Christian Heilmann

Posts Tagged ‘tips’

Android tablet connected but Market not loading? Set your time and date

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

This cost me far too much of my time yesterday night: I had reconnected my Android Tablet (Galaxy 10.1) after running out of battery for quite a while and connected to my wireless and surfed the web – all fine – except for “certificate errors” on a few pages. This is nothing new, SSL is broken far too often sadly enough.

When connecting to the Market to download new apps or get my Google Mail or Reader items it always told me though that I was offline. Looking at Android forums I got a lot of wrong advice like “Going back to Best Buy”, “Deleting cache and force-stopping Market and rebooting the device” or “doing a factory reset”.

The fix is simple:

If your Android tablet throws certificate errors when surfing and can’t connect to the market, your time and date are wrong and set in the past. This breaks the SSL negotiation. Simply fix time and date and it works without you losing data.

This should be part of the error message when you get certificate errors.

Always outnumbered, never outgunned – Speaking out event at London City Hall

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

If you had told me a few months ago that I would be the only guy in a room with 75 women in London’s City Hall (the crooked thermos near Tower Bridge) about to hold a workshop on “how to be an inspiring speaker” I’d have nodded understandingly, taken your pint away from you and called you a cab. Yesterday, however, I found myself in exactly that situation.

Speaking Out at City Hall by  you.

In the next round of Speaking Out events my friend Laura North partnered with the Greater London Authority Womens Network to have an afternoon overseeing the whole of sunny (yes, really) London to talk about some of the aspects of public speaking from a woman’s perspective.

Rosie Boycott on public speaking

The first speaker of the day was Rosie Boycott, who didn’t mince her words when it came to explaining her arduous journey in a male dominated environment to become a speaker. I liked what I heard but there were a few things that made me cringe:

  • Rosie praised the idea of a lectern to give your talk from as this gives you a stronghold and some place to put your notes. I think lecterns are the work of beelzebub and represent everything that is wrong about a bad presentation – a barrier between you and the audience. Speakers are scared of speaking and the audience is scared of being bored or having wasted their time and money. Anything that visually divides you makes this even more obvious. It is you on a stage – you have to overcome the fear of showing yourself and using your body language to stress out some points. This doesn’t come natural to northerners – go and see some Italian or Spanish speakers to see how it is done.
  • Rosie also told us about “being put on Twitter now” which made me cringe and want to have a long talk to her PR people about the value of sincerity and personality in social media. What really threw me though was a long story of her being very upset that someone on Twitter complained about the shoes she wore in one of her talks and that she felt it unfair that her talk was reduced to that. It wasn’t. Some person who wanted to profile themselves and had a thing for shoes needed one thing to criticize to be cool on the web – both comment and Twitter feedback works differently than the real world. People should not get discouraged by them!
  • On the topic of jokes Rosie said flat out that women should not try them as men are much better at them. Funnily enough also Katie, the second speaker said the same and opted for funny quotes instead. Again, my experience differs as I have seen female speakers deliver amazingly well timed, subtle and very tasteful jokes even with very crude topics (something no man I know would excel at) – a great example is Mary Roach’s talk at Ted (embedded below). So ladies, if you are naturally funny and if you think a bit of irreverence can bring a point across or liven up a very boring topic – do not hold back!

Mary Roach: 10 things you didn’t know about orgasm

Katie Streten on feeling comfortable as a speaker

After Rosie the ever inspiring Katie Streten from imagination got up and talked about the art of feeling comfortable about public speaking from a woman’s perspective. I love working with Katie as she is very straight forward in her approach and has the same attitude towards speaking as I do: just do it and worry about your own fears later on. You can only get better with experience.

Katie delivered a talk very similar to the one she gave at the first Speaking Out event about fears of public speaking and how to overcome them. She did once again a great job at addressing some of the problems and showing ways around them.

