Sunday, 7 May 2006

Mousetrap - 52

The ultimate geek site, so if you’re one of the species, you know about this already. For the rest of us, it’s a great peek into that world. There’s a professional team (the were bought over, but the founders are active) posting fast and furiously, and reader submissions are encouraged. Posts get commented on even faster, and yes, sometimes very furiously; they have a huge and very involved readership. A Slashdot link boosts any site’s traffic figures (leading to the neologism “slashdotted” or the more formal “the slashdot effect,” which is what happens when a relatively obscure site’s servers get overwhelmed by its happy throngs). The name is a bit of an in-joke: say the URL out loud, and you’re saying “haitch tee tee pee slash slash slashdot dot org.” Yup, that’s geek humour for you.

And from the other side
Of course every successful site has a parody. SlashNOT mimics Slashdot’s looks and design, and posts pseudo-serious takes on similar subjects. “Our primary goal was to be at least as funny as slashdot, but on purpose,” they say, and yes, they deliver. Alas and alack for those of us who prefer humour to improving our minds and keeping abreast of things, they post much less frequently then their inspiration, but then, it’s a far smaller operation. But yes, they do also encourage reader submissions.

We have more and more numbers to remember. But we also have convenient handsets to store them in so we won’t have to remember. In the US, companies that want people to call in have long used the alpha-numeric keypad (the sequence of letters is now standard in English-speaking countries) as mnemonic devices. For instance if your number was the one I used in to title this section, you could just remember the word “mousetrap” rather than the numbers. Of course, the number-letter combinations need to be second nature for you; not difficult in an SMS world. To get back to the site, it helps you choose numbers that can be converted into words, so if you haven’t done this long ago (like smart chaps like me, *ahem*) you can work backwards, enter your number, and look for likely words that you can give other people to help them remember your number. 929 2665, 66?


This week’s blog

English Cut
This one’s by Thomas Mahon, a genuine Savile Row tailor, the kind that make “bespoke” suits as opposed to merely hand-made off-the-peg, made-to-order or – perish the thought – off-the-rack. Mr Mahon says he’s the youngest on the Row, and while most, except the staunchest traditionalists, have some kind of web presence now, I’m pretty sure he’s the only one who blogs. Charmingly written (if mildy typo-ridden), fascinating posts about the craft, Savile Row, its history and traditions, and even (in this day and age!) about the competition. Of course he, in a perfectly gentlemanly way, quietly tells you about his own expertise, training and plus points, and why you should go to him. But, as he acknowledges, £2000 (that’s around Rs 166,725) for a suit, bespoke or not, is a fair bit of money for most of us, so he’s kind enough to instruct you on those suits lower down the sartorial ladder. Quite easily the best corporate blog I’ve ever seen. [Link courtesy Albert Barton.]

P.S. This column is officially a year old today – this is edition 52. Thank you for your mail, and do keep writing in.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail The writer blogs at

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 7th May, 2006.

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