April 2009 Archives

April 30, 2009

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Coded terrorist signals on the Victoria Line

I spotted another electronic signage oddity on the Victoria Line the other day, to go with the recent 'No message' I saw at Walthamstow Central. This time it was at Finsbury Park. Now, I know that it is just a random scramble of pixels, but there looks to be something a bit Arabic about the writing. Given their propensity to publish anti-Islamic terrorism scaremongering at the drop of a hat, even if it is completely unfounded, I'm surprised this hasn't...
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April 29, 2009

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"Maps and legends" - The Macedonia naming dispute on currybetdotnet

Just after I left Greece last year I published a series of three posts exploring the issue of Greece's relationship with her northern neighbour, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The first was a fable set in the future, putting forward a vague parallel situation that might resonate with UK readers - "The Former Scottish Constituency of Northumbria". The second and third posts looked at maps - a Greek political map where FYROM was nameless, and a German school-children's map...
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April 28, 2009

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Functional 404s - Do beautiful 404 error pages still help users?

A 404 error page appears to a user when they have followed a broken link, an out-dated search result, or when they have mistyped a URL. It is very often an afterthought in a site design and build process, but actually it represents one of the most potentially painful user experiences. The user has been disappointed by whatever action they have just taken, and, if it is their first visit to your site, you have just a couple of seconds...
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April 27, 2009

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"Copyright in the Digital Age" - SIIA issue briefing

Last week I went to an issue briefing on digital copyright, hosted by the Software & Information Industry Association. It was held on the top floor of The Shell Mex Building in London, which afforded a great view of the helicopters circling around Westminster, presumably as a part of the security arrangements surrounding the Budget, which had taken place earlier that day. The panel featured Andrew Hughes from the Newspaper Licensing Agency, who I worked with last year, Ammy Vogtlander...
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April 26, 2009

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April 25, 2009

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April 24, 2009

Interview with a Scott Trust Bursary student - Helia Phoenix

I mentioned earlier this week that I had been to a lunch that formed part of an 'Insight into Journalism Day' at The Guardian. Whilst I was there, as well as meeting some Guardian journalists and some of the visiting students, I met Helia Phoenix, one of the recipients of this year's Scott Trust Bursaries. I got to ask her some questions about why she wants to move into journalism, and her attitudes to news in print and online. @currybet:...
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April 23, 2009

London IA Mini Conference review - Part 2

Yesterday I posted my notes on three of the presentations at the London IA Mini Conference, which The Guardian hosted at Kings Place on Monday. I was presenting "Introducing Information Architecture at The Guardian". Here are my notes on the second half of the evening. Photo by Nizam "Design Consequences workshop" - Leisa Reichelt One of the aims of the London IA Mini Conference was for it to be a bit more interactive than your average evening of sitting...
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April 22, 2009

London IA Mini Conference review - Part 1

On Monday night The Guardian hosted the first London IA Mini Conference, and yesterday I published an extended version of my presentation on the night: "Introducing Information Architecture at The Guardian" Photo by Nizam Here is the first part of my notes from the rest of the evening after I'd spoken. "Agile UX" - Cennydd Bowles Cennydd was ambitiously trying to pull off what looked like a 45 minute presentation in 10 minutes, and managed it impressively. He was looking...
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April 21, 2009

"Introducing Information Architecture at The Guardian"

"Introducing Information Architecture at The Guardian"
My presentation at the recent London IA Mini Conference explains my role as Information Architect at guardian.co.uk

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April 20, 2009

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'Insight into Journalism Day' at The Guardian

A couple of weeks back I went to a lunchtime function within The Guardian, in the Scott Room, where tonight we will be hosting London Mini-IA. The lunch was an opportunity for some students who were visiting the newspaper for the day to mingle with staff and journalists. I was interested for two reasons. Firstly I was keen to see what kind of multimedia technology the students used and had been exposed to. I was pleased to hear that the...
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April 19, 2009

West Ham away shirt design #FAIL

It is always small things that are telling, and if ever there was evidence that the replica kit culture of the modern football game has become truly absurd, it was events yesterday at Villa Park. It used to be that your second 'change' strip was only worn when a clash of colours meant that you were forced to change. Nowadays, the 'away' kit is trotted out most games when you are away from home, for merchandise familiarity, rather than any...
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April 18, 2009

