Κυριακή, 12 Μαρτίου 2017

Οδηγός μετανάστευσης στην Αγγλία

Οδηγός μετανάστευσης στην Αγγλία (Ηνωμένο Βασίλειο)

Greek Street, Liverpool L3

Λίγα λόγια αντί προλόγου

Το κείμενο αυτό το έγραψα τον Φεβρουάριο του 2017, αλλά θα ανανεώνεται τακτικά, ενώ είναι ανοικτό σε σχόλια για βελτίωση. Τον Ιανουάριο του 2017 επέστρεψα στην Ελλάδα μετά από απουσία εννιά μηνών, και περίμενα με τους φίλους μου να συζητήσουμε άλλα πράγματα στον καφέ, όμως σχεδόν όλοι όσοι συνάντησα με ρωτούσαν μόνο ένα πράγμα: πώς θα έρθουν Αγγλία. Έχοντας πρόσφατα την εμπειρία μετανάστευσης στην Αγγλία θα προσπαθήσω να βοηθήσω όσους σκέφτονται να μεταναστεύσουν, χωρίς να μπω στην διαδικασία να εξηγήσω αν είναι καλύτερα ή χειρότερα και ανάλογες συζητήσεις.

Πριν το ταξίδι για την μετανάστευση

Αφού αποφασίσεις ότι θέλεις να μεταναστεύσεις, είναι πολύ σημαντικό να συνειδητοποιήσεις τους λόγους που σε σπρώχνουν να το κάνεις αυτό. Οι περισσότεροι μεταναστεύουν για οικονομικούς λόγους, άλλοι για το κάτι παραπάνω, όμως αρκετοί αποφασίζουν να φύγουν για να βελτιώσουν το περιβάλλον που θα ζήσουν. Το σημαντικό είναι να ξέρεις τι θέλεις εσύ. Ακόμα και αν περνούσες δύσκολα στην Ελλάδα, ή αν τα βρεις όλα καλά στο εξωτερικό, πάντα θα είναι μια δύσκολη απόφαση. Αν θέλεις να διαβάσεις μία σύνοψη/απολογισμό ενός άλλου Ζακυνθινού για την παραμονή του στην Αγγλία μπορείς να διαβάσεις το κείμενο του Στέφανου εδώ.

Gov.UK - η επίσημη σελίδα με όλες τις πληροφορίες για την ζωή στην Αγγλία

Το portal Gov.UK έχει όλες τις πληροφορίες που θα χρειαστείς για να μετακομίσεις και να ζήσεις στο Ηνωμένο Βασίλειο. Από το πώς μπορείς να ανοίξεις επιχείρηση, ποια και πόσα επιδόματα δικαιούσαι, τι φορολογία θα πληρώνεις, τι είναι το MOT (ΚΤΕΟ και τέλος κυκλοφορίας), πότε μπορείς να μετατρέψεις το δίπλωμα οδήγησης σε αγγλικό, γενικά τα πάντα. Διάβασέ το, ψάξε το, και πάντα όταν έχεις απορία θα είναι το πρώτο πράγμα που θα συμβουλεύεσαι.

Παρασκευή, 25 Νοεμβρίου 2016

Twitter profits, immature markets, failed policies, bots and spam

Twitter profits, immature markets, failed policies, bots and spam

A Twitter Banner Draped Over The New York Stock Exchange For Twitter's IPO

Twitter revenue (or the lack of it)

I joined Twitter relatively late, but since then it became my favorite social network. Although I love using Twitter everyday (@spyrosth), from reading the news to getting the latest memes from Greece, it seems that the platform in general is a bit of a failure (compared to Facebook). This failure represents the lack of profitability for the company Twitter. Why Twitter cannot make enough profits from its users? My answer focuses on the immature digital market of Greece and it extends to Twitter failed policies.

Immature markets and failed policies

In Greece, which is an immature digital market, the majority of my parents' friends (and Greeks above 40 in general) joined Facebook in the last couple of years, but nobody joined Twitter. Well the numbers are different since a lot of people from Greece joined Twitter recently but there is only one reason for doing that: Eleni Menegaki. Menegaki has almost half a million followers on Twitter, but the majority of them are not using Twitter except from retweeting her. On the other hand the majority of middle aged Greek Facebook users upload a lot of silly posts everyday on their timeline, like other silly posts, and of course interact with Facebook ads.
Google search for Twitter in Greek
If you Google Twitter in Greek (τουιτερ) the top results are all related to Menegaki's show on Alpha TV. Menegaki is the "Greek Oprah", the hostess of the most popular (used to be morning) afternoon show. She represents the "average Greek housewife", so she didn't have any social media presence since recently. But when Menegaki joined Twitter and started to give away gifts, all the middle aged housewives of Greece joined Twitter too. You just have to retweet one of her tweets presenting a gift offer to enter the competition. It's free, you just have to sign on twitter, follow one account, and click one button.

