Happy birthday Generation X Computers…

My web design and development company, Generation X has just celebrated its fifth birthday. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when it was born…the name Generation X Computers was first conceived back in the mid-90s, when I was selling computers and software for LSI Computers in Warrington. However it was only around 2003 that I began to write HTML and discovered a real passion for web design.

I registered the domain Generationxcomputers.com on the 9th October 2003, and registered Generation X Computers Ltd as a limited company the following week on the 14th October. For the purpose of an official birthday I’ve decided to go with the latter. It was actually a few months later on the 5th April 2004 that I took the plunge and officially became a full time web designer.

It would have been nice to have relaxed and celebrated, but this week has flown by in a blur of late nights and pressing deadlines. Even at 5, Generation X is still a demanding child. And rather like the soul-searching that comes when a child reaches school age, it is a good time to look back… and forward.

Established wisdom has it that UK start-ups have a failure rate of over 50% in their first two years. Depending on the statistics you read small business failure rates are anywhere between 30% and 90% within the first 3-5 years. More specifically, 2007 research by accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young highlights annual failure rates of 8.9% for businesses in the Marketing Services Industry, and 6.3% for those in IT services…so Generation X must have been doing something right. However, I’m happy to admit that we also have a lot of lessons to learn and apply over the coming years.

The Times 100 website, for example, lists 10 common reasons for business failure:  poor marketing, cash flow problems, poor business planning, lack of finance, failure to embrace new technologies and developments, poor choice of location, poor management, poor human resource relations, lack of clear objectives and particularly in the case of .com start-ups the difficulties encountered in building a brand in competition with more established brand names. I think that we can improve in at least 7 of these areas in our next 5 years.

In particular, I feel that time is long overdue to look at the issues of business planning and marketing. In times of global crisis I count myself fortunate to have a full order book with enough work to see me into 2009. However, it also seems a portentous time to focus on the future. In particular I plan to develop the Generation X brand in Shropshire, Cheshire and the Midlands, expanding our focus into marketing and graphic design as well as web design and development. I also have the infrastructure in place to develop the web hosting and domain registration side of the business.

Anyway…Happy Birthday to me!

The Withnail and I drinking game

Unfortunately, or on consideration perhaps not, I only found the rules for this particular drinking game after I’d become middle-aged and caught sobriety in a big way. I categorically reserve the right, however, to consult this post when I next catch up with my oldest and dearest friend.

Hi, Chris 😉

This is a drinking game associated with Withnail & I, popular amongst fans. The game consists of keeping up, drink for drink, with each and every alcoholic (and other) substance consumed by Withnail and Marwood over the course of the film.

Most players may simply drink their beverage of choice regardless of what the characters consume, though this is viewed by the more “hardcore” Withnail & I fans (and I have always considered myself a hardcore fan) as an “easy way out.” All told, Withnail drinks roughly 9 1/2 glasses of red wine, 1/2 pint of cider, 1 shot of lighter fluid (vinegar or overproof rum are recommended substitutes), 2 1/2 shots of gin, 6 glasses of sherry, 13 whiskeys and 1/2 a pint of ale. Seeing as the whiskey alone would be more than enough to necessitate a trip to hospital for most people, few people, if any, keep pace for the entire film.

The Withnail and I drinking game is played while watching that film, and involves matching the title character drink for drink. Note that only consumption visible on screen is counted – while we may know that, for instance, Withnail has just finished a pint of beer there is no need to join him in it if we didn’t see him drink it. For planning purposes, a complete list of everything that passes Withnail’s lips on screen is presented below. Since drinks of different types sometimes follow in quick succession, in order to keep up it will probably be useful to keep a “buffer” of the next few drinks ready to go at all times.

• mouthful of red wine
• “Lighter fluid” (eg overproof rum)
• double gin
• finger of cider (with ice)
• finger of cider (with ice)
• finger of cider (with ice)
• glass of sherry
• two big chugs of sherry
• mouthful of sherry
• sip of sherry
• double whisky
• mouthful of whisky
• mouthful of whisky
• mouthful of whisky
• mouthful of whisky
• splash of whisky
• single Teachers
• double Teachers
• double Teachers
• single Teachers
• sip of sherry
• three fingers of ale
• sip of red wine
• gulp of sherry
• small glass of red wine
• sip of red wine
• half glass of red wine
• sip of something white (gin & bitter lemon?)
• sip of red wine
• sip of red wine
• gulp of red wine
• gulp of red wine
• finger of red wine
• finger of red wine
• gulp of red wine (“’53 Margaux”)
• gulp of red wine (“’53 Margaux”)
• gulp of red wine (“’53 Margaux”)
• gulp of red wine (“’53 Margaux”)

40 tips for good English

1. Avoid alliteration. Always.
2. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
3. Employ the vernacular.
4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
5. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
6. Remember to never split an infinitive.
7. Contractions aren’t necessary.
8. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
9. One should never generalize.
10. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
11. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
12. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
13. Be more or less specific.
14. Understatement is always best.
15. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
16. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
17. The passive voice is to be avoided.
18. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
19. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
20. Who needs rhetorical questions?
21. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
22. Don’t never use a double negation.
23. capitalize every sentence and remember always end it with point 25.
24. Do not put statements in the negative form.
25. Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
26. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
27. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
28. A writer must not shift your point of view.
29. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.
30. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
31. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!! Ever!
32. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
33. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
34. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
35. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
36. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
37. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
38. Always pick on the correct idiom.
39. The adverb always follows the verb.
40. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; They’re old hat; seek viable alternatives.