Markham Nolan: How to separate fact and fiction online

My new employer, Compare Courses, gets a small mention!

On the Shoestring blog: 

The newest startup coworking space to launch in Sydney this week will be Tank Stream Labs. Located right in the heart of the CBD, TS Labs will house some of Australia’s coolest startups with a lot of buzz around them at the moment. AirtaskerJoe and Compare Courses are just some of the new ventures occupants of the labs will be rubbing shoulders with.

Welcome to Sydney

First night in our new apartment and Sydney said “Howzit!” in style!

Sent from the asteroid known as B-612

Innovation is not a committee

“Innovation is not born out out of a committee; innovation is a fight. It’s messy, people die, but when the battle is over, something unimaginably significant has been achieved.”


Responsive Design for Mobile Sites

We decided to go with Responsive for Skyrove’s WiFi Hotspot Portal pages for the following reasons: 


1. Many, many different screen sizes to cater for
2. We had a very small amount of layout changes and resizing to do (images didn’t even need to be resized)
3. It was definitely going to be more hassle to manage a separate site
4. We were inspired by the Responsive design of (check it out by signing up and simply resizing your browser window)


Importantly, at the same time, we took the approach of designing for “Mobile First”. Design would be done for the best mobile experience and only then would the design be adopted for the desktop! (Obviously, as it was responsive, we would already have a working desktop version, albeit not optimized for the larger res)


Keep in mind, that all our users did pretty much the same thing: Login if registered already, Register if not, purchase credits, or login with a roaming partner account (Skype, Boingo, etc). We only had about 3 or 4 pages to worry about.



Google has a graphic that summarizes the Pros and Cons nicely:


Mate of the Week:

It’s not every day I rave about a Software product or web app. Well, okay, I’ve raved before about Balsamiq Mockups, Evernote, Highrise and a few others… 

But it’s only the really good ones that get my attention. And is a good one. 

Basically, is web app for software developers, product managers and other stakeholders to prioritize and manage the development process for features, tasks, defects (bugs) and tests. 

Nothing new there… you can also look at JIRA, PivotalTracker, TargetProcess and many others. The difference is that does it (a) right and (b) beautifully. 

It integrates well with email (JIRA doesn’t), provides a Kanban style dashboard with easy click & drag (PivotalTracker doesn’t), and automatically updates stories/items whenever developers commit to Github. 

Its ease-of-use is miles ahead of the pack, which is a crucial factor when you need to convince other team members to change systems. 

If you have a distributed software team and you’re struggling to keep up to date with what everyone is working on, may just be your new best friend. 



What if money was no object?

 When I was 5, I wanted to be an astronaut. By the time I was 6, I wanted to be a pilot.

When I was 18, I still wanted to be a pilot, but I went to study medicine instead because A) The money looked good and B) I could get into med school.

I convinced myself that I could become a “flying doctor”, thus satisfying my itch to take to the skies. After 3 years of med school I quit. It was one of the scariest things I had to do. Largely, because quitting is humiliating and I have an almost unhealthy habit of persevering. Which is why I didn’t quit it after the 1st year, when I had already lost interest.

I don’t think spending 3 years of my life studying medicine was a waste, and I did learn some valuable things about the human body, but mostly I learnt some valuable lessons about life. I always had an interest in computers & electronics, but growing up I always thought of this interest as a “hobby”, something I would do in my spare time while I “worked” doing something else.

After med school, I took a year out doing various things and was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to go back to university to study electronics and computer science at UCT. Purely because I wanted to learn about it. I didn’t even think about making money from it. In the back of my mind I knew I would find a way to do what I love (building technology) and get paid for it. I’m by no means a billionaire, but it’s worked out okay so far 🙂

Earlier this year, I quit running Skyrove, and I had to start looking again. Do I want to continue doing what I’m doing or find a new career? I looked at all the fulfilling things I did in the last 8 years and realised that some of my most enjoyable moments were in teaching, educating and mentoring young technology entrepreneurs. I have an intense interest in education and my passion for technology has not wavered. I’m doing what I love (first) and I get paid for it (second). The video below is magic. You need to watch it and think about it and dream about it and make sure your kids do so as well. Share it!

Ben Goldacre – Battling Bad Science

I’ve recently been getting more flack about exposing the Truth about Natura Rescue Remedy so started doing some more reading, when I found this fantastic TED talk by Ben Goldacre. Enjoy!