Every giveaway tweet of Menegaki gets around 20.000 retweets within minutes, in a very small and immature market like Greece, where the top accounts struggle to get more than a thousand engagements within days.

So the question is: if you are a Digital Marketeer who wants to promote a product on Twitter will you use Twitter Ads or a giveaway on Menegaki (combining TV and social)? No second thoughts here.

Even if you wanted to use Promoted Tweets, remember that the majority of Menegaki's fans don't properly use Twitter at all, they don't read their timeline, they don't tweet, nor interact with other users (except from replying on her tweets). If you look at the detailed view of her tweet, you will see that even spammers who reply to her tweets get at least 4-5 interactions (no paid tweets, no policy to prevent them either).

Another thing worth mentioning is that Menegaki's twitter account is not verified (who cares?), and that she is not on Facebook. I mean why is she not on Facebook when almost 100.000 people talk about her?
Answer: because Facebook has strict policies about promotions:

Twitter not only allows black hat marketing, but it provides black hat marketeers a free, non penalizing platform to deploy. 

On the other hand Facebook (like Google), has restricted black hat techniques as much as possible. So if you want to be advertised on Facebook you will have to pay its Marketplace. Well done Facebook for keeping my timeline clear from shared posts promotions, while making enough profit from a small market like Greece. Besides losing money Twitter makes its platform user unfriendly. I have muted Menegaki, and I am sure a lot of regular users in Greece have done the same, either that or there is no chance to have a normal timeline.

Spam and bots

The second thing Twitter fails to cope with, and that also leads to losing profit is spam and bots
Let's go back again to our Digital Marketeer in Greece who has the task to promote a Twitter account. The first thing that will come to mind is contacting Menegaki's team or any other similar celebrity.
Is his/hers second option Twitter Ads? No.
His/her second option is hiring a cheap "social media guru" or a "social media specialized agency" that can guarantee instant results to our marketeer. Yes, black hat marketing, spammers, bots, botnets, twitter eggs, call them whatever you like but you cannot avoid these on Twitter.

Let's see another example. The General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) joined Twitter in 2013 (@gsee_gr) but until last week the account didn't have many followers nor interactions. A tweet GSEE made on October 31st got 0 retweets and 0 likes:

On the same day GSEE made another tweet, but after asking for help from a "social media guru". So by adding a GIF image the tweet managed to get 256 retweets and 146 likes. Good job isn't it?
Well no. The majority of the retweets were made in November, by new users (joined in November) who use their full (typical yet random) Greek name, with a very cute profile photo, and they only retweet GSEE, aka BOTS. Just a small sample of the accounts that currently interact (only) with GSEE:

Bot 1, Bot 2, Bot 3, Bot 4, Bot 5Bot 6Bot 7Bot 8Bot 9Bot 10 went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine (hundreds).

Conclusions about Twitter failed policies, profits and bots

Twitter enlarged its user base in Greece in the recent years, yet it fails to make any profit out of it. From the almost half a million followers (5% of the Greek population!) of Menegaki, Twitter gets no ads, no profit, no quality content, and almost no other action except from retweets. It seems that Twitter almost sponsors the Greek TV shows that uses its platform to promote products for free. The platform hosts millions of users without profit.

Why Twitter fails to make a profit?

If you want to get your product advertised on Twitter you just pay an account with many followers to do it (failed policy).

If you want to get more followers and interactions you just pay a botnet, that is cheaper and can guarantee instant results (failure to copy with spam and botnets).

Τετάρτη, 31 Αυγούστου 2016

Haiti, Liverpool and Greece. Slavery and revolt.

International Slavery Museum of Liverpool

On 23rd August 2016 I visited the International Slavery Museum at Liverpool, to celebrate the Slavery Remembrance Day (#SRDLiverpool). The day designated by UNESCO to commemorate the transatlantic slave trade, the date is significant because, during the night of August 22 to August 23, 1791, on the island of Saint Domingue (now known as Haiti), an uprising began which set forth events which were a major factor in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade[1].
Batala Liverpool on Slavery Remembrance Day
As a student of Greek history it was easy for me to find the link between Liverpool, Haiti and Greece, a story of slavery and revolt.