ABC's "Lexicon Of Love" live at the Royal Albert Hall

In the unlikely event that a) I'm ever on Desert Island Discs, and, b) that they've changed the format so that you can only take one album with you, I would be faced with a tough choice between two contenders. I suspect that Talk Talk's "Spirit Of Eden" would probably provide longer lasting spiritual nourishment for the soul and greater depth of listening. However, I'm pretty certain that I would in the end opt for ABC's "The Lexicon of Love"....
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April 17, 2009

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Tracing pictures of Chania's Germaniko Pouli German War Memorial

Our old house in Chania was almost next door to a 1940s era war memorial to the Nazi parachute regiments that invaded the island during the Second World War. The Battle for Crete was a bloody one, with the Germans initially suffering heavy losses in their airborne assault, followed by several years of local resistance and accompanying brutal reprisals. Until the early 2000s this monument, erected during the war, stood mostly intact. The swastika held in the talons of the...
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April 16, 2009

Re-creating 1940s Grödig and St Leonhard

When I lived in Austria working at Sony, one of the interesting bits of local history that caught my eye was that the area I stayed in had hosted refugee, internment and prisoner of war camps during both the First and Second World Wars. Although the camp no longer existed, there was the odd bit of evidence around Salzburg, including this postcard I spotted in an antique shop, featuring Serbian prisoners of war during the 1914-18 conflict. Some research on...
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April 15, 2009

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Are your domestic print apples as valuable as my global multimedia oranges?

Dan Thornton blogged yesterday about the 'danger' of comparing print and web metrics for newspapers. He took as his starting point two studies by John Duncan and Martin Langeveld, which both in their own way suggested that print was still the most powerful medium to distribute news to a wide audience. I'm not going to be the first person to suggest that this is an apples / orange comparison. In fact, I thought the figures were so laden with inaccurate...
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April 14, 2009

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How the Ian Tomlinson G20 video spread The Guardian brand across the media

It isn't in the too dim and distant past that if you wanted to get some newsworthy video footage published in the UK, you only had a choice of taking it to the BBC, ITN, or Sky. Now the majority of serious newspaper websites have the ability to embed video on the web, and some, like The Guardian, Telegraph and The Sun have made multimedia studios an essential part of their newsroom set-up. Last week one of the biggest news...
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April 13, 2009

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Web search at the BBC: Extras

Part of the reason for publishing my recent history of the BBC's web search service was because I had unzipped a load of old files on my PC, and discovered the original usability reports. As well as the articles on currybetdotnet, I've also made some material available elsewhere on the net. Presentation On SlideShare you can find a couple of examples of the typical sort of search related presentation I used to give within the BBC in 2003. "BBCi...
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April 12, 2009

Tracking the "Credit Crunch" with Google Street View: Crouch End

Yesterday I posted some comparison photos between Muswell Hill now, and Muswell Hill when the Google Street View cars visited, to illustrate how the "Credit Crunch" had been affecting local businesses. Actually, there only appeared to be three casualties - The Fine Burger Co., A-1 Wines, and Woolworths. In Crouch End, it was a different story. The biggest closure again appears to be Woolworths, which occupied a big store near the Henry Reader Williams memorial Clock Tower. You'll also spot...
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April 11, 2009

Tracking the "Credit Crunch" with Google Street View: Muswell Hill

Tracking the "Credit Crunch" with Google Street View
Comparing recent pictures of shops in Muswell Hill and Crouch End with how they appeared when the Google cameras were in town

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April 10, 2009

"Let The Right One In" - Director's talk with Tomas Alfredson at the Barbican

On Tuesday I went to the Barbican to see a preview screening of "Let The Right One In", followed by a Q&A session with director Tomas Alfredson. The film is based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay, and it opens in the UK today. SPOILER ALERT: This article contains mild spoilers. Under the influence One of the interesting things that came out of the interview afterwards was the way that the director tried to...
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April 9, 2009

'No message' at Walthamstow Central

I'd love to know who was the person writing the functional spec for the London Underground matrix displays at Walthamstow Central who decided that there needed to be a special case for when there was: "NO MESSAGE" Even more, I'd like to meet the person who had to write the bit of code that must say something along the lines of: if ($message = undef) { print "NO MESSAGE"} Obviously, the code is there so that you can tell whether...
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When RSS ads go bad...