Big Pharma bad? Here are some facts about the “alternative”

With their money, myopia and abuses, these pill makers match big pharma

The food supplement industry likes to style itself as people’s medicine, but the way it stifles debate is far from democratic

Ben Goldacre,
Friday September 12 2008 19:00 BST
Matthias Rath today pulled out of a legal case against the Guardian which has cost the organisation £500,000 to defend. I am proud that we fought it. Rath is an example of the worst excesses of the alternative therapy industry; UK nutritionists make foolish claims on poor evidence – they can make your child a genius with fish oils, or prevent heart attacks in the distant future – but Rath transplanted these practices into the world of HIV/Aids, where evidence really matters.

The potential consequences of his actions are outrageous, but he is by no means untypical. This sector has engineered a beneficent public image for itself, a warm and friendly cottage industry; but that fantasy is not borne out by the facts.

First, despite claims about the true evils of “big pharma”, presented as if they were evidence that vitamin pills are effective, there is little difference between the vitamin and pharmaceutical industries. Key players in both include multinationals such as Roche and Aventis; BioCare, the vitamin pill producer that media nutritionist Patrick Holford works for, is part-owned by Elder Pharmaceuticals, and so on.

The food supplement market, comprising products like vitamin pills and herbal supplements, is worth $50bn worldwide (against $600bn for pharmaceuticals). It has lobbied angrily and successfully against safety regulation, and the vitamin industry is also legendary in the world of economics as the setting of the most outrageous price-fixing cartel ever documented: during the 1990s the main offenders pleaded guilty and had to pay $1.5bn, the largest criminal fine levied in legal history.

That’s quite some cottage industry, and it is tightly linked to the “nutritional therapists” community. Bant, their UK membership organisation, recently changed its code of conduct in accordance with the wishes of pill manufacturers, so that members can now take undisclosed financial kickbacks for the pills they prescribe to patients. Doctors are struck off the GMC register for this activity, and rightly so.

Last year I went to a public meeting hosted by Matthias Rath in east London. He spoke for three gruelling hours, and every time he mentioned the side-effects of a treatment prescribed by doctors, the people in the seats behind me growled the word “murderers” in a venomous tone. Their hatred was intense, and it was unnerving to sit near them.

How do people become so extreme in their views? How have they been isolated from the realities of the miracle cure industries? A combination of wishful thinking, successful PR, and legal muscle.

When I attempted simply to write that the Dore miracle cure for dyslexia had not cured three people, we received several legal warning letters, delaying the piece by a month. An academic who dared to criticise the evidence base for the programme received a threatening legal letter delivered by hand to her home address.

Gillian McKeith has made repeated legal threats against websites who have dared to discuss her work, and her lawyer husband has threatened an academic who suggested testing her ideas. She also has a legal case hanging over the Sun that has seen little movement in three years.

When chiropractors had their practices challenged in the New Zealand Medical Journal they simply sent a threatening legal letter (“Let’s hear your evidence,” said the editorial in response, “not your legal muscle”). A herbal pill entrepreneur – and academic – had Professor David Colquhoun’s website removed from UCL servers after he dared to question her evidence. The Society of Homeopaths had a blogger silenced by threatening his web host.

I could go on. And of course, deterring dissent goes wider than the use of libel law. There is also the bizarre smear operation against critics of the food supplement industry, and an elaborate campaign conducted by homeopaths against Professor Edzard Ernst, an academic who has simply dared to examine the evidence for their claims, which ended up with his employers at Exeter University being harassed to silence him.

Meanwhile the alternative therapists who run university BSc courses refuse to release their lecture notes, or let anyone see their exam papers, in a desperate attempt not to engage with critical appraisal from the worlds of scientific evidence of which they purport to be a part.

This is not just unpleasant, it is also unhealthy. Ideas improve when they are challenged and questioned. I am a doctor, journalist and academic. I criticise the activities of doctors, journalists and academics in each of my jobs, and I welcome other people criticising my ideas.

Nothing could be more anti-democratic or stifling to debate than using money, law and power to regulate what can be discussed, and yet those who do it have the gall to represent themselves as the outsider, the little man, concerned with the medicine of the people. In reality they behave like nothing more than commercial entities.

The food supplement pill industry is phenomenally powerful, extremely lucrative and incredibly influential, but it has shown itself to be philosophically and commercially incapable of critical self-appraisal. Rath is its product. It is inconceivable that any individual within th
at industry would be brave enough to stand up and criticise his activities – and for that, more than anything else, it should be condemned.

Ben Goldacre, a medical doctor and author of the book Bad Science, writes the Bad Science column in the Guardian

After falling off a horse