Slavery in Haiti

Slavery in Haiti has existed since Christopher Columbus arrived on the island in 1492. The practice was so devastating to the native population that the Spanish began importing African slaves[2].

Slavery and Liverpool

Liverpool was a major slaving port and its ships and merchants dominated the transatlantic slave trade in the second half of the 18th century[3]. Probably three-quarters of all European slaving ships at this period left from Liverpool. Overall, Liverpool ships transported half of the 3 million Africans carried across the Atlantic by British slavers. That means that a lot of African slaves that lived in Haiti were probably transported from the port of Liverpool.

Haitian Revolution

On the night that spanned August 22 and 23, 1791, slave rebels in the French colony of Saint-Domingue started the Haitian Revolution, the only instance of a successful slave rebellion in world history and the founding event of the first modern black republic[4].

Haiti and Greece

Greeks revolted against the Ottoman Empire on 25th March 1821, and Greece officially declared its independence on 15th January 1822. 
Haiti was the first government of an independent state that recognised Greece's liberation from Ottoman rule in 1821[5]. On January 15, 1822 the President of Haiti Jean-Pierre Boyer in his letter to the Greek Committee of Paris announced its recognition of the Greek Interim Administration and wished the victory of the Revolution[6].
There are some sources saying that Haiti offered 25 tons of coffee to fund the Greek state, and also 100 black soldiers from Haiti that died helping the Greek fight for independence, but there are no citations (or at least I still have not found any).

Liverpool and Greeks

The first large wave of Greeks to the city of Liverpool occurred in 1821 after massacres of Greeks by Turkish invaders on the island of Chios. Significant numbers also came to work for the Ralli brothers, who recruited 40.000 Greeks in cities worldwide including New York City, Geneva and Liverpool. The peak year for emigration from Greece to the USA through Liverpool port was 1907[7].
The Greek community started to form after 1821, and like every community, it needed a centre. The Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas in Toxteth was built in 1870 to serve the local Greek community. The Grade II Listed building in Toxteth, Liverpool, is situated at the junction of Berkley Street and Princes Road. It was designed in 1870 by the architects W. & J. Hay and was built by Henry Sumners. It is an enlarged version of St. Theodore's church in Istanbul.
Not sure if it was connected with the presence of Greeks in Liverpool, but when James Radley in 1826 opened his first hotel in Liverpool he named it Adelphi Hotel, from the Greek word "αδελφοί" meaning brothers. Adelphi Hotel became one of the landmarks of Liverpool [8].

From Merseyside back to Greece

One of the Greeks who lived in Liverpool at that time was Pavlos Carrer. Pavlos Carrer, was a composer from Zante island, an island that was part of the British Empire when he was born (1829) but part of Greece when he died (1896). In June 1842 the young Pavlos Carrer travelled in Europe with his uncle to study in Paris, France, but after visiting Venice, Paris, London they ended up in Woodside near Liverpool [9]. In Woodside Carrer lived in the house of James Spence, where Spence's nephew Maria McNabb (?) taught Carrer music theory and piano[10].
When he left Woodside Carrer continued his musical studies in Corfu and Milan, becoming one of the most famous Greek composers of the 19th century.

Τετάρτη, 18 Μαΐου 2016

My first simple site, a story about opportunities.

One of the things that I am proud about, as a student of Computer Engineering and Informatics, is the site of Proastiakos (local suburban train). It is a personal victory and a story of turning problems into opportunities.

The Proastiakos of Patras, local suburban train that connects the city centre with the University of Patras, started its service on July 9th 2010 by TRAINOSE, mainly as an experiment. The official site of the Trainose company was - and remains - outdated but the train is cheaper and more accurate than local buses, so the students prefer it. In 2012 the train had 1.340.000 passengers, growing steadily to 1.430.000 in 2013 and 1.600.000 in 2014.

Among those passengers that used the train every day, there were hundreds (if not thousands) of engineering students. Students that had better coding skills than I had, but like a great post I recently read "they knew how to program, but they din't know what to program". I didn't know how to code, but I knew what to code, a site about the train that I was using every day and nobody knew the timetable.

I launched my site in October 2012. It was a simple, static, non responsive, plain html site providing the timetable, tickets and cards information and the route. When I saw that people in the university liked the site (the information, but not the design), I started improving the site and myself. The site became responsive, then I added analytics (on hands approach), Facebook pixel audience, Google Adsense, recently got a massive improvement with html5 initializr and soon will also have an English version.