One of the risks of context-driven text advertising is that occasionally there will be some uncomfortable juxtapositions of editorial content and advertising. It happens on currybetdotnet from time to time. I particularly recall Google deciding that one of my lengthy pieces about working in a record shop and collecting records suited adverts saying "Do you need help with your autistic child", which I took slightly personally. It can be even worse when the adverts are being served in an RSS...
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April 8, 2009

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London Festival of Railway Modelling at Alexandra Palace

At the end of March I found myself at Alexandra Palace on a Saturday morning for the London Festival of Railway Modelling. Although I've never had anything more sophisticated than a Lego train set myself, it is clearly exactly the kind of geeky hobby I would have been into if ZX Spectrums and Doctor Who hadn't existed in my formative years. I found it to be a little different from the London Model Engineering Exhibition that I attended in the...
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April 7, 2009

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Web search at the BBC: Part 9 - The end is the beginning is the end

I've been writing a series of posts looking at my memories of the development of the BBC's now discontinued web search service. By 2004, I'd moved on to other things within the BBC. The BBC homepage was re-designed again, this time to reflect another re-brand, from BBCi to BBC.co.uk. At the same time the search box was changed from defaulting to web search to defaulting to site search, with the marketing-driven label: "Explore more than 2 million amazing BBC...
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April 6, 2009

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Web search at the BBC: Part 8 - Editions of you

I've put together a series of posts looking at how the BBC developed their web search service. During 2002 and 2003 it was a strategic priority for the BBC New Media department, but earlier this year it was shut down. Usability testing at Serco Post-launch, in August 2002, Vincent Helyar & Kate Taylor at Serco produced another user testing report for the BBC about search. Some of their key findings were: The uncluttered layout of results pages was popular...
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April 5, 2009

The Ideal TARDIS

I spotted an image of the TARDIS lurking in one of the publicity posters for this year's Ideal Home Show at Highgate Station. It is always nice to see one of the icons from my favourite ever television programme acting as cultural visual shorthand. The BBC is usually fiercely protective of the TARDIS design. Even back in the 1980s it was one of the elements of the series that was copyright to BBC Enterprises, and in 2002 the BBC astonishingly...
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April 4, 2009

Conferences Redux '09 - Micro-Redux

You have to wonder about the value of a micro-redux of a redux session of some of the biggest technology events of the year. Nevertheless, I've eventually got around to putting together my notes from an evening I spent in the Sense Loft in Soho watching the 'Conferences Redux' session promoted by the Innovation Forum. The two lasting impressions will undoubtedly be the pain of sitting on those stools for a couple of hours, and Matt Jones presenting a summary...
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April 3, 2009

The PCC turns a deaf ear to complaints about press coverage of Alfie Patten

As a result of my blog post last week about the Alfie Patten case, I found that another related issue cropped up regarding the PCC, and the self-regulation of the British press. I received a comment from 'Pat H', who had written to the PCC to complain about The Mirror's apparent breaching of the initial reporting restrictions. Needless to say, since she is not directly involved in the story, her complaint was, as usual, dismissed out of hand. Just like...
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Web search at the BBC: Part 7 - Shake and crawl

I have been writing a series of posts looking at what I remember of the development of the BBC's web search service, which was recently closed. The service was not always well received internally, and it was certainly unpopular in some quarters outside of the BBC. During the time that the BBC offered web search it used four different technology partners. The initial contract was with Google, and they were replaced as search provider by Inktomi. Inktomi were subsequently...
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April 2, 2009

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Web search at the BBC: Part 6 - TV on the radio

Over the last week or so I've been writing up my recollections of the BBC's web search, which was launched in the early part of this decade. In January, having survived both a 2004 DCMS and a 2008 BBC Trust review, Seetha Kumar announced that it was finally being removed from BBC Online. Today I want to look at how the BBC marketed the ability to search the web from bbc.co.uk. Television marketing The web search service initially had...
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April 1, 2009

FIFA 2010 World Cup qualifying website review - Ukraine

During the course of the qualifying campaign for the 2010 South African World Cup, I've been reviewing the websites of England and the other teams in their group. I counted Croatia as 'done' by virtue of reviewing their website for Euro2008, and I counted England as 'done' because I reviewed the FA website back in September. It turns out that England have redesigned not just their kit but their website since then, and I suspect the Croatia review is...
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