1. Join OW Swim Club
  2. Get SI (Swim Ireland) number
  3. Complete 4 OW races without wetsuit
  4. All of this by 27th August

So I found out about Half moon swimming club, contacted them, transferred 50 squids and got my SI number within the week. Armed with my SI number, I could now enter OW races. Time to find the races. The only 4 races between then and the closing date were below. I had to complete them all.

  1. 7th August 2010 – High Rock, Portmarnock, Dublin
  2. 9th August 2010 – Guinness SC Charity, Portmarnock Beach, Dublin
  3. 13th August 2010 – Corrib Prom Swim, Salthill, Galway
  4. 14th August 2010 – Lough Owel, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath

Eep. So 4 races lined up all with in 1 week, and one of them on the other side of the country. Time to talk to the wife. Donna was more than happy for me to treat her to a fancy hotel in galway AND dinner AND a big breakfast AND shopping. What a nice person she is!!

The qualifying races themselves were very interesting. I learned:

  • Open Water (read: Club) swimmers are fucking insanely good. Different class of swimmer to triathlon swimmers.
  • All OW races are handicapped. This means that the good swimmer go off up to 15 minutes after the slower swimmers. This means everyone has a chance of winning. Cool!
  • Distances are estimated, and mostly around 2k
  • The only weather to stop an OW race, is when a small craft warning is in effect. These guys are hardcore.
  • Everyone knows everyone, it’s like a secret society that everyone knows about.
  • Getting stung by a jellyfish isn’t too bad initially. But fever does kick in after a few hours and that’s weird!

Now you’re up to date, and it’s now today, and I’m back chilling after the liffey swim. It was a great experience. Such a great thrill swimming underneath all the bridges Iwalk/drive over every day. And there are A LOT OF THEM. The swim was about 2300m and goes underneath 12 bridges, each one filled with onlookers and well wishers. My wife, her friends, my sister and her family all followed me down the banks of the liffey to cheer me on and welcome me at the IFSC, where we finally finished. It was LONG, but great.

Today was the 91st liffey swim, and my first. Of many many more I hope.