Since the last update, two years ago, the site has 100 daily unique users, not something impressive, but the best moment was in its first launch when the train company printed my site and used in in the Patra's central train station. This was something. The train company did not have a proper timetable, and an employer printed the only available solution on-line, posted in the central station to inform the passengers.
www.proastiakos.eu site printed in the Patras' Train Station
Anyway this is a post about my best moment as an engineering student. I found a problem, turned it into an opportunity, and in the process I learned how to code and update a proper site, using analytics, advertising and other useful tools that I knew in theory. Trivial for an engineering school semester project, but a client centric, market site that works and has clients.

Δευτέρα, 18 Απριλίου 2016

Ο πρώτος μου ορεινός αγώνας τρεξίματος

Ο αγώνας Ερύμανθος Mountain Trail “Ηράκλειος Άθλος” ήταν ο πρώτος ορεινός αγώνας δρόμου που συμμετείχα και ταυτόχρονα ο πρώτος αγώνας ορεινού τρεξίματος στον Ερύμανθο. Ο αγώνας έγινε στις 5 Μαΐου 2014 με εκκίνηση από το χωριό Λακώματα και τερματισμό στο χωριό Καλούσι Αχαΐας. Όπως στους περισσότερους αγώνες βουνού υπήρξαν δύο διαδρομές, η μεγάλη των 20+ χιλιομέτρων και 1Κ+ υψομετρικής διαφοράς και η μικρή μήκους 13 χιλιομέτρων και 700 μέτρων υψομετρικής διαφοράς.
Ηράκλειος Άθλος Erymanthos Trail 2014
Στόχος μου ήταν η συμμετοχή και ο τερματισμός στην μικρή διαδρομή, αλλά τελικά αποκόμισα περισσότερα πράγματα από τον αγώνα. Ξεκίνησα μόνος μου για τον αγώνα, χωρίς κανένα ειδικό εξοπλισμό, οπότε όταν έφτασα στο χωριό και είδα τους δρομείς με ειδικά παπούτσια trail, ζελέ με μαγνήσιο και αθλητικά gps είχα κάποιες αμφιβολίες για το τι έκανα εγώ εκεί. Όμως ήδη μέσα στο λεωφορείο για την εκκίνηση οι συναθλητές μου με ενθάρρυναν για την επιλογή μου να αρχίσω να συμμετέχω σε αγώνες.

Στο χωριό Λακώματα είδα κάποια γνώριμα πρόσωπα να συμμετέχουν στον αγώνα. Μετά από μικρό ζέσταμα άρχισε ο αγώνας με τους δρομείς της μεγάλης διαδρομής να ξεκινάνε πρώτοι μέσα σε χειροκρότημα. Κατόπιν άρχισα και εγώ με τους άλλους δρομείς της μικρής διαδρομής. Αν και είχα σκοπό να περπατήσω την διαδρομή, μετά τα πρώτα χιλιόμετρα άρχισα το δυναμικό βάδισμα και προς το τέλος το τρέξιμο. Τελικά τερμάτισα μετά από 3 ώρες 39 λεπτά και 28 δευτερόλεπτα και η θέση μου ήταν 51/58 στην γενική κατάταξη και 46/48 στους άντρες.
Από τον αγώνα κέρδισα φίλους αθλητές, αυτοπεποίθηση και εκτίμηση για όσους προσπαθούν. Δύο περιστατικά θα θυμάμαι για πάντα: την βοήθεια σε έναν συναθλητή που είχε υψοφοβία και το χειροκρότημα του Φάνη Αρκουμάνη.

Όταν είχαμε φτάσει, με το γκρουπ δρομέων που συμβαδίζαμε, στον σταθμό ανεφοδιασμού πριν την κορυφή συναντήσαμε έναν αθλητή δρόμου που είχε υψοφοβία. Στην διαδρομή έμαθα ότι είχε τερματίσει πάνω από 20 μαραθώνιους και είχε και τερματισμούς σε αγώνες 80 χιλιομέτρων, αλλά ήταν ο πρώτος του ορεινός αγώνας. Αν και ο αγώνας ήταν το Μάιο, στην κορυφή συναντήσαμε χιονόνερο το οποίο δυσκόλευε την κατάβαση σε στενές διαδρομές με σάρες. Ο συγκεκριμένος αθλητής υπέφερε από υψοφοβία και μέχρι να μας συναντήσει στον σταθμό είχε ανέβει δύο φορές την κορυφή, αλλά δεν μπόρεσε να συνεχίσει. Την τρίτη ανεβήκαμε μαζί και τον βοήθησα να περάσει την κορυφή. Όταν περάσαμε τα απότομα περάσματα συνέχισε το τρέξιμο, και για πρώτη φορά άρχισα να τρέχω σε γρήγορο ρυθμό και εγώ.