Some of my takeaways

All in all I learnt a few things about public speaking and women in these talks:

  • Gadgets are much more important – every speaker pointed out that Flash cards and the right clothing are very important. Also the (IMHO wrong) mention of a lectern as a safety net pointed in that direction. Every male speaker I know is happy to be wired up to a mic and have their slides. If the slides fail, we ad-lib (if we are gifted) or bamboozle (if we are asked to talk without wanting to). It is a confidence (or in the male case a not caring about the results) thing. It is good to have your gadgets when you start but be aware that they are a safety blanket and to be truly inspiring and very happy with yourself you will have to discard them in the future.
  • A lot I heard is about copying what other people do well. This to me is a danger as women can bring so much more to the table of public speaking (see more about that later when I talk about the happy moments I had). Copying is good but look deep inside you and find the thing that makes you, well – you. Then apply this to the subject matter and you will deliver a killer talk. You can’t be someone else – it will always show.
  • A lot I heard was about prevailing in a male dominated society. And I am getting tired of this. Stop trying to prevail and instead show men how things are done properly. One thing Katie said and promptly got told off by an audience member is that as a woman you should butt in at meetings if you have a good point to make as men do the same. Expletive yes – she is right about this. Just because other people don’t have manners it doesn’t mean that their point should be heard and not yours – especially when it makes much more sense.
  • The biggest obstacle to tackle is criticism of other women about what you do. Women are amazingly critical about each others mannerisms, looks and ways they deliver information. Men are much simpler that way (I guess that is why we always look scruffy in comparison). You know what? I blame the media for this. If you look at advertising and magazines you’ll find that a lot is about making women feel bad or inadequate about themselves. Ride the escalator up Leicester Square and you’ll find a lot of posters stating amazingly idiotic things like “start the year with new confidence – affordable plastic surgery”. Mitchell and Webb hit the nail on the head with their sketch about this:

That Mitchell and Web Look—Women: Sort yourself out.

The workshop

After the talks we split up into three workshops – “Making public speaking easier” by Katie Streten, “How to speak confidently under pressure” by Emer Coleman and “How to be a compelling speaker” by me.

The fun thing was that during my training as a trainer I learnt three things:

  • Workshops should be done in small groups (5-10 people tops)
  • You should get to know the people you train beforehand to see what kind of learners they are and cater your materials accordingly
  • Plan your session in chunks of time and have several activities for people – mix very physical ones with research topics

Which of course became wonderfully moot points when Laura told me a day before that twenty people signed up for my course and that they are of all kind of mixed backgrounds and that the sessions are 25 minutes and not more.

So I took this “horror scenario” and instead of giving people demos and exercises in finding the story in information (which was my original intent) I came up with four terrible scenarios and split the twenty people into groups of five each to deal with them.

The idea was the following: if you are prepared for the worst you are actually free to deliver what you need to deliver in a very inspiring manner. Confidence is the main key to success as speaker. If you are in a mind set of “throw anything at me, I can deal with it” then you have time to hone your speaking skills.

The “Horror Scenarios” to solve

Each group was to nominate a speaker and someone to take notes. They then got a “horror scenario” to solve and had ten minutes to answer three questions about the topic. After that each group had five minutes to give a quick presentation explaining the problem and their solutions.

The scenarios and questions where:

Clever Trevor

You give a presentation and you planned for a certain amount of Questions and Answers. However, the second person – with 10 minutes in – starts challenging you and explains that he is an expert in the matter and that you were wrong.

You can normally spy a “Clever Trevor” from far away as the question starts with him explaining who he is for hours and talking about the subject matter.

  • How can you make sure that you don’t have him as an enemy and still not waste time?
  • What could you do during your talk to prevent this from happening?
  • What are the positive aspects of a Clever Trevor?

Blinded By Coolaid

You are asked to give a presentation at a big conference and the company sends you a great, beautiful and sanctioned slide deck. The problem with the slide deck is that it is not at all catered to your market and it expects everybody to love the brand whilst in your country it is not really known or relevant in comparison to the competition.

  • How can you make sure that you can own the presentation and not look like a total marketing puppet?
  • What can you do to get people excited about the subject matter although it is not relevant at this moment in time?
  • How can you prevent the audience from doing the obvious thing and pointing out that the competition does it much better?

Impaired Foresight

You have to give an internal presentation about your department and your Boss constantly fails to support you in the absolute basics to deliver your work. You are an expert in the subject matter and he is not – yet this doesn’t stop him from cutting your budget. You as the expert can see doom ahead and you know that it will be on your head cause god forbid your boss would ever admit to being wrong.

  • How can you prepare a project report that shows what is right now happening and give a positive view of the future?
  • What can you do in your presentation to show “on the sly” what really is needed?
  • How can you make sure that your boss gives you better support after the presentation?

Sudden Timewarp

This can happen in both external and internal talks. Weeks ago you were asked to prepare a talk on a certain subject and 20 minutes before you are on there is an agenda change – your talk is now not an hour like originally planned, but you only get half an hour.

  • What can you do in your talk preparation to take this scenario into consideration?
  • How can you make sure that the audience still doesn’t feel disappointed?
  • How do you prepare yourself for this?

Workshop proceedings or “why I love women”

The hidden trick in all of the solutions above is to put yourself into the shoes of the person that causes this terrible scenario. What drives a clever Trevor? Why is your boss so terrible to you and cuts your budget while not listening to your advice?

The thing I was actually very scared of was running out of time – 25 minutes is ridiculously short for an exercise like this. Frankly, I was very positively surprised.

  • Whilst a group of men would have spent the first 5 minutes arguing who will be the speaker and how to present the matters all four groups sat down, picked a speaker in a matter of seconds and tackled the job at hand.
  • Every single group understood that the main key to fixing these issues is psychological – they analyzed why the person was being a problem and found subtle ways of persuasion to work around them or them to change their ways.
  • The presentations were on time, to the point and explained both the way they came to the solutions and the solutions themselves.
  • The notes are readable whereas every man’s notes I’ve seen resemble the scribbles on prison walls (including mine, guess why I use computers).
  • All groups were very supportive to each other and asked questions afterwards about the problems of the others.

All in all I can only applaud the teams – I hoped for people to find the same solutions I offered as a takeaway afterwards and all of them got it. I only wished I had had more time with them.


I had a great time at the event and I hope to have inspired the attendees to take what happens to you as a speaker in stride. I have seen a lot of talent on the day and would love to witness some of them woo audiences in the future and bring good messages across. The only issue I had with the event is the timing – the workshops should be much longer and get some preparation time to be much more effective. The word “workshop” is thrown around much too lightly these days – it is not a speaker doing some Q&A – it is about a group doing something and getting their first experiences at doing it by themselves and finding their own way of achieving it.

How to write an article or tutorial the fast way

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

As you know if you come here often, I am a very prolific writer and churn out blog posts and articles very quickly. Some people asked me how I do that – especially as they want to take part in Project 52.

Well, here is how I approach writing a new post/article:

Step 1: Find a problem to solve

Your article should solve an issue – either one you encountered yourself and always wanted to find a solution to on the web (this is how I started this blog) or something people ask on mailing lists, forums or Twitter.

Step 2: Research or code (or both)

The first step is the research of the topic you want to cover. When you write, you don’t want to get side-tracked by looking up web sites. Do your surfing, copy and paste the quotes and URLs, take the screenshots and all that jazz. Put them in a folder on your hard drive.

If your article is a code tutorial, code the whole thing and save it in different steps (plain_html.html, styled.html, script.html, final.html,final_with_docs.html). Do this step well – you will copy and paste part of the code into your article and when you find mistakes then you need to maintain it in two spots again. Make sure this code can be used by others and does not need anything only you can provide (for more tips check the write excellent code examples chapter of the developer evangelism handbook).

Step 3: Build the article outline

The next thing I do is write the outline of the article as weighted headlines (HTML, eh?). This has a few benefits.

  • You know what you will cover and it allows you to limit yourself to what is really needed.
  • You will know what follows what you are writing and already know what you don’t need to mention. I myself tend to get excited and want to say everything in the first few lines. This is bad as it doesn’t get the readers on a journey but overloads them instead.
  • You can estimate the size of the overall article
  • You can write the different parts independent of another. If you get stuck with one sub-topic, jump to one you know inside-out and get this out of the way.

It would look something like this:

Turning a nested list into a tree navigation

See the demo, download the code

Considering the audience

How do tree navigations work?

Allowing for styling

Accessibility concerns

Start with the minimal markup

Add styling

The dynamic CSS class switch

Add the script

Event delegation vs. Event handling

Adding a configuration file

Other options to consider

See it in action

Contact and comment options

Step 4: Fill in keywords for each section

For each of the sections just put in a list of keywords or topics you want to cover. This will help you to write the full text.

Turning a nested list into a tree navigation

See the demo, download the code

working demo, code on github

Considering the audience

who needs tree navigations? where are they used?