Τρία χιλιόμετρα πριν το τερματισμό οι δύο διαδρομές ενώθηκαν, οπότε με προσπερνούσαν οι αθλητές της μεγάλης διαδρομής, οι οποίοι είχαν τρέξει 10 επιπλέον χιλιόμετρα στον ίδιο χρόνο. Προφανώς και παραμέριζα για να με περάσουν χωρίς να ανακόψουν ταχύτητα, αλλά ήδη όταν πρώτος με προσπέρασε ο Φάνης Αρκουμάνης και μου είπε "Μπράβο συνέχισε έτσι, σε λίγο τερματίζουμε" αισθάνθηκα περίεργα. Είχα συνηθίσει τον ανταγωνισμό των ομαδικών αθλημάτων και μου φάνηκε περίεργο - έως και ειρωνικό στην αρχή - να σε ενθαρρύνουν όταν κάνεις περίπου 3:30 ώρες για να διανύσεις 13 χιλιόμετρα.

Τρεις ώρες και τριάντα λεπτά είναι μεγάλος χρόνος για την διαδρομή αυτή, αλλά ήταν ο καλύτερος χρόνος μου μέχρι τότε.
Στον αγώνα ο μόνος που συναγωνίζεσαι είναι ο εαυτός σου και οι υπόλοιποι αθλητές είναι εκεί μόνο για να σε βοηθήσουν και να σε ενθαρρύνουν.
Στην ζωή ισχύουν πάνω κάτω τα ίδια, αλλά αν οι συναθλητές σου δεν σε βοηθούν μπορείς να τους αγνοήσεις και να συνεχίσεις τον αγώνα σου συγκεντρωμένος στις δυνάμεις σου.

Τετάρτη, 2 Μαρτίου 2016

Adding value to your works using Creative Commons licenses

Back in 2007 I created an account on Flickr, without having a digital camera nor an interest in photography. When I bought my first digital camera a Kodak Z612 Zoom (a compact with 6.1 Mpixels resolution, manual control over the aperture and shutter speed, and 12X optical zoom) I started experimenting with the most impressive construction of my home city, the Rio - Antirrio "Charilaos Trikoupis" Bridge.
rio bridge at night

Since 2014 the only photograph with some visits was a shaken photo of a bench that looked similar with the Fourier transform of a square pulse. The traffic came from a tweet from Spiros Vathis, a great amateur photographer and mathematician.
When I decided to ditch copyright and to use Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs license I just wanted to open my photos and to help the community of the CC expand.

What I did not expected was the traffic increase. Nothing changed in the next couple of months but after less than a year voilà(!) my photos suddenly started to get visits, comments and furthermore I got requests for printed editions.

A cute child playing at Wien St. Stephen's square attracted more than 29.000 visits.
Child playing at Wien (St.Stephen's Square)

A photo of three children fishing at the beach of Parga, Greece has more than 19.000 visits. The open license helped editors to use the photo without asking, just by giving the credits. The photo was used under CC in a blog here which was reproduced in another site, and in a different blog here.
children's summer and love...

A simple graffiti photo that I took back when I lived in Karlsruhe has more than 15.000 visits. The photo was chosen as the header of an article here, another article about marriage here, and I got a request to include the photo in a printed book, which I happily accepted.
love hunt

The Attribution-NoDerivs license is not the most free license, it is a weird mix after all, but it is a good first step once you decide to ditch copyright. I chose No Derivative Works since it provides some rights about reproduction of your works, Attribution for obvious reasons, but I did not include Share Alike nor Non Commercial limitations. 

What is more important about the CC licenses, like all open projects, is the community. The publisher that contact me to ask if he could include my photo in a printed copyrighted and commercial book is just a kind member of the community, since the Attribution-NoDerivs license gives him the right to publish my photos in a copyrighted (since I do not use Share Alike) and commercial (since I do not use Non Commercial) book providing only credits and without altering my photo.

Τρίτη, 23 Φεβρουαρίου 2016

Hello World!

Hello World!
Typical first post, until I write a proper blog post you can watch an Arduino Uno blinking "Hello World" in Morse code connected and programmed using Codebender, a startup from Patras, Greece.