How do tree navigations work?

How does a tree navigation work? What features are common? How to allow expanding a sub-branch and keep a link to a landing page?

Allowing for styling

keep look and feel away from the script, write a clean css with background images.

Accessibility concerns

Consider keyboard access. cursor keys, tabbing not from link to link but section to section and enter to expand.

Start with the minimal markup

clean HTML, simple CSS handles, not a class per item

Add styling

show the style, explain how to alter it – show a few options

The dynamic CSS class switch

the trick to add a class to a parent element. allows for styles for the dynamic and non-dynamic version. Also prevents the need for looping

Add the script

Performance tricks, safe checking for elements, structure of the script

Event delegation vs. Event handling

One event is enough. Explain why – the menu will change as it will be maintained elsewhere.

Adding a configuration file

Take all the strings, colours and parameters and add it to a configuration file – stops people from messing with your code.

Other options to consider

Dynamic loading of child branches.

See it in action

Show again where it is and if it was used in live sites

Contact and comment options

Tell me where and how to fix things

Step 5: Write the full text for each section.

As said before you can do that in succession or part by part. I find myself filling in different sections at different times. Mostly I get out the laptop on the train and fill in a quick section I know very well on a short ride. That means it is out of my way.

Step 6: Add fillers from section to section

I then add a sentence after each section that sums up what we achieved and what we will do next. This is not really needed but great for reading flow.

Step 7: Read the lot and delete what can be deleted

The last step is to read the whole text (probably printed out as you find more mistakes that way) and see how it flows. Alter as needed and remove all the things that seemed a great idea at the first time of writing but seem superfluous now. People are busy.

Step 8: Put it live and wait for the chanting groupies

Find a place to put the article, convert it to the right format, check all the links and images and you are ready to go.

More, please, more!

More tips on the style of the article itself are also listed in the Write great posts and articles chapter of the developer evangelism handbook.

Developer Evangelism book update – new chapter on writing slides, new print version

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Yesterday I spent my evening updating the Developer Evangelism Handbook:

New cover. by  you.

The updates include:

The rest remains the same:

Developer Evangelism is a new kind of role in IT companies. This is the handbook how to be successful in it.

A developer evangelist is a spokesperson, mediator and translator between a company and both its technical staff and outside developers. If you think this would be a good role for you, here’s the developer evangelist handbook which gives you some great tips on how to do this job.

Using the handbook you’ll learn how to:

  • Find great web content and promote it.
  • Write for the web and create engaging code examples.
  • Use the web and the social web to your advantage to reach, research and promote.
  • Prepare and deliver great presentations

Chris’ travel tips – Tokyo, Japan

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Some time ago I asked people on twitter if I should start writing about my travel experiences here in addition to the technical info I am giving. As my job right now consists mostly of traveling it would be fun to give some very personal insights about what you can do where. So here goes.

I went to Tokyo on a quick trip to meet with Yahoo Japan office and be a booth babe for us at the Web Directions East conference. I also ended up giving a presentation at a Pecha Kucha night.

All in all my experience is a bit tainted as I was sick and couldn’t do much, but here are some things that might be of interest for you if you ever go here.

high tech toilet flushSuper Lemon SodaTokyo by  you.Tokyo by  you.P1090790 by  you.P1090783 by  you.P1090770 by  you.P1090752 by  you.Tokyo by  you.

  • There are no flying cars – sorry, but my Bladerunner inspired impression of Tokyo is off. No flying cars, no robot dogs. The area we stayed in (Asaka, the Ana Intercontinental Hotel in between the US and the Russian embassy) actually reminded me a lot of Hong Kong.
  • You are off the grid in terms of mobiles – neither my personal T-Mobile HTC did a beep nor the company Vodafone 3G Blackberry. American colleagues have working iPhones though but I shudder to think how much the roaming costs.
  • Japanese mobiles are totally different – for starters, a lot of people watch TV on their phones.
  • There is no way to pay with credit card or cash machines – you can get money in the hotel though and it is totally normal to carry a month’s UK rent in cash Yen with you all the time – nothing gets stolen here.
  • Connectivity is good – In the hotel you have to pay for internets (but that is like in America – to my mind it should always be free) but cafes have free wireless. Wireless on the other hand seems to be not that common in offices and hotels.
  • Public transport is ace – we arrived in Narita airport and there is a good train connection to the city. The undergrounds is pretty easy to navigate and not too expensive. Still, Hong Kong beats it :) Taxis are ubiquitous but pricy – they start at 710 Yen and then go up quickly. Taxi doors in the back are opened by the driver, so wait for it. Marvel at the awesome GPS they have – like an animated Google street view.
  • Everything is ridiculously expensive – deal with it. It is like coming to London for the first time, just more painful.
  • There are coffee vending machines everywhere – hot and cold canned coffee and soft drinks are available on almost every street corner.
  • You can get along with English, but some Japanese sentences will help you a lot – taxi drivers for starters will not speak any English, bring a Japanese print out of the map you want to go.
  • The food rocks – you can eat anything and your body will not hate you for it.
  • Opening hours are odd – whilst you would expect the hotel to be the safe haven for the end of the evening you are sadly mistaken. Ours had no bar and after 9 the small shop and bakery inside it was already closed. You come back to the hotel to sleep, not to party (or if you got lucky, both).
  • Don’t blow your nose in public – which was a bitch with me having a bad cold. You do see a lot of people with face masks. This is not as we expect to stop the bearer from getting germs but is actually something people do when they have a cold to prevent others from getting infected. OK, whoever knows a bit about the efficiency of these masks can dispute the whole idea, but it shows just how much Japanese people care about not bothering others with their respiratory problems.
  • People are terribly helpful – even if they don’t understand you they consider it a flaw on their part and won’t ask for more details. This can be very confusing and I myself feel very uncomfortable with this.
  • The streets and public places are safe – you see a lot of cops hanging around and I for example saw people falling asleep in cafes with their money and their mobiles on the table. In the UK they’d have woken up naked as people would’ve nicked the lot.
  • Chopstick skills are needed – you’ll hardly find forks and knives outside of hotels. Eating sushi with your hands is expected though. You will get a hot towel before every meal.
  • Toilets are high tech – you have heated seats (very much loved by every woman I talked to about this) and spraying facilities in almost every toilet. With spraying facilities I mean bidet-style fountains that wash your bum. They can be adjusted both in angle and strength and don’t stop automatically – you need to press the stop button. I was confused by this the first time and waited for quite a while for the flood to stop which it didn’t. Not all are labeled in English, so some experimentation is necessary. Some toilets even have fake flushing noise generators to cover any flatulence. Again, this is a hint what not to do in public.
  • Finding an English speaking doctor can be hard – I just came back from a trek to 3 hospitals as the international SOS centre gave me the address of a nearby hospital but there was no English speaking doctor present. As professionals, they won’t touch you without being able to give a proper examination (you know half of the job is asking the patient what the issue is). In the end I found a service that provides translation on the phone for you. Any hospital knows that number so ask them to talk to the doc and you over the phone to work out. An examination plus medication was 4800 Yen, so not too bad.
  • There are a lot of all-night shops – offering drinks, pretty decent prepacked food, magazines, toiletries, magazines and even medication. Seven Elevens are the most common ones.
  • You do stand out – no matter what you do. Whilst people don’t stare (as I found to be a very common thing on my travels in India) you can try as you might but you will always be a Gaijin which used to be a rude word about foreigners but has become quite normal by now.
  • Hotels are very comfortable and high quality – like anywhere in Asia (at least I have been) US and especially UK hotels could learn from the stuff you get here in your rooms. Great beds, good TV set, mini bar, dry cleaning, iron, towels, pajamas, good shampoo+conditioner+body wash – all of these are normal.
  • Bring business cards – I collected them by the bundle here and managed not to bring mine which was quite a boo boo.
  • Public transport and lifts can be very packed – but don’t worry, even if you feel that you might crush people around you it will not happen.
  • People are beautiful – Japanese people have a very high standard of clothing and personal grooming. It is very easy to look scruffy here. Having said that, club-gear and young folk might dress in things that confuse you but just you wait – sooner or later all of that will come to the west, too. Then again the T-Shirts with random English or German sentences you see on can be found, too.

That’s it for my first impressions. Check my flickr photos for some impressions and hopefully this is of use for you. Also feel free to comment with things I have done wrong if you are a local :).